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pompous schemesThrown from his horse, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam is left to traverse the remaining fifteen miles to Pemberley on foot. Richard never imagined the first carriage to cross his path would contain the one woman he thought he would never see again.

Lady Aimée de Bourbon the only child of Prince du Sang Geoffroy de Bourbon, Marquis of Agen had captured and nearly broke Richard’s heart four years earlier. He had loved her and planned to give up his bachelor ways, but her father intended her to marry a royal, not an English Earl’s second son. Now Lady Aimée is affianced to Señor Duarte de Cortázar, a lesser Portuguese royal.

While lost in his thoughts of his prior love, the carriage is robbed, Lady Aimée’s dowry stolen, and Lord Agen is injured. Colonel Fitzwilliam directs the driver to take them to Pemberley where Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth take them in and offer refuge and a place to heal.

Ancient customs of Dom Duarte’s family forbids marriage without the dowry present at the wedding and now with the dowry stolen, Lady Aimée and her father fear the de Cortázar’s will call off the marriage. But Lady Aimée intends to have love and will let nothing stand in her way, even if it means hurting the man she once professed to love.

Pompous Schemes Paperback and eBook Links:

Paperback:

eBook

Gumroad (Author Direct): https://gumroad.com/l/AyrBray-PompousSchemes

 

author information

 

ayr bray“From an early age I have always been fascinated by the written word and the mood and atmosphere it creates for a reader; especially those books that affect me and transport me to some far-off place. These are the elements I strive to create in my books. My books in many ways record what most affects me: my feelings and experiences with family, friends, and those I have run into on my life’s journey. My hope is that in my books you will find something that touches you, something which will resonate in your soul and remind you that you are strong and can overcome anything, especially if you have the support of loving friends and family.” – Ayr Bray

Ayr Bray is from the Pacific Northwest, but travels as much as possible so she doesn’t have to deal with the cold. Ayr loves to hear from readers. Connect with her at her website http://www.ayrbray.com or on Facebook at http://goo.gl/kAAO3u  and Twitter: https://twitter.com/AyrBray

review

Rating: ★★★★☆

Why I wanted to read it: I love sequels to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that focus on the secondary characters, especially Colonel Fitzwilliam.

What I liked: I’m really into novellas lately, especially since I have so little reading time these days, and I loved that I was able to read Pompous Schemes in one sitting.  It’s the second book in Bray’s Pemberley series, and although there are some vague references to the first book, Cowardly Witness, it can be read as a stand-alone.  There was a little bit of everything in this novella, from highwaymen to a love triangle to sweet moments between the newly married Darcys and even some humor and a mystery.  It didn’t end the way I’d expected, and I liked being surprised.

What I disliked: I only wish the mystery surrounding Lady Aimée’s dowry had not been so easily resolved.

Final thoughts: Pompous Schemes is an exciting, entertaining novella whose original characters, Lady Aimée and her betrothed, take center stage, but there is enough of Austen’s characters to keep readers satisfied.  This was my first time reading the work of Ayr Bray, but it won’t be the last.  I can’t wait to go back and read the first book in the Pemberley series.

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Disclosure: I received Pompous Schemes from Loving the Book for review.

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

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a will of iron

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

This has been a most trying evening.  Mama continues furious that Darcy has gone away again without extending an offer of marriage.  I say, bless him.  She goes on and on, and I do wish she would invite the vicarage guests to dinner to ease the strain on me as she does not yammer quite so much in company.  Or perhaps the presence of others makes it easier for me to ignore her.  Selfish, Anne!

(from A Will of Iron)

Quick summary: In this darker variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Linda Beutler puts Anne de Bourgh front and center.  A Will of Iron lets readers into Anne’s head through her journals, which make their way into the hands of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth Bennet after her sudden and shocking death.  Anne had a lively mind, made astute observations about the people around her, and wasn’t shy when it came to taking her future into her own hands.  As the residents and guests of Rosings Park and the Hunsford Parsonage try to come to terms with the events leading up to Anne’s death, they soon face even darker realizations while simultaneously seeking out happiness for themselves.

Why I wanted to read it: I enjoyed Beutler’s previous takes on Pride and Prejudice (check out my reviews of The Red Chrysanthemum and Longbourn to London), love the variations that expand on Austen’s secondary characters, and couldn’t resist imagining an even darker side to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

What I liked: Beutler wastes no time in shocking readers, and I was glued to the pages from Anne’s very first journal entry.  The dark twists and turns of this novel are both shocking and morbidly funny, and there are plenty of love triangles and romantic entanglements to lighten the mood.  Beutler does a great job blending the darkly comic events with the sweet romantic scenes.  The novel is set just after Elizabeth rejects Darcy’s first proposal, and watching them find their way back to each other amidst all the other happenings was exciting.

What I disliked: Nothing at all (except trying to summarize the plot without saying too much).

Final thoughts: A Will of Iron is a must-read for fans of Austen-inspired fiction, who, like me, continually seek out unique variations of Pride and Prejudice.  I must say that I’ve never read anything like this novel before, and I was surprised by how many times I was shocked and then laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all.  It definitely wasn’t what I expected, which made me love it more.  I can’t wait to see what Beutler writes next!

Disclosure: I received A Will of Iron from Meryton Press for review.

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

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jars of hope

Source: Review copy from IWPR Group
Rating: ★★★★☆

Irena thought of something her father had told her.  “If you see someone drowning,” he had said, “you must jump in and save them, whether you can swim or not.”

“The children are hurting the most,” she decided.  “I have to give them a helping hand.”

(from Jars of Hope)

Quick summary: Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust is a children’s picture book written by Jennifer Roy and illustrated by Meg Owenson that tells the story of Irena Sendler, a social worker in Poland during World War II who helped smuggle around 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.  Roy explains how Sendler helped the children escape, how she saved the lists of their names, and how she survived the war herself.

Why I wanted to read it: Several years ago, my daughter and I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, and of course, we were fascinated by her story.  I’m also a fan of Roy’s since reading Yellow Star, her Aunt Sylvia’s Holocaust survival story, and meeting both Roy and her aunt at a book festival a few years ago.

What I liked: I applaud Roy for introducing Sendler to young readers and emphasizing how ordinary people can do extraordinary things in the face of evil.  The book is age-appropriate, showing the danger Sendler and the Jewish families faced without going into much detail.  Owenson’s illustrations are detailed and vibrant, using color to denote the warmth of family and the cold and desolation Sendler faced in prison.  I appreciated the author’s notes at the end that briefly wrap up Sendler’s story and explain Roy’s inspiration for the book.

JarsofHopebyJenniferRoyinterior10

Jars of Hope, page 10 (Capstone Young Readers)

What I disliked: The book only scratches the surface of Sendler’s story and makes it difficult for readers to feel connected to Sendler, but that is understandable given that it is short and intended for young children.

Final thoughts: Jars of Hope is a beautiful story of courage, love, hope, daring, and survival.  To think that one women had a hand in saving thousands of children during the Holocaust is inspirational and still brings people hope decades later.  It is important to remember people like Irena Sendler, who selflessly gave all they had, sometimes even their lives, to do what was right.  It also is important that children are introduced to these unsung heroes, and Jars of Hope is a book for parents and children to read and discuss together.

Disclosure: I received Jars of Hope from IWPR Group for review.

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

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inspired by grace

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

She let out a laugh that probably sounded a bit forced and said, “You need not protect me.  If you remember correctly, it is I who protected you far too often.  I tore many gowns wrestling your older brother off you.  And I believe I still can claim to be Queen of the Boulder on Chester Pond.  No one ever defeated me.”

His words were quiet, but distinct:  “Grace Ingrid Genevieve Iverson, no one ever will.  I swear it.”

(from Inspired by Grace, page 19)

Quick summary: Inspired by Grace is a Regency romance by Jeanna Ellsworth about childhood best friends whose lives have separated them for the past 10 years.  Gavin Kingston is struggling to come to terms with the tragic deaths of his father and older brother, which forced him to assume the title of Duke of Huntsman, a title he despises.  Grace Iverson is in London to find a husband, attempting another Season after her last was cut short by the death of her mother three years prior.  A chance (and clumsy) encounter reunites the pair, and their friendship resumes as if they had not parted ways when she was just 14 and he was 16.  Still, a lot has changed in the last decade; Gavin needs to learn the many meanings of grace, and Grace needs to learn to trust.  But will they find a way to be together before the hurts in their pasts converge and conspire to keep them apart for good?

Why I wanted to read it: I hadn’t yet read a Regency romance that wasn’t a variation of a Jane Austen novel, and I’ve enjoyed Ellsworth’s previous Austen-inspired novels (check out my reviews for Mr. Darcy’s Promise, Pride and Persistence, and To Refine Like Silver).

What I liked: Ellsworth always manages to inject some humor into her novels, and I laughed out loud several times while reading Inspired by Grace.  I especially loved the banter between Grace and Gavin’s friend, Mr. Silence.  Grace and Gavin are wonderfully flawed, and I couldn’t help but compare Grace to Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.  The romance is sweet and passionate but clean, and the Christian elements are obvious but never heavy-handed.  Moreover, there is plenty of tension and excitement when a face from Grace’s past appears and upends her newfound happiness.

What I disliked: Nothing!  The novel was simply a pleasure to read.

Final thoughts: Ellsworth has a knack for creating likeable, well-developed characters, and I was sad when it was time to say goodbye to Gavin and Grace.  The many meanings of grace are woven skillfully and seamlessly into the novel, and readers of any faith may find it a useful lesson in their own lives.  Inspired by Grace is a charming novel about love built on friendship, how true friends bring out the best in each other, and how happiness requires learning to trust.

Disclosure: I received Inspired by Grace from the author for review.

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

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the prosecution of mr. darcy's cousin

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

“I will not send for Mrs. Fitzwilliam, but I do mean to send word that you are safe.  Neither Mrs. Darcy nor my sister deserves to spend another hour in worry over your actions.”

He could not control speaking in disappointment.

“I thought better of you, Edward.”

(from The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin)

Quick summary: The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin is the latest Pride and Prejudice mystery by Regina Jeffers.  Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have been happily married for about five years and are enjoying life with their two young sons, but their world is turned upside down when Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, sends word that her husband, Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, is missing.  Darcy tracks down his cousin in a seedy inn in London, drunk and in a uniform covered in dirt and blood.  Fitzwilliam’s marital problems and PTSD are the least of the family’s concerns, once it becomes known that he is the prime suspect in a serious of gruesome murders.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve long been a fan of Jeffers’ novels (check out my reviews of Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, Christmas at Pemberley, and The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy), and I was intrigued by the idea of a darker side to the charming and amiable Colonel Fitzwilliam.

What I liked: I was fascinated by this tale from start to finish, and I especially enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery.  Jeffers really digs deep into her characters, particularly Georgiana’s need to find inner strength in the face of great loss, Darcy’s realization that he is no longer his sister’s protector, and Fitzwilliam’s troubled transition to civilian life.  The assortment of original characters, like Cowan, secondary characters given bigger roles, like the Earl and Countess of Matlock, and even some courtroom drama help round out the story, and I was happy to see another of my favorite Austen heroes make an appearance toward the end.

What I disliked: Nothing!

Final thoughts: The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin is a darker take on the characters of Pride and Prejudice, but it is exciting and shines in the complexity of the characters and the multilayered mystery at its core.  It was hard to see Fitzwilliam in such a light, but Jeffers’ portrayal of a man who has spent a great deal of his life at war and remains haunted by his experiences is realistic and heartbreaking.  Although it focuses on some heavy subjects, like PTSD, and puts Austen’s beloved characters in some dangerous and hopeless situations, the romantic moments between Darcy and Elizabeth help to lighten the mood.  Jeffers had me guessing and biting my nails until the very end, a sign of a great mystery, and I hope there will be more installments in this series.

(I haven’t yet read the previous installment, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, so that’s something to look forward to, and I should point out here that The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin can be read as a standalone novel.)

Disclosure: I received The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin from the author for review.

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

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Sun-Kissed

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

“You honestly expect me to splash about in the brine, naked as the day I was born?” Darcy scoffed.  “I think not.”

“Prig.”

“Just because I prefer privacy and prudence does not signify I am prudish.  I swim — without clothing, I’ll have you know — at Pemberley Lake.”

(from Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, “Spyglasses & Sunburns” by J. Marie Croft)

Quick Summary: Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer is Meryton Press’ first short-story anthology featuring eight feel-good tales of summer, most of which involve Jane Austen’s novels and characters in some way.  Included in the collection are several takes on Pride and Prejudice, from a young Darcy’s education in becoming a great lover to Anne de Bourgh’s splash in the sea at Sanditon to the confessions of foolishness and love at a masquerade ball.  Sun-Kissed also features modern-day takes on Persuasion and Northanger Abbey set on the beach and a sweet non-Austen-related story about how a chance encounter can turn one’s life upside down.

Why I wanted to read it: Short stories, particularly lighthearted, romantic stories with a Jane Austen connection, sound perfect for the beach…or at least when you’re dreaming about a beach excursion.

What I liked: The selection of stories was fantastic.  I enjoyed the mix of period and modern-day stories and the mix of new-to-me authors and authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past.  I also was impressed that Sanditon was included; Austen’s unfinished novel about a seaside resort begs to be included in a summer anthology, and it was nice to see those characters mingling with characters from Pride and Prejudice.  I loved or at least really liked every story in the collection, and despite their brevity, I felt like I really got to know the characters, and each had a satisfying ending.

What I disliked: That there were only eight stories in the anthology.  Don’t get me wrong, the anthology was the perfect length, but once I was immersed in the collection, I didn’t want it to end.

Final thoughts: Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer is the perfect summer read for fans of Austen-inspired fiction, with a little something for everyone.  Hats off to the editor, Christina Boyd, for helping to create an anthology that flows beautifully from story to story and provides enough variety to both satisfy readers and keep them wanting more.  Although I didn’t read this book at the beach, these authors and their delightful tales transported me to the sun and surf at least for a few hours.

Meryton Press will be releasing a holiday-romance-themed anthology late this fall. The short story contest for that volume is now open for submissions. Click here for further details: Official Rules

Disclosure: I received Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer from Meryton Press for review.

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

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cover to covers

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

Maybe Monique was the kind of woman he needed in his life.  No one had held up a mirror to his empty existence quite like she had.  The characters she had based on him had opened his eyes to the possibility that all was not right with his world.  He had made mistakes, a lot of them, but perhaps there was always room for redemption.

(from Cover to Covers, page 55)

Quick summary: Cover to Covers is about Tyler Moore, an oil company CEO who likes to be in control and is used to getting what he wants, especially when it comes to women.  After running into his girlfriend from 20 years ago, romance author Monique Delome — the only woman he was unable to forget — Tyler leaves his company behind and flies to New Orleans, hoping for a second chance.  He knows she still has feelings for him; after all, she’s based all of the leading men in her books on him.  But Monique finds it hard to trust him because he’s broken her heart before, and Tyler has issues of his own, as the battles with his stepfather for control of the company and the effects of a devastating loss from his childhood threaten his chances of happiness.

Why I wanted to read it: I don’t read many dark and steamy romance novels, but I am a fan of Weis’ writing and am willing to read outside my comfort zone now and then.

What I liked: Weis does a great job developing her characters.  The novel was narrated in the third person from Tyler’s point of view, but I still felt like I understood Monique and the reasons behind her actions.  I also appreciated that the characters were older (Tyler is 50, and Monique is in her 40s), and they have two decades of life experiences under their belts when they meet again at the beginning of the novel, which made it easier for me to relate to them.  The plot itself was interesting, how a man so seemingly in control actually needs to learn to take control of his own life and stop doing what is expected of him.  The sex scenes are very steamy, and in this novel, they actually contribute to the plot and the evolution of the characters and their relationship.

What I disliked: There were times I wished the book were told from Monique’s point of view because I really liked her, and I spent much of the book disliking Tyler.  Even in the end, I appreciated the changes in his character, but I never fell in love with him.  However, Weis did make him believable as a CEO, and I guess that was the point.

Final thoughts: I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by Weis so far, and Cover to Covers is no exception.  It may not be my favorite of her novels, but I found the characters intriguing, and even if I didn’t particularly like Tyler, I still rooted for him in the end.

Disclosure: I received Cover to Covers from the author for review.

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

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