Saturday, 21 November 2015

Blog Tour - Longbourn's Songbird by Beau North

Blog Tour - Longbourn's Songbird
Today, I am welcoming the blog tour for Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North. I was lucky enough to be provided with an e-book of this story for my honest review, which follows below. As this is a blog tour, there are stops at other blogs, some of which have the chance to win a copy of the book for yourself. A list of blog tour stops is at the bottom of the post, but meanwhile, why not read on to see what I thought of Beau North’s debut novel...


Book cover: Longbourn's Songbird by Beau NorthLargely, stories based on Austen’s ‘Pride & Prejudice’ are either variations or sequels that are set in contemporary times to Austen’s story, or they are modern retellings set in the present day. I’ve read a very few stories that move the action to the early 1900s (Karen M Cox’s depression-era ‘1932’ and Mary Lydon Simonsen’s ‘Mr Darcy’s Angel of Mercy’ and ‘Darcy Goes to War’, set in the First and Second World Wars respectively, are a few that spring to mind), so I was keen to read an Austenesque novel set in an unfamiliar era. ‘Longbourn’s Songbird’ is set post-World War II, in the late 1940s, in the USA.

In many ways I went into Longbourn’s Songbird expecting something a little different from the story that I got; what I’d thought the story was probably about was Elizabeth being some sort of singer, and hence unsuitable for Darcy, and maybe some sort of complication relating Darcy’s time in the war, however, I was wrong on both of those counts. Instead, though Darcy’s family has been affected by the war, he was working making munitions and so was never deployed overseas, and while Elizabeth sings at parties and so on, she is the daughter of a well-to-do landowner and not doing it to earn a living. I was also expecting the dynamics between them and the story arc to follow more closely to Austen’s story. They don’t, but this is by no means a bad thing. The couple have real magnetism, which Darcy at least is aware of and fighting against before they are even introduced and although the story has events which parallel events in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ they are not always in the same order and don’t have the same effect. Rather than this being a modern P&P update I felt this was more the author exploring some facets of society in the late 1940s threaded through a P&P inspired tale.

Racial division was only touched on very lightly, but the story explores some other potentially challenging issues in an entertaining and thought-provoking way naturally as the story unfolds. We look at some of the attitudes facing same-sex relationships, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic violence and mental abuse and the difference in how we perceive some medical conditions. Attitudes really change over time, and reading this story reminded me of how much attitudes have changed to some of these things even in the last 20 years or so, and even then they were a world away from the time period of this book.  There wasn’t much of a graphic nature in any of these themes so the mood of the book stayed on the whole quite lightheated. This is primarily a romance, but with serious themes forming a part of it.

The characters weren’t quite the same as Austen’s either. Darcy was far less proud, which isn’t surprising as that is a harder quality to excuse than in Austen’s day of strict social strata. The story is probably more from Darcy’s view than Elizabeth’s, which also helps you become fond of him even when your mind is screaming at him to stop! Elizabeth is a likeable character, and her sisters were nicely fleshed out, I thought the Bennet family as a whole were kindly portrayed and nicely realistic. Each of the sisters had personality, the parents were flawed but basically good people and Lydia was far less annoying than in many books. The Bennets here felt like a family:
“Oh, but what about Clark Gable?” Jane asked, making all of the women at the table—Mrs Bennet included—sigh dreamily. It was the only thing they all agreed on. 
In the Bennet house, Clark Gable was the great unifier.’
I have read books where the main potential ‘baddies’ of 'Pride & Prejudice' – Caroline, Collins, Lady Catherine and Wickham – were real caricatures of themselves and quite two dimensional as a result, but here they were portrayed as people, which I thought was so well done. On the whole, these characters are quite similar to their ‘Pride and Prejudice’ origins, having the same main flaws, although one character was markedly different from Austen’s creation. This character was quite chilling in that I could see that type of character actually existing in real life (shudder!).

Another theme that is touched on in this story is heartbreak; whether to give yourself over fully to love or whether to protect yourself. Both of our main characters wrestle with this theme, as do some of the secondary ones, and all for slightly different reasons and with different levels of self-esteem. I thought this was a poignant quote, though I won’t spoil things by telling you who it’s in relation to:
‘The truth? She had never permitted herself to have feelings for anyone because what kind of future could she offer a man?’
As I said earlier, although there are some themes (such as sex and violence) which might give you pause, there are not graphic scenes. There is some swearing, but it’s not especially prolific. I was quite shocked when Georgiana dropped an f-bomb though!

I would certainly recommend this book to other Austenesque readers – I found it gripping, thought-provoking and romantic. I thought the balance between the heavier subjects and the romance was very good, because the subjects were explored without making the story feel weighted down, and in fact, there was also patches of humour throughout the book. I enjoyed the fact that although I had an idea of where the story would end up, I had no idea of what might happen on the way and whether or not I’d like all parts of the journey. I really enjoyed the story, and read it in one evening. The only thing I would have liked to have seen is a bit of an epilogue – I had to imagine my own instead!  I’d rate this as a five star read.

Five star read

Book Blurb:
“Someday some lark is gonna spell you with a song, Will Darcy. She’ll call you with music and you’ll be as good as lost.”

In the autumn of 1948, young millionaire Will Darcy comes to the sleepy, backwater town of Meryton, South Carolina to visit his best friend, Charles Bingley. When Darcy becomes enchanted by a local beauty with a heavenly voice, his business dealings with Longbourn Farms may close the door to his romantic hopes before they are given a chance to thrive.

Still healing from heartbreak, Elizabeth Bennet takes solace in her family, home, and the tight-knit community of Meryton. That foundation is shaken when Will Darcy makes a successful offer to buy the family farm. Blinded by hurt, will Elizabeth miss the chance to find in him the peace and comfort her heart truly needs?

Confronting the racial, economic, and social inequalities of the times, Longbourn’s Songbird is an imaginative romance inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and told through the lens of post-WWII America, a story layered with betrayal and loss, love and letting go.

Author of Longbourn's Songbird, Beau North
Author Bio:
Beau North is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with English Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, an internet collective focused on pop culture. This is her first novel.

Connect with Beau North
TwitterFacebookBlogGoodreads 
If you’ve enjoyed this book, the publisher welcomes your fair and honest review on Goodreads and Amazon.

This is the debut book by Beau North, but I know she has co-written a short story in Meryton Press’ new winter anthology, ‘Then Comes Winter’, which I look forward to reading. ‘Then Comes Winter’ will have its own blog tour very soon (30 November – 17 December) which I am due to take part in, so you’ll hear more about this from me next month.


As I mentioned earlier, this is a blog tour so here are some of the other stops, where you can find out more about the book, the author, read other reviews and maybe even win a copy for yourself:
Blog Tour Banner - Longbourn's Songbird
09 Nov: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
10 Nov: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time…
11 Nov: Guest Post & Giveaway at Laughing with Lizzie
12 Nov: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope
13 Nov: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
14 Nov: Excerpt at My Love for Jane Austen
15 Nov: Review at Liz’s Reading Life
16 Nov: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
17 Nov: Excerpt & Giveaway at Best Sellers and Best Stellars
18 Nov: Excerpt & Giveaway at Romance Novel Giveaways
19 Nov: Review at Savvy Verse & Wit
20 Nov: Author Interview at Lost in Asgard
21 Nov: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
22 Nov: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton
23 Nov: Review at Diary of an Eccentric

3 comments:

  1. Wow thank you so much for that thoughtful review! I'm really glad you singled out the Clark Gable passage, I really just love that scene of Mr. Bennet watching all the ladies be silly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fantastic review! So glad you loved it too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. LOL! I had the same pre-read reaction when I saw the cover and the title. But I was glad for the deeper, grittier story that I got.

    Well-written, intuitive review, Ceri!

    ReplyDelete