We can only imagine what life would have been like in the great Georgian resort town of Bath, England circa1800. There are vintage illustrations of buWe can only imagine what life would have been like in the great Georgian resort town of Bath, England circa1800. There are vintage illustrations of buildings, maps of the winding streets, and descriptions from travelers and writers of the time to help us visualize. And then there is the Bath that we know of from Jane Austen’s two novels: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Her characters visit the famous pump-room, dance at the Lower Assembly Rooms, climb that noble hill Beechen Cliff, and propose on the gravel walk. We can visit this enchanting town today and still see much of what Austen experienced, but what if there was a way to be magically transported back in time to discover that Jane Austen is your next door neighbor and her dashing younger brother, Lieutenant Charles Austen, is home on leave from his duties with the Royal Naval? Would you take that journey through time no matter what the unknown risk?
Sophie Elliot, the heroine of Jane Odiwe’s new Austen-inspired novel Searching for Captain Wentworth, unknowingly faces this dilemma the first time she is transported two hundred years into the past through a magical glove once owned by Lt. Austen. Sound fantastical? Well, yes it would to any skeptic, including myself. Recent movies such as Lost in Austen and the Austen Addict book series: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict have softened my resolve. I enjoyed both the mini-series and the novels so much that “suspending my disbelief” and considering that anything is possible (in fiction and in life) opened up a whole new genre to me. Odiwe has created a clever combination of the past and present that took me on a journey through Jane Austen’s world, both familiar and fantastical.
Inspired by Austen’s Persuasion, we encounter many thematic elements in Searching for Captain Wentworth that Austen wanted us to experience in her own novel: love, heartbreak, friendship, snobbery and renewal; all through the eyes of young Sophie who is staying in the upper floor of a Bath townhouse owned by her family since the early 1800’s. She has aspirations to be a writer and hopes that by walking in Austen’s footsteps she will discover her talent and get over the painful loss of her boyfriend. Downstairs is occupied by the mysterious and handsome Josh Strafford who is working at the Holburne Museum on their next Regency exhibit. When Sophie sees him drop a white glove on the pavement outside their townhouse, she picks it up and follows him attempting to return it. When she passes through a white gate in Sydney Gardens she is transported back in time; a timeslip into another era, and her ancestor Sophia’s life.
I have long enjoyed Jane Odiwe’s Austen-inspired novels: Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return and Mr. Darcy’s Secret. Her in-depth knowledge of Regency history and culture combined with her understanding of Jane Austen’s plots and characters results in a sensitive, engaging and romantic narrative that never disappoints. This time I was especially impressed with her character descriptions:
“All my feelings of self-doubt and of being an absolute failure at everything were returning. I just kept thinking how he’d probably tell the lovely Alison at the museum all about his narrow escape from the lecherous clutches of his neighbor who had delusions of becoming a writer.” – Sophie Elliot (p. 71)
“Every detail of his appearance sharpened into focus. Dark curls fell on the high collar of his black coat, cut to display a flash of white silk waistcoat with buttons faced in pearl, that led the eye to the swell of satin where breeches began…He looked beautiful if I can use that word to describe a man, I only knew I was not the only woman in the room who glanced his way or sat up in their chair.” – Sophia Elliot’s reaction to Lt. Austen, p. 91
As Sophie/Sophia’s romance with Lt. Austen parallel’s the romance in Persuasion, we are even treated to a letter that rivals the famous “You pierce my soul” love letter that Captain Wentworth gives to Anne Elliot. *swoon*
“I read it again and again committing to memory the words that thrilled every sense and awakened every feeling. How would I ever recover from such a letter?” – Sophia Elliot (p. 237)
Indeed! Odiwe has created the perfect reason to never want to recover from such feelings. Searching for Captain Wentworth will send you on a magical journey through time, and your heart, that you will not soon forget.
In the final novel in the Jane Austen Vampire trilogy (or is it???) we find our favorite two hundred year old undead authoress challenged by her condiIn the final novel in the Jane Austen Vampire trilogy (or is it???) we find our favorite two hundred year old undead authoress challenged by her condition, her past, and the future she is trying to make in Brakeston, New York with fiancé Walter Fletcher. After thoroughly enjoying the first two novels in the series, JANE BITES BACK and JANE GOES BATTY, we are all anticipation of how vampire Jane’s satiric, quirky and totally hilarious life in the twenty-first century will wrap up—or live on into eternity.
Wedding plans are in full swing even though Jane’s fiancé Walter is unaware of his future bride’s famous past or her present condition. His darling *cough* mother, Miriam the vampire hunter, is hampering the planning with her upbeat *cough* attitude and looming ultimatum that Jane must become pregnant within a year or she will stake her. Walter’s suggestion that they combine the wedding with a European tour offered by his architectural preservation association it quickly adopted finding an unlikely group of Jane and Walter’s friends and family jumping the pond to witness the nuptials in London and tour castles and other feigned sites of Europe together. Along the way they meet zombies, vampires, ghosts, forgotten husbands, and murdered fellow travelers, while Jane searches for the great vampire urban legend, Crispin’s Needle, capable of unmaking a vampire and restoring their human soul.
Ford has given us another treasure. The one-line zingers, snarky characters, break-neck pace, and nimble dialogue immediately remind us why it is such a joy to be back in his warped world. Jane Austen as a vampire? No way! Yes way! His prose is sharp, imaginative and shamelessly waggish, and we love it. The inside Janeite jokes abound. This sent us rolling:
“How awful to go through life named after someone you didn’t care for…For instance, suppose your mother adored Charlotte Bronte and you had been named Jane Eyre, yet you found the character stupid and tedious.”
“Doesn’t everyone?” said Jane, earning her a stern look from Lucy. p 69
Yes, Jane’s sick nemesis Charlotte is back, and so is her suave mentor Lord Byron, along with a slew of hilarious new characters. JANE VOWS VENGEANCE takes us on a Da Vinci Code meets Agatha Christie meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer adventure that I did not want to end. We can only hope that Ford will be coerced into another set of three to appease the facetious Austen, vampire, three-legged talking Chihuahua, parody lovers in us all.
Sisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to youngeSisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to younger, impulsively romantic sister “Daffy.” Sensible Gabby works part-time to help her single mom make ends meet while studying hard for a scholarship so she can get out of Barton, Texas. On the other hand, unsensible Daphne lives in a dream world, shopping for prom dresses instead of applying for jobs and literally falling head over heels in love with the new cute boy of the moment, Luke Pascal. Gabby is quite cynical about love, after witnessing her parents’ divorce. Who needs it? It only causes misery and pain. The sisters bicker and bark at each other, rarely agreeing on anything. The only stable person in their lives is dependable friend “Mule,” short for Samuel, who seems to always be there helping Gabby study and offering friendly advice.
While Daphne moons and dreams about her new heartthrob Luke, Gabby has reason to not believe in love. Sonny Hutchins, a young boy she connected romantically with one incredible brief afternoon died in a tragic accident which she is certain his rich, spoiled cousin Prentiss Applewhite is to blame for. Her deep affection for Sonny is her secret that she shares with no one, not even her best buddy Mule. Gabby is certain that the only one you can depend on life is yourself.
As Gabby retreats into her reclusive inner world of loneliness and grief, Daphne’s histrionics are abrasive and unproductive. She deals with her family’s emotional crisis’ by ignoring reality, worshiping her flake of a father and falling madly in love in a moment. Her mom tries to bring her back into reality…
“Real life, real love, isn’t the way you see it in movies or read about in books,” her mom went on. “I hate to see you risk yourself like this. I just wish you’d be more sensible.”
“Sensible.” It was one of those words Daphne hated. Something she apparently wasn’t – along with being “responsible” or “mature.” “Sensible,” she repeated, considering the term. The opposite would be “foolish,” right? “Silly.” “Idiotic.” “Stupid.” “Do you mean sensible like Gabby, who’s never even been on a real date? Or sensible like you, who couldn’t make her marriage work?” pages 99-100
When late child support payments and a steep rent increase cause a crisis for the Rivera women, they must move in a hurry. Feeling fatalistic, Gabby is certain that they would be better off homeless. Life changes for the two sisters when Daphne’s unsensible way of dealing with life challenges results in more troubles than she ever dreamed of until help from an expected source saves the day and Gabby must face facts about her fond memories of Sonny and her feelings for his cousin Prentiss before the two sisters can find happiness.
In Sass & Serendipity, author Jennifer Ziegler has given us a boldly creative tribute to 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility. Her modern interpretation of the two sisters: one too sensible and the other not sensible enough mirrors Jane Austen’s Dashwood sisters beautifully. Even though the plot does not follow Austen’s storyline faithfully, the essence of the emotional dilemma that each of the sets of sisters face with life and love challenges is a great match. Ziegler reminds us that sisterly relationships are like no others, filled with friendship, rivalry, devotion, frustration, love and “strong family affection.” Read Sass & Serendipity to remember that incredible time in your life when you were on the cusp of adulthood and a sister or best friend in your life made all the difference.
"Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands." Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 50
An interesting anthology of short stories by the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, that will surprise readers with its diversity and incredible proAn interesting anthology of short stories by the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, that will surprise readers with its diversity and incredible prose. ...more
Great fun - nourishing Jane Austen fans sense and romance readers sensibilities!
Following Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) and Mr. Darcy Broke My HeaGreat fun - nourishing Jane Austen fans sense and romance readers sensibilities!
Following Jane Austen Ruined My Life (2009) and Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart (2010), Austenesque author Beth Pattillo presents the third book in the “Formidables Series,” The Dashwood Sisters Tell All. If you are wondering what “Formidables” are, besides being the thread that binds all three of these modern Jane Austen themed novels together, it is a clever play on Jane’s own stern moniker for herself and her sister Cassandra in their later years, and, the appropriately named secret society of devoted Janeites safekeeping Austen manuscripts and letters thought to have been destroyed ages ago. Each of the novels involves an American heroine (or in this case heroines) thrown into the investigation of Austen documents held (or wanted) by the society while she is visiting England. They are Jane Austen meets the Da Vinci Code; light-hearted mysteries/Austenalia/romances that have become one of my favorite light, bright and sparkly indulgences to loose myself in with a cup of tea and a little fantasy.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the plot of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All parallels many elements in Austen original story. Any Janeite worthy of their set of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen will recognize siblings Ellen and Mimi Dodge as Austen’s divergent protagonists Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. These two modern thirty-something Dashwood’s don’t have much in common personality wise, nor do they like each other very much, but to honor their mother’s dying wish they travel to England for a walking tour of Hampshire. Taking the Jane Austen pilgrimage to Steventon Rectory, Chawton Cottage, and the Chawton Great House, their journey concludes at her final resting place, Winchester Cathedral. Along the way they must decide where they want to scatter their mother’s ashes and what to do with a diary she gave them that may have been written by Jane’s sister Cassandra. Each of the sisters reacts differently to the realization that the diary may be authentic and valuable. Shallow and vain Mimi smells money to fund her desire to open a fashion boutique in New York City, and practical and stoic Ellen wants to read, understand and discover if the diary is indeed authentic and if they want to sell it.
Mysteriously, others in the tour group, especially the Jane Austen expert Mrs. Gwendolyn Parrot, seem to know who the sisters are and why they are there, even though they have not shared any of the details with her. Also popping back into Ellen’s life after fifteen years, and into the tour group is Daniel, her college heartthrob and the only man she has ever loved, even though he never knew it. He is now an antiques dealer and Ellen assumes that her mother also sent him on the tour to help her daughters with the diary, and rekindle the unrequited love that Ellen never pursued. On the other hand, Mimi who fails in and out of love as quickly as the changing fashion season immediately hooks up with another enigmatic gentleman on the tour, the hunky Ethan Blakemore, a descendant of Jane Austen who has recently inherited a local estate. Ellen secretly questions why a local would take a walking tour in his own backyard? Mimi doesn’t wonder anything about Ethan, except when he will propose.
As the sisters travel through the countryside following in Austen’s path, they also read the diary revealing secrets in Jane and her sister Cassandra’s relationship that so tested their love and friendship for each other that it nearly tore them apart forever. While Ellen and Mimi have their own Elinor and Marianne Dashwood romantic entanglements and disappointments, they are drawn together when they question if the plot in Sense and Sensibility is based on the author’s real life experiences, and others in their group who are part of the “Formidables” go to great lengths to prevent them from discovering the truth.
Anyone eager for a vacation from the usual Austenesque fare inspired by Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy will appreciate the creative, unique, and intriguing contemporary theme and snap this novel up without a second thought. Pattillo has the clever knack of combining a romantic contemporary tale with historical connections centered around Austen lore. The Dashwood Sisters Tell All nourishes Jane Austen fans senses, and romance readers sensibilities! Come for the Austen travelogue and get lost in the romance and adventure.
P.S. – we are still patiently awaiting the invitation to become a Formidable.
A delightful exploration of strength, compassion, and enduring friendships
Long on my TBR (to be read) pile, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel PieA delightful exploration of strength, compassion, and enduring friendships
Long on my TBR (to be read) pile, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society had so many intriguing factors in its favor that I could not put it off any longer. Firstly, I cannot tell you how many of my customers come in searching for this novel even two years after publication. It was on the bestseller list for over a year and is a book group favorite. Secondly, it takes place during and after WWII, one of my favorite historical periods. And thirdly, it is filled with literary references. The puzzling bit is that it is written in epistolary format!
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.” Isola Pribby, page 53
Yes, an entire novel written as a collection of letters. A very popular style in the mid seventeenth-century, the epistolary novel was utilized by the venerable Samuel Richardson, no less, in his bestselling novels Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1749). This format has its challenges – like characters not being able to interface with each other directly and react in the moment. Jane Austen discovered this dilemma after writing Lady Susan in 1795, and the first drafts of Elinor and Marianne (later Sense and Sensibility) and First Impressions (later Pride and Prejudice). The latter two were rewritten into the third-person omniscient style that she is now famous for. Lady Susan remains unchanged, and for those who have read it, it is quite charming but not as accessible to modern readers as her later works. I was very curious to see how co-authors Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows could pull off a novel written in letters and why readers were clamoring to buy it.
“Sophie – what is the matter with me? Am I too particular? I don’t want to be married just to be married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with.” Juliet Ashton, page 8
In 1946 post war England, our heroine and unmarried thirty-something Juliet Ashton is ready to move on from her comedic war-time newspaper column to more serious fare. Interested in writing a novel, she is searching for the inspiration for a new story. Living in bombed out London she has few personal connections that are still alive. Her parents are dead and, besides her agent Sidney and his sister Sophie, she has few friends and only one suitor, the “great catch,” the wealthy and imposing American publishing heir Markham V. Reynolds, Jr. who woos a woman who has lived for five years on war ratios with champagne, lobster and dancing at the Savoy. Heady stuff.
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey. Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” From Dawsey Adams, page 10
Juliet is pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from one of her readers, Dawsey Adams, a farmer on Guernsey Island who is now the owner of a used book by Charles Lamb with her name inscribed on the flyleaf. They strike up a correspondence and she learns about his co-founding of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an ad hock group first formed by residents to fool the Nazi’s into allowing after curfew movements during the German occupation of the island. Later, the book group would become the axis in their lives; both for fellowship and intellectual nourishment; building friendships and, changing perspectives. She was intrigued by his descriptions of the society’s eccentric members and activities and welcomes correspondence from them. What unfolds is a truly remarkable tale. As the society members retell firsthand accounts of their challenges and tragedies during their islands Nazi occupation, Juliet is drawn into their stories and feels that it would make a great subject for her next book. Her eventual visit to the island will change her life forever.
“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.” Eben Ramsey, page 64
At times the epistolary format from twenty different voices had its limitations, but the authors overcome the challenge of characters not being able to talk to each other in real-time by supplying detailed accounts and engaging stories with humorous undertones. The narrative is primarily told through the viewpoint of Juliet, but the heart of the story is Guernsey resident twenty-something Elizabeth McKenna, co-founder of the Literary Society and later prisoner of war in Germany. Many of the anecdotal reminiscences told by the residents circle back to Elizabeth’s life, her brave heroism during their horrendous occupation and how her fellowship and honor affected her friends, residents and concentration camp inmates.
“After all, what’s good enough for Austen ought to be good enough for anyone.” Juliet Ashton, page 274
The ongoing glimmer of hope of romance for our heroine Juliet kept me intrigued, like a cat watching a mouse, but it was not the main focus of this novel and I found its dénouement predictable and mildly satisfying. The tragedy, and this is a war-time tale with some troubling and gruesome bits, is offset by occasional humor, the joy of literature as a tonic especially during the worst of times, and the resilience of the human spirit. As many classic authors are mentioned and discussed: Lamb, Dickens, Bronte, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Wilde, I was quite pleased that Jane Austen, my favorite author, was given her due deference and place of honor as the final to be discussed and her philosophies entrenched on the last page. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a delightful exploration of strength, compassion, enduring friendships, and the irrepressible spirit of the British people during WWII. I enjoyed it greatly.
Michael Thomas Ford is a wicked wit with a scoop of irony on top
Our Janeite sensibilities tell us that the notion of Jane Austen as a vampire is prettMichael Thomas Ford is a wicked wit with a scoop of irony on top
Our Janeite sensibilities tell us that the notion of Jane Austen as a vampire is pretty wacky. It’s just so hard to visualize “our” Jane as one of the undead, still here after two hundred years, and struggling with life challenges and her condition. Author Michael Thomas Ford understands this too. He has created a trilogy based on our uncertainty, curiosity and proclivity for the burlesque that Austen herself was so fond of. Book one, Jane Bites Back, sold us on the concept that anything can happen in a Jane Austen inspired novel – even Jane as a vampire. It was “light, campy and a bit Buffyish” and we were truly “glamored.” But as any vampire aficionado knows, to be “glamored” means to be under the vampire’s mind spell which does not last forever. After over a year shouldn’t it have worn off, returning us to our cynical, defensive Janeite self? Book two, Jane Goes Batty, would have to be pretty darn good to dispel our doubts and resurrect our confidence. Our fingers were crossed, along with our corset strings.
Our twenty-first century Jane is still undead and living in Brakeston, a small university town in upper-state New York. The success of her novel Constance has changed her life considerably. In 1796 she may have wished to “write for Fame, and without any view for pecuniary emolument,” but now she has both as Jane Fairfax bestselling author. Her fans are arriving by the bus load and camping on her door step, a Hollywood movie crew has descended upon her hometown to film a glitzy star-studded version of her latest novel, and the hope of her next books success has garnered a fat advance. Life sounds pretty good, but not if you are a 235 old vampire who has thrived on anonymity and resisted advancing your powers in the undeadly arts.
Attempting to manage her life sensibly, she has promoted her friend and assistant Lucy to run her bookstore, Flyleaf Books, and welcomed her former lover George Byron (who also turned her) back into her life as a mentor. He is helping Jane to “develop her powers instead of run from them” in case “Our Gloomy Friend,” that pesky Bronte woman should make good on her threats. Her love-life is just where she wants it keeping patient boyfriend Walter in a holding pattern, and the town folk are none-the-wiser of her undead condition. With money, fame, friends and love in ones life, what’s to worry? Plenty. Walters Jewish mother Miriam arrives from Florida expecting her to convert, Jessica, her new demanding editor thinks she is an untalented plagiarist who should be writing a novel as good as Valley of the Dolls, and a vampire attack on one of the movie actors has Jane and Byron pointing fingers at one another. The challenges of keeping her true identity a secret, mastering her vampire skills, and the looming threat of another throw-down with an adversary from the past have her as distracted as Mrs. Bennet on her last nerve.
After the third chapter we remembered why we enjoyed the first novel in this series so much. Michael Thomas Ford is a wicked wit with a scoop of irony on top; a devilish combination that Austen whipped up and has been wowing us with for centuries. The premise of Jane Austen as a vampire is wacky – totally – but after we had been swept up in the frenetic pace, hilarious characters and outrageous parody, we were laughing out loud and startling our cats. Spirited, diverting and impertinent the “conceited independence” of this author knows no bounds. Watch out for a vicious three-legged Chihuahua, Ted and Ned the gay and straight, vampire and mortal, identical twins that we could never tell apart (nor could anyone else), eye rolling one liners by Lord Byron, a deranged vampire turned book reviewer (gulp), a surprise vampire hunter that is too close to home, and a poke at you gentle reader, if you are as inclined as we are to visit Jane Austen blogs and go to conventions in period costume! Our only quibble, and it is more of disapprobation, is that on more than one occasion we wanted to yell at this twenty-first century Jane Austen to find her inner Elizabeth Bennet or channel her Mary Crawford and get past the rag-doll syndrome that she was trapped in. It was almost all happily resolved by the end – like any Jane Austen novel should be – but we won’t tell. Of course Ford has left some plot points dangling that will, we hope, be addressed in book three, Jane Vows Revenge.
Is there always another chance at happiness? Are we bound to our past, or do “we all have the power to create heaven onA Cheeky comedy with a message
Is there always another chance at happiness? Are we bound to our past, or do “we all have the power to create heaven on earth, right here, right now?” Important questions heroine Jane Mansfield must come to acknowledge and understand in Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler’s parallel story to her best selling novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.
This time around, it is Jane Mansfield a gentleman’s daughter from 1813 who is transported into the body of twenty-first century Los Angelean Courtney Stone. Jane awakens with a headache, but it will take more than aromatic vinegar to solve her problems. Where is she? Her surroundings are wholly unfamiliar to the usual comforts of her parent’s palatial Manor house in Somerset. Is she dreaming? She remembers a tumble off her horse Belle, but nothing after that point. She looks in the mirror and the face reflected back is not her own. How can this be? A young man named Wes arrives who calls her Courtney. Is he a servant? Who is Courtney? Ladies arrive for a visit concerned by her odd behavior. Why is she acting like a character in a Jane Austen novel?
Jane is indeed a stranger in a strange land. As her friends, or Courtney’s friends Paula, Anna and Wes, help her navigate through the technology of cell phones, CD players, washing machines and other trappings of our modern life it becomes les taxing. She relishes her privacy and independence to do as she chooses, indulging in reading the four new (to her) novels by Jane Austen that she discovers on Courtney’s bookshelf – one passion/addiction that she shares in common with her over the centuries. Between Jane Austen’s keen insights and the fortune teller called “the lady”, she might be able to make sense of this nonsensical world she has been thrown into. Is this the same fortune teller she met in Bath in her own life? She had warned her not to ride her horse. Or did she? Are her memories and Courtney’s one in the same? The lady tells her she has work to do to put Courtney’s life in order. Jane only wants to return to her former life and Charles Edgeworth, the estranged beau she left behind.
Seeing our modern world from Jane’s nineteenth century eyes was quite revealing. I do not think that I will ever look at a television screen again without remembering her first reaction to the glass box with tiny people inside talking and dancing like characters from Pride and Prejudice! These quirky insights are what Rigler excels at, and her Regency era research and knowledge of Jane Austen plays out beautifully. We truly understand Jane’s reactions and sympathize with her frustrations. Not only is Rude Awakenings a comedy of lifestyle comparisons across the centuries, it supplies a very interesting look at modern courtship and romance with a bit of genteel feminism's thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, what principals and standards that Jane learned in the nineteenth century, will straighten out Courtney’s mixed up twenty-first century life at home, work and in her budding romance with Wes.
Rude Awakenings is a cheeky comedy with a message. Like Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, it helps us to look at mistakes in our past, and reminds us that “time is fleeting, and few of us are fortunate enough to notice that there is always another chance at happiness.” I enjoyed the humor, fondly remembering why I became a Jane Austen Addict in the first place.
Could Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice have been based on the courtship of Elizabeth GarrisoWas Pride and Prejudice fiction or reality?
Could Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice have been based on the courtship of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey, a Regency era couple who appear to be the doppelgangers of the legendary Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy? The possibility is intriguing to Maggie Joyce, a 22-year old American working in England after WWII who hears rumors of the story of Elizabeth and William Lacey while touring Montclair, their palatial estate in Derbyshire whose similarities to Pemberley, the grand country estate in Pride and Prejudice, seem to be more than a striking coincidence. As a devoted fan of Austen’s most popular novel, Maggie is curious to discover the truth. When she is introduced to Beth and Jack Crowell, a local couple with strong connections to the Lacey family, they gradually reveal to Maggie their own research through the Lacey letters, journals and family lore. As Maggie begins her own journey into the real-life parallel story of the Lacey/Darcy families she meets two young men, a handsome American ex Army Corpsman Rob McAllister who survived his treacherous tour of duty as a bomber navigator over Germany and the Crowell’s youngest son Michael serving in the RAF. Drawn into the struggles of her own love story and inspired by an eighteenth century version amazingly similar to Austen’s original, Maggie, like Elizabeth Bennet must choose if she will only marry for love.
A year ago I read and reviewed the self published version of this book, Pemberley Remembered. Recognizing its strengths and weaknesses, I was pleased to see that it had been picked up by Sourcebooks and would be revamped and combined with a second book, the sequel that Simonsen had already completed. I see vast improvements from its original edition. The complicated story line and vast historical details have been edited down, and the love story of Maggie, Rob and Michael brought forward. The story line, characters and subject are still intriguing, however as I mentioned in my first review, it is only the execution that could make this multi-layered story believable, entertaining and cohesive. It is still obvious from the historical references and antecedents that Simonsen did her research on Georgian and World War era English history as she includes stories about events, people and places to support her characters with aplomb. Searching for Pemberley reads like a documentary where subjects talk about their memories of people and events, or personal letters are read a-la the Ken Burns school of documentary film making. The narrative style is all about the characters telling and not showing how events and relationships unfolded. There is very little interactive dialogue. This is great for a fact based documentary, but tough for a historical love story. I usually prefer character driven plots, so once I accepted that this novel was not about getting into the characters head or their interactions, I quite enjoyed it. Like the epistolary novels of Jane Austen’s time, the style of Searching for Pemberley may be its greatest limitation.
Written with respect for Jane Austen and a passion for history, Simonsen has combined two genres into a bittersweet war-time drama encompassing the tragic elements of the devastation of war, not only on the men and women that bravely served, but the friends, family and loved ones that they came home to. The references to Pride and Prejudice will enchant Janeites as they remember favorite passages and compare plot lines. (It might even motivate a few readers to read the original) To be quite candid, it was hard for me to fathom that the genius of Jane Austen needed any prompting to create a story. To countermand, I just imagined it as a “what if” story and it softened the sting.
Charming cozy mystery with odd, interesting, unique but somehow familiar characters
An old Richmond, Virginia plantation, a festive wedding and familyCharming cozy mystery with odd, interesting, unique but somehow familiar characters
An old Richmond, Virginia plantation, a festive wedding and family disputes set the stage for murder in Tracy Kiely’s novel Murder on the Bride’s Side, the second novel in the Elizabeth Parker mystery series inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novels. A year ago, Kiely wowed me with her debut novel Murder at Longbourn loosely based on characters from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This time we follow the further adventures of her endearingly flawed, angst ridden sleuth Elizabeth Parker as she draws strength and great quotes from Sense and Sensibility.
The story picks up eight months after Elizabeth solved a double murder at her aunt Winnie’s B&B in Cape Cod. She and her boyfriend Peter McGowan (who she reconnected with in Murder at Longbourn) are still an item, but the challenge of a long distance relationship niggles at her insecurities. He is joining Elizabeth in Richmond, Virginia while she fulfills her maid-of-honor duties for her best friend Bridget Matthews whose wedding is at the family estate Barton Landing, a former tobacco plantation fronting the James River. It would not be a proper old southern family without an elderly potentate to wield their cane and pelt cross words at their children, so Kiely has supplied us with Elsie Matthews, a meddling grand dame who likes to match make and foretell the future. Upon Elizabeth’s arrival her ominous prediction of “death is coming” ultimately comes to pass the day after the wedding when the body of her daughter-in-law Roni is found brutally murder with a large kitchen knife in her chest. This is a tragic event, so why is no one grieving?
Elizabeth soon discovers that almost everyone in the Matthews clan wanted Roni dead. She is what Barbara Bush quipped “a noun beginning with b and rhyming with witch.” She was the much younger second wife of Elsie’s eldest son Avery, the heir presumptive and president of a thriving landscaping company whose recent stroke has left him in a wheelchair. His scheming wife (with a man-made figure) was determined that he sell in order to slow down and enjoy life. This news sends the family into a tailspin of anger and fear, so much so that someone commits murder to stop her.
Among Elsie’s three children and their families the chief suspect is Bridget’s cousin Harry Matthew’s, a Willoughby-like playboy who is often in his cups but not at all the killing kind. Because of Elizabeth’s success with sleuthing out the murderer at her aunt’s B&B last January, she is called upon by Bridget to find the proof of the real murderer and free Harry. Could it be Roni’s browbeaten teenage daughter Megan, Avery’s starchy infatuated nurse Millicent McDaniel, womanizer and family leech David Cook, Avery’s jilted girlfriend Julia Fitzpatrick, or Elizabeth herself, who is found in possession of the valuable diamond necklace missing from Roni’s body? Add to this drama the coincidence of Peter’s former flame, wedding coordinator Chloe Jenkins, is on the prowl again and Elizabeth will need to channel the Dashwood sisters: Elinor’s inner strength and Marianne’s passionate determination to solve the crime.
Written from her heroine’s perspective, it was a delight to return to Kiely’s breezy, familiar, blog-like writing style. It drew me into Elizabeth’s anxious world as a singleton and struggles with confidence in her own abilities, building upon my desire for her to succeed. Like Austen, Kiely excels at endearing characterization supplying an array of odd, interesting, unique but somehow familiar characters. I particularly appreciated her descriptive use of metaphor and subtle humor. This mystery enthusiasts paid close attention to clues, had my predictions, but was still surprised at the final reveal. My major quibble is that this novel has even less connections to Austen than her previous outing. If you are going to claim that it has been drawn from Sense and Sensibility, you better deliver. Elizabeth’s ongoing relationship with Peter had its ups and downs – but really – how could anyone not be besotted by a man who can quote lines from Cary Grant movies by heart? Kudos to St. Martin’s for the beautiful cover. BIG improvement. I am looking forward to Tracy’s next murder mystery in the series inspired by Austen’s Persuasion. Yay! Men in blue. Go Wentworth.