Monday 28 April 2014

Bluebells in the Mourning by Karalynne Mackrory

Book Cover -  Haunting Mr Darcy: A Spirited Courtship by Karalynne Mackrory
Next Monday I am due to be bringing you an excerpt of Haunting Mr Darcy: A Spirited Courtship by Karalynne Mackrory as the first stop on the blog tour, brought to you by Leatherbound Reviews.

Last year I read Ms Mackrory's Bluebells in the Mourning and I absolutely loved it. I've read over a hundred Austen-inspired books, and I would rate this in my top three variations. So I thought I'd share my review of it with you, which I wrote last year:

Bluebells in the Mourning

Book cover of Bluebells in the Mourning by Karalynne MackroryHere is a Pride and Prejudice variation for all you romantics! I really loved this book. We pick up the story with Elizabeth at the Hunsford Parsonage. She ducks out of dinner with Lady Catherine to read 2 letters from Jane that have just arrived (one had been misdirected, the address being written very ill indeed). Darcy arrives to propose, as in canon and finds Lizzy very distraught, having just found out that one of her sisters has had a fall from Oakham Mount and has died from her injuries.

Obviously, the proposal never happens and instead Darcy escorts Lizzy and Maria Lucas to London, where they stay for a night at his house (chaperoned by Georgiana and Mrs Annesley). Spending so much time with each other leads them both to make some re-evaluations - Darcy begins to see that he can be self-absorbed and selfish, and he realises from a hint Lizzy drops that not only has he made an error in removing Bingley from Jane but also that if he had have proposed he probably would have been rejected. Lizzy begins to see that she has been wrong in being so hasty to judge Mr Darcy, and also she starts to question to herself whether Wickham's story is true.

Now Lizzy is in mourning, Darcy wouldn't be able to make her an offer of marriage for at least 3 months, but what he instead tries to do is make up some of the lost ground caused by her initial poor impression of him. In this, he is joined by Georgiana, who does her best to matchmake.

Considering this book starts with a death, especially that of somebody so young, it's not a sad book at all. Although the characters mourn there are also positive effects of the death, most notably the relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet, the latter of whom blames herself for her daughter's demise.

One of the things I particularly liked is the number of familiar lines from Pride and Prejudice which turn up, often spoken by somebody who didn't say them in P&P. This story is really sweet (but not over-sweet) and romantic and if you don't like any sex scenes then you are safe, nothing goes further than just a few kisses and the only time you get behind the bedroom door is a birth scene in the epilogue.

The only minus points to this book are a few of the words used. There are some American words, the odd word that is too recent, and a few instances of the wrong versions of word being used, but not enough to distract from a lovely romantic story that will leave you with a smile on your face. I would highly recommend this one!

Friday 25 April 2014

Moonlight Masquerade by Ruth Axtell

This is a Christian historical romance, set in 1813. Rees Phillips is working in London for the Home Office. He’s posing as Lady Wexham’s butler under a pseudonym, trying to discover if she is a spy for Napoleon. Lady Wexham is a young widow of a much older husband, who she married at her mother’s behest. She is a French émigré and she is, in fact, spying for Napoleon. Her reason for supporting him is partly that she sees Napoleon as a better leader for France’s future than the alternative of restoring the royal family and partly because her life feels quite empty.

Lady Wexham and Rees have a mutual attraction very early on. Lady Wexham’s maid, Valentine, is suspicious of Rees and tells her employer. Both Lady Wexham and Rees are hoping against hope that the other isn’t a spy, but as time goes on each becomes convinced that their fears are true. 
‘Why was there this yearning in her heart for something genuine and honest from him?’
From Lady Wexham’s point of view, although she doesn’t view Rees in the same way as she views her other servants, because she knows he isn’t one, she has quite an egalitarian view of others, so that’s less of an issue for her.  However, if he finds out the truth about her she could hang.

Rees is even more conflicted; he is tempted to put his growing allegiance for Lady Wexham before his allegiance to his country and he knows that she is very far above him socially. 
‘The woman fascinated him more than ever.  What other highborn lady would spend an hour talking with a servant? Was it because she was indeed a French Republican, seeing no class difference between the two – or was it that she knew he was no butler? More likely the latter.’
In addition to this, his faith is very important to him and he is unsure of how virtuous Lady Wexham is - he knows that she doesn’t attend church, but he doesn’t know whether she has taken lovers. This is not something that Rees would be able to overlook.

As time goes on, Rees realises that Lady Wexham is in danger from another source and his attempts to protect her brings them closer together.  He comes to understand some of her political views and she tries to reconcile her idea of the God that she feels abandoned by with Rees’s view of a loving, guiding God. Both of them know that there can’t be any future together...
 ‘They were enemies. Repeating the facts did nothing to strengthen his commitment. It only filled his soul with a bleak desolation as he watched her perform the steps of a minuet.’

I thought this was an interesting premise for a story, and it highlighted parts of history that I was ignorant of previously, such as the fact that there was a court of French royalists in Buckinghamshire. Obviously since Rees was working as a butler his movements would be constrained by the demands and the limits of acting in that role, but I felt that the author worked hard to make any deviations from the role of the butler as plausible as possible, such as Rees accompanying Lady Wexham on her visit to Hartwell House, which you wouldn’t expect a butler to do.

I loved the romance between Lady Wexham and Rees.  It was so restrained because of all the barriers between them, neither of them is even sure that the romance isn’t just one-sided, so it’s all glances and internal emotions, which was wonderful. 
‘Perhaps the only words that could be communicated to each other were to be silent ones.’

This is a Christian book, which you wouldn’t really notice for a while. I am new to reading Christian fiction but I am not sure how well Rees’s faith fitted with the job he was doing and although this is mentioned I felt he seemed a bit blasé about this conflict, which in some respects didn’t fit with his character when you consider how he angsted about how good a Christian Lady Wexham was. Rees asked God for guidance and support more and more as the story progressed, and so the Christian aspect of the story increased as time went on.

The only real issue I had with this book was that to me, it felt more modern than the period.  Things like the language used – not just individual words that were out of place, but the feel and flow of the sentences felt distinctly too modern to me.  Also, some of the behaviour I am not sure was in keeping with the times, such as the familiarity between Jessamine and Rees, the fact that he was writing to her to me implies a commitment towards her that doesn’t seem to be the case.  I also felt that the pacing of the storytelling really sped up at the end and it seemed a little rushed to me, and there were obstacles to overcome at the end which added little to the story while some real obstacles were glossed over. However, I enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

This is the first of the books about the Archer brothers, a Christian book set in Texas in the 1880s.  I’d read book 2, Stealing the Preacher, and loved it, so I picked up Short Straw Bride, which introduces the four Archer brothers, Travis, Crockett (who is the hero of Stealing the Preacher), Jim and Neill. These four have a very sad backstory – their mother died from childbed fever after having Neill, and their father continued to raise them for a few years before he died after falling from his horse.  On his deathbed he extracted a promise from the eldest boy Travis, then just 15 years old, that he would protect his brothers and stay on Archer land. Mr Archer’s fears for his boys were just ones, as they were sitting on some prime land and were therefore vulnerable to attack or conmen. Travis followed this promise and the Archer brothers soon had the reputation of being wild and unfriendly to visitors, scaring off do-gooders who wanted to take in the orphan boys as well as people with less altruistic motives.

The only time Travis has left Archer land in the intervening years was the day that 10 year old Meredith Hayes trespassed onto their land to retrieve her lunch pail, which a bully had thrown there. Her leg got caught in a trap that Travis had set to deter trespassers, believing that they wouldn’t truly hurt anybody. Travis frees Meredith from the trap and takes her safely home. Following this interlude Meredith is about the only person who thinks well of the Archers, and she has a particular soft spot for Travis, making him the hero of her dreams.

12 years after the incident with the trap, Meredith is being pressured to accept an offer of marriage from Roy Wheeler, a business associate of her uncle, which will see her family’s land signed over to him. Walking out with Roy, Meredith overhears a plan to burn down the Archers’ barn, containing all their winter stores, to force them to sell their land to Roy. She tries to warn the Sherriff’s office and isn’t believed, so she heads out to the Archers’ land to warn them of what is coming. Unfortunately for Meri, she ends up being there as the attack happens, and winds up with concussion, which leads to her having to stay at the Archers’ home. Her uncle is outraged at her loss of reputation and demands that one of the Archer brothers does the honourable thing and marry his niece. Meredith has the indignity of walking in on the brothers drawing straws for who will marry her but the scene isn’t quite how she sees it...

Choosing marriage to Travis over the alternative of moving away, Meredith is faced with a situation she hadn’t anticipated – she can marry the man of her dreams, but he’d be doing it for duty rather than love. However, Travis feels more for her than she knows – he sees her good qualities, her kindness, her bravery, but he feels that she has drawn the short straw in being forced to marry, so he sets about courting his bride. The time following their wedding reminded me a bit of the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with Meredith taking over the chores from her new brothers. Meredith was a very likeable heroine, brave, hardworking, kind. She had been left with lasting consequences to her leg from the incident with the trap so it was interesting to see people’s attitudes towards her and you could see that it had affected her self-esteem somewhat. Meredith tries to make the best of her situation – she has a husband to encourage, as best she can, family issues are falling into her lap and all the meantime she tries  to do God’s work for the family, which she believes is encouraging them to open their hearts and their gates to welcome in their neighbours – they are no longer the unprotected young boys that they were when their father died, but grown men who have no need to hide, and should be able to feel free to follow their callings in life.

I loved this introduction to the Archer clan! They were wonderfully close and each contributed willingly to help the upkeep of the home, taking on the roles of doctor/preacher, cook, launderer etc, and they were fiercely protective of each other, but still teased each other like brothers would. I couldn’t help but feel for Travis, who’d been carrying a burden of guilt for his father’s death in addition to the huge responsibility of assuring the protection and welfare of his younger brothers. The younger brothers, Jim, Crockett and Neill, are less major characters in this book, but I was particularly fond of Jim with his stoic silences. 

Crockett has his own story, told in Stealing the Preacher and I noticed that in May 2014 a novella is coming out containing Neill’s story, called Cowboy Unmatched (UK / US) which I’m sorely tempted to get, despite the length of my to be read list! I believe Cowboy Unmatched is also available in the collection of short stories by various authors called A Match Made in Texas.

Saturday 19 April 2014

A Baby for Easter (Willow Park) by Noelle Adams

Last year I read a book by Noelle Adams called Married by Christmas and I noticed that the follow up book A Baby for Easter was out. The first book deals with Daniel and Jessica, and the second book (which could be read as a stand alone) tells the story of Daniel’s brother Micah and Alice. A Baby for Easter is at a reduced price at the moment, but you’d need to be quick, as I think it’s only on sale for the next day or two. Here are my thoughts on both books.

A Baby for Easter

Alice has been through a hard time; her fiancé has broken up with her, and he’s not the first fiancé to do so.  Plus she has lost her job through cutbacks, so she’s had to return to her home town, Willow Park and move back in with her parents.  Alice is a librarian, but she’s only been able to secure 10 hours a week working in the library, and has supplemented her income by going to work to assist the town’s pastor Daniel (from Married by Christmas) with some office work. Alice enjoys being home although she can’t afford a place to rent in the town, and she’s not overly sad that her engagement was called off but she feels disappointed with herself that she put up with a relationship that was going nowhere for as long as she did.  To prevent future heartbreak she has made herself five rules to live by to prevent her getting hurt again. These rules basically are intended to stop her getting her hopes up with another man unless he’s made it crystal clear what his intentions are.

Unfortunately for Alice, the potential for heartbreak is popping into the office all the time. Daniel’s brother, Micah and Alice had a summertime romance as teenagers which ended when he went off to college without a backward glance for her. Alice had felt a real connection with Micah and he’s become the yardstick that other relationships are measured against.  However, he doesn’t seem too pleased to see her now, being markedly less friendly towards her than towards other people.

After leaving town to go to college Micah’s life went off the rails and he moved away from his religious beliefs and towards a life of excess with lots of partying and one night stands.  For the past year or so he’s been working hard to get back on track, acting as a deacon for the church. However, his past catches up with him when he has a baby foisted on him which he is told is the result of one of his one-night stands.  The baby’s mother has died in a car accident and Micah had no idea that he had fathered a child but now he’ll have to decide what to do about the situation, pending paternity tests etc. Alice minds the baby for him while he deals with some of the initial practical issues, and they come up with a temporary solution – Micah’s house has an apartment above the garage which Alice will live in rent-free in return for helping him out with the baby while he has to work.  This means that Alice and Micah have to spend a lot more time together, with all the potential for heartbreak that could bring, particularly as Micah has shown no compunction in breaking Alice’s heart in the past.

I thought this was an enjoyable escapist read and I read the whole book in one go.  Alice was a likeable heroine, but she had pretty poor self-esteem due to her poor judgements in the past.  Add this to rule 1 (never assume a man likes you unless he both tells you and shows you) means that she misses all signs that Micah has feelings for her and she shows him zero encouragement for a long time. Micah was a bit more complicated, having been through a self-imposed crisis – he didn’t feel worthy compared to the rest of the family so he behaved in a way that made him feel even less worthy and got into a vicious circle. This in itself wasn’t hard to forgive, but he didn’t seem that worried about breaking Alice’s heart again, which was a bit selfish, made you want to give him a good shake! I liked the dynamic that the baby brought to their relationship and some of the times the romance was realistically reduced by the baby – hero with baby poo on his shirt for example! The flipside of this was that it allowed us to see Micah’s tenderness as he fell in love with his baby. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that tenderness directed towards Alice though, would have been good to have seen him have to work a bit harder for her.

This is a follow-on from Married for Christmas, but it reads fine as a stand alone.  It was good to see Daniel and Jessica from the first book, and it made me smile that she was still having cooking difficulties, as this was something she struggled with. Although both books have religious themes, in a way I felt this one felt more strongly Christian though it doesn’t hit you over the head with it. The idea that God doesn’t give us things because we deserve them but because he loves us is an idea that Micah has to be reminded of.  There are no sex scenes in this book, if that is something you prefer to avoid, but there is a scene that veers into intimate territory before it comes back out of it.  

Married for Christmas

Jessica has a proposition for her old friend Daniel. He's a widower, having lost his wife, Lila, in a car accident. Daniel is a pastor, and has the chance to become the pastor in he and Jess's home town but they'd prefer somebody either settled down, or a bit older than Daniel. Jessica feels very alone; she has friends, but not much in the way of family aside from her mother who is in a nursing home. Jess works from home so doesn't even have work colleagues. Jess has given up in the idea of love and romance, but she'd like a family. Feeling that she and Daniel could both benefit from a marriage, Jess proposes that they get married, which would improve his chances of getting the church he wants while giving Jess a chance of having the family she craves. Of course, Jess's choice of husband may have been influenced by the fact that she has some pretty strong feelings for Daniel, but she knows that he hasn't really let himself move on from losing his wife. Still, she has given up on waiting for Mr Right, and feels she can be happy in a marriage with Daniel, knowing that he'll never love her in the way he loved Lila.

This was something a bit new for me, in that Daniel is a pastor, and Jess is a committed Christian too, so I wasn't sure if the story would have religious tones to it. Although religion does affect their behaviour to some extent, for example not having sex before marriage etc, it's a romance, and there are a number of sex scenes, which you might not be expecting. Both main characters go through a journey of sorts, coming to understand themselves better. Daniel particularly had a lot of stubbornness and guilt to overcome.

The only thing which I would have liked to change about this story was the timeframe. I felt that Jess was pretty impatient with Daniel, considering she'd thought through the implications of the type of marriage they had, and it made her a tad unsympathetic, although she was redeemed by her attempts to live up to the standards she felt were acceptable for a pastor's wife, including her disastrous cooking! I enjoyed this story, and it had a nice touch of Christmas feel-good about it.
 *Disclaimer - I received an e-arc of this book from the author for my honest review.

Thursday 17 April 2014

New url

Just a quick heads-up, I've changed the url of the blog to match the name better. I'm hopeful everything will be ok, but if any links have broken I'm sorry!

To soften the blow, here, for your enjoyment, are some Mr Darcy pics :)

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Consequences by C P Odom

This is a variation on Pride and Prejudice in two books – the first explores a less happy outcome, which Elizabeth dreams prior to Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, and the second book looks at what could have happened if she’d prudently accepted his proposal and so doesn’t give him the vehement response that changed his behaviour.

To make sense of this book I think it’s important to appreciate something of the state of affairs in the Bennet finances – Mr Bennet’s estate was entailed on Mr Collins. In the event of his death pretty much everything Mr Bennet owned would revert to Collins, and he could evict the Bennet ladies.  Mrs Bennet would have a minuscule income and would probably have to rely on family such as the Gardiners and the Phillips family to support her and her daughters. The girls could potentially find genteel work but their options were very limited. Jane, Elizabeth and possibly Mary could perhaps have found jobs as governesses, but the younger girls had a poorer education. Ladies could become a paid companion (such as Mrs Jenkins, Anne de Bourgh’s companion) but I think these tended to be widows rather than maidens.

The only way to secure the future of the family after Mr Bennet’s death is for his daughters to marry, preferably all of them, but if just one of them married a man who was rich it would secure the future of all the sisters.  Yet, in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth spurns not one, but two advantageous proposals. A modern reader can understand and sympathise as to why she does this – she has no respect for Collins and actively dislikes Darcy, but I wonder what somebody reading Pride and Prejudice when it was first published would have thought.  Would they have thought Elizabeth was selfish to have put her own happiness ahead of her family’s security? When Elizabeth tells Jane that she has rejected Darcy’s proposal she asks Jane “You do not blame me, however, for refusing him?” so Elizabeth is certainly aware of the difference it could have made.  She doesn’t seem to feel the same about Collins’ proposal, but that was nowhere near as good a match.

In Book One, C P Odom explores what could have been the consequences of Elizabeth turning down Darcy’s proposal if she’d never met him at Pemberley. Here, Elizabeth gives the scathing refusal that she gives in canon, and events follow the path of Pride and Prejudice until Elizabeth and the Gardiners go to visit Pemberley. Darcy’s horse gets a stone stuck in his hoof, meaning that Darcy arrives later to Pemberley than in Pride and Prejudice, so he doesn’t see Elizabeth. This in turn means that there is no follow up visit to Pemberley, and obviously when Elizabeth gets the letter telling her that Lydia has eloped Darcy is not there to tell, meaning that Lydia is not found in time to prevent lasting damage being done to her sisters’ reputation, leading to them being shunned by Hertfordshire society. This is how bad things get, look at this quote from poor Jane:
“I cannot deceive myself any longer that everyone is good – I have become aware there is indeed evil in the world.”

The story follows on for the next forty or so years, showing what Elizabeth’s life could have become. Obviously, this is not the happiest of stories, but I thought it was an interesting exercise in exploring what could have been. Much of the book deals with happenings that are in Pride and Prejudice anyway, so it doesn’t really start feeling sad until they miss each other at Pemberley. I felt it wasn’t too far-fetched or unkind, although the fate of the Bennets could have been happier. I thought Elizabeth faced adversity courageously and with good humour.

Book Two sees Elizabeth waking from her dream. She doesn’t remember the details, only a vague recollection of some things, but she knows it was a bad dream. Charlotte Collins suspects that Mr Darcy is interested in Elizabeth, and, being a prudent person, she sees all the advantages of it. She works on Lizzy to extract a promise that if he were to propose that Lizzy won’t dismiss it out of hand. She has some interesting arguments in regard to Darcy’s behaviour in Hertfordshire, and his likely reasoning for interfering with Jane and Bingley. Charlotte is so persuasive that when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, although he makes offensive comments regarding her family, she manages to bite back the words of her retort and asks for time to consider.

When she does, she can’t help but think of all the financial advantages her family would receive from the marriage – lifetime security for her mother and her four sisters, and the probability that Jane and Bingley will cross paths again, thus securing the happiness of Elizabeth’s most beloved sister.  Lizzy wryly tells Charlotte “It is truly distressing to have such sensible arguments occur to me when I want to ignore them”.

The thing that swings the balance towards accepting Darcy is her vague recollection of the dream, that it could be a terrible mistake to reject him. Elizabeth has also begun to wonder whether she’s judged his character correctly; she’s obviously massively misjudged his feelings towards her at the very least. After considering, Elizabeth decides to act prudently and accept the proposal, politely making it clear that since she is only just aware of his interest she cannot pretend to have the same level of feelings for him that he’s expressed to her.

At first, I wasn’t very keen on this calculating portrayal of Lizzy who sees Darcy as a bit of an improvement project:
“Perhaps she, in time, could soften the harshness of his pride and arrogance.  It would need slow, careful work; his character had been formed over the years, and modifications could not be accomplished overnight. In the meantime, it was essential she not damage his regard for her, for his affection would be the motivation to induce him to change his manner, if such were actually possible.”

In this view I am joined by Jane, who calls Lizzy out on her obstinate view of Mr Darcy as an unpleasant man:
“I would only ask you respond to him in a more kindly and less calculating fashion than was indicated in your letter.”

Go Jane! From Jane Bennet, this is the equivalent of what would be strong disapprobation from anybody else. Luckily, Lizzy makes a conscious effort to improve her attitude, and finds many good sides to Darcy that she never suspected. The Gardiners love him, she finds that he has a sense of humour, and she cannot fail to appreciate his loving behaviour toward his sister. 

I felt a bit sorry for Darcy in this book (as opposed to the first book where I felt very sorry for them both!) because he realises that Lizzy has accepted him solely for prudent motives, and that she finds him lacking.  He has a number of moments when he realises times when he has not done himself justice in her eyes, such as in his behaviour in Hertfordshire, and when he finally hears the lies that Wickham has told about him he then finds out that Lizzy believed him capable of such behaviour. I am pleased to report that there is a lovely happy ending to this book, but it was a little sudden.  I felt the book could have done with a few chapters after they finally had equal feelings so I could revel in it a bit. I think the reader deserved to wallow a bit in happiness at the end of this book to balance out the book overall.

One thing I particularly appreciated about this book was the care taken with the language, as often these books have language that doesn’t fit the setting. There were very few instances throughout the book that jumped out at me, which was refreshing, although Mr Bennet says at one point that Lydia won’t get a cent from him, this was a rare lapse!  Since I knew it had quite a sad first book I started it when I had time to read right through the first half and that approach worked well for me! On the whole, I really enjoyed this book, and I’d recommend it.  I will only add, for the benefit of those who prefer to avoid them, that there are no sex scenes.

Saturday 12 April 2014

1932 by Karen M Cox

This is one of my favourite 'Pride and Prejudice' - inspired novels, and it's free tomorrow (13 April 2014) on kindle, along with some other Austenesque reads, as part of a Meryton Press promotion.  So I thought that to persuade you that you should download it, I'd share with you my thoughts on this book:

1932 is a 'Pride and Prejudice'-inspired story set in the US in the early 30s. Dr Bennet, a college professor, has lost his job due to the university cutting staff. Having made no arrangements to safeguard his family's future and having lost money in the crash & depression the Bennets' home is going to be repossessed. Bennet goes to his brother in law in desperation. Luckily, Dr Gardiner has a solution; the Bennets can relocate to Meryton, where the Gardiner family farm is, and try to scape enough to live on.

On their arrival in Meryton, Lizzy first encounters Mr Darcy, a well-off farmer who she is sure disapproves of the whole Bennet clan. He lives with his sister Georgiana and her two small children. Lizzy goes to work for her uncle, who is a vet, and her path crosses again with Darcy when his animals need treatment. Jane gets a job working for Mr Bingley, a rich store owner who lives with his spinster aunts, Caroline and Louisa. Caroline is older than Mr Darcy (haha!), but still thinks she's in with a chance of becoming his wife, and she's just as sharp-tongued as in P&P.

The story loosely follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice but with one major variation. Lizzy's feelings towards Darcy start to soften, but they have distance between them, partly due to each of them being too proud, but also by secrets that both of them are keeping from each other.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about 1932 is all the elements from P&P that are included. Aside from the characters, many of whom appear, we have a Netherfield ball, Hunsford, obnoxious proposal, and lots of dialogue that echoes dialogue from the original, added to a lovely romance. One word of warning though, is that there are a few sex scenes in this book, but nothing very explicit or pre-marital and one of them is notable for not romanticising things. If you read the book you'll know which one I'm referring to!

I'd really recommend this book, I absolutely loved it, and I've actually read it a few times now!

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

I’ve got a few reads lined up that I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of reading time for so I’ve been putting off starting them, meaning I’ve not read much the last few days. So, I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on something I read last summer, Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise.

This was such a fun variation on Pride and Prejudice! We pick up with Darcy after his failed proposal at Hunsford. He has let himself go and is wallowing in his misery; he's rented a room near the docks so nobody of his acquaintance sees him in this state because his hair is a mess, he hasn't shaved in ages, and he spends his days boozing to forget. He is almost unrecognisable, and he gets mistaken for the pirate Lockerly. 

Luckily, due to the fact that Lockerly has a scar that Darcy doesn't, Darcy doesn't get hung as a pirate but due to his uncanny resemblance to the pirate he is asked to pose as him in hopes that the real Lockerly will be tempted out of hiding. Although disguise of every sort is his abhorrence, Darcy is persuaded to comply, dressing as Lockerly and learning some less gentlemanly lingo. He hopes that having this deception to focus on will take his mind off the lovely Miss Bennet that found him so lacking as a gentleman.

Unbeknown to him, the same Miss Elizabeth Bennet is accompanying her father to visit his sister on the Isles of Scilly. On their return trip their vessel gets into difficulties and the ladies get taken ashore to an island but when the sailors try to get the men to shore they run into the real pirates. Luckily, there is a fake Lockerly nearby who is on hand to help....

What follows involves mistaken identity, sword fighting, swashbuckling, rope swinging, pirate treasure, changed viewpoints and some lovely, lovely romance. There are no sex scenes, which will please those people who prefer to avoid them, and don’t think sex scenes would have added anything, it’s wonderfully romantic as it is.

If you are looking for something that Jane Austen herself may have written, then this probably isn't it; but if you are willing to have a bit of fun with your Austenesque variations then I'd certainly recommend this one! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Mr Darcy’s Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth

This is a Pride and Prejudice ‘what if’ variation; what if Mr Darcy mentioned Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his letters to his sister from Netherfield and Georgiana came to Netherfield to provide him with support. Thus, Elizabeth sees from very early on that Darcy is a different man to the proud, unfeeling person she believes him to be when she witnesses his interactions with Georgiana.  Also, with Georgiana’s encouragement Darcy doesn’t fight particularly hard to fight his attraction to Elizabeth.  She is still determined to dislike him, but she feels unwillingly attracted to him. 

When Wickham comes to Meryton it doesn’t take him long to determine Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth and he comes up with a plan that backfires spectacularly for him, leading to Darcy being requested by Mr Bennet to propose to Elizabeth. Darcy believes that Elizabeth is extremely unhappy to be marrying him due to her dislike of him, when in fact, she is unhappy to be marrying a man who she believes doesn’t care for her at all. Prior to the marriage he makes her a promise that he won’t touch her unless she wishes it, which of course puts her in a situation where she would have to be pretty bold and forthright with him.. but why would she do that when she feels her husband doesn’t care for her? And with this kind of distraction, could Wickham be causing more trouble?

I had just come into this on the back of a few books that didn’t entice me to read on and I am happy to say that my luck changed with this book, it’s very readable, even if you want to shake the protagonists sometimes! This is a fun, mostly light hearted story.  There is no Mr Collins, and I found I could cope with his absence quite happily! There is quite a bit of symbolism, with Lizzy caring for some chickens at Pemberley who are hatching at the wrong time of year.  This author’s sister is also an author of Austenesque stories, Karalynne Mackrory, and there is a very sweet nod to her in the mention of a Miss Mackrory, whose name is similar to Caroline.

Although I really enjoyed this book there were a few things for me that didn’t ring true.  Some of the timeline was odd – such as I think the Netherfield Ball happened in October, rather than November, then the marriage happened two weeks after that, and around five or so weeks later Lizzy is barefoot in the stream and later than this walking round without a coat on, and I couldn’t help but feel that it would be too cold in North England for any of that.  Also, the language had a distinctly American tone to it on many occasions, such as Jane referring to her mother as ‘Momma’ and Mr Darcy wearing vest and pants rather than a waistcoat and breeches.

Some of the behaviour of Elizabeth and Darcy felt uncharacteristic to me – Elizabeth scarcely meets her maid Serafina before she is letting her into confidences, whereas in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth is a character who I think is pretty secretive, she is the sort to keep her own counsel, and I couldn’t see her being so open with anybody, let alone a servant, when she is trying to act in the manner of the mistress of Pemberley. It also didn’t ring true to me how long it took Darcy to work out her symbolism. She gives him some pretty clear clues, and he is described as ‘clever’ in Pride and Prejudice.  I can understand him misinterpreting her feelings, but I think he would have worked it out fairly quickly.  Also, the day before Darcy sets out to do something extremely important, he gets drunk because he is embarrassed about something, which struck me as extremely unlikely, albeit amusing, because he is so motivated by duty.  For these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this for somebody who wants to read a book in Austen’s style, but if I thought it was an entertaining, romantic variation.  It’s also worth noting that there are no sex scenes in this book, if you prefer to avoid these. 

Ms Ellsworth has written another book, ‘Pride and Persistence’ which has a pretty unique premise of Mr Darcy suffering a head injury which leads to memory loss at Hunsford and multiple marriage proposals, and I definitely plan to read this one at some point.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Reading for April

Well March's reading was a mixed bag. I read quite a lot early on in the month, but towards the end I was struggling a bit, because I had a couple of books on the go that I'm not really getting on with. Firstly Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope.  I only just started it and I already don't like Marianne or the Mrs Dashwood character!  The other book I am struggling with a bit is Fitzwilliam Darcy Such I Was by Carol Cromlin. This book is not bad but I'm finding it just a bit slow. I will try and persevere with these in April.

I also have a couple of books to review courtesy of the very kind Jakki at Leatherbound Reviews, which I'll shroud in mystery for now and tell you more about another time!

Aside from these my planned reading will be:

Mr Darcy's Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth - this is an historical variation, based on Pride and Prejudice. I don't know much more about this one. The cover of this book is so beautiful, though, makes me wish I had it hard copy!

Consequences by C P Odom, which I was lucky enough to win from So Little Time. This one looks like an angsty read. It's in two parts - part one is a worst case scenario of what could have happened to the Bennet family had Elizabeth not bumped into Mr Darcy in the grounds of Pemberley. This book is a bad dream, and I hear that it is a tear jerker.  Thankfully Elizabeth wakes from this dream and finds herself in Hunsford prior to Mr Darcy's proposal, which she accepts as it's the sensible thing to do, but then she has a marriage which isn't based on affection. I have heard nothing but good reviews of this book, so I hope to enjoy it.

Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer.  This book is book 1 in the Archer Brothers series.  I read (and LOVED) book 2, Stealing the Preacher last month and then this book went on sale, so it was fate that I read it.

I quite enjoy contemporary romance too, as long as it's not too fluffy.  An author I usually enjoy is Noelle Adams, and I won a book of my choice from her email. The one I chose was called Playing the Playboy which is part two of The Heirs of Damon series.  I wasn't massively fussed on part one, Seducing the Enemy, but that was because I didn't like the hero, and this one features a relation of his instead.  I also picked up part three of this series, Engaging the Boss, because I have a huge weakness for fake fiance scenarios - I know they are unbelievable and often cheesy but I can't help enjoying them!

My last planned book for the month is The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen, which is another historical, but I don't know much more than this.

Happy reading!