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Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever is a collection of short stories set during Easter and the spring season. Each of the six stories in the book is a modern take on one of Jane Austen’s novels. I had hoped to finish the book before summer arrived, but I’ve been so busy these days that I’m just glad to have finished it! Besides, these holiday story collections can be enjoyed any time of year.

Here’s a short rundown of the stories in this collection:

“Extra Innings” by Jessica Grey (based on Persuasion)

Annie Elliot is the administrative assistant to the GM of the Chawton Choppers. Rick Wentworth is a former major league baseball player who returns to coach the team. The pair must come to terms with the end of their relationship so many years ago and figure out whether there’s a chance to move forward.

“Miracle at the Abbey” by Cecilia Gray (based on Northanger Abbey)

Kathia returns to The Abbey, the home where she lived as a teenager after her mother’s death, for her paranormal reality show. She is reunited with the owners’ son, Henry Trang, and is forced to come to terms with the past and the events that prompted her to flee The Abbey…and Henry.

“Whine and Wineries” by Melissa Buell (based on Sense and Sensibility)

The Dashwoods are forced to leave their family home upon the death of their patriarch. The move to a cottage at the Barton Winery separates Elinor from Edward just as their friendship seems to deepen, but her family’s involvement in a wedding planning business results in their crossing paths again.

“Emma’s Inbox: An Emma Story” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Emma)

Emma is a writer for the Hartfield Herald, and Noah Knightley is the town’s mayor. This story of matchmaking gone awry is told through emails and text messages among the various characters.

“No Vacancy at Mansfield Motel” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Mansfield Park)

This story is set on the ocean, with Fanny Price stuck taking care of the Mansfield Seaside Motel while the rest of Bertram family does whatever they please. She had hoped to spend time with her favorite cousin Eddie while he is on break from school, but instead he is preoccupied with the friends he brings along, Mary and Henry Crawford, and fails to notice Fanny and all the dreams she’s pushed to the wayside to care for the family.

“Lydia Reimagined” by Jennifer Becton (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Lydia Bennet is determined to prove that she has learned from her failed relationship with George Wickham by attending his wedding. When she bumps into an old friend, Kyle Dennison, she is forced to consider her motives for being there and the larger questions of who she has become and what she wants.

As with the previous Holidays with Jane anthologies I’ve read (Trick or Sweet and Christmas Cheer), I enjoyed each of the stories. They were all unique and clever retellings of Austen’s novels. “Lydia Reimagined” is the story that stood out most to me. I loved seeing Lydia putting herself on the right track, bumbling through awkward situations with her head held high and with good intentions.

While the spring season itself wasn’t always front and center, each story did touch on the themes of renewal and hope. I really enjoy when these authors come together to celebrate various holidays and seasons, and of course, our love of all things Austen. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of these themed collections.

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I’m delighted to welcome Jane Odiwe to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Searching for Mr. Tilney.

Please give her a warm welcome:

Thank you so much, Anna for inviting me to your blog to talk about my new book Searching for Mr Tilney. It’s a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and tells the story of a young art student who is invited to Bath by neighbours to help recover from illness. While there, staying in a house on Great Pulteney Street, she finds an old journal that she is sure must have been written by her favourite author Jane Austen. And when she starts experiencing bizarre dreams with strange, yet increasingly realistic images, she’s gradually pulled into another world, becoming Jane’s sister Cassandra, living her life with all her thoughts and hopes. Here’s a little excerpt where we see life witnessed through Cassy’s eyes.

An excerpt from Searching for Mr. Tilney, courtesy of Jane Odiwe:

Cassandra Austen, Bath, Somerset, July 1789

The Assembly Rooms are lit up with torches glowing in the fading light. There is so much to see and take in, and I try to commit it all to memory because I know, however late it shall be, my sister will still be up when I get home and will want to know every last detail. The women look like unearthly creatures, exotic in their coloured silks and satins, with towering hair and feathers so tall I feel under-dressed and somewhat like a country rustic, which I suppose is exactly what I am. And even if I could, I’m not certain I should wish to be quite so fancily or saucily attired. They have the appearance of expensive dolls, the kind that mantua-makers show in their shop windows, with their false hair and rouged countenances.

A blur of people walk past me, and I’m smiling and curtseying everywhere I go. All of our relations are in attendance, the Motley-Austens with their son Lucius who grins and stares at me until I do not know where to look, cousins Jane and Edward Cooper with their father, Uncle and Aunt Leigh-Perrot, all smiling and making small talk, though, as Jane would say, eager to have one another over the moment they are out of earshot.

It’s while we are standing in the Octagon room waiting for things to happen that I become aware of him. Despite the furious paced chattering, and the high-pitched laughing, the great guffaws and the mounting excitement, I am suddenly aware, by some kind of sixth sense, that I am being scrutinised from a distance. When I look across the room to the party of people standing by one of the great mantelpieces his eyes connect with mine, and I feel the familiar pull, the fluttering deep inside me along with the wild beating of my heart. He’s here. Mr Fowle is here in the same room, and I dare not look at him any longer than it takes to acknowledge him with a smile. But in those seconds I’ve noted how much he’s changed since I last saw him. He’s taller, broader, and his hair, which a few years ago was wildly curly and tawny brown, has been slightly tamed, darkened to a charcoal shade that matches his eyes and the dark brows that give him a brooding look sometimes. I dare not look again, but I still feel his eyes watching me and cannot help but hope that he likes what he sees. Or is he wondering whatever became of Cassy Austen who once promised to be a beauty, but is hardly more than a country wench with little style and fashion.

My mother is securing a first dance with Lucius. He has improved since last summer when we saw him in Kent, he’s taller and more filled out, but there is still something wanting in his behaviour. Jane says she thinks he is quite mad, and I must admit there is something about him that unnerves me. I do not like to judge, but his previous conduct gave us reason on several occasions to be on our guard. He is quite a handsome young man now, but he possesses the arrogance of a youth who thinks his attentions to young women must be wanted. He preens, and stares, not only at me, I notice, but also at any young woman who takes his fancy. He makes remarks about them to his father, seeming not to care whether he’s heard or not, though his mother’s hand on his arm indicates that she, at least, disapproves. I care not for his regard, and while it pleases me to know our cousins, I feel Mama is still hoping for something more between us. Not that she would force me to anything I do not wish, but I know her hopes for me and what I feel is my duty to my family are inextricably linked. My parents require me to make a good marriage, one which will help the family prosper, and what could be more easily accomplished, than by marrying a wealthy cousin? We are too young to marry, though I feel the wheels are being set in motion to that end. I would be foolish to discount it entirely. And yet … I know my heart, and it does not yield easily where it has no desire. In fact, I know it will not give way at all.

I cannot remember the first time I realised I was falling in love with Tom Fowle. I think I’ve always loved him in one way or another, though he behaved only ever as a brother to his sister when I was very young. I felt something change between us when he visited us in Steventon last spring, though I hardly dared hope that what I felt for him was reciprocated. But, his manners were different during those few days he stayed with us, and he treated me like an equal for the first time. Sitting in the garden with Jemmy on a sunny day, he poured my tea, and fussed over me with shawls and blankets at the slightest breeze. He made me a daisy chain and crowned me “Queen of Steventon”. Placing the ring of small white flowers in my hair so gently, the touch of his fingers on my curls stayed with me throughout that golden afternoon.

‘Cassandra will be very pleased to start the ball with you, Lucius,’ I hear my mother say, and I’m brought out of my reverie as if doused in cold water. I try and smile, and do what is expected, though it is exceedingly hard. I glance over at Mr Fowle, and I see him regarding us, looking from Lucius to me, and back again. How I want to run over to the other side of the ballroom and tell him that nothing is as it appears, but instead I smile wanly, which probably does nothing to assure him either. All I can hope is that our mother will see our Kintbury friends and wish to greet them.

Then, just as I’m about to give up all hope, my mother takes charge and we cross the room to meet them, my heart in my mouth. Mr Fowle and I are standing opposite one another, and I hardly hear what my mother is saying to the Reverend and Mrs Fowle, though I hear her offer some words of congratulation on her son’s new curacy. When the adults carry on chatting, Mr Fowle does not say much at first. But, he’s smiling, his eyes crinkling into laughter lines, as he holds my gaze.

‘My goodness, Miss Cassandra, I hardly recognised you.’

‘Have I changed so much since last April?’ I ask, praying that he likes what he sees.

‘Forgive me, I do not wish to appear ungallant, but you look so different this evening. I still have a memory of the little girl who sat next to me in school lessons with short, unruly curls, and a most serious expression. I find the child I once knew has completely disappeared.’

‘I sincerely hope you’ll find I have changed for the better, Mr Fowle. I recognised you immediately, and though the passing years have altered you in some respects, in others, you remain much the same. Being so much older than myself, and no doubt, a good deal wiser, I recall you were always fond of giving me your thoughts and forthright opinions.’

I catch my tongue. Goodness, what am I saying? I sound as flirtatious as my wicked cousin Eliza who does not care whom she pursues or what she says to them.

Mr Fowle can hardly suppress his laughter. ‘And you think I’m still as outspoken as ever, and clearly advancing into my dotage. I suppose my four and twenty years must seem a vast difference to your tender age, though I assure you, I am not a very old man. I’ve not yet taken to wearing flannel vests.’

I feel my cheeks burning, and note Mr Fowle’s bemused expression.

‘I am not yet too old for dancing either, Miss Cassandra, though I daresay your card will be filled up by the young beaux of Bath to allow such attentions from an ancient clergyman from Kintbury.’

‘I … that is, my card is by no means full, Mr Fowle.’

‘Then I hope you will permit me to ask you to dance.’

‘Thank you, I would like that,’ I answer, and find I can no longer look at him. ‘The first two are taken …’

‘By the young man standing with your party,’ says Mr Fowle, and he stares at Lucius, a grave shadow passing over his handsome countenance. ‘Who is he? He has a look of the Austens … a distant cousin, perhaps?’

‘Yes, he’s Great-Uncle Francis’s grandson.’

Mr Fowle’s face clouds for a moment, and his brows draw together over the dark eyes that search Lucius out across the room. ‘A young puppy, but a wealthy one … and handsome too … he’d be a good match for you.’

I cannot speak. I don’t know how to answer him; everything that comes to mind seems completely the wrong thing to say. Thankfully, he requests the two dances after Lucius, and I struggle with my composure. I am so happy I could burst.

Yet, my euphoria does not last long. The musicians are tuning up, and my mother is hurrying me away, pulling me through the crush of people to the ballroom. It’s impossible to see for the tiers of benches and the large crowds who are surging onto the floor.

‘Oh, goodness me, they’re about to start and where is your partner? Can you see him, Cassandra?’

I’ve seen him, but there’s a small part of me that’s wants to pretend I haven’t. And then it’s too late to run away or back out, and Lucius is standing opposite me in the set and the music starts.

Thanks so much, Jane, for being a guest here today. I am very much looking forward to reading the book!

****

About Searching for Mr. Tilney

What secrets lie at the heart of Jane Austen’s teenage journal?

When Caroline Heath is taken to Bath in 1975, she little expects to find the gothic adventure she craves, let alone discover Jane Austen’s secret teenage journal, or how it’s possible to live in someone else’s body. Yet, she’s soon caught up in a whirlwind of fantastic events – travels through time, a love story or three, and even the odd sinister murder – or so she thinks.

As the past and present entwine, Jane’s journal reveals a coming of age tale, set against the scandalous backdrop of Knole Park in Kent, and the story behind an enigmatic portrait. In Bath, a Georgian townhouse acts as a portal in time, and Caroline finds herself becoming Cassandra Austen, a young woman making her debut in society, torn between family duty and the love of her life. As the riddles unfold, and the lines blur between illusion and reality, will Caroline find the happiness she seeks or will she indulge her wild imagination, threatening her future and a fairytale ending?

Check out Searching for Mr. Tilney on Goodreads | Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

**The ebooks are currently on sale for $1.24 in the U.S. and 99p in the U.K.**

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About the Author

Jane Odiwe

Jane Odiwe lives in North London with her husband, children and two cats, but escapes to “Fairyland”, Bath, whenever she can. When she’s not writing she enjoys painting, reading, and music, and loves spending time with her family.

Connect with Jane on Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Website

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Giveaway

Jane is generously offering a paperback copy of Searching for Mr. Tilney to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 23, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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holidays with jane

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“I’ve an assignment for you,” Samuel said as he clunked the cup back down.

Jane sighed. “I thought as much. Why does He always send you? Couldn’t He send someone with a sharper wit to entertain Cassandra and me?”

“It was either me or a Brontë, my dear girl. I thought I’d spare you that.”

(from “It’s a Wonderful Latte” in Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer)

Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer is a collection of six Christmas-themed stories based on each of Jane Austen’s novels.

“The Work of an Instant” by Jennifer Becton  (based on Persuasion)

An oddly dressed Santa working in the Mansfield Perk coffee shop informs Dr. Anne Elliot that she will receive her Christmas wish just before her old flame, Lieutenant Commander Frederick Wentworth waltzes in, apparently on leave from the USS Kellynch. Her nurse friend Louisa pounces immediately, but could a Christmas ball and some Christmas magic reunite Anne and Frederick after so many years apart?

“Mischief and Mistletoe” by Melissa Buell (based on Northanger Abbey)

Pastor’s daughter and aspiring fashion designer Catherine Morland gets a chance to spread her wings when she is offered a job making new costumes for the annual Dickens’ Christmas Festival in Santa Barbara. Cate is over the moon when she meets Henry Tilney, but she worries that a misunderstanding of her situation could alter his feelings for her.

“A Tale of Three Christmases” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Sense and Sensibility)

The lives of the Dashwood sisters are in chaos following the death of their father. The youngest, Maggie, finds solace in her writing, and a thoughtful gift from her father and a bit of Christmas magic help her navigate the family and romantic dramas over a period of three years.

“With Love, from Emma” by Cecilia Gray (based on Emma)

Emma Gold may not have any family to keep her company during the holidays, but she takes comfort in her matchmaking abilities. However, she fears her efforts to pair up members of the bridal party at her best friend’s wedding may have gone awry amid her confusing feelings for and competitive banter with Lance Knightley, whose bar is next to her flower shop and whose kiss under the mistletoe she can’t forget.

“It’s a Wonderful Latte” by Jessica Grey (based on Mansfield Park)

Mansfield Perk manager Evie and her best friend Frank find themselves at odds when the Piper siblings solicit their help for a fundraiser. Not sure what to do about her new relationship-going-nowhere and her complicated feelings for Frank, Evie needs the help of Jane Austen herself, who uses a bit of Christmas magic to help Evie realize love (and the real meaning of the novel Mansfield Park).

“Pride & Presents” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Liz Bennet is ready to take the reins at the Longbourn Community Center and enable her father to retire. She hopes for a Christmas to remember, with the help of basketball star Charles Bingley. Meanwhile, his lawyer friend Will Darcy has Liz all out of sorts, and he certainly made a bad first impression, so when he asks her out, she is shocked and turns him down. And then the fantastic Christmas she has planned for the children starts to crumble, along with her family’s grasp on Longbourn, and Liz must swallow her pride and realize she may not be such a good judge of character after all.

As with Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet, I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, and again, I loved how they were connected in little ways, through the Mansfield Perk coffee shop and Cate’s Creations. In fact, this time it’s too hard for me to choose a favorite story! I also love how these are modern takes on Austen’s novels and how they aren’t straight retellings, and even though the stories are short, I was satisfied with all of the endings. I hope to squeeze more holiday reading in before the new year, but if I don’t have time, I’ll be thankful to have ended on a bright note. I’m looking forward to reading the other Holidays with Jane collections next year!

Merry Christmas!!

Disclosure: Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer is from my personal library.

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trick-or-sweet

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Jane laughed, “I know exactly what you mean! That’s the beauty of novels, isn’t it? How well fiction can illustrate and even reflect everyday life. I never open a novel without reading about someone I know — and often meet people I’m already familiar with from the pages of a book.”

(from “Once Upon a Story” in Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet)

Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet is a collection of six Halloween-themed stories based on each of Jane Austen’s novels.

“Must Be Magic” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Persuasion)

Anne Elliot is still learning how to control her powers — the powers that cost her the love of Fareed Walia eight years ago when she turned down an offer from him in order to find herself — when her family is forced to sell Kellynch House. Fareed comes back into her life at the same time as a dark figure from Anne’s past seeking a powerful talisman and revenge.

“Once Upon a Story” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Northanger Abbey)

College student Catie meets a pair of curious sisters at a coffee house as she attempts to piece together what went wrong at the annual Fall-o-Ween festival. Her research about the Battlefield Legend may have cost her the friendship of the Tilney family and the man she loves.

“Insensible” by Cecilia Gray (based on Sense and Sensibility)

Betrayed by her parents, Miriam Dashwood’s life and the family’s business, Dashing Events, are in shambles. She scrambles to pull off the ultimate Halloween party for Brandon Firestone’s law firm as she navigates her confusing feelings for him and the excitement of a motorcycle ride with the bad boy rocker from the band Willow Bee.

“Emma Ever After” by Melissa Buell (based on Emma)

Emma Woodhouse is planning the annual Fall Ball to benefit the charity in her late mother’s name and decides it would be a great idea to auction off local eligible bachelors. Her friend Grant Knightley is skeptical of the plan, her matchmaking abilities, and TV show host Frank Hill, who may or may not have his sights set on Emma.

“Mansfield Unmasked” by Jennifer Becton (based on Mansfield Park)

In a mash-up of Mansfield Park and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pug — Lady Bertram’s furry friend at the Mansfield Park Boarding House — wants to use his cupid magic to help his friend, Pryce, but things get all mixed up at an outrageous, last-minute Halloween party.

“Beyond Midnight” by Jessica Grey (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Will Harper loses a bet to his sister and must attend the high school’s Trick or Sweet dance dressed in the costume of her choice: Mr. Darcy. Things get very uncomfortable for Will when he insults Elena Marquez, who is unlike any girl he’s ever liked before, and he worries the magic between them will be lost when the dance is over and he takes off the Darcy costume.

All of the stories in Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet are fun, humorous, and romantic, not to mention quick and satisfying. The stories are connected in small ways, namely the Mansfield Perk coffee house, which I really wish existed! I enjoyed all of the stories, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be probably be “Insensible,” as I really found myself drawn to Miriam and Brandon’s sweet relationship and how they both changed over the course of the story. All of these authors did an admirable job setting the autumn/Halloween scene and retelling important aspects of Austen’s novels in just a handful of pages, making them modern and very different (in a good way) at the same time. I can’t wait to read the rest of the Holidays with Jane collections!

Disclosure: Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet is from my personal library.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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last adventure

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

Violet’s gaze was frank and open, with a hint of interest. It was similar to the penetrating look often seen in Sir Percy’s eyes. This was no simpering miss; this was a woman-in-waiting, mature and intelligent beyond her years. Her full lips smiled in honest approval — approval of him.

A strong stirring filled Frederick’s being. It was more than simple desire. He needed this girl to think well of him.

(from The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel)

Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, is inspired by both The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It also is a companion novel to Caldwell’s The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, but it is a standalone novel. In fact, I’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel — just searched for a detailed summary online — and I had no trouble following the story.

The novel opens with a bang: Captain Frederick Tilney, the heir of Northanger Abbey, is challenged to a duel over Isabella Thorpe, and then his close friend, Colonel Sir John Buford, cut ties with him until he sees the error of his ways, takes responsibility for his shortcomings, and essentially grows up. Frederick is not a scoundrel like Wickham, but he needs to sever ties with some unsavory people of his acquaintance.

When he is reacquainted with Violet Blakeney, the sister of his longtime friend, George, Frederick realizes he wants to be a better man. However, he has a lot to live up to in the eyes of her father, Sir Percy Blakeney — the retired Scarlet Pimpernel — and Frederick’s fumbles and missteps raise Sir Percy’s ire. While Frederick works to earn Sir Percy’s favor and become worthy of his daughter, an M. Lafarge in Paris is scheming to put an end to the Scarlet Pimpernel once and for all. When Violet encounters trouble on a holiday to Paris, will Sir Percy accept Frederick’s help to save the woman they both love?

Caldwell does a great job mixing in characters from various Austen novels — the Darcys, the Tilneys, and Colonel Brandon, among others, all make an appearance — and it was exciting to read an Austen-inspired sequel that wasn’t about Pride and Prejudice  for a change. I can’t comment on Caldwell’s interpretations of the characters from The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I found them thoroughly enjoyable — from Sir Percy’s wit and his passionate relationship with his wife to the strong bonds of the Blakeney family and Lady Marguerite’s refusal to stay quiet when her husband is being stubborn and foolish.

In The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Caldwell seamlessly merges The Scarlet Pimpernel and Northanger Abbey into an exciting adventure novel led by an aging hero whose mind is as sharp as ever and a young man who is not inclined to sit idle. There’s plenty of action to balance out the more romantic aspects of the story, and if I had to find something I didn’t like, I would only say there are places in the story where the pace slows down just a bit, though that’s a minor quibble. Overall, I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be a delightful tale full of interesting characters, a heartwarming love story, some history, a dash of humor, and quite a bit of danger. I hope Caldwell revisits these characters again in the future.

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Giveaway

Jack Caldwell is generously offering a copy of The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally. If the winner is from the U.S., there is a choice between an ebook (mobi or epub) and a paperback. If the winner is outside the U.S., he/she will receive an ebook. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about this novel. The giveaway will close Sunday, September 4. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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then comes winter

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

What I did know was that I needed to go to that party. I was trying to be Elizabeth, not Fanny, after all. Fanny would stay at home and pine after her cousin (gross). Elizabeth would go and have fun, be witty, and impress men with her “fine eyes.”

(from Then Comes Winter, “Becoming Fanny” by Melanie Stanford)

Quick summary: Then Comes Winter is the second short-story anthology from Meryton Press, with stories inspired by the winter season and Jane Austen. There are a mix of modern-day re-imaginings and Regency-era stories, from a Northanger Abbey-inspired story set in Tahoe to a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story that has Elizabeth Bennet running a successful Italian restaurant. There’s something for everyone in this collection!

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the Austen connection, of course, but I also really enjoyed the summer-themed short-story anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, so I just had to read the winter-themed one, too. And it’s the perfect time of year for a collection of stories that can be enjoyed by the Christmas tree with a cup of hot chocolate.

What I liked: The selection of stories was perfect, and I enjoyed them all. The anthology introduced me to several new authors, and again, editor Christina Boyd did an excellent job ensuring plenty of variety and a seamless flow from story to story. It would be hard for me to select a favorite story, but some that stood out were “Holiday Mix Tape” by Beau North and Brooke West, a modern-day take on Persuasion, “A Man Whom I Can Really Love” by Natalie Richards, a unique retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and “The Unexpected Gift” by Erin Lopez, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired tale in which Georgiana Darcy refuses to let her brother give up on love.

What I disliked: Nothing at all!

Final thoughts: Then Comes Winter is a perfect addition to my small library of holiday-themed books and would make a perfect gift for fans of Austen-inspired fiction. I’m very picky when it comes to short stories because I often feel like I’m left hanging at the end, but both Meryton Press anthologies are full of stories that leave readers satisfied. Not once did I think something was missing or that a story would have been better suited as a novel. It’s a delightful collection that can be read a little at a time amid all the holiday chaos.

Disclosure: I received Then Comes Winter 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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Sun-Kissed

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

“You honestly expect me to splash about in the brine, naked as the day I was born?” Darcy scoffed.  “I think not.”

“Prig.”

“Just because I prefer privacy and prudence does not signify I am prudish.  I swim — without clothing, I’ll have you know — at Pemberley Lake.”

(from Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, “Spyglasses & Sunburns” by J. Marie Croft)

Quick Summary: Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer is Meryton Press’ first short-story anthology featuring eight feel-good tales of summer, most of which involve Jane Austen’s novels and characters in some way.  Included in the collection are several takes on Pride and Prejudice, from a young Darcy’s education in becoming a great lover to Anne de Bourgh’s splash in the sea at Sanditon to the confessions of foolishness and love at a masquerade ball.  Sun-Kissed also features modern-day takes on Persuasion and Northanger Abbey set on the beach and a sweet non-Austen-related story about how a chance encounter can turn one’s life upside down.

Why I wanted to read it: Short stories, particularly lighthearted, romantic stories with a Jane Austen connection, sound perfect for the beach…or at least when you’re dreaming about a beach excursion.

What I liked: The selection of stories was fantastic.  I enjoyed the mix of period and modern-day stories and the mix of new-to-me authors and authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past.  I also was impressed that Sanditon was included; Austen’s unfinished novel about a seaside resort begs to be included in a summer anthology, and it was nice to see those characters mingling with characters from Pride and Prejudice.  I loved or at least really liked every story in the collection, and despite their brevity, I felt like I really got to know the characters, and each had a satisfying ending.

What I disliked: That there were only eight stories in the anthology.  Don’t get me wrong, the anthology was the perfect length, but once I was immersed in the collection, I didn’t want it to end.

Final thoughts: Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer is the perfect summer read for fans of Austen-inspired fiction, with a little something for everyone.  Hats off to the editor, Christina Boyd, for helping to create an anthology that flows beautifully from story to story and provides enough variety to both satisfy readers and keep them wanting more.  Although I didn’t read this book at the beach, these authors and their delightful tales transported me to the sun and surf at least for a few hours.

Meryton Press will be releasing a holiday-romance-themed anthology late this fall. The short story contest for that volume is now open for submissions. Click here for further details: Official Rules

Disclosure: I received Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer 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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