Archive for the ‘jane austen’ Category

blame the mistletoe

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Their mother is vulgar, their younger sisters are senseless, and their father is a fool to think his jokes about his family are in any way appropriate. No, they are not worthy of our association.”

“Does my past not prove to you that our own family is not without its flaws as well?”

(from Blame the Mistletoe)

Quick summary: Sarah Johnson’s Christmas novella, Blame the Mistletoe, is a delightful retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Georgiana Darcy convinces her brother to pursue Elizabeth Bennet, and the pair, along with Mr. Bingley, return to Netherfield Park for the holiday. An accident on a mistletoe-gathering adventure puts Elizabeth on the path toward thinking she might have misjudged Mr. Darcy, but Mr. Wickham’s presence in Meryton — and his tense interactions with the Darcys — leave her feeling confused. In the midst of holiday preparations, a sleigh ride, and strategically placed mistletoe boughs, can Darcy win Elizabeth’s heart?

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been in the mood for Christmas stories this year, and I couldn’t resist the Austen connection and the gorgeous cover!

What I liked: Blame the Mistletoe weaves Christmas traditions into a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I loved getting a glimpse of Mr. Darcy helping the Bennets hang a mistletoe bough, and I wished I could have enjoyed the sleigh race alongside the Bennet sisters. Johnson jazzes things up by putting Wickham at a card table with Darcy, Georgiana, and Elizabeth. I also liked how Georgiana pieced together what was bothering Darcy and Bingley and was willing to point out her flaws as a reason for Darcy not to miss out on his chance at happiness. Elizabeth’s encounter with a drunken Wickham in Meryton and the outcome of Mr. Collins’ interference in Darcy’s affairs are scenes that are not to be missed!

What I disliked: I wished that the story had been longer, not because there was anything missing, but because I got so wrapped up in Johnson’s version of events that I didn’t want it to end.

Final thoughts: Readers will enjoy Johnson’s portrayal of Austen’s characters and how she incorporates mistletoe into the story. The pacing is well done, so despite the brevity of the story, the plot doesn’t seem rushed. I read Blame the Mistletoe on a recent day off from work, curled up on the couch with some peppermint tea, our Christmas tree in the background. It was the perfect book and the perfect setting to put me in the Christmas spirit.

Disclosure: Blame the Mistletoe is from my personal library.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I read a lot of Jane Austen-inspired short stories and novellas recently, so in order to catch up, I thought I’d do another round of mini-reviews:

four days in april

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Four Days in April by Maria Grace

This Pride and Prejudice-inspired short story opens after Darcy’s failed proposal and imagines what might have happened had Elizabeth responded to his letter by writing him one. I love Grace’s writing, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed it. I loved their conversation in Lady Catherine’s drawing room, where they said so much without saying much at all. It lives up to the promise that one can read it while enjoying a cup of tea, and while I was satisfied with the ending, I wouldn’t have minded it being longer. (This is a Kindle freebie.)

sweet ginger

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sweet Ginger by Maria Grace

Inspired by Emma, this is the story of Harriet Smith, how she ended up at Mrs. Goddard’s school, and how she met Robert Martin and his sisters. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the Martins’ home life and especially how Harriet — so in need of a loving family — immediately fit right in. Grace shows readers how truly wrong Emma was in persuading Harriet to turn down Mr. Martin’s proposal. I was glad to see Harriet take center stage.

half agony half hope

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Half Agony, Half Hope by Maria Grace

This story aims to fill in the gaps in Persuasion, rather than re-imagine the novel. My favorite scene was toward the end, when Anne, Lady Russell, and Elizabeth are discussing Anne’s upcoming marriage, and Captain Wentworth shows up and offers his opinion when Elizabeth attempts to persuade Anne against getting married before her. That was a laugh-out-loud moment! (This book is available for free on the author’s website.)

teatime tales

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Teatime Tales by Leenie Brown

This is a collection of short stories mostly inspired by Pride and Prejudice, though there is one inspired by Mansfield Park. It lives up to the promise of being “a bit of fluff to brighten your day.” My favorite stories were “A Music Room Meeting,” where Colonel Fitzwilliam gets his happily ever after, “From Tolerable to Lovely,” in which Darcy and Elizabeth’s first meeting plays out much differently, and “A Battle of Wills and Words,” in which Colonel Fitzwilliam learns the hard way what happens when one tries to spar with Elizabeth Bennet.

p and p backstage pass

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Pride and Prejudice: Your Backstage Pass to Jane Austen’s Novel and the Making of the BBC TV Series, Starring Colin Firth
by Jessica Long

This was a Kindle freebie that is best suited for someone who hasn’t read Austen’s novel. It explains the plot of Pride and Prejudice, provides details about the characters, and discusses costumes and aspects of Regency society. I basically skimmed through this book because it wasn’t anything new to me.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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then comes winter

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

What I did know was that I needed to go to that party. I was trying to be Elizabeth, not Fanny, after all. Fanny would stay at home and pine after her cousin (gross). Elizabeth would go and have fun, be witty, and impress men with her “fine eyes.”

(from Then Comes Winter, “Becoming Fanny” by Melanie Stanford)

Quick summary: Then Comes Winter is the second short-story anthology from Meryton Press, with stories inspired by the winter season and Jane Austen. There are a mix of modern-day re-imaginings and Regency-era stories, from a Northanger Abbey-inspired story set in Tahoe to a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story that has Elizabeth Bennet running a successful Italian restaurant. There’s something for everyone in this collection!

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the Austen connection, of course, but I also really enjoyed the summer-themed short-story anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, so I just had to read the winter-themed one, too. And it’s the perfect time of year for a collection of stories that can be enjoyed by the Christmas tree with a cup of hot chocolate.

What I liked: The selection of stories was perfect, and I enjoyed them all. The anthology introduced me to several new authors, and again, editor Christina Boyd did an excellent job ensuring plenty of variety and a seamless flow from story to story. It would be hard for me to select a favorite story, but some that stood out were “Holiday Mix Tape” by Beau North and Brooke West, a modern-day take on Persuasion, “A Man Whom I Can Really Love” by Natalie Richards, a unique retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and “The Unexpected Gift” by Erin Lopez, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired tale in which Georgiana Darcy refuses to let her brother give up on love.

What I disliked: Nothing at all!

Final thoughts: Then Comes Winter is a perfect addition to my small library of holiday-themed books and would make a perfect gift for fans of Austen-inspired fiction. I’m very picky when it comes to short stories because I often feel like I’m left hanging at the end, but both Meryton Press anthologies are full of stories that leave readers satisfied. Not once did I think something was missing or that a story would have been better suited as a novel. It’s a delightful collection that can be read a little at a time amid all the holiday chaos.

Disclosure: I received Then Comes Winter from Meryton Press for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Darcy’s Christmas Wish: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

by Penelope Swan




Fitzwilliam Darcy never forgot the little girl, with the beautiful dark eyes, who saved his life fifteen years ago… though he never expected to meet her again. But when he comes to Rosings Park to spend the Advent season with his aunt, he discovers that at Christmastime, miracles – and wishes – can come true…

DARCY’S CHRISTMAS WISH is a sweet, clean standalone Pride and Prejudice variation – a holiday romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel!


Amazon: http://www.penelopeswan.com/wish-amazon-blogtour

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Apple iBooks: http://www.penelopeswan.com/wish-apple-blogtour

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Print edition (US): http://www.penelopeswan.com/wish-paperback-amazon-blogtour

Print edition (UK): http://www.penelopeswan.com/wish-paperback-amazonuk-blogtour


“Penelope Swan has captured the essence of the characters and their “voices” so well that one would think the text was written by Jane Austen, herself.” ~ Ingrid Holzman

“This is not a book you want to miss out on. It has the perfect amount of romance and intrigue that you would expect from a good JAFF novel.” ~ Tina Carter, Half Agony Half Hope Blog

“Jane Austen would have been proud of this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Classic, witty and romantic with mystery and intrigue. Beautifully written with vivid descriptions.” ~ Christine Evans


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Penelope Swan is the pen name of author, H.Y. Hanna, who also writes best-selling romantic suspense, mysteries and sweet romances under her other name, as well as award-winning children’s fiction. She has been an avid Jane Austen fan since her teens and is delighted that she can now live out her Regency fantasies through her books. You can find out more about her and get in touch at: www.penelopeswan.com

Excerpt from Darcy’s Christmas Wish:

Darcy-Christmas-Wish(SMALL)Fifteen years ago…

“You will come and sit here next to me, Fitzwilliam.”

Fitzwilliam Darcy got up reluctantly and eyed his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with slight apprehension. It was not that he was scared of her, exactly, but she was an intimidating woman, with her tall, imposing figure and flashing dark eyes. She had a loud voice and a way of looking down her long nose at people which made one feel nervous and insignificant. He glanced across at his mother, with her pretty, soft face and her gentle manners. Sometimes he wondered how Lady Catherine and his mother could really be sisters—the only thing they seemed to share were their dark hair and high, arched eyebrows!

Still… Darcy straightened his shoulders. He was nearly twelve years old now and his father had said that it was time he began to conduct himself like a gentleman. He could still remember the recent discourse his father had given him on the subject:

“A gentleman must at all times be courteous and considerate to others, particularly towards the ladies. It is not merely enough to be well-bred—a true gentleman must be of both good birth and noble character, always willing to fulfil his obligations and behave according to the highest ideals of chivalry and personal integrity.”

Furthermore, his father had emphasised that to take his place as a gentleman in society, Darcy would have to learn the niceties of social conduct, including, occasionally, enduring conversation and company which was not necessarily pleasing to him. Naturally, his father had hastened to add, this was not required if he was among strangers or those of inferior social class, but with his own family and those of similar consequence he must take the trouble to make himself agreeable.

Thus, Darcy pinned a polite smile on his face and walked across the salon to Lady Catherine, who gestured to the sofa next to her. Darcy sat down obediently in the space indicated—next to his cousin, Anne, who gave a delicate little cough into the lace handkerchief she held in her hands. Her governess hurriedly placed a shawl around her shoulders and fussed over her charge as Darcy shifted uncomfortably next to them.

Anne sneezed and dropped her handkerchief, which fluttered to the floor. Darcy bent over to retrieve it and as he straightened and handed it to his cousin, he caught his aunt eyeing him with a speculative gleam in her eyes. She leaned across to his mother and nodded smugly.

“There, you see, Anne? Behold how well they suit each other. I knew it would be a good match! Have we not always planned this union from the cradle?”

Darcy shifted even more uncomfortably. He hated the way his aunt was always talking about him and Anne, wriggling her eyebrows and smiling in that meaningful way. Father had laughed and told him not to take the comments to heart but it was difficult to ignore them when Lady Catherine seemed to talk of nothing else.

Marry Anne? Darcy glanced surreptitiously at his cousin. He could not imagine being married to anyone. That was something that grown-ups did and even though Father had said that he was now no longer a boy but on the way to becoming a man, marriage still seemed too far away to even think about.

Besides… he glanced at his cousin again. What a bore it would be having Anne for a wife! He would certainly not wish to spend his life with someone so pale and insipid. She never said anything, except for the occasional whisper in answer to her governess’s question about whether she was too hot or too cold, or had too much or too little light on her… Darcy did not really know what he should like in a wife but he knew it would not be someone like Anne.

No, I’d like someone fun, he thought. Someone who enjoys reading like I do and who can talk about anything, not just silly girls’ stuff… someone who’d come exploring with me in the woods and we could have adventures together and climb up—

“Fitzwilliam? Did you heed what I said, Fitzwilliam?”

Darcy came back to the present with a start. He realised that his aunt was addressing him and wondered desperately what the right response was. He had no idea what she had been saying. Thankfully, his mother came to his rescue:

“Your aunt was just suggesting that you might like to read to your cousin this morning,” said Lady Anne, smiling at her son.

Lady Catherine nodded. “I have purchased a new book of poetry which Anne should enjoy. Her health, unfortunately, prevents her from reading herself—much too much strain for her eyes—but I know you should like to read to her, Fitzwilliam.”

“Oh… er… certainly, Aunt,” said Darcy, though there was nothing he wanted to do less.

He glanced at his cousin again and felt a small stab of guilt. It was not as if he really disliked Anne—in truth, he felt a bit sorry for her: cooped up in this great mausoleum of a house, with his aunt dictating her every move and no other children for company, save for the occasional visits from himself or one of his other cousins. Nevertheless, he had no wish to spend an entire morning in Anne’s dreary company.

No, what he really longed to do was to go outside and try out that sled! It had been a stroke of luck finding the old sled in the hut at the rear of the estate. Benson, the Rosings Park head gardener, had helped him pull it out from beneath the pile of broken furniture and discarded gardening equipment, and cleaned it off for him. It was waiting for him now in the front foyer, and he was itching to try it out, especially since the new snowfall they’d had yesterday.

Darcy leaned slightly to the right to look out of the windows on the other side of the salon. He could see the glittering white banks of fresh snow beckoning to him. How he longed to be outside, feeling the cold pinching his cheeks and the wind rushing against him as he sailed downhill on the sled!

He stifled a sigh. Instead, he was forced to remain here, listening half-heartedly as the grown-ups conversed and trying to sit with his hands on his knees, his face the picture of courteous interest, as his father had instructed him. He looked across at Georgiana, who was being held in his mother’s arms, and almost wished that he could be a baby like her. No one expected anything of Georgiana for she was barely a year old and could hardly even stand upright.

“I am going to write some letters now,” said Lady Catherine, standing up from her armchair beside the fire. “You will want to attend to your correspondence too, I am sure,” she said to Lady Anne.

“I believe I may go and lie down for a period,” said Lady Anne as she handed Georgiana over to the nurse, who had been standing quietly at the side of the room. “I am feeling a trifle fatigued.”

Darcy glanced at his mother. She had been looking pale lately and seemed to often be fatigued, spending much time in her room. He knew that Mother had had a hard time when Georgiana was born, but Father had always reassured him that she would recover with rest. He watched now as his father helped his mother solicitously to her feet.

“Fitzwilliam, you may come with me and Anne to the library—you may read to her there while I write my letters,” said Lady Catherine, waving her hand imperiously.

Darcy rose slowly, then on an impulse, turned to his parents and said, “Mother—Father—may I go outside for a short while first? I should like to have a go on the sled.” He looked eagerly at his father. “Can I? Please, sir?”

Lady Catherine frowned and started to say something but Mr Darcy interrupted her. He smiled and nodded at his son.

“All right, Fitzwilliam. I know you have been champing at the bit to give that sled a try.” He glanced out of the windows. “It looks like we have had some good snow. It would certainly be an excellent opportunity to test the sled.”

“But—” Lady Catherine started to protest.

“It is advantageous for Fitzwilliam to get some air and exercise,” said Mr Darcy quietly but firmly. “Not good for the boy to be cooped up indoors all the time.”

Lady Catherine compressed her lips into a thin line but did not say anything more.

“Thank you, sir!” cried Darcy happily, turning to leave the room.

“Wait. Fitzwilliam—” called Lady Catherine.

Darcy stopped and turned back warily. He hoped that his aunt would not ask him to take Anne out sledding with him. Then he remembered the way his cousin was cosseted and protected—surely there would be no chance of Lady Catherine allowing her out in this cold!

“Have care where you take the sled, Fitzwilliam,” said Lady Catherine. “Make sure you stay away from the north side of the grounds, particularly near the pond. The hill there is very steep and you could have a bad fall.”

“I have been sledding before,” said Darcy indignantly. “I am not afraid of steep slopes—”

“Benson has advised me that the area is most dangerous,” said Lady Catherine, giving him a stern look. “You are not to go there, is that understood?”

“Yes, yes, all right,” said Darcy impatiently. Then before his aunt could say anything else, he turned and rushed out of the room.

Darcy sat up in the snow and laughed as he brushed some off his face. He got to his feet and righted the sled, which had flipped over as it hit a hump at the bottom of the hill. Thus far, the old sled was turning out to be everything he had hoped for. Despite the faded wood and old metal runners, it glided easily across the snow and ice. The only thing was… well, maybe it was not quite as fast as he could wish.

Darcy looked back up at the slope he had just come down and frowned. If only he could find a bigger hill! He was sure that with greater height, the sled would gain more momentum and therefore faster speed. He turned and scanned the snowy landscape, looking for a hill worthy of tackling. The grounds of Rosings Park stretched out around him. Darcy realised that he had come farther from the house than he had thought—he could see it now, small in the distance, the plumes of smoke rising from the chimneys. He doubted that they could see him so far away and felt pleased. He did not like the thought of Lady Catherine watching and judging his every move from the windows. It was nice to think of being outside her influence.

He turned and looked to the other side of the park. The ground sloped downwards in that direction and in the distance he could see a faint line running across the landscape. A fence, he realised. That must be the border with the neighbouring estate. And just before it, he saw that the land dipped, dropping away from sight.

There must be a sort of shelf there, Darcy realised. Maybe where the land suddenly dropped sharply downwards. A steep slope! He grabbed the rope on his sled and began to walk towards the ledge with mounting excitement, pulling the sled behind him. The snow crunched beneath his boots and he felt a few flakes drift down and land on his face, melting almost instantly. The cold nipped at his cheeks but he was pleasantly warm from his recent exertions and did not really mind.

Darcy arrived at the spot to see that his guess had been right. The land curved over the edge and swept downwards in a steep slope which ended beside a small pond surrounded by fir trees. The sight of the pond reminded him suddenly of his aunt’s warning: “Make sure you stay away from the north side of the grounds, particularly near the pond.” Had Lady Catherine meant this pond? He looked around. Yes, he was on the north side of Rosings Park, but he could see nothing that looked dangerous here. The snow lay in thick folds across the landscape and, below him, it covered the slope in a smooth layer of white powder which was particularly inviting. Everything looked pristine and peaceful.

Darcy thought of his cousin. Richard was a few years older than him and always seemed so confident and daring—he had told Darcy that he wanted to become an officer when he grew up. When he had been at Rosings together with Darcy in the past, he was always leading the way into fun and mischief. If Richard were here, Darcy thought, he would not be hesitating. No, Richard would laugh and say, “Old Benson the gardener is just fussing for nothing!”

Darcy set his sled down on the edge of the slope with sudden decision. He might be three years younger but he could be just as brave as his cousin! Quickly, he sat down on the sled, tucking his feet into position, then took a deep breath and looked down the slope once more. At the bottom, the surface of the pond gleamed dully and he realised that it must be frozen over. Perhaps he might investigate it when he reached the bottom—see if it might be suitable for a spot of ice-skating!

Eagerly, Darcy pushed off, giving a shout of delight as the sled dipped forwards, then shot downhill. He felt that familiar thrilling lurch in his stomach. The wind rushed into his face as he gathered speed and the landscape around him became a white blur as he went faster and faster…

… And faster…

The blinding snow began to make him dizzy. Darcy stretched his legs out, pushing his heels into the snow to attempt to slow the sled. But the snow was so soft that there was no resistance. The sled continued gaining speed as it rushed towards the bottom of the hill.

Darcy felt uneasy. The sled felt like it was careening out of control. He thrust his legs out harder, trying to keep his balance and remain upright as he jammed his heels into the snow. In vain, he threw his weight backwards but that only seemed to tilt the sled and cause it to shoot sideways down the slope.

“Ahhh!” cried Darcy, as the sled skidded and turned, then gave a great jolt as it hit something hard just beneath the surface of the snow.

The sled flipped.

Darcy was thrown through the air. Everything was upside down and spinning, then he felt himself dropping and saw the row of fir trees rushing up to meet him.


He landed on something hard. The breath was knocked from him and he cried out in pain. There was a terrible cracking sound and the next moment, he felt himself dropping again—only this time it was not through air but into icy water.

Darcy cried out again but the cry was cut off as he went under. He resurfaced, choking and spluttering as cold water filled his mouth and went into his nose. He gasped and kicked, paddling with his hands to keep his head above the surface. He must have fallen into the pond, he realised, and if he didn’t get out soon, he would drown in its icy depths. He shook the wet hair out of his eyes and looked desperately around. He was not far from the edge—just a few feet—and the surface ice of the pond was broken all around him.

He kicked as strongly as he could, but his legs felt curiously leaden and his fingers were swollen and numb. He could hardly feel them. His teeth chattered, and his body seemed to be seized by a violent trembling. He kicked again. Slowly, agonisingly, he managed to make his way to the edge of the pond, but by the time he reached there, he was almost spent. His breath was coming in great gasps and his entire body shook uncontrollably. He had his elbows on the bank, but he could not find the strength to haul himself out of the water.

“Help!” Darcy called weakly. “Help!”

He felt a sense of dread as he realised that no one could hear his faint cries. He was too far from the house. Who would be out here to hear him? Yes, they might start to search for him soon, but would they find him in time? Indeed, he had promised not to venture to this side of the grounds so they would not think to look here for him at first. Suddenly, Darcy almost wished that his aunt had been watching him from the windows—at least that way, she would have noticed his absence.

Once more, he tried to pull himself out of the water but he had no strength. Indeed, he was overcome by a sudden urge to just lay his head down and shut his eyes. He was so tired… so tired… he would just shut his eyes for a moment and rest… yes, rest… he was so sleepy…

Suddenly, he felt something tug at him. He raised his head, looking around in a daze, and, to his surprise, saw a young girl crouching next to him. She was bending over and grabbing a fold of his jacket, pulling with all her might. She was not very big—indeed, she looked to be no more than six or seven years old—but she was surprisingly strong and determined.

“Hold on!” she cried.

She heaved again and Darcy attempted to help her, grasping at whatever handholds he could find to pull himself out of the water. His strength was nearly gone but the girl’s determination galvanised him afresh. Slowly, slowly, he felt himself being hauled out of the water until, with one last heave, he collapsed on the snow. Panting, he rolled over and lay there shivering as the girl knelt down next to him. He looked blearily up at her. In the dazzling brightness of the snow, and with ice forming now along his eyelashes, he could barely see her properly. He had a hazy sense of dark hair and enormous brown eyes, bright and intelligent. She was peering at him anxiously.

“Are you all right?”

Darcy tried to nod, wrapping his arms around himself as he began shivering violently. He had no strength to speak.

The girl stood up. “I must get help,” she said. “I will call Aunt and Uncle. Don’t worry—I’ll run as fast as I can!”

Again, Darcy tried to nod but he did not know if his head was simply jerking as part of the spasms that wracked his body. He saw the girl look worriedly at him, then she turned and scanned the area around them. She started suddenly towards the row of fir trees. In a moment, she was back. Darcy squinted and tried to focus on her. What was she doing? She was bending over, panting as if she had been walking with effort, and he felt something drop softly on his body. A sharp, fresh smell came to his nostrils. Memory stirred. Pine needles.

Darcy turned his head and saw that the girl was covering him with several fallen branches from the fir trees.

“Keep you warm…” she said breathlessly, pulling one last feathery branch over his head.

Darcy tried to say something but nothing came out of his mouth other than a hoarse croak. The girl did not seem to notice. She bent down and looked at him one last time.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can!”

Then she was gone. Darcy heard the sound of her running feet and even in his dazed state, he marvelled at the rapid rhythm. The little girl must have been a very good country walker to cover ground so confidently.

Then his thoughts drifted… to Mother and Father… would he see them again? His little sister, Georgiana… Pemberley… his pony… his cousin Richard… even his aunt, Lady Catherine—he didn’t want to die here and never see them again… He had to try and stay awake and wait for the girl to return… But he was so sleepy… so sleepy…

His eyelids felt so heavy. Darcy let them fall. He wrapped his arms tighter around himself, curling into an even smaller ball and shivering beneath the layer of branches spread over him.

So sleepy…



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To celebrate the launch of Darcy’s Christmas Wish, here’s a giveaway for a Print edition + a Jane Austen Centre £25 Gift Voucher! Get your holiday shopping in early with some beautiful Jane Austen-inspired gifts.

To enter, simply sign up to the Penelope Swan mailing list at: www.penelopeswan.com/newsletter (and click the link below and make sure you leave your email in the Rafflecopter widget so it can be confirmed on the list).

You can also get additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway.

Giveaway starts on the 1st of Dec and ends on Dec 12th – winner will be announced on Mon Dec 14th.

Good luck! :-)

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© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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darcy's christmas wish

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

He tried to recall her face again, but already the memory was even hazier than before. Her eyes, though… she had the most beautiful, fine brown eyes… He did not think that he would ever forget them…

(from Darcy’s Christmas Wish)

Quick summary: Darcy’s Christmas Wish is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Penelope Swan in which Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet cross paths during the holidays, as he is staying with Lady Catherine at Rosings and she is staying with the Collinses at the parsonage. Elizabeth and Darcy grow closer as she takes a stand against his aunt’s treatment of a young maid, and when his cousin Richard’s son is in danger, Darcy revisits his memories from 15 years before and the young woman who saved his life.

Why I wanted to read it: Who can resist a holiday-themed Pride and Prejudice tale?  Not me!

What I liked: Darcy’s Christmas Wish is one of those books you read in one sitting. After meeting a young and fearless Fitzwilliam, there was no way I could put the book down. I also enjoyed Swan’s original characters, especially Colonel Fitzwilliam’s son, George, and Pirate the puppy. Swan changes up the timeline of Pride and Prejudice, with Jane and Bingley already married and on their honeymoon and Darcy and Elizabeth meeting at Rosings at Christmas, but she stays true to Austen’s beloved characters. Watching Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship evolve from misunderstandings to a partnership of sorts was delightful and perfect for a holiday tale.

What I disliked: Nothing!

Final thoughts: Darcy’s Christmas Wish is a sweet, heartwarming story that emphasizes the true meaning of the Christmas season: love, family and friends, and compassion for those in need. The novel opens in the past with a Christmas wish and comes full circle beautifully. If you are an Austen fan looking for a charming Christmas story, I highly recommend this one!

Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Christmas Wish from the author for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★★

Every light in the room went dark. A single spotlight illuminated her on stage as though she were the sole woman on earth. Unrivaled. Incomparable. Matchless. The room immediately fell to a hush, the only sound the low murmur of people in the room whispering as though they knew something auspicious was about to happen.

Then she started to sing, and everything changed.

(from Longbourn’s Songbird)

Quick summary: Longbourn’s Songbird takes Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to the Deep South shortly after World War II. In Meryton, South Carolina, Will Darcy spies Elizabeth Bennet taking a dip in Netherfield Pond and is immediately drawn to her beautiful voice. Despite persuading her sister, Jane, to break up with Charles Bingley and setting his sights on Longbourn Farms, Elizabeth thinks there’s more to Will Darcy than meets the eye. But the schemes of Caroline Bingley and George Wickham and a heartbreaking secret from Elizabeth’s past threaten to keep them apart. Longbourn’s Songbird is more than just a Darcy and Elizabeth love story as author Beau North fully immerses Austen’s characters into a postwar society where soldiers are haunted by the war, women are still seen as the property of their husbands, and racism and poverty abound.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the setting and time period and wanted to see how Austen’s characters would fare in post-World War II America.

What I liked: I was blown away by this novel. North seems to get the setting just right, and there are so many layers to this story, but it never feels overdone. Moreover, I loved her take on Austen’s characters, particularly Richard Fitzwilliam’s PTSD and the reason why Charlotte Lucas is willing to marry someone like the “holy roller” Leland Collins. Bingley’s backstory and how it comes full circle with Collins was so well done, as was North’s portrayal of Anne de Bourgh. North makes the secondary characters come to life while creating a Darcy and Lizzie readers can’t help but love.

What I disliked: Nothing! I breezed through this book in almost a single sitting.

Final thoughts: Longbourn’s Songbird is among the most unique retellings of Pride and Prejudice that I’ve had the pleasure to read. Yes, there is a passionate love story (more than one, actually) at its core, but it’s so much more than that. North takes the societal constraints of Jane Austen’s time and finds the similarities in the postwar South (even discussing her inspiration and reasoning in a Q&A at the end of the book, which I really appreciated). It was amazing to see how well Austen’s characters and plots fit into this setting, and North’s attention to detail makes for a rich novel. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!

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Disclosure: I received Longbourn’s Songbird from Meryton Press for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the unthinkable triangleThank you, Anna, for having me as your guest today to talk about my latest release, The Unthinkable Triangle.

But firstly, may I speak of Mrs. Bennet? I must admit that I am rather fond of her. Partly because I am fast approaching the age I think she would have been in the original novel. Married very young and presumably pregnant with Jane almost immediately, she must have been in her late forties when Pride and Prejudice started to unfold. I am also rather fond of her because I simply cannot see her as an evil, scheming mother selling her daughters to the highest bidder, but rather as a realist. Of course her daughters needed to get married, preferably soon and hopefully well. What choices other than marriage or genteel poverty were open to them, should the worst happen and they lose their father and their home?

Lastly, as an author, I am very fond of her, and also of Lydia, because they are wonderful plot devices. A pair of blabbermouths can be extremely useful in moving the plot along, or having the main characters learn of details they would not yet dare disclose to each other – or would not have the crassness to mention themselves.

For instance, in The Falmouth Connection, my last book but one, Lydia makes Elizabeth see that Mr. Darcy might be in love with her. In my latest, The Unthinkable Triangle, Mrs. Bennet orchestrates a journey north that would allow Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to finally reach their understanding. Moreover, it is thanks to her that Elizabeth finds herself travelling in Mr. Darcy’s carriage, along with her sister Mary, with Georgiana – and with the gentleman himself.

These days it takes mere hours to drive from Hertfordshire to some place or another in the vicinity of ‘Pemberley’. Not so 200 years ago, when a gentleman travelling with his own equipage and a large party of family and friends would take to the Great North Road with the expectation of covering roughly 50 miles in a day, weather permitting. They would have to frequently stop at coaching inns along the way to rest the horses and have them fed and watered, as the travellers partook of their own refreshments.

And then they would proceed at a stately pace again, and spend many hours in the close confines of a carriage. During those hours, in The Unthinkable Triangle, Elizabeth must confront her recently discovered feelings – a daunting task, in such close proximity, as the following excerpt shows.

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Coaching InnThe Unthinkable Triangle

Excerpt from Chapter 14

Meryton was far behind now, as the swaying carriages proceeded at a stately pace along the Great North Road.

In the first there was silence. Fed and content, the babe was sleeping in her mother’s arms, and the three other occupants were keen to prolong that desirable state of affairs for as long as they could.

In the second there was a mayhem of Lydia’s, Kitty’s and Mrs. Bennet’s making, which would cease for some ten minutes or so whenever Mr. Bennet determined he could not tolerate it any longer and threatened with bidding the coachman make an about-turn and head back home to Longbourn.

In the third there was no mayhem but, despite appearances, there was precious little peace. One of the seats was taken by the readers – Mary and Mr. Darcy. Presumably mortified by her father’s injunction, Mary took it to heart and forbore to say a word, devoting her full attention to Mr. Gibbon’s History of the Roman Empire. Mr. Darcy’s reading matter, although less ponderous, still lacked the power to engross him fully, and now and then he would close his book and leave it in his lap, his finger holding his place between the pages, until he would tire of staring out of the carriage window and take up reading again, with infrequent glances at the seat before him, where Elizabeth and Georgiana were maintaining a cheerful conversation.

Truth be told, the cheer was all on Georgiana’s side. Elizabeth’s sole contribution was to skilfully drop the necessary words here and there, that would encourage her young friend to share more tales of town and Derbyshire. No one could doubt Georgiana’s excitement and her delight with the company and the travel plans. She was chattier than ever, which was a surprise but no less of a blessing, for otherwise the carriage ride would have been mostly spent in awkward silence.

Elizabeth clasped her gloved fingers in her lap and smiled to Georgiana as she declared her intention to visit the Lakes in the very near future, thus providing the young girl with another topic that would bear lengthy and elaborate descriptions, and giving her leisure to cast a surreptitious glance towards her friend’s brother. She longed to speak to him – she did not dare – and her own unprecedented shyness vexed her beyond endurance.

He was intent upon his book, so she allowed her glance to linger. Dark tousled hair, a few long, wavy forelocks falling over the wide brow. Eyes cast down, lidded as though closed, with only the flicker of dark lashes to prove it was not so. Lips pressed together, presumably in concentration, making the chin jut ever so slightly forward. Strong jaw above the neckcloth and the pointed corners of the collar, no longer perfectly aligned, as they had been this morning. Cheeks vaguely shadowed. A very straight nose, the nostrils widening all of a sudden, with a deep intake of air. And then the lips again. Perfectly formed. Still tightened.

Did he kiss Miss Wyatt when he had offered for her?

She had no answer to that question. Likewise to another: what alerted people when they were being watched? A sixth sense, or whatever else it might have been, prompted Mr. Darcy to glance up so suddenly that he caught her staring. Someone who had nothing to hide might have met his eyes squarely. Those who still had their wits about them would have looked away casually and slowly, as if their mind was elsewhere and they were simply staring blankly into space. Sadly, the sensible alternatives occurred to her when it was all too late. When her cheeks were already flaming as though set on fire, and her eyes had darted in panic from his face.

She did not look his way again, not for a long time, and Georgiana was surprised to note that she was getting monosyllabic or rather odd answers to her questions. Across from them, Mr. Darcy turned to stare at the Bedfordshire countryside again.

There was at least another hour and a half till their next stop. And to their destination – one hundred and twenty-two gruelling miles.

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Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. There is an international giveaway of a Kindle copy if you would like to find out more – just leave a comment for the chance to win. The giveaway ends on Sunday, October 18.

Best of luck, thank you for visiting and many thanks again, Anna, for welcoming me as your guest.

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Thanks, Joana! It was a pleasure having you on the blog today!

Stay tuned for my review of The Unthinkable Triangle. In the meantime, check out my 5-star review of one of Joana’s previous novels, The Subsequent Proposal. You can also connect with Joana here:


© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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