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Archive for the ‘book excerpt’ Category

The holiday books just keep on coming, and today Anngela Schroeder is here to celebrate the release of her Pride and Prejudice-inspired Christmas novella, An Unexpected Merry Gentleman. This is such a sweet story! I read it in one sitting, in front of my Christmas tree with a cup of peppermint-flavored coffee, and it was just perfect! I will be sharing my review later this week, but in the meantime, Anngela is here with an excerpt (one of my favorite scenes from the book!) and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Anna, thank you so much for allowing me to share An Unexpected Merry Gentleman with your readers this holiday. This little book has been a goal of mine for quite some time, and I was finally able to buckle down, push life aside and get it written. 🙂

I love Christmas stories, and the idea of a ‘warm fuzzy’ quick read on a cold December night, reminds me of the spirit of Christmas. Add our favorite couple and the idea gets even better! But, I was busy. I has just finished Rational Creatures from the Quill Ink Collection, and Christina Boyd asked me if I wanted to be part of Yuletide, a collection of short Christmas stories to benefit the Great House of Chawton. Throw in a husband and 3 sons? There was no way. But, things changed when I opened up an ‘old’ file on my phone.

About a year ago I was looking for pictures for another book I was working on, and I came across the image I used for my cover. I LOVED the little girls, and how one was a blonde and the other a brunette. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be darling if this was Jane and Lizzy as little girls?” That’s when the idea of the possibility of a Christmas story was hatched. However, I wanted it to be short–­–something you could read lying in bed after wrapping presents, or waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven. A story which would show that much growth and development of our two main female characters would take way too long. Plus, how would they meet Mr. Darcy as a child, then transition to adulthood? Nope. The little girls needed to be Jane and Lizzy, all while NOT being Jane and Lizzy. Hence, the Miss Gardiners were born.

One of my favorite things about writing this story was little Emily Elizabeth Gardiner, and how she was a younger and less refined version of her cousin Elizabeth. I love how she says things we are certain Elizabeth said at a young age. Well––we actually hope Lizzy would have said. It was fun crafting scenes where she interacts with the Darcys and to watch her insight as a child blossom on the verge of adult comprehension.

It was difficult choosing an excerpt to share with your readers today, as I wanted to give them a taste of Darcy and Lizzy together, but still highlights the precociousness of Emily and the sedateness of her sister Miss Victoria (Tory) Gardiner. I hope they enjoy this little ‘Christmas gift’ from An Unexpected Merry Gentleman.

He could tell the girls were attempting not to bubble over with enthusiasm, especially the younger who most resembled Elizabeth. And with her chocolate curls, she could be a childhood portrait come to life. Miss Mary asked his sister about her music preferences and he noticed Elizabeth’s curious eyes on him.

“What are you looking forward to the most during this holiday season, Miss Emily?” he asked.

“Oh, to be sure, the stairs at Netherfield.”

“The stairs?”

“Oh, yes,” she said with eyes that mirrored Miss Elizabeth’s. “Cousin Jane tells us Netherfield is such a beautiful home and there are two sets of long stairs. I have never slid down banisters before.”

“Emily,” Elizabeth said, gently reproaching the girl.

“But it is true, Lizzy,” she whispered back. “We only have one banister, and Longbourn’s banisters are not long enough. I’m sure it is a jolly time.”

Her innocent face looked up at him, and it was all he could do to not tussle her hair. “If I might make a confession, Miss Emily,” he said, leaning in and lowering his voice, “my home, Pemberley, has four banisters.”

“Four banisters?”

“Yes.” He glanced at Miss Elizabeth and winked. Watching her start, he continued, “And I have slid down all of them.”

“All of them?” the young girl asked with adoration in her eyes. “Would you slide down them with me at Netherfield?”

“Emily!” Elizabeth said, reaching for her hand to stifle the eagerness of her cousin. “I believe it is time you and Tory return to the nursery.”

“That was not ladylike, was it?” she whispered to Mr. Darcy.

A small smile edged at the corners of his mouth. “My sister and I look forward to becoming better acquainted with you and Miss Gardiner.”

“Thank you.” She curtsied and ran out of the room, little Miss Gardiner following at a demure pace.

I do hope the excerpt has enticed you to check out the full novella of An Unexpected Merry Gentleman available on Amazon, and on Kindle Unlimited. I have also included the opportunity to win a Kindle version of the book, which is open internationally. Have a Merry Christmas, and a happy holiday!

Giveaway

Anngela is generously offering a Kindle copy of An Unexpected Merry Gentleman to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, December 16, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Anngela, for being my guest today. I hope my readers enjoy An Unexpected Merry Gentleman as much as I did! I can’t wait to share my thoughts later this week. Stay tuned!

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I just love seeing how many Pride and Prejudice-inspired holiday books have been published. They’ve certainly been keeping me busy every December for the last few years, and this year is no exception. Today, Victoria Kincaid is here to share an excerpt from Christmas at Darcy House to celebrate its audiobook release, and there’s a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hello, Anna, and thank you for having me back to visit!  I love just about every part of the Christmas season (except for the crowds when shopping), and one of the most fun parts is writing and reading Christmas stories.  I published Christmas at Darcy House last year—after long imagining what would happen if Darcy and Elizabeth encountered each other in London after the latter fled Netherfield.  This year, I am pleased to announce the release of an audiobook version of Christmas at Darcy House, narrated by Julia Eve.  I hope you enjoy the excerpt below! 

Mr. Darcy hopes Christmastime will help him to forget the pair of fine eyes that he left behind in Hertfordshire.  When Elizabeth Bennet appears unexpectedly in London, Darcy decides to keep his distance, resolved to withstand his attraction to her.  But when he learns that Wickham is threatening to propose to Elizabeth, Darcy faces a crisis. 

For her part, Elizabeth does not understand why the unpleasant master of Pemberley insists on dancing with her at the Christmas ball or how his eyes happen to seek her out so often.  She enjoys Mr. Wickham’s company and is flattered when he makes her an offer of marriage.  On the other hand, Mr. Darcy’s proposal is unexpected and unwelcome.  But the more Elizabeth learns of Mr. Darcy, the more confused she becomes—as she prepares to make the most momentous decision of her life.

It’s a Yuletide season of love and passion as your favorite characters enjoy Christmas at Darcy House! 

Elizabeth hurried to the edge of the terrace, leaning against the balustrade to better view the Marlowes’ extensive garden.  Naturally, nothing was in bloom at that time of year, but the bare tree branches and ornamental bushes were decorated with a delicate covering of new snow.  Torches had been placed at intervals along the garden paths, providing a gentle golden illumination.

“How enchanting!”  Elizabeth sighed.  “A fresh layer of snow can make anything lovelier.  Do you not think so?”

Mr. Darcy regarded her with a most peculiar expression on his face; his lips were slightly parted and his eyes wide.  He appeared, for all the world, as if he gazed upon a most wondrous and unusual sight.  But he was staring at Elizabeth, not the snow.

“Is the snow not beautiful?” she prompted again.

“Oh yes, yes!”  His eyes shifted toward the snow-covered garden below them.  “Yes, it is quite pretty.”

“Pretty” was a completely inadequate word to describe such a sight, but Elizabeth was not of a mind to quarrel with him.  She turned her gaze back to the garden and the snowflakes illuminated in the torches’ glow.  Fortunately, the terrace was protected from the elements by a roof of sorts, and she was only struck by an occasional wayward snowflake.  “I wish I could have a painting of such a scene!” she exclaimed.  “It is altogether charming.”

“Indeed,” he breathed. The wonder on his face would have been more appropriate if he had never before seen such a sight.  “Do you know, Miss Bennet, I do not believe I fully appreciated the beauty of snow before this moment.”

At least he was finally gazing at the snow.  Why was the man so vexing?  Most of the time he seemed so distant, but occasionally he would demonstrate how he was not only attending to what Elizabeth said but also taking it to heart.  And it was most frustrating.  It complicated her propensity to dislike the man and caused her to rethink her opinion of him.  As she grew better acquainted with him, the more he puzzled her.

Only when Elizabeth felt a chill did she recall why they were outside: Mr. Darcy had professed a desire to say something to her.  What could it be?  Customarily there was only one reason a single man would ask to speak privately with a single woman.  Her momentary panic was quickly quelled.  Mr. Darcy would no more think of marrying Elizabeth than he would consider marrying his cook.

Now she was quite curious about the topic of his desired conversation.  And quite cold.  “Mr. Darcy, you wished to speak with me about something?” she prompted, wrapping her arms around herself.

He started as if in a reverie and slowly focused his eyes on her.  “Yes.  Yes, I did.  I…”  His voice trailed off as his eyes fixed on her…lips?  What an odd man.

Still, Elizabeth could not help noticing that he cut a fine figure in his well-tailored coat.  And a wayward dark curl over his forehead gave him a completely undeserved rakish appearance.  I could brush it away from his forehead.  How would it feel beneath my fingers?  Merciful heavens!  How could she entertain such thoughts about Mr. Darcy of all people? Her eyes sought the safer sight of the garden.

Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audiobook code for Christmas at Darcy House to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Saturday, December 15, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Redlarczyk back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time to celebrate the release of her Pride and Prejudice-inspired Christmas novella, A Holiday to Remember.

Every year, I look forward to choosing a few Christmas books to read throughout December, and this is one of the books on my list, so stay tuned for my thoughts. 🙂 In the meantime, Jennifer is here with an enticing excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Happy Holidays! Thank you, Anna, for hosting me today. I’m delighted to be back visiting your blog with A Holiday to Remember. In this modern P&P variation, Elizabeth Bennet is a dedicated choral director and teacher at Meryton Academy for the Performing Arts and William Darcy is the aloof CEO of Darcy Enterprises. The two of them met when unfortunate circumstances brought them together during a summer music festival in Chicago where tempers flared and unpleasant words were exchanged. Find out what happens when their paths cross again in December. Will their animosity continue, or will their reunion turn out to be A Holiday to Remember?

****

From Chapter One

 

Meryton Academy for the Performing Arts

Monday, 4 December

Present day 

“Liz Bennet! Please tell me I didn’t hear what I just thought I heard!” Charlotte Lucas burst through the doors of the choir room and marched straight to the keyboard where Elizabeth was working out the final arrangements for A Holiday to Remember—part of the music academy’s final showcase before the winter break.

“Char, I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m kind of on a deadline here. Uh … you do remember I have a major rehearsal at six o’clock tonight?” She arched a questioning eyebrow in her friend’s direction before entering the final chords on the master lead sheet in her computer.

“Right, but for your information, Mr. Billy Collins just told everyone in the teacher’s lounge he has a big date with you on New Year’s Eve. He says he’s escorting you to the Pemberley Foundation’s charity gala at Forest Ridge. What gives? Don’t those tickets start at five hundred a pop? Not to mention any woman who would dare to go out with that nutter would have to be a marble short.”

Elizabeth stopped what she was doing and burst into laughter. “Char, do you honestly think BC would actually shell out that kind of money just to have a date with me? The man is so tight he probably wouldn’t spend five dollars on his own mother. Don’t worry. The Vocalteens were asked to perform at the gala and will be doing the opening act right after dessert. Since Reeves will be out of town, I’m making do with Billy-boy to run sound. You’re welcome to join us if you don’t have a date. I can always use an extra chaperone. Plus, after the kids leave, the adults are invited to stay and enjoy the rest of the party. There’s going to be a live band, dancing, loads of food and some kind of a silent auction. It could be fun, even without dates.”

“Sorry, Liz. As a matter of fact, I do have a date.” Charlotte straightened up and fluttered her eyelashes in jest. “And … as much as I’d like to hobnob with the rich and famous, Brexton Denny is taking me to the Signature Room to celebrate the New Year. Who knows, this might turn out to be my Holiday to Remember, if you don’t mind me borrowing the title from your medley.”

“Go right ahead. The Signature Room is pretty impressive. Is there any chance your Mr. Denny might finally be getting serious?”

“Not to my knowledge. Still, there’s no way I’m going to pass up a date with a buff trainer from the fitness club, fireworks over Lake Michigan, and a kiss at midnight.”

“A kiss at midnight,” Elizabeth sighed, kind of dreamy-eyed. “Aunt Maddy says being kissed at midnight by someone special is magical, and although I’ve yet to meet that perfect someone, I believe her.”

“Girl, you’ve been watching way too many holiday romance movies on your favorite channel, if you ask me. I could never be like you. At any rate, if you need an escort, you can always ask my brother. I know Johnny isn’t ideal, but he’s okay in a pinch. On second thought, what about that cute drummer from the music store? Didn’t you go out with him a couple of times? Maybe you can take him.”

George Wickham?! I think not! And no, we never dated. Char, your memory fails you. I only agreed to sing backups for that smooth talker’s band at the Lollapalooza Music Festival last summer because he was desperate. Believe me; dating was not part of the chord chart. Besides, I’m hardly interested in a fly-by-night drummer or any freelance musician for that matter. And I’m definitely considering adding your brother to my no-go list of men. If Johnny stands me up for one more transmission or any other mechanical failure, the man is toast. As it turns out, I’ll probably hand him his marching orders once he escorts me to Charles Bingley’s holiday party on Friday. Who knows, I may end up following Jane’s lead and using her professional dating service after all. I mean, who could complain about Mr. Bingley?”

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely! Charles is exceptional. He’s considerate and has a great sense of humor. Plus, he brings Jane flowers, sends her cards, and takes her out to dinner, concerts, company functions, yada, yada…. And to top it all off, it was Charles Bingley who recommended the Vocalteens for the Pemberley gig. As one of the corporate lawyers who work for the foundation, he was happy to submit my PR materials to the marketing director. Mr. Reynolds thinks our Holiday to Remember medley will be perfect for the charity gala.”

“I agree; it’s bound to be a hit. The kids are already looking pretty good, and you still have until next Thursday to pull it all together for the showcase. Speaking of the gala, I hear the CEO of Darcy Enterprises is pretty hot.” Charlotte wiggled her eyebrows as if in the know. “William Darcy has been in all of the tabloids lately. They say he’s some kind of aloof, mystery man—tall, dark, and handsome. I wonder if he’ll be there.”

William Darcy?” Elizabeth frowned. “His sister, Georgiana, was studying piano with Aunt Maddy at the music store until….” Her voice trailed off. “Are you sure he’s connected to the foundation? Mr. Reynolds never mentioned him.”

“Small world! According to Google, the foundation is run by Darcy Enterprises.” Glancing at the wall clock, Charlotte changed the subject. “It looks like the bell is about to ring, so I’d better head over to my advanced ballet class. Do you still need help tonight with choreography for the opening number?”

“I’d really appreciate it, since I’m going to have my hands full with the pit orchestra. If you can take over while we run through my new arrangements, it would mean one less thing for me to juggle at practice.”

“No problem. I’ll be there. Catch you later.”

“Thanks.”

After Charlotte left, Elizabeth minimized her music program and quickly googled William Darcy, CEO of Darcy Enterprises. “I can’t believe it. It is him! So, Mr. Darcy,” she continued to babble while glaring at the computer screen. “Your Mr. Reynolds booked us for the gala. How was he to know you never wanted to see me again?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to make the most of it, won’t we?”

****

Well, it looks like our favorite couple had a run in at Lollapalooza which is an annual music festival in Chicago featuring popular alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock, hip hop, and more. Can you picture George Wickham as a drummer? Just for fun, let’s find out what’s going on with William.

**** 

William’s office at Darcy Enterprises

A few days later   

“Bingley, I’ve been waiting on the paperwork for the new contracts.”

“All ready to go, Boss!”

“Do you have to be so cheerful when you come in here? This is work, you know.”

“Can’t help myself, Darcy. It must be love.” He patted his chest with a melodramatic gesture.

“Don’t tell me you’ve already fallen for your latest angel.”

“My Janie? She is an angel, and yes, I’m madly in love.”

William rolled his eyes. “She smiles too much, just like you, I might add. I suppose that makes the two of you perfect for one another.”

“Ha, you should try it sometime! The holidays are practically around the corner, and you could use some diversion. You’ve been nothing but a bear since the end of summer.”

“I’ve had a lot on my plate.” William scowled, directing his attention to the folder Charles had just handed him.

“Speaking of plates, you do remember the holiday party tomorrow night at my parents’ home in Winnetka, don’t you? With Mom and Dad living in Italy for the past year, the house rarely gets used. Caroline has pulled out all of the stops to impress you. She’s having the party catered by some celebrity chef from the city and even hired a jazz trio to play easy listening music before dinner. Hopefully they can move on to some lively tunes afterwards, since Jane loves to dance.” He grinned.

“Humph! Spare me the details.”

“All in all, there should be about sixty or seventy from corporate along with a few other staff members in attendance. And if you’re not into partying, you can always network a little and combine business with pleasure. Say, maybe you can hook up with Jane’s sister, Liz. You know … the music teacher from the performing arts school? You could hang out with her for a while and probably get some useful advice for Georgiana while you’re at it.”

“Her sister?” His brows furrowed. “It should be some party with both your and Jane’s sister in attendance. I feel a migraine coming on just thinking about it.”

“What are you talking about? Liz is nothing like Caro. You might actually like her. She’s unpretentious, intelligent, and a very pretty brunette—quite unlike some of the women you’ve dated in the past.”

“Bingley, you’re wasting your time. I’m not looking for a date, and even if I were, it would not be with Elizabeth Bennet. For your information, we’ve already met, and it didn’t go well. End of story.”

“Suit yourself. Maybe she’ll hit it off with Richard.”

“Right.”

“At any rate, I expect you to play nice. Per Jane’s suggestion, I recommended Liz’s kids to Reynolds for the foundation gala, and whether you like her or not, Ms. Bennet’s top choir from her school is on the bill.”

“Great,” he grumbled, adding under his breath, “Serves me right for not approving the entertainment choices myself.”

“O … kay, I can tell when you’re not in the mood for conversation. Just shoot me a text if you need anything else with regards to these papers.”

“You can count on it.”

Soon after Charles left, William deliberately pushed aside the documents and stepped to the window of his high rise office in the Chicago Loop area. Firmly grabbing one of the window sashes, he aimlessly gazed down on Lake Shore Drive and out over the chilly lake.

“Well, Ms. Bennet, it looks like we’ll be seeing each other again.” He massaged the back of his neck trying to relieve some of the tension he was feeling. “And … I guess it’s about time I dished out an apology for my offensive behavior.”

****

As you can see, William and Elizabeth are obviously not on speaking terms. Not to worry since Bingley’s party will definitely prove to be a turning point in their relationship. Even so, there will be a few obstacles to overcome including one feisty Caroline Bingley.

I hope you enjoyed these excerpts. Now it’s your turn to tell me what you think. Please feel free to leave your comments below, as I will be giving away two eBooks of A Holiday to Remember (International) and would love to hear from you. If you have a chance, be sure to check out my Pinterest page where I’ve posted more fun pictures for each chapter. Good luck and thank you all!

Jennifer Redlarczyk (Jen Red) ♫

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Thank you, Jennifer, for being my guest today, sharing those excerpts, and offering such a generous giveaway!

To those who enter, please leave your email address in your comment. The giveaway will stay open through Sunday, December 9, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I’m delighted to welcome Elaine Jeremiah to Diary of an Eccentric today with an excerpt from Love Without Time, in which a modern-day Jane Austen fan somehow finds herself in Regency England. Please give her a warm welcome, and stay tuned for a giveaway!

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I was hit by bright sunlight and drew in a breath, blinking furiously. What on earth was going on? I looked around me, not really taking anything in, expecting everything to return to how it had been a moment ago. But it didn’t. When I took another, closer look around me, I saw that I was standing under a tree, on the edge of an immaculate lawn of a large, well-maintained garden.

I gasped. Where am I? I asked myself. Squinting, I shielded my eyes against the relentless sun. Across the other side of the garden, I saw a huge house, a mansion, a place which could easily be Mr Darcy’s home of Pemberley.

There were people on the lawn ahead of me, smiling and laughing. It looked as though they were playing croquet. And they were dressed in clothes which would be the perfect costumes for a Jane Austen-inspired TV drama…

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a moment. Suddenly, my throat felt parched and dry, like I hadn’t had anything to drink in hours. Although thinking about it, it had been a while. I opened my eyes again, hoping that I would be back in the dark, standing by the gate.

I wasn’t. When I looked behind me, I saw that the gate was still there, but now it was in pristine condition. I walked back to it and pushed it open, desperate to get back to the hospital grounds. But walking through it, I was dismayed to find that there was only dense woodland ahead of me, no sign of the hospital.

My breathing became laboured and for some reason my chest felt constricted. The fabric of my underwear felt scratchy. I frowned. Had I put a vest on this morning? I couldn’t remember doing that… But I had better things to think about. Panic rising inside me, I turned around and walked back through the gate, nearly bumping into someone standing in front of me. It was a young woman dressed in a white, sprigged muslin dress. She could have stepped out of the pages of any Jane Austen novel.

I stood there staring at her, my mouth hanging open. She was a little shorter than me; her hair was pulled back into a bun, its golden tendrils curling on her temples. Her blue eyes surveyed me with interest and I surmised that her expression must have been as surprised as my own, because I saw that her brow was furrowed as she gazed at me intently.

I gulped; my heart began thumping in my chest and I felt breathless. I made a move to turn and walk away and almost tripped over a large trunk. It hadn’t been there a second ago, I was sure of it. It was then that I noticed what I was wearing.

Gone were my jeans and favourite heeled leather ankle boots. I was wearing a pale yellow, sprigged muslin dress, very like the one of the young woman standing in front of me, except for the colour. But on top of that I was also wearing what looked like a blue pelisse, or something like a coat to twenty-first century people. No wonder I was so hot.

‘May I help you, miss…’ the young woman began.

****

About Love Without Time

When Cassie Taylor meets an ordinary-looking man in a bookshop, the last thing she imagines is the encounter will lead to her time travelling to Regency England.

Jane Austen-obsessed Cassie would love a romantic hero of her own to sweep her off her feet, but meeting Ted is seriously underwhelming. Then everything is turned upside down when Ted saves her life – and she nearly ends his.
Guilt-ridden and panicked into saying she’s Ted’s girlfriend at the hospital, Cassie takes a walk outside at night, loses her way and finds herself in the past. She meets a young Regency woman, Isabella, who takes pity on her, allowing her to stay at the majestic Westerleigh Hall. But not everyone there trusts her and Cassie will find there are many pitfalls to be avoided if she’s to survive in this world.

Can this be real? Is she dreaming? Will she ever get home?

Buy on Amazon | Amazon U.K.

****

About the Author

Elaine Jeremiah

Elaine lives in Bristol, South West England with her husband and their golden retriever, Dug. But she was privileged enough to grow up in Jane Austen country, in Hampshire.

She’s always loved writing, but it’s only been in recent years that she’s been able to devote more time to it. She decided to self-publish with the help of her wonderful husband who’s very tech-savvy! In 2013 she self-published her first novel, but it’s only now with her fourth, her novel ‘Love Without Time’, that she feels she’s finally found her niche: Jane Austen Fan Fiction!

She’s always loved Jane Austen’s writing and the Regency era, so this felt like a natural thing for her to do. ‘Love Without Time’ is the first in a trilogy and it’s best described as a Jane Austen-inspired time travel romance. She’s currently hard at work on the second in the trilogy, ‘By Time Divided’.

If you want to connect with Elaine online, her Facebook page can be found here. Her website is here.

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Giveaway

Elaine is generously offering a signed copy of Love Without Time to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, December 2, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Thank you, Elaine, for sharing that intriguing excerpt and for being my guest today! I can’t wait to read the book, and I bet my readers are thinking the same thing right now!

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Christina Boyd has done it again, assembling a fabulous team of authors for another Austen-inspired short story anthology. Rational Creatures pays homage to the ladies in Jane Austen’s works. I’m about a quarter of the way through the collection, and I’m loving it so far.

Today, J. Marie Croft is here to discuss Emma‘s Hetty Bates and share an excerpt from her story, “The Simple Things.” I hope you enjoy it, and please stay tuned for a HUGE giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

An impatient reader might skim over quotes spoken by Miss Hetty Bates, the talkative spinster-aunt in Emma. Her chatter is, after all, entirely inconsequential. Or is it? Read between those lines of hers, and you’ll discover a highly observant character. Hetty—when not prattling on—is watching and listening. 

Unpretentious, Hetty loves life’s simple pleasures. But she isn’t simple…nor is her situation in The Simple Things. In a precarious financial situation, she is sensible, prudent, and in control of her own destiny…with a little help from her friends. Although having no superior intellect or schooling, Hetty shows care and a vision for the future. She’s passionate about education for young women in general and her niece in particular. If it can be helped, Hetty won’t have a loved one remain, like her, in poverty and ignorance. If educated, Jane Fairfax could become, at least, a governess and live a more socially acceptable life than that of her spinster aunt. 

Hetty enjoys relative independence, though; and she has the power of choice. She can stand up for herself. She can refuse to become anyone’s doormat, and she can remain single. Why, she asks, would any rational person, male or female, bind themselves to another without mutual respect or affection? 

One of the few privileges women had in the Georgian era was the right to decline a marriage proposal. Back then, even a famous female author exercised that right; and she survived being single. (Alas, we wish she had survived longer!) 

Similar to Jane Austen’s rational choice, Hetty’s decisions came from strength. Both women made hard choices. They made sacrifices. Woman like that were, and are, strong. Women protect the people and the things we love. As do the opposite sex. After all, women and men are equal.

****

At the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cole, Weaver-Smythe strode across the room in time to assist Hetty into her chair at the card table. Flipping coat-tails, he took the seat opposite hers. “I enjoyed your father’s sermon yesterday about overcoming evil with good. But was there really a thief at the vicarage last month? If so, did Mr. Bates really hit him over the head with your family Bible?” 

Hetty lowered her eyes. “No.” 

“Nevertheless, your father is quite the entertaining fellow, for a reverend.” 

“Oh, he can be entertaining, indeed. And, at times, irreverent. Quite irreverent! Father often complains to Old John Adby about our limited income, about being poor. He merely gets teased in return. ‘I know you are naught but a poor preacher, Bates. I hear you every Sunday!’” Hetty smiled as Weaver-Smythe guffawed. Growing sombre, she shook her head. “Mr. Adby has been my father’s clerk for as long as I can remember, but—bless him!—the dear man developed rheumatic gout in his joints. ’Tis sad—so sad!—to witness him, or anyone, in pain.” 

“You have a compassionate soul, Miss Bates.” Weaver-Smythe reached across the table, gently pressing her hand for the briefest of moments. 

Hetty blushed at his touch. “Thank you. Unfortunately, Father’s wit has put him in trouble with his bishop more than once.” At Weaver-Smythe’s expectant expression, Hetty told him to prepare for something dreadful. “I was mortified at the time.” 

“Better and better.” Rubbing palms together, he sat forward, smiling in anticipation. 

“Have you met farmer Mitchell yet? No? Well, he is a local man nearing his fifth decade. No, wait. Upon my honour, I do believe he recently turned one-and-fifty. Or two-and-fifty. No matter. Last April he took to the altar Miss Ward, the butcher’s daughter, who was but fifteen years of age at the time. ‘Mr. Mitchell,’ cried my father in a voice so loud the entire congregation heard, ‘you will find the font at the opposite end of the church.’ Poor Mr. Mitchell looked around in confusion. ‘Beggin’ yer pardon, Mr. Bates, but what do I want with the font?’ In his droll manner, Father said, ‘Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Mitchell. I thought you had brought the child to be christened.’” 

Hetty’s face had grown redder while relating the story, but she chuckled along with Weaver-Smythe. “It may be amusing now, sir. Yes, quite amusing. The entire congregation laughed, but I was mortified. Mortified! Mother hissed at me for slouching down in the pew. I wanted nothing more than the ground to open and swallow me whole. I have never, ever, been so mortified.” Palms to cheeks, she closed her eyes. “Now I am embarrassed all over again.” 

Weaver-Smythe reached across the table, intimately resting, far longer than before, his hand upon one of hers. 

That particular hand went unwashed until Hetty arose the next morning. 

After a fortnight in each other’s company amidst Highbury society, Hetty believed herself in love with Philip Weaver-Smythe. Whether he harboured any special regard for her was less certain. But to have the attention of a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy was something, indeed. 

Save George Knightley, who was always kind, no other eligible man had ever paid Hetty the slightest attention. Weaver-Smythe walked and talked with her. He understood her. He told her she was not at all dull and should not be ashamed of preferring basic comforts and that he, too, delighted in life’s simple pleasures. 

“Who needs more than modest belongings? Why, a second-hand carriage is as functional as a new one.” He smiled the special smile that made Hetty weak at the knees. “Did I ever mention, Miss Bates, that I am a vendor of such conveyances?” 

“Innumerable times, sir.” 

“Are you implying I talk too much?” 

“No. I talk too much.” 

“Utter nonsense! If anyone says you talk too much, you must simply talk them out of it. Now, as a special surprise, I have sent for my bespoke curricle. It should arrive within the week, newly refurbished to such an extent that it is even better than new. Wait until you see the improvements I ordered. If you agree, I shall drive you any place you wish to go. Even to Box Hill, if we can get a party together.” 

Others noticed their peculiar friendship. But Hetty was, after all, nearly a spinster at four-and-twenty. She had no dowry. There could be nothing more than amity between them, no sincere affection, no expectation on either side. Friends and neighbours thought so kindly of Hetty, they simply smiled and turned blind eyes and deaf ears, allowing her a summer of mild flirtation. 

“My dear girl,” said Mr. Bates, holding her hand, “do not set your cap at him. While he obviously fancies you as a friend, he does not seem the sort to know how justly to appreciate your value. Do you truly suppose he has serious designs on you?” 

Of course not”— for I am an undistinguished, penniless, bespectacled spinster with grey strands in my hair. 

Hope, however, bloomed within Hetty’s heart when Weaver-Smythe invited her and Jane for a drive in his curricle. With the three Buckleys following in their own carriage, they arrived at Bramblehill Park, an abandoned estate in Berkshire. The six of them strolled around the overgrown grounds, inspecting the place, peeking through the manor’s grimy, broken windows, and admiring the views. With a great deal of work, the adults all agreed, the place could be an excellent location to settle and raise a family. 

Weaver-Smythe had winked, then, at Hetty.

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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 humorous short stories in the anthologies Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, The Darcy Monologues, and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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About Rational Creatures

“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion
 
Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Rational Creature SUPER Giveaway: The Random Name Picker winner review all blog comments and select one winner from these blog stop comments during the tour for all 21 prizes: Winner’s choice of one title from each authors’ backlist (that’s 16 books, ebooks, or audiobooks), our bespoke t-shirt/soap/candle; #20, a brick in winner’s name to benefit #BuyABrick for Chawton House; and #21, the Quill Collective anthologies in ebook or audiobook.

The giveaway ends November 15, 2018 and is open to international winners. To enter, please leave a comment below.

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Follow the Blog Tour

September 18 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Guest Post

September 22 / Just Jane 1813/ Guest Post

September 25 / Books & Wine are Lovely Playlist

September 27 / Fangs, Wands and Fairydust / Guest Post

October 2 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Guest Post

October 4 / From Pemberley to Milton / Guest Post

October 9 / Austenesque Reviews / Guest Post

October 11 / Silver Petticoat / Guest Post

October 15 / Just Jane 1813 / Book Review

October 16 / My Love for Jane Austen / Guest Post

October 18 / Rosie’s Review Team / Book Review

October 23 / More Agreeably Engaged / Guest Post

October 25 / The Book Rat / Guest Post

October 30 / Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review

November 1 / My Vices and Weaknesses / Guest Post

November 6 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Review

November 8  / Of Pens and Pages / Book Review

November 13 / Let Us Talk of Many Things / Guest Post

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My guest today is Elaine Russell, whose book Across the Mekong River I read and reviewed a few years ago and highly recommend. Today, she is here to celebrate the release of her new novel, In the Company of Like-Minded Women, which focuses on the struggle for women’s rights in the early 20th century. Please give her a warm welcome:

The level of political discord and despicable behavior in 2018 has sadly reached new heights (or maybe lows), prompting large numbers of American women to speak out, run for office, and organize for social justice. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping back over a hundred years to write about another generation of brave women—those who fought for women’s suffrage, access to professional careers, and other basic rights for women and children. The so-called “New Woman” demanded an equal voice, but faced incredible opposition from the men in power and moneyed business interests.

In the Company of Like-Minded Women explores the bonds between family at the start of the 20th century. Three sisters are reunited in Denver, Colorado, after a rift many years before. Mildred and Eva travel from Lawrence, Kansas, to visit Lida and her two children in Denver in June 1901. Lida, widowed two years before, has just graduated from medical school and begun working as a doctor. Eva, only twenty-five, begs Lida to help her overcome the opposition of Mildred and their mother to a match with the handsome Mr. Dearman of Boston. The women’s rights movement and Lida’s progressive friends provide the backdrop as the story unfolds.

Colorado led the charge for women’s rights when Republican, Democrat, and Populist women banded together to win a stunning victory in 1893, which granted women the vote in Colorado—twenty-seven years before national suffrage was approved. In 1901, the rest of the country watched with intense interest to see how this played out, challenging Colorado women to defend their accomplishments since obtaining access to the ballot box.

The story is told in three voices in alternating chapters by Lida (the middle sister), her 16-year-old daughter Sara Jane, and Mildred (the oldest sister). The following is an excerpt from Sara Jane:

I could barely contain my excitement. Aunt Eva’s predicament called to mind the dime novels that my best friend, Rose O’Malley, and I had taken to secretly reading after she found a stash hidden in the armoire in her mother’s sewing room. The romantic novels told complicated sagas of hopeless liaisons filled with improbable plots and unbelievable coincidences. We had found several rather sensational and shocking. Only Aunt Eva’s story wasn’t cheap or unsavory like those books. Her tale was more like a Jane Austen novel of thwarted romance and secret rendezvous, certainly nothing illicit.

The thrill of being privy to Aunt Eva’s intrigue offered an escape from my sheltered world and the dull, monotonous routines and sorrows of the past few years. My aunt had taken me into her confidence, and I could not disappoint her. I thought of Saint John, the patron saint of discretion, whom I had read about the previous week. He had died at the hand of King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia rather than divulge the confession of the king’s wife, Queen Sophie. Such loyalty was to be admired. I would pray to Saint John to help me keep Aunt Eva’s secret.

Mama bit her lip before speaking. “I can talk with Mildred on your behalf.”

Aunt Eva grabbed Mama’s hands. “I don’t want to burden you, but you’re my last hope. You must meet Mr. Dearman first, so you can argue in earnest on his behalf. If we can only convince Mildred to give him a chance. She’s never even talked with him.”

Mama blinked several times. “But how will I meet him?”

“I’m expecting a letter…” Aunt Eva began, but she halted at the sound of heavy, uneven footsteps descending the stairs. She wiped away her tears and took a ragged breath.

Aunt Mildred loomed in the doorway. “What is going on? Eva, have you been crying?”

“It’s only a cinder from the train in my eye. I’ll run some water over it.” Eva bolted from her seat and brushed pass Mildred.

“What has she been telling you?” Aunt Mildred’s tone implied wrongdoing on Eva’s part and perhaps on my and Mama’s as well.

I gave Aunt Mildred my most serious look, frowning slightly. “She was talking about her illness.” This was mostly true. Eva had mentioned concerns over her health.

“Did you sleep?” Mama asked calmly. “Come have some coffee and a roll.”

Aunt Mildred blinked several times. “I didn’t sleep at all. That dreadful feline of yours is somewhere upstairs mewling like a hungry calf.”

I cringed. “I’m sorry, Aunt Mildred. She must have gotten locked in Cole’s room.”

Cole clattered from the kitchen across the dining room and front hall, sliding to a halt next to Aunt Mildred. He lifted his clasped hands toward her face. “Look, Aunt Mildred! I found a frog in the bucket by the water tap outside.”

Aunt Mildred gave a short yelp and clutched her chest with one hand. “Get it away from me. Right now.” She stumbled forward and collapsed onto the green velvet armchair, causing it to shudder with a worrying groan.

Mama jumped up. “Cole, take that back outside.”

“But, Mama, I want to keep him. Just look.” He scooted forward and tripped over the edge of the Persian carpet. His arms flew out as he hit the rug, and the frog sailed through the air. “Jesusmaryandjoseph!” The words slipped out as one from Cole’s lips.

The poor creature landed on the fireplace hearth and remained still as if stunned by its sudden freedom. It was only three inches long at most, a rubbery, gray-green blob with bulging black eyes. Harmless looking, really. I felt rather sorry for it. Cole lunged for the frog, but it hopped across the carpet and under Aunt Mildred’s chair.

Aunt Mildred leaped up, emitting staccato shrieks while shaking out her skirt and lifting her feet as if dancing one of Katherine’s Irish jigs. The frog proceeded to hop into the entry and down the hall toward the library. Cole sprang up and down in hot pursuit, always a moment too late.

There were murmurs and a scuffle. Eva appeared around the doorway with a bemused expression brightening her face. She gently held the frog in her hands. “We’ll be back soon. Cole is going to show me his yard.”

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About In the Company of Like-Minded Women

In the Company of Like-Minded Women explores the complexities of bonds between sisters and family at the start of the 20th century when women struggled to determine their future and the “New Woman” demanded an equal voice. Three sisters are reunited in 1901 Denver following a family rift many years before. Each sister faces critical decisions regarding love, work, and the strength of her convictions. The success of Colorado women in gaining the right to vote in 1893–twenty-seven years before the passage of national suffrage–and their continued fight for women’s rights, provides the background as the story unfolds.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback | Kindle

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About the Author

Elaine Russell

Elaine Russell is the award winning author of the novel Across the Mekong River and a number of children’s books, including the young adult novel Montana in A Minor, the Martin McMillan middle grade mystery series, and the middle grade picture book, All About Thailand. Elaine lives with her husband in Northern California and part time on the Island of Kauai.

Connect with Elaine: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Elaine is generously offering two copies of In the Company of Like-Minded Women to my readers (U.S. and Canada). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 21, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

To double your chances of winning, check out Elaine’s guest post on Savvy Verse & Wit, where Serena is also offering a giveaway!

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

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Hello, dear readers! I have a treat for you today! As many of you know, I’ve edited all of Victoria Kincaid’s Pride and Prejudice variations, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each one, but there was something special about her latest: When Jane Got Angry. Oh yes, an angry Jane! What a delight it was to see Jane act much differently in this novella, and I couldn’t help but cheer her on.

Victoria is here today to talk about women and anger and to share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

One of the reasons I like writing about the Regency time period is that it makes a great escape from the sometimes overwhelming and stressful news that we hear every day.  Their issues weren’t ours, so I can escape into their world for a while.  Except sometimes there’s unexpected crossover. The week that When Jane Got Angry was released, there was an interesting and thoughtful review in the Washington Post of two different books that analyzed why women are angry today.

Anger is usually something women are told to control because it’s not ladylike, but—as the Post reviewer pointed out—sometimes anger can be empowering for women.  Which is what happens to Jane Bennet in my story.

Most readers of P&P identify with Elizabeth—not just because she is the protagonist but also because she represents a kind of independent spirit that we would like to see in ourselves.  She becomes a middle way between Lydia’s heedless flouting of social norms (with attendant consequences) and Jane’s passive acceptance of what happens.  Compared to Elizabeth, Jane is dull, bland, too good.

When I thought up the plot for this book, I wanted a Jane who would fight back and shake things up a little, but I wanted it to be believable—to stay in character.  After all, I could have written a Jane who was suddenly as conniving as Caroline Bingley and turns the tables on the other woman.  But that wouldn’t be believable within the bounds of what we know about Jane’s character. The only way I could think of for Jane to change the course of her life—to be an active player—was for her to get angry.

Of course, she’s been fighting anger her whole life—it isn’t ladylike.  But when she embraces it, she finds it’s unexpectedly empowering.  I could just hear a whole chorus of female readers sighing and saying, “At last!  Jane finally got a backbone!”

Although we are frustrated with Jane’s passivity, I think we also empathize with her journey.  I’m not as passive or accepting as Jane, but I certainly have had moments in my life when I swallowed my anger and accepted what was happening. Later I would wish that I’d gotten angry.  I would wish that I’d fought for myself.  That I hadn’t stayed silent.  So, in writing this story I can share Jane’s angerand her empowerment as well.

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An excerpt from When Jane Got Angry, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

Aware of Jane’s scrutiny, the maid dipped her head but made no move to depart.  “Begging your pardon, miss.”  The girl bit her lip.  “But are you, perhaps, sweet on Mr. Charles Bingley?”

Jane’s eyebrows shot upward.  Her mother would have chastised a servant for such forwardness.  Not that Jane was surprised the maid had guessed the truth; servants were always eavesdropping and sharing gossip.  But never had a servant asked Jane about her personal life.

Recognizing Jane’s shock, Maggie started backing toward the door.  “I’m sorry, miss!  I shouldn’t have said anything.  Never you mind—”

The maid clearly had images of being sacked for her impertinence, but Jane was not so easily offended.  She held out her hand in a reassuring gesture.  “It is quite all right, Maggie.  I was merely surprised.  What prompted the question?”

The girl’s hands twisted in her apron as she considered for a moment before speaking.  “Well, I noticed what you and Mrs. Gardiner were saying today…and I couldn’t help but overhear some of what Miss Bingley said….”

Jane was tempted to smile.  She imagined that Maggie’s “overhearing” was not particularly inadvertent.  “Miss Bingley did seem out of spirits today.”

Maggie made an indignant noise. “She was awful, that Bingley woman.  If my friend treated me in such a way, I would give her the back of my hand.”

Jane could not quite picture it.  “That would have shocked Miss Bingley,” she said.

Maggie gestured wildly.  “I don’t know how you stay so calm about it.  Me, I’d be spitting mad by now.  If you don’t mind me saying so.”

Suddenly the accumulated tension of the day caught up with Jane; her legs could barely support her.  Sinking onto the stool of the dressing table, she caught a glimpse of her drawn face in the mirror.

Many other women would be angry, Jane supposed.  Lizzy.  Lydia.  Her mother.  But Jane was the sister who did not make a fuss.  She did not demand.  She did not protest.  Papa called her “the quiet one.”  Jane could be counted upon to bring Mama her tea when she had an attack of nerves.  Or to mediate any dispute between Kitty and Lydia.  To remain calm no matter what happened.  That was who she was.

Even when your friend was revealed to be false.

Of course, none of this could be shared with the maid.  “Are you at all acquainted with Miss Bingley?”  Perhaps Maggie had heard some rumors; Jane could conceive no other reason to raise the subject with her.

“No, miss.  Not at all.  But I am acquainted with Mr. Bingley’s valet, Joseph.  That is to say, Mr. Harvey.”  The girl colored faintly.  She had red hair and the very pale skin that often accompanied it.

Jane felt a faint spark of hope, although she did not know how Maggie’s acquaintance might benefit the lowly Miss Bennet.   “I see.”

“Miss Bingley gives her brother a world of trouble.  He has complained about her to Joseph.”

“Do you know if Miss Bingley encouraged her brother to leave Netherfield?” The words were out before Jane could have second thoughts.  She should not be gossiping with her aunt’s maid, but the question was one she often had wondered about—and it was such a relief to share her woes with a sympathetic listener.  Aunt Gardiner attended to Jane’s anxieties, but she was very busy with her children—and often inclined to give advice about “forgetting” Mr. Bingley. Jane did not believe such a feat was possible.

“I don’t know, but I can ask.”

Jane said nothing, torn between her need to learn the truth and her quite proper desire to avoid gossip.

She caught another glimpse of her wan reflection in the mirror.  What did it signify?  “No, it matters not.  My path and Mr. Bingley’s are unlikely to cross again.”

Maggie’s reflection—standing behind Jane’s—frowned.  “Why is that?”

“We do not run in the same circles, and Miss Bingley seems inclined to discontinue the acquaintance.”

Maggie shook her head, making her red curls bounce.  “Och, people of quality make everything so hard.  If I liked a fellow, I would just go up and knock on his door.”

Jane stifled a laugh.  “Would that it were so simple.”

Emboldened, Maggie stepped a little closer to Jane and lowered her voice.  “I could ask Joseph about Mr. Bingley’s schedule so you might find him and speak with him.”

Jane gave the maid a sad smile.  “I thank you for the offer, but I could not possibly approach Mr. Bingley.  It would be unpardonably forward.”

“But if you was to know where Mr. Bingley would be, you could arrange to encounter him—all accidental like—with him none the wiser.”

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About When Jane Got Angry

When Mr. Bingley abruptly left Hertfordshire, Jane Bennet’s heart was broken. Since arriving in London to visit her aunt and uncle, Jane has been hoping to encounter Mr. Bingley; however, it becomes clear that his sister is keeping them apart. But what would happen if she took matters into her own hands? Defying social convention, she sets out to alert Mr. Bingley to her presence in London, hoping to rekindle the sparks of their relationship.

Bingley is thrilled to encounter Jane and renew their acquaintance, but his sister has told him several lies about the Bennets—and his best friend, Mr. Darcy, still opposes any relationship. As Jane and Bingley sort through this web of deceit, they both find it difficult to retain their customary equanimity.

However, they also discover that sometimes good things happen when Jane gets angry.

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an international winner’s choice giveaway for When Jane Got Angry. One lucky winner will get a choice of an ebook or paperback. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, October 7, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you for being my guest today, Victoria! It’s always a pleasure to share your books with my readers.

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