Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review and Giveaway: The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Jack Caldwell

The worlds of Jane Austen and the Baroness Orczy combine in a swashbuckling tale from the author of The Three Colonels. Captain Frederick Tilney, dashing cavalry officer and rakish heir to Northanger Abbey, is interested only in fencing and enjoying himself. That is, until he meets the girl of his dreams, the lovely and intriguing Violet Blakeney. However, her father is not convinced of Frederick's pledge to reform and the officer is banished from Violet’s presence. The baronet has a will of iron, for he is none other than Sir Percy Blakeney—the retired Scarlet Pimpernel! Now, during the Hundred Days Crisis, an evil from the Pimpernel's past menaces the Blakeney family while Sir Percy is crippled by age. Frederick must convince the baronet to accept his assistance in accomplishing the impossible—take on an entire country to recuse the girl they both love.

Four years ago I had the pleasure of reading Jack Caldwell’s novel, The Three Colonels. Many characters from multiple works of Jane Austen were brought together in a singular delightful tale, one that was quite original and entertaining.  Caldwell has now followed Colonels with another mash-up of sorts, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Again, various Austen characters are used within the story (including the colonels from the previous work), but we also find creations from the mind of the writer Baroness Emma Orczy, namely the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, Sir Percy Blakeney.  As a Janeite I was familiar with the backgrounds of many in The Last Adventure, but my knowledge of Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel was negligible to say the least.  So this foppish, conniving and brave character is a new one for me, one that I have only begun to discover in this creation from the mind of Jack Caldwell.

In addition to getting to know the Scarlet Pimpernel better as a character, I also was given much time with an unlikely choice of protagonist for this tale, namely Frederick Tilney of Northanger Abbey fame. I’ve always thought of him as a bit of a flirt and playboy, in consideration of how he is known to treat women and his storyline in Austen’s novel. But in The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, we see quite a transformation in this man. Indeed, due to the love of a woman—true love, mind you—he works diligently to become worthy of her hand. When her safety is in jeopardy, it takes Captain Tilney in league with the Pimpnernel to come to her rescue.  The Pimpernel is not as young or as nimble as he once was, so victory is not assured.  He’s also aware of Tilney’s reputation, which becomes a problem as the Captain desires to court his daughter.  Somehow Tilney must not only rescue his beloved, but he must win over her father’s good opinion as well.

So in The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, we have a bit of an adventure story, but we also have a bit of a romance.  Although the titular character is the Pimpernel, this really was the Captain’s story. His journey is a long one, from a man of somewhat ill repute to possibly hero and man of honor.  The novel has moments of excitement, intrigue, and of course a touch of romance.  The villain was delectable in his own way, obsessed as he was with the ruination of his nemesis, the Pimpernel.

My negative thoughts on the novel are few. While not my favorite of Caldwell’s works (that would be Pemberley Ranch), it was a fun, enjoyable romp that is very family friendly. I wish that less time had been spent focusing on the history and politics of the period (the Hundred Days Crisis of 1815) and more pages spent building the relationship of Tilney and Violet Blakeney.  In addition, there were moments when I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters, but Caldwell solves this problem with a listing of the cast at the opening of the book. I referenced it several times.

Once again, as in the previous work, I enjoyed seeing so many Austen characters interacting with each other. My two favorites, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy make more than one appearance, and we also spend some time with the former Caroline Bingley and her new husband, Sir John Buford.  I also relished the story arc between Buford and Captain Tilney, as their relationship goes through an ebb and flow that I found compelling and interesting.

Overall I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be another unique moment of Austenesque fiction from author Jack Caldwell.  Thus far he has not failed to disappoint in this genre, and I hope he continues this series of Jane Austen’s fighting men.


Author Jack Caldwell has graciously offered to give away a copy of  The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one of our readers!  The contest is open internationally.  If the winner is in the U.S., they may choose between paperback or eBook.  If an international name is chosen, they will receive the eBook.  Content ends on September 1, 2016 at 12am EST.  Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Jack Caldwell, born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook.

His nickname -- The Cajun Cheesehead -- came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)

Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition. Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors' trials and tribulations.

When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Jack's blog postings -- The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles -- appear regularly at Austen Variations.

Connect with Jack Caldwell

The Last Adventure Kindle The Three Colonels Pemberley Ranch

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Excerpt and Giveaway (US): A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

In the summer of 1992, a young writer is bequeathed the abandoned home of a great-uncle she never knew. The house has a romantic history and is unlike any home she has ever seen. Juliana Martel felt as though she stepped into a time capsule—a snapshot of 1942. The epic romance—and heartache—of the former occupant unfold through reading his wartime letters found in the attic, compelling her on a quest to construct the man. His life, as well as his sweetheart’s, during the Second World War were as mysterious as his disappearance in 1950.

Carrying her own pain inflicted by the abandonment of her mother and unexpected death of her father, Juliana embarks on a journalist’s dream to find her great-uncle and the woman he once loved. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a man whose family is closely related to the secrets, she uncovers the carefully hidden events of her great-uncle’s and others’ lives – and will ultimately change her own with their discovery.

This story of undying love, born amidst the darkest era in modern history, unfolded on the breathtaking Gold Coast of Long Island in 1942. A Jewish, Army Air Forces pilot and an enchanting society debutante—young lovers—deception—and a moment in time that lasted forever.

A Moment Forever is an evocative journey that will resonate with you long after you close the book. Romance, heartache, and the power of love, atonement, and forgiveness transform lives long after the horrors and scars of the Second World War have ended.

Today we welcome to The Calico Critic author Cat Gardiner.  She offers some thoughts, an excerpt of her novel A Moment Forever, and a nice prize package as well.  Enjoy today's post, and don't forget to enter to win below!  Every comment is entered for the giveaway of an E-Book, Vintage-style picture frame and triple-milled gardenia soap swag gift. (US)  For extra entries, follow on Facebook, Twitter or the Cat Gardiner blog.  Be sure to submit your entries through the Rafflecopter widget so that we can compile all entries and select a random winner.  Good luck, and enjoy!

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Thank you, Laura for inviting me with A Moment Forever to The Calico Critic. I’m so happy to be here and to share some thoughts with your readers and a giveaway. So, I’ll get right to it!


Growing up, I knew a few families that had widow/widower parents, and guess what – they remarried! I’m sure you remember the song about one particular family: “Here’s the story of a lovely lady …” Yes, the Brady Bunch. And let’s not forget, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and My Three Sons. Sixties and seventies television shows were rife with this situation, and I, as a child, thought nothing of it. The Bradys hooked up, Eddie tried to hook his father up, and Steve Douglas, father of three sons hooked a bride. Society, as a whole, encouraged remarriage. It was more widely welcomed by family. Perhaps it was because the world viewed marriage as essential to one’s happiness – and also because two back-to-back wars had left us with the too common occurrence of men killed in action, resulting in fatherless children, unskilled women having to enter the workforce, and just plain and simple – loneliness. Maybe that would explain remarriage rates at an all time high in the late 1960s.

The eighties gave us more widowers in TV: Full House, Diff’rent Strokes, and more recently Arrested Development. Did they all remarry? No, most likely society has changed. In American real life, some of today’s dominant objections in keeping seniors from remarrying after the death of a spouse are from family. In this Millennial era, adult children are more protective – and territorial. They worry about someone new in their family, pre-nups and finances, inheritances, being taken advantage of, and the plaguing question of “who will I bury them with?” Personally, I do think I would have a difficult time. My parents have been married 61 years. They’ve been a “couple” for 75. Yet, my mother states time and again to my father, “When I’m gone, find someone to care for you.” It’s very hard for some children to accept that. No one can take the place of my mom or dad and what they mean to each other, but it’s not my call.

This issue is a prevalent theme in 1992 in A Moment Forever and it touches at the heart of the novel. A secondary character, Louis Martel, is responsible for compelling his granddaughter to find her past and the people he and his deceased wife hid from her. His son has just died, two years after his wife, and he’s living in a senior community. Once a “doll dizzy” man during the 1940s, he’s filling his loneliness at night with the help of some lovely ladies. But in 1992, his granddaughter is having a tough time accepting that he isn’t “faithful” to her deceased grandmother, Lillian (Mimi.) She fails to recognize his need to be loved, touched, cared for, soothed, and have steady companionship in his waning years. Things he wants to give someone special in return, too. Romantic love isn’t a one-shot deal and it’s not restricted only to the young – and Juliana must come to learn that. He hasn’t forgotten Lillian. On the contrary, he still grieves and misses her, and he must deal with the guilt he has about seeking companionship, maybe not marriage, but a relationship.

This scene shows us what Louis is up against.

*          *          *

“Grandpa, are you still asleep?”

She could hear the shower running inside his master bath. “Grandpa. It’s only me. I’ll put up some coffee. We need to talk.”

To her surprise, it wasn’t Vera who came through the bedroom door but another woman wearing a beige towel wrapped around her torso. Ginger-haired, buxom, attractive and in her sixties, she greeted Juliana’s shocked expression with a pleasant smile.

“Oh, hello. You must be Lou’s granddaughter, Julie. I’ve heard so much about you. Everyone has told me what a beauty you are. Why, you’re as cute as a button.”

The offending stranger squeezed Juliana’s cheek just as Mimi used to do. Unable, unwilling to welcome the woman with even a cordial acknowledgment or smile, she stammered.

“Um, er … and you are?”

“I’m Louise but everyone calls me Lou. Your grandfather is in the shower at the moment.”

Lou and Lou, oh isn’t that just too cute. Not.

“Can you please let my grandfather know that I’ll be in the kitchen preparing breakfast for me and him?”

“Of course. Make yourself comfortable, dear.”

Fuming, Juliana walked to the galley kitchen.

How could he? What happened to Vera? And who the hell does this stranger think she is telling me to make myself comfortable!

Already the morning was off to a bad start. Her anger was about to explode to the surface, but she shamefully had to admit that this Louise person, unfortunately, found herself in the line of fire. Perhaps if the woman had answered the door wearing actual clothing that might have helped, but the thought of her grandfather in some shag fest with a sixty-year-old was too much to handle. Pinching my cheek! Only Mimi gets to pinch my cheek! Oh, that’s right … Mimi’s dead and this one obviously thinks she can fill her shoes!

The coup de grĂ¢ce was pulling open the refrigerator door and finding two different Pyrex designs and four different Corning Ware patterns, all dating between the 1960s and 80s, none of which he actually owned. Apparently these were the modern day, senior citizen equivalent to a calling card. Perhaps the pattern names suggested some subliminal message to the recipient from the giver, potentially a physical trait or a promise of dessert to come: Cornflower, Balloons, Floral Bouquet, Country Festival, Autumn Harvest, and the ever-present Spice O Life that seemed to sum up his playboy behavior toward them all! She wondered if Louise had brought Strawberry Sunday.

She harrumphed. “Six casserole dishes, all different designs. My seventy-three year old grandfather is a total Don Juan!”

She poured a mug of coffee, grabbed her blue Tiffany box, and walked to the balcony to wait for her grandfather’s expected shit-eating grin to arrive. Today, she would find it neither cute nor endearing.

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Thank you so much for joining me today. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Louis and Juliana or someone you may know or even the beautiful idea of finding love again - at any age.

About Cat Gardiner:

Born and bred in New York City, Cat Gardiner is a girl in love with the romance of an era once known as the Silent Generation, now referred to as the Greatest Generation. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and Tampa Area Romance Authors, she and her husband adore exploring the 1940s Home Front experience as living historians, wishing for a time machine to transport them back seventy years.

She loves to pull out her vintage frocks and attend U.S.O dances, swing clubs, and re-enactment camps as part of her research, believing that everyone should have an understanding of The 1940s Experience™. Inspired by those everyday young adults who changed the fate of the world, she writes about them, taking the reader on a romantic journey. Cat’s WWII-era novels always begin in her beloved Big Apple and surround you with the sights and sounds of a generation.

She is also the author of four Jane Austen-inspired contemporary novels, however, her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever is her debut novel in that genre.

Follow her on Twitter:
On Facebook:
Follow her blog:!my-40s-experience/c112v


Cat Gardiner has generously offered a nice prize pack for our U.S. readers!  One randomly chosen winner will win a package that includes an eBook of A Moment Forever, a vintage-style frame and gardenia soaps (my favorite scent!).   Simply fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The only required entries are your contact information and making a comment to this post.  Contest will conclude at 12am EST on Saturday, August 27th.  Good luck to all the entrants!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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