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I’m a little late in posting about the two books I read for Halloween, but better late than never (and I figured a Friday the 13th was appropriate). I found two Austen-inspired books that I’d downloaded for free a while back while perusing my Kindle for something short and sweet.

A Nightmare on Grosvenor Street by Karen M Cox takes readers on a rollercoaster ride as Darcy is forced to live a nightmare in which Elizabeth is married to…let’s just say it’s someone who isn’t Darcy. It’s no picnic for Darcy to watch Elizabeth being married to this man, and Elizabeth’s married life is no picnic for her either. This story was a bit of a shock but still a delight to read. Definitely not what I’d been expecting, and it was perfect for Halloween in that it was a scary scenario, both for Darcy and for those of us who love him and Elizabeth together.

Meanwhile, Northanger Angst by Riana Everly is a unique take on Northanger Abbey. Set at Northanger Abbey as Catherine Morland is preparing to leave at the orders of General Tilney, the story takes Catherine on a literal adventure deep into the abbey as her curiosity gets the best of her. This was a shocking story, too, and more in a Halloween-ish scary way.

Both were quick and fun reads with unexpected twists and turns.

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Source: Review copy from the editor

Christina Boyd and her “dream team” of Austenesque writers put out the best Austen-inspired anthologies, hands down. It took me a while to finish Rational Creatures, partly because my life has been so busy and reading time has been limited and partly because I wanted to savor this collection. For me, it’s easy to quickly read through stories that are lighthearted romances, and while there is some romance in these stories, the romance in my opinion wasn’t the focal point here.

These stories are about the women in Austen’s novels, a mix of prequels, sequels, and side stories covering the heroines (and everyone’s favorite antiheroine Lady Susan) as well as many secondary characters, including Charlotte Lucas, Sophia Croft, Penelope Clay, Mary Crawford, and Eleanor Tilney. I’m not going to detail each of the stories, as it’s more fun to jump right in and just go with the flow. As with all of The Quill Collective anthologies, I enjoyed each story and getting to know each of these characters in a new way. I loved how the stories delved deeper into each character — their back stories, the love stories we don’t see in Austen’s novels, their thoughts on their place in society and the limitations that accompany that status, and so much more.

Rational Creatures is a fantastic anthology that shows exactly why we love Austen’s characters: love ’em or hate ’em, Austen’s female characters each are strong in their own way. These stories gave me a new appreciation of characters who aren’t the usual favorites, like Fanny Price, or who make bad decisions, like Charlotte Lucas and Louisa Musgrove, or the “bad girls,” like Mary Crawford, or the ones we simply know little about but who must have rich stories, like Sophia Croft. The stories made me laugh, made me think, and basically made me want to re-read Austen’s novels. I really hope these Quill Collective anthologies keep coming!

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Source: Review copy from Hallmark Publishing

Love at the Shore by Teri Wilson, based on the Hallmark movie of the same name, was the perfect summer read. (Yes, it’s time for my annual catch up on reviews before the end of the year.) Set on Tybee Island, Georgia, the novel follows YA author Jenna Turner — who is staying at a beach house for the summer with her children, Nick and Ally — and the surfer next door Lucas McKinnon. Jenna is expecting quiet summer days where she can finish her second novel while her kids are at camp, but she quickly realizes that Lucas, with his loud music, his rambunctious dog Tank, and, of course, his good looks, is going to be a major distraction.

Of course, Jenna and Lucas are complete opposites, which causes plenty of tension, and of course, they can’t stand each other. Of course, Nick and Ally want to get to know Lucas and play with his dog, and of course, Lucas doesn’t really know how to handle children and Jenna doesn’t want them getting too attached or picking up his “lazy surfer” ways. Just like the movie, the novel is predictable, but that’s to be expected, and it doesn’t really matter with these kinds of stories. I was a bit apprehensive about reading the novelization of Love at the Shore, mainly because I’d already seen the movie several times, but having loved Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy (which was way better than the Hallmark movie version of the novel), I had to give it a try — and I wasn’t disappointed.

Wilson gives a depth to the characters that isn’t in the movie. Sure, you see the characters evolve over the course of the two hours, but Jenna still grated on my nerves at times. In Wilson’s novel, Jenna is still the same Jenna as in the movie, but you get to see into her mind and her heart and feel for her in a way that you might not while watching the movie. Moreover, the decision Lucas makes in the movie that hurts Jenna and her kids is still disappointing but more understandable when fleshed out by Wilson. Ultimately, despite having seen the movie multiple times, it felt like I was experiencing the story for the first time, and the epilogue set after the movie ends is a nice treat.

This is the second book I’ve read from Hallmark Publishing that is based on a Hallmark movie, and now I just have to give their original novels a try.

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Source: Purchased

I finished reading Jill Mansell’s This Could Change Everything several months ago, and the characters have stuck with me since then. The novel centers on Essie, whose life is turned upside down when her scathing but hilarious Christmas round-robin email is sent to her entire address book by Lucas, a stranger who drove her drunk brother home from a party. She and her friend Scarlett had planned to exchange these letters privately as Christmas gifts. But what Lucas thought was harmless fun results in Essie being jobless, homeless, and single all at once.

When Essie meets the elegant, fun-loving, and generous Zillah, her life appears to be looking up. She has a new apartment in a new town, new friends in Zillah and Zillah’s other tenant, the former lawyer turned gardener and photographer Conor, and a new job at a bar close to her new home. However, she is in for a major shock when she comes face to face with Lucas, and it becomes harder and harder for her to see him only as the man who ruined her whole life.

In true Mansell style, the characters are endearing, fun, and a bit over the top at times, and she does a great job of blending humor with romance and even some teary-eyed scenes. As always, Mansell’s secondary characters are just as interesting as the main characters, and I enjoyed watching them evolve and journey toward their own happily ever afters. This Could Change Everything shows how seemingly small actions really do change everything for each character, and how an email prank brings them together in unexpected ways, teaching them a lot about friendship, family, love, and forgiveness.

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Source: Review copy from author

Joana Starnes’ newest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Journey Home to Pemberley, was a treat from start to finish. She imagines what might have happened had Elizabeth reunited with Mr. Darcy following his disastrous Hunsford proposal while touring the Lake Country with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Darcy is taking the long, scenic route to Pemberley as he tries to come to terms with Elizabeth’s refusal, and when he is injured during a storm, he ends up at the inn where Elizabeth and the Gardiners are taking refuge.

While their initial reunion is a little awkward but sweet and full of hope for the future, I knew it was too soon in the book for that to last. But what happened next gutted me. I hadn’t expected THAT, and I hadn’t realized I was so wrapped up in their newfound happiness until I had the rug pulled out from under me, much like our dear couple. I felt it to the core, but I’ve never been disappointed by Starnes before, so I kept reading through their pain and trusted there would be a reward in the end.

The Journey Home to Pemberley was a true page turner, full of romance, angst, and passion and twists and turns that I hadn’t anticipated. Starnes has a way of transporting readers into the story, and I truly felt like I was on the journey with Darcy and Elizabeth. Telling the story mainly through Elizabeth’s point of view provided some suspense, as I kept wondering what Darcy was thinking and feeling at that moment while I was feeling Elizabeth’s pain as she observed him. When they were reunited at the beginning, they both had confronted some hard truths about themselves, but Starnes had many more trials in store for them, and she does a fantastic job of showing how they were changed by their circumstances. The original characters, from Timms and Moll, the innkeeper and his wife, to Bella and Meg, the Monkford sisters, were delightful additions as well.

I’ve loved all of the books I’ve read by Starnes so far, and The Journey Home to Pemberley was no exception. I expected to love it like the others, but I didn’t expect to FEEL it as much as I did, and that, to me, is the sign of a great book and a great writer. I’m already eagerly anticipating what she has in store for us next!

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Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Joana Starnes

Joana lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats – physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst – but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination, and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine.

She is the author of eight Austen-inspired novels (From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley; The Subsequent Proposal; The Second Chance; The Falmouth Connection; The Unthinkable Triangle; Miss Darcy’s Companion; Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and The Darcy Legacy) and one of the contributors to the Quill Ink anthologies (The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know, Rational Creatures and Yuletide). They are all available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and some in Audible too: Joana’s Amazon Page.

You can connect with Joana on: Facebook | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Austen Variations

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Giveaway

Joana is generously giving away 8 Kindle copies and a paperback of The Journey Home to Pemberley and a Jane Austen & Pride and Prejudice goodie bag as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Source: Review copy from author

Nicole Clarkston’s latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Nefarious, is a whirlwind of a novel that took me on an emotional rollercoaster, and I loved every second of it. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because it simply must be experienced and each layer unfolded on its own, but she writes a Mr. Darcy that you’ve never encountered before.

When the novel opens, Mr. Darcy is an angry widower who has nothing nice to say about his dead wife. Shockingly, the former Mrs. Darcy shares the name and look of a certain lady in Hertfordshire who bewitches him the moment he first sets eyes on her. Despite setting his sights on the angelic Jane Bennet, believing she could be the one who brings him back to life, he is hung up on her sister, Elizabeth, who he sees as a minx, an adversary…and the list of his “complaints” about this “enchantress” go on and on.

Nefarious doesn’t stick to the plot of Austen’s novel and is a breath of fresh air in that regard. When Darcy takes up residence at Netherfield, there has been no incident at Ramsgate, for instance, and Georgiana soon joins him in Hertfordshire. That was one of the things I liked best about the novel: the clever twists and turns and not having any idea what would happen next. Darcy’s first-person viewpoint is both brilliant and infuriating — infuriating because he is such a disagreeable fellow for the first quarter of the book and deserves a good thrashing, and brilliant because you get to see his evolution from angry and bitter to helpless and desperate through to his ultimate redemption.

There is something for everyone in Nefarious, from the mysterious events surrounding Darcy’s marriage to the dastardly plots that threaten to ruin him to the romance and passion that one would expect in a Darcy and Elizabeth tale. I stayed up well past my bedtime several nights in a row because I needed to know what happened, and if work and real life hadn’t interfered, I probably would have read this book straight through because, really, who needs sleep when Darcy’s life and happiness hang in the balance?? Clarkston’s beautiful writing and a fascinating story conceived by the JAFF community’s very own J.W. Garrett come together in what likely will be one of my favorite books of 2019, and among my all-time favorite P&P variations.

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About Nefarious

He hates everything about her.

She despises him even more.

So why is his heart so determined to belong to her?

Once trapped by marriage to a woman he loathed, Fitzwilliam Darcy is finally free again. Resentful, bewildered, and angry, he is eager to begin his life over—preferably with a woman who is the exact opposite of his wife.

He never imagined a short stay in Hertfordshire would bring him face to face with his worst nightmare; a woman similar in face, form, and name. He certainly never expected her to be so impossible to ignore.

Torn between what he believes he wants and what his heart cannot live without, his dignity begins to unravel. Will his desperation to escape his past drive a wedge into his closest friendship and destroy any hope of a future?

Will Miss Elizabeth Bennet prove to be as nefarious as his wife? Or, will the last woman in the world be his only chance at happiness?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Nicole is offering a very generous giveaway as part of the blog tour. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and indicate which option you would prefer:

Option 1: $10 Amazon Gift Card plus eBook or Audiobook of winner’s choice (International)

Option 2: Signed Paperback of winner’s choice (U.S. only)

This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 23, 2019. Good luck!

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Source: Review copy from Meryton Press

The Mist of Her Memory is another winner from Suzan Lauder, and this being her first romantic suspense variation of Pride and Prejudice, it shows her versatility and growth as a writer. I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot because it’s best that you just dive in and enjoy the ride for yourself.

When the novel opens, readers quickly learn that some sort of accident happened when Elizabeth was visiting Lambton with the Gardiners and that she has lost her memory. While her aunt and uncle believe Mr. Darcy isn’t to be trusted, Elizabeth struggles to make sense of the bits and pieces she remembers of him and longs to escape from the confines of the Gardiners’ home to speak to him. Meanwhile, Darcy is struggling with his feelings for Elizabeth and that he can never see her again, given the Gardiners’ demands.

I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book, wanting to know why the Gardiners kept avoiding her questions about Lydia, why the Bennets have been treated so harshly by the townspeople, and what happened to Elizabeth in Lambton to cause her memory loss. Lauder does an excellent job with pacing, parceling out the details in such a way that you can’t stop turning the pages to see how it all fits together. It was hard to see Elizabeth so weak in that she can’t remember things and suffers extreme headaches the more she tries to remember, yet she was so strong in that she survived at all. Mr. Darcy’s suffering was hard to read as well, especially as he laments his permanent separation from Elizabeth. The Mist of Her Memory is the perfect blend of suspense and romance, and it’s definitely one I would read again even though I know how it all plays out.

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About The Mist of Her Memory

What happened that fateful morning in Lambton?

What brutal attacker caused such grievous, near-fatal injuries?

Does she remain in danger? Elizabeth cannot remember!

Sequestered in her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s London home, Elizabeth Bennet tries to recover from a devastating incident that stole her memories during their Derbyshire tour. She continues to suffer from strange, angry voices in her head and to recall events that people tell her never happened. Even those who love her refuse to believe her. Elizabeth can barely endure the confusion!

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate for any hint of his beloved’s well-being, yet he lacks the information he seeks as her family forbids him contact with Elizabeth. His frustration mounts when he learns that her mental impairment incited taunting and torment in her home village of Meryton.

Which of Elizabeth’s recollections bear the closest resemblance to the truth? And what is the result of her sister Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham? How is Mr. Darcy to rekindle his romance with Elizabeth when her aunt and uncle strictly shield her from him?

Prepare to grip the edge of your seat during this original romantic tale of suspense and mystery, another Pride and Prejudice variation by bestselling author Suzan Lauder.

“Suzan Lauder skillfully weaves a story that submerges you into the plot and doesn’t let go. The Mist of Her Memory’s twists and turns hold a well-guarded secret that keeps you guessing until the very end.”

̶ author L. L. Diamond

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Suzan Lauder

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a suspense novel, The Mist of her Memory is the fifth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, the dramatic tension-filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate, and the Regency romantic comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman.

She and Mr. Suze and two rescue cats split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish Sea and a 150 year old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead, on her Facebook author page, on Twitter, and on Instagram as Suzan Lauder. She is a lifetime member of JASNA.

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is offering eight eBooks copies of The Mist of Her Memory. The giveaway runs until midnight, May 19, 2019. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified.

One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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May 7 / Just Romantic Suspense / Book Excerpt

May 8 /  Austenesque Reviews / Vignette Post

May 9 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Book Excerpt

May 10 / From Pemberley to Milton / Guest Post

May 11 / More Agreeably Engaged / Guest Post

May 12 / Half Agony, Half Hope / Book Review

May 13 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Character Interview

May 14 / Just Jane 1813 /  Author Interview

May 15 / My Vices and Weaknesses / Book Excerpt

May 16 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Review

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