Book Review for "The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy" by Mary Lydon Simonsen

This book was referred to me by one who described it as "not a bodice-ripper". While I can say that it does not go to the extreme that some of the P&P sequels I've heard about do, I wouldn't exactly call this give-to-your-Grandma clean, either. There is some "minor" language that I didn't appreciate (I say "minor", even though there is no such thing in my book. Foul language is foul language. I say "minor" merely because there are those who would not consider taking the Lord's name in vain, the word "bas***d", or the word "d**n" as foul language). However, what really bothered me the most about this book was the allusions to Mr. Darcy's illicit affairs with widowed women and his lustful fantasies about Elizabeth. Ew! I have nothing against sex between a married man and wife, but I certainly do not need to read about it. And call me a prude if you like, but I've always imagined that Mr. Darcy lived a chaste life until he met Lizzy. I understand that it was all the rage for gentlemen to take mistresses. But you will never convince me that it was something Mr. Darcy did.

Ms. Simonsen certainly gave us a new picture of Anne de Bourgh, however, as a feisty schemer who plots a way to bring her cousin and Elizabeth together at Pemberley. This is certainly an Anne we need not feel sorry for, as she is quite capable of taking care of herself thank you very much.

She did not paint Georgiana in quite the same way, either. In this story, Georgiana is a bit flighty, hopelessly obsessed with gothic novels and tragedies. At Ramsgate, Georgiana discovered on her own what a despicable cad Wickham was and was preparing to tell him off when Darcy entered the scene---quite a bit different than any other version of P&P I've read. This Georgiana is far more independent than the Georgiana I am accustomed to and doesn't really seem to need the loving instruction from new sister Elizabeth.

Jane also gets a makeover--and a backbone--in Ms. Simonsen's book. Will a curious (and odd) new suitor throw a monkey wrench in Bingley's plan to win back Jane's heart?

In the end, no matter how well the story may have been written (I'll grant Ms. Simonsen that), I just could not get over her portrayal of my favorite literary hero. A pervy Darcy is one I just cannot stomach. Give me the gentlemanly Darcy any day.


Change of Heart - "The Reunion" Prologue

I had a change of heart and decided to post the prologue to my story, "The Reunion".  Due to security issues, this is probably all of the story I'll be able to show, however. Hope you enjoy it!

The Reunion - Prologue

June - Present Year

    The Durango crept along the cemetery road past rows and rows of tombstones, coming to a stop in front of one underneath an ancient weeping willow tree.  A young woman emerged from the vehicle and reached back inside for a bag and the box of plants sitting on the passenger seat.  She shut the door with her leg and carefully made her way over to the tombstone.  Next to it was a bench, and onto this she set her armful of plants.  Then, she reached into the bag for her gardening tools.
    She knelt in front of the tombstone, digging holes and then planting each of the various bunches of flowers in the loamy soil.  Satisfied with her work, she wiped her brow with the back of her hand and settled back in the lush grass.
    Sighing, she thought again about today’s date: June 2.  Had it already been a year?  It didn’t seem possible.  This was the first time she’d been to his grave in months.  She’d last visited eight weeks after the funeral.  At first, she was in no shape to even leave the house, sicker than she’d ever been in her life.  Then, once she’d started feeling better, Cancun experienced the full brunt of a brutal Colorado winter.  She just couldn’t risk an accident on the mountain road between her house and the cemetery--not when she was the only parent they had left.  And then in recent months, she’d been busier than she’d ever thought possible.  No matter how busy things were at home, or how much seeing his beloved name in stone with those two dates below it, she knew nothing would keep her from being here today with him.  On the very worst kind of anniversary.

Andrew Emmitt Darcy  
Safe in the arms of Jesus 

    She ran her fingers lovingly over the name, melancholy once again at the gruesome thought of his life cut so violently short. He’d only been thirty.  So young.  It still didn’t make sense to her.  But did losing a loved one this way ever make sense?  There was no comfort in knowing that she wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last to experience this horror.
    She listened to the wind whispering it’s words of comfort through the leaves on the trees, closing her mind to the memories of that dreadful night.  Not yet.  She was not ready--there were other things to think of first. Using her sleeve to wipe the tears from her eyes, she brushed her hands off and reached once more for the bag. From inside the bag, she carefully pulled out a small box made of marble.  Lifting the lid, she extracted each item one by one.  A picture drawn by her four-year-old son of his interpretation of Daddy singing with the angels in Heaven.  A small plastic bag containing several wispy locks of hair taken from her two-year-old son’s first haircut.  Another plastic bag containing several pictures.  These she removed from the bag and held up, explaining each one.
    “Here’s Emmitt at his fourth birthday party with the toy train set our parents chipped in and bought him.  And here’s Will taking his first steps.”  She flipped through the pictures one by one, each memory more bittersweet than the last.  She would always treasure these special moments with her sons--Andrew’s sons.  They were pieces of him she would have with her forever.  They both even boasted more of his features and appearance than hers.  Yet, she wished once again that it could’ve been different.  That he could’ve been in the pictures, sharing these precious memories with her.
    There were several pictures that had been separated from the others when she’d first removed them from the bag.  These she now took in her hands. 
    “When I was here last, I told you that I suspected I might be pregnant.  Turns out that I was. Andrew, I’d like to introduce you to your little daughter, Andrea,” she said, and held up a picture of a tiny infant wrapped in a pink blanket.  “I named her after both of us--Andrea Grace.”  One by one, she held up several pictures of their daughter taken at various stages in her short four months of life.  “She was conceived that morning....that morning we were together for the very last time.  She was my very last gift from you, my love.”  A daughter.  When Will was born, they’d talked about trying once more for a little girl.  While he loved his sons, Andrew had always wanted a little girl who would be “Daddy’s little girl”.  And of course, she had dreamed of having someone to dress up and show off.  Now, they finally had a daughter.  A daughter her husband would never hold close to his heart.  A daughter without a father to walk her down the aisle when she married.
    It was still incomprehensible to her.
    She returned the pictures to the bag, gently lay them in the box with the other mementos, and then placed the box behind the flowers up against the tombstone.  She’d leave them here for him.  Even though she knew he wasn’t actually here, it comforted her somehow to know that the box was there.
    She leaned back against the tree, drew her knees up into her chest, and closed her eyes.  Even closed, the words on the tombstone were clear enough that they seemed embedded in her very mind.  Against her will, the memories of that day flooded back to her.  Some of the memories were achingly tender, precious.  But others, like those from that horrible night... 
    The night of the reunion---the night Andrew was killed.


Book Review for "Shades of Blue" by Karen Kingsbury (Kindle Edition)

This is a powerful story that reveals what happens after an abortion. Ms. Kingsbury definitely does not gloss over the fact that abortion is essentially murder (thank you!), thereby having a lasting effect on women (and men) who make this "choice". Brad & Emma's story was powerfully written and I especially appreciated reading about how we as Christians should respond toward others in crisis. As always, her writing ability pulled me into the story early on, making me feel like I was a third party participating in Brad & Emma's journey to forgiveness. At the conclusion of the book, Ms. Kingsbury shared some very personal information with readers that brought me as a reader even closer to her--not many authors are willing to be "real". Shades of Blue is a must-read--not only for those who love a good story. But for those who need to hear that there is forgiveness and redemption following an abortion, as well. For the latter group, I pray you find the healing and forgiveness that is available to you from Jesus Christ.

Book Review for "Rooms: A Novel" by James Rubart (Kindle Edition)

There are no words to adequately express thoughts and emotions reading this book stirred up inside of me. I originally started with only the sample, but had to purchase the rest of the book as soon as I finished those few pages. My family and I were on a long road trip and I literally read Rooms in its entirety on the trip. It was that good. The characters were well fleshed out and seemed very real to me. The description of the house and each new room...amazing. Best of all, however, was the main character's journey back to a relationship with God.

This is definitely not a story to be missed. But if you do decide to read it, I warn you now: you'd better make sure you have plenty of time for reading. Once you start, you will not be able to put it down until the end.

I've seen some pretty negative reviews for this book. Several of them have been because of the book's Christian content. There are those who are bound and determined to give negative reviews to books merely because they are Christian. Fine. I hope the author pays them no mind (because I as a reader sure don't). The ones that I don't understand are the ones from fellow Christians questioning the author's theology, or making assumptions that are just not in the book. Mr. Rubart is not saying that wealthy, successful businessmen can't be Christians or are demon-possessed. That was not at all the message I received from reading the book. It is where and in what Micah placed his meaning for living and all of his importance that was called into question. The Bible is quite clear that our hope and trust is to be placed in Jesus Christ. Our focus of worship is to be God alone. What do we love? Is it money? Our possessions? Power or standing in the world? Even people can take our focus off of God. Money is not evil. Success is not evil. Possessions are not evil. But when we place them in importance above our relationship with Jesus Christ or hold onto them tightly, they become idols. Micah's power and wealth was an idol. Sometimes the happiest, most content people are those without many material goods. Why? Because they are not owned by their belongings. On the other hand, I know several wealthy businessmen and women who are quite generous with their material blessings.

Many have compared this book with The Shack. Honestly, I have serious issues with the theology presented in that book. I do not, however, have issues with this one. This is a book about a prodigal returning Home and how those around him help him find his way back to a relationship with God the Father. Period.

Book Review for "Healer: A Novel" by Linda Windsor (Kindle Edition)

As always, I will not include a synopsis of the book, as the product description and other reviewers themselves have already done a great job at describing this story. I loved absolutely everything about this book. There was chemistry--but clean chemistry--between the two main characters. The historical setting and characters were fleshed out (but, I admit, rather confusing at times crying to keep all the names straight); the inclusion of King Arthur and his contemporaries was extremely interesting and made me want to read more about them.

As a Christian, I also really enjoyed the redemptive nature of The Healer. Christ's forgiveness and free gift of Grace was the central theme of the book, so some who are not Christians may be turned off by this. The author also included the subject of Spiritual warfare in the story, which was also interesting to read about. It is a very real thing, whether acknowledged or not, and I appreciate Ms. Windsor for not shying away from it.

This is the first book of a series and I am eagerly anticipating the release of future books.

Book Review for "Book of Days" by James Rubart (Kindle Edition)

I really enjoyed Rooms (the author's previous novel) and I've got to say that I enjoyed this book as well. I'm not going to give a book synopsis; others have already done this and you get the gist of the story by reading the plot description. Besides, I don't necessarily read reviews to read a regurgitated version of the description. I read them because I want to know what readers thought about the story.

I was completely sucked into the story from the first page.  I appreciated that the behind-the-scenes antagonist in the story was not made known until the very end. And I did not guess it ahead of time (which usually happens). I basically read this book during a 13-hour car trip and it sucked me in so completely that the last three hours of the trip (normally what feels like the longest part of the trip) flew by in a blink of an eye. I love it when authors can sweep me so completely into the story. James Rubart is a genius at this.

The characters are genuine and their interaction believable. I found myself cheering for Cameron and Ann to find the Book of Days and for Taylor Stone to find healing. And the descriptions of the locations and the people in the book were enough that I had a clear picture in my mind of what they were like. Especially of The Place (to tell you more would ruin the story).

Book Review for "Captain Wentworth's Persuasion" by Regina Jeffers (Kindle Edition)

Persuasion has never been one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. I did, however, enjoy reading this version of the story, told through Captain Wentworth's perspective. Can I just say how much I love Captain Wentworth?? While Mr. Darcy is and will always be my favorite Austen hero, Captain Wentworth now rates right up there with Darcy in my book. It was fairly clean with only a bit of "minor" profanity (for those who prefer not to read books with profanity or sex). The couple's sexual chemistry was quite clear without being explicit or detailed--something I greatly appreciate. My only other complaint was that it felt like Ms. Jeffers left us hanging at the end. We're told that both Captain and Mrs. Wentworth were leary of Lord Wallingford and it is hinted that he had a part in the smuggling ring. But there was not really any conclusion to that. Was he guilty? Was he innocent? The reader certainly doesn't know. Otherwise, this was an excellent book--especially for lovers of Persuasion.

Book Review for "Tahn", "Return to Alastair", and "The Scarlet Trefoil" by L.A. Kelly (Kindle Editions)

I originally download this book because it was Christian fiction and it was offered for free (a combination I cannot resist). While I normally enjoy books with this type of setting, I really didn't have high expectations. And then I started reading and was completely sucked into the story. In fact, I practically inhaled all three of the books in the series in one week.

Most of the bad reviews are from people who do not like Christian fiction. So let me make sure I'm crystal clear, this is a Christian book. The characters actually pray. There are Bible studies in the book. The plan of salvation is presented in this series. If you hate Christians or all things we represent or believe in, do not read this book. Because, inevitably, you will write up a bad review about how much you hate Christian Fiction (CF) and this book for its "propaganda". Although, why with all the reviews letting people know very clearly that this is CF, there are still people confused about this, I'm not sure. Perhaps the lesson should be, do some research of any book you want to buy before you actually purchase it. Even if it's free.

Back to Tahn. I loved everything about this series. The setting. The characters. The story line. I especially loved the redemption of such a twisted, pained character. Throughout his short life, Tahn had experienced so many atrocities that he truly believed he was Satan's spawn. Unsaveable. Unloveable. Until he met Netta, who helped him to finally understand and accept the mighty scope of God's forgiveness and mercy.

Tahn, The Return to Alastair, and The Scarlet Trefoil are amazing stories about God's love and mercy and how forgiveness has the power to completely change lives. I loved every minute spent with Tahn and Netta and deeply regret that L.A. Kelly did not write any more stories about them before her death.

Book Review for "Emma & Knightley" by Rachel Billington (Kindle Edition)

I really wanted to like this book as Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels (not as well-loved as Pride and Prejudice, but that's beside the point). Upon reading the sample, I was thoroughly intrigued with the idea of discovering what Mr. & Mrs. Knightley's ever-after resembled. How was life at Hartfield? How did they adjust to living as husband and wife after viewing each other for so long as friends--and friends with such a disparity in ages? How did the marriages of some of the other characters turn out? Would Augusta Elton develop any taste and lose her vulgar sense of vanity? (After reading this book, I can say with all certainty that she did not.)

Within the opening pages, we discover that Jane Fairfax Churchill, after giving birth to a son, met an unfortunate and untimely death. This sets into motion a series of events that completely alters everyone's lives--and the Knightleys' marriage. These events were interesting enough that, despite my utter dislike for the story, I simply had to finish reading the book instead of abandoning it as I heartily wished to do.

Perhaps I've seen the Gwynneth Paltrow version of Emma too many times to be able to accurately perceive the truth in this from the actual story, but it seemed to me that Emma, by the time she married Mr. Knightley, had undergone a transformation in the way she viewed other people. She seemed less of a snob, less concerned about status and such. This, however, is far from the Emma that Mrs. Billington portrayed. Her Emma was just as haughty and snobbish--and judgmental--as the "real" Emma from the start of Jane Austen's novel. No transformation had been made after even a year of marriage, which I find extremely hard to believe.

I also read with disapproval the portrayal of Emma & Knightley's marriage and their lack of communication. How could two people--as portrayed by Jane Austen--with so much ability to make themselves known and heard by the other suffer through so many months of a sudden lack of communication? There were times I just wanted to smack both of them and shout, "Talk to each other!" While possibly more true to real life (especially during those early years of marriage), it was not the Emma and Knightley I've grown familiar with through the years. And while I appreciated not having to read about it (I heartily disapprove and dislike when authors use descriptive sex scenes---particularly in Austen continuations. I believe she would roll over in her grave at such things), I find it extremely hard to believe that there was no passion in their marriage, as Mrs. Billington would have us believe.

Finally, while Frank Churchill's character is far from reproach in Emma, I cannot believe he is so bad, so inherently wicked, as Mrs. Billington portrays him in her novel. He has always been selfish, self-centered, and devious. But I just cannot agree that "womanizer" and "debauched cad" are also traits that should also be added to his list of faults.

This book was very well written and would probably be thoroughly enjoyed by someone who has not previously read Emma. The Jane Austen enthusiasts looking for a continuation of a beloved book will want to keep looking.

Book Review for "Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy" by Abigail Reynolds (Kindle Edition)

First of all, I want to make quite clear at the beginning of my review that if you are looking for a clean Austen variation or continuation (one without foul language or sexual content of any kind), then this is not the book for you. If it had not included taking the Lord's name in vain (something that, as a Christian, I absolutely detest) and some sexual content, I would have enjoyed this book. I read a few reviews before downloading it (and I have to admit I picked this one up when it was offered for free in the Kindle store, so I am not actually out any money) and none of them were very clear in labeling the sexual content. I was lead to believe that there was "hinted" sexual content, but nothing graphic. Apparently my idea of graphic and others' ideas of graphic are two very different things.

I really liked the premise of the book -- that, following Darcy's first proposal of marriage in Hunsford, Elizabeth is not given a chance to refuse before he kisses her twice. Unfortunately, they are witnessed by Colonel Fitzwilliam and a couple groundsmen, so instead of compromising her integrity, she allows everyone to believe she had just accepted his offer of marriage. What must marriage to Mr. Darcy be like under these false pretenses? Especially since he believes her as smitten as he.

Of course, he does discover her true feelings for him, which sets up the major conflict for the story. Will Elizabeth fall in love with her husband as she gets to know him better, and if so, will he ever accept that her affection is genuine?

I literally read this in a day because I was so intent on uncovering the answers to these questions myself. I would have enjoyed the book far more (as it is, I skipped over certain parts) if Ms. Reynolds had left out the parts I alluded to earlier.

Book Review of "The Other Mr. Darcy" by Monica Fairview (Kindle edition)

Ms. Fairview's book, The Other Mr Darcy made me ask myself if Caroline Bingley was perhaps one of the most misjudged people in literary history. When I first began the book, I was skeptical. After all, she is most often portrayed as a bit of a snob, to say the least (and this is probably the nicest thing I can say about the way she is portrayed). But to ascribe real, explainable emotions to her? Unthinkable! Yet, that is exactly what Ms. Fairview does---and quite admirably, I might add.

At the start of the story, we discover that there is in fact, a second Mr. Darcy. No, he doesn't have a secret twin (nothing so sinister for our Darcy); it is an American-born cousin on Darcy's father's side. Mr. Robert Darcy has returned to England on business for his family and unwittingly witnesses a moment of real human emotion from Miss Bingley when he encounters her weeping from her broken heart after Mr. Darcy's wedding. She is horrified and chagrined, to say the least, at being caught by him, even though she has no idea who he is (I daresay it would have made her mortification that much worse if she'd immediately known).

Nearly a year later, he arrives at Netherfield to summon Jane to Elizabeth's side. Of course, Jane and Charles (who has boasted in the past of being able to quit a place within five minutes if he so desired) depart immediately for Pemberley, leaving Miss Bingley and a recently widowed Louisa to travel to Pemberly a few days later in company with Mr. Robert Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, who travels from London to join the party at Bingley's request. Their journey to Pemberley is beset with obstacles, which force them to spend a few days in the country home of a friend of the Colonel's. While there, when a rumor threatens to ruin Miss Bingley's reputation, Mr. Darcy comes to her rescue--by announcing their engagement, albeit a phony one.

Once the party finally arrives at Pemberley and their "engagement" is known, there are those present who would come between them. Throughout a vast assortment of zany story plots (a bit too many, in my opinion), it is obvious to most anyone else how the couple feels about each other. But will they each realize how the other feels in time?

During the story, we were presented with some explanations of why Caroline Bingley is the way that she is. And although I did not think it possible at the start of the story, by the end, I have come to realize that yes, she really could be a most misunderstood heroine. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to read (or watch) my favorite book quite the same way ever again.

Book Review for "One Hero, A Savior" by John Fitch V (Kindle Edition)

I did not pay close attention to the book description to realize that this is a fantasy book (nor does that really matter). I won't give away details or discuss what readers can plainly discover from reading the book synopsis. So the following are just my general impressions on the quality of writing. The author's description of a weather system in the first couple pages really sucked me into the story. Typically, when they are that good, I know I am in for a treat. As I alluded to in the first sentence, this is a fantasy. The main character, Preston, somehow finds himself actually in the fantasy world he created. Evil has overrun his peaceful utopia and it is up to him to set matters right. Fans of Tolkien will smile to discover familiar races of beings as characters in the story. As a lover of The Hobbit since I was 9 years old, and as a semi-recent lover of The Lord of the Rings as well, I found One Hero, A Savior a light and enjoyable read, thoroughly worthy of the highest praise.

For readers who abhor the very mention of God and Christianity, be warned that Preston's Christian faith is lived out and is in fact the basis for his created world. It is not, however, "rammed" down the reader's throat, so this is something I think anyone could enjoy.