Posted on

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham, A Review

ross poldark

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham, A Review

A review by Laura Hartness, the Calico Critic.

sam_9429-600x600In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew. Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

In recent years I’d heard voices in the Austenesque community raving about how much they loved the old Poldark television series, originally broadcast from 1975-1977. Discussions of the program became more frequent when news of the latest visual version was released. As my local public library had DVD copies of the two seasons of the old show, I decided to bring them home and give them a try.  At first I was surprised at the low production values, and the somewhat soap-ish style of acting from some of the performers, but the more I watched, the more I was pulled into the series.  The 18th-century story of Captain Ross Poldark, Demelza Carne and the myriad characters created by author Winston Graham was simply a delight. I practically binge-watched all 29 episodes, and lamented the series’ conclusion.  To know that a new version was in production was exciting, and I hoped that the material would be handled just as well, if not better than it had been in the 70’s.  As of now I’ve only viewed one episode of the new Poldark starring Aidan Turner, and while it has a much different feel this time around, I’m enjoying it. Continue reading Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham, A Review

Posted on

Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace: A Review

Mistaking Her Character

Mistaking+Her+Character+LgMistaking Her Character- A Review by Laura Hartness

Author Maria Grace returns to the world of Austenesque fiction in her latest novel, Mistaking Her Character. As in the original Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, we find Lady Catherine de Bourgh wielding strong command over the grand Rosings Park estate and all who are associated with it. Her daughter Anne is as sickly as a Janeite could imagine, but becomes more afflicted as the story progresses. Maria Grace’s departures from the original text include assigning the profession of medical doctor to Mr. Bennet, and the role of stepmother (to some of the Bennet girls) to Mrs. Bennet. However, Wickham remains a cad, Jane a delight and Mr. Collins the supreme adulator to his benefactress, so on the whole, most remain true to their original characteristics.

As Anne’s health further declines, Dr. Bennet and Elizabeth are needed in increasing measure for medical care. While at Rosings, Elizabeth becomes acquainted with Fitzwilliam Darcy and becomes attracted to this dashing, powerful heir of Pemberley. The quandary is, Lady Catherine still insists that he will ultimately marry Anne, for shrouded reasons that are revealed later in the novel. Her domineering nature is even stronger in Mistaking Her Character, and this temperament begins to manifest itself in Anne as well. Before long, it seems that the lives of Elizabeth, Darcy, Dr. Bennet and others will be completely entwined about the fingers of the De Bourgh women. They are insistent, powerful, selfish and unsympathetic to those around them.

On the whole I greatly enjoyed Mistaking Her Character. I appreciated how Maria Grace retained most of Austen’s characterizations, so I was a bit disappointed that Darcy was seen to be so agreeable, so early in Elizabeth’s eyes. It seemed that they became enamored with each other in a much quicker fashion than in Pride and Prejudice. This isn’t a problem, but I always enjoy the tension between them before they ultimately come together. However, there is enough tension to go around in this story—perhaps adding more friction between the lead characters would have been too much.

I was also surprised at the personalities of Elizabeth and her father. She allowed herself to be excessively oppressed for far too long, in my opinion. She did prove to be a strong woman of substance, evidenced by the fact that Dr. Bennet would permit no other daughter to attend him while he worked. He knew she had the constitution for blood, other bodily fluids and medical emergencies, unlike her sisters. Elizabeth does have the capacity to stand up to Lady Catherine, as seen in the confrontation that inspired the book’s title. However, I felt that she spent an inordinate number of days without asserting herself, way too much time in silent misery because of her situation. It seemed inconsistent with her true nature.

Part of this was perpetuated by her love for her self-centered, despicable father and her desire to obey him. His need to genuflect to Lady Catherine becomes paramount, and he behaves badly toward Elizabeth, justified by his loyalty to Catherine. When plans go awry, he lays blame at Elizabeth’s feet far more often than is reasonable. While I agree that the original Mr. Bennet wasn’t the best father in the world, this iteration of him in Mistaking Her Character goes far beyond that failing. Unlike my opinion about Elizabeth, this observation of Dr. Bennet isn’t a negative criticism; it just gives the character a different flavor.

I think my only other negative criticism would be in the length of time the story hovers over Elizabeth’s period as nursemaid to Anne. It seemed significantly long to me, and I felt that the plot dragged during that substantial portion of the start of the novel. The De Bourghs’ dominance over those around them was fatiguing. However, as the story progresses, the plot develops with Elizabeth’s sister Lydia (who is as ridiculous as ever), the lecherous Wickham and some wonderfully loyal, scheming house servants. The book took a dramatic turn that I enjoyed immensely. Elizabeth’s fate begins to change drastically, Darcy runs to play hero, and more than one character gets their comeuppance. It was delightfully entertaining.

As has been the case with other Maria Grace novels, the romance element of Mistaking Her Character is certainly there, but she is able to convey concepts and passion without gratuitous details. I found the content to be at a solid PG level, very tastefully done but delicious at the same time. I feel more than comfortable recommending this to any adult reader, conservative or no. Mistaking Her Character had a slightly darker in tone than other Maria Grace novels that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed the others, this was an interesting departure for her. I understand that this is the first title in her Queen of Rosings Park series, and I look forward to seeing where she plans to take us next.

  • List Price: Kindle Edition £2.49/Paperback £10.99
  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: White Soup Press (18 May 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0692453547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692453544

Laura Hartness is the writer at The Calico Critic. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons and three cats. In addition to her review work, she is also employed with PDgo.com and enjoys playing the French Horn in local ensembles. This review originally appeared on The Calico Critic as part of a virtual book tour. It is used here with permission.

Posted on

A Darcy Christmas


A Bit of Christmas at Pemberley
Laura Hartness enjoys the
holidays with three Austenesque writers as they offer a few stocking stuffers in A Darcy Christmas.
Story 3 – A Darcy Christmas
by Sharon Lathan

While Sharon Lathan’s novella is the concluding story of the book, I decided to read her A Darcy Christmas first. I recently finished her full-length novel, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, so I still had her voice in my head, so to speak. I was delighted to find that this short story felt almost like a sequel to her third book in The Darcy Saga, although I’m sure that wasn’t necessarily the intent.

A Darcy Christmas is a window into many holiday seasons over the life of the Darcy family. It begins the Christmas before Darcy weds Elizabeth and ends many years later when they have been married for 23 years. Each chapter shares moments from a particular Advent season, revisiting the characters introduced to us by Jane Austen and meeting new friends and family members as well.

This novella was sweet, innocent and enjoyable, and I loved seeing how the Darcy family grew and matured over the years. Not every year was full of mirth, and I was particularly moved in one chapter when Elizabeth is mourning the loss of a loved one. I may re-read that very chapter someday if I have the misfortune to mourn as she did. It was very touching and could bring comfort in that type of sorrow.

As is true for the other two novellas in this collection, Sharon Lathan’s A Darcy Christmas is an enjoyable composition. It matches the sentiments of the other two authors and brings a warm glow to the heart.

Story 2 – Christmas Present
by Amanda Grange

Second in my reading was Christmas Present by Amanda Grange. Although she has written over a dozen books, many of which are on my “To Be Read” list, I’ve never actually gotten around to reading her work. So this short story is my hors d’oeuvre into her banquet of literary offerings.

Christmas Present’s opening line pays homage to Jane Austen’s opening line of Pride and Prejudice, which I found very amusing. The events of her story occur in the months after the marriages of Elizabeth and Jane, both of whom are becoming mothers for the first time. As we share the Christmas season with Grange’s characters, we have an opportunity to visit with many of the individuals from the original novel, even bringing them all into one home for a time.

Christmas Present is very quiet and understated, but it’s an enjoyable time with Austen’s characters. Her tone is very evocative of Jane Austen’s style, and the holiday traditions presented hold true to the era and were a bit of an education for me. Grange introduces a new character who provides a bit of intrigue, and I hope she utilizes this character and their romantic possibilities in the future.

Of course, a delightful gift is bestowed at the conclusion of the tale. Ms. Grange’s work is also a gift, a small stocking-stuffer to enjoy before I open the larger gifts of her full-length novels.

Story 1 – Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol
by Carolyn Eberhart

Third in my reading was Carolyn Eberhart’s Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol. I saved this for the end due to my love of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I hoped the best had been saved for last. I was not in the least bit disappointed. In fact, Eberhart’s novella exceeded my expectations. She truly was successful in merging the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’ Carol. Like Dickens’ work, this Carol brings with it bitterness and regret, as well as enlightenment and reformation. There are cameos that were a delight, giving an even bigger nod to Dickens.

I hesitate to give more details, as I don’t want to spoil any of the delicious moments for you. Suffice it to say, all those who call themselves fans of Jane Austen and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol should read this story.

This small anthology A Darcy Christmas as a whole would be an excellent choice of reading for your holiday season. If I had the opportunity, I would read it on a snowy weekend, curled up in my favorite chair with a mug of hot chocolate. Like that soothing drink, the three tales of A Darcy Christmas are short, sweet and warm the heart. I hope they do the same for yours as well.

RRP: £9.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (30 Nov 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402243391


Laura Hartness is the writer at The Calico Critic. She enjoys reviewing books, movies, fitness videos and related products. The only Janeite of her household, she lives with her husband and two sons in south Florida.

Still stuck for stocking fillers?  How about a handmade Elizabeth Bennett or Mr. Darcy Christmas tree decoration?

Elizabeth

Darcy

Posted on

Sourcebooks Landmark presents A Darcy Christmas, a collection of three Christmas-themed short stories set in the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The contributing authors are the talented Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart.

Story 3 – A Darcy Christmas
by Sharon Lathan

While Sharon Lathan’s novella is the concluding story of the book, I decided to read her A Darcy Christmas first. I recently finished her full-length novel, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, so I still had her voice in my head, so to speak. I was delighted to find that this short story felt almost like a sequel to her third book in The Darcy Saga, although I’m sure that wasn’t necessarily the intent.

A Darcy Christmas is a window into many holiday seasons over the life of the Darcy family. It begins the Christmas before Darcy weds Elizabeth and ends many years later when they have been married for 23 years. Each chapter shares moments from a particular Advent season, revisiting the characters introduced to us by Jane Austen and meeting new friends and family members as well.

This novella was sweet, innocent and enjoyable, and I loved seeing how the Darcy family grew and matured over the years. Not every year was full of mirth, and I was particularly moved in one chapter when Elizabeth is mourning the loss of a loved one. I may re-read that very chapter someday if I have the misfortune to mourn as she did. It was very touching and could bring comfort in that type of sorrow.

As is true for the other two novellas in this collection, Sharon Lathan’s A Darcy Christmas is an enjoyable composition. It matches the sentiments of the other two authors and brings a warm glow to the heart.

Story 2 – Christmas Present
by Amanda Grange

Second in my reading was Christmas Present by Amanda Grange. Although she has written over a dozen books, many of which are on my “To Be Read” list, I’ve never actually gotten around to reading her work. So this short story is my hors d’oeuvre into her banquet of literary offerings.

Christmas Present’s opening line pays homage to Jane Austen’s opening line of Pride and Prejudice, which I found very amusing. The events of her story occur in the months after the marriages of Elizabeth and Jane, both of whom are becoming mothers for the first time. As we share the Christmas season with Grange’s characters, we have an opportunity to visit with many of the individuals from the original novel, even bringing them all into one home for a time.

Christmas Present is very quiet and understated, but it’s an enjoyable time with Austen’s characters. Her tone is very evocative of Jane Austen’s style, and the holiday traditions presented hold true to the era and were a bit of an education for me. Grange introduces a new character who provides a bit of intrigue, and I hope she utilizes this character and their romantic possibilities in the future.

Of course, a delightful gift is bestowed at the conclusion of the tale. Ms. Grange’s work is also a gift, a small stocking-stuffer to enjoy before I open the larger gifts of her full-length novels.

Story 1 – Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol
by Carolyn Eberhart

Third in my reading was Carolyn Eberhart’s Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol. I saved this for the end due to my love of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I hoped the best had been saved for last. I was not in the least bit disappointed. In fact, Eberhart’s novella exceeded my expectations. She truly was successful in merging the world of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Dickens’ Carol. Like Dickens’ work, this Carol brings with it bitterness and regret, as well as enlightenment and reformation. There are cameos that were a delight, giving an even bigger nod to Dickens.

I hesitate to give more details, as I don’t want to spoil any of the delicious moments for you. Suffice it to say, all those who call themselves fans of Jane Austen and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol should read this story.

This small anthology A Darcy Christmas as a whole would be an excellent choice of reading for your holiday season. If I had the opportunity, I would read it on a snowy weekend, curled up in my favorite chair with a mug of hot chocolate. Like that soothing drink, the three tales of A Darcy Christmas are short, sweet and warm the heart. I hope they do the same for yours as well.

RRP: £9.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (30 Nov 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402243391


Laura Hartness is the author of The Calico Critic, a review blog with a little bit of this and that. Presented in the low-key calico style since October 2009.