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Archive for the ‘jane austen’ Category

remember the past

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

Darcy shut the door behind her, emptiness filling his belly until he sank into his favorite chair.  What was more troubling, that others saw his admiration for Miss Elizabeth, or that Miss Elizabeth could not?

He knew her to be upset, but the possibility of hurting her was insupportable.  Somehow, he had to rectify the misunderstanding.  She must not be somewhere in the world thinking ill of him.

(from Remember the Past, page 45)

I’ve said it a lot lately that Pride and Prejudice retellings need to be very unique these days to keep my attention, and Maria Grace’s latest novel, Remember the Past, certainly fits the bill.  As soon as I started reading, I knew that this was going to be different from all the re-imaginings I’ve read before.  What if the Bennet family had a fortune, so marrying off the daughters wasn’t their sole concern?  What if Lady Catherine was kind, grateful to her nephew for saving her and Anne from a life of genteel poverty?  What if there was no Mr. Bingley to win Jane Bennet’s affections?

In Remember the Past, Admiral Thomas Bennet has retired from His Majesty’s Navy and purchased an estate in Derbyshire after being thrown out of Longbourn by his scheming brother.  While Alston Hall is being readied for occupation, the widower Bennet, his daughters Jane and Elizabeth, and his twin sons Francis and Philip are invited to stay at Pemberley, where the widower Mr. Darcy lives with his sister, his mother-in-law Lady Catherine, his sons George and David, and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.  Darcy is immediately drawn to Elizabeth, who excites a passion in him that he never felt while married to Anne, but after a scandalous first season in London, Elizabeth cannot trust another man.

Even in these much changed circumstances, misunderstandings abound.  When Darcy admires Elizabeth’s willingness to sword fight with the boys while trying to put aside his feelings for her, she thinks the look in his eyes signifies his disapproval.  She also feels slighted when both her father and Darcy dismiss her feelings about Wickham serving as her father’s steward; she senses a littleness about him from their very first meeting, and thankfully the Admiral taught his daughters how to protect themselves!

Meanwhile, Bennet is a man used to delivering orders and expecting that they will be carried out, but he soon finds that the women in his life increasingly refuse to submit to his will.  When it comes to Darcy, Elizabeth isn’t the only one who needs to set aside pride and prejudice, as Bennet’s own happiness, as well as his daughter’s, depends on him doing so.

Remember the Past is a fantastic retelling of Pride and Prejudice not only because of the original characters — from the rambunctious Bennet twins and Darcy brothers to the menacing but gentle Piper, the Admiral’s valet — but also because of the huge risks Grace takes in leaving only the bare bones of the original novel intact.  It was exciting to read a retelling in which I could not predict anything, other than the ultimate happily-ever-after ending.  The novel itself was exciting as well, with everything from sword fights to dangerous floods, and if it hadn’t been for work and family responsibilities, I would surely have finished it in one sitting.

Grace stays true to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy even while drastically changing the circumstances in which they meet and fall in love, but her delightful versions of Lady Catherine and Mr. Bennet drew me to the novel from the start.  Moreover, I never once missed the characters left out of this retelling (Mr. Bingley, Mrs. Bennet, the younger Bennet sisters, Mr. Collins, etc.).  Grace also does a good job balancing the heavier topics of grief, violence against women, and duty to family and friends with moments of humor and lightheartedness.  I’ve long enjoyed Grace’s Austen-inspired fiction, but Remember the Past is her best work so far, and I can’t wait to see where she takes these characters next.

Disclosure: I received Remember the Past 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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jane austen's first love

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

“I take it, Mr. Payler, that you have never read a novel?”

“Never.  It is said that they are designed to entertain the weak of mind.”

“Sir,” said I with animation, “that could not be further from the truth.  Some novels might be poorly written, but in the main, I believe the opposite to be the case.  A good novel — a well-written novel — not only entertains the readers with effusions of wit and humour, it touches the emotions and conveys a comprehensive understanding of human nature — all via the simple and remarkable act of transmitting words on a page — while at the same time displaying, in the best-chosen language, the greatest powers of the human mind.”

(from Jane Austen’s First Love, pages 81-82)

The inspiration for Syrie James’ latest novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, was a single line Jane wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra in 1796: “We went by Bifrons and I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated.”  The resulting novel is a beautifully written tale of 15-year-old Jane Austen falling in love for the first time in the summer of 1791 on a trip to Kent to celebrate her brother Edward’s engagement to Elizabeth Bridges.  Despite knowing deep down that a match between herself and Edward Taylor, the heir to Bifrons — who has led a fascinating life on the Continent and even dined and danced with princesses — will never be, his intelligence, knowledge of the world, humor, and admiration of her impertinence make it impossible for her to resist him.

In this delightful novel, told from the first person viewpoint of Jane herself, James portrays Jane as a girl quick to fall in love, open with her opinions, and astute in her observations of human character and behavior.  Early on, Jane says to her mother, “I write because I cannot help it,” and I loved picturing her sneaking in a few moments to write while her mother insists that needlework is more important.

What I loved most about Jane Austen’s First Love were the references to her novels, from misguided matchmaking attempts reminiscent of Emma Woodhouse and the similarities between Jane’s relationship with Cassandra and the bond between Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, to Jane’s insistence that love could overpower society’s expectations for marriage.  Jane’s observations of the people she met certainly inspired the various characters she wrote, and James gives readers a glimpse of how that might have happened, and in her skilled hands, Jane’s family, friends, and acquaintances come to life on the page.  James even includes an afterword where she explains her inspiration for the book, details the research she conducted, and points out which aspects of the story are imagined.

Jane Austen’s First Love is a satisfying novel that gives Jane the love story that many of us imagine she had.  But more than that, it’s a portrait of a young woman who was ahead of her time in many ways, whose brilliantly composed stories and characters have stood the test of time.  James shows Jane Austen as a normal teenager, with a desire to act older than her age, an impulsiveness that prompts her to make poor decisions, and a romantic nature that ensured she truly felt the things she wrote about.  The few letters that survived provide the only glimpse we’ll ever really have of the real Jane, but James does such a fantastic job creating a believable inner narrative, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t actually inside Jane’s head reading her thoughts.  Jane Austen’s First Love is another book likely to turn up on my Best of 2014 list!

JA tour

Disclosure: I received Jane Austen’s First Love from Berkley 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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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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stronger even than pride

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

“And you may be assured that nothing in the world would have induced me to share my intimate concerns with you had I realised your true opinion of my character.”

“I have never made a secret of my opinion of your character, Mr. Darcy, but whatever your concerns, they are of no interest to me.  Please let me be on my way, and do not attempt to continue this very inappropriate line of conversation.  I am married, and happily so, to Mr. Wickham.”

(from Stronger Even Than Pride, page 44)

Stronger Even Than Pride is not a charming, mostly lighthearted retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Gail McEwen writes about an Elizabeth Bennet who refuses to read the letter in which Mr. Darcy explains everything about Mr. Wickham, and this seemingly small change sets in motion a series of dark events that will leave the Austen purists running for the hills.

Soon after rejecting Mr. Darcy’s proposal and returning to Hertfordshire, Elizabeth is reunited with Mr. Wickham, and because she so foolishly discarded Mr. Darcy’s letter, she agrees to marry him.  The engagement is opposed by her parents, and even Mrs. Bennet — who wants nothing but to marry off her daughters — thinks it’s a mistake.  But the headstrong Elizabeth marches off to Scotland and becomes Mrs. Wickham.

Of course, Mr. Darcy is angry, but that’s partly because he assumes she read his letter and chose to marry the scoundrel anyway.  It’s not long before Wickham’s true colors start to show, and even his desire to possess Elizabeth in a way Darcy never can is not enough to keep him at home.  Elizabeth, feeling used and abused and struggling in poverty, has no one to turn to; she can’t go home and must live with the consequences of her actions.

Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy still loves Elizabeth but is helpless to do much to improve her situation.  When scandal envelopes the Wickhams and threatens even Georgiana Darcy’s happiness, all hope seems lost.  Of all the obstacles to throw in the path toward Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s happily ever after, this is the one that could keep them apart forever.

I’m not an Austen purist; the more unique, the better for me.  But Stronger Even Than Pride was almost too difficult for me to take.  I must admit I almost abandoned the book on page 48, after a particularly graphic sex scene involving Elizabeth, Mr. Wickham, and his fantasies of the jealous Mr. Darcy watching them together.  Truly, that scene — coupled with an earlier scene involving Mr. Darcy and a prostitute — made me ill.  I have no problem with shaking the plot up a bit, but I didn’t need to “see” that.  Sometimes implying what’s going on is enough.

However, I made myself keep reading because I had to know how things would turn out for Elizabeth and Darcy.  Of course, having read so may of these Austen adaptations, I was confident there would be a happy ending, but I couldn’t see a way out for these characters.  I’m happy to say that McEwen didn’t disappoint, and I clung to every word until the very end.

Stronger Even Than Pride is well written and well worth the initial discomfort.  Even when I thought I couldn’t continue reading, I admired McEwen’s bravery in taking the story to a place I never imagined.  I keep saying that Pride and Prejudice retellings need to be unique to keep my attention these days, and McEwen certainly delivered on that front.  She shows that there are countless ways to re-imagine these characters and their circumstances, and taking them down a messy, thorn-covered path that is seemingly impossible to traverse certainly grabbed my attention.  It’s definitely not a book for all fans of the Austenesque, but the character evolution, the intense emotion, the complicated relationships, and the promise of love and redemption make it worth giving a try.

Disclosure: I received Stronger Even Than Pride from Meryton Press 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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pride, prejudice and cheese grits

Source: Review copy from Howard Books
Rating: ★★★★☆

“I guess I’m like Darcy then, not really able to make small talk.”  Shelby set the coffeemaker for the morning.  “That’s it!  I’m Darcy and I just need to find my Elizabeth.”

“My friend, you couldn’t handle Elizabeth.”  Rebecca laughed.

(from Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, page 27)

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits is the first book in Mary Jane Hathaway’s Jane Austen Takes the South series and is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice set at a small college in Mississippi.  Shelby Roswell is Hathaway’s Elizabeth Bennet, a professor and Civil War expert struggling to achieve tenure — a process that has been complicated by a scathing review of her new book by well-known historian and Yale professor Ransom Fielding.  Ransom, our Mr. Darcy, comes back home to teach for a year at Shelby’s college, and Shelby’s quick temper means she makes a really bad first impression when she interrupts one of his classes and criticizes his method of handling students.

Shelby has some family issues to deal with, not the least being her mother’s preoccupation with marrying her off, and spends much of her time trying to piece together a mystery for an article she is writing.  Her mother’s horrid attempt at matchmaking puts her in the sights of David Bishop, a shady real estate agent who is a cross between Mr. Collins and Mr. Wickham.  Meanwhile, Ransom begins to see Shelby in a new light, even as he bears the weight of the guilt he feels over his wife’s death.  Just as Shelby starts to question her perceptions of Ransom, the Caroline Bingley-esque Tasha comes to town and stirs up all sorts of confusion.

Setting the novel on a college campus and infusing it with Civil War history and southern culture makes for a unique retelling.  Best of all, it’s a very loose retelling, so I didn’t know exactly how each plot thread would play out.  Some readers may be put off by the fact that it’s a Christian romance, but I didn’t find it too preachy, since Shelby’s faith is an integral part of her character.  Because it’s a Christian romance, it doesn’t get too steamy, but one aspect of the story takes a more mature (but not graphic) turn.

Hathaway’s take on Pride and Prejudice is fresh, fun, and funny — a comfort read complete with a couple of comfort-food recipes at the end.  I love how Shelby and Ransom are so like Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and how Hathaway takes other characters from the original novel and combines them, with Shelby’s best friend, Rebecca, being a cross between Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, and best friend, Charlotte Lucas.  The book shows how Austen’s characters and plots so perfectly stand the test of time.  The next books in the series — also with cute titles — take on Emma (Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs) and Persuasion (Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin’ Cornbread), and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

Disclosure: I received Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits from Howard Books 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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miss darcy decides

Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Lizzy handed Georgiana the book.  She fingered the cover, opened to the first page.

“A new story holds promise.”  Lizzy’s tone reflected the anticipation of discovery.

Georgiana studied the words on the page.  “All new endeavors do.”  Georgiana smiled for a moment.  But sometimes the promise was betrayed.

(from Miss Darcy Decides)

Miss Darcy Decides is the second novella in the Love at Pemberley series, and a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that can be read as a standalone book.  The novella focuses on Georgiana Darcy, who is grateful to have escaped the clutches of George Wickham but a little lonely in the midst of so many newly married couples.  She sees the happiness between her brother and Elizabeth as they await the birth of their first child and the love between Kitty Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam.  Even her cousin Anne de Bourgh has found love.

Georgiana questions whether she could leave her home and all the memories of her parents, until she meets Sir Camden Sutton.  The attraction between the two is immediate, but Sir Camden has a reputation for being a rouge, and Mr. Darcy is none too pleased about the looks passing between them.  Sir Camden has endured the loss of everyone important to him, and the grief caused him to make some bad decisions.  He says he is a new man, and Georgiana believes he is sincere.  But why is he so intent on helping the unmarried, pregnant niece of Mrs. Wilton, a close friend of the Darcy’s housekeeper?

Miss Darcy Decides is a quiet, sweet love story and an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.  It’s nice to see Georgiana as the main character, especially when there are plenty of amusing encounters with the overprotective Mr. Darcy.  Georgiana has learned a lot from her near elopement with Wickham, so she is cautious where Sir Camden is concerned.

However, being a novella means there is only a little bit of tension and not as much character and plot development.  I would have enjoyed more details about Sir Camden and his past and a few more obstacles in his path to winning over both Mr. Darcy and Georgiana.  Still, Miss Darcy Decides is a charming take on a character who sits in the shadows in the original Austen novel.  Now I’m curious to read the first novella in the series, Most Truly, to see how Kitty ends up with Colonel Fitzwilliam and the third installment, Miss Bennet Blooms, to see how Mary Bennet finds her happily ever after.

Thanks to Amy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the tour for Miss Darcy Decides.  Click the image below for more information about the book and to follow the tour.

Miss Darcy Decides_Tour Banner_FINAL

Disclosure: I received Miss Darcy Decides from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours 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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pride and persistence

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

(This review first appeared on Indie Jane.)

Finally, Darcy yelled out, “What are you talking about!  I never proposed two days ago!  A man would remember that!”

At that moment, it hit Elizabeth; he didn’t remember the proposal.  She looked at his face and saw beads of sweat forming on his brow.  He was obviously quite irate.  She was dumfounded.  She didn’t know what to do.  Not only had she agitated him, but she had hurt him once again.  Once again, he had his hand at his chest.  Once again, she had not held her tongue.  Once again, she had been rude and unforgiveable in her refusal.  Not only had she not apologized, she had repeated the same mistake.

(from Pride and Persistence, page 52)

A retelling of Pride and Prejudice must be really unique to grab my attention these days, and fortunately, Jeanna Ellsworth’s latest novel, Pride and Persistence fits the bill. Ellsworth picks up the story after Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr. Darcy’s disastrous proposal. Right after delivering the letter that explains his role in separating Elizabeth’s sister, Jane, from Mr. Bingley and reveals Wickham’s true character, Mr. Darcy is injured in an accident with his horse. Elizabeth witnesses the accident and plays an instrumental role in saving his life.

Mr. Darcy is too injured to be moved from the Hunsford parsonage, where Elizabeth is staying with her friend, Charlotte, and the odious Mr. Collins. Feeling guilty about the harsh words she said to him in rejecting his proposal, Elizabeth agrees to read to the unconscious Darcy, who is calmed by her presence. It’s soon obvious that his memory has quite literally taken a hit, as he does not recall the accident or his previous proposal and subsequent rejection — and proceeds to propose again, with the same arrogance…and the same result.

This latest refusal causes a setback in Darcy’s condition, so Colonel Fitzwilliam — with the help of the local doctor, Mr. Cummings, and Darcy’s nurse, Madeline — convinces Elizabeth not to reject him outright if he proposes again, in the hopes that he will continue to recover and eventually remember what happened before the accident on his own. Watching Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy navigate the challenges of his memory loss makes for a hilarious and sweet take on Jane Austen’s beloved novel.

Ellsworth brilliantly works in several original characters, my favorite being Mrs. Wilkinson, the Collins’ horrible cook and Elizabeth’s new friend and confidante. She also expands on the secondary characters, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at Colonel Fitzwilliam’s efforts to outwit Lady Catherine — who is hellbent on Darcy marrying her daughter — using battlefield tactics.

Pride and Persistence is definitely a story of, well, persistence, and Ellsworth’s humor makes it a must-read for fans of the Austenesque. If you didn’t think Mr. Collins could be more repulsive, think again. If you never imagined Lady Catherine having deep, dark secrets, then you’ll be gasping and laughing at the same time. Ellsworth’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice is fresh, imaginative, fun, and especially difficult to put down.

Disclosure: I received Pride and Persistence 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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haunting mr. darcy

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

“This will not do, Miss Bennet.  You are not real, and the sooner I can convince myself of that fact, the sooner I will be free of this lunacy.”

Elizabeth shook her head, her tears forgotten in renewed exasperation at the gentleman.  She ventured to look at him then.  He sat with an air of feigned calm, one hand cupping his jaw, his fingers covering his mouth as he spoke.  It was all quite distracting.

“Sir, I assure you.  I am as real as you are.”  Her brows lowered as she considered her strange new abilities.  “At least, I think I am,” she whispered to herself.

(from Haunting Mr. Darcy, page 51)

KaraLynne Mackrory’s latest novel, Haunting Mr. Darcy, is a humorous, delightfully sweet retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennet, in a coma after a carriage accident, finds her spirit has been transported to a library, where slipping a hand through a book enables her to immediately absorb its contents.  She thinks she’s having a splendid dream, until she realizes she’s in the London home of the disagreeable Mr. Darcy.

When Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth in spirit form, he thinks he’s going mad.  He was entranced by her back in Hertfordshire, and knowing that a match between them would be unsuitable, he has been trying hard to forget her ever since.  But Elizabeth is somehow tethered to him and cannot leave his side, and it’s not long before Mr. Darcy’s family and servants notice his odd behavior, mainly that he is talking and laughing to himself.  Meanwhile, back at Longbourn, Elizabeth’s family keeps vigil at her bedside.

Haunting Mr. Darcy definitely is “a spirited courtship.”  With Elizabeth’s ghost being dragged along with him everywhere, even his bedchamber, distracting him at every turn, there are plenty of funny moments to brighten what otherwise could be a dark tale.  Mackrory uses Colonel Fitzwilliam to lighten the mood and prompt Mr. Darcy to act when all seems lost, and even Lydia Bennet’s story takes an unexpected turn.  I especially loved the references to Persuasion, which is another of my favorite Austen novels.

Readers of these retellings obviously expect a happily ever after, and I loved that I had no idea how Mackrory would get Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth to that ending.  I was intrigued by the prospect of a Pride and Prejudice ghost story of sorts, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Haunting Mr. Darcy is among the most unique retellings I’ve come across so far, throwing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth together at their weakest, removing the confines of society’s rules, and letting love take its course, complete with a believable paranormal twist.

Disclosure: I received Haunting Mr. Darcy from Meryton Press 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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the secret betrothal

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

He does not dare to kiss me, her mind screamed silently, but why am I trembling?  She felt a flutter in the pit of her stomach and could not keep her eyelids from blinking over and over.  He is actually going to kiss me!

Very close to her face and audible only to her ear, Mr. Darcy said, “When I kiss you, Miss Bennet, I will not need the inducement of mistletoe.”  He then touched his lips to her hand, released it, and walked out the door.

The colour drained from Elizabeth’s face as she made her way across the room to the perimeter of the hall.  Her knees suddenly felt quite weak, and she sank down upon a chair, aware that her breathing had grown shallow and ragged.  When he kisses me?  The gall of that man!  That is one thing that will never happen!

(from The Secret Betrothal, page 48)

Jan Hahn’s latest take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice puts an even bigger obstacle than usual in the path to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s happily ever after.  The last time I read Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago, I remember being really surprised by how much Elizabeth likes Mr. Wickham and falls for his charms.  I think I like to put that out of my mind, but in The Secret Betrothal, Hahn expands on that attraction and kept me cringing and wanting to not believe what I was reading even while making it hard for me to put the book down.

The Secret Betrothal shows what might have happened had Mr. Wickham really, really wanted to punish Mr. Darcy and persuaded Elizabeth to become engaged to him, then keep that engagement a secret, even from her dear sister Jane.  Hahn surprisingly makes this scenario believable, however repulsive it is to imagine Elizabeth linked to that horrid scoundrel.  In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that I was able to believe it, so kudos to Hahn for that!

There were so many things I liked about this novel, from Hahn’s courage in embroiling the heroine in a secret engagement to the evolution of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship, with confusion, tenderness, passion, and the realization that nothing can keep these characters apart for long.  Hahn lets readers spend more time with Charlotte in this rendition and even inserts some humor in the form of Lady Catherine’s spring tonic.  (Seriously, it’s hilarious!)  But the freshness of the story is really where this novel shines.  I loved that Hahn took the main characters to Brighton and let the story unfold by the sea.

Hahn dedicates the novel to “anyone who has chosen unwisely the first time,” and The Secret Betrothal certainly is a story where that is the case.  Elizabeth has even more to chastise herself about in this retelling, not only for falling prey to a scoundrel but also for risking her reputation.  It’s a novel that highlights the flaws that make Austen’s heroes and heroines so endearing, so life-like, and it also shows that there is no end to the possibilities for these characters.

the secret betrothal blog tour

Disclosure: I received The Secret Betrothal from Meryton Press 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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persuasion tearoom chat My tearoom chat with Serena about Jane Austen’s Persuasion concludes this week with our discussion of Volume II, Chapters 7-12. Grab a cup of tea and head over to Savvy Verse & Wit to join the discussion.

(Click here if you missed the first discussion on Volume I, Chapters 1-6, here if you missed the discussion on Volume I, Chapters 7-12, and here if you missed last week’s discussion about Volume I, Chapters 1-6)

We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us!

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

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