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Susannah Thorpe has just been informed that she is set to inherit a house and a vast fortune from a former suitor of her great-aunt’s. However, a  small stipulation in the will of this stranger, requires her to either marry in a month’s time or spent the next thirty days in Harstairs House — a place reported to be haunted — before she can claim her inheritance.

With no one to marry, Susannah and another employee of her employer, Constance, settle into the new house determined to outlast any ghosts there might be. Once the ladies arrive, though, they find that Harstairs House already has a tenant — a man named Oliver Bristow with no intentions of leaving before his lease runs out at the end of the month.

Books set during the Regency period are a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the period but don’t always want to read tomes of classic literature over four hundred pages nor do I want to read romance novels set during the period. Grange’s novel walks a fine line between romance and staying true to the period, and I loved the element of political intrigue she weaves into the tale. This is an unpredictable element included in an otherwise predictable plot.

The ending of this tale was, unfortunately, left with a couple of loose ends. Without a satisfactory conclusion or an epilogue, I could only guess the true identity of an elderly man Susannah dances with at the ball who eludes to knowing her great-aunt or what was included in Henry Harstairs’ final letter to Susannah.

Book Mentioned:

  • Grange, Amanda. Harstairs House. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2007. Originally published 2004. Print. 293 pgs. ISBN: 9780425217733. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Berkley Sensation. Retrieved: August 6, 2011.

Upon arriving home from Oxford, James Brandon declares his love to his father’s ward, Eliza, and asks her to marry him. His father, though, has other ideas and decides to marry Eliza to his heir Harry, a complete drunkard, so the family can gain access to her fortune. Devastated, Eliza and James decide to elope together but their plan is foiled and James is sent away to his aunt’s until such time Harry and Eliza are married. James has complete faith in Eliza, though, and believes she could never be prevailed upon to marry Harry, but when he is sent for by his father he finds his faith was misplaced and Eliza did marry Harry. Devastated once again, James leaves Oxford and buys himself a commission in the army — thus becoming the Colonel Brandon met by Miss. Marianne Dashwood.

Grange’s book really brought to life Colonel Brandon’s back story, which I felt was glossed over in Sense and Sensibility. His love and anguish over Eliza is felt completely as well as the fierce protection he feels for Eliza’s daughter. Strange, though, that months would pass since her disappearance with him doing very little to recover her. I finished this novel utterly unconvinced that Colonel Brandon really loves Marianne simply because some much feeling is put into James’ love for Eliza. And there is an odd comment where James remarks upon how pretty Marianne is because she resembles her sister, Elinor, but maybe that’s because even Grange thought the idea of impulsive, wild Marianne settling down with prim and proper Brandon was a bit strange too. Regardless, I really appreciate the background information and character development provided by Grange; it filled in a lot of holes in the original story’s back story.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Grange, Amanda. Colonel Brandon’s Diary. New York: Berkley, 2009. Print. 304 pgs. ISBN: 9780425227794. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Berkley. Retrieved: July 8, 2010.

Elizabeth Bennet leaves for her honeymoon thinking she’s married the love of her life, Mr. Darcy. Little does she know that Darcy is holding a dark secret that’s the real reason why he was never supposed to marry her; a dark secret that prevents him from taking her to their marriage bed and instead sends them on a trip to the Continent where is “family” rejects her outright.

Attempting to capitalize on the recent string of Austen “adaptations” with in the insertion of paranormal beings and the success of Twilight, Grange turns Darcy into a vampire and tries to convince the reader Darcy’s true form was behind his actions throughout Pride and Prejudice. However, the idea of this far outweighs what is actually delivered because nothing much happens for 300 pages; it’s all allusion up to that point with Elizabeth more concerned with the fact that Darcy won’t have sex with her rather than his bizarre behavior and friends and family. It’s also a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot begin a story on Elizabeth’s wedding day and insist Darcy was a vampire for all of Pride and Prejudice and nobody noticed.

In addition, not only does it take 200 pages for Elizabeth to figure out Darcy is in fact a vampire, but I felt like she was poorly characterized for much of the novel and lost all of her wit and will the moment she said “I do”. Meanwhile, Darcy is distant and cold as he attempts to put physical space between himself and his new wife for fear sex will make him loose control and turn her into a vampire for 300 pages. The last ten pages had a thread of a plot, but nothing really even happens there.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Grange, Amanda. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2009. Print. 310 pgs. ISBN: 9781402236976. Source: Purchased.

The only place Darcy could share his innermost feelings was in the private pages of his diary. Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love.

After reading Pamela Aiden’s “Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman” trilogy recently, I found Mr. Darcy’s Diary to be merely a much simpler version. Grange doesn’t go much beyond the events we already know of from the original novel. The only events with actual substance are the ones Grange directly quotes from the original without her own addition to the story, besides:

” I cannot believe it. I have seen Elizabeth.” (pg. 204)

And Darcy himself doesn’t seem to have much depth at all. Darcy’s feelings seem to flip flop to quickly throughout the novel with no basis. And there were no surprises. Nothing happens to Darcy that we don’t already know about to some degree.

Of course, I found myself smiling when Elizabeth finally accepted as I always do. The glimpses of their life during their engagement and after marriage were cute too. However, if you really want an in-depth look at Darcy, I recommend the Pamela Aiden trilogy. Adian, unlike Grange, really shows the way Darcy’s mind works.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Grange, Amanda. Mr. Darcy’s Diary. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2007. Print. 329 pgs. ISBN: 9781402208768. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Sourcebooks. Retrieved: August 17, 2008.
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