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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.

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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

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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.

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

She had never considered that perhaps Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley were more of a blind-leading-the-blind tragedy. If she and her sister were not the lasses tangled up in this mess of beaus, why Elizabeth would have enjoyed sharing this mess of matchmaking with her father on any afternoon in his study!

(from “Much to Conceal,” by Elizabeth Ann West)

Mr. Darcy Loves Elizabeth Bennet was a limited edition box set featuring short stories inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Each of these stories is now being published separately (more information below). Two of the stories are set during the Regency era, and two are modern-day variations.

“Darcy and Lizzie’s Wedding Breakfast” is an installment in Barbara Silkstone’s Mister Darcy Series of Comedic Mysteries, in which Lizzie recounts how she and Darcy met and the trials of his secret life. Lizzie is a bit disappointed when Darcy’s Templar business forces them to cancel their wedding breakfast, but of course, Darcy finds a humorous way to make it up to her. I’ve only read the latest book in the series, Mister Darcy’s Maltese Falcon, so I was able to follow the story. However, if you haven’t read any of the books in the series, you might want to save this story for later.  (Barbara is currently posting the story in installments on the Mister Darcy Series Facebook page.)

“An Accidental Assignation” by April Floyd (now available on Amazon) is set during the Regency era and involves Darcy accidentally compromising Elizabeth outside the Meryton Assembly when he attempts to apologize for his insult. Mr. Bennet witnesses the scene and demands that Darcy marry his daughter. There is an immediate, intense passion between Darcy and Elizabeth, and despite it being a fairly short story, Floyd manages to insert plenty of drama and humor involving Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine.

“Much to Conceal” by Elizabeth Ann West (now available on Amazon as part of another box set) also is set during the Regency era and has Jane Bennet conspiring with her aunt Gardiner to get Elizabeth and Darcy together after his failed proposal. Elizabeth shows Jane the letter from Darcy, and Jane takes action, which culminates in a hilarious dinner at Darcy House.

“Honeymoon Postponed: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Adventure” by Kristi Rose (now available on Amazon) is a short story in the Meryton Matchmakers series that finds a modern-day Darcy and Elizabeth outrunning tornadoes and other calamities on what is supposed to be their honeymoon. Because I haven’t read any of the installments in this series and know nothing of the back story, I felt a little lost at first, but I was able to enjoy the story in the end. There is a lot of “what can go wrong will go wrong” here, and it definitely was amusing.

Mr. Darcy Loves Elizabeth Bennet offered a great way for me to get a feel for each author’s writing style and enjoy lighthearted, romantic stories featuring Darcy and Elizabeth. The stories are a bit rushed and underdeveloped, but that’s to be expected with short works. Some of the events are a bit over the top, but I was willing to overlook that because the theme of the collection is love and love often makes people do outrageous things. Plus, these were simply feel-good stories meant to be enjoyed in little bits of free time and not to be taken too seriously. I finished the collection thinking I’d like to read more by each of these authors, so I’d call that a win!

Disclosure: I received Mr. Darcy Loves Elizabeth Bennet from the authors for review.

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

He yearned for her but she could never be his. She was promised to another, as was he. … And yet, there he stood, transfixed in a doorway, with the rain beating down on the panes, dreaming of a world with this woman, hoping he would not be discovered as she gazed into the night.

(from A Lie Universally Hidden)

A Lie Universally Hidden is a beautifully written variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that forces Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles tied to their strong sense of duty to their families. Anngela Schroeder imagines a world where Mr. Darcy is committed to honoring his dead mother’s wishes, with plans to marry his cousin, Anne de Bourgh, in a few months’ time despite the fact that he loves another. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is expected to marry her childhood friend, James Hamilton, who has inherited his aunt’s estate, but she is captivated by Darcy and his love and devotion to his younger sister.

There is no insult at the Meryton Assembly in Schroeder’s variation, and it is easy for Darcy to overlook Elizabeth’s lack of connections because he is already betrothed to another. But Schroeder does a fantastic job altering the situations of the original novel, still finding ways for them to misunderstand one another, still making it uncertain how a happily ever after can be achieved, and developing their regard for one another in a believable way. There are so many tender scenes in this novel, so many beautiful passages as Schroeder lets readers into Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s minds as they try to come to terms with their feelings for one another, the expectations placed upon them, and their desire to live for themselves.

I enjoyed how Schroeder brought to the forefront many of the secondary characters, especially Georgiana Darcy, Kitty Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Anne de Bourgh. Her versions of Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Caroline Bingley were delightfully horrid as well. Mrs. Smith, Lady Anne Darcy’s maid, was a wonderful addition, and Schroeder did a great job portraying her illness and her connection to the secret at the core of the novel. I was on the edge of my seat wondering how it would all play out, and I was not disappointed.

A Lie Universally Hidden is a fantastic retelling of Pride and Prejudice that grabbed me from the very first page. I absolutely loved Schroeder’s portrayal of Darcy and Elizabeth. I know I’ve read dozens of Pride and Prejudice variations over the years and it’s hard to choose a favorite, but A Lie Universally Hidden would definitely be a contender if I were to compose a list. I can’t wait to read more of Schroeder’s work in the future.

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About A Lie Universally Hidden

Fitzwilliam Darcy has always lived a life of duty and honor; his engagement to his cousin Anne de Bourgh fulfills the final wish of his deceased mother. His life is neatly in order to pursue these intentions when he meets Elizabeth Bennet; the one woman who turns his world upside down.

Elizabeth is not indifferent to him, but her life is also on a divergent course. As she prepares to accept a betrothal from a suitor she esteems, she finds herself experiencing unexpected feelings. Yet knowing that Darcy and Anne are united by their love for one another, she attempts to put Darcy behind her. But why does she suspect that Darcy may have similar feelings for her, and if he does, can they really change the course of their future paths?

Check out A Lie Universally Hidden on GoodreadsAmazon

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About the Author

Anngela Schroeder

Anngela Schroeder

I have a degree in English with a concentration in British Literature and a Masters in Education. I love to travel, bake, and watch college football with my husband of 16 years and 3 rambunctious sons. My goal in life is to make not only my children, but also my students feel that they are loved, and to bring magic into everyone’s world. My weaknesses are yellow cake with chocolate frosting, French bread with real butter, and my father’s Arabic food, namely grape leaves, and falafel. I live in California where I dream of Disney adventures and trips across the pond.

Connect with Anngela Schroeder on FacebookTwitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Watch Anngela’s interview on Good Day Sacramento here.

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Giveaway

Anngela is giving away two autographed hard copies (U.S. mailing addresses only), two Kindle versions (open to international winners), an autographed copy of Then Comes Winter (U.S. mailing address only), and an autographed 5×7 of the A Lie Universally Hidden book cover. To enter, please click here.

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Follow the Blog Tour

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January 16/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway

January 17/ From Pemberley to Milton/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 18/ A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post

January 19/ So Little Time…/ Excerpt Post & Giveaway

January 20/ My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 21/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review

January 22/ Just Jane 1813/ Excerpt Post

January 23/Austenesque Reviews/ Author Spotlight & Giveaway

January 24/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 25/ Every Savage Can Dance/Book Review & Giveaway

January 26 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway

January 27 / Austenesque Reviews/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 28/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Excerpt & Giveaway

January 29/ Savvy Verse & Wit/ Guest Post & Giveaway

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Disclosure: I received A Lie Universally Hidden from the author for review.

among-the-lostToday’s guest is Seth Steinzor, author of Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake: Book 2), who is here to discuss his inspiration for the poem about giving birth and how it serves as an opening for his take on Dante’s Purgatorio. Please welcome Seth Steinzor:

Fresh in my mind when I began writing Among the Lost was something that W.S. Merwin had pointed out in the Foreword to his translation of Purgatorio. I’m sure he’s far from the first to have noticed this, but it made a forceful impression on me: of Dante’s three canticles, Purgatorio is the only one to take place on earth. Inferno trudges through an idealized subterranean environment; Paradiso flies through the heavens; Purgatorio climbs a mountain.

Another thing sets Purgatorio apart from the first and third books of Dante’s trilogy. Each of the characters in Inferno and Paradiso has reached an ultimate end point in his or her personal development, and exists in a state of stasis. Unlike them, the denizens of Mount Purgatory continue to work through the moral muddles that were produced by their manners of living. The ones who were angry in life are still plagued by anger. The ones who were apathetic still have to overcome that. And so on. Admittedly, in Dante’s view, the Mount Purgatorians possess the certainty of salvation, not only the hope, and so might be said to have reached a sort of fruition; but they haven’t actually found it yet. Their experience of their own sure perfectability is frustrated temporarily by themselves. That’s pretty much my experience of life, in a nutshell, although I tend towards a somewhat less optimistic view of the overall human condition. (There’s a buddha within, but nobody’s sure of realizing it.) So add to the idea that the book takes place on earth, the idea that it depicts a state of being unfinished, unclear.

Also in my mind was the means whereby Dante escaped to Purgatory from the underground Inferno. He clung to the back of his guide, Virgil, as Virgil climbed up Satan’s enormous body and then through a tunnel to a sunlit beach at the foot of the mountain. So…our hero enters this earth through a narrow dark tunnel, from which he emerges unfinished and unclear. What else could one think of but a birth canal?

When I put it this way, it sounds rather more consecutively thought out than it was. I was fortunate enough to have attended the births of both my children. There is no more meaningful event than that, except perhaps one’s own coming and going. I knew as soon as I began to contemplate writing Among the Lost that the book would begin in a birthing room. And yet, at the same time, the rationale for doing so, which I have outlined above, accompanied this undeliberated intention fully formed.

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About Among the Lost

Among the Lost, set in the modern American rust belt, is a meditation drawn from Dante’s Purgatorio. To Dante, Purgatory was the mountain where souls not damned went after death to cleanse themselves of sin in preparation for entering Paradise. What, Steinzor asks, are we preparing ourselves for, having lost the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, in the course of our daily urban existence? And whatever that is, how do we go about preparing for it?

Check out Among the Lost on Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Poet

Seth Steinzor protested the Vietnam War during his high school years near Buffalo, New York, and his years at Middlebury College, advocated Native American causes after law school, and has made a career as a civil rights attorney, criminal prosecutor, and welfare attorney for the State of Vermont. Throughout he has written poetry. In early 1980s Boston he edited a small literary journal. His first, highly praised book, To Join the Lost, was published in 2010.

To follow the tour for Among the Lost, click the button below:

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

Laura Hile channels Sir Walter Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion in her latest book, Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot Advises the Upwardly Mobile Miss. It’s a short escapist read written from the point of view of a high society snob who is overly concerned about his looks and keeping up appearances, regardless of how much money that requires one to spend. What ensues is a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek advice on marrying well that touches on such topics as Debt, Bling, Ageing, The Fauxpology, Cyber Dating, and His Mumsie Dearest. I loved the title of one section, “Your Mirror, Your Friend,” given Sir Walter’s love of the looking glass.

Sir Walter begins and ends each section with relevant and equally amusing quotes, leads off each column with “My Dear Vulgarian Miss,” and in true Sir Walter fashion, signs off each time with “Cordially yours in the upward climb.”

I laughed out loud so many times throughout the book, and I even annoyed my husband and daughter by insisting on quoting several passages. Here are some of my favorites:

On “Debt”:

My dear, you must adjust your thinking. For nothing shrieks Plebeian or Cit (or my personal favorite, Mushroom) more loudly than a voiced determination to pay one’s debts. Repeat after me: ‘It is enough to simply pay the interest.’ And, ‘I’ll pay it off once I get my inheritance.’

Gambling debts–as between gentlemen and gentlewomen–are something else entirely. Neglect these to your peril! I do not gamble. Shopping is safer.

On “Chocolate, the Inexpensive Therapist”:

It has been said that chocolate is a girl’s best friend. It is the Inexpensive Therapist, no appointment necessary. Chocolate calms nerves, subdues sorrows, and patches together a broken heart. It also relieves menopausal symptoms, although I would not know. (Even if I were a woman, I am not at all old enough to experience those.)

On “His Mumsie Dearest”:

A mother-in-law who is deceased is one of the benefits to marrying a much-older gentleman. But young ladies never consider this. They should! Especially in your modern times! Cholera was pernicious in my day, but it had its uses.

Hile does a great job poking fun at Sir Walter and our enjoyment of him. I could picture a Sir Walter type with his quill poised over the paper, seriously contemplating these matters and delighting in the chance to contribute his expertise. If you have a couple of hours to spend with a pot of tea and are in need of some laughs, I highly recommend Marrying Well for Fun & Profit.

Please check out Sir Walter’s guest post from yesterday and Laura Hile’s generous giveaway of 2 copies here.

Disclosure: I received Marrying Well for Fun & Profit from the author for review.

clipar41In Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot Advises the Upwardly Mobile Miss, Laura Hile channels Jane Austen’s high society expert. Today, I’m delighted to welcome the man himself to Diary of an Eccentric. Please give a warm welcome to Sir Walter Elliot:

My Dear Vulgarian Reader,

After 200 years of silence, I, Sir Walter Elliot, have written a book, Marrying Well for Fun & Profit.

Its publication represents a triumph. You see, Jane Austen misquoted me frightfully in Persuasion. Now I am able to speak for myself.

Marrying Well is a treasure trove of practical tips and social sagacity. It is designed to be read for inspiration, say, alongside your morning coffee or tea. And you need advice, dear reader, because marrying above one’s station is not as easy as it appears.

Are you thinking that I, a baronet, have had to take a job? Heavens, no. Writing is not an occupation, nor is it a hobby. It’s charity work.

That is just what it is. I simply had to do something. I mean, really. People in your day are wearing pajama pants to do their shopping.

I understand being eager to purchase new clothes. But if you intend to buy ready-made garments—a thing I have never done—then you ought to use the dressing room. Instead of, say, arriving at the store half-undressed to save time.

It is the same with marrying well. You need to use your wits to ensnare the right husband, rather than your body. Keep your feminine assets attractively covered and ensnare him with attitude and charm. Allow me to show you the way. Here is the buy link for Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZ9TC45. I’ve priced it so that it is affordable for anyone, even you. The right men are out there—if you know where to look and how, shall we say, to bait the hook.

Cordially yours in the upward climb,

Sir Walter Elliot

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About Marrying Well for Fun & Profit

marryingwell-smWas there ever a snob like Sir Walter?

He fairly leaps from the pages of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

With one eye on the looking glass and the other the Baronetage, Sir Walter is Regency England’s high society expert.

Who better to give advice to the modern young woman wishing to improve her worth through marriage?

Because marrying into wealth and privilege–thus improving the family gene pool–is not as easy as it appears.

And so Sir Walter Elliot has consented to share advice with the less fortunate.

That would be us.

Come and sit at the feet of the one who was Born to be Seen.

Check out Marrying Well for Fun & Profit on Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

If you’re interested in Sir Walter’s helpful advice, you’re in luck! Laura Hile is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Marrying Well for Fun & Profit. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what interests you most about Sir Walter and his expertise in navigating modern society. The giveaway will close on Sunday, January 29, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks to both Sir Walter and Laura Hile for being my guests today!