Archive for the ‘jane austen’ Category

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

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

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

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

(from Courage Requires)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from Courage Rises)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, and thanks for reading!


An excerpt from Courage Rises, courtesy of Melanie Rachel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Until then, son.”

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

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


An excerpt from Courage Requires, courtesy of Melanie Rachel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Courage Rises

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

Check out Courage Rises on Goodreads | Amazon


About Courage Requires

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

Check out Courage Requires on Goodreads | Amazon


About the Author

Melanie Rachel

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

Connect with Melanie on website | Facebook



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

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

Please give Kathleen a warm welcome:

Anna, thank you for inviting me to your blog!

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

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

Why Jane Austen and time travel?

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

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

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

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

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

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


About The Jane Austen Project

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

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

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

Check out The Jane Austen Project on Goodreads | Amazon


About the Author

Kathleen A. Flynn (Photo Credit: Bryan Thomas)

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

Connect with Kathleen on Facebook | Twitter | Website



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

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

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

(from House of Daughters)

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

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

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

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

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

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Today, I’m pleased to welcome Engin Inel Holmstrom to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to spotlight her latest novel, House of Daughters, which is set during the 1920s in Ottoman Turkey and inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As soon as I heard about this book, I was intrigued, and I was thrilled that Engin was willing to tell me and my readers what inspired her to put Austen’s characters into a setting I’d never considered before.

Please give Engin a warm welcome:

So glad to hear that you are interested in my new novel, House of Daughters, inspired by Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Let me explain how it came about.

I still remember the day I bought my copy of the book. I was a sophomore at the American College for Girls in Istanbul—a private school where most classes were taught in English. My roommate and I had gone to Pera, Istanbul’s main shopping and entertainment venue then, to watch a movie and visit my favorite shop, the Hachette Bookstore. The minute I saw the book, I fell in love with it. It was a palm-sized leather-bound version in navy blue…very elegant and practical. After all these years and multiple readings, the book is still intact. Every time I open it, it tickles me to see my handwritten definitions of the words ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’.  My English was that bad then and, as a result, most of Austen’s gentle barbs at the frailties of human behavior went over my head. But, I got the delicious basic story of a spunky girl putting a proud man in his place and taming him! For a while, Elizabeth became our role model, but unfortunately, not a single Darcy was around!

Many years later, when I was waiting for an inspiration for my second novel, I picked up the book and started reading it again, as I usually do once a year. Lo and behold, right in front of my eyes, Austen’s first sentence morphed into something else:

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a father in possession of five daughters must be in want of peace of mind that only suitable sons-in-law can provide.

Pride and Prejudice, Turkish style! Why not? So many retellings or sequels to the novel have been written but no one has transported the popular story to another country, least of all to Turkey. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became.

I started imagining scene after scene of a Turkish family saddled with the problem of five unwed daughters. I gave the name Perihan to the second oldest, my doe-eyed Turkish version of Elizabeth. I imagined my Turkish Darcy, named Murat, to be a dashing wounded officer, in a hospital, taken care by Nurse Perihan. But where and when in Turkey? Istanbul, of course. That’s where I was born and raised. Then I knew it had to be the 1920s for two reasons. First, I didn’t want the story to take place in modern times. Nowadays most Turkish girls find their own husbands without the help of their family or matchmakers. The dynamics of a certain class of Turkish family in the 1920s Istanbul were somewhat similar to those of English families of Austen’s time. Second, the decade of the 1920s, following WWI, provided me with an exciting background for my story. Istanbul was occupied by the British. The Ottoman Empire was dying. The nationalists were fighting for independence in Anatolia, and Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later renamed Ataturk by a grateful nation, was busy with plans to found a new Turkish republic and transform what was left of the Ottoman Empire into a modern democratic state.

I had learned from my first novel, Loveswept, a romance involving a Turkish girl and an English merchant marine officer, that it’s easier to start with something from one’s own life history. So in the first chapters of House of Daughters, I described my own family house in Goztepe, on the Asian side of Istanbul. And once you start, the rest follows, right?

My female characters, although traditionally subdued at the beginning, become more outspoken and independent women as the country undergoes dramatic social and cultural changes. Murat and his friends are not the dandies of Austen’s time but officers involved in a clandestine plot to outsmart the British.  And who helps them achieve their goal? My Perihan! So, the book has a lot to offer not only to Austen fans but also to those who like novels about strong female characters.

Here’s a teaser from House of Daughters. After their break-up, Murat and Perihan meet again:

…Perihan has never seen him standing up. Nor dressed. He seemed taller, more powerful, and more masculine. Wavy brown hair made him look younger and more handsome. Much more. She could still feel his cool taut skin under her hands and the ripple of his muscles…

…Murat was staring at Perihan now, so different from the one in the ill-fitting nursing uniform he had known. Dressed in a full-skirt and a tight-fitting white blouse, this one had a tiny waist that he was certain his hands could encircle easily. A slender neck rose from the open collar she was nervously trying to button. He smiled. That simple act attracted more attention than if she had left it alone.

If you read and like House of Daughters, try my first novel, Loveswept, too.


About House of Daughters

Engin Inel Holmstrom’s second novel, House of Daughters, is a delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to 1920s Turkey. The Ottoman Empire is dying. Istanbul is occupied by the British. But all Emin Efendi can think of is marrying off his five daughters to secure their places and fortunes.

While working as a nurse, Emin Efendi’s favorite daughter Perihan meets a dashing, wounded Turkish officer, Major Murat. They’re attracted to each other, but Murat’s pride in his family’s social status prejudices their blossoming love.

In this retelling, Jane Austen’s beloved characters are taken out of the drawing room and their tale is told within the historical context of the Turkish fight for independence, birth of its new nation, and greater opportunities for women. House of Daughters should appeal to Austen’s readers as well as all those who enjoy reading novels with strong female characters.

Check out House of Daughters on Goodreads | Amazon


About the Author

Engin Inel Holmstrom

Engin Inel Holmstrom was born and raised in Turkey. She came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Exchange Student to go to graduate school for her Ph.D. and later married her classmate. They both taught at her alma mater in Istanbul for three years before returning to the United States and settling in the Washington, D.C. area. House of Daughters is Holmstrom’s second novel. In her spare time, Holmstrom enjoys writing, painting, and ballroom dancing. She currently lives in Leesburg, with her husband of 53 years and her two cats.

Connect with Engin on Facebook | Twitter | Website



I have 3 ebook copies of House of Daughters to offer to my readers, courtesy of the publicist at Lavidge. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what most intrigues you about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 30, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Longtime readers of my blog know that I am a huge fan of the Austen-inspired fiction published by Meryton Press, so I was thrilled to be asked to participate in the Dear Friend Event:

“Mrs. Collins welcomed her friend with the liveliest pleasure, and Elizabeth was more and more satisfied with coming, when she found herself so affectionately received.” – Jane Austen

Jane Austen describes a fine friendship between Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Collins. One friend welcomes another with “the liveliest pleasure,” and the other is pleased to share in that. We at Meryton Press know from your words that you, our fans, receive our books with pleasure and affection. It makes our authors warm inside to know that.

In the month of April, we want to show our appreciation to you, our most steadfast supporters, our dear friends. Good friends give each other gifts. You have given us the gift of your affectionate reception, and we want to reciprocate by giving some of you gifts in return.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t give everyone a gift, but at each hosted blog post during this event on the schedule listed below, an opportunity will be given to enter to win a surprise gift. Each person who comments can enter a Rafflecopter drawing to win. Although a person can enter multiple times (once on each blog post and tweet daily on each blog post), they can win only once. One winner will be chosen at each blog. Five gifts total will be awarded.


What a very generous giveaway! I’ve read and enjoyed many books from Meryton Press, so the winner is in for a real treat! If you are interested in learning about some of the books published by Meryton Press, check out my reviews of these stellar books:


The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio


Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder
Second Impressions by Amy George
The Elizabeth Paper by Jenetta James
Side by Side, Apart by Ann Galvia
A Searing Acquaintance by J.L. Ashton
Undeceived by Karen M Cox


Then Comes Winter edited by Christina Boyd
Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North
A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler
Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer edited by Christina Boyd
Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James
A Peculiar Connection by Jan Hahn
Aerendgast by Rachel Berman
Pride, Prejudice & Secrets by C.P. Odom


The Muse by Jessica Evans
Haunting Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory
Consequences by C.P. Odom
Alias Thomas Bennet by Suzan Lauder


The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler


The Dear Friend Event is not just about Meryton Press showing appreciation to their readers; it’s also a celebration of books and why avid readers love to read.

I’ve always loved to read. I don’t remember when I started; it’s just something I’ve always done for as far back as I can remember. Books have always been an escape for me. They’ve helped me through some difficult times over the years, giving me an opportunity to put aside my troubles for a little while and slip away to another world. They help relax my mind after a long day at work and send me off to sleep every night.

One of the reasons Meryton Press grabbed my attention so many years ago was its focus on Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice in particular. Pride and Prejudice is one of the first classics I ever read and fell in love with. I never read Austen in school; only on my own. So after the stresses of college were over and the stresses of marriage and motherhood began, I was overjoyed to stumble upon dozens and dozens of Austen variations and realize that I never had to let go of my favorite characters.

Moreover, I love to read World War II novels; the history of that period just fascinates me. However, they aren’t the easiest books to get through, especially the ones focused on the horrors of the war. So to finish one of those and then pick up an Austen variation and be 99 percent sure that Darcy and Elizabeth will find their way to each other and live happily ever after is refreshing.

But most of all, my love of books and Jane Austen has brought me in touch with so many like-minded people, and I treasure these friendships here on the blog, on Goodreads, and on Facebook. 🙂

Now, as a special treat, I am delighted to welcome Meryton Press author Karen M Cox to Diary of an Eccentric to talk about her love of reading…and Jane Austen, of course! Please give her a warm welcome:

I don’t remember learning to read.

I asked my mother to teach me when I was three, according to the family lore. All I know is, by the time I was about five, I could pretty much read whatever my child’s mind wanted. My mother and father are both readers, so becoming one myself was as natural as breathing. There were always books in my parents’ house. In my childhood, I devoured children’s novels:  A Wrinkle in Time, Little House of the Prairie, Caddie Woodlawn, The Witch of Blackbird Pond were among my favorites. Alas, as I grew, life sometimes got in the way of reading for fun: music and plays in high school, boys (!), college and graduate school, and then marriage and little children of my own. I couldn’t always drown myself in that netherworld of a great novel when I wanted, but that only made the experience more precious when I had it.

I love taking in the stories of people’s lives, whether in history (Mary Chesnut and Thomas Meagher come to mind) or in novels (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Dragonwyck, the In Death series by JD Robb). When I found Jane Austen though (as an adult—late, compared to some) something was different. She was unique: witty, satirical, funny. And yet, (like a certain gentleman’s version of an accomplished woman) to all this, she added something more. She saw her characters: their truth, their flaws, their foibles, their sweetness, their infamy, and their integrity. And she told their stories in a way that made them leap off the page for me, and become real enough to stick around as I went through my days. When I found others who felt the same way I did about Austen, it was kismet. And when I discovered along the way that I too, had things I wanted to say—about families, about love, about life—Jane was the one who pointed the way for me to do that.

Joseph Campbell’s books on the role of myth in culture and society have always intrigued me. In The Hero’s Journey, he states: “When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous.”

This is sort of inadvertently how I’ve built my reading house. It’s a chaotic, disordered house at times, littered with history, sociology, education, psychology, literature, trashy novels, serious works, and wonderful fluffy stories that make me smile. Campbell might find a few too many “scraps” here, there and elsewhere in my reading world. But what I’ve discovered is that in the midst of this chaos, my series of author obsessions, and reading what influenced them and who they, in turn, influenced, is a meandering path that leads me to places I never imagined. It makes for a rich, colorful journey around the sun. Reading opens the world to all of us. I don’t know how an activity that seems so solitary can connect us, but it does. Reading is a powerful thing, a magic—ever-changing, ever fresh and new—that any of us can obtain, simply by picking up a book and entering within.

And if, by some quirk of fate, I can write something that takes a reader to a place where she can smile, think, or remember, I’m humbled by that—and eternally grateful.

Happy Reading!

Thank you so much, Karen, for sharing your story! You describe my thoughts on Austen perfectly. And my dear readers, I hope YOU will share your stories about learning to read and falling in love with books in the comments!



Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Eligible entries will comment on Dear Friend Event blog posts, tweet about the event and use the rafflecopter to enter. Winners will provide a valid U.S. shipping address for gift delivery upon request. Further details for entering to win a gift are posted here.


  • All Winners will be contacted via social media or email and announced on the Meryton Press website, Facebook, and/or Twitter.
  • In the event that a winner or winners do not respond within 5 days, a new winner will be drawn.
  • Winners may not be Meryton Press employees, contractors or authors.
  • An entrant can enter once per Dear Friend Event blog post and multiple times on Social Media, but can win only once.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Twitter.


Dear Friend Blog Schedule:

More Agreeably Engaged–April 1; ends at 11:59 PM April 6th; winner announced April 7th

Austenesque Reviews–April 8; ends at 11:59 PM April 13th; winner announced April 14th

So little time…–April 15; ends at 11:59 PM April 20th; winner announced April 21st

Diary of an Eccentric–April 22; ends at 11:59 PM April 27th; winner announced April 28th

Just Jane 1813–April 29; ends at 11:59 PM May 4th; winner announced my May 5th

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