Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Bride of Northanger

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other...


“Diana Birchall once again proves herself the worthiest of Austenesque fiction writers, with keen powers of observation, discernment, judgment, fire, genius, and wit on every page.” — Devoney Looser, author of The Making of Jane Austen

“No one captures Jane Austen's vibrant style, sense of humor, intelligence, and voice better than Diana Birchall. I flew through this charming novel, which makes a delightfully spooky and most welcome sequel to Northanger Abbey.” — Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

“One of the most enjoyable returns to Austen to be found. Not to be missed.” — Susan Franzblau, author and film director

Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall, a beloved author in the Austenesque fiction world. Although I haven't had a chance to read the book yet due to my studies, I'm thrilled to be able to offer an excerpt from the novel and participate in the tour. Below you'll find the excerpt, along with information about Diana, as well as links to the other blog tour stops. Thanks for stopping by The Calico Critic, and I hope you enjoy the passage Diana has shared with us!

Excerpt from The Bride of NorthangerChapter 11, pages 93 - 96

With the first gleamings of crepuscular pink light starting to show in the long windows, she went to gaze out at the beautiful dawn scene, hoping to find some serenity. To her shock, she was immediately shaken to discern a face out in the garden, gazing back at her!

She almost shrieked, but clapped her hands over her mouth, and steadying herself, took another look.

It was a woman, none other than the same Grey Lady she had seen before. She was standing some twenty feet from the house, in the semi-darkness, and Catherine could not distinguish much about her, only that she was clothed in diaphanous grey, and was as pale as the moon, with skin that was white, but wrinkled. As she watched, the wraith lifted her arm to gesture, and mouthed a single word. What was it? It seemed to be “Oh!” or perhaps – “Go!”

Catherine could not tell, but she could look no more. She felt rather than saw the Grey Lady gliding away across the still-dark lawn, as she pulled the curtains closed.

As she did so, her hands felt something resting on the sill, a piece of cloth. She pulled it inside and saw that she was holding a small square piece of tapestry, or crewel-work, about eighteen inches square. The pattern, tightly stitched in delicate wools, was so intricate that it looked as if it might have taken years to work; and it was something like a sampler, with flowers and fruits on the outside edges, and a central pattern of an imposing house that looked very much - yes it did – like Northanger Abbey.

The sampler effect was owing to a series of words which, in motto-like fashion, circled the lozenge that enclosed the picture of the Abbey. The letters were tiny, interspersed with pairs of white birds that looked like doves, and at first Catherine was unpleasantly reminded of the small words in the message on General Tilney’s gift of wedding china. Would this prove to be another malediction?

Nervously, she tried to read the message, but the size made it hard to decipher. She had to hold her candle between herself and the tapestry, and pore over it to make it out. At length she succeeded, and on reading the first words, she gave a great start:

“O new Bride of Northanger!” it read.

She looked around apprehensively. That was certainly meant for no one but herself; there could be no doubt now that it was a message for her. Indeed, the Grey Lady must have left it. Shivering, she read on.

“Fear not, my dear daughter, for I lay only blessings upon you and your marriage. I wish you both an unbroken peaceful and fruitful life, this side of Heaven. As a mother who has suffered untold torments, I stand as the Guardian of Northanger Abbey against the wicked and the cruel, and hope that my love will enfold and protect you for ever, unto eternal life.”

“Well!” exclaimed Catherine. “What can this mean? Is it from the Grey Lady? She must be real enough, however, for this is no work of imagination. Not only is it tangible, it is as sturdy and well-stitched a piece of needlework as I have ever seen, upon my word. Only, that poor lady’s fingers! And her eyes! To embroider so many, many tiny letters! That, to me, would be the torture.”

She read the precisely stitched message again carefully.

“No, I do not know, I cannot conceive what on earth to make of it. I will ask Henry, when he comes.”

About the Author

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen's style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale.

Connect with Diana


October 28                My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
October 28                Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
October 28                vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)                           
October 29                A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide of Life (Guest Blog)
October 29                From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
October 30                Drunk Austen (Interview)
October 30                Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
October 31                Jane Austen’s World (Review)
November 01            So Little Time… (Interview)
November 01            Laura's Reviews (Review)
November 04            English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
November 04            Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
November 05            More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 05            Vesper’s Place (Review)
November 06            Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
November 06            Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)
November 07            All Things Austen (Spotlight)
November 07            A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
November 07            Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)  
November 08            Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
November 08            vvb32 Reads (Review)
November 11            My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
November 11            Reading the Past (Spotlight)
November 12            Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 12            The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
November 13            The Book Rat (Review)
November 13            Austenesque Reviews (Review)
November 14            Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)
November 14            The Fiction Addiction (Review)
November 15            My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 15            Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)

Start Reading Your Copy Today!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Ten Years: Happy Birthday to The Calico Critic!

My 4 yr-old Son Colson & Me in 2009
While I don't post as often as I used to due to my graduate studies, somehow this little blog keeps kicking after ten years. On October 3, 2009 I began this site after discovering the world of book bloggers in my search to win a copy of Suzanne Collins' novel, Catching Fire. This led to my discovery of Austenesque fiction, and thanks to the help of authors like Sharon Lathan and Monica Fairview, I was able to get my foot in the door with publishers like Sourcebooks to acquire advanced copies (ARCs) of Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF). Interestingly, my blogging peaked back in 2010, with 136 posts published that year.  Last year was an all-time low of FOUR posts! I may officially shutter this site one day, but not just yet. I still have a few reviews up my sleeve (and owed to authors whose novels I've promised to review)!  I appreciate your continued support over this last decade, and thanks for reading!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Book Excerpt and $50 Giveaway: Letters from the Heart by Kay Bea

About Letters from the Heart, a Pride and Prejudice Variation:

The Bennet sisters of Longbourn lack both decorum and connections and do not possess a decent dowry between them. Even the best of the them is in every way unsuitable for a man whose income is as a good as a lord. But love is not so easily set aside and in January 1812, Mr. Darcy persuades Mr. Bingley to reopen Netherfield Park, the country estate from which they both fled only two months before. On returning to Hertfordshire, they discover a near tragedy took place three days after the Netherfield Ball and has changed the lives of the Bennet family forever. Mrs. Bennet’s relentless fear of losing her place in society has led her to condemn her least favourite daughter to a life of isolation and pain that will greatly complicate Darcy and Elizabeth’s journey to happiness. Old bonds are strengthened, family ties are severed, and unlikely allies emerge as each of them struggles to make sense of the changes they face.

Welcome to the fourth stop on the blog tour for the new Austenesque novel, Letters from the Heart from debut author Kay Bea! My blogging has slowed to less than a crawl in the last year because of my graduate studies, but I'm thrilled to be able to offer an excerpt spotlight for this new novel, and to avail my readers the opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card as a part of this blog tour (available worldwide).  Simply offer a coherent comment below (at least a full sentence, please), and you will be entered into the drawing. The giveaway period runs through September 19th. Be sure to offer a way that we may get in touch with you if you win. If giving your email, use an extended format such as:  Name at gmail dot com, which will be a safer option. Want more entries in the contest? Be sure to visit the seven other blogs participating in the tour:

And here now, without further ado, is a brief but tantalizing excerpt from Letters from the Heart:

Book Excerpt: Letters from the Heart

“Tell me, Darcy, about this creature you do not love,” the colonel insisted.

The invitation to describe Elizabeth Bennet was too tempting to withstand. Darcy drew a breath and said, “She is the younger sister to Bingley’s newest love. She is kind, thoughtful, and terribly impertinent. Miss Bingley thinks she is possessed of a conceited independence, but I found her to be refreshing, not at all like the simpering daughters of the ton. She is, perhaps, too free in giving her opinions, but she most often manages not to give offence. She is also prone to debate simply for the sake of it. She is passionate”—here he thought of her defence of Wickham and was frustrated again—“even when she is mistaken.”

Putting aside his anger, he pictured her face that night and on the other occasions they had spoken. He continued softly, “She has the most expressive eyes I have ever seen. They dance when she laughs and burn when she is angry.” He stopped speaking and turned to gaze into the darkness beyond the library window.

“She seems your ideal match, then. Why are you not in Hertfordshire wooing the lady rather than sitting here with your dusty old relations?”

Darcy shook himself and turned to face his cousin. “Woo her? No. She is entirely unsuitable. ’Tis better that I left the country when I did.”

“And what makes this kind, impertinent, passionate woman unsuitable? Is she a servant?”

“Do not be ridiculous!” Darcy snapped in offence.

“A shopkeeper’s daughter perhaps or a tavern wench?” the colonel teased his cousin.

“Do give me some credit, if you please!”

“The squire’s daughter?” Darcy’s face darkened at his words, and Colonel Fitzwilliam knew he had come to the point. “That is it then,” he continued before Darcy could speak.  “You fell in love with the squire’s daughter. Her father is at least a gentleman then, so tell me, Darcy, how is she unsuitable?”

“It is not she so much as it is her family! The two eldest sisters were the only decent members of the entire group. Five daughters, all out at once and not a decent dowry between them. A vulgar, grasping, harpy of a mother. An indolent father. And an estate that is entailed to Lady Catherine’s parson of all people! That is to say nothing of her mother’s relations. An uncle who is a country attorney and another in trade. How could I possibly rejoice in the prospect of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own? The match was in every way impossible! I would not have my life made the subject of insipid gossip and speculation!”

The colonel made a rude noise and said, “When did you become Lady Catherine?”

“I beg your pardon?” Darcy asked indignantly.

“You heard me. Good lord, Darcy! ‘How could I possibly rejoice in the prospect of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?’” he mimicked cruelly. “You’ve not cared one whit what anyone thinks of your choices before. Why does it matter now?”

“I—” Darcy started, then stopped, and began again. “I must consider Georgiana.”

“You have always needed to consider her. Do not use your sister as an excuse for your own arrogance. You have picked a poor time to begin caring for the whims of society. I only hope you were not foolish enough to let your disdain for her family show in your interactions, else you may never repair the damage.”

“Why should I wish to?” Darcy asked.

“Because you are in love, my friend, and that should matter.” Richard said nothing more on the subject before leaving the room some twenty minutes later.


January 7, 1812
Darcy House, London

Dear Richard,

You will be surprised to know that Georgiana and I have journeyed to London rather than Derbyshire. There is but little which could persuade me to be in town, particularly at this time of year. You should not take my presence here as in any way acknowledging your advice of Christmas. I will say that, upon reflection, I may have acted with too much haste as regards Bingley and his lady. Therefore, I have decided to persuade Bingley to reopen Netherfield. It should be the work of only a moment as he has spoken of naught but his Miss Bennet these past weeks.

I have not yet decided whether Georgiana will accompany me as I do not care to encourage the presence of certain ladies. Perhaps Miss Bingley will not relish the idea of winter in Hertfordshire. I can only hope her desire for the entertainments of town will outweigh her interest in this affair.

Though I take exception to your characterisation of my disposition of late—a Darcy is never morose and does not brood. I know I have not been myself. I suppose I should thank you for reminding me that this is an odd time to suddenly begin caring for the opinion of society, but I will not give you any such measure of satisfaction.

Your cousin,

Fitzwilliam Darcy

It seems that Colonel Fitzwilliam knows Darcy better than he knows himself!  I guess we will have to see what transpires next in this Pride and Prejudice variation!  I haven't read this novella yet, but I have been given assurances that the content of Letters from the Heart is not overly steamy, which works well for many of my readers.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by The Calico Critic for this blog tour, and be sure to check out the other posts for more content, such as guest posts and interviews!

About the Author

Kay Bea is an administrative assistant and Jane Austen lover living in Kansas City with her husband of twenty-five years, her mother-in-law, and her fur kids. She has written several short stories and drabbles on fanfiction.net as “I Found My Mr. Darcy” and on A Happy Assembly as MrsDarcy2032.

Kay grew up in Wyoming, enjoyed a two-year adventure in Maryland, and now calls Missouri home. When she isn’t writing, Kay enjoys photography, cooking, and spending time with her adult children and three granddaughters.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Spotlight on Journals: Ellie Claire Paper Expressions

In the eighth grade my English teacher required that we start a journal of sorts for her class.  We merely had to write about a page of thoughts in a notebook, and later she would return the “graded” notebook with a short response on our entry.  I loved getting my thoughts down on paper, and this led to many years of journaling.  I estimate that I documented most of the days of my life between 1985 and the early ‘90s, from middle school through post-college days.  After college life became busier, with employment, marriage, and eventually parenthood.  I occasionally would journal, but not as much as I did in the old days.

As 2018 was on the horizon last year, I made a New Year’s resolution to journal. This year has been one that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time, as it has included my elder son graduating from high school and moving out into the world.  I also brought a new puppy into our family, a huge first for us as well.  For every day for the bulk of this year, I have once again been journaling my thoughts and events in our lives. As the summer waned and my daily life changed quite a bit with the onset of our puppy and my return to graduate school, I haven’t been as diligent in journaling for the last couple of months. My hope is to finish out the year with summary thoughts, and hopefully daily journaling in December after my final exam.

Recently I was given the opportunity to examine some journals by Ellie Claire Gifts.  As 2018 is coming to a close and my current journal is just about full, I’m on the lookout for a new volume to capture my thoughts for 2019.  When these three journals arrived, I was impressed with their quality, beauty and special features.  Let’s take a look at each one of these treasures:

The Faith & Lettering Journal

The first thing that I noticed about this journal was the front and back cover. It’s a hardback, but it’s an extremely thick and rigid one, with wonderful imprinted textures, colors and foiling. The spine is bound with cloth, with an elastic loop attached for keeping a pen, and the book is designed to lie flat when in use.

Looking inside the journal, you’ll find pages of various types. They’re all printed on quality paper that feels like it would resist bleeding if liquid color is used, such as a felt-tip lettering pen.  Of course there are blank, lined pages for typical entries, but they are often paired on the opposite side or in the corners with beautiful artwork by artist Krystal Whitten.

There are also practice pages, if you’d like to start working on scripted-style lettering like Whitten’s. Some practice pages include a “Pro Tip” area, with a different font to practice, as well as suggestions on how to make the fonts look their best. Krystal’s main purpose in presenting this journal is “to inspire you to reignite your devotional time, to imprint Scripture upon your heart, and to help you dig deep into the Word of God through the art of lettering.”

The Illustrated Word: An Illuminated Bible Coloring Journal

Like the Faith & Lettering journal, the Illustrated Word journal has a similar cover, with a strong composition, imprinted textures, colors and foiling.  The book can also lie flat when in use. Of the pages to be used for journaling, half are plain lined pages, and half include full-color illustrations from the archives of the Museum of the Bible in the corner of the page.  For forty of these illustrated pages, the opposite facing page has a coloring page inspired by the ancient art in the journal. The coloring pages are not like the coloring books created for children. They are more in the vein of the adult coloring books that have become popular in recent years. For someone like me who does not have the talent to draw complex images like these, the coloring pages provide an outlet for being artistic without the stress of wanting it to look like professional artwork, done by monks in the medieval times. This journal is a bit simpler than the Faith & Lettering journal, but if you’re not keen on practicing a new skill and just want to get on with enjoying journaling and the relaxing practice of coloring, this might be a good choice for you.

Illuminate Your Story Journal

The last journal in my profile is my favorite. The Illuminate Your Story journal is much like the previous two, with the same kind of spine, covers and quality non-bleed paper. In contrast however, this book includes an elastic band closure as well as a bookmark ribbon. With its 6” x 8” proportions, it’s a tad smaller than the previous journals, which are about 7” x 9”, but its size is fine.

The book begins with an introduction and history of illuminated letters, which I found very educational and inspirational. The main journal pages are of different types. There are lettering pages where you can practice creating illuminated letters, commonly featured at the start of an ancient book or chapter. Some of these letters are fairly complex, but there are some simpler ones to start with.  I think the letter “D” will suit me. All letters of the alphabet are represented.

There are also blank pages for traditional journaling, with an inspirational quote or scripture verse printed at the top. Like the illuminated practice pages, there is space allocated to practice “flourishes” or extra designs that can be added to your illuminations. These pages are good for non-artists like myself.  There’s a Celtic knot on page 88 that I like, and if I get brave, I might try the “L” with peacock detail on pages 82-83. I adore peacocks, so the fact that there’s one on the letter “L” (for my name Laura) is just perfect!

The final detail of the journal is a “Keepsakes” pocket on the inside back cover. I imagine you could keep photos, notes from friends or other small flat items inside. I thought this was a really nice, three-dimensional addition to the book.


Even if you’re not journaling about your daily activities, all three of these products can be a wonderful resource in your personal quiet time. God is the ultimate Creator, and as we are made in his image, it’s natural that we can incorporate worshipful art into our devotional time.

After experiencing these amazing journals, I took a peek at Ellie Claire’s other products on their website. These books are just the beginning! If you’re thinking about journaling, but the items I’ve reviewed don’t suit your taste, check out the many other offerings from Ellie Claire and Worthy Publishing. There are so many beautiful products! The illuminated Psalms journal was breathtaking, and as a bookmark geek, I couldn’t help but be impressed with their Scroll of Esther line.

Journaling has been such a blessing to my life.  Not only is it therapeutic, but it’s a fascinating time capsule to use in the future.  You will be amazed at how many tiny, precious details can be retained by writing them down.  By getting your words on paper, you preserve memories that might otherwise fall through the cracks of time.  It’s really quite remarkable, to go back years (or decades) later and read about what your younger self was up to.  You might be surprised at how much you’ve changed, and also how much you’ve stayed the same.  I don’t know if my habits had any influence, but my younger son began journaling a few months ago. Like I was, he is also in the eighth grade, on the cusp of so many important years.  I was thrilled that he showed an interest in the activity, and I hope he keeps it up for years to come.

Regardless of whether you purchase one of these items (although you can’t go wrong with any of them), I hope you consider the practice of journaling.  It’s never too late to start, and you’ll be giving yourself a gift this holiday season, especially with these fine journals from Ellie Claire.

Faith & Lettering

Illustrated Word

Illuminate Your Story

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge

Wow-- it's been six months since I last posted!  I've been quite busy getting my 18 year-old son launched into the world, welcoming a new puppy into our family, and getting back to working on my master's degree in Christian Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary.

While I haven't had as much time for reading novels and such, I am going to take a moment to profile some products now and again. Hopefully after my final exam of the semester I'll be able to dive back into some Austenesque fiction!  For today however, I have a profile on Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge.  Here is a blurb on the book:

While much has been written about Jane Austen’s life and novels, less is known about her
spiritual side or the three prayers she wrote. In Praying with Jane, Christian readers and Jane
Austen fans can explore Austen’s prayers in an intimate devotional format as they learn about
her personal faith, her Anglican upbringing, and the spiritual truths found in her novels.

Jane Austen’s faith comes to life in this beautiful 31-day devotional through her exquisite
prayers, touching biographical anecdotes, and illuminating scenes from her novels. Each daily
entry includes examples from Austen’s own life and novels, as well as key Scripture verses, ideas
for personal application, and a prayer inspired by Jane’s petitions.

“This is the devotional I didn’t know I was missing. Dodge connects
stories from Austen’s life and the pages of her novels to her prayers and
Scripture in fresh and insightful ways. An inspiring and illuminating look at
the life and faith of a beloved author.”
—Anne Bogel, author, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of
the Reading Life and blogger, Modern Mrs. Darcy

“Rachel Dodge draws rich meaning and practical application
for modern readers from Jane Austen’s beautifully written prayers. Includes
compelling accounts of Jane’s life and inspiring, heartfelt prayers to make your
own. Praying with Jane is a wonderful devotional for anyone, and a
perfect gift for an Austen fan. Highly recommended.”
—Julie Klassen, bestselling author, Tales from Ivy Hill

Praying with Jane is full of rich insights into the faith of one of our greatest
English writers. It offers a window into her life and writings, as well as
being a source of spiritual nourishment!”
—Terry Glaspey, author, The Prayers of Jane Austen and
75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know


This is a wonderful item for the Janeite who enjoys a short devotional time each day. I love how it's only a 31-day commitment, so that you can enjoy the volume without feeling pressure to take in a large tome like a reference title, for example.  I haven't read the entire book, but did scan over the themes of all of the entries, and one in particular jumped out at me.  Here's an excerpt, taken from Prayer 3, Day 26:

Blessed Beyond Deserving

We feel that we have been blessed far beyond any thing that we have deserved; and though we cannot but pray for a continuance of all these Mercies, we acknowledge our unworthiness of them and implore Thee to pardon the presumption of our desires.

Austen's novels are littered with characters who perhaps end up with better than they deserve. Edmund, after following Miss Crawford around like a lovesick puppy and giving up ground on many moral issues, still ends up with kind Fanny; Emma is forgiven her many failings and faults and married generous Mr. Knightley; and Edward Ferrars, after making a foolish secret engagement with Lucy Steele, marries sensible Elinor. Grace is given and lessons are learned.

In Mrs. Bennet's case-- even though she has zero discernment in choosing suitable marriage partners, it terribly vulgar, and gives only bad advice-- she somehow ends up with her two eldest daughters married to kind, handsome men of good character, rank and wealth. Though her parenting merits sons-in-law that more closely resemble Lydia's Mr. Wickham, Mrs. Bennet gets everything she wants: At the end of Pride and Prejudice, she is happy and secure.

Though Mrs. Bennet never fully realizes the extent of her own good luck, Jane recognizes that she and her family have been "blessed far beyond any thing that [they] have deserved." In this portion of [Austen's] prayer, she asks God for a "continuance" of his mercies toward them, acknowledging that they are unworthy of so much. Her words are reminiscent of Psalm 103:10, which says God "does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." (NIV)


Bethany House has graciously offered to give away a copy of Praying with Jane to one of our U.S. readers!  Please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The only required entry is your email address, so that we may contact you if you win. All other entries (such as a comment, tweets, etc.) offer bonus points for the giveaway. Contest period closes at 12:01am EST on November 14, 2018. Open to U.S. mailing addresses only.

Today is just one of many in the blog tour for Praying with Jane.  Check out these other sites for more viewpoints and content on the book!

Blog Tour Dates:

October 31Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn

November 1 So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton

November 2 Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold

November 3 Burton Reviews, Marie Burton

November 4 Sofia Rose’s Place, Sophia Rose

November 5 Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum

November 6The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness

November 7 A Bookish Way of Life, Nadia Anguiano

November 8 Diary of an Eccentric, Anna Horner

November 9Becoming, Nichole Parks

November 10My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia

November 11 My Love for Jane Austen, Sylvia Chan

November 13 Faith, Science, Joy … and Jane Austen, Brenda Cox

About the Author

Rachel Dodge teaches college English and Jane Austen classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and Jane Austen groups, and is a writer for the popular Jane Austen’s World blog. She is passionate about prayer and the study of God’s Word. A true “Janeite” at heart, Rachel enjoys books, bonnets, and ball gowns. She makes her home in California with her husband
and their two young children.

Connect with Rachel




Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Review & International Giveaway: Mysterious Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview

Four years after the original events of Pride & Prejudice, Darcy receives a visit in his isolated manor in Cornwall. It is Charles Bingley, and he has come to ask a favor…

There is nothing Lizzy Bennet likes more than a laugh – except for a mystery. From the moment she first encounters Mr. Darcy, she senses he is hiding something. But the more she tries to find out about who he is, the more he circumspect he becomes. However, Lizzy soon turns her attention to someone else. As Mrs. Bennet points out, Mr. Darcy is a nobody, and Lizzy needs to marry someone who can provide for her and her sisters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy doesn’t want anyone to know about the scandal that haunts him from the past. He certainly doesn’t need someone like Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who asks him questions and tries to slip him up. Fortunately, he is more than adequate to the task of putting her off. What he doesn’t expect is that before long, he is caught up a love triangle, and finds himself longing to tell her the truth.

Are Elizabeth and Darcy meant to come together in this variation, or is Lizzy destined for someone else?

Note: Mysterious Mr. Darcy is not a mystery. It is a ‘what-if’ in which Mr. Darcy has to deal with the consequences of his past, a past that will change the shape of his future. 

Fitzwilliam Darcy, a fugitive? A man of no consequence? Janeites might find that hard to believe, but that is the Darcy that Monica Fairview presents to us in her latest novel, Mysterious Mr. Darcy.  While the dating of this tale occurs three years after the events of Pride and Prejudice, some crucial moments of that beloved novel have not yet occurred. Elizabeth Bennet has not met Mr. Bingley or his standoffish friend Mr. Darcy at the Meryton assembly.  Lydia has not yet taken up with Darcy’s rival, Mr. Wickham. At the same time, Mr. Collins has already married Charlotte, and Jane has married a man named Munstead. The characters remain mostly the same, but some crucial plot points have been tweaked a bit.

Darcy is also harboring a secret for his past, and for the majority of the novel, we are not privy to what that secret might be. We do know he remains on the run from the authorities, and is often looking over his shoulder, wondering if he will be discovered. Elizabeth picks up on his surreptitious nature and begins to wonder what he is hiding.

Without giving away any further details, Mr. Darcy certainly is mysterious to many people in his life throughout the story.  Monica Fairview takes Austen’s characters down some interesting, yet very believable roads in her narrative. Many paraphrased quotes from the source material in Pride and Prejudice are sprinkled throughout, bringing a smile to my face when I would stumble upon them occasionally.  This made her characters seem more credible, as they are the very thoughts or words they would have expressed if Austen herself were presiding over this retelling.

I have read several of Mrs. Fairview’s books, and while I cannot say that Mysterious Mr. Darcy is my favorite, it was still very enjoyable.  I felt that Mr. Darcy’s secret was kept from the reader a little bit too long. There is also a pivotal court scene that seemed a bit short, given its importance. I believe that a significant opportunity for high drama was passed over in that moment. That being said, Monica’s ability to weave a delightful tale remains intact.  I particularly enjoyed the last quarter of the novel, wherein Darcy’s veiled history is revealed to the reader and the stakes for the main characters begin to get ratcheted up. I was turning pages quite swiftly towards the end.

As a conservative reader, I also appreciate Monica’s ability to write a drama and romance without the use of significant amounts of adult material.  I would feel very comfortable recommending this to other readers like myself. The amorous moments are definitely there, but the emphasis is on the story and character development and not on strategies to titillate the reader.

I offer a hearty congratulations to Monica Fairview! Thanks so much for allowing me to be a part of your book’s promotion.  I’m sure I will continue to be a fan for years to come!  Now, about that ending involving a certain bachelor’s romantic interest… do I smell SEQUEL???

About the Author

Monica can be described as a wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.
Monica adores the Regency period and Jane Austen’s wit. She writes funny Jane Austen sequels and variations but has finally decided to get serious about Elizabeth and Darcy. At the moment, she lives with two cats, a teenager, and her own Mr. Darcy. She enjoys singing out of tune in the shower, visiting historical mansions, and warm weather. 

Visit Monica at 
Amazon Page: http://Author.to/FairviewDarcyNovel
Austen Variations: www.austenvariations.com
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/monica.fairview
Twitter:  @Monica_Fairview
Website: www.monicafairview.com
Pinterest: http://uk.pinterest.com/mfairview/

Giveaway: Mysterious Mr. Darcy
Monica Fairview has been very generous to offer two ebook copies of Mysterious Mr. Darcy to two of our readers!  Please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The only required entry is your email address, so that we may contact you if you win. All other entries (such as a comment, tweet, etc.) offer bonus points for the giveaway. Contest period closes at 12:01am EST on May 19, 2018. Open internationally.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Book Review & Giveaway - Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel

Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

     Several years ago the genre of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) took a turn into thematic blends that I had no interest in partaking. There was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, various iterations of JAFF that involved vampires, and a novel that portrayed Darcy as a rock star. These deviations did not appeal to me for the most part, although I will acknowledge that I enjoyed Monica Fairview’s Steampunk Darcy.  Recently I was given the opportunity to read and review John Kessel’s novel Pride and Prometheus, a mashup of a Pride and Prejudice sequel and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I was going to decline the offer, but when my 12 year-old got wind of the premise, he urged me to read the novel. I decided to accept.

     As I have said to my son several times since then, I have been so pleased with this novel! John Kessel, with his educational background of both science and literature, has crafted something that truly transcends fan fiction.  Pride and Prometheus is quality work, a volume that can be enjoyed by many, not only Janeites. The characters are captivating, well drawn and fully formed. Kessel’s writing is superb, striking the perfect balance of literary tone with modern accessibility. While some familiarity to Austen’s and Kelley’s characters is helpful, Kessel offers enough expository material to allow all readers to follow the narrative.  For example, I have never read the original Frankenstein, and had only a cursory knowledge of the main characters, Dr. Frankenstein and his Creation. Kessel's details with these characters made me more than comfortable with them. Due to my reading of Pride and Prometheus, I have now purchased a copy of Frankenstein and intend to read it as well.  This is perfect timing, as it coincides with the 200th anniversary of the 1818 edition of the classic.

     For those who might shy away from any notion of the horror genre, I can state unequivocally that Pride and Prometheus is not one to cast fear into the heart of its reader. I don’t care for the horror genre in any medium. I had to be dragged, practically kicking and screaming to see the movie The Sixth Sense almost twenty years ago. While I did enjoy that film, that is about as “spooky” as I’ll go in terms of a sinister theme.  Kessel’s novel does not veer in that direction. It does retain a bit of a gothic, dark tone, but never once were the potentially gruesome aspects of the story used to terrorize the reader.  My 12 year-old would find the these elements to be quite tame.

     While the novel does have some romantic components to it, this was a lesser detail in comparison to other issues at hand. The major themes contemplated philosophical and metaphysical questions such as “What does it mean to be human?” and “How far does God’s sovereignty extend?” The Nature vs. Nurture debate is also a large consideration.

     As in Austen’s original work, Mary Bennet is interested in religious topics, but as we find her in Pride and Prometheus, she is now 32 years old, still unmarried, and her interests have now extended to areas of science. She sees no contradiction in this, as science reveals God’s hand in creation. For the majority of the novel, the focus is not so much on Mary’s romantic interest in Dr. Frankenstein as it is on her relationship with his Monster. She is often an intermediary between the two, striving to guide the Creature to a greater humanity while attempting to show Dr. Frankenstein what she sees in his Creation.

      In that area of romance, I must commend Kessel’s choices. I kept waiting for him to guide the characters into cliched or predictable paths, and I prepared myself to be disappointed in him as a writer. Not once did he take the bait that would have been snapped up by lesser authors. Even near the conclusion of the novel, I thought he might take an easy way out with Mary’s fate, but he did not. I can say that the last few chapters felt a little disjointed from the rest of the narrative, but the directions in which the characters went were realistic, not formulaic.  No one really gets their “tied with a bow”, Hollywood ending. There is a tone of melancholy to it, but in making this literary choice, I think John Kessel has made the right one. He has told his own tale, while remaining true to the images that Austen and Kelley have created in their original works.  In that sense I believe Kelley and Austen would be pleased with how Kessel has managed his stewardship of these characters.

     In addition to offering my hearty recommendation of Pride and Prometheus, I also greatly endorse the audio book edition of the novel.  I treated myself to a copy from Audible.com, which allowed me to also enjoy the book while driving and doing household chores. The story is performed by three narrators, James Langdon (Dr. Frankenstein), Samuel Roukin (the Creature) and Jill Tanner (general narrator, but with a focus on Mary).  I heartily enjoyed James Langdon’s performance in another fabulous novel, The Map of Time, so I was greatly pleased to hear his voice again. His portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein was superb. Samuel Roukin’s portrayal of the Creature was well done, but he came off as a bit too “polished”, given that this character was a na├»ve 3 year-old in some ways. The Creature was also highly intelligent, so in that sense Roukin’s tone was just fine. Jill Tanner’s lovely English accent was also perfect for the piece.  I highly recommend this recording to audio book listeners.

Dr. Kessel reads aloud from his novel at Scuppernong Books
     When I was several chapters into the novel, I had the opportunity to meet John Kessel at an event at Scuppernong Books in my town of Greensboro, NC.  I rarely get the chance to meet my authors, so this evening was a thrill for me.  Although we didn’t have a huge turnout for the appearance, I enjoyed sitting with John to discuss Austen, his book and other topics. I was especially grateful for the additional insights into his characters, which made reading the rest of the novel that much more enjoyable.

     Dr. Kessel discussed the notion of the “uncanny valley”, and how that applied to Dr. Frankenstein’s Creature.  Some of you may recall the animated movie The Polar Express.  At the time, this 2004 film was at the cutting edge of motion capture and computer animation. The creators did their very best to make the characters seem as human-like as possible, especially in the eyes. They achieved this to a high degree, but they weren’t able to capture the humanity of the faces to 100% efficacy. This led to a certain discomfort for many viewers who looked into the eyes of these animated characters.  They were so human, and yet…not.  It’s a very disquieting feeling, and I understood exactly what Dr. Kessel meant when he described it.  This is the same feeling that those coming into contact with the Creature had when they saw him.  He was a re-animated dead body.  He was somewhat human, yet…not.  Most people, upon seeing him, would either run in terror or attack him.  Thus he led a very solitary life, and hated most humans.  In many ways, this was completely understandable.  This is what made his relationship with Mary that much more captivating. She grows to see the humanity in him, as is seen in the figurative and literal journey that they take during a great portion of the novel. I think in many ways, she sees that he has a soul, and if she guides him well enough, she could show him the way of salvation. Despite his hideousness, I believe that she sees God’s hand in his creation, and thus God’s love for him.

     John’s work on Pride and Prometheus is so well done, and I had to ask him if he has plans to do another novel in this vein, either another piece of Austenesque fiction, or a derivation of another classic work.  He replied that he likes to keep his writing projects quite diverse, and that at this time he has no plans to do another book like this one.  As his reader I hope that this novel is so successful that his publisher will urge him to do another, but we will have to see.  In the meantime, if you enjoyed Kessel’s style, he has a number of award-winning titles out there, many of which are in the short story format.

     So despite my initial hesitation (and thanks to my son's urging), I again offer my high praise for Pride and Prometheus. Lovers of Austenesque fiction will certainly enjoy this, but fans of historical fiction and literature in general can also find a new favorite author in John Kessel. His writing is captivating, his characters are well-drawn and his writing choices are never cliched. Congratulations, Dr. Kessel, and I offer my vote for another title of this kind.  Perhaps something with Mr. Dickens…?

GIVEAWAY: Pride and Prometheus
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Wunderkind PR has been very generous to offer a finished print copy of Pride and Prometheus to one of our U.S. readers!  Please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The only required entry is your email address, so that we may contact you if you win. All other entries (including the interesting comment topics!) offer bonus points for the giveaway. Contest period closes at 12:01am EST on March 31, 2018.

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About the Author

Born in Buffalo, New York, John Kessel's most recent book is the new novel Pride and Prometheus.  He is the author of the earlier novels The Moon and the Other, Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence.

Kessel's stories have twice received the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play “Faustfeathers'” won the Paul Green Playwright's Prize, and his story “A Clean Escape” was adapted as an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction. In 2009 his story “Pride and Prometheus” received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short sf, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology.

Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He and his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler, live and work in Raleigh, NC.

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