How Romance Novels Relate To Real World Problems

reading romanceRomance novels are gateways to another world. They are a way to escape the tedium of our everyday life by visiting an alternate world where men and women struggle but find a way to live happily ever after. Despite the escapism there are a number of very real parallels to the tedium of our everyday life. Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try to escape if there isn’t some way for us to relate to the struggles of everyday life there is no connection. The book is lost on us.

There are very real daily struggles in every book though, despite how frequently things work out in the end.

Family Struggles

We are all encountered by family struggles and dysfunctions at some point in our lives. That is what makes books like Down and Out in Beverly Heels relatable to us even if the main character isn’t at the start. In this case the heroine was an actress who had it all: wealth, love, and the perfect life. Then she lost it all. These themes are something that we encounter on an everyday basis. These family struggles are what compel us to pick up the books and keep turning the pages. We need to know that things can be okay.

Scorn

Every romance novel has some level of scorn embedded in the theme. The hero’s integrity is called into question for some reason. The reason may be based on fact and he is trying to turn his life around. The reason may be based on rumors that he is trying to overcome.

Enter the heroine. She is struggling with some everyday problem when she encounters the hero. Something about the hero is endearing to her. Perhaps she feels some level of sympathy for his troubled past; perhaps she has a good heart. Regardless of the reason there are often times when a novel presents the heroine with scorn from the family, friends, or the entire town.

These examples of scorn are presented in Finding Colin Firth. We can all relate to the scorn they face, even if not directly under the same circumstances. The scorn pushed on to them plays on our sympathy as well and keeps us reading. We have a need to know how they overcome it. Perhaps the way they overcome will work for us as well.

Reality of Mortality

While a novel may not directly deal with someone dying, there are often underlying themes of mortality. A common theme is when the heroine has lost a father or husband and is struggling to make ends meet. Some novels even go into the technical details of dealing with death. Jane Austen, for example, went into great detail about the importance of understanding and choosing an appropriate life insurance plan – similar to questions asked on NerdWallet. Many novels face the reality of mortality, this is a theme that none of us are immune to.

We all wonder what will happen when we or someone we love and depend on dies. Life changes such as marriage or the birth of a child make this reality more acute. Understanding and accepting that we will die is a hard pill to swallow. That does not mean we shouldn’t be educated on how to protect our loved ones and ourselves. The reality of mortality is unavoidable, making it a very relatable theme.

No matter what the overall theme of the novel is, the underlying themes are very real, very relatable, and very much the reason we continue to pick up the books. In the end, we want the happily ever after.

Photo Credits: Lel4nd

A Husband and Wife Collaboration

TMWLJAGuest blog by Sally O’Roake, author of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen

In spite of the fact that my name alone appears on the cover, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was, in truth, very much a collaboration with my late husband F. Michael O’Rourke. Kelly, my step-daughter called us an awesome team and we were, in all respects; our life together was a true collaboration. Many projects came out of that collaboration, among them two feature films, a few television pilots and several books including Christmas At Sea Pines Cottage, Maiden Stone Lighthouse and, of course, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

The road to The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was rather circuitous and, I’m afraid, not particularly romantic even though Mike called it the ultimate valentine because it was brought to life by the love we had for each other.

Technically, I suppose that road began when I was fifteen years old and read Pride and Prejudice, enjoying it thoroughly. One Sunday afternoon a very disappointing film version of it was on television. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier were much too old to be playing the 20 year old Elizabeth and the 28 year old Darcy but changing the story was entirely unacceptable to my youthful psyche (and my adult psyche). It was my first taste of what Hollywood can and often does do to novels. After that I watched every version of the story but never found one worthy of the book. Then in 1995, as all of you know, the ultimate P&P was produced. A&E along with the BBC did the Andrew Davies/Simon Langton/Sue Britwistle mini-series, staring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. FINALLY a wonderful portrayal of the classic novel.

Moving on to late 1999, the health department recommended that Mike and I vacate our home because of toxic mold, requiring us to leave most of our belongings in the contaminated house. After a few months in a hotel it felt like we never talked or thought about anything but the mold and the pending law suit; our life had seemingly come to a screeching halt. In an attempt to, at the very least, not think about it all the time, we sat down and watched the six hour Pride and Prejudice; in its entirety. It worked; we stopped obsessing about the house and, in fact, the marathon inspired me to read all of Jane Austen’s books.

LighthouseFor some reason I had never noticed that there is a theme in all her writings, maybe it was because I’d never read them one after the other but this time I did and found that she made every heroine strong, relatively independent and quite intelligent; not completely unusual in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries however, what made Austen different was not the strong women but the men who loved them for that strength. It made me want to know more about her, why in an era where women were basically chattel did she feel free enough to write such stories. After delving into her life by reading several biographies, I came to believe she wrote Elizabeth Bennet and the others, in large part, because her father and brothers were fairly opened minded and that along with their support and strong belief in her talent was at the center of her success.

Another thing that struck me, particularly in Pride and Prejudice was Darcy’s ability to look at himself, be dissatisfied and make a concerted effort to reverse his attitudes because as he said after Elizabeth accepts his second proposal, You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” To me Darcy felt more like a modern man than a Regency aristocrat.

When Mike suggested that we start a new project by resurrecting a time travel story I had started some time before. I countered that rather than write about a twenty-first century woman who goes into the future we write about a twenty-first century man who falls back into the England of 1810 and becomes Jane Austen’s muse and perhaps one of the most quixotic heroes ever written; Fitzwilliam Darcy.

We considered many scenarios before settling on Darcy being the wealthy owner of a two hundred year old Virginia horse breeding estate, Pemberley Farms. The back story we created for his ancestors, was touched on when Eliza is presented to the guests at Darcy’s Rose Ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know that many people consider love stories better if they end unhappily, if not tragically (A Walk to Remember; Message in a Bottle; The Way We Were; The Bridges of Madison County) but I prefer a happy ending, therefore a modern woman had to be able to compete with Jane Austen. New York artist Eliza Knight does just that.

We discussed making Eliza a poor, struggling artist then decided that we didn’t want it to be a ‘Cinderella’ story; you know, rich guy falls for poor girl and they live happily ever after. So she became a relatively successful artist of fantasy drawings that are used on greeting cards, stationary as well as prints. That success allows her to buy an antique vanity and it is behind the vanity’s mirror that she discovers letters to and from Jane Austen and Fitzwilliam Darcy, triggering the story.

After completing the manuscript, we type-set, printed and hand bound copies to give as gifts to family and friends. It was received with spirited enthusiasm and Mike and I were proud of our nice little story. Then my world crashed, in November 2001, two weeks before his sixtieth birthday Mike died suddenly; we hadn’t gotten out of the house soon enough.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was published in 2006. The publisher didn’t want two names on the cover and preferred the one be mine since I would be doing the promotion. I regret not insisting that Mike’s name be used on the cover as a tribute to him. But regret serves no useful purpose and at least his work is being enjoyed by people all over the world.

SeaPinesCottageTaking into consideration that no journal or diary kept by Jane Austen has survived, I started what was going to be a fun little project, to create a journal that would be Jane’s point of view of the events of Spring 1810 when she met Darcy. At the end of one journal entry she is wondering what Mr. Darcy is doing at that moment, suddenly I was writing the sequel to The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

Besides who was I to try and write as if I was Jane Austen? Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is no longer a journal but it does reacquaint readers with 21st century American horseman Fitzwilliam Darcy and his influence on the English novelist and her writings; at the same time delving into the complex nature of the man who became the embodiment of one of the most romantic characters in English literature.

The blossoming romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Eliza Knight, the modern-day woman who gave Darcy the letters proving that he did make a trip through time and met Jane Austen, is juxtaposed with Jane’s life as she copes with the subtle celebrity of being the ‘Lady’ who wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

AustenticityAustenticity.com, the website where Eliza first discovers that Fitzwilliam Darcy is real (even if she doesn’t believe it at first) is now also real. I’ve owned the domain since we wrote the book and have now created ‘the everything Austen’ site. Come, visit and spend a bit of time with the inimitable and much beloved author.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is now available in trade paperback as well as most eBook formats from most on-line retailers.

Find me at:

http://sallysmithorourke.com (blog)

http://www.facebook.com/sally.s.orourke

https://twitter.com/Chawton1810 (@Chawton1810)

YAJA

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen

Chapter 5

Although the sun was fully up in the Virginia summer sky, it was not yet hot. Fitz found jumping exhilarating; the cool morning air caressing his face, and Lord Nelson, so strong and graceful, took all the jumps with no effort.

Heritage Week was over so things could get back to normal. He shrugged. Whatever normal is. He realized there was a very good chance that his normal was about to change radically. Eliza’s letter—the one she had found written to him from Jane—had ended his search for the truth of his Regency encounter. But Eliza did much more than give him the letter.

He had been merely surviving, not living, in the years since his mother’s death. He’d thrown himself into the business of Pemberley Farms to the exclusion of almost everything else. Eliza’s arrival had heralded an acute awareness of that fact. It was as though a light was suddenly shining so he could see the world around him. She made him want to live again. And she had given him the letter… Jane’s letter.

Fitz reined Lord Nelson to a walk as they entered the cool shade of the woods on the edge of his property.

Jane. He had spent more than three years seeking proof of his meeting with her and of her feelings for him. Almost as if he’d been transported again back to Chawton in 1810, the image of Jane’s sweet face flooded his mind. He thought back to that morning and his inauspicious entrance into Jane Austen’s life.

The combination of his head injury and the laudanum prescribed by Mr. Hudson, the Austen family physician, caused Darcy to slip in and out of consciousness. He tried to sit up, the effort making him dizzy.

Jane gently laid a hand on his chest. “Please, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hudson wants you to remain still.”

Through a cotton mouth, his head spinning, Darcy asked, “Mr. Hudson?”

“The doctor,” Jane said. “You must rest now Mr. Darcy.” The American looked at her face. Her curiosity was palpable even in his drugged state. Unable to think clearly, never mind responding to questions he wasn’t sure he could answer, he closed his eyes completely and turned his head away.

Jane returned to her vanity table where she continued to write; a single candle and the flames in the fireplace her only light. Interrupted in her writing by a low murmur from Darcy, she took the candle and quietly approached the bed. He was tossing back and forth, his face flushed and contorted; he was speaking in quiet tones, a hodgepodge of words that meant nothing to her. He spoke what she could only suppose were the nonsensical ramblings of a sick brain; she attributed words like television and jet to his head injury and delirium. She placed her hand softly on his cheek and was distressed by the heat radiating from him. Using fresh linen soaked in water from the pitcher on her wash stand, Jane swabbed his face and neck, then laid it across his forehead. It seemed to calm him and she went back to her writing.

Each time he grew restless Jane stopped writing and went to the bed to refresh the linen with cool water. After three episodes in close succession she remained on the edge of the bed so she was at hand, and each time he started to toss and turn she would caress his face and neck with the cool, damp linen in hopes that it would, in time, reduce his fever.

She stayed there until Darcy’s features turned placid and he was breathing more evenly. He finally seemed to be sleeping comfortably. She laid her small, soft hand on his cheek. The fever was broken. She dropped the cloth into the basin. Stiff from sitting in one position for so long without support, she stood up and stretched. She was not particularly tired but needed to get some rest.

Quietly she crossed the wooden floor and slipped the small pages of writing she was working on into the drawer of the vanity, then took a nightgown from the closet next to the fireplace. Glancing back at the bed she stepped behind the screen.

He opened his eyes just enough to see her slender, full-breasted figure silhouetted on the muslin screen, back-lit by the remnants of the fire as the light fabric of her nightgown floated down to envelope her.

Jane stopped at the bed before making her way to Cassandra’s room for a few hours of sleep. As she stood over him he watched surreptitiously through the veil of his eyelashes. She leaned down and whispered, “Good night, Mr. Darcy,” almost brushing his lips with her own. In spite of his continuing laudanum haze, he could see that her eyes were filled with a tenderness that caused him to grab her hand as she straightened up; he didn’t want her to go.

Without opening his eyes or letting go of her hand he said, “Please don’t leave me.”

Unsure whether this was further evidence of the delirium or whether he was actually requesting her presence, she pulled her hand away. He did not move to take it again but said, “Please, stay.”

Cognizant of Mr. Hudson’s admonition of keeping the injured American calm and concerned her leaving might agitate him, Jane sat once again on the edge of the bed. Darcy smiled in the flickering flame of the dying fire. He said nothing more but gently took her hand. He did not relinquish it again until she rose to move to a chair by the side of the bed where she finally slept.

The movement woke him. His mind finally clear of drugs, he scanned the room in the dim, pre-dawn light. There were no electrical outlets or switches, no lamps, television or telephone, and the only clock appeared to be pendulum driven. Everyone he’d seen wore costumes similar to the ones people wore to the Rose Ball. Those things and the medical treatment he had received led him to the inexplicable conclusion that somehow he’d fallen into another time—a time when Jane Austen was alive.

And there she sat, serene in what had to be an uncomfortable position for sleep; his nurse, his savior and much prettier than she was depicted in the only portrait of her to survive to the twenty-first century. She was not the brazen hussy of Darcy family lore but a sweet and loving woman who took care of him without concern for her own safety or expecting anything in return. His mother would have said she was a true Christian.

As he watched her in the pale light of the dying embers his head started to throb as though a nail was being driven through it. He closed his eyes and blessed sleep overtook him.

***

Jane was an incredibly strong, intelligent, willful and virtuous woman who followed the propriety of the day… mostly. During the last three years he’d often wondered what might have happened between them if he’d been forced to stay in early nineteenth-century England. Of course with the way her brothers felt about him, he probably wouldn’t have seen her again.

If the circumstances had been different would he have married her? He could have been happy with her, he supposed, but over the years he’d come to realize that the love he felt for her was based on who she was, the awe in which he held her, caring for him when she certainly didn’t have to, loving him. Then again, did she love him? She had never said it and the letter Eliza had found and given him showed obvious affection but she urged him to find his true love. Apparently she didn’t think she was it. Had they ever loved each other or had it just been a fling across the ages?

He laughed. What difference did any of it make? Jane Austen had been dead for almost two hundred years. Still, the undisputed icon of witty English romance had kissed him whether she loved him or not. He still had to pinch himself to believe it had ever happened.

He had no such questions about Eliza. Everything felt right when he was with her. This was no fling. He had no idea where they were headed, but for the first time in years he was looking forward to the rest of his life. As long as Eliza was with him he didn’t care where they were headed.

Fitz and Lord Nelson crossed the bridge at a leisurely gait; the ground fog was burning off in the warm morning sun. Had it really been only two days since he and the great stallion were galloping across the bridge before the fog had lifted and run Eliza off the road and into a muddy drainage ditch? He hadn’t even realized she was there until it had happened. When he did, he brought Nelson to a stop and, without questioning who she was or why she was walking along a road on his property, he had lifted her onto Lord Nelson’s back and then swung up behind her. She was slightly light headed from the sudden fall, and once on the horse she had leaned against his chest and he’d had to control a strong desire to kiss the top of her head. He still didn’t understand how a complete stranger could make him feel that way, but he didn’t really care. From the first moment, being with her felt right and wonderful and that was all that mattered.

She had touched something in him that no one else ever had, including Jane, even before he knew her. At the Austen exhibit at the New York Public Library he had found himself staring at her. He laughed remembering that he had thought of her as a raven-haired beauty. Then two days ago she had come out of the fog and into his life.

He had told her his story about jumping through a rift in time and meeting Jane Austen. It had been very difficult at first, but once he started it tumbled out and had been a relief that he wasn’t carrying it around anymore. It was as though a weight had been lifted and this slight, feisty New Yorker had done the lifting. She had listened to him with an intensity that had made her a part of the story. She had been kind and compassionate—he had seen real grief when she asked him about leaving Jane—and she had given him the letter that answered his questions about whether he’d actually met Jane Austen and how Jane felt about him.

Jane would always hold a special place in his heart, but Eliza held his heart. Maybe it was too early to take it all for love, but it certainly felt the way he’d always thought love is supposed to feel.

Horse and rider stepped out from the cool canopy of the woods and into the warm summer sun. Spurring his favorite horse to a full gallop Fitz guided him over every fence and stream on their way back to the barn.

Christmas At Sea Pines Cottage Trailer:

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen – The Man Who Loved Jane Austen Trailer:

The Maidenstone Lighthouse Trailer:

Review: Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly

MrDarcyForeverThis is book 3 of the “Austen Addicts” trilogy.

Review by Lynn Reynolds

If you have been following Victoria’s trilogy, you will want to make sure to read Mr. Darcy Forever. She starts her book off with Sarah Castle blindfolding her sister, Mia, so that she doesn’t see her surprise. They are celebrating Mia’s twenty-first birthday.

Mia had a rough childhood and Sarah has always been there for her. Both sisters have a thing for Jane Austen. Once you have finished reading this book, if you have not already, you may want to watch some of the films of the Austen adaptations. Sarah loves to watch them.

Victoria then switches to three years after their celebration. We see Sarah getting ready for the annual Jane Austen Festival. I have searched the internet and found that this is an actual festival. If you take any vacation time in September, you may want to take a trip to Bath and check the festival out. You can find more information at The Jane Austen Festival.

Victoria gives us a hint that something happened between the sisters three years ago. We also see that Mia graduated from drama school. She lives in London and drama and singing are her passion. Sarah works at home as an accountant. Mia also shares with us some of what happened between her and Sarah.

Mia goes to visit her friend, Shelley, who’s also an Austen fan. One good thing that Victoria does for us is list some of Sarah’s Austen novels. You may find that after you read this book or the other two in the trilogy that you will want to read some of Jane’s.

My first impressions of Mia are that she’s a very self-centered person who’s also a user. But then Victoria lets us know that there’s more there than my first impressions. She’s also a character that some people may be able to relate to.

Sarah is a character that you want to cheer for. She has issues that she must deal with but she also tries to rise above them. She meets a gentleman named Lloyd Anderson who knows what Sarah is dealing with. She is also someone that you would want to be friends with. You also hope that she finds love and has someone to spend the rest of her life with.

Gabe is another character that we are introduced to. He lives next door to Shelley and over a short bit of time comes to realize how much he likes Mia. He’s also the character that shows us that Mia is not the person I think she is. He’s just what she needs.

Sometimes when an author goes between the past and the present, I get a little confused about what’s going on – the author loses me. I can actually follow the story Victoria is weaving without any problems. It gives us an insight as to how Sarah and Mia got where they are today. . I can also just about hear the pianoforte playing in the background. You may want to see if you can find a recording to listen to as you read Sarah and Mia’s story. The trilogy ends with us being glad that Mr. Darcy still exists.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Mr. Darcy Forever

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Jane Austen and Sisters

MrDarcyForever

Guest Post by Victoria Connelly, author of Mr. Darcy Forever

Whilst writing my Austen Addicts Trilogy, I read many of the letters that Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. They were in constant touch with each other when either of them was away from home and I can just imagine them texting and emailing each other if they were alive today. They shared all sorts of information from snippets of gossip about neighbours (“Dr Hall is in such very deep mourning that either his mother, his wife, or himself must be dead.” ) to what the latest fashions were in town (“Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing”).

Jane Austen was obviously fascinated by the special bond between sisters and I adore the relationships she portrays in her novels. I think my favourite is that between Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. They are each other’s confidante and they share the highs and lows of life and love. The younger sisters too – Kitty and Lydia Bennet especially – are such enormous fun with their sisterly squabbles and rivalry.

Victoria_Connelly

There’s also the uneasy relationship of the Elliot sisters in Persuasion. Poor Anne has to endure so much at the hands of her sisters and her relationship with them stands in grave contrast to that of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet.

Then there’s Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. No two sisters could be so different. Elinor is the head and Marianne is the heart and it’s this relationship that partly inspired me to create Sarah and Mia Castle in my own novel Mr. Darcy Forever. I kept thinking about Elinor and Marianne and what would they be like if they lived in the twenty-first century. And then something else occurred to me – what would happen if a man came between them? Would the bond of sisterhood be stronger than romantic love?

Buy: Mr. Darcy Forever

The Women at Home and the Men at Waterloo

Guest Blog by Jack Caldwell, author of The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men

“Ah!” cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling. “If I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, ‘God knows whether we ever meet again!’ And then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does see them again; when, coming back after a twelvemonth’s absence, perhaps, and obliged to put into another port, he calculates how soon it be possible to get them there, pretending to deceive himself, and saying, ‘They cannot be here till such a day,’ but all the while hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last, as if Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still! If I could explain to you all this, and all that a man can bear and do, and glories to do, for the sake of these treasures of his existence! I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!” pressing his own with emotion.

“Oh!” cried Anne eagerly, “I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as—if I may be allowed the expression—so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex—it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it—is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!”

Persuasion, Chapter 23

Jack Caldwell here, the author of The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, my latest novel from Sourcebooks Landmark. As you may know, this book is a sequel to two of Austen’s most beloved tales, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

So why did I start this post with a quote from Persuasion?

Jane Austen was a genius, period. While she wrote about a very small part of English society—the English country gentry, the lowest rung of the aristocracy—her themes of love vs. practicality are universal. She also had a great insight into the differences between men and woman, remarkable for a woman who never married. She never mocked those differences; instead, she celebrated them. If she lived today, I have no doubt she would subscribe to the notion that men are from Mars and women are from Venus—heck, she may have wrote that book, instead of John Gray.

The quote from Persuasion perfectly illustrates Austen’s understanding of men and woman. When it comes to love, men and woman are equally capable of commitment and devotion. Never is this shown to greatest pathos than when soldiers and sailors must leave their homes to face battle.

She is not the first to observe this, of course. Indeed, the plot of Homer’s The Odyssey is Odysseus’ struggle to return home from the wars to his beloved Penelope. For her part, she remained remarkably faithful to his memory, even though her husband has been gone for twenty years.

The theme of warriors leaving their loved one behind as they face their destiny is found in countless books and movies. Just a short list: War and Peace. Cold Mountain. The Lord of the Rings. War and Remembrance.

Thus the theme of The Three Colonels.

Peace has finally come to England. Colonel Brandon enjoys his life at Delaford with Marianne and their daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam, while visiting Rosings Park, finds himself falling in love with a now-healthy Anne de Bourgh. And a chastised Caroline Bingley enters into a marriage of convenience with an aide to the Duke of Wellington, the notorious Colonel Sir John Buford. From idyllic Dorsetshire to troubled Kent to the intrigues at the Congress of Vienna, these three couples try to build their happily ever after.

All this is disrupted by Napoleon’s escape from his exile on Elba. An unprepared Britain is at war again and must call out all their reserves to defend king and country. The men march off to battle, while their women pray for their safe return, all while the majority of the country acts as if nothing of particular is happening.

The wars of eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain affected the populace remarkably like the American conflicts abroad after Korea. The battles are over there, not here, and therefore easy to ignore. Many of the military are volunteers, not conscripts, so unless your family had a soldier or sailor, you could choose not to think of the wars.

War is tough on the families left behind. In fact, it could be argued that it is tougher. Soldiers and sailors control their own fates, to a certain extent. They could at least fight back; they have swords or guns. The families back home cannot do anything but wait, pray, hoping and dreading news, and try to keep on living.

The story of Marianne, Anne, and Caroline trying to carry on at home while theirs loves, Brandon, Fitzwilliam, and Buford prepare to face Napoleon is timeless and relevant. Thousands of military families today face the same uncertainties as my Austen heroines. We don’t have to imagine how wives, mothers, and girlfriends would have felt during these conflicts, for we only have to talk to our neighbors.

I hope you enjoy The Three Colonels. Please remember of brave military and their familes.

Buy: The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men

About the Author – Jack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims who now make the upper Midwest their home.

His nickname—The Cajun Cheesehead—came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)

Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition. Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors’ trials and tribulations.

When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Jack’s blog postings—The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles—appear regularly at Austen Authors.

Review: Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

Reviewed by Carla F.

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel and so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it. The appeal of the story for me is the thought that no matter how much time has passed nor how large the mistake, it can be fixed.

Summary: In this adaptation Rick Wentworth lives in Australia and is a famous marine biologist who has spent his career studying sea dragons. He is now headed back to England to promote his book which his publishers have fortunately for him decided to name Sex in the Sea. Ever since Anna Elliot refused to marry him and broke his heart, Rick has lived by the motto, “Never forgive, never forgot”. But after ten years, Rick is thinking that once he returns from his book tour, that he needs to finally forget Anna, perhaps marry his supermodel girlfriend and get on with his life.

Anna’s life has been busy with her work as a professor of Russian Literature. She regrets that she let her mother’s friend Lady Russell (or Minty as she is known to her friends) talk her in to rejecting Rick’s proposal. She has kept up with Rick’s career, and she even has a ticket to his Bath book signing, but she doesn’t know if she will have the guts to approach him.

Review: Archer captures perfectly the style and tone of the origin. You see and feel the melancholy. (The advantage this one has over the original is that you get to see it both in Anna and Rick.) There is also the sly humor. (The total cluelessness and self-absorption of Anna’s father Walter Elliot and her sister Lisa is a frequent target.)

I liked how that even though this Rick and Anna had a more intimate relationship than their Austen counterparts, the sexual detail is somewhat vague and left for the most part at the bedroom door. It feels the way that Austen might have written it if she were to do so today.

The fun for me with any adaptation of Austen’s is the way the author fits in all the important plot points and characters. For example, the “Letter” scene is a convincing variation. However, one problem that I had with the overall story is that the keeping Rick and Anna apart felt a little forced. Societal rules in Austen’s time meant that there was a more “natural” barrier in the fact that a woman had to wait for the man to approach her.

Things that made me chuckle: The Forward in the book by Will Darcy who met Rick when he and his sister Georgie were on holiday in Australia.

Any mention of name Dottie Dalrymple.

The thing that creeped me out: William, who is Walter Elliot’s heir, bears enough of a physical resemblance to Walter to make Anna uncomfortable. Her sister Lisa doesn’t even seem to see this and is eager to marry him.

Overall: An excellent version of Persuasion. The author captures perfectly the mood and humor of the original while telling a modern story.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Persuade Me (Darcy & Friends)

Review: By Force of Instinct by Abigail Reynolds

The Question that Starts it All: What if Darcy had been forced to stay at Rosings after giving Elizabeth his letter?

Review (with spoilers): I’m a big fan of Abigail Reynold’s Pemberley Variations, but By Force of Instinct lacked her usual flair. It was heavy on the “My loves” and “My hearts.” Give it to me in another language and it’s not so bad, but I felt there was room for better pet names and that the frequency needed to be turned way down. Through in a few more uses of their names and that would have been good too. As it was the conversations came across as overly mushy and sentimental (and cluttered with unnecessary poetry) distracting from the truly great pieces of dialogue about happiness and love.

Also Lizzy was out of character in a way that wasn’t explained satisfactorily. She was prone to crying and such, instead of meeting (confronting!) situations with confidence and wit we all know her to have.

There was too much misunderstanding between Lizzy and Darcy. Why be so elliptical/obtuse?

Mrs. Gardenier was the character with perfect understanding, who’s insightful commentary was too convenient, taking out the challenge right out from under Lizzy and Darcy, because Mrs. Gardenier gave them everything they needed, instead of letting them figure it out on their own.

A Fun Twist on the Perfect Sister: Georgiana was petulant and sullen over Wickham. She acts like a petty teenager and tells Lizzy that Darcy is actively with a mistress. All this is fine with me but it is all wrapped up in a big bow of understanding and forgiveness with little real contrition. Georgiana should have figured out how to bridge the emotional gap between Lizzy and Darcy. Especially considering…

Mr. Bennet’s intense dislike of Darcy. He refuses to bless their union/marriage until the day of it. His sudden change of heart and understanding is a little far fetched because he isn’t even grudgingly accepting Darcy even after others try to explain how great Darcy is and what Darcy’s done.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: By Force of Instinct (The Pemberley Variations)

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Review: Mr. Darcy’s Undoing by Abigail Reynolds

What If: After six months had passed from the first proposal/letter and Elizabeth received another proposal from a gentleman of modest means, one she knew from childhood, and she said yes?

Summary: Elizabeth accepts a childhood friend’s proposal, knowing she was fond of him, but not in love. She accepted for mercenary reasons, knowing she could no longer hope for Jane to make a good match when she was still so obviously in love with Mr. Bingley. If only she had known Darcy and Bingley were right around the corner! But how was she to know they would show up at Longbourn looking to court the ladies who stole their hearts?

Good:

  • That Darcy worms his way into Longbourn as Bingley’s companion and doesn’t give up even though Lizzy is very off the market.
  • Darcy’s possessive, jealous side. It’s hot. Like burn your sheets up, hot. Favorite quote coming up.
  • That Lizzy learns her own heart and is willing to risk all for her own liberty and happiness.
  • That Lizzy has a deeply valid concern for refusing Darcy when he proposes again (pg 147 for those who care to know)… and that Darcy figures out how to get around Lizzy. (Love how Mr. Bennet uses Mrs. Bennet to advantage, bwuahaha!)
  • That Darcy has a rival!

On the Other Hand:

  • Of course Mr Covingon is not much of a rival. He’s a valid choice for marriage with a comfortable home, quazi gentry, a land owner, a farmer, good to his mother, interested in Lizzy, etc. But he lacks passion, depth, and his interest can’t stand up to reputation breaking scandal. He may have Lizzy’s hand but her heart is not such a sure thing.

Bad:

  • The awful petnames. “Best beloved?” What’s wrong with a simple “Darling” or just plain Elizabeth or Lizzy?

Favorite Quote:

Darcy was silent as he wrestled with his own demons. He had never intended it to go so far; he knew full well that he would have taken her if she had not asked him to stop. His toying with her responses at the end, provoking her and demanding verbal submission to replace the physical one he craved, revealed an uncontrolled part of himself he had always harshly repress. But, by God, it had been gratifying to hear her say she wanted him, and to see her helplessly entangled in the pleasure he was giving her. There was, he thought, less of the gentleman and more of the predatory tiger in him than he cared to admit… (page 208)

The bolded part is my doing – it’s also my favorite part of the quote. Seriously hot, and I do mean hot! Love it!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Mr. Darcy’s Undoing

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