Perception & Illusion, a Regency romance by Catherine Kullmann — review and excerpt

One of the great pleasures of reading JAFF is that I have also discovered Regency-era romance fiction. In fact I just finished reading a book in this genre: Perception & Illusion by Catherine Kullmann. Today I have not only a review for you but an excerpt as well … and a couple of extra treats.

Blurbing the book:

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Cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, Lallie Grey accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.

Perception & Illusion charts Lallie’s and Hugo’s voyage through a sea of confusion and misunderstanding. Can they successfully negotiate the Rocks of Jealousy and the Shoals of Perplexity to arrive at the Bay of Delight or will they drift inexorably towards Cat & Dog Harbour or the Dead Lake of Indifference?

Catherine Kullmann’s skillful evocation of the Regency period rings true, as do her protagonists’ predicaments. It is a joy to step into this other world with her.

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Buy at amazon.com

The excerpt:

 

Perception & Illusion by Catherine Kullmann

Chapter One

The Great Ocean of Love represents a period of life that all persons are supposed at some time or another to pass.

Lallie knew the instant she set foot in the house that her father was making one of his rare visits to Alwood. It was difficult to define what had changed. The house was quieter, almost unnaturally so and the atmosphere was charged with a peculiar tension.

“Excuse me, Miss Grey.”

John, their only footman, noiselessly closed the door to the servants’ quarters and carefully steadied a tray of decanters and glasses before carrying it to the library. He wore his best livery. Balancing the tray on one hand, he slowly turned the door knob so that it didn’t squeak. Everyone knew that Mr Grey would not tolerate anything less than perfection and more than one servant had been turned off immediately for failing to meet his standards. It was as if he needed to assert his position as head of the household, despite the fact that he was the most distant of husbands and fathers, Lallie reflected as she hurried to the schoolroom. Her stepmother was not inclined to stand on ceremony at home, but her father would expect his younger children to make a formal visit to the drawing-room before dinner.

Her half-brother James, who was entertaining his younger sisters with stories of his prowess at cricket during the recent summer half, stood awkwardly at her entrance. He had shot up since they had last seen him and was not yet comfortable in this new body. “Lallie,” he reddened at his new deep tone, “will you help me later with my neckcloth? You know how my father is.” She smiled warmly at him. “Of course I will. Beatrice and Eleanor, come with me now, if you please. Once you are ready, you may sit quietly in my room while I change my gown. I’ll come to you then, James and we may all go down together.”

Robert Grey was a slim gentleman of medium height, his clothes the epitome of restrained perfection. His curly fair hair was clipped close and brushed forward a la Caesar, a modish style that suggested a nimbus of laurel leaves crowning his high forehead. The head so embellished was habitually cocked a little to one side while the faint curve to his lips spoke of a jest that only he could appreciate.

“Good God,” he said lightly, when his son followed his sisters into the drawing-room.

“What have we here? A hobbledehoy?”

“Dear James has grown so much, hasn’t he?” Mrs Grey said fondly, ignoring the boy’s

furious blush. “It won’t be long before he’s looking down on you, Robert. He takes after my father, of course.”

Lallie bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself smiling at her father’s petulant expression but something must have betrayed her inner amusement and his gaze swung to her.

“I trust you have been behaving yourself, miss.”

He might have been addressing a recalcitrant ten-year-old instead of a lady of almost twenty-four and Lallie’s chin went up. She met his eyes calmly. “I always do, sir.” He nodded dismissively and went to pour himself a glass of madeira. He sipped, then gestured to the pianoforte. “What have you prepared for our delight this evening, Eleanor?”

The girl blanched and glanced pleadingly at her elder sister. “Come, I’ll turn the pages for you.” As they bent over the music, Lallie whispered, “You play very well and even if you make a mistake, he won’t notice unless you stop. Remember how we practised keeping going?”

At Eleanor’s nod, Lallie spread open a sonatina by Clementi and positioned herself so that she partially shielded the child from her father’s gaze. She noticed that Mrs Grey was talking quietly to her husband on the opposite side of the room.

“He’s not really paying attention,” she hissed to her sister who sighed with relief and plunged into her music.

“Well done, brat,” James exclaimed as soon as she had finished. By the time his mother had finished scolding him for his unseemly language and he had apologised to her and to Eleanor, their father had grown weary of domesticity and dismissed the schoolroom contingent. Lallie was obliged to remain and follow her parents into the dining-room. She could imagine the consternation caused in the kitchen by Mr Grey’s unexpected arrival— while she and Mrs Grey usually sat down to a simple dinner of one course each evening, he would expect two courses with removes and a dessert.

Tonight he surveyed the table critically through his quizzing glass but, apart from complimenting his wife on the Maintenon cutlets, did not comment further on the meal, apparently content to satisfy her curiosity regarding the latest on-dits. He finally launched into a description of the Prince Regent giving Beau Brummel the cut direct.

Brummel then dished himself completely,” he continued with relish. “He looked at Alvanley and, as cool as you please, asked, ‘Ah, Alvanley, who is your fat friend?’ The Prince will never forgive him. He may be unable to prevent his wife roasting a wax effigy of him in front of her fire, but he will not tolerate such public insolence from one so far beneath him.”

“Nor should he,” Mrs Grey said. “I have little patience with these dandies who give themselves airs and set themselves up as the arbiters of all taste. They have ruined many a girl’s chances by declaring her a quiz on her first appearance so that no-one will have anything to do with her. I even heard of one cub who cut his own father because his parent presented too rustic an appearance. You may imagine how wounded the old gentleman was.”

“That’s disgraceful!” Lallie exclaimed.

Her father waved away her protest. “It is the way of the fashionable world. One either sinks or swims. Of course you know nothing of that.”

“That is hardly my fault, sir,” she retorted, nettled. “If my grandmother had lived I would have made my come-out five years ago.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. “To what avail, I wonder? Remember she had been completely cast off by her family. I once mentioned to her father that I had married the daughter of Lady Anna Staines. Martinborough looked down his nose and said, ‘I wish you joy, sir, but I do not know either lady’. And the Marchioness was for many years Lady of the Bedchamber to Her Majesty, so it is most unlikely that either you or your grandmother would have been received at court or awarded vouchers for Almack’s.”

Silenced, Lallie was grateful that her stepmother rose as soon as Mr Grey had finished speaking.

“We shall leave you to your port.”

“Go to bed, Lallie,” Mrs Grey instructed once the door had closed behind them. “Good night.”

“Good night, ma’am.”

“They say that young Mr Neville is betrothed,” Lallie told her maid as she prepared for bed. “Oh, who to?” Nancy carefully drew the brush through Lallie’s long, curling hair.

“A Miss Eaton. Her father is Sir William Eaton and she has seven and a half thousand pounds.”

Nancy began to braid the dark hair for the night. “That will please his parents, especially his mother. He wouldn’t have done for you, Miss Lallie. He’s too much under his mother’s thumb. What about the curate? Mrs Hersey would make a better mother-in-law.”

“I doubt if he can afford to wed, especially a penniless girl. He must support his mother and two sisters.”

Lallie liked the young clergyman, but was under no illusions about his circumstances and, if she were to be honest, did not feel that spark of attraction for him that she had felt for Lambert Neville. Still, her prospects were so bleak, she wasn’t sure she could reject an honourable gentleman whom she liked and respected, even if she did not love him.

Nancy tied a small ribbon around the end of the thick plait to hold it in place. “Any man would be proud to have you as a wife.”

Lallie looked fondly at her former nurse. As usual, she was dressed in a neat print dress in subdued shades, over which she wore a starched cotton apron and matching fichu that was pinned at her breast with a mourning brooch containing a lock of Lallie’s grandmother’s hair. To Nancy, this was the emblem of her sacred charge to care for Miss Lallie and she wore it as proudly as a soldier would a medal. Her fair hair was pulled severely back from her forehead into a tight bun which was covered by a lawn cap, but her face was still smooth and her blue eyes bright. She had looked like that as long as Lallie could remember.

“How old were you when I came to you?” she asked suddenly.

“Just sixteen, Miss Lallie. I’ll never forget that day. The house was all at sixes and sevens, with you coming so sudden and your poor mother took so bad.”

“And my father? Was he there?”

“He waited with your grandfather in the library. They called him in at the last. We had laid you in her arms, just for a moment, before the end, and she smiled faintly and was gone, poor lady. He looked down at her, said ‘my poor Louisa, lost to me, lost to me’, kissed her brow and left the room.”

Funny, Nancy thought, she had almost forgotten Mr Grey coming into the nursery the next day and standing beside the cradle. He had smiled oddly and said, ‘my daughter, o my ducats, o my daughter,’ and departed. She had thought ‘ducats’ to be a pet name, like ‘duckling’ or ‘ducky’, but Mrs Staines, who had come in behind him, had looked most strange, angry even and she had never heard him use the word again.

“But I had Grandmamma and Grandpapa and you,” Miss Lallie said. “You were younger then than I am now. Did you never want to get married, Nancy?”

“Not really, Miss Lallie. I had my offers, of course,” she said proudly, “but none that would have tempted me to leave the Rectory. Will that be all, Miss?”

“Yes, thank you, Nancy. I’ll sit and read for a while. Good night.”

“Good night, my dear Miss Lallie.” Nancy skimmed her hand over the younger woman’s hair in a familiar caress. While in public she punctiliously denoted her young mistress’s standing as the eldest daughter of the house by addressing her as Miss Grey, in private she made no secret of her devotion to the girl who had been hastily deposited in her arms as a new-born infant while more skilled attendants strove in vain to save her mother’s life.

Lallie drew her shawl more closely around her shoulders and curled up in the big, threadbare armchair. It had long since been removed to the attics but Mrs Grey had raised no objection when her stepdaughter had asked if she might have it brought to her bedroom. Now the chair was Lallie’s refuge. Here she could read or just let her thoughts drift. Her days were fully occupied; she spent the mornings in the schoolroom while the afternoons were devoted to whatever task Mrs Grey might care to allocate to her.

‘We have no place for idle hands here,’ she had said six years previously when Lallie had come to live at Alwood. ‘Your sisters may now benefit from your expensive education and otherwise you will assist me in my household duties. There is always something to be done.’

But once the evening tea-tray had been removed Lallie was excused, especially on those occasions when her father graced them with his presence.

So the squire’s heir was betrothed. She smiled ruefully, remembering how he had dazzled her at his coming of age ball. She had been in alt when he had twice requested her to stand up with him. Not only that, he had called the next day to invite her to drive out with him and his sister. But her stepmother could not spare her and not long afterwards he had departed for London to acquire some ‘town bronze’, as his father had put it. That had been the end of his interest in a provincial miss.

Lallie sighed. How different her life might have been if Grandmamma had not succumbed to that virulent attack of influenza. Her memories of those grim days were all confused. Her father had been sent for but by the time he arrived in Cornwall the funeral was over and he had insisted on leaving the next day, taking her with him. The journey to Sussex had seemed endless; her head had ached the whole time. She had no memory of arriving at Alwood, just what a relief it had been not to be jolted in the carriage. Then she had been very ill; by the time she had been allowed to leave her room, it was as if a curtain had descended, separating her from her previous life.

At least I have Nancy, Lallie thought. What would I have done if my father had not agreed to take her too? And she is so good to stay with me, even though she has to look after the others as well. She might have preferred to remain near her own family.

Downstairs, Robert Grey poured a glass of port for his wife, who had returned to the dining-room. “Otherwise, all is well here?” he asked casually.

“As well as can be. That is good news about young Neville, although his mother was just as opposed to a match between him and Lallie as we were.”

“But that was some years ago.”

“Lallie still harbours a certain tenderness for him, I think, although I warned her at the time that only a bride with a good fortune and of impeccable breeding would satisfy his mother and that she could not lay any claim to her grandmother’s family; in fact to be disowned, as Mrs Staines was, was worse than having no connection. That taint is not, of course, attached to our children,” she finished with a smug smile.

He raised his glass in appreciation. “How old is she now?”

“She’ll be twenty-four next week.”

“The devil she will!”

“Why, Robert, what is the matter?”

“Her trust comes to an end when she is twenty-five. The trustees will write to her directly then, seeking her instructions.”

“Surely you will continue to handle her affairs?”

“She would have to agree. I found her rather pert this evening.”

“She is certainly not as amenable to direction as she once was, especially since she became friendly with the Herseys. They have set up a little literary circle, as they call it, and it would have looked very odd if I had tried to forbid Lallie to join. Don’t forget I have no true authority over her, should she choose to question it. Allowing her a little independence now may help us retain her income and her services. She is sincerely attached to the girls and has proved to be an excellent governess at no expense to us. Remember her trustees also pay her maid’s wages. All in all, Lallie’s presence contributes some one hundred and forty pounds per annum to this household. I should feel it if she were to leave us. Who knows what she may decide to do once she becomes aware that she is heiress to a little competence.”

Her husband looked thoughtful but said no more.

Excerpt Perception & Illusion © Catherine Kullmann 2017

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Really leaves you wanting more, doesn’t it?

And now for my review:

There seem to be trends in historical romance fiction; recently I’ve come across no less than three stories about young ladies of little fortune or dubious parentage (or both) who come into an inheritance of fortune and title to gain a higher place in society. Perception & Illusion is amongst them, and certainly one of the better ones.

The heroine is a lovely, almost penniless young girl with bleak prospects for the future who drifts through a quiet country life … until she meets a young man who is line for a peerage. They fall in love and get married in very short order. After they are married she learns that she is in fact an heiress, and her new husband is concerned that people will think him a fortune-hunter. That is only the first of many misconceptions to which this loving couple succumb; their marriage is a series of cross-purposes that serve to prevent them from finding their true happily ever after.

In one heart-breaking encounter after another, they misinterpret each other’s actions and seem destined to end up like all the other loveless couples of their acquaintance, until a final showdown forces them to face their own failures to understand the other. Will these revelations lead them to a closer and more loving understanding, or will it compel them to admit their marriage was a mistake and push them even further apart?

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What I liked most:

How the author charmingly relates each chapter to the Matrimonial Map.

The way the main characters are drawn as sympathetic but flawed.  My heart really ached for them to learn to better understand each other, because I very much liked both of them. It was impossible not to root for them to find the happiness they deserve.

HoundMam’selle ‘Ubertine (see photo).

Insights into Regency life, and learning some new terms from the era.

A mostly clean read with just enough spice, and with only a very occasional typo.

What I liked least:

The sheer number of characters. Each one was indispensable to the story, but I have to admit that I tend to lose track of characters when there are so many in a story – especially if they have titles and thereby essentially two names (e.g., John Jones, Earl of Smith). Eventually, however, everything fell into place.

In short:

If you like Pride and Prejudice, the ultimate story of two lovers being at cross-purposes, I am certain you will enjoy Perception & Illusion. I know I did. A definite five-star read!

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Catherine’s website is a treasure trove of Regency information and fun stuff. Do stop by!

Your comments, as always, are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. desp-hearts-cover

 

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A peek under Lizzy Bennet’s muslin gown

Some weeks ago I posted a piece entitled “Getting into Mr Darcy’s pants,” about the underwear a Regency gentleman would have worn under his fashionable clothing. Rather than re-post the general overview of fashion and undergarments of the day, you might want to take a moment to re-read the original post.

regency-dressesWhen ladies of the Regency exchanged their previously-fashionable voluminous skirts for a slim, classical Greek-style high-waisted silhouette, their undergarments also altered. Wearing the previously-stylish constructed fashions that essentially re-designed the shape of a woman’s form into something resembling a bell, a lady faced two primary problems. The first was one of real estate: only so many bell-shaped ladies could fit into a given area such as a sidewalk, a shop, a sitting-room sofa, or a carriage. Secondly came the problem of maintaining modesty: one false step, or a less-than cautious entrance into or exit from a carriage, could send the rigidly-constructed frame under one’s dress — and the dress along with it — up into the air in a most revealing position.

regency-dress2The slim lines, and lightweight fabric, of a Regency Empire-style dress presented its own problems. As clothing became lighter and slimmer, ladies began to discard heavy layers of undergarments for the bare minimum required for comfort and modesty. The challenges at this time were also multi-fold: fabric folds would work themselves between a lady’s legs, often aided by a wind or even a light breeze, clingingly revealing a bit more of a lady’s form than was considered proper. Being caught in a light rain that dampened one’s attire could cause a scandalous spectacle! And again, if one was not attentive to how one was moving, or — heaven forfend! — if one tripped or took a fall, the light fabric could easily be blown or otherwise pushed away to expose a lady’s privates. (This, by the way, was the reason why gentlemen preceded ladies when walking up stairs.)

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A simple corset
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A corset with breast supports

Even after adopting the new fashion styles, the basic lady’s undergarment remained the chemise, a simple, unfitted shift-type garment with a rounded neckline and short sleeves that reached to about the knees. It was generally made of light cotton or linen, although it might be fashioned of flannel at colder times of the year. Over the chemise was worn a corset, or stays. As with their male counterparts, ladies wore these to create a slimmer appearance. An important function of a corset was to draw in the hip area, as the slim style of dress required almost a boyish figure below the waist (much as some modern fashion styles have also demanded).

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Full-length petticoat.
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Short or half-petticoat

Corsets might be simple affairs, or they might have supports for the breasts, similar to a modern brassiere. Slim hips did not exclude the preference for a femine bustline! Over this would be a petticoat, either a short petticoat from waist to ankle, which was gathered around the waist with tapes, or a full petticoat with an attached bodice. Again, they were crafted of light fabric except for winter wear. And they were mostly still homemade at this time. Depending on the style of the dress being worn, the petticoat might have a small, light hoop at the bottom to create an A-line shape rather than a straight style.

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Original ladies’ drawers design
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Evolved into this one-piece design

As to drawers … Ladies “borrowed” men’s drawers some time before 1810. Altho’ they were not in regular use at this time, by the 1810s most ladies, at least of the upper and middle classes, were wearing them. Initially these too were homemade; it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that they become available commercially. Reaching from waist to knees, and fastened with tapes at both points, they were not particularly ornate, as they were not intended to be seen. At least not until Queen Charlotte decided to scandalize society by wearing them somewhat longer and sitting with her legs extended in front of her so glimpses of the embellished bottoms of the drawers could be seen as her skirts lifted slightly. Like the rest of underclothes, these were fashioned of lightweight cotton, linen, silk, stockinette, or sarsenet in summer and flannel in winter. The original ladies’ design comprised two tubes for the legs held together with tapes at the waist; these later evolved into a connected design more like the gentleman’s. Which certainly makes a lot more sense from just about every standpoint.

So perhaps the ladies of the Regency period were not so very different from modern ladies in their fashion choices. I have, however, sometimes wondered about one aspect of the effects of fashion: Was the not-uncommon loss of the mother’s life in childbirth in any way affected by the fashion of mechanically drawing in the hips as tightly as possible? Perhaps I’ll research and report on this aspect in a future posting.

Your comments, as always, are invited.

If you missed it: Part One: Getting into Mr. Darcy’s Pants

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

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Blog tour review: Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey (and a nifty giveaway!)

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Ginger Monette

On January 31st I reviewed Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes — the first book in Ginger Monette’s two-part Darcy’s Hope saga. Find the review here.

Today’s review is for the second volume, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.

Blurbing the book:

1917. On the Western Front of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

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Purchase here

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

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

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth.

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

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that could change everything….

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And my review:

It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst JAFF readers that no matter in what situations Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves, their course of true love never runs smoothly. And so it is here …

silver-music-box2Through a series of misunderstandings that seem to point to Elizabeth’s being involved in a spy ring, and possibly being a target for murder, Darcy and Elizabeth are separated once again when she runs off to protect not only herself but Darcy and his family. Unable to locate her, Darcy accepts a dangerous wartime mission that results in his suffering grievous injuries. His recovery is lengthy and frustrating. Altho’ his nurse takes prodigious care of him and his aunt attempts to match him with her daughter, Darcy heartbreakingly continues to long for Elizabeth. The only tangible memento he has of her is a silver music box that plays their song — Let me call you Sweetheart — and which he keeps with him at all times.

 

A Great-War era version of this popular song.

Ultimately we get our longed-for happily-ever-after in a most delightful way.

What I liked most: The realism of “the war to end all wars” and its effects on our beloved characters. The true-to-Jane-Austen credibility of her characters within this non-canon setting. Skillful interweaving of characters and locations from other of Jane Austen’s stories and from popular non-Austen stories as well, along with satisfying and befitting new characters. Darcy’s heroism in the face of near-certain catastrophe. Plenty of face time for Colonel Fitzwilliam. And of course the delightful and heartwarming ending.

What I liked least: INMSHO, the blurb and the book cover together telegraph a bit too much of the story so the reader more or less knows what to expect. Even so, it was very enjoyable to see how it played out. Also, there were moments of reading when I could not quite suspend disbelief; I’m not going to specify as that would require spoilers, but I am convinced that you will recognize the moments as you read the story. I hope you will do as I did: even with suspended disbelief, continue with the story. It is worth it.

In short: I could hardly put this book down. (I lost a lot of sleep during the reading!) Altho’ the two books are available — and to some extent marketed — as stand-alone stories, for maximum enjoyment I recommend you read the first story before starting on this second. Fortunately, Beauty from Ashes (part one of the saga) is currently being offered at a discounted kindle price to get you started on the road to Darcy’s Hope.

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The Giveaway!

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Each tin of Downton Abbey tea comprises 36 teabags of this collector’s edition and limited-quantity tea. The plum pudding flavour contains: Fine black tea, natural vanilla flavor, cinnamon, natural flavor, natural plum flavor, sloeberries, and elderberries.

To enter the giveaway (sorry, USA residents only):

As my webhost does not seem to work with Rafflecopter, I’m not even going to bother posting the Rafflecopter giveaway link. Instead, I recommend that you visit Babblings of a Bookworm (or any of the other blogs in the blog tour; see list below) to access the Rafflecopter giveaway. And good luck!

If you would like to gain additional entries, just share this post on your Facebook page and/or leave a comment on this blog. (Click Leave a comment above the upper left-hand corner of this post beneath the blog title.)

And do follow the rest of the blog tour for excerpts, interviews, and additional reviews:

Feb 1 The Ardent Reader
Feb 2 From Pemberley to Milton
Feb 3 My Jane Austen Book Club
Feb 4 My Love for Jane Austen
Feb 5 vvb32reads
Feb 6 Just Jane 1813
Feb 7 Savvy Verse & Wit
Feb 8 Austenesque Reviews
Feb 9 My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice
Feb 10 Babblings of a Bookworm
Feb 11 Obsessed with Mr. Darcy
Feb 12 Musings from the Yellow Kitchen
Feb 13 Half Agony, Half Hope
Feb 14 My Vices and Weaknesses
Feb 15 Diary of an Eccentric

Feb 16 Every Savage Can Dance

Feb 17 More Agreeably Engaged

Feb 18 The Calico Critic

Feb 20 Austenesque Reviews

Feb 21 More than Thornton

Feb 22 Margie’s Must Reads

Feb 23 Delighted Reader

Feb 24 Becky’s Book Reviews

Feb 26 Linda Andrews

Feb 27 Every Woman Dreams

Feb 28 Tomorrow is Another Day

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

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You too can be a book reviewer

It’s said that love makes the world go ’round. I have, however, observed that it’s reviews that make the book world go around.

When you shop online for a book, do you check out how many stars the book has received from reviewers? Do you browse the reviews? If you have to choose between two books, do the stars and the review text influence your decision?

You’re not alone; most people look at reviews on amazon, GoodReads, Facebook, blogs, and anywhere else they’re posted — and these reviews influence buying decisions. So it really means the world to authors when their work receives reader reviews.

If you enjoyed a particular book, the nicest thing you can do to let the author know that his/her work pleased you is to write an online review. You don’t need a blog, and you needn’t write a voluminous review; a few words will suffice. Some suggestions: “I liked the author’s integration of characters from another favourite book into this story.” Or “Detailed descriptions of places made you feel as if you are actually there.” Or maybe “Could not find even one error of spelling or word usage” or “I liked the flow of the story.”

You do not need to be an author yourself to write a review! Just think about what you would tell a friend if you were recommending the book to them, and write it down. Review done!

How about if you did not like the book? If there is a reason other than “I didn’t like the story,” then explain it simply and courteously. “It was too long and the story meandered.” “It was too short to really get into the characters and events.” “Spelling was poor” or “Too many incorrect homophones.” “One of the story lines was never resolved.”

Some reviewers who don’t like a book seem to be almost vindictive in their reviews, as if they want to punish the author for not writing a book they liked. Revealing and describing salient plot points — i.e., spoilers — is very unkind. If you did not like the book, you can always return it; you don’t need to damage the author’s credibility or ruin the story for future readers just because it wasn’t your own cup of tea.

Remember what all of our moms told us: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!

Here are some additional tips for writing good, useful reviews.

And here are some books recently featured at Every Savage Can Dance to start you off. If you’ve read them, and especially if you’ve enjoyed them, please take a few minutes to leave a review. If you have not yet read them, follow the link to buy a copy, and then leave a review after you’ve read it.

Believe me, an author will thank you when you do! (Speaking of which, Many Thanks to Claudine Pepe at Just Jane 1813 for her lovely review of Desperate Hearts. If you have not yet read this book, do stop by to read her review and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the e-book)

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Please take a moment to let me know what you think: Click the Leave a Comment link at the top left-hand corner of this post. Thank you!

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Review: Darcy’s Hope — Beauty from Ashes

Thank you for stopping by! Today I’ll be reviewing the first volume — Beauty from Ashes — of the two-volume saga Darcy’s Hope by Ginger Monette.

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Buy this book now!

Blurbing the book:

First, I greatly enjoyed this video blurb. I think you will too. Now …

1916: World War I has turned French chateaux into bloody field hospitals, British gentlemen into lice-infested soldiers, and left Elizabeth’s life in tatters.

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

When an opportunity arises to advance her dreams of becoming a doctor, she is elated—until he arrives….

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

“No comrades, no dog, and certainly no woman!”

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

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

Darcy can only hope…

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Now for my review:

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Author Ginger Monette

I must start out by making it clear that I never thought I would like a Pride and Prejudice variation set in a different time period. But I have long been fascinated by world events of the 19-teens, especially The Great War, which completely changed the face of warfare, not to mention the face of Europe, for all time. So if I was going to read a time-shifting variation, it was going to be this one. Clearly the author has done her history homework; the historical points alone are enough to make this a worthwhile read. The story line and writing style also make it an enjoyable read.

As to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet: Their last meetings ended in rancor – altho’ their feelings for each other (Elizabeth’s carefully concealed even from herself, Darcy’s not quite so successfully hidden) continue to pull them towards each other.

When they are assigned to the same field hospital on the Western front, it becomes more difficult to avoid each other and to avoid their growing attachment to each other. Darcy (under the command of his redoubtable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam) is commissioned to investigate and, if possible, expose and destroy a band of traitors. Unfortunately, his investigations lead to the inescapable conclusion that Elizabeth Bennet may be operating amongst them.

Not only that, it appears that the traitors have no more use for Elizabeth and intend to get rid of her.

Darcy, fully believing in Elizabeth’s innocence, is aware that she may be in grave danger, either because of the general belief of her alleged traitorous allegiances, or because she has been an unwilling dupe of the traitors who now have her in their sights. Either way, he feels bound to protect her.

It is not clear at the end of this suspenseful, sweet, and action-filled story (yes, it’s all three!) whether Elizabeth is innocent or guilty of betraying her country and countrymen. We’ll have to wait for the second volume in this two-volume saga for the answer to that question. But we do get to follow along with Elizabeth’s growing acceptance of her undeniable love for a man she swore to hate forever: Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Except for a few cuss words and vulgarities that you might expect amongst soldiers, this is a clean read, with only a handful of tiny typos.

What I liked most: Details of the history of a fascinating period in time. The author’s ability to seamlessly weave our favourite characters into this different time period while keeping the sense and tone of the original story. New characters – some of whom we grow to love while others not so much – who add to the joy and to the mystery.  The clever reference to another of Austen’s stories.  The accompanying “Elizabeth’s Scrapbook;” you must sign up for the author’s newsletter for access, and you must browse it, the sooner the better. (See below for details.)

What I liked least:  The clichéd ending, altho’ it did not seem entirely unfitting. And then there’s my issue with the cover image: From the first time I saw it several months ago I did not like the cover image. Darcy’s eyes are just plain creepy.

In short:  Try to ignore the cover image. (Or maybe, unlike me, you’ll like it.) Read the book. And don’t blame me if you end up reading this engaging story well into the wee hours of the morning!

Another five-star read.

gold-stars-5Don’t forget to leave a comment about this blog post or this book. Click on the Comments link at the top left-hand corner of this post under the blog title.

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PLEASE NOTE that on February 16th, the blog tour for part two of the saga — Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey — will be stopping here at Every Savage Can Dance. I hope you’ll rejoin me then, as well as visiting all the other stops on the tour from February 1 to 24!

Here’s the blurb for this second volume:

Darcy’s beloved Elizabeth disappears.

Then tragedy strikes, plunging him into a dark and silent world.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth.

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

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

*Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is a sequel to Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.

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Meanwhile, connect with Ginger Monette:

Website (where you can sign up for her newsletter and get the key to unlocking Elizabeth’s scrapbook).

Facebook page

I look forward to seeing you again soon at Every Savage Can Dance. Happy reading!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

 

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A Lie Universally Hidden by Anngela Schroeder: Review and Giveaway

Welcome to Every Savage Can Dance’s stop on the blog tour for A Lie Universally Hidden by Anngela Schroeder.

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First, a little about the author:

I have a degree in English with a concentration in British Literature and a Masters in Education. I love to travel, bake, and watch college football with my husband of 16 years and 3 rambunctious sons. My goal in life is to make not only my children, but also my students feel that they are loved, and to bring magic into everyone’s world. My weaknesses are yellow cake with chocolate frosting, French bread with real butter, and grape leaves and felafel. I live in California where I dream of Disney adventures and trips across the pond.

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And now for my review of this book:

Duty and honour, the two guiding principles of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s life. He is now prepared to do his duty and honour his late mother’s last wish by marrying his cousin, Anne de Bourgh. Her wishes are spelled out clearly in her final letter to her son.

But … both he and Anne are in love with others. Still, duty and honour must take precedence over their personal desires for happiness. The wedding uniting them, as well as uniting their great estates, will take place in just a few short months.

Unless … a chance meeting between Elizabeth Bennet and an elderly lady who once worked at Pemberley may hold the key to releasing both Darcy and Anne to follow their hearts. Is it possible?

Even if that key is found, how will Elizabeth be released from her own commitment to marry her childhood friend?

Our dear couple – and Darcy’s dear cousin – ultimately arrive at their respective happily ever afters (of course), altho’ not before they have undergone a great deal of anguish, doubt … and hope. Not to mention at least one major misunderstanding that could change everything. And then there’s that long-hidden, and surprising, secret finally revealed.

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Available at in ebook and print editions at amazon.com.

A clean story that leaves the reader glad to have taken the time to enjoy it.

What I liked most:  The book was well written, without the glaring writing errors that too often seem to spoil even the best of reads.

Lady Catherine being her usual b*tchy self – and then some.

The newly-created characters, who all harmonize quite nicely with our own well-known characters.

The tension! Using calendar dates, the author moves our dear couple towards their climactic moment more slowly than we think we might wish. I breathlessly found myself checking to see how much of the story was left after nearly every paragraph as I reached the final chapter, and wondering how on Earth they were going to find each other in time before the story ended! Hurry up, Darcy!

What I liked least: The book’s title. I did not care for it. But I did like the book’s cover.

In short: Skip the title and read the book! This is a good story and truly enjoyable to read.

I have to give it five stars. And I think you will too.

Please note that I received an ebook in exchange for my participation in this blog tour.

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Enter the Giveaway by clicking HERE.

The Giveaway: Anngela is giving away two autographed hard copies (US mailing addresses only) and two kindle versions (open to international winners), plus an autographed copy of Then Comes Winter (US mailing address only). and an autographed 5×7 of the A Lie Universally Hidden book cover. Enter the Giveaway by clicking HERE.

Connect with Anngela Schroeder at:

Facebook

Twitter: @schros2000

Goodreads

Amazon

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Please leave your comment by clicking the Comments link at the top left of this post, beneath the title.

Thank you for visiting Every Savage Can Dance, and do please visit the other stops on this blog tour:

January 16/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
January 17/
From Pemberley to Milton/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 18/
A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post
January 19/
So Little Time…/ Excerpt Post & Giveaway
January 20/
My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 21/
Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review
January 22/
Just Jane 1813/ Excerpt Post
January 23/
Austenesque Reviews/ Author Spotlight & Giveaway
January 24
/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 25/
Every Savage Can Dance/Book Review & Giveaway

January 26 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway

January 27 / Austenesque Reviews/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 28/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Excerpt & Giveaway

January 29/ Savvy Verse & Wit/ Guest Post & Giveaway

!
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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

 

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Finally Catching Up!

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. DH was off work during the holidays and, as much as I love having him around, he does have a tendency to hog the computer. (I’ve told him several times that when he retires — he’s looking at early retirement in a couple of years — we’d better have two computers both attached to the Internet, or one of us will not survive his retirement!)

suzan-lauderToday I have the pleasure of introducing Suzan Lauder, author of Alias Thomas Bennet and today’s feature, Letter from Ramsgate.

Jane Austen left a great deal to the reader’s imagination, so Suzan took one of these “under-described” incidents — Georgiana Darcy’s encounter with George Wickham at Ramsgate — and filled in the details.

I enjoyed this book and have reviewed it, but before posting the review I have a special treat. Suzan has graciously outlined the methods she employed to create my favourite scene in the story. So let me hand this off to Suzan now, followed by my review of Letter from Ramsgate.

Guest Post by Suzan Lauder: The Hunsford Proposal and Deep Point of View

Warning—This article contains spoilers

While enjoying Letter from Ramsgate, some readers have expressed concern about how Darcy could have jumped so quickly from the romance of the proposal to the anger about his assumption that Elizabeth was friends with Mrs. Younge.

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Letter from Ramsgate at amazon.com

The easy way out for the author would be to get the reader inside his head and show his thought process explicitly rather than let them watch his anger escalate and the proposal fall apart like a train wreck from Elizabeth’s viewpoint. Had I done this, it would be called head-hopping. However, the writing style I used eschews this technique, which is casually used by many, many writers who choose the more traditional point of view of Omniscient Narrator.

I wrote Letter from Ramsgate in what’s called Third Person Limited, Deep Point of View. This is a popular technique for Regency romance novels. In Deep Point of View, the author must stick to only one character’s point of view at any time; point of view (POV) changes take place only at chapter or clear scene breaks with markers alerting the reader to the change, and the reader gets so deep into the character’s head that they “see” it as if they were there. Another analogy is that the reader is like a camera filming the action: the alternative Omniscient Narrator POV has the reader’s “camera” high up watching from a neutral position. In Deep POV, it’s like the camera is on the shoulder of the point of view character.

Though much harder to write, this technique provides the reader with a much more intense experience, as they’re almost in the character’s head. It also means that if the character is confused and things around them seem unfair, the elevated sense of that unfairness becomes the reader’s experience too. Readers were hurt and indignant regarding Darcy’s jumping to conclusions, therefore I did my job as writer well, because that’s how it looked to Elizabeth at the moment.

How can his actions be justified? In the scene with Colonel Fitzwilliam on the way to Rosings, Darcy is clear about how much he hates Mrs. Younge—more than he hates Wickham—and blames her totally for Georgiana’s misfortune. A couple of chapters later, during the proposal, readers don’t get to know what Darcy is thinking. The point of view is now Elizabeth’s (and the author is hamstrung!). We feel how whisked away she is with the romance and kisses, but we don’t know why her begging Darcy to help Mrs. Younge—a woman he abhors—causes him to become so very angry. Yet his reaction is supported by prior events as well as later scenes where we get to hear how he has reacted to this situation that was just as painful to him as to Elizabeth.

Of course he was terribly wrong. But he had not yet learned how to deal with his conceit, his thinking meanly of those below him, his overblown pride, nor his sense of superiority—all the things he says he learned as a child and applied unwisely in Austen’s novel. In Letter from Ramsgate, his true “Hunsfordization” doesn’t take place until much later in the book, where he gets read the riot act not once, but three times, by a total of no less than five women! He doesn’t know all the facts until then, and pays for it in fear that his mistakes will cost him the woman he loves now that he realizes he can’t force himself to choose expectations over his heart. From Elizabeth’s POV in the final chapters, Darcy finally redeems himself, yet she doesn’t make it easy!

Thanks to Janis for the opportunity to share this fascinating writing topic with readers and authors as a guest post on her blog!

And thank you, Suzan. I have to admit that I have some difficulty understanding POV in general, and your explanation actually has this concept sinking in (finally!).

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Now for my review of Letter from Ramsgate:

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder

When I re-read Pride & Prejudice as an adult, my first impression of Mr Darcy was that he was “socially retarded.” That impression came back to mind as I read this story.

But first … I believe that most P&P readers wonder what exactly happened in Ramsgate between Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham. Jane Austen leaves this episode rather vague so we are left to our own imaginations. Until now. Suzan Lauder gives us every smarmy detail of the nefarious plot and its players.

Fortunately, this time around we have Lizzy Bennet coming to Georgiana’s rescue, albeit anonymously. The letter referred to in the title brings Lizzy and Mr Darcy together, and at first all proceeds well between them. But the road to happily-ever-after is by no means smooth for our dear couple. There is plenty of angst in both their hearts and sufficient mutual misunderstandings to satisfy even the most die-hard of P&P fans – Pride and Prejudice being the ultimate tale of angst brought on by misunderstandings, mostly caused by (of course) the pride and/or prejudice of our hero and heroine.

And for his part, this is where the “socially retarded” Mr Darcy enters the picture.

Fortunately (again), this time Georgiana saves the day … and is the vehicle for reuniting our dear couple. Their reunion could almost be the equivalent of a “meet cute” – well, you’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.

I very much enjoyed this carefully-written story; even my anal reading eye could not uncover more than one or two minor text errors. The story flows well while taking the reader on a journey of non-canon relationships and interesting new characters.

What I liked most: The cover. It is simply gorgeous.

The Hunsford proposal. It is absolutely brilliant. And a bit more deliciously amatory than the original – although this is still a clean read.

The letter that followed the proposal is likewise brilliantly constructed.

What I liked least: The scenes that take place at the Exeter Exchange zoo and references to Chunee the elephant. I really did not need a reminder of the horrendous prison-like menageries that existed until recent times. And still exist in some places, such as roadside zoos. Nor of the reminder of Chunee’s horrifying end. (To be fair, this detail was presented separately in author’s notes. But it was a jarring note after such a pleasant read.)

The author’s conclusions about disguised handwriting. Having studied the psychology of handwriting for a number of years, I was not completely convinced that the subterfuge would have been successful. On the other hand it wasn’t completely out of line so for the sake of the plot line I let it pass and suspend disbelief. Sometimes the reader has to do that or you end up never enjoying a story, and just drive yourself nuts.

In short: An enjoyable read with just enough wretchedness amongst the characters to remind you that you’re reading a P&P variation! I gave it four stars out of five.

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. (Coming soon for Nook.) desp-hearts-cover

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Review and Giveaway: Particular Intentions by L. L. Diamond

particularintentions-coverJust finished reading Particular Intentions by L.L. Diamond, staying up two nights to read: first to start it and again to finish it. That’s how compelling I found the story and the writing; I had to know what happened next! From the exquisite cover to the final “Welcome to Pemberley, my love,” it is a most enjoyable read. I don’t think I’ve presented you with a spoiler here; other than the movie Lost in Austen, every JAFF variation I’ve seen has its Darcy-and-Lizzy happily-ever-after ending. As does Particular Intentions.

The story is a departure from canon; Darcy and Elizabeth get on quite well almost from the start, which I liked very much, and they are betrothed within the first hundred pages. As you might expect, however, the course of true love does not run smoothly for our dear couple. The obstacles and angst that separate them simply take place a little further on in their relationship.

And if you must have your Hunsford proposal, you will be disappointed. I did not miss it.

Perhaps this would be a good juncture to interject my own opinion of Elizabeth Bennet’s character, which I realize is not shared by most Janeites. I first read P&P when I was a young teenager and could not yet appreciate the story or the writing. When I revisited Jane Austen as an adult, my first reaction to Elizabeth was “Why is she listening to this stranger’s gossip, and why is she passing it along to others? Yeah, the guy dissed her, but – yuck. And why do she and her father claim she has such excellent insight into reading other people? She’s practically a blind beetle!” When I saw the 1995 film version, I wanted to punch her in her “fine eyes” several times. The dance at the Netherfield Ball, when she kept pulling faces, summed up her character for me. What arrogance! What sanctimoniousness! How judgmental! Pride and prejudice? Yes! Both terms described Elizabeth to a T!

This gives you an idea of how I read any P&P variation. I am always surprised, and usually pleased, when Elizabeth is drawn without these negative qualities.

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Author L. L. Diamond

In Particular Intentions, the angst begins at the Netherfield Ball, when they are already betrothed, with Elizabeth overhearing part of a conversation and immediately drawing the wrong conclusion, then over-reacting with typical stubbornness and self-righteousness – which nearly brings her idyllic situation with Mr Darcy to an untimely end. Fortunately, with a little help from her loved ones, she admits her mistake, and humbly returns to Mr Darcy.

Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear that someone – or some ones – wish ill to both Mr Darcy and his betrothed. Who are they and what are their intentions? As the wedding day approaches, the threat becomes more imminent. A surprise attack on the couple in the middle of London leaves them both injured and their families shocked. Now it is up to Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam to discover who was behind the assaults, and whether they need to prepare for further attacks or can catch the person or persons responsible before they send their goons out to strike again.

What I liked most: Elizabeth acting like a love-struck teenager; it is most endearing! Colonel Fitzwilliam coming to the rescue when danger touches his cousin. The humour, especially in the portrayal of the wedding night. No, no, it’s not what you think; their wedding takes place after the assault. Their intimate moments described with the suggestion of what takes place between them. I confess that I do not care for detailed descriptions of their marital (and sometimes extra-marital) relations contained in some JAFF; I prefer not to be a fly on their bedroom wall. This story went into just enough detail to get the reader’s imagination working!

I also liked the happy, although unexpected, outcome for a character who was under-served in the original.

And the story hit my own “must-haves” for successful JAFF: there must be sufficient face-time for Colonel Fitzwilliam, and I must fall in love with Mr Darcy all over again. Otherwise why read JAFF?

What I liked least: Although I enjoyed the writing and the story itself, there were a couple of instances of group discussions that included no “said-isms.” This made it difficult to keep track of who was speaking. By the end of the discussions it became clear who had said what, but I would have preferred clarification while I was reading it.

In short: A well-thought-out and well-written story that I enjoyed very much. If I had to give it a star rating, it would be 4.75 out of 5.0 (just a bit taken off for the slightly short supply of said-isms).

Purchase Particular Intentions at amazon or your favourite book/ebook dealer.

(I received an e-ARC in return for an honest review.)

The giveaway: The author is offering a Jane Austen gift pack to one lucky reader. There are no residency restrictions.

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Included in the prize:

  • One Pride and Prejudice Journal
  • S&S postcard
  • Persuasion postcard
  • Fashion plate postcard
  • Fashion plate note card
  • Pack of 5 JA quote & fashion plate note cards
  • Austen Variations bookmark

To enter: Comment on this review by Sunday, November 27. The winner will be announced here on Monday, November 28, 2016. The Comments link is at the top-left of this post.

Good luck!

 

 

Review: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series by Pamela Aidan

These are not new books, having been published from 2003 to 2005, but as I am a relative newcomer to JAFF I often find myself trying to catch up on some of the older stories that are still new to me.

anassemblysuchasthisDuring one of my visits to our local paperback trading shop I scored a copy of An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan. At the time I did not realize that it was the first book of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy. I was very much enjoying the story, so when I learned that there was more I purchased volume two — Duty and Desire — and the final volume, These Three Remain, in paperback as well. And I’m so pleased that I did!

The story — and the three books really comprise only one story — is essentially a re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr Darcy’s perspective. We all know how Elizabeth felt about Mr Darcy, her reaction to his proposal at Hunsford, her lesson in self-awareness when she read his letter, her shock at seeing him again at Pemberley, and her changing sentiments towards him that led to a happily ever after. But we don’t know how Mr Darcy felt about all of this. Jane gives us some hints, but nothing substantial.

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I have to admit that this illustration reminds me more of Colonel Fitzwilliam than of Mr Darcy!

Ms Aidan delves into Mr Darcy’s view of Elizabeth, which is of course quite different from Elizabeth’s view of Mr Darcy. She tells us why Mr Darcy proposed to Elizabeth, why he completely anticipated her acceptance, and the heartbreak he suffered when she refused. The first volume sets up the characters and story lines we are so familiar with. In the second volume, we meet some new characters — some that we love and some not so much — as Darcy tries to forget Elizabeth and decides to seek a wife elsewhere. Finally in the third volume Darcy accepts that he can be happy with nobody but Elizabeth, and resolves to become the man Elizabeth deserves to marry.

We understand how Darcy interpreted their interactions, from the Meryton assembly to the time they spent together at Netherfield and Rosings, differently from Elizabeth’s interpretations, leading him to draw conclusions — logical from his point of view — that eventually result in his disastrous proposal. We hear his thoughts on how his upbringing formed him into the man he is, and about the danger he feels regarding his growing affections for this societally unsuitable young lady (and his more amusing reflections on Caroline Bingley). We accompany him to Rosings Park where he misconstrues Elizabeth’s actions to the point where he believes wholeheartedly in her being attached to him, then to the parsonage where his beliefs are shattered.

darcy-trilogy-3In the original story, Darcy essentially “disappears” for several months after Hunsford, and we do not know what he is doing during this time. Duty and Desire tells us. The author describes his efforts to forget about the woman he desires and focus on his duty to himself and his family to marry and produce an heir. To this end Darcy makes a series of bad, and potentially dangerous, choices while seeking a wife. It is only through the good offices of a new character that he escapes potential ruination, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that there is only one woman who can make him happy. And that he must overcome his own faults if he wants to win her hand.

The third volume has Darcy accepting and working to improve his character flaws. Again he nearly steps into a scandal and again is rescued by the new character of a long-time friend. We travel with him to the seedy side of London to rescue Lydia Bennet and to deal with his long-time nemesis Mr Wickham. And finally we are privileged to witness his transformation of consciousness as he overcomes his weaknesses and wins Elizabeth’s love.

What I liked most: Newly-created characters. One is Darcy’s old university friend, a man with many secrets who proves repeatedly that he can be counted on in adversity, particularly when he is protecting Darcy from other old friends who have far less than his best interests at heart. Another is Darcy’s valet, a charming eccentric who longs to be acknowledged as a trend-setter but must accommodate Darcy’s conservatives tastes — and exhibits unqualified loyalty. Even the bad guys in this story — and there were plenty — were interestingly drawn. I liked the references to actual historical events, particularly the hostilities arising between England and Ireland, and the roles these new characters played in these events; these are the kinds of details that are not only enjoyable but encourage me to research more about the referenced history. I liked the detailed timeline of Darcy’s search for and discovery of Lydia and Wickham. The fencing scenes were most exciting, and Darcy’s drunken (yes, drunken!) confession to his old friend of his unrequited love for Elizabeth was quite amusing. I also enjoyed the tender interactions between Darcy and his sister. We even get to sit in his dressing room and share his thoughts as he prepares for his wedding. And I always love JAFF stories that grant plenty of face time to Colonel Fitzwilliam, as the author does here.

What I liked least:  Some of the more dangerous events involved what appeared to be supernatural forces. While I realize that many Jane Austen fans are also Harry Potter fans, I do not count myself amongst them. I have never read any of the Harry Potter stories, and generally avoid stories about witchcraft, sorcery, and the like. I find that there is enough good and evil in the real world to add flavour to stories without resorting to the device of supernatural forces. Your own enjoyment of this type of story may differ, of course.

In short: This series is well-written and engaging, and I wish it could have continued for another two or three volumes! As this is not an “official” review, I cannot offer an excerpt. While the trilogy is available as a complete set, if you are looking to keep your reading costs down (reading can on occasion be an expensive habit to feed) I recommend that you consider ordering the three volumes separately (see my article here about this).

To learn more about Pamela Aidan, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or explore her publishers’ author pages. Here is a list of links to some of these.

(All book covers are the property of the author.)

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Tea and cakes

teacupA popular theme in Austen, Austenesque, and meetings of Janeites is tea, usually served with bread and butter or cakes, or both. In the time period, cakes usually referred to what we call soft cookies. (The word cookie did not enter the lexicon until some decades later.)

Recall that ovens were outdoor affairs, and had no temperature controls. The baker had to essentially wing it as far as baking temperatures, altho’ experienced bakers could fairly well control the proper heat and baking time.

When we still lived up North we often visited Colonial Williamsburg, ate at the restaurants, and picked up some cookbooks while we were there. This is my favourite recipe — very easy and very tasty, and very versatile: you can ice them, serve with jam or cream similar to scones, mix in chopped nuts, currants, or even chocolate mini chips. Or make a pyramid for a lovely presentation. Enjoy with your favourite cuppa, perhaps a Jane Austen-inspired tea.

18th Century recipe

Take a pound and a half of fine flour, one pound of cold butter, half a pound of sugar, work all these well together into a paste, then roll it with the palms of your hands into round balls, and cut them with a thin knife into thin cakes, sprinkle a little flour on a sheet of paper, and put them on; prick them with a fork and bake them.

21st Century version

  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add flour in thirds to the mixture. Remove the mixture by scraping with a spatula or knife and place on hard surface and knead until well mixed and smooth. Dough will be stiff.
  2. Form into four balls, one the size of a tennis ball and reducing in size as you go until the smallest ball is about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
  3. Slice dough 1/4” thick with a sharp, smooth knife. Place on parchment paper or lightly greased cookie sheets.
  4. Bake at 350, 12-18 minutes until the centers of the large cakes are set when lightly pressed with your finger.
  5. After cooling, remove from cookie sheet. To form into a pyramid shape, use the larger cakes on the base, and stack the next smaller ones on top. Sift confectioner’s sugar on top (optional).

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