Friday, March 5, 2010

Two Reviews for Willoughby's Return

I want to thank Alexa Adams and Meredith Esparza for so kindly taking the time to read and review Willoughby's Return, which they did a while ago. I haven't put these reviews on the blog in full before so apologies, ladies, for not thanking you publicly for your interest. It goes without saying that I am absolutely thrilled at their responses to my book - I can't tell you how much it means when someone enjoys my writing!

Click on the link to find Alexa Adams Blogspot

Finally we have a Sense & Sensibility sequel I can love! Jane Odiwe, as she did in Lydia Bennet's Story, has written a tale that clearly demonstrates her deep love of and respect for Austen and her characters. As I read Willoughby's Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation, I never once had to stop and moan about a character acting in a manner incongruous to his or her essence (one of my greatest pet peeves). I must admit I found the subtitle a bit misleading and was very grateful that this story did not find Marianne Brandon doing anything untenable: her love of Colonel Brandon is pervasive throughout. Instead of confirming his roguishness, this story gives Willoughby the opportunity to complete the redemption Austen began.

More than Willoughby, this story is about the misunderstandings that result from the difficulties of communication in a highly regulated society - a rather constant theme throughout Austen. Even after marriage, Marianne and Colonel Brandon find themselves restrained from openly sharing their insecurities and fears. The same issue plagues Margaret Dashwood, now a grown lady of 18, as she negotiates her budding romance with a nephew of Colonel Brandon, Henry Lawrence.

The structure of the story largely mimics that of Sense & Sensibility, beginning in the country and moving to London for the season, the removal from which is marked by an illness. We again meet Mrs. Jennings, the Middletons, Lucy & Robert Ferrers, and Anne Steele in all their glory. Surprisingly absent are John and Fanny Dashwood, the latter being replaced (in spirit) by Lady Lawrence. Eliza Williams and her daughter are brought to life in a very sympathetic manner and Marianne's response to them is thoroughly realistic. I could have wished that Elinor and, particularly, Edward Ferrars played a larger role in the story but, as Ms. Odiwe has firmly establishes them as perfectly happy, they do not have much momentum to offer the plot. My only real complaint is that the book seemed to end too quickly. I'll just leave it with the statement that Margaret Dashwood is a far more forgiving lady than I could ever be.

This is definitely a book I will read again, probably directly on the tail of my next reading of Sense & Sensibility. I have long been a big fan of Lydia Bennet's Story and I must admit I like this book even better (the course of events in it are a bit more historically believable). Willoughby's Return is an excellent example of why Austen fan fiction should be left in the hands of those who ardently love and faithfully study Jane's work. It's one of the most satisfying sequels I have encountered.

Here is Meredith Esparza's review. Click on the link to find her blog Austenesque Reviews.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
*****
“Sense and Sensibility” is such a lovely, honest, and entertaining novel; it such a shame that not many authors have attempted to compose a sequel for it. I have greatly enjoyed “Colonel Brandon's Diary” by Amanda Grange (S&S told from Colonel Brandon's point-of-view) and “Reason and Romance” by Debra White Smith (a modern adaption with Christian undertones); but neither of those are sequels or include a continuation story for Margaret. But now, having read “Willoughby's Return,” I feel I have found the sequel for “Sense and Sensibility” I have always wanted! I am so very delighted that Jane Odiwe has supplied us ravenous Austenites with this compelling and expressive sequel to cherish and enjoy!

Whatever became of Margaret Dashwood? As Elinor and Marianne's younger sister, Margaret has witnessed their heartbreaks and heartaches first hand. Has their experiences made her wiser, more cautious, or perhaps, more indifferent to love? Does she take after rational and sensible Elinor or does she favor Marianne's romantic tendencies and impetuous nature?

In this novel, Margaret Dashwood, who is at the marriageable age of 18, seems to be the victim of Marianne's matchmaking schemes. So far she has yet to meet a man that can live up to her expectation or measure up to her childhood love (can you guess who that is?). However, when Margaret meets Colonel Brandon's nephew, the handsome, romantic, and charming Henry Lawrence, she feels she may have finally met her ideal man...

Marianne and Colonel Brandon, the other couple focused upon in this story, have been married for three years and have a two-year old boy named James. Like all married couples, they are experiencing some difficulties and trials in their marriage. Marianne is exhibiting some jealousy, insecurity, and mistrust in Colonel Brandon's love for her. Colonel Brandon, trying to be a father figure in two separate households (he looks after his ward, Eliza Williams and her child, Lizzy), finds that he has unintentionally been neglecting Marianne and spending too much time away from her. Furthermore, the ghost of Willoughby haunts their marriage, both Marianne and Colonel Brandon never mention his name or their past association with him. Because of their silence on the subject, when Willoughby re-enters Marianne's life, she chooses not to share with her husband their encounters and conversations. Secrets are never good for a marriage...

Jane Odiwe has done a magnificent job of continuing the story of “Sense and Sensibility,” I greatly enjoyed spending more time with these characters and was pleased to see them so accurately portrayed. I was delighted that other minor character such as the Mrs. Jennings, the Middletons and Mrs. Lucy Ferrars were included in this novel and that they appeared the same as ever. I would have loved for Elinor and Edward to have more page time, but I understand that a story with two heroines is quite enough and to add a third heroine may have resulted in diminishing the stories of the other two.

“Willoughby's Return” was appropriately romantic, emotional, and passionate. I commend Jane Odiwe for capturing the essence and excellence of “Sense and Sensibility” and continuing the story in a knowledgeable and sympathetic manner. It is obvious that Ms. Odiwe loves and cares greatly for her characters (even the difficult ones), and I feel that Jane Austen loved her characters the same way. I greatly enjoyed this sequel for “Sense and Sensibility” and look forward to more works from Jane Odiwe.

5 comments:

Alexa Adams said...

No apologies necessary! Reviewing the book, like reading it, was a pleasure. Having my review listed with Meredith's, whose blog I adore, is an honor. Thanks!

MARIA GRAZIA said...

As a follower of Alexa's and Meredith's blogs I had already read their thoroughful and enthusiastic reviews of your book. As a JA's lover, I'm so curious . I can't wait to get and read it!

Jane Odiwe said...

Thank you Alexa and Maria for stopping by with your lovely comments!

Meredith said...

Hi Jane,

No need to apologize or to publicly thank me, it was such a delight to read and review your book. I am so very happy to have it grace my shelf. Thank you so much for the pleasure your book brought me.

Alexa: I'm honored to be listed with you! You write fantastic and intelligent reviews!

Maria: You should definitely pick this one up!

Sue Wilkes said...

Those are wonderful reviews, Jane - you must be thrilled!