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Laura McDonald

Laura McDonald is a web developer by trade who enjoys long walks on the moors--er--hills of Central Texas. She is Girlebooks' founder and site administrator. Laura's literary preferences include Jane Austen, the Brontes, epistolary novels, and travelogues.

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"The Rosary" by Florence L. Barclay

First published in 1909, The Rosary tells the story of Jane Champion and Garth Dalmain. The Honourable Jane is plain, exceedingly frank, and a fiercely loyal friend. In the words of Ms. Barclay, “She had once been described, by one who saw below the surface, as a perfectly beautiful woman in an absolutely plain shell.” Garth Dalmain, the artistic and sensitive hero, is as blessed in appearance as Jane is not. He is the fun, gifted bachelor that every woman is out to catch. After years of friendship, one night Garth hears Jane sing for the first time, and “the veil is lifted”. He declares his love to her, but Jane does not believe it will last. Then things get interesting. Continue reading .

Review: "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen


First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice is the most famous of Jane Austen’s novels. Its manuscript was first written between 1796 and 1797. Initially called First Impressions, it was reworked several years later and published under the title we know today. I know this review will not encompass all that this book means to me and many others. For those who have read and loved this work, take this as my humble opinion and a challenge for you to write a better review than I have done. For those who haven’t read it, I hope this review will at least inspire you to do so. Continue reading .

"A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" by Isabella Bird

In 1873 Isabella Bird embarked on a trip through 800 miles of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, on horseback, alone. In a series of letters originally written to her sister back home in England, Bird gives us a detailed account of her travels. It is part Wild West, part nature journal, part historical document, and part character study of the quirky travelers and mountain folk she encounters. The reader can take away many things from this multi-faceted work, but the author’s point seems to lie in the ephemeral nature of life. Continue reading .

"An Old Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott

First published in two parts between 1869 and 1870, An Old Fashioned Girl follows Polly, a simple country girl, during two visits to the big city of Boston. Polly’s stay with the rich and sophisticated Shaw family shows her that flashy clothes and loud personalities are the characteristics by which many frivolous city folk are judged. Polly in turn teaches her city friends that simplicity and honesty are the things that really matter. Continue reading .

"Princess Priscilla's Fortnight" by Elizabeth von Arnim

First published in 1905, Elizabeth von Arnim no doubt wrote Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight as a fairy tale for her children’s amusement. It tells the story of Priscilla, a popular and celebrated German princess, who grows tired of her lavish and pampered life. Through the instruction of her mentor, Herr Fritzing, she learns there is a wide and varied world outside the castle walls, and she yearns to escape. The marriage proposal of an eligible prince makes Priscilla realize that if she wants to escape the life she secretly detests, now is the time. Continue reading .

"Mary Barton" by Elizabeth Gaskell

First published in 1848, Mary Barton was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel. The story is set in the English city of Manchester during the 1830s and 1840s and deals heavily with the troubles of the working class poor at the time. The first half of the novel chronicles young and beautiful Mary Barton and her romantic vacillations between two lovers. The second half of the novel becomes a murder mystery and courtroom drama. Continue reading .

"The Custom of the Country" by Edith Wharton

First published in 1913, this is the story of Undine Spragg. Undine’s social and monetary aspirations show themselves early in her life, as she convinces her parents to move from their comfortable existence in the Midwest to New York City. There she throws herself into high society and finds her ambition and greed grow as she climbs the social ladder, all the while hoping to keep her checkered past hidden from view. Continue reading .

"Daniel Deronda" by George Eliot

While it doesn’t have the concise and perfect plot of Eliot’s Silas Marner, Daniel Deronda is once again proof that she could tell an engrossing story. That is if you make it through the pages upon pages of political speeches and ruminations about character motivations–Eliot is anything but concise in this one. The political element has a reason to be there, however, as at the heart of the novel is a commentary on the budding Zionist movement in British and European society at the time. Continue reading .

"Cranford" by Elizabeth Gaskell

This collection of novellas centers around the fictional English town of Cranford and surrounding areas and forms the basis for the 2007 BBC mini-series of the same name. The Cranford Novellas are not page turners, but Gaskell’s format and style provides a readier canvas on which to portray the manias, heartbreak, tragedy and joy of rural England at the time. How lucky we are that Gaskell recorded these tales so that in them we gain insight into a way of life that otherwise would have been lost forever. Continue reading .

The Brontë Collection

This Sunday, January 18, viewers in the US can watch part one of a new Masterpiece Theater adaption of Wuthering Heights. I had the honor of previewing this production, and you can see my review on the PBS Remotely Connected website. To coincide with this premiere, we’re offering a new ebook collection to our ebook store. It is The Bront Continue reading .

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