Thanks to Rosie Amber from Rosie’s Book Review Team for alerting me to this opportunity and to the editor Christina Boyd for providing me with an early ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
After reading many great reviews of The Darcy Monologues, when I had the opportunity to sign up for this blog tour I could not resist. My fondness for Jane Austen’s novels cannot compare to that of the authors of this anthology, but rest assure that you don’t need to have read several times all of Austen’s novels to enjoy this collection (although I don’t doubt you might enjoy it even more if you have).
Each story centers on one of the rakes or gentlemen rogues in one of Jane Austen’s novels (sometimes several from the same novel). As the editor explains in her note, after The Darcy Monologues she and some of the authors started looking for another project and noticed that there are many characters that are fundamental to Austen’s novels, but we don’t get to know much about, and on many occasions we are left wondering how they got to be how they are, and what happens to them later. All the stories retain the historical period of the novels, sometimes going back to give us information about the background of the characters, to their childhood, early youth, and on occasion we follow them for many years, getting a good sense of who they become when they exit the novel.
Each one of the stories is prefaced by a little snippet about the character chosen, and by one or several quotations (sometimes spread throughout the story) taken directly from Austen’s novel, where the character is mentioned. I must say the authors remain very faithful to Austen’s words although they use their imagination to build upon those snippets, always remaining faithful to the language and the spirit of the period, although the modern sensibility is evident in the stories.
We have stories with happy endings, stories that are dark and sad, stories of broken hearts, funny stories (sometimes thanks to the wit of the characters involved, others thanks to the wit of the writers who follow in Austen’s footsteps and poke fun at the most preposterous individuals), and some touching ones. There are very clean stories and some steamier ones (as it seems only appropriate to these “gentlemen”), but the editor includes a very detailed classification of the degree of heat of each one of the stories, and apart from one of the stories A Wicked Game, the rest are not scandalous (even by Regency standards).
Many of the stories are told in the first person, and that helps us share and understand better the characters (however much we might like them or not), but the few told in the third person also work well, especially as they tend to centre on characters that are perhaps particularly insightless and more preoccupied with appearances than by the truth.
I imagine each reader will have his or her favourite stories. I was a bit surprised because I thought I’d enjoy more the stories featuring characters of the novels I was more familiar with, but that was not always the case. (OK, I truly loved Fitzwilliam’s Folly about Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, but not only because of the novel, but because the character is wonderful, witty, yes, Darcy makes an appearance so we get to see him from somebody else’s point of view and someone who knows him well at that, and I loved the female character in the story too). Some writers managed to create a sense of a small society, as it must have felt at the time, where characters from several novels kept meeting or just missing each other but are all connected or know of each other. I know this was a book about the gentlemen, but I was very taken by some of the female characters, that on many occasions were the perfect match for the men.
If you are curious to know which of the characters are featured, here is the list: John Willoughby (Willoughby’s Crossroads by Joanna Starnes), George Wickham (A Wicked Game by Katie Oliver. This is the hottest one and there are some similarities to the previous story but, if you’re a fan of the character, I think you’ll enjoy this one), Colonel Fitzwilliam (Fitzwilliam’s Folly by Beau North. I’ve already mentioned this one. I love Calliope Campbell too. Well, love everything about this story and the style and the repartee reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s plays), Thomas Bertram (The Address of a French Woman by Lona Manning. How blind can one be, or perhaps not!), Henry Crawford (Last Letter to Mansfield by Brooke West), Frank Churchill (An Honest Man by Karen M Cox. One of these characters enamoured of himself who tries to do the right thing but only if it is convenient and at little personal cost. I suffered for poor Miss Fairfax), Sir Walter Elliot (One Fair Claim by Christina Morland. This is one of the stories told in the third person that do follow the character for a long time. The song “You’re So Vain” might as well have been written about him. I really enjoyed this one, first because the comments about the character were funny, later, because the tone changes and I liked his wife, who, of course, loves to read), William Elliot (The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot by Jenetta James. This somewhat related to the previous story but is quite different and particularly interesting for the comments about life in the theatre), General Tilney (As Much As He Can by Sophia Rose. This story, that uses both third and first person, I found particularly touching. Appearances can be deceptive, indeed), John Thorpe (The Art of Sinking by J. Marie Croft. This is a farce, the character a buffoon and the story really funny, especially because the character is the butt of all jokes but remains full of his own importance), and Captain Frederick Tilney (For Mischief’s Sake by Amy D’Orazio. Another great story. The main character justifies his actions insisting that he is helping other men avoid mistakes, but eventually learns to see things from a female perspective. A great female character too, Miss Gibbs).
I highlighted many passages and lines, but I don’t want to make this a never-ending review. I’ll just say the language is perfectly in keeping with the period and the stories and I’ll be exploring the books of all these writers. (There is information included about each one of them after their respective stories).
I did not cry with any of the stories (although some were quite touching), but I did laugh out loud with quite a few. I recommend this book to readers of historical romance and romance of any kind, those who enjoy short-stories with fully-fledged character, and I’m sure anybody interested in Regency novels and Jane Austen’s, in particular, will love this book.
Lady Nora, daughter of an English Earl, is sent to New York by her father for committing an indiscretion and for humiliating him in front of his Parliament peers. Now in America, she believes the only way for her to return home and to the arms of her beloved Robert is to fake an engagement to a man so outrageously roguish that her father would have no other choice than to send for her as soon as he heard the news of the engagement.
Impetuous and witty Nora sets everything in motion once she meets Julius, the man with exactly the kind of reputation she needs for her plans. The way these two meet was both funny and outrageous (there is a note by the author at the end of the book for those thinking nothing so oulandish could have been possible.) Just picturing Nora facing Julius for the first time in such circumstances was enough to keep turning the pages after such encounter. Julius agrees to Nora’s deceit only because he’s got a secret of his own and their engagement will grant him access to places he was denied before due to his notorious reputation.
Their relationship evolves at a steady pace, easy banter and flirtatious moments. I liked that even though they liked each other physically, Robbie is never far from Nora’s thoughts and Julius knows that very well. So much so that I thought it was selfish of him to keep flirting with Nora when he knew their accord was only temporal. We learn about his past, which explains why he likes to live so ostentatiously (I mean, he lives in a castle with a moat) and about his family and friends however for some reason I didn’t connect with him until the very end. Even so, his relationship with Nora was both endearing and passionate and I loved how both understood their feelings and talked openly about them. One of my many peeves in romance is when the main characters decide to hide their feeling from each other for whatever reason, and so if I read about characters that are open with each other I just get really happy.
The suspense aspect of the story left me a little displeased though. It wasn’t bad but I was disappointed when we get to find out there is a villain that I didn’t think needed to be and I ended up feeling bad for the poor guy. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read and I will definitely read more from this author.
~3.5 stars ~
** I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***
To The Duke, With Love by Amelia Grey is an awesome historical romance. Ms Grey has delivered a well-written book filled with amazing characters. Loretta wants her brother to have a love match marriage, Hawk wants Loretta's brother for an arranged marriage with his sister. Loretta and Hawk's story is a tangle of unfortunate events surrounded by drama, humor, and sizzle. I loved reading this story and look forward to reading more from Amelia Grey soon. To The Duke, With Love is book 2 of The Rakes Of St. James Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.
I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book that I received from NetGalley.
I loved this book from the start. I have to admit that I’m an uber fan of marriage of convenience and force marriage so of course I jumped (quite literally) at the chance to read this book. However I was not very happy when I realized there were secrets involved and that the final outcome would depend on how the main characters would react to the discovery of those secrets. I just don’t like romances that start off on untruths or half truths, I just don’t.
But the feels; THE FEELS, I tell you!!
Samantha is an American spitfire with plenty of wit and determination, used to do whatever necessary in order to survive. When trouble arises in America she sees no other choice but to travel to Scotland. There Gavin awaits for her, and true to his rakish reputation, he will attempt anything even seduce her if that would sway her to relinquish her land to him.
Ok, so one thing that had me laughing – and rolling my eyes- at the beginning was the fact that she would not stop admiring his good looks. It was paragraph after paragraph of her mentioning how well sculpted and how “magnificent” he was. She even called him a Celtic god! I just thought goodness, it’s this how it’s going to be? Thankfully it wasn’t. Sam proved to be no push-over. She took the reins of her new life and show no fear in the face of trouble. I specially loved that even though she was a foreigner in a new land, she easily made new friends, knew who to contact, where to go, and what to do. She was a woman with a mission and was determined to see it through. Gavin was a little on the obstinate side. Not that that was a bad thing, I mean, who can say no to a Scot’s charm, am I right? But when a man kisses a woman without asking permission first, then let’s just say I was verra, verra happy that said woman always carried her precious guns with her *happy face* I loved how Sam put him in his place every time he wanted to be all charm and temptation.
When someone from her past attacks her, Gavin offers to marry her in order to protect her but also to gain access to her land. They do marry but their relationship was complicated to say the least, what with Gavin’s reputation, his infamous father and family, and the initial enmity between them. They want to see their nuptials as a business transaction only so they really don't want to confide each other with their dark pasts.
As the story unravels and they get to know each other better, Sam understands why her husband has led the life of the notorious libertine and affable womanizer he’s always been. And then she wishes to tell him everything because she’s only told him bits and pieces of her life but not the entire truth. And the one time she had the chance to tell him EVERYTHING… she discloses another secret but not what he needs to hear! It was kind of frustrating, actually. And Gavin feels there is still so much in her heart that's yet to be to discovered but is afraid to ask because he believes it may have to do with him, his flaws, his past, his own desires, and AGHHHH!!! In the end so much grief would have been avoided if a hard but simple truth was told when they had the chance.
So generally speaking, I still think this was an awesome read because despite my peculiar dislikes I thought the romantic arc hit all the right cords. All the characters were very well defined from start to finish, from the rambunctious old couple of Calybrid and Locryn, who sort of became Sam’s two right hands, and who had me laughing at their bickering and inappropriate comments, to Gavin’s own mother, who grew out of her shell with Sam and other loving character’s help. All in all it was a lovely read, which can be totally read as a standalone, and I absolutely recommend it.
** I received this book from the author at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***