Friday 29 May 2020

Disenchanted by Kara Pleasants - Review

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

Book Description

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

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Winners - Persuaded to Sail and Margaret of Milton

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

Kate B!

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

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

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

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

Deborah Ann &


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

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

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

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Monday 25 May 2020

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow - Review

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

Book Description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK Cover
The Other Bennet Sister - Review

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

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

And from The Other Bennet Sister:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 star read

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

Book covers: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
Buy Links

You can buy this book in paperback, hardback, ebook or in audio now! 

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

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Monday 18 May 2020

Margaret of Milton by Elaine Owen - Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Book cover: Margaret of Milton by Elaine Owen
Good morning to you all! Today I have something a little different for you. Regular visitors to this blog will know that as much as I love Austen’s heroes I also love Mrs Gaskell’s John Thornton, from North and South. You can read my review of North & South here, and see other posts on the blog connected with the novel here

North and South is Victorian novel which I feel has many similarities to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and I love to see that authors are also taking this novel on variations. Elaine Owen has a new North & South variation novel out, Margaret of Milton. She’s visiting here today with a guest post, excerpt and international ebook giveaway. Let’s take a look at the blurb and then I’ll hand over to Elaine.

Book Description

Margaret Hale loses her father unexpectedly and must marry the man she refused months earlier - the same man who has said he no longer cares for her. At the same time John Thornton is compelled by his sense of honor to offer his name and a home to the woman he believes is in love with another man. How will our couple find their way to happiness and love in a union born of obligation?

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Friday 15 May 2020

Persuaded to Sail by Jack Caldwell - Excerpt and Giveaway

Book cover: Persuaded to Sail by Jack Caldwell
Today I’m happy to be welcoming Jack Caldwell back to Babblings of a Bookworm. Although Pride & Prejudice is my favourite novel by Jane Austen I also love books based on her other novels. My second favourite book of hers (and actually, my second favourite book of all time!) is Persuasion, so I’m very happy to say that Jack has written a sequel to Persuasion, Persuaded to Sail. This book also ties in with some of his other books, The Three Colonels, which I have yet to read, and The Last Adventureof the Scarlet Pimpernel. He’s come here today with an excerpt of Persuaded to Sail, and he’s brought an ebook giveaway too. Without further ado I will hand over to Jack.

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Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

Ceri was kind enough to allow me to announce the publication of my latest work, my long-promised sequel to Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, PERSUADED TO SAIL!
PERSUADED TO SAIL, a sequel to Persuasion and Book Three of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is a companion novel to my other novels in this series, THE THREE COLONELS and THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. This means that all three books happen at the same time (the 1815 Hundred Days Crisis and the Battle of Waterloo) and many of the characters know each other in my expanded Austenseque universe. The cross-overs include Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.
Persuaded to Sail, my tenth published novel, stands on its own, but your reading pleasure will be enhanced by including the other books.
So, let’s kick things off. Below is an excerpt. The newly-married Wentworths are to enjoy a honeymoon cruise to Frederick’s posting in Bermuda. Anne gets her first glimpse of HMS Laconia.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby - Review

US cover: Miss Austen by Gill Hornby
Today I’m bringing you my review of Miss Austen by Gill Hornby. It’s not about that Miss Austen, but the other one, Jane’s sister, Miss Cassandra Austen. Let’s start with the blurb:

Book Description

Whoever looked at an elderly lady and saw the young heroine she once was?

England, 1840. Two decades after the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury and the home of her family friends, the Fowles. In a dusty corner of the vicarage, there is a cache of Jane’s letters that Cassandra is desperate to find. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister’s legacy to the flames?

Moving back and forth between the vicarage and Cassandra’s vibrant memories of her years with Jane, interwoven with Jane’s brilliantly reimagined lost letters, Miss Austen is the untold story of the most important person in Jane’s life. With extraordinary empathy, emotional complexity, and wit, Gill Hornby finally gives Cassandra her due, bringing to life a woman as captivating as any Austen heroine.

Saturday 9 May 2020

I hope this blog post finds you well...

I hope that your family is in good Health
Hello there! I hope you are doing well, wherever in the world you are. We are still in lockdown here in the UK. I've had 6 weeks of homeschooling while homeworking and am no longer feeling so frazzled. It's become the new normal, which is weird in itself. I begin emails by asking about the recipient's health - I did this to an extent previously, but I am doing it a lot more now. I feel like Mr Darcy whenever he is struggling for conversation, hoping people's families are in good health left, right and centre.

Walks in Nature - Blossom Tree
You would think that lockdown would be a fantastic opportunity to read but I haven't found that due to the aforementioned homeschooling/homeworking! One thing that I've always found helpful to de-stress is spending time in nature and the weather has been very helpful in that regard; we've had an amazing spell of good weather and so I've tried to make sure I get myself and the kids out every day for a walk.

I've had physical energy, which means that there are jobs done around the house which I never thought I'd get to, but I have been feeling quite mentally drained, which makes it hard for me to read, or at least to read anything new, particularly if I plan to review, as I always want to give a review book my full attention. I hope now things are starting to feel more normal that it will be easier to find the mental focus I need to be able to lose myself in a book.

I have a few reviews to share with you of books I read a little while ago and I'll share the first of those with you in my next post.

I hope you have been managing to read during this period. I'd love to know if you have read anything fantastic recently that you'd recommend. If you haven't been able to read, I hope that at least you are safe and well. Let me know in the comments :)

Thursday 7 May 2020

Winner - Fortune & Felicity by Monica Fairview

Book cover: Fortune & Felicity by Monica Fairview
Recently we were joined by Monica Fairview with her new book, Fortune & Felicity, which sees Mrs Heriot, the former Miss Elizabeth Bennet, becoming the governess for the daughter of the widowed Mr Darcy (we hope we see where this is going!). You can read more about the book here.

Monica was very kindly giving away two ebooks of Fortune & Felicity for two commenters on her post. I chose the winners using a random number generator and those winners were:



EDITED TO ADD: Glynis treated herself to the book in the meantime! Therefore I chose another winner at random and that person was:


Congratulations, ladies, I will drop you an email. Thanks so much to Monica for the giveaway.

If you weren't lucky this time remember you can buy the book. Treat yourself, you are worth it :)

Buy Links

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

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