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Rating: ★★★★☆

He confused her. He irritated her. He pleased her and he thrilled her. She was going crazy, and William Darcy was the cause.

(from The Perfect Gift)

The Perfect Gift is a sweet novella by Christie Capps (the pen name for author J. Dawn King) and a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was just the right book for me now when I’m swamped with work and family commitments, as it’s intended to be read in about an hour or so. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the only reading time I’ve had lately is right before bed when I’m really sleepy, I would’ve devoured it all at once. But it was nice to savor this one over a few days.

Elizabeth Bennet is still smarting from William Darcy’s insult to her at Meryton’s pizza hangout when he asks for her help in dealing with his soon-to-be teenage sister, Gianna. Darcy doesn’t know how to handle a young girl going through puberty, what she wants and needs for clothes, or the perfect gift to commemorate her 13th birthday. Elizabeth is the perfect person for the job, given that she has four sisters, and she and Gianna hit it off right away. She still isn’t sure what to make of Darcy; he seems so serious sometimes, but when it’s just the three of them, she can almost see his charm.

For a short and sweet novella, Capps does a great job building the tension, with the infuriating Caroline Bingley and the Darcys’ impending return to their home in New York City. There’s the right balance of drama, humor, and passion, and despite the fast pace given that it’s a novella, I was completely satisfied with the ending. I have three other novellas by Capps waiting patiently to be read, and since my busy schedule doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, I will turn to them in the brief moments when I can escape the real world.

Disclosure: I received The Perfect Gift as a gift from the author. Thank you, Joy!

Source: Blog giveaway 
Rating: ★★★★★

She hissed, “I am an excellent judge of character. I would know.” She realized how silly she sounded, but her pride would not allow her to admit her mistake.

“An excellent judge of character? When you would accuse me — if not for certain events of which we must not speak — of murder? You would not know a murderer if he confessed it to you,” Darcy scoffed, returning ire for ire loudly enough that Mr. Bingley turned around to look at them.

(from The Honorable Mr. Darcy)

The Honorable Mr. Darcy (A Meryton Mystery Book 1) was my first time reading a Pride and Prejudice variation by Jennifer Joy, and I was delighted from start to finish. When Mr. Wickham is found dead in his tent during the Netherfield Ball, the inhabitants of Meryton are quick to point fingers at Mr. Darcy. They have a poor opinion of him since he insulted Elizabeth Bennet at the Meryton Assembly, and he was seen leaving Wickham’s tent in anger. Elizabeth isn’t Darcy’s biggest supporter, but she knows he couldn’t have committed murder. However, explaining how she knows would tether her to the man forever.

Darcy doesn’t help his cause by refusing to say where he was at the time of the murder and why he had argued with Wickham, and Elizabeth’s perception of him begins to change as she realizes he is a man of honor. However, Darcy must contend with the cantankerous Mr. Tanner, Meryton’s innkeeper and constable, and Mr. Stallard, the magistrate, as they make it difficult for Darcy to prove his innocence while hiding secrets of their own. As Darcy and Elizabeth navigate their changing feelings for one another, Elizabeth finds herself determined to solve the crime and help Darcy clear his name, while he worries that danger may befall her as a killer continues to roam free.

Joy does a great job creating a sense of mystery and danger, and she stays true to Austen’s characters while dramatically altering events. I enjoyed how Darcy and Elizabeth worked together to uncover the truth behind Wickham’s death and how Darcy embraced Elizabeth’s inquisitiveness and didn’t expect her to change even while wishing she would be careful in her sleuthing. Joy adds several original characters, including the Bennet daughters’ new companion, Mrs. Yates, and the magistrate’s daughter, Miss Stallard, who liven up the plot. What I loved most was the fast pace and how I was able to piece some things together but was still surprised in the end. And Colonel Fitzwilliam, oh how I loved his dramatic entrance and take-charge attitude!

The Honorable Mr. Darcy is a solid start to an exciting series, and I can’t wait to read more. In fact, as soon as I finished this book, I immediately started book 2, The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth (stay tuned for my review). I have a feeling that this is a series I won’t want to end!

Disclosure: I received The Honorable Mr. Darcy from a blog giveaway.

I’m pleased to welcome Meg Kerr to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Devotion, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces the novel and shares an excerpt, and stay tuned for the giveaway!

Hello readers of Diary of Eccentric! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Anna for allowing me to contribute this guest post and which contains an excerpt from my new Austen-inspired book, Devotion. I am also happy to offer a giveaway of three (3) signed copies of the book! The giveaway is open to readers from the United States and Canada.

Devotion explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet, and I think you’ll find it an interesting read as I’ve added several twists. As Georgiana Darcy is one of the main focal points of the book, I wanted to choose a book excerpt where she’s featured. But first, a bit of context:

John Amaury, the illegitimate son of a lord, is handsome, charming, penniless, ruthless, and determined to marry Georgiana Darcy for her fortune. And if lawful marriage can be faster attained through seduction, so be it!

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy this short excerpt! If you’re interested in reading the full book, it’s available via Amazon. I’d love to hear your thoughts (and your own ideas!) via a review soon.

Affectionately yours,

Meg Kerr

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Excerpt (from Chapter 13 of Devotion)

Amaury came to her as soon as she was in the room. “Georgiana, I am in love with you,” he said. She was very willing to hear him, and suddenly he was making violent love to her, proclaiming his passion and declaring that he would die if she refused him. Georgiana could not respond; but Amaury did not want her to talk. Departing so far from every honourable feeling, even from the common decorum of a gentleman, he took hold of her, clasped her around the waist and began to kiss her eagerly, until he was stopping her very breath and she could hardly remain upright. Indeed she would have fallen had she not been locked in his arms, pressed to his ribs. Still on fire with his first assault, her astonishment and perplexity decreased as he took these barbarously insolent freedoms with her, and her struggles against him were brief, if indeed they existed at all. Even then she had not sense enough to try to avoid her fate. Instead of acting as virtue and honour required, instead of striving to avoid destruction, she began to return him kiss for kiss, the friendly darkness emboldening her. He then took the liberty of thrusting his hand in her bosom, an affront at which Georgiana demonstrated her resentment by re-doubling the fervour of her kisses. She seemed to have not the least hesitation to assist in her own undoing. No longer in doubt about the capabilities of her—heart, or that she was completely under his ascendancy, he knew that the business could be accomplished within five minutes.

A wolf has no aspiration to heroism, or to the satisfaction of carrying out a difficult task. He would not rather attack a lion than a lamb, and if the lamb meekly offers her throat for the sacrifice he does not spare her in the conviction that he ought to work harder for his dinner.

That Amaury intended to do what is called the worst is entirely certain and that Georgiana would have granted what is called the last favour is little less so. What a strange revolution of mind therefore that Amaury should have drawn back! But he was overcome by a feeling of tenderness unlike anything he had known before. What a miracle it was to be loved by such a pure and modest girl, to excite her virginal ardours! Five minutes were not enough to initiate her into the pleasures of love. She must be allowed to savour at length her weakness in his embrace, and at last admit the ecstasy of defeat. They must marry, and he must find another method to persuade her than that of robbing her of her precious innocence. With some difficulty therefore he put Georgiana from him, holding her at arm’s length while both endeavoured to regain breath; and with yet greater difficulty he persuaded her to withdraw from him and go to her room, promising that they would meet early on the morrow.

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About Devotion

In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy, now twenty years old and completely lovely, is ripe for marriage. Her brother has carefully selected her future husband, but the arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a secret journey, bring Georgiana into the arms of an utterly wicked and charming young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and a quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given — perhaps — an opportunity to remake some of her disastrous choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, sweeps the reader back to the year 1816 for a reunion with many beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and an introduction to some intriguing characters.

Check out Devotion on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Meg Kerr

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

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Giveaway

Meg is generously offering 3 signed copies of Devotion. This giveaway is open to readers with U.S. and Canada addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and share what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 27, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Meg, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

My guest today is Regina Jeffers, who is here to talk about Scottish marriages during the Regency and share an excerpt of her new release, MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs. I’m a big fan of Regina’s Pride and Prejudice variations; she’s one of a few authors whose books I will buy as soon as they are released without even reading the description. I’m really looking forward to reading this one…I just have to know what the small “s” in the title is all about! Please give her a warm welcome, and stay tuned for the giveaway.

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Scottish Marriages During the Regency

Those of us who read and write Regency novels have all heard of elopements to Gretna Green. Harking back to 1754 and the introduction of a new controversial Marriage Act in England, Gretna Green flourished as a haven for runaway couples. It even receives mentions in not just 1 but amazingly 3 of Jane Austen novels, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park.

``MY DEAR HARRIET,

You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel.” – Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 47

From Austenonly, we learn, “References to Scotland in Jane Austen’s adult works are few, but she did make use of the different marriage laws in Scotland in three of her novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon had planned to elope to Gretna with his poor Eliza but was thwarted at the last minute by the folly of her maid exposing their plans. In Pride and Prejudice Wickham planned to elope with Georgiana Darcy to Gretna Green, but his dastardly plan was foiled by Georgiana’s confession to Darcy before they could set out on the road. Quite typically he had no such plans to take Lydia Bennet there, though she was initially under the misapprehension that Gretna was to be their final destination. In Mansfield Park, Julia Bertram and Mr Yates run off to Gretna to be married amid the turmoil of the adulterous goings on between Maria Rushworth and Mr Crawford.

Old Photograph Toll House, Lamberton Scotland

“Why Gretna Green? Gretna, or Scotland as Jane Austen mostly wrote when she used the term in her novels, was, in the late 18th Century a place where couples thwarted in their plans to marry legally in England and Wales could resort, in order to marry legally without parental consent. From the implementation of the Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753, it was impossible for anyone under the age of 21 years age to legally marry without their parents (or guardians) consent.”

We must remember that Scotland is approximately 320 miles from London. The main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh followed the Great North Road or a series of turnpike roads on the western side of the country. The journey was not an easy one. The average carriage travelled between 5-7 miles per hour––that is not accounting for poor weather, tolls, meals, changing out the horses, etc. Even traveling 12 hours per day, it would take a couple some 4 days to reach Scotland, more than likely 5 days. Do not forget that many times irate family members were in hot pursuit.

But Gretna Green was not the only place for elopements in Scotland. The Great North Road took couples to Scotland via Northumberland. Lamberton, Berwickshire, Scotland, for example, is 4 miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. The now demolished Old Toll House at Lamberton, situated just across the border in Scotland, was notorious for its irregular marriages. From 1798 to 1858 keepers of the Toll, as well as questionable men-of-the-cloth, married couples in a hurry to escape relations.

Paxton, Berwickshire, Scotland, lies 1 mile west of the border with Northumberland, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Mordington, another Scottish village, was 5 miles from Northumberland. It is said that many chose to be married by the toll keepers of these two border towns.

Marriage and Toll House at Coldstream Bridge

Sometimes the couple chose to cross the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, to Coldstream, a civil parish in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland. Much like Gretna Green, it was a popular centre for runaway marriages. As with the other towns mentioned, couples were joined in marriage at the toll house.

Who performed these marriages? The simple answer is: anyone who wanted to do so. Declaring one’s vows to live together before witnesses could constitute a binding marriage. One did not require a clergyman to be deemed a wedded couple. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.

Irregular Scottish marriages simply required the couple’s agreement and witnesses to the act to be legal. A couple could publicly promise to abide in marriage, which could be followed by consummation as proof or simply by cohabitation with repute. Any citizen could witness a public promise. The idea of “marrying over the anvil” in the legend of Gretna Green came about by the blacksmith being one of the first building encountered by the couple seeking a Scottish marriage in the village, and the blacksmith was a “citizen.” A marriage of “cohabitation with repute” was an old style of common-law marriage.

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Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

Check out MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs on Goodreads | Amazon

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Excerpt from Chapter 11 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

Darcy handed her down from the let carriage before a small inn. They were a little less than three hours removed from Allard’s estate, but he had noticed how with each mile of the journey, Elizabeth’s shoulders had relaxed a bit more.

Their return to the manor house had been executed in relative silence. As he walked beside her, Darcy’s mind had reviewed all his interactions with Allard and how he had failed to notice the weaknesses in the man’s business aplomb before arriving on the man’s threshold. Thankfully, Elizabeth had not attempted to tease or cajole him from his self-chastisements. She was not that kind of woman, one who chattered on, filling the air with nonsense. No. Elizabeth Bennet was a woman who used language as she did every other facet of her life, with a combination of intelligence and economy.

It was only when the manor came into view that she offered, “I must beg your pardon, Mr. Darcy, for I have again interfered in your well-structured life.”

He halted their progress and turned her to him. “I consider your presence in my life a blessing, and you are not to think otherwise. You have prevented me from making two monumental mistakes. How can you think me from sorts?”

She searched for the sincerity in his expression for several elongated seconds before the worry set her features transformed into a smile that had Darcy’s heart skipping a beat. “Shall that be my role in your life, Mr. Darcy? Savior?” Good humor filled her tease, and he found himself smiling in return.

“My personal guardian angel,” he said softly as he brought her gloved hand to his lips, where he kissed the inside of her wrist.

A flush of color raced to her cheeks, but she did not rip her hand from his grasp. Instead, with a delightful laugh, one that had a rush of warmth filling his abdomen, she taunted, “Mrs. Bennet will testify that I am more devil than angel, and you, sir, would do well to remember as such.”

“May I be of assistance, sir?” The innkeeper rushed forward to greet them.

Darcy tucked Elizabeth closer to his side. “My cousin and I require rooms,” he announced. They had agreed that as they traveled in the direction of the Flynns’ estate that it was probable that they would encounter others from Flynn’s household, who might recognize Elizabeth, and so she was now Darcy’s relation instead of his wife. He would go to extremes to protect Elizabeth’s reputation, for he had grown truly fond of her.

The innkeeper eyed them suspiciously. “Not many of your ilk come this way.”

Darcy understood the man’s insinuation. “My cousin and I were guests at the Allard estate outside of Edinburgh, but measles have struck some of those employed upon the estate. We thought it best to depart early before the illness spreads to those in the main house.” He told the truth—just not the complete truth.

“Measles, heh?” the man asked as he turned the register so Darcy might sign it. “That be a bad business.” He handed Darcy the pen, but did not place the ink well upon the table. “Before ye be signing, sir, ye shud know there be a weddin’ occurrin’ here this evening. Not exactly the weddin’, more along the lines of the celebration. There be no assembly hall or meeting place large enough to hold the sizable family gathering. Most in the area call in here regularly. Might’n be a bit loud.”

Darcy did not wish to climb back into the crowded let carriage with Sheffield and Hannah observing his every interaction with Elizabeth, but he dutifully asked, “And the next decent inn?”

“For the likes of you, sir, some twelve miles along the main road south.”

Darcy leaned down to ask, “What say you, Elizabeth?”

“In truth,” she said softly, “I could sleep through the roughest storm God chose to deliver. A few partiers will not disturb me. A good meal and a bath are all I require for the evening.”

“Then we will stay.” He grinned at her. “You heard the lady. Two rooms as far removed from the jubilation as possible.”

Within a quarter hour, they dined in the common room of the inn. Only three others occupied the room, so they were relatively alone and could speak freely. “I wish to extend my apologies,” he said in serious tones. “I thought myself in charge of what has occurred between us since you ran from the church, but I fear I have done you irreparable harm. I have placed you in a abrasive surrounding and opened you to further accusations. You must permit me to do more than present your sisters with a larger dowry.”

She looked up in alarm. “Such as?”

“I would not be opposed to our joining,” he stated honestly. Since taking her acquaintance, Darcy had often considered the possibility of calling her wife.

Elizabeth shook off the idea. “I could not entertain your address, Mr. Darcy. Even if you had not brought me aboard your yacht, my actions at the church discredited my name. It was foolish of me to think such cheekiness could be ignored. Even if I had simply thwarted Mr. Collins’s plans, I named my fate. I doubt either the gentleman or your aunt would have remained silent regarding my purposeful slight. And I find it hard to believe that my father will be capable of controlling Mrs. Bennet’s aspersions. He has failed miserably in the past when Mrs. Bennet sets her mind to such misery. Most certainly, all in the neighborhood know something of my ill-advised bravado by now.”

He did not approve of her decision, but Darcy nodded his agreement. “I must abide by your choice.”

Silence settled between them, and it was not the kind of silence that caused distress. It was more of the manner in which two friends can sit together, even when they disagree upon something important. He searched for a means to change her mind, but he knew Elizabeth adamant in her opinions. Before he could form an argument to persuade her, the wedding party, literally, carried the newly-wed couple into the inn. The bride and the groom were perched on the shoulders of four bulky Scotsmen, who proudly hefted the pair higher, to the cheers of all those trailing behind them.

“Oh,” Elizabeth sighed heavily as she looked on. “Is she not beautiful? Such joy upon her countenance. Do you suppose they are in love?”

Darcy studied the pair as their escorts set them upon the floor. “The groom appears enthralled with his bride.” He noted the look of longing upon Elizabeth’s face, and he felt a bit sad that because of him, she would never know such happiness. “Is that your desire? To marry for love?” Such would go a long way in explaining why she had refused him, for Darcy knew her affections had not been stirred by their acquaintance.

She shrugged off his questions. “Do you find it odd, Mr. Darcy, that I am as susceptible to the idea of discovering a man who holds me in deep regard as are my sisters? Is it not foolish for a woman of my years to carry the wish of the Cinder Maid buried deep in her heart?”

“My parents married for love,” he admitted. “Together, they were a force with which to be reckoned.” Darcy chuckled in remembrance. “They were quite remarkable. I always believed if I could replicate their devotion to each other in my own marriage that Pemberley could survive and prosper.”

“Then when did you have a change of heart?” she challenged. “From your own lips, Miss De Bourgh did not claim your heart.”

“I do not know exactly how to define that particular moment.” He sat staring out the window over her shoulder. “I thought I had several years before I must choose a wife. Thought myself above entering the marriage mart. But…” He closed his eyes to drive away the taste of bile rising to his throat whenever he considered the betrayal practiced at George Wickham’s hands.

“But?” Elizabeth prompted, as she slipped her hand into his. “Know that I can serve as your confidante, Mr. Darcy.”

He opened his eyes to study her beautiful countenance. How was it possible that they had known each other less than a fortnight; yet, she was essential to all that he held most dear? “But a former friend used our relationship to attempt a seduction of my sister.” He had said the words aloud, and all his fears of the world swinging away from its axis had proved false. “I blundered—not giving her the attention she required,” he explained, “and Georgiana is so broken that I am desperate to restore her good humor. I thought that Anne might prove a comforting force for Miss Darcy. Mayhap even lead my sister to a better understanding of Georgiana’s lack of fault in the matter.”

Tears pooled in Elizabeth’s eyes. “And who is to lead you to a better understanding of your role in the matter, Mr. Darcy?” she asked in sympathetic tones.

He squeezed her hand. “My fault will never be obliterated. It is Georgiana’s heart that requires protection. She is not yet sixteen and was easily misled by a man she recognized as part of our family’s legacy. Miss Darcy trusted him, but all Mr. Wickham, who was my childhood chum and the son of my father’s steward, wished was my sister’s substantial dowry.”

“Oh, William,” she whispered. “You cannot take the blame for some blackguard’s disposition. You can only execute your life with honor.” She smiled weakly. “I know young girls. I was one very recently.” A bit of a tease entered her tone. “We give our hearts away many times before we discover a man worth knowing.”

“Pardon, friends,” the innkeeper said as he set two steaming plates before them. “Wanted to get yer meal out before the celebration became too rowdy.”

He chuckled good-naturedly as he glanced over his shoulder at the wedding party. “The bride be the daughter of Sir James Metts, a knight who earned his title via our local bishop. She be a good girl. Don’t know much of the groom. He be Greek. And Catholic. Never knew a Greek before. Some sort of diplomat, I hears. They met in London at a musicale, whatever that may be.” He set two tea cups upon the table without saucers. “Don’t know ‘bout the spirits, but the young man claims this a traditional drink for those of his kind. Says it tastes of aniseed or fennel. Wishes you to join him in a toast to his bride.” The innkeeper poured two fingers full in the cups.

Elizabeth eyed the drink suspiciously. “And what does the gentleman call these spirits?”

“Ouzo.”

She glanced to Darcy. “Are you familiar with the drink?”

“It may surprise you, my dear,” he said with a genuine smile, “but I never experienced a grand tour nor do I associate with high rollers.”

Her mouth formed a teasing pout. “Then I suppose it falls to me to taste the brew first. I would not wish to stain your immaculate reputation by demanding that you imbibe first.”

Darcy’s smile widened. “We will partake of the brew together.” He lifted his cup to tap it gently against hers. “To life.”

“To love,” she added.

Then they turned as one toward the happy couple, and with the others gathered in the room, they declared, “To a happy marriage.”

Thank you, Regina, for the informative post and for giving us a peek at your newest novel. Congratulations on its release!

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Giveaway

Regina is generously offering two ebook copies of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs. To enter, leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close at midnight on Friday, August 18, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alexa Adams back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of Darcy in Wonderland! As the editor of the book (minus the poems, which were edited by Serena), I am very excited about this book and all the glowing reviews thus far. Alexa is daring in her variations, and I admire that about her. I never would have thought to mash up Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland, but I’m sure glad Alexa did! Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces an excerpt from the novel, and stay tuned for the giveaway!

Thank you for hosting me today, Anna! I’m delighted to be here.

I’m a bit over a week into this blog tour, and I have spent a great deal of time speaking about Darcy and the children (especially Alice, for obvious reasons). Today Anna suggested I might give Elizabeth her turn in the spotlight. She might not plummet down the rabbit hole, but she is, nevertheless, a rather constant presence throughout the book, in no small part because Alice is such a mini version of her mother.

Two or three decades after her marriage, Elizabeth is now every bit the Mistress of Pemberley. She rules her roost with a gentle but firm fist, as made evident in the following exchange: 

Not long after her rambles commenced, she came upon the governess and her second youngest child, Cassandra. “Where is Alice?” she inquired after greeting the pair. 

Miss Williams blushed consciously. “She scampered off to speak with Mr. Darcy some time ago.” 

“She was spouting some nonsense about a rabbit,” Cassie, rather intolerant and judgmental in her eleventh year, inserted. “The girl cannot tell fantasy from reality.”  

“We were just about to go in and search for her,” Miss Williams said hurriedly, closing her book and placing it into her workbasket. 

“How is the Geography proceeding?” 

The blush deepened. “We are going to attend to it after tea.” 

“I see. And French?” Elizabeth knew not how her single raised eyebrow, so charming to her husband, cast fear into the hearts of her servants. Very little escaped its inevitable notice. 

“We completed the lesson this morning,” Miss Williams was relieved to be able to reply. 

“Excellent. What were you reading just now?” 

“It was my fault, Mama,” Cassie quickly interceded. “I begged Miss Williams to reread it with me.” 

Elizabeth bent down and extracted the book from the basket, examining the cover. “Kenilworth. Again. Now I understand why Alice has disappeared. You assured me, Miss Williams, that Alice was old enough to attend your lessons, yet you spend your time on curriculum, if that word is appropriate, that cannot hold her attention. Shall I arrange time each day for her to remain in the nursery so you and Cassie may pursue your more, um, advanced studies?” 

“No, ma’am. It will not happen again, Mrs. Darcy,” Miss Williams spoke quietly, with her head down. The weight of her mistress’s disappointment was far heavier than any tongue-lashing.  

“I certainly hope not. You may read Sir Walter in your free time.” She smiled kindly, returning the book to the basket. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Darcy,” and “Thank you, Mama,” rang out in chorus. 

“You had best return to the schoolroom for your tea. I will find Alice and send her along.” 

“Yes, Mrs. Darcy. Come along, Miss Cassandra.” 

Elizabeth is equally adept at handling her children, including the rather incorrigible Alice, and retainers, as demonstrated in this scene, which is one of my favorites:

“Please come in, Mrs. Darcy!” Mrs. Reynolds called from the sitting room. “I am sorry for not meeting you at the door, but I am not feeling quite myself today. Sally used the opportunity of Miss Alice’s unexpected arrival to take the donkey cart into Lambton and visit the apothecary on my behalf.” 

Elizabeth unceremoniously sat down next to her loyal retainer and friend. “Not your rheumatism again?” 

“I am afraid so.” 

“What does our new doctor have to say on the matter?” 

Mrs. Reynolds avoided eye contact. “I have yet to call for him.” 

“My dear, Mrs. Reynolds! Why else did Mr. Darcy go through the trouble to find a doctor with knowledge of the latest treatments for rheumatic ailments, if not for you to make use of him?” 

“Yes, and I do appreciate Mr. Darcy’s efforts on my behalf. He has always been the kindest, most thoughtful master imaginable, and I called on Dr. Seaton the very week of his arrival. Do you know what he suggested I do?” 

“What?” Alice asked eagerly, hanging on every word of the adults’ conversation.  

“He told me I should swim more. At my age! And in the lake, no less, like one of the children!” 

“Oh, Mrs. Reynolds! Do come swimming! It will be such fun! I can show you how,” gushed Alice. 

“I think not, child. I am sorry, but I have no business gallivanting about wet from head to foot. It would likely do me more harm than good.” 

“Not in the summer, I should think,” Elizabeth replied, reclaiming the conversation from her eager daughter. “Though I can see how the lake might not be the most inviting pool. What would you think of a sojourn by the sea? We could find some quiet and unassuming spa town for you to visit for a few months. Some place with bathing machines so that you might test the waters in private.” Mrs. Reynolds looked hesitant. “Of course, Mr. Darcy will cover the expense.” 

“Oh no, Mrs. Darcy! I could not ask him for such a thing.” 

“And you did not. I offered it. Now think it over before you reject me out of hand.” 

“All right. I will. Thank you, Mrs. Darcy.” 

“It is always a pleasure to be of service to you, Mrs. Reynolds, who have done so much for us. Would you like me to send word to Dr. Seaton? He should have some recommendations for which spas would suit you best.” 

“Yes, thank you. I will listen to what he has to say.” 

“Dr. Seaton made me take the awfullest medicine last winter. What does your medicine taste like, Mrs. Reynolds?” 

“Like brandy, which is what it is mostly made of.” 

Alice made a face. “I don’t like brandy.” 

“And when have you tasted it, young lady?” her mother inquired. 

“There is a bottle in Papa’s office.” 

“Not that you ought to help yourself to!” 

Alice looked surprised at her mother’s chagrin. “Why ever not? Papa drinks it all the time, so it cannot be that it is poisonous. I did check the bottle for a skull and crossbones just in case, and there were no markings suggesting it would disagree with me.” 

“A substance need not be poisonous to disagree with you, my dear. Do not sample your father’s drinks again.” 

“Yes, Mama. I won’t, even though the port wine was very good.” 

“Alice here has been keeping me entertained with a marvelous story,” Mrs. Reynolds quickly interjected. “She is the most creative child I ever knew.” 

“But ‘tis not a story, Mrs. Reynolds. It is true! I saw a white rabbit with pink eyes hop by, Mama, which as Bennet says is nothing so very special at all. He is so odious sometimes. But even he admits that a white rabbit with pink eyes would be worth seeing if it wore a waistcoat and pocket watch, as this one does.” 

“A waistcoat and pocket watch?” Elizabeth’s eyes grew dramatically large. “I never met a rabbit who could tell time.” 

“Well, this one could, for he pulled out his watch and checked it. I would have asked him for the time, by means of gaining an introduction, but he got away from me.” 

“Perhaps you will see him again.” 

Alice shook her head firmly. “I do hope so, Mama. I was on my way to look for him when my feet brought me to Mrs. Reynolds, which was a very good thing, as Sally did not like to leave her alone while she went to Lambton. I think they ought to be acknowledged, don’t you?” 

“Well done feet,” Elizabeth supplied on cue. 

“Thank you, ma’am,” Alice replied, bobbing a tidy curtsey. “I should have sent word to the house, I know that now, and shall do so next time my feet know where they are going before my brain arrives.” 

“I should appreciate that. And now you had best run home for tea. Make sure it is your brain directing your feet this time and not the other way around. Cassie and Miss Williams will be waiting for you in the schoolroom. I shall stay with Mrs. Reynolds until Sally returns. Please tell Thompson where I am, Alice.” 

“Yes, Mama. Goodbye, Mrs. Reynolds. I shall come visit again soon.” 

“Goodbye, my dear. Pull the door firmly behind you. It sticks.” 

“I will. Goodbye.” The two ladies watched Alice’s deliberate care in making sure the door was perfectly sealed, the cost of which was several loud bangs against the frame. 

“My goodness, she is such a delightful child,” Mrs. Reynolds laughed, “and so very talented.” 

“Delightful, perhaps, but she is also the most incurable troublemaker of the lot. Sampling the decanters! At her age!”  

Mrs. Reynolds nodded meaningfully. “She is a perfect little imp and, were I still in service, would certainly prove a daily trial, but as it is, she is my greatest diversion. Fortunately, it is now Mrs. Heydon’s province to clean up her messes and mine to hand out sweets and treats. I am enjoying my retirement, Mrs. Darcy.” 

Elizabeth took the good lady’s hand gently within her own. “You have earned it, Mrs. Reynolds. Now we just need to get you feeling more the thing. We should miss you, but a few months of sea air might prove very beneficial. What do you know of Cromer?”

Elizabeth may have grown into the perfect mistress of her domain, but she has not completely given up her love of a sharp retort, especially when one is well deserved:

Thompson opened the door and announced, “Lady Catherine de Bourgh, ma’am!” 

The entire family rose to their feet as their formidable relation entered the room. Even dressed for travel she was intimidating in her magnificence, and she showed almost nothing of her impressive age. The Darcy children often speculated amongst themselves about just how old she really was. The consensus was somewhere between seventy and ninety, but she showed no more signs of infirmity now than she had when Bennet was a boy. 

“Darcy,” she barked. “Elizabeth, children. I have come to assist with Eleanor’s ball. Someone has to make sure she knows what she is about.” Her voice boomed about the room. A slight tendency towards deafness (which Lady Catherine refused to acknowledge) had escalated her speaking voice, never quiet, to a near shout. 

“Welcome, Lady Catherine,” Elizabeth said with a tense smile. “How thoughtful of you to come all this way.” 

Lady Catherine nodded in agreement. “It was a great deal of trouble, but I knew you would have need of my guidance.” She glanced about the room and landed upon Bennet and Ellie. “Bennet,” she yelled, “you may give me your seat. I want to talk to your sister.” Ellie thought her stare was every bit as vicious as a vulture’s while it waited for its next meal to die.  

“I can assure you, Ellie is perfectly prepared for her role next week,” Elizabeth went on. “She was Mrs. Drummond’s favorite student when she was with her, and she has made an excellent impression at all the parties in which she has thus been included.” 

“Nevertheless, and I am sorry to bring up matters you would rather forget, but having never been through the ordeal of formally entering society as a young lady yourself, Elizabeth, you cannot offer the caliber of advice only one who has been through it can provide.”

“I accept your apology,” replied Elizabeth. Lady Catherine glared at her in return.

And while romance is not the center of this story, the undiminished love between husband and wife permeates Pemberley, nonetheless:

It was the supper dance when Mr. Darcy caught up with his wife, who had been fully engaged in her duties as hostess, and pulled her onto the dance floor to waltz. For a few precious moments, the Darcys were able to forget everyone else in the room. It was just the two of them, still as in love as when they first declared it, yet far more deeply connected by the many years of shared experience and the children who were living embodiments of their bond. No one watching them could mistake the strength of their attachment. Theirs was a marriage much discussed in society at large and held up as an example of what might be possible, if you should ever be so fortunate as to find your heart’s true mate.

Readers should approach Darcy in Wonderland with every expectation of adventure, whimsy, and humor, but I hope they won’t forget, as I never did when writing, that none of this future would be possible without the potency of the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. Join me to see how they built upon this foundation to create an exemplary family life, full of passion, laughter, and love.

It’s been a pleasure, Anna! Thank you so much for participating in the blog tour.

Thank you, Alexa, for being my guest today. Congratulations on the new release! I hope everyone loves the book as much as I did!

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About Darcy in Wonderland

Twinkle, twinkle, amber cross!
For a chain, it’s at a loss.
Heavy links or simple loop,
Do not dunk it in your soup.

The worlds of beloved authors collide as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen’s immortal hero, finds himself thrust into the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.

Many years have passed since Elizabeth Bennet became mistress of Pemberley, and the Darcys’ six children stand testament to their enduring love. As the eldest prepare to enter the world, Alice, the youngest and most intrepid of the brood, ensures that life at Pemberley never grows dull. Her curious mind and penchant for mischief often prove trying, but never more so than when her father follows her down a mysterious rabbit hole, disrupting his orderly world in ways never before imagined. A treat for the young and the old, Darcy in Wonderland is both an adventure and homage to two of literature’s greatest minds.

Check out Darcy in Wonderland on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Alexa Adams

A devoted reader of Jane Austen since her childhood, Alexa Adams is the author of Darcy in Wonderland, The Madness of Mr. Darcy, Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice (First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley), Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid, Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling, Becoming Mrs. Norris, and the short story collection And Who Can be in Doubt of What Followed?: The Novels of Jane Austen Continued. Alexa is an American expat living in Switzerland with her husband and daughter. She blogs about Austen and Austenesque literature at alexaadams.blogspot.com, is a contributing member of AustenAuthors.net, and a founding member of the Jane Austen Society of Switzerland.

Visit Alexa at:

alexaadams.blogspot.com

austenauthors.net

www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexaAdams

www.facebook.com/ElegantExtracts

twitter.com/ElegantExtracts

Learn more about the illustrator at www.wiedemannillustrations.com

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Giveaway

Alexa is generously offering a winner’s choice giveaway of Darcy in Wonderland (paperback or ebook), open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 20, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Source: Author
Rating: ★★★★☆

“That’s why they call love a leap of faith. There’s no guarantee it’s going to work out — not for anyone.”

(from Bridges)

Bridges in the second Daphne White novel by Maria Murnane, picking up where Wait for the Rain leaves off. However, Murnane provides plenty of backstory so you can easily read Bridges as a stand-alone novel. In the year since Daphne and her best friends Skylar and KC celebrated their 40th birthdays on the Caribbean island of St. Mirika, she has moved on from her divorce and embraced the promise of a new beginning at this stage of her life. She is in a long-distance relationship with Derek, who also is a divorced parent, but more importantly, she has embarked on the writing career she gave up nearly two decades ago when she became a wife and mother. Daphne has written her first novel, sent it to three dozen agents, and is eagerly waiting for her career as a published author to take off.

She is reunited with Skylar and KC in New York City for a girls’ weekend over the July 4th holiday to celebrate Skylar’s recent engagement. The news came as a shock to both Daphne and KC, as Skylar was always so focused on her career and never planned to settle down. But KC has a surprise for them as well. Meanwhile, Daphne begins to again question her future when the rejection emails start coming in, especially as Skylar’s success and wealth is on full display.

Once again, Murnane has crafted an enjoyable story about the power of female friendship. This time, she added more tension between the women to emphasize the ups and downs in every relationship, the insecurities we all feel from time to time, and the healing that comes with heart-to-heart talks and forgiveness. She brings back some of the secondary characters from the first novel and adds Skylar’s NYC friend, Krissa, an attorney who enthralls them with her hilarious online dating stories, and Sloane, Skylar’s intimidating soon-to-be-stepdaughter. Murnane does a fantastic job keeping these stories lighthearted, humorous, and, most importantly, believable. I really hope there is a next book in the series, as I’m not ready to let go of these characters just yet.

Disclosure: I received Bridges from the author for review.

Source: Author
Rating: ★★★★☆

“There’s something about a burst of rain that makes everything fresh and new. It’s as if Mother Nature is giving us another chance.”

(from Wait for the Rain)

Maria Murnane’s Wait for the Rain is a delightful tale about friendship, growing older, and rediscovering yourself as other responsibilities emerge over time and consume your life. Daphne White feels like a failure following her divorce, and focusing on her daughter has kept her afloat. But Emma is 15 now and doesn’t need her mother the way she once did. And her ex-husband has moved on and is getting remarried. These are the burdens Daphne carries when she arrives on the Caribbean island of St. Mirika to reunite with her best friends from college, Skylar and KC, for the first time in a decade. They are together again to celebrate turning 40, which Daphne is set to do on their trip — and the thought hangs over her head like a dark cloud.

Daphne is only beginning to admit her innermost feelings to herself, and she can’t bring herself to confide in her closest friends. Skylar has achieved the professional success that Daphne gave up to become a wife and mother, and the happy-go-lucky KC is succeeding in marriage where she so dramatically failed. With the help of her friends, the island atmosphere, and a kind and sexy twenty-something staying in the beach house next door, Daphne starts to realize that the big 4-0 is not the end but the beginning of something better.

In Wait for the Rain, Murnane has created an endearing and lovable cast of characters. It is evident from the start why these women are friends, and I loved their bantering, how they bring out the best in each other, and how they remain close even after having been apart for so many years. This is a true friendship, and I grew to love each of these characters so much that I wanted to be part of it! It was easy for me to relate to Daphne’s issues with turning 40 and having a teenage daughter, so that made the story more poignant for me. And most importantly, the romantic aspect of the novel was completely believable, which made the ending so satisfying! So many times in these kinds of novels there are over-the-top adventures and romantic escapades, and I loved that Murnane kept it real.

The best thing is that I don’t have to say goodbye to Daphne and her friends just yet. Stay tuned for my review of the second book in the series, Bridges, which will be posted here tomorrow.

Disclosure: I received Wait for the Rain from the author for review.