Flirtation & Folly: A Season in London (Book 1), by Elizabeth Rasche – A Review

Flirtation and Folly by Elizabeth Rasche 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen’s greatest gems, yet one of her most underrated novels. It is a coming-of-age tale of Catherine Morland, a comedy, a romance, and a commentary on the Regency-era literary scene. In all of that, it is both a down-to-earth study of real-life and a beautifully plotted promise that even the most mundane of circumstances hold a glimmer of heaven. In Elizabeth Rasche’s Regency debut, Flirtation & Folly, these same ingredients are bound together in the endearingly flawed, eternally hopeful heroine, Marianne Mowbrey.

Marianne Mowbrey is a dreamer. Fresh from the country to visit her aunt in London, she believes with all of her heart that she will become a heroine just like those in her favorite novels. As she soon discovers, wishing is not the same as getting. Under her aunt’s disapproving gaze, Marianne tries to learn the skills needed to be a society darling from her new “friends,” the beautiful yet mocking Stokes’ sisters.

No matter if day after day proceeded with the same rise and fall of expectations. For Marianne, the morning always burst with the fresh, flowering hope of the charming young lady she would become by eventide. (78)   

Robert Hearn arrives in London not knowing where he belongs anymore. Originally from Ireland yet raised in England, he has spent his adult years in India and beyond. All that is left of his home are memories of an idyllic childhood. With the desire to win his estate back from the hands of another, Robert has no time for social graces or flirtations. What slips past his guard, however, is a newfound friend who might be as lost as he.

The man’s face turned from the smooth flow of water to Marianne. The gaslight cast a haze around his figure that ought to have graced an angel, all golden and sparkling, but the expression on his face was far from angelic. It looked wretched and desperate. It was the same face she had seen earlier in the evening, only now it had been driven into a wild sorrow. (136)

Because of her social faux pas and her bizarre choice of dresses, Marianne soon begins to see her dreams float away. Yet it seems that the more she tries to win approval, the more she horribly fails. When an unlikely ally appears in the form of the much-too-honest-to-be-tactful Mr. Hearn, Marianne discovers that what she wants may not be what she’s wanted all along: to fit into society and its rules. What she may want—may need to truly live—is to stand out.

Flirtation & Folly is a Regency romance that kept me on my toes. With echoes of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (a novel easily in my top three favorite Austen novels) running alongside entirely original character and plot developments, this is a novel that contains both familiarity and surprises. Marianne and Robert had much to learn about who they were and their places in the world. Rather than detract from my experience, this added depth, and subtle beauty. Marianne’s observations of life in London were also fascinating, as they gave a look into daily life that’s often-left unseen in Regency romances. A footman’s mannerisms, the view of women as healers, the lower class of apothecaries, the physical toll unhealthy beauty creams had on hair and skin, the prejudice against people from Ireland—these and more were canvassed delicately but honestly.

As a coming-of-age novel, Flirtation & Folly carried this genre’s strengths and weaknesses. Marianne was identifiable, especially in her desire to both fit in and stand out at the same time. However, the way she did it was often exasperating. She spent many pages of the novel disillusioned about herself and about who she should go to for advice. Thankfully, Robert came onto the scene! He brought out Marianne’s honest, wild side, and their relationship was blunt and free from fake flirtation. This was something I enjoyed and was also sad over, as the romantic side of things was much less developed than I hoped. Their ending was rushed; ultimately, they deserved more pages spent on their relationship.

2021 has been a difficult year, but it has also been one of hope and self-reflection. With its honest look at the reality of mistakes and disappointments, Flirtation & Folly shows how joyous it is to overcome, how beautiful it is to find one’s own path, and how lovely it is to gain a hand in which to hold along the way. 

4 out of 5 Stars 

  • Flirtation & Folly: A Season in London (Book 1), by Elizabeth Rasche
  • Quills & Quartos Publishing (September 4, 2020)
  • Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (326) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1951033583

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Disclosure of Material Connection: We purchased a copy of this book for our own enjoyment. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover image courtesy of Quills & Quartos Publishing © 2020; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com

A Captain for Caroline Gray: Proper Romance Regency, by Julie Wright — A Review

A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright 2021From the desk of Katie Jackson:

An outspoken bluestocking lady in Regency England, unless independently wealthy, was most likely to be shunned by Society into involuntary spinsterhood and poverty. Suitable husbands were difficult enough to come by, but for a lady with a clever mind and vibrant opinions, her options were fewer still. Desperation led many a spurned lady onto a ship bound for India in search of Englishmen with lower standards and plentiful wealth. That long and arduous journey is depicted in author Julie Wright’s latest Proper Romance, A Captain for Caroline Gray.

Miss Caroline Gray’s unconventional education at the behest of her well-meaning parents had included “politics, science, and literature” (99) and none of the silly arts of flirtation that might have secured her future. Consequently, she had endured three London Seasons where the gentlemen “all liked her well enough before she opened her mouth. Conversation with her led them from interest to wariness. And when they’d discovered that she was often found at public lecture courses on physics, their wariness turned to outright disdain.” (182)

Living with her widowed mother on the family estate, Caroline is not prepared for the sudden news that her cousin—her father’s heir—has decided to marry and claim his inheritance, thus displacing Caroline and her mother. Her future looks bleak indeed as her mother asks if she wishes to see herself passed around by their relations like an unwanted parcel, a perpetual nursemaid or caregiver, husbandless and childless. The reality of their economic situation was that “all of her prospects hinged on marrying. Without marrying, she had no possibilities. No prospects. No choices.” (168) Caroline berates herself for her inability to make a match but quickly realizes that she could have been nobody but herself. And “did she truly want to cheat some man out of genuine happiness by making him believe her to be what she was not?” (210)

An opportunity arises in the form of an offer from her mother’s acquaintance. Mrs. Barritt’s third son has a purchased commission as a captain in the army is making his own fortune in India, and is looking for a pretty and proper English wife. She will pay half of Caroline’s passage to India in exchange for Caroline’s obligation to spend some time with her son, Captain Nicholas Barritt. Caroline is determined “to pretend she felt some excitement. She would pretend to thrill at the adventure of it all. She would pretend that her heart was not breaking at the thought of leaving her family and her beloved England.” (192) Continue reading

Darcy and Elizabeth Beginning Again: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Elaine Jeremiah — A Review

Elizabeth and Darcy by Elaine Jeremiah 2021From the desk of Melissa Makarewicz:

A twisted ankle, a sudden rainstorm, and an unmarried man and woman forced to take shelter in a nearby unoccupied cottage. These reputation-ruining tragic turn of events lead to a reimaging of Pride and Prejudice that is full of settee-gripping adventure. Elaine Jeremiah’s newest book, Elizabeth and Darcy Beginning Again, takes Jane Austen fans on a Regency route of possible ruination and ruthless wickedness.

When I saw that this was a Pride and Prejudice variation that involved a “marry or face ruination situation”, my interest was immediately piqued. Could Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s story be just as fulfilling if they had no choice in marrying? I was determined to read and find out.

The story sets out with the ever-familiar walk Lizzy Bennet takes to go visit her dear sister Jane who is sick at Netherfield. While out on her walk, she happens to be startled by a fast-riding Mr. Darcy. Shocked at the closeness, she stumbles and twists her ankle and becomes unable to continue her walk. Suddenly, the sky opens up with rain and the two are left with little choice but to seek shelter together to escape the elements. Elizabeth detests the thought of being in the debt of Mr. Darcy but she has little choice in her current condition.

“Perhaps we shall be alone together a while longer,” she said. “The rain appears to be unabating. I should imagine the roads will be flooded soon.”      

“I am not sorry for it”

His reply and direct look caught her unawares.” (279)

Continue reading

Sons of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Reimagining, by Elizabeth Adams — A Review

Sons of Pemberley by Elizabeth Adams 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

A few authors have written variations that speculate on how Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would alter if the Darcy parents had not passed off the scene so early in the story. I enjoy these “what-if” scenarios and was eager to take up this latest novel by Elizabeth Adams, particularly because I enjoy her heartwarming and often whimsical touch to her writing.

Sons of Pemberley beings as a prequel to the original, opening during the youth of George Darcy and Samuel Wickham, the fathers of Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham. After Wickham saves Darcy’s life, they become fast friends. Darcy grows up to become the master of Pemberley whose youthful wish is realized by making his best friend the steward of his grand estate. The two men go on to marry: George Darcy has the joy of marrying a woman he loves dearly, while poor Samuel Wickham who on the eve of courting sweet Rachel, ends up with her cunning, beautiful cousin Rebecca. Lady Anne Darcy has her husband’s love and a beautiful son, and then the Darcys along with the Wickhams, receive their share of heartache when she loses her next baby.

The ongoing story follows of the Darcys and Wickhams lives, along with those connected by family, friendship, and neighborhood, continue forward as their children grow up and the parents are tangled in complicated situations.

Alternating with this past story is the later years when Lady Anne and her grown children visit Hertfordshire with her son’s friend, Charles Bingley, and his family at Netherfield where they get to know the lively Bennet family. Lady Anne observes her quiet, serious son come to life with each new encounter with vivacious Miss Elizabeth and she shares a special connection with Mrs. Bennet while guiding all the young people through love and life after she has acquired her own life wisdom over the years. Continue reading

The Price of Pride: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Abigail Reynolds — A Review

The Price of Pride by Abigail Reynolds 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unbridled pride can result in unintended consequences. Much to the dismay of those who realize it too late, it often requires an event of heart-wrenching significance to stir them from their self-righteous stupor. But what sobering fates will befall them due to their untimely awakening? Prolific and bestselling Austenesque author Abigail Reynolds explores the uncertain destinies of two such prideful characters in her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Price of Pride.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy had returned home to Pemberley in Derbyshire a broken man following the stunning refusal of his marriage proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford parsonage in Kent. “The four months since then had not been enough to begin to erase the traces of her from his heart. Instead, losing her had only deepened his feelings for her, the woman he loved so passionately but could never have.” (33)

In an effort to prove himself to be a better person than the arrogant, unfeeling gentleman he had been, Darcy reaches out with an olive branch to his younger brother Andrew, who had been disowned by their father many years before under mysterious circumstances. Now a clergyman and active abolitionist, Drew warily accepts Darcy’s offer of the generous living at the parsonage in Kympton. Darcy “was determined to change, to become a better man, one who could be worthy of a woman like Elizabeth.” (52)

In a cruel twist of fate, Drew arrives at Pemberley bringing glad tidings of his own unexpected betrothal. Although envious of his brother’s happy news, Darcy wishes him well, wanting only to repair the estrangement that has plagued the brothers for far too long. And then … Drew unknowingly informs him that the bride-to-be is a lady formerly acquainted with Darcy. “It could not be. Drew, engaged to Elizabeth? How was such a thing possible. How had his brother even met Elizabeth? Why had she never mentioned him? But all the questions in the world could do nothing to calm the agonizing pain ripping through him.” (77) Continue reading

Ladies of the House: A Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility, by Lauren Edmondson — A Review

The Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson 2021From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Some might quote that old chestnut about ‘when life tosses you lemons…’ to those who are going through life’s trials, but in the cutthroat world of DC politics in this exciting new release, one learns the only thing to do with lemons is cut them up and put them in a cocktail while saluting backstabbing one-time friends. Lauren Edmondson chose to retell a classic and portray three women going through the refining fires of grief, loss, and political scandal. While The Ladies of the House stays true to the heart of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility it also accurately portrayed life in America’s capital and politics that will resonate with many.

Daisy Richardson is at the top of her game as chief of staff for a progressive, up and coming senator from Maryland and the admiring daughter of a senior senator at the top. All that comes crashing down when her dad dies in the bed of his secretary! In addition, it has been leaked in the news that he was misappropriating funds. Her mother, Cricket, needs her to sort out life after scandal and death. Her best friend, Atlas, a star journalist who has been her secret love for years is back in the states and wants to do an expose’ into her father’s life and seems to only want friendship. And her sister, Wallis, who has been doing relief effort works in Southeast Asia, has come home only to fall for the son of a senator from across the political aisle, making Daisy’s already tenuous job even harder. The family must learn to live on less and live under the disapproving eyes of those who were once friends down to total strangers on the street. Daisy is a fixer and discovers that there are not enough Band-Aids in the world to fix the mess her father left behind him. However, she also discovers that in this adversity that she didn’t know herself and those around her like she thought she did, and here-in lies the beginning of something more if she has the courage to accept a new path.

Ladies of the House introduces a world that I have watched from a distance on TV or in fiction—the world of Washington DC. That said, I felt that the author captured it so well that natives of the town and the political world would nod in appreciation for the setting of the story. Daisy has grown up in this world and chooses it for her own career. Her sister is an activist, and her mother is a political wife. All three women are integral to the story even though Daisy does the sole narration of the story.

In the early pages, I was not as taken with Cricket or Wallis. They seemed content to let Daisy shoulder the load, and this is true to a certain extent. However, later, they grew on me when insightful scenes and dialogue between the Richardson women showed other sides to them. It becomes obvious that what is Daisy’s strength is also her weakness. She lives for work and responsibility and must lose all this before she sees her own worth as not just in how she can serve others—or, sadly, make up for her dad’s failings by serving penance to others—and the worth of her mother and sister. Cricket teaches Daisy that a woman can bend and not break while Wallis shows her that her daring to take chances in love and be herself completely takes more courage than playing it safe and hiding her true self. Wallis tells Daisy, “Be the Brick!” in reply to Daisy’s fear of what others think and that another brick might get thrown through their window. Continue reading

Nine Ladies:  A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Heather Moll — A Review

Nine Ladies by Heather Moll 2021For Jane Austen fans the possibility of meeting their favorite author or living in one of her novels is the ultimate fantasy. While time-travel is not available to us, creative and imaginative stories are. Recent books such as The Jane Austen Project and the Austen Adventures series have given us in-person meetings with Jane Austen during her early nineteenth-century life. In Nine Ladies, Heather Moll’s latest release, we experience the awe-inspiring ingenuity of Diana Gabaldon’s time-travel Outlander series combined with the classic hate at first sight love story of Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice, but with a twist.

In 2011 Elizabeth Bennet has returned to England after decades to attend to her estranged father, leaving her mother and elder sister Jane back in America. While touring the Derbyshire countryside, she unknowingly steps into an ancient stone circle called the Nine Ladies and awakens 200 years in the past at Pemberley, the country manor house of Mr. Darcy.

Aware of the power of the stones, and of other visitors from the future, the Darcy family has guarded their secret and dealt with those few who have appeared over the centuries. Taking authority Darcy presents the puzzling and outspoken new traveler with a plan. He will hide her until she can return through the stones during the next solstice in three months’ time.

After spending months alone with her dying father, Elizabeth will not be imprisoned in an outbuilding on the Pemberley estate and rejects his plan. Instead, she offers her own solution. She will stay at Pemberley with him by becoming a fictitious distant relative of the housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds. Darcy begrudgingly agrees, though as time advances both are challenged by their decision and their growing attraction to each other: Darcy by the convoluted story he must spin to keep her and Pemberley safe, and Elizabeth with the trappings of nineteenth-century life, the attitudes toward women—and especially the information that she knows about the bleak future facing the Darcy family and the estate. Continue reading