Book Reviews

Old Boots: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Grace Gibson

I liked this book and I’m not sure why. There wasn’t much angst, it had a more sad feel to it for most of the time. The premise is that after Darcy ‘saves’ Elizabeth in the river, he ruins his boots and is forced to wear his old worn out pair while staying in Netherfield. Wearing the boots humbles him and reminds him the people in the area are similar to the people near Pemberley. In this variation, Mrs. Bennett has passed and Darcy accidentally befriends the family (by himself and not with the Bingleys) while they are still in half-mourning. He and Elizabeth cross verbal swords regularly, giving Darcy food for thought about his opinions and behavior and he builds a close friendship with Mr. Bennett.

The majority of the book is literally just the building of relationships between Darcy and the individual Bennetts (including Mr. Bennett). The book is told entirely from Darcy’s point of view, which was done well. Usually one, particularly first person, point of view annoys me as I want to know what everyone is thinking, but the way Darcy is written keeps the reader involved and it didn’t occur to me to wonder what others were thinking.

The death of Mrs. Bennett before the book starts has a huge effect on the characters in the book, but not how you’d expect which surprised me. I liked the way the book handled it and how the different characters reacted. It was a great way to add interest to the rather mundane story line without there being a ton of unnecessary drama.

Overall a good variation that I will most likely read again. With the low angst and somewhat somber tone, it was a relaxing read but interesting. It kept the story moving along with Darcy’s different personal revelations and the missing information (from Darcy’s point of view) that is fed to him in bits and pieces from different family members. I’d recommend it to people who like a likable, growing Darcy, like books in which Mrs. Bennett passes, or like a particularly witty Elizabeth.

My rating:

Book Reviews

Netherfield’s Duchess: Book 2 by Victoria Lynn

I was not disappointed with this second half of the story. Based on events in this book, the first book ended in a good place for this one to pick up. The majority, actually all but a couple scenes, happen away from Netherfield, primarily London and Kent, with a little bit in Scotland and Derbyshire.

The story builds through the season in London, starting with Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding about a third of the way into the story and going all the way through Mary’s marriage (yes, that becomes a thing in this half). Lady Catherine starts to stir up a hornet’s nest shortly before Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding, turning the entire crew against her and setting up plans to thwart her. At the same time we see Wickham begin to put his plans into place for Caroline Bingley (If you read the first book, you know this is coming). The story that plays out with that was a huge surprise and developed quick well. I particularly enjoyed it and thought it was quite brilliant.

While most of the book focuses on everyone against Lady Catherine and her various plans, you still have development in Anne’s and Mary’s characters. While Anne is more reactive to situations and lets people help her regularly, Mary tends to take charge and help organize what everyone is thinking. Additionally, you encounter Lydia a lot in this book which I didn’t expect. Even more I didn’t expect to see any kind of development or redemption in her character but the author managed it extremely even – and even managed to reform Mr. Collins as well! There were quite a few character reformations in the book which usually I think “yeah sure just trying to get a happy ending” but the author made the reformations integral to the story line, not only the ending. Yes, they happened toward the end, but it also opened and closed different avenues for the story to take.

In the end, the way Lady Catherine was finally handled was genius and one I had never seen. I applaud the author for the way she ended up and how they got there. Lydia also was written extremely well, from poor behavior to her thought processes and actions, made complete sense and fit her well while at the same time allowing for growth, interest, and development. I think it’s probably the best written Lydia I’ve seen. Caroline was also handled and I like how that played out but honestly I mostly felt sorry for her (but not to the point where it was annoying as you read).

As you can see from my writing though the book doesn’t focus on any one character or pair of character. I seemed fairly balanced between everyone. Charlotte Lucas disappeared in this book, being away with her husband, and Mrs. Bennett was more talked about than actually in it. You see Jane, Richard, Charles Bingley, and Mrs. Hurst but you don’t get their thoughts as much as you did in the first book. However, you get the thoughts of pretty much everyone else in a balanced way – even Kitty/Catherine.

Overall I thought it was an excellent story. I wish it had been one complete book, but I can see why it was divided into two by the author. There was a fresh aspect to many of the story lines that I haven’t come across before and while I like the HEA for almost everyone, I thought the journey there was more interesting than the epilogue (I am usually a sucker for a good epilogue but this one almost didn’t need it). The depth of the characters and the variety of actions, reactions, and interactions kept the story moving. There was enough angst and drama to force the story to build but it was never over the top or annoying (okay maybe in a spot or two it was over the top but it fit the characters). I’d definitely recommend it to any Pride and Prejudice variation fan.

My rating:

Book Reviews

Netherfield’s Duchess: Book 1 by Victoria Lynn

This Pride and Prejudice variation opens with Netherfield Park being owned by a Duchess who, after the death of her husband, decides to make it her home for a while. She is accompanied by non other than Anne de Bourgh, whom she had managed to free from Lady Catherine. On previous visits to the neighborhood, she developed a slight affection for the three eldest Bennett daughters, and thus she decided to invited them and Charlotte Lucas for daily visits to Netherfield Park for lessons. These lessons would include household management, duties of an estate mistress, art, music, and self-defense. Kitty joins them for the art lessons. Lydia is furious with the arrangements and it leads to some interesting changes in the Bennett household, especially with the arrival of Mr. Collins.

Colonel Fitzwilliam and his friend Major Askins, who had both been recovering from war wounds in London, travel with the Duchess (Lady Marianna) and agree to stay with her and Anne. While there, Colonel Fitzwilliam is informed that an estate owned by the Duchess about two hours away will be his inheritance from her and she asks him to take over control of it so that she can focus on her other properties. This then leads to some interesting changes with the two gentlemen and their outlook now that they can no longer stay in the army.

About a third of the way through the book, Darcy and his party join the household. This includes Georgiana, Mrs. Young, Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, Mrs. Hurst and Mr. Hurst. The Duchess quickly finds issue with Darcy’s behavior, leading to his change of outlook much sooner than the original storyline, thus changing interactions between him and the other characters. Caroline Bingley is her usual self and due to being in a Duchess’s household, Charles is forced to address her behavior, which is surprising how it turns out in the end.

I loved the way that Anne de Bourgh and Mrs. Hurst are portrayed in this book. I’m usually a fan when Anne de Bourgh is given a backbone and allowed to be herself, but I particularly enjoyed the changes we see Mrs. Hurst undergo. I have never really been a fan of Mrs. Hurst, but have liked when different variation have her stepping up against her sister. In this book, she is given depth and develops into a unique character that sees the advantages in her marriage and what she and her husband can become. Mary was also developed well. While not as obvious as the two women mentioned previously, she also undergoes subtle changes and grows in confidence due to the attention and lessons she is receiving. I’m usually a big Mary fan, so when she gets attention and develops well, I think it’s great. I was surprised with whom the author set up her love interest to be. Kitty and Georgiana were also allowed to begin growing in character in this book. I look forward to seeing how their characters develop later in the next book.

Overall, I loved the book and story line. I would have given it 5 stars but it is not complete as there is a second half. While there is some angst, it is mostly focused on Caroline Bingley with Lady Catherine adding a little near the end. Outside of that there is minimal angst and it mostly focuses on character development. I would definitely recommend it to variation readers that don’t want Charles and Jane together or people who like the women in the series to grow strong.

My rating:

Book Reviews

The Laughter of Love: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Linda Thompson

Her Unforgettable Laugh Series, Book #3

This is my favorite book of the series and I’m glad it was able to go out on a high note. I’ve liked the other books in this series but they were not as varied as this one and I’m glad I was able to rate this one slightly higher than the others. The biggest difference I’d have to say was there was a greater variety of things happening which allowed for more interest and different interactions within the characters.

There are courtships, weddings (several – and not who you would plan on seeing for the most part), a few new people, births, deaths, and many things in between. Lady Marjorie gets her comeuppance in a rather twisted, slightly backward way. The same happens for Caroline Bingley but hers was slightly more predictable. The only real angst is between everyone and Caroline Bingley, with Mrs. Bennett adding some in places. For the majority of the book, there is no angst, just the ups and downs of daily life. I liked that with Elizabeth in the story, more of the events are portrayed as a low level cheerful instead of a simple content moment.

I enjoyed the male lead they introduced quite a bit and wish there had been more time to build his character. Unfortunately he felt a little rushed and not very deep, but he had great potential. I loved the real way Lydia was developed and the conversations she had where she was trying to come to terms with the issues she has with her mother. I would have liked more Mary because she had been developed so well in the first two books, but she and Georgiana were more background players in this book than they were earlier.

The story moved well and like I mentioned the variety of events was a nice way to break up the story. There were happy points, angry points, sad points, and surprising points and it made for a comfortable, interesting ride. The epilogue provided a rounded view of life 25 years down the road from the last chapter and it filled in most of the gaps or cliff hanger questions that usually get on my nerves. I would definitely recommend it if you read the other books in the series and would recommend the series if you are in to Pride and Prejudice variations.

My rating:

Book Reviews

Laughter Through Trials: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Linda Thompson

Her Unforgettable Laugh Series, Book #2

This book focused on Elizabeth’s introduction to the haute ton in London as Darcy’s chosen lady. As expected there are a lot of rather mad high society ladies, so most of her outings are interesting. The most eventful of them are described in book while others are mentioned but not put in detail.

Caroline Bingley and Wickham are again at their worst in this book. They are the primary conflicts in the story along with a third figure who wishes Elizabeth harm.

I think it was a good description of what ton introduction would have been like for Elizabeth with the support of Darcy’s family. I liked that the author developed a close relationship between Elizabeth and the Fitzwilliam family. It made for some great dynamics in the book along with some fun screens where the close relationship is noted in contrast to non-close relationships with them. Georgiana’s growth continued in this book which I was really happy about but I would still love to see more of her. Mary’s growth was shown well in this book as well. It seems like the author is setting up a romance for her and I hope it continues. Like Georgiana I hope to see more of Mary in this series.

I liked the addition of the new secondary characters in this book. While most of them I didn’t like they added well to the story. I particularly liked how Lord Wescott was used throughout the book, it was surprising and interesting to see his character develop. Elizabeth’s new friend Miss Pottsfield is so sweet, I also hope to see more of her in the next book. She had much more interaction than the first book and I like how she is turning out.

I know this is not as much of an overview of events as I usually do, but most of the book was literally just interactions between the characters at different events, so mentioning them individually is more difficult and will give stuff away. However, this book focused more on the relationships of the characters which I liked. I look forward to the next book.

My rating:

Book Reviews

Her Unforgettable Laugh: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Linda Thompson

Her Unforgettable Laugh Series, Book #1

The premise for this variation is that Elizabeth and Darcy had semi-met before their encounter in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth had helped rescue Georgiana, but neither Georgiana nor Darcy had managed to get her name, only hearing her laugh at a comment as she left. Darcy remembers her laugh for years until he hears it again at the Meryton assembly. Upon hearing it, he goes and introduces himself, setting up a developing story line where the two get to know each other.

Georgiana is more present in this book but I can’t say that she has been developed much yet. I look forward to the next few books in the series to see if she develops more. I like the way the author is shaping her character but the focus has been primarily on Darcy and Elizabeth.

Wickham is much worse in this book but Caroline Bingley gives him a run for his money. While the changes in Wickham are more dramatic, they make sense with his character. Caroline Bingley is just wackadoodle. The things she gets up to are plausible but they are taken to a level I wouldn’t expect from her character. However, it does make for a dramatic story line.

This is a high-angst book, but not between Darcy and Elizabeth. There’s a lot of drama going on and several injuries but the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth develops well. Most of the drama is focused on them instead of between them. I can’t say the other characters are forced into the story line, but I feel like the author doesn’t give them enough book time at points (but that may just be me because I kind of like seeing how everyone changes in the variations). The characters outside of the ones I mentioned above are pretty much the same as the original book.

So far I’m really liking this variation series. It’s highly dramatic but the relationship developing with Elizabeth and Darcy is enough to balance it out enough to keep my interest. I look forward to the development of Georgiana and to see how the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth progresses. Would definitely recommend for variations readers who like a really evil Wickham, want to see Caroline Bingley get her comeuppance (I hope!), or like variations that are Darcy and Elizabeth united against the world.

My rating:

Book Reviews

His Choice of a Wife: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Heather Moll

So this was a high-angst, high drama variation of Pride and Prejudice. The story picks up immediately after Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter in the grove near Hunsford. In this variation, she returns to the parsonage in time to see and talk to Darcy. Enough passes between them for him to offer to take letters back to her sister in Cheapside. From there the relationship between the two begins to heal and grow.

The road that the two must travel in their developing relationship is rough, bumpy, and in need of repair. Misunderstandings, old fears/resentments, and outside forces are continually cause emotional upheavals between them. The secondary storyline between Jane and Bingley was rough as well, but for very different reasons. I particularly disliked the portrayal of Mr. Bennett in this book. He didn’t read true to his original character in Pride and Prejudice, in fact being worse and more hard hearted. However, he was not the only one that was worse – Lydia and Wickham were much worse than the original story. There actually ends up being a duel in this book which is one of the more unusual events. Mrs. Bennett and the Bingley sisters were inserted where needed and almost exactly as they were in the original story.

I’d say you need to have a foundation of character knowledge from the original Pride and Prejudice to have a character background for the characters. The only characters I felt were given any real depth were Darcy, Mr. Bennett (even though I didn’t like it), and partially Elizabeth. You go some insight into Jane, Lydia, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Bingley but that was about it.

Overall it was a well-written book with a story line that followed its own events to make sense. I can’t say I greatly enjoyed it, but it was good and for readers who like the high-angst, strong emotion books, this is a great pick.

My rating:

Book Reviews

Darcy’s Melody by Jennifer Redlarczyk

This is probably one of the most different variations I’ve read in relation to how far it differs from the original story line. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though. It was a very unusual way of rolling out the key story elements.

The story opens with Darcy and Elizabeth meeting but not knowing each other. The meet again shortly after when it is revealed that Elizabeth is helping Darcy’s aunt, Lady Matlock, with a large fundraising effort. Darcy hesitantly introduces her and Aunt Gardiner to Georgiana and is pleasantly surprised at the budding friendship that develops between the girls. From there, the story unfolds with the developing friendship between Elizabeth and Georgiana and how Elizabeth gets Georgiana involved in the fundraising efforts. Being around Elizabeth so much also creates feelings in Darcy that he tries to ignore. However, throughout it all Elizabeth kindly phrases the disrespect she is getting from the haute ton while working for their aunt.

I did enjoy this version of Elizabeth. It seemed very true to her original character. The version of Darcy was interesting but also seemed to fit with the original character. There is some initial ruffled feathers, but nothing like the original Pride and Prejudice. I really enjoyed the way Georgiana was portrayed in this book. She is a strong supporting character and is not overlooked in her character development. This is also a much more authentic look at how the high society interacted with the low gentry levels.

The integration of Mr. Collins was important for the development of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship in this book. There is less Lady Catherine but more Wickham and Ms. Young. There is also more drama and rough situations, but it is not piled together or continuous. The high drama areas are spaced apart with some calm and more character building in between. Therefore the overall book doesn’t feel rushed or continually emotionally charged.

The book is billed as highly musical, but I can’t say I felt that it was. There was a lot of music and it was well written, but you aren’t beat over the head with it. It is delicately worked into the storyline, never feeling forced or like the author was looking for ways to incorporate more music. You get several references to music you can look up for that time period and an idea of what they were used for.

The writing overall was well done and the story line unfolded well and at a good place. There was nothing jarring or seeming to be out of place. It almost seemed like a soft or delicate version to me even though it wasn’t really, probably because it is quite feminine in nature based on the strong focus on the relationships with the females in the book. I would have actually given it a 4.5 rating, but I don’t feel like I’ll go back to read it again which is why I’m not giving it a 5 star rating. I’d definitely recommend it to people who like Pride and Prejudice variations.

My rating:

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge

Another Point of View: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jaeza Rayleigh

This is mostly a personal growth book for Mr. Darcy. At the Meryton assembly, Elizabeth Bennett discusses his rude comments with him instead of ignoring them. That discussion combined with other events that night help him to see what he looks like to other people – and he doesn’t like it. He decides to take steps to help connect with the people around him, thus unfolding the story.

The story mainly focuses around Darcy’s attempts to interact with the people Meryton in ways he normally wouldn’t to see if he can change his attitude and behavior. While slowly building relationships, an influenza epidemic runs through the village, and Darcy ends up doing one thing after another that helps different people in various small but useful ways. Through it all, he is regularly helping and interacting with the Bennett family and Miss Elizabeth in general. Early on, Georgiana joins him and begins to build relationships with the Bennett ladies as well.

What surprised me as being a strong part of the story was Lydia Bennett’s behavior and the changes in Mr. Bennett. I can’t say I particularly liked that story line, but it was something that could have happened. Most Pride and Prejudice variations make Lydia redeemable. Not this one. This leads to other issues and solutions to arise that surprisingly help Mrs. Bennett in the end.

Mr. Wickham shows up but is dealt with surprisingly quickly. Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine take their opinions and attitudes to a new level and cause problems like normal. Anne de Bourgh pops up in a surprising way, but is not instrumental. I did like Mr. Montmarch as well as the doctor and apprentice you meet.

I particularly liked the portrayal of Mary Bennett in this book. She is one of my favorites of the sisters and she was done justice in this book. It doesn’t seem like it at the beginning, but her character is developed well and deeply throughout the book. I think you actually hear about her as much as Elizabeth for most to the story.

The book is told exclusively through Mr. Darcy’s point of view, but that is a benefit and not a deterrent. You see a lot of how he learns to change his behavior and growing admiration for Elizabeth Bennett and his views on the other townspeople. You meet more of them than you usually do and it helps to flesh out the story. There is a depth to this story you don’t see very often and a lot of emotional upheaval throughout but I can’t say it’s angst-filled. It just felt like drama, not angst. That being said I can’t say I was super drawn into this book like I have been with others. I was able to easily put it down and when I finished it took me a few minutes to remember what had occurred in it. Overall it is a good, longer than normal variation that a lot of Darcy fans will definitely enjoy.

My rating:

2021 52 Book Challenge · Book Reviews

Dare to Refuse Such a Man by Mary Smythe

Pulled me in and kept me there!

I’ve read a lot of Pride and Prejudice variations, but this has to be one of the best. For starters it actually made me laugh out loud in places and summarize what was going on to my husband so he had to deal with the drama as well. He even asked, “Is one of your fictional characters having a crisis?” when I was reading at one point because I was complaining LOL.

The book starts out at the Meryton assembly in a highly surprising way – Darcy and Elizabeth are already in love and Mr. Bennett is NOT happy. Then the book flashes back to the summer when Darcy and Elizabeth meet in Lambton and Pemberley while Elizabeth is staying with her aunt and uncle to help a relative for the summer. I really liked the way the author unfolded their romance there, it was sweet and true to the characters. Georgiana and Mrs. Young are involved in that section of the book and factor into the overall story line but do not lead it. Then BAM! Mr. Bennett shows up and drags Elizabeth home basically kicking and screaming. Mr. Darcy soon follows.

The rest of the story is why Mr. Bennett is so against the match and how the women of the family work to change his opinion. Mr. Collins plays a large role in the story line which actually made sense. I suspected that someone from Lambton had written Mr. Bennett lies about Mr. Darcy but that wasn’t it at all! The reasoning and back stories that Mr. Bennett provides throughout the story build a very strong, believable, and highly emotionally nuanced tale.

I have to say this story is high-angst, high-drama, and emotional for the reader who is cheering for Darcy and Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Phillips had me chuckling at their antics. I think what came through the most was how highly emotional charged the author managed to make the characters, which is not commonly seen. The story unfolded well, at a good pace, with believable events and incorporated dialogue from the original story just in different situations which was fun to see. I would definitely recommend!