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Archive for the ‘jane austen’ Category

I am delighted to share with you today the cover of the latest Meryton Press novel, What’s Past is Prologue by Ann Galvia, which will be available for pre-order sometime today!

I’ve been looking forward to another release from Galvia since I read and enjoyed Side by Side Apart, which will be available for a special price very soon (see below), so you’ll want to grab that if you haven’t read it yet. (I loved the book, and if you’re curious or need convincing, feel free to check out my review!)

Before I reveal the exquisite cover for What’s Past Is Prologue, here’s the blurb:

Elizabeth Darcy has her eye on the future.

Before her marriage, she saw herself making the best possible choice. Her husband saved her family from ruin. All he asked in return was her hand. Secure in his good opinion, Elizabeth married him. Only with hindsight and his cryptic warnings that passion is not immutable does Elizabeth question her decision. Her solution? Give him a son as soon as possible. Once his lust for her has been slaked, this service she has rendered him will ensure her value.

The newlyweds are summoned to Rosings Park almost the moment they are married. Though the estate can boast of beautiful grounds, Elizabeth and Darcy arrive to find devastation. A flood has swept away Lady Catherine’s last hopes of hiding debt and years of mismanagement. She expects Darcy to shoulder the recovery efforts.

The effort to save Rosings strains the already tense relationship between Elizabeth and her husband. To make matters worse, her presence is met with disdain and disinterest from the family. As the days in the besieged estate drag on, Elizabeth slowly untangles the histories and secrets of her new relations.

Like Elizabeth’s marriage, the crisis at Rosings is the culmination of past events. Disaster need not be the result of only bad choices; good principles have led them astray as well. As for Elizabeth, she barely knows her husband, and loving him might be impossible. Yet, she is determined to save all that she can—her marriage and the estate—and somehow, create the future she longs for.

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? I can’t wait to find out what ruin Darcy saved Elizabeth’s family from, why she agreed to marry him without truly knowing him, and why she is so desperate to give him a son so quickly. And the cryptic warnings and the secrets and Lady Catherine’s problems…it sounds like a real page-turner to me!

And now, without further ado, What’s Past Is Prologue by Ann Galvia:

What a stunning cover! The poses, the looks on their faces…I’m dying to know what’s happening here!

And now, the full cover:

I love the flowers on the back cover. It is very bright and elegant and perfectly complements the front cover.

About the Author

Ann started writing sometime before she knew how letters functioned. Her first books were drawings of circus
poodles heavily annotated with scribbles meant to tell a story. Upon learning how letters were combined to represent words, she started doing that instead. This has proven to be much more successful.

Sometime after that, she decided she wanted to study Anthropology and sometime after that, she decided she liked cats more than dogs. And sometime after that, she decided to become an educator and teach a new generation of kids how to combine letters to represent words, and use those words express ideas.

And sometime after that, she realized all she really wanted to do was write, which probably should have been evident from the beginning.

Follow Ann: Twitter | Facebook | Blog

I hope you all love the cover as much as I do and am eager to read the book! Stay tuned for the blog tour…

And don’t forget the special sale coming soon!

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I’m delighted to welcome Karen M Cox back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Son of a Preacher Man, an original novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novel is set in 1959, so Karen is here to talk about money during that year. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thanks so much for the invitation to be a guest on Diary of an Eccentric! I’m Karen M Cox, and I write fiction accented with history and romance. My new release is titled, Son of a Preacher Man, and it’s my fifth full-length novel. It holds a special place in my heart because of the themes explored: the roles of men and women, what it means to be “good”, and most of all, it’s about forgiveness and the power of love. I like to say it’s “a realistic love story told by an idealistic young man.”

I’ll let you in on a little secret—in Son of a Preacher Man, the hero, Billy Ray Davenport has money, but you’d never know it. Because he isn’t worried about financial matters, they don’t define him. On the other hand, when it comes to money, our heroine, Lizzie Quinlan, has none, and it’s written all over her for the world to see.

So, let’s talk money in 1959. What did people make? What did things cost?

(Sources: Morris County Library (NJ) website, thePeopleHistory.com, University of Missouri Libraries)

Billy Ray wants to be a doctor. In 1959, the median income for physicians and surgeons was a whopping $15,000 per year! But when you compare it with other professions, it looks pretty good:

Junior Accountant? You’d pull down 90$/week

Chemical Engineer? He (and they were almost all “he” at that time) made $7000/year

Typist/clerk? Only 65$/week.

Most things were much, much cheaper in 1959 than they are today:

For example, an Oldsmobile 88 Automobile, 6 passenger car cost $2,887.

Women’s cotton dress would set you back $10.98.

Box of Ritz Crackers? $0.25 for a 12 oz box

A loaf of bread was $0.20.

Gasoline cost $0.25/gallon!

Billy Ray and Lizzie’s movie tickets to see West Side Story were $1.00 each.

But this surprised me: A Kitchen Aid Dishwasher cost between $209.95 and $479.95. Sure, it’s about 2-3 times more today ($500 or $600 for most models), but when you look at gasoline, which is like, 10 times as much today as it was then—the 1959 cost of the dishwasher is a bit of a shocker.

It’s tempting to look back fondly on decades past, when items cost less or society seemed more calm, but, as Billy Ray learns in Son of a Preacher Man, things aren’t always what they seem.

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About Son of a Preacher Man

“I forget that you’re a fella sometimes.”

“Gee, thanks.”

I never forgot that she was a girl. Not for one second…

1959. The long, hot Southern summer bakes the sleepy town of Orchard Hill. Billy Ray Davenport, an aspiring physician and only son of an indomitable traveling minister, is a young man with a plan that starts with working in a small-town doctor’s office before he begins medical school in the fall. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with the Millers, the local doctor’s family. He never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful and compassionate, yet scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

A realistic look at first love, told by an idealistic young man, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.

Buy Son of a Preacher Man: Universal Buy Link | Amazon

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Connect with Karen

www.karenmcox.com

www.karenmcoxauthor.wordpress.com

https://www.instagram.com/karenmcox1932/

https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932

https://karenmcox.tumblr.com/

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Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of one of my backlist titles (1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, I Could Write a Book, or The Journey Home(novella)) AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Three winners will be randomly selected on 7/25/18. This giveaway is international. You must enter through this link. Good luck!

Thank you, Karen, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and can’t wait to get a chance to read it!

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I am so excited to welcome one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction back to Diary of an Eccentric today. Joana Starnes is here to celebrate the release of The Darcy Legacy, which I’m hoping to read very soon. Please give her a warm welcome!

Many thanks, Anna, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my new book, The Darcy Legacy.

As I’ve mentioned before, this novel has rather less angst and a lot more banter compared to my other ones. The two people we have to thank for that – or rather the two culprits – are Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Bennet.

Photo: BBC

These two gentlemen are such fun to write, especially because neither of them is willing to take Darcy very seriously, and certainly not as seriously as he takes himself.

The colonel knows his cousin like the back of his hand, and at all times knows exactly how to deconstruct Darcy’s ever so careful reasoning.

As for Mr Bennet, he poses a very different challenge to our favourite hero: Mr Bennet is The Figure of Authority – and submitting to authority doesn’t come easily to Darcy, not anymore. He has been his own man ever since his father’s death, and has had to obey no will but his own. This is no longer the case. Now he has to deal with one who has the ‘power of veto.’

Elizabeth isn’t of age yet, parental consent is needed for them to marry, and Darcy simply can’t afford to get on the wrong side of Mr Bennet.

The added difficulty is that they’re very different people, who react in very different ways to the world around them. Darcy is conscientious, serious-minded and punctilious to a fault. Mr Bennet tends to make a joke of everything. And chances are that Darcy isn’t likely to regard his courtship as a joke.

So… now I’d like to share a particular interview. Hope you and your readers will enjoy it. Let me set the scene: Mr Darcy has just landed himself in deep water (if you had a peek at the excerpt in my guest post at Austenesque Reviews on Jul 2, you’ll know what I mean 😉 ). Some crisis management is in order – urgently. To put it in modern parlance, Mr Darcy has to ‘fess up.

Hope you’ll enjoy the conversation between Elizabeth’s father and her suitor. I must admit I had great fun writing it.

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An excerpt from The Darcy Legacy

Mr Bennet was in the library, as expected, in his customary place at the farthest end of the large and pretentiously ornamented room. […] Darcy bowed his head in lieu of any other greeting, then instead of joining the older gentleman in his corner, he turned to feign some interest in the nearest bookcase. He had not lost his courage – not as such. The firmness of purpose with which he had embarked upon the mortifying and potentially hazardous endeavour was still with him. However, the ability to choose his words was not.

Darcy struggled to regain it as he stared through narrowed eyes at the shelves before him, seeing nothing but a countenance aflame with the deepest blush and a pair of fine eyes alight with indignation.

‘… this morning brought one disgrace too many, and you should not be here. If neither I nor your own conscience can make you see that my quarters are out of bounds, then you shall have to hear it from my father.’

Disgrace, she had called it, her lips curling in distaste.

“Imbecile,” Darcy hissed under his breath. Yet apparently he was not sufficiently quiet, for his companion looked up from his book again.

“Sir?” Mr Bennet queried. “Did you say something?”

“No, nothing,” Darcy dissembled, then felt compelled to add, “I beg your pardon, I was…”

He let his voice trail off, reluctant to finish his sentence and acknowledge that he was talking to himself. He walked along the book-lined wall, retraced his steps when he reached the corner of the room, and before long what had begun as an aimless amble turned into steadily pacing back and forth.

The fact that his current employment had gained him Mr Bennet’s full attention escaped Darcy’s notice. He did not mutter as he paced but, lips pursed, he proceeded from hissed

invectives to a silent and grim analysis of his performance. Naught but blunder after blunder, and idiotic ones at that. Ambushing her in her quarters. Pressing his suit when she was clearly uncomfortable and most unwilling to have that conversation – and thus compounding the dreadful blunders of the morning. His proposal, seasoned with talk of their disparities – her connections – Lady Catherine. The unhinged mutterings that followed. […] It was little wonder she thought him suffering from sunstroke or the like. And despite his ill-judged remarks on her station in life, she had stayed to watch over him – had shown him concern and kindness. Why the devil could he not respond in kind? He might have helped her to her feet – might have reworded his proposal in a gentlemanlike manner, instead of—

Yet even then, for all the self-reproaches, his breath caught as he revisited those glorious moments in the grove. Her warm weight in his arms. Her enticing form draped over him, pressed against him. Soft flesh under his fingertips, under a thin layer of muslin. Soft lips under his. Her startled gasp when she had held her breath, only to release it in a rush and let it wash over his face, sweet, fragrant and warm, driving him to distraction. Compelling him to kiss her again. And she had kissed him back. She had! Surely, he had not lost his senses to the point of imagining that. She had closed her eyes and kissed him back.

“Spoilt for choice, Mr Darcy?” Mr Bennet suddenly asked, making him start.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You seem to have some difficulty in selecting a book. Were you looking for something in particular?”

“Yes. No, I mean…” Inwardly cursing his newly-acquired propensity to babble, Darcy squared his shoulders. “May I join you?” he brought himself to say.

“By all means, feel free. Find yourself a good book and a glass, if you are so inclined. The port is here, but look in the customary place if you favour brandy over port, or anything in between,” Mr Bennet said, gesturing towards the decanter at his right, and then in the vague direction of the marble-topped dresser where the drinks were kept.

Darcy nodded his thanks and ambled towards the older gentleman’s end of the room, stopping along the way to pour himself a brandy. He chose a chair, moved it a little closer to Mr Bennet and angled it in his direction, then sat, glass in hand. He did not drink, and he likewise disdained the subterfuge of opening a book and feigning interest in it as he chose his words. He shifted in his seat and crossed his legs. He tugged at his neckcloth – tied too damnably tight when he had attempted to make himself presentable upon his return to the house – then crossed his legs the other way.

Across the small distance between them, Mr Bennet looked up to cast him a half-amused, half-exasperated glance.

“Is there anything troubling you, sir?”

“I— Yes,” Darcy acknowledged. “I came to speak to you, if you can spare the time. There is something I must say.”

“Is there? Very well. My time is yours, Mr Darcy, and seemingly in limitless supply,” Mr Bennet evenly replied, closing his book and setting it aside. Then he refilled his glass, raised it amicably towards the other, took a sip and motioned him to begin.

Darcy raised his own glass and drained it. Mr Bennet chortled.

“That bad?” he mildly remarked. “By all means, pour yourself another, if you find yourself in need of a few more drops of Dutch courage.”

“I thank you, no. I had better get on with it.”

“Pray do. So, what did you come to speak of?”

Wishing he had made due offerings to all the gods that endowed one with eloquence, Darcy straightened in his seat.

“I came to ask— No, that is— Hm! Mr Bennet, I… er… I feel you should hear it from me that this morning I kissed your daughter,” he said at last, only to mentally kick himself for the abysmally blunt delivery. He braced himself for the repercussions. But Mr Bennet folded his hands around his glass of port and airily asked:

“Oh. Did you? Which one? I have five.”

“Elizabeth,” came Darcy’s crisp reply, as he fought to suppress a scowl at the untimely levity.

“Elizabeth, eh?” the other echoed, a quirk in his brow. “Am I to understand you are here to ask for my consent?”

“No, sir.”

“No? You puzzle me, Mr Darcy. Precisely why are you here, then? I daresay you are not concerned that I might call you out to settle the matter. But,” he added, all lightness of tone freezing under a layer of smooth menace, “if you imagine I shall sit idly by and allow you to trifle with my Lizzy’s affections—”

“Of course not!” Darcy forcefully cut him off. “I would not.”

“Then pray enlighten me as to your intentions. In my day, they were clearly stated before one progressed to taking liberties.”

Darcy’s eyes narrowed. The interview would be as difficult as he had anticipated. Submitting to authority did not come easily when that habit was long lost. It was even harder now, when he knew himself in the wrong – a distinctly unfamiliar experience – and when faced with one whose manner differed so drastically from his own. In every dealing and every circumstance, especially one as momentous as this, he would have chosen plain-speaking and serious-minded discourse. Predictably, Mr Bennet seemed to favour irony and archness.

Darcy did not pause to consider that the very same traits he unquestionably adored in Elizabeth must have had their origins in the older gentleman’s manner; that she must have learned levity and archness at his knee. It was too vexing an experience to find himself so

flippantly questioned – and worse still, to know that, however aggravating the approach, the inquisitor must be courteously indulged, for he was the one with the power of veto. So he fought the urge to bristle at the reference to liberties, and opted for a placating tone.

“I would have stated them already, sir. But I thought it only proper to do your daughter the courtesy of applying for her consent before seeking yours.”

The other tilted his head sideways, by way of concurrence.

“I take it then that you have not proposed,” he observed.

Darcy frowned.

“I began to. But matters got out of hand.”

“How?” Mr Bennet asked, and took another sip of his port, skewering Darcy with a steady glance that joined forces with his current conundrum to make him squirm.

“This morning I sought your daughter out with the intention of offering for her. But before I could finish,” he summarised, “I am sorry to say that—” He stopped short, recognising the falsehood for what it was, even before the forbidden recollections flashed through his overwrought senses. Not sorry, not that! He was all manner of things – mortified beyond endurance to find himself in the wrong, positively terrified of what she might have made of it, but certainly not sorry. “I am compelled to own,” he amended, “that halfway through my garbled proposal, I kissed her.”

“I see. Must I conclude that she was not best-pleased?”

Darcy looked away. It was the wrong time and place to resurrect the aforementioned forbidden recollections – here and now, in the middle of a conversation with her father. Yet therein lay the answer to Mr Bennet’s question, and to his own tormenting doubt. Did she take exception? Her gasp – it had not signified shock or outrage, had it? Just surprise, surely. She had kissed him back – tangled her fingers in his hair. The outrage came later. Much later. Yet still too soon by far.

“I do not know,” he truthfully replied at last. “Before the matter was decided, we were interrupted. The curate—”

Mr Bennet straightened in his chair, and his gaze took undertones of steel.

“Are you telling me that her reputation is at stake and she would be expected to marry you regardless of her wishes? That will not come to pass, sir,” he declared with unprecedented sternness.

Darcy’s response was just as fierce.

“You may be assured I will not force her hand.”

“A wise choice,” Mr Bennet remarked, the sternness barely mellowed by a fraction. Then he added, “I will have a word with Mr Whittaker. He is a sensible man, or at least more sensible than Mr Collins. He will heed me if I ask him to keep his mouth shut.”

Darcy gave a quick gesture of impatience.

“He has already agreed to hold his peace for now. That is not the reason I came to see you.”

“Is it not? Then I am compelled to ask again: why exactly are you here?”

Before he could even begin to examine what force might have propelled him to his feet, Darcy found himself striding towards the bookcase behind him. He raised both hands to run his fingers through his hair and spoke without turning.

“Because I love her! I love your daughter with all my heart and soul, yet I seem to do nothing but antagonise her.”

“Ah,” was all that Mr Bennet said, and by necessity rather than choice Darcy saw fit to turn around and face him.

He saw the older gentleman easing himself forward in his seat to reach for both glasses. He diligently filled them, then set the port decanter down and motioned towards the drinks. Darcy shook his head. With a little shrug, Mr Bennet retrieved his and took a measured sip

“Am I to understand that you wish me to teach you how to court my daughter?” he asked with a mild and not unfriendly smile.

****

Hmm, I wonder how that would go. “Listen up, Mr Darcy: Lesson 1…”

And now it’s GIVEAWAY TIME!

The giveaway is international. Please follow the link to the RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY and enter until the end of Monday, 16 Jul 2018 (midnight Pacific) for a chance to win one of the 10 Kindle versions of The Darcy Legacy, one of the 20 Audible codes with which you can listen for free to your choice of Stevie Zimmerman’s exquisite productions of my other books, or a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

Many thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll like The Darcy Legacy.

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About The Darcy Legacy

Pemberley’s ancient halls harbour many secrets. Which one will affect Fitzwilliam Darcy and the love of his life? How is Mr Bennet to enjoy the comforts of a well-stocked library, when his wife’s premature demise had left him with the task of finding suitable matches for their daughters? What of a misleading encounter on a muddy lane in Hertfordshire, that renders a country-town assembly rather more tolerable than some might have thought?

Shades of mystery, meddlesome relations – not least a drenched Adonis – raillery, old errors and a very recent union make for a challenging courtship when Fitzwilliam Darcy is not on his own ground. Yet when love is the reward, challenges make it more worth the earning. “A fraught courtship? So, let it be fraught,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said with a nonchalant flourish of his hand. “A good challenge never hurt anyone.”’

Buy The Darcy Legacy on Amazon

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About the Author

Joana Starnes

Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats – physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst – but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine.

She is the author of eight Austen-inspired novels: From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley, The Subsequent Proposal, The Second Chance, The Falmouth Connection, The Unthinkable Triangle, Miss Darcy’s Companion, Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and The Darcy Legacy, and one of the contributing authors to The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know and the upcoming Rational Creatures (due in October 2018).

Connect with Joana:

www.joanastarnes.co.uk
www. facebook.com/AllRoadsLeadToPemberley.JoanaStarnes/
www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes
www.twitter.com/Joana_Starnes

Joana’s books on Amazon.com
Joana’s books on Amazon.co.uk
Joana’s books on Goodreads

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July 2 / Austenesque Reviews/Excerpt Post & Giveaway

July 3 / Diary of an Eccentric/ Guest Post & Giveaway

July 4 / More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 5 / Of Pens & Pages / Guest Post & Giveaway

July 6 / So Little Time… So Much to Read/ Guest Post & Giveaway

July 7 / My Love for Jane Austen / Excerpt Post & Giveaway

July 8 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 9 / My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 10/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 11 / Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway

July 12 / Just Jane 1813/ Tour Finale & Giveaway

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Thank you, Joana! It’s always a pleasure to have you as a guest, and congratulations on The Darcy Legacy!

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Lona Manning has kindly offered to share an excerpt from her upcoming novel, A Marriage of Attachment, which is the sequel to A Contrary Wind, a variation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. To celebrate the release of A Marriage of Attachment (click to pre-order), the ebook of A Contrary Wind is on sale this week for 99 cents (be sure you’re logged in to your Amazon account to see the sale price). First, I’ll share with you the book blurbs, and stay tuned for a giveaway at the end of the post!

A Contrary Wind: Fanny Price, an intelligent but timid girl from a poor family, lives at Mansfield Park with her wealthy cousins. But the cruelty of her Aunt Norris, together with a broken heart, compel Fanny to run away and take a job as a governess. Far away from everything she ever knew and the man she secretly loves, will Fanny grow in strength and confidence? Will a new suitor help her to forget her past? Or will a reckless decision ruin her life and the lives of those she holds most dear?

This variation of Jane Austen’s novel includes all the familiar characters from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and some new acquaintances as well. There are some mature scenes and situations not suitable for all readers.

A Marriage of Attachment: A Marriage of Attachment continues the story of Fanny Price as she struggles to build her own life after leaving her rich uncle’s home. Fanny teaches sewing to poor working-class girls in London, while trying to forget her first love, Edmund Bertram, who is trapped in a disastrous marriage with Mary Crawford. Together with her brother John and her friend, the writer William Gibson, she discovers a plot that threatens someone at the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, Fanny’s brother William fights slavery on the high seas while longing for the girl he loves.

Filled with romance, suspense and even danger, A Marriage of Attachment takes the familiar characters from Mansfield Park on a new journey.

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An excerpt from A Marriage of Attachment, courtesy of Lona Manning

In A Marriage of Attachment, Edmund has heard from his estranged wife Mary Crawford Bertram, after a long silence. His sister Julia lives with him at the parsonage at Thornton Lacey, and she is yearning for handsome, gallant, Lieutenant William Price.

JULIA BERTRAM AROSE early to work in her garden on the morning after her return to Thornton Lacey from town.

Her mother used to sit in the shade, playing with her pug dog, as the gardeners at Mansfield Park dug and trimmed, and her Aunt Norris flitted about, directing and admonishing. But as there was no army of servants at her command at Edmund’s house, Julia taught herself to weed and plant, and found she rather enjoyed it, for the activity soothed her restless spirit.

Her flower garden was on a sunny slope behind the house, her own private retreat. She was exceedingly proud of her new hedge. At present her yew trees barely reached her waist, but with the mind and eye of a gardener, she saw the day when an imposing green avenue would trace the path of a gravel walkway, leading to the winding stream at the foot of the garden.

As she examined the promising new growth on her rose trellis, Julia indulged in recollections of a warm autumn day two years ago when her cousins William and Susan Price were visiting at Mansfield Park. The three of them went to pick rose hips in the hedgerows. It was the day she knew she was in love with William Price.

Julia closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun, summoning up the moment when young Susan, enjoying the freedom of the outdoors, went running on ahead, looking for a better patch of rose bushes, and she was left alone with William. She saw William’s face; the look in his eyes when he took her hand and asked her if she could wait for him. She had whispered ‘yes,’ and his face lit up with joy, and he embraced her. His radiant smile, the feel of his strong arms around her—this was her most precious memory, the most exciting and wonderful moment of her young life.

His pledge of love, and her acceptance, was a promise jointly given and taken with a sweet, lingering kiss. Neither one said another word. There was no need to. They stepped apart before William’s sister Susan returned, and if she suspected, she gave no sign. A few days later, William was gone to resume his duties as a lieutenant with His Majesty’s navy. Julia gave him all the dried rose hips to take with him to Africa.

As far as good intentions spoke for her future conduct, Julia believed she would only marry with her parents’ consent. In the meantime, she lived on the memory of one moment, one kiss. While her father respected William for his talents and industry, she feared he would not be pleased to welcome his nephew as a son-in-law. The Prices were poor and undistinguished. William’s father was a disabled lieutenant of marines, and their large family struggled in poverty in Portsmouth.

During her visits to London, Julia had met many highly born, prosperous, eligible young men, and perhaps with a little more enterprise on her part, a greater willingness to please and be pleased, she might have attached one of them. But the lieutenant had conquered her heart.

Julia waited at Thornton Lacey while William sought promotion, prizes, and distinction in the West African Squadron. The lovers agreed to keep their understanding a secret until the day he could step forward as an eligible claimant for Julia’s hand. William would not even correspond with her directly. Instead, he wrote long letters to her brother Edmund, recounting the success of his crew in apprehending slave ships along the African coast. With every ship captured and every slave freed, he was promised his share of prize monies. And the subject of rose hip tea often figured in his correspondence.

“Julia, are you out here?” Her brother’s voice pulled Julia out of her reverie.

“Yes, here I am, Edmund. I was just going to water my peonies.”

Edmund strolled down the path and picked up his sister’s heavy clay garden pot for her. “How well your daffodil cuttings are growing, Julia!”

“Bulbs are grown by division, not cuttings, Edmund.” Julia corrected him, proud of her acquired gardening knowledge.

“Well, at any rate, I remember these daffodils from our old garden. Could you accompany me to Mansfield this Wednesday? Lord Delingpole has sent us a note from Castle Ashby. He asks if we are at leisure to show him around Mansfield Park. I suppose he would rather talk to me than the steward. Could you attend on Lady Delingpole, or would you find it too painful?”

“I’m afraid I might weep, just a little, when I see our familiar old rooms silent and empty. But after all, I am a woman, we sometimes cry for pleasure. Otherwise, we would not speak of ‘having a good cry.’ I will go with you on Wednesday, Edmund.”

If so amiable a young lady as Julia Bertram might be said to have a fault, it was that she tended to think only of herself and her own concerns. But, as she watched her brother absently-mindedly drowning a peony bush with the full contents of the watering jug, she thought to ask: “Edmund? Will you give Lady Delingpole a reply for Mary?”

“Yes, of course, but… I cannot help wondering, Julia, why is Mary writing to me now? Why now? What does she want?”

“What else but to come back to you, Edmund dear?”

“But, shall I take this purely as a compliment to me,” Edmund said grimly, “or is there something else? What has occurred, or what has changed, to impel her to break her silence? Mary always has a motive for her actions.

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Giveaway

Lona is generously offering an ebook giveaway of both books! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what you think of the excerpt. This giveaway will be open through Monday, July 9, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Lona, for sharing an excerpt from A Marriage of Attachment, and congrats on your latest release!

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I’m delighted to welcome Tom Austin, author of The Darcy Contradiction, to Diary of an Eccentric today. He’s here to talk about why we write and to share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

Thank you for having me, Anna! And to you all, many thanks for reading my thoughts and for believing that what I have to say is worth your time.

Why do we write?

We all write because of what we rationally want to share with others, we write to send a message, we write with purpose, sometimes even with that of changing the way things are in real life, we write to make our voices heard. Then we write what ourselves want to read, what attracts us, what enchants us. Then we write down the things that fight to get out of us, what an inner voice dictates to us, what is no longer under our control. We write to put our lives in order, to make sense of things, to have the feeling that we have power over the world, any world, even a fictional one. We write to leave something behind, so that all we live is not in vain and will not be lost. We write to build a bridge between us and the past, between ourselves, with our burdened consciousnesses and the superior, clearer mind of our predecessors.

I know that the “The Darcy Contradiction”, with its stranger writing style, its talks about philosophy, art, literature, folklore and war, had its fair share of bad reviews. I am sorry to have disappointed some of you, but I am not sorry for writing it. It is a book which I needed to write. It filled a hole in me and if it meant for a single person half of what it meant for me, then I am happy.

If you want to take a chance on me, I will be glad to hear and discuss your thoughts about it.

Thank you again for being there.

Yours,

Tom

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An excerpt from The Darcy Contradiction, courtesy of Tom Austin

Dinner consisted of only two courses concluded by dessert and accompanied by a dry and savoury red wine. The Darcys were impeccably dressed and Elizabeth was glad to have bought that dress from Meryton. They hardly spoke during supper, the sound of dishes and silvery clattering being sometimes covered by the crackling of the fire and the roar of the blizzard outside. Elizabeth ate delicately, the julienned kale soup with timid sips, the maple-glazed roast beef and honeyed parsnips with small bites. She barely touched the cheese and raisin pie or the strong, unfamiliar wine. Even the small monkey, sitting on top of a mound of dates on a silver tazza, seemed to eat with bigger bites than her.

She looked about the room, admiring the elegant and tasteful decorations, the enchanting paintings, the cats sleeping in front of the fireplace. She had always imagined a country manor having dogs, dozens and dozens of beagles, bloodhounds and greyhounds. She could not see a gentleman of Mr. Darcy’s stature with an estate such as Netherfield keeping cats. In her eyes, cats were preferred by the ladies and not by the men. But then again, Mr. Darcy seemed a bit different that every man she had ever met. She did not incline towards liking or disliking him, but she could tell he was a man apart.

“There is such a craze for Oriental art these days, do you not think?” asked Miss Darcy observing Elizabeth was looking at one of the paintings depicting a severe gentleman. “Although my brother and I both adore travelling, and he tends to collect things from all over the world, I think nothing betters an English painting, either oil or watercolour. Take the Walcombs, for example, on the inside their house looks and smells like the mausoleum of a Mughal emperor, with pots for burning incense, statues of bizarre deities, Buddhist miniatures and Jain paintings. As I said, I love the exotic, but when it comes to art, nothing really compares to a work by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Joseph Wright or even from the young Joseph Turner. But, alas, for every Englishman who reveres them, there are thousands who have not even hear of them. A public gallery to reunite all our great artists, that is what we need.”

“There are many who are working towards that purpose,” said Mr. Darcy, sipping from his glass. “I believe we will soon have it.”

“They seem to be taking their time. They did not defer when you gave them the money. No, they took it with both hands.”

“It was money well spent. Every penny spent on art is well spent,” said Mr. Darcy. A cat jumped on his lap.

“Fitzwilliam was one of the collectors who made his treasures available to others. At Pemberley, artists could book a few hours a week to come and study the paintings and sculptures in our collection. We might start something like that here as well. My brother is already supporting two young artists and he may take more under his patronage, in memory of our father.”

“Do you paint, Miss Bennet?” asked Mr. Darcy.

“Every now and then. I am no Angelica Kauffman, I assure you of it, but I admit I enjoy painting and also drawing. I would love to be better at it and I know it is only up to me to better myself.”

“Oh, you should have had the chance to contemplate the picture-gallery at Pemberley. We took most of the paintings with us, but some need some special conditions. The portrait there is of our father. Do not be fooled, he was never as severe as he looks in that painting. I believe he posed like that just to have some fun. He was a kind and gentle man.”

Elizabeth looked more attentively. She noticed a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, the same posture, the same look, the same air of nobility and a dash of arrogance.

“Fitzwilliam is very much like him,” said Miss Darcy and Elizabeth flinched, feeling as if Georgiana had read her thoughts. “If you want, I could show you some of my drawings. I have hundreds of them, some of our father, some depicting Pemberley, some even of my brother when he was younger.”

“I would not want to intrude upon your intimacy,” said Elizabeth softly.

“Nonsense!” whooped Georgiana. “I will show them to you after breakfast tomorrow.”

“Only if you insist. And only with Mr. Darcy’s approval. If he is the subject of the drawings , then he should be consulted.”

“How generous of you,” replied Mr. Darcy.

“Do we have your consent, dear brother?” Georgiana fawned upon him like a cat.

“I will think about it,” replied Mr. Darcy petting the actual cat.

“Oh! You are impossible! What is there to think about? It is art! Even if you are the subject of it, you have no rights over it. The merit and the ownership belong to the artist, not to the muse. Even if they had been nudes, you would not have had any right to decide who sees them and who does not.”

Elizabeth blushed. She sipped from her glass. The cat meowed and jumped off.

“My brother and I are quite different when it comes to art,” continued Miss Darcy turning towards Lizzy. “I am a creator, while he is more of a collector. I take great pleasure in expressing myself while he takes great pleasure in observing what others have expressed. All this talk of art has put me in the mood for music. Shall we proceed to the drawing-room?”

“Maybe Miss Bennet is tired,” said Mr. Darcy. “I am not sure she has fully recovered from being almost frozen solid.”

“Oh, do not worry about me. I feel as if nothing had happened. Besides, I would really love to hear Miss Darcy play.”

“You see!” exclaimed Georgiana. “She is feeling better than ever. That wine of yours had surely contributed to it.”

They moved back to the drawing-room, followed by one of the cats. Elizabeth was indeed feeling well, a sensation she had never known before. She could feel her cheeks red, her head slightly lighter, her mood cheerful. Somehow she knew her parents were well and that her father, although surely worried, would have talked sense into everyone else. She took a seat, eager to be entertained.

Most well-bred young ladies of the time, especially those who wanted to enchant a possible husband with their accomplishments, could play at least one musical instrument. The grand favourite was the piano and a great number of girls would have practiced playing it and taking lessons to prepare for when they would be called upon at an evening party to perform in front of an audience most often consisting of eligible gentlemen. But Miss Darcy did not play only one instrument, but several— among which the pianoforte and the harp — and not only play, but she was somewhat of a virtuoso worthy of a Vauxhall concert. When Georgiana played Mozart or Beethoven, Rossini, Schubert, Liszt or Mendelssohn, her eyes shut, her fingers dancing wildly on the piano keyboard, she showed such composure that her spiritual self seemed to be off far away somewhere, plucking the sounds from some crystal firmament or some celestial sounding board.

Elizabeth observed the impact of Miss Darcy’s divine music on her brother. Mr. Darcy sat leaning back his head, his eyes shut just like his sister’s. He was living the sounds, that moment or another from the past or the future, from real life or from dreams. Elizabeth admitted to herself that she felt quite envious of the power the girl in front of her, a few years younger than her, could have on a man. Mr. Darcy was her brother, but Elizabeth had no doubt she would have left the same impression on any man, that she could tame anyone just like Orpheus with his enchanted lyre.

“I believe music is the most divine of all the arts,” said he when Georgiana finished and made a deep bow. “Compared to music, every other art seems barbaric. It needs materials to make it visible, it needs to be seen. Music does not require anything. It comes from the air, from imagination, from the human mind. By voice or perhaps only by a wooden box and some strings, it can give you the sensations no other art is able to. A painting or a sculpture can be impressive, but it cannot take a man all the way to wherever the artist wants to take him. Music can imitate the sound of sunrise, a lazy summer morning, a hot afternoon, a snowy winter evening, a storm, the sound of midnight, the sound of love, of war, of horror, of wonder.”

“It truly is an art that reigns above all others,” agreed Lizzy.

They spent the rest of the evening talking about music and art in general, about what it meant to be an artist or merely a performer. At one point, Georgiana even suggested the two would dance while she played a tune of their choice, which they both refused in one voice.

Mr. Darcy proved to be a very cultivated man, an admirer and a supporter of all the arts. Miss Darcy as well, despite her age, was highly cultured and had many talents. Elizabeth went to her room close to midnight, impressed by the two, feeling that life at Netherfield had to be good. Maybe because of the excitement of spending time in such an unfamiliar and noble company, maybe because of the wine, she could not put her mind to rest. She thought of a great number of things, her hosts, her parents, her sisters.

So that was the mysterious Mr. Darcy, she thought, the man who had eluded just about everyone for so long, the man she was so curious to meet. Now she had met him and did not know what to make of him. He seemed moody and whimsical, and she could have blamed him for her sister’s unhappiness, but somehow she could not feel ill of him. And even if he had driven away Mr. Bingley, it was because he was only looking out for his own sister’s best interest. He did not seem to hold a grudge against her, a Bennet, he had spoken to her with civility, he had listened to her speak her mind, he had never interrupted her or dismissed her opinions. Miss Darcy herself could be sometimes arrogant and shrewish, but something told Elizabeth than she was good and that her brother was also good.

Then she remembered the words of the fortune-teller. ‘He will come to you in your hour of need’ said the gypsy lady. How could she have known? Elizabeth asked herself. Had it been a lucky guess? Could such things be true in their modern world? Was it something that the madam was telling her customers every now and then, hoping to be right? A tall and handsome man — is that not what every girl dreams of? Extremely wealthy with a big house — the same. Lizzy thought back then that she would recognize the one fated to be hers, but now, lying on that swan feather mattress in that modish bedroom in that house fit for kings, she felt more uncertain than ever in her entire life. Then, all of a sudden, she imagined what the nude drawings of Mr. Darcy would look like had they been real. She fell asleep late, but she was not to have a peaceful, restful sleep.

It was still dark when the door silently opened and Mr. Darcy sneaked in, tiptoed. He was not wearing the tailcoat or the cravat he dined in, but his blue robe de chambre. She knew why he was there, but felt she could not and would not resist him, regardless of anything. She knew the dangers, the huge risks she was taking. Mr. Darcy did not seem to be the type of gentleman who would sneak into a girl’s room at night. He seemed to be one who would respect protocol more than anyone. But she did not care. She eagerly opened his robe, revealing his bandages. She caressed his broad, hairy chest and, almost as if she was scared, she merely touched his groin through the pantaloons. He took off the night gown Georgiana had lended her, he almost ripped it off, he kissed her gently, from her ear to her neck, to her breasts, going down her belly. His cheek was rough, a day’s beard maybe, his lips were soft. She stopped him, took his hand in her hands and asked him if he loved her. He said yes and only after that did she let him continue. But he did not get to do much, for she awoke. She awoke and she felt guiltier than she had ever felt in her whole life. Everything had seemed so real, but even if nothing had happened, Elizabeth felt ashamed. It was for the first time she had such impure thoughts about a man. She thought of men before, but never like that. She once imagined Mr. Wickham kissing her and that had been the apex of such lustful imaginings.

Lizzy told herself that she would never give herself like that to a man, to a man she had just met, a controversial man she did not even know, outside of wedlock, in a strange bead, wearing his sister’s clothes. The thought comforted her a little, but when she went down for breakfast, she could not look either of the two in the eye.

“Are you all right?” asked Georgiana seeing her behave strangely.

“Yes, I believe I am,” mumbled Elizabeth blushing.

“It is perhaps because of the wine,” opinioned Mr. Darcy.“You were not used to it. It may not have been the best of picks. I should have chosen maybe one from France or Italy, which you might have been more familiar with, it being drunk, I believe, at Longbourn as well. Instead I chose one from the Black Sea, a wild vine that bears a special type of grape.”

“I am fine,” Lizzy said more clearly. “And the wine was excellent.”

“You look like you had not a wink of sleep all night,” said Georgiana. “What kept you up?”

“You were maybe thinking of your parents? And your sisters?” asked Mr. Darcy.

“Yes, I was thinking of them and I could not fall asleep,” replied Lizzy. She detested lying. Even when it was only a half-lie.

“Maybe you will catch a nap after lunch,” said Miss Darcy.

“I was thinking of having breakfast in the conservatory today,” proposed Mr. Darcy. “We shall not have our usual view because of the blizzard, but it would still be nice.”

“My father used to have his breakfast in the conservatory…” Elizabeth said melancholically.

“You will be with him shortly. This weather cannot last for ever,” assured her Mr. Darcy.

“Yes,” approved Georgiana. “You shall be away from this place and far away from us faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Now, about that breakfast…”

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About The Darcy Contradiction

“The Darcy Contradiction” is a retelling of the classic love story, with quite a few twists and turns. All the well-known, beloved and behated characters, plus a few memorable new ones. A new master at Netherfield, a specious hunting accident, the elusive Mr. Darcy and his impressive library, a matchmaker for Jane and a fortune-teller for Elizabeth, the primordial silence of Iona Abbey and the dreaded beauty of St. Wulfstan’s Blizzard. The Regency Era in all its splendor, the vivid tea parlours of London, the colourful enchantments of India, the Napoleonic Wars, Shakespeare, Lord Byron and Hegel. Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh as you have never imagined them before.

Buy The Darcy Contradiction on Amazon

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Giveaway

Tom is generously offering an ebook copy of The Darcy Contradiction to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to know what you think of the excerpt. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 1, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Tom, for sharing why you write with us. Congratulations on your new release!

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I’m delighted to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Lessers and Betters. Don is here today to talk about the novellas bundled in the book and share an excerpt. Please give him a warm welcome!

I have often pondered the appeal of novels like Pride and Prejudice to a 21st Century audience. Back in the Regency when Miss Austen wrote her masterpiece, her contemporaries (those who could, first, read and, second, afford to purchase her book) saw P&P as being about (loosely, I will admit) people like us…the gentry and the aristocracy.

Now, in more egalitarian times…although there will be those who point to the 1%/99% divide…the popularity of the book has vaulted it into the forefront of readers’ favorites. Yet, how many of us can actually identify with Elizabeth Bennet…the daughter of a family earning the 2018 equivalent of about $187,000 every year? Recall, too, that the Bennets owned Longbourn free and clear in an era of no income tax and no property tax. Likewise, while they would have had to pay a window tax and an annual carriage tax, the bulk of their moneys could be reserved for gowns and ribbons and trips to Town.

Perhaps that is the appeal…much like the lottery. Easy street. No worries. It also explains the terror Mrs. B felt when she considered the entail.

The less we think of Mr. Darcy’s $1 Million a year, the better.

Of course, this would explain Caroline Bingley’s $2 Million dowry…given her personality.

However, while t’is blissful to romanticize about teas, assemblies, sideboards groaning with food, and fine brandy, there are a group of characters found in all of the Canonical books who are virtually invisible. However, without these persons, none of the softly cushioned lifestyles written about could have existed.

I am, of course, speaking of the servants. Rarely are they seen at the far end of Miss Austen’s quill except to open doors, serve meals, or dash off to fetch smelling salts.

This has, over the course of my career writing #InspiredByAusten fiction, piqued my historian’s imagination. We are now in a post-modern era where social scientists are examining events, discourses, and narratives from a subaltern’s (sergeant’s) point-of-view. Rather than history composed around those who had the power to write it, we now examine those who lived in it, but who never merited the attention of those who sought to portray that which shaped the times.

That led to, first, the novella Of Fortune’s Reversal which examined the events of November 5, 1815 from the gentry’s point of view. This novella was followed by another, The Maid and The Footman, that explored the same sequence, but as seen and experienced by two members in service to the Cecil household where Kitty Bennet was employed as governess.

While the two stories were published about four months apart in 2016 with Of Fortune’s Reversal being first, I had never intended to create paired novellas approaching the same events from two different perspectives; or, to pay tribute to a classic, akin to Upstairs, Downstairs. Of Fortune’s Reversal was simply designed as a “Kitty” story as part of my process of building her book in The Bennet Wardrobe series.

However, in the rosy hue of post-publication, the contours of The Maid and The Footman started to rise from the freshly planted terrain. T’was a short step to apprehend that there was a reason that I first had Sergeant Henry Wilson and then, later, Annie Reynolds identify themselves in the course of the action that made up Of Fortune’s Reversal. Those who are familiar with my process know that I do not apply names to characters unless they will play a larger role than a soul who lights the fireplace or opens the door for The Quality.

I have decided to offer both books together under one cover because it is my belief that the experience of absorbing the two discourses—that of the betters followed by that of the lessers—will offer the most rewarding experience as a reader considers the themes flowing through Great Britain as its social structure metamorphosed. Moving directly from one to the other without an intervening gap of weeks or months will (hopefully) create a deeper inner dialogue over which readers can mull.

As a parting note, I would urge readers to consider the following thought:

Wealth confers no greater nobility on the “haves” and no less on the “have nots.” Humans experience the deepest emotions and seek out connections of love whether they drink the tea…or serve it.

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Please enjoy this excerpt from Lessers and Betters:

This excerpt is © 2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. No republication in any form—either electronic or print—without the expressed written consent of the author is permitted.

From Chapter VIII in The Maid and The Footman

Wilson stationed himself near where Miss Bennet would stop and rest when she was not dancing. From her heightened color and happy looks, he could tell that the lady was thoroughly enjoying herself. She rarely wanted for partners as one of the Cecil gentlemen always made a point of seeking her hand. Even the young Duke of Wilton was shooed over by his wife, the former Lady Emily Cecil, to invite her old friend to take a turn on the floor. The only time Miss Bennet’s countenance drooped was when one of the men of the ton, attracted by her blonde hair and shining china-blue eyes, would discover she was the Cecil governess and abruptly turn on his heel without another word.

Henry was not sure of the reason why he placed himself near Miss Bennet. There was his soldier’s sense of loyalty to his charge. His job during the daytime was to make sure that Miss Bennet and Miss Margaret were safe—not that the governess was in any danger

at the ball—although he had an uneasy feeling which had been nagging at him for the past few hours. Perhaps he wanted to be nearby in case she required him to run an errand, one that would necessitate his seeking out Miss Reynolds for Miss Bennet’s shawl. Whatever the case, Henry Wilson positioned himself about five feet behind her and to her left.

His eyes scanned the crowd of post-midnight revelers. Only a few of the more elderly had departed for their townhomes. The noise level had increased as the younger aristocracy began to feel the exuberance of a carefree existence that only uncountable wealth could bring. More people crowded onto the dance floor, leaving those on the sidelines conspicuous in their immobility.

Miss Bennet glanced back over her left shoulder at Henry, and with a smile to him, indicated that she wished a glass of champagne from his tray. He stepped forward and bowed slightly so that she could take her drink. Looking past, he saw a tall, slender, red headed woman making a beeline for Miss Bennet from across the room.

To Wilson’s eye, this woman was at least five and more likely ten years older than Miss Bennet. As she neared her quarry, he could see that her complexion was well rouged and powdered, probably in an effort to restore the luster of a youth that had fled some time before. More likely, all she accomplished was to hide some of the more obvious ravages of time. She was dressed as good Queen Bess, but the ridiculously accurate high collar coupled with her already long frame left an impression of a carnival actor navigating the room on stilts. Henry could see a steely glint in her hazel green eyes. Whoever she was, she bore not friendship, but rather disdain, for Miss Bennet.

“Miss Bennet. I am quite surprised to come across you here at the Cecil Masque,” the woman fluted between teeth clenched in a rictus that bespoke astonishment, “How did you ever secure such a coveted invitation? I doubt if it was through your connections in Cheapside.”

Miss Bennet’s face soured at the verbal assault, but she politely replied using an epee rather than a saber, “Why Miss Bingley…it is still Miss Bingley, is it not? What a pleasure it is to meet you again. Why it has to be nearly four years since we last saw you before you left Netherfield. I do hope you are faring well. Your note of condolence upon our father’s death was so comforting.”

Wilson stepped back to his earlier position, making sure to keep his face impassive.

I think I am about to see how ladies do battle. These two have no love lost whatsoever. I doubt if this Miss Bingley—how did she ever secure an invitation, I wonder—is aware that Miss Bennet spent the last few years by the side of a Cecil, and a future Duchess at that, learning the art of social war!

The faux-Elizabeth arched her eyebrows as she absorbed the slight about her marital status. Then she tried a flanking attack.

“Yes, my brother and sister and I were all so devastated that your father’s death forced dear Jane and Eliza into taking employment. But, I imagine even Mr. Darcy, the height of condescension, felt that this was the best they could expect thanks to your father’s

indolent ways. I had heard that your sisters relocated to the hinterlands away from the city. Was it Glasgow? Dublin? I imagine you were so distressed when your Uncle acted like a common tradesman and required them to leave his house in the midst of their grief.”

Wilson ground his teeth as he listened to Miss Bingley pile insults atop insults. He had heard Miss Bennet relate to Annie that her uncle had not demanded that any of his nieces find employment. On the contrary, her two elder sisters could not bear to be a burden on a household with four small children. Another sister—the middle one—had married a sea captain in the Gardiner line. His share of the profits would make the couple quite comfortable.

Miss Bennet maintained her composure and replied evenly, “Oh, Miss Bingley, you are mistaken. Both Jane and Elizabeth decided that their futures would be away from London. Honestly, I think they needed to be absent from Town and the poor memories associated with some areas like Mayfair. My aunt and uncle could not convince them to stay. It is true that my Papá did not plan for our security, but my uncle has more than enough resources to keep his two favorite nieces close at hand. Why, he asked after them just last week when he stopped by Cecil House to meet with Lord Tom and his brother.”

Thrust and parry.

Miss Bingley fired another shot, “I can give no credit to your account. I am surprised that Lord Thomas Cecil would be willing to meet with anyone from trade here at Cecil House. Why even my brother, for whom I am still hostess, has the delicacy to conduct those sorts of meetings away from home. And, when I am Mistress of Pemberley, I will force Mr. Darcy to cut any ties with those in trade. His man of business is good enough for that!

“Those in the trade have such inferior manners. But so do many of those in the gentility, especially if they hail from countrified regions like Hertfordshire. I recall how much you and your uncontrollable sister—what was her name—Lily? Lara?—danced like wild hoydens with all the soldiers at that wretched assembly my brother forced us to attend. But I doubt if you have had the opportunity to dance like that tonight…because you are Lord Thomas and Lady Mary’s governess.”

This last vitriolic salvo was delivered with the triumphant sneer so well known by familiars of that particular daughter of trade. She then sought to push her advantage home. Dropping all pretense of being polite, Miss Bingley reached out and grabbed Miss Bennet’s dance card that was dangling from her left wrist; the same hand in which she held her glass of champagne.

The remaining liquid splashed out onto the floor as Miss Bennet’s hand was yanked forward.

“I imagine that this card is blank, as it should be for an employee overstepping her bounds by presuming to be on the same level as members of the ton.”

Henry stepped forward to Miss Bennet’s side. He had already lifted the napkin draped over his arm and had dropped it atop the golden puddle before it spread to the hem

of her gown. Then he gently removed the glass from her hand, still held captive by the silk ribbon stretching from her wrist to Miss Bingley’s hand. He glanced at the governess’ face.

Oh, this Bingley woman has overcharged her musket like a raw recruit. Wonder if she left the ramrod in as well. There is going to be an interesting explosion in a moment. Just look at the arch of Miss Bennet’s eyebrow and the set of her lips!

Caroline snapped open the card. Then her face began to grow pale for the card was filled with names that could only have been improved if one had been the Prince Regent’s! Her eyes widened as she saw monikers that were familiar to her only from the columns in the Times.

Henry dipped to wipe the floor and remove the cloth. As he stepped back, the tableau of Queen Elizabeth facing Marie Antoinette across the centuries stuck in his mind.

Miss Bennet gently tugged her arm backward away from Miss Bingley. Miss Bingley released the dance card from numb fingers. She never moved; her widened eyes locked on Miss Bennet’s face.

Miss Bennet began her final assault.

“So, Miss Bingley, perhaps what truly is is not what you have wished it to be. Perhaps some of the ton are not so insensitive as to ignore a guest forced to sit out a dance because the social sensibilities of others would leave an unaccompanied lady without a partner.

“I happen to recall a particular gentleman from Derbyshire being called out by a young lady from Hertfordshire for exactly that same boorish behavior.

“Yes, it is true that I am governess to Miss Margaret Cecil. And, yes, it is also true that I receive wages for my services. But, Miss Bingley, you must know that I, too, have chosen to relieve the burden of my welfare from my uncle’s shoulders.

“Jane, Lizzy, and Mary could have remained in Meryton and lived with our Mama, Lydia—yes her name is Lydia—and me off of Mamá’s 5,000-pound portion. But can you imagine six women maintaining themselves on 150 pounds a year?

“My older sisters knew that they had to make their own way in the world. They refused to condemn all of us to poverty; and it would be a poverty not of the genteel kind about which the novelists so happily declaim as some sort of virtue.

“Mrs. Bennet may have been a foolish woman when you knew her, but Papá’s death changed her. With my three older sisters away from the family, Mama took some of her money to send Lydia and me to seminary.

“I have not heard from my sister these past few months, but I know she is healthy and happy because I feel it here.” At that she laid her gloved hand above her heart. “Just as I know that Lizzy, Jane, Mary, and Mamá are all well.

“Can you say the same about Mr. Bingley and Mrs. Hurst? I imagine not.

“So, I may be a governess, but I was happy this morning. I am happy tonight. And tomorrow, I will awake happy because I know that there are people who want me near and that those whom I love are they themselves happy.

“And tomorrow morning…what will you be, Miss Bingley?I

“Oh, you must excuse me. I see my next partner coming. Will yours know where to find you?”

Match to Miss Bennet with first blood. Perhaps Miss Bingley would like a glass of champagne? I think not. Likely she has had enough of that drink for the time being!

I This was inspired by Sir Winston Churchill’s famous exchange with Lady Astor from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/my-dear-you-are-ugly-but-tomorrow-i-shall-be-sober-and-you-will-still-be-ugly-winston-churchill-tops-8878622.html accessed 10/3/16

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About Lessers and Betters

Experience Love As It Blooms Upstairs and Downstairs

Lessers and Betters asserts that class is an imaginary distinction conferring no better manners on the haves and no lesser nobility on the have-nots and that the deepest human emotions are universal and ignore wealth or status.

Now for the first time under the same cover, discover the paired novellas that explore the remarkable events of November 5, 1815 when the Cecil Governess, Kitty Bennet, was grievously injured as she defended her charge. What rests behind the attack? Readers of Lessers and Betters will experience a unique literary approach that offers both gentry and servant perspectives presented in their own self-contained novellas.

Of Fortunes Reversal: A brisk Hyde Park morning is shattered by a child’s scream. How two gently-born adults react in those next few desperate moments sets the plot in motion that is a unique reconsideration of the traditional Pride and Prejudice memes. Of Fortune’s Reversal is a novella-length tale based upon an inversion of Mrs. Bennet’s exclamation that with one good marriage, the other girls would be thrown in front of rich men. What if the well-wed sister was neither Jane nor Elizabeth?

The Maid and The Footman: Explore the growing affection between a young lady’s maid, Annie Reynolds, and a retired sergeant, Henry Wilson: ultimately a love story as great as any written by the immortals. In the Jane Austen universe, the celebrated novels are written from the point-of-view of the landed gentry. Servants are rarely seen except to open doors, serve dinner, or fetch smelling salts. Follow Annie and Henry as they combine with General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam and Miss Bennet to defeat an awesome threat aimed at the heart of the British Empire.

The combined volume is approximately 82,000 words in length.

Buy Lessers and Betters on Amazon.

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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 an ebook copy of Lessers and Betters to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what you think of the excerpt! This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 24, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Don, for being my guest today. It’s always a pleasure to share your books with my readers. Congratulations on your latest release!

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I have a treat for you today, my dear readers! I have been excited about the Austenistan anthology — a collection of stories inspired by Jane Austen that are set in modern-day Pakistan — since I first heard it was being published. Life has been too busy for me to delve into it just yet, but I’m thrilled to have Laaleen Sukhera, editor of Austenistan and author of the story “On the Verge,” and Mishayl Naek, author of the story “Eaaman Ever After,” here today for a discussion about Jane Austen and the anthology. Please give them a warm welcome!

ANNA: How did you discover Jane Austen? Have you read all of Austen’s novels? Do you have a favorite, or a favorite character? What drew you most to her books and the time period?

LAALEEN: I’ve grown up reading her novels and started on my twelfth birthday with Pride and Prejudice, which will always be my favourite. I’ve been in love with Regency England ever since and Georgette Heyer further developed my passion for the era. I’ve found that at different stages in life, one can appreciate Austen’s characters, settings, and dialogues in new and surprising ways. One can reread the novels and rewatch the screen adaptations countless times but be struck by a new detail or observation each time. They’re like dear old friends that you can revisit whenever you please. Whether it’s romance or fashion or travel or aesthetics, they influence you considerably.

MISHAYL: I discovered Jane Austen around my teenage years when the social conventions reflected in her book seemed to ring so true and helped me bumble through personal social navigation. It was an easy escape to fall into her witty, female centered portrayal of society and I loved the female relationships. The time period seemed very romantic to me, and still does! The way the scenery and homes were painted feels beautiful and peaceful, especially when I was living an big, bustling city. It was probably one of my reasons to attend the University of Bath and I definitely imagined myself as one of her heroines as I walked in the countryside. My favorite character is quite cliché but it is—and always will be—Elizabeth Bennet.

ANNA: What was the goal behind Austenistan? What do you hope readers will take from the anthology? Did you find it difficult at all to adapt Austen’s novels and characters to your culture?

Laaleen Sukhera

LAALEEN: We honestly wrote it for ourselves, never dreaming that it would resonate with so many people around the world, nor that Bloomsbury would be publishing it. I hope our readers will laugh and cry and cringe at all the right moments with us—it’s such a joy to hear their views!

I didn’t find it at all difficult to visualize or adapt Austen for Pakistani society. It was almost disturbingly easy; beyond the etiquette and the ‘marriage mart’ and the social season, our inherent misogyny parallels the Regency era. We don’t just read Austen, it’s like we’re living in her world. Her characters are incredibly relevant and relatable.

MISHAYL: Our goal was to create a lighthearted book which told a different story about Pakistan. Each writer worked hard to create ambiance and capture the era and essence of their city in a Jane Austen inspired setting. Since there are different writers, each story has its own feel and take on Austen’s Pakistan. We hope readers will enjoy this contemporary take on Pakistan, which is typically portrayed in a more negative, political light. At the end of the day, our country is filled with women who wish to find a great love, whether its romantic, friendly or family oriented, just like most other women around the world.

It was very easy for me to adapt Emma to the Karachi setting, with its glitzy party scene and constant matchmaking. I thoroughly enjoyed my ‘research’ which consisted of silently watching my peers at social gatherings. Sadly there was a lack of Mr. Knightleys and a plethora of Mr. Eltons.  

ANNA: Are there any plans for another anthology?

LAALEEN: It’s just wishful thinking at this point, not just to appease the fans, but to give me another excuse to work with such wonderful women. Let us know what you think!

Mishayl Naek

MISHAYL: Not that I know of! But we are always open to more anthologies that include a brighter angle of Pakistan.

ANNA: How did you discover Jane Austen Fan Fiction? Do you have any favorite variations?

LAALEEN: I’ve picked up various prequels and sequels, mostly titles with catchy names and beautiful covers, been amused by some and disappointed by others. It simply isn’t possible to ape her style so to overtly attempt that makes the writer look a bit foolish. I’d have to say the Bridget Jones series by Helen Fielding—with the exception of the exceedingly depressing Mad About The Boy—has to be my absolute favourite.

MISHAYL: With the exception of Clueless, I was introduced to Jane Austen fan fiction by our editor Laaleen.

ANNA: What projects are you working on now?

LAALEEN: I’m meant to be writing a novel. At the moment I’m fleshing out characters and trying to get into their heads. It’s not meant to be Austen inspired, but knowing me, Jane-isms will find their way in!

MISHAYL: I am personally trying to write a series of children’s books that are culturally significant.

ANNA: Thank you both so much for being my guests today! You’ve made me even more excited about reading Austenistan. Laaleen told me that the book has done well across South Asia, and that Pakistani booksellers say it is a top 10 bestseller! Congratulations on the anthology’s success thus far!

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About Austenistan

Heiress and society doyenne Kamila Mughal is humiliated when her brother’s best friend snubs her to marry a social climbing nobody from Islamabad. Jameela Baig’s cold, unenterprising husband hasn’t planned for the future and all she can think about is how to find suitable husbands for her daughters. Roya Khalil discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her and ends up on a blind date in Surrey on her wedding day. Beautiful young widow Begum Saira Qadir has mourned her late husband but feels she may finally be ready to start following her own desires. Emaan navigates post-divorce singlehood in cosmopolitan Karachi, Samina confronts her inner demons in metropolitan Lahore, and Maya fears her marriage to her English diplomat husband has gone cold.

Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a collection of romantic, uplifting, witty and sometimes heart-breaking love stories which pay homage to the queen of wit and romance.Comprising seven stories inspired by Austen’s novels and largely set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is an amusing, sometimes savage and sometimes moving look at love, loss and second chances in the upper echelons of a society which very closely echoes Regency England. The writers are professionals from the media, academics, law, and medicine, and are members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP), whose founder, Laaleen Sukhera, is editor of this collection.

ABOUT THE STORIES:

The Fabulous Banker Boys

By Mahlia S Lone

“The business of her life was to get her daughters married”—Pride and Prejudice

Jameela Baig, struggling to pay the bills and coveting respectable alliances for her four unmarried daughters, is overjoyed when two eligible young men arrive from Dubai and seem interested in Jahan and Elisha. Young Leena’s antics, however, seem likely to disgrace them all…

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Begum Saira Returns

By Nida Elley

“No character, however upright, can escape the malevolence of slander”—Lady Susan

It is 1989 and hope is in the air as Pakistan elects its first female Prime Minister. Alluring Saira Qadir reappears in Lahore society for the first time since the death of her husband, confronting old flames and new social barriers.

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Emaan Ever After

By Mishayl Naek

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”—Emma

A spirited divorcée has an awful run of luck with Karachi’s most sought after bachelors, who also happen to act pretty entitled. Thankfully, Emaan has her best friend Haroon’s shoulder to pinch and cry on…or does she?

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The Mughal Empire

By Saniyya Gauhar

“Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy’s marriage”—Pride and Prejudice

Kamila Mughal, publisher of Pink magazine, never imagined that a Queen Bee like herself could possibly be outdone by the gold-digging Bilal sisters who cut a swathe through town, even scooping up the man she’s always had her eye on. But might she find love while trying to merely save face?

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The Autumn Ball

By Gayathri Warnasuriya

“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love”—Pride and Prejudice

Trailing diplomatic spouse Maya longs to attend the society gala of the year with Hugo, her reluctant English husband, in Islamabad’s bubble-like enclave for embassies. As the night progresses, Maya suspects that her marriage is as shaky as the DJ’s playlist.

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Only The Deepest Love

By Sonya Rehman

“The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied by it”—Pride and Prejudice

University lecturer Samina has learnt not to trust men from her battered and abandoned mother. Her young cousin, in the meantime, has had an arranged marriage with a wealthy young man who doesn’t appear to desire her, or indeed women in general. About the only upside to their wedding was that Samina met a man there whom she can’t quite get out of her head…

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On The Verge

By Laaleen Sukhera

“One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then without stumbling on something witty”—Pride and Prejudice

Blogger Roya Khalil, on the hunt for a perfect-on-paper soul mate, discovers her blue-blooded fiancé is cheating on her. A second chance at making a spectacular marriage presents itself when a matchmaking aunt snags her a date with an obnoxious British Asian halal meat tycoon.

Buy Austenistan: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bloomsbury (U.K.) | Waterstones (U.K.)

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About the Authors

Laaleen Sukhera

EDITOR & CONTRIBUTOR

Laaleen is a communications consultant and writer. She graduated with an MSc in Professional Communications and a BA (High Honours) in Screen Studies and Communication & Culture at Clark University in Massachusetts. She is the founder of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan and has appeared in programs, podcasts, and features in 1843 (UK), the BBC (World Service &100 Women), the British Council (UK and Pakistan), Harper’s Bazaar (India), HELLO! (India and Pakistan), NewsTalk (Ireland), NPR/National Public Radio (USA), Sky Arts (UK), The Times (UK), and Vanity Fair (Italy), and has been quoted in The Atlantic, The Economist, and The New York Times.

Earlier in her career, she worked as a series coordinator and interviewer for an award nominated documentary that aired on ITV, as a field producer and advertising executive in New York, as a TV producer in Lahore, as a public relations consultant in Islamabad, and as the associate editor of Libas International.  Laaleen represented Austenistan at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka, the Times of India Lit Fest Bangalore, and at panels hosted in Washington DC by the Jane Austen Society of North America and Muse District at George Washington University, as well as in Lahore at the British Council Library, the LGS Lit Fest, The Last Word, and in Islamabad at the British High Commission’s British Club and at London Books Café.

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Mishayl Naek

CONTRIBUTOR

Mishayl is a freelance writer and monetary economist who received her BA in Economics from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania [where she received the Jeanne Quistgaard Memorial Prize] and M.Sc. in International Development [concentration: Political Economy] from the University of Bath. She has worked at the State Bank of Pakistan in the Development Finance Group and Monetary Department, where she co-authored various policies, reports and studies including a study on monetary policy for SAARC [presented in July, 2012].

Mishayl lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and has been published in BeautifulYou.com, the Express Tribune, Good Food, Grazia Pakistan, Libas International, Women’s Own, and Yello. She runs the Yummy Mummy Network group on Facebook to address childcare issues, activities and resources for metropolitan Pakistani mothers. Mishayl remotely appeared as a panelist for Austenistan at the Times LitFest Bangalore 2018.

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Nida Elley

CONTRIBUTOR

Nida is a college teacher, a writing coach, and a writer. She grew up between Scarsdale, New York and Lahore, Pakistan. She has worked in the fields of academia, non-profit film and event management. Nida previously taught Composition, Creative Writing, and Literature to college students in Lahore; she currently teaches at St Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and is shortly relocating to London, UK. She received her Bachelors degree in Journalism & Mass Media from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, New York.

Her work has been published in Psychology Today, The Friday Times, High Profile magazine, Paper magazine and she maintains a blog, A Storyed Sensibility. Nida appeared as a panelist for Austenistan at the British Council Library and at The Last Word, both in Lahore, as well as at the University of Southern California’s Conversation@PAM as well as at the University of Texas at Austin’s South Asia Institute.

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Saniyya Gauhar

CONTRIBUTOR

Saniyya is a barrister by profession and was editor of the Pakistan based business magazine, Blue Chip, for four years. A graduate of Sussex University, she received a First Class Honours in Contemporary History and later went on to do the Common Professional Examination [CPE] and was called to the Bar in 2000.

Saniyya has worked in corporate law and litigation in both London and Pakistan. She is currently a freelance writer and editor. She has had articles published in magazines and prominent Pakistani daily newspapers and edited and co-authored papers for prestigious international academic journals. Saniyya appeared as a panelist for Austenistan at the British Council Library in Lahore and in Islamabad at the British High Commission’s British Club and the London Books Café.

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Mahlia S Lone

CONTRIBUTOR

Mahlia is a seasoned textile journalist. She contributes to WWD [Women’s Wear Daily] among other publications, and is currently the editor of GoodTimes magazine in Lahore, Pakistan. Mahlia was valedictorian of her graduating class at the Lahore American School and attended university at Kinnaird College in Lahore, William Smith College in New York and Clark University in Massachusetts.

She started her journalistic career as the assistant editor of the op/ed pages at The Nation and became the features editor for The Friday Times before she began writing for trade publications. Mahlia has maintained a blog for Matrix Sourcing, a textile buying-house located in Lahore. Additionally, she has strategically planned creative lines for several home décor and fashion startups, and planned society fundraisers for philanthropic causes. Mahlia appeared as a panelist for Austenistan at the British Council Library and at The Last Word, both in Lahore.

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Sonya Rehman

CONTRIBUTOR

Sonya is a journalist based in Lahore, Pakistan, with an expansive body of published work comprising over 400 articles. Her work has been featured in TIME, The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia, Rolling Stone [Middle East], BBC [The Strand], Asia Society, Esquire [Middle East], The Hindu, The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, The Diplomat Magazine, Forbes, The Friday Times, DAWN and The News International, amongst others. In 2010, Sonya was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree in Print Journalism at Columbia University, New York, and was one of four students [in the same year] to receive the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Fellowship.

In addition to her prolific publishing career, Sonya teaches English and journalism, runs her own postcard start-up, From Lahore With Love, and was selected as a speaker at an independently organized TED event, TEDxKinnaird in Lahore in 2011. Sonya has also anchored and scripted for television at HUM TV, hosted a radio show for City FM89 and conducted journalism and creative writing workshops in Lahore over the years. Sonya appeared as a panelist for Austenistan at the British Council Library and at The Last Word, both in Lahore.

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Gayathri Warnasuriya

CONTRIBUTOR

Gayathri is a Sri Lankan Molecular Biologist with a background in Cancer Research and work experience in HIV/Public Health. She holds a PhD in Molecular Biology and Toxicology from the University of Dundee and is an alumnus of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine [MSc Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases] and Imperial College London [BSc Biochemistry].

Born and brought up in Columbo, Sri Lanka, Gayathri has been a nomad since the age of fifteen and has lived in Saudi Arabia, the UK, Nigeria, Guyana, Barbados and Pakistan. She currently lives in Amman, Jordan, and is completing an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine while working on science and innovation partnerships. Gayathri appeared as a panelist for Austenistan at the British Council Library in Lahore, as well as for ‘Austenistan: Jane Austen 200 Years On’ at the Galle Literary Festival 2018.

Have any of you read Austenistan? If so, let us know what you thought in the comments!

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