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 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 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, were 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

Mirroring Persuasion’s theme of finding the love that you thought you had lost, this story of a young school boy’s hidden regard for his teacher who because of their age difference and positions must remain unrequited. She loves Jane Austen, so over the years he reads her novels over and over to feel connected to her. He is “half agony, half hope” until their fateful reunion.

Runner Up: The Jane Austen Hen Weekend, by Clair Humphries

Four dear friends, two days and one country house should equal a joyous celebration by way of a carefully planned Jane Austen themed hen weekend, but disaster arrives with a sick child, an overflowing toilet and all around apathy at Regency distractions such as whist and the pianoforte, until a plumber arrives to save the day with more skills than expected.

Overall, this collection offered a few real gems, a few disappointing surprises, and solid array of creative inspirations that had nothing to do with dancing with Mr. Darcy. I don’t mind. Dancing might be a charming amusement considered one of the first refinements of polished societies, but, “Every savage can dance.”

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Dancing with Mr. Darcy: Stories Inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House, edited by Sarah Waters
HarperCollins (2010)
Trade paperback (256) pages
ISBN: 978-0061999062

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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.

Carolyn Eberhart’s break-out contribution, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol is the marrying of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story opens on Christmas Eve with a morose Mr. Darcy, stewing over his lot; consequences of his damnable pride that held him from renewing his addresses to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy is visited by a ghostly apparition in the image of his deceased father warning him of his impending future rife with bitter regrets and loneliness… if he fails to amend his life’s missed opportunities. He is warned that he will be visited “by Three Spirits all of whom will appear familiar” in hopes of helping him to escape such a gloomy fate. As in Dickens’ classic, after all the Past, Present and Future Spirits have all shown him poignant moments of his life and Darcy is shown the course he must take, Darcy declares “… all three have striven to show me what I already knew within me.” Determinedly, he then heads off to Hertfordshire to declare himself again to Elizabeth. Although Eberhart’s breakout novella is predictable by reasonable deduction to anyone familiar with the Dickens and Austen originals, Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol is a surprising gem in this collection.

Despite endeavours to conquer these erstwhile Scrooge-like sensations, no doubt can be lost regarding my disappointed hopes for this holiday tribute to Jane Austen. Overall I was frustrated that the stories were overly predictable and rather tiresome. To be frank, having read Sharon Lathan’s previous writing, I was not expecting much from A Darcy Christmas and was not wholly surprised by the overlong passages of inane details. But as I am a self-proclaimed, devoted fangirl of Amanda Grange’s previous works, I regret that Christmas Present left me indifferent after such a weak conclusion. However, the debut story from Carolyn Eberhart is a lighthearted and in the spirit of the season.

I am glad for the opportunity to have read this collection of short stories in A Darcy Christmas, but I am confident that once was plenty. Marketed and packaged perfectly for our unsuspecting loved ones, who will undoubtedly rejoice in their triumph of having found “the perfect” gift for us Jane Austen aficionados, I can only hope that should you discover A Darcy Christmas in your stocking, you will remember the timeless words of Tiny Tim, “God bless Us!  Every One!” and add to that a bit from Miss Bingley, “It was kindly meant.

2 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen, by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart
Sourcebooks (2010)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1402243394

© 2007 – 2010 Christina Boyd, Austenprose