Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Noteworthy Courtship by Laura Sanchez

This was a delightful story! When I stumbled across this in my Amazon recommendations the idea behind this variation intrigued me...

“A Noteworthy Courtship is an Austen inspired tale, where the familiar characters of Pride and Prejudice, along with a few new ones, discover what would have happened if the storyline had strayed from the plot of Jane Austen's novel. What if the Netherfield party had not left Hertfordshire immediately following the Netherfield Ball, and what if Mr. Darcy in particular had given himself inducement to remain? Comical entanglements and exploits thicken the familiar plot as various characters break their canon form. Two are repeatedly drawn to the bookshop in Meryton with little explanation, and a gentleman from Kent is not so easily dissuaded as he might otherwise have been. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are as lackadaisical and troublesome as ever, and Mr. Bingley and Miss Jane Bennet are left to their own inclination without the untimely interference of their friends. A new set of characters allow the escapades to continue before finally a resolution can be reached, with much the same happily ever after as Jane Austen intended. Adapted in part from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and inspired by the film You've Got Mail.”

The idea that Darcy and Lizzy would get into a correspondence through secret messages was something I had not come across before in many of the other variations I have read or heard about. Added to this was the fact that I very much like the film You’ve Got Mail.

The notes exchanged between Darcy and Lizzy are my favourite parts of the story as the conversations are hilarious! I especially loved the references to Sense and Sensibility – it felt rather strange reading about Darcy and Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen talking about Edward and Elinor from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (or rather, “A Lady”).  I wanted to keep reading and reading just to see how long it took before one of them clicked who the other person was receiving and answering the notes and it was funny when one realised and then very sweet when the other one was told!

My favourite secondary character in this story was Bingley; he has a backbone! He stands up for himself and the result is that he and Jane get engaged much sooner!  As well as standing up for himself and to his sisters, he is a great brother-in-law to Lizzy in helping protect (yes protect!) from the (in this variation) much more persistent Mr Collins! It was also sweet seeing a little more of Jane and Bingley as a married couple.

Similarly to the film, at one stage towards the middle Darcy decides to reveal himself but it doesn’t go to plan and because Lizzy doesn’t like him at all, she will not even contemplate that the gentleman she has been writing to is the proud and disagreeable Mr Darcy! I felt for him a lot during this scene when he came to realise the extent of Lizzy’s dislike and therefore her denial that Mr Darcy could possibly be the secret correspondent!

I found it quite funny how Mrs Bennet, because Mr Collins is very persistent, tries to throw Kitty in Mr Darcy’s path; it gave Kitty a bigger role for once as well as being rather funny – I mean, can you imagine Darcy and Kitty? No, it really doesn’t work.

As well as Kitty having a bigger role it was also nice that Mr Darcy decided to inform the necessary people about Mr Wickham’s character, therefore pretty much eliminating him from the story – he doesn’t feature at all really and Mr Collins becomes the bad guy of the story I suppose, which is rather funny as well as brilliant because Mr Collins finally gets what I believe he deserves and what I have wanted to do to him since first coming across this slimy character in the original story! I will say no more...   

Darcy also informs Lizzy about Mr Wickham’s true nature and links to his family and it was again interesting for Darcy to see Lizzy’s initial reaction to what he had to say, as opposed to her reading it in a letter.

There were many familiar quotes and snippets from conversations from the original story, some used in different contexts and others spoken by different people about or to different people – I always like recognisable quotes popping up every now and then! A few examples... the famous ‘most handsomest woman of my acquaintance’ is spoken, the accidentally over-heard ‘not tolerable enough’ conversations is referred to, as is the ‘accomplished woman’ conversation and the conversation during the dance at the Netherfield Ball and my favourite, the use of the famous words from the first proposal used rather later on in the story!   

In the second half of the book, Darcy is so lovely!  He is very gentlemanly and amiable as well as quite teasing! I loved seeing more of Darcy’s relaxed side, like we see a little of in the original during the visit to Pemberley. It was also lovely to have Lizzy and Darcy together so much in the second half when Darcy was much more relaxed and trying to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

I thought it was very clever how the story runs pretty parallel to the original, but with very different changes being made to what we expect from the original...
Darcy’s first proposal and the ensuing argument is similar to the confrontation which follows the meeting of Darcy and Lizzy when Darcy was planning on revealing himself as the secret letter writer, only, just like the proposal, it doesn’t go as planned!
The explanation letter that follows said proposal is instead a conversation between Mr Bennet and Lizzy when he warns Lizzy’s about not believing everything she has been told by Wickham.  
The trip to Derbyshire and meeting at Pemberley is very similar to trip taken to Ashington to visit some friends of Bingley’s, to which Darcy is also invited.
The letter about Lydia which Lizzy receives is similar to a letter she receives from her father, beginning ‘be not alarmed on receiving this letter’ but the content of the letter is referring to Mr Collins instead of Wickham.
The visit from Lady Catherine instead of being about a supposed engagement between Lizzy and Darcy is instead of a rumour that an engagement between Lizzy and Mr Collins has in fact not taken place! (As you can see, Mr Collins features heavily!)  
In the original when we meet Darcy again in Meryton he has reverted to his old, reserved self and similarly, once returned from the trip to Ashington, the colder Darcy returns, confusing Lizzy greatly.
(It suddenly hit me after the first few points I have just made how similar but different it was to the original!)  

Mr Darcy had a more developed relationship with Mr Bennet in this variation, Mr Bennet guessing the identity of Lizzy’s secret correspondent and then approaching Darcy about it, resulting in multiple conversations between them. I also enjoyed Lizzy’s relationship with Georgiana which was explored more in this variation. (I mentioned in one of my last reviews about Lizzy not seeing Pemberley before marrying Darcy making a nice change from most variations (as well as the original) and again this happens in this story. It also resulted in a sweet conversation about Pemberley between the (by now engaged) couple as what Lizzy was to expect when she finally sees Pemberley.

The romance was sweet in this story, especially in the second half as I have already mentioned. The ending was also perfect, perfect in relation to the rest of the story and the theme of the story, though I don’t want to mention too much and ruin it for anyone!  As well as the perfect ending there is also a short epilogue assuring you of the ‘happily ever afters’ of the three main couples of the story.  When you finish the story there is an additional surprise of a selection of alternative and extra unused scenes for our enjoyment and I enjoyed reading alternative scenes and endings.

This was definitely one of my favourite variations I have read because it is very unique. This was a very enjoyable and funny story and I highly recommend this story for a lover of Pride and Prejudice or the film You’ve Got Mail.

Your affectionate friend,
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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Echoes of Pemberley and The Heart Does Whisper by Cynthia Hensley

Ok. It's true that I am not really one for the modern re-imaginings  of Austen's stories - why bring such wonderful stories which are so heavily impacted by the traditions, manners and decorum of the regency era into today's world, which, to me, is a lot less appealing! However, when the lovely Cynthia Hensley contacted me to ask if I would review her book, Echoes of Pemberley, a modern Pride and Prejudice inspired tale I was a little dubious. But then I read the blurb...

“A tragic plane crash eight years earlier has left Catherine Elizabeth Darcy orphaned and in the custody of her overly protective brother, Bennet. Since then, her life at Pemberley Estate - the Darcy's ancestral home in Derbyshire, England - has been sheltered and lacking adventure of any kind. When 16-year-old Catie arrives home for her school holiday, she is expecting another long, boring summer of daydreaming and whiling away warm afternoons reading the romance novels her brother calls "rubbish." What she discovers, however, is a handsome yet insufferable Irishman named Sean Kelly, her summer riding instructor. Coupled with an intriguing and mysterious WWI-era diary, which she finds hidden in the window seat of her bedroom, Catie Darcy's summer soon proves to be anything but boring.”

It sounded very interesting and a story only inspired by Pride and Prejudice, a story about Darcy and Lizzy's descendants as apposed to actually removing Darcy and Lizzy from the world in which they were written into and to which they belong. Therefore, I decided I would give it a try, and I am very glad I did!

I really enjoyed this story, staying up till two in the morning to finish it! Although it was set in the modern day there weren't too many references to keep reminding the reader of the fact which I was glad about.

Lets begin with Catie Darcy and Sean Kelly, the heroine and hero. Catie is a girl of 16, nearly 17, who I can really relate to. This story is as much a romance and a mystery as it is a story of Catie's maturity from a young child to a young woman. She was a great character and I could understand her problems she experiences through the story - in particular the problem Catie faces from her overly protective brother, Bennet, who continues to treat her like a child and refuses to face the fact that she is almost 17! The way she matures through the story is a nice development to see and the way she finally moves on from certain traumas in her life, linking to the death of her father and mother. This transformation is aided by the rather lovely Sean Kelly, Catie's Irish riding instructor, come over to teach Catie during the summer holidays.

Catie and Sean's relationship 'echoes' that of Lizzy and Darcy, but with the genders reversed; Catie is very much the Darcy character and Sean more the Lizzy character.
They have a very sweet relationship full of problems to the very end. This story between them does resolve very much at the end of the story and it would have been nice to see more of their relationship once it was resolved as it felt a little rushed - but that is really just my hopelessly-romantic side complaining; there was a lot of romance, I promise you, and the final chapter was perfect, just perfect and leaves you feeling very satisfied! :)

This story is called 'Echoes of Pemberley' and I have already mentioned the echoes of the relationship between Darcy and Lizzy. There are many other 'echoes' of the original which is what make this story so clever and sweet, for me anyway. Lady Catherine and Rosings Park come up a few times as does Anne de Bourgh. You hear all   about the ancestors of the current Darcy's of Pemberley. One of my favourite links to the original is how the legendary romantic tale of how Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley went against all odds and married the lowly Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn has been told over and over and passed on to the next generations.

Another 'echo' is that just as Darcy was landed with the responsibility of guardian of Georgiana, so was Bennet, Catie's brother, left with the responsibility to raise and look after Catie after the death of both their father and mother. The relationship between Catie and Bennet was sweet. I always felt sorry for Darcy in the original as trying to be a guardian, protector and father figure but at the same time just her brother must be very difficult. This is why I felt for Bennet, even when he seemed overly critical of Catie. I did feel sorry for her, however, when Bennet just wouldn't seem to let her grow up and continued to treat her as he would have 5 years earlier. But, as I said, I do understand the difficulty Bennet had and his wish to protect his sister, his only remaining family, and this being the root cause of his over protectiveness. I think how these two changed over the story was wonderful, seeing Bennet finally come to terms with Catie's age and the realisation that he could just be Catie's brother once again. And Catie becoming a little less self centred and acknowledging what her brother has also gone through since the death of her parents. The relationship development of these two may well be favourite of the story.

(Random observation of the book...) As well as echoes of Pride and Prejudice, Bennet's protectiveness of Catie and Catie'a subsequent restrictions to Pemberley reminded me a little of Emma Woodhouse and Mr Woodhouse's wish for Emma to remain at Hartfield.

There are also some other wonderful secondary character, aside from the ones I have already mentioned, one of those being Pemberley's housekeeper Rose, who basically takes the role of mother to Catie. Sarah, Catie's brothers wife, was also a lovely character; her conversations with Bennet, her husband, were very funny and she also had a nice relationship with Catie. And never fear, there is still a Wickham-esque character involved in the story to cause havoc and provide further problems for Catie and Sean.

As well as Catie's own story of transition into adulthood, the romantic story between Sean and Catie there is also a bit of mystery thrown into the mix, based on a diary and some letters found by Catie behind a wall panel in her bedroom (and a bonus is that I didn't guess what was going to happen!)

If you are looking for a fun, romantic story with a bit of mystery as well, then this is for you. Whether you are a Jane Austen fan or not you will enjoy this story (if you are a Jane fan then your pleasure will only be enhanced while reading this tale!)

A good sign of whether I enjoyed a book is if, like this one, I had the kindle copy to read first I then go and buy the paperback to add to my shelf - the dispatch confirmation email from Amazon came through this morning! ;D


I was very sad when I came to the end of Echoes of Pemberley and my journey with Sean and Catie, until I discovered that there was a sequel! The Heart Does Whisper, a story of Sean and Catie's first year as a married couple. I couldn't wait to read it and once again I had a late night finishing it!

“From one of Derbyshire, England’s oldest, most prominent families, heiress Catherine Darcy is beautiful, rich, and seemingly destined to the legacy of her Regency-era ancestors. Determined to follow her own heart, Catie marries handsome, proud Sean Kelly — the son of an Irish horse farmer. In this modern-day continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, newlyweds Sean and Catie depart London for Savannah, Georgia, where Sean has accepted a yearlong administrative internship. The young couple is hopeful the romantic coastal town will provide neutral ground for their opposite worlds but soon discover the southern city has a social pecking order all its own. Behind Savannah’s veil of Spanish moss, a dying socialite and a mute boy send the Kellys on separate paths of personal awakening while together embarking on a journey of the heart that teaches them the true meaning of their enduring love for each other.”
There are times when I wish I was  a character in a story: I am very much like Catie, reading too many romance novels and romanticising the world. Luckily for Catie she is a character in a book and so a romantic story similar to ones she reads about and wishes for is already written and is therefore unless I am a character in a story (which is highly unlikely, not to mention that it would, so far, be an extremely boring story) then I don't have that luxury of my love life being sorted the way I dream about!

I mentioned in my review of the first story that I would have liked to see more of Sean and Catie's courtship once they were together; this book satisfies that wish. Although they are now married and the story is set four years after the first, we are shown glimpses into their courtship, the proposal and the time leading up to their wedding all through the story through conversations they have which was so nice to see! As well as these glimpses into their past relationship there are plenty of romantic moments between the two as they face their first year of marriage. 

(I will say here that given that they are now married there are a few more intimate scenes - they are tastefully done with nothing explicit as well as being 'off the page' with the reader normally returning the following morning - it didn't bother me and I only read clean stories usually.)

Page 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1:
"In every romance novel she'd ever read, "the kiss" was always followed by "the end". So what does a woman do with a man after the nuptials? The chase was over. He had her - legally, binding, before God. 'My Lord,' she whispered, 'I'm married.' "

I think this is a great way to start the story because it is very true; what does happen next? Most stories don't go beyond the 'happily ever after' and although I may be only 17 and a hopeless romantic, I am not naïve enough not to realise that 'happily ever after's' don't just happen; they take work! And this is exactly what this story is all about, Sean and Catie working their way through all the problems, as well as the pleasures, of the first year of marriage.

I really enjoyed seeing Sean and Catie work through their first year and it is not all plain sailing I assure you, much like real life I imagine. As well as the normal problems facing any newlyweds, there are other problems these two must face due to their union bringing together two people from completely different worlds!

These two are as sweet as ever, if not sweeter, and you can tell how fond they are of each other and that their marriage is one which will last, whatever problems are thrown at them. I liked seeing more of Sean in this story as the first one was told mainly from Catie's point of view. He is very much the gentleman and still is rather a traditionalist when it comes to looking after his wife, which is lovely to read (as well as encouraging to me that there are still men out there who know how to treat a lady ;))

There are quite a few little story lines going on through the story, all which keep the story interesting and the plot moving. A few of my favourites would be...

In this story we hear even more about the past Darcy's and in particular, Catie's mother and father. This is achieved through a grumpy old woman called Annabelle Montague, who turns out to have known Catie's mother and father when she was a teenager. Some of my favourite scenes were when Miss Montague was telling stories to Catie about her parents and herself when they were troublesome teenagers. The effect it has on Catie is very touching when reading it, seeing it helping her learn more and feel closer to the mother she never knew.  A sweet and funny character was Miss Montague's butler - of sorts - Mr Robbins. He is quite a minor character but fun all the same and very caring of both Miss Montague and Catie.

Another aspect I really enjoyed in this story was, as I mentioned earlier about Sean coming into his own more, as does the rest of the Kelly family. We saw glimpses of Sean's family towards the end of the first book but they feature more prominently in the second. In particular Sean's brother and father, Gabriel and Seamus, who have an important side story all of their own. I also liked seeing how the Kelly's accepted their new daughter in law and how their relationship developed.

I think my favourite sub plot would be about one of the boys Sean comes across at the school; Toby, a mute boy suffering the after effects of the murder of his mother and the blame of this murder falling on his father. It is through Toby that the mystery is brought into this story and it is very touching and heart-breaking at times.

I think I have probably made it sound like there are far too many plots going on at once, but it doesn't feel like that. I felt like all these things which happen to the couple happen to test them, test their marriage and their love for each other. So, it never feels over complicated with too much going on but just seems to blend together into one story perfectly.

There are some lovely new characters in this story...

Miss Etta. Neither Catie or Sean are domestic goddesses in the kitchen, Catie having always had her meals cooked for her till now and Sean... well... because he is a man of 23. But, to get to the point, they end up with this Miss Etta who, in exchange for a place to live, cooks for them. She is a funny character and is similar to the role of Rose back at Pemberley. 

Dr Hugh Middleston and his lovely wife Prissy were also great characters. Dr Middleston is the headmaster of the school Sean goes to teach at and his and Sean's relationship, both working and social, is nice as well as rather comic at times! This couple and the relationship they build up with Sean and Catie was one of my favourites of the story, Prissy Middleton having a similar relationship with Catie that she and Sarah shared in the first story.

There was a Wickham-esque character in the first book and in this one there is a Caroline-esque character. I don't want to give anything away so all I will say is that there is a rather amusing incident involving this character and a glass of water at some point in the story!

As well as these fun new characters there is also the reappearance of the favourite characters from the first story. I have already mentioned the Kelly's but the Darcy's make a welcome return as well as Rose, the housekeeper. Rose also has her own little story in this and provided me with possibly my favourite moment of the entire story, but I won't say anymore!

Just as the ending of the first story was perfect, so too is the ending of this story. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy are once again mentioned and the closing lines will leave you feeling very satisfied (and with a big grin on your face if you are anything like me) and easily believing that Sean and Catie Kelly will live their 'happily ever after' and very happily indeed.

If, like me, you want to read more about the wonderful couple that is Sean and Catie Kelly and travel with them through the ups and downs of their first year as a married couple then you must read this sequel! Fun, engaging and romantic! (My paperback version of this story is on its way – both stories have a rightful place on my bookshelf!)

Your affectionate friend,
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Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Rather Unexpected Purchase...

I recently returned for my second visit to the lovely village of Chawton, the place of Jane Austen's House.  It was just as delightful as it was the first time to walk around the cottage, play on her piano and see where she penned her wonderful stories. I also enjoyed browsing (well spending) in the lovely gift shop they have at the museum - a perfect place for any Janeite! I was planning on buying something to add to my ever growing collection but what I did end up buying was not what I was planning on buying!  

I started out buying a quill and some ink to have a go with as I think it will be fun to use - I haven't yet tried it out but I will soon :) Then, out of the corner of my eye (well, actually it was at the front of the shop, hard to miss really!) I saw an old version of Pride and Prejudice.  I had wanted an older version of one of the Austen's for a while, preferably Pride and Prejudice as it is my favourite. I was torn and unsure whether to follow my head or my heart (or rather my bank balance and my heart!) My heart was winning... but then I saw, this time actually out of the corner of my eye as it was high up on a hidden shelf, a complete set of the novels.  As my heart had won over my head I decided that for the price I would pay for the one novel and what I would pay for all six, it would be a better deal to go for the set (at least, that is what I tell myself!) So, I purchased the set!

They are a beautiful set of illustrated hardbacks published between 1901 and 1903!

They are in great condition - I am not completely worried to pick them up and flick through them!

It is amazing to own books which are over 100 years old :D

I am very pleased with my purchase and I am glad I made the investment, however badly it has hit my bank account!

(I have also seen a very similar  set, published a little later, which are for sale for triple what I paid - it makes me feel a little better ;P)


The illustrations are also gorgeous!

"You mean to frighten me, Mr Darcy."

"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."

Your affectionate friend,
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