Hello friends! It has been a while since I shared a Recommended Reading post. Also, in the past, I’ve shared lists of Reading for Janeites and 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances, so in keeping with that sentiment, I’m sharing some more books influenced by classic literature. These go beyond Austen’s influence and draw from other classic novelists, sometimes subtly or directly.
Laura’s Shadowby Allison Pittman | The Laura of the title is, in fact, Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House fame, and the setting of the book includes De Smet and the tangential influence Laura had on a pupil, then later that child’s granddaughter.
Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan | The wardrobe in question is that of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles, and Lewis appears as a character in this fictional story of siblings, hope, and grief.
Lost in Darknessby Michelle Griep | This story pays homage to the classic Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and tells a tale of sibling connection alongside a Regency romance.
John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews | As the title indicates, this is a gothic retelling of Brontë’s Jane Eyre and *spoiler alert* elements of Dracula. It flips the genders and expectations of the classic tales, telling a story of bravery, allies and romance, and the battle between light and darkness.
The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews | Combining elements of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast with aspects of The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery, this wonderful bookish tale has a swoony romance and a perfect HEA.
Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner | While I can’t pick one author that has obvious connections to this fictional story, at its center is a book store and literature in many forms plays a big role in the story. An earlier, related book by Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, has closer ties to that prominent lady.
The Curse of Morton Abbey | An updated twist on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett with adult characters instead of young ones, this story also has some influence from Jane Eyre within its mystery elements.
Before Time Runs Out and Only Time Will Tell by Amy Matayo | Both of these are part of her “Charles and Company Romance” series, as in Charles Dickens. They combine a few time shifting plot devices that allow the characters to travel back to Dickens’ London (book 1) and to trade places in life/circumstance in present day (book 2).
Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson | While the influence of a classic is more subtle in this romance, as a fan of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, I was quick to note the similarities in setting and the personality contrast of the hero and heroine.
Your turn! Do you have any favorite stories influenced by classics? Have you read any of these books or authors?
Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! Today’s post features an absolute FAVORITE Victorian miniseries and three books with similar themes or settings. I’m talking about North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and the ultimate BBC miniseries adaptation from 2004 starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe.
Like the novel by Gaskell, each of these books I’ve chosen have an English setting, romance thread, and similarities to the classic, yet I would recommend them as unique stories with vibrant characters of their own.
This work contrasts society, economics, and family bonds through the eyes of its hero and heroine. More than just a romance, I appreciate how the novel and series dive deeper into social problems of the times and the difference one person, or one business owner, can make in the lives of even a small group of people. The romance progresses slowly as outside factors bring the hero and heroine together, begrudgingly at times, then to finally see through each other’s eyes the world around them. I especially love the book’s POV of Mr. Thornton, as I feel he is better understood in that context than his brooding persona in the series.
This Victorian story is mostly set in Manchester and its hero is the owner of a successful cotton mill, much like Mr. Thornton. The backgrounds and contrasts of the protagonists are similar, too, but beyond that, it paints a poignant story of healing and purpose. The couple are married for most of the story, so that makes for emotional glimpses into their life and challenges, and, a unexpectedly sweet romance.
This Regency story has parallels in the name “Milton” and in the societal clash of the hero and heroine. Like Margaret of N&S, Miss Milton has a demanding family that pulls her in many directions. My favorite aspect of this story is how her friendship with the hero is very encouraging. She learns courage and standing up for herself as the story progresses yet doesn’t waver from her initial character.
I couldn’t leave this last Christmas novella off the list! A Holiday by Gaslight ticks all the boxes for a Victorian Christmas story: decorating the country estate, plenty of mistletoe, a cozy library, and a sparkling romance. The initial misconceptions of the hero and heroine are nods to N&S, as are the ways they find common values and intellect once they look past superficiality. Author Mimi Matthews is a pro and this novella is a fantastic introduction to her stories!
Are you a fan of North and South? Do you have book recommendations similar to this classic? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by my post and review on the blog tour for Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson!
Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.
However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.
Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.
Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.
Isabelle and Alexander is a gentle and poignant Victorian romance with protagonists facing a situation rarely explored in this genre: one of debilitating disability. While it compares in some ways to the classic North & South in setting and contrasts of the hero and heroine’s personality, its plot is distinct. I think it reads more like the latter half of a marriage of convenience trope when the couple is learning to exist together — in this case, each with little knowledge of the other’s quirks, expectations, and heart.
The story is told entirely from the Isabelle’s point of view. This allows it to be her story in many ways, as she grows more likable and empathetic to the reader along the way. Her change is most dynamic and obvious, and the themes of the story are shown to their best advantage through her eyes. As she comes to know the kindness of Alexander underneath his shuttered heart, her own heart learns to be grateful for simple things in life. These little moments she notices, and the growing tenderness between them, combine to show how love, happiness and a deeper joy cannot always depend on circumstances but can BE in spite of them.
There are many more aspects of this story I like. I appreciate the care with which Alexander’s struggle is portrayed. I think it is underrepresented in Victorian fiction. This unique challenge and the setting of Manchester and a cotton mill (again, think of Thornton’s mill in North & South!) provide a great backdrop to the love story. I especially loved the supporting cast of characters and their roles of encouragement, friendship, and foils to Isabelle and Alexander — Glory is my favorite! And, Anderson’s pen lends an array of realistic emotions to the story and couple, including anger, depression, longing, sacrificial love, joy, and the desire to have a fulfilling life purpose.
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Blog Tour Info
Join the virtual blog tour of ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER (Proper Romance, Victorian), Rebecca Anderson’s highly acclaimed historical romance novel, May 3–16, 2021. Over forty popular blogs specializing in historical fiction, inspirational fiction, and Victorian romance will join in the celebration of its release with spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Manchester, England.
May 03 Lu Reviews Books (Review)
May 03 Timeless Novels (Review)
May 03 Our Book Confessions (Review)
May 04 Literary Time Out (Review)
May 04 My Bookish Bliss (Review)
May 04 The Book Diva’s Reads (Excerpt)
May 05 Heidi Reads (Review)
May 05 Laura’s Reviews (Review)
May 05 Wishful Endings (Review)
May 05 Gwendalyn’s Reviews (Review)
May 06 Margie’s Must Reads (Review)
May 06 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Excerpt)