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Posts Tagged ‘courage rises’

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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I am delighted to welcome Melanie Rachel to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Courage Requires, the sequel to Courage Rises. The series continues Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and I will be posting my thoughts on both books on Thursday and Monday. Please give a warm welcome to Melanie Rachel:

First, let me thank Anna for the opportunity to post a guest blog. I appreciate the space and your time, Anna!

I teach creative writing every so often, and one of the more significant lessons we work through is the one teaching students the difference between character and plot-driven stories. What is the difference? It’s not difficult to define.

A character-driven novel focuses on relationships, on the small things that make up the inner life of a human being. It’s also interested in the relationships between people. There’s no need, really, for complex events to occur to make the narrative interesting, because the reader is emotionally invested in the characters’ choices, motivations, and outcomes.

A plot-driven novel, on the other hand, focuses on the external event or environment that creates the story rather than the people who experience it.  The best plot-driven novels are “big-picture” stories, where the themes addressed are larger than the individual characters who enact them.

If we considered the two as camera shots, we might think of a character-driven novel as a “close-up” and the plot driven novel as a “wide-angle.”

Both kinds of stories have strengths. Character-driven novels are often emotionally satisfying and the plot-driven novel is well structured and exciting, using anticipation to keep readers moving through the tale at a rapid clip. The best novels tend to do both.

Very few authors can honestly claim that they focus on both character and plot in equal measure. Most of us naturally lean towards one and work to make the other stronger. For example, I am a character-driven writer. I sketch out a plot, but it may change a good deal by the end of my first draft based on how each character reveals him or herself. In my first JAFF novel, Courage Rises, the plot that most engaged readers was actually a response to getting Darcy out of the way so that Elizabeth could have Pemberley all to herself. That decision was based on the notion that Elizabeth’s choices, while admirable, were also risky, and Darcy would never have allowed her to make them had he been in residence. So what do we do with him? What would keep him from his new wife but also underscore his loyalty and sense of honor? It would have to be important. It would likely have to do with family. What about a request for assistance from his closest cousin? That’s how the Colonel Fitzwilliam/Hawke story was born.

In Courage Requires, the second and final novel in the Courage series, I had a good time placing a larger cast of characters in one location, Pemberley, and seeing what would happen as they all interacted. As the consequences of the actions in the first book come to fruition, secrets, jealousies, pride, friendship, love, and more, are all a part of the interaction which guides the plot, a wonderful position for a character-driven writer.

I’ve offered two excerpts below, with no spoilers—the first is from Courage Rises and the second from Courage Requires.

Let me know what you think! If you leave a comment at the end of the post, you will be entered for a giveaway—you can choose either the first or second novel as your prize. If you are not the lucky winner, you can still purchase both books online at Amazon.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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An excerpt from Courage Rises, courtesy of Melanie Rachel

The Earl was not quite as tall as his son, but he was broad shouldered and muscular, a well-built man. Like both his sons, he had sandy brown hair that looked auburn in the sun, though, nearing his sixtieth year, it was giving way to silver. His face was lined, but not weathered, and a pair of spectacles, balanced precariously at the end of his nose, only served to make him appear more distinguished. Next to his handsome father, Richard felt every bit the weather-beaten, sunburnt wreck of a soldier he saw in the entryway mirror.

Of course he knew I was here, Richard thought. The moment I surfaced near Piccadilly, he was informed. He felt the old flicker of annoyance, but responded civilly.

“I am, father. I was surprised to learn that you are still in town. You and mother normally travel north as soon as the session is complete.”

“Yes, I had some additional business in town, but we will be leaving within a few days. Are

you able to join us?” The Earl motioned to a chair and Richard walked in and sank into the cushions.

“No,” he said quietly. “I am afraid I do have a commission to complete. Perhaps I shall join you after.”

The Earl frowned. “I thought you were on leave.”

Richard shook his head. “I am on leave, but I am not at liberty.”

His father lowered himself into the chair behind his desk with a small grunt. “Must you always speak in riddles, Richard?”

Richard grimaced. Must his father always demand details to which he had no right?

“I have to deliver the news of a fallen officer to his sister. Therefore, I am not available to remove with you to Matlock.”

“Are you the only man available for that job?” The Earl was already reaching for ink and paper, planning, no doubt, to ask one of his contacts at the War Office to relieve him of his duty. Richard rubbed his palms along his trousers and tried not to lose his temper.

“I am the one charged with it by the man who fell.” He paused, and then decided that the Earl would likely know soon enough anyway. “He saved my life, father. I will not allow anyone to take my place.”

The Earl was still, though he did not look up. “He saved your life?”

“He did.” Richard gave his father an abbreviated version of the story.

His father’s only reaction was to briefly close his eyes. When he opened them, he asked in an off-handed manner, “What was the man’s name? If I can offer any additional assistance to his sister, I would be pleased to be of service.”

Richard was startled by his father’s statement. He had expected a lecture about the dangers of the battlefield and the idiocy of choosing to put himself at risk when he could do more to help England by assisting his father and brother with their political work. He had heard the lecture many times before.

“Thank you, father. He was a boy, really. Captain Oliver Hawke.”

The Earl blinked, and Richard thought he saw a muscle twitch in the old man’s cheek, but his face settled so quickly into its accustomed placid inscrutability that he could not be certain. He pressed on. “Did you know him, father?”

The Earl did not answer right away, gazing as he was at something above and beyond Richard’s left shoulder. Finally, he focused on his son, who was awaiting a response.

“No,” he replied slowly. “I did not know Oliver Hawke.” Richard stood, unconvinced but knowing he would learn nothing more.

“Well, sir, I should say hello to mother, then.”

“You will stay with us until your commission draws you away?” The Earl asked, and then abruptly added, “I know your mother would appreciate it.”

“Yes, father, thank you. I shall seek out mother and then change. I will see you for dinner.”

“Until then, son.”

The Earl watched his son leave the study. He stood very still for a few moments, and then locked the door. He crossed the room to a cabinet sitting on the floor behind his desk. Inserting a small key and opening the door, he drew out a bottle of very fine, very illegal French brandy, and poured himself a generous drink.

“Captain Hawke,” he said, lifting his glass in salute. He sipped the brandy until it was gone, then turned to the window and silently refilled his glass.

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An excerpt from Courage Requires, courtesy of Melanie Rachel

Fitzwilliam Darcy settled into the heavy leather chair behind the desk in his study to go over the quarterly accounts. The harvest had been surprisingly good, considering the unseasonably heavy rains over the summer—not as profitable as the previous one, but it might have been a good deal worse. He knew he was very fortunate, that many families had finished the year in debt. He was thankful that his father had long ago disregarded the fashionable dictates of society by keeping the family’s wealth in various investments as well as in the land. In years like this, those investments made up the shortfall, helping him meet his obligations without appreciably drawing down the estate’s accounts.

It had taken two years after inheriting, but once Darcy had felt more experienced handling the finances of the estate, he had been confident enough to evaluate and invest in a few opportunities brought to him by the earl. While he had been a highly conservative investor at the beginning he was now better able to understand when some level of risk might be worth the reward. He smiled at that, thinking of what he had once considered a risky marital alliance.

Darcy was certain his uncle gained political favors for convincing his nephew to part with his money, but so long as the investment was honest and sound and he was making money for Pemberley and his family, he did not mind helping his uncle. In the past year, after much discussion with his new uncle Gardiner about the increasing speed of changes in trade and industry, he had invested as a silent partner in Gardiner’s import/export business. With Darcy’s additional capital and Gardiner’s contacts and supply lines, they had seen a reasonable return within six months and he had hopes that it would remain a steady source of income, particularly after the war with Bonaparte finally concluded. He would need those additional funds to offset the drop in agricultural prices he expected would follow the war’s end, and Gardiner had recommended procuring practical items rather than luxuries for the same reason. In times of uncertainty, he had said, leaning back in his chair in the study at Gracechurch Street, people will have neither the funds nor the stomach for fripperies. Darcy shook his head recalling the conversation. Not so long ago I thought relatives in trade would be a disadvantage, he thought, reprimanding himself. Another gift from my wife.

Despite Elizabeth’s recent difficulties and her teasing this morning, Darcy believed she harbored hope for more children, and he was determined to provide for them all. It would not be many years before Georgiana wed and her substantial dowry would have to be paid. He anticipated that by then he would have enough to completely replace it, careful as he had been in the years since his father’s death. His wife, fortunately, was not one who required funds beyond those already set aside for her use. In fact, she had spent some of it on tenant matters until he explained that there was already a fund set aside for such things. She left much of it in her own account unspent, and she had already begun to accumulate a tidy sum.

His thoughts wandered back to some of the women of the ton who had demonstrated an interest in becoming his wife over the years. He chuckled quietly as he considered whether any of them would have money remaining in their account at the end of the quarter. More likely they would have spent everything and simply continued to spend, using his name for additional credit, particularly with the London merchants. Miss Caroline Bingley came to mind, with her fashionable gowns and turbans, her ostrich feathers, the silk slippers he had overheard her gleefully relate to her sister that she had worn but once before discarding them, and again congratulated himself that he and his bride were so well matched.

In one of the many little shops they had entered on their wedding tour, Elizabeth had tried to provoke him by picking up a fan of egret feathers and making a pretense of fawning admiration. Unfortunately, the jest was doomed to failure, as the feathers almost immediately caused her to sneeze several times over. It had been the first time he heard her sneeze, and he was still fascinated by the tiny little whistling noise she made as she fought valiantly for control. Truly, it could hardly be termed a sneeze at all. Richard always sneezed as though he was releasing a violent tempest, and even Georgiana’s sneezes were far heartier than Elizabeth’s. His wife was no fragile creature, thank the Lord, but her sneezes were incongruously dainty. He recalled her embarrassment as she had returned the fan to its place with an upraised eyebrow and he had struggled not to laugh.

“No,” she had said, with an exaggerated shake of her head, “That will not do. I cannot attempt to tease you and make sport for you instead.” Her dark eyes were shining as she said it, though, and she had stood on her toes and tilted her face up to his for a kiss, despite their location in the back of a public shop. He had been happy to comply.

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About Courage Rises

Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, recently returned from the battlefields of Spain, calls on his cousin Darcy to help him fulfill a troublesome debt of honor. In her husband’s absence, Elizabeth is faced with an influenza outbreak at Pemberley, and she must make a dangerous decision to keep everyone alive.

Check out Courage Rises on Goodreads | Amazon

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About Courage Requires

Darcy has returned to Pemberley to find his wife Elizabeth expecting and growing increasingly ill. When she invites the enigmatic Hawke sisters and the Fitzwilliams to join them for the festive season, will the company provide the friendship and solace Darcy hopes for his wife? Or will the Earl’s opposition to Richard’s love interest divide the family?

Check out Courage Requires on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Melanie Rachel

Melanie Rachel is a university professor and long time Jane Austen fan. She was born in Southern California, but has lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, and Arizona, where she now resides with her family and their freakishly athletic Jack Russell terrier.

Connect with Melanie on website | Facebook

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Giveaway

As you see above, Melanie is generously offering one lucky reader a choice between Courage Rises and Courage Requires. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, May 21, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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