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constant-hearts

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

He despised her; that much was clear. And she couldn’t blame him. If he’d rejected her for such shallow reasons as dowry or family status, she would have hated him, too. … Most days she despised herself, but not for the reason people would suppose.

(from Constant Hearts)

Donna Hatch’s Regency-era short story Constant Hearts (available for free on Kindle as of this posting) is inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The story centers on Amelia, the daughter of a Lord who rejected the man she loved at the urging of her uncle and then endured a horrid marriage to a man who met all of the criteria of a worthy husband but lacked all of the attributes necessary for happiness. Reed last saw Amelia six years ago when she broke his heart. Having served in the war as the private surgeon of a general, he has gained some respectability since then. The two reunite at a party and share a kiss, but Reed is still dealing with the pain of her rejection and subsequent marriage, and even though Amelia reveals her guilt over it all, he isn’t ready to forgive her just yet.

Amelia is more forthcoming with her feelings than Anne Elliot in Persuasion, and Reed seems to hold less of a grudge than Captain Wentworth, but I liked them both and that the story isn’t a straight retelling of Austen’s novel. The story is different enough and the characters intriguing enough to stand on their own. I only wish the story had been fleshed out into a novella or novel, as the character development and conclusion felt a bit rushed.

Even so, Constant Hearts is a charming short story, and Hatch managed to get me to care about Amelia and Reed from the very beginning. If you’re a fan of Persuasion, or Regency romances in general, and want a quick, satisfying read, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Disclosure: Constant Hearts is from my personal library.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

an-heir-for-pemberley

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“What amuses you?” she asked. “Tell me. I could use a distraction.”

“I was merely thinking of some of our pleasant times together.”

She glanced up at him, her eyes gleaming with amusement. “I recognize that smile. Let me guess. Were both of us less formally attired?”

“Mrs. Darcy, I am shocked,” he said with mock severity, which made her laugh.

(from An Heir for Pemberley)

Jane Grix’s An Heir for Pemberley (available for free on Kindle as of this posting) is a charming short-story sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Set three years after Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding, the couple await the imminent birth of their first child. Elizabeth is in labor, and she and Darcy spend their last moments together before the midwife’s arrival in a slow walk around the garden, enjoying some playful banter despite their nerves.

This is a sweet story, with Darcy playing the role of the devoted and anxious father and Elizabeth contemplating their happiness in marriage. Darcy thinks about how Elizabeth changed him for the better, and Elizabeth thinks about how she’s glad they didn’t have a child right away so they could get to know each other better first.

An Heir for Pemberley is the perfect story to read with a cup of tea or when you only have a few moments to slip into a book. Grix gives Pride and Prejudice fans a glimpse of Darcy and Elizabeth’s marital bliss as they prepare to embark on their next adventure. This was my first time reading Grix’s work, but it definitely won’t be the last!

Disclosure: An Heir for Pemberley is from my personal library.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

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

The profile of her grin was as awe inspiring as the impressive bombers themselves, and it was then he truly knew Lizzy Renner was special, different from any other woman he knew. She was a brilliant beacon of light in a dark world and an ingénue, ready and anxious for the next chapter of her life.

(from A Moment Forever)

A Moment Forever is a beautifully crafted novel by Cat Gardiner about a wartime romance that was so much more and a young woman determined to solve the mystery behind a handful of photos and letters that threaten to dig up long-buried secrets. In 1992, 24-year-old Juliana Martel inherits Primrose Cottage in Brooklyn, New York, from her great uncle Will, who simply walked out of the home in 1950 and never returned. Upon entering the home, dusty and unchanged from the past 50 years, Juliana finds a burned letter in the fireplace and a shrine to a beautiful, vivacious young woman named Lizzy, who obviously stole her uncle’s heart and appears to be connected to his reasons for disappearing.

Still struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father and the fact that she was abandoned by her mother when she was a child, Juliana has lost faith in true love. But when she stumbles upon the World War II-era letters and photos in her uncle’s footlocker, she is sure that Will and Lizzy’s romance is a love story for the ages and proof that a deep, abiding love is possible. A writer for Allure magazine, Juliana sets out to tell Will and Lizzy’s story and soon uncovers a tale of all-consuming passion, unimaginable evils, and overwhelming loss. Juliana’s investigation leads her to Jack Robertson of Newsday, whose connections could help her piece together the puzzle but whose determination to let sleeping dogs lie could stand in her way.

A Moment Forever is a breathtaking novel that takes readers on an emotional roller coaster as it shifts between the 1940s romance of debutante Lizzy Renner and her flyboy, Will Martel, and Juliana’s journey 50 years later that opens up old wounds while healing the holes in her own life. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller, and this novel is perfectly paced. She reveals bits and pieces of information throughout, so you think you know what’s going to happen, and then there’s another twist and turn. I had a hard time putting the book down. I laughed, I cried, I simply loved it. The characters are all endearingly flawed and skillfully developed, and there is so much to ponder about secrets, betrayals, and forgiveness. And I love how Gardiner plays homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and not just in the names of her characters. It was fun to see a little something Austenesque here and there.

A Moment Forever is not a book you merely read; Gardiner ensures you actually live the story — from the overindulgence of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the wartime excitement in the Big Apple, from the airfields and USO dances and the fashions of the ’40s to the solemnity of Paris 50 years after the roundup of its Jewish residents for deportation. There are so many layers to this story, and I never wanted it to end. It definitely will make my Best of 2016 list and ranks among my all-time favorite WWII romances.

Disclosure: I received A Moment Forever from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

the-trouble-to-check-her

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

Dreadful, awful, terrible place! She kicked the cap. How could Mrs. Drummond demand she wear such a thing — to dress as a servant, or worse, as though she were on the shelf? She was only seventeen — she was not a spinster, and she would not be one either. But how could she find a husband when she was confined to this…this asylum?

Two years, Mr. Darcy said, two years — that was nearly forever.

(from The Trouble to Check Her)

The Trouble to Check Her is the second book in Maria Grace’s The Queen of Rosings Park series, following the fantastic first installment, Mistaking Her Character. (To truly understand the goings-on in this book, I recommend that you read them in order. You won’t be sorry!) Book two in this variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on Lydia Bennet. Ruined by Mr. Wickham and cast aside by her father, Lydia has no choice but to go where Mr. Darcy sends her: to Mrs. Drummond’s school for girls in situations similar to her own. Mrs. Drummond aims to give these girls with sullied reputations a second chance; some may be lucky enough to re-enter society and marry, but they also must be prepared to accept a position as a maid, governess, or companion.

When Lydia arrives, she is angry at the Darcys for sending her away and bemoans her perceived mistreatment by her family. She is a silly, selfish girl who cannot comprehend the seriousness of her actions and cannot believe she is expected to wear a mobcap and scrub floors. She is befriended by Joan and Amelia, two girls who are just as ignorant as she is. But with the guidance of Miss Annabelle Fitzgilbert, the friendship of her roommate Juliana, and the insight and tenderness of her music master Mr. Amberson, Lydia begins to see the error of her ways and the gravity of her situation, and she wonders whether she is deserving of a second chance at love.

I never thought I could love and appreciate Lydia Bennet, but in The Trouble to Check Her, Grace deftly imagines a Lydia who isn’t forced to marry Wickham and is given the chance to grow up. This Lydia has a father who is stern, cold, angry, and unforgiving — not merely inattentive — and this Lydia has seen Wickham’s lack of feeling firsthand. Grace handles Lydia’s evolution into a worthy heroine in a believable way while making a statement about the importance of a woman’s virtue and social class in the Regency era, even showing how men were not unaffected by scandal.

Grace’s original characters are given plenty of opportunity to shine, given that Lydia is placed into an entirely new setting. I absolutely loved Annabelle, Juliana, and Mr. Amberson, and I especially enjoyed not being able to predict the outcome of the novel.

The Trouble to Check Her exemplifies why Grace is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. Her attention to detail in terms of character development and the history of the era is fantastic, and I hope there is another book in the series (mainly because I want to find out what happened to Jane Bingley after her falling out with Elizabeth Darcy). Definitely one of my favorite books of this year!

Disclosure: I received The Trouble to Check Her from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

hope for mr. darcy

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

“You are a proud man,” Richard fumed. “A proud, cowardly man.”

“So I have heard — and from a much prettier face than yours.”

(from Hope for Mr. Darcy)

Hope for Mr. Darcy is the first of three books in Jeanna Ellsworth’s Hope Series of Pride and Prejudice variations. The book opens at Hunsford after Elizabeth Bennet has read Mr. Darcy’s letter. She realizes she was wrong about him and feels guilty for the way she rejected his marriage proposal. Elizabeth’s close friend, Charlotte Collins, finds Elizabeth delirious in the rain, insisting she must write to Mr. Darcy and to her sister, Jane. Fearing for Elizabeth’s health, Charlotte sends for Mr. Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, at Rosings. As Darcy cares for Elizabeth in the early stages of her illness, he is given reason to hope that he could have another chance with her — and plenty of reason to worry, as in her delirium she is walking with him in a garden toward the sun.

After a misunderstanding causes him to lose hope once more, Darcy flees to London while Charlotte and Richard conspire to bring Darcy and Elizabeth together again. Darcy is given the chance to provide himself honorable and kind when Charlotte is left a widow with no home of her own and a baby on the way. As he pieces together the mystery surrounding one of Mr. Collins’s ledgers, he also must face his guilt as scandal threatens to ruin the Bennet family and try to prevent Richard from succumbing to his own lack of hope.

In Hope for Mr. Darcy, Ellworth creates a beautiful love story for Darcy and Elizabeth, gives Charlotte a chance to ponder and possibly move beyond her mistake in marrying Collins, introduces the delightfully sweet Avelina Gardiner, and paves the way for the second book in the series, Hope for Fitzwilliam. I love seeing Jane Austen’s secondary characters get a chance in the spotlight, and I really enjoyed the friendship between Charlotte and Richard as they join forces to ensure that Darcy and Elizabeth find happiness.

The Christian aspects of the story are obvious and might be a bit much for some readers. However, I thought Ellsworth did a good job working them into the story in a believable fashion, and no matter your religious beliefs, I think anyone could find Ellsworth’s message of hope to be comforting and inspirational.

Hope for Mr. Darcy is a strong start to the series, and I am eagerly anticipating both Fitzwilliam’s and Georgiana Darcy’s stories.

Disclosure: I received Hope for Mr. Darcy from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

pride & sensuality

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

Her easy playfulness reminded him of the reason he loved her so. How unfortunate he had spent as much time as he had denying his affections. That she had been immune to his charms never once occurred to him, and only after she had declared him the last man in the world she could be prevailed upon to marry had he realised how unworthy had been his pretences to a woman so worthy of being pleased.

(from Pride & Sensuality)

P.O. Dixon’s Pride & Sensuality is a short story variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set just days before Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding. Spending an evening at Longbourn, Darcy and Bingley must endure the talk of Mrs. Philips, the aunt of their soon-to-be brides, and the outbursts of Mrs. Bennet. Particularly embarrassed by Mrs. Philips’s comments about the men’s nether regions, Elizabeth and Darcy manage to escape the drawing room to seek solitude elsewhere in the house. Some very sensual, though fairly innocent, moments are interrupted by various members of the family — as well as a pack of dogs — and hilarity ensues.

This was a delightful story, passionate without any explicit scenes. Dixon does a great job building the sexual tension and adding bits of humorous frustration along the way. I was surprised that Elizabeth and Darcy were so daring within the walls of Longbourn, and I was entertained by a snooping Bingley and Jane.

Pride & Sensuality is a quick read, perfect for a quiet, lazy morning. It’s just a glimpse of Darcy and Elizabeth, ending with their wedding night, but it is sweet (in more ways than one) and leaves plenty to the imagination. Another fun story from P.O. Dixon!

Disclosure: I received Pride & Sensuality from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Today, I’m delighted to welcome poet George HS Singer to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of his new collection, Ergon. I was intrigued by the poem “To Charlotte Who Fled Hitler,” and I asked if he could tell me and my readers about his inspiration for the poem. Before I turn it over to George, I hope you’ll read the poem that caught my eye, and look for my review of Ergon in early November.

To Charlotte Who Fled Hitler

This year, ninety-five and blind.
Whose mind reaches
through her walking sticks
with spidery intelligence, their tips
scuffed rubber, canes of polished sapwood,
made kinetic by her hands
as if, released, they will stand of themselves.

Our short talks,
only clear words these forty years.
She says, This is very happy-making.
Or How terrible, how terrible.
Before a meal: Now the great experience begins.
Of her eyes: Now the skin must guide.

ERGON_coverPlease give a warm welcome to George HS Singer:

I’ve had the good fortune in my life of getting to study with and befriend some wonderful teachers. In my book, Ergon, I have written a few poems about them because of the powerful imprint they made and continue to make on me decades after last seeing them alive. And I suppose I want other people to know them if only from a glimpse.

The poem “To Charlotte Who Fled Hitler” is a remembrance of a remarkable woman, Charlotte Selver who taught a form of mindfulness she called Sensory Awareness. Though she was not blind, she became profoundly deaf as a relatively young woman after she escaped from Nazi Germany where she had been ejected from a university faculty because of her 25% Jewish blood.

In her late nineties she started using canes to aid walking and she did it with such awareness of the ground and the vertical rise of the sticks that the way she proceeded was balletic with a kind of natural panache. The sticks actually looked alive to me as she approached. She was focused entirely on awareness of the moment as well as letting her body move and breathe in ways that were fully responsive to what was there in the senses. She knew words could be a distraction and could do violence to experience when they block awareness of the present. So when she spoke it was with such care that her speech was plain, direct, and heart felt.

She and her husband Charles used to lead sensory awareness classes on Monhegan Island off of the Maine coast during the summer. Charles would make cod stew (the cod fishery had not yet collapsed) in an immense pot that could feed twenty or more. Once I was reaching into the pot with a ladle and Charlotte commented, “Ah now the great adventure begins.” I still remember the expanse and powerfully enticing smell of that pot of chowder after she got me to really give it my attention. She lived to be 104 and left a foundation and several former students who continue her work. It is quite wonderful in its simplicity but very powerful in its effect.

She simply had us do basic actions like sitting and standing up, reaching for a stone and lifting it, or walking across the room, all the while asking us questions: Is your breathe responding now to the weight (lifting a stone)? Can you sense the full length of you from the top of your head to the feeling of the floor under you (standing up)? She called “standing up”, “coming to standing” as a wondrous vital action that can happen of itself if not blocked by habit or muffled by inattention.

One of the outcomes of studying with her was that I became very interested in the sense of touch that I try to call upon in my poems to ground them. I still ask myself her kinds of questions when I have the presence of mind to wake up a little. She paraphrased Paracelsus to the effect that one should add nothing to nor take anything away from experience. The kind of direct positive encounter with the world that she exemplified and taught is something that maybe I will one day approximate in a poem. Ergon represents efforts in this direction. In the poem, I took the liberty of making her blind rather than deaf. I hope I captured something of her in it and wish I had written it while she was still alive. There is a video of Charlotte Selver giving a brief talk in one of her classes. If interested, you can see her beauty well into old age and hear her directness of speech as she taught.

***

About the Poet

GeorgeSinger_AuthorGeorge HS Singer, a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H.  He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life.  Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.

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About Ergon

George Singer’s Ergon is precise, delicate and fierce in its engagement with the world.

George HS Singer, a former Buddhist monk, has written a debut collection of poems about his life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life when he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.

Check out Ergon on Amazon | Goodreads

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© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.