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Ceri (Cardiff, Wales)

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Short-Straw Bride (The Archer Brothers Book #1)
Short-Straw Bride (The Archer Brothers Book #1)
Price: 4.45

5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to the Archer brothers and a forced marriage scenario, 23 April 2014
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This is the first of the books about the Archer brothers, a Christian book set in Texas in the 1880s. I’d read book 2, 'Stealing the Preacher' and loved it, so I picked up Short Straw Bride, which introduces the four Archer brothers, Travis, Crockett (who is the hero of 'Stealing the Preacher'), Jim and Neill. These four have a very sad backstory – their mother died from childbed fever after having Neill, and their father continued to raise them for a few years before he died after falling from his horse. On his deathbed he extracted a promise from the eldest boy Travis, then just 15 years old, that he would protect his brothers and stay on Archer land. Mr Archer’s fears for his boys were just ones, as they were sitting on some prime land and were therefore vulnerable to attack or conmen. Travis followed this promise and the Archer brothers soon had the reputation of being wild and unfriendly to visitors, scaring off do-gooders who wanted to take in the orphan boys as well as people with less altruistic motives.

The only time Travis has left Archer land in the intervening years was the day that 10 year old Meredith Hayes trespassed onto their land to retrieve her lunch pail, which a bully had thrown there. Her leg got caught in a trap that Travis had set to deter trespassers, believing that they wouldn’t truly hurt anybody. Travis frees Meredith from the trap and takes her safely home. Following this interlude Meredith is about the only person who thinks well of the Archers, and she has a particular soft spot for Travis, making him the hero of her dreams.

12 years after the incident with the trap, Meredith is being pressured to accept an offer of marriage from Roy Wheeler, a business associate of her uncle, which will see her family’s land signed over to him. Walking out with Roy, Meredith overhears a plan to burn down the Archers’ barn, containing all their winter stores, to force them to sell their land to Roy. She tries to warn the Sherriff’s office and isn’t believed, so she heads out to the Archers’ land to warn them of what is coming. Unfortunately for Meri, she ends up being there as the attack happens, and winds up with concussion, which leads to her having to stay at the Archers’ home. Her uncle is outraged at her loss of reputation and demands that one of the Archer brothers does the honourable thing and marry his niece. Meredith has the indignity of walking in on the brothers drawing straws for who will marry her but the scene isn’t quite how she sees it...

Choosing marriage to Travis over the alternative of moving away, Meredith is faced with a situation she hadn’t anticipated – she can marry the man of her dreams, but he’d be doing it for duty rather than love. However, Travis feels more for her than she knows – he sees her good qualities, her kindness, her bravery, but he feels that she has drawn the short straw in being forced to marry, so he sets about courting his bride. The time following their wedding reminded me a bit of the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with Meredith taking over the chores from her new brothers. Meredith was a very likeable heroine, brave, hardworking, kind. She had been left with lasting consequences to her leg from the incident with the trap so it was interesting to see people’s attitudes towards her and you could see that it had affected her self-esteem somewhat. Meredith tries to make the best of her situation – she has a husband to encourage, as best she can, family issues are falling into her lap and all the meantime she tries to do God’s work for the family, which she believes is encouraging them to open their hearts and their gates to welcome in their neighbours – they are no longer the unprotected young boys that they were when their father died, but grown men who have no need to hide, and should be able to feel free to follow their callings in life.

I loved this introduction to the Archer clan! They were wonderfully close and each contributed willingly to help the upkeep of the home, taking on the roles of doctor/preacher, cook, launderer etc, and they were fiercely protective of each other, but still teased each other like brothers would. I couldn’t help but feel for Travis, who’d been carrying a burden of guilt for his father’s death in addition to the huge responsibility of assuring the protection and welfare of his younger brothers. The younger brothers, Jim, Crockett and Neill, are less major characters in this book, but I was particularly fond of Jim with his stoic silences.

Crockett has his own story, told in 'Stealing the Preacher' and I noticed that in May 2014 a novella is coming out containing Neill’s story, called 'Cowboy Unmatched' which I’m sorely tempted to get, despite the length of my to be read list! I believe 'Cowboy Unmatched' is also available in the collection of short stories by various authors called 'A Match Made in Texas'.

A Baby for Easter (Willow Park)
A Baby for Easter (Willow Park)
Price: 1.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely romance, read it in one go!, 19 April 2014
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Alice has been through a hard time; her fiancé has broken up with her, and he’s not the first fiancé to do so. Plus she has lost her job through cutbacks, so she’s had to return to her home town, Willow Park and move back in with her parents. Alice is a librarian, but she’s only been able to secure 10 hours a week working in the library, and has supplemented her income by going to work to assist the town’s pastor Daniel (from Married by Christmas) with some office work. Alice enjoys being home although she can’t afford a place to rent in the town, and she’s not overly sad that her engagement was called off but she feels disappointed with herself that she put up with a relationship that was going nowhere for as long as she did. To prevent future heartbreak she has made herself five rules to live by to prevent her getting hurt again. These rules basically are intended to stop her getting her hopes up with another man unless he’s made it crystal clear what his intentions are.

Unfortunately for Alice, the potential for heartbreak is popping into the office all the time. Daniel’s brother, Micah and Alice had a summertime romance as teenagers which ended when he went off to college without a backward glance for her. Alice had felt a real connection with Micah and he’s become the yardstick that other relationships are measured against. However, he doesn’t seem too pleased to see her now, being markedly less friendly towards her than towards other people.

After leaving town to go to college Micah’s life went off the rails and he moved away from his religious beliefs and towards a life of excess with lots of partying and one night stands. For the past year or so he’s been working hard to get back on track, acting as a deacon for the church. However, his past catches up with him when he has a baby foisted on him which he is told is the result of one of his one-night stands. The baby’s mother has died in a car accident and Micah had no idea that he had fathered a child but now he’ll have to decide what to do about the situation, pending paternity tests etc. Alice minds the baby for him while he deals with some of the initial practical issues, and they come up with a temporary solution – Micah’s house has an apartment above the garage which Alice will live in rent-free in return for helping him out with the baby while he has to work. This means that Alice and Micah have to spend a lot more time together, with all the potential for heartbreak that could bring, particularly as Micah has shown no compunction in breaking Alice’s heart in the past.

I thought this was an enjoyable escapist read and I read the whole book in one go. Alice was a likeable heroine, but she had pretty poor self-esteem due to her poor judgements in the past. Add this to rule 1 (never assume a man likes you unless he both tells you and shows you) means that she misses all signs that Micah has feelings for her and she shows him zero encouragement for a long time. Micah was a bit more complicated, having been through a self-imposed crisis – he didn’t feel worthy compared to the rest of the family so he behaved in a way that made him feel even less worthy and got into a vicious circle. This in itself wasn’t hard to forgive, but he didn’t seem that worried about breaking Alice’s heart again, which was a bit selfish, made you want to give him a good shake! I liked the dynamic that the baby brought to their relationship and some of the times the romance was realistically reduced by the baby – hero with baby poo on his shirt for example! The flipside of this was that it allowed us to see Micah’s tenderness as he fell in love with his baby. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that tenderness directed towards Alice though, would have been good to have seen him have to work a bit harder for her.

This is a follow-on from Married for Christmas, but it reads fine as a stand alone. It was good to see Daniel and Jessica from the first book, and it made me smile that she was still having cooking difficulties, as this was something she struggled with. Although both books have religious themes, in a way I felt this one felt more strongly Christian though it doesn’t hit you over the head with it. The idea that God doesn’t give us things because we deserve them but because he loves us is an idea that Micah has to be reminded of. There are no sex scenes in this book, if that is something you prefer to avoid, but there is a scene that veers into intimate territory before it comes back out of it.

Price: 5.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look at the possible consequences of Elizabeth declining Darcy's first proposal, 17 April 2014
This review is from: Consequences (Kindle Edition)
This is a variation on Pride and Prejudice in two books – the first explores a less happy outcome, which Elizabeth dreams prior to Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, and the second book looks at what could have happened if she’d prudently accepted his proposal and so doesn’t give him the vehement response that changed his behaviour.

To make sense of this book I think it’s important to appreciate something of the state of affairs in the Bennet finances – Mr Bennet’s estate was entailed on Mr Collins. In the event of his death pretty much everything Mr Bennet owned would revert to Collins, and he could evict the Bennet ladies. Mrs Bennet would have a minuscule income and would probably have to rely on family such as the Gardiners and the Phillips family to support her and her daughters. The girls could potentially find genteel work but their options were very limited. Jane, Elizabeth and possibly Mary could perhaps have found jobs as governesses, but the younger girls had a poorer education. Ladies could become a paid companion (such as Mrs Jenkins, Anne de Bourgh’s companion) but I think these tended to be widows rather than maidens.

The only way to secure the future of the family after Mr Bennet’s death is for his daughters to marry, preferably all of them, but if just one of them married a man who was rich it would secure the future of all the sisters. Yet, in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth spurns not one, but two advantageous proposals. A modern reader can understand and sympathise as to why she does this – she has no respect for Collins and actively dislikes Darcy, but I wonder what somebody reading Pride and Prejudice when it was first published would have thought. Would they have thought Elizabeth was selfish to have put her own happiness ahead of her family’s security? When Elizabeth tells Jane that she has rejected Darcy’s proposal she asks Jane “You do not blame me, however, for refusing him?” so Elizabeth is certainly aware of the difference it could have made. She doesn’t seem to feel the same about Collins’ proposal, but that was nowhere near as good a match.

In Book One, C P Odom explores what could have been the consequences of Elizabeth turning down Darcy’s proposal if she’d never met him at Pemberley. Here, Elizabeth gives the scathing refusal that she gives in canon, and events follow the path of Pride and Prejudice until Elizabeth and the Gardiners go to visit Pemberley. Darcy’s horse gets a stone stuck in his hoof, meaning that Darcy arrives later to Pemberley than in Pride and Prejudice, so he doesn’t see Elizabeth. This in turn means that there is no follow up visit to Pemberley, and obviously when Elizabeth gets the letter telling her that Lydia has eloped Darcy is not there to tell, meaning that Lydia is not found in time to prevent lasting damage being done to her sisters’ reputation, leading to them being shunned by Hertfordshire society. This is how bad things get, look at this quote from poor Jane:
“I cannot deceive myself any longer that everyone is good – I have become aware there is indeed evil in the world.”

The story follows on for the next forty or so years, showing what Elizabeth’s life could have become. Obviously, this is not the happiest of stories, but I thought it was an interesting exercise in exploring what could have been. Much of the book deals with happenings that are in Pride and Prejudice anyway, so it doesn’t really start feeling sad until they miss each other at Pemberley. I felt it wasn’t too far-fetched or unkind, although the fate of the Bennets could have been happier. I thought Elizabeth faced adversity courageously and with good humour.

Book Two sees Elizabeth waking from her dream. She doesn’t remember the details, only a vague recollection of some things, but she knows it was a bad dream. Charlotte Collins suspects that Mr Darcy is interested in Elizabeth, and, being a prudent person, she sees all the advantages of it. She works on Lizzy to extract a promise that if he were to propose that Lizzy won’t dismiss it out of hand. She has some interesting arguments in regard to Darcy’s behaviour in Hertfordshire, and his likely reasoning for interfering with Jane and Bingley. Charlotte is so persuasive that when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, although he makes offensive comments regarding her family, she manages to bite back the words of her retort and asks for time to consider.

When she does, she can’t help but think of all the financial advantages her family would receive from the marriage – lifetime security for her mother and her four sisters, and the probability that Jane and Bingley will cross paths again, thus securing the happiness of Elizabeth’s most beloved sister. Lizzy wryly tells Charlotte “It is truly distressing to have such sensible arguments occur to me when I want to ignore them”.

The thing that swings the balance towards accepting Darcy is her vague recollection of the dream, that it could be a terrible mistake to reject him. Elizabeth has also begun to wonder whether she’s judged his character correctly; she’s obviously massively misjudged his feelings towards her at the very least. After considering, Elizabeth decides to act prudently and accept the proposal, politely making it clear that since she is only just aware of his interest she cannot pretend to have the same level of feelings for him that he’s expressed to her.

At first, I wasn’t very keen on this calculating portrayal of Lizzy who sees Darcy as a bit of an improvement project:
“Perhaps she, in time, could soften the harshness of his pride and arrogance. It would need slow, careful work; his character had been formed over the years, and modifications could not be accomplished overnight. In the meantime, it was essential she not damage his regard for her, for his affection would be the motivation to induce him to change his manner, if such were actually possible.”

In this view I am joined by Jane, who calls Lizzy out on her obstinate view of Mr Darcy as an unpleasant man:
“I would only ask you respond to him in a more kindly and less calculating fashion than was indicated in your letter.”

Go Jane! From Jane Bennet, this is the equivalent of what would be strong disapprobation from anybody else. Luckily, Lizzy makes a conscious effort to improve her attitude, and finds many good sides to Darcy that she never suspected. The Gardiners love him, she finds that he has a sense of humour, and she cannot fail to appreciate his loving behaviour toward his sister.

I felt a bit sorry for Darcy in this book (as opposed to the first book where I felt very sorry for them both!) because he realises that Lizzy has accepted him solely for prudent motives, and that she finds him lacking. He has a number of moments when he realises times when he has not done himself justice in her eyes, such as in his behaviour in Hertfordshire, and when he finally hears the lies that Wickham has told about him he then finds out that Lizzy believed him capable of such behaviour. I am pleased to report that there is a lovely happy ending to this book, but it was a little sudden. I felt the book could have done with a few chapters after they finally had equal feelings so I could revel in it a bit. I think the reader deserved to wallow a bit in happiness at the end of this book to balance out the book overall.

One thing I particularly appreciated about this book was the care taken with the language, as often these books have language that doesn’t fit the setting. There were very few instances throughout the book that jumped out at me, which was refreshing, although Mr Bennet says at one point that Lydia won’t get a cent from him, this was a rare lapse! Since I knew it had quite a sad first book I started it when I had time to read right through the first half and that approach worked well for me! On the whole, I really enjoyed this book, and I’d recommend it. I will only add, for the benefit of those who prefer to avoid them, that there are no sex scenes.

Mr. Darcy's Promise
Mr. Darcy's Promise
Price: 4.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Pride and Prejudice variation, 10 April 2014
This is a Pride and Prejudice ‘what if’ variation; what if Mr Darcy mentioned Miss Elizabeth Bennet in his letters to his sister from Netherfield and Georgiana came to Netherfield to provide him with support. Thus, Elizabeth sees from very early on that Darcy is a different man to the proud, unfeeling person she believes him to be when she witnesses his interactions with Georgiana. Also, with Georgiana’s encouragement Darcy doesn’t fight particularly hard to fight his attraction to Elizabeth. She is still determined to dislike him, but she feels unwillingly attracted to him.

When Wickham comes to Meryton it doesn’t take him long to determine Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth and he comes up with a plan that backfires spectacularly for him, leading to Darcy being requested by Mr Bennet to propose to Elizabeth. Darcy believes that Elizabeth is extremely unhappy to be marrying him due to her dislike of him, when in fact, she is unhappy to be marrying a man who she believes doesn’t care for her at all. Prior to the marriage he makes her a promise that he won’t touch her unless she wishes it, which of course puts her in a situation where she would have to be pretty bold and forthright with him.. but why would she do that when she feels her husband doesn’t care for her? And with this kind of distraction, could Wickham be causing more trouble?

I had just come into this on the back of a few books that didn’t entice me to read on and I am happy to say that my luck changed with this book, it’s very readable, even if you want to shake the protagonists sometimes! This is a fun, mostly light hearted story. There is no Mr Collins, and I found I could cope with his absence quite happily! There is quite a bit of symbolism, with Lizzy caring for some chickens at Pemberley who are hatching at the wrong time of year. This author’s sister is also an author of Austenesque stories, Karalynne Mackrory, and there is a very sweet nod to her in the mention of a Miss Mackrory, whose name is similar to Caroline.

Although I really enjoyed this book there were a few things for me that didn’t ring true. Some of the timeline was odd – such as I think the Netherfield Ball happened in October, rather than November, then the marriage happened two weeks after that, and around five or so weeks later Lizzy is barefoot in the stream and later than this walking round without a coat on, and I couldn’t help but feel that it would be too cold in North England for any of that. Also, the language had a distinctly American tone to it on many occasions, such as Jane referring to her mother as ‘Momma’ and Mr Darcy wearing vest and pants rather than a waistcoat and breeches.

Some of the behaviour of Elizabeth and Darcy felt uncharacteristic to me – Elizabeth scarcely meets her maid Serafina before she is letting her into confidences, whereas in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth is a character who I think is pretty secretive, she is the sort to keep her own counsel, and I couldn’t see her being so open with anybody, let alone a servant, when she is trying to act in the manner of the mistress of Pemberley. It also didn’t ring true to me how long it took Darcy to work out her symbolism. She gives him some pretty clear clues, and he is described as ‘clever’ in Pride and Prejudice. I can understand him misinterpreting her feelings, but I think he would have worked it out fairly quickly. Also, the day before Darcy sets out to do something extremely important, he gets drunk because he is embarrassed about something, which struck me as extremely unlikely, albeit amusing, because he is so motivated by duty. For these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this for somebody who wants to read a book in Austen’s style, but if I thought it was an entertaining, romantic variation. It’s also worth noting that there are no sex scenes in this book, if you prefer to avoid these.

Ms Ellsworth has written another book, ‘Pride and Persistence’ which has a pretty unique premise of Mr Darcy suffering a head injury which leads to memory loss at Hunsford and multiple marriage proposals, and I definitely plan to read this one at some point.

The Tip-tap Dancing Cat
The Tip-tap Dancing Cat
by Joanna Boyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Cute book, but hard to bring it to life for a child, 10 April 2014
This is a cute book about a cat who dances when his owners are at work. The pictures are really attractive, and there is a short bit about the history of each dance, such as what country it is from, which means for some of the dances you can look up the country on a map etc.

However, it's a hard book to bring to life for a child, because there is very little story to engage them, and although some of pictures depict the steps of the dances it is hard to visualise them. I think if you knew how to do a polka, samba, and so on, the child you were reading it to would enjoy it much more. I also think this book would work well as a sound book, with snippets of each style of song.

Disclaimer - I received this book as a Goodreads first read

Stealing the Preacher (The Archer Brothers Book #2)
Stealing the Preacher (The Archer Brothers Book #2)
Price: 4.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Christian romance, 23 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Crockett Archer is on his way to a job opportunity, his first as a preacher. He’ll be orating, as will another candidate, but Crockett is confident of his chances. However, he never makes it to his job interview – the train gets held up by some surprisingly old bandits, are not looking for valuables, they are looking for the preacher. Crockett finds out to his astonishment that he has been kidnapped... as a birthday present!

Joanna Robbins, daughter of Silas Robbins, ranch owner (and some years previously, a train robber) is struggling spiritually. The area they live in lost their preacher some time ago and a replacement has never been found, meaning that many people in the area can’t go to church as the nearest one is too far away. She worries greatly for her father’s spiritual wellbeing – he has always been anti-church, deeming the clergy as hypocrites. Both Joanna and Silas are still mourning the loss of Martha, Silas’s wife and Joanna’s mother, who was a woman of deep faith. Martha always hoped that Silas would find his way back to God, and Joanna has now taken on this worrying, and doesn’t feel up to the task.

Joanna is horrified at what her father has done, although she appreciates that his motivation was her happiness. She confides her worries to Crockett and arranges for him to reach the next town, in order to try and save his job prospects, but the job has already been given to the other candidate, as the townsfolk took it as a sign from God when Crockett didn’t show up. Although disappointed, Crockett begins to wonder whether it was in fact a sign from God, that he should help Joanna try and bring her father closer to God, and provide spiritual guidance for the area.

This is the second story about the Archer brothers. I haven’t read the first, but I didn’t feel lost, I think it reads well as a stand-alone. Crockett and his brothers basically had to bring themselves up and as a result he is very resourceful and hardworking. Rather than being the type of preacher that Silas is used to, who says all the right things, but doesn’t follow his own teachings, Crockett genuinely believes in his message, and is admirably trying to live his life accordingly:
‘He might be preaching on Sundays, but the rest of the week he’d be living out the message on a more practical level.’

Joanna has a similar spiritual depth and works hard to live up to her Christian values, although she struggles with her self-esteem. She is a very good and lovable character, and you are completely in her corner from the very beginning.

This is a Christian romance, and while it isn’t so evident in other Karen Witemeyer books the Christian theme is very strong indeed within this story, due to its subject matter of trying to bring a man back to his faith. There are some dark moments within this book, and plenty of action. Luckily, I started reading it pretty early in the day, as I am not sure if I could have put the book down at some points until I was sure everything would turn out alright! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it, as long as you don’t mind a strong Christian theme.

Love at First Slight
Love at First Slight
Price: 5.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Pride and Prejudice with a gender reversal, 18 Mar 2014
I was so excited to read this book when I heard the premise; Pride and Prejudice, but with the genders swapped! So we see Miss Elizabeth Darcy, the proud granddaughter of an Earl, going into Hertfordshire to stay at the estate of the Widow Davenport (nee Bingley) where she meets William Bennet, one of five brothers, and a very poor match for an heiress like her. I thought this was a very interesting idea. I know there are Pride and Prejudice-inspired books out there with a gender-swap element, but the ones I know of are modern, and I thought that a historical gender-swap would be harder to make work due to societal constraints at the time.

The Characters: Firstly, not all of the characters are changed, although nearly all the main ones are - I thought this was entertaining in its own right in a lot of cases. Mr Bennet is a slave to his nerves, and determined to get his 5 sons married. Mrs Bennet is a reclusive alcoholic.
‘In no particular order of precedence, Flora’s main occupations were reading ribald romances, sampling grapes in all their myriad, fermented forms, and maintaining her husband’s frangible nerves’

There are five Bennet brothers, but the order is different from Pride and Prejudice. Here Martin (Mary) is the eldest and the heir to Longbourn, followed by the handsome Charles (Jane) who is apprenticed to Uncle Gardiner. William (Elizabeth) is next, he is training to be a clergyman and will be in line for the living that Longbourn can award, once the present incumbent inherits an estate, which is expected soon. William doesn’t feel he’s well-suited to be a clergyman, his dream would be to inherit an estate. Twins Christopher (Kitty) and Laurence (Lydia) follow, they are intended for the army.

The family are friends to the Lucas brothers and all look forward to the arrival of Mrs Davenport’s party, the supercilious Bingley brothers (Casper Bingley in particular I found very amusing, due to his foppish clothes and Miss Darcy’s distain for him). When Mr William Bennet meets Miss Darcy, he asks her to dance and is turned down with little ceremony, deemed only tolerable. He is teased by practically everybody about this, and his vanity turns him against Miss Darcy, so that he doesn’t realise when she falls prey to his ‘smouldering eyes’:
‘With a start, Elizabeth realised she had stared for what must have been an improper extent. Proper duration for ogling deacons was not a subject touched upon at the London seminary she had attended.’

Unfortunately for Miss Darcy, William doesn’t appreciate that she has feelings for him and he dislikes her heartily, although he feels attraction for her that he fights against admitting.
‘William’s hand dropped to his side and developed a quiver. He slowly backed away. The woman is downright dangerous. A god-awful jolt from her hand at Netherfield, and now she is the source of inexplicable palsy. Heaven help de Bourgh should he embrace her’

I thought it was interesting to see the characters with their genders swapped, William Bennet is a much less alpha male type than Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (understandable, as Darcy causes many events to happen, a role taken on by Miss Darcy here), but he’s quite light hearted and loveable. I was not impressed with his rudeness towards Miss Darcy though! Miss Darcy was a very interesting character. She was quite spoiled and used to getting anything she wanted, willing to be a bit improper and forward in achieving this aim, rude and snobby, but she was quite different behind closed doors, sweet, loving, and hoping to be loved in return. This brings me on to my next point...

Sexism – I wasn’t expecting to get this from reading the book but the way I reacted to the characters’ qualities differed when applied to the opposite gender. I really wasn’t expecting this, and it caused me to wonder how far I have double standards between the sexes. For example, the Hunsford scene in Pride and Prejudice left me feeling extremely sorry for Mr Darcy, but also fairly sorry for Elizabeth Bennet as it was a bolt out of the blue. There is a Hunsford-style scene here and I didn’t have much sympathy for William Bennet, in fact, I wanted to line up behind Lady Cassandra Fitzwilliam (Colonel Fitzwilliam!) for his blood due to his lack of gentlemanliness. Nearly all my sympathy in this scene was reserved for Miss Darcy, and the amount of forgiving she has to do over the course of the book made me feel that she was almost saintly. This certainly gave me new appreciation for Mr Darcy in P&P, the man takes on a family from a lower social class, who are not especially good company for somebody who he has loved steadfastly even though they’ve made their disdain of him clear and it’s cost him a load of money to do so! It also highlighted to me how many instances of rudeness towards Elizabeth Bennet just exist in her head, viewed through her prejudices.

Miss Collins is another character I felt differently about than her male counterpart in Pride and Prejudice, but I put this down to societal reasons – Mr Collins was full of self-importance, and Miss Collins had to be more humble, and I found her much more likable as a result, as does her cousin.

The Difficulties – The difficulties with gender swap in a historical setting seem to me to be how you get key events to happen. Getting Mr Bennet to ask Miss Darcy to dance when he doesn’t want to isn’t too hard, you have to get him forced into a situation where it would be rude not to ask (Elizabeth is impertinent to Darcy, but she doesn’t cross the line to absolute rudeness until Hunsford), the real difficulty is getting a Hunsford style scene – how can you get a situation where William Bennet would be so rude as to tell a lady that she’s the last lady in the world he would ever marry?

Also, to my understanding, a gentleman wouldn’t usually ask a lady of a higher social class to marry him, unless he had a fine fortune, which Mr Bennet doesn’t have. It’s particularly problematic that Miss Darcy is an heiress, as a man with no money proposing to a woman with a lot of it would very likely be seen as a fortune hunter by the lady’s relatives (and in 20-year old Miss Darcy’s case, her guardian, the Earl). When you add to this the fact that he doesn’t initially want to marry her at all it becomes especially problematic! I also couldn’t foresee how Laurence could be endangered by Miss Wickham. I will be fair to Ms Croft, she manages to work around all of these issues in what I felt was a plausible way, although I despaired as to how it would be possible.

The Story – the story is largely very similar, although there are areas which differ as Miss Darcy would obviously have less say over her life and movements than Mr Darcy would, although she is one hell of a heroine, she is a lady who makes things happen! There were some differences in storyline that I felt differed unnecessarily from the original, but other changes were necessary due to the gender reversal. Since Pride and Prejudice is more focused on Elizabeth’s viewpoint this is also focused on William Bennet’s view of things. I would have liked a bit more Miss Darcy, but we don’t get more Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice so I accept this!

The Wordplay – Ms Croft is obviously a lover of words, and there are quite a few puns and instances of alliteration. If you don’t like these they may begin to grate on you, but I don’t mind them. There are quite a few word-plays within the text that gave me a smile:
‘ “Pig-headedness runs in the family, as I have often reminded you.” “And I have steadfastly refused to believe it.” ‘

The Areas I Felt Could Have Been Improved – Not much actually. There was the odd American word like ‘dang’ and I thought there was too much mild swearing, feeling that gentleman should have refined the language a touch more around ladies. There were some things I might like to have been different, but when I thought about it, often these were reflections of Pride and Prejudice, for example, I would have liked more time in Elizabeth’s head, but we get very little of Darcy’s feelings in P&P so it was fitting.

In Conclusion: I really enjoyed this book. I liked the initial gender swap premise, I enjoyed how the author changed things around to make it work and I appreciated that it made me reflect on my own reactions and consider new things about the original story. I found the book very readable, in fact I read the first 70% in one sitting and gave myself a headache because I didn’t want to put it down! I just couldn’t see how the author could give this couple a happy ending. I found myself thinking about this book after I read it, which is always a good sign, and I had LOADS I wanted to say about it, so kudos to you if you’ve made it to the end! For these reasons, I would rate this book as a 5 star read.

Four Years Later: One Week Girlfriend Book 4
Four Years Later: One Week Girlfriend Book 4
Price: 3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely way to end the One Week Girlfriend series, 16 Mar 2014
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Owen is Fable’s brother from One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend and I was very fond of him from those books, when he was a foul-mouthed teen who poor Fable was trying to keep from going off the rails. Owen’s mother is an alcoholic and drug user who never stepped up to the plate for her kids. Fable had to step into that role, and her anger at that, and trying to minimise the distress and damage it caused Owen left her with very little sympathy for her mother, especially when she abandoned her children. Fable has cut her mother out of her life without a backward glance. Owen was always more forgiving towards her and now, four years later Owen’s mother has come back into his life, asking for handouts all the time. He knows he should tell her where to go but deep down he still craves his mother’s love.

Owen is living in a pretty good situation; his brother in law, Drew, is doing well in his career as a pro American footballer and he’s bought Owen a house to live in and a car. Owen is potentially good enough to become a pro footballer too, but he needs to keep his grades up to stay on the team, and that is where one problem lies – he’s been cutting class so he can work more at his part time job so he can keep giving his mother money. Owen has also been turning to drink and drugs to curb his anxieties, which obviously could lead to him losing his place on the team. Owen agrees to have a tutor to help his grades in English Literature and creative writing, and this means he meets Chelsea.

Chelsea is a bit of a lonely soul. Academically she’s pretty gifted and she was advanced a few years, meaning she made few friends amongst people her age or her older classmates. Her family is dysfunctional, with a mother who has done her best to indoctrinate Chelsea to be independent and stay clear of men while simultaneously behaving in the exact opposite way, allowing Chelsea’s father to walk all over her. Chelsea’s father is currently in prison, which is something she is trying to keep secret, but due to this Chelsea is on a tight budget, hence the tutoring, and a part time job too. She is immediately attracted to Owen, but he has heartbreaker written all over him and so she does her best to keep her distance.

Owen has some pretty strong feelings for Chelsea from the beginning too, but he needs the tutoring to raise his grades, doesn’t want to scare Chelsea off and doesn’t feel like he’s good enough for her. These two are a bit like chalk and cheese, he’s foul-mouthed, promiscuous and a casual drug using party boy and she is all work and no play, pretty straitlaced and she is very inexperienced with the opposite sex but the more time they spend together the more they like one another.

These two are so sweet together; the differences between them balance each other out really nicely, she loosens up a bit and he cleans up his act. Not everything goes smoothly for these two. I was actually expecting more obstacles, but these two don’t have the same type of big issues that Drew and Fable had to overcome. Reminiscent of Drew, Owen also writes poetry for his lady, but rather than the sweet poems that Drew writes Owen’s are a little more earthy.

“I am so lucky. He’s so thoughtful, sweet and funny. He writes me poems. Dirty ones, but I don’t care. They’re beautiful. He’s beautiful. Not perfect, but he’s mine. And I am his.”

Awww! I thought this was a lovely way to end the One Week Girlfriend series, I really enjoyed this book.

Drew + Fable Forever: A One Week Girlfriend Novella
Drew + Fable Forever: A One Week Girlfriend Novella
Price: 1.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Drew and Fable's journey towards happy ever after, 16 Mar 2014
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We first met Drew and Fable in One Week Girlfriend and saw them take on their issues in Second Chance Boyfriend, working to overcome their obstacles and becoming happier than either of them thought was possible. I loved both Drew and Fable from the previous books and I was looking forward to seeing a bit more of them. If you hadn’t read the first two books you could pick up this novella and it would make sense because some of the main events from the previous books are referred to, but you would miss out on all the detail, I would definitely recommend reading this after reading the first two books.

We start off about a year after the end of SCB. Drew is now a professional American Football player and he and Fable are still very much in love but theirs is not a carefree existence because they have to spend a lot of time apart, as Drew has to train with his team in another town and Fable can’t go with him because she has to stay in home because of her responsibility for her brother. Owen is still in school and they don’t want to disrupt his schooling. We see a number of different events in Drew and Fable’s lives in the near future as they work towards their happy ever after. This novella isn’t so much a story as more of an extended epilogue, following Drew and Fable through the next few years. The novella is very, very sweet, and if you already know the couple and what they’ve worked through together then you are on their side hoping for a happy ending, but if you prefer a bit more conflict and tension you may feel it falls a bit flat. However, since I am very fond of the couple I really enjoyed it!

Three Broken Promises: One Week Girlfriend Book 3
Three Broken Promises: One Week Girlfriend Book 3
Price: 3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Find out Jen and Colin's story, 16 Mar 2014
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I thought Jen and Colin were interesting secondary characters in Second Chance Boyfriend, we knew they went way back, and that Jen had feelings for him and that Colin had some demons, so I was glad to see that they were getting a book of their own. Colin was the childhood best friend of Jen’s brother, who died overseas serving in the military. Jen’s family fell apart after Danny’s death and Jen ended up in a bad situation that Colin saved her from. He gave her a job and a roof over her head and though he cares for her deeply he doesn’t want to pursue a relationship with her because he feels too guilty – for her brother’s death, the family breakdown that led to the situation she got into and he also doesn’t feel he is good relationship material and Jen deserves better. Jen feels trapped; she loves Colin but he won’t open up to her and although she misses her brother she feels it’s time to move on with her life. She also has some secrets from her past which she is afraid are catching up with her. Jen can’t see Colin ever letting her in so she hands in her notice at work and tells him that in 4 weeks she’ll be moving away, putting the ball in his court – if he wants her to stay he’ll have to do something about it.

While I enjoyed this book there were aspects I found frustrating. First of which was Jen – she wasn’t what I expected. I thought she was more like Fable, who is feisty, independent and capable, but Jen is frustratingly naive – she says that she is always dependent on somebody but that is just as well, as anytime she does something of her own instigation she makes bad decisions and takes silly risks. I also felt like there was too much time spent on the ‘will they – won’t they’ and the resolution of other threads, such as Colin’s fractured relationship with his father was tied up too quickly. Still, I enjoyed this story, and I liked seeing some small glimpses of Drew and Fable, which whets the appetite for the novella tying up their story.

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