Austenesque, Book Reviews, Contemporary Era

Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden: A Novel with Pictures, by Janet Todd — A Review

From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Janet Todd’s latest novel is described as “a (light) meditation on age, mortality, friendship, the tensions and attractions between generations, hope, and the excitement of change” on the back cover. Turning over the attractive green paperback with its decorative motif of foliage and Jane Austen silhouettes, I noticed the subtitle: “A Novel with Pictures.” Thumbing through the pages I glimpsed a sketch of a hedgehog, dozens of nature snapshots, a Welsh flag, a Jane Austen ten-pound note, and the Mona Lisa with sunglasses and a mustache. Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden begins with the famous line from Pride and Prejudice, revealing a streak of irreverence:

It is a truth universally, begins Jane Austen…

Shhh, says Fran, finger on lips. Not subtle. Money and sex. How many versions before you settled on that flirtatious opening? (3)

Continue reading “Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden: A Novel with Pictures, by Janet Todd — A Review”

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

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque: A Novel, by Todd M. Johnson—A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Crusaders come in all shapes and forms and some don’t even realize they are such a person until they face down injustice at the expense of reputation, career, and even life to see a wrong is righted.   The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson, a historical mystery that balances Regency backdrop with legal thriller, contains a crusader that captivated me from page one.

A Regency period barrister, William Snopes, who champions the commoner in his clever and cunning way finds himself faced with a conundrum. Does he take a case that goes against his principle of never representing someone from the upper classes and particularly a case that has far reaching ramifications for all involved or tell the desperate woman, Lady Madeleine, he cannot?

To help make up his mind, he has his well-trained, staunch junior barrister, Edmund, his solicitor, and other reliable sources help him determine if the lady is telling the truth about her cousin, his ship, his crew, and goods being seized by the Crown for piracy because the Letter of Marque he was carrying Continue reading “The Barrister and the Letter of Marque: A Novel, by Todd M. Johnson—A Review”

Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, WWII Era

In Royal Service to the Queen: A Novel of the Queen’s Governess, by Tessa Arlen—A Review

There is something about royalty that is so fascinating to me. What would it be like to be born into a world of privilege and power? How do they live? Who are their friends? What are their secrets?

The British royal family is my favorite, so I jumped at the chance to read In Royal Service to the Queen, by Tessa Arlen. Based on actual events and real people, the story is told from the perspective of governess Marion Crawford. Her charges were the royal Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose Windsor. What she experienced while working for and living with the royal family could give me an insider’s view of the dreams, disappointments, and triumphs of the famous family. Telling this story in a fictionalized account is a tremendous challenge. Daunting, really. I was curious to see if Arlen could pull it off.

Marion Crawford was a young Scottish woman when she accepted a summer job in 1931 as the governess to Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, the two young daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York. This would evolve into a permanent position in the household of the second son of King George V who would later become king when his brother Edward abdicated the throne to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. We briefly touch upon this critical time in the life of Bertie and his wife Elizabeth who never expected to be elevated to the highest position in the land. Continue reading “In Royal Service to the Queen: A Novel of the Queen’s Governess, by Tessa Arlen—A Review”

Book Reviews, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Victorian Era

John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow, by Mimi Matthews—A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose

Reader, I must confess that I went into this book totally blind. No blurb, no captions, and a mere glance at the cover. This is because I spotted the title and the author, and it was all over. I needed a gender swapped Jane Eyre-Dracula mash up to quench my insatiable curiosity and wonder over such a combo. Some authors might have difficulty pulling off such a feat, but I did not have a doubt in the world that in Mimi Matthews’ capable hands that John Eyre would dazzle.

John Eyre arrives at his new place of employment on a cold, rainy, and foggy night. He barely catches a glimpse of the new Yorkshire countryside or Thornfield Hall. His mind is weighed down by the past and his head aches dreadfully.  He craves the laudanum that he has been using to dull his memories and pain. But it is not long before natural curiosity for his peculiar new charges, his absent employer, and his new surroundings rouse him. Thornfield Hall might be remote, creak with odd noises, and the Yorkshire environs bleak, but John Eyre starts to settle in and feel a modicum of peace. Then Mrs. Rochester arrives.

Mrs. Rochester is changeable, direct, capable, and very much in charge. He senses there is great mystery from this well-traveled world-weary woman. She challenges him and his notions of women, and the world he has barely experienced in his humble circumstances. His very stolidity and sureness Continue reading “John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow, by Mimi Matthews—A Review”

Book Reviews, Regency Romance

The Indebted Earl: Serendipity and Secrets (Book 3), by Erica Vetsch – A Review

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch 2021From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Hello, fellow Austenprose readers! Finally—the winter is over and spring is here. To commemorate this season of growth and new beginnings, we bring you Erica Vetsch’s latest Regency creation, The Indebted Earl. The third in her Serendipity and Secrets series, it can be read as a standalone or as a continuation of the series. This novel’s themes of making (and forgiving) debts and starting afresh are universal, but this time, they come with the added flair of a wild seascape and even wilder hearts.

Portugal, 1814: As he sits by his friend’s deathbed, Captain Charles Wyvern wishes he could trade places. An oversight risked both of their lives during a Naval battle, and he believes it unfair that he—career member of the Royal Navy with no loved ones waiting for him on shore—healed from his near-fatal wounds, while Major Rich Richardson will leave behind his devoted mother and charming fiancé, Sophie. In Rich’s moments, Charles agrees to his friend’s final request: Will he temporarily leave the sea and do whatever he can to take care of the two women Rich is leaving behind?

Things were simpler at sea. The rules of engagement were clear, and the chain of command set in stone. Feelings and opinions didn’t enter into the equation, and total obedience was expected. Yes, things were definitely simpler at sea…but lonelier, too, if he was to be completely truthful. (118)

England, 1814: Lady Sophia Haverley—Sophie, to her friends and family—never expected to lose Continue reading “The Indebted Earl: Serendipity and Secrets (Book 3), by Erica Vetsch – A Review”

Austenesque, Book Reviews

The Year in Between: A Sense and Sensibility Variation, by Christina Morland — A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose:

At the end of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility after the last vestiges of the book’s main conflicts, the reader is met with a less than meticulous summation that closes out the book. For those who fell in love with the Dashwood family and their friends—even those who are not their friends—there is a feeling of dissatisfaction about the wrap-up.  The Year In Between, by Christina Morland fills in that gap by continuing the story before Austen jumps forward to the marriage of Marianne and Col. Brandon, offering an in-depth and layered exploration of that time. We shall see if it quells our curiosity.

The story opens at the time of Elinor Dashwood’s marriage to Edward Ferrars and their preparations to leave Barton Cottage for Delaford. Marianne Dashwood’s health is restored, though she still struggles with the vestiges of a heartbroken by John Willoughby. She is determined to do better, but the loss of her capable sister leaves her for the first time in the role of eldest daughter of the Dashwood house and the responsibilities that come with it. Her personal observations are shared with her journal as are her connection with poetry, nature, and music. She is eager to visit her sister and new brother at Delaford, but is oddly reluctant and even irritated to encounter Delaford’s master, Colonel Brandon.

The Colonel has been generous and good to her and her family, but she is bewildered why he turns into a poker when it comes to her. In the past, she wronged him greatly with her silly and cruel jokes Continue reading “The Year in Between: A Sense and Sensibility Variation, by Christina Morland — A Review”

Book Reviews, Regency Romance

The Earl’s Lady Geologist: The Linfield Ladies Series (Book 1), by Alissa Baxter — A Review

The Earl's Lady Geologist by Alissa Baxter 2021From the desk of Melissa Makarewicz:

Miss Cassandra Linfield has been against marriage after seeing what it did to her dear mother. Lord Rothbury has loved, and then been rejected. Will two people so opposed to a romantic relationship be able to see that theirs was meant to be? In Alissa Baxter’s new release, The Earl’s Lady Geologist, a romance unfolds asking if the risks of love are outweighed by the rewards?

When I saw that this book was not only historical romance but also highlighted an actual woman from history, I knew I had to read it. More and more we are seeing the stories of women hidden from history. Reading a story that highlights a lady geologist sounded quite intriguing.

Cassandra is a lady who loves collecting fossils with her friend Mary Anning. She has lived a life in Lyme Regis free from the rigid rules of the ton. Her mother and father have passed away leaving her to the care of Cousin Agnes. A stuffier caretaker could not be found anywhere. Cassy has no plans to marry. She is quite content in her life of fossil collecting and research paper writing. Continue reading “The Earl’s Lady Geologist: The Linfield Ladies Series (Book 1), by Alissa Baxter — A Review”

Austenesque, Book Reviews

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