Saturday, August 15, 2015

Book Review: Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Ebook Copy of Mistaking Her Character

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

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

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

Connect with Maria


Saturday, August 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes

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

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

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

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

Comment Ideas (not required):

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


July 06 - My Jane Austen Book Club (Preview)

July 07 - Booktalk & More (Excerpt)

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

July 09 - vvb32 Reads (Preview)

July 10 - The Paige Turner (Review)

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

July 11 - Austenprose (Review)

July 12 Laura's Reviews (Preview)

July 13 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 13 Reflections of a Book Addict (Preview)

July 14 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 15 Confessions of a Book Addict (Review)

July 16 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 17 Paige Turner (Review)

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

July 19 Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide (Excerpt)

July 20 - Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 20 - The Calico Critic (Review)

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

July 21 Poof Books (Excerpt)

July 22 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 23 Austenprose (Review)

July 24 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)

July 25 My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)

July 25 Living Read Girl (Review)

July 26 Delighted Reader (Review)

July 27 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)

July 27 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

July 27 Laura's Reviews (Review)

July 28 She Is Too Fond Of Books (Review)

July 29 English Historical Fiction Authors (Preview)

July 30 vvb32 Reads (Review)

July 30 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

July 31 CozyNookBks (Excerpt)

Aug 01 - The Calico Critic (Review)

Aug 01 More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

Aug 02 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Review)

Aug 03 Romantic Historical Reviews (Review)

Aug 03 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)


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