Monday, October 23, 2017

Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway: Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future

Today we welcome Sharon Lathan, author of the Darcy Saga Sequel Series. I've been following Sharon from the beginning of my years as a book blogger. She is one of the first Austenesque authors I've had the privilege to interact with since 2009.  Sharon has a new novel out, and she's here to give us a delectable taste of it.  I find it interesting that it is set during end of October, the same time period we're in now.

Be sure to enter Sharon's giveaway, too-- if you win, you'll receive both Darcy Saga Prequel books 1 and 2! Open internationally.

Thank you, Laura, for welcoming me onto the Calico Critic today! It is delightful to be here chatting about my latest novel with your visitors.

Way back in 2009 my first novel was published. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One was my debut novel, and the beginning volume of what is now a seven-book and one novella sequel series for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The series opened with the just-married Darcy and Elizabeth in a carriage as they set off on their honeymoon. From the wedding night onward, my series has spanned nearly five years of wedded bliss with the loving couple at the center, but also surrounded by a host of family and friends, some familiar and others newly created by me.

In order, the Darcy Saga Sequel Series—
  • Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One
  • Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley
  • My Dearest Mr. Darcy
  • In the Arms of Mr. Darcy
  • The Trouble With Mr. Darcy
  • A Darcy Christmas (novella)
  • Miss Darcy Falls in Love
  • The Passions of Dr. Darcy

Some four years ago now, I decided to backtrack a bit from the continuing onward tale of happily-ever-after. I was inspired to recount the roughly eight weeks spanning Mr. Darcy’s second and successful proposal of marriage to the wedding itself. Mainly, I wanted to delve into how these two people grew in their love and comfortable relationship.

At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are two people on the edge of love. The sentiments are mutual, and growing in strength, but in reality, they know very little about each other. Historically this was typical. The strict rules of proper behavior when seeking a mate were severely inhibitive. Opposite sexes were never left alone, were limited in how intimately they could converse, and unless willing to risk immense damage to one’s reputation, could not touch or express frank emotions.

Once a decision for a mate was made, hopefully based on affection at the least and love at best, and the proposal accepted, the official courtship interval began. How long it lasted varied, but whether three weeks (the minimum for the banns to be read) or longer, the perk was the slightly loosen restrictions. It was during this time that the couple could converse openly and exchange mild intimacies.

It was this evolutionary process I was inspired to explore. How did these two people go from blossoming love and minimal understanding of each other to deep affinity and passion? And along with the emotional aspects to relate, what about the technicalities of preparing for a wedding and marriage during the Regency?

A little over three years ago, I published Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship. As of August 2017, the concluding volume has been published. Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future completes the arc from proposal to wedding, ended precisely as the newlyweds enter the carriage for their honeymoon destination!

— Excerpt from Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future

Fitzwilliam Darcy dipped the tip of his sharpened quill into the silver ink jar, tapped it onto the edge to remove the excess fluid, and etched a precise X inside the square for the twenty-sixth of October.

Smoothing one hand over the calendar page while returning the quill to its stand, he gazed at the rows of squares, each with a bold X indicating the date had passed. It was tempting to mark today as complete, but doing so would be premature, considering his breakfast tray sat on the table, and the pot of coffee remained half full.

Best not to violate the rules, no matter the satisfaction in seeing precisely one month remaining until the day scheduled for his marriage to Elizabeth Bennet.

In one respect Darcy did not wish to rush the time. Each day within this season of courtship brought new delights and increased the hope of their future happiness together. The remaining month promised to be especially splendid. Managing to keep a tight grip on his passions, he determined, was the only obstacle to a blissful engagement period!

Coffee cup in hand, Darcy relaxed into the chair and lifted his eyes to the window where sunlight glistened on the drops of dew coating the panes. The small patio outside his bedchamber had transformed from the lush, green-shrouded privacy of summer with bright colors of wisteria, lilac, and potted flowers, to an open terrace of faded blooms and semi-bare branches with clinging leaves of oranges and yellows.

While perhaps not as gloriously beautiful, Darcy tended to prefer the rustic, earthy colors of autumn. For some, this season too vividly illustrated decay and death. To Darcy, autumn marked a gradual easing of life’s busyness and ushered in a period of restful, solitude. For as long as memory served, he had embraced the tranquility of winter at Pemberley. This upcoming winter, with Elizabeth in his life, anticipation for the season was multiplied tenfold.

Nay, after yesterday’s miraculous revelations, make that a hundredfold.

Before arriving in London two days ago, the rapport forged with Elizabeth in the month since their engagement had exceeded Darcy’s wildest imaginings. He had lost count of the times when their easy conversation, similar humor, and reciprocated insights had amazed him. Gradually his guilt over past missteps had faded, as Darcy accepted that by some miracle Elizabeth loved him—almost as deeply as he loved her.

On this fine autumn morning, Darcy freely admitted to his error on two points.

One, Elizabeth already loved him as deeply as he loved her, this being the first miracle revelation from yesterday’s fiery encounter in his mother’s bedchamber.

The second miracle revelation was how thoroughly Elizabeth understood his heart and mind. Clearer than he did, as it turned out.

Oh, my Elizabeth! How remarkable you are.

About the Author

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, was published in 2009. Sharon’s series of “happily ever after” for the Darcys now totals nine full-length novels and one Christmas themed novella.

Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship and Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future complete the “prequel to the sequel” duo recounting the betrothal months before the Darcy Saga began.

Sharon is a native Californian relocated in 2013 to the green hills of Kentucky, where she resides with her husband of over thirty years. Retired from a thirty-year profession as a registered nurse in Neonatal Intensive Care, Sharon is pursuing her dream as a full-time writer.

Sharon is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, JASNA Louisville, the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA, and serves as the website manager and on the board of the Louisville Romance Writers chapter of the RWA.

Sharon is the co-creator of Austen Authors, a group blog for authors of Austenesque literary fiction. Visit at:

Connect with Sharon at the following places—


Facebook: Sharon Lathan, Novelist

Twitter: @SharonLathan

Pinterest:  SharonLathan62

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Music Review and Giveaway: Glory Song by Matt Redman

Matt Redman, possibly most known for his popular Christian song, "10,000 Reasons" has a new album coming out soon!  It's called Glory Song, and it contains thirteen tracks with not only Matt Redman, but several guest artists.

  1. All Glory, featuring Kierra Sheard
  2. Gospel Song, featuring Guvna B
  3. Greatest Hallelujah
  4. Gracefully Broken, featuring Tasha Cobbs Leonard
  5. One Day (When We All Get to Heaven)
  6. Redemption Ground, featuring Madison Cunningham
  7. It is Finished
  8. Questions (You Are Faithful)
  9. Still I Will Sing
  10. Place of Praise, featuring Kim Walker-Smith
  11. Hope is Marching On
  12. Simple Pursuit/Glory Song
  13. Your Ways

When I received my review copy of the CD, I wasn't in a place where I could listen to it just yet. However, I opened the case and took out the liner notes, which featured the lyrics for all the songs. I love tunes with a good hook, but if I'm listening to a Christian album, I especially appreciate it if the lyrics are compelling and are theologically on point.

To be honest, I wasn't bowled over by the lyrics.  Yes, they were absolutely on track with my personal theology. Matt Redman is an accomplished author himself, writing books and devotionals related to his musical work. So I'm sure he's taken many hours to choose just the right words for his songs.  And as one of the executive producers is Louie Giglio, a preacher I admire, I'm sure everything was properly vetted theologically before it was committed to the album. That being said, I didn't see much within the liner notes that was inventive or groundbreaking. I still wanted to give the CD a chance though, given that I hadn't heard a single note yet.

Initially my suspicions were confirmed with the first four tracks.  They're lovely tunes, again, with lyrics that could be used in any evangelical church. I just didn't care for the music. The inclusion of guest artist Guvna B seemed out of place, given Matt's usual style.  Perhaps he was trying to mix things up a bit, and from an artistic standpoint, I do applaud his wanting to branch out. It just didn't flow right for me. I wasn't repelled by these tracks per se, but I found them to be much like everything else I hear on Christian radio today.

Track four, "One Day" was a nice change.  The music was lovely, and I particularly liked how it employed the now-common method of merging new lyrics with an old hymn. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed this track more, because I was already familiar with a portion of the song. Again, nothing revolutionary was done here, but I really liked this track and plan to play it again in the future.

Track nine, "Still I Will Sing" did have a nice sound, with a faster beat and an almost '80s flavor, but ultimately I found it to be another track that would be shortly forgotten.

Heartfelt, earnest, and well-meaning, Glory Song would for the most part make a fine addition to any church worship leader's Sunday morning set list.  The production values are good, and Matt Redman does exhibit his considerable music talent within these tracks.  However, I cannot say that the album as a whole will be a memorable one as the years go by.  I remain a Matt Redman fan, but I look forward to another collection, one where he might stretch his lyrical and musical wings just a little bit more.


Although this wasn't a glowing review, I would still like to give away a copy of Glory Song  to one of our U.S. continental readers.  Perhaps the Lord has a personal message for you within these tracks that will touch you in a special way.  To be eligible to win, comment below and include some way for me to contact you (email, social media handle, etc.) if you are chosen.  Comment ideas: What is your favorite Matt Redman song? Who is one of your favorite singer/songwriters, from any genre? What was the last album you listened to, from beginning to end?

Contest concludes at 12:01am on Saturday, October 7th. Open to continental U.S. mailing addresses only. I will contact the winner shortly thereafter for their delivery mailing address.  If I don't get a response from the winner within 72 hours, I will choose another name.  Giveaway prize administration will be facilitated by FlyBy Promotions. Thanks for entering!

Below I've included a music video of Matt singing "Gracefully Broken", so you can get the feel for the sound of the album.

Pre-Order Glory Song

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Conceit and Concealment by Abigail Reynolds

~ Pride & Prejudice meets Alternate History ~

Six years after Napoleon’s invasion of England…

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a traitor. He even admits to collaborating with Napoleon’s troops. And Elizabeth Bennet despises all traitors.

But she can’t make sense of Darcy. He doesn’t act like a traitor. He risks his own safety to save young women from the French. And how can she despise a man who loves puppies? Something about him doesn’t add up – and she finds him far too attractive.

Then Darcy’s carefully constructed world crumbles, and he must entrust his closest-held secret to Elizabeth. To protect that secret, Elizabeth must disappear entirely, leaving her family and Darcy behind, to plunge herself into the dizzying world of fashionable London and the dangers of the Loyalist Resistance. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Darcy is determined to find Elizabeth. Now that she knows the truth about him, there’s nothing to keep them apart – nothing, that is, until the day Darcy is forced to choose between his country and the life of the woman he loves…

At the at the end of the 18th and at the start of the 19th centuries, it was a common fear among the English that Napoleon would invade their lands. The Frenchman made more than one attempt, and there were rumors that he even had plans for an aerial attack by military balloon!  Napoleon’s main obstacle was the English Channel.  This stretch of water enabled the English to defensively avoid invasion again and again. In Abigail Reynolds’ latest Austenesque novel Conceit and Concealment, she posits an alternate reality, wherein Napoleon has managed to lure much of the English navy away to the West Indies, thereby leaving the Channel open for an invasion. This reality is also set within the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, featuring many characters from that beloved novel.

I have read several of Abigail’s novels, with my favorite being Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, which I reviewed in 2010. Next to Obsession, I would have to say that Conceit and Concealment is my next favorite of hers! While the story veers wildly from the source material, Reynolds has her characters retain the same tones and values of their originals. Mr. Darcy is a responsible, wealthy man who is not prone to hyperbole and is quite discreet with important secrets. Elizabeth Bennet is a strong, loyal woman who will do what is necessary to stand by her beliefs and support her loved ones and friends. Within Abigail Reynolds’ alternative reality, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves in a grand enterprise, one that will test the limits of their principles and physical well-being.

My Pick for Kit Darcy
Conceit and Concealment was a delight to read, an adventure with unexpected revelations on numerous occasions throughout the novel. One major plot twist near the outset of the story had me gasping aloud in surprise and amusement. Throughout the narrative, Reynolds held my attention with excellent storytelling, tantalizing (but not immoderate) romance, and a touch of espionage. I loved the addition of a younger brother for Mr. Darcy, the twenty year-old Christopher “Kit” Darcy.  I pictured the English actor Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) for the part of Kit.

In addition to reading the Kindle edition of Conceit and Concealment, I also enjoyed “reading” about half the novel via audiobook from  During times when I could not sit and read, I listened to the dulcet tones of Elizabeth Klett as she shared the story with me.  Ms. Klett’s performance was excellent, and I would liken her accent to that of a mature Emma Watson, also known as Hermoine Granger of the Harry Potter films. Her tone was appropriately posh and intelligent, without being distracting. I was able to work through household chores or run my errands in the car as I listened in.

Due to my graduate school studies these days, I don’t have as much time for book reviewing as I used to. So I have to be very selective in the titles that I do choose to enjoy when I’m not studying. Conceit and Concealment was an excellent diversion, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone, but I suggest it to Janeites in particular. As mentioned, the story is very unlike Pride and Prejudice, but the characters retain their original demeanor, and the tale that Reynolds weaves with them is quite enjoyable. Find a cozy spot to read, (even a hayloft will do) and enjoy what might have been…

About the Author

Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Mr. Darcy’s Journey, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, The Darcys of Derbyshire, and Mr. Darcy’s Refuge. She is currently working on a new Pemberley Variation and the next novel in her Cape Cod series. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.

Giveaway - Ebook and Audio!

Abigail Reynolds has graciously offered to give three of our readers Conceit and Concealment! Two international winners will receive the ebook edition of the novel, and one U.S. winner will receive the version.  The first randomly-chosen U.S. name will be our audiobook winner. The remaining two randomly-chosen names will receive the ebook edition. The contest will conclude at 12am EST on Sunday, September 24, 2017. Please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The only required entry is your contact information, so that we may get in touch with you should you win. All additional options are for extra entries, increasing your chance of winning.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Understanding Elizabeth by Robin M. Helm

Mr. Darcy is tempted beyond what he can endure when Elizabeth Bennet leaves her private journal entries in the parlour of Netherfield. Upon reading her writing, he is appalled to find that she overheard his unflattering remarks at the Meryton Assembly and despises him for his thoughtless comments. He wishes with all his heart that he could undo the damage.

During a restless sleep, he dreams of two powerful beings who can give him his heart's desire - Elizabeth's admiration, respect, and love.

Will he take the offer to change the past so that he never makes the offensive statement? Will he make a deal with the Devil, or is the price too dear?

What would you do to get exactly what you want? How much would you be willing to pay?

For more than five years, author Robin M. Helm has been a unique voice in the Austenesque community. In her Guardian trilogy, she offered a supernatural twist on Pride and Prejudice, imagining some of Austen’s characters as spiritual creatures, with Darcy as Chief of Guardian Angels. Her next series, Yours by Design imagines Darcy as a historical figure who is magically transported forward in time, taking on the life of another Darcy in the 21st century. In her latest work, Understanding Elizabeth, there is an element of spirituality involved, but for the most part the tale is firmly grounded in Austen’s world of Pride and Prejudice.

Unlike her previous novels, Robin Helm stays securely in Austen’s time period and also retains many of the same plot points as in Pride and Prejudice. She is able to make the story very much her own, however. New details and scenes are injected, such as Darcy and Elizabeth enjoying diverting chess games together, and Darcy’s discovery of some of Elizabeth’s personal writings. In addition to this new narrative content, Helm also adds a spiritual component. On occasion the reader is privy to Darcy’s dreams, wherein he encounters an angel of light and a demon of darkness. During these times of lucid unconsciousness, Darcy is presented with the opportunity to change the past. As he regrets some unflattering statements that he made at the Meryton Assembly, a part of him wishes he had never uttered those words. He regrets hurting Elizabeth’s feelings, and he knows that it was his poor attitude that night which tarnished her perception of him.

While this supernatural element is certainly part of Understanding Elizabeth, it is not as dominant as I thought it would be. Helm brings about these interactions with the angel and demon only occasionally, leaving the Austenesque content to be the dominant story line. Indeed, the writing throughout the novel is strong enough that the spiritual component could have easily been left out, and the resulting work would have been just as enjoyable. On the other hand, without the angel and demon, Understanding Elizabeth would not have this unique storytelling device to give Darcy’s character more depth. Through these dreams we are able to see how he wrestles with his past, and how he chooses to go forward with his life.

 As mentioned, this is Robin Helm’s seventh published title, a stand-alone novel after her two trilogies. While I have enjoyed her work previously, I found Understanding Elizabeth to be her strongest writing to date. She is well suited for the 19th century/Austenesque genre, incorporating good research and history into her enjoyable narrative. As a Christian, I appreciated the interjection of the spiritual element, but those not of that religious persuasion can still take in the novel without feeling alienated. The inner struggle that Darcy endures is one common to all of us, regardless of our religious affiliation. How often have we all wished we could go back and retract words or actions in our past? How often do we speak before we think? This is a common malady known to all of us, which makes Helm’s Darcy very relatable.

Robin Helm continues to grow as a writer, and I’m happy to offer my recommendation to Understanding Elizabeth. Austenesque fans will be quite pleased with this work, as it presents a fresh take on Pride and Prejudice in an entertaining new way. For those of you who are new to this genre or to Robin Helm’s work, Understanding Elizabeth is a great place to start.


Author Robin Helm has generously offered a giveaway to our readers! For our U.S. domestic participants, one winner may have their choice of ANY one Robin Helm novel, either paperback or Kindle.  For one international participant, they may choose any one of her titles on Kindle.  The contest will be open until 12am EST on Saturday, June 10, 2017. Please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.  Good luck!

Contest Update:  It has been noted by a contestant that the Rafflecopter is not always "recognizing" members when they come back on subsequent days for bonus entries (like the daily Twitter credit). Rest assured that all entries are being counted by the system, so if you return on a later date to get your daily Twitter credit, you don't need to re-enter things like "Facebook Group Member", which is only going to count once.  If the Rafflecopter does not recognize you on a subsequent day, be sure to enter your contact information (so I know it's you) before listing your daily tweet.  Before I run the raffle at the end of the contest period, I will make sure that any unnecessary duplications will be deleted.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at  Thanks for participating!

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About the Author

Robin M. Helm is the author of a modern Christian fantasy fiction series, The Guardian Trilogy, which includes Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy. She has also published the Yours by Design series, a Christian Regency/Modern Romance with a paranormal element. Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours are all available for purchase in both e-book and print formats.

Mrs. Helm shares a blog, Jane Started It, with the other writers of the Crown Hill Writers' Guild, and is one of the founders and administrators of, a website for readers with common interests. She also has published three Regency short stories, "First Kiss," "The Prize," and "Treasure Chest," which can be read on Jane Started It on her author's page or at She has one husband, one granddaughter, two daughters, two sons-in-law, four family dogs, five part-time jobs, and six published books.

Mrs. Helm is the Associate in Music and Music Academy Director at her church, the interim choir director, a piano teacher, and an elementary music teacher. She formerly taught high school English.

She graduated with a BA from Piedmont International University. She is a member of the Delta Epsilon Chi honor society, the American Legion Auxiliary, JASNA, and the scholarship faculty of the United States Achievement Academy.

Connect with Robin M. Helm

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

What would life be like if something had prevented Jane Austen from ever publishing any of her books? Dedicated Janeite, Rose, is about to find out!

It’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works.

Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is a combination of so many aspects of literature that I find enjoyable.  Most obvious is the “Austen factor”, with the bulk of the story being set in the city of Bath during the annual Jane Austen Festival, with numerous references to the celebrated author’s works and life history.  Authors Ada Bright and Cass Grafton deftly transport their readers to this glorious city, making this reader even more desirous to travel abroad and attend the Festival. These women clearly have attended the event on at least one occasion—the level of detail surrounding it is quite deep, giving the reader a true inside view of what it would be like to attend.  Bath, with its world-renowned Festival is most certainly the epicenter of all things Austen.

Set in the midst of this is the fantastical tale of Rose Wallace, Janeite and long-time admirer of a certain archaeologist who is an annual speaker at the festival.  Through her employment at a local agency, not only does she reside in Bath, but she also enjoys assisting Dr. Aiden Trevellyan as he prepares for his annual lecture.

Within Rose’s story comes the next literary device that I delight in so much.  While in the middle of the Festival, Rose meets a woman who turns out to be Jane Austen.  Not just any woman named Jane Austen-- THE Jane Austen herself!  How does this long-since-passed author come to be in the 21st century?  Through the beauty of time travel, of course!  Those of us who are time travel fans must always process the moment of this seemingly impossible event-- wherein we must suspend our disbelief and go along with the plot line.  I must admit I found the method in which Austen is able to time travel to be a tad unbelievable, but it was easily surmountable, given my love for time travel stories.  However, I can say that there comes a moment in which Jane finds herself in a bit of a quandary time travel-wise, and in that particular moment I found the change in plot to be a bit hard to swallow (pun intended, to those who know of which event I speak). That being said, the story is such fun, I moved on with the narrative, enjoying it quite a bit.

An unexpected aspect of Particular Charm that I found surprising was the amount of Harry Potter references within the book.  Bright and Grafton are clearly fans of the J.K. Rowling series, and they manage to insert quite a few mentions of characters and Potter-related subjects within the tale.  As someone who has read all of Rowling’s Potter books and has seen all of the movies (the latest Fantastic Beasts being a temporary exception), having those winks to that universe was a delight.  However, there were times when I wondered if readers who are unfamiliar with Potter might find themselves a bit lost during those moments.  Fortunately the Rowling references are largely inconsequential, so non-Potter fans need not worry too much about that factor.

Although I felt the plot pace slowed considerably during the last few chapters of the book, overall I highly enjoyed The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.  The characters were relatable, likeable, and I found myself rooting for them in a number of ways.  Rose’s interest in Dr. Trevellyan was tantalizing, and I could very much see myself in Rose.  There were many times during my days as a single girl that I pined away for men who seemed clearly out of my reach.  I remember that ache.  I also remember what it was like when one day, one of those crushes turned his attention toward me.  It was almost unbelievable, and I remember the nervousness of those days quite well.  Like Rose, I wasn’t always the most eloquent of ladies and frequently struggled with self-doubt and self esteem issues.  This character is very true to life, and I enjoyed watching her journey through time and the minefield that romantic interests can bring.

A bit of a spoiler warning:  I know there are some of you out there who enjoy reading the end of a book before beginning it in earnest. I would encourage you NOT do to this for Particular Charm. There is something that occurs in the final moments of the book that had me hooting with delight-- literally, out loud-- and I am so glad that I didn’t know about that moment from the outset.  In some ways, it reminded me of the final scene of the first Back to the Future movie.

Do yourself a favor: Firstly, and most certainly, read Particular Charm, especially if you are a Janeite.  And secondly, read it from beginning to end.  This is a fun, family-friendly story that I can heartily recommend.  Ada Bright and Cass Grafton could easily craft a sequel to this tale, and I'm glad to learn from Cass that this is indeed the plan.  If The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is any indication, we are in for more entertaining diversions with our time-traveling Regency author!

Giveaway Time!

Ada and Cass have been so kind to offer a copy of the book up to one of our readers! The contest is open internationally, and ends at 12am EST on March 18, 2017. The winner may choose between a paperback copy or the Kindle edition. Just fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Good luck everyone!

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Carolyn Miller’s The Elusive Miss Ellison

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That's the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister's daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won't take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia's pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother--who stole the most important person in Livvie's world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he's just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there's already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn't the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society's opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Fans of Georgette Heyer, Lori Wick, and Julie Klassen will enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister's daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God's grace and the true strength of love.

The Ellusive Miss Ellsion has all the elements for the perfect read in my areas of interest.  Set in 19th century England, we have two colorful main characters who struggle with some of the same issues found in Pride and Prejudice.  There is the initial repulsion in their acquaintance. He comes from well-bred stock, while she is a meager minister’s daughter. There is at least one De Bourgh-like matron in the mix. The content is passionate, while still family friendly.  Christians will appreciate the spiritual moments sprinkled through the narrative.

While I do commend author Carolyn Miller for the aforementioned choices, I am sad to say that I did not enjoy this novel.  The amiable elements are there, but for some reason, I was not fond of the story. The characters seemed bland to me, and Miller’s writing wasn’t the strongest I’ve ever read. In fact, there were some overused phrases that became so frequent, they became an annoyance.  The one in particular I’m thinking of is the mentioning of “flushed”, “heated” or “pinked” cheeks.  It seemed on every other page, there was a mentioning of cheeks and how they were being warmed or tinted due to riled emotions, whether they be positive or negative feelings.

I do not want to be overly harsh in my criticism of The Ellusive Miss Ellison. While I did not find it fascinating, I can easily recommend it to lovers of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Julie Klassen and other Christian authors, if only based on content-related issues.  Perhaps others can look past the writing style, and perhaps they will find the characters to be more compelling than I did.  As the beginning of a series, Ellison is a fair start, and perhaps as the collection continues, the storytelling will improve.

Regency romance fans have another must-read novel to add to their lists: Carolyn Miller's The Elusive Miss Ellison. Enjoy the spirited exchanges between the bluestocking minister’s daughter and the bruised war hero as they move past pride and presumption to a humbled appreciation of God’s grace and the true strength of love. These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

Settle in for a cozy night of reading with a cuppa and a Kindle from Carolyn!


One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking HERE or on the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on March 22. The winner will be announced March 23 on the Litfuse blog.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Post Update: My Review of Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey by Ginger Monette


For those of you keeping track, I owe you a review of Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey by Ginger Monette.  I'm pleased to announce that the review is now up, and you can access it here:

While you're making the jump to that other post, don't forget to enter to win in the blog tour giveaway, linked below the review.  That contest ends on Thursday afternoon, so don't delay!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Darcy's Hope at Donwell Abbey by Ginger Monette

1917. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that leaves him in a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he's coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth. His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.

Escape to the era of Downton Abbey in this enthralling stand-alone sequel* to Darcy's Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes that includes appearances by John Thornton, Margaret Hale, Colonel Brandon, Marianne Dashwood, and descendants of George Knightley.

As a fan of Pride and Prejudice as well as the BBC television series Downton Abbey, I was intrigued with Ginger Monette’s concept of bringing these two worlds together, in some senses. No, we do not have the characters of Downton in the story (although Lady Almina of Highclere Castle is mentioned), but we do have the World War I-era setting, as well as many of the social and economic trappings found in Downtown. Many of Jane Austen’s characters, not only from Pride and Prejudice, but from other novels as well, make appearances.  The most notable characters are the leading man and woman, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.  In this universe, Darcy is still Lord of Pemberley, but he is also a captain in the army.  Elizabeth takes on the role of a nurse.

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is the second in Ginger Monette’s Great War Romance series, with Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes being the first title. I don’t usually begin a book series out of sequence, but I decided to start with Donwell Abbey first. I can say that my lack of knowledge of the events of Beauty from Ashes did impede my reading somewhat at the beginning, and near the very end of the book.  Monette does do her best to fill new readers in on the narrative of the previous title, but there were still times when I felt a bit lost.

That being said, I pushed through those moments of disorientation, as there were other elements that kept my interest.  Before long, Donwell Abbey took on a life of its own, and I was fully ensconced in the tale.  This became particularly true after some dramatic events befall Captain Darcy while out on the battlefield.  As the details of Darcy’s fate are not mentioned in the book description, I will keep this review spoiler-free.  Suffice it to say, the plot picked up the pace quite a bit after these events, and I became more intrigued than ever.

Ginger Monette’s writing is quite enjoyable.  She retains the spirit of Austen’s characters, although they are embedded into a world that Austen herself never knew. I loved the cameo appearances of other Austen characters, as well as characters from author Elizabeth Gaskell. Monette could have simply created new characters of her own to fulfill those roles, but I enjoyed the fact that well-loved names were employed to do the job.

Overall I must applaud Ginger in her work on Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.  Her attention to historical detail is excellent, and while there is a bit of mild language and war violence, overall this was an entertaining, clean romance that I could recommend to anyone.  She deftly handled the romantic tension, ratcheting up the romantic pressure bit by bit as the story went on.  Near the end, I could not turn the pages fast enough, engulfed as I was in wanting to know how the story would play out.

The only caveat I have to my recommendation would be to perhaps begin the series with the first book, Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes, so that you can avoid the moments of puzzlement that I felt in my lack of knowledge.  This in no way diminishes my approval of Donwell Abbey.  I simply feel that this is one of those series that is best read in chronological order. Kudos to Ginger Monette for a job well done in Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey.  I look forward to taking in more of her work in the future!

Feb 5: VVB32 Reads
Feb 20: Austenesque Reviews
Feb 21: More than Thornton
Feb 22: Margie's Must Reads
Feb 23: Delighted Reader
Feb 24: Becky's Book Reviews
Feb 25: Darcyholic Diversions
Feb 26: Linda Andrews
Feb 27: Every Woman Dreams
Feb 28: Tomorrow is Another Day

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About the Author

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she's hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

In 2015, her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's “Picture This” grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review and Giveaway: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling were two-thirds of an exciting trilogy by Erika Johansen. Now the series concludes with The Fate of the Tearling, where we learn the learn the outcome of the narrative that Johansen has been building.  While I enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling very much, looking back I now feel that I enjoyed the sequel even more than the opening volume. This led me to anticipate The Fate of the Tearling very much.

While the world of the Tearling does broaden and deepen in many ways, I felt that the story took a turn down a dark alleyway and never really returned.  Almost every aspect of the tale became difficult and shadowed, with dark magic, revenge, cruelty and coldness abounding throughout almost every corner.  I did still find the story compelling and the characters interesting, but more often than not, I found myself enduring the fantasy tale, rather than purely enjoying it.

Like many characters in the world of the Tearling, main character Kelsea longs for “a better world” with little to no crime, negligible violence, employment for all, great medical care for all. While she aspires to a utopian society, she knows it would never be perfect, but she strives for a better world nonetheless.  Sometimes she makes grievous mistakes, but at her core she wants what’s best for her kingdom.  She also longs to be truly known and loved, as we all do. Like many of Johansen’s characters, she is very human while still inhabiting magical qualities.

It was Kelsea’s likeability that kept me hanging on throughout the story. I truly wanted to observe her (and her kingdom’s) fate as she strove for that better world, fighting against cruel, dark forces that ran rampant throughout history.  Kelsea’s quest, as well as the quests of like-minded people in her world, was a difficult one, and as a reader I frequently felt like I was being pulled into a dark hole to observe torturous events that may or may not turn out in a glorious ending.

I wouldn’t characterize my opinion of the novel as purely negative. Johansen did keep my attention throughout, and her writing is very strong.  I just felt that the content continued down a dark path that I became weary of after so many hundreds of pages. I needed a bit more light, and a bit less darkness in the world of the Tearling. And although there was a brief redeeming moment toward the conclusion of the book, I also tired of the horribly poor image of the church. As mentioned in my previous reviews, the Christian church seen in the Tearling is so far removed from what Christ intends, and unfortunately close to what many people see the church to be today.  While I concede that the Body of Christ is not perfect, it has been my overwhelming experience that Christianity is a blessing to the world, and not something to despise or virtually extinguish from society.  This is not to say that I was offended by the portrayal. I understand that the church has meant many things to believers and non-believers alike over the centuries, and it has had its share of missteps along the way.  I just became fatigued with its horrible role in that fictional civilization.

Overall, I would say that my impression of the series as a whole is a moderately positive one. The Invasion of the Tearling was particularly interesting, and I loved how the world opened up into multiple timelines and perspectives.  It is certainly a magical tale, one that yearns for that better world, one that we all hope for one day.  The Tearling series truly speaks to the fact that we were all created for a better place.  Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, surrounded by imperfect people with innumerable passions and ambitions.  As a Christian I know that this “better world” is still ahead of us, and I do look forward to it myself.  In the meantime, we all can be like Queen Kelsea, doing our best to bring as much of that better world into our current existence, within our own personal kingdoms, one day at a time.


Giveaway:  The Invasion of the Tearling

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Learn more about The Fate of the Tearling HERE

About Erika Johansen

Erika Johansen grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Swarthmore College, earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and eventually became an attorney, but she never stopped writing.

Follow the Tearling series on Facebook and Tumblr.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: A Very Darcy Christmas by Victoria Kincaid

A Pride and Prejudice variation. Elizabeth and Darcy are preparing for their first Christmas at Pemberley when they are suddenly deluged by a flood of uninvited guests. Mrs. Bennet is seeking refuge from the French invasion she believes to be imminent. Lady Catherine brings two suitors for Georgiana’s hand, who cause a bit of mayhem themselves. Lydia’s presence causes bickering—and a couple of small fires—while Wickham has more nefarious plans in mind….The abundance of guests soon puts a strain on her marriage as Elizabeth tries to manage the chaos while ensuring a happy Christmas for all.

Meanwhile, Georgiana is finding her suitors—and the prospect of coming out—to be very unappealing. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be the only person who understands her fondness for riding astride and shooting pistols. Georgiana realizes she’s beginning to have more than cousinly feelings for him, but does he return them? And what kind of secrets is he hiding?

Romance and merriment abound as everyone gathers to celebrate a Very Darcy Christmas.

Today we have an excerpt from Victoria Kincaid's latest Austenesque novel, A Very Darcy Christmas, just in time for the holiday season!  Mrs. Bennet is up to her usual hysterics, and Darcy must attend to her as best he can.  After you enjoy this fun excerpt, be sure to enter to win a copy of the book. But be quick-- this giveaway ends at the stroke of midnight Christmas morning, about the time that Santa will be leaving our homes here on the east coast of the U.S.!

Thanks to Victoria for the excerpt, and I hope you all enjoy.  Merry Christmas!

Darcy straightened his cravat as he strode toward Pemberley.  Wickham was safely stowed at the Lambton Inn, and Darcy had rented the room for a week.  Hopefully the Wickhams would be gone by then.  At least that resolves one of my headaches.  Unfortunately, the number of remaining headaches was sufficient to keep him occupied for the rest of the day.

Why must Elizabeth and I possess such troublesome relatives? Darcy wondered as he neared Pemberley’s grand front entrance.  Or perhaps the better question was: why were the troublesome relatives the ones who visited?  Why could it not have been Charles and Jane who showed up unexpectedly on their doorstep?  Or some other reasonable relative like…?  Darcy thought for a moment.  As Georgiana and Richard were already at Pemberley, he could think of no other candidates.

The moment Darcy pushed open the solid oak front door, his ears were assaulted by a piercing shriek.  “Oh, Mr. Bennet!  You have no compassion for my poor nerves!”

Elizabeth’s father stalked down the staircase while his wife fluttered behind him.  Elizabeth trailed after them, rolling her eyes.  Perhaps I should have stayed longer with Wickham, Darcy mused—and then immediately recognized it as a sign of desperation.

The moment Mrs. Bennet saw Darcy, she hurried up to him.  “Mr. Darcy!  How fortuitous you are here!  You must begin drilling your men immediately.”

Darcy blinked.  “My men?”

Behind Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth had a hand covering her mouth.  Was she trying not to laugh—or cry?
“This morning the maid told me that the footman had told her that his cousin had heard that the maid at the Lambton Inn said there was a Frenchman in town!” Mrs. Bennet announced triumphantly.

She paused to await his reaction.

“Indeed?” Darcy finally said.

“Yes!  The Frenchman had lunch at the inn yesterday.”

“I see.”

“Do you not understand the import?” Mrs. Bennet asked.  “He must be a scout!”

“Scout?” Darcy asked blankly.

“For the invading force!” Mrs. Bennet explained.  At this pronouncement, Mr. Bennet threw his hands in the air and stalked out of the room.

Darcy massaged the back of his neck with one hand.  “There are many French men and women who live in England.  Most escaped from the ravages of the revolution and fled the guillotine.”

She lowered her voice.  “But why would such a person be in Derbyshire—so far from the coast?”

Elizabeth rubbed her temples as if a headache were coming on.

Darcy decided to take another tack.  “Madam, the French army is quite occupied fighting in Spain right now.  I am certain they have no intention of invading England.”

“But the paper described unusual troop movements!  And French ships have been spotted by people in Brighton and Dover!”

“France is not far from Brighton and Dover,” Darcy pointed out.  “So one might reasonably be expected to see French ships from there.”

Elizabeth chimed in.  “Even if France were to invade, we are very far north here.  It would take them a long time to reach Derbyshire.”

“That is what they want us to believe,” Mrs. Bennet said in a tone so low it was practically a whisper.  “They want to lull us into a sense of safety—and then they will attack!”

“We are safe,” Darcy insisted.  “We are very far from France here.  I assure you—”

Mrs. Bennet interrupted him.  “You must prepare to defend Pemberley!  Your footmen must train every day.  Are any of your tenants versed in weaponry?”

Darcy sighed, beginning to understand why Mr. Bennet’s response to his wife’s tirades was often silence.  “I do not know.  Although my steward might.”

She gave an approving nod.

There must be some way to distract this woman!  Surely she could not think about imminent invasion every minute of the day.  “Have you been to visit the shops in Lambton?” he asked her.  “Mrs. Reynolds said the milliner has just received some ostrich plumes.”

“Ostrich plumes!”  Mrs. Bennet’s face lit up.  While popular in London shops, the feathers were rare in the country.

“One of the footmen could escort you into town,” Darcy offered eagerly.

She pursed her lips.  “But they must stay and drill.”

Of course.

“Papa can take you,” Elizabeth volunteered.  “It is the least he can do.”

Perhaps there was a way to temporarily rid them of another troublesome guest.  “Would Mrs. Wickham like to go as well?”

“An excellent suggestion!” Mrs. Bennet cried and ran for the bottom of the stairs.  “Lydia!  Lydia!”  Her voice echoed and reverberated off the marble throughout the hall.

Darcy winced as Elizabeth gave him an apologetic look.  While Mrs. Bennet made a commotion bellowing and ascending the steps, Darcy sidled over to Elizabeth.  “Do you recall those ostrich plumes we bought for Georgiana that she did not care for?”  Elizabeth nodded, understanding dawning in her expression.  “Would you be so good as to ask Mrs. Reynolds to collect them and send them to the milliners immediately?  I believe I can delay your parents’ departure sufficiently.”

Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she set off in search of the housekeeper.

Giveaway - A Very Darcy Christmas

Author Victoria Kincaid has generously offered a copy of her novel A Very Darcy Christmas for one of our readers!  The contest is open internationally, and the winner may choose between a print edition or ebook copy.  The giveaway period ends at 12am EST on December 25, 2016.   Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.  Good luck! 

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About the Author

The author of best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria has a Ph.D. in English literature and has taught composition to unwilling college students. Today she is a freelance writer/editor who teaches business writing to willing office professionals and tries to give voice to the demanding cast of characters in her head.

She lives in Virginia with an overly affectionate cat, two children who are learning how much fun Austen’s characters can be, and a husband who fortunately is not jealous of Mr. Darcy. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice.

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