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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Review - Then Comes Winter Anthology

Then Comes Winter book cover
In the summer, Meryton Press released a short story anthology, ‘Sunkissed; Effusions of Summer’. This was a mix of contemporary and historical short stories, many of which had a nod towards Austen, but the one thing they all had in common was they were romantic summertime stories. ‘Then Comes Winter’ is the same type of book, but a winter version. Here’s a brief rundown of each story in the collection:

Holiday Mix Tape’ by Beau North and Brooke West is a modern version of ‘Persuasion’ with Anne as a politician’s daughter and Fred(Eric)k Wentworth as marine. The ‘mix tape’ element is that it is set out in a format of small chapters with song titles that refer back to quotes from ‘Persuasion’, which I thought was a nice touch. The timeline bounces around a bit, with flashbacks to the past. The first time I missed the date, so I was quite confused at first!

I think there are a few difficulties with making ‘Persuasion’ a modern short story – chiefly that Anne’s decision to give up the relationship is harder to justify these days. Here the reasoning was such that I didn’t blame her one bit, but the flipside of that is that Eric was more at fault for what went on in their past, and his past attitude made him for me a little bit of an unsympathetic character and since this was a short story I didn’t really have time to warm up to him very much. There were a number of touches I really enjoyed about this story – I liked the depiction of the characters, though they are quite softened in terribleness compared to the original. I liked how they’d translated to the modern era, Elizabeth with her botox etc. Lady Russell gave me a giggle too. I thought the letter had a nice twist for this tale. I thought this was a strong story with plenty of emotion to start off the anthology with.

With ‘Becoming Fanny’ by Melanie Stanford we have a change of tone, moving away from the heartbreak that was under the surface of the previous story. Blair loves quizzes, and when she does an online quiz that tells you which Austen heroine you are most like she is disgusted to find herself labelled as a ‘Fanny Price’. Fanny is Blair’s least favourite Austen heroine, as she feels that Fanny is a weak character. Blair is determined to act more in a more Elizabeth-like fashion:
‘I was trying to be Elizabeth, not Fanny, after all. Fanny would stay at home and pine after her cousin (gross). Elizabeth would go and have fun, be witty, and impress men with her “fine eyes”.’
Blair begins to learn that firstly, Fanny Price is NOT a weak character, and secondly, that you need to learn to be who you are. This was one of my favourite stories in the book, I thought it was wonderful.

A Man Whom I Can Really Love’ by Natalie Richards is a modern story inspired by ‘Sense and Sensibility’. In S&S, Marianne’s understanding completely changes as she realises that she’s misjudged pretty much everybody – Willoughby, Elinor, Colonel Brandon, etc. Here, when Marianne finds out what type of man Willoughby is she rushes off to make a dramatic exit in true passionate Marianne-fashion, only to crash her car in the icy weather. Unconscious but aware in hospital, Marianne finds some of what the more reserved characters she knows (such as her sister and Brandon) really think and feel about things. I thought this was such a clever idea for a short as it sped things up considerably, while still moving at a natural pace. It makes absolute sense that people wouldn’t hold back when speaking to somebody unconscious and perhaps unaware. It isn’t very complimentary about my least favourite Austen hero, Edward Ferrars, very amusingly casting him as:
‘Ward Ferrars, moronic heartbreaker extraordinaire.’
This is not Elinor’s story, so I don’t think this impatient attitude to Mr Ferrars was a negative at all. Instead this story focusses on Marianne’s journey in understanding - of everything in general and particularly in her change of feelings toward ex-military man and friend of the family, Brandon Delaford.

The Unexpected Gift’ by Erin Lopez is a historical ‘Pride & Prejudice’ snippet. Here, Darcy is doing a little bit of pining in London directly after leaving Netherfield. He absent-mindedly buys a Christmas present for the woman he is thinking of but is convinced would be unsuitable. Georgiana is tasked with returning the gift, but instead she decides to send it on, leading to some very amusing speculation at Longbourn:
“Mama,” Kitty said, “Why should Lizzy have a secret love? I should have one just as well as she.”
“Yes, dear, I agree. I am sure if we were allowed to go to London with Jane, I could get secret loves for all my daughters. But your father is not to be moved.”
So funny! This was a delightful little story but I was just really getting into it and enjoying it when it stopped! I would have liked for it to have been a bit longer, but it’s one of those short stories that is a snippet of a longer story rather than a story in its own right.

North for the New Year’ by Sophia Rose is a modern version of ‘Northanger Abbey’, moving the action to a tourist town. Trainee teacher Cate is certainly naive, and I thought believably so. She comes from a big, close family, living in a tiny town. She is quite young for her age, as evidenced by her obsession with the ‘Ghost Hunters Across America’ TV show. Cate meets some new friends, the exciting Isabella, and siblings Elly and Chris Tyler. I thought this was a sweet update of ‘Northanger Abbey’. The suspicion that Catherine has towards General Tilney in the original can be hard to replicate believably in a modern story, but I thought it worked well here. I missed a little of Henry Tilney’s wit; he is so charming and has all the best lines in ‘Northanger Abbey’; Chris was a sweet hero, but not quite as adorable as Henry!

Winter’s Awakening’ by Anngela Schroeder is a variation on ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Here, after the Bingleys and Darcy leave Netherfield they go to Pemberley. The Gardiners take their two eldest nieces to Lambton, and there, in a public tearoom, Darcy overhears some quite unpalatable truths, such as Jane’s true feelings towards Bingley and Elizabeth’s opinion of him. He is successful in sneaking away but Miss Bingley and Miss Darcy arrive soon afterwards, leading to Elizabeth being invited to Pemberley where she begins to realise that she has been hasty in forming her judgement of Darcy. This is a very romantic tale, which I enjoyed. There is some peril and machinations which I am not a big fan of as I personally prefer something a bit more low-key, but I would predict that this short story would hit all the right notes for many readers.

Delivery Boy’ by Suzan Lauder is a modern story with Elizabeth as a restaurant owner and Darcy as her ‘delivery boy’. It was a very enjoyable and romantic story and for me one of the strongest in the book. I would say though that I didn’t feel that it needed to be Austenesque. If I’m reading a modern Austenesque I expect the characters to be like Elizabeth and Darcy and their dynamic to be similar, but I didn’t really feel that here. As I said though, I enjoyed this story very much.

The Food of Love’ by Maureen Lee isn’t really Austenesque, it’s more Regency romance, but there is a slight Austen connection – the heroine, Anne, decides to put on a play to have an acceptable front for flirting with a man she is hoping will offer for her, much as Maria Bertram takes advantage of ‘acting’ a part to flirt with Mr Crawford. This was an enjoyable story, although I really wondered at Anne’s family, I believe there was an older generation but she was very poorly chaperoned, and over-familiar both with the man she is hoping will woo her and her neighbour and longtime friend Mr Turnbull. The informality in the relationships made the story have a bit too much of a modern feel for me, but it’s a nice and easy read.

Christmas Miracle on Oyster Bay’ by Denise Stout is again not Austenesque. It features a heroine who reminded me a little of Kathleen Kelly in the film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ in that she trying to keep the bookshop she inherited in business. A discount book store has come into town and her profits have plummeted. However, our heroine Lissa gets offered another way to make some money, providing venue and catering for a party. Lissa has been burned in the past, but perhaps Christmas will prove to be the season for miracles for her, if she can only let herself believe it. This was an enjoyable contemporary romance. Although it worked as a short story I think it would have been even better if it had been a bit expanded to allow the romance to grow a bit more. As it was, I felt that it seemed a little sudden.

The Clock Doesn’t Lie’ by Linda Gonschior was another contemporary romantic story but with a nod to Austen, in that the diner where the story is set is just outside the town of Meryton. Danielle, who runs the diner, has some similarities in character to Elizabeth Bennet, and the businessman from out of town who is in danger of being stranded there in the snow bears more than a passing resemblance to Mr Darcy, though he doesn’t feel above his company. This is one of those stories that isn’t a romance in itself, but suggests at a further story, and it was good in a winter anthology, having snow and a suggestion of something bigger at work, which is an essential part of the feelgood factor of Christmas films.

A Perfect Choice’ by Lory Lilian is a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ variation. If you have watched the 1995 version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ you may remember Elizabeth playing in the garden with a massive dog during her stay at Netherfield. Well in this story, she makes the acquaintance of the friendly dog in the same way, but instead of seeing her through a window and having a pine, Mr Darcy is instead outside, not far behind the dog. Darcy and Elizabeth have a discussion which leaves them knowing each other better. At this point in canon Elizabeth is not especially fond of Darcy, but his faults amount to him seeing himself as better than the people of Meryton and his slight of her at the Assembly; the worse things she holds to his account, disinheriting Wickham and interfering between Bingley and Jane haven’t happened yet. Thus, their relationship doesn’t have far to go to improve to a much more friendly level, and things between them are far more cordial when Elizabeth leaves Netherfield than in canon:
‘The next day, Elizabeth took leave of the whole Netherfield party in a lively spirit. And yet when Mr. Darcy bowed over her hand, she could feel her cheeks warm.’
Elizabeth is still trying to discern Mr Darcy’s character when she meets Mr Wickham at Aunt Phillips’ house. However, due to her knowledge of Mr Darcy’s dog, Blackie, her reception of Wickham’s story is different. I thought this was such an interesting point to go from in a variation (and yes, I appreciate it’s diverged from an adaptation rather than Austen’s work, but I thought it was a quite plausible happening, that Elizabeth might play with a dog in the grounds of Netherfield). It’s more usual to see a variation from a major event than a minor one, but an initial small change can have a ripple effect on the rest of the story, and this happens delightfully here. This was my other favourite story from the anthology and a wonderful way to round off the book.

So, in summary, I would say that ‘Then Comes Winter’ was a very enjoyable anthology. As with any anthology there were some stories I liked more than others, but there were no duds amongst the collection and some real gems. If you have a spare afternoon to spend cuddled up reading, then I’d definitely recommend giving this book a go. I’d rate it as a 4 star read.

4 star read

*I received an e-book of ‘Then Comes Winter’ as part of the blog tour in return for my honest review.

Since this is a blog tour there are lots of other stops for you to take a look at. You can learn more about the authors, the stories and even bag yourself a copy:

Then Comes Winter Blog Tour Schedule
Blog Tour: Then Comes Winter
30 Nov: Guest Post & Giveaway at FLY HIGH
1 Dec: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time…
2 Dec: Character Interview & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
3 Dec: Excerpt & Giveaway at Jennifer Vido
4 Dec: Guest Post & Giveaway at Liz’s Reading Life
5 Dec: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars
6 Dec: Guest Post & Giveaway at Delighted Reader
7 Dec: Review at Just Jane 1813
8 Dec: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
9 Dec: Review at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
10 Dec: Review at From Pemberley to Milton
11 Dec: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
12 Dec: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
13 Dec: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
14 Dec: Author/Character Interview & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
15 Dec: Author Feature at Songs and Stories
16 Dec: Author Feature & Giveaway at Tome Tender
16 Dec: Excerpt & Giveaway at Chick Lit Plus
17 Dec: Author Feature & Giveaway at Skipping Midnight

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for your fair an honest review--and I appreciate your time in reviewing each story! Did you like the quotes before each story?

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    1. Hi Christina, thanks for commenting. Yes, I liked the quotes a lot. I am a big fan of quotes in general but I liked how they gave you a little flavour of each story. I nearly quoted a couple of the quotes in the book before the story in my review (the John Steinbeck quote, "What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness" from your introduction, and the quote about dogs "If your dog doesn't like someone, you probably shouldn't either" but I thought I should probably quote from the authors in the anthology instead!

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    1. Hi Denise, thanks for commenting :)

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  3. Thanks for that lovely review!

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    1. You are welcome. Thank you for writing such a touching story!

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  4. Thanks for the breakdown of the stories!

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    1. Thanks, Dung. I thought it would be best to do them separately as they are quite different stories. They all work quite well together though, with the winter theme tying them together.

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  5. Thank you for the wonderful review, Ceri!

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    1. I really enjoyed your story, and found Marianne dramatic, but still very likeable.

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  6. You are so very busy right now that I appreciate the extra mile (or is that kilometer in the UK) you went to put together a thorough review.
    I can't wait to read the other stories for myself particularly a couple that have really grabbed my interest after reading the reviews. ;)

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    1. Well we have kilometres, but we measure distance in miles mostly!

      I'm looking forward to catching up with other peoples' reviews now I've read it. I don't like to read reviews of something I'm just about to read in case it influences me, I want to make sure I'm writing my own review and not somebody else's if that makes sense!

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  7. Wow! Thanks for reviewing each story!

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    1. Hi Ginna, thanks for commenting. I hope this gave you a flavour of each story :)

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  8. I read and reviewed this book also - loved it and only wanted more to some stories in particular. I always like quotes at the beginning of chapter and marvel at the research the authors must do to find the perfect one.

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    1. Like you, I liked the quotes too Sheila. I particularly enjoy them being so well-chosen. I know what you mean about wanting more. It's always a danger of short stories. Some I felt were the right length but there were a few that I thought would have benefited from being longer.

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