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Christmas with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly – A Review

Christmas with Mr. Darcy A review by Jeffery Ward
I’m going to tell on myself.  I’m a sniveling, sentimental sucker for a good Christmas story.  It is only October and I’ve only devoured two of them so I’m way behind my normal seasonal curve.  Thank heavens for author Victoria Connelly, who sensing a good thing, has smartly thrown together ALL of the heroes and heroines from her Austen Addicts trilogy:  A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy Forever.

Thus, her follow-up novella, Christmas with Mr. Darcy, is like a recipe for a classic Christmas pudding:  combine growing romances, friends, family, a spectacularly decorated manor house, a sudden snow storm, mysterious criminal activity, full-throttle Jane Austen trivia, and then sit back and savor a large helping.  Catch up with Katherine and Warwick, Kay and Adam, Dan and Robyn, Mia and Gabe, Sarah and Lloyd, et al, as they are invited to hostess and distinguished actress Dame Pamela Harcourt’s inaugural Jane Austen Christmas conference.

Along the way, we meet Higgins, Dame Pamela’s endearing and watchful butler, Benedict, Dan’s ‘neer-do-well’ older brother, (who invites himself) Mrs. Soames, (“Oh dear, who invited her?”) sweet Doris Norris,  sisters Roberta and Rose, adorable Cassandra, (Dan and Robyn’s infant daughter) and a mustachioed gentleman who none of the invitees can seem to quite recognize.  The author even manages to insert references to her own brood of beloved hens!

Victoria Connelly paints the holiday-decorated splendor of Dame Pamela’s grand Purley Hall while she builds anticipation by bouncing from one guest to another as they excitedly prepare for the journey to the conference.

In spite of a blinding snow storm, all of the guests arrive safely at Purley Hall and Dame Pamela welcomes the crowd with her trademark warmth, charm, glittering jewels, and stunning gowns.  As the guests settle in, certain valuables begin to disappear without any trace.  At first, most who have suffered loss merely attribute it to forgetfulness or failing to pack correctly for the trip.

True to her dramatic personality, Dame Pamela announces the highlight of the entire conference:  her anonymous purchase at Sotheby’s of a rare 3-volume first edition of Pride and Prejudice for just under one hundred and eighty thousand pounds.   The assembled guest gasped as she holds the delicately unwrapped treasure aloft.   However, on Christmas morning, the unthinkable occurs.  “Think! Had she really put the first edition back in the safe as Higgins had expressly told her to do straight after or had she placed it on her desk or left it somewhere else?”

With that significant loss the fun really begins……Guest sisters Roberta and Rose think Roberta may inadvertently have the first edition but aren’t sure.  Roberta borrowed a three volume edition from Dame Pamela’s library and the books look ancient.  Needless to say the fumbled efforts of the two quaint sisters to secretly return the suspected books back to the library are beyond hilarious. The proceedings are reminiscent of the board game “Clue” where everyone becomes a ‘suspect.’ That’s as far as this reviewer intends to go into this mystery or we’ll be treading into spoiler territory.

While many Austen fan-fiction authors merely dip the reader’s toes into Jane’s special world, Victoria Connelly baptizes with full immersion.  I love her steadfastness because she may be limiting her readership in order to lavish on her Janeite fans their full measure.  Indeed, some of the trivia references even threw this Jane Austen addict for a loop!  Can the naïve’ reader, who may not fathom many of the references to Miss Austen’s works, still enjoy this story?  What’s there not to be delighted about in a romantic, festive, Christmas mystery?

Finally, the author teases us with hints of another sequel: there is a marriage proposal and wedding planned.  Somebody reveals she is pregnant. Is another seasonal conference in the works? Hush, mum’s the word on all of that.  Sophisticated readers may find the plot of Christmas with Mr. Darcy somewhat transparent and simplistic, but that’s not what this sentimental reader/reviewer seeks in a good Christmas story.  I’m looking for the warm-hearted joy, romance, friendship, and love that the season brings and the author delivers that in abundance.  If you’ve enjoyed any/all of Victoria Connelly’s Austen Addicts trilogy, it is never too early in the holiday season to catch up with your cherished friends.

Digital List Price: £1.79
Cuthland Press (2012)
e-book (110) pages
Kindle: ASIN: B009JTNIKC

Jeffrey Ward, AKA: The “Chik-Lit-Man-Fan” and incurable romantic. A late comer to literature but rapidly making up for lost time. Since he has no original ideas of his own, he especially loves writing about what other people are writing about.

  • Native San Franciscan; Vietnam Veteran;
  • Communications degree-University of Washington;
  • 44 years in the airline industry; Currently a Facilitator/Designer for the world’s largest regional airline;
  • Married 40 years, 2 adult children, 6 grandchildren.
  • Obsessions: reading, writing, cooking, cartooning, travel.

“It is appropriate that Jane Austen was the gateway through which this stone-cold empirical naysayer would finally enter into the promised land of fiction.  Here at Austenprose, I’m now expanding my horizons by enjoying the works of many talented contemporary authors who ply the rich legacy left to us by Miss Austen.  As I post, review, and opine throughout the blogosphere, I hope my love, enthusiasm, and gratitude for all things Austen shines forth.”
-From My Improbable Journey to Jane Austen

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Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly

Sisters are forever…
Sarah and Mia Castle are closer than best friends and share just about everything, including a deep and abiding love for all things relating to Jane Austen. Their annual trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath is a highlight of their lives—until the year they discover that no matter how close two sisters may be, it’s impossible to share one man between them. Even if he does seem like their own perfect Mr. Darcy, if one wins him, won’ t both of them lose?
-From the Publisher
In Mr. Darcy Forever,  Sara and Mia Castle are very like Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  Knowing this about themselves, the sisters are able to use Austen’s characters to help them through some difficult times. It is on their annual trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath that they realize the healing powers of Bath.
Planning a staycation this summer? Whether you are a Janeite, travel enthusiast, or romantic, Victoria Connelly offers a stress-free, cost-free, delightful getaway. Through her trilogy, Connelly takes readers to Hampshire in A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Lyme Regis in Dreaming of Mr. Darcy and Bath in Mr. Darcy Forever.  Jane Austen Addicts Trilogy is the perfect summer read, allowing readers to escape reality and voyage to the beautiful sights of England and experience flirty romance first hand.
In the pages of Connelly’s novel, you will visit the Royal Crescent, Pump Room, Pultney Bridge, the Circus, and spend a week in Devon at Barton Cottage. It was here I could see the myriad of colors the scenery offered: pink and red campions, bluebells and lush green fields. I watched women in Regency dresses, adorned with bonnets and reticules, and men in tight breeches promenade through the Royal Crescent. It was as if I was a passerby, observing the elegantly dressed people and seeing firsthand the beautiful stonework and history of Bath. It’s these breathtaking sights that make each book memorable.

Similar to the other two books in the trilogy, in Mr. Darcy Forever, we are given two romances for the price of one! Sisters, Sara and Mia Castle, normally attend the Jane Austen Festival in Bath together each year. However, after a falling out, the two have not spoken nor attended the festival for three years. Throughout the story, the reader is taken back in time to Sara and Mia’s holiday at Barton Cottage and slowly given the sordid details behind their row. The transitions between present day Bath and the Barton Cottage flashbacks flow smoothly. I could not put down the book because I had to know what kind of guy could come between these best friends.

Coming face to face with their pain, each sister finds the healing power in talking about the past three years. Having opened up about their private struggles, there is an immediate bond formed between each sister and her new beau. Could these guys be the Mr. Darcys Sarah and Mia have been searching for? While their relationships do move rather fast, it did not bother me because they connected on such an emotional level already. And hey, any guy willing to enter a Mr. Darcy wet t-shirt competition must be a keeper, right?
I loved how many characters from A Weekend with Mr. Darcy and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy make cameos. It was like bumping into old friends. This was such fun trilogy; I cannot believe it is over. I really enjoyed my sojourns to Hampshire, Lyme Regis and Bath.

Those who find yourselves as sad as I am that the trilogy is over, put away your hankies, for Ms. Connelly is planning a novella sequel for Kindle called Christmas with Mr. Darcy, which will unite the main characters from each trilogy as they attend a special conference at Purley Hall in Hampshire.

*Don’t forget to watch the vlog for Mr. Darcy Forever!*

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (26 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402251386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402251382

 


 

Jakki Leatherberry, former high-school language arts teacher and lover of all things Austen, lives in Georgia where she and her husband moved after graduating from a liberal arts college in Ohio. One of her greatest pleasures is reading and analyzing literature. When she is not chasing around her two children (soon to be three in February), Jakki can be found under a quilt, cup of coffee in hand, reading. She also submits her reviews to Goodreads, Amazon and her blog, Leatherbound Reviews.

On Leatherbound Reviews, in addition to reading reviews, readers can also watch vlogs, where Jakki reads an excerpt from the book reviewed, providing readers with a little teaser of what they may find inside the novel.

This September, Jakki will be partnering with Austenesque Reviews for the second annual Austenesque Extravaganza! A month long celebration of Jane Austen (with loads of giveaways!)