Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wednesday Contest Report - January 26th

Here's my semi-regular Wednesday Contest Report, where I spotlight contests that I'm entering around the blogosphere these days. Some of them might appeal to you as well. Check them out - here's what I've found so far:

  • Lena at Addicted 2 Novels is celebrating her birthday with a book giveaway.  The winner gets their pick of any book released in January.  Deadline is January 31st at midnight CST.  Here's the link:

  • Liz at That's What Liz Read is giving a way two copies of Tomorrow's Guardian, a paperback and an e-book copy.  Deadline to enter is February 22nd .  Here's the link:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

The Perfect Bride for Mr. DarcyFrom Sourcebooks:

If the two of them weren't so stubborn…

It's obvious to Georgiana Darcy that the lovely Elizabeth Bennet is her brother's perfect match, but Darcy's pigheadedness and Elizabeth's wounded pride are going to keep them both from the loves of their lives.

Georgiana can't let that happen, so she readily agrees to help her accommodating cousin, Anne de Bourgh, do everything within their power to assure her beloved brother's happiness.

But the path of matchmaking never runs smoothly...

*          *          *

I believe that one reason Pride and Prejudice has been so popular is that its readers thoroughly enjoy the dance that is Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship.  Their path to the wedding altar isn’t straight or smooth, providing a delicious tension that results in a very satisfying conclusion.  Mary Lydon Simonsen’s The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy appreciates this dance and expands it just a bit, to a similar and delightful ending.

For a while during the beginning of Perfect Bride the facts and plot points that occur are right on point with the original Austen text.  Simonsen quotes Austen once in a while, and for the most part all the dialogue is new, but everything that occurs could have easily happened in other scenes not included in Pride and Prejudice.  It’s almost as if there was a second unit of cameras filming alternate scenes while the original story was being captured with Austen’s mental camera.  I found it to be interesting and very much enjoyed this fleshing-out of the cast of characters.

Eventually Simonsen’s plot diverts a bit from the original, but the conclusion of the tale is, for the most part, the same as Austen’s.  Mary simply added a few turns and twirls to the Darcy/Bennet dance, as well as to the promenades of others in the story.  This was very effective and I liked the choices that she made.

My quibbles are few on this one. The plot introductions that I’ve seen online (including the one above) seem to credit Georgiana with the bulk of the matchmaking and scheming that transpired.  In truth, Anne de Bourgh is predominantly at the wheel, surreptitiously guiding Darcy and Lizzie toward each other.  Georgiana spends most of her time trying to figure out Anne’s secret plans and then of course supports Miss de Bourgh in those efforts after she’s put the pieces together.  Anne is the instigator, and it is more her story than Georgiana’s.

There was a sub-plot involving Darcy’s lovers of the past that I found to be superfluous.  And there were just a few moments of Darcy fantasy that were unnecessarily steamy, although realistic for the character.

Overall, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy is an excellent choice for Janeites who enjoy Pride and Prejudice and its interesting characters.  I loved this new perspective on Austen’s work and found the book to be enjoyable and brisk. There were a couple of nights when I stayed up irresponsibly late, not wanting to put the book down.  I’d say to myself, “Just one more chapter…” and I’d end up going to bed at 1am.  For this wife and mother of two, that’s fairly late!

Searching for Pemberley
While I own a copy of Simonsen’s Searching for Pemberley, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.  Now that I’ve been introduced to this author and her work, I’m looking forward to that title even more than I had in the past. I know it's a totally different story, but if it’s as enjoyable as The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, then it should be a perfect choice for me!

*          *          *

This title was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark.
Only an honest review was required.

This review was briefly quoted in the official Editorial Reviews section of the book's listing on


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Pemberley RanchIn Pemberley Ranch, Jack Caldwell successfully transforms the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Regency England to post-Civil War Texas.  I must admit I was rooting for this one before I read a single word.  Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind?  And the gorgeous cover art!  Darcy as a cowboy!  Unlike other Austen reincarnations that involve vampires and zombies, I found this concept to be hard to resist.

On a normal day, I wouldn’t be drawn to a novel in the Western genre.  I don’t read Westerns and I don’t watch many Western movies. About as far as I’ll go is to the Love Comes Softly movies or the defunct Firefly series.  And even with those I think I’m stretching it a bit in calling them “Westerns”.

Nevertheless, this title was too enticing to pass up.  With Jack Caldwell being a newly published author, I hoped that this excellent concept wouldn’t fall flat or be completely ridiculous.  Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.  Pemberley Ranch was a delight from cover to cover.

Hugh Jackman as Will Darcy?
All the main characters of Pride and Prejudice are present, with many of their personality traits still intact.  Darcy is a wealthy leader who is used to getting what he wants.  Lizzy (or “Beth” in this version) is a strong woman who gets a poor first impression of Will Darcy.  Lydia (or “Lily” here) is still foolish and impulsive. George Wickham (“Whitehead”) is not just the villain that Austen envisioned; he’s simply a monster in this retelling.

Pemberley Ranch
did not have the feel of an Austen novel, but I don’t think it should have. The setting is entirely different, in western America as the country recovers from the devastation of the Civil War.  This conflict and the attitudes and experiences surrounding it color this story in a completely different fashion.  But I believe Caldwell has pulled this off nicely.  There’s adventure, mystery, a few footnoted history lessons, interesting characters and of course, romance.  I enjoyed Pemberley Ranch from start to finish, wished I didn’t have to put it down to attend to everyday life, and wanted the story to continue past the final pages. 

While the story is wrapped up and definitively ended with an exciting climatic scene, there are so many tales that could still emerge from this ranch in 19th Century Texas.  We saw virtually none of Jane and Bingley’s courtship—I’d love to see that explored.  Stories could easily be spun in the years following the Darcy’s marriage.  There’s a treasure trove of ideas here, and I hope Caldwell has the desire and opportunity to dig into them.

Content mention for parents/conservatives (spoiler alert for 2 paragraphs!):  While I’m very grateful that Caldwell chose to limit the amount of adult material in his text, there are just a few things to consider if you’re sensitive to mature situations.  While it was in a dream sequence (how convenient), there was a fairly steamy scene beside a river that I found to be completely unnecessary. I assume author Abigail Williams’ hand in assisting Caldwell with his work may have influenced this.  Her work can get racy at times, but I adored her novel Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, which wasn’t risqué at all.  Both Caldwell and Williams are excellent writers.  They are above this kind of thing, and I hope future books will avoid these cheap plot devices.  Follow Austen’s lead—less is more.

Also, there is a bit of language, including about four f-bombs, which felt very out of place given the low amount of cursing that was in the book overall.  But really there’s not a lot to complain about here.  The story is dealing with some rough-and-tumble outlaws, and I’m sure these types of characters were not ones to always say “darn” and “shoot” when exasperated. In truth, if Caldwell had painted a historically accurate picture of these hoodlums, things would have been much more colorful.  So I commend him for using other literary methods to express these characters’ consternation, at least for most of the time.

Those few reservations aside, I heartily recommend Pemberley Ranch.  Jack Caldwell has made an excellent debut.  And as a southerner and a Janeite, I enjoyed his perspective on these idioms.  His description of our use of the phrase “Bless her heart” was right on the money.  And the winks to Emma and Sense & Sensibility were charming. Caldwell’s Rosings is not Austen’s Rosings, and that’s just fine with me.  I love how the characters were tweaked, some more than others, but the general tone of their personalities was retained. The story was enjoyable, exciting and somewhat unpredictable, as we didn’t know exactly where Caldwell was going to take us.  In Pemberley Ranch Jack Caldwell has saddled his readers up for an Austenesque ride that they may not have expected, but they certainly will enjoy.

This title was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark. 
Only an honest review was required.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday Contest Report - January 5th

Here's my semi-regular Wednesday Contest Report, where I spotlight contests that I'm entering around the blogosphere these days. Some of them might appeal to you as well. Check them out!

  • Rhiannon at From the Trees is giving away an gift card. She's starting at $20 and can go as high as $100, depending on how many followers she gains.  Go follow her!  Deadline to enter the contest is January 31st.  Here's the link:


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