5 Stars for Fitzwilliam Darcy - Undone


5.0 out of 5 stars

Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2020 (J.W. Garrett)

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Roald Dahl

I love that photo on the cover: Warning: this review may contain *** SPOILERS *** As stated in the title, this is a Pride and Prejudice alternate universe… which means anything goes. And so, it does. Wow! Magic abounded in France and when the Terror hit, those that managed to escape brought it to the British shores. RATING: MA: listen carefully… I said MA and that means MATURE audience and no one… no one should read this who has not reached a certain age. I’m not sure I should be reading it. I blushed to the roots of my hair. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a bodice-ripper but it seemed close to me. It was graphic and descriptive and I don’t think virgins would do… what they did… the first time. I mean, seriously. OK, enough of that. TRIGGER WARNING: there are a few violent scenes that might be hard to read for some. One in particular involves a kidnapping, bondage, and a rape attempt [unsuccessful]. Just saying.

What I liked: I love a Large-And-In-Charge Darcy. OMG! Was he ever? My heart skipped a beat when he entered a scene. Lizzy was right behind him only we didn’t have a clear picture of her. The author doled out bits and pieces of her story all throughout the book and she didn’t come into all her glory until the very end. Again… OMG!! You’ll have to wait for it but it is well worth it. We have a big surprise with another of my favorite characters… our dear Colonel Fitzwilliam. This man was beyond any JAFF description I’ve read of him. Oh MY! My heart skipped another beat. I’ve got to stop drinking Mt Dew before I read a story. Whew! Take Austen’s male P&P characters, who were strong, to begin with, and add powers to them and it will take your breath away. It seems the author was surprising me on every page. ICNPID, seriously, I could not put it down. It was 2:00 a.m. when I finally crashed and burned. And that was from the story and not because I was tired. Whew! I’m too old for this.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” –W.B. Yeats

There were surprises galore. I was constantly trying to close my mouth because something jaw-dropping was happening every few pages. Caroline Bingley, the superior sister, has always denigrated the Bennet sisters as being below her… well, let me tell you… oh, that would be a spoiler. I can’t say. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet both have a surprise reveal that made me catch my breath… again… jaw-dropping. Who are these people? OMG! Like canon, Collins notified Lady Catherine of the betrothal of his unworthy cousin to her nephew Darcy and she arrived under a full head of steam. The biggest surprise was when she asked about Lizzy’s relations… ‘but who’s your mother?’ Jaw-dropping… and that part of the story immediately turned-on-a-dime into something completely out of this world. Nothing was the same from here on.

Wickham: I need something stronger than SBRB… I mean… seriously, this guy was evil incarnate. He was the devil’s spawn and gleefully mistreated ODC. La! I nearly had a fainting spell when he was working his dirty magic and brought out the twins, Tweedledee and Tweedledum and… I can’t say. I’m not even going to mention Lydia… that girl.

What I didn’t like: Oh, I hate to say it… but I became a bit bogged down with the lineage of ODC, their family histories, the nobility, all the titles, [Caroline would have another cow, for sure, if only she knew], the different societies, their powers, and the abilities of each. Read slowly at this point so you don’t miss something important. Also, **** SPOILER**** I never like to read where ODC anticipates their vows. This just seemed like an excuse to have a sex scene. **** End Spoiler ****

I love a good epilogue but felt like a few threads were left dangling. Maybe my wanting more was the goal. If that was the case… it worked as I have questions. 9-14-20 I borrowed this through the KU program. I highly recommend this for those who love something completely different.

4 Stars for Georgiana


From the desk of Sophia Rose:

I have been aware of Sue Barr’s work since she released the first book in her Pride and Prejudice Continued series, Caroline. My curiosity was aroused when she chose to continue Austen’s classic story with the memorable side character and didn’t hesitate to redeem Caroline Bingley and give her a chance at happiness in an unlikely place. Then it was Kitty Bennet’s turn in book two, Catherine, who fell hard for a man who was not what he seemed. And, here we have the third book, Georgiana, with Mr. Darcy’s little sister stepping out of the shadows of her past and becoming the current heroine.

Georgiana is recovered physically and emotionally from her youthful mistake with George Wickham, but now that she is on the cusp of her presentation and entrance into London society, she wonders if she is truly ready or if she will be fooled again. If only Max Kerr, Duke of Adborough, the kind gentleman who put her at ease and made her feel they belonged, felt the same way about her as she did for him. Their families are friendly, and she knows they could be happy. Instead, she hears nothing from Max and now must face a London season of discovering the difference between those who would pursue her for her fortune. She has her family around her, but the danger still circles and, in the end, after a painful, winding road, can she let trust grow and forgiveness heal so she can find love with the right man.

Georgiana was a story that I read out of order and from which I still found great enjoyment. I had no trouble doing so because the early chapters caught the reader up on the two previous books and the news of the family. However, it is something of a series spoiler because it shares what happened with the earlier couples to a certain extent. So, if a reader likes to get all the surprises and story as it happens, then it is best to start at the beginning with Caroline.

As to the story, the first half was gently paced, sweet, and rather predictable. Georgie was an adorable heroine and easy to like and wish well. She wants to be done with her past and have the love and friendship she sees in her brother’s marriage and those of her friends. She knows she can have that with Max but is not certain he sees her the same way. Max’s perspective alternates with Georgiana’s so the reader does know what Max is thinking and it’s all going on swimmingly toward a rapid conclusion even if there are sharks in the water after Georgie’s fortune and match-making mamas intent on Max as a future son in law.

But, then, I was left goggling at my reading device. I knew there had to be something that gummed up the works since they were well on their way to Happily Ever After at the half-way point. But, holy misunderstandings, Batman! I thought for sure I was reading one of those dream-land alternate reality things that happen when people fall asleep and I was so confused by the radical turn of events. That makes two of us because poor Georgie was equally in the dark and it is only after some time has passed that Max’s actions – well, I wouldn’t say they make sense, per se because I really felt the man went off the rails—but I got an explanation. And, this forces a more emotional, harder-earned romance situation for the second half.

While, I can appreciate—and I do—that the book was not some fluffy no-conflict story that was pretty much over halfway through and would have just dragged on too syrupy sweet to be endured, I also felt quite jarred by everyone rushing into high alt starting with Max and ending with Georgie’s relations. It felt out of character for several and took me out of the story a bit.

But, in the end, I loved the beautiful way this romance pair made efforts and built something stronger together as a result.

This was my first opportunity to read one of Sue Barr’s books. I enjoyed her writing style and her characters and the way she wrote a romance that was surrounded by family and friends. I want to read the earlier books and would eagerly pick up future releases. I would recommend this book/series to those who enjoy sweet, heartwarming Austenesque sequels or stories about the secondary characters.

4 out of 5 Stars


What a crazy time we live in. Before my last post my thoughts were filled with seeing family at a wedding in San Diego and while there poop hit the fan. W.H.O. (on Mar 12 - the day AFTER we arrived) declared COVID-19 was pandemic and we were not scheduled to fly out until Mar 16. Needless to say, we got a flight back as soon as possible, snagging the last two seats on a flight Mar 14. I'm now at the end of my two week self isolation, however hubby, as an airline pilot, had to fly to England and we are both back in self isolation for another two weeks.

To top all that off, while in England, hubby received an e-mail from Air Canada which stated that for those who qualify, an early retirement package is available - effective APRIL 1!!!!! By the time you are reading this, we will have made our decision as to whether he will take the package or not. Frankly, I want him home. I know he practices safe social distancing, etc., but I cannot guarantee the behaviour of others... Big loss in income, but his life is worth it.

My brain is whirling faster than Lydia Bennet's skirts at the Meryton Assembly.

Speaking of Meryton, this week's offering continues with Mary, book four in my Pride & Prejudice continued... series. We left off with Mary ruminating on how unloved she is with her kind eyes. I massaged my punctuation to fit with guidelines.
Papa had finally settled on her a substantial dowry. With all her siblings out from under the eaves of Longbourn he had the resources to add to the family coffers and she now had a nice tidy sum of four thousand pounds for any man willing to make an offer, and there was the rub - someone had to make an offer. 
If anyone were to catalog all her attributes, they’d wonder how she’d gone so long without one single proposal, without one single kiss. Well, there’d been one, but she didn’t count the quick peck the cobbler’s son Nigel gave her behind the church when she was fourteen as a kiss. He’d pressed his lips against hers and then tried to push his tongue into her mouth, which she’d promptly bit.
He’d never spoken to her again and frankly, she hadn’t cared. If kissing involved groping hands and tongues being shoved into one’s mouth, she didn’t wish to be kissed again, however, all her sisters seemed to like the fact their husbands kissed them, so maybe Nigel had got it all wrong. She’d never know. Mama never pushed her into the path of eligible young men and that all by itself spoke volumes. Even her own mother thought her chances were nil.
There you go.
Weekend Writing Warriors is a fun type of blog tour for readers. Other writers, like myself, join by sharing excerpts from whatever WIP (Work In Progress) they have on the go, and post eight to ten lines weekly. Rules are simple. Don't exceed the posted line limit - something I struggle with and at times will use creative (an always incorrect) punctuation to create a full scene. If you'd like to see what others have submitted, go to Weekend Writing Warriors.

P.S.: Air Hug someone you love today

First Page Friday ~ Melanie Rachel

How do you express excitement on a blank white page? Loads of exclamation marks and GIF"s of Charlie Brown's dog Snoopy doing the 'Snoopy Dance'?

That's how I feel about today's guest, Melanie Rachel. She has penned a poignant Austen variation of Pride and Prejudice, where Elizabeth is NOT a Bennet. *gasp* How can that be? Well, dear reader, that's why you have to purchase her book and devour it like my family does turkey dinner at Thanksgiving.

Take it away, Mel...

I Never Knew Myself (INKM) was spurred by a plot bunny posted by WhimsyMom on A Happy Assembly (AHA) back in January of 2019. At the time, I was busy editing Headstrong, which is now published, so I had to put it to the side for a time. Then, in late February of 2019, batensp4 posted her short-ish take on the same plot bunny, also at AHA, and the ideas started to press so hard that I had to begin writing. I drafted nearly three-quarters of the book before I absolutely had to stop so I could make my autumn deadline for Headstrong.

I’m a fan of the “Elizabeth is not a Bennet” trope. Kidnapping is only one of the branches on that tree, but after reading the plot bunny, I couldn’t resist. When I sat down to write the set-up, I knew the story wouldn’t be about the kidnapping itself so much as it would be about the impact that crime had on everyone in the story, directly or indirectly. I think an event like this causes a lot of ripples and even some riptides—there would be so many effects that are invisible on the surface. As a writer, that’s the sort of thing I like to play with.

Having said that, we have to have the kidnapping before everything else can be set in motion. So that’s the “almost” first page I’m excerpting here today. I hope you enjoy it!

I Never Knew Myself is available at Amazon. You can order your copy HERE

First Page:
Maria Windham shook her head at her husband’s exasperation. “Where is the harm, dearest?” she asked. “We are in our own home.” She stood and took her husband’s warm hand. “She has been waiting more than a year to wear it and she was very excited to show it to Richard and Malcolm.”
Daniel Windham pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “Ellie already has too much freedom, Maria. Really, what will you say when she wishes to attend Eton with her brother? We cannot allow her to parade around the grounds like a boy.”
“Oh Daniel,” Maria replied, waving her hand in the air. “Do not fuss. She is four and, may I remind you, has learnt her stubbornness from her Papa. If you forbid her to wear it, you will have a battle. If you say nothing, she will change her clothes without coercion and, I daresay, will do so in less than an hour.”
There was a chorus of young voices in the entryway, and Windham followed the noise to the door of the drawing room. His wife’s Fitzwilliam cousins were visiting, along with their cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy, whose mother had recently entered her confinement. They were all making ready to head out of doors. There was a great divide in age between the visitors and his children, but his nephew Malcolm, the future earl and the eldest at eighteen, did not see it as beneath his dignity to take his young cousins out to play. In fact, all three boys seemed to enjoy entertaining the lively Windham brood.
In the middle of all the excitement was his four-year-old sprite of a daughter, hopping up and down, dressed in an old, cut-down livery. It was a dark red with yellow piping and tiny tan breeches. The material from the old livery had largely been put to other purposes, but Robert had rescued this one from a rag bag somewhere. He had begged to have it as an army uniform and Maria had herself cut it down for him. His daughter was now preening in it as though it was a ballgown. He shook his head at her. Breeches. “Good day, Miss Ellie Windham,” he said, sweeping her up into his arms, “or shall we call you Master Eli instead?”
Elizabeth scowled, her face a black cloud. “Ellie is my name, Papa. I am Ellie.”
“Very well, my girl,” Windham said, placing a quick kiss on his daughter’s forehead. He gazed at her little face, a tiny copy of her mother’s. Large dark eyes with long black eyelashes, a small pouty mouth, cherry red lips, a delicate little nose, long dark curls. He sighed, knowing it was hopeless. He could deny her nothing.
I am going to fast forward to the end of the first chapter where disaster strikes...
Fitzwilliam Darcy would never forget the sound of Richard’s shout. It was loud, of course, and angry—but the fear that ripped through the single word sent a frozen shock to his very heart. No, Richard cried, and began to run. No!
He and Malcolm turned back toward the house to follow Richard’s movement, and then they saw it, too. The nurse who had been following Elizabeth back to the house was holding young John tightly. She finally let out a shriek—but it was weak, and the woman seemed unable to move. Before her, headed their way but slightly to the west, was a masked man galloping away on a large, powerful black horse. He held the reins tightly in one hand.
His other arm was wrapped around a wriggling Ellie Windham.
Malcolm tossed Robert over his shoulder and raced back to the house as the little boy screamed for his sister. Richard was chasing the horse down the approach, but it was already past him and William knew it was hopeless. He whirled around to glare at the woods that covered this side of the property, remembered there was a stream and a field beyond. The road wound down for a half-mile before it turned to the south. If they cut across the field . . .
“Richard!” he yelled and darted away.
He dodged trees and roots, skidded down a soft bank and jumped over the stream, then clambered up the other side. Lungs burning, he burst through the woods into a brown field. He never stopped, his legs and arms pumping hard, breaths coming in quick gasps. As he reached the center of the field, heading toward the far end, he caught the rider out of the corner of his eye. He took a huge breath of air and increased his speed.
His feet hit the hard ground of the road just as the horse was racing past about six feet away. It shied and reared, and William took advantage of the moment to stretch his arms out and lunge. Time slowed as Elizabeth reached her small arms out to him—he nearly had one of her hands—and then she was jerked away roughly, and William grabbed nothing but air, bounced off the horse’s rear flank and landed unceremoniously on his back in the dust of the road.
Before William could recover, they were out of his reach, hurtling down the road, leaving him on his knees and gulping for air. He was only barely aware that Richard had arrived and was bent over at the waist, huffing and puffing next to him. All he could hear were the horse’s hooves beating against the dry ground as it drew farther away.
He felt Richard’s hand on his shoulder and turned his face up to meet his cousin’s tortured gaze.
He’d been so close. But Ellie was gone.

About the Author:
Melanie Rachel is a university professor and long time Jane Austen fan. She was born in Southern California, but has lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, and Arizona, where she now resides with her family and their freakishly athletic Jack Russell terrier. Her previous novels include Drawing Mr. Darcy: Sketching His Character (Book One) and Drawing Mr. Darcy: A Faithful Portrait (Book Two) as well as Courage Rises and Courage Requires and Headstrong, a modern P&P adaptation trilogy.

Even though I read I Never Knew Myself on A Happy Assembly, I have already purchased this heartwarming story for my kindle. Can you tell I'm a bit of a fan girl? True dat.

P.S.: Remember to hug someone you love today, because as Mel's story will show, you never know what the future holds.