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no-fury

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

He deserves to have everything stolen from him. Which is kind of what I plan on doing to him. Starting with his happiness. Next is his sanity. But if the latter comes first, that will be all right as well.

(from No Fury)

No Fury by A. Lynn Powers is not the type of book I normally read, but when I downloaded this as a Kindle freebie a while back, I was in the mood for something light and funny. Normally when I download a free book, I read the first page or two before deciding whether to delete it or file it away for another day. This time I read about 10 percent of the book before I knew it, so I just figured I’d keep going.

The novel is narrated by Amber Williams, an ex-wife so focused on revenge that she conspires to have her ex-husband become the star of a reality dating show with a twist. Unbeknownst to Amber’s former husband, Patrick Bradford, this Bachelor-like show gives his ex-wife control over his future happiness — or misery. Amber is secretly residing in the mansion where the show is being filmed, watching it unfold on various television screens, and she is the one who decides each week which of the 12 women vying for Patrick’s affections goes home. So, of course, Amber starts rooting for the women she knows will make Patrick as miserable as he made her during their marriage. But how long can Amber hang on to her anger and bitterness as she gains more from the show than merely the opportunity to inflict pain on Patrick?

I’ll be honest that my expectations for this book weren’t very high, but I enjoyed No Fury much more than I thought I would. I don’t watch reality dating shows, and I am not someone who gets hellbent on revenge, but something intrigued me about this story. I found Amber to be an interesting character. She is at turns funny and endearing. There were a lot of times I wanted to shake some sense into her and times I wanted to hug her. But the humorous tone of the story kept me reading, and I enjoyed watching Amber evolve.

Amber’s reasons for disliking Patrick are valid, ranging from lack of support for her career in fashion design to failing to rein in his overbearing mother. With the use of the first person viewpoint, it’s not surprising that Patrick is mostly portrayed as wholly awful and Amber as an innocent victim. But even so, Amber’s flaws are evident. Powers also lets readers see behind the scenes of the show, which reveals even more about the characters. However, it was confusing to keep track of the 12 contestants, and Amber’s frequent lists of their pros and cons felt repetitive at times. Moreover, there were some editorial issues but nothing so horrible that I wanted to abandon the book.

Overall, No Fury is enjoyable for what it is — a light read perfect for a lazy day or in between more serious books. It certainly grabbed my attention when I least expected it and provided a well-needed diversion during some hectic work days.

Disclosure: No Fury 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.

unleashing-mr-darcy

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

As she crossed the ring back toward Mr. Darcy, a lump formed in her throat. Rebellious tears stung the backs of her eyes, threatening to spill over and make her humiliation complete.

She brought Bliss to a halt about an arm’s distance away from him and waited for some sort of dismissal. He appraised her with one slightly arched brow in a way that made Elizabeth wonder if he was evaluating the dog’s appearance or her own.

(from Unleashing Mr. Darcy)

Teri Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy is a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set on the dog show circuit. Forced to leave her teaching job at an elite Manhattan school due to a scandal, Elizabeth Scott heads to England with her beloved dog Bliss to care for her new friend Sue’s show dogs. But even crossing the ocean doesn’t get her away from Donovan Darcy, the sexy British dog breeder and judge whom Elizabeth finds herself attracted to despite his annoying arrogance. As the two grow closer and the hostility between them lessens while the passion ramps up, they seem destined to be kept apart. They must navigate numerous obstacles, from the schemes of Helena Robson and Darcy’s Aunt Constance to the troubles Elizabeth thought she left behind in New York.

I read Unleashing Mr. Darcy earlier this year in preparation for the Hallmark movie adaptation (more on that later), and I am shamefully behind in posting reviews of non-blog-tour books. I found the novel to be thoroughly enjoyable and definitely spicier than allowed on Hallmark! The developing attraction and interactions between Donovan and Elizabeth felt true to their characters, and I thought Wilson did a good job creatively adapting Pride and Prejudice via dog shows (which I know absolutely nothing about but enjoyed nonetheless). I also liked how she revamped Austen’s characters so they felt fresh and modern but were still recognizable.

I must admit I liked the novel much more than the Hallmark movie adaptation. It felt like a lot of the details from the book were missing, details that were important to the plot in my opinion. Also, Elizabeth’s treatment of Darcy was a lot harsher than in the book while Darcy’s character was softened a bit. This made it harder for me to understand their attraction. So if you watched the movie first and then decided the book wasn’t for you, I strongly encourage you to forget the movie and give the book a try.  I definitely plan to read more by Wilson down the road.

Disclosure: I borrowed Unleashing Mr. Darcy from my public library.

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

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.