The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

pursuit of mary bennetWith warmth, wit, and infinite charm Pamela Mingle brings to the page Pride and Prejudice’s reserved and awkward Mary Bennet and proves that there is always room for another Austen spin-off when it’s this good.

For most of her life Mary Bennet has been an object of ridicule. With a notable absence of the social graces, she has been an embarrassment to her family on more than one occasion. But lately, Mary has changed. She’s matured and attained a respectable, if somewhat unpolished, decorum.

But her peace and contentment are shattered when her sister Lydia turns up-very pregnant and separated from Wickham. Mary and Kitty are bustled off to stay with Jane and her husband. It is there that Mary meets Henry Walsh, whose attentions confound her. Unschooled in the game of love, her heart and her future are at risk. Is she worthy of love or should she take the safer path? In her journey of self-acceptance, she discovers the answer. (GoodReads) Continue reading

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Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

undressing_doornebosSummary: Vanessa Roberts, a PR queen, has the envious task of shepherding around Julian Chancellor, a Mr. Darcy lookalike, at multiple JASNA conferences and finds herself growing more and more distracted by his multiple charms, but he’s an old-fashioned kind of guy, and she’s purely 21st-c. tech. The two are just not compatible. ¬†Then there’s also that business with that pesky pirate. ūüėČ * — *

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Attempting Elizabeth by Jessica Grey

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Kelsey Edmundson has had her own encounter with a Mr. Wickham in her love life, so she rejects the idea of a quickie rebound, especially if it’s Ricky, her best friend’s boyfriend’s friend, or that hottie Aussie bartender at the club, Mark Barnes. Turning to her favorite Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, to drown her sorrows, Kelsey gets sucked into the fictional world of Pride and Prejudice, just not as Lizzy. Will dallying inside one of the world’s greatest love stories help her rewrite her own? Continue reading

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

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Warning: This book contains at least one explicit sexual scene and may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.

Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she’s crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn’t count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon’s a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

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Mr. Darcy’s Refuge by Abigail Reynolds

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“The garden in which stands my humble abode is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.” (Mr. Collins to Mrs. Bennet,¬†Pride and Prejudice, Vol. I, Chapter 14).

Abigail Reynolds tweaks this small detail of Pride and Prejudice, altering it to become one of the many rivers in Kent, and in doing so, opens the door for a flood (pun intended) of consequences for Miss Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, trapped and unchaperoned at Hunsford.  According to the Amazon.com description, there were real floods taking place during the spring of 1811. This became the basis for the novel. Continue reading

My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

myjanesummer-coverMy Jane Austen Summer is about the internal struggle of a young woman dealing with a lot of life changes in a short amount of time and the anger under the surface she fails to deal with. The author creates a mutual empathy for the protagonist, Lily, by causing that same anger at the indignity of Lily’s surroundings. ¬†I found this frustrating at first because — who wants to be angry while reading? ¬†40% of the way through the book, I took a break to think through the writers’ motivations for presenting the novel using this storytelling method. In doing so, I turned to the source material, Mansfield Park.

When I think of Mansfield Park, I think of Fanny Price, the girl who came from an impoverished background to live in a great house. ¬†Her mother, Lady Bertram’s sister, left the wealth of her upbringing to marry for love. Even though Fanny Price then is only a generation away from all that wealth, the stigma of poverty attached to her is permanently affixed to her like a scarlet letter:

‚ÄúShould her disposition be really bad,‚ÄĚ said Sir Thomas, ‚Äúwe must not, for our own children‚Äôs sake, continue her in the family; but there is no reason to expect so great an evil. We shall probably see much to wish altered in her, and must prepare ourselves for gross ignorance, some meanness of opinions, and very distressing vulgarity of manner; but these are not incurable faults; nor, I trust, can they be dangerous for her associates.” – Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

Fanny grows up in this family and she’s really a little more than a servant, subject to the whims of her vain and idle cousins.

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Fanny Price as a child from Mansfield Park (1999). No copyright infringement intended.

The social mores made this sort of behavior acceptable in the nineteenth century but in the twenty-first century, especially as an American, it is not. ¬†As my husband reminded me, in the twenty-first century there is a sense of entitlement that sways our actions, and certainly, my perspective while reading this week’s #FridayReads.

What I came to understand is that my anger at Bets is because of her sense of entitlement to any of Lily’s possessions — the room, the JASNA bag, the gold cross necklace — violates my own sensibilities. ¬†What the author here is achieving is playing upon our 21st century sensibilities like a harpsichord. ¬†Were this written in Jane’s day, someone of Bets’ status would make us view her actions much differently, to the point of her having a “divine right” to what she likes as someone in a position of wealth, perhaps the equivalent of an accomplished heiress.

Lily’s transition from anger to identification with her father’s infidelity is the unexpected personal change we find near the end of the novel. ¬†Lily, who went from dreaming of living in a novel, then back to reality, discovers that sometimes the fantasy of a romance (in Britain)¬†can be worse than the norm of life in Texas.

Cindy Jones presents a darker shade of Jane for readers who prefer the bittersweet to the vanilla confections of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (#JAFF) so readily available in the market.

The Phantom of Pemberley by Regina Jeffers (Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery #1)

jeffers_phantomThis was a difficult book for me to read as my first foray into the Jane Austen/Regency mystery genre.   Although only 409 pages long, I found the mystery format difficult to embrace.  The traditional whodunit format of investigator questioning and answering that I associate with mysteries was not present until the last 50 pages or so of the book.  Prior to this, the deaths seemed to be unrelated and left me with many questions about the perpetrator(s) involved and their motives.

Then there was the sex.

Like most Darcy/Elizabeth sequels, the sexual tension that existed in Pride and Prejudice is replaced by the intimate relations between husband and wife. Jeffers spares the reader from a too-detailed description, generalizing and in some cases, taking the event off-stage at the beginning. Later, we become voyeurs watching as their coupling is described in more details by the villain(s)’ perspective.

Anyone reading a book entitled The Phantom of Pemberley should be familiar, if not an ardent admirer, of Pride and Prejudice. ¬†So, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Ms. Jeffers chose to include original passages (with some changes to the text) in italics so the reader might re-live pivotal moments in Austen’s book.

There are several sub-plots in this book, notably, the blossoming of Georgiana Darcy under Elizabeth’s wing; an elopement gone awry that thrusts Anne de Bourg out from her mother’s grasp; Lydia Wickham’s irrepressible, unforgivable flirtation with men (and trouble with her husband’s wayward eye); to name a few.

One criticism I have of the book is the lack of characters from Meryton, Kent and Longbourn. Other than Lady Catherine and her daughter, Anne, and Mrs. Jenkinson, we see nothing of the Collinses, or the Bennets, or even the Bingleys. This was a disappointment.

The actual climax of the book has several ‘false endings’ and while the questions you are left with do tidy themselves up, I finished the book feeling less than satisfied. ¬†That said, I do not often read mysteries and perhaps it is not my forte.

If any of you readers IS a mystery reader, I invite you to check this book out for yourselves and please, write back and let me know what you thought of it. ¬†I’d love to hear other perspectives on this work. ¬†Thank you.

A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Austen Addicts #1)

connelly_weekendThis was a delightful confection of a novel! ¬†I absolutely adored my Weekend With Mr. Darcy. This feel-good cozy chick lit read is the perfect accompaniment for a girl’s night in. ¬†I was left envious of all the Janeites out there who attend the annual Regency conferences and balls as a result of reading this book. ¬†I may even make plans to attend one, one of these days. ¬†ūüôā

The plot is fairly predictable but then, it’s right for the genre. ¬†[spoiler]The complete failure of Warwick to portray one of his own heroes was a nice surprise as is his real identity… I laughed out loud from the beginning at the situation he finds himself in. ¬†You’ll worry along as you see the trouble he finds himself in wooing Katherine and in his redemption.[/spoiler]

One thing I loved about this book was the dual romances present. Not only do we have Katherine and Warwick, we also have the love triangle between Robyn, her boyfriend, Jace, and the handsome Dan. ¬†You’ll grimace at the proposal scene and hold your breath when Robyn finds the stable empty…

There’s a lot to love about this book. ¬†Check it out for yourself.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (Austenland #2)

hale_midnightTrying to compare Midnight in Austenland to its original, Austenland, is like attempting to formulate one of those tests you take in high school, the kind that ask you to compare apples and oranges. Midnight in Austenland is to Northanger Abbey as Austenland is to Pride and Prejudice. That is, they are very different books indeed.

Two years ago, after reading the original, I was firmly in the “make Austenland¬†a film”¬†camp.¬† “This film needs to be¬†a movie.”¬† Apparently Stephenie Meyer (of Twilight fame) agreed as she’s now producing the book as a major motion picture starring Keri Russell.¬† Her glowing review of Austenland¬†appears on the back cover of this book and she’s one of the two people to whom this sequel is dedicated.¬† When I heard that Shannon Hale was making a sequel, I rushed out as soon as possible and devoured this 277 p. book in¬†about a day.¬† I think you will too!

Charlotte Kinder was always “nice”, perhaps too nice for her own good. In fact, she was so nice that she missed all of the¬†signs in her marriage that should have pointed to a big problem: the phone calls from hotels her husband wasn’t supposed to be¬†staying at, the lingerie he “forgot” to give her (and in the wrong size), the late nights. When her husband James asked¬†her to sign their financial accounts in both of their names¬†(which she did, all except for her booming business), then divorced her, Charlotte was crushed.

With two teens, Lu and Beckett, and a broken heart, Charlotte turns to a childhood goal, read Jane Austen, to regain some sense of dignity and finds herself longing for the manners and morals of the period, a time when your husband doesn’t schtoop¬†a woman named ‘Justice’ and marry her, then expect the kids to call her ‘mom’.¬† What Charlotte needed was a vacation. Pembrook Park was waiting with a cast of outrageous characters!

There is Mrs. Wattlesbrook, the proprietor, who is a stickler for period-appropriate manners, dinners (including odd foods) and dress, and her drunk husband (formerly Sir John).¬† Also making a return is Colonel Andrews, the outrageous flirt (and is he? isn’t he?), courting again for the umpteenth time, Miss Elizabeth Charming, the big bosomed beauty whose personality fills the room as much as her figure.

New to the group are Miss Lydia Gardenside¬†(in real life, pop star Alisha), and her caretaker, Miss Hatchet. Also, Mr. Mallery, a brooding hero worthy of Bronte’s novels, and Edmund Grey, a yummy combination of Edmund (from Mansfield Park) and Henry Tilney (from Northanger¬†Abbey), who has been scripted¬†to be Charlotte’s pretend brother but is still nice to look at.

Nice Charlotte, who has a propensity¬†to internalize everything (that sounds familiar…) is a grown woman still afraid of the dark. So when she thinks she sees a real corpse during a parlor game in the dark, she turns detective and the novel switches from being a rom-com to a Gothic novel ala Northanger Abbey, and all the guests are suspect!

Can Charlotte overcome¬†her inner critic and allow herself to experience love again, if only for two weeks?¬† Is there or isn’t there a murder?¬† Why¬†is it that brooding heroes are so d*mn attractive and nice guys always unavailable?

Criticisms:

1) There is a much-smaller cast of characters this time around and notably, Henry Nobley and Jane Hayes are absent, along with much of the original houseguests.

2) Pembrook¬†Park is all that is left of the multi-theme park ‘Austenland’ as the other locations have been sold, rented, etc. The house feels like it’s lost something of the glamour and allure that existed in the first book. It’s a much-darker story but that goes hand in hand with it having something of a Gothic flair.

3) The style of writing is very different (in my opinion) from the first book.  At this point, I need to go into a bit of narrative theory.

When discussing plot, there are a couple of terms you should know:

  • There is the fabula, the chronological events of a story, and
  • the discourse, how those events are laid out in the novel (Thanks Eric L.).

Typically, the discourse of a book is not necessarily the same as the fabula.¬† In this book, even though events all take place in modern-day (and period roleplay), the narrative jumps in time between the present, and the past, specifically, Charlotte’s past.¬†¬† As a writing style, I think I understand its purpose — to beg the reader to push through the backstory¬†in order to get back to the present tale.¬† The problem is, as¬†a reader, it’s incredibly distracting and at times I found myself wishing I could just skip those moments, but if you do, you end up missing some great humorous bits.

To Conquer Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

To Conquer Mr Darcy coverThis is a tradecover¬†paperback romance and the premise of the story is that Darcy and Elizabeth’s passion precedes their matrimony.¬† You can expect all the juicy passages associated with romance novels.

Although dear Jane did write about such affairs of the heart (remember, Lydia?), to make the quantum leap¬†that Elizabeth’s independent spirit could be seduced into impropriety, even by the fabulous Mr. Darcy, is far-fetched and would have Jane rolling in her grave.

The premise introduces us to a Lizzie who is even more reticent¬†about sharing her true feelings than her sister Jane is. A Lizzie who finds the improper attentions of Mr. Darcy so heady, she flirts with disaster and could rightly be said that “the shades of¬†Pemberley [are] polluted”.¬† While Lizzie is someone who follows her own heart (and we love her dearly for this), her reckless behavior injures her father and places her at the level of speculation, gossip and ridicule of that of her younger sisters.

[…]

I pick up my pen after reading this novel and I’m pleased to report that all ends well (relatively) in “To Conquer Mr. Darcy”. ¬†[spoiler]Lizzie is able to mend her relationship with her family and it wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without a happy ending.[/spoiler] ¬†Just what happens exactly I’ll leave for you to discover if you choose to read this book for yourself.¬† A most diverting notion!

If you like Pride & Prejudice variations, you may also be interested in the following other books by Abigail Reynolds:

  • The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice
  • Mr. Darcy’s Obsession
  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World
  • What Would Mr. Darcy Do?

I am on a Darcy & Lizzie binge now so don’t be surprised to see more Austen-themed book reviews appearing soon!

Do you have a great Jane Austen-themed book that you’d recommend?¬† I’m always keen on a great romp in the Regency period.¬† Leave me a comment and let’s chat Jane.