REVIEW: Dreaming of Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly

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dreaming_of_mr_darcy_cover Review by Jenny Ellis

While Darcy’s name appears in the title of this Austen inspired modern day setting book, don’t assume it’s a take on Pride and Prejudice. It’s a nice blend of multiple Austen novels. Kay Ashton is working on illustrating all of Austen’s novels. Shortly after buying a bed & breakfast in Lyme so she can work on finishing her book The Illustrated Mr. Darcy a film crew working on an adaptation of Persuasion comes to town and the cast takes over her B&B. All the girls are crushing on the actor playing Wentworth, Oli Wade Owen. But sadly I did not find him likeable when Wentworth is my favorite Austen hero. I kept thinking if this were a real movie I’m not sure I could watch it.

Kay has some Emma-like traits and tries setting Gemma, who is playing Anne, up with the screenwriter and producer Adam while as readers we know Adam likes Kay. A couple times I just wanted to reach into the book and shake Kay.

It was kind of fun realizing certain parts of the storyline were from different Austen novels which I think makes this a highly discussable novel because some people may have caught things that you didn’t and vice versa. Makes you want to re-read it with a notebook handy (because as a librarian I would never mark in my book[Witness! –Ed.]) to write down all the homages to Austen’s novels.

Since this was a modern take on Jane Austen I wasn’t sure if everyone would end up with who I wanted them to… of course I can’t answer that without having a *spoiler alert* so I won’t. This book is the second in the Austen Addicts series. You don’t have to read book 1 for this book to make sense. I didn’t. But now I want to.

REVIEW: Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

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definitely-not-mr-darcy-x-200 Review by Anna Horner

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is a fun novel for any Jane Austen fan who ever dreamed about living in Regency England and finding her own Mr. Darcy. Chloe Parker, an Anglophile, divorced mom, and struggling business owner, leaves her young daughter behind in Chicago to appear on what she believes is a documentary set in Mr. Darcy’s Derbyshire that will enable her to show off her knowledge of all things Austen, win $100,000, and solve all her problems.

She’s a bit horrified to learn that she’s actually been cast in a reality show in which she and several women much younger than herself will compete to win the affections of the wealthy Mr. Wrightman. All she has to do is assume the role of an American heiress, live like it’s 1812, stay in character at all times, and get Mr. Wrightman to propose. Although she’s not interested in finding love, Chloe desperately needs the prize money. Enamored of leaving the present behind for a simpler, more romantic way of life, Chloe jumps headfirst into the game.

She soon learns that Regency life wasn’t all that romantic nor as fun as she’d imagined. She’s not just giving up her cell phone and e-mail; she also says goodbye to underwear, deodorant, daily baths, and toilets. She has to learn needlework and how to make ink. Worst of all, she has to give up the freedoms she enjoys as a modern woman and can no longer speak her mind or be alone with a man. Chloe not only struggles with the loss of modern conveniences, but she must also deal with bad news from home, her conflicted feelings for the Wrightman brothers, and the conniving Lady Grace – a rival contestant who would stop at nothing to send Chloe back home.

In Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos has crafted a hilarious novel with a spirited heroine who would make Jane Austen proud. Readers will enjoy watching Chloe navigate the challenges of the game and come alive in a way she hadn’t been since before her divorce. It’s easy to relate to Chloe and her desire for a simpler life, and you can’t help but cheer her on as she blunders her way through archery tournaments, tea parties, and balls. So much for a simpler life — no matter how hard Chloe tries, she’s always getting her gowns dirty and running afoul of the Regency rulebook, which makes for plenty of laughs.

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is a lighthearted look at the customs of Jane Austen’s time that gives readers a new respect for her beloved heroines.

Anna Horner reviews books on Diary of an Eccentric, where she shares her love of the written word and indulges in her guilty pleasures of Jane Austen-inspired novels and books about World War II.

REVIEW: Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

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Editor’s note: we have several book reviews written by the Minions but with our recent slackage, they were never posted. This is the first of several. At this time, we are no longer accepting new books for review.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Review by Jenny Ellis

Short story collections such as Jane Austen Made Me Do It are great to have on hand when it’s been a stressful week at work and you can’t concentrate for long periods of time. It’s nice to read a couple stories put the book down, cook dinner and pick the book back up. I think there’s a story for everyone in this collection. It’s nice to see that so many authors were inspired by Jane Austen. Three stories really stand out to me. In Syrie James’s story “Jane Austen’s Nightmare,” Jane encounters all of her characters while out on the town. Marianne rips into Jane for having her end up with Colonel Brandon instead of Willoughby. If Marianne doesn’t want Colonel Brandon I’d be glad to take him off her hands. (Same here. –Ed.) I laughed out loud multiple times during this story because I think it’s every author’s nightmare to have their characters come to life and tell them how they really feel. Most of Jane’s characters’ responses made me laugh out loud. Author Beth Pattillo states “If only real life could be like one of Jane Austen’s novels”. Her story was short but sweet. It makes me wonder which novels I’d want my life to be like. I think I’d have to go with my favorite of hers, Persuasion. I like how Beth’s story shows you never know where you’ll find love. When I started to read Alexandra Potter’s “Me and Mr. Darcy Again” I thought the characters seemed familiar. It’s a sequel to her novel Me and Mr. Darcy from 2007. It made me want to re-read the novel. It was just enough of a continuation to make me happy. This book is a good mix of modern day settings and historic settings. My tastes lean towards the modern ones because I like how it shows how much Jane Austen and her novels are still relevant today.

REVIEW: Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

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Persuade Me by Juliet Archer Review by Anna Horner

Persuade Me, the second book in Juliet Archer’s Darcy & Friends series, is a modern re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, with lots of regret and resentment but also much humor and romance. Dr. Rick Wentworth is a marine biologist who returns to England to promote his book, Sex in the Sea, which, along with his striking good looks, has turned him into a celebrity. Rick has never forgotten the woman who broke his heart 10 years ago, and all of the anger and hurt is churned up when their paths cross. Anna Elliot, a professor of Russian literature at a college in Bath, never stopped loving Rick, and she regrets allowing her family to end their relationship.

Instead of confronting the past, Rick gets involved with Lou Musgrove, and Anna can do nothing more than sit and watch the two of them flirt. Meanwhile, Anna catches the eyes of both Rick’s friend and wannabe poet, James, and an old family friend and slimeball, William Elliot-Dunne, who ended a relationship with Anna’s sister, Lisa, to run off with a rich divorcee from Texas. Rick and Anna’s interactions are tinged with pain and jealousy, and of course, misunderstandings abound. Continue reading

REVIEW: A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

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A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz Review by Kathleen A. Flynn

Part of the appeal of Jane Austen is that people read her work with very different kinds of pleasure, according to their level of understanding and what they seek. Some love the satisfaction of the smooth working-out of the love stories; others enjoy the wit and irony; some savor the mental journey to a world that seems more placid and stable, more refined and stately, than our own. And a few, like William Deresiewicz, a noted literary critic, find a guide to life. The premise of A Jane Austen Education is that reading the novels of Jane Austen taught him to be a better – kinder, wiser – person and was a vital part of his growing up.

Education takes us through the six novels and about seven years of Mr. Deresiewicz’s life, from age 26 to 33, tracing his progress from self-important graduate student, book-smart but incapable of genuine intimacy or independent life, to the moment he finally finds the right woman, having gained the insight that made real love possible.

Each Austen novel has its own chapter; each is presented as a way station on the writer’s journey to maturity. “Emma” looks at learning to see the importance of everyday, seemingly mundane matters. “Pride and Prejudice” focuses on the challenge of learning from one’s mistakes to see reality clearly, unblinded by emotion or self-interest. “Northanger Abbey” is about learning how to learn.  “Mansfield Park” examines how to distinguish what is glamorous and appealing from what is morally right. “Persuasion” addresses friendship, and the challenge of finding and keeping true friends as one moves past early adulthood. “Sense and Sensibility” explores real love versus the false romantic version of it that popular culture bombards us with. Continue reading

REVIEW: Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler

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Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler Review by Lisa Galek

Sass and Serendipity tells the story of teenaged sisters, Gabby and Daphne Rivera. After their parents’ divorce, Gabby decides she doesn’t want anything to do with boys. She doesn’t believe in love and thinks involvement with the opposite sex can only end in heartbreak. But, for Daphne, true love – the kind she’s read about in books and seen in romantic comedies – can’t come soon enough. When Daphne falls for the cute new-guy-in-town, Luke, she tries desperately to draw him into a modern day romance. Meanwhile, Gabby’s views on love are tested when she begins to attract the attention of two unlikely suitors – her best friend, Mule, and the son of the family’s wealthy landlord, Prentiss.

This young adult retelling is truly “inspired” by Sense and Sensibility, and does stray a bit from the original characters and plot. The main similarity with Austen’s work is that it is about two sisters with opposing views on life and love. The potential love interests don’t really match up with Austen’s heroes as one might expect. Only Luke, who is more interested in courting the opinion of the popular clique at school than dating Daphne, comes close (he is a bit like Willoughby). Prentiss has more in common with Mr. Darcy than the mild-mannered Edward Ferrars. Mule has some parallels with Colonel Brandon, but those are only apparent near the end.

It isn’t often that I can say this – but I actually loved the writing though I was less enthusiastic about the characters and romantic plot. The dialogue and descriptions are fresh and witty and perfectly suited to a young adult audience. The pop culture references are fun and fit well with the story. The author also successfully uses a third person narrative to alternate between both sisters’ points of view, giving the reader a greater understanding of what’s going on inside both girls’ heads.

However, the Rivera sisters don’t have the warmth and closeness of the elder Dashwood girls. Only the younger sister, Daphne, has the charm of Austen’s original. Her older sister, however, is a bit too cynical and cruel to be made in the image of Elinor Dashwood. Elinor might have been the sensible sister, but she was not certainly hard-hearted when it came to love or mean to her friends and family in the way that Gabby is. Gabby frequently and harshly rebukes her sister for her stupidity and self-pity when it comes to romance. By the time I got about 250 pages in, all the screaming fights between the girls were becoming a bit overdone. And I say that as someone who had a younger sister. . . and quite a lot of screaming fights.

The romance, also, doesn’t have the pull that I would have wanted. The relationship with the two sisters is really taking center stage and the boys are mainly secondary. Not that there’s nothing wrong with boys being secondary (especially in a novel targeted at young girls), but even the scenes where cute guys appear left me feeling underwhelmed. There isn’t much romantic tension. There are no butterflies. No desperate hope in the heart of the reader that somehow, someway, things will work out for our heroines. Gabby spends most of her time pushing boys away, while Daphne clings to them much too tightly. Sadly, by the end, I didn’t care much who the girls ended up with.

I go to Jane Austen for her well-drawn characters and captivating romance, but this novel didn’t satisfy me on either point. I don’t know if it’s completely fair to judge this book by the standards of the original, but, I’m afraid that Janeites will have a hard time not doing so. For the target market of young girls, Sass and Serendipity is a fun, light, entertaining read. Personally, I prefer my Austen retellings and adaptations as faithful as possible. I’d still take Clueless any day.

REVIEW: Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins

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Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins Review by Jenny Ellis

I have to admit I try to avoid continuations but I couldn’t resist Expectations of Happiness: a Companion Volume to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility by Rebecca Ann Collins. S&S is my second favorite Austen novel (behind Persuasion). Collins captures Austen’s voice almost perfectly. While it didn’t draw me in from the first page, eventually it became unputdownable.

Marianne runs into Willoughby after all these years. I kept thinking to myself “please tell me this isn’t going where I think it’s going.” I had to keep reading because I had to know if Marianne truly hadn’t grown up. There is a lack of Colonel Brandon in this book. He’s in Ireland for a majority of it (how I wished I was there with him). I found myself feeling like I was more in love with Brandon than Marianne was. I just wanted to wring her little neck.

While Margaret and Marianne are exactly how I pictured them after all these years, this Elinor isn’t quite the Elinor I have in my head. She really is just the go-between in this book. There really isn’t a storyline pertaining just to her besides Elinor being the glue that holds her family together. One uncharacteristic thing she does is to run off to her mother to tell her something one of her sisters did. I don’t think Austen’s Elinor would have done that. Elinor was known for holding things in. For most of the original S&S the reader (and her family) have no idea how she really feels about Edward. She keeps everything to herself. She would never run off and tell her mother. She’d mull it over for days until she got an ulcer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Margaret’s storyline. Margaret is all grown up and trying to figure out her place in the world. It was exactly how I pictured her turning out. I kind of wished this entire book would have just been her storyline.

The book really came together in the end. I actually finished it standing in the kitchen waiting for my pizza to come out of the oven. The ending had be laughing out loud. Everything was wrapped up nicely just like Jane Austen would have done.