Thursday, April 24, 2014
We join the story at a familiar place, when Elizabeth runs into Darcy, accidentally, many months after she has read that ever so important letter - the only difference is that this doesn't happen in the garden's at Pemberley, but at a ball... in France! And here the similarity plot wise ends - although the outcome as a result of this accidental meeting is the same, there is an extremely different route to get to that outcome in this variation!
"In this Pride and Prejudice variation, a despondent Darcy travels to Paris in the hopes of forgetting the disastrous proposal at Hunsford. Paris is teeming with English visitors during a brief moment of peace in the Napoleonic Wars, but Darcy’s spirits don’t lift until he attends a ball and unexpectedly encounters…Elizabeth Bennet! Darcy seizes the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and initiate a courtship.
Their moment of peace is interrupted by the news that England has again declared war on France, and hundreds of English travelers must flee Paris immediately. Circumstances force Darcy and Elizabeth to escape on their own, despite the risk to her reputation. Even as they face dangers from street gangs and French soldiers, romantic feelings blossom during their flight to the coast. But then Elizabeth falls ill, and the French are arresting all the English men they can find….
When Elizabeth and Darcy finally return to England, their relationship has changed, and they face new crises. However, they have secrets they must conceal—even from their own families."
Right, first things first, let's start with the writing style. On the whole, I thought it was very well written. The dialogue was great and the author was very good at description - particularly describing the inner feelings of both Darcy and Elizabeth throughout the story.
Lets get my small negative out the way; the little problem I had was with the americanisms I noticed (when I see a "couch" or a mention of the "fall" it does slightly irritate me - but not for long!) and there were a few editing issues and mistakes, but I know how hard it can be to catch them all, and as I got more and more drawn into the action filled story I found these little mistakes and typos didn't distract from the story at all! And that is my only criticism!
The writing flowed well and I was easily wrapped up in the story. I enjoyed the fast pace to the book as it was never dull and never dragged! We had everything from near death experiences to almost imprisonment, from kidnappings to elopements (and that's not just Lydia I am talking about here!)
So, onto the most important characters, Elizabeth and Darcy. As I mentioned above, the inner thoughts and feelings of these two were very well described throughout the story, and boy do these two go through a lot together! After meeting in France, things seem to be improving between the two, as we know it does, but then, most inconveniently, the Napoleonic War starts up again! (A little aside here - the bits of historical detail about the war I found very intriguing to read about.)
Things don't go smoothly for these two as they try to escape France, English visitors no longer being welcome! I found it really interesting to see how these to react to each other in the face of danger and in such unusual circumstances! As you can imagine, rules of property and proper manners all have to go out the window as the only thing which matters is escaping France, alive. The relationship between them really builds through this time and you really see a different side to Darcy as he is doing all he can to protect Elizabeth and get her safely back to England.
During their trouble filled escape attempt Elizabeth falls terribly ill and so doctor Darcy jumps into action! He was such a sweetheart while she was poorly, caring for her and doing all he possibly could for he. You really had to feel sorry for him as you could really tell how stricken with worry he was. Things had started to look better between him and Elizabeth and he had been given a second chance, but now it seems she to be taken from him forever! *pause for dramatic effect*
Ok *(slight) SPOILER ALERT* I never like to give away any spoilers but for what I want to say, I need to carry on past this point as it happens relatively early on in the plot! (And finding out will not ruin the story for you in my opinion - I think it would make you want to read it even more!) Anyway, you have been warned!
I don't think it would come as a surprise to know that although it gets rather close, of course Elizabeth pulls it back - well she couldn't die now could she! After this near death experience, Elizabeth sees her life in a new perspective and for various reasons of both a romantic and practical nature (of which I shall let you read for yourself!) Darcy and Elizabeth end up marrying before they leave France - how you wonder? A quick explanation... the house Darcy takes the ailing Elizabeth to is of an old school friend who moved to France and who just happens to be a clergyman! (You can't deny that marrying in France without anyone knowing has its advantages - no Mrs Bennet or Lady Catherine to contend with!)
Eventually the now married couple escape from France, and this is where the matter of their marriage becomes rather interesting to the story and events which take place, but also difficult at times and often amusing at others! As I said, this is a very fast moving story which is full of drama and many problems! What was really different and nice to see was that because they had married in France, all the problems they face upon returning home - Lydia's elopement, family problems for Darcy etc - they face together, as a married couple. It is a real test for their relationship and marriage, but it also shows the strength of attachment between the two of them. It was lovely to see them being so much more open with each other during all these problems - well, they were married after all.
More and more problems arise which result in more and more delays before they can announce their marriage. Now aside from physical problems to test their marriage thanks to their 'friends' and relations, they also face emotional struggles; they are a newly married couple, passionately in love, after all, who had a very unusual courtship where none of the usual restraints between men and woman applied, and now they have to revert back to acting as mere acquaintances when really they know each other much more intimately! I really felt for them, trying to steal private moments together when no one was looking! Or they thought no one was looking; a few people had to be let in on their secret if they weren't to accuse Darcy of some rather scandalous and ungentlemanly behaviour towards Elizabeth! Of course, a happy ending is eventually reached and the secret can be revealed, meaning they can finally live and act as the married couple that they are, and have been for many months!
Darcy and Elizabeth really go through a lot, and the moments of intimacy and romance between the two are very sweet and highly romantic (while the story remains clean.) I enjoyed these parts of the book and it was nice for them to reach an understanding and marry so much earlier in the book, as it meant that rather than the ups and downs and problems in the story keeping them from marrying (as is the case in many variations), the problems merely kept them from announcing their marriage. It was an interesting and enjoyable change.
I mustn't forget all the other characters, but this review will never end if I talk of them all so I shall pick my favourites!
We get to see more of Colonel Fitzwilliam (who is just as teasing, but caring, of Darcy as we would expect!) which I always love and we also get to know Georgiana more which is always nice, especially when we see her relationship with her new sister Elizabeth grow, even though she doesn't know she's got a new sister!
I felt sorry for Mr Bennet who had a lot to deal with through this story, and it was interesting to see his feelings more and the pain caused by Lydia's elopement. Hearing of his favourite daughters very dangerous - and unchaperoned - escape from France with Darcy doesn't help matters for the poor man either!
Lord and Lady Matlock come into the story which was nice as it is always interesting to see more of Darcy's family - although due to certain circumstances they add to the delay and continued concealment of the marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth. As does Lady Catherine, surprise surprise. The famous confrontation between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth was fun to read as Darcy is also present when it takes place in this story! Lady Catherine goes to extraordinary lengths to cause the couple problems - I think you would be surprised at how far! You see a different and determined side to Lady Catherine - but I shall say no more on this matter!
Fear not, the scoundrel Wickham still makes his appearance and causes his own problems for poor Darcy and Elizabeth, and not just because of his actions with Lydia. But again, you must read it yourself to see what other mischief he gets up to!
And good old Caroline pops up every now and then and causes great amusement. I suppose you could pity her a little as she continually flirts with and flatters Darcy - shame she doesn't know he's married! She even warns Elizabeth that even though Darcy seems to be paying Elizabeth special attention to not to get her hopes up for he would never marry her - too bad Caroline, for he already has! Seeing Elizabeth hold her own against these attacks was great.
And finally, thanks to two new characters, we get to see a jealous side to Darcy! Responsible for this is, first, a dashing Lord Lennox who rather takes a fancy to Lizzy in France, and secondly, a Mr Fenton - or as I like to call him, Mr Collins mark 2! Mr Fenton really was such a comedy character. He needs to marry. Jane is almost taken, or so Mrs Bennet believes due to Bingley's recent return to Netherfield, and so Elizabeth it is. If possible, his proposal of marriage is even worse than Mr Collins was! And just like Mr Collins, Mr Fenton will not take no for an answer - it would have silenced him, I should think, had Lizzy been able to refuse him due to the rather problematic fact that she was already married and would not become a bigamist!
I will wrap things up here, but one last thing... Let me assure you that although the story is full of drama and can be quite serious, it is not without it's humour thanks to characters such as Caroline and this Mr Fenton. I laughed many times while I was reading this!
If you like a fast moving story, full to the brim of drama and adventure, with some brilliant humour and beautiful romance thrown in then this is the story for you!
I am very lucky to be able to offer a giveaway of 3 ebook copies (any format) of this story!
To enter please leave a comment below and include your email address so that I can contact the randomly selected winners and which format (Kindle, nook) you would like if you are a winner.
The giveaway will end on the 1st of May.
I wish Victoria all the best with this story as well as any other stories in the future!
Your affectionate friend,
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Alice, winner of the paperback copy of The Secret Betrothal!
I really hope that you both enjoy the story! I have sent you an email and would appreciate a response as soon as possible so that I can pass on the appropriate informatio
n by the 25th.
Thank you to everyone who entered and I wish you could all have won!
Thank you again to Jan and to Jakki, of Leatherbound Reviews, for offering this giveaway!
Your affectionate friend,
Sunday, April 20, 2014
I have loved all of Heidi's previous stories (review here) and so I was really excited for another tale from one of my favourite authors! And I was not disappointed for it was brilliant! It is definitely one of my favourites from this author. Although I would say it is the most serious of her stories so far, it still had plenty of humour! I also believe it is her most romantic novel yet - no wonder it has become such a favourite with me!
"Miss Elizabeth Armistead, India born and raised, is happily betrothed to British soldier, Duncan Cruikshank. When she arrives in London a month prior to the wedding she meets Mr. Lloyd-Jones and soon finds that he has invaded even her dreams. Besides Duncan, Mr. Lloyd-Jones is the only man who makes her feel as if he sees past her exceptional beauty to the person within. Her mother would prefer Elizabeth marry the rich and well-connected Mr. Lloyd-Jones while his sister is ecstatic that he is now free to woo Miss Armistead since he has broken off his engagement to the disgraceful Cecily Ponsonby. However, Elizabeth's commitment to the man she promised to marry is at odds with the likes of Mr. Lloyd-Jones who has cried off from one engagement already. How can she betray the man she believes to love her for her virtues so as to indulge her love for a man she fears she cannot trust?
Jaded and betrayed, Mr. Colin Lloyd-Jones and Sir Anthony Crenshaw make a solemn vow to avoid the Marriage Mart for the duration of the London season. When Sir Anthony is called away on a journey in the company of his grandmother's ward, Miss Delacourt, Colin finds he cannot abide by their agreement, especially when his father expects him to squire his sister to society's endless balls and routs. When Colin encounters the breathtakingly beautiful Miss Elizabeth Armistead, he is intrigued by her lack of fascination for his great standing in society, family fortune, and captivating charm. When he learns that she is already betrothed, he feels himself safe from hurt in her company until he discovers the secret she has been guarding, one that threatens to batter his vulnerable heart all past mending."
Let's start with the writing. As it had been a while since I read any of Heidi's tales, I had forgotten how brilliant a writer she is! It was so well written and flowed seamlessly and so was a very easy read. As I mentioned, this was a more serious story compared to her usual but there was still humour and I love her style of humour - comments, often sarcastic, thrown in here and there which just make you laugh out loud! (I never realised how useful a blancmange could be for pinning someone to the ground!)
The story and plot itself was also very strong, and so that along with the brilliant writing meant I was completely drawn into it as I read. It really was most engaging and evoked some very strong emotions and I found it very hard to put down (or rather, it was a test of my patience as I waited for the next chapters to be written and sent to me!)! I just had to find out what was going to happen next and how it was all going to work out!
And now onto the characters. Beginning with Miss Elizabeth Armistead. All her life her astounding angelic beauty has stunned many gentleman into falling in love with her... looks. She has always had to contend with the question of whether all the interest in her was because of who she was inwardly, or whether it was just her outward appearance. And so when the chance comes along to engage herself to a blind man, Duncan, she jumps at it. Surely a blind man cannot be marrying her for her beauty?
I absolutely loved Elizabeth. I really admired her wish to be loved for something other than her beauty. To be loved for herself. She was a really strong and likeable heroine. She has spirit and was very determined... to honour her engagement to Duncan. But then a Mr Colin Lloyd-Jones comes on the scene and unbidden thoughts start entering her mind of this handsome young gentleman...
Mr Colin Lloyd-Jones is suffering from a broken heart and the scandal of a broken engagement after his ex-fiancée turned out to be not so innocent as first thought. His good friend Sir Anthony (whose own story you can read about in Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind) is also nurturing a broken heart and so a pact is made between the two friends to avoid all women (and therefore the chance of another broken heart) through the season. But then who should show up on his doorstep but the beautiful - engaged - Miss Armistead. What could be the harm in befriending her?
What can I say about our perfect hero, Colin. He was just that; perfect! He was wonderful and there were lots of layers to his character; he could be charming and a little flirty, but he was also funny, and he was incredibly caring and considerate, and deep down, he was a true romantic. Adding to this was the bonus that he was a musician, or rather, he can play the piano! This was a lovely addition, especially for a musical lady such as myself!
Together, Colin and Elizabeth are very sweet and it is lovely to see their friendship growing. However it very quickly becomes clear that neither truly want things to stop at just friendship.
The love triangle in this book makes it such a romantic and emotional story. You can't help but feel for Elizabeth and Colin, the former bound by a promise she feels she cannot break, and the latter faced with the knowledge that the woman he truly loves is already engaged to another. The tension between the two as they become closer and closer is electric and the sadness which is always tainting their meetings due to their unfortunate situation is heart-breaking! There are so many beautiful and romantic scenes between these two, as Colin tries and tries to save Elizabeth from a loveless marriage to blind man. But she is determined.
I always love stories which have the majority of the scenes with the hero and heroine both present, which is what happened in this one. There are plenty of stolen moments as the time comes closer and closer for Duncan to return to England and collect his bride-to-be (don't worry he doesn't come on the scene too quickly so there is plenty of time for Colin and Elizabeth before Duncan comes along to ruin everything!) My highly romantic nature was more than satisfied with the romance in this story! The reality of their situation just seemed to make the romance even more intense and every private moment between the two of them more precious!
As well as Colin and Elizabeth, there are some wonderful secondary characters, my favourite of which is most definitely Colin's sister, Analisa. She was such a lovely girl. The relationship between her and Colin was also particularly touching as the strong bond and love they had for each other was so clear.
She too, just like her brother, is a hopeless romantic, and so when she sees how well Colin and Elizabeth are getting on her matching-making skills jump into action, easily dismissing the rather problematic fact that Elizabeth is engaged as a mere trifle! She is a very good match maker and her attempts to get the pair alone and convince Elizabeth of how perfect her brother is was often rather amusing, but also very sweet and usually successful as she was a very good scheming match maker! When she isn't match making, she gets on very well with Elizabeth herself and the relationship between the two is very sweet. Analisa really was such a charming character.
Another character I liked was Mrs Armistead, Elizabeth's mother. She was a very sweet and understanding woman, who really cared about her daughters true feelings, even sometimes subtly persuading her to follow her heart rather than her head.
Elizabeth's aunt, Augusta, however, was a rather different character, who was keen on things being kept proper and correct, and promises being honoured. She was funny though and made me laugh quite a few times with all her strictures about what is and isn't right in the eyes of society!
Another character, Miss Katherine Hale, Elizabeth's friend, was an interesting character. She causes a few problems for poor Elizabeth as there is pretty much a second love triangle as Katherine too starts to realise that Colin is indeed a very charming - and handsome - gentleman.
I have already mentioned Duncan and as I don't want to give anything away, all I will say is that once he comes on the scene he pales in comparison to Colin!
I have already commented on the strong and engaging plot of the this story, but I must give a particular mention to the dramatic and surprising ending! It was really exciting and took a very unexpected turn! I knew something was going to happen, but what does happen I was not expecting!
As I briefly mentioned above, characters from her other stories appear in this story which I liked. After reading all the other tales, it was nice for some of the characters to make another appearance in this story. Heidi does this cross over of characters brilliantly in all her stories. (This is not to say that you need to have read all her other novels first, for you do not. They all work as stand alone stories - but the extra detail with characters you already know is a fun bonus if you have read the others!)
Overall, I really loved this story. It think it may even have become my favourite of this authors novels, for I loved the more serious nature as it resulted in such beautiful and heart-wrenching romance, the most powerful of all her stories in my opinion. But yet there was still some wonderful humour throughout. The characters, and not just the hero and heroine, were also brilliant and very strong, really adding to the story.
And so I leave you in suspense of revealing picnics, enlightening musicale evenings, significant and meaningful paintings and secret - and improper - brooches!
I loved it. Can you tell?
Your affectionate friend,
Thursday, April 17, 2014
I believe the studying of an Austen novel, usually Pride and Prejudice, at school is the way in for quite a few people. I studied it at school when I was 15 myself! Although I loved the book at the time, I can't deny that watching the series didn't help fuel my passion - how could you not 'wake up' when Colin Firth walks on screen?!
You are completely right. As well as the wonderful Elizabeth and Darcy, everyone knows a flirt like Lydia or a gossip like Mrs Bennet; the characters have stood the test of time.
I am with you regarding Edmund Bertram - he just didn't do it for me either!
Well, personally, I much prefer plot variations to prequels and sequels for exactly the same reason as you, and so please do go on writing 'what if's for the time being!
I would agree that Pride and Prejudice is the most well known. And poor Emma - she really does divide opinions, but I also like her a lot and as a reader would most definitely be interested to read an Emma 'what if'!
I agree - reading such stories is a lovely escape to a completely different world, and so I like to keep today's modern world we are living in and Miss Austen's world separate.
A gentleman with all the goodness over one with all the appearance of goodness any day, right?
Well the level of romance in your books is perfect for me, as the strict rules of propriety in this era is another strong appeal of Miss Austen's stories for me as well!
The secret betrothals have also always held an interest for me, and so I am really looking forward to seeing how you play with the idea in the story and seeing how it all turns out - although I have no doubt that Darcy's love will be strong enough to overcome even the scandal of a secret engagement!
That is interesting as I would thought it would have been more difficult writing in first-person and having the whole story written from only one person's point of view!
You are most welcome Jan - thank you for stopping by! And thank you for such kind words. I discovered Jane Austen at 9, fell in love with Jane Austen at 15, and I am now 18 and completely lost to the wonderful world of the genius that is Miss Jane Austen - there is no going back now!
As I mentioned above, I am very lucky to be able to offer a giveaway of 2 copies of her book; one paperback and one ebook (Kindle or Nook), both open internationally.
To enter please leave a comment below and include your email address so that I can contact the randomly selected winners.
The giveaway will end on the 23rd of April, so that I have time to contact the winners and then pass on the necessary details by the 26th.
My thanks again goes to Jan Hahn for this interview and to Jakki for setting up this tour.
I wish Jan all the best with this latest release as well as any stories in the future! Keep an eye out for my review of this story which I hope to post in the next few weeks!
Your affectionate friend,
Monday, April 14, 2014
I have just returned from a lovely trip to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales! Although a little chilly, it was still a lovely break!
(This was our back garden!)
Whilst I was away I made two purchases...
My first was of this lovely set I rescued of Jane Austen's novels (The Folio Society edition). As well as the 6 novels, there is a lovely 7th book which contains all her shorter and unfinished works which is nice to have them all in one book - the only thing missing is her letters.
And secondly, I was finally able to spend the money I had been saving up on a regency writing slope, c1820!
I saw a few writing desks in an antique shop in Yorkshire last summer when I went, and I decided that I would save up and buy one when I went again the following April - and I did!
A Regency writing desk which belonged to this V. Warren Low who I am going to try and find out more about - it is thought that he was a military man!
The Kingwood the desk is made of is rare and unusual and it's in wonderful condition.
I have filled it with my own - modern - writing things... (I will be on the look out for some more authentic stationary to fill it with though!)
I've got my ink well, a quill and some blotting paper and wax and a seal...
My writing paper and envelopes in there...
And my current letters - I have a few regular pen friends - which I need to reply to in there!
It is a shame all my things look so modern!
Your affectionate friend,
Friday, April 04, 2014
Melissa, winner of the paperback copy of Pride and Persistence!
I really hope that you both enjoy the story! I have myself sent you an email and I have also passed your emails onto Jeanna who will be in contact with you soon.
Thank you to everyone who entered and I wish you could all have won! But, I still recommend this book - it is worth the money!
Thank you again to Jeanna for offering this giveaway!