last adventure

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Violet’s gaze was frank and open, with a hint of interest. It was similar to the penetrating look often seen in Sir Percy’s eyes. This was no simpering miss; this was a woman-in-waiting, mature and intelligent beyond her years. Her full lips smiled in honest approval — approval of him.

A strong stirring filled Frederick’s being. It was more than simple desire. He needed this girl to think well of him.

(from The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel)

Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, is inspired by both The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It also is a companion novel to Caldwell’s The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, but it is a standalone novel. In fact, I’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel — just searched for a detailed summary online — and I had no trouble following the story.

The novel opens with a bang: Captain Frederick Tilney, the heir of Northanger Abbey, is challenged to a duel over Isabella Thorpe, and then his close friend, Colonel Sir John Buford, cut ties with him until he sees the error of his ways, takes responsibility for his shortcomings, and essentially grows up. Frederick is not a scoundrel like Wickham, but he needs to sever ties with some unsavory people of his acquaintance.

When he is reacquainted with Violet Blakeney, the sister of his longtime friend, George, Frederick realizes he wants to be a better man. However, he has a lot to live up to in the eyes of her father, Sir Percy Blakeney — the retired Scarlet Pimpernel — and Frederick’s fumbles and missteps raise Sir Percy’s ire. While Frederick works to earn Sir Percy’s favor and become worthy of his daughter, an M. Lafarge in Paris is scheming to put an end to the Scarlet Pimpernel once and for all. When Violet encounters trouble on a holiday to Paris, will Sir Percy accept Frederick’s help to save the woman they both love?

Caldwell does a great job mixing in characters from various Austen novels — the Darcys, the Tilneys, and Colonel Brandon, among others, all make an appearance — and it was exciting to read an Austen-inspired sequel that wasn’t about Pride and Prejudice  for a change. I can’t comment on Caldwell’s interpretations of the characters from The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I found them thoroughly enjoyable — from Sir Percy’s wit and his passionate relationship with his wife to the strong bonds of the Blakeney family and Lady Marguerite’s refusal to stay quiet when her husband is being stubborn and foolish.

In The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Caldwell seamlessly merges The Scarlet Pimpernel and Northanger Abbey into an exciting adventure novel led by an aging hero whose mind is as sharp as ever and a young man who is not inclined to sit idle. There’s plenty of action to balance out the more romantic aspects of the story, and if I had to find something I didn’t like, I would only say there are places in the story where the pace slows down just a bit, though that’s a minor quibble. Overall, I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be a delightful tale full of interesting characters, a heartwarming love story, some history, a dash of humor, and quite a bit of danger. I hope Caldwell revisits these characters again in the future.

Giveaway: Jack Caldwell is generously offering a copy of The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally. If the winner is from the U.S., there is a choice between an ebook (mobi or epub) and a paperback. If the winner is outside the U.S., he/she will receive an ebook. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about this novel. The giveaway will close Sunday, September 4. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

darcy's maltese falconI’m delighted to announce the release of Barbara Silkstone’s latest Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, Mister Darcy’s Maltese Falcon, which is the eighth book in her Mister Darcy comedic mystery series. I had the pleasure of editing this book, and I found myself laughing throughout. This was my first time reading the series, and I was able to follow the book because Barbara provides enough backstory, but I definitely want to go back and read them all in order!

Darcy and Lizzie, now happily married, are off on another Templar quest. With their first baby due in two months, Darcy insists that Lizzie remain in London while he adventures to Malta. Pregnancy will not hamper Lizzie; she is determined to stand by her husband. Lizzie inserts herself in the caper, accompanied by Boris, the Russian wolfhound, and other surprise stowaways. Oh no! Caroline and Wickham return to add to the chaos.

In this, the eighth book in the Mister Darcy comedic mysteries series, the Maltese Falcon holds the key to finding the Bogart Diamond, a priceless gem that was stolen from the ancient order of the Knights Templar. Darcy is tasked with recovering it. Fall in Love with Laughter!

If that’s not enough to entice you, maybe this sweet note Barbara received recently from an anonymous fan will:

I love your books and always look forward to the audio books. I buy the books then the audio. I do reread them and listen to them when I can’t read them. It keeps me going throughout the day.  My life has not been happy recently due to some deaths in my family. It’s getting better and it’s partially due to your books. Thank you.

There’s also an excerpt of Mister Darcy’s Maltese Falcon on Barbara’s website, Second Act Cafe.

Buy Mister Darcy’s Maltese Falcon:

Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K. | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Connect with Barbara Silkstone:

Second Act Cafe | Amazon Author Page | the Darcy Collection

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.


Source: Review copy from Atria
Rating: ★★★★★

In our war-torn world, no one believed in enchantments. They thought witches and spells and conjurers were the stuff of fairy tales. The only mystery anyone still believed in were ghosts.

(from The Secret Language of Stones)

Quick summary: M.J. Rose’s latest novel, The Secret Language of Stones, is set in Paris during World War I and is told through the point of view of Opaline Duplessi, a young jewelry maker who spends much of her time crafting talismans for women who lost loved ones in battle. Weighed down by guilt over the death of a friend, Opaline fled the life her parents planned for her in America to use her gifts to help these women in their grief. She can receive messages from beyond through the energy emanating from gemstones, which is haunting enough by itself, but then Jean Luc, a dead soldier whose mother has turned to Opaline’s magic for comfort, speaks to her directly. As she struggles to come to terms with her powers and her feelings for Jean Luc, her gift and her connection to the Orloffs, who own the shop where she works, take her to England — and to the exiled dowager empress anxious to learn the fate of the Romanovs.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a huge fan of Rose’s for several years, and I certainly couldn’t pass up the chance to read a novel about World War I and the occult. How intriguing! Also, even though this is the second book in The Daughters of La Lune series, it’s a standalone novel; now I need to go back and read The Witch of Painted Sorrows, which is the story of Opaline’s mother.

What I liked: I was held captive by this novel from the very first sentence: “Every morning the pavement in front of our shop in the Palais Royal is washed clean by the tears of the mothers of dead soldiers, widowed wives, and heartsick lovers.” Right away it becomes obvious that Rose is truly a painter of words. Rose’s vivid descriptions bring Opaline, and Paris, to life. I was fascinated by the historical aspects of the novel, particularly how the massive losses during the war prompted grieving women to seek out people like Opaline and how an old ban on fortune telling was enforced because these women were being preyed upon by charlatans. Rose skillfully weaves together Opaline’s powers with the history of the war and the Bolshevik Revolution and even a ghostly love story.

What I disliked: Nothing! It was a beautifully written page-turner from start to finish, and one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

Final thoughts: The Secret Language of Stones is M.J. Rose at her best. There are so many layers to this story, and the characters and descriptions are so well done that I wasn’t ready for it to end. The historical and supernatural elements are so well combined that I never once doubted them as I read. Rose is a fantastic storyteller, and The Secret Language of Stones is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.

Thanks to France Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Secret Language of Stones. To learn more about the book, follow the tour, and enter the giveaway, click the banner below.


Disclosure: I received The Secret Language of Stones from Atria for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.


Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

Why did I have to wait until marriage–until I was a mother–to be able to say I’d contributed to society in a meaningful way? I couldn’t fight on the front lines like my brother; I couldn’t work overnight like my mother since I was in school; I knew nothing about the construction of airplanes. I felt the sudden urge to ask my mother what she thought I could do before hearing her voice in my head say, “Make my life easier. That’s what you could do.”

(from Love Song (Liebeslied))

Quick summary: In 1944 Virginia, Cassie Wyndham is 16 years old and wants to matter to someone. The only one who seems to appreciate her is Lucy, her 2-year-old sister. Her father is always away from home running the family business, and her mother is constantly berating her. Her brother, Amos, the apple of her mother’s eye, was the only one who could redirect her mother’s bullying, but he’s gone off to fight, leaving Cassie to fend for herself. Between taking care of her sister and avoiding her mother, Cassie volunteers for a ministry program at a nearby POW camp, where she meets Friedrich Naumann. Despite their obvious differences in both beliefs and circumstances, the two are drawn to one another. Tensions run high amidst the losses of war and a fractured family, and Cassie and Friedrich must keep their relationship secret. But secrets in the wrong hands tend to be revealed, with dramatic consequences.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a fan of Baumgartner’s writing since I started reading her Sophia’s War series. Her obvious love of World War II history and detailed research shine through in her novels.

What I liked: I loved how Baumgartner told the story in the first person through Cassie’s eyes. I really got to know Cassie, and I hadn’t read far before I’d grown to love her. She felt real to me, from the tumultuous emotions of adolescence to her desire to find a purpose. And given that she’s my daughter’s age, I had a hard time with how her mother treated her, and I just wanted to give her a hug. Baumgartner did a great job developing Cassie and Freidrich’s relationship, making it believable, and even though I didn’t like Cassie’s parents very much, Baumgartner skillfully crafted them into complicated and even sympathetic characters. I haven’t read much about the POW camps in the United States, so I found it fascinating that programs were established to talk to the German POWs about Christianity. (For more about Baumgartner’s research on this and the inspiration for Love Song (Liebeslied), check out her guest post here.) Cassie’s faith is important to her and the plot, but Baumgartner doesn’t make the Bible study meetings sound too preachy. In fact, the questions that Cassie and Friedrich are expected to discuss reveal a lot about their characters and further their friendship.

What I disliked: Although Love Song (Liebeslied) is the first book in the Captive Hearts Trilogy, the ending is satisfying. However, I wish I could immediately dive into the next installment!

Final thoughts: Love Song (Liebeslied)is a story about a young girl’s efforts to break free from the oppression of her family, to find herself and her purpose in life, and the love that helps her accomplish this. The impossible relationship at the core of the novel is one that readers can’t help but root for. Baumgartner has created a novel with many layers and complexities, and it is so much more than a romance. Love Song (Liebeslied) is Baumgartner’s best novel yet (and I’ve really enjoyed all of her novels so far), and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Disclosure: I received Love Song (Liebeslied) from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

austen's independence dayI’m thrilled to welcome Melissa Belle to Diary of an Eccentric today with an excerpt of her novel, Austen’s Independence Day, which I will be reviewing soon. Melissa also is generously offering a giveaway of the book. Please give her a warm welcome!

Lifelong friends with occasional benefits, Macey Henwood and Morgan Thornbrush are at a crossroads. After Macey tells Morgan in no uncertain terms that she will never marry anyone, especially him, Morgan gets engaged to another woman and is heralded as the Mr. Darcy of their small town of Austen, Texas. In the following scene late one night at the town lake, Macey is blackmailed into giving an interview with Skip, an out-of-town, nosy reporter, about how Jane Austen’s ghost ended up in Austen, Texas. Skip also wants to know exactly what is the deal with her and Morgan? Macey ends up giving Skip more than he bargained for…

Excerpt from Austen’s Independence Day

Skip presses record as I watch Morgan and Gigi laughing together. I swallow down the jealousy and take several large sips of beer.

“I can’t remember a time when my mother wasn’t consumed by her.” My gaze passes over Skip to the dark woods behind him. “By a ghost, for God sakes. Because Mama used to say Jane never asked to be Queen. ‘A true heroine never does, Macey. A true heroine just is. And Jane Austen’s ghost certainly never asked to be jailed against her will and kept apart from her soul mate.’ But whether the whole thing is true or not, one thing I know for sure—the spirit of Jane Austen is no ordinary ghost. And my position at the Cowherd is no ordinary bar job. As my daddy once said to me, ‘Darlin’, running the Cowherd Saloon & Chapel isn’t like running your normal, run-of-the-mill bar. It’s like adding gasoline to whiskey and trying not to let it catch fire.’”

Skip nods solemnly as he pushes the phone closer to my mouth and types vigorously into his iPad.

And I keep talking. “But the legend of Austen, Texas didn’t begin here. It started all the way across the Atlantic, where town founder and first mayor Frederick Woodholm Howells was still living in England with his new bride, Vivian Elmstock Howells. That’s when Frederick strayed with another woman. And that’s when the facts get fuzzy and the legend gets louder. It’s widely believed that an outraged and humiliated Vivian agreed to still sail with him across the Atlantic and settle in the Texas Hill Country part of America he’d visited and fallen in love with two years prior on one condition—that he name their landing place after the author who wrote about romance, and that he kidnap that same author’s spirit from her peaceful resting place in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral and bring her to Texas. Jane Austen wasn’t even that famous yet, but literary people already respected her writings. And of course, soon she would become known the world over.”

“What about Pride and Prejudice?” Skip asks. “How did the greatest love story ever written play a role?”

“Well,” I say. “One evening Vivian found an open copy of the novel alongside an unknown bottle of perfume in her husband’s private study, and she put two and two together. Rumor has it there was hell to pay when he returned home from the local bar. But Vivian didn’t just yell at her husband—she also picked up that copy of Pride and Prejudice and read it cover to cover. And she decided Jane Austen’s romantic touch must have been the X factor in her husband choosing another woman over her.”

“The X factor.” Skip nods vigorously and continues typing. “Of course.”

“Desperate to keep Vivian’s affection, her husband agreed to her terms. He hired a witch to cast a spell and draw Jane’s spirit out from the grave and trap her in ghost form. The witch gave the ghost to Frederick in a bottle, to be opened inside jail cell number one in the Austen Jail, a cell that the founder was to instruct no one ever to use. But even if the cell were opened with a key, Jane’s ghost would still be trapped, because the witch had put a spell befitting Jane: only when she is witness to the coming together of true soul mates will the spell break and Jane will return to Great Britain and her soul mate.”

More beer. My eyes focus below the cypress tree, where Dunce puts his arm around Ginny’s shoulders as she leans her head against him. Maybe they will make it. Maybe Dunce really will grow up.

“But what came of Vivian through all of this?” Skip asks me. “Why did she get even more embittered?”

“Vivian became obsessed with Jane Austen’s message of love, but as hard as she tried, she was never able to rekindle that former magic with her husband. The way I see the legend is as a parable. Vivian was trying to hold onto something she’d lost—her husband’s love—by holding onto or imprisoning a symbol of true love, in Jane Austen’s ghost.”

I gulp down the rest of my beer and Skip does the same with his.

“This is heavy,” he says. “So Vivian never had the happy ending she craved.”

I shake my head and glance toward Morgan.

“Both of these couples have a shot to make history.” Skip glances at Morgan and Gigi and then over at Ginny and Dunce.

I look for an extra beat at Morgan.

“It’s never as easy as boy meets girl, is it?” he says. “No matter what century.”

I guess not.

“Over to you now.” He returns to his iPad. “Why did you vow to never marry?”

“You know, Mama was obsessed—obsessed—with Pride and Prejudice. Calls it her Love Bible. And she means it.”

“It’s the greatest romance novel ever written,” Skip concurs.

“So she used it for all it was worth. Even made me memorize the most important parts. Like when Darcy tells Elizabeth, ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’”

Skip sighs ecstatically.

“Mama would sigh just like you’re doing now. ‘Would you listen to that?’ she’d say. ‘THAT is true love. THAT is a man showing real love and respect for a woman.’”

“So you’ve been sitting around waiting for your Mr. Darcy to show up in Texas?” Skip asks me.

I never should have had a beer. I certainly shouldn’t have practically chugged it. I already had that half a bottle by the cooler, and I’m just not a drinker. One drink is enough to loosen my tongue. It always has been.

“No. Maybe when I was little. But once I became a teenager, I knew that marriage just wasn’t for me.”

“But now Morgan, your best friend with benefits, is marrying somebody else and he’s the town’s Mr. Darcy. How does that make you feel?”

I clear my throat and look down at my beer. “Relationships aren’t for me.”

“Why not? What makes you different than anyone else?”

Maybe if I’d stayed completely sober I wouldn’t have answered Skip’s question with—

“Love is always hard, but when you’re supposedly cursed it throws a whole new wrinkle into it. I’d always vowed to be the opposite of my mother in romantic relationships—you know, I never wanted to lose myself in a man and in needing that man to be my everything. I didn’t want the world to go cold if he wasn’t there to keep me warm.”

“Beautifully said.” Skip types hastily. “But what do you mean—cursed? That sounds serious.”

“My mother’s word. She thinks I’m cursed.” I hold out my arm and show him the inside of my wrist. “A freak accident that gave my mother proof I’m destined to share the ghost of Jane Austen’s fate. Unless the soul mates unlock the ghost, Austen Macey Henwood’s heart will stay locked as well.”

“And she believes this why? Sounds like she’s a bit theatrical.”

“She is. Who else would steal a page out of Vivian’s diary and make her oldest daughter hide it for fear of the town finding out she’s jinxed? Yeah, sure, the page says something about the eldest daughter of the jailkeeper and a scar she bears, but so what? The whole thing’s stupid.”

Skip drops his phone onto the table. Unfortunately, it stays intact, because I’ve just realized what I gave him. The hook of all hooks for a hungry reporter looking for a story.

“Oh, no.” I put my head in my hands.

“Oh, yes,” Skip’s excited voice says next to me.

About the Author

melissa_belleMelissa Belle writes steamy romance novels where the hero and heroine are passionate, independent, and good to each other. The first romance book she read (and fell in love with) was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Melissa wrote her first novel riding through Europe on the train, and she travels with her husband (and first reader of all her stories) as much as possible.

Melissa dances in a belly dance troupe. She is a professional tarot and oracle card reader. She also loves songwriting, hooping, and her two rescue kitties. And cupcakes.

Connect with Melissa on her website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

About Austen’s Independence Day

What if you don’t find your Mr. Darcy… until you’ve already lost him? It is universally acknowledged in the tiny town of Austen, Texas that Macey Henwood will never get married. When your hometown is obsessed with freeing Jane Austen’s ghost from the local bar, staying single feels like the only way to stay sane. But then Morgan Thornbrush, her lifelong best friend with benefits, gets engaged out of the blue, and it drives Macey crazy, especially when the town anoints the new couple Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Now she’s smack in the middle of a wedding she wants no part of. From “bonding” with Morgan’s bombshell fiancé to helping him let go of their complicated past, Macey’s forced to face the truth—the perfect arrangement she had with Morgan is over. But when the pages of an explosive diary ignite fireworks between her and Morgan as his July fourth wedding approaches, Macey must make a life-changing decision. Can the town’s version of Mr. Darcy really be the man for her after all?

Buy Austen’s Independence Day on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks


Melissa is generously offering an e-book version (Kindle, Nook, or iBooks) of Austen’s Independence Day to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address indicating what intrigues you most about the excerpt. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, July 31. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

undercover book cover

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

If she hadn’t been a principled woman (and undercover) she would’ve shacked up with the suit — had he offered. He might have made her rethink that Eli Bennet doctrine. Of all the men who had made passes at her, his would have been the one she welcomed and accepted. When he had glanced in her direction her breath caught. Tall, mysterious, and handsome, his brooding smolder was hard-boiled through and through.

(from Undercover)

Quick summary: Cat Gardiner’s Undercover brilliantly blends Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with crime fiction Noir, telling the tale of Elizabeth “Eli” Bennet, a gumshoe on the trail of George “Slick Wick” Wickham as she investigates the disappearance of her best friend, Mary King. Elizabeth’s family thinks she’s a bookkeeper for Macy’s but instead she runs Bennet Private Investigations in an office/apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. She’s a career girl who high-tailed it out of her drunken parents’ home in Queens as soon as she was able. She’s at odds with her sister, Jane, who’s biting comments put a dent in Elizabeth’s self-esteem, and she knows what it’s like to have loved and lost. Her investigation leads her to wealthy bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you can cut the sexual tension between them with a knife. The two join forces when Darcy’s socialite sister, Georgiana, gets entangled with Wickham and some communist thugs. Set in 1952 in the midst of the Red Scare, Gardiner takes readers on an exciting ride through the dark side of New York City and the nightlife in Havana.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve long wanted to read Gardiner’s work, and the cover is among my all-time favorites.

What I liked: Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.

What I disliked: Only that I’ve been so busy lately that I couldn’t finish the book in one sitting! And that I waited so long to finally read one of Gardiner’s books. (I am so thankful that I have a few more waiting on my Kindle!)

Final thoughts: Undercover is unique among Pride and Prejudice variations, and if I were to attempt to create a list of my all-time favorite variations, it likely would be near the top. Gardiner is a breath of fresh air in JAFF (and historical fiction in general), and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Undercover is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.

To learn about Gardiner’s inspiration for Undercover, check out this guest post from April.

Disclosure: I received Undercover from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

PrintI’m delighted to welcome Ada Bright and Cass Grafton to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, which I will be reviewing later this summer. Please give them a warm welcome!

Thank you so much, Anna, for inviting us to visit you at your Blog! We are so pleased to be here and to share with your readers an excerpt from our newly released novel and to offer a giveaway of the book.

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is a contemporary mystery-cum-romance set against the beautiful backdrop of the city of Bath.

When the story opens, it’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the Jane Austen Festival, an annual celebration of the famous author and her works.

Rose, a Bath resident as well as an avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and for the Festival to start, but she’s unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a magical secret that ultimately leads to Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy disappearing!

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

We’d like to share with you an excerpt from Chapter Twelve of our story, but beforehand, here is a little background.

Rose, our heroine, is such a dedicated Jane Austen fan, it has influenced her choice of home (the basement flat located beneath No 4 Sydney Place, the Austens’ main Bath residence) and her choice of job. She has a rich social life on Internet forums, based mainly around Jane Austen’s life and works, something she has effectively hidden from her friends and colleagues in her day to day life, but this year, that is due to change. Rose has invited her best friend, Morgan – a Californian, whom she has never met in real life, to the Festival.

Despite some trepidation over mixing these two worlds, Rose is convinced it’s going to be the best week of her life. That is, however, until she begins to get distracted by the visitor staying in the flat above hers, the ground floor holiday apartment of No 4 Sydney Place. The young lady is clearly a dedicated Jane Austen fan, from her very authentic Regency clothing to her attempts to copy the author’s familiar handwriting, and Rose is intrigued.

This afternoon, Rose and her friends are attending a beginners’ dance class in preparation for attending the ball at the end of the week, but soon Rose’s mysterious neighbour arrives and once again she finds herself drawn to her.

Excerpt from Chapter Twelve

4 Sydney PlaceRose smiled happily as she moved elegantly – or so she hoped – along the line as they followed the instructions of the incredibly patient caller, a cheerful if emphatic lady called Diana. They had been at the beginners’ dance class for over an hour now, and Rose’s cheeks ached with laughing, but, though it could hardly be said they were moving as one, they were definitely making progress.

Everyone was in good spirits, gamely stepping well out of their comfort zone, but Rose had been surprised to find Morgan hadn’t mastered it in her usual quick way. Not that it dampened her friend’s mood as she sailed off in the wrong direction once more. ‘I think I got it that time. No!’

‘Your other left!’ Rose called over her shoulder as Morgan skipped straight into the next line over from them, laughing and apologising at the same time.

Rose was enjoying the swishing of her long skirt as it brushed against her ankles. Whilst there were a fair number of people in period dress, she had opted for a full-length but modern skirt and an Empire line top. Morgan had been instantly regretful for throwing on her jeans, and Rose and her friends had quite a job on their hands persuading her against grabbing one of the white cloths from the tables in the foyer to fashion a makeshift skirt of her own.

Stopping triumphantly on the final note of the music, Rose turned with everyone else to cheer their almost successful completion of a whole routine. Tess and Sandy, who were attending the advanced class later in the week, were watching from the side lines and applauded enthusiastically. Morgan was high-fiving Marita, celebrating their survival of the set if not their dancing prowess, and Leo was bowing deeply to a blushing Chrystal. Turning back, Rose smiled – their second dance, if she was not mistaken.

It was exactly as she’d imagined it should be: laughter and music and friendship. She looked around at the happy faces and sighed blissfully. Just then, however, she spotted Jenny gliding towards the chairs lining the walls and taking a seat. Like Rose, she wasn’t in costume today but wore a similar floor-length, full skirt, a neatly buttoned blouse and clutched a shawl in her lap. Making a sudden decision, and under the distraction of everyone grabbing cups of water – it was surprisingly warm work – Rose walked over to sit beside her.

‘Are you going to join in? It’s so much fun.’ Rose gestured towards the milling dancers as they chatted and practised a few steps.

‘Good afternoon.’ Jenny looked briefly in Rose’s direction, those bright eyes sparkling as always. ‘It is not my purpose – no.’

‘But it’s a dance class.’

‘A fine sport indeed.’

‘So…’ Rose turned in her seat to face Jenny, who glanced at her again but this time did not turn away, her eye caught by the necklace around Rose’s neck. Then she raised her gaze to meet Rose’s and smiled. There was something in her steadfast gaze…

‘I’m curious; why did you come if you don’t want to dance?’

Jenny glanced around the room. ‘Is one obliged to participate? Did you never attend the theatre merely to enjoy the performance? Do those who follow the sporting endeavours of others join them on the field of play? There is ample amusement to be derived from observation and thus little need for the effort of partaking.’

It was the most Jenny had ever said to her, but Rose found herself wrapped in circles over what her actual meaning was. Perhaps she was best left to her own devices after all.

‘Do not mistake me, Miss Wallace. I appreciate your interest, but please rest assured I am perfectly content.’

Realising the dancers were reassembling, ready for more mayhem, Rose stood up. ‘Well then, I’ll leave you in peace. See you later.’

‘Had a nice chat?’ Morgan grinned as Rose rejoined her.

‘I asked if she planned to join in. But Morgan – I wonder…’

‘Yes, you wonder a lot about her. Rose, let it go.’ Morgan threw her a fond look.

‘I’m trying but I just can’t help but feel I’m missing something. And it’s weird; when you talk to her, when she’s got you fixed with her eye…’

finalfinalmap‘Her eye? Now you’re making her sound spooky. She’s just a mad crazy fan who learned how to write like a famous author – or… I dunno, maybe she’s like an actress, playing a role. Hey, that’s it!’ Morgan laughed. ‘She’s one of those; you know, the ones who have to live the part they are about to play. What do they call it? Role immersion? No, wait – Method acting.’

Rose tried to apply it to everything she’d seen, to how she felt when in Jenny’s company. ‘I don’t know. It’s even more than that. It’s not as if she’s trying to live the life so much as – it is her life.’

‘Well, that’s the point of the Method, I think. It’s that, or she’s even more delusional than we first thought.’ Morgan turned back to face the dance hall.

‘But I don’t want her to be delusional. I so want to believe in her.’

‘What?’ Morgan choked back another laugh. ‘You want to believe she actually is Jane Austen? Rose –’

‘No! Of course not. But I don’t want her to be a criminal either.’ She glanced over her shoulder, then back to Morgan. ‘I feel some sort of – oh, I don’t know… connection when I see her? Like she’d be fun to know?’

‘Despite the possible forged letters you saw – and the candles and all the loot?’

‘Maybe it’s as we first thought and she’s just something to do with antiques? She clearly loves the past and anything associated with it – and why not? Perhaps the letter-writing is something she enjoys, loves to indulge? What if she’s pretending she lives in that era and because of her job, she’s able to acquire the props to help her live the dream?’ The more she spoke, the more sense it made to Rose.

Morgan eyed her sceptically, then grinned and waved a hand at the lines of dancers who were trying some new steps under Diana’s careful guidance. ‘You’d have thought she’d have leapt at a chance at this, then. Why don’t we both go and see if we can persuade her? I still think her lack of interest does hint more at fraudster than obsessive fan, though.’

Rose looked around again, just as Jenny raised her head and they locked eyes. They stared at each other for a second before a flash of unease crossed the lady’s face. ‘Shit, she’s seen us looking at her. I have to go and–’

Morgan grabbed Rose’s arm. ‘Where are you going? No! Are you kidding me? You can’t just accuse her of being a fraud – or a loony!’

‘I’m not going to,’ Rose muttered. A whirlwind of images spun through her mind as she stared at Jenny: the inexplicable disappearance into thin air, the figure staring reverently at Jane Austen’s books in Waterstones; her well-worn costumes and the curiously old-fashioned style she favoured at other times. Then there was the vast array of candles in the flat above hers, the boxes spilling their old yet suspiciously fresh contents over the floor, and the handwriting, using proper ink and a genuine pen of the era…

Trying to read the look on Jenny Ashton’s face as she got slowly to her feet and picked up her shawl, Rose narrowed her gaze, her head swirling with all sorts of impossible thoughts. Then she murmured, ‘Jenny. That was Mr Austen’s pet name for his youngest daughter.’

Morgan rolled her eyes. ‘Okay, look, just hold on. We don’t want to scare her. Let’s just–’

‘She’s going,’ Rose said urgently as the lady turned to leave the room.

‘Well, no surprises there. You’ve been staring at her! Enough to freak any normal person out, never mind Crazy Jenny!’

‘I’m going after her.’

Morgan had to walk with a sort of trot to keep up as Rose strode out into the entrance hall and pulled open the door to the street.

‘Rose, seriously.’

‘I want to catch her before she disappears.’

She hurried down the steps to the street just in time to see Jenny escape from view around the corner, and Rose drew in a steadying breath. For a reason she couldn’t quite explain, time seemed critical, as though she didn’t have a moment to waste.

‘I’m cold! Let’s just go back inside.’ Morgan rubbed her arms, but Rose shook her head. ‘I just want to ask her about some things. That’s all. This is my own… quest or… delusion or… something.’ For a second, the image of Jenny’s face from moments earlier appeared before her, and Rose gasped. ‘And she knows.’

Morgan frowned. ‘Knows what?’

‘She knows that I suspect she’s…’ Rose stopped. What on earth did she suspect? ‘Please bear with me! I have to find her, I have to talk to her.’

‘Rose, she will think you are the mad one!’

‘Then she and I will have to run mad together!’ She gave her friend a quick hug before turning and walking rapidly down the street in Jenny’s wake.

Then she called over her shoulder as she broke into a run, ‘But do not worry, we shall not faint!’

About the Authors

IMG_9793-LAda Bright by Cass

I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Ada. She likes Cheerios and bacon burnt beyond recognition (though not on the same plate), and she has an interesting sense of direction. This doesn’t just apply to getting from A to B, but also in reading – she read the third Harry Potter book first – and likes to read the end of every book before she starts.

She’s a talented artist, photographer and writer, but more than that, she’s one of the best friends I have ever made.

Since we met 14 years ago, she’s had three gorgeous children and moved house twice – from Pasadena in California to Pasadena to… wait for it – Pasadena!

Oh, and she’s so cool, her name reads the same backwards too – that can’t be just a coincidence, can it?

IMG_9762-LCass Grafton by Ada

I am very lucky to be able to count Cass as a best friend and writing partner for over a decade. She likes cold wine, cats, and the written word. People are drawn to the beauty of how she strings words together to create a story, but I love the humour with which she does it.

She is a poet in her writing, an adventurer in her life, and the most generous host I’ve ever known.

Since we met, oh so long ago, she has lived in three countries and thrown more parties than I have washed dishes. She has also celebrated the joys in my life with the same love and attention as she has her own family. Though, at this point, I have to say that family is basically what we have become.

She deserves top billing here, but, being Cass, she would not hear of it. Alphabetically is simply how these things are done, and there is really no use doing anything if you’re not going to do it right.

We love to hear from readers! Please follow us or contact us via the following social media links:

tabbycownostrilOur Blog: Tabby Cow

Facebook: Ada | Cass

Twitter: Ada | Cass

About the Book

It’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works.

Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

Amazon.co.uk (paperback and ebook) | Amazon.com (paperback and ebook) | Barnes & Noble (paperback) | Barnes & Noble Nook Store (eBook) | Kobo (eBook) | iBook Store (eBook) | Smashwords (all eBook formats, including Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iStore, PDF and more)


Ada and Cass are generously offering a winner’s choice international giveaway (paperback or ebook). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about the excerpt. This giveaway will close Sunday, July 31. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.


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