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Book CoverStevie‘s review of Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society Book 1) by Jayne Fresina
Historical Romance published by Sourcebooks Casablanca 03 Jun 14

It’s no secret that I’m a great fan of Jane Austen in general and Pride and Prejudice in particular, and so I approached this book about young women encountering the book for the very first time with a mixture of joy and trepidation. I shouldn’t have worried; the humour is spot-on, and while some incidents and characters parallel those in the original, there always turns out to be a twist on the theme.

Justina Penny is tall, ungainly, and prone to getting into scrapes even when she tries very hard not to. In consequence, she feels very much in the shadow of her pretty, elegant, and demure older sister. The previous Season, both girls went to Bath with their parents – who certainly parallel Mr. and Mrs. Bennet – and Justina caused all manner of trouble, mainly through her two encounters with the Wrong Man. Now, almost a year later, the Penny sisters and their friends are avidly reading and discussing a new novel, as well as speculating over who might have inherited the house and grounds of a local recluse.

Much to Justina’s horror, the new owner is none other than the Wrong Man. Not only that, she first encounters him while trying to smuggle a stolen pig, her best friend’s beloved pet, Sir Mortimer Grubbins, into the house’s orchard to save him from becoming bacon. Things get worse still when Wainwright the Wrong catches her scrumping pears from the same orchard. Determined to teach her a lesson for all her misdeeds, Wainwright makes an arrangement with Justina’s father that she and her friend should help him search through the house for some missing papers. Which is all a perfect set-up for Justina to have yet more misadventures, while she and Wainwright both try to ignore their growing attraction to each other.

This book is just a total delight. Wainwright’s best friend has some parallels to Bingley and his obnoxious sister and her companion have shades of Bingley’s sisters about them. There’s an elopement that’s not quite what it seems, and the continuing adventures of Sir Mortimer Grubbins, who manages to win everyone over in the end. Plus, there are a whole bunch of mysteries connected to the house and to various of Justina and Wainwright’s friends and relations. I really can’t wait to read the next novel in the series, and have already gobbled up the prequel novella, Before the Kiss.

Stevies CatGrade: A


In the sleepy village of Hawcombe Prior, the five young ladies of the Book Club Belles Society are looking for their own leading men.

The Perfect Hero

When handsome, mysterious Darius Wainwright strolls into town, the Book Club Belles are instantly smitten with this brooding good looks and prideful demeanor. It’s as if he walked out of the pages of their favorite new novel, a scandalous romance called Pride and Prejudice. But Justina Penny can’t understand why her fellow Belles are starry-eyed in the newcomer’s arrogant presence—surely a wicked Wickham would be infinitely more fun…

An Unlikely Leading Lady

Justina is the opposite of Darius’s ideal woman—not that he’s looking for romance. But when he discovers her stealing apples from his uncle’s orchard, he can’t resist his own thieving impulse. A stolen kiss from the mischievous Miss Penny leaves Darius wanting much, much more. If it’s a dashing villain she desires, Darius is more than willing to play the part…

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:
Book Cover