Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review & Giveaway of Mr. Darcy's Bite

I received a wonderful review for Mr. Darcy's Bite from Deborah Previte at A Bookish Libraria. Deborah also hosted a giveaway. (TOMORROW IS THE DEADLINE to enter the giveaway!) Here is the review in full.

The Dames Take:

Dear misbegotten Darcy has a dilemma. He's been infected by a werewolf and has the misfortune of howling and prowling the grounds of Pemberley at every full moon. What a horrible prospect for his bride-to-be, and what a horrendous burden of built! He knows he must inform poor Elizabeth Bennet so she can make a decision whether she will marry the night creature he sometimes becomes, or not. And he must ask her to take dangerous risks on his behalf. Such issues tax a gentleman's heart and mind.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Take on Downton Abbey

Because so many bloggers have written their thoughts on the recently concluded Downton Abbey, I thought I’d chime in. Unlike Season 1, which was an outstanding drama on every level, Season 2 was a mixed bag.


The scripts – Frankly, the plots were terrible. In some cases, they were so bad that it affected the actors’ performances as with Lord Grantham and the maid. Even someone as talented as Hugh Bonneville wasn’t convincing as a man lusting after a servant. Why? Because he knew his character wouldn’t do that. The scripts gave him little to do except strut and pout, very unlike the Lord Grantham of Season 1.

Repetition: How many times can Lady Grantham put on hand lotion while O’Brien gossips? How many times can Daisy say her marriage to William was a fraud? How many times can Mary look longingly at Matthew, and vice versa? How many times can Thomas screw up?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Giveaway and Jakki L.'s Review of Mr. Darcy's Proposal

Late breaking news: Susan Mason Milks is hosting a giveaway of Mr. Darcy's Proposal. Please leave a comment and e-mail address. Jakki will pick the winner on March 1. The winner will be announced on March 2. Thanks, Susan! SUSAN SAID THAT IT IS OPEN WORLDWIDE!

From the Publisher: This retelling of Pride and Prejudice asks “what if” events prevented Fitzwilliam Darcy from proposing to Elizabeth Bennet that day at Hunsford parsonage? Darcy arrives with marriage on his mind, only to find Elizabeth has just received news her father is critically ill and not expected to live. In the process of offering his help to her in traveling home, Darcy discovers what she really thinks of him—and it’s not good. Should Darcy deliver Elizabeth home to be with her family and then disappear from her life, or should he propose another kind of help? Will Elizabeth be willing to sacrifice her future happiness to save her family from financial ruin? Or, do she and Darcy, two very stubborn people, have a chance of finding happiness together?

What if Mr. Darcy didn’t get a chance to make his dreadful proposal at Hunsford? What if Elizabeth’s father fell ill before any of his daughters were married? What if Mr. Darcy proposed a plan to save Elizabeth and her family? Susan Mason-Milks explores these questions in her debut novel, Mr. Darcy’s Proposal.

Throughout the book, Mason-Milks does a great job of showing rather than telling. Whether it’s tea stains on the carpet, horseback riding, fun games splashing in the water, or telling secrets, the scenes are real, vivid, and memorable.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Reviews for Captain Wentworth

It's not often I get two good reviews in one day for the same novel, but that was what happened yesterday at Diary of an Eccentric and Austenprose. Here are excerpts:

Diary of an Eccentric: Like Persuasion, Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea  is a sweet story about second chances.  I loved this book and was sad that it was so short....  I’d love to see this book expanded into a full-length novel!

Austenprose: Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea is a very pleasant diversion for Persuasion enthusiasts. Simonsen respects the intensity of Anne and Frederick’s love, and her alterations to Austen’s plot are neither extreme nor implausible. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review of Charles Dickens

For about a year, I knew Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens would be released in 2012, the 200th anniversary of his birth. Because Dickens is tied with Jane Austen as my favorite author, I eagerly awaited its release.

Tomalin’s research is amazing. If I wanted to know where Charles Dickens was on any given day, there’s a good chance she wrote about it. This is no easy feat because the man was constantly on the move. With the success of the serializations of his novels, he had the money to travel back and forth to the Continent and to the United States as well. But what I wanted out of this biography was to get into the man’s head. I wanted to know what magic he used in creating Mr. Micawber, Mrs. Havisham, Uriah Heep, Pip, Fagin, the Artful Dodger, etc. But it is not in this book. Perhaps, it is not in any book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Me? A Romance Novelist? I don't think so.

I'm posting today on Austen Authors. Are you a romantic? Practical? A practical romantic? Please let me know.

By the way, that is my wedding picture. Paul and I married on June 12, 1976. It is one of the few pictures I have because the person who took all the photos over-exposed the film. But I got the guy, and that's what matters.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jakki's Review - Mistress's Black Veil

The Mistress’s Black Veil by M. K. Baxley begins five years after that fateful day at Hunsford Parsonage when Mr. Darcy proposed to Elizabeth Bennet. The Bennets, now reduced to poverty after the death of Mr. Bennet, are barely surviving, having been thrown into the hedgerow by their cousin, Mr. Collins, at the directive of his noble patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. As the situation becomes more desperate, Elizabeth makes a difficult and irrevocable choice... In the end will she and Fitzwilliam Darcy find their way to their happily ever after? (from the Publisher)

Our story begins with Jane, Elizabeth, and Kitty Bennet struggling to put food on the table following the death of their father. Upon losing her third governess position for failure to offer her services to the master of the home, Elizabeth decides her only option is to take up a position as a courtesan.

Attending the Courtesans’ Ball, Elizabeth assumes the identity of Sophia Molina, Spanish Cyprian. The last person Elizabeth expects to encounter is Mr. Darcy. However, by the end of the ball, Darcy is seeking a contract with Sophia Molina because he is bewitched by her as she reminds him of his lost love. Page by page the reader is drawn in and becomes more curious as to how and when Darcy will find out that his lover is the same lady he loved all those years ago and whom he believes is dead. The way Sophia quotes and refers to conversations Darcy and Elizabeth had is rather entertaining.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

My Valentine's gift to you is a batch of brownies. To be honest, in my family, we rarely cooked the Brownies, having chowed down on the batter,* but there are people who do eat the fully-prepared treat. So where did Brownies come from? According to the February 12th issue of American Profile magazine, the chocolate convection was unveiled at the Women's Pavilion at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

"Chicago socialite and philanthropist Bertha Palmer had asked the pastry chef at her husband's hotel, The Palmer House, to create a dessert that wasn't as messy as a cake or pastry and that could fit inside the box lunches for ladies at the fair... Fondness for the delicious dessert spread, and in 1896, Fannie Farmer published the first brownie recipe in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book... The original recipe developed at the Palmer House was handed down, chef to chef, and the hotel continues to serve a variation of that first Brownie."

In addition to the Brownie, neon lights, an early zipper, Juicy Fruit gum, and Shredded Wheat all made their debuts at the exposition, but none of them come close to the perfection of the Brownie. Enjoy!

Please tell me if you ever eat cookie dough or raw Brownie batter? Be honest. Candy and I do. :)

*Warning: It's not a good idea to eat raw eggs, but the Simonsens live dangerously.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Charles Dickens and the Heiress

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts (21 April 1814 – 30 December 1906) was a nineteenth-century philanthropist, and the granddaughter of banker Thomas Coutts. In 1837, she became the wealthiest woman in England when she inherited her grandfather's fortune of nearly three million pounds sterling. She spent the majority of her wealth on scholarships, endowments, and a wide range of philanthropic causes. One of her earliest was to establish, with the novelist Charles Dickens, Urania Cottage, a home that helped young women who had turned to a life of immorality including theft and prostitution. By the time of her death, she had given more than £3 million to good causes. She was buried on 5 January 1907 near the West Door in the nave Westminster Abbey.*

In 1847, Dickens found a small, solid brick house near Shepherd’s Bush, then still a part of the countryside and surrounded by fields. The idea was to create a home environment rather than that of an institution. Miss Coutts funded the project for about £50,000 per annum in today’s money.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jakki L.'s Review of Compulsively Mr. Darcy

For anyone obsessed with Pride & Prejudice, it's Darcy and Elizabeth like you've never see them before! This modern take introduces us to the wealthy philanthropist Fitzwilliam Darcy, a handsome and brooding bachelor who yearns for love but doubts any woman could handle his obsessive tendencies. Meanwhile, Dr. Elizabeth Bennet has her own intimacy issues that ensure her terrible luck with men... As Darcy and Elizabeth unravel their misconceptions about each other, they have to decide just how far they're willing to go to accept each other's quirky ways... (from the Publisher - Sourcebooks)

By just looking at the cover, the reader can tell this is going to be a fun book. From her humorous one-liners and wit, to her portrayal of her characters, Nina Benneton offers a great diversion. With chapter titles such as “Two Men and a Baby,” “Escort Service,” and “What the Frick?” amongst others, I knew I was in for a real treat.

From the moment Darcy and Bingley enter the hospital in Vietnam, misunderstandings abound. It is during their first meeting, where Darcy’s need to control the situation and Bingley’s carefree attitude, lead Elizabeth to believe they are a couple. While this book is lighthearted and fun, Benneton keeps her readers’ attention with new conflicts. Elizabeth needs to let go of her past relationships while Darcy must realize that someone can love him for himself, neuroses and all. As Elizabeth and Darcy work through their baggage, Wickham is working behind the scenes causing mischief. At one point, Benneton had my heart aching for the couple, yet the story never lost that lighthearted feel. Continuing in the pleasure of the novel is the fate that befalls Wickham, Lady Catherine and Anne.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Turf fires - burning peat

While writing stories, my mind tends to wander. Before you know it, I'm clicking out of a word document so that I can go exploring. I found an excellent site: Old and Interesting: The History of Domestic Paraphernalia. One particular article caught my eye: Peat Fires. Many of my Irish ancestors emigrated from Omey Island off the coast of Galway. If there were trees on the island, you could count them on one hand, so they needed other sources of fuel. The way the residents heated their homes was with bricks of peat (i.e., turf) cut out of a bog with a long-handled tool called a slane. This was back-breaking work performed by the whole family. Here is more from Old and Interesting:

Cutting the turf in Connemara
with  the Twelve Bens in the background

Cooking and living with peat fires

There used to be many areas of northern Europe better supplied with peat bogs than with trees. Peat, also called turf, was a convenient household fuel when there wasn't much firewood around. Some regions of North America made use of peat for domestic fires in the 1700s and 1800s - and a few still do. (See quote lower left column.) It's been used for cooking, heat, and what we would now call background lighting for longer than history has been written.

Well into the mid-20th century there were places where peat fires were kept alight all year on the floor of a cottage. You can also burn turf, or sod, on open hearths, and in well-engineered fireplaces with grates. Natural, locally-dug peat is still used for domestic heating in Scotland and, famously, in Ireland where the slices of peat are always called turves and the fires are turf fires - even when manufactured peat briquettes are used. In the 19th century cutting peat for fuel was an important part of life in Scandinavia, and in fenland or moorland regions of England, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany...

To continue reading, please click on the link above.

I just wanted to share. :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy - A Review by Jakki Leatherberry

Fledging illustrator and Darcy fanatic Kay Ashton settles in the seaside town of Lyme to finish her book, The Illustrated Darcy, when a film company arrives to make a new adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Kay is soon falling for the handsome bad boy actor playing Captain Wentworth, but it's the quiet screenwriter Adam Craig who has more in common with her beloved Mr. Darcy. Though still healing from a broken heart, Adam finds himself unexpectedly in love with Kay. But it will take more than good intentions to convince her that her real happy ending is with him. (from the Publisher - Sourcebooks)

In Dreaming of Mr. Darcy,* Kay Ashton lives in her own dream world, forever dreaming of “the perfect hero.” But what does he look like? Is he the libidinous and charming Oli Wade Owen, who just happens to be playing the role of Captain Wentworth, or the compassionate and gentlemanly Adam Crain, or does he exist only in Kay’s dreams?

In her quest for the perfect hero, Kay faces many obstacles.  She chooses to overlook many signs that she is currently heading down the same road her mother traveled, always falling in love with the wrong man, never finding Mr. Right. With her wild imagination, Kay imagines that there is more to her relationships than there really is. When her hero winks at her, Kay’s imagination is let loose, taking them from innocent flirtation to marital bliss.  Kay fails to see that guys do this all the time. Disregarding red flag after red flag, Kay is continually setting herself up for another heartache.