Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly

Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly is the third book in the author’s Austen Addicts series (to be published in April by Sourcebooks), though each book can be read as a stand alone.  Sarah and Mia Castle could not be more different, and while they compare themselves to Austen’s famous sisterly pair Marianne and Elinor from Sense & Sensibility, they are far more complicated.  Mia is a wanna-be actress/singer who is struggling to find her niche in her career and who readily sticks her foot in her mouth, while Sarah is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and can barely eat in restaurants without first examining their cleanliness.  These sisters are like best friends and both love Jane Austen and the yearly festival in Bath, but what happens if a man comes between them?

“But it wasn’t his face Sarah was trying to get a good look at, but the cover of his book.  She was always fascinated by what other people were reading and couldn’t help wanting to know what the handsome stranger was reading.”  (Page 58 ARC)

While both sisters are seeking their very own Mr. Darcy, they end up with a Willoughby and broken hearts.  Sarah and Mia spend three years without speaking, a sisterly relationship that seems irrevocably broken, but Jane Austen comes to the rescue when both cannot resist the Regency period and all of the celebration Bath has to offer.  Can Austen repair this damaged relationship and help them find true love and a happy ending?

Connelly peppers her prose with wit and fun, but she also tackles tough issues when Sarah and Mia fall for the same man.  Her characters react in real ways to the hurts they endure and they react with anger and passion when the situations warrant it.  Readers will be swept away by Mia and Sarah’s story as Connelly alternates between the present when they are not speaking and three years prior when the incident that tears them apart happens.  From the side characters Connelly creates to the reappearances of characters from the previous two novels in the series, she weaves an intricate story that Austen lovers will be unable to put down.

Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly is about love and forgiveness between sisters who are swept up in Austen’s fairy tale-like world of happy endings, only to find that the happiness they thought they would have was fleeting.  A more serious, modern Austen that explores the bonds between sisters and the power of the love they share to overcome anything.

About the Author:

Victoria Connelly grew up in Norfolk before attending Worcester College where she studied English Literature. After graduating, she worked her way through a number of jobs before becoming a teacher in North Yorkshire.

In 2000, she got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and moved to London. Five weeks after their wedding, her husband, a television news cameraman, was sent to Israel. Convinced something terrible would happen to him, she came up with the idea for a novel about a young widow who starts seeing angels on her desk at work, but was scared to write it in case she tempted fate. It was only years later that her husband admitted to having a bullet graze his shirt sleeve whilst filming in Israel!

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell is set during a time in Europe when empires were being built and shifted, including the Napoleonic empire.  Colonel Brandon, Colonel Buford, and Colonel Fitzwilliam are the main players here, but Mr. Darcy’s connection to Fitzwilliam and Brandon and Fitzwilliam’s connections to Buford blend the picture seamlessly.  A Regency period novel that begins with the exile of Napoleon to Elba is the calm before the storm as the world teeters on the brink of war once again, which can only bring the three colonels into danger, alongside that love-to-hate rogue Wickham.  Caldwell can always be counted on for creating tension that leads to fast-paced action in an Austenesque novel, and he even sprinkles in the romance and common misunderstandings Austen’s characters have dealt with in the past.

“Buford!’ cried his companion.  ‘If you truly wish to be known as a respectable gentleman, there are other ways to go about it than imitating Fitzwilliam Darcy!’ Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam gave his comrade-in-arms a lopsided grin.

Buford’s eyes never left the crowd.  ‘I beg your pardon, but I am certainly not as stiff as Darcy!’

Fitzwilliam laughed.  ‘Oh, Buford, you make a fireplace poker look flexible!'” (Page 45 ARC)

Buford is a dashing colonel who has won the affections of Caroline Bingley, despite his rakish reputation among the ton.  Buford softens Caroline’s edges, making her blush as she gains confidence slowly after being humiliated, but can he cause her to be ultimately vulnerable and fall in love and can she redeem him as he hopes to be saved?  These are just some of the questions Caldwell tackles in his novel.  Meanwhile, happily married Darcy and Colonel Brandon are enjoying their wives and their children when news of possible war hits, causing the men to worry about their families and the future of England.

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s troubles begin when he must step into the role of Rosings trustee that Darcy was forced to vacate when he married Lizzy against Lady Catherine’s wishes.  He butts heads with Lady Catherine, is unsure of how much authority he has to make changes to save the estate, and finds himself hopelessly in love with someone far above his station.  Caldwell stays true to Austen’s original characters here, but modifies them in ways that help them evolve in the new story lines he has created for them.  They are fresh and fun, and fully dramatic, with plenty of intrigue and backstabbing to go around on the international stage.

The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men by Jack Caldwell blends not only Austen’s characters from Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, but also adds historical figures and new characters to the mix.  Readers will enjoy revisiting some of their favorite characters, seeing new sides of old characters, and being introduced to new, engaging characters.  Overall, a unique novel that brings some action to the upper echelons of society.

Also by Jack Caldwell:

Pemberley Ranch

Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton

Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton (check out her writing space guest post) is a modern re-telling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, but in this rendition, Darcy is not only proud, but he has OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  He’s not the only one with control issues, though, with Bingley showing symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and Lizzy Bennet being completely spontaneous and snap in her judgements and decisions.  Jane as always is responsible and caring — so much so that she’s taken over the running of a local orphanage in Vietnam, while her sister works at the local hospital treating patients with infectious diseases for free.  While selfless, both Bennets have particular prejudice against those who waste their money, and Lizzy is the most vocal about the rich tourists and their egotistical ways.

 “‘I’ve been doing yoga for a while.  I bet I can keep my balance on that bicycle,’ Bingley said.

Behind closed eyelids, Darcy’s eyes attempted a roll.  He hoped the bouncy Tigger next to him had remembered to take his daily Ritalin.  He didn’t feel up to dealing with an impulsive Bingley.

‘I’ll be right back.’  Bingley leaped out of the car before anyone could stop him.”  (page 3 of ARC)

Benneton’s wise-cracking and dry humor is delightful as Darcy and Bingley bumble their way through Vietnam as tag-a-longs with the Hursts who are seeking the latest rage in high society –to adopt a third-world child — and climb the social ladder.  The first meeting between Lizzy and Darcy is not pleasant and some presumptions are made by Lizzy about Darcy and Bingley’s relationship.  Although the original meetings and situations from Austen’s work are altered, there are brief nods to the famous writer in the dialogue between Darcy and Lizzy.  The chemistry between Darcy and Lizzy heats up once the misconceptions Lizzy and Darcy have about one another are quickly dispatched, but there are other obstacles to test their whirlwind relationship, especially from family members Richard, Anne, and Catherine.

Some may find the sex scenes a little too detailed, but they certainly heat up the tension between the lovers as they come to know one another better and stumble along the way.  Benneton’s Lizzy and Darcy still fail to trust and must build it from the ruins of misconception, but they are stronger for it.  Benneton showcases her wit in this rendition of the Darcy and Lizzy love story, and the additional behavioral disorders of the main heroes was entertaining.  More than a love story, Compulsively Mr. Darcy is about loving someone faults and all, accepting and not changing who they are, and growing together in love.  Steamy, sexy, and fun, it will have readers giggling and blushing at the same time.

***As a side note, it had me wondering about how Benneton knew about the differences in tonal language between Vietnamese and English; she explained it so well, I learned something new. ***

About the Author:

Nina Benneton was a scientist on her way to save the world and win a Nobel Prize in something, anything, when a rare-bird enthusiast nut whisked her off her restless feet. A flock of beautiful children and a comfy nest kept Nina contented in domestic bliss until one day, she woke up and saw that she was too obsessed with alphabetizing her spices and searching for stray Barbie shoes.

Find her on Facebook, Website, and Austen Authors. Her book is also on GoodReads.

This is my 8th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Guest Post: A Workspace and Inspiration by Jeanette Baker

Irish Lady by Jeanette Baker is about Meghann McCarthy who had left Belfast behind until Michael Devlin re-emerges and needs her help.  He’s charged with murder, but as she attempts to uncover the truth, a history reveals itself through a series of linked histories back to the time of Queen Elizabeth.  This is an emotionally charged romance novel with intrigue and mystery.

Today, Jeanette Baker is offering to share her writing space with my readers and to share a little bit about what inspired her to write Irish Lady.  Please give her a warm welcome and stay tuned for a giveaway.

No one would ever call me a perfectionist. I’m more of a big-picture, good-enough kind of person, but my environment, both writing and living, has always been important to me. My personal space has changed over the course of my career, adapting with the changes in my family and my finances. At first, when my children were small, my “space” was a small computer table and steno chair in the family room. My children played games, watched television and invited friends to play while I created and typed away, oblivious to noise, music and, occasionally, minor wounds.

As my family grew and square footage increased through moves and room additions, I graduated to my own office complete with desk and chair, a comfortable couch and, the most wonderful of inventions, a laptop computer which allowed me to move between desk and couch as the mood struck. Over the years, I’ve done away with the desk and straight-backed chair, choosing to, at first, keep files in a cabinet and, eventually, in bookmarked pages on my computer. I’ve come full circle because, now that I’m an emptynester, my office has returned to the family room. I sit in a very deep, comfortable chair, usually cross-legged but, sometimes, with my legs stretched out in front of me on an equally comfortable ottoman.

I love color and my space reflects it. My chair and ottoman are a deep garnet-red. A chest hand painted in gold, black and more red serves as a coffee table for my tea habit and the shelves of my bookcases are painted a dark, lacquered green. Even more than writing, reading is my passion. I surround myself with books, hundreds and hundreds of books, written by authors who inspire me, as well as photos of my family to remind me of my focus, and prints of Ireland and Scotland, the settings for many of my novels.

The idea for IRISH LADY first came about after living for several years in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A country divided by religion and economics for 800 years has more than its share of conflict. Meghann McCarthy escaped the slums of Belfast to become a rich, successful attorney in London. Yet she can never quite banish Ireland from her heart, or forget Michael Devlin, the boy she once loved with a passion that nearly tore her apart. When Michael, a notorious Irish nationalist, is accused of a heinous crime, Meghann agrees to defend him. But even as she jeopardizes her hard-won success, she finds the true power and spirit of the Irish heritage she has too long denied…and the courage to face her love for Michael. Meanwhile, throughout her life, Meghann is regularly visited by visions of her direct ancestor, Nuala O’Donnell, a noblewoman from the 16th century who struggles to keep her husband, legendary hero, Rory O’Donnell, and their land free from English occupation.

The furniture changes, as well as the size of the space, but comfort, the perfect chair, access to a cozy pot of tea and a wall plug are consistent staples of writing space.

Thanks, Jeanette, for sharing your writing space with us.

To enter for 1 copy of Irish Lady, please leave a comment about how far you would go for love.

If you follow, tweet, Facebook, or otherwise share the giveaway, leave a comment with links for more entries (up to 4 additional entries)

Deadline is Jan. 25, 2012, at 11:59PM EST (US/CANADA)

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is the second book in her Austen Addicts trilogy, and is a must have in any Austen fan’s collection for its unique set of characters and the clear references to Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, and more.  Starring Kay Ashton, who works in a dead end and thankless job, and she’s surrounded by a unique cast from her mother’s friend and fellow Janeite to the cast of actors that invade her new Bed and Breakfast in Lyme Regis.  Kay finds herself playing Emma Woodhouse on one occasion, only to find her results end up much the same as Emma’s, but all the while, she’s looking for her own dashing hero and trying to rekindle the passion she has for painting.  Beth is the prototypical actress diva who wants all of the attention for herself, and she surrounds herself with the rest of the cast, including the dreamy Oli Wade Owen.  But Gemma is not the typical actress — she’s shy and often in the shadow of her mother, a famed television and movie actress whose career is practically non-existent until she weasels her way into the production of Persuasion, produced and written by Adam.

“It was funny that she should be dreaming about Mr. Darcy, because she’d been drawing Captain Wentworth for the last few weeks now.  Darcy had been the main subject of her last book — a collection of drawings in pen, and watercolour paintings of scenes from Pride and Prejudice.” (page 5 ARC)

There are moments in the novel when Connelly tells the reader of the Austen connection, which could have been left up to the reader to discover, but that is not bothersome when readers are swept away by the antics of Beth to get Oli’s attention or when Kay is berating herself for falling for an actor like Oli when she knows she shouldn’t.  Nana Craig, Adam’s granny, is a hot little ticket with her poking and prodding of Adam in the right direction to get his love life moving, and she has some choice advice for Kay as well.  Living in Lyme is not as romantic as Kay imagined, but her imagination sometimes runs away with her and gets overblown in more ways than one.  Readers will get the idea that she hasn’t lived much of her life outside the covers of an Austen novel the way she goes on, but its always in fun and helps liven up the interactions she has with her star guests.

“Kay settled back into her seat and adjusted the red hairpiece above her left temple.  It felt like it was slipping.  She looked in the wing mirror.  She wasn’t all that sure about herself as a redhead.  She’d had visions of being transformed into a beautiful pre-Raphaelite nymph, but she believed she looked more like a slightly baffled red Irish setter.”  (page 174 ARC)

Connelly creates characters that are lively and fun, and readers will love hanging around with them as they gossip, maneuver, and fall flat on their faces looking for romance.  While Austen characters and stories do play a role here, they aren’t necessary, as the novel and its characters could stand on their own.  There is a mix of arts here from screenwriters to actors/actresses and painters, which is juggled well by Connelly.  With the number of heroes, heroines, and secondary characters and subplots, it would be easy to get lost if it weren’t for the author’s ability to juggle those story lines and ensure that readers never miss a beat or feel bogged down by one story or another.  On a deeper level, the novel is about making dreams come true, following your passions, and living life to the best of your ability even if it means making a giant leap of faith to do it.  If you’re looking for fun, Lyme is the place for you and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is an excellent read to take you on an escape by the seaside.

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell is a re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice set during the U.S. Civil War and opens during the battle of Vicksburg, Miss., which was the final surge of the war between union or Yankee troops and southern confederates.  Darcy is a captain in the confederate army and readers are dropped right into the action of war as the novel opens.  He’s commanding his troops as union soldiers pin them down, but then they suddenly withdrawn.  Caldwell’s prose is descriptive down to the sidearms used by the battling troops.

The book quickly turns to the Bennets’ story as they mourn the loss of their only brother Samuel and decide to move to Rosings, Texas to run a different cattle ranch and leave their home in Ohio.  Imagine the tensions following the Civil War between former Confederates and the new Yankees who migrate to the rejoined nation of the United States.  Beth Bennet and Darcy meet and sparks fly in more ways than one, and this is coupled with an underhanded attempt by George Whitehead to usurp cattle ranches, land, and power through a complex plan with help from a darker Denny and a gang of former confederate soldiers still bitter from their loss.

“‘I’m sure you did,’ Bingley laughed.  ‘They’re very nice people Will; they’re just a bit . . . boisterous.  There’s not a mean bone in their bodies.  Once you get to know ’em, you’ll see.’

‘And why should I do that?’

Charles frowned.  ‘They’re my family now, Will.  You’ll be in their company in the future if you’re goin’ to be in mine.  I won’t throw off my wife’s family.’

Darcy had the good manners to be abashed.  ‘You’re right, Charles.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.’

‘I know Miz Bennet can talk a blue streak, but she don’t mean anything by it.  It’s just her way.  ‘Sides, you can’t say anything bad about Mr Bennet, or Beth.’

‘She’s a bit of a tomboy, isn’t she?’

Bingley shrugged. ‘She grew up on a farm, Will. What did you expect?’ He elbowed his friend with a grin. ‘She sure cleaned up nice, though. Almost as pretty as my Jane.'” (page 41)

Caldwell’s prose is exactly as it should be incorporating southern manners, but spicing it up with more than sexual tension.  Darcy continues to be proud, but softens around Beth, and Beth continues to be prejudiced against confederates, until she meets her intellectual match in Darcy.  What’s unique is that Caldwell changes the characters just enough to reflect the tensions and angst following the Civil War without losing the spunk of Austen’s characters.

Picturing Darcy as a dark, handsome, rugged cowboy should be enough for some readers, but there is mystery, suspense, and romance to satisfy everyone else.  Austen purists may wonder at the modernity in some of the scenes, but they worked for the most part.  Caldwell also uses some of the most famous lines from Austen’s work in new ways, but they flow so well with the story that readers will smile as they recognized the phrases.  Even more intriguing is the inclusion of another Austen character who is the reverend in Rosings, Texas.  Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell is an escapist novel to a time in American history where things were uncertain and volatile even though the U.S. government had re-unionized.  A quick read, with action and intrigue for any Austen lover.


This is my 3rd and final book for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011.


This is my 77th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds is the latest in her “What If?” series of Pride & Prejudice variations that seeks to uncover how far Darcy will go to woo Lizzy if after his disastrous proposal she accepts one from another man.  Darcy has made his arrogant speech about loving Lizzy against his better judgment and has proposed they get married, and she has refused by the time this book opens.

Lizzy has a dilemma before her; she had hoped to marry for love, but with her sister Jane’s hopes of marrying Mr. Bingley dashed and her continued depression about losing him, Lizzy realizes that she no longer has the luxury to marry for love and must find a suitable man with means to save her family from ruin upon the death of her father.  She takes the responsibility on when a family friend Mr. Covington begins to show interest in her.  After accepting his proposal and resigning herself to a marriage based on necessity and fondness, which she hopes will grow into love, Mr. Darcy arrives on the scene with Mr. Bingley and things get more complicated as she realizes her true feelings for Darcy.

“He inquired after her family as Darcy looked on sardonically, wondering what Elizabeth could possibly see in this dull fellow.  It grated on his nerves every time Covington called her by her name or allowed an admiring look to rest upon her.  Nevertheless, he gave no thought to leaving; as vividly unpleasant as this might be, nothing would induce him to leave Elizabeth alone with Covington while he had a choice in the matter.  There was a certain ironic humour, he reflected, in finding himself as her chaperone.” (page 68-9 ARC)

Told from both Lizzy and Darcy’s point of view, readers get a well-rounded glimpse at the feelings and frustrations they feel about their situation, especially after Lydia runs off with Wickham.  What’s new here is that Lizzy is deflated and more vulnerable, but she remains strong at her core in her convictions.  Scandal has hammered her family’s reputation and she realizes that she is at the center of it and believes that everyone would be best off without her.  Darcy must not only convince her of his love, but that she has not permanently injured her family’s reputation and that she is not a pariah who can destroy his reputation.

“The two men eyed one another for a moment, then Darcy said in a more normal voice, ‘Do you still object to Georgiana’s presence here? I would like her to have the opportunity to get to know Elizabeth.’

‘Good God, Darcy, are you actually asking my opinion? There is a first time for everything!'”  (page 176 ARC)

Reynolds introduces Mr. Covington, Mrs. Covington, and makes sure that fan favorites, like Mr. Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam, are as bright as Lizzy and Darcy.  Each character is vivid and dynamic.  However, Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins, and Charlotte Lucas do not make appearances, but are talked about in passing.  Reynolds is a master at throwing Lizzy and Darcy into new situations that threaten to keep them apart, but the overarching theme is always that love conquers all.  Austen would be proud that Reynolds has taken her characters, helped them evolve into better versions of themselves, and taken them on new journeys.

Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds is infused with bawdy conversation, conflict, societal disapprobation, and classic characters with modern sensibilities.  Darcy and Lizzy are no longer pinned down by Regency norms, but are pioneers of modernity and unbridled love and passion.  Reynolds is masterful in her homage to Austen and her wit, while catering to readers’ desire for romance and strong protagonists.  Likely to be one of the first Austen spinoffs to make the end of year “Best of” list.

Guest Post: Abigail Reynolds Ponders 200th Anniversaries of Jane Austen Novels

Abigail Reynolds is a master at answering the What If? question when it comes to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s romance in her re-tellings.  Whether Mr. Darcy decides to hold his tongue at the Meryton Assembly or doesn’t botch his proposal to her in Kent, Reynolds finds new ways to keep this couple and readers guessing as to whether they will get together.  Mr. Darcy’s Undoing is the latest in her What If? series of books and seeks to uncover how far Darcy will go to woo Lizzy if after his disastrous proposal she accepts one from another man.

Today, Reynolds will share with you what inspires her to write her re-imaginings and what the significance of this year’s 200th anniversary of Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen means to her.  Without further ado, please welcome Abigail.

This year’s Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) was dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense & Sensibility. It’s a major event in the Janeite world. Although Pride & Prejudice was the first novel Austen wrote, Sense & Sensibility was the first one published, so it’s our first bicentennial publication event. Pride & Prejudice, Austen’s best known and most popular book, won’t have its 200th anniversary of publication until 2013.

I write variations on Pride & Prejudice, novels in which I’ve taken the original and changed one key event. In my latest release, Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, the change is a whopper. Elizabeth Bennet, rather than remaining single until she encounters Darcy at Pemberley, becomes engaged to another man, a childhood friend whom she cares for and trusts, but doesn’t love. This changes the plot quite decisively, creating dramatic tension about how Darcy and Elizabeth will reach their happy ending. That’s the trick of a variation: to find something that changes the events of the novel but doesn’t interfere with the ending. Most changes I could make to the plot don’t produce dramatic effects. If Darcy doesn’t attend the Meryton Assembly, he’d have the same reaction to Elizabeth at a later date. If Elizabeth didn’t travel to Kent where she re-encounters Darcy, the events there would just take place whenever they next met, or they would never meet again and the ending would be different. I couldn’t make a book out of those.

When I’m asked which Austen heroine I resemble most, it’s an easy call. I’m definitely an Elinor, and as a result, Sense & Sensibility will always be very dear to my heart. It’s tied with Persuasion for my 2nd favorite Jane Austen novel. I’ve often considered doing a variation on it, but it’s hard to find an appropriate turning point to change. Part of that is because the novel follows three romances rather one – Marianne/Willoughby, Marianne/Colonel Brandon, and Elinor/Edward Ferrars. To create a balanced variation, something would have to occur to interfere with all three of those romantic possibilities, but without causing a change in the ending. That’s very tricky, given the complexity of relationships between many of the characters. Another issue for me is that, being an Elinor, it would be hard for me to portray Elinor fairly or Marianne as effectively as I’d like. Persuasion is a more promising candidate for a variation simply because of the possible turning points in it.

Truth be told, aside from attending the JASNA celebration, the 200th anniversary of Sense & Sensibility hasn’t affected me much simply because it’s been overwhelmed by another anniversary for me as an author of Pride & Prejudice variations. It’s also the 200th anniversary of the events of Pride & Prejudice. The Meryton Assembly took place on October 15, 1811. November 12 will be the 200th anniversary of the day Jane Bennet rode through the rain to dine at Netherfield park with the Bingley sisters. I’m involved in a project with many of my fellow authors of Austen-inspired novels at the Austen Authors website wherein we’re tracking the events of Pride & Prejudice in real time. Dubbed the P&P200 project, we take turns portraying missing scenes from Pride & Prejudice and existing scenes from different points of view, and we post them on the 200th anniversary of the given event. It’s turned out to be a fascinating project, not only in making me consider the time frames involved in the book in a different way, but in making me look more closely at secondary characters, and discovering they have backstories of their own that I’ve never considered. It’s a different kind of anniversary celebration, but it’s been enriching my understanding of Jane Austen, and that’s what all my writing is about.

Thanks for hosting me today!

Abigail, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today on Sense & Sensibility and Jane Austen.  Stay tuned for my review of Mr. Darcy’s Undoing at the end of the week.

Mr. Darcy’s Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen

With Halloween and all of the blog-related events — RIP, All Hallow’s Eve, Frightful Fall Read-a-Thon, and Halloween Hootenanny — I’ve selected a few fun horror/spooky reads for October.

I have not officially joined any of the challenges or read-a-thons just because I never know how much reading I can do these days, but I am hosting Stephen King’s IT read-a-long with Anna in which we discuss the 1,000+ page book once per month through the end of the year.

First spooky read for October is Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Mr. Darcy’s Bite, which I shamelessly admit attracted me with its ominous cover.

Simonsen’s latest Pride & Prejudice incarnation, Mr. Darcy’s Bite, begins after the reunion between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy at Pemberley.  However, not all is pleasant in paradise because Darcy’s behavior has become peculiar, and he visits her at Longbourn for several months, though with long gaps between visits.  Lizzy’s mother keeps pressuring her about when she’s going to get engaged, and Lizzy is becoming concerned that Darcy’s affections for her are not as strong as she had thought.  She has plenty of time to stew on her speculations about his behavior, but just as she is about to call him out on his absences, he invites her back to Pemberley.  This is where everything changes for them and the challenges begin.

“‘You are very bossy.  You order people around with your harsh tone of voice or by pushing them about with your muzzle.  You may be the master of Pemberley, but you will not be the master of me.  I must be free to speak my mind.’

‘When have you not spoken your mind?’ Darcy stepped away from her, and with his hands behind his back, he recited word for word a part of Elizabeth’s refusal of his offer of marriage.”  (page 69 of ARC)

A dark secret is revealed, and Lizzy must determine whether in addition to their class and social differences, this secret changes her feelings for Darcy.  Can she overcome the secrecy, live with keeping secrets from her family and friends as a member of the Darcy family, and the monthly absences of her husband?  Simonsen captures Lizzy and Darcy’s characters so well from their moments of pride to their moments of misunderstanding.  Like her other novels, obstacles are thrown in the path of our love birds, and new characters are introduced, including the conceited Lady Helen Granyard who could rival Austen’s Lady Catherine in pride and social engineering.

Lizzy’s jealousy of Helen’s beauty pales compared to her worries that Helen’s intimate knowledge of the Darcy secret could supplant Darcy’s love for her.  What’s also a nice surprise here is that Georgiana gains strength in social encounters, enabling her to confront Lady Catherine at one point when she normally would have demurred.  Simonsen evolves the characters of not only Darcy and Elizabeth in this paranormal tale, but that of her secondary characters Georgiana and Anne de Bourgh.

If you’re an Austen purist who can let their hair down a bit, Mr. Darcy’s Bite could fit your need for the paranormal this Halloween season without scaring you senseless.  Simonsen’s work is always a delight to read, and Mr. Darcy’s Bite is no exception.

About the Author:

Mary Simonsen has combined her love of history and the novels of Jane Austen in her first novel, which explores universal truths about love and conflict that cross generations and oceans. The author lives in Peoria and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Check out the rest of the stops on Mary’s tour.

Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud

Are you looking for an edgier Lizzy and Darcy story? Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud is the hot little number for you.  The stage is set with furious rock and roll, sex in all positions and places, and yes, even drugs.  If you don’t like foul language or graphic sex, you won’t want to read this one because rock stars are living on the edge and rough around the edges.

Rock and roll is a hard business and in it band members are chewed up, spit out, and often become divas or broken down.  Darcy already has made the big time with his band, Slurry, but unlike the loving family he had in Austen’s novel, Pride & Prejudice, his parents were too busy to raise him, but when Georgiana was born, things changed.  Meanwhile, the main Bennet girls — Jane and Elizabeth — are in an up-and-coming band, Long Borne Suffering, with Charlotte Lucas.

“He realized he was being a voyeur, watching an intimate act.  She was making love to her instrument.  He knew he should look away,but he couldn’t.  His eyes were locked on the way her hands caressed the strings and pulled the wooden body closer to herself.  When she started singing softly, he was lost.”  (page 137 ARC)

Some readers may find the graphic intimate moments between the characters too much to handle, and some scenes may be over the top and unnecessary.  While in most instances the graphic and almost-masculine descriptions of those scenes work for the casual sex scenes, readers may find they are too harsh for the love of Darcy and Lizzy.  However, the look at the rock star world is eye-opening in terms of hard work, time management, PR, and emotional toll for Lizzy, Jane, and Charlotte.  Even veterans like Darcy, Charles Bingley, and Richard are affected by the touring schedule and the press hounding them. Wickham makes an appearance as a former singer for Slurry turned music video director/producer, and he’s even more sinister than he was in Austen’s novel.  His characterization here is exceedingly sinister, but necessary in this brash modern world created by Rigaud.

While Rigaud’s characters stray far from their Austen origins, particularly the character of Charlotte, the playful banter found in Austen remains, though taken up by Charlotte and Richard as they navigate the fine line between relationship and backstage fling.  Lizzy and Darcy step aside to give equal time to Charles and Jane and Charlotte and Richard, and the musical talents of all three shine individually and together on stage.  Adding to the conflict is the desire of these young women to make it on their own without the media thinking they are sleeping their way to the top with Slurry.

“‘Charlotte muttered.  ‘You know what a perfectionist Jane is, and she wanted Charles to know the songs for your set, so they started playing your songs, then they started on her songs, then they were playing their favorite songs.’

‘Eighties music?’ Richard interrupted her.

Charlotte nodded, her eyes bugging out in mock annoyance.  ‘I swear they were doing Prince when the bus finally pulled up.’

Everyone smiled.  ‘That’s Charles,’ Richard confirmed.

‘Oh my God!  I was ready to gnaw off my arm and beat them both over the head with it.’

Richard laughed.  ‘A one-armed drummer?  Now who’s living in the eighties.'”  (page 141-2 ARC)

There is a great deal to love about this novel, but it also has flaws from dialogue that goes on too long about mundane details and goodbyes to too many sex scenes in a row.  Readers will be captivated by the tension created by the music world and what it does to the relationships of these characters, especially as Richard’s sexual prowess is ramped up a few notches as a rock star drummer.  But even Rigaud’s characterizations of tensions within a band — from the jealousy drummers feel about the frontmen/women to the worries of female bands about making it without being asked for sexual favors — ring true.

Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud has created a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, but Austen purists beware, this is not the same chaste Darcy and Elizabeth you know from Austen’s novel.  Many of the elements that keep Darcy and Elizabeth apart are still here — misunderstandings and words spoken without much thought injure each of them quickly — but Elizabeth is not as self-assured as she is in Austen’s work and Jane is more confident here.  Charlotte is the most changed, cast as a wild woman who secretly wants a fairy-tale ending, though with herself in charge.

Readers looking for a hard and fast look at the music world and the corruption and benefits it can bring will enjoy Rigaud’s unique perspective and characterizations.  Take a ride on the groupie bus and enjoy the Slurry and Long Borne Suffering tour.  Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud is a whirlwind of emotions, sex, and satisfaction.

About the Author:

Heather Lynn Rigaud spends much of her time thinking about how Regency-era characters would exist now, and how a wife and mother would have lived in the past. She is a professional writer with degrees in music therapy and teaching who lives with her husband and two sons in Kingston, New York.

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell tackles relationships on a whole new level and looks at what it means to love someone for better and for worse and in sickness and in health.  While the novel is infused with Mansell’s humorous style, it is more serious than her other novels.

Ellie Kendall, the main protagonist, finds that losing the love of one’s life is not the end of the world, though it is devastating.  She finds a way to move on with her life, though she’s cut herself off from all of her friends and family to do it and feels as though she’s drowning in sympathy.  Meanwhile, Zach McLaren is a workaholic with no idea what his life is missing until Ellie literally walks through and into it.

“It was starting to concern her, just slightly, that it wasn’t quite normal to be doing what she’d been doing for the last year.  Because Jamie wasn’t here anymore.  And he wasn’t a ghost either.  All she did was conjure up a mental image of him in her mind, talk to him and have him talk back as if he were real.”  (page 18 of ARC)

In addition to the two main leads, there are some great side characters who are fleshed out really well, including the U.S. actor/father-in-law Tony Weston and the former girl band bad girl Roo.  Todd, who was one of Ellie’s good friends before her husband died, is not as well fleshed out as the others — at least initially — but readers won’t mind because he’s sort of a stand in for Ellie’s deceased husband much of the time.  Roo is a delight with all of her antics and her selfish nature, which as always gets turned on its ear when she realizes that the man she’s dating is a cheater.

Mansell’s got a wit about her unlike other authors in her genre, she’s connected to her characters in a way that makes readers feel like they are hanging out with friends, even if those friends are formerly famous. Ellie has a great deal of grief to deal with, while Zack must navigate his relationship with her very carefully and wait for her to be ready to begin again.  Readers will enjoy the realistic way in which their relationship blossoms and their tentative interactions as they become friends and more.  Todd and Tony round out the narrative, showing how events can change relationships in unexpected ways.

Readers seeking happy endings at the end of an evolutionary road will adore To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell.  When you need a pick me up, her books are there to cheer you up, provide a spot of romance, and tug at your heart strings.

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts reads like a campy “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” with its posh boutiques and yachts, and it is a parody of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  In the seaside resort town of Salcombe, the Bennets are on vacation and their mother is thrilled to learn that Netherpollock has been bought by Mr. Bingley, an eligible bachelor.  The quest to marry off one of her daughters has begun, though the appearance of Mr. Darcy on the yacht, Pemberley, sours the first meeting as he considers Lizzy only tolerable.  All of this should very familiar to those who love Austen’s classic, but the story is more modern in its sensibilities and humor.

Roberts characterizations of Kitty and Lydia as in competition over dresses and boys, and Lydia’s “valley girl” attitude and use of “like” and “whatever” in conversation are welcome updates to the classic.  Humorously, the soldiers are now lifeguards in this story, and naturally, Lydia and Kitty are eager to become the “victims” in their training exercises.  Unlike the classic where their catty and flirtatious nature are subdued, Lydia and Kitty are more over the top as they become streakers at one gathering.

“The ordeal of a near drowning for the second time in one day had so shocked Mr. Collins that he was unable to stand, so Darcy was forced to carry him, in his arms, up the steps.  Physically, Mr. Collins succumbed like a baby to this mode of transport.  Mentally, however, he was quite alert and was not one to miss an opportunity.  Recovering slightly, he could see the closeness of the situation was the perfect moment for a little intimate conversation and proceeded to wrap his arms fondly around Darcy’s neck and to introduce himself.”  (page 84 of ARC)

There are moments of utter ridiculousness, and Roberts stays as true to the characters as she can in her wild rendition.  However, readers will note that her characterization of Mr. Bingley as a bit dim is outside the mark.  He cannot remember Mr. Bennet”s name correctly, and he continues to dig himself a hole when he talks of Jane’s various body parts in traction and how he will miss them, but she is still beautiful, though he doesn’t want her inconvenienced.

Readers looking for a story that is closer to the original will be disappointed, but if they are seeking a fun, parody of the classic, Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard is for them.  A quick light read to pick you up when you need it.

This is my 49th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.