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Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 368 pgs.
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Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner is set in post-war England when women are looking to hold onto the freedoms they’ve gained as the men became soldiers. Evie Stone, from her previous book The Jane Austen Society (check out my review), is one of the women working at the rare book store, Bloomsbury Books. She’s working in the background on her own project after a disappointment at Cambridge. Vivien Lowry, who works at the cash, has a list of grievances about the men who run the shop, particularly the Head of Fiction Alec McDonough, the golden boy of the manager Mr. Dutton, who has more than 50 rules that need to be followed without question by his employees. Meanwhile, Grace Perkins helps keep the ledgers for the bookstore and is a calming force. Her time at the bookstore is a source of solace from a turbulent home life where her husband has lost his job and she becomes the sole breadwinner and caregiver for her two sons and husband. These women appear to have little in common other than their jobs.

Jenner is fast becoming an automatic pre-order buy for me. Bloomsbury Girls is another historical fiction novel that takes real-life people like Samuel Beckett and others and breathes life back into them as they interact with Jenner’s own characters. Vivien has such a chip on her shoulder given how she was treated by her fiance’s family after his death in WWII, but she also sees the world of men in the shop as stifling. She wants everyone to see the world through her eyes, but Grace has her own ghosts to deal with and her approach is more conciliatory. Meanwhile, Evie prefers to fly under the radar as much as she can, although her work at Cambridge did gain recognition, though not the kind she wanted.

This little bookshop is a microcosm for the post-war world around them. Evie, Grace, and Vivien may be working women, but there is a little bit of distrust or hesitancy in trusting others on the part of all three women, until they realize that they need to come together to create the world they wish to see. I don’t want to giveaway anything in Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner. I absolutely loved the characters and their foibles, and I loved how these women came together with the help of some famous women who paved their way behind the scenes of other men. Don’t miss this gem of a novel.

RATING: Cinquain

Bloomsbury Girls is on sale on 5/17, check out this excerpt from the audiobook.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

A Message from Author Natalie Jenner:

Dear readers,

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved.

But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team).

Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Warmest regards,

Natalie

Check out the Book Trailer:

Accusing Mr. Darcy by Kelly Miller (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 13+ hrs.
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Accusing Mr. Darcy by Kelly Miller, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is part romance and part murder-mystery in which Mr. Darcy becomes accused of compromising/attacking Elizabeth Bennet! How can that be? Elizabeth Bennet is visiting her cousin Rose at the Kendall Estate, and Mr. Darcy has come to stay with his friend Nicholas. The husband and wife team of Rose and Nicholas may have ulterior motives for bringing their Elizabeth and Darcy to their home, but it is not to bring them together in matrimony.

Rose has talked up Captain James Kendall to Elizabeth and vice versa, hoping to make a love match between them. Meanwhile, Nicholas has invited several young ladies for Darcy to consider, even as he acknowledged that Darcy erred in his response to Elizabeth at his wedding. Darcy sets about to apologize to her for his friend’s sake, and the road to love is set in motion.

A murder in the Kendall neighborhood causes concern, but when one of the guests is attacked, a former Bow Street runner is called to solve the matter. A budding romance is hampered by the watchful eyes of investigators and men posted to ensure no one else is attacked until the culprit is caught. Miller has paced this novel well, and Elizabeth and Darcy are able to not only overcome miscommunications and prejudices but also work together and learn what it truly means to be partners. Even in a few short weeks, they have found they have more in common than not.

Stevie Zimmerman is as always a stunning narrator. She does well differentiating between the many characters and articulating the scenes to build tension and ensure readers are captivated. Accusing Mr. Darcy by Kelly Miller, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is full of romance, sweet moments, and mystery. A definite winner.

***And there’s a horse named Serena!***

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Award-winning author Kelly Miller writes Austenesque Regency romances. Her four published books are “Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley,” a “Pride & Prejudice” fantasy, winner, Royal Dragonfly Book Awards and Indies Today Book Awards; “Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match,” a “Pride & Prejudice” variation recommended by the Historical Novel Society; “Accusing Mr. Darcy,” a “Pride & Prejudice” romance/mystery, winner, Firebird book awards and Queer Indie Awards-Ally Division; and “A Consuming Love” a “Pride & Prejudice” novella. Look for “Captured Hearts,” a variation of “Persuasion,” to be released in early 2022. Ms. Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

1932 by Karen M. Cox (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 7+ hrs.
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1932 by Karen M. Cox, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is set during the Great Depression when economic turmoil upended so many lives and many lost their fortunes. The Bennets are not immune, as Mr. Bennet loses his professorship, forcing the family to leave their comforts of Chicago for Meryton, Kentucky, and Mrs. Bennet’s family farm. The family farm is quite an adjustment, with no bathroom indoors and a farm that hasn’t been very productive.

The Bennets set to work about getting the house in working order. William Darcy, owner of Pemberley, the largest farm in the county, however, has a rich and charmed life where everything is just as he likes it, until the new neighbors force him to take a harder look at his well-ordered life. When he meets Elizabeth Bennet, he is swept up in feelings he is unready for, but he’s unable to express himself in a clear way.

Cox clearly knows these characters well, and she develops them in believable ways for this time period and given the economic circumstances. Darcy is still the caring and somewhat prideful man we all expect him to be, but he’s definitely still a gentleman. Elizabeth is still a willful and spirited woman who wants to help all she loves. The more modern times do lend itself to a little more liberal storyline, especially where Georgiana is concerned.

1932 by Karen M. Cox, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is a delight and Wickham is even more trying in this modernized story. I loved the dynamic between Elizabeth and Darcy in Cox’s story. I loved that they had to navigate their marriage without understanding that they are “in love.” Don’t miss this Depression-era story.

About the Author:

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five full-length novels: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, I Could Write a Book, Undeceived, and Son of a Preacher Man. She also contributed short stories to several anthologies, including The Darcy MonologuesDangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues, Rational Creatures, and Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl.

Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.

Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker—like Elizabeth Bennet.

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
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Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron is like Nancy Drew set during the time of Jane Austen’s life. Part of the title is inspired by the historic eruption of Mount Tambora, which caused some series climate effects, including crop failures, and led to the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816. I loved that Barron stayed true to the whereabouts (based on historic record) of Austen and her sister, Cassandra, when they took a trip to Cheltenham Spa in Gloucestershire.

Things in the Austen household are not all roses, but even as uncertainty lays claim to the family’s fortunes and to the reputation of Austen’s brother Charles, Jane and her sister take the time to travel to the waters, hoping to improve Jane’s health. Once there, the ladies encounter some very dull and dark characters who many of the other guests seem to be avoiding. The spas themselves are not at all what either lady expects, and in fact, they begin to wonder if the waters are bad for people’s health.

When a young lady in a basket chair turns up at Mrs. Potter’s where they are staying, Austen and her sister are even more intrigued. A captain, a devoted friend who protects her friend in the chair, and a mysterious theater dialect coach all add to the mystery when a Viscount shows up claiming the woman in the basket chair is his wife! When a pug ends up dead at Mrs. Potter’s and later a murder occurs at the local masquerade, Austen and the smitten Mr. West work together to uncover the truth of the murder.

Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron is a delightful who-done-it mystery whose main protagonist is one of the great observers of human nature, Jane Austen. I loved that Austen used her keen observation skills to unearth the truth of the mysteries within these pages. All of the characters have their own secrets, and there is even a bit of romance for Jane herself. Highly recommend for Jane Austen readers and those who love a good mystery!

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the pen name, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Pinterest, and GoodReads.

From Ashes to Heiresses by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 1+ hrs.
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From Ashes to Heiresses by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford, narrated by Catherine Bilson, is a delightful short story that occurs after Mr. Darcy’s unexpected and terrible proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, but in this story, Longbourn has burned down. Elizabeth and Jane are the only surviving members of the Bennet family, and they are forced to live with their relatives.

Bilson is a precise narrator, with perfect pronunciation and inflection. However, her narrative voice for Jane and Elizabeth is very similar, which makes it harder to discern who is speaking, especially if you are engaged in tasks other than listening to the audio. Her inflections for Mr. Darcy are spot on, however, making her rendition of him a standout.

McMann and Hanford have created a delightful alternative for our Austen characters, and while the romance is quickly tied up at the end, it works well with the characterizations early on in the story and the storyline. From Ashes to Heiresses by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford, narrated by Catherine Bilson, was a delightful distraction.

RATING: Quatrain

Liberty-Loving Lafayette: How ‘America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman’ Helped Win Our Independence by Dorothea Jensen

Source: Author
Paperback, 64 pgs.
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Liberty-Loving Lafayette: How ‘America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman’ Helped Win Our Independence by Dorothea Jensen is a rhyming narrative of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, and how he came to the United States to help us fight against the British in the Revolutionary War. In well written rhyme, Jensen will engage young readers in the life of Lafayette as a young man (only 19) eager to fight for freedom.

What I love about this book is that it takes history and makes it come alive for children with verse. It includes portraits and other art from the time of the war and beyond to illustrate the story, and uses some modern phrasing, like “good to go,” to make it relatable to younger generations of readers. While this is a succinct look at Lafayette’s contributions, there are resources, a glossary of terms, and larger explanations, as well as a bibliography, in the back of the book for teachers and parents to use and help children understand history a little better.

Liberty-Loving Lafayette: How ‘America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman’ Helped Win Our Independence by Dorothea Jensen would be a great addition to classrooms and home libraries, especially for those kids and parents interested in teaching American history. Kids will learn about no only the inspirations for Lafayette’s decision to come to the United States but also about how he played a key role in military successes.

Rating: Quatrain

The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright

Source: Purchased
Kindle, 372 pgs.
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The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright (the second book in this time travel series and these definitely should be read in order) is a delightful read. Rose Wallace is just getting to live her dream when Jane Austen reappears in her life at the most inopportune time. After some mild prodding, Austen engages Rose in another time travel adventure, and this time, Dr. Aiden Trevellyan joins her in the past where he’s in his glory — sketching the church, documenting Chawton House, and so much more.

***Don’t read below if you don’t want spoilers***

Rose is eager to help Jane in any way that she can, but she also wants to stay in her time and revel in the revelations she’s had with Aiden. Alas, there isn’t time because pressing matters require Rose to come back with Jane to 1813.

“No, this time, she had to live out the story, not just observe it … “

What I loved about this story is that Aiden and Rose know each other well enough to embark on this journey together, yet their new relationship status still provides that bit of insecurity and awkwardness we love to see in newly beginning relationships.

***Continue reading***

Grafton and Bright are a fantastic team in this series, providing the right amount of tension, awkwardness, and misunderstandings to keep the plot moving forward. Again, Rose finds herself in a situation that leaves her unmoored, but she finds that she can be as confident and courageous as Jane if she quells her emotions and thinks a bit more rationally. The societal confines of 1813 add to the tension and the emotional roller coaster here, which readers will love and hate at the same time.

I actually liked The Unexpected Past of Miss Jane Austen by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright more than the first book, and I really loved the first book. So I cannot wait to see where this series goes next. I hope I won’t have to wait too long.

RATING: Cinquain

Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa

Source: Publicist
Paperback, 232 pgs.
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Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa is a disturbing story with emotional and physical abuse, but the real crux of the novel is the impact of trauma on not only the generations immediately affected but how that trauma becomes a ripple effect throughout more than one generation. Gerda and Saul are survivors of the Holocaust and after escaping to the United States, they fall into a marriage because of their shared past, but is that enough to heal them.

“It began for Hannah during the winter of eighth grade.

The artificial feeling. I am not acting real, she would think. I am not real. I don’t exist, pressed between my mother’s and father’s spirits, suffocated by their warring. While she responded cheerily to her friends’ overtures, she felt as if she were artificial, a windup doll.” (pg. 91)

Readers will be taken into the tormented mind of Gerda and how her outbursts and physical abuse of Saul and her children leads to her daughter, Hannah, internalizing Gerda’s psychological issues. Readers will be drawn into this family quickly, but at the start, readers will likely be slack jawed in disbelief. Trauma affects people in different ways. Saul is no less affected by trauma, but his manifests in less violent ways. He withdraws from his family completely to protect himself, he doesn’t act to protect his children, he’s a passive observer of his life.

Espinosa is a gifted storyteller and her novel pulls no punches about mental health and its reverberating effects from parent to child. She clearly has some experience with mental illness and it shows in the realistic portrayal of this family and their struggles. Like many with mental illness, there is no resolution or solution that remedies everything in their lives, and Espinosa doesn’t pretend that there will be. Her characters are broken, the edges are sharp, and the story is stark. Don’t miss out on reading Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Maria Espinosa, a former Bay Area resident who now lives in Albuquerque, has been an author for over 50 years. A novelist, poet, translator, and teacher, who has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, New York Review of Books, and The San Francisco Chronicle, she is featured in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. Her five novels include: Incognito: Journey of a Secret Jew, Dark Plums, and Longing, which received an American Book Award, as well as Dying Unfinished, which received a Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence from PEN Oakland. Her fifth and most recent novel Suburban Souls, tells a tale of Jewish German Holocaust survivors in 1970s San Francisco. She has also published two collections of poems, Love Feelings, and Night Music, and a critically acclaimed translation of George Sand’s novel, Lelia. Concerned with human communication on a level that transcends the norms permitted by society, her novels focus on the subtle as well as the obvious forces that shape a human being.

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd (audio)

Source: Publisher

Audiobook, 10+ hours

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Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is a delightful collection of short stories written by some of the best Jane Austeneque writers — Joana Starnes, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Karen Cox, Christina Morland, Elizabeth Adams, Beau North, J. Croft, and Leigh Dreyer. From historic pieces and those set during the time of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to modern stories in which Elizabeth is an electrical engineering student in a male-dominated field, these authors explore the inner workings of Elizabeth. We see her prejudices and preconceptions, but we also see her flaws, as well as her self-analysis of her own actions and those of others.

Elizabeth Grace is a wonderful narrator, breathing light into each of these Elizabeths and situations. She’s an admirable narrator who becomes a one-woman cast.

“Resistive Currents” by Karen M Cox is one of the more modern tales. Here, we see conundrum of a teaching assistant Mr. Darcy drawn to an intelligent electrical engineering student, Elizabeth, bent on proving to the male-dominated field that she’s a capable student who just wants a fair shot — the same as her male colleagues. First, the title of this story is brilliant given the content, and I love how it plays on the electricity between Elizabeth and Darcy as they navigate the relationship of student and TA in a world where Elizabeth feels she has to continually prove herself worthy. Like this story, Christina Morland’s “Atmospheric Disturbances” explores the tensions that are bound to rise up between two passionate and strong-willed people in love. Every moment of the drawing room is meant to build the tension between these characters that barely know one another — a tension borne of a lack of knowledge between them.

Elizabeth Adams’ “Something Like Regret” brings to life the thoughts of Elizabeth on her visit to Pemberley after her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s proposal at Rosings. It’s a time when many have speculated that she would accept Darcy because of his fortune or because his housekeeper praised his disposition, but as a rational and passionate creature, Elizabeth must make a more intelligent and deeper examination of her rejection of him and many of their exchanges. I love this introspection as she walks about the house and the gardens and how Darcy appears. It is a beautiful story. I love her observations of the changes in him upon first seeing him. She’s so observant here, despite the shock of seeing him. “The Last Blind Date” by Leigh Dreyer is a delightful modern story that reminded me of those awkward dates you have and the tentative exchange you have as strangers until you realize there could be something more. Darcy is not talkative, and Elizabeth is quick to judge, but rather than call the blind date quits, they move ahead with it, tentatively.

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd, narrated by Elizabeth Grace, is another anthology winner, hitting the stories out of the park with a range of angst, love, prejudice, and pride, but what I loved based about these sweet stories is that we see Elizabeth in all her turmoil and introspection. She’s forced to rethink her past actions, her current actions and behavior, and she forces herself to apologize on more than one occasion. These stories are deep, emotional, and about the roller coaster ride of young love when it is first budding.

RATING: Cinquain

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Source: publisher
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
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Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan is like the oral tales of old where facts are distorted by the story teller from ear to ear. During the Roman invasion of Britannia, we meet the Smith family in which Hobble is a runt because of her gait issues, her mother is a healer for the tribe at Black Lake, and her father is the blacksmith. Like the lake with its dark, unknowable depths, much of the nature-based religion and philosophy of the Druids leaves the village’s families tentative in their dealings. With certain families currying favor with hunted meat and others who are too meek to stand up to a dying religion, there are mysteries lurking.

The Smith family was once considered among the best and most generous, but their fall from First Family has left Devout, Hobble, and Young Smith doing their best to appease the lone druid who comes to Black Lake and the Hunter family, who now holds that coveted place in society, are just waiting to pounce and reclaim their place.

Hobble has been training with her father to run fast despite her disability. Weak members or runts are considered possible sacrifices to appease the gods if needed. Devout, her mother, has a secret, and like the Black Lake she is impenetrable, at least in Hobble’s eyes. Their relationship is muddied by the secrets she holds, even as Hobble displays a gift of foresight and an ability to “see” the truth. She is unique compared to the other bog dwellers, but her vision of the invading Romans becomes a serious concern for her family, the village, and the lone druid who comes to seek brave men to join his rebellion.

“Though we do not speak of my birth, I can describe the deep blue veins webbing my mother’s breasts, the slight tremble of my father’s hand as he clenched his knife, and above all, the way she hid the crescent from his view. The finer points of the scene glinted before me with the exactness of a sharpened blade, same as they had for that vision of R0mans at Black Lake.” (pg. 3)

This mystical tale is woven like a tapestry with each strand hard to hold onto until it comes together with the other colors to create a full scene of village life under the druids and the change that hovers on the horizon under Roman rule. In the backdrop the struggle for power plays out just as it does in the foreground between the Smiths and Hunters where the power shifts from one to the other. Buchanan’s story unfolds in a deliberate way to immerse the reader in this ancient time when even writing was not done and knowledge was passed from person to person. Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a struggle for survival amid a world of secrets and lies, political gains and losses, and magic.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Photo Credit: Heather Pollack

About the Author:

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the nationally bestselling novels The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls. She lives in Toronto. Find out more about Cathy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

EXCERPT:

Join us for a fun tour with reviews accompanied by progressive excerpts on the blogs and a game of finding out your “Black Lake name” on Instagram beginning Oct. 8!

Please use the hashtag #daughterofblacklake, and tag @tlcbooktours, @riverheadbooks, and @cathymbuchanan.

Devout was once a maiden of thirteen, wandering the woodland at the northern boundary of the clearing at Black Lake. She felt the sun reaching through her skin cape and her woolen dressas she walked, gaze sweeping the curled leaves, twigs, and fallen branches of the woodland floor. She bristled with anticipation. Now that she had begun to bleed, that very evening she would join the rest of the youths eligible to take mates in celebrating the Feast of Purification. Together they would mark the advent of a new season, and in doing so leave behind the cold, bitter season called Fallow and welcome the slow thaw of the season called Hope. At such a promising juncture, Black Lake’s boys offered trinkets to the maidens. With a polished stone or an opalescent shell, a boy made known his desire to take a particular maiden as his mate, and with that gift accepted and then a witnessed declaration, a maiden cast her lot.

Devout told herself not to beselfish, not to set her heart on holding in her cupped palms evidence of a boy’s yearning. It was her first Feast of Purification, and the possibility of a mate remained as unfathomable as the distant sea. Still, the idea of a trinket, of being singled out, of wide eyes and maidens gushing that she had drawn affection—all of it glinted like a lure before a fish.

She stooped to peer beneath a bush, looking for the bluish‑purple petals of the sweet violet she had come into the woodland to collect. The flowerheld strong magic: A draft strained from a stew of its boiled flowers brought sleep to those who lay awake. A syrup of that draft mixed with honey soothed a sore throat. A poultice of the leaves relieved swellings and drew the redness from an eye. She touched her lips, then the earth. “Blessings of Mother Earth,” she said.

Mother Earth would come that night, and in Devout’s mind’s eye, she pictured her arrival, imagining it much like the mist rolling in from the bog. Mother Earth would glide into the clearing, permeate the clutch of roundhouses, and in doing so chase away vermin, dis‑ ease, wickedness. The cleansing put the bog dwellers at ease. Though the Feast of Purification came at a time when the days were growing longer, still night ruled. After a daythat was too short for the bog dwellers to have grown tired, they tossed amid tangles of woven blan‑ kets, furs, and skins, worry creeping into their minds. Would the stores of salted meat, hard cheese, and grain last? Was there enough fodder left for thesheep? Had slaughtering all but a single cock been a mistake? Were the ewes’ bellies hanging sufficiently low? Were their teats adequately plump?

Check out the next stop on the blog tour and the next excerpt at Lit and Life.

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 2+ hours
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When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a delightful novella with a meet-cute between Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam at the wedding breakfast of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy at Longbourn. Mary is considered the religious one, but what if there was a bit of rebel in her too? Perhaps she’s more like Elizabeth than anyone suspects — she does do quite a bit of reading.

Zimmerman is always a delightful narrator and her inflections are fantastic. She makes the perfect match here as Mary’s voice, but even the men are narrated well. I expect nothing less.

Kincaid’s novella is short and sweet, and sadly that was the one drawback for me. I wanted to see more of them together and apart. I wanted more of the colonel in the battle scenes and more of his military mind explored on the battlefield. However, I did love the bits of impropriety here and thought that they worked out well. But once the cat is out of the bag, I suppose I expected a bit more “proper” response from Elizabeth and Darcy, but perhaps marriage has softened them.

Mary Bennet is full of surprises, and like her elder sister has a sharp mind and a bit of mischief in her. I was delighted to see a better side of Mary in this novella, and I loved that the Colonel could appreciate her. Their story is short and sweet, but there is no lack of tension when a lord comes to call at Matlock House and disrupts the whole will-they, won’t-they drama. This is the moment where having more would have helped the story line. I wanted to see how this Lord had become interested in Mary and what their interactions were like so when he arrives, I’m less surprised and confused by his sudden ardor.

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a satisfying story for a young lady too often left in the background, but here, she is center stage and shines brightly, especially when she gets her happily ever after.

RATING Quatrain

See my other reviews.

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James

Source: JAFF Get-Together Book Swap
Paperback, 168 pgs.
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Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James re-imagines the Netherfield Ball in which Mr. Darcy is accused of compromising Elizabeth Bennet and forced marriage takes place.How will Elizabeth cope in a forced marriage to a virtual stranger, someone she’s only sparred with verbally while tending her sick sister? What other changes will happen as a result. I really loved the plot and changes in this story to Austen’s original, but at the beginning I was put off by the exposition of the plot before the ball. I think this story could have started with minimal exposition and continued from the ball. This is told from Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view, which limits the narration and keeps readers in the dark about things Elizabeth doesn’t know or experience, which really helped build the tension in the latter part of the story.

Here Mrs. Darcy is striving to prove herself worthy and to please her husband, whom she doesn’t really know, because the situation is so new and she doesn’t want to harm their potential happiness, even if their marriage doesn’t start off well. She must learn to find her way back to her forthright self in this novel, which could be hard for some readers to bear, but given the forced marriage to a man she barely knows and certainly doesn’t understand, it makes sense that she would be more timid than she would have been as a single woman. However, I do think her better nature would have come out sooner, if in more mild ways to ensure her husband was aware of her feelings. I did love her blowout with Darcy; it was well executed.

Suddenly Mrs. Darcy by Jenetta James is a variation that makes for a quick read in the summer afternoon; I was pleased to finally read a book cover to cover in a weekend, especially since the pandemic has upended my normal reading. I really enjoyed some of the changes James made in this story, with a new marriage for Mr. Collins and a meaner/more spiteful Lady Catherine. I also loved seeing the sisterly relationship between Elizabeth and Georgiana grow. Overall a good read.

RATING: Tercet