Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘maria grace’

snowbound-at-hartfield-ebookI’m excited to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric again today, this time to celebrate the release of her novella, Snowbound at Hartfield (click to read my review). Because Pride and PrejudicePersuasion, and Emma are my favorites of Austen’s novels, I was curious as to what inspired Maria to merge these stories, and she has been kind enough to talk about that and the challenges of getting the principal characters together. Please give a warm welcome to Maria Grace:

By all accounts,  Snowbound at Hartfield is a bit of an odd duck. It is an Austen mash-up of three different books, a romance about second chances and a glimpse at the difficult reality single adults, men and women, faced in the regency era. Kind of a tall order under the best of circumstances.

But no one has ever accused me of doing things the easy way.

Ever.

The idea for Snowbound came out of a March Mash-up Madness theme we had last year at Austen Variations. (Shameless plug—we’re doing it again next month! Go by the Facebook group and leave us your suggestion! You never know…) One of our readers suggested a scene between some of the Austen fathers. It seemed to me like Mr. Bennet would find Mr. Woodhouse and Sir Walter Elliot particularly good fodder for his sense of humor.

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to get them all in the same place at the same time, given that neither Mr. Woodhouse nor Mr. Bennet was fond of travel. Add in the baronet we’d all like to strangle, and it was quite a pickle to get them all in a room together. Since they would not be likely to socialize together, getting stuck together because of bad weather seemed to be the best excuse available and fitting the time period.

It all took an interesting turn when the characters ended up in the drawing room together. I started out writing a scene about the fathers. But midway through that scene, two secondary characters stepped up and informed me that this was their story and it was not going to be over in a single scene. In fact, I tried to end the story twice before I actually got to the end the characters demanded. They were very insistent that I get them to the end they wanted. The oddest thing about it was that it was a heroine I NEVER expected to write.

In general, I have never liked Miss Elizabeth Elliot, especially since I see myself something of an Anne Elliot. So I definitely didn’t want to write her or set her up for a happy ending.

But, I guess I’m a sucker for characters who want to turn over a new leaf (like Lydia in The Trouble to Check Her).  The story begins after Miss Elliot has suffered two very difficult experiences. First, the heir presumptive of the family, William Elliot, has taken her friend, Penelope Clay, ‘under his protections’–which is to say he has made her his mistress. Worse yet, Penelope is living in his house, which was just not done. All this happened while Elizabeth was expecting an offer of marriage from him. Talk about humiliation!

On top of that, her younger sister Anne is married to the very desirable Captain Wentworth, leaving Elizabeth, the eldest sister who should have been the first to marry, the only one left unmarried.

So, Elizabeth is an humiliated spinster, whose financial situation requires her to live with her foolish father. In such a situation, she would be the mistress of the house, handling the management aspect of this home. With little money to work with, it would have been very challenging to live the lifestyle of a baronet, as her father would have required.

Living through all that would tax anyone, maybe even to the breaking point. To me, it seemed the perfect motivation for potential personal change, so that’s the place I wrote her from.

The hero of this tale, believe it or not, is Colonel Fitzwilliam, who in many ways was as broken as Miss Elliot. As a military officer of the era, he would have seen action in the Napoleonic wars. Those wars were brutal and horrific. It is hard to imagine a man who could experience that without some lasting effects. Those experiences impact him greatly, leaving him feeling ‘less’ than the man he used to be.

On top of all that, he is a bachelor in a society that considered unmarried men the ‘scourge of society’. In many instances, bachelors paid substantially more in taxes than married men, while at the same time, they were not regarded as fulfilling their masculine potential. They were not as persecuted at spinsters, but they were definitely looked down upon.

So what happens when these two, worn-around-the-edges characters meet up? Let’s just say it wasn’t what I was expecting! But this is one snowstorm I’m very glad I got caught in.

Thanks, Maria! I am so glad for that snowstorm as well, since I absolutely loved this novella!

****

About Snowbound at Hartfield

Colonel Fitzwilliam should have been happy facing retirement. No more Napoleon, no more tromping the Continent, and his distant cousin had unexpectedly left him an estate. What was more, two of his favorite people, Darcy and Elizabeth, were travelling with him to visit his new home.

But the colonel wasn’t happy, not when he was forced to watch Darcy exchanging enamored glances with his wife. No, he wanted to pitch his cousin out the window. It didn’t help when Darcy kept lecturing him on the joys of wedded life— as if women like Elizabeth Darcy grew on every tree.

Then the snow started.

Now they were stranded at the home of George and Emma Knightley, another intolerable, blissfully wedded couple who wanted nothing more than to see his bachelor days come to an end. Thank heavens they never thought of matching him with the proud spinster who had also been caught in the storm. That would have been utterly intolerable.

Or would it?

Check out Snowbound at Hartfield on Goodreads | Buy from an assortment of retailers

****

About the Author

Maria Grace

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace via email at author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Random Bits of Fascination | Jane Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors

****

Giveaway

Maria is generously offering an ebook copy of Snowbound at Hartfield. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Read Full Post »

snowbound-at-hartfield-ebook

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

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

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

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

(from Snowbound at Hartfield)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclosure: Snowbound at Hartfield is from my personal library.

Read Full Post »

grace-96-l

Maria Grace

I’m delighted to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today to showcase her latest novel, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon, the first in a new series. Please give Maria a warm welcome as she answers my question: Why Dragons?

I was chatting with Anna one day and she asked, “So what’s a nice regency romance writer like you doing with a book like that? Dragons? Seriously?”

Ok, that’s not really what Anna asked me. (We all know she is much too sweet and well-mannered to say anything like that.) But she did ask me to talk a little about how I ended up writing a Pride and Prejudice variation about dragons. So, same thing more or less, right?

But I digress.

I suppose I could wax philosophical and say that it began back in the dark ages of middle school when I first read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Flight. My imagination was captured by her dragons. Seriously, in the midst of middle school angst, who wouldn’t want an enormous, fire-breathing friend who was entirely devoted to you? I certainly would have welcomed that. Middle school—shudder!

Seriously though, I’ve loved fantasy from the very beginning and only recently wandered into the realm of the regency era and Jane Austen’s world. The first stories I wrote were science fiction fan fiction and the first original novel I wrote was a fantasy. And yes, I still have it, and no, I’m not letting it out of the box where it safely resides. (I ONCE thought about resurrecting it, but yeah, it was written by a fifteen year old, and there was no getting away from that.)

Writing took a back seat to college, graduate school, adult life and kids. Somehow, when I wandered back into the authorial realm, I landed in regency era England.

grace-153-l

Maria Grace

My husband and boys were thrilled that I was fulfilling a long held passion and totally supportive of my efforts. But… (you knew that was coming, right?) They were also science fiction/fantasy fans. Knowing about my prior dabbling in those genres, they really, really REALLY wanted me to write something they would want to read. (Ok, to be fair, my Mr. Darcy actually does read ALL of my books, romance, history, fantasy… all of them.)

So, one day, at the local pizza buffet, I was knocking around story ideas with my boys, something we’d often done before.  We were getting a little silly and just tossing stuff out there, when an idea landed with a resounding, deafening thud. A dragon sized one.

What if there were a secret society of dragons living alongside people in Regency England.

I suddenly had their attention. Ideas were flying fast and furious: ideas for how the species would interact, what government would look like, the economics of it all—and boy could I tell they’d been paying attention in their history and government classes! In the span of way longer than we should have spent eating pizza, we had an entire dragon world built, just screaming for a story to live in it.

And really, as a mother, and an author, how could I possibly walk away from something that my kids helped me build? Seriously? I had to write something for that world. It was about that time that I encountered Pride Prejudice and Zombies—which was an interesting experience and we’ll leave it at that.

But it did get me thinking, which is a dangerous thing. As much fun as zombies might be (ok, not really, I’m not a zombie kinda gal), dragons had to be better right. So the gauntlet was thrown, and Mr. Darcy’s Dragon was born.

To be entirely honest, I have never had as much fun writing a series as I have with these dragon books. I’m currently half way through the second book and into plotting the third book. With any luck book two should be done this quarter and I’d like to have the third one done by the end of the year. I know it’s a big leap for regency romance readers, but I hope that some of you will grab the dragon by the tail and join me in a dragon world where Darcy and Elizabeth must prevent the outbreak of a new dragon war (and maybe fall in love in the process) with a little help from their dragon friends.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your inspiration with me and my readers. I can’t wait to delve into this world of dragons!

****

About Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon

pemberley-dragon-hatching-cover-large-ebook

England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind.  Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?

Check out Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon on Goodreads | Amazon (Kindle) (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Nook) (Paperback) | Kobo

****

About the Author

Maria Grace

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace via email at author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Random Bits of Fascination | Jane Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors

****

Giveaway

Maria is generously offering an ebook copy of Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Read Full Post »

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

mdbb-final-6_9_m

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

without-a-conscience

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

the-trouble-to-check-her

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

TEPcover

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

fitzwilliamdarcy_frontcoverprint-1

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

lucky 13

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

BerthainMe

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)

darcys-hope

denial-of-conscience

undeceived

COAOEB cover

Miss Darcy's Companion front cover_V4

img_0878

Liebeslied-Final-Kindle

the forgotten room

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

Read Full Post »

darcys-first-christmas

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

She locked the door behind her and fell headlong onto the bed. The room was cold. The servants had stopped lighting the fire when it was clear it would not be used.

Fitting.

She could call a girl to light the fire easily enough, but to what point? Fire would do nothing to chase the chill lodged deep within.

Nothing would.

(from The Darcys’ First Christmas)

In The Darcys’ First Christmas, Maria Grace’s holiday novella sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are planning to celebrate a quiet Christmas at Pemberley with the Gardiners. Already worried that she isn’t up to the task of being the Mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth nervously begins preparations for the first Christmas ball in years and has an idea to start a new tradition, a Christmas picnic for the children. Darcy seems pleased with Elizabeth’s ideas and how she is settling into her new role with the help of Mrs. Reynolds, Pemberley’s longtime housekeeper.

However, the Darcys’ holiday plans quickly fall apart when Lord and Lady Matlock and Colonel Fitzwilliam arrive unexpectedly, and Aunt Matlock — already upset at Darcy marrying beneath him — is hellbent on taking charge of the preparations for the ball and appalled at the changes Elizabeth has proposed as Pemberley’s new mistress. To make matters worse, Darcy — used to running Pemberley on his own and panicked by his relations’ sudden arrival — usurps Elizabeth’s authority in household decision-making, crushing her already fragile self-esteem. When Georgiana’s fear of Aunt Matlock keeps her confined to her rooms and an accident puts even more strain on the Darcys’ marriage, things go from bad to worse, and neither Elizabeth nor Darcy is able to reach out to the other for comfort.

The Darcys’ First Christmas is another sweet story that I enjoyed in the little time I had to myself over Christmas weekend. Grace does a great job showing Elizabeth’s insecurities about her new role and how the Darcys’ relationship is still so new that misunderstandings are bound to pop up. I loved seeing Elizabeth and Darcy both find the courage they needed to take on Lady Matlock and even Georgiana, who still has so much growing up to do. However, it didn’t feel right to me that Darcy and Elizabeth would turn away from one another at the first sign of tension and wait so long to finally address their troubles. I understood it for the sake of the story and appreciated the insight from Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Gardiner, but it just felt like Elizabeth was a bit too weak in this story.

Still, that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the novella, and I loved that Grace included some holiday traditions like the Yule log and even addressed Fitzwilliam’s trauma from the war. Grace managed to pack so much into so few pages, and I was left feeling fully satisfied.

I hope you’re all not sick of my Christmas-themed reviews because I have one more left for tomorrow!

Disclosure: The Darcys’ First Christmas is from my personal library.

Read Full Post »

to-forget

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Though he was not apt to socialize like Bingley, he did not on principle object to Christmastide socializing. This year was different. All he wanted was to be left alone that he might quiet the cacophony in his own head.

One which centered around Elizabeth Bennet.

(from To Forget)

To Forget: Darcy’s London Christmas is a short story by Maria Grace that is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It opens with Darcy and Elizabeth spending their first Christmas as husband and wife, settling in for the night after their guests retire. Elizabeth asks Darcy about the previous Christmas he spent in London, his last as a bachelor, and he tells her the story of how he conspired to separate her sister Jane from his friend Bingley after the Netherfield Ball — but most importantly, how he tried to forget her.

Darcy relives that lonely Christmas season in London, how he looked for Elizabeth on the chance she might be staying with her aunt and uncle in Cheapside while he sought to avoid being seen with any woman for fear of making it into the gossip pages.  In the midst of socializing with the Bingleys and their guests, Darcy remembers his Christmases as a child at Pemberley. In fondly recalling family traditions and the lessons learned from his mother, Darcy realizes what he needs to do about his feelings for Elizabeth.

The story goes back and forth in time, between Darcy and Elizabeth’s first Christmas as a married couple and his last lonely Christmas, and because readers already know the ending up front, there is considerably less angst than in most Pride and Prejudice variations. While the shifts in time slightly lessened the impact of Darcy’s confusion and frustration, it was interesting to hear Elizabeth’s comments on his actions and odd behavior during that time.

In To Forget, Grace includes holiday traditions of the Regency era, from decorations and food to entertainment. I enjoyed these details just as much as I did the story itself. She does a fantastic job weaving in these elements while keeping the story short and sweet. I read this one during the late afternoon, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and the Christmas tree lights. It was the perfect way to spend some time with my favorite characters!

Disclosure: To Forget: Darcy’s London Christmas is from my personal library.

Read Full Post »

I’m playing catch-up here with some Austen-inspired short stories and novellas I read over the summer, plus two non-Austen Christmas stories I read more recently. Stay tuned for reviews of several Christmas-themed Austen books this week and next. I’ve really been in the Christmas spirit!

murder-at-mistletoe-manner

Murder at Mistletoe Manor by Holly Tierney-Bedord

This was an amusing novella, a cozy mystery set in Windy Pines, Idaho, a remote mountain town with a bumbling police force obviously not used to investigating murders. The story centers on Klarinda Snow, the owner of the struggling Mistletoe Manor, who is shocked and curious to find all seven guestrooms booked on a Tuesday in December. When each guest arrives with a mysterious letter on the inn’s letterhead inviting them for an all-expenses-paid, one-night getaway, Klarinda is confused because the letters weren’t from her. The guests are all odd in their own way, and most know each other from their teenage days at a private school. Soon Klarinda has to contend with disgruntled guests who start dropping like flies and a snowstorm that traps the surviving guests and staff in a building that is now dangerous for more reasons than murder. Although the mystery wasn’t very complex and I couldn’t stop shaking my head at the incompetence of the police and even Klarinda’s odd behavior throughout, the novella was funny enough that I downloaded the second in the Windy Pines mystery series, Carnage at the Christmas Party (both are standalone and both were Kindle freebies at the time).

married-by-midnight

Married by Midnight: A Christmas Story by Talli Roland

This was a short and sweet romance set in a small village outside London in the week before Christmas as Kate quickly plans a midnight Christmas Eve wedding to the man who’s perfect for her, at least according to her mother’s astrological charts. Both Kate and her mother depend on the stars, signs, and fortune tellers for every decision in their lives, including which day is a good one to shop for her wedding dress. She finds the perfect 1930s-era gown, with a note attached to the inside wishing the new owner of the dress much luck and happiness. The note sends her on a whirlwind search for the previous owner on social media, and as finding out the secrets of the dress becomes more important than planning a wedding set to take place in a matter of days, Kate beings to question whether she should trust her horoscope or her gut. The first person viewpoint was enjoyable in this story, as Kate was likeable even if blind about things. The mystery was solved and everything wrapped up a bit too quickly, but that’s to be expected with such a short story. It definitely could’ve been expanded into a novel; I would’ve loved to see how the loose ends would’ve been tied up in such a scenario.

spot-of-sweet-tea

A Spot of Sweet Tea by Maria Grace

I read two of the Austen-inspired short stories in this collection separately last year; you you can read my mini-reviews of “Four Days in April” and “Sweet Ginger” here.

I really enjoyed the other two stories in this collection. “Last Dance” focuses on Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice as she is staying with her aunt Phillips in Meryton while the rest of the Bennets are in London. With three sisters married, Mary is floundering as her aunt tries to make her be someone she is not in order to attract a husband. I really enjoyed seeing Mary come into her own under the watchful eyes of two very different men.

“Not Romantic” centers on Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice and shows how a broken heart turned her into someone who could be content as the wife of Mr. Collins. I enjoyed how Maria Grace made Charlotte such a sympathetic character as you see her disappointed in love, understanding Mr. Collins, and watching him fawn over and be rejected by Elizabeth. I could almost believe that she found her happily ever after.

dancing-with-mr-darcy

Dancing with Mr. Darcy by Susan Masters

This short story spans the entire life of Lizzie Rogers, who was born between the World Wars and grew up to be a librarian, in about 15 pages. She fell in love with Mr. Darcy after reading Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. The kind of love where you make scrapbooks of a fictional character, have conversations with him every night, and know you will never, ever be happy unless he comes to life and whisks you away — and this unhealthy infatuation continues well into your golden years. Poor Lizzie attracts the eye of a dark and brooding man she hopes will be her Mr. Darcy, only to find that he is more of a Mr. Wickham. As a short story spanning 80-some years, it’s obviously very rushed. I felt like I got to know Lizzie a bit, how she was a strong, kindhearted woman who bent over backwards to help her family, but her “love affair” with Mr. Darcy was not very developed, which made the ending fall flat. However, I think it would make for an interesting novel.

onna-carr

Lizzie Bennett: Pride and Prejudice Revisited 1943-1946 by Onna Car

I eagerly delved into this short story because of the World War II setting. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennett (it’s mainly spelled this way throughout the story, but the author also switches to Lizzy Bennet at times) is the manager of the North Platte, Nebraska, canteen and a certified nurse. She is working at the canteen with her sister Janey when they meet Private Chuck Bing and Bombardier Will Darcy, who are on furlough. Events proceed much in the way of Pride and Prejudice, albeit in a different era.

Honestly, the WWII setting is probably the only enjoyable thing about this story. In addition to numerous flaws that could have been prevented with a thorough editing (like the spelling inconsistencies), Carr attempts to pack the entire plot of Pride and Prejudice into a short story, so it mainly reads like a summary with virtually no plot or character development. I was also put off by Darcy being referred to as “Dar” and Elizabeth’s friend Lotte Lucas being called simply “the polio victim.” Darcy’s famous insult becomes “She’s tolerable, but a living doll she’s not,” which doesn’t roll off the tongue half as well as the original despite the modernized language. I will say the individual plot points were interesting, and had they been fleshed out, it would’ve made a great novel or even novella.

darcys-nightmares

Darcy’s Nightmares by Beatrice Alexander

This short story is subtitled “A Pride and Prejudice Horror” without having much of a connection to Pride and Prejudice. The prologue is one paragraph indicating that Darcy has been plagued with nightmares every night since the death of his wife, Elizabeth. According to the prologue, she had an incurable illness, but the story continually refers to an accident for which he blames himself. The accident is never described, and the inconsistency is just one of a number of issues I spotted while reading that could have been avoided with a thorough editing.

The story itself is just a description of Darcy’s nightmares, or seemingly endless comparisons of his grief to frightening nature imagery. Almost halfway through the story, Darcy meets with his psychiatrist, a Mr. Bennet, and they butt heads because Darcy just wants a prescription to sleep and Mr. Bennet wants to help Darcy overcome the nightmares. When asked to discuss the accident, Darcy can’t speak and just leaves. Then the nightmares begin again. Alexander’s writing isn’t bad, but there seems to be no real conclusion to the story and no connection to Pride and Prejudice other than the characters’ names. There is no explanation of the accident, no character development — nothing but the nightmares. I kept reading in hopes that there would be an actual story here — Darcy or Elizabeth or not, just something to make me understand this tormented Darcy’s guilt.

Disclosure: All of these books are from my personal library

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »