Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: Obligation and Redemption

As I noted in my previous blog post, I have been enjoying a Kindle Unlimited subscription this summer as I way of forcing my body and mind to rest after a very stressful and over-worked year. I also shared the link to my previous post of book reviews on Twitter, and Cassandra Grafton, Abigail Reynolds, and Monica Fairview (all of whom I have become familiar with on the amazing Austen Variations where they write) all liked and retweeted my reviews as well.

And by the next day, I had two more authors of variations on Pride and Prejudice offering to send me books! I accepted, of course, and was surprised that the first book sent to me was one that I had already chosen as my next book to read on Kindle Unlimited! And it was one of the best variations of Pride and Prejudice I have read yet.

Here is the review as I have posted it on Goodreads and Amazon on Monday:


I have read over 300 variations of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Georgia McCall's novel Obligation and Redemption is one is definitely in my Top Five Austen-based novels. I think that out of all of my reviews, I've only given a handful of "5" ratings to variations of Austen's novels, saving that esteemed number of perfection for classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice itself. But if I had a "6" rating available, I'd give it to this book.

This is not a light and fluffy variation; it ventures into the deep, dark depths of the human soul and stays there for quite a while; hope seems distant at best and impossible at worst. Obligation and Redemption is for lovers of angst, and, for that reason, I simply couldn't put it down. In fact, I lost a whole day of grading and lesson prep on Saturday because I had to know what happened next and how this twisty-turny plot was going to somehow resolve. At times, resolution seemed absolutely impossible.

McCall's Darcy is darker than we see in most depictions of Austen's famed hero. I noted several outraged Darcy fans when I perused the reviews, but I thought that this Darcy was far less perfect and far more human, and I liked him all the better for it. I enjoyed not seeing Darcy fawning over Elizabeth from their earliest meetings; I thought his disdain and distrust were far more natural reactions to the overall situation for a man of his position and pride. He is suspicious of Elizabeth's motives from the very first and thinks the worst of her at almost every opportunity. The time it takes for both Darcy and Elizabeth to admire and trust one another seems realistic, especially given the various plot twists that cast serious doubts on the merits of the other.

And Elizabeth is not depicted as perfect, either; she has her obvious failings of temper and understanding, but she is the more forgiving of the two--and more forgiving of her own mistakes and prejudices. The experiences she undergoes would have been the ruination of many a delicate gentlewoman, but Elizabeth is strong, and despite all the forces aligned against her, she fights bitterness at the difficulties of her situation and attempts to find contentment despite the fact that a single act of kindness has apparently ruined her life.    

Christian elements of sin and redemption are woven into this novel, but not in the obtrusive or sickly-sweet manner often seen in Christian literature. It's a subtle theme, one that shouldn't be a bother to most non-Christians but one which Christians should greatly appreciate. But in the climax of the plot, Darcy has what can be compared to a modern Road-to-Damascus moment in which he, like Saint Paul, realizes the extent of his sin; as a result, Darcy returns to Pemberley a changed man. We can't help sighing with relief as Darcy finally recognizes his hypocrisy, his unmerited pride, and even his unconscious cruelty as he vows to become a man worthy of a loving wife.

Many evil machinations provide plot twists that keep us guessing throughout the book. Obviously, as a variation of Austen's romantic novel, we know that Darcy and Elizabeth will eventually reconcile and fall in love, but the strength of this particular variation is that one impediment after another keeps Darcy and Elizabeth from loving and trusting one another. They have a long, difficult journey to respecting and loving one another, but it's a journey made all the sweeter by the many woes they've endured and fears they've conquered.

My only wish for this book was that we could have enjoyed a couple more chapters of Darcy and Elizabeth's happiness together near the end. After so much angst and on-the-edge-of-my-seat drama, I would have liked to have basked in their love just a wee bit longer; the ending of the book would have been even more satisfying.  

I look forward to re-reading Obligation and Redemption often in the years to come; it has already claimed a treasured place in my library and definitely in my heart. It's brilliant, unflinching, and so heart-rending; in fact, I caught myself reaching for the tissue box more than once over these 500+ pages. For me, reading this lengthy novel was well-worth the time; I was rather sad when the book ended. Obligation and Redemption is one of those rare books that cause us to sigh in satisfaction when we finish it...and then forces us to flip back to the first chapter and immediately start reading it again.

Yes, it's that good.  


Reading with you,

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Reviews of Recently-Read Books

This summer, I invested in two months of Kindle Unlimited in order to make myself rest up. I knew that I had majorly overworked in the spring (well, all year, really), and I had to rest, one way or other. The first book I won as part of a lovely give-away on Austen Variations; the rest were straight from Kindle Unlimited with the exception of the second book (the mystery) which came from the library. Because of my very limited attention span this summer, I've read either series I know well (Anne Perry and Victoria Thompson's mysteries, each with more than 20 books featuring the same main characters) or Austen and/or Bronte fan fiction novels.

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The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was completely non-put-down-able. I should have been grading stories for my online writing class, but I spent all morning finishing this book. I won my Kindle copy of this book as part of a release give-away, and I am wearing my Darcy quote necklace as I type this. :)

I found Rose and Morgan, James and Aidan, and especially Jane, to be compelling and very "human" characters. Their flaws and embarrassing moments were blush-worthy at times and laughable at others. Some of the suspense was incredible, too, as the story took what could have been a very serious turn...but dodged the proverbial (not literal!) bullet at the last possible second.

I felt that the ending left us hanging a bit...so perhaps a sequel shall be in the works????

And how in the world do two authors write in tandem so seamlessly??? So very impressive!!

What a wonderful "ride," ladies, and congratulations on a delightful book! And thank you for my lovely Austen "goodies" although I'm not so sure about the Love Hearts--I think I prefer my American version of Sweet-Tarts. ;)

Murder on St. Nicholas AvenueMurder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rather shorter book, and I quite missed Sarah and Malloy as this mystery occurs while they were in Europe on their honeymoon.

But Maeve and Gino, with the great help of Sarah's parents, the Deckers, a well-known Knickerbocker family, solve the mystery before Sarah and Malloy return...and before Christmas

Steampunk Darcy Steampunk Darcy by Monica Fairview
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such an intriguing book, especially with the Steampunk fantasy world which is so very detailed that I wondered if it were not a fantasy world in and of itself outside of this one novel.

The story itself is fascinating, the characters compelling, and the overall effect was truly out of this world! I loved it!!

Mr. Darcy's Pride and Joy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Mr. Darcy's Pride and Joy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Monica Fairview
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like everything written by Monica Fairview, I adored it. Her characterizations of Darcy and Elizabeth are always so fascinating. I had not read the first two books in the series, but to find Darcy and Elizabeth on the brink of their engagement...an engagement that Mr. Bennet is trying to delay if not completely destroy because of his own pride, was indeed intriguing enough to push ahead and see what happens, even if I didn't have the complete backstory. I'm glad I did. :)

Mr. Darcy's Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Mr. Darcy's Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating romance set against the budding social unrest in the North as the workers in various factories revolt with violence and brutality against anyone of the higher classes, despite the fact that Darcy and his family are attempting to help the impoverished workers. Elizabeth is caught in the middle of it all, of course, and her poor opinion of Darcy quickly changes as she sees his true character readily displayed in his actions rather than in his awkward words alone.

Halton Cray Halton Cray by N.B. Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across Halton Cray as I sought out some variations of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, my favorite novel, on FanFiction.net. This fan fiction novel picked up Charlotte Bronte's language and characters so perfectly that I could have sworn that Charlotte had left an alternative ending of her famous novel behind, and it had just been discovered. Seriously.

In the author's notes on the fan fiction site, the author noted that she had written a modern novel that is loosely based on Jane Eyre called Halton Cray, and I happily downloaded it to my Kindle. Alexandra, a 21-year old recent college graduate, takes a part-time job at Halton Cray, a British historical landmark that is open for tours. The only problem: the house is reportedly haunted. Weird and inexplicable happenings occur, but skeptical Alex doesn't scare easily. The historian/archivist, Thomas, mocks her continuously, treating her with little respect, but she is inexplicably drawn to him despite the fact that he can be rather creepy and many of the staff steer clear of him.

And I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. ;)

Halton Cray started a wee bit slowly, much as Jane Eyre itself does, but once I got about 25% of the way into the book, I couldn't put it down until I finished it. In fact, the grading of my summer school class suffered as a result; I just had to keep reading this book.

The parallels to Jane Eyre are surface-level, mostly in the Gothic setting and the plucky but plain main character who falls for the brash and mysterious historian who seems to date the town's richest (and greatly Botoxed) widow, much as Rochester pretended to pursue Blanche Ingram with the view of making Jane jealous and realize her feelings for him. Alex falls into the same trap herself as she tries to uncover the mysteries that enshroud Halton Cray. However, a great deal of this modern novel diverges from Bronte's most famous book; Halton Cray went in directions I was definitely not expecting but found exciting and compelling all the same.

Halton Cray is apparently the first book in The Shadows of the World series, and I am very much interested in the second book which continues the story of Alex in the aftermath of the events at and around Halton Cray.
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So I have obviously done a lot of reading (and reviewing) this summer. Not bad for a mere $20 investment in Kindle Unlimited...given that I have another dozen books to post reviews on! :)

Happily reading,


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