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Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to be part of the Meryton Press blog tour for Grace Gibson’s new Pride and Prejudice variation, Silver Buckles. Grace is here today with an excerpt that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy because it puts readers into Mr. Darcy’s head during his infamous insult. Please give Grace a warm welcome!

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It’s such a treat to be given a spot on Diary of an Eccentric, Anna.Can there be anything better than to discover a whole community of people who love, understand and keep alive Jane Austen’s stories?

While musing over Pride and Prejudice one day, something I admit I do far too often, I began to think on Darcy’s infamous refusal to stand up with Elizabeth at the Meryton Assembly. In some variations, he does not realize he was overheard by the lady, and in some, he is well aware she heard him. As a gentleman, how would he feel if he became fully conscious he had publicly insulted a lady? Suddenly, I was eavesdropping on his innermost thoughts…!

Mr. Darcy’s Story…                                                                          Meryton Assembly Rooms

I stood at the edge of a bacchanal. The noise—it could hardly be called music—was pitched to a high screech that emanated from a second-rate gaggle of performers. I loathe a crush, and I do not like to associate with people who are unfamiliar with the word ‘dignity.’

Deuce take you, Bingley! I raged inwardly at my host. I was only there because, if I had refused to come, his sister Caroline would have felt obliged to stay home and entertain me. Survival, I mused darkly, is sometimes an uncomfortable business.

Somehow, my friend Charles Bingley had sniffed out my location. I stood off to the side of the room, and he came toward me, panting with enthusiasm.

“Come, Darcy,” he said joyfully, “I must have you dance. I cannot bear to see you standing about in this stupid manner.” He then continued to pressure me and even pointed out the sister of his own most recent partner. “Do let me ask Miss Bennet to introduce you,” he said.

“Good lord, Bingley!” I replied impatiently. “I have been paraded before a hundred people tonight and had names babbled at me from every corner of the room. I am certain I am known to her, but you will forgive me for failing to distinguish one girl in a white dress from another.” And while I reluctantly admitted Bingley’s partner was the prettiest girl in the room, the offer of an introduction to her sister smacked of meager leavings, and I had no intention of standing up with anyone that evening.

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me,” I replied, and then seeing him take a breath to persuade me from my vile mood, I added, “Do go away, Bingley. I am not inclined to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

Bingley, whose sunny disposition did not allow him to be vexed, only shrugged and laughed before he left me alone. As I stood there brooding—as he is fond of calling the state of sober silence—I noticed the object of our recent conversation out of the corner of my eye.

She was a dark-haired girl, small and unremarkable. I had responded to Bingley’s urgings by rote, knowing after an initial scan of the room that there were no ladies present who could tempt me to the floor, and I was gratified I had not erred in refusing to stand up with her. She was looking out onto the swarm of dancers, seemingly quite engaged in her observations, but then I noticed, as I examined her covertly, that the girl had about her mouth a coy little smirk.

She had heard me!

An unwelcome warmth crawled up my neck. That I spoke with full consciousness I would be overheard I cannot deny, but to see the consequences of an insult so casually delivered left me slightly breathless. My beastly state notwithstanding, I do have my standards. I limit myself to a hair’s breadth above behaving like a lout. And so, I stepped directly up to the young lady—one of the Bennet sisters, I believe, although I must be forgiven for not knowing which one.

“Miss Bennet,” I said with a stiff bow, “I believe you may have overheard my ungenerous remark just now.”

The lady had slowly risen when she perceived I was about to address her. She held her head proudly, cocked slightly to the side, with her right eyebrow delicately raised. “Sir,” she replied in cold acknowledgement.

“Forgive me. My friend Mr. Bingley is unbearably persistent, and I spoke intemperately only to deflect his efforts to force me to enjoy myself.” I spoke briskly. I am not one to simper or whine.

There was an archness in her manner as she replied. “You do not like a country dance, I surmise.”

I do not know why, but this gambit forced a wry half smile from me. “I do not, Miss Bennet.”

“Very well. If your explanation was given as a sort of apology—”

“It was.”

“Then I accept your explanation and give you leave to return to the wall you have been supporting for the last half an hour.”

Never in my life had I been so rudely dismissed! I would be damned to hell if I scuttled away like a scolded child. I held out my hand.

“I believe, Miss Bennet, we had better dance. It would look odd for us to have stood here in conversation for as long as we have without ending our tête-à-tête in the usual manner.”

“But you abhor dancing, Mr. Darcy,” she said gravely, and for a second, I thought she might even refuse!

“I have never said so. I abhor being urged to dance as though I only require a nudge. Come, I am standing here with my hand extended, and we are now creating a scene.”

A reluctant grin threatened to undo Miss Bennet’s smoldering glare, and she took my hand.

Are you curious how Elizabeth will respond to such an ungracious invitation to dance? Visit Austenesque Reviews tomorrow for a continuation…

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About Silver Buckles

She staggered a great man. He was reeling. She was overwhelmed.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, standing irritably at the edge of the Meryton assembly, declines to dance with Elizabeth Bennet. In a mood of revulsion, he rejects her without concern of being overheard. Country pretensions are always in need of squashing, and what better way to make clear he would not partner anyone outside his party? However, when he looks over at her, she does not appear humbled at all. She is secretly laughing at him!

Elizabeth is perversely delighted to encounter such an outrageous snob as Mr. Darcy. When he approaches her with a stiff, graceless apology, she coolly brushes him off, believing that, like most annoyances, he will go away when properly snubbed. But no! The man then puts out his hand and, not wishing to create a scene, compels her to stand up with him.

They go through the steps of the dance mutually disdainful and intent upon wounding each other. But by the time the musicians end their tune, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have traded barbs with such accuracy, they are unaccountably amused and engaged. Will this most inconvenient flirtation drive them apart—or, like silver buckles, are they a matched pair?

Buy: Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)

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About the Author

Grace Gibson

In addition to mosaic art, which I create at Studio Luminaria, my home-based glass shop in El Paso, Texas, I enjoy writing regency romance and Pride and Prejudice variations for pleasure.   

Connect with Grace on Facebook

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Giveaway

As part of the Silver Buckles blog tour, Meryton Press is generously offering an 8 ebook giveaway. To enter, you must use this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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

Source: Review copy from CICO Books

Be Your Own Heroine by Sophie and Charlotte Andrews is an inspirational book perfect for bookworms of all ages. The Andrews sisters detail six strong female characters from literature — Lizzy Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, July from Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Eleanor Oliphant from Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant, Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, and Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — along with their strengths and memorable moments. They describe the important characteristics of literary heroines and, most importantly, what we can learn from them.

After reading and adoring Sophie Andrews’ first book, Be More Jane, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read Be Your Own Heroine, and I wasn’t disappointed. Just like Be More Jane, Be Your Own Heroine is full of vibrant illustrations. The Andrews’ love of literature shines through, and while I share Sophie’s love for Jane Austen, it was nice to see heroines from other beloved novels included in the book.

The life lessons detailed within these pages should resonate with readers of all ages, but I do look forward to sharing the book with my 20-year-old daughter when she comes home from college on break. These are lessons I want to reinforce for her, and given that she shares my love of reading, I think she’ll enjoy the literary references. These lessons also were important for me to remember at my age, reminding me, for instance, that heroines know how to stand up for themselves, learn to love themselves, and aren’t perfect.

Be Your Own Heroine would be the perfect gift for the voracious reader in your life, and also as treat for yourself.

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About Be Your Own Heroine

Having brought you the wisdom of Austen in Be More Jane, eager reader Sophie Andrews joins forces with her sister Charlotte and turns her attention to what can be learned from the heroines of other stories from past and present. Whatever your taste in authors, there will be strong female characters you can relate to, from Jo March, the tiger-sister in Little Women, to Eleanor Oliphant, the socially bemused heroine of Gail Honeyman’s prize-winning first novel. There are spirited young women such as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, and Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series; and then there are the survivors – July in The Long Song and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Sophie and Charlotte show how these six inspirational young women can inspire you and guide you through life’s challenges. Whether you are faced with hard times at home, in love, or at work, these characters have something to teach you.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

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About the Authors

Sophie and Charlotte Andrews are sisters who both love to lose themselves in books. Charlotte’s passion for reading and writing began in her earliest years. She studied Latin American literature as part of her degree at Warwick University, but especially enjoys historical fiction. Younger sister Sophie appreciates many different genres – however her true love is for all things Jane Austen, an enthusiasm that was initially sparked by studying Pride and Prejudice at school. She started her blog, Laughing with Lizzie, in 2012, aged 16, and soon began to participate in Austen events and festivals around the country. As a founder member of the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society, she organises house parties, balls and picnics and starred in the 2017 BBC documentary “My Friend Jane”. Her first book, Be More Jane, was published in 2019 by CICO Books. Sophie lives in Berkshire.

Connect with Sophie Andrews: Laughing with Lizzie blog | Laughing with Lizzie Facebook page | Laughing with Lizzie Instagram page | Laughing with Lizzie Twitter page

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Giveaway

CICO Books is generously offering a copy of Be Your Own Heroine to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to readers from the U.S. and U.K. only, and will run through Sunday, October 25, 2020. 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!

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I’m thrilled to have Laura Hile here today on the release day for her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, As Only Mr. Darcy Can. Before I turn it over to Laura, can we just admire the gorgeous cover for a minute? I absolutely adore it!

Laura is here to share a little about the novel, as well as an excerpt and giveaway. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did! Please give her a warm welcome!

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Today’s the Day. It’s release day for As Only Mr. Darcy Can. Excited any? You bet! Thank you, Anna, for hosting me.

As for As Only Mr. Darcy Can, what can I say? It’s a lighthearted romp, a happy return to Jane Austen’s Regency world.

It’s also a reminder that one cannot escape one’s childhood. For me, this means hundreds of after-school hours spent watching reruns of the television sitcom Gilligan’s Island.

You laugh, but it’s true! Look, we already know how each episode will end, right? Nobody’s getting off the island. So why do we watch? Simply because we enjoy the antics of the characters.

It’s the same with As Only Mr. Darcy Can. This is an Elizabeth and Darcy romance, so we already know that a happy ending is coming. And Jane Austen’s delightful characters are like old friends. We smile, we sigh, we shake our heads …

Mr. Collins pours out compliments (such as ladies enjoy), and Lady Catherine pontificates. Darcy fights against his growing love for Elizabeth, while she is determined to dislike him. Lydia giggles and flirts with officers, and Wickham works to feather his financial nest.  If he can enact revenge against Darcy, so much the better.

As Only Mr. Darcy Can is that kind of book: a feel-good escape from the workaday world. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Excerpt from Chapter 18

In which Elizabeth has agreed to teach Georgiana Darcy how to knit a scarf, much to Lady Catherine’s irritation.

“Could you tell me again how to hold the yarn?” whispered Georgiana.

“I don’t wonder at your discomfort, with so many pairs of watching eyes,” Elizabeth whispered back. For even as she described her accident, Lady Lavinia continued to study Georgiana.

Again Elizabeth found her gaze drawn to Mr. Darcy. His eyes were kind. He was obviously very fond of his sister.

“The gardens,” said Lady Lavinia, “are quite marvelous on this estate; yes, quite extraordinary. Do you enjoy flowers, Miss Darcy? We must have a little stroll here at Rosings, so that you can show me all your favorites.” There was a pause. “With Miss Lucas and Miss de Bourgh, of course.”

Lady Catherine again took command of the conversation. Lady Lavinia had many questions about Rosings Park—and it seemed she agreed with every one of Lady Catherine’s opinions. Elizabeth was left to continue the lesson in peace.

“I do apologize. I am so very awkward,” whispered Georgiana.

“Your fingers are simply unused to the task. You’ll learn quickly enough. In fact—”

Elizabeth bit back a smile. Here was an audacious idea, but it just might work. She lifted the knitting from Georgiana’s resistless grasp and shot a look at Mr. Darcy. “Do you mind exchanging seats with your sister?”

He did so at once, and Elizabeth passed him the yarn and needles. “Let me show you how to hold these, sir,” she said. “It takes a bit of getting used to.”

His blank surprise was comical. “But I—”

Georgiana gave a gurgle of laughter. Here was a genuine smile, complete with dimples. The change in her demeanor was striking.

Elizabeth gave Darcy a significant look and a tiny nod. Comprehension dawned in his eyes. “Am I to have a lesson?”

“You are. Shall we begin?”

He drew a long breath and, after a glance in Colonel Fitzwilliam’s direction, manfully took up the needles.

Just a minute, was Mr. Darcy holding back a grin?  “I was not attending earlier,” he said solemnly. “How do I hold these?” He made a pathetic attempt to move the yarn.

Georgiana gave another giggle. “No, Fitzwilliam, like this,” she said. “That’s right, isn’t it, Eliz—Miss Bennet?”

“Indeed it is.”

“Here,” said Georgiana “Let me show you how.”

“I am a very poor student,” he said humbly. “I am all thumbs.”

Elizabeth saw at once what Mr. Darcy was about. In order to encourage his sister, he was deliberately clumsy. What kindness! How could she have thought him proud and unfeeling?

“You bring the yarn around this way,” she told him, “and then slide it from the needle.”

In the end, Elizabeth had to assist him, guiding his fingers to move the needles properly. Never in a million years had she thought to touch hands with Mr. Darcy! She dipped her head so that he could not see her blushes.

“There,” she said at last. “You have made your first stitch. Well done.”

“Now you must make another like it, Fitzwilliam,” said Georgiana cheerfully.

“Again?” There was no disguising his dismay.

“Yes, for the entire row.”

“You don’t say. This is—more work than I realized. I’ve a long way to go before I race along like Mrs. Jenkinson.”

“Two more stitches, sir, and then your sister can finish the remainder.”

“Thank goodness,” he murmured.

He managed to complete the assigned task and surrendered the needles to Georgiana. She began to knit with more confidence.

Again Mr. Darcy’s eyes met Elizabeth’s. Was there admiration in his gaze? No, that could not be. What she was seeing was gratitude, nothing more.

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About As Only Mr. Darcy Can

What a tangled web!

Mr. Darcy’s departure has solved nothing. He loves Elizabeth Bennet as much as ever—and he has left her vulnerable to Wickham’s lies. Why not send her a warning? Anonymously, of course. He must conquer his obsession, yet he must also do something to protect her.

But when Darcy is dunned for a bill of Wickham’s—an old trick—he sends the magistrate’s men with a warrant. Wickham, however, is nowhere to be found. At the same time, a titled lady appears in Hunsford. Why does she look so familiar? What of her pointed interest in Darcy’s sister? Is there anyone who will believe what Darcy suspects?

Elizabeth has her hands full when she comes to Hunsford. Her army-mad youngest sister causes trouble everywhere! What is more, those cryptic Valentines keep arriving. And then there is Mr. Darcy, a man she is determined to dislike. Why must his suspicions about the unknown lady match hers? Sparks fly as she joins forces with him to discover a truth that is both laughable and treacherous.

As for being at odds with Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth’s heart has other ideas. Will a nonsensical demand ruin what has grown up between them?

As Only Mr. Darcy Can is a feel-good Regency romp, featuring all your friends from Pride and Prejudice. Intrigue, romance, and laughter are waiting for you.

Amazon | Goodreads | BookBub

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About the Author

Laura Hile

By day, Laura Hile teaches at a Christian school. By night—or rather, in the early morning when she can think! —she writes Jane Austen and Regency romance with laughs and happy endings.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with middle school students!

She enjoys gardening (she is a weed warrior!), choral singing, and having coffee with friends.

Laura lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with her husband and a collection of antique clocks. One day she hopes to add a cat or three.

Other books by Laura Hile: Darcy By Any Other Name, So This Is Love, and the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy. She is a regular contributor to the A Very Austen anthology series.

Connect with Laura: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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Giveaway

Laura is generously offering a Kindle version of As Only Mr. Darcy Can to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 18, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Laura, for being my guest today. Happy release day!!

I’m delighted to welcome Arisa White back to Diary of an Eccentric today to share a little about her upcoming release, Who’s Your Daddy, a poetic memoir due out in March 2021, and a video poetry reading. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Who’s Your Daddy started as a series of epistolary poems when my mother first asked me if I wanted to write my father in Guyana. He was deported back there for involvement in a criminal case. Because I did not know what I would say in the letter—in part because I didn’t know what my feelings were—I needed the space to reflect, feel, and prepare for language.

At its root, the work is personal, it requires a telling, and it’s seeking to know something and someone. I was wondering how the poem could hold this journey that would be expository, observational, interrogative, and self-reflective. I was pushing the poem to its extreme, asking it to come explore with me as I figured out my relationship with my father, his absence, and the woman I’ve become in this estranged dynamic.

I wrote the epistolary poems for nearly two years, all of which were addressed to Gerald, my father. Fortunately, I received a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation, which allowed me to create a self-publication of the poems, host a series of letter writing workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area, and take a trip to Guyana where I met my father after 30-plus years of his absence from my life.

The self-publication is called Dear Gerald, and I gave out these chapbooks in exchange for letters addressed to absent, distant, dead fathers and patriarchal figures. This resulted in me collecting eighteen letters, one came as far as the Philippines and two from inmates sentenced to San Quentin. My mom even sent in a letter.

When I went to Guyana in 2015, I kept a journal and read the newspaper every day I was there, so when I returned back to the States, I now had notes and reflections from actually meeting Gerald, being in his home country, in the neighborhood in which he grew up. All these pieces felt necessary to the book.

The project was expanding and broadening. Throughout it all, I was reading articles on father absence, the historical role of the father, pieces on Black fatherhood and The New Jim Crow, books on endarkened feminisms, Afrofuturism, neoliberalism, Black death, as well as poetry collections that employed documentary poetics. Reading works like Zong!, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, and You Da One, I was intrigued with how to include all the ways I was responding to (and how life around me was helping to answer) the questions of what do I feel when it comes to my father? Who am I as a result of his absence? What is love in abandonment? What role does disappearance serve in my intimate relations?

After the trip to Guyana, I felt physically done with the project. I was exhausted from it. And it wasn’t until 2017, when writing with my friend Emerson Whitney (who has an amazing lyrical memoir out called HEAVEN) that it started to make sense how I could integrate these different pieces together. Emerson’s style is wonderfully lyrical and fluid. He pulls in and weaves citations along with personal memories and his sentences have strong poetic sensibilities. What you get is an autotheory that feels more authentic to how a life lives, learns, senses, and makes meaning.

In the writing game of tag with Emerson, where I would send a prompt (photograph, quote, etc.) to him, and then he tagged me with a prompt, I started to push the length of the line and challenged the function of the sentence. I became less afraid of the sentence as a thing of prose writers, and started to feel it as a way to communicate with my father–off in another country, miles and miles away, with decades between us. The sentence was a way to connect, it was a conjunctive experience.

Who’s Your Daddy finally took a coherent shape while curating a reading series, and being in residence, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco for eight weeks. I wrote a twelve-page piece that included citations from writers like Henry A. Giroux and Christina Sharpe, the artist Meleko Mokgosi, the letters received from folks, prose poems, all of which comprise the final section of the book. Writing that twelve-page piece taught me how to develop the rest of the collection, and with the help of my editor Kate Angus, I was able to recognize which narratives I needed to include from childhood and young adulthood. Now, as I look over the book, the opening sections of Who’s Your Daddy are more poetry, the shorter lines, and then as the collection progresses, the genres blend, the sentence takes over as I make my way to the father.

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About Who’s Your Daddy

A lyrical, genre-bending coming-of-age tale featuring a queer, Black, Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.

Advance Praise:

“Arisa White channels the ear of Zora Neal Hurston, the tongue of Toni Cade Bambara, and the eye of Alice Walker in the wondrous Who’s Your Daddy. She channels Guyanese proverbs, Shango dreams, games of hide and seek, and memories of an absentee father to shape the spiritual condition. What she makes is “a maze that bobs and weaves a new style whenever there’s a demand to love.” What she gives us are archives, allegories, and wholly new songs.” —Terrance Hayes

“In these crisply narrative poems, which unreel like heart-wrenching
fragments of film, Arisa White not only names that gaping chasm between
father and daughter, but graces it with its true and terrible face. Every
little colored girl who has craved the constant of her father’s gaze will
recognize this quest, which the poet undertakes with lyric that is tender
and unerring.” —Patricia Smith

“Somewhere nearing its end, Arisa White says of Who’s Your Daddy, it’s
“a portrait of absence and presence, a story, a tale, told in patchwork
fashion . . .” This exactly says what Who’s Your Daddy is, though it
doesn’t say all it takes to do justice to the mythic paradox an absent
parent guarantees a child, young or grown, or what it takes to live with
and undergo such birthright. There’s not only a father’s absence and
presence, there’s a mother who says “you raise your daughters, and love
your sons,” there are stepfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, a grandmother,
brothers, lovers, all of whom leave their marks and give and take love.
Surrounding the whole book hovers the questions do I forgive him, and is
forgiveness possible? This beautifully, honestly conceived genius of a book
shook me to the core.” —Dara Wier

Goodreads | Pre-order

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About the Author

Arisa White
Photo credit: Nye’ Lyn Tho

Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow and an assistant professor of creative writing at Colby College. She is the author of four books, including the poetry collection You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, and coauthor of Biddy Mason Speaks Up, winner of the Maine Literary Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for Middle-Grade Nonfiction. She serves on the board of directors for Foglifter and Nomadic Press. Find her at arisawhite.com.

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For more about the book, and to follow the blog tour, click the button above.

I’m delighted to welcome J. Marie Croft back to my blog today to celebrate the release of Play with Fire, the latest in Meryton Press’ series of novellas. J. Marie is here to talk about the evolution of the novella and to share an excerpt so intriguing that I must get my hands on a copy of the book! I hope you all feel the same. Please give her a warm welcome!

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The Evolution of a “Skirmish and Scandal” Novella

First of all, thank you, Anna, for participating in these blog tours. I’m thrilled to be here today and to have contributed to the Meryton Press series of novellas.

My participation came about early in July when I received an email from Janet Taylor regarding the project. Immediately I signed up and, taking a page from Mansfield Park, started writing a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story about staging a theatrical. The working title was Duel-Purpose Act. Duel that is, not dual, because in this novella there is, indeed, a prearranged contest with deadly weapons (or not) between two brainless blockheads (as a certain character calls them) in order to settle a point of honour. And, because there’s also a kiss during the theatrical, I decided a much better title would be Play with Fire.

The first part of the novella (Setting the Stage) practically wrote itself. I had to do a bit of research, though, regarding 18th century fashion. Later in this post, you’ll find an excerpt describing Darcy’s costume.

Then I realised— Uh-oh! Now I need to write a script for Part II (The Play’s the Thing). Great! I know nothing about playwriting. Down the rabbit hole I went to investigate scriptwriting.

Later in July, I was sweating (or perspiring as my mom always insisted a lady would do) and not only due to a heat wave. Gah! Whose bright idea was it to put a duel in The Mésalliance? And, because the play takes place in the 18th century, they use swords, not pistols. Wonderful! I know nothing about sword fighting. Not that I know anything about guns either. Obviously, I do not write what I know. Down the rabbit hole again.

In August, I was desperate for an out—not from the rabbit hole. I eventually got out of there—but an out as in a way of escaping in case glaring inaccuracies or inanities in the scripted sections of the novella caused an unlikely uproar. But, hah, I stumbled upon the perfect solution. The finger of blame would have to be pointed at J. Merrycraft, author of The Mésalliance. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, as promised, here, now, is the little excerpt (from Darcy’s point of view) describing his costume.

Glancing at me, Bingley picked up something from the trunk and moved my way. Grinning, he handed me an article of time-worn, brown silk. 

“No. Not on your life!” Jaw and determination firmly in place, I stood strong, prepared for any and all opposition. “I know not where those have been.” Lowering my voice so only Bingley could hear, I added, “Nor whose dangly, manly bits may have resided within. I shall wear my own breeches, thank you.” 

“Humph!” Bingley mimicked my stance. “I would not be as pernickety as you, old man, for a king’s ransom. Here.” Thrusting at me an embroidered garment that matched the aforementioned breeches, he insisted I don, at least, a justaucorps. 

(The scene continues for a while. Then we learn more about what Darcy will wear for his performance.)

At that point, I ended up with an armful of—alas, not Elizabeth— but, thanks to Bingley, a silk-cut, velvet coat, richly decorated with galloon braid and a frog fastening at the neck, a coordinating silk waistcoat, a shirt with far too many ruffles for my liking, one mangy peruke, and an ornate, three-cornered hat to top it all.

(This part of the story, by the way, continues at Austenprose on October 9.)

The above description of Darcy’s costume was written, of course, before a decision was made about a cover image for the novella, but Das Erste Rendezvous (The First Rendezvous) by Manuel de Garay almost perfectly matches the clothing I had in mind for Darcy and Elizabeth.

If you compare the original image to the novella’s cover, you’ll see that Janet Taylor removed some of the painting’s yellows to give it a softer, more natural look. Also, the young lady’s hair was given a dye job so Elizabeth would be a brunette, which seems to be the JAFF standard.

I love the cover for Play with Fire. Thank you, Janet! 

When the manuscript was finished, off it went to eagle-eyed Ellen Pickels for editing and subsequent formatting. I love the paperback’s format! Thank you, Ellen!

And thanks, again, Anna, for allowing me to ramble on and on about my novella.

Good luck to your readers in the giveaway!

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About Play with Fire

Madness! It was nothing but madness from beginning to end, and Darcy was caught up in it.

What do occupants of Netherfield Park do on a dreary Saturday while the Bennet sisters are still in residence and they have nothing at all to do? They take a page from Mansfield Park, of course, and decide on a theatrical.

In the process of planning and performing the play, certain participants get more than a little carried away, especially Fitzwilliam Darcy where Elizabeth Bennet is concerned. There might even be a kiss…and a skirmish…leading to a duel.

No one involved in the play had set out with the intention of creating a scandal. None performing in the theatrical began with the aim of ending with blushing faces, or bruised bodies, or blemishes on their reputations.

Blame it on The Mésalliance.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

J. Marie Croft

J. Marie Croft is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter, are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF novella), and her short stories in six anthologies: Sun-Kissed, The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know, Rational Creatures, Yuletide, and Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, but can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of Play with Fire to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 11, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, J. Marie, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

I’m delighted to welcome Rojé Augustin to Diary of an Eccentric today as part of the blog tour for her poetry collection Out of No Way, which has received rave reviews. She is here to share a guest post, but before I have Rojé take over, here’s a little about the book:

Author, producer and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker. Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Dramatracks Walker’s phenomenal rise from penniless orphan to America’s first self-made female millionaire in dramatic verse.

Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair starting falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America. Rojé’s highly original and accomplished poetry is written through the lens of the mother/daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric poems to haikus, blackout poetry to narrative (one poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’) — with each chapter addressing issues relevant to their lives at the time.

Written against the backdrop of the Jim Crow era, Out of No Way is ultimately an examination of what W.E.B Du Bois called “conflicting identities.” Sarah was a proud African American on the one hand and a woman seeking America’s acceptance on the other. She was a pauper who achieved the American Dream while denied the rights and protections of the American Constitution. She was a wife, mother, and businesswoman who juggled the demands of family with the demands of career. And she was an orphan who had to transcend a brutal childhood in order to be a loving mother to her child. As Du Bois stated at the time, “One ever feels a two-ness. An American, A Negro…Two warring ideals in one dark body.” Indeed Madam C.J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove was an American and a Negro, as was her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, both of whom likely viewed herself through their own conflicting identities. What did they see?

Out of No Way tells Walker’s remarkable rags-to-riches story by exploring thoughtful questions — What impact did Sarah’s busy work life have on A’Lelia? What was the bond between a mother orphaned so young and the daughter who might wait days or weeks for her return? Could the death of her parents when she was a child have compromised Sarah’s nurturing instincts? How did A’Lelia feel about their newfound wealth? What, if any, were the drawbacks of that wealth?

Amazon | Goodreads

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I’ve asked Rojé to address the following: Explore how your research into the mother-daughter relationship informed your poetic work, and has it given you greater insights into how you, as a working mother, tackle your responsibilities? Please give her a warm welcome!

As a working mom, you often feel torn between giving your all at work and giving your all at home, particularly where your children are concerned.  You feel torn because you quickly realize that being a great mom and being a great (insert profession here) cannot happen simultaneously, the two goals are mutually exclusive.  In other words, you can’t give your all at work, while also giving your all at home because doing so only supplies divided attention, which causes both work and home to ultimately collapse, not to mention you.  At some point, you start to feel you have to make a choice or else risk losing it all — work, family, sanity.  But even when you do choose one, assuming you have a choice, there is always a sacrifice.  Always.  I think this is true for most working parents.

Having experienced this conundrum myself, I wondered quite a lot about Madam C.J. Walker.  Here was a woman who, like the vast majority of her peers, actually had no choice.  She had to work and she had to raise her child.  What then were her particular sacrifices?  What were her sufferings as a result?  It occurred to me that family is often the first sacrificial lamb for any parent who has no choice but to work fifty, sixty, or seventy hour work weeks, as Madam C.J. Walker had when she was Sarah Breedlove, washerwoman & cook.  And children especially are the frontline.  The first to feel the gaping hole left by a parent’s absence.  A’Lelia must have felt this, too.  What did that look like?

Filtering my research through this line of inquiry informed my work tremendously because it offered emotionally rich possibilities with which to write the poems.  The mother-daughter relationship is an inherently complex and poignant affair often explored in the novels of black authors — take the works of Jamaica Kincaid for example — but less so in poetry.  I wanted to convey a sense of what their dynamic might have been given their unique set of circumstances.  Madam Walker was orphaned at age seven, a mother at seventeen, a widow by twenty.  She was only one generation removed from slavery, she had to navigate life through the whip of Jim Crow, and the lynching of black people carried out with impunity.  And yet she had the awesome resilience to raise herself and her child out of poverty and into prosperity in less than ten years, by working really hard and working all the time.  One goal was very clearly achieved.  What of the other?

As for myself, I discovered through this creative exercise that I am guilty of tackling my working-mom responsibilities with the pressure of perfection weighing heavily on my psyche.  But it never works.  I inevitably spin myself into exhaustion.  Best to just strive for balance and hope for the best.  Which, I guess, for me is perfection.

Thank you for sharing your story and Madam Walker’s with us, and thank you for my guest today!

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About the Author 

Rojé Augustin

Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her first novel, The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom. She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce television projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace. Rojé continues to work as a television producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with her Aussie husband and two daughters.

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, there are two copies of Out of No Way up for grabs (digital for international entrants; print for U.S./Canadian entrants). This giveaway ends Oct. 31, 2020, and you must enter through Rafflecopter. Good luck!

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Click the button for more about Out of No Way and Rojé Augustin, including video readings of her work, and to follow the blog tour.

Hello, friends! I’m happy to welcome Kelly Miller back to my blog to celebrate the release of Accusing Mr. Darcy. Kelly is here to share a little about Tideswell Church, which is featured in the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Tideswell Church

In Accusing Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet and her friends travel to the town of Tideswell and stop at its celebrated church. Today the church is a Grade 1 listed building known as St John the Baptist Church or the nickname, “The Cathedral of the Peak.”

Two conflicting stories endure for how Tideswell got its name. Some sources claim the town name honours a Saxon chieftain named Tidi. Others point to the existence of an ancient “tiding well” located in the garden of an inn called Craven House.

The town of Tideswell received a market charter in 1251 and grew to become a principal source for wool, lead, and local produce. The town’s prosperity led to the construction of their magnificent medieval church. Construction on the church, to replace a small Norman church, began in 1320. However, all work on the church halted for many years due to the Black Death, which felled one third of England’s population, so the church was not completed until 1400. The initial construction followed the Late Gothic architectural style, but the subsequent work, including the tower and chancel, evidences a transition to Perpendicular style.

Notable tombs at the church include that of two unknown ladies dating back to the 1300’s and the tomb of Sir Sampson Meverill, allegedly a victor in the Battle of Agincourt, who died in 1462.

In 1873, the church went through a major restoration. Stunning stained-glass windows and the work of a local wood carver, Avent Hunstone, added to the church’s decor during this timeframe.

In my story, Elizabeth is fascinated by the elaborate alabaster tomb of Sir Thurstan de Bower and his wife. The wealthy de Bower family had been prominent in the area. Sir Thurstan de Bower, who died around 1423, contributed towards the construction of the church and is credited as the sole benefactor for the spacious south transept.

I viewed de Bower’s tomb when I visited the church last summer and was dismayed to find it in a makeshift storeroom surrounded by random supplies. The tomb showed signs of age, but it remained a compelling memorial to one of the church’s benefactors.

Photo by Kelly Miller

Photo by Kelly Miller

Eyam

Located near Tideswell is the town of Eyam, known as “Plague Village” for the extraordinary sacrifice made by the village when the plague returned in the 17th century. During my trip to England last summer, our tour guide drove us by Eyam and mentioned its sad history. I thought this significant period to be worth mentioning for anyone who might be unaware, especially in this time of Covid-19.

In September 1665, a bale of cloth sent from London arrived in Eyam containing fleas infected with the plague. The unfortunate tailor’s assistant who opened the bale became the town’s first victim of the plague. The man, who had intended to remain in town for a week to help make clothes for Wakes Week, a religious festival, did not survive.

Forty-two people in Eyam died from the plague in the next two months. Villagers began to distance themselves, with church services held in the open air and families standing apart from each other. Some villagers began to speak of leaving their homes to escape the plague. Eyam’s rector, William Mompesson, opposed the notion of anyone leaving. He decided the town must be quarantined to prevent the plague’s spread. However, the parishioners resisted the new and unpopular rector’s plea that amounted to risking their lives for the sake of others.

The town’s former rector, Thomas Stanley, had been removed by the church for refusing to acknowledge the 1662 Act of Uniformity, which dictated the use of the Book of Common Prayer. In desperation, Mompesson asked Stanley’s assistance, and the two men met with the townspeople on June 24, 1666.

Mompesson told his parishioners that the town had to be closed off else the disease would spread throughout the country. By then, he had contacted the Duke of Devonshire, living nearby at Chatsworth House. The duke offered to provide them with food and supplies if they agreed to the quarantine. Mompesson averred that he would rather sacrifice his life than be responsible for spreading the sickness to countless others. Stanley spoke in favour of Mompesson’s plan and with his influence, the villagers agreed: they would risk their own lives and cut themselves off from the surrounding towns.

Relentless devastation ensued in the next months. In some cases, entire families succumbed. In November of 1666, the disease was eradicated. 260 of Eyam’s residents perished from the plague. Historians estimate the total population before the plague had been between 350 and 800 people. Mompesson survived, but his 27-year-old wife perished.

Today many of the houses in Eyam bear plaques detailing the people lost in the plague. In addition, the Eyam Museum ensures that this episode of history will not be forgotten.

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About Accusing Mr. Darcy

Could Fitzwilliam Darcy harbour a shocking, sinister secret?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet count themselves among the many guests of the Kendall family, whose estate lies amidst the picturesque hills, gorges, and rocky slopes of the Peak District in Derbyshire. Elizabeth’s cousin Rose Kendall believes her dashing brother-in-law, Captain James Kendall, is Elizabeth’s ideal match. Rose’s husband, Nicholas, hopes his good friend Darcy—a rich, proud, and taciturn gentleman with a spotless reputation—will fancy one of the other eligible lady guests.

News of a brutal killing at a neighbouring estate sends a wave of shock through the genial group of friends and family. When one of the Kendalls’ guests is attacked, all of the gentlemen become suspects, but the former Bow Street runner tasked with investigating the crime finds the evidence against Mr. Darcy particularly compelling.

In this romantic mystery, the beloved couple from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice cross paths with a ruthless killer. When faced with dire warnings against Mr. Darcy, will Elizabeth heed them or follow the dictates of her heart?

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK

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About the Author

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

Accusing Mr. Darcy is her third novel published by Meryton Press. Her previous books are: Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy; and Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic variation.

Kelly’s blog page is found at www.kellymiller.merytonpress.com, her email address is kellyrei007@hotmail.com, her Twitter handle is @kellyrei007, and she is on Facebook: www.facebook.Author.Kelly.Miller.

Connect with Kelly: Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering a giveaway of 8 ebook copies of Accusing Mr. Darcy as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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

Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to welcome Cat Andrews to my blog today to celebrate the release of Sanctuary: Volume 2, a contemporary romance inspired by Pride and Prejudice. I love modern P&P novels and I love Maine, so I definitely need to read these! Cat is here to share a little about the book and an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Much of Volume 1 of Sanctuary focuses on Will Darcy’s and Elizabeth Bennet’s respective backgrounds, and the slow growth of their relationship, from strangers to friends to something more. While their relationship is still the primary focus of Volumes 2 and 3, the relationship between Will and his son Jack and Jack’s growing relationship with Elizabeth, also feature prominently throughout the story.

Will is a single father, and he decides to leave his home in New York City and move to a small island off the coast of Maine—to regroup, but also to spend the summer with his son and devote every minute to him. They’ve had a difficult couple of years, and they need the time together to heal. After Will meets Elizabeth, his attachment to her continues to deepen, and as such, so does Jack’s. Jack first sees Elizabeth as a friend, and then sees her as his father’s girlfriend, but now, in Volume 2, he’s beginning to see her as a permanent fixture in his life.

Please enjoy this short excerpt from Chapter 13 of Volume 2, which shows Jack discussing his very first day of Kindergarten, and has both Will and Elizabeth reflecting on a few other things regarding Jack…and then shows Elizabeth flirtatiously teasing Will out of a funk.

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“An’ my class has nineteen kids, ten boys an’ nine girls, which is good ’cause there’s more boys. An’ we have a turtle, his name’s Mr. Slowski, he’s neat but he doesn’t do anythin’ but sit there an’ eat grass. An’ they put new stuff in the playground, there’s a new climbin’ thing that’s all different colors.”

Jack paused to take a breath, and Elizabeth took immediate advantage—he hadn’t stopped talking about his first day of school since he stepped off the bus.

“Okay, how about taking a bite of your dinner? It’s getting cold.”

“’Kay,” Jack agreed, taking another bite of his green beans. “Oh, an’ guess what?”

“What?” Elizabeth and Will answered simultaneously.

“’Member Zoe, from the party?”

“Um…” Will answered.

“Zoe, Dad, from the big party we went to before we did the fireworks. She kept chasin’ me.”

“Oh, Zoe. Yeah, I remember her.”

“She’s in my class, an’ guess what?”

“What?” Will and Elizabeth responded in unison.

“She sits right in front of me ’cause her last name is Daniels.” Jack sighed dramatically. “She didn’t go to the picnic so I didn’t know she was gonna be in my class. She tried chasin’ me on the playground when we did recess, but I ’membered what you told me an’ I asked her to stop it.”

“Did she?”

“Yeah. Oh, an’ guess what else?”

Will chuckled. “What else?”

“I have homework,” Jack said, eyes wide. “I have to make a poster.”

“Tonight?” Will asked.

“No, uh-uh.” Jack got up from the table and pulled a paper out of his backpack. “See? This is what I hafta do. It’s s’posed to be all about me.”

Will read over the paper quickly. “This looks like fun. We’ll do it this weekend so you can take it to school on Monday.”

“’Kay,” Jack said, sitting back down. “Do I get to help you move on Saturday?” he asked Elizabeth, before taking a bite of his chicken.

“Sure, if you want to. I don’t have a lot of stuff, so it won’t take too long.”

Jack studied her seriously. “An’ you’re gonna live here all the time, right?”

“Do you mean for good?”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. All the time.”

“Yes, I’ll be here all the time,” she reassured him. She glanced at Will, who appeared baffled by Jack’s question. “Well, except for the nights I work at the restaurant. Like tomorrow night, I have to stay with my friend Charlotte.”

“’Cause of the ferry?”

She nodded. “It doesn’t make trips late at night.”

“But alllll the other nights you’re gonna be here. Right?”

“Right.”

“’Kay,” Jack said, obviously relieved. “Hey Dad, you have homework too. Don’t forget.”

“I won’t.” Will eyed the stack of papers he needed to fill out. “Looks like I’ll be busy for a while.”

“Yeah. I didn’t know dads got homework too.”

“Me either,” Will said. He glanced at Jack’s plate. “You all done?”

Jack nodded. “Yup. Can I be excused?”

“Sure. Bath in a little bit, okay?”

“’Kay.” Jack carried his plate to the sink before leaving the kitchen.

Will sat back in his chair and sighed quietly as he stared down at the table. Elizabeth took in his concerned expression, and leaning towards him, she puckered her lips. When he finally glanced up, he smiled before kissing her.

“What’s up?” she asked softly.

“Jack and I have had that exact conversation about you moving in, a couple of times.”

“I think he just wants to make sure I’m not going anywhere.”

He looked at her for a long moment, his gaze steady.

“I’m not going anywhere. You know that, right?” she asked, unsure what that look meant.

“Of course I do. I’m just trying to put myself in Jack’s shoes, trying to figure out what he’s thinking.”

“And?”

“Well, first he lost his mom. And he doesn’t see Alice and Georgie much, but I guess that’s mostly my fault.”

“You can’t think of it that way.”

“I know, and I know I did what was best for us, but that’s when he gets upset, when someone is leaving him. And maybe that’s exactly how he sees it.” He paused. “He didn’t get upset when we left New York back in July because we were coming home to Maine, back to you. But when Georgie was here in June, and now this time with her and Alice, they left.” He looked at her sadly. “I think he just needs to know you’re staying put.”

She rose from her chair and stood behind him, looping her arms around his shoulders and bending to kiss his neck before resting her chin on his head. “I’ll tell him as much as he needs to hear it.” He leaned his head back and looked up at her, and she gave him an upside-down kiss.

It was a day of change, and not just for Jack. Sending him off to school hadn’t been easy for Will. Jack had boarded the bus with a huge smile, and they’d watched as he found a seat with Sam and slid in toward the window to wave to them, his blue eyes wide with excitement.

Will had walked Elizabeth to work after the bus left, and they stopped at the bakery to get coffee and scones. By the time they reached the steps of the library, she could see he was a little down, and she’d tried to cheer him up by whispering sexy, sweet nothings in his ear.

He’d finally given in and smiled, hugging her tightly. “Okay, I’m still a little bit sad, but now I’m a little bit horny too. Nice job, Ms. Bennet.”

She grinned mischievously as she held him. “I’ll come and meet you for lunch, maybe we can try out that new office furniture that’s coming this morning,” she whispered, kissing his neck.

He’d laughed outright. “Now I need to leave before I embarrass myself.” Leaning back, he looked down at her and smiled before giving her a kiss. “Thank you for that. I love you.”

“I love you too.” She winked at him. “And don’t be surprised if I show up for lunch, Mr. Darcy.”

He’d laughed and shook his head, waving to her as he wandered off down the street.

Regrettably, the furniture was actually being delivered during her lunch break, so she wasn’t able to make good on her proposition.

Another day.

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About Sanctuary: Volume 1

“Do you ever wish you had a second chance to meet someone again for the first time?”

When Elizabeth Bennet left her Massachusetts hometown two years ago and settled on Great Diamond Island, off the rocky coast of Maine, all she wanted was a fresh start, somewhere to forget a past full of heartbreak and trauma—a place that would allow her to rediscover herself and what it felt like to be happy.

Will Darcy is ready to leave the family drama and noise of New York City behind. He moves to Great Diamond Island in an effort to build a better life for himself and his young son Jack, hoping it will provide a quiet place for them to heal from their grief after a tremendous loss.

Elizabeth meets Will within moments of his setting foot on the island, but the handsome newcomer’s offhanded dismissal of her is anything but a “meet cute.” But as the days pass, Will’s chance encounters with the bright-eyed, pretty young woman—and Jack’s insistence on befriending her—cause Will to see Elizabeth, and himself, in a different light.

But as they draw closer and take tentative steps toward something more than friendship, will they be able to step outside the shadows of their pasts?

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Sanctuary is a contemporary love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but uses Austen’s characters only as a launching point; it is not a meticulous and faithful retelling of the original. It contains mature content and is intended for adult readers.

Buy on Amazon

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About Sanctuary: Volume 2

If someone had told him six weeks ago that he would end up here with this incredible woman in his arms, he would have scoffed in disbelief. Yet here he was, falling in love with her, holding her while she slept, and embracing emotions he never imagined he would feel again.

Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have unexpectedly found each other—and a slice of happiness—on a tiny island off the coast of Maine.

With wonderful friends surrounding them and a passionate new love in full bloom, life is moving forward; they’re planning a future together as a family of three with Will’s son Jack, and the lazy days of summer are looking exceedingly bright.

But while some relationships are slowly and painstakingly being rebuilt, a long-kept secret, finally revealed, threatens to tear others apart.

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Sanctuary is a contemporary love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but uses Austen’s characters only as a launching point; it is not a meticulous and faithful retelling of the original. It contains mature content and is intended for adult readers.

Buy on Amazon

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About Sanctuary: Volume 3 (coming soon)

She studied him in the gray, dreary light of the morning, and her heart ached as she wondered how she was going to tell him that once again, the past was forcing its way into the present.

Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are deeply in love, and together with Will’s young son Jack, they are looking forward to their happily ever after on the shores of Great Diamond Island.

For Will, the future has never looked brighter: he’s wild about Elizabeth, has found a best friend in Charles Bingley, and his new consulting business is slowly gaining momentum—as is his fledgling relationship with his father.

Elizabeth, too, is deliriously happy: she’s crazy about Will and is embracing her role as Jack’s “new” mom, she loves her job at the Portland Children’s Library, and is looking forward to having her younger sister Lydia settled close by.

It seems they’ve left their troubled histories behind and are heading into the future as a blissful family of three. But can anyone truly forget—or escape—a past that is determined to reassert itself? Can a new love withstand the forces that seek to destroy it?

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Sanctuary is a contemporary love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but uses Austen’s characters only as a launching point; it is not a meticulous and faithful retelling of the original. It contains mature content and is intended for adult readers.

Buy on Amazon

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Connect with Cat Andrews

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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Giveaway

Cat is generously offering an ebook copy of Sanctuary: Volume 2 to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 27, 2020. 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 releases!

Hello, dear readers! I’m thrilled to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time to celebrate the release of The Longbourn Quarantine, a very timely novella that is part of Meryton Press’ Skirmish & Scandal series. Don is here today to share a little about the book, along with an excerpt and giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

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The Epistolary End of George Wickham

In this moving tale, our favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice face the prospect of death that forces them to confront troubling scenes from their past. The author crafts a beautifully told story of self-examination and reflection while embracing compassion and understanding under trying circumstances.

Jennifer Redlarczyk, author of Darcy’s Melody

Jennifer has discovered the essential core of The Longbourn Quarantine, my entry in Meryton Press’s Skirmish and Scandal Series. I place the characters against the background of a pandemic. Through this plot structure, I lead them and readers to a different state of being. I am happy to visit with Diary of an Eccentric today to consider an aspect of the novella.

The villain in The Longbourn Quarantine, unlike any of those in Canon, has no eyes or hands. The dark force is not found in subtle machinations to compromise the virtue of a young lady. Rather its malevolence is perceived in its randomness, in its unwillingness to submit to the desires of individuals or society. This sense of never-knowing-when-or-whom-it-will-strike confers upon it numbing evilness that chills people in a way that most psychotic killers cannot. Perhaps some of this terror comes in the awful way (redolent of the Black Death) the disease carries off its victims.

Today one word carries that same heft: Ebola. Two hundred years ago, after the last resurgence of the plague in 1666, smallpox was the horrifying leveler. And that faceless virus ignored class, gender, age, wealth, and any other category humans used to parcel up power and authority.

Smallpox was something that put the fear of God into a reasonable man like Fitzwilliam Darcy or an impertinent woman like Elizabeth Bennet. Smallpox made the perfect villain without being complicated. The disease was exactly what it was. The only variable was whether a victim would survive or not.

As Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) used empty ocean stretching to the horizon to keep the players from leaving the stage, The Longbourn Quarantine uses the epidemic as the overarching raison d’être to keep characters in Longbourn’s precincts. As the disease was a constant and impervious to human wants, the diverse personalities needed to control that which they could: their actions and how they perceive the behaviors of the others trapped on-stage with them.         

Casting smallpox as the villain liberated George Wickham to find another role than that of the source of Elizabeth’s misunderstanding and Darcy’s anger. No, TLQ does not free him of responsibility for Georgiana’s distress. Nor does it deny that he successfully has turned Elizabeth’s head. However, having Wickham discover that his avarice has led to his downfall allows for a second epiphany for the scoundrel.

His appearance in the pages of TLQ is brief, but without him, the novella would have been forced to revisit, I feared, old territory. Faced with his mortality, Wickham seeks to make amends before he can no longer.

In that spirit, I thought that turning him into a living and breathing Hunsford Letter would allow for a different, non-soliloquy, presentation of Darcy’s original epistle. In Pride and Prejudice, we see Darcy handing a letter to Miss Elizabeth on her walk the morning after his disastrous proposal. However, we are left to guess at Darcy’s overnight agony. Austen’s description of Elizabeth’s turmoil is limited to a few sentences before she allows the young woman to sleep.

The Longbourn Quarantine confers both Darcy and Elizabeth’s disquiet upon the body of George Wickham using the tried and true technique (Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III as a hunchback being the pre-eminent example) of making visible a character’s sins. In this case, the pustules that make hideous Wickham’s countenance provide the frame for his confessions which are the letter. One license I have taken is the removal of Darcy’s original rancor caused by Elizabeth’s accusations. I allowed TLQ’s Darcy to be a bit cranky as Wickham’s tale unwinds. I have also given Elizabeth insight about darcy’s role in separating Jane and Bingley earlier in the story.

Rather than have Darcy pen words seeking to explain his actions to Elizabeth, I made Wickham voice his misdeeds—all of them—in an affirmative confession. However, Wickham’s words both in front of his childhood friend and, later after he sends Darcy off to fetch brandy, draw the sting from the master of Pemberley’s ire and cause Elizabeth to reflect upon her notions.

In recognition of the underlying theme of life in the time of smallpox—words left unsaid may never be spoken—I gave Wickham the agency to mold one last aspect of Darcy’s life. He gives Elizabeth some advice about the man’s behavior and how he might ask for her hand. Then, having accomplished his mission, George Wickham is free to bow his way off-stage.

There is much more about how Wickham’s words revelatory to Elizabeth much as Darcy’s original letter opened her eyes. Please enjoy this edited extract from Chapter 13 of The Longbourn Quarantine.

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At the Longbourn gamekeeper’s cabin, April 11, 1812

Wandering over to the mound, she saw a well-shaped excavation, a pit that cried “grave.” The crypt was empty, its maw waiting to be filled with the shrouded freight it was to bear past the River Charon.

The grim air of the fell place gripped her by the throat. Elizabeth croaked out a greeting to the occupants of the cabin. There was no reaction at first. Then the door was pulled back, and Darcy stepped onto the porch.

Holding a hand on his brow to shield his eyes from the afternoon brightness, he focused on the young lady’s form. She started toward him out of habit until he called out. “Stay back, Miss Elizabeth! Wickham is deadly even now. You may be immune, but if any of the corruption chances to attach itself to your clothing, you could carry it back to Longbourn. Sit on the stump in the middle of the yard.

Elizabeth froze in place, turned to see the silvered remains, and stepped to it. She placed her wrinkled handkerchief on the cut surface and dropped down. In the meantime, Darcy had returned inside the structure to exit, bearing a man-sized, blanket-wrapped, load.

She knew it to be Wickham. What was remarkable was that he had been a man of a size with Mr. Darcy. Yet, Darcy bore his burden without any strain. Shuffling over to a small pallet, Darcy lowered the ghost of a man onto the chaise, gently raised his head, and positioned a burlap bundle as a pillow beneath it.

Then the blanket fell back to reveal reptilian features from which a pair of watery blue eyes—the only feature Elizabeth could warrant as belonging to George Wickham—burned, their whites flushed pink with fever.

The snakelike lips parted, and Wickham painfully lisped through cracks between running sores. “You are a remarkable woman, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I lay before you, a horror of a man, and you barely flinch. No dramatic fainting for you—no soft, ladylike swoons.”

Elizabeth rose to the occasion. “How long have we been acquainted, Mr. Wickham? Over the past half-year, have you ever known me to cavil before the harsh realities of life? I am so sorry to see you brought low like this.

“But, what of your quest for Miss King? The last any of us knew, you had followed her to Liverpool to press your suit. Yet, here you lie, ensconced in a cabin on my father’s estate.”

Wickham involuntarily shook his head as if he was trying to chase away uncomfortable memories. With a wince, he whispered, “I tried with Miss King. Her uncle, the merchant, prevented much contact between us. However, I was fortunate to encounter them at an assembly. I should have had my wits about me, but I was all about my pursuit of her dowry. I saw nothing but her ten thousand. What I did not see, and have had three weeks to comprehend, was that her guardian, although it was early in the evening, was unaccountably red-faced and blotchy. I probably imputed it to his merchant’s sensibilities, making certain that the rum in the ship’s hold was unspoiled. I should have run for my life. Instead, I greeted them both and stood Miss King for two sets.

“What I know is that, before Mary King’s glove touched mine, it had been loaded by a loving caress of Mr. King’s whiskers with a charge that has laid waste to mankind since the pharaohs.”

He laughed sardonically. “Your father’s generosity, Darcy, in seeing to my education stuck in some useful ways. I appreciate that my death is three thousand years in the making. The moment I wiped my face or rubbed my lips with the perfumed poison left on my gauntlet…ah, the sweetness of the adder’s breath…I sealed my fate.

“You ask of Miss King: she fell before the disease—her uncle too—after she had murdered me.”

Wickham fell silent. Darcy had stepped off to one side, looking at his old playmate with a combination of dread and pity. Elizabeth’s stomach had fallen as she learned of Mary King’s passing. Yet, she understood that Mr. Wickham would not have subjected his waning strength to this exercise unless he had something important to say.

The man rallied and launched into his declamation. “I shall not revisit all that I said of this man”—he motioned at Darcy—“when I arrived in Meryton. My tale of woe was extensive. But, Miss Elizabeth, my lies were many. There were, of course, elements of truth that served as the skeleton upon which I looped the sinews and skin of my stories.

“Darcy made my work so much easier. His demeanor is not made for company. Those who did not know him assumed that he was disdainful of all when he is reserved and private. They feasted on my story like a syllabub.”

Wickham paused. His eyes lost focus, and he struggled to gather himself, to push back against the delirium threatening his flanks. He waved at Darcy who bent over him. Wickham whispered to him. Darcy looked dyspeptic and seemed ready to demand something. The exchange ended when Wickham muttered one last sentence. With a shake of his head, Darcy stepped back and waved his hand in acquiescence.

Wickham continued. “That is enough of a prologue, Miss Elizabeth. I am turning to you because, of all the people I know, having destroyed my opportunity with Darcy, you are one whose good opinion I treasure. I would fear losing it even after I am lying cold in my grave—over there. I also am aware that you are, like Darcy, a profoundly honest person and not one prone to gossip.

“I need to unburden my soul before I face my final reckoning. Darcy is not overjoyed at the prospect as what I speak about hits close to his heart.

“Over the past few days with little to do, Darcy and I have talked. Perhaps it is more that Darcy talked, knowing that dead men tell no tales and I shall be gone from the mortal plane soon enough. I have apologized to him for many iniquities committed against him and his family. Darcy and his cousin Fitzwilliam know my sins. You may apply to the colonel if you have any questions or doubts about what I say. Yet, admitting that I was a bounder to Darcy is not anything new to him. What I have not done is make my confession to someone unaffected by my acts, to make known my true character to a third party.

“You are that confessor to whom I would tell my tale so that at least one soul unrelated to the principals will know my true nature. Will you be willing to bear that weight? I ask this because I have a belief that our tall friend over there regrets some of his behavior in the autumn that grew from my actions in the summer. What I relate may explain much.”

He stopped and looked hopefully at Elizabeth.

At her nod, Wickham continued. “Miss Darcy is a sweeter, kinder, and more trusting girl than you will ever meet…well, perhaps your sister Miss Bennet would fall into that same category. Like all young ladies of a certain age…fifteen seems to be the cusp…Miss Darcy wanted to begin her journey into the adult world. And, like all older brothers and many fathers, Darcy could not find it in his heart to gainsay any wish of his beloved sister.

“In the spring of the year eleven, he withdrew her from school and sought a companion to guide her.

“Now, I was still smarting from having been denied the Kympton living. What I never told any in Meryton was that Darcy had paid me three thousand to relinquish any claim I might have to the living. His father left me one thousand pounds. So, my fortune within a few months of the old master’s death was four thousand pounds.”

When Elizabeth’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle her gasp, Wickham winced. “I know you are doing the math, Miss Elizabeth. A single gentleman could live comfortably for years on that sum…certainly long enough to apply himself to a career that would further build his purse well before the money ran out.

“Not George Wickham: I ate, drank, gambled, and whored my way through every farthing in the space of two years. And, when I applied to Darcy for the living I had given up, he justifiably sent me packing and refused me Pemberley’s hospitality.

“I vowed to gain a fortune and hurt Darcy in the process. My weapon was to be his sister, Miss Georgiana.”

His voice dropped into a quieter register as he drifted down his memories’ lanes, conflating realities with feelings. Elizabeth leaned forward.

He added, “My target was Georgie’s £30,000 dowry. To get it, I would have to woo and wed her. What I had working in my favor was that, while Darcy knew the type of man I had become, I was aware he would never relate such debauchery to a young innocent like his sister. When I came to her, all she would see would be her old playmate.

“I had maintained my contacts at Pemberley despite Darcy’s embargo. I heard that he was on the prowl for a companion. And, one of my more intimate friends, the widow of a gentleman, was perfect for the position.

“In short order, thanks to a series of powerful, if creatively written, characters from ladies either deceased or conveniently out of the country, Mrs. Younge carried the day. After a few months, she suggested that Mr. Darcy rent his sister a seaside cottage where she could holiday during the summer.

“And thus, the trap was set in a beautiful little town, Ramsgate, where Miss Darcy could be her own mistress. However, thanks to Mrs. Younge’s connivance, she was soon to become mine.”

Wickham fell silent. He appeared to be gathering every ounce of strength, tapping into hidden reserves, to lay bare his deepest regrets. Then, in a gesture as tender as it was telling, he reached out to where Darcy stood and stroked the man’s pantalooned leg, rigid against the story’s unwinding.

“As I lay here, Miss Elizabeth, I am disgusted at my actions. I was greedy, but up to that point, my avarice had been confined to defrauding tradesmen and those who had more pounds than sense. I shall not speak of the young women I despoiled. That is a different deadly sin.”

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About The Longbourn Quarantine

“Papa handed Mama a brace of pistols. Her tears, Mr. Darcy, her tears: yet, all she did was nod when Papa looked at us and said, ‘You know what to do if they enter the icehouse.’”

Refugees flood the roads. A feared specter has escaped London’s grimy docklands and now threatens the wealthy districts. Amongst that ragged steam is a single carriage jostling its way toward Meryton. Inside are the Darcy siblings along with Charles and Caroline Bingley. They desperately seek the safety of Netherfield Park.

For all their riches, they could not evade the epidemic’s dark hand. Bingley’s leasehold had been reduced to rubble as roving bands raped, pillaged, and burned. The only sanctuary was Longbourn where, once installed, the Darcys and Bingleys were barred from leaving by a fortnight’s quarantine.

Events converge with disease in The Longbourn Quarantine. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy abandon old prejudices to face grief and mourning. Pride is set aside as Death hovers nearby. The couple forges ahead knowing that love unexplored is love lost: that words must be said lest they remain unspoken in the time of smallpox.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television, and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)

The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament (2018)

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion (2019)

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South, released in 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman” (2016). Lessers and Betters (2018) offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization, and Research Writing. He is a member of the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

Connect with Don: Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page | Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog) | Author Website | Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of The Longbourn Quarantine to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 6, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

Hello, dear readers! I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson and Marion Kay Hill back today to celebrate the release of The Pocket Book Series, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas. They are here to share a little about the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!

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Thank you for hosting us again, Anna, we are very excited to share our upcoming release, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas of The Pocket Book Series. For this collection, we decided to focus our attention on the villains of Pride & Prejudice—as well as those who could be considered villains, depending on the circumstance or information that is unknown to our heroine, Elizabeth Bennet.

After all, did not Elizabeth despise Mr. Darcy with every fibre of her being until she received his letter?

Everyone loves a good villainwhether they are deliciously evil (George Wickham) or misunderstood (Fitzwilliam Darcy). This volume of The Pocket Book Series explores how Austen’s villains could, unintentionally, affect the outcome between our dear couple, Elizabeth and Darcy.

Each volume in our series has six short stories centred around a theme and accompanied by a bonus story.  In this edition, we will also be including a bonus story, Episode 1 of Aubrey Anderson’s new serial, Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor.

Today, we have provided an excerpt from Aubrey Anderson’s The Netherfield Affair, a short story from Villains & Veritas. Five of the people who comment below will have a chance to win a copy of this volume!

We hope you enjoy!

Aubrey Anderson & Marion Kay Hill

The Pocket Book Series, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas is available for preorder!

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The Netherfield Affair

Aubrey Anderson

“What do you mean?” for once, Elizabeth’s first response upon hearing the twin shrieks of her sisters Kitty and Lydia, was not embarrassment but indignation, not because of their response, but because of Mr. Bingley’s announcement.

Elizabeth cleared her throat delicately, drawing Mr. Bingley’s attention from her younger sisters to herself. His smile had not waned, although his gaze darted between Elizabeth, her sisters, and Jane—who, for form’s sake, it seemed, was seated on the settee farthest from Mr. Bingley.

“Miss Elizabeth?” he took a sip of his tea, as if to fortify himself for the barrage of questions her sisters would badger him with the moment Elizabeth stopped speaking. “You were saying?” he pressed when it seemed as though Elizabeth would not answer him.

She tried to chuckle lightheartedly in response, as though it would cause her own mood to lighten, “I was simply surprised, that was all, Mr. Bingley,” Elizabeth finally responded. “You were so courteous in allowing Lydia and Kitty to name the day of the ball, so I must admit that I am confused as to why the ball must be cancelled so soon before its inception. Are you to leave town? Is a relative ill?” Elizabeth pushed, looking back to her sister, who looked serene as ever as if the news did not distress her.

As if the events at Sir William’s last gathering had not occurred at all.

Mr. Bingley rushed to reassure her, or at least what he presumed would assure her—that none of his relatives were dying, or even ill at all— ”Oh no, nothing like that, Miss Elizabeth. An unfortunate bit of business has come up, and I must attend to it. That is why I felt obligated to apologize to you and your sisters personally,” he beamed at Jane, as the younger Bennet sisters tittered behind their fans.

Would it be gauche to ask him after his warehouses? Caroline Bingley certainly would think so. She suppressed the urge to follow that line of inquiry, certain that one of her sisters would tell their mama, who would never let her hear the end of it. Even if Jane had ended up married to Mr. Bingley and bore ten boys.

“I do not know when I will return, but I hope to make up the invitations with a date that is personally chosen by the Bennet family,” Mr. Bingley continued affably, “and I have made Darcy promise to dance at least twice with a lady, not within our own party.”

At the inclusion of Mr. Darcy’s name, Elizabeth clenched her fingers so tightly that she nearly drew blood from her palms, while Mr. Bingley and Jane started a new line of inquiry.

Mr. Darcy. Of course.

~

Elizabeth’s lips were compressed into a thin, narrow line, and she did not do much to hide her displeasure from her sister, as they readied themselves for bed later that evening. Jane was still so enamoured and taken in by Mr. Bingley that she could not see what was staring her straight in the face. 

It did not matter if he loved her when his family and even his friends had a say in whom he paid court. Elizabeth wished she could shake the both of them, endearing lovesick fools that they were. 

Very well, she breathed quietly to herself. If her sister would not—could not—fight, then she would.

Mr. Darcy would never know the ire he’d invoked within her when he’d chosen to interfere with affairs that were none of his concern.

To be continued in The Pocket Book Series, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas

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Giveaway

Aubrey and Marion are generously offering 5 ebook copies of Villains & Veritas. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 30, 2020. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!