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

Click on the Rafflecopter link below, and enter to win!

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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

Book 1 Paperback Book 1 Kindle Book 2 Paperback Book 2 Kindle

(Sale price refers to Kindle edition)


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