Then Comes Winter, edited by Christina Boyd – A Review

Then Came Winter, edited by Christina Boyd 2015 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

When I was first asked to review Then Comes Winter edited by Christina Boyd, I felt that the fact that it was a short story compilation was perfect. In the midst of holiday planning, gift buying, and cookie baking, I had less than my normal appointed time for reading. So, having the ability to read these shorter, Austen-inspired stories let me fit them right in with my schedule and enjoy them that much more. Couple that with the fact that I now had a bunch of new authors to check out, and I was certainly excited to get started. Even more exciting, however, is the fact that my fellow Austenprose contributor Christina Boyd is the editor!

As I did with my last compilation review, Sun-kissed, I’m posting the Goodreads summary below as there are multiple stories and I cannot summarize them all here.

If you long for a toasty snuggle on a cold winter’s night, this compilation of original short stories inspired by the magic of the holiday season-and more than a nod to Jane Austen-is fancied as a sublime wintertime treat. On the heels of the summer anthology, Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, and in concert with some of Meryton Press’s most popular authors, this romantic anthology introduces several promising writers. With a robust mix of contemporary and Regency musings, Then Comes Winter rekindles passionate fires with equal wonder, wit, and admiration. Stories by: Lory Lilian, Linda Gonschior, Suzan Lauder, Beau North & Brooke West, Sophia Rose, Natalie Richards, Anngela Schroeder, Melanie Stanford, Denise Stout, Erin Lopez, and Maureen Lee.

Continue reading

Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, Edited by Christina Boyd – A Review

Sun-Kissed, edited by Christina Boyd (2015)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

Today I have the distinct honor of reviewing Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, edited by none other than my fellow Austenprose contributor Christina Boyd. It comes along at the perfect time of year as many of us are packing our beach bags full of summer reads that provide companionship while lying on a beach towel or sitting in a chair with our toes in the sand. I’ve always been a big fan of short story anthologies because they offer fun and tantalizing stories that typically lead me to read more of the authors’ works, much like an appetizer before the entrée.  This particular collection of works has been chosen for its relevance to summer or other light and refreshing themes. Although I personally don’t have any plans for a trip to the beach soon, I sat down with this collection on my back porch and improvised, taking in the light and fun works that soon whisked me away.

Since there are several stories in the anthology, here are their plot summaries from Goodreads: 

“So each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in…” Thomas Hardy

If you desire a little heat, a summer flirtation, or an escape to bask in your own private sun…this whimsical collection of original short stories is inspired by all things summer. From some of Meryton Press’s most popular and award-winning authors, the anthology debuts other promising and emerging talent.

Continue reading

What’s the Big Deal about Mr. Darcy?

Join me today as I guest blog on Darcyholic Diversions, author Barbara Tiller Cole’s blog about our favorite romantic icon, Mr. Darcy. I broach the loaded question, “What’s the big deal about Mr. Darcy?” and offer a signed copy of my new Austen-inspired short story anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (2011)

Visit Darcyholics Diversions to read about my personal Darcy dilemma and enter a chance for the giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Good luck!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

A Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds – A Review

Pemberley Medley, by Abigail Reynolds (2011)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Whenever I finish an Abigail Reynolds book, I never feel like I’m completely done with the story.  What I mean by this is her writing always gets me totally engrossed in the stories making me wish they’d never end.  I always feel satisfied with where they’ve gone plot wise, but she writes characters so well that I always end up wishing for more. Fortunately for us Reynolds fans, she published A Pemberley Medley, a collection of short stories that represent different “what if” scenarios for our beloved Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.  All five short stories are variations on the original Pride and Prejudice that we all know and love.  I wanted to leave you surprised by the plot of the majority of the works, but I couldn’t pass on the chance to tell you about my favorite (and also the first) short story of the book.

Entitled “Intermezzo”, it takes place on Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley’s wedding day, although Darcy is nowhere in sight.  He is still too brokenhearted and raw over the failed proposal attempt at Hunsford.  He decides that staying away and not seeing Elizabeth would be a better option.  What would happen if Darcy chose to show up at the last minute, only to find himself seated next to Elizabeth for the wedding breakfast?  Will he find a changed Elizabeth, or will she still be filled with hatred and contempt for him?

The other creative short stories are entitled “Such Differing Reports”, “Reason’s Rule”, “The Most Natural Thing”, and “A Succession of Rain”.  Fans of Reynolds’ To Conquer Mr. Darcy will want to pay special attention to “Reason’s Rule”, as it’s a scene from that novel that was left on the editing room floor.   The Most Natural Thing is a novella told in three parts that see Darcy as a “dark” character.  Fans will definitely be pleased with the variety of stories this compilation offers.

I feel that Reynolds has always excelled most at her characterizations.  She writes wonderful soliloquies that offer great insight into the character’s thoughts, feelings, and wishes.  Her ability to really connect with what her characters makes them that much more lifelike, and adds to the authenticity of the work as a whole.  Perhaps that is what makes Reynolds such a bastion of the JAFF world.  She keeps us wanting more, and makes any retelling of Pride and Prejudice seem like it’s the first time we’ve ever read anything outside of the original.

I especially enjoyed the short story format, which allowed Reynolds to cover more characters and plot than she would have in a traditional novel, and this added to the quickness and overall tone of the work.  I felt as if I covered a lot more ground in one reading than I would have with a detailed novel.  (Maybe these short stories will be fleshed out into full length novels? We can only hope!)  It was a fresh approach that I hope Reynolds will repeat in the future.  Overall, it came as no surprise that I enjoyed all of these short stories, especially the one that required the biggest change of heart for Mr. Darcy.  I’m always a sucker for a good romance, and Reynolds knows just how to appease my palate.  Bravo for a job well done!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pemberley Medley: Five Pride & Prejudice Variations, by Abigail Reynolds
Intertidal Press (2011)
Trade paperback (212) pages
ISBN: 978-0615470337
Kindle: ASIN: B0069TPCQ8

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress – A Review

Jane Austen Made Me Do It , edited by Laurel Ann Nattress 2011Guest review by Christina Boyd

“It is only a novel… or, in short, some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.”  Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 5

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Original Stories Inspired by Literature‘s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart is a collection of twenty-two original Jane Austen-inspired stories including contributions from best-selling authors Pamela Aidan, Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Laurie Viera Rigler and Lauren Willig.  Editor Laurel Ann Nattress, and blog mistress of Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, has assembled her dream team of authors and for this anthology asking them to “stay within the theme of exploring Austen’s philosophies of life and love by reacquainting readers with characters from her novels or introducing original stories inspired by her ideals.  From historical to contemporary to young-adult fiction to paranormal, five of the major novels and Austen’s life are featured in this anthology,” p. xiv.  In addition, one story by a previously unpublished author, Brenna Aubrey, was picked as Grand Prize winner via a contest hosted by the Austen fan site Pemberley.com.  With such a significant range in this compilation, surely one would agree, “One cannot have too large a party.  A large party secures its own amusement.”  Emma, Volume 3, Chapter 6

On my first reading of this anthology, I must admit that I singled out my favorite authors first.  Yes, yes. I realize out of order was not how the editor intended it to be read, but, “One man’s way may be as good as anothers, but we all like our own best.”  Persuasion, Volume 2, Chapter 1.  So of course, for me, I began with “Jane & the Gentleman Rogue,” by Stephanie Barron. What can I say? You had me with the title. Anything that has more of the Gentleman Rogue must be 5 stars. This was a terrific “fragment of a Jane Austen Mystery” chocked full of treason and breathless intrigue, that Barron surely knocked out of the park!

Another stand out was “Letters to Lydia” by Maya Slater.  In the spirit of Jane Austen’s much studied remaining correspondence, these are letters from Pride and Prejudice’s minor character Maria Lucas, the younger sister of Mrs. William Collins, nee Miss Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth Bennet’s youngest and wildest sister, Lydia Bennet. Loved, loved, loved how I could truly hear Maria’s voice as she recounts a supposed secret Love Affair and tryst between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet– and how she unwittingly “helped them along.” (Bonus points for Mr. Collins’ lisp!)

“Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss,” by Jo Beverley was a definite favorite. Flowing with Austen-like brilliance, this tale about a genteel, but impoverished, widow and her three daughters who have an amiable, rich neighbor who often meet was CHARMING from beginning to end.  Anytime there is a clear, happy ending, preferably resulting marriage, I am bound to be enchanted!

I was totally caught unawares by the cleverness in “What Would Austen Do?,” by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.  A contemporary story about a teenage boy who inadvertently signs up for a Country Dance for Beginners class (and not the “Boot, Scoot, Boogie” kind of country dance!) and must learn how to make the most of this summer experience.  Fortunately, his keen wit and willingness to read Austen’s novels helps him  befriend the new girl in town.  Just loved! ALL OF IT! Fantastic– a teenage hero quoting Austen appropriately and with a terrific moral ending?  Even better, the authors biography states that they are currently developing “What Would Austen Do?” into a full length novel!

But, “All Merit you know is comparative,” Catharine.  In such a large collection of works there is bound to be a slight disappointment or two. While reading “Me and Mr. Darcy, Again,” a short extension of the novel, “Me and Mr. Darcy,” by Alexander Potter, I suffered not just a little discomfort with the idea that a now married Mr. Darcy is wandering outside heroine Emily’s hotel at night, staring up at her room, still carrying some sort of torch for her. In the end, Mr. Darcy does act honorably, and even charitably, in bringing about a happy resolution, but its conclusion was rather “vague.” But I liked the story, despite myself.  “A fondness for reading… must be an education in itself.” Mansfield Park, Volume 1, Chapter 2

I was somewhat under-whelmed by Pamela Aidan’s “The Riding Habit” as the now married Mr. Darcy seems to steam roll wife Elizabeth into riding, an activity she somewhat fears and takes no joy in. I also found it strangely odd that the pinnacle riding accident would bring about such a comparison to an upcoming ball and how she can surely expect the support of her loved ones around her.  Indeed?  Don’t get me wrong: Aiden’s writing style, language and cadence is pitch-perfect as ever.  Beautiful even. I simply found the story disjointed from the Darcy and Elizabeth she wrote so well of in her awe-inspiring, tremendously popular trilogy, Fitzwilliam Darcy, GentlemanHowever, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”  Emma, Volume 1, Chapter 9

Still, there are a surfeit of solidly entertaining, easy to love stories.  Syrie James’ highly amusing “Jane Austen’s Nightmare” is just that!  While sleeping, our dear Jane is beset with characters from her novels, all with complaints on how she has represented their person. I particularly delighted in how the dream inspires her to write Persuasion.

One of the stories inspired by Persuasion is Margaret C. Sullivan‘s “Heard of You.”  I found this smart telling of how Admiral Croft and the former Miss Sophia Wentworth met as exciting at sea, as it was in the ballroom; making me sigh in all the right places!

“The Chase” by Carrie Bebris did not disappoint! Her depiction of a riveting and historic sea battle had me on the edge of my seat; truly captivated by this insight of how Jane Austen’s brother Frank became post-captain.

Laurie Viera Rigler offers the wickedly satirical and campy “Intolerable Stupidity” that imagines a courtroom drama where Mr. Darcy sues authors of Pride and Prejudice spin-offs for how they have sketched his character.  Of course, the honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh presides!

The anthology opens with an introduction by the editor, Laurel Ann Nattress, as she pays deference to Jane Austen as well as the many novels, sub-genre and films Austen has inspired.  Nattress shares how she came to love Austen’s work in the ‘80s and how Austen has since catapulted to “megastar status” by means of “her strongest catalyst: the Internet and a wet shirt.” p. xii.  Also, I took particular delight in the Readers Guide where the 22 contributing authors selected their favorite Austen quote. It was as if taking a stroll down memory lane with a dear friend. Reading groups and book clubs will find the Questions and Topics for Discussion pages beneficial.

The Austen Legacy continues to grow and this collection of wonderful short stories is a brilliant tribute.  Janeites and historical fiction readers alike will inhale this book!  But with a dream team of Austen inspired writers under the deft editing skills of Laurel Ann Nattress, how could this be anything but a grand slam!  “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  Northanger Abbey, Volume 1, Chapter 14

Authors included: Lauren Willig • Adriana Trigiani • Jo Beverley • Alexandra Potter • Laurie Viera Rigler • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Syrie James • Stephanie Barron • Amanda Grange • Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Carrie Bebris • Diana Birchall • Monica Fairview • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret C. Sullivan • and Brenna Aubrey, the winner of a story contest hosted by the Republic of Pemberley

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (446) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. Although life has taken her on a merry adventure through a myriad of careers including modeling, flight attending, marketing & sales, owning a paint-it-yourself ceramic studio… she has for the last nine years created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina has read and owns well over 200 Austen inspired novels… and cannot comprehend the neglect of the collection in such days as these.  Visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Jane Austen Made Me Do It website live!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It banner

Huzzah! After a robust week of Beta testing, I am happy to say that all system are “go” on the new Jane Austen Made Me Do It website!

Over the past several months, the Austen elves have been hard at work creating an online home for my new book and its 24 authors. Jane Austen Made Me Do It is a new short story anthology that officially releases on 11 October 2011 with Ballantine Books. The lineup of authors is my personal Austen-inspired dream team:

Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Stephanie Barron • Carrie Bebris • Jo Beverley • Diana Birchall • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Monica Fairview • Amanda Grange • Syrie James • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Alexandra Potter • Myretta Robens •   Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret Sullivan • Adriana Trigiani • Laurie Viera Rigler • Lauren Willig

As editor, I have been working on the anthology for over a year and a half. It is so exciting to see so much of what has been planned coming together!

Be sure to check out my first blog announcing the launch of the JAMMDI site, the pages about the book, author bios and descriptions of the stories. The rest of the site will fill out as we get closer to the October 11, 2011 publication, so stay tuned for more exciting news! There is also giveaway contest running until September 5th, 2011 for four advance reading copies of the book. Just leave a comment on the JAMMDI announcement blog post to qualify!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (2011)Many thanks to all of my Janeite friends who have been faithfully following along with me during the long publication process. I can’t wait for you to read “my darling child.”

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Road to Pemberley: An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories, edited by Marsha Altman – A Review

The Road to Pemberley, edited by Marsha Altman (2011)Guest review by Shelley DeWees – The Uprising

Did you ever wonder about Georgiana Darcy, cooped up in her big mansion waiting for a few letters from her big brother?  Or how about a mushroom trip at the dinner table, with only the snide Caroline Bingley to keep any clear-headed company?  Ever wonder what that would be like?  What about Kitty Bennet?  Whatever happened to her?

Yes, if you’ve ever wondered about these things, then The Road to Pemberley is for you.  Stemming from our beloved Pride and Prejudice, this anthology of twelve short-stories rolls nearly every character, plot device, setting, and love interest into a big wad, smashing and smooshing, mixing and fixing, wringing out story after story of creative fan fiction where every sentence is dripping with possibility.  And really, many of them ooze with NEW possibility!  Things you’ve never thought of before!  Things more exciting than Darcy and Elizabeth with a gaggle of children and millions of dollars to play with!

Edited by The Darcys and the Bingleys series author Marsh Altman, she also supplies the introduction and her own short-story “Pride and Prejudice Abridged.” Regina Jeffers is another familiar Austen sequel writer and offers up “The Pemberley Ball.” The remaining ten authors are debuting fan fiction writers: “But He Turned Out Very Wild” by Sarah A. Hoyt, “A Long, Strange Trip” by Ellen Gelerman, “An Ink-Stained Year” by Valerie T. Jackson, “The Potential of Kitty Bennet” by Jessica Koschnitzky, “A Good Vintage Whine” by Tess Quinn, “Georgiana’s Voice” by J.H. Thompson, “Secrets in the Shade” by Bill Friesema, “A View from the Valet” by Nacie Mackey, “Beneath the Greenwood Trees” by Marilou Martineau and “Father of the Bride” by Lewish Whelchel.

These short-story writers are to be commended for a number of reasons, not the least of which being a complete and utter destruction of my expectations in terms of plain ‘ol creativity.  There are few accounts of a perfect, problem-less life between the Darcy  pair, and instead many more anecdotes from angles I never expected: a gander at Darcy as a rambunctious child (a story that also features actual, properly-formatted citations and footnotes….thank you!), a Downton Abbey-esque retelling of Darcy’s life through the eyes of his valet, a mysterious tale of extortion from a rare male Austen fanfic writer, and a what-if scenario featuring Darcy, Bingley, a locked cellar, and many bottles of port.  What else could an Austen worshipper ask for?

These stories all stand out in a sea of Jane Austen materials, and to see them bound together in one volume will enamor every Austen lover out there.  Characters will come alive again, if only briefly, and sing their tale with new energy and enthusiasm that will take your beloved copy of Pride and Prejudice virtually apart, throw the pages in the air, then stitch them back together in a manner you never thought possible.  Wickham’s story especially will grip you, and you’ll find yourself wondering if Ms. Austen didn’t deliberately leave out some important details…ahem.

Though we have Marsha Altman to thank for collecting the words of these budding authors, her own additions are not her best efforts.  The introduction is a confusing foray into the beginnings of Austen fanfic with a decidedly sarcastic tone, and the short prefaces that begin each story serve more as a platform for Altman’s opinion and less as a space to share excitement for the new author.  Those add-ons, compiled with references to her own works that dot the book, cloud the pages of The Road to Pemberley in a disappointing way.  Having been overjoyed at her Ballad of Gregoire Darcy, I was taken aback by her methods here!

Nevertheless, The Road to Pemberley might be just what you’re looking for: short, engaging stories for these hot, summer days.  Though you might be wearing a bathing suit on the outside, The Road to Pemberley will make you feel like you’re wearing a Regency dress on the inside…no doubt sweating your booty off.  But don’t worry.  I won’t tell anyone.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Road to Pemberley: An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories, edited by Marsha Altman
Ulysses Press (2011)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-1569759349

© 2007 – 2011 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose