Reading for Janeites | Austen in August

Continuing the fun theme of “Austen in August”, I am sharing a list of books I would recommend to any fans of Jane Austen! For more Austen fun, check out the list of Austen-themed posts at The Book Rat.

Historical

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack

Regency-era goodness! It’s an expertly crafted story of love and worth, drawing from the societal constraints to set up a unique situation for the heroine whose journey is even more life-changing than that of the Dashwood sisters at the start of Sense & Sensibility.

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece, pun intended! I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).

Contemporary

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Really, any Katherine Reay novel is a wonderful read for an Austen fan. She has books that give nods to Austen characters, too! (Lizzy & Jane, Dear Mr. Knightley, The Austen Escape) The Printed Letter Bookshop, though, is a story for true book lovers and looks at little ways reading influences our lives.

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensiblity by Hillary Manton Lodge

A contemporary retelling of S&S, Jane of Austin paints a trio of sisters in Texas with a dogs, tea, and a swoony Callum (Colonel Brandon) character. It also shows fresh perspective and “what-ifs” with the “Marianne” character as the heroine.

Second Impressions and Jane By the Book by Pepper Basham

These two novellas take readers to Bath, England with endearing characters. These stories take on literary themes within themselves and tell sweet stories of romance!

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

Bookish characters, an idyllic setting (Cornwall!), a little mystery, and romance all combine admirably in this story of friendship and a bookstore.

More Austen fun!

Favorite Quotes from Persuasion by Jane Austen

First Line Fridays # 26: “A Table by the Window” by Hillary Manton Lodge

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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This has been the kind of week requiring some comfort stories. (I had to say goodbye to one of my beloved kitties who was very sick.) SO, I sought out something familiar, easy to read, and cozy in its own way. Hillary Manton Lodge’s “Two Blue Doors” series is just that! A favorite of mine, I started with the middle story, intending to reread just it. Well…. after reading it, most of book 1, and favorite scenes in book 3, I think it’s safe to say I revisited the series.

Here, I’m sharing the first line of A Table by the Window, the book that started it all. The family secrets. The blend of French and Italian cuisine. The restaurant culture, friendships, family banter, and the sweetest long distance romance. If you’re curious, I highly recommend this whole series! (I’ll link my reviews below.)

“I can’t believe she left you the prep table,” my brother Nico groused as he and my oldest brother, Alex, carried the piece up the stairs to my apartment.

Reviews: A Table by the Window | Reservations for Two | Together at the Table

Your turn! What’s your first line? Do you have a go-to, favorite “comfort” series or book?

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense INSPYs Finalists ~ 5 Mini Reviews

Bravo to ALL of the shortlisted “finalist” contenders in the 2018 INSPY awards! I was privileged to be a judge this year for the contemporary romance/romantic suspense category. All 5 of the titles are amazing stories I enjoyed reading — whether a reread or experiencing the stories for the first time.

 

Congratulations to Becky Wade and her novel, True to You, which won in this category for 2018! You can find the whole list of winners in 7 categories on the INSPYs website.

I’m including mini reviews of these excellent stories below– the reasons you should add them to your TBR if you haven’t already! (Click the book titles to visit their Goodreads pages.) Basically, I’m just happy I’m free to gush over the amazingness of this list now!

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True to You by Becky Wade

Nora is delightfully quirky and bookish. John is steadfast and does “Navy SEAL-type stuff”. Beneath the humor and heart of the story is an AMAZING journey of finding identity in Christ and trusting a greater plan than we can imagine. And oh, the EMOTIONS and family and romance of this story! It just makes me happy.

 

 

20180628_152246.jpgThen There Was You by Kara Isaac

I finished this with a grin on my face! Seriously one of the funniest books I’ve read! But oh, what an emotional journey that just punched me in the gut when I learned the past that shaped both Josh and Paige’s hearts. Healing, LIVING, grace. Music, drop bears, clumsiness and chemistry. Raw faith lived out by so many of the characters. A cultural experience, too! I want to visit Sydney now.

 

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Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Sisters. Friendship. HOPE. Dreams and how they shift or surprise. Quiet, steady, selfless love. The interconnnectedness of life and relationships. TEA. The influence of Austen’s story is obvious yet subtle, a perfect balance worked out by Hillary to give old circumstances and tropes fresh meaning and heart.

 

 

20180628_211854.jpgJust Look Up by Courtney Walsh

GRACE, choosing forgiveness, realizing the blessings in front of you. Accepting someone for who they are. Humor. Brooks’ unashamed pursuit of Lane. Lane’s growth and forgiveness. Embracing home. Cottages! Don’t get so caught up in minor details that you miss out on relationship opportunities — especially those with your family.

 

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A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

An emotional, colorful drama. Everyone has baggage…. but wow, what you choose to do with it, how you react, cope, or deny it affects everyone around you.  I loved the art element. And the tiny house! Davis and Callie <3… they were each just what the other needed, to see the gift of a son and move beyond grief, to see the worth and joy of life and move beyond pain and feelings of worthlessness or abandonment.

 

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite contemporary romances?

 

 

 

Review: “Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility” by Hillary Manton Lodge

My Jane of AustinSisters. Tea. Texas transplants. Tacos. Music. Scones. A heroic yet humble veteran. BBQ. The crazy complexities of family…. ALL INFUSED WITH JANE AUSTEN. Hillary Manton Lodge’s new release, Jane of Austin, is a feast for the voracious reader and fan of contemporary romance and classic literature alike. A contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this book delves deeper into the emotional complexities of Austen’s personas while maintaining a humorous and modern atmosphere.

FUN FACT: There are RECIPES at the end of some of the chapters of this novel! So, you won’t be hungry and bereft, as long as you have a functioning kitchen and small pantry nearby. Go ahead and buy some tea if you need it. And maybe the ingredients for scones or pie. You’ll thank me later.

 I read this book with some of my #bookbesties as an impromptu read-along on Twitter! If you’d like to see our Tweets and gushing, check out the hashtag #JofARAL.

About the Book

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Jane of Austin on Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I think it’s beneficial to know a few of the main points of Austen’s classic, Sense and Sensibility, a movie/series adaptation of it, or even some of her other works to fully appreciate the brilliant aspects of Jane of Austin. I’m not an expert by any means, but I greatly appreciated the nuances of the story more having seen the Sense and Sensibility film and read it a loooong while ago.

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With Jane of Austin, Hillary lends her own originality to the structure of a classic. She maintains the focus of a sisterly bond, the story of uncertainty in the face of circumstance. But a new light is shined, in many ways: what if Marianne was just as emotional and dramatic, but an introvert? Elinor, still as logical and caring, an extrovert? And, how had Colonel Brandon’s previous life experiences shaped him into the quiet hero? What hardships had he endured for such perspective? These are just a few of the ways Jane, Celia, and Callum Beckett are brought into focus through Hillary’s lens, sharpening formerly overlooked elements and delightfully expounding on others.

This novel is distinctly Hillary’s voice, though. Having read her previous AMAZING “Two Blue Doors” series, I recognize the slight humor, sarcasm, and honesty of her tone. It pairs unbelievably well with the natural wit of Austen’s story for laugh-out-loud moments, especially when conversations between the sisters involve the youngest, Margot.

On that note, the sisterly dynamic is BRILLIANT! The extremes of such relationships are accurately shown… from the camaraderie and familiarity stemming from a shared history to the clash of personalities and disillusioned disagreements. Most of all, the moments of care and support of one another, the bond of family, and even the rhythm of working together were my favorite parts of seeing Jane and Celia together.

And oh, the romance! Callum Beckett is the ultimate selfless and steadfast hero. The familiar juxtaposition of Jane caring for Sean (the Willoughby character) is there, while Callum and his unrequited love plays out in a very plausible way. Callum’s veteran status and penchant for reading aloud just up the attractiveness. Oh, and have I mentioned he’s tall, dark, and handsome!? I’m still not sure why it takes Jane so long to notice ;).

Jane of Austin is a fresh and original twist that delightfully emphasizes the strength of family and home, which can sometimes be people instead of a place. This is the type of novel that ends with a happy sigh and a craving for tea and scones. I’m enamored with the way the combination of Hillary’s skill and a contemporary setting reveal how absurdly interconnected life and relationships can be — in a very Austen-Esque way.

Sincere and hearty thank you to the publisher/author for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest and enthusiastic opinion.

About the Author

HILLARY MANTON LODGE is the author of Together at the TableReservations for TwoA Table by the WindowPlain Jayne,  and Simply Sara. Hillary Manton LodgeA graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship atNorthwest Palate Magazine. Her next novel, Jane of Austin, will release June 13, 2017, from WaterBrook Multnomah. 

Over the years, Hillary’s novels have enjoyed critical success from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romantic Times and have reached readers around the world. In 2010, Plain Jayne was nominated as a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara was an ECPA Bestselling book. In 2015, A Table by the Window was shortlisted in the INSPY Awards.

In her free time, Hillary often finds herself experimenting in the kitchen, attending indie concerts, and finding new walking trails. Formerly a resident of the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband now live near Memphis, Tennessee, along with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shiloh and Sylvie.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!! What better way to celebrate the day than with a blog post all about classic love stories??? Today I’m tweaking a Top Ten Tuesday topic to fit JANE AUSTEN-like stories. Read on for more awesomeness.

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It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish.

The official topic this week is “Top Ten Favorite Romance Tropes/Types”. I’m bending this a little for a list of favorite Jane Austen-Esque romances, whether they be inspired or adapted from Austen’s works or have similar elements as her well-loved classics.

10 Favorite Austen-Esque Romances

Influenced and inspired by Austen’s heroines

Dear Mr. KnightleyLizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay1. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

2. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Both of these novels by Reay are influenced by Jane’s characters in general. And, they each pay homage to her stories (as well as other classics) in their own way. Dear Mr. Knightley features a fresh epistolary take on a romance and a coming-of-age story. Lizzy & Jane weaves a tale of sisters, their struggles, and a fitting chance at love (with some Persuasion-like moments <3).

Pride & Prejudice-like banter between heroine and hero

271385783. Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

If ever there was a contemporary story to rival the tension, misconceptions, witty dialogue, and ardent love story of Elizabeth and Darcy, Told You So would be it. You need to meet Devin and Grace.

love-lace-and-minor-alterations-by-v-joy-palmer4. Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer

Similar in many ways to Pride & Prejudice, Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations is a light story with humor and wit fitting for its Austen similarities (and some sarcasm thrown in for good measure). The protagonists of this story contend with their own pride in several ways to overcome shortcomings and find happily-ever-after.

With Every Breath5. With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

The push-and-pull of rivalry and opposite personalities is brightly displayed in With Every Breath. And what a frustratingly fun historical romance/drama it is!

 

A “Regency Era” setting

_240_360_Book.1051.cover6. The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

1816 England. Winter on the moors. Secrets. A spinster finding love. Inheritances, gambling debts, and a girls’ school. What more could you want in a novel?

the-tutors-daughter7. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

A bit of mystery and romance combine in this story set in Cornwall, England. (Random BBC Period Drama fangirl moment: for a location visual, watch “Poldark”!!!!!)

Like Northanger Abbey

The Covered Deep8. The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance

Bianca is the Victorian Era equivalent of Catherine Morland. Combine her fascination with gothic literature and heros with her propensity for dramatics, and her learning journey paralells Austen’s heroine in many ways. And I think Paul’s gentlemanly, wise manner complements Bianca just as Henry Tilney does Catherine.

Like Emma

The Thorn Bearer9. The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham

I say this story is like Emma because the romance blooms from a strong foundation of friendship. The joy of it all is watching the characters grow and change for the better through the story, partially because of their friendship; much like Knightley encourages Emma to be a better version of herself. And the romance!! 🙂

Ensemble-like, influential cast

HesitantHeiress10. The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

While there are many reasons to love Dawn Crandall’s historical romances, one reason I enjoyed The Hesitant Heiress was its cast of characters. The broad personalities featured are always interesting and influential to the story. I think having the lens of a singular POV (the heroine’s, Amaryllis) adds dramatic suspense to the story and slants the view of all of the characters in a way similar to Austen’s understanding interpretation of family, friends, and even “villain” personalities.

 

~bonus: 3 upcoming releases~

second-impressionsSecond Impressions by Pepper Basham, releasing March 2017

This novella promises to deliver a modern Austen-Esque story in setting (Bath, England), humor, and romance. It releases as part of a novella collection titled Love at First Laugh and in July as a standalone. I’m excited to see how Pepper tackles modern England (and just what a bonnet has to do with it all 🙂 )!

jane-of-austinJane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge, releasing June 13th

This is a modern adaptation of Sense & Sensibility set in the south. I’m already in love with the artsy cover. AND Hillary is writing it, so I know there will be recipes (!!!!). I can’t wait!

 

the-austen-escapeThe Austen Escape by Katherine Reay, releasing November 2017

Reay’s literary-infused stories are always awesome (see above gushing). This one will be Austen and a best friends’ TRIP! Plus, the cover is adorable.

 

 

Your turn!!! Have you read any of these on my list? What are your favorite Jane Austen-Esque romances??? Or what are your favorite romance types???

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 11 Best Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 11 Best Books of 2016

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

It’s that time of year again! Time for my “favorites” post of 2016, AND just in time for the same #TTT topic. This year’s list was difficult to compile, to say the least. I’ve read a whopping total of 61 books this year (at press time), a few being rereads and some novellas. I was determined to limit my list somewhat this year, so we have 11 novels plus a couple “bonus” novellas. Surprisingly, all of the novels are 2016 releases, but the novellas range from 2014-2016. Most of these authors are familiar favorites and always “must-reads”, so it’s no surprise to me that my favorites stem from this group.

Now, on to the books!!!

Top Ten Best Books of 2016

Historical Fiction

A Flight of Arrowsthe-lady-and-the-lionheartThe Thorn Keeperthe-cautious-maidenThe Sound of Emeralds

1. A Flight of Arrows by Lori Benton

A riveting, fascinating conclusion to her “Pathfinders” duology.

2. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

Seriously now one of my all-time favorite books! Go read it. Achingly sweet and heart-wrenching in the best way.

3. The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

Really, the whole “Penned in Time” series is amazing, but this one is my favorite for several reasons…. one of them having to do with Christmas 😉

4. The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

Another great story from Dawn, this one uniquely uses only the heroine’s first person POV.

5. The Sound of Emeralds by Rachelle Rea Cobb

A fantastic conclusion to Rachelle’s debut series, this brings the characters full circle with some amazing surprises. #TeamDirk

Contemporary Fiction

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton LodgeLike Never Before by Melissa TaggYou're the One that I WantTold You Twice by Kristen Heitzmanna-portrait-of-emily-pricewhere-two-hearts-meet

6. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

Ahh! This one made me hungry, laugh, and cry. Oh, and try out a new recipe or two I discovered while reading.

7. Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Definitely my favorite of the Walker family series so far! The cover alone should be enough to convince you of the adorableness that is Loganand Amelia, but the emotional depth is what gets me with all of Melissa’s stories.

8. You’re the One That I Want by Susan May Warren

While I’ve loved each book in the Christiansen family series, this one, being the last, made so many pieces fall in place. It drew everything together with a huge thread of grace, and that’s why I loved it.

9. Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Unexpected and fresh, Kristen is not afraid to depict life in both raw and redemptive manners through storytelling.

10. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Another one that made me hungry! Ha! Katherine always surprises me with the direction and vast changes she leads her characters through. This one was pleasantly amazing.

11. Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson

One of the sweetest contemporary love stories I’ve read in a long time… and I’m not even talking about the cinnamon rolls and muffins! This one is just “good” for your heart.

Bonus! Favorite Novellas

playing-with-firethis-quiet-skya-night-like-no-other

Playing With Fire by Susan May Warren

The two main characters’ mutual complex history combined with a current-day crazy action/suspense situation made this my favorite of the Montana Fire trilogy.

This Quiet Sky by  Joanne Bischof

Poignant and beautiful, this goes beyond typical coming-of-age story expectations and tore into my heart unexpectedly.

A Night Like No Other by Kristin Vayden

I think this one will be a Christmas season reread every year now for its genuine and Biblical portrayal of Mary and Joseph’s experiences.

Your turn!!! What are your favorite books from 2016? Did you read any of my favorites? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

You know that moment when you FINALLY finish reading a book series and you’re perfectly happy with the way it ended, but you still want MORE??? Yep, that was me after reading Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge, the last book in the “Two Blue Doors” series.

I read it a few weeks ago with two blogger and #BookBestie friends, Cassie and Rissi. We chatted and debated and gushed via Twitter with the hashtag #TogetherAtTheTableRAL (click to see all our tweets, but warning: some are spoilery). And, Rissi created this awesome graphic for our read along.

 

Ok, by now you’re wondering what this book is about, so here’s the plot summary:

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge.jpgThree months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

Rather than dwell on her personal life, Juliette throws herself into work and research. After reading her grandmother’s letters from war-torn Paris, she still wants to know the full story –  and she’ll travel across countries and oceans to find it.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love?

My thoughts: So many feelings! Bittersweet, happy, hunger, nostalgia, the camaraderie of family and food. If you’ve followed this series from the beginning (please, start at the beginning), you know the emotional journey Juliette has already been on and the unexpected things in her path. Even after the first few chapters, I had no clue where this story would take Juliette or the *ahem* love interest she would end up with.

(Though there was not exactly a love triangle in this series, we do see her life morph and her love life change naturally within seasons of life. I didn’t exactly have a preference myself with whom she would end up with, but I am extremely happy with the end and with him. He shall remain nameless for the review because spoilers.)

Hillary knows how to use a singular POV to its advantages. With it, there was increased dramatic tension because we only knew Juliette’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. And it made us feel very close to her as a character. Most impressive, I thought, was the way the eventual hero of the story was written so well, even through Jules’ eyes, that we saw and read into his thoughts by his behavior around her and the way he treated her. This was carried out through Juliette’s observations of the other characters, as well. We saw their humor, bubbly personalities, or even jealous and pensive moods.

The historical letters and family story we experienced in previous books is carried out in the latter part of this one. This unique sub-storyline is a riveting glimpse into the WWII life in the French countryside. It even has parallels with Jules’ contemporary life with a theme of perseverance and a story of simple joy that can be found in everyday life.

Ultimately, this is a book for the foodie and the romantic. The food quotes and many recipes are a fabulous bonus. The sense of family and belonging Juliette feels when she is sharing the table with loved ones in this story are extended to you, the reader, with a sense of hospitality and invitation. It was a quite satisfactory end to the series — I was happy with where the characters ended up. Though I would happily read many more books about these characters if I could! (hint hint, Hillary 🙂 )

Thank you to WaterBrook Publishers for a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

See my reviews of book 1, A Table By the Window, and book 2, Reservations for Two.

And this was how we felt when it was over….