Book Review: Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

Cross Stitch is the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. If I’m not mistaken, it was released in the UK with this title, but elsewhere it was just called “Outlander”, which makes a lot more sense to me, I have to say.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Not necessarily an easy read, but this is a well-written piece of historical fiction, with a cast of well-crafted characters but most of all, a stunning setting. Not for the faint-hearted. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

CLAIRE RANDALL IS LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE, SHE HAS A HUSBAND IN ONE CENTURY – AND A LOVER IN ANOTHER…

In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds.

A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition , the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Favourite Quote

‘I can bear pain, myself,’ he said softly, ‘but I couldna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have.’

(From Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon, page 671)

Review

This is a story of conflict. Of emotional conflict. Of Claire and her love for her husband, and of her greater love for Jamie Fraser. It is chaotic, powerful, and more than anything else, dangerous. It is also a story of physical conflict, of action, of armed conflict, where people often get hurt in horrible ways, and some of them end up dead. It’s quite brutal and tumultuous, really. Yet it is also a very good book.

This book is so well-written. A lot of thought has gone into the characters, especially Claire so that although she might be out of time, she isn’t necessarily out of place. Jamie Fraser is the perfect hero: a warrior, but understated; he’s not out for power or glory, he just wants a quiet life, yet he tries to speak out against injustice. Other characters I was fascinated by included Geillis Duncan who seemed to reveal in the idea that the local populace thought she was a witch, Murtagh who came across a little bit like a small wiry guardian angel, and I was also intrigued by the comparisons between Frank and Captain Randall.

There are some pretty unsavoury passages in Cross Stitch / Outlander and Captain Randall must be the cruellest creature I have ever come across in a book. There is also a lot of adult content (if you weren’t aware), including, sex, violence, what we would call domestic violence today, torture, and more besides. (Would the story read as well with this reduced or removed? I wonder…) It’s complex and gritty and harrowing, and the characters, mostly at the mercy of others (or lack thereof), are emotional, vulnerable, angry, desperate. This book is not an easy read in places. Yet there is also love, and kindness and compassion, to be found here too.

However, in terms of historical fiction, this book feels like it has gone the extra mile to make the time it is set in as realistic as possible. Life was dangerous, hard and often cruel, even more so for women. The author doesn’t believe in sparing the reader from the details of what her characters face, including their suffering.

What’s interesting in terms of the time travel aspect of this book compared to some that I’ve read, is that Claire has a very keen understanding of the history she is living through. She knows of the life changing historical events to come, and the stronger her connections with the past become, the more likely she is to interfere with the timeline, and this burden weighs on her.

The dialogue is well-crafted. I don’t often like dialogue written in dialect or accents because it can often pull me out of the story while I try and work out what is being said. However, here the dialogue, even written with a Scottish accent, is easy to read and understand, and adds to the reading experience, rather than detracts from it.

My favourite part of the whole story (perhaps even more than the love story aspect) is, unsurprisingly if you’ve read any of my reviews before, the setting. It is stunning, and the descriptions throughout the book bring eighteenth century Scotland to life. They are rich in flora, fauna, changes in the landscape and how people interact with their environment, and how mythology, folklore and superstition weaves through it. It’s mind-blowing in its richness and the level of detail.

My big problem with this book was with how long it was. It felt like I was reading it forever. That being said, I can’t call to mind where exactly I would have trimmed the book down. Everything felt relevant when I was reading and while I was reading it, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t enjoying it.

Following on from this, given how it is said readers tend to have a shorter attention span for reading today compared to thirty years ago when the book was first published, I wonder if the book was published today whether it would have been split into two, or even three volumes.

Will I be reading the next book in the series? Probably, but just not yet. It is a big time commitment to read such a vast volume, and I have a TBR list so long that it hurts just thinking about it. So for now, I am going to read some shorter, lighter stories…

Rating

4 / 5

ARC Book Review: Wrong Line, Right Connection by Karina Bartow

My thanks to the author, Karina Bartow, for sending me an ARC of her latest release to review. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website. She’s also my latest guest for Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books. You can find Wrong Line, Right Connection on Amazon. Also her 2018 novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You, which also features Mabel, is available for $.99 on Kindle September 5-10.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Wrong Line, Right Connection is a light, sweet, whirlwind of a romance read. I loved the characters and the setting, but most of all I loved how Mabel and Roy connected! Fresh and entertaining, I enjoyed it from start to finish. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Could a mortifying day on the job end up netting you true love?

When switchboard operator Mabel Jennings reports to work on a Monday in the summer of 1964, she doesn’t have any interest in finding love again. A visitor from Coatesville, Pennsylvania changes that. On a business trip, Roy Stentz calls her station, and his deep yet kind voice intrigues her. She tries to remain professional, but in her smitten state, she connects him to the wrong line…twice, in fact. Finally, Roy invites her out to dinner, saying he wants to see if she’s a better date than an operator.

The haphazard introduction sets an unexpected romance into motion. Going out every night while he’s in town, their bond deepens as they share the tragedies they’ve endured and observe each other’s beautiful qualities. Mabel’s past travails with love, however, hold her back from committing to anything permanent. Will she overcome her reluctance and open her heart to the love calling out to her? Or will she hang up on her chance for happiness?

Favourite Quote

“Like a wounded soldier, she didn’t yearn to take in the battlefield one last time.”

(From Wrong Line, Right Connection by Karina Bartow, page 2)

Review

This was such a sweet, enjoyable read. Full of emotion and sentimentality, Wrong Line, Right Connection is a story of love after loss and heartache.

Mabel is a genuine, likeable character, and as the tale unfolds, you can’t help but root for her. She is also strong, caring and independent. Roy is sweet, charming and determined, yet his perseverance isn’t overbearing. He is the perfect gentleman, and I just love how their paths cross.

For a story where the couple in question fall almost instantly in love, there is nothing artificial or unbelievable in this tale. Rather, their romance is not only convincing but perfectly plausible in the way it’s told. The writer does well in showing the reader that although the relationship appears fast-moving, the couple don’t ignore their sensible reservations either. The story is fresh and entertaining and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

My favourite character (besides Mabel, of course) was Mabel’s friend Evelyn. Their friendship was heart-warming to read, and the way she always knew what to say to Mabel to either pick her up when she was down or in an attempt to make her see the error of her way, was fantastic. Everyone needs a friend like Evelyn.

I know very little about 1960’s America, but the setting was brought wonderfully to life. I could easily envisage where Mabel worked, the truck Roy drove, the theme park they went to, as well as all the other locations visited. The flashbacks included in the narrative added another dimension to the story, helping not only to bring Mabel’s backstory to life but to illustrate the thinking behind some of her motivations.

If you’re looking for a quick, gentle, but above all sweet romance read, I can happily recommend this story to you.

Rating

Book Review: The 1066 from Normandy by Howard of Warwick

The 1066 from Normandy is the sixteenth book in The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage by Hugh of Warwick.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging and entertaining medieval murder mystery, with a cast of wonderful characters and an interesting setting. A thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Death and taxes… with extra death.

Yet more medieval detective-sort-of-thing from the best selling author…

Brother Hermitage, the King’s most medieval investigator, is about to discover the true meaning of the Norman Conquest; money.

It’s all very well Saxons fighting William on the battlefield and trying to kill him, but evading his taxes is simply beyond the pale. Something must be done about it. And who better to do something about things than his own investigator?

The first problem is that the King’s Investigator doesn’t understand what it is. But then not understanding things has never held him back in the past.

If tax evasion is a bad thing – which William assures him it is – then the people who do it are positively revolting. Hermitage has dealt with deceit, dishonesty and deception in the past, but he’s never met people who have made it their life’s work.

Needless to say, Wat and Cwen the weavers are dragged into this, quite literally, and Wat seems to know rather too much about dodging tax.

And then, of course, the bodies start piling up. Death and taxes, eh? Who’d have thought…

Favourite Quote

There were so many passages I could have quoted from this book, most of them by Cwen, but I thought this universal truth seems very relevant in today’s world:

“Rich people do tend to behave worse about their money than people who haven’t got any,” Cwen agreed.

(From The 1066 from Normandy by Howard of Warwick, pager 222)

Review

The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage have been on my “To read / To buy” list for ages, so when I stumbled across this one in a shop I couldn’t resist, even though it is the sixteenth book in the series. Now, I don’t usually start a series part way through, but my usual reservations about doing so were unfounded. I could follow along perfectly well, and am looking forward to reading many more volumes in this series.

I loved the characters. Brother Hermitage is hilarious and Wat the Weaver and Cwen are perfect sidekicks. Cwen, in fact, was my favourite. Together, these three characters make for an engaging, entertaining story, and their camaraderie is just perfect for a cosy mystery series. Le Pedvin was sinisterly scary as the right-hand man of King William (he also happens to think Brother Hermitage is an idiot!) and as for the conspirators the trio meet along the way, they are devious and deceitful and of course, cannot possibly be trusted.

I loved the setting. Exploring the Midlands of a thousand years ago really highlights the change in the landscape compared to the Midlands of today. What was green and forested then (except for some mines and a few hovels) is now heavily urbanised and built upon. I also loved how Chesterfield was such a disappointment to the travelling group when they arrived there, having expected at least a village where they could stay, rather than a hovel close by to some old Roman ruins of a fort.

I loved the story. Taxes are of course, boring and complicated, but when combined with a plot to withhold them from the king, they can also become deadly. I thought it wonderful how Brother Hermitage, as the King’s Investigator, is given a mission to uncover this plot when he simply doesn’t understand all this talk of tax. It baffles him and he can’t understand why anyone would get involved in it. Luckily for him, Wat and Cwen seemed to have a perfect understanding of tax-dodging, which although helpful to Brother Hermitage, also alarms him a great deal!

All-in-all, I loved this book and will be returning to read more from the series in the future. I recommend this to anyone who’s interested in reading a light-hearted murder mystery set in the years after the Norman conquest.

Rating

Quick Review: Mrs Budley Falls from Grace by M.C. Beaton

Mrs Budley falls From Grace is the third book in The Poor Relation series by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Another Poor Relation has to resort to genteel thievery to make end meet – but she gets much more than she bargains for!

Cut off by her own relations, pretty, dainty widow Eliza Budley must visit some other family manor to purloin expensive baubles. Happily, the rich Marquess of Peterhouse is in his dotage and wouldn’t know a relative from a bedpost, so Eliza is sent to play the imposter.

But things do not go as planned and Eliza is met by the new Marquess – wickedly handsome, and with all his wits about him. And somehow Eliza finds herself confessing her bluff to him and he in turn is much taken with her daring and charm – but can he fall in love with such a scheming widow from the world of trade? Time for the other Poor Relations to get involved and help these confused lovers!

Review

A wonderful light-hearted read. I always find that if I’m in a bit of a reading slump, I can rely on M.C. Beaton to cheer me up!

Entertaining and engaging, Mrs Budley Falls from Grace, like the other books I have read so far in the series, is an easy, quick read. It doesn’t require much brain power to follow along, and you know how the stories are going to end.

What I like about this series is that the romance isn’t too much. It isn’t the focus of the story, but there is enough there for it to be called a romance. I also like how the Regency period is brought to life – it’s not all balls and celebrating the season in town whilst in search of a husband. For those poor relations – as well as just the poor of society – it would have been a hard life. However, there is still enough of the charm we have come to expect of the Regency for stories to still have a happy ever after, no matter how unlikely.

All-in-all, this was a fun, undemanding read. The next book in the series is Sir Phillip’s Folly, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Rating

Quick Review: The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

Summary (from back of book)

Set a guard upon your soul…

When Nathaniel Kerner takes up his new position as a mad-doctor at Crakethorne Manor, the proprietor, more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than his patients’ minds, hands over the care of his most interesting case.

Mrs Victoria Harleston’s husband accuses her of hysteria and says he will pay any price to see her well. But she accuses him of something far more terrible…

Nathaniel becomes increasingly obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston – but is she truly delusional, or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered?

Review

I remember when I purchased this book. I instantly fell in love with the cover. It’s beautiful. I also fell in love with the title. There was something quite mysterious and atmospheric about it…So did the story live up to my initial impressions?

In places, but I’ll admit I wanted to like this book more than I did, hence the mixed review.

What did I like about the book?

The setting. It was atmospheric and Gothic. A perfect place to set a story about madness.

The characters. Especially the background characters, those residing in Crakethorne Manor, I found to be pertinent in evoking the atmosphere.

The storyline. Even now, as we try and break the stigma around mental health issues, there are still some people who fear that madness can be catching. Back in the 1850s, this fear was commonplace and had been for a long time. So a story about madness, focusing on the mad, and the doctors trying to treat them without becoming mad themselves is certainly an interesting subject, even if today we have a much better grasp of mental health issues.

The historical descriptions. The story was spot-on-perfect for historical detail, and helped bring the story to life. Nothing stood out to me as out of place.

What did I not like about the book?

I struggled to connect with the main characters, and though I was interested in the story, I didn’t really have any strong feelings as to what became of them. I found Nathaniel’s obsession grating for a while, which didn’t help.

I also found the middle part of the book slow and heavy going, and I actually stopped reading it for a time, before returning and finishing it (which I’m glad I did). The ending was good and even justified some of the points I hadn’t liked earlier in the story (for example, Nathaniel’s obsession).

So a bit of a mixed review, but I would read more from this author.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A good historical fantasy adventure, woven through with elements of suspense and mythology. 3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Fact: Five thousand years ago, the Mayans carved thirteen crystal skulls.

Fact: To protect humankind, they sent them to the four corners of the globe.

Fact: They gave a precise date for when they thought the world would end: 21 December 2012.

Fact: They said that this time the destruction will be of man’s making.

Fact: Only when all thirteen skulls are reunited can the world be saved from its fate.

For the last 500 years one skull has been missing. Now it’s about to be found …

Favourite Quote

It was only a horse, a white horse, carved in simple, flowing lines from a green hillside to show the white chalk beneath.

(From The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott, page 375)

Review

I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I just felt like there was too much going on. The dual timelines of the Elizabethan and present day, although providing the space to create a very interesting story – and it was interesting – ensured there is too much to do and see, and a lot of story to tell. This book comes in at 500+ pages and it needs to be that long to cover so much story.

Apart from that, this is a good historical fantasy adventure, with elements of suspense and mythology woven through it. The settings were were evocative: in the modern timeline they included an unexplored cave network, the White Horse of Uffington, and the ancient Ridgeway. In the 16th century, we are given a glimpse of the wider world as Cedric Owens travels from Elizabethan England, to France, then Spain, then across the ocean to the New World, to New Spain. What’s more, I could envisage quite clearly each of the locations visited, either in the past or present.

I liked a number of the characters, although I didn’t feel much of a connection to any of them. The adventure element in Cedric Owens timeline was fun and engaging, and his friendship with Fernandez de Aguilar was well-written.

I can imagine this would make a fantastic film if given the opportunity.

Rating

Book Review: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell is the first book in the Amory Ames series by Ashley Weaver.

Quick Review(read on for full review)

A stylish, captivating read which captured the time period wonderfully, and Amory and the world she inhabits makes for a engaging backdrop to a murder mystery. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Glamorous Amory Ames might be wealthy but she is unhappily married to notorious playboy husband Milo and she willing accepts her former fiancé, Gil Trent’s plea for help in preventing his sister Emmeline from meeting a similar matrimonial fate.

Amory and Gil set off for the Brightwell, a sprawling seaside hotel in Devon, where Emmeline and her intended, the disreputable and impeccably groomed Rupert Howe are holidaying along with a sprinkling of other rich and sumptuously-dressed guests.

Champagne flows but the sparkle soon fades as a dark and unresolved history between Gil and Rupert surfaces. After a late night quarrel the luxurious hotel is one guest fewer by morning. When Gil is arrested for murder, Amory is determined to defend his innocence. But if she’s right the killer is still in their midst – can she prove it before she too becomes a victim?

Extravagance, scoundrels and red herrings abound as Amory draws closer to the truth.

Favourite Quote

It is an impossibly great trial to be married to a man one loves and hates in equal proportions.

(From Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver, page 7)

Review

This book was a captivating, engaging read, and the author did such a wonderful job of bringing the upper class of the 1930s to life. The Brightwell Hotel was stylish and decadent – the perfect playground for the rich and famous, and the perfect backdrop to a cosy murder mystery.

Amory Ames made for a fantastic main character. It’s easy to feel sorry for her when you consider the state of her marriage, but you quickly realise she is flawed and imperfect and human too, and not likely to sit around feeling sorry for herself. She is intelligent and witty and determined to solve the crime she has found herslf in the middle of.

The rest of the cast of characters were also well-written. Many of them were unlikeable, which made for interesting possible suspects. Naturally, there were plenty of red herrings, and the added difficulties stemming from a potential love triangle kept me turning the page until the very end. I didn’t once lose interest in the story, and am eagerly anticipating reading the next book in the series, Death Wears A Mask.

As the first book in the series, it did a great job of introducing the reader to everything we needed to know, without inundating us with too much information, and the author has left me needing to know what happens next for Amory. This has certainly entered my top five cosy crime series set between the wars.

Rating

Book Review: Prophecy by S. J. Parris

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An epic cast of historical characters are brought together at one of the most turbulent points in history to create this gripping, compelling mystery. 4 / 5

Summary from Goodreads

The second book in S. J. Parris’s bestselling, critically acclaimed series following Giordano Bruno, set at the time of Queen Elizabeth I Autumn, 1583. Under Elizabeth’s rule, loyalty is bought with blood…

An astrological phenomenon heralds the dawn of a new age and Queen Elizabeth’s throne is in peril. As Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch, a young maid of honour is murdered, occult symbols carved into her flesh.

The Queen’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, calls on maverick agent Giordano Bruno to infiltrate the plotters and secure the evidence that will condemn them to death.

Bruno is cunning, but so are his enemies. His identity could be exposed at any moment. The proof he seeks is within his grasp. But the young woman’s murder could point to an even more sinister truth…

Favourite Quote

“We work at the very edge of knowledge, and that frightens many people.”

(From Prophecy by S. J. Parris, page 121)

Review

Having re-read the first book in this series this past summer (you can find my brief thoughts on Heresy here), I was eager to read the next book in the series, and was not disappointed.

With an epic cast of characters from history – there is Bruno himself, but also Francis Walsingham, and my favourite, Dr John Dee – and set during a turbulent time in history, we are given a gripping mystery.

Bruno is a very compelling protagonist. Being unpopular with many, though not all, Catholics and Protestants alike, it is science and knowledge where his passion and loyalty lies, though he has great respect for those who are willing to believe in him and trust in him.

At 400+ pages, Prophesy is a long book, yet it doesn’t feel like it when reading. The author has a talent for imparting information without it becoming burdensome to the reader, and there is much to share on a variety of topics. Politics, foreign policy, religion, science, magic, superstition, royal lines and noble houses, conspiracies, affairs, murders, mysteries and treason, this story has it all and more besides.

There are plenty of plot twists and turns, and if you know this period of history well, you might very well guess how some of them will play out. I did, but it did nothing to distract from my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I found it remarkable that so many story threads could be woven together seamlessly without altering the final fabric of history.

The descriptions of both place and people offer a rich and vivid narrative that I enjoyed immensely. As I read, I felt the right atmosphere was conjured for this period in history, and coupled with the crimes and Bruno’s spying, there was enough tension in the story to keep me engaged in it until the very end.

I am excited to read where the story goes from here. The next book in the series is Sacrilege, and I’ve added it to my “Want to Read” list.

Rating

Quick Review: The House of the Eagle by Duncan Sprott

The House of the Eagle is the first book in the Ptolemies Quartet by Duncan Sprott

Summary ( from book cover):

The House of the Eagle begins Duncan Sprott’s Ptolemies Quartet, an epic restoration of the dark and glittering story of ancient Alexandria and the Greek Pharaohs of Egypt, whose extraordinary dynasty spans twelve generations from the death of Alexander the Great to the fall of Cleopatra.

Narrated by Thoth, the ibis-headed Egyptian god of writing and wisdom, this book details the rise of the shrewd Ptolemy I from ordinary soldier of Macedon to Satrap of Egypt, and his coronation as Pharaoh and a god in his own lifetime. We follow then the astonishing history of Ptolemy’s twelve turbulent children in unending wars, domestic murders and incestuous marriages, all set against the exotic backdrop of Egypt.

With it’s cast of powerful characters – King Ptolemy himself, the violent Ptolemy Keraunos, the famous Thunderbolt, the luxury-loving Ptolemy Mikros, and their poisonous sister, Arsinoe Beta – this is a triumph of historical salvage that brings vividly to life the most bizarre family that ever existed.

My Thoughts:

This is another re-read. I’ve been clearing my bookshelves, going through them volume-by-volume, and stumbled across this one I read, probably close to when it first came out in 2004, but its story and the author’s storytelling have stayed with me. So, when I found this one again, I knew I wanted to re-read it…

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the story, the characters…pretty much everything about it. It’s a vast book, running to 445 pages, but it doesn’t feel overly long. In fact, it is engaging, engrossing, and full of drama. My favourite line comes right at the end:

“As for any man who speaks ill of this book, Thoth will fight him.”

Simply epic. I really liked Thoth as narrator. I’ve always had a soft spot for the ibis-headed god and have a small figurine of him standing on my writing desk. However, having read a couple of reviews on Goodreads, not all readers enjoyed it.

There is something quite disappointing about this four book series though. The second book, Daughter of the Crocodile, was published in 2006, but here it seems the quartet ends. However, I will certainly read the next book (at some point), and imagine I will love it just as much as this one.

Rating:

Book Review: Elinor & Marianne by Emma Tennant

Elinor & Marianne is Emma Tennant’s sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Charming and witty, yet also terribly sad. Emma Tennant’s voice is convincingly that of Jane Austen. A beautiful read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A sequel to Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, this is the correspondence between the married Dashwood sisters – Mrs Brandon and Mrs Edward Ferrars. Passion, in the shape of the charming seducer Willoughby, makes an appearance, together with perennial themes of money and social embarrassment.

Favourite Quote

This work, which is so necessary, is combined with the erection of the Grecian Temple on the hill where the old walnut trees once stood. I do not ask you to consider the expense of such an enterprise, dear Sister – it would not be in your competence to do so.

(from Elinor & Marianne by Emma Tennant, page 36)

Review

I often steer clear of modern sequels to classics, especially classics which I love. Sense and Sensibility has always been a favourite of mine, and is probably my favourite Jane Austen novel. Yet this one had been languishing on my shelf for years and suddenly I felt compelled to read it. And I’m so glad I did!

Although the summary says this book is the correspondence between the Dashwood sisters, it is in fact, the correspondence between many of the characters introduced to us in Sense and Sensibility, not just Elinor and Marianne. In it, we get to read the thoughts of Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, Margaret Dashwood and her mother, Mrs Jennings and her daughter Charlotte, as well as John Dashwood, Edward Ferrers and the former Lucy Steele. This serves to give us a rounded, multi-dimensional view of the society the two young women move in and the events which befall them.

I liked the fact that the author chose to use the form of letters to write her sequel, especially after learning Jane Austen originally started writing Sense and Sensibility as a series of letters between Elinor and Marianne. This gave an added authenticity to the book.

I found the book charming, addictive reading, and had finished it easily within 24 hours as I couldn’t put it down. The author nailed the characters, managing to transfer their personalities as shown in Sense and Sensibility into letter form. Mrs Jennings I especially thought good as the great-hearted woman with a terrible need to gossip.

There is no getting away from the social hardships of the time, especially for women, and some of the themes encountered, like the loss of one’s home and fortune (in fact, the loss of any means to support yourself at all) make for sad and difficult reading. Yet there is levity enough to ensure the reader is not left miserable.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a beautiful read, one which has inspired me to search out more of the author’s books.

Rating