Monday, February 2, 2015

Romance Anthology: All Regency Collection Review

Six brand new regency romance novellas by best-selling authors Anna Elliott, Sarah M. Eden, Carla Kelly, Josi S. Kilpack, Annette Lyon, and Heather B. Moore.

In THE WEDDING GIFT: A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE STORY, an enchanting novella by Anna Elliott, the story opens two weeks before Elizabeth Bennet’s wedding to Mr. Darcy. He has given her the perfect wedding gift, and now she must come up with one for him. But what do you give a man who has everything? Elizabeth soon discovers that the gift of love is more important than any one thing. 

DREAM OF A GLORIOUS SEASON, a sweet novella by Sarah M. Eden, we meet Elizabeth Gillerford who envies her sister only one thing—that she’s been intended for Julian Broadwood since they were children. The trouble is that Elizabeth is hopelessly in love with Julian too. When Julian discovers that Elizabeth has been denied a Season because her older sister is yet unwed, he undertakes his own stealthy measures to introduce her to society, only to find himself falling in love with her himself. 

In THE MENDER, a captivating story by Carla Kelly, Thankful Winnings takes a sea voyage with her cousin on the Ann Alexander, in a last adventure before she settles down to marry one of her beaus. Unexpectedly they come upon the aftermath of a fierce ship battle, and Thankful is commissioned to help in the place of an injured surgeon on one of the Royal Navy ships. Adam Farnsworth, surgeon, has been at sea for years. Tired of war, but devoted to his post, it takes a resourceful lady such as Thankful to give him the hope of love and help heal his own wounds, the ones that show and the ones that don’t. 

In BEGIN AGAIN, a charming novella by Josi S. Kilpack, Regina Weathers gives up on marrying for love the day that Ross Martin walks out of her life. Now, fifteen years later, Ross shows up at a ball and thinks he can woo Regina. But she is set on her lonely path and stitched-up heart, no matter the excuse Ross gives for his years of silence and neglect. When Ross insists he wrote many letters during his military years, Regina discovers a secret long-since buried by her father, and the revelation might be enough to thaw the coldness of her heart. 

In Annette Lyon’s endearing story, THE AFFAIR AT WILDEMOORE, Mrs. Ellen Stanhope escorts her three daughters to a ball. As her oldest flirts with a beau, Ellen is reminded of her courtship and early years of marriage with Anthony, before tragedy struck with the death of their infant son. The marriage has faded and dulled. Not until she sees Anthony dancing with a woman he courted years before does Ellen realize how much she misses him, still loves him, and yearns for him to yet feel the same way for her. 

In the delightful novella, THE DUKE’S BROTHER, by Heather B. Moore, Mr. Gregory Clark is having an awful day, and it only gets worse when he’s ran over by … a woman. Mabel Russell reluctantly visits her sister in London for the Season, even though she’d rather stay in the country cataloging insects and aphids. When she runs into Gregory Clark, quite literally, she’s afraid to show any interest, especially since he’s a member of the dreaded ton. But getting to know Gregory becomes an unexpected delight.

My Review:

I enjoyed this collection immensely. I love Regency Romance and was so excited to have a whole anthology devoted to them. Each story is written by a talented author, and carries its own strength while adding to the whole. I highly recommend for fans of the Romance Anthologies, especially of historical romances.

·         The Wedding Gift by Anna Elliot

This is less a Pride and Prejudice retelling, but rather a continuation of the story. Written as an epistolary story, the events unfold through the journal of Elizabeth Bennet. I found it interesting to see the author’s take on what could have happened leading up to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s wedding. Most of it centers on her quest to find and deliver the perfect wedding gift for Darcy.
I have found some Jane Austen retellings very amusing, and others a bit odd. This one was actually quite well written. I enjoyed Elizabeth’s witty voice in her journal entries. The light and humorous air she approached even difficult circumstances with remained close to the original Miss Bennet’s character.
The intrigue surrounding her abduction was interesting, if a bit of a stretch. It was interesting to speculate on what those behind her kidnapping could do. Overall, a good twist to the Pride and Prejudice adventures.
I was a bit disappointed in the portrayal of Mr. Darcy. I felt his attitudes and behaviors are a bit lax and over-sentimental at times. Not quite how I pictured him, or how he came across in the original work, but it did help to add some depth to his character.
Overall, I really enjoyed this twist on one of the most retold Jane Austen novels.

·         Dream of a Glorious Season by Sarah M. Eden

Miss Elizabeth Gillerford is the younger daughter of a rather stodgy, and old-fashioned family. Her parents insist, despite her age, that she may not have a season until her catty older sister is married. There is only one problem to this arrangement, her sister is set on marrying their childhood friend, Julian Broadwood. The only boy Elizabeth has ever loved.
I, as always, loved Eden’s spunky heroine. Though her family considers her a homely, blue-stocking, she doesn't let their sharp tongues affect her cheerful attitude. Julian’s cluelessness was endearing, and a bit exasperating. His clever, but polite manipulations of Elizabeth’s elder sister and parents in order to help his friend was ingenious and worthy of applaud. It was an amusing tale with the moments of heart-tugging emotion that Eden has mastered.
I did think Julian was a bit dense not to have caught on sooner about what was going on with Elizabeth, and I’m not sure if it fit the heroine’s personality to stay inside and listen to her family’s dictates. However, I found them both delightful for the most part. I with the story had been longer so I could have gotten to know them better.

·         The Mender by Carla Kelly

Thankful Winnings wants to experience a little adventure before settling down to the quiet, predictable life planned out for her as a Quaker woman. So, mending kits packed, she joins her cousin on his ship bound for Italy. She gets a bit more adventure than she bargained for in this short, but exhilarating tale of war and love.
I thought the historical accuracy Kelly’s work was amazing! I haven’t read any of her other novels, but I plan on rectifying this soon. It was interesting to follow a Friend, and learn more about this interesting people and see the devastation caused by the Napoleonic War. The devastating loss and pain caused by warfare was not sugarcoated, nor was it overly glorified. I appreciated the matter-of-fact, yet heartfelt approach this story took to the events that unfolded.
Thankful’s character was an intriguing mix of contradictions. She was a Friend, but craved excitement. She knew the common arts of sewing, but also could mend other things with skills she picked up on her own. Her romance is both sweet, and a bit sensual. She is kind, but with steel in her soul. I enjoyed coming to know her better.
The one thing I didn't like was the jarring all dialogue of the opening section and the epilogue. Though, it was a bit odd, I must say the author handled it masterfully. It wasn't confusing on who was speaking, but just strange to have an entire conversation with no action or physical references to ground me in setting. 

·         Begin Again by Josi S. Kilpack

When Regina Weathers is confronted by the lost love of her youth, sparks fly. Not the good kind. Now, she must decide if she can forgive Ross—the boy who abandoned her fifteen years ago—and love the man he’s become. But some wounds prove too much to reopen, even with the fortitude she has gained from all experiences.
I enjoyed Kilpack’s Culinary Mystery series, and was excited to see her branch out into Regency. Her romance spoke to the heart of regrets over lost opportunities, past mistakes, and hope. I found the story line interesting. It was reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but with delightful twists. Miss Weather’s character was also a breath of fresh air in the genre. She was not young, and had made many mistakes over her life, but had overcome them to find a good life. When that life is threatened, she fights against anything that will destroy it, even if it may cost her future happiness.
I look forward to reading more like this from Kilpack in the future.

·         The Affair at Wildemoore by Annette Lyon

The Affair at Wildemoore was by far my favorite from this collection. It was so different from the others. Anthony Stanhope and Ellen Stanhope have been married for many years. They have three, nearly grown, daughters, and a comfortable life. But the passion, romance, and closeness of their early courtship has long died. A shared tragedy of their past caused them to drift apart, but when an old flame returns, they must question whether they will choose to remain distant, or attempt to bridge the chasm between them.
This tale of love that has lost its youthful bloom was so beautiful! I loved how they had both grown to be strong, good people as individuals that only deepened their affection for each other. The loss they both had suffered made their shared history so much deeper and meaningful for what they had faced. It was also nice to see that even though the couple had allowed life to cause them to become strangers, they weren't entirely lost to each other. Lyon’s excellent writing craft brought the characters, history, and emotion alive. I wished it had been longer!

·         The Duke’s Brother by Heather B. Moore

Mable Russell wants to be left in piece to study her of insects, especially the fascinating lives of snails. But her childhood home has been invaded by near strangers, noisy boys, and a pushy, but well-meaning sister demands her company in the Society Mabel abhors. In The Duke’s Brother, Moore thrusts our independent, scientist woman into a world she can’t possibly belong to. It is there she meets the handsome Gregory Clark, younger brother to her sister’s husband. He’s intriguing and doesn't seem to mind her “wild” ways. But she knows a member of the ton can’t ever truly understand her. She’s long ago sworn of the foolish follies of love. The duke’s younger brother has plans of his own though, and he’s just realized they couldn't possibly be complete without the unconquerable spirit Miss Russell possesses.
The duo in here are well matched. Both wish to live differently than the life their loved ones, and society demands. I wished there had been a little bit more conflict and banter between them, since that was one of the best parts. I found them both to be interesting though with their individual pursuits. The romance was a bit rushed, but I did care whether or not it worked out. Overall, a cute little story filled with interesting facts about the insects and reptiles that surround us.

*I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for my honest review*

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