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DANCING WITH MR. DARCY
VICTORIA OWENS, ELSA A. SOLENDER, KIRSTY MITCHELL, ELIZABETH HOPKINSON, NANCY SAUNDERS, ELAINE GROTE FELD, SUZY CEULAN HUGHES, ESTHER BELLAMY, HILARY SPIERS, LANE ASHFELDT, STEPHANIE SHIELDS, KELLY BRENDEL, PENELOPE RANDALL, BETH CORDINGLY, CLAIR HUMPHRIES, FELICITY COWIE, STEPHANIE TILLOTSON, JACQUI HAZELL, MARY HOWELL, ANDREA WATSMORE
ISBN #: 978-0-06-199906-2
October 2010
Harper
www.harpercollins.com
Trade Paperback
$13.99
244 Pages
Historical Fiction/Anthology
Rating: 3 Cups

Jane Austen Over the Styx, by Victoria Owens

Jane is not perfect. She is not always patient and can envy the good fortune of others, but overall she is a good woman and talented writer.

The female authority figures of her works, led by Mrs. Norris, are very put out at how they are portrayed.

Jane has died and is facing judgment in the afterlife. Mrs. Norris and her cohorts testify against her.

This story is a bit strange, but very interesting, particularly the viewpoints voiced by Mrs. Norris, Lady Catherine, Mrs. Bennett, and Austen’s other rather overpowering middle aged female characters.

Second Thoughts, by Elsa A. Solender

Jane is twenty five and her circumstances have been considerably reduced by her father’s resignation of his living. She is feeling a bit desperate.

Harris Bigg-Wither is an old friend newly down from Oxford. He is a good man and kind, but not overly intelligent or good looking.

Jane has accepted the proposal of her old friend Mr. Bigg-Wither. It will solve all of her problems monetarily, but spiritually and intellectually he does not challenge her and she doubts that they will be happy. She must make a very difficult choice.

This is a nice look into Jane’s life at a time before her writing became successful and the choices that she made at that difficult time. Like her heroines, she does not take the easy way out.

Jayne, by Kirsty Mitchell

Jayne was named after Jane Austen, but she goes by the name Maya for her modeling career, posing for topless tabloid photo spreads. She is very intelligent and a student, but needs the money for a secure future.

Jayne’s mother is obsessed with Jane Austen and embarrassed about her daughter’s career, but does not scorn the gifts that come from it.

Jayne is so much more than a topless model. She finds comfort in her mother’s beloved Jane Austen novels and looks forward to a financially secure future.

I could not really sympathize with the topless model who wants to be admired for brains rather than her breasts. The story was more of a rant than a tale.

The Delaford Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Elizabeth Hopkinson

Mrs. Reverend Ferrars and Mrs. Colonel Brandon are well respected matrons, sisters, and surprisingly, detectives.

Mrs. Worthing, mistress of Delaford Park, is an indifferent but conscientious embroiderer. She is intrigued by the haunting of her home.

Delaford Park is haunted by a ghostly embroiderer. The ghost is a talented embroiderer and works wonders on Mrs. Worthings’ project in the dark of night.

This is a cute little mystery, a little silly and very entertaining. The ghostly embroiderer was not really a surprise, but the means to the discovery held my interest.

Tears Fall on Orkney, by Nancy Saunders

The Narrator is a young woman with high hopes regarding the feelings of a man she is on her way to visit.

Aiden seems to be a bit of a ladies’ man, but in truth seems to think of the narrator as more of a friend than anything else.

A Jane Austen fan writes a letter to her idol about her trip to Orkney and the man she visits there.

The narrator has great expectations regarding her relationship with Aiden that seem to be based on very little. He appears to have many female friends of which she is only one and she is doomed to disappointment. I really did not have a great deal of sympathy for her.

Eight Years Later, by Elaine Grotefeld

Chris is a devoted and loving son. He is determined to make his mother’s fiftieth birthday memorable.

Catherine is very excited about her trip back to England and Jane Austen’s home Chawton. She is very ill and this might be her last trip home.

Jean was Chris’ English teacher eight years ago when he first fell in love with her.

Chris combines a birthday trip for his ailing mother with a reunion with the woman he fell in love with eight years before. He hopes he is not too late for either.

This is a bittersweet tale of Chris’ love for two women; one at the end of the relationship and one at the beginning. It is well written and the characters well drawn.

Broken Words, by Suzy Ceulan Hughes

The Female character is estranged from her family and living a ways away. She is looking for more meaning to her life than that.

The Farrier is kind and concerned and obviously cares about the woman.

A woman and her blacksmith bond over a pony and an allegorical tale.

This is a sweet story with a happy ending. The characters are a bit vague but the plot intriguing.

Miss Austen Victorious, by Esther Bellamy

An amateur theater group is a bit thin due to the war. They are determined to interpret Jane Austen, despite the privations of war and necessary miscasting.

Jane Austen’s works are timeless and character parallels can be found in any time or group.

A local theater group is determined to stage Pride and Prejudice amidst the chaos and deprivations of World War II. Casting and staging are especially difficult due to the war and bomb threats.

It is interesting to note how similar the players are to actual Austen characters more than a hundred years later. Times change, but people do not.

Cleverdogs, by Hilary Spiers

A young girl is an avid reader and of a serious bent. She is a bit of a mystery to her parents.

Granny understands her granddaughter and her need to learn and has gifted her with her favorite book.

A young girl and her grandmother bond over Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. When the grandmother falls ill the young girl reads to her.

This is a charming story of two generations bonding over a classic. It is well written and both the dialogue and plot are very real.

Snowmelt, by Lane Ashfeldt

Miss Campbell is a librarian who is always prepared for the worst, and actually expects it. She does not seem to really enjoy life at all and is a pessimist. The only things she really loves are books.

The library is becoming more and more modern. They are computerizing everything including the books.

Miss Campbell thinks that the end of the world is near. Her library is becoming computerized and soon books will be obsolete. She finally decides to actually live her life instead of living in fear and dread of the end.

I found this story to be one of the most interesting in the collection. I liked Miss Campbell’s transformation and the hopeful ending to the story.

The Watershed, by Stephanie Shields

A seventeen year old girl is anxiously awaiting the results of her final exams. She comes from a rather restrained family.

Uncle Simeon is her mother’s cousin and his family the total opposite of hers. His family is lively warm and fun.

A young girl awaits the results of her exams by spending time with some very lively relatives. She has some adventures and grows up a bit also.

This is a nice coming of age story. Everyone can relate to the anxiety of waiting for grades to be posted and relatives with a very different lifestyle from our own.

Somewhere, by Kelly Brendel

Mrs. Grant is a matchmaker genuinely interested in the happiness of others. She is content with her lot but wants others to be truly happy in their marriages.

Dr. Grant is a pleasant if uninteresting man with a hearty appetite and an occasional temper tantrum.

A woman in a mostly pleasant but largely uninteresting marriage compensates by helping along the happiness of others.

I liked Mrs. Grant and her zeal to help others. She is a realistic character and a bit wistful in regards to her own relationship.

The Oxfam Dress, by Penelope Randall

Charlie is intelligent with slightly wild red hair. She is not as well off as her friends and fears that she might soon be shut out of the group. She enjoys being popular but not the snobbish attitudes of her friends.

Megan is a bit of an outsider. Her hair is greasy and she has acne. She is also intelligent and she would like to be friends with Charlie.

Charlie is determined to keep her place in the popular group but is slowly coming to the conclusion that she really does not belong with them. She is not even sure that she really likes them all that much.

This is a well told tale of the evolution of friendships. Charlie is outgrowing her friends and rapidly realizing that she has little in common with them.

Marianne and Ellie, by Beth Cordingly

Ellie is the practical sister with a secure job and life. She is a scientist and even though she is not as dramatic as her sister, her love life is not going well.

Marianne is an actress. She is emotional and mercurial. She is a bit jealous of her sister and has recently broken up with the man she loves.

Ellie comforts her sister after she breaks up with her boyfriend. She is hiding that she has problems of her own.

I enjoyed this story and sympathized with Ellie who has to be responsible for her spoiled and overly dramatic sister, while her own relationship is foundering. Marianne could stand a little less “looking after” while Ellie could use a little more

The Jane Austen Hen Weekend, by Clair Humphries

She is a chief bridesmaid and a school teacher in her real life. She organized a Jane Austen weekend for her friend Rachel and two friends.

The plumber is very handsome and fit and willing to help in an emergency.

A blocked toilet and a greedy toddler nearly wreck Rachel’s hen weekend. Regency costumes are not conducive to manual labor.

It is interesting how one inconsiderate person can ruin a weekend. The narrator takes some blame, but Lucy and her greedy child with the trots definitely ended any fun that the others might have had, until the plumber arrives.

One Character in Search of Her Love Story Role, by Felicity Cowie

Hannah Peel is going to be a character in a modern story. She is beautiful and fortunate, but feels it is not enough.

Jane Bennet is very like Hannah and is often overlooked in favor of her more interesting sister, Elizabeth.

A character from a modern story must learn from characters of past novels. Hannah must shadow Jane Bennet before moving on to learn from another character.

This story has an interesting, but not very practical concept. While I think it would be interesting to meet characters from my favorite books, I cannot imagine characters from different books talking to and learning from each other.

Second Fruits, by Stephanie Tillotson

Rosamunde is an intelligent and ambitious woman about to lose her job in a failing bank. Her father is dying of cancer.

Guto is the son of fiercely Welsh parents and is destined to study the language and make a career there.

Rosa and Guto were childhood sweethearts from very different backgrounds. Their parents had plans for them and those plans did not allow them to be together. The death of Rosa’s father and the failure of her bank bring her back to Cardiff.

I enjoyed reading about Rosa and Guto’s romance. They were parted once, but there is hope for romance in their future.

The School Trip, by Jaqui Hazell

Lucy is a typical schoolgirl on her way to a school trip. She is having a bad day and things are not looking to get any better.

Mr. Soles is a cantankerous and unsympathetic teacher. He is not very patient and prone to giving detention for little reason.

Lucy is having a bad day. She is going on a field trip, having an asthma attack, and annoying her teacher. Her sister Amy has read her diary and told her father what was in it. Her trip to Chawton puts everything into perspective.

After a confusing start, this story really caught my interest. Lucy definitely got more out of the trip than the other students.

We Need to Talk About Mr. Collins, by Mary Howell

Charlotte is a spinster of independent means. She is a bit lonely and looks forward to her weekly trips to the hairdresser.

Eliza is a young, attractive and talented hairdresser. She is very busy with the arrangements for a dinner party.

Charlotte is a bit lonely and wishes that she had a husband, despite the pleasant life she leads. Her weekly trip to the hairdresser will be an eventful one.

This story starts out fairly predictable until a surprising twist changes everything.

Bina, by Andrea Watsmore

The narrator has a crush on an artist seven years older. The narrator is cunning and manipulative.

Bina is intelligent and wants to be an attorney. She is quietly pretty and has a talent for art.

The narrator decides to use Bina to get close to Mani the artist, but soon finds Bina more interesting than Mani.

I am not sure whether the narrator was male or female, just that the person is obsessed with Mani and determined to get him to notice. It is interesting that Bina soon becomes the crush.

This is a collection of very short stories that are supposed to be inspired by Jane Austen or Chawton. They are the winners of a competition with that theme. Although some of the stories are definitely inspired by the theme, I could find little or no connection in others. The stories vary widely and at least one of them should interest any reader. They are mostly well written and interesting.

Maura
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance & More

 

 

 

 

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