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Source: Review copy from the author

Sense Without Sensibility by Keena Richins is a modern-day variation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility told from the point of view of Elinor Dashwood. Elinor’s life, and the lives of her mother and two younger sisters, has been upended by her father’s stroke and the likelihood that he will never be more than the shell of his former self. They have barely come to terms with their new reality when her half-brother John and his wife Fanny swoop in with plans to liquidate her father’s businesses and sell their home due to the hefty costs of her father’s long-term care — and due to a prenup, her mother isn’t entitled to anything.

Fanny gives the women a couple of months to figure out their next move, and Elinor finds herself working side-by-side with Fanny’s auditor brother Edward to prepare the small business she’d been managing for her father for sale. Elinor expects the worst given Fanny’s cold-hearted focus on the Dashwood inheritance, but when she meets Edward, she finds a kindred spirit – a shy man with a head for business and a kind heart. As they forge a friendship (and something more, she secretly hopes), she finds it hard to break through the wall that Edward puts up whenever his family is mentioned. Before she can get him to open up, the Dashwood women are forced to move and start a new life on the West Coast, far from the life and man they hold so dear but where new friendships and adventures await.

I really enjoyed how Richins modernized the story while staying true to the essence of each character and the basic plot of Austen’s novel. I loved how characters from other Austen novels made appearances and how, like with most modern variations, I had no idea how the characters would get from A to Z. Those twists and turns were exciting, and the expected happily ever after was so satisfying after all the turmoil Elinor had endured.

This is the third book in a series in which Richins gives modern versions of Austen’s heroes and heroines the chance to tell their side of the story, but it can be read as a standalone book. I loved Richins’ take on Elinor, how she managed to stay strong despite so much hardship and always managed to have a positive attitude. I did get a little tired of her referring to the “cold monster” that would come over Edward, especially when the change in his mood was already implied through action and dialogue, but it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the book. Elinor felt real to me, and so did Marianne as the melodramatic teenager glued to her phone and Brandon as a quiet, kind veteran who emerges as an ally before they even settle into their new life in Portland. I can’t wait to read the upcoming books from Edward’s, Marianne’s, and Brandon’s points of view.

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About Sense Without Sensibility

After a stroke that devastates the mind of her father, Elinor expects her life will never be the same. But she wasn’t expecting to lose her job and her family home thanks to a legal technicality.

Facing ruin, Elinor prepares to fight against the selfish, cruel man who would ensure that ruin. However, Edward turns out to be the opposite, a kind soul who only wants to fulfill his duty. So Elinor hatches a new plan: get Edward on her side and utilize their own legal technicality. The only problem? Edward would have to go against his very influential and wealthy family.

Would he risk losing everything–his job, his family, and his massive inheritance–to save Elinor?

In the world of Pemberley Estates, Jane Austen’s characters mingle with each other in a modern setting.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Keena Richins has a curse: she must write the stories bubbling in her head or go mad. Seriously. You should see the hordes of characters in her head constantly babbling about their lives. When she needs a break, Keena will delve into books and her favorite are the Jane Austen books, so it is only fitting for her first debut to be a modern twist on one of those classics. And many more are soon to come.

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Giveaway

Keena is offering 3 ebooks of Sense Without Sensibility as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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For more information about the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

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Source: Review copy from author

Sarah Courtney’s A Good Name, a modern Pride and Prejudice variation, was an unexpected treat from start to finish. The first half of the book details the childhood friendship of George Wickham and Lizzy Bennet. Told from George’s point of view, readers see the harsh life the young boy has endured. His mother has a drug problem and goes from boyfriend to boyfriend. He’s always hungry, and his worries about food and homelessness mean he has little time to worry about clean clothes, playing with other children, and learning to read. But when he meets Lizzy, his eyes are opened to the power of reading and friendship. When she moves away, she leaves a gaping hole, but her influence leads to new possibilities.

The second half of the book centers on Will Darcy, the new CEO of his father’s company, suffocating under the weight of his responsibilities and a bit fed up with his friend Charlie Bingley’s attempts at matchmaking. This part of the book follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice more closely — with the insult to Elizabeth Bennet, Caroline Bingley hoping to snap him up, his poor advice to Charlie regarding his relationship with Elizabeth’s sister Jane, and the eventual blowup with Elizabeth just when he thinks he’s found true love — albeit with a modern spin.

I don’t want to say more about the plot, but the way in which both parts of the book are woven together made A Good Name one of the best modern variations I’ve ever read. Courtney does a great job developing her versions of Austen’s characters, layer by layer, so that readers really understand their motivations, strengths, and fears. I loved the twists and turns, and with the freedom of a modern variation, there were plenty of surprises on the way to Will and Elizabeth’s happily ever after. Courtney’s take on George Wickham was so clever, both heart-wrenching and hopeful, and so completely unexpected. She does a fantastic job with the heavy issues of drug addiction, poverty, and homelessness and their impact on children, balancing them with the lighthearted moments that George shared with Lizzy in the park and, later, Will’s outings with Elizabeth — particularly the scene involving an overturned kayak.

Ultimately, A Good Name is a powerful story, one that makes you think about how we cope with the obstacles thrown at us and how our past shapes our future. But it also is a love story, and an emotional and touching one at that. I can’t wait to read Courtney’s next novel, Beauty and Mr. Darcy, a Regency variation, and I do hope that she writes another modern variation in the future.

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Source: Review copy from the authors

In The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen, book 2 in the Austen Adventures series, Ada Bright and Cass Grafton pick up right where they left off in the first book, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen. Rose Wallace has just helped Jane Austen make it back to the Regency era with the help of a time-traveling charm and realized her crush, the archeologist Dr. Aiden Trevellyan, feels the same way about her when Jane returns to the present and insists that they travel with her back to Chawton in 1813.

This time it is Rose who is taken out of her comfort zone, and she soon learns that living in the time of her favorite author is not as delightful as it seems in Jane’s books. Rose and Aiden are welcomed by Jane’s sister, Cassandra, and her brothers, Edward and Charles, and while Aiden is thrilled to see the village as it was during Austen’s time, Rose is more preoccupied with the reason behind their speedy departure from 21st century Bath — especially as it pertains to her own past.

I adored The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen as much as I did the first book. The time travel aspect was fun, especially to see the modern-day transports adjust to the clothing (or lack thereof), shoes, and even food and drink of Austen’s time, not to mention the lack of hygiene and modern medicine. There is plenty of humor to balance out the more emotional scenes, and even as the reason for Rose’s travel back into time (and what it might mean for her future) is revealed, Bright and Grafton keep the tone light and hopeful — and there is always Jane or Charles to provide some levity.

It is clear that Bright and Grafton took time to research what Chawton was like in the early 1800s to show readers how much had changed by Rose’s time, and their affection and respect for Austen and her family really shine through. Their Jane felt authentic to me, in her words and her actions, and that made me love the book all the more. I enjoyed following Rose and Jane through time, watching Rose navigate her ties to both the past and the present, and seeing Rose and Aiden’s relationship strengthen in such a short time under such weighty circumstances. The world that Bright and Grafton have created is fascinating, their characters endearing, and I didn’t want the book to end. I sure hope there will be a third book in the series, as I’m not ready to let go of Rose and Jane, their friendship, or their adventures just yet.

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Source: Review copy from William Morrow

The Clergyman’s Wife is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that follows Pride and Prejudice‘s Charlotte Lucas as she builds her life in Kent after marrying Mr. Collins. Molly Greeley tells Charlotte’s story from the first person point of view, so readers really get to know her and understand why she was willing to marry a laughingstock of a man who had been rejected by her best friend. Charlotte has given up any foolish notions of romance and love in exchange for security, but she finds happiness with her infant daughter, Louisa.

Greeley describes the early days of their marriage and how Charlotte settled into her life as the clergyman’s wife. She cares for Louisa, suffers through William’s sermons with the rest of the congregation, calms his anxieties and redirects his attentions whenever possible, endures visits to Rosings and the high handedness of Lady Catherine, and worries that she is not up to the task of caring for the families of the parish. When Charlotte befriends Mr. Travis, a tenant farmer of Lady Catherine’s, she is thrown off kilter, not used to being truly seen and heard.

Greeley’s Charlotte is a complicated character, one who understands the obstacles life has thrown in her path and takes practical steps to overcome them — and who also understands that her choices cannot be undone. It was easy to get lost in Charlotte’s story because she felt real. She knew her options were limited and followed her mind, not her heart, in choosing her path. She knew her husband was ridiculous but made the best of a difficult situation, holding onto moments of tenderness that seemed few and far between. Greeley’s Mr. Collins isn’t cruel; he seems self-centered, obsequious where Lady Catherine is concerned, and careless with his words. It’s easier to understand Charlotte’s reasoning for marrying him than it is to understand how she is going to put up with him until death do they part — especially after watching her friendship with Mr. Travis evolve.

The Clergyman’s Wife gives Charlotte a chance to tell her story, and a chance to see what she might have had. The Darcys and the Bennets make appearances, but this is truly Charlotte’s story, an emotional battle of sorts between the desire for love and the reality of her life as Mrs. Collins. It gave me a new appreciation for Charlotte and is definitely one of the best Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels I’ve ever read, staying true to Jane Austen’s character while breathing new life into her.

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Source: Review copy from Johns Hopkins University Press

Book Summary: In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they were instrumental in bringing Austen’s work and reputation before the general public. Packed with nearly 100 full-color photographs of dazzling, sometimes gaudy, sometimes tasteless covers, The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes. Informed by the author’s years of unconventional book hunting, this book will surprise even the most ardent Janeite with glimpses of scruffy survivors that challenge the prevailing story of Austen’s steady and genteel rise.

My thoughts: The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a fantastic book about Jane Austen’s rise to popularity, but it’s also a look at the evolution of the publishing industry and how owning books became possible for the lower classes during the nineteenth century and beyond. I thought it was interesting how Janine Barchas, an academic, became interested in mass-market books and their covers and what they convey to the reader when 11- and 12-year old students at her daughter’s all-girl’s school thought Mr. Darcy was a vampire because the inexpensive edition of Pride and Prejudice they were given resembled the cover of the books in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. It is fascinating to consider the impact of covers on how a reader perceives books (especially when there have been so many different versions of the same books, as in Austen’s case), the differences between the prized editions of the classics in academic libraries and the books the average reader owns, and how, as Barchas writes in the preface, “cheap books make authors canonical.”

Barchas looks at how these cheap mass-market books were created and at who owned these volumes. There are pictures throughout the book to show the various editions she came across and what makes them unique, and there are rich descriptions of these books and why they are just as important as the first editions sought by collectors and academic libraries. Barchas packs a lot of information into this book, but makes the history accessible and captivating. And the book itself is beautiful, with numerous photographs that bring these lost books to life. I knew little about the publishing industry and how it evolved during and after Austen’s time, and as a lover of books (not just the stories but the books themselves) I was practically salivating at the pictures of books I’d love to have in my own collection. It got me thinking about the numerous versions of Austen’s novels that I own, where they came from, and what stories the covers tell about the contents of the books.

If you’re looking for a last-minute holiday gift for the Janeite in your life (or just treat yourself!), The Lost Books of Jane Austen would be a delightful addition to their shelves.

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Source: Gift

Over the summer, my husband and I started watching the Aurora Teagarden movies with Candace Cameron Bure on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. After watching four or five of the movies, I told my husband that I wanted to start reading the books, and he surprised me with the first two in one volume, and I after I blew through that book, he bought me the next two in the series, and then for my birthday, he bought me the last six books in the series. I’m slowly making my way through them now.

Since they are mysteries, I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I’ll share the summaries from the back of the book, and then my thoughts on each and how they compare to the movies.

Book 1: Real Murders

Georgia librarian Aurora “Roe” Teagarden belongs to a club called Real Murders, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. But after she finds a member dead, killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss, Roe has to uncover the person behind a terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects — or potential victims…

My thoughts: The Aurora Teagarden from the book series is NOTHING like Candace Cameron Bure’s Aurora Teagarden in looks or personality. The books are told from the first person POV, so readers really get to know Aurora. She is very opinionated about the people in her small town of Lawrenceton, a suburb of Atlanta, and a lot of what she thinks isn’t nice. She feels real, though, which is a good thing, considering that there are 10 books in the series and she’s the main character. Of course, there are many times when she does things (or doesn’t do them) that make me want to shake some sense into her, but she’s an amateur sleuth after all.

As someone who grew up watching true crime documentaries and reading true crime books, it didn’t seem odd to me that Aurora was interested in famous murders and was part of a group that discussed unsolved murders and offered up their own theories. But many people in town, including Roe’s mother, Aida, think it’s a bit weird. (And here I am reading the book and thinking that I’d love to be in a group like Real Murders!)

A lot of characters are introduced in this book, mostly members of the club, and it’s a bit hard to keep track of them all at first, but it made sense because more characters = more suspects. All of the characters were interesting and seemed like people you really might encounter in a small town. I liked how Harris threw in some romantic tension with police officer Arthur Smith and mystery writer Robin Crusoe. I thought the murders were pretty clever (I haven’t seen the Hallmark adaptation of this book yet, and I am very curious how or if they will include the Lizzie Borden-esque crime), and I love that I hadn’t figured out whodunit early on. I don’t think there’s anything too gruesome here for readers with weak stomachs.

Book 2: A Bone to Pick

When a deceased acquaintance names Roe as heir to a substantial estate, which includes money, jewelry, and a house — complete with a skull hidden in the window seat — Roe concludes that the elderly woman has purposely left her a murder to solve. She must identify the victim and figure out which one of Jane’s ordinary-seeming neighbors is a murderer — without putting herself in deadly danger…

My thoughts: Roe is really lucky to inherit a house and a boatload of money at a time when she’s not entirely happy with her life. She’s suffered a breakup and gets the news about her windfall just as she’s embarking on a new relationship. There’s not as much action in this book, as there aren’t multiple crimes being committed as the story moves along, but a crime that has already occurred and Roe is forced to put the pieces of the mystery together when the one person who knows all the details is dead. Still, I thought the story was clever, and I enjoyed seeing how Roe evolves from the first book into the second, especially as she navigates the minefield in the police department that is her ex-boyfriend’s new wife. Their interactions were entertaining, more so than in the movies, where Roe’s relationship with Arthur wasn’t as big a deal as in the books. Again, I didn’t figure out the mystery early on, which made the book more enjoyable.

Source: Gift

Book 3: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse

Aurora “Roe” Tegarden had always worked for a living, until an unexpected legacy gave her the money to quit her librarian job. Now, with time on her hands, she decides to try selling real estate. Her mother, after all, is Lawrenceton’s premier real estate agent, giving Roe a head start on this new career.

But at her first house showing, Roe discovers the naked corpse of a rival broker in the master bedroom. To make matters worse, one of her mother’s colleagues has fallen under suspicion.

Roe, a natural-born sleuth, is determined to find out who is responsible. And when a second body is found in another house for sale, it becomes obvious that there is a very cool killer at large in Lawrenceton, one who knows a great deal about real estate — and maybe too much about Roe…

My thoughts: This installment had more action and more romantic tension, as Roe is still dating the same man from the previous book when she meets Martin Bartell when she is showing him the home that becomes the first murder scene. It’s lust at first sight for them, but thankfully, Harris shows about as much of their bedroom activities as she does the actual murders, which is to say not very much. As in the previous two books, Harris does a great job building on Roe’s character and introducing new and interesting characters, and I enjoyed the twists and turns of the murder mystery. Roe’s rocky relationship with the police and her uncanny ability to get into some sticky situations make for an entertaining read.

Books versus movies: The movies are quite different from the books, which makes it easy to enjoy both of them simultaneously. The characters are a lot different in the movie adaptations. For instance, Phillip is Roe’s much younger half-brother in the books but her college-age cousin in the movies, and she is best friends with reporter Sally Allison in the movies, but their friendship doesn’t seem as close in the books.

I read book 2, A Bone to Pick, before seeing the movie, and the movie was so different that I honestly wasn’t sure how it would play out. Some of the differences stem from the fact that the book series was published beginning in the 1990s, and there is a lot of technology (namely smartphones and easy internet searching) that are in the movies but not in the books. I saw the movie adaptation of book 3, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, before reading the book, and while the murderer was the same as in the movie, the details of the crime and how the murderer is revealed are completely different, so I was able to still enjoy the book.

Overall, I would say the books are better than the movies (of course) because they are more detailed and there are more layers to the mysteries and the characters, but I think the movies are a lot of fun and look forward to seeing them all. Have any of you read the books and/or watched the movies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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I’m a little late in posting about the two books I read for Halloween, but better late than never (and I figured a Friday the 13th was appropriate). I found two Austen-inspired books that I’d downloaded for free a while back while perusing my Kindle for something short and sweet.

A Nightmare on Grosvenor Street by Karen M Cox takes readers on a rollercoaster ride as Darcy is forced to live a nightmare in which Elizabeth is married to…let’s just say it’s someone who isn’t Darcy. It’s no picnic for Darcy to watch Elizabeth being married to this man, and Elizabeth’s married life is no picnic for her either. This story was a bit of a shock but still a delight to read. Definitely not what I’d been expecting, and it was perfect for Halloween in that it was a scary scenario, both for Darcy and for those of us who love him and Elizabeth together.

Meanwhile, Northanger Angst by Riana Everly is a unique take on Northanger Abbey. Set at Northanger Abbey as Catherine Morland is preparing to leave at the orders of General Tilney, the story takes Catherine on a literal adventure deep into the abbey as her curiosity gets the best of her. This was a shocking story, too, and more in a Halloween-ish scary way.

Both were quick and fun reads with unexpected twists and turns.

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