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the subsequent proposal

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

The fact that she had seen fit to accept him did bring a measure of surprise, particularly in view of her stilted disclosures about her broken heart — but also brought some sort of mild contentment, at the full knowledge that, in Miss Elliot’s kind and capable hands, Georgiana’s future would be safe and well guarded.

And so was Pemberley’s.  And perhaps his own.

(from The Subsequent Proposal, page 23)

Quick summary: In The Subsequent Proposal, Joana Starnes deftly brings together characters from two of Jane Austen’s novels: Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.  Reeling from his rejection at the hands of Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy meets Anne Elliot through his Fitzwilliam relations, and they forge a bond based on friendship and their mutual understanding of lost love and heartache.  Mr. Darcy sees how Anne is treated by her family and vows to give her a better life, even if he can never give her his heart.  After Anne accepts his proposal, Mr. Darcy must go to Hertfordshire in support of his best friend.  When he finds that Elizabeth has caught the eye of a certain naval captain, he begins to rethink the decisions he made in the midst of his pain.

Why I wanted to read it: I wanted to see how the characters from two of my all-time favorite novels would interact with one another.

What I liked: Starnes tells the story through Darcy’s eyes, and she does an excellent job showing the roller coaster of emotions he rode after Elizabeth spurned his insulting marriage proposal.  Readers see the depth of his love and his despair at the thought of her not being in his life.  I loved watching Darcy and Captain Wentworth — two of my favorite literary heroes — in a competition of sorts.  But most of all, I loved that Starnes created a world where I could accept that Darcy and Anne would make a sensible match, even if she lacks Elizabeth’s liveliness and wit.

What I disliked: I honestly didn’t find anything to dislike in this novel, but at times I wished I could’ve seen some of the events through the eyes of Captain Wentworth.

Final thoughts: The Subsequent Proposal makes it seem as though the characters of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion were meant to be together.  I love it when Austen-inspired fiction shakes things up a bit, and Starnes certainly does that!  I enjoyed the many sides of Darcy that she presents throughout the novel, and I was delighted to see him go toe-to-toe with Captain Wentworth, Sir Walter Elliot, and Lady Russell.  This was the first novel by Starnes that I’ve read, but it definitely won’t be the last!

Disclosure: I received The Subsequent Proposal 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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to refine like silver

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

Mr. Darcy tried to hold it back, but he knew he could not keep a straight face for long.  “Something tells me you have a lot to say on just about any subject, madam.  I gather your tongue has less restraint than a child with a farthing in his pocket in a sweet shop.”

“Are you calling me impertinent?”

“Does it rain in England in November?”

(from To Refine Like Silver, pages 39-40)

Quick summary: To Refine Like Silver is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that is among the most unique variations I have read so far.  Elizabeth Bennet meets Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, in Derbyshire while helping her Uncle and Aunt Gardiner settle into their new estate.  Elizabeth recognizes that the light has gone out of Georgiana’s eyes, and she vows to help her overcome the pain of what happened to her at Ramsgate.  In Jeanna Ellsworth’s retelling, the pain in Elizabeth’s own past is a huge obstacle to her happiness with Mr. Darcy, but Elizabeth is a survivor, and in sharing her faith with the Darcys, she helps them understand what it means to trust in God and how one’s trials refine, not define, them.

Why I wanted to read it:  I enjoyed Ellsworth’s previous Pride and Prejudice variations, Mr. Darcy’s Promise and Pride and Persistence, so even though I don’t read much Christian fiction, I was curious how she would shake things up this time.

What I liked: Ellsworth really poured her heart out into this novel, sharing with readers through Austen’s beloved characters how she was able to emerge from depression.  There is much grief and anger in this story, but the banter between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy keeps it from being too heavy.  Ellsworth takes several characters on different journeys in this variation, including Elizabeth, Darcy, and Georgiana, of course, but also Mrs. Bennet, Caroline Bingley, and Mr. Wickham.  Because Ellsworth really alters the storyline, I had no idea how the characters would get to the obvious happily ever after, so it was easy to get lost in this book.  I also liked Ellsworth’s take on Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, making them more playful with one another (the frog-catching scene was hilarious), and she makes Mrs. Bennet and Miss Bingley even nastier than in the original, which certainly creates some tension (and made me want to throttle them).

What I disliked: The religious aspect of the book generally comes out through the characters’ actions and conversations with one another, but there were times I felt that it was a bit overdone.  However, I had no problem overlooking this because it made sense in the context of the characters’ spiritual journeys, and the plot changes were so interesting.

Final thoughts: To Refine Like Silver is a story of surviving the worst that life throws at us, feeling the pain but not letting it consume us, trusting that happiness and joy will come again, and learning to forgive (but not forget) in order to find peace within ourselves.  Regardless of one’s faith, I think the words of wisdom from Elizabeth’s prayer journal could be helpful to all.  Ellsworth’s novels always bring a smile to my face, and her Pride and Prejudice variations are both refreshing and romantic.

Disclosure: I received To Refine Like Silver 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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a tender moment

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

Elizabeth approached the couple and directed her ire towards the gentleman.  “How dare you speak so callously about my mother?  You know nothing about her!”

Standing there with an air that proved him wholly unmoved by any feeling of remorse, Darcy said, “I know enough about her to know that she failed to teach you proper decorum.  How dare you remark on a conversation clearly not intended for your hearing?”

(from “A Tender Moment”)

Quick summary: “A Tender Moment” is the third installment in P.O. Dixon’s Darcy & Elizabeth Short Stories series of standalone Pride and Prejudice variations.  This particular story is set at the party at Lucas Lodge, where Elizabeth Bennet overhears Mr. Darcy make a rude comment about her mother to Caroline Bingley.  Elizabeth immediately confronts him, and a heated argument ensues.  After being fiercely scolded, Darcy takes stock of his feelings for Elizabeth, how she continually misunderstands him and how it is possible that he really has been ungentlemanly toward her.  When Darcy overhears her speaking of her dislike of him, he is more determined than ever to set things right.

Why I wanted to read it:  I wanted to read it for the Pride and Prejudice connection, of course, but I’ve been so pressed for time lately that I also was in the mood for something that could be read in one sitting.  I also enjoyed Dixon’s A Lasting Love Affair, and I wanted to read more of her work.

What I liked: “A Tender Moment” is a sweet story about misunderstandings and new beginnings.  Dixon lets readers into the minds of Darcy and Elizabeth, putting on display their uncertainties, their misconceptions, their desire and willingness to change, the stirrings of attraction, and the promise of something more.  The story is a just a moment in a bigger story — just enough to satisfy readers’ desire to catch up with Elizabeth and Darcy without the commitment of a novel.

What I disliked: There was little description; it was mostly internal dialogue.  However, I was able to overlook that because “A Tender Moment” is meant to be just that: one moment between Elizabeth and Darcy, a turning point of sorts.  Still, it felt like it ended just as the story was beginning.

Final thoughts: “A Tender Moment” is a worthwhile read for fans of Austen variations who are looking for something short and sweet, a story to distract them for a half hour or so.

Disclosure: I received “A Tender Moment” 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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At Home With Mr. Darcy

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

‘Shall I tackle her now?’ Warwick asked Katherine.

‘I don’t like your use of the word tackle,’ Katherine said.  ‘It sounds like you’re going to get her in some sort of head lock.’

‘I wish I could,’ he said, ‘then maybe I could make her see reason.’

‘You haven’t got to make her see reason,’ Katherine said, ‘only the joys of Jane Austen.’

‘Isn’t that the same thing?’ Warwick asked with a lopsided smile that still melted Katherine.  ‘Leave her to me.  You go and buy yourself a book or something in the shop.’

Katherine laughed.  ‘I don’t need any encouragement to buy books.’

(from At Home With Mr. Darcy)

Quick summary: In the 6th installment of Victoria Connelly’s Austen Addicts series, At Home With Mr. Darcy, Dame Pamela Harcourt of Purley Hall is hosting a Jane Austen Holiday in Derbyshire, the home of Mr. Darcy.  Connelly brings back characters from her previous novels and novellas — newlyweds Warwick and Katherine, Robyn, sisters Roberta and Rose, the moody Mrs. Soames (who brings along her daughter, Annie), and the endearing Doris Norris — for a trip to Chatsworth House and Lyme Park, which became Mr. Darcy’s grand estate, Pemberley, in the movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.  But the Janeites are in for some trouble in the form of journalist Melissa Berry, who knows nothing about Jane Austen and doesn’t understand why people remain so interested in her novels today.  The gang sets out to show Melissa the relevance of Austen’s work in the present day and to make her fall in love with Austen herself.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m a big fan of the Austen Addicts series.  (Check out my reviews: A Weekend With Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy Forever, Christmas With Mr. Darcy, and Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy)

What I liked: I love that Connelly has continued this series.  I love these characters, and every time I read a new installment, it feels like I’m catching up with old friends.  Connelly made me feel like I was on holiday with the Janeites and actually visiting the homes with them.  There was a hint of romance for one of the characters, and I couldn’t help but laugh at what happened to another character.  I loved the side stories about Katherine and Warwick settling into their Georgian manor and Robyn’s husband, Dan, trying to take care of their cottage, their toddler, and his horse riding center on his own for a few days.  But most of all, I loved all the talk about books and all-things-Austen, especially the conversation between Robyn and Katherine, a doctor of English literature, about whether Chatsworth was Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley:

‘You think it foolish to try and find the real Pemberley?’ Robyn asked.

‘Not foolish, exactly,’ Katherine said.  ‘I think we all carry it inside us, don’t we?  We each have our own individual version that no film director can really create for us.’

What I disliked:  This novella was delightful and entertaining, and the only thing I disliked was that I finished it so quickly.

Final thoughts: At Home With Mr. Darcy (and the entire Austen Addicts series) is a pure delight for Jane Austen fans.  Readers will want to start from the beginning to fully appreciate these characters and their Austen obsession, but it won’t take long to catch up because only the first three installments are full-length novels.  I may not own any Mr. Darcy trinkets or be able to quote extensively from the novels, but I connect with these characters through a shared love of reading.  Connelly shows that Janeites are proud of their love of Austen but also are able to poke fun at their obsession, and she highlights the sense of community among the Janeites.  At Home With Mr. Darcy is lighthearted and fun, and I really hope Connelly plans on continuing the series.

Disclosure: I received At Home With Mr. Darcy 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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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Lady Catherine, now purple about the gills, opened and closed her mouth like the trout he fished in the Pemberley streams, but before she could utter another word, Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke.  ‘There is no more to discuss, except to say that I am willing to forgive and forget, there will be no further reference to the interview that has taken place or to your past misdemeanours if you abide by my rules.’

Without waiting for a further reaction, Mr. Darcy turned on his heel and marched out of the room, aware that his aunt was left flabbergasted, stunned, and for once, quite speechless.

(from Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds)

Quick summary: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and a Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella by Jane Odiwe.  Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have only been married for a few weeks when they invite the Bingleys, the Bennets, and Lady Catherine to Pemberley for Christmas.  Their happiness is interrupted when Elizabeth loses a diamond ring that is a Darcy family heirloom, and the Wickhams come around with news of a scandal that could tarnish the Darcy name.  With Lydia prancing around the ballroom saying things she shouldn’t, Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley united in their dislike of the Bennets, and Darcy’s distant and mysterious French cousins Antoine and Louise de Valois becoming fast friends of Georgiana’s, it’s not surprising that Pemberley is in a state of chaos.

Why I wanted to read it: Odiwe is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  I’ve enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read so far: Lydia Bennet’s Story, Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Searching for Captain Wentworth, and Project Darcy.

What I liked: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds gives readers a peek into Darcy and Elizabeth’s happily ever after, showing the depths of their passion without getting too steamy and how the strength of their love will enable them to conquer any challenge thrown at them.  Odiwe does a great job packing a lot into such a short story so that I was never bored, nor did I feel overwhelmed.  I loved that there was a bit of mystery and scandal — and especially that I didn’t figure it out right away.  I also enjoyed the original characters, Antoine and Louise, and how secondary characters like Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh are fleshed out a little more.

What I disliked: I wish the story had been longer, but I was happy to read at the end that another Jewel Box Novella is coming soon!

Final thoughts: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is the perfect short read for a brisk afternoon, with a cup of tea and Christmas on the horizon.  Odiwe is one of those authors whose books always make my wish list as soon as I hear about them, and I’ve never been disappointed.  I enjoyed watching Elizabeth come into her own as the mistress of Pemberley, forging close bonds with the tenants and softening Darcy’s rough edges.  Most of all, I enjoyed Georgiana’s story, seeing her come out of her shell and become more confident in the months since the ordeal with Wickham, and I can’t wait for Odiwe to continue her story.

Disclosure: I received Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds 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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the annoted persuasion

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from.  Half an hour’s solitude and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only, which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity.  Every moment rather brought fresh agitation.  It was an overpowering happiness.

(from The Annotated Persuasion, page 454)

Quick summary: I’m not going to rehash the plot of Persuasion, since this is my second time reading this novel, but you can click here if you’d like to read my thoughts after reading it for the first time.  I’m going to focus more on the annotations by David M. Shapard.  The Annotated Persuasion may seem long at just over 500 pages, but the actual novel is only half of the book.  Jane Austen’s words are on the left page, and Shapard’s annotations are conveniently placed on the right.

Why I wanted to read it: I sort of read all of Jane Austen’s novels blind the first time around, with only the minimal footnotes provided at the back of the various editions I own.  When I learned about Shapard’s annotated editions, chock full of information about the era during which Austen’s novels were written, I just had to add them to my Austen collection.

What I liked: Everything!  Shapard’s annotations cover everything from definitions of words that may be unfamiliar to modern readers to why Austen spelled words a certain way, from tidbits about the culture and society of the time to analyses of various passages, from illustrations of various buildings in Bath, clothing, and forms of transportation to maps that show where the characters lived and traveled.  These annotations made my second reading of Persuasion a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  I finished the novel for the second time with a richer understanding of the characters and the time period and a better appreciation for Austen’s genius.  And best of all, putting the text of the novel and the annotations side by side eliminates the annoyance of having to constantly flip to the back of the book to read the footnotes.

What I disliked: Honestly, I found nothing to dislike about The Annotated Persuasion, which was not surprising to me because I already knew I loved the novel.  However, I think the extensive annotations may be both a help and a hindrance to readers taking on Persuasion for the first time.  With numerous annotations per page, it might be distracting to read a bit of the novel, shift to the annotations, read more of the novel, and then shift back to the annotations.  I never felt lost because I always knew where I was in the story and what would happen next, but I could see how easy it would be to get lost if you were reading it for the first time.

Final thoughts: The Annotated Persuasion is the perfect book for Austen fans or readers who simply want to delve deeper into the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth.  Shapard covers so many topics that it’s impossible to list them all, but it’s obvious he has done his homework in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the novel.  Most of all, I loved revisiting one of my favorite novels, and I loved it ever more the second time around.  I can’t wait to read the other annotated editions by Shapard that are currently in my collection: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, The Annotated Emma, and The Annotated Sense and SensibilityThe Annotated Northanger Abbey is on my wish list, and you can bet I’ll be adding The Annotated Mansfield Park to my collection when it is released next year.

Disclosure: The Annotated Persuasion 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.

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the madness of mr. darcyIf you were wondering why I hadn’t been around the blogs much recently, it was because I had an opportunity I could not pass up.  I’ve long wanted to devote my editorial skills to fiction, so when Alexa Adams (whose Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley are among my favorites in the genre) asked me to edit her latest novel, of course, I had to say yes!  I enjoyed working with Alexa on this project, I’m proud of my contribution, and I hope it will lead to other editing opportunities in the future.

The Madness of Mr. Darcy is now available:

The year is 1832 and regrets beleaguer Fitzwilliam Darcy.  All he ever cared for has been taken from him: his pride, his sister, and his true love, Elizabeth Bennet.  Now, having nearly murdered a man in a fit of rage, he might lose Pemberley, too.  More than just his home, his very identity is at stake.  In desperation, he seeks the help of Dr. Frederick Wilson, owner and proprietor of Ramsey House, a madhouse for fine ladies and gentlemen.  Is Darcy’s confinement the inevitable end to his tortured descent, or will he rediscover what he lost in the most unlikely of places?

I am excited to share an excerpt of The Madness of Mr. Darcy, and Alexa is offering a giveaway as well (see details below).

March 1813

Elizabeth could not sleep. She sat on the window ledge of her bedroom at Longbourn staring out across the lawn towards the long, irregular drive. It had been eight months since her sister, Lydia, had run away from Brighton, and they had no word of her since. Elizabeth was growing accustomed to a lack of sleep, and the long nights passed between painful contemplation and futile attempts to avoid such thoughts altogether – thoughts of what might have happened to her sister.

It was nearly a full moon, and by its determined light, she suddenly perceived movement by the drive’s end, where the palings marked the entrance to the small estate. Staring determinedly in their direction, she was shocked to perceive a scantily clad figure running towards the house. She started, and quickly confirming the truth of what her senses perceived, secured her shawl about her shoulders and raced out her bedroom, down the stairs, through the hall, and unlocked the front door.

“Lydia!” she cried at the familiar face before all similarity to her youngest sibling disappeared beneath the spectacle of a disheveled creature, thrusting itself into her arms and sobbing violently.

The house began to rouse at the noise as Elizabeth half carried, half dragged the woman she was certain must be Lydia (though she still wished to look at her face again for confirmation of that distressing notion) into the nearest parlor, where she flopped upon the couch, a spectacle for the first servants to arrive on scene, and wrapped herself more tightly into Elizabeth’s arms, weeping yet harder.

It was impossible to get her to raise her head, but Elizabeth knew it was she. She wrapped an arm around the mound of tattered fabric in her lap and began to make a shushing noise, as to a baby.

“Lizzy! What is this?” Her mother’s voice demanded.

“Shhh!” she said louder, and then in quiet but shocked tones, “Tis Lydia, I think!”

“Lydia?” her mother repeated, blinking absently while her husband, at her side, clutched the door for support and grew remarkably pale.

“My God!” he exclaimed, his wife still agape and unmoving.

“What is it, Mama?” Elizabeth heard Kitty say, though she could no longer watch the tableau her family presented, all her attention being demanded by the person in her arms. “Why is Lizzy cradling a beggar?”

“Quiet, child!” her mother replied, suddenly stirred into action. She approached her youngest, dearest child. She knelt beside the sofa and reached for the crying creature’s face with both hands, holding it up for inspection. The incessant weeping stopped, and Mrs. Bennet stared into her favorite’s face, dirty and tear-streaked. Tears welled in her own eyes as she said, “Oh, my darling,” and wrapped her arms around her, taking Elizabeth’s burden beside her on the couch. The two women wept together in each other’s arms for several moments before Lydia suddenly, and with great violence, pushed her mother away and dove back to Lizzy, holding her far too tightly. The weeping was replaced by a strange whimpering noise, rather squeaky and frantic.

Mr. Bennet helped his wife to rise from the floor, where she had very unceremoniously landed. The lady rose while holding a hand to her cheek, which revealed a smear of blood when she examined it. “She scratched me!” Mrs. Bennet said in astonishment. “What does this mean, Mr. Bennet?”

The gentleman walked cautiously towards his daughter, whose face was now easier to see where it perched over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “My God!” he said again. “She is mad!”

“It is as Mr. Collins said,” Mary interjected, thinking of everything she had ever read of womanly virtue. “It would have been better if she were dead.”

No one made any reply.

Giveaway:

There are 2 copies of The Madness of Mr. Darcy up for grabs.  International readers will receive an ebook, and U.S. readers will have a choice between an ebook or a paperback.  This giveaway will close Sunday, October 19.  To enter, leave a comment with your email address telling me what most interests you about this novel.  The winners will be notified by email.

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

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