1. Welcome to BookAndReader!

    We LOVE books and hope you'll join us in sharing your favorites and experiences along with your love of reading with our community. Registering for our site is free and easy, just CLICK HERE!

    Already a member and forgot your password? Click here.

Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    PEMBERLEY IN PERIL is Arthel Cake's 2017 variant of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. More precisely, it uses some of the canonical figures reasonably faithfully, develops some beyond Austen's sketches, introduces several major individuals, and changes the story line almost completely. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format.

    When George Darcy discovers he could die at any time from heart disease, he determines that his son must marry and produce an heir forthwith; should Fitzwilliam Darcy die without male issue, Pemberley passes to Georgiana, leaving her in danger from unscrupulous fortune hunters including her cousin Nicholas Fitzwilliam, Viscount Maresford. Darcy Sr. approaches his Cambridge friend Thomas Bennet, wealthy London lawyer, whose second daughter Elizabeth, despite three Seasons, has turned down proposals and requests for courtship from suitable gentlemen. Committed by their parents before they even meet, Elizabeth and Darcy approach courtship and marriage tentatively, though both know they have no choice but to obey. At the same time, George Wickham stalks the edge of the ton, duping foolish Sir Colin Arthur into jewel robberies while planning his ultimate revenge against George Darcy, the man who gave him the taste for a gentleman's lifestyle, but not the money to support it. Lady Agatha Quintain, widow of Society portraitist Sir Cedric Quintain, has evidence with which she can destroy the Darcy family's reputation forever and take Pemberley, should she choose so to do.

    The changes make for a unique interpretation of Austen's original. It adds interesting depth with the survival of George Darcy and family history back to his grandfather Gerald Darcy. All the major characters suffer believable Internal conflict throughout, balanced with somewhat less convincing external conflict. PEMBERLEY IN PERIL contains enough original material--Darcy and Elizabeth's forced marriage, Wickham's malevolent machinations, and Lady Agatha's long-delayed revenge--to support three separate novels. Cutting between the story lines diffuses the action while the early conclusion of the Wickham strand makes the Lady Agatha denouement a letdown. Cake's characterizing individuals by shifting point of view between them makes for realistic characters but choppy reading.

    Some common sense doubts intrude on the story. The abundance and variety of fresh flowers available in late autumn through winter seem unreasonable, and a wisteria blooming in an outdoor garden in late October incredible. Wickham's intimate knowledge of Matlock House, London home of the Fitzwilliam family, remains unexplained. Cake uses Horse Guards and Household Cavalry interchangeably as Colonel Fitzwilliam's unit, though all the separate Horse Guard commands had been consolidated into other regiments before the Napoleonic Wars, while the Household Cavalry guarded the monarch and performed ceremonial duties.

    Cake pays tribute to Regency ideas about family reputation, courtship, and especially 'being compromised" as guaranteeing marriage, yet many details are modern. Wickham disguises himself as a footman at a ball, but he serves bare-handed and wears a distinctive gold signet ring. Elizabeth's betrothal ring is first a Darcy family heirloom passed down from his great-grandmother, a baguette (elongated rectangle, table-cut) ruby. then it becomes a "single drop of blood" (pear-shaped?), surrounded by diamonds; her wedding band also is ruby set with diamonds, like a modern wedding ring set. Darcy's wedding gift is a diamond and pearl brooch set in platinum, though use of platinum in jewelry was rare until the twentieth century. Medical practices are closer to early twentieth than to early nineteenth century. Most objectionable are the casual sexual references. I don't want to know that Kitty misses the Wendovers' ball because of menstrual pain, or details of Elizabeth's premarital counseling from Mrs. Gardiner, or move-by-move commentary on the newlyweds' wedding night (from each's point of view), or that Elizabeth experiences her first orgasm. Way too much information!

    As it stands, PEMBERLEY IN PERIL is good reading. But it could have been much more. (B+)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    BILBURY VILLAGE is the fifth book in Vernon Coleman's Young Country Doctor series set in North Devon. It is available in a Kindle edition from 2014, but Amazon shows no print editions. I did not find its original publication date.

    Set during the early 1970s some two years after the National Health Service closed Coleman's general medicine practice, BILBURY VILLAGE chronicles the year that begins when Thumper Robinson and Patchy Fogg persuade the NHS to restore local medical availability. As before, action is slice of life, daily activities of Dr. Coleman and the village's assorted eccentrics. It is a memorable year for Coleman--his return to practice, the birth of his first child, the death of his friend and mentor Dr. Brownlow, and a family wedding.

    Coleman has an easy, comfortable storytelling voice, appropriate for a first person narrator who does not take himself too seriously. Coleman reveals more of his own backstory when an irritating visitor and Dr. Brownlow's impending death trigger memories, many humorous, some touching, some sad. "I remembered working on a surgical ward. Every Sunday evening a patient died in the same bed in the intensive care unit. No one knew why. Eventually, I made the diagnosis. It didn't require any medical knowledge. I happened to be in the unit one Sunday and I watched in horror as a cleaner entered the ward, pulled out the life support system plug, and put her floor polisher into the vacant socket. I dashed across and switched the plugs back. It turned out that she had been allowing the polisher to whirr away for a few minutes every Sunday. When she was finished she put the life support system plug back into the socket and left the intensive care unit unaware that she'd just killed someone."

    Humor abounds. Much involves the practice, notably the hunt for Coleman's stethoscope, patients' erroneous medical beliefs, names of diseases, hair growth in elderly men, and house calls. Other incidents are more personal. Held at Bilbury Grange because the bride is Patsy Coleman's sister, the wedding reception for Patchy and Adrienne Kennett Fogg is itself worth the price of the book, involving as it does 23 identical toasters, homemade mushroom vol au vents, cows, and Elvis Presley.

    I did note one editing problem. In earlier books, the Colemans' dog Ben is a female Welsh sheep dog unaccountably given a male name by her late first owner, a patient of Coleman's. In BILBURY VILLAGE, Ben is referred to as "he."

    BILBURY VILLAGE is a wonderful choice when a comfort read is needed. (A-)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    HIS INCONVENIENT CHOICE is the third novella in Leenie Brown's Choices series of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format. I did not find a publication date

    HIS INCONVENIENT CHOICE begins where mid-story immediately following the marriages of Jane Bennet to Charles Bingley and Mary Bennet to Lord Rycroft. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam and Katherine Bennet love each other but are realistic to doubt they will be allowed to marry. Lord Matlock is determined to dictate his son's marriage to a wealthy woman with connections to support his own political agenda, regardless of the Colonel's wishes, giving him an ultimatum--agree to marry as his father decrees or be cut off from the family. He reluctantly agrees to a two-week moratorium in which his son can consider his future. Not only does the Colonel want to choose his own wife, he must decide on whether to sell his militia commission and become a wodworker. If he does, how will he support a wife and family? In the meantime, Kitty Bennet demonstrates unexpected business acumen and maturity as she arranges for Mr. Gardiner to collect and Darcy to invest the monies from sale of her dress designs to Society modiste Mrs.cie Haveston; the Bennets and all associated with them would be disgraced by public knowledge that Kitty as a gentlewoman is selling her work. The situation worsens when Lord Matlock reneges on his two-week agreement and publishes the engagement of his son to Anne de Bourgh. Can the impasse be overcome?

    The means whereby Lord Matlock and Lady Catherine de Bourgh's machinations against the Colonel are foiled is a secret from Fitzwilliam family history, one hat would ruin the family socially should it become known. The secret is a component in both previous novellas, again alluded to without specific details; its nebulous nature makes it a not particularly believable plot device, a convenient quick way to end the external conflict. That the Colonel and Kitty have supporters is not surprising, but the complexity of their network, composed as it is across class lines of people some of whom are not known to the others, is improbable.

    HIS INCONVENIENT CHOICE is not a stand-alone story. It presumes familiarity with events in the previous novellas and, though there's a semi-resolution of the Colonel-Kitty story line, indicates that the Fitzwilliam secret will continue in sequels. (C)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    PUPPET FOR A CORPSE is the third novel in Dorothy Simpson's Inspector Thanet series. Originally published in 1983, it was reprinted in the INSPECTOR THANET OMNIBUS in 1994.

    When his housekeeper finds the body of Dr. Arnold Pettifer, his death seems a clear case of suicide, except that everyone says he had no reason to want to die. He's respected in his profession, wealthy, healthy, deeply in love with actress wife Gemma Shade, eagerly anticipating the birth of his first child. He'd just collected tickets for a £2,000 upcoming cruise and that day arranged overnight repair on c car. Are these the actions of a man intending to die? As Inspector Luke Thanet and his legman Sergeant Mike Lineham investigate, anomalies turn up: his adopted son's name is misspelled in Pettifer's suicide note; his wife's account of events the night he died doesn't match facts; she's having an affair and stands to inherit his substantial fortune. Is his death suicide, or murder?

    I do not want to do a spoiler on PUPPET FOR A CORPSE. Dr. Pettifer's essential nature--the kind of man he is--is crucial, but he remains a literary creation, not a believable modern man. The story is too carefully contrived, an Agatha Christie puzzle, when real life is messy with impulsive behavior and loose ends.

    As in earlier books in the series, Thanet and Lineham's personal situations resonate with aspects of their case. In PUPPET FOR A CORPSE Thanet slides from mentoring to patronizing Lineham, an unattractive trait only partially redeemed by Thanet's appreciation of the beauties of the Kentish countryside.

    PUPPET FOR A CORPSE is okay, but it's definitely weaker than the preceding two novels in the series. (B-)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    TO CAPTURE MR. DARCY is Elizabeth Ann West's variant of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    While she's at Netherfield in November 1811 nursing Jane, Elizabeth Bennet discovers in the library a chess board ready for play, moves a pawn, and begins the game. Fitzwilliam Darcy, already attracted to Elizabeth, is more intrigued when he observes that she is his challenger. Elizabeth is confused by Darcy's demeanor. After his insult at the Meryton assembly and his apparent agreement with Caroline Bingley's criticisms, she believes Darcy's new attentions and verbal support indicate his desire to make her his mistress. Tensions increase as storms and impassable roads prolong the Bennets' stay and Caroline opens direct competition to demonstrate her own superiority. Complications multiply when William Collins arrives for his inspection of Longbourn and the Bennet sisters and then invites Lady Catherine de Bourgh to the Netherfield ball.

    This version of Austen's story is fun. Elizabeth is frank in stating her opinions to and about Darcy; she repays Caroline and Collins in kind. Her doubts about Darcy's intentions are reasonable even though, besides walking, her main exercises is jumping to conclusions. Darcy, in turn, is inarticulate; his words never seem to come out right. They require Mr. Bennet's knocking their heads together figuratively to get them past their misunderstandings.

    Changes in the plot streamline the story. All the action occurs in Hertfordshire, mostly at Netherfield. Jane and Bingley are engaged before she returns home following her illness. Darcy's prompt revelation to Mr. Bennet of George Wickham's past removes him as a danger. Mrs. Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, and the three younger sisters' roles are minimal, while Anne de Bourgh, the Gardiners, and Georgiana Darcy remain allusions. The story moves leisurely through the events of the Netherfield ball, then rushes through a dawn proposal at Oakham Mount, a la the 2005 adaptation. An epilogue glosses without explanation a long engagement (Darcy had procured a special license, planning on a double wedding with Bingley and Jane in December), Elizabeth's reception by the ton, and retribution against Lady Catherine. Indication of an engagement sequel, perhaps?

    TO CAPTURE MR. DARCY is one of the better fan fiction adaptations. (A-)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE CAT WHO WENT UP THE CREEK is one of Liliian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who" series featuring James Mackintosh Qwilleran and his Siamese cats Koko (formally, Kao K'o Kung) and Yum Yum. It was published in 2002 in digital format, recently available free or inexpensively.

    Lori Bamba, operator with husband Nick of the Nutcracker Inn in Black Creek, Moose County, finds the old Limburger mansion that houses it oppressing, as if it's under a shadow. As head of the Klingenschoen Foundation that funded the house's conversion, Qwillleran agrees to a visit to try to discover what's causing Lori's unease. A turret room stuffed with valuable antique black walnut furniture, damaged and shut away since 1900 by the father of a runaway bride, seems to be the source for the burdensome atmosphere. Enjoying the vacation, Qwilleran and the cats move into the inn's cabin previously occupied by a commercial traveler named Hackett, whose body Qwilleran and Koko had spotted floating down Black Creek; Koko finds a pair of Hackett's shoes, one of which has a hidden heel compartment filled with gold nuggets. All commercial exploitation of the Black Bear Conservancy which borders the inn is forbidden, but Hackett must have been prospecting. Then another guest Doyle Underhill, a wildlife photographer working along Black Creek and in the nearby forest, is also murdered. Why?

    I'd not read one of "The Cat Who" books in years, and I'd forgotten why I quit. Now I know. To call this a mystery stretches the limits of the definition. The mystery element, consisting of two murders, a suicide, thefts, and violation of land use laws, is secondary to Qwilleran's pottering about. Braun telegraphs the killer's identity since there's only one person skulking around, always referred to but never introduced. A perceptive reader should have no trouble discerning the motive. Braun describes no police investigation--no forensics, no questioning of suspects, no chain of evidence; Qwilleran conveys relevant information found by Koko to Pickax Chief of Police Andy Brodie who then hands it on to the state police. Braun never even gives the true names of either Hackett or his killer.

    I don't much like Jim Qwilleran. He potters about, a mixture of Father Christmas and Mr. Fix-it, quick to intervene, certain he (and Koko) know best, convinced money will solve everything. He's generous in having established the Klingenschoen Foundation, but he uses its influence to dominate Moose County. Way too many characters serve only to praise Qwilleran's generosity and to receive his benevolence. I find him condescending and patronizing.

    Sense of place is not developed. The only real-world geographical references are to cities like Chicago and Milwaukee; Braun never names the state in which Moose County is located. The fantasy element--Koko's extrasensory perception and ability to communicate with Qwilleran--is overblown.

    I'm whimsy challenged, and THE CAT WHO WENT UP THE CREEK requires too much suspension of disbelief for me to cope. No grade, and no more "The Cat Who" books.
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    FOLLY AND FORGIVENESS is Lizzy Brandon's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Enraged by Elizabeth's refusal of Mr. Collins's proposal, Mrs. Bennet exchanges harsh words with her daughter and storms off. She falls on the stairs, hits her head, and dies of the injury. The Bennets are overwhelmed. Charles Bingley refuses to leave Hertfordshire, and Darcy remains to guard Elizabeth against George Wickham. His wife's death leads Mr. Bennet to remarry, to beget a son who will inherit Longbourn and care for his older unmarried sisters. As the year passes, both Darcy and Elizabeth suffer emotional turmoil: guilt, misunderstood motives and behavior, self-doubt, obstinate willfulness; change is slow and painful.

    FOLLY AND FORGIVENESS is contains few editing errors. "Discreet" and "discrete" are interchanged, as are "fiance" (male) and "fiancee" (female), the latter two terms mid-nineteenth century rather than Regency. A real-world question is whether George Wickham, after deserting the militia at Meryton, could purchase a commission in a different regiment in Brighton.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    I have no problem with the idea of a second marriage for Mr. Bennet. It was common in times when many women died in childbirth for a widower to remarry and sire a second (or third) family. I dislike that Brandon shows nothing of the developing relationship and little of the marriage. Jane and Elizabeth travel north with the Gardiners immediately after their father's wedding, and the family does not reunite until the debacle of Lydia's elopement. George Wickham, for once in fan fiction, receives justice for his (double) desertion, though Lydia, as usual, receives undeserved mercy.

    I don't care for Brandon's versions of Elizabeth and Darcy. While guilt over harsh last words to her mother is reasonable, Elizabeth loses all sense of proportion. Her mood swings are massive, from overweening confidence in her abilities to abject doubt of her own judgments about everyone, yet always convinced of the absolute truth of her current opinion. She has, as Mrs. Gardiner points out to Darcy, what moderns call trust issues. Darcy appears borderline autistic in his inability to read people's reactions and interact appropriately with them. To be fair, Brandon does have Darcy acknowledge his problems and correct them much quicker than does Elizabeth.

    FOLLY AND FORGIVENESS began with an interesting premise--Mr. Bennet's remarriage--but soon morphed into the standard re-telling with minor variants of the original story. (B)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    Cassandra Grafton's A QUEST FOR MR. DARCY is a variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Following his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, Fitzwilliam Darcy takes his sister Georgiana and her companion Mrs. Annesley on a year-long tour of northern Europe. He returns, convinced he's over Elizabeth and determined to marry immediately, to do his duty to provide a Darcy heir and a companion / mentor to his sister. To that end, he invites to Pemberley a house party that includes Charles Bingley and his younger twin half-sisters Viola and Olivia, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr. and Mrs. Latimer and their most eligible daughter Eleanor, and the Hansens. Darcy arrives to find new tenants at his nearby property, the Grange--Thomas Bennet and his daughters Jane and Elizabeth. While Darcy was abroad, following a scandal caused by Lydia's elopement with George Wickham and her death in a fire, Mrs. Bennet's sudden death two weeks later, and the Magistrate's subsequent investigation of its suspicious circumstances, the surviving Bennets quit Longbourn and remove to Derbyshire, where they live secretly to escape social ostracism. Darcy and Elizabeth again must face their feelings, along with the Latimers' expectations, the Bingley twins' mischief, a ghostly presence in the Pemberley woods, and mysterious behavior by Mr. Bennet.

    I do not want to do a spoiler, so my comments about A QUEST FOR MR. DARCY remain general. The book is too long--762 pages, at least 300 pages longer than the story. Plot structure is awkward. The first half of the book is almost all internal conflict, both Darcy and Elizabeth engrossed in "had I but known" angst repeated ad nauseam. Almost all the external conflict, much of it unlikely, is concentrated in the second half. The falling action is so drawn out that it becomes anticlimax, and the overlong epilogue accounts for everyone including the twins' adopted dog Hero.

    Grafton adds many characters to those from Pride and Prejudice. The vicar at Kympton is Reverend Wentworth, whose brother is the Royal Navy captain instrumental in returning the Darcys to England from the Continent (Persuasion). The vicar serves as Bingley's rival for Jane Bennet. The Bingley twins offer humor without being essential to the main story line. The Latimers provide insight into the mores of Society without emerging as believable individuals, especially Miss Eleanor as warrior-princess complete with bow and arrows.

    Darcy and Elizabeth dither and doubt their feelings and intentions far too long for credibility. Elizabeth is oblivious to her father's suspicious actions, making three TSTL choices that endanger herself and others, while Darcy, overconfident of his interpretation of events, makes at least one TSTL decision of his own. Grafton makes Thomas Bennet reprehensible. While his initial mistake is understandable, he, as usual, takes what seems to be the easiest way out, trying to maintain the secret even from his surviving daughters. He does not deserve a happy ending.

    Some editing problems slipped through. "Oldest" is used to refer to the older of twins. "Disorientated" is used instead of "disoriented." Word choice is not always felicitous. Darcy takes a "slug" of water; with Darcy on his back, his horse "scales" a gate; every positive facial expression is a "smirk." By the Regency period, people wrote on rag-based paper, not parchment.

    Grafton's original premise is, as far as I've ever read, unique in Austen fan fiction. It offers intriguing possibilities, though angst and unlikely "pile it on" rising and falling action negate its impact. Two grades for A QUEST FOR MR. DARCY: potential (A), in this telling (C).
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    Deborah Crombie's DREAMING OF THE BONES is the fifth book in her mystery series featuring Detective Inspector Duncan Kincaid and Detective Sergeant Gemma James of Scotland Yard. It was originally published in 1997 and is available in digital format.

    Victoria Potts Kincaid McClellan, Kincaid's ex-wife Vic, Fellow at All Saints' College, Cambridge, and University teaching officer writing a biography of Cambridge poet Lydia Brooke, believes the older woman's death, ruled a suicide by overdose of her heart medication, was a murder. She persuades Kincaid to look into the five-year-old Brooke case file; he too finds discrepancies that arouse suspicion. But there's no new evidence, only some of Lydia Brooke poems Vic recently discovered, to justify reopening the case. Then Vic herself is killed using the same modus operandi. Her death is not in his jurisdiction, he has no official standing in the investigation, yet he's personally involved by memories of Vic and concern for her son Kit. But why was Lydia killed? And now her biographer?

    I refrain for details of plot and structure to prevent doing a spoiler. Kincaid's feelings about his his ex-wife and Kit and their effect on his personal relationship with Gemma underpin the personal drama, left realistically unresolved. Crombie foreshadows the motive for Lydia's death subtly but, once it is manifest, only one character fits the personality of a killer.

    Characterization continues strong. Crombie excels in using atmosphere to reveal personality: "...she [Vic] found herself glad of the excuse to be out, for it was her favorite sort of day--soft, still, and damp, the world a comforting and uniform gray. She had no objection to sunshine; in fact, she liked it as well as the next person after a long wet spell, but clear days didn't exhilarate her in the same way. Gloomy, her mother had disapprovingly called her as a child, but Vic didn't see how she could help something so innate as a love of rainy weather. The moisture in the air intensified odors, and as she breathed in, the rich, earthy spring scent came to her so strongly that she thought she must actually be smelling things growing." (127-8) Vic McClellan and Nathan Winter are both appealing believable characters. Crombie's additions to Kincaid's back story and the evolving relationship with Gemma keep them fresh.

    DREAMING OF THE BONES is satisfying. (A-)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    JACKIE, JANET & LEE: THE SECRET LIVES OF JANET AUCHINCLOSS AND HER DAUGHTERS, JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS AND LEE RADZIWILL, written by J. Randy Taraborrelli, was published in print and digital formats in 2018. The subtitle succinctly summarizes its content, at least through the seventeen percent I've read. No grade because I'm giving it up.

    I found JACKIE, JANET & LEE rambling, a collection of anecdotes that hop about in time, many based on stories told years later by family members or friends and, frankly, on gossip. Its writing style is simplistic, padded by conversational inclusions.

    None of the three women emerge as particularly appealing. At a time when career opportunities were opening up for women, Janet Lee Bouvier Auchincloss reared her daughters Jackie and Lee to find a husband with money and power, to attract a man able to raise their financial and social status. Of her dealing with Jackie's first suitor, Taraborrelli writes: "Janet said that she had invited John Hunsted to Merrywoods in a few days' time and that she would then find out all there was to know about his suitability for marriage. When Jacki begged Janet not to embarrass her, Janet felt that any awkwardness would be the least of Jackie's problems if she married someone who couldn't afford to give her a good life. Then, string at her daughter with a stern expression, she told her that this was not the time for sentiment. She, as the mother, knew what was best." Janet's mindset reminds me of Mrs. Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. As had their mother, both daughters successfully "married up," though it's debatable how satisfying their lives were in more than a material sense.

    My formative years--high school and college--largely coincided with the Camelot personified in the public images of John Fitzgerald and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. My generation, inspired by their panache, would "teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." Sadly, we did not know the truths behind Kennedy politics and personal lives, and Camelot passed. Nostalgia made me try JACKIE, JANET & LEE. I wish I hadn't.
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    AN ODD SITUATION is Sophie Lynbrook's variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in free or inexpensive digital format in 2018.

    En route to visit Charles Bingley at Netherfield, Fitzwilliam Darcy is thrown from his horse and suffers a potentially fatal blow to the head. Too gravely injured to be transported far, he's taken to the nearest house, Longbourn, to be tended by Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. Dr. Wilson determines Darcy is in a coma and recommends that his callers and nurses talk or rea wod to him continually, to stimulate his brain toward recovery. Jane, Elizabeth, and Mr. Bennet all follow the doctor's orders, as do visitors Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Unbeknownst to them, Darcy, though unable for the first days to see, move, or speak, hears and comprehends what's going on around him. As he slowly regains consciousness and begins the process of regaining motor functions and speech, he learns much about himself and other people, changing his attitudes, and falling in love with Elizabeth Bennet.

    This is a pleasant fan fiction retelling, not the first with the "injured Darcy tended at Longbourn" theme, but so far the best-handled one that I've read. Angst is minimal since the accident occurs before the Meryton assembly and Elizabeth and Sir William Lucas soo..n rout Wickham, so misunderstandings and hurt feelings don't emerge. Characters are reasonably faithful to Austen's originals except for Charles Bingley, who has more spine than usual. Lynbrook successfully reveals personality through characters' own words, spoken honestly in Darcy's unresponsive presence. I have no idea about Regency knowledge of head trauma, but AN ODD SITUATION is realistic in Darcy's impaired functioning following the injury.

    AN ODD SITUATION is satisfying. (A)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE MISPER MYSTERY is the eighth entry in J. J. Salkeld's Natural Detective series featuring hill farmer Owen Irvine and the Kendal CID led by Detective Inspectors Andy Hall and Jane Francis. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Kendal CID has several ongoing situations. DS Ian Mann, off-duty, stops Will Merryman for drunken driving; the next morning under orders from DI Derek White, he drives Merryman home. Merryman, depressed by loss of his job, divorce proceedings, and financial woes, commits suicide, leaving a note addressed to Mann, leading to Mann's suspension while he's investigated by Professional Standards. Owen Irvine's neighbor Barry Wolfit consults him when large, expertly-dug holes appear in his paddock. Irvine's partner PS Kathy Stone, working the MISPER case of Old Jack Armstrong, gone for over a week with no sightings and no activities in any of his accounts, also investigates the criminal damages case of Wolfit's holes. The South Lakes Offenses Against Children Monitoring Group, aka the PaedoPatrol, obtains evidence to charge a twice-convicted offender who gives them Ryan Thompson as also an active pedophile, leading to the group's targeting Thompson. Authorized by the police, is the PaedoPatrol an appropriate response to cyber-stalking by offenders, or is it a vigilante group? What, if any, are the connections between the problems?

    The Natural Detective series highlights the interplay of a variety of believable characters, friends as well as professional colleagues, who do the best they can as budgets shrink, manpower declines, and crime rates rise. Salkeld keeps the characters fresh by shifting focus between individuals. In THE MISPER MYSTERY, Mann, ex-SAS, a hard man who revels in taking cons down, displays both sensitivity and self-knowledge as he deals with the consequences of Merryman's suicide and the PaedoPatrol.

    Sense of place and plot structure are well developed, though Salkeld does not show the process by which Hall reaches the conclusion of the holes case. i like the bits of humor: "It was unusual for Hall to interrupt anyone, con, witness or complainant, but as this occasion he did. His voice remained resolutely quiet and level, however, as--to his knowledge--the police station wasn't actually on fire." Editing is good.

    THE MISPER MYSTERTY is an excellent quick read. (A-)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    MR. DARCY'S RIVAL is Kara Louise's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    What might happen if Darcy has a young, handsome, well-to-do rival for Elizabeth Bennet? When she visits Charlotte Collins in Hunsford, Elizabeth meets Matthew Richland, nephew of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, visiting his relatives at Rosings. He's much taken by Elizabeth, and she appreciates his charm and attentions, especially when contrasted with the aloof disapproval Darcy shows. Her impression of Darcy slowly begins to change, though she relapses to disdain when Colonel Fitzwilliam reveals Darcy's role in separating Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet; Darcy writes and loses an explanatory letter in which he pours out his feelings for Elizabeth because he did not mean to give it to her, a letter she finds and reads. The letter begins her final reassessment of his character, hastened by Darcy's rescue when she falls and is injured while walking. Darcy cautions her to be wary of the increasingly-attentive Richland. Is Darcy bad-mouthing a rival, or is Richland a wrong'un?

    Kara Louise is one of the best writers of Austen fan fiction. She's good at preserving the original characters as she moves them into situations beyond the canon. Her changes in story line and her introduced characters are believable. Editing is generally first rate with few obvious anachronisms.

    My complaint is the length of MR. DARCY'S RIVAL. Louise gives letters in full, and she includes large excerpts from the new romance novel A Peculiar Engagement by N. D. Berg. Much of the conflict is internal as both Darcy and Elizabeth constantly ruminate about their past meetings and attitudes. The story continues long after the turning point of the external action, becoming a multi-chapter conclusion full of emoting and weddings but little drama.

    Still, as Austen fan fiction goes, MR. DARCY'S RIVAL is a keeper. (A-)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    SNOWBOUND WITH DARCY is Caitlin Marie Carrington's novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    At the Netherfield Ball, Fitzwilliam Darcy's behavior with Elizabeth Bennet leads her to begin reassessing his character. Both sister Jane and friend Charlotte Lucas assure her of Darcy's interest, and she's definitely attracted te him despite her misgivings based on his insult to her at the Meryton assembly and his alleged treatment of George Wickham, but she's uncertain. An unexpected snowstorm arising during the ball isolates the Bennets and Mr. Collins at Netherfield and provides Darcy and Elizabeth the opportunity to clarify their feelings and bond over a dramatic rescue.

    SNOWBOUND WITH DARCY is faithful to Austen's original characters despite Elizabeth's TSTL walk in the snow when she's too upset to pay attention to where she's going. She and Darcy, from whose points of view the story is told, do much soul-searching, but angst is minimal. Except for Collins and Mrs. Bennet's fantasy of Elizabeth's marriage, Darcy and Elizabeth suffer no opposition.

    Because man against nature external conflict is not often used in Austen fan fiction, SNOWBOUND WITH DARCY offers an interesting departure. It's well developed, though a couple of real-life holes emerge in the plot. If the carriage can travel off-road through the woods to reach the river in Elizabeth's rescue, why couldn't it return the Bennet party to Longbourn following the ball? The second problem is the speed with which Elizabeth recovers from a near-death experience with hypothermia and drowning. She sleeps through the night and is completely well the next day though she'd not been breathing when pulled out of the water. She doesn't even have a bad cold, much less frostbite.

    Editing is good. Quotes from Austen's original dialogue sometime jar with more modern conversation. At times action is more reported than shown. The metaphor of Elizabeth's rescuing Darcy from his cold emotional isolation just as he rescued her from the river is obviously stated. Still, SNOWBOUND WITH DARCY is a comfortable read. (B+)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE GAZEBO is Don H. Miller's 2018 variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format.

    When Fitzwilliam Darcy comes to Hertfordshire to mentor friend Charles Bingley in estate management at Netherfield, he and Elizabeth Bennet already know of each other. Mr. Darcy, Senior and Thomas Bennet, friends from Cambridge, corresponded for years. Elizabeth, traveling with the Gardiners some three years before, visited Pemberley in Darcy's absence. She welcomes Darcy to Meryton and the assembly, where she realizes his aloof behavior stems from his discomfort in crowds; she encourages him to develop a friendlier demeanor. Both are quickly aware of their feelings, but each doubts the likelihood of their marriage, given the difference in their social status. Only her stay at Pemberley and hours isolated in a gazebo in a snowstorm give Elizabeth and Darcy the chance to declare themselves.

    Several editing problems intruded. A Hertfordshire neighbor is referred to as "Baronet Southington." Is Darcy's uncle Sir Randolph or Sir Raymond Pershing? Why is Lady Catherine's name written as "DeBourgh"? There's the usual misuse of apostrophes in the plural possessives of names.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    I don't understand several changes from the original. Without explanation, Miller begins the action in September 1807, several years before 1811-1812 dating of most variants. This date makes decoration of Pemberley for the wedding (29 December 1807) with a massive Christmas tree unlikely. There's no misunderstanding between Elizabeth and Darcy from the Meryton assembly or from George Wickham's allegations. Darcy immediately responds to Elizabeth's hints to modify his public demeanor; before Wickham can spread his tales, Darcy cautions Elizabeth that she and her younger sisters should be wary, so she is never taken in. Collins and Caroline Bingley appear without advancing the plot, while Lady Catherine expresses her adamant opposition only in writing. Miller gives Darcy and Georgiana a plethora of Fitzwilliam and Darcy relatives and neighbors, none of them developed beyond names. The snowstorm plot device conveys no sense of danger from the elements or from compromise.

    Miller's Elizabeth Bennet is a paragon. She's as beautiful as Jane, made more attractive by her vivacity. She and Jane run the Longbourn estate, making all the daily and seasonal decisions, dealing with the steward and tenants. Elizabeth is educated far beyond the norm for any gentlewoman; she is a brilliant conversationalist who expresses herself cogently and with humor. She sings exquisitely a cappella, including a song about the Biblical Esther for which she taught herself to speak some Hebrew. She's skilled in medical treatment, able to reposition a dislocated shoulder and stitch wounds, having worked with the Meryton apothecary for years. Everyone (except Caroline Bingley) loves and lauds her. Unlike Austen's original, Miller's Elizabeth has no need to change--she's already perfect.

    THE GAZEBO shows such high ratings from Amazon reviewers that I almost question if I read the same text. I find it unappetizingly slick and bland. (D)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE NUNNERY is Anne Morris's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, recently available in free or inexpensive digital format.

    THE NUNNERY opens with Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1, dialogue when Hamlet orders Ophelia, "Get thee to a nunnery," playing on the double meaning of the term. In formal usage, a nunnery is a convent or sisterhood committed to a celibate religious life; its slang definition refers is a brothel. This dichotomy underlies much of the action of the story.

    Bitter cold and deep snow that force Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley to take refuge in the Red Lion Inn in Meryton set in motion the events recounted in THE NUNNERY. There they discover local gossip about the unconventional Bennet females of nearby Longbourn, referred to as The Nunnery. Locals use it because the Bennet women, motherless since their mother's death in birthing fourteen-year-old Lydia, have eschewed the society of men, promising never to marry; Darcy and Mr. Collins, who's staying at the Red Lion because the Bennets will not admit him to Longbourn, understand it in the second sense. Confusion ensues, especially when Colonel Edward Fitzwilliam arrives and intervenes in the Bennet women's plan.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    I'm of two minds about several elements in THE NUNNERY. The premise ishumorous, though it's carried on much too long. It's not clear that Collins, more a buffoon than usual, ever realizes his mistake. While the motivation for the Bennet women's decision never to marry makes sense psychologically, their prompt change of heart when eligible men appear on the scene calls their commitment into doubt. Elizabeth, of course, leads the group and holds out longest. Colonel Fitzwilliam has an intriguing backstory, one that deserves treatment separately, though it is only tangential to the main action and concludes improbably. New characters are mostly servants, a companion for Caroline Bingley, and Meryton people, some developed in reasonable detail, but given unrealistically democratic social interactions with the Darcy party. Efforts to individualize the Bennet sisters are laudable but unrelated to Austen's originals--Kitty studying constellations, Latin, and Greek mythology; Lydia devoting herself to animals; Jane wearing her mother's clothes; Mary speaking almost exclusively in quotes from Proverbs, Elizabeth blindly obeying to her mother's deathbed strictures about men? I don't think so.

    Using inclement weather that forces prolonged close contact between the oprotagonists seems an increasingly common motif in Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, as is having Mr. Bennet a widower who remarries to beget an heir and displace Collins from the Longbourn entail. Alternatives and sequels lengthen as authors add story lines and include more of the canonical characters, even if their roles are not essential to the primary conflict. George Wickham appears in THE NUNNERY with none of his long antagonism toward Darcy; he actually helps Darcy when Caroline Bingley attempts a compromise. Otherwise, he serves as minor minion to Lady Catherine and leads Collins astray. Frequent shifts between characters to indicate simultaneous action make for choppy reading. Frequent shifts between characters to indicate simultaneous action make for choppy reading. THE NUNNERY embraces the "if some is good, more is better, philosophy to produce a diffuse story that feels padded.

    Editing problems are annoying. Some word choices are jarring--"ferreting" a young woman to town; "make due" instead of "make do"; "guile" as an adjective; "ennui" as a physical illness requiring bed rest; Darcy "hoisted" on Anne de Bourgh; discreet-discrete. Anachronisms--pince nez, morphing, modern attitudes about romantic love--are incongruous against the Regency obsession with compromise. The Lucases have two daughters named, but is there a third, not named?

    THE NUNNERY is another variant that possesses more potential than it develops. (B-)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE CASE OF WILLIAM SMITH is the thirteenth book in Patricia Wentworth's long-running Miss Maud Silver mystery series. Originally published in 1950, it was reissued in digital format in 2011.

    William Smith survived German prison camps to return to England with no memory of his life before his capture in 1942. A recurring dream of a door and a unique staircase in the house is his only link to his past. He's created a popular line of wooden fantasy-animal toys for Tattlecombe's Toy Bazaar but, when he approaches the Eversley company to mass-produce them, he sets in motion a train of events that discloses his past, along with theft, murderous attacks, suicide, and murder.

    The format of THE CASE OF WILLIAM SMITH is more thriller than classic mystery format. The identity of the villains is obvious from the beginning, though their crimes and motives only gradually emerge. Key to the plot is an improbable coincidence originating three generations before. As always in the Miss Silver mysteries, there is a chaste romantic secondary story line.

    The continuing characters of the series--Miss Silver, Detective Sergeant Frank Abbott and Detective Chief Inspector Lamb of Scotland Yard--are essentially static. Miss Silver is Abbott's "revered preceptress" (310), the men provide her information and leverage, while she as a proper Edwardian lady pays due respect to their abilities and egos. Protagonists William Smith and Katharine Eversley and supporting characters Abel Tattlecombe and Mrs. Abby Salt are believable and appealing. Even poor Emily Salt is individual: "Emily Salt did not appear at all. For the first time since he had been coming to the house William left it without being made aware of her presence. There had been no furtive step just round the corner, no door that closed as he came up to it, no tall shape disappearing into an empty room, no bony feature peeking down from the upper landing, grotesquely illuminated by light striking up from below. It was rather like going to a haunted house and finding the ghost away from home." (103)

    THE CASE OF WILLIAM SMITH is not the best of the Miss Silver stories, but it is a satisfying read. (B+)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    IN DARCY'S PLACE is Gwendolyn Dash's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in 2018 in free or inexpensive digital format.

    Elizabeth Bennet is miserable at Charles Bingley's Netherfield ball. Already half in love with George Wickham, she is disappointed at his absence; she dances only twice, partnered by buffoonish Collins and despicable Fitzwilliam Darcy; she's mortified by her family's behavior, especially finding Lydia petting with a militia officer. Her best efforts fail to prevent Collins's marriage proposal and, desperate to avoid the engagement everyone presses upon her, comes up with a cunning plan. She refuses an immediate answer, asking instead that she, her mother, and Lydia visit Hunsford for six weeks. During that time, she and Collins will become better acquainted while Lady Catherine de Bourgh evaluates Elizabeth's suitabilit. At the end of their stay, Elizabeth plans to refuse, but the delay will relieve Mrs. Bennet's pressure for immediate acceptance, remove Lydia from the militia's vicinity, and provide time for Jane and Charles Bingley to form an engagement. But we all know what happens to best-laid plans, don't we?

    I have no problem with the changed story line of IN DARCY'S PLACE, though I object to Dash's coarsening of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy is so emotionally constipated that he's less articulate than Collins. Elizabeth exhibits her father's "path of least resistance" approach rather than strength. A petulant drama queen, she is so determined to defend Wickham and despise Darcy that she seeks opportunities to misjudge both. She refuses to heed Darcy's warning about Wickham even with Colonel Fitzwilliam's confirmation, concluding Darcy has somehow misled the colonel. The change in her attitude from detestation to devotion toward Darcy is too abrupt to be believable.

    The book is longer than the effective story. Events and emotions are more reported than shown or felt, especially those glossed in the falling action. Lydia's friendship with Anne de Bourgh is more plot device than believable relationship. The resolution of the Anne story line is positively surreal, and I refuse to believe that Lady Catherine went gentle into that good night of the Rosings dower house. IN DARCY'S PLACE fails to deliver on the possibilities of Elizabeth's plan. (C)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    ASHES FROM A BURNING CORPSE is Noel Hynd's novelization of his father's reporting on the sensational murder of Sir Harry Oakes in the Bahamas 8 July 1943. Alan Hynd, American crime reporter 1920-1970s and best-selling true-crime writer, covered the case for True Magazine from 12 July 1943 through the acquittal of Sir Harry's accused killer, his son-in-law Count Marie-Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny in November; the case obsessed him for the rest of his life. No other arrests were ever made. It's impossible to avoid the conclusion that a massive Bahamian police-government obstruction of justice, involving among many others HRH, the Duke of Windsor, Governor of the Bahamas, protected the killer(s). For a brief "official" summary of the case, see Wikipedia, "Sir Harry Oakes." ASHES FROM A BURNING CORPSE was published in free or inexpensive digital format in 2017.

    Where to begin? ASHES FROM A BURNING CORPSE is a novel, said in the author's notes to be based on Alan Hynd's materials, reporting, work, and numerous conversations with his son, using his first person narrative voice. (3) This creates the inevitable question of which parts are fact and which fiction. There are no notes to indicate specific sources, with only a few quotations from contemporary newspapers and the list of a handful of true crime accounts of the murder in the Notes and Acknowledgements. No photographs, maps, diagrams, or cast of characters augment the text.

    Are editors an endangered species, or are they already extinct? ASHES FROM A BURNING CORPSE needs one badly. Disregarding the fact/fiction problem, it's neither fish nor fowl, a combination of autobiography with Hynd's recounting private detective Raymond Schindler's investigation of the Oakes case. Most of Hynd's memoirs involve dropping famous and infamous names: mob figures Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz; celebrities Mike Todd, Liz Taylor, Eddie Fisher, Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes; politicians Thomas Dewey; Homer S. Cummings; writers Ernest Hemingway, Erle Stanley Gardner. I could go on. Few have much to do with Oakes's murder.

    Other editorial problems include geographic inexactitude. The capital of the Bahamas is Nassau, on New Providence Island, though Hynd refers to Paradise Island as the seat of government; general references to the country of the Bahamas use "island" and "islands" interchangeably, while at times "Nassau" seems to refer to its entire island. Some names are misspelled; e.g., "Ernest Hemmingway." Some characters are not identified--who is Captain Sears whose testimony impeached Harold Christie's account of his whereabouts on the night of the murder? Is Hynd's faithful Bahamian taxi driver Felix or Felipe? Hynd calls both Sir Harry's widow Eunice Oakes and his oldest daughter Nancy Oakes de Marigny as "Lady Oakes." His writing of dates is eccentric: "Nineteenth Century" and "Seventeen Nineties."

    What frustrates me most is that Hynd develops no theory of the identity of the conspirators or their motives. There is brief nonspecific mention of cuckolded husbands, business rivals, bullied lower-status Bahamians, even Mob removal to facilitate moving gambling operations from Cuba to the Bahamas following the war, but no discussion of Hynd's own conclusions. After reading ASHES FROM A BURNING CORPSE, I know little more than before about the death and its coverup. What's the point, then, in writing or reading the book? (F)
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    90
    THE DARCY PLOT is Harriet Knowles's 2017 variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in free or inexpensive digital format.as

    Following the disastrous proposal and infuriated rejection at Hunsford, even with the softening of her animosity toward Fitzwiliam Darcy over George Wickham, Elizabeth Bennet refuses to allow Darcy's interference to ruin Jane's life. To thwart Darcy, she sends Charles Bingley an anonymous letter suggesting that his future happiness requires his reopening Netherfield. With Bingley in Hertfordshire, surely Elizabeth can organize his reunion with Jane. In the meantime, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, guilty over his unwitting disclosure to Elizabeth of Darcy's interference, confesses to Bingley and urges him to resume his courtship. Since both recognize Darcy's feelings for Elizabeth, they plot to bring the two together at Netherfield. The colonel is so sure of their feelings that he's willing to engineer a compromise situation to guarantee their marriage. But will it succeed?

    Harriet Knowles is one of the best writers of Jane Austen fan fiction. She's good at preserving the original characters and at creating believable alternative story lines. In THE DARCY PLOT, the Munson family subplot provides insight into Elizabeth and Darcy's personalities, offers external action tot balance their internal conflicts, and illuminates conditions for women during the Regency period. Knowles is admirably restrained in using only the canonical and introduced characters essential for carrying the well-focused plot.

    THE DARCY PLOT is one of the best variants I've read. Highly recommended. (A)
     

Share This Page