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Readingomnivore Reviews

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

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    COLONEL FITZWILLIAM'S CHALLENGE is the third and final book in Jennifer Joy's The Cousins variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in free or inexpensive digital format in 2015.

    Colonel Richard meets French refugee Adelaide Mauvier when his cousin Anne marries Adelaide's brother Luc. He's struck by her beauty, but she's put off by his derogatory statements about the French. Thrown together by his parents and her foster mother Miss Beatrice de Bourgh, they are mutually attracted without having the money to marry. If he successfully completes the special assignment from Lieutenant-General John Dovedale and discovers the person leaking information about British army's continental supply shipments, the Colonel will receive the promotion and London posting to support his proposal. Instead, he learns that Adelaide is the prime suspect, thought to have culled the information from the wife of the Secretary of War, Lady Palmerston, for whom she designed dresses. A gown containing the shipping data had been sewn in Adelaide's shop and forwarded to Paris. The colonel has one month to discover the identity of the spy and save Adelaide. Can he?

    Characters are more modern than Regency, with Colonel Fitzwilliam the only canonical character of importance in COLONEL FITZWILLIAM'S CHALLENGE. Austen does not much particularize him, but Joy's version is too gullible, too unsuspicious and unperceptive about people and their motives, to be believable. Adelaide is no better, not questioning the motives of a helpful competitor, pulling a TSTL when she decide whom to trust. Both are easily manipulated. Joy does not develop Fitzwilliam, Adelaide, and Miss Beatrice beyond that in ANNE'S ADVERSITY, the second book. Most other introduced characters remain mere names. Adelaide and the Colonel suffer relatively little angst.

    The spy story line does not jell. Details of the method by which the supply shipmen is conveyed are sketchy and inconsistent. Foreshadowing of the identity of the French agent(s) is obvious. The number of individuals involved in the spying is unrealistic, and that subplot contains a major error of fact. Lord Palmerston was Secretary of War after 1809, but he remained unmarried until 1839, when he married his long-term mistress Emily Lamb. If an author choses to use a historical figure for verisimilitude, accurate use of personal information is crucial.

    COLONEL FITZWILLIAM'S CHALLENGE needs a thorough revision to implement its intriguing possibilities. (C-)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    A TAINT IN THE BLOOD is the fourteenth book in Dana Stabenow's long-running mystery series featuring Kate Shugak. It was published in print and digital formats in 2007.

    Charlotte Bannister Muravieff hires Kate Shugak to get her mother Victoria Pilz Bannister Muravieff out of prison. She's served over thirty years of a life sentence for the arson-murder of her older son William Muravieff. Her second son Oliver is permanently lamed from jumping out a second-story window to escape the flames; both had been drugged beforehand. Charlotte is convinced of her mother's innocence and, since Victoria has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, wants her to have treatment options not available in prison. Kate begins the investigations with low expectation of finding the verdict in error, but she soon finds anomalies that arouse her suspicions. At the time of her conviction, Victoria had been a bookkeeper at Pilz Mining and Exploration, a dominant Alaskan economic power run by her brother Erland Bannister, the siblings at odds over company finances and business policies. When Kate's assistant Kurt Pletnikoff is shot and Victoria's long-missing husband Eugene Muravieff freshly murdered, Kate realizes the killer is loose and still active. What can of worms has Kate opened?

    Most of the action in A TAINT IN THE BLOOD occurs in or near Anchorage, so few Park rats appear. Alaska Trooper Sergeant Jim Chopin is much on the scene as his and Kate's relationship evolves. Characterization is strong, with Kate's tenacity most conspicuous: "Everyone wanted her to go home, Jim, Brendan, even Max had told her to pack it in. Mutt put her cold nose on Kate's cheek and gave an imploring whine. Nobody wanted her to stay in Anchorage. But she couldn't let it go. She knew someone was running a scam on her, she knew she hadn't come anywhere near the truth, and she knew that if they had their way, she never would. It was, she thought...a combination of things--a need to know the truth would not be denied, and a fierce disinclination to lose." (240) Stabenow is adept at thumbnail character sketches: "[Morris Maxwell] looked like a very old and very irritated eagle, with his fierce blue eyes and his hawklike nose. Yes, he was...another quintessential Alaskan old fart with an independent streak as wide as the Yukon and an attitude as convivial a a wolverine." (300)

    Stabenow underpins her stories with Alaska's unique history and geography. She is adept at using details of setting to establish character: "They walked around the lagoon and through the tunnel beneath the railroad tracks that led to the coastal trail. It was a beautiful evening, clear, with a warm breeze... strong enough to keep the bugs off but light enough not to dissipate the rich aroma rising up off the massed Rosa rugosa bushes crowding the fence. Mutt trotted next to [Kate], looking down her lupine nose at the dogs going in the other direction, who had to be kept on leashes and still lunged out to the ends of them, barking hysterically at anything that moved. When a pair of Dobermans got especially yappy, she snapped her teeth together, just once. It sounded like the cock of a pistol. They shut up. If they'd had tails, they would have tucked them between their legs." (72) I love Mutt.

    The plot in A TAINT IN THE BLOOD is more thriller than mystery because the number of suspects with the opportunity and the personality to commit the crimes is strictly limited. An experienced reader should have no trouble identifying those responsible, the question then becoming motives for crimes separated by more than thirty years. It's another satisfying story. (B+)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE COLLIN CONUNDRUM is the first book in Meg Osborne's Pathway to Pemberley series of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017. Significance of the title is not clear.

    Osbourne makes only two major changes to the original plot. The first has Mrs. Bennet, dismayed at Charles Bingley's dilatory courtship, pressures Jane to accept William Collins's proposal. Knowing her sister's compliant nature, Elizabeth Bennet determines to encourage Charles Bingley and prevent Jane's acquiescing in her mother's choice. Complications ensue when his sisters pass on to Bingley as fact Collins's assumption of Jane's acceptance, and Bingley seems to transfer his attention to Elizabeth. She and Darcy work at cross purposes for most of the story. The second change is Lady Catherine de Bourgh's unannounced descent on Meryton with Anne de Bourgh, ostensibly to deliver Georgiana to Netherfield and Darcy and to consult Collins. Her real intent is unspecified. Forbidding Collins to marry either Jane or Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine does approve musically-talented Mary as suitable.

    I find THE COLLINS CONUNDRUM frustrating. It is definitely not a stand-alone title. Though Jane and Bingley are engaged, with Collins and Mary on the threshold, there's no sense of resolution. Darcy has proposed awkwardly to Elizabeth, who kindly refuses. Because Darcy gives no specific details in his warning about George Wickham's character, Elizabeth dismisses the information as malicious gossip. THE COLLINS CONUNDRUM should be marketed as an installment of a serial novel, not as an entity.

    Characters are heightened versions of the originals with both Darcy and Elizabeth more obtuse than perceptive about other people. Nothing Darcy says comes out the way he means it, while Elizabeth willfully misunderstands and jumps to conclusions. Someone needs to knock their heads together to get their attention, then lock them in a room until they communicate instead of making assumptions.

    Except for apostrophes in plurals and possessives of names, THE COLLINS CONUNDRUM is well-edited. There are no glaring anachronisms or poor word choices. Writing style is easy, a good balance of internal and external conflict; foreshadowing sets up coming events. I lower the grade because of its lack of resolution, though I will definitely pursue the series. (B+)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Meg Osborne calls THE WICKHAM WAGER the second book in her Pathway to Pemberley variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. More accurately, it is the second installment in a serial novel--its only resolution is Jane and Bingley's marriage. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Desperate for money to pay his debts, George Wickham wagers that he can win Elizabeth Bennet's affection, to be demonstrated at next month's assembly in Meryton by her dancing three sets with him and dancing with no one else. Unable to talk to Elizabeth privately, Wickham writes his version of the relationship with Georgiana, true lovers separated by Darcy's pride and sense of superiority. Thus begins his campaign. After much soul-searching, angst and Wickham's lost bet, Elizabeth and Darcy finally resolve their misunderstandings and become engaged. Mr. Bennet, convinced that Elizabeth cannot be happy in marriage to Darcy, refuses his consent and promises to disown her if she marries without it. Elizabeth packs and leaves Longbourn.

    Neither Darcy not Elizabeth exhibits much perception about people and motives in THE WICKHAM WAGER. Even though he'd given no particulars of Wickham's behavior to support his allegations, Darcy demonstrates the insult he feels as Elizabeth ignores his warning and believes Wickham. In his efforts to protect Georgiana, Darcy agonizes over how much to tell Elizabeth. Elizabeth agonizes over whom and what to believe. When Darcy finally tells Georgiana's story, Elizabeth's revulsion to Wickham is instant, as is her regret in having rejected Darcy. The internal conflict then becomes Elizabeth's doubt that Darcy would renew his proposal and Darcy's doubt that Elizabeth would accept it if he did. The only quick decision made by either is Elizabeth's defiance of her father's edict.

    The glaring problem is Mr. Bennet's sudden change in attitude toward Darcy. He'd initially been impressed, believing Darcy would be a suitable husband for Elizabeth. However, at the assembly in Meryton, largely influenced by Lydia's report of Darcy and Wickham, he turns against Darcy. Considering his oft-expressed belief in Lydia's silliness, Mr. Bennet's acceptance of her judgment makes no sense, though he claims his refusal is based on his conviction that Elizabeth would come to regret her marriage to Darcy.

    I will finish the series. I resent both the weakening of characters and having to pay for three books to get one completed story. (B-)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE DARCY DECISION is the final installment of Meg Osborne's three-title series of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    ~~~DEFINITE SPOILERS~~~

    Elizabeth Bennet, disowned because she plans to marry Darcy without her father's consent, travels to London with the Bingleys and Georgiana while Darcy remains at Netherfield to protect Elizabeth's reputation and to win over Mr. Bennet. Darcy and Elizabeth are devoted and dedicated to their upcoming marriage, but their lives are troubled. George Wickham blackmails Darcy with threats to reenter Georgiana's life. Elizabeth worries that Georgiana remains enthralled with Wickham, and she suspects that Lydia schemes with him to endanger her. Problems continue after Darcy comes to London to celebrate Christmas. Caroline Bingley, desperate to end Darcy and Elizabeth's betrothal, enlists Lady Catherine de Bourgh in her campaign. Lady Catherine descends unannounced to return Darcy to his duty, and the Bennets arrive en masse, also unheralded, on Christmas Day. As the coup de grâce for Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship, Caroline's minion will compromise and expose Elizabeth at a St. Stephen's Day assembly, to set up Caroline's reclaiming Darcy from the wrecked engagement. Can she?

    Where to begin? Both Elizabeth and Darcy are slow learners. Throughout the series, much of their angst is self-imposed. Both make assumptions, stew and worry without sharing their concerns. Darcy does not tell Elizabeth about Wickham's extortion, and Elizabeth does not confide her doubts about Georgiana, Lydia, and Wickham. Surely by now, they should recognize the need to communicate. Darcy's belief that he's personally responsible for everything, as well as his faith that known-liar Wickham will honor his commitment, is absurd. Elizabeth agitates herself constantly but does little beyond wringing her hands. Tension between them will remain high unless they learn from the experiences of this period.

    THE DARCY DECISION's plot climax is the assembly, at which Osborne draws together the various unresolved story lines. The trouble is, most of them end in a damp fizzle, not fireworks. When Darcy refuses her dictates, Lady Catherine takes to her bed and gives up opposition; she's so defeated that she allows Anne to attend the ball. At the ball, with firm dignity Georgiana sends Wickham on his way, and he slinks off unpunished into the night. Lydia suffers no consequences for conspiring with Wickham. Caroline also escapes without chastisement when her sabotage is revealed. Caroline may even be rewarded--she and her minion are so attracted that she calls off the compromise. Not only is he as handsome and wealthy as Darcy and the owner of a major estate, he's got a title. Karma is falling down on the job.

    The most satisfying part of the falling action is a bit of irony. Lady Catherine prides herself on the superior sagacity that makes her admonitions invaluable to those of inferior understanding. Her adamant condemnation of his favorite daughter so incenses Mr. Bennet that he rushes to London to consent and arrange the marriage forthwith. THE DARCY DECISION (C); the Pathway to Pemberley series (B)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LAST SEEN ALIVE is the fifth book in Dorothy Simpson's Inspector Thanet series set in Sturrenden, Kent. Originally published in 1985, it was reprinted in 1995 as part of the SECOND INSPECTOR THANET OMNIBUS, which is readily available as an inexpensive secondhand paperback.

    Detective Inspector Luke Thanet and his assistant Sergeant Mike Lineham investigate the murder of Alicia Parnell, whose body was found in her room at the Black Swan Hotel in Sturrenden. She'd been manually strangled; there is no forensic evidence, no sign of struggle. The only missing item seems to be a red file folder. Thanet remembers her as Alicia Doyle, a leading Sixth-Former when they's been students at Sturrenden Grammar School. She talked with three others from the school circle during the evening before attending a performance by another member, violinist Nicholas Rain, telling them she was in town for the concert and to attend to some business. Thanet and Lineham soon discover a tangled web dating back some twenty years to Sixth-Form star Paul Leyton's suicide, which the group blamed on Alicia for ending their relationship. Can her murder go back to the earlier death?

    Thanet, his family, his colleagues, even some of the suspects are appealing characters. Details of daily life for Thanet and Lineham humanize them. Unlike protagonists in many current police procedurals, Thanet is not a maverick. He respects and is respected by his superiors and his subordinates. He possesses self-insight: "...for the millionth time he asked himself if he was in the wrong job He loved the excitement of the chase, the knowledge that he was working to enforce a moral as well as a legal justice, but at the same time he was constantly aware that he himself was perhaps too sensitive to be able comfortably to tread the tightrope between objectivity and emotional involvement with the people he met during the course of his investigations. There was, he felt, a softness at the core of his nature inappropriate to the work he had to do, and try as he would to suppress it, like a many-headed hydra it kept popping up when he least expected it." (171-2)

    Sense of place is well-developed in LAST SEEN ALIVE. Simpson's imagery pulls the reader into the countryside and uses setting to reveal character: "The village of Barton is about three miles from Sturrenden and Thanet and Lineham wound their way along country lanes whose hedges were starred with dog-roses and festooned with the wild clematis. Through five-barred gates they caught glimpses of golden corn, ripe for harvesting, and once the monstrous bulk of a combine harvester loomed above a hedge on their left. Thanet was not a countryman, but he loved the unvarying rhythm of the seasons and the changing beauty of the Kent landscape with its orchards and arable land, sheep and cattle. This evening the sunlight lay upon the land like a benediction..." (38)

    The conclusion to LAST SEEN ALIVE comes as a shock, not so much in the identity of the killer as in the reason Alicia Doyle Parnell died. Simpson's misdirection of the reader's attention is masterful. (A)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    PARTICULAR INTENTIONS is the first in L. L. Diamond's Particular Intentions series of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    PARTICULAR INTENTIONS is disjointed, two distinct story lines connected by characters. In the first has Darcy, after the overheard insult at the Meryton assembly, quickly make amends by defending Jane and Elizabeth against the Bingley sisters' mockery. He and Elizabeth soon embark on a formal courtship. Wickham's arrival prompts Darcy to enlighten the Bennets about the man's character and history, stimulating Mr. Bennet to assert his authority over his younger daughters' behavior; Elizabeth is grateful. However, after Elizabeth overhears Darcy order Charles Bingley to ignore Jane Bennet and to return to London the day after the Netherfield ball, she refuses all Darcy's attempts to explain and declares the courtship at an end. To avoid Mrs. Bennet's incessant clamor blaming Elizabeth for Bingley and Darcy's departure, as well as to facilitate Darcy and Elizabeth's reconciliation, Mr. Bennet sends Elizabeth to visit the Gardiners. Mrs. Gardiner soon convinces her niece to hear Darcy (who had good reason for whisking Bingley away from Hertfordshire) and to resume their courtship.

    In the second, Elizabeth and Darcy in London, negotiating the ton where disappointed maidens and their mothers are not best pleased by Darcy's choice of a low-status country girl, must face malicious gossip and Wickham's vengeful threats. A servant reports an overhead promise that Elizabeth will be removed to free Darcy. Faced with her family's support of an unacceptable suitor for Anne, Lady Catherine de Bourgh wars against the Fitzwilliams. Darcy and Elizabeth are being followed, then become victims of a knife attack. What's going on, and who's behind it?

    Characters are reasonable extrapolations to Austen's originals, though Elizabeth's hair-trigger temper and her tendency to jump to conclusions make her less appealing. No more perceptive than her mother, she sees what she wants to see in Jane and Bingley's relationship. Darcy's endless patience with her is too much to believe. Few of the introduced characters are much developed, most remaining names and plot devices. Charles Bingley's story line follows that of Frank Churchill in Austen's Emma, which mostly negates the added strength shown in his handling of Caroline.

    Most of the conflict in the first portion of PARTICULAR INTENTIONS is internal, Darcy and Elizabeth's feelings, with some external conflict as they settle the problems in their relationship. Most of the conflict in the second section is external, Darcy and Elizabeth against the ton and the plotter(s). The mystery element is rushed, more told than shown, most of the possibilities not developed. The resolution of the follower subplot is unsatisfactory because its instigator escapes while the attacker is hanged. Colonel Fitwilliam, who was not present, reports in two paragraphs on Wickham's accidental capture and his fate.

    Editorial problems include words spelled incorrectly ("chaperone" consistently "chaperon"), plurals and possessives of names, and improper use of family names with titles.

    My biggest problem is the sexualization of Austen's story. It's believable that Wickham rapes Georgiana, resulting in pregnancy and an early stage miscarriage, but the attitude toward the event is modern rather than Regency. Neither Darcy nor the colonel calls Wickham to account at the time. Georgiana is cosseted during a period when a rape victim was usually blamed and might be forced to marry her rapist. (See Samuel Richardson's Clarissa for theme of rape as means to ensure marriage.) While I do not doubt that Austen's wedded Darcy and Elizabeth became passionate lovers, their escalating premarital intimacies becomes distasteful. I do not need to be told that Darcy scandalizes the Gardiners by giving Elizabeth a hickey, that with good cause their relatives insist on constant chaperones for the couple lest they anticipate their vows, or that the Darcys enjoy oral sex. Too much, already!

    PARTICULAR INTENTIONS has good possibilities but needs revision, either into one unified or two discrete stories. (B-)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    NO MORE THAN FRIENDS is Wendy Ann Gallant's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Characters are reasonably faithful to Austen's creations, though neither Elizabeth nor Darcy needs fundamental changes in their behavior or attitudes. Darcy's just shy in company, masking his discomfort with standoffish behavior, depressed by the changes in Georgiana since the recent Ramsgate incident. Elizabeth recognizes the causes and encourags his social skills. Conscripted by Mrs. Bennet to chaperone the engaged Bingley and Jane on their frequent walks, Elizabeth and Darcy become friends. To preserve their relationship after Jane and Bingley wed, Elizabeth and Darcy marry, neither professing romantic love for the other. Most of the story is slice of life as their marriage moves them from admiration and respect to deepest love.

    Two characters are distinctly different from Austen. After Elizabeth refuses his proposal, Mary Bennet decides William Collins is trainable and decides to marry him herself. Within a week, using admiration, flattery, and Fordyce's Sermons, she secures his proposal; the banns are called, so they wed in three weeks. Mary is strong enough to refuse her mother's choices for her wedding, to change Collins's behavior (he thinks it's his idea), and to demand (and receive) respect from Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lydia Bennet, on the other hand, is a wild child so indulged that she's oblivious to all restrictions on behavior, who denies all responsibility when her actions bring her ruin. Her repentance is too little, too late to be believable.

    Writing style is high-school freshman level. Sentences are mostly simple, subject-verb-object order, declaratives. In dialogue, change of speaker is not set off in a new paragraph. Nominative case pronouns are used when objective case is needed. Little sense of direct action causes NO MORE THAN FRIENDS to read like a summary or report, not a story. Opportunities to inject dramatic action are largely ignored.

    Holes in the plot further weaken this variant. Some are minor. Mary and Collins marry and return to Kent before Bingley and Jane's engagement, yet she's reading in the parlor at Longbourn when it's announced; her letter of congratulations arrives from Hunsford. Where's Mary? When Lady Catherine bedevils Collins for failure to report Darcy's upcoming wedding, he and Mary withdraw from Hunsford. Though Longbourn is nearly empty with only Kitty and her parents in residence, the Collinses take refuge at Lucas Lodge. Why? Despite inclusion of minute daily events, Lydia's sojourn in Brightongoes unmentioned until Mrs. Gardiner writes to Pemberley about her elopement. Why?

    The major holes involve George Wickham. One problem is the lack of appropriate response to Wickham's actions. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam apparently do nothing after his attempted elopement with Georgiana. Only his being a militia deserter accounts for his pursuit after Wickham elopes with and seduces Lydia; none of her family make any effort. With his hatred of Darcy known and Wickham's whereabouts unknown, Darcy orders no watch or guard around Pemberley or its inhabitants. Handling of Wickham's behavior runs counter to common sense. Setting is also a problem. When NO MORE THAN FRIENDS opens, Darcy has just rescued Georgiana; Wickham's been at Ramsgate most of the summer, setting her up. When Darcy meets Elizabeth, he finds she already knows Wickham from his stay in Meryton with the militia. The militia has already moved on to Brighton. Modern Brighton and Ramsgate are 72 straight-line miles apart; road distance is longer, with travel time determined by horseback, coach, or carriage transport in the Regency period. Where is Wickham, when?

    Most of the potential in NO MORE THAN FRIENDS remains undeveloped. (D)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DEAR SIR, DEAR MADAM, is Mary Lydon Simonsen's novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    What if, after his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, Darcy and she exchange a series of letters in which each explains the background of the other's misconceptions? What if, as each understands the other's valid feelings and their own shortcomings, they regret their earlier behavior and apologize? This is the premise for DEAR SIR, DEAR MADAM,.

    The characters are faithful to Austen's originals, only with their personal growth much accelerated as each heeds truth from friends and sheds mistaken notions. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Anne de Bourgh, even his valet Mercer, talk sense and encourage Darcy, while the colonel and Charlotte Collins inform and reassure Elizabeth. Mercer and the young stablehand Jake are the only introduced characters. Lady Catherine and Collins play no significant role.

    There's no external conflict. Instead, the focus is on the protagonists' internal struggle to accommodate new perceptions of themselves and of each other. The exchange lasts only a few days. The trouble is, there's also little drama. The outcome is certain from the time Elizabeth responds to Darcy's first letter.

    Two glitches intrude on an otherwise well-edited publication. The first is Mr. Collins's Christian name given as Williams. A typo, or honor to mother's family name, a la Fitzwilliam Darcy? The other is a legal question involving the entail. As Simonsen tells it, Thomas Bennet's father, owner of Longbourn, borrowed money from a distant cousin, Williams Collins's father; the men subsequently fell out. When Collins, Senior, died, his will entailed Longbourn on the male line so that, should Thomas Bennet die without a male heir, the estate passes to Williams Collins. How does a person entail property he does not own?

    DEAR SIR, DEAR MADAM, provides some insight to the changes in Darcy and Elizabeth but otherwise offers nothing new. (C+)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE MURDER OF A QUACK is one of two mystery novels written by George Bellairs published in a digital bundle in 2017. THE MURDER OF A QUACK was originally published in 1943.

    My response to the novel is ambivalent for a couple of reasons. One is the lack of characterization of its protagonist Detective Inspector Littlejohn of Scotland Yard. Bellairs gives no physical description and few details of personal life, not even his Christian name. He's happily married and discusses his cases with his wife Letty, he plays cards and has learned to speak French from his neighbors; he works easily with local police and is respected by both superiors and subordinates. Why so little developed?

    It's not because Bellairs can't "do" characterization, because he includes appealing vignettes of the village bobby, PC William Arthur Mellalieu, among others. "Poor Mellalieu didn't get much practice in conversation. He didn't believe in being too familiar with the villagers. After all, the law must not be seen gossiping and back-slapping with every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the place and at home, Mrs. Mellalieu did all the talking. To tell the truth in justification for the P.C., he was a shy man, without the gift of tongues. He hid this defect beneath a veneer of silent self-sufficiency. His eldest son, Joseph, (called after his mother's father, of course,) was Mellalieu's safety-valve, his particular favourite and buddy. Every Sunday, wet or fine, the pair went for a long walk and then Mellalieu chattered all the way; the full spate of all the past week's experiences. Like many men who have nothing to say or who can't express what they have to say coherently, Mellalieu earned a local reputation for depth and great wisdom hidden under a bushel, and hence was respected." (269) The backstory on Agatha Mullins, the Francophile village postmistress is humorously believable.

    The other reason for my ambivalence involves the structure of the plot. It's well set up, with current crime growing out of Wall's involvement some years before in treating and thus altering the appearance of a wanted bank robber. Bellairs creates reasonable motives, authentic suspects, well-handled misdirection. No problem. But then he brings in a second criminal, and a second murder duplicates an unusual circumstance of Wall's murder, to make the explanation of the crimes implausible. While the criminal gang is a frequent motif in crime stories of this era, its inclusion weakens THE MURDER OF A QUACK. (B)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ALONE WITH MR. DARCY is one of Abigail Reynolds's variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2014.

    Fitzwilliam Darcy, en route to Meryton on horseback in a January snowstorm, is thrown and injured. Elizabeth Bennet, desperate to escape the crowd and noise of Charlotte Lucas Collins's wedding breakfast, finds him, and the blizzard forces them to shelter in a run-down tenant cottage. They are alone, without diversions, for three days, during which they talk out their misunderstandings. Darcy's glad to offer marriage to the compromised Elizabeth but she, fearing unhappiness in an unequal marriage and believing their secret is safe, refuses. Gossip, however, spreads, and Elizabeth faces ruin unless Darcy honors his commitment. There are numerous subplots.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Several things about Reynolds's interpretation bother me. One is the change in canonical characters. Knowing that Elizabeth is ruined unless Darcy marries her and that she expects him to do so, Mr. Bennet deliberately lies about meeting with Darcy, saying that Darcy refused his obligation; he conceals Elizabeth's whereabouts from Darcy. When Darcy calls at Gracechurch Street to obtain her sister's address, Mr. Gardiner lies to his face, saying Jane has returned home (she and Elizabeth are then living in his house). Darcy then travels to Longbourn where Mr. Bennet continues his policy of alternative truth and refuses consent. While her male relatives' attitude may be realistic for the "men know what's best for their dependent females" Regency period, Darcy and Elizabeth's willingness to forgive is unconvincing and undeserved.

    Introducing Georgiana's mother is an intriguing change to the canon, one that deserves separate treatment, not just adding on to an already overloaded plot. Lady Catherine's final gambit to force Darcy to marry Anne and Anne's circumvention of her mother's intent also deserves independent development. Colonel Fitzwilliam's PTSD is mostly undeveloped. Maria Lucas's gang rape by militia officers including Wickham is gratuitous. By showing the actions to hush the scandal generated by such an event, it sets up Elizabeth as having no choice except marriage to a Gardiner employee willing for money and a promotion to marry a "ruined" woman.

    Several things about the rape incident bother me. One distasteful aspect involves the Bennet women. Lydia enjoys the excitement and blames the victim, saying the sexual assault is Maria's fault because she didn't know how to handle men and the scandal caused have sense enough to conceal the attack. She, Kitty, and Maria had been together at the wedding breakfast flirting with the officers, but the Bennet girls left Maria, drunk on rum punch, alone with the men. Mrs. Bennet expresses great satisfaction that the scandal over Maria's rape prevents Lady Lucas's boasts about Charlotte's marriage and eventual future at Longbourn. That none of the officers are even accused, much less punished for the sexual assault is also offensive. Wickham winds up in prison for debt, but not rape. Though Darcy and Elizabeth realistically could not save Maria without endanger themselves, though Darcy secretly makes provision for Maria's quick marriage to an honorable man, they pass by on the other side and leave Maria to make her own escape and find help. They show more concern in rescuing the kitten Snowball than in succoring the young traumatized girl.

    Only Lady Catherine receives appropriate recompense--she dies in a carriage accident caused by her failure to maintain roads on the Rosings estate. I find Reynolds's Pollyanna attitude toward most characters' motives unsatisfying. No matter what they do--Mr. Bennet's deliberate lies to Darcy and Elizabeth, Lady Catherine's attempt to impose her will from the grave, Anne's disappearance from Rosings, his step-mother's endangerment and neglect of the young Darcy, Lord Matlock's manipulation of son and nephew--Reynolds has all excuse their actions by claiming altruistic motives, "we meant it for the best." We all know the road that's paved with good intentions. (C)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Gisèle Vézetay's "The Forgotten Bonnet" is a short story variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    "The Forgotten Bonnet" occurs in the two-week interval between the Bennet sisters' move home following Jane's illness and their return to Netherfield for the ball. In her eagerness to leave what she perceives as enemy territory populated by the Bingley sisters and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth forgets her favorite bonnet. Certain of his feelings and desperate to change Elizabeth's impression of him, Darcy makes the return of her bonnet the opening salvo in his campaign to earn her approval. He uses the interval to demonstrate his changed nature, but Elizabeth fears he's setting up some cruel joke for the Bingley sisters' enjoyment. At the ball when he apologizes for his earlier behavior, shows her conspicuous attention, compliments her, and defends her against Caroline's barbs, she accepts the change as genuine. Her agreement to dance with Darcy signals the beginning of a new relationship.

    That's it. Short, sweet, internal conflict without much angst, no Wickham to cause trouble, with the altered in timing of Darcy and Elizabeth's rapprochement the major change. Pleasant, well-edited, but what's the point? (B)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ASSUMPTIONS AND ABSURDITIES is Cinnamon Worth's variant of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Amazon reviewers rate ASSUMPTIONS AND ABSURDITIES highly, and its story line looks interesting, but I am giving up at 43 per cent. The title is entirely appropriate. The couples--Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley--make unwarranted assumptions to the point of absolute absurdity. They don't understand their own emotions, much less those of the other person, flip-flopping between "loves me" and "loves me not" so often the reader needs a scorecard. Worth's introduced characters are not much particularized.

    The plot is a mishmash of who's courting whom with Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine bustling around matchmaking. Tactics of both are excessive and counterproductive. Writing is pseudo-nineteenth century literary style with rambling sentences, little sense of direct action, and set speeches rather than realistic dialogue. Dialogue is not an appropriate term because it implies that one talks while another hears--in ASSUMPTIONS AND ABSURDITIES, nobody in fact listens to what's being said.

    I am mostly linear in my thinking, so the muddle of ASSUMPTIONS AND ABSURDITIES gets on my last nerve. No grade because not finished.
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BANISHING MR. DARCY'S LONELINESS is Kay Mares's newly published variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It is available in digital format.

    Where to begin? Traveling from Rosings following Fitzwwilliam Darcy's disastrous proposal and explanatory letter to Elizabeth Bennet, he and his cousin Colonel Henry Fitzwilliam are attacked by robbers, their horses and two servants killed, leaving them stranded on a lonely stretch of road. With Longbourn in crisis from Lydia's elopement with George Wickham, Jane has come to bring Elizabeth home to help. The women discover the men but, when one carriage horses goes lame, both parties are forced to take shelter while a surviving servant rides the other to seek aid. With the Bennets' maid and Darcy's injured manservant as chaperones, there's no danger of compromise. Their time awaiting rescue offers Elizabeth the opportunity to interact with Darcy in informal and stressful situations, to hear his cousin's stories of the young Darcy, and to revise her opinions. Thus begins the l-o-n-g story of their courtship and their marriage through the birth of their first son.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Mares offers some intriguing plot changes. The robbery with violence opens possibilities for a mystery-crime element. The elopement raises the Wickhams' marriage. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's obsession with Anne's marrying Darcy might be explored, or Anne de Bourgh's relationship with her cousin Henry, or Elizabeth's reception by London Society and Darcy's family, or Georgiana and Kitty's courtships, The trouble is, Mares keeps piling on--Darcy's pre-Elizabeth depression and isolation, his repeated injuries and serious illness, his business ventures, Elizabeth's pregnancy, Caroline Bingley's unhappy marriage, Wickham's parentage, Wickham's attempted revenge and subsequent life. More isn't always better. It's sometimes too much. BANISHING MR. DARCY'S LONELINESS undertakes much more than it can deliver well.

    The main reason BANISHING MR. DARCY'S LONELINESS is so long is because it is repetitious. References to Christian beliefs multiply and expand as the story progresses. While memories of their past behaviors rightly underlie the changes in Darcy and Elizabeth, their musings on the past and rhapsodies over each other's perfection, repeated a dozen times with minimal change in wording, are counterproductive. Recounting the men's childish pranks meant to add humor becomes tedious, as does Darcy's risk-taking actions with his constant ruining of shirts. We get it the first time.

    Anachronisms abound. The couple's insistence on marriage as a love-based partnership between equals, their openness about sexual relations, Darcy's heavy involvement in Trade (not just investment but active day-to-day decision making), Darcy's staying with Elizabeth throughout her labor and delivery reflect current ideas. Darcy's forgiveness of Wickham is pure Dr. Phil. As fan fiction now seemingly requires, Elizabeth is overwhelmed when she sees Darcy shirtless (gasp!) Dawn meetings are common. Elizabeth's begging Darcy not to die and leave her recalls Elinor Dashwood's emotional sickbed appeal to Marianne in Emma Thompson's 1995 Oscar-winning screenplay of Sense and Sensibility. The horse Rudy's devotion echoes Lassie Come Home (1940). Elizabeth and Darcy even speculate whether the story of their romance might ever be published, choosing as its title First Impressions. American expressions, misused words, and slang terms jar. (The Pemberley house party plays "croquette" on the lawn--salmon or chicken, I wonder, since the game is "croquet.")

    ~~~DEFINITE SPOILER~~~

    Two questions of accuracy bother me. The minor one is about Rudy the gelding that is first a bay, then a sorrel. "Sorrel" is the American designation for an English light chestnut horse, one lighter in color than a bay. Which color is Rudy? The major one lies in George Wickham's identification as the illegitimate son of Sir Lewis de Bourgh and Mrs. Wickham, wife of Gregory Darcy's steward. His parentage is said to make him a threat to Anne's inheritance of Rosings. However, under English common law since Sir Edward Coke's ruling in 1626, a child born of a married woman was presumed to be her husband's biological offspring unless a court of law found that the husband was incapable. Thus in law George Wickham was the steward's son. In addition: "Under English law, a bastard could not inherit real property and could not be legitimized by the subsequent marriage of father to mother. There was one exception: when his father subsequently married his mother, and an older illegitimate son (a "bastard eignè") took possession of his father's lands after his death, he would pass the land on to his own heirs on his death, as if his possession of the land had been retroactively converted into true ownership." Because Mrs. Wickham died during Sir Lewis's marriage to Lady Catherine, Wickham could not have been legitimized by marriage. For an illegitimate child to inherit any part of a parent's estate, that parent must either establish a deed of gift or bequeath the real or personal property in a will to the natural offspring. So how is Wickham a threat to Anne's inheritance? (Huzzah for Wickipedia!)

    Mares should hire a professional copy editor and start over on BANISHING MR. DARCY'S LONELINESS. Its changes offer too much potential to be left undeveloped. (C-)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MURDER IN THE FAMILY is Burl Barer's true-crime account of the 1987 murders of Nancy Newman and her daughters Melissa and Angela. Originally published in print, it was reissued in a second digital edition in 2016.

    The bodies of Nancy, Melissa, and Angie Newman were discovered by Nancy's brother-in-law Paul Chapman 15 March 1987, in their apartment on Eide Street in Anchorage, Alaska. All three had suffered brutal sexual assault, especially eight-year-old Melissa; Nancy and Melissa had been strangled, three-year-old Angie almost decapitated. Suspicion soon settled on Nancy's nephew-by-marriage Kirby Dale Anthoney, His attitude was "off" to experienced detectives, his stories evolved over time, he attempted to manipulate the police; as his history emerged, investigators found he'd been involved in crime since a young teen, with a history of violent crime and physical abuse of girl friends and showing the characteristics of a psychopath. The forensic evidence was overwhelming. Anthney's trial made legal history in that it was the first in which an FBI profiler testified as an expert witness, and it was a pioneer case in the use of DNA matching. Anthoney was found guilty and received maximum sentence (99 years) on four counts, three to run consecutively, with two additional sentences, each 30 years, consecutive to the first three. Anthoney would be eligible for parole in 120 years.

    MURDER IN THE FAMILY is well written in many ways. It is a surprisingly quick read, presenting masses of evidence and testimony with good flow and enough detail to maintain interest. Legal arguments about admissibility of evidence and discussions of psychopathic personality are informative without bogging down. Despite the number of individuals involved, it's easy to keep up with who's who. Depth of research is obvious, its tone is objective insofar as an account of such horrendous acts can be.

    So, what's the problem? There's no documentation--no notes sourcing specific facts, no bibliography (a few books on psychopathology are named in the text), no reference to interviews with participants. My background teaches me to be cautious about un-sourced "history." (B)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    WHAT COMES BETWEEN COUSINS is Jann Rowland's latest variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in e-book format in 2018.

    Viscount Chesterfield and heir to the Earl of Matlock following the death of his older brother in a carriage accident, Colonel Anthony Fitzwilliam, along with his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy, is the guest of Charles Bingley at Netherfield Park. At the Meryton assembly, the Bingley party meets the Bennet family. Jane Bennet immediately attracts Bingley, while Elizabeth impresses both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy. Both men are affable and become popular in Meryton, especially after they warn against George Wickham, newly arrived with the militia. As the Bennet girls' relationships develop, Caroline Bingley, who'd expected to have her choice between the cousins (a mere Mister, no matter how rich, cannot measure up to the social cachet of an Earl-to-be, but will do nicely as a second choice), is incensed that Elizabeth engrosses the eligible men; increasingly desperate, she enlists Wickham, but to what end? Mr. Collins, aghast that both Lady Catherine de Bourgh's nephews seek Elizabeth's company, blames his cousin and tries to prevent her interaction with them; he summons his patroness. As neither her descent on her nephews during the Netherfield ball nor her call on Longbourn to overawe the Bennets is successful, Lady Catherine lurks in Hertfordshire while directing her minions Wickham and Collins to break Elizabeth's hold on her nephews, using whatever means are necessary.

    Rowland balances Elizabeth and Darcy's thoughts and feelings with external conflict mostly concentrated in the second half of the novel. Extended rising action leaves open exactly what Wickham and Collins plan, to end in a rushed conclusion that seems improbable. How likely is it that, knowing Lady Catherine's mindset, both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy ignore her whereabouts and simply assume she's returned impotent to London? How likely is it that they, aware that Wickham knows his arrest and imprisonment for debt are imminent, leave the militia to keep watch on him and make no attempt to guard or protect Elizabeth?

    I like some of Rowland's character changes. Mary Bennet emerges as intelligent and perceptive. Though she's still somewhat silly, Mrs. Bennet's relationship with her daughters is supporting and protective, and her social behavior less embarrassing. Her matchmaking is more humorous than off-putting. Mrs. Hurst is appealing, the older Bennet sisters' friend who attempts to correct Caroline's delusional behavior. Because his behavior, while somewhat aloof, is appropriate, neither Darcy nor Elizabeth requires extensive change; Darcy expresses himself more openly, while Elizabeth clarifies her feelings toward Fitzwilliam and Darcy, but both protagonists are essentially static characters. It's satisfying that, after failing to compromise the Colonel, Caroline Bingley is herself compromised and forced to marry. It's not pleasing that a less rambunctious Lydia experiences no consequences for disobeying her father--she's not even grounded from the Netherfield ball.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILER~~~

    I do not understand the alteration in Colonel Fitzwilliam. As the action unfolds, Rowland changes him from a friendly, unassuming man who respects Elizabeth's vivacity, intelligence, and independent nature, into a self-satisfied aristocrat who feels entitled by his title and social status to demand precedence in all things. Formerly Darcy's best fiend, Fitzwilliam distances himself when his cousin refuses to accept his superior claim to Elizabeth; he grows peevish when Elizabeth mistrusts his flattery and refuses the honor of being his choice. The man's avowed enemy when Wickham arrives in Meryton, Fitzwilliam is thoroughly familiar with his history, including Wickham's thwarted plot against Georgiana Darcy, yet he succumbs to Wickham's insinuations, leading him to doubt Darcy's veracity iabout dealings with the steward's son. Rowland gives no adequate motivation for these changes. I don't much like this Colonel Fitzwilliam.

    Editing needs work. Incorrect or inappropriate word choice [a "brace of pheasant" to describe many birds though a brace consists of two, inference-implication, strata (plural) for stratum (singular), discrete-discrete, among others], anachronistic words and Americanisms, apostrophes in plurals and possessives, mar the text. Modern allusions include reference to the "nurture versus nature" origin for narcissists like Caroline Bingley and her rephrase of the famous line from Apollo 13, "Houston, we have a problem." The nearby village is either Merton or Meryton. Mr. Bennet's University is first Cambridge, then Oxford. Mrs. Hurst is first younger, then older, than Caroline.

    Rowland writes some of the best current Austen fan fiction. Though a copy editor could improve WHAT COMES BETWEEN COUSINS, it's a good read. (B)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    AN OVERHEARD PROPOSAL is one of Jennifer Lang's novella variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Hannah, maid / companion / spy for Lady Catherine de Bourgh since childhood, commissioned by her to follow and report her nephew Fitzwilliam Darcy's movements, overhears his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. In her rush to inform her mistress, Hannah fails to overhear Elizabeth's furious refusal. When Lady Catherine confronts the girl, she refuses to believe that Elizabeth refused her nephew, calling her a liar and insisting it's meant to elicit a second proposal which she will accept. Anne de Bourgh and Colonel Fitzwilliam, in love but unable to win Lady Catherine's consent, maneuver her into demanding an instant engagement and a quick wedding to make it appear Anne rejected Darcy. Bound to London to shop for wedding clothes, Anne offers transport to Elizabeth, ejected from Hunsford on Lady Catherine's orders, and the two women become friends. Anne tells Elizabeth about George Wickham, who'd persuaded the eighteen-year-old heiress to marry him; only her overhearing his plans for spending her dowry prevented the elopement. Thus begins the change in Elizabeth's feelings toward Darcy. Convinced that Elizabeth and Darcy love each other and are ideally suited, Anne and the Colonel scheme to bring them, as well as Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley, together. Will Lydia's eloping with Wickham the night of the second Netherfield ball spoil their plan?

    AN OVERHEARD PROPOSAL is a comfortable story, made more so because Anne de Bourgh is not the dweeb so often found in fan fiction. Though quiet and obedient to her mother, she knows her own mind, is adept at reading people and skilled at manipulating them. Hannah is the only introduced character, not particularly well-developed as is appropriate for a woman whose soul belongs to Lady Catherine.

    Two ironic touches that I particularly like involve engineers hoist with their own petards. Lady Catherine's obstinate, mistaken denial of Elizabeth's refusal kills her dream of Darcy's marriage to Anne. In her eagerness to social climb by entertaining Colonel and Mrs. Fitzwilliam and Darcy, Caroline encourages Bingley to reopen Netherfield, thus enabling his and Jane's reconciliation and Darcy and Elizabeth's betrothal. Neat! (A)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    A DEEPER SLEEP is the fifteenth novel in Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak mystery series. Originally published in 2007, iwas released in digital format in 2014.

    Louis Deem is a psychopath, one who's abused and caused the deaths of three wives and escaped punishment through inept prosecution, a skilled defense attorney, and intimidation of witnesses and jurors. Found not guilty of the first degree murder of third wife Mary Waterbury, he seems invulnerable. He's involved in some way with the Smiths, a back-to-nature family with seventeen children, newcomers who've bought forty acres on Salmon Creek next to a site being explored for gold. Deem's also engaged to the Smiths' oldest daughter. When Bernie Koslowski's wife and son are killed in a robbery, Kate's foster son Johnny Morgan, who had not come downstairs with them, identifies Louis Deem as the shooter. However, there's no physical evidence, and his fiancee Abigail Smith confirms Deem's alibi, so Trooper Jim Chopin is forced to release him. Abigail Smith suddenly recants the alibi but, before Chopin can re-arrest him, Louis Deem dies from a point-blank-range shotgun blast to the chest. Had Deem killed the Koslowskis? And who killed him?

    Stabenow raises a question in A DEEPER SLEEP very germane to the current rise in mass shootings and serial killings: how does society protect its members from a psychopath, especially one clever enough to manipulate the legal system to escape punishment? If the legal system fails, is vigilante action justified? As Kate and Jim discover, there's no easy answer.

    The plot operates on three levels. The deaths of the Koslowskis and Louis Deem form its base. Kate and Chopin's relationship, evolving in a direction that neither foresaw, adds a layer of internal conflict for both. A third problem Kate faces is mounting pressure from the Aunties to take leadership in the Niniltna Native Association, to assume the mantle of her deceased Emaa, Ekaterina Moonin Shugak. These continuing personal story lines add greatly to the sense that Kate, Chopin, Johnny, and the other Park rats are real people with lives that continue between Stabenow's installments.

    As always, Stabenow reveals Alaska's unique ambience: "[The Park] was home to six thousand people living in two towns, a dozen villages, and on hundreds of homesteads, traplines, and mining claims. And that was only if you didn't count the squatters... Most of them had roseate expectations of a life at one with nature, and nature was reliably and enthusiastically prompt in disillusioning them. One guy pitched a tent on a bear track, and the bears, delighted by this change of diet, obligingly ate him and his girl friend. Another guy hiked out to a broken-down bus and sat there until he starved to death, having neglected to study the part of the noble savage lifestyle about learning how to hunt. A team of Korean climbers went up Denali and got stuck in a storm without a radio. Rescued by a passing Italian climber, they were back the following year, this time with a radio with which they got stuck in another storm and used it to yell for help. Unfortunately, they hadn't bothered to learn English. 'Suicide by Alaska,' Kate called it... As any Park Rat could tell you, there was far more truth than hyperbole in her gibe."

    A DEEPER SLEEP is another "keeper" for my library. (A-)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE BENNETS TAKE ON THE TON is Perpetua Langley's latest variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Mrs. Bennet is in London buying finery with which she hopes Jane and Elizabeth will attract husbands forthwith. Bumped into by a man descending from a horse, she berates him and whacks him with her parasol. To her daughters' horror, they recognize the Prince of Wales, who's so entertained by Mrs. Bennet's bumptious behavior that he invites the Bennets to dine next day at Carlton House. To her daughters' mortification, she accepts, then insists the Prince include her "elegant relatives" from Gracechurch Street. His companion Darcy is neither impressed by the Bennets nor pleased with the Prince's disregard for propriety. He and friend Bingley are Protectors, who guard the Prince from a mysterious Frenchman with a grudge.

    I give up on THE BENNETS TAKE ON THE TON at twelve percent. Austen's original Mrs. Bennet is the prototype of the husband-hunting mother of fiction*, but Langley satirizes that caricature. Her Mrs. Bennet is devoid of any element of reality. Determined that Jane and Elizabeth attract male attention at Carlton House, Mrs. Bennet stages a sit in at a fashionable modiste's shop until Madame Rousseau sells them two distinctive dresses completed for Miss de Bourgh. Even though Jane and Elizabeth discover that Miss de Bourgh is also to be a guest at the dinner, their mother insists they will wear the dresses. Mrs. Bennet's speculating whether she should call the Prince of Wales "Prinny" as does his other friends, is the final straw.

    The whole premise of Mrs. Bennet's acquaintance with the Prince of Wales is fantastic. She'd be as apt to meet Peter Pan on Bond Street as His Royal Highness. Like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, I sometimes believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast, but THE BENNETS TAKE ON THE TON is too much. No grade because not finished.

    *for example, Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MISS BENNET AND THE BEAST is April Floyd's non-fairy tale variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Following the wedding of Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet travels to Lambton with the Gardiners for a summer-long visit to Madeline Gardiner's oldest sister Lady Mary Grace Fordham at Dunleavy. Mrs. Gardiner is pregnant and Lady Fordham ill, so Elizabeth is needed. There Edward Gardiner, invited to shoot birds with neighbor Lord James Geste, Earl of Mowbray, is taken for poaching on Darcy land; he faces at the minimum two weeks' imprisonment at a time when Mrs. Gardiner needs him. Elizabeth volunteers to take his place. Georgiana Darcy, isolated at Pemberley for the past year, whose companion Mrs. Annesley died some two weeks before, asks that Elizabeth spend the time as her companion; Darcy agrees--in exchange for Mr. Gardiner's going free, Elizabeth will spend the summer at Pemberley as Georgiana's companion.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Doug Adams's improbability drive should operate well in April Floyd's Derbyshire. From the arrival of the Gardiner party in Lambton, events in MISS BENNET AND THE BEAST are highly unlikely, beginning with Gardiner's interrupting the trip en route to Dunleavy, to buy writing paper. Does Lady Fordham not write? Can she not afford paper? In the bookshop, he introduces himself and Elizabeth, unasked, to a stranger, James Geste. How likely is it that Lord James take Gardiner hunting on Pemberley land and then abandon him to face Darcy alone? How likely is it that Darcy, knowing Gardiner respectable and not acquainted with local estate boundaries, demand imprisonment for a simple mistake? Or, knowing only Elizabeth's a guest of Lady Fordham, that Darcy take her as a companion for the sister he's obsessed with protecting? How likely is it that the Gardiners permit her to live unchaperoned in the home of a single man? I could go on.

    I dislike all four major characters in MISS BENNET AND THE BEAST. Lord James Geste's taking Gardiner onto Darcy land must have been deliberate; Darcy refers repeatedly his lawless and rakish reputation.. Lord James smarms around Georgiana, who apparently learned nothing from the near disaster at Ramsgate and falls for him. She's spoilt, manipulative, selfish. Elizabeth is weak-minded, puzzled by Darcy's on-and-off behavior but willing to accept it in the name of "love." Aware of Darcy's distaste for Lord James, Elizabeth dismisses her own doubts about the young earl and does nothing to deter Georgiana's romantic fantasies. Then she is astonished at Darcy's anger, which she forgives rapidly because he'd been worried about his sister. Elizabeth Bennet should never, ever, be a doormat.

    Darcy is by far the worst, at least in part because Floyd provides no motivation. He never tells Elizabeth why he'd isolated Georgiana at Pemberley for a year. There's a reference without details to ill feeling between the Geste and Darcy families; nothing explains Darcy's animosity toward Lord James. Darcy's so volatile that he seems a split personality. One persona is dark, brooding, harsh to the point of cruelty, obsessed that his family be the subject of gossip, ready to lash out verbally at Elizabeth and physically at Lord James; his alter ego is pleasant and well-mannered, loving and romantic to Elizabeth, kind to servants, overindulgent to his sister. Almost instantly, his opinion of Lord James switches from near hatred to willingness to allow his courting Georgiana. Would the real Mr. Darcy please stand up?

    I question if my text of MISS BENNET AND THE BEAST is the same as that reviewed by others for Amazon. (F)
     

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