Genre: Romance Fiction

+Book Review+ The Reluctant Bride by Beverley Eikli #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 11 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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The Reluctant Bride by Beverley EikliThe Reluctant Bride by Beverley Eikli

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Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Historical | Regency

Napoleonic | Espionage | Suspense

Published by: ChocLitUK, 7 September 2013

Available Formats: Paperback, E-Book, Audiobook, & Large Print Page Count: 400


Acquired Book By:

Whilst researching Indie Publishers and Presses one evening, as I was hopping through the book blogopshere, I started to alight on book bloggers who were recommending several of whom I hadn’t yet heard of! ChocLitUK was listed as a good resource for Romance; intrigued I clicked over to read more about them! I believe it was ‘love’ at first sight for me – their website won me over instantly! The stories they publish are stitched together in a way that has always endeared me to the genre! Having read about their Tasting Panel, I enquired by email if they would ever consider a book blogger to review their titles instead.

ChocLitUK is an Independent Publisher whose origins go back to 2009 for bringing top quality women’s fiction with the undercurrents of love woven into the stories! Their catalogue of stories appeals to me, as I never considered myself a “Chick Lit” type of gal, as I love the foundations of romance to be etched in relationships! (as outlined in “My Bookish Life”) The full essence of what I seek out when I want to be wrapped up in a romance is found in the niche ChocLit has developed! Besides who couldn’t help but appreciate a publisher with a cheeky sense of humour? ChocLit | Chocolate, anyone?

I am now a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “The Reluctant Bride” from ChocLit via IPM (International Publisher’s Marketing) in exchange for an honest review! The book released on 7th September 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. This marks my first review for ChocLitUK!

Inspired to Read:

I am always finding a way to duck into the Regency &/or the Victorian age, which is why I was perked with interest when I saw the genre offered in ChocLit’s catalogue! This story has a clever character arc in which two of the leads are needing to embark on a journey towards redemption. One to prove she can stand on her own feet again and another (I presume) to not only overcome his life as a soldier but to accept and shift forward from the death of his mistress. There is a lot of clever passageways the author could take this story and I was keen to find out! The back-story alone held my interest but its the heart of the two lead characters that made me tempted to read it!

Book Synopsis:

Can honour and action banish the shadows of old sins?

Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn soldier who represents her only escape from destitution. Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride. Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action. As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family. Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?

Author Biography:Beverley Eikli

Beverley Eikli wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.

After throwing in her secure job on South Australia’s metropolitan daily, The Advertiser, to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire.

Eighteen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia living a more conventional life with her husband and two daughters in a pretty country town an hour north of Melbourne. She writes Regency Historical Intrigue as Beverley Eikli and erotic historicals as Beverley Oakley.

Beverly won Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star with The Reluctant Bride. Beverley’s Choc Lit novels include: The Reluctant Bride and The Maid of Milan.

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Ruined and Anguished in Love:

Emily is writ in such a clever way of giving the reader a visceral proponent of realism whilst becoming empathic to her plight! I credit this to Eikli, who allows Emily to live her truth as much as repel against the sentimental backlash the outside world would love to expel towards her. Her character is forged in steel, wrought through generations of a family whose bold courage had won them survival. Considered ruined and forever anguished in love, Emily is a woman who you find yourself rooting to find solid footing once more! She’s lost the glint of light and of mirth she held so dear to her breast prior to her circumstances changing overnight. She had a fiery flint of raw tenacity which had my mind flutter back in fond rememberance of Danielle from Ever After. Most especially as there was a scene in the opening chapters of The Reluctant Bride which matched the scene with Danielle and Prince Henry, unto regards of the horse and apples scene!

My mind wandered a bit to remember other stories of marriage of convenience which I hold most dear to memory: the Love Comes Softly series on Hallmark Channel and A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist! Filt with characters like Emily, who felt not only scorned by unrequited love but at a loss to envelope themselves into a new set of circumstances by the kindness of men they were barely acquainted with prior to consenting to marriage! There are novellas writ along these story-lines as well, and I must confess, they are my favourites of the Heartsong Presents editions! You have such a powerful character arc to explore, the reader (such as I) draws a curious brow towards seeking out stories of a similar nature to see how each writer will treat the subject matter!

Emily has stone-walled her heart, in direct fear that she will be plumb miserable if she chooses to accept any show of kindness from Angus her stand-in groom! I sympathised with her as her family started to show how diffident they would be towards her knowing full well the babe had come a bit short of the wedding day! Old train of logic was to punish the women never the men; for if a woman was not strong in will to stand-off the comings of a man, she would be viewed as less worthy in both society and family of status! I was a bit surprised to have learnt they would be sent directly into the workhouses rather than kept within the sanctity of the family!

Reluctant to share her life with another man other than her betrothed and reluctant to admit, she might have found the one man whose sensitive kindness could slowly erase the hardness of her heart! Through reluctance we sometimes find the ability to heal, even if in the opening hours of our restoration we fight tooth and nail against being forgiven! Emily is at the cross-roads of sorting through whether or not she has the strength and faith to render her sorrow for what it is and boldly walk into her future, of which is being given to her outside the scope of how society generally would have vilified her. It’s this dichotomy of difference, which gives Emily the greatest woe in understanding how she is viewed in one way by outside eyes and cherished altogether differently by her husband’s family.

My Review of The Reluctant Bride:

Eikli certainly has a way of opening a novel with a one-two punch! The blushing bride-to-be in this story is Emily, a girl who has become devouted and attached to her bridegroom of whom entered the grave before their nuptials could be taken. Whilst recovering from the sudden loss of her beloved, Emily is given the horrific news of being withchild! The century in which the story unfolds is one where a woman’s life is plumb ruined by any transgression which would put her outside the propriety of society. A child bourne out-of-wedlock was a circumstance beyond repute!

I liked how the espionage starts out as a gentle foreshadow of what is yet to come in pursuant chapters! Gently nudging the audience towards piecing together the shards of Emily’s far-flung French relatives against the foreground knowledge of where Angus’s counter-intelligence work will lead him! I must confess, I was hinged to hope that somehow part of Emily’s past could become redeemed through the actions of her husband, Angus!

Angus on the other hand, is writ as the soldier who would like to have a bit more out of life than a life of serving his country on a stipend upon exit which barely provides enough for his own needs much less a wife’s. He’s a man who never considered himself able to marry due to the pattern of life which had fallen his way. The one heart he was able to give his love to died tragically which leaves him irresolute towards knowing how to appease Emily. He wants to approach her in a loving manner, but is resolved to feeling that all his attempts towards embracing his newlywed wife with affections felt most deep, she will turn on his advances taking in the wrong measure of explanation. A proud man who fell into serving England in covert affairs abroad to thwart the French makes his situation in the novel most alluring! As much as his wanton hope to change part of who he is in order to cultivate a proper life full of love, harmony, and children. For a central male figure of a novel, Angus by far, gives the reader a strong lead in how the traditional character arc of a male can be transformative!

The complexity of the story is further enveloped around the mysterious past of Emily’s maternal past. The narrative slips between Emily’s position in the McCartney’s family (Angus’s kin) and the role her father plays in the deceptive French spy rings. Her father is cold-hearted and calculating to a most evil extent. One of the best repulsively written characters I have encountered! The threads of the tapestry are wrought in such a way, as to give pause and reflection for each tidbit of a clue thus revealed! Your eyes flutter to alert noting the interconnections and the depth of how entwined Emily and Angus are becoming whilst on the verge of sorting through devastating tragedy.

The depth of Eikli’s ability to convey the complexities of marriage are a true compliment to her empathy for the human condition and spirit. She doesn’t shy away from the bold feelings a woman feels whilst betwixt one man’s affection and another man’s love. She doesn’t chide her characters, but rather, allows their flaws to speak for themselves. She gives them the leeway needed to work through what is difficult to accept much less understand. In so doing, I found myself applauding the tone of the novel as it’s not set to a cadence of rhetoric generally wrought in other stories of the same nature. Eikli brings a refreshing insight into the tedium of balance between the choice between life and death.

A historical backdrop in France & the Napoleonic War Era:

In several of my reading pursuits, I have become familiar with how intricately connected the British were to the efforts to overthrow Napoleon out of power. His reign was not studied whilst I was in school but I have come to assert myself in enough historical readings through fictional accounts, to acknowledge not only his brutality but his convinced stance that he would one day take over the world. He was truly maniacal in his approach and his dedication to conquer! Having said that, I was always a bit fascinated by the men and women who devouted their lives to shadow ops and covert missions which would keep the fragile balance between war and peace hanging in perpetual balance! Teetering on the edges, most surely, these daring men and women evoke stories I have always enjoyed reading — they give a second glance at the situation through pairs of eyes who are not readily revealed in regular outlets of historical facts. They give the undercurrent direction of where the most sought after change started to occur and how change ultimately won out over war.

Women’s equality was nonexistent hitherto to encompass her rights to raise a child out of wedlock as much as stand on her own feet if circumstances had erupted out of her control. Women’s rights have been long in coming throughout history, but when you step back into a world where even the right to raise your own child is taken away from you, you start to realise how far we have all come to maintain the rights that we have! I was quite impressed too, with the visual imagery and descriptions of Angus’s fortuitous nature and inclination of knowing exactly how to keep his wife both calm and warm during the worst of her  near-miscarriage sessions!  Soldiers were always needing to be diverse in knowledge, not only for battle and of apprising the field for hidden dangers, but stalwart in their abilities to survive through medical emergencies. I was thankful to see his character was rounded out in being more than whom he first appeared!

The political landscape of France was fraught with surreptitious clandestine activities, its a wonder that either side was able to muddle out truth and fact from the packet of lies spewed out in sport! Such a waxing of time to uncover the tenuous strands of loyalty, whilst fear caught the surge for overthrowing the injustices! I have always been curious about the complexities of the era, yet through this book and others set in the same era of time, I am wrought to find there is nothing simple about the succession of peace during times of war! Details of the nuisances of uncovering little steps towards this end are woven into The Reluctant Bride as one hears gentle whispers tied into the winds.

A note on behalf of ChocLitUK novels:

A level of distinction should be noted in both the presentation of  their novels and in the manner in which each novel is produced! I personally love the comfortable size of the paperbacks, as well as the quality of the print! A smooth surface cover page with semi-raised letterings to draw attention to the title and author’s name. The familiar heart-shaped ChocLit insignia are featured as well! I like how they cross-coordinate the cover features with the story held within the book’s pages! The font and text are easy to read and decipher, and I appreciate the old-fashioned inclusion of writers and titles offered through the Publisher in the back-pages of the novel! A feature I always found to be most delightful in my younger years as it was such a rush of excitement to see which author I would discover next off a recommendation inside the book I had just read! In this particular case, the only noticeable continuity issue I felt was visible is that Emily’s hair isn’t flaxseed brown (of which was reflective of Jessamine) but rather raven black! The model for Emily does portray her downcast countenance which is true to form of how we are greeted by Emily once she is settled-in with Angus! The precipice of when her life starts to undergo its greatest change! Slipping into the worlds created by ChocLit authors is a soothing reproach from the woes of everyday life! All in all, a ChocLit novel is quite the decadent treat for the discernible chocolate connoisseur and romantic reader!

A side note on the language inside their novels can only be said to warm this particular wordsmith’s heart! All the lovely British words are inclusive to the context as much as new words I haven’t oft seen revealed in romances! Words such as envisaged and commodious, only served to whet my appetite for more of their novels, where the age of seeking out a fluidity of words continues to carry-on! Such a wonderful joy for anyone who appreciates stories woven together by Jane Austen and others of the 19th Century!

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“The Recluctant Bride” Book Trailer [A Napoleonic Espionage Romance] by Animoto via Beverley Eikli 

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com This book review is courtesy of ChocLitUK,
ChocLitUK Reviewercheck out my upcoming bookish event and mark your calendars!

#ChocLitSaturdays | a feature exclusive to Jorie Loves A Story

*NEWSFLASH* : This marks my first *#ChocLitSaturdays*, where I will be spotlighting a book published by ChocLitUK! Coordinating bonus features will alight on my blog in forthcoming weeks! My next ChocLit review will be for “A Bargain Struck” by Liz Harris, on the 18th of January!

{SOURCES: Author photograph, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and Book Cover were provided by ChocLitUK and were used by permission. The book trailer by Animoto had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie Loves A Story badge created by Ravven with edits by Jorie in FotoFlexer.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Saturday, 11 January, 2014 by jorielov in 19th Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Book Trailer, Bookish Films, Britian, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Espionage, France, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, Marriage of Convenience, Midwives & Childbirth, Modern British Literature, Romance Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Suspense, The Napoleonic War Era, the Regency era, Women's Fiction

*Blog Book Tour*: To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Posted Monday, 6 January, 2014 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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To Tuscany With Love Blog Tour - JKS Communications Publicity Firm

To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Visit her Pin(terest) Board: Tuscany Love by Mencini (my impression!)

Author Connections: Facebook | Site | Blog

Converse on Twitter: #GailMencini & #ToTuscanyWithLove OR Tweet @GailMencini

Published by: Capriole Group, 7th January 2014

Available Format: Paperback | Page Count: 400

*SPECIAL OFFER* {unknown time limit | current at posting} Download for Free the First Six Chapters via Gail Mencini’s website!

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “To Tuscany with Love” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by JKS Communications. I received a complimentary copy of “To Tuscany with Love” in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Capriole Group, via JKS Communications. The book released on 7th January 2014. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Synopsis of the Story:To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

Can one college semester abroad change the course of your life?

Bella Rossini, a vivacious college junior, lands in jail overnight with acquaintances whom she mistakes for friends. Shipped off to Tuscany by her mother, Bella is suddenly thrust into living with seven strangers during one life-altering summer.

Meet Hope, the sturdy and practical girl, steadfast in her loyalty to her boyfriend; Meghan and Karen, identical twins with an eye for fashion and beauty to match; Stillman, haunted by his hard past, and Phillip, an athlete, both fueled by competition; Lee, by family mandate in pre-med; and Rune, the Hollywood-bound wild child. All add sizzling chemistry and rebellious humor to the mix.

In one whirlwind summer, while uncovering the charms of Italy, they discover both friendship and love.

After their summer together, life – and loss – happens.

Returning to Tuscany 30 years later, their dreams, anger, secrets and disappointments create an emotional kaleidoscope. Their reunion sends them on a startling collision course that none of them could have predicted.

Set against the allure of Tuscany, with an irresistible fusion of heartbreak and humor, this debut novel, “To Tuscany with Love,” explores the fear of letting the past determine the future and the power of friendship.

Author Biography:

Gail Mencini
Photo Credit: Ashography Event Photography

Gail Mencini makes her literary debut with “To Tuscany with Love” (January 2014, Capriole Group) an adult coming-of-age novel set in central Italy.

Born in rural Nebraska, Mencini graduated with honors in 1976 from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, where she majored in accounting, economics and business administration. She holds a Master of Laws of Taxation degree from the University of Denver College of Law.

Mencini co-owned an accounting firm and practiced for 15 years in public accounting, specializing in tax law related to   mergers and acquisitions and real estate. She also spent time in the higher education field, working as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado and Metro State College, as well as the University of Denver College of Law. She was a repeat  speaker at national continuing education seminars and a featured presenter in a real estate conference in the Caribbean.

In 1990 when she married her husband, Mencini became an “instant mother” of three boys plus another son two years later, which opened the doors to becoming a full-time mother and igniting her long-time passion for creative arts, gourmet cooking and traveling.

She went on to become a contributing editor and photojournalist for Buzz in the ‘Burbs, writing monthly cooking columns featuring dinner themes, recipes and complementary wine suggestions. She also served as interim director of marketing for Wine Master Cellars as the company transitioned to new leadership. She has been a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for nearly 20 years as well as the Pikes Peak Writers for over 10. She most recently joined Author U based in Aurora, Colo.

She writes and cooks in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and family who are always ready to critique her abundance of story ideas and recipes.

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Tuscany. Where you can discover who you are?

I am quite sure that Bella must have felt like a fish out of water when she first caught sight of her surroundings in Tuscany. I liked how Mencini opens the story with her innocence of youth, distrustful of the unknown, and of venturing into a whole new country simply because her political protesting had worried her mother past the point of reason. She’s thrust into a Summer college abroad course of study, where she instantly meets up with six other twenty-somethings stranded in Florence for comparable reasons.  Each of them brought their own whispers of self-discovery and the insurgence of sorting out how far they ought to dare living whilst an ocean and a plane away from their lives back in the states. It starts to set up as a coming-of age story for college students who never thought they’d be given an opportunity to abandon one way of living their life and exchange it for another.

In the corner of my mind, I had a curious lightbulb tuned to Bella’s mother’s real reason for sending her off to Tuscany, as there were small bits of insight into her mother’s state of mind at the time of her departure, which led me to be clued into the fact that perhaps, rather than the reality of Bella’s position in political affairs as a forefront motivation, I was nearly akin to thinking that perhaps her mother was facing a life shift in her own life and did not necessarily want her daughter to be present to live through the unexpected hurdle she was about to face herself? In this way, I thought the idea of Tuscany might take on a rather new meaning if this were to become true!

Strength and courage are nestled into us at stages in our lives where we might need to face an unexpected adversity, or a succession of adversities. What Tuscany gives to Bella is a foundation in living life as she greets each new day, and keeping herself open to the possibilities of what life can afford all of us. Each experience and adventure we nestle into our tapestry of lived hours, we gain both courage and strength to carry-on whilst life deals out the brutal truths we are never prepared to face. For Bella, Tuscany is where she shed her girlhood amour and walked into the sunshine with an armour fit for a woman.

Encouraging a penchant for the Tuscan landscape:

I still remember when the immediate joy of seeing Under the Tuscan Sun when it first made its theatrical release, due to the honest portrayal of one women’s journey towards redeeming not only her heart but the destiny of her path as she navigates the difficult road after divorce. The landscape of Tuscany opens up to you in little ways you’re not expecting to belove! I still remember the aura of Tuscany and the presence of ‘being caught up in life elsewhere’ to giving the impression that in Tuscany, you truly can re-discover who you are because your placed in an insular area where the buffering of the natural landscape with the homage of the people give you the freedom to do so!

Whilst reading To Tuscany with Love, memories first sparked to life in the motion picture of Diane Lane’s character’s journey, started to filter back into my mind, as Mencini has a way of writing Tuscany’s heart into her passages. She gives you just enough of a cursory knowledge of infamous landmarks and historical attributes to breathe the living heart of Tuscany into her story. She allows your mind to suspend itself back to a place which is altogether familiar and yet, unattached at the very same time! I find myself yearning to visit Tuscany each time I am transfixed by a story which is set there! Such a hearty passion for living, for food, for conversation, for expression and art, culture collides with the causal atmosphere of a best-lived day is the one of a slower pace where living becomes a part of the textural art of the setting.

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My Review of To Tuscany with Love:

One of the reasons I find myself drawn into the world of story where characters are beginning to emerge out of their cocoons and start to enter into the heart of their living narrative (which is how I perceive coming-of age stories), is because it’s a bit like the sentiments you can hear whilst listening to a song by Carole King. All the positive loveliness in life starts to ignite and catch fire inside your mind whilst your out discovering the very nature of your being and the charted path your about to take stride towards walking. Each of us has a process of learning to walk towards and shift through. The idea of having the ability to have a chance of stepping up and out of our regular ordinary lives and take a moment out of our days elsewhere — that’s a powerful prospect to undertake! I personally would have jumped at the chance to study abroad for a Summer; although a full year would have been quite keen! The joy of immersion into a culture and lifestyle as different as the shades of evergreens makes the premise of To Tuscany with Love a story worth knowing!

She nudges you into the lives of Bella the seemingly rebellious girl who inadvertently has an awkward way about approaching how to expand her family circle; Stillman the decidedly and unabashedly forward bloke whose past is muddled through reflected angst of a past spent with an abrasive step-father; Hope a girl not yet grown into the wings of confidence but has yielded her heart to love; stalwart and bold twins Karen and Meghan, who recklessly pursue life how they dare to live it; Rune the broken-hearts-in-waiting rake who has a singular tracking mind; Lee the studiously training doctor who’d prefer to break out of his bonds of family obligation; and Philip the soft-spoken bloke who is attracted to Bella but lacks the charisma to draw her eye!

The pacing of the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks and near-precision reflective prose which paints the portrait of their lives whilst living in Tuscany. Told through the main perspective of Bella, the novel shifts forwards and backwards through each key protagonist to give the reader further insight into their worlds. For instance, in the opening chapters we spent time with Stillman as a young boy on a farm in Georgia to understand the underpinnings of his character’s motivations and character traits of how his environment as a young boy shaped who he became as a young man of this twenties. Each of our lived experiences takes a bit of the mould of our futures, as to stitch together our transitions and transgressions. His background is jaded by the loss of his mother at a time in his life where he needed a supportive encourager to guide him.

A classic triangle of emotions and newly developing love between two blokes (Stillman and Philip) and a girl (Bella), turn this story into a classic set-up of a romance which could have a complicated ending. I liked seeing how Mencini chose to take Bella on her journey through first love, first flirtation, and first experiences with the opposite sex. This is definitely an exploration of a women’s progression towards womanhood, of which fits nicely under the category of ‘women’s fiction!’

A refreshing story arc seeing the close-stitched connection between Bella and her Mum, where mother and daughter were the best of friends rather than sidelined as enemies or distantly in each others’ lives. I found it refreshing Bella’s thoughts were always tied to how her mother was doing whilst in Tuscany, and wound in excitement upon her return to New York! Tuscany was merely the impetus to set everything into motion which would follow next in each of their lives. Radical changes emerged out of the warm glow of Tuscany’s Summer’s holiday of study. It’s the measure of each of the characters how they individually chose to embrace their life back in the states which proved to be most remarkable of all.

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On Mencini’s writing style:

There is an erstwhile frankness of self and station in the novel, where Mencini chooses to boldly assert the lives of the seven students in open honesty. She doesn’t hold back from revealing the blokes primal thoughts of love nor holds back the bolder strokes of narrative where their language choices would glower the faces of their Mums back home! She chooses to give an impression of raw twenty-something life being led with a bit of reckless abandon half a world away from where they had grown-up. It paints a real portrait of choices and decisions which everyone has to face at one point or another in their own life.

The time slips which occur throughout the story are eased into the book with a natural grace, as it allows us to grab bits of information through specific portals of the character’s life which allow us to understand them in the present. I always appreciate a writer who can master the technique, so that we are given the necessary information we need to attach ourselves to each character in turn, but in a way where the story is not led by mere facts, but lived through reading of their lives which takes the page to a personal bent of enjoyment! I love being half hinged to the present whilst having a firm footing in the past!

Fly in the Ointment:

I only wish the vulgarity which is threaded through the story in different intervals could have been better tempered because at some instances of its inclusion, I was all but cringing for a better turn of phrase to illicit the same emotional conviction. It felt a bit contrived in some ways, as if this were the only way that one particular scene or sequence could be appreciated if it had an illicit word thrown into the mix. I was nearly halfway through before I realised the frequency had changed from randomly included to more adamantly laced. There is a bit of a common slandering towards crude humour or crude descriptions of our bodies as well, which I know can be par for course in contemporary romances, but I felt they were out-of-place for this particular story. This has the full essence of a literary romance wrapped up inside a travelogue diary of one key character’s life hinged to six other lives she unexpected intersected with in Tuscany. I think I would have preferred if the pace and level of narrative in Tuscany had carried forward into the narrative that extracts their lives back in the states. The chapters in the states felt a bit rushed to me and contrite.

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“To Tuscany with Love” Book Trailer with Gail Mencini via Gail Mencini

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The “To Tuscany with Love” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 3 January: Spotlight Feature and Promotional Giveaway @ C Mash Loves to Read
  2. 5 January: Interview @ As the Page Turns
  3. 5 January: Author Q&A Feature @ The Page Turners Book Club
  4. 6 January: Review @ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
  5. 6 January: Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
  6. 7 January: Spotlight & Giveaway @ Under My Apple Tree
  7. 7 January: Review @ Jorie Loves A Story
  8. 7 January: Review @ Little Miss Train Wreck
  9. 8 January: Guest Post @ Jorie Loves A Story
  10. 9 January: Interview @ Manic Readers
  11. 9 January: Review @ Kritters Ramblings
  12. 9 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Nightly Reading
  13. 10 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Manic Readers
  14. 10 January: Review @ Afternoon Bookery
  15. 10 January: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Bless Their Hearts Mom
  16. 11 January: Review @ Bunny’s Reviews
  17. 11 January: Live Web Chat @ Read On Series at Crossroad Reviews
  18. 12 January: Interview @ Literary Lunes
  19. 13 January: Review @ Mandi Kay Reads
  20. 13 January: Author Interview @ Infinite House of Books
  21. 14 January: Review & Spotlight @ So I am a Reader!
  22. 14 January: Review @ TiffyFit’s Reading Corner
  23. Date Unknown: Review & Promotional Giveaway @ Therian

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Return on the morrow, as Ms. Mencini drops by Jorie Loves A Story, whilst sharing with us an Author Guest Post relaying the story behind To Tuscany with Love! Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “To Tuscany with Love” as well as Gail Mencini’s photograph and biography, the blog tour badge, and the logo badge for JKS Communications were all provided by JKS Communications and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Monday, 6 January, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, 21st Century, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Contemporary Romance, Debut Novel, Fly in the Ointment, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Life Shift, Modern Day, Time Slip, Tuscany, Women's Fiction

*Book Review*: Love At First Slight by J. Marie Croft

Posted Monday, 16 December, 2013 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Love At First Slight by J. Marie CroftLove at First Slight by J. Marie Croft 

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Love At First Slight +
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Genre(s): Fiction | Romance | Historical

| Regency | Jane Austen Sequel

Published by: Meryton Press, 1 November 2013

Available Format: Paperback | Page Count: 270


Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “Love At First Slight” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by Meryton Press. I received a complimentary copy of “Love At First Slight”  in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Meryton Press. The book released on 1st November 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. This marks my first review for Meryton Press!

My connection to the Author & the Novel:

Originally you might recall, I took part in the Book Cover Reveal for this novel on the 30th of August, 2013. I had received a curious email from the original publisher Rhemalda Press expressing interest of book bloggers who wanted to share the joy of the forthcoming release by J. Marie Croft. Having dipped into the Regency this year through participation of August in August, whereupon I re-read my beloved Pride and Prejudice whilst hinged to September’s Classics Re-Told Reading Challenge! I must confess I was deeply curious about which direction Ms. Croft would spin her tale of Darcy & Elizabeth knowing full well the tides were tipped askew as in this rendition of the story “Darcy” was meant to be a lass named Elizabeth, wherein making the “Bennett” a “William”! A flip on heel after canon seemed rather fitting of a story to follow on the foot heels of having read the original! Or, thus I rather thought would be a rather splendid reading!

With the closure of Rhemalda Press in a rather abrupt motion, I was in the dark as far as the pre-promised stop on the blog book tour which as of mid-September was no longer set to happen! I realised the news whilst opening up the former Press website reading on their behalf the letter they had publicly released. I quickly contacted Ms. Croft, to infer my disheartened heart on her behalf, as although I had wanted to read her story I felt grievously worse for her as her book was now in stasis! At the very same moment, I learnt her book had then been picked up by Meryton Press, which delighted me over the very moon in excitement! I was celebrating whole-heartedly the good fortune of having this novel picked up so quickly!

From that moment forward, I have been in the background waiting to see Love At First Slight grow wings and lift off into reader’s hands! I patiently waited word that the book was being released in print and would be available to receive in exchange for an honest review by those of us who had previously been in contact with Rhemalda were given the option to review for Meryton! Over the course of the months (September through December), the author and I have exchanged a few notes whereupon the seed of friendship had been planted. As she was one of the first who saw the name of my blog and fully understood the cheeky humour which is contained therein! I look forward to watching this book grab hold of readers hearts as much as I look forward to knowing Ms. Croft a bit better in the future! How blessed am I for this experience! And, yes, the book is in my hands at long last!


Synopsis of the story:

“It may not be universally acknowledged,
but the unvarnished truth is that a young widow
in possession of a good fortune is not necessarily in want of another husband.”

In this humorous, topsy-turvy Pride & Prejudice variation, all the gender roles are reversed. It is Mr. Bennet’s greatest wish to see his five sons advantageously married. When the haughty Miss Elizabeth Darcy comes to Netherfield with the Widow Devonport nee Bingley, speculation—and prejudice—runs rampant.

William Bennet, a reluctant and irreverent future reverend, catches Miss Darcy’s eye even though he is beneath her station. However, his opinion of her was fixed when she slighted him at the Meryton Assembly. As her ardour grows, so does his disdain, and when she fully expects to receive an offer of marriage, he gives her something else entirely ….

J. Marie Croft
Photo Credit: Glane Gorveatt
J. Marie Croft lives in Nova Scotia and divides her time among working at a music lesson centre, geocaching (a high-tech treasure hunt) with her husband, and writing. Her stories are lighthearted; and her tag line is Jane Austen’s quote, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” A member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (Canada), she admits to being excessively attentive to the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Adult twin daughters are the light of her life even though they don’t appreciate Mr. Darcy the way ‘Momzie” does. She can be contacted at her website: J. Marie Croft

A most curiously familiar cast of characters:

For readers who consider themselves Janeites &/or Austenites, the curious familiarity of the cast of characters found in Love At First Slight, will by no means be found as daunting to unravel as someone entering this lovely Regency world for the first time! The players, of whom, you are most apt to want to keep track off from the jump-start will be as follows:  (counterpart characters are next to their names!)

Benjamin & Flora Bennett – parents of five unmarried, unattached singletons (all male heirs!): Martin (Mary) the studious and oppressively observant elder brother who finds himself befit siblings of social reproach!; Charles (Jane) the loveable sibling who chooses to see the world as an optimist; William (Elizabeth) a bit jaded and indifferent to society’s constrictions; and twins! Laurence and Christopher taking up the rear! (clearly of whom reek more of Lydia’s faults than the sense of Kitty) Uniquely in this spin, its Benjamin not Flora who is consumed by ill-fated nerves of seeing his sons married, which puts the weight of their betrothals on a father rather than a mother! She, in turn, takes her cue from the original Mr. Bennett having a preference for solidarity, reading, and staying outside the sphere of the social specter!

The Lucases (Sir William & Lady Lucas) – parents of  Marcus & Clarence are the Bennett’s rivals for marriage!

The Gardiners – are still involved in the story, though this time a sad referee of knowledge for the Bennett brothers, knowing that even if their heart’s lie in opposite fields of choice, they are each meant to acquire their own livings based on the lot they were given to achieve. The Gardiners happily are still the winsome supporters of their nephews!

Elizabeth Darcy – in lieu of FitzWilliam, gives her earnest début as a woman with as much of an affront on country society as her affable counterpart! She lends the impression of being stalwart stubborn in both extolling her position whilst interacting with others as much as her own countenance.

Jane (Bingley) Devonport – in lieu of Charles is a widow in this after canon, who is determined to take up residence at Netherfield Hall. She, like him before her, has a delicate heart and an innocence of life which is what draws each to their respective heart’s desire.

Casper & Leonard Bingley – are decidedly worse than their original counterparts as they are oppressively snobbish and prejudicial of their peers!

Miss Olivia Collins, sister of William Collins  – an obtusely droll sister who does her counterpart well in her appearance! Except that she has a streak of humility not afforded Mr. Collins (of Pride), to where she gives a glimpse of her softened repose of a woman most in want of a husband. Her pursuit is more of a natural yearning to be part of a union of a complimentary couple rather than the sole pursuit of many of her age. She is of course prone to tone out propriety and settle for long examinations of ramblings no one else has quite the ear towards hearing!

William Collins – (first Cousin of Mr. Bennett) being the clergy under the coattails of Sir Lewis de Bourgh of Rosings Park, is a necessary inclusion.

Miss Felicity Wickham – the wickedly devious bane of Miss Darcy’s existence, of whom could only bring a blight of misery on the Bennett’s! If parallel worlds were compliant she would be the other Wickham’s evil twin! Thus far as to say, they both had the perfect presence for inserting themselves into people’s lives for the pure exulting measure of advancing their own interests!

One happy coincidence the reader will notice most surely is how clever the choices in names, Ms. Croft bestowed on her characters! For Jane fell in love with Charles Bingley in the original Pride and Prejudice, and here, she is widowed by a ‘Bingley’, or rather a ‘Jane’ is widowed by one such fellow! Ha! Using William as the character to go up against Elizabeth is rather classic, if you consider outfitting this William as a Deacon meant to be a Cleric as more mirth and folly than one could hope be afforded! Charles Bingley’s name is donned by the love of his life Jane’s retold character in this story! Little curious oddities and irrepressible delights start this story off on the right footing!

Gathering my wits and alighting into Netherfield:

I regret that my plans to become acquainted with after canons this year, failed in the regard that I was not able to construct the time needed in either August or September for proper readings! Therefore, I am going in a bit blind with this reading as to know how others’ have handled their variations and versions of Pride and Prejudice. I can attest that the humour wrought through the storyline is a bit out of the reach of Jane Austen, as I think she might have blushed by some of the satire for the bluntly common joviality! However, I find Croft’s cheekily woven humour to light a bit of a punch and edge into a story that is as well-known as this, to effectively change the story to where it’s nearly its own tale altogether!

Having said that, it still remains true to how most of Pride plays out, as it is William who must walk over field and meadow in the mud to seek the condition of his ailing brother Charles (rather than Elizabeth seeking Jane!), only to find as a gobsmacked surprise in having Elizabeth (Darcy!) sympathise with his endearing nature to be with his brother, verse the discontentment of the Bingley brothers who felt most put out! From this timeless exchange of familial respect between the respective families, we find Croft venturing into new territory. Your not expecting to find one character smitten by the other, nor to have each of the characters observed in ways of which were not seen in the original. I like how Croft manages to breathe new life into a story all of us have come to know as our own. It lends itself a bit of a mystery as to where the characters are meant to entreat as much as striving to give the reader a new line of suspense upon the ending chapters! I must admit, whilst reading of Elizabeth’s wanton remarks on reflection of William, I nearly saw her inner voice rather than her outer countenance of an upper-class snob! Methinks perhaps this is a bit of a ploy on the author’s part to see how far a reader is willing to go as far as to suspend their own judgement (à la prejudice) towards Elizabeth, as she in full effect is replacing everyone’s beloved FitzWilliam! As for my own mind (and heart!) I like to travel a bit further into the heart of a story before formulating an opinion one way or the other, as far as knowing the true merit of a person’s character and the conviction of their actions as they are relayed.

If I can be so bold as to say, this version of Netherfield is like walking through a time portal to jaunt yourself into an alternative version of the place you last left your feet! You might look around, noticing bits and bobbles of what is already known, but at the very same time, everything appears to be a bit different, a bit off or left of center from whence you where here previously. In those little grievances of change, you start to realise that you’re seeing the familiar in a whole new dimension that is both invigorating and confusing! It takes a bit to draw your bearings, but once you do, I’d be plumb aghast if another reader hadn’t found herself (or himself) in step with this Netherfield as readily as a viewer could step through the portal known as “Lost in Austen”.

My Review of Love At First Slight:

As you fingers pull open the pages of a beloved story’s after canon, re-envisioned in a wholly new and plausible set of circumstances which start to alight in your mind’s eye as though your only re-entering a dance you had sat out the last set of; you’ll find yourself readily acquainted with the key players, with a lurking suspicion that even as they are familiar, there is a measure of freshness to their embodiment! They might speak in the same language of the age, they might even ring true their incarnated spirits of their originals, but wherein you find the familiar, there is a level of wanton choice to make these characters stand on their own laurels. As the story first reveals itself to you, a nod of a notice is given to the author whose passion for Austen’s style of romance is clearly evident as is her ability to convey her own spin on the previous writer’s incantation of a woman too prejudice and of a man too proud! I oft felt they both exchanged their own vices, and theirs was a story of how pride and prejudice towards those you barely know can lead you in such extraordinary corridors of choice!

Therein lies the departure, as Love At First Slight, stands on its own feet as a story of unpredictable turns at moments when even the reader was the last one to suspect the avenues ventured! There is a craft to willing a reader to circumvent their own perceptions of a story, as your only able to base your stances on what you read as a story is read. In this, lies a territory for jostling with the reader’s heart! Yet, it is artistry to switch the tables on gender-specific roles both in structure of story as much as in dialogue. Subtle changes in who originates which bit of speech, and yet, in lieu of a lady for a gent, the ability to ascertain the intent behind the structure changes in one fluid motion! And, of course, the reverse is equally as true!

Without the worriment over an entail due to a lack of a male heir, Croft had disentangled the one key ingredient Austen had left inside the story to dig deeper into the woe of marriage for five unwed singletons. Seeing the story play out to befit men rather than ladies, I admit proved to be a unique glimpse into another side of living altogether. It’s not only a reversal of gender, but of status, and the perception of status therein. The stage in which the story is set ebbs along with the changes to where even the secondary characters start to act outside of their spheres!

Longbourn was never more appealing of a visitation as it is in this story. There is a key observation made on Mr. Bennett’s behalf in the opening passages of Chapter 1, Volume II. The ingenuity of the comparison Croft gave in this section was as befitting as Mrs. Bennett in the original! How I applaud clever observations by giving examples such as the one I had for Taking Root in Provence, where I used a latte to guide my expression of the narrative therein! Giving a bit of reality to the mannerisms of a character bent towards the extreme is a cheeky way of representing them, I do believe! All the lovely little quirks that befall the Bennett family are still inside this tale of their residence at Longbourn. By the time this section of the novel is reached you nearly suspend all logic that there were a version of filt with females rather than excitable males! Three cheers for Croft for having a seamless transition! I also loved how she inserted a passion for Shakespeare by borrowing key references which befit scenes, dialogue, and character with such alacrity as to be struck as natural!

Getting caught up in the everyday jovial notions of Regency life is quite easier when a writer abides the time to include them in their narrative! Croft excels at giving out little bobbles of the Regency, as she doesn’t flout over trivialities but rather revels in them! Your taken abreast of everything you would see, smell, hear, taste, and bear in Regency society! To where I find this exploit of Austenesque literature to be on every Janeite’s shelf of pleasure!

A Special Note on Darcy & William:

One of the attractions for me whilst reading the original Pride and Prejudice is the vexation of having two people who feel transfixed by their oppositional personalities, come to terms with their attraction for one another. In this story, we see the underpinnings of attraction alighting through new circumstances and interjections of dialogue not yielded into view in the original. In this, we can celebrate that at the very heart and nature of a Darcy | Bennett connection there are the under-threadings of wickedly decisive and independently strong individuals who are not used to bending as a willow to give someone the proper chance to fall in love with them. Compromise to them is as devastating as becoming an invalid through illness! The sparring between them in this narrative is as delightful as the first square-off I saw them in when their roles were in reverse! I think it’s always a champion idea to pit would-be couples at odds with each other in a story where your attempting to focus on not only the strong of will but the strength of individual character. Not everyone is always prepared to enter into a betrothal if they feel they have to yield past the point of what they are willing give as concession to another in the relationship. When two strong-minded souls first start to butt heads, I do believe, its in that chance happenstance of a moment they are either going to end up parting company OR they are going become married with the knowledge their relationship will be full of fire and smouldering affections thereafter!

What I most appreciated was the sincerity of William’s appreciation for the natural world around him! Like Lizzy before him, he was as determined to remember where he walked and where he lived as much as she had! They each were attune to the natural environs in ways where their peers would readily forsake the realm for Town! Earthly in sport and of a belief where finding a balance between work and play is a necessity rather than an off-handed foray of play, I found William to be boldly different from FitzWilliam! As I find William a Lord of the Manor, of whom would toil more in the grit of the soil and in the caring of the fields moreso than FitzWilliam, of whom I always felt would delegate the everyday work load. William is ruggedly attached to the land and to preserving the history of how the land has been maintained. In direct comparison, FitzWilliam was more apt to be a caretaker-in-arms, standing guard and overseeing the management of the estate from an executive position. Herein lies the appeal of both characters and the point of perspectives they bring to their roles!

Elizabeth on the other hand is decidedly trickier to get a feel for as she is curious kept cleverly from the reader’s view. Little humanistic qualities peek out in-between the sequences of her interactions, but the true heart of her mind and being are as much of a mystery for the reader as they are for William!

An affection for words, this writer gives to all of thee:

Croft chooses to take the reader to higher grounds of literary enlightenment by her carefully selected words and turns of phrase contained within the pages of Love At First Slight. The entitlement of her novel is a clever twist on the original, but it’s how she chooses to infuse her character’s mannerisms, quirky natures, and expressions of personality that sets her a bit apart from other authors. She’s one of the true wordsmiths who is as giddy about lesser known verbs, adjectives, and nouns as I am! I can see she must have amassed quite the library of dictionaries and thesauruses too! The words may not easily tip-off the tongue but they endeavour even the causal reader to sit up and take stock of what the writer is entreating to teach them! Let the language of the novel inspire a bit of wordplay in all of us, celebrating the depth of the English language and the heart of a Regency romance!

This blog book tour stop was courtesy of Meryton Press,

due check out my upcoming bookish events!

Cross-listed to be included in:

Classics Re-Told badge created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Cas Cornelissen (Public Domain : Unsplash).

Thank you for your patience in awaiting this review. Illness forestalled its presence!

I am thus far intrigued with Croft’s prose in the world of Pride and Prejudice,

that I took it upon myself to ILL “Mr. Darcy Takes the Plunge”!

Love at First Slight
by J. Marie Croft
Source: Direct from Publisher

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Genres: Romance Fiction, After Canons, Historical Romance


Published by Meryton Press

Format: Paperback

Pages: 270

{SOURCES: Author photograph of J. Marie Croft & Book Synopsis given originally by Rhemalda Press, used again with permission of author in this review as both are still current for press purposes. Book Cover for Meryton Press edition of Love At First Slight given by author and used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee Designs to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Classics Re-Told badge created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Cas Cornelissen (Public Domain : Unsplash).}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

Related Articles:

Guest Post: A Tale of Two Publishers or What the Dickens? – (indiejane.org)

Interview of J. Marie Croft, Author of Love At First Slight – (liedermadchen.blogspot.com)

Love At First Slight – J. Marie Croft: The Love At First Slight Book Club – (thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.com)

Book Review: Love At First Slight by J. Marie Croft – (liedermadchen.blogspot.com)

Guest Post by J. Marie Croft – (leatherboundreviews.blogspot.com)

(Guest Post) Mr. Haughty-Pants Darcy vs. J. Marie Croft – (moreagreeablyengaged.blogspot.com)

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Posted Monday, 16 December, 2013 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, After the Canon, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Classics Re-Told: 19th Century & Gothic Classics, England, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen Sequel, Meryton Press, Pride & Prejudice Re-telling, Re-Told Tales, Reading Challenges, Regency Era, Romance Fiction, Sequel Authors