The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski

I’ve been putting off reading The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski because actual ghost stories terrify me. While this book isn’t a ghost story* (even though it’s described as such by several reviewers), it is an eery, spooky and unsettling read. I’m glad I read it and wish I hadn’t put it off for so long because it’s an excellent story.

The book begins in the present day, which in this case is 1953. In the very first scene we meet Melanie, who is at home with her doctor and recovering from childbirth. The first thing I notice is how the men in her life (her husband, the doctor) treat her, as if she is a helpless infant. For example, both the doctor and her husband do not trust her opinion and patronize her because, well, she is just a woman who needs men to tell her what’s best. Melanie seems to accept this way of life, even though I can tell she has a strong backbone. Upon the doctor’s advice that she get constant rest, Melanie lies down for a nap on the Victorian chaise-longue that she purchased during an earlier antique shopping excursion.

When Melanie wakes up, she is still on the chaise-longue but has somehow traveled back in time, 80 years earlier to be exact. The reader, along with Melanie, discovers that she is now inhabiting the body of her Victorian counterpart. There are other characters that seem to be the Victorian counterparts. There is a doctor, a possible love interest and a whole host of others who also patronize her. Melanie’s confusion and anguish at this turn of events was even making me feel as if someone was stifling me. The thought of not being able to get back felt like I was imprisoned. Whenever Melanie tries to explain her situation, the words would not come out of her mouth. If the words or situation didn’t exist during the Victorian period, then her mouth couldn’t formulate the cry for help. She could think about her era or her home, but it was impossible to speak about it since it hadn’t happened yet. How horrifying.

I found it to be a very well-written story, but an eery tale that left me feeling unsettled because it doesn’t have a proper ending. Or if it does have an “ending” then I’m still pondering its meaning. The author wrote the story in such a way that I was inside Melanie’s head, metaphorically crying for help along with her. In thinking about the horror of being stuck in somebody else’s body, at least I can close the book after finishing the last page. Melanie, not so much.

I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a thought-provoking, excellent story that transports you to the parlor room of a Victorian house during Victorian England. The foreword is written by P. D. James, the queen of suspense. The book can be read in a day or over a weekend. And because I spent October reading Victorian literature and about the Victorian era in general, I was able to pick up on the layout of the Victorian parlor room, the maid’s behavior and the general etiquette of the era through the Victorian characters’ demeanor. If I hadn’t educated myself about the Victorian era, I may have missed all these fascinating details.

xoxo, Jane

*A ghost story is described as fiction where ghosts appear in the story or the characters’ belief in ghosts are part of the premise.

Did I really need more Jane Austen books?

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I bought three new books from my local independent bookstore. (Curbside, contactless pick-up!) Did I need new books? No, I did not. Did I need newer editions of three of the Austens? No. But in my bid to support and shop local (so I keep telling myself) I thought I’d treat myself to these new editions.

I bought the annotated Northanger Abbey. I loved this story and I wanted to better appreciate and understand the background, the fashion and the era. Also, it contains maps, illustrations, literary comments, analysis and more. I want to reread this novel so I can fully enjoy the annotations and illustrations for my own education before rewatching the 2007 film. If I enjoy reading it as much as I think I will, I’ll buy an annotated version of my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion.

I recently finished Emma. While she is not my favorite heroine (not even in the top three, I’m afraid), I couldn’t resist this gorgeous Penguin Classics edition for my library.

Last but not least, I also treated myself to the Penguin Classics edition of Mansfield Park. This is the only full-length Jane Austen novel I haven’t read yet.

What’s on your nightstand right now?

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Persephone Biannually)

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During this anxious time we are living in, I wanted to soothe my spirit and the best way I do that is by organizing my bookshelves. Well, during the organization I re-discovered my old copies of the Persephone Biannually.

If you haven’t read this magazine by Persephone Books, then you are in for a treat. It’s a literary magazine written and published by Persephone Books, a publisher that focuses on republishing forgotten female (and a few male) authors.

The articles in the magazine focus on their authors, the story behind the books and interesting details about their famous endpapers. There is no charge for the magazine (at the time of this writing) and if you are interested in their books, then you can sign up to be added to their mailing list so they can ship the magazine to you.

Today, I’m pairing a tea with this wonderful literary magazine. Which tea shall we pair? How about Harney’s Citrus Blend? It’s a black tea with an orange flavor. Light and citrusy, perfect for an afternoon of magazine reading. Enjoy!

xoxo, Jane

What to read when you need an escape

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When I need a distraction I turn to my bookshelves. I’ve always loved books and reading. I grew up in a family of six in a one-bedroom apartment (!!!) and I still remember searching for quiet corners to escape with my library books.

Once again, I feel the need to escape with my books, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite novels with you.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I love Persuasion! You probably know that the plot focuses on Anne Elliott, the 27-year old heroine. Anne was persuaded to end her relationship with Wentworth, the man she loves, because he didn’t have any future prospects. Well, it turns out he made quite a killing (pun intended) in the Napoleonic Wars and is now very rich indeed. Captain Wentworth (the name alone makes me swoon) re-enters Anne’s life and causes havoc in her heart. My favorite movie adaptation is the one with Ciarán Hinds.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I admit this is the only book I’ve ever read by Charlotte Brontë (or any of the Brontë sisters). I’m not an expert on Brontë literature, but Jane Eyre has my heart. Clearly, I am under-explaining the plot here, but it’s about a young lady, Jane Eyre, who, after a violent and unloved childhood, decides to forge her own path in life with nothing but her spirited independence and her brilliant mind. She leaves behind the elusive Mr. Rochester when she finds out he is married, but at the end gets her happily ever after. “Reader, I married him.”

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Thornyhold is a must-read tale. It has everything you’d need for a magical time: an enchanted cottage nestled in a forest, a reclusive, handsome hero and an intelligent, kind heroine. I’d give this book a read if you really want to forget about the outside world for a few hours.

Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

In times of troubles, read Miss Buncle’s Book. It will make you laugh. Set in an idyllic, sleepy English village, Miss Buncle decides to take pen to paper. The book she writes becomes a hit, but the problem is that she doesn’t do a very good job of camouflaging the actual village people she writes about. Chaos ensues. Laughter will be in abundance.

Happy reading and stay safe!

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #37 (Jane Austen edition)

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In honor of Jane Austen’s birthday next week (December 16, 1775), today’s reading links are all about the lady herself. Make a cup of tea and stay awhile.

Romance and Reality in Jane Austen’s World.

The History Chicks Episode #38 is all about Jane Austen.

Read more about Jane Austen’s writing desk.

Three Pamphlets on the Leigh-Perrot Trial: Why Austen Sent Susan to Crosby.

Tea, Jane Austen Style.

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Image via Pexels.com.

‘It’s an escape’: the Americans who want to live like Jane Austen.

The Fashion of Jane Austen’s Novels.

This Jane Austen Letter Highlights the Horrors of 19th-Century Dentistry.

Jane Austen and the Making of the Modern Marriage.

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Bath, England

This is my Jane Austen mug. I love it!

Speaking of mugs, 8 Jane Austen Mugs You Will Fall Ardently In Love With.

20 Jane Austen Gifts for the Most Ardent Fan.

2020 Jane Austen quotes calendar.

Jane Austen’s 6 novels defy rankings. Here’s what each one does best.

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Photo via The Jane Austen Centre in Bath.

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath sells this exclusive regency teacup set. I think Jane Austen would approve.

Jane Austen and social judgement.

This gorgeous clothbound book is my copy of Persuasion.

A literary Christmas.

The Real Reason Jane Austen Never Married.

And one more, a review of the Pride and Prejudice musical.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s reading links edition.

xoxo, Jane

Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown

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Description:

Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown

Burke Basile is a cop with nothing left to lose. Haunted by his partner’s death, the end of his marriage, and the destruction of his career, he targets his nemesis, a flamboyant attorney who helps killers evade justice. Burke’s shocking revenge centers around kidnapping Remy, the lawyer’s trophy wife.

But Burke hasn’t planned on the scorching desire he’ll feel for this desperate woman, who rose from the slums of New Orleans to marry a man she can never love. Nor can he predict the fierce duel that will explode as the clock ticks toward midnight on Fat Tuesday when all masks will be stripped away — and Burke will be forced to confront his own terrifying secret.

I’ve been on a Sandra Brown kick lately. When I borrowed Fat Tuesday from my library I thought it was a romance novel. But it’s more of a noir police procedural set in New Orleans. By the time I finished a few chapters, three characters had died gruesome, brutal deaths. Also, the book is called Fat Tuesday because the events lead up to one big showdown during the Mardi Gras season.

What I love

Well, once I got over my initial disappointment that this book is not a romance, I enjoyed reading it because:

  1. It isn’t boring.
  2. It’s a fast paced thriller.
  3. The POV changes frequently between the good guys and the bad guys, which makes the story flow nicely.
  4. The heroine, Remy, is sweet and likable. She is stuck in an awful marriage for a very important reason. (Hint: women always suffer and put themselves last to help out their loved ones.)
  5. The hero, Burke, is flawed but kind and sexy.
  6. It’s interesting to get inside the mind of Burke. He is complex and initially not easy to understand.
  7. The bad guys are so bad that it’s entertaining. They are really, really bad.

What I don’t love

I have a lot of thoughts. Here is what I didn’t like:

  1. This book is totally a product of its time, the 1990s. There are a number of stereotypes and gross generalization about gay people and sex workers.
  2. The male characters (the bad ones) overuse certain words that have derogatory meanings for women and sex workers. I thought it was overkill.
  3. I didn’t like it that Remy kept referring to Burke by his last name. That’s so unromantic. I don’t go around calling my husband by his last name, but maybe I should. 
  4. I know I need to get over it, but this story is more thriller than romance. I think this might have been the time period that Sandra Brown switched from writing romance to writing thriller fiction.

Would I read another police procedural type book? Probably not. But I love to immerse myself in different worlds and Fat Tuesday did the trick.

Thanks for stopping by.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Meg Cabot’s The Boy Is Back)

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This week’s tea/book match is for a modern book. The Boy Is Back is a modern-day epistolary novel, it’s hilarious and feel-good.

So which tea is appropriate to drink with this novel? (Just to be clear, you can drink any tea you want. We are just having fun here.) I think a tea without caffeine, that’s meant for relaxing, would be best.

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Image via Twinings

How about Twining’s Buttermint? I think it works because Buttermint is perfect for relaxing around the house and The Boy Is Back is a perfect read for down-time.

What do you think? Also, check out my Pinterest board for this pairing.

xoxo, Jane

The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot

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The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot is the most recent novel in her The Boy series.

From the back of the book:

Reed Stewart thought he’d left all his small town troubles—including a broken heart—behind when he ditched tiny Bloomville, Indiana, ten years ago to become rich and famous on the professional golf circuit. Then one tiny post on the Internet causes all of those troubles to return . . . with a vengeance.

Becky Flowers has worked hard to build her successful senior relocation business, but she’s worked even harder to forget Reed Stewart ever existed. She has absolutely no intention of seeing him when he returns—until his family hires her to save his parents.

Now Reed and Becky can’t avoid one another—or the memories of that one fateful night.  And soon everything they thought they knew about themselves (and each other) has been turned upside down, and they—and the entire town of Bloomville—might never be the same, all because The Boy Is Back.

I love reading Meg Cabot. Her books always make me feel happy. This book is no exception. Halfway through the book I realized that Jane Austen’s Persuasion may have been a little bit of inspiration for the plot. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it? Either way, it makes for a heartwarming touch.

Reed left town because he thought he was not worthy of love and not good enough for his father. He wanted to make something of himself before returning. When his parents’ legal troubles force him to return home, he runs into his first and only love, Becky. This is where the story introduces the romantic conflict.

What I love

The book is written in the format of emails, text messages, Facebook chats, newspaper sections, audio transcripts and the occasional online review. The format worked well because the reader has insight into each character and the book is lengthy enough for full character development. A modern epistolary novel!

The epistolary style makes it easy to figure out what type of person Becky is. Spoiler: she is a super sweet person! You want to root for her. Reed is also a likable guy and I definitely found myself hoping they would get back together again. There is a villain in this story but I have to keep mum on that or else it will spoil the plot.

I also love that Persuasion quotes are liberally thrown in and quoted by Reed and Becky.

What I don’t love

Sometimes I felt like I was slogging through the book because the format mentally exhausted me.

Also, the conflict between Reed and Becky wasn’t very strong. If this was real life, all they needed to do was have a quick conversation and then they’d be back together again.

Instead, the reader is subjected to (albeit, incredibly funny) texts, chats and emails to draw out the weak conflict. I don’t mean to sound harsh because I truly enjoyed reading this book. I think it’s the perfect beach read for this summer. It’s light, frothy and laugh-out-loud funny. 

Have you read it? Am I right about the Persuasion link or am I reading too much into it? xoxo, Jane

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane