Tuesday, June 27

REVIEW ~ Courage Rises by Melanie Rachel

I was given this book to read by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

If you are a lover of Historical Fiction and don't miss the internal tension of a classic romance where the hero and heroine are at odds, coming together near the end of the story for their H.E.A., then this is the book for you.

In Courage Rises, Ms. Rachel draws us into a sweeping saga revolving around two story lines. The first is with Colonel Fitzwilliam, from the front lines in France to the wilds of Dorset, the second with Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet) within the walls of Pemberley. Yes, our dear boy Darcy is in the story but he spent most of the book in the company of his cousin the Colonel.

Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married, having just returned recently from their four month wedding tour and Darcy leaves his blushing bride to attend London and some legal matters that require his attention. Left on her own for the first time as Mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth is determined to be an apt mistress, yet unsure - quite understandable given the vast size of the estate.

Colonel Fitzwilliam, after an extremely close brush with death, has been given a letter found on the body of the soldier who saved his life, Captain Hawke. Strangely, the missive is addressed to him and begs him to find the Captain's sisters and lend them aid. Once back in England, the Colonel begins his quest, his debt of honor, only to find intrigue and a lot of dead ends. He enlists the aid of Darcy, whom he knows is in London on business and soon Charles Bingley is drawn into their search for Captain Hawke's sister.

While Darcy is in London, an influenza outbreak threatens the tenants and residents of Pemberley. Left on her own, Elizabeth has no choice but to face this crisis head-on. This will either make or break her as Mistress of Pemberley, and with the lives of many hanging in the balance, her decisions have life or death repercussions.

WHAT I LIKED

Ms. Rachel draws you into the scene in a masterful way. From the first page we are with Colonel Fitzwilliam on the battlefield in France. You can almost feel the grime, smell the smoke and acrid stench of blood. She describes the physical scene with precision. In fact, all of the book's scene descriptions were apt and believable.

She also gave us an inside peek at what it would be like as Mistress of Pemberley. Such a daunting task and don't forget, Elizabeth was only twenty-one years old when this responsibility fell upon her shoulders, yet our dear Lizzie rose to the occasion when left alone in the midst of a crisis.

Ms. Rachel did not force the pace of the story. She let it unfold in a most natural way. Both story lines twisted and turned, with brief intersections in the form of letters. Not once did I feel like she raced to the end in order for Darcy and Elizabeth to be reunited.


WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

There's little emotional conflict (IMO) and I was reminded of books like 'Pillars of the Earth', or 'The Handmaid's Tale'. There was no romance in this story. All conflict was external. There was conflict of dead-end trails, surly servants, an influenza outbreak of almost pandemic proportions which taxed our characters physically, but other than the emotional strain of Darcy and Elizabeth being physically separated due to circumstances, there was no emotional conflict - at all. Some readers enjoy this type of narrative, but it's not my cup of tea.

Don't misunderstand me, Ms. Rachel is an excellent writer. It's just that this style of fiction is not something I gravitate toward. I enjoy the thrust and parry of witty dialogue and the steamy sexual tension found within the pages of a romance novel. *sigh*

Another thing I'm not overly fond of, and I'm finding this occurring more often, is the switch of character Point of View within the scene. Example:
Elizabeth heaved a great sigh and thought she might as well get dressed and begin her day. As she reached for the bell to call her maid, there was a soft knock on the door, and Fitzwilliam stepped quietly inside.
"Good morning, Mrs. Darcy," he said with a gentle smile. She still blushed a little when he came into her chamber before she was dressed, and the gleam in his eye betrayed his approval. His dark hair was tousled, as though he'd already been outside in the wind.
Mrs. Darcy, he thought to himself as he gazed upon the lovely picture his wife made in her nightclothes. Calling her by his name was still unreasonably thrilling.
She smiled, but noted that he was already wearing his riding clothes, and tried to hide her disappointment.
 This is my bug-a-boo. In my early days of writing, my editor slapped my wrist soundly when I strayed out of the character's POV. So now when I read incidents like this, it takes me out of the fantasy and for that reason I cannot give a full five teacups.

Other than that pesky POV thinga-ma-bob, this was a well written story with much detail to historical fact and whether you believe the scenarios Ms. Rachel presented, (which I did), or not, this narrative will make you glad we live in a century where we have access to good medical care and communication devices.


4.5 Teacups 
 
 


Tuesday, June 20

REVIEW ~ Denise O'Hara

As you can see, I was to review a book by Denise O'Hara. She signed up, but did not supply me with a book and all efforts to discover who Denise O'Hara is has been met with nothing but a locked Twitter account, a doctor and someone who has an IMBD page.

Alas - no teacups today, therefore I will share with you a sneak peak of a future Regency novel that will come out sometime this fall. It is the first in my London Rogues series - Only a Rogue Will Do.


I think this is going to be a FUN story. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 13

REVIEW ~ Darcy vs Bingley by Gianna Thomas

I was given this story to read by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

What I liked:

I looked forward to the premise of Mr. Darcy falling in love with Elizabeth almost as soon as he met her and was not disappointed. Lizzie returned his affection with equal haste and only one minor hiccup. We all know that Charles and Jane are besotted, so nothing changed in that regard.

There is a scene where Caroline Bingley underestimates the outcome of her actions and learns what it is to lose Mr. Darcy's good opinion, and she truly does lose it forever.

Everybody you ever wanted to be chastised in the original canon, are. Lydia is confined to her room and she and Kitty are banished from being in society until they grow up. Caroline has her mean spirited words come back and bite her in the derriere, and Wickham? Well...Ms. Thomas wrote his character much darker than original canon...much, much darker... and the solution to the 'Wickham' problem is justified.

What I didn't like:

There was a lot of head hopping in the book. A scene would start in one character's POV and in the midst of the scene we would see, for example, the footmen's inner thoughts. I'm okay with an occasional slip, but when it's common through the whole book, it takes me out of the story. A few times I had to go back a few lines to pick up the original thought or action before being interrupted. Alas, it seems only Nora can get away with this style of writing.

The title is Darcy vs Bingley.

Why?

There was no conflict between Darcy or Bingley. I thought maybe Charles would crush on Elizabeth, or vice versa Darcy with Jane, but... nothing. There was no real conflict, no obstacle for our characters to overcome. Just a pleasant love story with familiar names, exception being Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins. They did not appear at all, which was too bad as Charlotte was Elizabeth's best friend and Mr. Collins amusingly annoying.

Was Netherfield Park situated on a hidden laughing gas geyser? There was a lot of laughing until their sides hurt. They laughed with each other, they laughed with their servants and the servants sniggered and guffawed more than was warranted.

And finally, there was a scene where Mr. Darcy ran through Netherfield Park to escape Caroline, in front of servants and then hid in his room (for at least a day). Ms. Thomas has been quite up front that she wrote this book with a light hand and intended for the scenes to be far, far removed from original canon, but Darcy is a man who at twenty-eight has raised his sister for the past five years, has tenants and a large property with a multitude of servants. I didn't buy it.

Overall impression?

Ms. Thomas has said that she had fun writing a light-hearted story and I give her kudos for the attempt at giving us one, but while the premise was interesting, it needed more angst. Our beloved characters needed an obstacle or two before falling in love. Although there were parts of the story I truly liked, I wanted them to work for that H.E.A.

4 Teacups
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 6

REVIEW - Curse of the Braddock Brides by Erica Obey

I was given this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Book:

Lord Hardcastle, a single man with a title and a slew of poor female relations, may be in need of a wife, but that doesn’t mean American heiress Libba Wadsworth is interested. Not with the mysterious, orchid hunter Will Ransome lurking about.

Rather than endure yet another awful Coming-out Season of boring balls and vacuous visits from suitors, Libba Wadsworth, in one of her more self-indulgent moments, contemplates the romantic thrill of throwing herself off Cora’s Leap to go down in history as yet another of the cursed Braddock Brides. She knows full well she won’t do it, but still ... the men she’s had to endure season after season certainly made a leap into the abyss appealing. Until one Lord Hardcastle comes to call and Will Ransome, claiming to be Hardcastle’s batman and an adventurous orchid hunter, shows up. But can she trust either of them? And, more importantly, are they really who they claim to be?

What I Didn't Like:

Normally I start with what I liked, but what I liked is predicated by what I didn't like. Backwards reasoning, but you'll soon see why.

The first part of the book was a hard slog for me. Within the first few pages there'd been so many names, places and circumstances thrown at me, I wasn't sure if there was a prequel... there wasn't. I checked.

The story started in England and later, after I'd read a few paragraphs, I realized we were now in the America's. I was a little Canadian buoy, bobbing about, not knowing where I was or where I was going. Don't get me wrong, the writing is beautiful, I just wasn't anchored in the story - yet.

There were oblique references to a few characters and incidents in the heroine's family's past and you'd have to be under a rock not to realize it had something to do with her parents. Ms. Obey relied heavily on innuendo, which most of the characters understood, but I remained in the dark. Maybe I'm obtuse. *shrugs shoulder* I dunno.

Even when the mystery(s) was solved and a satisfactory solution came about, I still didn't know what exactly happened. Events were explained, a few of the dots were connected, but I didn't feel a satisfaction. I felt robbed. It was an unsettling feeling and I had to mull over this book for a few days before I wrote down my thoughts. Even now, I struggle to find words to relate my thoughts. Deflated. That's the word. I felt deflated.

 What I liked:

I'll be honest, I had a hard time getting into this story. However, I'd agreed to do a review of this book for Ms. Obey and so I continued. I'm glad I did.

As stated above, I floundered a bit in the story. As I became accustomed to the cadence of Ms. Obey's writing style, I settled into the story and appreciated Libba Wadsworth's attraction to Will Ransome, or Lord Hardcastle, which she finally came to know him as - after an imposter attempted to steal his identity and trick Ms. Wadsworth into marrying him. Libba didn't speak with her parents much. There was a stilted politeness between her parents (makes you wonder how they had a child...) and very little communication. Libba's mother seems to bear a lot of snide comments and social cuts without any pushback - until the end of the story. I wanted her to give as good as she got WAY sooner. When she finally did - I think I cheered a little. Way to go, Mamma Wadsworth!

Will Ransome has reluctantly taken hold of the reins with regard to his title, Lord Hardcastle. He never in his wildest dreams/adventures, of which he's had many, dreamed he'd ever be an Earl. He is immediately drawn to Libba, liking her independent spirit and is soon wanting to marry her, and not just for a quick infusion of cash, but for love. Unfortunately, there is another impersonating him, there are villains blackmailing/bullying Libba's father and there are ladies of society who do not want Libba or her mother to succeed - at anything. I liked how he brought a calming presence to the Wadsworth household. Without him, disaster would have struck many times over. He is the one who discovers the deep dark secret Libba's father has carried for so many years and also helps uncover a blackmailer. Will was a busy boy while in the good old United States - or were they still the Colonies back then? Hmmm... have to brush up on my history dates.

Summary:

This was a story that had the rhythm of the deep South, even though is was set in New York State. I envisioned women in big hoop skirts (a la Gone With the Wind style) and lacy half gloves and could almost hear them whispering, 'Bless her heart', whenever Libba or her mother did something not approved by societal ladies. I don't know why, but that's how the characters sounded to me.

I know that other readers will enjoy this book and they'll probably dive right into the story by the first page. I plan to re-read this, now that I've got a sense of who's who and where they belong on the family tree (so-to-speak). I'm positive my reading experience the second time around will be a joyous one because, as stated before, Ms. Obey's writing style is very poetic. It has a soothing cadence and I like that.


4 Teacups


Sunday, May 21

REVIEW ~ Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile

Freaky Friday, Jane Austen style. This is the only way to describe this delightful book by Laura Hile.

The story begins at the infamous Netherfield ball, but here is where the twist comes in. The odious Mr. Collins presumes to follow Mr. Darcy out into the garden where they have an exchange of words within an intriguing folly. Multiple Biblical scenes are portrayed on this folly. All of them to do with two sides of a coin. Good and Evil. Strong and Weak.

Then lightning strikes... When Darcy awakens with a horrendous headache, he discovers he resides in the rather bulbous body of one William Collins and the reverse is happening at Netherfield.

What I liked:

I liked this twist and found it believable. I mean, if God could make the sun and moon stand still (1), why couldn't Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins swap bodies? Fortunately, the names of the two gentlemen helped in the confusion. Fitz'William' Darcy and 'William' Collins.

I liked how Mr. Darcy gained a real understanding of Mr. Collins circumstances. Through his eyes we can see a plausible reason why the Reverend Collins behaves as such a sycophant and why he's eager to inherit Longbourn. But with that realization comes the sad fact that nobody likes Mr. Collins.

Not. One. Little. Bit.

However, over time Darcy's natural reticence - the exact opposite of Mr. Collins blustering - begins to draw Elizabeth to his side. She finds herself beginning to LIKE Mr. Collins. She gains glimpses of intelligence and humor and begins to seek him out.

Mr. Collins, in Mr. Darcy's body, is of course doing the exact opposite. He is by nature a slovenly man, given over to taking the easy way out. Which is why he bows and scrapes to Lady de Burgh (who travels to Netherfield and gives Caroline Bingley the come-uppance we all cheered for). While Darcy is making friends, Collins is offending everybody.

I also liked the Shakespearean twist with the title. So very apt. Mr. Darcy truly was Elizabeth's Romeo, even if the rose resided in a different shell.

What I didn't like:

There were a few secondary characters - Anne, Kitty and Lydia, who were needed to facilitate the reuniting of these two gentleman - but their storyline seemed a teensy bit contrived. I enjoyed the distraction Anne provided with her subplot, but the actions of the younger Bennet sisters, namely Kitty, didn't ring true for me. In some ways her behavior jarred me out of the story (only just a little, but enough that I paused).

All in all, I enjoyed this book and it's underlying story of faith. Mr. Darcy's remembrance of Scripture, which helped him through this crisis was spot on.

I'd purchased this book long before I'd even given any thought to posting my own book reviews and did not mind reading Darcy by Any Other Name a second time. That's the mark of good writing. Even when I knew how the novel would end, I enjoyed the journey there.

4.5 Teacups
 

(1)  So the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is this not written in the book of Jashar? So the sun stood still in the middle of the sky and did not hurry to go down about a whole day.
 
Joshua 10:13


Monday, April 24

REVIEW ~ Listen to Your Heart by Leenie Brown

What can I say?

LOVED IT!

I almost don't want to write a review. I want to wallow in the good feeling I have from this love story. We have villains, heroes, espionage, blackmail... the list goes on. Although the original cast of characters from Pride & Prejudice are involved, (Darcy, Elizabeth, Bingley, Lady Catherine, and Mr. & Mrs. Collins), the story revolves mainly around Colonel Fitzwilliam and Anne de Burgh. New characters are introduced and minor characters only mentioned in original canon are expanded upon.


What I liked

Everything.

Okay, okay, I'll expound. In original canon Anne is portrayed as sickly and weak, a shadowy opposite of her domineering mother. In Listen to Your Heart, she is frail, but not to the point where she doesn't enjoy life. She has discovered papers from her father which stipulate she decides whom she will marry, not her mother, and from there she confronts Lady Catherine and tells her, in no uncertain terms, she will NOT marry Darcy. What happens after that you will have to find out for yourself because I don't want to ruin the love story that unfolds, or the essential character changes which occur.

I found it endearing that Anne and Richard (Colonel Fitzwilliam) gently steer Darcy toward making a proposal to Elizabeth, which he bungles as expected, only this time Anne and Richard run interference and ODC and Lizzie are engaged before she leaves Hunsford. BUT... much happens before she leaves Hunsford. Oh, I can't wait for you to read all the excitement and action!

What I didn't Like

This is not really a dislike, it's more of an observation. Our main characters figure out pretty quick who the villains are, yet no one confronts them. I guess that's because this was a time of social politeness to the point where you would challenge someone to a duel and be willing to die rather than admit a wrongdoing, I can see why the bad guys get to flounce around and not be bi**h slapped into the next century. Where is Seal Team Six when you need them?

Overall - a story I would most likely re-read (now that I know what happens) and enjoy the nuances of Anne and Richard's love story that much more.  Well done, Ms. Brown. You made me a very happy reader and I will gladly check out your other works.

5 Teacups