Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl (The Quill Collective) by Christina Boyd and others, Tessa Dare (Foreword)(@xtnaboyd) A true delight for Austen fans #Giveaway

Hi all:

I bring you a collection of stories and novellas edited by Christina Boyd, from The Quill Collective, whose works I have reviewed before, and here they revisit one of my favourite Austen characters. Perhaps because she’s headstrong as obstinate, and so am I. Oh, I’m participating in the blog tour for the release of the book, so apart from my review, there’s also a feature by one of the authors, J. Marie Croft, and a giveaway. Don’t miss them!

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl, The Quill Collective

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl (The Quill Collective) by Joana Starnes, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Karen M Cox, Christina Morland, Elizabeth Adams, Beau North, J. Marie Croft, Leigh Dreyer, Christina Boyd, Tessa Dare (Foreword)

“Obstinate, headstrong girl!” For over two hundred years, the heroine of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Elizabeth Bennet has enchanted and inspired readers by being that “obstinate, headstrong girl” willing to stand up to the arrogance and snobbery of her so-called betters. Described by Austen as having a “lively, playful disposition,” Elizabeth embodies the perfect imperfections of strong-willed women everywhere: she is spirited, witty, clever, and loyal. In this romance anthology, ten Austenesque authors sketch Elizabeth’s character through a collection of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times. In ELIZABETH: OBSTINATE, HEADSTRONG GIRL, she bares her most intimate thoughts, all the while offering biting social commentary about life’s absurdities. Elizabeth overcomes the obstacles of others’ opinions, not to mention her own flaws, to find a love truly worthy of her—her Mr. Darcy—all with humor and her sparkling charm. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 1813―and we think so too! Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Christina Boyd, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998654051/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084VVW1HM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B084VVW1HM/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B084VVW1HM/

My review:

I thank Christina Boyd, the editor and also one of the authors of the collection, for sending me an invite to participate on the launch blog tour and for the ARC copy of the volume, which I freely chose to review. I have read and reviewed some of the other anthologies The Quill Collective has published and loved them, so I was delighted to be asked and to be able to participate.

I’ve decided to talk a bit about each one of them, because they are all quite different in style (some written in the first person, some in the third, some quite humorous, some more serious, some set in the same time period as the original and others not, some shorter and some longer) but somehow manage to live up to the spirit and the wit of one of Austen’s best-loved characters.

Each story/novella is introduced by a quote from the original, which highlights an aspect later explored in more detail in the text, and it is also signposted by an individual cover, all of them beautiful.

Foreword: Tessa Dare

Witty, clever, and a very fitting introduction to the subject matter and to the stories. Mark Twain gets a mention!

Resolution: Amy D’Orazio

Set within the period of the novel, this short story plays on the ‘what if’. What would have happened if somebody close to Darcy had decided to take things in their hands? How would that have influenced the outcome? And what if Liz had finally succumbed to life’s harsh realities and forgotten her prejudices? An interesting turn of events and an amusing (but romantic) short story, aimed at readers familiar with the details of P&P. Thank God for alcoholic beverages and meddling maids!

The House Party: Jenetta James

I have read short and long fiction by Jenetta James and she delivers, once more, in this short story/vignette, that moves forward the events to early XX century, in the setting of the Suffragist movement, and rewrites a memorable party and visit to the Bingley’s home. Wickham is up to his old tricks! A great story that could be read without previous knowledge of Austen’s novel, although it will be greatly enjoyed by fans of the original.

Atmospheric Disturbances: Christina Morland

This is, in a way, a Much Ado About Nothing situation, at least on the surface of it, when readers get to eavesdrop (well, and also get inside Elizabeth’s head) on an argument between Elizabeth and Darcy, after their engagement. For those of us who love the witty interactions between the two and the pull and push of their relationship, any opportunity to see them, and hear them, when they are in each other’s company is a pleasure, and so it is here, in a vignette that explores the dynamics of their relationship and we get to see a more vulnerable, but still reserved and proud, Darcy, and an Elizabeth prone to making a fuss, worrying, determined to know her future husband, and oh, so headstrong!

Love in Limelight: Beau North

North here transports the action to Hollywood in 1934. Elizabeth has become Eliza Bennett (her stage name) and she and Jenny are actresses, now in Hollywood. Charles Bingley is a film director, Darcy is, of course, the head of the studio, Pembley, and Georgina is Gigi, who was a child star and now is trying to move on to adult acting roles. There are misunderstandings and confusions at every turn, Wickham’s incarnation works extremely well, and I loved the use of expressions and language of the period, the bright and bubbly setting, the headlines and snippets of gossip news included in the story, and, well, everything.

The Uncommonly Busy Lane to Longbourn: Joanna Starnes

This short-story/novella reads like one of those movie outtakes included as a bonus in the luxury edition of a Blu-ray disc, or an alternative ending, where it is difficult to decide which one you prefer. It is set in the same time period as the original; the characters behave pretty much as we would expect them to, down to the long walks, the witty conversations, Elizabeth’s poor opinion of Darcy and her strong support of Wickham, but Darcy is a bit more forceful in his attempt at warning Elizabeth against the rogue and this sets in motion a chain of events that slightly alter things but do not derail the overall story where it matters. It also has pretty funny moments.

It felt as if this story could have pretty well replaced what actually happens at that point in the original (no, I won’t go into details), and it would have fitted perfectly well. This could well have happened in an alternative P&P universe.

Resistive Currents: Karen M Cox

I am a fan of Cox’s writing, both her Austenesque stories and novels and also those that stride away from the Austen universe, and this short story/novella delivers again. This is one of the stories in the collection that I think can be enjoyed by readers who have no particular knowledge of P&P, although Austen’s readers will get a kick out of it.

Cox offers us two stories, of two women in the same family, separated by several generations (one a teacher in rural Colorado at the beginning of the XX century, the other her great-granddaughter, in the 1980s, a girl studying engineering at university, a profession still dominated by men) and how their own prejudice towards men whom they think don’t value them or see their worth because they are women causes them to misunderstand and misjudge them. I would have been happy to read a whole novel about these headstrong girls and their beaus, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in this.

Something Like Regret: Elizabeth Adams

The author explores in detail an episode that is a favourite of many of us who are fans of the BBC series. Yes, I am talking about Lizzy’s visit to Pembury with her aunt and uncle, and her surprise meeting with Darcy (Sorry, no wet shirt here). Adams allows us a peep into Elizabeth’s mind, and we follow her train of thought, her doubts, her regrets, and get to experience first-hand her gradual change of heart. Although this story would not work for those who don’t know P&P, it would easily fit into the novel, down to the direct addresses to her “reader”, and I am sure Austen would have approved.

The Last Blind Date: Leigh Dreyer

Elizabeth and Darcy are here transported to modern-day Oklahoma. Elizabeth is a hardworking student who also waits tables, and Jane and Charlotte are her friends (although we only get snippets of it, their relationship is the stuff of chick lit and they are great together), and Darcy is an heir to a big oil company who has spent much of his life studying abroad. Neither of them is what the other expects at their blind date, and the reasons behind their behaviours are soon evident.

One of the shorter stories that could be read independently from the original, particularly recommended to football fans.

The Age of Nescience: J. Marie Croft

This short-story/novella would again fit into what I’ve referred to as the outtakes of a Blu-ray, or an anniversary luxury edition of P&P with added materials. Here, we get an insight into Elizabeth’s past, her life and experiences before we meet her in P&P, from her first attendance at a ball (at the tender age of fifteen), to her visit to Pemberley, and this allows us to enjoy more of her family life, learn about her dreams as a young girl, her disappointments in love, her interactions with her mother, sisters, and especially her father (we experience both his wit but also his lack of backbone and his unwillingness to challenge his wife and daughters, all in the name of a quiet life), and like her, we gain a greater insight and understanding of how she came to be how she is and why this visit is so momentous for her.

Again, a beautifully observed and written story (such attention to language!), and one Austen would have approved of, including the reference to the similarities of the characters and situations to those of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.

A Mate for Life: Christina Boyd

In this short-story/summary, we have an elderly Elizabeth talking to her granddaughter —who shares more than a few characteristics with her granny (she’s headstrong and obstinate as well)—and telling her about her love story with Fitzwilliam Darcy. Her granddaughter has found her own Mr Darcy (he’s proud and handsome as well), and the story seems to repeat itself, although thankfully it runs a bit smoother this time. The narration works beautifully as a summary and introduction to the original for those who might not have read it (I’d encourage them to consider reading this story first, perhaps), and although, but its own nature there’s a fair amount of telling, the interaction of Elizabeth with a woman of the new generation, Darcy’s imagined commentary, and the setting and freshness of the scene make this a delightful and perfect story to end the book with.

I recommend the collection especially to lovers of Pride and Prejudice, although it is not necessary to be an expert in it (and some of the stories can be read independently from the original), and to those readers who enjoy thinking of what else could have happened or wonder what went on behind the scenes. The writing is superb and I am sure all the fans of the many writers taking part will enjoy the stories and will be happy to discover new writers with similar tastes and interests. I congratulate The Quill Collective and hope they’ll keep coming up with new ways to keep Austen and her characters alive.

Here I introduce you to J. Marie Croft (and I truly loved her story):

Why Elizabeth? by J. Marie Croft

When Christina invited me to submit a story for Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, I was already in the midst of writing a series of Pride and Prejudice vignettes, from Mr Darcy’s perspective, beginning in 1806. While writing those, I wondered what might have been going on in Elizabeth’s life during her adolescence. Contributing a piece to the anthology presented a wonderful opportunity to find out.

Beyond her formative years, what shaped Elizabeth’s outlook on life? In “The Age of Nescience”, I speculate on events and influences that might have determined the nature of her prejudice before Darcy and the Netherfield party even entered the picture.

For me, Darcy’s POV is far easier than getting inside Elizabeth’s head. Not having Austen’s genius, it’s a daunting task to come up with anything resembling her—hence Elizabeth’s—quick, forthright wit. I’m pretty much Elizabeth’s diametrical opposite. My verbal comebacks always come far too late. So, while I think of it, I say, “Brava!” to the other writers in this anthology for so perfectly capturing our feisty heroine’s spirit.

Elizabeth Bennet certainly has esprit. And—in addition to being lively, vivacious, and witty—she is a self-confident, independent, opinionated young lady who tempers aplomb with polite, respectable manners. Those are but a scant few of the attributes making her such a beloved character and why we, as fans, want to write stories about her.

“I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.” ~ Jane Austen (from a letter to her sister, Cassandra)

Elizabeth’s creator needn’t have worried. And those of us who do love Elizabeth are in good company. After all, her greatest fan is an intelligent, discerning gentleman who finally looks beyond her flaws and her family’s background and beyond fine eyes and light, pleasing figure to discover the fertile mind and the delightfully charming, impertinent, honest, loyal character within.

Within the pages of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, may you find even more reasons to love her. –J. Marie Croft (Joanne)

J. MARIE CROFT is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF Novella), and her short stories in the anthologies Sun-kissed, The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know, Rational Creatures, and Yuletide. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. Connect with Joanne via Facebook / Twitter / website

Here, the giveaway.

⭐️Giveaway: The #OmgItsOHG (Oh-my-gosh, it’s Obstinate Headstrong Girl) Blog Tour began February 18 with announcement and cover reveal at Austenesque Reviews, and we hope you will continue to join us and connect with each author about their “Elizabeth” story. We’ve included a Grand Prize package giveaway (a book of your choosing from each of the eleven author’s backlist) as well as additional giveaway: my Silly Austen-inspired blank note cards and coordinating coffee mug. Open worldwide, so be sure to participate. 1) Enter the Rafflecopter for the Grand Prize package of books, and 2) comment on the blog stops to be counted for the additional giveaway (you need not comment everywhere to be entered in that drawing but we hope you’ll have your share of the conversation.) Ends March 31.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51329630-elizabeth

BuyLink: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998654051/

Here the note cards

 

And the mugs:

And, although I know this is a very long post, I couldn’t resist…

Thanks to Christina Boyd, to J. Marie Croft and to all the writers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, take part in the giveaway, and always, always, be smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog 1932: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE REVISITED by Karen M Cox (@karenmcox1932) P&P set in the Depression Era with some major parts for minor players #RBRT #Blogtour

Hi all:

I bring you another book by a writer who has become a firm favourite of mine. And I couldn’t miss the opportunity to participate in the blog tour as well. This is a second edition of the novel.

1932: Pride and Prejudice Revisited by Karen M. Cox
1932: Pride and Prejudice Revisited by Karen M. Cox

1932: Pride and Prejudice Revisited by Karen M Cox (@karenmcox1932)Pride and Prejudice set in the Depression Era with some major parts for minor players

…do anything rather than marry without affection.”
—Pride and Prejudice

During the upheaval of the Great Depression, Elizabeth Bennet’s life is torn asunder. Her family’s relocation from the bustle of the big city to a quiet family farm has changed her future, and now, she must build a new life in rural Meryton, Kentucky.
William Darcy suffered family turmoil of his own, but he has settled into a peaceful life at Pemberley, the largest farm in the county. Single, rich, and seemingly content, he remains aloof—immune to any woman’s charms.
Until Elizabeth Bennet moves to town.
As Darcy begins to yearn for something he knows is missing, Elizabeth’s circumstances become more dire. Can the two put aside their pride and prejudices long enough to find their way to each other?

1932, Karen M Cox’s award-winning debut novel, is a matchless variation on Jane Austen’s classic tale.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B082C4FQXZ/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B082C4FQXZ/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B082C4FQXZ/

 

Author Karen M. Cox
Author Karen M. Cox

About the author:

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five novels accented with history and romance, a novella, and several short stories.

Karen was born in Everett WA, the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at age eleven. She lives in a quiet town with her husband and works as a pediatric speech pathologist.

If you would like periodic bits of authorly goodness delivered to your inbox, be sure to get Karen’s News and Muse Letter. Updates, sales, book recommendations, etc. are yours for the asking.

News and Muse Letter

Connect with Karen:

www.karenmcox.com

https://www.instagram.com/karenmcox1932/

https://twitter.com/KarenMCox1932

https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932

https://karenmcox.tumblr.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/karenmc1932/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here).

I have read several novels, short stories, and novellas written by Karen M. Cox, many of them variations of Jane Austen’s novels or inspired by them, most recently Find Wonder in All Things (you can read my review here), and like that one, 1932 is a new edition of a novel the author published a few years back. As I hadn’t read it before, I was grateful to get an ARC copy, which I freely decided to review.  It is not necessary to have read Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this book, but because in this case, I am much more familiar with the original, I can confirm that there is much to enjoy from comparing the —sometimes subtle and at others, quite major— differences between the two and I thought the new setting suits it very well.

The story is narrated in the third person mostly from Elizabeth’s point of view, but also at times we see William Darcy’s viewpoint, and we get a much better understanding of how the feelings between them, especially when it comes to Elizabeth, develop. I think the historical period works very well to explain the changed circumstances for the Bennet family, who until then had lived a comfortable life in Chicago, but due to the Depression find themselves in a tight spot when Dr. Bennet loses his teaching position at the university and is unable to find a job that will feed the seven mouths under his charge. The whole family gets uprooted to a small farm in rural Kentucky, and the rather desperate circumstances have a deep effect on Elizabeth’s ideas and decisions. Do not worry, there are pride and prejudices aplenty, but there are major changes in respect of the original novel, although I’ll keep my mouth shut so you can discover them yourselves if you are a fan, or enjoy this version without spoilers if you haven’t read P&P before.

The author has a great skill, as I have mentioned before, at making any historical period come to life, and we are immersed in the Thirties in rural Kentucky as we read, without being overwhelmed by lengthy descriptions and tonnes of unnecessary details. Characters behave according to the era and to their social positions, while at the same time remaining faithful to the spirit of the original.

If I had to name one of the things I enjoyed the most, was the increased role played by some of the secondary characters, like the girls’ aunt and uncle, who offer them their help; Georgiana (whose new version of the story and how that affects Darcy’s character I loved in particular); Fitzwilliam (he’s a sheriff!); and also the subtle changes to some others, like Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth’s mother, who although loud and overbearing at times, also shows more backbone and her true devotion as a mother, which I found endearing. And there are some new characters that I love, but no, I won’t tell you about them.

Are there changes to the main couple? Well, yes, although they also retain the main qualities devoted fans love. Elizabeth is strong and determined, but seems more willing to put other people’s needs (especially her family’s) before her own convictions and is more practical. We also see her try to behave as is expected of her; she doubts and questions her decisions and wakes to the pleasures of love. (As I’ve often said, I’m not a big fan of sex scenes or erotica but must admit the very early scenes here are quite sweet and funny, and they are far from extreme or too graphic, but I thought I’d better warn you). Darcy shows his pride and his prejudices too, especially at the beginning of the novel, and he finds it difficult to fully trust Elizabeth, although we get to understand why as the story advances.  I don’t want to reveal too many details of the plot, especially where it differs from the original, but I should mention that we do get to see more of the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy, rather than only the early period of courtship, in this version.

Do not worry, we still have the witty dialogue, a baddy true to form, and there is an action scene that sets many things in motion and I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing flows easily, and it manages to plunge readers into the subtleties of the minds of the characters whilst, at the same time, sharing with them the landscapes and the settings. And yes, there is a happy ending.

Here, a taster of the writing, but, as usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample to see what they think:

Here, we have the couple conversing.

“You seem to have a great faith in your judgement.”

“I suppose I do. I believe I’ve lived a sufficient amount of time and seen enough of the world to earn that confidence.”

“So, you’re infallible?”

“Of course not. That would be impossible for anyone.”

“I see.”

“But I do make it a priority to weigh my decisions carefully. For example, I didn’t build Pemberley by following the latest fads in agriculture without thinking them through.”

“My understanding was that you didn’t build Pemberley. It was left to you, was it not?”

I recommend this novel to lovers of classical or historical romance, especially those fond of Jane Austen, and to anybody who enjoys a well-written story full of compelling characters. Fans of the author won’t be disappointed, and I was particularly touched by her dedication of the novel to her grandmothers, women who had lived through that historical period and had plenty to say and lots to teach future generations. And I’m sure Austen would approve.

Oh, and there is also the giveaway!

To celebrate the 10th anniversary edition of 1932, Karen is giving away a signed copy of the book and some Jane Austen swag: fun notecards from The Quill Ink, What Would Jane Do? book of quotes, and Austen coffee mug (if US winner) or an ebook copy of the book and 25$ Amazon Gift Card (if International Winner – cause #shipping 🙂

https://kingsumo.com/g/ezayjm/1932-tenth-anniversary-party

 

Feb 10        Karen M Cox

Feb 12        More Agreeably Engaged

Feb 15        My Love for Jane Austen

Feb 16        Diary of an Eccentric

Feb 17        The Reading Frenzy

Feb 17        From Pemberley to Milton

Feb 18        Olga: Author, Translator

Feb 19        My Jane Austen Book Club

Feb 20        Austenesque Reviews

Feb 21        Rosie Amber Book Reviews

Feb 21        Babblings of a Bookworm

Feb 25        So Little Time

Thanks to Rosie and her group of reviewers for their tireless work, thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview FIND WONDER IN ALL THINGS: PERSUASION REVISITED by Karen M Cox (@karenmcox1932) Beautiful writing and a #romance with a timeless quality

Hi all:

I bring you an Austinesque romance by an author I’ve featured a few times (and she’ll be back, no doubt):

Find Wonder in All Things by Karen M. Cox

Find Wonder In All Things: Persuasion Revisited by Karen M Cox

“There could have never been two hearts so open… Now they were as strangers”
—Persuasion

Mountain Laurel Elliot is like her name—she blooms best in the cool comfort of shade, hidden in the Kentucky foothills of Appalachia. Alone on her mountain, she lives a private existence with only her pottery—and her regrets—for company.
James Marshall had a secret dream and Laurel was part of it, but dreams sometimes lead to unexpected places. James’s heart broke when Laurel cut him loose, but he moved on—and became successful beyond his wildest dreams.
For one glorious summer, James and Laurel had each other, but life has kept them far apart.

Until now.

“a magnificent modernization of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.” -Austenesque Reviews

Winner of the Independent Book Publisher’s Award 2012: Gold Medal in Romance and
Next Generation Indie Finalist in Romance 2013

https://www.amazon.com/Find-Wonder-All-Things-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B082725KR7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Find-Wonder-All-Things-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B082725KR7/

https://www.amazon.es/Find-Wonder-All-Things-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B082725KR7/

Author Karen M. Cox
Author Karen M. Cox

About the author:

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five full-length novels accented with romance and history: “1932”, “Find Wonder in All Things”, “Undeceived”, “I Could Write a Book”, and “Son of a Preacher Man”, as well as a companion novella to “1932” called “The Journey Home”. She has also contributed stories to four anthologies: “Northanger Revisited 2015”, in “Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer”; “I, Darcy”, in “The Darcy Monologues”, “An Honest Man” in “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues”, and “A Nominal Mistress” in “Rational Creatures”.
Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.
Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker – like Elizabeth Bennet.
Connect with Karen:
Website: www.karenmcox.com

Visit with Karen on several of the usual social media haunts:

https://www.instagram.com/karenmcox1932/

https://twitter.com/KarenMCox1932

https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932

https://karenmcox.tumblr.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/karenmc1932/

If you would like periodic bits of authorly goodness delivered to your inbox, be sure to get Karen’s News and Muse Letter. Updates, sales, book recommendations, etc. are yours for the asking.

News and Muse Letter

My review:

I have read several stories and books by Karen M. Cox, both set in and out of the Austen universe, and have enjoyed her beautiful writing, so I did not hesitate when I was offered the opportunity to review the new edition of this novel, which was well-received a few years back. Although this is a retelling of Austen’s Persuasion, I can confirm that it is not necessary to have read that novel to enjoy this one, as I could barely remember the plot of Austen’s original, and it did not detract from my appreciation of the quality of the writing. Fans of Austen will have the added enjoyment of comparing the two, but the rest can be assured that the novel works as a romance in its own right.

I have commented before that this author’s writing has a timeless quality, and even when she sets the action in the present (or very close), there is something that makes one feel nostalgic, and I experienced this very strongly at the beginning of the book, when the male main character, James, recalls his summers at the lake, the time he spent there with his best friend, Stuart, and ends up falling for Laurel, the sister of her friend’s on-and-off girlfriend. The author’s description of the Kentucky foothills of Appalachia made me experience a weird sense of longing, as I’ve never visited but I felt as if I had. It is evident that the author knows and loves the area and can transmit her affection to her readers, who get to understand why Laurel feels so attached to it as well.

The story is narrated from the two main characters’ point of view, and the author clearly separates the two, with the first part (and intermezzo) written from James’s point of view; the second, set several years later, from Laurel’s; and the third alternating both. This allows readers to experience their doubts, frustrations, confusion, and mixed feelings, while at the same having a greater understanding of what lies behind some of their behaviours, words, and actions. If you love stories of the “will they/won’t day” type, you’ll have a field day here because there are many close encounters, lost opportunities, misunderstandings, and numerous occasions when you’ll wish you were there to tell them to just get on with it and talk to each other. But we all know what they say about the course of true love.

The novel is about second opportunities. James and Laurel fall in love when they are quite young, and although he tries to convince her to move in with him when he goes to Nashville to try to make a living in the music business, she’s just started college and decides to follow her family’s advice, carry on with her studies and stay at home. He makes it big —although not exactly how he expected— and seems to have moved on, but he still thinks of her. And it’s mutual. In this retelling of Austen’s story, the characters don’t challenge traditional gender conventions upfront as is common these days, and therefore the book stays closer to the spirit of the original (well, not in all aspects, and the subtlety of the author’s touch is perhaps what most reminded me of Austen). It might be frustrating for those who look for a heroine with a more modern outlook, but, personally, I liked Lauren, understood her plight and her reasoning, and felt her choice of priorities marked her as a very strong woman. James is the one who leaves home and tries to become a success by going wherever the opportunity arises, while Laurel remains close to home, helping her family, and become an artist, living fairly isolated in a mountain cabin, in touch with nature and needing that inspiration to grow into herself. The novel is also about identity, strength, courage, and belonging. We might think we know these qualities and concepts, but they are ultimately very personal and there is no one definition that fits all. The novel also reminds us that we might get to regret the decisions we make, but we’ll never know how things would have been if we’d chosen another path, and we have to live our life now and not get stuck on what may have been.

I enjoyed the setting of the story and the little community of friends and relatives that develops around the two protagonists. I liked the secondary characters, although some of them only appear for a brief period of time, and I was particularly touched by Laurel’s mother and her plight. There is no great emphasis on social mores and the wider world around the main characters (as there would have been in Austen’s novels), and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more on Laurel’s art and James’s music, but this is pretty much a romance focusing on the two characters’ relationship, and very romantic at that, so I’m sure fans of the genre will be more than happy with the story arch. Ah, there are sex scenes (three), which are not extremely graphic, but as somebody who doesn’t care for erotica, I thought I’d better warn you about them. Although it could have been done in other ways, these scenes go some way to challenge the status quo and the way we see the characters, and also exemplify the different phases of the relationship.

I thought I’d share a couple of samples from the novel to give you a taster.

James remembers the summers he spent at the lake with his friend Stuart.

Mrs. Pendleton had said they were eating dinner at the marina restaurant that night, and then there’d be more walking around the dock and maybe some fishing as the sun set. The next day, it would all start again. It seemed as if days on the lake lasted forever and ran one into the other, as the long, lazy days of summer should.

Here Laurel is talking to her sister, Virginia.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

“Yes, I know. You’re always fine. I just wish you could be happy too.”

This is a novel for romance lovers, especially those who enjoy stories about second chances, and also for fans of Austen. It is beautifully written, and it would be a great choice for book clubs interested in romances and Austen. It includes a number of questions at the end that would help get the discussion started as well. I am pleased to say I have another one of the author’s novels waiting to be read, and I hope they’ll keep coming.

I received an ARC copy of this novel. This has not affected my review, which I freely chose to share.

Thanks to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click (the book is being published today, so it should be available already), and keep reading and reviewing. And I hope 2020 brings you lots of love and romance!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier (@Tracy_Chevalier) (@BoroughPress) An accurate look at the lot of a woman in England between the wars, recommended to lovers of historical fiction, needlework, and cathedrals

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by an author who’s fast becoming one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy the review as much as I enjoyed the book.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

If she was to make a mark on the world, she would have to do so in another way…

‘Told with a wealth of detail and narrative intensity’ Penelope Lively

‘I loved it. So compelling and warm and subtle, and very moving’ Bridget Collins

‘Deeply touching … careful, beautiful’ Louisa Young

It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt.

Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiancé and her brother and regarded by society as a ‘surplus woman’ unlikely to marry, resolves to escape her suffocating mother and strike out alone.

A new life awaits her in Winchester. Yes, it is one of draughty boarding-houses and sidelong glances at her naked ring finger from younger colleagues; but it is also a life gleaming with independence and opportunity. Violet falls in with the broderers, a disparate group of women charged with embroidering kneelers for the Cathedral, and is soon entwined in their lives and their secrets. As the almost unthinkable threat of a second Great War appears on the horizon Violet collects a few secrets of her own that could just change everything…

Warm, vivid and beautifully orchestrated, A Single Thread reveals one of our finest modern writers at the peak of her powers.

https://www.amazon.es/Single-Thread-globally-bestselling-Earring-ebook/dp/B07NKWK95D/

https://www.amazon.com/Single-Thread-globally-bestselling-Earring-ebook/dp/B07NKWK95D/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Single-Thread-globally-bestselling-Earring-ebook/dp/B07NKWK95D/

Author Tracy Chevalier
Author Tracy Chevalier

About the author:

Tracy is the author of nine novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son. Her latest novel, AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD, is set among the apple trees in Ohio and the redwoods and sequoias of California. Her next book NEW BOY is a re-telling of Othello, set in a Washington DC playground in the 1970s. It’s part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Project in which various writers take a Shakespeare play and write what Jeanette Winterson described as a “cover version.” Tracy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia. Her website www.tchevalier.com will tell you more about her and her books.

https://www.amazon.com/Tracy-Chevalier/e/B000APQH6G/

My review:

I thank NetGally and The Borough Press (Harper Collins) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely decided to review.

I only came to Chevalier’s books quite late (I hadn’t read any of her novels until I caught up with At the Edge of the Orchard, which I loved and whose review you can read here), but I’m fast becoming a fan of her way of bringing history to life and immersing us in worlds that many of us might know little or nothing of and managing to grab our attention and to teach us invaluable facts at the same time. This novel is no different. Although we revisit a historical period that is much closer than those she has visited in other books (the story takes place in the UK the early part of the XX century, in between wars), once we get into the story, we soon discover that things have changed more than we might realise. The social mores of the era seem light years away from ours (although perhaps not everywhere and not for everybody), and, although told in the third person through the eyes of the narrator, Violet Speedwell, we learn what being a single woman (‘a surplus woman’ as the novel explains) was like at the time.

Violet, the protagonist, is not the most glamorous and exciting character I’ve come across. She is not special in any way, and that is what makes her story particularly representative of the period. As she often observes, there were many women who had lost male relatives, husbands or fiancées (she lost her older brother and her fiancée) during the Great War, and this generation of women are struggling to find a place for themselves. Some might go on to marry, but others… what kind of life awaits them? Although the style of writing is completely different, the sharp social observations put me in mind of Jane Austen and her novels. (Of course, Jane Austen is buried at Winchester Cathedral, so it all seems to fit). Violet leads a life where she is always conscious of other people’s opinion, of what her mother will think, of what will happen to her in the future (will she end up having to go to live with her younger brother and become the spinster aunt to his children?), of whose company she keeps… And once she leaves her mother’s house and goes to work and live in Winchester, she even has to be careful of how much she eats, as her salary won’t allow for any luxuries or even a hot meal per day. She is far from a conformist and has her moments of rebellion (she has her sherry men), but she is not open-minded or up in arms, at least not when we first meet her. By chance (and due to her love for Winchester Cathedral, inherited from her father, the most significant person in her life) she discovers the broderers, a group of women dedicated to enhancing the cathedral with their embroidery (when you read the author’s note you discover that the group existed and its main character, Louisa Pestel, was a historical figure whose archives are now at the University of Leeds), and although she knows little of embroidery, the thought of making a contribution to such a building and leaving her mark drives her to join in. Although not all is goodwill and camaraderie in the group, it changes Violet’s life, and she and us, readers, meet many other characters that give the story its depth and a strong sense of place and historical truth.

I love the way the author introduces details of embroidery (needlepoint), bell ringing, the history of Winchester Cathedral, and even the landscape of the city and the surrounding area, into the novel seamlessly, without making us feel as if we were reading a touristic guide or a history book. (She brings together all the threads like a skilled embroiderer herself). She is also proficient at descriptions that enlighten without becoming repetitive or overbearing. I get the feeling that she would be an incredible teacher and she’s hold her students enraptured by her words, the same as she does her readers.

The characters are recognisable as types, but they manage to surprise us as well, and the little details she mentions about them and about their behaviours and reactions make them true and genuine, even those who don’t feature prominently in the story. As the story is told from Violet’s point of view we sometimes get biased opinions about the characters, but we also get to see how she changes her perspective when she gains a new understanding of what life might be like for others, and we share in her progressive enlightenment and her new (and more generous) view of things. By the end of the novel, Violet is a totally new person and her life has changed beyond all recognition. Is it a happy ending? Well, I guess it depends on your definition of happiness, but she’s sure come into her own, and I enjoyed it. Do read it and see what you think!

I thought I’d share a few quotes from the book, to give you an idea of what you might find. (I recommend you check a sample of the novel to see if it’s a good fit, and remind you that I accessed an ARC copy, so there might be some changes in the final published version).

Women always studied other women, and did so far more critically than men ever did.

An invisible web ran amongst the women, binding them fast to their common cause, whatever that might be.

It was expected of women like her —unwed and unlikely to— to look after their parents.

She was from an era when daughters were dutiful and deferential to their mothers, at least until they married and deferred to their husbands —not that Mrs Speedwell had ever deferred much to hers.

This is neither a page turner, nor a book for those who love non-stop action. There are adventures and surprises, but those are not earth-shattering but rather in keeping with the main character and her milieu. This is a story centred on the everyday life of a woman in the early 1930s in England, at a time when the country was starting to recover from a war, and people were already worried about the events taking place in Germany. It is a novel about how far women have come (at least in the West) or not, about how some things don’t change easily, about the small acts of rebellion and about finding your own place, about being creative in your own way (both the broderers and the bell ringers made me think of Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Garden), and about ensuring your voice is heard. It is a novel of manners for the XXI Century, and much, much more. I was enchanted and entranced by it, and I recommend it to people interested in Women’s History, UK recent history, the social history of the interwar period, embroidery, bell-ringing, Winchester Cathedral, and good writing.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for her fabulous book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Blogtour RATIONAL CREATURES Ed. by Christina Boyd (@xtnaboyd) It was hard to be a woman in the Regency period and Austen knew it all too well! A must read for Austen lovers.

Hi all:

I am pleased to bring you a book by an editor (and writer) I have come to admire and trust. She has put me in touch with many great authors a well, so you read on at your peril… Ah, and don’t miss the GIVEAWAY

Rational Creatures. Edited by Christina Boyd
Rational Creatures. Edited by Christina Boyd

Rational Creatures: Stirrings of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen’s Fine Ladies (The Quill Collective Book 3) by Christina Boyd (Editor ),  Joana Starnes, Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Brooke West, Caitlin Williams. Foreword by Devoney Looser

“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Rational-Creatures-Stirrings-Feminism-Collective-ebook/dp/B07JFJ1HSZ/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rational-Creatures-Stirrings-Feminism-Collective-ebook/dp/B07JFJ1HSZ/

My review:

I thank Christina Boyd for sending me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review and for offering me to the opportunity to join the blog tour for its launch.

I have read and reviewed one of the Austen based collections Christina Boyd has edited in the past (Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, check that review here), and when she told me what she was working on, I did not hesitate. I have met many talented writers through her collection and the books she has edited and have to warn any readers that you are likely to end up with a long list of authors added to your favourites if you keep on reading.

I am sure no Austen reader would think that, but some people not so well versed in her work sometimes think that her novels are only about silly girls of the Regency period, normally of good families, flirting and forever plotting to marry a rich and attractive man, with nothing of interest in their heads other than attending parties and fashionable balls, and not a hint of independent thought or opinion. Nothing further from the truth. The title of the collection highlights the status of Jane Austen’s female characters. There are nice women, some cruel ones, vain, prejudiced, stubborn, naïve, impulsive, but they are not the playthings of men. They work hard to prove they are “rational creatures” and they try, within the options open to them at the time, to take charge of their lives and their own destinies.

In the foreword, Devoney Looser writes:

In its pages, the best of today’s Austen-inspired authors use their significant creative powers to explore new angles of love and loss, captivity and emancipation. These stories reimagine both, beloved female characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, and loathed ones, such as Persuasion’s Penelope Clay. The results are comical, disturbing, and moving.

I could not have said it better. While when I reviewed Dangerous to Know I said anybody could enjoy the stories but connoisseurs of Austen would likely delight in them, in this case, I think this is a book for Austen fans, and those particularly interested in feminism and in the early supporters of the education of women. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is mentioned in the foreword and also makes its appearance in some of the stories, and it clearly informs the readings the authors make of the characters and the novels they pay homage to. As a matter of fact, the book could also have been called A Vindication of Austen’s Women.

While some of the contributions are short stories in their own right, although centred on one of Austen’s female characters, some are vignettes closely linked to one of her novels, showing the background to some events in the story, or exploring the reasons for the decisions taken by some of the female characters that might have surprised us when we have read the novels, particularly so, perhaps, due to our modern sensibilities. Each story is introduced by a quotation from the novel in question that helps us get into the right frame of mind.

The catalogue of stories and characters is long and inclusive. We have: “Self-Composed” (by Christina Morland) about Elinor Dashwood, “Every Past Affliction” (by Nicole Clarkston) about Marianne Dashwood, “Happiness in Marriage” (by Amy D’Orazio) about Elizabeth Bennet (one of the most famous and well-known heroines in the Austen canon and I think most readers will easily identify with the character and her plight), “Charlotte’s Comfort” (by Joana Starnes) about Charlotte Lucas (I will confess I’d always wondered about Charlotte’s decision to marry the horrendous Mr. Collins. I enjoyed this version of events and it makes perfect sense), “Knightley Discourses” (by Anngela Schroeder) about Emma Woodhouse (it was a pleasure to catch up with Emma again, a happily married Emma, here), “The Simple Things” (by J. Marie Croft) about Hetty Bates (perhaps because I’ve never been married, I am always drawn towards characters who remain single, and I found this episode particularly touching), “In Good Hands” (by Caitlin Williams) about Harriet Smith (it was good to see Harriet get her own voice and not only be Emma’s plaything), “The Meaning of Wife” (by Brooke West) about Fanny Price (I liked this rendering of Fanny Price as she gets enlightened thanks to Wollstonecraft’s Vindication), “What Strange Creatures” (by Jenetta James) about Mary Crawford (which introduces a touch of mystery), “An Unnatural Beginning” (by Elizabeth Adams) about Anne Elliot (another one I found particularly touching), “Where the Sky Touches the Sea” (by Karalynne Mackrory) about Sophia Croft (this is not a character I was very familiar with but I loved her relationship with her husband, her self-sufficiency, and the realistic depiction of grief), “The Art of Pleasing” (by Lona Manning) about Penelope Clay (as a lover of books about cons and conmen, I could not help but enjoy this fun story full of twists and fantastically deceitful characters), “Louisa by the Sea” (by Beau North) about Louisa Musgrove, “The Strength of Their Attachment” (by Sophia Rose) about Catherine Morland, “A Nominal Mistress” (by Karen M. Cox) about Eleanor Tilney (a fun story with its sad moments, and a good example of the type of situations women could find themselves in at the time), and “The Edification of Lady Susan” (by Jessie Lewis) about Lady Susan Vernon (an epistolary story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and another one recommended to people who love deceit and con games).

The writing styles vary between the stories, but there are no actualisations or reinventions. The stories are all set within the Regency period, and the authors observe the mores and customs of the period, seamlessly weaving their vignettes and stories that would be perfectly at eas within the pages of the Austen novels they are inspired by. The characters might push the boundaries of gender and social classes but never by behaving in anachronistic ways, and if anything, reading this book will make us more aware of what life was like for women of different ages and different social situations in that historical period. What we get are close insights into the thoughts and feelings of these women, many of whom were only talked about but never given their own voices in the original novels. It is amazing how well the selection works, as sometimes we can read about the same characters from different perspectives (the protagonist in one of the stories might be a secondary character in another one, and the heroine in one of the stories might be a villain in the next), but they all fit together and help create a multifaceted portrait of these women and of what it meant to be a woman of a certain class in the Regency period.

I have said before that I feel this collection will suit better readers who are familiar with Austen’s universe, but, to be fair, I have enjoyed both, the stories centred on novels I knew quite well, and those based on characters I was not very familiar with, so I would not discourage people who enjoy Regency period novels and have read some Austen, but are not experts, from reading this book. By the time I finished the book, I admired, even more, the genius of Austen and had decided to become better acquainted with all of her novels. Oh, and of course, determined also to keep sharing the collections and books by this talented group of writers.

In summary, I recommend this book to anybody who loves Austen and has always felt curious about her female characters, protagonists and supporting players alike, and wished to have a private conversation with them, or at least be privy to the thoughts they kept under wraps. If you want to know who these women are and to see what it must have been like to try to be a woman and a rational creature with your own ideas in such historical era, I recommend this collection. As a bonus, you’ll discover a selection of great authors, and you’ll feel compelled to go back and read all of Austen’s novels. You’ve got nothing to lose other than a bit (or a lot) of sleep!

(In case you are curious, you can check my reviews for a couple of Karen M. Cox’s novels I Could Write a Book (here) and Son of a Preacher Man (here), and Jenetta James’s The Elizabeth Paper (here) and Lovers’ Knot (here). And I have a few more on my list to read!

Rational Creatures Super Giveaway

Super Giveaway

Giveaway Time!

The giveaway to accompany the blog tour is fantastic! Comment on the blog posts to enter, and at the end of the tour, a name will be randomly picked from all the comments on all the blog tour posts. This person will win all 21 prizes!

Thanks to Christina for keeping me on the loop and to all the great authors taking part, thanks to all of you for reading and please, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: A heartwarming, uplifting comedy about friendship, community and love by Lilly Bartlett (@MicheleGormanUK) #RBTR

Hi all:

Today, although we are already in September, I bring you a light read to recover from the holidays and put you in a good mood if you’re back to work. Another fabulous finding from Rosie Amber’s great group of reviewers.

Book Review The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Frienship House by Lilly Bartlett
The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House by Lilly Bartlett

The Not So Perfect Plan to Save Friendship House: A heartwarming, uplifting comedy about friendship, community and love by Lilly Bartlett

Meet Phoebe, who’s 28, and Laney, Dot and Maggie, who are 68, 78, and none of your business. Together they’ll prove that age doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship, belonging and an unquenchable zest for life.

A hilarious, uplifting novel about the ties of community, the strength of love and how nobody is truly ordinary.

When Framlingham’s famously all-female senior living home goes co-ed, a war between the sexes is declared.

Stuck in the middle, chef Phoebe Stockton is desperate to help her friends’ plot to keep the community that means so much to them. It’s become her life raft, too. She finds comfort in her beloved career that might finally make her parents proud. But Phoebe’s darling Nick is lining up on the other side of the battle, and their relationship is suffering collateral damage.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the home’s owner can’t improve business by moving the men in, he’ll have to evict everyone.

The women aren’t about to let that happen.

https://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Plan-Save-Friendship-House-ebook/dp/B07DS77MF5/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Plan-Save-Friendship-House-ebook/dp/B07DS77MF5/

Author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman)
Author Lilly Bartlett (Michele Gorman)

About the author:

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of laugh out loud moments, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power chick lit under her own name.

BE SURE YOU DON’T MISS LILLY’S NEXT BOOK. Copy and paste this link into your browser: http://eepurl.com/dr5RGX and sign up for her newsletter (only around 3 per year) to get the chance to read her books FOR FREE before they are published!

https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Bartlett/e/B06XH1DZW7/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Sometimes it seems as if all the books and movies on offer are centred on young protagonists, and I’m not only talking about Young Adult books. However, recently there has been a move towards including older protagonists and subjects. I enjoyed the two Dutch books about Hendrik Groen, a man in his eighties living in a nursing home, and have watched a few movies, usually choral, about older protagonists (like The Exotic Marigold Hotel). The setting of this novel, in a residential home, and the promise of a comedy made it sound like the perfect choice for me.

The first-person narrator of the story is Phoebe, a chef who had a very successful career in a bistro before disaster struck. She loves her job at the residential home (The Jane Austen Home for Ladies, and, as we discover, the name is meaningful in several ways), but has always felt frustrated because her parents (and her mother, in particular) do not seem to value her job and are dismissive of her career. To make matters worse, her mother (a larger-than-life character) dies suddenly at the beginning of the book, but her internalised voice keeps gnawing on her confidence.  Her best friend, June, is the manager of the home, and she fancies Nick, who is the official physiotherapist but also takes on any odd jobs going on (art therapy, gardening, handyman…). I know some readers don’t like first-person narratives, although Phoebe is unassuming, witty and an excellent friend. (On the minus side, her lack of self-confidence can make her sound paranoid and bitchy, and she keeps mulling over things, unable to decide what to do, trying hard to feel comfortable in her own skin and accept the credit for her achievements). We learn some surprising things about her family life together and by the end of the book, although I don’t have much in common with her character, I felt connected to her and appreciated her role as a narrator. Her friendship with June is convincing and their relationship is one of the strongest points of the book.

I also loved the residents of the home, and in many ways (not only due to my age, I hope), I felt closer to them than to the protagonist. We get to know some of them more than others (Maggie is fabulous and I loved Dot, Laney, Sophie, and yes, even Terence). They all feel real, with their foibles and their endearing traits, and make the book memorable. We follow the intrigues that have to do with the home and the changes that take place there (from a women’s only place to a mixed one) and learn about its inhabitants, their secrets, and their past lives. We are both observers and participants in much of the action, and we feel invested in their fates. We learn the importance of accepting people for who they are and moving beyond appearances and prejudices.

There are several romances with happy, or at least hopeful, endings (for the young and the older generations), broken hearts and disappointments, secrets and lies, and there is also the connection (pointed out through references to the book club and their discussions) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I would not call the novel a variation on Pride and Prejudice but if we think of Austen’s text as we read it we can discover nuances that might be easily missed otherwise.

Although there are many amusing lines in the novel (and some pretty touching ones as well. As we know, humour can be an excellent defence mechanism against hurt), I thought I’d share a few (remember that I got an ARC copy, so there might be some changes to the final version of the novel):

We’ve never let something as trifling as the spectre of death stand in the way of a good snipe.

My mother didn’t get ulcers, she gave them.

He’s a perv-whisperer.

‘Nice as piles,’ he grumbles. ‘Same pain in the arse.’

She wouldn’t like my ponytail, though. I did try taking it down, but having it up in a hair tie the entire weekend meant my hair had a ridge along the back that gave it a very White Cliffs of Dover effect.

I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank with all the social climbing he’s been doing.

The writing flows well and fits in perfectly with the voice of the narrator, who can spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about her beau but is also attuned to the feelings of the residents and her friend. There are plenty of amusing events taking place throughout the novel that keep the action moving, but the characters are much stronger than the plot and by the end of the book (that I enjoyed) they have all become good friends (or most of them have).

The author defines her books as light reads, as beach novels, and says her readers describe them as “feel-good.” All that is true, although behind all the funny goings-on the book illustrates the importance of keeping expectations and prejudices under control, and it reminds parents that they should encourage their children to find fulfilment in their own terms rather than expect them to make their parent’s dreams come true.  If you are looking for a light read, full of memorable characters, plenty of humour, and a big deal of heart, I’d recommend this novel. And, if it existed in real life, I wouldn’t mind working at the home (and in time even living there) either.

Many thanks to Rosie and her team, to the author for her fun novel, to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click , review, and keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ELIZABETH PAPERS by Jenetta James (@JenettaJames) #Regencyromance #Bookreview A joy of a novel recommended to fans of Pride and Prejudice. Excellent for book clubs.

Hi all:

Those of you who follow my blog and my reviews will know I fell in love with a collection of stories about some of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels and was determined to read more books by the authors. Here comes another one. And it’s a joy.

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James
The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

“It is settled between us already, that we are to be the happiest couple in the world,” said Elizabeth Bennet at the conclusion of Pride & Prejudice–but was it true? 

Charlie Haywood is a London-based private investigator who has made his own fortune–on his own terms. Charming, cynical, and promiscuous, he never expected to be attracted to Evie Pemberton, an independent-minded artist living with the aftermath of tragedy. But when he is hired to investigate her claims to a one hundred fifty-year-old trust belonging to the eminent Darcy family, he is captivated.

Together they become entwined in a Regency tale of love, loss, and mystery tracing back to the grand estate of Pemberley, home to Evie’s nineteenth-century ancestors, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. As if travelling back in time, another story unfolds within theirs. All was not as it seemed in the private lives of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, but how can they ever uncover the whole truth?

How could they know that in 1817 Elizabeth Darcy began a secret journal? What started as an account of a blissful life came to reflect a growing unease. Was the Darcy marriage perfect, or was there betrayal and deception at its heart?

Can Evie and Charlie unearth the truth in the letters of Fitzwilliam Darcy or within the walls of present-day Pemberley? What are the elusive “Elizabeth papers,” and why did Elizabeth herself want them destroyed?

The Elizabeth Papers is a tale of romance and intrigue, spanning the Regency and modern eras, reminding us how the passions of the past may inspire those in the present.

Editorial Reviews

Awards for The Elizabeth Papers

Winner #RBRT 2016 Book Awards for Historical Fiction – Rosie Amber Book Reviews

Favourite JAFF Time Shift Story 2016 – JustJane1813

Favourite Read 2016 – Babblings of a Bookworm

Austenesque Reviews’ Favourite 2016 – Austenesque Reviews

Reader’s Choice 2016 – Austenesque Reviews

Favourite Book 2016 – From Pemberley to Milton

Favourite Book 2016 – Diary of an Eccentric

Praise for The Elizabeth Papers

“a novel that will appeal to fans of Jane Austen and romantic mysteries” – Publishers Weekly

“cleverly constructed and supremely suspenseful … An unusual and gripping page-turner” – Jocelyn Bury in Jane Austen Regency Magazine

“I loved the concept and … dual storyline – it had a perfect balance of intrigue poignancy and possibility … Jenetta James crafted a compelling and remarkable story that cannot help but enchant readers! Written with reverence towards Jane Austen’s characters and filled with vibrant settings in brilliant detail, this genuine and unique romantic mystery is one I emphatically recommend” – Austenesque Reviews

“It will definitely be on my Best of 2016 list and is easily one of the best Pride and Prejudice inspired novels I have ever read.” ~Diary of an Eccentric

“…poignant, stirring and beautifully crafted…” ~Just Jane 1813

“…written so touchingly that it made me cry!” ~Babblings of a Bookworm

“It’s the best Jane Austen Fan Fiction I’ve read in quite some time, and truly stands apart with its quality writing.” ~Calico Critic

“The suspense keeps you glued to the pages but the romance in this book makes you swoon! I still can’t get over the originality of it all and how much I adored it!” ~Margie’s Must Reads

“…real nailbiter for Darcy and Lizzy fans.” ~Delighted Reader

 

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Papers-Jenetta-James-ebook/dp/B01GBNF91Y/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elizabeth-Papers-Jenetta-James-ebook/dp/B01GBNF91Y/

Author Jenetta James
Author Jenetta James

About the author:

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” and “The Elizabeth Papers”.

https://www.amazon.com/Jenetta-James/e/B00X4QR93S/

My review:

I was introduced to the work of this author via a collection of stories called Dangerous to Know: Janes Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues Ed. by Christina Boyd, which I loved (you can check my review here), and had also read a number of reviews of this novel, as it had won the Rosie’s Book Team Review award for historical fiction 2016, and I am a member of the group but hadn’t read it at the time. When the editor of the collection offered to put me in touch with some of the authors featured, I jumped at the opportunity and was lucky enough that Ms. James offered me an ARC copy of her book.

I’ve seen this book defined as a ‘sequel’ of Pride and Prejudice, and I guess in some way it is, as it follows on from the events on that novel, and we get to revisit quite a few of the characters in the previous one (especially Elizabeth Darcy, née Bennett, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and their family, although also Elizabeth’s sisters, mother, and Darcy’s sister Georgiana, and his friends and relatives). The story goes beyond that, moving across several generations, and the storyline is divided into two timelines, one in the Regency period (in the 1820s) and one much more recent, 2014. In the present time, we meet Evie, a young painter preparing her first exhibition and coping as best she can with a tragic family situation, and Charlie, a private detective, handsome, charming (yes, he would have fitted into the role of a rogue if he was a character in the other timeframe), and unencumbered by concerns about morality, who is asked to dig into a possible irregularity in the terms of a trust fund set up a couple of centuries ago. The case sounds like a wild-goose chase, but Charlie is intrigued, at first by the case, and later by Evie.

The author alternates chapters that share Elizabeth’s diary, written in the first person (and some of Darcy’s ‘official’ letters), with chapters set up in the present, from Evie’s and Charlie’s points of view, but written in the third person (there are some later chapters from other minor character’s point of view, that help round the story up and give us a larger perspective). This works well because readers of Pride and Prejudice (and, in my case, it’s my favourite Jane Austen’s novel) will already be familiar with the characters and will jump right into the thoughts and feelings of Elizabeth. I felt as if I had stepped back into the story, and although the events are new (as they happen after the couple has been married for a few years); I felt they fitted in perfectly with the rest of the narrative, and the characters were consistent and totally believable. Yes, they love each other. Yes, Darcy is still proud and headstrong at times. Elizabeth is aware of her family’s shortcomings and wonders at times why her husband puts up with her relations. She also doubts herself and can be annoyed at what she perceives as Darcy’s lack of communication. With all their humanity and their imperfections, they feel so true to the characters Austen created that they could have come out of her pen.

The modern part of the story provides a good reflection on how things have changed for the family, the house, and society in general. It also allows us to think about family, legacy, and heritage. How many family secrets have been buried over the years! While the characters have only a few traces and clues to follow, the readers have the advantage of accessing Elizabeth’s diary, but the truth is not revealed until very late in the novel (although I suspect most of us would have guessed, at least the nature of the truth, if not the details), and however convinced we might be that we are right, can one ever be sure about the past?

The writing is perfectly adapted to the style of the era, not jarring at all, and the historical detail of the period is well observed and seamlessly incorporated into the story (rather than shoehorned in to show the extent of the author’s research). The author’s observational skills are also put to great use in the modern story, and create a vivid and vibrant cast and background for the events. The pace and rhythm of the novel alternate between the contemplative moments of the characters, in the past and the present (emotions run high and characters question their behaviour and feelings), and the excitement of the search for clues and the discovery of new documents and evidence. The settings are brought to life by the author, and I particularly enjoyed visiting London with the modern day characters. Although there are love and romance, there are no explicit sex scenes, and, in my opinion, the book is all the better for it.

A couple of lines I highlighted:

To know him so well and still to be touched by him in darkness and light is surely the greatest fortune of all.

While fans of Austen will, no doubt, enjoy the parts set in the XIX century, the modern section of the novel is an attractive mystery/romance in its own right. I am not a big fan of love-at-first-sight stories, and I must warn you that there is some of that here, at least for Charlie, who is mesmerised by Edie from the very first time he meets her, but he does not have the same effect on her. In fact, he has information about her already (it is not a situation of love is blind), and he is taken by surprise as she is not what he expected. As we learn more about both of their stories, it is easy to see why he would feel attracted to her and her circumstances, as they are quite similar to his own. He was pushed into a business of dubious morality to help his family, and she has also had to cope with family tragedy, but in her case, she had the advantage of the Darcy Trust Fund. They are not copycats of Darcy and Elizabeth, but they complement each other well and bring out the best in each other. The rest of the characters in the modern era don’t play big roles but they are endowed with individual touches that make them relatable and distinctive.

The ending is left to the observation of one of the minor characters, allowing for readers to use their imagination rather than elaborate the point.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel that is beautifully written, with compelling characters (I fell in love with Elizabeth and Darcy once again) and a joy for any of Austen’s fans. I don’t think it is necessary to be a connoisseur of Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this novel (as most people are bound to have seen, at least, an adaptation of the story, and there are references to the main plot points scattered throughout the book) but my guess is that many people who read it will go back and read Austen again. And will look forward to more of James’s books. I surely will.

(Ah, the book has a series of questions and answers at the end that makes it an eminently suitable read for book clubs).

Thanks to Christina Boyd, to the author, to Rosie, and most of all, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! Ah, and, of course! Thanks to Jane Austen!

[amazon_link asins=’0998654000,1936009420,0998654019,1503290565,B000I9YLUI,B0083IJWNC,B073SMMJFN,080418562X’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’db9bb8d5-18ab-11e8-bd6e-4d3d980d775d’]

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview LOVER’S KNOT by Jenetta James (@JenettaJames) #RBRT Darcy as an amateur detective, secrets, lies, and a peep into crime detection in the Regency period.

Hi all:

Although it’s not one of my usual days to share reviews, the book was just published yesterday, and I thought you might enjoy this for your Easter holiday.

I bring you another book by an author you might remember if you’ve been following my blog in recent times. Schhhhh! It’s a mystery!

Lover's Knot by Jenetta James
Lover’s Knot by Jenetta James

Lover’s Knot by Jenetta James

A great love. A perplexing murder. Netherfield Park — a house of secrets.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is in a tangle. Captivated by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of no fortune and few connections. Embroiled in an infamous murder in the home of his friend, Charles Bingley. He is being tested in every way. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Darcy moves to protect her in the only way he knows but is thwarted. Thus, he is forced to turn detective. Can he overcome his pride for the sake of Elizabeth? Can he, with a broken heart, fathom the villainy that has invaded their lives? Is there even a chance for love born of such strife?

Lover’s Knot is a romantic Pride & Prejudice variation, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BQVFJQ3/

About the author:

Jenetta James is a lawyer, writer, mother, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of “Suddenly Mrs. Darcy” and “The Elizabeth Papers”.

https://www.amazon.com/Jenetta-James/e/B00X4QR93S/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, do check here) and was provided an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I have recently read and reviewed several books that take place in Jane Austen’s universe, from sequels to versions transplanted to modern times. One of them was The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James (you can read my review here), the author of this book. I was so impressed I could not resist getting an ARC copy of this book before its publication.

This is a more straightforward (and shorter) story, although it shares with the other the element of mystery, although, in this case, the story is not a domestic mystery but a police procedural of sorts (the police as we know it now did not exist at the time). Readers familiar with Pride and Prejudice will walk right into familiar territory when reading this story. We pick up the story when Bingley has moved into the area where the Bennetts live, with Darcy as his guest, and Jane Bennett is staying at the Bingley’s due to her illness, and her sister Elizabeth is looking after her. Rather than what happens in the original story, here we have a murder, and a bit later, another one (this one of a character we know, but I won’t give anything away). There are many familiar elements but interspersed with those, we have the investigation of the murders and the secrets behind it. As the description states, this is a variation on the story, as all the original elements are there, and the characters remain true to the original, but new events come into play and disrupt the action.

The story is told by Darcy in the first person and the present tense, and that makes readers feel they share his thoughts and his detecting process. This is quite different from the original novel, and it is one of the attractions of this variation, as rather than judging Darcy by his actions and having to second-guess him most of the time (let’s face it, he is the prototype of the strong and quiet man), we are privy to his thoughts and understand his motives and feelings. In this story, he becomes involved in the investigation, and that means it also fit into the genre of amateur detective fiction. In his case, though, he is not an old hand at this, eager to participate and imposing on the official team, but rather he is recruited by the magistrate investigating the case, Mr. Allwood, a fabulous character. Contrary to expectations, Darcy is not an immediate success at detecting as he is somewhat marred by his belief in appearances and his prejudices, but he is motivated to discover what happened to ensure Elizabeth is safe and goes out of his way to follow clues. The case helps him discover things about himself and about the society he lives in that make him change his outlook on life.

The case is intriguing. There are plenty of red herrings, devious characters, and, of course, there is romance. As I mentioned, Mr. Allwood is a great character. This magistrate doggedly pursues the investigation, not concerned about who might be discomfited by his methods, and making no distinctions according to social classes. People underestimate him at their peril, and I hope he might reappear again in later books (or get his own). I particularly enjoyed the mock paper by a Professor acknowledging the role of Allwood in the creation of the Metropolitan Police. A nice touch and a good way of providing more information on a star character that is not part of the original novel. Having studied Criminology, I only wish that many of the papers I had to read were written in such an engaging manner.

I am aware there are other mystery novels set up in the Pride and Prejudice universe (although I have not read them, so I can’t compare), although not at this particular juncture of the story (as this affords quite a different twist to the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth). I enjoyed Darcy’s point of view, having access to his thoughts and getting to see a more human and less stiff version of the character (he still has his pride, of course), although as this book is very short, some of the changes of heart in the main characters feel somewhat rushed (and, personally, the process by which both of them end up changing their opinions and the way they feel about each other is one of my favourite parts in the original, but that does not detract from the writer’s skill). The scenes that take place in London and the friendship that grows between Georgiana and Elizabeth are among my favourite parts in this story.

The writing style is perfectly in sync with the original and it flows well. The mystery elements are well worked into the story, and they respect the nature of a criminal investigation of the time. In keeping with the proceedings, and with the role Darcy plays, there is a certain degree of telling and not showing, especially when it comes to tying loose ends, but that is also typical of the genre. Although the mystery elements would work in their own right, even without knowledge of the original novel, I think the ideal readers are those familiar with Austen’s work.

An interesting variation on Pride and Prejudice that offers a new perspective on their favourite characters for fans of Austen. And for fans of mystery/crime books, an intriguing insight into crime detection prior to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in England.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie for this offering, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! Oh, and thanks to Jane Austen, of course!

[amazon_link asins=’1936009420,1681310074,0998654000,0998654019′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’015c9f27-31e1-11e8-b6a2-c961b56432b3′]

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ENGLISH WIFE: A NOVEL by Lauren Willig (@laurenwillig) (@StMartinsPress) Recommended to fans of Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Jane Austen’s novels. #bookreview #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I am sure today’s book won’t be to everybody’s taste, but I loved it. See what you think.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig
The English Wife by Lauren Willig

The English Wife: A Novel by Lauren Willig

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

https://www.amazon.com/English-Wife-Novel-Lauren-Willig-ebook/dp/B072TY6MS6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Wife-Novel-Lauren-Willig-ebook/dp/B072TY6MS6/

Author Lauren Willig
Author Lauren Willig

About the author:

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Pink Carnation series and several stand alone works of historical fiction, including “The Ashford Affair”, “That Summer”, “The Other Daughter”, and “The Forgotten Room” (co-written with Karen White and Beatriz Williams). Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Willig/e/B001IGQV62/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

In case you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the whole review (you know I can go on and on), I love this novel. I recommend it to anybody who enjoys historical fiction with a mystery at its heart, especially if you enjoy gothic novels. If you love Rebecca and Jane Eyre, I would advise you to check it out. And, for the insights it offers on the society of the time (both sides of the Atlantic), I think fans of Jane Austen who are interested in novels beyond the Regency period will also enjoy it.

This historical novel, set at the end of the XIX century, starts with a murder and the mystery surrounding it. On the day when Annabelle and Bay, a couple of the best of New York society (Annabelle, the aristocratic English wife of the heir of the Van Duyvil dynasty) have organised a ball to celebrate the completion of their new mansion, he is found dead with a knife (a dagger from his costume) in his chest, and his wife is presumed drowned under the icy waters of the river. Janie, Bay’s sister, alarmed at the different versions of the story that circulate (either her brother killed his adulterous wife and then committed suicide, or his wife killed him intending to run away with her lover, although her brother is also accused of adultery with their cousin Anne…) and how they will affect her little niece and nephew, decides to try to find the truth. She chooses an unlikely ally (more unlikely than she realises at the time), a reporter (her mother values privacy, appearances, and reputation above all, and she appears to be the perfect obedient daughter), and the novel tells the story of their investigation, that we get to follow chronologically from the moment the body is discovered, in January 1899, for several weeks. We also get to read about events that took place several years earlier (from 1894 onward), when Annabelle (also known as Georgie) first met Bay, in London. She was working as an actress and they become friends. These two strands of the story, told in the third person, but each one from the point of view of one of the main characters, Janie and Georgie, run in parallel until towards the very end, and that offers us different perspectives and insight while at the same time helping keep the mystery going. The more we know about the ins and outs of the characters, their relationships, their families, and their secrets (and there are many. Other than Janie, who only starts keeping secrets after her brother’s death, all the rest of the characters carry heavy loads, sometimes theirs, sometimes those of others), the more we feel invested in the story, and the more suspects and red herrings that keep appearing. I have read some reviewers that complained about the story not being a mystery or a thriller. Well, a thriller it is not, for sure (although I found the reading experience thrilling for other reasons). It has some of the elements of a classic mystery of the era, with the added beauty of the detailed setting, the appreciation of the subtle social nuances of the time, the strong portrayal of the characters, and the beautiful language. You might guess who the guilty party is (I must confess I kept wavering between several possible explanations), and also some of the other secrets (some are more evident than others), but I thought it worked well, although not, perhaps, for a reader who is looking, exclusively, for a mystery and wants to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This is not a book written following the rules of the genre we are so familiar with (nothing extraneous that does not move the story forward, kill you darlings, keep descriptions to a minimum) and, in my opinion, is all he better for it.

This book is full of great characters. We are limited to two points of view only, which might be biased due to personal reasons, and some characters, like Cousin Anne, generates strong emotions from all those involved (she never conforms, she steals the man her cousin Janie was going to marry, later divorces, and her attitude towards Annabelle is not supportive), but she has some of the best lines, and we get to understand her quite well by the end of the story. Janie, who has always been dismissed by her mother and ignored by the rest of the family, is an articulate, intelligent, cultured, and determined woman. Burke, the reporter, is a complex character with stronger morals than anybody would give him credit for, and Mrs. Van Duyvil, the mother, is a larger-than-life woman, whose influence is felt by those who come into contact with her, and she is far from likeable, and there are other characters that appear in a negative light. Even the “good” characters (Bay and Janie) have complex motives for their actions, and nothing is a black or white as we might think at the beginning.

As I mentioned above, the author (whose work I’d never read before but I’ll make sure to check) captures well the nuances of the time, the dress, the setting, the social mores (yes, a little like Jane Austen, although in a very different historical period), writes beautifully, and her choice of female characters as narrators allows us a good insight into what life was like at the time for women, whose power always had to be channelled through men. Times were changing already, and people keep referring to the Vanderbilts’ divorce, but this was not generally accepted yet, and certain things had to be kept hidden. The dialogue is full of wit and sparks at times, and although there is drama, sadness, and grief, there is also merriment, fun, romance, and very insightful comments on the society of the time (and yes, our society as well).

The book is full of literary references, historical-era appropriate, and most readers fond of the genre will enjoy the comments about books (and plays) of the time. I did. The narrative takes its time to explore the situations and the characters in detail, but I felt it moved at the right pace, giving us a chance to reflect upon the serious questions behind the story. Who decides who we truly are? How important are appearances and social conventions? What role should other people’s opinions play in our lives and actions? I don’t want to give any spoilers away (I enjoyed the ending, by the way, but that’s all I’ll say about it), but I thought I’d share some snippets from the book.

The juries of the world were made of men. A man could hold his honor dear in masculine matters such as gambling debts and never mind that he left a trail of ruined women behind him. Men diced with coin; women diced with their lives.

Georgie took a sip of her own tea. It was too weak. It was always too weak. She blamed it on the Revolution. Since the Boston Tea Party, the Americans had apparently been conserving their tea leaves.

“So you came rushing through the ice?” Janie didn’t know whether to be touched or shake him for being so foolish. “Slaying a dragon would have been easier. And warmer.”

Viola lifted her head. “I don’t want a lullaby. I want a story.” “Even better. I have a wonderful one about a prince who turned into a toad. You’ll adore it. It’s very educational.” (This is Anne. She has many wonderful retorts).

And this one must be one of my favourite sentences of the year so far:

Janie felt like a prism: fragile, but with the chance of rainbows.

In sum, a beautifully written historical fiction novel, with a mystery (several) at its heart, memorable characters, fantastic dialogue, and a gothic touch. Unmissable.

 

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’1250027861,125005642X,125002787X,045121742X,0451232054,B000OIZV3O,0451474635,0451473027′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’53fff0d6-123c-11e8-8d93-2145a195db9e’]

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog I COULD WRITE A BOOK: A MODERN VARIATION OF JANE AUSTEN’S “EMMA” by Karen M. Cox (@KarenMCox1932) #Bookreview #RBRT A great reimagining of Emma, in a wonderful setting, and with some very heart-warming touches.

Hi all:

Here I bring you a lovely book to start the year, in case you need any recommendations. Although I’m not the only one recommending it, as you will see.

I Could Write a Book by Karen M. Cox
I Could Write a Book by Karen M. Cox

I Could Write a Book: A Modern Variation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” by Karen M Cox

(For readers of romantic comedy, coming of age, historical romance, Southern fiction)
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”
Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.
I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered, and predictable, if a bit confining.
Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who has come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.
Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.
Rich with humor, poignancy, and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.

Editorial Reviews

“Perceptive and compelling” ~ Austenesque Reviews

I want to read it again!” ~ Margie’s Must Reads

“…I have enjoyed every single scene…” ~My Vices and Weaknesses

“I Could Write a Book showcases Cox’s cleverness and understanding of Austen’s characters…” ~Diary of an Eccentric

Links

https://www.amazon.com/Could-Write-Book-Variation-Austens-ebook/dp/B075K3SGQF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Could-Write-Book-Variation-Austens-ebook/dp/B075K3SGQF/

Author Karen M. Cox
Author Karen M. Cox

About the author:

About the Author:
Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of four full-length novels accented with romance and history: “1932”, “Find Wonder in All Things”, “Undeceived”, and “I Could Write a Book”. “The Journey Home”, an e-book companion novella to “1932” is now available. She also contributed a short story, “Northanger Revisited 2015”, to the anthology, “Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer”, and wrote “I, Darcy”, a short story in “The Darcy Monologues” anthology.
Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.
Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker – like Elizabeth Bennet.
Connect with Karen:
Website: www.karenmcox.com

Visit with Karen on several of the usual social media haunts such as Facebook, (karenmcox1932), Twitter (@karenmcox1932), Pinterest (karenmc1932), Instagram (karenmcox1932), and Tumblr (karenmcox).

https://www.amazon.com/Karen-M-Cox/e/B004HIFOO8/

My review:

I recently reviewed a book called Dangerous to Know: Janes Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues Ed. by Christina Boyd (you can check my review here), a collection of stories about some of the male characters (the rakes and rogues of the title) in Jane Austen’s novels and loved it. The editor of the book kindly got me in touch with some of the authors featured in the book, and now I have some of their books waiting in my e-reader. And this is the first book I’ve read, partly because of the cover, partly because of the title (well, I’m a writer after all), and partly because I had read great reviews of the book, that has received the prestigious RBRT (Rosie’s Book Review Team) Award for historical novel. Although I’m a member of this fabulous group of reviewers, I can’t catch up with all the great books that come up, but if you have not checked the list of awards yet, I leave you the link here (and if you’re an author or a reviewer, don’t miss the chance to explore Rosie’s great blog and her team).

I thank the author for providing me a copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This book is a reimagining of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. I’m not an Austen scholar (I wouldn’t even call myself a devoted fan) but I enjoy her novels, some more than others, and I have always been intrigued by new versions, adaptations, and sequels of well-known books (not only other books but also movies, plays, ballets, TV programmes…). What gives a novel, or a film, its meaning? What makes it recognisable? Can we change the setting, the historical period, the medium used, and make it maintain its identity somehow? Can we improve on the classics, or can we create a completely new work that retains some of the charms of the original, but is different enough to gain new readers and make it accessible to a new generation? I Could Write a Book manages to do many things at the same time. The action is moved from Regency England to 1970s Kentucky. The setting is a rather gentle and charming small town, where everybody knows everybody, and where although modern ideas are making inroads, there is still an underlying culture of Southern tradition, hospitality, class, and good manners. Appearances are important, and although some of the old families have lost their properties, or at least no longer manage them in the manner they were used to, names and reputations still count for a lot. The Woodhouse and the Knightley families have known each other forever, the men of both families created a joint law firm, and the children grew up together (and now two of their children are married). Emma, by her own confession a modern young woman, although annoying due to her meddling in the lives of others and her self-assurance, is more likeable than Austen’s eponymous heroine. She has a big heart, and she truly loves her family and puts their needs before her own. She suffers several tragedies at a young age. Her mother ends up in hospital severely disabled when she is very young and she keeps looking after her when others find her condition difficult to cope with. And when her father suffers a stroke, she decides to give up her dreams of a college education away from home and transfers back to the local college. Although financially she has no problems, and she can (and does) access help, her way of looking after the father is heart-warming, and that gives her a depth of feeling that is not always evident when we observe her behaviour in the social sphere.

Emma lives vicariously through the love lives of others, and in that, Emma Woodhouse is no different to the original. Although some of her match-making works well (it is difficult to know if it is because of or in spite of her), she can be remarkably clueless at times and thinks that she knows what others think much better than she does (notwithstanding her degree in Psychology). I won’t rehash the plot, as you are probably familiar with it, be it through the novel or through one of the many versions available. Let’s just say that there is much plotting, interfering, match-making, misunderstandings, blunders, embarrassing moments, and yes, plenty of romance. And in this version, much Southern charm and tradition.

The story is told by two of the characters, by Emma, in the first person (and that allows us to understand her motivations, and see that although misguided at times, there is no true malice in her, and she doubts herself more than she lets on), and by George, in the third person (until the last chapter, when we finally hear from George in his own words). George is a true gentleman and a worthy hero of one of Austen’s novels, although he is not perfect. He has a long list of short-term girlfriends and can be, at times, as lacking in insight as Emma. But he is tall, handsome, and he always behaves impeccably (something we cannot say of all the male characters). The two points of view help us get a wider perspective and we get to see Emma from the point of view of somebody who knows her well and still loves her, with all her faults and quirks. We also get a good insight into the different roles played by men and women in the society of the time and get a good understanding of what being a member of such society is like, from an insider’s perspective.

The setting works well, as although it is a more modern period, is not the present, and the location and the type of society reflected in the novel translates well the characteristics of the small, tradition-laden era of Austen’s novel. Emma’s naïveté is justified in part by the insular society she lives in, and by her self-appointed role of her father’s carer, that keeps her somewhat isolated and less likely to mix with others outside of her social circle. Although she is not the easiest of characters to identify with (her lifestyle is very different from what most of us have experienced and many of her difficulties are of her own doing, rather than due to any hardship or real-life problems), she does love her family, and although we might not like to be reminded of it, we have all been, young, naïve, and believed we knew everything.

There are misguided characters, some not-so-nice characters (some can be mean but I would hardly call any of them truly bad, although Tim is very self-involved, although he is a politician, so it fits) and some lovely characters as well. (I was particularly fond of Nina and Helen and found John, Emma’s father, endearing and sympathetically portrayed). The locations and the social setting is brought to life beautifully by the author, who shows an in-depth knowledge of the subject, and I wished I could have been there with them at many of the events (although I’m afraid I’d stick out like a sore thumb). There is even some sex, although not very descriptive (and as you know I’m not a lover of erotica or sex in novels), and the final chapter brings us up to date with the fates of the characters, with some lovely and funny surprises.

The novel has some touching moments, plenty of romance, some moments when we feel embarrassed on behalf of the central character (and many when we want to strangle her), and some funny ones. It is a light read although it will make us think about family and remind us of our youth. There are also some great questions for book clubs at the back, which I think would engender much discussion for readers.

In sum, an amusing and light read, a great reimagining of Emma, in a fabulous setting, with a heroine we’ll love and hate at times, a gorgeous love interest, and a great period piece for those who love the genteel South.

Thanks to Christina Boyd and to the author for her novel, and to Rosie and her team for helping me discover this author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’0141439580,0143107712,0804172412,1607103117,B001688V42,B00KSERAQA,1509853472,080418562X’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’875afa6c-f219-11e7-ad9e-0bfe54d4c943′]

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security