A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly

A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is a summer read for Austenites and those who want to have fun.  Set in modern day England, Dr. Katherine Roberts works too hard as a professor at St. Bridget’s College in Oxford and sees her role as lecturer at the Jane Austen Conference as a way for her to get away and relax.  She befriends regency romance author Lorna Warwick through letters and hopes that the conference will put a face to the name she’s begun to call friend.  Meanwhile, Robyn is stuck in a relationship with Jace (Jason Collins) and is too worried about his feelings to express her own or to end their relationship.  She decides that she’s not going to think about her life while at the Austen conference, but just enjoy herself before dealing with her fading relationship with her childhood friend.

“She thought of the secret bookshelves in her study at home and ho they groaned deliciously under the weight of Miss Warwick’s work.  How her colleagues would frown and fret at such horrors as popular fiction!  How quickly would she be marched from her Oxford office and escorted from St. Bridget’s College if they knew of her wicked passion?”  (page 2 of ARC)

Women and their passion for Jane Austen’s characters seems never-ending, but does this passion for Austen sometimes prevent these women from living their own lives?  And does it ensure that the men in their lives will never measure up to Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth?  Connelly has created a cast of characters that have flaws and find themselves in situations they never expected.  Dr. Roberts is a strong woman with a passion for sexy Regency romances, but her own love life is a disaster until she finds herself in situation much like Captain Wentworth, while Robyn is trapped by obligation in a life much like Edward Ferrars.  It is an interesting correlation between Austen’s characters and Connelly’s female leads, as it demonstrates a new perspective on how these situations would be handled.

Connelly also creates a cast of characters that are fun and outrageous from Dame Pamela to Higgins the butler.  And of course, what Austen spinoff doesn’t have its own Lady Catherine de Bourgh — in this case, it’s Mrs. Soames.  A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly is a great romp in the English countryside with some gal pals and hot men that will make you giggle, squirm, and sit on the edge of your seat.  A quick summer read that will have readers wondering if an Austen-filled weekend should be their next vacation.

About the Author:

Victoria Connelly grew up in Norfolk before attending Worcester University 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.  She is currently working on a trilogy about Jane Austen addicts.  The first, A Weekend with Mr Darcy, was published in the UK by Avon, HarperCollins, and will be published in the US by Sourcebooks in July 2011.   The second in the trilogy, The Perfect Hero, was published in the UK in April 2011.  She lives in London with her artist husband, a springer spaniel and four ex-battery hens.


This is my 34th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Guest Post: My Craziest Austen-Related Adventure by Victoria Connelly

Has anyone else noticed that Sourcebooks has some of the best Austen-related fiction on the market?  I have.  Victoria Connelly’s work, however, is new to me, and since she writes Darcy-related fiction, I figured it was time to give her novel a try.

Today, I’ve got a treat for you as Victoria regales us with her craziest Austen-related adventure and includes a photo for us to share.  Without further ado, let me turn it over to her.

My Craziest Austen-Related Adventure

When I started writing my Austen addicts trilogy, I soon discovered the wonderful website of ‘Pride and Prejudice Tours’. Run by the amazing Helen Porter, these bespoke holidays take you to the locations used in the film adaptations of Austen’s novels. As a fan of the films, this sounded like a dream come true especially as many of the houses used are privately owned and impossible to find.

I quickly got in touch and started a long conversation with Helen – telling her about my books and swapping stories about our favourite locations and we soon discovered we had a dream in common – of owning a Georgian manor house deep in the heart of the English countryside.

One of the most perfect houses I have ever seen is the house that was used as Barton Cottage in Emma Thompson’s 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. I love the scene where Elinor and Marianne Dashwood arrive at the cottage and both stare at it in wide-eyed horror because they have just left the grand stately home of Norland Park, and Barton Cottage must look like a shack in comparison. This scene always makes me laugh because, to me, Barton Cottage in this film is my idea of perfection and the thought of actually staying there seemed too good to be true.

Without further delay, I booked myself a weekend there with ‘Pride and Prejudice Tours’!

The coach picked me up from Bath where I joined the tour group. They were a lovely bunch mainly from America and Canada, and they were all women bar one solitary man. Leaving Bath, the coach headed south through Somerset and on in to Devon where the roads became so narrow that we almost got stuck at one point!

I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the cottage. Tucked away on a private estate of rolling hills ending in the sea, the three-story stone house rose up from a sloping garden, looking out over a secluded estuary. It was May and cow parsley filled the garden in a lacy froth. There were bluebells in the field beside the cottage and red campion in the wood – all of which appeared in the little bunch of flowers which Willoughby gives to Marianne in the film.

I got up early on my first morning there and walked down the little lane which Willoughby, Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon all the ride along in the film. Of course, it was impossible not to think about handsome heroes on horseback whilst staying at the cottage but, alas, none had made an appearance whilst I was there.

What made the weekend really special for me was meeting the other Austen fans. I think I can safely say that Jane Austen fans are amongst the nicest people in the world and I loved talking to them about their favourite scenes from the books, their favourite heroes and heroines and what it is that makes Jane Austen so special. They all helped to inspire my writing and, although I hated the thought of leaving Barton Cottage, I was excited about getting back home to write my trilogy.

I knew I wanted to use Barton Cottage as a setting for one of my Jane Austen novels and I’m delighted to say that it has a starring role in the third book in the trilogy, Mr Darcy Forever. So, if you can’t visit the house yourself, you can read about my heroine’s adventures there!

Thanks, Victoria, for sharing your adventure with us. Stay tuned for my review of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy tomorrow.

A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen continues the slew of Pride & Prejudice spinoffs and continuations coming from Sourcebooks.  In this version, Simonsen explores what may have happened had Mr. Darcy apologized to Elizabeth Bennet after the Meryton Assembly for calling her beauty only tolerable.  Would the connection between them be as strong? Would Lizzy and Darcy cast aside their assumptions and simply enjoy one another’s company?  But what if Darcy also had been seen in the company of another young lady in London and her father had political plans following the match?  All of these questions are explored and more.

Simonsens writing is as close to Austen’s as you can get, but it is modern at the same time, with sexual intimacy talked about, but never shown explicitly.  The wit of Austen is here as well, though with a more modern sensibility.  Readers will enjoy this creative exploration of these characters, the introduction of new characters, like Sir John Montford and his daughter Letitia and Bingley’s older sister and her brood the Crenshaws.  One of the most amusing scenes in the novel is when Jane takes on the task of taming the savagery of the Crenshaw children, who are prepared to survive any apocalypse.

“‘Please.  You must say please, Master Lucius,’ Mrs. Bennet told the more compliant twin.
‘Soldiers don’t say please,’ he answered in a voice revealing just how insecure he was feeling.
‘Are you an officer or an enlisted man?’ Mr. Bennet asked.
‘An officer.’
‘Any officer in His Majesty’s Army would be regarded as a gentleman, and as such, would know the proper manners to use when dining.’
‘Well, then, I am an enlisted man,’ he said, even less sure than when he had been an officer.
‘Enlisted men follow orders,’ and after staring him in the eye, he continued, ‘or they are flogged.'” (page 119 of ARC)

Simonsen showcases Mr. Bennet’s trademark wit and knowledge in this book like no other, and he appears more frequently, which many readers will enjoy.  While certain plot points from the original are modified, there are some that remain the same or are slightly varied from their originals.  However, the scene of Darcy proposing to Lizzy at Rosings is not in this novel, and that particular exchange or the passion of that exchange will be missed by readers looking for the tension it creates.

Tension, on the other hand, is created by the introduction of another woman — though not a woman who he views with love, but merely obligation.  In this way, Simonsen has called attention to societal norms in a way that Austen would have, pointing to their shortfalls and ridiculousness.  Another interesting element of the novel is the inclusion of song lyrics, which will make readers curious as to whether those songs were from the time period or merely created for the occasion.   A Wife for Mr. Darcy is a quick read that allows readers to revisit their favorite characters, see more of Austen’s characters who were more on the sidelines in the original, and be introduced to new and interesting characters.

Guest Post: Confessions of a Pantser by Mary Lydon Simonsen

I’ve reviewed several variations of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and enjoyed most of them.  Mary Lydon Simonson is one of my go-to authors for Austen spinoffs and continuations.  I’ve reviewed two of her other novels, Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy and Searching for Pemberley.

Today, I’ve got a special guest post from Mary about her writing routines and habits, or what not to do when writing a novel, as Mary notes.

Confessions of a Pantser

First, I would like to thank you for having me on your blog. It’s always a pleasure, Serena. You asked me to write about my writing routine and habits. Before I begin, I should warn any potential authors that this is probably a post about what not to do when writing a novel.

Unlike many authors, I do not write an outline, and that is because I am a pantser, i.e., someone who writes by the seat of their pants. But… but… no outline, you cry! What about all of those creative writing seminars that state it is a cardinal rule that an author must write an outline? They do have their place; they are just not for me. I’m the person who got in the car in Flagstaff, Arizona for the purpose of going out for breakfast and ended up 175 miles away in Oatman, Arizona near the California border looking at wild donkeys. (This actually happened.) Like a Sunday drive, I just let the story take me wherever it wants to go.

One of the things that works best for me is speaking the dialog out loud. I’ve gotten used to people finding me all alone having a full-blown conversation with myself, usually in a British accent. But when you say things out loud, it is easier to spot your mistakes. It is more obvious that something doesn’t sound right or isn’t nearly as funny as you thought it would be if they are lying quietly in a Word document rather than out there in the atmosphere screaming at you.

Because I have worked out most of the plot bunnies before I sit down to the computer, things really start hopping once I am at my desk. I can easily write three or four chapters in a sitting, that is, if I don’t have any visitors. My visitors happen to be an adorable seven-year old who is missing her two front teeth and her brother, who has no teeth at all, because he’s only six months old. Once I see my daughter’s car pull up in front of the house, I know that my work day has come to an end because my grandchildren have come calling. They will only be little for a short time while, hopefully, I shall be writing stories forever.

On days where I do not hear the patter of little feet, I begin to write as soon as I finish breakfast and go at it until I get bored. I know I’m bored when I click out of my story and start reading the news or some blog (Savvy Verse and Wit for one) or check my sales on Amazon. Considering the number of stories I have written, you might be surprised to learn that this happens a lot. I’m like a dog who sees a squirrel. I’m off and running. But life is a juggling act, and no one wants to watch (or read) a juggler who only has one ball in the air.

Are you methodical about your work habits or are you a pantser? I’d like to hear from you. Thanks again.

Thanks again, Mary, for joining us here. We always enjoy your company. Stay tuned for my review of Mary’s novel, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, tomorrow.

Interview With C.C. Humphreys, Author of Vlad: The Last Confession

If you’re like me and have loved reading vampire novels for as long as you can remember and then discovered that one of the most notorious vampires in the genre, Dracula, was based on a real person, you’d want to read about that person — Vlad the Impaler.

C.C. Humphreys satisfied my curiosity in his novel, Vlad: The Last Confession, about the infamous Wallachian and made me even more curious about the 15th Century.  I got so absorbed in this story; there were times when “Wiggles,” my daughter, was starting to fuss and I just wanted to ignore her.  I did not want to be pulled out of this story.  If you haven’t read my review or entered the giveaway, you better hurry it ends July 1 (it’s open internationally as well).

Today, I’ve got a treat!  C.C. Humphreys was kind enough to answer some questions, and I’m going to share those with you.  Don’t hesitate to let us know what you think.

1. What inspired you to tackle Dracula in Vlad: The Last Confession?

It was strange. It was not something I’d ever considered. Then I made the mistake of getting drunk with my editor in London. We started analyzing historical fiction, what worked, what was most successful. It seemed that books about real people always did well. But everyone had been done. Then he suggested Dracula and I scoffed. Had to have been done! But it hadn’t and that intrigued – so famous a name? Why? I discovered fast – there was a horror story there and I don’t do horror. But then I discovered the real story behind the propaganda. And I was off and running. Summed up in the phrase: ‘Trust nothing that you’ve heard.’

2. How is your book about Dracula different than the others available on the market?

Well, its not about a vampire. Its about the real Dracula – Vlad, Prince of Wallachia. Vlad the Impaler. Vlad the tyrant and the hero. The lover and the murderer.

3. A number of your books seem to fall into the historical fiction category. What is the allure of this genre for you and when did you first realize that it was a genre you wanted to write?

I have always loved history. It was one of the signs at the crossroads for me at 18 years old. Go to university and read History. Go to Drama School. I chose the latter. But when I came to write novels, I always knew they would be like the stuff I read as a boy, but with an adult slant. Wild adventures, great characters, exciting lives and events.

4. As an actor and fight choreographer, how different is the solitude of writing in comparison?

Quite different. I have always enjoyed both. I seem to have a split personality – on the one hand gregarious and liking company, on the other needing to spend long stretches of time alone. That’s why its fun to still do both, though writing is my main thrust now.

5. Please share a few of your obsessions (i.e. chocolate, bungee jumping, etc.).

Obsessions? I like beer. A lot. But I can’t drink too much because I have to get up early to write. I love the water, swimming, snorkelling and, especially, body surfing. Give me a wave and I’ll wait for my beer!

6. What are some favorite books and/or authors that you wish would get more recognition or a larger readership?

I think anything by Rosemary Sutcliff. People only really know ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ but all her stuff is superb.

7. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I am afraid I didn’t. I just sort of jumped in. But a book that got me going just before I wrote my first play was ‘Writing, the Natural Way’.

8. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I have just completed the follow up to ‘Vlad’. Its called ‘A Place Called Armageddon’ and is about the fall of Constantinople in 1453. That’s out in the UK in July, Canada in August, and the US sometime in 2012. Meantime, I am about a third of the way through the first draft of my next historical which is set in London 1599-1601 and is about Shakespeare, the Globe… and one very special swordsman.

Thanks to C.C. Humphreys for answering my questions.

I’m glad to hear there will be a new novel dealing with the fall of Constantinople, since it was a big part of Vlad’s story. I adore Shakespeare, so his next historical novel will be another one on my radar. How about you?

Vlad: The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys & Giveaway

Dracula was made famous by Bram Stoker, and the man behind the infamous vampire, Vlad the Impaler, was etched into history as a purely evil man.  However, was the man that inspired Dracula and whom history has called the impaler the devil incarnate?

Vlad:  The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys seeks to answer these questions through three confessions from those who knew him best — Ion, his childhood friend; Ilona, his mistress; and the hermit — as the powers that be try to resurrect Vlad’s reputation as a means of conquering the Turks and spreading Christianity.  The confessions begin and take readers back to when Vlad was a mere teenager and hostage of the Turks as a means of keeping his father, the ruler of Wallachia, in line.  Unlike typical hostages, Vlad and Ion are taught philosophy and other subjects, and Vlad excels at them.  Unfortunately, the Sultan takes notice much to the chagrin of his nephew, Mehmet, who once ruled the Turkish kingdom and is itching to get it back.  Vlad is then sent to Tokat to learn a different set of subjects at the hands of the Turks in a way that damages his innocence and fuels the fire for revenge.

“In the crook of a copper beech sat a man.  His arms were crossed, gloved hands folded into his lap, the right beneath to support the weight of the goshawk on his left.  They had been there for a long time, as long as the blizzard lasted.  Man and bird — part of the stillness, part of the silence.  Both had their eyes closed.  Neither were asleep.”  (page 3)

Humphreys ensures that readers live in these pages, traveling with Vlad and the other characters through the harsh countryside in the 1400s and breathless with anticipation as the next confession begins in the present (1481).  There are moments in the early part of the book in which events are told that could not have been told by the confessor because Dracula was not with him or her, particularly when Dracula is taken from Tokat by his former teacher Hamza.  However, this is a minor quibble given the story weaved by Humphreys; it will capture readers and suck them into the story, anxious to see if Dracula’s reputation is salvaged.

“All had seen the twin-tailed comet that had torn through Wallachian skies the year the Dragon’s son took back his father’s throne.  It was said then that Vlad had ridden it to his triumph.  To those who followed now, it looked as if that comet flew again, their prince once more astride it.”  (page 249)

Vlad is a character who is driven by a force beyond himself to right a series of wrongs against his people, but this force consumes him to the point of obsession, leaving him little room to deviate from the path he’s chosen.  Humphreys crafts a story that demonstrates this catch-22 so thoroughly that readers see how Vlad is unable to choose and must merely follow the path laid out before him.  Despite the carnage in these pages, readers will hope that Vlad sees the light, finds solace, and achieves the victory he seeks.

The only drawback is that the secondary character of Ion is flat.  When he is torn between revenge and the love of his friend, it is hard to feel the tension of his indecision and applaud him when he warns his friend of impending doom.  On the other hand, Ilona is seen less often in the narrative and is more fleshed out, with her love and dedication to Vlad pulsating in each of her scenes.

What makes a man commit acts of evil? Should this man be forgiven if his motivations were just?  All of these questions are posed in the novel, but the answers are left up to the reader.  Vlad:  The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys is part history, part epic adventure — an engrossing novel that will surely have you reconsidering other “villains” of the past.

Please check out this podcast with author C.C. Humphreys at What’s Old is New, a site from Devourer of Books and Linus’s Blanket.

For this international giveaway for 1 copy of Vlad:  The Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys, you must do the following:

1.  Tell me which “villain” from history you would like to see reassessed in a novel and why?

2.  Blog, Tweet, or Facebook this giveaway and leave a link in the comments for a second entry.

Deadline is July 1, 2011, at 11:59PM EST



This is my 27th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Belinda Roberts’ Writing Routines

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are two of my favorite classic characters, and I often enjoy reading retellings, sequels, and modern-day versions of the classic story, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Sourcebooks has become my go-to publisher for these types of novels, and they’ve got a slew of upcoming titles in this subgenre, including Belinda Roberts’ Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard.

According to the publisher’s summary:

The balmy seaside resort town of Salcombe boasts the best in bikinis, sandcastle contests, distance swims, and a fiercely competitive squad of buff local lifeguards as Regatta Week approaches.

And if that weren’t enough excitement, Mrs. Bennet hears that the splendid villa of Netherpollock has been rented by a young man of great fortune.  She is determined that he’ll go out with one of her daughters, until Mr. Darcy glides into the harbor on his stunning yacht Pemberley and she decides on the instant that he would be the better catch…

Jane Austen has never been so hilariously recreated as in this modern seaside retelling of Pride and Prejudice, complete with a Mr. Darcy you won’t soon forget!

Don’t take their word for it, though, check out reviews at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell, Reflections of a Book Addict, and Library of Clean Reads.

Without further ado, here’s Belinda Roberts on writing:

My favourite writing time is late at night and into the early hours. Children in bed, husband in bed … there comes a point when either I go to bed or wonder into my office, start messing around on my Apple Mac and then I’m off. No interuptions. Fantastic. Creep into bed as daylight starts peep through the shutters.

I do of course write in the day. I sit down at my desk. Wonder why there is some lego lurking on my keyboard, a small lonesome sock on the scanner and a school reading book – which – oh dear – should have gone off to school today with the youngest. Check which older children are online on Skype. Try not to call them. Then just type ‘Hi’ to one of them. We fire a little correspondance back and forth, then one of us caves in and rings. Next half an hour is spent chatting. Skype over for now I sigh and really get started. Just check those emails. Lots of sorting out for our youngest – cricket club,  party, lost library book. All sorted. Now I will really get started. Musn’t forget to thank someone for something so write a quick card. (I write cards for thank you letters as I have designed some myself and have got loads of them if anyone wants any!) Now I really will get started. Quick cup of coffee. Now I really, really will get started. Head down, type away on my fantastic iMac and there’s no stopping me until … is that the time already? Got to dash. Pick up youngest from school. That’s it until perhaps tonight!

Thanks, Belinda.

About the Author:

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard is Belinda Roberts’ first novel, although she has written twelve plays for children’s theater, which have been performed by groups throughout the world. She lives in England.

And now for the giveaway; 1 copy for US/Canada reader:

1. Leave a comment on this post about a Darcy-related or Austen-related retelling or sequel I should be reading.

2.  Spread the word about the giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, etc. and leave a link here for a second entry.

Deadline is June 30, 2011, at 11:59PM EST

Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Amanda Grange‘s Wickham’s Diary takes a look at Wickham’s relationship with his childhood friend Darcy before they became enemies.  Even in the early entries, readers get a sense that Wickham feels he is entitled to certain pleasantries and that he is better than Darcy in many ways.  Much of this stems from his jealousy at being merely the steward’s son and being born into a particular class.

“Fitzwilliam and I rode out this early morning.  We raced down to the river and I won, beating him by a good two lengths, at which I laughed and called him a sluggard.  He was annoyed and challenged me to a race back to the house.  I accepted the challenge and, once our horses were rested, we set off.” (page 3)

Initially, Wickham captures that jealousy at the behest of his mother to mold his charm and air of authority in an effort to better his station and prospects through his acquaintance with Darcy, his relatives, and his friends.  However, once he and Darcy head off to Cambridge, things take a turn for the worse for Wickham.  And while many of his problems are self-induced, tragedy does step in and become a catalyst for his downward spiral.

Grange has taken the character of Wickham, and while not making him sympathetic, helps readers understand his motivations and the role his parents and friends played in making him the man he becomes when readers meet him in Pride & Prejudice.  However, there are gaps in the diary, some lasting several years, that are not elaborated on or talked about.  What happens to Wickham and his family during those intervening years is unknown and not explored, which readers may find disheartening.  Readers also could disagree with the picture Grange paints of Wickham — a man easily swayed into trouble by others.

Overall, Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange is an inside look at the possible motivations of the villain in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  Her George Wickham is a young man unhappy with his life station, but too lazy to change it and easily swayed down the easiest path — whether it is finding an heiress or having a good time while away at school.  At just about 200 pages, the novel is a light read and the diary entries make it easy for readers to pick up and read for short intervals at a time.

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds

What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds is another variation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  In this version, Elizabeth and Darcy have an opportunity to express their feelings following her surprise tour of the Pemberley grounds at Lambton just before the news of Lydia’s elopement reaches Elizabeth.  The story begins months after her refusal of Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, and the plot follows along much of the original story, with stolen kisses and embraces, as well as secret letters.

“Dear Miss Bennet,

It is always a pleasure to hear from you, but I must admit the arrival of your letters is becoming quite a source of entertainment in itself.  My brother thinks I do not notice how he watches for the post now, but how could I miss the way he hovers in an agony of suspense over me when I read your letters until I finally take pity on him and allow him to read for himself, and then he spends no less than half an hour admiring your letter, for it cannot possibly take him so long to read it!”  (page 46 of ARC)

No new characters are introduced, but Reynolds does provide us with a version of Georgiana Darcy that is not seen in the original novel.  She opens up to Lizzy and becomes less reserved once she’s around girls her own age.  However, will the changes in Georgiana be welcome to Darcy or run contrary to his expectations?  And how will this new Georgiana impact Lizzy and Darcy’s relationship?

Unlike the Lizzy in Austen’s novel, Reynold’s Lizzy is more cautious in her assessments of Darcy and his behavior as she realizes her prejudices and misjudgments nearly cost her a love she never knew she had.  Darcy also is more cautious in his dealings with Lizzy.  Readers, however, will be happy to know that each is still impetuous when it comes to one another and their passion.  This is where the novel deviates into a more modern sensibility as Lizzy and Darcy share a few intimate moments — some of which get them into trouble and others that leave them breathless.

Beyond the intimacies of Darcy and Elizabeth and their budding relationship, readers also get a glimpse into Lizzy’s character, particularly how her wit helps her keep an adequate distance from friends and acquaintances and enables her to disengage quickly from distasteful relationships and situations.  Overall, What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds is a delightful escape into Austen’s world with her beloved characters.

Staying at Daisy’s by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell continues to be one of the best writers of witty women’s fiction.  In Staying at Daisy’s, the hotel business is never dull even in a tourist trap like Colworth, England, particularly if the owner and his daughter are running the show.  Daisy is straight-laced and in charge, while her father, Hector, continues to sing and dance with the guests and be the life of the party.  Daisy’s best friend Tara, the chambermaid, continues to struggle with her love life and falls into a familiar role with a past lover, while the new porter, Barney, has fallen in love with a woman from Daisy’s past.  Mix it all together with two desirable men, Josh and Dev, and Staying at Daisy’s is bound to lighten readers’ moods and ensure at least a dozen laughs and smirks.

“‘Which just goes to show how brilliant my choice is when it comes to men.’

He half smiled.  ‘That’s not true.  You used to have excellent taste.’

‘Whereas you went for quantity rather than quality.’  Daisy couldn’t resist teasing him.  ‘Anyway, never mind all that.  How long are you down here for?’

Josh shrugged and ruffled his hair.  ‘I’m easy.’

‘We already know that.'”  (Page 167 of ARC)

Daisy has always been on the lookout for the perfect man . . . her #10 even when she was dating a great guy.  Ironically, her husband may have looked like a #10, but his personality was far from it.  Her foil in terms of dating and relationships, Tara, goes for any man that pays her the least bit of attention, even if he is a scoundrel and already married.  In a way, Daisy’s father, Hector, also acts as a foil to her responsible nature as he gets drunk and serenades the guests with his not-so-great singing voice and his bagpipes.  Daisy can learn a lot from Tara and Hector.  She needs to loosen up and let her hair down, but she plays things close to the vest.

Mansell keeps you guessing with Daisy and Hector with Daisy waffling between her two male interests and Hector not letting on which woman he prefers.  Staying at Daisy’s is a novel that will take you into the country and show you its lighter side amidst the fashionable and elite.  Readers, however, may find that certain events or moments come to pass that seem a little “too convenient” and yet random.  Overall, Mansell creates fun characters that will keep you guessing and laughing.

***Please stop by Reading Frenzy for today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop on Dylan Thomas.

Giveaway: Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Sourcebooks has found some additional galleys of Sarah Bower’s Sins of the House of Borgia and is offering one of my US/Canada readers a copy.

The book comes out March 8, 2011, and I’m sure you would love to know what the book is about.  Courtesy of the publisher:

“Violante isn’t supposed to be here, in one of the grandest courts of Renaissance Italy. She isn’t supposed to be a lady-in-waiting to the beautiful Lucrezia Borgia. But the same secretive politics that pushed Lucrezia’s father to the Vatican have landed Violante deep in a lavish landscape of passion and ambition.”

About the Author:

Sarah Bower is a novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, The Needle in the Blood, was Susan Hill’s Book of the Year 2007. Her short stories have appeared in magazines including QWF, Buzzwords and The Yellow Room. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2002. She teaches creative writing at UEA and for the Open University. She also works as a mentor and manuscript reader for leading literary consultancies.

To enter:

1.  Comment about what political or religious intrigues would you like to be embroiled in if you had the chance.

2.  For a second entry, blog, tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway.

Deadline Feb. 14, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Mary Lydon Simonsen‘s The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy re-imagines Pride & Prejudice in such a way that Darcy and Elizabeth cannot get past their misunderstandings and disagreements without a little help from two matchmakers — Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh.  Anne takes the reins for much of the book after she learns her cousin Darcy has proposed marriage to Elizabeth at Rosings and failed miserably at gaining her hand and love.

The main plot points of Lizzy’s visit to Pemberley, Lydia’s downfall with Wickham, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s visit to Hertfordshire are all present, but Anne helps convince Lizzy to visit Pemberley and prompts her mother to visit Hertfordshire.  Georgiana is a secondary matchmaker in this novel, but she’s witty and grows into her role as mistress of Pemberley by ensuring her guests are comfortable and do not annoy one another, especially since Caroline Bingley and Elizabeth are in the same room vying for the same man’s affections.

“And, yet, Anne was saying that Mr. Darcy went with his sister to the milliner’s shop.  Lizzy could just picture him, crossing and uncrossing his legs, and drumming his fingers on top of his hat, when he was not pacing the floor.”  (page 56)

Simonsen has sketched a strong Anne and Georgiana, women who are more modern than convention dictates, but who are well aware of society’s expectations for their behavior.  Georgiana is about to come out into society when things go awry in the Bennet family, but she unselfishly tells her brother to right the wrongs and go to his love to ease her pain.  Unlike Austen’s minimal sketch of Georgiana as a beloved sister, Simonsen creates a strong young woman with romantic notions and a penchant for writing.

Not to worry because Jane and Mr. Bingley’s romance is not forgotten, but there is more than one obstacle thrown in their way after Bingley is convinced by Darcy and the Bingley sisters to cease his courtship of Jane.  Enter Mr. Nesbitt, a solicitor with a odd sense of courtship and love.  This subplot is delightful, serves to increase the suspense in the Darcy-Lizzy romance, and is full of twists and turns.

“While Mary was croaking out a lullaby, the youngster had put his hands over his cousin’s mouth and had asked her not to sing.  Everyone in the family now owed a debt of gratitude to a four-year-old boy.”  (page 161)

“‘I am not angry with either of you.  I am, however, a little disconcerted that you embarked on such an elaborate scheme after I told you I already had a plan in place.’

‘Your plan was terrible.  I have saved you weeks of anxiety about Elizabeth.  You must own to it, Will.  My plan was better than yours.”  (page 204)

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen is engaging and funny.  The interactions between Anne and Darcy are often filled with playful jabs between cousin, and the dialogue between Jane and Lizzy are not only sisterly but full of sweet teasing.  Another fun re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice that delves deeper into the secondary characters of Austen’s novel.

If you missed Mary Lydon Simonsen’s guest post and the chance to win one of two copies of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, there’s still time to check them out.

About the Author:

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona where she is working on her next Jane Austen novel. For more information, please visit http://marysimonsenfanfiction.blogspot.com/ and http://www.austenauthors.com/, where she regularly contributes.