The Earl Next Door, by Amanda Grange – A Review

The Earl Next Door by Amanda Grange 2012 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:  

A lesson learned from the works of Jane Austen is that the rake never saves the day and never gets the girl. Mr. Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford, John Thorpe, and Mr. Elliot are all fine examples of this rule. While Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon, Edmund Bertram, Henry Tilney, and Captain Wentworth all perfectly fit their roles as heroes, I’ve lately experienced some niggling doubts about these so-called rakes. Was Willoughby really so horrible, or were his actions the result of a lack of maturity and guidance? Would Henry Crawford have been faithful if Fanny had given him encouragement? This leads to a deeper question–What would happen if the rake DID get the girl? And what if he really wasn’t a rake at all—what if he was the hero in disguise? Those questions are explored and answered in The Earl Next Door (originally published as Anything but a Gentleman) by Amanda Grange, the author of the well-known series of diaries from the perspectives of Jane Austen’s heroes.

When Marianne Travis’ older brother, Kit, runs away from home because of large gambling debts (caused by his friendship with a rogue named Luke Somerville), it falls on her shoulders to run the family estate. Everything runs smoothly (and boringly) until she discovers a wounded man in the woods on her new neighbor’s property—a neighbor who happens to be the most handsome and exasperating man she has ever met—Lord Ravensford. Their first meeting gives Marianne the distinct impression that the Earl is just an incorrigible rake (he has the audacity to think she’s a lightskirt!), but as they spend more time together she finds herself more and more drawn to him and the intelligence and concern she sees behind the mask of a rogue. When secrets come to light about who the earl’s true identity is and what really happened to Kit, can Marianne get past her presuppositions and trust in the earl before it’s too late? Continue reading

Mr. Darcy’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my fourth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

In 2005 author Amanda Grange gave Pride and Prejudice fans what they had been craving for centuries—Jane Austen’s classic story retold entirely from the perspective of its iconic romantic hero—Mr. Darcy. It was certainly not the first novel to explore this concept, but Mr. Darcy’s Diary remains, after many other attempts, the best in a very crowded field of Darcyiana.

I first read Darcy’s Diary eight years ago when it was released in the UK. I paid a fortune for the first edition to be shipped to the US. I did not regret it. My copy retains its place of honor on my Austen sequel bookshelf, along with the five other novels in her Austen Hero Diaries Series that Grange has since produced. She has a large international following for her work which she has earned through honest homage and clever craftsmanship.

Writing a first person narrative of a classic hero who is a bit of a prig in the original story has its challenges. In Pride and Prejudice the reader sympathizes with the heroine Elizabeth Bennet in her dislike of Mr. Darcy. We meet him and draw our conclusions of his personality from her perspective—he is a proud and disagreeable man—we see why she thinks so, but we do not know why.

Image of the book cover of Darcys Diary, by Amanda Grange, UK ed. © 2005 Robert Hale Ltd Seeing the same events unfold from his eyes does not absolve him of his bad behavior, but as the narrative progresses, we are more sympathetic to his reasons. As we discover his inner thoughts and outward actions, our second impressions countermand his arrogant noble mien: we learn details of his chance intervention of the elopement of his sixteen-year old sister Georgiana with his nemesis George Wickham; we see his management of his soft-hearted friend Charles Bingley and learn why he is guiding him by the manipulation of his confidence and Bingley’s sisters; we see his attraction to Elizabeth Bennet spark and grow from his original cool intolerance to his admiration of her “fine eyes” and saucy impertinence—and his puzzlement of her brusque behavior to him.

Oh,’ she said, ‘I heard you before; but could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say “Yes,” that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes. I have therefore made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all – and now despise me if you dare.’

‘Did I really seem so perverse to her? I wondered. And yet I could not help smiling at her sally, and her bravery in uttering it.’ p. 40

Close readers of Pride and Prejudice will recognize lines of Austen’s original dialogue (like Elizabeth’s speech to Darcy quoted above) interlaced with Grange’s new text. This ingenious co-mingling is seamless and we partake in many of the important passages where Darcy interacts with Elizabeth in the original novel, and then his private reaction. This works for this reader because Grange does not try to write like Austen in Elizabeth head, but as Grange in Darcy’s.

For those who are a student of character (like our heroine Elizabeth) it is interesting to observe our hero Darcy’s view of events from a male perspective. The whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus theory plays out beautifully and Grange takes full advantage of the differences in the sexes and how they think and react to the same scene when Elizabeth arrives at the Netherfield Ball.

I continued walking towards her. ‘I am glad to see you here. I hope you had a pleasant journey?’ I asked. ‘This time, I hope you did not have to walk!’

‘No, I thank you,’ she said stiffly. ‘I came in a carriage.’

I wondered if I had offended her. Perhaps she felt I had meant my remark as a slight on her family’s inability to keep horses purely for their carriage. I tried to repair the damage of my first remark.’” p. 51

Image of the book cover of Mr. Darcys Diary, by Amanda Grange, US ed. © 2007 Sourcebooks Clueless! There is some hope of improvement. As Darcy’s admiration of Elizabeth grows, it begins to humble his pride. While he is in Kent visiting his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh, we begin to see the change as he reacts to Elizabeth’s explanation to Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam of his behavior when they first met at the Meryton Assembly.

In her eyes, my refusal to dance became ridiculous, and I saw it so myself, for the first time. To stride about in all my pride, instead of enjoying myself as any well-regulated man would have done. Absurd! I would not ordinarily have tolerated any such teasing, and yet there was something in her manner that removed any sting, and instead made it a cause for laughter.” p. 78

Even though many will know the final outcome of the story, Grange keeps us in suspense by adding new scenes and inner thoughts that only Darcy would be privy too—and now we are too. What fan of Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Darcy, could possibly resist reliving a cherished novel and walking in his shiny, black Hessian boots? I couldn’t.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Mr. Darcy’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange
Sourcebooks (2007)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1402208768

Cover images courtesy of © 2005 Robert Hale Ltd & © 2007 Sourcebooks; text ©2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Dear Mr. Darcy

Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange (2012)39 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies of Dear Mr. Darcy by Amanda Grange. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Jillian who left a comment on August 07, 2012
  • davepear who left a comment on August 08, 2012
  • Gina who left a comment on August 10, 2012

Congratulations ladies and gentleman! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 23, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Enjoy!

A big thank you to author Amanda Grange for her great guest blog and to her publisher Berkley Trade for offering the giveaway copies. Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange – A Review

Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange (2012)Review by Christina Boyd

Bestselling authoress Amanda Grange’s latest offering, Dear Mr. Darcy, is a clever retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the epistolary form. However, don’t be fooled by the title. This novel is so much more than just Mr. Darcy’s private correspondence, including many letters from several key players from the original novel as well as characters from Grange’s own invention to develop back story. She has also cleverly incorporated Austen’s canon Pride and Prejudice letters helping to solidify the timeline.

The novel begins five years prior to Pride and Prejudice, with the death of Mr. Darcy, Sr. and his final letter to his son detailing his hopes and dreams for him as well an introduction to Mr. Darcy’s cousin, compeer and confidant, Mr. Philip Darcy. The letters also unveil the dealings with The Living promised to George Wickham, as well as the near undoing of Darcy’s younger sister, Georgianna.

This Mr. Darcy remains true to Austen’s original: haughty, reserved and fastidious. Darcy wrote to Philip Darcy describing Bingley’s enthusiasm for his new home Netherfield Park and his own dread to attend that now infamous Meryton Assembly, “He did not care a bit that he might be mixing with the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker; he thought only to make himself agreeable to his neighbors. So now we must endure an evening of mortifications and punishment as the local burghers ogle our clothes and whisper about our fortunes.” (p. 134) And, we all know how well that turned out. It is particularly illuminating (and sometimes laugh out loud funny) as letters from different characters relate the same story – but with entirely different points of view.

In addition, the letters introduce us to the Sothertons, the former family of Netherfield Park who have retrenched to Bath, as well as further develop the characters of those we even now know so well such as Mary Bennet! In a letter to her noble friend, fellow Learned Woman and Sister in Athena, Miss Lucy Sotherton, Mary writes, “My sisters demanded a jig and I was forced to accede to their wishes, though as remarked to Mr. Shackleton afterwards, ‘A jig might feed the body but a concerto feeds the soul.’ He was much struck and begged for permission to copy it into his book of extracts.” (p. 147) I could hardly keep from laughing every time Mary mentioned her daily pursuits of rational application or her collection of maxims she adds in her book of extracts!

As the familiar story of Pride and Prejudice progresses, the letters prove remarkably insightful. Miss Charlotte Lucas writes to Miss Susan Sotherton about the very eligible, but very toady, Mr. Collins.  “…I see no reason why I should not be his third choice. He seems to have a comfortable home, Lady Catherine seems to be a sensible, if dictatorial, woman, and he has no vices.  He has no virtues either, it is true, but his parsonage has two sitting rooms, so he tells me, and it seems to me that a wife might have one whilst her husband has the other.” (p. 190) It would appear that Mrs. Bennet was right.  Those Lucases are very artful people, indeed.

Letters to and from Miss Susan Sotherton and Miss Elizabeth Bennet are timeless—just how any BFF would write: witty, intimate and gossipy. “Lizzy, you are trying me hard!  First I must mention nothing of your proposal, and now I can mention nothing about Mr. Wickham’s relations with Mr. Darcy… I eagerly await your next letter.  I fully expect to find that the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed to you when you next write!” (p. 271)

Recently I saw a suitable extract (on facebook no less) that said something like, “Book hangover: Inability to start a new book because you’re still living in the last book’s world.” I confess, I am a great sufferer and Grange’s latest offering left me as such.   After closing the book, I had not yet gone beyond the words delightful and charming when some unlucky recollections intruded.  One, I was somewhat disappointed that one of Darcy’s dearest confidants, Mr. Philip Darcy, did not respond to Darcy’s engagement note. Not a congratulations, not even a damning letter! Nothing. Grange seemed to have forgotten him in the closing pages. It is a small criticism to be sure but it must be remarked upon as this omission simply leaves one puzzled as to how he took the news after holding such importance in Darcy’s life.  Hmmmmmm? Or, maybe his silence on the subject is more telling? Nothing to repine. Moreover, I am exceedingly diverted by the speed of mail in Georgian times, particularly a few letters needing only two days for a response from London whilst in Derbyshire or Yorkshire. Then again, I suppose Darcy could have sent all his letters by express… and, I was confounded that Darcy exchanged letters with Miss Caroline Bingley— especially since they are not engaged persons nor related.  But I digress.

Dear Mr. Darcy is delightful and charming. This latest retelling is fresh and true to the original masterpiece. Amanda Grange writes each letter with such an honest, elegant hand one readily recognizes the unmistakable voices of our beloved characters as they share their news. In an electronic age when the handwritten letter is all but extinct as text, email and voice mail are de rigueur, Grange’s epistolary retelling Austen’s masterpiece raises letter writing to a curious art form. Likening to Learned Woman Deidre Le Faye’s own non-fiction yet very academic, Jane Austen’s Letters, Grange’s fictional letters suggest a familiarity to even the most devout Austenite whilst driving the story to its anticipated and fulfilling conclusion. The effect is a captivating and agreeable narrative that will surely satisfy even the most astute Austen fan or Learned Woman.  Amanda Grange is at the top of her game!

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0425247815

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Dear Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Author Amanda Grange & Giveaway!

Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange (2012)Please join us today in welcoming author Amanda Grange on the launch of her blog tour of Dear Mr. Darcy, a new retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective.

Wait! Didn’t Amanda already write Mr. Darcy’s Diary? Yep, she did, but this novel has a new slant that readers will find enchanting. Leave a comment to enter a chance to win one of three copies of the book available from Amanda’s publisher Berkley Trade.

Welcome Amanda

Hi, Laurel Ann, thanks for inviting me to guest blog. I’m very excited to be here to talk about my latest book, Dear Mr Darcy.

I’m sure people are wondering why I have written another retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and why I have used the epistolary form. The reason is very simple. As some of you will already know, Jane Austen rewrote Pride and Prejudice considerably between 1797, when it was begun, and 1813, when it was published. It was originally called First Impressions and it was probably written in the epistolary style.

I’ve often thought about the early version of Pride and Prejudice and wished we still had it to read. Over the years an urge started growing inside me to recreate it. Of course, my version is only my idea of how it might have been, and I’m not Jane Austen, but the idea gripped me. I thought it would be a fantastic way of providing another way into the story, and another way into Mr Darcy. I decided to start with the death of his father, because his relationship with his father was obviously very influential in turning him into the proud, haughty man of Pride and Prejudice.

Almost the first letter in Dear Mr Darcy is written by Mr Darcy’s father, when he is on his deathbed. He wants to give our Mr Darcy some advice for the future, including these words, which have a lasting effect:

Remember that the woman you favour with your hand will not only be a wife to you, she will also be a sister to Georgiana and the mistress of Pemberley. She will need to command the respect of the servants and the love of your family; she must reflect the greatness of the Darcys; she must be a gracious hostess and a model of feminine virtue; she must be a modest lady and she must be possessed of a refined taste and true decorum. And she must be a woman you can admire, respect and esteem, as well as love.

For advice on matters of this nature I refer you to my brother’s son, your cousin Philip.

Darcy’s cousin, Philip, is my own invention. He proves very useful throughout the book as his character is similar to Darcy’s, he is of the same social level and therefore Darcy feels he can confide in him.

The following extract is from one of Mr Darcy’s letters to Philip later in the book, written from Rosings, when he is tempted, against his will, to propose to Elizabeth – who is definitely not the sort of woman his father advised him to marry!

It would degrade me to marry her. I would be laughed at by all my friends, jeered at by my enemies and pitied by all. I could never possibly marry her. And yet – and yet I cannot keep away from her. The lightness of her spirits, her humour, her arch smile, her teasing, her eyes – oh! Philip, her eyes! which sparkle when she teases me and show she knows her power over me – all these things drive me to distraction.

I can tell no one but you. You know my character, you know how proud and disdainful I am, but against my better judgement I have been enraptured by her. It is out of the question for me to marry her; out of the question to make her my mistress.

I would leave if I could, but if I go now it will look particular and that is something I very much want to avoid. I do not know what to do.

Your beleaguered cousin,

Darcy

*******

Mr Philip Darcy to Mr Darcy

London, April 22

Darcy, leave at once. Make some excuse and go today, this minute, never mind if it looks particular, it will soon be forgotten. Do not linger another moment. This kind of fever is virulent and the only thing that can control it is a prolonged absence from its source. Have your valet pack your things and meet me in London straight away. If you stay you will regret it.

Philip

 *******

Mr Darcy to Mr Philip Darcy

Rosings Park, April 23

Dear Philip, you are too late. I have proposed.

This is just a sample of the letters, but Dear Mr Darcy is full of them! Letters from Elizabeth to her friend Susan (my own invention) as she talks about Mr Darcy’s arrival at Netherfield and her subsequent frustrating yet stimulating meetings with him; Caroline Bingley’s scheming as she persuades Charles to introduce her to his eligible friend Mr Darcy; Mary’s moralising and more. But at the heart of the book are the letters to and from Mr Darcy as he manages his estate, cares for his sister and fights a losing battle against his love for Elizabeth Bennet.

I love all my books, but every once in a while, I feel that one of them is extra special. I felt it when writing Mr Darcy’s Diary and I felt it when writing Dear Mr Darcy. I hope readers agree.

Author Bio:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire, England, and spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had over twenty novels published including six Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view. Woman said of Mr Darcy’s Diary: “Lots of fun, this is the tale behind the alpha male,” whilst  the Washington Post called Mr Knightley’s Diary “affectionate”. The Historical Novels Review made Captain Wentworth’s Diary an Editors’ Choice, remarking, “Amanda Grange has hit upon a winning formula.” Austenblog declared that Colonel Brandon’s Diary was “the best book yet in her series of heroes’ diaries.”

Amanda Grange now lives in Cheshire, England. You can find out more by visiting her website Amanda Grange. You can also find her on Facebook as Amanda Grange Author.

Grand Giveaway of Dear Mr. Darcy

Enter a chance to win one of three copies available of Dear Mr. Darcy, by Amanda Grange by leaving a comment revealing what intrigues you about reading Mr. Darcy’s personal correspondence by 11:59 pm Pacific time, Wednesday, August 15th, 2012. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 16th, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck!

Dear Mr. Darcy: A Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade (2012)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0425247815

© 2012 Amanda Grange, Austenprose

Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb – A Review

Pride & Pyramids, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

In the entire spectrum of Pride and Prejudice sequels, variations, retellings, and what-if’s I’ve seen Darcy as a vampire, werewolf, zombie, ranch owner, and rock star.  I’ve seen Elizabeth as a master zombie fighter, scientist, doctor, sleuth, and time traveler.  I’ve seen them in WWII England, Colonial America, Thailand, Texas, and Oxford, but never have we seen them the way Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb have envisioned them in Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt. Taking them down the Nile and into the sprawling deserts of Egypt, Grange and Webb turn our beloved couple into amateur archeologists on an expedition in the land of the pharaohs!

Pride & Pyramids begins approximately 15 years after the fairytale ending of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth and Darcy are comfortably tending to their many children and leading a comfortable, happy life.  This changes with a visit from Edward, brother of their cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.  Recently, Edward has been stricken with the latest craze in Regency England: Egyptology!  Begging for an adventure, Darcy gives in to Elizabeth and asks Edward if he can bring the family along with him to Egypt.  After months of preparation the whole clan heads out on an epic journey to Egypt.  What happens when they get there can only be described as Egyptian myth……

When I first heard that there were two authors writing this, I’ll admit that I was nervous.  Grange is already known for her excellent insight into the heads of Austen’s men with her diary series.  I was concerned that the book would read oddly with an Egyptologist as a co-author.  Webb has certainly made her mark in a wonderful way, helping weave her knowledge of Egyptian myths and beauty into the story.  The juxtaposition of Austen-styled writing with Egyptian myths is mesmerizing.  The story is effortlessly told, transporting the reader on this epic journey with the Darcy family.

While Elizabeth and Darcy are obviously important to the narrative, their children and their cousin Edward are the focal characters.  These new character creations make great additions to Austen’s cast of we know and love.  I was THRILLED that Mrs. Bennet was able to wheedle her way into the novel, as her “fluttering and spasms” made for great humorous fodder.

In all, this is a great new way to explore the Pride and Prejudice sequel JAFF genre!  It was entertaining to read this refreshing take on these familiar characters.  If I ever get the chance to go to Egypt I’ll be sure to remember all the sights and sounds that I read about in this work!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride & Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Egypt, by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-1402265341

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for Pride & Pyramids

Pride & Pyramids, by Amnada Grange and Jacqueline Webb (2012)53 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies available of Pride & Pyramids by Amanda Grange & Jacqueline Webb. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Monica P. who left a comment on July 02, 2012
  • Amy B. who left a comment on July 11, 2012
  • Michelle Fidler who left a comment on July 05, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by July 18, 2012 letting me know if you want a print copy or an ebook edition. Print copy shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only. Ebook shipment internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments, and to authors Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Wells for your great guest blog and to their publisher Sourcebooks for the giveaway copies. Enjoy!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose