Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Austen Variations Reviews

For the past year, I've been reading a lot (so many I can't count them all!) variations of Jane Austen's works--mostly of Pride and Prejudice--with the idea of immersing myself in the genre and then writing my own variation/continuation of this favorite novel. Yes, I've finally tired of writing modern fan fiction despite the 4+ million reads I've received on Wattpad and FanFiction.net for my novels and stories.

As soon as I submitted my final transcript for my online Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night course at Brave Writer, I took Amazon up on their oft-repeated offer of a free month of Kindle Unlimited--yes, free Kindle books (selected books only, not all of them, unfortunately) for a month. And I absorbed about about twenty Austen Variations during that time. In exchange for reading their books for free, I posted reviews of the books on Goodreads and Amazon to at least help the authors to generate more readers.

My favorite writers of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) are on the wonderful site Austen Variations, and I've been fortunate to find quite a few of their books via our state-wide California library system called Link+. Why so many JAFF books were purchased in by libraries in Northern California in general and San Francisco in particular remains a mystery to me. Just this week on the Austen Variations site, I won a debut copy of Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow which I am very excited to read. :)

So here are some of my Austen-ish reviews. By the way, I'm stingy with "5" ratings which I save mostly for classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc. Most books that I truly enjoy get a "4" rating, but there is one "5" listed below.

Enjoy!! :)

So Gradually: A Pride & Prejudice Tale So Gradually: A Pride & Prejudice Tale by Jessica Schlenker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lovely novella with several major changes from Austen's P&P: Bingley returns to Netherfield a week after the Netherfield Ball and asks for Jane's hand; they are married when this story begins. Darcy and Elizabeth are best friends; they can talk about anything and they do. However, Elizabeth has fallen in love with her "best friend," and on a subsequent trip to Rosings, her low spirits are such that Colonel Fitzwilliam confronts her (with Anne's prodding) to admit her love. Darcy also confronts her over her lack of good spirits, and that when the story gets intriguing....

 A delightful read--so refreshingly original and light-hearted--a perfect summer afternoon book!

View all my reviews The Perfect Match: a Pride and Prejudice sequel The Perfect Match: a Pride and Prejudice sequel by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful Pride and Prejudice "sequel" that follows the marriage of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy nearly a year after their double-wedding with the Bingleys. While the Darcys are enjoying the most felicitous of marriages, a true "perfect match," they must prove it to the ton as well when they go to London for the first time after basically honeymooning for a year at Pemberley and in travel around England. Plus, the Bingleys are not enjoying a "perfect match," thanks to Bingley's rude sisters and too-frequent visits from Mrs. Bennet to Netherfield. What can the Bingleys do to have the same joy in their marriage as the Darcys obviously have? This is a lovely and thought-provoking look at what an actual "perfect match" may be, showing that communication is at the root of marital bliss. It's also a heart-warming view of how both Elizabeth and Darcy themselves have changed as they seek each other's felicity above that of their families, friends, and even London's ton who may have quite a bit to say about the new Mrs. Darcy's foray into the upper crust of society. A wonderful read--I read it basically in one sitting and found it lovely, thoughtful, and the perfect way to relax on a summer afternoon...before more essays need to be graded from my summer school class. ;)

View all my reviews In the Arms of Mr. Darcy In the Arms of Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth in Sharon Lathan's wonderful Darcy Saga, this novel takes us through the first years of Alexander Darcy and the various happenings in the Darcy family as Lizzy and William travel, dote on their child, and love one another more and more. We also get to see Georgianna grow up and even see Colonel Fitzwilliam fall in love. Kitty, the lone unmarried Bennet daughter, finally finds love in the unlikeliest of places after significant heartbreak.

Overall, it's a lovely continuation of the Darcy Saga, and I enjoyed every word. :)

Book 5 in the Darcy Saga is definitely next on my list!

View all my reviews The Trouble with Mr. Darcy The Trouble with Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final book in the Darcy Saga is filled with more adventure and intrigue than the previous few books. Evil intentions haunt the happiness of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy after Elizabeth suffers a difficult illness after the birth of their second child--an illness that nearly tears our happy couple apart.

This is a more suspenseful and dramatic book in this saga than the rest, and it truly was a page-turner. People from the past align forces to harm the Darcy family while other members of the family finally find happiness after previous difficult experiences. And one member of the Darcy staff who has always hated Elizabeth and the changes she has brought to the quiet and peaceful Darcy establishment betrays the family in a potentially deadly manner....

But in true Darcy style, the family rises above all attempts to endanger their happiness and well-being. The Darcy Saga ends at the perfect place, with happiness all-around and more joy in store for the Darcy family and their immediate family and friends.

View all my reviews Mr. Darcy's Promise Mr. Darcy's Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation on Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Wickham notes Darcy's attentions to Elizabeth and plots a way to get money from Darcy by compromising Elizabeth. But Darcy steps in before Wickham is discovered by Mr. Bennet (with Mr. Denny's assistance), and Mr. Bennet finds Darcy comforting a sobbing Lizzy and claims that Darcy has compromised his daughter and forces a marriage. Elizabeth is reluctant while Darcy is not.

As Darcy and Elizabeth drive away from Longbourn after their wedding, Elizabeth sobs heartbrokenly. And then Mr. Darcy makes a promise that will haunt both him and Elizabeth, causing both to constantly second-guess the other's motives, feelings, and even their love for one another.

This variation is a lovely slow-burn between Darcy and Elizabeth as everyone else thinks their marriage a love-match despite the circumstances, but neither one believes that the other loves them. But as they spend time together, especially at Pemberley, they bond over the little things in life--little things that become a metaphor for their marriage and for their growing love for one another.

I ended up procrastinating a great deal today on various projects because I simply couldn't put this book down; it's that delightful!!

View all my reviews The Best Of Relations: A Pride And Prejudice Variation The Best Of Relations: A Pride And Prejudice Variation by Catherine Bilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful Austen variation in which Elizabeth and Jane's beloved Aunt Gardiner is a distant yet beloved cousin to Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. When Elizabeth writes her aunt of the proud and distant Mr. Darcy who is visiting his friend at Netherfield Park, Aunt Gardiner defends the gentleman very warmly, causing Lizzy to re-evaluate her opinion of the gentleman.

But it is a letter to her aunt mentioning Mr. Wickham that causes Aunt Gardiner to rush to Longbourn on the eve of the Netherfield Ball to protect her nieces from the wicked and dissolute man who brought grief and ruination to her own family, in addition to Mr. Darcy's, in the past....

This was a wonderful novel--I read it nearly all in one sitting because it was so original and compelling. And the reaction of Miss Caroline Bingley's when she learns that the polished and fashionable cousin of Mr. Darcy is actually the Bennets' relation who lives in Cheapside is precious indeed! Reading this novel with a cup of tea at one's elbow is the perfect way to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon!

View all my reviews To Refine Like Silver To Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have never given an Austen variation novel five stars before, mostly because I save that rating for literature of true classic significance. But this novel well-deserves its five stars for weaving Pride and Prejudice so seamlessly with Christian doctrine and encouragement.

I've tried reading "Christian romances," and the vast, vast majority of them are so heavy-handed or so syrupy-sweet that they take all of the sparkle out of the characters and the plot.

But this variation of Pride and Prejudice marries true Christianity lived in the life of Elizabeth Bennet who has suffered great tragedy during her short life. Her father is a retired pastor, now a country gentleman after inheriting Longbourn, and Elizabeth shines with light and joy as she comes to Derbyshire to help her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner to settle into the small estate which they have just inherited--and their estate is near Pemberley. When Darcy comes to meet his neighbors, he is immediately taken by Elizabeth's joy and peace (and impertinence, of course!) and wants her to befriend Georgiana who is in the depth of depression after Ramsgate. Elizabeth's wise and practical faith brings both Darcys hard-won peace...and while Georgiana finds herself a friend for life, Darcy discovers that he is falling in love with this unusual and impertinent young woman who, with a wink and a smile, challenges him to discover the meaning of Malachi 3:3. And Darcy also finds out what happens when one small (but extremely difficult!) act of forgiveness and grace affects another character so profoundly that he saves the reputations of the woman Darcy has come to love.

This book is definitely written for a Christian audience with faith issues abounding on nearly every page. Its approach of unapologetic apologetics is refreshing, and Elizabeth's various sayings and quotations affect not only the characters in the story but faithful readers as well. A truly wonderful and thought-provoking novel that I loved reading!!

View all my reviews Most Truly Most Truly by Reina M. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet novella telling the story of the romance between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Kitty Bennet, the latter of whom has greatly improved under her elder sisters' care since their weddings. Of course, now the Darcy is no longer available for Anne, Lady Catherine is determined that Colonel Fitzwilliam is the next likely victim, I mean, husband for her daughter. Little does the great lady know that both Anne and the Colonel have given their hearts to others...and not to each other.

A delightful and even at timesa bit of an angsty look at romance from both Kitty and the Colonel's POVs. A wonderful afternoon read with a cuppa and a few iced tea biscuits....

View all my reviews Darcy and Elizabeth: A Most Unlikely Couple Darcy and Elizabeth: A Most Unlikely Couple by Brenda J. Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story in which Darcy has a cousin, Andrew, who grew up with him and Wickham, but Andrew has long tended toward Wickham's character than the upright Darcy. However, when Andrew compromises Miss Elizabeth Bennet and then disappears, Darcy steps in to offer for the woman he loves but never thought his family would permit him to marry.

But his Derbyshire neighbor, the widowed Lady Susan, had wished to marry Darcy, and despite his hurried and hushed marriage to Elizabeth, plans to ruin their marriage with the assistance of a spoiled and horrid Georgiana who never believed Darcy's tales of their cousin Andrew's natural children or Wickham's gambling. Georgiana quickly becomes a pawn in the game of winning Darcy away from Elizabeth by Lady Susan with Wickham and Andrew's assistance.

There are several original characters(OC) in this fan fiction variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, including Andrew Darcy, and Fitzwilliam Darcy's uncle and aunt, Joseph Fitzwilliam and his wife Olivia, who were banished from the family for marrying without approval. Their beautiful marriage becomes the goal for both Darcy and Elizabeth who are in love but are too afraid to admit the truth to one another.

And thus the story unfolds with intrigue, kidnappings, highwaymen, several attempted murders, and plotting of various kinds that both endanger Darcy and Elizabeth while also bringing them closer together. A real roller-coaster ride, Regency-style!

I'll have more reviews for you soon! :)

Loving everything Austen,

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