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”

Jane, Actually: or Jane Austen’s Book Tour, by Jennifer Petkus – A Review

Jane, Actually, by Jennifer Petkus © 2013 Mallard Sci-FiFrom the desk of Jeffrey Ward:

What would YOU say to Jane Austen if it became possible to communicate with her personally after two centuries? Jennifer Petkus’ third novel, Jane, Actually explores that possibility with an endless array of “what-if’s:” Is there an afterlife? If so, in what form? If departed souls are immortal, will the living be able to communicate with them? Will one departed soul be able to contact another departed soul? How will departed souls legally verify their identities? Can a disembodied soul fall in love with another disembodied soul?

A little background is necessary. In her debut novel, Good Cop Dead Cop, the author establishes a discovery that enables departed souls to contact the living via a technological marvel known as the “afternet.” In her second novel My Particular Friend, Petkus mashes together Sherlock Holmes with Jane Austen’s Bath for a Regency romp that is impossible to pin a label on. With great warmth and humor, the author ingeniously mashes together the “afternet” with the very-alive but the disembodied soul of Jane Austen and you actually get Jane, Actually.

Jane’s identity has been legally verified by the afternet authentication committee and she has finished her incomplete novel Sanditon, she has acquired an agent and staunch promoter in Melody Kramer and a grand book tour is planned. Although Jane communicates easily over the afternet, she is invisible, so the search begins for a suitable avatar to be her visual embodiment. A young acting student coincidently named Mary Crawford is one of the finalists. She knows next to nothing about Jane Austen, not even the literary significance of her own name. However, Jane takes a liking to her and she is chosen over more qualified candidates. Getting Jane and Mary to “sync-up” using the afternet proves difficult and frustrating but they warm to each other nevertheless. Continue reading “Jane, Actually: or Jane Austen’s Book Tour, by Jennifer Petkus – 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”

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

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”

Preview & Giveaway of The Greville Family Saga: The Passing Bells, Circles of Time, and A Future Arrived, by Phillip Rock

The Passing Bells, by Philip Rock (1980)I love a good mystery. I just didn’t know that I would be so personally engaged in one for over thirty years.

In 1980 a read a book about an aristocratic English family during WWI that I absolutely adored. I was so enthusiastic about it that I promptly loaned it to my best friend who never thought of it again until about a year later when I asked for it back. She had no idea where my copy was. I was devastated. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to write down the title or author. I could only remember that bell was in the title.

Decades passed and the book never left my list of “to find titles.” When Internet search engines and online used book stores became available to me I searched again to no avail. Last month I was perusing the new release table at work and a book title caught my eye. The Passing Bells sounded vaguely familiar so I read the back description and checked the copyright date. “Originally published in 1978.” I stood and stared at the cover in stunned silence. I had found it again. It was a book miracle. After never giving up the search—we had been reunited—and, better yet, it was part of a trilogy! A red letter day all around for this book geek.

I immediately purchased a digital copy for my Nook and commenced reading. Would my endearing memory of the story of the Greville family entrenched in World War I stand up to my ideals so many years later? I was compelled to find out and share my conclusions with you all. I shall chuse to increase your suspense, “according to the usual practice of elegant females” by making you wait for my reviews of the trilogy before I reveal any insights, but here is a preview of each of the novels and a giveaway chance to win one copy of each of the novels compliments of TLC Book Tours and the trilogy’s new publisher William Morrow. Fans of the popular period drama Downton Abbey will see certain similarities and be as captivated as I was.

The Passing Bells, by Philip Rock (2012)The Passing Bells:

The guns of August are rumbling throughout Europe in the summer of 1914, but war has not yet touched Abingdon Pryory. Here, at the grand home of the Greville family, the parties, dances, and romances play on. Alexandra Greville embarks on her debutante season while brother Charles remains hopelessly in love with the beautiful, untitled Lydia Foxe, knowing that his father, the Earl of Stanmore, will never approve of the match. Downstairs the new servant, Ivy, struggles to adjust to the routines of the well-oiled household staff, as the arrival of American cousin Martin Rilke, a Chicago newspaperman, causes a stir.

But, ultimately, the Great War will not be denied, as what begins for the high-bred Grevilles as a glorious adventure soon takes its toll—shattering the household’s tranquillity, crumbling class barriers, and bringing its myriad horrors home.

Circles of Time, by Philip Rock (2012)Circles of Time:

A generation has been lost on the Western Front. The dead have been buried, a harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins. But ghosts linger—that long-ago golden summer of 1914 tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.

From the countess to the chauffeur, the inhabitants of Abingdon Pryory seek to forget the past and adjust their lives to a new era in which old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been irretrievably swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into reporting, discovering unsettling political currents, as Fenton Wood-Lacy faces exile in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville shows signs of recovery from shell shock and Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance. Circles of Time captures the age as these strongly drawn characters experience it, unfolding against England’s most gracious manor house, the steamy nightclubs of London’s Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—for the moment.

A Future Arrived, by Philip Rock (2012)A Future Arrived:

The final installment of the saga of the Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory begins in the early 1930s, as the dizzy gaiety of the Jazz Age comes to a shattering end. What follows is a decade of change and uncertainty, as the younger generation, born during or just after the “war to end all wars,” comes of age.

American writer Martin Rilke has made his journalistic mark, earning worldwide fame with his radio broadcasts, and young Albert Thaxton seeks to follow in his footsteps as a foreign correspondent. Derek Ramsey, born only weeks after his father fell in France, and Colin Ross, a dashing Yankee, leave their schoolboy days behind and enter fighter pilot training as young men. The beautiful Wood-Lacy twins, Jennifer and Victoria, and their passionate younger sister, Kate, strive to forge independent paths, while learning to love—and to let go.

In their heady youth and bittersweet growth to adulthood, they are the future—but the shadows that touched the lives of the generation before are destined to reach out to their own.

Author bio:

Born in Hollywood, California, Phillip Rock lived in England with his family until the blitz of 1940. He spent his adult years in Los Angeles and published three novels before the Passing Bells series: Flickers, The Dead in Guanajuato, and The Extraordinary Seaman. He died in 2004.

A GRAND GIVEAWAY

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Passing Bells, Circles of Time, or A Future Arrived, by Phillip Rock by leaving a comment revealing what intrigues you about the series and why it is a must read for Downton Abbey fans. The contest ends on 11:59pm, Wednesday, January 30, 2013. Winners announced on Thursday, January 31, 2013. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only please. Good luck.

P.S. We are eternally grateful to the brilliant editor at William Morrow, who by choosing to re-issue this wonderful trilogy, solved my mystery book hunt of 30 years. Our only regret is that author Philip Rock is not with us still to enjoy the revival of his work.

© 2013, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose  

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

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