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Archive for the ‘jane austen’ Category

austen's independence dayI’m thrilled to welcome Melissa Belle to Diary of an Eccentric today with an excerpt of her novel, Austen’s Independence Day, which I will be reviewing soon. Melissa also is generously offering a giveaway of the book. Please give her a warm welcome!

Lifelong friends with occasional benefits, Macey Henwood and Morgan Thornbrush are at a crossroads. After Macey tells Morgan in no uncertain terms that she will never marry anyone, especially him, Morgan gets engaged to another woman and is heralded as the Mr. Darcy of their small town of Austen, Texas. In the following scene late one night at the town lake, Macey is blackmailed into giving an interview with Skip, an out-of-town, nosy reporter, about how Jane Austen’s ghost ended up in Austen, Texas. Skip also wants to know exactly what is the deal with her and Morgan? Macey ends up giving Skip more than he bargained for…

Excerpt from Austen’s Independence Day

Skip presses record as I watch Morgan and Gigi laughing together. I swallow down the jealousy and take several large sips of beer.

“I can’t remember a time when my mother wasn’t consumed by her.” My gaze passes over Skip to the dark woods behind him. “By a ghost, for God sakes. Because Mama used to say Jane never asked to be Queen. ‘A true heroine never does, Macey. A true heroine just is. And Jane Austen’s ghost certainly never asked to be jailed against her will and kept apart from her soul mate.’ But whether the whole thing is true or not, one thing I know for sure—the spirit of Jane Austen is no ordinary ghost. And my position at the Cowherd is no ordinary bar job. As my daddy once said to me, ‘Darlin’, running the Cowherd Saloon & Chapel isn’t like running your normal, run-of-the-mill bar. It’s like adding gasoline to whiskey and trying not to let it catch fire.’”

Skip nods solemnly as he pushes the phone closer to my mouth and types vigorously into his iPad.

And I keep talking. “But the legend of Austen, Texas didn’t begin here. It started all the way across the Atlantic, where town founder and first mayor Frederick Woodholm Howells was still living in England with his new bride, Vivian Elmstock Howells. That’s when Frederick strayed with another woman. And that’s when the facts get fuzzy and the legend gets louder. It’s widely believed that an outraged and humiliated Vivian agreed to still sail with him across the Atlantic and settle in the Texas Hill Country part of America he’d visited and fallen in love with two years prior on one condition—that he name their landing place after the author who wrote about romance, and that he kidnap that same author’s spirit from her peaceful resting place in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral and bring her to Texas. Jane Austen wasn’t even that famous yet, but literary people already respected her writings. And of course, soon she would become known the world over.”

“What about Pride and Prejudice?” Skip asks. “How did the greatest love story ever written play a role?”

“Well,” I say. “One evening Vivian found an open copy of the novel alongside an unknown bottle of perfume in her husband’s private study, and she put two and two together. Rumor has it there was hell to pay when he returned home from the local bar. But Vivian didn’t just yell at her husband—she also picked up that copy of Pride and Prejudice and read it cover to cover. And she decided Jane Austen’s romantic touch must have been the X factor in her husband choosing another woman over her.”

“The X factor.” Skip nods vigorously and continues typing. “Of course.”

“Desperate to keep Vivian’s affection, her husband agreed to her terms. He hired a witch to cast a spell and draw Jane’s spirit out from the grave and trap her in ghost form. The witch gave the ghost to Frederick in a bottle, to be opened inside jail cell number one in the Austen Jail, a cell that the founder was to instruct no one ever to use. But even if the cell were opened with a key, Jane’s ghost would still be trapped, because the witch had put a spell befitting Jane: only when she is witness to the coming together of true soul mates will the spell break and Jane will return to Great Britain and her soul mate.”

More beer. My eyes focus below the cypress tree, where Dunce puts his arm around Ginny’s shoulders as she leans her head against him. Maybe they will make it. Maybe Dunce really will grow up.

“But what came of Vivian through all of this?” Skip asks me. “Why did she get even more embittered?”

“Vivian became obsessed with Jane Austen’s message of love, but as hard as she tried, she was never able to rekindle that former magic with her husband. The way I see the legend is as a parable. Vivian was trying to hold onto something she’d lost—her husband’s love—by holding onto or imprisoning a symbol of true love, in Jane Austen’s ghost.”

I gulp down the rest of my beer and Skip does the same with his.

“This is heavy,” he says. “So Vivian never had the happy ending she craved.”

I shake my head and glance toward Morgan.

“Both of these couples have a shot to make history.” Skip glances at Morgan and Gigi and then over at Ginny and Dunce.

I look for an extra beat at Morgan.

“It’s never as easy as boy meets girl, is it?” he says. “No matter what century.”

I guess not.

“Over to you now.” He returns to his iPad. “Why did you vow to never marry?”

“You know, Mama was obsessed—obsessed—with Pride and Prejudice. Calls it her Love Bible. And she means it.”

“It’s the greatest romance novel ever written,” Skip concurs.

“So she used it for all it was worth. Even made me memorize the most important parts. Like when Darcy tells Elizabeth, ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’”

Skip sighs ecstatically.

“Mama would sigh just like you’re doing now. ‘Would you listen to that?’ she’d say. ‘THAT is true love. THAT is a man showing real love and respect for a woman.’”

“So you’ve been sitting around waiting for your Mr. Darcy to show up in Texas?” Skip asks me.

I never should have had a beer. I certainly shouldn’t have practically chugged it. I already had that half a bottle by the cooler, and I’m just not a drinker. One drink is enough to loosen my tongue. It always has been.

“No. Maybe when I was little. But once I became a teenager, I knew that marriage just wasn’t for me.”

“But now Morgan, your best friend with benefits, is marrying somebody else and he’s the town’s Mr. Darcy. How does that make you feel?”

I clear my throat and look down at my beer. “Relationships aren’t for me.”

“Why not? What makes you different than anyone else?”

Maybe if I’d stayed completely sober I wouldn’t have answered Skip’s question with—

“Love is always hard, but when you’re supposedly cursed it throws a whole new wrinkle into it. I’d always vowed to be the opposite of my mother in romantic relationships—you know, I never wanted to lose myself in a man and in needing that man to be my everything. I didn’t want the world to go cold if he wasn’t there to keep me warm.”

“Beautifully said.” Skip types hastily. “But what do you mean—cursed? That sounds serious.”

“My mother’s word. She thinks I’m cursed.” I hold out my arm and show him the inside of my wrist. “A freak accident that gave my mother proof I’m destined to share the ghost of Jane Austen’s fate. Unless the soul mates unlock the ghost, Austen Macey Henwood’s heart will stay locked as well.”

“And she believes this why? Sounds like she’s a bit theatrical.”

“She is. Who else would steal a page out of Vivian’s diary and make her oldest daughter hide it for fear of the town finding out she’s jinxed? Yeah, sure, the page says something about the eldest daughter of the jailkeeper and a scar she bears, but so what? The whole thing’s stupid.”

Skip drops his phone onto the table. Unfortunately, it stays intact, because I’ve just realized what I gave him. The hook of all hooks for a hungry reporter looking for a story.

“Oh, no.” I put my head in my hands.

“Oh, yes,” Skip’s excited voice says next to me.

About the Author

melissa_belleMelissa Belle writes steamy romance novels where the hero and heroine are passionate, independent, and good to each other. The first romance book she read (and fell in love with) was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Melissa wrote her first novel riding through Europe on the train, and she travels with her husband (and first reader of all her stories) as much as possible.

Melissa dances in a belly dance troupe. She is a professional tarot and oracle card reader. She also loves songwriting, hooping, and her two rescue kitties. And cupcakes.

Connect with Melissa on her website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

About Austen’s Independence Day

What if you don’t find your Mr. Darcy… until you’ve already lost him? It is universally acknowledged in the tiny town of Austen, Texas that Macey Henwood will never get married. When your hometown is obsessed with freeing Jane Austen’s ghost from the local bar, staying single feels like the only way to stay sane. But then Morgan Thornbrush, her lifelong best friend with benefits, gets engaged out of the blue, and it drives Macey crazy, especially when the town anoints the new couple Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Now she’s smack in the middle of a wedding she wants no part of. From “bonding” with Morgan’s bombshell fiancé to helping him let go of their complicated past, Macey’s forced to face the truth—the perfect arrangement she had with Morgan is over. But when the pages of an explosive diary ignite fireworks between her and Morgan as his July fourth wedding approaches, Macey must make a life-changing decision. Can the town’s version of Mr. Darcy really be the man for her after all?

Buy Austen’s Independence Day on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

Giveaway

Melissa is generously offering an e-book version (Kindle, Nook, or iBooks) of Austen’s Independence Day to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address indicating what intrigues you most about the excerpt. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, July 31. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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undercover book cover

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

If she hadn’t been a principled woman (and undercover) she would’ve shacked up with the suit — had he offered. He might have made her rethink that Eli Bennet doctrine. Of all the men who had made passes at her, his would have been the one she welcomed and accepted. When he had glanced in her direction her breath caught. Tall, mysterious, and handsome, his brooding smolder was hard-boiled through and through.

(from Undercover)

Quick summary: Cat Gardiner’s Undercover brilliantly blends Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with crime fiction Noir, telling the tale of Elizabeth “Eli” Bennet, a gumshoe on the trail of George “Slick Wick” Wickham as she investigates the disappearance of her best friend, Mary King. Elizabeth’s family thinks she’s a bookkeeper for Macy’s but instead she runs Bennet Private Investigations in an office/apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. She’s a career girl who high-tailed it out of her drunken parents’ home in Queens as soon as she was able. She’s at odds with her sister, Jane, who’s biting comments put a dent in Elizabeth’s self-esteem, and she knows what it’s like to have loved and lost. Her investigation leads her to wealthy bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you can cut the sexual tension between them with a knife. The two join forces when Darcy’s socialite sister, Georgiana, gets entangled with Wickham and some communist thugs. Set in 1952 in the midst of the Red Scare, Gardiner takes readers on an exciting ride through the dark side of New York City and the nightlife in Havana.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve long wanted to read Gardiner’s work, and the cover is among my all-time favorites.

What I liked: Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.

What I disliked: Only that I’ve been so busy lately that I couldn’t finish the book in one sitting! And that I waited so long to finally read one of Gardiner’s books. (I am so thankful that I have a few more waiting on my Kindle!)

Final thoughts: Undercover is unique among Pride and Prejudice variations, and if I were to attempt to create a list of my all-time favorite variations, it likely would be near the top. Gardiner is a breath of fresh air in JAFF (and historical fiction in general), and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Undercover is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.

To learn about Gardiner’s inspiration for Undercover, check out this guest post from April.

Disclosure: I received Undercover from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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PrintI’m delighted to welcome Ada Bright and Cass Grafton to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, which I will be reviewing later this summer. Please give them a warm welcome!

Thank you so much, Anna, for inviting us to visit you at your Blog! We are so pleased to be here and to share with your readers an excerpt from our newly released novel and to offer a giveaway of the book.

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is a contemporary mystery-cum-romance set against the beautiful backdrop of the city of Bath.

When the story opens, it’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the Jane Austen Festival, an annual celebration of the famous author and her works.

Rose, a Bath resident as well as an avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and for the Festival to start, but she’s unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a magical secret that ultimately leads to Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy disappearing!

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

We’d like to share with you an excerpt from Chapter Twelve of our story, but beforehand, here is a little background.

Rose, our heroine, is such a dedicated Jane Austen fan, it has influenced her choice of home (the basement flat located beneath No 4 Sydney Place, the Austens’ main Bath residence) and her choice of job. She has a rich social life on Internet forums, based mainly around Jane Austen’s life and works, something she has effectively hidden from her friends and colleagues in her day to day life, but this year, that is due to change. Rose has invited her best friend, Morgan – a Californian, whom she has never met in real life, to the Festival.

Despite some trepidation over mixing these two worlds, Rose is convinced it’s going to be the best week of her life. That is, however, until she begins to get distracted by the visitor staying in the flat above hers, the ground floor holiday apartment of No 4 Sydney Place. The young lady is clearly a dedicated Jane Austen fan, from her very authentic Regency clothing to her attempts to copy the author’s familiar handwriting, and Rose is intrigued.

This afternoon, Rose and her friends are attending a beginners’ dance class in preparation for attending the ball at the end of the week, but soon Rose’s mysterious neighbour arrives and once again she finds herself drawn to her.

Excerpt from Chapter Twelve

4 Sydney PlaceRose smiled happily as she moved elegantly – or so she hoped – along the line as they followed the instructions of the incredibly patient caller, a cheerful if emphatic lady called Diana. They had been at the beginners’ dance class for over an hour now, and Rose’s cheeks ached with laughing, but, though it could hardly be said they were moving as one, they were definitely making progress.

Everyone was in good spirits, gamely stepping well out of their comfort zone, but Rose had been surprised to find Morgan hadn’t mastered it in her usual quick way. Not that it dampened her friend’s mood as she sailed off in the wrong direction once more. ‘I think I got it that time. No!’

‘Your other left!’ Rose called over her shoulder as Morgan skipped straight into the next line over from them, laughing and apologising at the same time.

Rose was enjoying the swishing of her long skirt as it brushed against her ankles. Whilst there were a fair number of people in period dress, she had opted for a full-length but modern skirt and an Empire line top. Morgan had been instantly regretful for throwing on her jeans, and Rose and her friends had quite a job on their hands persuading her against grabbing one of the white cloths from the tables in the foyer to fashion a makeshift skirt of her own.

Stopping triumphantly on the final note of the music, Rose turned with everyone else to cheer their almost successful completion of a whole routine. Tess and Sandy, who were attending the advanced class later in the week, were watching from the side lines and applauded enthusiastically. Morgan was high-fiving Marita, celebrating their survival of the set if not their dancing prowess, and Leo was bowing deeply to a blushing Chrystal. Turning back, Rose smiled – their second dance, if she was not mistaken.

It was exactly as she’d imagined it should be: laughter and music and friendship. She looked around at the happy faces and sighed blissfully. Just then, however, she spotted Jenny gliding towards the chairs lining the walls and taking a seat. Like Rose, she wasn’t in costume today but wore a similar floor-length, full skirt, a neatly buttoned blouse and clutched a shawl in her lap. Making a sudden decision, and under the distraction of everyone grabbing cups of water – it was surprisingly warm work – Rose walked over to sit beside her.

‘Are you going to join in? It’s so much fun.’ Rose gestured towards the milling dancers as they chatted and practised a few steps.

‘Good afternoon.’ Jenny looked briefly in Rose’s direction, those bright eyes sparkling as always. ‘It is not my purpose – no.’

‘But it’s a dance class.’

‘A fine sport indeed.’

‘So…’ Rose turned in her seat to face Jenny, who glanced at her again but this time did not turn away, her eye caught by the necklace around Rose’s neck. Then she raised her gaze to meet Rose’s and smiled. There was something in her steadfast gaze…

‘I’m curious; why did you come if you don’t want to dance?’

Jenny glanced around the room. ‘Is one obliged to participate? Did you never attend the theatre merely to enjoy the performance? Do those who follow the sporting endeavours of others join them on the field of play? There is ample amusement to be derived from observation and thus little need for the effort of partaking.’

It was the most Jenny had ever said to her, but Rose found herself wrapped in circles over what her actual meaning was. Perhaps she was best left to her own devices after all.

‘Do not mistake me, Miss Wallace. I appreciate your interest, but please rest assured I am perfectly content.’

Realising the dancers were reassembling, ready for more mayhem, Rose stood up. ‘Well then, I’ll leave you in peace. See you later.’

‘Had a nice chat?’ Morgan grinned as Rose rejoined her.

‘I asked if she planned to join in. But Morgan – I wonder…’

‘Yes, you wonder a lot about her. Rose, let it go.’ Morgan threw her a fond look.

‘I’m trying but I just can’t help but feel I’m missing something. And it’s weird; when you talk to her, when she’s got you fixed with her eye…’

finalfinalmap‘Her eye? Now you’re making her sound spooky. She’s just a mad crazy fan who learned how to write like a famous author – or… I dunno, maybe she’s like an actress, playing a role. Hey, that’s it!’ Morgan laughed. ‘She’s one of those; you know, the ones who have to live the part they are about to play. What do they call it? Role immersion? No, wait – Method acting.’

Rose tried to apply it to everything she’d seen, to how she felt when in Jenny’s company. ‘I don’t know. It’s even more than that. It’s not as if she’s trying to live the life so much as – it is her life.’

‘Well, that’s the point of the Method, I think. It’s that, or she’s even more delusional than we first thought.’ Morgan turned back to face the dance hall.

‘But I don’t want her to be delusional. I so want to believe in her.’

‘What?’ Morgan choked back another laugh. ‘You want to believe she actually is Jane Austen? Rose –’

‘No! Of course not. But I don’t want her to be a criminal either.’ She glanced over her shoulder, then back to Morgan. ‘I feel some sort of – oh, I don’t know… connection when I see her? Like she’d be fun to know?’

‘Despite the possible forged letters you saw – and the candles and all the loot?’

‘Maybe it’s as we first thought and she’s just something to do with antiques? She clearly loves the past and anything associated with it – and why not? Perhaps the letter-writing is something she enjoys, loves to indulge? What if she’s pretending she lives in that era and because of her job, she’s able to acquire the props to help her live the dream?’ The more she spoke, the more sense it made to Rose.

Morgan eyed her sceptically, then grinned and waved a hand at the lines of dancers who were trying some new steps under Diana’s careful guidance. ‘You’d have thought she’d have leapt at a chance at this, then. Why don’t we both go and see if we can persuade her? I still think her lack of interest does hint more at fraudster than obsessive fan, though.’

Rose looked around again, just as Jenny raised her head and they locked eyes. They stared at each other for a second before a flash of unease crossed the lady’s face. ‘Shit, she’s seen us looking at her. I have to go and–’

Morgan grabbed Rose’s arm. ‘Where are you going? No! Are you kidding me? You can’t just accuse her of being a fraud – or a loony!’

‘I’m not going to,’ Rose muttered. A whirlwind of images spun through her mind as she stared at Jenny: the inexplicable disappearance into thin air, the figure staring reverently at Jane Austen’s books in Waterstones; her well-worn costumes and the curiously old-fashioned style she favoured at other times. Then there was the vast array of candles in the flat above hers, the boxes spilling their old yet suspiciously fresh contents over the floor, and the handwriting, using proper ink and a genuine pen of the era…

Trying to read the look on Jenny Ashton’s face as she got slowly to her feet and picked up her shawl, Rose narrowed her gaze, her head swirling with all sorts of impossible thoughts. Then she murmured, ‘Jenny. That was Mr Austen’s pet name for his youngest daughter.’

Morgan rolled her eyes. ‘Okay, look, just hold on. We don’t want to scare her. Let’s just–’

‘She’s going,’ Rose said urgently as the lady turned to leave the room.

‘Well, no surprises there. You’ve been staring at her! Enough to freak any normal person out, never mind Crazy Jenny!’

‘I’m going after her.’

Morgan had to walk with a sort of trot to keep up as Rose strode out into the entrance hall and pulled open the door to the street.

‘Rose, seriously.’

‘I want to catch her before she disappears.’

She hurried down the steps to the street just in time to see Jenny escape from view around the corner, and Rose drew in a steadying breath. For a reason she couldn’t quite explain, time seemed critical, as though she didn’t have a moment to waste.

‘I’m cold! Let’s just go back inside.’ Morgan rubbed her arms, but Rose shook her head. ‘I just want to ask her about some things. That’s all. This is my own… quest or… delusion or… something.’ For a second, the image of Jenny’s face from moments earlier appeared before her, and Rose gasped. ‘And she knows.’

Morgan frowned. ‘Knows what?’

‘She knows that I suspect she’s…’ Rose stopped. What on earth did she suspect? ‘Please bear with me! I have to find her, I have to talk to her.’

‘Rose, she will think you are the mad one!’

‘Then she and I will have to run mad together!’ She gave her friend a quick hug before turning and walking rapidly down the street in Jenny’s wake.

Then she called over her shoulder as she broke into a run, ‘But do not worry, we shall not faint!’

About the Authors

IMG_9793-LAda Bright by Cass

I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Ada. She likes Cheerios and bacon burnt beyond recognition (though not on the same plate), and she has an interesting sense of direction. This doesn’t just apply to getting from A to B, but also in reading – she read the third Harry Potter book first – and likes to read the end of every book before she starts.

She’s a talented artist, photographer and writer, but more than that, she’s one of the best friends I have ever made.

Since we met 14 years ago, she’s had three gorgeous children and moved house twice – from Pasadena in California to Pasadena to… wait for it – Pasadena!

Oh, and she’s so cool, her name reads the same backwards too – that can’t be just a coincidence, can it?

IMG_9762-LCass Grafton by Ada

I am very lucky to be able to count Cass as a best friend and writing partner for over a decade. She likes cold wine, cats, and the written word. People are drawn to the beauty of how she strings words together to create a story, but I love the humour with which she does it.

She is a poet in her writing, an adventurer in her life, and the most generous host I’ve ever known.

Since we met, oh so long ago, she has lived in three countries and thrown more parties than I have washed dishes. She has also celebrated the joys in my life with the same love and attention as she has her own family. Though, at this point, I have to say that family is basically what we have become.

She deserves top billing here, but, being Cass, she would not hear of it. Alphabetically is simply how these things are done, and there is really no use doing anything if you’re not going to do it right.

We love to hear from readers! Please follow us or contact us via the following social media links:

tabbycownostrilOur Blog: Tabby Cow

Facebook: Ada | Cass

Twitter: Ada | Cass

About the Book

It’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works.

Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

Amazon.co.uk (paperback and ebook) | Amazon.com (paperback and ebook) | Barnes & Noble (paperback) | Barnes & Noble Nook Store (eBook) | Kobo (eBook) | iBook Store (eBook) | Smashwords (all eBook formats, including Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iStore, PDF and more)

Giveaway

Ada and Cass are generously offering a winner’s choice international giveaway (paperback or ebook). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about the excerpt. This giveaway will close Sunday, July 31. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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chaos-comes-to-longbourn-thumbnailI’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Chaos Comes to Longbourn. I had the pleasure of editing this book a few months ago, and it was such a delight to read. I’ve enjoyed all of Victoria’s books, and I think this is her best yet! Victoria is here today to share her inspiration for writing romantic comedies, an excerpt from Chaos Comes to Longbourn, and as an international giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

First, check out the book blurb to see just how chaotic things are in the world of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy:

While attempting to suppress his desire to dance with Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy flees the Netherfield ballroom only to stumble upon a half-dressed Lydia Bennet in the library.  After being discovered with her in this compromising position, Darcy is forced to make her an offer of marriage.

A few weeks later, Bingley returns from London to discover that a heartbroken Jane has accepted an offer from Collins. Bingley instead proposes to Elizabeth, who accepts with the hope of reuniting him with Jane.

Now Darcy must cope with jealousy toward Bingley and a fiancée who longs to get her hands on the grand estate of “Pembleton” (or is it “Peckersly?”).  Lydia, in turn, is jealous that Wickham has proposed to Charlotte Lucas.

Although Darcy yearns for Elizabeth, he feels honor bound by his promise to Lydia.  Elizabeth has also developed feelings for the master of Pemberley, but he has never seemed so far out of her reach.  How can Darcy and Elizabeth unravel this tangle of misbegotten betrothals and reach their happily ever after?

And oh what a tangle it is! I was on the edge of my seat, unable to fathom how it would all end and laughing out loud throughout. Here’s what Victoria had to say about teasing out the humor in Pride and Prejudice:

When I first started reading Pride and Prejudice variations I was in it for the romance.  I have to admit that I love drama and angst and big sweeping emotions.  And there were lots of variations that fed this “addiction” for me.

However, when I started writing my third P&P variation, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, I realized that angst and drama didn’t always fit into a story in which Elizabeth accepts a proposal from Mr. Collins.  After all,  Collins’s primary value in P&P is comedic.  I found I loved writing dialogue for Collins; it’s almost not possible to go too far.  He’s so oblivious and so obsequious that it’s delicious fun.

Before I knew it, I was writing a romantic comedy.

Of course, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue is still dramatic and full of romance, but there were plenty of funny moments.  And the readers appreciated the humor, noting it in their reviews.

I wasn’t necessarily planning to write another comic P&P variation, but around the same time, I happened upon a Facebook post by fellow Jane Austen Fan Fiction writer Joana Starnes.  She described playing a game of Marrying Mr. Darcy which ended with Elizabeth as an old maid, Caroline Bingley eloping with Denny, and Darcy married to Lydia (!).

It got me thinking about what fun it would be to have a P&P variation in which characters were all engaged to the wrong people.  Of course, it couldn’t be anything other than a comedy.  Chaos Comes to Longbourn was born.

As I’ve been writing humorous variations it has helped me appreciate another side of Austen’s masterpiece.  While I love the drama and romance, I’ve grown to understand how brilliantly she wrote comedic characters.  Characters like Lydia, Collins, and Mrs. Bennet might be exaggerated for comedic effect, but their behavior is recognizable and human.  This long-past Regency English setting resonates in part because we see these characters and think, “I know someone like that.”

So it’s interesting.  As I’ve written more comedic variations I’ve realized that many of us are drawn to Austen because of the romance, but it’s the comedy that helps us relate the stories to our own lives.  We feel at home in Jane Austen’s world in part because it’s funny in a way we can understand.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you that you must read the book, hopefully this excerpt will:

Elizabeth dropped the napkin on the tray.  “You cannot flirt with officers now, Lydia.  You are betrothed to Mr. Darcy.”

“I remember, silly!”  Lydia waved away this objection as she shrugged off her night rail and donned her dress.  “I shan’t kiss anyone!  But I must have some fun before I marry that stodgy old man.”

Elizabeth was not an admirer of Mr. Darcy’s, but she would hardly describe him as stodgy or old.  “Engaged women must behave with greater discretion,” she said.

“I can be discreet!” Lydia declared.  “I shall have discretion shooting out of my ears!”  Elizabeth winced at this image as she laced up her sister’s dress.

Once her dress was fastened, Lydia flopped back onto her bed.  “Although honestly, Lizzy, I wish I were not engaged to Mr. Darcy.  I agreed to marry him because everyone said I must, but I always wanted an officer.  They are so dashing and so much fun!  Mr. Darcy almost never smiles and never laughs.”

Elizabeth pulled Lydia into a standing position before she could wrinkle her dress.  “I understand, my dear.  But the circumstances last night were…quite bad.  You are betrothed now, and you must make the best of it.”

“That is what Mama said, and she reminded me of Mr. Darcy’s fortune.”  Lydia sighed.  “If only he were more dashing…Although I suppose I shall comfort myself with jewels and hats…”

“Yes, indeed,” Elizabeth said.  She hardly approved of such an obviously mercenary approach to marriage, but Lydia must not break off the engagement.  Her reputation was in tatters.

“I cannot wait to tell everyone in Meryton about Mr. Darcy’s ten thousand a year!”  Lydia giggled.

Elizabeth’s righteous anger at Mr. Darcy was gradually transforming into an amorphous regret.  Last night she had been so certain of his guilt, but now…if what she suspected was true, he had been wronged, and Elizabeth had helped to wrong him.

Moreover, she did not need to learn more of his character to be certain that he was spectacularly ill-suited to be Lydia’s husband; most likely they would both be miserable in the marriage.  Elizabeth rubbed suddenly sweaty palms on her gown.  What can I do?  She had nothing but suspicions and no way of confirming them without Lydia’s cooperation.

“I shan’t let anyone forget I have a fiancé.  A very wealthy fiancé!”  Lydia dashed from the room and down the stairs.  Elizabeth followed at a slower pace.

At the bottom of the stairs, however, they both encountered Hill, followed by the tall figure of Mr. Darcy.  He bowed to the two ladies.  “Forgive the intrusion at such an early hour,” he said.  “But I was hoping to have a word with Miss Lydia.”

Elizabeth’s first reaction was alarm.  Surely he was not suggesting she leave them alone!  But then she recalled that they were betrothed, and it was appropriate for betrothed couples to enjoy some privacy.  Although she could not imagine what two such different people would say to each other.

Lydia pouted.  “I am bound for Meryton with Kitty!”

Elizabeth barely refrained from chastising her sister.  How could Lydia treat her fiancé so rudely?

Mr. Darcy looked affronted.  “I shall be departing from Hertfordshire within the hour.”

Lydia heaved a great sigh.  “Very well, I suppose I have time for a brief conversation.”

“Thank you for making time for me.”  Mr. Darcy’s tone was so dry that Elizabeth could not discern if he was being sardonic.

“I suppose I must, for I am your fiancée!”  She gave Elizabeth a sidelong glance and giggled.  “Isn’t that such a grand word: fiancée?”  Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but Lydia mistook the gesture.  “Don’t worry, Lizzy,” she patted her sister’s hand, “I am sure someday a man will want to marry you as well.”

Mr. Darcy regarded the sisters with a carefully blank expression.  Did he also believe Elizabeth would be lucky to procure a husband?

“You are too good,” Elizabeth murmured to Lydia.  Mr. Darcy made a strangled sound that turned into a cough.

“I know.”  Lydia tossed her head so her curls bounced.  “Mr. Darcy, shall we retire to the drawing room?”

He nodded mutely.

Now for the giveaway:

Victoria is generously offering an international giveaway of one copy of Chaos Comes to Longbourn. The winner will have the choice of an ebook or paperback. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 24. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comment section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m delighted to welcome Sophia Meredith to Diary of an Eccentric today. I had the pleasure of editing her recent novel, On Oakham Mount, and the follow-up novella, Beyond Oakham Mount. Today she’s here to talk about her secret reading addiction and how it inspired her Pride and Prejudice variations. (And there’s a giveaway as well). Please give her a warm welcome!

on oakham mountI have to admit, and as a new JAFF author this seems a bit risky, but here goes…dadadum…I love Georgette Heyer. I mean, I adore her, can’t get enough of her Regency novels and if tasked with choosing ten books for a desert island, at least three of them would be hers (though I would dither until stepping ashore over which ones they would be). If I’m being really honest with you, I think I even like Georgette more than the Lady herself. Don’t get me wrong, they are in the same category, but Heyer’s laugh out loud funny and delectable dialogue won me over. I didn’t find Georgette Heyer until well after my Jane Austen obsession began, so I do have that going in my favor. And I have read a very wide body of literary critiques and essays on Jane’s work that goes far beyond my knowledge of Heyer. Okay, now that I’ve said it, I’m determined to have no regrets!

Before I explain myself, let me say that if you haven’t discovered Heyer, put Black Sheep, Venetia, or Frederica on the top of your TBR pile immediately!

Heyer was not of the Regency, her work is from the 20th century, but she is credited with establishing the historical romance genre and the Regency romance sub-genre, though her writings are not bodice rippers by any means. They end with the requisite HEA, a hug and a kiss, and the curtain closes. Of course, Heyer’s favorite author was Jane Austen, but writing over a long timespan in the 1900s had its advantages, and the modern novel allowed her to take some liberties that a clergyman’s daughter would not have considered proper.

Foremost, in my mind, is the extensive Regency idioms and slang that simply leaps off the page, causing burbles of laughter and the obsession to read her novels again and again. When I wrote “On Oakham Mount,” and its sequel, “Beyond Oakham Mount,” I was inspired equally by my love for “Pride and Prejudice” as by Heyer’s skill as an author, and I read both Austen’s canon and several of Heyer’s books quite closely to help me develop the tone and style I sought. When I consider how frequently reviewers commented on both my authentic Regency style and clever dialogue, I know I accomplished my mission.

One cannot imagine Jane Austen introducing words and phrases compiled by Captain Gross in his “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” published in 1811, nor even being aware of it for that matter, though the gentleman in her stories would certainly have been. Young men of fashion used this compendium of terms collected from the lower orders of society to distinguish themselves by their wit. Heyer sprinkles these terms throughout her novels liberally, then adds an extra dose for good measure. Imagine “Pride and Prejudice” so embellished. Elizabeth’s family often “put her to the blush,” (embarrassed). At such times one might see her “flying her colors,” (blushing). Mr. Darcy is the epitome of one “high in the instep,” (haughty, proud). In spite of Darcy’s willingness to “set up his nursery,” and become a “tenant for life,” (marry) it is no wonder that his doomed proposal of marriage, “set-up her back” (offended, angered). Though she initially intended to “keep her tongue between her teeth,” (not respond rudely), it is no wonder she “flew up into the boughs,” (to be in a passion) or was “on her high ropes,” (outraged). However, she showed “pluck to the backbone,” (courage) in her refusal, even if many of her friends might consider her a paper-skulled widgeon (stupid girl) for not making Darcy a “tenant for life,” (husband), for even if he was disagreeable, he was certainly “full of juice,” (very rich). In short, Elizabeth was more likely to “pull caps” (argue) with Mr. Darcy than to “set her cap at him,” (aim to ensnare him for marriage).

Of course, Heyer had her own, seemingly inexhaustible, vocabulary and talent for the perfect turn of phrase–quelling hauteur, lambent gaze, lacerated sensibilities, thundering rage, horrid affability, rigid imbecility–Oh! How I wish I had such a needle wit!

beyond oakham mountAnother Heyeresque technique that I adopted divergent from Jane Austen is the use of extensive dialogue tags. In “Pride and Prejudice”, Jane Austen used just 13 of them, and 49% were “said” (221), followed by “replied” at 83. She used “acknowledged,” “called,” and “whispered” just one time each. By contrast, Heyer’s tags include: jibed, snapped, complained, announced, added, corrected, agreed, assured, enquired, faltered, explained, apologized, echoed, declared, pronounced, decreed, gasped, approved, nodded, breathed, and objected, just to name a few. And that doesn’t include the numerous adverbs tacked on–scathingly, wonderingly, querulously, etc. Combine these with her snappy, rapid-fire dialogue and delightful use of period slang and I become simply mesmerized by the color and depth of her characters, language, and indisputable brilliance. Though I can never match her skill, I certainly embraced her style of using a greater range of dialogue tags.

And now a final distinction between these two accomplished authors. Jane Austen is justly praised for her craft in character development, in large part her skill is due to how sparingly she pulls it off, describing in relatively few words a character who is immediately grasped by her reader. Every action of that character which follows fits neatly into her model. Let us juxtapose her style with Heyer’s details for a very minor character in the novel (perhaps my favorite) “Frederica.” Austen’s description of Mrs. Bennet is perfection:

She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”

In this example Heyer, has already spent several paragraphs detailing the history and character of Mrs. Dauntry.

“…As a girl she had been an accredited beauty, but a tendency to succumb to infectious complaints had encouraged her to believe that her constitution was sickly; and it was not long after her marriage that she began (as Lady Jevington and Lady Buxted unkindly phrased it) to quack herself….By the time she was forty she had become so much addicted to invalidism that unless some attractive entertainment was offered her she spent the better part of her days reclining gracefully upon a sofa with a poor relation in attendance, and a table beside her crowded with bottles and phials…”

Reading Jane Austen, I intuitively understand the character she has created for us. With Heyer, however, I feel as if I have entered the room of that dear, sickly, pathetic creature.

Georgette Heyer, was a truly prolific author, so we are blessed to have dozens of her wonderful works to augment our Austen and Austenesque libraries. There is definitely a place for her in our world. And she paid homage to Austen many, many times. In fact, the central romance in a number of her Regency romances depict heroines and heroes who combine that perfect combination of Elizabeth Bennet’s “archness and sweetness” that is is the undoing of the wealthy and clever, yet disagreeably “haughty, reserved, and fastidious” Mr. Darcy.

miss dary's companionSo, now that “I’ve let the cat out of the bag,” (admitted) are you “chomping at the bit” (in a rush) to look between the covers of one of Heyer’s novels? Or are you already “head over heels,” (in love) for Heyer? If so, which Heyer book is your favorite? Which heroine do you adore? And which of her heroes makes you swoon? Leave a comment below to be entered for the giveaway of my forthcoming book, “Miss Darcy’s Companion.

Visit Sophia’s website at www.sophiameredith.com to sign-up for her newsletter to read extended excerpts of pre-release novels, buy personalized print editions of her books, and become instantly eligible for future giveaways and other treats.

About Sophia Meredith

The successful debut novel, “On Oakham Mount,” gave the author, and the author’s bemused yet supportive husband, the confidence to pursue a full-time career as an author. She released the first of her continuations of that novel in July and is currently finalizing “Miss Darcy’s Companion,” which will go on pre-order shortly and is planned for release in August 2016. Sophia also dusted off the first book, “The Marquess Meets His Match,” in her Regency historical “Meets His Match,” which she also hopes to release in 2016. This will be followed by the second “Beyond Oakham Mount” novella and the first of her modern “Bennet Chronicles” novels set in her hometown, San Francisco.

Giveaway info:

To enter Sophia’s generous giveaway of her upcoming novel, please answer her question (above) in the comments and be sure to include your email address. The giveaway will close Sunday, July 24. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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

‘You have tremendous power and need not be ruled over, or dictated to by any man,’ Mrs. Gardiner had insisted. ‘You may become your own woman; you may command your own ship, and you may do tremendous good, if you should choose. This is your life now, and you ought to make the most of it. Wishing for something else will not change things and you are wasting your life away if you carry on letting others take on the duties that ought to be yours.’

(from The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet)

Quick summary: The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that significantly departs from canon. Caitlin Williams tells the story of a 15-year-old Elizabeth Bennet who makes some foolish decisions after the death of her father that result in her having to marry 23-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy, the son of her new guardian. Mr. Bennet’s death sees the Bennet sisters split up, and Elizabeth is whisked off to Pemberley, where she is isolated from her beloved sister, Jane, and married to a man who acts like she doesn’t exist. With Darcy away for the first few years of her marriage and under the watchful eye of Colonel Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth grows into a charming young woman, a true mistress of Pemberley. But just because Darcy sees her in a new light doesn’t mean she sees him differently.

Why I wanted to read it: It sounded unique in terms of Pride and Prejudice variations. I’m still amazed that authors continue to find fresh ways to retell a single novel!

What I liked: Williams certainly took time to develop her characters. Darcy and Elizabeth were not very likeable at the beginning of the novel, and Darcy continued to be unlikeable for much of the first half of the novel. While disliking these beloved characters could turn some readers off, I thought it worked in that you see how their circumstances change them over time and how they grow into a mature couple. It’s hard to imagine that anyone forced to marry under such circumstances would find happiness together right away, so it was a realistic portrayal in my opinion.

I also loved how Williams worked in various aspects of Austen’s novel but using different characters and situations, and I enjoyed the original characters, namely the governess Miss Temple and Elizabeth’s maid Rose. Mr. Wickham and Caroline Bingley still manage to be delightfully horrid, and it was nice getting to know the elder Mr. Darcy as well. Colonel Fitzwilliam was a very likeable character, and his relationship with Elizabeth was sweet and his playing middleman between Darcy and Elizabeth was entertaining.

What I disliked: I admit that it was hard to dislike Elizabeth and Darcy for some of the book, but making them disagreeable definitely furthered the story in terms of character development and evolution. But other than that, I enjoyed the story from start to finish.

Final thoughts: The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet is a thoughtful portrayal of Darcy and Elizabeth in less than ideal circumstances. Williams does a fantastic job transforming them into the characters we know and love. I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future!

Caitlin WilliamsAbout the author: Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.

Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.

Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.

Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.

Connect with Caitlin on Facebook, her Goodreads author page, and Goodreads blog.

Check out The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet on Amazon and Goodreads.

Follow the blog tour:

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June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post/“Happy Birthday Fanny Burney & The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet” & Giveaway
June 14/ So Little Time… / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams
June 16/ From Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
June 17/ Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review
June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 23/ Liz’s Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review
June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post

Disclosure: I received The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the netherfield affair

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

Elizabeth looked at the tall, handsome figure silhouetted against the window and repressed a shiver. From his hard countenance to the cold determination in his eyes, he presented a formidable picture. Mr. Darcy was not a man to be crossed.

(from The Netherfield Affair)

Quick Summary: The Netherfield Affair is the first book in Penelope Swan’s four-part Dark Darcy Mystery series of Pride and Prejudice variations. This installment opens after Jane Bennet has traveled to Netherfield Park on horseback in the rain. The stormy weather provides the perfect atmosphere for Lydia’s stories about the haunting at Netherfield and Wicked George the Highwayman. Although Elizabeth doesn’t believe in ghosts or in romanticizing highwaymen, these are the thoughts that fill her head upon her arrival to Netherfield to care for her ill sister. With strange noises, a ghostly face in the attic window, missing valuables, messages passed through flowers, and a stranger in the night, Elizabeth must piece together a puzzle in order to prove her innocence. Meanwhile, she must contend with the servants’ gossip, the high and mighty Miss Bingley, and the dark and mysterious Mr. Darcy.

Why I wanted to read it: Pride and Prejudice and a mystery? Enough said! Also, I really enjoyed the first book I read by Penelope Swan, Darcy’s Christmas Wish.

What I liked: I liked the atmospheric storytelling and the mix of elements from Austen’s novel and Swan’s unique touches. I enjoyed the original characters (the naive maid and the sleazy thief taker), the mystery, and especially how it brought Elizabeth and Darcy together as amateur sleuths.

What I disliked: It was too short, ending when the Bennet sisters leave Netherfield to return to Longbourn with expectations of Mr. Bingley hosting a ball. However, the mystery was wrapped up, leaving me satisfied on that front.

Final thoughts: The Netherfield Affair is an intriguing start to the Dark Darcy Mystery series. It’s short enough and exciting enough to be read in one sitting. Just make sure you have the next installment ready to go because you’ll want to dive right in. I’ve fast become a fan of Swan’s Pride and Prejudice variations, and I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

The ebook is free for a limited time:

Amazon
Amazon UK
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Disclosure: I received The Netherfield Affair from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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