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

It was too late to make any improvements as a lover, but he could improve himself as a brother, and as a man. He could become a man who would have been worthy of Elizabeth. There might not be any promise of happiness in that, but there would be satisfaction, at least, in correcting his ways, in better doing his duty. That was all he had to live for, now.

(from Mistress)

Sophie Turner’s newest novel, Mistress, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Bennet dies of a heart attack the morning after the Netherfield ball and Elizabeth does what she is expected to do to save her family: marry Mr. Collins. When news of Mr. Bennet’s death reaches London, Mr. Bingley rushes back to Longbourn to be with Jane, severing ties with Mr. Darcy upon learning of the scheme with his sister to keep him and the eldest Bennet daughter apart. Upon learning of Elizabeth’s marriage, Darcy is devastated and vows to change his proud and arrogant ways.

Fast forward three years, and Elizabeth is a widow just out of mourning. She and Darcy are reacquainted at Netherfield during a house party thrown by the Bingleys. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth is just as strong as it was the last time he saw her, and Elizabeth notices right away that Darcy is a changed man. However, Elizabeth’s marriage was more than simply unhappy, and she is haunted by the horrible memories, so much so that she has vowed never to marry again. Can Darcy convince Elizabeth that everything about marriage is better with someone who loves and respect you?

Mistress was a thoroughly enjoyable novel from start to finish. My heart hurt for both Elizabeth and Darcy, but I loved watching them reconnect as people who had been through so much, understand pain and longing, and desire to look toward the future. How they go about that was very well done; Turner made it feel true to the characters and their current situation. There were several very detailed, steamy scenes, but they were crucial to the plot and well written. Aside from Elizabeth and Darcy’s story, I enjoyed the heart-to-heart conversations between Elizabeth and Jane and the changes to their younger sisters. I also loved that Bingley was a stronger character in this variation, and his desire to protect Elizabeth was admirable. Most of all, I loved seeing Elizabeth taking charge of Longbourn — and of her fate. This was my first time reading a Pride and Prejudice variation by Turner, but it won’t be the last!

****

About Mistress

One night, to decide his entire life’s happiness.

Chastened by Charles Bingley following Mr. Bennet’s untimely death, Fitzwilliam Darcy determines he will offer marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, but she marries another.

Years later, a widowed Elizabeth is mistress of Longbourn, and has vowed she will never marry again. A house party at Netherfield brings them back together, but Darcy will have to win more than her heart if he is to have any chance at making her mistress of Pemberley.

Readers of Sophie Turner’s more chaste Constant Love series should be aware that this novel contains decidedly adult content at certain parts of the story.

Check out Mistress on GoodreadsAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

Check out the Spotify playlist for Mistress

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About the Author

Sophie Turner

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.

Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.

She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon.

Connect with Sophie on Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

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Giveaway

Sophie is generously offering two ebook copies of Mistress to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let me know what intrigues you most about this book. This giveaway will close on Friday, March 31, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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March 18/My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
March 19/Of Pens & Pages/Book Review, Excerpt & Giveaway
March 20/Margie’s Must Reads/Book Review & Giveaway
March 21/More Agreeably Engaged/Author Spotlight & Giveaway
March 22/A Lady’s Imagination/Guest Post & Giveaway
March 23/Just Jane 1813/Guest Post & Giveaway
March 24/Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
March 25/My Love for Jane Austen/Excerpt Post & Giveaway
March 26/My Vices and Weaknesses/Book Review & Giveaway
March 27/So Little Time…/Excerpt Post & Giveaway
March 28/Babblings of a Bookworm/Guest Post & Giveaway
March 29/From Pemberley to Milton/Vignette Post & Giveaway

Disclosure: I received Mistress from the author for review.

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

Caroline is the first book in a series of Pride and Prejudice sequels by Sue Barr, opening when Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley go back to Hertfordshire to propose to Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. Caroline Bingley is angry and distraught when she learns of Mr. Darcy’s engagement to the “country miss” Elizabeth Bennet, as she’d spent the last few years trying to grab his attention in her quest to marry into high society. Meanwhile, Lord Nathan Kerr, Mr. Darcy’s new vicar, is instantly captivated by Caroline but understands that, in her current frame of mind, she is not a suitable match for him.

Unaware of Lord Nathan’s humble lifestyle in Kympton, Caroline is infuriated by his judgmental comments. She knows that Mr. Darcy is lost to her forever and that she must forge a new path for herself, but Lord Nathan can’t help lashing out at her for her marital aspirations. Yet neither can deny the growing passion between them, nor can they deny that they both need to do some serious soul searching before they can find inner peace.

I really enjoyed Barr’s take on Caroline, from her temper tantrums to her memories of her grandmamma — and the advice she soon realizes she must take to heart. I also loved Lord Nathan, the reformed rake who still struggles with his memories of the war and the behavior he put behind him when he took orders. I thought he was pretty harsh to Caroline, but getting to see things through his point of view made me understand him better. It was entertaining to see their evolution over the course of this short novel. I was so wrapped up in their troubles that I didn’t mind the quick character development or that Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth and Mr. Bingley/Jane take a backseat as their wedding preparations are underway.

Barr does a good job handling the Christian elements of the novel, from the Scripture passages Caroline remembers from her grandmamma to Lord Nathan’s prayers and counseling. It made sense given Lord Nathan’s occupation, and it wasn’t too heavy-handed. The only minor quibble I had with the book is that the ending seemed too convenient given the character development throughout the novel.

Overall, Caroline is a strong start to the series, and readers will be happy that there isn’t a cliffhanger ending. I was thrilled to see a description for Book Two at the end of Book One, and I cannot wait to read the next volume!

****

About Caroline

Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and unrequited love interest married a Bennet sister? Join me in this story of redemptive love and the healing of broken dreams.

Caroline Bingley, beyond frustrated with her brother, Charles and Mr. Darcy both proposing to the Bennet sisters, dreads their upcoming nuptials. For three years, her sole focus has been on attaining a marriage proposal from one Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, only to be foiled by a country miss with ‘fine eyes’.  Adrift and not sure of her place in life, she meets the mysterious and devastatingly handsome Lord Nathan, who equally vexes and intrigues her.

Lord Nathan Kerr, third in line to a Dukedom, had a well-earned reputation as a Rake. He cast all that and his noble title aside to become Mr. Darcy’s vicar in Kympton, finding contentment in leading his small flock and doing the Lord’s work. His plan for a quiet, country life is thrown into upheaval when he meets the fiery Miss Bingley. Can he reconcile his rising desire for the spoiled miss with how a vicar’s wife ‘should’ behave?

Check out Caroline on Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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About the Author

Sue Barr

Sue Barr resides in beautiful Southwestern Ontario with her retired Air Force hubby, two sons and their families. She’s also an indentured servant to three cats and has been known to rescue a kitten or two, or three…in an attempt to keep her ‘cat-lady-in-training’ status current. Although, she has deviated from appointed path and rescued a few dogs as well.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and their affiliate chapter, Love, Hope and Faith as well as American Christian Fiction Writers.

For more information about her other books, visit her website.

Connect with Sue via Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Blog

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Giveaway

Sue Barr is generously offering paperback copies of Caroline and a Jane Austen Journal to three winners, and ebook copies of Caroline to three separate winners. Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway. This giveaway is open internationally. Good luck!

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March 12/My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway

March 13/From Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Excerpt & Giveaway

March 14/More Agreeably Engaged/Author Spotlight & Giveaway

March 16/Just Jane 1813/Guest Post & Giveaway

March 17/Babblings of a Bookworm/Vignette Post & Giveaway

March 18/My Love for Jane Austen/Excerpt Post & Giveaway

March 19/Margie’s Must ReadsExcerpt Post & Giveaway

March 20/Austenesque Reviews/Guest Post & Giveaway

March 21/My Vices and Weaknesses/Book Review & Giveaway

March 22/Savvy Verse & Wit/Guest Post & Giveaway

March 23/Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway

March 24/So Little Time…/Excerpt Post & Giveaway

March 25/Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/Book Review & Giveaway

March 26/Of Pens & Pages/Book Review & Giveaway

Disclosure: I received Caroline from the author for review.

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Source: Review copy from Crown
Rating: ★★★★★

Everything was black in the moonless night, the blackout rules forcing all the light out of the world. But with a cautious smile, I realized that there are no laws against singing, and I found my voice becoming louder, in defiance of this war.

In defiance of my right to be heard.

(from The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir)

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is an impressive World War II homefront novel set in 1940 in the village of Chilbury in Kent, England. Jennifer Ryan tells the story in journal entries and letters from the points of view of Mrs. Margaret Tilling, a woman left alone with her thoughts after her only son goes off to war; Miss Edwina Paltry, the village midwife who takes on shady jobs for the right price as a means of atoning for her past mistakes; Kitty Winthrop, the 13-year-old daughter of the menacing Brigadier who longs to be a singer and is waiting for the dashing RAF pilot Henry to marry her someday; Venetia Winthrop, Kitty’s older sister who uses her beauty to her advantage and sets her sights on a mysterious artist; and Sylvie, a 10-year-old Jewish refugee living with the Winthrops who holds tightly to a secret.

The novel opens with a funeral and a note from the vicar indicating that the village choir will be disbanded now that all the male members have gone to war. However, under the guidance of the new choirmistress, Prim, the women of the village form the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, using their voices to both lift up and comfort each other and their fellow villagers during the chaos of war. The women of the choir forge new friendships, uncover secrets, fall in and out of love, and find strength in themselves and each other as the war begins to take its toll.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, but I was immediately intrigued by these women and the life of the village. Some of the women were resistant to the changes brought about by the war, while others viewed the absence of the men as an opportunity to take charge, see the needs that must be fulfilled, and move forward. Where the novel shines is in Ryan’s ability to give each of the women a distinct voice and show their evolution within their diaries and letters. Although some of the plot lines may have been a bit overly dramatic or far-fetched, Ryan made them work, and I was swept up in the gossip and the rivalries of the inhabitants of Chilbury.

I really enjoyed The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, especially for Ryan’s skill in painting a portrait of a society in flux. Even when the bombs begin to fall and the losses begin to pile up, the narrative never gets too heavy and is never devoid of hope. I couldn’t help but love these women and root for them despite their flaws and misguided actions. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir was a quick and pleasant read, and I found myself wishing there was another installment that showed how these women fared in the latter years of the war.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in the tour for The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. Click here to follow the tour.

Disclosure: I received The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir from Crown for review.

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Source: Review copy from MIRA
Rating: ★★★★★

I try to move forward again. My toes are numb now, legs leaden. Each step into the sharp wind grows harder. The snow turns to icy sleet, forming a layer on us. The world around us has turned strangely gray at the edges. The child’s eyes are closed, and he is resigned to the fate that has always been his.

(from The Orphan’s Tale)

I’ve long been a fan of Pam Jenoff’s World War II fiction, and her latest novel, The Orphan’s Tale, is among her best. The story is told alternately through the eyes of Noa, a 16-year-old Dutch girl whose relationship with a Nazi soldier leaves her pregnant and alone, and Astrid, an aerialist whose search for her family leads her to Herr Neuhoff, whose circus competed with her family’s and who takes her in when she is forced to flee Berlin. Their paths converge when Noa, stumbling upon a boxcar crammed with Jewish infants, takes a boy who reminds her of her lost child and runs off into a winter storm, where she is found by Peter, a circus clown and Astrid’s lover.

To protect the child, Noa is given the opportunity to train with Astrid on the flying trapeze. She has only a matter of weeks to perfect the act and soon finds herself acclimated to the circus lifestyle, much to the chagrin of Astrid, who has trained since she was a child and views the young girl as a rival. The women each have secrets, but they manage to bond over them and their love for Theo. But as the war comes to a head and the days of the traveling circus seem to be numbered, their futures become increasingly uncertain and their loyalty to one another is put to the ultimate test.

The Orphan’s Tale is the kind of novel that is both impossible and necessary to put down. It’s not often that I cry at the beginning of a book, but the opening scene with the boxcar of infants broke my heart, even more so when I realized it was based in fact. There were so many times that the book took a toll on my emotions. I wanted to keep reading because I needed to know what happened next, but I had to take a moment here and there to process what had occurred. I was unaware of the stories of hidden Jews in the traveling circus, so that aspect of the novel was fascinating, as were the descriptions of the circus acts and lifestyle. I especially loved how Jenoff used the first person point of view and alternated the chapters between Noa and Astrid, allowing me to understand and bond with both characters.

When Noa and Astrid were flying through the air, it was almost possible to forget that the war was going on around them, but Jenoff does a great job ensuring that readers feel the undercurrent of danger at every turn, from the surprise inspections of the circus by the SS to repeated warnings not to perform politically charged routines. Although the war is at the center of the novel, so are the themes of love, friendship, and sacrifice. The book hit me hard at a few poignant spots, and all the ugly crying I did emphasizes Jenoff’s ability to tell a powerful story. The Orphan’s Tale a strong contender for my Best of 2017 list!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in the tour for The Orphan’s Tale. Click here to follow the tour.

Disclosure: I received The Orphan’s Tale from MIRA for review.

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snowbound-at-hartfield-ebook

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

He understood her and was willing to offer respect in a way her father never had. There was much about him that reminded her of Wentworth.

Anne and her husband loved one another. Could she love the colonel, and he her? Did it matter, though?

Compatibility and friendship were far more significant concerns. Those were the things that would last.

(from Snowbound at Hartfield)

Maria Grace’s new novella, Snowbound at Hartfield, is a delightful mash-up of Jane Austen’s Pride and PrejudicePersuasion, and Emma, told from the alternating points of view of Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Elliot.

A blizzard finds Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, and Mr. Bennet stranded in Highbury on their way to the colonel’s newly inherited estate, Listingbrook. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and her father, Sir Walter, are traveling to visit their Dalrymple cousins when they are caught in the storm. Fortunately, Darcy runs into an old friend, Mr. George Knightley, and he invites both groups to stay with him, his wife Emma, and her father at Hartfield.

It’s not long before Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Elliot, having briefly met a few months prior, begin a careful assessment of each other, as spending several days at Hartfield with happily married couples and irritating fathers take their toll. Both have been hurt — the colonel by the war, Elizabeth by her cousin and her best friend — and they begin to understand one another in a way that only people with their own baggage and their own ghosts can. But can they get past these obstacles and learn enough about each other to build a foundation for a lifetime of happiness before the snow melts and they go their separate ways?

I couldn’t wait to read Snowbound at Hartfield because I love Grace’s writing and was curious how she would combine the characters from my three favorite Austen novels, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. I love Austen-inspired tales that put the secondary characters front and center, and Grace’s take on Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Elliot was spot on, in my opinion. A haunted, scarred Fitzwilliam embarking on a new life after his military career seemed authentic, as did an Elizabeth Elliot crushed by the betrayal of her friend, the marriage of her two younger sisters, and her diminishing prospects for marriage as she nears 30.

I also loved seeing a Mr. Bennet amused by Sir Walter and Mr. Woodhouse, and I laughed out loud several times as he baited the status-conscious baronet. It was also entertaining to see a friendship develop between Mrs. Darcy and Mrs. Knightley and see them both happy in their marriages.

Snowbound at Hartfield is my favorite in Grace’s series of Sweet Tea novellas and short stories, with plenty of romance and humor to balance out the more serious aspects of the plot. It was fairly short but satisfying, and I savored it over a period of a few days because I didn’t want it to end.

Disclosure: Snowbound at Hartfield is from my personal library.

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a-vintage-valentine

Source: Read online at Vanity & Pride Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

She was sure of the magic of Valentine’s Day, felt it in her bones. She didn’t know what to expect, but she knew this dress was part of it.

(from “A Vintage Valentine”)

Cat Gardiner’s “A Vintage Valentine” is a modern-day short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzy Bennet is a dance instructor without a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. At her sister Jane’s recommendation, Lizzy visits the Memories of Old antique shop on the rundown east side of Meryton, where the elderly shopkeeper, Doris, insists she check out the booth full of items from the 1940s. After picking up a plastic red heart brooch, Lizzy is magically transported back in time to a USO dance in 1943 and is swept off her feet by a charming GI named Will Darcy.

Traveling back 74 years is enjoyable to Lizzy, who has been contemplating a simpler life with less reliance on technology that has absorbed so much of people’s time and attention they don’t actually experience things anymore. However, Lizzy’s place is in the present.  Doris explains the reason why she needed to go back and right a major wrong, but being a true romantic, Doris assures Lizzy that there is something special in store for her as well.

“A Vintage Valentine” is a delightfully sweet tale that combines two of my favorite things: Jane Austen and the World War II era. Gardiner does a great job shifting the characters from past to present and cleverly incorporating aspects of Pride and Prejudice with time travel. Gardiner’s tales never fail to put a smile on my face, and I found myself wishing I could travel back to the romance of the 1940s myself. It’s a feel-good story with a heart-warming ending and a bit of passion and humor throughout.

Disclosure: I read “A Vintage Valentine” for free online at Vanity & Pride Press but it also is available on Amazon

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understanding-elizabeth

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

What I once spurned, I would now give all my wealth and status to have. … Through my own stupidity, I have thrown away my best chance of happiness.

(from Understanding Elizabeth)

Robin M. Helm’s latest novel, Understanding Elizabeth, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice told entirely from the point of view of Mr. Darcy. The novel opens at Netherfield, with Elizabeth Bennet in residence as she cares for her sister, Jane, whose illness is more serious than originally believed. When Darcy stumbles upon Elizabeth’s journal entries tucked into a book, he succumbs to the temptation to read her thoughts and get to know her better.

Unfortunately, he learns that Elizabeth, her family, and all of Mertyon are aware of the insulting words he said about her to Mr. Bingley at the Meryton Assembly, and he wishes he could take them back, especially as he has come to appreciate Elizabeth’s beauty and intelligence. As he fights an interior battle between wanting love and doing his duty to his family and estate, he is given the opportunity to secure his heart’s desire, but there is a serious price to pay, and Darcy must learn what it truly means to love someone in order to make the right choice.

Understanding Elizabeth follows a similar timeline as the original novel, but there are plenty of differences to hold readers’ interest. I especially enjoyed seeing Darcy balance his desire for Jane to recover with his frustration at a potential rival for Elizabeth’s affections in Dr. Stedman, and bringing Mr. Bennet to Netherfield for the duration of Jane’s illness gives him a chance to tease Darcy and observe his true character and his changing opinion toward the Bennets.

Helm does a great job bringing the secondary characters to life, creating a more steady and observant Bingley and a more confident, take-charge Georgiana, and there were several intriguing original characters, my favorite being Watkins, Darcy’s perceptive valet. There was plenty of drama involving Darcy’s otherworldly offer and, of course, Wickham, and plenty of tender moments with Elizabeth. But where the novel shines is in its first person narrative, as readers get to experience Darcy’s realizations of his perceived character, his efforts to change those perceptions, his weakness amidst a feeling of hopelessness, and his determination.

I felt like I really got to know and understand Darcy, but Helm also does a good job of letting readers get to know Elizabeth through Darcy’s close observation of her. There were so many scenes that brought a smile to my face, from the chess games with high stakes to Darcy’s soul-bearing conversations with Georgiana and Richard. Understanding Elizabeth is a thought-provoking take on Pride and Prejudice and the lengths people are willing to go to find love and happiness.

****

Giveaway

Robin is generously offering 2 copies of Understanding Elizabeth to my readers: a Kindle copy (international/domestic) and a print copy (U.S. only). To enter, please leave a comment on this post with your email address and your desired format should you win. This giveaway will close on Sunday, February 26, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received Understanding Elizabeth from the author for review.

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