#BookReview Charlotte by Helen Moffett @ZaffreBooks

9781785769108About the Book

Everybody thinks that Charlotte Lucas has no prospects. She is unmarried, plain, poor, and reaching a dangerous age.

When she stuns the neighbourhood by accepting the proposal of buffoonish clergyman Mr Collins, her best friend Lizzy Bennet is appalled by her decision. Yet this is the only way Charlotte knows how to provide for her future.

Her married life propels Charlotte into a new world: not only of duty and longed-for children, but secrets, grief, unexpected love and friendship, and a kind of freedom.

This powerful reimagining takes up where Austen left off, showing us a woman determined to carve a place for herself in the world. Charlotte offers a fresh, feminist addition to the post-Austen canon, beautifully imagined, and brimming with passion and intelligence.

Format: (Hardcover, 368 pages)              Publisher: Manilla Press
Publication date: 3rd September 2020 Genre: Historical fiction

Find Charlotte on Goodreads

Purchase links*
Amazon UK | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

The Charlotte who emerges from the book is loyal, honest, intelligent, an attentive, loving mother and wife. Above all, she’s a pragmatist, her aim being ‘to secure a future free of anxiety and material want’ for herself and her children. The author provides the reader with a different picture of the relationship between Charlotte and Mr Collins than might be imagined from Pride and Prejudice. Although a marriage of convenience initially, there is mutual affection and, at times, even desire between the pair. Yes, really. Granted, Mr Collins remains his overly talkative self and pathetically grateful for every favour that comes his way from his patron, Lady Catherine, but there are some touching scenes in which he and Charlotte are brought together by grief.

The author has some fun imagining “what happened next” to the other Bennet sisters and expanding the role of some of the secondary characters from Pride and Prejudice, notably Anne de Bourgh, daughter of the formidable Lady Catherine. There are also literary allusions to spot such as a first meeting on a moonlit road, a female character with a fondness for wearing men’s clothes and a wet-shirted emergence from water.

An invented character, Austrian musician and piano tuner Jacob Rosenstein, acts as a vehicle for Charlotte to recount, in a series of flashbacks, scenes from Pride and Prejudice (seen from her point of view) as well as details of the early part of her marriage. He also acts as a welcome distraction from her grief over a family tragedy.

The book is written in elegant prose reminiscent of, but not slavishly copying, Jane Austen’s style. Much tea is consumed, health-giving country walks are taken and musical evenings are enjoyed.

A repeated theme of the book is the inferior status of women whether manifested through inheritance laws, social conventions or the constraints of marriage. It leads Charlotte to reflect on ‘the swinging unfairness of the lot that made her a woman’ making her ‘little better than a parcel to be lodged where first a father and then a husband decreed’. Having said this, Charlotte proves herself adept at subtle manipulation and the end of the book sees her influencing the turn of events.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Manilla Press and Readers First.

In three words: Tender, assured, engaging

Try something similar: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow or Longbourn by Jo Baker

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EQngv350_400x400About the Author

Helen Moffett is a South African writer, freelance editor, activist, and award-winning poet. She had a PhD on Pre-Raphaelite poetry and has authored or co-authored university textbooks, short story anthologies, non-fiction books on the environment, two poetry collections, and various academic projects. Charlotte is her first novel. (Photo credit: Twitter profile)

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Book Review: The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy BakerAbout the Book

Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours, and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.  79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away forever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

Format: ebook (309 pp.)    Publisher: Avon Books UK
Published: 10th January 2019        Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Pre-order/Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Kobo ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker on Goodreads

My Review

I confess The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is a little lighter than my usual choice of reading.  However, it certainly fits the bill for those occasions when you fancy something undemanding (in a good way) but still well-written and that will leave you with a warm glow.

Lucy makes an engaging heroine who it’s easy to root for.  She’s kind, thoughtful but, initially at least, inclined to underestimate herself and her abilities, and to think the best of others, even when they don’t necessarily deserve it.  Because of this, she’s a little easily manipulated and only gradually learns to assert herself and listen to those who genuinely have her best interests at heart.   Chief among these is her elderly neighbour Brenda who, having been a great support to Lucy in the past, now finds it is her turn to need help.  Brenda always knew she could count on Lucy but finds she has another more unlikely source of assistance as well.

In the scenes set in Lucy’s workplace (Tompkins Toy Workshop), the author captures the atmosphere of office life with its banter, gossip and cast of familiar characters: the practical joker, the mother figure and the Jack-the-Lad with his non-PC comments (who perhaps has hidden depths).    Okay, there are no real surprises and it didn’t take a genius to work out the way things were heading when Lucy and her best friend, Jess, undertake to win over Lucy’s new next door neighbour, George.

Nevertheless The Hopes of Dreams of Lucy Baker is a heart-warming story about the nature of true friendship, finding the courage to fulfil your dreams and how the path of true love sometimes needs a little help from forces you can’t explain.   If you don’t find yourself giving a little contented sigh of satisfaction on closing the book, I’ll be surprised.  And, if at the end, you have no desire to own a hand-knitted Poldark, then you’re probably beyond my help.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Elke at Avon Books UK, and NetGalley.

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In three words: Charming, tender, feel-good

Try something similar…The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll (read my review here)

jennikeerAbout the Author

After gaining a history degree, Jenni Keer embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her husband, an antique-restorer. She valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with #blindcat Seymour by her side.  She adores any excuse for fancy dress, and is part of a disco formation dance team.  The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is her debut. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

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