Saturday, December 9, 2017

Yes--Further Book Reviews!

Once again I'm posting reviews of books from my Goodreads account to here. Some reviews are rather brief while others may get a bit lengthy, but I definitely enjoyed them all! Not all are Austen variations--one is fiction, and the other is a mystery, and then, yes, the other ones are variations of Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Imprisoned with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Imprisoned with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Wynne Mabry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very sweet story in which Darcy and Elizabeth are somehow locked into a dungeon at the home of Lady Catherine's nearest neighbor...and this awkward situation occurs the very next day after Darcy's botched proposal at the parsonage! But when Darcy and Elizabeth discover that their imprisonment was not an accident at all but a means to blackmail Darcy regarding his sister's near-elopement with Wickham, events start unfolding quite quickly.

This is more a novella-length book; it's definitely not long, and while I really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down (I read it basically in a few hours), I wish that it had lasted longer than just the wedding. I always want to know more about the Darcy marriage after the wedding, so I feel just as pulled-to-a-stop in this variation as I did in Austen's original.

I definitely liked this Darcy, though; although proud, he was quick to mend his faults when confronted with them during their "imprisonment." And he always strove for Elizabeth's happiness, defending her to Lady Catherine and the rest of his family. And this Elizabeth was also quick to see this more attractive side of Darcy and to enjoy his company. There was a little pride and awkwardness on both sides when first imprisoned together, but they soon understood each other much better, and their relationship deepened as a result.

I really enjoyed this variation of Pride and Prejudice; it was well-written and flowed well; I just would have liked the story to continue for a few chapters further than it did.

First Among Sequels First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another wonderful foray into fiction with Thursday Next! There is a definite time jump between Book 4 of this series and Book 5. Thursday is still married to Landen and has three kids: Friday is now 16 (so we've jumped 14 years with this book), Tuesday is 12, and Jenny is 10. Thursday continues her Spec-Ops and Jurisfiction work but secretly as she is afraid to tell Landen that she is endangering herself. The "front" for continuing her policing of both literary crimes and the Bookworld is her flooring-installation business...Acme Carpets which employs past characters from Spec Ops Bowden Cable, Stig the Neantherthal, Spike the vampire killer, etc.

Thursday is also saddled with an apprentice...Thursday5 from the "flop" of the Thursday Next books, The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco, the only Thursday Next book that Thursday herself had any "say" in...the only Thursday Next book without gratuitous sex and violence (not that the first four really had any of that, either). And somehow Thursday gets a second apprentice, the overconfident and just plain mean Thursday1-4 from the first four Thursday Next books, starting, of course, with The Eyre Affair. And if that isn't confusing yet interesting enough...things *really* start getting weird.

Darcy and Elizabeth: A Promise Kept Darcy and Elizabeth: A Promise Kept by Brenda J. Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful adventure. Six years after last seeing each other in Kent, Elizabeth and Darcy are thrown together when Charles Bingley, married to Jane, becomes deathly ill and asks Darcy, who remained unmarried and with whom he had been estranged, to care for his pregnant wife, two daughters, and Elizabeth who remains as their governess while he sails for Spain to improve his health. Darcy keeps his promise to Darcy and cares for Bingley's family and business. But Bingley's cousin, co-owner of Bingley's business, has been cheating him, and Darcy has much to unravel. More adventures and surprises fill this novel which contains nary a dull moment.

I had read this story just over a year ago and very much enjoyed it but somehow never fully reviewed it. It's a wonderful tale that twisted and turned throughout its length. A stunning read! I would give it a 4.5 if I could!

Rain and Retribution Rain and Retribution by L.L. Diamond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth flees a forced marriage to Mr. Collins with the assistance of the Hills, trying to get to London to the Gardiners'. But in the pouring rain, her conveyance breaks down, and Mr. Darcy comes to the rescue. When they stop at an inn, Elizabeth becomes ill and thus is compromised, and Mr. Darcy offers marriage...which Elizabeth accepts. Once the several days of rain abate and Elizabeth is able to travel, they marry quickly at Darcy House...and then the romancing begins. :)

I don't want to give away any more of the plot, but I found this variation of Pride and Prejudice to be so compelling that I literally could not put it down. The plot of Rain and Retribution is full of twists and turns, and I definitely found myself ignoring my work so that I could continue reading!! I love Leslie's novels, and this one is definitely amazing!!

A Corpse at St Andrews Chapel A Corpse at St Andrews Chapel by Melvin R. Starr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't usually start book series with the second book, but in this case, books #2 and #4 of the wonderfully medieval mysteries Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon Chronicles were sitting on the paperback cart besides our small town library's door, and the covers, then the titles, struck me. I invested my quarter and purchased book #2, and once I had started it, made sure I acquired book #4 on my next library trip.

I quite enjoyed this leisurely mystery, full of details of medieval life in a village outside of Oxford. John Wyclif is also a character as Hugh's mentor, so Hugh often makes pre-Reformation remarks about the abuses of the Church and the value of reading Scriptures for oneself. So I value these insights into medieval faith and practice and the contemplative life of those who follow Christ very much.

The mysteries were also quite intriguing. The books are written in first person, so we get all of Hugh's thoughts and musings along the way. I can't help but to like Hugh; he's an unassuming man of 25-ish, knowing well his weaknesses and well as his strengths. We also get to see him fall in love with the daughter of an Oxford stationer whose beauty and sweetness are a great pull for the students at Oxford.

Not only is Hugh a surgeon, but he is also Lord Gilbert's bailiff, so any problems on the lord's lands end up as Hugh's problems as Lord Gilbert is often at his other holdings.

So this series has quite drawn me in, and after the wonderful cliffhanger in the last sentence of this volume, I may have to hunt down the third book before proceeding to the fourth volume that I already have at hand. We shall see....

A Less Agreeable Man A Less Agreeable Man by Maria Grace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another of Maria Grace's wonderful Pride and Prejudice variations that I was privileged to proofread...twice this time! (Although my second go-through was sent to her while Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, so they may turn up in the printed book.)

I have long been a devoted fan of Maria Grace before I even knew her through the Austen Variations site. I had come across her work (under a different name) on and fell in love with her stories there. The book that became Mistaking Her Character (the first in the Queen of Rosings Park series) was definitely a favorite, and then she published the second volume of the series serially on Austen Variations, which I also adored. So this third book was definitely high on my list to read...and I loved proofing it, too. Both times. ;)

While the first volume of the series involved Elizabeth and Darcy, and the second volume recounted Lydia's experiences at a boarding school for young ladies who have gone astray, the third volume returns us to Hunsford and Miss Mary Bennet, who, after her physician father leaves Rosings Park following the death of Anne de Bourgh, stays with the Collinses as a favor to the pregnant Charlotte. But Lady Catherine is just not herself since the death of her daughter, and Rosings is in serious financial difficulties. Mary also remains at Hunsford because she is betrothed to Mr. Michaels, the steward Darcy hired to tend to Rosings Park and to keep the highly-indebted holdings from succumbing completely after years of Lady Catherine's mismanagement.

Mary has much to accomplish as she keeps Charlotte, who is carrying twins, company and also helps greatly at the parsonage in doing what Charlotte can no longer do. Plus, Mary seems to be the only person who can manage Lady Catherine when she is in her more fractious moods, thinking her daughter is still alive, etc. And Mary is one of the few people to whom Colonel Fitzwilliam, the heir of Rosings Park after Anne's death, will listen to. So Mary is greatly put-upon as she resides at Hunsford, especially since she is no favorite of her cousin, Mr. Collins.

This story is filled with tragedy laced with hope, and it's truly a wonderful testament to the strength and faithfulness of one often-overlooked (and overworked!) woman who holds all the threads of Rosings Park in her capable hands...while doubting herself continually.

While this book can be read by itself, it's best to read the whole series in order, especially the first book, Mistaking Her Character.

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Keep on reading!! 


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