2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, Book Reviews

The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #1) by Anne Perry


I’ve read several books in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, but somehow I’ve never managed to read the first one. Well, I’ve managed to correct that! As per usual with this series I listened to it on audiobook, which is what took me so long since I haven’t been driving as much in the summer. Davina Porter did another fantastic job with the narration as I’ve come to expect from her.

The story follows the Ellison family (Charlotte’s family) as they begin to deal with a hangman killing females on a street away. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the killings, just a single female, strangled and mutilated in the night. First it was a maid from another house, then the daughter of a close friend, then another maid from their house, slowly getting closer and closer to their lives. Inspector Thomas Pitt is assigned to the case and regularly interacts with the family in his pursuit of the killer. In doing so, he becomes more and more enamored with Charlotte, as she deals with her own feelings and the crazy family drama that is erupting around her, mostly from her two sisters and her grandmother.

The story is not completely full of twists and turns, but the ones that do occur are quite surprising. I didn’t see the answer until almost right before it was revealed. You meet a multitude of characters, some interesting, some annoying, all well developed, and are pulled in to the world of the upper class. It is interesting to watch the upper and lower classes meet through Thomas Pitt.

This book is a definite ode to the series and a great starting point. I can see why all the other stories are so well developed and unique because this book is what started them all. The story line is unique in its obstacles and turns, but also somewhat mundane. There are the things you expect to happen, but they either happen in a way you didn’t expect or they happen and have an effect on other events that you didn’t expect. I’m not sure I explained that right but I can’t seem to think of another way to say it…

Anyway, if you’ve never read this series, feel free to start right here at the beginning. This is a definite must for any historical mystery readers. Also, any readers who enjoy murder mysteries or are getting into murder mysteries, this is a fantastic read. There are no gory details or steamy scenes. It is a romance, but only as a secondary, possibly tertiary story line. Also, anyone who likes historical fiction, probably not 100% accurate mind you, would also really like this read. I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. I was honestly ecstatic how surprising it turned out.

My rating:

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2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, Book Reviews

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Florence Grace B.C.

I was somewhat torn on how to review this particular book. Let me begin by saying the audio book narrator was fabulous and the book was actually a lot longer than I had expected. The beginning and end of the book were wonderful. It was the middle of the book I had some issues with.

The story follows Florrie Buckley, a young girl from the wild moors of Cornwall being raised by her grandmother. She is a special girl with a strong intuition that is taught by a London born school teacher and the local wise woman. Before her grandmother dies, Flory learns her mother comes from a powerful London family, called the Graces, that disowned her when she married a low-born Cornish man. Florrie is then sent to live with the Graces.

In London, Flory meets her extended family members. The Graces are obsessed with power and status and to that end are not easy on Flory as she transitions from Florrie Buckley to Florence Grace. Some of their actions are downright cruel. She is close with her cousin Sanderson and feels a very close kinship with her other cousin Turlington. Turlington is the heir to the family, but is also the black sheep that is disowned on a regular basis. Florrie is miserable in London until she meets to people – Rebecca, the daugther of the local cheese shop owner, and Jacob, an orphan boy Florrie becomes friends with. These two people, along with Turlington, become the sole sources of comfort in her life. There is love won and lost, and the rediscovery of who she is and what she wants out of her life.

I’m not going to put any spoilers in here. However, my biggest issue with the book was Florrie’s relationship with a man that is no good for her. Like her friends point out, there is not way she can be with him. When she is with him, she is so torn by her feelings she loses sight of who she is and has become. Most of the middle of the book I was regularly annoyed with her for her actions with the man. Unfortunately, it’s nothing I haven’t seen with actual women and men who are bad for them. That being said, it’s still annoying.

This book is written as a historical fiction and follows the dynamics and societal rules of the day, but primarily focuses on Florrie and her emotions. You don’t see the flashy balls or the verbal batting that is so interesting in Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters novels. Additionally, the vocabulary, phrasing, and topics are definitely not the same as if it was written in the time period.

I was going to give the book three marks, but I feel like this is a book I’d read again. It has some sage advice and some very interesting parts. It also teaches lessons about being true to yourself and admitting what you really want in life. It awakens ideas of what some people will do in order to achieve power. For people who enjoy drama, this is a great book. Those who don’t enjoy drama may not like this. A good way to recommend it is if you like Emma and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, you’ll probably like this book.

My rating:

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2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, Book Reviews

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park B.C.

I’ve been a Jane Austen fan for a while now. My favorite of her works was Persuasion until I read this book. I absolutely loved Mansfield Park! Like all her other works, there is romance throughout, but not the near erotica of today’s romance. There’s no sex, no innuendo, no open sexual flirtation, just a little hand-holding (rare) or a kiss (very rare), but primarily just the interesting conversation and lively interactions between ladies and gentlemen.

Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price. Fanny was born to a rather poor family with a load of children. When her mother’s older sister offers to raise Fanny, she is sent to live at Mansfield Park at the age of 10, far away from her family and closest sibling, her older brother William. However, she takes of residence with her aunt and uncle Mr. and Mrs. Bertram and their four children – Tom, Edmund, Maria, and Julia. While growing up, she becomes close friends with Edmund and a personal helper to Mrs. Bertram. She is quite content with her second-place role to the rest of the children in the family. Also, there was Mrs. Norris, Fanny’s other aunt and Mrs. Bertram’s sister who is a continual busy-body in their life and reminding Fanny of how grateful she should be for the wonderful life she had been given.

The meat of the story falls just after Fanny turns 18. The elder sister of the Bertram family, Maria, lands a fiance and eventually a husband in the wealthy, but boring Mr. Rushworth. A new preacher moves into the area and his wife brings her younger sister and brother for an extended visit. The sister, Mary Crawford, begins to court Edmund and the brother, Henry, is a player who plays with the emotions between Maria and Julia. Eventually, there is a big kerfuffle at which point Maria’s husband decides to remove himself and his wife to his estate to the north, away from Henry Crawford,  Henry Crawford is essentially banned, and both Crawfords retire to town. Edmund is heart-broken, Fanny is heart-broken for Edmund, Julia is heart-broken, and Maria finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage.  Later, Henry Crawford pops back up when Fanny is visiting family and begins to court her. Fanny attempts to shake off the courtship but cannot seem to manage it. Eventually, Henry returns to town to wait for her he says while Fanny tries to convince Edmund that Mary Crawford doesn’t really love him.

It is a highly emotionally charged book. I loved Fanny and felt a strong connection with her. You felt each one of her emotions as she dealt with her growing emotions and love for different people. Her emotions are so pure and real you cannot help but relate to her. I found myself often yelling at the other characters because you could see what should happen but everyone was messing around. It was a fabulous book that I will be reading again.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

After reading Charlotte and Emily Brontës’ works, I was impressed by their writing and story lines. I was wondering about Anne Brontë because you never hear much about her, so I decided to read (listen to) one of her works. Most of the websites recommended Agnes Grey, but I gravitated more toward The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  I am so glad that I did. It was an absolutely a phenomenal book. She is definitely able to match her sisters for story line and writing strength. I actually think hers was my favorite of the Brontë sisters’ works as it was easy to follow and read.

The story opens following Gilbert Markham, a young farmer. He becomes fascinated by the young widow who takes up residence in the local Wildfell Hall not far from his farm. They have a growing friendship and intimacy that unfortunately ends with her refusing to marry him. The local gossip mongers start spreading rumors about how her son looks very like his best friend Frederick Lawrence and how he visits her at unseemly hours. This comes to a head in an unfortunate set of circumstances. However, the result is she presents him with her diary, which she explains will clear up the whole matter. You then get to read her diary which details the building up of an abusive marriage and her escape.

The story is quite brilliant, with multiple twists and turns. I explained it to someone as an interesting cross between Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice. You feel for Gilbert and cheer him on. You relate easily with Helen (the widow) and find yourself hating her husband. It really pulls you in and makes you want to know more. I enjoyed how you got to learn about the main characters in great depth. You also learn how an abusive relationship starts and grows and how difficult it was for women of the time to escape it, even why they would stay in the relationship. It’s an exact account of the relationship and what many women experience even today.

I highly recommend this book. It was a fantastic read and a read view into the world of women and marriage. Definitely an eye opener and emotionally stimulating read. Anyone who enjoys the classics, especially the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen will enjoy it.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Treason at Lisson Grove (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #26) by Anne Perry

I was some what let down by this particular Anne Perry book. I am a huge Anne Perry fan and normally her books are creative with lots of twists and turns that make it hard to guess the answers to the mysteries. This one seemed more like a transition book. It was actually predictable for the most part with only a couple surprises. It was still good, but not up to her usual caliber.

If you read the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, you know that pit moves from the police to Special Branch then to the Commander of Special Branch. This is the book where he becomes the head of Special Branch. The book starts with Pitt chasing a suspect and ending up in France. Shortly after, Victor Narroway is accused of theft and relieved of his office. The story follows Pitt as he uncovers the Socialist plot afoot while Narroway seeks to clear his name. He travels to Ireland in order to resolve the issue by approaching the people he betrayed twenty years ago.

The book follows Charlotte and Narroway mostly in my opinion. You seem to get more of him and her than of Pitt. I love Charlotte, but the story was slightly awkward. Charlotte accompanies Naroway to Ireland because Pitt is busy in France and cannot help. Since Narroway is in love with Charlotte everything is just…awkward. Poor Thomas comes home to a mess – Narroway fired, Charlotte gone,…and a new maid. LOL I love the new maid. You don’t read much about her in this book, but she pops up in later stories and I like her.

All in all, not a bad book. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone just starting to read Anne Perry, but if you are trying to read the series, this book is one of the transition reads you need. It’s more a necessity to facilitate the changes that allow for the rest of the series.

My rating:

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2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, Book Reviews

Jane Slayre by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin

I read this book hoping it would be a funny adaptation of Jane Eyre. I love Jane Eyre. It is one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, book. Unfortunately, I was not impressed by the book. I really wanted to like it, but I didn’t. I liked the core of the story because it followed so closely with the original Jane Eyre, but that was all. I actually missed the normalcy of the original.

The story begins with Jane living with the Reeds, who are actually vampires. She lives the vampire lifestyle, staying awake at night and sleeping during the day, rebelling where she can and yearning for day light. One maid at the house is a zombie, having been provided to the house by the Mr. Bokorhurst, the head of Lowood school. As normal, she gets in a fight with John Reed and ends up being shipped to Lowood school. At the school, she noticed that several of the students are zombies. Between her and Ms. Temple, they are able to wipe out the zombies, ending Mr. Bokorhurst’s experiments to perfect the zombie servants he had been creating. She learns a great deal about fighting zombies and vampires from Ms. Temple. Following Jane Eyre, she gets placed at Thornfield Hall and takes care of young Adele. There is an occasional fight with vampires, but all seems quiet except for the strange sounds upstairs. When she goes to marry Mr. Rochester, he reveals his wife in the attic – a werewolf. She flees and ends up with Rivers family. She reveals her talent for slaying vampires accidentally after a walk in the woods one night and St. John Rivers helps her to establish a village school for teaching the townspeople to slay vampires. They are growing in numbers in the area and will attack the village shortly. While doing this, she pursues research on how to defeat werewolves. The vampire attack comes and they are able to save the village and eliminate the vampires. St. John tries to talk her in to continuing their fight against the vampires in India. She leaves to return to Mr. Rochester only to find him a werewolf. She finds a way to cure him and they live happily ever after.

The names of some ofhttps://wordpress.com/post/82317091/517/ the characters are a little different, but are essentially the same. My big issue about the book was the vampire/werewolf storyline felt forced a lot in most areas. It didn’t fold in as seamlessly as I think the author had hoped. I think it needed to be taken a little more away from the true storyline, artistic license allows for that. I think there was too much attempt to stick so closely with the book. It is a nice read if you are interested in it. I personally won’t read it a second time, but it was a neat idea.

My rating:

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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This book was recommended to me after I mentioned I had only read the short stories of Sherlock Holmes and wanted to read one of the actual novels. My friend Kim, a librarian, suggested The Hound of the Baskervilles as it appears to be the most popular and liked of the books.

I was quite pleased with the book. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I am not surprised at all that Anne Perry wrote the afterword to the book. The writing and story line reminded me a lot of her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series that I love. I can definitely see where she was influenced by his writing.

The story follows Holmes and Watson as they investigate a story that is brought to him by a country doctor. The doctor explains that a family has been plagued by a demon dog that has killed the current resident of the family hall. Sir Charles had died of fright after seeing the animal and having a bad heart. As the next heir arrives in London, the doctor approaches Holmes to help him ensure the safety of the heir. After some minor issues in London, Sir Henry (the heir) and Watson retire to the family estate to complete the investigation and to ensure Sir Henry’s safety. Holmes pursues the investigation in London as Watson investigates and reports from the estate. There are twists and turns throughout the investigation, with unexpected events throwing suspicion from one person to the other. I was able to figure out who was behind everything but not the way until the very end.

I greatly recommend this book. It is a fascinating, intellectual read that keeps you engaged in the story line the whole way. I was pulling for some people to be innocent and others guilty. I had hoped for a happier ending, but I can easily understand how everything turned out. Anyone who likes mysteries or books that make you think will definitely enjoy this book!

My rating:

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2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, Book Reviews

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I didn’t realize until after I started listening to this set of stories that there were four actual novels before hand. I didn’t know that there are a series of 56 short stories that follow the novels and I happened upon the first set. I will be looking in to reading (or listening to) the actual novels soon. I think they will be much more satisfying than these brief snippets. But for now, here are my thoughts on the short stories I listened to. I may seem a little harsh sometimes, but I usually prefer the longer, more in-depth stories.

A Scandal in Bohemia

I was somewhat disappointed in this story. It is the first Sherlock Holmes story I had read, and it turned out not to be one of his mysteries. It seemed to be a segue story for the reintroduction of Watson after his marriage. The story follows Holmes as he helps a German Count retrieve a compromising photograph of himself and a woman. The story is very short and all Holmes does it manage to find the photograph, but he is outwitted in the end by a woman. There were a few interesting sections where Holmes was making deductions and wearing disguises, but all-in-all not a very impressive story.

The Adventure of the Red-Headed League

This is more of what I was expecting from a Sherlock Holmes story. I did guess a couple of things, but not all. The story follows Holmes after he is approached by the most recent employee of the Red-Headed League. The man had worked solidly and happily for eight weeks when all of a sudden the league dissolved. The man wanted to simply know what happened, but no one else seemed to have ever heard of the league and so he went to Holmes to find out more. I liked the twist of the story and listening to how Holmes deduced what was going on. It really is an interesting way of seeing the world that I hope to start picking up. The smallest thing can trigger his mind into a new conclusion that will solve a mystery.

A Case of Identity

Again, another not to bad short mystery. Holmes is asked to find a missing fiance by a young woman. The woman is currently living with her mother and step-father and would like to begin her new life with her husband. However, he went missing on the way to the church. I was able to figure out what was going on fairly early on in the story, but I was completely off on the motive. I have read similar stories, not quite as short, but with the same idea and I think this is the original idea for the others.

The Boscombe Valley Mystery

This story followed Holmes and Watson as they head to the west of England to help solve a murder. Right away Holmes is certain the suspect the police have, the man’s son, has not committed the murder, even though there is a large pile of circumstantial evidence. This was a great way to showcase Holmes’s skills and interesting insights. I had guessed who it was, however, I had no clue about how Holmes would like the person back to the murder. I loved the evidence process that Holmes used and determine the who and why. I was quite surprised by the end conclusions and motive. A good short mystery.

The Five Orange Pips

This story was just depressing in my opinion. Two men in a family had fallen victim to what appeared unfortunate accidents after receiving five orange seeds in an envelope with KKK written on the inside flap. Yes, it is the Ku Klux Klan. The third man goes to Holmes for advice on how to avoid the same fate as his father and grandfather. Holmes uses his standard skills to determine who is killing the men. The story never really comes to a close. It just made me sad.

The Man with the Twisted Lip

I was delighted by this story. Watson stumbles across Holmes in an opium den while looking for one of his patients. He soon is pulled into the mystery of a missing husband. The wife had seen him in a building in London and went in to see him, but he was nowhere to be found. Holmes investigates, but doesn’t use the detail oriented studies that have fascinated me. This was more of a general idea than focusing on details. I had an Aha! moment right before the mystery was solved. Clever little story!

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

This was another story I wasn’t particularly fond of. The mayor had attempted to help a man being attacked by ruffians, but all of them fled, including the poor man. He left behind a hat and a goose he had been taking home for dinner. Holmes worked hard at determining the hat’s owner, which was fascinating to listen to, but the mayor took the goose to cook before it spoiled. Lo and behold there was the Blue Carbuncle hidden in the goose’s stomach, a precious gem that had been stolen shortly before in a highly  publicized robbery. Holmes sets out to find the original robber. It ended quite quickly and without great mystery. Not bad, but not great either.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

This story followed Holmes as he helped a young women escape the same fate of her late sister, who had died shortly before her wedding of unknown causes. As she was preparing to marry soon and had begun to hear the strange whistling that had preceded her sister’s death, she quickly went to Holmes for help. I knew who had done it, but I could not figure out how. The descriptions of the different rooms and such were important, but not to the untrained eye. It was one of the more suspenseful tales in the book, and I liked that. Holmes deductions of the mysterious whistling and death of her sister were quite good. I should have been able to figure it out sooner!

The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb

I’m not sure how I felt about this story. Mostly I felt bad for the young man who had lost his thumb. Watson brings the young man to Holmes to help bring his attackers to justice. The young man tells a story about visiting a house in the country to fix a small mechanical problem, but there are strange happenings going on. I figured out most of the story line, but was disappointed by the ending.

The Adventure of the Nobel Bachelor

This was a more run of the mill story line than some of the others. Holmes is enlisted to help find a bride who had gone missing during her wedding breakfast following her ceremony to a nice older gentleman. No foul play seemed to have occurred, so it was baffling to everyone what could have happened to her. Through a series of interview questions of the new husband, Holmes was able to deduce what had happened to the lady and question and was able to re-unite the two for a discussion. I didn’t like this one as much as some of the others, but it was not too bad either. Definitely suited for a short story, and it would have been tough to draw out.

The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

This was a fairly good little tale. It looked cut and dry at first, but of course it was not. I was rather surprised by some of the events in the story. I had guessed who the culprit was, but I was only half correct. There were a few more false leads in this story than in the others which I liked quite a lot. The story follows Holmes as he helps a banker recover a piece of lost jewelry that he believes his son has stolen because he caught the gentleman wrestling with the coronet in the dead of night. However, the jewels were nowhere to be found and his son had been arrested. It was important that he be able to restore his honor with the return of the jewels, so he hired Holmes to find them. I was surprised by the ending, although I should not have been. It was an interesting investigation and one of my favorites from this collection.

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

This story was slightly disturbing in its central idea. Probably the most disturbing part of it was that it could easily happen in real life. A young governess approaches Holmes about a questionable job offer she received in which should would have to cut her hair and occasionally wear certain clothes and sit certain places. Holmes advises her it is not the best situation, but should she take it she would have leave to contact him at anytime to help her. It is shortly after her hire that she contacts Holmes with a strange story of occurrences in the house. Holmes devises a way for him to come to the house and investigate. When they get there, most of the issues come to a head in a frightful scene. In the end all ends well, but it is still an unsettling story.


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2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge, Book Reviews

Return to Longbourn (The Darcys of Pemberley #2) by Shannon Winslow

This was Mary’s story. I have never run across very many stories that focus on the middle sister, but I am finding more and more lately. I saw this one and it sounded quite interesting. It did not disappoint. I was actually surprised somewhat. There were modern concepts in the book, but you never lost the time period which was fantastic.

The story follows a few years after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett has died as the book opens, leaving the estate to the next male heir. As Mr. Collins has passed away already, the estate falls to his younger brother in America. This Mr. Collins comes as soon as he receives the letter. As he is traveling, Kitty and Mary evade attempts by Mama to establish the future mistress of the house. Mary, having become a governess for the Netherfield family, is out of the question, so of course Kitty must marry Mr. Collins. Kitty flees to visit Jane and Elizabeth in the north before Mr. Collins arrives.

After Mr. Collins arrives, Mary is quite taken with him. The story unfolds between her growing feelings for Mr. Collins and the affections and ties she has to the children at Netherfield Hall. It is a riveting story, following all the trials and tribulations a young governess faces as well as two sisters being drawn to the same man. It is a fascinating story with a couple of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all. The characters were genuine, the story line captivating, and you get drawn into the emotional turmoil the normally steadfast Mary is going through.

I applaud the author on her wonderful portrayal of Mary and all the Pride and Prejudice characters. I will be looking forward to more of her work in the future. Like I mentioned, there are a few things that are quite modern social ideas, but she does them in such a way as it doesn’t appear or seem to upset the flow of the time period or is very jarring. I rather thought it a quite original take on the stories. Well done!

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Against His Will (Brides of Pemberley #3) by Nancy Kelley

This is the third book in the Brides of Pemberley novella series. I want to start by saying this book fascinated me. I was surprisingly complex for a novella. I loved the intrigue and mystery this book presented. It follows the unusual courtship of Sebastian Montgomery, an old military friend of Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Kitty Bennett.

If you read my review of Loving Miss Darcy by Nancy Kelley, you will know that I fell in love with her portrayal of Kitty in that book. This book is a lovely follow up to the story finished in Loving Miss Darcy. At the beginning, Montgomery has no intention of looking for a wife. However, when his grandfather dies, Montgomery unexpectedly finds himself in possession of the title of Earl of Lisle, and all the responsibilities that come with it. As he is required now to find a wife, he turns to Kitty, as the one lady he has found who doesn’t annoy him. The reader is drawn into the wonderful developing characters of Kitty and Montgomery (Lisle) as the grow in their courtship. Kitty grows stronger and surer of herself and Montgomery grows into a the man he has the strength to be. However, when suspicions begin to arise, the mystery and intrigue of a hidden assassin draw you in further.

I absolutely loved this story. It is a good story line for a novella, especially the way the author set it up. I do not think it would have been right to stretch it out to a full length novel. Possibly if she used Loving Miss Darcy and Against His Will, she could have developed a great novel, mixing in an additional story line that perhaps followed Elizabeth and Darcy as well. However, I loved having the short book to read and relax to one night.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in Pride and Prejudice sequels. However, you will need to read Loving Miss Darcy first for some of the book to make sense. This is a nice little series (I don’t know if there are more than three yet, but I will be checking) that Jane Austen fans would welcome. There is no smut or erotic in it at all which is wonderful. It focuses solely on the emotions, looks, and body language that make communication so interesting in those times.

My rating:

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