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a-very-darcy-chrsitmas-thumbnailI’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her newest novel, A Very Darcy Christmas. I had the pleasure of editing this delightful book, and I must tell you that it is both hilarious and sweet — and a perfect book to help you relax during the holiday season. Oh, how I loved the chaos at every turn, and I even fell a little bit in love with Colonel Fitzwilliam!

Here’s the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Elizabeth and Darcy are preparing for their first Christmas at Pemberley when they are suddenly deluged by a flood of uninvited guests. Mrs. Bennet is seeking refuge from the French invasion she believes to be imminent. Lady Catherine brings two suitors for Georgiana’s hand, who cause a bit of mayhem themselves. Lydia’s presence causes bickering—and a couple of small fires—while Wickham has more nefarious plans in mind….The abundance of guests soon puts a strain on her marriage as Elizabeth tries to manage the chaos while ensuring a happy Christmas for all.

Meanwhile, Georgiana is finding her suitors—and the prospect of coming out—to be very unappealing. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be the only person who understands her fondness for riding astride and shooting pistols. Georgiana realizes she’s beginning to have more than cousinly feelings for him, but does he return them? And what kind of secrets is he hiding?

Romance and merriment abound as everyone gathers to celebrate a Very Darcy Christmas.

***

Now, please give a warm welcome to Victoria Kincaid, who is here to talk about mistletoe and kissing in Regency England:

When writing A Very Darcy Christmas, I did quite a bit of research on Regency Christmas traditions. It was very interesting to see which of our customs they followed. They did not have Christmas trees, send Christmas cards, or give presents (except to children or charity to the poor). However, the Christmas season, which lasted from early December until January 6, was a time for visiting, parties and balls, games, and eating good food. One familiar tradition they did observe was decorating their houses with pine, holly, and other greenery—including mistletoe.

Mistletoe grows mostly in west and southwest Britain, but families in other parts of the country might have relatives send sprigs through the mail. A mistletoe berry was plucked each time a kiss was claimed and when the berries ran out, the kissing was over. Regency households also put up “kissing boughs,” hanging arrangements of evergreens, apples, oranges, ribbons, paper flowers, spices, or even dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.

I found the mistletoe tradition to be an intriguing contradiction with other Regency customs. After all, this was the time period where a girl’s virtue could be compromised by being alone with a man and during which any contact between unmarried people of the opposite sex was strictly chaperoned. Why would they hang greenery that not only gave license for unauthorized and potentially scandalous kisses, but actually encouraged it?

I don’t pretend to be an expert, and I’m sure there are many explanations; but one answer to question may be that the Christmas season was a time when traditional customs and mores were loosened and the intermingling of the sexes was encouraged. All of the visiting and game playing encouraged socialization among unmarried men and women—and courtships and marriages often took place during the season. There were even games that would assign a man and woman to be “partners” for the evening.

The tradition of kissing boughs seems to be of a piece with these customs. Mistletoe gave couples permission to indulge in a “forbidden” behavior or gave a man an opportunity to display affection for a woman without having to make an outright declaration. In an era where anything resembling dating was forbidden, I can imagine that that such opportunities were valuable.

In any case, I found the presence of mistletoe and kissing boughs to be a useful plot device in A Very Darcy Christmas. However, in the book Georgiana occasionally has the same thoughts that I had: “If they do not wish me to kiss anyone, why did they hang up so much mistletoe?”

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An excerpt from A Very Darcy Christmas, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

“Mrs. Darcy, there are people downstairs in the entrance hall who say they are your parents.”

Disdain dripped off every syllable Giles uttered.  Elizabeth pretended not to notice.  Every day Pemberley’s butler demonstrated that he did not approve of the upstart country lass his master had married.  In the months since William had brought her home as his bride, Giles’s friendliest tone of voice could be described as frosty.  On the other hand, Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, and the majority of the other staff had been most welcoming.

Elizabeth rushed to her feet.  Her parents should be safely ensconced at Longbourn for the Christmas season.  What could have brought them to Pemberley unannounced?

She hurried from her sitting room and followed Giles down the grand front staircase, her heart contracting with every step as she imagined what kinds of evil might have befallen her family.  Her mother and father were indeed standing in the hall.

Their rumpled, travel-worn attire contrasted noticeably with the grandeur of the room.  The inhabitants of Pemberley called it the marble hall because of the black and white marble squares covering the floor as well as the classical statues set in niches along the walls.

It was an impressive room, meant to stir amazement in Pemberley’s newly arrived visitors, and from the expressions on her parents’ faces, it was having the desired effect.  Elizabeth had been duly impressed when she had first arrived at Pemberley, but now the room reminded her of a mausoleum, grand and cold and forbidding.  She and Mrs. Reynolds had recently finished decorating the room with holly, evergreen boughs, ivy, and mistletoe for the yuletide season.  The greens softened the room’s sharp edges, but it was only slightly more welcoming.

Her father’s careworn face relaxed into a smile when he saw her as if her presence made the unfamiliar surroundings more bearable.  He does not seem overly alarmed; perhaps the situation is not dire.  However, the moment her mother noticed Elizabeth, she commenced fluttering her hands and breathing rapidly as if she had experienced a terrible shock.

In other words, everything was quite normal.

Before Elizabeth could open her mouth, her mother launched into a torrent of complaints.  “Oh, my dearest Lizzy!  You do not know how we have suffered.  The ruts in the road and the quality of the coaching inns!  And there was a most disturbing odor in Lambton when we traveled through.”

Standing by the ornately carved front door, Giles watched this performance with a pinched mouth and lifted chin that left no doubt as to his opinion of the Bennets.

The best Elizabeth could do was to treat her mother’s shrieking as if she spoke in a normal conversational tone.  She embraced both of her parents.  “This is a surprise!  I did not expect to see you so soon.  Is something wrong?”  She searched their faces for signs of agitation.  Had something happened to one of her sisters?

“Everything is well,” her father assured her.

Mrs. Bennet gaped at her husband.  “How can you say that, Mr. Bennet, when we have heard the most frightful news imaginable?”

Fear gripped Elizabeth’s chest.  “What has happened?”

Her mother drew herself up to her full height.  “Meryton is about to be invaded!”

“It is?”

Her mother’s head nodded vigorously.  “Mrs. Long was the first one to rouse my suspicions.”  Now she lowered her voice.  “There have been a great many strange men visiting Meryton—speaking in French accents!”

Mr. Bennet rolled his eyes.  “Fanny, I explained that both of the men are laborers from Ireland.  They speak with Irish accents.”

Mrs. Bennet put her hands on her hips.  “And how would you know a French accent from an Irish one?  Mrs. Long met a Frenchman when she was one and twenty.  She knows how they sound!”

“Mama—” Elizabeth began.

“But that is not all,” her mother continued.  “Colonel Forster’s regiment had been wintering over in Meryton as before, but then they decamped suddenly.  Called away, just like that!  I wager they are in Brighton at this moment, preparing to fend off a ferocious French assault.”

Elizabeth bit her lip to stifle a smile.  “I have read nothing to suggest that in the papers.”

“Of course not!”  Mrs. Bennet waved her handkerchief dramatically.  “The authorities do not wish to stir up alarm.  But why else would they have called the regiment away?”

“There was political unrest in the North,” Mr. Bennet murmured.

“Mrs. Long does not believe it,” Mrs. Bennet said with a dismissive nod.  “And what is more, Mr. Long does not believe it.  He was in the militia for a year in his youth and said such orders were highly irregular.

“Fanny—” Mr. Bennet started.

Her words continued unchecked.  “An invasion is imminent.  Nothing you may say can convince me otherwise.”  She folded her arms across her chest.

Elizabeth feared this was the truest statement her mother had uttered since arriving.

Mrs. Bennet continued without even taking a breath.  “And, of course, Meryton will be one of the French army’s first targets.”

“Before London?” Elizabeth asked.

“Well, London will be well-defended.  Meryton no longer even boasts a militia!”  Mrs. Bennet flicked open her fan and vigorously fanned her face.  “Mary and Kitty refused to leave Hertfordshire.  Even Jane would not listen.  But I told your father I was coming to Pemberley.  Since it is so much further north, we have much less of a chance of being slaughtered in our beds.”  She folded her fan again.  “How very clever of you to catch the eye of a northern man.”

Having never considered this a feature of her marriage to William, Elizabeth did not respond.

“I pray you let us stay here for a while.  What say you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth gave her father a helpless look, not knowing where to start unraveling her mother’s convoluted reasoning.  Mr. Bennet offered her a defeated shrug.  Apparently he had given up on reasoning with his wife.

Well, she could hardly turn away her own parents.  Perhaps she could talk sense into her mother during her visit.  “Yes, of course, Mama.  I am very pleased to see you both!”  She smiled at them.  “Welcome to Pemberley.”

Her father gave her a rather sad smile, but her mother grunted in response.  “Now, if you will have them show me to my room.  I am greatly fatigued by all this travel!”  Now that their immediate fate had been settled, Mrs. Bennet eyed the hall critically.  “Oh, Lizzy!”  Her hand flew to her mouth.  “You have hung greens already!”

“They make the house more festive,” Elizabeth replied.

“But it is bad luck to hang greens before Christmas Eve!”  Her mother’s eyes were round with concern.

“Just a superstition—” her father interjected.

“No, it is not!”  Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, wringing her hands.  “Mrs. Taylor hung her greens early one year, and the very next day their chickens refused to lay a single egg!  She never made that mistake again, I will tell you.”  She pointed an accusatory finger at Elizabeth.  “You have practically begged the French to invade.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes.  “I like the greens.”

Mrs. Bennet’s hands fluttered.  “Well, don’t blame me when the French invade.  I warned you!”

“I promise not to blame you, Mama, if the French invade.”  Elizabeth gestured to the butler.  Perhaps her mother would be more rational after she rested and freshened up.  One could only hope.  “Giles, I think we can put my parents in the red bedchamber.”

Giles’s expression could not possibly have been haughtier, but he gave a slight bow and left to summon a maid.  As the maid led Mrs. Bennet up the stairs, the older woman warned the wide-eyed girl about the imminent French invasion.  Elizabeth and her father fell behind, staying out of earshot.

“I apologize, Lizzy,” he said.  “Trying to stop her was like trying to halt a runaway carriage.  When she declared her intention to visit Pemberley with or without me, I thought my presence might mitigate the damage.”

Elizabeth took her father’s arm.  “I am very pleased to see you both, Papa.  And it will provide an opportunity to show you Pemberley.”

He smiled gently.  “I must confess, that is something I am anticipating with pleasure.  What I have seen so far is quite grand.”

***

Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a copy of A Very Darcy Christmas in a reader’s choice (print or ebook) giveaway, open internationally! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Thursday, December 8, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Check out A Very Darcy Christmas on Amazon | Goodreads

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

In another ten or fifteen years, Jane wold likely be the sweetheart of the county, and it would be a lucky man who won her hand. Lizzy, however…he shook his head. She would need a husband with an iron will! Whoever the man should be, Gardiner decided, he had best win the girl’s respect early, for Lizzy would not be apt to grant him a second chance.

(from The Courtship of Edward Gardiner)

Nicole Clarkston’s newest novel, The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, is a prequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that centers on Mrs. Bennet’s brother, Edward Gardiner. Mr. Gardiner has worked hard to build up his business in trade in London and finally has the means to support a family. After being rejected by a Miss Rutherford, a brokenhearted Mr. Gardiner finds himself on the way to Sheffield with his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, and his oldest daughters, eight-year-old Jane and seven-year-old Elizabeth. When Jane falls ill, the uncle and his nieces are forced to stay in the village of Lambton while Mr. Bennet journeys toward his ill brother. It is in Lambton that Mr. Gardiner meets Madeline Fairbanks, the daughter of a bookkeeper who has been hired to care for the Bennet sisters during their stay in the village.

Mr. Gardiner is almost immediately captivated by Miss Fairbanks. After all, she is sweet, kind, and clever, and while other young ladies are worried about gowns and ribbons, Madeline helps her ailing father with his business. In short, she is the woman Edward has been waiting for but didn’t believe truly existed. But how are they to build any sort of relationship when he will be heading back to London in a matter of days?

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner is a charming novel that puts Elizabeth’s favorite aunt and uncle in the spotlight and imagines how they might have met. I adored Edward and Madeline, as well as the Madeline’s dear friend, Mrs. Porter, the innkeeper. It was also fascinating to get a glimpse of Elizabeth as a rambunctious, outspoken little girl, and especially to see a 14-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy as he helps his little sister through their grief after their mother’s passing, struggles to keep his pride in check, and begins to understand all of the responsibilities he will one day have as Master of Pemberley. A young Lizzy and Darcy butting heads during a hailstorm, and Mr. Bennet having his fun at Lady Catherine’s expense were some of my favorite scenes.

I generally enjoy when authors put Austen’s secondary characters at the forefront, and Clarkston’s novel is the first I’ve seen that focuses on the Gardiners. The Courtship of Edward Gardiner is a delightful tale, with plenty of humor and excitement mixed in with the romance. This is the first book I’ve read by Clarkston, but it definitely won’t be the last!

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About The Courtship of Edward Gardiner

Every great love has a beginning.

In Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we meet with perhaps the most sensible, caring relatives a lovelorn young woman could hope for: Mr and Mrs Gardiner. What is their story?

Edward Gardiner has just been refused by the lovely young woman he had intended to make his wife. Heartbroken and eager for a diversion, he accepts an invitation from his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, to accompany him along with his two eldest daughters to the north on family business. Gardiner’s pleasure tour is interrupted, however, when his eldest niece falls ill and is unable to travel farther.

Stopping over in the scarcely remarkable village of Lambton, the men decide that Bennet must continue on, while Gardiner and the children remain. The only trouble is that Gardiner has not the least idea how he should care for one ailing niece and another who is ready to drive him to distraction… until he meets with Madeline Fairbanks.

Check out The Courtship of Edward Gardiner on Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Author

Nicole Clarkston

Nicole Clarkston

Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don’t ask).

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole’s books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Connect with Nicole Clarkston via Website | Facebook | Goodreads Author Page | Goodreads Blog | Amazon Author Page

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Giveaway

Nicole is generously offering a copy of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner in a reader’s choice (ebook or paperback) giveaway, open internationally! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Follow the Blog Tour

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10/21: Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
10/22: Review & Giveaway at Just Jane 1813
10/27: Review & Giveaway Savvy Verse & Wit
11/01: Excerpt & Giveaway at Half Agony, Half Hope
11/08: Guest Post & Giveaway at So little time…
11/10: Review & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
11/11: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
11/15: Review & Giveaway at My Vices and Weaknesses
11/17: Guest Post & Giveaway at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life
11/26: Excerpt & Giveaway at Margie’s Must Reads
11/30: Review & Giveaway at Diary of an Eccentric
12/01: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton

Disclosure: I received The Courtship of Edward Gardiner from the author for review.

The Jewish Book Council is celebrating Jewish Book Month from November 24 to December 24. In honor of the event, I wanted to spotlight a Holocaust novel I read earlier this year, Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass.

tasa's songHere’s what I said about the book in my review:

Tasa’s Song spans the years 1933-1947 and follows Tasa Rosinski, whose peaceful life in Eastern Poland is torn apart by war. Linda Kass, inspired by her mother’s childhood, tells the tale of a young Jewish girl whose passion for music and the violin, the happy memories of her parents, and the love of her cousin, Danik, help her stay strong as the war leaves her without a home and forces her fractured family underground.

Tasa’s Song shows the various changes that occurred in Europe in the years before the war and how signs of trouble brewing were visible but not always taken seriously. The novel emphasizes everyday life in wartime, how people became immune to the sounds of the fighting after a time, how they waited for months or years to receive letters from loved ones, and the moments of hope that shone through the dark clouds of loss. Despite all that Tasa endures, she never gives up, never stops fighting, and never stops hearing the music inside of her. She is definitely a character I won’t soon forget.

Music is central to Tasa’s survival, and I invite you to visit Linda Kass’s website to hear a snippet of “Tasa’s Song.” There also is a playlist for the novel, as well as the story behind the book and other information.

For more information about Jewish Book Month, visit the Jewish Book Council’s website.

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

Her breath came easier after the first hundred yards as the strenuous pace she kept worked its magic, just as it always did. She might well be Mrs. Darcy now, but she would not lose sight of Elizabeth Bennet. And Elizabeth Bennet did not sit moping and blaming the world for all her troubles. She would make the best of what she was given, and make haste about it, too.

(from Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter)

Joana Starnes’ latest novel, Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that takes readers on an emotional journey, imagining what might have happened had Mr. Darcy interrupted Elizabeth Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam’s stroll at Rosings Park before the colonel tells her about Mr. Darcy’s interference in her sister’s relationship with Mr. Bingley. In Starnes’ tale, Darcy brings Elizabeth news that her father has fallen ill, and he acknowledges that while his timing is bad, he loves her and wishes to marry her. Making this disclosure immediately is meant to bring a bit of calm to the chaos, with Mr. Collins seeking to swoop in and take over Longbourn before Mr. Bennet is even gone. Knowing that marrying Mr. Darcy will provide security for her mother and sisters in the event of Mr. Bennet’s death, Elizabeth agrees, taking some comfort in the fact that Mr. Darcy is indeed a much better man than she’d originally believed.

Elizabeth has a hard time coming to terms with the extent of Mr. Darcy’s feelings for her, but she doesn’t have the heart to tell him that she doesn’t return those feelings. Still, she approaches their marriage with courage and kindness, but eventually the reality of their situation — namely the differences in their backgrounds — can no longer be ignored. Her family’s impropriety and connections in trade and his family’s outrage over the rushed and ill-suited match put a damper on their relationship, and misunderstandings conspire to separate them for good, just when Elizabeth believes they have found real happiness.

Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is a beautifully written novel, with just the right amount of angst to move me to the brink of tears without making me put the book down in despair. Starnes has a knack for putting Elizabeth and Darcy in impossible situations, delving deep into their souls, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats as they wonder how a happily ever after will be achieved. I loved the pacing of the novel, and Starnes does a wonderful job evolving their relationship through many ups and downs as they navigate the challenges posed by their families and themselves.

I’ve loved all of the novels by Starnes I’ve read so far (The Subsequent Proposal, The Unthinkable Triangle, and Miss Darcy’s Companion — all 5-star reads!), and her stories and her writing get better with each book. Starnes has easily become one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to see what torturous situation she puts Darcy and Elizabeth into next!😉

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About Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter

When Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disclosures are interrupted by the bearer of distressing news from Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is compelled to consider an offer she would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. An offer of marriage from the all-too-proud Mr Darcy.

Yet how is she to live with a husband she hardly knows and does not love? Would she be trapped in a marriage of convenience while events conspire to divide them? Or would love grow as, day by day and hour after hour, she learns to understand the man she married, before she loses his trust and his heart?

Check out Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter on Goodreads | Amazon

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About Joana Starnes

Joana Starnes

Joana Starnes

Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. A medical graduate, in more recent years she has developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency Period its charm and sparkle.

Connect with Joana: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

Joana is generously offering an ebook copy of Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter to one of my readers. To enter, simply leave a comment and include your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, December 4, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Follow the blog tour

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November 17/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway

November 18/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway

November 19/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway

November 20/ A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post & Giveaway

November 21/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Review & Giveaway

November 22/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway

November 23/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway

November 24/ Happy Thanksgiving

November 25/ So Little Time… So Much to Read/ Excerpt & Giveaway

November 26/ Just Jane 1813/Interview with Joana Starnes & Giveaway

November 2 / My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Guest Post & Giveaway

November 28/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Vignette & Giveaway

December 1/ My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway

December 2/ Austenesque Reviews/ Excerpt & Giveaway

Disclosure: I received Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter from the author for review.

darcys-hope

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

In fulfilling a promise to her father, he had laid his heart open, and she sliced it up and handed it right back to him. Then he had invested in his company of men–cared for them, thought only of their safety day and night–only to have them slaughtered, leaving him the heart-wrenching task of writing letter after letter to their families.

(from Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes)

Ginger Monette’s latest novel, Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set during World War I. Elizabeth Bennet wants to be a doctor and does not want to depend on any man, especially not Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy, who requisitioned part of her family’s property for the war effort, insulted her upon their first meeting, and then expected her to accept his proposal of marriage. With her family torn apart and no home to return to, Elizabeth finds herself at a French chateaux turned field hospital serving as a nursemaid for an elderly man.

Darcy, meanwhile, has shut off his feelings following Elizabeth’s painful rejection and massive losses at the Somme. When he arrives at the field hospital as part of an investigation to weed out enemy operatives, he never expects to find Elizabeth there. As they each get to know the other’s true nature, uncertainties regarding their past history threaten to keep them from revealing their true feelings. The danger of Darcy’s mission looms large, threatening what little happiness they have managed to find amidst the carnage of war.

In Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, Monette does a fantastic job weaving the history of the Great War, the horrors of the trenches, and the excitement of a covert operation into the basic plot of Austen’s novel. A lot is changed in Monette’s variation, and those changes kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Much of the attention is on Darcy and Elizabeth, of course, with small appearances made by Jane Bennet and Charles and Caroline Bingley. There is a darker mystery surrounding Lieutenant Wickham and Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia, and there are several intriguing original characters, from an American doctor to a Mr. Collins-esque French officer.

The evolution of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship unfolds realistically, as does the portrayal of their scars inflicted by the war. Readers should be aware that the action of the novel builds up toward the end, and while some ends are tied up between the pair, they will have to wait for the upcoming sequel, Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey, to see how their tale concludes. Overall, I was satisfied with the ending of Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, but I really wish I could have immediately delved into the next book!

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About Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes

World War 1 has turned French chateaus into bloody field hospitals, British gentlemen into lice-infested soldiers, and left Elizabeth Bennet’s life in tatters.

Her father is dead and her home destroyed. Never again will Elizabeth depend on a man to secure her future!

But when an opportunity arises to advance her dreams of becoming a doctor, she is elated—until HE arrives…

Heartbroken. Devastated. Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy is left rejected by the woman he loved and reeling from the slaughter of his men on the battlefield. “Enough!” Darcy vows. “No more sentimental attachments!”

But arriving at a field hospital to pursue a covert investigation, Darcy discovers his beloved Elizabeth training with a dashing American doctor and embroiled in an espionage conspiracy.

With only a few months to expose the plot, Darcy is forced to grapple with his feelings for Elizabeth while uncovering the truth. Is she indeed innocent? Darcy can only hope…

Check out Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

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Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes from the author for review.

essentialreadingsToday, I’m delighted to welcome poet K.V. Dominic to Diary of an Eccentric for a Q&A on his poem, “Musings from an Infant’s Face,” from Essential Readings & Study Guide, which compiles four collections of his poems into a single volume. I enjoyed perusing the book to select a poem for the Q&A, and I’ll admit it was hard to choose just one. I was a bit hesitant when I first picked up the book because it looks a bit like a college textbook, but I urge you not to be put off by that! Inside you will find plenty of poignant poems about Social Justice, Women’s Rights, and the Environment. I know very little about life in India, so I was fascinated by the poems. I hope you enjoy our discussion!

Musings from an Infant’s Face

(Composed on 8 March 2010–International Women’s Day)

An infant over
her mother’s shoulder
looked at me
from the front seat
of the bus I travelled.
Infants always
tempted me
like bloomed roses.
Babies–human
and non-human–
are embodiments
of grace and innocence.
The Creator is
manifest in their faces.
Blake’s poems
of Innocence
and Experience
flashed through my mind.
I tried to smile
at the infant;
she didn’t smile back.
Might be my
smile is guile and vile.
Her eyes seemed
to tell me something.
Her mother’s appearance
foretold the infant’s lot.
Born to poor parents,
how thorny would be
the path of her life!
She is yet to toddle;
I could vision
the blood oozing from
her soft feet.
Being a female,
black and dark,
poor and low caste,
discriminations,
humiliations,
abuses and tortures,
will come in battalions
to give her
Guard of Honour
and lead her along
the brambly path.
Lame and tottering
she will struggle along
till she reaches
her terminus, death.

(from Essential Readings & Study Guide, pages 115-116)

Here are the questions I posed to K.V. Dominic about the poem and his answers:

Was there a single, defining moment or experience that prompted you to use your poetry to speak about social justice, particularly the plight of women in India?

The inspiration or impetus for the poem is a single defining moment as portrayed in the poem, a bus journey. But that is only a dramatic occasion for the poet to speak about the plight of women in India, particularly poor and low caste born ones as well as those who don’t meet conventional definitions of beauty.

What is the significance of describing the narrator’s smile as “guile and vile?”

The narrator is a grown-up man, who unlike the innocent, graceful child is full of evils and sins of the world. Hence his smile is hypocritical, not like the divine, pleasing smile of the child. The child has more element of divinity and hence could detect the guile and vile of the narrator’s smile.

What is the significance of the image of “the blood oozing from her soft feet?”

The child being very poor, when she starts walking barefooted along the world around her, thorns and sharp grains and little stones will bleed her soft feet. That is the literal meaning. But it has a deeper meaning that the world around her is a cruel world to her, not sympathetic to people of her social class and every step she makes in her life will give her only pains and never happiness.

What is meant by Guard of Honour?

A Guard of Honour in India is a ceremonial practice to honour great dignitaries. Usually a battalion of police or soldiers headed by their commander march to the dignitary and salute him/her. Here in the poem the poor child, after all her voyage in life, serving the people around her, is honoured by not good words but discriminations, humiliations, abuses and tortures.

How/why have Blake’s poems inspired you?

I had to study and teach William Blake’s poems, Songs of Innocence and Experience, published in 1794. The book juxtaposes the innocent, pastoral world of childhood against an adult world of corruption and repression.

What is one thing you’d want U.S. readers, particularly women, to take from the poem about the experiences of women in India who are similar to the infant and mother in the poem?

The prime motive of my poetic compositions is social criticism and the reformation of the Indian society in future. The plight of Indian women is very pathetic, and patriarchy is responsible for it. I wish my American sisters to feel this hellish life of their Indian sisters, and thank the Almighty first for being fortunate to be born in a better country than India. Secondly, they should try their maximum to minimise the hardships of their sisters in India and other undeveloped and underdeveloped countries.

Thank you for answering my questions!

 

About the book

K. V. Dominic’s Essential Readings gathers for the first time the three most important works of poetry from this shining new light of contemporary Indian verse in English: Winged ReasonWrite Son, Write, and Multicultural Symphony. A fourth collection of 22 previously unpublished poems round out a complete look at the first 12 years of Dominic’s prolific and profound verse. Each poem includes unique Study Guide questions suitable for South Asian studies curricula.

Written in free verse, each of his poems makes the reader contemplate on intellectual, philosophical, spiritual, political, and social issues of the present world. Themes range from multiculturalism, environmental issues, social mafia, caste-ism, exploitation of women and children, poverty, and corruption to purely introspective matters. From the observation of neighborhood life to international events, and everyday forgotten tragedies of India, nothing escapes the grasp of Dominic’s keen sense of the fragility of life and morality in the modern world.

Check out Essential Readings & Study Guide on Amazon

About the poet

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Internationally acclaimed poet Prof. K. V. Dominic (Kerala, India) is the author of three major volumes of poetry about the natural world as well as social and political commentary: Winged Reason, Multicultural Symphony, and Write, Son, Write.

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without-a-conscience

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

Still entangled within his embrace, surrounded by the peaceful cadence of the park, Liz watched how every word the caller spoke brought forth the Iceman. Darcy’s lips grew taut; his body went rigid in her arms. When he finally clicked off without even having voiced a word into the phone, the affectionate man, who moments before was about to seduce her beside the riverbank, was gone.

(from Without a Conscience)

Cat Gardiner has done it again! She knocks it out of the park with her latest release, Without a Conscience, which is book two in the Conscience series that began with Denial of Conscience. Elements of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice emerge again in this newest installment, as Fitzwilliam and Liz Darcy — six months into their marriage and living peacefully at their Virginia estate, Pemberley, training horses and riding their Harleys — seem destined to misunderstand one another. But in Gardiner’s world of drug lords out for revenge, CIA corruption, and contract killers, these misunderstandings can be deadly.

Darcy has retired as the stone-cold assassin Iceman, settling into a quiet and blissful existence with his new wife. Or so thinks, until he receives a call that forces him back into Obsidian to extract his cousin from the jungles of Peru. He has no choice but to go and see Operation Macarena through to the end or the people he loves the most will be in danger. Meanwhile, back at Pemberley, Liz and her sister Jane are being taught self-defense skills — Liz because Darcy deems it necessary and thinks she has some serious skills that need only be teased out, while Jane dreams of being a Bond girl and joining Obsidian alongside her lover, Charlie Bingley.

Liz’s world is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Caroline Bingley to teach the sisters some of her ninja skills. Caroline is jealous of Liz and determined to steal back Darcy, and when Liz overhears a conversation that sends Caroline off to Paris and into her husband’s arms, Liz isn’t just going to sit idle. Already worried that Darcy has grown bored in the new life they have created, Liz is determined to fight for him — and leaves on what she doesn’t realize is a dangerous adventure.

Like Denial of Conscience, Without a Conscience is sexy (definitely for mature audiences only) and exciting from the very first page. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who weaves clever plots and navigates Darcy and Liz through the twists and turns while further evolving their relationship. In the midst of the danger and excitement, Gardiner provides plenty of humor, and the obvious rivalry between Liz and Caroline had me laughing out loud several times. The novel is perfectly paced, and there’s just something about Gardiner’s writing style that has me hanging on every word.

Cat Gardiner has quickly become one of my favorite authors, not just among Austen-inspired fiction. I’ve read several of her novels this year — Undercover, A Moment Forever, and Denial of Conscience — and all were 5-star reads for me. I’m sure one or more of these books will make my Best of 2016 list!

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Disclosure: I received Without a Conscience from the author for review.