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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Friday, November 18, 2016

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder 3 Stars - Darcy Didn't Prove Himself to Me

Letter from Ramsgate

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although this was an interesting and enjoyable variation, there is just something about it that doesn't sit right with me. After thinking about it, I determined I never felt Darcy redeemed himself adequately.

In this variation, Elizabeth is in Ramsgate and plays a critical role in getting Darcy to arrive in time to stop Georgiana from eloping with Wickham. She and Darcy become immediate friends, and slowly begin to fall in love. However, when Darcy does propose at Hunsford, and the two are happily celebrating, Elizabeth says something that causes Darcy to believe she was in league with Wickham and Mrs. Younge in their plot. A major blow up ensues and Darcy rescinds his offer.

Much happens along the way and our dear couple have their HEA. In the original P&P, Austen demonstrates that Darcy has truly changed, as both a man and as a person, by showing him go out of his way to save Lydia, while keeping his involvement secret from Elizabeth. In this story, all has been resolved prior to Darcy's arrival, and, therefore, he does not have the ability to assist Elizabeth and her family. Although this suits another resolution the author chose, it left me hanging as to whether all of Darcy's fine words were really enough of a proof of his change and his future constancy to Elizabeth. He said all the right things, and there were a few minor things that demonstrated his attempts to change. However, I was left feeling like this Darcy had further to come than in canon, due to his treatment of Georgiana, a character called Lady Amelia, as well as Elizabeth.

We never see the Darcy Elizabeth meets at Pemberley in canon, being the respected and beloved master. She never hears Mrs. Reynolds praise him. And, although Bingley does return to Jane, it is not through any action on Darcy's part. Even Georgiana questions how he could treat his friend so and is so unromantic. The author shows us the self-serving, quick to judge, selfish Darcy, but in this tale we don't see Elizabeth receiving proof of his goodness and kindness.

So, although at the end Elizabeth chooses to trust and respect Darcy, in this story I was not convinced that I should. All in all, I did not feel a sense of satisfaction at the end of the story. The definition of 3 stars is "I liked it" and I guess that is the best I can do for this title.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam DarcyThe Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Beau North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the film Groundhog Day, the character played by Bill Murray wakes each morning to realize he is reliving the same day over and over again. There is a lesson to be learned here, and it is not until the lesson is learned that he life can get back on track and move on to another day.

Well, Fitzwilliam Darcy has some lessons to be learned! We know from reading Pride and Prejudice that when he takes to heart what Elizabeth has said about him during his horrendous proposal at Hunsford and mends his ways, Mr. Darcy finds love and a happy ending. But, his evolution from the stiff, taciturn, and superior being who arrived at the assembly to the kind, accepting and loving man who returns to Longbourn to woo Elizabeth takes several months. What would have happened if Darcy learned the lessons and was able to prevent Elizabeth's anger during the proposal by fixing the problems and misunderstandings in advance?

In The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy, he is able to just that, with one major caveat. He does evolve, and he does correct everything, but only after replaying that same day over and over and over again, Groundhog Day style. Seriously, it takes him a long time! But, for the other characters in the story, no time has gone by at all.

This concept has been used before. I recall reading one where Darcy relived the assembly day over and over and over again. (I apologize to that author, as I cannot recall the title or author...) In that case Darcy had a chance to correct the original bad impression. Here, Darcy has much more to overcome. First, he needs to decide if Elizabeth is really what he wants. He then must identify what caused her great dislike of him and find a way to correct the impression. Then he must find a way to get her to consider him as a suitor.

This version by Beau North is very entertaining. Darcy has a lot of experiences and plays a lot of mischief that luckily disappears the next day when the day is repeated. But, he does learn, and he does change. Slowly, over time, he begins to see what it will take to become the man worthy of a woman like Elizabeth, and what changes he needs to make in his life to win her.

I very much enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to other JAFF lovers.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Death at Rosings by Renata McMann 3 1/2 Stars Okay

A Death at Rosings: A Pride & Prejudice VariationA Death at Rosings: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Renata McMann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rounding up to 4 stars from a real rating of 3 1/2 stars.

In this variation of Pride and Prejudice we have reached the time where Mr. Darcy has proposed to Elizabeth and been rejected. He has left the letter for her and departed from Rosings. Now comes the variation. When Mr. and Mrs. Collins, Elizabeth and Maria Lucas are invited to Rosings after Darcy and the Colonel have left, Lady Catherine becomes quite ill. In fact, she dies. Thus, the gentlemen return to Rosings to assist their cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh.

Just prior to their arrival, Anne sends for Elizabeth. She begs her to stay as her friend at Rosings to assist her in the transition. Anne does not trust men, although Darcy is the most reliable, and feels she needs a strong woman with her to help her stand up to the men and to give an honest opinion about how Anne is handling things. Elizabeth agrees and moves in at Rosings. In addition, Colonel Fitzwilliam must leave due to a serious medical issue with his father the Earl, Mrs. Jenkinson has been let go, a cousin of Anne's is asked to take her place, and Kitty Bennet is invited to visit.

At the outset, Anne makes a serious mistake. Lady Catherine has been over generous in what she has left her staff. When Anne determines she will pay it out immediately, she finds a seriously large portion of them give their notice because they now have enough money to retire, buy a bit of land, etc. Now we have very few people in the entire estate of Rosings capable of running the house, tending the animals, or managing the crops. Elizabeth and Darcy become the major players in helping to get things running smoothly again. Which, of course, brings them in daily contact.

This was a fine story and a nice variation. However, Darcy and Elizabeth worked quite hard to avoid resolving their differences. I found them both pretty annoying and their thoughts to be fairly repetitive. Their attraction was well written, but they didn't act on it much and it felt like both were too, too proper and unwilling to take any risks. Wickham and Lydia in their infamous elopement provide a bit of excitement, and there is a little twist here which makes it more interesting. But, still ODC can't seem to resolve anything.

I know it is a lot easier to be a Monday morning quarterback than to write a story myself, but I thought two things could have added to this storyline: I never saw the purpose of sending Colonel Fitzwilliam away - I would have left him at Rosings to be some competition for Darcy in gaining Elizabeth's notice. Secondly, Anne was subtly working to reform Kitty, but also doing a bit of matchmaking. I would have liked to see her spend a bit of time matchmaking with Darcy and Elizabeth.

So, an interesting twist to the original, but not as well executed as I have seen for this author in her other titles. Worth reading.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Infamous Relations by Catherine Bison 5* Very satisfying mystery with character twists

Infamous Relations: A Pride And Prejudice Infamous Relations: A Pride And Prejudice "What If?" Tale by Catherine Bilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Infamous Relations had me from the beginning. It has several things going for it. This author just plain writes well. Although we as readers know the answer to the mystery, the author allows us to see how the characters resolve it and this is done very well.

However, to make this an interesting variation from canon, readers are always looking for something to make the story different from the original without straying too far. We see this in Infamous Relations in spades. We have always known Mr. Collins was a weak, toad of a man, but here we see just how low he can go given the right incentive. Lady Catherine is greedy, we know, but here we see just how quickly she will jump on a misfortune to make her wishes come true. And, from a positive standpoint, we have always been told what a good person Jane Bennet is. In this story she shows just how kind, strong and intelligent she can be if given a bit more stage time and has a beloved sister to protect. And, when shocked, Mr. Darcy can reveal just how strong his feelings are for Elizabeth.

After Elizabeth receives the letter from Mr. Darcy at Hunsford, she is attacked, but escapes. She heads for Rosings knowing Mr. Darcy will come to her rescue. But, a terrible storm has left her wet, she is distraught, and the path is wet and muddy. She takes a fall and is knocked unconscious. She is found by Colonel Fitzwilliam who returns with her to the parsonage. To the shock of Charlotte, the doctor examining Elizabeth discovers evidence of bruising from the attack. Dr. Trent, Charlotte and Colonel Fitzwilliam keep to themselves this last piece thinking they will both preserve Elizabeth's reputation and investigate quietly to bring the attacker to justice.

The story now centers around who should be told what and how the mystery is solved. This is very finely expressed by the author and we see how the characters work out the solution. In addition, Darcy is so totally devastated by Elizabeth's accident that he reveals how much he cares about her to pretty much everyone, including Lady Catherine and Anne. But, the letter was found and read by Lady Catherine, adding another twist to the story.

I love to use the word satisfying to describe a book. To me this is a great compliment. It indicates the story raised expectations in the reader, created enough tension to keep the reader engaged, and then finished off the story in a manner that meets or exceeds those expectations. This was a very satisfying Pride and Prejudice variation. I can hardly wait to read more by Catherine Bilson. Highly recommended, particularly to purists who want to see their characters true to canon, but are happy to see circumstances cause them to become greater versions of themselves.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams 5* Love warts and all

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth BennetThe Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many readers may agree reading about unlikable characters is not agreeable to either party. However, in recent years very famous examples have crept up, such as Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, where the story so thoroughly involves the reader this fact is all but forgotten. Such it is for large portions of The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet.

In essence, I found this title to be divided into three sections: Elizabeth and Darcy both disagreeable and immature, Elizabeth maturing and Darcy still disagreeable and immature, and finally both characters maturing into admirable and likable characters. However, when you know the author has intended this to be true, and the writing of the plot itself is so fine, this can be forgiven. This story has the ability to capture the reader's attention immediately and to keep it throughout the long story to follow.

Not to say that this is some major adventure story. It is, still, in essentials, a character study, and a discussion of the society of the Regency period. Class, position and money are still the qualities admired, and those without are barely noticed, and are considered to be inferior in essentials.

In the original Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is 20 years of age and Darcy is 28 with some background and experience that have made them a bit more aware of the world around them and the intrinsic value of individuals, despite their personal misunderstandings. However, in this tale, Elizabeth is a quite child-like 15 and Darcy a still swaggering, superior 23 years of age when they meet. This sets the stage for even more volatility as neither has learned any of the real lessons of self-restraint and compassion. Both are very self-centered; Elizabeth due to youth and Darcy due to being a spoiled arse.

Mr. Bennet has died and left his family destitute. However, as a last moment bid to ensure a good life for his favorite daughter, he reaches out to request a favor of a great friend from his youth, George Darcy. Mr. Darcy agrees to accept Elizabeth as his ward and take her to Pemberley to be raised side by side with his daughter Georgiana. Father and son Darcy arrive with a new governess to collect Elizabeth and bring her to Pemberley.

Fearing the restrictions of this new life, Elizabeth bolts and, dressed as a young boy, makes her escape. Young Mr. Darcy, Fitzwilliam, takes after her with the thrill of the hunt, his father's warning to not be alone with her ringing in his ears. However, chaos and scandal ensue and the honorable son takes the child Elizabeth as his bride. Both parties are very bitter about the sacrifice they are making to avoid scandal and a very acrimonious forced marriage scenario begins. The story then takes us over several years as both attempt to avoid the marriage and the marriage partner. We slowly - ever slowly - see the young couple work through their differences, as they each mature and begin to make better choices, however, at different paces.

Although the story sounds simple, it contains the complexity of the two main characters as its center piece. I found I did not like either of them at the beginning and wondered how the author would bring them together. But, the arguments were realistic, the back story for each character's pain very understandable, and the building of the relationship was slow but logical in its growth. The author allows the reader to feel for the characters what they feel for each other; first bitterness and dislike, and eventually understanding and affection.

As in many other forced marriage variations, Elizabeth builds support around her from the minor characters, such as Colonel Fitzwilliam and his mother, the Countess of Matlock. We also see the influence of Mrs. Gardner and Mr. Bingley in softening the hearts of the main characters. Occasionally we see both on the verge of making possibly disastrous choices, but then feel the pull of family and duty to bring them back to the right path. It is not until later they realize they feel this obligation to each other with a stronger feeling than simply duty.

Of course, we have those who are mean spirited - Miss Bingley and her ilk. We have those intent on destroying the couple - Mr. Wickham. But, we also have the cast of characters we have loved from the original, and, occasionally, some of the original writings of Austen used to great effect, although often in different circumstances. There are some minor storylines that add additional spice.

Although a long book, I found myself starting to wish it would not end. The characters grow on you and become friends and family. The author creates very three dimensional characters with warts and all, but Elizabeth's thoughts on loving others despite their flaws is a beautiful passage and the reader begins to feel the same. I guess I loved this book because of the flawed characters, and added in the flaws of the text as just another piece of the whole to be loved. This is quite a satisfying variation and a talented author. Highly recommended.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Reduced Circumstances by Ola Wegner 4 stars with pluses and minuses

Reduced CircumstancesReduced Circumstances by Ola Wegner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reduced Circumstances has Elizabeth as a fairly changed woman due to circumstances that took place after she refused Darcy at Hunsford. Mr. Bennet dies leaving his family impoverished. This changes all of the conditions of the Bennet family members. But, other situations have effected Elizabeth's view of the world and her ability to trust.

Although Jane marries (not to Bingley), which saves the family financially, Elizabeth determines she does not wish to be a burden to anyone. She accepts a position of companion to an elderly woman in Leeds. At the beginning of our story it is now several years later. Elizabeth's employer, Mrs. Walker, has died and Elizabeth has had to flee Leeds. Mrs. Walker's family has accused her of stealing and had previously attempted to ruin her reputation. On her way to London, she meets with Mr. Darcy and Miss Darcy and they convince her to accept a ride with them. Darcy has never married, nor forgotten the woman he loves. This meeting recommences the relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth.

What makes this variation interesting is the changes brought about to Elizabeth by her experience in Leeds with the Walker family. Although treated well by her employer, she lived a lonely existence. Being mistreated by her employers children and grandchildren for no apparent reason has caused Elizabeth to learn to mistrust for the first time in her life. She is not the lively and happy person she was when Darcy knew her. She is also struggling to trust anyone. This changes the dynamic of the couple.

This variation works, for the most part. It is hard to see why Darcy is still so set on marrying Elizabeth and why he is pushing her when he had indicated he would not. Elizabeth waffles back and forth, and it is also not easy to see why she eventually accepts and learns to trust Darcy. I felt the story somehow lacked pivotal moments to bring about the changes to the relationship. It appears the sexual relationship was a major factor, but this didn't really work for me. However, I enjoyed seeing this more mature Elizabeth relearning to trust.

One minor point of irritation for me was the author's misuse of the term "my person". She used it to mean the whole being, as in "My mother appears to take interest in my person only when she sees that it benefits her.". The term is usually used to reflect the persons body, as in "please remove your hands from my person". I found this misuse sprinkled throughout the book to be slightly distracting.

All in all, this was an interesting and unique variation with pluses and minuses. I am rounding up the rating to 4 stars, but would say it was actually 3 1/2. But, worth reading for the premise and the interesting change to Elizabeth's character.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile - 5star story of body switching

Darcy By Any Other NameDarcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read Darcy By Any Other Name as the author posted it chapter by chapter on an online fan fiction website. It was just torment having to wait a week or even two before seeing where the story was going. Reading it in basically one sitting was a far superior reading experience for me. Even knowing what was going to happen this time around I still found myself unable to do anything for an entire day except read this to completion. It is definitely a unique P&P variation, and one with quite a fascinating lesson.

At the Netherfield ball Darcy steps outside for a bit of fresh air and is followed by the obsequious Mr. Collins. As a storm is brewing, they take shelter in a folly which is filled with statues of men from the bible and citations of various biblical texts. They are struck by lightning and a miraculous thing occurs - they switch bodies. The fabulously wealthy, powerful and handsome Mr. Darcy finds himself in the body of the pudgy, penniless parson, and Mr. Collins awakens to a life of luxury in an amazing body, but with duty and responsibility bearing down on him.

This is just a tremendous premise. We see Darcy experiencing what it is like to be disrespected and condescended to. However, he also has the opportunity to improve how the Bennet family, especially Elizabeth, views Mr. Collins. On the other hand, Mr. Collins gets to see what it is like to have servants waiting on him, the finest clothing, food, drink and cigars, and Miss Bingley at his beck and call. But, he is also in a position to really mess things up for Mr. Darcy, as his limited knowledge and few skills cause Lady Catherine, etal, to conclude the lightning strike has robbed Darcy of his mental faculties.

So, the author has provided us with several fascinating plot twists with questions to be answered. Will Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins ever be able to switch back to their own bodies? If not, how will they handle their lives so their families don't send them to Bedlam? Will Elizabeth fall in love with the man she thinks is Mr. Collins and what will happen if they are able to switch back? Then we have side issues with Wickham, Anne de Bourgh, Mr. Bennet, etc. There is just so much going on and so many ways things can go wrong that simply propel the reader through this story.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the story is what the two main characters, Darcy and Collins, are taught about themselves and their world. This is definitely a story about pridefulness. In addition, the writing is so good and the characters so well rounded. I know I will read this one again. Highly, highly recommended.

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fated to Meet by Madeline Kennet - 5* Fluff

Fated to Meet: A Pride and Prejudice VariationFated to Meet: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Madeline Kennet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes one just wants Darcy and Elizabeth to have fewer problems to overcome in their relationship. Occasionally one just wants to see the romantic aspects of P&P. Fated to Meet is a nice antidote to the angst and issues so often faced by our dear couple.

Fated to Meet is a very short variation where Elizabeth and Darcy have several silent encounters in London. As their eyes meet in various situations, they form impressions of each other and they wish to meet. But, circumstances keep them apart. The reader is left to wonder if they will ever meet.

But, they do, of course, as they are Fated to Meet. This is a very sweet story and just a bit of fluff to lighten up your day. Appreciating it for what it is, it is highly recommended.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shadows Over Longbourn by Jann Rowland 4* - good after 1/2 way point

Shadows Over LongbournShadows Over Longbourn by Jann Rowland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a very impatient reader. After reading for 50 some years, I recognize that I don't have enough time in my life to spend reading books I don't enjoy. So, it surprises me to say I did not really warm up to this book until about half way through. Usually I would not give a book this much time. But, I kept giving this book the benefit of the doubt and found it to be worth my while.

Mr. Bennet is widowed, having lost his wife at Lydia's birth, and is now dying. Jane is 19 years old, compared to 21 in canon, so all of the girls are, obviously, younger and will need guardians once Mr. Bennet passes away. The Mr. Collins who will inherit Longbourn is the father to the William Collins we know - Mr. Thaddeus Collins - and he is not a good man. The girls' uncles, Mr. Gardner and Mr. Phillips could raise the girls, but their lives would not be those of gentlewomen. However, there is another option - a distant cousin, Mr. Darcy. Despite his young age and having only recently inherited Pemberley, Fitzwilliam Darcy agrees to take in the five Bennet sisters as his wards to raise alongside his sister Georgiana.

The first half of the book is mostly about the mechanics of getting the Bennet sisters to Pemberley and getting them situated. There are adjustments and the butting of heads between Darcy and Elizabeth who takes on the "mother" role for her sisters. During this portion of the book I just could not warm to either character, or actually many of the characters. It felt like the readers needed to get past the first half of the book, so the author just went about spelling out the circumstances of initial meetings and marriages, the Ramsgate situation, etc. in a fairly rote kind of way.

About half way through the book, Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, Jane and Charles, take on the property of Netherfield. The Bennets all return to the neighborhood where they grew up and the neighbors they loved. At Longbourn, the nasty Mr. Collins, father and son, resent the loss of Jane to Bingley, as they felt she should have married William Collins, and hold this against the party. Now the story starts to pick up. Elizabeth and Darcy begin their dance of uncertainty in love, and William Collins begins his pursuit of Elizabeth.

Once the story turns to Netherfield, we begin to see the characters blossom and become more three dimensional. It feels almost as if the author should have started the story at this point. We begin to really see the characters come into their own and to feel the romance blossoming. I particularly enjoyed the way the author handled the William Collins character. Through Elizabeth's eyes, we see there is more to the man than the silly character we have known and Elizabeth feels pity for his situation. The actions taken by him at the end of the book make sense and feel realistic given Elizabeth's viewpoint.

I cannot give the book more than 4 stars, and actually should round it down to 3 1/2 given the amount of material we have to wade through to get to the good parts, but I enjoyed the overall book and can recommend it.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Whispered Kisses by Sarah Johnson 5 Stars - Tragic yet ethereal romance

Whispered Kisses: A Pride & Prejudice Novella VariationWhispered Kisses: A Pride & Prejudice Novella Variation by Sarah Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I originally read Whispered Kisses on one of the JAFF fandom websites and enjoyed it very much. The author has added writing to Elizabeth's accomplishments, and an imagination that runs much more to the romantic. In addition, Mr. Darcy has experienced a serious tragedy prior to our introduction to him, and this changes his entire perspective on Elizabeth and the Bennet family.

In this variation, Elizabeth is in London and starts to receive unexpected floral nosegays delivered to her by Joseph Reynolds on behalf of his master. Elizabeth is not told the name of the master, nor does she recognize the flowers she has received. They are an unusual blue flower with a lovely scent. She is greatly intrigued yet wonders at the propriety of allowing the unknown admirer to address her in this manner. In her writing she imagines the man who is sending her the flowers.

To Elizabeth's shock and amazement, when she returns to Meryton, she continues to receive the floral tributes. Her assumption is the gentleman who has been sending them must be amongst Mr. Bingley's party at Netherfield. Will she meet him at the Assembly?

The story is lovely and sad, but does not involve too much pride or prejudice on the part of Elizabeth. Darcy's pride and prejudice is completely wrapped up in Mr. Wickham, and this story has a surprising twist. The story is well written and evokes a kind of ethereal romantic atmosphere not common in JAFF. I like this more "head in the clouds" Elizabeth and the tragic Mr. Darcy. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Progression Vol. 2 - Strong continuation of the series 5 stars

Progression Vol. 2: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and PrejudiceProgression Vol. 2: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Jodi L. Covey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stunning story of the time after marriage for Darcy and Elizabeth. In this continuation, Elizabeth and Georgiana are entering the ton, and society is not being kind. Darcy made a major misstep early in their marriage which has society tittering behind their hands that the marriage was a mistake he now regrets. This can't be further from the truth, but the Darcy's are in a hole and need help to rise above.

Lady Matlock has a plan and it involves Almacks and the frightening matrons who determine who will be accepted. This idea centers around Georgiana's coming out as a way to relaunch Mrs. Darcy. So now we have three reluctant participants - Elizabeth who is just doing it for the family but is afraid she is too much of an outsider, Georgiana who is doing it for Elizabeth but is truly not ready to enter society, and Darcy who just doesn't want to see Elizabeth and Georgiana changed into society ladies and doesn't want to share them with anyone. This combination is not allowing society to see the marriage in any kind of better light!

In addition, Caroline has her own very serious drama with the man she has chosen to replace Darcy in her affections. Meantime, Colonel Fitzwilliam is feeling that he no longer can sit back safely in the militia, and want to join the regulars in their fight against Napoleon. But, Lord Matlock is totally opposed to him putting himself in harms way.

One of the best aspects of this story is how three-dimensional the author has made our favorite characters. We see all sides of Elizabeth as she tries to stay true to herself, yet become the society matron the family needs her to be, and, in addition, be supportive of her husband in his struggles. Darcy may have improved himself for Elizabeth, but he is still Darcy - aloof, restrained, proud, and resistant to change. He fights this having to prove to society his marriage is strong and resents having to open up his heart for others to see, but he knows he must do this for Elizabeth. Georgiana is becoming more and more mature and worldly, yet cannot trust herself when it comes to relationships - how will she know who is sincere and who is not? Coming out is a frightening prospect, but she will do it for Elizabeth and her family. Even the minor characters are well drawn and we feel Caroline sinking into madness and Colonel Fitzwilliam's struggles to become his own man.

Finally we have the story that will continue into the third book of the series - that of Miss Anne de Bourgh. Anne has broken free of her mother and come to London to stay with the Matlocks. She has brought Mrs. Collins (the former Charlotte Lucas) with her as support. Anne is not a young ingenue, yet her heart is still very innocent and she is a bit naive. She is growing stronger and bolder and is having the time of her life in London - for once free of her mother's restrictions. All of this, however, places her at risk. Her family wish to see her enjoying herself, but they know her wealth puts her at risk for scoundrels and they are watching very carefully.

What I loved most about the story is the wonderful language in the writing. This sounds so much like the language of Austen's era. Not all authors can accomplish this, but this author writes very effectively with a tone of the Regency. All in all, I found this a very satisfactory read, as long as the reader is comfortable with series reading. The story does not end here, although some aspects are brought to conclusion.

Highly recommended for JAFF lovers, and those readers of Regency historic fiction.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Most Truly by Reina M Williams - 5 Star - Great Character Development

Most Truly (Love at Pemberley, #1)Most Truly by Reina M. Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can honestly say that I am not a big fan of books about the side characters from Jane Austen books. Usually, I find little of interest about Kitty, etal. This short story was definitely a wake up for me on how lovely a story can be about side characters.

Since the book is short, so will be the review. This is a love story about Kitty and Colonel Fitzwilliam.

However, here is why I have given this story 5 stars: In a very short and sweet story, we see amazing character development by this author! Falling in love is not easy, and is filled with uncertainty and insecurity. Should I say this, should I do this, how will they take it, is this the right one, what if they reject me? etc. We see inside the hearts and minds of Kitty and Colonel Fitzwilliam as they experience these emotions as they also experience the joy of learning about each other and spending time together. But, in addition, we have some background that makes these characters unique. Colonel Fitzwilliam is still haunted by his time in battle and wonders about bringing his dark side to a marriage with such a young and innocent girl. Kitty is haunted by her life as the silly and irresponsible Bennet sister who followed in Lydia's footsteps and took no action to stop her ill-advised elopement with Wickham. In very short and spot on phrases, this author can draw you right in to the guilt and pain each of these two are experiencing, and the questioning they have about their readiness to marry. Really amazingly great writing. In very short spaces the author is also able to help us feel Anne developing a love for Alfred, Lord Matlock searching his soul for what he needs to do for his sons, Georgiana seeking a way to be the best friend possible, etc., etc.

Just a very lovely short story with tremendous character development in a condensed package. Wow. More, please.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Importance of Being Emma 3 stars - sexy, but harsh characters

The Importance of Being Emma (Darcy & Friends #1)The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Importance of Being Emma is a modern, sexually charged, corporate view of the story of Emma originally written by Jane Austen. If one wishes to read a modern day comic romance without identifying it as being a variation of a Jane Austen novel, this is a fun story with a good bit of sexy romance. However, comparing it to Austen's Emma, this modernization did not improve on the original, offer the same kinds of insights as the original, nor present the characters in the same favorable light as the original.

Emma Woodhouse is a 23 year-old highly educated English woman who is now joining her father's business as its Marketing Director. She brings her MBA from Harvard with her as she seeks to bring Highbury Foods into the 21st Century. Her confidence and pig-headed stubbornness lead her to believe she has all she needs to take on this daunting task. Her father, on the other hand, believes Emma needs some help, as she will eventually take over all of the business from him. He seeks out an old family friend to mentor Emma.

In steps Mark Knightley. The Knightley and Woodhouse families have been neighbors and friends for decades. Emma's sister Izzy married John Knightley when Emma was a teenager, uniting the two families. Mark has always seen himself like an elder brother to Emma, who is about 12 years his junior. However, Mark has been in India working for his father's business concerns there, and has not seen Emma in many, many years. After seeing the gorgeous woman Emma has become, Mark is happy to take on the job of mentoring the young corporate go-getter.

As in the original, Emma sees herself as a successful matchmaker. Her father's personal assistant Kate has recently married, and Emma congratulates herself on being a major factor in getting Tom and Kate together. Emma is anxious to keep her skills honed and seeks to match up Harriet, the temp hired in Kate's place. Much of the story is based on Emma's attempts, as well as the other romances swirling around Emma and Harriet's lives. Let's just say, Emma is not quite as talented at this matchmaking role as she believes she is. She also is just a bit blind to the possibilities for her own romantic life.

I couldn't immediately put my finger on why this version of Emma did not fully satisfy me, but I think I may have finally come to the conclusion that the characters are just not the same kind of good people we found in Austen's version. For example, in the original, Mr. Knightley is a kind mentor to Emma whom she respects and admires. In this version, he has his head in his pants and provides advice to Emma in a very harsh and condescending manner. On several occasions he lets his mouth run off and actually says some fairly mean things to Emma. Emma is just harsh all the way around - it is rare in this version for her to say something nice to anyone, particularly Mark. Jane Fairfax is unattractive and boring and Flynn Churchill does not inadvertently hurt people as in the original. Instead, he kind of ignores the fact what he is doing or saying could be hurtful, and takes no responsibility for it.

The characters are not totally repellent - they are entertaining and funny. But, there is a harshness to the characters that does seem to detract from the romance. I didn't see what everyone saw in each other. However, the sex appeared to be good!

All in all, it was a cute story, but not a great compliment to the original. It just could have used a tiny bit more kindness.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Deception at Lyme by Carrie Bebris - Delicious 5 Star!

The Deception at Lyme: Or, The Peril of Persuasion (Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, #6)The Deception at Lyme: Or, The Peril of Persuasion by Carrie Bebris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I purchased this book in 2011, and for some reason I have never gotten around to reading it. I don't know why this happens, and sometimes, when I finally read the book I have put off, I discover I really was missing something. I loved this book. I will only make one complaint which will be at the end of the review, and think it might make this book actually a 4 1/2 star, but I will leave it at 5 for the official rating.

Carrie Bebris has written a series of books with Elizabeth and Darcy as sleuths. The Deception at Lyme is number 6 in the series. Throughout the stories, our dear couple find themselves somewhere in the midst of a murder mystery. (In this book Elizabeth comments "one of these days I would like to journey from Pemberley without encountering a single corpse). They are uniquely suited, with their intelligence, objectivity, and financial freedom, to investigate the crime. In addition, in each book they are in a local found in another of Jane Austen's books, and meet characters from her other books. In this story, you can see the subtitle is The Peril of Persuasion, so it makes complete sense for them to be traveling in Lyme and meeting the Elliots, the Wentworths, etal.

During their visit in Lyme, Darcy, Elizabeth, their daugher Lily-Anne, and Georgiana, along with friends, discover a woman who has fallen from the high wall of the Cobb, the sea wall at Lyme. Tragically the woman dies, but goes into labor prior to her death and delivers a live son. In seeking the identify of the woman and the father's child, they meet Sir Walter Elliot and Miss Elliot who are also staying in Lyme. The night before Mrs. Clay's death and the birth of her son, Sir Walter married her, making the boy Sir Walter's heir. Mr. Elliot, the prior heir, however, claims the boy as his son. All of this becomes tangled as Lily-Anne's behavior and a few words of the dying woman cause Elizabeth to question whether the fall was an accident or if the woman was pushed. Add to this the sea chest of Darcy's deceased cousin, Gerard Fitzwilliam, strange behavior on the part of a navy Lieutenant, and subtle hints of smuggling, and the story is filled with intrigue and mystery.

As I mentioned at the top of my review, there is one complaint I have with the story: just too many people are incidentally connected to the mystery and the back story. It just became a little too coincidental that everyone the Darcy's met eventually had some part to play in the story. The plotting was clever, and the involvement of the characters was well done, but it just felt a tiny bit contrived. Couldn't they have just met some people in Lyme that did not have an interest in the mystery?

However, having gotten that off my chest, I can say that I really loved The Deception at Lyme. Carrie Bebris has Darcy and Elizabeth down and so many of the little incidents or conversations caught me laughing right out loud. And, if you have read Persuasion, you know the Elliot family has quite a few odd ducks and Sir Walter Elliot is amazingly vain and full of his own consequence and that of his connections. Status is everything! And, this makes him so funny.

Darcy's dry humor is also present, and, of course, bounces off Elizabeth's wit very effectively. But, the author can simply put things in such a way that tickles my funny bone. In one inconsequential scene where the Darcys are getting to know the Wentworths (Frederick and Anne), Elizabeth and Anne are having a very lovely time, as young mothers do, talking about everything to do with their babies. After a couple of just heartfelt paragraphs describing this conversation, the author then states very baldly "Darcy was bored nearly to the limit of endurance." This had me totally on the floor. And, this happened many, many times throughout the book.

Of course, this is a murder mystery and not all fun and games, so there are many tense and sensitive moments as well. Pride and Prejudice both are expressed and we see a very interesting turn of events by the end of the book. I thought I saw this coming somewhere along the line, so there must have been some subtle foreshadowing by the author. The story comes to a very satisfying conclusion, although with a few surprises and disappointments for a couple of characters. But, hey, this is Darcy and Elizabeth - there will be a HEA!

Now I have to go back and see what others I have missed in this series. This one was just too delicious and I need more to feed my appetite. Very highly recommended!

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Longbourn's Songbird by Beau North 5* Social commentary just like P&P

Longbourn's SongbirdLongbourn's Songbird by Beau North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Longbourn's Songbird by Beau North is an unusual interpretation of Pride and Prejudice. So many of the variations are either set in the original Regency time frame or are set in current day. There are a few, however, set in another time frame, and this story is set in the 1940's post World War II.

In reading quotes from the author, it appears the story was set in this era in order to write a modern telling, yet set the variation in a time frame that would still be very restrictive. In the 1940's North Carolina, the Bennet sisters are experiencing the era where women are expected to step back into the traditional roles of mother and housewife after the soldiers returned home from the front. In addition, women were still considered property - of their fathers until they married and of their husbands afterward. The society of the time also found great limitations placed on a woman's independence - she was chaperoned and strict social niceties were to be shown. A young woman was certainly not expected to be sexually active.

Elizabeth Bennet finds herself entrapped two ways - in the restrictive world of the women of her era, as well as the isolation she has chosen based on her own heartbreaking situation, which we do not learn about until mid-story. She and the other young women around her (her sisters, Charlotte Lucas, Anne de Bourgh, even Caroline Bingley) are fighting to break free, yet stay respectable and protected by their families. Elizabeth is a talented singer and musician, but how can she do anything with this talent when marriage and motherhood are the expectations?

When Will Darcy and Charles Bingley arrive in Meryton, they are welcomed as would be any other unmarried, wealthy young men. Charles is immediately enamored with the angel of Jane Bennet. Will is practically frozen in fear of the passion he feels for Elizabeth, which causes him to act badly at first. He sees this amazing woman and hears her amazing voice and wants to run the other way to avoid the danger of his emotions. This relationship starts out just as badly as any other variation, but slowly our couple warm to each other. In the meantime, Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley are experiencing their own rocky relationship, but this time, Jane is the one placing the roadblocks. However, for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, all bets are off when Richard Fitzwilliam, Will's cousin, arrives in Meryton with some shocking revelations.

The strength of this story lies in the constant undercurrents of racism, prejudice, abuse and sexism true to this time. In addition, we have the added concerns of young men returning from the traumas of war trying desperately to cope with their painful experiences and healing wounds. This is not a light romance, but I love to point out to people that Pride and Prejudice was not either. It was a social commentary with a romance making the major points about the class structure of the time and the pain of following societal expectations to the detriment of all. This story is also full of the pain of its time while filled with several love stories.

This is a well-written story with an intriguing and engaging set of characters. I found it hard to read at times, and I am certain others will reach for their tissues at the unfair treatment and sad experiences of several characters. The stories are told with truth and insight. But, it is the strength of Elizabeth breaking free of her world and the support she unexpectedly finds that makes this a story I can highly recommend to lovers of JAFF as well as other historical romances.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Win, Lose or Darcy by Jennifer Joy 3 Stars Enjoyably luke warm

Win, Lose, or Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice VariationWin, Lose, or Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What would happen if Mrs. Bennet won the lottery and the extra money allowed for the entire family to move to London for the season? Although I really enjoyed reading "Win, Lose or Darcy", not a lot happened, actually, to make it that different from other stories.

In other words, Lydia and Kitty did not change, Mrs. Bennet did not change, Mr. Bennet did not change, etc. The only Bennet who appeared to benefit from their time in town was Mary, who was able to find a way to put her philosophies to work. And, Charlotte Lucas was also able to benefit, in a much more realistic and responsible manner, from Mrs. Bennet's win. Jane was heartbroken and Elizabeth came to see Mr. Darcy in a better light. Mr. Darcy came to the rescue and all ended with HEA for Jane and Elizabeth.

My favorite scene was, of course, Lydia's predicament at the frost fair where Elizabeth learns that Darcy is, in fact, just a boy, according to Miss Darcy, and has a sense of humor. However, throughout the book I felt like I was reading "scenes" and not crackling dialogue or people learning from their mistakes, or people falling in love. The angst was minimal, the romance warm not hot, and the mean people did not seem to get their comeuppance.

All in all, Win, Lose or Darcy is an enjoyable read, but not my favorite of Jennifer Joy. The story is light and cheery and clean, so I can recommend it to many JAFF lovers without any hesitation.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Remedy Against Sin by Christina Morland - 5 Stars - Unique take on desire and marriage

A Remedy Against Sin: A Pride and Prejudice VariationA Remedy Against Sin: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Christina Morland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

The title "A Remedy Against Sin" must have been selected with great care by the author, Christina Morland, as the title is very appropriate to the story. The general theme appears to be how lust caught up several of the major characters in the story and how marriage was the remedy.

As others have pointed out, the reader should be aware the sexual relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth is a critical factor in their relationship from the beginning. Chapter one is their wedding night and it is quite pivotal to the story - lusty and passionate with feelings of guilt and shame.

You see, lust is what has brought them into marriage, not love. Having been caught out in a minor compromise, Elizabeth and Darcy choose marriage as a remedy for the scandal affecting the Bennet family. However, within the marriage each continues to feel a sense of disgust with themselves that they are unable to communicate effectively with each other during the daylight hours, yet are able to passionately express themselves at night. Elizabeth continues to choose to misunderstand her husband's motives, while Darcy continues to withdraw when facing strong emotion. But, at night their physical attraction for each other is strong enough to bring them together, and each feels they are taking advantage of the other. They sense, but are unable to fully recognize the physical relationship is the true reflection of their feelings for each other.

What I found fascinating in this variation was how the physical passion of the women plays such a critical role in the story. Elizabeth and Georgiana keep secrets from each other because of the shame they experience connected to their "wanton" feelings. It is many months after their marriage that Georgiana is made aware of the compromise that brought about her brother's marriage to Elizabeth, and it is only after Lydia's scandal that Georgiana is capable of explaining what happened at Ramsgate to Elizabeth. A critical conversation has Elizabeth expressing her belief that women experience similar physical desires to that of men, but are not prepared in the same way to expect or recognize them.

Another factor in my enjoyment of this variation was a Darcy that changed, somewhat, due to his love for Elizabeth, but who stayed true to his character. He continues, right up to the end of the book, to be the stoic, taciturn Master of Pemberley. Yet, we have come to love him as Elizabeth has, for the man that he is and not that she wishes him to be.

I am puzzled that other reviewers felt the story petered out at the end, when from my perspective we were able to see how the lust of Darcy and Elizabeth has now fully blossomed into a love and friendship that allows them to laugh and joke about their compromise. What has happened to Georgiana and Lydia is very revealing to Elizabeth, especially. This seems to me to be the whole point of the story, and the ending chapters showing their relationship through their conversations resolves the book in a revealing and satisfactory manner. What they share together is not revealed to others. It is the same passion they share for each other privately at night that they now express in their laughter and love during the day. The marriage is whole once they realize they have nothing to be ashamed of and no longer need to feel guilt. The marriage has indeed become the remedy against sin.

I have to say I found this to be a massively satisfactory variation with a unique outlook towards marriage. It was beautifully written and contained just enough stress and angst to make the story complete. It could use just a bit more proof reading, but this was not enough of a factor for me to mark down the stars. This relationship is believable and beautiful. I highly recommend "A Remedy Against Sin" to all JAFF lovers. Those who do not like to read of the physical relationship of these characters may just come away with a new perspective. This is one case where the sex is not gratuitous - it is a major factor in the storyline.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Darcy and Elizabeth: A Promise Kept by Brenda J. Webb - Great - 4* with just a few holes

Darcy and Elizabeth: A Promise KeptDarcy and Elizabeth: A Promise Kept by Brenda J. Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I very much enjoy Brenda Webb's writing and "Darcy and Elizabeth: A Promise Kept" was no exception. It was an interesting switch on the usual variation, taking place several years after Elizabeth refused Darcy's proposal in Kent. There were just a couple of things that took the story down from 5 to 4 stars for me, and I will elaborate further down in the review.

Due to Jane's belief Elizabeth still does not like Mr. Darcy and would be uncomfortable in his presence, Charles Bingley breaks off his friendship with Darcy just after his marriage to Jane. Darcy accepts this gracefully, but promises to be there for Bingley should he ever need his help. It is now five years later and Bingley calls on Darcy for his assistance. Charles must leave for Spain without taking his family and needs Darcy to watch over his business interests and family while he is gone. This was very well done and believable. I could see Darcy doing this.

During the prior five years, Darcy has never married, but believes he has reached a point where he can move on. Just as Bingley asks for his help, Darcy finally determines he must marry, and if it cannot be Elizabeth, the next best would be to marry one of his best friends from childhood, Lady Melinda Markham. Mellie, as she is called, is a widow with two young children. She believes Darcy suffers from unrequited love and has asked him to give their relationship time to bloom before announcing an engagement. She believes herself in love with him, however, and hopes a one year postponement will give him time to realize his love for her.

Elizabeth is now known as Mrs. Gardiner and has a young child with her, Emily, who she refers to as her daughter. However, this is a ruse to protect herself and the child from the child's evil father Lord Van Lynden. When the safety of Elizabeth and Emily is threatened, Darcy brings them to Pemberley. Coincidentally, this is as Lady Markham and her family are arriving for an extended stay, with the idea of Darcy and Mellie working on their romantic relationship.

The story proceeds along several lines with multiple plots under way. Bingley's cousin has been robbing him and worse, and may escape to America. Van Lynden is involved in a plot to assassinate a high ranking foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh. Colonel Fitzwilliam is involved in the attempt to stop the assassination and capture the perpetrators. Jane Bingley is expecting a baby and all are attempting to keep her subdued, so are trying to keep much from her. Darcy and Elizabeth, of course, are still in love but not sure how the other feels. Lady Markham is not sure what is happening, but is starting to get an inkling. Meanwhile, Colonel Fitzwilliam is hiding his own feelings.

I so enjoyed the development of each of the various plots, stories and romances. Brenda J. Webb has a way to keep you involved and questioning what will happen next. The dialogue is well done and the relationships are very interesting.

However, there were a few holes here and there that could have resolved things sooner, or just seemed unlikely. There were some minor ones, like a name mixup that I found highly unlikely. And, the romantic resolution was just a little too convenient. I also found a couple of the other characters a little unnecessary - Mr Smith and Carney, specifically.

The main hole, however, for me was - why was Darcy pursuing Lord Van Lynden and not the government authorities who had evidence of his involvement in the assassination plot? This just didn't make sense to me, and some of the threat to all parties being resolved as it was could have been simpler if Van Lynden was simply pursued and captured as the criminal he was. Darcy could have accompanied the soldiers, etc., but working independently seemed a little odd.

However, this was a very enjoyable and intriguing set of escapades with our usual happy ever afters and wonderful romance. I do recommend this complex variation for lovers of JAFF. And, I look forward to Brenda J. Webb's next story!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Dishonorable Offer by Timothy Underwood - intriguing characterizations 4 Stars

A Dishonorable Offer: An Elizabeth and Darcy StoryA Dishonorable Offer: An Elizabeth and Darcy Story by Timothy Underwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Timothy Underwood's writing and A Dishonorable Offer: An Elizabeth and Darcy Story turned out not to be an exception, although I expected it to be. The idea of Darcy asking Elizabeth to become his mistress just does not sit well with me, and I really did not expect I would like the story. However, given my enjoyment of the author, I thought I would give it a try. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the story, although it did have some flaws.

A major factor in the development of both of the main characters is the loss of their fathers much earlier than in canon. For Darcy, this means he is not Georgiana's guardian, and he himself has been under the guardianship of his uncle, the Earl of Matlock. The Earl insists Darcy keep a mistress and has done so throughout his adult years. This provides a very different kind of moral compass for Darcy than we have seen in other variations. He anticipates having a wife and a mistress once married, and believes he could devote himself to the mistress over the wife, the wife simply being the correct and proper relationship. However, due to his father's death, Darcy is determined to never fall in love.

One major change is Darcy's demeanor. Having now gone through his teen years with the Fitzwilliam brothers as close companions, he has been schooled on how to appear to flirt and tease women, although not as well as his cousins. He does not make the same kind of initial bad impression as he does in canon, and is able to charm, particularly women, quite well.

Elizabeth has had a very different life in her teen years due to her father's early death. Mrs. Bennet very quickly spent what money she had as she chose not to change her lifestyle after her husband's death. Her family is now completely dependent on their Philips and Gardiner uncles, who are not as sympathetic as we may have seen in other variations of P&P. Elizabeth, as a person, has developed a coping skill that is quite intriguing. Whenever things get bad, she imagines what it would have been like if everything went perfectly instead of as it has. Her perspective on life is such that she sees herself as basically happy regardless of the pain thrown her way.

In London, the Gardiners are pushing Jane toward a much older and fairly unattractive suitor, and in Meryton Mr. Philips is just plain bitter about every penny he spends on the family. Then, of course, Lydia ruins the family, thus making everything worse for everyone. Elizabeth and Jane return to Meryton when it is clear Jane's suitor is no longer interested.

So, from the very beginning of their connection, Darcy and Elizabeth are seeing a possible relationship in a very different way from canon. Darcy, almost from the very beginning, sees Elizabeth as a potential mistress, while she still sees him as only a friend, although one she is greatly at risk to love. Darcy feels a strong need to protect Elizabeth and wants to remove her from her situation. Elizabeth is still wishing for happy ever after for her and Jane, believing Jane is too good to deserve less. Jane, meanwhile, is becoming more and more desperate. Bingley, for example, although falling for Jane, is just finding her family circumstances too difficult to deal with.

Here is one thing that surprised me. Although definitely taking the characters a long way from canon, the author has me convinced the characters they became are reasonable given the change in their circumstances during their developmental years. Very intriguing. I found myself sympathizing with the young Darcy and his change in expectations, as well as appreciating the subtlety of his change in demeanor without a fundamental change in his personality. In canon, Elizabeth is determined to be happy, and we see her as such in this version, but in a way that blinds her to a great deal of what is happening around her. For me, these changes made both characters even more vulnerable than in other variations. I don't often cry while reading P&P variations, but this story often tore at my heart.

I found that once there has been the "dishonorable offer" made, the story seems to take a little more of a farcical bend, with a bit of melodrama that doesn't always work. Sometimes you want to wop Elizabeth across the head. So, for me, there were parts that were less than ideal in a story that was almost perfect in its creativity.

This is definitely not a story for those determined to keep to canon, but I found it a very reasonable set of circumstances. Even Lydia begins to sound reasonable when explaining her actions. I found a couple of the characters to be a little over the top, and could have done with a bit more compassion. Jane's character is made much more interesting in this variation, to the point where her actions are not surprising, only jarring.

All in all, this is a very interesting and compelling read. I found myself pushing forward in the story needing to see what happens next. I do think many JAFF readers will find it worth the time to read and I recommend it.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mr Darcy Came to Dinner by Jack Caldwell - fun similarities to the movie! 5 Stars

Mr. Darcy Came to DinnerMr. Darcy Came to Dinner by Jack Caldwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of my most favorite fan fiction variations of Pride and Prejudice. A 1942 film entitled The Man Who Came to Dinner starring Bette Davis and Monty Woolley is one of my all time favorite films, and it obviously is the inspiration for this variation.

In the film, a very famous NY theater critic is in town to give a talk to a ladies group, has dinner with the Stanley family, whom he disdains, slips on ice outside of the house and breaks his hip. He and his entourage take over the house indefinitely causing all kinds of chaos. The critic, Sheridan Whiteside, is crabby, nasty and manipulative, and becomes a little tyrant, but we soon discover he has a soft heart underneath it all. Take this, replace the household with the Bennets and the unwanted house guest with Mr. Darcy and you have Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner.

Darcy falls off his horse when he and the horse startle Miss Elizabeth Bennet and the family cat, Cassandra outside Longbourn prior to a dinner party. The horse is startled, in turn, by the cat, and Mr. Darcy is thrown. He has broken a leg and both the apothecary and Mr. Darcy's personal physician believe his leg and life would be threatened were he to be moved. His valet sets up the Bennet parlor as Mr. Darcy's bedroom.

Mr. Bennet is highly amused and sits back to take in the action, leaving an un-amused Mr. Darcy to take charge in place of the ineffective master. This sets up an antagonism between the two men. Of course, we know Elizabeth dislikes Mr. Darcy, but he finds out only through an overheard conversation. However, Darcy is kind to the servants, takes Elizabeth's side in defending against Mr. Collins advances, arranges to have Mr. Bennet take credit for alerting the community to Mr. Wickham's faults, etc. thus causing Elizabeth to begin to reevaluate her feelings about the man.

In the meantime, Darcy, believing he needs to win Elizabeth's heart, begins to get to know the rest of the family. He finds ways to help out Mary with her music, Kitty with her drawing and Lydia with her heart's desire. Mrs. Bennet becomes charmed and sets out to feed him all of his favorites, to Mr. Bennet's consternation. Colonel Fitzwilliam chides him for his need to "fix the world" and his manipulative ways. But all in the family are beginning to see the warm, sweet and kind man behind the mask. Will Elizabeth?

I love so many aspects of this story. Darcy is seriously a kind man. As he speaks to each sister, he listens to them and appreciates what each needs to develop their own accomplishments. He encourages them and helps them to improve themselves and their confidence. Georgiana joins him and becomes just one of the sisters. We see the best of each family member being brought out through their interactions with the Darcys. The author takes the words of Austen and has them reutilized by other characters, making for some very amusing conversations. Colonel Fitzwilliam can't help himself from jumping into the world fixing process himself. There is just such a lot here to amuse the reader of JAFF. And, I think, if you were familiar with the film, there is just that extra little twist of fun as you see the similarities. Finally, the scenes of Darcy with the enamored cat Cassandra are just too cute for words. We all know the purring cat is the best judge.

I have read the book several times, but this last time I listened to the audio version. I will leave my rating of 5 stars for the book, but there are some issues with the reader for the audio version. First off, there are several mispronounced words that drive me crazy. De Bourgh is not pronounced De Burr, and this starts to drive me mad. Then, reading the book with an English accent, but then not pronouncing valet, lieutenant, phaeton, etc. with an English pronunciation sounds very grating to my ears. However, the character voices, and the ability to tell the story are excellent.

I love this variation and I know I will go back and read it over and over. If you have a chance, see the movie The Man Who Came to Dinner. It just adds to the fun. Highly, highly recommended. I love Jack Caldwell's writing and humor.

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