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Mailbox Monday #452

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what my daughter received from her school book fair:

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott

This adorable early chapter book series is perfect for young girls who love friendship stories starring animal characters!This series is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!Eva Wingdale gets in over her head when she offers to organize a spring festival at school. Even with her best friend Lucy’s help, there is NO way she will get everything done in time. Will Eva have to ask Sue (a.k.a. Meanie McMeanerson) for help? Or will the festival have to be cancelled? This book is written as Eva’s diary.

Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott

Is there a ghost in Treetopolis? Eva sure thinks so!

This series is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

In this second book in the series, Eva sees a ghost! Or at least, she thinks she does . . . With her friend Lucy by her side, Eva goes in search of the ghost. Eek!

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott

This series is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!Eva’s teacher, Miss Featherbottom, is getting married. All of her students have been invited to the wedding. And Eva starts a Secret Wedding Planners Club! But before Miss Featherbottom walks down the aisle, her necklace goes missing. Eva wants to help! She quickly turns her Wedding Planners Club into a Detectives Club. Can Eva track down the missing necklace before Miss Featherbottom’s wedding is ruined?

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott

Pick a book. Grow a Reader! This series is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line Branches, aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow! In book #4, a new owl named Hailey starts in Eva’s class at school. Eva is always happy to meet new people, and she’s excited to make a new friend! But the new owl befriends Lucy instead of her. So Eva gets jealous. Lucy is Eva’s best friend! Will Eva lose her best friend? Or can Eva and Lucy BOTH make a new friend?

Pet Charms: Here, Kitty, Kitty by Amy Edgar, illustrated by Jomike Tejido

In this Level 2 reader series, a magic charm bracelet lets Molly speak to animals! In the third book, Molly’s bracelet is missing! Molly and her best friend, Lexie, look everywhere for it. Also, the girls notice that Molly’s pet cat, Stella, isn’t acting like herself. They are worried about her. But without Molly’s bracelet, Stella can’t tell Molly what’s wrong. Can Molly find the bracelet in time to help Stella? There is a cute, cuddly surprise in the end! *A real charm bracelet is packed with each book in this magical series!*

Runny Rabbit Returns by Shel Silverstein

Runny Babbit Returns, a collection of 41 never-before-published poems and drawings, features Runny and other woodland characters who speak a topsy-turvy language all their own.

This carefully compiled work from the Silverstein archives is filled with spoonerism poems that are both playful and poignant. With tongue-twisting word play and uproarious characters, the endearingly befuddled Runny Babbit and his friends embody Shel Silverstein’s singular style, the one we all know and love.

Fans of all ages won’t want to miss their chance to follow their favorite Runny in this book of laugh-out-loud adventures!

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Jasper Rabbit is NOT a little bunny anymore. He’s not afraid of the dark, and he’s definitely not afraid of something as silly as underwear. But when the lights go out, suddenly his new big rabbit underwear glows in the dark. A ghoulish, greenish glow. If Jasper didn’t know any better he’d say his undies were a little, well, creepy. Jasper’s not scared obviously, he’s just done with creepy underwear. But after trying everything to get rid of them, they keep coming back!

What I received and reviewed — forgot to post in last MM:

A Vintage Victory: Memories of Old Antique Shop Book 2 by Cat Gardiner

** Book 2 in the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series **

A romantic, modern/20th Century Pride & Prejudice-inspired novelette honoring Memorial Day.

Charles Bingley is suffering from cold feet as his wedding day approaches. Can his new friend, Will Darcy help him to stay the course or will he dissuade him? Perhaps their trip to Memories of Old antique shop will help the young man find his missing spine. Perhaps Will may also come to learn a few things about love.

Travel back in time to WWII with Will and Charlie where love for their sweethearts, their friendship and their honor carry them through battle, making them the bravest of men.

What did you receive?

The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 400 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert is a historical fiction novel that is told from both Letti and Marco’s points of view as their lives take different turns than they expect with the rise of Nazism, WWII, and its aftermath. But at its heart it is a romantic novel Lettie finds her soulmate in the most unexpected place.  Joubert’s detail in describing Italy and South Africa create a vivid world in which Letti and Marco live, and these characters face some tough trials.

Marco was a strong character filled with integrity and love and his determination and hope filled these pages from beginning to end.  He infused each character he encountered with a strength they did not know they possessed, and he makes the pages turn.  From his love of history and Da Vinci to his ability to go on even after he loses his childhood sweetheart.

Letti, on the other hand, is weaker, living in the shadow of her friends and feeling out of place next to the beauty of the village and the one from the richer family.  Like her father, she yearns to be a doctor and to care for others, even as she realizes her childhood crush is not meant to be anything more.

“The war seeped into the homes. The lowing winds blew it in through the front door when someone came in from outside. It oozed through the floorboards and the closed shutters.” (pg. 39 ARC)

Lettie’s strength comes later when she leaves for medical school and is on her own, away from the pressures of her friends and family. She’s able to see her goal and reach for it with both hands. Her hard work and thirst for knowledge make her the dedicated village doctor she becomes. But like all of us, even knowledge can take a back seat to fear and loss.

Although the ending for Lettie seemed a bit too convenient, it was understandable given her early years in her home village. The quick resolution so many years after WWII may have been truncated, but The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert is a journey worth taking and it reminds us that life is not a straight line and is very unpredictable. But love and happiness are possibilities that emerge from the ashes of our best laid plans.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels. Connect with Irma on Facebook.

A Vintage Victory by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
ebook, 54 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

A Vintage Victory: Memories of Old Antique Shop Book 2 by Cat Gardiner is a short story that takes us back to the time portals of the old antique shop in Meryton where not only Elizabeth and Jane Bennet have taken a trip back in time, but so too has Mr. Darcy.

Charles Bingley has cold feet about his wedding to Jane, but a trip back to WWII through the Memories of Old antique shop might just set him to rights. Gardiner’s short stories and this time portal antique shop always delight, even when the subject matter is the possible loss of lives during a harrowing WWII battle.

Charlie isn’t only experiencing cold feet, he’s also very different from Austen’s young beau in that he has a tough time making decisions and often just lives off his family’s money. Meanwhile, army ranger Darcy finds that the trip is not only the remedy his friend needs to cure his indecision, but also the push he needs to share his feelings with his love, Elizabeth. But can these two men return to the present without dying? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Gardiner is one of the best historical fiction authors I’ve read, and her Pride & Prejudice variations are unique and engaging. Antiques will often transport us to the past and memories we hold dear, but Gardiner takes that one step further in these short tales. Readers will be truly engaged with the present and past, and itching for their own trip into the Memories of Old antique shop. A Vintage Victory: Memories of Old Antique Shop Book 2 by Cat Gardiner is another strong installment in this short story series, and I cannot wait for the next one.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. Austenesque, from the comedic Christmas, Chick Lits Lucky 13 and Villa Fortuna, to the bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventures Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers, who don’t mind a deviation away from canon and variations.

Cat’s love of 20th Century Historical fiction merges in her first Pride & Prejudice “alternate era,” set in a 1952 Noir, Undercover. Her most recent publications are time-travel WWII P&P short stories: A Vintage Valentine, A Vintage Victory, and A Vintage Halloween as part of the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series.

Her greatest love is writing Historical Fiction, WWII–era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever was named a Romance Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel in the Liberty Victory Series.

Married 24 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world—their orange tabby, Ollie and his sassy girlfriend, Kiki. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Guest Post: Jane Austen and the Oliphant in the Room by Alice Chandler, author of Aunt Jane and the Missing Cherry Pie

Sometimes life takes a good turn, and that turn came in an email from The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. We’ve entered into a monthly exchange of blog posts, in which they share one of my older posts on their blog and I do the same.

My first post from them is from Alice Chandler, originally posted here, about Margaret Olifant, who was critical of Jane Austen’s work. However, compared to some of Austen’s other critics, Olifant had a seemingly more balanced view.

I look forward to sharing more of these posts in the future.  I hope you’ll enjoy this exchange.

Jane Austen and the Oliphant in the Room by Alice Chandler, author of Aunt Jane and the Missing Cherry Pie

I do apologize for the pun in my title.

The Olifant I refer to is Margaret Olifant (1828-1894), a prolific and popular nineteenth-century writer and said to be Queen Victoria’s favorite novelist. The reason that I figuratively place Olifant in the same room as Jane Austen is that she was such a trenchant and perceptive critic of Austen’s work.

Austen was not always fortunate in her woman critics during the century after her death. While famous male authors lauded her and often compared her work to Shakespeare’s, some notable women writers were very critical of her writing.  Her contemporary Mary Mitford, whose mother actually knew Jane Austen, was well-known in her time for her charming short novel, Our Village. Mitford disliked Elizabeth Bennett as a character and criticized “the entire want of taste that could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy.”

Charlotte Bronte was particularly negative about Austen. She compared her writing to a “daguerrotyped portrait of a commonplace face” and complained that her work “lacked poetry.” She thought that Austen’s novels delineated “the surface… lives of genteel English people.”  But they ignored “what throbs fast and full… what the blood rushes through… the unseen seat of life.” Or to put it more simply, her books had no heart. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was similarly, though less violently, critical of Austen’s passionlessness. She found her novels perfect but shallow.

Which was the more accurate view of Jane Austen? Was she worldly, tasteless, and pert? Or shallow, bloodless and commonplace? Or as other critics put it, was she perhaps too refined and genteel? Of all the nineteenth-century women critics, Margaret Oliphant seems to me to hit it just right—to see and admire Austen’s delicacy, but to see her pointedness as well. Mrs. Olifant’s Jane Austen is far from having no heart. But her Jane Austen also has a mind—a mind that can bridge the seeming distinction between being feminine and being a truth-teller. As Olifant so accurately puts it, “Nothing but a mind of this subtle, delicate, speculative temper could have set before us pictures which are at once so trenchant… so softly feminine and polite, and so remorselessly true.” Oliphant’s description of the hypocritical Mr. Collins—the one who wants to marry Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice—is almost as good as Austen’s own. As Oliphant describes him (in capital letters), he was a figure of “UNDISTURBED COMPLACENCY… TALL… GRAVE AND POMPOUS, WRAPT IN A CLOUD OF SOLEMN VANITY, SERVILITY, STUPIDITY, AND SPITEFULNESS.”

Olifant’s reflections on Jane Austen go deeper, however, than purely literary criticism. Her further comments on the novels reflect the same insight about women’s lives that Anne Elliott expresses at the end of Persuasion, when she compares men’s opportunities for bold and outward action with women’s patient (and passive) capacity only “for loving longest…when hope is gone.” Olifant understands Anne Elliott’s patience–perhaps the novel should have been called Patience instead of Persuasion—but relates it far more clearly to the continuing powerlessness of women in both Austen’s era and in her own. Her Jane Austen has a:

fine vein of feminine cynicism…altogether different from the rude and brutal male [version]… It is the soft and silent disbelief of a spectator who has to look at a great many things without showing any outward discomposure, and who has learned to give up on any moral classification of social systems… She is not surprised or offended…. when people make evident how selfish and self-absorbed they are or when they inflict social cruelties without realizing it.

She is essentially feminine in a world where women can only look on and do nothing…[except to say] a softening word now and then, and to make the best of things, and wonder why human creatures should be such fools… Such are the foundations on which Jane Austen’s cynicism is built.

How Olifant herself coped with the limitations on women’s sphere of action is a sad and interesting story in itself. Born to a middle-class Scottish family in 1828, she started writing at 16, published her first novel at 21, married her cousin at 24, and was widowed at 31. Three of her six children died in infancy, and she sadly outlived the other three children as well. Unlike Jane Austen who signed her works only as “by a lady,” Olifant put her name to her works and, indeed, could not have survived financially without them. She published more than two dozen novels, almost 70 short stories, and scores of articles, biographies, and historical and critical works. Her views of women’s role in society evolved sharply over her lifetime and were presumably influenced by her having to earn her own living as a writer. She began, as she wrote in an 1850s article, by believing that “God has ordained…one sphere and one kind of work for a man, and another for women.” But in her later works unmarried women characters, such as Miss Marjoribanks in the novel of that name, do take on a man’s responsibilities and become the dominant figures in local society. Her views on the indissolubility of marriage also may have altered over time. Although Olifant is adamantly opposed to divorce in her writings of the 1850s, her 1883 novel The Lady Lindores ends with the heroine justifiably rejoicing that her evil and abusive husband is dead.

How Jane Austen’s views might have changed over time is, of course, an unanswerable question. Persuasion shows her more explicitly addressing the issues of social class and women’s sphere of activity than her earlier novels do.

But that is another question, which even Margaret Olifant could not answer.

About the Author:

Alice Chandler is the author of Aunt Jane and the Missing Cherry Pie: A Jane Austen Mystery for Children, available here.

If you’re ever in England, you should visit The Jane Austen Centre, located at 40 Gay Street in Bath. It is a permanent exhibition. “Situated in an original Georgian townhouse, it tells the story of Jane’s time in Bath, including the effect that living here had on her and her writing.”

Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly

Source: the author
Ebook, 352 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly is clever and fun, just as George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, aka My Fair Lady the movie, but also witty and romantic like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Everly strikes a perfect balance between the two works and creates her own story for Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet that not only defies convention and societal norms of the time, but also demonstrates how aristocrats and their peers can achieve the ends they seek with a little scheming.

Her Darcy is a bit more Shaw than Austen, but it is what we need in this tale to believe what transpires between Lizzy and himself. When Elizabeth and Professor Darcy meet it is after Charles Bingley has already decided on who his bride will be. He must merely ask her, and in this, Bingley is a stronger character than in Austen. I applaud Everly for giving us a stronger Bingley, even if he is still pleasant and easy-going in most things.

Once the tutoring of Miss Bennet begins and the scheme is agreed to, there is little room for turning back, and Elizabeth laments about her decision to enter into this scheme: “Oh, I find myself dreading a headache which will last six months.” But despite her misgivings, she finds that she enjoys the challenge of transforming her speech and manner as much as Professor Darcy. But like all great creations, they often disagree with their creators, and this makes for entertaining sparring between the two.

Everly clearly knows both of these classics well, and it shows, and while readers will need to be a little flexible in their notion of Regency behavior and expectations, it is well worth the effort to do so. The challenge lies in how Lizzy will overcome her dislike of Darcy when he selfishly pats himself on the back and whether she will see his more endearing nature beneath the cold facade he uses in London. Readers will love her determination and her ability to forgive, and they will certainly challenge this Darcy’s character as Lizzy does.

Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly is a variation I did not want to put down. I was delighted by every twist that brought Darcy and Elizabeth together and enjoyed the entertaining paths they took when they were parted. Darcy has more to learn in this variation but Lizzy also has to make some hard choices that could affect the rest of her life.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! Visit her website and on Facebook.

Mailbox Monday #451

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice (Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice Book 1)  by Alexa Adams, a kindle freebie.

In Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy begins his relationship with Elizabeth Bennet with the words: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present togive consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” What would have happened if Mr. Darcy had never spoken so disdainfully? First Impressions explores how the events of Jane Austen’s beloved novel would have transpired if Darcy and Elizabeth had danced together at the Meryton Assembly. Jane and Bingley’s relationship blossoms unimpeded, Mary makes a most fortunate match, and Lydia never sets a foot in Brighton. Austen’s witty style is authentically invoked in this playful romp from Longbourn to Pemberley.

Second Glances: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Continues (Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice Book 2)  by Alexa Adams, a kindle freebie

A year has passed since the conclusion of First Impressions, and the marriages made by the three eldest Bennet ladies are prospering. Expectations are high for the two youngest sisters to do equally well. Kitty, having excelled in school, receives an invitation to join Georgiana Darcy in her first London season, leaving Lydia to bear the burden of the classroom alone. Will the most forward Bennet tolerate such inequity?

Kitty arrives in London prepared to be happy, but her delight is marred when she finds a most unwelcome gentleman on intimate terms with her hosts. She has met the reckless Sir James Stratton before and would like nothing more than to never encounter him again, but his acquaintance she is forced to endure. Struggling for firm footing amidst the whirlwind of London society, will Kitty be allowed to follow her heart, or will her family force her hand? Join the reimagined cast of Pride and Prejudice as they pursue happiness amidst the ongoing obstacles of life, love, and interfering relations.

Holidays at Pemberley, or Third Encounters: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice Concludes (Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice Book 3) by Alexa Adams, a Kindle freebie

Both a Christmas celebration and conclusion to Tales of Less Pride & Prejudice, Holidays at Pemberley begins where First Impressions ends, with the marriage Fitzwilliam Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet, and spans the course of Second Glances to conclude their story. As the Darcys enjoy their first years of marriage, Charlotte Lucas is often invited to join them. Watching as the Bennet sisters, one by one, marry to both outrageous advantage and with great affection, her only ambition remains independence and respectability, stubbornly blind to the virtues of a love match. Miss Lucas thinks she has found an acceptable husband in David Westover, rector of Kympton and determined bachelor, but he remains oblivious to the implications of befriending a Miss Lucas. It may mean some heartbreak, but if Mrs. Darcy’s pragmatic friend will only surrender to Cupid, she may find wild fantasies do come true, even for ladies dangerously close to thirty.

Nachtstürm Castle: A Gothic Austen Novel by Emily C. A. Snyder, a kindle freebie

Moonlight! Castles! Ghosts! Storms! Secret trap doors! Suicide! Grave yards! Mistaken Identities! Carriage accidents! Gypsies! Hauntings! A kidnapping! Purloined letters! A duel! Swooning! Wild Pursuits! Demonic possession! A disputed inheritance! Three romances! A ransacking! Ancient curses! A stolen will and testament! Dank subterranean passageways!

Multi-talented Emily C. A. Snyder has managed to pack the above list (and more) into Nachtstürm Castle, a sophisticated Gothic fantasy sequel, taking up the further adventures of Henry and Catherine Tilney where our divine Miss Austen finished the last lines of Northanger Abbey.

Rumours & Recklessness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Nicole Clarkston

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate. Finally confronted with a woman who ignites all his hopes, he agonizes over the cruel trick of fate which placed her in a situation beneath his notice. The morning after the Netherfield ball, he resolves to put as much distance between himself and her as possible.

That very morning, however, Elizabeth’s future is jeopardized by her father’s untimely accident. With Mr Bennet unconscious and surrounded by concerned neighbors, Mr Collins presses his suit. Elizabeth’s mother frantically demands her acceptance to secure the family’s welfare. With so many witnesses to his proposal and everyone expecting her to make a practical choice, Elizabeth’s reputation hangs in the balance.

Without her father to defend her refusal of Mr Collins, there is no one to speak up for her… except the last man in the world she would ever marry.

A Thousand Letters by Staci Hart, a kindle freebie

Sometimes your life is split by a single decision.

I’ve spent every day of the last seven years regretting mine: he left, and I didn’t follow. A thousand letters went unanswered, my words like petals in the wind, spinning away into nothing, taking me with them.

But now he’s back.

I barely recognize the man he’s become, but I can still see a glimmer of the boy who asked me to be his forever, the boy I walked away from when I was young and afraid.

Maybe if he’d come home under better circumstances, he could speak to me without anger in his voice. Maybe if I’d said yes all those years ago, he’d look at me without the weight of rejection in his eyes. Maybe if things were different, we would have had a chance.

One regretted decision sent him away. One painful journey brought him back to me. I only wish I could keep him.

*A contemporary romance inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion*

Love Blooms at Pemberley: A Sweet Pride and Prejudice Variation by Cassandra Knightley, a kindle freebie.

In the aftermath of Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr Darcy, the worst possible outcome has befallen the Bennet family. Mr Bennet has died unexpectedly, leaving his widow and unmarried daughters at the mercy of Mr Collins.

In this time of hardship and sorrow, Mr Darcy shows his true nature through his kindness, generosity, and friendship. But will Darcy and Elizabeth be able to put aside their hurt pride and stubborn natures to find the Happilly Ever After they both seek?

A Darcy and Elizabeth P&P variation bubbling with spirit, humor, and romance. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite tea, find a comfy sofa, and settle in for an afternoon of love, laughs, and manners with Love Blooms at Pemberley.

Mr. Darcy’s Debt: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Novel by April Floyd, a kindle freebie.

Thomas Bennet has died and left his wife and five daughters during the visit of his cousin Mr. Collins who has come to offer marriage as an olive branch to soothe the way when he inherits their home, Longbourn. A deathbed promise from the past saves the ladies and Elizabeth Bennet becomes better acquainted with the wealthy, handsome Mr. Darcy, the man who insulted her at the assembly in Meryton. With the Bennets living at Somersal, a country estate that belongs to the Fitzwilliam family and is only a short distance from Pemberley, the home of Mr. Darcy, their mutual love of riding fosters a love neither Darcy nor Elizabeth can deny. After a terrible accident, Elizabeth believes she must race in the spring to secure her family’s future, much to Mr. Darcy’s dismay. His proposal, given to keep her from racing, is summarily refused as Elizabeth Bennet will not marry from necessity.

A Vintage Halloween by Cat Gardiner, purchased because I love her books.

Halloween is an exciting time at the Memories of Old antique shop, and William Darcy and Lizzy Bennet are about to discover why–yet again. The shop holds much more than trinkets from the past in the modern day. It holds the memories of those who once cherished them– maybe even their spirits.

Anxiously missing and waiting for her fiance’s return from military service, our dear heroine has a heavy heart and–a little envy–as she helps to arrange her sister’s wedding, putting off making wedding plans of her own. Perhaps a mysterious mirror in the shop and a little mischief-making on All Hallows’ Eve will help to fill that hole in her heart by working a little miracle back in 1944.

Join the fun and travel back in time with Lizzy Bennet to the WWII-era where she attends an exciting masquerade ball at Pemberley Manor, meeting a bevy of characters–one in particular–who will lift her spirits

What did you receive?

Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing Process of Riana Everly, Author of Teaching Eliza

I’ve always loved My Fair Lady — the movie — and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is on that list of classics I hope to finish reading some day. Riana Everly has taken this classic and mashed it up with Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  How could I resist? I couldn’t obviously, so today’s the day she stops by to talk about her writing process and my review will appear later in the month.  Enjoy!

About the book:

A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels. From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling tale, wherein the elegance of Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….

Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange.

“With her clever mash-up of two classics, Riana Everly has fashioned a fresh, creative storyline with an inventive take on our favorite characters, delightful dialogue and laugh out loud humor. Teaching Eliza is certain to become a reader favorite. It’s a must read!” – Sophia Meredith (author of the acclaimed On Oakham Mount and Miss Darcy’s Companion)

Please give Ms. Everly a warm welcome:

Some authors are incredibly disciplined. They are able to stick to a routine, and have their plots mapped out chapter by chapter, character by character, with the precision and detail of Sherlock Holmes considering his latest case.

I am not like that! In high school I never missed a deadline, but I was the kid who was up until midnight finishing my papers. In university, I clearly remember one term paper that was due in the professor’s office at 5:00pm. I frantically finished typing up at 3:57, and then flew into a panic because I had no white paper on which to print it, and no time to run out and buy some. But I did have bright green paper! Into the dot-matrix printer it went (yes, I’m THAT old), and with my precious package in hand, I dashed across the city in desperate hopes of making it on time. 4:55! I just made it. I also scribbled a note apologizing for the green paper. I did alright in that course, so I guess the green paper didn’t damage my research paper too badly.

I’ve learned to manage my time a bit better since then, but I still write the seat of my pants. I approach a new story with a general plot outline in mind, but with almost nothing written down. In the case of Teaching Eliza, the story had to conform to both Pride and Prejudice and Pygmalion, but all the details were very, very vague at first. In fact, I tend to let my characters tell me what they want to do, where they want to go. Sometimes I’ll approach a scene with a polite conversation in mind, only to be horrified when an argument breaks out. Other times, I’ll plan for a heart-rending confession, but my characters will end up discussing the weather instead. Occasionally I whip them back into my plot, but more often I give them free rein and see where they take me. (Spoiler alert: I had no notion of anything developing between Richard and Charlotte when I began writing Teaching Eliza, but they fell in love. What was I to do? Break them up? That would have been cruel!)

My next planned story will be a bit of a challenge for me. For this year’s NaNoWriMo, when much of my writing gets done, I have a mystery in mind. I have always thought that there is no much more to Mary Bennet than we see in Pride and Prejudice, and wanted to explore that a bit. She’s quiet and bookish, but I think she’d make a great investigator because she sees so much and thinks about what she’s seen. However, I need to plan this out a lot more carefully than my usual stories. We need a cogent plot, a series of clues, an overarching narrative involving existing and new characters, and a resolution that makes sense but (hopefully) isn’t obvious, and all of that can’t happen by the seat of my pants. I’ll be as interested as anyone to see whether Mary will follow along with the story line I’m planning for her.

In general, I write quickly. As I mentioned, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is my best friend because it gives me a deadline and a word goal, and I need those. My family hardly sees me in November, but I can usually write about 100,000 words in those 30 days. Most of them are garbage, but it’s a necessary place to start.

Then the real work begins. I tend to let my first draft sit a very long time before I pick it up to edit. Often I’ll write another story in the interim, before going back to reread my draft with fresh eyes. I find this gives me the distance I need to see the flaws and problems and to begin the whole process of editing and rewriting. The scene that I thought was so brilliant at first might now be dull, and I might decide to complete rewrite or even cut it. And characters who I threw in for plot purposes might suddenly take on new life and become much more important to the story as a whole.

After this second go-through I send the story to my amazing beta readers. Usually they have the best ideas, and contribute so much to the stories that I feel I ought to list them as co-authors. There aren’t enough words to express my appreciation. Donna and Sophia – you ladies ROCK!

*~*~*~*~

My Writing Space

I have included a few photographs of my writing space. My desk is usually quite messy, and even cleaned up, it’s messy! You’ll see I have a magnet board for my notes. Despite being quite comfortable with matters digital, I find that I prefer to jot down my notes on paper. Sometimes I use diagrams which don’t work so well on a computer, and sometimes I like to have things sitting there in front of me without having to find the right screen or program for my notes.

I have a few writing buddies who live on my desk as well. I love to crochet, and sometimes interesting creatures emerge from my craft bag. Book Cat was just fun to make, and who could resist Poe and his raven? And when I found this pattern for Jane Austen herself, well, it was fated! Reading Fairy was a gift from Sophia Meredith, a very fine author, a dear friend, and my inspiration to get my stories off the computer and out into the world.

About the Author:

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! Visit her website and on Facebook.

ENTER the Giveaway!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 225 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, which was our October book club selection, is a deeply emotional book about loss and guilt and letting go. Conor O’Malley is 13, but his burdens are great as he cares for himself the best he can while his mother clearly ill from chemotherapy. She is barely able to wake up and move about. At school, his life is gray and the only color he finds is in his encounters with the bullies at school because they provide him what he wants — punishment.

“It swung him out of his room and into the night, high above his backyard, holding him up against the circle of the moon, its fingers clenching so hard against Conor’s ribs he could barely breathe. Conor could see raggedy teeth made of hard, knotted wood in the monster’s open mouth, and he felt warm breath rushing up toward him.” (pg. 8)

It is a deeply atmospheric novel in which the gray and black emotions of Conor permeate all that goes on.  The Monster who visits him each evening tells him three stories, and Conor expects them to teach him something, but what Conor must learn is something he can only teach himself through experience.  The Monster, however, is not his recurring nightmare.  And the Monster, though fearsome, seems to be the darkness inside him and not an actual monster.  We all carry monstrous emotions and we try to keep them hidden — sometimes even from ourselves.  Through magical realism, Ness has created a tale for teens and adults alike that will ensure they look inward and assess their own pain, guilt, and loss in a new way.

Sometimes people need to lie to themselves most of all.” (pg. 67)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is deeply affecting.  Readers will long feel the sorrow and the heaviness of this one, but it is darkly humorous in parts.  While one of the monster’s tales is a bit muddled, it could be attributed to the 13-year-old’s imagination in how it fails to fully parallel the other tales.  Ness is a crafty storyteller, and his Conor is every boy ever deeply impacted by loss, abandonment, and other dark emotions.

RATING: Quatrain

What book club thought?

Everyone at the meeting liked the book very well and really felt engaged with the narrative and Conor’s emotions.  The biggest debate was whether the monster was a real entity or in Conor’s mind.  It was interesting to listen to the theories that members had about the individual tales the monster told and how they paralleled Conor’s predicament.

About the Author:

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Guest Post: Fanny vs. Mary, an Austenesque Showdown

Welcome to Day #3 of the great Fanny and Mary Debate!

If you missed Day 1, visit JustJane 1813, and Day #2 at Diary of an Eccentric.

Hello, I’m Lona Manning, author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park, and author of true crime articles.

And I’m Kyra Kramer, author of Mansfield Parsonage and the nonfictional historical books, Blood Will Tell, The Jezebel Effect, Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell, and Edward VI in a Nutshell.

Lona: Please join us for the knock-down drag-out (maybe) Fanny versus Mary debate of the decade/epoch/millennium. We will take turns posing each other questions. Please feel free to join in the comments!

Kyra: Everyone who comments will be entered in a draw to win a gift pack of Austen goodies from Bath, England.

Today, the authors will discuss: What was Mary Crawford’s “real” character?

Lona: I feel upon reading (and re-reading) your book that you have been very respectful of Austen’s conception of Mary Crawford. She is still essentially who she is in Mansfield Park. She is witty and charming – no, more than that, she is one of those lucky creatures blessed with true charisma. No plain or dull woman can get away with an impish laugh and a line like: “[Y]ou must forgive me. Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”  While “your” Mary is loyal and affectionate with her sister Mrs. Grant and her brother Henry, she’s still self-centred and occasionally thoughtless and she gets very irritated with people who don’t agree with her.

Kyra: *blushes* Thank you. I tried my absolute best to stay true to Mary – warts and all, so to speak. Even in the original Austen novel, where Mary Crawford is the antagonist, she has an excellent heart, a quick wit, and a joie de vivre that is worth much more to me than all of Fanny Price’s soggy moralizing. In fact, the character that Mary reminds me of the most is Elizabeth Bennet – her personality is a similar mixture of sweetness and archness that is very captivating indeed! In Mansfield Parsonage, I try to keep Mary Crawford within the lines of the “really good feelings” she was almost entirely motivated by, with the understanding that she is essentially misanthropic as a result of living among the Ton.

Lona: Austen acknowledges Mary was almost [my emphasis] purely governed by good feelings, in that one particular instance, when she comforted Fanny after she was insulted by Mrs. Norris. She is intelligent and charming, but benevolence is definitely not a quality I associate with her.

Kyra: Hmmm … I don’t think Mary was trying to impress Edmund. She was very out of charity with him just then for his refusal to be in the play (regardless of its effect on Mary’s comfort), and she was still determined to never marry a second son even if she had been less angry with him at the time. Mary’s sole motivation was to comfort Fanny, who had been cruelly humiliated by Mrs Norris.

Lona: [Cough] Much as it pains me to contradict you, dear Kyra, here is the quote, directly after Mary intervenes: “By a look at her brother she prevented any farther entreaty from the theatrical board, and the really good feelings by which she was almost [my emphasis] purely governed were rapidly restoring her to all the little she had lost in Edmund’s favour.”

Kyra: [Cough, Cough] I must regretfully disagree with you, dearest Lona. The narrator/Austen is telling us that Mary was recovering in Edmund’s esteem. Mary, herself, neither knew she had fallen out of his esteem — nor cared about what Edmund thought of her at that moment. She was irked at him. She had been sharply rebuffed when she tried to coax Edmund to be Anhalt, and just a few paragraphs before “with some feelings of resentment and mortification, moved her chair considerably nearer the tea–table, and gave all her attention to Mrs. Norris, who was presiding there.” She only moved her seat only to give comfort Fanny, and did not address Edmund again at all.

Lona: You still haven’t explained the “almost.”

Kyra: True, so I’ll point out that while Mary DID sometimes do thoughtless things that hurt people, there are many instances of her efforts to be helpful or kind. Again, at the December ball she spent the first half of it trying to make everyone happy (albeit erring greatly with Fanny). You can say that was just selfishly attempting to be popular, but she could have been witty without endeavoring to bring personal pleasure to the listener. She also warned her sister to keep her friends Maria and Julia Bertram at a distance from Henry Crawford for their heart’s sake. Additionally, she told Mr Rushworth Maria was being “maternal” when she acting with Henry in Lover’s Vows. Yes, it spared Henry embarrassment — but it spared Maria much more than mere embarrassment and it spared the dim-witted Rushworth immediate pain. Was Mary perfect? Nope. But she did TRY to be kind most of the time.

Lona: Everybody says that Jane Austen introduces very little of the wider world (politics and war) to her novels, but in your variation, Mansfield Parsonage, we get a lot of discussion of politics, literature, fashion and society gossip. We sense that Austen’s Mary Crawford is well-read and well-informed about her world, both social and political, and your Mary is almost a bluestocking: she can quote poetry and literature extensively and she avidly follows politics. Your Mary Crawford is a Whig (that is, she is a reformer, a progressive, in her views); she’s an Abolitionist who sympathizes with the downtrodden working poor of her day. But while she loves humanity in the abstract, she wants nothing to do with poverty or squalor in person and she shrinks from making charitable visits in the village, as Fanny does. In short, you’ve designed her to be a flawed heroine. In what ways do you feel you’ve made Mary more sympathetic? Because I couldn’t help thinking that you have described a Regency “limousine liberal.”

Kyra: I actually set out to make Mary a textbook “limousine liberal”. I wanted Mary to be a political foil for Austen herself, who (though an abolitionist) was a “country Tory” who disliked change and sociocultural liberalism. The French Revolution had created a backlash against progressive mores among the English upper and middle class, and in Austen’s original novel Mary Crawford had all the light disdain for the church and authority expected of a rebel-sympathising Whig. Mary and Henry Crawford represented the moral hazards of the Enlightenment to propriety and hierarchical values. Therefore, what could possibly be more appropriate for an antagonist than for her to be a “limousine liberal”; an essentially good elitist progressive whom Austen would have nonetheless disdained?

Lona: Yes, I’m very interested in talking about Mansfield Park in the context of the times in which it was written. But we’ll save that for another day. I think that we would be in total agreement, and this is supposed to be a debate.

Kyra: Good point. I’ll simply say that I believe Mary’s once-removed charity work is representative of Austen’s original characterization, but is also part of my argument that she was worthy of being a heroine in her own right. While throwing money at a problem is not as good as a Mother Teresa-like devotion to helping the needy (ala Flawless Fanny), I would argue that to be a limousine liberal is better than ignoring poverty or assuming it derives from the moral/intellectual failings of those who suffer from it.

Lona: I think the readers should weigh in. Was Mary, as Kyra insists, almost wholly good, or did she have a more chequered personality than Kyra would like to admit?

We’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

About the Authors:

Lona Manning is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians.

She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can visit her website where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.

Kyra Kramer is a medical anthropologist, historian, and devoted bibliophile who lives just outside Cardiff, Wales with her handsome husband and three wonderful young daughters. She has a deep – nearly obsessive – love for Regency Period romances in general and Jane Austen’s work in particular. Ms. Kramer has authored several history books and academic essays, but Mansfield Parsonage is her first foray into fictional writing. You can visit her website to learn more about her life and work.

Follow the rest of the tour for more chances to win:

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The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman (giveaway)

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 352 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman offers a platter of new characters set in Detroit, which is beginning its renaissance. Cousins Addie and Samantha risk everything to buy a nearly hollowed out diner and a crumbling home that they divide into two livable spaces. They hope that through the meals they serve, using organic ingredients, they can make a successful eatery. However, they fail to take into account how their new venture will be received by the community.  As pressures mount, their relationship begins to fray and readers will see just how the past and present influence their future.

Through alternating points of view between Samantha and Addie, readers are able to see the quirky characters that make up their diner family. But through the atmosphere built by Lampman, it is clear something ominous is on the horizon, especially after an unexpected letter arrives. The author has drawn not only the main characters well, but also the secondary characters, creating a well rounded meal on which to chew. Some of the best parts of this book involve food and those recipes are in the back of the book, and I loved the material about WWII polish immigrants like Addie’s grandparents.

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman is a succulent dish served in the evening with wine and a good dose of humor.  Readers will have watering mouths as they work their way through this renaissance for Detroit, Addie, and Samantha.

RATING: Quatrain

GIVEAWAY:  U.S. residents age 18+ Enter by leaving a comment about this review and book by Oct. 31. Good Luck.

About the Author:

Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.