Archive for 'Historical Fiction'

Pride and Prescience – Book Review


by Carrie Bebris

ISBN- 13: 9780765318435

Published: 2004

This is the first in the ‘A Mr and Mrs Darcy Mystery’ series, but the second I’ve read.  I read the 3rd book (North by Northanger) first and was hoping that wasn’t like reading the back of a book and with relief it wasn’t.  Although set chronologically, each book, it seems, can stand alone.

This book starts at the joint wedding breakfast of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet.  The couples are a little miffed and the wedding, slightly married, by the sudden announcement of Caroline Bingley’s (Charles’ sister) engagement and intention to marry the following Wednesday.  However, the behaviour is true to form of the sharp tongued, attention seeking sister.  The newly married couples dutifully alter their own plans to accommodate Caroline’s marriage to the charming, rich American, Mr Parrish.

If the family were shocked at the suddenness of Caroline’s engagement, they were more shocked to note the sudden change in behaviour after her marriage.  Her current state of mind is so strange and dangerous to herself and those around her that the family would happily see her return to her normal unpleasant self.

While trying to care for their sister, the Bingleys themselves, start to experience a series of unfortunate events they are lucky to escape from with their lives.  The whole Bingley family appears to be a target for some unknown reason and the Darcys determine to find out who is behind it.

Combine a mystery, madness, a little occult, murder, Austen’s Elizabeth and Mr Darcy (let me catch me breath) and you have a fun book that I read from start to finish in one sitting.

I’m sure Miss Austen would approve.

Posted on 6 September '09 by , under Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 1 Comment.

Mr Knightley’s Diary – Book Review


by Amanda Grange

This ‘Diary’ series by Amanda Grange is a real treasure.

To observe Jane Austen’s Emma from Mr Knightley’s point of view is precious.  It presents Mr Knightley in a surprising way, with a little more vulnerability than you might have assumed.  Revealing insecurities that were only alluded to at the end of Emma.

Emma laments being doomed to blindness but this book accuses Mr Knightley of the same fault.

Mr George Knightley’s bachelorhood has always been a topic of conversation amongst the local ladies but he had never been inclined to change his position.  However, recently he has begun to feel his isolation and finds himself envious of those around him happily coupled. There are suitable women within his social circle but cannot imagine any of them being the mistress of Highbury.

His days are spent managing his estate and evenings spent sitting with his much loved neighbours Mr Woodhouse and his daughter Emma.  The Woodhouses and Knightleys were joined by marriage when Mr Knightley’s brother John married Emma’s older sister Isabella and Emma and Mr Knightley are doting aunt and uncle to John and Isabella’s much loved children.

If he finds no mistress of Highbury then Mr Knightley is happy in the knowledge that John’s eldest son will inherit.   He is content to spend his days and nights just as they are.

His pleasant resigned life is shaken with the arrival of a much talked of gentleman, Mr Frank Churchill, son of his good friend Mr Weston.  Mr Weston’s recent marriage to Emma’s governess Miss Taylor has resulted in a visit from Mr Churchill.  It has long been discretely discussed that Mr Churchilll and Miss Woodhouse may make a good match.  On meeting, the pair appear to be very pleased with each other.

Emma Woodhouse considers herself a matchmaker but her maneuvers to promote pairings causes no end of trouble.  Mr Knightley, Emma’s greatest critic, is frustrated by her nonsense and is truly concerned about her lack of sense.  His frustration seems only heightened by the influence of Mr Churchill on Emma.  Shocked by the severity of his reaction to Mr Churchill, Mr Knightley begins to wonder if what he is feeling is really jealousy.

Another great diary from Amanda Grange.  I recommend it to any Austen fan but beware because you are in danger of falling hopelessly in love with these Austen men.

Posted on 6 September '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 3 Comments.

North by Northanger – Book Review


by Carrie Bebris

ISBN: 0-765-31410-X

Published: 2006

A Mr and Mrs Darcy Mystery

I think my Austen collection is about to expand again.  I’m delighted by how good so many of the Austen inspired novels are.  Carrie Bebris has done a wonderful job of representing the Austen world.  Add Austen to the pot, throw in some Agatha Christie and you have a great recipe for an entertaining series.

North by Northanger – A Mr and Mrs Darcy Mystery is set 1 year after Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding.  Elizabeth is still finding her feet as the new mistress of Pemberley.  Elizabeth is feeling unsettled by the lasting  influence of its last mistress and is tentative about making changes.

Lady Anne, Darcy’s mother, tragically died giving birth to Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana.  Between Darcy and Georgiana she endured many miscarriages and stillborns.  Now Elizabeth is pregnant and although happy, her and Darcy are nervous.

While moving a desk, a letter from Lady Anne is discovered.   Not a strange thing to find as it was Lady Anne’s desk being moved and yet it was strange because the letter was addressed to Elizabeth as the next mistress of Pemberley.  The letter, written while she was in labour and just before she died, was hastily composed.   Lady Anne was distressed by misplacing something she treasured and felt she needed to ensure the safe delivery of her baby.  She begs Elizabeth to find it and have it herself for when she delivers her own babies.  Now Darcy and Elizabeth have a mystery to solve as Lady Anne didn’t say what the item was.

An unexpected invitation to visit Northanger Abbey arrives.  Frederick Tilney of Northanger explains that their mothers had been close friends and he wished to know Mr and Mrs Darcy.  Their visit proves to be disastrous and threatens Darcy’s name, reputation and freedom.

When stress is the last thing that Elizabeth needs, their blessed life is thrown into turmoil.

Carrie Bebris writes a wonderful tale that combines Jane Austen with Agatha Christie’s mystery and I loved it.  The characters are so familiar that it feels like they have stepped straight out of Austen’s books and although I guessed the culprits early on I was still surprised as other mysteries were solved.

Now I have only to look forward to reading the other novels in this series.

Thank you Carrie Bebris

Posted on 2 September '09 by , under Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 4 Comments.

Perfume – The Story of a Murderer – Book Review


By Patrick Suskind

ISBN-13: 9780140120837

ISBN-10:  0140120831

First Published: 1989

I can’t believe I’m using the word ‘delight’ to describe a book about a murderer but I have to. Patrick Suskind has written a really unusual book and takes us on a journey that is full of … well… smells.

Perfume is based in 18th century France and focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s education in the alchemy of perfume making. He is a very unique character and is distinctly set apart from the society which worships the magic of perfume. Grenouille is blessed or cursed with an extraordinary sense of smell and his obsession with obtaining the most powerful scent in existence, costs him his sanity and morality. Nothing is more important than the ‘scent’ and he will do anything to obtain it including murder.

I found myself so immersed in this character that I easily accepted his behaviour as reasonable. The magic of perfume making is so engaging or intoxicating that I hardly remember there was murder. I loved this book so much and would recommend it to anyone for the unique experience is offers but it possibly requires a strong stomach.

Posted on 23 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Reviews. 8 Comments.

Year of Wonders – A Novel of the Plague – Book Review


by Geraldine Brooks

ISBN-10: 0142001430
ISBN-13: 978-0142001431

I have listed this book on more top 100 book lists than I can remember.

Geraldine Brooks swept me away to 17th century England with her fictional drama inspired by the true events of 1665 in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire.  Eyam took the revolutionary step of quarantining itself when the black plague arrived in the village.

The story follows the struggles of Anna Frith during that year of isolation.  She endured the deaths of her family, the decent of her community into hysteria and the temptation of a forbidden relationship.

I love a book that stimulates thought and a desire to research a subject further. The village of Eyam has since been referred to as ‘The Plague Village’ and from those events of 1665 has secured itself a unique position in current society. Many of the descendants of the survivors of that time have now a gene Delta 32 that protects them from the plague and although research is still ongoing, it appears may also have an immunity to HIV/AIDS.

Geraldine Brooks’s story is penetrating and after closing the book I let out an audible ‘Wow’.

Posted on 23 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Reviews. No Comments.

Colonel Brandon’s Diary – Book Review

Colonel Brandon's Diary

by Amanda Grange

ISBN: 9780709086161

Published: 2008

Another treasure from Amanda Grange.  I am well on my way to a new author crush.  I love these books about the Austen men.  Jane Austen never gave us any scenes that involved just men.  She had never observed men without the influence of women in the room, so therefore didn’t write about them.  I’m so glad Amanda Grange did.

This diary spans a time of 20 years unlike Darcy’s Diary which was just 2.  Colonel James Brandon’s character, when entering Sense and Sensibility is obviously still very affected by his tragic past.  This diary gives us some insight into that past and how the Colonel became the outstanding man that he is.

It outlines his troubled relationship with his family and the devotion to his first love.  His first love Eliza, a ward to his father, is forced to marry Brandon’s brother, the heir of the Brandon estate.  His brother is selfish, cruel and indulgent and while James is abroad, Eliza is cast out by his brother.

When he returns to England, he is now Colonel Brandon.  He seeks out Eliza and finds her dying and with a child.   The Colonel cares for Eliza in her last days and takes on little Eliza as his ward.  He raises Eliza as best a single man can.  She is as romantic and headstrong as her mother was and he indulges her too much.  Eliza is allowed on a holiday with a school friend and her father to Bath.  While in Bath she disappears.  Brandon searches for her in vain and after several months is losing hope of recovering her.

During this time, he is introduced to a family, recently moved into Barton cottage, owned by his friend, Sir John Middleton and on his estate, Barton Park.  Mrs Dashwood has lost her husband and the Dashwood estate was passed down to his son by his first marriage John Dashwood.  John Dashwood offers no assistance to his stepmother and 3 stepsisters who are forced to accept the charity of their cousin, Sir Middleton.

From his first meeting Miss Marianne Dashwood, he is taken with her spirit and beauty. For the first time since Eliza, he has feelings for a woman again.   Unfortunately, Miss Marianne does not believe in 2nd attachments and is also very much in love with a much younger man, the dashing John Willoughby.

Another beautiful book by Amanda Grange.  It is wonderful to spend more time with the characters from Jane Austen’s books.  So often, I have finished her books and wished I could spend more time with the people she wrote.

Posted on 21 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 6 Comments.

Darcy’s Diary – Book Review


by Amanda Grange

ISBN: 0709078609

Published: 2005

I’m glad Amanda Grange has written quite a few Austen inspired novels because I’ve not had my fill of her!

Discovering more about Fitzwilliam Darcy through his diary entries gives the book a personal, intimate touch.  We know so little about the Austen men because her books only involve them as they related to her female characters.  Amanda Grange has done a wonderful job of presenting Darcy and I am just as in love with him as Elizabeth Bennet.

The diary spans a time of just under 2 years.  Darcy is a single man of great fortune and is satisfied with his life.  His valuable time is spent caring for his sister Georgiana, running his estate, Pemberley and maintaining suitable connections.  When Darcy decides to surprise his sister by joining her at the seaside, he is horrified to discover that she was about to elope.  Her seducer was someone he intimately knew and despised, George Wickham.  Wickham was only after his sister’s fortune but had convinced her that they were in love.  Darcy was lucky to have arrived in time to save his sister from ruin.  After seeing Georgiana safe again, Darcy meets with his friend Charles Bingley to help him find a home to lease for himself.

Bingley’s choice is a grand home in Hertfordshire and settles at Netherfield.  It is here that Bingley and Darcy meet the Bennet sisters.  Despite her unfortunate connections Darcy finds himself drawn to the feisty Elizabeth Bennet, who it seems has been sent to test him.

From here Amanda Grange  treats us to the familiar scenes from Pride and Prejudice but told from Fitzwilliam Darcy’s point of view.

What a wonderful book is Darcy’s Diary.  I enjoyed it so much I’ve added to my bedside table Colonel Brandon’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary and Mr Knightley’s Diary.

Thank you Amanda Grange.

Posted on 21 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 2 Comments.

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen – Book Review


by Syrie James

ISBN: 978-0-06-134142-7

Published: 2008

I am scrambling now to read a Jane Austen biography, to remind myself that this tale of her life is fictional.  I wish so much that it were true.  The content of her work feels so real to me, that I truly believe, some must have been actually witnessed by herself.  Given my belief, I easily fell into this lovely FICTIONAL memoir of Jane Austen.

A chest, bricked into a manor house attic, is discovered during repair work.  The contents of the chest, manuscripts and a ruby ring, prove to be fantastic as they are memoirs written by Jane Austen.  Written in the last years of her life, they relate events involving herself and a gentleman she meets at Lyme, Mr Frederick Ashford.

The charming Mr Ashford inspires feelings and expectation in Jane that she had long since stopped hoping for.  They meet only briefly and rarely but are both effected by the deepest of connections. Their acquaintance  inspires Jane to pick up her pen again, not having written for 10years and she revisits her beloved novel Sense and Sensibility.  Having always had to imagine the feelings of a woman in love, now she can write with authority on the subject and it brings truth to her characters.

I loved this book and after returning it to the library will be purchasing a copy for my Austen collection.  Blending real facts with the imagined gives this book a feeling of truth and you will have to keep reminding yourself that it is a story only.  If you don’t like the assumptions made by books narrated by true historical figures, then this isn’t for you.  I felt very comfortable with the way Syrie James presented Jane and felt she was true to the woman who shared so much of herself through her books.

Posted on 17 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 7 Comments.

Pride and Prejudice – Book Review


by Jane Austen

First Published: 1813

Pride and Prejudice is one of my more ‘well read’ books.  The dilapidated state of it is evidence of my love for it!  A book falling apart is sad for the reader but must be wonderful for the author, don’t you think?

Jane Austen creates such wonderful, believable characters, you never feel a moment of unease.  Without that distraction, you are free to immerse yourself in the storytelling.

Pride and Prejudice introduces us to the Bennett family of Longbourn, Hertfordshire and focuses mainly on Elizabeth Bennett, the 2nd eldest daughter.  As she and her family maneuver through the politics of an oppressive society, we are entertained by the absurdities of  ‘class’ and perception of respectability. The Bennett daughters are ‘out’ in society but none of them are married yet.  Their mother’s primary goal is to rectify this situation, and her efforts are a source of great embarrassment to the eldest two daughters Jane and Elizabeth.  Society changes dramatically for the girls when a single gentleman of great fortune moves into the shire manor, Netherfield.  After meeting at a public dance, Mr Bingley is enchanted by Jane and his attentions are welcomed by her and her family.  Mr Bingley brings with him into the country, his two sisters, brother in law and his closest friend Mr Darcy.  First Impressions of Mr Darcy leave the Hertfordshire residents very unimpressed and he insults Elizabeth, wounding her pride.  Mr Bingley’s arrival is also timed with the militia encamping in the shire, much to the ecstasy of the two youngest Bennett girls. Forming attachments with or correct opinions of  those gentlemen that now surround them, proves to be difficult when complicated by meddling family, devious intentions, misunderstanding and of course, pride and prejudice.

The adventures of the Bennett daughters explore the deficiency of first impressions and the art of getting to know someone in a society where manners and etiquette make intimacy a challenge. In fact, the book was originally named First Impressions but was rejected for publication in 1797.  Austen revised the text in 1812, renamed it Pride and Prejudice and had it accepted for publication in 1813.

In my opinion, Elizabeth is Austen’s best heroine and should be essential reading for any young woman.  Austen heroines have faults but don’t compromise themselves to achieve everything their heart’s desire.  Neither do they achieve their goals by thinking or acting like men. Despite the era , Elizabeth is a determined character.  She has a strong sense of social justice and believes women are capable and entitled to free thought, love, family and occupation.

I am an avid Austen fan but I feel confident in recommending Pride and Prejudice to anyone with an interest in historical societal structures and human behaviour.

Posted on 28 July '09 by , under Classic Lit, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 1 Comment.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Book Review


by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

ISBN: 9781594743344
No. of Pages: 320
Published Date: 06.01.2009

What word comes to mind after reading Pride an Prejudice and Zombies?

‘Hoot’ will suffice.

What a concept!  Due to my devotion to the classic,  I was a little concerned about reading this but am very glad I did.  More than once, I laughed out loud at the ridiculous notion of the prim and proper Bennett women vanquishing undead beasties.

Life for the Bennett family is plagued by the same challenges as any other family in the Hertfordshire district.  Maintaining a good standing in society, seeking out fair prospects for children of marriageable age and ridding the country of  zombies.  The unmentionable scourge of Satan are running rampant all over England.

Mr Bennett, to keep his family safe, has had his daughters trained in the Orient by a master of the deadly arts.    In the course of their lives, they encounter eligible but not always deserving young men.   Forming attachments, however, is not a simple thing when deceived by meddling family, men with malicious intent and constant attacks from the undead.

Despite their considerable skills in the deadly arts, the Bennett women are just the same as in Austen’s classic. Elizabeth, reasonable, Jane, resigned, Mary, zealotical, Kitty, easily lead, Lydia, unruly.  The characters were so familiar in fact, that I often imagined I was reading the classic only to be shocked when “…Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, and delivered a swift kick to the creature’s head…” (Austen, Grahame-Smith, 2009, p.28).

I loved this book and I am certain I will be reading it again and again like the true fanatical Austen fan I am.

Here is a link to a great Pride and Prejudice and Zombie Giveaway

Posted on 28 July '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy. 3 Comments.