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I’m happy to welcome Denise O’Hara back to Diary of an Eccentric today, this time to celebrate the release of Darcy & Elizabeth’s Timeless Adventures: Titanic, which is Book 3 in the Timeless Series, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I hope you enjoy the excerpt, as well as Denise’s very generous giveaway! (And stay tuned for my upcoming reviews of the Timeless books!)

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About Darcy & Elizabeth’s Timeless Adventures: Titanic

In the third installment of the Timeless Series, Darcy and Elizabeth are catching up on the history they missed after their long sleep. Darcy becomes fascinated with the Titanic, leading him on an adventure like no other! Part history, part entertainment, Darcy has a dream which puts beloved Pride and Prejudice characters on the TITANIC! The dream proves quite unsettling, leading our couple to some revelations and their next adventure.

Goodreads | Amazon

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Excerpt, courtesy of Denise O’Hara

By tracing the names back step by step, and paying the subscription fees here and there to some sites that promised to make it easy, he finally found what he was looking for. In the family tree of the name he had scribbled down, he had found the name he had been looking for—Lydia Denny. It was certainly that child he had seen at the wedding, and Elizabeth definitely had a relation that had been aboard the Titanic!

He grabbed the book of pictures and rushed upstairs, not even pausing to shut down his computer or turn off the lights in his study. He could hardly wait to share this news with Elizabeth. He knew she would be as stunned as he was. As he charged up the stairs, the thought of how she would take the news of Lydia and the baby flickered across his mind. He had all but forgotten about it and had never mentioned it to her. If Mr. Bennet had the same observation or suspicions, he had never mentioned them to Darcy so he could only assume that he had never spoken a word of it to her either. It was something that had belonged in the past and needed to stay there—until now.

He burst into the room and strode towards the bedroom, pushing the door open.

“Lizzy, you will never guess what I have…”

He allowed the sentence to trail off, seeing his beloved wife lying in bed, the book she had been reading fallen onto her chest and rising and falling gently with her steady breathing. The lamp was still on but she was sound asleep. His news would have to wait until morning. He gave a quiet, disappointed sigh then carefully, so as not to wake her, he laid the book on the dresser and got ready for bed, tiptoeing round to remove the book and place it on her nightstand, and turn off her lamp before climbing as softly as he could under the covers.

He stared at her, thinking how peaceful and beautiful she looked. He brushed away a strand of her hair that had fallen over her face. “I love you, Lizzy,” he whispered. “I adore you so much it makes my heart hurt.”

He gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead before lying down. In spite of the very late hour and his tired, gritty eyes, he had suspected that he would not be able to sleep, his mind still whirling with all the information he had looked through and the revelations he had discovered. In fact, the opposite turned out to be true. Only moments after his head hit the pillow, he fell into the deepest of slumbers.

In his sleep, Darcy murmured and pulled the covers more tightly around him. Outside, the wind was picking up, causing the original and frequently restored sash windows of Pemberley Manor to rattle slightly. Outside in the stables, the carriage horses neighed and shifted restlessly. Somewhere in the countryside, a dog barked. The couple slept on, entirely unaware of the storm that was brewing. The images in Darcy’s head shifted and changed in that strange, unpredictable way that dreams have, to where his subconscious knew things his conscious mind was aware he should not know. His recent research, past experiences, and the movie he had watched all came together, forming a story of its own. For the moment, he was no longer experiencing the dream first hand, but watching scenes unfold as an omnipresent observer, as unseen as a specter by the other parties involved…

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About Darcy & Elizabeth: Timeless

Elizabeth eagerly awaits her sister Jane’s letter while visiting Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. But circumstances cause the letter to be delayed by two additional days. The extra time with Darcy changes the course of both of their lives, in ways no one could have predicted… or even thought possible. In a plot twist, you won’t see coming, Darcy and Elizabeth find out if their love is truly timeless. FYI- This book has a sci-fi element which brings the couple into the present. It’s written to be believably scientific.

Goodreads | Amazon

About Darcy & Elizabeth’s Timeless Adventures: London

In this sequel to Darcy and Elizabeth: Timeless, Darcy and Elizabeth from the early 1800’s are now living in the year 2013. On a trip to the now very different city of London, the newlyweds discover new interests and experiences.

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Denise O’Hara

Denise O’Hara loves everything Jane Austen. She accidentally came across her first continuing story of Pride and Prejudice many years ago while browsing her public library. She excitedly checked the sequel out to take with her to Destin, Florida, one of her favorite vacation spots of all time! After years of loving Pride and Prejudice, she was so thrilled to get more of the story!

Over the years, she read many Pride and Prejudice adaptations and sequels. She decided to jump into the Pride and Prejudice waters herself with her first three stories, A Pride and Prejudice Continuation: Life after the Wedding Series! While Darcy and Elizabeth’s story was her favorite, she always felt there was more to discover about Charles and Jane Bingley. Becoming Jane Bingley delves into the Bingley’s life after the wedding, with the Darcy’s story continuing also. In subsequent books, Caroline Bingley’s story is furthered as well. Of course, she soon found herself intrigued with putting Darcy and Elizabeth in different predicaments, and has written several books with them taking center stage. Legally Darcy is her first retelling with the couple as modern day couple. But as with all her books, the content remains a clean romance.

She lives with her own Mr. Darcy of 29 years. They enjoy simple things, like baking goodies, pies especially, having coffee or tea on the deck, and taking walks together, and sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. They have two grown children whom they adore. Right now they are in the final weeks of getting ready for their only daughter’s wedding in February. Exciting times! She and her Mr. Darcy are grateful to have parents nearby, as they love to spend time with family. They just wish there was more time to visit! Between them, they have ten sisters! That’s right, no brothers. Sisters are the best!!!

And they are thankful for their many good friends from all over the world who are as true brothers and sisters to them!

And as anyone who knows them will tell you, they love the Bee Gees, who have given Denise and her Mr. Darcy countless hours of joy.

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Giveaway!

Denise is generously offering 3 ebooks of Darcy & Elizabeth’s Timeless Adventures: Titanic, PLUS the first and second books in the series if the winners don’t have them yet! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about why you want to read the series. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 4, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Denise, for being my guest today!

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

“Well,” Darcy said with a grin, “if it means harassing you, I shall seek her out directly.”

“William…” Richard turned his eyes to his boots, his face pained.

Darcy’s grin widened into a smile. The normally unflappable Colonel Fitzwilliam was as close to blushing as he had ever seen. There might be great sport in this.

(from Courage Requires)

Courage Requires is the continuation of Courage Rises, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Melanie Rachel separates the Darcys early in their marriage, with Mr. Darcy on a mission with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth back at Pemberley in the midst of an influenza outbreak. Courage Requires finds our beloved couple reunited at Pemberley and preparing for their first child.

Elizabeth is dealing with incapacitating morning sickness, which has her husband worried about whether she will survive the birth. But the prospect of inviting the Hawke sisters, Sophia and Evelyn, to Pemberley for Christmas, along with Colonel Fitzwilliam and his family, brightens her spirits. Elizabeth is immediately charmed by the elder sister, Sophia, who is a bit like Elizabeth in that she is strong and impertinent. But her past as a political pawn of sorts and the shadow on her reputation force her to carefully and uncertainly navigate society. Meanwhile, Evelyn has trouble controlling her tongue, as her sheltered upbringing, her frustration with her sister, and her curiosity about learning and medicine often spur inappropriate outbursts. While Darcy worries about Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam comes to terms with his feelings for Sophia, Elizabeth must contend with disloyalty among the servants and her influence as Mistress of Pemberley.

I enjoyed Courage Requires as much as, if not more than, Courage Rises. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a good Colonel Fitzwilliam story, and Rachel does a great job portraying him as a man scarred by battle but still hopeful of finding happiness. He accepts the reality of his position as a second son, but he’s willing to stand up to the earl regardless of the cost. I loved the teasing banter between Darcy and Richard, and of course, the colonel as a charming suitor. It was nice to see Darcy and Elizabeth happily married, with the best of their traits rubbing off on the other but still passionate in their disagreements. But where the novel shines is in its original characters, namely Sophia Hawke. I couldn’t help but admire her for her strength after all she’d been through, and her connections to the Fitzwilliam family were clever and seemed believable. There was so much going on in this book that I didn’t miss the absence of the rest of the Bennets at all, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more from Rachel.

Don’t forget to check out Melanie Rachel’s guest post, with excerpts from both books and a giveaway, here.

Disclosure: I received Courage Requires from the author for review.

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

“My approach to being brave, Georgie, is to pretend that I am even when I do not feel it, and soon I find that I can manage quite well.” She smiled, recalling an old conversation with her husband. “And as William can attest, my courage always rises when someone, or something, tries to intimidate me. Perhaps it is just plain stubbornness.”

(from Courage Rises)

Courage Rises, a continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is set about four months after the marriage of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. Author Melanie Rachel separates our beloved couple early on; Mr. Darcy is headed to London for several weeks on business. But unbeknownst to Elizabeth, her husband has been asked by his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, to help him pay a debt of honor. While Darcy, Bingley, and the colonel are searching for the sister of a fallen soldier, Elizabeth is back at Pemberley dealing with some troubles of her own. Uncertain of herself in her new role as mistress of a large estate, Elizabeth is forced to make some tough decisions as an influenza outbreak hits the tenant farmers — and Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, is one of the many who have fallen ill.

Although Darcy and Elizabeth are apart for much of the novel, they are always on each other’s minds, and their bond is strengthened. While I typically enjoy watching the newlyweds navigate life’s challenges together, I applaud Rachel for portraying their marriage realistically in that they can’t be together every moment of every day, and for showing that they can stand strong on their own — and that their love for one another is so strong that they contemplate what the other would do were they there in person. I really enjoyed seeing Elizabeth become the true mistress of Pemberley, making decisions she believes are right while knowing even her husband would question them. Meanwhile, Darcy has become a family man, wanting nothing but to finish his work quickly and get back home. But he can refuse his cousin Richard nothing, and they set off on an adventure with many unanswered questions. There was plenty of excitement and intrigue as the men uncover the trials and tribulations of the Hawke sisters.

Courage Rises was a real page-turner! As a Pride and Prejudice sequel, I had no idea what was going to happen, and that had me up way past my bedtime trying to find out. I enjoyed the numerous original characters, from the feisty Miss Hawke to John, Pemberley’s groom, and Mr. Waters, the apothecary who works side by side with Elizabeth during the outbreak. Most of all, I liked how the ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, though it gives readers plenty to look forward to in the sequel, Courage Requires, which I will be reviewing here on Monday. Stay tuned! (And in the meantime, please check out this guest post by Melanie Rachel, featuring excerpts from both books and a giveaway!)

Disclosure: I received Courage Rises from the author for review.

I am delighted to welcome Melanie Rachel to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Courage Requires, the sequel to Courage Rises. The series continues Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I will be posting my thoughts on both books on Thursday and Monday. Please give a warm welcome to Melanie Rachel:

First, let me thank Anna for the opportunity to post a guest blog. I appreciate the space and your time, Anna!

I teach creative writing every so often, and one of the more significant lessons we work through is the one teaching students the difference between character and plot-driven stories. What is the difference? It’s not difficult to define.

A character-driven novel focuses on relationships, on the small things that make up the inner life of a human being. It’s also interested in the relationships between people. There’s no need, really, for complex events to occur to make the narrative interesting, because the reader is emotionally invested in the characters’ choices, motivations, and outcomes.

A plot-driven novel, on the other hand, focuses on the external event or environment that creates the story rather than the people who experience it.  The best plot-driven novels are “big-picture” stories, where the themes addressed are larger than the individual characters who enact them.

If we considered the two as camera shots, we might think of a character-driven novel as a “close-up” and the plot driven novel as a “wide-angle.”

Both kinds of stories have strengths. Character-driven novels are often emotionally satisfying and the plot-driven novel is well structured and exciting, using anticipation to keep readers moving through the tale at a rapid clip. The best novels tend to do both.

Very few authors can honestly claim that they focus on both character and plot in equal measure. Most of us naturally lean towards one and work to make the other stronger. For example, I am a character-driven writer. I sketch out a plot, but it may change a good deal by the end of my first draft based on how each character reveals him or herself. In my first JAFF novel, Courage Rises, the plot that most engaged readers was actually a response to getting Darcy out of the way so that Elizabeth could have Pemberley all to herself. That decision was based on the notion that Elizabeth’s choices, while admirable, were also risky, and Darcy would never have allowed her to make them had he been in residence. So what do we do with him? What would keep him from his new wife but also underscore his loyalty and sense of honor? It would have to be important. It would likely have to do with family. What about a request for assistance from his closest cousin? That’s how the Colonel Fitzwilliam/Hawke story was born.

In Courage Requires, the second and final novel in the Courage series, I had a good time placing a larger cast of characters in one location, Pemberley, and seeing what would happen as they all interacted. As the consequences of the actions in the first book come to fruition, secrets, jealousies, pride, friendship, love, and more, are all a part of the interaction which guides the plot, a wonderful position for a character-driven writer.

I’ve offered two excerpts below, with no spoilers—the first is from Courage Rises and the second from Courage Requires.

Let me know what you think! If you leave a comment at the end of the post, you will be entered for a giveaway—you can choose either the first or second novel as your prize. If you are not the lucky winner, you can still purchase both books online at Amazon.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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An excerpt from Courage Rises, courtesy of Melanie Rachel

The Earl was not quite as tall as his son, but he was broad shouldered and muscular, a well-built man. Like both his sons, he had sandy brown hair that looked auburn in the sun, though, nearing his sixtieth year, it was giving way to silver. His face was lined, but not weathered, and a pair of spectacles, balanced precariously at the end of his nose, only served to make him appear more distinguished. Next to his handsome father, Richard felt every bit the weather-beaten, sunburnt wreck of a soldier he saw in the entryway mirror.

Of course he knew I was here, Richard thought. The moment I surfaced near Piccadilly, he was informed. He felt the old flicker of annoyance, but responded civilly.

“I am, father. I was surprised to learn that you are still in town. You and mother normally travel north as soon as the session is complete.”

“Yes, I had some additional business in town, but we will be leaving within a few days. Are

you able to join us?” The Earl motioned to a chair and Richard walked in and sank into the cushions.

“No,” he said quietly. “I am afraid I do have a commission to complete. Perhaps I shall join you after.”

The Earl frowned. “I thought you were on leave.”

Richard shook his head. “I am on leave, but I am not at liberty.”

His father lowered himself into the chair behind his desk with a small grunt. “Must you always speak in riddles, Richard?”

Richard grimaced. Must his father always demand details to which he had no right?

“I have to deliver the news of a fallen officer to his sister. Therefore, I am not available to remove with you to Matlock.”

“Are you the only man available for that job?” The Earl was already reaching for ink and paper, planning, no doubt, to ask one of his contacts at the War Office to relieve him of his duty. Richard rubbed his palms along his trousers and tried not to lose his temper.

“I am the one charged with it by the man who fell.” He paused, and then decided that the Earl would likely know soon enough anyway. “He saved my life, father. I will not allow anyone to take my place.”

The Earl was still, though he did not look up. “He saved your life?”

“He did.” Richard gave his father an abbreviated version of the story.

His father’s only reaction was to briefly close his eyes. When he opened them, he asked in an off-handed manner, “What was the man’s name? If I can offer any additional assistance to his sister, I would be pleased to be of service.”

Richard was startled by his father’s statement. He had expected a lecture about the dangers of the battlefield and the idiocy of choosing to put himself at risk when he could do more to help England by assisting his father and brother with their political work. He had heard the lecture many times before.

“Thank you, father. He was a boy, really. Captain Oliver Hawke.”

The Earl blinked, and Richard thought he saw a muscle twitch in the old man’s cheek, but his face settled so quickly into its accustomed placid inscrutability that he could not be certain. He pressed on. “Did you know him, father?”

The Earl did not answer right away, gazing as he was at something above and beyond Richard’s left shoulder. Finally, he focused on his son, who was awaiting a response.

“No,” he replied slowly. “I did not know Oliver Hawke.” Richard stood, unconvinced but knowing he would learn nothing more.

“Well, sir, I should say hello to mother, then.”

“You will stay with us until your commission draws you away?” The Earl asked, and then abruptly added, “I know your mother would appreciate it.”

“Yes, father, thank you. I shall seek out mother and then change. I will see you for dinner.”

“Until then, son.”

The Earl watched his son leave the study. He stood very still for a few moments, and then locked the door. He crossed the room to a cabinet sitting on the floor behind his desk. Inserting a small key and opening the door, he drew out a bottle of very fine, very illegal French brandy, and poured himself a generous drink.

“Captain Hawke,” he said, lifting his glass in salute. He sipped the brandy until it was gone, then turned to the window and silently refilled his glass.

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An excerpt from Courage Requires, courtesy of Melanie Rachel

Fitzwilliam Darcy settled into the heavy leather chair behind the desk in his study to go over the quarterly accounts. The harvest had been surprisingly good, considering the unseasonably heavy rains over the summer—not as profitable as the previous one, but it might have been a good deal worse. He knew he was very fortunate, that many families had finished the year in debt. He was thankful that his father had long ago disregarded the fashionable dictates of society by keeping the family’s wealth in various investments as well as in the land. In years like this, those investments made up the shortfall, helping him meet his obligations without appreciably drawing down the estate’s accounts.

It had taken two years after inheriting, but once Darcy had felt more experienced handling the finances of the estate, he had been confident enough to evaluate and invest in a few opportunities brought to him by the earl. While he had been a highly conservative investor at the beginning he was now better able to understand when some level of risk might be worth the reward. He smiled at that, thinking of what he had once considered a risky marital alliance.

Darcy was certain his uncle gained political favors for convincing his nephew to part with his money, but so long as the investment was honest and sound and he was making money for Pemberley and his family, he did not mind helping his uncle. In the past year, after much discussion with his new uncle Gardiner about the increasing speed of changes in trade and industry, he had invested as a silent partner in Gardiner’s import/export business. With Darcy’s additional capital and Gardiner’s contacts and supply lines, they had seen a reasonable return within six months and he had hopes that it would remain a steady source of income, particularly after the war with Bonaparte finally concluded. He would need those additional funds to offset the drop in agricultural prices he expected would follow the war’s end, and Gardiner had recommended procuring practical items rather than luxuries for the same reason. In times of uncertainty, he had said, leaning back in his chair in the study at Gracechurch Street, people will have neither the funds nor the stomach for fripperies. Darcy shook his head recalling the conversation. Not so long ago I thought relatives in trade would be a disadvantage, he thought, reprimanding himself. Another gift from my wife.

Despite Elizabeth’s recent difficulties and her teasing this morning, Darcy believed she harbored hope for more children, and he was determined to provide for them all. It would not be many years before Georgiana wed and her substantial dowry would have to be paid. He anticipated that by then he would have enough to completely replace it, careful as he had been in the years since his father’s death. His wife, fortunately, was not one who required funds beyond those already set aside for her use. In fact, she had spent some of it on tenant matters until he explained that there was already a fund set aside for such things. She left much of it in her own account unspent, and she had already begun to accumulate a tidy sum.

His thoughts wandered back to some of the women of the ton who had demonstrated an interest in becoming his wife over the years. He chuckled quietly as he considered whether any of them would have money remaining in their account at the end of the quarter. More likely they would have spent everything and simply continued to spend, using his name for additional credit, particularly with the London merchants. Miss Caroline Bingley came to mind, with her fashionable gowns and turbans, her ostrich feathers, the silk slippers he had overheard her gleefully relate to her sister that she had worn but once before discarding them, and again congratulated himself that he and his bride were so well matched.

In one of the many little shops they had entered on their wedding tour, Elizabeth had tried to provoke him by picking up a fan of egret feathers and making a pretense of fawning admiration. Unfortunately, the jest was doomed to failure, as the feathers almost immediately caused her to sneeze several times over. It had been the first time he heard her sneeze, and he was still fascinated by the tiny little whistling noise she made as she fought valiantly for control. Truly, it could hardly be termed a sneeze at all. Richard always sneezed as though he was releasing a violent tempest, and even Georgiana’s sneezes were far heartier than Elizabeth’s. His wife was no fragile creature, thank the Lord, but her sneezes were incongruously dainty. He recalled her embarrassment as she had returned the fan to its place with an upraised eyebrow and he had struggled not to laugh.

“No,” she had said, with an exaggerated shake of her head, “That will not do. I cannot attempt to tease you and make sport for you instead.” Her dark eyes were shining as she said it, though, and she had stood on her toes and tilted her face up to his for a kiss, despite their location in the back of a public shop. He had been happy to comply.

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About Courage Rises

Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, recently returned from the battlefields of Spain, calls on his cousin Darcy to help him fulfill a troublesome debt of honor. In her husband’s absence, Elizabeth is faced with an influenza outbreak at Pemberley, and she must make a dangerous decision to keep everyone alive.

Check out Courage Rises on Goodreads | Amazon

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About Courage Requires

Darcy has returned to Pemberley to find his wife Elizabeth expecting and growing increasingly ill. When she invites the enigmatic Hawke sisters and the Fitzwilliams to join them for the festive season, will the company provide the friendship and solace Darcy hopes for his wife? Or will the Earl’s opposition to Richard’s love interest divide the family?

Check out Courage Requires on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Melanie Rachel

Melanie Rachel is a university professor and long time Jane Austen fan. She was born in Southern California, but has lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, and Arizona, where she now resides with her family and their freakishly athletic Jack Russell terrier.

Connect with Melanie on website | Facebook

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Giveaway

As you see above, Melanie is generously offering one lucky reader a choice between Courage Rises and Courage Requires. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, May 21, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

“Father needs me at Schulpforta. Mother too. It doesn’t matter what I want.”

“Of course it matters. I want to be an engineer. And you want to study birds. Be like that American painter in the swamps. Why else do any of this if not to become who we want to be?”

A stillness in the room. Out there in the trees beyond Frederick’s window hangs an alien light.

“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

(from All the Light We Cannot See)

Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See, is set during World War II and alternately tells the stories of two teenagers caught up in the confusion and chaos of war. The novel follows Marie-Laure from her days as a young girl accompanying her father to the museum where he worked in Paris to her life in the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where she lives with her great uncle. Meanwhile, readers watch Werner as he grows up in an orphanage in a mining town in Germany with his younger sister, where his love of learning takes him on a journey from fixing and building radios to attending a school for the Hitler Youth to designing and using systems to weed out the resistance.

The novel opens in 1944 as the Americans drop incendiary bombs on Saint-Malo, forcing both 16-year-old Marie-Laure and 18-year-old Werner to separately fight to survive. Doerr takes readers back and forth in time, gradually peeling back the layers of each story and making readers anxious to see how they will converge. There is so much depth to this novel, from the legend of the Sea of Flames to the mini-cities Marie-Laure’s father painstakingly creates to help her navigate the world after she loses her sight, from the haunting voice of the French professor that Werner’s first radio picks up to the brutal lessons he learns as he joins the military to achieve his dreams and avoid a bleak future in the mines.

Doerr’s prose is beautiful and haunting as he portrays two characters who are thrust into impossible situations, alone, at such a young age. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch Marie-Laure and Werner navigate their strengths and weaknesses amid so much terror and helplessness and evolve from those experiences. I was able to connect with both characters at various points in their journeys and feel their emotional turmoil, knowing that, given the setting and time period, the ending would be bittersweet at best. All the Light We Cannot See is a strong contender for my year-end roundup of the best books I read this year.

Serena and I hosted a six-part readalong of the book at War Through the Generations. Here are the links if you’d like to read and/or participate in a more in-depth discussion of the book, but beware of spoilers: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, and Week 6.

Disclosure: All the Light We Cannot See is from my personal library.

My guest today at Diary of an Eccentric is Kathleen A. Flynn, who is here to celebrate the release of her new novel, The Jane Austen Project, which went on sale today. As soon as I heard about this book, it went on my must-read list (stay tuned for my review!), and I was delighted that Kathleen was willing to share her inspiration with me and my readers.

Please give Kathleen a warm welcome:

Anna, thank you for inviting me to your blog!

In The Jane Austen Project, two time travelers go to 1815 in search of the famous author. New evidence has emerged that she finished The Watsons, a manuscript previously thought incomplete, so they’ve been sent to find it and bring it back to their own age. They are also tasked with getting hold of those many letters that Jane’s sister, Cassandra, destroyed before her own death, which would fill in many holes in Austen’s biography. Finally, they hope to learn more about the mysterious illness that killed Jane Austen in 1817.

But they can’t just show up like a SWAT team, guns blazing, and take what they want by force.  The travelers, Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane, must finesse their way into 1815 life and the Austen family, with a plausible back story and proper period manners. In this they succeed, but they find the experience challenges them in ways they hadn’t expected.

Why Jane Austen and time travel?

I had long admired Jane Austen, author, with little curiosity about Jane Austen, person. But once I began wondering about her, I found it was hard to stop. What could it have been like to be her? An obscure spinster daughter of a country clergyman, an irrepressible genius stuck in a time and place with little use for brilliant, funny women.  And then, the cruel irony of how she’d finally gotten back to writing, after many dry years, only to fall ill and die at 41, her last novel incomplete.  Did she not seethe with rage at the injustice of it all? Did she never long for escape, for opportunities equal to her talents? How did she manage?

It tormented me that there was no way to know — short of building a time machine and going back for answers.  Since I couldn’t do that, I decided to write a story about people who do.

I was interested in the collision of the past with an age more like ours. What would amaze you if you suddenly found yourself in 1815 England? What would it look and sound and smell like? What did people eat for breakfast, what kind of underwear did they have? I needed to know so many things: about food and hygiene, agriculture and medicine; clothing and coach travel.

Trying to imagine myself into that world, for a long time I read only the novels Jane Austen could have read or historical novels set in her era. I went to London and Bath to walk on streets she did. (Also to Dublin, which has a lot of Georgian architecture, making it easier to picture 1815 London.) I visited Jane Austen’s last home in Chawton, and Winchester, where she died.

My research made me impatient with the romantic, sanitized image of Regency life so often found in Austen film adaptations, and with the place she often occupies in our culture as the icon of happily-ever-after. Her world was complicated: beautiful, but also squalid and unjust, and the horrors just off the pages of her novels were now apparent to me.

And her vision of love was complicated, too: along with the wit, and the happy endings, there’s a steely core of morality, lessons about sorting out false from true.  My novel ended up being more of a love story than I expected, because I realized that in writing about Jane Austen you can’t get away from that. The story is told through the eyes of Rachel, an adventurous physician more interested in sex than love — who is indeed a little afraid of love, and what it might require. Giving her her own “marriage plot” was one way of exploring what love means in an age when whom to marry is, fortunately, no longer a woman’s only option in life.

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About The Jane Austen Project

London, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field in rural England, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. Turned away at a nearby inn, they are forced to travel by coach all night to London. They are not what they seem, but rather colleagues who have come back in time from a technologically advanced future, posing as wealthy West Indies planters—a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team from the future to “go back,” their mission is by far the most audacious: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen herself.

Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common besides the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.

But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the continuous convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile the woman she is with the proper lady nineteenth-century society expects her to be. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history intact and exactly as they found it…however heartbreaking that may prove.

Check out The Jane Austen Project on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Kathleen A. Flynn (Photo Credit: Bryan Thomas)

Kathleen A. Flynn is an editor at the New York Times, where she works at “The Upshot.” She holds a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.A. from the University of North Carolina. She has taught English in Hong Kong, washed dishes on Nantucket, and is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their shy fox terrier, Olive.

Connect with Kathleen on Facebook | Twitter | Website

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Giveaway

HarperCollins is generously offering a paperback copy of The Jane Austen Project to one of my readers, U.S. addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Friday, May 12, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

If they remained unmarried after their father died, they’d all be at the mercy of their stern uncle and eventually become a burden to their cousin Nevzat. Visualizing herself as an old joyless spinster like her aunt Afet never failed to depress Perihan. Surely she and Melike deserved better.

(from House of Daughters)

In House of Daughters, Engin Ingel Holmstrom bring Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Turkey in the 1920s. The Ottoman Empire is nearing an end, and the Turkish people are growing restless under the British occupation following World War I. Women like Perihan Emin are seeking more than an isolated existence under the watchful eyes of their male relatives. Perihan meets Major Murat while serving as a nurse in Istanbul. She had fallen in love with him during his hospital stay, but her pride was hurt when his aunt — who grew up in the Sultan’s palace — insults her position in society. Perihan is forced to confront her unresolved feelings for Murat when she learns that he is working with her cousin Nevzat as they conspire against the occupying nations.

House of Daughters is similar to Austen’s novel in several respects. There is, of course, the attraction and misunderstandings between Perihan and Murat, our Elizabeth and Darcy. Perihan is one of five sisters in need of husbands, and young, single men are scarce due to the war. Each of Perihan’s sisters is similar to their corresponding Bennet sister, and Perihan is similar to Elizabeth in her outspoken and modern ways. I enjoyed watching Perihan come to terms with her feelings for Murat while embracing the new role for women in the new republic.

Overall, I found the novel enjoyable, especially in noting where it parallels Austen’s and in seeing how well Austen’s characters translated from Regency England to Ottoman Turkey. However, what kept me from loving the novel was the detached writing style. There was more telling than showing, which prevented me from really connecting to the characters and feeling their attachment to one another. For instance, when readers first meet Murat, he and Perihan have already met and had their misunderstanding at the hospital, which is simply retold in a couple of pages. I also am not familiar with the historical events depicted here, so I would have appreciated more details and explanations woven into the narrative.

Nevertheless, I felt like I had a good grasp on what all the upheaval meant for women at the time, and I enjoyed watching Perihan and Murat navigate the changes, both in their personal lives and in a larger context. I never would have imagined a Pride and Prejudice variation set in 1920s Turkey, so that alone made it a worthwhile read!

Disclosure: I received House of Daughters from Lavidge for review.