The Jane Austen Dating Agency: An Uplifting Romantic Comedy, by Fiona Woodifield—A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose:

Can a Jane Austen-themed dating agency do anything about a floundering career woman’s life- ahem love life? With trepidation and not just a few sharp pokes in the back from her friend, Sophie Johnson, long-time Jane Austen lover, and dreamer of finding her own Mr. Darcy is about to find out.

Sophie Johnson dreams of a grand career in the editing office of a posh magazine, a chic lifestyle, and a dashing rich handsome guy to lavish anything her heart desires on her because he is utterly devoted to her happiness. Of course, in real life, she’s stuck in a low-level sales job at that posh magazine, a shabby chic lifestyle, and not the fashionable kind, and a pathetic serial texter who won’t believe she called it quits. She does nothing but work her dead-end job and go home to her small shared flat for a book or a favorite rom-com movie. Something has to give and fashion writer friend Mark, finds it, a dating agency right up Sophie’s alley.

Sophie loves Jane Austen and the thought of experiencing dates while engaging in themed balls, card parties, picnics, and lectures at various Jane Austen real life and movie sites makes it worth her jitters over putting herself out there to be matched. On her way out of her interview, Sophie spots a picture on the wall of gorgeous and obviously wealthy Darcy Drummond’s whose company is backing the agency and wonders what it would be liked to be matched with him.

Sophie encounters the man in real life and is unimpressed with his arrogant rich boy attitude when Darcy vocalizes his disapproval of her and others like her. After that, she bristles just being in the same room with his high and mighty, but soon she finds herself engaged in the new circle of people who have also joined the lower tier of the agency. Continue reading

A Preview of When Duty Calls: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Belén Paccagnella

When Duty Calls, by Belen Paccagnella (2020)Being a book geek, I am not ashamed to say that I get chills when I see a beautiful book cover. I am drawn to them like a moth to the flame. The mesmerizing design of When Duty Calls is by Janet Taylor. It is her best to date. Bar none. Forgive this indulgence. I just had to gush about it for a moment!

Okay, now on to the book that we are previewing here today by Belén Paccagnella. When Duty Calls was written close to twenty years ago and posted online as Jane Austen fanfiction. It has been resurrected and published as a book by Meryton Press. You don’t see that happen very often. Maybe, like never!

I am thinking back to 2000 and the state of Austen fanfiction at the time. Linda Berdoll’s The Bar Sinister was self-published in 1999 (and later reissued as Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife in 2004), and Pamela Aidan was posting her Fitzwilliam Darcy Gentleman trilogy on the Republic of Pemberley fanfic board. It takes me back to the early days of Jane Austen fanfiction. It says a lot for the story in When Duty Calls that it is still viable after all these years and I am intrigued to read it. How about you?

The author Belén Paccagnella has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt and her publisher is giving away eight eBook copies through Rafflecopter of When Duty Calls. The excerpt follows this introduction and the details of the giveaways are at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Netherfield ball brings about many changes for the population of Meryton, and more so for the female residents of Longbourn. Mr. Bingley’s departure leaves the eldest, Jane Bennet, heartbroken whilst Mr. Collins’s proposal induces Miss Elizabeth to make a hasty escape. During her flight, she happens upon Mr. Darcy, a gentleman she despises. A moment of solitude in the woods leads to rather improper behavior, and the couple departs with the promise they will tell no one about their minor indiscretion. When their secret is finally uncovered, marriage becomes the only solution to saving Elizabeth from social disgrace. Her other grudges against Mr. Darcy are amplified by resentment and the prospect of spending her life with a man she can never respect. Nonetheless, the marriage takes place, forcing the young couple to deal with their pride and prejudices as husband and wife.

Originally posted online almost twenty years ago, this Regency tale of redemption narrates the struggles of two people, their differences, and their rocky start. But will they succeed in overcoming lies, misunderstandings, and their own errors to finally find love?

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl (The Quill Collective Book 5), edited by Christina Boyd—A Review

Elizabeth Obstinate Headstrong Girl 2020From the desk of Debbie Brown:

The Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) world has been exploding with stories about Elizabeth Bennet for a long time now. What can possibly be left to explore about this beloved Pride and Prejudice character and her Mr. Darcy? Ten talented storytellers prove they can always find new ground to cover in the character-driven anthology, Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl.

One of these storytellers is the anthology’s editor, Christina Boyd, who took on two roles by including her own contribution here. Well-known historical romance author Tessa Dare provided the foreword. In it, she eloquently explains her lifelong admiration for the fictional Elizabeth Bennet.

As the book’s title suggests, Elizabeth’s obstinacy and stubbornness are highlighted; however, her intelligence, humor, and willingness to admit when she’s wrong are apparent throughout, too. Another recurring topic is Elizabeth as a young woman struggling to fight male dominance in society. Naturally, other Pride and Prejudice characters have important roles, most particularly Mr. Darcy himself. All the ten stories are told from Elizabeth’s point of view, though not necessarily in first person. The snippets below give a small taste of the delicious contents.

Starting with the modern era and making our way back to traditional Regency settings, we begin with Leigh Dreyer’s contribution, “The Last Blind Date.” Charlotte to Elizabeth: “You convince yourself at the start of any relationship that the guy is an idiot, treat him like he’s an idiot the whole time, and refuse to even consider a second date.” Continue reading

Thaw, by Anniina Sjöblom—A Review

Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom 2019Epistolary novels were all the rage in the late eighteenth century prior to and during Jane Austen’s early writing career. One does not run across novels written in letters very often today. The fact that characters do not meet face-to-face is restrictive and can be a challenge to readers.

Thaw, by Anniina Sjöblom harkens back to Austen’s first epistolary format before she re-wrote Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. Not only is it a novel written entirely in letters, but it is also told in the first-person by one character—Elizabeth Bennet—and is a variation on Austen’s classic tale. With all of these unconventional restrictions and plot changes, one does not know what to expect. If this complex hook is not enough to get your attention, dear reader, then you are not paying attention.

The story begins with a letter by Elizabeth to her sister Jane from London on Christmas day. It is one month after the ball at Netherfield and Elizabeth is married to Mr. Darcy. Their marriage, however, is not the HEA that we imagined after Austen’s classic tale, but a patched-up business due to a devastating scandal. While walking near a frozen pond, Elizabeth’s misstep lands her in the icy waters. Injured and freezing, Mr. Darcy rescues her and returns her to her family, but not before a local resident witnessed the mishap and is telling a different story. Elizabeth’s reputation is ruined, and Darcy, being an honorable man, agrees to marry her. Neither is happy about the forced marriage, yet agree that they must marry.

So, there is no longer three-quarters of the story that Austen wrote. Just jump straight to Elizabeth as Mistress of Pemberley writing long missives to her Aunt Gardiner and her sister Jane about her miserable existence as the wife of a surly, disagreeable man. That is the big leap-of-faith part for readers in this variation. You will need to disarm reproof and just go with it. Continue reading

A Preview of The Jane Austen Dating Agency: An Uplifting Romantic Comedy, by Fiona Woodifield

The Jane Austen Dating Agency (2020)Happy Valentine’s Day Janeites!

Jane Austen has been attributed as the mother of romance, so in honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s all crack open Persuasion and let Captain Wentworth pierce our soul and Mr. Darcy say to us, “dearest loveliest (insert your name here).”

In celebration of a holiday devoted entirely to romance, we are previewing a new romantic comedy that is Jane Austen-inspired. Debut novelist Fiona Woodifield and I crossed paths on Twitter and I snagged an exclusive excerpt from her new contemporary novel, The Jane Austen Dating Agency.

Fiona’s heroine Sophie is a dating disaster and has a lot to learn before she gets her HEA. I hope you are in the mood for some laughs with that romance today while you wash down Godiva chocolate with a perfectly paired glass of wine.

Many thanks to Fiona and her publisher Bloodhound Books for letting me feature The Jane Austen Dating Agency. I hope you give it a try. It’s very reasonably priced as $.99 and is sure to make you smile.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Does true romance really exist?

Sophie Johnson is young, intelligent and attractive. So, when she lands the dream position of Sales Executive at a leading fashion magazine, it appears she has it all.  But in reality, she hates her job, is sick of her controlling mother and is a dating disaster.

Then she discovers The Jane Austen Dating Agency, an exclusive club for ladies who want to meet real gentlemen and believes her luck has changed. And when Sophie meets Darcy Drummond, she thinks her dreams have come true. That is until she discovers he is arrogant and hard-headed.

So, when Daniel Becks steps into her life, she thinks she’s found the one. But is he really all he seems?

The Jane Austen Dating Agency is for anyone who has ever dreamed of romance and wondered if it really exists.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Preview of Two More Days at Netherfield, by Heather Moll

Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll 2020It’s raining Austenesque books! Last month, according to the industrious Meredith at Austenesque Reviews, there were 52 new Jane Austen-inspired books released in January 2020. 50 of those were Pride and Prejudice variations. That is a lot of Lizzy and Darcy!

I’d like to spotlight the two authors who went out on a limb and wrote non-P&P stories: Emma the Matchmaker: An Austen Inspired Romantic Comedy (Austen Series, Book 2), by Rachel John (audiobook), and Off Script (A Seeking Mansfield Companion Novel Book 3), by Kate Watson. My congratulations ladies. You win the Austenesque Sunshine and Syllabub Prize for bravery.

Among the throng of Lizzy and Darcy “what if’s” published last month was Two More Days at Netherfield, by Heather Moll, a variation of the classic love story with a twist. Moll’s story explores what happens when Elizabeth and her sister Jane’s visit to Netherfield is extended by two days. Could additional conversations with Mr. Darcy change Lizzy’s feelings for him?

This is Moll’s second Austenesque novel after her debut, His Choice of a Wife, released last year. It was a Pride and Prejudice variation also. I sense a strong flame burning for this novel and its characters by this author. Here is a book description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt from the author for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

While her sister Jane is ill at Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet overhears Miss Bingley and the proud Mr Darcy discussing his admiration of Elizabeth and her fine eyes. Not sure what to think of his praise after all of their previous disagreements, and more flattered than she wants to admit, Elizabeth teases him for the disparaging remark he made about her at the Meryton Assembly. Darcy is then forced to reconsider his opinion of a woman who has truly bewitched him more than any other.

The result of this unintended eavesdropping leads to confrontations and apologies on both sides and, eventually, the beginnings of a friendship between Darcy and Elizabeth. Their warming acquaintance impacts the courtship of Darcy’s friend and Elizabeth’s sister, the jealous temper of Miss Bingley, and even the behavior of Mr. Wickham after he arrives in Meryton.

How are the events of the winter drastically affected by the Bennet sisters choosing to spend two more days at Netherfield?

SETUP BY THE AUTHOR:          Continue reading

A Preview of Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Kelly Miller

Mr. Darcy's Perfect Match, by Kelly Miller (2020)I am happy to share a new Austenesque novel with you all today. It is inspired by one of our favorites of Jane Austen’s canon.

Devoted readers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are familiar with the story’s critical peaks and valleys—the emotional rise and fall of its narrative. One point that has always intrigued me is after Mr. Darcy’s failed first marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet in Kent. Afterward, she returns home to her family in Hertfordshire, and he to London; and then disappears off the page for eight chapters. Austen keeps the story focused on her heroine Elizabeth leaving the reader to wonder what Mr. Darcy is doing and feeling for several months until the couple is reunited again in the summer at Pemberley.

Many Austenesque authors have given us their take on this gap. In Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy’s Diary,  and Maya Slater’s, The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice is retold from the hero’s perspective in which those three months that Austen leaves open to the reader’s imagination are happily revealed. In Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a new Pride and Prejudice variation by Kelly Miller, we are given another alternative to Mr. Darcy’s journey back to Elizabeth Bennet. All of Austen’s characters are here, yet the players have been moved around on the chessboard in a different manner. Here is a description of the book and an exclusive excerpt to give you an inkling of the tone and writing style.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When secrets are revealed and a family agenda works against him, can Fitzwilliam Darcy recover his damaged spirits and find happiness?

Following his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to London from Kent broken-hearted and dejected. One bright spot penetrates his sea of despair: his sister, Georgiana, has finally recovered her spirits from the grievous events at Ramsgate the previous summer. She has forged a new friendship with Miss Hester Drake, a lady who appears to be an ideal friend. In fact, Lady Matlock believes Miss Drake is Darcy’s perfect match.

Upon Elizabeth Bennet’s arrival at the Gardiners’ home from Kent, she finds that her sister Jane remains despondent over her abandonment by Mr. Bingley. But Elizabeth has information that might bring them together. She convinces her Uncle Gardiner to write a letter to Mr. Bingley providing key facts supplied to her by Mr. Darcy.

When Mr. Bingley discovers that his friend and sisters colluded to keep Jane’s presence in London from him, how will he respond? Given the chance, will Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their past misunderstandings? What will Darcy do when his beloved sister becomes a hindrance toward winning the lady he loves?

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading

A Good Name: A Modern Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Sarah Courtney — A Review

A Good Name, by Sarah Courtney (2019)From the desk of Debbie Brown:

This is one of those books that completely took me by surprise. I’m still gobsmacked by it. Do NOT be put off by the fact that the first part of the story — well, actually, the whole book — is centered squarely on George Wickham. Please trust me. It works.

The book’s Prologue tugs at your heartstrings, introducing George at age ten. His mother is a neglectful drug addict and he doesn’t even know who his father is; Rebecca Wickham has had several boyfriends, and Mark, the guy she’s currently living with, is better than most only because he doesn’t beat them. George has just one set of clothes, and he’s always hungry. He gets bullied at school. He can read, but not very well. With such a start in life, there doesn’t seem to be much of a future ahead for him.

But little eight-year-old Lizzy Bennet approaches him on a playground bench, offers him a sandwich, and unconsciously introduces him to the perfect escape from his miserable life by reading aloud a Harry Potter book. “[H]e wished she didn’t have to go. It was like coming out of a dream somehow, to close the book and go back to real life. He felt let down. Going home, going to bed, lying there hungry… how could he go back to that now that he had been on a train to magic school?” It’s a game-changer for George.

The story continues. The two friends are separated, but George’s situation improves thanks to Mr. Darcy (senior). Fitzwilliam Darcy eventually turns up in the book a couple of years later. His entrance is an inspired twist, and I hope other reviewers are kind enough not to spoil the surprise.

More time passes, with Will becoming COO of his father’s company, AirVA, which is a national air ventilation system corporation based in Virginia. Anyway, when Will’s father and mother are in a car crash, Mr. Darcy’s injuries and subsequent rehab require Will to step up as CEO years before originally planned. It’s a difficult transition for an introverted, insecure young man. Everyone seems to want a piece of him — both in business and in his social life.

The plot gets into recognizable Pride and Prejudice territory with Will reluctantly attending Charles Bingley’s engagement party, hugging the periphery, and resisting his friend’s suggestion that he enter into the spirit of things. When Charles offers to introduce Will to Jane Gardiner’s sister Elizabeth, we just know what’s coming. As expected, Elizabeth overhears him say, “Charlie, leave off. I have no interest in dancing with whatever floozy you’re trying to throw at me this time.” …aaand we’re off! Continue reading

A Preview of Strong Objections to the Lady: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Jayne Bamber

Strong Objection to the Lady, by Jayne Bamber (2019)Pride and Prejudice variations are the most popular Austenesque books in print. There are thousands of them now. I kid you not. While the genre can credit Abigail Reynolds as a pioneer in the Darcy and Elizabeth redux, there are always new authors with new stories breaking into the throng to add to the mix.

Jayne Bamber is one of those new additions to the pack. She is certainly prolific. She published four Pride and Prejudice variations last year. One assumes that she had them squirreled away and brought them out in a flurry of industry. Her latest, Strong Objects to the Lady, is part variation and continuation. You will find familiar settings at Rosings Park and Hunsford Parsonage in Kent and beloved characters created by Jane Austen sent off in new directions. Here are a book description and an exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A tale of…Intrigue & Inheritance… Meddling & Manipulation… Sisterhood & Self-Improvement…

When Lady Catherine de Bourgh learns of Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, her wrath sets in motion a series of events at Hunsford Parsonage which embroil Darcy and Elizabeth in a family fracas that grows more complicated daily.

The shades of Rosings Park are soon polluted by the shocking transformation of its new mistress and her guests, as well as secrets of the past and schemes for the future.

Appearances and alliances shift amidst the chaos wrought by a well-intentioned house party, and Darcy and Elizabeth must finally face their feelings for one another despite mounting obstacles and misunderstandings of every kind.

Set chiefly in Kent and spanning the short space of just a month, this stand-alone variation begins the morning after Mr. Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. From there, chaos quickly erupts and the lives of three strong young women tangle together in a day-by-day journey of growth, sisterhood, and ultimately romance, in the wake of tragedy.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Continue reading