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Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alexa Adams back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of Darcy in Wonderland! As the editor of the book (minus the poems, which were edited by Serena), I am very excited about this book and all the glowing reviews thus far. Alexa is daring in her variations, and I admire that about her. I never would have thought to mash up Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland, but I’m sure glad Alexa did! Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces an excerpt from the novel, and stay tuned for the giveaway!

Thank you for hosting me today, Anna! I’m delighted to be here.

I’m a bit over a week into this blog tour, and I have spent a great deal of time speaking about Darcy and the children (especially Alice, for obvious reasons). Today Anna suggested I might give Elizabeth her turn in the spotlight. She might not plummet down the rabbit hole, but she is, nevertheless, a rather constant presence throughout the book, in no small part because Alice is such a mini version of her mother.

Two or three decades after her marriage, Elizabeth is now every bit the Mistress of Pemberley. She rules her roost with a gentle but firm fist, as made evident in the following exchange: 

Not long after her rambles commenced, she came upon the governess and her second youngest child, Cassandra. “Where is Alice?” she inquired after greeting the pair. 

Miss Williams blushed consciously. “She scampered off to speak with Mr. Darcy some time ago.” 

“She was spouting some nonsense about a rabbit,” Cassie, rather intolerant and judgmental in her eleventh year, inserted. “The girl cannot tell fantasy from reality.”  

“We were just about to go in and search for her,” Miss Williams said hurriedly, closing her book and placing it into her workbasket. 

“How is the Geography proceeding?” 

The blush deepened. “We are going to attend to it after tea.” 

“I see. And French?” Elizabeth knew not how her single raised eyebrow, so charming to her husband, cast fear into the hearts of her servants. Very little escaped its inevitable notice. 

“We completed the lesson this morning,” Miss Williams was relieved to be able to reply. 

“Excellent. What were you reading just now?” 

“It was my fault, Mama,” Cassie quickly interceded. “I begged Miss Williams to reread it with me.” 

Elizabeth bent down and extracted the book from the basket, examining the cover. “Kenilworth. Again. Now I understand why Alice has disappeared. You assured me, Miss Williams, that Alice was old enough to attend your lessons, yet you spend your time on curriculum, if that word is appropriate, that cannot hold her attention. Shall I arrange time each day for her to remain in the nursery so you and Cassie may pursue your more, um, advanced studies?” 

“No, ma’am. It will not happen again, Mrs. Darcy,” Miss Williams spoke quietly, with her head down. The weight of her mistress’s disappointment was far heavier than any tongue-lashing.  

“I certainly hope not. You may read Sir Walter in your free time.” She smiled kindly, returning the book to the basket. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Darcy,” and “Thank you, Mama,” rang out in chorus. 

“You had best return to the schoolroom for your tea. I will find Alice and send her along.” 

“Yes, Mrs. Darcy. Come along, Miss Cassandra.” 

Elizabeth is equally adept at handling her children, including the rather incorrigible Alice, and retainers, as demonstrated in this scene, which is one of my favorites:

“Please come in, Mrs. Darcy!” Mrs. Reynolds called from the sitting room. “I am sorry for not meeting you at the door, but I am not feeling quite myself today. Sally used the opportunity of Miss Alice’s unexpected arrival to take the donkey cart into Lambton and visit the apothecary on my behalf.” 

Elizabeth unceremoniously sat down next to her loyal retainer and friend. “Not your rheumatism again?” 

“I am afraid so.” 

“What does our new doctor have to say on the matter?” 

Mrs. Reynolds avoided eye contact. “I have yet to call for him.” 

“My dear, Mrs. Reynolds! Why else did Mr. Darcy go through the trouble to find a doctor with knowledge of the latest treatments for rheumatic ailments, if not for you to make use of him?” 

“Yes, and I do appreciate Mr. Darcy’s efforts on my behalf. He has always been the kindest, most thoughtful master imaginable, and I called on Dr. Seaton the very week of his arrival. Do you know what he suggested I do?” 

“What?” Alice asked eagerly, hanging on every word of the adults’ conversation.  

“He told me I should swim more. At my age! And in the lake, no less, like one of the children!” 

“Oh, Mrs. Reynolds! Do come swimming! It will be such fun! I can show you how,” gushed Alice. 

“I think not, child. I am sorry, but I have no business gallivanting about wet from head to foot. It would likely do me more harm than good.” 

“Not in the summer, I should think,” Elizabeth replied, reclaiming the conversation from her eager daughter. “Though I can see how the lake might not be the most inviting pool. What would you think of a sojourn by the sea? We could find some quiet and unassuming spa town for you to visit for a few months. Some place with bathing machines so that you might test the waters in private.” Mrs. Reynolds looked hesitant. “Of course, Mr. Darcy will cover the expense.” 

“Oh no, Mrs. Darcy! I could not ask him for such a thing.” 

“And you did not. I offered it. Now think it over before you reject me out of hand.” 

“All right. I will. Thank you, Mrs. Darcy.” 

“It is always a pleasure to be of service to you, Mrs. Reynolds, who have done so much for us. Would you like me to send word to Dr. Seaton? He should have some recommendations for which spas would suit you best.” 

“Yes, thank you. I will listen to what he has to say.” 

“Dr. Seaton made me take the awfullest medicine last winter. What does your medicine taste like, Mrs. Reynolds?” 

“Like brandy, which is what it is mostly made of.” 

Alice made a face. “I don’t like brandy.” 

“And when have you tasted it, young lady?” her mother inquired. 

“There is a bottle in Papa’s office.” 

“Not that you ought to help yourself to!” 

Alice looked surprised at her mother’s chagrin. “Why ever not? Papa drinks it all the time, so it cannot be that it is poisonous. I did check the bottle for a skull and crossbones just in case, and there were no markings suggesting it would disagree with me.” 

“A substance need not be poisonous to disagree with you, my dear. Do not sample your father’s drinks again.” 

“Yes, Mama. I won’t, even though the port wine was very good.” 

“Alice here has been keeping me entertained with a marvelous story,” Mrs. Reynolds quickly interjected. “She is the most creative child I ever knew.” 

“But ‘tis not a story, Mrs. Reynolds. It is true! I saw a white rabbit with pink eyes hop by, Mama, which as Bennet says is nothing so very special at all. He is so odious sometimes. But even he admits that a white rabbit with pink eyes would be worth seeing if it wore a waistcoat and pocket watch, as this one does.” 

“A waistcoat and pocket watch?” Elizabeth’s eyes grew dramatically large. “I never met a rabbit who could tell time.” 

“Well, this one could, for he pulled out his watch and checked it. I would have asked him for the time, by means of gaining an introduction, but he got away from me.” 

“Perhaps you will see him again.” 

Alice shook her head firmly. “I do hope so, Mama. I was on my way to look for him when my feet brought me to Mrs. Reynolds, which was a very good thing, as Sally did not like to leave her alone while she went to Lambton. I think they ought to be acknowledged, don’t you?” 

“Well done feet,” Elizabeth supplied on cue. 

“Thank you, ma’am,” Alice replied, bobbing a tidy curtsey. “I should have sent word to the house, I know that now, and shall do so next time my feet know where they are going before my brain arrives.” 

“I should appreciate that. And now you had best run home for tea. Make sure it is your brain directing your feet this time and not the other way around. Cassie and Miss Williams will be waiting for you in the schoolroom. I shall stay with Mrs. Reynolds until Sally returns. Please tell Thompson where I am, Alice.” 

“Yes, Mama. Goodbye, Mrs. Reynolds. I shall come visit again soon.” 

“Goodbye, my dear. Pull the door firmly behind you. It sticks.” 

“I will. Goodbye.” The two ladies watched Alice’s deliberate care in making sure the door was perfectly sealed, the cost of which was several loud bangs against the frame. 

“My goodness, she is such a delightful child,” Mrs. Reynolds laughed, “and so very talented.” 

“Delightful, perhaps, but she is also the most incurable troublemaker of the lot. Sampling the decanters! At her age!”  

Mrs. Reynolds nodded meaningfully. “She is a perfect little imp and, were I still in service, would certainly prove a daily trial, but as it is, she is my greatest diversion. Fortunately, it is now Mrs. Heydon’s province to clean up her messes and mine to hand out sweets and treats. I am enjoying my retirement, Mrs. Darcy.” 

Elizabeth took the good lady’s hand gently within her own. “You have earned it, Mrs. Reynolds. Now we just need to get you feeling more the thing. We should miss you, but a few months of sea air might prove very beneficial. What do you know of Cromer?”

Elizabeth may have grown into the perfect mistress of her domain, but she has not completely given up her love of a sharp retort, especially when one is well deserved:

Thompson opened the door and announced, “Lady Catherine de Bourgh, ma’am!” 

The entire family rose to their feet as their formidable relation entered the room. Even dressed for travel she was intimidating in her magnificence, and she showed almost nothing of her impressive age. The Darcy children often speculated amongst themselves about just how old she really was. The consensus was somewhere between seventy and ninety, but she showed no more signs of infirmity now than she had when Bennet was a boy. 

“Darcy,” she barked. “Elizabeth, children. I have come to assist with Eleanor’s ball. Someone has to make sure she knows what she is about.” Her voice boomed about the room. A slight tendency towards deafness (which Lady Catherine refused to acknowledge) had escalated her speaking voice, never quiet, to a near shout. 

“Welcome, Lady Catherine,” Elizabeth said with a tense smile. “How thoughtful of you to come all this way.” 

Lady Catherine nodded in agreement. “It was a great deal of trouble, but I knew you would have need of my guidance.” She glanced about the room and landed upon Bennet and Ellie. “Bennet,” she yelled, “you may give me your seat. I want to talk to your sister.” Ellie thought her stare was every bit as vicious as a vulture’s while it waited for its next meal to die.  

“I can assure you, Ellie is perfectly prepared for her role next week,” Elizabeth went on. “She was Mrs. Drummond’s favorite student when she was with her, and she has made an excellent impression at all the parties in which she has thus been included.” 

“Nevertheless, and I am sorry to bring up matters you would rather forget, but having never been through the ordeal of formally entering society as a young lady yourself, Elizabeth, you cannot offer the caliber of advice only one who has been through it can provide.”

“I accept your apology,” replied Elizabeth. Lady Catherine glared at her in return.

And while romance is not the center of this story, the undiminished love between husband and wife permeates Pemberley, nonetheless:

It was the supper dance when Mr. Darcy caught up with his wife, who had been fully engaged in her duties as hostess, and pulled her onto the dance floor to waltz. For a few precious moments, the Darcys were able to forget everyone else in the room. It was just the two of them, still as in love as when they first declared it, yet far more deeply connected by the many years of shared experience and the children who were living embodiments of their bond. No one watching them could mistake the strength of their attachment. Theirs was a marriage much discussed in society at large and held up as an example of what might be possible, if you should ever be so fortunate as to find your heart’s true mate.

Readers should approach Darcy in Wonderland with every expectation of adventure, whimsy, and humor, but I hope they won’t forget, as I never did when writing, that none of this future would be possible without the potency of the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. Join me to see how they built upon this foundation to create an exemplary family life, full of passion, laughter, and love.

It’s been a pleasure, Anna! Thank you so much for participating in the blog tour.

Thank you, Alexa, for being my guest today. Congratulations on the new release! I hope everyone loves the book as much as I did!

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About Darcy in Wonderland

Twinkle, twinkle, amber cross!
For a chain, it’s at a loss.
Heavy links or simple loop,
Do not dunk it in your soup.

The worlds of beloved authors collide as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen’s immortal hero, finds himself thrust into the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.

Many years have passed since Elizabeth Bennet became mistress of Pemberley, and the Darcys’ six children stand testament to their enduring love. As the eldest prepare to enter the world, Alice, the youngest and most intrepid of the brood, ensures that life at Pemberley never grows dull. Her curious mind and penchant for mischief often prove trying, but never more so than when her father follows her down a mysterious rabbit hole, disrupting his orderly world in ways never before imagined. A treat for the young and the old, Darcy in Wonderland is both an adventure and homage to two of literature’s greatest minds.

Check out Darcy in Wonderland on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Alexa Adams

A devoted reader of Jane Austen since her childhood, Alexa Adams is the author of Darcy in Wonderland, The Madness of Mr. Darcy, Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice (First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley), Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid, Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling, Becoming Mrs. Norris, and the short story collection And Who Can be in Doubt of What Followed?: The Novels of Jane Austen Continued. Alexa is an American expat living in Switzerland with her husband and daughter. She blogs about Austen and Austenesque literature at alexaadams.blogspot.com, is a contributing member of AustenAuthors.net, and a founding member of the Jane Austen Society of Switzerland.

Visit Alexa at:

alexaadams.blogspot.com

austenauthors.net

www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexaAdams

www.facebook.com/ElegantExtracts

twitter.com/ElegantExtracts

Learn more about the illustrator at www.wiedemannillustrations.com

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Giveaway

Alexa is generously offering a winner’s choice giveaway of Darcy in Wonderland (paperback or ebook), open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 20, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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the madness of mr. darcyIf you were wondering why I hadn’t been around the blogs much recently, it was because I had an opportunity I could not pass up.  I’ve long wanted to devote my editorial skills to fiction, so when Alexa Adams (whose Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley are among my favorites in the genre) asked me to edit her latest novel, of course, I had to say yes!  I enjoyed working with Alexa on this project, I’m proud of my contribution, and I hope it will lead to other editing opportunities in the future.

The Madness of Mr. Darcy is now available:

The year is 1832 and regrets beleaguer Fitzwilliam Darcy.  All he ever cared for has been taken from him: his pride, his sister, and his true love, Elizabeth Bennet.  Now, having nearly murdered a man in a fit of rage, he might lose Pemberley, too.  More than just his home, his very identity is at stake.  In desperation, he seeks the help of Dr. Frederick Wilson, owner and proprietor of Ramsey House, a madhouse for fine ladies and gentlemen.  Is Darcy’s confinement the inevitable end to his tortured descent, or will he rediscover what he lost in the most unlikely of places?

I am excited to share an excerpt of The Madness of Mr. Darcy, and Alexa is offering a giveaway as well (see details below).

March 1813

Elizabeth could not sleep. She sat on the window ledge of her bedroom at Longbourn staring out across the lawn towards the long, irregular drive. It had been eight months since her sister, Lydia, had run away from Brighton, and they had no word of her since. Elizabeth was growing accustomed to a lack of sleep, and the long nights passed between painful contemplation and futile attempts to avoid such thoughts altogether – thoughts of what might have happened to her sister.

It was nearly a full moon, and by its determined light, she suddenly perceived movement by the drive’s end, where the palings marked the entrance to the small estate. Staring determinedly in their direction, she was shocked to perceive a scantily clad figure running towards the house. She started, and quickly confirming the truth of what her senses perceived, secured her shawl about her shoulders and raced out her bedroom, down the stairs, through the hall, and unlocked the front door.

“Lydia!” she cried at the familiar face before all similarity to her youngest sibling disappeared beneath the spectacle of a disheveled creature, thrusting itself into her arms and sobbing violently.

The house began to rouse at the noise as Elizabeth half carried, half dragged the woman she was certain must be Lydia (though she still wished to look at her face again for confirmation of that distressing notion) into the nearest parlor, where she flopped upon the couch, a spectacle for the first servants to arrive on scene, and wrapped herself more tightly into Elizabeth’s arms, weeping yet harder.

It was impossible to get her to raise her head, but Elizabeth knew it was she. She wrapped an arm around the mound of tattered fabric in her lap and began to make a shushing noise, as to a baby.

“Lizzy! What is this?” Her mother’s voice demanded.

“Shhh!” she said louder, and then in quiet but shocked tones, “Tis Lydia, I think!”

“Lydia?” her mother repeated, blinking absently while her husband, at her side, clutched the door for support and grew remarkably pale.

“My God!” he exclaimed, his wife still agape and unmoving.

“What is it, Mama?” Elizabeth heard Kitty say, though she could no longer watch the tableau her family presented, all her attention being demanded by the person in her arms. “Why is Lizzy cradling a beggar?”

“Quiet, child!” her mother replied, suddenly stirred into action. She approached her youngest, dearest child. She knelt beside the sofa and reached for the crying creature’s face with both hands, holding it up for inspection. The incessant weeping stopped, and Mrs. Bennet stared into her favorite’s face, dirty and tear-streaked. Tears welled in her own eyes as she said, “Oh, my darling,” and wrapped her arms around her, taking Elizabeth’s burden beside her on the couch. The two women wept together in each other’s arms for several moments before Lydia suddenly, and with great violence, pushed her mother away and dove back to Lizzy, holding her far too tightly. The weeping was replaced by a strange whimpering noise, rather squeaky and frantic.

Mr. Bennet helped his wife to rise from the floor, where she had very unceremoniously landed. The lady rose while holding a hand to her cheek, which revealed a smear of blood when she examined it. “She scratched me!” Mrs. Bennet said in astonishment. “What does this mean, Mr. Bennet?”

The gentleman walked cautiously towards his daughter, whose face was now easier to see where it perched over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “My God!” he said again. “She is mad!”

“It is as Mr. Collins said,” Mary interjected, thinking of everything she had ever read of womanly virtue. “It would have been better if she were dead.”

No one made any reply.

Giveaway:

There are 2 copies of The Madness of Mr. Darcy up for grabs.  International readers will receive an ebook, and U.S. readers will have a choice between an ebook or a paperback.  This giveaway will close Sunday, October 19.  To enter, leave a comment with your email address telling me what most interests you about this novel.  The winners will be notified by email.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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jane and bingley

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

She wished she might be so fortunate in life as to be able to show her displeasure, rather than always hiding behind an obsequious mask.

(from “Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling”)

“Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling” is a short story by Alexa Adams that retells the beginning of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the eldest Bennet sister, Jane.  Jane has long been known as beautiful and good, with never an unkind word for anyone — not even Mr. Bingley’s condescending sisters.  But Adams puts Jane’s thoughts on display, from her desire to be more than just beautiful and elegant to her embarrassment over the actions of her mother and her youngest sister, Lydia.

The story begins after Elizabeth is slighted by Mr. Darcy at the Meryton Assembly and follows Jane through her illness and extended stay at Netherfield Park to her second dance with Mr. Bingley at the Netherfield ball.  Jane’s thoughts run from her admiration of Mr. Darcy to her distress at Elizabeth’s impertinent remarks to the gentleman and interest in the shady Mr. Wickham.

Adams’ portrayal of Jane is refreshing because I’ve always found it hard to believe that she’s so perfect and good, and I have long wondered what she really thought about being forced to ride to Netherfield on horseback in the rain or listen to her mother’s obnoxious prattle.  I was surprised at Jane’s thoughts about the obviously besotted Mr. Bingley but glad to see her portrayed as having more depth.

“Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling” is an enjoyable take on the eldest Bennet sister, bringing the saying “still waters run deep” to mind.  That Jane let her need for an advantageous marriage guide her interactions with Mr. Bingley provides much food for thought.  Was Jane not as crazy in love with Mr. Bingley as we like to believe?  It’s not often that a Pride and Prejudice retelling assumes Jane’s point of view, so I was reluctant for it to end.  Adams is talented in dreaming up alternative scenarios for Austen’s novels and characters and giving readers just enough to get them thinking.  She is definitely not afraid to give Austen’s heroines less than the expected happily ever after, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for her next “Twisted Austen” tale.

Book 19 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: “Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling” is from my personal library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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holidays at pemberley

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

…suddenly this lady who had never valued the importance of love in a marriage could not bear to think of herself wed to anyone other than the only gentleman who had ever stirred her heart.

(from Holidays at Pemberley, page 73)

It’s been a delightful week reading Alexa Adams’ trilogy of Pride and Prejudice retellings that remove the pride and the prejudice, highlight the humor, make Lady Catherine likable (gasp!), turn Mr. Bennet into a matchmaker, and shine the spotlight on two minor characters from the original Jane Austen novel.  The trilogy began with the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice, where Mr. Darcy never slighted Elizabeth but still had to overcome the obstacle that was the rest of the Bennet family, and continued in Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Continues with the courtship of the more refined Kitty Bennet by the dashing and reckless Sir James Stratton.

In the final novel, Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Concludes, Adams turns her attention to Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas, who thankfully has been spared a lifetime of putting up with Mr. Collins but still longs for the independence and security afforded by marriage.  This novel goes back to where First Impressions leaves off and continues beyond the events in Second Glances, with a focus on Charlotte’s visits to Pemberley, where Elizabeth hopes she will hit it off with David Westover, the rector of Kympton and a man from Charlotte’s past.

Charlotte doesn’t expect to marry for love.  As she nears 30, she just hopes to get married.  But the more she sees the love between the Darcys, the more she laments the lack of it in her own life.  Her family has nearly lost all hope of Charlotte ever finding a husband, especially when she returns home without having secured Mr. Westover’s affections.  Mr. Westover has never entertained the idea of marriage, as he is too focused on his scientific research and his parish duties, but a misunderstanding involving Charlotte and some meddling by his sister may change his mind.

I loved spending Christmas with the Darcys and their family and friends in Holidays at Pemberley.  Adams’ story is told in the tone and spirit of Austen, and her original characters are so charming and seamlessly integrated, I had to remind myself that they weren’t Austen’s creations.  Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I feel bad that Charlotte thought Mr. Collins was the best she was going to get, so I like when these Austenesque novels reimagine a happier life for her.  I didn’t know what to think about Mr. Westover at first — he’s not a Mr. Darcy or a Sir James Stratton — but he grew on me in the end.

These were the perfect books to read during this busy time of year, as they were each under 200 pages and were impossible to put down.  Adams keeps the romance to a minimum, focusing instead on the misunderstandings, the humor, and the diversions so enjoyed by Mr. Bennet.  I read these books with a smile on my face (how could I not, when Mr. Bennet and Lady Catherine forge an odd friendship?), and as predicted, I was sad when they came to an end.  I’ve read too many Austen-inspired books to count, and Adams’ novels are among my favorites in the genre.  I  highly recommend this trilogy for Austen fans who prefer their reimaginings to be witty and charming, free of sex scenes, and reminiscent of Austen herself.

Book 17 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: I received Holidays at Pemberley from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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second glances

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

Mr. Bennet narrowed his eyes with suspicious glee, “You did not watch their departure from a distance, did you?  The very picture of the rejected lover?”

“Certainly, sir, if it brings you joy, then I’ll happily say that I did.”

“Very good!  The image is quite priceless, be it true or not!  What shall I do for amusement when all my daughters are married?  Lovelorn gentlemen are the most diverting entertainment!  Come in, Sir James, come in!  We shall have a glass, and you will disclose the entire predicament.  And do not leave out any details just because they make you look foolish, for those are the very best parts!”

(from Second Glances, pages 128-129)

Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice Continues is the sequel to First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice and picks up the story a year after the first book ends.  This reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on Kitty Bennet, who has been at school in Bath with her younger sister, Lydia, at the recommendation of Mr. Darcy.  Before leaving school to join her good friend Georgiana Darcy for her first London season, Kitty has a chance meeting with Sir James Stratton, who is instantly smitten with the young woman when she gives him a fiery and passionate talking down.

Kitty doesn’t give Sir James a second thought until he arrives at the Darcy’s townhome, and she learns he is a longtime friend of the Darcys.  All of the good manners she developed at school are lost under Sir James’ watchful gaze and teasing banter.  Sir James is not shy about his intentions, and while Kitty understands that she should be honored and flattered by the attentions of someone of his high social standing, she refuses to be forced to marry him because of his title and fortune.  And when it looks like she is warming to the man, he makes a reckless and impulsive decision that causes Kitty to question whether she can trust him.

Second Glances is a delightful novel, from Alexa Adams’ beautiful and playful use of language that brings to mind the style of Austen herself to her intriguing original characters.  I couldn’t help but fall in love with the adventurous and exciting Sir James myself, and I could understand why he was a bit too much for Kitty to handle at first.  The banter between Sir James and his best friend, Simon Brooks, who hits it off immediately with Georgiana, was hilarious as they recounted their childhood antics.  Adams does a wonderful job portraying Kitty’s evolution as she becomes less like Lydia and more like her elder sister, Elizabeth Darcy, though without Lizzy’s impertinence.  There’s also much to love about Adams’ teaming up Sir James, Mr. Bennet, and Mr. Wickham on a mission to save one of the Bennets from potential ruin, and so far, Adams is the only Austenesque author to make me actually like Lady Catherine.

I enjoyed Second Glances even more than First Impressions, and I do believe they need to be read in order to best understand how Adams has made these characters her own while also staying true to the original novel.  The novels are short and well-paced, and Adams mirrors Austen in her humorous observations of the characters and their circumstances.  I can’t wait to finish the trilogy later this week with Holidays at Pemberley, though I know I will be sad when I am finished.  My only complaint so far is that the books are too short!  Adams’ fondness for Austen shines through in these novels, and I’m not ready to let go of her version of these characters just yet.

Book 16 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: I received Second Glances from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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first impressions

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

“If she is really as wonderful as you say, certainly she will not wait forever for you to make up your mind.  She has a duty, after all, especially when one considers her familial circumstances, to marry well.  She must find it rather insulting that you look so far down upon her relations; do you really believe she will remain available once another man has expressed his interest?”  Georgiana had never spoken to her brother so forcibly and was surprised he did not seem to mind, let alone call an immediate end to the conversation, as she had feared.

(from First Impressions, page 120)

Alexa Adams is quickly becoming a favorite of mine among the authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  Once I picked up her novel First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice, nothing could pry it out of my hands.  First Impressions is a gentle retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that first imagines what would happen if, at the Meryton Assembly, Mr. Darcy does not slight Elizabeth Bennet but instead asks her to dance and ends up enjoying himself.  From there, Adams imagines what would have happened had Mr. Darcy not interfered with Mr. Bingley’s relationship with Jane Bennet, Mr. Bennet was warned to keep his daughters away from Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Collins makes a more suitable match, sparing Charlotte Lucas a lifetime of putting up with his ridiculousness.

Surprisingly, removing all the tension of the original novel doesn’t cause the novel to fall flat.  Adams’ Mr. Darcy finds himself confessing to Mr. Bennet the reasons he is wary to marry his favorite daughter, with amusing results, and she sends Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy’s formidable aunt, rushing off to Longbourn, this time for a different reason.  And Caroline Bingley, in a very satisfying twist, gets her just desserts.

First Impressions is a short, satisfying novel that focuses on the humor, the romance, and the ridiculousness of certain characters. I loved how Adams, just like Austen, gives the characters their privacy, not even allowing readers to witness Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s first kiss.  Like Austen, Adams’ narrator talks directly to the reader, and it’s little touches like this that I found so delightful.  First Impressions was the perfect book to keep me company on a cold, snowy day, and as the snow approaches again tomorrow, I plan to be under a warm blanket nursing a cup of cocoa and reading the second book, Second Glances.  I’ll be finishing this week with the third book, Holidays at Pemberley.  Who better than Mr. Darcy to get me in the holiday spirit?

Book 15 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: I received First Impressions from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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emma & elton

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Such images haunted her the whole night through, and she woke on the morrow in even deeper misery than she had gone to bed: more ready to see the evil before her, and with less hope of getting tolerably out of it.

(from “Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid”)

Alexa Adams’ short story “Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid” is a fun re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Emma.  The story covers the period of time from when Mr. Knightley chastises Emma for persuading Harriet Smith to turn down Robert Martin’s proposal of marriage to Emma’s horrendous Christmas Eve carriage ride with Mr. Elton — the moment when Emma realizes her matchmaking efforts have failed.

In Adams’ retelling, Mr. Knightley hints to Emma that Mr. Elton’s exuberance when in Emma and Harriet’s company has nothing to do with Harriet and everything to do with his feelings for Emma.  Adams answers the questions: What would happen if Emma realized Mr. Elton’s intentions early on?  What would happen if Emma’s foolish attempts at matchmaking and her anger and annoyance at the Knightley brothers get her in over her head?

“Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid” paints a portrait of a Jane Austen novel gone horribly wrong.  It’s an outcome I never imagined before and one that was worth considering, if only for a split second.  I liked how Adams adopted an Austenesque tone and how Emma’s thought process was detailed so readers can understand her actions.  I know some readers won’t feel bad for Emma here, as she is often viewed as an unlikeable heroine, but Emma is my favorite Austen novel and I’ve always liked her, so even when my heart went out to her, I was thoroughly amused.

My only complaint with the story is that it was too short.  I would love to see Adams flesh this out to a novella or even a novel.  Even though it’s a cringe-worthy plot, I must admit I was intrigued and really want to know how it eventually played out.  Until the carriage scene, it seemed pretty close to the original, so it feels like the story ends just as it’s getting started.  Even so, Adams grabbed my attention, and I think the fact that I longed for more emphasizes that it’s well written, imaginative, and definitely worth giving a try.

Disclosure: “Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid” is from my personal library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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