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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