Posts Tagged ‘jane austen’

a peculiar connection

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

I would be as I had ever been…before I loved him.

With a determined set to my shoulders, I turned and quietly crawled back into bed, hoping to avoid waking Jane.  The only problem that remained was what to do with the pain in my heart.

(from A Peculiar Connection)

Quick summary: Jan Hahn’s A Peculiar Connection is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that opens with Lady Catherine’s arrival at Longbourn.  In this “alternate path,” Lady Catherine drops a bomb on the Bennet family in the form of an old letter that drives a wedge between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy even as it brings them together.  Unable to acknowledge or deny the passion that flames between them, the pair journeys from London to Bath to Ireland and must piece together clues from paintings, a rundown mansion, a hidden church, and old documents to shed light on long-buried secrets.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the cover of this novel, and once I read the summary, I just had to know what happens!

What I liked: I was hooked from the very first page and found it hard to tear myself away to work, eat, or sleep.  Seriously, this novel took me on an emotional roller coaster, making me laugh, cry, and get angry, sometimes in the same chapter.  Hahn’s writing is fantastic; I could feel the desire, sorrow, and despair, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the lighter moments, like Darcy and Elizabeth discussing potential nicknames for each other.  Hahn’s decision to write the novel from the first person viewpoint of Elizabeth was brilliant, as giving readers a front seat to her emotional turmoil, though painful, was so much more powerful.

What I disliked: Absolutely nothing!

Final thoughts: A Peculiar Connection is one of the best Austen-inspired novels I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of really good ones!  It has everything I’m looking for in a Pride and Prejudice variation these days, including a unique plot, a bit of mystery, and even a little darkness to balance out all the lovey-dovey stuff you expect in a novel about Darcy and Elizabeth.  A Peculiar Connection will definitely be on my “Best of 2015″ list!

Disclosure: I received A Peculiar Connection from Meryton Press for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the matters at mansfield

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★★

“If Henry Crawford found dealing with his own mother-in-law unpleasant, Maria Rushworth’s is worse. Today has been enough to make me grateful for my own.”

“Indeed? My mother will be in such transport over your admission that she might require a visit of several months to sufficiently vocalize her felicity. Shall we invite her to Pemberley as soon as we return ourselves?

“I am not that grateful.”

(from The Matters at Mansfield, page 103)

Quick summary: The Matters at Mansfield, or The Crawford Affair is the fourth book in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series by Carrie Bebris. The novel brings Elizabeth and Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, along with their baby daughter, to Riveton Hall as a guest of Darcy’s cousin, the Earl of Southwell. While Lady Catherine is scheming behind her daughter’s back to arrange a seemingly advantageous marriage, Elizabeth inadvertently encourages Anne to make her own decisions. After Anne elopes with Henry Crawford, the Darcys, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Lady Catherine find themselves at an inn near Mansfield Park, and the Darcys soon find themselves sorting through a case of multiple identities, duals, betrayals, and of course, murder.

Why I wanted to read it: I loved the first book in the series, Pride and Prescience, and am intrigued by the Darcys as amateur sleuths.

What I liked: The Matters at Mansfield is the fourth in the series, but it stands on its own. I couldn’t bring myself to return this book to the library unread, so I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of spoilers from the previous installments. I loved how Anne shocked her mother by running off to get married, and I loved seeing a more sinister side to Lady Catherine. I wasn’t sure how Bebris would bring together Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, but it worked. I figured out who the villain was early on, but that didn’t bother me, especially since all the twists in the murder mystery kept me on my toes.

What I disliked: I only wish the characters from Mansfield Park, aside from Henry Crawford, had been featured more prominently.

Final thoughts: This is such a delightful series! The mysteries are complex enough to hold my attention, even if I do manage to pick out the villain fairly quickly, and they are well paced. I enjoy watching Elizabeth and Darcy mature as a couple and as detectives, and I love to see them interact with characters from Austen’s other novels. I definitely intend to read the whole series.

Disclosure: I borrowed The Matters at Mansfield from the public library.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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

Whatever the consequences of my actions have been, I have lived my life exactly the way I wished to.  I suppose no one can ask for anything more than that.  Yes, I am content.  What good will it do to go on hating circumstances that are out of my very limited control?  It is better to have lived with sorrow than not lived at all.  After all, without great sorrow how would we know when we are fortunate enough to experience great joy?

(from Aerendgast)

Quick summary: After the death of her grandmother, literature professor and historian Violet Desmond learns that her whole life has been a lie.  Millie leaves behind a few clues that send Violet on a hunt for the truth, and Violet soon learns that a cameo that belonged to her parents has put her life in danger.  Plagued by dreams and visions of Jane Austen, Violet realizes she is seeing a part of the author’s life that no one knows about and that Jane needs her help.  With the help of professional treasure hunter Peter Knighton, Violet must solve a riddle and uncover the dark secrets that haunted Jane before it is too late.  In Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, Rachel Berman takes Violet and readers on a journey from London to the archives and unexplored depths of Aerendgast Hallows to the places Austen visited in her lifetime and worked into her novels.

Why I wanted to read it: Of course, the Jane Austen connection grabbed my attention right away, but I’m always intrigued by novels that imagine some secret life for Austen, as I think she’d find them amusing.

What I liked: The “lost history” of Jane Austen is creative, and Berman makes it believable.   I was surprised how emotional the novel made me, and when I teared up a few times, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t a true story!  When reading a dual-narrative novel, I often find it hard to connect with the main character in the present-day, but Violet was a likeable heroine.  I wanted to shake some sense into her at times, but I could understand her need to keep going at all costs, given all the gaps in her past and everything she missed while growing up.  I especially liked the pacing of the story and the hint of danger throughout.

What I disliked: Although it didn’t bother me that I’d figured out the mystery before Violet did, there were things that should have been obvious to her earlier on but weren’t.  I liked Peter and how his motivations for helping Violet were a bit complicated, and while his motives could have thrown a major wrench in Violet’s plans, this obstacle was eliminated a bit too easily.  Also, the novel seemed to lose some steam toward the end, when the villains were hot on Violet’s trail, mostly because it wasn’t always clear what they were after, and all the running around was almost too much.

Final thoughts: Overall, Aerendgast was an exciting novel that drew me in from the shocking prologue.  I enjoyed Berman’s writing, and I loved how she left open the possibility of Violet and Peter going on another treasure hunt.  I really hope to see them again!

Disclosure: I received Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen from Meryton Press for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the darcy brothers

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

“They really are — I can see why they hold your attention…” his head lolled forward for a second and Darcy feared he had lapsed into unconsciousness and grabbed his good arm to steady him, but then Theo shook his head again and raised it to meet his brother’s confused gaze.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  She has — do you not think, she has the finest pair of…”


Theo blinked; then, he fixed Darcy with a stern look.  “If you would only let me finish, Brother!  She has the finest pair of eyes I have ever seen on a woman.”

(from The Darcy Brothers)

Quick summary: The Darcy Brothers is a collaborative retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks, and Abigail Reynolds.  Fitzwilliam and Theophilus Darcy barely tolerate one another but embark on a trip together to visit their Aunt Catherine at Rosings, at the same time that Elizabeth Bennet is visiting her friend, Mrs. Collins, at the parsonage.  It’s not long before Theo meets Elizabeth and is entranced, and Elizabeth is surprised that Theo is much more charming and amiable than his older brother.  But even as Elizabeth learns that William is not as proud and arrogant as she initially thought, she can’t help but notice the rift in the brothers’ relationship, and she wants nothing more but for them to reconcile.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve enjoyed several books by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, and Abigail Reynolds, so I couldn’t resist.  Plus, I’ve heard Theo is a charmer, and I wanted to meet him.

What I liked: Giving Darcy a younger brother who is everything he is not and who immediately captivates Elizabeth puts a wrench in his plans to win her over.  The authors’ portrayal of Anne de Bourgh is hilarious, from her outspokenness and her scheming to her ability to perfectly tie a cravat.  Theo is a fantastic character, and his complicated relationship with Darcy ensures the novel is not just another romantic retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  But what I loved the most is that the narrative is seamless and the voices are consistent, despite having multiple authors.

What I disliked: Nothing, except that I had to say goodbye to Theo before I was ready, and I wanted to know how things played out for Anne.

Final thoughts:  The Darcy Brothers is a novel full of misunderstandings and schemes, with the right balance of humor and heaviness.  It’s easy to fall in love with Theo, who has the easy charm of Mr. Wickham, the amiability of Mr. Bingley, the goodness and honor of the Darcys, and of course, a touch of mischief.  I hope it’s not the last we see of him!

Disclosure: I received The Darcy Brothers from the authors for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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jane and the 12 days of christmas

Source: Review copy from Soho Crime
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Perhaps,” I said unwillingly, “they are mere caricatures, and thus demand nothing more.”

“Your Darcy is no caricature,” he retorted.  “Nor is Willoughby.  I have met that gentleman’s like on countless occasions, in the gaming hells and ballrooms of London — petted, indulged, weak, and subtle.  That is where you excel, Miss Austen — in the subtleties.”

(from Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas)

Quick summary: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the 12th book in Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.  I can vouch for it being a standalone novel because it’s the only book in the series I’ve read so far.  It’s Christmas 1814, and Jane Austen, along with her sister, Cassandra, her mother, and the family of her brother, James, are invited to spend the holidays at The Vyne, the lavish estate belonging to her old friend, Eliza Chute, and her husband, William, a member of Parliament.  They are barely into the celebrations leading up to Twelfth Night when an accident occurs that Jane and another guest, the artist Raphael West, suspect to be murder.  The stakes are high, given that the Treaty of Ghent — which is intended to end the war between the British and the Americans — has gone missing, and the fact that The Vyne is snowed in means that the murderer is a fellow guest.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve heard such good things about this series, and I can’t resist a novel with Jane Austen as the heroine.

What I liked: Barron’s portrayal of Jane Austen felt real to me.  She is 39 years old, celebrating the success of Mansfield Park, and currently working on Emma.  Readers see varied opinions about her career, with Mr. West obviously a fan of her novels and her brother scoffing at her success.  Barron also portrays her as a loving and fun aunt, playing billiards with her nephew and spoiling her niece with gifts for her new doll over the twelve days of Christmas.  We also see a Jane who is not afraid to speak her mind and whose powers of observation enable her to write realistic characters and piece together seemingly small details to solve a complicated crime.  The characters at The Vyne are all intriguing, and while I had my suspicions about them, I was happy that I hadn’t figured it all out on my own.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns of the mystery and was happy to just go along for the ride.

What I disliked: There were a few places where the narrative slowed down a bit, and it was hard to keep track of all the characters at first, but neither of those issues prevented me from enjoying the novel.

Final thoughts: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas was a fun novel, with some dark characters, some ridiculous characters, plenty of historical details, and even a bit of a love story.  Jane’s astute observations of the people she encounters make her the perfect sleuth.  I definitely plan to work my way through the rest of the series.

Disclosure: I received Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas from Soho Crime for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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pride and prescience

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★★

Once, there had been many such awkward moments between them, when prejudice and lies and pride and misunderstandings had clouded their vision of each other and themselves.  But then they’d found their way to each other, and not since then had such tension hung between them as it did now. (from Pride and Prescience, page 253)

Quick summary: Pride and Prescience, Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged is the first book in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series by Carrie Bebris.  The novel opens at the wedding breakfast of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy and Charles and Jane Bingley and is a sequel of sorts to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  The sisters’ big day is somewhat overshadowed by Caroline Bingley’s announcement that she is to wed Frederick Parrish, a wealthy landowner from New Orleans.  Forced to postpone their travels to Pemberley to attend the upcoming nuptials, the Darcys spend the early days of their marriage in London, where they encounter a father and daughter with a beef against the Bingleys and Mr. Parrish, meet an archaeologist whose specialty is supernatural artifacts, and witness a sudden and dramatic change in the new Mrs. Parrish’s mental state.  It’s not long before Caroline’s troubles lead the Darcys, the Bingleys, and a host of other guests to Netherfield, where strange and even dangerous events occur and dark secrets come to light, forcing the Darcys to sort through the chaos and their differences of opinion to uncover the truth.

Why I wanted to read it: This series has been on my radar for a couple of years now, and I decided that I wasn’t putting it off any longer!

What I liked: Pride and Prescience is a clever mystery, and even while I was able to solve it on my own, there were plenty of twists and turns and even humor to keep my attention throughout.  I liked how Bebris challenged Elizabeth and Darcy from the start of their marriage.  Their disagreements over the supernatural added some tension to their relationship, which made their happily-ever-after more believable.  I especially liked how Bebris shows the passion between them without readers having to witness everything that goes on in their bedroom.  There were plenty of intriguing original characters to liven things up, and I certainly was surprised by the turn Caroline’s story took.

What I disliked: Nothing!  Overall, I thought this was a well-paced, exciting novel.

Final thoughts: Elizabeth and Darcy were believable as amateur sleuths, as both are intelligent and observant.  Elizabeth’s curiosity and open-mindedness complemented Darcy’s take-charge attitude and focus on reason.  Their love for each other comes before everything else, and their mutual respect and ability to confide in one another make them perfect partners.  Pride and Prescience is a great start to a series, and I can’t wait to read the other books!

Disclosure: I borrowed Pride and Prescience from the public library.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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another place in time

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

“After inquiring after her health, I made Miss Elizabeth an offer of marriage.” William chewed on his lower lip. “Things did not turn out as expected.”

“In other words, your proposal was so obnoxious she refused you.”

“I shall admit it was not my best effort, but I take issue with your calling my offer ‘obnoxious.’ I was honoring Miss Elizabeth with my attention, and everything I said was true.”

“Just because something is true, doesn’t mean you have to say it,” Chris said, rolling her eyes.

(from Another Place in Time)

Quick summary: Christine O’Malley, a community-college English professor in Baltimore, thinks the man who interrupts her panel at a Jane Austen conference complaining that his side of the story is absent from Pride and Prejudice is merely an actor, but he insists he is Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. It seems impossible that William could have traveled to 2012, and not just because he’s supposed to be a fictional character, but after explaining the ins and outs of time travel, Chris finds herself in Regency England, where she is supposed to help William win over Elizabeth Bennet and keep him on the novel’s timeline. But she also must sort out her feelings for William’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, given her very modern ideas and the fact that they are running out of time. Another Place in Time is Mary Lydon Simonsen at her best, blurring the boundaries between the past and the present and breathing new life into Austen’s timeless characters.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a fan of Simonsen’s since I read Searching for Pemberley, which grabbed my attention by combining a story about Pride and Prejudice with one involving World War II. She is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction because she’s not afraid to take risks, like putting Austen’s characters into completely different time periods or even turning them into werewolves.  I enjoyed her previous time-travel novel, Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, so I knew I had to read this one, too!

What I liked: Another Place in Time isn’t really a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I liked that even though William and his romantic troubles play a big role, much of the novel is about Chris, how she gets to live out her dream of visiting Jane Austen’s time and hanging out with her favorite literary characters, and how she overcomes a heartbreaking loss.  It was hilarious watching William and his sister, Georgiana, navigate modern-day Baltimore, and I burst out laughing at some of the souvenirs he brought back to Pemberley.  Chris had an advantage over them in that she knew how different the two time periods were, but it was still amusing to watch her pretend to be a Regency lady.  And the awe she felt when meeting Elizabeth…that’s exactly how I would have felt!

What I disliked: Nothing!  I read this book in one sitting, it was that good!

Final thoughts: Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of my go-to authors for unique Austen-inspired fiction, and Another Place in Time is probably my favorite of all of her novels so far.

Disclosure: I received Another Place in Time from the author for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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