Feeds:
Posts
Comments
weeping women springs

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

“There must be another way to protect our country that doesn’t involve the death of all of our young boys.”

“The world hasn’t discovered it yet.”

“They haven’t looked very hard. Maybe that’s because all the young men keep offering themselves up for war. Perhaps because they keep sacrificing themselves. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

(from Weeping Women Springs)

Quick summary: Weeping Women Springs is a novel about an isolated town in New Mexico known as Hope Springs, where just a taste of the water from the spring will make you feel hope, maybe even heal you, and you’ll never want to leave. No one knows the reason why the spring water has such a magical effect on people, but the residents go to great lengths to protect their secret. However, Hope Springs’ wartime losses draw attention to the town, and the grieving women are no longer able to draw strength from the water. Tamara Eaton takes readers on a journey from the early days of the United States’ involvement in World War II through the Korean War and beyond as the women of what once was known as Hope Springs remember how things were before the wars and explain how they did their best to honor their men and pick up the pieces left behind in the aftermath.

Why I wanted to read it: I liked the idea of a World War II novel with a bit of magical realism.

What I liked: I enjoyed how Eaton told the story in the voices of the women of the town: Liv, who is strong, determined, and outspoken, puts the needs of the town first, and ultimately becomes a leader in the Council; Maxine, who runs the general store alone after the deaths of her parents and marries her high school sweetheart just before he goes off to war; Ruth, who often butts head with Liv and whose desire to find happiness is at odds with the goals of the Council; and Susie, who loses herself in books to escape her grief. Eaton also includes the journals of Anna, whose three sons all went off to war. Even though the women are revisiting the past and telling their stories to a journalist, Eaton manages to put readers into the center of the town and into the heads of each of the characters, feeling the excitement right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the despair that accompanies their losses.

What I disliked: At times I found parts of the story hard to believe, mainly the actions of the Council in controlling the lives of the townspeople and the extreme actions of the grief-stricken women. However, it did make sense in the context of the story and in the way the characters were developed, and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel.

Final thoughts: Weeping Women Springs is a thoughtful, complex tale of the sacrifices made on the homefront during wartime, with those left behind forced to contend with the fact that their loved ones were never coming home. Eaton shows how war rips apart people in the literal sense and also tears apart the lives of those who never set foot on an actual battlefield. The women are able to go on because of their devotion to their soldiers, the routines they adopt to honor their memory, and the town’s ability to hide from the outside world. And when their way of life must come to an end, Eaton shows how they still manage to move forward.

Disclosure: I received Weeping Women Springs 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.

lost among the living

Source: Review copy from NAL
Rating: ★★★★★

Someone should write a poem, I thought, about the women. Not just about the men marching bravely to war and dying, but about their wives, their girls, their mothers and sisters and daughters, sitting in silence and screaming into the darkness. … Someone should write a poem about the women. But I already knew that no one ever would.

(from Lost Among the Living)

Quick summary: Lost Among the Living, the latest novel by Simone St. James, is an atmospheric tale set in Sussex, England, in 1921. The novel is told from the point of view of Jo Manders, whose husband, Alex, went missing in The Great War when his plane went down. She is an unofficial war widow, and without a body to claim, and therefore no widow’s pension, she takes the role of paid companion to her husband’s aunt, Dottie Forsyth, who is focused on two things: selling the art she bought while touring the Continent and finding a wife for her wounded son, Martin, who is only now returning from the war. Not long after she arrives at Wych Elm House, Jo sees the ghost of Dottie’s daughter, Frances Forsyth, whose mental illness and mysterious death sparked numerous rumors about the family. Jo is determined to find out why Frances keeps appearing only to her — even if it means she must come to terms with the fact that she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did.

Why I wanted to read it: I love ghost stories, and I was intrigued by the connection to the Great War.

What I liked: So many times I stumble upon a novel that is supposed to be creepy, atmospheric, and suspenseful only to be let down. But St. James exceeded my expectations with her vivid descriptions (I could easily picture the mist and the blowing leaves that characterized the dreary landscape), and there were even a few times that I contemplated putting the book down because I didn’t want to read it while alone in the house at night. I thought the plot and the characters were well developed, and the pacing was spot on in terms of building suspense. I liked that I was able to put together some but not all of the pieces of the mystery, and the way St. James weaves in the war and Alex’s secrets was clever. The use of the first person viewpoint created even more suspense in that readers only know what Jo knows.

What I disliked: Nothing! If I hadn’t been so busy, I probably would’ve read this book in one sitting.

Final thoughts: Simone St. James is a new-to-me writer, and as soon as I finished Lost Among the Living I determined that I must read her previous novels, which all seem to be equally suspenseful. I loved her writing here, particularly the passages that describe the intensity of Jo and Alex’s relationship, which enable readers to feel Jo’s grief and the frustration inherent in not knowing Alex’s fate. I also liked that while there was romance and passion, Lost Among the Living is at its core a ghost story, but it’s so much more than that. St. James shows the impact of the war on the returning soldiers and the women whose men never came home, as well as the blurring of the boundaries between social classes and how greed and selfishness can tear families apart. It was a deeper, richer novel than I expected and a strong contender for my Best of 2016 list.

Disclosure: I received Lost Among the Living from NAL for review.

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

It is my pleasure to welcome Cat Gardiner to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Undercover. I will be reviewing this fantastic-sounding novel in June, so stay tuned!

UNDERCOVER – AN AUSTEN NOIR
THE ROMANTIC COLLISION OF THREE WORLDS

Thank you, Anna, for inviting me to share Undercover with your readers at Diary of An Eccentric. It is an honor to visit for the first time and introduce another side of my Pride and Prejudice inspired work.

undercover book coverMy latest novel was written on a dare, believe it or not. Pamela Lynne, my publishing partner and friend at Vanity & Pride Press, and I were chatting one night when she had a light-bulb moment for me to write something that hadn’t been done in the JA fandom before: A crime fiction Noir in my own Cat-style. I was unsure that I could do it justice lest both Jane Austen and Raymond Chandler rolled over in their graves. But Pamela wouldn’t let up, confident that if I can write WWII-era Romantic Dramas as well as a Mr. Darcy on a Harley that I would be up for the task and neither authors would be offended — too much. My muse, feeling uninspired in another project, eventually took up the challenge. And what a challenge it was given that I only write third person and that I didn’t want to make the story too dark, and, of course wanting to provide a happy ending. The latter two, IMHO are essential for an Austenesque novel, but not for a true Noir. Yet, I needed to incorporate all the other elements that make an intriguing, hard-boiled detective novel, simultaneously giving it my own voice within, something that my readers have come to expect.

Undercover became a collision of three worlds, two that were already familiar. My adoration of 20th Century Historical Fiction and my love of Pride and Prejudice together combined with the sultry, dramatic theme of Noir (or more precisely, in the case of Undercover, hard-boiled crime fiction, but that wouldn’t read well on the book cover.😉 )

The Austenesque theme for me was easy since my style of P&P is inspired, giving me much more latitude in where I can go with our dear characters in a modern world. This novel kept certain character traits but focused on a 20th Century “What-if” scenario.

What if in 1952:

• What if Wickham was more debauched than we had realized?
• What if Mary King’s uncle hadn’t whisked her away to safety?
• What if Elizabeth hadn’t married, either to save her family’s future or for love and instead chose to become a career girl.
• What if Jane was truly a vain and mercenary creature and sibling rivalry existed between the two “most beloved” sisters?
• What if that relationship with Jane altered Elizabeth, making her insecure and feeling unworthy — maybe even unloved? Would she be more susceptible to Wickham’s advances?
• What if Bingley had arrived — with Darcy — after Wickham had come and gone?
• What if Darcy’s back story tormented him? Any other man (except our Darcy) would have been broken, but he hid his anguish behind a façade.
• What if Elizabeth met Darcy as a matured, confident woman who knew what she wanted and was already settled into a non-traditional role in society.

blackandwhiteNow for the challenging part of incorporating some of the thematic elements of a post-WWII, hard-boiled detective story. Unlike characters Sam Spade, Charlie Chan, and Philip Marlowe, we are not hearing their voice in a first person narrative – Undercover is told in a third person, alternating POV. But what we do have is:

• A gruff tone when in certain characters’ POV, using slang and period words like “dame,” “flatfoot,” “moxie.”
• Necessary characters such as a police detective, a femme fatale, a private investigator, the shrew, the sympathetic friend, the psycho, and the emotionally scarred, beefcake hero who always gets the girl.
• An intricate plot with flashbacks and a smoking gun.
• A visual mood, filled with shadows and a dark city, smoky bars, and the ever-present cigarette.
• Sensuality in the darkness.
• Clichés and similes that don’t quite make sense, yet add to the thematic traits of a rough-around-the-edges police detective from the wrong side of the tracks.

The third component of Undercover is the part I live and breathe: 20th Century Historical Fiction and the fun of weaving research finds into the novel. The backdrop is set in New York City, 1952, at a time when gender equality wasn’t any further along following the gains of the “Rosie the Riveter” vital movement into the workforce. Post-war life had settled back into a focus on family (hence the following Baby-boomer Generation) in an attempt to return to normalcy by restoring all things to pre-war 1941. Women had been forced out of the factories when “the boys” returned home. “Career girls” existed, of course, but in limited areas such as nursing, secretarial, and shop girls. Certainly not as a gumshoe (private investigator) such as Elizabeth. But in Undercover, we also explore an alternative career choice prevalent in NYC at the time on 52nd Street: that of a bump-n-grind girl, a stripper.

Historically, 1952 was an iconic (and atomic) year of milestones – but today, they seem blips on the map of forgotten historical significance. Just to name a few:

• In this early Cold War era, we were two years into the Korean War, which, then, had been referred to as a “police action,” yet history would tell us how more than 40,000 American G.I.s never came home.
• General Dwight D. Eisenhower became President with a slogan “I Like Ike,” vowing to bring our boys home.
• Codename “Mike,” the United States’ first hydrogen bomb had been successfully tested on an atoll in the South Pacific.
• The first sexual reassignment was performed.
• Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigation into un-American, Communist activities sparked the Second Red Scare in America, coining the term “McCarthyism.”

havanaAs our hero and heroine travel from New York City to Havana, it was a wonderful experience to embark on research about the complicated political atmosphere, yet dynamic lifestyle of pre-Castro Cuba in 1952.

In a coup d’etat, Fulgencio Batista had returned to power as president and brutal dictator and the Communist movement went temporarily underground. With a corrupt government fostering the long relationship, the American Mafia continued to have a pretty good gig in Havana, running luxury hotels, casinos and the nightlife. The capital had been prosperous and bustling with both commercial and high-roller tourist trades.

This brought me to discover a true historical gem within the pearl of Cuba: Central Hershey, a little-known sugar plantation, refinery, and chocolate manufacturing worker town thirty miles outside of Havana. This town with its houses, school, hotel, shops, railroad, casino, and orphanage had changed lives from 1920-1945. I used this location as a backdrop to a dangerous rescue in the dark of night by our gumshoe and her brooding man.

History—and chocolate aficionados—will enjoy this video.

Pull it all together, sprinkle in a soundtrack with period music that sets the scene in places such as the Copacabana and the Tropicana Club, add a dash of visual inspiration with a Pinterest board, and you have a mixture of three worlds in an Austenesque novel that was supposed to have been a novella! Take a chance on Undercover; I hope you’ll enjoy this unique, sultry mystery with a Mr. Darcy in a fedora!

Thank you again, Anna, and thank you, dear readers, for the welcome to Diary of an Eccentric!

AUTHOR BIO

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. From the comedic Christmas, Chick Lit Lucky 13, and bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventure Denial of Conscience, to the romantic comedy Villa Fortuna, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers. Her newest release is a sultry Pride and Prejudice Noir, just released 4/20/16.

Her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever, will release in late spring 2016 with The Song is You following.

Married 23 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world — their orange tabby, Ollie. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

GIVEAWAY

Cat is generously offering 2 ebooks of Undercover to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address telling me why you want to read the book. The giveaway will close on Sunday, May 1. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

BerthainMe

Source: Review copy from Poetic Book Tours
Rating: ★★★★★

Publisher’s summary: This spring marks the bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. In her ambitious and timely debut, The Jane and Bertha in Me, Rita Maria Martinez celebrates Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. Through wildly inventive, beautifully crafted persona poems, Martinez re-imagines Jane Eyre’s cast of characters in contemporary contexts, from Jane as an Avon saleslady to Bertha as a Stepford wife. These lively, fun, poignant poems prove that Jane Eyre’s fictional universe is just as relevant today as it was so many years ago. The Jane and Bertha in Me is a must-read for any lover of Brontë’s work.

My thoughts: The Jane and Bertha in Me is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a long time. Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much is that I loved Jane Eyre when I read it first in high school and then in college. But the main reason is that Martinez’s voice is fresh, unique, and exciting. She brings Jane Eyre and its characters into the present day and shows how classic novels remain relevant to readers hundreds of years later.

Martinez’s poems are full of vivid imagery (“The Bertha in me sleeps until three in the afternoon and sits on the back porch with a cup of Earl Grey that quells the desire to chop up her crotchety landlord,” from “The Jane and Bertha in Me”), sensual (“Charlotte’s manuscript sepulchered like an incorruptible saint, splayed on its back like a woman whose architecture I want to touch,” from “At the British Library”), insightful (“Pain caused by first love never truly subsides,” from “Jane’s Denial”), and even humorous (“She’ll be sorry for canoodling with the missionary, thinks Rochester, who’s exceeded his cursing quota and looks like Wolverine,” from “Jane Eyre: Classic Cover Girl”). Martinez even writes about Brontë herself, from her different personas to the migraines she suffered through in order to create her “pristine prose” (from “The Literature of Prescription”).

These poems make one consider the numerous personas inside each of us and how, in the hands of a skilled author, fictional characters are just as complex as real people. I appreciated the Notes section at the end of the book that explained Martinez’s inspiration for some of the poems. As in any poetry collection, there were poems I liked better than others, but I can definitely see myself revisiting The Jane and Bertha in Me in the future.

While it’s not necessary to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy The Jane and Bertha in Me, it certainly would help. Even if you’ve only seen one of the movie adaptations, that’s enough for you to know the main characters who appear in these poems.

What others are saying about The Jane and Bertha in Me:

The Jane and Bertha in Me is a Rubik’s Cube(TM) of Janes. Each poem is a smartly annotated, hauntingly revisionist homage to Jane Eyre. Martinez’s astounding poems are literary, conversational, personal, fun, as she confidently transports her Janes from the Moors to Macy’s, from Thornfield Hall to the world of tattoos. —Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout

Rita Maria Martinez’s The Jane and Bertha in Me gives an unusual twist to the well-known characters from Jane Eyre, envisioning Jane at the guidance counselor, Bertha getting a makeover. These persona poems give us greater insight into the minds of madwoman and governess alike and even minor characters like Blanche and Alice, with beautiful, lush language and empathetic vision. Even casual fans of Brontë’s great book will enjoy this lively re-imagining. —Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter

About the poet:

IMG_0377 - CopyRita Maria Martinez is a Cuban-American poet from Miami, Florida. Her writing has been published in journals including the Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, MiPOesias, and 2River View. She authored the chapbook Jane-in-the-Box, published by March Street Press in 2008. Her poetry also appears in the textbook Three Genres: The Writing of Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama, published by Prentice Hall; and in the anthology Burnt Sugar, Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish, published by Simon & Schuster. Martinez has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International; at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida; and at the Palabra Pura reading series sponsored by the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Florida International University.

To follow The Jane and Bertha in Me blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

NPMBlogTour2016

Disclosure: I received The Jane and Bertha in Me from Poetic Book Tours for review.

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

SE final 4Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Rose Fairbanks as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, Sufficient Encouragement, a Pride and Prejudice variation and the first book in the When Love Blooms series. I really enjoyed editing this novel, as it combines Rose’s love of both Austen’s characters and history.

About Sufficient Encouragement:

We are all fools in love…

Some say a lady’s imagination is very rapid. Such is the case when Elizabeth Bennet overhears that Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy admires her eyes. She thinks nothing for herself, but immediately considers her dearest sister’s growing attachment to Mr. Darcy’s friend. If Elizabeth spurns such a wealthy—and proud—gentleman, he might do everything in his power to separate his friend from her sister.

Raised in a world of expectations and pedigree, Darcy knows Elizabeth Bennet can offer him nothing of material value. As his attraction for her grows, he becomes increasingly convinced his feelings are nonsensical. Still, he might forsake it all if only he had true encouragement.

Misunderstandings lead to betrayals and the couple soon learns falling in love takes courage but staying in love requires forgiveness. Traversing from the groves of Hertfordshire to the drawing rooms of London to the complexity and danger of Luddite revolts in Yorkshire, Sufficient Encouragement follows Darcy and Elizabeth’s journey of love and forgiveness.

*This story contains a scene of nonexplicit sexual violence.

Rose has kindly provided an excerpt from Sufficient Encouragement. Enjoy!

Thanks for having me! After surviving the plots of Wickham and a disappointing Mr. Bennet, Darcy and Elizabeth are engaged, but life throws another curve ball. During the year of 1812, factories in the North of England suffered attacks from a group now known as Luddites. Some sources say they were disgruntled laborers, unhappy with low pay; others say they were farmers who (rightfully) believed the new technology and factory system were taking away their side employment as textile workers in their own homes. Before this excerpt, Darcy and Bingley got a notice that there is an attack planned on one of the Bingley mills, and Darcy is a silent partner in the investment. They have come to Gracechurch Street to bid their ladies goodbye, although it means delaying Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding.

Elizabeth led Will to the Gardiners’ sitting room. Before he could open his mouth to speak, she said, “I am coming with you.”

Will took a step towards her. “Elizabeth—”

She interrupted him. “No, I will not be parted from you.”

“That is impossible for a variety of reasons. Your uncle will never agree, and I would not blame him.”

“I believe the wife of Mr. Darcy is not beholden to the opinions of other men.”

“Yes, well, as I am sure you have gathered, the wedding must be delayed.” He frowned while speaking.

“Or moved ahead,” she said steadily while meeting his eyes. Anticipating his argument, she held up her hands to cease the words forming on his lips. “I do not require much rest on journeys. We shall travel swiftly. I suppose the moon is no help right now, but surely two days is sufficient.”

“I was hoping to talk with the local landowners. If they can be convinced to help alleviate the burden felt by their tenants, there would be no need for attacks. And the yeoman has to face high prices for goods as much as anyone.”

“So your solution would be to spend a week browbeating gentlemen and shopkeepers?” Elizabeth asked with an arched eyebrow.

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

Elizabeth sat and smoothed her skirts. “Do you even know them? Are you even acquainted with the owners at all? Do you know if they are even at their estates and not in London? Their stewards could not promise to do anything of that sort without approval. How can you work on shopkeepers? They have their own families to feed.”

She tugged Will’s hand, and he sat beside her. Seeing that Will looked unconvinced, she pressed her point again. “The trade components are more complicated than most are considering. The factory owners have to pay for the materials. Due to the war and the American embargo, we rely more on textiles made in England, but that will not be true forever. The shopkeepers buy their goods and must have a profit. Meanwhile, many of the other goods they used to sell are now unavailable due to the war. Our entire economy is built on ancient practices and is ready to collapse. Goods now travel around the world instead of remaining in a very local marketplace. Even the centuries-old trade of raw materials from America to England and goods to Africa has collapsed because of the Revolution and the abolition of the slave trade. There is something great for the future to be made out of this tangled mess, but we must live in harmony.”

Will listened quietly during her speech, so she continued. “Bingley or his uncle would know the principal landowners in the area, but it is possible they would defer to others who are even more influential. Your uncle is a powerful lord with an estate in West Riding and is the Lord Lieutenant. He must know many…” She trailed off. “You already know all of this, of course.”

“Yes, I have sent a note to my uncle and will meet with him soon. I do enjoy how passionate you become on subjects in which you are knowledgeable, though,” he said while lightly caressing her hand.

Resisting the pleasurable feeling, Elizabeth shook her head. “You will not distract me. You must see then that there is little for you to do. I know you will go. You cannot shirk your responsibilities and investments, but as you do not know the people on either side of the conflict, your uncle could put you to use just as well here in London for a few more days.”

Will ceased his movements and looked her directly in the eye. “It means a great deal to you that I do not leave without you and that we wed earlier than planned?”

Elizabeth ducked her head and whispered, “Yes.”

He pulled her into an embrace, and she fought back tears. “I would be happy to marry you any day of your choosing,” he murmured into her hair. “Although I would rather not be a means for you to avoid your feelings about your father or your mistreatment by Wickham.”

She sniffled, again willing the tears to hold back. “How would you know so much about it?”

“I have been disappointed in my father, and I have seen how long it took Georgiana to recover her spirits over Wickham.”

“She had thought she was in love with him, and I never did. I only hate that I did not see his true character and seemed so weak compared to him. It is so frustrating to be a woman. How many times have people attempted to take my power of choice away?”

“I know, love,” Will said while rubbing her back. “I will abide by your choice now if you are certain you truly desire to wed in a few days’ time and then go on this arduous journey with me.”

Elizabeth pulled back to meet his eyes. “I have already journeyed to London by my own choice to be with you. What are a few hundred miles more?”

He chuckled. “I wish I could assure you the roads are in good condition, but you will see things run differently in the North. It is not too far from Pemberley actually. We could return there when our errand is complete before returning for Bingley’s wedding—unless you would like to come earlier.”

She furrowed her brow. “Will Georgiana wish to go as well?”

“No, she hates Derbyshire in the winter. She may come if you desire it, though…” He trailed off.

She smiled. “No, I believe newlyweds ought to have privacy.” She blushed. “Rather, I had not wanted to make her feel unwelcome in her own home or abandoned.”

“Nonsense. She will stay with the Matlocks and have the company of my aunt, Anne, and Lady Belinda. I am certain Mrs. Gardiner and Jane would be welcome additions as well.”

“Then I think it is a splendid idea!” She beamed.

Will looked around the room. “Speaking of privacy…” He captured her lips for several minutes until there was a noise in the hall.

About the When Love Blooms series:

“Love is like a flower, for it is well worth the toil to cultivate it.” She shrugged her shoulders, “Love is beautiful.”

Take a stroll in the garden of love and enjoy the unique blooms of the intersecting lives of the Bennet, Darcy, Fitzwilliam, de Bourgh and Bingley families. Sufficient Encouragement follows Darcy and Elizabeth as they fight to save their love from an unexpected frost while Jane and Bingley’s love grows strong roots. The companion story, Renewed Hope, adds depth to the bouquet with the love stories of Darcy’s cousins and Miss Bingley. The third book in the series, Extraordinary Devotion, follows Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage while their younger sisters experience a London Season.

About Rose Fairbanks:

Rose Fairbanks hears book characters talk in her head. They whisper to her of a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. More than having a love story for the ages, these characters face struggles inspired by historical events such as market crashes, Napoleon, embargoes, Luddites, the Year Without a Summer and more. Merging historical research with the timelessness of Jane Austen, Rose currently has ten Pride and Prejudice variations published with several releases planned for 2016 as well as an original Regency Romance series in the works.

Rose proudly admits her Darcy obsession and addictions to reading, chocolate, and sweet tea. Always in the mood for a healthy debate, she also dearly loves to laugh. Having completed a BA in history in 2008, she plans to complete her master’s studies…someday. At the moment, having a career combining her life-long interest in history and research with her love for Jane Austen and the Regency Era consumes all of her professional time. When not writing or reading, Rose runs after her two young children, ignores housework, and profusely thanks her husband for doing all the dishes and laundry.

You can connect with Rose on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog.

SE blog tour final

Sufficient Encouragement Blog Tour Schedule

4/16: Excerpt & Giveaway at Stories from the Past
4/17: Excerpt at My Jane Austen Book Club
4/18: Excerpt & Review at The Ardent Reader
4/19: Excerpt & Giveaway at Diary of an Eccentric
4/20: Interview & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
4/21: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope
4/22: Guest Post at Babblings of a Bookworm
4/25: Review at Just Jane 1813
4/26: Guest Post at More Agreeably Engaged
4/28: Guest Post & Review at From Pemberley to Milton

Giveaway:

Rose is generously offering 2 ebooks (international) and 1 print copy (U.S.) of Sufficient Encouragement to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment telling me what you liked best about the excerpt and why you want to read the book. Please be sure to leave your email address and your desired book format. The giveaway will close on Sunday, April 24. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

darcy-vs-bennet-thumbnail (1)I am so happy to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy vs. Bennet. I had the pleasure of editing this novel, and I must admit that Victoria makes my job easy by writing such delightful variations!

About Darcy vs. Bennet:

Elizabeth Bennet is drawn to a handsome, mysterious man she meets at a masquerade ball. However, she gives up all hope for a future with him when she learns he is the son of George Darcy, the man who ruined her father’s life. Despite her father’s demand that she avoid the younger Darcy, when he appears in Hertfordshire Elizabeth cannot stop thinking about him, or seeking him out, or welcoming his kisses…

Fitzwilliam Darcy has struggled to carve out a life independent from his father’s vindictive temperament and domineering ways, although the elder Darcy still controls the purse strings. After meeting Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy cannot imagine marrying anyone else, even though his father despises her family. More than anything he wants to make her his wife, but doing so would mean sacrificing everything else…

Victoria’s Inspiration for Darcy vs. Bennet:

Readers often ask me where I get my ideas. Often it’s difficult for me to re-construct the origins of an idea after I’ve been living with it for months (and often years). However, the idea of a more positive version of Romeo and Juliet has appealed to me ever since I read the play in high school, and it seemed a natural fit to apply elements of the plot with Pride and Prejudice. This allowed the family feud aspect of the R&J plotline to provide Darcy and Elizabeth with external obstacles. While I love the conflict created by the personality differences and misunderstandings in the canonical P&P, I thought it would be intriguing to see a Darcy and Elizabeth who were working together to struggle against external pressures.

One of the results of this struggle in Darcy vs. Bennet is that they must pretend to dislike each other so that no one suspects their true feelings. Thus, when Darcy says Elizabeth isn’t handsome enough to tempt him, he doesn’t mean it; he’s trying to deflect attention from his true admiration of her. And Elizabeth must pretend to believe Wickham’s slander of Darcy’s character. Other parts of the P&P plot also fit into the family feud template. For example, many of Wickham’s actions are motivated by his conspiracy with Darcy’s father to separate the lovers. And Mr. Collins plays a brief but vital (and humorous) role in adding to the struggle.

In writing Darcy vs. Bennet, I was surprised how easily the various plot points of P&P fit with elements of R&J. However, I do promise my version of the R&J story does have a happy ending; no one dies in a tomb!

And if that hasn’t already made you want to read it right away, here’s an excerpt from Darcy vs. Bennet:

“Just think, five thousand a year!” Elizabeth’s mother exclaimed for at least the sixth time that day. “Jane, you must be sure to smile at him.”

“Yes, Mama,” Jane said serenely—again.

“And be certain to have him dance with you. Lizzy’s friend Louisa swore that it only took one dance with her Robert and he fell in love! Now she is married into the Berwick family as happy as can be!”

“Yes, Mama,” Jane said.

Elizabeth exchanged an understanding smile with her elder sister. All week the family had been in an uproar over the arrival of Mr. Bingley at Netherfield Park. Her father had called on the man, and he had returned the call, but the Bennet daughters had yet to meet him.

Now, however, they were on their way to the Meryton Assembly, where Mr. Bingley was certain to be in attendance. Elizabeth winced as the carriage went over a particularly big bump, and she was jostled against Jane.

“And he may have other wealthy gentlemen with him!” her mother exclaimed. “I heard he was to bring twelve ladies and six gentlemen to the assembly.”

“I heard it was seven ladies and four gentlemen,” Lydia put in.

Her mother waved her handkerchief irritably. “In any case, he is likely to have other wealthy friends.”

“I will be sure to smile at them!” Lydia exclaimed.

“Good for you!” Their mother smiled.

“I can smile at gentlemen, too!” Kitty whined.

“There is no doubt of that.” Their father rolled his eyes.

“I do not believe it is appropriate to smile at men to whom we have not been properly introduced,” Mary added.

Elizabeth massaged her temples. It was possible she would have a headache before they even arrived at the assembly.

“Do you think there will be any men in regimentals?” Lydia asked. This began a discussion of how dashing men appeared in a red coat, and Mr. Bingley’s party of guests was temporarily forgotten.

Lady Lucas greeted the Bennet party at the entrance to the assembly with the information that Mr. Bingley had brought two gentlemen and two ladies. The ladies were his sisters, and one of the gentlemen was married to one of the sisters. The other gentleman was a friend of Mr. Bingley’s who was rumored to be worth ten thousand pounds a year, but Lady Lucas had not caught his name.

At this news, Elizabeth’s mother was in an even greater frenzy of excitement. “Oh, Jane! You must be sure to dance with both of them! Is the other gentleman well favored? He must be in want of a wife as well. Elizabeth, be sure to stand near him. Perhaps he would dance with you too!”

Elizabeth simply nodded; she knew from experience that any type of protest was futile and would only prolong her mother’s inappropriate behavior.

Within a few minutes Mr. Bingley had made his way to their party, and Mr. Bennet introduced the newcomer to his wife and daughters, whereupon Mr. Bingley immediately invited Jane to dance. Lydia and Kitty ran off to join some of the other neighborhood girls, and Mary departed for a discussion with the local vicar.

Elizabeth stood awkwardly with her mother. The assembly hall was quite crowded and warm. The others in Mr. Bingley’s party were well concealed by the crush of people, for Elizabeth noticed no strangers. However, Mrs. Long waded through the crowd to be at Mrs. Bennet’s side. Her eager expression suggested she had some interesting gossip to impart.

“Have you heard about Mr. Bingley’s guests?” she asked Elizabeth’s mother.

“Indeed, I have! Ten thousand a year!” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed.

“Well, the man may have a fortune, but the man is proud and disagreeable!” Mrs. Long said. “He has refused to dance with anyone save the ladies in his party and stares at everyone with haughty disdain. I told Henry, ‘Well, if that is how Mr. Darcy feels about Meryton, then Meryton does not—’”

Elizabeth and her mother gasped in unison, but Mrs. Bennet recovered first. “W-What is his name, Marianne?”

“Mr. Darcy. I believe his given name is Fitzwilliam. I am sure it must be a family name because who would choose to bestow such a name—”

Mrs. Bennet had turned white, and Elizabeth was sure her complexion looked no better. “Where does he reside?” Mrs. Bennet asked her friend.

“I believe his family is from an estate in Derbyshire.”

Elizabeth’s world went white for a moment at these words, so implausible and unwelcome, and she thought she might faint. He was here. There was no doubt it was him. In the two years since the masquerade ball, he had constantly invaded her thoughts. She could not help comparing every man she encountered to “William.” But she had believed herself safe from another encounter.

Would he recognize her? Remember her? Was he angry at how she had fled the ball? Of course, he would know by now that she had not been invited. Did he think her terribly wanton? Perhaps he had forgotten her; that would be for the best.

Elizabeth attempted to quell her growing panic. It hardly matters what Mr. Darcy thinks of me, she reasoned. Once he learns I am part of Thomas Bennet’s family, he will be disgusted. But the thought of seeing that look of disgust on his face ignited more panic. I must leave before he sees me!

Giveaway:

Victoria is generously offering a copy of Darcy vs. Bennet to one of my readers. This giveaway is open internationally, and the winner will have the choice of an ebook or paperback. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about this unique take on Pride and Prejudice. The giveaway will close on Sunday, April 17. The winner will be chosen randomly. I will email the winner and announce their name in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

htmabhCOVER

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

Mr. Darcy represented a time in her life when she had been happy, when everything was normal, and when her family was complete. While she may not have thought much of Mr. Darcy at the time, he reminded her of those days, giving her a sense of home and the familiar before everything went so wrong in her life. The new life she had just accepted would set her down a new path with new experiences and new people.

(from How to Mend a Broken Heart)

Quick summary: How to Mend a Broken Heart is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set three years after Mr. Darcy’s failed proposed to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford. A lot has happened in those three years: Mr. Wickham eloped with Lydia Bennet and then immigrated to America, Mr. Bennet died, and Mrs. Bennet and her daughters moved to Standfield Hall to live on their cousin Lady Webberley’s estate. The countess, Emily, took Elizabeth under her wing, and the book opens shortly after her death as Elizabeth arrives in London to stay with Emily’s cousin, the dowager Lady Matlock. Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy has never forgotten Elizabeth but realizes he needs to move on, to provide Pemberley with an heir and Georgiana with a sister who can guide her through the upcoming Season. But right after Darcy proposes to the widow Mrs. Wagstaff, he encounters Elizabeth in his aunt’s drawing room and vows to make her change her opinion of him. Elizabeth’s presentation at court with the dowager as her sponsor means she and Darcy are often in each other’s company — which is dangerous when he is promised to another, a woman who is determined to become Mrs. Darcy.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the prospect of Darcy being engaged, and knowing that his honor would force him to make good on his promises made me curious about how he and Elizabeth would achieve a happily ever after.

What I liked: I’ve never read a Pride and Prejudice variation in which Lady Matlock was a main character, and I really enjoyed getting to know her and watching her relationship with Elizabeth strengthen as they both worked through the problems that had been keeping them from embracing life. I liked how Parsons changed up some of the romantic pairings of the characters and introduced some interesting original characters, like Mrs. Wagstaff. The fate of the Bennet family and the decisions Elizabeth was forced to make in the wake of Lady Webberley’s death were unique touches.

What I disliked: I must admit I had a hard time with this book, especially the first half, but I was curious to learn how things would play out, and overall I am glad I kept reading. I had a hard time believing that Darcy would choose someone like Mrs. Wagstaff as a wife, even if he was lonely and determined to move on with his life. I also had a difficult time with the sexual aspects of the story; I don’t mind reading sex scenes, but I’m not fond of reading about characters pleasuring themselves, and while it was common for the upper class men to visit brothels, I don’t want to read detailed scenes involving the romantic heroes.

Final thoughts: I appreciated the unique aspects of How to Mend a Broken Heart, from Elizabeth’s new circumstances in life to the consequences of Darcy’s impulsive actions in the midst of loneliness. Without the sex scenes that I found to be a bit much for such a tale, I would have loved it.

Click the banner below to check out the other stops on the How to Mend a Broken Heart blog tour!

htmabhhorizontalbanner

Disclosure: I received How to Mend a Broken Heart from Mertyon Press for review.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 249 other followers