Saturday, 18 January 2020

Sanditon by Kate Riordan - My Review

Book cover: Sanditon by Kate Riordan 
Today the review roundup blog tour for Sanditon by Kate Riordan stops here for my review of the book. This is the novelisation of the Sanditon completion mini-series. In the UK, this aired last year, so I've watched the whole series... twice... but it's just started showing in the US. Let's take a look at the blurb and then we will look at what I thought of the book.

Book Description

In the vein of Downton Abbey, Jane Austen's beloved but unfinished masterpiece-often considered her most modern and exciting novel-gets a spectacular second act in this tie-in to a major new limited television series.

Written only months before Austen's death in 1817, Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which takes viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, exposes the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself... and ultimately find love.

Book cover: Sanditon by Kate Riordan
My Review of Sanditon by Kate Riordan

As this is a novelisation of the series I think I should start by telling you (briefly and in as spoiler-free fashion as is possible) what I thought of the series. In preparation for watching it I read the fragment of Sanditon. by Jane Austen. It really is a fragment, introducing a whole cast of characters but not much more. My deduction from the fragment was that Charlotte was a very normal heroine, who I liked very much. Sidney Parker was the likely hero, and pretty much the rest of the characters were comic relief, all of them being odd in their own way. There was clearly rivalry for Lady Denham's money, and Clara Brereton was pitted against the buffoon Sir Edward Denham and his unlikeable sister Miss Denham in the quest of it.

I felt that in the adaptation, in terms of characters some were the same and some were changed - our heroine Charlotte and Lady Denham were the same as I had envisioned, for example, but Sir Edward Denham is most certainly no buffoon, but a ruthless man, focussed entirely on the pursuit of his inheritance. Miss Denham is cold and unlikeable - until I started to pity her, and then I was absolutely on her side, not in securing an inheritance, but in finding the happiness that I felt she deserved. What about the person I had earmarked as a hero, Sidney Parker? Well, he isn't portrayed as the character that I had expected (like Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey but more handsome, if you are interested!). He's more a Mr Darcy but with less polish and subtlety. I was a bit frustrated by that, because a Mr Darcy-style love/hate hero almost feels like a default choice, due to the success of Pride & Prejudice in popular culture. We literally only just meet Sidney at the end of the fragment. He is described as lively, leading me to expect a light-hearted hero rather than the burdened, sombre and sometimes churlish character in the adaptation. However, his description in Austen's fragment is given by people whose judgement may be faulty, so I wouldn't say that this deviation is counter to Austen's starting point.

I started off watching the adaptation hoping for something that I could believe that Austen herself had written but I had to abandon this hope - we are through her material by midway through the first episode and some of the content I felt was decidedly not Austen. There is some sexual content and although I think Austen would certainly have been aware of sex, she would not have written about it! There is also nudity but I felt this was acceptable nudity. It's in the context of seabathing, which men did in the nude in those times. Once I gave up my admittedly unreasonable hope of somebody channelling Jane Austen and writing something that I could believe came from her I decided that I would need to enjoy Sanditon as an historical drama on its own merits. And I did enjoy it, aside from some frustration at hairstyles I deemed too modern, until the ending.

I am sure you will have heard our splutters of indignation across the pond, as UK viewers found that they were robbed of the 'happy' ending that we had expected so I don't see it as a spoiler to mention it. Instead we are given an ending that I felt was an opening for a second series which left me feeling a little cheated! However, as people viewing it now will have been warned  of the ending, perhaps you won't be as cross as I was about it. I hope that we are treated to a second series, because aside from Charlotte's story, I felt that other stories had been started but not finished, such as that of Miss Lambe, Jane Austen's only non-white character. I also wanted to know what fate had in store for Arthur Parker, who I have a fondness for - he is so funny, and not enough time was devoted to him.

So, moving onto the book. This is a novelisation of the series, rather than a book that has been translated into an adaptation. I think the big plus from this is that we don't get any moments that jar because they've been changed in the adaptation. Everything is just the same, but just enriched by the extra detail that can be added in a book such as characters' thoughts and motivations! There were some things that the book didn't deliver on as well as the adaptation - little details, such as the impressions left on the viewer from looks and visual hints. For example, there was a character who I was sure things wouldn't work out for based on something visual, although I will be fair and say that Kate Riordan dropped hints in other ways in relation to this particular person.

I really enjoyed reading this book; it took me through the series in my mind with additional embellishments of detail. The author's style isn't like Austen - probably more modern and simplified compared to her in terms of language, but you could feel absolutely immersed in the life of Sanditon.

Obviously, huge spoilers for the series abound in the novel, so I'd recommend that if you enjoy the series, you then move on to the novel; personally I wouldn't do it the other way round because I so enjoyed reliving it in my mind.

As stated above, there is some sex in the adaptation but the same scenes in the novel are decidedly non-graphic, which I felt was a good choice.

My recommendation is to give the adaptation a chance, bearing in mind that it isn't Austen, and there is no telling where she would have taken the story. If you enjoy it then I'd certainly give this novelisation by Kate Riordan a go. I enjoyed it, and I'd rate it as a 4 star read.

4 star read


Sanditon books
My thanks go to Grand Central Publishing who provided me with a copy of Sanditon by Kate Riordan for my honest review, and a copy of The World of Sanditon by Sara Sheridan, which I hope to read soon! I'd also like to thank Laurel Ann from Austenprose, for organising the blog tour.

Author Bio

Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist from England. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at the Guardian newspaper, followed by a stint as deputy editor for the lifestyle section of London bible, Time Out magazine. There she had assignments that saw her racing reindeers in Lapland, going undercover in London's premier department store and gleaning writing tips (none-too subtly) during interviews with some of her favorite authors. After becoming a freelancer, she left London behind and moved to the beautiful Cotswolds in order to write her first novel.

Book cover: Sanditon by Kate Riordan
Buy Links

Sanditon by Kate Riordan is available to buy now, in paperback, ebook and on audio.

Amazon US / Amazon UK/ Amazon CA / Audible US / Audible UK / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / Indiebound / Add to Goodreads Shelf

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SANDITON REVIEW ROUNDUP SCHEDULE:

January 13              Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog
January 14              History Lizzie
January 17              Babblings of a Bookworm
January 20              Confessions of a Book Addict
January 20              Living Read Girl
January 25              Margie’s Must Reads
January 26              My Jane Austen Book Club
February 03            The Lit Bitch
February 10            Unabridged Chick
February 10            Laura’s Reviews
February 13            Bookfoolery
February 14            Half Agony, Half Hope
February 17            Scuffed Slippers, Wormy Books
February 18            Impressions in Ink
February 23            From Pemberley to Milton
February 24            So Little Time…
February 24            Vesper’s Place
February 26            Austenesque Reviews

February 28            My Vices and Weaknesses

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Friday, 10 January 2020

Find Wonder in All Things by Karen M Cox - 2nd Edition - Excerpt and Giveaway

Blog Tour: Find Wonder in All Things  by Karen M CoxToday I'm welcoming back a friend to the blog, Karen M Cox. Karen was amongst the first authors that I discovered when I found the Austenesque genre. What I particularly like about Karen's work is that she moves Austen's works into different eras. This year, she is re-releasing some of her books, and the first one to be re-released is Find Wonder in All Things. This is a Persuasion re-telling, set in the 1990s. I read the first edition of this book, and you can read my review of this, from the very first year that I began blogging!

Now, let's look at the blurb, and after that we will move on to an excerpt of the book. Karen is also offering a giveaway to accompany the blog tour - you can read more about that later :)

Book cover: Find Wonder in All Things  by Karen M Cox
Book Description

“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

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Blog Tour and Giveaway - Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom - Review

Book cover: Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom
Today I'm happy to be featuring an author who has made the jump from the forums to publishing as the blog tour for Anniina Sjöblom's debut Pride & Prejudice-inspired novella, Thaw stops at Babblings of a Bookworm for my review of the story. Let's take a look at the blurb and then we will move on to my review. There's also an ebook giveaway :)

Book Description

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one false step can involve a lady in endless ruin. On a rainy November day in 1811, Miss Elizabeth Bennet finds herself wondering why no one ever bothered to tell her about this.

A few blithe steps on a morning walk, taken after a succession of rain, lead to unexpected events that irrevocably change the course of Elizabeth’s life, placing her fate in the hands of the haughty and conceited Mr. Darcy – the last man in the world she had ever thought to marry.

As long winter days slowly pass, she writes letters to her loved ones, trying to come to terms with her new role as a wife and the Mistress of Pemberley. But can she ever learn to love her husband? Will he overcome his arrogant notions of rank and circumstance?

And most importantly – will the shades of Pemberley ever recover from being thus polluted?

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

The Post of Many Winners

Happy New Year to all of you! December took its toll on me unfortunately. I am trying to catch up and it turns out that I am woefully behind on winner posts. So let's get on with it :)

Book cover: Audio Version of Nefarious by Nicole ClarkstonFirstly, Nicole Clarkston was kindly offering an audible code to allow a download of her Pride & Prejudice variation Nefarious from Audible US or Audible UK. The chosen winner of this was...

Buturot

Congratulations! I have your email address and will drop you a line :)

Book covers: Headstrong One and Two by Melanie RachelThen I was visited by Melanie Rachel, who visited with an excerpt from Headstrong Book Two. Book Three is now also available, so the modern Pride & Prejudice-inspired series is complete. Melanie was offering a choice of the first two books in the series, with an option to choose a physical book for a US reader. The winner of this giveaway was...

Beatrice

Congratulations! I also have your email address so I will email you.

Book cover: The Clergyman's Wife by Molly GreeleyWe had a guest post from Molly Greeley in relation to her Charlotte Collins story, The Clergyman's Wife. The publishers were kindly offering a US paperback giveaway. The lucky chosen winner was...

Candy

Congratulations Candy, I'll drop you a message.

Book cover: Falling for Mr Thornton by various authors
I reviewed the North & South-inspired anthology of short stories, Falling for Mr Thornton. Some North & South bookmarks were being given away, and the winners of those were...

J W Garrett
and
Sophia Rose

Congratulations, ladies, I will message you on Goodreads.

I have one giveaway which is far older than any of these. One whole year ago I posted a giveway and I forgot to choose winners! The post was a blog birthday giveaway, and I was asking for feedback. The feedback provided took a bit of going through, but was actually really interesting. I was very touched by the feedback, because I had some wonderfully kind comments! I also felt heartened because the comments which showed me that my blog visitors like the same kind of posts that I like.

I was offering a giveaway of a small bundle of Austen-y things including a Jane Austen £10 note, some book earrings and a book up to the value of £15 from the Book Depository, however, due to popularity, I have decided to swap the book earring giveaway for another book up to the value of £15 from the Book Depository.

Prize BundleThe winner of the bundle is...

Eva Edmonds



And the winners of the book up to the value of £15 from the Book Depository are...

Shelley Hoisington 
and 
Alexandra Rivers

I will be in touch.

Phew! What a list! Thanks to everybody who visited the blog posts, particularly those who commented, and the kind authors and publishers who offered giveaways. To find out more about any of the above books please click on the blog post links, where you can learn more and find buy links. Thank you all for bearing with me!


Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Falling for Mr Thornton - Blog Tour - Review and Giveaway

Blog Tour: Falling for Mr Thornton anthology
As long time blog visitors will know, I mainly focus on Austen-inspired books, so I hope today you will forgive me if I blog about an anthology that's inspired by something else - Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, which I have blogged about previously.

Now, let's look at the blurb of the Falling for Mr Thornton anthology.

Book cover: Falling for Mr Thornton anthology
Book Description

Amidst the turbulent backdrop of a manufacturing town in the grips of the Industrial Revolution, Elizabeth Gaskell penned the timeless passion of Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale. A mixing of contemporary and Victorian, this short story anthology by twelve beloved authors considers familiar scenes from new points of view or re-imagined entirely. Capturing all the poignancy, heartbreak, and romance of the original tale, Falling for Mr. Thornton is a collection you will treasure again and again.

Stories by: Trudy Brasure * Nicole Clarkston * Julia Daniels * Rose Fairbanks * Don Jacobson * Evy Journey * Nancy Klein * M. Liza Marte * Elaine Owen * Damaris Osborne * Melanie Stanford ** Foreword by Mimi Matthews **

Falling for Mr Thornton - My Review

I have always thought that North and South bears some resemblance to Austen's Pride & Prejudice. The main characters, Margaret Hale and John Thornton have their share of misunderstandings, and like Elizabeth and Darcy, are both proud and prejudiced.

There was also a mini-series made of the book, back in 2004, starring Richard Armitage (do not confuse this with the other North and South tv adaptation, starring Patrick Swayze, they are not the same!). I think most people would agree that it's an excellent adaptation, but I first met Mr Thornton through reading the book and I think the book does his character more justice than the adaptation does. Mr Thornton is an absolutely stand-out hero - there are few romantic heroes in books that I've read who would better him - he's right up there with Mr Darcy and Gilbert Blythe!

Why is he such a great hero? Well, firstly he is a self-made man - his family were disgraced following his father's financial ruin and suicide. Teenage Thornton left school and got a job to support himself, his mother and his sister. He worked and saved, achieving promotions and success. Rather than write off his father's debts as he could have, Thornton paid them all back, and later was able to reap the rewards of his hard work, successfully running his own mill. About the only flaw he has is that he doesn't always allow for people who don't have his high standards and drive. He has an amazing work ethic, is very honourable and he is proud of what he has achieved in life. Through his interactions with Margaret, Thornton becomes more compassionate and takes steps to improve his workers' lives outside of his factory. He absolutely deserves a book devoted to him!

Please note that the below inevitably contains spoilers for Mrs Gaskell's North and South. As these are short stories based on the wider book you would need to be familiar with the story, either via the adaptation, or even better, through reading the book for some of these stories to make sense! Now that you've been warned to read on at your own risk, let's take a look at the stories,

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The first story in the anthology, On the Island by Melanie Stanford is a modern story where Meg Hale is a travel blogger and John Thornton is a resort owner. Meg visited Thornton's resort and found him berating an employee (shades of the BBC adaptation first meeting). Meg was in a bad place in her personal life at the time, worrying about her mother's health, and she gave the resort a scathing review. At the request of her father, Meg has returned to give the resort another chance, although she's sure that her initial judgements were correct. She has to come to terms that he is not the man she thought he was.

I thought this was a really strong opening story. It's full of emotion, and really drew me in quickly. I also liked the parallel that for Gaskell's Margaret, Mr Thornton almost epitomised Milton - a place that she didn't want to come to, and where she sees and experiences a lot of misery. I feel that this is part of the reason that she has such a strong reaction towards him, and in this story, Meg has done a similar thing.

We then move on to some time slip stories. The first of these, Passages in Time by Kate Forrester sees Mr Thornton being killed in a fire which has been set on purpose - don't stop reading, it gets better! We then go to the modern day, where MJ Hale is going to see a preserved historic mill building. However, there has been a fire overnight and it has been damaged. There is also a man in Victorian clothing claiming to be John Thornton. Can MJ help him find out who caused the fire and help him return home?

Some of Thornton's back story was varied here, as in canon he didn't take over running his father's mill, but worked in a drapers. I thought the author did a good job of highlighting some of the things that would surely have alarmed and confused poor Mr Thornton. There is a scene which was echoed the part where Margaret got hit with the stone by the rioters in N&S. I also enjoyed seeing a character that I wasn't expecting!

The second time slip story, The First Day of Spring by M Liza Marte sees Margaret faint and when she wakes up she is in a reality she doesn't recognise, married to Mr Thornton and expecting their first child. It's one of those stories that inexplicably shows a character what might happen and made for a sweet story.

We get a change of pace in Loose Leaves from Milton by Damaris Osborne which is a spoof of North & South with a veritable obsession with the British national drink, tea. There are some excellent puns and wordplay in this story, and not surprisingly, the funniest lines in the book:
Tea, 'the cup that cheers,' had been a solace, to the extent that Hannah fondly called her son 'J Tea'. It was her one concession to softness, which she regarded with suspicion.
The next story, Reeducating Mr Thornton, by Evy Journey shows the newly married Mr and Mrs Thornton travelling to Cadiz on their honeymoon. In this version the mill hasn't yet been opened which seemed odd, as I would have thought that Thornton would have been more likely to defer such a visit until after the mill was reopened in order not to lose business, and to re-employ the workers that he had been working to improve conditions for. However, in this story, he goes there and sees another new perspective of life by seeing a different, more relaxed culture.

Moving on to variation stories, which deviate from the core story of North and South, we begin with Mistakes and Remedies by Julia Daniels, which sees Mr Thornton visiting Margaret because his sister has gone missing after paying her a visit. It turns out that Fanny has got herself into a very bad situation, which Margaret helps with. I felt that this story might have benefited from being a little longer as for me as some parts felt rushed. Also, for me, the language in this story was a little modern and informal, so I felt less immersed in the era.

In Her Father's Last Wish by Rose Fairbanks Mr Hale dies at an earlier stage than in North and South. Instead of being in Oxford he is still in Milton, and collapses on the street. With his dying breath, he asks Mr Thornton to take care of his daughter. At this point in the story, Margaret has relented towards Mr Thornton but believes that he looks down on her, due to her lies to protect Fred. Mr Thornton believes Margaret can never love him. Both of them are so mistaken in their belief of the other's feelings - both of them want to take advantage of the situation that Mr Hale has set up for them, but neither of them want the other to have to sacrifice themselves. This is such a lovely, romantic, heart-rending story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it even brought a tear to my eye.

In The Best Medicine by Elaine Owen we see Mr Thornton taking an opportunity to improve Margaret's opinion of him. An old schoolfriend wishes to set up as a doctor in Milton. His training is recent. Mr Thornton knows that Margaret has taken an interest in a young woman, Bessy, who is in poor health and he wonders whether his friend can help her. I thought this was an interesting idea for a variation. In terms of language use there were a few US turns of phrase but I thought the local dialect was written well, it read like that sort of accent would sound. There was a romance story in here which I thought was nice but unlikely! One thing I particularly enjoyed about this story was that the variation was woven into the wider story, altering later events.

Cinders and Smoke by Don Jacobson sees Mr Thornton undertaking some soul-searching and reflection after Margaret is injured, ending the riot. He then speaks with Higgins and later both of them speak with Margaret to try and bridge their differences. I didn't really get on board with the later parts of the story, which see Margaret acting as a mediator between them, partly because I think she just would have felt so unwell she would have needed to go home and rest and couldn't have spent hours talking, but also that she has views which were more detailed in terms of working practices than I think she would have known. At this point in North and South I think she is very much a voice of compassion but I don't think she has practical ideas of working practices, as it's so far outside her sphere of knowledge. I thought the parts of the story that dealt with Mr Thornton's reflections were really powerful.

The last variation, Mischances by Nicole Clarkston ramps up the angst. Another mill owner, the middle-aged Mr Hamper (who we know is a baddie, from his dodgy working practices) is at the train station the night that Margaret is seeing Frederick off. To ensure his silence, Margaret agrees to an engagement (bleuuugh). But will she accept help in getting herself out of this situation? This was a very satisfying story.

The last couple of stories are billed as alternate endings, but I would say that really they are more like the ending of the novel but from different perspectives. The first of these, Looking to the Future by Nancy Klein begins after Margaret has visited Helstone with Mr Bell and we go through to the end of the novel. I enjoyed it very much but I would say that it's really similar to North and South, because at this stage of the book the reader is in London with Margaret and we see things pretty much from her perspective. I don't think that I got anything new from it, but if you have only watched the adaptation and not read the book then this would give you a better idea of the ending.

We switch to Mr Thornton's perspective of the same period of time in Once Again by Trudy Brasure. He is travelling to London in order to possibly try and find backers and see about sub-letting his rental of Marlborough Mills, while Mrs Thornton is packing up their belongings at home. Firstly, I loved the inclusion of Mrs Thornton in this story. Mrs Thornton is quite a hard, humourless woman. She is hardworking and conscientious, but her love for her son is what makes her a character I root for. Her son is a prince amongst men and she knows it. She is fiercely proud of him and loves him with every fibre of her being. She is devastated at their change in fortunes. Not for herself, but for her hardworking son, who built up a business from a beginning of debt and dishonour and who has now lost it all.

We also know that poor Mr Thornton has been unlucky in love too, and as a final nail in the coffin of his pride, as she is his landlord, he will know that the woman who wouldn't marry him will now get to know all about his business failure. I love this part of North and South because after making the characters suffer, Mrs Gaskell suddenly whips out a happy ending, and for Mr Thornton in particular, it's almost like a fairy tale. He goes to London in despair, has disappointments rain on him during dinner and two days later everything he wants in life and thought he would never achieve is just given to him out of the blue.

I liked some of the details that Trudy Brasure highlighted that some readers might have missed in the original - the fact that Margaret's business proposal for Thornton offers an odd amount of money rather than a round figure hints that she is literally trusting him with everything she has, for example. As you can imagine, reading this story, we go through the emotional journey with Mr Thornton, and it's delicious!

At the end of North and South Margaret wonders how her future mother in law will take the news (she is imagining that Mrs Thornton will not be pleased) and in this story we not only see that scene but where Mr Higgins hears it too. This was my favourite story of the collection, and a fantastic way to end the book.

In summary, this is an enjoyable selection of stories. I am really pleased to see North and South-inspired fiction. I thought that there was a good amount of variation between the stories, so although they were all based on the same novel, they all felt different to each other and I didn't have any confusion when going from one story to another. As with any anthology, I preferred some stories to others, but overall I'd rate this as a 3¾ star read.

3.5 star read



Buy Links

Falling for Mr Thornton is available to buy in ebook now!

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Add to Goodreads Shelf

Grand Prize
Giveaway Time!

We have two giveaways going on with this blog tour, both of them international. The first giveaway is just for visitors to Babblings of a Bookworm. It's two bookmarks of Falling for Mr Thornton. To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post.

There is also a grand prize for the blog tour. This will be one ebook of Falling for Mr Thornton plus one other ebook from each of the authors - that is THIRTEEN ebooks in total. Christmas will be coming early for one of you! To enter this giveaway, please use the rafflecopter below.


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Blog Tour: Falling for Mr Thornton anthology
Blog Tour Schedule

14/11/2019 More Agreeably Engaged; Blog Tour Launch & Giveaway
19/11/2019 My Jane Austen Book Club ; Author Interview & Giveaway
21/11/2019 From Pemberley to Milton; Review & Giveaway
25/11/2019 So Little Time…; Guest Post & Giveaway
05/12/2019 My Vices and Weaknesses; Review & Giveaway
10/12/2019 Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post & Giveaway
16/12/2019 Babblings of a Bookworm; Review & Giveaway
20/12/2019 Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post & Giveaway

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Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Knight Before Christmas by Marilyn Brant - Review

Today I'm pleased to be bringing you a seasonal post. It's always satisfying when you are blogging about something at the right time of year! Marilyn Brant has brought out an Emma-influenced story which is set at Christmas time, The Knight Before Christmas, and she was so kind as to give me a copy to read and review. Let's look at the blurb and then I'll tell you what I thought of the book :)

Book cover: The Knight Before Christmas by Marilyn Brant
Book Description

THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a light contemporary romance by New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Marilyn Brant, who also penned the award-winning and Jane Austen-inspired novels ACCORDING TO JANE and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH.

When successful building contractor Austin Knightley returns to his hometown of Crystal Corners, Minnesota after a decade away, he vows to avoid pampered and popular types like his old high-school crush Emma Westwood—the town's biggest queen bee and self-appointed matchmaker—only to get swept into a community Christmas project she's now organizing.

With nods to Jane Austen's classic novel EMMA, this modern heroine may be a little "clueless" in the Midwest, but she's got gifts to share and plenty to learn from the boy next door, who's all grown up and handsomer than ever. Even when a snowstorm threatens to derail her plans, she's determined to figure out how to set things right and save THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

This sweet and heartwarming holiday romance is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

The Knight Before Christmas - Review

It’s been ages since I’ve read a Marilyn Brant book, so I was very interested to hear about this one, which I thought at first was a modernisation of Austen’s Emma. However, if you read the blurb, it’s clear that it’s a story with nods to Emma rather than replicating the story.

We start with the heroine, Emma Westwood, who is basically the princess of Crystal Corners, the small town where she has always lived in Minnesota. She is from a rich background, and her family uses their money for good; they run a charitable organisation, which Emma manages. Emma is very much a people person. She is genuinely interested in others, and tries to use her influence for good. It’s fair to say that Emma is a little spoilt, but she is a good person with good motives.

One of the ways that she has shown interest in making others happy is in her matchmaking. She’s made a fair few matches, often deciding that men she has dated would be a better fit with other people! Despite all her friends Emma is a little lonely. She has never met anybody that she would like to settle down with but she longs for a loving relationship that she sees all around her. Emma is very close with her parents, but this year, for their wedding anniversary, they are taking a holiday to Europe and will be away over Christmas, so she is more alone than usual.

Emma has a community project that she is focusing on completing; having fond memories of a knight statuette that she received as a small child, she works throughout the year to give every child in the town a personalised statuette, which reflects their interests. These are presented at Christmas time.

Emma has always had a soft spot for knights in shining armour:
One day, though, she wanted a real-life knight. 
And, with the certainty of someone well accustomed to getting what she desired, young Emma Westwood figured it was only a matter of time until her fantasy became a reality.
When there is a problem with the custom cabinet that Emma has ordered for the statuettes she could do with a knight in shining armour to help….

Austin Knightley was in school with Emma but he was never a fan, despite her attempts to win him over. Austin moved away from Crystal Corners and has made a successful building company. He’s moving back to the area for family reasons, as the health of Austin’s parents is starting to cause concern. Austin has 3 younger siblings, who all live locally, and only child Emma can’t help but be attracted by the warmth she sees in his family. Although Emma is interested in Austin and being friends, she is well aware that the feeling isn’t mutual:
It was strange that after all these years, it still rankled that she couldn’t win Austin over. It was as if he’d made a judgement call against her when she was a kid and refused to reverse that verdict. 
It’s a shame then, that he might be the person with the skills available to help her out when she needs a new cabinet made at short notice. Austin is willing to help for the good of the community, but he’s not working for Emma. He wants her to roll up her sleeves and pitch in. To his surprise she is happy to do just that. The unfortunate side-effect of this might be that his perception of her changes…

This is a very sweet romance which develops quickly. Emma is far more likeable than Austen’s Emma, but the flipside of this was making Austin a little less likeable than Mr Knightley - or perhaps less admirable, as Austin isn't unlikeable by any means. Austen’s Mr Knightley didn’t need to change throughout the arc of the novel, but in this book, the opposite was true. Emma didn’t change much at all, but Austin had to make some attitude re-adjustments and get rid of long-held misconceptions.

I liked the nods to Emma but sometimes I wished they were stronger. For example, there were some characters which shared names with characters in Austen’s book and I expected them to have some of the same sort of roles that they did in Austen but that wasn’t the case.

I found the book reminiscent of a Christmas feelgood film in that that the relationship developed very quickly. I would have preferred a slower pace, which may partly have been because I was looking for it to be like Emma, where friends develop into more, rather than the relationship being romantic from early on.

If you are in need of some festive feelgood, with a sprinkle of Austen, and even a Christmas miracle then this book is certainly worth a go. I’d rate it as a 3½ star read.

3.5 star read
*I received an ebook of this story from the author for my honest review.

Author Marilyn Brant
Author Bio

Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of over 20 books in the genres of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. Her debut novel about Jane Austen won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® (2007), and she was named Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She’s a travel addict, a music junkie, and an insatiable book collector, who loves to discuss story structure and periodically contributes novel beat sheets to the popular screenwriting website, SaveTheCat.com. Marilyn’s family believes she’s lost unquantifiable hours to the allure of “Tasty” videos on Facebook, but she refuses to substantiate this claim. For more about her writing, visit Marilyn’s website: www.marilynbrant.com


Book cover: The Knight Before Christmas by Marilyn Brant
Buy Links

The Knight Before Christmas is available to buy now in both ebook and paperback - Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Add to Goodreads shelf

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Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Speechless by Jessie Lewis - Blog Tour, Guest Post and Giveaway

I'm very happy to welcome Jessie Lewis back to Babblings of a Bookworm today with the blog tour for her new book, Speechless. This is a Pride & Prejudice variation with a premise I haven't seen before... a speechless Darcy?! To be fair, that might help him! Let's look at the blurb and then hand over to Jessie for a guest post. There's an ebook giveaway too, so read on.

Book cover: Speechless by Jessie Lewis
Book Description

Could anything be worse than to be trapped in a confined space with the woman you love?

Fitzwilliam Darcy knows his duty, and it does not involve succumbing to his fascination for a dark-eyed beauty from an unheard of family in Hertfordshire. He has run away from her once already. Yet fate has a wicked sense of humour and deals him a blow that not only throws him back into her path but quite literally puts him at Elizabeth Bennet’s mercy. Stranded with her at a remote inn and seriously hampered by injury, Darcy very quickly loses the battle to conquer his feelings, but can he win the war to make himself better understood without the ability to speak?

Thus begins an intense journey to love and understanding that is at times harrowing, sometimes hilarious and at all times heartwarming.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Strong Objections to the Lady by Jayne Bamber - Blog Tour - Guest Post and Giveaway

Today I'm welcoming Jayne Bamber back to the blog. I'm pleased to say that the blog tour for her latest book, Strong Objections to the Lady kicks off here. Let's take a look at the blurb and then I'll hand over to Jayne. There's also an ebook giveaway. Read on for more details!

Book Description

A tale of…

Intrigue & Inheritance…

Meddling & Manipulation…

Sisterhood & Self-Improvement...

When Lady Catherine de Bourgh learns of Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, her wrath sets in motion a series of events at Hunsford Parsonage which embroil Darcy and Elizabeth in a family fracas that grows more complicated daily.

The shades of Rosings Park are soon polluted by the shocking transformation of its new mistress and her guests, as well as secrets of the past and schemes for the future.

Appearances and alliances shift amidst the chaos wrought by a well-intentioned house party, and Darcy and Elizabeth must finally face their feelings for one another despite mounting obstacles and misunderstandings of every kind.

Guest Post from Jayne Bamber - Cousins in Kent

Hello, dear JAFF readers!

Those familiar with my writing may already know that I do love a good train wreck, and in Strong Objections to the Lady Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth in Kent is an absolute dumpster fire on wheels. As a jumping off point for fan fiction, it is a treasure trove of possibility, and naturally I settled on the most outlandish variation of events.

Rosings
Nice shades – it would be a shame if somebody…polluted them….
The catalyst of this tale is Lady Catherine’s sudden demise after her infamous argument with the obstinate, headstrong Elizabeth, and the rest of the story sprang from the singular notion of Lady Catherine denying her approval of Darcy’s intentions toward Elizabeth so vehemently that she is overtaken with apoplexy.

Poor LIzzy
So, not a great day for Lizzy….
Of course, by the time this explosive conversation takes place in canon, Elizabeth is already very much in love with Mr. Darcy. I decided to set this altercation much earlier – the very morning after Darcy’s failed first proposal, and from there the cast of characters being embroiled in the ensuing fiasco quickly came to life.

Colonel Fitzwilliam
I came here to have a good time and, honestly,
I feel so obliged right now….
The supporting characters in play while Elizabeth visits Kent are some of my favorites – in all honesty, I low-key have a crush on Colonel Fitzwilliam, and I love giving him some opportunity to drive the story. By the absolute perfection of Jane Austen, we learn enough about him in canon to know that he is an amiable man, and Austen leaves us enough room to imagine him quite a lovable rascal besides.

Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lizzy
My cousin’s a real heartbreaker, babe.

However, I have questions. What must he think when he discovers Darcy’s attachment to Elizabeth, and failure to win her hand? On a scale of one to ten, how much does he regret boasting to Elizabeth of Darcy’s involvement in separating Bingley from a young lady to whom there were such strong objections? And for all of Lady Catherine’s talk of Darcy marrying Anne, why does the colonel not consider it himself, when he makes no secret of his need to marry for money?

Anne de Bourgh
Life of the party.
As I set out to answer these questions, I discovered another character in Kent well worth falling in love with: Anne de Bourgh. As the person most impacted by Lady Catherine’s sudden demise, Anne has a major role to play in the story, which belongs to her as much as it does to Elizabeth and Darcy. Her share of the narrative begins with a shocking and raw reaction to her mother’s death, as well Elizabeth’s role in the ordeal, and over the course of the story she grows to admire Elizabeth Bennet as much as her cousin Darcy and two centuries of Austen readers. It is an endearing quality, which must compensate for her myriad imperfections, which are brought to light along with her sad history.

Charlotte
“Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone.”

Charlotte Collins has some small role to play, and the unique and playful friendship she has secretly cultivated with Anne de Bourgh is one of many new dynamics that emerge between the familiar faces in Kent as the story builds. While Charlotte's presence serves a great purpose in the story, paving the way for friendship between Anne and Elizabeth, her absence later had just as much affect on the friends who have relied on her advice.

Castle - H
We all need friends who secretly own castles….

In addition to all the canonical characters present in Strong Objections to the Lady, I introduce several new members of the Fitzwilliam and de Bourgh families, the most significant of whom is mentioned repeatedly but never technically seen – Anne’s older sister, Isabel. Assorted other de Bourgh relations make some appearance, and Anne’s extended family are not the only unexpected arrivals in Kent, leading to chaos that intensifies daily. There are several love stories unfolding in the aftermath of what is a tragedy in name only, and there are so many secrets, schemes and plots overlapping that nobody really has much time to mourn Lady Catherine at all – she would have been most seriously displeased.

https://www.facebook.com/JayneBamberAuthor/
Ta-da! Very proud of my cover, featuring
my sass queen and her grand inheritance.

Strong Objections to the Lady will be available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited on December 21, with a paperback version soon to follow, and you can click here to enter a raffle for a free e-book! For now, I would like to share a brief excerpt – a glimpse into some of the final thoughts of Lady Catherine de Bourgh….

Lady Catherine de Bourgh
She must have her share of the conversation!
Excerpt from Strong Objections to the Lady

Lady Catherine de Bourgh awoke discontented beyond the usual degree. Sleep had evaded her; she had lain awake all night, most seriously displeased by her nephew. Darcy had announced just before retiring that he and Richard would depart Rosings Park and return to London this morning. He would brook no refusal, and had rather worked himself into a state as he defied her authority and insisted he would go –  an insupportable display of defiance! He had forgotten what he owed her, and Anne, and all the family.
She would not have it, and this morning he would hear her mind about the matter. He had come all this way, and yet he would go away again without finally settling on a date to wed Anne? It was not to be borne! Though he had been first intended for her sister, it was a natural thing that he ought to marry Anne instead, even if she had not the same affable disposition.
And after all, who would marry Anne if he did not? Taking Anne to London for a season was out of the question, for even if there had not been health concerns to prohibit them, Anne’s temper would never be suited to the haute ton. Certainly she could not wed any of her grasping, artful de Bourgh cousins, who were out for all they could get.
No, it must be Darcy, and she would not let him get away this time without a solemn promise. Lady Catherine began rehearsing her speech in her mind, perfecting those arguments that would remind him of his duty.
After hastily dressing for breakfast, a meal she usually took an hour later, Lady Catherine began her descent downstairs when a sudden pain overtook her. She halted on the stairs, rubbing her hand against her chest to soothe the ache. The unpleasant sensation had begun some weeks ago, though fortunately she had been able to conceal it from her family. She would not be daunted, particularly when the Bennet chit was all to blame. Even now she heard Elizabeth Bennet’s name spoken, for there were voices in the corridor below.
“I think you should leave it, Darcy,” Richard said. “Miss Bennet refused you in no uncertain terms, and you had better not put yourself through any further torment.”
“I bloody well know that,” Darcy spat back at his cousin. Lady Catherine clenched the railing of the stairs until her knuckles were white, drawing in a deep breath as her heart pounded in her chest. This cannot be.
“I am quite determined, Richard,” Darcy continued. “I shall not linger, but I should at least like to give her the letter, and hope that she may in time think better of me. If I cannot have Elizabeth, so be it, but I cannot bear her being alive in the world and thinking ill of me.”
Lady Catherine’s nostrils flared at the shocking notion – Elizabeth Bennet, thinking ill of Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley? It was insupportable. That Miss Bennet had the cheek to show her face at Rosings at all had been beyond the pale, but now this? Poor Darcy, to have been so taken in by that pretty face!
Richard’s reply was muffled as Lady Catherine schooled her labored breathing, and then she heard Darcy say, “I shall walk down with you. Miss Bennet is likely on another of her morning walks – I know which areas she frequents. I shall give her the letter, and then meet you at the parsonage to take leave of the Collinses. With any luck we might be on the road to London in an hour.”
Feeling her strength returning, Lady Catherine steadied herself and resumed her slow descent as she heard her nephews moving away. She briefly considered ordering some sabotage to Darcy’s carriage, but thought the better of it – she had another plan. She collected her heavy green cloak and set off at once to follow them. She would seek out Miss Elizabeth, confiscate this scandalous letter, which ought never to have been written, and make her own sentiments known.
***
Thanks for joining me on the first stop of my blog tour. I have several more calls in the neighborhood to make, and each post will have an excerpt and another chance to win a free e-book! You can also follow me on Facebook for more updates. Comments, queries, and overall impressions are very welcome!

Blog Tour Schedule



Author Bio

Author Jayne Bamber
Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.

Jayne's favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day.

After years of dating Wickhams, Collinses, and the occasional Tilney-that-got-away, Jayne married her very own Darcy (tinged with just the right amount of Mr. Palmer) and the two live together in Texas with a pair of badly behaved rat terriers, and a desire to expand their menagerie of fur babies.

Buy Links

Strong Objections to the Lady is due out on 21 December - here are pre-order links - get yourself a Christmas treat!



Book cover: Strong Objections to the Lady by Jayne BamberGiveaway Time!

As Jayne Bamber says in her guest post above, you can win an ebook of Strong Objections to the Lady. To enter, please use the rafflecopter linked here!

Note: I love to read your comments, but a few blog visitors have reported difficulties in commenting while using the Safari browser. If you are unable to comment, please try using another web browser, such as Google Chrome, or please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

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