Desperate Measures: A Regency Short Story, by Candice Hern – A Review

The Regency Romance Reading Challenge (2013)This is my sixth selection in the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013, our celebration of romance author Candice Hern. We will be reading all of her traditional Regencies over the next nine months, discussing her characters, plots and Regency history. Make haste! You can still join the reading challenge until July 1, 2013. Participants, please leave comments and or links to your reviews for this month in the comment section of this post.

My Review:

Unrequited love can force a girl into desperate measures—a scheme that Lydia Bettridge’s brother Daniel has concocted—and she is uncertain will work. Before the most important ball of the Season, he will procure his friend Philip Hartwell to sweep her off her feet in front of the object of her affection making him wild with jealousy. But when Philip is detained from the ball and unknowingly asks the object of her affection Geoffrey Danforth to be the swain who sweeps, Lydia is thrown for a loop. NO—he was to be the jealous lover, not the one to make her lover jealous! Thankfully Geoffrey does not know who the object of the game is and Lydia is not going to tell him! But now everything is topsy-turvy. How was she going to make him think of her as a beautiful, desirable young woman and not the little sister of his best friend? It does not help that he is so eager to play the part, especially since he has never singled out any woman in his life and will draw the attention of Society by playing the “mooncalf” with her. He was determined to make everyone in the room believe that he was madly in love with her, and he did, even Lydia! It was totally glorious—except that it was not real. Pressed to reveal whom Geoffrey is to make jealous, Lydia picks the first man she sees, the infamous rake Lord Tennison. Shocked, he tries to warn her off, but Lydia claims she needs excitement in her life. Always the obliging gentleman, Geoffrey promises to play the part to the nines and have Tennison falling at her feet before the night’s end. Continue reading “Desperate Measures: A Regency Short Story, by Candice Hern – A Review”

Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett – A Review

Before Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister (2010), Miss Darcy Falls in Love (2011), Georgiana Darcy’s Diary (2012) or Loving Miss Darcy (2013), or any of the other numerous Pride and Prejudice sequels elevating Georgiana Darcy to main character, there was Presumption: An Entertainment, by Julia Barrett (1993). Of all of the minor characters in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister is the logical choice to continue the story. She has many points in her favor. Being young, beautiful, wealthy, and accomplished she is certainly heroine material—and living at Pemberley with her brother Fitzwilliam and sister-in-law Elizabeth does not hurt either.

The first Pride and Prejudice sequel ever published, Pemberley Shades (1949), also continued her story. What could go wrong in this scenario you ask? Well plenty, if the author takes the liberties that Barrett does—but that does not mean the story is not enjoyable—if you can abide change, and the characters acting in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, or lady. I will hint that the title Presumption foreshadows more than mirroring Austen’s use of verbs in her own titles. Continue reading “Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett – A Review”

The Passions of Dr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan – A Review

The Passions of Mr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan © 2013 SourcebooksFrom the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

Some series are just too good to let go, whether they be movies, TV, or books. Sharon Lathan’s Darcy Saga, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is one such series. I’ve had the pleasure of reading all six of the previous novels, and I was sure that book seven, The Passions of Dr. Darcy, would not disappoint me in the least. So, without further ado, I sat down and began to read about another member of the Darcy family: Uncle George.

While a young Master Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his childhood at Pemberley, another member of the Darcy family is out making a name for himself in the world. Dr. George Darcy, Fitzwilliam’s bright and engaging uncle, has quickly become noted around the countryside as one of the greatest physicians in the area. He enjoys all the attention, but becomes restless and decides to make a drastic change that will take him away from all the rich and bland clientele he is used to. So, he sets off on an assignment with the British East India Continue reading “The Passions of Dr. Darcy, by Sharon Lathan – A Review”

Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review

Image of the book cover of Return to Longbourn, by Shannon Winslow (2013) © Heather Ridge Arts 2013From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

Ever since Shannon Winslow debuted with The Darcys of Pemberley (DoP) in 2011, she’s been an Austen fan-fiction author that I’ve kept on my radar. In the two years since she published DoP I’ve not only read everything else she’s written, For Myself Alone (2012) and Mr. Collins’s Last Supper (2012), but have shared countless conversations with her about life, Austen, and everything in between. She is a woman that truly understands people and deep feelings. It’s easy to understand this without knowing her when you read her latest novel Return to Longbourn. The depth of feeling that the characters go through by the end of the novel is nothing short of astounding.

Mary Bennet is happily ensconced at Netherfield Park as the governess for the Farnsworth family. All is well in her life until her father suddenly passes away. Back at home in mourning with her family she realizes how alone she feels. Her sisters Elizabeth and Jane have their husbands to turn to, while Kitty has Lydia. She feels that her only value is to remain stoic and take care of the household while the rest of her sisters fall apart emotionally. It’s this event that triggers a sudden heaviness in her life. When it’s announced that her cousin Tristan Collins (the heir to Longbourn) will be notified of Mr. Bennet’s death, well, that’s when her life turns a bit hectic. Mrs. Bennet announces her plan to have Kitty marry Mr. Collins so that they can remain at Longbourn, while Kitty confides to Mary that she is planning her escape to Pemberley. Mary understands Kitty’s reluctance to enter a marriage without love and agrees to keep their new cousin occupied until Kitty is summoned back to Longbourn. Much to everyone’s surprise, Tristan Collins arrives and is the complete opposite of his odious older brother William in every way. Mary feels herself beginning to fall in love with him and internally questions her decision to live her life without the love of a man. Add to all of this the bipolar friendship she maintains with her employer, the widowed Mr. Farnsworth, and you have the makings of much soul searching. Will Mr. Collins return her feelings? How will Mr. Farnsworth deal with her possible leaving Netherfield Park?

Upon first glance, many readers will find this to be a story about love, and in some aspects, redemption.  The deeper, more beautiful story to take away from this novel is that of a young woman trying desperately to find her place in a world where she begins to feel valueless. Winslow’s Mary (and Austen’s too) is a stoic individual, not much taken with the fancies of romance, men, balls, or fine clothes. She much prefers to toil her hours away with books and reading. She can at times be a woman of unyielding character, but deep down past this hardened exterior is a woman just like any other. She wants to have a purpose, she wants friendship, and yes, she even longs for love. In Return to Longbourn, we see a Mary who is beginning to question the way she has lived her life emotionally. Add to that the grief from her father’s death and the relationships of her sisters and brothers-in-law, and you find a very lost woman indeed. All of this coupled together makes Mary a very relatable character. For who among us can claim to never have felt lost in their own skin and unable to make sense of a multitude of new and unusual emotions? Continue reading “Return to Longbourn: The Next Chapter in the Continuing Story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Shannon Winslow – A Review”

A Change of Heart: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern – A Review

The Regency Romance Reading Challenge (2013)This is my second selection in the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013, our celebration of Regency romance author Candice Hern. We will be reading all of her traditional Regencies over the next nine months, discussing her characters, plots and Regency history. You can still join the reading challenge until July 1, 2013. Participants, please leave comments and or links to your reviews for this month in the comment section of this post.

My Review:

Notorious rakes can be interesting heroes. They bring out the “fix-it project” in any female. On the other hand, on-the-shelf spinsters can be totally perplexing to the female mind which is inclined to want to couple. Mix those two personalities together and you have the premise of A Change of Heart: A Regency Romance, the second novel in the Regency Rakes Trilogy by Candice Hern. What do you do with two complex characters who are happy with their life choices but forced to break down their barriers of hope and trust? We shall see.

Lady Mary Haviland is the twenty-nine-year-old daughter of the late Earl Assheton. As his sole heir, she inherited this estate affording her the freedom of independence so rare in a Regency lady—and she rather likes it that way—since she believes that as an ugly, insignificant and unmarried lady she can do as she chooses. She has many friends including is Emily Bradleigh, who we were first introduced to as the heroine in A Proper Companion, the first book in this trilogy. She also has a soft spot for rouges. “They are so much more honest in their approach to life that the usual paragons of propriety.” The rogue that has recently caught her eye is the notorious Black Jack Raeburn, the thirty-seven year old third son of a marquess, who because he was so far removed down the line of succession of his father’s estate never thought he need be anything more than the dissolute ne’er-do-well that he has spent the last twelve years perfecting. His life recently changed dramatically when his father, two elder brothers, and nephew all died in a boating accident a year ago. Now as the Marquess of Pemerton, he has inherited six heavily mortgaged estates and all the responsibility thereto. He must quickly find a bride to assure the succession and refresh the family fortune. Continue reading “A Change of Heart: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern – A Review”

Georgiana and the Wolf: Pride and Prejudice Continues Volume 6, by Marsha Altman – A Review

Georgiana and the Wolf by Marsha Altman (2012)From the desk of Veronica Ibarra

As if reading about the continued lives of our favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice and that of their children is not fascinating enough, send one Georgiana Bingley to seminary in France, throw in a murder with the rumor of a werewolf, and you potentially have something quite interesting. Such is Marsha Altman’s Georgiana and the Wolf, the sixth installment of her Pride and Prejudice Continues series. If you have not read any of the previous books then you are in luck as this one, though connected via Georgiana, can stand on its own without any confusion that reading a series out of order can cause.

Inspector Robert Audley has been pulled off a case in Paris and ordered to a small country town where the Marquis de Maret is rumored to be a werewolf and a murderer. With his engagement to Lady Heather Littlefield threatened by these rumors the marquis is eager for Inspector Audley to put an end to them. But things quickly become complicated as “the famed inspector of Paris” Audley uncovers a tangled web of clues that point to not one but two killers as more are found dead, and finds that Lady Littlefield’s companion Georgiana Bingley seems to be far more adept at gathering information than he.

Georgiana Bingley is the daughter of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet, but little is made of this. All that is familiar to the avid Austen fan goes largely by the wayside because even though Georgiana is central to the story, where she comes from, who her family is, and any dowry attached to her is of little significance to this story.

The main character of this tale is Inspector Audley. It is through his eyes (and thoughts) that we are led through his investigation and distraction. Because of this we are kept focused on the case, but even as Audley finds the case baffling, it is clear that his distraction is the only thing really keeping him from solving the case. Though the particulars were interesting enough to keep me reading, I did not find myself baffled by it in the least. Continue reading “Georgiana and the Wolf: Pride and Prejudice Continues Volume 6, by Marsha Altman – A Review”

A Proper Companion: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern – A Review

The Regency Romance Reading Challenge (2013)Today marks the official opening of the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013, our celebration of Regency romance author Candice Hern. We will be reading all of her traditional Regencies over the next nine months, discussing her characters, plots and Regency history. You can still join the reading challenge until July 1, 2013. Participants, please leave comments and or links to your reviews for this month in the comment section of this post.

My Review:

We know that we are in for a fun frolic when an author boldly begins the first chapter of a novel with a heroine climbing out a bedroom window to meet her lover during a runaway marriage. No sooner have we drawn another breath when we discover that Lady Gwendolyn Pentwick is not the heroine of A Proper Companion at all, but her mother, an earl’s daughter who has found herself in a family way and been pressured into a patched up marriage to a titled lord who lacks fortune and appeal. Phew. If this lively beginning is the forerunner of what is to follow, hold on to your bonnets and settle into a page-turner.

Flash forward twenty-seven years to 1812 and the Bath townhouse of the Dowager Countess Bradleigh, who while enjoying afternoon tea with her companion Emily Townsend, reads in the newspaper of the betrothal of Augusta Windhurst to her eldest grandson, Robert Cameron, ninth Earl of Bradleigh. Shocked and appalled by his choice of bride she is determined to intercede in this mésalliance. Moments later Robert surprises his grandmother by an unexpected visit to reveal his news only to find his grandmother in an uproar. Calmly he explains his logical reasons for choosing a wife after so many year of bachelorhood. He is feeling his age and wants an heir and Miss Windhurst is everything she desires in a wife: “elegant, cool, supremely aloof, does not giggle, chatter, whimper, swoon or cling.” She finds his attitude cold, calculating and unromantic asking him where the love is in the arrangement?

Lady Bradleigh actually thinks her companion Miss Townsend, an impoverished granddaughter of an earl, is an excellent choice for her grandson and against her former dictum decides to be the matchmaker for them. Standing in her way is Robert’s fiancée and her social climbing family who are thrilled for their daughter to marry an earl. Because no gentleman can break off an engagement, but a lady can, she must find a way for his betrothed to beg off—and convince Emily, a determined spinster, and her grandson, the consummate rogue, that they are a match made in heaven. Continue reading “A Proper Companion: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern – A Review”

Sons and Daughters: Darcy and Fitzwilliam Book Two, by Karen Wasylowski – A Review

Sons and Daughters: Darcy and Fitzwilliam Book Two, by Karen V. Wasylowki (2012)From the desk of Shelley DeWees

Care for a slice of dialogue?  I promise that you’ll find it irresistibly juicy, bursting to the seams with wit and character.  This is Karen Wasylowski’s work, after all, and you may still have the lingering juices from her first book Darcy and Fitzwilliam on your tongue.  It tasted like Pride and Prejudice, but more tangy, more modern, more real (if you haven’t read it, you should, posthaste).  This is totally worth the indulgence.  Go ahead.  Live a little.

Just then the door opened and in walked Fitzwilliam Darcy.

            “Darcy!  It’s about time you arrived!”

            “Wonderful to see you as well, Fitz.”  Darcy then turned to O’Malley.  “Hello, Patrick.  Good to see you, how is Mrs. O’Malley?”

            “Grand, sir.  Just grand, and, I thank you for askin’.  She’s got a proper cap to wear now she does, enjoys bossin’ around her new maid.”

            Fitzwilliam slammed a cup down to kill a roach.

            “Excellent news, and well deserved I might add.  And the boys?  Getting quite tall I’ll warrant.”

            “Growin’ like weeds, they are, another on the way and, again, so good of you to inquire.”  Patrick swept away the dead bug with his hand then wiped his hand on his trousers.

            “My, aren’t you two delightful?  A regular Tristan and Isolde without all that lovely prose to distract the mind.  Well, as much as I hate to break up this heartwarming tableau I’m famished and you’re nearly a quarter hour late, Darcy.”

            “And you’re in a foul mood.  Has he been like this all day, Patrick?”

            “Naw.  Most time, he’s worse.”  Patrick then turned and left before he was sacked once again.

Brazen, boyish Fitzwilliam stands in stark contrast to his upstanding cousin, Darcy of Pemberley, of Pride and Prejudice, of the deepest wanderings of all your Colin-Firth-look-a-like fantasies of fiction male stardom.  Next to a man like that, Fitzwilliam appears undignified, unmannered, even silly — totally real.  Fitzwilliam isn’t like other male characters in Austen and Austenesque literature, because he isn’t a courtly, noble person yet remains on the side of good.  He’s as unlikely to hurt someone as Georgiana Darcy, and far more apt to offer you a toast of health and good cheer.  Sure, he’s doing it with a foul mouth and an attitude fit for a brothel, but who cares?  Charming and enthusiastic, Fitzwilliam is a breath of fresh air.  Darcy is…well, Darcy.  All that you love of him, and more, but unsurprisingly nice.  His stately, composed personality makes up for all of Fitzwilliam’s shortcomings, which is perhaps why the two make such a wondrous pair in Sons and Daughters, the second installment in the series from Karen Wasylowski.

The early portions of the story find Darcy doing his Darcy thing, wandering around his lovely homes and out into London to meet people and talk about stuff.  He pays his bills, meets his solicitors, goes “on up to Parliament” and around to see his deliciously-styled Aunt Catherine who is fabulously, unapologetically drunk on “medicinal liquid” most of the time.  I can’t help but see Judi Dench and a big pile of frosted grey hair, but what’s better than that?  Nothing.  Nothing is better than Lady Catherine de Bourgh, especially as seen through the brilliant character depiction that Karen Wasylowski employs.  Fitzwilliam is another one of these creations, though he finds himself with much less time on his hands.  As the Surveyor General, he is busy and overtaxed (hence the snarky attitude) but still manages to find time to hang out with his wife and family.

And believe me, that includes plenty of people.  Darcy and lovely Elizabeth (who remains a back-burner voice in this interpretation — don’t be surprised) have a respectable number of offspring with a respectable, quiet life and a respectable, quiet group of helpers around them.  Their kids are sweet, generous, and well-spoken.  But of course, Fitzwilliam’s brood stands in contrast, both in numbers and in personalities.  While Darcy’s children are playing the pianoforte and researching Chinese history, Fitz’s are monkeying around like hoodlums, dropping bags of flour from 3rd-story windows, sliding down banisters, and causing their parents untold amounts of torment.  It goes so far that by the end of the book, I determined that Fitz and Amanda are bloody bad parents.

But remember, this is Karen Wasylowski’s work.  She’s the master of modern Austen, unafraid to throw in little gems and goodies like these.  The faults of the parents become the faults of the children in the real world, and such is the case here.  You’ll find yourself stunned at the lack of discipline and responsibility from Amanda and Fitz’s crazy children, the end of the book exploding with the bad behavior and carelessness that only ungoverned children can enact (now that they’re grown, you see, the cracks in their foundations really begin to show).

It’s a refreshing ride through Austen territory, but not your typical trip at all.  You’ll find bits of tradition, sure, but I found myself scratching my head at their placement, almost like they were included as a token gesture to those who search for them.  Everyone seems to live the same life over and over, cooling in passions and slackening in pursuits as the years mount, forcing the narrative to focus on the offspring simply to find something interesting again!  This tiresome path simply didn’t fit alongside the edgy, flashy prose.  However, I was consistently kept afloat by Ms. Wasylowski’s excellent skill as a writer.  She is a gifted storyteller with exceptional talent, especially with character development.  Sons and Daughters won’t leave you wanting!  Saddle up and don’t forget your boots!

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Sons and Daughters: Darcy and Fitzwilliam Book Two, by Karen V. Wasylowski
CreateSpace (2012)
Trade paperback (416) pages
ISBN: 978-1480002913

© 2012 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose

Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by P. O. Dixon – A Review

Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by P. O. Dixon (2012)

From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

With the amount of Jane Austen fan fiction writers that write “what if” variations, you’d think that by now they would be running short on new scenarios.  Thankfully, new and imaginative writers keep entering this genre and introduce new variations on our favorite old classic.  P.O. Dixon is one of these fresh new faces.  I was first introduced to this creative woman when I heard of a novel that had mixed Arthurian legend with our favorite characters of Pride and PrejudiceHe Taught Me to Hope was this novel, and after reading it, I’ve been a fan of Dixon ever since.  Knowing how creative Dixon could be, I couldn’t wait to read her latest installment, Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

After attending the ball at Netherfield Park, Jane Bennet’s heart is completely won over by the amiable and charming Mr. Bingley. When he promptly departs for London without much explanation, she is deeply depressed, feeling the loss of any chance she had at happiness in life.  Her sister Elizabeth, genuinely disturbed over her sister’s sudden emotional change, decides that she must do something about it.  She travels to Town to spend the holidays with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, although it is merely a ruse for her true purpose: to find Bingley and discover why he left Netherfield in the first place.  Her search for Bingley leads her first to Mr. Darcy’s townhouse in the hopes that he will provide a measure of assistance in her search.  Unfortunately for Elizabeth, Darcy flatly refuses and turns her out.  To make matters worse, a sudden rainstorm drenches her and she falls ill at Darcy’s home.  Sick with fever, Lizzie almost faints and Darcy rushes to save her.  Will this sudden turn of events cause a shift in Darcy’s attitude towards Lizzy?  What will become of Jane and Bingley?

While readers of Pride and Prejudice all know the outcomes to my questions above, the path to get there is long and filled with moments of despair, hope, and tender goodness.  I truly enjoyed seeing all of the interesting new scenarios that Dixon came up with.  She created varying scenes that allowed us to learn the tumultuous nature of Lizzy and Darcy’s individual minds as they struggled to come to terms with their changing feelings for each other.  Dixon executed the description of Darcy’s riotous mind flawlessly—so in tune with him throughout the whole novel—that it only aided in my ability to connect with him as a character.  The turmoil that Elizabeth feels at not being able to help her sister Jane in her time of need is also conveyed to perfection.  As someone who has a sister myself, the storyline was extremely relatable, adding much to the work.  I also have to give Dixon two thumbs way up for giving Mr. Darcy’s little sister Georgiana such a crucial part in the plot.  I’m a big fan of authors who give her a voice and a bigger role!

On the other hand, the biggest problem I had with the last Dixon novel I read (He Taught Me to Hope, you can read my review here) was that there were some plot holes left open and unfinished at the end of the novel.  This left me feeling slightly unsettled at the conclusion of the work.  I’m happy to say that this is not the case with Bewitched.  Everything ties together nicely, leaving the reader satisfied that all is as it should be with the Darcys.

Dixon has created a new variation of a classic favorite that is just as romantic and engaging as the original. In all, I foresee Dixon becoming more and more popular as people begin to discover her creative literary voice.  I urge you to begin discovering her works on your own as they will be a delight to read.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Bewitched, Body and Soul: Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by P. O. Dixon
CreateSpace (2012)
Trade paperback (182) pages
ISBN: 978-1475275773

©2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton – A Review

A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton (2012)For those who have seen a ballroom dance scene in a Jane Austen movie adaptation, or witnessed a group of ladies and gentlemen dressed in Regency finery engaged in a country dance, you know the awe and energy that it generates can be quite thrilling. Then imagine what it would be like in Jane Austen’s day and you have a good notion what to expect in Susannah Fullerton’s new book A Dance with Jane Austen. Everything from frocks, carriages, music, dancing and flirting, and so much more are included in this tidy volume. Ready your fans ladies and take a stiff bracer of brandy gentlemen; we have entered the ballroom.

Did you know that Austen featured dance scenes in all six of her major novels and that Pride and Prejudice has no less than three? (The Meryton Assembly, an impromptu dance at Lucas Lodge, and the private ball at Netherfield Park.) Our heroine Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters meet, spark, fuel, or flee from romance illustrating how dance was not only the pinnacle of social activity – but key to attracting a mate. Yes. I may be pointing my inelegant finger, but there it is. Balls and dances where the primary stage to attract the opposite sex and snag a partner. Jane Austen knew this fact very well and used it to her advantage in each of her novels. Here is a foreshadowing of its importance from the Bennet household:

The prospect of the Netherfield ball was extremely agreeable to every female of the family. Mrs. Bennet chose to consider it as given in compliment to her eldest daughter, and was particularly flattered by receiving the invitation from Mr. Bingley himself, instead of a ceremonious card. Jane pictured to herself a happy evening in the society of her two friends, and the attentions of their brother; and Elizabeth thought with pleasure of dancing a great deal with Mr. Wickham, and of seeing a confirmation of everything in Mr. Darcy’s looks and behaviour. The happiness anticipated by Catherine and Lydia depended less on any single event, or any particular person; for though they each, like Elizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by no means the only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was, at any rate, a ball. And even Mary could assure her family that she had no disinclination for it. – Pride and Prejudice chapter 17

Image from A Dance with Jane Austen, by Susannah Fullerton (2012)Written in a lively and accessible manner Fullerton delves into the subject with the energy of a fluttering fan cooling an overheated dancer. As an Austen enthusiast, and president of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, her knowledge and authority take us on a journey from learning to dance, dressing for a ball, types of balls, transportation, music, food, etiquette, conversation and even a short bit about the movie adaptations. It is primarily a cultural reference, but she liberally uses quotes from her novels, letters and family recollections throughout making it very personal and incisive.

Aimed at those who crave more knowledge of the cultural history of the Georgian era and insights into Jane Austen’s novels, A Dance with Jane Austen is inspiring, discerning and richly crafted. The illustrations add to each topic, but are sadly not credited, so the reader does not know who created them or when. However, there is a partial list of image credits, a plump bibliography, and short index to assist the reader with the paper trail.

It was a pleasure to dance with Jane Austen and her characters. I now have a better understanding of the importance of social position and wealth in marrying the right partner and how instrumental balls and dances were in attaining them.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters Went to the Ball, by Susannah Fullerton
Frances Lincoln, Limited (2012)
Hardcover (144) pages
ISBN: 978-0711232457

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany – A Review

Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd.

Austenesque and romance writer Janet Mullany dives headfirst into erotica genre in her latest release, Hidden Paradise.

Warning:  Dear readers, please avert your eyes if your genteel sensibilities are offended by a romance novel that might be classified in the same arena as Fifty Shades of Gray.

Disturbingly, the book opens in the throes of a ribald sex scene – without even a “how do you do” – only to be awoken by a phone call from a friend in England! Thusly, we are finally introduced to the recently widowed Louisa Connelly, Jane Austen expert, who is to be the honored guest at Paradise Hall, an English resort and spa, catering to the Austen enthusiast.  Hmmmmmm? Sound vaguely reminiscent of Shannon Hale’s bestseller, Austenland?  However, dressing up in authentic Regency-style clothing and experiencing everything Austen in a real Georgian country manor – similarities end there.  For one, Paradise Hall is no secret, exclusive get-away as the proprietors are most assuredly determined in getting the word out to potential guests… Enter Mac Salazar, handsome, lusty journalist whose middle name just happens to be Darcy!

Although, it has only been a few months into her mourning, Lou escapes her Montana ranch, and accepts to give a trial run of the place and give her Jane Austen stamp of “authenticity” for her friends and proprietors, Peter and Chris. Moreover, she hopes to encounter her late husband’s shade in the very place they had once planned to visit together.  But almost within the first few hours of being on the property, she realizes that this experience might be a bit more eye opening than she first expected when she secrets upon a couple coitus a la vache.  And she stays to watch! Later when she is formally introduced, it doesn’t take Einstein to surmise Mac Darcy Salazar is the resident lothario, noting that his historically accurate britches betray his virile reflex constitutionally inclined to passion.  “‘It’s an interesting concept, time travel with no chance of getting stuck in the past, or treading on a bug and changing the course of history.’  ‘It’s a very sexy period.’  She was halfway down another glass now and the room was beginning to take on a subtle, mellow glow that was half sunset, half alcohol. ‘Mainly because in popular culture, of course.  People say there’s no sex in Austen.  They’re wrong.  Her books are full of sex, but it’s all subsex.  Subtext.’ ‘That’s the champagne talking.’” p. 40.   Lou, willing Paradise Hall as all fantasy and nothing more, is determined what better place to satiate her own pangs of lust. And loneliness. It just so happens that Mac happens to be charming.  Smart.  And unbeknownst to the world around him, in search of something more substantial than romp after romp. Continue reading “Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany – A Review”

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame – A Review

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

If you enjoy Persuasion, Downton Abbey, or even Gossip Girl, you’re going to want to pay attention to this review.  Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall, is a combination of all of the above and more.  Filled with themes and story lines that involve the mixing of social classes, lies, deceit, unrequited/lost loves, gossip and more, this book is jam packed from start to finish.

The Darlington family is one of the most powerful families in all of England in the beginning of the twentieth-century.  Under their massive estate, Wentworth Hall, all the intricate daily goings-on of all the family members coincide with each other and secret and scandal run amok.  Maggie Darlington, the elder sister, has always been known to be more raucous and carefree, yet she is now much more reserved and secretive since returning from her year away.  Although her secret is not revealed until the end of the novel, its effects on all the other members of the household are immediate, as the Darlington family fights to save its polished image as it begins to crack amongst whispers in the local media.  A series of newspaper articles that are supposedly satirical on the surface seem to be all too similar to the actual lives of the Darlingtons, and soon everyone begins to speculate as to the fate of this famed family.  Will they be able to uphold the noble status of their estate?  What is Maggie’s secret?

Wentworth Hall can be summed up in one word – glamorous.  While the hall itself isn’t, Grahame’s rich writing and fascinating storylines can 100% be described in this way.  (For a perfect example of her glamorous writing style, check out the guest post she posted last week here on Austenprose)  I’m still surprised that this is Grahame’s debut novel.  Her understanding of the culture, most specifically the social aspects, is captivating.  Similar to Persuasion and even Downton Abbey, Grahame explores the mixing of social classes using a love story as her plot device.  Using the Edwardian Era as the backdrop for her sweeping drama allows her to use the upstairs/downstairs and master/servant mentality to clearly demonstrate her narrative style.

I really enjoyed all of characters different secrets and how they were revealed and unraveled, merging together in the end.  It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out what each person was hiding, but I think it’ll be less obvious for the younger crowds that pick this up to read.

My major disappointment was the vagueness of the ending.  This young adult novel builds and builds and does resolve itself, but with few details.  It’s like going from point A to Z with nothing in the middle.  It left me wondering if this was going to be part of a series.  If it is in fact scheduled to be part of a series, then the vagueness sets up the plot for future books nicely.  Despite this, the splendor of Grahame’s writing combined with the excitement of the plot made me into a big fan of Wentworth Hall.  I humbly suggest that it becomes the next addition to your “to read” pile.

4 out of 5 Stars

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

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.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

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