My Book Rating:5 out of 5 stars
Darcy’s attachment wasn’t the only one smouldering beneath the surface that Easter at Hunsford…
On the verge of proposing to his cousin Anne, the gritty Colonel Fitzwilliam discovers his beloved childhood friend Charlotte living less than half a mile away, married to the odious Mr. Collins.
A harrowing battle escape a year later leaves the colonel with a life-threatening injury that plunges him into despondency. But three words from his doctor lead to a profound spiritual encounter and launch him on a journey to become more than just the second son of an earl.
Suddenly finding himself responsible for Rosings estate, he is forced to wrestle with his affection for Charlotte while struggling to learn lessons of trust and forgiveness—lessons which have far reaching implications for family and friends.
Just when he thinks Charlotte may be within his grasp, a summons to Waterloo changes everything.
In this compelling companion to Pride & Prejudice, follow the forging of a man’s character through waiting, war, a woman, and three simple words.
“Tree of Life” was my first real Jane Austen variation so I was very excited to read it. I’m truly grateful to the author for writing this book because now I’m very excited to begin reading more Jane Austen variations. Hooray for Jane Austen Fans!!If you love reading Jane Austen’s work and variations this is the book for you!
At first, I was very apprehensive because I was like who can beat Jane Austen!! But I really enjoyed “Tree of Life” because the author gave life to the characters and also the plot was very interesting. Her writing is very entrancing and engaging and I read late it into the night. The story flowed very nicely and there was a lot of what if’s in there which was very good!
The story is mainly about The Colonel and Charlotte from Pride and Prejudice. Also more couples from Pride and Prejudice are included in the book as well like Mr.Darcy and Elizabeth. I’m glad that she used some of the minor characters from Pride and Prejudice and gave them a story as well.I wasn’t sure how she would be able to pull off the the story between the Colonel and Charlotte but I was really blown away about how the story went. She did an amazing job!
The Colonel as we all know is Mr. Darcy’s cousin and some things happen to him along the way as the story progresses and unfolds.
Charlotte’s story on the other hand, was very insightful. It was really good to know her thoughts and how she felt about certain situations that unfolded in the book. The book goes into detail from her impromptu marriage and beyond which was really intriguing.
To me the Christianity theme wasn’t too preachy and I was amazed at how she could fit Christianity into the story. I also do admire how she handle the romance really well because that was another thing that I was apprehensive about. Me being a christian single DOESN’T want to know all the details! I remember a while back just picking up a Pride and Prejudice variation to read randomly not knowing any better and what I had read I was appalled and I didn’t get far into the book. That book went right back to the library! I do admire when authors keep the romance clean especially with regency novels.
Another thing that I liked about this book was that she kept the original language that Jane Austen used in her books which was very good. That’s one of my pet peeves when an author changes the language from what people in a certain time period would have spoken like.
The only thing that I had a problem with was that there were some curse words in the story and I really prefer whatever I’m reading to not have curse words. They could be taken lightly sort of because the character who said them hadn’t surrendered to Christ yet so she really portrayed what a person without a dedicated life would be like. The character was converted later on though so in a way that could be understood because Peter in the Bible did curse before his conversion and after that he was a changed man.
All in all, I was overly pleased with this book. The author had put in so much dedication when she was writing this book and that is another thing about an author that I really admire. I really enjoyed it and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading any book that Ginger Monette would write. I can tell from her book that she is a very promising writer! Brilliantly done!
~Author Interview with Ginger Monette~
Q: You are a new author. Tell us a little about yourself.
A: Over the last eighteen years I have immersed myself in family and homeschooling my three children. Along the way, various interests captured my attention—sewing, decorating, and reading quality children’s literature with my children. But surprisingly, I rarely read adult fiction. In our school lessons, however, I discovered a love for historical fiction. It gives us an emotional attachment to the events of history which makes them memorable. Six years ago I began working at The Homeschool Room, an educational consignment store in Charlotte, NC. I do curricula consulting on the side.
Q: So what lead you to write a JAFF story?
A: Because P&P is a staple of high school literature, we sell a lot of copies at the store. My colleagues could not believe I had not read the book or seen the DVD. My boss lent me the 1995 & 2005 versions of the movie, and in short order I became a Janeite—reading up to three novels a week. I just could not get enough of Lizzy and Darcy! Then I branched out with period drama and nearly had a fit when I watched North & South. Not normally one to swoon, Richard Armitage as John Thorton makes me swoon…but that is another topic.
Some time in the summer of 2012, I got an idea for Charlotte to meet Colonel Fitzwilliam at a ball and could not seem to stop the ideas from coming. Although I had done quite a bit of expository writing, I had NEVER written fiction—not even in high school! I thought I might try to pass the story outline on to a ‘real’ author, but it was for me to do.
Q: Can you talk a little about your writing process?
A: I vividly remember the day in mid-November 2012, when I sat in my bedroom chair, laptop open, and tapped out the first words of the story—a battle scene part-way through the book. Immediately I was hooked on the whole writing process and often spent ten hours a day blissfully sculpting scenes. Being a methodical person, I was surprised that I wrote the book like a patchwork quilt—a scene here a scene there. My daily walks with my dogs proved to be an excellent time to daydream plot.
But I can’t say I did it alone. I had begun emailing an outstanding Austenesque fan fiction writer in England who is also an avid history buff. She offered to help me. We emailed every day for months with fascinating discussions on everything from the role of horses in Regency England to the layout of a Master’s dressing room. I had five other outstanding betas as well: two are Austenesque authors, two have expertise in grammatical editing, and one lent her knowledge of the military.
Q: Did you face any challenges along the way?
A: Yes. Because I was striving for historical accuracy, I spent a lot of time searching for answers to get the details right—the kind of plate an officer would eat off of while in the field, details of confinement, the Battle of Waterloo, and on, and on. In the end, there were still some unanswered questions like, how much did one of those country estates cost back in 1815? (What little was found indicated perhaps as little as twelve to twenty-five thousand pounds.)
I also had difficulty balancing my writing obsession and my responsibilities to my family. I don’t believe I fared too well in that department…
Q: Miss Austen did not fully develop either Charlotte or Colonel Fitzwilliam. Was there anyone that inspired you in fleshing out those characters?
A: I believe an army colonel repeatedly exposed to bloody battles would be more gritty than the movies’ portrayals of Colonel Fitzwilliam. My Richard Fitzwilliam was inspired by Russell Crowe’s authoritative Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander. However, I retained the Colonel’s jovial, playful characteristics we all know and love.
The idea of a doctor being a key figure in the story also came from that movie, although my Doctor Scott is not the embodiment of Dr. Maturin. Charlotte is actually somewhat a revelation of my own thoughts and feelings.
Ann de Bourgh, who plays an important role in Tree of Life, was inspired by the sweet Melanie Wilkes from Gone with the Wind. While writing for Lord Matlock, I envisioned the actions and speech of Donald Trump.
Q: Because your story is a companion to Pride & Prejudice, can we expect any overlap with canon?
A: Yes, but from a different point of view. We see the Meryton Assembly through the eyes of Charlotte Lucas. Several chapters tread atop the nephews’ visit to Rosings. The same events look very different when interpreted by others.
Though it is not overlap with canon, many of the mysteries of canon are solved—like how did everyone know Darcy was worth ten thousand a year at the Meryton Assembly? Who wrote the sonnet to Jane Bennet when she was fifteen? And what heartbreak led to Charlotte Lucas being yet unmarried at twenty-seven?
Q: I understand this story has a spiritual element as one of its themes. Can you talk about that and any other themes?
A: One reviewer pointed out that Tree of Life does not really contain a villain. She is right. The conflict all stems from life itself: the confinements of the era’s social protocol, war, and the sort of inner questioning and turmoil we all deal with in our process of maturing and deeply loving another.
As for the spiritual, the Colonel is plunged into the depths of despair as a result of a serious battle wound, bringing him to question his role and value in life. He has a quiet but profound spiritual experience ignited by three simple words that cause him to view life from an entirely different perspective and change his values.
Another theme is how our actions, intentional or unintentional, influence the lives of those around us. There are also recurring situations of “what goes around comes around.” Ironically, a stone is a thread woven throughout the story. And there is one final theme that is related to the title, but you will have to read the story to discover that one.
Q: How has this writing experience affected you?
A: Profoundly. The Colonel has many “ah-ha” moments in his evolution as a character. I can’t tell you how many times in my own life I needed to relearn those lessons. My person is changed because of elements of the story.
In addition, I am amazed at how real all the characters have become to me. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, Doctor Matthew Scott, and others are as real to me as any factual historical figure like George Washington.
And I am surprised how much I love writing! If someone had told me ten years ago I would write a novel, I would have laughed aloud.
Q: So, do you have any plans for another novel?
A: Yes! I am knee deep in research for my next novel (probably split into two) set during World War I. In part one/book one, tentatively titled Darcy’s Hope ~ Up From Ashes, Elizabeth is a nurse near the Western Front in France, and Darcy is an army captain. It will take place after Darcy’s visit to Rosings, but Elizabeth does not read his letter… In the tense atmosphere of war, there are plenty of opportunities for his affection to smolder while she continues to interpret his every action through her prejudicial lens. Anyone excited about the new BBC mini-series “The Crimson Field” about at the Front will probably enjoy this as well.
Part two/book two, tentatively titled Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, will be set at the home of George and Emma Knightley’s descendents. Like Downton Abbey Donwell will house a convalescent home for injured soldiers, with Hartfield serving as a hospital.
It is a steep hill of research to climb—a new era with its own social mores, life in the trenches, and all the ins and outs of medical care for the wounded. Telephone/telegraph plays an important role as well. All these require meticulous researched. Currently I am devouring war diaries at a frantic pace as it is utterly fascinating. It is purely coincidental that I am undertaking this project in 2014, the centennial year of the war’s outbreak.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A: Yes. Tree of Life has some unique features. First, I am unaware of any other stories that pair Charlotte and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I think it is also rare that one of its themes is spiritual.
I like to compare the novel to a corkscrew. It starts on the surface and goes down, down, deeper and deeper. By the end, it will hardly resemble the story of the first few chapters. My hope is that readers will be savoring the characters and story long after they’ve finished the last chapter.
You can read the first three chapters here and purchase your copy in Kindle or paperback. (Also available on other worldwide Amazon sites.)
Okay, I hope you all liked this review and interview and be sure to check out Ginger Monette’s books because you won’t be disappointed! I’m really looking forward to her new book and when the cover comes out I’ll be sure to post it here on the blog.
Happy Reading Y’all!!!
*I was asked by the author to review this book and I did not receive any compensation in any way. All opinions are entirely my own.*