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 someone who has been such a constant in her life. From their mischievous childhood to their maturing young adulthood, she and Rich knew they were meant to be together. They were mistaken. When the stoic Captain Wyvern arrives on her doorstep after Rich’s funeral, offering to give any aid he can, Sophie plans to refuse out of her anger that maybe (just maybe) he could have saved her fiance’s life. Yet it is her beloved almost-mother-in-law that offers a solution to free themselves from grief and Captain Wyvern from his promise: what if the captain escorted them away from familiar places and prying relatives, and took them to a new home by the sea? Continue reading

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 at his expense and her rudeness while she pursued folly with Willoughby, but now the taciturn man fascinates her—even when she resists being fascinated. Who is the man? His character is far from open though his actions show him to be honorable and noble and having sensibilities toward music and nature that match her own. Marianne is determined to get under the man’s skin yet doesn’t want to closely analyze why.

Meanwhile, Elinor is settling into married life at the vicarage and living in the village of Delaford. Love is strong and so much more than she could ever imagine. Her usual rationality and steadiness go out the window when she faces strained finances, a haughty and hurtful family of in-laws, the possibility of being with child, stirrings up in the village when the Colonel’s ward and her illegitimate son move into one of the cottages, and a husband who is struggling to not give into his fears about her health or his feelings of inadequacy. Elinor must adjust and somehow find a way through it while an interesting situation between her sister and the Colonel develops. When she begins to understand how deeply wounded and insecure Edward remains from his family’s treatment of him, she realizes being his helpmeet is complicated and full of pitfalls that require all her love and wisdom to fathom how to respond and care for her fledgling marriage. Continue reading

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.

Lord Rothbury is a man of science. Geology is a passion of his that fits quite neatly into his structured life, and he plans to keep it that way. He has no space for sentimental fluff—especially after having been spurned by a lady in his younger days. Continue reading

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)

Continue reading