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I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy and Deception. I’ve been a huge fan of Victoria’s since her first novel, and it’s been an honor to edit all of her books since then. I hope all of you love this book as much as I did. Victoria is here today with a guest post about Brighton and sea bathing during the Regency era, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

One of the fun parts of writing a historical novel is doing research about the period and occasionally discovering nuggets of unexpected (and sometimes bizarre) information.  This was my experience when I researched Brighton during the Regency period.  In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet talks longingly of going sea bathing; I always assumed this was another way of describing swimming in the ocean.  However, my research revealed that sea bathing was a very particular activity.

Brighton became a popular destination after the 1752 publication of Dr. Richard Russell’s Use of Seawater in the Diseases of the Glands, which described sea bathing as useful for curing various health conditions.  The prince regent became a frequent visitor, making the location even more fashionable.

Salt water was believed to be most effective when the subject was completely immersed.  This presented several problems since men and women needed to be separated (they often bathed in the nude), and many people did not swim.  In Brighton the sexes were restricted to different parts of the beach and they used bathing machines to ensure healthful immersion.

The bathing machine was basically a wooden structure that was pulled into the surf (during which time the bather changed into a bathing costume).  Once in the deeper water, the bather would be “dipped” by a professional dipper who not only ensured that the bather didn’t drown but would also advise about wave conditions, the best times of day to dip, and other considerations.

It doesn’t sound like the most pleasant way to enjoy the beach, but no doubt there were people (including women) who enjoyed swimming in the traditional sense as well.  One blog helpfully annotated a period drawing to show that some female bathers were scared of the water while others clearly understood how to swim.

I found the practice to be so interesting that I just had to include a sea bathing scene in Darcy and Deception.  Not surprisingly, Elizabeth loves the sea, while Lydia and her friend Mrs. Forster are more cautious.  Please enjoy the excerpt below:

Elizabeth had heard about bathing machines that allowed women to be “dipped” in the sea with the help of an attendant who ensured they did not drown. “I simply planned to swim.”

Mrs. Forster gaped at her.  “You know how to swim?”  Elizabeth might as well have confessed to witchcraft.

“Yes.”

The woman eyed the placid waves suspiciously.  “Risk it if you wish!  But Lydia and I shall use the bathing machine.  I have secured the services of Martha Gunn herself!”  She paused as though Elizabeth should be impressed.

“Very well,” Elizabeth replied, neither knowing nor caring who Martha Gunn was.

“She is the most famous dipper in Brighton!” Lydia exclaimed, proud to know something her sister did not.

“What an odd profession,” Elizabeth said to herself. But she mustered a smile for the other women.  “How exciting!  Please enjoy your sea bathing.”

Elizabeth hurried toward the water while the other women approached one of the machines perched precariously on the beach. Mrs. Forster stopped to speak with great animation to a sturdy, florid-faced woman who stood beside the door.  Mrs. Gunn presumably.

Most of the women on the beach wore casual morning clothes and sat on blankets, chatting and laughing.  Some held parasols to shield their complexions from the sun while others walked about the beach collecting shells.  Numerous women with damp and disordered hair attested to the popularity of the bathing machines.

Elizabeth made her way through the crowds to the edge of the water.  The sand and smooth stones under her bare feet were warm, but not too hot.  The cool water lapped around her feet as she waded deeper and deeper, up to her knees.  Shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight, she gazed out to the horizon, enjoying the view of endless ocean.

There were only a few women, perhaps a dozen in all, who dared to experience the sea without the assistance of a bathing machine—and five were merely wading.  However, a few women swam in earnest, including two who appeared to be naked.

Elizabeth waded deeper, gradually acclimating herself to the cooler temperature.  It was most refreshing.  When the water was deep enough, Elizabeth completely submerged herself, gasping slightly at the cold.  The waves were mild; perfect conditions for swimming.  Elizabeth swam back and forth, parallel to the shore, with strong, swift strokes.  How refreshing!  I have passed far too much of my time recently in drawing rooms.  Already she was wondering when she would be able to return to the beach for a swim. How could such an outing be arranged?

Ultimately her muscles tired of the unaccustomed exercise, and Elizabeth returned to the shallower water.  She stood in water to her waist as she caught her breath.

She had kept an eye on the bathing machine containing Lydia and Mrs. Forster.  Now she noticed as it was pulled into deeper water by a weary horse.

Once the machine’s back ramp was level with the water, one of the attendants freed the horse from its harness, walked it to the machine’s other end, and attached it there.  Clever.  Such a system allowed them to return to shore without needing to turn the vehicle in a circle.

Mrs. Forster, dressed in her shift, emerged from the small door at the machine’s end and sat on the protruding ramp, dangling her feet in the water.  Without ceremony, Mrs. Gunn reached over and plucked the woman from the ramp.  Goodness, she was strong!  The dipper waded a little distance into deeper water and then dunked Mrs. Forster—one, two, three times—all the way into the water, carefully ensuring that even the top of her head and her feet were thoroughly soaked.

I suppose only a complete dunking will benefit the glands, Elizabeth thought.

Mrs. Forster emerged spluttering after each dunking, appearing quite bedraggled and miserable by the time Mrs. Gunn set her back on the machine’s platform.  I wonder how much the colonel’s wife paid for the privilege of being treated like a biscuit in a cup of tea? Elizabeth found herself hoping that dipping did indeed have medicinal properties because the activity itself appeared to provide no obvious pleasure.

When it was Lydia’s turn, Elizabeth’s sister twitched and jerked.  She searched the area as if seeking an escape, but there was nowhere to go.  Noticing Lydia’s disposition, Mrs. Gunn enlisted the help of the other attendant so that they formed a kind of chair with their arms to carry Lydia. But the youngest Miss Bennet screeched as though they were about to feed her to a wild animal.  Completely ignoring Lydia’s antics, the two women hastily dunked the squirming girl three times before depositing her again on the ramp.

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About Darcy and Deception

Returning home from Kent, Elizabeth Bennet is still distressed over Mr. Darcy’s insulting marriage proposal.  However, her attention is diverted by the local militia commander who asks her to observe Wickham, now suspected of being a French spy.  Pretending to be besotted with Wickham, Elizabeth accompanies the regiment when they relocate to Brighton.

Darcy arrives at Longbourn with the intention of making amends to Elizabeth, only to discover that she is now at Brighton with Wickham.  Desperate to save her from the scoundrel, Darcy follows her to the seaside, where he hopes to woo her away from the other man.

Deception piles on top of deception as Elizabeth attempts to carry out her mission without betraying confidences—or breaking Darcy’s heart.  However, the French plot runs deeper than she knows; soon she and Darcy are plunged into the confusing and dangerous world of international espionage.  Can Darcy and Elizabeth escape with their lives and their love intact?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an ebook copy of Darcy and Deception to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, January 20, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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It’s a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the latest installment in The Bennet Wardrobe series, The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. Don is here to talk a little about the series, as well as share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

Historical Context in The Bennet Wardrobe

Jane Austen was a young lady and, later a mature woman, of her times. Like most authors, Austen’s work rose from a clear understanding of the social milieu that had begun to mature by the time the industrialization of Great Britain was entering its second half century at about 1805. As such, Austen was writing for an equally-informed audience, albeit one that was awfully content to cling to the old ways.

Every one of the Canonical books in informed by their own historical contexts. The history was not necessarily overt but was akin to the wash a painter applies to the canvas prior to beginning work.

In Pride and Prejudice, while he is seeking to become a gentleman by purchasing an estate, Bingley, none-the-less, retains ownership of the textile mills because the British Army needed uniforms, tents and other woven goods. Pemberley was a money machine for Darcy because the price of grain was skyrocketing as that same army demanded food. Captain Wentworth ranged the high seas seizing French Warships and Spanish gold. Colonel Fitzwilliam was often off-stage fighting Napoleon’s hordes. The Bertram fortune rooted in sugar grew exponentially as rum was the easiest way to concentrate and transport sugar from the Carib. The British Navy consumed an immense amount of rum…and likewise the general population.  The Methodist Dissent runs throughout the background whenever a young, but sensible, clergyman appears.

As an historian, I habitually seek to establish context to add a deeper layer of understanding to events and personalities. Thus, when I began to compose the Bennet Wardrobe stories, t’was a natural activity to utilize historical references to establish the meaning character motives and actions.

For instance, while I could have had Mary find her own way to grow beyond the moralizing woman, I preferred to have her emerge by reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In the climax of the book, the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 reshaped both Mary and Lydia’s lives

One of my favorite scenes from both The Keeper and The Countess Visits Longbourn has Kitty as an elderly lady addressing Georgiana Darcy in the chocolaterie of two French émigrés. She mentions the Deauville of 1812…a Breton resort that will grow over the next 150 years. Again, a bit of context that resonates throughout the next five books.

Historical personages also can be found throughout the books.  From Pierre-Auguste and Aline Renoir to Sigmund Freud in Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque to Lord Byron, Mary Godwin, and Percy Shelley in Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess, those who stood astride the times logically join in our story to help advance the plot and allow the characters to grow.

My most audacious insertion of historical figures appears in the most recent offering, The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. From the United States High Commissioner overseeing the American Zone of Occupation, General Lucius Clay, to the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Winston S. Churchill, key historical figures offer context to forward the deeper—and often noir—themes of the broader story. I have also appropriated a hero of the hidden War, Miss Eileen Nearne, as a love interest in this novel. Finally, a few royal personages play an important role in our little drama.

I also ask my readers to suspend disbelief and accept that the Universe of the Wardrobe is a lose parallel of the reality which we experience. I have adopted Robert A. Heinlein’s concept of solipsism which asserts that the act of writing fiction creates the universe in which the story exists as a reality: essentially, all myth is reality and all reality is myth.

Thus, you will note a few references made by characters to “the biography of the Bennets written by Miss Austen.” I have chosen to treat Pride and Prejudice as a fictionalized account of persons—the Bennet Family, the Darcys, and the Bingleys—who truly existed. This allows Mrs. Bennet to carp about the book in Chapter XXX of The Avenger: 

“That impertinent Miss Austen who wrote of our family certainly did not help my cause in any manner: showing me in just one light, and the worst one, at that.  Of course, she never met me and only drew her portrait based upon second-hand information, probably supplied by jealous mamas of the ton.”

I hope that my readers will allow my slight bending of some closely-held and loved notions about the Canon as The Bennet Wardrobe continues. I look forward to your comments.

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This excerpt from The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament is © 2018 by Don Jacobson. Any reproduction—either in print or electronic media without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited. Published in the United States of America.

Chapter XVIII

The Boardroom of the Bennet Family Trust, August 3, 1947

Not a single soul in the Board Room, beside the two aristocrats with whom he had broken bread, had ever beheld Bennet in the flesh.

The assembled Bingleys, Gardiners, Fitzwilliams, Bennets, and Darcys collectively gasped. More than one immediately looked toward the Dowager Countess’ portrait of The Founder as if to confirm his identity.

Bennet could recognize the varying and diluted images of his daughters in the countenances of the persons throughout the room. A few seemed to have a touch of his old friend Sir William Lucas’ distinctive brow and nose. Not that he dismissed most out-of-hand, for they were his kith and kin, but they were clearly from lines that had branched away from the Bennet tree after his time. The potency of their connection to him would be filtered through the closeness of his ties to Matlock and Pemberley.

However, there were two ladies who defied this sort of easy classification: one older, obviously the mother, and the other, her daughter from all appearances and clearly just having attained her majority. They stood slightly off to one side of the great room. Each was dressed elegantly, if in an understated manner, complete with hats, and matching clutch handbags. The elder sported a brown fur neck wrap which added a touch of chic even on this unseasonably steamy summer’s day. Her daughter was wearing a suit which was redolent of cotton superfine and reminded Bennet of a military uniform but without all the frippery and frogging so favored in his time. She was also without gloves but sported an impressive diamond betrothal ring on her left hand.

Both seemed to hearken back to a trunk of the family which he had not expected to encounter this far into the future. Unaccountably, they were being accorded a considerable amount of deference; not a single soul presumed to approach them. Matlock and Pemberley, the Earl and Countess, hovered slightly behind the two, acting remarkably like a pair of border collies minding their sheep.

Never being one to allow a lady, let alone two, to be relegated to lonely contemplation along the figurative chair rail, Bennet genially approached the pair and offered, “Good morning. I fear that you must forgive a man of my advanced years for presuming upon you without an introduction. However, I must admit that your appearance here today has somewhat surprised me. You look quite like my old solicitor, the man whose name graces the letterhead downstairs. I am speaking of Mr. Frederick Hunters who would have been my Great Uncle.

“Are you, by chance descended from the Hunters line of the Bennet Family?”

He felt his grandson, the Earl, fly up by his side. The man’s gulp indicated that he feared his Grandfather may have committed a terrible faux pas.

Bennet quickly continued, “Before Lord Matlock flays me, please forgive my forwardness. I am used to country manners, well actually, more like country familiarity…and both those probably have not aged well in the past 150 years. Might I presume upon Earl Fitzwilliam’s graciousness to introduce me properly?” He glanced at his doppelgänger and lifted a brow.

The Earl said nothing until the older lady moved her handbag from its double handheld shield-like post in front of her torso. Giving the man a nod, she said in a melodic voice that was redolent of drawing rooms and racing meets, “Yes, please, Earl Matlock, introduce us to your honored guest.”

Bennet swore that he expected his grandson…he is M, for Heaven’s sake…to run a finger under his all-too-tight collar before he completed this British tradition.

“Ma’am.  Mr. Bennet, may I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mrs. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon of Balmoral, Scotland and her daughter, erm…” he stalled on the second introduction.

The young woman quickly took pity on the older man and stepped forward, thrusting her left hand out, saying, “Thank you, Uncle Thomas. Elizabeth Windsor. Without a doubt you must be Mr. Thomas Bennet of Longbourn Estate in Hertfordshire. Your portrait does not do you justice. T’is truly an honor to meet The Founder.”

Bennet, in his surprise, automatically reached out and shook her proffered digits. Several sharp intakes of breath echoed around the room.

Her mother hid a smile and a small chuckle behind a gloved hand, and then turned to the Countess and said, “I declare, Georgie, it must be something with girls named Elizabeth. If I recall the tale correctly, your Lizzy greeted her German in that manner the first time they met on the sand by the Beach House.”

The Countess, now in her 45th year replied with all of the dignity she could muster, “You have the right of it ma’am. Recall that my daughter was lately a WREN driver while yours in the ATS could lubricate—how do the Americans call it—oh yes, a deuce and a half. I imagine our egalitarian cousins schooled the girls’ manners from time to time!”

Miss Windsor looked at the two before riposting, “Now Mama, Aunt Georgie; you know the world is changing. Just as Mr. Bennet discovered, if we stand on ceremony and privilege, nothing will ever be accomplished.

“And, you did teach me to respect our elders,” she said with a devilish twinkle in her eye, “I doubt if there is anyone here who will stand superior to a man birthed in 1760! And, yes, Mr. Bennet, we are of the Hunters’ line.”

She leaned in toward Bennet and whispered conspiratorially, “Your biography was required reading for all of my generation. Why, I am unsure.”

Bennet found that he enjoyed the young lady’s spirit, reminding him as it did of his own beloved Elizabeth.

Mrs. Bowes-Lyon gently, but firmly, broke up the singular conference saying, “Lord Matlock, I do believe you called this emergency meeting of the board. Might we attend to that? I fear that my daughter and I have other claims on our time this day. Later, we had hoped to rejoin my husband in Scotland. The shooting is particularly good this year.”

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About The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament

Bennet looked at his wife’s swollen lips, softly bruised from several deeply loving kisses, and her flushed complexion, as alluring when gracing the countenance of a woman of four-and-forty as that of a girl of nine-and-ten. He was one of the lucky few to have fallen in love with the same woman at both ages.  

Thomas Bennet, Master of Longbourn, had always counted himself amongst the few educated gentlemen of his acquaintance. But, he had to travel over 120 years into the future to discover how little he knew about the woman sharing his life.

Once again, the amazing Bennet Wardrobe proved to be the schoolmaster. Tom Bennet’s lesson? Mrs. Bennet had been formed especially for him. Yet, t’would be the good lady herself who taught him the power of the Fifth and Sixth Loves: Redemption and Forgiveness.

Fanny Bennet also would uncover deep wells of courage and inspiration as she stood by her man’s side in the bleak years after World War II. Together they would lead their descendants in pursuit of the beast who had wronged every member of the Five Families.

The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone

The Avenger takes us on a new journey through The Bennet Wardrobe – an alternate universe rising from Don Jacobson’s vivid imagination and based upon the immortal Pride and Prejudice. The Avenger is another important step leading to the culmination of this enchanting trip: one that has drawn us into its reality to travel side-by-side with richly sketched characters. Each book has left us wanting more.

The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone as a unique result of originality focused on beloved characters as they move—and grow—through surprising plotlines.

Lory Lilian, author of Rainy Days

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.

He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.

His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Connect with Don:

Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page

Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog)

Author Website (with blog)

Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Don is generously giving away 4 copies of The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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12/28 Babblings of a Bookworm Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

12/29 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl Review, Giveaway

12/30 My Love for Jane Austen Guest Post, Giveaway

01/03 My Vices and Weaknesses Author Interview, Giveaway

01/04 So Little Time… Guest Post, Giveaway

01/05 My life journey Review, Excerpt Giveaway

01/07 More Agreeably Engaged Character Interview, Giveaway

01/08 Diary of an Eccentric Guest Post, Giveaway

01/09 From Pemberley to Milton Excerpt, Giveaway

 

Dear friends, I’ve been excited about this guest post since I first learned of the title and laughed out loud. I couldn’t wait to see what the author had up her sleeve. Well, it’s time to find out, as Jayne Bamber is here today to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome!

 

Charles Bingley is a Hot Idiot

By Jayne Bamber, Author of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations

So, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Charles Bingley. I will say, he’s definitely a Nice Guy. I wouldn’t mind having him for a brother, though to own the truth, I would probably end up taking full advantage of his agreeable disposition – sound familiar?

I feel ya, bb. It’s hard being the smart one.

 

As a romantic prospect, I would Friendzone™ that f-boi faster than you could say Five Thousand A Year. Point me in the direction of Derbyshire, I prefer clever a-holes, thank you. Despite his being, as Jane Austen informs us, “just what a young man ought to be,” I have never warmed to him as a romantic hero. He is, in my opinion, a THIOT: That Hot Idiot Over There.

We know he’s attractive – Austen tells us that he is: “good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.” He is also, undeniably, not the sharpest key on the pianoforte. Jane Austen shows us this throughout the story, not only in his being easily led by his sister, but in his general weakness of mind, such as this conversation between Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth in Chapter 9:

“You begin to comprehend me, do you?” cried he, turning towards her.

“Oh! yes–I understand you perfectly.”

“I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am afraid is pitiful.”

In the very next chapter, Mr. Darcy recalls this exchanges, and chides his friend for trying to portray his own intransigence in such a favorable light:

“When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself–and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

In the much-revered mini-series, Mr. Bingley is portrayed true to form: “sensible, good humored, lively” …not to mention “wonderfully handsome” (which a young man ought likewise be!) Though not to my tastes, Crispin Bonham-Carter is 90’s hot – in Regency England, we’d probably hit that. Being the longest film adaption by far, we get the greatest sense of his foolishness, as well. We also get a reminder that though Elizabeth thinks well of Mr. Bingley, he is far from her type, as she “could never love a man who was out of his wits.”

In one of my favorite moments, we even catch a glimpse of what Austen herself neglected to show us, though it was certainly implied – Bingley being coaxed by his sisters and Mr. Darcy to abandon the lady whom he loves, despite having created expectations in Meryton, and within Jane Bennet’s heart, of a forthcoming engagement, and despite actually feeling himself to be in love with her. Sure, Charlotte Lucas did try to warn us – Jane was not demonstrative enough of her feelings, but Bingley had no reason to doubt Jane’s affections until his sisters and Mr. Darcy worked him over. The man literally had more confidence in their opinions than his own intuition. Weak!

Intervention: Regency Edition

Even when Bingley does come back to Netherfield to propose to Jane at last, it’s strongly implied that this wasn’t his own decision, either – he’s been given permission by Mr. Darcy, after Lizzy gives him the business in Kent for separating them. This is a bit of fanon I particularly enjoy, when JAFF variations show us how that conversation goes down. While it’s always fun to see Bingley grow some backbone and clap back at Mr. Darcy for concealing Jane’s presence in London, or for generally being an officious blockhead, I can’t help but imagine that Charles Bingley is truly incapable of ever standing up to his friend for anything, even when it almost cost him his chance at true love.

In the 2005 adaptation, Bingley is brilliantly portrayed as a fresh-faced, energetic man-child, more of a buffoon than he was in the ’95 version, and yet somehow more endearing. He’s got some great Cute Moments, such as the swoon-worthy grasping at Jane’s ribbon as he follows her through the ballroom, or his rehearsing his proposal with Mr. Darcy out by the pond. He also has a lot of pretty idiotic moments, yet no one really seems to mind that he’s a complete doofus.

Aside from his comments about accomplished young ladies, none of these silly moments are from the original story, and yet they’re all so very Bingley. They all contribute to his particular brand of attractiveness – cute, well-meaning, and utterly artless. And yet, it’s a bit alarming, when you think about the reality of a young woman entrusting her fate and future to such a man. This man, who actually has to remind us that he can read, is going to run an entire estate, and make all the decisions for himself, his wife, and any children they have.

Honestly, I’d rather marry Caroline.

Lost in Austen is not especially high on my list of costume dramas (largely due to Amanda’s haircut – seriously, no one in the entire Regency period is going to help her not stick out like a sore thumb?) but provides some great Bingley moments that capture his Austen-given personality quite well, and his portrayal is closest to the Bingley in my own imagination, particularly when I wrote Happier in Her Friends than Relations.

Perhaps bordering on the farcical, the Bingley of Lost in Austen, though a total babe, is almost too flawed to be redeemed, from his mopey lurking at Jane’s wedding, to his mixing guns and alcohol at Pemberley, and finally his bizarre duel with Mr. Bennet after absconding with Lydia. Wildly off-book, but I would argue not entirely out of the realm of what a thoughtless man like Bingley might be capable of, if events were to take a turn for the worse.

In my debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, the story opens with the premise that Bingley does not follow through with his plan to rent Netherfield, as his sister Caroline has no wish to leave London, for Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been elevated to the status of Viscount, and Caroline is determined to catch him if she can.

If you follow me on Facebook you will know I’ve posted a fan-casting of all the characters in Happier, with Freddie Stroma (Harry Potter, Pitch Perfect) as Charles Bingley.

When Bingley appears in Happier in Her Friends than Relations, Elizabeth Bennet’s perception of him is not shaded through her sister Jane’s rosy perspective of “just what a gentleman ought to be.” Elizabeth sees another side of Bingley, and though she is charmed at first, her practical understanding of what she wants in a mate – stability, dependability, and good sense, a man she can both love and respect, Bingley inevitably falls short of the mark. Though his fortune must be a factor for her, the decision is not ultimately hers alone to make, because my Charles Bingley is just as easily led by his sister as Austen has depicted him, and Elizabeth is not so generous with her forgiveness as Austen portrayed Jane Bennet.

In the excerpt below, Elizabeth has been led to believe that Bingley intends to propose to her, and though she is uncertain of her own feelings after six weeks’ acquaintance in London, she soon discovers that her deliberation has all been for naught.

Mr. Bingley fidgeted nervously, barely able to meet her eye. She knew he had not come to propose. “What is the matter, sir? Are you well?”

His face crumpled into despair as he stepped closer to her, reaching for her hand. “I do not deserve your concern, Elizabeth. We both know I have kept you waiting these five days. I broke my promise, and yet you would ask after my health without any reproach. You are too kind.”

“Have you any explanation, sir?”

Mr. Bingley ran his hands through his hair in agitation, just as he had done that night on the balcony. It occurred to Elizabeth that though he was gregarious enough in good cheer, he was not adept at expressing himself in serious situations. No, when solemnity was required, he was not a man who could be depended upon. Feeling her heart sink to the pit of her stomach, she sat down on the sofa. With a pained expression, Mr. Bingley sat down beside her and scowled at the rug. “I daresay you have some idea what I wanted to say to you that night… What I have wanted to say to you nearly every moment I have spent in your presence.”

“Yes.” Fearing her inevitable disappointment, she wished this mortifying interview to be over as quickly as possible.

He let out a long sigh. “Would that I had spoken my heart that night, Miss Bennet, for now, I cannot. It would not feel right, under the circumstances.”

“What circumstances, sir?”

Mr. Bingley brushed at his hair again. “I—we must leave London, for a time. We are for Bath, this very afternoon.”

“You are leaving?” Elizabeth drew back in confusion.

“I am afraid we must. I had to see you first. I wanted to come sooner, you must believe me, but I could not get away.”

“Could you not have sent word to my uncle?”

“Would that I had thought of it, or found the time. These past few days have been so very taxing.”

“I do not understand. What has happened?”

“Caroline has fallen ill, and I am afraid it is quite serious.”

“Good God,” Elizabeth cried, unable to hide her surprise. Miss Bingley had shown no sign of affliction at the Banfields’ dinner. Other than being afflicted with the worst sort of vanity and conceit. “It must have been very sudden. I cannot believe it—how shocking!”

“I was shocked, yes. We returned home that evening, after we had all danced together…. I told Caroline of my intentions…. She claimed she had a headache and took to her bed. I thought she was merely being peevish, but the next morning she rose quite early and sent for a doctor. Caroline is never ill. I was alarmed, and thought I ought not leave her, though I had meant to call here. I did not imagine I would be detained so many days, yet I have scarcely had a chance to get away. She seems to be getting worse every day, and I am worried for her. Louisa thinks that it is nothing, but I am afraid. Caroline is eager to leave London and said the doctor has recommended taking the waters in Bath. The Hursts will not indulge her, so it must be me. She wishes to travel there without delay.”

Realization dawned on Elizabeth and she sat in stunned silence for what felt like an eternity. It was just as she had feared. Miss Bingley had triumphed at the last in separating them, for Elizabeth had not the slightest doubt that the wretched woman’s illness was naught but a design to manipulate her naive brother. She saw in her mind precisely what a marriage to Mr. Bingley would be like, and felt that until that moment she had never known herself. No, she had foolishly hoped that he would, at the crucial moment, defy his sister in defense of the woman he loved. But it seemed he would not, or could not. He had taken the easier path, and succumbed to his sister’s demands, and Elizabeth knew in her heart that she could never bind herself to such a man.

Mr. Bingley looked over at her, and she could see the resignation in his eyes. On some level, perhaps unconsciously, he had already given her up. She scarcely knew what to say, for nothing could now breach the inevitable rift between them. The damage could not be undone. “And so you must go.”

“I have no desire to leave… London. But I must. I cannot say how long I shall be in Bath, but if you are in London when I return.…”

Elizabeth’s posture stiffened with defiance. That he should ask her to wait on him, on the whim of his deceitful sister! Her esteem for him had all but vanished, and she responded coldly, “I had not thought to stay much longer with my aunt and uncle. My sister in Kent has long been wishing me to visit.”

“Oh. Yes, I understand. Perhaps I shall send word to your uncle when I return to town. Perhaps.…” Mr. Bingley fell silent as Mrs. Gardiner’s footsteps could be heard in the hall. He stood and gave Mrs. Gardiner a slight nod as she entered the room. Looking back at Elizabeth with a faint smile he said, “It is folly to linger in this manner. I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is now impossible for me to enjoy.” With a quick bow he hastily left the room, and in another minute had departed the house.

Elizabeth glared out the window as his carriage disappeared. Yes, go, go. I would not wish you back again!

Mrs. Gardiner hurried toward her niece. “Dearest Lizzy, whatever has happened? Have you refused him?”

“I have not—Mr. Bingley did not propose to me.” Elizabeth filled her aunt in on all that had happened. When she finished, her aunt sank back against the sofa, crestfallen.

“Oh Lizzy, I am so sorry. It is all my fault, pressing you to like him, and setting you up for such disappointment. Your uncle and I thought it would be such a perfect match.” Here she embraced her niece tenderly. “Oh Lizzy, can you ever forgive me?”

Elizabeth thought it strange that she should be the one giving comfort at such a time, and offered her tearful aunt a wan smile. “I can hardly hold you accountable, or anyone else, save Mr. Bingley. And to own the truth, I believe you may be more disappointed than I. I suppose the blessing, once denied, begins to lose somewhat of its value in my estimation.”

Find out the rest of the story by purchasing your copy of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, available on Kindle January 5th!

Thanks for joining me on the second stop of my blog tour, and a special shout-out to those of you who have been following Happier since the days of posting on AHA and AO3! As a thank-you for all the wonderful support I’ve received, I have started a giveaway, and will be selecting a winner after each post on the blog tour! See the full schedule for the blog tour below, and click here to follow me on Facebook for updates on the sequel, coming soon!

Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today! Congratulations on your new book!

Nicole Clarkston recently introduced me to Leena Emsley, who narrated These Dreams for her, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Leena about all things audiobook-related. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi, Leena! Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an audiobook narrator?

I live in the UK, in the beautiful county of Northumberland. I come from a family of actors. My grandparents performed, my parents met on the stage and I was running around theatres from a young age. I went to drama school, but decided it was more fun as a hobby so devoted all my spare time to it and performed for many years on stages from Edinburgh to Berlin.

I gave up the stage when I had my children and have home schooled for almost 10 years. They are now teenagers and need me less, so I started to look for something I could do from home, and was drawn to find something that allowed me to indulge my old passion. I began doing voluntary audio work, took a training course for voice narrators, and signed up to ACX.

Can you describe the process of narrating a book? I know nothing about how it’s actually done, so any or all details would be fascinating to me. How do you go about differentiating between all the different characters/voices? What preparation is involved? Where do you record the book, etc.?

The first step is to read the book, know the story and get a feel for the characters. If there are particular accents required, I research the accent. In These Dreams there are several Portuguese characters. I was fortunate to have the help of Nicole’s Portuguese friend, Rita, who very kindly recorded phrases for me. She has also very kindly refrained from throwing her hands up in horror at how badly I managed to reproduce them! There is a balance between accuracy and performance. In the end, performance takes precedence, so long as I manage a flavour of the accent.

For characters with similar accents, I rely on their character differences to clue me in to their voices. Well drawn characters jump out the page. Mostly it comes down to intonation. For instance the snake Reginald (spoiler!) just has to have a languid tone, as opposed to his pompous staccato father. I do my best to differentiate between characters, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Leena Emsley

I record in a small booth my husband made for me. It does a good job of screening me from most outside noises, though I have to stop for planes, high wind and lawn mowers! I love my little booth. It feels like I enter a new world and I get totally wrapped up in the story.

What did you like best about narrating Nicole’s books?

I love Nicole’s writing! Not a word is wasted, there is pace and drama, her characters are well drawn and you feel their emotions. I am always moved by human compassion, and my favourite moment was when Elizabeth meets Amália. It reduced me to tears and required a pause in recording!

The Earl of Matlock and Lady Catherine were the most fun to narrate. It was great to let rip with the stiff upper lip, starchy accents, and so wonderful that their vulnerabilities were brought out, too.

What are some other books you’ve narrated?

My first book with ACX was Leslie Diamond’s Particular Intentions. It was my introduction to JAFF, and as a Jane Austen fan, I was immediately attracted. I am currently working on her sequel Particular Attachments. They are both Pride and Prejudice variations, with the sequel following Georgiana’s story. I have done several books books by Regina Puckett, as well as a detective story and steam punk adventure.

Thank you so much, Leena! I really enjoyed learning more about audiobook narration, so much so that I think this year might be time for me to give them another try!

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Giveaway

Nicole is generously offering two codes for each of her audiobooks, These Dreams and London Holiday. The codes are for the U.S. and U.K. only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know which book you’d prefer (you can enter for both, but can only win one) and whether you’d like a U.S. or U.K. code. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, January 13, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck! And a big thanks to Nicole for setting up the interview with Leena and for the very generous giveaway!

Source: Review copy from author

Anngela Schroeder’s new Pride and Prejudice-inspired Christmas novella, An Unexpected Merry Gentleman, is a delightful, heartwarming story for the holiday season. Mr. Bingley invites the Gardiners and the Darcys to Netherfield for Christmas, and while there, he hopes to find out for himself whether Jane Bennet really does have feelings for him. Mr. Darcy is a little ruffled at the change in his holiday plans, mostly because he’s spent much of his time since the Netherfield Ball trying to forget Elizabeth Bennet. But it’s not long before he’s spending all his time trying to change her opinion of him.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth can’t believe the Mr. Darcy who is so playful with her rambunctious nieces, Victoria and Emily, is the same Mr. Darcy who denied Mr. Wickham his livelihood. But Christmas at Netherfield gives them the opportunity to get to know each other and get past their first impressions and misunderstandings.

I absolutely adored this book, so much so that I read it in one sitting. I loved how Victoria and Emily Gardiner are the spitting images of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, and I especially loved Emily; what a spitfire! And it’s so cute how Mr. Darcy is so taken by Emily, recognizing that she is like a “Little Lizzy Bennet.” The presence of the children not only brings joy to Darcy’s sister and helps him realize that she’s no longer a child, but it also enables Darcy and Elizabeth to bond over their childhood escapades. I just loved their tender interactions and how their feelings evolved over the course of the book.

An Unexpected Merry Gentleman is a must-read for your Christmas list. Anngela recently stopped by my blog to talk about the painting that inspired the story and to share an excerpt, which is my favorite scene in the book with Darcy and Emily. To check out the excerpt and enter the giveaway for a Kindle copy of the book, click here. (The giveaway ends December 16.)

Disclosure: I received An Unexpected Merry Gentleman from the author for review.

Source: Purchased

A modern-day Pride and Prejudice-inspired Christmas story? Check. Cute cover? Yes! So of course I had to add Unwrapping Mr. Darcy to my list of Christmas reads for this year, and I wasn’t disappointed! L.L. Diamond’s novel is funny, sweet, sexy, and a complete page-turner.

Elizabeth Bennet takes a job as a lawyer at Darcy Holdings. She is excited about the job, until she overhears her boss, William Darcy, being a complete jerk on her first day. Her sister’s boyfriend, Charlie Bingley, convinces her to stay. It’s not long before William realizes his mistake, but he doesn’t know how to apologize.

A simple “I’m sorry” isn’t good enough for William, and he takes his job as Elizabeth’s Secret Santa up so many notches that Elizabeth begins to wonder whether she has a stalker. One gift at the office party doesn’t say “I’m sorry and am mad about you” as well as 25 thoughtfully planned gifts in an Advent calendar fashion. Meanwhile, he tries to convince her that he’s not the person he seemed on her first day at the office, but Elizabeth can hardly stand to be in the same room with him. Is that because he intimidates her, or is it because of her attraction to him?

In true Pride and Prejudice fashion, Unwrapping Mr. Darcy is filled with misunderstandings, awkward interactions, and heated conversations. Elizabeth’s personal assistant, Charlotte, provides plenty of comic relief, and Elizabeth’s cat, Grunt, provides plenty of mischief. I liked that Diamond gave some complexity to William’s character, but there were times that I thought Elizabeth went a little overboard in her reactions toward him (like running out of the room instead of talking to him, even if she didn’t necessarily want to), but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. I especially enjoyed William’s take on Secret Santa; that he truly listened to her and got to know her, that he put so much thought into each gift, and that he gave her the gifts not to impress her but to bring her joy warmed my heart.

Unwrapping Mr. Darcy is a lighthearted romance, with just a touch of angst, and is a delightful escapist read for the busy holiday season. It was the perfect way for me to spend a chilly day, curled up in my chair with a cup of coffee, a hot Mr. Darcy, and a troublemaking cat for some laughs.

Source: Purchased

When I heard that Christina Boyd was releasing another Jane Austen-inspired short story collection, that it was Christmas themed, and that the proceeds would benefit the Chawton Great House, I knew I had to get my hands on the book. When I saw that they were all Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories, a mix of Regency and modern (a huge plus because I love the modern variations), and that the stories were written by some of the best authors of Austen-inspired fiction, I knew I had to read it right away. With all that is going on in my life right now, I haven’t had much time or energy for reading, but I didn’t want to miss out on my annual December month of holiday books, so I turned on my Kindle, started Yuletide, and the next thing I knew, I’d finished the book! It was the right mix of stories, and they were just the right length to get me back in my reading groove.

My favorite passage of the book was from the very first story, “The Forfeit” by Caitlin Williams, in which Mr. Darcy finds himself stranded at Longbourn for the holiday during a snowstorm, and he and Elizabeth make a friendly wager. “It was usually her favourite time of year, when everyone was predisposed to laughter, love was limitless, and much joy was to be had from simple pleasures.” That line is the essence of Christmas for me, and I pretty much knew right then that I would love this collection.

“And Evermore Be Merry” by Joana Starnes shows readers a Christmas at Pemberley through Georgiana’s eyes some years after her brother and Elizabeth’s wedding. “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio is a modern story in which Darcy finds some Christmas magic via Facebook and yearns for what his life could be. “By a Lady” by Lona Manning depicts an Elizabeth determined to become a friend to Anne de Bourgh. “Homespun for the Holidays” by J. Marie Croft is another modern tale that finds Darcy stranded on Christmas Eve while attempting to find a unique present for his sister, and he must depend on the generosity of the family he insulted in his pursuit of said gift. “The Season for Friendly Meetings” by Anngela Schroeder puts Elizabeth and Jane in Yorkshire for a Christmas ball, where Colonel Fitzwilliam gets Elizabeth thinking that her first impressions of a certain someone may have been based on falsehoods. And “Mistletoe Mismanagement” by Elizabeth Adams depicts a Christmas house party hosted by the newlywed Darcys at which his Fitzwilliam relatives (not the dear colonel, of course) prove to be anything but proper.

This was a fantastic lineup of stories, and I was especially pleased to find a couple of moderns thrown in. There was some magic and mischief, stories where Darcy and Elizabeth are falling love, and stories set during their marriage. Manning’s portrayal of Anne de Bourgh was a pleasant surprise, and I enjoyed the colonel’s sly maneuvering in Schroeder’s story. It’s rare to find a short story collection in which I enjoy all of the stories, but given how much I love these authors, I’m not surprised that Yuletide was an exception. This is a must-read if you love Pride and Prejudice-inspired stories, and it would make a perfect Christmas gift for the JAFF fan in your life.

All proceeds to benefit Chawton Great House in Hampshire, former manor of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight and now the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600-1830.