Flirtation & Folly: A Season in London (Book 1), by Elizabeth Rasche – A Review

Flirtation and Folly by Elizabeth Rasche 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen’s greatest gems, yet one of her most underrated novels. It is a coming-of-age tale of Catherine Morland, a comedy, a romance, and a commentary on the Regency-era literary scene. In all of that, it is both a down-to-earth study of real-life and a beautifully plotted promise that even the most mundane of circumstances hold a glimmer of heaven. In Elizabeth Rasche’s Regency debut, Flirtation & Folly, these same ingredients are bound together in the endearingly flawed, eternally hopeful heroine, Marianne Mowbrey.

Marianne Mowbrey is a dreamer. Fresh from the country to visit her aunt in London, she believes with all of her heart that she will become a heroine just like those in her favorite novels. As she soon discovers, wishing is not the same as getting. Under her aunt’s disapproving gaze, Marianne tries to learn the skills needed to be a society darling from her new “friends,” the beautiful yet mocking Stokes’ sisters.

No matter if day after day proceeded with the same rise and fall of expectations. For Marianne, the morning always burst with the fresh, flowering hope of the charming young lady she would become by eventide. (78)   

Robert Hearn arrives in London not knowing where he belongs anymore. Originally from Ireland yet raised in England, he has spent his adult years in India and beyond. All that is left of his home are memories of an idyllic childhood. With the desire to win his estate back from the hands of another, Robert has no time for social graces or flirtations. What slips past his guard, however, is a newfound friend who might be as lost as he.

The man’s face turned from the smooth flow of water to Marianne. The gaslight cast a haze around his figure that ought to have graced an angel, all golden and sparkling, but the expression on his face was far from angelic. It looked wretched and desperate. It was the same face she had seen earlier in the evening, only now it had been driven into a wild sorrow. (136)

Because of her social faux pas and her bizarre choice of dresses, Marianne soon begins to see her dreams float away. Yet it seems that the more she tries to win approval, the more she horribly fails. When an unlikely ally appears in the form of the much-too-honest-to-be-tactful Mr. Hearn, Marianne discovers that what she wants may not be what she’s wanted all along: to fit into society and its rules. What she may want—may need to truly live—is to stand out.

Flirtation & Folly is a Regency romance that kept me on my toes. With echoes of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (a novel easily in my top three favorite Austen novels) running alongside entirely original character and plot developments, this is a novel that contains both familiarity and surprises. Marianne and Robert had much to learn about who they were and their places in the world. Rather than detract from my experience, this added depth, and subtle beauty. Marianne’s observations of life in London were also fascinating, as they gave a look into daily life that’s often-left unseen in Regency romances. A footman’s mannerisms, the view of women as healers, the lower class of apothecaries, the physical toll unhealthy beauty creams had on hair and skin, the prejudice against people from Ireland—these and more were canvassed delicately but honestly.

As a coming-of-age novel, Flirtation & Folly carried this genre’s strengths and weaknesses. Marianne was identifiable, especially in her desire to both fit in and stand out at the same time. However, the way she did it was often exasperating. She spent many pages of the novel disillusioned about herself and about who she should go to for advice. Thankfully, Robert came onto the scene! He brought out Marianne’s honest, wild side, and their relationship was blunt and free from fake flirtation. This was something I enjoyed and was also sad over, as the romantic side of things was much less developed than I hoped. Their ending was rushed; ultimately, they deserved more pages spent on their relationship.

2021 has been a difficult year, but it has also been one of hope and self-reflection. With its honest look at the reality of mistakes and disappointments, Flirtation & Folly shows how joyous it is to overcome, how beautiful it is to find one’s own path, and how lovely it is to gain a hand in which to hold along the way. 

4 out of 5 Stars 

  • Flirtation & Folly: A Season in London (Book 1), by Elizabeth Rasche
  • Quills & Quartos Publishing (September 4, 2020)
  • Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (326) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1951033583

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Disclosure of Material Connection: We purchased a copy of this book for our own enjoyment. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover image courtesy of Quills & Quartos Publishing © 2020; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com

A Captain for Caroline Gray: Proper Romance Regency, by Julie Wright — A Review

A Captain for Caroline Gray by Julie Wright 2021From the desk of Katie Jackson:

An outspoken bluestocking lady in Regency England, unless independently wealthy, was most likely to be shunned by Society into involuntary spinsterhood and poverty. Suitable husbands were difficult enough to come by, but for a lady with a clever mind and vibrant opinions, her options were fewer still. Desperation led many a spurned lady onto a ship bound for India in search of Englishmen with lower standards and plentiful wealth. That long and arduous journey is depicted in author Julie Wright’s latest Proper Romance, A Captain for Caroline Gray.

Miss Caroline Gray’s unconventional education at the behest of her well-meaning parents had included “politics, science, and literature” (99) and none of the silly arts of flirtation that might have secured her future. Consequently, she had endured three London Seasons where the gentlemen “all liked her well enough before she opened her mouth. Conversation with her led them from interest to wariness. And when they’d discovered that she was often found at public lecture courses on physics, their wariness turned to outright disdain.” (182)

Living with her widowed mother on the family estate, Caroline is not prepared for the sudden news that her cousin—her father’s heir—has decided to marry and claim his inheritance, thus displacing Caroline and her mother. Her future looks bleak indeed as her mother asks if she wishes to see herself passed around by their relations like an unwanted parcel, a perpetual nursemaid or caregiver, husbandless and childless. The reality of their economic situation was that “all of her prospects hinged on marrying. Without marrying, she had no possibilities. No prospects. No choices.” (168) Caroline berates herself for her inability to make a match but quickly realizes that she could have been nobody but herself. And “did she truly want to cheat some man out of genuine happiness by making him believe her to be what she was not?” (210)

An opportunity arises in the form of an offer from her mother’s acquaintance. Mrs. Barritt’s third son has a purchased commission as a captain in the army is making his own fortune in India, and is looking for a pretty and proper English wife. She will pay half of Caroline’s passage to India in exchange for Caroline’s obligation to spend some time with her son, Captain Nicholas Barritt. Caroline is determined “to pretend she felt some excitement. She would pretend to thrill at the adventure of it all. She would pretend that her heart was not breaking at the thought of leaving her family and her beloved England.” (192) Continue reading

A Preview & Giveaway of A Life Worth Choosing: A Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Anngela Schroeder

A Life Worth Choosing by Anngela SchroederHappy Friday dear readers. Do you have your reading lined up yet for the weekend? I am working my way through Jane Austen & Adlestrop, by Victoria Huxley. It is a detailed history of the Leigh family of Adlestrop, a village in Gloucestershire, and Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, the ancestral seat of Jane’s mother Cassandra Austen nee Leigh. I highly recommend it for those interested in Austen’s many family connections and how they influenced her writing.

Today I am delighted to feature a new Austenesque novel written by the exceptionally talented Anngela Schroeder. A Life Worth Choosing is a unique Pride and Prejudice variation—unlike any that I have heard of. Imagine the plot of Austen’s tale at the point after the failed first proposal by Mr. Darcy and then add in the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Yes, this is a fantasy story so to speak, and a very clever one at that.

Anngela is a seasoned author who has written several popular Austen-inspired novels including The Goodness of Men, and A Lie Universally Hidden. She has also contributed short fiction to three anthologies: Yuletide, Rational Creatures, and Then Comes Winter. I hope that you will be as intrigued as I was by the creative concept of A Life Worth Choosing and give it a try this weekend.

The publisher has generously shared an exclusive excerpt from the novel and offered a giveaway chance to our readers. Check out the details at the end of the post. Good luck to all and happy reading! 

BOOK DESCRIPTION

“You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.” Jane Austen

Reeling from the unexpected rejection of his proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy prepares to quit Hunsford for London but not before he defends himself against Elizabeth Bennet’s accusations. He cannot forgive her harsh words; her assertion Mr. Wickham would have made a better son has cut him to the core.

Suffering an accident while delivering the fated letter, he wakes to a world he does not know—and to those who do not recognize him. With a new life, a different name, and a fresh chance at winning the woman he loves, Darcy must decide which is “A Life Worth Choosing” ––the past he remembers or a future he has created for himself.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

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A Preview & Giveaway of Forget Me Not, Elizabeth: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Jennifer Joy

Forget Me Not, Elizabeth by Jennifer Joy 2021Hey-ho dear readers. I am happy to feature bestselling author Jennifer Joy on Austenprose today to share her next Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, Forget Me Not, Elizabeth.

Now, can you guess from the title what this novel might be about? If you thought memory loss, then, you are absolutely correct. It’s While You Were Sleeping meets Pride & Prejudice in a second chance romance!

Second chance romances are one of my favorite tropes—Jane Austen’s Persuasion topping the list. Other enjoyable historical romances containing this plot device are Bath Tangle, by Georgette Heyer, and recently, Someone to Remember, by Mary Balogh. Since everyone loves a do-over, especially in love, the combination of these hooks in Jennifer Joy’s capable hands is sure to be a winner.

We have an exclusive excerpt to share with you and a generous giveaway chance by the author to win a digital copy of the book. Please check out the details listed at the end of this post. Good luck to all!

Forget Me Not, Elizabeth is the 4th novel in the Mysteries & Matrimony series of standalone novels and releases on February 28th, 2021.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Can the heart remember what the mind cannot recall?

Elizabeth Bennet’s Happily-Ever-After is shattered when calamity strikes on her wedding day. Unable to remember the man she promised to marry, Elizabeth soon comes to appreciate that Mr. Darcy is the best ally she could have when a series of disasters put her life in peril.

After one failed proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy is finally confident that Elizabeth returns his love … until she shows up for their marriage ceremony with no memory of him.  Proving his constancy, Darcy sets about courting his betrothed, determined to win her heart — again — but his wooing is interrupted when a mysterious malefactor conspires to keep them apart for good.

Working together, the amnesia-struck bride and her disgruntled groom discover an attachment more profound than the love stolen from them. But will they catch the murderous thief before it is too late?

If you can’t get enough of Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth, then you’ll love this thrilling post-canon, sweet romance based on Jane Austen’s timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice.

Forget Me Not, Elizabeth is the 4th book in the Mysteries & Matrimony series of standalone novels.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

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Darcy and Elizabeth Beginning Again: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Elaine Jeremiah — A Review

Elizabeth and Darcy by Elaine Jeremiah 2021From the desk of Melissa Makarewicz:

A twisted ankle, a sudden rainstorm, and an unmarried man and woman forced to take shelter in a nearby unoccupied cottage. These reputation-ruining tragic turn of events lead to a reimaging of Pride and Prejudice that is full of settee-gripping adventure. Elaine Jeremiah’s newest book, Elizabeth and Darcy Beginning Again, takes Jane Austen fans on a Regency route of possible ruination and ruthless wickedness.

When I saw that this was a Pride and Prejudice variation that involved a “marry or face ruination situation”, my interest was immediately piqued. Could Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s story be just as fulfilling if they had no choice in marrying? I was determined to read and find out.

The story sets out with the ever-familiar walk Lizzy Bennet takes to go visit her dear sister Jane who is sick at Netherfield. While out on her walk, she happens to be startled by a fast-riding Mr. Darcy. Shocked at the closeness, she stumbles and twists her ankle and becomes unable to continue her walk. Suddenly, the sky opens up with rain and the two are left with little choice but to seek shelter together to escape the elements. Elizabeth detests the thought of being in the debt of Mr. Darcy but she has little choice in her current condition.

“Perhaps we shall be alone together a while longer,” she said. “The rain appears to be unabating. I should imagine the roads will be flooded soon.”      

“I am not sorry for it”

His reply and direct look caught her unawares.” (279)

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A Preview & Giveaway of Dangerous Magic: A Pride & Prejudice Fantasy, by Monica Fairview

Dangerous Magic by Monica Fairview 2021Happy Friday dear readers. I am delighted to share a preview with you today of a new Austenesque novel from one of my favorite authors, Monica Fairview. Dangerous Magic is an Austen-inspired fantasy involving characters from Pride and Prejudice. In this creative reimagining of the courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, our favorite couple are mages who must marry to unite their powers to save their kingdom.

For the benefit of those who may not know what a mage is, according to the Urban Dictionary, they are “A skilled magic user who, unlike wizards and sorcerers, needs no staff as an outlet of his magic, but instead uses his hands.”  Mages populate many role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, and Dragonlance. So, in reference to Dangerous Magic, just imagine a fantasy world, Darcy and Lizzy with magical powers, and the classic “hate at first sight” trope all wrapped up in an intriguing package.

We are pleased to offer our readers a short glimpse into this magical world with an exclusive excerpt from the publisher and a chance to win a digital copy of the book. Check out the details at the end of the post. Enjoy!

BOOK DESCRIPTION

A sparkling tale of Regency England, a forced marriage, and two mages who must work together to save the Kingdom.

Elizabeth Bennet is stunned when the Royal Mages come to her peaceful country home of Longbourn to take her away. She is even more bewildered when she is commanded to marry a powerful mage by the name of Fitzwilliam Darcy. She has always dreamed of marrying for love, and an arranged marriage with an arrogant stranger was never part of her plans.

But Darcy and Elizabeth have no choice in the matter. Uniting their two forms of magic is essential if the Kingdom is to defeat Napoleon’s mages. They may dislike each other on sight, but Darcy and Elizabeth have to overcome their differences and find common ground before it is too late. Fortunately, it is not long before the sparks begin to fly between them.

Join the author of Fortune and Felicity in this enchanting story of determination, love, and hope against all odds.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

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Sons of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Reimagining, by Elizabeth Adams — A Review

Sons of Pemberley by Elizabeth Adams 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

A few authors have written variations that speculate on how Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would alter if the Darcy parents had not passed off the scene so early in the story. I enjoy these “what-if” scenarios and was eager to take up this latest novel by Elizabeth Adams, particularly because I enjoy her heartwarming and often whimsical touch to her writing.

Sons of Pemberley beings as a prequel to the original, opening during the youth of George Darcy and Samuel Wickham, the fathers of Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham. After Wickham saves Darcy’s life, they become fast friends. Darcy grows up to become the master of Pemberley whose youthful wish is realized by making his best friend the steward of his grand estate. The two men go on to marry: George Darcy has the joy of marrying a woman he loves dearly, while poor Samuel Wickham who on the eve of courting sweet Rachel, ends up with her cunning, beautiful cousin Rebecca. Lady Anne Darcy has her husband’s love and a beautiful son, and then the Darcys along with the Wickhams, receive their share of heartache when she loses her next baby.

The ongoing story follows of the Darcys and Wickhams lives, along with those connected by family, friendship, and neighborhood, continue forward as their children grow up and the parents are tangled in complicated situations.

Alternating with this past story is the later years when Lady Anne and her grown children visit Hertfordshire with her son’s friend, Charles Bingley, and his family at Netherfield where they get to know the lively Bennet family. Lady Anne observes her quiet, serious son come to life with each new encounter with vivacious Miss Elizabeth and she shares a special connection with Mrs. Bennet while guiding all the young people through love and life after she has acquired her own life wisdom over the years. Continue reading