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Hello, my dear readers! I have a special treat for you today! I am thrilled to welcome Melanie Stanford to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her novel, Collide, which is inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (a book I have yet to read and really must do so). She is here to introduce the novel and share an excerpt, so please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks Anna, for having me at Diary of An Eccentric! I’m so excited for the release of my second Romance Revisited novel, COLLIDE, inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South.

COLLIDE is a modern story, so naturally I had to make some changes from the original. One of these changes was Margaret’s move to Milton, which is a huge moment in the story. It didn’t seem right to have my character move with her parents, so I made it something my Maggie wanted from the start. Maggie is a contemporary dancer, and dreams of dancing with a fictitious Las Vegas contemporary dance company called Essence Dance Theater. After rejecting a proposal from her high school sweetheart, she finally has the courage to follow that dream and move to Vegas.

I’d considered other dreams for Maggie to pursue- a college degree, photography, art. It was fun for me to make her a dancer because I used to dance as well and I still love it. Giving Maggie this immediate desire made her more interesting to me as a character, and it also created obstacles that I didn’t see coming (I love it when that happens).

The scene I want to share with you today is from Jay’s point of view, where he’s seeing Maggie dance for the first time. They’ve already met, and he already likes her, but seeing her dance—a form of dance he wouldn’t be familiar with—makes him want her even more. Of course, it’s not that easy because Maggie is not into him. This scene also highlights the differences between them as characters. Enjoy!

Maggie was dancing—spinning and leaping around the room McCrary had set up for aerobics classes that nobody had wanted to take at a boxing gym. Her body moved in a way I’d never seen before. It was beautiful and strange. Compelling and sexy. There was no music, but earbuds snaked from her ears and into the waist of her skin-tight leggings.

Her movements slowed, she hesitated for a moment, breathing deep without looking my way. Aside from her leggings, she only had on a sports bra, showing off vast amounts of bare skin shining with sweat. Every curve and muscle of her body was visible, and I wanted it all under my hands.

She resumed dancing, swaying to a beat I couldn’t hear, her arms making long lines, one leg reaching for the ceiling. Then she was on the floor, her body almost caressing it as she moved. I’d been to clubs, watching girls dance in far less than Maggie had on, writhing and swaying for money. The way Maggie danced was different, special.

Tension and desire moved through my body. I clenched the railing.

She stopped, freezing her last step for a moment before she pulled the buds from her ears. Wiping sweat from the back of her neck, she turned and finally saw me.

My lips parted.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. She was panting from the exertion, her chest rising and falling. Her face flamed under my stare. “So late, I mean?”

Blood pounded through my veins. I wanted nothing more than to close the distance between us and wrap my hands around her waist, caress her sweat-soaked skin with my fingertips. Taste her with my mouth.

I swallowed. “I had to grab the accounting books for McCrary.”

She slipped her phone from her leggings, avoiding my gaze. “McCrary?”

“Conall McCrary. He owns this place.”

“Oh, right.” She pulled a hoodie over her sports bra, curves and skin disappearing under the bulky fabric.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

She bent down and removed some kind of weird shoes, then stuffed them into her bag. “Nico said I could use this space for practice.”

“Practice?”

“Yeah. I needed some space. He said he’d run it by Old Man…Mr. McCrary.” She slung her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll only come at night, when no one is here. So I don’t interrupt classes or anything.”

“Okay.” It would be exquisite torture, watching her dance again. I already wanted it.

We headed down the stairs together. She smelled faintly of sweat and something sweeter. I moved closer.

“Is this some scheme to come up with the money?” I asked. “Because I don’t know if it’ll work. You’d have to get a lot more naked.”

I’d meant it as a joke, but her face flushed again and her jaw clenched. I was an idiot.

At the bottom of the stairs, the gym was dark except the light over the front desk. Maggie tripped on a mat and I grabbed her arm, steadying her. She jerked away, whipping me in the face with her ponytail.

“My life doesn’t revolve around Officer Ting’s money, you know,” she said.

“It should.”

She stopped walking. We were near the front, close enough to the light that I could see her face, twisted with annoyance. “Would you leave me alone about it?”

My eyebrows lowered. “No.” I would bug her and bug her about that money until the deadline hit, anything to keep me from doing what I had to do if she couldn’t pay up.

“No?” Her hands went to her hips and so did my eyes.

I grabbed the strings of her hoodie and tugged on them, bringing her closer. “I won’t leave you alone until I see all thirteen thousand of those dollars.”

She batted my hand away. “Right. Just doing your job.”

I pulled her into me, our legs entwined. I didn’t let the feel of her distract me. Her hands were on my chest but she didn’t push me away.

“Maggie. This isn’t just about my job. Simon will hurt you.” My grip on her hips tightened, I couldn’t help it. She needed to wake up. She needed to know. “Simon will make me hurt you. Don’t you get it?” He would make me do something I couldn’t do. But I didn’t want to be faced with that choice, or the consequences if I refused.

“It’s all part of the job though, isn’t it? I mean, you must enjoy it. Hurting people. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it.”

Desire turned to anger, and it began to boil under my skin. Of course that’s what she thought. I let her go. “Your life might be black and white. Mine isn’t.”

“God gave us this life,” she said. “It’s up to us what we do with it.”

“Was that on an inspirational poster at Bibles ‘R’ Us?”

She made a face I couldn’t read. “My dad is a preacher.”

She was clueless. If her father was a preacher, her life had probably been all Bible Study and prayer meetings and choir practices. Everything boiled down to a belief in simple moral choices. As if my life, my choices, were so simple.

I crossed my arms. “Maybe some of us are doing the best we can.”

“Maybe your best isn’t good enough,” she said, but her face softened, taking the bite out of her words. She was pitying me now, and that was somehow worse.

“I’m sorry,” she said. My eyebrow twitched in surprise. “If I can’t practice here, I won’t come back again.”

I turned away. “You can practice here.” All the time and never.

She didn’t move. I didn’t move.

“Thank you,” she said.

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About Collide

When their worlds collide, neither will be left unscarred.

Suffocated by her small-town life, Maggie Hale runs away to Las Vegas to pursue her dream as a contemporary dancer. But Vegas doesn’t turn out like she imagined. She doesn’t make it into Essence Dance Theater and the only job she can find is working in a greasy diner—again.

Jay Thornton wants to quit enforcing and own his own boxing gym one day. But his loan shark boss saved him from the streets as a kid and he owes the man everything. Cutting ties isn’t so simple.

When Maggie pledges to pay back a friend’s loan, she becomes Jay’s next mark. Sparks fly between them, but choosing each other could mean the end of both their dreams.

COLLIDE is inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s NORTH & SOUTH

Check out Collide on Goodreads | Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (U.K.) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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About the Author

Melanie Stanford

Melanie Stanford writes romance and YA of different genres. Her first novel, SWAY, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, debuted December 2015 from Samhain Publishing and was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Since Samhain’s closure, Melanie decided to republish SWAY herself, along with the rest of her Romance Revisited series: CLASH, a Romance Revisited novella, COLLIDE, and a third novel coming 2018. She also has short stories featured in the Austenesque anthologies THE DARCY MONOLOGUES and THEN COMES WINTER.

Melanie reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow.

Connect with Melanie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway

Melanie is generously offering a $25 Amazon gift card as part of the blog tour. Enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Thank you, Melanie, for being my guest today and sharing that very intriguing excerpt! Congrats on the new release!

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It is always a pleasure to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric. It’s no surprise that I’m a HUGE fan of her Austen-inspired books and stories, and I’m thrilled that she is here today to introduce two upcoming releases, the latest in a trio of Christmas stories. It’s been my tradition for the past couple of years to spend the month of December reading Christmas stories, especially those inspired by Pride and Prejudice. Last year, I read and loved The Darcys’ First Christmas, and now I am anxiously awaiting December 1 so I can start reading Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. Maria is here today to share some information about a Regency Christmas tradition, an excerpt from one of her upcoming releases, and a reader’s choice ebook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks so much for having me Anna! I’m so excited about this Christmas season! It’s been a doozy of a year in these parts, so much that it calls for not one, but two Christmas books.  They are both available for pre-order on Amazon right now and will be released on December 1. The two books go along with The Darcys’ First Christmas, kind of forming bookends to the story. Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 tells the behind the scenes story of what might have happened during the Christmastide Darcy spent in London, while the militia (and Wickham!) wintered in Meryton. From Admiration to Love tells the story of the Darcys’ second Christmas as they try to hold Georgiana’s coming out at the Twelfth Night ball as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh descend as very unwelcome guests. (The story was such fun to write, I hope you love it as much as I do!)

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 starts with the Bennets making a Christmas plum pudding on the traditional day for doing so, Stir It Up Sunday.  American’s don’t really do plum pudding, so I thought it would be interesting to take a moment and have a peek at some of the traditions that have arisen around a food with at least eight hundred years of history associated with it.

Origins of Plum Pudding

Plum began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron, to which dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added. Sounds yummy, right?

Porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit often appeared at the start of a meal.

As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs and breadcrumbs, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor (and increased its shelf life—remember no refrigeration. Don’t think about that too much though…). Variations were made with white meat, though the meat was gradually omitted and replaced by suet (yum… ah, no not so much.) The root vegetables also disappeared.

By 1650, the plum pudding transformed from a main dish to the customary Christmas dessert. Not long afterward though, Oliver Cromwell banned plum pudding because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding was too similar to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

George I, sometimes called the Pudding King, revived the dish in 1714 when he requested plum pudding as part of the royal feast celebrating his first Christmas in England. As a result, it once again became part of traditional holiday celebrations.

In the 1830’s it took its final cannon-ball form, made with flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly and flaming brandy. It was dubbed ‘Christmas Pudding’ in 1858 in Anthony Trollope’s Doctore Thorne.

Plum pudding traditions

With a food so many centuries in the making, it is not surprising to find many traditions have evolved around the preparation and eating of plum pudding.

The last Sunday before Advent, falling sometime between November 20th and 26th, is considered the last day on which one can make Christmas puddings since they require aging before they are served. It is sometimes known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’ because the opening words of the main prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 for that day are:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Not surprisingly, choir boys parodied the prayer. “Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we’ll eat it up hot.”

Tradition decrees Christmas pudding be made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. All family members took a hand in ‘stirring up’ the pudding, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib.) The stirring had to be done clockwise, from east to west to honor the journey of the Magi, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish.

Tiny charms might be added to the pudding to reveal their finders’ fortune. The trinkets often included a thimble for spinsterhood or thrift, a ring for marriage, a coin for wealth, a miniature horseshoe or a tiny wishbone for good luck, a shoe for travel, and an anchor for safe harbor.

When the pudding was served, a sprig of holly was placed on the top of the pudding as a reminder of the Crown of Thorns that Jesus wore when he was killed. Flaming the pudding, as described by Dickens, was believed to represent the passion of Christ and Jesus’ love and power. It was also a key part of the theatrical aspect of the holiday celebration.

Why is it called plum pudding?

And the answer to the most burning question:  Why is plum pudding called that when it contains no plums?

Dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth century they began to be replaced by raisins. In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other dried fruits. The dishes made with them retain the term plum to this day.

Armed with all this new knowledge about plum puddings, take a peed at the whole affair from Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811:

November 24, 1811 Stir it up Sunday. Meryton

After a light nuncheon in the dining room, Mama called them all to the kitchen. She had done the same thing every Stir it Up Sunday since Elizabeth could remember. The large worktable in the center of the kitchen bore the fragrant makings of the pudding. The air swirled with the fragrances of brandy and spices hanging in the steam of the great roiling cauldron waiting to accept the finished pudding.

“You too, Mr. Collins, for you are part of the family, to be sure.” Mama waved him toward the table.

He edged in between Jane and Elizabeth.

Of course, where else might he stand?

Elizabeth sidled over to make room for him, nearly treading on Mary’s toes in the process. Poor Mary looked so dejected. If only they might switch places, but Mama would no doubt cause such a scene if they did.

“Now, Mr. Collins has it been the habit of your family to make a Christmas pudding?” Mama asked.

“This is the first time I have experienced this most charming and agreeable custom, madam. To be sure, the Christmas Puddings at Rosings Park—”

“Well then, I shall tell you how we do it. There is a great bowl there, and you each have the ingredients beside you. You, sir, have the flour. Add it to the bowl and then pass it east to west.”

“Clockwise—” Papa whispered loudly.

Apparently, he thought little of Mr. Collins’s sense of direction. Probably for good reason.

“Yes, yes like that. Give the bowl to Jane now.”

She added a pile of minced suet and passed it to Kitty. Kitty and Lydia added dried fruits and nuts and passed it into Papa’s hands for the bread crumbs and milk.

Mama poured in the brandy soaked citron and spices. “And that makes eleven ingredients. We have two more now, thirteen for Christ and the apostles.”

Mary added the eggs and slid the heavy vessel to Elizabeth.

“How fitting for you to add the final sweetness, Cousin Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth cringed and nearly spilled the sugar.

Mama glowered at her, but quickly recovered her composure and handed Mr. Collins the wooden spoon. “To remind us of the Christ child’s crib. Now stir it east to—clockwise—with your eyes closed sir. And make a wish.”

Mr. Collins steadied the bowl and grasped the spoon. “I shall wish for—”

“No, sir,” Elizabeth forced herself not to roll her eyes. Unfortunately, Mama would never notice what she had not done. “Your wish must be made in silence.”

Mama glowered again. Little matter though. Elizabeth had no desire to hear Mr. Collins’s wish. His expression said too much as it was.

The bowl passed around the table. Some wishes were easy to guess.

Mary wished to be noticed by Mr. Collins. Kitty and Lydia wished to be noticed by anyone but Mr. Collins. Mama doubtless wished Mr. Collins to marry one of her girls, preferably Elizabeth. Jane, of course, wished for Mr. Bingley. But Papa’s wish remained a mystery. What would he want?

The cold, heavy bowl passed to her. The rough wooden spoon scraped at her fingers. What to wish for? She closed her eyes and forced the spoon through the heavy batter. To marry for love. I wish to marry for love.

“Do not dawdle so, Lizzy. We must add the charms now. Here one for each of you.” Mamma passed a charm to each sister and Mr. Collins. “Add your charm to the pudding and stir it again.”

Mama shoved the bowl toward Mary. “You start.”

Mary gulped. “I have the thimble—”

Lydia snickered. “How fitting. Spinsterhood!”

“It is for thrift.” Jane’s tone was as firm as it ever got, a veritable rebuke.

“For thrift, then.” Mary tossed it in and quickly stirred it into the batter.

“I wonder which of us shall travel.” Lydia tossed a tiny shoe charm into the pudding.

“And which shall find safe harbor?” Kitty followed with an anchor and held the bowl while Lydia stirred them in.

Jane added the coin and Elizabeth the horse shoe. Jane held whilst Elizabeth stirred.

“And you Mr. Collins?” Mama blinked, but her expression was far from innocent.

“It seems I have the ring.” He dropped it, eyes on Elizabeth.

“How very auspicious. Did you know, I added that same charm to a Christmas pudding the year of my betrothal to Mr. Bennet?”

“Traditions says—and I would hardly count it accurate—that the finder of the ring will wed, not the one who dropped it in the pudding,” Papa muttered. Did Mama rebuke him for rolling his eyes the way she had Elizabeth?

“Well that may be, Mr. Bennet, it might be. But, I can speak to what happened for me. I believe it may well have significance for others among us.” Mama fluttered her eyes at Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins smiled his cloying smile and edged a little closer to Elizabeth.

Papa huffed softly. “Let us hope that something with greater sense than a pudding prevails over such decisions, shall we now? So then, give me the buttered cloth and the pudding that it may be tied up and done with.”

Elizabeth stood back to give him room to dump the pudding out and wrap it in the pudding cloth.

Thankfully she had an ally in Papa or at least she seemed to. The way Mama carried on and encouraged Mr. Collins, she would need one.

Thank you so much, Maria, for sharing this excerpt with me and my readers! Congratulations on your upcoming releases. I can’t wait to read them!

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About Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months? 

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.  

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?   

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company. 

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

Preorder on Amazon

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About The Darcys’ First Christmas

 

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.  

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence. 

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?   

On sale on Amazon (99 cents at the time this post was published)

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About From Admiration to Love

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.  

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical. 

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out? 

Preorder on Amazon

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.  

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

She can be contacted at:

author.MariaGrace@gmail.com  | Facebook | G+ | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations</a | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering one ebook to my readers, and the winner will have a choice between Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, December 3, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let me know which book you’d like to win and what intrigues you most about these stories. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

I love when I see efforts to merge Jane Austen and poetry, so I was intrigued when James W. Gaynor contacted me about his new book, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables). What a fun idea! Well, my dear readers, today I am delighted to have James as a guest on my blog with an excerpt from the book and a giveaway! Please give him a warm welcome:

From the introduction:

Emily Dickinson once famously remarked that if she felt as though the top of her head were taken off, she knew she was reading poetry. And who among us did not read “It is a truth universally acknowledged, …” and feel our heads explode?

Pride and Prejudice’s opening sentence is also the perfect pick-up line. The narrator zeroes in on her reader and introduces herself with what has become one of English literature’s most quoted opening sentences.

Austen continues to flirt with her reader in the first sentences of each of the book’s 61 chapters. So, how better to acknowledge the power of Austen’s collective one-line poetry than by translating Pride and Prejudice’s opening-sentence poems into contemporary twists on the classic Japanese 17-syllable haiku?

And here you have it: Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!)

It is my hope that readers will find themselves smiling knowingly from time to time as they travel in this redesigned Japanese vehicle across Austen’s familiar English landscape — and that they will forgive my star-struck attempt at this love-letter-poem to the extraordinary woman who still speaks to us in ways that can blast off the top of our heads.

My favorite (well, one of) haiku:

Chapter 7

Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distant relation; and their mother’s fortune, though ample for her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his.

Five Bennet daughters —

Estate planning that backfired.

Which explains a lot.

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About the Author

James W. Gaynor

James W. Gaynor, author of Everything Becomes a Poem (Nemeton Press), is a poet, artist, editor, and writer. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lived for years in Paris, where he taught a course on Emily Dickinson at the University of Paris, studied the development of the psychological novel in 17th century France, and worked as a translator.

After returning to New York, Gaynor worked as an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, Cuisine magazine, Scriptwriter News and Forbes Publications. His articles, book reviews, poems and essays have appeared in The New York Observer, OTVmagazine.com, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, and Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. As #HaikuJim, Gaynor publishes a daily haiku drawn from current newspaper headlines and is the creator of Can You Haiku? — a corporate communications workshop based on using 17th-century Japanese poetry techniques to improve effective use of today’s digital platforms. Gaynor recently retired as the Global Verbal Identity Leader for Ernst & Young LLP.

Connect with James: Website | Twitter

Check out Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) on Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

James is generously offering a paperback of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) to one of my readers. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, December 3, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and we’d love to hear what intrigues you most about the book. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, James, for being my guest today! Congratulations on the new release! I’m looking forward to reading it.

It is always a pleasure to welcome Paulette Mahurin to the blog. I really enjoyed her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, and while I sadly have fallen behind in reading her other books, I always want to bring them to your attention, not just because her writing is great but also because all of the profits from the sale of her books benefit animal rescue efforts in Southern California. Paulette networks with multiple rescues in the area to get dogs out of kill shelters, and she has told me they have saved 823 dogs from kill shelters so far this year (as of the day I wrote this post, Nov. 16)! That is fantastic news! Click here for more information.

I’ve invited Paulette here today to talk about her inspiration for her latest novel, The Day I Saw the Hummingbird. Please give her a warm welcome:

When I wrote The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, the story took place in 1895 and dealt with the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for indecent exposure. To highlight the year and give depth to the story I researched 1895 to see if there were other newsworthy events that took place to factor into the story. That hit pay dirt. That was the year the biggest anti-Semitic scandal, The Dreyfus Affair, occurred in France and also across the ocean it was the year Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta Address sending racism flaring in the United States.

The Dreyfus Affair and Booker T. Washington’s contribution to significant historical events fascinated me. I decided to write separate books about each. The Dreyfus Affair and Emile Zola’s part in freeing an innocent man became my book, To Live Out Loud. When I finished that I wrote a book about the holocaust, The Seven Year Dress.

When that was in print my attention once again went to Booker T. Washington, and I puzzled with how to address a story surrounding the events of his life. My research led me to the struggles he went through to see that doors were opened to give African Americans a chance at education, which up till then had been illegal in many states. The quest to understand the lack of education led me to slaves during the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, which inspired me to write my fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird.

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About The Day I Saw The Hummingbird

On the eve of his tenth birthday, a young slave’s life is turned upside down. The unthinkable events that led up to the day Oscar Mercer saw a hummingbird test the limits of this young boy’s body, mind and soul. Gripped with fear and filled with anger, Oscar faces raw, crushing hatred aimed at him and everyone he loves. In a time when a nation was ripped apart geographically, economically, politically and morally, comes a story of a courageous boy who began life as a slave on a sugarcane plantation in Louisiana and escapes via the Underground Railroad. Through the efforts and good will of kind, brave people determined to free slaves, Oscar faces devastating obstacles and dangers. Struggling with his inner impulse to seek revenge for the injustices and violence levied on his family and friends, he discovers that in bondage you pray to God, but in freedom you meet Him. From the award-winning, best-selling author of The Seven Year Dress comes a story that brings another cadre of memorable characters alive on pages that pulse with hatred and kindness, cruelty and compassion, despair and hope. Oscar’s journey on the Underground Railroad is a heart-pounding ride that the reader will remember long after this story ends.

“A superb portrayal of courage and strength of the human spirit. A poignant and unforgettable page-turner. I loved every page.” Jana Petken, bestselling author of The Guardian of Secrets.

Check out The Day I Saw the Hummingbird on Goodreads | Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)

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About the Author

Paulette Mahurin is a best selling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the top ten bestseller lists on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K. and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, is schedules for release in 2017. Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue. Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

Check out Paulette’s Facebook and Amazon pages

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Thank you for sharing your inspiration, Paulette! And thank you for you contribution to animal rescue efforts! Congratulations on your new release, and thank you for being my guest.

Source: Review copy from author

She’d been a little tempted to keep it herself, she had to admit. Indeed, she’d placed it on her shelf of beloved hardbacks just to see what it looked like. But wasn’t that the test of a really good gift? If it truly hurt you to give it away then you knew that it was a good present.

(from Christmas with the Book Lovers)

Christmas with the Book Lovers is the latest installment in Victoria Connelly’s series, The Book Lovers. It is set right after the first book, The Book Lovers, which introduced readers to the Nightingale family, which owns a trio of bookshops in the village of Castle Clare, and children’s book author Callie Logan, who moved from London to Owl Cottage in Newton St. Clare after her marriage ended and befriended Sam Nightingale, the owner of a secondhand bookshop and the founder of the village’s new book club.

In this novella, Callie is spending Christmas Eve with the Nightingale family at Campion House, and she is excited to experience the family tradition of reading ghost stories aloud, specifically those by M.R. James. Callie is intrigued by the family’s recollection of a first edition of a James book that Sam read from in the past and that his mother, Eleanor, swears is haunted. When eerie noises and shadows outside begin to make the family anxious, Callie second-guesses her gift for Sam.

So far I’ve loved every book in this series, and Christmas with the Book Lovers is no exception. This book is perfect for the weeks between Halloween and Christmas, merging spooky stories with yuletide traditions. I loved the idea of a haunted book, and with the entire Nightingale family present for the evening, there was enough banter and anxiety to keep me on the edge of my seat. As with every book in the series, Connelly makes the Nightingale family come alive, and I was envious of Callie because she got to be a part of the family and share in their traditions.

Christmas with the Book Lovers is a short and sweet tale that would be best enjoyed with a hot drink, a warm blanket, darkness outside, and the twinkle of Christmas lights inside. It’s a stellar addition to the series and one I would definitely re-read during the holiday season. I can’t wait to see where Connelly takes these characters next!

Disclosure: I received Christmas with the Book Lovers from the author for review.

Source: Review copy from editor

Editor Christina Boyd and her team of Austenesque authors have done it again with her latest anthology, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. I absolutely loved The Darcy Monologues, so when I heard about this collection, I knew I had to read it, and it lived up to my expectations and more. I love to read about the bad boys in Austen’s novels because they make things more exciting, and I have often wondered what led them astray. The 11 stories in this anthology cover all of Austen’s infamous bad boys and anti-heroes, and while I enjoyed each story on its own, reading them together was even more delicious.

The collection features: “Willoughby’s Crossroads” (John Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility) by Joana Starnes; “A Wicked Game” (George Wickham, Pride and Prejudice) by Katie Oliver; “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” (Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride and Prejudice) by Beau North; “The Address of a Frenchwoman” (Thomas Bertram, Mansfield Park) by Lona Manning; “Last Letter to Mansfield” (Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park) by Brooke West; “An Honest Man” (Frank Churchill, Emma) by Karen M Cox; “One Fair Claim” (Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion) by Christina Morland; “The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot” (William Elliot, Persuasion) by Jenetta James; “As Much as He Can” (General Tilney, Northanger Abbey) by Sophia Rose; “The Art of Sinking” (John Thorpe, Northanger Abbey) by J. Marie Croft; “For Mischief’s Sake” (Captain Frederick Tilney, Northanger Abbey) by Amy D’Orazio

It should come as no surprise that my favorite of all the stories was “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” by Beau North because I am a sucker for a good story about the colonel. The agreement he makes with an American heiress shunned by ton was clever, and I loved the bit of action and even getting a glimpse of Mr. Darcy after his failed proposal at Hunsford. I enjoyed the glimpse of the obnoxiously vain Sir Walter Elliot and how he went about choosing a bride in “One Fair Claim,” and he was just as delightfully silly in his youth. But what surprised me is the ability of these authors to make me feel some compassion for the characters I love to hate, like the heartache experienced by George Wickham and Tom Bertram in their stories, which emphasized the complexity of Austen’s characters. Still others will never change, but I felt like I understood their motivations a bit more.

Dangerous to Know is a must-read for those looking for something new in the realm of Austen-inspired fiction. Some of the stories were steamy and passionate, some were more humorous, but all of them make you take another, deeper look at Austen’s rakes and rogues and make you feel something more than contempt.

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About Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues

“One has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” —Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpieces are littered with unsuitable gentlemen—Willoughby, Wickham, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elliot, et al.—adding color and depth to her plots but often barely sketched. Have you never wondered about the pasts of her rakes, rattles, and gentlemen rogues? Surely, there’s more than one side to their stories.

It is a universal truth, we are captivated by smoldering looks, daring charms … a happy-go-lucky, cool confidence. All the while, our loyal confidants are shouting on deaf ears: “He is a cad—a brute—all wrong!” But is that not how tender hearts are broken…by loving the undeserving? How did they become the men Jane Austen created? In this romance anthology, eleven Austenesque authors expose the histories of Austen’s anti-heroes.

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues is a titillating collection of Georgian era short stories—a backstory or parallel tale off-stage of canon—whilst remaining steadfast to the characters we recognize in Austen’s great works.

What say you? Everyone may be attracted to a bad boy…even temporarily…but heaven help us if we marry one.

Check out Dangerous to Know on Goodreads | Amazon (the ebook is promo priced at $2.99 for the duration of the blog tour, so don’t miss out on that!)

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About the Editor

CHRISTINA BOYD https://m.facebook.com/TheDarcyMonologues/ wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner, The Quill Ink, a contributor to Austenprose, and a commercial ceramicist. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by actor Henry Cavill when she won the Omaze experience to meet him in the spring of 2017 on the London Eye. True story. You can Google it.

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About the Authors

KAREN M COX https://karenmcoxauthor.wordpress.com/ is an award-wining author of four novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, and I Could Write a Book, as well as an e-book novella companion to 1932, The Journey Home. She also contributed short stories for the anthologies Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and The Darcy Monologues. Originally from Everett, Washington, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

J. MARIE CROFT https://www.amazon.com/J.-Marie-Croft/e/B004HZD22W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1508353662&sr=1-1 is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF Novella), and her humorous short stories: “Spyglasses and Sunburns” in the Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology and “From the Ashes” in The Darcy Monologues. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

AMY D’ORAZIO https://www.facebook.com/Amy-DOrazio-author-369312830172988/ is a former scientist and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in equal measure. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters devoted to sports with long practices and began writing stories as a way to pass the time spent at their various gyms and studios. She firmly believes that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily-ever-afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. She is the author of The Best Part of Love and the soon-to-be released A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity.

JENETTA JAMES https://www.facebook.com/jenettajameswriter/ is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing, and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers, as well as a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues.

LONA MANNING https://www.amazon.com/Lona-Manning/e/B01N7UJHJX is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at http://www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians. She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can follow Lona at http://www.lonamanning.ca where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.

CHRISTINA MORLAND https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Morland/e/B01IJHEZKQ spent the first two decades of her life with no knowledge whatsoever of Pride and Prejudice—or any Jane Austen novel, for that matter. She somehow overcame this childhood adversity to became a devoted fan of Austen’s works. When not writing, Morland tries to keep up with her incredibly active seven-year-old and maddeningly brilliant husband. She lives in a place not unlike Hogwarts (minus Harry, Dumbledore, magic, and Scotland), and likes to think of herself as an excellent walker. Morland is the author of two Jane Austen fanfiction novels: A Remedy Against Sin and This Disconcerting Happiness.

BEAU NORTH http://beaunorthwrites.com/#top is the author of three books and contributor to multiple anthologies. Beau hails from the kudzu-strangled wilderness of South Carolina but now hangs her hat in Portland, Oregon. In her spare time, Beau is the co-host of the podcast Excessively Diverted: Modern Austen On-Screen.

KATIE OLIVER https://www.facebook.com/KatieOliverWriter is the author of nine novels, including the Amazon bestseller Prada and Prejudice, as well as the Dating Mr. Darcy, Marrying Mr. Darcy, and Jane Austen Factor series. She resides in South Florida with her husband (where she goes to the beach far less often than she’d like) and is working on a new series. Katie began writing as a child and has a box crammed with half-finished stories to prove it. After raising two sons, she decided to get serious and get published.

She is convinced that there is no greater pleasure than reading a Jane Austen novel.

SOPHIA ROSE https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13418187.Sophia_Rose is a native Californian currently residing in Michigan. A long-time Jane Austen fan, she is a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues, Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, and Then Comes Winter anthologies, short stories based on Jane Austen’s works. Sophia’s love for writing began as a teen writing humorous stories submitted for Creative Writing class and high school writing club. Writing was set aside for many years while Sophia enjoyed a rewarding career working with children and families. Health issues led to reduced work hours and an opportunity for a return to writing stories that continue to lean toward the lighter side of life and always end with a happily-ever-after.

JOANA STARNES https://www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats—physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst—but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine. She is one of the contributors to The Darcy Monologues anthology, and the author of seven Austen-inspired novels: From This Day Forward—The Darcys of Pemberley, The Subsequent Proposal, The Second Chance, The Falmouth Connection, The Unthinkable Triangle, Miss Darcy’s Companion and Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter. You can connect with Joana through her website http://www.joanastarnes.co.uk and on Facebook via her timeline and her author page, All Roads Lead to Pemberley.  

BROOKE WEST https://www.facebook.com/brookewestwrites/ has always loved the bad boys of literature and thinks the best leading men have the darkest pasts. When she’s not spinning tales of rakish men and daring women, Brooke spends her time in the kitchen baking or at the gym working off all that baking. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son and their three mischievous cats. Brooke co-authored the novel The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the short story “Holiday Mix Tape,” which appears in the anthology Then Comes Winter. Find Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.

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Giveaway #1

Enter Rafflecopter to win fifteen (15) books from the anthology authors! One winner. Fifteen books! Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #1 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link.

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Giveaway #2

Follow our “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s #RakesAndGentlemenRogues” Blog Tour and comment on each stop to be eligible for #RakesAndGentlemenRogues Pleasures prize pack: ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Print, autographed by Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle; Bingley’s Teas (Willoughby & The Colonel); Jane Austen playing cards; set of 6 Austen postcards; and ‘The Compleat Housewife’ notecards set. (All guest comments will be entered in drawing to win. Comment at each site to increase your odds.) Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #2 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

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THE #RakesAndGentlemenRogues BLOG TOUR

💗Monday, November 6: REVIEW: Margie’s Must Reads, https://margiesmustreads.com

💗Thursday, November 9: REVIEW, Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

💗Monday, November 13: REVIEW, Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

💗Tuesday, November 14: REVIEW, Olga of ROSIE AMBER team, http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/

💗Wednesday, November 15: (release day) REVIEW, Just Jane 1813, http://justjane1813.com

💗Thursday, November 16: REVIEW, Diary of an Eccentric, https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com

🎩Monday, November 20: FEATURE w/Katie Oliver (George Wickham), From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

🎩Wednesday, November 22: FEATURE w/Joana Starnes (Willoughby), Babblings of a Bookworm, http://babblingsofabookworm.blogspot.com

🎩Friday, November 24: FEATURE w/Sophia Rose, (General Tilney), Herding Cats & Burning Soup, http://www.herdingcats-burningsoup.com

🎩Monday, November 27: FEATURE w/Amy D’Orazio (Captain Tilney), My Jane Austen Book Club, http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.com

🎩Wednesday, November 29: FEATURE w/Brooke West (Henry Crawford), VVB32 Reads, https://vvb32reads.blogspot.com

🎩Thursday, November 30: FEATURE w/Lona Manning (Tom Bertram), Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

💗Friday, December 1: REVIEW, Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

🎩Monday, December 4: FEATURE w/Beau North  (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

🎩Thursday, December 7: FEATURE w/J. Marie Croft (John Thorpe), Harry Rodell blog/ROSIE AMBER team, https://harryrodell.wordpress.com/author/rodellh

💗Friday, December 8: REVIEW, From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

🎩Monday, December 11: FEATURE w/Jenetta James (William Elliot), Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

🎩Thursday, December 14: FEATURE w/Karen M Cox (Frank Churchill), Darcyholic Diversions, http://darcyholic.blogspot.com

🎩Monday, December 17: FEATURE w/Christina Morland (Sir Walter Elliot), Of Pens & Pages, http://www.ofpensandpages.com

Disclosure: I received Dangerous to Know from the editor for review.

Source: Review copy from author

Kin Types is the newest poetry collection by Luanne Castle in which she recreates the stories of her ancestors. (Read the collection’s opening poem, “Advice from My Forebears” and the inspiration for it here.) She draws you in right away with lines similar to what many of us have heard from our elders, like “Quit scowling or your face will freeze that way” (“Advice from My Forebears,” page 2). I soon found myself immersed in the poems about Dutch immigrants who made their way to Michigan and forged a life, often difficult, judging from many of the poems, but hopeful as well in that these lines are written by their descendant.

From a mother who rushes into a house fire (“An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete”) to the fast-forwarding and rewinding that recounts the ups and downs of a marriage (“And So It Goes”), from the tale of a family who loses everything (“The Weight of Smoke”) to the names and connections that are uncovered when digging into a family’s history (“Genealogy”), Kin Types is about raising and confronting the ghosts of the past, making sense of the lives that came before us, and honoring the struggles and the sheer grit and determination that keeps the family tree growing over the generations.

Castle’s poems are narrative in style and haunting in that they portray some of the darkest moments in a family’s history, but they give us a glimpse of happiness and hope as well. The quote that opens the collection says it perfectly:

“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”

-Liam Callanan

It is easy to see how different today is from the era of the woman portrayed in these poems, but Castle does a brilliant job enabling readers to put ourselves in their shoes, at least for a handful of lines. It is virtually impossible to read Kin Types and not imagine the stories of your ancestors, especially those who you’ve heard about but who lived too long ago for you to have met. This collection is powerful in that, just as in the closing poem, “When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother,” it makes you consider how these long-dead people are reflected in who you are today. Kin Types is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a while, and one I won’t soon forget.

For more about Kin Types and to follow the blog tour, click on the button below:

Disclosure: I received Kin Types from the author for review.