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.

Note Regarding Comments: 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 :)

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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  1. This sounds like a great group of stories. Thanks for breaking it down so well

  2. I’d love to read this. The stories sound so tempting. Thank you for the chance.

  3. Loved getting your thoughts on the anthology, Ceri. The description of variety in the stories and story types has me excited to read it, too. It's been so many years since I read the original

    1. I have such a TBR list that it's been a few years since I've read the original N&S too, Sophia. I think I'll have to listen to it on audio, but it's quite a long listen, which is why I've deferred it so far!

  4. Looks like a great collection of variations of the story

    1. Hi Vesper. I really liked the fact that there were variations in the authors' approaches to the story. I've read so few books based on N&S that some approaches I hadn't read previously.

  5. I definitely have my Austen obsession, but I love N&S. I am thrilled about this collection. There are so few variations out there. Thank you for sharing your review.

    1. Thanks Becky. Austen just edges it for me too, but I also loved N&S so I was very excited to see that this collection had been written and was very pleased to be able to feature it.

  6. I already have this book and it's awesome!

  7. Loved reading your thoughts on this book!

  8. Sounds like yummy reading -- and a very generous giveaway!

  9. Can't wait to read this! Especially Melanie Stanford's story. She's one of my favourite authors. :)

    1. Hi Maria. Melanie's story was such a great beginning to the anthology, I really enjoyed it. I have a few books by her on my kindle that I haven't read/blogged about, I need to fix that next year!

  10. Funny you should mention Patrick Swayze's North and South, Ceri. I think it's the reason I missed the Richard Armitage version when it was first broadcast, thinking it was a repeat!

    This anthology sounds like just the sort of thing that those of us who fell in love with whatever incarnation of John Thornton have been waiting for. Thanks for your mini-reviews of all of the stories.

    1. I was the opposite, Anji, I'd didn't hear of the Patrick Swayze N&S until much later. I read N&S first, and I was so excited when there was a mini series because I was in love with Mr Thornton already, but my imagination hadn't imagined something quite so delicious visually as Richard Armitage! Luckily, I was able to accept the casting without much trouble :)

  11. This post was amazing. I loved your thoughts, Ceri. Thanks for hosting and thanks to all the authors for their generous giveaway. Good Luck everyone in the drawing.

  12. I'm so glad that you decided to include North & South on your blog as I love this book as much as I love Persuasion and P&P. Now if only there would be as many variations for it. This is the first anthology I've seen for it so I'm excited for this release.

    1. I'm glad to know my blog visitors don't mind the deviation from the Austenesque. I think there's a lot in N&S for Austen admirers to enjoy :)


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