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Ginger Monette’s Pride and Prejudice variations set during the Great War — Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes and Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey (click for my reviews) — were among my favorite reads in both 2016 and 2017. I’m delighted to announce that those of you who haven’t read them yet can now purchase them in a single volume: The Darcy’s Hope Saga.

Ginger is here today to talk about the books, so please give her a warm welcome!

ginger-monette

Ginger Monette

What exactly is the Darcy’s Hope Saga?

The Saga retells Pride & Prejudice but is set during the era of Downton Abbey. It’s a single ebook volume that includes two full-length novels: Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes and Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.

Readers can enjoy their beloved characters in a storyline that is familiar, yet very fresh and different.

What inspired you to catapult Jane Austen’s famous Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s?

Downton Abbey! It was remarkable to me how little British culture had changed from the Regency Era to the Edwardian Era. Darcy could have dined with Lord Grantham at Downton Abbey with little change in decorum. I was also fascinated at how the war affected everyone’s lives and how wealthy English families offered their lavish homes as hospital facilities during WW1.

I began to imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s “explosive” relationship unfolding on the Western Front. Then asked, what if Darcy had his own wartime tragedy that required him to be hospitalized at a country home like Matthew Crawley? I’m thrilled that the resulting Darcy’s Hope Saga has been such a big hit among fans of both Pride & Prejudice and Downton Abbey.

Did the stories require any research? If so, what kind?

This was one of those topics that the more you read, the more you realize how much you don’t know. I devoured nurse-assistant diaries, a soldier’s diary, memoirs of two orderlies, books on surgery, war wounds, hospital administration, and a LOT more. Then I watched hours of documentaries about everything from battles, to the food and uniforms of British soldiers. I studied six hours a day for nine months and found the history fascinating and the people inspiring!

How were they inspiring?

Machine guns, poison gas, airplanes, and tanks made their debut in WWI inflicting destruction and horrific wounds on an unprecedented scale. Men lived in squalid trenches and saw their comrades dismembered and slaughtered on a daily basis, yet they remained cheerful and self-sacrificing.

And everyone did something to aid in the war effort. Hundreds of women volunteered as nurse’s aides, others wrote letters, sent care packages, and knitted socks. Men too old to serve as soldiers became stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers. They fashioned splints from scrap metal, turned church halls into hospitals, and emptied bedpans. These small acts of kindness repeated over and over made an enormous difference. As a result, I am challenged to be cheerful amidst trying circumstances and to offer my own small acts of kindness even when they seem insignificant.

Did your research inspire any of your scenes?

Absolutely. First, I allowed the characters to be molded by the culture and the war itself — just like the real people I read about. I cast Elizabeth Bennet as nurse-assistant, which was a common role for high bred women during the war years. Similarly, I made rich young landowner Fitzwilliam Darcy a captain in the army. Though the saga is first and foremost a romance, much of the richness of the story comes from the hero and heroine both being deeply affected by their experiences during this turbulent time.

There are other elements I lifted straight from the pages of history as well. The chateau-turned-field-hospital in my story is based on one that actually existed. Darcy’s “going over the top” at the Battle of the Somme, an explosion at Messines Ridge, and a chaplain serving in the operating room were real historical events. And finally, I have a colorful Scotsman tell two outlandish stories that are true as well.

What would you say to romance readers who “don’t do war stories?”

I would say the Darcy’s Hope saga isn’t a war story. It’s very much a romance in a wartime setting. Just like Downton Abbey, the war provides a dramatic backdrop against which the romance blooms. The war’s fast pace and ever-changing situations meant that nothing was predictable, and things could (and did) change in an instant. Readers have commented that they couldn’t predict where either story was going, and much of that is due to the volatile nature of the setting.

Did you face any particular challenges in writing the Darcy’s Hope saga?

Yes! In Beauty from Ashes, weaving a romance into a complex setting unfamiliar to most readers, with both the hero and heroine experiencing significant character evolutions, all in the context of a mystery was quite a feat. Donwell Abbey wasn’t any easier. Writing to accommodate the tragedy that befalls Darcy was an enormous challenge. (I can’t tell you what the injury is or the accommodation it required or I would be giving away a major spoiler!)

Now that the Darcy’s Hope saga has received such glowing reviews, does it make it all the research and hard work worth it?

Yes. Hearing that readers love it on so many levels is immensely gratifying. The frustration and angst of three years of hard work fades away.

Do you have any final thoughts for readers?

As the world is commemorating the hundredth anniversary of WWI, I would challenge you to pay attention. Watch documentaries or even read books like my Darcy’s Hope saga to glimpse into the past for a better understanding of what our great-grandfathers experienced and the sacrifices they made. Each soldier, stretcher-bearer, doctor, and nurse has his or her own interesting story. And although my Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are fictitious characters, if you have any fondness for Downton Abbey or Jane Austen’s works, I think you will find their story as told in The Darcy’s Hope Saga not only fascinating, but riveting and moving as well.

Thanks for hosting me today!

Thank you for stopping by today, Ginger! I hope my readers enjoy these books as much as I did!

****

DH Saga rose cover NEW flat

Escape to the era of Downton Abbey with Lizzy and Darcy!

Immerse yourself in this romantic and drama-filled saga that includes two full-length Pride and Prejudice variations—
Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes and
Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.

~Volume I: Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes:

Heartbroken. Devastated. WWI Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy was rejected by the woman he loved and vows, “No more sentimental entanglements!”

But an undercover assignment at a field hospital brings him face to face with his beloved Elizabeth—who’s working with a dashing American doctor and a prime suspect in the espionage plot.

Forced to grapple with his feelings for her, Darcy has only a few months build a lasting bridge to her and uncover the truth before she’s condemned to a traitor’s noose.

~Volume II: Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey:

Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she vanishes.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy attempts a heroic feat and only survives by the daring rescue of his faithful batman John Thornton.

But the damage is done. Darcy is plunged into a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he’s coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse determined to teach him how to live and love again. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth.

His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But a secret at Donwell Abbey just might change everything…

Buy on Amazon

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I read 73 books last year, and while I enjoyed most of them, there are a handful that really stood out. Here are my top 10 favorites, with links to my reviews (in no particular order):

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile

The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy

The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio

A Lie Universally Hiddenby Anngela Schroeder

T

he Darcy Monologues edited by Christina Boyd

Rules for a Successful Book Club by Victoria Connelly

These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Wait for the Rain by Maria Murnane

Attempting Elizabeth by Jessica Grey

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey by Ginger Monette

Mendacity & Mourning by J.L. Ashton

A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

What were your favorite books of 2017? Please tell me in the comments!

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Source: Review copy from author

There seemed to be only one option. It would break her heart, but it would protect the man she loved. And wasn’t that the very definition of love? Doing what’s best for the other person, in spite of your own desires?

(from Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey)

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is the sequel to Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes, a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set during the Great War. While Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey can be read as a standalone book, I think it’s important to read them in order for a richer experience.

Picking up where the first novel ended, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have expressed their love for one another and are hopeful about being reunited in a matter of months. However, while waiting for Darcy at his home, Pemberley, Elizabeth receives some terrifying information that prompts her to flee without a trace. Meanwhile, Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, are working to solve a mystery involving a conspiracy when he learns that Elizabeth has disappeared, dealing him a crushing blow that is only the beginning of his pain.

Ginger Monette does a fantastic job painting a picture of wartime, from the trenches to battle to the hospitals, and crafting characters traumatized by their experiences but still open to finding love and happiness. There is plenty of action to keep readers’ attention from the very first page, but Monette also provides plenty of food for thought about the physical, mental, and emotional impact of war. My heart ached for Darcy and Elizabeth, but it rejoiced with them as well. I loved how Monette worked in characters from Emma, with Darcy’s connection to the Knightley family, Hartfield, and Donwell Abbey, as well as Sense and Sensibility, and I especially appreciated how she stayed true to Austen’s beloved couple even while putting them in a different time and more difficult circumstances.

****

About Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey

1917. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that leaves him in a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he’s coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth. His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.

Check out Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey on Goodreads | Amazon | other retailers

****

About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

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Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey from the author for review.

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Happy New Year!! I thought I would start off 2017 by celebrating the best of the books I read last year. Rather than do my usual Top 10 list, I thought I’d try something new this year and list my favorites in various categories, with links to (and quotes from) my reviews.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION (WWII)

A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

A Moment Forever is not a book you merely read; Gardiner ensures you actually live the story — from the overindulgence of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the wartime excitement in the Big Apple, from the airfields and USO dances and the fashions of the ’40s to the solemnity of Paris 50 years after the roundup of its Jewish residents for deportation. There are so many layers to this story, and I never wanted it to end.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION (OTHER ERA)

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

lost among the living

Simone St. James is a new-to-me writer, and as soon as I finished Lost Among the Living I determined that I must read her previous novels, which all seem to be equally suspenseful. I loved her writing here, particularly the passages that describe the intensity of Jo and Alex’s relationship, which enable readers to feel Jo’s grief and the frustration inherent in not knowing Alex’s fate. I also liked that while there was romance and passion, Lost Among the Living is at its core a ghost story, but it’s so much more than that. St. James shows the impact of the war on the returning soldiers and the women whose men never came home, as well as the blurring of the boundaries between social classes and how greed and selfishness can tear families apart.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (REGENCY)

Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter by Joana Starnes

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Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is a beautifully written novel, with just the right amount of angst to move me to the brink of tears without making me put the book down in despair. Starnes has a knack for putting Elizabeth and Darcy in impossible situations, delving deep into their souls, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats as they wonder how a happily ever after will be achieved. I loved the pacing of the novel, and Starnes does a wonderful job evolving their relationship through many ups and downs as they navigate the challenges posed by their families and themselves.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (MODERN)

Without a Conscience by Cat Gardiner

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Like Denial of Conscience, Without a Conscience is sexy (definitely for mature audiences only) and exciting from the very first page. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who weaves clever plots and navigates Darcy and Liz through the twists and turns while further evolving their relationship. In the midst of the danger and excitement, Gardiner provides plenty of humor, and the obvious rivalry between Liz and Caroline had me laughing out loud several times. The novel is perfectly paced, and there’s just something about Gardiner’s writing style that has me hanging on every word.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (SECONDARY CHARACTERS)

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace

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The Trouble to Check Her exemplifies why Grace is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. Her attention to detail in terms of character development and the history of the era is fantastic, and I hope there is another book in the series (mainly because I want to find out what happened to Jane Bingley after her falling out with Elizabeth Darcy).

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (OTHER)

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

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I enjoyed reading both Elizabeth’s diary and about the rocky start to Charlie and Evie’s relationship and their determination to find Elizabeth’s papers. I especially loved how James showed that even Austen’s beloved couple likely didn’t have a perfect marriage, and by telling that story from the point of view of Elizabeth, readers are able to see her insecurities and her frustration while having little clue what Darcy is thinking or feeling, which creates just the right amount of tension. I also loved getting a glimpse of the Darcys and their family years into their marriage, so they are no longer bright-eyed newlyweds but older and wiser and settled into their life together. Charlie and Evie’s story was exciting and even had some similarities to Darcy and Elizabeth’s, and Charlie’s client, Cressida Carter, is very Caroline Bingley-esque. The dual narratives were seamlessly connected, and the shifts between the two were timed perfectly to ensure readers can’t put the book down.

MOST UNIQUE AUSTEN VARIATION

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Beau North and Brooke West

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The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy is unique and exciting. It made me laugh, and it left me in tears, so much so that my husband kept asking if I was okay and I worried I would short out my Kindle! It’s been a while since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a Pride and Prejudice variation. It’s absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year, possibly one of my all-time favorites, and definitely one I won’t forget!

BEST HOLIDAY NOVEL

Lucky 13  by Cat Gardiner

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Oh, how I loved this novel! Gardiner is a master at bringing Jane Austen’s characters into the present day and turning up the heat (and the laughs). From their heated arguments to their heated encounters at the jaw-dropping calendar audition and the chest-oiling photo shoot, I couldn’t get enough of this Lizzy and Darcy. The secondary characters are equally entertaining, from Jane, the supermodel with a secret, to Caroline, the matchmaking poochie mama, and especially Charlotte (aka “Punky) and Darcy’s cousin, Rick (aka “Preppy”), who are the most obnoxious of the numerous matchmakers.

BEST POETRY COLLECTION

The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez

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Martinez’s poems are full of vivid imagery (“The Bertha in me sleeps until three in the afternoon and sits on the back porch with a cup of Earl Grey that quells the desire to chop up her crotchety landlord,” from “The Jane and Bertha in Me”), sensual (“Charlotte’s manuscript sepulchered like an incorruptible saint, splayed on its back like a woman whose architecture I want to touch,” from “At the British Library”), insightful (“Pain caused by first love never truly subsides,” from “Jane’s Denial”), and even humorous (“She’ll be sorry for canoodling with the missionary, thinks Rochester, who’s exceeded his cursing quota and looks like Wolverine,” from “Jane Eyre: Classic Cover Girl”). Martinez even writes about Brontë herself, from her different personas to the migraines she suffered through in order to create her “pristine prose” (from “The Literature of Prescription”).

BEST SHORT STORY/COLLECTION

“Tea Time” by Tiffani Burnett-Velez

tea-time

I finished reading “Tea Time” in less than half an hour, and I was satisfied with the abrupt ending even though I wasn’t ready for the story to be over. The final few lines pack a punch and made it a story I won’t soon forget. I can’t wait to read more from Burnett-Velez.

FAVORITE COVER

Undercover by Cat Gardiner

undercover book cover

Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.

****

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Some of the more memorable 5-star books from 2016 (click the covers to read my reviews)

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denial-of-conscience

undeceived

COAOEB cover

Miss Darcy's Companion front cover_V4

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Liebeslied-Final-Kindle

the forgotten room

What were your favorite books of 2016? I’d love to know!

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

In fulfilling a promise to her father, he had laid his heart open, and she sliced it up and handed it right back to him. Then he had invested in his company of men–cared for them, thought only of their safety day and night–only to have them slaughtered, leaving him the heart-wrenching task of writing letter after letter to their families.

(from Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes)

Ginger Monette’s latest novel, Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set during World War I. Elizabeth Bennet wants to be a doctor and does not want to depend on any man, especially not Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy, who requisitioned part of her family’s property for the war effort, insulted her upon their first meeting, and then expected her to accept his proposal of marriage. With her family torn apart and no home to return to, Elizabeth finds herself at a French chateaux turned field hospital serving as a nursemaid for an elderly man.

Darcy, meanwhile, has shut off his feelings following Elizabeth’s painful rejection and massive losses at the Somme. When he arrives at the field hospital as part of an investigation to weed out enemy operatives, he never expects to find Elizabeth there. As they each get to know the other’s true nature, uncertainties regarding their past history threaten to keep them from revealing their true feelings. The danger of Darcy’s mission looms large, threatening what little happiness they have managed to find amidst the carnage of war.

In Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, Monette does a fantastic job weaving the history of the Great War, the horrors of the trenches, and the excitement of a covert operation into the basic plot of Austen’s novel. A lot is changed in Monette’s variation, and those changes kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Much of the attention is on Darcy and Elizabeth, of course, with small appearances made by Jane Bennet and Charles and Caroline Bingley. There is a darker mystery surrounding Lieutenant Wickham and Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia, and there are several intriguing original characters, from an American doctor to a Mr. Collins-esque French officer.

The evolution of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship unfolds realistically, as does the portrayal of their scars inflicted by the war. Readers should be aware that the action of the novel builds up toward the end, and while some ends are tied up between the pair, they will have to wait for the upcoming sequel, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, to see how their tale concludes. Overall, I was satisfied with the ending of Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, but I really wish I could have immediately delved into the next book!

***

About Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes

World War 1 has turned French chateaus into bloody field hospitals, British gentlemen into lice-infested soldiers, and left Elizabeth Bennet’s life in tatters.

Her father is dead and her home destroyed. Never again will Elizabeth depend on a man to secure her future!

But when an opportunity arises to advance her dreams of becoming a doctor, she is elated—until HE arrives…

Heartbroken. Devastated. Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy is left rejected by the woman he loved and reeling from the slaughter of his men on the battlefield. “Enough!” Darcy vows. “No more sentimental attachments!”

But arriving at a field hospital to pursue a covert investigation, Darcy discovers his beloved Elizabeth training with a dashing American doctor and embroiled in an espionage conspiracy.

With only a few months to expose the plot, Darcy is forced to grapple with his feelings for Elizabeth while uncovering the truth. Is she indeed innocent? Darcy can only hope…

Check out Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

darcys-hope-blog-tour

Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes from the author for review.

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