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I’m thrilled to have Victoria Kincaid back again to celebrate her latest Pride and Prejudice variation. I’ve loved all of Victoria’s novels, but Rebellion at Longbourn is a particular favorite. I loved Victoria’s take on Elizabeth, and she never ceases to make me laugh at Collins and Lady Catherine. Victoria is here to talk about her inspiration for the book and share an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hi, Anna, and thank you for having me back to visit!

Sometimes plots for my books are the result of ideas that have germinated and sprouted over a period of months or even years. And sometimes an idea hits me in the face, demanding to be written now, now, now! The impetus for Rebellion at Longbourn was in the latter category. I’ve spent a lot of time musing about the position of women during the Regency time period and thinking about how often in Western history women were able to carve out places for themselves despite the conventions of a patriarchal society.

For example, Artemisia Gentilleschi is often heralded as the only female painter of the Baroque period, when, in fact, there were a number of women painting at the time. Women often find a way to work around strictures of tradition, but their stories have frequently been lost to history.

So that led me to wonder what kind of resistance Elizabeth Bennet might show to the patriarchy. Obviously in P&P she already resists many conventions of ladylike behavior, and she calls out Darcy on his toxic masculinity. But she never has a reason for any overt acts of rebellion. I wondered what kind of situation would put her in a position where she needed to affirmatively buck tradition? She’s not a rabble rouser for the sake of stirring things up. She would need a good reason to push for change.

She wouldn’t do it for herself—only on behalf of other people. So what situation would make Elizabeth desperate for change on other people’s behalf? Of course, I thought about Longbourn being run by Mr. Collins. I’d frequently considered writing a Mr. Collins-owning-Longbourn book, but the prospect seemed so bleak. Who would want to read such a depressing story? Heck, I didn’t want to write it! But the idea of a book about Elizabeth organizing a covert resistance against Collins? That’s not bleak at all! In such a situation, Elizabeth, Mary, Charlotte, and other women at Longbourn could begin to carve out a space for themselves despite patriarchal conventions.

When all these pieces of the plot fell into place, the story demanded to be written—right now! So, I put the plans for another book on hold and started Rebellion at Longbourn.

Here is an excerpt from Rebellion at Longbourn where Elizabeth is speaking with Mrs. Greeves, the wife of one of Longbourn’s tenants.

“Why are you asking me these questions, miss?”

“I am hoping to find a way to help the tenants,” Elizabeth said, choosing her words carefully.

“Well, bless you, but you’ve already done so much. I can’t imagine there’s much more you can do.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I believe there might be. My sister Mary and I spoke with Mr. Collins about using more modern agricultural methods such as the Norfolk four-field system and a seed drill.”

Mrs. Greeves eyes widened. “Bert heard about such things from a cousin down that way. He’d sure like to try it.”

“Unfortunately, Mr. Collins would not allow himself to be persuaded.”

The other woman’s face fell.

“However, I was thinking that perhaps the tenants of Longbourn might give it a try anyway.”

Mrs. Greeves stopped walking, and her mouth dropped open. “You mean do the Norfolk planting and the seed drill without telling Mr. Collins?” Elizabeth nodded. “No, it’s impossible!”

“I think they can manage it if we help them.”

Mrs. Greeves’s brows scrunched together. “We?”

“You and I and the other women at Longbourn—including my sisters.”

Mrs. Greeves frowned. “What might we do? We’re just women.”

Elizabeth snorted, an inelegant noise that prompted a smile from the other woman. “How many children do you have, Mrs. Greeves? Six?” The other woman nodded. “You gave birth to six children. You are keeping them alive and raising them to be good people.”

“I do my best.”

“Is that not far more difficult than anything Mr. Collins does any day? Could you imagine him doing your job even for one day?”

Mrs. Greeves laughed and then clapped a hand over her mouth as if her amusement were inappropriate. “True. Even Bert would be hard put to do my job for a day.”

“I assure you that nothing I ask of you will be as difficult as raising six children.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“My sister Mary has done all the reading and understands how to implement the four-crop system. I have a little money saved that I can use to buy a seed drill.   Mary can teach the tenants how the system works.”

Mrs. Greeves’s eyes were wide with amazement. “I don’t know if this is the most brilliant plan I have ever heard or the most foolish one.”

Elizabeth smiled. “I have the same problem, but I think it is worth trying.”

“What do you need our help for, then?” she asked, pointing to herself.

“Mary and I cannot make a regular habit of calling upon the tenants. My cousin will become suspicious very soon.” Not to mention alarmed. Gentlemen’s daughters should not be seen consorting with farmers.

Mrs. Greeves nodded slowly. “But nobody will blink if you’re talking to us…”

“Precisely! If we call upon the tenants’ wives, that is nothing so remarkable. You may pass along Mary’s information and whatever equipment we need to share. We must attend a few meetings with the men, but we shall do them at night in an out-of-the-way location.”

The other woman tugged on her bonnet ribbon. “Aye, that might work. But it’s his land, isn’t it? Mr. Collins?”

“Technically it is,” Elizabeth agreed. “But your family and the other tenants’ families are the ones who farm it. Mr. Collins has no notion about farming. Why should he tell the farmers what to do? Would it not be more sensible to have the tenants decide what to plant and when to plant it? They buy their own seed and fertilizer. Mr. Collins will never know.”

Mrs. Greeves laughed. “He might notice when turnips grow instead of wheat.”

“He pays little attention to the fields. They can plant the new crops at a distance from the lanes where he might walk.”

Mrs. Greeves started walking again, mulling over Elizabeth’s words. “But the tenants will be earning extra money off Mr. Collins’s land. Isn’t that against the law?”

This was the part of the scheme Elizabeth had fretted over the most. “I do not believe it would be…if we use the extra money to repair the tenants’ cottages, just as Mr. Collins should be doing. The cottages are his property, so the money will be an investment in his estate.”

Mrs. Greeves’s mouth formed a perfect “o.” “You have thought of everything.”

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About Rebellion at Longbourn

Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.

Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?

Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied. Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception. Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an ebook copy of Rebellion at Longbourn to one lucky winner, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 7, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Victoria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

Hello, dear readers! It’s release day for Catherine A. Hamilton’s Victoria’s War, and I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt with you. I’ve long been drawn to stories set in Europe during World War II, and after reading this excerpt, Victoria’s War is on my to-read list. I hope you all find it as intriguing as I did!

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Lagodny, Poland—September 1, 1939

RADIO changed Victoria Darski’s world. It brought swing jazz and blues into her living room. And on the first of September, when she sat on the high-backed sofa and reached for the brass knob on the cabinet radio, it brought news of war.

“This is a special announcement,” the commentator said. “German tanks crossed the Polish border in a devastating predawn attack that Hitler launched against Poland.”

Victoria sat upright. Her hands trembled as she dug to the bottom of her black leather handbag and pulled out rosary beads, a cotton handkerchief, and her train ticket. Departure: 9. 1. 1939 11:00, the stamp on the ticket read. Her train would leave in two hours to take her to the women’s dormitory at the University of Warsaw. She was supposed to start her first semester tomorrow. The announcer was saying that all university classes were suspended indefinitely, but Victoria’s suitcases sat packed and waiting in the front hall closet. Can it be true? Victoria crossed one leg and then the other to buckle the straps on her platform shoes. She hurried to tell her parents the horrible news.

By twelve noon, Victoria joined her mother and her sister, Elizabeth, in kissing Papa’s freshly shaven cheeks, telling him to come home safely. The army reserves had called him into active duty. It was the first time Victoria had seen her parents cry in each other’s arms. When the long embrace ended, and the goodbyes were whispered, the Darski women—Victoria, her mother, and Elizabeth—remained at home, glued to the radio all hours of the day and night, believing that at any moment the “Germans would turn back, that western Europe would come to Poland’s aid.

Victoria’s bags still waited in the front hall closet twenty-eight days later when Hitler raised the German flag on the Warsaw capitol building. She couldn’t listen to jazz because Chopin’s dirge was the only tune playing out of Warsaw. But she played the radio anyway. It was her only solace, her quasi escape from being held hostage in her own home. It muffled the sound of her sister bickering with her mother about the impossibility of cooking with little to nothing—no salt, no butter. Would there ever be potato dumplings again? Sausage or bacon or ham? Thankfully, over the noise of the cupboards slamming in the kitchen, Victoria heard Chopin.

That is, until Elizabeth stormed into the living room and said, “Mother wants you to turn the radio off and come help me bring the laundry in from the clothesline.”

Victoria didn’t look up. She straightened her dress hem and ignored Elizabeth. Not until Elizabeth switched the radio off did Victoria look at her sister. Elizabeth’s face was flushed brighter than the red polka dots on her blouse, and Victoria said calmly, “I’ve been fourteen, Elizabeth. I know it isn’t easy, but at least try to behave like a lady.”

Elizabeth crossed her arms defiantly. “No. You need to help me with the laundry.”

None of them had set foot outside in weeks, at least not past the clothesline in the backyard. Not since the German soldiers arrived in Lagodny and gave them strict orders not to leave the property. Being cooped up in the house was putting them all on edge. Victoria took in a deep breath and gathered her thoughts. “The point is, Elizabeth, I’d be at the university if it weren’t for Hitler. My suitcases are packed, sitting out there in the hall closet, and I don’t plan to let them sit there forever. There is a chance that Britain and France will show. They’ve declared war on Germany and this occupation could end, and when it does, I’ll be out of here.”

Elizabeth’s perfectly round face and delicate features hardened. “I’d love to see you go to Warsaw. I’m praying for it. Then I won’t have to watch you dress up day after day as if you’re going off to college, wasting your time on tying all that ribbon in your hair. Why can’t you face the truth?”

Victoria stared at Elizabeth. She had taken time on her waist-long French braid, elaborately weaving in the thin pieces of indigo ribbon. And why not? They had all the time in the world. But it never helped to reason with her little sister. “Right now, I’m thinking how nice it would be if you didn’t treat me like the enemy.” Victoria switched the radio back on. “You go get started. I’ll be right out.”

“Victoria again turned up the volume. The lamplight threw a hazy glow over the front room, and she found a sense of comfort in the smells of her mother’s cooking. The midday meal would begin, as always, with soup. Today it would be a clear beet soup, followed by potato cakes and sliced apples. She was too hungry to care that the food would be served without salt or butter. They had run out of salt days ago, and no one could go to the market. No one could even so much as visit a neighbor to borrow some salt. Not until they had ID cards.

Even with the radio turned up loud, the dirge didn’t muffle the sound of the crucifix rattling on the wall behind the sofa. Someone was pounding at the front door and nobody but the Nazis made a heart-stopping knock like that.

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About Victoria’s War

In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.

POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women must face the cruelty of the invaders alone. When Victoria decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is sent to work in a brothel, and Victoria is transported by cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave. 

GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin.

The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held—the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Author

Catherine A. Hamilton

CATHERINE A. HAMILTON is a freelance writer of Polish descent whose articles and poems have appeared in magazines and newspapers including the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Oregonian, the Catholic Sentinel, the Dziennik Związkowy (the oldest Polish newspaper in America), and the Polish American Journal. She is the author of the chapter about Katherine Graczyk in Forgotten Survivors: Polish Christians Remember the Nazi Occupation, edited by Richard C. Lukas. Victoria’s War, her first novel, will be published in 2020 by Plain View Press. She actively publishes and blogs at http://www.catherineahamilton.com. Hamilton lives in the Northwest with her husband.

Connect with Catherine: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Website

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Giveaway

The publicist is generously offering an ebook (mobi or epub) to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 7, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Hello, my friends! I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson and Marion Kay Hill back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of their latest collection of Pride and Prejudice short story variations, The Pocket Book Series: Volume 2: Gaslighting & Gallantry. Aubrey and Marion are here today to talk about the collection and share an excerpt. They have a question for you dear readers, and they come bearing gifts for some lucky readers! Please give them a warm welcome:

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Thank you, Anna, for once again inviting us to share an excerpt, this time from our second volume of The Pocket Book Series, which is up for pre-order on Amazon. We greatly appreciated all the wonderful reader comments on the last passage we shared, so we are excited to do it once again.

Our intent with this series is always to inform the reader in our synopsis what level of heat they could expect within our six short stories. However, we have hit a roadblock with Volume 2: Gaslighting and Gallantry and were hoping to enlist your help in determining the rating we should award this volume, based on the excerpt we have included below.

Another Miscalculation, the bonus material included in this volume, is, in fact, a continuation of one of the shorts from our first volume, Rumors & Revelations, which is currently available on Amazon. You do not need to purchase the first book to follow this second, though they complement each other, but this excerpt contains the scene we are questioning.

You may also be curious about our title, one which we had planned from the advent of this series, and have included detailed information as to what Gaslighting means in our synopsis on Amazon.  Here is a snippet of that synopsis:

Subtle or overt gaslighting, or attempt at overwriting another’s known reality, was exhibited more than once as important plot points by Jane Austen in “Pride & Prejudice.” It is not shocking that Caroline Bingley was one of the master manipulators, but it would surprise some to know Mr Darcy had a hand in it as well. While one was arguably intentionally done and the other not, the plot to separate Jane and Mr Bingley happened through many conniving moves affecting the couple and what they thought they knew was developing between them. Luckily for them, Elizabeth Bennet did not fall for the subterfuge.

Though gaslighting was not a term known during the regency era, Austen not only displayed it brilliantly, she demonstrated that the gallant party could come also in the form of a former gaslighting offender, not just a beloved sister. This is seen in the event that occurred between Lt. Wickham and Lydia Bennet. Speculations as to his true motivations rarely say that the master seducer had intentional designs of marrying Lydia without any proper inducement. What may or may not have happened had Mr Darcy not pursued them is for another time, but in his act, he showed he had learned from his previous behaviours.

So, read the excerpt and let us know – if this is the friskiest Darcy and Elizabeth get, would you still consider this a “sweet” romance collection? Or would you like to be forewarned with a “mature content” warning? Is there an in-between?

Please note, this is an ARC excerpt of Another Miscalculation and may alter slightly in its final version in production. If you would like to receive the entire bonus story, Another Miscalculation, in advance to publication, please comment on that request as well and you will be contacted!

Please comment with your vote for “sweet” or “mature” or any other heat signifier by May 28, 2020, to win one of 5 free digital copies of the entire Volume 2! Enjoy! 

Aubrey Anderson & Marion Kay Hill

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The Pocket Book Series, Vol. 2: Gaslighting & Gallantry

Another Miscalculation

Chapter 1

THE UNWITTING DISCOVERY

Darcy felt helpless as he swung at the flying insect that would not leave him alone. So preoccupied with the task of successfully making contact with the annoying beast, he almost stood up, something he suspected he should not do. This assumption was solely based on the heat source applied to his upper thigh. A hand was placed there and was applying a gentle, but firm pressure.

Taking a few deep breaths, Darcy knew acting on his thoughts would not be appropriate in their current situation, especially considering how close their proximity was to the gates of the Hunsford parsonage. Directing his attention away from the hand on his leg and the additional warmth emanating from the figure at his side, Darcy looked through the bushes to see what his partner was diligently watching and could see nothing but trees, grass, and gravel.

“Elizabeth, I agreed to take your lead, but when we made that agreement, I was unaware that meant hiding in the dirt.”

On their way back from agreeing to an understanding-that their futures were entwined-Darcy and Elizabeth did minimal speaking. The distance took them twice as long to walk, because they made frequent, unplanned stops. During those embraces, Elizabeth could have asked Darcy for anything, and he would have granted it. He vaguely had a notion that she explained why they were to keep their presence unknown until a precise moment occurred, but the reason was not coming to mind at the moment.

To say Darcy was blissfully ignorant was an understatement, but in truth, nothing mattered to him as long as he was at Elizabeth’s side. And he would be, now and forever.

They had some ironing out to do in regards to the objections to their match one of her relations had raised and, of course, those from Lady Catherine, but seeing that Elizabeth no longer held any complaints the others were of no consequence. Had it not been a comment by Elizabeth during dinner at Rosings the other night, Darcy could not guess whether they would have the understanding they did now.

Darcy mentally chuckled to himself how close he came to not ever having her for his own, keenly aware that his current elation was due to the relief from the despair he felt last night and earlier this morning. There was even a point he thought he might have to forgo Elizabeth and see her married to another while marrying his cousin Anne. What a dastardly thought that all was now.

Elizabeth’s hand moved from his thigh, and he felt a cold void where the warmth once was. Her only response to his inquiry was to place a finger over his lips, in a gesture he was sure was meant to quiet him, but he could not help but accept it as an invitation to kiss her hand.

After allowing several gentle presses and rewarding him with a soft giggle, Elizabeth returned her hand to his thigh. In most sitting positions, he would have gladly allowed this indulgent touch to continue, but his legs were not used to a squatting position and had begun to cramp.

Trying as he might to withstand moving, which most likely would end their close contact, Darcy finally gave in and pushed himself into a sitting position. As the move was unrehearsed, he somehow pinned Elizabeth’s hand between his thigh and lower abdomen and pulled her with him. Though the action lasted only a moment, and she was able to free her hand quickly, the initial force from the tug was enough to pull her body forward with him.

Landing atop him as though it was by design, they both gave out silent chuckles. Holding the position for a moment, Elizabeth, whose head was closer to Darcy’s stomach than face, looked up at him with a contented smile, one he could not help but return. Darcy was sure she could tell his breathing was beginning to quicken, but he did not care. The fact that she was looking at him in such a fashion was making his heart swell, and his thoughts rush to the possibilities of the future.

Of course, two days ago, before that fateful dinner, had he been told that they would be laying in such a position, his first thought would have assumed it was a natural progression of their betrothal. The second would have been that it was nowhere near proper for the future mistress of his estate to encourage such behaviour from him. Darcy, at that earlier point, assumed she felt the same as him and that she was eager to become his obedient wife.

That thought had him almost guffawing at his arrogance. Indeed, Elizabeth even rightly interpreted his expectations of her when they argued over the possibility of their marrying. When they first met this morning, her behaviour was so jarring, and unlike her, he wondered if he had even perceived her truly before. How could he have ever thought he wanted anything but the real Elizabeth as his wife.

Deferential and docile were not attributes of Elizabeth Bennet, nor would they be of any woman that would attract him. Yet, his father had a different notion as to what a man should expect in a wife, and it had been ingrained into Darcy since birth. He had been able to mentally supersede the voice of his father in regards to the gentlewoman who would attract the offer of his hand, but he had been less successful in presenting himself that way.

Loyal, courageous, honourable, faithful, devoted-all those that he once thought of himself is what he saw in Elizabeth. That she stood her ground this morning and laid at his feet the gaps in his character that he had to mend was humbling. But with those difficult conversations, she showed him that she trusted him to better himself, and he knew he could be the man she needed him to be.

His internal mirth quickly broke to the acknowledgement that those thoughts were still a part of him. His father’s words had filled his head so long; it will take great practice to tame them. Elation about her decision to entertain being married to him did not change who he was, and she had made it clear that he could do better.

He felt a surge of pride and gratefulness in Elizabeth’s confidence in him. It would not truly be a change in his character, as he could remember a time when his mother encouraged him to act better, but those learnings seemed to be a lifetime ago. He would do his best in welcoming Elizabeth’s opinions and assistance, as he knew she would not hesitate to provide them.

How could he have ever thought a passive acceptance of his hand would make him happy? He was sure there would be more battles to win, but having gone through the past two days has felt like they were genuinely forging a connection, one that would withstand time.

Elizabeth was peering through the hedges and turned back to Darcy with a relieved look on her face. Instead of telling him what she saw, or in actuality, did not see, her expression changed momentarily to one of bemused questioning in an apparent reaction to his admiring grin. It was but a moment, as her eyes darkened, and he immediately sensed her quickening breath.

He looked around and saw how perfect a hiding spot she had chosen. They were surrounded in shrubs and fully shadowed by several large trees. Unless someone was specifically looking for them or they were reasonably unlucky, it was not highly likely they would be detected. That is unless one of them stood up or made a sound, and Elizabeth had handled the former, and he would be sure not to violate the latter.

He pulled her along his body to have them finally face to face. Darcy paused, nose to nose with Elizabeth, and waited for her to be comfortable once again. It did not take long, and she initiated the kiss. This new position allowed Elizabeth to exert more pressure than she had dared before.

She was grateful for this exciting new element to their encounters as this was all still very new to her. When she was younger and played out in the fields with the neighbourhood children, there were times when she accepted a kiss from a friend or delivered one on a dare. Still, it had been some time since she allowed herself to even entertain a delightful little peck on the cheek or quick touch to the lips by a beau. Any thoughts as a lady out in society did not go anywhere near an interaction such as this.

To think, only days ago, she would not even have considered Mr Darcy an option for one of those thoughts. How had she allowed herself to be compromised in such a way by him now? Because, indeed, that was what was happening, as their marriage had been implied, but not even verbally secured. Not to say that her agreeing, or even her father signing a marriage agreement, was enough to warrant this behaviour, as she would never have imagined doing such a thing with anyone but her actual husband.

Darcy’s hands, which he had placed near her shoulders initially, began to move up and down her back slowly. This new sensation, in this provocative position, sufficiently distracted Elizabeth from her current line of thought. She had not realised that as her thoughts neared personal condemnation, her kisses became lighter and lighter.

Feeling the change in her movements of pace and pressure, which included Elizabeth freely running her hands through his hair and up and down his arms, Darcy began to unconsciously move his own hands to explore and learn this new terrain. That it was Elizabeth he was experiencing this with had created such a thrill in him, he dared not move more than his arms, for fear he would give away his excitement.

Deciding her actions, their concealment, and the still early hour allowed them to be a bit bolder, he began to reach lower. When no adverse reaction came from her, he dared to explore and feel as far as he could reach. The thrill of this freedom, of all his new hopes and desires culminating at this moment, he broke their lip-locked kiss and began kissing down her face to her neck.

Elizabeth let out a quiet moan akin to that of the one she did earlier when he accidentally stroked the side of her breast, but this time, she did not pull away. Instead, she leaned her head back to allow him more access to her. However, this now was not enough for Darcy.

With a low groan, he grabbed onto her and swung them both over, so he was now on top. She was surprised by the action, but it quickly turned into an amused smile, one he did not return for long, as she reached up for him to kiss her again. He had not missed her heavy breathing or her rose-stained cheeks, all that culminated in him desiring more.

Trailing again down the path of kissing her cheek, chin, and then neck, he had unrestricted access to continue moving lower. As he did, Elizabeth’s back arched to meet him, and he blindly began to remove Elizabeth’s dress and shift from one of her shoulders. Feeling the velvety soft texture under his fingertips, a wave of intensity swept over him, and he could not keep from tugging more at her garment and continuing to kiss down her shoulder towards her arm.

As he got past her collarbone, he could not keep from taking a quick nip of her soft skin. Looking down at her shoulder he experienced a mingled feeling of pride that he would be the only one to ever leave such a spot on her, and disappointment, that the mark itself, though light and temporary, had reddened her smooth complexion.

Looking back to his Elizabeth, he was jolted out of this euphoric state by the expression on her turned away face. Darcy then realised that her whole form had gone ridged, and she now clutched her hands into fits at her sides. He had been aware that after they swapped positions, her hands and arms had only held him, but he assumed that was because she was overwhelmed at experiencing something new.

Elizabeth was overwhelmed, but she did not consider it unfavourable. Though she may not use the same words of felicity he would, she was stimulated and amazed at this experience in her own way. When he flipped them over, she was shocked at the move, but mostly she was secretly thrilled that this was happening with him.

Though she had been suppressing it at every turn, Elizabeth realised she began to let the happiness she felt at being admired by someone such as him start to filter into her consciousness. That a man, as powerful, wealthy, and to be honest, handsome, as him, wanted her, Elizabeth Bennet, was beyond flattering. And she did feel flattered, but unlike with Wickham, whose notice of her was above that of her younger sister who made everything a competition, Darcy’s implied approbation of her as a whole was very gratifying.

As her Mama would say, to attract such a man was the epitome of her existence. Only a title would trump Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley of Derbyshire, with 10,000 a year, if that was what he earned, but she was able to succeed where no one else did, with no effort of conscious doing of her own. She could not lie, she now will receive full enjoyment at the accounts of shock from Mrs Bennet, when she hears the news of their betrothal. The validation of who she was and how she conducted herself would buoy her spirits throughout the likely hardships they were to experience due to the actions of others.

And Darcy, one who she would never have suspected, picked her. Had she known, would she have behaved differently-? She could not say and decided it would be futile to speculate.

As Darcy made his way down her neck to her shoulder, she could not help but wonder what their engagement would be like. Was it too late for her to ask for a courtship? Not considering the damage that Lady Catherine and her cousin had already wrought on their reputations, would she be so bold as to set some ground rules with him as to what she wanted before they wed? Indeed, what she needed. Though they seemed intertwined now for life, she still felt she needed to know more of him in a setting that did not also come with the demands and duties of a position.

And then he bit her. It was only a pinch, something that she would not even have cried out over, but it was a step too far. A line she did not realise she had, but it had been crossed.

This was only day two, after all, and what had they done? What was she allowing them to do? She could not say this was all Darcy’s doing, because he was considerate and asked or looked for her approval every step of the way. She was an equal participant in this, this, whatever this was. Did married couples even behave such as this? What was she doing?

All Elizabeth could do was turn her head away and go still. She had no power to say anything to alert him to any of her thoughts. What would she say, even if she could? Her hands began to hurt as she became painfully aware that she was pressing her fingernails into the palms. So distracted, she was not aware when Darcy noticed she was no longer reciprocating his advances.

It was a pregnant moment before Darcy found his voice to speak.

“Elizabeth -” She cut him off with just a look. One mingled with fear and desperation. He hoped he understood her silent communication and moved to sitting next to her, affecting a casual and calm pose with one knee bent underneath him and an arm draped over the other.

He then was able to take her all in and saw that his last yank at her clothing to expose more of her arm and shoulder, actually bared her left breast as well. Momentarily not able to look away, more due to being astonished than of desire, Elizabeth followed his line of sight to her chest and sat quickly up, whispering to herself.

Perversely, when Darcy first sat up, she could not help but feel a wave of desire roll over her. A dishevelled Darcy was a very handsome one. A new flutter shot through her as she knew she would be the only one from here on out to witness him as such. The betrayal of her body at this sight, coupled with her realising, she had more flesh exposed than she ever imagined, brought a shot of hot shame to her entire body.

Shaking, Elizabeth covered herself the best she could. She held one of her hands to her chest to keep her garments from falling as she attempted to sit more up. Darcy held out his hands to help her, and she could do nothing but swat his hands away as the tears she had been holding back were now spilling over her cheeks.

Finally, in a kneeling position, she dared not meet his gaze and managed to swivel her body around so her back was to him. Taking a moment to allow herself to sob quietly, she decided to think about what was the next step and leave the personal anguish she felt to dissect later. Right now, they needed to get themselves out of this concealed location and into the company of others. Because she understood she could not be trusted to be alone with him anymore, because more lines would begin to be crossed. Lines that had higher consequences.

When Elizabeth first sat up, she had whispered, “No, no, no, no.” And if it was not for the distress he felt on her behalf, and for her reaction, it might have been enough to make him crumble. Here was a human being who had full power over him, whether she knew it or not. His ego and emotional state were hers to control and most likely would be until he felt more secure in their connection.

Her swatting his hands away felt like a stinging rebuke. Would she ever allow him to touch her again? He was sure it was not as bad as that, but he could not help but wonder what he could do to fix the situation. If only he had controlled himself, had not moved beyond kissing, which she permitted.

“Elizabeth, did I harm you?” Elizabeth stilled in her actions the second he began to speak. A sharp shake of her head and a raised hand was all the response she could offer.

She deserved better than this. Not because she was his betrothed, but because he wanted her to have it all, especially from him. The thought of reducing her to tears was the final blow, and he slumped over.

The little flying pest had returned, and he began doing his best to shoo it away. The fly was small and plainly inexperienced as it kept giving him the opportunity to kill it. Could he hope that was all that distressed Elizabeth? Her inexperience?

He smoothed his hair and what he could of his attire and noticed her shawl laying to his side. It was a crisp morning, and she had been laying half-naked on the cold earth, something he had not even taken into consideration. Who now was the one showing his inexperience?

Elizabeth looked at her attire and then at the small movement on her right. Darcy had tossed over her shawl, and she picked it up and inspected it. A breeze moved through, and she was suddenly aware of how cool of a day it was, something she had not honestly thought about earlier. Her cheeks grew pink as she was sure it was his company that had kept her warm previously.

Turning the shawl over, Elizabeth realised there was no way to hide the dirt and embedded leaves in the thick material. Her eyes began to burn with fresh tears. Even if she was able to perfectly smooth her hair and right her clothing, as she knew she could not, the damage done to her white shawl was nothing that could be easily explained away.

Rigidly wiping the tears from her cheeks, Elizabeth gave herself a chance to take one more deep breath, and then turned around. Her sudden movement startled Darcy to attention, and she could not help admire that he looked just as he had this morning. She could not imagine anyone questioning his appearance.

The disparity in how they appeared brought the disgrace of what she had done to the forefront of her mind. It was right for her not to be able to hide her dishevelment. It was her cross to bear, and she was strong enough for this. It was a choice she made, and she was soon to be a mistress of a household and needed to begin assuming the role she would lead. That others would look to her to lead.

Darcy watched her, in her kneeling position, look him once over and then herself and wondered at her conclusion. She looked enchanting as always but seemed to be concerned about their outward appearances when they were on the hill, so he waited for her inspection to be complete before speaking.

Her complexion was the palest he had ever seen, and she appeared to have begun to cry again. Though silent, the sight of her tears made him want to grovel at her feet and beg her to tell him how to fix it. This submissive thought surprised him, but he did not have a chance to think more on the subject as Elizabeth lifted her shoulders and straightened her back, an action he recognised from his father when he came to a decision that was about to be announced.

In a low but firm voice, Elizabeth laid out her plan. “Though I do believe you could pass under inspection, I, on the other hand, would not. I think we should both return to our respective homes and right ourselves and then meet back at the parsonage.”

She finished what she had to say, and though her head was held high, and her posture perfect, she did not meet his eyesight, which was beginning to unnerve him. Elizabeth spoke of separating but meeting back up again, soon, but he needed further assurance from her. Darcy needed to know her thoughts; he could not leave assuming he knew. He would not ever do that again.

Darcy reached out to take her hand, and before he touched her, she flinched and reflexively pulled her hand back. With an apologetic look on her face, she finally looked him in the eye. But only for a moment.

“We will talk later. Meet me at the parsonage in an hour.” And with that, she stood up, turned around and gave out a small yelp.

“Miss Bennet, what has happened?”

Quickly scrambling to his feet, Darcy was met with the sight of his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who was rapidly closing the space across the lawn between them and the lane to the parsonage.

“Darcy? What are you doing here?” It only took the Colonel a moment to take in both of their appearances and their location to come to a fairly accurate conclusion as to what they were doing.

Elizabeth’s head, neck, and shoulders were all red, and she would not make eye contact with either gentleman. After an extended awkward pause, Elizabeth shifted her weight to the side and gave a curtsey.

“Gentlemen.” As she turned to leave, her shawl shifted, and Colonel Fitzwilliam saw the left shoulder of her dress was torn, and he instantly became stern.

This was the first Darcy saw of the ripped material and felt remorse once again, over his actions. As Elizabeth hurried towards the parsonage, Darcy could not help but follow her with his eyes the entire way, hoping she might turn to give him a small smile or some indication that all would be alright. But it was not meant to be. She walked straight up to the parsonage, paused a moment before opening the door, and then went in.

Turning back to his cousin, who had not stopped staring at him with a look of disgust, Darcy could only look at him expectantly. He would not be discussing Elizabeth and his relationship with anyone, beyond the minor details a father or protector might need to know, and his cousin was no exception.

After a long pause, Darcy lifted an eyebrow, and the Colonel finally spoke. “Her Ladyship has sent me to find you. You have been summoned.”

With a sigh, Darcy nodded and began to move around the hedge to join his cousin back to Rosings. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“And after that, cousin, we need to talk.” By the tone in his voice, it seemed the Colonel had assigned himself the role of protector.

**** 

What did you think? Leave your thoughts about the heat level of the excerpt in the comments for a chance to win. Good luck!

And thank you to Aubrey and Marion for being my guests today. Congratulations on your upcoming release!

Hello, my friends! I’m excited to welcome Jack Caldwell back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of his latest novel, Persuaded to Sail. I’ve loved all of the books in the Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series, so I can’t wait to get a chance to read it. Jack is here to share an excerpt from Persuaded to Sail, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. Please give him a warm welcome!

~~~

Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

Anna was kind enough to allow me to announce the publication of my latest work, my long-promised sequel to Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, PERSUADED TO SAIL!

PERSUADED TO SAIL, a sequel to Persuasion and Book Three of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is a companion novel to my other novels in this series, THE THREE COLONELS and THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. This means that all three books happen at the same time (the 1815 Hundred Days Crisis and the Battle of Waterloo) and many of the characters know each other in my expanded Austenseque universe. The cross-overs include Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.

Persuaded to Sail, my tenth published novel, stands on its own, but your reading pleasure will be enhanced by including the other books.

So, let’s kick things off. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter. While Persuaded to Sail picks up almost immediately after the events in Persuasion, there are other forces at work. Forces that will influence the Wentworths’ honeymoon cruise to Bermuda.

~~~

March 1815, London

Deep in the government building, an office clock chimed the first hour of the day. The gloomy room was illuminated by a single candle on one side of a large desk. Heavy curtains covered the single small window. The desk groaned under the weight of numerous papers, books, and memoranda. Opposite the candle sat three glasses and a crystal decanter, half filled with amber liquid. The only other furniture in the office consisted of a few chairs.

Behind the desk, a gentleman—a peer by appearance—sat quietly, scribbling upon the paper before him. It was not the first time he had worked into the wee hours, and it would not be the last.

He looked up at the knock upon the door. It was only for form’s sake—his guest showed himself a moment later without leave. The gentleman swallowed his annoyance at the man’s impertinence.

“Were you seen? Were you followed?” the gentleman offered in lieu of a welcome.

“No,” his guest answered.

“Are you certain?” The gentleman eyed the expensive clothing the other man wore.

“Of course. That is why I am still alive.”

“Very fortunate for you.” The gentleman’s sentiment did not sound entirely sincere. “Laurence cannot say the same.”

“What? How?”

His guest was rarely shaken, and the gentleman almost enjoyed his reaction to the news. Almost.

“The newspaper says a carriage accident, but we know better. Too convenient for our French friend—far too convenient.”

“Devil take it,” the guest muttered while glaring at the floor. “Laurence was a good man.” He looked up at the gentleman with intense, hooded eyes. “Do you wish for me to look into this matter?”

“Do not concern yourself. Others will deal with those responsible.”

“Who?” the guest demanded, his face hard and angry.

“Carter and Smythe.”

The guest growled, “Carter is a fool!”

“That is why Smythe accompanies him. Do you doubt his abilities?”

“As an assassin? No.”

“How kind of you to approve.” The gentleman’s reply was filled with sarcasm before he caught himself. “I believe Laurence was a friend of yours. My sympathies.”

His guest’s face transformed into its usual bored demeanor. “Thank you, m’lord.”

The gentleman’s lips twitched; his guest rarely recognized his title. He reached for the crystal decanter. “A drink, then, to poor Laurence.”

The guest received his glass with a suspicious look. “It is not often you condescend to share your brandy.” He took a sip. “Ah, the good cognac. The excellent, illegal cognac.” He lowered his glass. “What is it you want me to do?”

The gentleman took no offense; the man knew many things about his dealings. And he knew many things about his guest’s dealings. Their situation was balanced on a knife’s edge.

“Since you were such a good friend of Laurence, it occurred to us you should take his place.”

His guest blinked, took another sip of cognac, and then set the glass down on the desk. “Exactly, what was Laurence’s place?”

“Bern, Switzerland. Laurence was on his way to board ship at Yarmouth when he was…intercepted.”

“And you wish me to take his place.”

“Yes.”

“And to wear his target upon my back.”

The gentleman shook his head. “Now, now, none of that. We have taken steps to protect you. We plan a diversion. There is no danger at all.”

“Do not insult my intelligence, m’lord,” the guest said slowly. “You would be very happy to be rid of me.”

“My dear sir!” cried the gentleman insincerely. “You have done great service for the Crown. We would not put you in any peril.”

“By sending me to Bern? It is a viper’s nest.”

“True, but we are certain you can take care of yourself.”

The guest sat back in his chair. “And if I refuse this assignment?”

The gentleman’s eyes grew cold. “You would not dare.”

The two men spent some time staring at each other. Finally, his guest broke the silence.

“When shall I be allowed to retire from this…business?”

“When we have no more use of you. Your talents are unique and of great importance to us.”

“Yes, my talents,” the guest said sadly. “My gift and my curse.” He shook himself. “Very well. I suppose you have some papers for me?”

The gentleman pointed to two packets on his desk. “This one contains your traveling papers.” He indicated the smaller of the two. “The other should not leave this building.”

“I understand.” The guest gazed at the larger packet. “I shall return tomorrow. It should not take more than a couple of hours.”

“Come disguised,” the gentleman ordered. “Not dressed like a dandy.”

“Of course. Now, pray tell me of this diversion that should safeguard me.”

The gentleman went into great detail about the plans that had been drawn. The guest’s frown revealed his dislike of some of its aspects.

“Must you use Tomlinson?” the guest asked. “He is but a babe.”

“I agree, but his resemblance to you is remarkable, particularly dressed in your clothes.”

“Our Lord watch over him,” his guest murmured.

“It is late. Get some sleep, and I shall see you in the afternoon.”

The guest took the smaller of the two packets, rose from his chair, and made for the door. Over his shoulder, he asked, “You did not say what ship I shall board at Portsmouth.”

“Did I not? Forgive my oversight.” The gentleman glanced at his papers. “HMS Laconia.”

~~~

PERSUADED TO SAIL, a sequel to Persuasion and Book Three of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is available from White Soup Press in paperback and Kindle. EPUB versions will be available later in the year.

BUT, since I’m a nice guy, I will give away a copy in your choice of print, Kindle, or EPUB! Just leave a comment below. The giveaway will be open through Saturday, May 23, 2020. Good luck!

(Print copy is only available to the continental U.S. Sorry. Blame the Post Office.)

~~~

Thanks, Jack, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

I am delighted to welcome Jennifer Redlarcyzk back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of A Mother’s Touch, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired short story collection. Jen is sharing a special excerpt in celebration of Mother’s Day, and I hope you all enjoy this glimpse of a young Fitzwilliam Darcy. Please give her a warm welcome!

Anna, I’m so happy to be back visiting your blog today with my Mother’s Day Anthology, A Mother’s Touch. This book is a collection of seven stories inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. See Lady Anne through the eyes of her daughter, Georgiana, in Lady Anne’s Quilt. Experience the relationship young Fitzwilliam has with his mother in An Act of Kindness and Our Special Day. Then join Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth and discover how wonderful it is to have Lady Anne’s influence in their lives as they become parents in Our Future.

Since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, I thought your readers might enjoy a little trip to the past with young Fitzwilliam and George Wickham. In this scene from Our Special Day, ten-year-old Fitzwilliam is going on a picnic with his mother while his father is gone for the day. Let’s see what our young lad is thinking as he waits for his dear mama.

After the phaeton was loaded, Fitzwilliam waited patiently in the foyer for his mother to come down the stairs. Although he loved to go on an adventure with George Wickham, he was glad that his childhood friend had gone into Lambton with his own father today and would not be accompanying them.

For some reason, George always had a way of turning an adventure into something dangerous or a situation where he, Fitzwilliam, got into trouble. It was not much more than a week ago that the boy had finished serving his punishment for their last disastrous escapade.

That particular day the afternoon had been warm and sunny when Fitzwilliam and George Wickham returned from their daily ride. Walking back from the stables to the house, George noticed two snakes sunning themselves on top of some cut logs piled against the side of the wood shed. The curious boys could not resist taking a closer look. Although the snakes slithered under the logs when the boys approached, that did not stop the two adventurers. They began to dislodge log after log until they came upon a small nest of smooth snakes.

Thinking it would make an interesting study, Fitzwilliam took hold of one of the snakes by the back of its head and held it up. “I need to take this snake to the Nature Room so I can make some notes in my journal. George, will you please put the logs back and join me?” he called out, not waiting for an answer as he began running towards the back of the house.

George was not pleased to be left with the task and grumbled while he haphazardly threw the logs back on the pile. “What makes you so special, Fitzwilliam, giving orders as though you have already inherited? Humph!”

Hurriedly entering the Nature Room from the outside entrance, Fitzwilliam knew just where to look for a holding cage. After securing the snake inside, he quickly took out his journal and began making notes and sketches of the reptile.

Not long after, he was joined by George who idly strolled in and draped himself over the edge of the table. Taking little interest in what Fitzwilliam was doing he remarked, “I simply cannot understand why you must make drawings and write about every single creature you find in that old journal. It is so boring. Would it not be more fun to take the snake down to the laundry and scare the washerwomen?”

“No, George. It would not. And as the future Master of Pemberley, I forbid it.”

“Why is it that every time I get a great idea you challenge me with that Master superiority? What makes you any better than me?”

“I never said I was superior, George. But Papa says that because I will one day be the Master, I must begin to take responsibility where the estate is concerned.”

“You know, Fitzwilliam, I would be a far better Master than you. I am two years older for one thing. Furthermore, I am far handsomer and will have much more success with the ladies.”

“I care nothing about ladies,” he flatly said. Do you not remember how silly those Bennington girls were when they came here last month with their father? They tittered and whispered and were not in the least bit interesting.”

“Well, you were not exactly friendly. You just sulked around looking at the floor. I do not think you said more than three words to those girls the whole time they were visiting.”

He shrugged. “I had nothing to say. Besides, a gentleman has far better things to do than placate young ladies.”

George let out a roaring laugh. “What are you saying? Miss Bethany was stunning. Did you not notice her long flaxen curls and how her eyes fluttered every single time I spoke with her? Fitzwilliam, are you even listening to me?!”

“Not really. I have a lot of work to do here if I am going to put this snake back before afternoon tea. I promised my mama I would visit with her then.”

“If you say so. I for one cannot take any more of your study. I shall see you later, Master Fitzwilliam! I am going in search of my own adventure.” George laughed with abandon as he left the Nature Room.

Continuing on for another hour or so, Fitzwilliam drew pictures and studied the movements of the snake, making appropriate notations in his journal. The snake was moulting and he was able to secure a piece of loose skin for later study under his mother’s microscope. After examining the snake until the last possible moment, he quickly put everything away and then returned the snake to the nest before joining his mother. Fitzwilliam knew that he should alert Mr. Reynolds about the snakes, but he wanted one more day to study his find before the staff dismantled it.

In retrospection, he should have realised the snakes’ nest would be too tempting for his friend George to ignore. After Fitzwilliam left the nature room, George snuck back to garner one of the collection boxes with the intention of extracting all of the snakes to carry-out his great idea. Early in the evening, George placed the box of snakes close to the entrance of the hen house, opening the lid just enough for them to slither out of. Finding a place to hide, he eagerly waited for the fun to begin.

When the hens were alerted to the presence of the snakes, the coop turned into complete chaos. By the time one or two of the workers came to investigate the commotion, the hens were clucking frantically with feathers flying in every which direction. As soon as the snakes were spotted, panic took over. In the rush to catch the reptiles and secure the hens, a lantern was carelessly set aside and subsequently knocked over causing the straw on the floor to catch fire. Fortunately, no one was injured, although nothing could be done to save the hen house.

James Darcy was not pleased when he learned of the disaster. He was sure the fire must have been caused by some form of negligence and wanted to know who was responsible. Fitzwilliam had accompanied his father to the site, as did George and his father. When Fitzwilliam saw the partially burnt collection box lying by what was left of the wooden door, he immediately looked to George with a furrowed brow and knew what had happened. George shrugged when he saw Fitzwilliam’s glare and bolted in the direction of the stables.

Fitzwilliam ran after him and caught up with George just outside of the barn. His father had told him that even though he was yet a boy, as young Master, he was also responsible for the estate and those who were under his charge. While George was his friend, Mr. Wickham was an employee of the estate. Fitzwilliam would have to insist that George come with him, and the two of them would make the confession together.

“George Wickham! Why did you let those snakes loose in the hen house? My father is going to be very angry when he finds out.”

George frowned and then stood boldly. “Why does he have to find out? It was just an innocent prank. I really did not mean for any harm to come to the hens.”

“George, the hen house is completely destroyed! People could have been hurt putting out that fire. You and I are going to talk to my father, NOW!”

Laughing out loud George chided, “And who is going to make me? Is it you, Master Fitzwilliam?!

“YES!” Without waiting, Fitzwilliam took a flying lunge at George and the two began fighting as if their lives depended upon the outcome. In the end, the boys were so exhausted that they could hardly move from where they lay on the ground.Finally, Fitzwilliam grabbed George by the hand and pulled him up. “Come on, George. You know that we have to tell.” George groaned, holding onto his side as they continued back to the house in silence.

Both James Darcy and Jeremy Wickham were in the study going over the damages and discussing plans to rebuild the structure when their two dishevelled sons appeared at the doorway. Upon seeing his son, James stood up from behind the desk with a very cross expression on his face.

“What is this, Fitzwilliam?”

The boys entered, and Fitzwilliam began to tell his father the story of the snakes. Although George had ultimately been the cause of the damage, Fitzwilliam took the majority of the blame upon himself.

“Sir, I am truly sorry. It is my fault. I knew of the snake’s nest and decided against telling Mr. Reynolds because of my own selfish interests. Had I spoken up when we found the snakes, this disaster would not have happened.”

Both fathers were very disappointed in their sons. As a punishment, the boys had to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding of the hen house, and once that was completed, they would spent the remainder of their free time confined to their respective living quarters for the following two weeks.

I hope you enjoyed our little journey to the past and I would love to hear your thoughts about both Fitzwilliam and George. Your comments will enter you in my giveaway for one of TWO eBooks of A Mother’s Touch. The giveaway will be open through May 16, 2020. Thanks so much for stopping by, and if you have a chance, please take a look at my Pinterest page where I have 74 pictures for this book.

Jen Redlarczyk ♫

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

To grab your copy of A Mother’s Touch, visit Amazon or Books2Read to buy from other ebook stores. Happy reading!

I can’t wait to get a chance to read Exile Music by Jennifer Steil, which is on sale today. I’m so excited about this book, so I wanted to do a release day spotlight to see if all of you are as intrigued as I am.

Here’s the blurb:

Based on an unexplored slice of World War II history, Exile Music is the captivating story of a young Jewish girl whose family flees refined and urbane Vienna for safe harbor in the mountains of Bolivia

As a young girl growing up in Vienna in the 1930s, Orly has an idyllic childhood filled with music. Her father plays the viola in the Philharmonic, her mother is a well-regarded opera singer, her beloved and charismatic older brother holds the neighborhood in his thrall, and most of her eccentric and wonderful extended family live nearby. Only vaguely aware of Hitler’s rise or how her Jewish heritage will define her family’s identity, Orly spends her days immersed in play with her best friend and upstairs neighbor, Anneliese. Together they dream up vivid and elaborate worlds, where they can escape the growing tensions around them.

But in 1938, Orly’s peaceful life is shattered when the Germans arrive. Her older brother flees Vienna first, and soon Orly, her father, and her mother procure refugee visas for La Paz, a city high up in the Bolivian Andes. Even as the number of Jewish refugees in the small community grows, her family is haunted by the music that can no longer be their livelihood, and by the family and friends they left behind. While Orly and her father find their footing in the mountains, Orly’s mother grows even more distant, harboring a secret that could put their family at risk again. Years pass, the war ends, and Orly must decide: Is the love and adventure she has found in La Paz what defines home, or is the pull of her past in Europe–and the piece of her heart she left with Anneliese–too strong to ignore?

For more information about the book and various buy links, please visit the publisher’s website.

I’d like to give a big congratulations to Jennifer Steil on her release day, and a big thank you to Viking/Penguin for a copy of the book!

I’m so glad to welcome Monica Fairview back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Fortune and Felicity. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of Monica’s Pride and Prejudice variations, so to say I’m excited about this book would be an understatement. Monica is here today for an amusing chat with some friends…I’m sure you’ll recognize them. 🙂 Please give her a warm welcome!

****

I’m delighted to be paying a social call on Anna at Diary of an Eccentric, and to have the chance to see some of my friends here, old and new. With all the anxiety in the world around us, it is wonderful to be able to share the pleasure of talking about books and about the more sedate world of Regency England. There is nothing like a book to soothe the soul and take us away from the burdens of everyday life.

Before I start, let me ring for my Earl Grey tea and settle down to have our conversation.

I’ve been asked to tell you a little bit about a book called Fortune and Felicity. I am more than happy to answer some questions.

Ah, I see there are several people here who have something to ask. Just allow me a brief sip of my tea before I attend to you.

You can’t wait, Mrs. Bennet? Very well. I will drink my tea after I’ve answered your question.

Question from Mrs. Bennet: It’s been seven whole years, and I still haven’t forgiven Lizzy for not marrying Mr. Collins. And then she had to marry a navy captain, who was completely useless, and inconveniently drowned at sea. What’s to become of Lizzy, without a penny to her name? *Mrs. Bennet wipes her brow with her lace handkerchief.

Calm yourself, Mrs. Bennet. Lizzy is a resourceful young lady. She has applied for several positions as a governess. With so many nieces and nephews, she is very experienced in taking care of children. I do believe she will make an excellent governess. Of course, it would have been helpful if you and Mr. Bennet had ensured she was taught by a governess in order to have mastered certain skills like languages and painting, but I am sure a good position will come her way.

Would you like me to pour you some tea, Mrs. Bennet. No? You are having problems with your nerves? I understand. Perhaps a seat near the window will calm your agitation.

Now, where was I?

Question from Jane: Why is Lizzy so obstinate? Does she really think it would be more comfortable taking up a position in a stranger’s household than living with us? It is so convenient for us to have her here. The children adore her, and she spares me the trouble of having to scold them all the time.

You have to understand, Jane, it isn’t easy being a dependent. Much as Lizzy loves looking after the little ones, she has to strike out and find her own way in the world. Surely you must see that she can’t live with you for the rest of her life?

Question from Charlotte Lucas: Why doesn’t Lizzy visit me anymore? Ever since Mr. Collins and I settled in Longbourn, I have the feeling she has been avoiding me.

Well, Charlotte, you have to admit it would be rather painful for Lizzy to visit you at her former home, knowing that you are now the mistress of the property, and not Mrs. Bennet. She has many happy memories there, you know.

Question from Lizzy to herself: Am I being extremely foolish to leave the safety of Jane’s household to face a very uncertain future? If Mr. Darcy offers me a position as a governess, will I find myself in a very awkward situation, living in Pemberley?

The real question, Lizzy, is do you believe Mr. Darcy is an honorable gentleman? There is nothing in his past behavior to suggest otherwise, and if he has promised to limit his contact with you, surely there should be no problem? Pemberley is huge. You could spend months there and not run into him. You will be on your side of the house, and he will be on his.

Question from Mr. Darcy: Is Elizabeth a threat to my peace of mind? Am I taking a huge risk by inviting her to live under my roof? After I have recovered from that terrible proposal, is she a danger to me in any way?

Mr. Darcy, I’m afraid Lizzy is always going to be a danger to you. There are ways, of course, to handle the situation, and it’s important for you to keep your distance. You will have to ask yourself whether there is any chance your feelings for her will resurface, and that is a question I can’t answer at this time.

****

There is a draught in here, and I need to fetch my shawl, but I’ll leave you with a short excerpt to read while I’m gone. This scene comes just after their first encounter when Elizabeth is out.

Elizabeth watched Mr. Darcy as he returned the way he came, the hazel stems swishing as he pushed his way past them. He was so mercurial, his moods shifting from one moment to another like fast-moving clouds. He had clearly regretted that rare moment of intimacy.

She felt a sense of loss at his retreat. She chided herself for feeling that way. What did she expect? Very briefly, she had forgotten that he was Mr. Darcy, master of Pemberley, and had thought of him as a friend, but of course, he was not. She felt as if a door had slammed in her face. From one moment to the next, he had changed so completely, it was almost as if they hadn’t laughed and talked together. He had turned back into the same Mr. Darcy she had first met in the ballroom – the arrogant gentleman who had thought himself too good for Meryton, and who thought the assembly was beneath him. He was her employer. She may be a gentleman’s daughter, but she had fallen a long way since then.

Yet, as he disappeared out of sight behind the ruined wall, she couldn’t shake off the feeling that he looked very lonely. She turned away, impatient with herself. If he was lonely, it was surely by choice. It was he who had walked away, after all.

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Thank you, once again, Anna, for inviting me to partake of tea with you. I’m looking forward to conversing with my other friends in the comments below.

It was my pleasure! And thank you, Monica, for being my guest today and for providing such entertaining conversation! I hope my readers enjoyed it as much as I did.

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About Fortune and Felicity

In this Pride & Prejudice variation, Elizabeth and Darcy have a second chance to get things right. Will they be able to come together this time, or will pride intervene yet again?

Seven years after Darcy’s disastrous proposal, Darcy is in need, not of a wife, but of a governess for his young daughter. Imagine his surprise when he discovers Elizabeth Bennet on the list of possible candidates provided by the employment agency. The question is, should he take her on as a governess, or would he be playing with fire?

Elizabeth Bennet is forced by her reduced circumstances to take on a position. However, when Mr. Darcy invites her for an interview, she is embarrassed and humiliated. How could she possibly live under the same roof as the man she had rejected so strongly seven years ago?

Whatever decision she makes, there will be a high price to pay… one way or the other.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Monica Fairview writes Jane Austen variations and sequels. After graduating from the University of Illinois, she worked as a literature professor and then as an acupuncturist in Boston before moving to London.

Monica loves anything to do with the nineteenth century, and obsessively follows every period drama she can find. On rainy days, she loves to watch ‘Pride & Prejudice’ (all adaptations), ‘North & South’, ‘Cranford’, or ‘Downtown Abbey’.

Among Monica’s Kindle best-selling novels are Mysterious Mr. Darcy, the Darcy Novels trilogy, two books in the Darcy Cousins series, and the quirky futuristic P&P inspired Steampunk Darcy. She has also published several traditional Regencies.

Apart from her avid historical interests, Monica enjoys reading fantasy and post-apocalyptic novels, but avoids zombies like the plague. She loves to laugh, drink lots of tea, and visit Regency houses, and she is convinced that her two cats can understand everything she says.

Connect with Monica: Blog | Austen Variations | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Monica is generously offering an ebook copy of Fortune and Felicity to one lucky reader (U.S. or U.K. only). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Saturday, May 9, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!