Posts Tagged ‘sense and sensibility’


Source: Review copy from author

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

(from Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey)

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

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

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


About Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey

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

Then she disappears.

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

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

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

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

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


About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

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

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

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

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

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



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

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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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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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sense & sensibility

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

Marianne could trust.  She trusted her instincts; she trusted those dear to her; she trusted her emotions and her passions.  She drank deep, you could see that; she squeezed every drop of living out of all the elements that mattered to her.  It made her careless sometimes, of course it did, but it was a wonderfully rich and rapt way to be.

And I, Elinor, said silently to herself, am not rich or rapt in the very slightest.

(from Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility)

Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility is the first book to be released as part of The Austen Project, in which well-known authors have been recruited to put a modern-day spin on the novels of Jane Austen.  I have mixed feelings about this project.  Austen-inspired novels are my guilty pleasure, and I love how Austen’s stories and characters are timeless.  However, I’m not too keen on the use of Austen’s original titles; those are hers and hers alone, and there’s no reason why these modern updates can’t have their own, original titles.  Still, I couldn’t wait to see what these authors would come up with, and so I eagerly delved into Trollope’s rendition of Sense and Sensibility.

Trollope closely follows the original plot: Henry Dashwood dies, and Norland Park is left to his son from a previous marriage.  John Dashwood’s insufferable wife, Fanny, convinces him that his “stepmother,” Belle (who wasn’t officially married to his father in this version), and his half-sisters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret must move out and that they will be fine on what little money his father left them.  The women take up residence in a faraway cottage belonging to a distant cousin, dependent on the kindness of Sir John Middleton and his gossipy mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings.  Elinor, the sensible Dashwood girl, is the only one to recognize that they need an income, and despite her desire to finish architectural school, she finds a job, while her flighty artist mother and melodramatic musician sister, Marianne, spend much of their time whining about their circumstances and pining for home.

Of course, there are romantic entanglements; Elinor has bonded with Fanny’s brother, Ed Ferrars, who is overwhelmed by family obligations to marry well and choose a respectable career, while Marianne falls hopelessly and desperately in love with John “Wills” Willoughby, who sweeps her off her feet (literally and figuratively), and dismisses the kindhearted, generous Colonel Bill Brandon because she finds him old and boring.  When their relationships fall apart, it becomes clear that one has too much sense and the other too much sensibility, and what they both need is a happy medium.

Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility is a quick read, but I missed Austen’s rich characterizations, which perfectly balance the seriousness of characters like Elinor and Colonel Brandon with the exuberance of Sir John (“Jonno” here) and the ridiculousness of Mrs. Jennings and her daughter, Charlotte Palmer, to name a few.  Trollope’s characters are all a little too much, to the point where they become more annoying than humorous.  The stiff dialogue and long-winded sentences, especially at the beginning, made it hard for me to connect with the characters at first, though Trollope does a good job showing how trying it can be to put up with crazy relatives.

There were a few touches that I enjoyed, particularly Bill Brandon’s use of Delaford as a rehabilitation home for drug addicts, but I wish the book felt more modern.  There were plenty of mentions of fast cars, iPods, texting, and even humiliating YouTube videos, but they didn’t always work when placed alongside more outdated beliefs.  Lucy Steele was still hunting for a man with money, Belle and Marianne had no problem mooching off Jonno and Mrs. J instead of finding jobs, and even Elinor’s argument that happiness shouldn’t depend on a man doesn’t hold up when she spends the entire novel pining for Ed.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I didn’t enjoy Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility because I did.  Her portrayal of Margaret as a sullen 13-year-old who lost her father and was torn away from her friends when the family relocated was spot on, and Colonel Brandon was a more attractive hero in this version — so much so that I actually was rooting for him and Elinor to fall in love at one point.  His relationship with Marianne was much more realistic in Trollope’s version, as I’ve always wondered about how quickly Marianne attaches herself to him in the original novel.  Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility was fast-paced and fun overall, and I appreciate that Trollope strove to stay true to Austen.  I just wonder if Sense and Sensibility might simply be more difficult to adapt to the present day, though I haven’t read any other modern-day re-tellings for comparison.  (If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility tour. To follow the tour, click here.

Disclosure: I received Sense & Sensibility from Harper for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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old friends and new fancies

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

Elizabeth’s forecast created much amusement, and Miss Crawford said, “Everything I hear beforehand of Lady Catherine is very alarming to a stranger like myself.  I shall have to have caught a bad cold before her reception next week, for I shall not have the courage to appear and play.”

“Oh, no, Miss Crawford, you must appear,” said Darcy.  “We are all too bad, with our jokes about her, for really she means to be very kind.  But we have got into shocking ways since my wife married into the family.”

“On the contrary, I think I have educated you all admirably.”

(from Old Friends and New Fancies, pages 31-32)

Written in 1913 and published the following year, Old Friends and New Fancies is considered the first-ever Jane Austen sequel.  Sybil G. Brinton manages to believably bring together characters from all six of Austen’s novels to create happily-ever-afters for several secondary characters.  The book centers on the romantic ups and downs of Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice), whose broken engagement in the first chapter leads to some awkward moments as they try to find true love elsewhere.  Colonel Fitzwilliam and the happily married Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy make their annual visit to Bath, where Lady Catherine de Bourgh mingles with characters from the other novels.

Mrs. Robert Ferrars and Anne Steele (Sense and Sensibility) are desperate to gain Lady Catherine’s approval, and their loose lips churn up events that Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park) would rather forget, separating her from the man she loves and making her vulnerable to the attentions of the obnoxiously vain Sir Walter Elliot (Persuasion) as he seeks a beautiful, well-to-do second wife.

Meanwhile, Kitty Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) is living it up in London as the protégé of Emma Knightley (Emma), who still fancies herself a matchmaker.  Back at Pemberley, Elizabeth and Georgiana warn Kitty not to assume the subject of her infatuation will make her an offer of marriage, but that doesn’t stop Kitty from confiding in the obnoxiously gossipy Mrs. Jennings (Sense and Sensibility) — a move that threatens her happiness and that of Georgiana.

Nearly every important character in Austen’s novels is at least mentioned in Old Friends and New Fancies, with a list included at the beginning of the book for reference.  Although I had to pay attention to follow the mingling of the characters, I never felt lost or overwhelmed.  I’m glad I waited until I finished all of Austen’s novels before delving into this one, but I suppose you could still follow and enjoy it with at least a working knowledge of Austen’s plots and characters.

Bringing together characters from six novels is very ambitious, but Brinton makes it seem easy.  The characters meet in believable circumstances and forge convincing relationships, and Brinton deftly knits together numerous plot threads into a story that captivated me from the very beginning.  The story branches out from two endearing but struggling characters, Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Brinton has fleshed them out so that they truly do feel like old friends.

Old Friends and New Fancies is one of the best Austen sequels I’ve read so far.  I had so much fun revisiting these characters and imagining a world where they could all live together.  If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if characters from one Austen novel hopped into the pages of another, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on this book.

Book 10 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: Old Friends and New Fancies is from my personal library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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S&S graphic novel

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

The Marvel Illustrated version of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility collects the five comic book series by Nancy Butler and Sonny Liew (illustrator) in a single volume.  This graphic novel is a retelling of the classic novel, with the basic plot points condensed into dialogue and accompanied by a blend of serious and humorous illustrations to emphasize the different sides of the various characters.

I think this is my favorite of the Austen graphic novel adaptations so far (read my reviews of Emma and Pride & Prejudice).  Butler simplifies the text for the graphic novel format, and at the same time, enables readers to really get to know the characters.  From Elinor’s reserve to Marianne’s overwhelming emotion, from Fanny Dashwood’s arrogance and greed to Mrs. Jennings’ tendency to gossip, from Edward Ferrars’ morals to Colonel Brandon’s quiet suffering to Willoughby’s impropriety, Butler does a great job displaying the essential truths of Austen’s characters, and coupled with Liew’s detailed drawings and charming, almost doll-like portrayals, they are brought to life.

However, there were times that the artwork bothered me.  In some scenes, Elinor’s head is elongated and looks ridiculous, and Liew occasionally incorporates chibi figures, which add some humor but also make the illustrations inconsistent.  Butler also acknowledges in the author’s note at the beginning that she created some of the speeches in her adaptation because there was more narration than dialogue in Austen’s novel.  But neither the artwork or added dialogue detracted from my enjoyment of the book.  I expected Butler to make such changes given the graphic novel format, and there were times that I was so involved in the story that I realized I was paying little attention to the illustrations!

Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen novel I read (back when I was in high school), and Butler’s adaptation reminds me that it’s time for a re-read.  I really enjoyed it, but it made me long for Austen’s writing, particularly her rich observations of human behavior and social interaction.  Overall, I think these graphic novels are a fun and fresh way for readers (especially young ones) to acquaint themselves with Jane Austen and learn that the classics can be very entertaining.

Disclosure: I borrowed Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility (Marvel Illustrated) from the public library.

© 2013 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 Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s not about the plots, I wanted to cry out.  It’s about the subtle commentary of the narrative perspective, the cutting inflections, the linguistic smirks!  It’s about those twists of the satiric knife that you can read right past unless you’re really attentive — it’s about the ostensibly innocent reporting of dialogue that nonetheless directs how we interpret that dialogue through the seamlessly clever framing.  All of this I wanted to say, and so much more.

Su voz.”  In Spanish, this was all that came out.  “Her voice.”

(from All Roads Lead to Austen)

Amy Elizabeth Smith, a college writing and literature professor in California, embarked on a yearlong journey to Central and South America to immerse herself in the culture and host Jane Austen book clubs to see how Austen’s works translated into Spanish and whether the people would identify with her characters…and even if they threatened bodily harm to certain characters that typically get Smith’s students’ blood boiling.  In All Roads Lead to Austen, Smith chronicles her trip, including the book clubs, excessive book shopping, the new friends she made, episodes of loneliness, cultural misunderstandings, and even her bouts with tropical disease.

Smith reads Pride and Prejudice in Guatamala and Ecuador, Sense and Sensibility in Mexico and Chile, and Emma in Paraguay and Argentina and recounts in much detail the discussions of each book group.  The members of each group were so diverse — ranging from working-class to academics and including both men and women of all ages — so it was especially interesting to see how they approached Austen, whether they focused on her characters, her writing, or the society her characters inhabited and whether the discussion would turn to their personal connections to the stories.  Some of the groups focused on Austen’s portrayal of parenting, some on values or the characters’ lack of employment, and others explained connections between the novels and the race and class disparities they see even today.  It was equally interesting to read their reactions to the popularity of Austen in other countries and their thoughts on the numerous sequels and spin-off books.

But All Roads Lead to Austen isn’t just about the Austen book groups.  Smith also details her relationship with a taxi driver in Puerto Vallarta named Diego, and readers have to wait until the end to find out if he turns out to be her Mr. Darcy.  Her relationship with her mother, who worries about her traveling to exotic lands that are not always safe, is a common theme, as is her quest to read the best-known authors and books in each of the countries she visits.

I’m not big on memoirs, but I really enjoyed this one — and not just because of the Jane Austen connection.  Smith’s narrative voice is so personable that it’s almost like traveling with a friend (who isn’t afraid to fess up to having a bad attitude at times or making snap judgments of people despite what she’s learned from Austen’s novels).  I know so little about the countries she visited, so I just ate up all the historical tidbits and loved seeing how she interacted with the people and adapted with each move.  Because you get to know Smith and become invested in her travels and her Austen project, you can’t help but admire her courage in traveling alone and meeting new people, and you enjoy watching her and her relationships evolve from country to country.

All Roads Lead to Austen is perfect for readers who love Jane Austen, travel memoirs, and/or book club discussions.  I finished the book wishing I was a more adventurous person, with the money to travel so extensively, of course.  What an awesome experience it would be to spend time in different countries and experience difficult cultures, learning to speak the language and sharing a love of books.

Disclosure: I received All Roads Lead to Austen from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2012 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 Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Buford grunted.  “You and Denny have reconciled, I take it?”

“Yes, he is a good sort of fellow, in his way,” Fitzwilliam allowed.

“Even though he is friends with Wickham?” Buford goaded him.

Richard’s eyes were on his plate.  “I suppose I cannot hold that against him.  After all, I eat with you.”

It took a full glass of wine to relieve Sir John after he choked on his food.

(from The Three Colonels, page 305 in the uncorrected advance copy; finished version may be different)

Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is a sequel of sorts to both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  It focuses on Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility, and Colonel Sir John Buford, a character of Caldwell’s creation.  With Napoleon exiled to Elba, the three friends have returned to England to pursue political careers, manage their estates, and focus on matters of the heart.

Colonel Brandon is smitten with his infant daughter, Joy, and content in his marriage to Marianne.  Colonel Fitzwilliam must visit his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh to figure out why her estate is on the skids.  Colonel Buford, notorious for his liaisons with married women of the ton, sets out to reform himself and find a wife.

When Napoleon escapes from Elba, the three colonels must once again go off to war.  Colonel Brandon wonders why they need an old man like himself to fight and leaves Delaford Manor in the capable hands of his wife.  Colonel Buford must leave behind his new bride, Caroline Bingley, and Colonel Fitzwilliam leaves many things unsaid to Anne de Bourgh as all hell breaks loose at Rosings Park.  All three women understand the importance of being strong for their men, as war is more than enough for them to worry about, but they struggle to come to terms with the fact that the colonels might never come back.

Caldwell does a great job bringing all these characters together, all of them connected by friendship or kinship to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, who play an important part in the story but stay mostly in the background.  Where The Three Colonels shines is in its transformation of Anne de Bourgh from a meek, sickly girl to a force to be reckoned with and in creating a repentant, sympathetic Caroline Bingley.  (How delighted I was, though, to see that Caldwell left some ice in Caroline’s veins when it came to a certain Mrs. Norris.)

The Three Colonels goes beyond the novels of Jane Austen to take readers onto the battlefield, where even Wickham makes an appearance.  After reading what these men experienced, you can’t picture them merely as handsome uniforms attracting the attention of ladies seeking dance partners.  Caldwell adds substance to what otherwise might be only a romance novel pairing up Austen’s secondary characters.

I appreciate the touch of masculinity that Caldwell adds to Austen’s novels in The Three Colonels (as well as Pemberley Ranch), but he pays close attention to his heroines as well.  He addresses the changing roles of women and their dominance in the household, with Brandon’s steward refusing to take orders from Marianne and Anne’s insistence that she help Fitzwilliam compile financial figures for Rosings.  I found so much to love in his treatment of Austen’s characters and enjoyed meeting Colonel Buford, who intrigued me because unlike Darcy, he is a hero with a blemished past.

I never would have thought to make Marianne and Elizabeth good friends in order to bring together the characters from both books, but Caldwell made it work.  Austen fans also will be delighted with references to Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and will want to see how he connects them to Lady Catherine.  The The Three Colonels is humorous and lighthearted, but also serious and touching.  Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I couldn’t put it down, and I sure hope Caldwell is hard at work on another Austen-inspired novel.

Book 4 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Sequel)

Book 12 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Three Colonels from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2012 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 Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

That he had wanted to impress on her the depth of his love for her, to ask her to believe that he still loved her, that he had dared even to suggest that his affections were deeper and stronger than Colonel Brandon’s could have been — in all these claims, Marianne wanted to believe him.  Not because she had spent the intervening years longing for his return, for she had long accepted that he was gone out of her life forever, but because she still wanted to believe that he really had been the romantic young cavalier she had fallen in love with when she was seventeen.  It had been the strongest, most passionate experience of her young life; nothing, certainly not her subsequent marriage, had surpassed the exquisite excitement of that first love, and Marianne wished to treasure it.

(from Expectations of Happiness, page 163 in the ARC; finished version may be different)

I haven’t read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility since 1995, and though I hope to re-read it by the end of the year in honor of the 200th anniversary of its publication, it was a pleasure being reunited with the novel’s characters through “a companion volume” by Rebecca Ann Collins.  When Expectations of Happiness opens, Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars are happily married and living in the parson’s house at Delaford, while her younger sister, Marianne, is living with her husband, Colonel Brandon, in Delaford Manor.  Their youngest sister, Margaret, is now 21, teaching at a ladies’ seminary in Oxfordshire, and living with her close friend, Claire Jones.

With Colonel Brandon away on business in Ireland, Marianne spends her days bored and moping, and Elinor worries that she is unhappy in her marriage.  Marianne always was a romantic, and Elinor is concerned that the feelings she developed for Colonel Brandon after she was jilted by Mr. Willoughby may have worn off.  Elinor is alarmed when she learns that the scoundrel Willoughby is living in a nearby county, and when Marianne is invited on a holiday with the Perceval family, Elinor fears Marianne’s and Willoughby’s paths will cross — and who knows what will happen, with Marianne feeling so low, having already forgiven him for the wrongs he committed, and still longing for a romantic hero?

Knowing how close Marianne is to their mother, Elinor hopes to convince Mrs. Dashwood that Marianne’s reputation and marriage may be in danger.  But Mrs. Dashwood has, much to Elinor’s surprise, proven herself capable of managing a large estate and has taken up residence at Barton Park to help her cousin, Sir John Middleton — who had been kind enough to provide a home for her and her daughters after Mr. Dashwood’s death — recover from the sudden death of his wife, Lady Middleton.  Mrs. Dashwood is so preoccupied with her new role that she pushes Elinor’s concerns aside, and Elinor — who feels she cannot even confide in Edward — feels an obligation to protect Marianne but doesn’t know how.

At the same time that she continues the stories of Elinor and Marianne, who were the focus of Austen’s novel, Collins also creates a story for Margaret — a young women without a fortune but much intelligence who enjoys history and travel and hopes to become a writer.  Having been so focused on her studies, Margaret hasn’t had time for love, but a trip to the south of France with Claire leads her to Daniel Brooke, an Oxford historian, who proves to be her intellectual equal, but nothing is easy when it comes to matters of the heart.

Expectations of Happiness breathes new life into Austen’s beloved characters, and while Edward and Colonel Brandon sit on the sidelines, the Dashwood sisters, as expected, do just fine in the spotlight.  Collins stays true to Austen’s characters, with Elinor once again embodying all that is sensible, Marianne getting caught up in her emotions and romantic ideals, and all the secondary characters playing their same roles.  Additionally, she transforms Margaret into one of the strong heroines Austen fans have long appreciated, and she even creates a host of interesting and original characters, with a list at the end of the book so readers can distinguish between Austen’s characters and those introduced by Collins.  Moreover, fans of Collins’ Pemberley Chronicles Series will be happy to see Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, and her husband make an appearance.

I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, but it has never been my favorite Austen novel.  Until reading Expectations of Happiness, I never really thought about all the possibilities for variations of the novel, but Collins certainly helped me to see the characters’ potential.  Her writing has an Austen feel to it, which enabled me to lose myself in the story, and what I enjoyed the most was watching Marianne’s character evolve.  Of the three Dashwood sisters, I think Marianne had the most to learn about life and love.  Having been so madly in love with Willoughby, it’s doubtful that Colonel Brandon’s affection changed everything for her overnight.  I’d always been skeptical of their happily ever after, since she was so young and on the rebound, and I think Collins does a good job portraying Marianne’s confusion when she comes face-to-face with Willoughby after nearly seven years.  Knowing Marianne, it was easy to see how she could forget everything she knew about him and get lost in the moment and the what-ifs.

Expectations of Happiness is a commendable sequel to Sense and Sensibility, one that I think Austen herself would have enjoyed.  I definitely recommend it for fans of Austen variations, especially those who think Pride and Prejudice shouldn’t get all the attention.

Disclosure: I received Expectations of Happiness from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2011 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 Penguin Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

Austen never married, but she did have children, and many more than eight or eleven.  Their names are Emma and Elizabeth and Catherine, Anne and Fanny and Elinor and Marianne.  Their names are Henry and Edward and Wentworth and Willoughby, Mr. Collins and Miss Bates and Mr. Darcy.  They were not long-lived, they are ageless.  Had she married Tom or Harris, she might have been happy, she might have been rich, she might have been a mother, she might have even been long-lived herself.  She might have been all of these things — but we would not have been who we are, and she would not have been Jane Austen.

(from A Jane Austen Education, pages 245-246)

As a lifelong lover of books, I truly believe that we can learn a lot from reading, and not just in the sense that we broaden our knowledge on various topics.  I believe we can learn profound truths about life and change the course of our lives, for the written word has that kind of power.  William Deresiewicz was a graduate student at Columbia studying literature.  He was interested in mingling with the Manhattan elite, talked about politics and other topics without really caring what other people had to say, and had few romantic relationships that progressed beyond sex.  When his professor assigned Jane Austen’s Emma, Deresiewicz had no interest in reading what he expected to be a boring book without a plot.  But it didn’t take long for him to see Austen’s genius and apply the lessons he learned from Austen’s novels to his personal and professional lives.

Each chapter in A Jane Austen Education is devoted to one of Austen’s novels and what he believes is the major point Austen wanted to get across.  In Emma, Deresiewicz learned that life is about the little, everyday things.  In Pride and Prejudice, he learned that making mistakes is part of growing up.  In Northanger Abbey, he realized that you have to learn how to learn and how to love things and that life is full of surprises.  In Mansfield Park, he began to understand how wisdom is more important than wit and discovered connections between the snobby Bertrams and the crowd with which he was involved.  In Persuasion, he learned about true friendship, and in Sense and Sensibility, he learned about growing — not falling — in love.

Deresiewicz shows that Austen’s novels are about so much more than unexpected romance, the need for women to marry and marry well, and the obvious divisions between country folk and high society.  Since taking literary theory and other courses for my B.A. in English, I’ve long wondered if academics analyze things too much, looking for symbolism and statements on society that aren’t there.  For instance, I took a creative writing course in which we were required to write a poem and present it to the class.  I had no idea what to write about, but on my way to my next class, a crow walked across the path in front of me.  My poem “A Single Crow” was about someone watching a crow walk across their path on a brisk autumn day, and my professor went on and on about how I did a great job incorporating symbols of death, etc., when it seriously was a poem about a crow!  Of course, I didn’t let my professor know that.  But it made me wonder whether we sometimes read into things too much, and I question whether authors make detailed plans to incorporate symbols into their books or whether it’s just a coincidence or a matter of interpretation.  I think it’s probably a little of both.  In A Jane Austen Education, Deresiewicz makes convincing arguments and supports his reasoning behind the things he believes Austen was seeking to accomplish in her works.

A Jane Austen Education provides a candid look into the life of a young man who was lost and how Jane Austen helped him find himself and happiness.  Deresiewicz doesn’t hide his faults; he is brutally honest to himself and his readers, and I must admire him for that.  It was refreshing to read about Austen’s novels from the point of view of a male reader — and one who didn’t even want to read her books.  A Jane Austen Education is perfect for readers who have been touched by Austen’s words, enjoy light memoirs or reading about reading, and even those who haven’t yet read Austen, as Deresiewicz doesn’t give away the endings to the novels.  It’s a beautiful tribute to an author whose wit has been dazzling readers for centuries.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in the blog tour for A Jane Austen Education. To check out the other tour dates, click here.

Disclosure: I received A Jane Austen Education from Penguin Press for review.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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