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A Novel Sentiment

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Mistress of Netherfield by Julia Winter ~ Review, Excerpt + Giveaway

Title: Mistress of Netherfield
Author: Julia Winter
Genre: Pride and Prejudice variation
Publisher: Glass Hat Press © 2021
Release Date: June 28th, 2021
Number of Pages: 490
Version Read: Kindle ebook

Synopsis: It is a truth universally acknowledged that on escaping an unhappy marriage, a young widow will be delighted to remove to the dower house and lease the marital abode to a single man in possession of a good fortune, provided he looks elsewhere to fulfil his want of a wife.

Five years after being forced into an unwanted marriage at the age of sixteen, and freed six months later by the death of her abusive husband, Elizabeth Grayson (née Bennet) has finally found a measure of peace. The inheritor of her husband’s estate, Netherfield Park, Elizabeth is now a wealthy young widow, independent and self-reliant. With an eye always on improving her four sisters’ woefully small dowries and providing for her mother, who will be homeless when her father dies, Elizabeth is pleased to lease out Netherfield to the Bingley family, making her home in the dower house in Meryton and vowing that she will never remarry.

Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire is rich and well connected but reserved in company with anybody outside the very few he counts as friends. Towards those friends, he is loyal and steadfast, the staunchest of supporters. So when a young man comes to him with a tale of the clandestine marriage and mysterious death of Darcy’s old school friend, James Grayson, and begs Darcy’s help to investigate the widow’s role, Darcy agrees. Visiting Charles Bingley, the new tenant of Netherfield, Darcy is very soon torn between his loyalty to his dead friend, and his burgeoning attraction to the widow.

Throw two unprincipled rogues and an elopement into the confines of Meryton, and how will Darcy’s dilemma over Elizabeth ever be resolved? And is she willing to put aside her misgivings, and trust again?

My Review: I'm not the biggest fan of either Darcy or Lizzy being married before they meet but it works in this book. I had a suspicion that her husband was a piece of work and I was right. Abuse in any form is not alright and if you are in a situation like that seek help. This book is not so much a mystery as I had one person describe it, it is more of a story where a person is trying to get an estate that isn't theirs and sticking their nose where it doesn't belong. Darcy got so dupped in this story by that person and he felt so guilty afterward. I don't want to say anymore because I don't want to spoil the story, especially what goes down after that takes place. 

I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to seeing what the author has in store in the future. The writing was great and it didn't feel so basic like a lot of debut authors. I really recommend this book if you are looking for a good romance.

Rating: 4 stars



At Netherfield, while Jane is recovering, and the return to Longbourn:

The next day dragged.

Jane came downstairs after breakfast, well enough to rejoin normal life. She spent much of the day before the fire in the morning room chatting amiably with Mr Bingley and his unmarried sister. She was tempted out for a walk around the garden at one point, so wrapped in shawls and scarves that she was quite double her normal width as she promenaded slowly on Mr Bingley’s arm. Miss Bingley went along with them, to play propriety. She hung grimly onto her brother’s other arm and was a third in their conversations all day.

Elizabeth spent the hours mostly in the company of Mrs Hurst. They were more at ease with each other than Elizabeth could ever be with Miss Bingley. Louisa Hurst might one day prove to be a friend.

Elizabeth had two things vex her that day. Her mother’s response to her note requesting the carriage for the next day was a tart No! Indeed I will not send the carriage! Do not be so selfish, Lizzy Bennet!—indignation having got the better of Mrs Bennet’s memory as to Elizabeth’s married name—Jane must stay at least a week—these last words heavily underlined for emphasis—and make sure Mr Bingley notices her and pays his addresses. He cannot fail but love her, if he can but spend time with her. You must make certain he has the opportunity. I will be extremely vexed—more savage underlining—if you spoil her chances of gaining him!

“I shall take Jane home in my own phaeton,” Elizabeth said, putting aside the note with a sigh. Her mother learned nothing from her mistakes.

“Your father’s carriage is not available?” Mrs Hurst asked, and when Elizabeth owned to this, answered, “If you are determined to return home tomorrow… and I do understand, Mrs Grayson, that Jane may be more comfortable recovering in her own home—I would be myself! Well, I will ask my brother to lend his carriage for the trip. We will be very sorry to see you go, and though you must do as you think best, I cannot think a ride in an open phaeton will do her good.”

Which was the sort of kindness Elizabeth had come to expect from Louisa Hurst. It was a great pity that when in company with her sister she grew smaller, less clearly delineated, sitting in Miss Bingley’s shadow with her nervous fingers playing constantly with her bracelets. She was a much brighter light when separated from the irresistible cavalry charge that was Miss Bingley.

That difficulty overcome, Elizabeth went to the library after a bite to eat at noon, and there faced the second of her day’s vexations. She was joined there by no other than Mr Darcy, who, although he stopped short at seeing her, did not retreat. Instead, he returned her greeting in a tone so glacial that she expected to see icicles depend from the bookshelves and all the books wearing snowy caps over their spines.

Gathering the cold around himself like a mantle, he took a seat on the far side of the room, and devoted himself to the book he had brought with him. When she quietly slipped out of the room a half hour later, she doubted he even noticed. Unless, of course, the temperature rose from the depths of winter to the dizzy heights of spring when she softly closed the door behind her.

All in all, it was quite a relief the next day to have one of Mr Bingley’s footmen hand her down from the borrowed coach onto the gravel sweep before Longbourn’s doors. Before she could do more than thank him and turn towards the house, the front door burst open and a tall, heavyset man dressed in clerical garb hurled himself down the shallow steps to grasp her hand and raise it to his lips to slobber over it. An ecclesiastical whirlwind, he spun on one foot to catch Jane’s hand and do likewise.

“Oh, my dear cousins! I have been awaiting your homecoming, most anxiously!” He rocked back on his heels to survey them, his large hand still enclosing Jane’s. “Oh, your beauty is beyond compare. Nothing I have heard does either of you justice! My dear, dear cousins, I am so happy to see you.”

“Mmn.” Elizabeth stepped forward until the stranger had perforce to relinquish his hold on Jane’s hand and take a step or two away. “And you, sir, I assume, are Mr Collins.”

The cleric beamed. “Indeed I am, cousin. Indeed, I am!”

“Mmn,” said Elizabeth again, looking him up and down. “How… splendid.”


About Julia

Once Julia was a communications specialist with several UK government departments. These days she's thankfully free of all that, and writing full time. She lives in the depths of the Nottinghamshire countryside with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo, who’s supported by Mavis the Assistant Editor, a Yorkie-Bichon cross with a bark several times bigger than she is but with no opinion whatsoever on the placement of semi-colons.

Contact Julia:

Email | Website | Twitter | Facebook


Giveaway

Between 21 June and 3 July, enter this Rafflecoptor for the chance of the first prize of a copy of Mr. Darcy’s Hunsford letter (complete with seal, and tied in red ribbon) and a copy of the eBook, or one of the two second-place prizes of an ecopy of Mistress of Netherfield.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid ~ Review

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 8th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448
Version Read: Kindle ebook
Blurb: In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king's blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he's no ordinary Woodsman - he's the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it's like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they're on, and what they're willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

My Review: I really don't know how to start this review since I have many thoughts about it. So my understanding is that this book is about antisemitism and I can sort of see that. It seems like every religion and culture is treated like trash in this story except for the Regyar. The main heroine Evike is part wolf girl and Yehuli. Which is just bad all around apparently. Even the other wolf people treat her like shit because she can't use magic (but she actually can later in the story). 

So the King of Regyar and his adopted second son Nandor just pretty much want to wipe out the wolf people and the Yehuli. Gaspar, who is the King's legitimate son is hated because his mother was Merzani. The Merzani are another hated race of people. There is so much hate in this book. The King has soldiers that are called The Woodsmen and they have to commit to their faith by losing body parts and they have to remain celibate. Most Woodsmen are trained from childhood but Gaspar was basically forced into it when he hit the age of twenty and his father took one of his eyes. Evike and Gaspar are attracted to each other but Gaspar fights against it because he is a Woodsman. They eventually do end up together though. 

This tale was hard to get through just because of all the hate in it. If you can get past that it's a good book. I'm not even going to lie I almost didn't read this book just of all the Twitter drama that she engaged in with several other authors when a certain's author's book was released. That wasn't cool and if they had beef with that author they shouldn't have waited two years to say anything. The fact they did it on her book's release day was really shitty. 

Rating: 3½ stars

*I received an eARC from NetGalley and a finished early copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 

Some Natural Importance by Jan Ashton ~ Review

 Title: Some Natural Importance
Author: Jan Ashton
Genre: Pride and Prejudice variation
Publisher: Quills & Quartos Publishing
Release Date: May 10th, 2021
Number of Pages: 384
Version Read: Kindle ebook
Buy: Amazon

Synopsis: “It is the way of the world, Elizabeth. Men hold power over women, but I am not a man who wants to wield such power. I would prefer a woman who has some power over me.”

Fitzwilliam Darcy already has one arranged marriage in his past. The last thing he envisions for himself is another, yet he has somehow become entrapped in a promise to a dying man. Not only must Darcy overcome his resentment in order to live up to his sense of honour, but when he realises how deeply his heart may be engaged, he must convince Elizabeth Bennet of his true feelings.

Elizabeth never expected the imperious Mr. Darcy to become a good friend of an idle gentleman like her father. And she certainly never anticipated they would form a secret pact compelling her marriage to a man she dislikes. She must set aside grief and resentment, as well as her suspicions: Is Darcy using her to avoid another bride pushed onto him by his family, or to gain riches Elizabeth never knew she had?

Or is it possible he loves her?

My Review: I went into this book a little apprehensive because Darcy had been married before but it was marriage to prevent a scandal and she died within a year or so so it's fine. His family kept trying to push him to marry another cousin but thankfully Darcy held firm in his refusal. I really didn't like Darcy's family at all in this story as they were all trying to push him towards his cousin Cecelia and they were all for badmouthing Elizabeth and the Bennet's. Even Colonel Fitzwilliam joined in until he learned the truth. Oh yeah, they also badmouthed Darcy for refusing his cousin and for his first marriage to Anne. 

I really loved how Darcy and Mr. Bennet got along and that they spent long hours together playing chess. Darcy took over Lizzy's spot in Bennet's study and she held a grudge over that. But I'm glad everything got settled between Lizzy and Darcy with the help of a meddlesome Mr. Bennet. 

This novel is very good and I have enjoyed Jan Ashton's books in the past and I'm sure I will continue to enjoy them in the future. I recommend this book if you enjoy a slow burn/arranged marriage romance featuring Darcy and Lizzy. 

Rating: 4½ stars

Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words by Shannon Winslow ~ Review

Title: Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words
Author: Shannon Winslow
Genre: Pride and Prejudice variation
Publisher: Heather Ridge Arts Publication
Release Date: May 4th, 2021
Number of Pages: 261
Version Read: Kindle ebook
Buy: Amazon

Book Blurb: What was Mr. Darcy’s life like before he met Elizabeth Bennet? – before he stepped onto the Pride and Prejudice stage at the Meryton assembly? More importantly, where is he and what is he doing all the time he’s absent from the page thereafter? And what is his relationship to a woman named Amelia?

With "Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words," the iconic literary hero finally tells his own story, from the traumas of his early life to the consummation of his love for Elizabeth and everything in between.

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story chronicled in Darcy’s point of view – a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us. As it happens, Darcy’s journey was more torturous than she let on, his happy ending with Elizabeth in jeopardy at every turn in his struggle between duty and his heart’s desire, between the suitable lady he has promised to marry and the woman he can't stop thinking about.

My Review: I was really happy to see this book get published because while we have some we almost never get to read Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view. We get some backstory with Mr. Darcy's father on how to choose a wife and damn that was some advice. This ultimately gets Darcy to think about offering for a Miss Amelia Albright and then he actually does it but she doesn't immediately accept him. It was great to see him agonize over Elizabeth and Amelia (though let's face it Amelia never stood a chance). 

This book was great and I can't wait to read any other Pride and Prejudice books that Shannon Winslow puts out in the future. 

Rating: 4 stars

Dragons Beyond the Pale by Maria Grace ~ guest post

 I'm happy to have Maria on the blog today with a guest post about the many rabbit holes she went down while researching for this newest book in Jane Austen's Dragons. 


Book Blurb: Smugglers. A kidnapping. A fire-breathing fairy dragon? The Blue Order is falling apart at the seams.

After months in Bath mentoring Dragon Keepers and Friends, Dragon Sage Elizabeth Darcy actually anticipates traveling to London for the Keeper’s Cotillion. Which says a great deal considering the she-dragons who make up the Cotillion board would very much like to show the Sage her proper place.

The she-dragons, though, are no match for what Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy finds waiting for him in London. Threats to the Order on every side, and Lord Matlock demands he keep them secret from Elizabeth. No one keeps secrets from Elizabeth.

In the meantime, Anne and Frederick Wentworth arrive in London with hopes of finally being accepted in good Blue Order society, unaware of the burgeoning maelstrom about to engulf them.

Darcy manages to keep matters under control until a fairy-dragon’s prank unleashes sinister forces who perpetrate an unthinkable crime that could spell the end of the Pendragon Accords and usher in a new age of dragon war.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy, with the Wentworths’ help, restore balance to the Blue Order before the dragons decide to take matters into their own talons and right the wrongs themselves?


                                    


Hi Tina! It’s great to be able to visit with you and share a little about the research that has impacted my dragon series.


Now wait, stop. My mom-sense just went off and I swear, I can see you rolling your eyes and hear you muttering, “Dragons? Really? Seriously—dragons? Please tell me she didn’t just say dragons!”

Well yeah, I’m sorry. I really did say dragons. You’re not the first to roll their eyes at me and mutter. Moreover, you’re probably expecting an answer like “Because zombies, vampires and werewolves have already been done.” And while that is utterly true, and the sort of thing I might say if you caught me at just the right—or wrong—moment, I’d really like to offer a better—or at least less snarky—answer than that.

But believe it or not, I really do have an excellent answer. You’re rolling your eyes at me again—cut it out—and hear me out. There’s a very good reason to consider dragons. If you take a glance at English mythology, it is FULL OF DRAGONS. Seriously, they are everywhere, some days it feels like you can’t swing a cat without hitting one.

Take for example, The Dragon of Loschy hill.

I was minding my own business, researching the Nunnington Estate to use as a possible Dragon Keeping Estate in the latest book when I discovered, low and behold, there was actually a dragon there already! I still get chill bumps thinking about it.

The legend of the Dragon of Loschy Hill was described in the 1888 book ‘Yorkshire Legends and Traditions’ by Rev Thomas Parkinson. While this is slightly outside the timeframe of my books, the legend dates back far before my stories begin, so, fair game, right?

Parkinson writes:

In the church of Nunnington, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, is an ancient tomb, surmounted by the figure of a knight in armour, in a recumbent posture, the legs crossed, the feet resting against a dog, the hands apparently clasping a heart, but no inscription to determine to whom the monument belongs. The traditional account current in the neighbourhood is that it is the tomb of Peter Loschy, a famous warrior, whose last exploit was killing a huge serpent, or dragon, which infested the country, and had its den on a wooded eminence called Loschy Hill, near East Newton, in the parish of Stonegrave.

The details of the combat, as related by tradition, are as follows:

Having determined to free the country from the pest, the redoubted Peter Loschy had a suit of armour prepared, every part of it being covered with razor-blades set with the edges outwards; and thus defended, armed only with his sword, and accompanied by a faithful dog, he went forth to seek the destroyer, which he quickly found in a thicket on Loschy Hill.

The dragon, glad of another victim, darted upon the armed man, notwithstanding a wound from his sword, and folded itself around his body, intending, no doubt, as it had often done before, to squeeze its victim to death, and afterwards to devour it at leisure; but in this it was disappointed. The razor-blades were keen, and pierced it in every part, and it quickly uncoiled itself again, when, to the great surprise of the knight, as soon as it rolled on the ground its wounds instantly healed, and it was strong and vigorous as ever; and a long and desperate fight ensued between the knight and the serpent, without much advantage to either. At length the sword of the knight severed a large portion of the serpent, which the dog quickly snatched up in his mouth, adn ran across the valley with it nearly a mile, and there left it on a hill near Nunnington Church, and immediately returned to the scene of combat, and, snatching up another fragment, cut off in the same manner, conveyed it to the same place, and returned again and again for other fragments until they were all removed, the last portion conveyed being the poisonous head. The knight, now rejoicing at his victory, stooped to pat and praise his faithful dog; the latter, overjoyed, looked up and licked the knight’s face, when, sad to relate, the poison of the serpent imbibed by the dog was inhaled by the knight, and he fell down dead in the moment of victory, and the dog also died by the side of his master.

The villagers buried the body of the knight in Nunnington Church, and placed a monument over the grave, on which were carved the figures of the knight and his faithful dog, to witness to the truth of the story.

There are different accounts about the fine details of exactly what sort of dragon it was (though many retellings call it a wyrm), whether or not it liked to binge drink milk, whether it damaged crops or ate villagers (or both), and how exactly Peter and his dog were poisoned, all the legends end the same way. The dragon, knight, and dog all were dead at the end of the encounter.

Here’s where it gets especially interesting. There is actually a grave in the Church of All Saints and St. James in Nunnington with the effigy of a knight and animals which are probably most properly identified as lions, but some might see dogs there. The grave dates to the 1300’s and is said to be Sir Walter de Teyes, Lord of Stonegrave Manor, joint Governor of York with Robert de Hastings in 1309.

What makes that so interesting? For me, in crafting the Blue Order world, I see the ideal opportunity for the Blue Order to have crafted a myth to cover up a very real dragon which could have suddenly disappeared from the countryside after officially allying itself with the order and establishing a Keeper relationship with the master of Nunnington estate. A bit of a stretch, maybe, but, that’s all it takes to get a writer thinking. And when you get a writer thinking…


Author Bio: Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16 year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences.

She blogs at Random Bits of Fascination, mainly about her fascination with Regency era history and its role in her fiction. Her newest novel, The Trouble to Check Her, was released in March, 2016. Her books, fiction and nonfiction, are available at all major online booksellers.



Website: Jane Austen’s Dragons (https://www.JaneAustensDragons.com )
Amazon: Dragons Beyond the Pale (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09255L534)
Jane Austen’s Dragons Series (https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B071DNSYV8)

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