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Maria Grace

I’m delighted to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today to showcase her latest novel, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon, the first in a new series. Please give Maria a warm welcome as she answers my question: Why Dragons?

I was chatting with Anna one day and she asked, “So what’s a nice regency romance writer like you doing with a book like that? Dragons? Seriously?”

Ok, that’s not really what Anna asked me. (We all know she is much too sweet and well-mannered to say anything like that.) But she did ask me to talk a little about how I ended up writing a Pride and Prejudice variation about dragons. So, same thing more or less, right?

But I digress.

I suppose I could wax philosophical and say that it began back in the dark ages of middle school when I first read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Flight. My imagination was captured by her dragons. Seriously, in the midst of middle school angst, who wouldn’t want an enormous, fire-breathing friend who was entirely devoted to you? I certainly would have welcomed that. Middle school—shudder!

Seriously though, I’ve loved fantasy from the very beginning and only recently wandered into the realm of the regency era and Jane Austen’s world. The first stories I wrote were science fiction fan fiction and the first original novel I wrote was a fantasy. And yes, I still have it, and no, I’m not letting it out of the box where it safely resides. (I ONCE thought about resurrecting it, but yeah, it was written by a fifteen year old, and there was no getting away from that.)

Writing took a back seat to college, graduate school, adult life and kids. Somehow, when I wandered back into the authorial realm, I landed in regency era England.

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Maria Grace

My husband and boys were thrilled that I was fulfilling a long held passion and totally supportive of my efforts. But… (you knew that was coming, right?) They were also science fiction/fantasy fans. Knowing about my prior dabbling in those genres, they really, really REALLY wanted me to write something they would want to read. (Ok, to be fair, my Mr. Darcy actually does read ALL of my books, romance, history, fantasy… all of them.)

So, one day, at the local pizza buffet, I was knocking around story ideas with my boys, something we’d often done before.  We were getting a little silly and just tossing stuff out there, when an idea landed with a resounding, deafening thud. A dragon sized one.

What if there were a secret society of dragons living alongside people in Regency England.

I suddenly had their attention. Ideas were flying fast and furious: ideas for how the species would interact, what government would look like, the economics of it all—and boy could I tell they’d been paying attention in their history and government classes! In the span of way longer than we should have spent eating pizza, we had an entire dragon world built, just screaming for a story to live in it.

And really, as a mother, and an author, how could I possibly walk away from something that my kids helped me build? Seriously? I had to write something for that world. It was about that time that I encountered Pride Prejudice and Zombies—which was an interesting experience and we’ll leave it at that.

But it did get me thinking, which is a dangerous thing. As much fun as zombies might be (ok, not really, I’m not a zombie kinda gal), dragons had to be better right. So the gauntlet was thrown, and Mr. Darcy’s Dragon was born.

To be entirely honest, I have never had as much fun writing a series as I have with these dragon books. I’m currently half way through the second book and into plotting the third book. With any luck book two should be done this quarter and I’d like to have the third one done by the end of the year. I know it’s a big leap for regency romance readers, but I hope that some of you will grab the dragon by the tail and join me in a dragon world where Darcy and Elizabeth must prevent the outbreak of a new dragon war (and maybe fall in love in the process) with a little help from their dragon friends.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your inspiration with me and my readers. I can’t wait to delve into this world of dragons!

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About Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon

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England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind.  Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?

Check out Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon on Goodreads | Amazon (Kindle) (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Nook) (Paperback) | Kobo

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace via email at author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Random Bits of Fascination | Jane Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering an ebook copy of Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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a-vintage-valentine

Source: Read online at Vanity & Pride Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

She was sure of the magic of Valentine’s Day, felt it in her bones. She didn’t know what to expect, but she knew this dress was part of it.

(from “A Vintage Valentine”)

Cat Gardiner’s “A Vintage Valentine” is a modern-day short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzy Bennet is a dance instructor without a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. At her sister Jane’s recommendation, Lizzy visits the Memories of Old antique shop on the rundown east side of Meryton, where the elderly shopkeeper, Doris, insists she check out the booth full of items from the 1940s. After picking up a plastic red heart brooch, Lizzy is magically transported back in time to a USO dance in 1943 and is swept off her feet by a charming GI named Will Darcy.

Traveling back 74 years is enjoyable to Lizzy, who has been contemplating a simpler life with less reliance on technology that has absorbed so much of people’s time and attention they don’t actually experience things anymore. However, Lizzy’s place is in the present.  Doris explains the reason why she needed to go back and right a major wrong, but being a true romantic, Doris assures Lizzy that there is something special in store for her as well.

“A Vintage Valentine” is a delightfully sweet tale that combines two of my favorite things: Jane Austen and the World War II era. Gardiner does a great job shifting the characters from past to present and cleverly incorporating aspects of Pride and Prejudice with time travel. Gardiner’s tales never fail to put a smile on my face, and I found myself wishing I could travel back to the romance of the 1940s myself. It’s a feel-good story with a heart-warming ending and a bit of passion and humor throughout.

Disclosure: I read “A Vintage Valentine” for free online at Vanity & Pride Press but it also is available on Amazon

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understanding-elizabeth

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

What I once spurned, I would now give all my wealth and status to have. … Through my own stupidity, I have thrown away my best chance of happiness.

(from Understanding Elizabeth)

Robin M. Helm’s latest novel, Understanding Elizabeth, is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice told entirely from the point of view of Mr. Darcy. The novel opens at Netherfield, with Elizabeth Bennet in residence as she cares for her sister, Jane, whose illness is more serious than originally believed. When Darcy stumbles upon Elizabeth’s journal entries tucked into a book, he succumbs to the temptation to read her thoughts and get to know her better.

Unfortunately, he learns that Elizabeth, her family, and all of Mertyon are aware of the insulting words he said about her to Mr. Bingley at the Meryton Assembly, and he wishes he could take them back, especially as he has come to appreciate Elizabeth’s beauty and intelligence. As he fights an interior battle between wanting love and doing his duty to his family and estate, he is given the opportunity to secure his heart’s desire, but there is a serious price to pay, and Darcy must learn what it truly means to love someone in order to make the right choice.

Understanding Elizabeth follows a similar timeline as the original novel, but there are plenty of differences to hold readers’ interest. I especially enjoyed seeing Darcy balance his desire for Jane to recover with his frustration at a potential rival for Elizabeth’s affections in Dr. Stedman, and bringing Mr. Bennet to Netherfield for the duration of Jane’s illness gives him a chance to tease Darcy and observe his true character and his changing opinion toward the Bennets.

Helm does a great job bringing the secondary characters to life, creating a more steady and observant Bingley and a more confident, take-charge Georgiana, and there were several intriguing original characters, my favorite being Watkins, Darcy’s perceptive valet. There was plenty of drama involving Darcy’s otherworldly offer and, of course, Wickham, and plenty of tender moments with Elizabeth. But where the novel shines is in its first person narrative, as readers get to experience Darcy’s realizations of his perceived character, his efforts to change those perceptions, his weakness amidst a feeling of hopelessness, and his determination.

I felt like I really got to know and understand Darcy, but Helm also does a good job of letting readers get to know Elizabeth through Darcy’s close observation of her. There were so many scenes that brought a smile to my face, from the chess games with high stakes to Darcy’s soul-bearing conversations with Georgiana and Richard. Understanding Elizabeth is a thought-provoking take on Pride and Prejudice and the lengths people are willing to go to find love and happiness.

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Giveaway

Robin is generously offering 2 copies of Understanding Elizabeth to my readers: a Kindle copy (international/domestic) and a print copy (U.S. only). To enter, please leave a comment on this post with your email address and your desired format should you win. This giveaway will close on Sunday, February 26, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received Understanding Elizabeth from the author for review.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“My brother-in-law is celebrated for his wit and intelligence, and Elizabeth is her father’s daughter. She gives as good as she gets.”

“Yes, I found that out the hard way — through personal experience.”

“Both of you are being overly generous in your praise,” an embarrassed Lizzy answered. “In your statements, there is the impression that being a wit is akin to being wise. However, you can be both witty and wrong.”

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers”)

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” is one of three short stories by Mary Lydon Simonsen inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that re-imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. (Check out my reviews of “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” and “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls”)

In this story, Darcy arrives at Pemberley after riding through a storm that has sickened his manservant. He learns there are visitors touring Pemberley and hopes they will not be stranded there when the skies open up again. However, when Darcy realizes the visitors are Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners, he delays their departure by having his staff give them refreshments. Meanwhile, Elizabeth keeps insisting to her aunt that they should leave, having realized her judgment of Darcy was mistaken since rejecting his proposal.

This was my favorite of the three stories about second chances, mainly because there was more detail about how both Darcy and Elizabeth have changed since Hunsford and more interaction between them. In particular, I enjoyed the scene where Darcy and Elizabeth meet in his study that night to discuss his letter despite the impropriety of them being alone together. Like the other stories, “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” ended on a hopeful note, and my only complaint is that it felt too short. Even so, it was a satisfying read that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” is from my personal library.

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behind-pemberleys-walls

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

From this spot, the Master of Pemberley had a panoramic view of the manor and gardens — a view with the power to heal. And he was in need of a cure from the wounds he had suffered at the hands of Elizabeth Bennet. Not only had Elizabeth refused his proposal of marriage, she had made it clear that she wanted nothing further to do with him. He had hardly anticipated rejection, no less banishment. But the thought of never seeing her again…it was simply too much to bear.

(from “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls”)

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is one of three short stories by Mary Lydon Simonsen inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that re-imagine Darcy and Elizabeth’s meeting at Pemberley following her rejection of his proposal at Hunsford. I reviewed “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” a few years ago, and my review of “Darcy and Elizabeth: Answered Prayers” will be posted tomorrow.

In this story, Darcy is still heartbroken from Elizabeth’s unexpected refusal when he returns to Pemberley on the same day Elizabeth is touring his estate with her aunt and uncle. With the help of his butler, Darcy eavesdrops on Elizabeth as she views the portrait gallery and confides in her aunt Gardiner about what happened between them.

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is a sweet story about second chances. I enjoyed the humor as Darcy confides in Jackson and spies on Elizabeth, and Elizabeth and Darcy’s eventual meeting as she is trying to get the Gardiners to quickly leave Pemberley was a cute touch. Simonsen’s stories are great for when you’re in the mood for something short and sweet while drinking a cup of coffee or tea. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, though one could easily imagine the couple achieving their happy ending.

Disclosure: “Darcy and Elizabeth: Behind Pemberley’s Walls” is from my personal library.

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donwell-abbey-cover

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

There seemed to be only one option. It would break her heart, but it would protect the man she loved. And wasn’t that the very definition of love? Doing what’s best for the other person, in spite of your own desires?

(from Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey)

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is the sequel to Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes, a novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set during the Great War. While Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey can be read as a standalone book, I think it’s important to read them in order for a richer experience.

Picking up where the first novel ended, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have expressed their love for one another and are hopeful about being reunited in a matter of months. However, while waiting for Darcy at his home, Pemberley, Elizabeth receives some terrifying information that prompts her to flee without a trace. Meanwhile, Darcy and his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, are working to solve a mystery involving a conspiracy when he learns that Elizabeth has disappeared, dealing him a crushing blow that is only the beginning of his pain.

Ginger Monette does a fantastic job painting a picture of wartime, from the trenches to battle to the hospitals, and crafting characters traumatized by their experiences but still open to finding love and happiness. There is plenty of action to keep readers’ attention from the very first page, but Monette also provides plenty of food for thought about the physical, mental, and emotional impact of war. My heart ached for Darcy and Elizabeth, but it rejoiced with them as well. I loved how Monette worked in characters from Emma, with Darcy’s connection to the Knightley family, Hartfield, and Donwell Abbey, as well as Sense and Sensibility, and I especially appreciated how she stayed true to Austen’s beloved couple even while putting them in a different time and more difficult circumstances.

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About Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey

1917. Amidst the chaos of WW1, Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy has won the heart of Elizabeth Bennet. Finally.

Then she disappears.

Still reeling from the loss, Darcy is struck by a battlefield tragedy that leaves him in a dark and silent world.

Sent to Donwell Abbey to recover, he's coaxed back to life by an extraordinary nurse. A woman whose uncanny similarities to Elizabeth invite his admiration and entice his affections.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth. His head tells him to take a chance with his nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything.

Check out Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey on Goodreads | Amazon | other retailers

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About the Author

Ginger Monette

Ginger Monette

The teacher always learns the most. And in homeschooling her children, Ginger Monette learned all the history she missed in school. Now she’s hooked—on writing and World War I.

When not writing, Ginger enjoys dancing on the treadmill, watching period dramas, public speaking, and reading—a full-length novel every Sunday afternoon.

Her WW1 flash fiction piece, Flanders Field of Grey, won Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s 2015 Picture This grand prize.

Ginger lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she happily resides with her husband, three teenagers, and two loyal dogs.

Connect with Ginger Monette via website | Facebook | Amazon author page

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Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey from the author for review.

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a-valentine-for-darcy

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Bingley blinked in astonishment. “I can hardly believe it. This is not like you, Darcy.”

“No, I have been a boring stick in the mud for years. But I have been reborn. I am a lover now.” He laughed at his own foolishness.

(from A Valentine for Darcy)

Jane Grix’s A Valentine for Darcy is a novella variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I couldn’t resist reading for Valentine’s Day. In London after the Netherfield Ball, Mr. Darcy receives a valentine that he is sure is from Elizabeth Bennet. In all of his excitement to return to Hertfordshire to ask for Elizabeth’s hand, he doesn’t realize the valentine is from Caroline Bingley, who isn’t about to give up her quest to become Mrs. Darcy so easily.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is shocked when Mr. Darcy arrives with a besotted Mr. Bingley, and even more so when he asks to speak to her father. But she has seen a change in his manner, so she is willing to hear him out. However, when her sister Lydia goes missing just before Jane and Bingley’s wedding, Elizabeth and Darcy are forced apart just as her feelings toward him are softening.

A Valentine for Darcy is a sweet tale featuring a more romantic Darcy who is willing to go after his heart’s desire. There’s still a bit of arrogance and pride in him, but he doesn’t have as many sharp edges. I enjoyed the romance and the humor, and Grix even manages to insert some drama and tension with Caroline, Lady Catherine, and Wickham. Despite the quick resolution, I felt completely satisfied at the end, though I would’ve loved a full-length novel that developed the Caroline and Wickham aspects of the story a bit more. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Grix!

Disclosure: A Valentine for Darcy is from my personal library.

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