Book Review: The Elusive Miss Ellison.

elusivemissellisonWith Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer listed as two of Carolyn Miller’s favourite authors, I thought I would be in for a treat with her first published Regency novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison – and I was right.

The influence of these two remarkable women is clear in both plot and prose but Carolyn’s own talents also shine brightly in this lively and charming tale.

It feels like a very accomplished book, especially in a genre where detail is so important – not just in accurately depicting things such as the clothes they wore and the etiquette of the time but also the nuances of language, which she uses so well.

Here’s the blurb:

Hampton Hall’s new owner has the villagers of St. Hampton Heath all aflutter—all except Lavinia Ellison.

The reverend’s daughter cares for those who are poor and sick, and the seventh Earl of Hawkesbury definitely does not meet that criteria.

His refusal to take his responsibilities seriously, or even darken the door of the church, leave her convinced he is as arrogant and reckless as his brother—his brother who stole the most important person in Lavinia’s world.

Nicholas Stamford is shadowed by guilt: his own, his brother’s, the legacy of war. A perfunctory visit to this dreary part of Gloucestershire wasn’t supposed to engage his heart, or his mind.

Challenged by Miss Ellison’s fascinating blend of Bluestocking opinions, hoydenish behavior, and angelic singing voice, he finds the impossible becoming possible—he begins to care.

But Lavinia’s aloof manner, society’s opposition and his ancestral obligations prove most frustrating, until scandal forces them to get along.

Can Lavinia and Nicholas look beyond painful pasts and present prejudice to see their future? And what happens when Lavinia learns a family secret that alters everything she’s ever known?

Livvie is a clever, talented and spirited heroine, pushing at the constraints placed upon her by society of the time, just as Emma, Lizzy and Venetia before her.

While Nicholas has all the elements of my favourite period heroes – the pride of Mr Darcy, the charm, wit and frustrations of Jasper Damerel and the dashing looks of both – and managed to work his way into my heart.

The tale does feel very familiar in parts but I’m pretty sure it is to be expected in this genre (and it is actually rather nice, especially when there can be no more Austen or Heyer books but hopefully many more from Carolyn Miller).

On her website she says she enjoys “creating worlds where flawed people can grow in faith, hope, and love”. Which is exactly what happens to both characters. God and the Bible play an important role but explanations are weaved in so that even a person with no faith, like me, can appreciate them.

This is book one in the series and I’m already eagerly awaiting book two.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £7.50.

My rating: Four stars.

Thank you to Kregel Publications (via Netgalley) for sending me an ARC in return for an honest review.

My Sunday Photo – February 26th, 2017.

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Mark’s parents came for a visit last weekend and we went for a lovely walk in the woods.

Freya had great fun and especially enjoyed splashing in the muddy puddles in the car park. This one was a bit deeper than any of us expected (thankfully she was in full wet weather gear).

Please do click on the camera below and check out what other people have been taking photos of this week.

Photalife

Finding the real me again – feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

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Freya went to a fourth birthday party at the weekend – the first one she’s really been old enough to take part in.

The excitement had been mounting for weeks, even though she’s not really sure what a party involves (apart from cake). It doesn’t matter, she thrives on new places or experiences. Nothing phases her. It makes me smile to see her throwing herself wholeheartedly into some new adventure.

There’s no fear, no question that she’s not going to love it. She gets right in the middle of things and just goes with the flow. New people? A different set of social rules to learn? Bring it all on – even new, possibly a bit confusing, games such as pass the parcel are treated with gusto – especially when she eventually, delightedly, won.

I used to be a little bit like her. 

Back in the day. 

As a reporter, I often never knew what stories I would be asked to cover. I liked that uncertainly each day; the chance to learn something, go somewhere different, meet someone new, tell a different story (or sometimes the same story in a different way). I could be sent to a building site to see them “turning the first sod”, off to magistrates court for the morning or dispatched to interview a visiting politician, actor or singer. Later in my career, there was occasionally foreign travel, sometimes at short notice to far flung places, seeing and doing things that I would never have imagined. There were obviously some jobs I liked better than others but I wasn’t phased by any of them. I took it all in my stride.

Somewhere along the way, I changed.

I couldn’t take the car through a car wash this week because I was worried I’d have a panic attack while trapped inside.

Before that, last week, we’d had a lovely morning in Ipswich and we were all tired but happy as we clambered on to the bus home. Freya wanted to sit on the back seat (already a rebel) so my parents and I all followed behind her. As I sat down I noticed the driver get out of his chair and put his coat on.

“Where’s he going?” I said to no one in particular.

“Off to have his lunch, I expect.” My mum answered, just as he got off and closed the door behind him.

I tried to distract myself by looking at the new party dress my mum had just bought for Freya but I could feel my heart start to beat faster, my breath quicken and my throat start to close up. 

“I get funny when I feel trapped,” I said to my mum. I normally try to hide my fear.

“You’re not trapped,” she said calmly. “There’s a button next to the door you can push and they open. They wouldn’t be allowed to lock you on a bus.”

Even through the haze of panic that made sense. I’m going to have to push it, I thought, but she kept talking and I eventually started to calm down. A few minutes later a different driver got on and away we went. Even though I felt shaky I called it a win because I didn’t get off. I thought, maybe I’m finally getting over the claustrophobia, which started when I was pregnant with Freya.

Then the car wash happened. 

And I realised, I’m actually getting worse. The fear is spreading.

Thankfully, because I freelance now, it’s not impacting on my work but in other small ways (not going through a car wash is hardly the end of the world and probably better for the environment) it is affecting my life. I really really hate lifts now. If we have the buggy and Mark is with me I will always leave them to it and take the stairs (I realise now I shouldn’t be letting fear win). Even a small toilet with no windows in a coffee shop had my heart rate increasing. I refused to go to London for my 40th birthday because I thought I’d panic on the tube. I worry about all sorts of things, particularly that I’ll find myself in a difficult situation without realising and panic (like the bus). 

I don’t understand why I’m like this. I’ve never been an anxious person.

I know the continued lack of sleep isn’t helping but talking to Mark made me realise that while I’ve pinned this change on being trapped in the car one of the hottest days of the year while heavily pregnant, it actually started long before that, after I lost the first pregnancy.

I definitely felt like I didn’t have any control over that situation, like I was trapped.

Afterwards I couldn’t cope with stress in the same way as before but I thought, after counselling, I was actually doing well – especially getting through a stressful pregnancy and then that tough first year with Freya. Now I wonder, thanks to my psych degree from the University of Google, whether those things just masked what else was going on. 

So, I’ve recognised that I’m getting worse. How do I fix it? From what I’ve read it’s very much a “feel the fear and do it anyway” rather than avoiding things (combined with some coping mechanisms should the worst happen).

I’ll keep you posted.

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Anyone else have any experience with this sort of anxiety? All tips appreciated.


Mummy Times Two