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best-part-of-love-front-cover

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

“I would be far happier with half of your heart than the whole of anyone else’s,” he added softly.

(from The Best Part of Love)

The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that is so very delightfully different from the original novel but maintains the traits of the characters we know and love. In this variation, Elizabeth Bennet is Lady Courtenay, widow of Henry Warren, Earl of Courtenay. The conspiracy surrounding her husband’s death force her to be separated from her young son, and after two years of hiding and mourning, Lord and Lady Matlock impress upon her the importance of finding a second husband, one who can protect her son and his inheritance. She returns to her family’s home in Hertfordshire, where she seeks refuge for a few months before the London season, coming to terms with the reality of her new life and finding comfort in simply being Elizabeth Bennet once again.

Then Mr. Darcy accompanies the Bingley party to Netherfield, and unaware of Elizabeth’s true identity, he immediately falls in love with her. However, his seemingly endless ability to insult her at every turn and his duty to marry someone of a higher social standing pose major obstacles to his happiness, and things aren’t made any easier when he learns she is Lady Courtenay, someone worthy of his notice. Darcy embarks on a mission to improve her opinion of him and become a better man, one worthy of her notice. Meanwhile, Elizabeth must learn how to move on with her life and understand the nuances of love. But soon the truth about Elizabeth’s marriage is revealed, and their newfound happiness is shattered.

Oh, how I loved this book! It is an emotional journey, and D’Orazio makes sure readers accompany Darcy and Elizabeth through all of the ups and downs. I teared up several times while reading this book, both tears of happiness and tears of sorrow. I felt like I was there as Darcy evolved into the best of men, accepting Elizabeth’s feelings for Henry and not expecting her to forget him — and when the truth left him tortured and alone. Elizabeth’s transformation from grief to sheer joy to despair was equally well done. D’Orazio also cleverly twists the characters to account for Elizabeth’s changed circumstances, with Mrs. Bennet looking down on Mr. Bingley due to his connections to trade and wanting Jane to make a better match, Jane storming off to Netherfield in the rain to follow her heart, and Darcy being accused of setting his sights on Lady Courtenay’s fortune.

The Best Part of Love hooked me from the very first page, and there was so much scandal, danger, romance, passion, and agony that it was hard to put down. D’Orazio takes her time developing Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, especially given his bad first impression and Elizabeth’s need to process her loss, but the novel is perfectly paced. Some readers may have a hard time with Elizabeth having been married to another man and having his child, but I urge them to put those feelings aside and dive into the book head first. The Best of Love is among the best of variations, and I expect it will have a place on my Best of 2017 list!

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About The Best Part of Love

Avoiding the truth does not change the truth

When Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet he has no idea that she — that indeed, the entire town of Meryton — harbors a secret. Miss Elizabeth, a simply country girl from a humble estate, manages to capture first his fascination and then his heart without him ever knowing the truth of her past.

When she meets Darcy, Elizabeth had spent the two years prior hiding from the men who killed her beloved first husband. Feeling herself destroyed by love, Elizabeth has no intention of loving again, certainly not with the haughty man who could do nothing but offend her in Hertfordshire.

In London, Elizabeth surprises herself by finding in Darcy a friend; even greater is her surprise to find herself gradually coming to love him and even accepting an offer of marriage from him. Newly married, they are just beginning to settle into their happily ever after when a condemned man on his way to the gallows divulges a shattering truth, a secret that contradicts everything Elizabeth thought she knew about the tragic circumstances of her first marriage. Against the advice of everyone who loves her, including Darcy, Elizabeth begins to ask questions. But will what they learn destroy them both?

Check out The Best Part of Love on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Amy D'Orazio

Amy D’Orazio

Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay at home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh PA.

She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses and happily ever afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker.

Connect with Amy D’Orazio via Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win a copy of The Best of Love!

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants should provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified).

Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter. Paperback or ebook format will be randomly selected for each winner as well.

**NOTE: Paperback copies are available for continental U.S. winners! Ebook copies are available for all winners, including international winners! If more international winners are randomly chosen than the 4 allotted ebooks, then that will decrease the number of paperbacks. 8 books will be given away to 8 different winners.**

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Disclosure: I received The Best Part of Love from Meryton Press for review.

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darcy-by-any-other-name

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

It was his confrontation with Collins that had been the most troubling. How unnerving it was to see his own face, twisted by Collins’ indecision as he swung between pride and folly. Moreover, Collins’ declaration–“I am Darcy of Pemberley!”–had shaken him to the core.

At the landing Darcy paused and hung over the bannister rail, lost in thought. If Collins could never be Fitzwilliam Darcy, then he could never be William Collins.

(from Darcy By Any Other Name)

Laura Hile’s Darcy By Any Other Name is among the most unique variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve thus far had the pleasure to read. In a Freaky Friday sort of scenario, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins switch bodies after being struck by lightning at the Netherfield Ball. When Darcy wakes up as Mr. Collins, he is thrust into life in the Bennet household at a time when Mr. Bennet has fallen ill. He is given a chance to understand the Bennet women, get to know Elizabeth in particular, and view life through the eyes of someone who can enter a room without being noticed. Elizabeth sees a change in Mr. Collins, realizing he is no longer pompous and has stopped sermonizing and praising Lady Catherine at every turn.

Meanwhile, Collins turns Darcy into a bumbling idiot and a bit of a slob. He is initially excited to be elevated to Darcy’s wealth and social standing but soon learns that he does not have the intelligence or common sense to fill Darcy’s boots, no matter how good he looks in them. With no idea how the body swap occurred and no way to reverse it, the men are forced to come to terms with the reality of their new lives and position in society as chaos erupts around them and life-altering decisions must be made.

Darcy By Any Other Name was the perfect way to start off my 2017 reading. It’s a laugh (and even gasp) out loud kind of novel, one that actually makes you worried that there isn’t any possible path to happily ever after.  There were plenty of humorous moments, such as Collins flirting with Caroline Bingley and admiring himself in Darcy’s upscale wardrobe, but there are plenty of deeper moments as well, especially as Darcy contemplates why he became Collins at this particular moment in time and is humbled by his experiences.

This is a fairly long novel at more than 600 pages, but don’t let that stop you. The book reads quickly and is difficult to put down. I was literally on the edge of my seat during the last several chapters. I had no idea how it all would play out, and it was a roller coaster ride until the end. Hile takes time to develop Elizabeth’s relationship with Darcy (as Collins), and she does so in a way that feels completely natural and never forced. She also gives the men sufficient time to learn from their changed circumstances, and there are many lessons at the core of the novel, mainly that a person’s true self is more important than their outward appearance. The differences in how Darcy and Collins approach their new selves and the opportunities presented to them feel true to character and provide both many laughs and much food for thought. Moreover, Hile takes on the issues of pride, faith, and duty in way that I will not soon forget.

Giveaway

If I’ve made you excited to read Darcy By Any Other Name, then you’re in luck! Laura is generously offering a Kindle copy to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, January 15, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

If you want to start reading Darcy By Any Other Name right this minute, you’re also in luck! The Kindle version is currently on sale for $3.99. It also is available through Kindle Unlimited.

Disclosure: Darcy By Any Other Name is from my personal library.

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miss-bingleys-christmas

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Miss Jane Bennet was pretty, sweet and tolerable. Her only flaw was that it had taken Miss Bingley considerable effort to wrench her brother back from pursuing a disastrous union between them. Elizabeth Bennet was by far worse. She was distressingly strong willed, oddly alluring to men in general and, most horribly, to Mr. Darcy in particular. Miss Bingley couldn’t think of anyone worse to meet in London.

(from Miss Bingley’s Christmas)

Renata McMann and Summer Hanford’s short story, Miss Bingley’s Christmas, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that finds our beloved characters in London for Christmas. Set after Caroline Bingley conspired to remove her brother and the rest of their party from Hertfordshire to separate him from Jane Bennet, the story finds Caroline and her sister, Louisa, stranded in a freezing carriage on their way home from a trip to the flower market. Caroline hopes her Christmas preparations bring her closer to becoming Mrs. Darcy, but all her plans go awry when she and Louisa are forced to abandon their carriage, find themselves soaking wet and lost, and are rescued by Jane and Elizabeth Bennet and their aunt Gardiner.

Being forced to stay at the Gardiners’ home for Christmas Eve gives Caroline a chance to observe the Bennet sisters and their relations and relax in their company. When Mr. and Miss Darcy arrive for Christmas dinner with other guests, including a Joseph and a Mary, Caroline takes a good look at the people around her and even inward, seeing the differences between “Miss Bingley” and the true “Caroline” for the first time.

Miss Bingley’s Christmas packs a lot of character development into a short story that can be finished in less than an hour. The story takes place over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so Caroline’s soul searching and revelations occur rather quickly, but that is to be expected and didn’t dampen my enjoyment. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy take a back seat in this story, and at first I was a bit hesitant to spend too much time in Caroline’s head, but it worked here as her observations uncover some pretty harsh truths about her expectations versus reality. But rest assured that there is a happy ending and an epilogue set during the following Christmas. Although I wish Miss Bingley’s Christmas had been longer (it really would make a great novel or novella), it made for a quick and satisfying read during the busy holiday season.

Disclosure: Miss Bingley’s Christmas is from my personal library.

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darcys-first-christmas

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

She locked the door behind her and fell headlong onto the bed. The room was cold. The servants had stopped lighting the fire when it was clear it would not be used.

Fitting.

She could call a girl to light the fire easily enough, but to what point? Fire would do nothing to chase the chill lodged deep within.

Nothing would.

(from The Darcys’ First Christmas)

In The Darcys’ First Christmas, Maria Grace’s holiday novella sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are planning to celebrate a quiet Christmas at Pemberley with the Gardiners. Already worried that she isn’t up to the task of being the Mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth nervously begins preparations for the first Christmas ball in years and has an idea to start a new tradition, a Christmas picnic for the children. Darcy seems pleased with Elizabeth’s ideas and how she is settling into her new role with the help of Mrs. Reynolds, Pemberley’s longtime housekeeper.

However, the Darcys’ holiday plans quickly fall apart when Lord and Lady Matlock and Colonel Fitzwilliam arrive unexpectedly, and Aunt Matlock — already upset at Darcy marrying beneath him — is hellbent on taking charge of the preparations for the ball and appalled at the changes Elizabeth has proposed as Pemberley’s new mistress. To make matters worse, Darcy — used to running Pemberley on his own and panicked by his relations’ sudden arrival — usurps Elizabeth’s authority in household decision-making, crushing her already fragile self-esteem. When Georgiana’s fear of Aunt Matlock keeps her confined to her rooms and an accident puts even more strain on the Darcys’ marriage, things go from bad to worse, and neither Elizabeth nor Darcy is able to reach out to the other for comfort.

The Darcys’ First Christmas is another sweet story that I enjoyed in the little time I had to myself over Christmas weekend. Grace does a great job showing Elizabeth’s insecurities about her new role and how the Darcys’ relationship is still so new that misunderstandings are bound to pop up. I loved seeing Elizabeth and Darcy both find the courage they needed to take on Lady Matlock and even Georgiana, who still has so much growing up to do. However, it didn’t feel right to me that Darcy and Elizabeth would turn away from one another at the first sign of tension and wait so long to finally address their troubles. I understood it for the sake of the story and appreciated the insight from Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Gardiner, but it just felt like Elizabeth was a bit too weak in this story.

Still, that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the novella, and I loved that Grace included some holiday traditions like the Yule log and even addressed Fitzwilliam’s trauma from the war. Grace managed to pack so much into so few pages, and I was left feeling fully satisfied.

I hope you’re all not sick of my Christmas-themed reviews because I have one more left for tomorrow!

Disclosure: The Darcys’ First Christmas is from my personal library.

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holidays with jane

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“I’ve an assignment for you,” Samuel said as he clunked the cup back down.

Jane sighed. “I thought as much. Why does He always send you? Couldn’t He send someone with a sharper wit to entertain Cassandra and me?”

“It was either me or a Brontë, my dear girl. I thought I’d spare you that.”

(from “It’s a Wonderful Latte” in Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer)

Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer is a collection of six Christmas-themed stories based on each of Jane Austen’s novels.

“The Work of an Instant” by Jennifer Becton  (based on Persuasion)

An oddly dressed Santa working in the Mansfield Perk coffee shop informs Dr. Anne Elliot that she will receive her Christmas wish just before her old flame, Lieutenant Commander Frederick Wentworth waltzes in, apparently on leave from the USS Kellynch. Her nurse friend Louisa pounces immediately, but could a Christmas ball and some Christmas magic reunite Anne and Frederick after so many years apart?

“Mischief and Mistletoe” by Melissa Buell (based on Northanger Abbey)

Pastor’s daughter and aspiring fashion designer Catherine Morland gets a chance to spread her wings when she is offered a job making new costumes for the annual Dickens’ Christmas Festival in Santa Barbara. Cate is over the moon when she meets Henry Tilney, but she worries that a misunderstanding of her situation could alter his feelings for her.

“A Tale of Three Christmases” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Sense and Sensibility)

The lives of the Dashwood sisters are in chaos following the death of their father. The youngest, Maggie, finds solace in her writing, and a thoughtful gift from her father and a bit of Christmas magic help her navigate the family and romantic dramas over a period of three years.

“With Love, from Emma” by Cecilia Gray (based on Emma)

Emma Gold may not have any family to keep her company during the holidays, but she takes comfort in her matchmaking abilities. However, she fears her efforts to pair up members of the bridal party at her best friend’s wedding may have gone awry amid her confusing feelings for and competitive banter with Lance Knightley, whose bar is next to her flower shop and whose kiss under the mistletoe she can’t forget.

“It’s a Wonderful Latte” by Jessica Grey (based on Mansfield Park)

Mansfield Perk manager Evie and her best friend Frank find themselves at odds when the Piper siblings solicit their help for a fundraiser. Not sure what to do about her new relationship-going-nowhere and her complicated feelings for Frank, Evie needs the help of Jane Austen herself, who uses a bit of Christmas magic to help Evie realize love (and the real meaning of the novel Mansfield Park).

“Pride & Presents” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Liz Bennet is ready to take the reins at the Longbourn Community Center and enable her father to retire. She hopes for a Christmas to remember, with the help of basketball star Charles Bingley. Meanwhile, his lawyer friend Will Darcy has Liz all out of sorts, and he certainly made a bad first impression, so when he asks her out, she is shocked and turns him down. And then the fantastic Christmas she has planned for the children starts to crumble, along with her family’s grasp on Longbourn, and Liz must swallow her pride and realize she may not be such a good judge of character after all.

As with Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet, I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, and again, I loved how they were connected in little ways, through the Mansfield Perk coffee shop and Cate’s Creations. In fact, this time it’s too hard for me to choose a favorite story! I also love how these are modern takes on Austen’s novels and how they aren’t straight retellings, and even though the stories are short, I was satisfied with all of the endings. I hope to squeeze more holiday reading in before the new year, but if I don’t have time, I’ll be thankful to have ended on a bright note. I’m looking forward to reading the other Holidays with Jane collections next year!

Merry Christmas!!

Disclosure: Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer is from my personal library.

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to-forget

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Though he was not apt to socialize like Bingley, he did not on principle object to Christmastide socializing. This year was different. All he wanted was to be left alone that he might quiet the cacophony in his own head.

One which centered around Elizabeth Bennet.

(from To Forget)

To Forget: Darcy’s London Christmas is a short story by Maria Grace that is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It opens with Darcy and Elizabeth spending their first Christmas as husband and wife, settling in for the night after their guests retire. Elizabeth asks Darcy about the previous Christmas he spent in London, his last as a bachelor, and he tells her the story of how he conspired to separate her sister Jane from his friend Bingley after the Netherfield Ball — but most importantly, how he tried to forget her.

Darcy relives that lonely Christmas season in London, how he looked for Elizabeth on the chance she might be staying with her aunt and uncle in Cheapside while he sought to avoid being seen with any woman for fear of making it into the gossip pages.  In the midst of socializing with the Bingleys and their guests, Darcy remembers his Christmases as a child at Pemberley. In fondly recalling family traditions and the lessons learned from his mother, Darcy realizes what he needs to do about his feelings for Elizabeth.

The story goes back and forth in time, between Darcy and Elizabeth’s first Christmas as a married couple and his last lonely Christmas, and because readers already know the ending up front, there is considerably less angst than in most Pride and Prejudice variations. While the shifts in time slightly lessened the impact of Darcy’s confusion and frustration, it was interesting to hear Elizabeth’s comments on his actions and odd behavior during that time.

In To Forget, Grace includes holiday traditions of the Regency era, from decorations and food to entertainment. I enjoyed these details just as much as I did the story itself. She does a fantastic job weaving in these elements while keeping the story short and sweet. I read this one during the late afternoon, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and the Christmas tree lights. It was the perfect way to spend some time with my favorite characters!

Disclosure: To Forget: Darcy’s London Christmas is from my personal library.

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fitzwilliam-ebenezer-darcy

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“I am going insane. This cannot be happening,” Darcy grumbled.

George turned to his son so he could look him directly in the eye. “You are not losing your mind, but you are headed there. This is your last hope.”

(from Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy)

Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy is an enjoyable mash-up of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Barbara Tiller Cole’s novel imagines a brokenhearted Fitzwilliam Darcy who has abandoned all hope of winning Elizabeth Bennet’s love and plans to spend Christmas alone at Pemberley where he can drown his sorrows in drink. Although he orchestrated the wedding of George Wickham and Lydia Bennet, thereby rescuing Elizabeth’s family from ruin, Darcy thinks Elizabeth will never forgive him for failing to prevent the scandal in the first place. As a result, he does not return to Hertfordshire for his best friend Bingley’s wedding to Elizabeth’s sister Jane.

Seeing her son devoid of hope and on a steadily downward path, the ghost of Anne Darcy visits Fitzwilliam in hopes of helping him emerge from this misery. She explains that the ghosts of the past, present, and future will visit him that night to reveal some harsh truths and the choices that lay before him. Soon Darcy is forced to revisit his insult to Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly, her despair at his absence from Hertfordshire, and the lives that await her and his sister Georgiana if he doesn’t realize soon that all hope is not lost.

I enjoyed Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy for its lesson about hope, the idea of a Christmas miracle, and the bits of humor from the ghosts in the midst of Darcy’s pain. The ghosts of Darcy’s parents and Mrs. Pat were delightfully funny and more than a tad impertinent. The only thing I didn’t care for was the epilogue, in which details about the angels and what transpired that night long ago are revisted in a more heavy-handed way that lessens the impact of Darcy’s experience. However, there were plenty of laughs in the final pages to make up for it.

As a novella, Darcy’s journeys with the ghosts pass quickly, and his troubles are resolved in short order, but this brevity makes for a sweet read during the busy Christmas season. Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy is another Austen-inspired Christmas tale I could see myself re-reading during the holiday season.

Disclosure: Fitzwilliam Ebenezer Darcy is from my personal library.

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