Title: The California Dashwoods
Author: Lisa Henry
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Length: 62 000
Make a new future. Choose your true family. Know your own heart.
When Elliott Dashwood’s father dies, leaving his family virtually penniless, it’s up to Elliott to do what he’s always done: be the responsible one. Now isn’t the right time for any added complications. So what the hell is he doing hooking up with Ned Ferrars? It’s just a fling, right?
Elliott tries to put it behind him when the family makes a fresh start in California, and if he secretly hopes to hear from Ned again, nobody else needs to know. While his mom is slowly coming to terms with her grief, teenage Greta is more vulnerable than she’s letting on, and Marianne—romantic, reckless Marianne—seems determined to throw herself headfirst into a risky love affair. And when Elliott discovers the secret Ned’s been keeping, he realizes that Marianne isn’t the only one pinning her hopes on a fantasy.
All the Dashwoods can tell you that feelings are messy and heartbreak hurts. But Elliott has to figure out if he can stop being the sensible one for once, and if he’s willing to risk his heart on his own romance.
A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
Hi! I’m Lisa Henry, and welcome to the blog tour for my new release, The California Dashwoods. I’m visiting some of my favourite blogs around the place to talk a bit about writing The California Dashwoods, and sharing some of my influences, my ideas, and even an excerpt or two! Don’t forget to leave a comment, for your chance to win a prize of a $20 Amazon voucher plus a vintage copy of Sense and Sensibility that I’ll post worldwide. The winner will be drawn on May 10.
Today I’m sharing an excerpt from The California Dashwoods. In this scene, Marianne is trying to get Elliott to follow his heart, or get his head out of his ass. Same thing, probably:
“You should call Ned,” Marianne said, and then, in response to his blank look: “Ned Ferrars.”
“I know which Ned. It’s not like I’m drowning in Neds. How many do you think I know?”
“I don’t know.” Marianne knocked their shoulders together. “Maybe you’ve got an entire Grindr profile set up where you only hook up with guys called Ned. You might have a Ned kink.”
“I don’t have a Ned kink.” Elliott rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I don’t need to call him.”
“You don’t need to,” Marianne agreed, “but you should.”
“Why should I?”
“Because!” Marianne exclaimed, her eyes bright. “Because it’s so incredible to be in love! And we could be in love together! Like, at the same time, not with each other, because ew. That’s some Game of Thrones Lannister bullshit right there.”
“I don’t need to be in love, Mar,” Elliott said.
“But you’re sad,” Marianne said. “And I wish you weren’t. I want you to be happy too. I mean, it hasn’t been long since Dad died, but it’s okay to be happy now, right? Isn’t it?” She looked suddenly worried.
“It’s okay,” Elliott said. “And I am happy. I’m happy that you’re happy.”
“That’s a bullshit answer, Elliott. No offense, but that’s bullshit.”
“It’s not bullshit.” Elliott adjusted the comforter. “And you don’t have to feel guilty about being happy. Dad would want you to be happy.”
“He’d want you to be happy too.”
“Yeah, but we’re different people, Mar.” He gazed down into the soft darkness of the backyard. “You throw your whole heart into everything. You always have, and I think that’s amazing, but that’s not who I am. I can’t just pick up the phone and call Ned.”
“What’s the worst thing that could happen if you did?”
Elliott laughed. “Um, he might answer!”
God. Elliott could just imagine the six million ways that could go horribly wrong.
Hey, Ned. This is Elliott. Elliott Dashwood. Remember? We last saw each other when we had each other’s dicks in our hands and your sister screamed that I was a gold-digging whore. So, how are things?
And as ludicrous as that was, he knew that if she were in his shoes, Marianne would have made a call like that without any shame. Marianne had this knack of taking the most embarrassing things she’d ever done and laughing at them. When other people laughed too, she was already laughing with them. Elliott had never gotten the hang of that. Elliott was the sort of person who lay awake at night, still feeling the sting of humiliation from being six years old and accidentally calling his teacher Mom.
And maybe it was more than the way he was wired.
Maybe Elliott was working hard enough at dealing with his grief that he didn’t need anything else to wrestle with right now. He was happy that Marianne was happy, but he couldn’t juggle a bunch of different emotions at once. He just couldn’t. He needed to concentrate on practicalities right now, and on coming to terms with the loss of his dad before he even thought about something as new and terrifying as love.
Marianne would tell him it didn’t work like that. She’d tell him that love didn’t come when it was convenient. Love was a force of nature, a hurricane, not a bus you waited for, your timetable in hand. You battened down in a storm, though. You waited it out in the cellar until it passed. You didn’t open up the windows and let it in.
Whatever Elliott’s feelings were for Ned Ferrars, he was waiting them out. That was the only safe thing to do.
This is a modern take on Jane Austin’s ‘Sense & Sensibility’ by one of my favorite authors, Lisa Henry. I had the chance to read an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review and took it, even though I have not read ‘Sense & Sensibility’, because I have enjoyed many other books by this author.
First I want to mention that I never felt like I missed something, because I had not read the classic this modern take is based on. I could thoroughly enjoy the story without any prior knowledge of S&S, the modern setting felt authentic and the story and characters really worked for me. Having said that, given how much I enjoyed this story, I am planning to read ‘Sense & Sensibility’ and want to re-read ‘The California Dashwoods’ after that. I think it will be fun and give me a new perspective about the book – but it is not necessary in order to enjoy the book.
So, I had no idea what kind of story to expect. I am glad that it ended up working so well for me, but I am sure that this kind of story will not be for everyone. It felt more like gay fiction than a gay romance to me. There is a romance and a happy ending, but the romance is not the focus of the book and the love interests never actually spend that much time with each other. The ending made me happy more because I wanted Elliot to be happy than that I particularily wanted him to end up with this one, specific guy. The romance works for me, though, because while the ending is happy, the MC knows that it is just a beginning. The love interests have a special connection, but they still have to learn a lot about each other and there is a very complicated family situation that will make things difficult for them. They are willing to risk their hearts to explore their special connection.
For me the actual focus of the story is the very likable MC Elliot Dashwood as he deals with his grief about his recently deceased father and tries to take care of his mom and sisters. I LOVE Elliot. He has such a good heart and kind soul. I instantly connected to him, even though he is very different to me in many ways. He is responsible and stable, keeping his free-spirited family together and grounded. He has a lot of respect for others and tries to understand their perspectives.
The setting of the story was very interesting to me. Elliot’s father came from old money, had a wife and a son, John. He left them to start a new life with the much younger and free-spirited au-pair Abby. That is usually the bad guy of a story, but here we see it from the perspective of someone completely innocent in this situation. Elliot’s dad was a great father to him and his two sisters. The dad made an arguably very selfish decision, left his old life (and most of the money that would have come with it) behind to start over new.
But that selfish decision also came from a place of love, which is hard to control. Most members of that family he left behind seem mean-spirited and only interested in making more money. In his new life, Eliot’s dad became an artist and had a wonderful, free and privileged life. They were happy. But Elliot has always seen that not all members of the family were bad people. His half-brother John was in a very difficult situation, was robbed of a real father. He seems like a good guy and another innocent in the complicated family situation. I did not know what to think. It seems terrible to imagine a father cheating and leaving his old family behind, but seeing the situation from Elliot’s perspectives changes things. I love that he realizes that his dad was deeply flawed, even though he loved him and that he respects his half-brother and knows what has been taken from him. He is very observant and fair.
The story is not really fast-paced and full of action or an epic love story. If that is what you are looking for, I do not think you will find it. But it is a wonderful exploration of emotions and complex family relationships with very interesting and likable characters and I can highly recommend it. I have to highlight Elliot’s sisters Marianne and Greta. Marianne is a ray of sunshine. She is beautiful and endlessly optimistic. She sees so much beauty and hope in the world and helps Elliot to be more open to that as well. Greta is their younger sister and a total scene stealer. She is very intelligent and quirky and it was impossible not to love her.
Usually, if I love a story, I don’t want to say goodbye to the characters. I love series, where readers can follow the same characters as their relationship changes over time and they overcome different challanges together. The journey of Elliot and his love interest has just started, so of course a continuation of that would be interesting to me, though very unlikely given that it is a modern take on a classic story without sequel. However, while I am already dreaming of things I want that I will not get, I would so love to read John’s side of this story.
Elliot has so much compassion for his half-brother and he seemed like a great guy in a difficult situation after being dealt a shitty hand. Elliot grew up in a loving, free-spirited family that always accepted him and openly showed their love and support for him. His sexuality was never an issue. John wanted to be part of that, but his dad never fought hard for him and seemed to have moved on. He was never a part of that new family. He has the money, but grew up with unkind and repressed people for whom money and appearance is everything. He’s the other side of the coin and this book made me wonder what his story is.
As I was reading this story on my kindle, I highlighted a ton of awesome quotes. I almost wanted to highlight the whole book. Even though the plot and characters of this story strongly resemble those of S&S (as per Wikipedia :P), The way Lisa Henry has modernized them and brought them to life makes her take wonderful and unique in its own right. The California Dashwoods was a wonderful & quick read with amazing characters that managed to make me care a lot about what happened to Elliot and his family and completely captured me.
Purchase at Amazon & Smashwords
Meet the Author
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
5/1 Love Bytes
5/2 Joyfully Jay
5/3 Divine Magazine