Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Confronting the Status of Regency Women in Writing: A Saving Grace Excerpt

I have a treat for you my dear readers. I have another excerpt to share with you from my story Saving Grace. I hope this will tide you over until I post my analysis on Bride and Prejudice.

This was one of the difficult scenes for me to write. I think every writer encounters a moment when they write where the scene is so emotional and do difficult that you are glad when it is over. Why was this scene do difficult?

Read the scene and see my additional thought below.

Lady Grace was successfully finding pursuits to distract her from her father's intense rhetoric. She found herself devouring Wollstonecraft on long walks across the countryside. It was far more preferable to anything she had to endure at home. It was a calming time when she was among the rolling hills and the sound of the wind teasing the branches of the trees were around to speak to her. When she didn't have her nose in Wollstonecraft or wandering the countryside she was closeted in her father's library. In an effort to distract herself from the impending marriage that was sure to come once her father found a man gullible enough to accept she found herself perusing any medical book she could get her hands on. She found herself searching for some clue to Colonel Fitzwilliam's condition.

It was on such a morning, while perusing the medical books in the library, that she remembered the evening at the ball and witnessing the Colonel's distress which had remained with her. She touched her neck where the bruises had been, having long since faded, and for a moment she was transported back to the first time Colonel Fitzwilliam had touched her in an intimate manner. Her lips unconsciously opened and she closed her eyes as she recalled the glowing embers of his eyes. His eyes had been a deep mahogany swirling with emotion she couldn't quite identify. The loud thunder of a door being thrown open jolted her from her thoughts, startling her.

"What is this rubbish doing in my house?" Lord MacKenna filled the doorway; his face flushed with anger, and was holding a book above his head.

Grace gasped. Her beloved Wollstonecraft! She stood and was surprised she didn't collapse right back down in fear. "Quinn gave it to me as a gift, Father."

Lord MacKenna's eyes narrowed at his daughter. He walked toward her with calculated determination before stopping mere inches from her. "I will not have this in my home. Burn it!"

Her father has spoken with such deadly calm but she was not ready to part with her brother's extraordinary gift. Her father had already taken so much from her and perhaps it was a last bought of resistance or maybe it was a desire to prove to herself that she had not truly died. She took a deep steadying breath, squared her shoulders and set her chin at a defiant angle. "No. I will not."

It was a tense moment before Lord MacKenna's anger ignited at her defiance. His face became red and his gaze full of furry. He took in the appearance of his only daughter, her red hair and flashing green eyes and more importantly her frail appearance. It almost gave his anger pause, but it was quickly demolished as her defiance was not to be borne. "You dare to defy me? You are in my home and just as I own this property, I own you Grace which means that you are mine to command."

Grace flinched as her father in his anger shook the book in her face. "This rhetoric is not welcome under my roof. I want it gone."

Despite her rising fear she could not bring herself to destroy such a beautiful book. It only meant more to her that it came from Quinn. Quinn her dearest brother who always made her laugh even when she was cross with him. "No! I will not destroy it," she cried.

Lord MacKenna was furious and Grace found herself pushed roughly aside as her father stalked in determination toward the fire. No! She moved and grabbed her father's arm, halting his attempt to throw the book into the fire. "Please, father," she begged. "Quinn gave this to me. Please don't take this from me. It is all I have left."

"Let go, Grace." Lord MacKenna shook his arm roughly in an attempt release his daughter's tight grip on his arm.

Grace made a grab for the book in his hand. However, he would not yield. It was but a moment of struggle before her father grew more furious. He roughly pulled his arm out of her grip and as he went to throw the book into the flames she made one last attempt to capture back her prized gift. It was in that moment when he finally lost patience and he violently pushed her away and sent her hurtling backwards. She saw the book go up in flames right before her head made contact with the edge of a table. She felt a searing pain as a scream ripped through her and she tumbled to the ground, barely catching herself before she hit her head for a second time.

She felt rather than saw her father move toward her. He had just placed his hand on her arm and she jerked back as if she had been burned. She slowly lifted her head to look at her father, despite the pain, and the look on his face was almost one of concern, but she knew better. "Don't touch me," she hissed.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Austen Reads: Recommendation Monday: Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen Wasylowski

A book which I read and thoroughly loved was Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A tale of a Gentleman and an Officer by Karen Wasylowski. Before I implemented my book review policy for Austen related novels I had already reviewed this book. Click here to read that review.

As many of you know I want minor characters to get the spotlight and not just Darcy and Elizabeth. While Darcy and Elizabeth are present in this book it focuses more on the relationship between Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam (whom as we know I adore). Colonel Fitzwilliam gets a chance to shine. Yipee! I recommend this book as a must read of Austen Sequels.

 Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (February 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1402245947

ISBN-13: 978-1402245947

Publishing Formats: Paperback and e-book

A gentleman in love cannot survive without his best friend...

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam couldn't be more different, and that goes for the way each one woos and pursues the woman of his dreams. Darcy is quiet and reserved, careful and dutiful, and his qualms and hesitations are going to torpedo his courtship of Elizabeth. His affable and vivacious cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam is a military hero whose devil-may-care personality hides the torments within, until he finds himself in a passionate, whirlwind affair with a beautiful widow who won't hear of his honorable intentions.

Cousins, best friends, and sparring partners, Darcy and Fitzwilliam have always been there for each other. So it's no surprise when the only one who can help Darcy fix his botched marriage proposals is Fitzwilliam, and the only one who can pull Fitzwilliam out of an increasingly dangerous entanglement is Darcy...

Have you read this book? What did you think?

If you have not read this book, will you?

Later this week look for my blog post which will look at Bride and Prejudice the Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice. :D

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hot Regency Find: Mr. Malcolm's List by Suzanne Allain

Buy on Amazon

Publisher: LeMoyne House (February 25, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0982368208

ISBN-13: 978-0982368206

Publishing Formats: paperback and e-book

The Honorable Mr. Malcolm has a secret. This elusive matrimonial prize, long the target of desperate debutantes and their matchmaking mothers, is well known for his fastidiousness. What is not well known is that he has a list of qualifications for his future bride. Can any woman hope to win the heart of such a hardened critic? Selina Dalton can only try her best. And when she begins to succeed, Jeremy Malcolm is not sure whether he has discovered the perfect woman... Or the perfect hoax.

I really enjoyed the book Incognito by the same author. This book sounds like a delightful comedic romp in the gentleman’s search for the perfect bride. I have enjoyed that Suzanne Allain is writing stories where the hero has romantic qualifications.

I’m putting this book into my to-be-read pile which is growing higher by the day.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Meet Cute between a Hero and a Heroine

As you may or may not know I am writing a Jane Austen Fan Fiction titled, Saving Grace. I have mentioned before that my hero, Colonel Fitzwilliam and my heroine, Lady Grace MacKenna, have a meet cute that was perhaps one of my favorite parts to write. I have chosen to share an excerpt of the meet cute with you my readers.

I will preface this by saying that I do not pretend to be Jane Austen. She was an expert at her craft and I’d be a fool to try to be exactly like her, so I have not tried to be. Secondly, this story is a WIP (work-in-progress) and so I do not own to any perfection in the following excerpt. I hope you will forgive me. Enjoy!

Saving Grace excerpt

His eyes had been so beautiful. He'd made her feel special. She couldn't see his faults then and sometimes she still could not grasp how it had all gone wrong. She had missed the looks and the flirtations he had carried out with other women behind closed doors. She had missed his clandestine affairs behind the curtains of ball rooms and in the shaded darkness of a rose garden. She had missed the insults to her person subtly made. She had missed the true nature of the man and was blinded by what she had wanted to see. She had been greatly deceived. She had been burned down by a man with no care for her.

George Wickham had set her on fire!

And just like that George Wickham doused the flames with reality leaving but smoldering embers.

That anguished cry was what startled Richard Fitzwilliam astride his horse. He had been lost deep in remembrances of his battle torn mind. It was on nights like this that he wandered the countryside. It was the nights when he could not sleep because his memories of battle haunted his slumber in attempts to draw him back into their terrifying snare that he was forced to wander as if he was a lost soul meant to forever roam the countryside looking for a home. Trying to locate that source of such a retching cry Richard spurred his stallion through the foggy terrain.

It was some minutes before he beheld the silhouette of a woman through the fog. Her fiery auburn locks where almost like a burning beacon to him in the night. She wasn't moving, but was a motionless heap on the frozen ground. Richard had been so transfixed that he had unconsciously moved his horse closer and it was then that she slowly turned her head towards him and their eyes met. The most startling emerald green eyes started back at him. They were beautiful and as dormant as the rose bushes in his mother's garden. He had never seen the eyes of a living person look so dead.

Grace stared at the stranger before her. He was tall and his presence was strong. His blonde hair was disheveled and his brown eyes studied her and held her transfixed. He had a beautiful horse. He carried himself well atop such a fine stallion. The stranger's voice broke through her thoughts.

"Miss, are you well?"

His voice sounded like smooth chocolate and burning embers. It was a mixture of rough and smooth. It was a masculine voice which bespoke of authority. Still holding his gaze Grace opened her mouth to speak before a sense of self preservation seemed to grab a hold of her as she realized the stranger had left the top of his stallion and meant to approach her, and she bolted as fast as she could back to the estate. Grace expected the sound of hoof beats to follow her, but none ever came. She had made it back to the estate unscathed.

I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Austen Reads: Charlotte Collins by Jennifer Becton

If you have not read my book review policy (link is at the top of the page) then you may not know that since I do write Jane Austen Fan Fiction I do not review Austen sequels unless requested by the author. It is a new policy, but I feel it is a fair one. However, that does not mean I cannot recommend Austen related books that I have read.

I will be posting an Austen related recommendation every Monday as a nice follow up to a Hot Regency Find.

I recommend Charlotte Collins and its accompanying short story Maria Lucas as a great Austen related read. Jennifer Becton is the fabulous author of these works. I always felt Charlotte Collins got the short end of the stick. Being married to Mr. Collins could not have been full of happiness. Jennifer Becton has done a extraordinary job giving Charlotte Collins the love and happiness she deserves. In addition, her sister, Maria Lucas, finds happiness too.

Jennifer Becton’s next book is going to center on Caroline Bingley and I cannot wait.

Charlotte Collins: A continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

 Publisher: Whiteley Press (August 25, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1453740473

ISBN-13: 978-1453740477

Available formats: Paperback of E-book

When Charlotte Lucas married Mr. Collins in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, she believed herself to be fortunate indeed. Her nuptials gained her a comfortable home and financial security. If she acquired these things at the expense of true love, it did not matter one whit. To Charlotte, love in marriage was nothing more than a pleasant coincidence.

As the years of her marriage dragged by, Charlotte began to question her idea of love as she suffered continual embarrassment at her husband's simpering and fawning manners. When Mr. Collins dies, finally relieving everyone of his tedious conversation, she must work feverishly to secure her income and home. She gives no further thought to the prospect of love until her flighty sister Maria begs her to act as her chaperone in place of their ailing parents. Hoping to prevent Maria from also entering an unhappy union, Charlotte agrees, and they are quickly thrust into a world of country dances, dinner parties, and marriageable gentlemen.

But when an unprincipled gentleman compromises Charlotte's reputation, her romantic thoughts disappear at the prospect of losing her independence. As she struggles to extricate herself from her slander, her situation reveals both the nature of each gentleman and of true love.

 Maria Lucas: A Short Story in the Personages of Pride & Prejudice Collection

Format: Kindle Edition

Publisher: Whiteley Press (March 5, 2011)

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services

Language: English


After a great deal of romantic strife, Maria Lucas finds herself married to Mr. Jonas Card in a desperate attempt to extricate herself and her sister Charlotte from a dire financial situation. Mr. Card, however, truly loves Maria and has vowed to woo her. Alas, she views him only in friendly terms. But when it seems that Mr. Card’s feelings have changed, Maria sets out to discover why. And through a series of unexpected events, Mr. Card succeeds in wooing his wife without saying a word.

“Maria Lucas” is a post script to the novel Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As such, it contains minor spoilers, but it can be read as a stand-alone piece.

This is a short story (approximately 5,000 words) and was formerly titled "Maria's Romance."

I hope you will enjoy this blog feature as well as Sundays Hot Regency Find.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hot Regency Find: Incognito by Suzanne Allain

This is a new feature which I will be showcasing on Sundays. I will showcase a Regency related book, but it will not always have a book review to accompany it. Sit back and enjoy and I hope perhaps you will find a new book to read.

IncognitoIncognito by Suzanne Allain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mistaken identities, stubborn lovers and great comedy; what more do you need, but to go read this book. :)

This delightful book by Suzanne Allain is a quick read. It is in the vein of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

Lady Smithfield has two daughters, Lydia and Emily. Lydia is considered the most beautiful according to Lady Smithfield. Where Lydia is fair and pale and beautiful, Emily has dark hair and she is not considered the ‘beauty’ by their mother. The Smithfield’s are not as well off since the death of Lord Smithfield (Think Sense and Sensibility and the Dashwood’s thrown out of Norland upon Mr. Dashwood’s death). So, it is with great relief and delight that Lady Smithfield receives a letter from the Duke of Alford honoring the arrangement between his late wife and Lady Smithfield. That arrangement is for his son Lord Wesleigh, to marry Lady Smithfield’s eldest daughter Lydia.

Lord Wesleigh does not want to marry a woman he has never met. Lydia is in love with someone else, so Emily arranges to marry Lord Wesleigh instead. Lord Wesleigh decides to go incognito to the town the Smithfield’s live in and observe his bride-to-be from afar before he decides. In a predictable twist of fate Lord Wesleigh prefers Emily to Lydia anyways. Except now Lord Wesleigh will not stop masquerading as someone else until he is sure Emily’s affection is real and she is not after the-not-incognito Lord Wesleigh’s money. Comedy and laughter ensures.

I read this book in one sitting. While it was very predictable in the outcome I laughed out loud on many occasions. It was well written and was an enjoyable Regency romantic romp. If you like Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen you will like this book.

The only dislike I had was that there was not as much character development as I would have liked due to the short length of the book. Personally, I like well rounded and developed characters. I instantly liked most of the characters in this book and was able to identify with them. I just wish there was a little more.

I would read this book again and recommend it to others. A great Regency romp can be had with Incognito.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen Wasylowski: A Book Review

Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A tale of a gentleman and an officerDarcy and Fitzwilliam: A tale of a gentleman and an officer by Karen Wasylowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did someone say Colonel Fitzwilliam? YES! A minor character is getting and given some love. Did someone say bromance? Yes, A bromance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I’m sold. Plus the cover is divine. I came, I saw (read), I was extremely satisfied. READ THIS BOOK!

Volume I- Darcy and Elizabeth

I found myself a bit board by the first part of the book, which is no fault of Wasylowski. It has to do with my being sick of reading about Darcy and Elizabeth. They’re everywhere and after a while you grow tired of just one couple and long for other Austen characters to get their day in the spotlight. However, this is a review of Wasylowski’s book and if I put aside my fatigue with all things Darcy and Elizabeth I have to say she has written them well. She gives us a story and not all this mindless sex. Thank you!

Elizabeth is written as the strong woman we grew to love in Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, but she has her flaws too. She is slightly insecure in her marriage and when she finds out that Darcy had a brief liaison with Caroline Bingley she flies off into a fit of rage. In regards to her insecurity I think we have to remember that while she is a gentleman’s daughter they were not rich and I believe it is realistic to portray her as insecure in her new role as Mistress of the grand estate Pemberley. Wouldn’t you be intimidated by the expectation of acting like a proper Mistress for a huge place like Pemberley, where one minor mistake could set the servants tongues wagging?

Secondly, is her fit of rage at finding out Darcy had a liaison with Caroline Bingley. I think this would upset any woman. Caroline Bingley makes no secret of her dislike for Elizabeth as she is competition for Darcy’s affections. I think Elizabeth views this as a sort of betrayal, despite the liaison being before her marriage to Darcy, but I also think it has to do with the fact that being from a small country town she has never had to deal with someone openly disliking her. It creates insecurities in her and because she only ever spent her life in the country she is not well versed in what men of the world do. She has been sheltered so it comes as a surprise to her that Darcy has premarital relations and so she questions her trust in him.

Many may not like how Elizabeth is portrayed in this novel, but I think we need to remember that they are human and have faults like the rest of us. I do not think it fair to expect Elizabeth and Darcy to be perfect all the time. Darcy was a man of his time. He was educated and it was not uncommon for them to step out for a nip-and-a-cuddle before marrying. It happens and to think it didn’t is a disservice. Reality is not always pretty.

Volume II- Colonel Fitzwilliam

I adore a man in uniform. This part of the book, staring Colonel Fitzwilliam, was my favorite. It was so touching to get to see Colonel Fitzwilliam really fall in love after years of roughish behavior while serving his country in the Army. When a man like Colonel Fitzwilliam falls in love he falls hard, fast and intends things to work in his favor with military precision. The American widow Amanda Penrod has some fire of her own and disrupts all of his plans. There were some extremely hilarious and heartbreaking moments between them.

Amanda Penrod, a character of Wasylowski’s creation, was a match for Colonel Fitzwilliam. She is a widow with a young son and a monster-in-law. Monster-in-law has custody of Amanda’s son (her grandson) and makes Amanda’s life hell because she believes she is unfit to raise her own son because she is American. A mother’s love is not to be trifled with and there is no doubt that Amanda loves her son. There is also no doubt that Colonel Fitzwilliam and Amanda are passionately in love.

There are some minor sex scenes between the Colonel and Amanda, BUT they are not explicit and they have a reason to be there. They drive the plot. The first intimate scene between the Colonel and Amanda is beautiful. It is the first time the Colonel has made love to a woman and not just used her for sex. It is the final awaking for him and his decision to make Amanda his wife and spend the rest of his days with her. For Amanda it is the first time she has had real intimate relations (her first husband does not count) herself and it is also a discovery for her into the nature of Colonel Fitzwilliam.

I have to commend Wasylowski here because while she had minor sex scenes, if she hadn’t had them at all I would have had no doubt as to the love and passion between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Amanda. The same can be said about Darcy and Elizabeth who had no intimate scenes in this novel. She was able to convey the love, romance and passion through other thoughts and actions. That is difficult to do and she did is exceptionally well.

Volume III- Family

The final volume brought full circle the first two Volumes. Colonel Fitzwilliam and Amanda, with her son, get a happy ending after the battle with the monster-in-law for custody. Darcy and Elizabeth have a newborn and settle their disagreement in regards to Caroline Bingley. They are family men now. It is beautiful to see these men portrayed as bachelors and then taking on the role as husbands and fathers.

The ending scene of the novel almost made me cry. It cements the bromance between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy which is a prevalent focus throughout the novel. These two men were so different and yet they are two peas in a pod. They complete each other and would truly be lost without each other. Through their trials and tribulations they are there for each other, accepting their flaws and helping each other grow and mature.

It was so wonderful to see the relationship between these two men and from their point of view. Wasylowski writes from the male point of view which is refreshing. The men get a chance to shine. She has done an excellent job of showing how these two men grow together, as individuals and in their relationships. It was a treat to be invited to hear their story.

Lastly, I have to say I found Wasylowski’s portrayal of Lady Catherine to be a delight. Lady Catherine is up there in years, so at times a bit senile, but usually sharp as a tack. We as readers get to understand why she is the way she is. She loves her family and will always protect it. She is still the domineering woman of the original novel, but with a softer side. Lady Catherine provided some of the other humorous scenes. I actually wanted to read more about Lady Catherine. I grew to adore this Lady Catherine and that is not something to be taken lightly.

If you have not read this book you should. Darcy and Fitzwilliam was a wonderful ride that I would gladly take again.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Writing and the ‘Steamy Romance Factor’: Part 2 and a small Plea for Minor Characters

I am always looking for a good story. I want to talk about Austen sequels, although what I am talking about can be applied to other book genres. This post is a continuation of my original post: Writing and the ‘Steamy Romance Factor’. I love Jane Austen and I enjoy reading sequels to her books. Although, some may call it fan fiction. Like many, I read an Austen sequel because I fell in love with the characters Austen created and I want to see what happened to them. As of late I find myself dissatisfied with the sequel offerings.

First, most sequels are focused on Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. I adore Darcy and Elizabeth. Pride and Prejudice was the first Jane Austen novel that I read, but can authors not look at other Austen characters? I’m burnt out on Darcy and Elizabeth stories. Give me something else. I want to see more Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferras and Knightly and Emma. In fact, I would LOVE to see more minor characters approached to tell their stories.

Is Miss Bates so lonely that she jumps at any chance to have social interaction? What is her story?

Why is Caroline Bingley so vicious and intent on climbing the social ladder?

What happens to Isabella Thorpe after she ruins herself?

What about Charles Bingley and Jane? Their marriage could not have been perfect.

What about the other Bennet sisters, Kitty and Mary?

What is Willoughby’s marriage like to the rich socialite he was forced to marry or be destitute?

Of all of Austen’s creations Darcy and Elizabeth are perhaps the most beloved, but it seems there is nothing new for them. Sequel offerings pertaining to Darcy and Elizabeth have become dissatisfying. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. What else is left for Darcy and Elizabeth now, but something of the sci-fi variety perhaps? If an author takes up this torch, please just NO page after page sex.

Secondly, many, not all, Darcy and Elizabeth sequels seem to be page after page of sex. I find myself extremely careful when picking up an Austen sequel now for fear there is no plot and just sex. I enjoy an occasional bodice ripper, what woman doesn’t, but these authors seem to be under the impression, it seems, that by portraying these characters having sex all of the time that they are showing the romance and passion that exists between them. WHERE IS THE PLOT? The sad part is that some of these sequels have GREAT plots, but they are hiding under pages and pages of mindless and unnecessary sex. The main question I pose is why does romantic, passionate love have to be portrayed through pages and pages of sex? Is that the best way to express love? I think some of the most romantic love stories ever written did not need sex to be steamy and romantic. It was the tension and the words used to express the emotion that made it a memorable experience. Jane Austen’s work comes to mind or Jane Eyre to name a few.

I have read Austen sequels which have had minor sex scenes, but they supported the plot. I wasn’t bothered by those sequels as the author had justified a reason why that was necessary. It drove the plot. They focused on telling a good story. I can appreciate and accept a sex scene if it has a reason to be there.

There are plenty of stories to be told. It comes down to the fact that when I pick up a book I want to read a good story; A story where the characters have realistic problems and yet continue to grow and mature as individuals and in their relationships. I want to feel like I have been given the rare opportunity to hear their story and maybe learn something along the way. I don’t want to feel like I just spent days in a tawdry bar or brothel which is what I sometimes feel like after reading a story where the characters spend more time going at it like rabbits than doing anything else.

Sex is great; yes I am sure couples do it all the time, but that cannot be all there is to their story. I want the real story and please, I beg you, don’t take us into their bedroom so often that we become a spectator at a sporting event. Give us a story, an honest to good story and I guarantee you would win more hearts.