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Archive for the ‘read in 2017’ Category

a-vintage-valentine

Source: Read online at Vanity & Pride Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

She was sure of the magic of Valentine’s Day, felt it in her bones. She didn’t know what to expect, but she knew this dress was part of it.

(from “A Vintage Valentine”)

Cat Gardiner’s “A Vintage Valentine” is a modern-day short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzy Bennet is a dance instructor without a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. At her sister Jane’s recommendation, Lizzy visits the Memories of Old antique shop on the rundown east side of Meryton, where the elderly shopkeeper, Doris, insists she check out the booth full of items from the 1940s. After picking up a plastic red heart brooch, Lizzy is magically transported back in time to a USO dance in 1943 and is swept off her feet by a charming GI named Will Darcy.

Traveling back 74 years is enjoyable to Lizzy, who has been contemplating a simpler life with less reliance on technology that has absorbed so much of people’s time and attention they don’t actually experience things anymore. However, Lizzy’s place is in the present.  Doris explains the reason why she needed to go back and right a major wrong, but being a true romantic, Doris assures Lizzy that there is something special in store for her as well.

“A Vintage Valentine” is a delightfully sweet tale that combines two of my favorite things: Jane Austen and the World War II era. Gardiner does a great job shifting the characters from past to present and cleverly incorporating aspects of Pride and Prejudice with time travel. Gardiner’s tales never fail to put a smile on my face, and I found myself wishing I could travel back to the romance of the 1940s myself. It’s a feel-good story with a heart-warming ending and a bit of passion and humor throughout.

Disclosure: I read “A Vintage Valentine” for free online at Vanity & Pride Press but it also is available on Amazon

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understanding-elizabeth

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

What I once spurned, I would now give all my wealth and status to have. … Through my own stupidity, I have thrown away my best chance of happiness.

(from Understanding Elizabeth)

Robin M. Helm’s latest novel, Understanding Elizabeth, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice told entirely from the point of view of Mr. Darcy. The novel opens at Netherfield, with Elizabeth Bennet in residence as she cares for her sister, Jane, whose illness is more serious than originally believed. When Darcy stumbles upon Elizabeth’s journal entries tucked into a book, he succumbs to the temptation to read her thoughts and get to know her better.

Unfortunately, he learns that Elizabeth, her family, and all of Mertyon are aware of the insulting words he said about her to Mr. Bingley at the Meryton Assembly, and he wishes he could take them back, especially as he has come to appreciate Elizabeth’s beauty and intelligence. As he fights an interior battle between wanting love and doing his duty to his family and estate, he is given the opportunity to secure his heart’s desire, but there is a serious price to pay, and Darcy must learn what it truly means to love someone in order to make the right choice.

Understanding Elizabeth follows a similar timeline as the original novel, but there are plenty of differences to hold readers’ interest. I especially enjoyed seeing Darcy balance his desire for Jane to recover with his frustration at a potential rival for Elizabeth’s affections in Dr. Stedman, and bringing Mr. Bennet to Netherfield for the duration of Jane’s illness gives him a chance to tease Darcy and observe his true character and his changing opinion toward the Bennets.

Helm does a great job bringing the secondary characters to life, creating a more steady and observant Bingley and a more confident, take-charge Georgiana, and there were several intriguing original characters, my favorite being Watkins, Darcy’s perceptive valet. There was plenty of drama involving Darcy’s otherworldly offer and, of course, Wickham, and plenty of tender moments with Elizabeth. But where the novel shines is in its first person narrative, as readers get to experience Darcy’s realizations of his perceived character, his efforts to change those perceptions, his weakness amidst a feeling of hopelessness, and his determination.

I felt like I really got to know and understand Darcy, but Helm also does a good job of letting readers get to know Elizabeth through Darcy’s close observation of her. There were so many scenes that brought a smile to my face, from the chess games with high stakes to Darcy’s soul-bearing conversations with Georgiana and Richard. Understanding Elizabeth is a thought-provoking take on Pride and Prejudice and the lengths people are willing to go to find love and happiness.

****

Giveaway

Robin is generously offering 2 copies of Understanding Elizabeth to my readers: a Kindle copy (international/domestic) and a print copy (U.S. only). To enter, please leave a comment on this post with your email address and your desired format should you win. This giveaway will close on Sunday, February 26, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received Understanding Elizabeth from the author for review.

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answered-prayers

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“My brother-in-law is celebrated for his wit and intelligence, and Elizabeth is her father’s daughter. She gives as good as she gets.”

“Yes, I found that out the hard way — through personal experience.”

“Both of you are being overly generous in your praise,” an embarrassed Lizzy answered. “In your statements, there is the impression that being a wit is akin to being wise. However, you can be both witty and wrong.”

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers”)

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” is one of three short stories by Mary Lydon Simonsen inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that re-imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. (Check out my reviews of “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” and “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls”)

In this story, Darcy arrives at Pemberley after riding through a storm that has sickened his manservant. He learns there are visitors touring Pemberley and hopes they will not be stranded there when the skies open up again. However, when Darcy realizes the visitors are Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners, he delays their departure by having his staff give them refreshments. Meanwhile, Elizabeth keeps insisting to her aunt that they should leave, having realized her judgment of Darcy was mistaken since rejecting his proposal.

This was my favorite of the three stories about second chances, mainly because there was more detail about how both Darcy and Elizabeth have changed since Hunsford and more interaction between them. In particular, I enjoyed the scene where Darcy and Elizabeth meet in his study that night to discuss his letter despite the impropriety of them being alone together. Like the other stories, “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” ended on a hopeful note, and my only complaint is that it felt too short. Even so, it was a satisfying read that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” is from my personal library.

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behind-pemberleys-walls

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

From this spot, the Master of Pemberley had a panoramic view of the manor and gardens — a view with the power to heal. And he was in need of a cure from the wounds he had suffered at the hands of Elizabeth Bennet. Not only had Elizabeth refused his proposal of marriage, she had made it clear that she wanted nothing further to do with him. He had hardly anticipated rejection, no less banishment. But the thought of never seeing her again…it was simply too much to bear.

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls”)

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is one of three short stories by Mary Lydon Simonsen inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that re-imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. I reviewed “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” a few years ago, and my review of “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” will be posted tomorrow.

In this story, Darcy is still heartbroken from Elizabeth’s unexpected refusal when he returns to Pemberley on the same day Elizabeth is touring his estate with her aunt and uncle. With the help of his butler, Darcy eavesdrops on Elizabeth as she views the portrait gallery and confides in her aunt Gardiner about what happened between them.

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is a sweet story about second chances. I enjoyed the humor as Darcy confides in Jackson and spies on Elizabeth, and Elizabeth and Darcy’s eventual meeting as she is trying to get the Gardiners to quickly leave Pemberley was a cute touch. Simonsen’s stories are great for when you’re in the mood for something short and sweet while drinking a cup of coffee or tea. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, though one could easily imagine the couple achieving their happy ending.

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is from my personal library.

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donwell-abbey-cover

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

There seemed to be only one option. It would break her heart, but it would protect the man she loved. And wasn’t that the very definition of love? Doing what’s best for the other person, in spite of your own desires?

(from Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey)

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is the sequel to Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes, a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set during the Great War. While Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey can be read as a standalone book, I think it’s important to read them in order for a richer experience.

Picking up where the first novel ended, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have expressed their love for one another and are hopeful about being reunited in a matter of months. However, while waiting for Darcy at his home, Pemberley, Elizabeth receives some terrifying information that prompts her to flee without a trace. Meanwhile, Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, are working to solve a mystery involving a conspiracy when he learns that Elizabeth has disappeared, dealing him a crushing blow that is only the beginning of his pain.

Ginger Monette does a fantastic job painting a picture of wartime, from the trenches to battle to the hospitals, and crafting characters traumatized by their experiences but still open to finding love and happiness. There is plenty of action to keep readers’ attention from the very first page, but Monette also provides plenty of food for thought about the physical, mental, and emotional impact of war. My heart ached for Darcy and Elizabeth, but it rejoiced with them as well. I loved how Monette worked in characters from Emma, with Darcy’s connection to the Knightley family, Hartfield, and Donwell Abbey, as well as Sense and Sensibility, and I especially appreciated how she stayed true to Austen’s beloved couple even while putting them in a different time and more difficult circumstances.

****

About Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey

1917. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that leaves him in a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he's coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth. His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.

Check out Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey on Goodreads | Amazon | other retailers

****

About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

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Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey from the author for review.

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aria_clarke_jessie%27s-promise_e

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

‘I’m afraid I was born stubborn, sir. It gets me into trouble and some would say I don’t know my place.’

‘Ah…’ A soft chuckle escaped him. ‘But what is your place, Miss Hale? I wonder if any of us know these days.’

(from Jessie’s Promise)

Rosie Clarke’s latest novel, Jessie’s Promise, is set in England after World War I and follows Jessie Hale, a 26-year-old nurse navigating the depths of grief, social upheaval, and her place in the world. Jessie was a VAD during the war, and when the novel opens she has lost her job at a London hospital for speaking out on behalf of a fellow nurse. Still grieving the loss of her fiancé during the war, she cannot marry the kind bookstore owner Archie and instead takes a position at Kendlebury Hall in Devon as a nurse to Lady Kendle and her grandchildren, precocious 5-year-old Jack and sweet 2-year-old Catherine.

Jessie immediately embraces her new role, taking care of the aging Nanny, forging a close bond with the children, and attempting to bring some order to the understaffed household despite the overbearing presence of her employer, Mary Kendle, who is cold to her daughter, barely tolerant of her son, and distant from her husband, Captain Harry Kendle. Jessie’s determination to do right by the children, especially Catherine, who needs special care and attention, frequently puts her at odds with Mrs. Kendle but earns her the admiration of Captain Kendle — a man haunted by a lifetime of tragedy, most recently the war, but whose warmth toward the children and kindness toward her begin to break down the wall Jessie had built around her heart after Robbie’s death. Just as she beings to feel at home at Kendlebury Hall and believe that happiness is possible after all, a series of tragedies befall the Kendles and Jessie is forced to contend with yet more loss and the consequences of her decisions.

Clarke has done a great job creating a strong heroine in Jessie. She stands up for what is right and goes out of her way to help those in need, but she is far from perfect. However, it is her strength amid devastating loss and broken dreams that makes Jessie a truly admirable character. She loves deeply, cares fiercely, and steps up and takes charge when she is needed, even when she is desperately hurting inside.

The pace of the novel starts slow, but that helps to develop all of the characters, highlight the weight of responsibility that Jessie assumes from her very first moment at Kendlebury Hall, and set the stage for all that follows. Jessie’s relationship with Harry feels real, and Clarke doesn’t sugarcoat any of the obstacles in their way. She has created a strong cast of supporting characters, namely Nanny, Lady Kendle, and the rest of the household staff, adding numerous layers to the story.

Jessie’s Promise is about finding love amidst grief and finding oneself after the chaos of war as society dramatically changes in terms of sex and class. Clarke puts readers directly into the setting, so they understand what Jessie is up against and that the times are changing. I loved that Jessie was a modern women, understanding society’s constraints but unwilling to simply accept the way things were. Even when there was little she could do to change the situation, she questioned things, fought back in little ways, and refused to just give up. I was caught up in Jessie’s story from the very beginning, and I loved all the little twists and turns along the way, so much so that I look forward to reading more by Clarke in the future.

****

About Jessie’s Promise

DEVON 1918. When Jessie Hale loses her nursing job at the end of the First World War, she leaves London to become the nursemaid to the Kendle family in Devon.

On arrival she finds the family in disarray. Captain Kendle is a loving father but is traumatised by the war and kept at arm’s length by his frosty wife. When their elderly Nanny suffers a bad fall, Jessie has to try to bring the household together. Gradually Jessie finds her place in their lives, becoming devoted to Captain Kendle’s lively son Jack, his lovely, but quiet daughter Catherine, as well his invalid Mother.

Jessie soon starts to love her life at Kendlebury Hall, but problems arise when her feelings for her employer start to change…

Check out Jessie’s Promise on Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

****

About the Author

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke was born in Swindon, but moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire at the age of nine. Married at eighteen, she ran her own hairdressing business for many years. Rosie started writing in 1976, combining this with helping her husband run his antique shop. She loves to write for her own enjoyment and to give pleasure to her millions of fans. Rosie was the well-deserved winner of the 2004 RNA Romance Award and the Betty Neels Trophy.

****

Giveaway

Aria is generously offering a giveaway of 3 ebook copies (epub or mobi) of Jessie’s Promise. To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close Sunday, February 19, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Disclosure: I received Jessie’s Promise from Aria for review.

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a-valentine-for-darcy

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Bingley blinked in astonishment. “I can hardly believe it. This is not like you, Darcy.”

“No, I have been a boring stick in the mud for years. But I have been reborn. I am a lover now.” He laughed at his own foolishness.

(from A Valentine for Darcy)

Jane Grix’s A Valentine for Darcy is a novella variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I couldn’t resist reading for Valentine’s Day. In London after the Netherfield Ball, Mr. Darcy receives a valentine that he is sure is from Elizabeth Bennet. In all of his excitement to return to Hertfordshire to ask for Elizabeth’s hand, he doesn’t realize the valentine is from Caroline Bingley, who isn’t about to give up her quest to become Mrs. Darcy so easily.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is shocked when Mr. Darcy arrives with a besotted Mr. Bingley, and even more so when he asks to speak to her father. But she has seen a change in his manner, so she is willing to hear him out. However, when her sister Lydia goes missing just before Jane and Bingley’s wedding, Elizabeth and Darcy are forced apart just as her feelings toward him are softening.

A Valentine for Darcy is a sweet tale featuring a more romantic Darcy who is willing to go after his heart’s desire. There’s still a bit of arrogance and pride in him, but he doesn’t have as many sharp edges. I enjoyed the romance and the humor, and Grix even manages to insert some drama and tension with Caroline, Lady Catherine, and Wickham. Despite the quick resolution, I felt completely satisfied at the end, though I would’ve loved a full-length novel that developed the Caroline and Wickham aspects of the story a bit more. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Grix!

Disclosure: A Valentine for Darcy is from my personal library.

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