LISTENER

Anji Dale

  • 30
  • reviews
  • 19
  • helpful votes
  • 54
  • ratings

Wonderful seasonal antholgy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-02-20

Christmas is a time when magic and miracles seem to happen and Christina Boyd worked some magic and not a few miracles to bring the book version of this anthology of Pride and Prejudice-inspired seasonal stories together in a matter of a few weeks towards the end of 2018. All involved, both writing and editing, donated their time and talent free of charge so that all of the proceeds from sales of this fantastic collection could go to Chawton House Library, a charity that houses a remarkable collection of early women's writing. It's a place Jane Austen, the inspiration at the root of these stories, knew well as it was owned by her brother. As far as I'm aware, the charitable aspect only applies to the book version though, not the audio format.

The seven authors are all well known and highly thought of in the genre of Austenesque fiction. Two are set in modern times, the rest are Regency-set. Some are sequels, some take an alternative path for one of our favourite romantic couples. There is even a sprinkling of Christmas magic in one of them. All, without fail, are absolutely wonderful!

When I heard that this anthology was being released on audio, I simply had to use one of my credits on it, especially as the fantastic Harry Frost was narrating. His performance of The Darcy Monologues, from the same stable, was masterful. His voice is so well suited to this sort of writing and he seems to be able to change the pitch and tone of his voice at will in order to suit the characters and situations. One story called for an American accent and it sounded pretty good to this Brit's ears.

I won't say any more, as others who are far more eloquent than myself, have already done so. If you need an extra Christmas treat that'll leave you feeling warm and fuzzy all over, then why are you still reading my waffle? Go and get a copy for yourself!

Good story, excellent performance

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-20

Review of audiobook as performed by Catherine Bilson

We have here a short Regency-set variation of Pride and Prejudice that veers off from canon after Elizabeth Bennet has broken her return journey from Kent to stay with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London. Her elder sister Jane has been resident there for several months. So, we've had Darcy's disastrous first proposal in Hunsford and both he and Bingley's sisters know that Jane has been in London without telling Bingley. Then tragedy strikes; the Bennet family home of Longbourn is razed to the ground by fire, resulting in the deaths of Jane and Elizabeth's parents, their three younger sisters and some of the staff.

This well-written short story is bookended by letters from one of the girls' uncles (Mr. Phillips) to the other (Mr. Gardiner). In the first, Mr. Phillips tries to send a warning about the fire and its consequences so that it doesn't come as a shock to the girls. Sadly, the letter arrives too late and they don't find out until their arrival back in Meryton. These opening scenes are sad and truly heart-rending; Elizabeth comes upon the ruins of her family home totally unexpectedly (the Ashes of the title) whereas Jane finds out from the Lucas family.

Bingley hears about the tragedy in a letter whilst staying with Darcy and his sister Georgiana. Of course, everyone simply has to up sticks and head off to Hertfordshire. We do spend quite a bit of time inside Darcy's head in this, never a bad thing for me. I won't give any more plot details for such a short story, save to say that we have an even more dastardly Wickham than normal. As to the the Heiresses part of the title? You'll have to find out for yourselves!

I listened to the audio version of this tale and though I hadn't heard any of Catherine Bilson's other performances, I was rather impressed and it takes quite a bit to impress this particular Picky Brit when it comes to English historical fiction performances. At just under an hour and twenty minutes running time, it fitted in perfectly to one of my commutes last week which was 40 minutes each way.

On the whole, I'd award 4.5 stars if I could; 4 for the story (Picky Brit deduction for some US language use) and 5 for the performance.

I received my copy of this audiobook in a giveaway from the authors but there was no expectation for a review. This is my honest opinion.

Rational Creatures? Yes, even Miss Bates!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-01-20

For this third anthology from the Quill Collective, Christina Boyd has drawn together another outstanding group of writers in the Austenesque genre. This time the focus is on an assortment of Jane Austen's female characters. The phrase 'rational creature' was used more than once by Jane Austen herself in her writings and I suspect (and certainly like to imagine) that Miss Austen wrote many of these characters as her way of protesting the lot of women in her time. From our 21st century perspective, it's difficult to imagine what a breath of fresh air her works must have been two hundred years ago.

The book opens with a fascinating foreword by Austen scholar (and roller derby participant) Devoney Looser. The stories are all Regency-set and arranged in order of the publication of their source works. The subject characters are: Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Emma Woodhouse, Hetty Bates, Harriet Smith, Fanny Price, Mary Crawford, Anne Elliot, Sophia Croft, Penelope Clay, Louisa Musgrove, Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney and Lady Susan Vernon. Some are prequels, some are sequels and some run alongside the action of their canon stories. Some are first person, some third.

As you can see, although all of the heroines from Jane Austen's six major works are represented, there's a fair sprinkling of some rather unexpected characters. Miss Bates and Harriet Smith as rational creatures? I guarantee you'll never read 'Emma' again in the same light! The same goes for Mrs. Clay and Louisa Musgrove from 'Persuasion'. And Lady Susan's prequel, told in epistolary form as in the original, is exceedingly well done. Of course, the entire collection is wonderful from start to finish and I can't single out any one as being better than the rest; they're all told in style by their respective authors. I'd recommend reading them through in order to start with, then you could dip in and out on a subsequent reading, if you wish.

There's no 'mature' content in any of these tales, though there are sexual references in some.

This is the same review that I posted for the ebook version of this wonderful anthology. I will only add that Veronica Riley's performance of the aforementioned ladies is absolutely fantastic. She manages to imbue each of them with all the qualities one would expect from reading them on the page (or screen!). Five stars seems poor and inadequate.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four (just)

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-01-20

REVIEW OF THE AUDIOBOOK AS PERFORMED BY MEGAN GREEN

Regency set alternative history to Pride and Prejudice, starting off in Ramsgate as Georgiana Darcy is contemplating eloping with George Wickham and is found alone, in inclement weather, on the street by Elizabeth, waiting for aforesaid "gentleman". Elizabeth Bennet is about to start working as a companion to a wealthy widow in Ramsgate, following the death of her father, and the elder Mr. Collins (father of William Collins from canon) has thrown the Bennet women out of Longbourn. She prevents anything untoward happening and is eventually offered the position of Georgiana's new companion. She refuses as she already has a positionand suggests her sister Jane, who eventually takes the post. Jane, coincidentally, has to leave it eventually to marry Bingley (who she meets at Pemberley) just as Elizabeth's employer dies. Guess who ends up in the post?

There are many misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Darcy, as usual; a major one being her presumptuous reorganistion of Pemberley's library. Personally, I'd probably have reacted just like Darcy if someone had done that to my library without permission or discussion, no matter how altruistic the reason turns out to be. Darcy is searching for a wife who fits a list of particular criteria and can produce an heir, not someone he can love and share his life with.

The title is quite appropriate as there are several of each. The first betrayal is obviously that of Georgiana by Wickham and the first betrothal is that of Jane and Bingley. Both occur quite early in the story. The remainder of both are for the reader to find out. One is a particular doozy, but...spoilers!

I definitely enjoyed this story and the story was engagingly enough told for me to want to see it through. Some of the plot twists were...unexpected though once again, as I've found with Ms. Worth's writing, there were a few too many modern and/or American language uses throughout for this picky Brit reader/listener (waistcoat, not vest!). The audio performance by Megan Green wasn't bad, with only an occasional mispronunciation: "lieutenant" is pronounced "leff-tenant" and not "loo-tenant" in UK English and there was a very strange pronunciation of "awry".

I obtained a free copy of this audiobook at my own request from Story Origin. A review was requested but not demanded and this is my honest opinion. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could, but have rounded it up to 4.

Not a bad story, shame about the performance.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-01-20

ASSUMPTIONS AND ABSURDITIES by Cinnamon Worth, audiobook performance by Nikki Delgado

First of all, there are two HUGE clues in the title as to the tone of this book. Don't go in expecting a serious, angst-ridden variation of Pride and Prejudice. If you're a Brit, like me, and are old enough to remember the Whitehall Farces, on stage and/or TV in the 50s, 60s and 70s, then you'll have an idea as to what you're in for. By the way, that is by no means a derogatory statement. The Whitehall Farces embodied a style of humour that seems to be particularly, but not exclusively, British. They were very popular with the public in their heyday, although the critics seemed to turn their noses up at them. If you're not a Brit, have a word with Mr. Google about them.

Some people will turn their noses up at Ms. Worth's writing style but generally, this particular picky Brit quite likes it. Yes, there are more contractions than I'd like to see, too many modern expressions (e.g. stymied, which I've come across in two of her works so far), and this one had an "okay" as well. Okay, (yes, I'm a 21st century Brit, so I can use it!) that's the criticisms out of the way for now, but here we have a Regency-set variation that veers off from canon P&P after the Netherfield Ball and the parties resident there are back in London. Darcy and Bingley hare off back to Netherfield when they hear that a "Miss Bennet" is engaged to Mr. Bennet's heir, William Collins. This happens early on, so it's not really a spoiler. As Mr. Collins' patroness, Lady Catherine De Bourgh and her daughter also attend the wedding.

I love that Jane is given a backbone in this and really makes Bingley work for his HEA. Darcy and Elizabeth have many of the "assumptions and absurdities" to work through to reach theirs and I quite enjoyed being a voyeur on their journey.

This isn't just a review of the ebook version, though. I requested a free copy of the audiobook from Story Origin of my own free will and an honest review was requested but not demanded. I'd previously listened to this author's book Deception and Debauchery which had a different person performing and she was reasonably good but I had real problems with Ms. Delgado's performance. There were mispronunciations of at least three common place names: Longbourn (she pronounced it Long-burn), Rosings Park (pronounced as Rozz-ings) and Meryton (which for some reasons had acquired an -ing, and was pronounced Merington). These places occur so frequently during the story that it took me right out of the narrative; so much so, that for this and other reasons regarding the performance, I'm afraid I gave up on the audiobook about a third of the way in and switched to the ebook, which I already had a copy of. That was a much more enjoyable experience and the story raised a smile and a wry shake of my head on more than one occasion at those aforementioned "assumptions and absurdities".

I'm sorry to have to give a low rating of only one star for the performance. If Ms. Worth didn't proof-listen the audio version, then I'd recommend she should do so in any future excursions into audio publication. I'm quite happy give the story itself a solid four stars.

Wickham is Darcy's rival - how does that work out?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-12-19

DECEPTION AND DEBAUCHERY (audiobook) by Cinnamon Worth, performed by Megan Green

This is a regency-set variation of Pride and Prejudice that's a lot more Wickham-centric than many books in this genre. Instead of becoming a self-inflicted impoverished militia officer, he's been able to marry a wealthy woman AND be widowed all before the start of the story. This means there's been no Ramsgate incident with Darcy's sister. He still has an eye for the ladies and both Caroline Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet catch that eye. His grudge against Darcy still exists and the gentleman from Derbyshire has been to Hertfordshire as per canon and left again, fighting his attraction for Miss Bennet. She however, has experienced a strong attraction to the handsome widower and is almost convinced she's in love with him.

How Darcy and Elizabeth reach their HEA is told in quite an inventive storyline which, to me, occasionally develops into more of a farce as some scenarios tend to be somewhat unlikely for the propriety of the times. Apart from that, my only other criticism would be for the language use, as I felt there were too many non-period expressions sprinkled throughout the book. Wickham's eventual fate, leading to who he ends up marrying, is an unusual one that I don't think I've come across before.

The audiobook performance by Megan Green is quite good and though I came across a couple of mispronuncations, I've heard many a worse performance during the course of many years listening to books from this genre and others.

I definitely enjoyed this story and the direction in which the author took the characters, especially the 'slow burn' version of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance. I'll definitely be listening to others by her. My main caveat would be some of the language use, as already mentioned.

I'd rate this as a solid three and a half to four stars for both story and performance.

Please note: I voluntarily requested and received a free copy of this audiobook from Story Origin and this is my unbiased review.

Dangerous to Know? But not necessarily all bad!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-06-18

Following on from the wonderful anthology The Darcy Monologues, Christina Boyd has assembled another team of accomplished Austenesque writers for this second volume from The Quill Collective. This time, we're focussing on many of the "bad boys" from the six novels of Jane Austen. In order we have: John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility), George Wickham & Colonel Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice), Tom Bertram & Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park), Frank Churchill (Emma), Sir Walter Elliot & William Elliot (Persuasion), General Tilney, John Thorpe & Captain Frederick Tilney (Northanger Abbey). You may wonder why Colonel Fitzwilliam is in this list, but you'll understand when you read it.

I read this as an ebook last year not long after publication and have just finished listening to the recently published audio version as narrated by André Refig. Christina Boyd did a fantastic job with the choice of writers and the editing of this anthology and has chosen well once more with her choice of narrator. Mr. Refig's voice is so well suited to this type of fiction and his range of voices for the many and varied characters is phenomenal.

A couple of the stories are marked in the ebook as having mature content (Wickham & Crawford), another three are "moderate" (Willoughby, Churchill & William Elliot), two are "mild" (Fitzwilliam & Bertram) and the rest as "none". In none of them is the sexual content gratuitous or overly explicit.

Let me give you a warning: though some of these "bad boys" are redeemed during the course of their stories, by no means all of them are. However, we do get to see some of their back stories and get to understand some of the reasons why they are the way they are in canon. Of course, I'm not going to tell you which is which. That's for me, and those who've already read and/or listened to this anthology, to know and for you to find out by reading/listening to it! Even though each story is relatively short, the plots and the characters are fully fledged and fully fleshed out. You can read the entire book from start to finish, or dip in and out as the fancy takes you. However you choose to read or listen, it's well worth the time you'll invest. Can't wait for the next anthology!

A brilliant anthology with an amazing narrator.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-02-18

Where do I begin?

Well firstly, Christina Boyd did a magnificent job in getting together such a wonderful band of writers. All have produced top quality works in this genre in the past. Not all have written full length novels but the shorter works they've produced haven't lost anything for all that.

Secondly, who wouldn't want to read or listen to a collection of stories written from the point of view of one of fictions greatest romantic heroes? Some stories are written in the first person and some aren't, but all of them give us a chance to get inside Darcy's head and witness the very monologues that give this fantastic book its title. Some are set in Regency times, some are set in other time periods including the American West and the 60s. The printed book was divided into two sections to reflect this.

Can I pick a favourite story? The answer is a resounding NO! As I read the book, reading in the order as printed, which starts with the Regency era, each new story immediately became my favourite. Then I thought to myself "No, that can't be! Each successive story simply can't be better than the last. They're all absolutely brilliant!" That hasn't changed on listening to the audio version. The stories vary in length and range from Darcy and Elizabeth overcoming their misunderstandings and falling in love as per canon, to Darcy reflecting on his forthcoming marriage, and to Darcy as an old man reflecting back on his marriage to Elizabeth. Then there's the stories set in more recent times such as the Old West, the 1960s and right up to date with Darcy as a Major League baseball player.

I'm not going to go into details about the individual stories - we'd be here all day! As a card-carrying Janeite, I love variations set in the original Regency era but I've also taken a fancy to variations set in other times, too.

This was one of the best JAFF books to come out last year and Harry Frost's narration adds a whole new sumptuous layer to that enjoyment, keeping me company on my commutes. In fact, I was often reluctant to get out of the car at the end of my journey. His Regency Darcy voice is simply to die for! In fact, all of his voice characterisations were fantastic. I've come across some male narrators whose female characters come across as...well "soppy", but that's definitely not the case here. I'm pretty sure Lady Catherine de Bourgh would simply refuse to put up with that!

So, if you're reluctant to try this book because it's an anthology, don't! Just. Don't. It'll be well worth the time you invest in it.

A lovely debut novel

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-02-17

I'd half-forgotten how much I enjoyed Ms. King's debut novel (sorry Joy!). Her Mr. Bennet is far from canon and a truly detestable character, and her Wickham is lot worse too.

On a lighter note, I loved that Elizabeth got to travel far and wide with the Gardiners after being cast out by her father. Now that's not really a spoiler as it happens quite early on. Some of the things she learns on her travels come into good use when she's called upon to nurse Jane after she's taken ill at Netherfield and in another situation which I won't mention - spoilers this time! A good deed she did whilst away also has repercussions for later in the story.

This is a sweet re-telling of Darcy and Elizabeth's story, suitable for all ages, and Catherine O'Brien's narration is pretty good too.

3 people found this helpful

Never forgive, never forget?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-03-16

PERSUADE ME by Juliet Archer - audio version

This is the second of a series written by Juliet Archer, updating the storyline of a Jane Austen novel to the modern day. Unlike the first one, this one wasn't told with the alternating POVs or narrators. If it had been, it would have been wonderful to hear Rick Wentworth voiced by an actor such as Christopher Eccleston or Richard Armitage. Yes, our Captain is now Dr. Rick Wentworth, marine biologist from the north of England, now living in Australia (complete with supermodel girlfriend) but who has returned to the UK for a book tour promoting his best-seller ”Sex in the Sea".

Ten years earlier, he met and fell in love with Anna Elliott, daughter of the 8th Baronet of Kellynch, while they were both in the south of France. On the advice and connivance of her father and Lady Araminta (Minty) Russell, Anna doesn't go to Australia with Rick. Now, he's a well-respected scientist and Anna is a lecturer in Russian Literature at a University in Bath. The Russian connection is due to her late mother having been Russian. Anna lives in a flat in Bath owned by Jenny Smith, who's husband is still alive but badly disabled.

The plot follows the original very closely so I won't go into very much detail. Sir Walter is possibly even vainer than the original, as is the eldest Elliott daughter, Lisa. Mrs Clay is the masseuse, Cleopatra Clay. The youngest Elliott daughter Mona is still married to Charles Musgrove, with sisters Lou and Henrietta. Rick's sister and brother-in-law run a garden centre near Kellynch, renting property from Sir Walter but not the Hall itself. I loved these Crofts as much as the originals. William Elliott-Dunn is the heir to Kellynch and the Baronecy and to me, comes over as even more scheming than his Regency counterpart.

Rick's resentment towards Anna is even closer to the surface here and "Never forgive, never forget" is a mantra he seems to live by. This gets put to the test when they are thrown into company and the behaviour of neither to each other could be said to be of the best. He deliberately makes a play for Lou Musgrove (after the supermodel has dumped him in absentia for a richer man) before realising, after the events at Lyme Regis, exactly how cruel he's been to both women.

One scene I was waiting for of course, was The Letter. Obviously, the language has been brought up to date but "half agony, half hope" is still there, as are the sentiments. I have to say though, that I still prefer the language style of the original.

As far as I can tell, Juliet Archer is planning on writing more in the series but there's been a gap of some years now since this part. I really hope she does write more as I've thoroughly enjoyed both so far.