Almost Persuaded: Miss Mary King, a Pride and Prejudice Short Story, by P. O. Dixon – A Review

Almost Persuaded Miss Mary King by P O Dixon 2013 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

Jane Austen’s works have given us countless characters to fall in love with: Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney, Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth, and Elinor & Marianne Dashwood. Along with these major players, Austen sprinkles in minor personalities who play a very small role in the plot, leaving the full back story to our imagination. P. O Dixon has taken one of these lesser-known characters, “the nasty freckle-faced” Mary King, and given her story a chance to be told in her latest short story Almost Persuaded.

Mary King is accustomed to being in the background. She purposely shies away from the social spotlight but is always keenly aware of the goings-on around her. She can’t seem to keep her eyes off of George Wickham from the time they first met. Unfortunately for her, he doesn’t seem to have reciprocated any of these feelings, and in fact, does not notice her whatsoever. All that changes, however, when Mary becomes the recipient of a ten thousand pound inheritance. Suddenly she has gone from being a wallflower to the center of the social universe. Now she goes from pining for Wickham’s attention to having more attention on her than she could ever have wanted. Will this inheritance prove to be the key to finally winning Wickham’s heart or a curse that haunts her to be alone forever? Continue reading

Dancing with Mr. Darcy: Stories Inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House, edited by Sarah Waters – A Review

In celebration of the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s arrival at Chawton in Hampshire, the Jane Austen Short Story Award 2009 Competition was sponsored by the Jane Austen House Museum and Chawton House Library. Dancing with Mr. Darcy is a collection of winning entries from the competition. Comprising twenty stories inspired by Jane Austen and or Chawton Cottage, they include the grand prize winner Jane Austen over the Styx, by Victoria Owens, two runners up Jayne, by Kristy Mitchell and Second Thoughts, by Elsa A. Solender, and seventeen short listed stories chosen by a panel of judges and edited by author and Chair of Judges Sarah Waters.

Since the publication of her first novel Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Jane Austen’s works have been cherished by many for a variety of reasons. Some value her astute characterizations and biting wit, others her craft of language and social reproof. If my life-long admiration is any measure of my own flux in “favorite” characters, themes or stories over the years, then I am not surprised that my choice of the grand prize and runners up from this collection are different from the august panel of judges. Firstly, there were many fine stories in the collection. Secondly, which ones would Jane Austen choose?

Here is my breakdown of stories by star rating: 3 with 5 stars, 9 with 4 stars, 5 with 3 stars, 3 with 2 stars and 0 with 1 star. This was based on my first impression; I did not reread them. On analyzing my selection of 5-star stories, I found that they all had strong connections to Austen or her characters, we’re told in a simple and straightforward narrative, and either made me laugh or pulled at my heart. In short, they used some of the same techniques that make Austen’s writing so special. Here are my three 5 star story choices:

Grand Prize: Second Thoughts, by Elsa A. Solender

Poignantly told from Jane Austen’s perspective, we experience her acceptance and eventual rejection in 1802 of wealthy suitor Harris Bigg-Wither of Manydown Park. Torn between her need for financial independence and their unsuitability, Jane ultimately decides “that a marriage without affection can hardly be an agreeable enterprise.”

Runner Up: Eight Years Later, by Elaine Grotefeld Continue reading

A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen – A Review

Guest review by Christina Boyd

A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen is a collection of three-holiday novellas by Sourcebooks’ best-selling authors Amanda Grange and Sharon Lathan, and debut author Carolyn Eberhart. Reading and reviewing a Christmas book when pumpkins, witches, and goblins still abound seems out of synch. Alas, with a sigh, I have mustered all of my supercilious, Ebenezer Scrooge-like sympathies and yielded to pre-Christmas, pre-Halloween! undertaking.

In Sharon Lathan’s A Darcy Christmas (same as the title of this book) nine chapters chronicle the highlights of some twenty-nine years of Darcy family Christmas’ including the joyous first Christmas when Darcy gifts Elizabeth with a key to a locked cabinet holding a collection of sexually instructive books, to a grief stricken Christmas after the death of Elizabeth’s beloved father, Mr. Bennet. Lathan fans will readily recognize her vivid characters from her “Two Shall Become One” series and delight in their saccharine-sweet sentimentality. Albeit Lathan’s style is not Austenesque, and the dialogue lacks Regency aplomb (i.e. Darcy discussing pregnancy in mixed company) she should get points for her steadiness and commitment to her characters. What it lacks in actual plot, Lathan’s Darcy and Elizabeth, as in her previous novels, make up for in their undying love, unyielding libidos and excessive banter of the mundane. Bah humbug, indeed.

What does one get the man who has everything? In Amanda Grange’s Christmas Present, it becomes quite apparent that Mr. Darcy of Pemberley is in want of an heir, and his wife, Elizabeth is poised to oblige. This charming tale takes the Darcy’s to visit with Charles & Jane Bingley and their newborn son at their new estate, Lowlands Park in Nottinghamshire. However, through various contrivances of Mother Nature and Mother Bennet, the Bingley’s small family party has expanded to a house full of colorful characters, including Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, Caroline Bingley and the Bennet family. Much like in Grange’s previous novels, her characters “are clever, well-informed people, with a great deal of conversation” and the story is delightful. But also as in many of her previous works, this novella ends entirely too quickly. Yes, as expected Elizabeth delivers Mr. Darcy a Christmas present, but surprisingly, the author decidedly wraps it up shortly after the naming of the child. Whether you prescribe to the expression, “less is more,” you will have to judge for yourself. Continue reading