Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On Oakham Mount by Sophia Meredith 4 Stars for a truly witty Elizabeth

On Oakham Mount: A Pride & Prejudice Variation (Pemberley Departures, #1)On Oakham Mount: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Sophia Meredith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing you often read of in both the original Pride and Prejudice and various fan fiction is how witty Elizabeth Bennet is, and how this was one of the major things that attracted Mr. Darcy to her. Jane Austen was certainly capable of making her witty, but not many fan fiction authors have this skill. I was delighted to see that Sophia Meredith is one of the exceptions. The best part, for me, of reading On Oakham Mount was the authors ability to truly show Elizabeth's conversational skills and wittiness.

In this variation, Elizabeth has received Mr. Collins proposal of marriage the day following the ball at Netherfield. However, this time Mr. Bennet does not come to his daughter's rescue, but encourages her to accept Mr. Collins. Once again, as the neglectful and indigent father he is, Mr. Bennet is thinking about his own comfort and how lovely it would be to be left alone in his study for the remainder of his days. With Elizabeth married to Mr. Collins, his family would be settled for his eventual demise and he could pursue his own interests in peace.

Hurt and shock over Mr. Bennet's lack of support propels Elizabeth to seek solitude on Oakham Mount where she can cry to her heart's content. She is starting to see the wisdom of the match with Mr. Collins, regardless of how personally disgusting the man. Her plan is to indulge herself in her sorrow now and then accept her lot and her permanent state of unhappiness with a man she cannot abide.

Seeing a woman in distress while taking a final ride before leaving Hertfordshire, Darcy heads to the mount to see if he can be of assistance. Elizabeth desires no assistance from Mr. Darcy, but is too polite to totally send him away. During their conversation several of their misunderstandings are resolved and Elizabeth begins to see Fitzwilliam Darcy in a much better light. In the meantime, Darcy is struggling internally with his feelings for Elizabeth and wonders if it would be possible to marry her so she would not have to marry Mr. Collins. He suggests a marriage of convenience which is accepted, after a slight misunderstanding, and the two settle on a betrothal.

However, in the meantime, Mr. Bingley gets it into his head that he will propose to Jane now, prior to leaving for town. Jane and Bingley promise Elizabeth a season in town for her to meet other men. Feeling honor bound to allow Darcy to bow out of the engagement, Elizabeth releases him. Since no one is aware of their betrothal, she feels now would be the time to allow him to back out. Mr. Darcy, however, takes this badly and leaves Meryton in turmoil. Both are unsettled and distraught about how the engagement ended. The question addressed through the remainder of the story is: why are both so unhappy about the engagement being ended? Is there something more between them? Can they find happiness apart or should they be together? A further misunderstanding about which Bennet sister married Mr. Collins compounds the problem.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the dialog is wonderful. I love how Elizabeth wittily handles Darcy and his relatives. She is particularly at her sharpest while sparring with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. One of my favorite scenes, though, involves another misunderstanding between ODC when Elizabeth mistakes Darcy's proposal for a proposition.

I very much enjoyed On Oakham Mount. I saw a couple of errors, but maybe they are my misconceptions - I did not think Ann de Bourgh was due the title of Lady as I did not think her father's position provided for it. Lady Catherine is a lady due to her father being an earl, but Ann does not obtain that title from her mother. But, other than one or two minor things, I very much enjoyed this story and highly recommend it.  I look forward to more JAFF from Sophia Meredith.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My COYER Summer Vacation Challenge starts NOW!

I am going to try something new this summer!  There is a reading challenge called COYER Summer Vacation, and I am in!  The idea is to read and review as many of my e-reads as possible this summer, and maybe even win some prizes.

This sounds like a wonderful group of people involved in reading and reviewing and I can hardly wait to get started. In fact - I think I will link the review I just completed so I can start today.

Forced to Marry Mr. Darcy by Mary Weston - 2 stars - abandoned in frustration

<b>Forced to Marry Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation</b>

Forced to Marry Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Mary Weston

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As other reviewers have mentioned, this is an interesting premise, although not unique. Elizabeth and Darcy are caught in an innocent situation that appears compromising, so must marry. Both are reluctant, but find themselves falling in love with each other. After they are forced to marry they are faced with danger from Wickham which draws them together. Pretty straightforward and a story that offers a lot of interesting situations and good conversations.

However, the author has a very annoying habit of creating references to what appears to be a back story, but then never delivers on that story. In addition, many of the characters act so out of character that you are left questioning what is occurring. The story and characters vary from the original Pride and Prejudice, which is fine, but we are often left wondering why and how the changes came about.

For example, at the very beginning of the story the author tells us that at the Netherfield ball the room is tense and feels like the attendees are split into two factions. In a conversation between Elizabeth and Charlotte we hear "This is the most dreadful ball I have ever attended. I've never seen a group of such dismal faces." "I know. It's rather like the air before a thunderstorm. The clouds are gathering and the air is still and sticky and one is just waiting for the storm to break and the air to clear." "What do you think the storm will be? A duel, perhaps?" This is pretty powerful imagery and you wonder what occurred to bring about this great deal of tension. In the original P&P the Netherfield ball is very much enjoyed by all those attending, with the exception of the tension between Elizabeth and Darcy. But, at this version, there is tension that affects every single person attending. Well, that is pretty intriguing. What happened prior to the ball to bring about this kind of tension? Why is everyone at the ball so miserable? What has caused this sense of dread that is expressed in this conversation? Wow, I could hardly wait to find out. But, nothing comes of this. I don't know what the author intended here. Why did she create this situation for the Netherfield ball without any explanation?

Then we have the compromise. The situation is innocent enough - Elizabeth catches her dress on a branch and it tears. Darcy recommends using her broach to pin it together. When Elizabeth struggles with the latch, Darcy helps her. His hand inadvertently touches her breast and this is observed by the Hursts. Now we have a strong series of people acting out of character with no explanation.

Darcy stops Elizabeth over and over as she tries to explain why the situation is innocent. I don't get it. Why does he do this? There is no explanation. The Hursts insist Darcy must marry Elizabeth due to this compromise. What? Don't they want Darcy for Miss Bingley? Miss Bingley believes Darcy has tried to seduce Elizabeth. What? Shouldn't she be defending him so she can keep him for herself? And, Elizabeth knows the situation is dire when told Mrs. Hurst told Miss Bingley about the compromise, because Miss Bingley is a gossip. She would rather gossip than save Mr. Darcy for herself?

It keeps going. Why is Lady Catherine present the next day when Darcy meets with Mr. Bennet? And, she is there to insist Darcy and Elizabeth marry. Isn't this contrary to everything we have ever known about her desire for him to marry Anne? Anne isn't even mentioned. Why is Lady Catherine so different in this variation? Why does Darcy just meekly allow her presence as a representative of his family and his interests? There is no explanation.

Other things are just tossed in as if they matter, but then they don't. Why is Wickham so insistent that Elizabeth is his? In the original P&P Elizabeth is looking forward to dancing with Wickham and feels herself halfway to falling in love with him. In this version, there is no mention of Wickham until after the ball, and Elizabeth feels fear around him. Why? What happened? No explanation.

After the betrothal is all arranged and Darcy is alone to consider what has occurred, he has this thought: "And now he was about to again undertake marriage with a woman who did not want him. Except, this time he planned to stay as far away from his wife as possible." Whoa! Looks like Darcy has been married previously and had a very bad time of it. This is a new twist! Only, it isn't. This line of thinking goes nowhere, apparently, and we are left wondering if we missed something.

When Darcy and Elizabeth reach Pemberley, Lady Matlock visits. She appears to already know Elizabeth! Interesting idea. But, we never find out more about this. It leads nowhere.

So, at some point the headache I was getting from these strange story line starts and stops makes the book difficult to read. Luckily for me another reviewer on Goodreads has chosen to fill their review with all the spoilers necessary to tell the rest of the story. I now can abandon the book without guilt.

Not recommended.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Accepting Mr. Darcy by Jane Grix - Too short but intriguing - 4 Stars

Accepting Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice VariationAccepting Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jane Grix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rating would actually be 3 1/2 stars.

Accepting Mr. Darcy was a short variation on P&P. The concept has been done before - Elizabeth learns her father is ill and dying. Therefore, when Darcy proposes at Hunsford she immediately accepts him and they become engaged. What made this one different for me, both good and bad, was the lack of external emotion attached to this change.

Darcy is very happy about the proposal and wants to take Elizabeth in his arms and kiss her passionately, but he doesn't. Elizabeth still dislikes Darcy and is simply marrying him for his money. However, her lack of enthusiasm is not obvious, as both of them are being very proper and are maintaining their composure.

What I like about this is how it in many ways matches the original. Elizabeth held back her negative opinion of Darcy such that he assumed she liked him and was anticipating his proposal. Darcy held back his passion for Elizabeth hoping to prevent any expectations of an offer. Unfortunately, he succeeded so well that she had no idea it was even a possibility. So, for the two of them to very sedately arrange to marry in this version actually makes complete sense given just the one change in circumstances: Mr. Bennet's imminent death.

We know in the original that once Darcy and Elizabeth start communicating, they quickly fall in love and resolve all of their miscommunication. Unfortunately for our couple, in this version Darcy overhears Lydia comment on Elizabeth's dislike of Darcy. He confronts Elizabeth with what he heard and she, although gently, basically confirms for him that she accepted him for his fortune. Instead of resolving their miscommunication, this now creates it, as Elizabeth is interested in developing a good relationship with her husband once this issue has been uncovered, while Darcy is hurt and backs away.

The resolution of this problem occurs as Darcy and Elizabeth find they need each other and begin to comfort each other during difficult times. This is a bit rushed, but feels natural enough. However, here is the part of liking it and not liking it for the same reason. It just feels like the couple reason everything out. I guess I was wanting a little bit more romance. I feel like the length of this version is what prevented the author from providing opportunities for our couple to fall in love.

But, to be fair to the author, I really loved her characterizations of Elizabeth and Darcy. Darcy has a very dry sense of humor and you can see why Elizabeth finds him attractive. Elizabeth very quickly determines she is not going to cry and fret over the misunderstanding she has with her husband. Yes, she married him for his fortune, but he loved her. She is going to be the woman he fell in love with and work to create a close and happy marriage. She pushes to make sure they are the "mutual help and support" mentioned in the wedding ceremony. I also enjoyed Bingley reminding Darcy about the "with my body I thee worship" aspect, too!

I would love to see what others think of this story to see if I am the only one torn between loving and disliking the same aspect. Overall, I would recommend Accepting Mr. Darcy, as it is at least an intriguing story. I just wish it had been longer.

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