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Saturday, 12 December 2015

Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess de Sainte Toulours - Review and Giveaway

Book cover: Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess de Sainte Toulours by Stanley Michael Hurd
Today I have a review of Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess de Sainte Toulours and an international ebook giveaway.. read on for details!

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I have been meaning to read Stanley Michael Hurd’s three volume ‘Darcy’s Tale’, which is ‘Pride & Prejudice’ from Darcy’s point of view, for some time as the reviews have been so good. I still haven’t got to those books yet, but when I was offered the chance to read his newest book, ‘Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess de Sainte Toulours’, I jumped at it.

This is a story focusing on Colonel Fitzwilliam (here called Edmund rather than the more usual Richard) based a few years after the events of ‘Pride & Prejudice’. Although in Austen’s time promotions in the army were purchased, the rank of Colonel implies at least that Darcy’s cousin was successful in his army career. We know he is intelligent, quick-witted and charming from what we see of him at Rosings in ‘Pride & Prejudice’. Here we see something of the Colonel in his work. Napoleon has been defeated, and the army is keen to find out the lie of the land in France should the peace prove to be short lived – the Colonel is about to go on a spying mission. But before he goes, Edmund goes to dine with Mr and Mrs Darcy, and there he meets a young lady that he feels an instant connection with.

This is the same man who freely admitted to Elizabeth that he could not marry without considering money so I was a little surprised to think that he could dismiss this concern so easily. The author addresses this issue:
‘Edmund himself was somewhat surprised to hear his words, as this had always been a matter of some concern to him as a second son; he was startled to realise how entirely he had passed over it as an object, in thinking of matrimony...’
I am not really a believer in love at first sight, and to be fair this isn’t quite what happens here; Edmund certainly has a preference very quickly but it’s more based on personality than personal attractiveness, although the lady in question is certainly attractive.  I would have preferred a longer courtship really, because to me it seemed a little too quick.

From the point of view of both sides, this sort of mutual attraction is certainly not ideal – on such a short acquaintance and with Edmund about to set off for a trip abroad that is likely to last months nothing can become official. Though the budding romance gets furthered a little more Edmund very soon sails off to France in the company of a Basque spy, Esparza. The Colonel’s trip to France was a lot more entertaining and light-hearted than I’d expected, and even gave his acting abilities an airing:
‘I hope I can count on you, mon cher Colonel, to play a proper John Bull, eh? A thick-witted, provincial Englishman?” 
“I had much rather simply knock him on the head at some quiet turning in the road ahead, than play the buffoon,” said Edmund sourly.’
Hugh Laurie as Prince George from Blackadder III
If you are familiar with the television series ‘Blackadder’ you might well have the same mental image of the character the Colonel played as the view I had, that of Hugh Laurie’s dull-witted Prince Regent! There were several mental images and passages that gave me a smile in this book; I really appreciated the author’s dry humour.

I felt that the pacing of this novel was a little uneven. The first 60% was fairly slow-paced, but once I hit the final 40% then nothing short of a disaster would have pried the book out of my hands until I’d finished it! It was utterly riveting. There was drama, action, some violence, swashbuckling, and some real grit – I am used to reading things which are a bit more sanitised. This isn’t a bad thing by any means but it wasn’t what I’d expected, particularly as it posed such a variance to the earlier parts of the book.

And what of the Countess of the title? Well, I’d expected her to have more of the story dedicated to her since she was part of the title, but this is very much the Colonel’s tale rather than anybody else’s. There isn’t much focus on the Darcy family either, though both Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth do get some page time. I enjoyed the peek at the Darcys’ marriage that this afforded, to hear of some of the romantic billet-doux that our dear boy has sent his wife, and to hear his endearingly grumpy, yet practical views on people in love:

“Was it not you who swore he would help any two deserving people in love?” 
“In coming together, yes; once they are joined, I see no need to be constantly in company with them.”

Regarding the language usage, there were words, particularly those relating to vessels, which were entirely new to me, and also a very interesting section which dealt with the rules of duelling, which I only knew the bare bones of previously.  There was nothing in the way of sex or language that was likely to offend and though there is some violence it isn’t graphic. If you’re a Colonel Fitzwilliam fan, or simply would like to take a peep at some of the wider issues of the time then I would certainly recommend that you give this book a try. I certainly enjoyed it and would rate it as a 4½ star read.

4.5 star read

*I was provided an ebook of this title by the author for my honest review.

Giveaway time!

Stanley Michael Hurd has very kindly offered to give away an ebook of 'Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess de Sainte Toulours' to TWO commenters here. To enter, just leave a comment on this post by the end of the day on Saturday 19 December 2015, ensuring that you leave me some way to contact you in case you are a winner. How do you imagine the Colonel in his working life? Do you think he'd get into the thick of things or do you see him as being more of a society man? 

Many thanks to Stanley for the giveaway :)

24 comments:

  1. Great review, Ceri. This is on the top of my read pile.

    I love stories where the Colonel has a lot of page time so I'm particularly looking forward to reading this. (Please do not enter me as I have it already.) If the writing is at all like Stan's earlier books, I know I will learn enough of the main character to end the book viewing him as a close acquaintance. How cool that is!

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    1. Hi there Joy! If you like the Colonel having lots of page time then I think you will like this book, it's very much his tale, and he comes out of it very well, very likeable, honourable, and admirable :)

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  2. I am a fan of the Colonel and probably more interested in reading about him then Darcy at the moment (I think I read too many Darcy and Elizabeth stories this year), thankfully I have already got a copy of this book and am looking forward to reading it.

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    1. I know what you mean Vesper; Darcy and Elizabeth are my favourites but sometimes you can have too much of something even if it's your favourite. It's good to mix it up a bit.

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  3. What a wonderful, thoughtful review! Thank you. I like your attention to language and structure. I'm a fan of the Darcy's Tale trilogy (read in the second, corrected, edition), and if reading about "the wider issues of the time" is your cup of tea, you'll get a goodly quantity of it there. I like that Mr Hurd is not afraid to use terminology that might be unfamiliar to the reader--for me, that's part of the richness of the historical novel experience. Hoping to read this one soon!

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    1. I absolutely agree with you Abigail - one of the things I enjoy about reading historical novels is that it gives me an opportunity to learn new things about a period in an entertaining way.

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  4. I'm always pleased to read a P&P story with the colonel as the main character. So far as I can recall, they have all been well done. Do yourself a favor and read some of the older ones when you have finished indulging in this one. I think you'll be happy you did. And as commented elsewhere on this site, it provides a temporary respite from Lizzy and Darcy.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Betty. Are there any Colonel Fitzwilliam stories that you'd particularly recommend?

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  5. Great review! I love reading about the secondary characters.

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    1. I do too Anna, I think there is real scope with the secondary characters to develop them further. It's really interesting to see the direction that an author will go with them.

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  6. Enjoyed your review, Ceri, and chuckled over the Blackadder reference. I had a similar mental image when I read this one. I liked the historical references, too. Isn't some of the Code Duello just insane? :)

    Please don't enter me in the giveaway.

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    1. Hi Sophia. I wasn't sure how well-known 'Blackadder' was over your side of the Atlantic, but I am very fond of the character of George, and the Colonel's part of John Bull the thick-witted Englishman reminded me very much of George!

      I wasn't aware of the details of the rules of duels and I thought they were fascinating although somewhat ridiculous!

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  7. Dear Ceri,

    Thank you so very much for a lovely review; I am delighted you enjoyed the Colonel’s story. As my first foray into unfettered fiction, I was very uncertain how this would play out – at least with Darcy’s Tale I knew I had a great storyline to follow. It has been fun and fascinating to hear what people think of this look at the Colonel—what captures their attention—like the Code Duello, or the travel through Spain and France, which caught another reviewer’s fancy. And if you found the ship’s detail interesting, just wait until I get Captain Wentworth done! Ship-board life was like nothing we have today, I think, and the ship itself becomes almost a character in its own right. And Patrick O’Brian has set an awfully high standard for that sort of thing, blast him; and while I don’t care to emulate him, I can’t feel comfortable with a Georgette Heyer approach, with all needed details springing from my imagination. Ah, well.

    Thank you again, very much, for taking the effort to look into my book; I am so glad you found it worth the time.

    Best regards,

    Stan

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    1. Hi there Stan! I always find it interesting when reading reviews to see what has stood out for other reviewers - they say that no two people read the same book and I believe that to be true.

      I am very interested to hear that you are working on a Captain Wentworth tale too. We only got a taste of the seagoing details with this story and I'd like to see what might happen on a longer voyage.

      Thanks again Stan for visiting my blog with your story!

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  8. Enjoyed your review. I like the idea of giving life to secondary, or even tertiary, characters. Love the Blackadder reference. I'd love a chance to read this. Thanks! Nancy Hedghogmom At AoL dot

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    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for your comment. I like to see stories based on the less prominent characters, there is so much scope to develop them!

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  9. Loved your review, Ceri! The Hugh Laurie reference got me in stitches, so funny and so true! Really looking forward to reading this one! Please don't enter me in the giveaway, having read and absolutely adored 'Darcy's Trilogy' any book by Stan Hurd is one that I'd buy sight-unseen, I just wanted to pop by to say thanks for a great story and a great review.

    I was thrilled to read Stan's comment and find out that the next treat will be Captain Wentworth's tale. I'm a huge fan of Patrick O'Brien (LOL re the high standards he set :D ) and I've watched Master and Commander almost as often as P&P (OK, almost but not quite) so I can't wait for Captain Wentworth's story. Congrats, Stan and please keep 'em coming!!

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    1. Thanks a lot, Joana. I'll have to turn to you for guidance on how much ship-life is too much, as I have eight years to cover between his disappointment and his return. But at least he was in a lot of battles; I've already got several down on paper. Poor guy, he was probably half hoping he and the Asp would go down together, there at first.

      Thanks again,

      Best,

      Stan

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    2. Hi Joana, thanks for stopping by. I am also very interested to hear about Stan's Captain Wentworth story. I am pleased to hear you'd recommend Darcy's Tale, I have been meaning to read them for some time and have all three books waiting for me.

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  10. Really great review, I am a real fan of The Col and have read at least 2 stories based on himself. I believe he would be in the thick of things, a man of action as well as words, a rare combination. The story defiantly interests me please enter me in the drawing. rakowski_julie@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi Julie. I agree with you, I see the Colonel as a brave man, decisive in both actions and words. I don't think you'll be disappointed with this story :)

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  11. Can't wait to read this novel!

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    1. I hope you get to read it soon, Dung!

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  12. Just catching up on e-mails that contained blogs I was just too busy to get to before today. I read this book and enjoyed it. Good review.

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