The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray — A Review

From the desk of Sophia Rose:

‘Murder’ and ‘Wickham’ in the same title makes any Jane Austen lover worth their salt sit up and take notice. Now, add that with an author name long associated with young adult sci-fi and fantasy, and that makes Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham well-nigh irresistible.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham is both a historical mystery and pays homage as a sequel to not one, but all Continue reading “The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray — 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”

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”

Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my third 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.

If you can, take yourself back to 1993. Some of you reading this review were not even born yet, so bear with me. Imagine the Jane Austen universe pre Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy emerging soaking wet from Pemberley pond in the 1995 A&E/BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice. No dripping Darcy. No thousands of Jane Austen-inspired prequels, sequels and inspired-by novels and self-help books brimming book shelves at your local bookstore. No buy-it-now button at your favorite online retailer. No INTERNET for that matter! You have read Pride and Prejudice (multiple times) and seen both the adaptations: the1940 movie starring Laurence Olivier and the 1980 BBC mini-series starring David Rintoul on Masterpiece Theatre. You are violently in love with Jane Austen’s novel and know of no one else who shares your obsession—and then one day you are in a bookstore and see Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant. You stare at it in total disbelief. Could someone else continue the story of your beloved Elizabeth and Darcy? Could you be back at Pemberley again?

Now that you have a closer understanding of the environment that Tennant’s brave foray into Jane Austen sequeldom entered in 1993, and what anticipation the reader might have felt, you will have a greater appreciation of its tepid reception. When the vast majority read this book they delusionally expected Jane Austen, again. How could they possibly not be disappointed? By the time I read it in 2002 it had gotten a bad rap all-around by media reviewers and pleasure readers. My first impressions were not positive either. Now, after eleven years of reading numerous Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels that have been published in its wake— I have re-read it with an entirely new perspective—with an open heart and a sense of humor.

Image of the book cover of Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued: by Emma Tennant © St. Martin’s Press 1993 It has been almost a year since the happy day in which Mrs. Bennet got rid of two of her most deserving daughters. Elizabeth Darcy nee Bennet is learning the ropes of being the chatelaine of Pemberley House while obsessing over her insecurities and lack of producing an heir. Her dear father has died and his entailed estate of Longbourn has passed on to his cousin Mr. Collins and his wife Charlotte. The displaced Mrs. Bennet and her two unmarried daughters Mary and Kitty have taken up residence at Meryton Lodge, their new home not far from Longbourn and neighbors Mrs. Long and Lady Lucas. Elizabeth’s elder sister Jane and her husband Charles Bingley have purchased an estate in Yorkshire thirty miles from Pemberley. After four years of marriage they have one daughter and another on the way. Thoughtless younger sister Lydia, her ner-do-well husband George Wickham and their four children are continually in debt and an embarrassment to Elizabeth and her family.

The holidays are approaching and the plans for the annual festivities will include gathering family at Pemberley for Christmas and a New Year’s Ball. Besides Georgiana, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, the guest list is growing out-of-control. Even under the care of her capable housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds, Elizabeth is overwhelmed. Included are Elizabeth’s family: some welcome and others not. Mrs. Bennet, Mary and Kitty will make their first visit to Pemberley. Jane will also journey with her husband and his sisters Miss Caroline Bingley, Mrs. Hurst and her husband. Elizabeth’s favorite Uncle and Aunt Gardiner have let a house nearby so that the unwelcome George Wickham and his family can visit with Mrs. Bennet. Also on the guest list is Mr. Darcy’s officious Aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh who disapproved of Darcy’s choice of bride but seems to have mended the fence enough for an extended stay. Arriving with her is her unmarried daughter Anne and the heir to the Pemberley estate, a distant cousin of Lady Catherine, Master Thomas Roper. Shortly before Mrs. Bennet is to depart for Pemberley she reveals to her friend Mrs. Long that even though Mr. Bennet departed this life but nine months ago, she intends to marry Colonel Kitchiner, a cousin and a crush from her youth whose father was a business partner of her father in Meryton. She has invited him to Pemberley as well—so it is a full house of unlikely companionship for its new mistress.

Any fans of Pride and Prejudice will recognize the irony of the guest list. The back story from the original novel and the combination of personalities is a set-up for the conflicts that inevitably arrive even before the guests do. Tennant has fudged on the facts from the original novel which were a bit off-putting. I remember being irked by this the first time around, and the second time did not sit as well either. Jane and Elizabeth were married on the same day in P&P, yet she chose to have Elizabeth marry Mr. Darcy four years after the original event—and how could any author writing a sequel or any historical novel set in the Regency-era not understand the ins and outs of British primogeniture? Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s cousin Thomas Roper, also the cousin of Mr. Darcy’s mother Ann, could not be the heir to Pemberley. If so, it would mean that the Darcy family and his mother a Fitzwilliam were related in earlier generations. This is possible but highly confusing to the reader who may understand the English inheritance laws, or not.

Image of the book cover of Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued: by Emma Tennant © St. Martin’s Press 2006 Quibbles in continuity and cultural history aside, my second impressions of Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued were much more favorable—at least I didn’t despise it anymore. With the exception of Elizabeth Bennet being overly angst ridden and atypically un-spirited, I enjoyed Tennant’s characterizations of the delightfully dotty Mrs. Bennet and the slippery Bingley sisters. My biggest disappointment remained with the male characters. We see all of the action through Elizabeth’s eyes, and since she is uncertain and overly grateful of Darcy’s love, their relationship is strained and unpleasant. He is proud again and given nothing to say, and she is too unprejudiced to do anything about it. Tennant excelled most with her new creations: Mr. Gresham, Thomas Roper and the hysterical Col. Kitchiner who rivals the odious Mr. Collins (thankfully not invited to Pemberley) in the role of buffoon.

I appreciate Tennant much more as a writer than I did at first reading. It was interesting to put Pemberley into a wider perspective after many years. She was helping to create a new genre in which many would follow. This first attempt, though seriously flawed, merits some respect and congratulations. It is a must read for any ardent Austenesque fan, but most will be disappointed.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant
St. Martins Press (2006) reprint
Trade paperback (226) pages
ISBN: 978-0312361792

Cover image courtesy St. Martins Press © 2006; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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”

Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace

Darcy's Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace (2011)From the desk of Jeffrey Ward

For 200 years, I suspect many enthralled readers of Pride and Prejudice have silently pondered the question “What would Darcy do?” Author Maria Grace endeavors to put her own spin on this with her debut prequel novella Darcy’s Decision, in her Given Good Principles trilogy.

Spanning a brief but significant moment in time, the main gist of the story deals with Darcy’s rival Mr. Wickham, his demands for a living, and his alleged compromising of Georgiana and how young Mr. Darcy finally deals with it.

It is six months following the death of his father and Fitzwilliam Darcy struggles with how to honorably and properly manage the vast holdings of Pemberley, care for his 15 year old rapidly-maturing teenage sister, and deal with the prickly problem of one Mr. Wickham –his boyhood friend who shows up to claim the curacy that was thought promised to him by Darcy’s father. A dinner at Pemberley with some cherished neighbors, the Bingleys, Georgiana, the newly-appointed curate John Bradley and Mr. Wickham reveals the complications Darcy is up against:  (Georgiana speaking of Wickham)

“You came to pay your respects?” Lackley dabbed his chin with his napkin. “No, he did not.” Everyone gasped, staring at Georgiana. “Stop it!” Rebecca hissed, reaching for Georgiana’s hand. “He was promised the living given to Mr. Bradley.” A hush fell over the table. Darcy’s pulse thudded in his temples as the blood drained from his face.

With admirable originality the author has created a morality drama with Biblical undertones stressing mercy, forgiveness, and what makes a man truly great. She showcases the familiar well-loved characters of Pride and Prejudice quite accurately: Darcy, Wickham, Richard Fitzwilliam, the Bingleys, Mrs. Reynolds, as well as introducing her own cast of loveable loyal neighbors and old family friends. Chief among these is John Bradley, the vital mentor to both Darcys – father and son. The wise old Clergyman counsels young Darcy and the dialogue is beautiful in its timeless truth:

“I am not like him.”Darcy grimaced and swallowed hard against the rising bile. “I lack his wisdom, his discernment.” But you were given good principles, the ones your father stood.” The wind whipped his coattails and scoured his face. “Are they enough?” “He found them so.” Bradley clapped his shoulder.

But as Darcy reads his father’s private journals, a shocking confession is uncovered which will test the young man’s mettle and may change forever his attitude towards his late father and young Darcy’s relationship with his immediate family.

No Elizabeth? Sorry, but I believe she makes her appearance in the author’s trilogy installment #2 – The Future Mrs. Darcy. Until then, the romantic interest in this tale features the obnoxious Caroline Bingley as she sets her cap at poor Fitzwilliam. The off-and-on banter between Darcy, Charles Bingley, and Richard Fitzwilliam regarding how and who they may find as wives is utterly charming and really sets the stage for #2 in the author’s trilogy.

At scarcely 120 pages, the author still manages to lavish her debut work with historical accuracy, helpful footnotes, and scintillating dialogues. The author’s unique voice is most apparent in her descriptions of facial expressions, posturing, gestures, and mannerisms. A scene where Wickham is bound up and is being interrogated by Darcy and his buddies is so vivid and comical that I was in raptures mentally visualizing the entire episode.

About the only minor criticism I can level against this work is the character of Georgiana who Jane Austen describes in chapters 44 and 45 of Pride and Prejudice as exceedingly shy and quiet. This author’s Georgiana, on the other hand, is quite the feisty outspoken teenage girl, but I suppose that can be excused off as the emotional frustration of no longer being a girl, but not quite a woman yet.

I found Darcy’s Decision richly entertaining with a very plausible variation on “what if?” If Darcy doesn’t wear the mantle of hero yet with you, dear readers, I predict he will once you finish this read. Next stop? The Future Mrs. Darcy, or course!

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Darcy’s Decision: Given Good Principles Volume 1, by Maria Grace
Good Principles Publishing (2011)
Trade paperback (154) pages
ISBN: 978-0615582771

© 2013 Jeffrey Ward, Austenprose

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

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Turning Pages, by Tristi Pinkston – A Review

Turning Pages, by Tristi Pinkston (2012)From the desk of Lisa Galek. 

I really love a good Jane Austen contemporary update, especially one geared at teens. There’s something so refreshing and lovely about the idea that, 200 years later, young readers are still eating up the drama between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

When college student and aspiring librarian, Addie Preston, meets Blake Hansen, they clash immediately over everything. They have different tastes in books, different ideas about love… and Blake just so happens to have stolen the job that Addie had been hoping for – Assistant Librarian. Not only is this guy insufferable (and pretty well filled with pride), but he’s now also Addie’s new boss.

But, this isn’t the only reason Addie has to be upset. She’s been through a lot in the last year. Her father died just a few months ago and her family is being forced to move from their home. Soon, she suffers another blow – her beloved library is closing. Cutbacks in staff and the need to move quickly into a new location force Blake and Addie to work together. Addie slowly realizes that Blake isn’t the uptight (if well-read) jerk she thought he was. Now, just one final thing stands in the way of their love – Blake’s fiancée.

Since most of Addie’s life revolves around the library, this setting really takes center stage in the novel and becomes kind of like a character in its own right. There are some really humorous scenes of Addie’s misguided attempts to protest the library’s closing (like when she accidentally assaults the mayor with a placard). But, otherwise, there’s almost too much going on in the library with no real purpose. We get information on cataloging books, screwing in shelves, discarding worn out titles, which (as much as I love a library) sort of detracts from the romance.

No sparks really fly between Addie and Blake until the very end of the novel, so there’s not a lot of the will-they-won’t-they drama that makes Pride and Prejudice so fantastic. This is mostly owing to the introduction of Blake’s fiancée, the Caroline Bingley-esque, Tara. Though she’s completely wrong for him, Blake is far too good of a guy to even consider ditching or cheating on Tara. (Darcy never would have gotten mixed up with her in the first place). For a while it looks like Blake is about to take a large Edward Ferrars-shaped bullet in the name of Love and Honor and Wedding China.

The author does have a really good ear for dialogue and the characters are always cracking jokes or having fun swooning over their favorite books. Just about every single person in the story is well-drawn and relatable and you’re truly rooting for it all to turn out right in the end. It was also nice to read a young adult novel featuring college-aged character, too (which is, surpsingly rare). It makes more sense, for this story at least, to have older characters contemplating life and love without worrying if they’re going to make it to fifth period geometry on time.

Overall, Turning Pages is a bit of fun for anyone who loves a sweet romance or a well-stocked library. Its ties to Austen’s original are slight — there’s some boy-and-girl-don’t-initially-get-along tension and a tiny Wickham-esque subplot – but the novel has enough other good traits to recommend it on its own.

4 out of 5 Stars

Turning Pages, by Tristi Pinkston
Walnut Springs Press (2012)
Trade paperback (240) pages
ISBN: 978-0983829362
 

© Lisa Galek, Austenprose

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox – A Review

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd.

Jane Austen’s most serious and compelling work, Persuasion, is all about retribution, forgiveness and second chances.  Her masterpiece begins seven years after the broken engagement between the young heiress, Anne Elliot, and a junior naval officer, Frederick Wentworth—when he is thrown back into her sphere and both must face the pain from their past.  Karen M. Cox’s award winning novel, Find Wonder In All Things is a modern day homage to this Austen classic.  The tale begins with a lakeside friendship in the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky between Laurel Elliott and James Marshall.  As the two grow, childhood friendship turns to summer romance and halfway through Laurel’s first semester at the local college, James decides to move to Nashville to pursue his music dream.  He assumes she will drop everything to join him.  But at just eighteen and with a generous art scholarship, weighted by family expectations as well, who would fault her for refusing him and staying on the college track?

Eight years later, James, now rich and famous, returns to the lake to visit his sister, while Laurel has turned into a reclusive, starving artist.  Ok, not quite starving but by no means a financial success story.  And most definitely alone.  “Unbidden, he came to mind:  handsome, dashing and determined.  The eight years of separation had softened any flaws she ever saw in him, and now he was almost larger than life to her.  He had been right to believe in himself and in his ability to make his mark on the world.  He had made it, too – perhaps not in the way he intended but still successful beyond his wildest dreams.” p.115.  Captain Wentworth, I mean, James is determined to play it cool and aloof towards Anne.  I mean Laurel!  And Laurel’s regrets are freshly re-visited as she is keenly aware of her depraved status and jealously towards the younger woman James now bestows his attentions.  But Laurel’s generous, self-assured spirit unearths old feelings he thought long buried and a companionable friendship blossoms.  When a water skiing accident throws the two together, emotions come to the surface.  “And he had whispered her name and called her beautiful and sweet.  She could hear the words, and then ‘want…want…’  It had made her roar to life inside her lower belly.  Yes, she thought, I want too.’ But then he left.” p 177.  Maybe too much time and hurt had passed between them…

If you are looking for the cookie cutter formula of a Persuasion adaptation, this may not be it.  For example, you might be surprised that Austen’s pretentious, preening Sir Walter Elliot has been transformed into a struggling but kind hearted marina owner.  And Anne Elliot’s selfish, self-absorbed elder sister Elizabeth has morphed into an affectionate, married, and doting mother named Virginia.  Although many of Austen’s key characters have also been re-named and undergone a modern makeover, they remain comfortably familiar to the Austen fan.  I admit, some of my appreciation was in recognizing the subtle parallels. (Please note that although the prologue opens with Laurel and James as children, their tender love scenes later in years most assuredly rates this an adult read.) However, one need not have read Persuasion beforehand to enjoy this novel.  Find Wonder In All Things stands on its own and no wonder at all, why it was awarded the GOLD MEDAL in the Romance category at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  Congratulations, Karen Cox on another lovely read!

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox
Meryton Press (2012)
Trade paperback (254) pages
ISBN: 9781936009176

© 2012 Christina Boyd, 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”

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