Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Suitors and Sabotage

So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you have read all her books. 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 books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but in something fresher than a retelling.

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

So we added this book to the library last July and I was very interested in reading it, but had too many books on my to-read list. I decided to read it at a later time, you know what I’m talking about.

I first became interested in the book because of the cover, I know-we aren’t supposed to, but it is so beautiful.

Then I looked at the back and saw:

“…Jane Austen spiced with action, suspense, and humor.”

“Jane Austen fans in need of a good book look no further.”

“It’s Jane Austen meets Jane Foster…”

After that I HAD to read it, if it is recommended for Austen fans-here we go.

Gracebridge Manor in Fotheringham, Kent -1817

Miss Imogene Chively has returned from her London season a success, or so her family believes. Imogene did not enjoy the parties, being on display, etc.

Hopefully, she will not have to go back as she has a suitor- a Mr. Ernest Steeple. He’s very, very interested in her and about to visit and stay a few weeks.

Imogene is a very shy and not looking forward to him coming, but at least she will be home.

I don’t want to do this

She an her friend Miss Emily Beeswanger (what a name!) are relaxing outside the ruins of the nearby castle, when Imogene’s dog puts himself in danger. They try to get him back, but he won’t listen!

Oh no!

But in the end they are assisted by a handsome young man.

After he saves their dog, the man introduces himself as Benjamin “Ben” Steeple, the younger brother of Ernest. He has accompanied him, and the two arrived early. Mr. Chively, Imogene’s father, is monopolizing Ernest, so Ben decided to check out the castle ruins. Ben is studying to be an architect and could not pass up the opportunity.

Sorry, I have it in my media library and had to use it.

Benjamin joins the ladies for a picnic and Emily sets her cap for the charming, flirtatious, dashing man. Emily went with Imogene for the London season, but did not have anyone interested in her. She’s feeling like a failure and this handsome man seems to be the answer to her wish to be married.

Emma Woodhouse from Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale version

Imogene’s dog, Jasper, takes off into the old ruins, again, and Ben helps save him for Imogene. They end up bringing part of the castle down and destroying their clothes in the process (not like they are naked bit that those clothes can never be fixed to be in their previous condition ever again).

Ben goes to change before dinner and encourage his brother. Ernest is over the moon about Imogene but feels disheartened as he is trying to spend time with her, but has only been spending time with the dad. He’s worried he won’t have anything to converse with her, so Ben tells him to talk about Joseph Turner.

Uh, excuse me…his name is Joseph Mallard William Turner. Sorry if my art history is showing, but he did make beautiful paintings. They were large “romantic” pieces of art. We studied Slave Ship, Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On, in my class but they wouldn’t have seen that painting as it wasn’t done until 1840.

Anyways…

Anyways…sorry for that derail.

So the brothers are some of the best parts of the book as it is fun to read their interactions as they mess with each other. For instance Ben tells Mr. Chively that Ernest likes economics and Mr. Chively spends the whole night talking his ear off about banking and interest.

I’m so bored….BEN! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!

Ben, however, spends the night talking to Imogene and Emily and enjoys conversing with both women. He’s a major flirt and loves charming the ladies.

Ugh!!

Imogene finds herself feeling uncertain as she is in a place she has never been before. She knows that Ernest likes her…but all this attention-could Ben have feelings for her too? Are two brothers fighting over her?

But then Emily points out all the attention Ben has been giving her and the way he has been treating her. Could this be worse than she thought, could he like both Imogene and Emily?

After the two talk, Imogene becomes convinced that Ben is just flirting and charming both of them (very Frank Churchill). Imogene is a little saddened at that, but Emily will not give up. She wants Ben and practices her best flirtations in order to win his heart.

The next morning, Ernest is taken off by Imogene’s father to go fishing, while Ben gets to spend the morning with her. He is doing his best to extol his brother’s virtues, but finds himself holding her hands longer than necessary and thinking more about her than his brother.

Wow, Ben, really? Your brother’s girl! You know he’s into her. And he’s your BROTHER!!!!!

Forget you!

They spend time together, but then Imogene goes to give Emily’s sister, Harriet, her drawing lessons.

Afterwards, she finds Emily decked out in her most flattering gown, ready for Ben’s return-you know pulling a Sandy.

Besides the Beeswanger family, and the Steeples, the Tabards are also staying with the Chivelys. Mrs. Chively, Mrs. Beeswanger, and Mrs. Tabard were very close friends, and relatives. Mrs. Tabard passed away and since then Mr. Tabard has been a ghost of the man he once was. His son Jake has become an incorrigible prankster-pairing up with Imogene’s older brother Percy.

Ben has a horrible secret and admits it to Imogene. He wants to be an architect more than anything in the world, but he cannot draw! He begs her for lessons and to keep his secret. It makes Imogene feel special as her family doesn’t care about art and she begins lessons with him.

OKaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Red flag number 2!!! Liar, secret keeping, your only role is to make HIM better. Imogene, walk away-walk away!!!

That evening Ernest and Imogene finally have a chance to spend time together. Ernest tries to talk about Turner, but can’t. He admits he knows little of painting and that he is a…reader. Not of poems or essays…but…literature.

A handsome, kind, caring, rich man who loves to read?

I’m with Mrs. Bennet!

He’s PERFECT!!! He’s the mythical unicorn!!!!!

Imogene begins to enjoy Ernest’s company just as much as Ben’s and finds herself in a real quandary. She likes Ernest and Ben, but she can’t have both so which brother will she choose?

But before Imogene’s heart can tell her the path to take-some strange things start happening. Her jewelry is found in Ben’s room, then a burr is under his saddle and almost kills him, the castle starts falling down as well, and more. Someone is after Ben, but who?

A MYSTERY!!! You know what that means…

Mystery, you say? I’m on the case

To further complicate this midsummer nights comedy of errors; Ernest and Ben both like Imogene, Emily likes Ben, Jake seems to be interested in Emily, and Imogene doesn’t know which man she wants.

Uhhhh…

And who is doing all these mysterious things? Could it be Percy or Jake, taking their “jokes” too far? Could it be Emily, who is after Ben-maybe trying to dissuade him from Imogene? Or could it be Ernest who wants to take Ben out of the running for Imogene’s heart?

Thoughts After Reading:

This book was pretty enjoyable for the most part. I thought the beginning and middle were really good. The parts that kind of turned me off was when the story began to drag on with the constant back and forth of Imogene trying to decide on a guy.

Which one, which one…

It really bothered me too how both men laughed off Imogene’s fear. I mean come on guys, there is too much happening for it be an “accident”. Seriously dudes.

Come on guys!

There is also a weird part when Imogene accuses Ernest of doing all these things to Ben and Ben becomes furious. She is in shock about how “unreasonable” he is and hopes to never see that “unreasonable” side again. Ugh, girl please-you just accused his brother of trying to kill him. If someone said that to me about my sister I would have flipped a table at them. How dare you!!!

That’s my sibling!

But really, whether you will love or hate this book will boil down to one thing-which guy you like better. It is a tale as old as Fritz and Ernst (The Swiss Family Robinsons) or modern day-Dean and Sam (Supernatural). You have two guys who are amazing guys-both nice, brave, good people. One is more of an introvert, one more of an extrovert; one slightly more brawny, one slightly more brainy; etc. And you can only choose one!

Who would I pick? I really liked Ernest. I thought he was kind, caring, sweet-loved that he was a reader and found him to be like Mr. Tilney-comfortable, a novel reader, and just fun.

Ben, on the other hand, I could not stand. He made me think of Frank Churchill, a charmer-all fluff, and no substance. I really felt that Ben picked up on how Imogene feels ignored and not valued for her art and really  played on that manipulating her into being with him so he can use her artistic ability to further his career. I hate charming flirts-they are such jerks so I didn’t want her with him, I wanted Ernest!!! But hey that’s just me-you might feel differently.

Plus, 100000000000000000000000000000000x points: Ernest has read all the Jane Austen  novels.

What?

For more non-Austen reads for Austen readers, Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Love for Keeps

For mysteries, go to Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)

For more Young Adult books, go to Prom & Prejudice

 

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Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Love for Keeps

What to do after you have read all the Austen novels.

Hmm…

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?

Just sit around and do nothing?

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

A Love for Keeps (Brides of Arkansas #1) by Janet Lee Barton

This book takes place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas- year 1886 (70 years past Regency England). Megan Snow is the eldest of the three Snow daughters and with the death of their father, has tried to find a way to take care of her family. She has been approaching different banks in the hope of getting a loan in order to start her own dressmaking and designing building. Unfortunately, she has struck zero.

Please let someone say yes!

They approach the last bank, Connors Bank, in which the handsome and charming bank manager, Mr. Nathan Brooks, takes a chance on them. Mr. Nathan finds the Snow family to be very charming, and talented as Megan creates an amazing series of outfits for his daughter.

The two strike up a lot of conversations and Nathan finds himself drawn to Megan.

What?

But Nathan has a sad past…his wife was killed in a fire and his daughter managed to just barely escape-being saved by his sister-in-law. He feels heavy guilt, as he was not there to save his wife. He has remained single due to this, but now is starting to open his heart.

There is more complications to this story as Abigail Conners, Nathan’s sister-in-law, is deeply in love with him. She has been when she first met him, far before he married her younger sister Rose.

Ever since the fire she has always felt it is her time, her chance-but unfortunately Nathan has continued to grieve. Now, to her delight, he is willing to consider marrying again, but at her chagrin-he is interested in Megan Snow! A dressmaker? A Merchant? Someone below their station? NOT ABIGAIL!!!

While Nathan tries to woo Megan, Abigail tries her best to dissuade Megan-pulling every plan in her arsenal to convince Megan she is not capable of becoming the next Mrs. Brooks.

As you can see this has quite a few elements of the Austen stories and characters for those who are fans. We have a great romantic character-with a sad heartbreaking backstory (making him even more romantic) like Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility or Captain James Benwick from Persuasion.

We have a lot of Pride and Prejudice as Nathan and Megan have a romance that crosses the social line-although the class system was much different in England than America.

Unacceptable

And of course the number one thing, Abigail could be Caroline Bingley’s twin. The two are so similar in their scheming to get the man they love-from clothes to catch his eye, lying about things and engagements to dissuade the women, and any other scheme they can to get the guy to look and choose them over their rival.

Nathan, you cannot be serious

A fun, clean, quick read that gives Austenian elements we love in a new story.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Book Club Picks: Wuthering Heights

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: A Change of Fortune

Have you ever felt this way? You’ve gone through all of Austen’s books and want something more to read? 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?

Hmm…

That’s why I started this series Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers. In it I will review books that have things we love about the Austen novels but something fresh than a retelling.

A Change of Fortune (Ladies of Distinction #1) by Jen Turano

So this story doesn’t take place in Regency England but Gilded Age America. However, it does have a few elements we love of the Austen fare.

The main character of the story is Lady Eliza Sumner, an English aristocrat who’s family fortune has been stolen and left her with nothing. To try and recapture her wealth and take revenge on her embezzler, she disguised herself and took a job as a governess as she searches for her quarry.

Being a governess can be a hard living. We all remember how it was an awful fate in Emma.

“With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate, she had resolved at one-and-twenty to complete the sacrifice and retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society, peace, and hope, to penance and mortification forever” (p. 156)

Anyways, Lady Eliza is asked to join a dinner party when one of her charges is sick and can no longer attend. There she meets two eligible bachelors who all the women wish to marry, brothers Thomas and Zayne Beckett. The Beckett brothers are after a Eugene Daniels who turns out to be working with the man Lady Eliza is searching for.

Hmm…

Lady Eliza, Agatha Watson (daughter of the family she is governess for) and the Becketts all have a hilarious interaction as they try to break into a house and attempt to escape the police. The women are arrested as they are thought to be “ladies of the night”, and the Becketts go rescue them.

Lady Eliza is fired from her position and stays with Thomas Beckett, his two kids, and his mother-casting off her disguise and revealing who she is. She develops friendships with Agatha and the Becketts, and all team up to try and outsmart the villains.

At first Eliza is intent on not trusting anyone, but when all try to help her and show their care for her; she starts wondering if maybe her plans aren’t the ones she needs to follow after all, maybe God has something better in mind.

So the Austen flavors, what do we have?

Hmm…

So Austen had Mrs. Bennet, always worrying and trying to scheme a way to get her daughters married off. In this we have twice the scheming with Mrs. Watson (Agatha’s mother) trying to throw every eligible man she can at her oldest daughter Agatha in the hope of seeing her settled. She quickly befriends Mrs. Beckett who is trying to set up her sons and daughter (even though her daughter is in another state at the moment.) While Mrs. Bennet was shrill in her cries to get her girls settled, these ladies are hilarious at the ways they scheme to settle their own.

We all know of Mr. Darcy’s famous awful proposal, what was he thinking?

We have an equally bad one on this novel when Thomas Beckett proposes to Lady Eliza stating that he wants to marry Eliza as he is “fond of her” and she will be a “good mother” to her children. Actually he does worse than Mr. Darcy, he doesn’t even really ask her to marry him, but states those things

This book is full of mystery, intrigue, although it is far goofier and sillier than Austen’s work. If you are looking for a fast read that is comedic and easily read through, with a handful of Austen elements, this is for you.

For more on lost fortunes, go to A Family Affair

For more Pride and Prejudice, go toDarcy’s ’80’s Power Song

For more book reviews, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks