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It’s a pleasure to welcome Rose Fairbanks back to Diary of an Eccentric today in celebration of the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Secrets of Pemberley. Please give her a warm welcome!

The Queen’s Love

Thank you for hosting me, Anna! I consider myself primarily a romance writer, but I have a degree in history and always like to insert real facts into my novels. Usually, that means a circumstance or event during the Regency era. The Secrets of Pemberley centers deeply on the emotional growth of Mr. Darcy. As such, I don’t delve into current events of the era. However, my characters find themselves at a ball with fancy dress, and thus some history (and humor) came to the story. Fancy dress balls replaced the popular masquerades earlier in the Georgian era and often historical costumes were chosen. Darcy chooses to dress as Edward IV in honor of a king who married for love. When Elizabeth arrives dressed as Edward’s consort, Elizabeth Woodville, it would seem like fate indicating they belong together, yet, Darcy leaves the ball in broken spirits.

Elizabeth Woodville

Elizabeth Woodville was born into a family of mismatched ranks. Her mother was a descendant of Henry II of England and the daughter of a count from Luxembourg. Her first marriage was to the Duke of Bedford, uncle to the current king. He died after only two years of marriage, and she scandalously married her late husband’s chamberlain. Richard Woodville was born with no rank or title, and they had not sought the king’s permission to marry. After a fine, the King accepted their marriage and Woodville was made a baron. However, the stink of their union followed their daughter all the way to the throne.

During the War of the Roses, the Woodvilles supported Henry VI. Elizabeth’s mother served as a lady-in-waiting and favorite of Queen Margaret. When the York claimant to the throne, Edward IV, unseated Henry, the Woodvilles fell out of favour at court. Additionally, Elizabeth’s Lancastrian-supporting first husband died in battle in 1461.

In 1464, Elizabeth married Edward in secret. One can imagine how the courtiers must have hated the marriage. Elizabeth’s family barely counted as nobility and had not during most of her life. She had no fortune and supposed Edward’s enemy. It was a political nightmare. Throughout their marriage, Edward and Elizabeth attracted enemies. Although flawed individuals, most historians believe they truly loved each other.

Just as Darcy chose to dress as Edward as an expression of his love for Elizabeth, she has reasons for costume choice as well. What do you think she is trying to tell Darcy in the quote below?

Elizabeth of Woodville, Illustration by Percy Anderson

“Tell me, then, why you chose her?” Darcy smiled down at her. He loved speaking with her and understanding how her mind worked.

“She came from a simple background, a commoner. Her parents had a scandalous and imbalanced marriage. She met the King fearlessly one day and for that earned his love. Their love overcame so much: class and political lines. She lived amongst her enemies daily but had his respect and love. It gave her strength and bravery. I can only hope to experience the same one day.”

Darcy noticed the red rose in her hand. Elizabeth Woodville’s family had supported the Lancastrians. Their symbol was a red rose while her husband was from the York line and used a white rose. “You mean to be Elizabeth before she married?” He touched a petal.

“I have not yet met my king,” she dropped her voice but stared at the white rose pinned to his hat.

“You have not met him, or you have not secured him?” Darcy held his breath. How could they speak like this and yet her favour another man? He needed to hear her say it. Kill the hope within him.

“Are you asking for one of my secrets, sir?”

Darcy shook his head. He did not want to play their game. He searched Elizabeth’s eyes.

“Perhaps I will tell you if we dance,” she said before he could decide what to say.

“I am not dancing tonight.”

“You cannot claim to be unacquainted with the guests tonight,” she teased.

Darcy fought a flush to his cheeks. “I fear my valet is far too talented in finding accurate costuming. I require my cloak to be held in this position. Movement would be…catastrophic.”

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About The Secrets of Pemberley

To the world, Fitzwilliam Darcy has it all. He’s the young master to one of the kingdom’s oldest and wealthiest Norman families. Through his mother, he is related to a powerful line of earls. Beneath the perfect façade lies the truth: he’s the product of his mother’s affair and the heir George Darcy never wanted.

At twenty-eight, Darcy has fought hard to put to rest the pains of the past and earn his place in Society. But can he resist the allure of ending his loneliness with the unsuitable woman who has tugged at his heartstrings? Will he tell her his secret and if he does, will she keep it? Or will someone else from the past destroy everything Darcy has worked for?

Buy The Secrets of Pemberley on Amazon

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About the Author

Born in the wrong era, Rose Fairbanks has read nineteenth-century novels since childhood. Although she studied history, her transcript also contains every course in which she could discuss Jane Austen. Never having given up all-nighters for reading, Rose discovered her love for Historical Romance after reading Christi Caldwell’s Heart of a Duke Series.

After a financial downturn and her husband’s unemployment had threatened her ability to stay at home with their special needs child, Rose began writing the kinds of stories she had loved to read for so many years. Now, a best-selling author of Jane Austen-inspired stories, she also writes Regency Romance, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance, and Historical Fantasy.

Having completed a BA in history in 2008, she plans to finish her master’s studies someday. When not reading or writing, Rose runs after her two young children, ignores housework, and profusely thanks her husband for doing all the dishes and laundry. She is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and Romance Writers of America.

You can connect with Rose on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.

To join her email list for information about new releases and any other news, you can sign up here.

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Giveaway

Rose is kindly offering a giveaway of 1 ebook copy of The Secrets of Pemberley as part of the blog tour. You must enter using this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Thank you, Rose, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release! I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

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Today’s guest is Jan Hahn, who is here to share an excerpt from her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Child. I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about this book, so I hurried up and bought a copy and now just hope my schedule frees up soon so I can read it. I’m sure you’ll all feel the same way after reading this excerpt. Please give Jan a warm welcome!

Thank you, Anna, for participating in my blog tour and for posting an excerpt from The Child. Darcy and Elizabeth have entered into a marriage of convenience because of the child. They have not consummated the marriage. The following scene takes place at Netherfield Park where they have come for a visit. Bingley has innocently assigned them the same bedchamber, and to keep up appearances as happy newlyweds, Darcy has persuaded Elizabeth that they can chastely share the same bed. Darcy is the narrator.

I awakened before dawn the next morning. Slipping quietly from beneath the quilt, I hastened into the dressing room and put on my clothes without calling for the services of my valet. I wished to leave the chamber before Elizabeth awoke and thus afford her the privacy she desired.

In truth, that was not my wish. If I had my way, I would have remained beside her. I would have watched her sleep as the early light spilled through the windows and then awakened her with a kiss, but I knew that was not to be—not yet. Silently moving through the chamber, I reached for the doorknob so my wife might dream in peace.

“Is that you, sir?” Elizabeth whispered.

I stilled, my hand in mid-air. “It is. I did not mean to wake you.”

“Is it morning already?”

“Yes.” I remained in place, unsure whether to turn and face her. “But still quite early. You need not rise yet. The fires have not even been lit.”

“May I ask why you have risen at this hour?”

Slowly, I turned to see her sitting up in the bed. “I thought—that is, I assumed you would prefer me to do so.”

She laughed lightly. “That will hardly satisfy the servants, will it? I thought this pretence was for their benefit―that they should see us sleeping in the same bed. If you vanish almost before dawn, will that not cause gossip?”

I walked towards the bed in an unhurried manner. “I confess I had not thought of that. Your argument is valid. Shall I undress and return to bed?”

Instinctively, she leaned back, pulling the bedclothes higher. “I…do not think that necessary. But you might light a candle and remain in the room until your servant comes to help you dress.”

I fumbled in the dim light until I had secured a single taper and, after several attempts, managed to light it. Never had I felt clumsier.

“Oh, you have already dressed,” Elizabeth said as I lifted the candle and carried it to the mantel.

“I could hardly wander the halls of Netherfield otherwise.”

“Of course not,” she murmured, smiling again. “But will your manservant not find it strange you did not need his services?”

I sighed. “We appear to be going to great lengths to satisfy the servants. I suppose I could remove my coat.”

“Yes, and untie your cravat as well.”

I slid my coat off and untied the neck cloth, making a strong attempt to appear nonchalant, as though I did that sort of thing in Elizabeth’s presence every day. “I may as well remove my waistcoat,” I said, as I unbuttoned my vest, slinging each article of clothing across the back of the sofa. “There now, does my state of undress meet with your approval?”

I took several steps closer to her side of the bed and was pleased to see she continued to smile. Then, my heart skipped a beat as she beckoned me to come closer. Sitting up straighter, she leaned forward and patted the side of the bed, indicating I should sit there.

Light had brightened the room sufficiently for me to see how her gown lay precariously close to the edge of her shoulders, and her curls streamed down her back all in a tumble. Dear God, she was breathtaking in the morning, her countenance fresh and dewy! I could hardly breathe when she raised her hands to my neck.

“Let me open your shirt.” She loosened the button from its loop and pushed my shirt open. “There, you almost look as though you slept here. One more touch.” With her hand, she mussed my hair, causing it to fall across my forehead, and then she laughed. “Now, the servants will see that we are both, indeed, in need of assistance, and all will appear natural between us.”

I did not know what to say. Her actions surprised me to such an extent that I could not think. I feared any words I spoke might come forth as babble.

Just then, we heard movement in the hall. Instantly, I reacted.

“You forgot one final necessity,” I whispered as I leaned across Elizabeth. Her eyes grew wide. Grabbing the pillow that had separated us throughout the night, I tossed it across the room, where it landed upon the chaise. Her eyes danced, and she stifled a giggle as though she thoroughly enjoyed our artifice.

At that moment, the servant knocked softly and then opened the door, carrying a fresh supply of logs for the fireplace. Elizabeth’s maid followed closely behind. Both servants bobbed a curtsy and halted within the doorway.

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir,” the older maid said. “Shall we return later?”

Slowly, I returned to a seated position. “No, go about your duties. All is well.”

I could not but see the knowing look that passed between the servants as they busied themselves laying the fire and filling the ewers with hot water. I continued to stare at Elizabeth, and she did not break our gaze, that enchanting smile still playing about her lips.

“Well, sir, if I am to call upon my father, I suppose we cannot lie abed all morning, can we?”

“No, that is why I rose early,” I replied for the servants’ benefit. “I knew you wished to call at Longbourn as soon as may be.” I stood and looked around the room. “Is Rodgers on his way?”

“Yes, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth’s maid answered. “He’s fetching fresh towels.” She looked towards the hall door just as my valet entered. Shortly thereafter, I was ready to depart the chamber. Leaving my dressing room, I saw Elizabeth had risen and secluded herself behind the closed doors of her boudoir. I stared at the rumpled bedclothes and regretted the fact that we had done nothing more than sleep side by side.

At least she awakened smiling, I thought.

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About The Child

Will Darcy ever grow to love a child he never wanted?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford is disastrous. In Jan Hahn’s The Child, Darcy flees England soon afterward, striving to overcome his longing for her. Upon his return two years later―while standing on the steps of St. George’s Church in Hanover Square―he spies the very woman he has vowed to forget. But who is the child holding her hand?

Darcy soon discovers that Elizabeth and her family are suffering the effects of a devastating scandal. His efforts to help the woman he still loves only worsen her family’s plight. His misguided pride entangles him in a web of falsehood, fateful alliances, and danger.

Will Elizabeth be able to forgive Darcy for his good intentions gone awry? And what effect will the child have on Darcy’s hopes to win Elizabeth’s love?

Buy The Child: Amazon / Amazon UK

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About the Author

Jan Hahn

Award-winning writer Jan Hahn is the author of five Austen-inspired novels. She studied music at the University of Texas, but discovered her true love was a combination of journalism and literature. Her first book, An Arranged Marriage, was published in 2011, followed by The Journey, The Secret Betrothal, A Peculiar Connection, and The Child. The anthology, The Darcy Monologues, contains her short story entitled Without Affection. She agrees with Mr. Darcy’s words in Pride and Prejudice: ‘A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.’

Jan is a member of JASNA, lives in Texas, has five children and a gaggle of grandchildren.

Connect with Jan: Facebook | Author Page

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously giving away 8 eBooks of The Child as part of the blog tour, and the giveaway is open to international readers. This giveaway is open to entries from midnight ET on March 21 – until midnight ET on April 4, 2018. You must use this Rafflecopter link to enter.

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook. Good luck!

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March 21 My Jane Austen Book Club/ Guest Post & Giveaway

March 22 From Pemberley to Milton / Book Review & Giveaway

March 23 More Agreeably Engaged / Excerpt Post & Giveaway

March 24 My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway

March 25 My Love for Jane Austen / Vignette & Giveaway

March 26 Of Pens and Pages / Book Review & Giveaway

March 27 Just Jane 1813/ Author Interview & Giveaway

March 28 Austenesque Reviews / Character Interview & Giveaway

March 29 So Little Time / Guest Post & Giveaway

March 30 Diary of an Eccentric / Excerpt Post & Giveaway

March 31 Babblings of a Bookworm / Book Review & Giveaway

April 1 Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review & Giveaway

April 2 Laughing with Lizzie / Vignette Post & Giveaway

Thanks, Jan, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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Hello, dear readers! I’m delighted to have Monica Fairview as a guest today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Mysterious Mr. Darcy. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Marrying for Convenience in Pride and Prejudice

By Monica Fairview

Hello Anna! I’m so pleased to be able to stop at your lovely blog once again, this time on my Mysterious Mr. Darcy Blog Tour. It has always been a pleasure to interact with you and your readers.

I hope you are all shaking off the grip of winter and emerging into spring as I am. The sun is finally out and so are the daffodils. Hurray! But I am here to talk about Pride and Prejudice, not about daffodils, however much Jane Austen’s contemporary Mr. Wordsworth admired them. I also wanted to share with you first paragraphs that inspired me to write Mysterious Mr. Darcy.

The first two paragraphs of Pride & Prejudice are surely engrained in the heart of every JAFF fan:

IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

That paragraph has to be the most spectacular example of irony in the English language. So much is packed into that deliciously playful beginning. I love the fact that Jane Austen flips the idea of marriage in the nineteenth century on its tail so cleverly. Women at that time were regarded as the “rightful property” of the husband, and all of a woman’s possessions went to her husband the moment she was married. In these two paragraphs, however, Jane Austen talks about the man being the “rightful property” of the daughter – a statement that must have tickled the fancy of every young lady who read them. And of course, the first sentence also reverses the known wisdom of the time. It was the women who needed husbands for financial security, not the other way round.

However, there is one level at which “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”. A gentleman with property needed an heir. So, Jane Austen cunningly and with remarkable brevity introduces the main source of Mrs. Bennet’s anxiety:  Mr. Bennet’s failed attempt to produce an heir.

Either way, whether from the man’s point of view, or the woman’s, the main message is that marriage is about property and possessions. It is, quite simply, a matter of convenience. Romantic love forms no part of it.

It’s difficult for us to fully appreciate the meaning of this way of thinking. Obviously, even in the twenty-first century, marrying a rich man is a desirable thing, and there are women who do everything they can to achieve that goal. However, in most cases, if it doesn’t happen, there are other alternatives. Marriage is not the only alternative for women of a certain class. It is a choice. Women can work and be independent. But for a young gently-bred lady of Jane Austen’s era, there was no choice. The only alternative other than marrying was to become a governess or to live as a dependent with a relative. If you were a young lady used to living comfortably, you were expected to be part of the ‘Marriage Mart’ and to do everything you could to marry someone of equal or superior stature to yourself.

Feelings were not part of the transaction. Elizabeth’s statement that she wants to marry for love was, for that time, a very modern concept: “I am determined that nothing but the very deepest love could induce me into matrimony.” Yet in the opening paragraphs of the novel, a man’s or woman’s feelings have nothing at all to do with it. Marriage is a social institution. A gentleman with a fortune is expected to submit to society’s expectations – yet again, an ironic reversal since it is women usually who are expected to fulfil these expectations.

“However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood”

Again, with amazing irony, Jane Austen summarises the group perception. No one cares about the feelings of the gentleman involved. All they care about is his social and financial status.

For me, these first few sentences – with their ironic twists and reversals — provide the crux of Mysterious Mr. Darcy. I have always thought it particularly ironic that we hear about Mr. Bingley first, and not about Mr. Darcy at all until later, when he appears at the Meryton Assembly. All the excitement initially is centered on Bingley. To all intents and purposes, at the beginning of the novel, it appears that the novel is about Mr. Bingley. Which is exactly what happens in my new variation, except that I carry it further. Mr. Bingley is the focus of everyone’s interest because Mr. Darcy is seen as the impoverished friend. Imagine that!

We all know that Pride and Prejudice is about a man in possession of a fortune. But what if it isn’t? What if Mr. Bingley is never upscaled by Mr. Darcy? What if Mr. Darcy is NOT in possession of a fortune, or at least, no one knows that he is? What happens then? How does that change the dynamics of the various characters?

If you want an answer to that question, you will have to read Mysterious Mr. Darcy. 😊

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Excerpt from Mysterious Mr. Darcy

The following scene takes place at the Meryton Assembly. Elizabeth has already danced with Mr. Bingley, while Mr. Darcy has been standing around, looking disapproving.

As she and Maria stood together observing the dancers, Elizabeth was still at a loss to find fault with Mr. Bingley. She had watched him interact with several people and concluded that it would take someone very critical to find fault with him. The only fault she could find was not with Mr. Bingley, but with herself. Much as she liked him, she could not quite imagine herself marrying him.

The trouble was, she wanted more out of marriage than simply convenience. Something inside her yearned for love. She was aware, of course, that she was expecting too much. Mrs. Bennet was always complaining that Mr. Bennet had spoiled Elizabeth for her role in life by encouraging her to read too much. It was very probably true. Elizabeth’s father was very well read, but he was not a practical man. He was not fully involved in the everyday running of the estate, which was possibly why the estate produced so little income. Meanwhile, the Bennet family members were paying the price for his neglect. They were always having to perform little economies so they could continue to live within their means. They were not impoverished, exactly, but they could not order fashionable clothes without having to give up something else.

Jane had married reasonably, but not well enough to help her sisters or mother with anything more than a trivial amount of pin money. Three years ago, when Mr. Collins proposed to her, Elizabeth had been contemptuous of anyone who married for practical reasons. Now she was older and wiser. She had seen how her friend Charlotte managed her husband. Charlotte had even worked out the best way to interact with Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins’ condescending and interfering benefactor. In short, although Elizabeth had predicted a disaster for her friend when Charlotte had first married, she had been proven completely wrong. Charlotte was perfectly content. She had her own household. She had a little girl and was increasing again, and she wasn’t dependent on anyone for a roof over her head.

Still, every part of Elizabeth revolted at the idea of trying to capture a man for his property. She wanted love. But would love ever come her way? At three and twenty, it seemed to be less and less likely, and the prospect of having to endure her mother for the rest of her life seemed much more real.

Not that Elizabeth would marry someone like Mr. Collins even now. She shuddered at the very thought of it. However, if an opportunity arose for her to escape Longbourn and the constant lamentations of her mother at being saddled with four unmarriageable daughters with no dowry, Elizabeth would certainly consider it seriously. Mr. Bingley was a godsend, that is, if he was genuinely interested in her.

She chuckled to herself. The poor man had done nothing more than to dance with her, and already she was considering whether or not to accept his proposal. It was absurd.

“Why are you laughing, Lizzy?” Maria was looking at her quizzingly.

“I was thinking how true it is that a lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

Maria gaze moved from Elizabeth to Bingley. “He does seem to be taken with you.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “It was just a stupid fancy on my part, no more. It will take a great deal more to fix his interest, I assure you.”

“Then, as my sister would say, you have work to do.” Maria sighed. “Imagine what it would be like to marry someone with a property such as Netherfield. Imagine being the mistress of such a grand estate. You would be very lucky indeed if you managed to capture him, Lizzy.”

“If I fall in love with him, I will not hesitate, but I will not deliberately set out to capture him in cold blood, Maria, whatever Charlotte’s view of the matter may be. Having said that, if he did become sincerely attached to me, I would not discourage it, even if I was not in love with him.”

It was Maria’s turn to shake her head. “If you aren’t careful, someone will snatch him from right under your eyes, and all for the lack of trying.”

“I’m not desperate, Maria. Your sister did not marry until she was twenty-seven, so I still have some time to acquire a husband.”

“I wash my hands off you, Lizzy. Don’t say I haven’t warned you. If you won’t listen to me, I will not be held accountable.”

“Why don’t you set your sights on him yourself, then?”

Maria gave a wry smile. “I would, only I’m not as pretty as you are, and so far, he only has eyes for you.”

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About Mysterious Mr. Darcy

Find Mysterious Mr. Darcy on Amazon

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About the Author

Monica Fairview

Monica can be described as a wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.

Monica adores the Regency period and Jane Austen’s wit. She writes funny Jane Austen sequels and variations but has finally decided to get serious about Elizabeth and Darcy. At the moment, she lives with two cats, a teenager, and her own Mr. Darcy. She enjoys singing out of tune in the shower, visiting historical mansions, and warm weather.

Visit Monica on Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Website | Austen Variations

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Giveaway

Monica is generously offering two ebook copies (open internationally) and one paperback (U.S. and U.K. addresses only) of Mysterious Mr. Darcy. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let us know whether you’d like the ebook or paperback if you win. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 1, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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It’s a pleasure to welcome Riana Everly back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, a prequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, titled The Assistant, which focuses on Elizabeth Bennet’s uncle and aunt Gardiner. Riana has brought a guest today, the Elusive Miss Grant. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Good day to you,

I do hope you will forgive me if I do not remove my bonnet and mask. Even the heaviest veil was insufficient to conceal my features, and I must remain hidden and unknown, for your safety as much as for my own. If he should discover where I am, or that you know me…  Thank goodness the fashion is for bonnets with deep brims this year!

But I digress, and I must not alarm you. I am satisfied that my disguise is robust, and that none of us need fear. He will not know me, concealed as I am, neither does he know where to seek me. Let us talk, rather, of more pleasant matters.

Despite the danger in which I find myself, and the dreadful events that have led up to it, I am remarkably well settled. I have, as the expression goes, fallen upon my feet. I have found safe and secure lodgings, and the people where I live are kind and good to me, for all that they do not know whom they host. I would never endanger them by revealing my identity! I am kept busy much of the time, which prevents me from dwelling too much on my troubles, I have a ready supply of material to read, and I need not stray far to enjoy the company of interesting people.

But listen! I have done something so shocking, Mother would scold me for weeks were she ever to discover it! Oh, poor Mother, wherever she may be. If only she were near enough to discover my deeds, I should gladly withstand all the scolding she could give me. When these troubles are over, I shall do what I can to find her once more. What have I done, you ask? Come close and I shall tell you!

I have been writing letters to a gentleman with whom I have no agreement! Indeed, we have not even been introduced! Are you horrified? I titter like a schoolgirl when I think how brazen my actions have been.

And even more shocking, he has written back! We have engaged in a long correspondence, and I dare to believe that he likes me as much as I like him. To be clear, he is not a gentleman in the literal meaning of the word, for he is a merchant and by that measure, below my station. But he is a gentleman in the essence of the matter, for his manner and understanding are everything that is proper, and he expresses himself uncommonly well. I might otherwise choose to write one of my stories about him, for I do like to cast interesting characters of my acquaintance into my novels (there, another matter to shock you! I write novels!), but truth be told, I like him too well, and would not have him exposed to the world, or whoever might one day read my poor scribblings.

I wonder what would happen were we to be properly introduced? I would like so much to meet him in some public place or at a ball, where we may converse as freely as we do in our letters. I must set to work to make this happen, for I have quite grown to love Edward Gardiner!

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An excerpt from The Assistant, courtesy of Riana Everly

The first letter arrived three weeks after Edward returned to London.

It was addressed to Mr. E. Gardiner, Gracechurch Street, and was written in a fine, elegant hand. A woman’s hand, graceful and precise. Matt handed it to Edward in person. “It is from a lady from my former home,” he blushed. “I have a way to contact her without the others knowing. I told her what you done for me, and she wished to thank you.”

“Indeed! How extraordinary!” Edward’s eyebrows shot up, but he accepted the letter without further comment and proceeded to examine the small package. The seal was unbroken, but it was a plain expanse of smooth red wax, with no imprint or other identifying mark. The paper seemed to be of good quality, white and thick, but common enough amongst those with some means. It provided no suggestions as to its origin. Intrigued, Edward broke the seal and perused the contents.

The letter was written in the same hand as the direction: elegant, precise and careful. Almost too careful, whispered a part of Edward’s mind, as if the writer were engaged in an exercise in penmanship, forming each letter to a tutor’s expectations of perfection. Or, whispered a suspicious part of his brain, as if the writer were hoping to disguise her handwriting. None of this Gothic Novel nonsense, Edward. Read the note! He chastised himself. Having concluded the better part of his business affairs for the day, he gave in to his curiosity and rang for some tea before sitting down in the library with the letter, where he began to read.

Mr. Gardiner,

I beg that you will excuse my forwardness and lack of propriety in sending you this missive. I am quite well aware that an unmarried lady should not write to a man whose acquaintance she has not made, nor with whom she has no understanding, but I find that these curious circumstances compel me to ignore the guidance of my tutors and my more delicate sensibilities and speak with you through whatever means I have at my disposal.

I write to you about young Matthew. Matthew lived in my home as a child, and he is closer to me than a brother. I care greatly about his welfare. He has arranged to correspond with me through a mutual acquaintance, whose identity must remain concealed for Matthew’s safety. I cannot speak of the circumstances that forced him to leave his home, but accept my word, Sir, they were real and dire. Had he remained in the house, his very existence would have been threatened.

Matthew has informed me of your great service to him. I am much relieved at his safety and current situation. Sir, when you rescued him from the river, as he informs me, you saved his life! For that, I can never thank you enough. He will not speak to you of his undying gratitude – his shyness and intense sense of privacy will forbid it – but I can speak, and speak I shall. How kind you are, how generous and full of feeling for your fellow man! So many would not have searched out a crying youth, nor would they have risked the safety of their own limbs to wade through icy water in order to bring that youth to safety. And then, to take upon yourself the cost and inconvenience of treating his injuries – that is so much more than any person would expect.

But you, Mr. Gardiner, have surpassed even those generous actions. You took the time to get to know my young friend and have discovered his unique abilities. Further, you have provided him not only with life and the possibility of healing, but you have also provided for his security with a position. For this grand act of charity and humanity, I cannot tell you enough of my gratitude. But I beg of you, do not waste Matthew’s abilities. Teach him, guide him, challenge him! He is willing to learn and will repay your efforts manifold.

If I may ever be of assistance, I should be happy to offer such to the best of my ability. Matthew will know how to find me.

Yours,

Miss Grant

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About The Assistant

A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean

When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.

But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart? Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.

Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?

Click here for the universal buy link for The Assistant

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About the Author

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

Connect with Riana Everly via Facebook | Website

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Giveaway

Riana is generously offering five ebook copies of The Assistant as part of the blog tour. You must enter using this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Thank you, Riana, for being my guest today, and congrats on the new release! I’m looking forward to reading it, and I’m sure my readers will agree that it sounds fantastic!

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It’s always a pleasure to welcome P.O. Dixon to Diary of an Eccentric, and today, dear readers, she’s here to celebrate the release of her latest book, Irrevocably Gone. Please give her a warm welcome!

It’s such an honor to be here at Diary of an Eccentric once again to share an excerpt from my newest release, Irrevocably Gone. Thanks so much for having me, Anna.

Irrevocably Gone is a continuation of one of my favorite short stories, A Tender Moment, written primarily for the following reason: readers asked for more. Though authors do not always find themselves in the position to honor such requests, in this case I was utterly compelled to make room in my writing schedule to do just that. Readers, after all, made A Tender Moment a #1 Best Seller in Classic Short Stories on Amazon. Such a heartwarming response along with equally encouraging calls for more deserves fitting acknowledgment.

Here’s a snippet from A Tender Moment which sets the stage for its continuation:

A Tender Moment – Part 3 (excerpt)

Just as the clouds completed their waltz across the bright full moon, Darcy sensed a turning point in the evening. I’ve longed for an occasion such as this. Do I dare open my mouth and risk ruining what has heretofore been the best moment we have ever spent in each other’s company?

His mind raced through the litany of things he might say next. Shall I speak of poetry, of books, of the places she has traveled? No. He had far weightier matters he wished to discuss.

Perhaps I might explain that I was taught to be selfish and overbearing, to care for none beyond my own family circle, and to think meanly of all others—of their sense and worth compared with my own. Then I might confess my growing esteem for her in spite of her low connections and her family’s lack of fortune.

Darcy bit his lower lip. No. That would never do, for I might ruin every chance of discovering if the tender regard I feel for her is the basis for something lasting.

We were speaking of her family. Do I attempt to say something in that regard—apologize once again for my badly spoken remark? Shall I speak of my own family and how foolish they would think me were they to learn of my budding feelings for her?

The fact was that he’d never seen anyone like her. He’d never known anybody like her. Finally, he had met a woman he found himself contemplating introducing to his sister—welcoming to his beloved Pemberley … as his wife.

What if, in explaining the reasons I have fought against showing her the special regard she arouses in me, I should say something that she deems lacking in sensibility, or worse—stupid? I might never know whether she indeed might be the one I’ve been waiting for—longing for.

Darcy did not dare risk denying himself this chance. At such a tender moment as this, perhaps it is better that I say nothing at all.

Might she then regard me as inconstant? It would not do. Say something, man. He closed the last bit of distance between them. “May I call on you at Longbourn tomorrow?”

Who can find fault with readers who love Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet for wanting to know what happens next? Darcy asked to call on Elizabeth at Longbourn so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire. Surely Mrs. Bennet will go distracted.

Enjoy this excerpt from Irrevocably Gone featuring Darcy and Elizabeth at Netherfield during her elder sister’s convalescence.

Irrevocably Gone

Chapter 6 – A Generous Gesture

His hand behind his back, Darcy waited for Elizabeth as she headed toward him in the lane.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me like this, Miss Elizabeth.” He said once they were united, bowing slightly. “I realize it was not a trivial thing that I asked of you, but what else could I do? I believe I miss you, even more, knowing we are residing under the same roof, albeit temporarily, and yet unable to see each other – to spend time away from the others – so often as I would like. Owe it to my being a selfish man.”

“I am sorry if it seems I have been neglecting you, sir.”

“You are here now, and I intend to make the most of our time together, for who is to say how long it will last?”

“What is it that you have behind your back, sir, if you do not mind my asking?”

“Oh, this,” he said, revealing his hand—in it an arrangement of freshly picked flowers secured by ribbons: one scarlet colored and one white.

Accepting the proffered bouquet, Elizabeth said, “How lovely, sir. Are these for me?”

“Yes,” he said, nodding. “I picked them myself.”

Reading in her expression a modicum of disbelief, he asked, “Do you doubt me?”

“It is just that I find it somewhat hard to believe you would go to so much trouble—what with rows of servants at your feet to attend such tasks. To what do I owe the honor of such a generous gesture?”

“It has not escaped my notice how attentive you have been toward your sister, and I began to ask myself who is taking care of you.”

“You are very kind to think of me, sir. To say nothing of your talents. This arrangement is stunning.”

“There is also the matter of my feeling rather guilty in desiring so much of your attention. I am inclined to think it would be much better for all concerned if I simply returned to town, at least until your sister no longer relies on you so much as she does.”

“No—do not do that! Please, whatever you do—do not leave. Why, I—”

Exercising a bit of liberty and seeing as it was just the two of them with not another soul in sight, Darcy placed a finger on Elizabeth’s lips. “Hush,” he said softly. “I speak only in jest. I have no wish to be parted from you—not now.” Remembering himself, he tucked both hands behind his back.

“So, you were teasing me, Mr. Darcy?”

“Are you not to be teased, Miss Elizabeth?”

Her spirits rising to playfulness, Elizabeth said, “Oh, no! On the contrary, for I dearly love to laugh. I must warn you, however, that I give as good as I get. Now that you have been warned, what say you to that?”

“I say only this. While I am a serious man—one who does not easily forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against me, any ensuing resentment is not so implacable as to render me wholly incapable of forgiveness, particularly toward those who mean the most to me.”

“Oh my, you are a serious man indeed. I should like to think I am safely among the latter.”

“Indeed. More than you know,” Darcy said.

“Do you mean to suggest that I am on the same level as Miss Bingley?”

He shook his head. “No—not at all. Miss Bingley, try as she might, has no effect on me at all.” He spoke nothing but the truth, for that young woman was always taunting him in one way or another in her attempts to get him to dislike Elizabeth. Always in vain.

“Tease me, taunt me, challenge me at will. You are in no danger of losing my good opinion. I am forever your humble servant,” he professed.

At that moment Darcy and Elizabeth were met from another walk by Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley herself.

“I did not know that you intended to walk, Mr. Darcy. I declare you used us abominably ill,” said the younger of the two ladies. “You know how much my sister and I dearly love a good walk about the park with you. Yet you ran away without telling us that you were coming out.”

Acknowledging Elizabeth’s presence, Miss Bingley said, “What a lovely bouquet of flowers, Miss Eliza. Did you gather them yourself?” Placing her hand over her mouth, she smirked. “Oh, but of course you did. What on Earth am I thinking?”

Elizabeth held her bouquet to her nose and inhaled its intoxicatingly sweet fragrance. “Actually, they are a gift—from an admirer.”

“No doubt, an admirer with extraordinary taste,” said Mr. Darcy. His voice tender, his eyes fixed on Elizabeth’s, he continued. “Such beauty is impossible to resist.”

As though the intimate exchange between Darcy and Elizabeth was lost on them, the two sisters then took either of the gentleman’s arms, which forced Elizabeth to walk by herself, for the path just admitted three. Feeling their rudeness, Mr. Darcy immediately said, “This walk is not wide enough for our party. I suggest we go into the avenue instead.”

Elizabeth, who had not the least inclination of remaining in company with the Bingley sisters a second longer than she must, replied, “No, no—do not alter your course on my behalf. I fear I must return to the house as soon as can be so that I might place this bouquet in a vase befitting its beauty. Far be it from me to allow my admirer’s special talents to be in vain.”

Thank you so much for being my guest again and sharing these very intriguing excerpts. And congratulations on your newest release!

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About Irrevocably Gone

From almost the first moment Mr. Darcy beheld Miss Elizabeth Bennet, his heart was irrevocably gone. But will he admit it? What will it take to make him realize he wants to spend his life with her? A proposal from another man? A second proposal from yet another?

What of Elizabeth? Will she obey her own heart’s yearning? Can she afford to wait for love?

Thousands of delighted readers helped make A Tender Moment a #1 Best Seller in Classic Short Stories.

§ And now, the story continues…

Author’s Note

Irrevocably Gone is a fast-paced 42,000+ words story. As a reader bonus, A Tender Moment, the story which formed the foundation for Irrevocably Gone, is included at the end of this edition. Fans who have already read and enjoyed A Tender Moment can easily reacquaint themselves with the storyline. Those who have yet to read the prequel can acquaint themselves with the storyline for free. While included as a permanent part of the print edition of Irrevocably Gone, future eBook editions may not include A Tender Moment.

Buy links can be found here

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Connect with P.O. Dixon

Newsletter | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Website

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Giveaway

P.O. Dixon is generously offering an ebook copy of Irrevocably Gone to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway is open internationally, and will close on Sunday, March 25, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I’m delighted to welcome Don Jacobson back to celebrate the release of his latest novel, The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, which is part of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Today he is here with a guest post about his process of reading. I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did and share your process of reading in the comments. Please give Don a warm welcome:

A Holistic Approach to Being #InspiredByAusten

One of my favorite things to do when I purchase a new hardbound book from a major publisher is that I randomly open it and rub my hand on the page. No reading…just rubbing.

This simple act is the beginning of my relationship with the author’s efforts. The tactile pleasure I derive from the finish of the paper enhances my overall experience with the publication before I begin to read it. There is something special about the highly clayed stock reserved for only the most special books that establishes a sense of worth; an idea that what I am about to read is important.

Then there are the cover jacket design, the bindery, the typeface, the depth of the ink, the nature of the typeface used for me to consider.

By now, you are likely thinking is he ever going to just read the darn book?

Eventually.

However, much as I have explored my process of writing in previous blog posts, I am now describing to you my process of reading. For, if writers do not write for readers to read, then just what are they doing?

I will readily admit that I am of a particular age. And that singular fact means that I stand astride the hard/soft copy divide. For the remainder of this post, I will offer my thoughts in the manner in which I write my books: printed version first with an e-book converted from that.

And, that sort of makes me feel as if I am the one guy making his way back to his seat in the stadium after the home team has just gone down by six runs in the top of the eighth. T’is a struggle to try to look at the craft of creating a book in a world where content is King, Queen, and Court, and how that material is presented is secondary at best.

We need to step back and consider this seminal question: What is a book?

For me, in its simplest form, the traditional codex-style book is a unique delivery mechanism for words and pictures that support the overall theme to which the author is writing. And, quite honestly, that is exactly what an e-book does; nothing less, but certainly not much more. And, within that gap falls the everything else that differentiates a well-produced and published book—electronic or print—from what we used to call the “pulp” trade.

Now, I am not indicting the modern publishing model that allows individuals to compose a story and pump their file through KDP for cover and e-book formatting to have it in front of a hungry audience within days of putting the final period on the final word of the final paragraph. In fact, I am now entirely self-published. However, my previous experience with traditional publishers afforded me an insight into how far beyond the act of writing that the creation of a book actually goes.

When I am engaged in the (roughly) four-month-process required to bring an 80,000-word novel in the Bennet Wardrobe Series, there is no question that the bulk of my effort is involved in the process of weaving the tapestry that is the plot of the stories. However, the last month is occupied with beta reads, editing, and proofing (which, I swear, no matter haw many times you do it, something gets through). I have discovered that the typeface Cambria is highly readable, so that is my dedicated font for all of my books…from the first manuscript words to the final print and e-book versions.

Oh, yes, there is the simple blocking-and-tackling of inserting page breaks at the end of each chapter as well as hyperlinks and bookmarks for the interactive Table of Contents for the e-book. But the addition of important nuances help establish the tone for the book.

Sometimes it is as simple as the inclusion of a quote or phrase. In The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, there are four very specific quotes that set the stage.

Directly preceding the Prologue, I put William Blake to work

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

emphasizing, once again, the question of Time and the Universe.

Each page introducing Book One, Two, and Three also employ a specific theme setting as well as another appropriate quote.

Book One, Longbourn House, leaned on the immortal Thomas Wolfe from Look Homeward Angel…

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin

of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a

Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window

 on all time.

 Book Two, Madras House, turned to the Bard for some thematic verse from Midsummer Night’s Dream, which fit so perfectly into the entire climax of the section.

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be…

 Finally, Book Three, the Beach House, finds the reader reaching the conclusion of Kitty Bennet’s arc. Seneca’s contemplations on life and death cried out to me.

Life is like a play: it’s not the length,

but the excellence of the acting that matters.

Then there is the manner in which I will present type on the page.  At times, as in The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, I scattered works around an otherwise blank page to portray the lady’s desperate fight against the pneumonia that threatened to smother her. In The Countess Visits Longbourn, the final words of the last chapter have been intentionally set apart on their own page with the intention of driving home the end of the book with the reader.

Of course, I have discussed the design of the entire cover for the print books in other forums. Suffice to say here that The Bennet Wardrobe series would not be the same without the careful craftsmanship of Janet Taylor. Yet, the covers, themselves, contain critical clues to the interior discourse found between them. Consider the rose wreaths (roses being a consistent theme throughout the entire series) surrounding the volume numbers on the spines. Time for your to play CSI Austen. Compare the wreaths around the “2.0” on Exile (pt. 1) and “2.9” on Exile (pt. 2). Are they different and, if so, why?

All of this is part and parcel of what I call “holistic writing.” I consider the entire package to be necessary for a complete reading experience. A reader can simply enjoy the story. However, I truly believe that time spent with the book will be enhanced by subliminal items. T’is these that contribute to creating a sentiment that every possible effort to deliver a quality and enjoyable encounter with the tale being spun by the author.

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The Bennet Wardrobe books are best enjoyed in the following order:

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

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An excerpt from The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, courtesy of Don Jacobson

This excerpt describes Lady Fitzwilliam’s first encounter with Madras House, set in the fashionable district around Grosvenor Square. Note: Madras House had been purchased by Mr. Benjamin Bennet, Kitty’s Great-great Grandfather in the aftermath of the South Seas Bubble.  

This excerpt is ©2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. Any reproduction of this excerpt without the expressed written consent of the Creator is prohibited. Published in the United States of America. 

Chapter XII

Madras House, London, December 11, 1811 (later) 

Kitty looked out the window of the hired carriage as it rattled away from Lincoln’s Inn in the darkness of an overcast London night. Mr. Hunters had speedily concluded their interview once he had pressed her home’s key into her hands. However, she did not leave until she had confirmed that Hunters would advise Papa of the Bennet Townhouse. She would leave it to her father’s good judgment as to how much further he would spread the information.

She was quite curious as to how this Madras House would appear, for, in spite of Hunters’ assurances that the establishment was fully staffed, she could not believe that an otherwise uninhabited dwelling (for the past seventy years at the very least) would be livable.

In short order, the vehicle was parked at the curb in front of a yellow-white stone clad townhome rising above the fashionable street bordering the Park. The great windows—three on either side of the entrance—glowed with candlelight, giving the entire aspect a cheeriness that squeezed Kitty’s heart, reminding her of how her beloved Matlock House looked after sunset. Torches also had been lit on either side of the entry walkway, and a greatcoat-clad footman hurried down the front stairs to lower the step and open the coach’s door. He handed Kitty down to the elevated walkway fronting the house. He then offered her his arm to allow her to safely navigate the marble stairs, perhaps slippery with a mid-December rime.

Stepping through the double doors into the front entryway, she was greeted by both the butler and housekeeper who headed double files of staff members lined up for her inspection.

The graying head of the household rumbled his greeting first, “Good evening, my Lady, Mr. Hunters alerted us to expect you. I am Hudson, your butler. It is my privilege to welcome you to Madras House, so named by Mr. Benjamin Bennet.”

Kitty appreciated the sense of history that established lineage and ownership.

Hudson continued, “May I present you to Mrs. Hudson, your housekeeper.”[i]

The middle-aged woman reminded Kitty of dear Mrs. Hill. Her friendly face immediately put the Countess at ease after a long day of travel.

Mrs. Hudson set to her task by saying in a well-modulated and pleasant alto, “I speak for all of the above- and below-stairs staff when I assure you, my Lady, that we are most eager to be of service to you. I must candidly note that we have somewhat despaired of being of service to anyone for many years. I do hope that you find the furnishings to your taste. We have made every effort to stay in step with the times.

“However, while the residence may be styled Madras House, Mr. Hudson and I, along with young Mr. Hunters, agreed to avoid faddish fripperies, particularly those of an Oriental flavor. Rather we determined to put good English craftsmen to work building sensible furniture that would stand the test of time.”

Kitty smiled to herself.

I am trying to imagine one of the young tabbies of the ton being on the receiving end of that speech. Not only would Mrs. Hudson be out on her ear, so, too, would every stick of “sensible furniture” that servants or tradesmen would have the impudence to install in a fashionable Grosvenor townhouse. Miss Bingley would probably populate every room with Grecian urns, faux Roman gladiator statues, and spindly-legged chairs unsuitable for anyone heavier than herself.

Yet, Kitty was knowledgeable that her staff had no idea of the tone to be set by this unknown quantity, the Dowager Countess of Deauville. The next few moments would establish their relationship.

Before doing anything else, Kitty pulled off her gloves, reached into her reticule and removed a guinea. This she handed to Hudson, asking him to present it to the coachman with her compliments and advise him that he could return to Meryton.

“Oh, Mr. Hudson, when you return, please ask the young footman to remove the knocker and come inside. We are not expecting any visitors this evening, and it would be cruel for him to be forced to remain out in the cold.”

As Hudson moved away, Kitty reached up to loosen the fastenings on her pelisse and bonnet. Another footman stepped forward to relieve her of her outerwear.

If her gown was a bit of last year’s fashion, Mrs. Hudson had the grace not to give any indication of notice.

Moving a little deeper into the entry hall, Kitty took in the expectant faces of her retainers old and young. Decades of managing three households took over. She could sense the nervous wariness that was the natural state of servants facing a new mistress.

After the cold draft admitted by the returning butler and footman had passed by her side, Kitty raised her chin and gazed out at the assembled multitude.

“Good evening everyone. I must first apologize for descending upon you without much warning. However, from what I have seen in these first few minutes, I must tell you that I am very pleased and proud of the manner in which you have adjusted. This is a credit to your leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson.

“Our home is beautiful with that warm and cheerful feeling that makes one wish to never leave. That is because each of you has clearly learned your tasks and has executed them exceptionally well.

“I apprehend that you have not had anyone in residence for a considerable period of time. Now, you will be able to tell your fellows that you are serving the Dowager Countess of Deauville, Lady Robard. I am no stranger to English shores, so please do not fear that you will suddenly be required to learn French or adopt foreign behavior.”

This last brought smiles from all and a few titters from the younger maids.

Kitty chuckled with them, knowing that her acceptance of their sense of humor would go a long way toward smoothing relations between Mistress and staff during the coming weeks.

Then she carried on understanding that backstairs gossip would spread like wildfire throughout the establishments around the Square. She knew that it was best that she create and establish her legend before the more inventive staff members filled in gaps with uncomfortable “facts.”

She added, “As I am certain that you all have questions, please allow me to anticipate them with some information about myself.

“You already know my title. My full name when Anglicized is Catherine Margaret Robard. Please, I beg you, do not refer to me as Lady Catherine. I cannot abide that name. Although I cannot imagine you needing to address me beyond ‘Your Ladyship,’ if necessary, you may name me ‘Lady Kitty.’ I realize that this likely does not fit with your sense of proper respect for a member of the gentry, especially those of you who are more mature.

“None-the-less, I think we can agree that some of the troubles my poor country has been experiencing in the past twenty years are rooted in the aristocracy’s unyielding grip on their traditional prerogatives. Thankfully, my late husband was conversant with the social currents flowing through the Enlightenment.

“You may be amused to learn that he found the Englishman John Locke’s ideas on Reason and Government to be remarkably forward-thinking.[ii] Sadly, le Compte was taken from us a few years ago when the fevers swept him away. My children, now grown, are safe in the Americas.”

Kitty paused for a moment, as if collecting her thoughts, before continuing, “While I may be from across the Channel, my relations in Hertfordshire have been most helpful during my trials. The Master of Longbourn, Mr. Bennet, has offered me the use of Madras House while I conduct some important business before returning to the Robard holdings in Louisiana.

“Thus, I place myself in your caring hands. I am certain that each of you will conduct yourself in a manner that will uphold the honor of the Bennet Family and this great house. I do hope to learn each of your names in the coming days. I do ask that you will forebear any tardiness in that undertaking. I have come a great distance and, at my age, weariness is an unwelcome traveling companion.”

Kitty had actually begun to wilt as she ended her address. Mrs. Hudson had moved to her side, ready to guide her to the parlor where she might take a moment to regroup before further evening activities. Hudson quickly dismissed the staff with a curt nod. In short order, the hall was deserted except for the Countess and the two servants.

Guiding her into a small, but well-appointed public room, Mrs. Hudson saw her mistress settled upon a sofa. The butler added a few chunks of gleaming anthracite to the hearth, already popping and sizzling with a happy blaze that cast an orange glow over the room. Kitty agreed with Mrs. Hudson that while young Mr. Hunters was a capable legal man, his hosting skills left much to be desired. She had eaten nothing since the fireside al fresco meal in the Longbourn bookroom, now some seven hours ago. She readily acceded to Mrs. Hudson’s suggestion that a selection of fruit, cold meats, and cheeses would carry her through the night to the morning.

As her lady began nodding after consuming a small plate and imbibing a cup of oolong, Mrs. Hudson, although her junior, mothered the weary woman to her chamber on the second floor where a quick wash, a fresh night rail, and a deep featherbed awaited her.

 

[i] Mrs. Hudson, of course, was Sherlock Holmes’ redoubtable landlady. We may assume that this lady is an ancestor.

[ii] Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is widely seen as being the opening shot of the Enlightenment. Locke’s Second Treatise on Government (1690) established the rationale for first constitutional monarchy and then, when viewed by American colonial thinkers after the Great Awakening, revolution seeking to found a republic.

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About The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

“I have been shaped by the events of over forty years. The world is a nasty place full of awful persons, Mr. Wickham, and does not get any lighter through complaining or blaming.”

The Countess: An Enigma? A Mystery? Or a young girl all-grown-up? 

Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her youngest sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly.

How right they were…but the type of instruction Kitty Bennet received, and the where/when in which she matriculated was far beyond their ken. For they knew nothing of that remarkable piece of furniture which had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe. 

Forty-six years from when she left her Papa’s bookroom, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to that exact same moment in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business.

In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam helped her youngest sister find the love she craved with the hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”

Who can resist the magic of time-travel? Pages of worldwide history rustle back and forth between Regency grand salons, Napoleonic battlefields and more recent conflicts as, guided by Don Jacobson’s masterful pen, the Bennet sisters grow as people and come into their own. ‘The Countess Visits Longbourn’ is a wonderful new instalment, and we cannot fail to revel in the excellent writing and the abundance of detail as the mysteries of the Wardrobe continue to unfold. This captivating series, that brings together real and much-loved fictional characters from all walks of life, is one to savour, and I will revisit it again and again.

Joana Starnes, author of Miss Darcy’s Companion 

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.

He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.

His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering 12 books (10 ebooks, 2 paperbacks) as part of the blog tour. You must use the Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook or Paperback of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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Feb. 14 Austenesque Reviews;  Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 15 My Jane Austen Book Club;  Guest Post, Giveaway

Feb. 17 My Love for Jane Austen;  Character Interview, Giveaway

Feb. 19 So little time…  Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 20 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl;  Review, Giveaway

Feb. 21 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, Giveaway

Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged;  Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 24 Darcyholic Diversions;  Character Interview, Giveaway

Feb. 26 From Pemberley to Milton;  Excerpt

Feb. 28 Just Jane 1813;  Review, Giveaway

Mar. 2  Diary of an Eccentric;  Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

Mar. 3  My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, Giveaway

Mar. 5  Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, Giveaway

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

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Today I am delighted to kick off the blog tour for Mark Brownlow’s Cake and Courtship, which is Book One of Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs. I’ve invited Mark here today to introduce the book, and there’s even a deliciously sweet giveaway! Please give Mark a warm welcome:

First of all, a big thank you to Anna for hosting me at Diary of an Eccentric. This is the first stop on the Cake and Courtship blog tour, so it seemed a good idea to introduce you to the premise behind the novel, with the help of an excerpt.

We can all imagine Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet sitting happily in his library with the door firmly shut.

What we probably cannot imagine is that same Mr Bennet involving himself in matters of the heart. This is how Jane Austen described him in Pride and Prejudice:

…so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.

Mrs Bennet may not fully grasp her husband’s true nature, but we can agree she would never describe him as “romantic”. Remember how he mocked Jane’s fate after Mr Bingley left for London?

“So, Lizzy,” said he one day, “your sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.

Just why is Mr Bennet so cynical? And might all his teasing hide a heart that is more tender than he cares to admit?

These two questions sit at the centre of Cake and Courtship. Indeed, they are the very questions that Mr Bennet must ask himself when visited by John Barton, the artist son of an old friend who left the country many years ago.

John is a little naïve and a lot in love. Unfortunately, his attempts to even meet the elusive Miss Hayter of Bath have suffered from a lack of confidence and connections. In his desperation, John asks Mr Bennet for advice.

This sets off a chain of events where our dear Mr Bennet is forced to confront both his own past and the perils of the game of courtship, armed with little more than wry humour and a slice of sponge cake. And all this takes place during uproar at Longbourn. It appears Netherfield Park is let at last…

In the excerpt below, Mr Bennet has just learnt of John’s wish to seek his advice and he discusses the prospect with his favourite daughter. There are a few conversations between Elizabeth and her father in Cake and Courtship: the two share a common intelligence and mutual respect that offers a lot of potential for verbal duelling!

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An excerpt from Cake and Courtship, courtesy of Mark Brownlow

“Lizzy.” She looked up from her book. I held up the letter to her from the other end of the library. “News from John. He writes from his Rudford estate and expects to visit in some ten days’ time.”

“This is good news.” She placed her book to one side, a pressed flower serving to mark the page. “And does he remove your fears for his family’s welfare…and ours?”

“He does. More or less. He has completed his estate business and seems in good spirits. The message is most amiable, suggesting his character remains as pleasant as I remember it to be. And it appears he is, as yet, unmarried, though that is a thought we should keep to ourselves for now. Let us not raise any false hopes, especially given his final words. Listen to this, Lizzy: I also beg leave to seek your advice on a personal matter…concerning a lady.

Lizzy seemed to struggle to contain a smile. “And this disturbs you, Papa?”

“It does, though it rather depends on what he means. I hope he does not wish to discuss such matters as her suitability, or how he might set about winning her affection.”

Lizzy lifted a hand to cover her laughter. “Be at ease, Papa. I do not think he would look to you for advice on such topics.”

“My dear girl, I am always happy to play the victim for your teasing but here it is entirely misplaced. Such things may not interest me now, but I’ll have you know I was once thought of as a great master of the rituals of courtship. Henry Barton certainly thought so. One or two young men owe their success as suitors as much to my guidance as to their lands and titles. Imagine, Lizzy: I once even believed in romance and the persuasive power of poetry. Still, I daresay all men have the right to be fools for at least part of their lives.”

“Only a part?”

“Well, when I consider many of my acquaintances, you may be right.”

“With such a talent for courtship, Papa, I wonder you took so long to marry yourself.”

I turned my head so she would not see my face. A careful smile and the scent of lavender flitted at the edge of my memory, kept out by a wall of regret. “As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls. Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.”

“Did you help Mr Barton court his wife?”

“Not directly. My ideals had long since shattered on the anvil of disappointment by the time Henry met Sophia, though I, too, was tempted to seek her affection. This was before I was introduced to your mother, of course. His love was true, and I left the field clear for him. Sophia chose wisely when she married Henry and I envied their joy. It survived the wilting of passion that does for so many arrangements.”

“It sounds like John should better talk with his father, then.”

“Let us not get ahead of ourselves, Lizzy. Men may talk of a lady without intending to wed her, whatever Mrs Bennet might believe. But if he does have an eye to marry, John’s father will not speak with him on such matters. Not because he fears the idea of female companionship and affection, but because he mourns the loss of both so deeply. Besides, by the time they exchanged letters on the subject, the lady in question would no doubt be wearing someone else’s ring.”

Lizzy stood and moved to the window. “For where thou art, there is the world itself, / With every several pleasure in the world, / And where thou art not, desolation.

“Suffolk, no? In Henry the Sixth?”

“Part Two.”

“Yet Suffolk could still find joy that Queen Margaret lived. Henry has not even that consolation. But hush, girl, John’s letter and your questions make me sentimental and that will not do at all, for I have business to attend to in town.”

“Business?”

“Of a sort. A lecture from Mr Criswick.”

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About Cake and Courtship

When John Barton falls in love with the elusive Anne Hayter, there is only one man he can turn to for advice. Unfortunately, that man is Mr Bennet of Longbourn, a world-weary gentleman with five daughters pursuing their own marital ambitions.

To help John, Mr Bennet must emerge from his beloved library and face the challenges of the tearoom and dance floor one more time. In doing so, he finds his own romantic past catching up with him.

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mark Brownlow takes you on an Austenesque journey full of wry humour and Regency romance (with a few slices of sponge cake).

As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls. Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.

Cake and Courtship is a standalone story, but also the first book of Mr Bennet’s memoirs.

Click here to buy Cake and Courtship

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About the Author

Mark Brownlow

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet. He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid, a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails.

Science degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Aberdeen and Reading prefaced a short-lived career as a research academic. Since turning from facts to fiction, Mark has also worked as a translator, agony aunt, marketing consultant, journalist, business writer, web publisher and copywriter. None of which kept his soul happy in the way that creative writing does. When not writing, he works as a part-time lecturer in medical and scientific English at a local university.

If there is no pen to hand, he can be found watching his kids play football or sharing a glass of wine with his wife in front of a costume or historical drama.

Mark’s website
Mark’s author page at Goodreads
Mark’s author page at Amazon.co.uk
Mark’s author page at Amazon.com
Mark on Twitter
Mark on Facebook

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Giveaway

Mark is generously offering a winner’s choice giveaway, open internationally. One lucky winner can choose between a copy of Cake and Courtship or a box of chocolates. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 11, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Thank you, Mark, for being my guest today. I hope my readers agree that Cake and Courtship sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to read it and spend some time with Mr. Bennet!

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