A few months ago, I was honoured to host a stop on Ginger Monette’s blog tour for her recently-released novel Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes (you can read that review, and find the link to the very yummy poppy seed brioche recipe, here). I was even more honoured when she asked if I would take part in the tour for the continuation of that novel, and I jumped at the opportunity. Her books are a pleasure to read and a pleasure to write about.
One of the things I enjoy about reviewing books is the opportunity to get to know some of the authors a bit and talk to them about various aspects of their novels. In the case of Donwell Abbey, the conversation revolved around food, because what good is a book review on a food blog without a recipe to go with it? Ms. Monette mentioned a scene in her story in which the characters are eating lemon squares, and thus an obsession began to find the perfect lemon square recipe. You can read all about that adventure here. If you try them, you can let me know if you’ve had better.
You can follow the blog tour with all its various stops through this link or by clicking on the banner below, and if you’re in the US, don’t forget to check out the raffle at the bottom of the page for a giveaway of some yummy Downton Abbey Tea. (Hint: tea goes extremely nicely with lemon squares.)
Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey
In the first book of Darcy’s Hope, author Ginger Monette gives us a gritty and poignant retelling of Pride and Prejudice set against the churning backdrop of the First World War. At the conclusion of Beauty from Ashes, all seemed well as Elizabeth was heading to Pemberley to await Darcy’s return from the theatre of war for his Christmas leave. But during war, there are all too often nefarious forces afoot that ruin the soundest of plans. This is where the second novel of the two-part series begins.
In and amidst these tumultuous events, Elizabeth Bennet is unwittingly swept up in a web of treachery, treason, and deceit, and finds herself forced to abandon the one man she has ever truly loved. By remaining under his protection and at his side, she fears that the stain of guilt that has been cast upon her by others will endanger her beloved Darcy’s reputation – and perhaps even his life! Feeling she has no other choice, she runs away from her safe haven, leaving no clues as to her destination. Terrifying events soon convince her that her choice was not only right but necessary, and she redoubles her determination to vanish forever.
Darcy is devastated by the disappearance of his cherished Elizabeth, and all thoughts of finding her haunt him ceaselessly. He wishes only to search for her, but his duties as a captain in the army must take precedence, leaving him on the front lines, facing a ruthless enemy. He is still reeling from this loss when a horrific attack leaves him critically injured and he is sent home, barely alive, to recover at the soldiers’ hospital at Donwell Abbey. Lost in a world of pain and despair, the only thing that gives his life any meaning is the caring touch of his nurse, who reminds him so much of his lost Elizabeth. He starts to develop feelings for her, but Elizabeth is still out there somewhere…
While continuing the saga of the characters from the first volume, Donwell Abbey traces their trials and tribulations after the conclusion of the story as set out in Jane Austen’s beloved classic. Allowing her imagination free reign, Ms. Monette is able to throw Elizabeth and Darcy into entirely new and challenging situations as they face obstacle after obstacle to their ability to reunite and finally find happiness.
Traditionally, continuations of classic stories rely on two things: an interesting storyline and the continuity of established characters. Ms. Monette succeeds on both levels. Her story is realistic and engaging, drawing in the reader with her creative plot and vivid descriptions, both of the setting of the story as it occurs and of the several flashbacks. At the same time, she allows her characters to grow and evolve in a natural way, while always remaining true to both Austen’s archetypes and her own characters as she limned them in Beauty from Ashes. They are real and human, completely believable, and true to themselves.
“So,” you say, “a good story is nice, and good characters are nice, but I judge a book by how well it’s written. Tell me about the writing.” Alright. I have a couple of anecdotes to share in that regard. When I first picked up this book, I thought I would read through the first couple of pages to get a sense of where the story began, fully intending to pick it up and start reading seriously the next day. Well, two hours later, I finally forced myself to put it down, because it was well past midnight. Similarly, I read a lot while at the gym. I sit myself down on the exercise bike and try to keep myself amused with a book for the next half hour as I pedal myself to exhaustion. With this novel, however, I was so engrossed that I have no idea how long I spent on the bike that day, since both the half hour of pedalling and the five minutes for cool down had both long elapsed. Suffice it to say, I was engrossed!
Quibbles… It’s hard to think of a quibble. Perhaps there were one or two obstacles on the path to Happily Ever After that were not quite necessary, but without obstacles, a story won’t take you anywhere. I loved the inclusion of cameo roles by other favourites from literature, such as John Thornton, Margaret Hale, Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, and I would have loved more of their stories. But a little bird may have suggested that their stories are still to come. Dare we hope?
I’m not a fan of rating creative works on a scale of one to four or five, since I don’t like reducing an author’s efforts to a number of stars, but I will say that I enjoyed this novel very much indeed. If you enjoy historical romance (or even if you don’t yet), give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed at all.
Note: Donwell Abbey may be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but readers may experience some minor confusion without the context of the mystery of Darcys Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes.
If you’re in the US, you can enter a raffle to win one of three tins of Downton Abbey Legacy Tea! The rafflecopter widget won’t show up on this page, but this link should take you to where you can enter. You can get extra entries too by commenting, sharing, or signing up for Ms. Monette’s newsletter or Facebook page. You can enter here:
You can purchase Darcy’s Hope at a Donwell Abbey at any one of a number of booksellers through this link: books2read.com/u/3yP2Le
To purchase the first volume, Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, use the following link: https://books2read.com/u/47kXOj