Tag Archives: Regency fiction

Book Review: A Marchioness Below Stairs

28 Aug

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen servants have succumbed to the influenza.

If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancée, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm. Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?

Alissa Baxter wrote her first Regency romance, The Dashing Debutante, during her long university holidays. After traveling the world, she settled down to write her second Regency romance, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which was inspired by her time living on a country estate in England. A Marchioness Below Stairs, her third Regency romance, is the sequel to Lord Fenmore’s Wager. Also the author of two contemporary romances, Send And Receive and The Blog Affair, Alissa is a member of RWA as well as ROSA (Romance Writers Organisation of South Africa). Alissa currently lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two sons.

My Impressions:

On the surface, A Marchioness Below Stairs seems like a typical Regency novel with the emphasis on manners and romance. That’s partly true, however, this novel has more — more insight into the status of women and other vulnerable members of the early 19th century society. Alissa Baxter has penned a novel that will appeal to the Regency fan, but also to those who want a bit of depth to their historical reading. Recommended.

A Marchioness Below Stairs does indeed open with the scandalous activity of a lady cooking with the help of a gentleman. While modern readers may shrug and think what’s the big deal?, this just wasn’t done in the strict class system of Regency England. The early part of the novel is an interesting look at the manners of the gentry and titled, but the real core of the novel begins when the main character, Isabel, moves to London for the Season. Isabel is an interesting character who wants to keep her hard won independence rather than being trapped by matrimony. Her views on women’s rights and abolition of slavery are heavily influenced by the writings of Mary Wollestencraft and William Wilberforce. I loved learning about the stirrings of independence for those kept vulnerable and enslaved. What modern readers take for granted was new, unique, and controversial in the early 1800s. There is plenty of Regency elements to keep fans satisfied, but I liked the historical and political framework the author uses. Romance, intrigue, mystery, and suspense are also strong elements in this novel. The author gives the characters a moral compass and a faith in God that informs their actions and motives — this will appeal to inspirational fiction readers too. I liked just about everything in this novel — the characters, the setting, the historical details, and the sweet and tender romance. The novel also made me hungry! From white soup to savory curry dishes, cuisine is a big part of the book. Yum!

So if you like Regency romance with a dash of suspense and a glimpse into real life behind the balls and country parties, A Marchioness Below Stairs is for you!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (It’s only $3.99 on Kindle)

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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Book Review: The Weaver’s Daughter

12 Jun

Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions? Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder — including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father’s pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort out the truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family’s livelihood and legacy.Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls — even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature, and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her the idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series. Book one of the series, The Heiress of Winterwood, was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance.

My Impressions:

For Regency novels, my go-to author is Sarah E. Ladd. Her latest book, The Weaver’s Daughter exceeded my expectations due primarily to the unusual subject matter. While most Regency novels are set in the drawing rooms and assemblies of the gentry, Ladd explores the merchant, working, and craftsmen classes of Northern England. I found this to be fascinating. Definitely another recommended read from Ladd.

The tension and violence that occurred between the weavers and mill owners in Yorkshire in the early 1800s is the backdrop to The Weaver’s Daughter. The early days of the Industrial Revolution in England produced great strides in commerce, but also displaced those who practiced the age-old trade of weaving. Well-researched, the novel presents the clash of new ideas and processes with old ways and traditions. There are characters, both good and bad, on both sides. In the middle of the war is the heir to the Stockton Mill and the daughter of the most influential weaver in the area. There’s a bit of a Romeo and Juliet vibe to Kate and Henry’s relationship. Both characters are complex and well-drawn — there’s much to like about this star-crossed pair. I loved how they both sought to honor their families, yet stay true to their own hearts. Loyalty and prejudice play large roles in the shaping of the characters, and I loved how Ladd grew them past pre-conceived notions and misplaced duty.  A bit of mystery and intrigue are intertwined within this historical romance, making it a suspenseful read as well. Kate and Henry’s story is brought to a close, but Ladd leaves a bit of a teaser for a supporting character that I hope she follows-up with in another book.

So if you want a unique twist on a Regency romance you definitely need to check out The Weaver’s Daughter. A well-written and complex book, this one is definitely recommended!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE

(Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — The Weaver’s Daughter

13 Apr

Happy Friday everyone! In honor of Sarah E. Ladd‘s newest novel, The Weaver’s Daughter, releasing this week, I am featuring its first line. From the first book I read by Ladd, she became a go-to author of Regency romance. I can’t wait to dig into this book next month.

Please leave a comment with the first line of the book closest to you, then head over to Hoarding Books for more fun!

Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions? Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder — including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father’s pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war hoping to find a refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort out the truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family’s livelihood and legacy.Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls – even if it means risking their hearts in the process.

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series. Book one of the series, The Heiress of Winterwood, was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance.

 

 

Audiobook Mini-Review: A Spy’s Devotion

27 Dec

In England’s Regency era, manners and elegance reign in public life — but behind closed doors treason and deception thrive. Nicholas Langdon is no stranger to reserved civility or bloody barbarity. After suffering a battlefield injury, the wealthy, well-connected British officer returns home to heal—and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary.

At the home of the Wilherns, one of England’s most powerful families, Langdon attends a lavish ball where he meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Determined to maintain propriety, he keeps his distance — until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England — and the man she is falling in love with — need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. Will the two succumb to their attraction while fighting to save their country?

 

Melanie Dickerson is the New York Times bestselling author whose two favorite time periods are Medieval, which she has combined with her love of fairy tales, and Regency England, which stems from her love of Jane Austen. She is a 2-time Christy Award finalist, a 2-time Maggie Award winner, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama and has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing, hanging out on facebook, and being with her husband, two daughters, and two guinea pigs near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.

 

My Impressions:

As I have shared on numerous occasions, I listen to audiobooks during my morning walks and am always on the look out for a book that is easy to pick up day after day for an hour at a time. I have read several of Melanie Dickerson’s fairy tale retellings and knew that her writing style is a perfect match for my reading preferences. So when I saw that she had written a Regency-inspired novel with spies, I couldn’t resist. I am so glad that I picked up A Spy’s Devotion, book 1 in Dickerson’s Regency Spies of London series. It definitely checked all the boxes — Regency romance, mysterious goings-on, and a clean and inspiring reading experience. Dickerson captures the manners and customs of the Regency period and combines them with the intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars. The characters are endearing and complex, and the romance, which is not without obstacles, still ends in a happily-ever-after. The narrator of the audiobook does a good job of capturing the time and place.

A Spy’s Devotion was a great listening experience, and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — The Christmas Edition!

22 Dec

Only 3 days to Christmas! Yay! I hope you have all your shopping/baking/etc. done so that you can relax with family and friends and maybe a good book! Still have a frenzied to-do list? Consider downloading an audiobook to accompany you on your errands and chores. It just might bring the stress level down.

The folks at Hoarding Books are featuring Christmas on this First Line Friday. I have chosen a book that combines a lot of what I love — Christmas, Jane Austen, and mystery. I am looking forward to cracking open Jane And The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron and getting lost in a Regency mystery. To find out what Christmas books other bloggers are sharing, click HERE.

Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful murder mystery set over the twelve days of a Regency-Era Christmas party.

Christmas Eve, 1814: Jane Austen has been invited to spend the holiday with family and friends at The Vyne, the gorgeous ancestral home of the wealthy and politically prominent Chute family. As the year fades and friends begin to gather beneath the mistletoe for the twelve days of Christmas festivities, Jane and her circle are in a celebratory mood: Mansfield Park is selling nicely; Napoleon has been banished to Elba; British forces have seized Washington, DC; and on Christmas Eve, John Quincy Adams signs the Treaty of Ghent, which will end a war nobody in England really wanted.
 
Jane, however, discovers holiday cheer is fleeting. One of the Yuletide revelers dies in a tragic accident, which Jane immediately views with suspicion. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow snow-bound guests. With clues scattered amidst cleverly crafted charades, dark secrets coming to light during parlor games, and old friendships returning to haunt the Christmas parties, whom can Jane trust to help her discover the truth and stop the killer from striking again?

 

What is the first line of your Christmas read?

Top 10 Tuesday: Austen-Esque Covers

2 May

It’s all about cover love at The Broke And The Bookish this week. Bloggers are talking about book covers and have free rein to share. I am a big Jane Austen fan and love the many Jane knock-off inspired novels that abound. This week I am featuring a few that currently reside on my shelves, but have yet to be read. Some are serious books. Others, I admit, I bought for their uniqueness. Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know which one I should move to the top of the TBR pile.

Top Austen-Inspired Covers

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken

Mr. Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston

The Second Mrs. Darcy by Elizabeth Aston

Presumption by Julia Barrett

Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma by Dianna Birchall

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

The Phantom of Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

Vampire Darcy’s Desire by Regina Jeffers

Frederick Wentworth, Captain: None But You by Susan Kaye

Which Austen-Inspired novel should I read first?

 

Book Review + Giveaway!: The Elusive Miss Ellison

20 Mar

Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.

That’s the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister’s daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won’t take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia’s pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother–who stole the most important person in Livvie’s world.

Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he’s just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there’s already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.

That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn’t the only heart that needs to change.

These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society’s opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.

 

Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’’s novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

Find out more about Carolyn at https://www.carolynmiller.org.

 

My Impressions:

Fans of Austen-esque Regency novels will be happy to have another go-to author. Carolyn Miller’s debut novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison, meets all the requirements: an independent heroine, a hunky hero with more than a few flaws, and a love story filled with obstacles, yet possessing sweet hints of a happily-ever-after. Jane aficionados will recognize the many nods to Pride And Prejudice, but this novel is not a copy-cat. It’s firm foundation in faith is a very welcome addition. I give this one a recommended rating.

Miss Lavinia Ellison has very decided opinions, one of which is that the newest Earl of Hawkesbury should be helping his tenants and the village of St. Hampton Heath. But the relationship between the independent Miss Ellison and Nicholas Stamford is marred by their common past, a past filled with tragedy and unforgiveness. Both will need to break through their walls for a future that just may include love.

As stated above, The Elusive Miss Ellison pays homage to Jane Austen. You can hear hints of Austen in the dialog and in the characters that Miller has created. Familiar phrases sprinkle the conversations and there may be more than a little bit of Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins and Caroline Bingley in a few of the minor characters. Miller even uses a familiar plot device — get a sick heroine into the home of the hero to advance the story. But Miller’s theme of forgiveness extended and accepted is all her own. That theme, as well as a heroine that holds if not modern, then before-her-time, convictions, adds depth to the novel.

If you are looking for a Regency romance that is more than just fluff, then The Elusive Miss Ellison is one to try.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (Hurry! Today it is FREE for Kindle!)

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Giveaway!

Settle in for a cozy night of reading with a cuppa and a Kindle from Carolyn!

One grand prize winner will receive:
A copy of The Elusive Miss Ellison
A Kindle Fire
Two William Morris mugs (winner’s choice)
A box of tea

Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on March 22. The winner will be announced March 23 on the Litfuse blog.