Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Reflections by Linda Gonschior

In her debut novel, Linda Gonschior gives readers a conflict filled and emotionally driven modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation.

Reflections begins when Elizabeth Bennet tours Pemberley with her friends, rather than the Gardiners, months after Darcy’s rejected proposal. After enjoying a most pleasurable day together, Elizabeth realizes Darcy has changed and just how much of her heart he possesses. But what’s a good story without conflict and a good Wickham/Lydia scandal? Thus begins the misunderstandings that drive the plot.

I always enjoy a story where the main characters face acute internal struggles. Gonschior does not disappoint here. Before either address what is really in their hearts, Darcy and Elizabeth each believe their connection to the Wickham/Lydia debacle is what has driven the other away. As opportunity and time pass, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves suffering from self-imposed heartache. Elizabeth moves to Manchester under the guise of attending college while her true reasons are her attempts to run away from the pain and to keep her skeletons securely in her closet. Darcy’s solution is to fist drink, then bury himself in work.

The internal pain our star-crossed lovers suffer during the three years they are apart is tangible. Each believes staying away and shutting out others, especially Charles and Jane Bingley, will make the pain and memories fade. I couldn’t help feeling torment and empathizing with Darcy and Elizabeth as even these years later they remain haunted by the delightfully torturous memories of their time together at Pemberley.

I was pleased with Gonschior’s minor character development. Here, Charles Bingley is perceptive and insightful. When it comes to Darcy and Elizabeth, Charles knows there is something there that both are too stubborn and prideful to face. Readers also get to experience Jane’s unwavering support and concern for her most beloved sister. Summoning their inner Emmas, Charles and Jane work to bring the couple back together; however, can Elizabeth and Darcy overcome their myriad of misunderstandings, learn to open up and follow their hearts?

The only trouble I had with Reflections was in the falling action. Once Darcy and Elizabeth finally resolve their conflicts, the book dragged. I found myself skimming the last sixteen or so pages as I felt it could have been concluded much sooner with the same effect.

Overall, Reflections is a unique modern that can draw you in with all the emotions, inner struggles and misinterpretations of a great drama or soap opera. 

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Review copy provided by publisher, Meryton Press 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe

It is often expressed that Jane Austen was quite the observer of human nature and folly, and her characters are portrayals of people she has met or observed. What if her fodder for Persuasion came from her neighbors while living in Bath as well as her own relationships? It is not uncommon for authors to leave parts of themselves in their novels. In Searching for Captain Wentworth, Jane Odiwe give readers a glimpse into Austen’s life that makes one wonder if these similarities are snapshots of the real Jane. Were Anne Elliot’s despondent feelings regarding leaving Kellynch Hall a sketch of Austen’s feeling upon having to give up Stevenson? Was Captain Wentworth inspired by Jane’s love that got away? Embark on a journey highlighting a uniquely told love story connecting two eras.

After receiving an antique rosewood box and a key to her family place in Bath from her Great Aunt Elizabeth, and with nothing holding her back, Sophie Elliot decides to take a holiday. She can think of no better place for an Austen lover to begin writing her first novel than living next door to where Jane and Cassandra Austen resided.

Upon arriving at Sydney Place, Sophie feels as if she is in a time warp. The flat bespeaks a much simpler time with its cheval mirrors, heavy, damask curtains, gilt candlesticks, and a dressing table draped with muslin and ribbon. Between the Regency feel of the flat and the white kid glove, reminiscent of Captain Wentworth, that was dropped by her mysterious neighbor Josh Strafford, Sophie decides it’s time to seek the adventure her ancestors are calling her to embrace.

On this journey, Sophie treasures her friendship with the Miss Austens, and struggles with Society’s strictures that stifle women’s independence. In the end, Sophie finds herself torn between her feelings for Lieutenant Charles Austen, Jane’s younger brother, and those for her neighbor, Josh Strafford. Can one truly be in love with two different people from two different centuries? Will Sophie find her Captain Wentworth?

I am always a little skeptical at the outset of reading a time-travel novel. My mind is filled with questions: How is the author going to deliver on the premise? Is it going to be well executed and believable or far-fetched, prohibiting my disbelief from being suspended? Ms. Odiwe seamlessly melds together the two periods. Whether the descriptions were Regency or present-day Bath, I was easily transported to those scenes alongside Sophie. I quite love it when a novel takes me places I dream of visiting free of charge.

Searching for Captain Wentworth is an enchanting novel that gives readers a glimpse of what Jane Austen’s life possibly was like, Regency Bath and the hope that maybe our very own Captain Wentworth is out there somewhere if we just embrace the journey to find him. With so much to offer, Searching for Captain Wentworth is sure to capture the heart of any Janeite, Captain Wentworth fangirl, or anglophile.

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*Review copy provided by author

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review: Holiday Man by Marilyn Brant

With New Year's Day behind us and Valentine's Day fast approaching, I thought it would be the perfect time to review Holiday Man by Marilyn Brant. This contemporary romance takes readers through a year of holidays, beginning on Valentine's Day. 

Shannon Quinn is suffering from a romantic dry spell. Perhaps it is running Holiday Quinn, a quaint holiday themed bed and breakfast, that keeps her too busy for romance. Sure, there is her young, good-looking assistant Jake Marcolis, who brings sexual suggestiveness to every conversation, but that’s just his way; he’s a Grade-A flirt. He can’t honestly be serious about Shannon. Could he? But when the tall, dark and deliciously handsome Bram Hartwick walks through the inn’s doors on Valentine’s Day, Shannon’s dry spell may be coming to an end.

Surprising herself, Shannon begins sizing up the intense looking man with jet-black hair and a rather unsettling gaze. As her thoughts rapidly begin taking a more erotic bend, Shannon remembers what her friend and mentor, Margaret Ashland, once said, “Some temptations should never be resisted.”

For Bram Hartwick, there is also no denying the sexually charged energy between them. This may well be the thing he’s looking for: a hot, short-term romance with boundaries. As Bram visits Holiday Quinn throughout a year of random holidays and passion-filled trysts, can their relationship stay hot and short-term or has it gradually moved into something more? What’s more, can our carnal couple overcome their frequent misunderstandings and differing desires in life? Shannon wants to experience world adventures outside Door County, Wisconsin while Bram seems ready to settle down into a relaxing life in the country. Shannon continually finds herself asking if one adventure will lead to another, if one small risk opens the door to larger ones? And are these risks she is willing to take, both emotionally and personally?

I have yet to encounter a novel by Marilyn Brant that I have not either simply enjoyed or altogether loved. With each story, I am impressed at how well scenes are described and how easily I am transported to them. Adding to my sensory experience, Brant seamlessly finds a way to incorporate music and food into each novel, with Holiday Man being no exception. Readers are taken back in time with classic tunes such as “Playing with the Queen of Hearts” during the inn’s Valentine’s Singles Dance, the appropriate “Monster Mash” at Halloween, and “White Christmas” during the Christmas season. When it comes to food, I do not think I will ever look at a cupcake the same way after Shannon’s tantalizing Memorial Day cupcakes, and I have a great desire to try some ńĆesnica, Serbian Christmas bread, after Bram and Shannon’s savory scene. I have come to look forward to the various and illustrated ways Brant draws me in, enlivening my reading experience.

Holiday Man is a hot, quick, and titillating read, sure to keep one warm during these long, cold winter months. 

Read an excerpt from Holiday Man HERE! 

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*Review copy provided by author