Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Widow of Larkspur Inn

So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you had read the others. There are variations on her stories, but sometimes you don’t want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?

Hmmm….

That’s why I started this series. I will review that have things we love about the Austen novels but in something fresh than a retelling.

The Widow of Larkspur Inn (Gresham Chronicles #1) by Lawana Blackwell

The book is set in England of 1869. Julia Hollis is a wealthy mother of three-Phillip, Aleda, and Grace-and a recent widow. Three weeks have passed where they have all been in mourning and Julia receives the greatest surprise of her life.

Oh no!

They have lost everything due to her wealthy surgeon husband’s double life as a gambler.

The house has been repossessed by the bank and sold, the servants all staying to take on with the new owner. All her jewelry, including her ring, are taken as well. A large chunk of her clothes sold to a shop for extra money. They are forced to move to the small town of Gresham, as the only thing they left is an old coaching inn, The Larkspur Inn.

Their butler, Jensen, lends them money and helps them start putting ads in papers; the idea of the inn being turned into a lodging house.

Besides the Hollis family, they are going to be joined by Fiona O’Shea, one of the maids. Years ago when Fiona knocked on their door, a starving immigrant from Ireland, Julia forced her husband to hire her-and since then they have been very close friends.

They head out to Gresham where the house is a mess, but thanks to help from the local community and the Vicar and his daughter; things start looking up. Soon there are letters and lodgers who come into their home.

Yay!!!

Their lodgers are: Mrs. Octavia Kingston, a crotchety old woman with a heart of gold; Mr. Durwin, business entrepreneur and herbalist; Mrs. Dearing, former pioneer of the California goldfields with her late husband; kindly knitting Mrs. Hyatt; and the famous Ambrose Clay, amazing actor, who is taking a break from the stage as he is trying to find a way to combat his bouts of depression.

We have quite a group of characters

The other story that is told is that of Reverend Andrew Phelps. He is a widower with two daughters, Elizabeth and Laurel, and teaches at Cambridge. His oldest daughter is infatuated with a young man, Jonathan Raleigh.

Andrew had thought Jonathan was a great guy, but received an anonymous note that if he were to go to a certain address he would find Jonathan with a married women, notorious for her loose lifestyle. Andrew doesn’t want to believe such a thing is true, but as his daughter is head over heels, he has to investigate it. He goes and finds that it is true.

Time passes. Jonathan apologizes, but Elizabeth is heartbroken and listless. Andrew worries over her and decides it is time to leave Cambridge. When he hears that the Vicar of Gresham has to move because of his rheumatism, he snaps the post up and moves his family to the tranquil village.

Romance, cheer, etc. This book has it all and is a fantastic read.

So why would an Austen fan love this book?

Hmmm…

It has a lot of the flavor of Sense and Sensibility, with a family losing everything and having to move forward, in a way they never thought they would ever be, and having to use that resilience in the troubles they face.

We also have a touch of Marianne Dashwood in the character of Julia. When Julia was young she was a lot like Marianne, emotional and falling head over heels in love-putting her all in a man who had major flaws. Like Marianne, Julia was incapable of seeing those flaws as she had on the blinders of love.

Now with all the aftermath and having to move, Julia’s views on what is important character in a mate changed, just like Marianne after Willoughby breaks her heart and she recovers from her illness.

“Marianne was born to an extraordinary fate, she was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, to counteract, by her conduct, her favorite maxims . . . . Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion . . . [she found herself] submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties.”

Jonathan Raleigh is a Willougby-like guy. He has money, class, high rank everything-but also the spirit of a rogue.

It is a great book and definitely worth a read with it being fun, loving, and having great characters. I read it, minimum, once a year.

For more on Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Change of Fortune

For more on The Widow of Larkspur Inn, go to Pot o’ Gold: 17 Irish Heroes

For more bible verses, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks

For more Sense and Sensibility, go to The Austen Series: Reason and Romance

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Your Secret is Safe With Me: Roman Holiday (1953)

Romantic Moment #5

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Roman Holiday (1953)

This film stars Audrey Hepburn (I looooooooooove her!) and gorgeous Gregory Peck. Roman Holiday is Audrey’s first film, and it is such an amazing one! Here we go.

Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) is visiting Rome on her tour of European capitals to spread goodwill. While in Rome, she has a nervous breakdown; she can’t continue appointment after appointment after appointment. She is given a sedative, but before she knocks out she escapes, in hopes of having a fun night out.

Meanwhile, American journalist (and gambler) Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) is looking for a break, anything to get out of Rome and back to the U.S.

The two cross paths when Ann’s sedative knocks her out on a bench and Joe discovers her while walking to get a cab. He tries to send her off in a cab, just thinking she is drunk but she says she lives in the Colosseum so he feels he can’t just leave her (besides the cabbie wants nothing to do with her). He brings her home where he puts her on his couch and he gets on the bed. The next day, Ann’s advisors put out a story about her being “sick” to the papers and cancel all appointments while they are looking for her. Bradley overslept, but hurries over to the newspaper office and realizes that the girl in his apartment is Princess Ann. He decides that he is going to get an exclusive interview and his one way ticket back to NY. He makes a bet with his boss that he will get the exclusive. He and Ann spend the day together, with Joe’s friend and photographer Irving Radovich. Irving takes tons of photographs, most of them of Ann not depicting the most princess-y behavior, such as getting in a fight at a dance. Its one great holiday and the two fall in love; but both realize that it could never work out, and Ann returns to the embassy.

Most Romantic Moment:

So Irving and Joe get all kinds of footage of Ann doing stuff. Her new haircut, at the Mouth of Truth, and the crazy, memorable fight at the dance. Even more than that, Ann tells him she wishes she could have a normal life. This is some good stuff, probably worth a LOOOT of money. I mean an EXCLUSIVE interview with a royal that has just been out of her country for the first time and never been interviewed by anyone. But instead of keeping it and selling it, making a bunch of money he refuses.

crazy

That’s right! Joe waves good-bye to the chance of a lifetime! To the big bucks!

Goodbye now!

Goodbye now!

Irving thinks he’s stupid to even consider not taking this chance:

Irving Radovich: She’s fair game, Joe. It’s always open season on princesses.

But because he loves her, he decides that he will throw the chance out the window. He will lose his bet and be in further debt to not only his boss but landlord. He will stay in Rome, the city that he has grown to despise.

Ann doesn’t know this decision, she doesn’t even know that Joe was a photogrspher, he had lied so she would be real with him. When she sees him at the press conference she is upset, but covers, and Joe makes sure that she knows that he will keep her secret.

Reporter: And what, in the opinion of Your Highness, is the outlook for friendship among nations?

Princess Ann: I have every faith in it… as I have faith in relations between people.

Joe Bradley: May I say, speaking for my own… press service: we believe Your Highness’s faith will not be unjustified.

Princess Ann: I am so glad to hear you say it.

 In the end, even Irving comes around and gives her the photographs, intending on destroying the negatives and being done.

He's so romantic

He’s so romantic

It is just so sweet and romantic!

Awwwwwww!!!!

Awwwwwww!!!!