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Today we’re celebrating the release of Melanie Rachel’s latest novel, Headstrong: Book One: Improvise, a modern Pride and Prejudice variation that offers a fresh and unique take on Elizabeth and Darcy. I am a big fan of modern variations, and this one sounds especially fantastic. Melanie is here to talk about bringing Jane Austen’s characters into the present day. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Writing a modern JAFF is a bit like looking over a cliff and deciding whether you want to jump off. Everyone tells you not to bother, that readers don’t like them, that it’s not worth your time. It’s not nearly as popular a form as the Regency variations, and it can be difficult to translate Jane Austen’s plots and beloved characters into a modern setting. I think that many readers are looking to read something that takes them far away from their everyday lives, and that’s certainly a valid reason for preferring stories set hundreds of years in the past. Imagining Jane Austen’s characters in our world today, though, can be just as exciting—who wouldn’t want to meet their favorite character? Austen’s characters are so true to human nature that I believe I’ve already met a number of them in real life.

So I jumped—I wrote Headstrong.

Headstrong features an Elizabeth Bennet who has just left the Marine Corps after six years in service. It hit the shelves on November 10th, the birthday of the United States Marine Corps and one day before Veteran’s Day here in the United States.

Headstrong is a Pride and Prejudice variation. It is by no means the first, and that’s because P&P is an excellent story to modernize. Many readers are drawn to Elizabeth Bennet precisely because she is such a modern, relatable character. She’s smart, funny, and wrong-headed at times. Occasionally, she’s quick to anger. But she’s honest enough to own her mistakes and grow as a person, which also makes her brave.

In sketching a contemporary Elizabeth Bennet, I drew from these characteristics. Elizabeth should be funny, but also know when that humor is appropriate. She could easily have been an athlete, even if that famous three-mile walk to Netherfield did leave her with sore ankles. She would also have been, I think, very interested in an education, now that one was available to her. More importantly, a modern Elizabeth Bennet would be independent. I did add a few years to her age, because I believe that a twenty-year-old in Regency England was a bit “older” than many twenty-year-old women (and men) are today. This made Headstrong’s Elizabeth a bit closer in age to her Will Darcy—and far more experienced in what the world is really like than the rather sheltered original.

Once I had an idea in mind, I began looking around for models. Given how true to life Austen’s characters are, I found them all around me.

Headstrong’s Elizabeth Bennet is an amalgam of several students I’ve had come through my university classroom—a Marine who told us during introductions that she’d gotten off the plane from Iraq the night before but was determined to get her degree, a member of the Coast Guard who had earned the highest physical fitness rating in her unit and was very proud of it, another who had been a foster child but found her home in the Marines, yet another who’d taken a medical retirement from the Army. He told me that he had trouble concentrating sometimes due to a service injury and hoped I would be patient with him. I asked him whether he’d contacted our Accessible Student Services to ask for accommodations. He replied he’d only been near the explosions, not in any—so he didn’t think he qualified for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) assistance. Suspecting he was being modest, I asked how many explosions he’d been near. He shrugged and said, “Maybe ten.” The humility nearly all of these students displayed is something I thought Elizabeth would feel deeply.

So I’ve made it through this post without revealing too much about the novel itself, though I hope I’ve offered enough hints to tempt you! Headstrong is a three-book series, and the books will be released in quick succession. Book One: Improvise, is available now. Book Two: Adapt, will be out November 24th. And–fingers crossed–Book Three: Overcome, will be out by the 7th of December.

PS: For those of you who still aren’t sure about modern JAFF–since it’s almost Thanksgiving, may I recommend a short piece for those of you willing to be adventurous and give a modern a try? I highly recommend the very funny JanCat’s “Black Friday.” I will never get over the opening image of a British Darcy standing, overwhelmed, in a Walmart on Black Friday.

That’s got to be intriguing enough to lure you in. I hope you enjoy it as much I as do!

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About Headstrong: Book One: Improvise

A few months after teaming up with Major Richard Fitzwilliam to thwart a terrorist attack in Europe, USMC Staff Sergeant Elizabeth Bennet is back in the States as a civilian. Her training in cyber-security makes finding work easy, and she’s learning to fit into her new life. But there is lingering fallout both from the attack and her life before it that she’s not yet prepared to face. Complicating matters is the major’s handsome cousin.

Co-owner of Darcy Acquisitions, CEO of FORGE, and guardian to his younger sister, Will Darcy is stretched to his limits. When Richard sets up an interview at FORGE for his friend Elizabeth Bennet, Will insults her instead of hiring her. In making amends, Will falls for the witty, troubled Marine with long legs and fine eyes.

Falling in love is easy, but do these two very different people have what it takes to make love last?

[This is a non-canon P&P modern and a full novel at just over 86,000 words.]

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Melanie is generously offering a copy of Headstrong: Book One: Improvise to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. (choice of ebook or paperback) and internationally (ebook only). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Wednesday, November 20, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

It’s my pleasure to welcome C.P. Odom back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate his latest Pride and Prejudice variation, A Covenant of Marriage. Colin is here today to share his thoughts on a PBS special, “I Hate Jane Austen,” as well as an excerpt from the book. Please give him a warm welcome!

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This guest post doesn’t really have anything to do with my new Pride and Prejudice variation, A Covenant of Marriage, but some time back my wife saw a program listed on PBS called “I Hate Jane Austen.” She’s not a big Austen fan herself, but she’s managed to put up with my writing in this venue for about the last fifteen years, first in the fanfiction arena and then being formally published by Meryton Press. So she thought I might be interested and recorded it for me.

When she informed me, I wasn’t too interested. I know there are people who don’t like Austen, but I didn’t think I wanted to listen to the arguments of someone on that side this question. However, when my fourth novel, Perilous Siege was published, it touched a chord in my wife and she read the freebie paperback copy I received from my publisher. The result was quite surprising to me—she read it cover to cover in two days and absolutely loved it! It was the first time she’d read more than a few passages in any of my books, and she began to enthusiastically convince friends and family to read it also.

It caught me so off guard that when she resumed her efforts to get me to watch this PBS program, telling me it wasn’t a negative hit-piece that I relented. How could I resist her arguments after she enjoyed my latest novel so much?

  • The blurb for the program says that British columnist Giles Coren meets academics and fans of author Jane Austen to see if they can change his mind regarding his dislike for the author. Hour long program.
  • Coren opens by reviewing all the hype for Jane Austen, her fame, her reputation as one of the greatest writers in English literature, all the books, movies, variations, and shows, saying, “It’s not enough to like her. You’re expected to love her. And I just don’t. In fact, I hate Jane Austen.”
  • I hadn’t heard of Giles Coren before this point, though my wife said she was a bit familiar with him because he’s a restaurant critic in addition to being a journalist and English literature graduate. He says that possibly the germ of his dislike of Austen came from having been forced to read her as a teenager, which I could sympathize with because I’d been forced to read Herbert Melville and Joseph Conrad among other so-called “giants of English literature” during my high school years.
  • The first of the experts he consults is Professor John Mullen, who’s been teaching Austen for more than thirty years and luckily is a neighbor. Coren asks what he is missing about Jane Austen, and Mullen’s response is to say that most people like Charlotte Bronte and Joseph Conrad who didn’t like Austen didn’t “get” her humor. Mullen thinks that’s one of the most delightful things about her works, and staggers Coren when he goes on to put her on a par with Shakespeare.
  • Coren asks incredulously, “You put her with Shakespeare?” and is flatly incredulous when Mullen responds, “Definitely. Definitely.” After some back and forth, Coren finally states that he thinks he’s unsavable, to which Mullen advises him to forget about all the other Austenesque paraphernalia and “go back to the books.”
  • So Coren starts with Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s first novel, and speaks with best-selling author Joanna Trollope, who wrote a modern version of Austen’s novel. His first question is, “Why?”
  • Trollope makes a number of interesting statements that I had not encountered in my research into Austen. First, she addresses Jane Austen’s fans, and points out that her earliest admirers were men—in fact, other male writers—while Austen is promoted in modern times as a girly and romantic thing rather than the tough and sinewy observer that she was. This point made me remember that such perceptiveness was one of the characteristics Austen imbibed into her Elizabeth Bennet in contrast to most of her feminine contemporaries.
  • In the ensuing conversation, Coren betrays what he had missed in his reading of Sense and Sensibility when he states that Austen seems to be portraying Marianne and Elinor as two wildly divergent personalities while it appears to his 200-year later viewpoint as if both sisters were rather similar. Trollope’s explanation centers on the fact that Coren doesn’t really understand the meaning of “sensibility” in the context of Austen’s time. As she explains, sensibility was a philosophical fashion in Europe when Jane Austen was growing up. When Austen started this novel, she was a victim of sensibility, being passionately emotional like Marianne. Sixteen years later, when she finally finished, she had come to realize that being sensible like Elinor—logical and rational—was more correct.
  • With respect to Coren’s objection to money being so prominent, she points out that the money was hugely important and not to be casually dismissed. “In Jane Austen’s day, if you didn’t fall into poverty. You fell to utter destitution, to rags, the gutter, and starvation.” Because Coren didn’t understand this, she charges that he thus thinks that Austen is for a fluffy kind of girl, which is not at all the case.
  • With considerable reluctance, Coren attends a Regency ball in Bath in period costume. He’s willing enough to dress up, but he resolutely states that he does not do dancing. In addition, he inserts jibes at various points as he prepared for the ball, including “Jane Austen is an icon, and once a person becomes an icon, it becomes impossible to think critically about them” and “crucially she’s out of copyright.” But even with this jaundiced prejudice, Coren is surprised to enjoy himself at the ball. He even dances (which must have taken some practice, since he danced Austen’s favorite dance, a cotillion), and later says that he won’t be reading Austen more often but that he does look forward to the dancing which she enjoyed so much.
  • The next topic is Pride and Prejudice, to which Professor John Mullen interjects that the best thing about this novel is Austen’s dialogue. He goes on to say that Austen wrote the best dialogue that’s ever been written in novels, a statement that Coren still has a hard time swallowing. It gets no easier when he looks into the Bollywood version of P&P, Bride and Prejudice, since the director of that movie, Gorinda Chudha, tells him he is misguided and he doesn’t understand what the story is about. When he says that, no matter what Austen tries to tell the reader, all her stories are about who they’re going to marry in the end. The director notes that Austen was instead highlighting the boundaries and constraints on women at that time. She says Austen was writing about what she knew, the cultural mores around her world, but she was constrained against explicitly making the point about how limited was the world for women at the time. Instead, she had to be deft and witty in how she said it. She says that Jane Austen is witty and she would pick up Austen and read her at any time, to which Coren responds slyly, “Better you than me.” Obviously, he hasn’t been convinced by the arguments made so far.
  • Chudha’s comments are made more relevant to today’s world when he visits with the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan for tea and reading Austen. From their discussion, he realizes that many of the social problems facing women that he thought to be long solved were still relevant in that part of the world. All the women laugh at the passage where Mr. Bennet says he will never see his daughter again if she marries Mr. Collins, and one of the participants says that she has lived the Mr. Collins scene. Coren is flabbergasted to realize that the 200 year gap which he thinks makes Austen irrelevant does not exist for these women.
  • Coren’s old friend, David Beddiel, writer and comedian, is a big Emma fan and is anxious to inform Coren of his mistakes. Coren believes that Austen only had six themes (in her six novels) and they’re all the same, while Beddiel believes she is more important than Shakespeare. The reason for that, Beddiel says, is that Austen single-handedly created the modern realist novel. Before Austen, there were novelists like Stern, Nash, and Smollet with their mad, direct to the reader explanations of everything that was going on. What Austen did was to let the reader see the world through her character (Emma, in Beddiel’s example), her thoughts and dialogue, and trust the reader to work out what was going on. Previous novelists didn’t know how to do that and just explicitly told the reader what was happening.
  • As Coren goes on to relate his reactions to Austen’s other works, he adds to what he has already related about Austen, some of which were quite surprising to me. I thought I was relatively well-informed about Austen, but I was taken aback by Austen biographer Paula Byrne’s argument that Jane Austen was not at all the romantic writer I thought her to be, that she’s actually subverting it. Her arguments make sense, but I confess I had never comprehended it before. Even in my writing, I considered that I was writing romances. Oh, well. I studied engineering at college, not English Literature. I had thought I had the subject covered, but now I’m not so sure.
  • By the end, Coren says he’s reached the final chapter and it was time to confess all to John Mullen, where his journey started. Mullen asks if Coren had talked to anyone who had changed his mind, and Coren says that several people had convinced him that Austen’s novels were not conventional romantic novels. In my own case, I hadn’t thought Austen’s works were conventional, but I had thought they were essentially romantic novels. So this program was educational to me.
  • Coren also admits that he has come to believe that we could not have got from Shakespeare, whom he admires (as do I) to today’s writers without Austen in between. He also confesses that his skepticism has collapsed and that her novels are actually brilliant.
  • This program may not be as informative to more perceptive readers than it was to me, but it set me back on my heels, jarring my confidence in my perceptions. I had previously considered her novels as brilliant but not in the way I do after watching “I Hate Jane Austen.” I recommend it wholeheartedly to serious readers, even those to whom it might not be as educational as it was to me.

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An excerpt from Chapter 8 of A Covenant of Marriage

She cried aloud with a great mourning cry for all that she had never known in this life and the agony of a bereavement unguessed till this moment.

— Marion Zimmer Bradley (1930–1999)
American science-fiction and fantasy author, The Mists of Avalon

Wednesday, December 23, 1812
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

The coming of Christmas did not presage the usual joy of the season since the fate of Miss Lydia Bennet was still the preferred subject of conversation about the neighbourhood. Hardly any gathering among the better families passed without an exhaustive review of what was known or speculated. Of course, since the Bennet family was never included in any of these gatherings, they were not able to comment on the accuracy of those conversations.

The arrival of the Gardiners provided the only relief to the general gloom at Longbourn, and Mrs. Gardiner continued her usual practice of distributing presents to all the girls. It made it seem, just for a moment, like any other Christmas season, but her discussion of the fashions in vogue in London was not received with the same attention as in previous years, for fashion was not a topic much discussed at Longbourn.

At least, the subject drew little attention until Mrs. Gardiner happened to mention Mr. Darcy’s name in passing when discussing the declining interest of long sleeves among the fashionable ladies.

“Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth said immediately. “How did you come to hear his opinion?”

“Why, did I not mention we have had occasion to meet Mr. Darcy?” Mrs. Gardiner said, trying to make her voice sound casual, for she had not intended to mention his name.

“No, you did not. Jane, did Aunt Gardiner talk of meeting Mr. Darcy in any of her letters to you?”

“I do not believe so. I cannot remember hearing of it until now.”

“Well, I thought I mentioned it,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “He dined once at our house, and he extended a like invitation before he returned to Derbyshire.”

“Mr. Darcy dined with our uncle?” Elizabeth said, almost angrily. “A man who makes a living in trade? I cannot believe it, Aunt. He would consider such an acquaintance a degradation. You must be making a joke of some kind.”

Mrs. Gardiner winced at the tone in Elizabeth’s voice. She was aware of her niece’s antipathy for the man, but her mood had become somewhat bitter. The rejection of her family by the neighbourhood seemed to affect her open and cheerful spirit more than it did her sisters.

“It is no jest,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “After what you related about that gentleman being so disagreeable, I was surprised to discover Mr. Darcy quite amiable. In light of the disappointments of the past year, I think you ought to give a person a chance to redeem himself.”

Elizabeth immediately realized her misstep and apologized. “You are right as usual. I suppose I am too disposed to be critical these days.”

Mrs. Gardiner was well aware of the gloom pervading Longbourn, which was not improved since her sister Bennet spent most days in her room, coming downstairs only rarely and then for not very long. “Well, we must invite you girls to visit us in town. A change in scenery might be just the thing to improve your outlook.”

All of the sisters except for Mary were exceedingly pleased by this proposal, and it was determined that Jane would visit first, followed by Elizabeth and then Kitty. With these decisions made, Mrs. Gardiner gathered her courage and departed upstairs to try to cheer her sister and persuade her to join the family.

The Gardiners stayed until a few days prior to the New Year before returning to town, taking Jane with them. Longbourn was a dreary place with Mr. Bennet ensconced in his library and his wife confining herself to her sitting room. No one visited save Mr. and Mrs. Philips.

With her aunt and uncle gone, taking her elder sister with her, Elizabeth returned to her long rambles when the weather allowed. She was not due to take Jane’s place until after the end of March, and she looked forward to it eagerly.

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Friday, April 23, 1813
Covent Garden, London

Elizabeth’s turn to visit her aunt and uncle began in April, and she felt her spirits lighten as soon as she departed the environs of Longbourn. Her aunt had planned a number of engagements especially suited to Elizabeth’s lively nature, and one of the most appealing was a visit to the theatre.

On the scheduled evening, Elizabeth looked about her curiously as she descended from her uncle’s carriage in front of the Theatre Royal. She had not had many chances to attend the theatre since her father was not fond of London, and tonight’s excursion had been highly anticipated. A steady stream of people converged towards the entrance, all dressed in the latest fashions, many of which must have cost incredible sums of money. She and her aunt discussed which finery was in fashion and which ladies—and gentlemen—seemed not to know whether they looked well in the attire they had chosen for the night or not.

After being shown to their seats, Elizabeth saw much to engage and amuse her among the audience. She saw ladies walk slowly to their seat, conscious that many eyes followed them and enjoying the fact. Many a note was being passed to and from ladies who had already seated themselves. It seemed as though the drama executed by the audience might surpass the play soon to be performed on stage!

Mrs. Gardiner pointed out the two royal boxes. “As you know, relations between the king and his son were strained for years before the king became so mad he had to be restrained. There was an altercation here one evening in the Lower Rotunda between the two of them, and the papers were full of the sordid details for days. After this public display, the theatre would direct the King to the King’s side and the Prince Regent to the Prince’s side. I believe this theatre is the only one with that distinction, if it is correct to label such foolishness a distinction.”

Elizabeth found the story amusing and was looking around when she noticed a pair of opera glasses focused on her. Equally startled and flattered, she looked closer and was stunned to recognize the distinctive Darcy jaw.

At first, it seemed as though he might be looking at her aunt or uncle since they knew each other socially, but a second look made it clear he was looking directly at her. Such a fascination seemed exceedingly strange. After her unrestrained rejection of him in Kent, she knew Darcy would take pains to avoid any meeting between the two of them. And with the scandal attached to her family because of Lydia’s elopement, his aversion to any encounter would be even greater.

Yet it was undeniable that he was looking at her, and now Elizabeth wondered whether they would meet again. It was impossible that any interest remained on his part—his letter had made his disinclination unquestionable—but if they did meet during her visit, how would he act? Would he be as proud and haughty as he had been in Hertfordshire and Rosings, or would his behaviour be more in keeping with what her aunt had described? She could hardly guess, and Elizabeth wondered whether she should talk to her aunt to make sure they did not accept any invitations from Mr. Darcy during her visit.

As she was watching, she saw Darcy lower his glasses, and he fixed her with a familiar, intent gaze—the one she had so often misinterpreted. He gave a slow, grave nod of recognition, and Elizabeth was on the verge of returning the acknowledgement when she noticed Darcy was not alone in his box. Beside him was a young girl who had to be his sister, and next to her sat Mr. Bingley.

Neither Miss Darcy nor Mr. Bingley seemed to have noticed the path of Darcy’s gaze because they were involved in what was clearly an amiable and amusing conversation. Elizabeth was shocked to her core to witness the exact scene predicted by Caroline Bingley in her cruel letter to Jane upon quitting Netherfield. Instead of returning Darcy’s nod as she had intended, Elizabeth turned in her seat to face forward, her cheeks flushed red with anger and despair at the final extinction of any hope for her sister and Mr. Bingley.

She had much to think on during the performance, and it quite ruined any possibility of enjoying the play. At the interval, she steadfastly refused even to glance over her shoulder in the direction of the Darcy party, but she could no longer contain her curiosity when the play ended. In the process of rising to her feet and retrieving her shawl, she was able to cast a casual glance at Darcy’s box and found it empty.

She did not see him as she made her way out of the theatre. It was obvious Darcy had made his departure early, and Elizabeth was certain he had done so purposely to avoid any possibility of encountering her.

She did not know whether to feel relief or disappointment.

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About A Covenant of Marriage

A Covenant of Marriage—legally binding, even for an unwilling bride!

Defined as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or compact, a covenant is commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. But it can also apply to a marriage as Elizabeth Bennet learns when her father binds her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Against her protests that she cannot be bound against her will, the lady is informed that she lives under her father’s roof and, consequently, is under his control; she is a mere pawn in the proceedings.

With such an inauspicious beginning, how can two people so joined ever make a life together?

Buy on Amazon (U.S.) (U.K.)

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About the Author

C.P. Odom

By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics.

I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife’s beloved Jane Austen books after her passing. One thing led to another, and I now have four novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019). Two of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposal and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets.

I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats. My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

Connect with C.P. Odom on Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Meryton Press

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering 8 ebook copies of A Covenant of Marriage as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Birchall as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, The Bride of Northanger. Although I adore Pride and Prejudice, I get really excited when authors show Austen’s other novels some love. I read Northanger Abbey for the first time several years ago, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve read some variations since then, but they are few and far between. Life has been extremely busy recently, but as I catch up on my review backlog and squeeze in a few new ones here and there, keep your eye out for my thoughts on The Bride of Northanger. In the meantime, please give Diana a warm welcome!

Congratulations on the publication of The Bride of Northanger. What was your inspiration to write a continuation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey?

Thank you! Northanger Abbey seems to get overlooked, compared to the universal popularity of Pride and Prejudice, and the meaty genius of Austen’s more mature works. But what a delectably enchanting novel it is! The reader experiences, along with young, sheltered Catherine, the delights of entering the wide, adult world of Bath society with “such fresh feelings of every sort,” as Henry Tilney says. This leads to a developing love story that is in my view as compelling as any Austen ever wrote. It initially seemed unlikely to me that a clever, sophisticated man like Henry would fall in love with someone so young and ignorant as Catherine, and Jane Austen’s explanatory remark that Henry’s “persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought,” does not quite satisfy. So, I wanted to examine his life, his feelings, and his psychology, to try to come to a better understanding of the dynamic here. Working towards that, I wrote an essay about his father General Tilney (entitled The Ogre of Northanger!), that helped me arrive at an answer that satisfied me. The General was a horrendous bully and his brutal treatment left marks upon his son, a clergyman with a strong wit and a respect for the life of the mind rather than one dedicated to worldly greed. No wonder Henry was drawn to a girl who was not scheming, manipulative, and grasping, but simple and sincere, with a thirsty mind for learning. I set out in my fiction to explore how the young man educated the young woman, and they became equal and happy partners together.

Northanger Abbey has been considered a parody of the Gothic fiction popular during Austen’s time. How did Austen’s story and style influence your writing of The Bride of Northanger?

Completely. I have been steeped in Austen’s writing – not dramatizations nor adaptations, charming as many of them are, but in her actual texts – for decades, to the point where I’ve read them literally thousands of times and have them almost completely mentally to hand, so to speak. I was driven by a longing to discover Austen’s secrets, to learn as much as possible about the genius that made her characters so real, her commentary on life so compelling yet enigmatic. Such study could only improve my own writing – it couldn’t possibly hurt! – and trying to enter her universe and style, proved to be a most enlightening way to learn a great deal both about these novels and their originator.

Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland are one of Jane Austen’s most charming couples. Was it a challenge to continue their story? How did you recapture their voices?

I don’t know if it was a challenge exactly, because I’ve been accustomed to imitating Austen for so many years; my first attempt was in 1984 when I won a contest in the JASNA journal Persuasions, and I eventually became very comfortable switching on my “Austenesque” dialogue voice. Once I started work on my “Bride,” Catherine and Henry began talking in my head and telling me about their Gothic trials and adventures. All this was very exciting, though I was really more excited about how Catherine was becoming a very sensible and sane woman, and how strong their marriage was growing.

When/how did you discover Jane Austen, and why do you think she and her novels remain so popular today?

I was about 20 when I first read Pride and Prejudice. In those days Jane Austen wasn’t anywhere near as widely popular as today, not to be encountered either in school or a movie theater. A literary aunt of mine recommended P & P, but the title wasn’t prepossessing, and it took me awhile to get around to reading it. Then, what an explosive revelation of enjoyment! It’s all still there for readers to take as much from as they choose: reading one or two of the books; giving your life to a study of Jane Austen and her genius; or simply enjoying her works and the books and movies they inspire, in your own way. Austen appeals on every possible level, from the great love story to the wit of one of the world’s best humorists. She provides a window into the 18th century, plus shrewd observations on human nature (which has not changed!), all with a display of perfect style and her own philosophy. As I say: something for everyone, and the more you read, the more you find.

When/how did you discover JAFF, and what prompted you to take the leap and write your own Austen-inspired novels?

I didn’t exactly “discover JAFF,” I was writing it long before the term was invented. Since the 1980s I’ve written hundreds of stories in the genre, and my first full length novel, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, was written in the early 1990s. Of course, I was far from the first person to start writing Austen sequels – Austen’s own nieces were – but when I started my work there had not been a sequel since Pemberley Shades in 1949, so I was among the very first “modern” writers doing this. The adaptations, the Austenesque writing boom, and JAFF, all came years after I’d started writing Austenesque fiction, though to be sure that was another word that had not yet been invented!

As a writer myself, I’m always curious about where people write their books. Could you describe your writing space?

A dusty little study crammed with books and English china teapots in the rambling apartment my husband and I share with our three cats a couple of blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, California. Our son is the librarian on Catalina Island. We grew up in New York City and are transplants of a bookish bohemian variety!

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Just finished reading the memoirs of artist Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, who was a French contemporary of Jane Austen. She’s the portraitist whose painting I chose for the cover of my novel. It looked exactly as I imagined Catherine, though in fact it is a portrait of a young French aristocrat, Corisande de Gramont, painted in 1800 when she was 18 years old (the same age and era as the fictional Catherine). Corisande was a granddaughter of the Duchesse de Polignac, the favorite of Marie Antoinette, and she married an English Member of Parliament, Charles Augustus Bennet (shades of Austen!), Earl of Tankerville, and settled in England. I also chose John Constable’s painting of Netley Abbey to represent Northanger, as Jane Austen actually visited and was inspired by Netley. My talented book designer Rebecca Young deftly transformed the two works of art into a beautiful book design. And now I’m reading books about Louisa May Alcott.

Are you working on another novel now? If so, any hints as to what it’s about?

As you can perhaps guess from my last hint, I’m writing a sequel to Alcott’s Little Women.

Thank you for asking me these questions, it’s been a pleasure to answer them!

You’re welcome! Thank you for being my guest today, and once again, congratulations on your new release. I look forward to reading it!

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About The Bride of Northanger

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share – that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real…until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied – events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other…

Amazon (paperback) (ebook) | Barnes & Noble (ebook) | Goodreads | Publisher Page

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About the Author

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen’s style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale.

Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

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The Doyenne of Austenesque fiction, Diana Birchall, tours the blogosphere October 28 through November 15 to share her latest release, The Bride of Northanger. Thirty popular bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed continuation of Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. 

THE BRIDE OF NORTHANGER BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: 

October 28                My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)

October 28                Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

October 28                vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)

October 29                A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide of Life (Guest Blog)

October 29                From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)

October 30                Drunk Austen (Interview)

October 30                Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)

October 31                Jane Austen’s World (Review)

November 01            So Little Time… (Interview)

November 01            Laura’s Reviews (Review)

November 04            English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)

November 04            Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)

November 05            More Agreeably Engaged (Review)

November 05            Vesper’s Place (Review)

November 06            Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)

November 06            Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)

November 07            All Things Austen (Spotlight)

November 07            A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

November 07            Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)

November 08            Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)

November 08            vvb32 Reads (Review)

November 11            My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)

November 11            Reading the Past (Spotlight)

November 12            Jane Austen’s World (Interview)

November 12            The Calico Critic (Excerpt)

November 13            The Book Rat (Review)

November 13            Austenesque Reviews (Review)

November 14            Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)

November 14            The Fiction Addiction (Review)

November 15            My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)

November 15            Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)

Dear readers, you’re in for a treat today! Endeavour Media is sharing an excerpt of Gabrielle Malcolm’s upcoming release There’s Something About Darcy: The Curious Appeal of Jane Austen’s Betwitching Hero. The book is due out on November 11, but while you wait, enjoy this excerpt, and then enter the EPIC giveaway!

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Hero, Protector, Nobleman, Bastard?

Darcy is simply ‘Darcy’ to his friends, social circle and relatives – Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Darcy is related to nobility through his mother and aunt, even though he himself never has a title. He does, however, have a ‘noble mien’.

‘Fitzwilliam’ is from the Norman French and Germanic languages. Fitz means ‘son of’ and ‘Wilhelm’ can be translated as ‘protector’. From Tudor and Stuart times Fitz was also ascribed to the illegitimate sons of kings and nobility (Fitzroy, Fitzhenry, Fitzherbert). Was Austen implying that Darcy was descended from royalty, but from the wrong side of the sheets?

‘Fitzwilliam Darcy’ certainly rings with patrician respectability and dignity, established property and money. Austen chose her language carefully, and the attention to the name conveys an impression of historic pedigree. It carries with it a tradition of Norman French and landed gentry. D’Arcy refers to an inhabitant of the town of Arcy in La Manche. It has different variants and spellings: Dorcey, D’orsay and d’Orsai. William de Arcai was a knight granted land in Lincolnshire by William the Conqueror. He was succeeded by William Daresai, who was later succeeded by Roger Arsi, and eventually Thomas Darcy – with the familiar spelling.

Darcy is distinguished, via this etymology, as a figure of authority with an extended Anglo-Norman heritage. There are also associations with the Irish Protestant landed gentry. With this there might be a nod towards Thomas Lefroy, a young man from Austen’s past. In Gaelic, O’Dorchaidhe (O Dor-kay-da) means ‘descendant of the dark one’. A stern, brooding, tall, dark, and handsome hero? The romantic significance of the Irish connection probably meant a lot to the author thanks to her friendship with Lefroy.

So, as we investigate Austen and her famous hero in a social, cultural and historic context we discover various factors that come into play when thinking about his origins. He has, perhaps, a ‘right’ to be proud according to Charlotte Lucas, with his ‘fortune’ and his ‘favour’. He does have great attributes as we will discover, as well as distinct flaws. This makes him an interesting, enduring character who has a versatility that might not be obvious at first.

Colin Firth, in an interview for The Making of Pride and Prejudice (BBC Books, 1995) described the clarity with which Darcy’s character comes across in the novel. Austen’s depth and tone helped Firth (and the viewers) to see Darcy as a fully developed figure. What Firth found interesting was the complexity and truth that lay beneath the surface of the character. He knew that Jane Austen had an instinctive grasp of Darcy’s inner self; even though she did not always express it, it could be discerned, and we can see it in Firth’s performance. Her great ability with character gives them an internal and external life that, two centuries on, can be understood and acted.

This complex character has, since his creation, been broken down, reimagined and reinvented in various ways. For 200 years he has been with us in popular culture and is now such a familiar figure he has gained archetypal status in the early twenty-first century. He is an archetype that can be repeated in different stories and remain recognisable. There are shorthand ways now, of instantly supplying us with the idea of Darcy in different media, literature, folklore and drama. This is what the following chapters will examine, beginning with the literary formulation of him in Pride and Prejudice, and taking in Austen’s influences from other novelists.

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About There’s Something About Darcy

For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. What is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

Dr Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel and will defend their choice passionately.

In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

A must-read for every Darcy and Jane Austen fan.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Gabrielle Malcolm

Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm lectures and writes about Jane Austen in popular culture and the global fan phenomena surrounding Austen’s work. She is the author of Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen and is a regular speaker at the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, and the Jane Austen Regency Week in Chawton. She lives in Bath.

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Giveaway

Endeavor Media is generously offering 10 copies of There’s Something About Darcy to my readers as part of the blog tour. This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Monday, November 11, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!!

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It is my pleasure to welcome Julie Cooper to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her new novel, The Perfect Gentleman, a Pride and Prejudice variation. Julie is here with an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did! Please give her a warm welcome.

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In my story, The Perfect Gentleman, the intrepid Elizabeth Bennet, daughter of a woman of ill repute, is in a race to discover Fitzwilliam Darcy’s missing sister before scandal can hit. Of course, she has no real idea why Georgiana has run off, or where. In the following excerpt, Lizzy applies some Regency ‘Sherlock Holmes’ techniques in her search for clues: 

Lizzy appeared thoughtful. “I wish you would tell me more about your sister, beyond her description. I feel if I understood her better, I might be able to understand this situation.” 

She peered carefully at him as she spoke. While his face expressed anger and annoyance easily enough, anything else was stifled behind his mask of bland impassivity. But now, after a few hours in his company, she was beginning to see signs there might be more than arrogance and grumpiness to his character—though of course, grumpy arrogance was obviously quite a habit with him. Still, a slight quirk of the lips might be full-blown laughter in other men. A twist of the brow was a thoughtful question; a blink, an expression of astonishment. How remarkably self-contained this gentleman! 

Darcy scratched his chin contemplatively. “Georgiana is…delicate,” he said at last. 

“She does not enjoy good health?” Lizzy asked. 

“No, she is healthy enough. But fragile. She is tall for a girl, and slender, so perhaps that is part of it—one feels as though she might be breakable. Quiet, and perhaps a bit restrained. Fosters a protective instinct, naturally.” 

“Oh, naturally.” 

He frowned. “Sarcasm, Miss Bennet?” 

“Not at all. But you’d think I had asked you to describe your finest china, not your sister.” 

His mask was back in place, but his offence was plain. 

“Fifteen years is a difficult age for a young lady,” she said, rather more gently. “Too young to be taken seriously by most adults, and too old to be distracted by more childish pastimes. By the same token, persons of the opposite sex become incredibly…interesting.” 

He sat up straighter in his seat, his posture so stiff, she knew his affront had swelled to anger. 

“My sister is not the same kind of female with whom you are accustomed,” he said tautly. 

Lizzy laughed. “Ah. You are one of those sorts of men,” she said frankly. 

“What sort?” 

“The kind who thinks there are only two sorts of females—good ones and bad ones. The good ones sit like your fine china on a shelf. You dust them off for parties and their duty is to impress, and then retire quietly to the shelf once more, at least until they produce a place setting or two. They aren’t allowed feelings like love and passion. You expect them to barely tolerate lovemaking, and then only when you say ’tis time to set the table.” 

“You are bold,” he said, shocked. 

“Bold. Another word for ‘bad,’” she nodded. 

Darcy was obviously taken aback by that statement. “You misunderstand me,” he said quietly. 

Lizzy waved this off. “Nevertheless. My point is this—your sister is a person and a lady. It is natural she should struggle with a number of new feelings at this age. Feelings that all females possess, to one degree or another.” She stared straight at him. “Harlots and heiresses, both.” 

This is only the beginning of Elizabeth Bennet’s journey with Fitzwilliam Darcy in The Perfect Gentleman; plainly, they are from different worlds. Helping them both to grow together was both a challenge and a pleasure!

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About The Perfect Gentleman

’Tis no secret that Lizzy Bennet has dreams. The uniquely talented daughter of a woman with a dubious reputation, Lizzy knows she must make her own way in a world that shuns her.

Fitzwilliam Darcy carries the stains of his family’s disgrace upon his soul and only by holding himself to the strictest standards has he reclaimed his place in society.

Now Georgiana Darcy has gone missing. If his fifteen-year-old sister cannot be found quickly, the scandal could destroy Darcy’s years of perfect behaviour.

Lizzy Bennet know just what to do to find Georgiana. She is willing to join the pursuit to get what she wants but will Darcy be willing to trust her with his secrets? And what will they do when the search for Georgiana reveals what neither expected to find?

The Perfect Gentleman is a romantic adventure so big it needs two volumes in one book. Follow the adventure in A Not-So-Merry Chase and discover the surprises and temptations that await at Pemberley in Love Wisely But Well.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Julie Cooper

Julie Cooper, a California native, lives with her Mr Darcy (without the arrogance or the Pemberley) of nearly forty years, two dogs (one intelligent, one goofball), and Kevin the Cat (smarter than all of them.)  They have four children and three grandchildren, all of whom are brilliant and adorable, with the pictures to prove it. She works as an executive at a gift basket company and her tombstone will read, “Have your Christmas gifts delivered at least four days before the 25th.”  Her hobbies are reading, giving other people good advice, and wondering why no one follows it.

Connect with Julie Cooper via Facebook

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Giveaway

You can win a $50 Amazon gift card from Quills & Quartos Publishing! The contest ends on November 13. To be eligible, just comment on any of the blog tour stops and Quills & Quartos will select a random winner from the comments. You need not visit all the stops (one point per stop and comment), however, it does increase your chances of winning by earning more entries. Please check the Quills & Quartos Facebook page to find out about winners. Good luck!

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

Victoria Kincaid is my guest again today, celebrating the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, When Charlotte Became Romantic. I truly love having the opportunity to edit Victoria’s books; I’ve enjoyed all of her books thus far, but When Charlotte Became Romantic is one of my favorites. I love when the secondary characters are given time to shine, especially when Charlotte Lucas has a chance for a happily ever after. Victoria is here to give her thoughts on Mr. Collins and share an excerpt from the book. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hi Anna,

Thank you for having me back to visit! My latest book takes place after Charlotte Lucas agrees to marry Collins but before the wedding takes place—a period in which I envision her having second thoughts about the wedding. Coincidentally, while I was writing this book there was a discussion about Mr. Collins on one of the Austen-oriented Facebook pages, and I was surprised to see how many people had a sympathetic view of the man. They saw him as bumbling but essentially well meaning (how he has been portrayed in some adaptations of P&P). Likewise, many JAFF stories imagine that he might be a good match for Mary Bennet, presumably since they are both moralistic and pious.

But if you look at the original book, Austen does not seem him as a nice person. The narrator tells us that he is proud, obsequious, self-important, and not sensible. Elizabeth describes him as conceited, pompous, narrow-minded and silly. And his behavior bears out these descriptions. But even more damning, he is a selfish, unkind person. In his proposal to Elizabeth, Collins tells her he wants to marry her because he believes it will add to his happiness, but the question of her happiness never occurs to him.   This is a mistake that Darcy makes as well—their similar proposal scenes allow the reader to compare the two men. But Darcy recognizes his error, corrects his behavior, and becomes a more caring person. Collins is incapable of that kind of introspection or change.

His selfishness is even more blatantly displayed in the letter he sends while Lydia is missing. As the family worries about the whereabouts and well-being of their sister, Collins tells them that Lydia would be better off dead than disgraced and congratulates himself on having escaped sharing the family’s shame. It is hard to see this gesture as anything other than intentional cruelty. Behavior like this makes me think he shouldn’t be married to anyone.

This is not to say that P&P’s Charlotte was wrong to marry Collins. It is quite possible that she can manage him in a way that makes her life quite tolerable, and she may place more importance on having a family and household of her own than having a sensible husband. She professes herself content with her situation, but of course that is partially because she deliberately avoids spending much of her day with her husband.

In When Charlotte Became Romantic, I imagine what Charlotte would do if offered another option. If romance is a possibility for her, will she take it? Below is an excerpt from near the beginning of the book. I hope you enjoy it!

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Mr. Collins continued without drawing breath. “And now nothing remains but to assure you in the most animated language of my sincere admiration and love!” His smile was no doubt intended to appear besotted, but Charlotte thought perhaps his dinner had not agreed with him.

Idly, she wondered if he had used those identical words when proposing to Elizabeth.

When she did not immediately respond, he cleared his throat. “You are the ardent desire of my heart.” Then he added, “My soul longs for your touch.”

Charlotte was distracted for a moment as she considered how she might touch his soul and whether that could be interpreted as a lewd suggestion.

“I pray you, relieve my agony!” Mr. Collins’s smile was becoming more strained. “Consent to be my wife and make me the happiest of men.”

How fortunate that I am not romantic. If I had hoped for a romantic proposal—or indeed a sensible one—I would have been greatly disappointed. Not being romantic saves me quite a lot of heartache.

Charlotte managed a smile, which likely bore no resemblance to sincerity, but he would not notice. This is all a charade after all. He pretends he loves me; I accept his offer with a similar pretense of love. Neither of us admits that love is not possible with such a short acquaintance. Indeed, Charlotte was not certain that a creature such as Collins was capable of love—or that she herself was anymore. At least not romantic love; she was certain she could love children.

She straightened her spine. I have made my decision. This is the best course, far better than the alternative. “I would be honored to be your wife,” she said softly.

Mr. Collins sprang up from the bench. “Excellent! This is excellent news!” He dithered awkwardly before taking her hand and shaking it enthusiastically. “I must speak immediately to your most worthy father.”

Charlotte ignored how he stumbled over a flowerpot in his haste to achieve the front door, only allowing herself to wilt against the back of the bench once he had disappeared.

Had the wind turned cool suddenly? The weather was mild for December, so she had merely wrapped a shawl about her shoulders. But now a chill seeped through her skin and into her bones.

Well, it is no matter. The decision is made; I am an engaged woman. There was no hope her father would decline his permission. Having hoped to marry her off for more than ten years, her father would probably dance a little jig at the news.

No doubt the Bennet family would perceive her as calculating, believing she had taken advantage of Mr. Collins’s disappointment over Elizabeth to catch him for herself. And Elizabeth would never understand why Charlotte had accepted such a man. But they did not understand the truth of Charlotte’s life at Lucas Lodge. She had given Elizabeth some hints; however, she knew little of the daily reality. Nobody could possibly understand the dread that settled over Charlotte’s shoulders when she contemplated continued dependence upon her family.

No, she had decided. Others would not understand, but she must give no consideration to their perceptions. As Mr. Collins’s future wife, she must inure herself not only to disappointment but also to embarrassment, ignoring how that thought made her stomach knot. Soon enough she would leave Meryton and the opinions of those she had known all her life. In Kent, they would not expect anything else of her; they already knew Mr. Collins’s nature.

There was no point in second thoughts or fantasies about how her life might have been different. Fairy tales were for girls—for women who were romantic, who could afford to be romantic. Charlotte was not among their number, although once she had made the mistake of believing she could be. But no more.

Charlotte sat demurely on the bench until Mr. Collins returned, a lightness in his step announcing that her father had approved the match. Awkwardly, he sat beside her once more and took both her hands in his sweaty grip. “I know you are as pleased by these events as I, my petunia, my marigold!” Somehow his smile was as oily as his hair. “For, at seven and twenty, no doubt you had little hope of ever receiving a request for your hand.”

He proceeded, oblivious to any harmful consequence of his words. “And you are not a great beauty like the eldest Miss Bennets. Still, I believe you will be acceptable to Lady Catherine, being an active and useful sort of woman.”

Charlotte closed her eyes and reminded herself that she must accustom herself to disappointment.

Ignorant of her inner thoughts—or perhaps unaware that she possessed any—Mr. Collins continued unabated. “And now nothing remains but for me to make a slightly impertinent request for…a kiss.” His smile contained a hint of a leer. “Such things are permitted for betrothed couples, as you know.”

Charlotte considered refusing, using the excuse of excess modesty, but she needed to demonstrate every appearance of enthusiasm for the match.

For a mere brushing of the lips, it was startling how wet and cold a kiss could be. Mr. Collins’s lips were thin and slimy. Perhaps Charlotte would have thought it an acceptable kiss if she had possessed no basis for comparison, but as it was… She momentarily considered that she lived in a reverse of the Princess and the Frog fairy tale, and she had somehow turned her fiancé into an amphibian.

However, when Charlotte opened her eyes, Mr. Collins was smiling beatifically. She found a sort of consolation in the thought that he had not found the kiss disappointing. I will be bringing happiness into his life, she thought. And I will have children—and a home of my own.

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About When Charlotte Became Romantic

Desperate to escape her parents’ constant criticism, Charlotte has accepted a proposal from Mr. Collins despite recognizing his stupid and selfish nature. But when a mysterious man from her past visits Meryton for the Christmas season, he arouses long-buried feelings and causes her to doubt her decision.

James Sinclair’s mistakes cost him a chance with Charlotte three years ago, and he is devastated to find her engaged to another man. Honor demands that he step aside, but his heart will not allow him to leave Meryton. Their mutual attraction deepens; however, breaking an engagement is not a simple matter and scandal looms. If they are to be happy, they must face her parents’ opposition, Lady Catherine’s disapproval, dangerous figures from James’s past…and Charlotte’s nagging feeling that maybe she should just marry Mr. Collins.

Charlotte had forsworn romance years ago; is it possible for her to become romantic again?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an ebook copy of When Charlotte Became Romantic to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 27, 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!

I’m thrilled to welcome Eliza Shearer back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Miss Price’s Decision. I love crossover novels and seeing how the characters interact, and Miss Price’s Decision brings together characters from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice. I hope you’re all as intrigued as I am!

Eliza is here to introduce the book, share an excerpt, and give you all a chance to win a copy. Please give her a warm welcome!

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It is a pleasure to be here today to present Miss Price’s Decision, my second novel in the Austeniana series after Miss Darcy’s Beaux. Like its predecessor, it tells the story of the younger sibling of a main character in a Jane Austen novel, in this case Mansfield Park.

Fanny Price is a leading lady that not all Janeites like, but there can be no doubt that in Mansfield Park Jane Austen gave us an unforgettable cast of characters and a complex web of interests, disagreements and secret desires.

The novel ends with the eldest Bertram sister disgracing herself by running away with Mr Crawford. It is a heinous development, and its gravity overshadows what would otherwise be a very shocking event: Julia’s elopement with Mr Yates.

I have always been intrigued by their elopement. Other than a certain personal antipathy from Sir Thomas, there are no substantial obstacles for the young couple to overcome if they wish to pursue the relationship. So why marry without parental consent?

In Miss Price’s Decision, set five years after the dramatic ending to Mansfield Park, we see that the tension between Julia and Sir Thomas is still very evident. Here is a sample; I hope you enjoy it! And if you would like to enter the giveaway, please comment below.

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Miss Price’s Decision, Chapter 3 (excerpt)

On the breakfast room table at Berkeley Square stood a Dutch vase filled with delicate pink posies and white forget-me-nots arranged with exquisite taste. The flowers were so beautiful that the minute I saw them I longed for chalkboard and paper. However, their serenity did not reflect the general atmosphere in the room, for I immediately sensed tension in the air.

Sir Thomas was eating his bread and eggs in sullen silence. Across from him, my cousin Julia was doing the same. Julia and I had met at Fanny and Edmund’s wedding, so I recognised her at once. She, however, only acknowledged me with a rigid smile.

“You must be Fanny’s sister. Has the footman not shown you the way to the kitchen?”

“Her name is Susan,” said Sir Thomas, his voice as cold as ice. “She is your cousin and is treated as such at Mansfield Park. I expect that Mr Yates will be accepting of this arrangement under his roof.”

“Oh.” Julia gave me an unreadable look. “I suppose it makes sense. Life in Mansfield Park must be rather dull these days. Edmund and Fanny will be very busy with the parish and their little boy, and, of course, poor Aunt Norris is not there to keep Mamma company.”

Sir Thomas’ shoulders stiffened, and I held my breath. Mrs Norris was Lady Bertram and my mother’s eldest sister, as well as the sole companion of my disgraced cousin Maria, Sir Thomas’ eldest daughter. Maria had brought shame to her family with her adulterous behaviour and scandalous divorce and had been banned from all polite society. She was now living in a remote county in the north of England with the sole company of our aunt.

I had never met Maria, for her downfall took place before I arrived in Mansfield Park. The traces of her existence were everywhere in the big house, from the neat “M”s written in the nursery room books to the watercolours in the parlour, but she remained a ghostly presence, never to be spoken of. However, it appeared that the rules at Berkeley Square were different than under my uncle’s roof. Pushing what remained of a fried egg around her plate, Julia spoke again on the subject.

“This reminds me, Papa, I received a letter from Aunt Norris a few weeks ago. She assures me that the new cottage that Shillington found them is much more comfortable than the old one, if rather isolated.”

Sir Thomas gave his daughter a warning stare, but Julia ignored it.

“Apparently, they are a good ten miles away from the nearest hamlet, and their closest neighbour is a reclusive widower who lives alone in a crumbling Elizabethan mansion. Maria will be frightfully bored.”

Ignoring his daughter, my uncle spoke to me.

“Susan, would you be able to join Lady Bertram in her chamber as soon as you finish?”

“Of course. I hope my aunt had a good night.”

“Better than expected, but I am afraid that the journey exhausted her. She does not think she will come down for breakfast.”

“I would not worry, it sounds very much like Mamma’s usual self,” said Julia, waving her hand, before looking at her father. “Papa, do you know how long you will need to stay with us?”

“We must hear what the doctor’s opinion is before making a decision. I hope that having us stay for a while is not inconvenient for you and your husband.”

“I said no such thing. I am merely trying to plan the coming weeks. We have many social engagements in the spring, you know.”

“I see. Engagements like tonight’s.”

“Oh, Papa, I understand you are upset, and would perhaps prefer a more sedate evening, but we cannot possibly cancel tonight’s soirée. It is a very important event for Mr Yates.”

“I hope that your busy calendar will not prevent you from fulfilling your filial duties,” said Sir Thomas, lowering his voice. “Your mother needs you.”

“Maria could help. She has nothing else to do,” mumbled Julia.

“What did you say?”

Sir Thomas’ features had clouded like a dark November day. I shuddered inwardly.

“Oh, Papa, there is no need to behave as if she did not exist. She has suffered enough.”

“All her suffering, she has brought upon herself,” said Sir Thomas in a hoarse voice.

“If you say so, Papa. Now, if you will excuse me, I must talk to Cook about tonight.”

Julia stood up from the table, and her father placed his hands on hers.

“Your mother is eager to see you. Do go to her this minute. And please do not mention your sister,” he added in a whisper.

Julia nodded and left the room without glancing back.

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About Miss Price’s Decision

Pretty, talented and hungry for adventure, young Susan Price is secretly thrilled when the poor health of Lady Bertram, her aunt and protector, forces a departure from sedate Mansfield Park. London and Bath offer a world of possibilities and new friendships, such as the Allens and Miss Morland, or Mr Bingley and his mysterious friend, Mr Darcy. However, with momentous decisions on the horizon, new enemies that threaten her place in the Bertram household and an unexpected encounter from her Portsmouth past, will Susan’s self-belief and unlikely allies be enough to secure her happiness?

Miss Price’s Decision is available on Amazon and Kobo.

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About the Author

Eliza Shearer

Eliza Shearer has been a Jane Austen fan for as long as she can remember, regularly convincing family and friends to join in on pilgrimages to Austen-related sites and events. She is the author of the Austeniana series of Austen-inspired variations, which include Miss Darcy’s Beaux and Miss Price’s Decision.  

Having lived in different countries, Eliza is fluent in several languages and now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her husband, two children, and a tortie cat. Eliza is very partial to satin slippers, but like her namesake Elizabeth Bennet, she has never cared much for cards.

Connect with Eliza: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway

Eliza is generously offering an ebook copy of Miss Price’s Decision to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 27, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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