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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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Source: Review copy from the editor

Christina Boyd and her “dream team” of Austenesque writers put out the best Austen-inspired anthologies, hands down. It took me a while to finish Rational Creatures, partly because my life has been so busy and reading time has been limited and partly because I wanted to savor this collection. For me, it’s easy to quickly read through stories that are lighthearted romances, and while there is some romance in these stories, the romance in my opinion wasn’t the focal point here.

These stories are about the women in Austen’s novels, a mix of prequels, sequels, and side stories covering the heroines (and everyone’s favorite antiheroine Lady Susan) as well as many secondary characters, including Charlotte Lucas, Sophia Croft, Penelope Clay, Mary Crawford, and Eleanor Tilney. I’m not going to detail each of the stories, as it’s more fun to jump right in and just go with the flow. As with all of The Quill Collective anthologies, I enjoyed each story and getting to know each of these characters in a new way. I loved how the stories delved deeper into each character — their back stories, the love stories we don’t see in Austen’s novels, their thoughts on their place in society and the limitations that accompany that status, and so much more.

Rational Creatures is a fantastic anthology that shows exactly why we love Austen’s characters: love ’em or hate ’em, Austen’s female characters each are strong in their own way. These stories gave me a new appreciation of characters who aren’t the usual favorites, like Fanny Price, or who make bad decisions, like Charlotte Lucas and Louisa Musgrove, or the “bad girls,” like Mary Crawford, or the ones we simply know little about but who must have rich stories, like Sophia Croft. The stories made me laugh, made me think, and basically made me want to re-read Austen’s novels. I really hope these Quill Collective anthologies keep coming!

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Source: Review copy from Hallmark Publishing

Love at the Shore by Teri Wilson, based on the Hallmark movie of the same name, was the perfect summer read. (Yes, it’s time for my annual catch up on reviews before the end of the year.) Set on Tybee Island, Georgia, the novel follows YA author Jenna Turner — who is staying at a beach house for the summer with her children, Nick and Ally — and the surfer next door Lucas McKinnon. Jenna is expecting quiet summer days where she can finish her second novel while her kids are at camp, but she quickly realizes that Lucas, with his loud music, his rambunctious dog Tank, and, of course, his good looks, is going to be a major distraction.

Of course, Jenna and Lucas are complete opposites, which causes plenty of tension, and of course, they can’t stand each other. Of course, Nick and Ally want to get to know Lucas and play with his dog, and of course, Lucas doesn’t really know how to handle children and Jenna doesn’t want them getting too attached or picking up his “lazy surfer” ways. Just like the movie, the novel is predictable, but that’s to be expected, and it doesn’t really matter with these kinds of stories. I was a bit apprehensive about reading the novelization of Love at the Shore, mainly because I’d already seen the movie several times, but having loved Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy (which was way better than the Hallmark movie version of the novel), I had to give it a try — and I wasn’t disappointed.

Wilson gives a depth to the characters that isn’t in the movie. Sure, you see the characters evolve over the course of the two hours, but Jenna still grated on my nerves at times. In Wilson’s novel, Jenna is still the same Jenna as in the movie, but you get to see into her mind and her heart and feel for her in a way that you might not while watching the movie. Moreover, the decision Lucas makes in the movie that hurts Jenna and her kids is still disappointing but more understandable when fleshed out by Wilson. Ultimately, despite having seen the movie multiple times, it felt like I was experiencing the story for the first time, and the epilogue set after the movie ends is a nice treat.

This is the second book I’ve read from Hallmark Publishing that is based on a Hallmark movie, and now I just have to give their original novels a try.

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Source: Purchased

I finished reading Jill Mansell’s This Could Change Everything several months ago, and the characters have stuck with me since then. The novel centers on Essie, whose life is turned upside down when her scathing but hilarious Christmas round-robin email is sent to her entire address book by Lucas, a stranger who drove her drunk brother home from a party. She and her friend Scarlett had planned to exchange these letters privately as Christmas gifts. But what Lucas thought was harmless fun results in Essie being jobless, homeless, and single all at once.

When Essie meets the elegant, fun-loving, and generous Zillah, her life appears to be looking up. She has a new apartment in a new town, new friends in Zillah and Zillah’s other tenant, the former lawyer turned gardener and photographer Conor, and a new job at a bar close to her new home. However, she is in for a major shock when she comes face to face with Lucas, and it becomes harder and harder for her to see him only as the man who ruined her whole life.

In true Mansell style, the characters are endearing, fun, and a bit over the top at times, and she does a great job of blending humor with romance and even some teary-eyed scenes. As always, Mansell’s secondary characters are just as interesting as the main characters, and I enjoyed watching them evolve and journey toward their own happily ever afters. This Could Change Everything shows how seemingly small actions really do change everything for each character, and how an email prank brings them together in unexpected ways, teaching them a lot about friendship, family, love, and forgiveness.

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Source: Review copy from author

I’ve loved every book I’ve read so far by Maria Grace, and her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions, was no exception. In her latest novel, Grace imagines Elizabeth Bennet as the daughter of a vicar who lives only a mile or so away from Pemberley. She’s basically grown up with Mr. Darcy and is a close friend to him and his sister, so it’s no surprise that he turns to her for advice whenever a problem (usually with Georgiana) crops up. However, her parents have made sure she knows the importance of not aspiring above her social station.

Things grow complicated when Elizabeth encourages Mr. Darcy to hold a house party at Pemberley, where Georgiana can practice for her coming out by acting as hostess and learning how to act in polite society. Chaos erupts with the arrival of their guests, Mr. and Miss Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Anne de Bourgh, and Grace’s original characters: Sir Alexander Garland and his sister, Miss Blanche Garland. It’s not long before the novel seems to mirror Mansfield Park, with Darcy and Elizabeth as a sort of Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price and the Garlands as Henry and Mary Crawford — complete with a theatrical production.

Grace had me on the edge of my seat, as I had no idea where the plot was going and I couldn’t fathom how a happily ever after could occur. The Garlands were both overwhelming with their strong personalities and willingness to throw convention to the wind, and it was even difficult to like Darcy and Elizabeth at times. However, I think that is what made the novel interesting and hard to put down. I just had to go with the flow and accept the different circumstances in which Darcy and Elizabeth found themselves. And I wasn’t at all disappointed with the outcome.

Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions is not your typical Pride and Prejudice variation, but a breath of fresh air in its departure from canon and the risks Grace took with Austen’s beloved couple. If you’re looking for something unique and exciting, a little shocking at times, with strong (especially the original) characters, and a different take on Darcy and Elizabeth, then you’ll definitely want to give this one a try.

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About Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions

Darcy is at his wits end.

As guardian to his younger sister, he wants her to become a properly accomplished woman–she is coming out soon, after all. But Georgiana steadfastly refuses despite the encouragement of Elizabeth Bennet, long time Darcy family friend. Darcy invites a few guests to Pemberley in the hopes of encouraging Georgiana’s improvement with a taste of society.

Unexpected additions to the party prove dangerously distracting, leaving the Darcy family on the brink of disaster. Elizabeth holds the key to their restoration, but she has fled Pemberley, unable to tolerate another day in the Darcys’ company.

Will Darcy relinquish his pride and prejudice to seek out a woman below his notice before his family is irreparably ruined?

Universal Book Buy Link

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Giveaway

Maria Grace is generously offering one ebook copy of Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 27, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Source: Review copy from author

Joana Starnes’ newest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Journey Home to Pemberley, was a treat from start to finish. She imagines what might have happened had Elizabeth reunited with Mr. Darcy following his disastrous Hunsford proposal while touring the Lake Country with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Darcy is taking the long, scenic route to Pemberley as he tries to come to terms with Elizabeth’s refusal, and when he is injured during a storm, he ends up at the inn where Elizabeth and the Gardiners are taking refuge.

While their initial reunion is a little awkward but sweet and full of hope for the future, I knew it was too soon in the book for that to last. But what happened next gutted me. I hadn’t expected THAT, and I hadn’t realized I was so wrapped up in their newfound happiness until I had the rug pulled out from under me, much like our dear couple. I felt it to the core, but I’ve never been disappointed by Starnes before, so I kept reading through their pain and trusted there would be a reward in the end.

The Journey Home to Pemberley was a true page turner, full of romance, angst, and passion and twists and turns that I hadn’t anticipated. Starnes has a way of transporting readers into the story, and I truly felt like I was on the journey with Darcy and Elizabeth. Telling the story mainly through Elizabeth’s point of view provided some suspense, as I kept wondering what Darcy was thinking and feeling at that moment while I was feeling Elizabeth’s pain as she observed him. When they were reunited at the beginning, they both had confronted some hard truths about themselves, but Starnes had many more trials in store for them, and she does a fantastic job of showing how they were changed by their circumstances. The original characters, from Timms and Moll, the innkeeper and his wife, to Bella and Meg, the Monkford sisters, were delightful additions as well.

I’ve loved all of the books I’ve read by Starnes so far, and The Journey Home to Pemberley was no exception. I expected to love it like the others, but I didn’t expect to FEEL it as much as I did, and that, to me, is the sign of a great book and a great writer. I’m already eagerly anticipating what she has in store for us next!

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Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Joana Starnes

Joana lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats – physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst – but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination, and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine.

She is the author of eight Austen-inspired novels (From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley; The Subsequent Proposal; The Second Chance; The Falmouth Connection; The Unthinkable Triangle; Miss Darcy’s Companion; Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and The Darcy Legacy) and one of the contributors to the Quill Ink anthologies (The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know, Rational Creatures and Yuletide). They are all available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and some in Audible too: Joana’s Amazon Page.

You can connect with Joana on: Facebook | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Austen Variations

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Giveaway

Joana is generously giving away 8 Kindle copies and a paperback of The Journey Home to Pemberley and a Jane Austen & Pride and Prejudice goodie bag as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Source: Review copy from Meryton Press

The Mist of Her Memory is another winner from Suzan Lauder, and this being her first romantic suspense variation of Pride and Prejudice, it shows her versatility and growth as a writer. I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot because it’s best that you just dive in and enjoy the ride for yourself.

When the novel opens, readers quickly learn that some sort of accident happened when Elizabeth was visiting Lambton with the Gardiners and that she has lost her memory. While her aunt and uncle believe Mr. Darcy isn’t to be trusted, Elizabeth struggles to make sense of the bits and pieces she remembers of him and longs to escape from the confines of the Gardiners’ home to speak to him. Meanwhile, Darcy is struggling with his feelings for Elizabeth and that he can never see her again, given the Gardiners’ demands.

I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book, wanting to know why the Gardiners kept avoiding her questions about Lydia, why the Bennets have been treated so harshly by the townspeople, and what happened to Elizabeth in Lambton to cause her memory loss. Lauder does an excellent job with pacing, parceling out the details in such a way that you can’t stop turning the pages to see how it all fits together. It was hard to see Elizabeth so weak in that she can’t remember things and suffers extreme headaches the more she tries to remember, yet she was so strong in that she survived at all. Mr. Darcy’s suffering was hard to read as well, especially as he laments his permanent separation from Elizabeth. The Mist of Her Memory is the perfect blend of suspense and romance, and it’s definitely one I would read again even though I know how it all plays out.

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About The Mist of Her Memory

What happened that fateful morning in Lambton?

What brutal attacker caused such grievous, near-fatal injuries?

Does she remain in danger? Elizabeth cannot remember!

Sequestered in her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s London home, Elizabeth Bennet tries to recover from a devastating incident that stole her memories during their Derbyshire tour. She continues to suffer from strange, angry voices in her head and to recall events that people tell her never happened. Even those who love her refuse to believe her. Elizabeth can barely endure the confusion!

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate for any hint of his beloved’s well-being, yet he lacks the information he seeks as her family forbids him contact with Elizabeth. His frustration mounts when he learns that her mental impairment incited taunting and torment in her home village of Meryton.

Which of Elizabeth’s recollections bear the closest resemblance to the truth? And what is the result of her sister Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham? How is Mr. Darcy to rekindle his romance with Elizabeth when her aunt and uncle strictly shield her from him?

Prepare to grip the edge of your seat during this original romantic tale of suspense and mystery, another Pride and Prejudice variation by bestselling author Suzan Lauder.

“Suzan Lauder skillfully weaves a story that submerges you into the plot and doesn’t let go. The Mist of Her Memory’s twists and turns hold a well-guarded secret that keeps you guessing until the very end.”

̶ author L. L. Diamond

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Suzan Lauder

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a suspense novel, The Mist of her Memory is the fifth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, the dramatic tension-filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate, and the Regency romantic comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman.

She and Mr. Suze and two rescue cats split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish Sea and a 150 year old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead, on her Facebook author page, on Twitter, and on Instagram as Suzan Lauder. She is a lifetime member of JASNA.

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is offering eight eBooks copies of The Mist of Her Memory. The giveaway runs until midnight, May 19, 2019. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified.

One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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May 7 / Just Romantic Suspense / Book Excerpt

May 8 /  Austenesque Reviews / Vignette Post

May 9 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Book Excerpt

May 10 / From Pemberley to Milton / Guest Post

May 11 / More Agreeably Engaged / Guest Post

May 12 / Half Agony, Half Hope / Book Review

May 13 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Character Interview

May 14 / Just Jane 1813 /  Author Interview

May 15 / My Vices and Weaknesses / Book Excerpt

May 16 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Review

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Source: Review copy from the author

Allie Cresswell’s newest novel, Dear Jane, is the final installment of the Highbury trilogy, based on Jane Austen’s Emma. I can assure you that it’s a standalone novel, as I have not read the first two books yet (but definitely plan to) and was able to follow and enjoy the story just fine. Dear Jane fleshes out the backstories of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, whose childhoods away from their closest relatives in Highbury are mentioned in Austen’s novel but not covered in great detail.

What was it like for Jane to grow up with the affluent Campbell family, away from her impoverished grandmother and aunt, Mrs. and Miss Bates? What was it like for Jane to enjoy the love and acceptance of the Campbell family, plus the luxuries and opportunities afforded to her as their ward, while knowing that it wouldn’t last forever, and that she likely would have to go into service as a governess? Meanwhile, what was it like for Frank to live under his demanding and controlling aunt, to prepare to one day inherit their estate but be unable to enjoy the usual freedoms of young men — not to go to university as planned and not even visit his father, Mr. Weston, without doing so secretly?

Cresswell does a great job showing how difficult it was for them to navigate their situations, even while being given better lives and opportunities than they likely would have had in Highbury. She also gives readers an in-depth look at their meeting in Weymouth and the events that occur before we meet them for the first time in Emma.

I really enjoyed getting a chance to better know and understand Jane and Frank, beyond what is seen of them in the original novel, much of which is clouded by Emma Woodhouse’s opinions about them — her longtime rivalry with Jane and her infatuation with the young man everyone has talked about and fawned over for years before he finally arrives in Highbury. It is easy to dislike both of them in Emma, especially Frank, but seeing this side of their story gives readers much to think about.

Dear Jane is a fantastic look at some of Austen’s most intriguing secondary characters — with the addition of some very interesting original characters, like the infuriating Lady Sowerby — and getting to see Emma, Mr. Knightley, Miss Bates (whose babbling is perfectly captured by Cresswell; I could hear her dialogue in my mind like I was watching one of the movie adaptations), and the rest of the Highbury natives was a real treat.

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About Dear Jane

The final installment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.

Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.

Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Allie Cresswell

Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

You can contact her via her website at www.allie-cresswell.com or find her on Facebook.

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Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Dear Jane as part of the blog tour using this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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