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stella bainFor the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist at War Through the Generations, Serena and I will be hosting an August readalong of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve, which is set during World War I.  2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, or the War to End All Wars.

It is 1916, and a woman awakens, wounded, in a field hospital in northern France.  She wears the uniform of a British nurse’s aide but has an American accent.  With no memory of her past or what brought her to this distant war, she knows only that she can drive an ambulance, and that her name is Stella Bain.

As she puts her skills to use, both transporting the wounded from the battlefield and ministering to them in hospital tents, the holes in Stella’s psyche gnaw at the edge of her consciousness.  At last, desperate to find answers, she sets off for London to reconstruct her life.

She is taken in by Dr. August Bridge, a surgeon who becomes fascinated with her case and with the agonizing and inexplicable symptoms that plague her.  Delving into her deeply fractured mind, Bridge seeks to understand what terrible blow could have separated a woman from herself.  Together, they begin to unlock a disturbing history — of deception and thwarted love, violence and betrayal.  But as her memories come racing back, Stella realizes she must embark on a new journey to confront the haunted past of the woman she used to be.

In a sweeping, dramatic narrative that takes us from England to America and back again, Anita Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, and about loss and redemption in the wake of a war that devastated an entire generation.  (publisher’s summary)

Here’s the schedule for the discussions on War Through the Generations:

Friday, Aug. 8: pages 1-70

Friday, Aug. 15: pages 71-138

Friday, Aug. 22: pages 139-207

Friday, Aug. 29: pages 208-end

We hope you will read along with us, and even if you’ve already read the book, please feel free to join the discussion!

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week.  It is now being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s what I added to the shelves:

For review:

the winter guestThe Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff — from the author

Life is a constant struggle for the impoverished eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three young siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation.  The constant threat of arrest for even the most minor infraction has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor.  Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn’t be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats and hardships the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day.

Then Helena discovers an Allied paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive.  Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam — a Jew — but Helena’s concern for the American grows into something much deeper and the dream of a life beyond the mountains beckons.  Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee.  But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all — and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades.  (publisher’s summary)

this is how i'd love youThis Is How I’d Love You by Hazel Woods — from Plume

It’s 1917 and America is on the brink of World War I.  After Hensley Dench’s father is forced to resign from the New York Times for his antiwar writings, she finds herself expelled from the life she loves and the future she thought she would have.  Instead, Hensley is transplanted to New Mexico, where her father has taken a job overseeing a gold mine.  Driven by loneliness, Hensley hijacks her father’s correspondence with Charles Reid, a young American medic with whom her father plays chess via post.  Hensley secretly begins her own exchange with Charles, but looming tragedy threatens them both.  When everything turns against them — will their words be enough to beat the odds?  (publisher’s summary)

dashDash by Kirby Larson — from Scholastic

Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wage of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home — or her beloved dog, Dash.  But, as World War II rages and people of Japanese descent are forced into incarceration camps, Mitsi is separated from Dash, her classmates, and life as she knows it.  The camp is a crowded and unfamiliar place, whose dusty floors, seemingly endless lines, and barbed wire fences begin to unravel the strong Kashino family ties.  With the help of a friendly neighbor back home, Mitsi remains connected to Dash in spite of the hard times, holding on to the hope that the war will end soon and their life will return to normal.  They have lost their home; will the Kashinos also lose their sense of family?  And will Mitsi and Dash ever be reunited?

With heartbreaking honesty and stunning emotional depth, Newbery Honor-winning author Kirby Larson brings to bold life a powerful story of family, enduring friendship, and the resilience of the human spirit.  (publisher’s summary)

darcy choosesPride and Prejudice: Darcy Chooses by Gianna Thomas — from NPC Pubs

What if Elizabeth Bennet met Fitzwilliam Darcy before the Meryton Assembly?

What if she heard Darcy’s insulting comment at the Assembly?

What if he apologized at that ball?

What if they rubbed along for a while until Lizzy’s pride and temper got in the way?

And what if Wickham falls in love for the first time in his profligate life? What will he do, and how will he react when the young woman doesn’t return his feelings?

Pride and Prejudice: Darcy Chooses is about innocent young couples – Darcy and Elizabeth and Bingley and Jane – and the feelings that love evokes and how they handle those feelings. It even takes a brief look at several married couples: Why is there little affection between Thomas and Fanny Bennet? How have the Gardiners grown in their love for one another? And what will happen to the Hursts’ marriage? It is a realistic look at relationships that very well may have readers taking a closer look at their own marriages.

Add the Wicked Wickham to the mix and what do you have? You have a tale of friendships, love lost, love gained and the angst of everyday life in Regency England. (publisher’s summary)

From a friend at book club:

no graves as yetNo Graves as Yet by Anne Perry

On a sunny afternoon in late June 1914, Cambridge professor Joseph Reavley learns that his parents have died in an automobile crash.  Joseph’s brother, an officer in the Intelligence Service, reveals that their father had been en route to London with a mysterious secret document — allegedly possessing the power to disgrace England and destroy the civilized world.  Now that explosive paper has vanished, and Joseph is left to wonder: How had it fallen into the hands of his father, a quiet countryman?

But Joseph is soon burdened with a second tragedy: the shocking murder of his most gifted student, who was loved and admired by everyone.  Or so it appeared.  As England’s seamless peace begins to crack, the distance between the murder of an Austrian archduke and the death of a brilliant student grows shorter every day.  (publisher’s summary)

shoulder the skyShoulder in the Sky by Anne Perry

By April 1915, as Chaplain Joseph Reavley tends to the soldiers in his care, the nightmare of trench warfare is impartially cutting down England’s youth.  On one of his rescue forays into no-man’s-land, Joseph finds the body of an arrogant war correspondent, Eldon Prentice.  A nephew of the respected General Owen Cullingford, Prentice was despised for his prying attempts to elicit facts that would turn public opinion against the war.  Most troublesome to Joseph, Prentice has been killed not by German fire but, apparently, by one of his own compatriots.  What Englishman hated Prentice enough to kill him?  Joseph is afraid he may know, and his sister, Judith, who is General Cullingford’s driver and translator, harbors her own fearful suspicions.

Meanwhile, Joseph and Judith’s brother, Matthew, an intelligence officer in London, continues his quiet search for the sinister figure they call the Peacemaker, who, like Eldon Prentice, is trying to undermine the public support for the struggle — and, as the Reavley family has good reason to believe, is in fact at the heart of a fantastic plot to reshape the entire world.  An intimate of kings, the Peacemaker kills with impunity, and his dark shadow stretches from the peaceful country lanes of Cambridgeshire to the twin hells of Ypre and Gallipoli.  (publisher’s summary)

angels in the gloomAngels in the Gloom by Anne Perry

In March 1916, Joseph Reavley, a chaplain at the front lines, and his sister Judith, an ambulance driver, are battling not only the Germans but the bitter cold and appalling casualties at Ypres.  Scarcely less at risk, their brother Matthew, an officer in England’s Secret Intelligence Service, fights the war covertly from London.  Only the Reavley’s married sister, Hannah, living with her children in the family home in tranquil Cambridgeshire, seems safe.  But appearances can be deceiving.

When the savage brutalized body of a weapons scientist is discovered in a village byway, the fear that haunts the battlefields settles over Cambridgeshire — along with the shadow of the obsessed madman who murdered the Reavley’s parents on the eve of the war.  Once again, the sinister figure who calls himself the Peacemaker is plotting to kill.  (publisher’s summary)

at some disputed barricadeAt Some Disputed Barricade by Anne Perry

July 1917:  Joseph Reavley, a chaplain, and his sister Judith, an ambulance driver, are bone-weary as they approach the fourth year of the conflict; the peace of the English countryside seems a world away.  On the Western Front, the Battle of Passchendaele has begun, and among the many fatalities from Joseph’s regiment is the trusted commanding officer, who is replaced by a young major whose pompous incompetence virtually guarantees that many good soldiers will die needlessly.  But soon he, too, is dead — killed by his own men.  Although Joseph would like to turn a blind eye, he knows that he must not.  Judith, however, anguished at the prospect of courts-martial and executions for the twelve men arrested for the crime, has no such inhibitions and, risking her own life, helps all but one of the prisoners to escape.

Back in England, Joseph and Judith’s brother, Matthew, continues his desperate pursuit to unmask the sinister figure known as the Peacemaker — an obsessed genius who has committed murder and treason in an attempt to stop Britain from winning the war.  As Matthew trails the Peacemaker, Joseph tracks his escaped comrades through Switzerland and into enemy territory.  His search will lead to a reckoning pitting courage and honor against the blind machinery of military justice.  (publisher’s summary)

we shall not sleepWe Shall Not Sleep by Anne Perry

After four long years, peace is finally in sight.  But chaplain Joseph Reavley and his sister Judith, an ambulance driver on the Western Front, are more hard pressed than ever.  Behind the lines, violence is increasing:  Soldiers are abusing German prisoners, a nurse has been raped and murdered, and the sinister ideologue called the Peacemaker now threatens to undermine the peace just as he did the war.

Matthew, the third Reavley sibling and an intelligence expert, suddenly arrives at the front with startling news:  The Peacemaker’s German counterpart has offered to go to England and expose his co-consipirator as a traitor.  But with war still raging and prejudices inflamed, such a journey would be fraught with hazards, especially since the Peacemaker has secret informers everywhere, even on the battlefield.  (publisher’s summary)

where rainbows endWhere Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern

Since childhood, Rosie and Alex have stuck by each other through thick and thin.  But they’re suddenly separated when Alex and his family move from Dublin to America.  Rosie is lost without him.  Then, just as she is about to join Alex in Boston, she gets life-changing news — news that will keep her home in Ireland.

Their magical connection remains but can their friendship survive the years and miles — as well as new relationships?  And always at the back of Rosie’s mind is whether they were meant to be more than just good friends all along.  Misunderstandings, circumstances and sheer bad luck have kept them apart — until now.  But will they gamble everything — including their friendship — on true love?  And what twists and surprises does fate have in store for them this time…?  (publisher’s summary)

his majesty's dragonHis Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire Book 1) by Naomi Novik

*I really enjoyed this book when we read it for book club (reviewed it here) but now I get to own it!*

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies…not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future — and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.  Thrust into the rarefied world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle.  For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.  (publisher’s summary)

victory of eaglesVictory of Eagles (Temeraire Book 5) by Naomi Novik

For Britain, conditions are grim:  Napoleon’s resurgent forces have breached the Channel and successfully invaded English soil.  Napoleon’s prime objective is the occupation of London.  Unfortunately, the dragon Temeraire has been removed from military service — and his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to death for treason.  Separated by their own government and threatened at every turn by Napoleon’s forces, Laurence and Temeraire must struggle to find each other amid the turmoil of war.  If only they can be reunited, master and dragon might rally Britain’s scattered resistance forces and take the fight to the enemy as never before — for king and country, and for their own liberty.  (publisher’s summary)

What books did you add to your shelves recently?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

the sea garden

Source: Review copy from Harper
Rating: ★★★★★

In some ways they were all the same now.  So many people stumbling around in the dark, just as she was.  All across Europe there were secret roads along which men and women were moving, some towards safety, others farther into darkness.  One false step.  Lives in the balance.  So much unknown.

(from The Sea Garden, page 128)

Deborah Lawrenson’s new novel The Sea Garden beautifully weaves together three stories of love and loss during wartime, with a focus on British intelligence and French resistance activities during World War II.  The novel begins with “The Sea Garden,” a story set in the present on the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles that focuses on British landscape designer Ellie Brooke, who was hired to restore a memorial garden at the Domaine de Fayols.  There is a haunting and mysterious tone to this story, as Ellie learns about the wartime history of the island, which had been occupied by the Germans, and contends with the elderly Madame de Fayols, whose bitterness turns more sinister as her hold on reality loosens.

In “The Lavender Field,” Lawrenson drops readers into Nazi-occupied Provence, where the blind perfume maker Marthe Lincel is forced to choose between fighting for her country or remaining in the dark.  Lawrenson details the fascinating ways in which perfume was used to carry secret messages, blends the beauty of the lavender fields with the horrors of the war, and emphasizes the dangers and the triumphs that went hand-in-hand with Resistance work.  And in “A Shadow Life,” readers follow Iris Nightingale, a British intelligence officer tasked with helping prepare men and women to serve as spies in Occupied France.  Her love affair with a French agent fuels her need to find out exactly what happened to the agents who went missing during the war.

It’s not until the end of the last story that the novel comes full circle, and readers finally understand the confusing events in the first story.  While I had some idea how the pieces would all fit together, it wasn’t entirely predictable, which kept me up reading until the wee hours of the morning.  The Sea Garden is a unique tale full of well developed, intriguing characters, some of whom are based on historical figures, and I appreciated the author’s note at the end where Lawrenson explains her inspiration for the novel.

The Sea Garden brings to life the ordinary people who did extraordinary things during the war, from the young women who proved they could hold their own as secret agents to the farmers who allowed Allied planes to land in their fields.  Lawrenson captures the desperation of wireless operators running from the Gestapo and those who spent years trying to find out why their loved ones disappeared during the war, as well as the blurred lines between hero and traitor.  I found myself lost in this story from the very beginning, with rich descriptions of the various landscapes and plenty of mystery to keep me guessing.  I think this book just might make my Best of 2014 list!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Sea Garden.  To check out the rest of the tour, click here.

war challenge with a twist

Book 13 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWI)

historical fiction challenge

Book 14 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Sea Garden from Harper for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week.  It is now being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s what I added to the shelves over the past few weeks:

For review:

jane austen's first loveJane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James — from Berkley

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things:  doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love.  When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor — a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections.  Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race — and he seems to return her interest.  Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention.

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples.  But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions.  The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed.  And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?  (publisher’s summary)

a jane austen daydreamA Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard — from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

All her heroines find love in the end — but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own.  But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers — did she ever find love?  Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us — to a greater or lesser degree — are head over heels for Jane.  (publisher’s summary)

Purchased:

pies & perilPies & Peril by Janel Gradowski

When Amy Ridley decided to compete in the Kellerton Summer Festival Pie Contest, the last thing she expected was to find the reigning pie queen, Mandy Jo, dead — a raspberry pie smashed on her face! Mandy Jo made fantastic pies, but she accumulated more enemies than baking trophies. But when Amy receives a note threatening her own life, she decides to do some investigating herself.

It seems that half the town has a reason to kill the mean pie queen, and Amy finds herself sifting through a list of suspects that’s longer than her list of recipes. Not to mention playing cupid for her love-shy best friend, fending off a baker intent on finding out her prize-winning culinary secrets, and ducking the deadly attentions of Mandy Jo’s killer. If Amy doesn’t find out who wanted the pie queen dead soon, her own goose may be cooked!

**Recipes included!** (publisher’s summary)

What books did you add to your shelves recently?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

hitler's secret

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

But then, as MacPherson had said, their job was to carry out the mission and not concern themselves with anything else.  Was that right?  How could that be right?  If he thought that way, he would be no different from the Nazis who had taken his family.  They had just been obeying orders, but what they had done was wrong.  Deeply wrong.

(from Hitler’s Secret, page 257)

My daughter always does a fantastic job selecting books for me as gifts, and she hit a home run with Hitler’s Secret, which she bought me for Christmas from the Scholastic book fair at her school.  William Osborne’s novel centers on two teenagers who escaped the Nazis and are safe in England, only to be recruited as spies for the British government in 1941 and tasked with a mission so important, it just might end the war.

Otto fled Germany in 1940 after the Nazis took away his family because his father was a Communist.  Leni is an Austrian Jew who escaped the Nazis with her mother and sisters in 1938, leaving behind her father and brothers.  Both immediately agree to help Admiral MacPherson of the Royal Navy despite the dangers involved.  Otto will do anything to leave the boarding school where he is bullied for being German, and Leni takes the mission on behalf of her father and brothers.

They are given new identities and tasked with kidnapping a young girl from a convent, getting her over the Swiss border, and turning her over to the British government.  They have no idea why this child is so important to the Third Reich and how knowledge of her existence could end the war.  Despite being well equipped for the mission, their youth means they are bound to make mistakes.  But they are strong and resourceful and accomplish more than I could have in their situation.  It’s not long before the Nazis are after them in search of the girl.  But Angelika is so important to the Third Reich that Reinhard Heydrich, Lieutenant General of the SS and chief of the Reich Main Security Office, is hunting them down himself.  He is ruthless and has no qualms about killing children.

Otto and Leni are such delightful characters.  Their actions and emotions are exactly as they should be for teenagers, but the troubles they endured because of the Nazis forced them to grow up too soon.  They want to do something to avenge their families, but they didn’t expect to bond with Angelika.  As they pose as a family to make their way to Switzerland, they actually become a family — and when they learn the truth about Angelika and the British government’s plans for her, they are forced to question whether carrying out their orders is really the right thing to do.

Hitler’s Secret is a fantastic novel for young readers and adults alike.  There is a lot of action, suspense, and even some bloody violence, which isn’t overdone and completely fits the story line.  Osborne definitely doesn’t sugarcoat the dangers of the mission, which makes it feel authentic even though it is completely fiction.  (There is an author’s note at the end that separates the fact from the fiction and even explains more about the historical figures who make appearances in the novel.)

I loved so many things about this novel, from the well-developed characters and the sheer excitement of the mission to the fact that it both kept me on the edge of my seat and gave me a lot to think about.  I finished Hitler’s Secret months ago and am just getting around to reviewing it, but the characters and the plot are still fresh in my mind, which to me is the sign of a great book.  I can’t wait to see what book my daughter chooses for me next!

war challenge with a twist

Book 12 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

historical fiction challenge

Book 13 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

european reading challenge

Book 5 for the European Reading Challenge (Switzerland)

Disclosure: Hitler’s Secret is from my personal library.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

the wild dark flowers

Source: Review copy from Berkley
Rating: ★★★★★

He lifted his head and, for a strange moment, he thought that all the way ahead of him was a meadow full of wild dark flowers.  Dark blue streamers, like irises, or reeds at the edge of a river.  And then he realized that it was not flowers at all, but other men — mere sketches of men now in the ground mist — as they swayed and staggered.  Wild dark flowers bending to the ground.

(from The Wild Dark Flowers, page 257)

The Wild Dark Flowers is the second book in the Rutherford Park series.  Elizabeth Cooke returns readers to the estate of Lord William and Lady Octavia Cavendish in 1915, at a time when World War I was ushering in dramatic changes to English society.  Lord William’s heir, Harry, is a pilot in France, and many of their servants have joined up to fight as well.  The youngest Cavendish, Charlotte, keeps up with current events and wants to volunteer at a hospital in London.  Meanwhile, Octavia is lamenting the loss of true love in her life and merely going through the motions as she comes to terms with her decision to remain at William’s side.

Change is happening everywhere, but William is unwilling to accept it.  He turns his head when he sees women filling the jobs of the men who have gone to war.  He thinks Harry should focus on learning to run the estate, whereas Harry believes his place is in France fighting with everyone else.  And he will soon have to come to turns with the blurring of class lines as his daughter Louisa grows closer to Jack, the stable boy with whom she grew up on the estate.

As in Rutherford Park, Cooke details the different experiences of the titled families and those below stairs.  She focuses on Jack and his frustration over the treatment of the horses taken from their farms and forced into military service, and she follows a footman, Harrison, into the trenches.  There’s also a lot going on in the main house, with the housekeeper, Mrs. Jocelyn, and her hatred for Octavia fueling her religious zealousness and harsh treatment of the housemaids.

Cooke packs so much into 341 pages, including the sinking of the Lusitania, the treatment of the horses taken into battle, the changing role of women in society, the rising power of the lower classes, and the fact that the information about the war published in the newspapers was often far from the truth.  However, I never felt overwhelmed or found it difficult to keep track of all the characters.  If anything, the different points of view helped moved the story forward and made it so readable.

The Wild Dark Flowers was a fantastic sequel, and Cooke made me care about characters I didn’t really connect with in the first book.  Where Rutherford Park introduces the characters and sets the stage for the inevitable changes and losses brought about by the war, The Wild Dark Flowers really gets inside the character’s heads, inside the trenches, and inside the sheltered, splintering lives of people holding onto the past.  So much happened in this book that I can’t wait to see where Cooke takes these characters in the next installment.

war challenge with a twist

Book 11 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWI)

historical fiction challenge

Book 12 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Wild Dark Flowers from Berkley for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

the secrets of darcy and elizabeth

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

“She seemed fairly happy a moment ago,” Richard observed.

“Yes, but that could be because she was happy to see you,” Darcy said with a note of despair in his voice.  “I am certain I remain the last man in the world she would marry.”

“Maybe you have moved up the ladder a few rungs.  Perhaps she would now consider marrying you before, say, the butcher.”  Richard grinned broadly.

“Darcy grimaced.  “Great encouragement indeed.  I thank you.”

(from The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth)

In The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth, Victoria Kincaid brings Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Paris at a time when England and France are at peace, and no one knows how long it will last.  Mr. Darcy spends much of his time drowning his sorrows in drink and contemplating the harsh but true comments Elizabeth Bennet made in rejecting his insulting proposal at Hunsford.  His cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, convinces him that a trip to Paris is just the thing to cure his broken heart — except that almost immediately, he bumps into Elizabeth, who is traveling with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.

Having read Mr. Darcy’s letter, Elizabeth has softened toward him, and Mr. Darcy realizes he has been given a second chance to prove himself worthy of her love.  But just as the pair begin to put their past misunderstandings behind them, war breaks out once more, and it won’t be long before Napoleon orders the arrest of any Englishman found on French soil.  English tourists must quickly evacuate Paris and get to the coast.

With Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle elsewhere in the country on business, Mr. Darcy just can’t leave her to fend for herself as chaos and danger erupt around them.  All the carriages have been rented, so they have no choice but to overlook the rules of propriety and flee Paris in a curricle, which seats only two — meaning that Elizabeth’s chaperone must be left behind.  Being alone with Mr. Darcy, even in a time of war when she had little choice, could be disastrous to Elizabeth’s reputation, but when she falls deathly ill before they reach the coast, Mr. Darcy gives no thought to their compromising position — only that she must get well.

Kincaid throws many obstacles in their path.  Getting to England is no easy feat, but having to conceal a secret from their time in France from their family and closest friends proves to be even harder.  With Mr. Darcy pitted against another aunt who gives Lady Catherine a run for her money and Elizabeth trying to evade the attentions of a suitor even more persistent and ridiculous than Mr. Collins, it seems that a happily ever after may be too far out of their grasp.

The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth is an exciting, humorous, and sweet tale.  Dropping Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in Paris in such a tumultuous time in history is a unique touch, as I had no idea how that aspect of the story would play out.  It also highlights the customs of the time, especially when it came to proper behavior among unmarried couples.  Just being alone together was enough to tarnish a woman’s reputation, never mind being caught in an embrace.  Meanwhile, Kincaid injects a lot of humor into the novel, from the clueless Mr. Fenton and the playful banter between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth to the difficulty the couple has in keeping their secret.  The romance is front and center here, but Kincaid, thankfully, leaves much to the imagination.

Although some of the situations Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth encountered, along with their behavior, were a bit over the top, The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth was thoroughly entertaining.  Our hero and heroine were completely likeable, and the villains were even more deliciously villainous.  It was nice to see Mr. Bennet all riled up and Caroline Bingley left speechless.  I spent a couple of delightful afternoons with this novel, and I can’t wait to see what Kincaid writes next.

Disclosure: I received The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth from the author for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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