Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion: An Austen-inspired Tale of Pride, Prejudice and Persuasion, by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright — A Review

Mr Darcys Persuasion by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright 2021From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s final complete novel, Persuasion—published six months after her untimely death—the heroine, Anne Elliot, is influenced by her prideful father, a baronet, to break off an engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth, who was considered a poor match due to his low social status and lack of wealth. Similarly, in Austen’s earlier novel, Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the prideful man causing heartbreak over his disapproval of an undistinguished family. The consequences of such prejudiced persuasion collide spectacularly in Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion by prolific writing duo Cass Grafton and Ada Bright.

Mr. Darcy is in denial. In a letter to his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, he insists, “Despite your suggestion to the contrary, no young lady has caught my attention.” (152) Yet he flees Hertfordshire posthaste following the ball at Netherfield hosted by his friend Mr. Bingley, whom he has advised to avoid a growing attachment to Miss Jane Bennet. All the while, Darcy knows his own hypocrisy as he likewise advises himself to avoid the undeniable attraction he feels toward Jane’s younger sister, Elizabeth. He acknowledges that the Bennet family is far beneath the notice of a wealthy gentleman landowner such as he, thus he removes himself from danger and warns his smitten friend to do the same.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet holds a grudge, knowing that interference has led to her beloved sister’s heartbreak and now may lead to an even worse fate. In a happy twist of fate, however, she becomes acquainted with Miss Anne Elliot and is soon delighted by the diversion of an invitation to join her new friend for a fortnight’s visit to the Elliot family’s estate, Kellynch Hall in Somersetshire. Elizabeth finds Anne to be “a genteel lady, a little older than I, but we appear to have much in common. I find I like her very well.” (235)

For the benefit of his sister’s health and to avoid a harsh winter at Pemberley in Derbyshire—as well as to escape his memories of a certain bewitching young lady—Darcy travels south, hopeful of warmer weather in Somersetshire, where he has leased a property for the winter from Sir Walter Elliot. He is, therefore, rendered speechless when he discovers “Elizabeth Bennet. The woman he thought he had relegated to the past sat across the room from him, as alluring and unattainable as she had ever been, and raising inexplicable emotions in Darcy that he struggled to conceal, let alone comprehend.” (1457) Continue reading

Fallen, by Jessie Lewis — A Review

A lady’s reputation was everything during the Regency era, as we are so sanctimoniously reminded of by Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice after her sister Lydia’s scandalous elopement.

“…loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable—that one false step involves her in endless ruin—that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful—and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.” (Chapter 47)

Fallen, Jessie Lewis’ new Jane Austen-inspired novel, embraces this dictum and explores the predicament of a fallen woman and to what lengths a family will go to hide the truth to save their social standing. When that family is from wealth and circumstance, such as the Darcy’s of Pemberley, it makes the tale even more intriguing to those who enjoy Austenesque variations. We shall see what it takes to make a brittle reputation break.

The story begins cryptically with a prologue involving two unnamed men discussing the plight of a pregnant woman in their charge. She is crushed when she overhears that their decision will ruin her reputation. That leaves the reader immediately guessing and sets the theme of the story that will be interwoven throughout the narrative.

“Do not talk to me of scruples as though she overflows with them! Nothing you say will change my mind. I will not marry her.” (2)

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

Flirtation & 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. Continue reading

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

From 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)

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