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Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes by Ginger Monette & Giveaway

Source: the author
Paperback, 278 pgs.
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“‘Dum spiro spero! Dum Spiro Spero!’ While I breathe, I hope.” (pg. 10-11)

Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes by Ginger Monette has created a believable catch-22 for Mr. Darcy of Pemberley, now a British captain during WWII. He is sent to France after losing nearly all his men at the Somme and months after his failed proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse’s assistant. At The Ritz, Darcy is confronted with all of the feelings he’s denied on the battlefield and he must confront his vow of never again having attachments. Elizabeth, on the other hand, has put the blame on Darcy all this time — his military requisitioning of her family home, the death of her father, and much more. She’s vowed to loathe him for eternity, but can she keep that vow as the ravages of war continue to push them together and force them to work together to keep the hospital going and saving the casualties of WWI?

“He was no more distinguished than a tiny grain of sand on an endless beach.” (pg. 56)

“So many of the conclusions she had glibly drawn about people and situations — and stood upon as a firm foundation — were now shifting like sand beneath her feet.” (pg. 137)

Monette has set the tone early on, and these characters will be tested in terms of their perceptions, values, and character. Darcy is more stoic in Monette’s novel; he’s a man hammered by war and burdened by a secret mission he feels ill-equipped for. But he still plods onward, doing his duty and nothing more. Elizabeth has come into her own as an independent woman, finding her way in the medical field and hoping for a future where she doesn’t need to depend on anyone. Both are closed off, but under the threat of the Germans and the constant barrage of casualties, they are forced to re-examine themselves and what it means to truly be a casualty of war.

Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes by Ginger Monette peels back the layers of the ways in which we protect ourselves from pain to reveal that we all want to be loved, protected, and esteemed.

RATING: Cinquain (I cannot wait to read book 2)

gingermonetteAbout 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.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

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

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Giveaway:

giveaway-ornaments-mug

With Darcy’s Hope set during the era of Downton Abbey and the tour being right before Christmas, I thought it would be fun to use Downton Abbey ornaments as the giveaway.

Seven ornaments will be given away and is open to U.S. residents in the continental US. The prize for residents of the continental U.K. is a Downton Abbey mug.

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My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

Source: the author
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
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My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is an expedition that leaves you feeling the biting cold as it burns the skin and takes the breath away from naturalists like Deb Gardner. Antarctica is a deeply mysterious place, one that travelers may have on their bucket list because they can see icebergs cleaving and wildlife free from human interruption. This environment, however, is not forgiving and many times those who travel there — even for research — can lose parts of themselves or their lives even if they are highly trained.

“The end of the world, the beginning of everything.” (pg. 14 ARC)

Raymond has crafted a novel that takes the harshness of the frozen wasteland and reweaves it into a place of solace for Gardner, a researcher whose family life is not close-knit and who feels closer to the penguins she observes than to people. Her narrative shifts backwards and forwards in time, sometimes a few months and sometimes by a few decades, but readers never leave Deb’s world view. She pushes you to care for the animals and their world, even as it crumbles around them and even as a researcher she is polluting its pristine nature. The dichotomy of her work is never lost on the reader — learn more about their environment and the effects of humanity upon it by being there and observing but through the act of observing, you disrupt the natural way of things (even if only for a few months).

“I feel his proximity like an electric current, a frayed wire, loose and dangerous.” (pg. 93 ARC)

The stakes become even higher when Deb finds that she feels more at home with fellow naturalist Keller Sullivan, a man who knew little until she reluctantly trained him. The nature of their work separates them more than it brings them together, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mere romance. There are deeper layers — the surface slush must be swept aside.

“But nature has a way of surprising us, of overpowering us, of reminding us that, no matter what we believe and no matter how hard we try, we’re not in control after all.” (pg. 140 ARC)

Sometimes the last continent may be a return to the one you abandoned long ago. My Last Continent by Midge Raymond is engaging and deeply moving. It’s message is clear; we are not so far evolved from our animal brethren and even if we were, we all still need the same planet to build families and to survive.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

Midge worked in publishing in New York before moving to Boston, where she taught communication writing at Boston University for six years. She has taught creative writing at Boston’s Grub Street Writers, Seattle’s Richard Hugo House, and San Diego Writers, Ink. She has also published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing.

Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press.

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson

Source: publicist
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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RATING: Cinquain

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson (available in the United States in December) offers a stark reminder of what politics has become and how it works behind the scenes. Peterson’s very stark imagery catches candidates at their most vulnerable and in midst of their performances, but it also catches the media, the staff, the public, and the nation in a way that is least flattering and very surreal. The 2016 election has been a whirlwind of unbelievable moments from an unlikely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, to an outsider — Bernie Sanders — hoping to make inroads in the two-party system through a grassroots revolution.

American businessman Donald Trump at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH, April 18, 2015. (printed with permission, Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

American businessman Donald Trump at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, NH, April 18, 2015. (printed with permission, Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

“The Trump and Sanders phenomena were, of course, animated by radically divergent convictions and world-views. But both reflected a profound disruption taking place outside the confines of Washington, D.C.” — says John Heilemann, author of “Game Change” and “Double Down.”

While the previous election cycle had seen a historic shift in the presidency to the nation’s first Black president, President Barack Obama, the 2016 election cycle has seen a completely different stage and set of actors. With the election behind us, the nation is clearly hurting and it is divided — not only among racial lines. Peterson’s images are heavy on contrast and demonstrate the theatrics behind the scenes. While voters may see the debates and the comments at rallies as entertaining and indicative of “publicity” and “branding” — or just plain “fluff” — it is clear that the men and women on the campaign trail see many different sides of the candidates and the public.

Political Theatre by Mark Peterson is a collection of photographs, quotes from the candidates, and tweets, among other things. It also includes an essay by John Heilemann. But above all, it stands as a mirror to what our political system has become.

Donald Trump campaign rally in San Jose, California, June 2, 2016. (printed with permission; Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

Donald Trump campaign rally in San Jose, California, June 2, 2016. (printed with permission; Political Theatre by Mark Peterson)

Without a Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Source: the author
ebook, 204 pgs.
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***There may be spoilers for the first book in this review.***

Without a Conscience (available on Amazon Nov. 11) by Cat Gardiner is a stunning and intense follow-up to Denial of Conscience. If you thought Iceman was stone cold in the first book, you’re going to love watching him thaw and then freeze, before he ultimately melts in Liz’s arms.  Life at Pemberley with the horses is placid, but even training horses can be an adrenaline rush, especially while wielding a gun and shooting targets in the woods.  When danger comes home to roost after a successful operation — his last with Obsidian — all that target practice seems well timed.

“Your conscience, your moral sensibilities will get you and them killed.  It’ll cause you to pause, to flinch, to second guess.  There are no second guesses or second chances.  Only one choice before you: life or death.  You must remain without a conscience in the fight for life.” (ARC)

Given Liz’s sheltered life at Longbourn, Iceman Darcy wonders just how free she’d like to be, not confident that his love or the peace a Pemberley is enough to satisfy her, especially as she hugs the turns in her new Harley. These insecurities mirror Liz’s own as she sees how unsettled he is and the distance in his eyes from time-to-time, but she’s determined to keep their love alive. Even as they navigate their new marriage, it is clear that his past life as the Iceman will reclaim him, even if he doesn’t want it to.

Gardiner’s writing is adept at lulling readers into a false sense of security as we watch Darcy and Liz build a life together on the grounds of a tranquil property. Only glimpses of danger are seen and the solid panic room in the depths of the house are a warning of things to come. From the dangerous tango in an French club to a secluded van, it’s clear that Iceman and Liz have become two halves of the same coin, and they’re bound together more closely at the end of this novel.

Even with the cloak-and-dagger, Liz and Darcy find their ways back to one another, and communication is a key component of that — just like in any marriage. Without a Conscience by Cat Gardiner hugs the corners close, throbs in your ears, sends your nerves over the edge, and brings you in for a smooth, romantic landing.

Check out the Pinterest board and the book’s Playlist.

RATING: Cinquain

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***Cat Gardiner’s new WWII romance, A Moment Forever, also toured with Poetic Book Tours.***

About the Author:

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.

For more on her book, visit A Moment Forever.

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The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

Source: the author
Ebook, 229 pgs.
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In The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James, Evie Pemberton has realized part of her dream with her first art show. Despite the trials of her life, she is unaware that a storm is brewing, one that has been forming for generations as rumors have rippled up into a tidal wave set to overtake her. Enter the confident London-based private investigator Charlie Haywood, he finds himself awed by her beauty at the art show and he’s unable to craft a new persona through which he can uncover the truth of her family. Even though he is tongue-tied, Charlie still learns about the Darcy Trust and the possibility that Evie’s ancestors may not be entitled to its endowment.

“We live in a world, Galbraith, where a woman has only that which fortune has given her. She cannot shift for herself as a man can, and I have come to fear, that in time, and in future generations, the largesse which I gave them may be diminished.”

James creates a novel in which readers can see how newly married Mr. and Mrs. Darcy interact with one another, how her family impacts her relationship with her new husband, and the insecurities that plague her as a new mother, wife, and lady of Pemberley. While Darcy and Lizzy still tease each other and remain happily married, there are pressures from society that seep in the cracks, causing discord for them. Charlie and Evie’s story is a straight forward mystery, and as Charlie and Evie grow closer to the truth of a generational mystery, they also grow closer to one another. While the modern story seems a bit rushed in places, their romance is believable. James’ portrayal of a married couple and pregnancy is very realistic, and will have readers wondering how anyone survived pregnancy in the Regency period.

“I am tired and my back aches like the low moan of an orchestra tuning up.”

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James is a wonderful mystery that unravels, tugs at the emotions, and realistically portrays marriage and motherhood. James knows Austen’s characters, and she explores a number of societal norms from inheritance of estates by male heirs to familial bonds that go beyond biology.

RATING: Cinquain

jenetta-james-author-picAbout the Author:

Jenetta James is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy which was published by Meryton Press in April 2015. The Elizabeth Papers is her second novel.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig

Source: publisher
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is set in 1892, 1920, 1944 and the art that connects Olive Van Alan, Lucy Young, and Dr. Kate Schuyler to one another through the generations is not the biggest mystery, neither is their relationship to one another. What is forgotten in this tale of love, disappointment, and fate is trust – it’s locked up, hidden in an attic room. There is broken trust between mother-daughter, lovers, and between the past and present.

“As the only female doctor on staff, it was hard enough maintaining the persona of a woman with no feelings or personal needs in front of the male doctors. It was nearly impossible in front of the nurses. If they’d asked me why I’d become a doctor, I would have told them. But they didn’t ask. They seemed to be of a like mind when it came to me — I was a doctor because I thought I was too good to be a nurse.” (pg. 2 ARC)

In addition to gender issues that persist in all three time periods — with women taking on work outside the home — these women also face the harsh realities of a world on the cusp or in the midst of change. From the rise of new money and decadence and the crash that wiped out many wealthy families’ fortunes to prohibition and WWII, there were great opportunities and traumatic losses. Olive is a dreamer with a positive outlook even as she strives to avenge the death of her father, while Kate is a woman determined to make her mark on the medical community and carve her own path to happiness. Lucy is a bit of a wildcard; she has ambition, but not quite enough to carry her through some disappointments on her own.

“‘What your parents did isn’t who you are.'” (pg. 228 ARC)

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig is a sweeping novel about the ties that bind these women together and their family secrets, but also how their lives are wrapped in the work of an artist with the last name Ravenel. Each story of romance is heartbreaking, but the strongest is that between Olive and Harry Pratt. Their love reverberates through the entire novel — it is the anchor that binds these three generations of women.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Authors:

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons. She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. Her books include Overseas (2012), A Hundred Summers (2013), The Secret Life of Violet Grant (2014), Tiny Little Thing (2015), Along the Infinite Sea (2015), The Forgotten Room (2016), and the forthcoming A Certain Age (June 2016)

Lauren Willig is the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen works of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

Giveaway: The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston

Source: the author
ebook, 219 pgs.
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The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston is a prequel to Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen and it features two of its most beloved characters, the Gardiners.  Edward Gardiner has had his heart broken and when Thomas Bennet calls for his aide, he’s happy to oblige if it gets him out of London and away from his dashed hopes.  He’s a businessman on the rise, and while his sisters may be less than tactful, he’s a perfect gentleman.  I’ve always loves the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt, and Clarkston gives us more insight into how that bond may have formed.

Mr. Gardiner soon finds out how different Lizzy and Jane are, as young Lizzy (age seven) is boisterous and curious and very eager to engage with everyone she meets, even if they are aloof and rude.  In the  town of Lambton, Madeline Fairbanks helps her ailing father and her devotion to him demonstrate her loyalty and love for family, and even when she’s roped into caring for a sick Jane Bennet.  Clarkson really does well creating believable minor characters with their own concerns and trials, including Mrs. Porter and her husband, Mr. Lawrence, and others.  And Thomas Bennet’s sarcastic wit is ever present and enjoyable.

“While the lady was still within earshot, Thomas Bennet sang out, ‘I applaud your ladyship’s caution.  One never knows when vagabonds will take on the guise of eight-year-old girls!'”

Readers will enjoy the courtship of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner in the midst of the chaos, as Clarkson teases out the best qualities of both Jane and Lizzy Bennet and entwines them with Madeline Fairbanks’ wiser and forthright personality.  To image a younger Lizzy and see her interact with a young man who is trying his level best to impress his father, care for his very young sister, deal with the death of his mother, and wrap his teenage mind around his duty is fascinating to watch.

There is a lot of teasing in these pages, blushes, smiles, laughter, and awkward moments that make young love so innocent and appealing.  The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston is simply lovely and she’s an author I look forward to reading more from.

RATING: Cinquain

International GIVEAWAY:

Nicole Clarkston would like to offer one copy of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner on each stop of the blog tour. The format is readers’ choice (eBook or paperback) and is international.

Leave a comment on this post about your favorite Jane Austen minor characters. And if you share on Facebook or elsewhere, leave a link for more entries.

Deadline: Nov. 4, 2016, 11:59 PM EST

nicole-clarkstonAbout the Author:

Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools.  She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don’t ask).

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole’s books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.  Check out her website and look her up on Facebook.

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Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 304 pgs.
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Dodgers by Bill Beverly is not a feel-good coming-of-age story. East is 16 and has been standing watch outside drug houses in Los Angeles’ The Boxes neighborhood for two years. When the heat turns up, he finds himself adrift. But Fin, the big man, asks him to step in and do something he’s never trained for or even thought about — kill a key witness who’s hiding in Wisconsin. East is just one of four set out on the road in a minivan to get the job done and with little contact to the players-that-be at home. These boys will have to make grown-up decisions and decisions that they will have to live with forever.

“He had been at the old house before them, and he had seen things they had never seen. He had seen a reverend shot on the walk, a woman jump off a roof. He had seen a helicopter crash into trees and a man, out of his mind, pick up a downed power cable and stand, illuminated. He had seen the police come down, and still the house continued on.” (pg. 5 ARC)

“East looked up and tried to swallow the bad taste in his mouth. Above them, a big plastic dinosaur spun on a wire. Cars rushed by out on the highway, and East had to keep himself from staring down each one. Things moving. At first, the ride had felt like getting out, like being set free. Into nothing. But since Vegas, this felt like being stuck back in it. Like every headlight that rolled past was pointed at him.” (pg. 67 ARC)

East has been the big brother to half-brother Ty, but Ty has left home and disappeared into the network until this trip north. They don’t communicate at all, and when they do it’s strained at best. Their relationship is the backbone of the crew and how it operates. Will these four boys reach their destination in one piece, will they kill each other, and will the mission be accomplished? Beverly has created a tension-filled story that journeys across country, and readers are worried that the mission will be accomplished even as they want East to find peace and redeem himself.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly is a harsh look at gang life, but it also is a look at the boys caught up in it. The young men who feel trapped by their lives, who set boundaries for themselves, but then must break them or face harsh consequences. Even when they feel that they are free from it all, it comes back around, like shadows waiting behind the trees ready to snatch them back into the black hole.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Bill Beverly grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and studied at Oberlin College and the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America. He teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds

Source: the author
ebook, 293 pgs.
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Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds is a wildly imaginative variation that takes place during the Sheffield food riot of 1812 when the Luddites begin to rail against those aristocrats in power, as their food sources and funds grew scarcer as machines began to show up in mills across the northern parts of Britain. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet become swept up in the chaos even as they struggle with their own feelings for one another and the multiple misunderstandings that happen between them.

“He crumpled up his first attempt and tossed it in the fireplace. He never had to rewrite letters; it was something he prided himself upon. But Elizabeth would hold this note, her elegant fingers touching the same paper he touched now, and she would think of him. It must be perfect.”

Unlike many other variations, the Fitzwilliam clan (Lord and Lady Matlock and their children) take center stage, and Colonel Fitzwilliam has a surprise in store for his parents that could rock the family to the core. His sister Frederica needs Darcy’s shielding as the ton has begun to shun her after being jilted, while Elizabeth tends to her sister at Gracechurch street following Bingley’s abandonment. These parallel story lines reinforce one another, showcasing how little recourse women had during that time should a man choose to abandon a lady without explanation, even if they are wealthy. In line with that, the cause for the Rights of Man taken up by Darcy’s friend from Cambridge, Sir Anthony Duxbury, who somehow knows Elizabeth — his Elizabeth.

Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds provides an excellent glimpse into the politics of the time, and it also exposes Darcy to concerns beyond Pemberley and how those concerns can impact the nation. While the journey North is dangerous, Elizabeth and Darcy prove to be strong enough to withstand the riots, but can they withstand the machinations of the Fitzwilliam clan and overcome their own prejudices to find their way into each other’s arms? Reynolds has taken on a lot in this variation, and readers may wish it had been longer.

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Author:

Abigail Reynolds has spent the last fifty years asking herself what she wants to be when she grows up. This month she is a writer, a mother and a physician in a part-time private practice. Next month is anybody’s guess. Originally from upstate New York, she indecisively studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school, a choice which allowed her to avoid any decisions at all for four years.

She began writing Pride & Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her very favorite characters. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to seven other Pemberley Variations and two modern novels set on Cape Cod.

Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax

Source: Penguin Random House
Paperback, 420 pgs.
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Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax is the fourth in a series of books in which ladies taken for all their worth in a Ponzi scheme work together to renovate homes on reality TV. I would recommend reading these books in order because there are some spoilers in this one for previous books.

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki are struggling after the end of their last Do Over season ended with the renovation at Mermaid Point in the Florida Keys. Maddie is still seeing former rocker William Hightower, and she’s trying to reconcile her former wife and homemaker status with that of groupie turned girlfriend of a rockstar who is regaining his footing in the music business. Meanwhile, Avery is struggling to regain her confidence as the skilled contractor everyone knows her to be, and Nikki continues to deal with trust issues and learning to lean on others for support.

“But there was far more wishful thinking wrapped up in her pronouncement than she wanted to examine. The last time they’d had this conversation she’d insisted the future looked so bright it would require sunglasses. But at that moment she’d settle for a flashlight and a really good road map.” (pg. 32 ARC)

“‘It’s not a matter of trying, Avery. You believe or you don’t.’ Chase slung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. ‘You need to get all the way on board, or I’m going to have to give you some serious noogies.’ He knuckled his fist in her hair.” (pg. 247 ARC)

After quitting at the end of the last season on camera, the ladies are determined to find their own renovation project and re-create their show from scratch. There’s a little bit of sun on the horizon when Maddie’s daughter, Kyra, stumbles upon a forgotten hotel in the dunes. Lucky for the team, they just happen to know the owners, and all they need to do is convince them that even the darkest memories can be shined up.

Wax has become a go-to author for me for summer reads and for read that help me escape when I need it. Her female characters are strong, but they also need support to — from one another and from the men in their lives. This series of books also combines these wonderful elements with beaches and renovation shows — my secret addiction (looks like the secret is out)! Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax was a wonderful read and it was like a visit with old friends. I can’t wait to catch up with them again on the beach!

RATING: Quatrain

Also Reviewed:

About the Author:

Award-winning author Wendy Wax has written eight novels, including Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, the Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist The Accidental Bestseller, Leave It to Cleavage, Single in Suburbia and 7 Days and 7 Nights, which was honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award. Her work has sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club, and her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A St. Pete Beach, Florida native, Wendy has lived in Atlanta for fifteen years. A voracious reader, her enjoyment of language and storytelling led her to study journalism at the University of Georgia. She also studied in Italy through Florida State University, is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and worked at WEDU-TV and WDAE-Radio in Tampa.

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 190 pgs.
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Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a series of connected stories that read like a novel. Four generations of a Jewish family are touched by the secrets held as one generation copes with the Nazi occupation and, ultimately, flees France to safety. What are the heirlooms this family carries into their new lives? Is it a baby carriage? A beloved wedding band? Or is it simply the memories that flood their minds when they refuse to speak of the past?

From “The War Ends Many Times” (pg. 53)
“Of course, one second-guesses, grasps at the many missed opportunities for escape–that lovely word, that flowing cape of an idea! Why did they not attach themselves to it when it flapped and hovered close? Why?”

Beyond loyalty and duty, each generation is tethered by the ghosts of the past — a father who dies a revolutionary at the hands of Nazis and a mother dying in bed calling for her mother even as her own baby waits in the next room. Peeling back each layer, readers peer into the lives of the Latour family, seeing echoes of the past and reverberations into the future. Even the smallest decision of a stranger desperate for a child she can never have is felt through the generations, forcing one member to make a decision that affects many more and another to accept responsibility for a casual moment.

From “En Voyage” (pg. 89)
“When Jean takes the film to be developed, he is given doubles of this roll. He puts one set of the photos in an album, labels them carefully. He can’t bear to throw the extras away, though there is no one to whom he can safely send them. This makes him feel as if that time is lost, irretrievable, though he knows certainly he does, that time is like that, moving only forward despite our wishes.”

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a deeply moving collection of stories about survivors of WWII and how they coped with their own survival. Fears and protecting their children were forever at the top of their mind, making them hide the past. Despite their efforts, the past can re-emerge in the most unpredictable ways — the effect of heat-stroke leaving you exposed to those you sought to keep from prying too much, from getting too close.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

About the Author:

Rachel Hall’s collection of linked stories, Heirlooms, was awarded the BkMk Press 2015 G.S. Sharat Chandra prize, selected by Marge Piercy.

Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith and Glimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.

She holds an MFA from Indiana University where she was the Hemingway Fellow in Fiction. Currently, Hall is Professor of English at the State University of New York-Geneseo. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one for teaching and one for her creative work.

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Source: Moon City Press
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which is the winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, is nothing short of phenomenal. While Gailey often puts herself in her poems, there are times when she adopts personas to create poems of female empowerment. This collection has a similar fantasy style (including a moment with Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius) to it with a post-apocalyptic setting, but it also is vastly more personal. While some of the poems may be a bit tongue-in-cheek about death (see “In Case”) and the end of the world and how duct tape is a miracle survival tool, underneath those quips is the seriousness that imminent danger and possible death bring.

She hints in “Introduction to Mutagenesis” that these genetic missteps could be changes we do not understand and that we may need them to survive in the evolving world. It is this kind of hope in the face of despair that is unexpected and inspiring.

Errors in replication — beyond our control — and yet sometimes the systemic destruction
of a certain cell might lead to a breakthrough, a land mass not yet discovered inside us,

clever adaptations that let us survive genetic drift in cases of plague or flood,
carriers of one disease not susceptible to another, …

In our own “black boxes”, our cells tell our history, the lives we’ve led, the deaths we’ve faced, and what finally takes us to the grave, she says in “Every Human Is a Black Box.” None of us have “turnkey solutions” and would we want to — would we want that kind of predictability? Even if the prospect of death or battling cancer is frightening, even paralyzing, would we want the solution to be simple? It would seem that kind of world would be less precious, less of a marvel.

From “Introduction to Spy Narrative as Love Story” (pg. 21)

When I look in a mirror all I see is you
written across my body like the shadow of a blackbird

Gailey’s verse is unique, haunting, and cheeky, but at its heart, her poems teach us that to live is to take the good and bad together and laugh, enjoy life, savor it. Even if the apocalypse is upon you, it is not the time for wallowing in sadness and self-pity, but a time for you to rise up beyond your circumstances and find a way to survive. From “Shorting Out” (which is just gorgeous in its use of white space) to “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)”, readers are reminded of the fragility of the mind, of memory, especially when “40 years of learning were leaking through the lesions.” (from “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)”).

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which is the winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, is a guidebook for living, for more than survival in a world about to end. She asks us to remember not to be lonely in the woods, not to be frightened of bears because “There’s the comfort of the knocking on hollow/branches, the scratching song of insects, and those tubes/of sunlight that show up on the path, lighting the way.” (from “Remnant”).

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of four previous books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily and NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, and included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.