A Tapestry of Lives // by Jean Sims

//published 2014, 2015//

This is a Pride & Prejudice retelling published in three volumes, and the three volume bit is probably my biggest beef with this story, as it was obviously only done in order to milk more money out of the story, as it could easily have been condensed to two volumes, or one long story… anyway.

Overall, I actually really enjoyed this story.  Volume One begins with Elizabeth at home just after her trip to Hunsford.  In this story, when Elizabeth goes to her father and asks him to not let Lydia go to Brighton, her father initially blows her off, like he does in the original, but then begins to wonder if she has a point.  He goes to find Elizabeth in the garden, and they discuss not only Lydia, but also Mr. Darcy’s letter, which Elizabeth lets him read.  This sets the groundwork for a few changes around the Bennett homestead.  Next, when the Gardiners postpone their trip to the Lakes, it’s because Mrs. Gardiner is pregnant, so Elizabeth goes to London to help around the house.  There, she runs back into Mr. Darcy again, and their relationship begins to develop from that point forward.

I really enjoyed the characterizations in this version.  No one was wildly evil or ridiculously perfect.  While people like Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley were pretty obnoxious, it still felt within the realm of plausibility.  Both Darcy and Elizabeth were well-drawn characters who changed and grew throughout the story.  I also really appreciated how Sims made some of the other characters more sympathetic – while Mrs. Bennett is no less obnoxious (most of the time), there is some definite understanding of her genuine and not-unreasonable terror as to what might happen to her and her daughters should Mr. Bennett die unexpectedly.  I especially liked how it is Darcy who really comes to realize this, because it makes his patience with his future mother-in-law feel more natural, and adds to Darcy’s depth as he begins to realize how casually he has accepted a lot of ‘the way things are’ type of things without really thinking about them.

The overall helplessness/dependence of women at the time is touched on throughout the story in a way that felt organic to the story rather than polemic, and also fit with the overall thoughts of the times – at this point, women like Elizabeth are really just interested in being viewed as fully intelligent human beings who are capable of making decisions about their own futures, not running the government and owning businesses.  I also liked how while some of the men in the story take evil advantage over the women in their lives, many of them, like Darcy, have been taught the importance of protecting/shielding/providing for their women, and believe that the decisions they are making are for the best for them – and, in truth, there were a lot of women, like Mrs. Bennett, who could really use some taking care of!

The ‘tapestry’ bit of the story involves Sims going off onto long and tangled tangents telling the backstories of basically all of the characters – Lady Catherine, Mr. Bennett, the Gardiners, the Earl of Matlock, you name it.  I had mixed feelings about these stories.  Overall I liked them and felt like they did add to the main thrust of the tale, but sometimes they weren’t woven in very well, and it was a little unclear when the narrative was shifting from the past to the present.  Sims also has a habit of telling about a few days from, say, Elizabeth’s perspective, and then switching and telling us what someone else, like Darcy, was doing during the same time period, but again it isn’t always clear when the overlap is occurring and when the story is actually progressing beyond that time frame, so at times it got a little confusing.  But on the whole I felt like these backstories and multiple layers for the same time periods really did add a lot of depth to the story and its characters.

Volume One is from just after Hunsford through Darcy’s more successful proposal; Volume Two spans their engagement; and Volume Three follows the early days of wedding bliss.  The third volume was definitely the weakest.  Too many stories had already been mostly concluded in Volume Two, so Volume Three felt a lot clunkier and was less interesting.  It was also the volume with the most villainy, with a couple of evil viscounts wrecking havoc (completely separate from each other) in a way that didn’t really fit into the rest of the story.  The ending involved a very long and drawn out bit with Mrs. Bennett dying that meant that this whole big long story kind of ended on a downer note.  I’m also never a fan of really long epilogues that try to fill in lots of details about the rest of everyone’s lives, so that bit was also pretty boring to me.  Overall, I felt like the story could have ended about a quarter of the way through Volume Three and been much better.

There were other things that annoyed me, and a few threads that never really seemed to go anywhere (e.g. Mrs. Hill’s illegitimate son), but on the whole this was a well-written and engaging P&P variation that I quite enjoyed, and may even read again sometime.  4/5 and recommended if you actually enjoy crazy P&P retellings.  ;-)

The Girl from Summer Hill // by Jude Deveraux

//published 2016//

I initially added this book to the list as a contemporary Pride & Prejudice retelling, albeit a loose one.  Basic concept – Casey ends up playing Elizabeth in a local theater production of P&P, except her relationship with the guy playing Darcy is a lot like the one the original characters had.  I really liked the way that the chapter titles were listed as though they were part of a play (Act One, Scene Two), and reflected the fictional/P&P names of the characters (“Elizabeth Doesn’t Tempt Darcy”), even though their actual names weren’t anything like Elizabeth or Darcy.  I also appreciated that the characters were no unaware of how ridiculous it was that their lives were somewhat paralleling the original P&P story.

Actually, there were a lot of things to like about this book to start.  The characters were funny and friendly, the conversations pleasant, and there was a decent concept underneath of it all.  But in the end, I was just so frustrated with the incredibly choppiness of the story and the way the author kind of acted like we should already know a lot about these people.  For instance, Casey is staying in a house that was loaned to her by Kit, who is also directing the play – but we’re given no information about Kit or his relationship with Casey, which meant I was really confused when Kit immediately was interested in an older lady; at first I assumed that Kit must be close to Casey’s age, but it turns out that he’s a lot older than her – more of an uncle/father figure.

There was also this extremely weird thing where a bunch of the characters were half-siblings because their biological father was actually a sperm donor … but there is no explanation as to how all of these siblings actually found/met each other, and Casey’s relationship with her father is really ambiguous – like, are they friends?  It just made no sense and was never really explained.

I wondered for a while if some of these characters were in other of Deveraux’s books, because she has written a lot, but I couldn’t find any information supporting that; supposedly this book is the first in a new series.

There were a lot of random things that nagged at me.  It felt like who parts of this book had just been chopped out with no attempt to smooth the rough edges.  Consequently, everyone falling in love with everyone felt very sudden and kind of strange – especially when we jumped straight into snogging/sex.

And hello??  They get caught in the rain on the back of the estate and have to take shelter in this old shed where Darcy’s mum used to hang out when she was little and the blankets and pillows are still there from when it was her secret hideout literally 20 years or more ago – and that’s where they shag!?  All I could think was GROSS.  There is no way that those cushions weren’t full of all sorts of unsavory insects and rodents.  ICK.  This book was full of completely impractical stuff like that; there was absolutely no attempt to make any of this remotely realistic or believable.

Still, I was still fairly confident that this book was going to get a 3/5 for a decent effort (albeit with a lot of eye rolling) until it completely went off the rails at the end.  This is a BIG SPOILER (I mean, sort of… it’s not like we don’t know who the villain is from the very beginning, and since we all know the basic concept of P&P it’s not really a big surprise when “Wickham” absconds with “Lydia”…) but yeah so the Wickham character convinces Lydia to run away with him.  Lydia has told everyone she is 18, but it turns out that she’s actually only 15, just like Book Lydia, so it’s a big deal that he has run away with a minor, but instead of chasing after him, they come up with this convoluted plot to lure him back by presenting the upcoming play as a contest of acting ability between Wickham and Darcy.  (???!!!??!?!)  Despite the fact that Wickham has been portrayed as complete cad who will do whatever he can to satisfy his own selfish whims and has been known to accost/sexually harass/rape women in the past, no one seems overly concerned that he’s disappeared with a fifteen-year-old girl.  I mean, they’re upset, but I don’t think that “luring him back” is really the kind of option that law enforcement would agree to (or at least I hope not!  Good grief!).

So yes, the most ridiculous part is – it worked!  He just comes back with Lydia in tow!  And goes right to the theater to start acting in the play!  AND THEN instead of arresting him immediately, they convince the police that they should let the play go on because it’s for charity!?  Not only that – Lydia still plays her part!  No one bothers to, I don’t know, find out if she’s been raped?!  What!?

And then we get this write-up of the play, praising how “realistic” everyone was, etc., and it’s supposed to be this big thing where everyone acted so passionately… except then it concludes with the way the play will be running multiple times and people should go see it… and to myself I’m thinking… Except Wickham is gone and the play isn’t going to be that great because it will completely lack the emotional charge of that opening night…???

So yes, a 2/5 in the end.  The whole thing with Wickham taking off with a young girl really bothered me (she didn’t actually get raped, by the way; she convinced Wickham that she was on her period, which apparently was enough to keep him away….  surrre it would be), especially when nobody acted like it was a big deal and that obviously Lydia was fine and would be able to do the play just like regular.  Combined with the overall choppiness, the lack of character background/connections, and the complete disconnect from any kind of reality, this book didn’t leave me with any desire to seek out more of Deveraux’s works.

#17 for #20BooksofSummer!

The Companion’s Secret // by Linda Thompson

//published 2015//

This Pride & Prejudice variation started with a lot of excitement, but ended up being just really bland.

Thompson ruthlessly kills off Elizabeth’s entire family (except for Jane, who visiting the Gardiners) in a terrible carriage accident in the first chapter.  Immediately, the heir to Longbourn shows up, except in this variation it isn’t the Mr. Collins we know, but that Mr. Collins’s father, who is a pretty terrible person.  The reader is not surprised to learn that he probably had a hand in creating the carriage accident.  He’s super creepy and everyone hates him, including his own son who doesn’t really like any of his dad’s plans but since his dad has always beaten him up when he disagrees, he pretty just goes along with everything.

Anyway, Mr. C Sr. wants Mr. C Jr. to marry Elizabeth.  Since she isn’t really into that idea, Sr. decides that Jr. will have to compromise her.  Elizabeth overhears them talking and discovers that she is supposed to receive an inheritance from her great aunt when she reaches her majority the following spring, which is what this is all about.  She also hears about the whole planned compromise thing, and then listens as Sr. laughs evilly whilst plotting her ultimate demise after he gets his hands on the inheritance.  Fearing for her life, she flees Longbourn in disguise, aided by the servants who all love her.  She coincidentally meets up with the Darcys at an inn, and what with one thing and another is hired as Georgiana’s companion.

While I didn’t dislike this variation, there was just no character development.  Elizabeth is absolutely perfect – kind, loving, thoughtful, generous, etc.  Darcy is also perfect – kind, loving, thoughtful, generous, etc.  Georgiana is quietly perfect – kind, loving, thoughtful, generous, etc.  Guess who else is perfect?  Jane, Mr. Bingley, the Gardiners, all of the servants at Longbourn, Darcy’s entire family except for Lady Catherine, a random dressmaker in Lambton, and even Elizabeth’s horse.  Since all the good guys were already perfect, there wasn’t really any room for them to learn or grow.  The bad guys were all super bad (in this version, Collins Sr., Wickham, Miss Bingley, and Lady Catherine), so they didn’t really learn or grow either – they just got punished.

Thompson did a decent job making things seem plausible, even hiring Elizabeth at a random inn.  She stretches credulity but I still could get behind it.  I mean, who wouldn’t hire an angel if they stumbled across them?  And that’s basically Elizabeth’s character in this book.

The last 20% of the book was completely superfluous.  All of the main storylines are resolved, and Darcy and Elizabeth get married.  Except then all of the sudden we have this weird last bit where Lady Catherine shows up and causes trouble, but it felt really awkward, like this part was literally there just to make the story longer.  There were also some minor editing issues; the main one that aggravated me was that the author couldn’t seem to decide whether Bingley’s aunt in Yorkshire was named Agnes or Agatha.

All in all, a 3/5 for a story that wasn’t terrible, just very, very bland.

Girl Out of Water // by Laura Silverman

//published 2017//

So I recently subscribed to The Book Drop through Bethany Beach Books.  While not the fanciest book subscription box out there, it’s very reasonably priced.  Every month comes with a book that is usually either autographed or included with an autographed plate, and usually some other kind of bookish goody like a bookmark or notecard.  There are four different types of books, and to start with I’ve been getting the YA, although I’ve switched to the Children’s for next month just for fun – there is a slight price variation between the types, but since the subscription is paid monthly, it’s easy to switch between them.

All that to say, Girl Out of Water was my first book.  It definitely wasn’t a book I would have picked up on my own, but it ended up being a much more enjoyable read than I anticipated.  While I’m not keeping this one for my permanent collection, it still was a solid story with a main character I actually liked (most of the time).

Anise, who narrates the story (in present tense, unfortunately), has lived her entire life in Santa Cruz, California, right on the beach.  She loves to surf, and has a solid core of friends.  Anise is 17, and this is the last summer a few of her friends are going to be around, as the group is starting to break apart and head off to college and other post-high-school things.  But Anise’s big plans for the summer are destroyed when her aunt, a widow and mother of three, is in a serious car accident.  Anise and her dad have to go to Nebraska to help take care of the kids and Aunt Jackie.  While there, Anise of course learns a lot about herself, mainly because of a boy, and at the end of the book is a wiser and more mature Anise than she was at the beginning of the summer.

A lot of this book was quite predictable, but I still found myself engaged in what was going on with Anise and her life.  Anise’s mother is a flighty, crazy woman who has been in and out of Anise’s life since she was born.  The mom is completely unreliable – Anise and her dad don’t even have a way to get a hold of her to her know about Jackie’s car accident.  Anise lives in fear that she’ll end up like her mom, and a lot of her actions revolve around this fear.

My two biggest problems with this book:  the first is that Anise is just way, way too melodramatic about the fact that she isn’t home for the summer.  Like I was totally on board with her being  homesick and upset, but she also acts like her friends are legit going to forget who she is, and that these “missing months” will mean they no longer have any common ground.  Hello?  You’re gone for like eight weeks, not the rest of your life…??  It just seemed like she blew the situation incredibly out of proportion, and all of her other problems stemmed from that.  However, I do have to say that I really liked the way that Anise didn’t spend a lot of time complaining about her situation – I really appreciated how she put a high priority on her family and helping with them, and overall seemed pretty mature about the importance of this responsibility.

The second big issue I had with this story is that Anise has already decided to go to a local college because she doesn’t want to move away from home.  I thought that was totally fine – what I didn’t like was how everyone acted like that was a stupid choice, and that she was strange and unnatural for not wanting to leave home.  She lives with her dad who dotes on her and she has everything she could possibly want??  Like why would people think it’s weird that she wants to stay home?  I think everyone is ready to leave at different times, and have no doubt that in a year or two Anise will begin to see how life changes and that moving away isn’t the end of the world, but I don’t think it’s right to pressure teens into going away to college just because “everyone” does it.  It felt like there was a really strong message that you HAVE to leave home to go to college or there is something wrong with you, and I didn’t like that.

And I guess there’s also a third thing – a lot of swearing.  I’m just not into it.  I don’t like this effort to normalize f*, and it appears a lot in this book as a total “this is just how teens talk these days” kind of way.  I’m old-fashioned, I guess – I don’t like it.  Constant swearing is pretty much a great way for me to drop at least half a star when I think back on my feelings about a book.

The love interest, Lincoln, was a little too something.  I mean – he’s black, adopted, and only has one arm??  This seems like a lot of minority issues to put on one character.  He was totally likable, but Silverman kept emphasizing these three things about him, which made him come across more as a representative of something instead of just as a person.  Plus, it felt weird because they both act like there is no way this relationship is going to work out long-term so…  just make-out buddies, I guess??  It seemed strange to emphasize the transient nature of their relationship while also acting like it was a really serious one.

Finally, I wanted Anise’s mother to actually show up.  So many of Anise’s issues seemed like they could have been resolved or at least partially resolved by a good hashing-out now that Anise is actually making some decisions about her mom/learning new things about her/learning new things about herself.  The ending of the book felt kind of vague and off-kilter, and I think that was part of the reason – several things like that felt kind of unresolved.

All in all, Girl Out of Water wasn’t a horrible read.  It made me roll my eyes a few times, but Anise herself was a really likable character, and that made me stick with the story even when it got a little ridiculous.  I’m passing this book on to the next reader and not particularly recommending it, but it was still an easy 3/5 and one of those YA books that would probably be better enjoyed by its target audience.

#9 for #20BooksofSummer!

March Minireviews – Part 2

I realize that we are now several days into April, but I am trying to wrap up the backlog of March reads.  It always makes me sad when I have to reduce the pile this way, but life is just too busy to keep up on the blog, I’m afraid!

Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1910//

I actually love the Psmith books, although many people find him rather obnoxious (he is).  This book had a whole new level of interesting since I read Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith.  In those books, we discover the foundation of the friendship that is at the heart of Psmith in the City, so that added much more depth to the overall story.  In many ways, Mike is actually the central character, with Psmith playing a bold supporting role.  Mike is such a steady, stolid character, which contrasts all the better with the rather pompous Psmith.  I also love how whenever Wodehouse has Mike refer to Psmith in conversation, Mike always says “Smith.”  Wodehouse’s subtle decisions to keep or drop the P are cleverly done.

Another favorite thing of mine is discovering connections between different books and events, so it was great fun to find a reference to Three Men in a Boatwhich I read last fall.  All in all, Psmith in the City is a delightful 4/5 (on the Wodehouse scale, where a 1/5 is the same as a 4/5 for normal books) and definitely recommended – although you’ll enjoy it even more if you read the Mike books first.

From Italy With Love by Jules Wake

//published 2015//

This books is actually a DNF, so I’m not sure why I’m bothering to mention it, other than to see if someone else has actually finished it and thinks that I should totally keep reading because it gets better later on.

I really liked the premise, where an eccentric uncle leaves his niece a rare antique car, but in order to inherit it she has to drive across Italy, following a specific route which he has laid out for her.  As part of an inheritance for this other guy, the uncle says that the guy has to go, too.  I always kind of enjoy crazy old meddling old people who set up the young’uns, especially from beyond the grave, so I was all for it.  However, so much of this book just didn’t make any kind of sense.  The uncle promised the dude, Cam, that he could have this special car, so Cam has already told his brother that they can use this car for some fancy car show where they’re going to make tons of money except they had to spend tons of money to get ready for it.  Except how did Cam know that the uncle was going to die???  (Maybe he actually knocked him off and the book turns into a mystery later?!)  So Cam is obnoxious the whole time, which also makes no sense because what he is actually going to inherit from this drive across Italy is the first chance to buy the car from the niece (Laurie).  So wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be buttering her up and trying to get on her good side?

Meanwhile, Laurie is actually engaged to this other guy, and it’s obvious from literally the first page that this guy is a total tool, and as the first couple of chapters progress, it’s painfully obvious that the dude is trying to get in on all the cash he thinks Laurie is going to inherit, but Laurie seems basically oblivious to the whole thing, and it really bothered me that she went off on this trip (and is presumably going to fall in love with) some other guy while still being engaged to the first guy, even if the first guy is a jerk.  I found it 100% impossible to believe that Laurie would inherit this car and not do any kind of research on it, even something as basic as finding out how much it’s worth.  I mean, seriously?

And honestly, I could have overlooked a lot of this if the story had been remotely interesting, but it wasn’t!  To top everything off, it was boring me out of my mind.  Plus, while as of around 30% through the book Wake hadn’t dragged me through any sexy times, she still kept hinting around at stuff, so I had to keep listening to Laurie get “flushed” and “flustered” a whole lot, and, even worse, be repeatedly exposed to the word “nipples.”  Please.  “Nipples” is not a word that engenders romance, so I don’t want to hear about them, or hear what some guy thinks about them, or even to really think about them within the context of a romantic encounter.  Ugh.

So yeah, a rambling DNF on this book, but at least it’s one off the list!

Nettle King by Katherine Harbour

//published 2016//

This is the third and final book in the Night & Nothing series.  Thorn Jack was engaging, Briar Queen was engrossing, and Nettle King was a solid finish.  Part of the problem was that there was just too much of a gap for me between Queen and King, so I had trouble getting into the groove of this story.  But overall – I really liked this trilogy, and definitely see myself reading it again.  In many ways it reminded me of the Lynburn Legacy books by Sarah Rees Brennan.  These weren’t as funny as those, but it had a similar world-building in the sense that it all took place in a small, isolated community.

I also found myself comparing it a lot to The Fourth Wishwhich I had just finished.  In both stories, girls find themselves in love with guys who, due to magic, are basically eternal beings who have been around for centuries.  But where Wish felt ridiculous and contrived, I 100% shipped Jack and Finn.  Both characters are constantly seeking to put the other person’s safety and needs above their own.  Plus, they are a bit older (in college), and had a strong support system of other characters around them.  There was so much more depth to relationship between Jack and Finn than there was between Margo and Oliver.  I felt like Jack and Finn would be friends and lovers forever, but that Oliver and Margo would get completely bored of each other within months.

Anyway, the overall conclusion to the Night & Nothing series was quite satisfying.  I definitely want to read these books again within a tighter time frame, because I felt like I lost a lot of the intrigue by waiting so long between the second and third books.  A solid 4/5 for Nettle King and for the series as a whole.  Recommended.

‘Pride & Prejudice’ Variations – Minireviews

I have confessed before that when my life gets  busy and stressed, my reading gets suuuuper fluffy, and, in most cases, takes on the form of terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  I hate to admit it, but I find them endlessly entertaining, mostly because I love the concept of one thing being different, and suddenly the whole story changes.  While many of them are, admittedly, dreadful, some are still enjoyable.  I’m embarrassed to tell you all how many I’ve read lately, but here are a few, just as a sample…

The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams

//published 2013//

This one was pretty low key, but still pleasant.  In this story, Darcy and Elizabeth meet at Netherfield per canon, but, after the assembly where Elizabeth becomes quite prejudiced against Darcy, Georgiana comes from London to stay at Netherfield as well, and she and Elizabeth become friends.  A few months later, when Darcy is away visiting a relative (and Jane is staying in London with the Gardiners), Georgiana invites Elizabeth to come and stay with her.  However, Darcy returns home early, so he and Elizabeth have an opportunity to know each other better.

Things I liked:  This was just a nice variation.  There weren’t all these crazy evil people trying to drive Darcy and Elizabeth apart, there weren’t loads of steamy sex scenes, and there was no violence or rape.  In short, it was a variation that I don’t think would have made Jane Austen twitch too much.  I liked the slowly developing friendship between Darcy and Elizabeth, and I liked how not all of Darcy’s relatives immediately disliked Elizabeth.  It was also nice to have Georgiana be nice, because some variations like to turn her into a selfish shrew.

Things I didn’t like:  There was this kind of random love triangle that was never a really serious love triangle, and I don’t even understand why authors bother with it in these stories because DUH the whole point is Darcy and Elizabeth end up together, so it doesn’t really seem fair to the other fellow, does it??  Also, this book had a ridiculously long epilogue that was so involved it felt like Adams should have just written a sequel.  Instead, we just got like a couple of paragraphs throwing everyone’s lives into disarray.

Conclusion:  3/5 for a pleasant story.  Nice for relaxing but not terribly thrilling.

Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells

//published 2009//

In this version, Darcy arrives at Ramsgate too late to stop Georgiana.  He pursues her (and Wickham, obviously), and manages to catch up with them at an inn in a small town called Meryton.  While Georgiana hasn’t actually stayed a night with Wickham, she is still ruined when word gets out of her attempted elopement.  While in Meryton, Darcy and his sister happened to run into Elizabeth, and a series of events leads to Elizabeth and Georgiana beginning a correspondence.  Darcy and Elizabeth also begin a clandestine correspondence, and fall in love through their letters.  Because Georgiana is ruined when Darcy and Elizabeth meet, Darcy has already been humbled in many ways, and is much more open to falling in love with Elizabeth in consequence.

Things I liked:  Again, I like stories where people are friends and then fall in love, and this version did that well.  Elizabeth and Darcy are just so good for each other in this story, always supporting and helping each other through difficult times.  There was a good secondary story about Elizabeth having an aunt that she never knew about because her aunt was also ruined as a young woman and sent off to Scotland in disgrace.  I also liked the way that Mr. Bennet and his wife began to work through their relationship and ended as a stronger couple in the end.

Things I didn’t like:  Mostly the ridiculous drama, like seriously Wickham is a bit over-the-top, and Lady Catherine definitely is.  Also, one of Elizabeth’s letters go missing and even though she and Darcy hardly know each other at this point, Darcy goes into this deep, dark depression and refuses to eat or sleep for days and it all just seemed a *tad* melodramatic for the situation.  Also, definitely too much sex.  Just please.  No.

Conclusion:  Still, 3/5 because there were a lot of good characterizations, and when Wells wasn’t going crazy with emotional turmoil, the story moved along well.

1932 by Karen M. Cox

//published 2010//

I really love versions where the actual setting is different.  In some ways, I think that illustrates how universal this love story really has become.  Here, Cox decided to set the story during the Great Depression.  Elizabeth’s family has lost most of their money and has to move to the small town where her mother grew up.  The Darcys of course were much better planners and have suffered minimal financial distress, and Darcy is one of the largest landowners around.

Things I liked:  I loved the concept and the setting, and I liked that Darcy and Elizabeth got married towards the middle of the story (in this version, it would be sort of the equivalent of Elizabeth accepting Darcy during the Hunsford proposal), and then grew towards love from there.  I also liked that Georgiana was likable and kind.

Things I didn’t like:  Overall, this story just felt rushed, like the author had this great idea and felt like she had to publish it before someone else beat her to the punch.  Consequently, the story felt choppy in bits.  The love story between Georgiana and the sheriff could have been much more interesting.  Darcy’s refusal to tell Elizabeth the truth of Georgiana’s past, even after Darcy and Elizabeth married, felt very unnatural, so I didn’t really buy their entire disagreement which was central the story – it seemed like Darcy would have told Elizabeth at least the basic gist.  Later, Darcy and Elizabeth have an argument and it felt like that dragged way too long – Elizabeth leaves her husband and returns home for weeks?!  

Conclusion:  3/5.  I wanted to like this story more than I did.  The author has written at least one more version with a unique setting, so I’ll probably give that one a try as well.

The Wicked Marquis // by Marnie Ellingson

Thrift stores are rather awesome, and not just because you can get gently used clothes and furniture on the cheap.  They also tend to have a corner devoted to various types of media, with books, VHS tapes, battered DVDs, and scratched CDs all piled together.  I love rummaging through thrift store books, because sometimes, under the Readers’ Digest condensed versions and scads of romance paperbacks with scantily clad heroes and heroines in fond embrace – I find a little treasure.  And one of those, purchased for a quarter a few years ago, is The Wicked Marquis.

//published 1982//

This isn’t a book of high adventure or intensity, but it’s a fabulous go-to for a happy, relaxing, funny little story.  This definitely has echoes of Georgette Heyer, with a strong-minded but lovable heroine who is determined to rescue her cousin from a marriage of convenience (but no love), and in doing so, embroils herself with the Wicked Marquis himself.  It’s one of those wonderful little stories where there isn’t really a villain, where misunderstandings are minimal, and where you know that everything will come together in the end for a happy ending.

Esme is a wonderful protagonist.  She is intelligent, interesting, and contented with her lot in life.  She isn’t afraid to stand up for the people she loves, but never comes across as obnoxious or ridiculous.  And despite the fact that she is adventurous and not particularly fussed about all of the societal regulations, she’s still feminine and even girly at times, enjoying a good chat about clothes and handsome young men.

All in all, I definitely recommend The Wicked Marquis, with a strong 4/5 rating.  And despite the fact that I’ve owned this book for several years and have read it several times, this was the first time that I bothered to find out if Ellingson wrote anything else.  I did find one of her books on eBay secondhand, and hope to read Unwilling Bride soon, although not in public, as the cover is absolutely ridiculous.

I mean seriously?!