A Weekend with Mr. Darcy

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts, #1)A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick, fun read (even though it took me 3 months to read…) – light-hearted, cozy Austen fan fiction. Called the first of a trilogy, there are now 6 in the series. Don’t expect any great wit or social commentary, but there are plenty of references to Austen novels, Austen characters, Austen movies, etc. No explicit sex – this could be read by your age-13 teenage daughter. There are two love stories – the college professor, Katherine, an Austen scholar, who secretly loves the bodice-rippers of Lorna Warwick, and has carried on a correspondence with her – not knowing she is a he. When she meets him at a Jane Austen conference (not knowing his secret identity) and falls in love – well, you know it isn’t going to turn out well when she does find out… And then we have the young secretary who comes to the conference, followed by her long-time boyfriend that she is trying to ditch. He crashes the conference in several humorous scenes, and surprises her with a very public marriage proposal, but Robyn has fallen for the brother of Dame Pamela, whose home is the setting for the conference. I didn’t find a lot of sympathy for Katherine – she came off as rather cold – and Warwick bordered on TSTL. But Robyn’s story – stuck in a dead-end relationship out of guilt and not knowing how to move her life forward – was sweet and satisfying. For both of them the answers boil down to “What Would Jane Austen Do?” Shallow and sappy, but I just might try another in the series.

Book description: Of course she’s obsessed with Jane Austen…Surrounded by appalling exes and fawning students, the only thing keeping professor Katherine Roberts sane is Jane Austen and her personal secret love for racy Regency romance novels. She thinks the Jane Austen Addicts conference in the English countryside is the perfect opportunity to escape her chaotic life and finally relax… But then she encounters a devilishly handsome man at the conference who seems determined to sweep her off her feet. Is he more fiction than fact? Or could he be the hero she didn’t know she was looking for?

Advertisements

Pies and Prejudice

Pies and Prejudice (A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery, #1)Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I must not be a fan of cozy mysteries. Especially stories that involve magic. They just seem fluffy / silly to me. Known as “the pie queen” in my family, I was hoping the pie angle would bump it up for me, but the recipes were nothing special, and I wasn’t even convinced the author had ever baked a pie. Putting frozen pie dough in the microwave to thaw it?? Oh no, no, no, no, no! And the way the character manhandles the dough all the time, the pie crusts would be a bit tough. She should have been a bread baker! Still I’d give it 3.5 stars. Just not sure I liked it enough to continue to see where the author might be going with the magical element. There are a few nods to Pride and Prejudice – 5 women (though not all sisters), hunky guy in the swimming hole ala Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and a few other things, but plotwise there is no resemblance to Austen. I liked the aunts. Strong women characters are always a plus. I just don’t think they needed to have magical powers.

Book description: When the going gets tough, Ella Mae LaFaye bakes pies. So when she catches her husband cheating in New York, she heads back home to Havenwood, Georgia, where she can drown her sorrows in fresh fruit filling and flakey crust. But her pies aren’t just delicious. They’re having magical effects on the people who eat them–and the public is hungry for more. Discovering her hidden talent for enchantment, Ella Mae makes her own wish come true by opening the Charmed Pie Shoppe. But with her old nemesis Loralyn Gaynor making trouble, and her old crush Hugh Dylan making nice, she has more than pie on her plate. and when Loralyn’s fiancĂ© is found dead–killed with Ella Mae’s rolling pin–it’ll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.

Longbourn

LongbournLongbourn by Jo Baker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have undoubtedly over-rated this, but I had so few 5-star reads last year, I am trying to even out my 3, 4, and 5 star reviews. So anything even slightly over 4 will be rated a 5 – for now. Obviously I have mixed feelings about that! This book does not try to retell the story of Pride and Prejudice, but it does serve as the framework for a story of the servants at Longbourn. The lives of the Bennets take a definite backseat here, with a lot of gaps. This is its own story. Jo Baker has taken some liberties with their back stories, which might raise some eyebrows, but to say more would be spoilers. I liked the framework. I liked the different point of view of the servants. But I thought the love story between Sarah and James was a bit weak. It sort of lost continuity in the last third of the book – perhaps a few chapters from James’ point-of-view might have been illuminating. The ending was only so-so for me. But there is a lot to enjoy along the way, especially in the day-to-day lives of the servants and their thoughts and feelings. Definitely a book that I could see myself re-reading some day, perhaps alongside P&P and Pride and Prejudice: The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote.

Book Description: In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Enthusiasm

EnthusiasmEnthusiasm by Polly Shulman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet little book. It’s a quick read about friendship, high school crushes, school activities, embarrassing parents, and other teenaged angst. The love story aspect is a little weak, but this is high school after all, and it’s G-rated, so okay for younger teens. I enjoyed the interplay between the two girls. I was the quiet bookworm among my more outgoing friends. I would have liked a take-charge friend like Ashleigh, but Julie seemed much too passive about everything. I probably was like that in high school, too. It takes time and experience to learn to be assertive and stand up for yourself. Not that Julie is bullied – it’s just that her agreeableness and fear of hurting someone’s feelings are bound to do more harm than good in the long run. The boys were far more charming and thoughtful than I remember any boys being in high school! Heck, I’m still looking for my poetry-writing, fencing and sailing enthusiast Mr. Darcy myself! I enjoyed the side-plot of the high school musical, and Julie’s relationships with her parents, the mother coping with unemployment, and her remarried father and the attempts (unwelcome!) of his new wife to ingratiate herself into Julie’s life. I might have rated this higher if I weren’t so far removed from my teenage years! Still, it was a nice bit of fluff in-between more serious reads, and I enjoyed the Jane Austen angle.

Book Description: Julie is a quiet bookworm. Her best friend Ashleigh, on the other hand, is an “Enthusiast.” As long as they have known each other, Ash has been obsessed with one thing or another. Now it is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which just happens to be Julie’s favorite book. Before Julie knows what hit her, she and Ash are decked-out in 19th-century garb, smelling like mothballs, and crashing the all-boys prep school formal dance. Their mission is to find their personal Misters Darcy. But when they set their sights on the same young gentleman, their journey into the world of proper English courtship looks like it might cause a broken heart or two.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is fluff, but enjoyable fluff if you aren’t expecting either a murder mystery, or the continuing voice of Jane Austen. P.D. James has her own style – that of omniscient narrator – but it fits the time period admirably. Still, it is narration, and lacks the sparkling dialog that characterizes Jane Austen. Those who are intimately familiar with Pride and Prejudice may tire of the endless rehashing of those events. Those who are not, may appreciate the filling in of the back story. I enjoyed learning where P.D. James has taken our familiar characters in the six years since the end of P&P. As for the murder mystery, this is not so much a who-done-it as it is an exploration of how the characters react to these events and the unfolding murder trial. All in all, this is probably better than most of the P&P sequels out there.

Description: It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball. Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a mystery and a lurid murder trial.

Pride and Prejudice and Kitties

Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover's Romp Through Jane Austen's ClassicPride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pride and Prejudice told from a cat’s point-of-view, interspersed with passages from the actual Pride and Prejudice. The retelling was clever – Kitty doesn’t just cough, she coughs up hairballs; the balls are the kind you bat around, maybe extra special with a bell inside; the estate has been end-tailed; etc. This is obviously a contemporary adaption – otherwise references to pill pockets and Fancy Feast would be anachronistic. If you like comparing the changes to the original, you will like the juxtaposition of the two texts. I thought it made the story a bit repetitious. The photos were obviously carefully staged with Jane Austen props. I loved the little inside jokes, and featuring other P&P related books like “Jane Austen for Dummies,” “The Jane Austen Cookbook,” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” I would have liked the “kitty” adaptation to have been illustrated using the same cats for Jane Austen’s characters and to have been separate from the other type of photos. All in all, I think it could have been less story, more photos.

From the inside flap:
“If I can but see one of my kittens happily purring at Netherfield,” remarked Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well-mated, I shall have nothing to yowl about.” Pride and Prejudice and Kitties juxtaposes wacky photos of cats with the wicked humor of Jane Austen. Soulful Mr. Darcy gazes at Elizabeth Bennet in fascination; hysterical Mrs. Bennet yowls that no one understands her; somnolent Mr. Hurst passes out on the sofa after dinner; arrogant Lady Catherine hisses at Elizabeth. Each photo includes a hilarous caption that goes along with the text of Pride and Prejudice, told from a feline perspective.

Opening chapter:
“Netherfield Park is marked at last.”
The news caused much romping at the Bennet household for, as every cat knows, a handsome young tom in possession of his own territory must be in want of a mate.

Austenland

Austenland (Austenland, #1)Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was great fun, but great literature it is not. Jane is a thirty-something woman with the emotional IQ of an 18-year-old. She is obsessed with the idea of having the perfect boyfriend, yet she doesn’t really have a clue what she wants in a man. I love the idea of Pembroke Park – does such a place actually exist? The characters are shallow stereotypes, and the novel lacks any real depth, but for sheer escapism you don’t want anything that actually makes you think. The ending is predictable, but one wonders if Jane’s experience has really taught her anything in the end.

Description: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man — perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?