Monday, 13 July 2020

Murder at Northanger Abbey by Shannon Winslow - Guest Post

Blog Tour: Murder at Northanger Abbey by Shannon Winslow
Today I’m welcoming a first time visitor to the blog, Shannon Winslow. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of hosting Shannon previously, I’ve featured a Persuasion anthology that she contributed towards. Funnily enough, although most Austenesque books are based on Pride and Prejudice, Shannon’s latest book isn’t a P&P work either. Murder at Northanger Abbey is an NA sequel, which picks up after Austen’s books closes. As it says in Northanger Abbey, “There must be murder” and although Catherine only now expects to encounter murder in novels, it appears that just has she has learned to be sensible, she will be encountering it in real life too.

Let’s look at the blurb and then I will hand over to Shannon Winslow for a guest post.

Book cover: Murder at Northanger Abbey by Shannon Winslow
Book Description

Sequel to Jane Austen’s Spoof on the Gothic Novel

Newly married to her beloved Henry, Catherine’s eyes are now open to the grownup pleasures of wedded life. Yet she still hasn’t quite given up her girlhood fascination with all things Gothic. When she first visited Northanger Abbey, she only imagined dreadful events had occurred there. This time the horror is all too real. There’s been a murder, and Henry has fallen under suspicion. Catherine is determined to clear her husband’s name, but at the same time, she’s afraid for her own safety, since there’s a very good chance the real murderer is still in the house.

This delightful sequel reprises the mischievous spirit of Austen’s original spoof on the Gothic novel, while giving Catherine a genuine murder mystery to unravel.

Guest Post from Shannon Winslow 

As Jane Austen’s earliest novel (first written, although last published), Northanger Abbey occupies a unique place in her canon. And it boasts a few unique features as well. For one thing, in it, Austen occasionally comes out from behind the narrator’s mask to address her readers directly, even sometimes using the words, “Dear reader…”

For the most overt example of what I’m talking about, I would direct you to chapter five, where Austen (referring to herself as “I”) launches into a protracted statement in defense of the novel as a literary form:

Catherine and Isabella… shut themselves up, to read novels together. Yes, novels; – for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding – joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it…

 As with much else in Northanger Abbey, Austen’s diatribe (of which this is only a fraction), was no doubt written more in tongue-in-cheek humor than as a serious complaint. In the final line of the book, Austen again shows herself, as she tells us directly that we readers must decide for ourselves the lesson to be learned from the tendency of this work.

 This technique – the author speaking directly to readers – was not uncommon at the time, but it’s long out of fashion now. In fact, were you as a writer to attempt such a thing today, or otherwise draw attention to your presence, your editor would probably shake her head, mark the offending phrase in red, and accuse you of “author intrusion.”

However, since my goal was to carry on in my Northanger Abbey sequel with the same playful tone and quirky style as the original, I thought I might just get away with it!

And so, dear reader, as you peruse Murder at Northanger Abbey, keep your eyes open for places, here and there, where your authoress breaks into the story – sometimes very obviously and sometimes less so. Here’s an example taken from the final chapter:

 …However, as this tale comes rapidly to a close, you will be wondering about Henry and Catherine. You will wish to be assured that they are also safe and well, to witness for yourself their early perfect happiness at Woodston restored, and to catch at least a glimpse of the years ahead.

Far be it from me to deprive the reader this satisfaction, although we must agree to be discreet. We must grant them a degree of privacy. After all, they are still essentially newlyweds. And yet I owe you this much…

 I trust you won’t consider this a spoiler, since I ALWAYS write a happy ending to my novels!

I’ve read that in certain circumstances – especially in works of satire or where the narrative voice is firmly tongue-in-cheek – author intrusions can contribute to the humor. I hope you agree because, believe me, I wrote Murder at Northanger Abbey with my tongue firmly in my cheek the whole time!

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Author Bio

Author Shannon Winslow
Shannon Winslow says she was minding her own business - raising two sons and pursuing a very sensible career - when she was seduced by the writing bug a dozen years ago. Stirred by the novels of Jane Austen, she set out to produce more stories in the same vein, beginning with a sequel to her favorite, "Pride and Prejudice." "The Darcys of Pemberley" (published in August 2011) quickly became a best-seller, praised for being true to the original's characters and style. Several more Austen-inspired novels have followed. "Winslow is one of the few authors who can channel Austen's style of prose so well that I could not tell the two apart if I tried," reports one reviewer. A life-long resident of the Pacific Northwest, Ms. Winslow resides with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier.

You can connect with Shannon via her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Book cover: Murder at Northanger Abbey by Shannon Winslow
Buy Links

Murder at Northanger Abbey is available to buy now in Paperback and Kindle.

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Note Regarding Comments: I love to read your comments, but a few blog visitors have reported difficulties in posting comments. If you can’t add your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

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Friday, 10 July 2020

Missing Jane by Bronwen Chisholm - Guest Post and Giveaway

Book cover: Missing Jane by Bronwen Chisholm
Today I’m very happy to be welcoming Bronwen Chisholm back to Babblings of a Bookworm with a post about her latest story, Missing Jane. Bronwen has come here today with a guest post and giveaway.

What I find particularly exciting about this story is that it crosses over into Wales, which is the part of the UK where I come from. I’m not sure how polite the society was here in Regency times, which is why Wales may be a bit of a mystery to some historical romance readers (there is also the interesting point of the moving border, which means that although I live about 30 miles from the England/Wales border, the part of Wales I live in was part of Monmouthshire which was technically considered part of England in those times!). I think the closest Austen gets to Wales is a mention of a picture of Tintern Abbey (also in Monmouthshire) in Fanny Price's little room in Mansfield Park.

Let’s take a look at the blurb and then I will and over to Bronwen for her guest post.

Book Description

Mr. Bennet is dead; his daughters “scattered to the winds,” according to Mrs. Bennet.

And the eldest Miss Bennet? No one really knows.

Poor Mr. Bingley is led to believe she is no more, but her sister swears she is alive.

Can Mr. Darcy and his friend find her and, in turn, their own happily ever afters?

Sunday, 28 June 2020

And the winners are....

Lately life has been really busy and I've got a bit behind with the blog. So this is a big winners post, where I am trying to catch up. All winners were chosen by using a random number generator. 

Book cover: Rebellion at Longbourn by Victoria Kincaid
 Firstly, Victoria Kincaid stopped by with Rebellion at Longbourn - she brought us an excerpt and was giving away an ebook of the story. 

The winner of Rebellion at Longbourn is.... Nightstitcher!

You can still read the post here, and it includes buy links, if you'd like to console yourself for not winning by treating yourself to a copy.

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Book Cover: So This Is Love by Laura HileNext, Laura Hile joined us with her Charlotte Lucas story So This Is Love. Again we had a fantastic excerpt and an ebook giveaway.

The winner of So This Is Love is.... Maria!

Congratulations. You can still enjoy the post here, and there are buy links on the post if you'd like to pick up a copy.

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Book Cover: A Timely Elopement by Joana StarnesOur next visitor was Joana Starnes who has brought out A Timely Elopement, which I read and reviewed.

Joana was giving away two ebooks of A Timely Elopment, and the winners are:

Suzan Lauder
and
DarcyBennett

You can read my review of the book here and in the review post are also some buy links if you'd like to treat yourself. 

Phew!

Congratulations to all the winners. Please can you contact me to claim your prize. If I haven't heard anything by the end of Wednesday I will offer the unclaimed prizes to the reserve winners.

Thank you so much to these authors for visiting and offering a giveaway and thanks to everybody who visited the posts and commented.

Friday, 26 June 2020

In Plain Sight by Don Jacobson - Blog Tour, Excerpt and Giveway

Blog tour: In Plain Sight by Don Jacobson
Today the blog tour for Don Jacobson’s new book, In Plain Sight stops here for the last stop of the tour. Let’s take a look at the blurb and then I’ll hand over to Don for an excerpt. There’s also a chance to win a copy of the book. Please read on for details!

Book Description

At the end of the day when we are each of us lyin’ flat on our backs, lookin’ at the ceiling, and the vicar is whisperin’ in our ear, the greatest comfort we shall ’ave is to know that we loved well and were well loved in return.”

When Fitzwilliam Darcy’s father slides into an early grave, his son is forced to take on Pemberley’s mantle. Brandy numbs his pain, but Darcy’s worst inclinations run wild. After tragedy rips everything away, he spends years finding his way back: a man redeemed by a woman’s loving understanding.

Elizabeth Bennet is afflicted with a common Regency ailment: observing the world about her but not seeing those beneath her notice. Then a clarifying act shatters the propriety that has denied her heart the transcendent love she craves.

In Plain Sight explores Jane Austen’s eternal love story by flipping social roles on their heads. From their first encounter, Elizabeth Bennet and the convict known as “Smith” must overcome their prejudices and break through their pride. Only then can they share the treasure hidden in plain sight.

Monday, 22 June 2020

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner - Review

Blog Tour: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
Today I’m very pleased to be taking part in a blog tour for the eagerly anticipated book The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner. I’ve seen such praise of this book online in the run up to its release that I was excited to get my mitts on a review copy to find out if it lived up to expectations. Let’s look at the blurb and then I’ll start telling you what I thought of the book.

Book cover: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
Book Description

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

A Timely Elopement by Joana Starnes - Review and Giveaway

Book Cover: A Timely Elopement by Joana Starnes
Today I’m happy to be welcoming Joana Starnes back to the blog with her new book, a Pride & Prejudice variation called A Timely Elopement. I’m going to share my review of the book with you, and Joana is kindly offering an ebook giveaway. Let’s look at the blurb, and then I’ll tell you what I thought of this book.

Book Description

What if Mr Darcy’s first proposal was interrupted by a bearer of ill tidings? The worst tidings: an elopement!

Ah, but whose elopement would allow Elizabeth and Mr Darcy to spend quite so much time together and overcome their prejudices and his stubborn pride?

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The blurb of this book doesn’t give much away, does it!

A Timely Elopement – My Review

Many Pride & Prejudice variations start us off at Hunsford, at Darcy’s disastrous proposal. This one takes off there too, but sends us in a new direction for me. Just at the point where Darcy is about to kindly inform Elizabeth that he is proposing against his own better judgement, they get interrupted. Colonel Fitzwilliam arrives with news of an elopement, and although it involves George Wickham, this time he’s left the Bennet girls alone. He has run off with Darcy’s cousin, Miss Anne de Bourgh!

As it would be dishonourable to ask a lady to marry him when a family scandal is unfolding in front of his eyes, Darcy reassures his lady love that once it’s all sorted he will follow her, post-haste, to Hertfordshire, as he takes it for granted that she will jump at the chance to accept his most flattering proposal. Only here’s the thing; she doesn’t want to marry him.

Elizabeth is shocked to hear that George Wickham has behaved in such a fashion and realises that her judgement has been seriously at fault when considering his character and his relationship to Darcy. However, Darcy still interfered in Jane and Bingley’s relationship, was rude in Hertfordshire, is prideful and arrogant and she has never, until now, considered that he might even like her, let alone admire her. She feels bad at piling more bad news on top of the news of his cousin’s elopement but in fairness to him, Elizabeth knows that she has to tell Mr Darcy that she will not accept his proposal:

With a quiet sigh, Elizabeth drew her hand away, uncomfortably aware that she must tell him that. It would be cruel to let him labour under a misconception.

But she doesn’t get the chance, the Collinses have arrived home and Darcy leaves. Elizabeth must find a way to clear up the mistake. If Darcy arrives in Hertfordshire it would be hugely embarrassing for him and potentially could set off a disastrous possible chain of events for her if word gets out and she finds herself with no option but to marry him. Being offered an opportunity to accompany Lady Catherine to town, Elizabeth decides to go in order that she might have the opportunity to tell Mr Darcy that she won’t be accepting his very surprising offer.

Having the opportunity to see more of Mr Darcy, Elizabeth begins to see that he is a very different person to what she had thought, and has a much more attractive side to his personality.

She had seen him in his home. No ceremony. No reserve. No trace of the despot she expected. Not his sister’s keeper, but her whole world; her protector and succour.

Spending more time together also gives Mr Darcy the opportunity to get to know Elizabeth better. More specifically, once he realises that she has fault to find in his manners and behaviour, he starts to question his attitude somewhat:

If she had not seen his offer of marriage for the tribute that it was – a heartfelt homage to her delightful person – then she might have also failed to find due proof of his devotion in his honest recitation of the impediments he had brought himself to overlook in order to have her beside him.

I really enjoyed this story; there were some lovely sparks of humour, and I enjoyed Darcy’s character in particular and his slow steps in realising his mistakes and blunders. I thought his relationship with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, was delightful. I also liked the fact that the story didn’t follow the lines I expected; due to the nature of this genre, the fact that it’s based on Pride & Prejudice I have often seen scenarios played out in other works, and you can feel like you’re travelling down the same road. However, this story took me in directions that I didn’t anticipate, which was refreshing.

The only thing I would have liked would have been for the story to be set over a longer time-frame as I felt opinions and feelings changed quite quickly. There was also one character that I felt was let off too lightly, I wanted to see them suffer just a little!

Overall, this is a romantic, amusing, low-angst read, which I would recommend. There’s some passion too, but nothing graphic. I’d rate it as a 4½ star read.

4.5 star read


Author Joana StarnesAbout the Author

Joana lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats – physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst – but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination, and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine.

She is the author of Austen-inspired novels (From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley; The Subsequent Proposal; The Second Chance; The Falmouth Connection; The Unthinkable Triangle; Miss Darcy’s Companion; Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter, The Darcy Legacy and The Journey Home to Pemberley) and one of the contributors to the Quill Ink anthologies (The Darcy MonologuesDangerous to KnowRational Creatures and Elizabeth). They are all available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and some in Audible too: Joana’s Amazon Page.

Book Cover: A Timely Elopement by Joana StarnesBuy Links

A Timely Elopement is available to buy now in Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Joana's other books are also available in paperback and audio so let's hope these will be too!

Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA • Add to Goodreads shelf



Book Cover: A Timely Elopement by Joana Starnes
Giveaway Time!

Joana is very kindly offering to give away an ebook copy of A Timely Elopement to two lucky visitors to Babblings of a Bookworm! To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post by the end of the day worldwide on Sunday 21 June. If you have any difficulty commenting, please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

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Friday, 12 June 2020

So This Is Love by Laura Hile - Excerpt and Giveaway

Blog Tour: So This Is Love by Laura Hile
Today I’m excited to be welcoming Laura Hile back to Babblings of a Bookworm with the first blog visit for her new book, So This Is Love. This book focuses on one of my favourite minor characters from Pride & Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas, who is going to take a different path to canon. Let’s look at the blurb, and then I’ll hand over to Laura for a guest post. There’s also an ebook giveaway for one of you!

Book cover: So This Is Love by Laura HileBook Description

“I am not romantic, you know. I never was.”

Newly escaped from a loathsome engagement of convenience, Charlotte Lucas has no interest in romance. More than ever, she is convinced that no man would—or could—love her. As companion to an aging aunt, Charlotte’s new life is as predictable as it is circumspect.

But then she is rescued from a robbery by her uncle’s heir, a masterful man who is disastrously handsome. Why has he remained as a guest in the house? Why is he so determined to draw Charlotte out and make her talk? And what of his invitation to visit his home by the sea?

Romance is not on the chart for Captain Jack Blunt. Never again will he be played for that kind of fool! He is ashore only to heal from an injury and see to business, nothing more. And yet the pointed disinterest of his cousin’s pert niece is intriguing. She is forthright, refreshingly honest—and altogether lovely.  She will make a fine wife for one of his officers. But not, of course, for him.

So This Is Love is a joyride of a Regency, bringing whirlwind romance and happily-ever-after to Jane Austen’s staid and practical Charlotte Lucas.


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Friday, 5 June 2020

Rebellion at Longbourn by Victoria Kincaid - Excerpt and Giveaway

Today I’m very happy to be welcoming Victoria Kincaid back to the blog with her latest book, Rebellion at Longbourn. Isn’t that an exciting title?! Victoria joins us with an excerpt and ebook giveaway. Let’s look at the blurb, to get an idea of why there would be rebellion at Longbourn, and then I’ll hand over to Victoria for the excerpt.

Book cover: Rebellion at Longbourn by Victoria Kincaid
Book Description

Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.

Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?   

Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied.  Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception.  Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?

Monday, 1 June 2020

Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever - Review

Book cover: Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever by various authors
Today I’m bringing you my review of the anthology Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever. This has stories from Jessica Grey, Cecilia Gray, Melissa Buell, Rebecca M. Fleming, Kimberly Truesdale and Jennifer Becton.

I’ve read this book more than once but I’ve never got around to reviewing, and as it’s seasonal, once you’ve missed the opportunity to post, you have to wait a whole year for it to be the right time of year to review. So this year, although I’m late, I thought that I would post the review or it will never happen! I’ll give you the blurb (or part of the blurb because the whole thing is very long!) and then I’ll move on to my review of the book.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Disenchanted by Kara Pleasants - Review

Book cover: Disenchanted by Kara Pleasants
Today I’m welcoming a first time visitor to Babblings of a Bookworm, Kara Pleasants, who has written a tale placing Pride & Prejudice in a world where magic exists. I first read this story years ago when it was posted online, so I was really pleased to see that Disenchanted has now been published with Quills and Quartos. Let’s look at the blurb and then we’ll move on to my review of the book.

Book Description

Disenchanted is a tale of wizardry, enchantment, disenchantment, the good and the bad, all thrown in with the characters of Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy, a renowned wizard, reluctantly joins his friend Mr Bingley at his country estate in Hertfordshire (a place that is not known for its magic). The gentlemen are lying low tracking the threat of a new dark wizard on the loose who is stealing people’s magic. Darcy is surprised to discover more excitement than he bargained for in the form of Miss Elizabeth Bennet who possesses a singular talent: she is not only immune to magic, but she can counter enchantments as well. Despite their initial dislike of each other, Darcy and Elizabeth are drawn closer as the threat of the Thieving Necromancer grows. As Elizabeth learns to unravel more and more complicated magic, she also uncovers dark secrets and breaks mysterious enchantments—but will Darcy ever discover the way to her heart.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Winners - Persuaded to Sail and Margaret of Milton

Book cover: Persuaded to Sail by Jack Caldwell
I have the winners for two giveaways to announce today. Firstly, we were joined by Jack Caldwell who has written a third book featuring Austen's fighting men. This one, Persuaded to Sail, picks up after the end of Persuasion, following on from Anne and Captain Wentworth's wedding. You can read an excerpt of the book here. Jack was very kindly offering to give away an ebook copy. I chose the winner using a random number generator. The winner is...


Kate B!

Congratulations to you, Kate! I'm not sure whether I have your email, so please can you contact me within the next 2 days? If I don't hear from you I'll select another winner on Friday.

Thanks so much to Jack for visiting and for providing this lovely giveaway!

If you missed out this time then why not buy a copy of the book to cheer yourself up! It’s available in paperback and kindle, with EPUB versions available later in the year – Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon UK / Add to Goodreads Shelf.

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Next, we were joined by Elaine Owen. Elaine has written a variation on Mrs Gaskell's North and South, Margaret of Milton, which sees Miss Hale and Mr Thornton marrying early on. You can read an excerpt of the novel here. Elaine was giving away two ebooks to commenters on her post. I chose the winners using a random number generator and they were:

Deborah Ann &

Maomac
Eva

Congratulations both! I have both of your email addresses so I will be in touch to check you haven't bought the book in the meantime :)  My thanks to Elaine for the guest post and giveaway!

Edited on 31 May to add: Unfortunately the second winner of Margaret of Milton hasn't replied to my email, therefore I selected another winner, who I will now email.

Remember, Margaret of Milton is available to buy now in paperback and kindle. It’s also available in Kindle Unlimited. Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon UK.

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Monday, 25 May 2020

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow - Review

UK Book Cover: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
UK Cover
Today I’m bringing you my review of Janice Hadlow’s ‘The Other Bennet Sister’, the focus of which is the middle Miss Bennet, Mary. Let’s look at the blurb and then I’ll move on to my thoughts on this novel.

Book Description:

For fans of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Janice Hadlow's The Other Bennet Sister tells Mary's story...

It is a sad fact of life that if a young woman is unlucky enough to come into the world without expectations, she had better do all she can to ensure she is born beautiful. To be handsome and poor is misfortune enough; but to be both plain and penniless is a hard fate indeed.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary is the middle of the five Bennet girls and the plainest of them all, so what hope does she have? Prim and pious, with no redeeming features, she is unloved and seemingly unlovable.

The Other Bennet Sister, though, shows another side to Mary. An introvert in a family of extroverts; a constant disappointment to her mother who values beauty above all else; fearful of her father’s sharp tongue; with little in common with her siblings – is it any wonder she turns to books for both company and guidance? And, if she finds her life lonely or lacking, that she determines to try harder at the one thing she can be: right.

One by one, her sisters marry – Jane and Lizzy for love; Lydia for some semblance of respectability – but Mary, it seems, is destined to remain single and live out her life at Longbourn, at least until her father dies and the house is bequeathed to the reviled Mr Collins.

But when that fateful day finally comes, she slowly discovers that perhaps there is hope for her, after all.

Simultaneously a wonderfully warm homage to Jane Austen and a delightful new story in its own right, Janice Hadlow's The Other Bennet Sister is, at its heart, a life-affirming tale of a young woman finding her place in the world. Witty and uplifting, it will make you feel – and cheer – for Mary as you never have before.

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UK Cover
The Other Bennet Sister - Review

I am not the biggest fan of Mary Bennet, although I do feel sorry for her position, caught between two close sets of sisters. I’ve always imagined that she would have felt quite alone and that the reason she worked so hard on her accomplishments was to have a defined role – Jane was the beautiful one, Elizabeth the clever one, which left Mary to try and distinguish herself another way.

…who having, in consequence of being the only plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

And from The Other Bennet Sister:

Learning would rescue her, not just from boredom and frustration, but from the likelihood of making any further sad mistakes.

It’s interesting to speculate on Mary’s perspective, and this is where books like this come in. This is a book in four parts and it’s quite a mighty tome – the best part of 700 pages. Part one looks at childhood and the events of Pride & Prejudice from Mary’s perspective and this was probably my favourite part of the book. Here, Mary is aware of the deficiency of her looks compared with those of her sisters, and it isolates her from them:

She had always been a cautious, watchful girl; now, she thought of little else but the poor impression she must make upon those around her.

I felt that the portrayal of Mary in the P&P part was obviously quite sympathetic to her, as it’s written from Mary’s point of view. I felt it showed Mrs Bennet as being more unkind to Mary than I got a sense of from P&P. Mr Bennet is just as insensitive and neglectful though!

The truth was, she thought bitterly, that there was no one in her immediate society who considered her worthy of attention; and it this was so when she was still young, why should it improve as she grew older?

Once we move past P&P, Mr Bennet has died, the Collinses take possession of Longbourn and Mary struggles to find her place in the world. I felt extremely sorry for her at this point, because at Jane’s home, Miss Bingley is still in residence and basically bullies Mary, and at Pemberley Mary feels like she’s intruding in the family party. She stays for a while at Longbourn and finally ends up with the Gardiners where FINALLY she feels accepted and loved for being herself.

It was as if a great abyss had opened up before Mary, and in it, she saw nothing before her but loneliness. In the space of a moment she understood how fervently she longed for affection.

US Book Cover: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
US Cover
There were some parts of this story that for me didn’t tie up with Pride & Prejudice. Some details like Sir William Lucas being a baronet rather than a tradesman who was knighted. Mr Collins is different too – firstly, he was shown still acting as a clergyman once he had inherited Longbourn but I think it more likely that he would have revelled in the status upgrade of being a landed gentleman. He is also better-educated than P&P Collins, who had an ‘indifferent education’. I felt quite sad for Mr Collins here, who has started to come to the realisation that his wife doesn’t care for him.  

I didn’t follow some of the facts relating to Lady Catherine either. Here, it is said that Lady Catherine recognises Darcy as titular head of the family but I don’t know why that would be. He is head of the Darcy family, but she is either a de Bourgh or a Fitzwilliam. Also, a character called Mr Ryder is described as her closest relation but I wasn’t clear on how he was related to her, unless he is the son of another Fitzwilliam sister and in that case he wouldn’t be any closer than Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam or one of their siblings. Unless he was an illegitimate child of hers, which doesn’t seem likely!

Going back to the story, I thought Mary’s tale seemed quite a typical story of a person who is completely lacking in self-esteem. If you are a person who has similar issues I think this could cut quite close to the bone for you, and in that, I thought it was well done.

“Mr Wordsworth says elsewhere that nothing of value is to be gained from books. For him, our affections are the only real guide worth following.”
She felt tears begin to well up in her eyes.
“And I’m not sure I have any. Or none strong enough for me to follow with confidence. Perhaps they are too weak – too frozen – to help me find my way.”

Mary benefits hugely by living with the Gardiner family who genuinely love her. They see her for herself and love and value her. She finally finds like she has a place and begins to blossom. And once she has a greater value for herself she begins to find other people who value her too.

You dress as you do because you do not believe you deserve anything better and you wish to communicate that low opinion of yourself to everyone who sees you.

I found the character of Mary frustrating, though – while she learns to put a higher value on herself and becomes less despondent, in other aspects of her life she doesn’t seem to learn at all. She makes some mistakes through not trusting her own judgement – realising immediately that it’s a mistake but does nothing to rectify it, and then when she has a similar feeling in the future she learns nothing from the previous incident and just follows the same pattern. I was pleased to see her seize the moment in order to take the advice that she is trying to live by of being the architect of her own happiness.

In summary, there was a lot to like about this story, such as Mary’s take on the events of P&P and her coming to value herself, but I found I that it was drawn out a bit much for me. I prefer a shorter read. I’d rate it as a 4 star read.

4 star read

* My thanks to Netgalley UK and the publishers of The Other Benent Sister, Pan Macmillan for the review copy.


Book covers: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
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