Book Reviews · Regency Romance

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

Book Reviews · Regency Romance

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

Book Reviews · Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction · Regency Era

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, by Abigail Wilson — A Review

The Vanishing at Loxbury Manor by Abigail WIlson 2021From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Mystery surrounds a family, a ruined abbey, and a sudden disappearance making a young guest and friend of the family fearful about her visit. The atmospheric suspense, attention to the historical setting, and complexity in the characters made The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, the latest release by Abigail Wilson, a must-read.

Charity Halliwell once thought to marry the oldest Cavanagh son, Piers, until her family’s sudden move to Ceylon and his letter ending their prospects left her bereft and vulnerable. An attack in the dark of the tea plantation has left her disgusted at her naiveté in venturing outside on her own and quelled her spirit as well as her dream of ever marrying and having a family. Now, when her parent’s journey to join her brilliant chemist of a brother in America, Charity longs for her old neighborhood and friends as a comfort. She knows from Selene’s letters that Piers will not be there as he lives away from the family.

The first night of her visit to the Cavanaghs is enough to convince her that she made a mistake seeking solace in the past. Mrs. Cavanagh isn’t exactly welcoming and mischievous Selene sneaks into Charity’s room to admit that her mother wanted her to leave Charity to her own devices. However, Selene has been a hoyden kissing a groom and flirting with others. She wants the only man in a neighborhood with a title, but she will toy with the others. On this night, she mentions a secret plan to have her way and then whisks off into the night with Charity’s dark cloak about her never to return. Continue reading “The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, by Abigail Wilson — A Review”

Austenesque · Book Reviews · Contemporary Era

Persuading the Captain: An Austen Inspired Romantic Comedy, by Rachel John— A Review

Persuading the Captain by Rachel John 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Modernizing a classic through a retelling can be fraught with authorial peril. One must do more than simply slap a pair of blue jeans on a heroine and put some slang on her lips, but at the same time, one has a duty to the legacy of the classic and the reader should recognize the original story within the fresh tale. Did author Rachel John avoid these pitfalls in Persuading the Captain, inspired by Jane Austen’s final novel Persuasion? Stick around and see.

Anne is about to start a new chapter in her life when her family must leave her childhood home in Hollywood when her actor father’s fading career is not generating the money to match the extravagant lifestyle that he and her older sister think that they deserve. Anne is done catering to their whims and has taken a step away toward her own dreams by getting a dinosaur museum job up in San Francisco along with taking on part-time babysitting for her younger sister Mary in exchange for room and board. She is joining Mary and her husband’s family for their family reunion up at a lake cabin before it all begins. Naturally, the reunion brings some family excitement and tension when Carl’s younger sisters corral one of their cabin neighbors into joining some family camping activities. He is Eric Wentworth, her hottie ex-boyfriend who she is definitely not over, yet.

Eric knew Anne’s family were snobs toward a guy who grew up far from Hollywood, but he never thought she’d pick her family over him. Breaking off their engagement left him at a loss so he threw himself into his work. His commercial pilot job has taken him all over the world and rarely staying in one place. But, now after all these years, he’s taken a job for his brother in law in a new commercial venture to do air charters for the wealthy and the venture is based in San Francisco. His sister and brother in law have invited him to enjoy the cabin and the lake before diving back into their new work. He thought he put Anne her in the rear-view mirror until being near her and seeing all the wonderful traits he appreciated and loved about her is a danger to him and he struggles hard to keep away from her and hide by hanging out with vibrant Lucy. Then a drastic situation makes the choice for him and Anne is further away than ever. Continue reading “Persuading the Captain: An Austen Inspired Romantic Comedy, by Rachel John— A Review”

Austenesque · Book Reviews · Historical Fiction · Regency Era

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh (A Pride and Prejudice Novel), by Molly Greeley — A Review

The Heiress by Molly Greeley 2021From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Miss Anne de Bourgh is known only as the sedate and sickly shadow of her mother, Lady Catherine’s, condescending and loudly opinionated character. The heiress of Rosings Park in Kent, Miss de Bourgh was intended from infancy—as a favorite wish of both her mother and her aunt—to marry her first cousin, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire, thereby uniting two grand fortunes and estates. But when Mr. Darcy ultimately marries that obstinate, headstrong Miss Elizabeth Bennet instead, what is to become of Miss de Bourgh? This is one of many questions explored in Molly Greeley’s fascinating second Pride and Prejudice variation, The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh.

Anne de Bourgh was a wretchedly inconsolable infant. Her parents and nurse were therefore quite thankful for the medical intervention when the local doctor prescribed a dose of sleep-inducing laudanum and declared that she would always possess a delicate constitution. Consequently, Anne spends her formative years receiving twice-daily doses of her magic drops that keep her in a permanent state of lethargy. “My medicine turned me stone-heavy, a breathing statue, eyelids drawing down despite all my best efforts and thoughts drifting like milkweed fluff.” (118)

Under her mother’s formidable thumb, Anne drifts through her days in a stupor, confined to the house and gardens, wearing only what her mother selects, eating little but what her mother approves and her weak appetite allows, not permitted to dance or sing or play an instrument, and restricted from learning or reading too much. All are convinced that she is far too frail to do much of anything at all but simply exist. “If I had a shell like the snail, I thought, I would tuck myself back inside of it, away from their branding pity. I felt at once all-too-visible in my fine gowns and gaudy bonnets, and ill-defined as the edges of a ghost.” (316)

Anne is merely a detached observer of her own life, her languorous health slowly turning to vivid hallucinations. Despite her governess’s insistence that she could aspire to be so much more than what she has settled for, “if you did not stun yourself so thoroughly with your medicine” (1171), Anne continues to see herself as she has long been trained to. “Useless, I whispered inside my head, little mortified arrows that pierced my softest inner places. Useless, stupid, useless.” (1188) Continue reading “The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh (A Pride and Prejudice Novel), by Molly Greeley — A Review”