Hello from California! Today I'm happy to have Linda Beutler's brand new book on Songs & Stories. It has made for a great vacation read on my road-trip down the west coast. Thanks to Jakki Leatherberry for hosting the tour!
by Linda Beutler
Ages: 17 and up
Genre: Romance / Historical / Austenesque / Pride & Prejudice Re-telling / Mystery
I received an e-copy of this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The untimely death of Anne de Bourgh, only days after his disastrous proposal at the Hunsford parsonage, draws Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Alexander Fitzwilliam back to Rosings Park before Elizabeth Bennet has left the neighborhood. In death, Anne is revealed as having lived a rich life of the mind, plotting rather constantly to escape her loathsome mother, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Anne’s journal, spirited into the hands of Charlotte Collins and Elizabeth, holds Anne’s candid observations on life and her family. It also explains her final quirky means of outwitting her mother. Anne’s Last Will and Testament, with its peculiar bequests, upheaves every relationship amongst the Bennets, Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Collinses, and even the Bingleys! Was Anne de Bourgh a shrewder judge of character than Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy combined?
This story grabbed me right away, pulling me through its myriad twists and turns all the way to a satisfying conclusion. It had touches of gothic drama, macabre mystery, and wonderfully sweet romance.
The first half of the novel kept me on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out what was going to happen next. The second half was a little calmer, more focused on the various romances. I really liked all of the romances. Col. Fitzwilliam stole the stage a couple of times with his less-than-well-thought-out attempts to choose a wife.
Col. Fitzwilliam might have stolen the stage a couple of times, but Anne de Bourgh was the true main character, even if she was only shown through her journal entries. Her thoughts were at times sweet, sad, funny, and disturbing. She was superbly written, though not always likable.
I would have liked to see more Darcy and Elizabeth in A Will of Iron. It wasn’t that they didn’t have enough page time, but rather that the focus was so spread about between them, Bingley, Anne, Charlotte, and Lady Catherine that there were few places to just enjoy a full chapter of the couple. Every scene that did focus on them, however, was thoroughly lovely.
My only minor complaint is that the transition between the intensity of the first half and the far more laid-back tone of the second half was very abrupt. It took me a couple of chapters to settle into the new pace.
Overall, A Will of Iron was a very entertaining read that I would recommend to those who enjoy darker, less conventional P&P variations.
I give it 4.10 for a few uses of mild profanity and a couple mid-level words.
I rate it 7.10 for a couple of mid-level scenes, a fadeaway or two, some references, and innuendo.
I give it 6.10 for multiple murders and attempted murder.
About the Author:
Linda Beutler is an Oregon native who began writing professionally in 1996 (meaning that is when they started paying her...), in the field of garden writing. First published in magazines, Linda graduated to book authorship in 2004 with the publication of Gardening With Clematis (2004, Timber Press). In 2007 Timber Press presented her second title, Garden to Vase, a partnership with garden photographer Allan Mandell. Now in 2013 Linda is working with a new publisher, and writing in a completely different direction. Funny how life works out, but more on that in a minute.
Linda lives the gardening life: she is a part-time instructor in the horticulture department at Clackamas Community College, writes and lectures about gardening topics throughout the USA, and is traveling the world through her active participation in the International Clematis Society, of which she is the current president. Then there's that dream job--which she is sure everyone else must covet but which she alone has--Linda Beutler is the curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, which is located at Luscher Farm, a farm/park maintained by the city of Lake Oswego. They say to keep resumes brief, but Linda considers Garden With Clematis her 72,000 word resume. She signed on as curator to North America's most comprehensive and publicly accessible collection of the genus clematis in July 2007, and they will no doubt not get shut of her until she can be carried out in a pine box.
And now for something completely different: in September 2011, Linda checked out a book of Jane Austen fan fiction from her local library, and was, to put it in the modern British vernacular, gobsmacked. After devouring every title she could get her hands on, she quite arrogantly decided that, in some cases, she could do better, and began writing her own expansions and variations of Pride and Prejudice. The will to publish became too tempting, and after viewing the welcoming Meryton Press website, she printed out the first three chapters of her book, and out it went, a child before the firing squad. Luckily, the discerning editors at Meryton Press saved the child from slaughter, and Linda's first work of Jane Austenesque fiction, The Red Chrysanthemum, published in September 2013. Her second work of fiction, From Longbourn to London was published in August of 2014.
Linda shares a small garden in Southeast Portland with her husband, and pets that function as surrogate children. Her personal collection of clematis numbers something around 230 taxa. These are also surrogate children, and just as badly behaved.
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