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Extended Blog Hiatus

Hello friends! I know I had planned to come back after Labor Day, but I’m extending the hiatus until at least the new year. I’m doing better in some ways, but still have some health issues to deal with — on top of my mother’s recent cancer diagnosis. It’s also my daughter’s senior year of college, and after graduation, she will be having knee surgery. Needless to say, life has been stressful.

You’ll see a guest post on Nov. 10, but that was planned long before the hiatus. I hope you will check it out.

I hope you are all doing well, and I wish you a very happy holiday season filled with love, family, and happiness.

Hugs,

Anna

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming AE Hines to the blog to share a poem from his new collection, Any Dumb Animal, and a little about its inspiration. Please give him a warm welcome.

My Father’s Son

If my father was ever tender, I don’t remember.
By the time I could forge memories, he’d grown
hard, cold like the hood of his Pontiac
on a January morning. Surely he must have changed
my diaper or offered me a bottle when my mother’s milk
ran dry. Held me when I cried.

Biology has blessed us with the strongest recollection
for what to avoid, so I don’t know if he ever lifted
my little body to the sky, or carried me on his shoulders.
Instead I’m left with random sensations — the burn
of the electric fence on my uncle’s farm,
how my father told me to grab hold of the naked wire,
so that I might remember, he said, so that I could learn.

I can still make out my uncle’s orchard, the sun glinting
off the silver leaves, but not the first time I crushed
a grape between my teeth or tasted the juices straight
from my fingers. Perhaps there’s simply too much good
to remember, too little space in our brains to hold
both the good and bad.

When I was sixteen, overtaken by desire, I first
understood what my father thought of me.
He said the saddest son-of-a-bitch he ever knew
lived out in the woods with a daughter who longed
to be a son, and a son who chased every boy in town.

It was the same year he left our family, the year
I discovered in his belongings a picture he had taken
of me when I was four. All cherub smile, the sun ablaze
in my hair — a photo he must have treasured
since he said he’d kill me before he let me have it.

Which is really something when you think about it —
the memory of the boy he had seen through the lens
so much better than the real thing standing
right there before him.

AE Hines

On “My Father’s Son”

Like much of the collection, this poem explores human relationships through the faulty lens of memory and one’s own personal history. “My Father’s Son,” did originate from actual incidents in childhood, just as the narrative describes. But as I explored these memories, I found myself more interested in what wasn’t there, particularly in relation to my own father. Surely, there were moments of tenderness hidden in there, even if obscured by time and the grooves that trauma and conflict etch into our brains. I wanted a true and compassionate rendering, but there were holes. Those gaps became an organizing theme for the piece. Interestingly, my own son is the same age as the speaker at the end of this poem, and I am roughly the same age as the father. I can’t help but wonder what, in thirty or forty years, my son will remember most about his childhood, particularly in relation to me. So many of our memories seem colored by what we want to see, what we wish was there, in a sort of magical thinking that people and circumstances – even in the past – will conform to our demands. The father at the end of this poem seems unable to see his own son, as he is, standing right there. Instead, he prefers the memory (symbolized by a picture) he has created in his mind of who he had hoped his son would be. I only hope I’ve done better than this as a father, myself. Time, as they say, will tell. Or, it won’t. That’s the thing, isn’t it?  This poem is an acknowledgment that none of us has the full story. Human memory is there for our evolutionary survival, not our pleasure. And every story we tell ourselves about our past is, at least partially, a lie.


Thank you so much for being my guest today and sharing your work with my readers. Congratulations on your new release!

For more on Any Dumb Animal, and to follow the blog tour, please click the button below.

Summer Blog Hiatus

Hello, friends! I just wanted to give you a heads up that my blog is going on hiatus until Labor Day, while I deal with some health issues and hopefully find time to relax. I hope you all have a wonderful summer! I’m looking forward to “seeing” you all again in September. 🙂

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Julia Winter to the blog today to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, Mistress of Netherfield. Julia is here to share an excerpt, and there’s a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!


Mrs Goulding was a careful hostess. Whilst her guests had dined, servants had spread the small tables in the drawing room with bowls of fruit and shelled nuts, and glasses of ratafia and orgeat, and between them were piled several editions of La Belle Assemblée, the Ladies’ Monthly Museum and the Lady’s Magazine to give direction should the conversation flag. Some ladies brought from their reticules small items of “work”—purses they were netting, or handkerchiefs and a small array of silks for embroidery—so they could claim the virtue of hands as busy as their tongues were likely to be. Elizabeth was fond of embroidery, but not of doing it in public where every lady present would be casting critical eyes over her stitching. She reconciled herself to an hour of inconsequential social chit-chat.

She had reckoned without the Netherfield ladies. Miss Bingley, ensconced on the largest sofa with her sister on one side of her and Mrs Goulding on the other, opened by complimenting her hostess on her dinner, and then, with such brazen impudence that even Elizabeth stared, went on an offensive General Wellesley might envy.

“I was much struck by the Marquess of Lansdowne’s dinner just before we left Town. He had the gentlemen take in the ladies in order of precedence. It is quite the newest fashion, rather than have all the ladies process in together and leave the gentlemen to find their own places when they follow. Such a civilised and decorous way of proceeding, do you not think, Louisa?”

“Just so, my dear.” Mrs Hurst spoke with less conviction. She appeared to find her bracelets fascinating, and her chin quivered.

“One can then be certain of ensuring that each gentleman and lady has the most appropriate company and it quite encourages the harmony and tranquillity of the evening. One is so often imposed upon by the most unsuitable people otherwise. Have you thought of instituting the practice here, Mrs Goulding? You could lead the way, you know, in bringing Meryton’s customs up to date. It would give your little dinners the stamp of the highest fashion!”

Mrs Goulding was rather pink in the face. “I prefer to give my guests precedence, Miss Bingley, and follow them in to dinner. It is perhaps, old fashioned to show them honour this way—”

“Oh, it is of little account here in the country, I dare say. But in Town, of course, it would never do to be behind the latest fashion.” Miss Bingley glanced around. She must have noted, as did Elizabeth, that every eye was upon her. She had the audacity to pat her hostess on the knee, a familiarity that Mrs Goulding’s friends of many years standing would not think of claiming. “It is quite understandable that you have not the means here to know how to go on, ma’am. I beg you do not trouble yourself over the matter. Dinner was delightful!”

Elizabeth put a bright eagerness into her tone. “You attended a dinner hosted by a marquess, Miss Bingley? How wonderful an experience that must have been! Do tell us about it. We will insist on every last detail, will we not, ladies? For we are all agog to know how such eminent and fashionable people go on.”

One or two covert smiles, and many nods. Some ladies were quite genuine; Jane, for one. The expression on Charlotte’s face, as with others, held the same challenging humour Elizabeth felt herself.

Just for the instant, Miss Bingley froze. The smile never slipped, but her eyes narrowed as she met Elizabeth’s gaze. “I attend many dinners, Miss Eliza. I assure you that the marquess, while doing everything in the most fashionable and convenient way, is not alone in this. Most of our circle are quite comme il faut with society’s best practices.”

“Indeed?” Elizabeth smiled. “Well, I have no doubt the Morning Post had a brave account of the evening. It usually does, does it not? How exciting it must be to read an account of such a fashionable gathering and find one’s name listed there for all to see! I expect Papa still has a copy in his study. He is a sad hoarder of newspapers, Miss Bingley. He complains that if he does not hide them, his daughters whisk them away to make fire spills and curl papers!”

Miss Bingley’s smile became fixed. Her eyes glittered. Her sister looked much as a rabbit would when faced with a fox.

Mrs Goulding caught Elizabeth’s eye, smiled, and shook her head slightly. Being far more polite and forgiving than Elizabeth could ever be, she complimented the Netherfield ladies on their gowns, and turned the conversation neatly onto fashion and the strictures of La Belle Assemblée in relation to the number of flounces appropriate for a ball gown in the latest Russian fashion.

Elizabeth sat back in her seat, prepared to let the topic of marquesses and precedence pass. Miss Bingley spared her a look that was part distrust, she thought, but mostly hearty dislike. Elizabeth, with a glance at Jane, forbore to return it in kind. Jane did not deserve to have her acquaintance with Mr Bingley soured by her own sister’s failure to cease baiting the newcomers, no matter how deserving they were of scorn for their pretension. Besides, Mrs Hurst looked miserably apprehensive, twisting her fingers in the skirt of her gown.

Elizabeth accepted a glass of orgeat from the maidservant, and caught Mrs Hurst’s gaze. She, poor lady, started, when Elizabeth smiled at her. “Tell me, Mrs Hurst,” she said, seeing how both the Bingley women stiffened, “You are more au fait with London than we are. Is it true that Princess Charlotte has been seen wearing lace-edged drawers that showed below her hemline? Was it very shocking?”

Mrs Hurst stared, but the tension ebbed away into a buzz of chatter about royalty’s penchant for wearing lacy pantalettes. And after a moment, Mrs Hurst gave Elizabeth a tentative smile in return.

Elizabeth took a sip from her glass. Excellent. Jane was saved, that night at least, from the consequences of her sister’s sharp tongue. Sometimes doing the pretty was its own reward.


About Mistress of Netherfield

It is a truth universally acknowledged that on escaping an unhappy marriage, a young widow will be delighted to remove to the dower house and lease the marital abode to a single man in possession of a good fortune, provided he looks elsewhere to fulfil his want of a wife.

Five years after being forced into an unwanted marriage at the age of sixteen, and freed six months later by the death of her abusive husband, Elizabeth Grayson (née Bennet) has finally found a measure of peace. The inheritor of her husband’s estate, Netherfield Park, Elizabeth is now a wealthy young widow, independent and self-reliant. With an eye always on improving her four sisters’ woefully small dowries and providing for her mother, who will be homeless when her father dies, Elizabeth is pleased to lease out Netherfield to the Bingley family, making her home in the dower house in Meryton and vowing that she will never remarry.

Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire is rich and well connected, but reserved in company with anybody outside the very few he counts as friends. Towards those friends, he is loyal and steadfast, the staunchest of supporters. So when a young man comes to him with a tale of the clandestine marriage and mysterious death of Darcy’s old schoolfriend, James Grayson, and begs Darcy’s help to investigate the widow’s role, Darcy agrees. Visiting Charles Bingley, the new tenant of Netherfield, Darcy is very soon torn between his loyalty to his dead friend, and his burgeoning attraction to the widow.

Throw two unprincipled rogues and an elopement into the confines of Meryton, and how will Darcy’s dilemma over Elizabeth ever be resolved? And is she willing to put aside her misgivings, and trust again?

(British English spelling and grammar used throughout).

Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.) | Goodreads (release date June 28, 2021)


About the Author

Once Julia was a communications specialist with several UK government departments. These days she’s thankfully free of all that, and writing full time. She lives in the depths of the Nottinghamshire countryside with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo, who’s supported by Mavis the Assistant Editor, a Yorkie-Bichon cross with a bark several times bigger than she is but with no opinion whatsoever on the placement of semi-colons.

Contact Julia: Email  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook


Giveaway

Between June 21 and July 3, enter this Rafflecopter for the chance of a first prize of a copy of Mr Darcy’s Hunsford letter (complete with seal, and tied in red ribbon) and a copy of the eBook, or one of two second prizes of an eBook of Mistress of Netherfield. Good luck!


Thank you, Julia, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to welcome Michelle Ray to the blog today to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, There You Were. Michelle is here to share an excerpt from the novel, and there’s a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hi Anna! Thank you for hosting me and There You Were. I hope that you and your readers enjoy this excerpt. After the death of Colonel Fitzwilliam, husband of Elizabeth and cousin of Mr Darcy, Mr Darcy begins to spend time with Elizabeth and her children as caretaker and friend. 

At the end of January, a knock came at the door. When I opened it, I blinked a few times, unsure of whether to throw my arms about Darcy’s neck or send him away. While my deepest desire was to kiss him long and hard (something I had imagined too many times), I knew that was a disastrous idea.

“Darcy.” My legs quaked, so I grasped the door frame to steady myself.

I could not discern the expression on his face. Was it agony? Was it hope? But before I could decide, the children attacked him with hugs and stories, hardly allowing him inside.

When at last the hubbub had died down, I invited him inside. “I am pleased to see you, sir. I did not know whether to expect you or not.”

“I did not know myself if I should come. It was Thomas’s letter which decided the matter for me.”

Our conversation proceeded in fits and starts. There was both too much and too little to be said and any time we began, the children would interrupt us. At length, he said, “I wonder, Elizabeth, if you would consent to me calling on Sundays?”

“But of course.”

We were all happy, though I wondered at the change in his habit of a daily visit.

So it began, his weekly visit on Sunday afternoons, conducted in a manner of utmost propriety. He was attired as a gentleman ought to be and he behaved as a gentleman would. The children were attended to by me or by Nora, we served him tea, and we spoke of inconsequential matters. The children begged him not to leave each time, knowing so much of the dreary week was left and they would be stuck inside without their favourite entertainment if he went.

One Sunday, Nora was attempting to train the newly hired servant, Patience, to bake a meat pie. The girl was comically slow to learn, and we endeavoured to ignore Nora’s frustration and insults whilst I served tea.

Darcy reached for a spoon and brushed my arm. My breath caught and my stomach tightened. He noticed and asked if I was all right.

“Yes,” I said, smoothing my hair. He was used to my shifts in mood, so I hoped he suspected nothing. I attempted to convince myself that I had been alone for many months and that I was reacting to being touched by a man, any man. But I knew that was not true. It was Darcy, for I was in love with him.

Nora sounded as if she was losing her forbearance with Patience, which was difficult to ignore given our close quarters. I suggested we take the children outside given the unseasonably lovely day. After wrestling the little ones into coats and hats and mittens, we walked to the stream. Upon our return to the cottage, he and I stood together in the sunshine, watching the children play.

“I wish James could see them growing and changing,” I said. I wondered if I brought him up to put distance between Darcy and myself.

“He did cherish his children,” he said, staring at Thomas spinning with Henry.

“Yes. On the days he felt well.” I remembered the day Darcy called with my sister and Bingley and spotted my bruises. “I hope his soul is more at peace now than it was on Earth.”

Darcy touched my arm, but as I turned to him, Nora came outside. She cleared her throat, making us jump and take a step away from one another, though we had not been standing too close. “Ma’am,” she said, her eyes darting between us, “Patience has quit. Shall I look for another girl?”

I nodded and excused myself, explaining to Darcy that Nora would surely need my help now that she was alone again in the kitchen.

More and more often on these little visits, I found myself staring at Darcy, hoping we would have occasion to touch. I felt ridiculous, like I was fifteen again. Each pang of desire was both thrilling, and a betrayal of my husband. I was never able to shake James from the moment, and all attempts to push thoughts of Darcy away by thinking about my life with James only led to feeling lonely again. Worse, comparisons between the men left Darcy appearing far more favourable. I considered asking Darcy to stay away again, yet his visits were something to look forward to for all of us, and in truth I did not want them to end.

When he was gone, I could not stop thinking of his warm eyes topped with those delightfully full brows, or his chin, squared off and dimpled to perfection, best seen up close. Too close. I loved when we had occasion to stand so near that I could smell him, a perfect mix of scented soaps, leather, and manliness. I adored when he absently ran his fingers through the strands of his thick brown hair. My heart raced as I considered these things.

In late February, he departed for Pemberley, prompted by a request from Georgiana that he not leave her alone for her birthday. The house—indeed, Meryton itself—seemed a colder, far lonelier place, the effect heightened by the bleakness of the season. And yet, my passion, my longing for him did not cool.

I had to push him out of my mind, but how?


About There You Were

“I was not looking for love, but there you were. I cannot stop it, I cannot indulge it, so I must put distance between us and hope that time will heal this fever I have.”

Abandoned by her mother and ignored by her father, it is hardly any wonder young Elizabeth Bennet’s curiosity soon brings about trouble and marriage to a man she does not love. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s family—save for his cousin Mr Darcy—despises her, and life is not what she dreamed of. As she matures and grows from an impetuous girl into a woman, Elizabeth’s most reliable source of friendship and comfort becomes Mr Darcy. When tragedy strikes leaving her a widow, she is free to find out [discover?] who has been in her heart all along. 

Darcy has always been intrigued by the girl his beloved cousin married, and finds himself drawn into helping her after her husband’s death. Over time, admiration turns to love. Admitting his feelings to her – or even himself – could lead to ruin, but denying his passion could shatter him.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Michelle Ray is a middle school literature teacher who also directs plays, writes stories, and sees as many Broadway shows as she can. She grew up in Los Angeles and went to the awesome Westlake School for Girls where theater had the cachet of football and the girls were in charge of everything. She lives with her husband and daughters near Washington DC, and dreams of traveling anywhere and everywhere.


Giveaway

Quills & Quartos is generously giving away an ebook copy of There You Were as part of the blog tour. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen a week after the blog tour ends (June 25, 2021). Good luck!


Thank you, Michelle, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Alice McVeigh to the blog today to celebrate the upcoming (June 30) release of her new novel, Susan, a prequel to Jane Austen’s Lady Susan. Alice is here today to talk about the inspiration for Susan and share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!


“I wanted a little more connection between Susan Smithson and Lady Susan. Lady Susan is a great villainess. Here, while Susan was manipulative at 16, she wasn’t even remotely horrible.”  

(One of my own four-star reviews on Goodreads)

I was expecting this.

If you check out the thousands of sequels and prequels of Jane Austen’s novels, two facts leap out. 

First: P&P rules, completely. 

Second: Lady Susan almost never features.  

The second fact comes as no great surprise, because Austen’s Susan really was pretty ‘horrible’!

When not busying herself trying to attract her hostess’ brother, she was attempting to bully her gentle daughter into marrying a man she loathed. In fact, she was only originally obliged to visit the family mansion in order to escape from the wrath of her lover’s wife.

In short, Susan is unique in all of Austen’s books: a manipulative, untruthful, unfaithful charmer, with a knack for making the wrong men fall for her. (Yes, Mary Crawford and Maria Bertram were both willing to condone adultery. However, they were still never flirts in Susan’s class. Susan, even at age 35, casually seduces a married man. Basically, think Lydia Bennett on steroids!)

For that reason, it’s really pretty hard to find a redeeming quality in Austen’s Lady Susan. However, I still sighed when I read this comment, and this is why: I simply cannot believe in a ‘villainess’ of sixteen.

I just can’t accept that any creature, fictional or not, could do it in the time.

Austen’s Lady Susan is in her mid-thirties (a corrupted Maria Bertram, perhaps?) and I believe in her perfectly. But at sixteen? She’d have been a potential villainess at that age—and even that seems doubtful.

In my new book Susan is a youthful orphan dependent on her uncles (one being the Rev. Collins of P&P fame). She’s witty, lively and mischievous but not wicked, and most of her sly manoeuvres occur forwarding her beloved Alicia’s love-life.  She deceives, but only to assist her cousin – there’s nothing in the match to benefit her – and the reader is pulling for her all the way.

But I believe my Susan Smithson to be entirely compatible with Austen’s Lady Susan all the same. Why?

First, because people change!  The ‘you’ when you were sixteen – and perhaps some people reading this are only sixteen – will seem very dull to the ‘you’ that you’ll be at 26, or 36, or 46. Your goals are almost certain to have changed, and some of your beliefs too. You will have deepened and altered, possibly in unpredictable directions.

Secondly, Austen, though one of the greatest geniuses ever to live, was only eighteen when she wrote Lady Susan, which she never rated highly enough to submit for publication. She was still developing her astonishing talent.

Her characterisations in this book are, for an artist of her calibre, disappointingly one-sided: Susan’s worldly confidante Alicia seems almost a twin of Susan herself, while both Susan’s daughter and sister-in-law appear to be almost implausibly perfect. (There is one exception: the impulsive Reginald develops and matures as he learns to ‘read’ Lady Susan.) In particular, the light and shade of a Mary Crawford are almost entirely missing—which is why, I suspect, Austen never even tried to publish it.

So how and why do I imagine that Susan might have changed, from my own mischievously appealing heroine to Austen’s villainess?

My own theory, for what it’s worth, is summed up in this excerpt from my own book:

Susan could not endure the idea of giving up riding, at which she was becoming, after very few lessons, surprisingly accomplished. But what if this pleasant dream – and the dream of cantering by the river with Frank Churchill – might be thwarted by Lady Catherine’s daughter?

It began to rain, and the cousins trod in silence under a single umbrella.

‘Someday,’ vowed Susan rebelliously, ‘I shall not always have to walk. Instead I shall ride – my own horse, too – a shining, splendid, mane-tossing, foot-stamping horse – perhaps a black one like Frank Churchill’s, if not quite so tall. Someday I shall have my own carriage, and my own servants to attend me. And someday, surely, I shall be well-married, and wear gowns like the delicious one Miss Richardson wore yesterday, a gown that falls in tiny folds from the bodice. Someday I shall be able to do exactly what I like, and not have to collect eggs from the chickens or be obliged to listen to my uncle pontificating about the poor, when all he cares about is his newspaper and his humble abode and the next position which Lady Catherine or her connections might make possible for him… Someday I shall never have to fret about threadbare shoes or mending gowns, or any nuisances of that sort, ever again!’

In short, I think that such ambition, allied to such charms, and exposed to the corrupting habits of London—Austen always seemed to distrust the lure of London—might very well turn my delightful sixteen-year-old Susan into Austen’s worldly temptress, over the course of her next nineteen years.

Susan longed for wealth and independence; she had the weapon of her beauty and a touch of unscrupulousness in using it; she increasingly understood the influence of society; and she possessed a taste for finery and display.

In short, all the ingredients existed for my Susan to transition into Austen’s Lady Susan.

How might that happen?—That’s another story!


About Susan

Susan is a Jane Austen Prequel (or Pride and Prejudice Variation) brilliantly capturing Austen’s own Lady Susan as a young girl.

As the BookLife review put it for Publishers Weekly: “McVeigh’s prose and plotting are pitch-perfect. Emma mingles with Pride and Prejudice in a delightful confrontation between the two books’ worlds… This Austen-inspired novel echoes the master herself.”

Familiar characters abound – Frank Churchill, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy himself – but Susan – mischievous and manipulative – is the star. This is Austen that even Austen might have loved, with a touch of Georgette Heyer in the romantic sections. Fans of Bridgerton will also relish this classic regency romance, the first in a six-book series.

Sixteen-year-old Susan Smithson – pretty but poor, clever but capricious – has just been expelled from a school for young ladies in London.

At the mansion of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she attracts a raffish young nobleman. But, at the first hint of scandal, her guardian dispatches her to her uncle Collins’ rectory in Kent, where her sensible cousin Alicia lives and “where nothing ever happens.”

Here Susan mischievously inspires the local squire to put on a play, with consequences no one could possibly have foreseen. What with the unexpected arrival of Frank Churchill, Alicia’s falling in love and a tumultuous elopement, rural Kent will surely never seem safe again…

Buy on Amazon (release date: June 30, 2021)


About the Author

Alice McVeigh is not sixteen, having lived in seven countries and visited 44 (mostly playing the cello in London orchestras). London-based, she writes speculative fiction as Spaulding Taylor, works as a ghost writer, and has twice been published by Orion/Hachette in contemporary fiction. Susan, a Jane Austen Prequel, recently received 10 stars out of 10 in Publishers Weekly’s current BookLife Prize.

Visit Alice’s website.


Giveaway

Alice is generously offering a mug featuring the Susan bookcover and Romney painting to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Saturday, June 19, 2021. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Alice, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book.

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Mirta Ines Trupp back to the blog today to celebrate the upcoming release of her new novel, Celestial Persuasion, which has some ties to Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Mirta is here to share a little about the book, along with an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello lovely readers! I am delighted to stop today and appreciate the opportunity to talk about my upcoming release: Celestial Persuasion. This is my fifth book to date; and in keeping with my penchant for combining various passions, this novel is a Jewish historical fiction—with more than a nod to Jane Austen’s work. In fact, I invite you to consider this stand-alone novel to be a prequel to Austen’s Persuasion. There is a twist, however. Shall I reveal all or just drop a few hints?

The story unfolds in Devonshire, England—in Exeter to be exact. There you will meet Abigail Isaacs, a young lady long considered past her last prayers. But Abigail is not concerned with her marital state. Indeed, her mind is occupied elsewhere. She is determined to follow in the footsteps of her heroine, Caroline Herschel, and become an astronomer in her own right. Abigail lives quietly at home with her father and long-time companion, Mrs. Frankel. Books and instruments keep Abigail fairly occupied, as do her friends and neighbors, including Mrs. Dashwood of Barton Cottage. Her brother, too, has been a dear friend and mentor in all things, but he has long been away from home.  A physician serving under Captain Wentworth’s command, Jonathan Isaacs’ presence is sorely missed, never more so than when their father dies from a brief illness. Again and again, Abigail sends out her letters, hoping soon to receive a reply. With no one to come to her aid, Abigail alone must face the unsettling matter of her present state of affairs; until, at length, a letter arrives.


The sun took its place in the morning sky, scattering its light upon the awakening countryside but ungenerously withholding its radiant heat. Abigail brought her wrap in closely about her arms and snuggled in her father’s armchair, placed appropriately by the fire. How she missed her father! His humor and his intellect, his manner of always taking pleasure in her inquisitiveness and aspirations. Although his arms could no longer envelop her in his strong embrace, she found some warmth in his favorite chair. And yet there was a chill in the air. She made a mental note to speak to James regarding the sitting room’s fire.

Being a creature of habit, she could only get on with her life in the manner she was most accustomed. A stack of correspondence lay waiting for her to take notice, and with a sigh, Abigail abandoned her comfort and took a seat at her mother’s secretaire. A smile came to her lips as she realized the descriptions she applied to her belongings. Her father’s chair, her mother’s desk…somehow the sameness of these objects was in keeping with her own regimented routines, connecting her present circumstance to her past.

Her methodical approach to even the most commonplace task had always been a point of amusement for Mrs. Frankel; but Abigail often wondered whether it were not a sign of something more significant. As things stood now, she realized she needed to keep to her schedule. Mrs. Dashwood was expected for a visit; therefore, she had to complete the task at hand and see to the morning mail. Taking the letter opener in hand, she made quick work of the slicing through the waxed seal and proceeded to unfold the missive.

“My goodness,” she said aloud, noting it was dated three months prior. “This letter must have been on quite a journey.” Adjusting her wrap, Abigail shifted her weight until she found herself to be quite comfortable and able to read.

12th of August, 1811

Gibraltar

Madam,

I take pen in hand to inform you that I am in receipt of your letters, both the one you had so wisely addressed to my attention and the one intended for your brother. It grieves me to relate the following information. It is a task no commander ever wishes to undertake; and knowing that you have recently lost your father, this will be a harder blow than any young lady should have to bear. With all my heart and soul, I would wish to spare you this intelligence; however, Isaacs—that is to say, your brother Jonathan—always spoke so highly of his sister that I take courage in knowing your strength will allow you to rally. Your dear brother, and my good friend, will not be returning home. He has completed his service to the Crown and distinguished himself with great honor. You may hold your head high. Jonathan Isaacs is, and will always be, thought of as the best of men. These are trying times, Miss Isaacs. Wars seem to be never-ending, and a grateful nation asks much of the families that are left behind to wonder, to pray, and to grieve. I hope that you have family and friends to help you through these dark and troubled waters; but until you find yourself tranquil once more, pray allow me to guide you to a safe harbor. Your brother charged me to relay some instructions to you, and I am only too honored to fulfill my promise expeditiously and with great concern for your welfare.

It was your brother’s greatest wish that you meet Lord Fife. You may be unaware of the relationship, but your father and his lordship were friends and business partners. At your father’s bidding, Jonathan was introduced to the earl when he was at university at Edinburgh. Please make whatever arrangements are necessary to travel to London at once in order to make his acquaintance. You are expected, Miss Isaacs, and can rest assured that accommodations will be at your disposal with the earl’s compliments. His lordship is making his townhouse available to you and will, naturally, stay at his club for the duration of your visit. I cannot say this more succinctly, madam: Jonathan was most adamant in his declaration and has entrusted your well-being to Lord Fife, who will assist you with plans for your future comfort.

I can well imagine your present state of mind. Please forgive my impertinence, but having learned much of your home life from your respected brother, I feel quite part of the family. The Bible tells us to build our lives upon the stable rock that is God’s love, wisdom, and salvation. If I may speak of my own circumstances, my own brother, the Reverend Edward Wentworth, has been the rock in my life. I know what Jonathan has meant to you, as he has told me much of your childhood together. To be sure, I know you are a talented mathematician and astronomer, and that these accomplishments were brought about by hours and hours of your brother’s loving dedication to the betterment of your brilliant mind. I know, too, that you were quite put out and displayed righteous indignation when you were prohibited—at the age of nine or ten— from accompanying your brother to university. Pray, do not be vexed with Jonathan for relating these tales from your youth. Those of us thrown together on-board ship often develop an intimacy with one another’s life histories that would otherwise not be revealed if meeting in a drawing room. These stories were Jonathan’s cherished memories of his most beloved sister. He treasured this time you spent together, learning and discovering all matter of things. He also spoke of the influences many of your sex had had on your aspirations. Jonathan referred to them as giants in their fields of expertise. I myself had no knowledge of their greatness and readily admitted my ignorance of such feminine luminaries.

These intimate conversations with your brother have given me a sense of kinship and justify the license I take in speaking to you thus. These brilliant women of whom Jonathan spoke showed great resolve in forging ahead in worlds that denied their sense of identity. I am now called upon to ask you to follow their example and help you navigate the trajectory that the stars have so clearly outlined. I entreat you to make haste and communicate with Lord Fife as soon as you are able. I would be pleased to receive your reply and pray you feel at liberty to express your thoughts as freely as I have done. Your brother has wished it to be so.

Your servant,

Captain Frederick Wentworth


About Celestial Persuasion

Abigail Isaacs fears ever again falling under the power of love and dedicates her life to studying the heavens. However, upon her father’s demise she finds herself in reduced circumstances and must write to her brother, who has long been away at sea. When instead Captain Wentworth of the HMS Laconia sends a tragic reply, Abigail is asked to set aside her own ambitions and fulfill her brother’s dreams in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata.

In his relentless pursuit for justice, Lieutenant Raphael Gabay lends his sword to the Spanish American cause. But as he prepares to set sail with the others, he is entrusted with the care of a young woman. She is quite unlike anyone he has ever known, and Raphael wonders whether the brilliant astronomer will see beyond his frivolous façade and recognize his true nature.

Their destinies have been plotted beyond the celestial veil; their charts foretell of adventure. Can these two troubled souls be persuaded to heed the stars and find love—and their purpose—in this fledgling nation?

Buy on Amazon (release date: June 30, 2021)


About the Author

Mirta Ines Trupp

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with ‘un pie acá, y un pie allá’ (with one foot here and one foot there).

Mirta’s fascination with Jewish history and genealogy, coupled with an obsession for historical period drama, has inspired her to create these unique and enlightening novels. She has been a guest speaker for book clubs, sisterhood events, genealogy societies and philanthropic organizations. Sharing her knowledge of Jewish Argentina has become her passion.

Connect with Mirta: Website | Blog | Goodreads


Giveaway

Mirta is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Celestial Persuasion. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Saturday, June 19, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Mirta, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Coming in Fall 2021

Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years.

Preorder at Main Street Rag


Early reviews

“This compellingly candid work speaks the language of
courage, of breath-taking transcendence. Finely crafted, it is a
remarkable debut collection. Take note, world: a powerful
lyric poet has emerged. Take note and rejoice!” ~ Paulann
Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita

“I was amazed over and over at the bravery of these poems,
never shying from the difficult moments in life, and all the
while staying true to the clear-eyed, fearless vision of their
author.” ~ James Crews, Editor of How to Love the World:
Poems of Gratitude and Hope

“With a strong gift for storytelling and an eye attuned to
detail, Hines ultimately shows us the beauty and knowledge
made of experience.” ~Richie Hofmann, Author of Second
Empire


Hello, friends! I’m excited to welcome Cat Andrews back to the blog today to celebrate the release of her latest modern Pride and Prejudice variation, An Unexpected Harvest. Cat is here to share a little about the book, plus an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hi everyone! I’m thrilled to be visiting Anna here at Diary of an Eccentric once again! Thank you for having me, Anna, and for allowing me to make your wonderful blog a part of the blog tour for my new modern Pride and Prejudice variation called An Unexpected Harvest.

Family relationships and their dynamics usually play a big role in the variations I write. Of course, the primary relationship is always the one between Darcy and Elizabeth; it’s a love story, after all. But I love broadening that scope and including other relationships that may influence the thoughts and actions of our favorite couple. At a previous stop on the blog tour, I shared an excerpt that showed the underlying tension between Will Darcy and his father. Here, I’m sharing an excerpt that is taken halfway through a late night conversation between two of the Bennet sisters. This scene shows the close sisterly bond that Elizabeth has with Lydia, who is coming to the realization that although they share the same father, their interactions and experiences with him and memories of him are very different. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for coming along on the blog tour.


“Lizzy? Why did Jane say that you have demons too? Is it because of the college thing?”

Elizabeth sighed. “Mostly, yes. Making the decision to leave Harvard wasn’t easy, and Daddy certainly didn’t make it any easier. He was brutal, honestly.” She stared at the Christmas tree, the lights blurring in front of her eyes. “And then choosing not to work for him, telling him I wanted to go into advertising… He was completely unaccepting of my decisions and wouldn’t talk to me at all, and I wondered if he’d ever forgive me. Love is supposed to be unconditional, but when I really needed his love and support, he just…withdrew it.”

Lydia shook her head. “It’s hard to hear that. I feel like you’re talking about a totally different person. That isn’t the father I remember.”

“I’m glad. And I do remember what Daddy was like before all that happened. I was thinking about it when I was listening to you play, how simple everything used to be.”

“But I don’t understand why you have demons. He chose to be unsupportive, he chose to make his love conditional. If anything, you should be angry.”

“I was, but I felt guilty, too. I’d raised his hopes. I told him I was doing one thing, and then changed my mind and did something else.”

“But that shouldn’t have mattered! I could understand him being disappointed, but not to the point of shutting you out. That’s not reasonable.”

“I know. I even knew it at the time, but it didn’t make me feel any less guilty. I always hoped we’d get past it, that we’d fix it, and I tried. I came home to visit as often as I could, hoping we’d finally have a conversation about it…but every time I brought it up, he’d say the same thing.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, trying to fight the tears that were forming, and her voice trembled. “He’d say, ‘Elizabeth, unless you’ve come to tell me you’re going back to Harvard to study business so you can take your rightful place at Bennet Capital, we have nothing to talk about.’ But I kept coming home and reaching out, even though his rejection hurt. I always hoped he’d just give me a hug and tell me everything was okay. And now it’s too late. We won’t get the chance to make things right, and that’s where more guilt comes in. Was I being selfish, pursuing what I wanted instead of doing what was expected of me?”

Lydia shook her head. “You were living your life, however you wanted to. Look at Jane, look at this!” She gestured around her. “Very soon, this will not be the Longbourn we remember from our childhood. Can you imagine what Daddy would say if he could somehow make himself heard? He’d pitch a full-blown fit!”

Elizabeth laughed and wiped the wetness from her eyes.

“And Jane’s no fool—she knows what Daddy would say, too,” Lydia continued. “But he’s not here, and so she’s going to pursue her dream and be happy. You went after what would make you happy, and I’m doing the same thing. I want to work at Bennet Capital. It’s always been my dream, and I think I’ll be good at it.”

“You’ll be fabulous.” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “Perhaps you’ve inherited some of Daddy’s shrewd business sense.”

“I hope so. But I don’t like the way he treated you. It wasn’t fair.”

“I know, but it can’t be changed.”

Lydia looked at her for a long moment. “You know, I think you’re brave. You took a huge chance when you left Harvard. You must have known on some level how Daddy would react, but you did it anyway. Lots of people wouldn’t have made that decision; they would’ve stayed in their safe zone. No scribbling outside the lines.”

“You think?”

“Yes. You took a risk and went after what you wanted. That takes guts, Lizzy.”

“I’ve never looked at it that way.”

Lydia nestled against Elizabeth’s shoulder and sighed heavily. “So…do you think we’re all fixed?”

Elizabeth rested her head against Lydia’s. “Nope. But you know what? I don’t think we’re as broken as we thought.”


About An Unexpected Harvest

Elizabeth Bennet left her affluent New England home at the age of sixteen and never looked back. She’s built a fabulous life in Boston and loves everything about the city—especially her dream job as creative director at an advertising agency.

Will Darcy has never lived anywhere but in rural Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He lives the quintessential small-town life and loves everything about the country—especially his family’s farm, which he’s doing his best to modernize and return to prosperity.

When her older sister moves back to New England, Elizabeth reluctantly pays a visit to the hometown she left behind. Soon enough, the city girl meets the country boy and the insults and misunderstandings fly—but so do the sparks.

No one is more surprised than Elizabeth and Will when those sparks turn into a brilliant flame, and the 300 miles between them that once felt far too close suddenly turns into an unbearable distance.

The city girl and the country boy know a good thing when they see it—even if they don’t see it nearly enough. Can they overcome their greatest challenge and find common ground—and their happily-ever-after?

***

This novel is a modern variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but with a slight spin on the usual cast of characters. It contains adult content and is meant for mature readers.

Click here to buy An Unexpected Harvest


About the Author

Cat Andrews has always been an avid reader, but didn’t discover Jane Austen until her love of a certain British actor led her to the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, because she just had to know—why all the fuss over this Darcy guy? What followed her viewing of that glorious miniseries was an inhalation of and immediate fixation on all of Austen’s novels, though Pride and Prejudice remains her favorite.

Her discovery of Jane Austen Fan Fiction opened up a whole new world, and thus began her addiction, and months and months of sleep deprivation, as she immersed herself in JAFF. After reading a modern Pride and Prejudice variation that she fell in love with, she was inspired to begin a cautious but earnest foray into the world of writing.

In real life, Cat has spent thirty-plus years working in healthcare. She enjoys life on the shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts where she grew up, fell in love with her own Mr. Darcy, and raised a family (and a three-legged dog). More often than not, you can find her at the beach with a book in her hand and her toes in the sand.

An Unexpected Harvest is her second novel.

Connect with Cat: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads


Giveaway

Cat is generously offering an ebook copy (U.S. only) of An Unexpected Harvest to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Saturday, June 19, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Cat, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Linda Gonschior to my blog today to celebrate the release of Parallels, the third book in the Reflections series, a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. Linda is here to share an excerpt that introduces you to the Darcy children. Please give her a warm welcome!


It has been many years since I embarked on a blog tour to promote and share a new book, but here I am and I can scarce believe it! Things have changed….. 🙂

Thank you, Anna, for welcoming me into your library for the third stop on this tour!

Parallels introduces the rest of Will and Elizabeth’s children, and while they feature prominently in the storyline, their parents are not forgotten. This is a family, after all, and a close one. Not to mention it’s not really P&P without our dearest couple!

But let us not tarry. Please let me introduce you to the rest of the Darcy offspring.

“Dad? Dad!”

Elizabeth Darcy looked up at the sound of her son’s voice in the front hall. Her face lit up, and she threw down her work to run to the door. “Ben!” she called. “Your father is out at the moment. Come here, my boy, and give your mum a hug.”

William Bennet Darcy—Ben for short, a name he adopted upon the death of his grandfather when he was twelve years old—flashed his mother a big smile and wrapped his arms around her to lift her up until her feet no longer touched the floor. At twenty-three, he was a strapping young man with the handsome good looks of his father, Will Darcy, and his mother’s facility with people. He was definitely not shy with the ladies and had a different one hanging from his arm every week, much to his father’s amusement and his mother’s consternation. “Hi there, Mum!” he said cheerily. “Where is everyone else?”

“What—you expected a welcoming committee?” Elizabeth laughed. “That’s what you get for never letting us know when you’re coming home for a visit.”

Ben laughed. “You must be the only one who doesn’t read my texts.”

“I don’t like texting. You know that.”

He looked over his mother’s shoulder at the desk behind her. “Dad still making you work?”

Elizabeth cuffed him lightly. “He doesn’t make me work. I enjoy it. So what brings you home this time? What do you need?”

Ben laughed. “You make it sound like I only come home when I want something!”

“Don’t you?” came a voice from behind them.

“Anna!” Ben turned towards his sister.

Elizabeth watched the familiar interplay between her two eldest children with a fond smile. As much as Ben’s popularity with the ladies irked her, Anna’s quiet beauty was a source of unease for her father as young men flocked around her on a daily basis. Anna’s first year at university was more difficult for Will than it was for his daughter, Elizabeth mused.

“Come on, Ben. We were all about to go for a swim,” Anna was saying.

Elizabeth frowned at them. “I hope you mean in the pool.”

Anna laughed. “Of course not! The pond is much more fun.” She raced up the stairs to get changed.

Ben looked at his mother.

“Oh, go on!” Elizabeth said in exasperation. The fact that Will had taught every one of their children to swim in the pond—and they still preferred it to the nice clean pool she’d insisted be installed—annoyed her to no end.

Ben kissed her cheek and ran up the stairs to his own room.

Elizabeth turned her attention back to the unfinished business on her desk. Although she had given up her original job when their fourth child had come along, Elizabeth had eventually wanted to return to it but had been forced to wait when their unexpected youngest child had arrived. Eventually she had taken her husband’s place as director of the publishing company he owned. She had been successful, and Will had never regretted the decision. Now they had a solid company to turn over to one of their children some day.

The sound of many feet pounding on the stairs brought her gaze to the doorway where she could see all of her children racing by on their way out the front door. Anna and Rebecca led the way, followed by Kathleen. Ben brought up the rear on the heels of his young brother, Rich. They sounded like a herd of elephants, and Elizabeth was glad her husband wasn’t home to see them tearing out of the house. She knew he’d be right out there with them, splashing in the pond too. Suddenly realizing that the cook wasn’t aware of Ben’s arrival, Elizabeth called down to the kitchen to inform her. Ben’s appetite had never diminished over the years, only increased. If there weren’t enough on the table, Ben would not be the one going hungry.

***

As Will walked around the wall that bordered the garden, he was nearly bowled over by his children as they chased Ben across the lawn.

“Whoa there!” Ben laughed as he grabbed his father’s shoulders to steady him. “Hi, Dad!”

Will shook his head. “I should have known you were responsible for all that racket. How are you, Ben?” He caught sight of two of his other children about to trample a flower bed. “Rebecca! Rich! Watch where you’re going! Good Lord, you’d think they were five years old the way they carry on.”

Ben chuckled. “Dad, you never change.”

“I hope not.” Will smiled. “Your mother likes me this way.”

“Is tea ready? I’m starved.” Ben was eyeing the path that led back to the house.

“What was that you said about never changing?” Will grumbled.

Just your typical family, don’t you think? Well, if you joined the tour at the beginning you already know there is trouble on the horizon. Nothing our favourite couple cannot handle, though. Right?


About Parallels

Love, heartbreak, and self-discovery are life’s greatest challenges, no matter who your parents may be.

Will and Elizabeth Darcy faced those challenges twenty years earlier, yet marriage taught them patience, understanding, and most importantly, the irreplaceable value of one another. Now their children are about to embark upon that path, hopefully to learn those lessons more gently and avoid the mistakes of their parents.

This third book in the Reflections series brings to a conclusion the story of a couple whose love drew them together in spite of themselves and continues to test them when least expected.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Linda Gonschior has entertained the art of writing since elementary school but never allowed it to come to fruition until Pride and Prejudice lured her into deeper exploration of characters, relationships and ‘what ifs’.  Writing is not the breadwinner, however, as she has a day job and many other interests that compete for attention and time.  Still, she has managed to squeeze in several dozen stories – long and short – and there are many more in the ‘incomplete’ folder on the computer.  As retirement looms on the horizon, some may be dusted off to evaluate their potential to entertain those who share a fondness for Jane Austen’s characters and don’t mind straying a little off the beaten path.

Amongst her accomplishments Linda counts raising a son, stage managing live theatre productions, flower gardening, and website administration, but not netting purses or painting screens.

Connect with Linda on Facebook


Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously giving away eight ebooks of Parallels as part of the blog tour. The giveaway is open internationally. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. The giveaway is open through June 17, 2021.


Thank you, Linda, for being my guest today and congratulations on your new book!