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The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 352 pgs.
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The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman follows Eva Cassidy aboard the Lurline on its way to Hawaii where she will serve as an army nurse in Pearl Harbor. She has secrets, and she’s hoping that despite her new name and faked documents, she will be able to use her nursing skills and send money to her sister, Ruby, who was struck with polio, in Michigan. Aboard the ship, she is immediately drawn to Lieutenant Clark Spencer, a man with secrets of his own.

“He reminded Eva of her father, who was always requiring her to answer her own questions and solve her own problems.” (pg. 29)

Ackerman’s WWII setting is well rendered, and the scenes where the Zeroes attack and the harrowing chaos of the hospital are vivid and frightening, especially viewing it from the point of views of her characters. Whether with Spencer trying to save himself and the men around him as bullets shower down on them or with Eva running from a lecture hall to the hospital.

“With fewer new injuries coming in, the nurses busied themselves cleaning up the place in between surgeries and tending the wounded. You could hardly see the linoleum under mud, soot, and blood. Beds and sheets were soiled, and so were the men.” (pg. 250)

The love triangle between Eva, Clark, and Billy — her hometown boyfriend who helped her get her job and wants to marry her — is wrapped up a little too neatly in the end. There also is a government conspiracy that is a little too thin, given that one of the key players is not as high level as one would expect, as well as some other nuances. None of this detracted from Ackerman’s lovely story about a woman wronged and looking to still fulfill her dreams and build a new life in paradise. The attack on Pearl Harbor looms large but it is not the heart of this story.

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman’s well-researched novel is a delight in terms of its heart. The resilience of humanity and its ability to pull together in times of crisis are its main themes. Eva Cassidy is a strong woman who lost her compass — her father — only to find she’s as strong as she was when he was alive. She just needed to tap into her strength for herself and those around her.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Sara is the bestselling author of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com. Connect with Sara: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Source: Berkley
Hardcover, 400 pgs
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The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is a novel of lasting friendship — one that surpasses the bounds of culture and war, as well as separation. Elise Sontag, a German American, finds that life during WWII becomes increasingly complicated when her father is arrested by the FBI in Davenport, Iowa. When her father is gone for months, his bank accounts are frozen, and the family is left to fend for itself, Elise learns that her school chums can be less mean than the world around her. Although she’s shunned at school, the sneers of passersby and neighbors, as well as the distrust from her father’s co-workers, are far worse. Through it all, she must be strong for her mother.

“Months later, in the internment camp, Mariko would tell me she believed there were two kinds of mirrors. There was the kind you looked into to see what you looked like, and then there was the kind you looked into and saw what other people thought you looked like.” (pg. 28)

When the entire family is reunited in Crystal City, an internment camp, she learns that even among the perceived “sympathizers” there are more Americans like her. But camp politics can be hard to navigate as someone who doesn’t see how she is perceived by those in the camp. Her focus is on trying to return to a normal life at the Federal School in the camp and befriending Mariko Inoue, a Japanese American from Los Angeles, who also feels more American than Japanese.

Meissner tackles a lot of larger themes, but the theme running through Elise Sontag’s narrative is one of identity. When our home country considers us the enemy, how do we reconcile that with who we know ourselves to be? How can we retain the goodness of our souls without succumbing to the perceptions of others? Can we hold onto what we know about ourselves when others see us as the enemy and send us to a place we feel is hostile to us because they also see us as the enemy?

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is a stunning novel about the last year of World War II from the untenable situation of a young American girl thrust behind enemy lines by her own nation. It is about the friendship that can blossom amidst terrible and heartbreaking conditions. This is a WWII novel that will grip your heart, squeeze it and leave readers wanting more. (I personally would want to read Mariko’s story!)

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website; on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at Facebook.

Christmas at Darcy House by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 5+ hrs.
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Christmas at Darcy House by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Julia Eve, is a variation that takes some liberty with Darcy’s reserved character when it places Elizabeth Bennet directly in the path of Mr. Wickham and a marriage proposal. Darcy unexpectedly finds Elizabeth to be in London, and his efforts to forget her after removing him and the Bingleys from Hertfordshire are for naught. Her fine eyes are there beckoning him to get closer, but for her part, she cannot understand why Darcy would want to dance with her at a Christmas ball or even be in her company after the things he’s said.

Darcy’s character is impulsive at just the wrong moment, but for the right reason, as he sees no other way to save Elizabeth from Wickham and his advances. Despite his uncharacteristic behavior, Elizabeth’s response is spot on in many ways. How can they resolve their differences and learn to meet in love when so much has been said and misunderstood?

Kincaid has pushed the envelope here with her Darcy character, but as the story evolves you can see how desperate he is at the prospect of losing Elizabeth to Wickham. The narrator was a bit odd when speaking male parts, as if she tried too hard to deepen her voice. Darcy’s narration came off less reserved and more harsh, but so too did Elizabeth’s narration at times.

Christmas at Darcy House by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Julia Eve, is a fun Yuletide variation that will keep readers on their toes. If you want something close to the original character of Mr. Darcy, this is not for you.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 7+ hrs.
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The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a heart-wrenching variation of Pride & Prejudice. Following a disastrous proposal at Hunsford, Darcy is determined to improve Elizabeth Bennet’s opinion of him and hopefully win her love. But upon his arrival at Longbourn with Bingley, a terrible loss has separated him from his love forever. She has not married another, but is presumed dead in a ship explosion. The devastation is written on Darcy’s face and is plain to even the most obtuse Bennets. Without any hope, he has set his mind to revenge — to find the French spy who caused the explosion and her death.

Kincaid has crafted a heartbreaking scenario in which Darcy with no training is thrust into an enemy nation bent on revenge. He is clearly ill-prepared for the task and a local doctor sniffs out his true identity pretty easily, despite his impeccable French. What begins as a revenge story morphs into a story of redemption when Darcy finds that Elizabeth is not dead, but very ill and remembers nothing of her life, including her name.

This Darcy is able to demonstrate his feelings because his barriers were crushed when he thought she was dead. With her alive, he has not qualms about expressing himself and his love. Whether he realizes it or not, he can redeem himself by caring for her and returning her home, even if he must don the disguise of being her husband to escape enemy territory. The audio narration here is perfect. Each moment between them narrated for dramatic effect without being over the top, and Zimmerman engages the readers emotions as Elizabeth struggles to remember her past and how she came to marry Darcy.

The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a wonderful variation full of drama, espionage, double-agents, budding friendship and love, as well as Austen’s trademark misunderstandings and prejudices. What readers will love here is how well the amnesia story line is laid out and how hard it is for Darcy to navigate the truth and fiction when his heart is so utterly lost to her and she does not remember him. Well done.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

Giveaway: President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 11+ hours
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President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Lucy Emerson, explores what would happen if Mr. Darcy was a single man from a wealthy family who became president with an agenda that Elizabeth Bennet and her family support, but then he slights her by calling her unintelligent and ugly. Kincaid has created an untenable situation for Darcy in which he has vowed not to date while president and professes not to be lonely, even though he is. When he misjudges Elizabeth and it becomes fodder for the Twitterverse, how can he overcome his ill-timed statements about Elizabeth and get her out of his heart and mind for the good of the country and his presidency?

Kincaid’s narrative is in defy narrative hands with Lucy Emerson, whose portrayal of both male and female characters is spot on throughout the book. Darcy is proud and snobbish, as well as quick to judge, but Elizabeth is stubborn and oh so oblivious to his attraction to her when he clearly takes his time to greet her warmly, apologize for his previous words, and have her favorite wine waiting on Air Force One.

I love how Kincaid navigated the restrictions of being the president in this one, even if there is one moment when protocols were thrown right out the window. The scandal that ensues makes it all worthwhile, even if it is wrapped up neatly. The scandals in this book are pretty tame compared to our daily news reports.

President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Lucy Emerson, is my favorite of Kincaid’s books so far. I love modern variations, so if you are a puritan in the world of Austen, this is not for you. There’s humor, moments of sexual tension and release, and a lot of miscues between Darcy and Elizabeth. And Lydia….oh, Lydia…you’ll like her even less in this one.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Victoria Kincaid is the author of several popular Jane Austen variations, including The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth, Pride & ProposalsMr. Darcy to the Rescue, When Mary Met the Colonel, and Darcy vs. Bennet. All of her books have been listed in Amazon’s Top 20 Bestselling Regency Romances.  The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth was nominated for a Rone award and Pride and Proposals was recognized as a top Austenesque novel for 2015 by Austenesque Reviews.

Victoria has a Ph.D. in English literature and has taught composition to unwilling college students. Today she teaches business writing to willing office professionals and tries to give voice to the demanding cast of characters in her head.

She lives in Virginia with an overly affectionate cat, an excessively energetic dog, two children who love to read, and a husband who fortunately is not jealous of Mr. Darcy.  A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

***GIVEAWAY***

Victoria Kincaid is offering 1 audiobook copy of President Darcy to one lucky reader.

Leave a comment below with your email by March 13, 2019, at 11:59 PM EST.

Elevation by Stephen King

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 160 pgs.
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Elevation by Stephen King is a novella in which Scott Carey finds something strange is going on with his weight but he doesn’t want to go to a doctor or hospital to be prodded and tested.

“Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.” (pg. 94)

The story is relatively benign compared to some of King’s other more sinister fare, but it does raise questions about mortality and what we want to leave behind. Carey is an average, overweight, white male, in a rural touristy town reliant on outsiders for its economy for the most part, and in many ways they are cloistered from the realities of the outside communities.

Their bubble is easily burst by the up-and-coming vegan eatery run by a married gay couple, who the townsfolk consider interlopers and have not been kind to since their arrival. As one member of the town puts it, they could have just laid low and things would have been fine but one of them had to introduce the other as her wife. That was too much  “in-your-face.” While we’d love to say that this a cliche of conservatives in rural areas, it isn’t very much and it’s clear that King has seen these people in action first hand. Is his take on Deidre and Missy cliche? It just may be.

Elevation by Stephen King is a breezy read about how to leave your mark and how sometimes even good intentions can be misunderstood and often are. People who have shied away from his novels before may want to pick this up. Nothing gory, bloody, or too dangerous here, but there is a fantastical story about a man striving to be more than he has been as his condition takes control.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Fly With Me by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is gorgeous. The photographs and reproductions of artwork are stunning, bring each bird to life for young readers. With these colorful pictures, it will be hard for young readers to turn away, and parents will be able to use this as a resource for not only the biology of birds, but also in geography lessons in which state birds are talked about. The giant state bird map is wonderfully detailed, as are the pages about migration, ancient birds, evolution and extinction, and so much more.

I originally wanted to review this book because poetry is included, and Yolen’s poems are always accessible to a number of audiences. I wasn’t wrong about that here, either, as her poems in this book are a great way to introduce young readers to birds. There also are poems from Heidi E.Y. Stemple, which are equally accessible. I loved sharing with my daughter how Stemple’s poem, “Vee,” not only examines the migration of geese but is also shaped like the “V” formation of geese.

Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is a collection that the whole family can share. It was big hit for its colorful pages and its poetry, but there is so much more to explore in these pages.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Authors:

JANE YOLEN is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature.

HEIDI STEMPLE was 28 years old when she joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published 20 books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.
Stemple, her two daughters, her mom, and a couple cats live in Massachusetts on a big old farm with two houses.

JASON STEMPLE is an author and photographer. He lives with his wife and children in Charleston, South Carolina.

ADAM STEMPLE is a novelist and musician. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Summie Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 170 pgs.
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Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye is a slow burn, because like happiness it can take time to see when you actually have it. Pye’s characters are all unique in their experiences from a young man rebelling against his perceptions of his father by looking to a career in skateboarding to an artist who’s big ritual signals an end to his long-fought-for break. These stories explore how long happiness lasts, and in many cases, these characters realize that their happiness happened long ago or that their current happiness may be cut too short.

From “Crying in Italian” (pg. 24)

“The children huddle, deciding if their longing for gelato can be satisfied with limonata instead. That’s the question, isn’t it? she thinks. Can one high, desperate longing be satisfied by something else instead?

From “White Dog” (pg. 36)

“From somewhere behind the house, two gunshots sounded rapidly, one after the other. Dunster flinched and Roxanne steadied him. ‘Enemy’s closer than we thought,’ he mumbled.”

Pye’s intimate portraits of these characters reveal the motivations we all have and the worries we carry about our own happiness. If something looks better in someone else’s life, don’t we covet it and wonder what it would be like to be them? We look and think that their happiness is better than our own and we either strive to emulate that which we see or we destroy what happiness we have in seeking out the “other” happiness. Then there is the internal doubt about our own happiness, the happiness we have in the moment — is it real or imagined? What is the shelf life of happiness? It’s probably different for everyone and some of us achieve more than others in terms of emotional happiness, but what does it even mean to be happy?

Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye offers a variety of stories exploring this idea of happiness and what it means in all of its forms. Some happiness lasts longer than others, and some characters soon realize the thing they thought they needed to be happy is not the happiness they had. Big questions for book clubs to explore and so much more.

RATING: Quatrain

PHOTO: Terry Brown

About the Author:

Virginia Pye is the author of two award-winning novels, Dreams of the Red Phoenix and River of Dust, and the forthcoming short story collection, Shelf Life of Happiness. Her stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The North American Review, The Baltimore Review, Literary Hub, The New York Times, The Rumpus, Huffington Post and elsewhere. She lived in Richmond, Virginia, for many years and recently returned Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she grew up.

She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied with Allan Gurganus, Joan Silber, and Chuck Wachtel. In college at Wesleyan University she learned from Annie Dillard and F.D. Reeve. After graduate school, she served as assistant to Frances Goldin at her literary agency in New York City. Virginia has taught creative writing and literature at New York University, and later in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania, in high schools, community centers, and in her home. In Richmond, she helped establish and run James River Writers, a literary non-profit. In Boston, she now teaches at Grub Street Writing Center.

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 374 pgs.
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The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher is historical fiction at its finest, successfully blending historical fact with characterization and fictional characters. Anyone who knows the history of the Kennedy family or has read anything about the family beyond the famous president, JFK, will love seeing Kick Kennedy take center stage in her own story. Kathleen Kennedy was the second oldest daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy and spent some of her years in London when her father was an ambassador for the United States. In Maher’s novel, she comes to life as a faithful Catholic who is slightly more independent than traditional allows for. Despite her rebelliousness, Kick only goes so far against her parents wishes, even as she sees the folly of her father’s stance on Hitler’s movement across Europe.

“Kick had always been expected to perform better than anyone else, but here in England she wasn’t just Rose and Joe Kennedy’s fashionable daughter, eighteen years old and fresh from school, who could keep up with her older brothers when she set her mind to it. She was the daughter of Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic ever to be appointed to the coveted post in this most protestant of countries. This time, she had to succeed.” (pg. 4)

Unlike the expectations of their father imposed on his sons, Kick felt a different set of expectations from her mother. Catholic upbringing and being a Kennedy were the first and foremost concerns she must deal with no matter the situation. Under intense pressure to maintain her faith and meet the expectations of her family, Kick struggles when she finds herself loving England a great deal more than expected and her eye catches that of William Cavendish. Her world is thrown into chaos when her father is ousted from his position after Hitler breaks an agreement with England. She must leave with her family even if her heart begs her to stay.

Kick’s Catholic upbringing is a major part of who she is, but like her brothers, she also longs to forge her own path. There’s a more delicate balance she must maintain than her brothers merely because of her gender and the expectations of her family that she makes a good marriage, but her independence is also what makes her a Kennedy. Her relationship with her sisters and brothers make this an even richer story, demonstrating not only internal tension as one sibling becomes more favored by their parents. The roller coaster of her family life is only part of the tension in maher’s novel. The world is again at war, and Kick must make decision about how she will make a difference and assuage the longings of her heart without cutting herself off from the family and faith she feels is part of her identity.

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher is a look at how war changes the world and the people closest to you, and how faith can heal and tear people apart, as well as become a salve for loss. Maher has done her research well, and her version of Kick Kennedy would fit right in with the Kennedy clan.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

KERRI MAHER is also the author of This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. A writing professor for many years, she now writes full-time and lives with her daughter in Massachusetts, where apple picking and long walks in the woods are especially fine.

Giveaway & Review: Pride & Proposals by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 9+ hours
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**There will be an Audible giveaway**

Pride and Proposals by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Erin Evans-Walker, places Mr. Darcy in an untenable situation, his Elizabeth engaged to Colonel Fitzwilliam. How can he reconcile the loss of the woman he loves to his beloved cousin and his need to see her happy? Could he endure it in silence? Would he run away? Would he fight to win her?

Elizabeth is unaware of Darcy’s feelings and seems to love Colonel Fitzwilliam and their like manners and easy way with one another makes their pairing endearing, even as Darcy is thrown into despair. Erin Evans-Walker does a commendable job of narrating the story, though there are moments where she makes Darcy seem very angry where the author may not have intended. There are moments where the action stalls and Darcy drinks overly much and scenes seem to repeat sentiments already expressed — Darcy’s despair at his loss of Elizabeth or Elizabeth commenting on how puzzling Darcy’s behavior is. While I love an independent Lizzy, I do wish she was a bit softer in this one, at least toward Darcy.

The entrance of Wickham kicked up the plot and made it much more engaging. Wickham is even more evil in this variation, and that makes the results of his machinations all the more satisfying. Pride and Proposals by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Erin Evans-Walker, is a bumpy ride of loss for both Darcy and Elizabeth. An early death, a life as a wealthier single lady targeted by Wickham, and Darcy still unable to articulate his feelings, make this version a roller-coaster ride of emotion.  Darcy in this version is a bit tough to take and Elizabeth is a bit obtuse, though her struggle with her feelings for Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are genuine.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

GIVEAWAY:

For those who wish to enter the giveaway, there will be 2 winners. One will receive an Audible of  Pride and Proposals and the other will receive The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth

Leave a comment and email below and a winner will be selected on Oct. 25, 2018, at 11:59 PM EST.

Good Luck!

The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hours
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The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a variation in which Darcy and Elizabeth find they have a second chance to get to know one another in France after a disastrous proposal at Hunsford. There’s a brief lapse in the tensions between England and France, allowing the English to take holidays in France.

Here, Darcy is trying to escape his embarrassment and the loss of the woman he loves, as Colonel Fitzwilliam tempts him with parties and outings in France. Unexpectedly, he runs into Elizabeth at a ball as the Gardiners take her on holiday in France, while her uncle conducts business. Will this be a moment for Darcy to redeem himself in her eyes, or will he have to accept that she is still angry and not interested in him?

Kincaid places her characters in untenable situations, especially when Darcy and Elizabeth have to pretend they are barely acquainted when back in England thanks to Lydia and other scandalous activities of family members on both sides. Darcy is hard-pressed to keep Elizabeth happy, even as his jealousy almost reveals every secret they hold from their weeks in France before they were forced to flee when England declares war.

Zimmerman is an excellent narrator for both male and female characters. She embodies their different stations in society and their personalities well. The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a delightful story, even if it presses the bounds of society’s rules. There are moments where purists will shake their heads, but others will thoroughly enjoy these improprieties.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 17+ hours
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The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, narrated by Barbara Caruso, was our September book club selection (unfortunately, I missed the meeting). Aurelia is a young girl who lives with her housekeeper mother in a Catholic school until her mother falls ill before they are set to embark with her uncle to Japan. Without her mother, she becomes despondent and longs for a home, but her uncle, a priest, is less equipped to provide that for her, even in Japan. When a fire rips through the area, Aurelia is alone and hiding in the grounds of the Shin family when the daughter, Yakako, finds her. She’s soon adopted into the family, less as a daughter and more as a servant.

Tea ceremonies are the life blood of the Shin family, but in the late-nineteenth century, the nation faces a number of political changes. Even though she is young and eventually reaches puberty in the Shin family, she becomes integral to the household and feels more at home with them than those from the West. There are still moments where she stumbles, unsure of the customs and eager to indulge Yakako’s need for freedom, until they paint themselves into a corner with her father.

Caruso’s voice is a perfect fit for a novel about tea ceremonies in Japan, a ritual only executed by men. Like many women in Japanese society, their actions are based on ceremony and deference to the men in their lives — a father and a husband — but even then, they can find small comforts among themselves. Aurelia is no different. There is much hard work, conflict with the father, and anxiety due to the changes in Japan — a westernization that could brush aside the importance of tea ceremonies.

There are moments when readers will have to suspend disbelief — how can Aurelia (Urako) learn about Japan from books in 1866? Or learn the language to make it passable just from those books and a cook on the ship over — but the interactions of Aurelia with her protector Yakako are delightful as they navigate the differences in their cultures and misunderstandings. But the narrative gets bogged down in the historical detail, leaving readers wondering what the point of it all is and why they didn’t just pick up a history book instead.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, narrated by Barbara Caruso, spans about 40 years and much of the Shin family’s time is spent decrying the modernization and westernization of Japan, which is reasonable given the dedication the family has to tea ceremonies. However, Aurelia seems to merely be an observer in her life most of the time, doing little to grow other than what her benefactors tell her. A well-researched and written novel, but the plot and characters plod along in what seems to be merely a history lesson from the eyes of a westerner thrust into a the role of imposter as the Shin family adopts her as their own servant. Her return home is less than climatic.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

The only writer ever to have received the American Library Association Stonewall Award for Fiction twice, Ellis Avery is the author of two novels, a memoir, and a book of poetry. Her novels, The Last Nude (Riverhead 2012) and The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead 2006) have also received Lambda, Ohioana, and Golden Crown awards, and her work has been translated into six languages. She teaches fiction writing at Columbia University and out of her home in the West Village.