Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Weekend With Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly -- Austenesque/ Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction

Dr. Katherine Roberts is looking forward to a fun weekend away at a Jane Austen conference in Hampshire. She's a busy  career woman, a lecturer at Oxford who would be laughed at if her secret obsession with Jane Austen's novels was known.  She adores not just Austen's novels, but the numerous sequels, spin-offs and Regency novels, especially those steamy romances by bestseller Lorna Warwick. Katherine has had more than her share of man troubles and dreams of finding a true love like Mr. Darcy. She wishes she could write to Jane Austen about how the novels make her feel but instead, she's become pen-pals with Lorna Warwick, sharing thoughts on the novels, Jane Austen, life, love and everything else. She hopes Lorna Warwick will come to the conference so they can finally meet. Lorna Warwick has a dilemma. Lorna would love to meet Katherine in person. They have so much in common and have formed such a deep connection - the only problem is, Lorna is actually a man. Warwick Lawton was brought up with an appreciation for good literature and he loves Jane Austen as much as any woman and even dreams of finding his own Elizabeth Bennet or one of his heroines. He thinks he's found that soul mate in Katherine, but how to convince her? He decides to attend the conference incognito so Katherine will get to know him as himself. At first, like Elizabeth and Darcy, they don't get along, but Warwick is determined to woo Katherine and win her over. The only problem is, what will happen if she finds out he lied? Katherine is no stranger to heartache and can't stand liars! Robyn Love is also attending the Jane Austen weekend conference. She loves Jane Austen novels and watching the movies and sighing over the romances. Her real life romance bears little resemblance to one in the novels. Her long-time boyfriend Jace Collins, loathes Jane Austen and doesn't understand Robyn's interest. He's immature and perpetually drunk and Robyn hopes the weekend away will give them space to begin a permanent separation. Jace has trouble letting go, however, and tags along to Hampshire only to cause trouble. Robyn finds a sympathetic listener in Dan, a stable worker on the estate where the conference is being held. Dan is everything an Austen fan would want in a hero but Robyn isn't free. Will she have the courage to break up with Jace? This is a sweet romantic story that vaguely resembles Pride and Prejudice. Katherine is outspoken and witty, like Elizabeth and I liked and admired her. I loved that she's an independent career woman and she's also a romantic. Warwick isn't really anything like Darcy except that he makes a fool out of himself when he first meets Katharine. I think he would be a great hero but I couldn't forgive him for lying to Katharine and using his knowledge of her to win her over. Robyn is sweet and lovely like Jane Bennet and I felt sorry for her and rooted for her to find herself. Dan is the perfect romantic hero. He's a bit too perfect to be true but like Bingley, his needs are simple and he has a big heart. I think many women could easily fall in love with him. I liked Robyn's story a bit more than Katherine's. It was more sincere and realistic. She had real problems to overcome and challenges to face before she can think about happily ever after and I appreciated the realistic aspects of her plot. Katherine's plot dragged too long in the middle and was rushed at the end. I would have done the ending a bit differently, but it works fine the way it is. The Jane Austen conference sounds amazing and I would love to attend! Janeites who like the old sweet style romances will enjoy this one. There is one bedroom scene but it fades to black after a lot of kissing.

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly Austenesque/ Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction

In Connelly's second book about Jane Austen lovers, the heroine, Kay secretly dreams of finding her own Mr. Darcy while toiling away at a job she hates.  She also dreams of being a painter and living by the sea, but none of that will ever happen to her, will it? When a dear friend dies and leaves Kay an inheritance, Kay decides to relocate to Lyme, the setting of Persuasion, to get back to her illustrations of Austen heroes. She opens a Bed and Breakfast Wentworth House (of course) and is surprised when the cast of a new film version of Persuasion descends on her doorstep. Kay is thrilled to have movie stars staying at her home, especially the handsome roguish Oli Wade Wilson, her celebrity crush, who is playing Captain Wentworth. The cast members are a mixed bag of personalities: besides Oli, there's Beth, the diva and Sophie the nice but gossipy one and Gemma, sweet and shy. Gemma is the daughter of a famous actress and living in her mother's shadow. She fears she can't live up to her mother's expectations or worse, she'll become her mother, vainly reliving past glories when the glory days are long gone. There's only one person who is sympathetic and it comes as a huge surprise. Meanwhile, Kay's days are spent cleaning, cooking, watching the shoot and exploring the area with Adam, the screenwriter, who lives nearby. Adam fell in love with Kay the minute he saw her, but his shyness prevented him from making a move. Adam's Nana keeps telling him to seize the moment, but how can he when when Kay's head is filled with Oli? While Kay finds Adam nice and encouraging, she's convinced he's perfect for Gemma! Will the path to true romance ever become clear or is Adam destined to be alone with his cat for the rest of his life? I liked the twist on the shy spinster plot. It's unusual to see a shy hero in literature. I found Adam very kind and charming but didn't quite fall in love with him. I liked him much better than Kay, however. Reading this novel was painful. Kay is a grown woman, a Jane Austen fan, who compares herself to Emma without realizing the moral of the story. She spends most of the book mooning over Oli like a silly school girl, despite repeated warnings from others not to lose her heart. Kay comes across as annoying and obnoxious and I couldn't stand her. She doesn't deserve Adam. Likewise, Oli is a typical rake, easy to see through and fun to crush on but not to commit to. Even his plot twist at the end was obvious to me. Kay should have seen it coming. Gemma is a likeable character, more than Kay. I would have liked more of the story from her point of view. She's sweet and her needs are simple like Jane Bennet. She's not a typical heroine or a stereotype though. Her inner turmoil is justified by the actions of her stereotypical mother. Her romance seems to come out of thin air and doesn't really develop. The focus on Kay makes the much more unconventional romance take backstage. Kay's plot drags on way too long and the romantic climax comes way too late and is too rushed. There's an epilogue which is entirely unnecessary and makes the book even longer. I didn't like this one as much as the first. This one is totally clean, with one bedroom scene fade to black before anything happens. 

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