A Collection of JAFF Holiday Short Stories to Help Readers Weather Those Long Winter Nights!
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Source: I received an ARC of this book, from Meryton Press, in exchange for an honest review.
I am thrilled to join this book’s blog tour and serve as a barometer for my fellow readers, as I offer here the first book review of several planned for this collection’s blog tour. When I browsed the list of writers who contributed their stories to this anthology, I knew I was asked to be part of a refreshing collection of short stories. Even though I read mostly novel-length JAFF, I am always willing to give a well-written story of any length a chance! This collection was so satisfying for me because even though this is a collection of short stories, most of them are long enough for readers to get swept into the tides of each story, navigating with pleasure and ease, the setting, characters and storylines that are all based on one of Jane Austen’s books.
My overall 5 star rating is for the entire collection and below are my reviews of each short story.
Holiday Mix Tape by Beau North and Brooke West
Modern JAFF Based on Persuasion
My Review: I want to start by saying that I do not typically enjoy “Persuasion” stories as frequently as other JAFF readers do in their reading selections. Yet, this modern short story based on “Persuasion” made me want to read it again and again, because I just loved this story. Beau North and Brooke West did a lovely job updating this story by combining Austen’s overall theme for this story along with issues that are relevant within our modern world. The single Anne Elliot in this story, similar to “Persuasion,” also struggles with her feelings for an old beau, but in this modern setting she’s also dealing with a political scandal involving her family, a public betrayal and other modern-day dilemmas that readers can certainly empathize with alongside of Anne.
The decision to organize the segments of this short story in a fashion similar to a cassette tape mix was brilliant. The names of the tape’s sides and tracks provided a forecast into the story’s plot and provided organization to the structure of the short story. The inclusion of a few flashbacks provided information that was central to understanding the main characters’ relationship and added a nice depth to their current relationship. The addition of a bonus track was another clever move. For me, this story was a standout and one I’ll certainly read again in the future.
Becoming Fanny by Melanie Stanford
Modern JAFF Based on “Mansfield Park”
My Review: Here we meet a young girl named Blair, who enjoys taking the quizzes that are found in magazines and online. Yet, when she takes the quiz named, “Which Jane Austen heroine are you?” she finds she doesn’t want to be Fanny Price and longs, like many women do, to be just like the intelligent and outspoken Austen heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. This is a story that is perfect for so many women, as we often struggle to be comfortable with who we truly are, instead of feeling stuck wishing to be someone we really aren’t meant to be in this world. This is actually a struggle that is common in many of Austen’s books and is a theme that feels as relevant and current in today’s modern world.
A Man Whom I Can Really Love by Natalie Richards
Modern JAFF Based on “Sense & Sensibility”
My Review: Sense and Sensibility” happens to be my second favorite Jane Austen book, so I was thrilled to read a modern JAFF short story based on this book. Nora (Eleanor) and Marianne are the two sisters in this story and Ward (Edward), Brandon and a Willoughby type male make up the cast of male characters. One fateful evening Marianne learns that Willoughby isn’t the soulmate she has sought, and as she drives away after learning this news, she becomes the victim of a very serious car accident. As she lays in the hospital, in a coma, and able to hear the various voices and sounds around her, family and friends pay continuous visits to her. As in canon, Brandon spends a lot of time with her, reading and talking to provide comfort and relief as her body (and her heart) heal through this traumatic experience. If she ever regains consciousness, will Brandon and Marianne’s relationship be altered, or will they continue as they were before the accident?
I loved the modern setting, coupled with Marianne’s inner reflections, which served to help her grow and find her own light, after a very dark period in her life. I also loved the flash forward to the following year, where we were able to gain a glimpse into her continued personal growth. The parallel storyline with “Sense and Sensibility,” where Brandon is the healer, created a poignant bridge that I loved, between Austen’s story and this modern-day short story.
The Unexpected Gift by Erin Lopez:
Regency Era JAFF Based on “Pride and Prejudice”
My Review: I found this shorter story to be a pleasant snippet, filled with sweet, feminine details and future possibilities containing brighter skies ahead. As the story beings, Darcy is shopping for ribbons for his sister, Georgiana. This sets his thoughts in motion, as he starts to think about Elizabeth and the kind of purchase he’d enjoy making for her for the holidays. A perceptive Georgiana sees an opportunity here, as she intervenes to play cupid between Darcy and Elizabeth. When the story hints that Elizabeth is planning a visit to Kent in the spring, I found myself hoping that the author has a sequel to this short story planned, (maybe for a future spring anthology) so we can witness Darcy’s reaction when Elizabeth shows up at Rosings, and has in her possession the lovely fruits of Georgiana’s efforts.
North for the New Year by Sophia Rose
Modern JAFF Based on “Northanger Abbey”
My Review: In this modern day “Northanger Abbey,” we meet a young girl named Cate, who is obsessed with ghost chasers and tries to use her ghost equipment to find out if the dead mother of her new interest does indeed “exist” at his father’s cabin. As she is invited to join her Uncle Archer and Aunt Nancy on a vacation to Tahoe, Cate learns more about herself and tries to identify the kind of person she longs to become in this world.
As she attempts to shake her “good girl” image, she finds herself trying new looks and suffers the unintended consequences of these explorations. Unfortunately, gossip and her insecure feelings come together as forces she must face. Will she be able to live up to her expectations for herself or will she look to create herself predominantly in the image that others have created for her? I enjoyed the creativity of this story and the way Sophia took a familiar lesson to be learned and gave it a contemporary twist.
Winter’s Awakening by Anngela Schroeder:
Regency Era JAFF Based on “Pride and Prejudice”
My Review: This story began with what seems like some harmless eavesdropping, as Darcy quietly listens to Jane and Elizabeth’s unflattering opinions about him after the Netherfield Ball, as they all enjoy a respite at a local coffee shop in Lambton. Always a man of action, Darcy sets out to make things right this holiday season between himself and some of the least impressed residents of Meryton.
As I love “Pride and Prejudice” variations, I felt an immediate attraction to this story and I wasn’t disappointed. Many of our favorite and less favorite (think Wickham and Caroline Bingley) characters make appearances in this well-developed story, where the words naughty and nice are brought to mind throughout the various deeds and actions of the characters within this story. I loved the way things were wrapped up for everyone, just in time for some holiday magic!
Delivery Boy by Suzan Lauder
Modern JAFF Based on “Pride and Prejudice”
My Review: This story was such a fresh take on a modern day “Pride and Prejudice” short story. Since I also love cooking shows, this story quickly caught my interest. Here, we meet a chef named Lizzy, who is searching for a new delivery boy for her bustling restaurant, Alimento Dell’Amore. On the fateful night that she meets her new “delivery boy,” snow has arrived, making deliveries difficult throughout the evening. Billy (Darcy) fills in nicely as her delivery boy (even though he’s really at her restaurant for a different reason) and immediately we are aware that there’s an intense chemistry between these two people that just can’t be ignored.
This was one hot couple in and out of the kitchen! Filled with misunderstandings and witty banter, this is a modern-day “Pride and Prejudice” story that’s sure to have readers longing for additional courses. The reference to David Gandy provided an additional smile and a giggle, as I know there are lots of ladies out there that will appreciate the addition of Mr. Gandy in this story.
The Food of Love by Maureen Lee
Regency Era JAFF Based on “Mansfield Park”
My Review: This story is based on Austen’s book, “Mansfield Park.” Anne Riley comes across as Marianne Dashwood type of character, who is cast alongside her cousins Fanny and Harriet, in an upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” As much as she longs to reconnect with her cousins, it is truly Roger de Brun, a French refugee that her cousins had taken in the previous summer, who she longs to see once again. Yet, as she comes to know him better, will her heart remain true to him, or is it another who she now desires and loves?
Christmas Miracle on Oyster Bay by Denise Stout
Modern JAFF Based on “Pride and Prejudice”
My Review: This story is similar to the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” as we meet Lissa, a young small bookstore owner, who faces being put out of business by her larger competitors. When a law professor from a local university, named Dr. Simon MacGregor (Darcy), offers her a business opportunity, little does she realize that a solution for her shop, The Printed Word, may lie ahead for her. Sketching characters is a prominent theme here, which we know is also an important theme in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
I enjoyed the development of an unexpected relationship and the way this romance came together quickly, moving from attraction, to romance and then settling into a long-term commitment. I loved the significance of the homemade quilt and the references to its meaning throughout the story. Nice touch! Would I enjoy reading more about this couple? Absolutely!
The Clock Doesn’t Lie by Linda Gonschior
Modern JAFF Based on “Pride and Prejudice”
My Review: Dani Whitman is a waitress, who meets Chris Meisner, a patron of the restaurant she is working at on Christmas Eve night, where they become stranded at the restaurant due to a snow storm. We learn that Dani has a snowmobile and is able to arrange him a room for the evening at a local bed & breakfast. We experience a growing attraction developing between the couple and learn that they are currently unattached at the time. Can this be the beginning of something wonderful, or just two people caught up in the holiday spirit, whose intentions really aren’t aimed towards a long-term commitment?
When the story concludes, we are certainly left wondering where the characters are headed in this story. The significance of the clocks lends a nice touch to the story, yet, this story did leave me yearning for more of a resolution, along with further clues into the destiny of this couple.
A Perfect Choice by Lory Lilian
Regency Era JAFF Based on “Pride and Prejudice”
My Review: I forced myself to save this story for last, as I anticipated that I would love this story with the same intensity that I have enjoyed Lory Lillian’s longer books. I was certainly not to be disappointed! “A Perfect Choice,” is a short story with plenty to love, and it’s name truly describes its place in this collection of short stories, as it perfectly wrapped up the sentiments and the tone of this entire collection.
This short story follows canon closely, as Darcy, Bingley, Bingley’s sisters, Mr. Collins and Wickham, are all in Meryton during that fateful fall. As the residents of Netherfield are the talk of the town, the Bennet sisters spend time in their company, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of their characters and their intentions, since their first meeting at the Meryton Assembly. Unsure of her own opinions and feelings towards the mysterious Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth happens upon him one day as he is with his dog, Blackie, a large Great Dane, who immediately takes a liking to Elizabeth. As she becomes better acquainted with a less guarded Mr. Darcy, her mind struggles to reconcile his actions with his words.
We are treated here too, to a Netherfield Ball, filled with new and familiar occurrences. What has served in the past as a barrier between the young couples, now has the opportunity to lessen the chill between them, and throws a bit of heat into the mix. But can misunderstandings truly ever be settled in a way that allows for everyone’s satisfaction?
I enjoyed so many parts of this story, including how Lory Lillian incorporated Mr. Darcy’s dog into this short story, as not only a means of bringing Darcy and Elizabeth closer together, but also as a way to incorporate some humor into the story. I also love when Mr. Bennet has his wits in full force, not only to help Elizabeth navigate her way, but also when he serves as a sounding board for other characters throughout the story. The epilogue of this story served as the perfect choice for providing a delicious wave of heat! With a sprinkle of holiday promises to be savored in the future, this story left me beaming with a tremendous smile on my face.
I really admire the balance struck here within this anthology to include modern day JAFF stories, alongside historical fiction JAFF stories, with each one being inspired by one of Jane Austen’s books. The anthology is well-suited for JAFF readers, as well as for readers who are looking for some touching and romantic winter short stories. The anthology stories were carefully selected and organized to offer a wide range of well-written stories that may be short in length, yet significant in their abilities to offer readers hours of reading enjoyment, as well as a pleasant escape amongst the busyness of the holiday season. The romances sent several chills down my spine and the storms brewing within these plotlines kept me thoroughly engaged as I weathered the ups and downs within each story.
This anthology would make a wonderful gift for a friend, babysitter, teacher, and/or a loved one, as well as a fabulous stocking stuffer that Santa can easily manage to deliver for an early Christmas morning treat!
Please enjoy the Spotify playlist at the link below, that was inspired by this short story collection and can be enjoyed throughout the winter season, or any time of year:
I’d like to thank Christina Boyd and the lovely people at Meryton Press for having my brand-new blog host a review of these JAFF short stories, and for including my blog to be a part of this special blog tour. This collection of JAFF holiday stories offers such a wide range of choices, that every JAFF reader can find plenty to love here!
Please see the dates and blog information below for updated information regarding the blog tour for “Then Comes Winter.”
THEN COMES WINTER AUTHOR BIOS
Natalie Richards is a writer, blogger, and singer. She started her book review blog, Songs & Stories, in late 2010 after falling in love with Jane Austen fanfiction. Her writing can also be found on Figment, the Darcy & Lizzy Forum, TeenInk Magazine, and the Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology. She resides with her family in the Oregon countryside and currently works as a waitress.
Melanie Stanford reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow. Her first novel, SWAY, is coming December 29, 2015. You can find her at melaniestanfordbooks.com, on Twitter @MelMStanford, and on Facebook @MelanieStanfordauthor.
Linda Gonschior has entertained the art of writing since elementary school but never allowed it to come to fruition until Pride and Prejudice lured her deeper into the exploration of Jane Austen’s characters, relationships, and “what-ifs.” Seventeen years after writing Reflections as a short story, its publication as a full-length novel as well as the subsequent A Tarnished Image has opened up a new world with new friends and shared obsessions for all things Austen. Living on a large acreage in rural Niagara, Linda shares her home with her husband, son, cat, dog, and dust bunnies.
Suzan Lauder’s enjoyment of variety is evident in her dynamic career, food interests, hairstyles, and of course, her writing! No one story can predict the style or setting for the next as Lauder continues to experiment with her craft. Mad about historical research and learning new writing techniques, she’s an active member at the Austenesque fan site, A Happy Assembly. Her unique Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet, was published by Meryton Press in 2013. Lauder’s fascination with the Regency period inspired her creative blog series, the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, a project that transforms found, re-used, discount, and vintage items into quality, Regency-era outfits. The amusing and resourceful approach includes original patterns, and it has garnered support from Regency and upcycling bloggers and fussy Regency costumers. Lauder and Mr. Suze live on beautiful Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, with two tabby cats who supervise her projects.
Maureen Lee Lenker is a writer, actress, director, and producer. She currently works at the USC Libraries as a program assistant and is also working towards an MA in Arts Journalism, reporting on arts, theatre, and entertainment. She has written for Turner Classic Movies, Ms. In The Biz, @ This Stage magazine, and more. You can find her previous holiday romance story, “From Keats with Love” in the Christmas Nookies anthology. When not at USC, she works on theatre productions throughout Los Angeles. She is a native Angelino who hates driving and cites peacoats and scarves as her favorite clothing items. An Anglophile, she attempted to fulfill her dream of attending Hogwarts by completing her master’s in British History at the University of Oxford. She is a cockeyed optimist, life-long Janeite, rom-com aficionado, classic movie buff, musical theatre geek, and general pop culture enthusiast.
Beau North is the author of Longbourn’s Songbird and the founder of the podcast and website Rhymes With Nerdy She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband. You can connect with Beau on Twitter @BeauNorth or at beaunorth.merytonpress.com.
Brooke West is a novice silversmith, proficient yogi, and expert cat-wrangler. She lives in South Carolina with her son, fiancé, and three cats. Find Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.
Sophia Rose, a northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes region of the U.S., is a quiet yet curious gal who dabbles in cooking, snooping about old places, gardening, and is encouraged in her writing pursuits by an incredible man and loving family. Writing has been a compelling need of Sophia’s since childhood, and being a published author is a dream come true.
Denise Stout dreamed about writing from an early age, guided along the way by some special teachers who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to pursue her words in print. She loves to write stories about strong women who strive for the best, sometimes faltering, but who always have the fortitude to pick themselves back up again while finding love along the way. A frequent contributor to FindSubscriptionBoxes.com, she also reviews books, movies, and products. When not driving carpools, watching her boys play sports from the sidelines, or volunteering, she loves to read. And write. And watch Jane Austen adaptations. Denise lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and three sons.
Lory Lilian is a Romanian Pride and Prejudice aficionado with a background in business. She has an awesome daughter and the gentlest French bulldog ever. She fell in love with Pride and Prejudice when she was thirteen and has read it about a hundred times since. The A&E television mini-series in 1995 had a dramatic impact on her fascination with Darcy and Elizabeth and inspired her to read and then start writing countless variations about her favorite couple. Lory is the author of five Pride and Prejudice-inspired books: Rainy Days, Remembrance of the Past, His Uncle’s Favorite, The Perfect Match, and Sketching Mr. Darcy. She is currently working on three more, all at the same time.
Erin Lopez is a reader, writer, wife and mother—although not in any particular order. While she reads and writes in a variety of genres, she has a special place in her heart for Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where she met and married her own “Mr. Darcy,” and they lived in Colorado and Arizona for a time. During their stay in Arizona, they brought two delightful daughters into the world and adopted a small, fuzzy dog. They have since returned to the Bay Area.
Anngela Schroeder lives in California with her husband of fifteen years and her three rambunctious sons. She has a degree in English with a concentration on British Literature and a Masters of Education. She has a slight obsession with Jane Austen and all things British. She enjoys traveling, baking, and making her family’s world a magical place. She has published two other novels, The Quest for Camelot—book one in the Daughter of the Roundtable Series, and Affections and Wishes, a Jane Austen-inspired, modern-day romance. Follow her on Facebook, Anngela Schroeder-Author, and on Twitter @schros2000.
Christina Boyd wears many hats as she is an editor at Meryton Press, a contributor to Austenprose, and a ceramicist for the Made in Washington stores under her own banner, Stir Crazy Mama’s Artworks. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list. On Twitter @xtnaboyd.