Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Irresistable Temptation, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Willoughbys Return, by Jane Odiwe (2009)This is my final contribution to The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Reading Challenge 2011. Feeling nostalgic during the holidays, I resorted to an old chestnut in selection of my final read. I enjoyed Willoughby’s Return immeasurably when I first read it two years ago. After re-reading it again, I began to write my new review and quickly realized that I was just repeating what I had previously written – with the exception that my respect for Odiwe’s writing had increased in comparison to other Austenesque fiction that I had read since – so I increased my star rating from 4 to 5.

While the Jane Austen sequel industry abounds with numerous books inspired by Pride and Prejudice, regretfully there are very few sequels to Austen’s first published novel Sense and Sensibility. Why? Possibly because some readers have been disappointed with half of Austen’s unsatisfactory ending for her two heroines. While the two Dashwood sisters do marry: staid and stoic Elinor to Edward Ferrars and impulsive and free-spirited Marianne to Col. Brandon, the second pairings future happiness seemed doubtful. How could a young lady with Marianne’s intense passionate depth be happy with anyone other than her Byronic first love Mr. Willoughby – even after he threw her over for an heiress? Nagging questions arise. Did she settle when she married the Colonel? Would she be tempted into extramarital affairs and runaway with her lover? Possibly, leaving an intriguing premise for continuing the story.

All these concerns are addressed in Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation a new sequel to Sense and Sensibility by Jane Odiwe. How, or if they will be resolved to our satisfaction is now a possibility.

Three years after her marriage to Colonel Brandon, Marianne is the mistress of Delaford Park and the mother of a young son James. She has everything that a young married woman could desire: wealth, position, an heir and a loving husband, but her insecurities, jealousy and impetuous nature rob her of complete happiness. Resentful that her husband is frequently called away to attend his ward Eliza Williams and her infant daughter, Marianne “feels” that he cares for his other family more than his own. Their ties to the Brandon’s are strong and painful; Eliza being the daughter of Brandon’s first love who died tragically, and Eliza’s young child Lizzie the illegitimate daughter of John Willoughby the rogue who also threw over Marianne’s affections for an heiress five years prior. In addition, there is that imposing portrait of Eliza’s mother hanging in the Hall staring down at her. Every time Marianne passes it she sees the similarities of their appearances and doubts more and more if Brandon married her because he loved her, of if she is replacing the woman that he loved and lost years ago. When the charming rogue John Willoughby reappears in her life proclaiming he has never stopped loving her, the pain of their failed romance is renewed gradually replaced by conflicting emotions and the temptation to be with him again.

We are reintroduced to many of the characters from the original novel: Elinor Ferrars and her husband Edward, Mrs. Jennings, the Middleton’s, Lucy Ferrars and importantly Elinor and Marianne’s younger sister Margaret Dashwood who has her own romance in the course of the novel that may equal Marianne’s dilemma in emotion and drama. It could not be a Jane Austen sequel without talk of beaus, gowns and a glamorous Ball, so imagine everything most “profligate and shocking” in the way of young couples dancing and sitting down together! Margaret Dashwood supplies the shocking (to the horror of the neighborhood biddies) in her behavior by dancing more than three times in one night with one partner, Henry Lawrence, the charming and bold nephew of Col Brandon. Like Willoughby, Henry appears to be a good catch: attractive, well connected, an heir to a fortune and too irresistible. He wastes no time in pursuing Margaret’s affections. There is a surprise twist to their relationship that I will not reveal, but readers might recognize similarities to another Austen heroine.

Odiwe has captured Marianne’s spirit superbly. Romantic, impulsive and let’s face it, high maintenance! At times I really wanted to give her a firm dressing down and felt the same of Austen’s younger Marianne, so I knew that Odiwe had connected their characteristics seamlessly. Marianne may be five years older, but she’s still Marianne the drama queen and that makes for great entertainment! Interestingly, the two men in her life, Brandon and Willoughby, had fewer scenes than expected but caused many reactions to fuel the narrative serving their purpose. This was a nice mirror to women’s fate in Regency times. Men have all the power, women all the presence.

This is Odiwe’s second Austen sequel, and like Lydia Bennet’s Story she has chosen a character in Marianne Brandon that is ruled by impulse and emotion making for surprise and tension – all good elements to an engaging story that she delivers with confidence and aplomb. Developing younger sister Margaret Dashwood brought youth, vivacity and a bit of rebellion against social dictums to the story. Her romance with Henry Lawrence was an excellent choice as she shared the narrative equally with Marianne and balanced the story. Odiwe’s research and passion for the Regency era shine, especially in her descriptions of the country fair and fashions. It is rewarding to see her develop her own style evocative of Austen but totally modern in its sensibility. There were a few missteps with cadence and vernacular, but I am splitting hairs, and few will notice. Of course we are never in much doubt that it will all end happily, but unlike Jane Austen’s tale, the final transformation of the heroine’s troubling want of caution and choice of spouse will not prompt debate two hundred years later.

A light and enjoyable read, Willoughby’s Return is a charming tale that sweeps you back into Austen’s mannered world of a young girl searching for love and a married woman realizing it.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my twelfth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can read the archive of all of my reviews and those of the other participants reviews posted in the challenge review pages here. It has been great fun to visit Jane Austen’s first published novel and many of the film adpatations and books that it has inspired this year. 

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Willoughby’s Return, by Jane Odiwe by leaving a comment by midnight PT, Wednesday, January 4, 2012 stating if you are Team Willoughby or Team Brandon and why? Winner to be announced on Thursday, January 5, 2012. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

The deadline to enter the Grand Prize drawing of The Sense and Sensibility Reading Challenge 2011, which includes a copy of each of the twelve items that I reviewed for the challenge in a Jane Austen tote bag from The Republic of Pemberley Shoppe will be midnight PT, January 4, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, January 5th, 2012. All of the participants in the challenge and the commenters in their review posts in the event are eligible.  Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!

Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation, by Jane Odiwe
Sourcebooks Landmark, Naperville, IL (2009)
Trade paperback (345) pages
ISBN: 978-1402222672

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library), by Jane Austen, annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard – A Review

Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library), by Jane Austen, annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard (2011)As 2011 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, we are offered another annotated edition to help us understand the social and historical context of the world that Jane Austen places us into in late eighteenth century England.

The Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library) is the first Jane Austen novel, in what I hope will be the bookend of Jane Austen’s six major works, to be offered in eBook format from Girlebooks. Yes, the format is digital gentle readers – and I think it quite appropriate that Margaret Sullivan is leading the way for us as its annotator. Many know Margaret as the editrix of AustenBlog.com, but she is also a strong advocate of digital books, and has for many years been waving their flag in attempt to prepare us for the inevitable. That time has come. This is the first book I am reviewing for Austenprose that is being produced solely for the digital market.

Sense and Sensibility is the tale of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, each cut from the same cloth, yet facing financial, social and romantic trials together from totally different perspectives, and – with varying degrees of hardship and success. Level headed and practical Elinor is the older of the two and often the only one in the family to keep her widowed mother and impetuous younger sister on a straight path. Marianne is wildly romantic and hell-bent to stretch the limits of proper decorum into the next county. Three men will change their life paths: Edward Ferrars, a reserved and stoic eldest son whose family aspires to greatest, yet he craves the simple life a country parson; Colonel Brandon, retired from the army and from love because of the loss of his first love many years hence; and Mr. Willoughby, handsome, charming and impassioned, but at a price. As the young ladies search for love, honor and financial security, Austen weaves in a rich social tapestry of minor characters, social commentary and the dry humor that she is renowned for.

While Sense and Sensibility offers some recognizable themes of the era of financially challenged young women searching for love and security in a society whose constraints sharply narrow their possibility of success, Austen has infused deep social context as well. Of all of Austen’s six major novels, S&S is driven by legal inheritance laws of primogeniture in England and how women were affected by them. These can be very puzzling to the contemporary reader and Sullivan’s notes throughout the text can help smooth a few furrowed brows. For example, in Volume One, Chapter two “Mrs. John Dashwood now installed herself mistress of Norland; and her mother and sister-in-law were degraded to the condition of visitors.” This one sentence is the lynchpin of the novel. If you understand why the widow Dashwood and her three daughters are be to displaced, downsized in social standing, the rest of the narrative will all fit into place. If you don’t you’re in trouble and will miss much of the inside story that Austen wants you to experience. If you tap on the numbered endnotes within the text, it will take you to the explanation. Tapping on the number again will take you back to the text. It is that simple.

With only 97 endnotes, this edition is not as extensively annotated as this year’s The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard, Anchor Books (2011), however, it does contain: A biography of the authoress; A bibliography and further reading; Information and Jane Austen’s life and culture; Author’s having fun with Jane Austen’; Fiction inspired by Sense and Sensibility; Films adapted from and inspired by Sense and Sensibility; and a buoyant forward and an unerring eye by the annotator. The illustrations by Cassandra Chouinard add levity, but are not expandable, so it was difficult to appreciate any detail. One must also take a leap of faith and assume that this is an unabridged text, but what version used, is not stated.

The eBook is available in Adobe Reader PDF, Kindle/Mobipocket PRC, ePub & Microsoft Reader LIT for the modest price of $2.99. Yes, there are a lot of “free” editions of S&S out there to be had for digital readers. Don’t be fooled by “free” gentle readers. Not all eBooks are created equal. The expert formatting and craftsmanship exhibited by this Girlebook edition is well worth the value.  For a middlin’ annotated edition, this Bicentenary Library presentation is “everything that is worthy and amiable.”

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my eleventh selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

Sense and Sensibility (The Jane Austen Bicentenary Library), by Jane Austen, annotated by Margaret C. Sullivan, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard
Girlebooks (2011)
Available at Girlebooks, Kindle US, Kindle UK, Nookbook Store & Smashwords

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins – A Review

Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins (2011)Guest review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder of Reflections of a Book Addict

I’m delighted to again read another fantastic work by Rebecca Ann Collins.  She is the critically acclaimed author of the bestselling 10 novel series, The Pemberley Chronicles.  Her writing style is unparalleled in its depth and completion, and I’m always amazed at how detailed and engaging her novels are.  After an incredibly rich 50 years worth of stories starring Lizzy and Darcy, we now turn our attention to Edward, Elinor, Marianne, and Col. Brandon as Collins begins to entice us with her versions of what happened after Jane laid down her pen in writing Sense and Sensibility.

Picking up seven years after the end of Sense and Sensibility, we are transported back into the world of the Dashwood sisters (now Mrs. Ferrars and Mrs. Brandon).  Opening on a rather morbid note, we are taken to Barton Park for the funeral of Lady Middleton (Sir John’s wife) who unfortunately died of an apparent seizure during a dinner party for her mother’s (Mrs. Jennings) birthday.  It’s during this unfortunate event we’re given updates as to where our favorite characters are: Margret, the youngest Dashwood sister, is now studying at a seminary near Oxford thanks to brother-in-law Edward’s assistance.  Edward and Elinor live in the parsonage at Delaford, the estate of Col. Brandon and Marianne.  Edward and Elinor are blessed with two children while the Brandons have none.  After the funeral, Col. Brandon leaves to travel to see his property in Ireland, and it is in his absence that everyone’s worriment for Marianne begins.  She has been the mistress of Delaford for seven years now, and is bored; bored with her day to day life, the lack of inspiration from her surroundings, and above all the lack of like minded people in her circle of friends.  She takes a day trip with some acquaintances and surprisingly comes in contact with Willoughby.  Will seeing him rekindle old feelings, or will she find strength in the love that Col. Brandon has for her?  How will Elinor react when she finds that Willoughby has returned?  What will become of Margret once she’s completed her education at the seminary?

One of Collins’ greatest attributes is her ability to channel the prose of Austen herself.  Her style, while remaining Austen-like, is still unique, and all her own.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Collins is a  true gem in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  I’m always excited to read her novels as I know they’ll leave me feeling content and entertained to the highest degree.  They have afforded many Jane Austen purists an escape back to the Victorian era and all its wonders.  This time is exciting in particular because it’s the first time we get Collins’ perspective of the world of Sense and Sensibility.  Her unique vision for the sister seemingly tranquil lives are never dull.

My one complaint was with Elinor’s character.  She seemed filled with more anxiety then I ever remember.  Yes, in the original she is worried about the family’s finances and about Marianne’s relationship with Willoughby, but she was not as bad as she is in Expectations of Happiness.  She seems always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and poor Edward tries to comfort and console her as she cries her eyes out over almost everything.  It seems that most of the other characters walk on eggshells around her in what they can and can’t tell her for fear of her nerves.  This bothered me, because I read Elinor as a strong woman in Sense and Sensibility.  She gets her family together, helps them stay economical, and is there for Marianne caring for her both on an emotional and physical level when she falls ill.  Heck, she even kicks Willoughby out when he comes back in the end, trying to come back just one more time to see Marianne.  This “new” Elinor seriously displeased me and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Despite this, I have to give Collins credit for her imagination in creating the characterization of Margret, the youngest Dashwood sister.  As she is young and unknown to us in Austen’s original work, it was exciting to see her character take shape and become a strong, intelligent woman with thoughts on her future and what she wanted for it.  I was quite pleased by this plot addition, and the depth that Margret added to the storyline was a great inclusion in an already great story.

So, it is with a happy heart that I conclude my review of Expectations of Happiness (no pun intended!)  Collins has once again showed us that she is a master of Austen’s language and time, and can add postscripts to Austen’s works that dovetail seamlessly to the originals.  Happiness was unique and exciting, and it fulfilled my curiosity as to the fate of Elinor and Marianne after their happy endings as told by Austen.  Give it a try; I’m positive that you won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 Stars

Kimberly has kindly filled in for me this month and completed the tenth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

Expectations of Happiness, by Rebecca Ann Collins
Sourcebooks (2011)
Trade paperback (336) Pages
ISBN: 978-1402253898

© 2007 – 2011 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (Naxos Audiobooks) – A Review

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson (Naxos Audiobooks) 2005Even though it has been two hundred years since the world was first introduced to sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s financial, social and romantic trials, their story remains for me, as fresh and vibrant as any contemporary story you might read of, experience yourself, or hear tell tale of today. I give full credit, of course, to Jane Austen. Her understanding of human nature and how to craft emotions and characters into an engaging story remains unparalleled. Add to that a delightful twelve hour and forty-three minute reading by the accomplished British actress Juliet Stevenson’s polished interpretation of memorable personalities and you are primed for unsurpassed entertainment. Here is a brief description from the publisher:

When Mrs. Dashwood is forced by an avaricious daughter-in-law to leave the family home in Sussex, she takes her three daughters to live in a modest cottage in Devon. For Elinor, the eldest daughter, the move means a painful separation from the man she loves, but her sister Marianne finds in Devon the romance and excitement which she longs for. The contrasting fortunes and temperaments of the two girls as they struggle to cope in their different ways with the cruel events which fate has in store for them are portrayed by Jane Austen with her usual irony, humor and profound sensibility.

It is amazing to think that Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel. As a debut author she showed incredible understanding of characterization and plot development. Many of the personalities contained in this novel remain the most memorable for me of her entire canon. The affability of Sir John Middleton, the persistent meddling of Mrs. Jennings, the droll indifference of Mr. Palmer and the malleable weakness of Mr. John Dashwood are played against the narrow greed of the unscrupulous Fanny Dashwood and her officious, spiteful mother Mrs. Ferrars. These secondary characters really make our heroes and villains shine, and withstanding the two heroines Elinor and Marianne, it is amusing to see how Austen plays with our emotions in guessing who the heroes will be and how the morality will play out.

Sense and Sensibility does have a few plot wholes and loose coincidences that readers will be raising eyebrows over, but it remains a novel wholly entrenched in the passionate joys of youthful love and emotional loss, cruel social snobbery and biting social reproof as relevant today as it was in 1811.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my ninth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one unabridged CD or digital download of Sense and Sensibility (Naxos Audiobooks) by leaving a comment by midnight PT, Wednesday, October 5, 2011 stating which character you love to hate in Sense and Sensibility or what motivates you to read Jane Austen’s classic for the first time. Winner to be announced on Thursday, October 6, 2011. CD shipment to US or Canadian addresses only. Digital download internationally. Good luck!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen and read by Juliet Stevenson
Naxos Audiobooks (2005)
Unabridged audio CD’s, 12 hours, 43 minutes
ISBN: 978-9626343616

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Suspense and Sensibility or, First Impressions Revisited: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery, by Carrie Bebris – A Review

Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris (2007)Inspired by characters from Jane Austen’s novels Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, the second in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries series begins four months after the marriage of Austen’s famous romantic duo, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Family obligations take them from Pemberley, their country estate in Derbyshire, to Town to help the couple’s younger sisters, Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy, participate in the London social season.  Being an heiress, Georgiana commands the respect and admiration of many who would like to connect with the Darcy family and its large fortune. Kitty, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. In contrast, her small dowry and lack of social accomplishments leave only her family connections and natural charms to entice an eligible suitor for her hand. He comes in the form of a rich dandy, Harry Dashwood, son of John and Fanny Dashwood of Norland Park, who when first introduced to Miss Catherine Bennet, thinks she is the highly accomplished and very rich Georgiana Darcy. A moment of realization and embarrassment for all is smoothed over by Harry’s continued attentions to Kitty. Elizabeth and Darcy are also relieved that he has other motives than those of his social climbing mother Fanny Dashwood in choosing a wife. He is quite taken with Kitty and invites her and the Darcys to Norland for his twenty-first birthday fete.

Revisiting Norland Park again, we are re-introduced to more characters from Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility: Robert and Lucy Ferrars & Edward and Elinor Ferrars – but twenty years has transpired since the conclusion of Austen’s novel – and the next generation takes center stage. Harry’s mother Fanny Dashwood, officious and manipulative as ever, disapproves of Catherine Bennet intensely. Wanting her son to marry for money and connections, she fosters a match between Robert & Lucy Ferrars’ unappealing daughter Regina. Harry will have none of it and proves he is his own man and asks for Kitty’s hand and is accepted.

After some doubts about Harry, Elizabeth and Darcy and now very supportive of the engagement. Returning to Town to shop for Kitty’s trousseau, everyone thinks that she has made an excellent match for herself until their first impressions of Harry are sorely tested. His extended absence from his fiancé gives rise to speculation and doubt, coupled with damaging gossip about him being seen about Town engaging in late night carousing with disreputable characters. When he finally reappears at the Darcy’s townhouse to visit his fiancé, he explains that he has been away from London for two weeks visiting relatives. How could that be when he has been seen by so many in Town, including Mr. Darcy himself?

After leisurely starting off quite sedately as a continuation of Pride and Prejudice interlaced with characters from Sense and Sensibility, the plot takes a right hand turn into the realm of the supernatural. A mysterious ancient mirror and an infamous Dashwood relation from the past bring Gothic elements into this mystery that were quite unexpected, but intriguing. Bebris has a wonderful command of Regency history and a complete understanding of Austen’s characters. Even though I solved the mystery that Elizabeth and Darcy must investigate and deduce before the protagonists did, it mattered not. What is most delightful about Bebris’ Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries is the couple themselves. I found myself laughing out loud several times at their witty banter.

“That is precisely why foxhunting is an inappropriate pastime for ladies,” Darcy said. “Blood sport runs counter to their gentle natures.”

Elizabeth thought about many well-bred women who occupied society’s highest ranks, and chuckled softy. “Ladies are quite capable of blood sport, darling. Their field is the drawing room.” Page 54

Suspense and Sensibility is a delightful read, albeit a bit slow to start, it eventually churns and always tickles the funny bone in all the right places.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my eight selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Suspense and Sensibility by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, September 7, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading a Jane Austen-inspired mystery, or who your favorite character was in either of the original novels. Winners will be announced on Thursday, September 8, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Suspense and Sensibility or, First Impressions Revisited: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery, by Carrie Bebris
Forge Books (2007)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 9780765318442

© 2007 – 2011, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Sisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to younger, impulsively romantic sister “Daffy.” Sensible Gabby works part-time to help her single mom make ends meet while studying hard for a scholarship so she can get out of Barton, Texas. On the other hand, unsensible Daphne lives in a dream world, shopping for prom dresses instead of applying for jobs and literally falling head over heels in love with the new cute boy of the moment, Luke Pascal. Gabby is quite cynical about love, after witnessing her parents’ divorce. Who needs it? It only causes misery and pain. The sisters bicker and bark at each other, rarely agreeing on anything. The only stable person in their lives is dependable friend “Mule,” short for Samuel, who seems to always be there helping Gabby study and offering friendly advice.

While Daphne moons and dreams about her new heartthrob Luke, Gabby has reason to not believe in love. Sonny Hutchins, a young boy she connected romantically with one incredible brief afternoon died in a tragic accident which she is certain his rich, spoiled cousin Prentiss Applewhite is to blame for. Her deep affection for Sonny is her secret that she shares with no one, not even her best buddy Mule. Gabby is certain that the only one you can depend on life is yourself.

As Gabby retreats into her reclusive inner world of loneliness and grief, Daphne’s histrionics are abrasive and unproductive. She deals with her family’s emotional crisis’ by ignoring reality, worshiping her flake of a father and falling madly in love in a moment. Her mom tries to bring her back into reality…

“Real life, real love, isn’t the way you see it in movies or read about in books,” her mom went on. “I hate to see you risk yourself like this. I just wish you’d be more sensible.”

“Sensible.” It was one of those words Daphne hated. Something she apparently wasn’t – along with being “responsible” or “mature.”  “Sensible,” she repeated, considering the term. The opposite would be “foolish,” right? “Silly.” “Idiotic.” “Stupid.” “Do you mean sensible like Gabby, who’s never even been on a real date? Or sensible like you, who couldn’t make her marriage work?” pages 99-100

When late child support payments and a steep rent increase cause a crisis for the Rivera women, they must move in a hurry. Feeling fatalistic, Gabby is certain that they would be better off homeless. Life changes for the two sisters when Daphne’s unsensible way of dealing with life challenges results in more troubles than she ever dreamed of until help from an expected source saves the day and Gabby must face facts about her fond memories of Sonny and her feelings for his cousin Prentiss before the two sisters can find happiness.

In Sass & Serendipity, author Jennifer Ziegler has given us a boldly creative tribute to 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility. Her modern interpretation of the two sisters: one too sensible and the other not sensible enough mirrors Jane Austen’s Dashwood sisters beautifully. Even though the plot does not follow Austen’s storyline faithfully, the essence of the emotional dilemma that each of the sets of sisters face with life and love challenges is a great match. Ziegler reminds us that sisterly relationships are like no others, filled with friendship, rivalry, devotion, frustration, love and “strong family affection.” Read Sass & Serendipity to remember that incredible time in your life when you were on the cusp of adulthood and a sister or best friend in your life made all the difference.

Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands. Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, August 10, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading a young adult retelling of Sense and Sensibility, or who your favorite character was in the original novel. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 11 7, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Press (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

© 2007 – 2011, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winner Announced for Sense and Sensibility 1995

Sense and Sensibility (1995) DVD cover24 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a DVD of Sense and Sensibility 1995, staring Kate Winslet & Emma Thompson. The winner drawn at random is Nicole who left a comment on June 24th, 2011.

Congratulations Nicole! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by July 13th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. We are reading and viewing several S&S inspired books and movies this year in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novel. You can read other reviews in the S&S Bicentenary review archive!

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility 1995 – Revisited

Sense and Sensibility (1995) DVDNominated for seven Academy Awards®, the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility remains one of my most cherished interpretations of a Jane Austen novel. Everything about this film project seems to be touched with gold; from the award winning screenplay by actress Emma Thompson; to the incredible depth of British acting talent: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones, Harriet Walter, Greg Wise, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson; stunning film locations in Devonshire; and the fine brush-work of the Taiwanese director Any Lee. The movie touched many and introduced Jane Austen’s classic story of two divergent sisters searching for happiness and love to millions. I never tire of viewing it, basking in its beautiful cinematography, enjoying its thoughtful performances and marveling at its exquisitely crafted screenplay – both reverent to Austen’s intentions and engaging to modern audiences.

There has been so much discussed online already about this movie that I doubt I can add any new insights. I can however share with you what I find so moving about it: the performances, the music, the language and the filming locations. I feel that the movie can say it so much more than I, so here are a few video excerpts for your enjoyment.

The trailer

Edward Ferrars and Elinor listen to Marianne play the pianoforte

Mrs. Jennings tries to winkle information out of the young Miss Dashwood’s and Col. Brandon meets Marianne.

Mr. Palmer is quite rude today!

Good God Willoughby!

Elinor, where is your heart?

Miss Lucy Steele calls on Elinor – and so does Edward Ferrars!

Marianne goes in search of Combe Magna in the rain

All’s well that ends with a wedding!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my sixth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one DVD copy of Sense and Sensibility 1995 by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, July 6, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in the 1995 movie or what intrigues you about a movie adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, July 7, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

Sense and Sensibility 1995
Sony Pictures (1995)
DVD Region 1 (2h 16m)
UPC: 043396115996

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard – A Review

The Annontated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Annotated & Edited by David M. Shapard (2011)How appropriate that The Annotated Sense and Sensibility is being published during the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s first published novel.

This new book includes the complete text of Jane Austen’s classic with annotations by Dr. David M. Shapard, an expert in eighteenth-century European History who also brought us similar annotated editions of Pride and Prejudice in 2007 and Persuasion in 2010. I enjoyed both of his previous works. I find annotated editions of classics fascinating, especially if they are written from the perspective of historical and social events and not weighed down with scholarly opinions. Dr. Shapard’s agenda here is obviously to enlighten the reader by opening up Austen’s two hundred-year old text with facts, tidbits, asides, and information that a novice reader or veteran can relate to so they can appreciate the story even more.

This volume weighs in at a hefty one pound and six ounces and contains 784 pages of wow factor for any Jane Austen fan or literature lover. Jane Austen’s complete and unabridged text is included on the left hand page and the enumerated annotations on the right. No stone has been left unturned. Even the illustration on the front cover depicting two fashionably attired Regency-era young ladies walking in the countryside with an umbrella receives its own corresponding page of enlightenment on the history of the umbrella, walking as an amusement, large muffs as a winter accoutrement, and an observation on the picturesque landscape depicted in the illustration. This keen sense of the era in relation to the text continues throughout the over 2,000 annotations including: textural explanations of historical and social details, black and white illustrations of art works, caricatures, cartoons and maps, definitions of archaic words, citations from Jane Austen’s life and letters, a chronology of the novel, extensive bibliography, fifteen page introduction by the editor, and his literary interpretations of plot and characters. It is a monumental achievement that I will spend years coming back to and exploring.

I know that there has been criticism of Dr. Shapard’s unscholarly approach to annotation in his two previous editions. He uses open and accessible language for the layperson, and for the sake of clarity, he repeats definitions so the reader does not have to jump back and forth throughout the book for answers. In my view, this is considerate and not tiresome as some have complained. After all, who is this book’s primary audience? Pleasure readers and students, or scholars?  If you are a scholar you should be seeking primary source material and interpreting it in your own style, as Dr. Shapard has chosen to do in this volume. Amusingly, I find objections to the un-pedantic qualities of his writing an irony that Jane Austen would take delight in.

Overall, this new edition was mesmerizing. My only complaint is that not every inch of the right hand page is packed to the brim with annotation – but I am a greedy Janeite. Retailing at $16.95, this is a bargain resource book that every Jane Austen and Regency-era history enthusiast should own.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my fifth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, June 14, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in Sense and Sensibility and why, or what intrigues you about reading an annotated edition of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, June 15, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard
Anchor Books (2011) New York
Trade paperback (784) pages
ISBN: 978-0307390769

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson – A Review

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson (1995)Nominated for seven Academy Awards®, the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility remains one of my most cherished interpretations of a Jane Austen novel. Everything about this film project seems to be touched with gold; from the award winning screenplay by actress Emma Thompson; to the incredible depth of British acting talent: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones, Harriet Walter, Greg Wise, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson; stunning film locations in Devonshire; and the fine brush-work of the Taiwanese director Any Lee. The movie touched many and introduced Jane Austen’s classic story of two divergent sisters searching for happiness and love to millions. I never tire of viewing it, basking in its beautiful cinematography, enjoying its thoughtful performances and marveling at its exquisitely crafted screenplay – both reverent to Austen’s intensions and engaging to modern audiences.

Reading The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries written by Emma Thompson and introduced by the movie producer Lindsay Doran was such a pleasure. What a labor of love this movie was for both actress/writer Thompson and producer Doran who spent fifteen years to bring it to the screen. This highly acclaimed film won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe in 1996 for Thompson and the praise of hundreds of film critics and fans. Her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was so witty and Austen-like that the film clip is a perennial favorite on Youtube. This book contains the complete screenplay, over fifty photos of the actors and scenes from the film and Thompson’s candid and often hilarious daily entries of what it was like to be involved in this incredible project. Here is a great excerpt:

Tuesday 11 April: No one can sleep for excitement. Costume designers John Bright and Jenny Beavan wish they had three more weeks but have done truly great work. The shapes and colours and inimitable. Lindsay’s already in Plymouth frantically trying to cut the script. It’s still too long. The art department object to us bathing Margaret in the parlour. Apparently they always used a kitchen or bedroom in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the Dashwoods are different, I suggest, unhelpfully.

“Thompson’s rare and personal perspective makes The Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries an irresistible book for students of film and Austen devotees, as well as for everyone who loved this extraordinary movie.” This is a must read for Jane Austen and period movie fans, and I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my fourth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, May 11, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in the 1995 movie or what intrigues you about a movie adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 12, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson
Newmarket Press (2007) reprint of 1995 edition
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1557047823

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo – A Review

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo (2011)This is my third selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

Following Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart (2010), Austenesque author Beth Pattillo presents the third book in the “Formidables Series,” The Dashwood Sisters Tell All. If you are wondering what “Formidables” are, besides being the thread that binds all three of these modern Jane Austen themed novels together, it is a clever play on Jane’s own stern moniker for herself and her sister Cassandra in their later years, and, the appropriately named secret society of devoted Janeites safekeeping Austen manuscripts and letters thought to have been destroyed ages ago. Each of the novels involves an American heroine (or in this case heroines) thrown into the investigation of Austen documents held (or wanted) by the society while she is visiting England. They are Jane Austen meets the Da Vinci Code; light-hearted mysteries/Austenalia/romances that have become one of my favorite light, bright and sparkly indulgences to loose myself in with a cup of tea and a little fantasy.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the plot of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All parallels many elements in Austen original story. Any Janeite worthy of their set of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen will recognize siblings Ellen and Mimi Dodge as Austen’s divergent protagonists Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. These two modern thirty-something Dashwood’s don’t have much in common personality wise, nor do they like each other very much, but to honor their mother’s dying wish they travel to England for a walking tour of Hampshire. Taking the Jane Austen pilgrimage to Steventon Rectory, Chawton Cottage, and the Chawton Great House, their journey concludes at her final resting place, Winchester Cathedral. Along the way they must decide where they want to scatter their mother’s ashes and what to do with a diary she gave them that may have been written by Jane’s sister Cassandra. Each of the sisters reacts differently to the realization that the diary may be authentic and valuable. Shallow and vain Mimi smells money to fund her desire to open a fashion boutique in New York City, and practical and stoic Ellen wants to read, understand and discover if the diary is indeed authentic and if they want to sell it.

Mysteriously, others in the tour group, especially the Jane Austen expert Mrs. Gwendolyn Parrot, seem to know who the sisters are and why they are there, even though they have not shared any of the details with her. Also popping back into Ellen’s life after fifteen years, and into the tour group is Daniel, her college heartthrob and the only man she has ever loved, even though he never knew it. He is now an antiques dealer and Ellen assumes that her mother also sent him on the tour to help her daughters with the diary, and rekindle the unrequited love that Ellen never pursued. On the other hand, Mimi who fails in and out of love as quickly as the changing fashion season immediately hooks up with another enigmatic gentleman on the tour, the hunky Ethan Blakemore, a descendant of Jane Austen who has recently inherited a local estate. Ellen secretly questions why a local would take a walking tour in his own backyard? Mimi doesn’t wonder anything about Ethan, except when he will propose.

As the sisters travel through the countryside following in Austen’s path, they also read the diary revealing secrets in Jane and her sister Cassandra’s relationship that so tested their love and friendship for each other that it nearly tore them apart forever. While Ellen and Mimi have their own Elinor and Marianne Dashwood romantic entanglements and disappointments, they are drawn together when they question if the plot in Sense and Sensibility is based on the author’s real life experiences, and others in their group who are part of the “Formidables” go to great lengths to prevent them from discovering the truth.

Anyone eager for a vacation from the usual Austenesque fare inspired by Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy will appreciate the creative, unique, and intriguing contemporary theme and snap this novel up without a second thought. Pattillo has the clever knack of combining a romantic contemporary tale with historical connections centered around Austen lore. The Dashwood Sisters Tell All nourishes Jane Austen fans senses, and romance readers sensibilities! Come for the Austen travelogue and get lost in the romance and adventure.

P.S. – we are still patiently awaiting the invitation to become a Formidable.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Grand Giveaway

Win one copy of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, March 30, 2011 stating what intrigues you about this Sense and Sensibility inspired novel or who your favorite character was in Beth’s previous two novels in the series. Winners will be announced on Thursday, March 31, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen, by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts (2011)
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-0824948740

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility 1981 – A Review

Sense and Sensibility (1981) DVD coverThis is my second review for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. *throws confetti* It is my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility.

This 1981 BBC seven-part miniseries of Sense and Sensibility is a solid but flawed adaptation of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. In my mind, the character of Marianne Dashwood is always the benchmark for a superior adaptation. She is a complicated creature driven by emotion and racked with vulnerability, and if the actress portraying Jane Austen’s most melodramatic character can play her as intended, the whole production can rest on her shoulders. Tracey Childs as Marianne Dashwood exuded all the frantic emotion and romantic “sensibilities” that Marianne should at all the right moments, and Irene Richards as her sister Elinor was equally convincing, and at times touching, as her stoic, stable and guarded counterpart. However, my disappointment in the male characters: Edward Ferrars, John Willoughby and Colonel Brandon, pushed this production below my expectations. Part of this can be attributed to the loose adaptation of dialogue by screenwriter Alexander Baron and partly to Austen herself, who chose to craft male roles that are weaker than the two female ones. Yes. Not everything in Sense and Sensibility is balanced, and that was Austen’s point. Even though this imperfection is one of its charms, it can be unsatisfying. Here is the description of the production by the distributor.

Offering equal measures of humor and drama, this magnificent remastered  BBC production is an utterly charming version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

This delightful story tells of two sisters attempting to find happiness in the tightly structured society of 18th century England. Elinor, disciplined, restrained and very conscious of the manners of the day, represents sense. Outspoken, impetuous, emotional Marianne represents sensibility. Attracted to a man already promised to another, Elinor suffers silently to keep scandal away from her family. Marianne enjoys a flirtation with a handsome scoundrel that could lead to her downfall. Through their experiences with men and their relationship with each other, they learn that neither sense nor sensibility alone is enough, but that one must strive for a balance of the two.

The “magnificent remastered” boast makes one wonder what they had to start with? Considering that this was originally videotaped instead of today’s standard of digital film, we must allowances, but it is still blurry and faded in comparison. The film locations are mediocre too. I have been truly spoiled by the 1995 Ang Lee and the 2008 John Alexander productions magnificent locations. The costumes exhibited the oddest colors and most unflattering of Regency styles in *gasp* polyester fabrics, and the screenwriter Alexander Baron chose to eliminate little sister Margaret entirely! (For shame) What saves this 3 hour adaptation is the acting. Irene Richards, who you might recognize from her portrayal as Charlotte Lucas in the 1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice, is a solid oak who bends with the wind of change and shades her sister and mother from her own romantic pain. Her scene where Colonel Brandon asks her to inform Edward Ferrars of this offer of a church living was really moving. Tracey Child as Marianne happily did not play the melodrama over the top like Ciaran Madden did in the earlier 1971 production. I was amazed at the similarity of her interpretation to that of Kate Winslet’s 1995 version. Minor roles of note were Julia Chambers who plays cunning vixen Lucy Steele to a tea, and Amanda Boxer as stingy Fanny Dashwood. The scene where Fanny discovers that Lucy Steele and her brother Edward have been secretly engaged might be one of the best screaming scenes on film! Overall, an enjoyable but flawed production that could have benefited from more of Jane Austen’s beautiful language.

Elinor Dashwood – Irene Richards
Marianne Dashwood – Tracey Childs
Mrs. Dashwood – Diana Fairfax
Edward Ferrars – Bosco Hogan
Colonel Brandon – Robert Swann
John Willoughby – Peter Woodward
John Dashwood – Peter Gale
Fanny Dashwood – Amanda Boxer
Mrs. Jennings – Annie Leon
Sir John Middleton – Donald Douglas
Lady Middleton – Marjorie Bland
Lucy Steele – Julia Chambers
Ann Steele – Pippa Sparkes
Robert Ferrars – Philip Bowen
Charlotte Palmer – Hetty Baynes
Screenplay – Alexander Baron
Directed by – Rodney Bennet

Film locations:

Norland – Babington House, Babington, Somerset, England, UK
Barton Cottage – C ame Cottage, Dorchester, Dorset, England, UK
Barton Park – Came House, Dorchester, Dorset, England, UK
Mrs. Jennings House in London – Cowcombe Court, Crowcombe, Somerset, England, UK
Cleveland – Hatch Court, Taunton, Somerset, England, UK

A Grand Giveaway

Win one copy of the BBC Sense and Sensibility 1981 by leaving a comment by midnight PT March 2, 2011 stating what intrigues you about this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility or who your favorite character was. Winners will be announced on Thursday, March 3, 2011. Shipment to US addresses only.

Sense and Sensibility 1981
BBC Warner Video
DVD (174) minutes
UPC: 794051168320

DVD cover image courtesy © BBC Warner Video