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A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

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

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

(from A Moment Forever)

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

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

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

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

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

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

the-trouble-to-check-her

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

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

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

(from The Trouble to Check Her)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hope for mr. darcy

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

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

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

(from Hope for Mr. Darcy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pride & sensuality

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

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

(from Pride & Sensuality)

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Charlotte Who Fled Hitler

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

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

ERGON_coverPlease give a warm welcome to George HS Singer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

About the Poet

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

***

About Ergon

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

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

Check out Ergon on Amazon | Goodreads

Click the button below to follow Ergon on Poetic Book Tours

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

Mr Darcy%27s Pride and Joy Cover MEDIUM WEB

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

“Do not play the matchmaker, Mr. Darcy. You have not yet solved the problem of your own marriage let alone trying to solve the problems of others.”

(from Mr. Darcy’s Pride & Joy)

Mr. Darcy’s Pride & Joy is the third and final volume in Monica Fairview’s Darcy Novels series of Pride and Prejudice variations. (I would definitely recommend reading Mr. Darcy’s Pledge and Mr. Darcy’s Challenge before reading this one.) Darcy is thrilled to have finally proposed to Elizabeth and been accepted, but events conspire to prevent him from seeking Mr. Bennet’s permission before the family returns to Hertfordshire following the Bingleys’ wedding breakfast. Elizabeth is confused and worried when Darcy does not arrive on time, and when she receives the worst possible news she can’t help but doubt his feelings for her.

Meanwhile, Darcy must contend with a couple of pretty big challenges: Mr. Bennet’s fierce determination to protect Elizabeth from the cruelty and coldness of Darcy’s social circle, and his public engagement to another woman. Darcy is convinced by his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, that a house party at Pemberley is needed to bring both families together to prove Elizabeth’s mettle. But Darcy is unsure whether he can accomplish his goal of securing Elizabeth’s hand with Lady Catherine and Mrs. Bennet in the same room, young Georgiana Darcy trying to avoid the attentions of an elderly duke, and the husband-hunting Miss Marshall on the prowl.

What a satisfying end to the series! Fairview does a fantastic job throwing even more obstacles in Darcy and Elizabeth’s path to happily ever after, just when you thought everything would be smooth sailing for the pair. The original characters are delightful, from the perceptive and sly Mrs. Fortin to the gossipy, flashy dresser Mr. Travis. I loved that Mr. Bennet had a secret from his past, even if it made him hard-headed and disagreeable, as it made his marriage to Mrs. Bennet more understandable. And his comments to Mrs. Bennet at the end of the novel were so adorably unlike Mr. Bennet that I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Most of all, I loved seeing Darcy, Elizabeth, and their relationship evolve over the course of the trilogy. There is plenty of romance, angst, scandal, and humor within these pages, and Fairview balances them perfectly. I was sorry that the book had to come to an end, but I was pleased with the ride I’d taken with these characters and eagerly anticipate Fairview’s next novel!

If you’re interested in Mr. Darcy’s Pride & Joy and the Darcy Novels series, Monica Fairview recently stopped by with an excerpt and giveaway, which closes September 11.

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy’s Pride & Joy 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.

a matter of chance

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

“Okay, I know he’s been an ass to you, but I think he’s closed himself off to everyone for so long…”

“Don’t go making excuses for him,” said Lizzy, parking the car. “Yes, I feel bad about what happened with his family and that it’s just him, but it doesn’t excuse the way he behaves. He’s not a child, and he should know common courtesy.” She turned off the engine and pulled out the key, pausing before she got out of the car. “I don’t want to argue with you about him. He’s Charles’ friend, and yours as well, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him.”

(from A Matter of Chance)

A Matter of Chance is a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. L.L. Diamond puts the characters in the U.S. South, turning Longbourn into an Antebellum home. Lizzy Gardiner — having cut ties with the Bennets — inherited the home from her great aunt and lives alone with her two-year-old daughter and overprotective dog, Bear. She teaches art at a local college and prides herself in not depending on anyone for anything — not since she showed up at her sister and brother-in-law’s home two years ago after fleeing her abusive husband, Greg Wickham.

Things aren’t easy for her, but life gets more complicated when she meets her brother-in-law Charles Bingley’s best friend, William Darcy, the CEO of a multi-million-dollar conglomerate who has returned to Mertyon after running to England three years ago following the accident that killed his father and sister. He is immediately drawn to Lizzy, but his intense stares, arrogant attitude, and thoughtless remarks make her uncomfortable and ultimately angry. As William begins to move on after his loss and let Lizzy into his heart, she is determined not to allow him to help her. Her fierce independence could prevent her from finding happiness, and the past catching up to her could destroy them both.

This was my first L.L. Diamond book, but it definitely won’t be the last. (And I sincerely apologize to her for taking so long to read and review this book!) She does an amazing job bringing Darcy and Elizabeth into the present and into a different setting. The characters are beautifully flawed, their losses and their fears making them hesitant. I loved how Diamond turned the Bennets (aside from Jane, of course) into such obnoxious, shockingly bad people and Mrs. Reynolds into the kindest, most generous lady ever. I enjoyed watching Will and Lizzy’s relationship evolve. Lizzy’s daughter, Melanie, is a sweetheart, and her bond with Will is melt-your-heart adorable. At times I felt the progression of their relationship could’ve been tightened up and more time could’ve been spent on Lizzy’s ex, Greg, and Will’s stalker, Caroline Bingley. But none of that interfered with my enjoyment of the novel, as Diamond does a fantastic job throwing obstacles in Will and Lizzy’s path and making them work for the strength to overcome them.

A Matter of Chance is a well-written retelling of Austen’s beloved novel, and while it could stand on its own without the connection to Darcy and Elizabeth, I was delighted to follow them into another place and time. Diamond captures the essence of Pride and Prejudice in these pages, showing how timeless the plot and characters truly are.

Disclosure: I received A Matter of Chance 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.