Saturday, August 15, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: MIstaking Her Character by Maria Grace


Lady Catherine de Bourgh is prepared to be very generous when it comes to medical care for her sickly daughter, Anne – generous enough to lure noted physician Dr. Thomas Bennet to give up his London practice and move his family to Rosings Park. But his good income comes with a price: complete dependence on his demanding patroness’s every whim. 

 Now the Bennet family is trapped, reliant on Lady Catherine for their survival. Their patroness controls every aspect of the Bennet household, from the shelves in the closet to the selection of suitors for the five Bennet daughters. Now she has chosen a husband for headstrong Elizabeth Bennet– Mr. George Wickham.

 But Lady Catherine’s nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is not so sure about his aunt’s choice. He is fascinated by the compassionate Elizabeth who seems to effortlessly understand everyone around her, including him. Lady Catherine has other plans for Darcy, though, and she forbids Elizabeth to even speak to him.

 As Anne’s health takes a turn for the worse, Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown together as Dr. Bennet struggles to save Anne’s life. Darcy can no longer deny the truth – he is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. But Lady Catherine will do anything to stop Darcy from marrying her – even if it means Elizabeth will lose everything she loves.



Author Maria Grace returns to the world of Austenesque fiction in her latest novel, Mistaking Her Character. As in the original Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, we find Lady Catherine de Bourgh wielding strong command over the grand Rosings Park estate and all who are associated with it. Her daughter Anne is as sickly as a Janeite could imagine, but becomes more afflicted as the story progresses. Maria Grace’s departures from the original text include assigning the profession of medical doctor to Mr. Bennet, and the role of stepmother (to some of the Bennet girls) to Mrs. Bennet. However, Wickham remains a cad, Jane a delight and Mr. Collins the supreme adulator to his benefactress, so on the whole, most remain true to their original characteristics.

As Anne’s health further declines, Dr. Bennet and Elizabeth are needed in increasing measure for medical care. While at Rosings, Elizabeth becomes acquainted with Fitzwilliam Darcy and becomes attracted to this dashing, powerful heir of Pemberley. The quandary is, Lady Catherine still insists that he will ultimately marry Anne, for shrouded reasons that are revealed later in the novel. Her domineering nature is even stronger in Mistaking Her Character, and this temperament begins to manifest itself in Anne as well. Before long, it seems that the lives of Elizabeth, Darcy, Dr. Bennet and others will be completely entwined about the fingers of the De Bourgh women. They are insistent, powerful, selfish and unsympathetic to those around them.

On the whole I greatly enjoyed Mistaking Her Character. I appreciated how Maria Grace retained most of Austen’s characterizations, so I was a bit disappointed that Darcy was seen to be so agreeable, so early in Elizabeth’s eyes. It seemed that they became enamored with each other in a much quicker fashion than in Pride and Prejudice. This isn’t a problem, but I always enjoy the tension between them before they ultimately come together. However, there is enough tension to go around in this story—perhaps adding more friction between the lead characters would have been too much.

I was also surprised at the personalities of Elizabeth and her father. She allowed herself to be excessively oppressed for far too long, in my opinion. She did prove to be a strong woman of substance, evidenced by the fact that Dr. Bennet would permit no other daughter to attend him while he worked. He knew she had the constitution for blood, other bodily fluids and medical emergencies, unlike her sisters. Elizabeth does have the capacity to stand up to Lady Catherine, as seen in the confrontation that inspired the book’s title. However, I felt that she spent an inordinate number of days without asserting herself, way too much time in silent misery because of her situation. It seemed inconsistent with her true nature.

Part of this was perpetuated by her love for her self-centered, despicable father and her desire to obey him. His need to genuflect to Lady Catherine becomes paramount, and he behaves badly toward Elizabeth, justified by his loyalty to Catherine. When plans go awry, he lays blame at Elizabeth’s feet far more often than is reasonable. While I agree that the original Mr. Bennet wasn’t the best father in the world, this iteration of him in Mistaking Her Character goes far beyond that failing. Unlike my opinion about Elizabeth, this observation of Dr. Bennet isn’t a negative criticism; it just gives the character a different flavor.

I think my only other negative criticism would be in the length of time the story hovers over Elizabeth’s period as nursemaid to Anne. It seemed significantly long to me, and I felt that the plot dragged during that substantial portion of the start of the novel. The De Bourghs’ dominance over those around them was fatiguing. However, as the story progresses, the plot develops with Elizabeth’s sister Lydia (who is as ridiculous as ever), the lecherous Wickham and some wonderfully loyal, scheming house servants. The book took a dramatic turn that I enjoyed immensely. Elizabeth’s fate begins to change drastically, Darcy runs to play hero, and more than one character gets their comeuppance. It was delightfully entertaining.

As has been the case with other Maria Grace novels, the romance element of Mistaking Her Character is certainly there, but she is able to convey concepts and passion without gratuitous details. I found the content to be at a solid PG level, very tastefully done but delicious at the same time. I feel more than comfortable recommending this to any adult reader, conservative or no. Mistaking Her Character had a slightly darker in tone than other Maria Grace novels that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed the others, this was an interesting departure for her. I understand that this is the first title in her Queen of Rosings Park series, and I look forward to seeing where she plans to take us next.




GIVEAWAY
One Ebook Copy of Mistaking Her Character

Maria Grace has graciously offered an ebook copy of Mistaking Her Character to our readers.  The contest is open internationally and will conclude at 12am EST on Saturday, August 29th. See the Rafflecopter widget below for entry options and full contest rules. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all the entrants!

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About the Author

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six more novels in draft form, waiting for editing, seven published novels, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and tries to run at least ten miles a week.




Connect with Maria





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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham

In the enchanting second novel in Winston Graham’s beloved Poldark series, Demelza Carne, an impoverished miner’s daughter Ross Poldark rescued from a fairground brawl, now happily finds herself his wife. But the events of these turbulent years test their marriage and their love. As Ross launches into a bitter struggle for the right of the mining communities, Demelza’s efforts to adapt to the ways of the gentry (and her husband) place her in increasingly odd and embarrassing situations. When tragedy strikes and sows the seeds of an enduring rivalry between Ross and the powerful George Warleggan, will Demelza manage to bridge their differences before they destroy her and her husband’s chance at happiness?

Against the stunning backdrop of eighteenth century Cornwall,
Demelza sweeps readers into one of the greatest love stories of all time.



Warning: Potential spoilers for those unfamiliar with Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, the book that precedes Demelza. 


Winston Graham’s story of Ross Poldark, his wife and the Cornwall society in which they live continues in the second volume of the series, Demelza. The narrative picks up not long after the conclusion of Poldark, in the spring of 1788. Demelza is giving birth to their first child, Ross continues to pursue his interests in the mining industry, and there are relationship entanglements abounding throughout the many levels of society. Although Ross and Demelza are now married, their life together shows no shortage of drama as they face challenges within their home as well as throughout their community.

As seen in Poldark, author Winston Graham’s writing is impeccable. His descriptions of the outlying areas as well as the minute details of his characters easily transport the reader into 18th century Cornwall, without becoming overly verbose or pedantic. While the majority of the novel is fairly serious in nature, he interjects humor now and again to bring some levity to his writing. There wasn’t as much of this found in Demelza, but a few laugh-out-loud moments did occur for this reader.

My enjoyment of Poldark was so strong, I’m not sure Demelza could have met or exceeded the same standard. There was a significant amount of time spent on Ross’s mining prospects, and while I am interested in that plotline, I could have had a bit less of it. I was also surprised at how much Elizabeth was set in the background for most of the story, save a particular episode near the end of the book. I enjoy the tension she brings to the Poldarks, and I hope to see more of her in the future. That being said, I did enjoy Demelza very much, and give it a hearty recommendation.

The multi-narrative technique in Poldark is repeated here, with Ross and Demelza at the center and myriad characters revolving around them in various ways. The other individuals in this cosmos bring a depth to the writing, showing us how the Poldarks’ lives are so interconnected to those around them. Although I have seen the 1970’s television version of this work, there were some issues I’d forgotten, making some particular deaths in the story become surprises all over again. Author Winston Graham does not shy away from writing appealing characters out of his novels. I was disappointed to see a number of them go.

Demelza seems to also have a bit more action than Poldark, if my recent memory serves me well. Drama that centers around deception, betrayal, murder, escape, plundering and gambling makes this an enjoyable read, keeping the chapters moving at a fast pace. Money, power and resources are not plentiful for all in this society, and this brings about several situations in which the resolutions are greatly anticipated. Indeed, by the conclusion of Demelza, there are still unresolved issues that remain open, and I must assume they will be addressed in the next volume of the series, Jeremy Poldark. And yes of course, I will be lining up to read that one as well. I have found a new favorite author, and his name is Winston Graham.







About the Author

Winston Graham (1908-2003) is the author of forty novels. His books have been widely translated and the Poldark series has been developed into two television series, shown in 22 countries. Six of Winston Graham's books have been filmed for the big screen, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Winston Graham is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the O.B.E.










Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.

Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:

(1) DVD of Season One of Poldark (New addition to giveaway as of August 4th!)
(2) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothersr
(1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
(1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
(1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
(2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee's Garden Heirloom (1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, by Winston Graham

To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Comment Ideas (not required):

If you have a book that's been made into a movie or television program, do you prefer to watch the performance or read the book first? OR: Have you read more than one of the novels in the Poldark series, and if so, do you have a favorite?


THE ROSS POLDARK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

July 06 - My Jane Austen Book Club (Preview)

July 07 - Booktalk & More (Excerpt)

July 08 - Reading, Writing, Working, Playing (Review)

July 09 - vvb32 Reads (Preview)

July 10 - The Paige Turner (Review)

July 10 - My Kids Led Me Back To P & P (Excerpt)

July 11 - Austenprose (Review)

July 12 Laura's Reviews (Preview)

July 13 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 13 Reflections of a Book Addict (Preview)

July 14 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 15 Confessions of a Book Addict (Review)

July 16 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 17 Paige Turner (Review)

July 18 Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Preview)

July 19 Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide (Excerpt)

July 20 - Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 20 - The Calico Critic (Review)

July 21 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)

July 21 Poof Books (Excerpt)

July 22 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 23 Austenprose (Review)

July 24 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 25 My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)

July 25 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 26 Delighted Reader (Review)

July 27 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)

July 27 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

July 27 Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 28 She Is Too Fond Of Books (Review)

July 29 English Historical Fiction Authors (Preview)

July 30 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 30 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 31 CozyNookBks (Excerpt)

Aug 01 - The Calico Critic (Review)

Aug 01 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

Aug 02 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Review)

Aug 03 Romantic Historical Reviews (Review)

Aug 03 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)


Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew. Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.



In recent years I’d heard voices in the Austenesque community raving about how much they loved the old Poldark television series, originally broadcast from 1975-1977. Discussions of the program became more frequent when news of the latest visual version was released. As my local public library had DVD copies of the two seasons of the old show, I decided to bring them home and give them a try.  At first I was surprised at the low production values, and the somewhat soap-ish style of acting from some of the performers, but the more I watched, the more I was pulled into the series.  The 18th-century story of Captain Ross Poldark, Demelza Carne and the myriad characters created by author Winston Graham was simply a delight. I practically binge-watched all 29 episodes, and lamented the series’ conclusion.  To know that a new version was in production was exciting, and I hoped that the material would be handled just as well, if not better than it had been in the 70’s.  As of now I’ve only viewed one episode of the new Poldark starring Aidan Turner, and while it has a much different feel this time around, I’m enjoying it.

Like many movie fans, I enjoy reading the source material for many of the films that I watch. Not long after I started watching the old Poldark, I added the Winston Graham novels to my vast TBR list.  I honestly didn’t know when I’d get around to reading these titles, and were it not for today’s book tour, it might have been years before I would have accomplished that.  So I’m grateful for this opportunity to not only review Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, but to also get around to one of the many titles waiting to be devoured on my list.

As with many novels taken to the big screen, the original text is far more rich and developed than any two-hour movie or multi-episode miniseries.  Such is the case with Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark, the first in a 12-volume collection. Within this riveting narrative, we are introduced to Graham’s Cornwall in the late 18th century. Captain Ross Poldark is returning from the war in America to find that much of what he left behind has changed. He must learn to adjust to these changes, as well as survive on his own as a landowner and employer. Thrust into his life is a streetwise imp named Demelza Carne, who escapes domestic abuse to become Ross’ kitchen maid. His decision to take her in will alter his life’s quality forever.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed Ross Poldark. Winston Graham’s writing was exquisite, the perfect balance of scene-setting (without too much detail), character development and diverting plot. Moments of humor are sprinkled throughout the story, popping up when they aren’t expected, somehow becoming more humorous due to their placement. Graham frequently captures the local dialects and accents within his often-phonetic writing, sometimes making the language a bit tricky to understand, but this illustrates his ability to write as people truly speak. He also includes inner dialogue, revealing the thoughts of his characters in a very unique way. The manner in which he sets his scenes is also quite delightful, as he artistically paints a picture of the environment and social atmosphere in a way that was compelling, but never crossing over into the realm of purple prose.

The character development seen in Ross Poldark was particularly interesting. Virtually all of his characters go through some sort of transformation:  From his titular character, to the kitchen maid, to secondary characters, right down to even the family dog.  Some go through physical changes, but most mature and grow in ways that are quite remarkable. There were multiple scenes that nearly brought me to tears, they were so poignant in their revelation. Several of the characters must navigate the maze that includes social convention, family tradition, old relationships, financial issues, religion, old wounds and rivalries. To see the manner in which these issues are deftly (and not so deftly) handled was fascinating.

As Ross Poldark is the first in the series, the novel does have a conclusion, but it also leaves several loose ends that will easily carry the story on to the next set of episodes.  I have the next novel, Demelza standing ready to take in, and I am thoroughly looking forward to continuing my exploration of the world that Winston Graham has created. The original television series was lovely and I enjoyed it very much, but I simply loved the novel even more, and plan to keep it in my library for many years to come.




About the Author

Winston Graham (1908-2003) is the author of forty novels. His books have been widely translated and the Poldark series has been developed into two television series, shown in 22 countries. Six of Winston Graham's books have been filmed for the big screen, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Winston Graham is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the O.B.E.
















Additional Comment:  In order to make my July 20th deadline, I splurged and purchased a copy of Ross Poldark on audiobook, to use during times when I was unable to read my review copy. The performance of Englishman Oliver Hembrough was a delight, as he took on countless voices and accents to distinguish the many individuals in Winston Graham's cast of characters.  If you have the means, I highly encourage you to enjoy at least part of Ross Poldark in this format.  It greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the book.
















Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package.

Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items:

(1) DVD of Season One of Poldark (New addition to giveaway as of August 4th!)
(2) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothersr
(1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
(1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
(1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
(2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee's Garden Heirloom (1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, by Winston Graham

To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!

Comment Idea (not required):

If you have a book that's been made into a movie or television program, do you prefer to watch the performance or read the book first?


THE ROSS POLDARK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

July 06 - My Jane Austen Book Club (Preview)

July 07 - Booktalk & More (Excerpt)

July 08 - Reading, Writing, Working, Playing (Review)

July 09 - vvb32 Reads (Preview)

July 10 - The Paige Turner (Review)

July 10 - My Kids Led Me Back To P & P (Excerpt)

July 11 - Austenprose (Review)

July 12 Laura's Reviews (Preview)

July 13 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 13 Reflections of a Book Addict (Preview)

July 14 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 15 Confessions of a Book Addict (Review)

July 16 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 17 Paige Turner (Review)

July 18 Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Preview)

July 19 Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide (Excerpt)

July 20 - Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 20 - The Calico Critic (Review)

July 21 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)

July 21 Poof Books (Excerpt)

July 22 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 23 Austenprose (Review)

July 24 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 25 My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)

July 25 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 26 Delighted Reader (Review)

July 27 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)

July 27 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

July 27 Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 28 She Is Too Fond Of Books (Review)

July 29 English Historical Fiction Authors (Preview)

July 30 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 30 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 31 CozyNookBks (Excerpt)

Aug 01 The Calico Critic (Review)

Aug 01 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

Aug 02 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Review)

Aug 03 Romantic Historical Reviews (Review)

Aug 03 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)


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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler

The untimely death of Anne de Bourgh, only days after his disastrous proposal at the Hunsford parsonage, draws Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam back to Rosings Park before Elizabeth Bennet has left the neighborhood. In death, Anne is revealed as having lived a rich life of the mind, plotting rather constantly to escape her loathsome mother, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Anne’s journal, spirited into the hands of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth, holds Anne’s candid observations on life and her family. It also explains her final quirky means of outwitting her mother. Anne’s Last Will and Testament, with its peculiar bequests, upheaves every relationship amongst the Bennets, Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Collinses, and even the Bingleys! Was Anne de Bourgh a shrewder judge of character than Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy combined?



The Calico Critic issues a warm welcome to Linda Beutler, author of the new Austenesque novel, A Will of Iron!  Today Linda presents an excerpt from her latest work and also offers an international giveaway of a paperback copy of the book.   Thanks, Linda-- and good luck to all who enter the contest!

Dear Laura and the Calico Critic Readers,

Thanks so very much for hosting a stop on the A Will of Iron Blog Tour. When the germ of the idea for this story sprouted as my editor and I worked on another story, I didn’t quite realize how Shakespearean in structure the seedling story would become. By that I mean, with some amusing yet gruesome twists and turns, the good end well and the bad end not just badly, but dead! I had no idea I had launched upon a morality tale, but there it is! It is half Shakespearean comedy, half Greek tragedy (without following the action in 24 hours form).

Anne de Bourgh makes some wrong-headed choices, and we learn through her journals—entries of which appear peppered throughout the story—that her moral compass is as skewed as one would expect, given her confined and unvarying relationship with so domineering a mother. Anne’s will to escape leads to desperate measures. Can anything good come of decisions so bad? Therein lies our story.

In addition to giving us insights into Anne’s misbegotten motivations, her journals also provide glimpses of her astute and often acidic opinions of her family and her limited circle of acquaintance. The excerpts I’ve included are first, her reaction to the hiring of William Collins as the Hunsford vicar, followed by her initial impressions of the vicar’s new wife, the former Charlotte Lucas. In these instances, we might agree with her summations!

Best regards,
Linda B


EXCERPTS: A Will of Iron by Linda Beutler


14 August 1811
It is not to be believed. Had I not heard the announcement myself, I would never ever have known my mother could sink so low. She has named William Collins as the vicar for Hunsford. I would have wagered the de Bourgh turquoise and diamond diadem that she would have chosen the more scholarly James Leigh. Mr. Leigh is two and thirty, from a fine old family, married with two children, and seemed well spoken when I was in his company for his interview with Mama. He is a Cambridge man, as I recall.
But, alas not.

A dinner was given today for the local dignitaries (such as they are) and the verger of the church, who will not be replaced (without regard to the flagrant embezzlement he seems to think part of the emolument of his office) since he has my mother’s support, and Collins will not thwart her. They all came to stare at this repulsive and shabby fellow. Never ever, ever have I heard anyone lavish such praise and flattery upon her, yet I do believe the misbegotten creature to be utterly sincere. He is young, stupid, lacking all self-awareness, wholly without fashion, and sings his own praises behind a guise of humble servitude. He cannot reason, which renders him incapable of guile, at least any that cannot be seen through. His countless vain little niceties are, I presume, the product of much study, and if he tells me again that my ill health has robbed the court of its finest jewel, I shall run mad. No…I have not the energy for that, but I do think I could manage an oyster fork in his throat. His repellent Adam’s apple makes a fine large target. Yes, that I would happily do.

He is unmarried. Mama will have him marry, and together these two jackdaws have mentioned something about Mr. Collins being cousin and heir to an entailed estate currently populated by a healthy incumbent, his wife, and five daughters, some or all of marriageable age. There is some plot afoot to send him off thither, to which I heartily subscribe. Let him visit his Hertfordshire cousins as often as may be. Tonight I am a disgruntled —A de B


29 December 1811
What would you have me say of the vicar’s wife? What a conundrum she is. Her name is Charlotte Collins, formerly Lucas, and her family are near neighbours of the estate Mr. Collins is to inherit.

She is not tall, neither fair nor dark, and of middling figure. But her grey eyes are intelligent, and she must occasionally hide a blush at some foolish pronouncement of her husband’s. As to the nonsense of my mother, Mrs. Collins will learn to hide her astonishment better in time. I cannot think why she would marry into a situation such as this. Relations with the man must be most distasteful, and she cannot have had any accurate information about the disposition and manners of my mother. Given the exorbitant praise heaped upon his patroness by Mr. Collins, I am certain this is so.

Poor Mrs. Collins must have entered the neighbourhood assuming an independent control over her household that she will never have while Mama yet lives. Given that the lady appears to be on the wrong side of five and twenty—she may be older than me—Mr. Collins must have been seen as a welcome pis aller, and she must be happy to no longer be a burden to her family. But the fact remains, she has married one of the stupidest men in England. How can she make herself easy with such a man as her master and my mother as his exacting benefactress?

Soon and very often, Mrs. Collins is going to wish the current incumbent of Longbourn might die of a sudden fit, no matter how intimate and pleasurable her friendship with the family. Most assuredly, when the letter comes announcing Mr. Collins is to inherit, the lady will get herself to Hertfordshire before the dust has settled from the express rider’s horse. —A de B



An additional thought from Linda, for our conservative readers:

"The book does contain mature content, mainly concentrated in the last two chapters. The themes of the entire novel are mature, in that the plot removes around the untimely death (strict moralists would say a deserved end) of Anne de Bourgh due to the complications of an illicit and thus far secret pregnancy. But as I say in the preface to theses two excerpts, the good end well and the bad most decidedly do not. But there is also something Puckish about Anne. She does want to see her cousins happy; she is not wholly lacking in compassion, she is simply remarkably self-centered. The story could also be seen as a cautionary tale against stupendously bad parenting!"




GIVEAWAY: Paperback Copy of A Will of Iron
by Linda Beutler
Open Internationally
Ends July 29, 2015 at 12am EST

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About the Author

Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 (meaning that is when they started paying her...), in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Now in 2013 Linda is working with a new publisher, and writing in a completely different direction. Funny how life works out, but more on that in a minute.

Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College, writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA, and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has--Linda Beutler is the curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Gardening With Clematis her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.

And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gobsmacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she printed out the first three chapters of her book, and out it went, a child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austenesque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, published in September 2013. Her second work of fiction, From Longbourn to London was published in August of 2014.

Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.



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Check out the other stops in the blog tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:

 

7/6: Review at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell 
7/7: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
7/9: Review at Wings of Paper
7/10: Guest Post & Giveaway at So Little Time… 
7/11: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope
7/12: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club 
7/13: Review at Songs and Stories
7/14: Review at Austenprose
7/15: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm 
7/16: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
7/17: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars 
7/18: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen 
7/19: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
7/20: Review at Diary of an Eccentric




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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review: Re Jane by Patricia Park

From Goodreads:

For Jane Re, half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she’s been trying to escape from her whole life. Sardonic yet vulnerable, Jane toils, unappreciated, in her strict uncle’s grocery store and politely observes the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of good manners, hierarchy, and obligation). Desperate for a new life, she’s thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Inducted into the world of organic food co-ops, and nineteenth–century novels, Jane is the recipient of Beth Mazer’s feminist lectures and Ed Farley’s very male attention. But when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed’s blossoming affair, she flies off to Seoul, leaving New York far behind.

Reconnecting with family, and struggling to learn the ways of modern-day Korea, Jane begins to wonder if Ed Farley is really the man for her. Jane returns to Queens, where she must find a balance between two cultures and accept who she really is.



Re Jane has been billed as a contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre, and that was what originally drew me to this title.  I usually gravitate towards all things Austen, but lately the 19th Century has fascinated me in general.  Jane Eyre is as classic as any Austen novel, although different in tone. It features dark themes and very much follows a bildungsroman motif as Jane grows from a helpless orphan to a strong survivor.  I was intrigued with the premise of Re Jane as author Patricia Park brings this beloved coming-of-age tale to modern New York City, with a half-Korean titular character.

There was much to enjoy in Re Jane.  While not following the Jane Eyre plot note for note, it captured many of the same themes.  Modern Jane also comes into her own through the narrative, as we see her tackling challenges as an orphan living with family, trying to make her way in the world.  Also a nanny, she becomes drawn to a married man, similarly named Edward in this iteration.  She likewise has the opportunity to be involved with another man who seems to be an excellent candidate for a mate, if only on paper.

The concept of setting Re Jane in modern-day New York, with Jane being half-Caucasian, half-Korean was an appealing one.  The story begins just before 9/11, and I was interested in seeing how Park would handle those events with her characters.  I also know very little about Korean culture, evidenced by the casting in my head: I envisioned actress Chloe Bennet as modern Jane.  She is indeed half Asian, but she’s half Chinese, not half Korean. I wondered how the modern Jane Eyre would appear through the Korean lens.

Patricia Park’s writing is excellent and she develops her characters well.  There is no mistaking the type of people who come in and out of Jane’s life.  Their temperaments and quirks were unmistakable, making me feel like they were people I’ve actually known. I could almost see and smell the sights and sounds of New York and the surrounding boroughs. Jane traverses the subways, nightclubs and residences that are characteristic of the New York experience. I was easily transported back to those streets and past experiences.

To my disappointment, however, I ultimately didn’t care for Re Jane when all was said and done. It seemed to be more of a treatise on Korean culture than a re-imagining of Jane Eyre. I certainly expected the Korean aspect of the story, but I suppose I would have enjoyed a bit less of it, with more wafts of Eyre filtered in.  As I was finishing the book, I realized that in truth, I didn’t actually like any of the characters.  I found them boring or even annoying.  This has nothing to do with the Korean aspect of the narrative.  I just didn’t care to spend any more time with these individuals as the story wrapped up.  This may be a backhanded compliment to Patricia Park’s writing—she so distinctly crafted her characters, I was very clear in understanding their perspectives and personalities.  These notions do not have to mirror my own in order for me to enjoy a novel’s characters.  I’ve appreciated many titles which included other cultures and/or characters who are dissimilar to myself.  There just seems to be a lack of chemistry between me and Re Jane.

I’m not recommending that readers should shy away from this title.  The only individuals I would warn are the very conservative, as there are a few adult moments in the story, and at times the language can be a little blue, although it’s not horribly pervasive.  Re Jane definitely has its audience, so I do encourage others who might find this premise to be intriguing to consider it. Patricia Park is a former Fulbright Scholar and has many other credits to her name. This is not surprising, given how well this is written. Unfortunately it just wasn’t a great match for me.



About Patricia Park

Patricia Park is the author of the debut novel Re Jane, a Korean-American retelling of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre set in NYC and Seoul (Viking/PDB, Penguin Random House May 5, 2015). She was born and raised in Queens and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. She received her BA in English literature from Swarthmore College and her MFA in fiction from Boston University. She has taught writing at Boston University, Ewha Womans University Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation, and CUNY Queens College. She was a Fulbright scholar to South Korea, an Emerging Writers fellow with The Center for Fiction, and a Fellow with the American Association of University Women. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Guardian, Daily Beast, Slice Magazine, and others. She has been interviewed on MSNBC "Book Report," NPR "Here and Now," WNYC "Brian Lehrer," CBS Radio, and others.








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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer

“So each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in…” Thomas Hardy

If you desire a little heat, a summer flirtation, or an escape to bask in your own private sun…this whimsical collection of original short stories is inspired by all things summer. From some of Meryton Press’s most popular and award-winning authors, the anthology debuts other promising and emerging talent.
  • In KaraLynne Mackrory’s Shades of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy, with some fantastic assistance, discovers Elizabeth Bennet in a most unlikely place.
  • Karen M. Cox’s Northanger Revisited modernizes Northanger Abbey at a fictionalized Georgia seaside.
  • Linda Beutler takes us to Paris as a young gentleman is schooled in the ways of amour in The Incomplete Education of Fitzwilliam Darcy.
  • In Spyglasses and Sunburns, J. Marie Croft takes the Miss Bennets to the seaside where they chance upon handsome acquaintances.
  • In Abigail Bok’s Summer at Sanditon, a little sea bathing seems just the thing to cure what ails Anne de Bourgh.
  • In Natalie Richards’ Midsummer Madness, an honest confession and a promise between mysterious strangers at a masque ball mends a misunderstanding.
  • Sophia Rose re-imagines a modern-day Persuasion in Second Chance at Sunset Beach.
  • In Morgan K Wyatt’s Dream Spinner, a near-death car accident and an unlikely trucker, brings fresh perspective to a young co-ed’s life and love.

Contemporary and Regency alike, each romance was dreamt as a perfect summer refreshment to bring a smile to your own sun-kissed face.

Stories by: KaraLynne Mackrory * Karen M. Cox * Linda Beutler * J. Marie Croft * Abigail Bok * Natalie Richards * Sophia Rose * Morgan K Wyatt


Post Update
Note to conservative readers: I have not read this title myself, and therefore do not officially endorse all of the short stories within.  One of our readers has alerted me to the fact that some of the chapters are quite steamy, so if that's not your preference, I would recommend caution.



Welcome to the next top in the Meryton Press Sun-Kissed Blog Tour! Today we have an excerpt from author Karen M. Cox from her short story contribution, Northanger Revisited. Following that we have a giveaway, too!  This looks like a fun collection of short stories, perfect for summer reading by the shore or pool.  Here are the other stops in the tour-- check them out for more excerpts, giveaways and more!

6/15: Guest Post at Austenprose
6/16: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club 
6/17: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
6/18: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time… 
6/19: Guest Post & Giveaway at The Little Munchkin Reader
6/20: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic 
6/21: Review at Margie's Must Reads
6/21: Guest Post at My Love for Jane Austen
6/22: Guest Post & Giveaway at Best Sellers & Best Stellars
6/23: Excerpt & Giveaway at Songs and Stories
6/24: Review at Wings of Paper
6/25: Excerpt at Writer Wonderland
6/26: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice
6/27: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
6/28: Author Feature & Giveaway at The Delighted Reader



The tradition is going to continue! Meryton Press will be releasing a holiday-romance-themed anthology late this fall. The short story contest for that volume is now open for submissions. Click here for further details!

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all who enter!



Excerpt: Northanger Revisited

Catherine Morland, a 21 year-old college student with a penchant for romance novels, is spending the summer with her Aunt Paulette and Uncle Alan on Northanger Island, just off the Georgia coast. For a college girl, Catherine has led a sheltered life. This summer, however, will teach her a thing or two—about friends, about love, and most of all, about herself.

Today, though, she’s only after a piña colada from the beachside snack bar…



“Two piña coladas please.” Catherine pushed her sunglasses on top of her head and smiled at the cabana boy behind the bar.

“You got ID, miss?”

“I do.” She pulled the driver’s license out of her wristlet and handed it to him. As he handed it back, she became aware of someone at her elbow, leaning over to take a look at the card in her hand.

“Well, you sure are twenty-one, aren’t you? Could’ve fooled me.” His slow, lilting, Southern speech was accompanied by a lazy grin. “Just barely though.”

“Barely gets it,” Catherine retorted, zipping her wristlet closed and lifting her chin in defiance. She turned to face him, and her features softened into a smile. He was young, probably no more than five years her senior, and the first thing she noticed was the pleasant good humor in his expression. He was nice looking, but not pretty. His hair was a curly mop of brown curls high-lighted to a burnished gold by the sun, and his eyes were a warm whiskey brown. The lemon-yellow polo he wore contrasted with his tanned skin.

He laughed and sat back on his bar stool while he took a pull from his beer bottle. Suddenly, as if deciding on something, he held out his hand to her. “Henry.”

“Catherine.”

“Pleasure, darlin’.” He held her hand a second longer than was strictly polite.

“Likewise.”
 
“So, you here on vacation, Miss Catherine?”

“Yes, and I’m having the time of my life.”

He grinned, showing off a matching set of dimples. “Did you talk your boyfriend into drinking one of those girly piña coladas?”

“My boyfriend? Oh”—she shook her head, smiling—“I don’t have a boyfriend. This is for my aunt.”

“And who might your aunt be? I know most everyone around here.”

“Paulette Allen. My aunt and uncle rented a home here on the island for the whole summer. My uncle is Alan Allen.”

“Really?” He looked amused.

“Do you know them?”

“I don’t believe I do.”

“Oh.”

“But being a local, I would be considered an insensitive boor if I let you go without the traditional tourist welcome.”

“There’s a traditional welcome here? You mean, like a handshake?”

“Certainly. It goes like this.” He put on an affected version of his delightful Georgia drawl and took her hand in his. “Well, hello there, little missy. Welcome to Northanger Island.”

She laughed. “Thank you, kind sir.”

“Is this y’all’s first visit?”

“Why no, sir, but I haven’t been here since I was a child. I hardly remember.”

“It can’t have been that long since you were a child.”

“I’m twenty-one last February.”
 
“That can’t be! I declare it impossible.”

“Why the surprise?”

His voice deepened into its normal timbre, his eyes dancing with mischief. “I have to seem surprised to keep the conversation going. Now, let us proceed.

“Well then, since you’re all grown up, on this visit, you should make sure to visit the Pump Room café, and the Upper Dance Hall for night life, and the shops on Crescent Avenue for various souvenirs and trinkets. Now I can go about the rest of my day knowing I’ve welcomed you properly.”

She giggled.

“Oh, I see what you’re thinking. You’ll be posting on Instagram about that weird guy you met down by the beach.”

Catherine put on a teasing voice of her own and batted her lashes in wide-eyed innocence. “How do you know I even have Instagram?”

“Of course you have one; all you co-eds have Instagram. You’ll post a selfie, wearing your designer swim attire with its matching cover up.” His eyes took in her outfit but came back to rest on her face. “The caption will read, ‘Looking good, but had to suffer a goofy stranger trying to chat me up while I bought a piña colada.’ Don’t forget to post a picture of the piña colada.”

The bartender rolled his eyes.

“I’ll do no such thing,” Catherine declared.

“You know what you should post, don’t you?”

“What?”

“‘Met this great guy down at the beach snack bar. Had a fascinating conversation. He’s probably a genius. Want to get to know him better.’ That is what you should say.”


So, should our Catherine find out more about this handsome charmer?  Inquiring minds want to know…




GIVEAWAY:  Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer
International - Ends 6/27/15 at 12am EST


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Author Bio

Karen M Cox writes novels accented with romance and history. She is the author of two Austen-inspired novels. 1932, a Pride & Prejudice alternate path, won a Bronze medal in Romance at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Her second novel, Find Wonder in All Things, is a modern retelling of Persuasion. It won a Gold medal in Romance at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and was a Finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her third novel, At the Edge of the Sea, tells the story of two unlikely young lovers: a minister’s son and a small town’s sadder but wiser girl. At the Edge of the Sea won two categories—Romance and Chick Lit—in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

Karen was born in Everett, Washington, a circumstance that resulted from arriving in the world as a United States Air Force officer’s daughter. By the age of twelve, she had lived all over the country, including stays in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State. Her family then returned to their home state of Kentucky, and she still lives there in a quiet little town with her husband and children. She works as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, and spends her spare time reading, writing, being a wife and mom - and now, a grandmother!




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