Sunday, February 5, 2017

Never So Bewitched By Any Woman - Isabelle Mayfair 3 Stars - okay



Never So Bewitched By Any Woman: A Pride And Prejudice VariationNever So Bewitched By Any Woman: A Pride And Prejudice Variation by Isabelle Mayfair


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would have liked to have given this a higher rating, but to me it was sweet, but really just okay. The bottom line - it didn't feel like I got the whole picture.

There are many typos in the story, which is too common these days. I find it jarring when I read a letter from Miss Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet that starts: Dear Miss Darcy. But, this is just a pet peeve.

The story starts really well. Georgiana Darcy did not meet Mr. Wickham in Ramsgate. She is now in London with her companion, Miss Younge, and Wickham seeks her out there. At the same time, Elizabeth is visiting her aunt and uncle near Cheapside, and meets Mr. Wickham regularly at various parties and events. There are many details left out about Wickham, but Elizabeth meets him at the home of Lieutenant Denny prior to their militia unit moving to Meryton. He gives her his usual song and dance about being denied the living by Darcy. Elizabeth finds him a very interesting young man, but is cautioned by her aunt to not let her heart rule her head. She follows this advice and starts to notice some things about Wickham that are a bit less than ideal.

At the same time Elizabeth is running into Wickham at various gatherings, she has also become friends with Georgiana Darcy. She confides in Elizabeth that she is in love, but does not name the man. He wants her to elope in order to prevent Mr. Darcy from stopping the marriage. Elizabeth starts to believe Georgiana is in danger and encourages her to contact Mr. Darcy. She realizes the man in question is Wickham and tries to stop the elopement. Georgiana is, of course, saved, and Elizabeth and Darcy start to become close. But, is this just an infatuation? How can they determine if it is real love?

The story has a great beginning, but I don't really feel the author finished up the story quite as well. We lose touch with Elizabeth's friendship with Georgiana when Darcy runs away from Elizabeth. Yet, he indicates when he returns that he knows they have been in touch by letter. I would like to have known what was being communicated here. Maybe this could have been one way for Darcy and Elizabeth to know what the other is up to? Instead, we have several months of blank.

The resolution of the relationship with our dear couple is really, really fast and I did not find it believable at all, nor did I find it very satisfying. Elizabeth feels Darcy has fully explained himself? She isn't the least bit hurt, disappointed or angry? There is nothing the two have to resolve? Their relationship has gotten to the point already - they know each other that well? I guess I honestly felt half the story was missing.

Many authors recently have been writing shorter variations on P&P and that is absolutely fine. But, making it novella length because the story is not complete is something I am seeing more and more. I have determined I will lower the ratings on these stories to match my disappointment. Although this is a sweet read, I cannot recommend it very highly because it does not feel complete. It has a happy ending for D&E, but I can't say exactly why.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Undone Business - 3 1/2 of 5 stars - two for the price of one is not always a bargain.


Undone Business: A Pride and Prejudice Novella VariationUndone Business: A Pride and Prejudice Novella Variation by Rose Fairbanks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book twice before reviewing as there was something that bothered me about it, but it took me a while to figure it out. I enjoyed the stories very much, but something didn't sit right.

This story is basically the story of both Bennet sisters; Elizabeth and Jane. The first portion of the book is almost strictly Elizabeth, but after she reaches an understanding with Darcy, the story shifts more closely to Jane.

Undone Business follows canon Pride and Prejudice fairly straightforwardly until we hit Darcy's proposal to Elizabeth at Hunsford. One thing slightly different from canon is the thoughts we hear from both Elizabeth and Darcy. Rose Fairbanks has let us into their minds a little bit so that we see more clearly what Darcy was thinking leading up to the proposal and what Elizabeth was thinking that allowed her mind to change fairly quickly in her feelings towards Darcy once the misunderstandings had been cleared up. Where the story takes the variation away from canon is that Darcy does not simply leave Elizabeth with a letter to read. Instead, he stays and explains to her his relationships with both Bingley and Wickham and how this has colored his actions. In this variation, Darcy explains himself such that Elizabeth begins to see his protectiveness of both she and Jane in his beliefs and actions. The writing in this portion of the story is lovely and the story of Darcy and Elizabeth is very sweet.

The second portion of the story involves Jane. When Darcy explains himself to Bingley, Charles makes a totally different choice from canon. This time he determines too much time has passed and he does not believe he will be received well by Jane. So Jane's story goes in a totally different direction from canon. She experiences a season in town with Elizabeth and Darcy after they are married and she is surprised by a prior acquaintance connected to the new residents of Netherfield. Jane turns out to be a much less serene angel and proves to be more like her sister Elizabeth than previously thought. Her heart is broken by Bingley, she is totally unnerved by her mother, and she longs to have what Elizabeth has found.

My problem with this story is the fact that it is two separate stories. Both appear to be artificially shortened in order to fit them into one book. I so wish the author had chosen to separate this into two books and expand upon both stories, but especially Jane's. She has two valid suitors in a very short space of time. We don't have an opportunity to experience any of the courtship with Jane. Yes, you don't fall in love with everyone who fancies you, but we saw very little of the interaction with Jane's suitors such that we have any preference for one over the other. Why did Jane pick the one she did? Show me, let me hear their conversations, and give them some time to understand each other before you yank one away and give the other Jane's whole heart. And, this Jane was not the bland Jane we see in most stories. This one has life and fire. Can't we see more of her life and her experiences? Let us see what Bingley missed and the two new suitors discovered.

So, although I enjoyed this story, I am confident this author could have given us one novella about Darcy and Elizabeth and probably an entire novel about Jane's story. Missed opportunity. What I discovered is the feeling that bothered me about this book was the frustration I felt knowing this could have been something wonderful. 3 1/2 stars rounded up to 4.



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Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Merry Darcy Christmas by Emma Dow 4 of 5 stars - New Author


A Merry Darcy Christmas: A Pride and Prejudice Variation (Jane Austen's Darcy and Elizabeth Holiday Series Book 1)A Merry Darcy Christmas: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Emma Dow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I rounded this up from 3 1/2 stars to 4 stars.

This is a very sweet tale of the Christmas following the Easter after Darcy's proposal at Huntsford. However, a couple of things were changed. Elizabeth did not accept and read Darcy's letter, and the two did not meet at Pemberley during the summer. Darcy and Bingley did not return to Hertfordshire. So, now, at Christmas, it has been a year since Bingley left Netherfield, and Darcy has not seen Elizabeth since Easter.

Lady Catherine has invited the entire Bennet family for Christmas to Rosings Park. In addition, although originally planning to stay in London for Christmas, Darcy has a problem he must resolve with Lady Catherine and changes his mind. He will also be at Rosings for Christmas. Being the person she is, Miss Bingley outright asks Darcy to include the Bingleys in the invitation. The Bennets do not know this party will be joining them, and Darcy and his group do not know the Bennets will be present. What will happen when they all meet? In addition, Lady Catherine has a big set of plans for the holidays. Why did she invite the Bennets?

The author indicates this is the first JAFF story she has written and I did see a couple of issues. I certainly enjoyed the story, but the author missed some great opportunities had she but increased the length of the story. Lady Catherine has invited a very large party of people to Rosings for the holidays. Although several new characters were introduced, I think much more could have been done with this. For example, this would have provided a great opportunity for Darcy and Bingley to experience some real competition for the hearts of their love interests. In addition, the development of relationships could have been spelled out in more detail. We heard about people falling in love, but we never saw it ourselves. I would have liked to have seen Bingley struggle to get Jane's attention. What about what was going on with Anne? Let's see some of it. And, even Darcy and Elizabeth seemed to have gone awfully fast in their resolution. Show us how this happened, don't just tell us. We need some loving and emotional scenes. Again, I would just say the author could have generously increased the length of the story by adding in some love scenes and some falling in love scenes. And, finally, on this issue, what about Kitty and Mary? Couldn't there have been at least something starting for either of them?

Then, there are some errors. Although Lydia has only aged one year, Georgiana, who in canon is slightly younger, has aged three years and is now turning eighteen. I would suggest the author would have been better to leave her unattached in this story and focus on some of the other couples. Anne is not given the title of Lady by Austen. There are several things not explained in the story that make you wonder how various characters got their information. And, the story really needed more proof reading. I amuse myself by sending in corrections to Amazon from my Kindle. I don't know if they go anywhere, but would like to see some of them updated in the text. To be honest, the thought crossed my mind the author might not be a native English speaker.

But, I hate to dwell solely on the issues. This was a sweet story and shows the author has great potential. I can hardly wait to see what she writes next. I do hope she has a beta helping her to explore some more depth in her writing. Despite the issues, I do recommend this lovely little Christmas romance to other Austen JAFF readers.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken - 4 of 5 Stars


Jane FairfaxJane Fairfax by Joan Aiken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled to get myself totally interested in this book, Jane Fairfax, and have also struggled to figure out why. This is a well written book, and the character of Jane Fairfax is fairly complex and interesting. I enjoyed the writing and the character. So, why did I keep putting off reading this book when it has been on my TBR pile for years?

Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen stories and I always found the character of Emma to be so agreeably flawed. You just see her rushing pell-mell into one mess after another. She is so obviously wrong about so many things and is adamant she is right. The biggest thing she is wrong about is Jane Fairfax. Jane is everything Emma is not - hard working, talented, beautiful, admired by all, a considerate friend and family member. It is no wonder Emma dislikes her so much; she is so close to perfection. I wonder if this isn't what kept me from reading her story. How could someone so perfect be anything but boring?

But, Jane Fairfax is not boring. She is actually quite courageous and a very good friend. As a poor girl without any prospects, poor Jane faces a life of servitude. At least she has people who will help her become educated so she may become a governess worthy of being hired by a good family. Jane dreads this. Who would look forward to raising someone else's children and being a servant after living the life of a beloved almost daughter to Colonel and Mrs. Campbell? Who would want to give up her friendship with Rachel who has almost become like a sister to her? Jane has no future as anything but a governess as she has no dowry or societal connections, so she must find employment. But, what Jane doesn't realize is no one else really wants her to become a governess either. They want Jane to find love and marriage and they are putting off as long as possible the time for her to find a job. Jane is loved by the Campbell family and her Aunt Hetty and Grandmama. They all wish her well.

So, Jane is now sort of stuck in a world where she is floating without a real place. She doesn't belong in the society of the Campbell family and she can't live in Highbury for ever without some income. Who would blame her for dreaming of love and marriage with first a man from her childhood, then the man who is the love of her best friend, and then finally, the young man she has barely noticed as he has been falling in love with her? She is heading home for a visit to her Aunt and Grandmother at Highbury and her life is so up in the air and her future is not defined. Can anyone blame her for accepting a secret engagement?

Jane Fairfax allows us to meet and know Jane as she was from childhood and what her experiences were prior to the action of the book Emma. We also see Jane as she views the world from the other side of Emma's matchmaking schemes and theorizing about the lives of those around her. In Emma we see how Miss Woodhouse views Jane Fairfax, but in this title, we see how Emma is viewed, and disliked, by Jane. See? Jane isn't really all that perfect and she is perfectly aware of what Emma is doing. In addition, she is very uncomfortable keeping her secret from all of her family and friends, and Frank's antics with Emma do not help make life any easier.

I still like Emma, but Jane Fairfax is a fascinating view of the other side and provides the perspective of someone who cannot find Emma amusing. This is very well written and I think JA would approve. Definitely recommended. It should be noted, however, that this book is not available as an ebook.



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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James - what 5 Star ratings are for


The Elizabeth Papers

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the kind of story I save my five star ratings for. I may not give out 5 stars all that readily because I want to apply them to stories that really move me. The definition of 5 stars is "I loved it" and that is true of The Elizabeth Papers.

The Elizabeth Papers is a story of modern descendants of our beloved Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. However, the resolution of their story requires our modern day characters to research and reveal the story of our dear couple, which is told through segments of Elizabeth's journals and a few of Darcy's letters. Jenetta James interweaves the Regency and current day stories in a manner that allows the truth and the intentions to be discovered together. The two time periods are written well, such that we can feel the difference between the two as our reading switches between them. The Regency period retains a softness of candlelight and gentle living contrasted with the tragedies of medical limitations and lack of conveniences. The modern day shows the reverse, in the harsh aspects of modern texts, emails, cars, etc., but amazing breakthroughs in science and medicine.

As Fitzwilliam Darcy's life was coming to its inevitable conclusion, he reflects on the difference between the situation of his five daughters compared to the five daughters of the Bennet family which included his wife, Elizabeth. He is struck by the possible financial insecurity of women in a world where men inherit everything, and women are at the mercy of these men. His daughters are all well-settled, but what about the future females of his line? He therefore creates the Darcy Trust, providing financial security for his female descendants in perpetuity.

Cressida Carter (the Miss Bingley of our story) is one of Darcy's descendants who is receiving a share of the Darcy Trust. However, she has heard rumor that Victoria, the fifth daughter of Elizabeth, may not have been Fitzwilliam's daughter. Charlie Haywood is a present day private investigator who has been engaged by Cressida to help discover the truth of the fifth daughter. She hires Charlie to locate proof that will help disinherit the females from Victoria's line, thus providing her and the other descendants a bigger piece of the trust. Charlie pursues his investigation by locating and meeting Evie and Clemmie Pemberton, the current beneficiaries from Victoria's family. But, his investigation is seriously hampered when his feelings for Evie and his concern for Clemmie's medical needs get in the way.

As other readers may experience, I had an inkling very soon into the story as to the true identity of Victoria. My early thoughts were this was a bit predictable, but then I realized the author most likely intended this very impression. Because, fundamentally, the story we read involving both the Regency and the modern eras is less about this mystery than it is about the kindness of the Darcy's, both then and now. It is not Victoria's identity that matters in the long run, but the importance of family sticking together and taking care of each other. The kindness of Fitzwilliam Darcy in setting up the Darcy Trust is carried into the present day as we see the kindness of Evie and the present day Darcy's of Pemberley. This kindness saves Charlie Haywood, and resolves Cressida's greed while still valuing her as a family member.

The quality of writing in this story is simply superb. We are drawn into Elizabeth's world through her own writing, as she tells the story of her fears as a woman who is giving her husband a whole family of daughters just like her mother. We see through her eyes how Fitzwilliam's selflessness is revealed and how their love feeds into future generations. The reader meets the current generation of Darcy's, some struggling, some greedy, as they try to beat each other to the truth of Victoria's parenthood. In both eras, the author allows us tremendous insight into the thoughts and feelings of the characters. And, we see how doing the right thing with love allows for an unambiguous resolution for future generations.

Definitely highly recommended.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Going Home to Pemberley by E. Bradshaw - 5* Very Satisfying Tale of Flawed Characters


Going Home to Pemberley: A Pride & Prejudice Continuation

Going Home to Pemberley: A Pride & Prejudice Continuation by E. Bradshaw


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Going Home to Pemberley is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice rather than a variation. This story has what I look for in a sequel - lots of passion and adjustments as Darcy and Elizabeth start their life together. In addition, we see insights into other characters and their lives after P&P - Lydia and Wickham, Georgiana, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Lady Catherine and Ann, etal. Please note there are many adult scenes between Darcy and Elizabeth.

As the honeymoon begins, Elizabeth and Darcy are both very passionate and are unable to keep their hands off each other. This is light-hearted at the beginning, but we begin to see that Darcy's passionate personality can sometimes cause him to lose perspective, and we quickly see him apologizing for being a little too passionate on his wedding night. As the couple start their life at Pemberley, and Elizabeth happily becomes involved in her new role as the Mistress of Pemberley, we see Darcy over-reacting to some of her actions and having to back-pedal as he rethinks his rash assumptions or over the top anger. This sets the scene for upcoming issues when the two are faced with more serious problems.

Other characters are dealing with their own issues, and this pulls in our couple, as well as continues to set the stage for the major set of conflicts in the story. Georgiana has not recovered from her Ramsgate affair with Wickham, and no one has ever allowed her to talk about it and resolve her outstanding issues. She is severely frightened about going into society and needing to face those who might befriend her for her money, as well as those like Caroline Bingley and her cousin's wife, Lade Penelope, who are quick to judge and make disparaging comments, similar to those she witnesses toward Elizabeth. This leads to a night in which Elizabeth stays with Georgiana throughout the night to help her face her fears and provide support. But, this night plays an important role in future events.

In the meantime, Lydia has found life with Wickham is not anything like she anticipated. She is now miserable and pregnant, fearing her husband, and needing to cook and clean while barely scraping by financially. Wickham insists on a trip to Longbourn when Lydia is only about 1 1/2 months from delivery, but Lydia is too beaten down to refuse or object. Wickham has something in mind, but Lydia cannot fight him.

Colonel Fitzwilliam is by Darcy's side as they confront a threat to their family. But, Richard has his own secrets, which threaten the bond between the two cousins who are almost like brothers.

Thus we have a story with all the pieces in place to bring us to heartbreak for Darcy and Elizabeth. Passion, deceit, doubt and misunderstandings embroil all in a serious set of conflicts that leave all questioning loyalty and love. But, of course, all is resolved with a HEA, despite the roller-coaster ride.

So many times authors are not creative enough to set the stage for the conflicts between Darcy and Elizabeth in writing their fan fiction. We see blow ups between the couple that seem to come out of left field. But, Bradshaw is able to bring us bit by bit to the point where we can understand how passion can sometimes defeat love, or at least temporarily bring it to its knees. The climax of this story seems to occur naturally, with a perfect storm, and imperfect people. And, the resolution where love does overcome heated anger and unforgivable words, is also not unexpected or surprising. We aren't always sure it will get there, but it feels right and logical when it occurs. This takes a gifted author to bring about.

In Going Home to Pemberley, we see the same passionate, loving, yet flawed characters Austen wrote of in canon. We see how circumstances and personality traits (read stubborness, insecurity and stupidity) bring them to the brink of disaster, and how strength and love, plus family support, bring them back. I found Going Home to Pemberley to be a very satisfying JAFF, and highly recommend it to JAFF lovers.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Lesson Hard Learned by Wendi Sotis - 4 Stars Original Plot but Predictable Outcomes


A Lesson Hard Learned

A Lesson Hard Learned by Wendi Sotis


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very nice story with two major variations from canon: Darcy must travel to America to retrieve his cousin Bianca who has just become widowed. As the Earl is very ill and possibly dying, Colonel Fitzwilliam and his brother the Viscount cannot leave him to go for their sister, so Darcy is called upon to assist. While traveling in Derbyshire, Elizabeth falls and is injured at Matlock. Although unable to travel, Elizabeth and the Gardiners wish to leave due to the Earl's illness and his family's need to focus on him. Georgiana and the Colonel invite Elizabeth to stay at Pemberley until she can travel home to Longbourn.

So, while Darcy is on this very long voyage to America, Elizabeth is laid up at Pemberley and becoming very good friends with Georgiana. Her uncle must travel immediately to London for business, but her aunt stays with her. Darcy had sent a note to Bingley regarding his absence and requesting the Bingley and Hurst families postpone their visit. Unfortunately, the letter is mislaid and the Bingleys arrive. Hearing Elizabeth is injured, Mr. Bennet and Jane make the trip to Pemberley not knowing the Bingleys will be present.

Meanwhile, Darcy has found Bianca and discovers she has already set her cap for him as a replacement for her late husband. In his rush to leave the country before war breaks out with the British, the two must travel with their servants on a less than desirable ship, and in very close quarters.

Both of these stories have a ton of little intrigues, misunderstandings and slip ups. Georgie and Lizzy are very soon on nickname basis, and Georgiana is certain Elizabeth means much to her brother. The Bingley sisters are their usual nasty selves while Bingley and Jane are overjoyed to renew their relationship. Darcy is figuratively batting away Bianca while the ship, whose crew does a bit of smuggling on the side, is heading to England while hoping to avoid both the British navy and pirates, as well as storms, rats, bad food and questionable sailors. Everyone and their brother, including Mr. Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Lady Matlock, Bianca, Ann de bourgh, etal have their suspicions about Darcy and Elizabeth. It seems our dear couple are the only ones who are not anticipating a proposal. Oh, and of course, Lady Catherine makes her appearance.

I knocked the story rating down one star because, all in all, it was a fairly predictable, however, entertaining and well-done variation. There is certainly enough here to keep one interested in seeing how this original story line plays out, although the resolutions are not too surprising. Definitely worth a read.

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