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Archive for the ‘book excerpt’ Category

I’m pleased to welcome Meg Kerr to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Devotion, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces the novel and shares an excerpt, and stay tuned for the giveaway!

Hello readers of Diary of Eccentric! My name is Meg Kerr, and I’m thrilled to be here with you. First, I’d like to thank Anna for allowing me to contribute this guest post and which contains an excerpt from my new Austen-inspired book, Devotion. I am also happy to offer a giveaway of three (3) signed copies of the book! The giveaway is open to readers from the United States and Canada.

Devotion explores events after Pride and Prejudice ends through fan-favourite characters including Georgiana Darcy and Mrs. Bennet, and I think you’ll find it an interesting read as I’ve added several twists. As Georgiana Darcy is one of the main focal points of the book, I wanted to choose a book excerpt where she’s featured. But first, a bit of context:

John Amaury, the illegitimate son of a lord, is handsome, charming, penniless, ruthless, and determined to marry Georgiana Darcy for her fortune. And if lawful marriage can be faster attained through seduction, so be it!

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy this short excerpt! If you’re interested in reading the full book, it’s available via Amazon. I’d love to hear your thoughts (and your own ideas!) via a review soon.

Affectionately yours,

Meg Kerr

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Excerpt (from Chapter 13 of Devotion)

Amaury came to her as soon as she was in the room. “Georgiana, I am in love with you,” he said. She was very willing to hear him, and suddenly he was making violent love to her, proclaiming his passion and declaring that he would die if she refused him. Georgiana could not respond; but Amaury did not want her to talk. Departing so far from every honourable feeling, even from the common decorum of a gentleman, he took hold of her, clasped her around the waist and began to kiss her eagerly, until he was stopping her very breath and she could hardly remain upright. Indeed she would have fallen had she not been locked in his arms, pressed to his ribs. Still on fire with his first assault, her astonishment and perplexity decreased as he took these barbarously insolent freedoms with her, and her struggles against him were brief, if indeed they existed at all. Even then she had not sense enough to try to avoid her fate. Instead of acting as virtue and honour required, instead of striving to avoid destruction, she began to return him kiss for kiss, the friendly darkness emboldening her. He then took the liberty of thrusting his hand in her bosom, an affront at which Georgiana demonstrated her resentment by re-doubling the fervour of her kisses. She seemed to have not the least hesitation to assist in her own undoing. No longer in doubt about the capabilities of her—heart, or that she was completely under his ascendancy, he knew that the business could be accomplished within five minutes.

A wolf has no aspiration to heroism, or to the satisfaction of carrying out a difficult task. He would not rather attack a lion than a lamb, and if the lamb meekly offers her throat for the sacrifice he does not spare her in the conviction that he ought to work harder for his dinner.

That Amaury intended to do what is called the worst is entirely certain and that Georgiana would have granted what is called the last favour is little less so. What a strange revolution of mind therefore that Amaury should have drawn back! But he was overcome by a feeling of tenderness unlike anything he had known before. What a miracle it was to be loved by such a pure and modest girl, to excite her virginal ardours! Five minutes were not enough to initiate her into the pleasures of love. She must be allowed to savour at length her weakness in his embrace, and at last admit the ecstasy of defeat. They must marry, and he must find another method to persuade her than that of robbing her of her precious innocence. With some difficulty therefore he put Georgiana from him, holding her at arm’s length while both endeavoured to regain breath; and with yet greater difficulty he persuaded her to withdraw from him and go to her room, promising that they would meet early on the morrow.

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About Devotion

In this sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Georgiana Darcy, now twenty years old and completely lovely, is ripe for marriage. Her brother has carefully selected her future husband, but the arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a secret journey, bring Georgiana into the arms of an utterly wicked and charming young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and a quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given — perhaps — an opportunity to remake some of her disastrous choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, sweeps the reader back to the year 1816 for a reunion with many beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice and an introduction to some intriguing characters.

Check out Devotion on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Meg Kerr

What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

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Giveaway

Meg is generously offering 3 signed copies of Devotion. This giveaway is open to readers with U.S. and Canada addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and share what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 27, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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My guest today is Regina Jeffers, who is here to talk about Scottish marriages during the Regency and share an excerpt of her new release, MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs. I’m a big fan of Regina’s Pride and Prejudice variations; she’s one of a few authors whose books I will buy as soon as they are released without even reading the description. I’m really looking forward to reading this one…I just have to know what the small “s” in the title is all about! Please give her a warm welcome, and stay tuned for the giveaway.

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Scottish Marriages During the Regency

Those of us who read and write Regency novels have all heard of elopements to Gretna Green. Harking back to 1754 and the introduction of a new controversial Marriage Act in England, Gretna Green flourished as a haven for runaway couples. It even receives mentions in not just 1 but amazingly 3 of Jane Austen novels, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park.

``MY DEAR HARRIET,

You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel.” – Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 47

From Austenonly, we learn, “References to Scotland in Jane Austen’s adult works are few, but she did make use of the different marriage laws in Scotland in three of her novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon had planned to elope to Gretna with his poor Eliza but was thwarted at the last minute by the folly of her maid exposing their plans. In Pride and Prejudice Wickham planned to elope with Georgiana Darcy to Gretna Green, but his dastardly plan was foiled by Georgiana’s confession to Darcy before they could set out on the road. Quite typically he had no such plans to take Lydia Bennet there, though she was initially under the misapprehension that Gretna was to be their final destination. In Mansfield Park, Julia Bertram and Mr Yates run off to Gretna to be married amid the turmoil of the adulterous goings on between Maria Rushworth and Mr Crawford.

Old Photograph Toll House, Lamberton Scotland

“Why Gretna Green? Gretna, or Scotland as Jane Austen mostly wrote when she used the term in her novels, was, in the late 18th Century a place where couples thwarted in their plans to marry legally in England and Wales could resort, in order to marry legally without parental consent. From the implementation of the Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753, it was impossible for anyone under the age of 21 years age to legally marry without their parents (or guardians) consent.”

We must remember that Scotland is approximately 320 miles from London. The main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh followed the Great North Road or a series of turnpike roads on the western side of the country. The journey was not an easy one. The average carriage travelled between 5-7 miles per hour––that is not accounting for poor weather, tolls, meals, changing out the horses, etc. Even traveling 12 hours per day, it would take a couple some 4 days to reach Scotland, more than likely 5 days. Do not forget that many times irate family members were in hot pursuit.

But Gretna Green was not the only place for elopements in Scotland. The Great North Road took couples to Scotland via Northumberland. Lamberton, Berwickshire, Scotland, for example, is 4 miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. The now demolished Old Toll House at Lamberton, situated just across the border in Scotland, was notorious for its irregular marriages. From 1798 to 1858 keepers of the Toll, as well as questionable men-of-the-cloth, married couples in a hurry to escape relations.

Paxton, Berwickshire, Scotland, lies 1 mile west of the border with Northumberland, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Mordington, another Scottish village, was 5 miles from Northumberland. It is said that many chose to be married by the toll keepers of these two border towns.

Marriage and Toll House at Coldstream Bridge

Sometimes the couple chose to cross the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, to Coldstream, a civil parish in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland. Much like Gretna Green, it was a popular centre for runaway marriages. As with the other towns mentioned, couples were joined in marriage at the toll house.

Who performed these marriages? The simple answer is: anyone who wanted to do so. Declaring one’s vows to live together before witnesses could constitute a binding marriage. One did not require a clergyman to be deemed a wedded couple. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.

Irregular Scottish marriages simply required the couple’s agreement and witnesses to the act to be legal. A couple could publicly promise to abide in marriage, which could be followed by consummation as proof or simply by cohabitation with repute. Any citizen could witness a public promise. The idea of “marrying over the anvil” in the legend of Gretna Green came about by the blacksmith being one of the first building encountered by the couple seeking a Scottish marriage in the village, and the blacksmith was a “citizen.” A marriage of “cohabitation with repute” was an old style of common-law marriage.

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Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

Check out MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs on Goodreads | Amazon

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Excerpt from Chapter 11 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

Darcy handed her down from the let carriage before a small inn. They were a little less than three hours removed from Allard’s estate, but he had noticed how with each mile of the journey, Elizabeth’s shoulders had relaxed a bit more.

Their return to the manor house had been executed in relative silence. As he walked beside her, Darcy’s mind had reviewed all his interactions with Allard and how he had failed to notice the weaknesses in the man’s business aplomb before arriving on the man’s threshold. Thankfully, Elizabeth had not attempted to tease or cajole him from his self-chastisements. She was not that kind of woman, one who chattered on, filling the air with nonsense. No. Elizabeth Bennet was a woman who used language as she did every other facet of her life, with a combination of intelligence and economy.

It was only when the manor came into view that she offered, “I must beg your pardon, Mr. Darcy, for I have again interfered in your well-structured life.”

He halted their progress and turned her to him. “I consider your presence in my life a blessing, and you are not to think otherwise. You have prevented me from making two monumental mistakes. How can you think me from sorts?”

She searched for the sincerity in his expression for several elongated seconds before the worry set her features transformed into a smile that had Darcy’s heart skipping a beat. “Shall that be my role in your life, Mr. Darcy? Savior?” Good humor filled her tease, and he found himself smiling in return.

“My personal guardian angel,” he said softly as he brought her gloved hand to his lips, where he kissed the inside of her wrist.

A flush of color raced to her cheeks, but she did not rip her hand from his grasp. Instead, with a delightful laugh, one that had a rush of warmth filling his abdomen, she taunted, “Mrs. Bennet will testify that I am more devil than angel, and you, sir, would do well to remember as such.”

“May I be of assistance, sir?” The innkeeper rushed forward to greet them.

Darcy tucked Elizabeth closer to his side. “My cousin and I require rooms,” he announced. They had agreed that as they traveled in the direction of the Flynns’ estate that it was probable that they would encounter others from Flynn’s household, who might recognize Elizabeth, and so she was now Darcy’s relation instead of his wife. He would go to extremes to protect Elizabeth’s reputation, for he had grown truly fond of her.

The innkeeper eyed them suspiciously. “Not many of your ilk come this way.”

Darcy understood the man’s insinuation. “My cousin and I were guests at the Allard estate outside of Edinburgh, but measles have struck some of those employed upon the estate. We thought it best to depart early before the illness spreads to those in the main house.” He told the truth—just not the complete truth.

“Measles, heh?” the man asked as he turned the register so Darcy might sign it. “That be a bad business.” He handed Darcy the pen, but did not place the ink well upon the table. “Before ye be signing, sir, ye shud know there be a weddin’ occurrin’ here this evening. Not exactly the weddin’, more along the lines of the celebration. There be no assembly hall or meeting place large enough to hold the sizable family gathering. Most in the area call in here regularly. Might’n be a bit loud.”

Darcy did not wish to climb back into the crowded let carriage with Sheffield and Hannah observing his every interaction with Elizabeth, but he dutifully asked, “And the next decent inn?”

“For the likes of you, sir, some twelve miles along the main road south.”

Darcy leaned down to ask, “What say you, Elizabeth?”

“In truth,” she said softly, “I could sleep through the roughest storm God chose to deliver. A few partiers will not disturb me. A good meal and a bath are all I require for the evening.”

“Then we will stay.” He grinned at her. “You heard the lady. Two rooms as far removed from the jubilation as possible.”

Within a quarter hour, they dined in the common room of the inn. Only three others occupied the room, so they were relatively alone and could speak freely. “I wish to extend my apologies,” he said in serious tones. “I thought myself in charge of what has occurred between us since you ran from the church, but I fear I have done you irreparable harm. I have placed you in a abrasive surrounding and opened you to further accusations. You must permit me to do more than present your sisters with a larger dowry.”

She looked up in alarm. “Such as?”

“I would not be opposed to our joining,” he stated honestly. Since taking her acquaintance, Darcy had often considered the possibility of calling her wife.

Elizabeth shook off the idea. “I could not entertain your address, Mr. Darcy. Even if you had not brought me aboard your yacht, my actions at the church discredited my name. It was foolish of me to think such cheekiness could be ignored. Even if I had simply thwarted Mr. Collins’s plans, I named my fate. I doubt either the gentleman or your aunt would have remained silent regarding my purposeful slight. And I find it hard to believe that my father will be capable of controlling Mrs. Bennet’s aspersions. He has failed miserably in the past when Mrs. Bennet sets her mind to such misery. Most certainly, all in the neighborhood know something of my ill-advised bravado by now.”

He did not approve of her decision, but Darcy nodded his agreement. “I must abide by your choice.”

Silence settled between them, and it was not the kind of silence that caused distress. It was more of the manner in which two friends can sit together, even when they disagree upon something important. He searched for a means to change her mind, but he knew Elizabeth adamant in her opinions. Before he could form an argument to persuade her, the wedding party, literally, carried the newly-wed couple into the inn. The bride and the groom were perched on the shoulders of four bulky Scotsmen, who proudly hefted the pair higher, to the cheers of all those trailing behind them.

“Oh,” Elizabeth sighed heavily as she looked on. “Is she not beautiful? Such joy upon her countenance. Do you suppose they are in love?”

Darcy studied the pair as their escorts set them upon the floor. “The groom appears enthralled with his bride.” He noted the look of longing upon Elizabeth’s face, and he felt a bit sad that because of him, she would never know such happiness. “Is that your desire? To marry for love?” Such would go a long way in explaining why she had refused him, for Darcy knew her affections had not been stirred by their acquaintance.

She shrugged off his questions. “Do you find it odd, Mr. Darcy, that I am as susceptible to the idea of discovering a man who holds me in deep regard as are my sisters? Is it not foolish for a woman of my years to carry the wish of the Cinder Maid buried deep in her heart?”

“My parents married for love,” he admitted. “Together, they were a force with which to be reckoned.” Darcy chuckled in remembrance. “They were quite remarkable. I always believed if I could replicate their devotion to each other in my own marriage that Pemberley could survive and prosper.”

“Then when did you have a change of heart?” she challenged. “From your own lips, Miss De Bourgh did not claim your heart.”

“I do not know exactly how to define that particular moment.” He sat staring out the window over her shoulder. “I thought I had several years before I must choose a wife. Thought myself above entering the marriage mart. But…” He closed his eyes to drive away the taste of bile rising to his throat whenever he considered the betrayal practiced at George Wickham’s hands.

“But?” Elizabeth prompted, as she slipped her hand into his. “Know that I can serve as your confidante, Mr. Darcy.”

He opened his eyes to study her beautiful countenance. How was it possible that they had known each other less than a fortnight; yet, she was essential to all that he held most dear? “But a former friend used our relationship to attempt a seduction of my sister.” He had said the words aloud, and all his fears of the world swinging away from its axis had proved false. “I blundered—not giving her the attention she required,” he explained, “and Georgiana is so broken that I am desperate to restore her good humor. I thought that Anne might prove a comforting force for Miss Darcy. Mayhap even lead my sister to a better understanding of Georgiana’s lack of fault in the matter.”

Tears pooled in Elizabeth’s eyes. “And who is to lead you to a better understanding of your role in the matter, Mr. Darcy?” she asked in sympathetic tones.

He squeezed her hand. “My fault will never be obliterated. It is Georgiana’s heart that requires protection. She is not yet sixteen and was easily misled by a man she recognized as part of our family’s legacy. Miss Darcy trusted him, but all Mr. Wickham, who was my childhood chum and the son of my father’s steward, wished was my sister’s substantial dowry.”

“Oh, William,” she whispered. “You cannot take the blame for some blackguard’s disposition. You can only execute your life with honor.” She smiled weakly. “I know young girls. I was one very recently.” A bit of a tease entered her tone. “We give our hearts away many times before we discover a man worth knowing.”

“Pardon, friends,” the innkeeper said as he set two steaming plates before them. “Wanted to get yer meal out before the celebration became too rowdy.”

He chuckled good-naturedly as he glanced over his shoulder at the wedding party. “The bride be the daughter of Sir James Metts, a knight who earned his title via our local bishop. She be a good girl. Don’t know much of the groom. He be Greek. And Catholic. Never knew a Greek before. Some sort of diplomat, I hears. They met in London at a musicale, whatever that may be.” He set two tea cups upon the table without saucers. “Don’t know ‘bout the spirits, but the young man claims this a traditional drink for those of his kind. Says it tastes of aniseed or fennel. Wishes you to join him in a toast to his bride.” The innkeeper poured two fingers full in the cups.

Elizabeth eyed the drink suspiciously. “And what does the gentleman call these spirits?”

“Ouzo.”

She glanced to Darcy. “Are you familiar with the drink?”

“It may surprise you, my dear,” he said with a genuine smile, “but I never experienced a grand tour nor do I associate with high rollers.”

Her mouth formed a teasing pout. “Then I suppose it falls to me to taste the brew first. I would not wish to stain your immaculate reputation by demanding that you imbibe first.”

Darcy’s smile widened. “We will partake of the brew together.” He lifted his cup to tap it gently against hers. “To life.”

“To love,” she added.

Then they turned as one toward the happy couple, and with the others gathered in the room, they declared, “To a happy marriage.”

Thank you, Regina, for the informative post and for giving us a peek at your newest novel. Congratulations on its release!

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Giveaway

Regina is generously offering two ebook copies of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs. To enter, leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close at midnight on Friday, August 18, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alexa Adams back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of Darcy in Wonderland! As the editor of the book (minus the poems, which were edited by Serena), I am very excited about this book and all the glowing reviews thus far. Alexa is daring in her variations, and I admire that about her. I never would have thought to mash up Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland, but I’m sure glad Alexa did! Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces an excerpt from the novel, and stay tuned for the giveaway!

Thank you for hosting me today, Anna! I’m delighted to be here.

I’m a bit over a week into this blog tour, and I have spent a great deal of time speaking about Darcy and the children (especially Alice, for obvious reasons). Today Anna suggested I might give Elizabeth her turn in the spotlight. She might not plummet down the rabbit hole, but she is, nevertheless, a rather constant presence throughout the book, in no small part because Alice is such a mini version of her mother.

Two or three decades after her marriage, Elizabeth is now every bit the Mistress of Pemberley. She rules her roost with a gentle but firm fist, as made evident in the following exchange: 

Not long after her rambles commenced, she came upon the governess and her second youngest child, Cassandra. “Where is Alice?” she inquired after greeting the pair. 

Miss Williams blushed consciously. “She scampered off to speak with Mr. Darcy some time ago.” 

“She was spouting some nonsense about a rabbit,” Cassie, rather intolerant and judgmental in her eleventh year, inserted. “The girl cannot tell fantasy from reality.”  

“We were just about to go in and search for her,” Miss Williams said hurriedly, closing her book and placing it into her workbasket. 

“How is the Geography proceeding?” 

The blush deepened. “We are going to attend to it after tea.” 

“I see. And French?” Elizabeth knew not how her single raised eyebrow, so charming to her husband, cast fear into the hearts of her servants. Very little escaped its inevitable notice. 

“We completed the lesson this morning,” Miss Williams was relieved to be able to reply. 

“Excellent. What were you reading just now?” 

“It was my fault, Mama,” Cassie quickly interceded. “I begged Miss Williams to reread it with me.” 

Elizabeth bent down and extracted the book from the basket, examining the cover. “Kenilworth. Again. Now I understand why Alice has disappeared. You assured me, Miss Williams, that Alice was old enough to attend your lessons, yet you spend your time on curriculum, if that word is appropriate, that cannot hold her attention. Shall I arrange time each day for her to remain in the nursery so you and Cassie may pursue your more, um, advanced studies?” 

“No, ma’am. It will not happen again, Mrs. Darcy,” Miss Williams spoke quietly, with her head down. The weight of her mistress’s disappointment was far heavier than any tongue-lashing.  

“I certainly hope not. You may read Sir Walter in your free time.” She smiled kindly, returning the book to the basket. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Darcy,” and “Thank you, Mama,” rang out in chorus. 

“You had best return to the schoolroom for your tea. I will find Alice and send her along.” 

“Yes, Mrs. Darcy. Come along, Miss Cassandra.” 

Elizabeth is equally adept at handling her children, including the rather incorrigible Alice, and retainers, as demonstrated in this scene, which is one of my favorites:

“Please come in, Mrs. Darcy!” Mrs. Reynolds called from the sitting room. “I am sorry for not meeting you at the door, but I am not feeling quite myself today. Sally used the opportunity of Miss Alice’s unexpected arrival to take the donkey cart into Lambton and visit the apothecary on my behalf.” 

Elizabeth unceremoniously sat down next to her loyal retainer and friend. “Not your rheumatism again?” 

“I am afraid so.” 

“What does our new doctor have to say on the matter?” 

Mrs. Reynolds avoided eye contact. “I have yet to call for him.” 

“My dear, Mrs. Reynolds! Why else did Mr. Darcy go through the trouble to find a doctor with knowledge of the latest treatments for rheumatic ailments, if not for you to make use of him?” 

“Yes, and I do appreciate Mr. Darcy’s efforts on my behalf. He has always been the kindest, most thoughtful master imaginable, and I called on Dr. Seaton the very week of his arrival. Do you know what he suggested I do?” 

“What?” Alice asked eagerly, hanging on every word of the adults’ conversation.  

“He told me I should swim more. At my age! And in the lake, no less, like one of the children!” 

“Oh, Mrs. Reynolds! Do come swimming! It will be such fun! I can show you how,” gushed Alice. 

“I think not, child. I am sorry, but I have no business gallivanting about wet from head to foot. It would likely do me more harm than good.” 

“Not in the summer, I should think,” Elizabeth replied, reclaiming the conversation from her eager daughter. “Though I can see how the lake might not be the most inviting pool. What would you think of a sojourn by the sea? We could find some quiet and unassuming spa town for you to visit for a few months. Some place with bathing machines so that you might test the waters in private.” Mrs. Reynolds looked hesitant. “Of course, Mr. Darcy will cover the expense.” 

“Oh no, Mrs. Darcy! I could not ask him for such a thing.” 

“And you did not. I offered it. Now think it over before you reject me out of hand.” 

“All right. I will. Thank you, Mrs. Darcy.” 

“It is always a pleasure to be of service to you, Mrs. Reynolds, who have done so much for us. Would you like me to send word to Dr. Seaton? He should have some recommendations for which spas would suit you best.” 

“Yes, thank you. I will listen to what he has to say.” 

“Dr. Seaton made me take the awfullest medicine last winter. What does your medicine taste like, Mrs. Reynolds?” 

“Like brandy, which is what it is mostly made of.” 

Alice made a face. “I don’t like brandy.” 

“And when have you tasted it, young lady?” her mother inquired. 

“There is a bottle in Papa’s office.” 

“Not that you ought to help yourself to!” 

Alice looked surprised at her mother’s chagrin. “Why ever not? Papa drinks it all the time, so it cannot be that it is poisonous. I did check the bottle for a skull and crossbones just in case, and there were no markings suggesting it would disagree with me.” 

“A substance need not be poisonous to disagree with you, my dear. Do not sample your father’s drinks again.” 

“Yes, Mama. I won’t, even though the port wine was very good.” 

“Alice here has been keeping me entertained with a marvelous story,” Mrs. Reynolds quickly interjected. “She is the most creative child I ever knew.” 

“But ‘tis not a story, Mrs. Reynolds. It is true! I saw a white rabbit with pink eyes hop by, Mama, which as Bennet says is nothing so very special at all. He is so odious sometimes. But even he admits that a white rabbit with pink eyes would be worth seeing if it wore a waistcoat and pocket watch, as this one does.” 

“A waistcoat and pocket watch?” Elizabeth’s eyes grew dramatically large. “I never met a rabbit who could tell time.” 

“Well, this one could, for he pulled out his watch and checked it. I would have asked him for the time, by means of gaining an introduction, but he got away from me.” 

“Perhaps you will see him again.” 

Alice shook her head firmly. “I do hope so, Mama. I was on my way to look for him when my feet brought me to Mrs. Reynolds, which was a very good thing, as Sally did not like to leave her alone while she went to Lambton. I think they ought to be acknowledged, don’t you?” 

“Well done feet,” Elizabeth supplied on cue. 

“Thank you, ma’am,” Alice replied, bobbing a tidy curtsey. “I should have sent word to the house, I know that now, and shall do so next time my feet know where they are going before my brain arrives.” 

“I should appreciate that. And now you had best run home for tea. Make sure it is your brain directing your feet this time and not the other way around. Cassie and Miss Williams will be waiting for you in the schoolroom. I shall stay with Mrs. Reynolds until Sally returns. Please tell Thompson where I am, Alice.” 

“Yes, Mama. Goodbye, Mrs. Reynolds. I shall come visit again soon.” 

“Goodbye, my dear. Pull the door firmly behind you. It sticks.” 

“I will. Goodbye.” The two ladies watched Alice’s deliberate care in making sure the door was perfectly sealed, the cost of which was several loud bangs against the frame. 

“My goodness, she is such a delightful child,” Mrs. Reynolds laughed, “and so very talented.” 

“Delightful, perhaps, but she is also the most incurable troublemaker of the lot. Sampling the decanters! At her age!”  

Mrs. Reynolds nodded meaningfully. “She is a perfect little imp and, were I still in service, would certainly prove a daily trial, but as it is, she is my greatest diversion. Fortunately, it is now Mrs. Heydon’s province to clean up her messes and mine to hand out sweets and treats. I am enjoying my retirement, Mrs. Darcy.” 

Elizabeth took the good lady’s hand gently within her own. “You have earned it, Mrs. Reynolds. Now we just need to get you feeling more the thing. We should miss you, but a few months of sea air might prove very beneficial. What do you know of Cromer?”

Elizabeth may have grown into the perfect mistress of her domain, but she has not completely given up her love of a sharp retort, especially when one is well deserved:

Thompson opened the door and announced, “Lady Catherine de Bourgh, ma’am!” 

The entire family rose to their feet as their formidable relation entered the room. Even dressed for travel she was intimidating in her magnificence, and she showed almost nothing of her impressive age. The Darcy children often speculated amongst themselves about just how old she really was. The consensus was somewhere between seventy and ninety, but she showed no more signs of infirmity now than she had when Bennet was a boy. 

“Darcy,” she barked. “Elizabeth, children. I have come to assist with Eleanor’s ball. Someone has to make sure she knows what she is about.” Her voice boomed about the room. A slight tendency towards deafness (which Lady Catherine refused to acknowledge) had escalated her speaking voice, never quiet, to a near shout. 

“Welcome, Lady Catherine,” Elizabeth said with a tense smile. “How thoughtful of you to come all this way.” 

Lady Catherine nodded in agreement. “It was a great deal of trouble, but I knew you would have need of my guidance.” She glanced about the room and landed upon Bennet and Ellie. “Bennet,” she yelled, “you may give me your seat. I want to talk to your sister.” Ellie thought her stare was every bit as vicious as a vulture’s while it waited for its next meal to die.  

“I can assure you, Ellie is perfectly prepared for her role next week,” Elizabeth went on. “She was Mrs. Drummond’s favorite student when she was with her, and she has made an excellent impression at all the parties in which she has thus been included.” 

“Nevertheless, and I am sorry to bring up matters you would rather forget, but having never been through the ordeal of formally entering society as a young lady yourself, Elizabeth, you cannot offer the caliber of advice only one who has been through it can provide.”

“I accept your apology,” replied Elizabeth. Lady Catherine glared at her in return.

And while romance is not the center of this story, the undiminished love between husband and wife permeates Pemberley, nonetheless:

It was the supper dance when Mr. Darcy caught up with his wife, who had been fully engaged in her duties as hostess, and pulled her onto the dance floor to waltz. For a few precious moments, the Darcys were able to forget everyone else in the room. It was just the two of them, still as in love as when they first declared it, yet far more deeply connected by the many years of shared experience and the children who were living embodiments of their bond. No one watching them could mistake the strength of their attachment. Theirs was a marriage much discussed in society at large and held up as an example of what might be possible, if you should ever be so fortunate as to find your heart’s true mate.

Readers should approach Darcy in Wonderland with every expectation of adventure, whimsy, and humor, but I hope they won’t forget, as I never did when writing, that none of this future would be possible without the potency of the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. Join me to see how they built upon this foundation to create an exemplary family life, full of passion, laughter, and love.

It’s been a pleasure, Anna! Thank you so much for participating in the blog tour.

Thank you, Alexa, for being my guest today. Congratulations on the new release! I hope everyone loves the book as much as I did!

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About Darcy in Wonderland

Twinkle, twinkle, amber cross!
For a chain, it’s at a loss.
Heavy links or simple loop,
Do not dunk it in your soup.

The worlds of beloved authors collide as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen’s immortal hero, finds himself thrust into the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.

Many years have passed since Elizabeth Bennet became mistress of Pemberley, and the Darcys’ six children stand testament to their enduring love. As the eldest prepare to enter the world, Alice, the youngest and most intrepid of the brood, ensures that life at Pemberley never grows dull. Her curious mind and penchant for mischief often prove trying, but never more so than when her father follows her down a mysterious rabbit hole, disrupting his orderly world in ways never before imagined. A treat for the young and the old, Darcy in Wonderland is both an adventure and homage to two of literature’s greatest minds.

Check out Darcy in Wonderland on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Alexa Adams

A devoted reader of Jane Austen since her childhood, Alexa Adams is the author of Darcy in Wonderland, The Madness of Mr. Darcy, Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice (First Impressions, Second Glances, and Holidays at Pemberley), Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid, Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling, Becoming Mrs. Norris, and the short story collection And Who Can be in Doubt of What Followed?: The Novels of Jane Austen Continued. Alexa is an American expat living in Switzerland with her husband and daughter. She blogs about Austen and Austenesque literature at alexaadams.blogspot.com, is a contributing member of AustenAuthors.net, and a founding member of the Jane Austen Society of Switzerland.

Visit Alexa at:

alexaadams.blogspot.com

austenauthors.net

www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexaAdams

www.facebook.com/ElegantExtracts

twitter.com/ElegantExtracts

Learn more about the illustrator at www.wiedemannillustrations.com

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Giveaway

Alexa is generously offering a winner’s choice giveaway of Darcy in Wonderland (paperback or ebook), open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 20, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I am delighted to welcome Ellen Marie Wiseman to Diary of an Eccentric today to share an excerpt from her latest novel, The Life She Was Given, which I will be reviewing here soon. I fell in love with Ellen’s writing when she offered me a copy of The Plum Tree, which made my “Best of 2012” list. I’m woefully behind in reading her later releases, but hopefully I can catch up soon. In the meantime, let’s give Ellen a warm welcome to celebrate her latest novel, out today.

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An excerpt from The Life She Was Given, courtesy of Ellen Marie Wiseman

Chapter One

Lilly

 

July 1931

Blackwood Manor Horse Farm

Dobbin’s Corners

 

 

Nine-year-old Lilly Blackwood stood in the attic dormer of Blackwood Manor for what felt like the thousandth time, wishing the window would open so she could smell the outdoors. Tomorrow was her birthday and she couldn’t think of a better present. Sure, Daddy would bring her a new dress and another book when he came home from Pennsylvania, but it had rained earlier and she wanted to know if the outside air felt different than the inside air. She wondered if raindrops made everything feel soft and cool, the way water did when she took a sponge bath. Or did the outside feel warm and sticky, like the air inside her room? She had asked Momma a hundred times to change the window so it would open, and to take the swirly metal off the outside so it would be easier to see out, but as usual, Momma wouldn’t listen. If Momma knew Daddy let her play in another part of the attic when she was at church, Daddy would be in big trouble. Even bigger trouble than for teaching her how to read and for giving her a cat on her third birthday. Lilly sighed, picked up her telescope off the sill, and put it to her eye. At least it was summertime and she didn’t have to scrape ice off the glass.

Daddy called this time of day twilight, and the outside looked painted in only two colors—green and blue. The row of pine trees on the other side of the barn, past the fields where the horses played, looked like the felt Lilly used for doll blankets. Shadows were everywhere, growing darker by the minute.

Lilly skimmed the edge of the woods, looking for the deer she saw yesterday. There was the crooked willow tree. There was the rock next to the bush that turned red in the winter. There was the broken log next to the stone fence. There was the— She stopped and swung the telescope back to the fence. Something looked different on the other side of the woods, near the train tracks that cut through the faraway meadow. She took the telescope away from her eye, blinked, then looked through it again and gasped. Air squeaked in her chest, like it always did when she was excited or upset.

A string of blue, red, yellow, and green lights—like the ones Daddy put above her bed at Christmastime—hung above a giant glowing house made out of something that looked like cloth. More lights surrounded other houses that looked like fat, little ghosts. Lilly couldn’t make out the words, but there were signs too, with letters lit up by colored bulbs. Flags hung from tall poles, and a line of yellow lights floated above the railroad tracks. It looked like a stopped train. A really long one.

Lilly put down the telescope, waited for her lungs to stop whistling, then went over to her bookcase and pulled out her favorite picture book. She flipped through the pages until she found what she was looking for—a colorful drawing of a striped tent surrounded by wagons, horses, elephants, and clowns. She hurried back to the window to compare the shape of the tent in the book to the glowing house on the other side of the trees.

She was right.

It was a circus.

And she could see it.

Normally, the only things outside her window were horses and fields, and Daddy and his helper working on the white fences or yellow horse barn. Sometimes, Momma walked across the grass to the barn, her long blond hair trailing behind her like a veil. Other times, trucks pulled into the barn driveway and Daddy’s helper put horses in and out of trailers or unloaded bags and hay bales. Once, two men in baggy clothes—Daddy called them bums—walked up the driveway and Daddy’s helper came out of the barn with a shotgun. If she was lucky, deer came out of the woods, or raccoons scurried along the fence toward the feed shed, or a train zoomed along the tracks. And if she put her ear to the window, the chug of the train’s engine or the shriek of the whistle came through the glass.

But now there was a circus outside her window. A real, live circus! For the first time in her life, she was seeing something different that wasn’t in a picture book. It made her happy, but a little bit mad at herself too. If she hadn’t been reading all afternoon, she might have seen the train stop to unload. She could have watched the tents go up and caught sight of the elephants and zebras and clowns. Now it was too dark to see anything but lights.

She put down the book and counted the boards around the window. Sometimes counting made her feel better. One, two, three, four, five. It didn’t help. She couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d missed. She pressed her ear against the glass. Maybe she could hear the ringleader’s cries or the circus music. The only thing she heard was air squeaking in her chest and her heartbeat going fast.

On the windowsill, her cat, Abby, woke up and blinked. Lilly wrapped an arm around the orange tabby and pulled her close, burying her nose in the animal’s soft fur. Abby was her best friend and the smartest cat in the world. She could stand on her hind legs to give kisses and lift her front paw to shake. She even jumped up on Lilly’s bed and got down when told.

“I bet Momma will go to the circus,” Lilly said. “She doesn’t have to worry about people being afraid of her.”

The cat purred.

What would it be like to see an elephant in person? Lilly wondered. What would it feel like to touch its wrinkly skin and look into its big brown eyes? What about riding a pink and white horse on a carousel? Or walking among other people, eating peanuts and cotton candy? What about watching a real, live lion perform?

As far back as Lilly could remember, there had been times at night after her light was out when she snuggled in her bed, her mind racing with thoughts of leaving her room and going downstairs. She’d read enough books to know there was more than one floor in a house, and she imagined sneaking across the attic, finding a staircase, making her way through the bottom floors of Blackwood Manor, and walking out the front door. She imagined standing with her feet on the earth, taking a deep breath, and for the first time in her life, smelling something besides old wood, cobwebs, and warm dust.

One of her favorite games during Daddy’s weekly visits was guessing the different smells on his clothes. Sometimes he smelled like horses and hay, sometimes shoe polish or smoke, sometimes baking bread or—what did he call that stuff that was supposed to be a mix of lemons and cedar trees? Cologne? Whatever it was, it smelled good.

Daddy had told her about the outside world and she had read about it in books, but she had no idea how grass felt between her toes, or how tree bark felt in her hand. She knew what flowers smelled like because Daddy brought her a bouquet every spring, but she wanted to walk through a field of dandelions and daisies, to feel dirt and dew on her bare feet. She wanted to hear birds singing and the sound of the wind. She wanted to feel a breeze and the sun on her skin. She’d read everything she could on plants and animals, and could name them all if given the chance. But besides Abby and the mice she saw running along the baseboard in the winter, she’d never seen a real animal up close.

Her other favorite game was picking a place in her book of maps and reading everything she could about it, then planning a trip while she fell asleep, deciding what she would do and see when she got there. Her favorite place was Africa, where she pictured herself running with the lions and elephants and giraffes. Sometimes she imagined breaking the dormer window, crawling out on the roof, climbing down the side of the house, and sneaking over to the barn to see the horses. Because from everything she had seen and read, they were her favorite animals. Besides cats, of course. Not only were horses strong and beautiful, but they pulled wagons and sleighs and plows. They let people ride on their backs and could find their way home if they got lost. Daddy said Blackwood Manor’s horses were too far away from the attic window to tell who was who, so Lilly made up her own names for them—Gypsy, Eagle, Cinnamon, Magic, Chester, Samantha, Molly, and Candy. How she would have loved to get close to them, to touch their manes and ride through the fields on their backs. If only it weren’t for those stupid swirly bars outside her window that Momma said were there for her own good. Then she remembered Momma’s warning, and as quickly as they started, her dreams turned to nightmares.

“The bars are there to protect you,” Momma said. “If someone got in, they’d be afraid of you and they’d try to hurt you.”

When Lilly asked why anyone would be afraid of her, Momma said it was because she was a monster, an abomination. Lilly didn’t know what an abomination was, but it sounded bad. Her shoulders dropped and she sighed in the stillness of her room. There would be no circus for her. Not now, not ever. There would be no getting out of the attic either. The only way she would see the world was through her books. Daddy said the outside world was not as wonderful as she thought, and Lilly should be happy she had a warm bed and food to eat. A lot of people didn’t have a house or a job, and they had to stand in line for bread and soup. He told her a story about banks and money and some kind of crash, but she didn’t understand it. And it didn’t make her feel better anyway.

She gathered Abby in her arms and sat on her iron bed tucked beneath a wallpapered nook with a rounded ceiling. Her bedside lamp cast long shadows across the plank floor, meaning it would be dark soon and it was time to turn off the light. She didn’t want to forget again and have Momma teach her another lesson. Momma had warned her a hundred times if anyone saw her light and found her up there they would take her away and she’d never see her or Daddy or Abby again. But one night last week, Lilly started a new book and forgot.

She put the cat on the bed and examined the scars on her fingers. Daddy was right, the lotion made them feel better. But oh, how the flame of Momma’s lantern had burned!

“Spare the rod and spoil the child,” Momma said.

Lilly wanted to ask if the Bible said anything about sparing the fire, but didn’t dare. She was supposed to know what the Bible said.

“I wonder what Momma would do if she found out I read the books from Daddy instead of that boring old Bible?” she asked Abby. The cat rubbed its face on Lilly’s arm, then curled into a ball and went back to sleep.

Lilly took the Bible from the nightstand—she didn’t dare put it anywhere else—moved the bookmark in a few pages, and set it back down. Momma would check to see how much reading she had done this week and if the bookmark hadn’t moved, Lilly would be in big trouble. According to Momma, the Holy Bible and the crucifix on the wall above her bed were the only things needed to live a happy life.

Everything else in the room came from Daddy—the wicker table set up for a tea party, complete with a lace doily, silver serving tray, and china cups. The matching rocking chair and the teddy bear sitting on the blue padded stool next to her wardrobe. The dollhouse filled with miniature furniture and straight-backed dolls. The model farm animals lined up on a shelf above her bookcase, all facing the same way, as if about to break into song. Three porcelain dolls with lace dresses in a wicker baby pram, one with eyes that opened and closed. And, of course, her bookcase full of books. It seemed, for a while, like Daddy would give her everything­—until she read Snow White and asked for a mirror.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when she was certain everyone was asleep and there was nothing but blackness outside her window, she turned on her light and studied her reflection in the glass. All she saw was a blurry, ghost-like mask looking back her, the swirly metal outside coiling across her skin like snakes. She stared at her white reflection and touched her forehead and nose and cheeks, trying to find a growth or a missing part, but nothing stuck out or caved in. When she asked Daddy what was wrong with her, he said she was beautiful to him and that was all that mattered. But his eyes looked funny when he said it, and she didn’t think he was telling the truth. He’d be in big trouble if Momma found out because Momma said lying was a sin.

Good thing Lilly would never tell on Daddy. He was the one who taught her how to read and write, and how to add and subtract numbers. He was the one who decorated the walls of her room with rose-covered wallpaper and brought her new dresses and shoes when she got too big for the old ones. He was the one who brought Abby food and let Lilly in the other part of the attic so she could walk and stretch. One time, he even brought up a wind-up record player and tried to teach her the Charleston and tango, but she got too tired and they had to stop. She loved the music and begged him to leave the record player in her room. But he took it back downstairs because Momma would be mad if she found it.

Momma brought food and necessities, not presents. She came into Lilly’s room every morning—except for the times she forgot—with a tray of toast, milk, eggs, sandwiches, apples, and cookies, to be eaten over the rest of the day. She brought Lilly soap and clean towels, and reminded her to pray before every meal. She stood by the door every night with a ring of keys in her hands and waited for Lilly to kneel by her bed to ask the Lord to forgive for her sins, and to thank Him for giving her a mother who took such good care of her. Other than that, Momma never came in her room just to talk or have fun. She never said “I love you” like Daddy did. Lilly would never forget her seventh birthday, when her parents argued outside her door.

“You’re spoiling her with all those presents,” Momma said. “It’s sinful how much you give her.”

“It’s not hurting anyone,” Daddy said.

“Nevertheless, we need to stop spending money.”

“Books aren’t that expensive.”

“Maybe not, but what if she starts asking questions? What if she wants to come downstairs or go outside? Are you going to say no?”

At first, Daddy didn’t say anything and Lilly’s heart lifted. Maybe he would take her outside after all. Then he cleared his throat and said, “What else is she supposed to do in there? The least we can do is try to give her a normal birthday. It’s not her fault she—”

Momma gasped. “It’s not her fault? Then whose is it? Mine?”

“That’s not what I was going to say,” Daddy said. “It’s not anyone’s fault. Sometimes these things just happen.”

“Well, if you had listened to me from the beginning, we wouldn’t . . .” She made a funny noise, like her words got stuck in her throat.

“She’s still our daughter, Cora. Other than that one thing, she’s perfectly normal.”

“There’s nothing normal about what’s on the other side of that door,” Momma said, her voice cracking.

“That’s not true,” Daddy said. “I talked to Dr. Hillman and he said—”

“Oh, dear Lord . . . tell me you didn’t! How could you betray me like that?” Momma was crying now.

“There, there, my darling. I didn’t tell anyone. I was just asking Dr. Hillman if he had ever seen . . .”

Momma’s sobs drowned out his words and her footsteps hurried across the attic.

“Darling, wait!” Daddy said.

The next day, Lilly quit praying before every meal, but she had not told Momma that. Since then, she had disobeyed her mother in a hundred little ways. Momma said it was wicked to look at her naked body and made Lilly close her eyes during her weekly sponge bath until she was old enough to wash herself. Now Lilly looked down at her milk-colored arms and legs when she bathed, examining her thin white torso and pink nipples. She felt ashamed afterward, but she wasn’t being bad on purpose. She just wanted to know what made her a monster. The only thing she knew for sure was that her parents looked different than she did. Momma had curly blond hair and rosy skin; Daddy had a black mustache, black hair, and tan skin; but her skin was powder-white, her long, straight hair the color and texture of spider webs. It was like God forgot to give her a color. Is that what made her a monster? Or was it something else?

Now, hoping she’d be able to see more of the circus tomorrow, she changed into her nightclothes, climbed into bed, and switched off the light. Then she realized Momma hadn’t come up to make sure she said her prayers.

Lilly curled up next to Abby and pulled her close. “She’s probably at the circus,” she said, closing her eyes.

***

The next night, after Lilly first saw the circus outside her window, the rattle of a key in her door startled her awake. She sat up and reached for her bedside lamp, then stopped, her fingers on the switch. It was the middle of the night and if Momma saw the light, it would mean big trouble. Maybe Momma had found out she’d spent the entire day watching the circus through her telescope instead of straightening her room and reading the Bible. The circus looked tiny through the end of her telescope and she couldn’t make out every detail, but no matter what Momma did to her, it was worth seeing the elephants and giraffes being taken into the big top. It was worth seeing the crowds of people outside the tents and the parade of wagons and clowns and costumed performers. It had been the most exciting day of her life, and nothing was going to ruin it. She took her hand away from the lamp and, one at a time, touched her fingers with her thumbs. One, two, three, four. The door opened and Momma slipped inside carrying an oil lantern. Lilly watched her enter and her belly trembled. Momma never came into her room this late. At the end of the bed, Abby lifted her furry head, surprised to see Momma too.

Momma—Daddy said her real name was Coralline—was a tall, pretty woman, and she always wore her long blond hair pinned back on the sides. Her only jewelry was the wedding band on her left hand, and she dressed in simple skirts and sensible shoes in the name of modesty and for the glory of God. Daddy said Momma put on her best dresses and furs when she went out to important dinners and parties, but only because that was what everyone in the outside world expected. Lilly didn’t understand why Momma changed what she looked like, but Daddy said that was okay. One time, Daddy showed her a picture of Momma all dressed up and Lilly thought it was someone else.

Daddy liked to tell the story of how he had first spotted Momma between the barn and the round pen, sitting on a barrel watching the horses play in the field. Momma’s father, a retired Pentecostal minister who always dreamed of raising horses, had come to Blackwood Manor Horse farm to buy a stallion. Daddy thought Momma was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. But it was six months before she would talk to him, and another six before she agreed to have dinner. For some reason, Momma’s parents didn’t trust Daddy. But eventually Momma and Daddy were walking hand in hand through the apple orchards; then they got married. When Daddy got to that part of the story, his face always changed to sad and he said Momma had a hard time growing up.

Now, Momma came into Lilly’s room in a flowery dress and pink heels. Her lips were painted red and she was wearing a yellow hat. Lilly couldn’t stop staring. She had never seen Momma dressed like that, not in person anyway. Momma’s cheeks were flushed and she was breathing hard, as if she had run up the stairs.

Lilly’s stomach turned over. Daddy was supposed to come back from Pennsylvania tomorrow. He promised birthday presents first thing. But he had told her a long time ago that she didn’t need to worry about being left alone when he and Momma went out because his helper was always downstairs in case someone called about a horse. If “something” happened to Daddy and Momma, the helper would read a letter in Daddy’s desk. He would find Lilly in the attic, and he would know what to do. Lilly wasn’t sure what “something” was, but she knew it was bad. What if Momma was here to tell her “something” happened to Daddy and he wasn’t coming back?

Lilly touched her tongue to each tooth and counted, waiting for Momma to speak. One, two, three, four . . .

Then Momma smiled.

Momma never smiled.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” Momma said.

Lilly blinked. She didn’t know what to say. Daddy brought surprises, not Momma. “Where’s Daddy?” she managed.

“Get dressed,” Momma said. “And hurry up, we don’t have much time.”

Lilly pushed back her covers and got out of bed. Abby sat up and stretched her front legs, treading the blanket with her claws. “Is someone coming to see me?” Lilly said.

Besides her parents, no one had ever been inside her room. One winter she got sick and Daddy wanted to call a doctor, but Momma refused because the doctor would take her away and put her “some place.” Instead Daddy spent three days wiping Lilly’s forehead and applying mustard powder and warm dressings to her chest. She would never forget the sad look on his face when she woke up and said, “Daddy? What’s ‘some place’?”

“It’s a hospital for sick people,” Daddy said. “But don’t worry, you’re staying right here with us.”

Now, Momma watched Lilly take her dress from the back of the rocking chair. Lilly’s legs felt wobbly. What if someone was coming to take her “some place”?

Momma chuckled. “No, Lilly, no one is coming to see you.”

Lilly glanced at Momma, her stomach getting wobbly too. Momma never laughed. Maybe she had been drinking the strange liquid Daddy sometimes brought up to her room in a silver container. Lilly didn’t know what the drink was, but it made his eyes glassy and gave his breath a funny smell. Sometimes it made him laugh more than usual. What did he call it? Whiskey? No, that was impossible. Momma would never drink whiskey. Drinking alcohol was a sin.

“Why do I have to get dressed, Momma?”

“Today’s your birthday, remember?”

Lilly frowned. Momma didn’t care about birthdays. “Yes,” she managed.

“And I’m sure you saw the circus outside.”

Lilly nodded.

“Well, that’s where we’re going.”

Lilly stared at Momma, her mouth open. Her legs shook harder, and her arms too. “But . . . what . . . what if someone sees me?”

Momma smiled again. “Don’t worry, circus performers are used to seeing people like you. And no one else will be there but us. Because against my better judgment, your father insisted on paying the circus owner to put on a special show for you.”

Goose bumps popped up on Lilly’s arms. Something felt bad, but she didn’t know what. She glanced at Abby, as if the cat would know the answer. Abby looked back at her with curious eyes. “Daddy said he wasn’t coming back until tomorrow,” Lilly said.

Momma smiled, but her eyes changed. The top half of her face looked like it did when Lilly was in big trouble. The bottom half looked like someone Lilly had never seen before. “He came home early,” Momma said.

“Then where is he?” Lilly said. “He always comes to see me when he gets home.”

“He’s waiting for us over at the circus. Now hurry up!”

“Why didn’t he come get me instead of you?” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Lilly wished she hadn’t said them.

Momma walked toward her and her hand rose with a sudden speed. It struck Lilly across the jaw and she fell to the floor. Abby leapt sideways on the bed and crouched next to the wall, her ears back.

“You ungrateful spawn of the devil!” Momma yelled. “How many times have I told you not to question me?”

“I’m sorry, Momma,” Lilly cried.

Momma thumped her with the side of her foot. “What did I do to deserve this curse?” she hissed. “Now get on your knees and pray.”

“But, Momma . . .” Lilly’s sobs were too strong. She couldn’t get up and she could barely breathe. She crawled to her bed with her hair hanging in her face and pulled herself up, air squeaking in her chest.

“Bow your head and ask for forgiveness,” Momma said.

Lilly put her hands together beneath her chin and counted her fingers by pressing them against each other. One, two, three, four. “Oh Lord,” she said, pushing the words out between wheezes. Five, six, seven, eight. “Please forgive me for questioning my momma, and for all the other ways I have made her life so difficult.” Nine, ten. “I promise to walk the straight and narrow from here on out. Amen.”

“Now get dressed,” Momma said. “We don’t have much time.”

Lilly got off her knees and put on her undergarments with shaky hands, then took off her nightgown and pulled her play dress on over her head. Her side hurt where Momma kicked her and snot ran from her nose.

“Not that one,” Momma said. “Find something better.”

Lilly took off the play dress and half-walked, half-stumbled over to the wardrobe. She pulled out her favorite outfit, a yellow satin dress with a lace collar and ruffled sleeves. “Is this one all right?” she said, holding up the dress.

“That will do. Find your best shoes too. And brush your hair.”

Lilly put on the dress and tied the belt behind her back. She brushed her hair—one, two, three, four, five, six strokes—then sat on the bed to put on her patent leather shoes. Abby edged across the covers and rubbed against Lilly’s arm. Lilly gave her a quick pet, then got up and stood in the middle of the room, her ribs aching and her heart thumping. Momma opened the door and stood back, waiting for Lilly to go through it.

Lilly had waited for this moment her entire life. But now, more than anything, she wanted to stay in the attic. She didn’t want to go outside. She didn’t want to go to the circus. Her chest grew tighter and tighter. She could barely breathe.

“Let’s go,” Momma said, her voice hard. “We don’t have all night.”

Lilly wrapped her arms around herself and started toward the door, gulping air into her lungs. Then she stopped and looked back at Abby, who was watching from the foot of her bed.

“That cat will be here when you get back,” Momma said. “Now move it.”

Thank you, Ellen, for being my guest today and for sharing the first chapter of your novel. I hope you’ll visit again soon!

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About The Life She Was Given

From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets—beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

Check out The Life She Was Given on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

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About the Author

Ellen Marie Wiseman

A first-generation German American, Ellen Marie Wiseman discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in NYS. She is a bestselling author whose novels have been translated into seventeen languages. Her debut novel, THE PLUM TREE, is loosely based on her mother’s stories about growing up in Germany during the chaos of WWII. Bookbub named THE PLUM TREE One of Thirteen Books To Read if You Loved ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE. Ellen’s second novel, WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND, was named a Huffington Post Best Books of Summer 2015. Her third novel, COAL RIVER, was called “one of the most “unputdownable” books of 2015″ by The Historical Novel Review. Her fourth novel, THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN, will be released in July 2017. She lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and two spoiled Shih-tzus, Izzy and Bella. When she’s not busy writing, she loves spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Connect with Ellen Marie Wiseman via Facebook | Twitter | Website

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Giveaway

Ellen is generously offering one copy of The Life She Was Given to my readers. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 6, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Today marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and to celebrate her life and her novels, my guest today is Rose Servitova, with an excerpt from The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence Between Mr. Collins & Mr. Bennet.

Please give her a warm welcome:

I love minor characters and believe they add so much to novels. What I loved about writing this book, is the licence it gave me to allow Austen’s brilliant characters such as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh, Mary Bennet and Mrs Philips as well as Mr Bennet and Mr Collins more ‘air-time’ to develop and become more tangible. It also enabled me to introduce new, comical minor characters such as the charismatic Reverend Smellie, the eccentric inventor Mr Lucas, the carriage-driving Baroness Herbert and Reverend Green (who walks an invisible dog).

This excerpt is taken from the second chapter of The Longbourn Letters – The Correspondence between Mr Collins & Mr Bennet, when the plot of Pride and Prejudice is coming to an end (Lady Catherine’s fury at Darcy and Elizabeth’s engagement sparks a sudden visit by Mr and Mrs Collins to Lucas Lodge). The relationship between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet, although in its infancy, is on the cusp of taking on, as it does for the remainder of the novel, a life of its own.

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An excerpt from The Longbourn Letters, courtesy of Rose Servitova

Lucas Lodge

11th October, 1792

 

My Dear Sir,

We have just now arrived at Lucas Lodge and wish to let you know of our unexpected arrival into the Hertfordshire countryside and your neighbourhood. Charlotte, in her condition, was eager to spend time with her family, while her health permits it but, in truth, we are moved more speedily hither due to a matter of great concern to me.

Lady Catherine was rendered so outraged by the news of her nephew’s engagement and left lose all her disappointment and fury that much of it fell on my own head. She stated that my being Elizabeth’s cousin and Charlotte as her childhood friend were responsible for throwing the lovers together and, indeed, almost conspiring against her. In such a state of trepidation, we felt it safest to remove ourselves immediately to Lucas Lodge to take cover and wait for the worst of the storm to pass, though I must confess, that it may take some time. I should never wish to witness her ladyship in such a distressed state again and pray that it shall not happen for the remainder of my residence at Hunsford.

I can only wonder that her deep disappointment perhaps stemmed from not soon calling Darcy her own son, adding vinegar to the wound, for it was certain in her mind that fate would have it so. Indeed, I too am bitterly disappointed for my vision of their wedding ceremony is crushed and there is no occasion now fitting my great passages. I shall bear it as best I can but I must confess I am perplexed that you did not heed my warning and part the lovers until a more convenient route be found. One wonders how he could be thus tempted to act in such a rash and unguided manner when he could have had Rosings in addition to Pemberley. I will, however, put aside my displeasure to add that I sincerely wish them well and hope that, although it would be impossible for Lady Catherine to degrade herself by attending the wedding ceremony, both Charlotte and I would be flattered to be present. I believe I heard from the servants that, not one, but two, pineapples have been ordered for the celebrations of this momentous occasion.

We encountered Baroness Herbert, her dog and carriage on the final stretch of our journey. Indeed she does move at alarming speed, displaying a wildness of character quite unbefitting a member of the aristocracy. 

We will no doubt, sir, be delighted to see you within the next day or two.

With compliments to your wife and daughters,

 

William Collins

 

Postscript: I am all astonishment with regards your prize-winning blackcurrants for when I first visited Longbourn last year, I shook my head with regret that the bush was in such a sorry state. I will not tell you, sir, that it was dead but it was certainly not alive. Your lettuce, which I momentarily mistook for cabbage, existed for the sole purpose of feeding the local population of rabbits and slugs. That the blackcurrant bush not only survived but went on to win first prize with its crop is a miracle, cousin, of biblical proportions. I myself have enjoyed some little success at the Westerham Fair, third prize in the categories in which I entered, but as the first and second prizes were all won by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, I was deeply humbled and delighted to witness my name listed next to hers in the winners logbook. In her current fury, however, all that is forgot.

 

 

Longbourn,

11th October, 1792

 

My Dear Sir,

I congratulate you, for you must be delighted. Elizabeth’s impending marriage to Darcy makes you practically a nephew-in-law of Lady Catherine in all but name. Little did you think when you were casting yourself at her feet as a humble servant that you would one day look her in the eye as an equal and relative? I hope in time, when her fury takes a turn for the better, that she will relish, nay enjoy, the connection as much as we do. Fear not, your wonderful ‘passages’ will get a day out, at some future time. Keep them safe, sir, for you never know when your eloquent passages will be in great demand amongst the upper gentry of this fair land.

May I caution you, sir, not to trouble yourself with rushing to our sides on this visit. We know that you will be tending to the needs of your wife during this delicate time of expectancy and we would not have it on our consciences, if she should need you at Lucas Lodge while you were entertaining us. Yours is a generous spirit and one we must take care not to take advantage of. If we see you within the week, we will consider ourselves most fortunate.

Another reason which would have me delay the pleasure of your company is that you would find us not quite ourselves as wedding preparations have taken over our lives, minds and purses. The weddings will be joined – Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley. The date will soon be fixed and if you hold tight at Lucas Lodge, you most probably will be in attendance, for these lovers have no patience.

As you can imagine, Mrs Bennet has already made her way to the draper in Meryton for the sole purpose of returning to inform me that there is nothing therein fit for the clothing of one who will be soon the mother-in-law of both gentlemen. She must, she declares, absolutely must, visit the best warehouses in London in the company of her sister-in-law, Mrs Gardiner. I encourage it, and choose to forget the cost, for the few days of peace it will afford me. The older I get, it seems, the greater value I put on my time rather than my money. Mrs Bennet will take our daughters with her and so, I will once again be free to roam my house without interruption and, temporarily at least, become the head of the house once more. Only last week, while searching for an old map of the West Indies, I entered the back room, wherein the lady of the house occasionally retires when she has one of her headaches, to discover I had not set foot in it for over a year and it had new wallpaper, a bureau and armchair which I had never seen in the course of my life. A veritable stranger, I have become, in my own home!

I will send for you to join me for dinner on one of these quiet evenings, when I have the house to myself and we can do as we please without offence to any other. It will also give me the opportunity to show you the first prize ribbon which my blackcurrants won for me and we can marvel together at this miraculous happening.

Your cousin,

 

Henry Bennet

Thank you, Rose, for sharing this delightful excerpt with me and my readers. I can’t wait to read the book!

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About The Longbourn Letters

Where Pride and Prejudice ends, a new relationship begins.

Good-humoured but detached and taciturn, Mr Bennet is not given to intimacy. Largely content with his life at Longbourn, he spends his evenings in the solitude of his library, accompanied only by a glass of port and a good book. But when his cousin, the pompous clergyman Mr Collins, announces his intention to visit, Mr Bennet is curious to meet and appraise the heir to his estate.

Despite Mr Bennet’s initial discouragement, Mr Collins quickly becomes a frequent presence in his life. They correspond regularly, with Mr Collins recounting tales of his follies and scrapes and Mr Bennet taking great pleasure from teasing his unsuspecting friend.

When a rift develops between the men, Mr Bennet is faced with a choice: he must withdraw into isolation once again or acknowledge that Mr Collins has brought something new and rich to his life.

Tender, heart-warming and peppered with disarming humour, The Longbourn Letters reimagines the characters of Pride and Prejudice and perfectly captures the subtleties of human relationships and the power of friendship.

Check out The Longbourn Letters on Goodreads | Amazon

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Book Trailer

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About the Author

Rose Servitova

Irish woman, Rose Servitova, is an award-winning humour writer, event manager and job coach for people with special needs. She has published in a number of literary journals as well as being short-listed in the Fish Flash Fiction Prize and at Listowel Writers Week. Other than PG Wodehouse, Rose is a lifelong fan of Jane Austen. Her first novel, The Longbourn Letters – The Correspondence between Mr Collins & Mr Bennet, described as a ‘literary triumph’, has received international acclaim since its publication earlier this year. Rose is also curating Jane Austen 200 – Limerick, a festival celebrating Limerick’s many links to Austen while nodding at its extensive Georgian heritage through literature, architecture, screen, theatre, fashion, talks and, of course, tea!! Her next novel is in the offing.

Connect with Rose Servitova on Facebook | Twitter | Website

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Giveaway

Rose is generously offering 2 signed paperbacks of The Longbourn Letters, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and tell me how you are celebrating Austen’s life and works or what intrigues you most about this book. This giveaway will close on Monday, July 31, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Today I am so excited to welcome Pamela Lynne to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Surrendering the Past. Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces the book and shares an excerpt with us:

Hello everyone! I am so excited to be here at Diary of an Eccentric today. Thank you, Anna, for hosting me. My new book, Surrendering the Past, released yesterday and it is the first book of The Granville Legacy Series. In the series, we explore family bonds and how they affect us for better or worse. I brought two guests with me today, Jane and Amy Dawson, and their sisterly devotion is one of my favorite things about this book. Below we see a conversation between the two that says so much about their relationship and their roles in their family. I know you will love them as much as I do!

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Amy’s soft admonishment to rise and greet the day only made Jane retreat farther under the covers. The threat to tickle her until she cried, however, had the desired effect, and Jane begrudgingly sat up on the pillows.

“You are a mystery to me, dear sister. How can you be so cheerful after the horrors of last night?”

A gay laugh filled the room, and Jane could not help but smile. Amy could laugh through torture, which was exactly what the previous evening had been.

“If we allowed the discomfort of a night’s dinner party follow us into the next day, we could never hold our heads up. Besides, I know something you do not.”

Jane arched an eyebrow and tried not to smile. “Amy, have you been listening at doors again?”

Returning the gesture with more defensiveness than mischief, Amy replied, “I did overhear something, but it was not on purpose. Uncle and Father’s voices were so loud Mama could have heard them through her wine-induced stupor.”

“Were they arguing?”

“Yes.”

Jane closed her eyes. “About me?”

“I am afraid so. Uncle Carrington is angry at Father for consenting to your engagement.”

“But it was my choice to accept the earl.”

“Yes, but our uncle feels it is too great a sacrifice.” Amy took Jane’s hand. “You do not love him.”

“People do not marry for love, Amy. There are other things to consider. Mama’s manner is vulgar and embarrassing, but her words are true. This marriage will bring good things for our family. We have nothing, Amy, only our charms. But, like Mama says, you and Meg stand a much better chance of marrying well with this connection.”

Amy sighed as she stood and walked to the dressing table. Picking up a brush, she returned to the bed and motioned for her sister to move forward. “It is ridiculous, is it not? As I am now, I am hardly worth noticing, but if a marriage to me might bring an invitation to an earl’s party, then I am suddenly quite attractive!”

Jane smiled as her sister unfastened her braid and began to untangle her blonde locks. She would miss this time with Amy dearly. “You are a wonder no matter whose party you attend. It will take an equally wonderful man to appreciate you. You will now be in more varying society and more likely to find that man. Two things will be required, though: Mama will have to be given a heavy dose of laudanum before she goes out, and you, dear sister, must not provoke handsome gentlemen into arguments.”

Amy blushed. “I do not know what you mean.”

Jane snorted and turned to face her sister. “Yes, you do.”

“I did not provoke anything. I will have you know that if I was, in any way, petulant toward a certain gentleman, it was his fault entirely. He is almost unbearably handsome, rich, intelligent, and showed signs of a keen wit. Of course, I had to be argumentative lest I began to feel ridiculously inferior. The truth of our vast difference in situation must never be acknowledged if I am to maintain any dignity at all.”

Jane’s eyebrow again rose and was joined with an impish half-grin. “I suppose he must have found some charm in your impertinence. He has given you a pet name, has he not? Something from Shakespeare?”

Amy gave Jane a look that let her know she was not fooled by her innocent tone.

“What was it, Caterina, Catherine? Yes, that is it. He called you Kate. You love Shakespeare, so that must have been quite a compliment.”

“You know very well he called me a shrew!”

Jane laughed. “I can tell by the look on your face that you were not at all offended. You know you deserved it.”

Amy fell back on the pillows. “Oh, Jane! I am a shrew. Between Mama and me, what must the earl’s family think of us?”

“I do not think you made a bad impression. Mr. Hale seemed to be amused by your conversation.”

“You mean he was laughing at me.”

“Perhaps a little.”

Amy rose and handed Jane the brush so she might finish her own hair. “All of this has distracted me and threatens to sour my mood. I had something to tell you, remember?”

“I am listening.”

“Father is taking Mother back to Surry after breakfast. They will remain there until the wedding.”

Jane’s eyes grew wide with hope. “Oh? But will you be staying?”

“I am. Uncle convinced Father it would be better for you if Aunt and I were the ones assisting you with preparations. I do not think he has told Mama yet. The house is too quiet.”

“Oh, thank God. I am probably a terrible daughter to be saying so, but I am so happy she is leaving. I simply cannot bear her with any good humor the way I used to.”

“We are terrible together then, for I have never been able to bear her. Oh, Jane! What am I to do without you?”

“Amy, would you consider coming with me? After I am married, I mean. Will you come live with me?”

“Are you certain? Would you not wish to establish yourself as a wife first?”

“No, it will be easier for me if you are there.”

“Very well. If Father allows it, I will come.”

Jane sighed with relief. “Thank you. I will discuss it with Lord Litchfield this morning. Oh, I feel so much better now. Perhaps Meg can come in a few years, as well.”

“It would be good for her to spend time out of Surry and away from Mama. Our mother just cannot understand Meg’s gentle but inquisitive nature. She needs more varying society so her great gifts might grow.”

“You see; that is precisely what I want for both of you. Mama will calm once she knows our situations are secure, and Papa will not have to worry over money as much once I am gone. This marriage will bring about good things for our family, I am sure of it.”

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Unfortunately, the road to happily ever after will not be as smooth as Jane hopes. Surrendering the Past is available at Amazon and will be up at other vendors next week. Thank you all for visiting and thanks again, Anna, for hosting. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win one of three prizes! Happy reading, everyone!

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Thank YOU, Pamela, for being my guest today and for offering such a generous giveaway! Congratulations on the new release, and please come back again soon!

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About Surrendering the Past

In a world of honor and obligation, falling in love can be a dangerous game. Captain Richard Granville has returned to London after serving the Crown in perilous missions fighting Napoleon’s army. Bone weary and distrustful of all around him, the captivating Jane Dawson awakens his long dormant desire for more than a solitary existence. When he learns she is betrothed to his father, the conniving and dangerous Earl of Litchfield, shadows of the past descend upon Richard, bringing along memories of a tortuous childhood and his failure to protect the person he had loved most.

Jane Dawson would pay any price to renew her family’s happiness, but is the cost of marrying Lord Litchfield too high? A woman of virtue and honor, she cannot break a promise once given, especially when doing so would ruin those she seeks to protect. But can she ignore the connection she feels to the wild soldier who understands both her duty and her heart?

Follow the men of the Granville family in this suspenseful Regency romance series as they discover that their family legacy is much darker than they realized, and that the future holds treasures they can only grasp by surrendering the past.

Check out Surrendering the Past on Goodreads | Amazon

Connect with Pamela Lynne on Facebook | website

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I’m delighted to welcome Cassandra Grafton back to Diary of an Eccentric. Today she will be sharing an excerpt from A Quest for Mr. Darcy, which will be released tomorrow, and a very generous giveaway that fans of Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy will not want to miss!

First, here’s the blurb for A Quest for Mr. Darcy:

Fitzwilliam Darcy is on a quest. Convinced he is over his foolish infatuation with Elizabeth Bennet, he returns from a year of travelling with a plan, both to protect the estate of which he is guardian and to ensure his sister’s happiness: he intends to do his duty and secure a wife at the earliest opportunity.

Duty; a path from which Darcy knows he should never have been diverted. Duty was safe and nothing would persuade him from it a second time.

Soon restored to his home in Derbyshire, Darcy puts his quest in motion, preparing to welcome guests from Town, one of whom is the suitably eligible young lady he has earmarked as his future wife.

But what of the Bennets of Longbourn? What befell them in Darcy’s absence from England? And what of the new tenants on his estate named Bennet? Is his path fated to cross with Elizabeth’s once more?

With the addition of his friend, Bingley’s, mischievous twin younger sisters, letters from a stranger and a shadowy figure lurking in the grounds of Pemberley, Darcy’s life is about to be turned upside down

Can he remain steady to his purpose, or will his carefully laid plans soon be in tatters as the rigid protection he has placed around his heart begins to falter?

Check out A Quest for Mr. Darcy on Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Please enjoy this excerpt from A Quest for Mr. Darcy, courtesy of Cassandra Grafton

‘As you can see from the story blurb, Darcy has been travelling for a year and is now back in London set upon his quest to find a wife. This excerpt is from Chapter Three.’ ~ Cassandra

Chapter Three

Once he had broken his fast the following morning, Darcy repaired to his study where he found it difficult to settle, eyeing the small pile of still unopened post on his blotter unenthusiastically. His gaze drifted to the silver salver beside it. He had been back little more than four and twenty hours before calling cards were being handed in by those anxious to reinstate their connection with him. Lifting the card on the top, he studied the embossed name thoughtfully, then turned it over to read the few words penned on the reverse.

Latimer was keen to see him, and Darcy suspected the purpose behind his prompt presentation of his card: his daughter must remain unshackled. But then, what did it signify? Was this not precisely what he sought?

Fitzwilliam had the right of it. He was a single man in want of a wife. Miss Latimer would suffice as well as any other – was she not well educated, of impeccable lineage and with nothing but the common civilities to say for herself? Yes; she would suit him very well.

Darcy dropped Latimer’s card onto the desk and began sifting through the post to determine if any might warrant his attention, but just then a quick rap came on the door as Bingley’s head peered around it, and Darcy happily tossed the letter aside and got to his feet.

‘Good morning, Darcy! I cannot tell you how splendid it is to see you behind your desk once more.’ Bingley came to shake the proffered hand, beaming widely. ‘Pagett will berate me, for in my eagerness to see you I dodged around his stately progress!’

Darcy laughed, waving his friend into a seat. ‘You look in fine spirits. Are you well?’

Bingley leaned back in his seat, crossing his legs at the ankles. ‘I shall not complain; though I would berate the length of your absence. You were missed beyond measure, and it is not only I who delights in your return. It was merely a spark of ingenuity which permitted my escape from Hurst’s house without Caroline attached to my coat tails.’

So Miss Bingley remained at home. Darcy almost shrugged. Though he had forsaken love, he was not quite so desperate!

‘We have much to catch up on, Bingley. Will you join us, take up your usual rooms?’

There was silence for a moment and then, to Darcy’s surprise, his friend leapt from his seat and walked over to the window.

Darcy frowned. ‘There is no obligation – do not feel under duress.’

Bingley swung around. ‘No – no, it is nothing of the sort. I am merely—‘ he ran a hand through his unruly hair.

‘You wished to speak to me – you are troubled?’

Bingley’s air was unusually serious. ‘I have long reflected in your absence on the correct direction to follow – yet always I desired your counsel, and thus my deliberations have come to nothing.’ He waved a hand at the painting of Pemberley above the mantel as he walked back across the room. ‘I have been considering my estate. I am a poor tenant of it. Should I give it up?’

‘And what then? You were determined to purchase and not leave it to the next generation.’

‘Indeed, I was.’ Bingley sank back into his chair. ‘I did like Netherfield, very much. But I do wonder if its attraction was enhanced by the local populace.’

Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had long owned responsibility for separating his friend from Elizabeth’s sister, though he had kept it to himself. ‘Then, perhaps,’ he hesitated, unsure of his motive. ‘Should you not relinquish the lease, seek an establishment elsewhere?’

‘Well, there is the rub of it.’ Bingley ran a hand through his hair again. ‘I must now consider my sisters’ needs; all of my sisters’ needs. I have deliberated long and hard, yet I fail to reach a conclusion which delivers satisfaction for all.’

Darcy leaned back in his seat, eyeing his friend’s conflicted countenance. ‘Tell me.’

Bingley sighed. ‘Well, here it is: the twins have completed their formal education under their governess and are presently awaiting entrance into the same seminary Louisa and Caroline attended in London, where they will duly receive the finishing touches to their accomplishments.’ He laughed ruefully. ‘Though I believe they will present a greater challenge to their tutors than my other sisters!’

Darcy smiled. He had heard sufficient tales from Bingley of the twins’ exploits to understand he made no exaggeration.

‘So,’ his friend continued, ‘they will be here in Town whilst being tutored and thus residing in Grosvenor Street during the holidays. The former is what feeds my disquiet; the latter does likewise to my sisters.’

‘How so?’

Bingley released a slow breath. ‘I am reluctant to place Olivia and Viola in an establishment renowned for turning young girls into what my other sisters have become. I cannot bear to think of their merry natures being crushed or their joy of life constrained into oppressive formality, though I suppose it is almost inevitable.’

With Bingley’s countenance expressive of his concern, Darcy knew not what to say by way of comfort.

‘But can you imagine, Darcy, how the thought of having the twins in their home for any duration is being received by the Hursts and Caroline, let alone my younger sisters themselves?’

‘And Netherfield? Should you return and take up residence, it is conveniently situated for Town and the perfect home for the girls when not being prepared for the demands of formal society. But what of Julia? She is full young yet, is she not?’

‘Indeed.’ Bingley nodded. ‘She will return to Scarborough to complete her formal education at home, by which time I am certain Cousin Margaret will be well once more. As for Netherfield, though it would serve the twins well when they are not under tuition, Caroline would, as a consequence, have to return to run the household. I am certain you can imagine how they all feel on such a matter!’

Darcy comprehended his friend’s difficulty. Though he had rarely been in company with the twins, Miss Bingley had made no secret of her dislike for her younger half-sisters when they had made a brief appearance at Netherfield, and she frequently complained of them to her brother in Darcy’s presence. As for Miss Bingley’s liking or otherwise for Hertfordshire, he doubted it had undergone much alteration since she left with such obvious satisfaction in the year eleven.

‘The stability of a home with you at Netherfield must be preferable for the younger girls, and being cooped up together in a town house in London is unlikely to satisfy any of the family. In Hertfordshire there are ample opportunities to partake of the country pursuits. Would not the size of the property secure Miss Bingley some solitude?’

Bingley threw his friend a keen glance. ‘Caroline could allocate a part of the house to the twins and keep to as many other rooms as she wished, you mean?’

Precisely. Darcy shook his head. ‘Not at all.’

Bingley sat up slowly in his seat. ‘I do not know if it will answer, but it does offer a more palatable solution than we have at present. Besides, I do wonder…’ he met Darcy’s gaze. ‘I do think I ought to pay a visit… to Netherfield.’ He fixed his friend with a determined stare. ‘I can avoid it no longer; I must speak of it. You recall the Bennet family and my tendresse for the eldest daughter?’

Tension began to seep into Darcy’s shoulders, but he refused to pay it any mind, waiting for Bingley to continue.

‘Well, then. I will own I fear bringing unease upon the lady. You said Miss Bennet was indifferent to me. My removing myself from the neighbourhood must have brought considerable relief. If I now return, will she fear I might renew my attentions?’

Darcy stirred in his seat again. ‘You assume she remains at home. It is nigh on two years since your brief sojourn in Hertfordshire. The lady may well have found an establishment.’

Bingley slumped back in his seat, his skin paling. Was it as Darcy had feared? Did his friend remain affected, even after all this time?

Yet he, Darcy, had recovered from his foolish admiration for the lady’s sister, had he not, and had sworn to think on her no more? Thus, the sooner his friend made a decision, the better for all.

‘Then shall we not go directly?’

Bingley looked startled. ‘Now? This very day?’

‘Why ever not?’ Darcy glanced at the clock on the mantel. ‘It is a ride of but a few hours and the weather holds fair. We could stay overnight, assess the estate on the morrow, and be gone from the neighbourhood within four and twenty hours. If you are at leisure?’

Bingley got to his feet. ‘I am at leisure all too often, my friend; all too often!’

Returning to Hertfordshire had never been part of Darcy’s expectation but he got to his feet determined. The sooner the visit was paid, the better, and what finer evidence was there to prove his distance this past year had been the effective cure for putting the past firmly where it belonged?

~o0o~

Shepherding Bingley into action took longer than Darcy had foreseen, and they had barely reached Hertfordshire before dusk fell. They passed what remained of the evening in a small sitting room, having been served a hastily prepared dish of soup by one of two custodian servants, their conversation touching on many things pertaining to the house and the twins, but never on the family who lived but three miles across the parkland.

The following morning dawned clear and bright, and Darcy took the opportunity to walk out into the grounds. The air was fresh and the prospect pleasing as he approached the area of woodland forming the boundary between the park and the lane as it wound its way towards Meryton.

Reaching the far wall, Darcy leaned on the stone stile and stared thoughtfully into the distance. The spectre of Elizabeth hovered in the air, taunting and tantalising – out of reach yet ever present. He had not anticipated it here at Netherfield, and though he did not welcome it, he had no power to expunge it. He stood even now at the very spot where he had met her on the morning she sought news of her sister’s health, and she appeared before him as clearly as though it were yesterday.

 Darcy released a frustrated breath. ‘Be gone,’ he muttered, turning away from the boundary wall. He needed to concentrate on their reason for being there, and to ensure their departure today was timely.

He walked back across the parkland, his eye now fixed upon the house. It had a pleasing aspect and was in excellent condition for a property leased out since it had been built but five and twenty years ago. Should Bingley retain it; purchase it, even, and make a much-needed home for himself and his younger sisters, or should he give it up?

This morning would perhaps bring a solution. They had agreed to ride out and tour the park and the remainder of the estate and, determined to hasten a decision so he could remove himself swiftly from the memories curling around him like ever thickening wisps of smoke, Darcy picked up his pace and returned to the house.

~o0o~

Some hours later, Darcy and Bingley turned their mounts away from the furthest boundary of the estate and began to ride back towards the house. Their tour of the land had been somewhat circuitous, with any foray in the direction of the Bennets’ home neatly avoided.

Yet, as they made their way along the lane and neared Netherfield once more, Darcy realised they were perilously close to Longbourn.

‘I say, Darcy,’ Bingley hailed his friend as they reached a junction in the road which would determine their course.

Darcy turned in the saddle. ‘You wish to make a call.’

Bingley would attribute the disinclination in his voice to an entirely inaccurate cause, but it suited his purpose. His reluctance to truly test his mettle in Elizabeth’s company was his concern alone — should she even remain at home.

Bingley drew his mount to a halt next to Darcy. ‘You will not accompany me. I understand. Yet I wish to call and pay my respects. When I went away in the year eleven, I took no proper leave of the family. I do not intend to make Miss Bennet-’ he hesitated. ‘Should Miss Bennet remain at home, I have no desire to make her uncomfortable, but I do feel duty – and honour – bound to do what I could not back then.’

Darcy shifted in his saddle. ‘As you wish. You may have my support if you so desire, but if you would prefer to attend alone…’ he hesitated. ‘I was never well received by any of the family.’

Bingley threw him an unreadable glance. ‘I think it was fairly reciprocal, old man.’

Darcy acknowledged the hit. ‘Then if you will excuse me, I shall continue on to Netherfield and await your return.’

With a touch of his hat, Bingley turned his mount, branched left at the junction and set off at a canter towards the gates to Longbourn.

For a moment, Darcy watched his friend. Why this sudden and irrational urge to follow him? With a tug at the reins, he turned his mount to the right. This was no time for self-indulgence. Staying away would clearly answer for Elizabeth and her family having an easier time of it during Bingley’s visit. His friend had the right of it; he, Darcy, had displayed no inclination for the company of the family in the past, and they none for his, and the sentiment was unlikely to have undergone any alteration in his absence.

~o0o~

Darcy returned to the house quite out of countenance but reluctant to own it. No resurgence of memories would be permitted to undermine the newly-found peace he had acquired; yet he could feel himself weakening and was gaining a devil of an ache in his brow from attempting to prevent it. The sooner Bingley returned and they headed back to Town the better. Any qualms he suffered over what news his friend might bring of Elizabeth and her present marital status he rigidly silenced. What was it to him anyway?

Barely had he set foot in the entrance hall, having returned to the house through the boot room, when he came face to face with a middle-aged woman who let out a shriek.

‘Oh, my dear sir! Such a fright you did give me!’

‘Forgive me, madam.’ It was Bingley’s former housekeeper, and Darcy racked his memory for a name. He could not recall exchanging a single word with her during his earlier stay – he had left such pleasures to his friend and his sisters.

‘Mr Bingley wished to visit the house for a brief period. We will be returning to Town directly, and thus he felt no need to recall the household servants.’

The woman before him looked disapproving. ‘All the same, sir, I would have appreciated the opportunity to ensure the provision of adequate meals and a warm fireplace by which to sit. The house is cold from lack of use.’

Could she not leave him in peace to indulge his aching head? ‘Perhaps you could address your concerns to Mr Bingley on his return from Longbourn.’

The woman paled visibly, a hand shooting to her throat. ‘Oh dear! Oh dear me!’

Darcy was intrigued despite himself. ‘What is it? What ails you – here, perhaps you should be seated.’

He waved the housekeeper onto a nearby settle, and she all but fell onto it.

‘Oh, Mr Darcy, sir!’ Clearly, she had a better recall of names than he. ‘This is no way for the master to find out.’

An icy hand took hold of Darcy. ‘Find out what, madam?’

****

Cassandra Grafton

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Giveaway

Cass is generously offering an assortment of goodies to one lucky reader: an ebook or paperback (winner’s choice) of A Quest for Mr. Darcy, an ‘I’d Rather Be at Pemberley’ mirror, a ‘Mrs. Darcy’ badge, a set of 20 Jane Austen bookplates, and a silver Jane Austen silhouette charm, all in an ‘I’d Rather Be at Pemberley’ tote bag!

This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell us, now that you’ve had a peek, what makes you most excited about reading this book.

This giveaway will close on Thursday, June 29, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you so much, Cass, for sharing the fantastic excerpt and giveaway! I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and hope you’ll visit again soon!

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