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

“Well,” Darcy said with a grin, “if it means harassing you, I shall seek her out directly.”

“William…” Richard turned his eyes to his boots, his face pained.

Darcy’s grin widened into a smile. The normally unflappable Colonel Fitzwilliam was as close to blushing as he had ever seen. There might be great sport in this.

(from Courage Requires)

Courage Requires is the continuation of Courage Rises, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Melanie Rachel separates the Darcys early in their marriage, with Mr. Darcy on a mission with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth back at Pemberley in the midst of an influenza outbreak. Courage Requires finds our beloved couple reunited at Pemberley and preparing for their first child.

Elizabeth is dealing with incapacitating morning sickness, which has her husband worried about whether she will survive the birth. But the prospect of inviting the Hawke sisters, Sophia and Evelyn, to Pemberley for Christmas, along with Colonel Fitzwilliam and his family, brightens her spirits. Elizabeth is immediately charmed by the elder sister, Sophia, who is a bit like Elizabeth in that she is strong and impertinent. But her past as a political pawn of sorts and the shadow on her reputation force her to carefully and uncertainly navigate society. Meanwhile, Evelyn has trouble controlling her tongue, as her sheltered upbringing, her frustration with her sister, and her curiosity about learning and medicine often spur inappropriate outbursts. While Darcy worries about Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam comes to terms with his feelings for Sophia, Elizabeth must contend with disloyalty among the servants and her influence as Mistress of Pemberley.

I enjoyed Courage Requires as much as, if not more than, Courage Rises. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a good Colonel Fitzwilliam story, and Rachel does a great job portraying him as a man scarred by battle but still hopeful of finding happiness. He accepts the reality of his position as a second son, but he’s willing to stand up to the earl regardless of the cost. I loved the teasing banter between Darcy and Richard, and of course, the colonel as a charming suitor. It was nice to see Darcy and Elizabeth happily married, with the best of their traits rubbing off on the other but still passionate in their disagreements. But where the novel shines is in its original characters, namely Sophia Hawke. I couldn’t help but admire her for her strength after all she’d been through, and her connections to the Fitzwilliam family were clever and seemed believable. There was so much going on in this book that I didn’t miss the absence of the rest of the Bennets at all, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more from Rachel.

Don’t forget to check out Melanie Rachel’s guest post, with excerpts from both books and a giveaway, here.

Disclosure: I received Courage Requires from the author for review.

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

“My approach to being brave, Georgie, is to pretend that I am even when I do not feel it, and soon I find that I can manage quite well.” She smiled, recalling an old conversation with her husband. “And as William can attest, my courage always rises when someone, or something, tries to intimidate me. Perhaps it is just plain stubbornness.”

(from Courage Rises)

Courage Rises, a continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is set about four months after the marriage of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. Author Melanie Rachel separates our beloved couple early on; Mr. Darcy is headed to London for several weeks on business. But unbeknownst to Elizabeth, her husband has been asked by his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, to help him pay a debt of honor. While Darcy, Bingley, and the colonel are searching for the sister of a fallen soldier, Elizabeth is back at Pemberley dealing with some troubles of her own. Uncertain of herself in her new role as mistress of a large estate, Elizabeth is forced to make some tough decisions as an influenza outbreak hits the tenant farmers — and Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, is one of the many who have fallen ill.

Although Darcy and Elizabeth are apart for much of the novel, they are always on each other’s minds, and their bond is strengthened. While I typically enjoy watching the newlyweds navigate life’s challenges together, I applaud Rachel for portraying their marriage realistically in that they can’t be together every moment of every day, and for showing that they can stand strong on their own — and that their love for one another is so strong that they contemplate what the other would do were they there in person. I really enjoyed seeing Elizabeth become the true mistress of Pemberley, making decisions she believes are right while knowing even her husband would question them. Meanwhile, Darcy has become a family man, wanting nothing but to finish his work quickly and get back home. But he can refuse his cousin Richard nothing, and they set off on an adventure with many unanswered questions. There was plenty of excitement and intrigue as the men uncover the trials and tribulations of the Hawke sisters.

Courage Rises was a real page-turner! As a Pride and Prejudice sequel, I had no idea what was going to happen, and that had me up way past my bedtime trying to find out. I enjoyed the numerous original characters, from the feisty Miss Hawke to John, Pemberley’s groom, and Mr. Waters, the apothecary who works side by side with Elizabeth during the outbreak. Most of all, I liked how the ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, though it gives readers plenty to look forward to in the sequel, Courage Requires, which I will be reviewing here on Monday. Stay tuned! (And in the meantime, please check out this guest post by Melanie Rachel, featuring excerpts from both books and a giveaway!)

Disclosure: I received Courage Rises from the author for review.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

“Father needs me at Schulpforta. Mother too. It doesn’t matter what I want.”

“Of course it matters. I want to be an engineer. And you want to study birds. Be like that American painter in the swamps. Why else do any of this if not to become who we want to be?”

A stillness in the room. Out there in the trees beyond Frederick’s window hangs an alien light.

“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

(from All the Light We Cannot See)

Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See, is set during World War II and alternately tells the stories of two teenagers caught up in the confusion and chaos of war. The novel follows Marie-Laure from her days as a young girl accompanying her father to the museum where he worked in Paris to her life in the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where she lives with her great uncle. Meanwhile, readers watch Werner as he grows up in an orphanage in a mining town in Germany with his younger sister, where his love of learning takes him on a journey from fixing and building radios to attending a school for the Hitler Youth to designing and using systems to weed out the resistance.

The novel opens in 1944 as the Americans drop incendiary bombs on Saint-Malo, forcing both 16-year-old Marie-Laure and 18-year-old Werner to separately fight to survive. Doerr takes readers back and forth in time, gradually peeling back the layers of each story and making readers anxious to see how they will converge. There is so much depth to this novel, from the legend of the Sea of Flames to the mini-cities Marie-Laure’s father painstakingly creates to help her navigate the world after she loses her sight, from the haunting voice of the French professor that Werner’s first radio picks up to the brutal lessons he learns as he joins the military to achieve his dreams and avoid a bleak future in the mines.

Doerr’s prose is beautiful and haunting as he portrays two characters who are thrust into impossible situations, alone, at such a young age. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch Marie-Laure and Werner navigate their strengths and weaknesses amid so much terror and helplessness and evolve from those experiences. I was able to connect with both characters at various points in their journeys and feel their emotional turmoil, knowing that, given the setting and time period, the ending would be bittersweet at best. All the Light We Cannot See is a strong contender for my year-end roundup of the best books I read this year.

Serena and I hosted a six-part readalong of the book at War Through the Generations. Here are the links if you’d like to read and/or participate in a more in-depth discussion of the book, but beware of spoilers: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, and Week 6.

Disclosure: All the Light We Cannot See is from my personal library.

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

If they remained unmarried after their father died, they’d all be at the mercy of their stern uncle and eventually become a burden to their cousin Nevzat. Visualizing herself as an old joyless spinster like her aunt Afet never failed to depress Perihan. Surely she and Melike deserved better.

(from House of Daughters)

In House of Daughters, Engin Ingel Holmstrom bring Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Turkey in the 1920s. The Ottoman Empire is nearing an end, and the Turkish people are growing restless under the British occupation following World War I. Women like Perihan Emin are seeking more than an isolated existence under the watchful eyes of their male relatives. Perihan meets Major Murat while serving as a nurse in Istanbul. She had fallen in love with him during his hospital stay, but her pride was hurt when his aunt — who grew up in the Sultan’s palace — insults her position in society. Perihan is forced to confront her unresolved feelings for Murat when she learns that he is working with her cousin Nevzat as they conspire against the occupying nations.

House of Daughters is similar to Austen’s novel in several respects. There is, of course, the attraction and misunderstandings between Perihan and Murat, our Elizabeth and Darcy. Perihan is one of five sisters in need of husbands, and young, single men are scarce due to the war. Each of Perihan’s sisters is similar to their corresponding Bennet sister, and Perihan is similar to Elizabeth in her outspoken and modern ways. I enjoyed watching Perihan come to terms with her feelings for Murat while embracing the new role for women in the new republic.

Overall, I found the novel enjoyable, especially in noting where it parallels Austen’s and in seeing how well Austen’s characters translated from Regency England to Ottoman Turkey. However, what kept me from loving the novel was the detached writing style. There was more telling than showing, which prevented me from really connecting to the characters and feeling their attachment to one another. For instance, when readers first meet Murat, he and Perihan have already met and had their misunderstanding at the hospital, which is simply retold in a couple of pages. I also am not familiar with the historical events depicted here, so I would have appreciated more details and explanations woven into the narrative.

Nevertheless, I felt like I had a good grasp on what all the upheaval meant for women at the time, and I enjoyed watching Perihan and Murat navigate the changes, both in their personal lives and in a larger context. I never would have imagined a Pride and Prejudice variation set in 1920s Turkey, so that alone made it a worthwhile read!

Disclosure: I received House of Daughters from Lavidge for review.

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

How shall I face the world if Jane is not a pillar of rectitude? Upon whom I can depend and admire? If Jane falls from grace, where is my place? What shall become of me?

(from My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley)

Linda Beutler’s latest novel, My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is full of surprises from the start. The novel opens with Mr. Bingley realizing his sister, Caroline, and best friend, Mr. Darcy, have done him wrong by scheming to separate him from Jane Bennet following the Netherfield Ball. He becomes his own man and returns to Meryton with nary a word to them, with the intent of winning Jane’s hand in marriage. However, Beutler’s version of Jane is not all smiles and everything that is good; she is understandably angry at Mr. Bingley and will not simply accept his apology. In fact, this Jane is so unlike the original that even Mr. Bennet can understand Mrs. Bennet’s nerves!

Meanwhile, learning of Darcy’s role in her sister’s unhappiness means Elizabeth Bennet’s poor opinion of him has only worsened. Darcy acknowledges the need to make amends with Bingley and Jane, but he is not wanted or needed at Netherfield and instead must present himself to the the sisters’ relations in Cheapside. When Darcy and Elizabeth meet again in Kent, Elizabeth knows nothing of Darcy’s new friendship with the Gardiners; she is more exasperated at her sister’s actions than anything. Although Darcy is warned by his cousin, Colonel Alex Fitzwilliam, to check his pride and tread carefully where Elizabeth is concerned, Darcy plows onward, and confusion, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings abound.

I loved how Beutler twisted the story so Jane and Bingley were more complex characters, even if I couldn’t imagine Austen’s Jane acting like Jane does here — and not just in her dealings with Mr. Bingley. I also enjoyed the passionate arguments between Darcy and Elizabeth, their interactions with Caroline, and the chaos in Meryton involving Lady Catherine. There were many times that I laughed out loud, and I didn’t mind having to suspend disbelief here and there. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s involvement in the chaos and his own story were fun to read, and I must admit I fell in love with him over the course of the novel.

My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley was an overall delightful read, with plenty of changes in the plot and characters to keep me curious about what would happen next. There was the right balance of angst, romance, and humor, and plenty of steaminess toward the end. Beutler’s take on Pride and Prejudice is different and exciting, and it definitely makes you think about how drastically changing the personalities of a couple of characters can turn things upside down.

****

About My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley

Jane Bennet had a heart to break after all, and I am a party to it.
—Fitzwilliam Darcy

One simple, uncharacteristic subterfuge leaves Fitzwilliam Darcy needing to apologize to nearly everyone he knows! When Charles Bingley reaps the sad repercussions of Mr. Darcy’s sin of omission, Elizabeth Bennet’s clear-eyed view of the facts gives her the upper hand in a long-distance battle of wills with Mr. Bingley’s former friend. By the time Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth meet (repeatedly) in the groves of Rosings Park, neither knows the whole truth except that somehow, someway, their future is inextricably linked to the courtship of Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet.

In this Pride and Prejudice “what-if”, the additional dash of backbone and “far-sighted” action to the character of Mr. Bingley begs the question: how is Mr. Darcy to impress Elizabeth Bennet if Bingley does his own matchmaking? And how is Elizabeth Bennet to trust Mr. Darcy when even faith in a most beloved sister falters?

Includes mature content

Check out My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Linda Beutler

Linda Beutler’s professional life is spent in a garden, an organic garden housing America’s foremost public collection of clematis vines and a host of fabulous companion plants. Her home life reveals a more personal garden, still full of clematis, but also antique roses and vintage perennials planted around and over a 1907 cottage. But one can never have enough of gardening, so in 2011 she began cultivating a weedy patch of Jane Austen Fan Fiction ideas. The first of these to ripen was The Red Chrysanthemum (Meryton Press, 2013), which won a silver IPPY for romance writing in 2014. You might put this down as beginner’s luck—Linda certainly does. The next harvest brought Longbourn to London (Meryton Press, 2014), known widely as “the [too] sexy one”. In 2015 Meryton Press published the bestseller A Will of Iron, a macabre rom-com based on the surprising journals of Anne de Bourgh.

Now, after a year-long break in JAFF writing to produce Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis (Timber Press, 2016)—the third in a bouquet of books on gardening—we have My Mr. Darcy and Your Mr. Bingley bursting into bloom.

Connect with Linda Beutler on Twitter | Facebook | Wandering Pemberley’s Gardens

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering 8 ebooks of My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley, open internationally. Click to here enter. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

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. (1 comment/blog post) Entrants should provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). You may enter once by following the author on twitter and once by following the author on Facebook.

Remember, tweet daily and comment once per post with a giveaway to earn extra entries.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter.

**NOTE: Ebook copies are available for 8 winners and the giveaway is international! 8 eBooks will be given away to 8 different winners.**

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Follow the Blog Tour (click the banner below)

Disclosure: I received My Mr. Darcy & Your Mr. Bingley from Meryton Press for review.

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Source: Review copy from William Morrow
Rating: ★★★★★

Once you knew–really knew–of the women and children being shot in the woods, of the shower rooms constructed for the sole purpose of killing, how could you not act? But now, here was the obvious reason she had repressed: the cost. If the plan failed, all that she cherished would be lost.

(from The Women in the Castle)

After her husband and best friend are executed for their roles in the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, Marianne von Lingenfels acts on her promise to protect the wives and children of their fellow resisters. In 1945, Germany is in shambles, and the Nazi atrocities are being brought to light, forcing ordinary Germans to acknowledge their nation’s defeat and guilt. Amid the ruins, Marianne is able to find her best friend Connie’s family — his wife, Benita, a victim of the Red Army’s occupation of Berlin, and six-year-old son, Martin, who was sent to a Nazi re-education home after the failed plot. She eventually finds Ania and her two sons at a displaced persons camp, and along with her own children, Marianne establishes a new family with these women in the crumbing Bavarian castle that belonged to her aristocratic husband’s family.

Marianne is the leader, focused on honoring the memory of her husband and his co-conspirators and ensuring that the women and children understand exactly what their husbands and fathers died for. Benita, naive peasant girl, was sheltered from her husband’s work in the resistance, which makes her more determined to break free from the past and try to find happiness in the years after the war — a desire that puts her at odds with Marianne’s need to record the history of the German resistance. Ania is quiet and capable, becoming the caretaker of the women in terms of food and necessities, but her secrets eventually catch up to her.

The Women in the Castle is among the best World War II novels I’ve read and definitely will have a place on my Best of 2017 list. Jessica Shattuck uses these women, with their different upbringings and experiences before, during, and immediately after the war, to explore what it means to resist, how to rebuild their country and their lives amid a sense of hopelessness and guilt, and how to balance the need to remember the past and be held accountable for their actions with the need to live again. Shattuck paints a complex portrait of women with admirable strengths and deplorable weaknesses.

The novel moves back and forth in time, adding layer upon layer to each of the women’s stories, unraveling their secrets and surprising readers along the way. I grew attached to these women and found at least some small way to connect to them, which made it easier to understand their reasoning for — but not condone — the choices they made in a tumultuous period in history.

The Women in the Castle is a novel that makes you really stop and think. How does one live with the choices they made during wartime, whether to follow orders and commit atrocities, resist, or ignore the evidence of their nation’s crimes? Is it possible, should it even be possible, to move forward without the weight of these crimes, or their failure to do what was right, hanging over them? When is it okay to say it’s time to stop living in the past and move on?

Shattuck follows these women over decades as they forge new bonds and new lives, are forced to acknowledge their actions and inaction, and realize the war follows them in everything they do. It’s a fascinating study of human nature and the will to survive, both the war and its repercussions. If you plan to read at least one World War II novel this year, I highly recommend The Women in the Castle.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Women in the Castle. Click here to follow the tour.

Disclosure: I received The Women in the Castle from William Morrow for review.

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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!

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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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