~ About the Book ~
Among the cotton fields and farmland of Gilbert, Arizona in the early years of the Great Depression, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey live a simple, but happy life with their five daughters on a cotton farm. When the wealthy Richard Buchanan moves to town, bringing his family, a friend, and a desire to learn about cotton, Matilda Bailey is convinced that he is the perfect candidate to marry her eldest daughter, Alice.
Richard is cheerful, friendly, and likable. His friend Sidney Dennison doesn’t make such a good impression. Eloise Bailey decides he’s arrogant and self-conceited, but when Raymond Wolfe comes to town, accusing Sidney of dishonorable and treacherous conduct, Eloise is angered at the injustice of the situation.
When the Buchanan household leaves town, Alice must turn to the Lord and face, perhaps, her most difficult test in trust, while Eloise takes a trip to visit her friend and may well discover a web of deceit that she doesn’t really want to believe exists.
Series: #5 Vintage Jane Austen
Genre: Historical Romance
Release date: 27 November 2017
~ Excerpt ~
“[T]he tall man hiding in the shadows is my very good friend, Sidney Dennison.”
If Sidney replied as he nodded his head, he used a tone that no one could hear. He did, however, step forward from the doorway, from where he hadn’t quite emerged, and only then did Eloise get a good look at him. Course, shining black hair cut short, deep brown eyes, and darkly tanned skin told his ancestral heritage clearly, even before Junie’s ill-timed exclamation.
“You’re an Indian!” Then she added with hardly a pause for breath, “What tribe are you from?”
“He certainly is,” Richard responded cheerfully to her first question. “He’s also one of my very best friends.”
Sidney hadn’t said anything at all and appeared oblivious to Junie, who still waited for an answer. Eloise tried to read the man’s face, but failed.
Apparently, the stoic, unreadable expression is still in style with the Indians.
As the group moved towards the dining table, Florrie slipped over to Eloise’s side. “They’re quite a pair, aren’t they?” she whispered.
“How so?” Eloise asked with a quick glance toward the men, as she set a platter on the table.
“Just look at them. No one could be more unlike than those two.”
“The spoiled rich kid and the lazy cowboy?” Eloise asked in a low voice.
“That is a rather unfair assessment,” Florrie answered reproachfully.
“He looks like a spoiled rich kid, then. I don’t think he’s ever worked a day in his life,” Eloise returned. “I don’t mean to say that he’s a terrible man. Spoiled rich kids can be nice.”
“I was actually referring to your description of Mr. Dennison,” Florrie answered slowly and equally quiet. “He looks like a cowboy, I grant you, with the gun belt and boots, not to mention the Stetson he wore when he first arrived, but nothing suggests that he’s a lazy one.”
“To the contrary, my dear friend!” Eloise replied, then lowered her voice again with another quick glance across the room. “Why would he be traveling with Mr. Buchanan? If he is a hard-working cowboy, wouldn’t he have work to attend to and no time to mooch off of his friend, as Junie would say?”
“Except you do not know any of what you just said,” Florrie answered seriously. “Contrary to what you might think, you are not Sherlock Holmes and could easily be missing major details about the life of a man who is still a stranger to you. Mr. Buchanan made it very clear that Mr. Dennison is his good personal friend. Treat him the way you want him to treat you and don’t let his heritage or the things other people say about the Indians cloud your judgment either. Give the man a chance.”
“Give him a chance?” Eloise repeated. “Certainly, I will, Florrie, I promise. If only to see if he ever uses his tongue. I do not believe he has spoken at all yet. He never even spoke when Junie and Mr. Buchanan were talking about him! You have to admit regardless of anything else, that he seems to be an odd one.”
~ Review ~
It’s hard to pass up a Pride & Prejudice retelling, and I loved that this retelling takes place during the Great Depression. While the characters and basic plot will be recognisable to anyone with a passing knowledge of the original, the 1930s setting gives the story a new flavour. For example, the Baileys are cotton farmers, Sidney Dennison (Mr. Darcy) is a Native American, and the youngest of the five Bailey sisters is obsessed with Hollywood actors rather than militia men (and ecstatic because there’s a movie being shot nearby).
That being said, I found the execution of this story didn’t always live up to its potential. Despite Junie’s (Lydia’s) use of setting-appropriate slang and the references to cotton picking and so on, I still found that the language and manners evoked the Regency era more often than the Great Depression—to the point where I was sometimes surprised by a reminder that we were in 1930s Arizona. Perhaps that is a hazard of sticking so closely to the original story. I’m not sure.
I suspect I may be in the minority in holding this opinion, but I also felt there were too many point-of-view (POV) characters in this retelling. I could understand the addition of Sidney as a POV character (although I’ve never felt the lack of Darcy’s POV in the original), but Richard (Bingley), Alice (Jane), Ruby (Caroline Bingley), and Raymond (Wickham) also feature as POV characters during this retelling, and often in scenes that do little more than show what that character was thinking or feeling at a particular point in time. It took time and focus away from Eloise and Sidney, whose characters were less developed than the original, and many of the scenes were short enough that it felt like head-hopping.
Those who like a strong spiritual thread to their stories will enjoy the addition of a theme of serving others and Alice’s example of calling on the Lord in her time of trial and disappointment. I felt these examples were a little too pointed at times, and there was one event towards the end of the novel (which I won’t specify to avoid spoilers) that I found unconvincing, but I know there are other readers who be of a different opinion.
This one perhaps wasn’t for me in the end, but that won’t stop me from checking out the other books in this Vintage Jane Austen series.
I received a copy of this novel through Celebrate Lit Book Tours. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ Other Books in the Series ~
~ Guest Post from the Author ~
Why is he a Navajo?
I’ve had more than one person ask me why I chose to make Sidney Dennison, the “Mr. Darcy” of my novel Presumption and Partiality, a Navajo Indian.
When I commenced planning and research for placing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in the 1930’s United States, I found myself drawn to the desert of Arizona rather early on. Specifically, the tiny farm town of Gilbert. I knew, however, that few rich people lived in that area; certainly not enough to create social rifts large enough to recreate the social differences of the original novel.
I experimented in my head with a few different ideas, but the idea of Sidney as a Native American came to me one day and just clicked. I knew that I couldn’t fully pull off a Navajo who lived on the reservations. As much as I researched, I couldn’t quite get the feel. Yet, a man whose ancestry included a white man as a grandfather, who lived outside the reservations, though with relatives who clung to some of the old traditions, I thought I could do.
I used to wish I were an Indian, in part because I wanted to have great tracking skills, live in a tee-pee, possess superb bow and arrow abilities, and I wanted to ride a horse. True, most of that did not enter a 1930’s novel, despite my Navajo cowboy, because the eras are different. Though, Sidney did get a horse. Or technically, several.
Further, something about the silent, good-looking Indian appealed to me, much as I tend to shy away from writing about handsome and beautiful people, since they feel so common in fiction. The minute I began imagining the man with his Navajo ancestry, he just felt perfect.
By the end, Sidney turned out to be one of my favorite characters. (I can’t ever pick just one in my novels.) I think I made a good choice and I hope my readers will agree!
~ About the Author ~
Rebekah Jones is first and foremost a follower of the Living God. She started writing as a little girl, seeking to glorify her King with her books and stories. Her goal is to write Bible-Centered, Christian Literature; books rich with interesting characters, intricate story lines, and always with the Word of God at the center. Besides writing, she is an avid reader, songwriter, pianist, singer, artist, and history student. She also loves children. She lives with her family in the Southwestern desert.
~ Giveaway ~
To celebrate her tour, Rebekah is giving away a grand prize of the complete set of the Vintage Jane Austen Collection!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/cc8f