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

‘A good book lives forever,’ he said.

‘I sometimes think it’s easier to love a book more than a person, don’t you think?’ she said. ‘A book doesn’t change — it remains constant and perfect no matter how many times you read it.’

(from The Book Lovers)

The Book Lovers is the first in a new series by Victoria Connelly, whose writing I have loved since I discovered her Austen Addicts series several years ago. This was the first non-Austen-inspired book I’ve read by Connelly so I didn’t know what to expect, but oh my goodness, it was fantastic!

The novel centers on Callie Logan, a children’s book author who leaves the fast pace of London to settle in Owl Cottage in Newton St. Clare. She’s going through a divorce and needs to rediscover her creativity, and a small village where everyone knows everyone seems like just the place to heal. She soon meets the wild adventurer Leo, who takes her hiking through the woods and cooks her meals from ingredients he has foraged, and Sam Nightingale, the owner of a used book store who is trying to start up a book club and is dealing with relationship troubles of his own. Callie forges a friendship with both men, as they each bring something different and needed into her life.

I loved how Connelly introduced such an exciting cast of characters in the Nightingale family, including Sam, his sister Bryony, who owns a children’s bookshop, his parents, and his grandparents, especially the grandfather who is always hanging around Sam’s shop. This is a close-knit family who gets together every Sunday for dinner, and the love they have for one another — even when they get on each other’s nerves — is infectious. I loved how they welcomed Callie with open arms, and how Callie — whose parents are cold and distant — blossomed in their presence.

I couldn’t put this book down, and the characters felt so real to me that I thought about them when I wasn’t reading and couldn’t wait to jump back in and find out what happened next. The best part is they are standalone books, so no cliffhangers, but you’ll want to dive into the next book right away. Stay tuned for my review of book 2 later this week!

Disclosure: I received The Book Lovers from the author for review.

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

Francesca Hornak’s Seven Days of Us follows the Birch family as they are forced to spend the week of the Christmas holidays in quarantine in their Norfolk estate, Weyfield Hall. The Birch family — Andrew, a former war correspondent turned food critic; Emma, who put her dreams on hold to assume the role of family manager and caregiver; and their daughters, Olivia, a doctor whose work in Liberia treating victims of the Haag virus is the reason for the seven-day quarantine, and Phoebe, whose self-centeredness puts her at odds with her sister — are less than thrilled about being cooped up in the old house together.

Emma, whose memories of the old days prevent her from allowing improvements to her dilapidated family home, hopes that keeping to the family holiday traditions will bring them all together. But the rest of the family is just going through the motions. Andrew spends much of his time alone in the smoking room, wondering whether or not to respond to emails that are certain to further weaken his already tenuous bonds with his wife and daughters. Phoebe is focused on her relationship with George and their future, not understanding why Olivia is so sullen upon her return from Liberia and so serious about the quarantine. Olivia knows that her family doesn’t understand what she’s seen, and that they don’t really want to. Each one of them is carrying a secret that is bound to come out over the course of the week, and the stresses of maintaining normalcy are pushed to the breaking point when a stranger arrives at their door.

In Seven Days of Us, Hornak amplifies the challenges of celebrating the holidays as a family, especially when they have grown apart over the years. The quarantine keeps the family on edge and within the boundaries of the estate, when normally they would retreat when the going gets tough. Apart from an over-the-top coincidence at the beginning of the book, the story feels believable. Hornak does a great job telling the story from each character’s point of view within such a short time frame — the one-week quarantine — and keeping each viewpoint distinct. I felt like I got to know each character, understand their motivations, and watch them evolve and grow. It was hard to like these characters, but I became more connected to them (or, at the very least, grew to appreciate them) over the course of the book.

I enjoyed Seven Days of Us as a whole, as the characters and their secrets were interesting, the premise clever, and the pacing and flow spot-on. I definitely would recommend it for readers who like stories about family secrets and conflicts, and I look forward to reading more by Hornak in the future.

Disclosure: I received Seven Days of Us from Berkley for review.

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

She considered turning her phone off in case someone tried to call once they discovered her absence. In the end, she decided that it did not matter if they called or not. She would not accept an interview from Mr. Darcy if he ran the last law firm on earth!

(from Legally Darcy)

Denise O’Hara’s Legally Darcy is a modern variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Will Darcy is a high-powered lawyer at the prestigious firm once run by his father, and Elizabeth Bennet is a law school student seeking an internship. While waiting for an interview scheduled by Darcy’s partner, Charles Bingley, Elizabeth’s sister’s boyfriend, Elizabeth overhears an angry Darcy insult her and storms out, later taking a position at another firm, where she befriends George Wickham.

Much of the beginning of the book is devoted to Darcy’s backstory, opening when he was 10 years old, playing with George, the son of his father’s best friend, and his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam. We learn how Darcy’s mother died after giving birth to Georgiana, how their father and Wickham’s father are killed in a car crash, the sacrifices Darcy makes to care for his sister (with Richard’s help), and how the circumstances surrounding his father’s death and the reading of the elder Mr. Darcy’s will enrage Wickham, setting the stage for his various attempts to ruin Will’s life.

O’Hara does a good job translating Pride and Prejudice into modern times, especially in putting Darcy and Elizabeth at odds, making the Bennet family (minus Elizabeth and Jane) an embarrassment at Bingley’s pool party, and creating a truly evil Wickham who is hell bent on destroying Darcy and anyone else who gets in the way of that goal. From a bachelorette auction for charity to a wild night in Vegas and the subsequent social media fallout, Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship is continually put to the test.

I was truly entertained by the twists and turns and O’Hara’s take on Austen’s characters. Darcy’s socialite aunt and her chauffeur, Buford Collins, are over-the-top creepy! But I wish more time had been spent on developing Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship and a little less time on the other drama. I felt like I really understood Darcy, but there isn’t as much about Elizabeth’s backstory, which made me curious; given how flighty Mrs. Bennet is, how did she manage to homeschool Elizabeth?

Even so, Legally Darcy was a page-turner with a lot of layers to the story. I thought it was clever to put Austen’s characters into the legal world, highlighting Darcy and Elizabeth’s class differences and the different stages of their careers. Overall, the book was a lot of fun, and I would recommend it to readers who love a modern-day Darcy and Elizabeth.

Disclosure: I received Legally Darcy from the author for review.

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

He stiffened, knowing that she was baiting him but smiled as he said, “Miss Elizabeth, I am certain any man who did not take the opportunity to dance with you when it was first presented, would rectify the situation on the next occasion were he not a fool!” He forced himself to maintain an even breath as a lovely hue spread across her cheeks. And I can assure you, madam, I am no fool!

(from The Goodness of Men)

Anngela Schroeder’s latest variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice imagines what might have happened had Charlotte Collins been too sick for Elizabeth Bennet to visit Hunsford while Mr. Darcy is visiting his aunt at Rosings. In The Goodness of Men, the pair meet for the first time since the Netherfield Ball at Chenowith, the home of Darcy’s friend Mr. Turner, where Elizabeth and her aunt are staying as guests of Mr. Turner’s sister, Mrs. Anderson. At Chenowith, Elizabeth begins to see a different side of Darcy, how he tries to protect those he cares for, how he is willing to actually work and not just delegate the hard tasks, and how he tried to protect her sister from a man whose attraction often is fleeting.

While Elizabeth and Darcy form a friendship (and possibly more) at Chenowith, her sister Lydia is in Brighton, scheming right alongside Mr. Wickham. It’s not long before Elizabeth is forced to recognize that she hasn’t been the best judge of character, and maybe her sister Jane is wrong about all men having some amount of goodness inside them.

I really enjoyed The Goodness of Men, especially the different circumstances under which Elizabeth and Darcy forge their bond. I liked the original characters, especially the kind Mr. Turner and the naïve but strong Margaret Anderson. I loved the charming Colonel Fitzwilliam and his drawing room banter with Elizabeth, and Mrs. Gardiner taking charge when Lydia’s schemes go much too far.

Although there were some aspects of the story that were hard to believe, such as Elizabeth and Darcy being given adjoining rooms at Chenowith, I didn’t let them get in the way of my enjoyment of the story. Schroeder did an excellent job writing very tender, touching scenes between Elizabeth and Darcy (swoon!), and she added more depth to Darcy’s backstory and the events that shaped him as the master of Pemberley.

Overall, I found The Goodness of Men to be a delightful read, with the right amount of drama and excitement and plenty of romance to balance it out. I’m already eagerly anticipating what Schroeder comes up with next!

Disclosure: I received The Goodness of Men from the author for review.

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

No, he couldn’t blame the young men in the crowd for following her around the room. He even admired her restraint given all that male attention. One thing about Emma, admiration for her looks alone didn’t turn her head; the poor fellow also had to flatter her brains and her sparkling personality to stir her vanity.

(from I Could Write a Book)

Karen M Cox’s latest novel, I Could Write a Book, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Emma set in 1970s Kentucky. Cox’s Emma Woodhouse is a college student who has sacrificed her future to care for her father following a stroke, and her George Knightley is a lawyer whose family has been connected to the Woodhouse’s since he was a child. Emma’s father was George’s father’s partner at Knightley and Woodhouse, and George and Emma have been close friends throughout the years, while George was away at college, through his long list of female companions, and throughout the illnesses of both Emma’s parents.

Cox does a fantastic job modernizing the story, keeping events and challenges true to the times while allowing the original novel to shine through. Mrs. Taylor has become Emma’s aunt, Nina, who cared for Emma and her sister Izzy while they were growing up without a mother; Harriet Smith has become Mary Jo, a secretary in George’s office who is just as flighty and easily swayed as Harriet; Mr. Elton has become Tim Elton, who is seeking a career in politics and a wife who will assist in those ambitions. Frank (Churchill) Weston, Jane Fairfax, Miss Bates (Helen), and the rest of Emma‘s cast of characters are featured here, and I loved going with the flow and seeing how the story would play out in a different setting.

I couldn’t help but love Emma even when it was obvious that her scheming was misguided. By giving readers a glimpse of Emma’s childhood and her bond with her mother, I felt like I really got to know her and understand why she was so willing to put her life on hold to take care of her father. I loved getting a peek into George’s head as well, and showing some of his romantic relationships made it so much better when his feelings for his best friend began to change. I’ve always loved Mr. Knightley, so I wasn’t surprised that I fell in love with him here.

As with Undeceived, where Cox transformed Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet into Cold War-era spies, I Could Write a Book showcases Cox’s cleverness and understanding of Austen’s characters in shaking things up while at the same time maintaining the structure of the original. Emma is one of my favorite Austen novels, and when I saw that Cox was writing a new spin on it, I expected it to be fantastic…and I wasn’t disappointed! Another contender for my Best of 2017 list, and another addition to my auto-buy author list!

****

About I Could Write a Book

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”

Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.

I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered and predictable, if a bit confining.

Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who has come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.

Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.

Rich with humor, poignancy and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.

Goodreads | Amazon (universal link)

****

About the Author

Karen M Cox

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of novels accented with romance and history, including 1932 and its companion ebook novella The Journey Home, and the novels Find Wonder in All Things and Undeceived. She also contributed a short story, “Northanger Revisited 2015”, to the anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, and a story titled, “I, Darcy” to The Darcy Monologues.

Karen was born in Everett, WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.

If you would like bits of authorly goodness in your inbox once a month (updates, sales, book recommendations, etc.) sign up for News & Muse Letter

Karen loves to hear from readers, so don’t be shy. Contact her through social media, her website, or online sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

Connect with Karen via website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Amazon Author Page 

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Giveaway

Karen is generously offering two themed prize packages as tokens of appreciation for readers of I Could Write a Book and for supporters of the wonderful sites on the blog tour.

Tea Prize Basket includes: A signed copy of I Could Write a Book, Mr. Knightley’s Reserve and Emma’s Perfect Match teas from Bingley’s Teas, a set of Jane Austen Book Coasters, and a Jane Austen Quotes mug.

Pretty Things Basket includes: A signed copy of I Could Write a Book, an “Emma” quote pendant, an Emma bangle bracelet, Regency cameo earrings, and a jewelry roll.

Readers can enter for chances to win these prizes by clicking here. There are bonus entries for social media shares and visits, if you’re on social media. These giveaways are open internationally and end on October 7, 2017. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Laughing with Lizzie / September 6 / Launch Post/Dating Game / Giveaway

So little time… / September 7 / Book Excerpt / Giveaway

Book Lover in Florida / September 8 / Guest post / Giveaway

Austenesque Reviews / September 15 / Book Review/ Giveaway

My Love for Jane Austen / September 16 / Guest Post / Giveaway

Granny Loves to Read  / September 17 / Book Review / Giveaway

My Jane Austen Book Club / September 18/ Guest Post/Mr. Knightley / Giveaway

Just Jane 1813 / September 19 / Author Interview / Giveaway

Sophia’s Sofa Chat / September 21 / An Interview with Karen M Cox on Goodreads

Babblings of a Bookworm/ / September 22 / Book Review/ Giveaway

Silver Petticoat Review / September 23/ Guest Post/ Giveaway

From Pemberley to Milton / September 25 / Book Excerpt / Giveaway

Margie’s Must Reads / September 27 / Book Review / Giveaway

My Vices and Weaknesses / September 30 / Book Review / Giveaway

Diary of an Eccentric / October 2 / Book Review / Giveaway

More Agreeably Engaged / October 4 / Book Excerpt / Giveaway 

Disclosure: I received I Could Write a Book from the author for review.

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

She was adrift, without direction or inspiration. And for what? For the loss of something which had ever been hers? For envy of her beloved Jane, or disappointment over Lydia? A flash of anger rose in her eyes — the only life to spark back from her mirror. No! She swiped her hand over the flame, quenching it with a quick, stinging pinch of her fingers. There must be more.

(from These Dreams)

Nicole Clarkston’s These Dreams, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is a novel I was forced to savor because of my busy schedule, but really I wanted to devour it in one sitting. This was one of the most creative — and angsty — variations I’ve ever read. I loved all the twists and turns, and even though it was hard to see my favorite characters brought so low, Clarkston does a fantastic job getting into their heads.

These Dreams opens as Mr. Darcy is orchestrating the marriage of Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham, except he doesn’t show up for the wedding, which pains Elizabeth at a time when she thought they would have a second chance. Darcy is brutally captured as part of a complex scheme dating back generations, and his family and friends believe him to be dead. Both Darcy and Elizabeth are in dark, hopeless situations, grieving what might have been.

Meanwhile, Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself in charge of Darcy’s estate and sole guardian of Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, who is heartbroken at the loss of her brother and pulled every which way by family members who believe they have her best interests — and that of the Darcy name and estate — at heart. Fitzwilliam enlists the help of Elizabeth to bring some light back into Georgiana’s life and help her take the reins as mistress of Pemberley, which makes it possible for him to investigate his cousin’s death and unravel the many threads to the conspiracy that ultimately rips the bandage off his wounded heart.

Clarkston did a great job crafting a multilayered story with chaos and possible scandal at every turn. It was impossible to know who to trust, and she handles the healing of these damaged souls in a tender and realistic manner. I loved how Clarkston forged a special bond between Elizabeth and her newly married sister Lydia, allowing them to find some common ground amid their trauma and giving more depth to a character who is usually written off as foolish and unrepentant. There also were plenty of intriguing original characters, especially Amália, who reminded me so much of Elizabeth in her outspokenness and strength.

I absolutely loved These Dreams, even though the pain she caused Darcy and Elizabeth was like a punch to the gut at times. I had no idea how it was going to play out, so I just went along for the ride, and it was so worth it. Trust me, Clarkston doesn’t make you suffer too, too long, and all that pain makes the outcome so much sweeter. Definitely a contender for my Best of 2017 list!

****

About These Dreams

An abandoned bride
A missing man
And a dream that refuses to die…

Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty, and Fitzwilliam Darcy is caught at the centre of a decades-old international feud. Taken far from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear, only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth.

Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley, and Colonel Fitwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared, Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy’s death widens and questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past. An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope.

Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn — alone and under mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might have been. Believing Darcy lost forever, she closes her heart against both pain
and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.

Goodreads | Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

****

About the Author

Nicole Clarkston

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.

Connect with Nicole: Website | Goodreads Author Page | Goodreads Blog | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Twitter

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Giveaway

Please click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, where 10 ebook copies are up for grabs. This giveaway is open internationally.

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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09/19   So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

09/20   My Jane Austen Book Club; Vignette, Giveaway

09/21   From Pemberley to Milton; Review, Giveaway

09/22   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

09/23   Just Jane 1813; Review, Giveaway

09/24   My Vices and Weaknesses; Excerpt, Giveaway

09/25   Babblings of a Bookworm;  Guest Post or Vignette, Giveaway

09/26   Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway

09/27   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt

09/28   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway

09/29   My Love for Jane Austen; Charcter Interview, Giveaway

09/30   Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

10/01   Savvy Verse and Wit; Review, Giveaway

10/02   Austenesque Reviews; Character Interview, Giveaway

10/03   Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review, Giveaway

10/04   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a copy of These Dreams from the author for review.

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Source: Author
Rating: ★★★★☆

He confused her. He irritated her. He pleased her and he thrilled her. She was going crazy, and William Darcy was the cause.

(from The Perfect Gift)

The Perfect Gift is a sweet novella by Christie Capps (the pen name for author J. Dawn King) and a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was just the right book for me now when I’m swamped with work and family commitments, as it’s intended to be read in about an hour or so. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the only reading time I’ve had lately is right before bed when I’m really sleepy, I would’ve devoured it all at once. But it was nice to savor this one over a few days.

Elizabeth Bennet is still smarting from William Darcy’s insult to her at Meryton’s pizza hangout when he asks for her help in dealing with his soon-to-be teenage sister, Gianna. Darcy doesn’t know how to handle a young girl going through puberty, what she wants and needs for clothes, or the perfect gift to commemorate her 13th birthday. Elizabeth is the perfect person for the job, given that she has four sisters, and she and Gianna hit it off right away. She still isn’t sure what to make of Darcy; he seems so serious sometimes, but when it’s just the three of them, she can almost see his charm.

For a short and sweet novella, Capps does a great job building the tension, with the infuriating Caroline Bingley and the Darcys’ impending return to their home in New York City. There’s the right balance of drama, humor, and passion, and despite the fast pace given that it’s a novella, I was completely satisfied with the ending. I have three other novellas by Capps waiting patiently to be read, and since my busy schedule doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, I will turn to them in the brief moments when I can escape the real world.

Disclosure: I received The Perfect Gift as a gift from the author. Thank you, Joy!

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