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Book Review: Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs

23 Dec

777520Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks’s misgivings and throws herself into the project.

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parents’ very bitter marriage with his father’s devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She’s a friend and he’s perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn’t for men like Brooks and they both know it… until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back?

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.


mary-jane-hathaway-452869125Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an inspirational fiction writer. She homeschools her six children and lives in the small town of Milton-Freewater, Oregon.


My Impressions:

Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs is a contemporary re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Emma. It is not a strict re-interpretation, but takes the basic story and sets it in the Deep South amid the insular society of a small town. This actually works. I can think of no better contemporary setting for Highbridge than a nosy, everyone-knows-your-business, stuck-in-the-past small Southern town. Although it is a quick read with romance front and center, I don’t think this will be a perfect fit for strict Jane Austen fans. There are too many deviations from the original. But it should appeal to those who like a good contemporary romance and who enjoy the movie adaptations of Jane Austen. And while this was not my favorite Jane Austen knock-off, I will probably read the other books in the series.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Audiobook Review: Longbourn

12 Feb

17380041If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended. 

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own. 

jo-bakerJo Baker was born in Lancashire. She was educated at Oxford and at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she completed a PhD on the work of the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen. Her first novel, Offcomer, was published by William Heinemann in 2001. Her second book, The Mermaid’s Child, was published in August 2004. Jo Baker has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. From 2001-2003 she was the Artistic Director of the Belfast Literary Festival. She lives in Belfast with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their son Daniel. The Telling is her third novel.

My Impressions:

I am not sure what Jane Austen’s reaction to Jo Baker’s Longbourn would be — amazed, appalled or approving. I think perhaps all three. Using the framework of Pride and Prejudice, the novel takes a look at the other side of Regency manners and morals. A perfect novel for fans of Jane Austen or Downton Abbey, Longbourn is a great addition to this Austenphile’s library.

All of your favorite and not so favorite characters from P&P are featured in Longbourn, but these major characters become supporting actors alongside the servants who work below stairs. It is housemaid Sarah along with footman James who are at the center of the action. Mrs. Hill is another player that has a major hand in the outcome of the story. A dirtier and grittier perspective is shared, as well as new insights into Austen’s own creation. Characters such as Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet are more sympathetic. Mr. Bennet is even weaker in his dealing with the household. Mr. Wickham, already villainous in P&P, is even more so in Longbourn. And the young ladies of the house are pretty much inconsequential, except for all the work they create for Sarah, Polly, and Mr. and Mrs. Hill.

I really liked this fresh approach to a retelling of such a beloved classic. Longbourn will make you think about real life in Regency England. It really was a time of strict class distinctions and differences. The war that dominated the time, but rarely mentioned in Austen’s works, is also explored. I read some negative reviews of this book that found the gritty descriptions and earthy subject matter objectionable. There is some profanity and sexual content; this is NOT a Christian novel. But I could overlook those things, because the book seems so real and honest.

I believe this is a must read (or listen in my case) for any fan of Jane Austen. The audiobook version is excellent. Emma Fielding does a wonderful job reading the novel. All in all a recommended read from me.


(I purchased the audiobook version from Audible. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of Longbourn, click on the image below.

Audiobook Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

7 Jun

9780307959850In their six years of marriage, Elizabeth and Darcy have forged a peaceful, happy life for their family at Pemberley, Darcy’s impressive estate. Her father is a regular visitor; her sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; the marriage prospects for Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, are favorable. And preparations for their annual autumn ball are proceeding apace. But on the eve of the ball, chaos descends. Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who, with her husband, has been barred from the estate, arrives in a hysterical state—shrieking that Wickham has been murdered.  Plunged into frightening mystery and a lurid murder trial, the lives of Pemberley’s owners and servants alike may never be the same.




authP. D. James is the author of twenty previous books, many of which feature her detective hero Adam Dalgliesh and have been televised or filmed. She is the recipient of many honors, including the Mystery Writers of American Grand Master Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and in 1991 was created Baroness James of Holland Park.

My Impressions:

P. D. James is one of my all time favorite mystery writers, and, of course, Jane Austen is my all time favorite author. So when I learned that James had a written a novel set in and among the writings of Austen, I just had to read it (or in this case, listen). I have to say, I had a little trouble getting into this book. The first part is spent bringing the reader up to speed on the characters of Pride and Prejudice and what they have been doing since Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding. But after the mystery finally began, I was firmly entrenched in the story.

The body of Captain Denney is found with Mr. Wickham kneeling over it drunkenly crying that it is all his fault for his friend’s death. And Darcy just has to be part of the ensuing investigation and trial because the murder happens on Pemberley land. There are a number of red herrings and revelations to keep the reader on his/her toes. I did have my suspicions on what truly happened and I was right on in terms of motive, I just had the wrong person as murderer!

Death Comes to Pemberley will definitely appeal to all Austenites. I am not so sure that fans of mysteries in general and James in particular will find this as good a read if they do not have Austen as a favorite. I did like that James alluded to characters from other Austen novels, namely Emma and Persuasion. She also kept the style of writing true to Austen. I found the narration quite good and enjoyed this bit of Regency lit. Perhaps I would have liked it more if James could have had a time-traveling Inspector Dalgleish solve the crime. But that is probably pushing it a little!


(I purchased this audiobook from Audible. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of Death Comes to Pemberley, click on the image below.

Book Review: The Dashwood Sisters Tell All

26 Jul
Ellen and Mimi Dodge have never been close, but their mother’s dying wish sends them on a walking tour of Hampshire, England, that follows in the footsteps of Jane Austen. Their mother also left them something else: a diary that belonged to Jane’s sister Cassandra. These pages shed light on the secrets that nearly tore the Austen sisters apart and inspired one of the greatest love stories of all time. They also bring Jane to life in a way that no one has ever seen before: through the eyes of her sister. As the Dodge sisters embark on their walking tour, they too are drawn together in ways they never expected. They also discover that Cassandra’s diary holds secrets, and someone doesn’t want Ellen and Mimi to discover the truth. As they stumble on their way toward love, the women learn how Jane and Cassandra Austen inspired the original Marianne and Elinor Dashwood and come to realize that despite their very different personalities, they are a vital part of each other’s happy endings.

About The Author:

Beth Patillo — I am a born and bred Texan, but I haven’t lived in Texas since my college days at Trinity University in San Antonio. Oh, San Antonio, how I love your delicious Mexican food and rich culture.

Where was I? Oh, yes. After college, I moved to Nashville where I earned a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University and met my wonderful husband. Our careers took us to Jackson, Tennessee, and then to Kansas City, Missouri, where my son was born. I started my first novel while in KC but didn’t sell a book until after we moved back to Nashville and had a second child, my darling daughter.

Now, I wear a lot of hats — mom, wife, writer, daughter, friend — just like so many other women. I’m lucky that I love being all of these things. The challenge is keeping up with all the demands!

I’ve had the opportunity to write historical romance, chick lit, mystery, and women’s fiction. All my books do have two things in common — heroines and humor! I love a strong female character and lots of laughter.

My Impressions:

The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is the third book from Beth Pattillo billed as a modern day novel of Jane Austen.  All three books are stand alones, although The Formidables, a secret society charged with protecting Jane Austen’s privacy make an appearance in all three books.  This novel draws from  Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, both for the two main characters Mimi and Ellen and for the plot involving Cassandra Austen’s lost diary.

Mimi and Ellen Dodge find themselves on a walking tour of Austen’s Hampshire following the death of their mother.  Charged with finding a resting place for their mother’s ashes, the two sisters are drawn into old roles from childhood.  Mimi is the romantic flirt and Ellen is the sensible one.  Their mother has also given them an Austen heirloom to dispose of as well — Cassandra Austen’s diary.

Loosely following the plot of Sense and Sensibility, The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is more about finding yourself than finding Mr. Right.  There is a good bit of mystery surrounding the diary, which at one point is stolen.  This book is a satisfying read for Austen enthusiasts and a good chick lit book for those not familiar with Austen’s novels.


(I received an ARC of The Dashwood Sisters Tell All from the Christian Review of Books in return for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

All Things Austen: Austen Authors Website

11 May

In doing research for another post, I stumbled on a great website for anyone looking for Jane Austen sequels or adaptations — Austen Authors.

The website has author bios and bibliographies, a handy index for contact info. and blog/web addresses, and fun giveaways and quizzes.  I found tons of authors and books that I didn’t even know existed!  And I love their tagline — because there’s never enough Jane Austen.  Check out the site, you’ll be glad you did.  (They have a blog too — visit by clicking here.)

All Things Austen: Captain Wentworth’s Diary

11 May

My favorite Austen novel is Persuasion.  I identify with Anne Eliot and know what it is like to feel pressure from a loved one.  I am thankful there are a lot more options for women now than there were in Jane Austen’s time.  There are not a lot of sequels to Persuasion; P&P seems to have the lion’s share. However, Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange is a wonderful look into the motivations and feelings of Frederick Wentworth.

From the author’s website:

It is 1806, and the Napoleonic wars are ravaging Europe. Frederick Wentworth, a brilliant young man with a flourishing career in the navy, is spending his shore leave in Somerset, where he meets and falls in love with Anne Elliot. The two become engaged, but Anne’s godmother persuades Anne to change her mind, leaving Wentworth to go back to sea a bitter and disappointed man.

Eight years pass, and peace is declared. Wentworth is no longer a young man with his way to make in the world, but a seasoned captain with a fortune at his disposal. He is ready to marry anyone with a little beauty who pays a few compliments to the navy – or so he says – until he sees Anne. Anne’s bloom has faded, yet she has the same sensibilities and superior mind she had eight years earlier, and before he knows it, he is falling in love with her all over again.

Can there be a happy outcome for them this time around, or have they lost their chance of love forever?

Amanda Grange is a popular author of historical fiction in the U.K. She specializes in creative interpretations of classic novels and historic events, including Jane Austen’s novels and the Titanic shipwreck. Her novels include Lord Deverill’s Secret, Mr. Knightley’s Diary and Titanic Affair. She lives in England.

All Things Austen: Jane Fairfax

27 Apr

The first Jane Austen sequel I ever read was Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken.  I found the book at a Library Old Book Sale.  It got me started on my quest for other Jane knock-offs!  Jane Fairfax is wonderfully written, capturing the essence of the original Emma.   Ms. Aiken does a great job in expanding the already sympathetic character of Jane — following her from her childhood with her guardian’s family through her romance with Frank Churchill and her return to Highbury. I Highly Recommend Jane Fairfax to any lover of Jane Austen.

To purchase a copy of this novel, click on the following link:  Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen’s Emma

From Goodreads:

Jane Austen’s Emma has been a favorite novel for Austenites since 1816. In the mid-1990s it became a favorite movie for millions of new admirers.

A key reason for Emma’s success is that the story has two heroines-Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax. In Austen’s novel, Jane’s backgound is left obscure, and the turmoil underlying her current reduced circumstances in mysterious.

At last we learn her whole story in Joan Aiken’s superb retelling of Emma – this time from Jane Fairfax’s point of view. When Jane Fairfax was published in hardcover, Aiken’s wit, style, and skill prompted Booklist to say, “Brilliant…extraordinarily well done and highly recommended.”

Joan Aiken was a British writer, the daughter of Conrad Aiken, born in Sussex, SE England, UK. She was educated privately, then worked as a librarian for the UN Information Committee (1943-9) and as features editor for Argosy magazine (1955-60). Her many books for children include All You’ve Ever Wanted (1953), The Kingdom and the Cave (1960), Tales of Arabel’s Raven (1974), Voices Hippo (1988), and Dangerous Games (1999). Among her adult novels are The Silence of Herondale (1964), Castle Barebane (1976), Mansfield Revisited (1985), Cold Shoulder Road (1995), and ‘Moon Cake’ and Other Stories (1998).

Other Jane Austen novels by Joan Aiken:

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment

The Watsons and Emma Watson: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Novel Completed by Joan Aiken

Eliza’s Daughter: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

The Youngest Miss Ward

Lady Catherine’s Necklace (A Jane Austen Entertainment)

All Things Austen: Persuasion

13 Apr

Persuasion is my very favorite Jane Austen novel.  And the movie of the same name is one of the best screen adaptations I have seen.  Faithful to the novel, the movies’s settings and costumes are beautiful.  You do not want to miss this great Austen adaptation.  Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root are wonderful as Capt. Wentworth and Anne Elliot.  Other cast members include Corin Redgrave, of the famous Redgrave acting family, and Sophie Thompson, sister of Emma Thompson

In 1814 England, 27-year old Anne Elliot lives an oppressive life with her father, Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall, and her elder sister Elizabeth, both of whom are incurable snobs. Eight and a half years ago, Anne been persuaded to refuse an offer of marriage from the man she loved, a young naval officer of no position or fortune. Now, after the Napoleonic wars, Captain Wentworth has gained both rank and money, and chance has thrown them together again. Anne finds herself confronted with thoughts of might-have-been as she watches Wentworth court her brother-in-law’s sister, Louisa. But an accident causes Wentworth to realize whom he truly cares for, and he follows Anne to Bath. But her cousin William (the heir to Kellynch Hall) is also pursuing her and is rumored to be engaged to Anne. And she must overcome this last obstacle before she can persuade Captain Wentworth as to the true nature of her affections.

Click HERE to watch the movie trailer.

All Things Austen: Lost in Austen

4 Apr

What would happen if you were suddenly transported into your favorite book?  That’s what happens when Amanda Price finds herself in the Pride and Prejudice. After another unsatisfying date with boyfriend Michael, Amanda finds Elizabeth Bennett examining her bathroom.  Amanda has been dreaming of a time when manners mattered and love was romantic.  Elizabeth shows up and shows Amanda the door (literally) into the world of Austen. The result is an often laugh out loud good time with enough P&P for the true Austen fan.  Amanda’s presence throws enough monkey wrenches into the story that the original plot lines become hopelessly lost.  She tries her best to make the story come out the way Jane Austen wrote it.  Originally a mini-series on BBC television, Lost in Austen is available on DVD.  This mini-series is a lot of fun and a must watch for any devotee of Pride and Prejudice.



All Things Austen: Mr. Darcy’s Story

27 Mar

There are so many sequels to Pride and Prejudice out there.  You can find Elizabeth Bennet fighting zombies, married to a vampire or solving mysteries.  But one of my favorite sequels tells the story from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Pamela Aidan lets Darcy tell the story in her trilogy, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman.  I think my favorite of the 3 is Duty and Desire which follows Darcy through those days after his proposal and before Elizabeth’s appearance at Pemberly.

From Wytherngate Press:

An Assembly Such As This, book 1

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such As This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley, and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice.

As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows, as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

Setting the story vividly against the colorful, historical, and political background of the Regency, Aidan writes in a style comfortably at home with Jane Austen, but with a wit and humor very much her own. Aidan adds her own cast of fascinating characters to those in Austen’s original, weaving a rich tapestry from Darcy’s past and present. Austen fans, and newcomers alike, will love this new chapter of the most famous romance of all time.

Duty And Desire, book 2

“The inferiority of her connections, yet never was he so bewitched!”

Though Darcy struggles privately with his desire for Elizabeth Bennet, he must still fulfill his roles as landlord, master, brother, and friend.

In Book Two, the “silent time” of Austen’s novel, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his personal world emerge as he deals with his servants, including a valet with aspirations of sartorial triumph; his sister, who is only just emerging from a crippling depression; his cousins, the still-squabbling Fitzwilliam brothers; and his hound, Trafalgar, who he calls “Monster” with good reason.

A visit to an old classmate in Oxford designed to shake Elizabeth from his mind sets Darcy amidst husband-hunting society ladies and friends from his university days, all with designs on him…some for good and some for ill. Darcy, and his Shakespeare-quoting valet Fletcher, must match wits with them all, but especially with the mysterious and dangerous Lady Sylvanie.

These Three Remain, book 3

“You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.”

His proposal of marriage to the lovely, but socially inferior, Elizabeth Bennet thoroughly rejected, Darcy must come to terms with her evaluation of his character and a future without her.

Book 3, These Three Remain, recounts Darcy’s painful journey of self-discovery in his quest to become the gentleman he always hoped he would be and the kind of man of whom Elizabeth Bennet would approve.

A chance meeting with her during a tour of his estate in Derbyshire offers Darcy a new opportunity, but the activities of his nemesis, George Wickham, interfere once more in a way that may ruin everyone’s hopes for happiness, unless Darcy succeeds in putting his new-found strengths to the test.


Pamela Aidan grew up in small towns outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from high school with the desire to be a history teacher, but changed her major to Library Science after her first year at college.Later, she earned a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked as a librarian in a wide variety of settings for over thirty years.

Besides writing and operating Wytherngate Press, she is also the director of Liberty Lake Municipal Library in eastern Washington, a short distance from her home in Idaho.

She and her husband have six children, three children each from former marriage sand, so far, six grandchildren.