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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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    DARCY TO THE RESCUE is one of Martine J. Roberts's novella-length variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    Told by her father that she must marry William Collins to secure her mother and sisters' life at Longbourn following his own demise, Elizabeth tries to run away to the Gardiners. Instead she becomes lost in a snowstorm, to be discovered and aided by Fitzwilliam Darcy. Sheltering in a beaters' cabin for several hours, they talk frankly for the first time and, to save Elizabeth from marriage to the obsequious toad Collins and to save himself, in love with Elizabeth, from matchmaking mothers, Darcy proposes. Mr. Bennet devises an honorable way to rescind his approval of Elizabeth's engagement to Collins, but he stipulates a six-weeks engagement before Darcy and Elizabeth marry. She goes to London to purchase her trousseau and to meet Georgiana Darcy, but the presence of Caroline Bingley at Darcy House leads to major complications in Elizabeth and Darcy's developing relationship.

    ~~~SPOILERS, MAYBE~~~

    As Roberts sets it up, the snowbound premise is effective and believable, as is much up to Elizabeth's travel to London. However, I doubt that Elizabeth would be sent alone, on foot in the snow, three miles to deliver an invitation to for Darcy to dine; once at Netherfield, I doubt that she would wander the house looking for Darcy after being asked to wait in the morning room. I also doubt that Mr. Bennet would permit Elizabeth, even accompanied by a maid, to travel to London with Darcy and then to remain at Darcy House chaperoned only by Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley.

    Caroline Bingley's attempt to drive Elizabeth and Darcy apart is believable; she's sufficiently deluded and desperate to try most anything. However, Elizabeth is TSTL to believe her lies about Darcy's moral character. Darcy had explained Caroline's role in Bingley's removal from Netherfield, her blatant lies about Jane Bennet's morals and motives. Why on earth would Elizabeth believe her? I refuse to believe that Caroline entered a convent and took the veil.

    DARCY TO THE RESCUE has good potential, but it needs proofreading. Most decisions reflect modern, rather than Regency attitudes. (B)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HER UNFORGETTABLE LAUGH is the first book in Linda C. Thompson's Her Unforgettable Laugh series of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. More accurately, it is the first installment of a serial publication, definitely not a stand-alone novel. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    The story opens some five years before Darcy's sojourn at Netherfield, when young Elizabeth Bennet, walking with Jane and Mrs. Gardiner in Hyde Park, foils George Wickham's attempt to kidnap eleven-year-old Georgiana. Darcy sees her, though not closely, but remembers her dark curls and her joyous laugh. Wickham makes a second attempt at Ramsgate, drugging Georgiana with laudanum, immediately before Darcy visits Netherfield. When he hears Elizabeth laugh at the Meryton assembly, Darcy recognizes her, asks Bingley to introduce her, and, immediately attracted, dances two sets with her. Darcy brings Georgiana to Netherfield to meet Elizabeth, and the relationship between Elizabeth and the Darcy siblings develops apace. Complications ensue with Caroline Bingley determined to eliminate Elizabeth as a rival by whatever means necessary; with William Collins determined to marry Elizabeth regardless of her wishes; and George Wickham determined for revenge on Elizabeth and Darcy, determined to marry Georgiana for her dowry and eventual control of Pemberley. Can romance flourish in such chaotic conditions?

    HER UNFORGETTABLE LAUGH ends with Darcy and Georgiana leaving Netherfield for the Little Season in Town. Darcy and Elizabeth are officially courting, with Elizabeth to visit the Gardiners after Christmas, to meet Darcy's relatives, and to be introduced to Society. Left unresolved are the Caroline, Collins, and Wickham subplots, as well as Lady Catherine's assumption that Darcy's courtship is a ploy in seduction. I resent having to buy several books to get the complete story.

    Characters are reasonable extrapolations from Austen, though both Wickham and Caroline are physically violent and more malevolent than the originals. Caroline's age is unclear. In pursuit since the first kidnapping attempt, by the time of the main action she's monomaniacal on marrying Darcy. Is she close to Elizabeth's age, or is she as old as Darcy? Come to Meryton to join the militia, Wickham discovers the Darcys and, rather than enlisting, skulks, spies, and schemes. Mrs. Bennet goes beyond her normal disapproval of Elizabeth to outright verbal abuse. It's refreshing that Mr. Bennet sends his wife and Lydia home early from the Netherfield ball for their vulgar behavior.

    Some words are spelled incorrectly; some words are anachronistic (e.g.,chortle, Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky," 1871); some attitudes are more modern than Regency. Still, HER UNFORGETTABLE LAUGH is a good read. (A)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    LAUGHTER THROUGH TRIALS is the second book in Linda C. Thompson's Her Unforgettable Laugh trilogy of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    Thomas Bennet has consented to Fitzwilliam Darcy's formal courtship of daughter Elizabeth and allowed Elizabeth and Jane, being courted by Charles Bingley, to visit the Gardiners. Mr. Bennet wants Elizabeth to meet Darcy's relatives and to be introduced to the Ton, to be certain that she can be happy in the milieu in which she would live as Mrs. Darcy. The Fitzwilliam relatives are welcoming, but niether Caroline Bingley nor her Society counterpart Lady Marjorie Dalbert has any intention of letting a country upstart marry Darcy. Individually unsuccessful in separating the couple, they join forces to plot, enlisting Lady Marjorie's rakish cousin Lord Wescott to compromise Elizabeth. George Wickham still spies and plans his revenge. Lady Catherine descends on the engagement ball, and Fanny Bennet becomes even more critical when Elizabeth is so presumptuous as to have ideas about the wedding arrangements. Ah, well, the course of true love never did run smooth!

    Problems are similar to those in HER UNFORGETTABLE LAUGH. Cuts between multiple plot lines and viewpoints make for choppy reading. Only the Wickham story line is resolved permanently, with Lady Marjorie and Caroline's acceptance of their fates problematical, and Lady Catherine only just begun. This installment ends with the London parties en route to Longbourn for Darcy and Elizabeth's wedding in six days' time, taking with them formidable reinforcements--both Mrs. Gardiner and Lady Matlock. Thompson introduces many non-canonical characters, most of whom are extraneous.

    Thompson's writing deteriorates in LAUGHTER THROUGH TRIALS. There's too much repetition of details of daily life, even when nothing important occurs, of the lover's emoting, even of the ladies' dresses for every occasion. At least a hundred pages could be cut without affecting the story lines. The sequence of events in the prologue is unclear. Parenting practices by the Gardiners are modern, not Regency, as is the Fitzwilliams' open acceptance of them as people "in Trade." Common sense problems include Wickham's circumstances while stalking Elizabeth and Darcy in London--he'd been stony broke when he fled Hertfordshire, then in hiding. Where does he get money? A related question is how he manages to elude a dozen watchers to kidnap Elizabeth after the engagement ball.

    Thompson uses one of my pet peeves repeatedly. Unique means "being without a like or equal: single in kind or excellence." (Merriam-Webster On-line) As an adjective, unique is classified as an absolute; since it is one of a kind, there's nothing else to which it may be compared. A person or thing is either unique or not. Use of qualifiers such as "more" and "most" is incorrect. Once an English teacher.... (C)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE LAUGHTER OF LOVE is the final installment of Linda C. Thompson's Her Unforgettable Laugh trilogy of variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    THE LAUGHTER OF LOVE begins with Elizabeth Bennet's return to Longbourn the week before she is to marry Fitzwilliam Darcy in a joint ceremony with Jane and Charles Bingley. Because of her obstinate refusal to respect her daughters' wishes, Mrs. Bennet is living in exile in the dower house, while Lydia spies for her mother and causes trouble and Collins skulks the neighborhood, intent on carrying out Lady Catherine's orders to stop Elizabeth's marriage by whatever means necessary. Even after the wedding, Lady Marjorie Dalbert and Caroline Bingley, both desperate and disgraced, plot revenge on the Darcys.

    THE LAUGHTER OF LOVE lacks focus. If the climax of the story is the wedding at Longbourn, the structure is skewed, since the action extends for another nine months to include the birth of the Darcy twins Andrew and Elizabeth Anne, with an epilogue celebrating the Darcys' twenty-fifth anniversary. The plot covers Mrs. Bennet's demise, Lydia's schooling, the coup d'├ętat against Lady Catherine, the courtships of Mary (Colonel Fitzwilliam) and Kitty (Micheal Amesbury), and the lives of Lord Wescott, Lady Marjorie, and Caroline. Cuts between these story lines and shifts in viewpoint between so many characters make for disjointed flow. Much of the action is told, not shown. Descriptions of dresses and room decor repeated with only minor difference in details (color, embroidery, fabrics) become tedious. One hundred pages could be cut without damaging the plot or characters.

    Thompson blames Fanny Bennet for all problems at Longbourn, taking her beyond vulgar, self-centered, and ill--mannered to obsessive, narcissistic, and actively malevolent. While Thomas Bennet pays lip service to his failure to govern his household, his wife suffers all the consequences; he even tells his daughters not to wear mourning for their mother. Her treatment reflects accurately a married Regency woman's legal rights. I do like the ironic fates of Lady Marjorie and Caroline Bingley.

    Anachronisms are frequent. Wedding arrangements, Christmas decorations and activities, parenting practices, education for troubled girls, and obstetrics are essentially modern. Since the term for the stuffed animal originated from Theodore Roosevelt's name, I doubt that the Pemberley nursery included embroidery featuring teddy bears.

    Other problems include editing. Is the Earl of Matlock's Christian name Malcolm or Henry? In one paragraph of text, he's referred to by both. Is Lydia sent to the Barrows School for Girls or to Miss Bates' [sic] School for Girls in North Yorkshire? A major common sense issue glares. During the week after Christmas, Elizabeth Darcy, heavily pregnant (due to deliver in early February, who births the twins the second week of January), goes sledding with Darcy and the Gardiner children. I don't think so.

    THE LAUGHTER OF LOVE (C); Her Unforgettable Laugh series (B-)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ELEMENT OF DOUBT is the seventh book in Dorothy Simpson's long-running police procedural series featuring Detective Inspector Luke Thanet of the Kent Constabulary, working out of Sturrenden. Originally published in 1987, it was reprinted in THE THIRD INSPECTOR THANET OMNIBUS in 1998, rearedily available in inexpensive used paperback format.

    Nerine Tarrant has the reputation in Ribbleden for flagrantly taking lovers while husband, surgeon Roland Tarrant, ignores her promiscuity and dotes on her and their eighteen-year-old son Damon. When she dies of a broken neck when she went over the first-floor balcony off her sitting room, Thanet suspects that she was helped. His investigation is complicated by lack of physical evidence, conflicting accounts of what had happened on the day of her death, an abundance of non-alibied potential killers, and Joan Thanet's involvement as probation officer for Damon, previously caught with cannabis, who's gone missing.

    An experienced reader of mysteries may well discern the killer and motive before Thanet in ELEMENT OF DOUBT, but Simpson's foreshadowing that uses past as well as current happenings, evolution of accounts of the day, and personality of key characters, especially Nerine Tarrant, is both subtle and believable. Characters, though Thanet seems occasionally almost too good to be true, are realistic, with enough detail of daily family life to add verisimilitude. The conclusion is effective. Sense of place is good, with atmospheric details that add depth to characterization. Solid read, recommended. (A)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ENDEAVOR AT CIVILITY is another of Cassandra B. Leigh's variants on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    In ENDEAVOR AT CIVILITY, by the time Fitzwilliam Darcy visits Rosings and meets Elizabeth Bennet again, he's already overcome his objections to her low connections and ill-behaved family and decided to marry her. When he proposes, he declares his love but refrains from offensive comments, leading Elizabeth, though resentful of his slight at the Meryton assembly, convinced of his mistreatment of Wickham and interference between Jane and Bingley, to refrain from her furious refusal. Interrupted by the Collins party's return, she postpones her answer. Subsequent meetings produce explanations and apologies from Darcy that reorient Elizabeth's opinion of his character and lead her to call when she returns to London and visits the Gardiners. Darcy makes his peace with Bingley; both men call and, after proper groveling, are welcomed. Reconciliations and courtships ensue.

    Angst is minimized in ENDEAVOR AT CIVILITY. Darcy is determined to win Elizabeth however long it takes, and Elizabeth is quickly impressed by his new demeanor and his physique. Darcy's call in Gracechurch Street with Bingley in tow soon convinces her to accept his offer; Jane's doubts last somewhat longer.

    The major new character, Miss Juliana Darling, companion hired to accompany and chaperone Lydia in Brighton. From a Royal Navy family and engaged to a naval officer, Miss Darling has no difficulty thwarting Lydia's plan. In the notes, Leigh credits Ancilla Trent from Georgette Heyer's The Nonesuch as the inspiration for Miss Darling.

    Problems include plurals and possessives and inappropriate word choices. Proofreading missed opening and closing of quotation marks and use of dashes following end punctuation. Paragraphing is poor. Dialogue is minimal. Action is reported, not shown. For no apparent reason, Leigh moves from third person narration for most of the story to cover the elopement through.letters. Mr. Bennet's response is much more Dr. Phil's modern "commando parenting" than Regency. Not a bad story, but nothing special. (C)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    SPEAK NOT AGAINST THE SUN is Amy Robertson's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was written in 2010, but I find no publication date for its digital edition.

    Fleeing from Mr. Collins's unwanted proposal and her mother's reaction, in th woods Elizabeth Bennet flushes blackbirds that spook Fitzwilliam Darcy's horse. He is thrown, dragged, and suffers both a blow to the head and a broken ankle. Consumed by guilt, Elizabeth tends him and gets help. Darcy's injuries prevent the Bingley party's planned departure from Netherfield and bring Georgiana to Hertfordshire to keep her brother company. She and Elizabeth become fast friends, but Elizabeth is confused by the difference between Darcy's public aloof and critical attitude and his more relaxed private demeanor. Complications ensue, with misunderstandings, failure to communicate, long separations, and interference from George Wickham, Lydia, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

    I dislike what Robertson does with Elizabeth Bennet. She makes Austen's young woman whose courage always rises to face would-be intimidation into a confused, self-doubting dweeb who jumps to conclusions and hangs onto them stubbornly. She is easily manipulated. She and Darcy are seldom together in SPEAK NOT AGAINST THE SUN and, when they are in the same place, each is too busy stewing over feelings and what to do or say next to communicate. Neither is perceptive.

    Many things about SPEAK NOT AGAINST THE SUN bother me. One is the title, spoken (in Latin) to the injured Darcy in the pouring rain in the woods, apropos of nothing. Editing leaves problems with plural and possessive nouns, homophones, poor word choice, anachronistic words, use of commas, passive voice (though in Elizabeth's case, this may be characterization), and changes between present and past tense verbs. The book reads longer than the effective story.

    SPEAK NOT AGAINST THE SUN is also derivative. It incorporates the scene of Elizabeth on the cliff top from the 2005 film adaptation as well as the Darcy wet-shirt scene from the 1995 miniseries. Darcy and Elizabeth come together (finally!) in a rainstorm confrontation similar to Mollie Gibson and Roger Hamley in the 1999 miniseries based on Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. (C)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    AUGUST IN DERBYSHIRE is Ola Wegner's novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. it was published in digital format in 2014.

    In the middle of a hot August day, Fitzwilliam Darcy stops for refreshment at the inn in Lambton, where he discovers Elizabeth Bennet in residence with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner during their tour of Derbyshire. Still in love with Elizabeth, her vehement refusal had convinced him there was no hope, but he sees an opportunity to demonstrate his changed nature and perhaps to win a second chance with Elizabeth. Events play out as in the canon, except Elizabeth apologizes, Darcy accepts and proposes again, and they are engaged when he goes off to London with Mr. Gardiner to rescue Lydia. She and Mrs. Gardiner, unfit to travel with morning sickness, remain at Pemberley.

    Little happens in AUGUST IN DERBYSHIRE. Needed change in attitudes and behavior for both Darcy and Elizabeth occurs before the story opens. Though events are seen through Darcy's eyes, he's too hopeful for much anguish over their situation. Elizabeth's sense of family ruin by Lydia's heedless behavior lasts only until Darcy declares himself. Other characters are flat, most serving no necessary role in the plot. Even Caroline Bingley is bland. Events are told, not shown,with dialogue set speeches at each other, not conversational. Wegner occasionally uses a nominative case personal pronoun instead of objective case.

    A more important problem is Elizabeth and Darcy's behavior on his return to Pemberley. Elizabeth enters his bedroom, finds him stripped to the waist and washing up after traveling from London; she stays through his ablutions and dressing. Later, they spend the evening alone before the fire in his bedroom. Engaged couples during the Regency period were not allowed that kind of privacy.

    AUGUST IN DERBYSHIRE is a bland retelling with minimal change in storyline and no additional development of character. Why bother? (D)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    FLOTSAM & JETSAM is the fourth book in Keith Moray's police procedural series featuring Inspector Torquil "Piper" McKinnon, West Uist Division, Hebridean Constabulary. Originally published in 2010, it was issued in free or inexpensive Kindle format in 2018.

    Much is happening on West Uist. Fergus and Chrissie Ferguson, appraisers and presenters for Scottish TV's Flotsam & Jetsam (think Antiques Roadshow) are broadcasting daily for two weeks; local celebrities Dr. Digby Dent, expert on the voracious Scottish midge, and Guthrie Lovat, beachcomber and internationally selling artist, have agreed to appear. A rash of break-ins with small antiques, family heirlooms, and jewelry stolen seems the work of professional thieves. Locals report a major increase in numbers of abused and stray dogs and cats; Piper finds a young collie tied to a timber and tossed in the sea. Dundee "businessman" Dan Farquarson, his minder Wee Hughie Thompson, and Scottish football celebrity Sandy King, none anglers, fish with local gillie Bruce McNab. When Dent, drunk, disrupts the first broadcast of Flotsam & Jetsam, he's arrested but released after he's sobered up, only to be found in a bog hole on the moor. He'd been hit on the head and drowned, but in fresh river water, not bog water. What's going on?

    Characterization is the strong point of this series. Protagonists Torquil McKinnon and his uncle "the Padre" Lachlan McKinnon are attractive and believable. Personnel of small West Uist Division operating out of Kyleshiffin are individual, their close personal and professional ties authentic. Piper is the focus, but each member of the team is important role in solving the mysteries. Because the series is character-driven, it's best to read the series in order.

    I do have a few problems with FLOTSAM & JETSAM. Every book in a series need not include every continuing character. Characters tangential to the main story line become distracting. Frequent shifts in viewpoint interrupt reading flow, often becoming more frustrating than suspenseful. The stray animals story line seems a plot device to set up Crusoe as Piper's eventual rescuer. Sense of place is not as well developed as in earlier books in the series. Still, definitely an above average series, with FLOTSAM & JETSAM recommended. (B+)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MURDER AT NETHERFIELD is Jann Rowland's latest to date variation on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice It was published in digital format in 2018.

    The ball at Netherfield involves Elizabeth Bennet with two undesirable partners, one her father's cousin and heir William Collins who'd unexpectedly arrived some days before for an indefinite stay, determined to inspect his future property and choose a wife. Fixated on Elizabeth, he ignores both her aversion and her father's refusal to force her into a distasteful marriage. The other partner is George Wickham, newly commissioned in the Meryton militia, whose unsolicited stories of mistreatment by Fitzwilliam Darcy and deliberate attempts to charm arouse Elizabeth's suspicion rather than her sympathy. Lady Catherine de Bourgh arrives during the ball, summoned by Collins who's written of Darcy's attentions to Elizabeth; she demands Bingley's hospitality for herself, Anne, and Colonel Fitzwiliam while she "sorts out this matter." The Bennets' damaged coach forces them to remain at Netherfield overnight, during which light snow becomes a blizzard that closes the roads, stranding both parties for the duration. The next morning, Wickham reappears, saying Colonel Forster has sent officers on wellness checks in the emergency; over the objections of Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, Bingley offers Wickham shelter from the still-raging blizzard. Tension runs high, especially when the butler Forbes dies from being shoved down the sstaircase, quickly followed by the smothering of Lady Catherine, the poisoning of Caroline Bingley, a pistol shot at Darcy and Mr. Bennet, and the bludgeoning death of Wickham. With Netherfield cut off, Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Elizabeth determine to discover the killer.

    Editing needs work. There are errors in opening and closing of quotation marks, plurals and possessives of names, anachronistic words, subject-verb agreement, and homophones. "Imply" and "infer" are misused--a speaker or writer implies, while a reader or listener infers.

    ~~~POTENTIAL SPOILERS~~~

    A more accurate description of MURDER AT NETHERFIELD than "variant" might be a story using names of Austen's characters. So much is changed that it bears slight resemblance to the original. Detecting largely replaces emotional interaction between Darcy and Elizabeth. Handling of the details of the first three murders is clumsy. Characters are much changed. Elizabeth's curiosity is not surprising, but her wandering the halls alone in the middle of the night with a serial killer on the loose is TSTL. Fear of gossip and comp romising behavior is ignored as she meets Darcy alone and walks around in her nightclothes. Bingley is passive, his only exertion the decision to harbor Wickham. Darcy's behavior is inconsistent with his knowledge of and attitude toward Wickham. Darcy takes the lead in investigation despite the presence of Colonel Fitzwilliam, older, an experienced commander experienced in covert operations. It seems unlikely.

    ~~~DEFINITE SP0ILERS~~~

    I'm more bothered by common sense objections to elements of the plot in MURDER AT NETHERFIELD. Would Mr. Bennet admit to Longbourn without question an uninvited man whom he's never seen, who offers no identification other than his claimed physical resemblance to Thaddeus Collins? Would Mr. Bennet not know provisions of the entail should the male line fail? Would Wickham's claim that Longbourn's servants (who'd sent clothing for the Bennets to Netherfield before the storm shut the road) do not know the family's whereabouts, be believed? Would Darcy and the colonel allow Wickham freedom to wander Netherfield, spying, interacting with the Bennet family, taunting Darcy, making threats? Most importantly, how would the killer know about the concealed passageways used in the commission of the murders?

    MURDER AT NETHERFIELD shows promise, but it needs another thorough revision before publication. (C)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE FALMOUTH CONNECTION, revised edition, is Joana Starnes's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Originally published in 2014, the revised edition was issued in digital format in 2017.

    Eager to propose and convinced that Elizabeth Bennet knows and returns his love, Fitzwilliam Darcy's Hunsford offer of marriage is delayed by circumstance and by the advice of his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam. The colonel says that, based on his behavior, Elizabeth is unaware of Darcy's interest and needs courtship. Elizabeth is summoned to meet her family who are en route to Cornwall, summoned for a visit to Mrs. Bennet's aunt Mrs. Pencarrow. Mrs. Pencarrow, older and jealous, had wronged her younger sister Gemima, resulting in their permanent estrangement. Now elderly with no children and fabulously wealthy, Mrs. Pencarrow is determined to make reparation. She establishes dowries for the Bennet sisters, provides a legacy to secure Mrs. Bennet's comfortable widowhood, and, since Mrs. Bennet is the second daughter of second daughter Gemima, wills Landennis Manor and the bulk of the estate to second daughter Elizabeth. The Bennets happily settle in for an extended visit, and Elizabeth soon attracts the local Justice of the Peace Lord Trevellyan. Darcy, still convinced Elizabeth loves him and is eagerly awaiting his proposal, follows the Bennets, to discover that he has a serious rival in Trevellyan, that he's totally misread Elizabeth's feelings, that George Wickham lives nearby as steward to a Cambridge friend, and that smuggling is rife around Landennis. Not only must Darcy win Elizabeth's heart and reverse her first response to his proposal, he must rescue her from danger.

    I like this variant. The plot is a pleasant balance between internal and external conflict, though the angst gets overblown. Because much of the story is shown through Darcy's eyes, his "she loves me, she loves me not" becomes excessive, especially after Elizabeth demonstrates her feelings in a passionate exchange. Judicious cuts of the emotional turmoil with fuller development of the smuggling operation would strengthen the story. Sense of place is good but could be heightened. As customary in Austen fan fiction, an extended epilogue provides happy endings for all the Bennet sisters.

    ~~~SPOILERS~~~

    Characters are mostly faithful to the original. Mrs. Pencarrow's backstory and actions are plausible. More detailed development of the other major non-canonical character Lord Trevellyan would strengthen both Darcy and Elizabeth's internal conflict as well as heighten the smuggling drama. I do have a large problem with Starnes's Colonel Fitzwilliam, a sensible thirty-year-old man of the world claims love at first sight of Lydia Bennet, who's half his age, an outrageous flirt as loud and vulgar as her mother. His proclaimed coup de foudre when they meet at Landennis is not their first meeting; he spent parts of two days entertaining the younger Bennet sisters after he and Darcy escorted Elizabeth to Basingstoke to meet her family. Did he forget?

    I have a few other objections. One is Lord Trevellyan's unprompted volunteering the full story of Mrs. Pencarrow and Elizabeth's inheritance to Darcy, a man met that day for the first time, whose connections to the Bennet family he does not know. Not the action of a Regency gentleman or a Justice of the Peace. A second is Darcy's quick healing. Cut severely enough by Wickham that he requires considerable stitching in his shoulder and arm, the very next day Darcy rides a horse for some miles, takes a long walk with Elizabeth that includes descending rocks to a secluded beach where he carries her in his arms through the incoming tide and over rocks, before they walk back up. Mr. Darcy, aka Superman! I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Bennet permits Elizabeth and Darcy to sail alone, chaperoned only by the captain and crew. Their secret marriage by the captain is out of character for both.

    Still, THE FALMOUTH CONNECTION is one of the best variants I've read this year. (A)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    WICKED UNCLE is one in Patricia Wentworth's long-running series featuring Miss Maud Silver. Originally published in 1947, it was reissued in digital format in 2011.

    Young Dorinda Brown is excited when she is hired as Linnet Oakley's secretary. Dorinda's only surviving relative is her distant cousin Justin Leigh, Aunt Mary, who reared her, having died and left her a minuscule income and distrust of men. Aunt Mary's husband Glen Porteous, aka Wicked Uncle, had been a charming crook, in and out of their life only to take money. Dorinda's not seen him in seven years and assumes he's dead. When the Oakleys' nearest neighbor Gregory Porlock invites them to dinner, along with Dorinda to "balance the table," she's sent to a specified London shop for an appropriate dress and is accused of shoplifting. Fortunately Miss Silver witnessed the incident and rescues her. To her surprise at dinner, Dorinda recognizes Greg Porlock as Wicked Uncle. Porlock's weekend guests at the Grange are all victims of his blackmail, so it's not surprising that, after dinner, someone stabs him to death. Scotland Yard asks Dorinda, astonished to be Wicked Uncle's heir and one of his executors, to move into his house and keep the group intact during the murder investigation. Dorinda agrees only if Miss Silver comes with her. Thus Miss Silver is on hand to guide Chief Detective Inspector Lamb and Detective Sergeant Frank Abbott to the solution, but not before a second murder occurs.

    WICKED UNCLE is not one of the best Miss Silver mysteries. As is the custom in country-house mysteries, the guests are a motley crew of standard types, little differentiated from those found in many other books. Dorinda and Justin are the romantic interest each Miss Silver novel requires, not much developed, without chemistry. Both serve as plot devices--Justin to transport Moira Lane about, Dorinda to bring Miss Silver into contact with the other guests. Porlock is clearly a wrong'un who deserves his fate; nothing accounts for his out-of-character legacy to Dorinda.

    The plot hangs together logically, usual in the puzzle-plot mysteries, though it's unrealistic in practical terms, since it depends on an impromptu tableau in charades, darkness, and the killer's ability to move silently and swiftly in a crowded room on a bare wood floor in an unfamiliar house. Wentworth never explains how Wicked Uncle obtained the information he uses to blackmail, though it's clear that he has and recruits minions. His story to one victim echoes the premise in Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder," the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic Rear Window.

    I enjoy Miss Silver as a refreshing change from the angst-ridden, flawed protagonists in many modern mysteries, a retreat to a seemingly simpler time. (C)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HE DARCY RING is the second title in Mark Brownlow's Charlotte Collins Mystery series of novella sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, some two years after their marriage and new parents to son James, are at Rosings in token of reconciliation with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine is involved in an expansion program suggested by Dryden, widower owner of Harewood Hall, a neighbor she's considering as a match for Anne. Questioning about Elizabeth's wearing a plain gold wedding band leads to the exhibit at dinner of the heirloom Darcy wedding ring, large, ornate, hideously valuable, worn only on the most formal occasions. Fetched and returned by Anne's maid Miss Inglis, the next morning the Darcys discover the ring missing. Dryden and Lady Catherine immediately proclaim Miss Inglis the thief so, when searchers find the ring in her room, everyone concedes the maid's guilt. Except Charlotte Collins, much impressed by Miss Inglis's subsequent confession that she took the ring but didn't steal it. What's the truth?

    I am disappointed in THE DARCY RING. Both Darcy and Elizabeth show class consciousness that makes the possibility of scandal involving Rosings and themselves more important than getting the truth that might save an accused woman. Charlotte sees herself as morally their superior, ready and willing to manipulate everyone including the Darcys. Dryden (no first name or title given) offers undeveloped opportunities for a more intriguing plot, as does Captain Jonathan Haywood, newly-returned naval hero son of the Hunsford apothecary. None of the introduced characters are much particularized. No foreshadowing sets up Miss Inglis's account of the ring's disappearance. Most of the story is told, not shown.

    THE DARCY RING is nowhere near the caliber of THE LOVESICK MAID. (C)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    WILD GOOSE CHASE is Sophie Lynbrook's current variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in 2018 in digital format.

    When Fitzwilliam Darcy returns home early to find Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners, he considers their tour a second chance to win Elizabeth. After an enjoyable day together, he invites the party to stay at Pemberley during their visit to Lambton. Caroline Bingley is not pleased with their presence, so she and Mrs. Hurst devise a cunning plan to roust them. Caroline forges a letter, supposedly from Jane to Elizabeth, recalling her to Longbourn because Lydia has eloped to Gretna Green with George Wickham. Thus ensues a comedy of errors as the Gardiners, Elizabeth, and Darcy head for Scotland to make sure the runaways do marry. They are soon followed separately by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who thinks Darcy and Elizabeth the eloping couple; Colonel Fitzwilliam, who wants to encourage their wedding; and Georgiana and Mrs. Annesley, who go to warn Elizabeth that Lydia's "elopement" is a hoax. In the meantime, Charles Bingley rushes to Longbourn to support to Jane and the Bennet family in the emergency. Caroline and the Hursts follow to stop his reconciliation with Jane. None of the journeys go quite as planned.

    WILD GOOSE CHASE is silly and improbable and good fun. The canonical characters are reasonably faithful to the originals, with the introduced characters and events well sketched. To say more would become a spoiler.

    I love the irony in WILD GOOSE CHASE. Caroline Bingley willfully deludes herself that every interaction with Darcy reflects his intention to marry her, in the same conversation condemning Lady Caroline Lamb's well-publicized obsession with Lord Byron (begun March-August 1812). This scene alone is worth the price of the book. The whole plot hinges on the irony of Caroline's forgery prompting exactly the outcomes she's trying to prevent. Best of all is Lady Catherine, seen at the forge in Gretna Green with a young, unidentified man, gossiped about in the Ton as eloping with a man younger than her nephews--truly poetic justice.

    If you need angst and strict adherence to the original story line, you may not enjoy WILD GOOSE CHASE. I think it's a hoot. (A-)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MUD, MUCK AND DEAD THINGS is the first title in Ann Granger's police procedural series featuring Inspector Jessica "Jess" Campbell and Superintendent Ian Carter. Originally published in 2009, it was reissued in digital format in 2018.

    Lance Burton attends a meeting set up by a former (shady?) associate at abandoned Cricket Farm, where he discovers but does not report the body of a dead young woman. Penny Gower, owner of nearby Berryhill Stables, and Selina Foscott, mother of a riding student, see him and his distinctive Mercedes. When the owner goes to check on the farm, where his twin brother Nathan had used a shotgun on their parents before committing suicide in jail, Eli Smith finds the body. This brings in Jess Campbell as Officer in Charge, responsible for identifying the woman and finding her killer. She also faces the arrival of a new boss, Superintendent Ian Carter, an unknown "new broom" sent to smarten up the unit. Her task becomes more difficult when Lance Burton is bludgeoned to death in his garage the next day.

    I'm impressed with this opening of a new police procedural series. Granger creates a believable protagonist in Jess. She's personable and professional, with enough hints of daily life and back story to add dimension. Granger also creates a realistic cadre of associates, individuals with their own quirks and histories. I like Carter's easy-going attitude, assessing his subordinates, not interfering with Jess's investigation, not rushing to make changes. I look forward to getting to know these characters.

    The plot is realistic in the sense that not all the loose ends of the case are explained. Though there's little doubt that both murders were committed by the same person, Jess and her Sergeant Phil Morton doubt the evidence in the Burton murder is sufficient to convict, not a rare occurrence in real-life multiple murders by one individual. Granger includes a matter-of-fact supernatural element that in no way interferes with the action of the plot but adds interesting characterization to Eli Smith; she gives Penny Gower a resolution that is more fairy tale than probable.

    My major complaint about MUD, MUCK AND DEAD THINGS lies in its lack of a definite sense of place. Granger tells us Gloucestershire, in the Cotswolds, with Cheltenham the nearest major town. Atmospheric descriptions of scene help to visualize immediate environment without localizing it further. Definitely a series I will follow. (A-)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    AN UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS is the third book in Elaine Owen's Longbourn Unexpected series of variants and sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Fanny Bennet dies suddenly of apoplexy, Thomas Bennet is unhappy alone at Longbourn (unmarried Mary lives with Kitty Masterson at Hazelton), so he leases the estate to Mr. Collins. He plans to divide his time between his married daughters and enjoy the quiet life he's always wanted. Unfortunately, Mr. Bennet's plans go awry. Elizabeth and Darcy with their busy lives have little time to spare for him, leaving him bored and discontent. He senses major problems at Jane Bingley's home Vinings, where the children run wild, the servants little work, and Bingley is overly reliant on his steward. Summoned to Hazelton to give his consent to a suitor for Mary, he almost succumbs to a husband-hunter, escaping by the skin of his teeth to Lydia Fret's home Godfrey House. There his son-in-law Jonathan Fret challenges him to find and engage his interests rather than retreating and running away as has been his lifelong habit. Almost by accident, Mr. Bennet comes to spend time with and enjoy his Fret grandchildren. When Elizabeth suffers a premature delivery and childbed fever, he becomes the stable influence in the lives of the Darcy children and young Robert Reynolds, son of the widowed housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds, daughter-in-law of the original Mrs. Reynolds, now retired.

    First off, do try to read this series in order. Many references in AN UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS may not make sense otherwise. Characters remain as Owen develops them in the earlier books. Interestingly, while Lydia Fret remains outspoken and audacious, it is Kitty Masterson who's become her mother--social climbing, pretentious, matchmaking, and given to justifying herself by revising history. Spinster Lucy Masterson seems an older amalgam of Lucy Steele (Sense and Sensibility) and Isabella Thorpe (Northanger Abbey), especially in her proclaimed attitude toward money and men.

    The plot is slice of life, realistic daily events including Elizabeth's illness. Lydia's household management, an episode of stalking, and a bullying incident involving Robert Reynolds seem more modern than Regency. Editing is generally good, though characters occasionally use anachronistic words. Owen has Mr. Bennet playing billiards using a mace (1 historical a heavy club, typically having a metal head and spikes. 2 a ceremonial staff of office.-New Oxford American Dictionary). Most people use a cue.

    What I like most is Mr. Bennet's dynamic character. At 56 years old, he proves that long-standing personality traits can be changed to produce not just contentment but great personal happiness. That Mr. Collins loses his inheritance is a welcome lagniappe. AN UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS (A-), Longbourn Unexpected series (B)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    TOUCAN KEEP A SECRET is the twenty-third book in Donna Andrews's long-running Meg Langslow cozy mystery series set in Caerphilly, Virginia. It was published in summer 2018 in digital format.

    With Rector Robyn Smith on medical leave, Meg Langslow spends more time at Trinity Episcopal Church, serving as a Key Holder whose job it is to check that the building is secure following the day's activities and meetings. Another duty involves care for Admiral Nimitz, a three-year-old toco toucan Robyn is boarding for his deployed owner. Following a late meeting of the vestry and an even later 12-Steps meeting, she finds the body of Junius Hagley, one of the Muttering Misogynists on the vestry, dead of a blow to the head in the vandalized columbarium (consecrated for placement of cremated human remains). Several niches have been opened, two containers broken, and a fabulous Art Deco ruby ring left on the scene. The ring is one stolen in a jewel robbery on 31 December 1987 from the much-publicized Dames of Caerphilly masked ball at the estate of Mrs. Beatrice Helen Falkenhausen van der Lynden. The robbers had been caught but the jewelry never recovered. As Police Chief Henry Burke and, of course, Meg investigate, they discover all the opened niches contained the ashes of individuals associated with the robbery. And someone is trying to find Admiral Nimitz, relocated from Trinity to Meg's barn to the Caerphilly Zoo for easier care. What is going on?

    The plot is interesting and hangs together well enough, though an experienced reader may well pick up on the killer's identity before the climax of the plot. The explanation of the fate of the stolen jewels seems unlikely. Interesting bits of humor leaven the action. Spike, aka the Small Evil One, is good fun as well as an efficient deus ex machina to save Meg from the killer.

    On the other hand, none of the continuing characters are further particularized, and introduced characters remain more types than individuals. Meg, through whose eyes the action is seen, is still a static character. So well done early in the series, sense of place is reduced to a few standard Southern phrases. The style is still story-telling, but the Southern ethos is mostly gone. (C+)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    A TRP TO PEMBERLEY is the first book in Meg Osborne's new novella trilogy Three Sisters from Hertfordshire, sequels to Jane Austen' Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    With Jane, Lydia, and herself married and Kitty living with the Gardiners in London and Bath, Elizabeth Bennet Darcy invites Mary to visit Pemberley. Long dismissed by her mother as hopeless marriage material, Mary is isolated, lonely, and resigned to being only a caregiver for her aging parents. Eager for a change, Mary accepts, only to have Mrs. Bennet make the invitation a family affair. En route to Derbyshiree, the Bennets meet young curate Robert Ashton, returning his older brother John, a decorated ex-soldier making a difficult readjustment to civilian life, home. Their older brother Henry Ashton owns Linwood Park, next neighbor to Pemberley. Sensing Mary's dissatisfaction with the future Mrs. Bennet plans for her, Elizabeth determines to match make for Mary.

    A TRIP TO PEMBERLEY is a pleasant-enough read, though nothing much happens. The high point is a mean trick played on Robert by John Ashton, one that could have ruined Elizabeth's plans. Characters are reasonable extrapolations from Austen's originals, though Osborne makes Elizabeth nearly as giddy at times as Lydia. Mrs. Bennet is her usual vulgar, complaining self, but she's not authentic because she, despite the presence of three eligible bachelors, makes no attempt to snare one for Mary. Georgiana and her romance are undeveloped.

    I found several problems. One is Darcy's reference to Georgiana serving as hostess to the Bennets. (30) He and Elizabeth have been married several months, so is she not the hostess? Another is an apparent contradiction in terms: "...hers is the strongest constitution. It takes very little to upset her." (38) The brothers are named Ashton initially, then for some pages are called Ashcroft. Mrs. Bennet becomes Mrs. Benet. At one point Mary catches her foot in tree branches. (99)

    Something I've noted in many Austen variations is the use of rector, vicar, and curate as interchangeable terms. A rector is clergyman in charge of a parish. A vicar is a clergyman in charge of a chapel; the incumbent of a parish whose tithes are paid to a chapter or religious house or to a layman; a clergyman deputizing for another; or a cleric or choir member assigned to sing a specific part in a cathedral service. Either a rector or a vicar may be called a parson or a pastor. A curate is a clergyman assistant to a vicar, rector, or parish priest. Robert Ashton, who does not admire Fordyce's Sermons even to please Mary, is properly a rector, in charge of Newkirk Parish. Picky, picky, I know, but words not used accurately bother me.

    A TRIP TO PEMBERLEY is acceptable but in no way outstanding. (C)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BUMP IN THE NIGHT is one of Colin Watson's long-running Flaxborough mystery series featuring Inspector Purbright. Originally published in 1962, it was reissued in digital format in 2018.

    When Chalmsbury is perturbed by a series of three explosions--the commemorative fountain in Jubilee Park, the statue of teetotaler Alderman Arnold Berry, and the antique advertising sign of optician Barrington Hoole--most believe them the work of womanizing, hard drinking practical joker Stanley Biggadyke. Inspector Harold Larch of the Chalmsbury CID and his wife Hilda both have close ties with Biggadyke, leading the Chief Constable to second Inspector Purbright from Flaxborough to get to the bottom of the explosions. Whence comes the explosive, who's responsible for the bombings, and why?

    I'm from the South, where eccentrics are cherished, so I appreciate believably quirky characters in books. However, like hot peppers or pungent spices that add flavor to a dish, there's a fine line between enhancement and too much. In BUMP IN THE NIGHT, Watson touches that line. None of the characters are believable. Several characters key to the solution enter the case only with the denouement. There's little development of Purbright and no personal details for Sergeant Worple of the Chalmsbury police, who could be the most interesting character in the story. Neither has a Christian name.

    The plot in BUMP IN THE NIGHT disappoints. More than half the action occurs before Purbright comes on scene, and there's much more told, rather than shown, action. At least one major improbability mars believability. The event precipitating the explosions and the subsequent murder of Biggadyke is alluded to without identifying information to make it relevant; that evidence is withheld to the climax, then a final twist negates the obvious suspect. Not fair play. Flashes of humor, such as Purbright's candid assessment of Chalmsbury: "...this little township deserves to be administered by the Sodom and Gomorrah Joint Sewerage Board," help to enliven the plot. Unfortunately, not enough. (C+
     
  20. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    A LIE UNIVERSALLY HIDDEN is Anngela Schroeder's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in 2016 in digital format.

    In the prologue to A LIE UNIVERSALLY HIDDEN dated to 1794, Lady Catherine de Bourgh pressures her dying sister into signing written instructions for newborn Georgiana to receive Lady Anne's inheritance from the Matlock estate. She also sees and steals her sister's letter to son Fitzwilliam Darcy, a missive dictated to her maid. Later Lady Catherine presents Darcy with a letter signed by his mother in which she states her deathbed wish that he marry his cousin Anne de Bourgh. He grows up believing he owes his mother the duty to obey her dying wish. With his wedding to Anne scheduled in three months, Darcy meets and falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth's childhood friend James Hamilton, adopted by an elderly aunt from whom he's recently inherited Ashby Park, has paid Elizabeth marked attention since his return to Hertfordshire; she likes and respects him, so plans to accept when he proposes. But she soon realizes she thinks much more about Darcy than Hamilton. How can Darcy and Elizabeth overcome duty and parental pressures to achieve the love match both desire?

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    A LIE UNIVERSALLY HIDDEN is too long for the story, its plot including many coincidences and such heavy foreshadowing that the question becomes not what Lady Catherine has done but how will Darcy find out. Schroeder makes major changes to the canonical story line, moving events physically and in time, omitting some episodes (such as Ramsgate), adding others (such as the snowstorm), and altering the characters involved (such as Kitty preventing Georgiana's elopement). Action is told rather than shown. Plot structure is off. Since both occur in 1794, the prologue and chapter one would flow better as one one unit; chapter two opens the current action in 1810. Rising action is excessively prolonged, with falling action almost nonexistent. The epilogue is the standard all-inclusive summary, satisfying only because Wickham and Collins come to appropriate ends.

    Schroeder also changes characters. Darcy and Elizabeth communicate their feelings in soliloquies, each one accidentally, of course, overheard by the other. Elizabeth's talking to the moon becomes trite. Each makes assumptions based on incomplete information, then clings tenaciously to erroneous conclusions. Darcy, suspicious of Lady Catherine's motives and behavior about the letter from his mother, does not question her servants about the sisters' interactions as she lay dying. Neither does he investigate with his solicitor the trust she established for Georgiana. Especially after he rejects Lady Catherine's attempt to amend the marriage settlements to give herself control over Pemberley, the Darcy fortune, and his life, Darcy's blind adherence to her report of his mother's deathbed charge is unrealistic. Anne de Bourgh is stronger than Austen's original but never faces her mother about the marriage. Despite being a leader of men, Colonel Fitzwilliam passively accepts Lady Catherine's dictates until Darcy finally goads him into action. Her having to choose between security without romantic love and probable spinsterhood provides a realistic basis for Elizabeth's doubts and angst.

    Most of all, Schroeder's Lady Catherine does not ring true, though the back story for her obsession that Darcy marry Anne makes her more believable. Two actions are not possible for her monomaniacal personality. Because she's recalled to Rosings for the trial of a poacher at the Assizes, Lady Catherine misses the Matlocks' engagement ball for Darcy and Anne. As fixated as she is on control of every aspect of the marriage, she'd be at that party if Rosings were burning to the ground! The second is her preservation of Lady Anne's dictated letter particularly her keeping it in a safe to which Anne has free access. So dangerous to her plans, the stolen letter would have gone on the nearest fire forthwith.

    A LIE UNIVERSALLY HIDDEN has good potential, but another major revision would have helped. (B-)
     

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