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The Darcys Give a Ball – Book Review


by Elizabeth Newark

“The romantic attachments of one’s children are a constant distraction.” says Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet) to her sister Jane Bingley.  Jane and Elizabeth plan a ball to honour Mrs Darcy’s daughter Juliet’s 19th birthday.  The invitation list is extensive and includes, the Collins, Ferrars, Wentworths, Knightleys, Elliotts, Bingleys, Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Brandons, Churchills, Bertrams, and Musgroves.  The evening is truly eventful and for Eliza and Jonathon Collins, their first visit to Pemberley will change their lives forever.

I love that this book focusses so much on Charlotte Collins and her family.  They are often dismissed as obsurd in other Austen inspired works.  Charlotte is one of my favourite Austen women and am glad to see her so respectfully represented by Elizabeth Newark.

Posted on 18 October '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. No Comments.

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers – Book Review


by Marsha Altman

I hope for the sake of all Austen fans that Marsha Altman never puts down her pen.  She has delivered another beauty in The Plight of the Darcy Brothers, the follow up to The Darcys and The Bingleys.

It seems that rescuing Bennet girls is becoming an occupation for Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Despite some personal tragedy in his and Elizabeth’s lives, they feel compelled to aid Miss Mary Bennet, recently and abruptly returned from the Continent.   Their trip to Italy, brings distraction from their sorrow over failed pregnancies, allows Darcy to uncover secrets long hidden by his late father, and restores some dignity to Mary Bennet.

Darcy’s life and family will be forever changed by his undertaking to help the 3rd Bennet sister.

Marsha Altman has such a talent for writing Austen inspired works.  Her faithful representation of the era proves her knowledge of it must be extensive.  The characters (both hers and Austen’s) are wonderful and thoroughly convincing.  With her lovely writing style and witty humour, reading her books is one of the easiest, most enjoyable things you’ll ever do.

Thank you Marsha Altman.

Posted on 15 October '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 2 Comments.

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet – Book Review


by Colleen McCullough

Audio Book – Read by Nicki Paull

What shall Mary Bennet, 3rd sister of the Bennet girls, do now she is able to chose for herself.  She has spent the past twenty years quietly tending to her mother while her other sisters were busy marrying and expanding their families.  Her mother has died and now free, she may pursue her dream of publishing a book  about the conditions of the poor in England.  Mary Bennet is about to become acquainted with the world.

I had read that Colleen McCullough was mocking Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with this novel and my initial reaction to this story was frustration.  I fully admit to abusing you mercilessly Colleen McCullough, for sending my beloved Austen characters into wretched situations.  The Pride and Prejudice characters, twenty years on, were so different and disturbing that I was actually angry!  You are cunning though, Colleen McCullough, because having just put me in the pit of despair you then started to pull me from it.  Were you mocking P&P, I’m not sure but I really enjoyed the book eventually.  What you gave Mary Bennet and her family was truly wonderful.

So be brave Austen fans and trust Colleen to take you on a wonderful journey for Mary Bennet’s sake and independence.

Posted on 14 October '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 2 Comments.

Cassandra’s Sister – Book Review


by Veronica Bennett

ISBN: 0763634646

Veronica Bennett has penned a lovely book imagining Jane Austen’s life between 1794 and approx 1800 when they move to Bath.  Jane Austen writes of romance so Veronica gives Jane her romance.  Although we know how her story ends, it is lovely to imagine that she was touched by the love she obviously desired so much for herself.

We enter her life at the time her cousin Eliza learns of her husband’s execution in France.  Madame la Comtesse de Feuillide runs to the comforting arms of her cousins, the Austens.  Following this event is a time of great change for Jane.  She experiences love for the time, family tragedies, family triumphs and even leaves her beloved childhood home for Bath, a town she despises.   All this gives her the fortitude she needs to complete some of the most beloved books of all time.  Her life was short but does that mean her life was tragic? Veronica Bennett gives Jane a life rich with experiences, happy and sad and captured my idea of Jane beautifully.

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

Jane and the Barque of Frailty – Book Review


by Stephanie Barron

ISBN-13: 9780553802269

Jane’s dream is coming true.  Her beloved novel Sense and Sensibility is to be published and she is in London overseeing its printing.  The task also allows her to visit with her brother Henry and sister-in-law Eliza.

Jane’s pleasure is soon tested when a Russian Princess dies close by Henry and Eliza’s home and they are drawn into the drama.  Jane’s only choice is to solve the mysteries surrounding the princess’s life and death.

Stephanie Barron takes us on a great ride and teaches us much about English society of that time.  I was fascinated by the Barque of Frailty who are known by many names, the Muslin Company, Birds of Paradise, Demi-reps or more familiar to us Courtesans.

This Austen inspired novel is quite different from most I’ve read and I’m determined to seek out more of the series.  I have to admit to being a little distracted with it at first, until I got used to the language.  Stephanie uses a lot of French terminology and I kept losing my stride each time I hit one.  My tip is if you don’t speak it, don’t try to read those bits.. just jump over them and you’ll have fun with it.

Once immersed in the story I found I obsessed till the end and only managed to predict a little of the resolution.   It was a great read Stephanie Barron.. thank you.

Posted on 2 October '09 by , under Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 3 Comments.

The Lost Symbol – Book Review


by Dan Brown

ISBN:  9780593054277

Published: 2009

Robert Langdon returns with another mystery to solve in The Lost Symbol.  His Sunday is disrupted by an urgent request from his dear friend, Peter Solomon, to fill in for an absent guest speaker at a Smithsonian Gala event that evening.  Peter, in his usual style, pulls out all stops, private jet and limousine, to get Robert to the Gala with no inconvenience.  Robert, however, is very inconvenienced when he arrives at the Capital Building to find no Gala event and no Peter Solomon waiting for him.  What he does find is a personal and gruesome ‘invitation’ to discover an ancient portal hidden in Washington DC .  If he does not accept the ‘invitation’ then his friend will die.

With the help of Peter Solomon’s sister Katherine and a few high ranking members of the Masonic Order, Robert has no choice but to do as the kidnapper demands and solve the riddles pointing to the location of the portal.

Dan Brown has created another nail-biting adventure for Robert Langdon and I was loathe to have to put it down for even the smallest domestic duty.  I can fully understand why his books cause such a sensation.  He mentions alchemy many times in this book and I believe, he, is an alchemist of sorts, with the way he seamlessly blends fact with fiction.  Choosing delicious, documented, legends and mysteries to solve, he weaves his magic and leaves you questioning what NOT to believe.  This is why his books are such a success.  It is hard to distinguish fact from fiction in a Dan Brown book.  He always leaves me desperate to research what parts of the story are fact.

Dan Brown, again, chooses to set his story within an exclusive organisation.  The Lost Symbol involves primarily, the Freemasons but also includes The Invisible College, the Office of Security, the Smithsonian Museum Support Centre and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.  You experience a sensation of descending or being immersed in these societies.  The science, theories, legends, artifacts, and rituals he offers up, are, like in his previous novels, great fonder for dinner party debates.

The fact, &/or fiction (you be the judge) he writes, is so facinating that I advise reading it in a quiet place where you can give it your full attention.  I don’t think The Lost Symbol has knocked off Angels and Demons or DaVinci Code as my favourites but I believe it is on a par with his other novels.  I found that I predicted results fairly early in the book but it didn’t take away from the ending because the explanations were fantastic and a surprise.

I loved The Lost Symbol and confidently recommend adding it to your bookshelf.

Posted on 23 September '09 by , under Crime/Mystery, Reviews, Thriller. 1 Comment.

The Matters at Mansfield – Book Review


by Carrie Bebris

ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-1847-3

There are some people you should never invite to a party. Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote) and Mr and Mrs Darcy because scandel follows them and someone always turns up dead.  At least Miss Marple had the decency to look for her corpes in the newspaper.

Mr and Mrs Darcy are attending a ball the at the Fitzwilliams with Lady Catherine, Anne de Burgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam.  Lady Catherine is determined to find a suitably rich and titled match for her daughter Anne.  Anne, however has a different idea and has everyone scrambling when she elopes.  The drama unfolds at Mansfield Park and we get a glimpse of characters from Jane Austen’s classic.  Unfortunately we get only a glimpse and I was sad we didn’t see more of them.

It’s a great series and this book just as good as the others.

Posted on 15 September '09 by , under Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 5 Comments.

The Darcys and the Bingleys – Book Review


by Marsha Altman

ISBN-13: 9781402213489

Published: 2008

Ms Altman, I bow down to your wit, humour and superior story-telling skills.  The Darcys and the Bingleys was wonderful.

I regularly laughed out loud and was loathe to have to put the book down to keep my family fed and watered.

What a romp this book is, love and a fair amount of lust, (she says excitedly), mysteries, attempted murders, sword fights and rotten scoundrels.

The book contains all our favourite characters from Pride and Prejudice and begins just before Darcy and Bingley are to marry the beautiful Bennet sisters, Elizabeth and Jane.

Bingley is nervous about the wedding night and goes to Darcy for advice.  Here enters ‘the book’ the famous Kama Sutra, that I’m sure still resides in many a secret hideyhole in master bedrooms all over the world.  The Bennet sisters are horrified by the ‘responsibilities of a wife’ imparted to them by their mother on the eve of their wedding.  However, the sisters soon learn that being a responsible wife with loving and ‘educated’ husbands is not at all horrible.

Not surprisingly, the sisters are soon pregnant and the families start to expand. They have been great friends but becoming brothers has encouraged Darcy and Bingley to be competitive and occupy themselves by trying to best the other in anything. The voice of calm and reason comes to the brothers from an unexpected yet delightful source – one of my favourite characters – Mr Bennet.

A distraction does come in the form of a suitor for Caroline Bingley.  Charles asked Darcy to form an opinion of him as he himself does not trust the man.  Darcy also feels that something is amiss with the northerner Lord Kincaid, so he and the family are duty bound to discover who he is.

I loved this book to bits and am waiting on Plight of the Darcy Brothers to be delivered. Be kind to yourself and read it now… so off you go.

Posted on 6 September '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 4 Comments.

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.