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It is always a pleasure to welcome Paulette Mahurin to the blog. I really enjoyed her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, and while I sadly have fallen behind in reading her other books, I always want to bring them to your attention, not just because her writing is great but also because all of the profits from the sale of her books benefit animal rescue efforts in Southern California. Paulette networks with multiple rescues in the area to get dogs out of kill shelters.

Today, I’m happy to spotlight her latest novel, A Different Kind of Angel, and share with you an excerpt.

First, here’s the book blurb:

Inspired by real events chronicled by journalist for The World News, Elizabeth Cochrane (pen name, Nellie Bly), in 1887.

Klara Gelfman’s life in Kiev was serene until she turned nineteen. That’s when Russia’s Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, and a vicious propaganda campaign spread that blamed the Jews for his death. Klara and her family became victims of the many pogroms breaking out throughout Russia. None were so violent as what hit Kiev in 1881. It was there that Klara’s family was torn asunder and her world changed forever.

This is the story of what happens to this traumatized, orphaned, young Jewish woman when she escapes Russia and crosses an ocean to arrive on the rough streets of New York City able to speak only a few words of English. There, in the land of the free, Klara’s life is thrown into turmoil when she is mistaken for a drunken prostitute. Mistreated by those entrusted to protect her—the police, a judge, doctors, and nurses—she is condemned to an unrelenting hellscape when she is incorrectly and involuntarily committed to a lunatic asylum.

At a time when women had no political, economic or professional rights, comes a story where corruption by the powerful was as overt and commonplace as was garbage on the New York City streets. From the award winning, international best-selling author of The Seven Year Dress, comes an unforgettable story of the devastating effects of persecution, hatred, and arrogance. A Different Kind of Angel is also a story of love, family, friendship and loyalty. It is a journey into the nature and heart of the resilience of the human spirit that will leave readers thinking about the story long after they finish the book.

Buy A Different Kind of Angel on Amazon

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An excerpt from A Different Kind of Angel, courtesy of Paulette Mahurin:

In that freezing room, I sat up to receive the embrace of Tillie’s warm good-morning hug. The affection of her arms around me spread through my body. The outside snow had all but melted into the new day. But the chill in the room directed my attention back to the snowstorm. Once again, I thought of Papa comparing snowflakes to people. It was more than just emotions we had in common. We had needs. I was pretty confident that, just like when the sun comes out and melts ice to water, our needs are very much alike when we soften from love.

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About the Author

Paulette Mahurin is a best selling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science. Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award-winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the top ten bestseller lists on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K., and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, was released in 2017 to rave reviews. Her sixth book, A Different Kind of Angel, was released in August 2018. Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue. Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

Check out Paulette’s Facebook and Amazon pages

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Giveaway

Paulette is generously offering a Kindle copy of A Different Kind of Angel to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through September 30, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Paulette, for sharing your newest book with my readers today and for your tireless efforts to rescue dogs from kill shelters. I appreciate you being my guest today!

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Source: Review copy from author

In the first book in The Lost Heir Novella Series, April Floyd writes a unique take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In Mrs. Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth Bennet is now the widow of Mr. Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, with a four-year-old son named after his father. While little of the courtship is mentioned, readers learn that Elizabeth met the colonel after the Netherfield party left. Jane and Bingley are married with a child, Elizabeth and little Richard live with them at Netherfield, and Charles is estranged from his sisters and Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth has never met the colonel’s family because he broke ties with them, and they know nothing of her son. However, upon the death of the Matlocks’ eldest son, Mr. Darcy is set to inherit, as they are unaware of little Richard being the legitimate heir. This brings Elizabeth to London, where she has a tense meeting with the Matlocks and begins to understand why her husband was estranged from them.

However, she soon finds an ally in Mr. Darcy and his sister. Despite her feelings having changed since the last time she met him, Elizabeth can’t bring herself to make little Richard’s presence known just yet. She knows what is best for her son, but she worries about the Matlocks’ interference in his upbringing. She carries this secret with her as she forges a new friendship with the Darcys and takes her place in London society as the colonel’s widow.

I really enjoyed Mrs. Fitzwilliam, especially the fact that years have made Elizabeth and Darcy wiser and more willing to put the past behind them, bonding over their mutual love for the colonel. I also loved that Bingley was willing to take charge of his own happiness, and his fondness for Elizabeth and especially her son was endearing. The novella does end with a cliffhanger, but not one that will drive you crazy waiting for the next book. At any rate, the second installment, The Colonel’s Son, has already been released, and the final book is coming soon.

Giveaway: April Floyd is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Mrs. Fitzwilliam to my readers! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 30, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck! (Also, stay tuned for my review of The Colonel’s Son, along with another giveaway!)

Disclosure: I received a copy of Mrs. Fitzwilliam from the author for review.

I’m delighted to welcome Lizzy Brandon to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Recognizing Love. Lizzy is here to tell us a little about Recognizing Love and to share an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

Late last spring, I had just finished reading a series of books where Mr. Bennet died and realized I had never seen one where Mrs. Bennet died (unless most of the family was killed off with her). Mr. Bennet’s death would cause immediate problems for the family but how would their lives change if Mrs. Bennet died?

My first book, Folly and Forgiveness, was an angst fest as I killed off Mrs. Bennet early, after she argues with Elizabeth about accepting Mr. Collins’s proposal. Blaming herself, Elizabeth is guilt ridden and mourning as she learns how wrong she was about Mr. Darcy. I didn’t have a planned destination when I started, I just wanted to see how events and characters would change if Mrs. Bennet was no longer there. I liked exploring Elizabeth’s emotional growth through the book, but it was heavy.

For Recognizing Love, I started the story with the meeting at Pemberley after Elizabeth has already learned most of her lessons.  I enjoyed writing a lighter story this time where Elizabeth is still conflicted about her feelings but already views Mr. Darcy favorably and really wants to love him.  I most enjoyed writing a Mr. Darcy not only in love, but so confident he is living his own happily-ever-after that he feels free to say what is in his heart.

Today’s excerpt takes place at a dinner party Mrs. Phillips is hosting to honor the happy couple. Elizabeth has just arrived to discover a much larger crowd than she had anticipated.

“Lizzy! You look radiant, my dear,” Mrs. Phillips said as she took Elizabeth’s hands. “I am so pleased I could host a party in your honor. I was not certain Mr. Darcy would come.”

“Mr. Darcy has changed a great deal since last he was in Hertfordshire,” Elizabeth told her. “I would not have recognized him as the same man when we met again at Pemberley. I beg you allow him another opportunity to make your acquaintance.”

Mrs. Phillips looked unconvinced but said she would certainly do so.

“You have relieved your mother a great deal,” she continued. “I have not seen her take to her bed since she learned of your engagement.” Mrs. Phillips leaned in close to Elizabeth so as not to be overheard. “I had worried a great deal about her health, you know. She has always been excitable, but the past year she has had more palpitations and attacks of nerves than I have ever before witnessed. Your marriage may be the saving of her. I know you had hoped for a more amiable man but you have been a good daughter and provided safety for your family.”

“I assure you, I am quite happy to be marrying Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth exclaimed. “I would not have accepted him if I did not respect and admire him. He is the perfect match for me.”

“Exactly! I knew you would find happiness. You were not made to be unhappy for long. And now that Mr. Bingley is back, there is hope for Jane. I do not know why you stayed in London when your father went to search for Lydia, but I suspect you helped save her as well. You are a good girl, Lizzy, and you have ever been the dependable one. I know your mother does not understand you but know that she appreciates all that you have done for your family.”

Unable to continue in a conversation where she was being praised for such a heroic sacrifice, Elizabeth politely excused herself to seek her betrothed.

Mrs. Long next accosted her. “Miss Eliza, I wish you every happiness in your marriage as I fear you may find little.”

“I do not understand you,” Elizabeth replied, her smile becoming brittle. “I am perfectly happy to be marrying Mr. Darcy. In him, I have found a gentleman who will allow me to be myself.”

“Of course, dear,” she replied with a condescending pat on the hand. “But you will be the mistress of such a fine estate that you will have new social obligations. Do you know which charities the family supports? I expect Mr. Darcy will want you to join those societies.”

Elizabeth shrugged.

“No matter. I am sure he will tell you soon enough. Perhaps the family is not connected to any particular causes and he will allow you to choose your own.”

“Happy thought indeed,” Elizabeth said and again excused herself. Unfortunately, she turned around only to find her mother and Lady Lucas.

“Ah, Lizzy, I was just telling Lady Lucas—”

“Have you heard from Charlotte recently?” Elizabeth interrupted, afraid to find out what her mother had been discussing.

“I have. She is well. I wrote and told her of your engagement, so I expect a reply soon. Charlotte once told me she suspected Mr. Darcy had an interest in you, though none of us ever saw it. I wrote to tell her she was right after all. My Charlotte has always been an observant girl.”

“She did indeed have suspicions and I laughed at her when she told me,” Elizabeth said. “Charlotte might be happy to know she was right and I was wrong but not nearly so happy as I am.”

Lady Lucas beamed.

“I wish you joy, for I can think of no one who deserves it more.” Lady Lucas glanced toward Mrs. Bennet and continued. “Charlotte values you above all others in Meryton. Perhaps Mr. Darcy has another living somewhere in Derbyshire he might bestow on Mr. Collins so that you and Charlotte could be closer?”

Elizabeth knew Lady Lucas was genuinely fond of her, but the request rankled nonetheless. It was a reasonable suggestion. Elizabeth would like to have Charlotte closer, but she detested the idea of being requested to influence her future husband in such a way, most especially for a fool like Mr. Collins.

Luckily, Mrs. Bennet saw someone she had not yet regaled with tales of her victory–all marital plans of Elizabeth’s naturally being Mrs. Bennet’s rightful property for purposes of gloating.

Elizabeth allowed herself to be pushed along by the crowd until she came upon Jane and Mr. Bingley. In any other circumstance, she would have preferred to give them their privacy, but the room was far too crowded anyway and Elizabeth was desperate for a respite.

“Miss Elizabeth, how good to see you,” Mr. Bingley said.

“Are you well, Lizzy? You look upset,” Jane said.

“Have you seen Mr. Darcy? I last saw him in this area and I hate to think of what he may be enduring.”

“He did look put out. I believe he stepped outside for some air. If you push on, you may be able to make it to a doorway and find him,” Bingley said.

Elizabeth smiled ruefully. She had not travelled four steps before being greeted by Mrs. Goulding.

“Congratulations, Miss Eliza. You have made a fine match.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth replied, already gritting her teeth as she wondered what fresh humiliation would follow.

“Your mother did not know, but I expect you do. Is Pemberley entailed? Your mother suffered so in trying to produce an heir that I would hate for you to be put in a similar situation.”

“I have no idea,” she replied in what was becoming her standard response when asked anything about Mr. Darcy.

“Oh. I imagine not. Mr. Darcy would be unlikely to risk marrying a woman who came from a family of five sisters with never a brother. Or perhaps he saw you as coming from strong country stock and able to produce a good brood. Delicate society ladies cannot be counted on to deliver as well as a country lass,” she said with a wink. “In any event, Mr. Darcy would be well able to provide for a collection of daughters, so you will not face the same pressures your own mother did.”

Mrs. Goulding tapped Elizabeth’s arm with her fan as she smiled conspiratorially. “You can also take comfort that if you do produce an heir he is likely to leave you alone and spend more of his time with his mistress. If you can be discreet, you may find an amiable man to love after all.”

Elizabeth was too incensed to speak had she even the words. Before she could escape, the woman leaned in to speak furtively.

“If your father has not already signed the settlement papers, make certain he does so soon. If Mr. Darcy was able to end his engagement to Miss De Bourgh, then he would have no qualms about ending one to a girl with no connections. You must ensure your security should he change his mind.”

Mrs. Goulding then waved to a nearby acquaintance and moved off, leaving Elizabeth alone in her shock. Her entire face burned as she pushed forward. She could only hope others would attribute it to the close company and not her conversations.

Did everyone truly believe she was marrying Mr. Darcy only for his money? They had seen little enough evidence of his goodness, so they would be unable to understand her true reasons. And if she was only marrying for money, then it was logical enough to suppose he was marrying her to acquire a quality brood mare. She could only hope people had been more reserved with Mr. Darcy. Not knowing him well, no one here would dare address these impertinent types of comments to him.

Would they?

****

About Recognizing Love

Secrets will surface…

Accepting Mr. Darcy’s proposal and allowing him to assume a love she does not yet feel pains Miss Elizabeth Bennet but she is certain she can love him…in time. After all of the miseries he endured to salvage her youngest sister’s reputation, how could she not come to love such a man?

Unfortunately, Lady Catherine arrives, bringing even thornier complications. With the many objections Darcy’s family will have regarding his marriage to the daughter of an unremarkable country squire, what more trouble can Lady Catherine stir up should she learn Elizabeth’s secret?

In this Pride and Prejudice romance variation, what will Mr. Darcy do when he learns his beloved has accepted him although her heart is not engaged?

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Lizzy Brandon once attempted to switch sections of a Brit Lit course after seeing Pride and Prejudice on the reading list. How could a book with such a boring title possibly compete with Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, or Frankenstein? Luckily, her request was denied and she was introduced to Jane Austen’s amazing world of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Years later, Lizzy was thrilled to discover the world of Pride and Prejudice sequels and variations where her favorite characters could live on with countless adventures. After enjoying reading variations for years, she decided to try writing her own.

Connect with Lizzy Brandon on Facebook

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Lizzy is generously offering 3 paperback copies of Recognizing Love and 3 $10 Amazon eGift cards. The giveaway is open worldwide, but you MUST enter through the Rafflecopter link. The giveaway is open through September 30, 2018. Good luck!

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

Victoria Kincaid is visiting again today to celebrate the release of her latest audiobooks, Pride and Proposals and The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth. She has a treat for you today: an excerpt and an international giveaway! Please give her a warm welcome:

Thank you for having me as a guest, Anna!  Recently I’ve made a big push to get my stories made into audiobooks, which has been a rewarding process in many different ways.  Pride and Proposals was just released as an audiobook, and The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth was released over the summer.  The narrators for both books have done terrific jobs with the stories.  Below is an excerpt from the beginning of Pride and Proposals:

Miss Bennet, I must tell you that almost since our first …

No. Too formal.

You must be aware of my attentions …

Would that assume too much?

You must allow me to tell you how much I admire you …

This came closest to expressing his sentiments, but would she view it as excessive?

Darcy guided his stallion along the path to Hunsford Parsonage, anxiety increasing by the minute. Somehow the perfect words for a proposal must come to mind. He was close by the parsonage.

Almost out of time.

He took a deep breath. The master of Pemberley was unaccustomed to such agitation of the mind. But Elizabeth Bennet had a habit of unsettling his nerves as no one else could. Not for the first time, he wondered why that should indicate she would be the ideal companion of his future life. However, he had wrestled with his sentiments all day and finally concluded that it must be so, despite his objections to her family.

He had not slept the night previous and only fitfully the night before that. Practically his every thought was occupied by Elizabeth Bennet. Every minute of the day, he would recall a pert response she had made to his aunt or a piece of music she had played on the pianoforte. Or the sparkle of life in her fine eyes.

Yes, at first she had seemed an unlikely candidate for the mistress of Pemberley, but his passion could not be denied.

He no longer made the attempt.

Strange. He had been angered with himself for months that he could not rid himself of this … obsession with Miss Bennet. But once he had determined to surrender to the sentiment and propose to her, he felt almost … happy. Despite the fleeting sensations of guilt and doubt, he could not help but imagine how joyful it would be to have her as his wife.

He pictured the expression on Elizabeth’s face when he declared himself. Undoubtedly, she was aware of his admiration, and she had returned his flirtatious banter on more than one occasion, but she could have no serious hopes for an alliance. Her delight would make any of his misgivings worth it.

The woods on either side of the path thinned, and Darcy slowed his horse to a walk as he reached the clearing surrounding the parsonage. Initially, he had been bitterly disappointed when Elizabeth’s headache had prevented her from accompanying the Collinses to Rosings for tea, but then he recognized a perfect opportunity to speak with her alone.

Excusing himself from the gathering had not presented any difficulties. His cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, had received a letter that day with word of an unexpected inheritance of property following the death of his mother’s sister. Darcy was well pleased for his cousin, who had chafed at the limitations of a second son’s life. Richard had excused himself to plan for an immediate departure from Rosings the next day so he could soon visit his new estate. Darcy had seized on the excuse as well – since, naturally, he would be taking Richard in his coach and would necessarily need to prepare.

Darcy turned his thoughts to the task at hand.

You must allow me to tell you how violently I admire …

No.

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you …

Perhaps …

Darcy swung his leg over the pommel and slid off his saddle, tying his horse up at a post outside the Collinses’ front door. Pausing for a moment, he breathed deeply, willing his body to calmness. Then he seized the door knocker and rapped.

The maid who answered the door appeared unnecessarily flustered. As he followed her down the short hallway to the Collinses’ modest drawing room, Darcy had a dawning sense of wrongness.

Voices already emanated from the drawing room. Darcy immediately recognized Elizabeth’s lovely soprano. But the other voice was male, too muffled for him to hear. Had Collins returned home unexpectedly?

Darcy quickened his stride, almost crowding against the maid as she opened the drawing room door. “Mr. Darcy, ma’am,” the maid announced before swiftly scurrying away.

Darcy blinked several times. His mind had difficulty understanding what his eyes saw. His cousin Fitzwilliam was in the drawing room. With Elizabeth. With Darcy’s Elizabeth. In actuality, Richard sat beside her on the settee, almost indecently close.

Why is Richard here? Darcy wondered with some irritation. Should he not be packing for his departure rather than preventing me from proposing?

Richard and Elizabeth had been smiling at each other, but now both regarded Darcy in surprise.

For a moment, all was silence. Darcy could hear the crackling of logs in the fireplace. He had the nagging sensation of having missed something of importance but could not identify it.

“I … uh … came to inquire after your health, Miss Bennet.” Given the circumstances, Darcy was proud that the words emerged at all coherently.

“I am feeling much recovered, thank you.” Her voice was somewhat breathless.

A look passed between Richard and Elizabeth, and she gave a tiny nod. Darcy’s sense of mystification increased. Finally, Richard sprang to his feet with a huge grin on his face. “Darcy, you arrived at just the right moment. You can be the first to congratulate me.” At that moment, Darcy started to get a sinking, gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Elizabeth has consented to be my wife!”

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About Pride and Proposals

What if Mr. Darcy’s proposal was too late?

Darcy has been bewitched by Elizabeth Bennet since he met her in Hertfordshire. He can no longer fight this overwhelming attraction and must admit he is hopelessly in love. During Elizabeth’s visit to Kent, she has been forced to endure the company of the difficult and disapproving Mr. Darcy, but she has enjoyed making the acquaintance of his affable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Finally resolved, Darcy arrives at Hunsford Parsonage prepared to propose – only to discover that Elizabeth has just accepted a proposal from the colonel, Darcy’s dearest friend in the world. As he watches the couple prepare for a lifetime together, Darcy vows never to speak of what is in his heart.

Elizabeth has reason to dislike Darcy but finds that he haunts her thoughts and stirs her emotions in strange ways. Can Darcy and Elizabeth find their happily ever after?

Check out a sample on Audible

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About The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth

What if Darcy and Elizabeth were plunged into the war between England and France?

It is 1803, and a treaty has allowed England and France to enjoy a brief moment of peace in the midst of the Napoleonic wars.

Darcy is despondent over Elizabeth’s refusal of his proposal at Hunsford, so Colonel Fitzwilliam proposes a trip to Paris as a distraction. At a ball, Darcy unexpectedly encounters Elizabeth, who is visiting Paris with the Gardiners. He sees this as his opportunity to court Elizabeth properly and rectify past mistakes.

Before he can make much progress, however, England declares war again, and Darcy must help Elizabeth flee France. As they make their way to the coast, Elizabeth and Darcy must battle brigands, French soldiers, illness, and their own mutual attraction – all without a chaperone.

When they return to England, Elizabeth and Darcy have their own secrets to conceal – even from those closest to them.

Check out a sample on Audible

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering 1 audiobook of Pride and Proposals and 1 audiobook of The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth to my readers. Two winners will be selected, one for each audiobook. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, September 30, 2018. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let us know which audiobook you’d prefer. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Victoria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new audiobooks!

I have a treat for you today, dear readers! I’m pleased to share with you an excerpt of the latest Meryton Press release, Obstacles by Belén Paccagnella.

First, a little about the book:

Not all obstacles are restricted to the show-jumping arena…

Though Elizabeth Bennet lives an uneventful life instructing young equestrians at Longbourn, the family farm, she dreams of winning a show-jumping competition on Liddy, her spirited mare. But her life is upended when a team of world-renowned riders arrives at Netherfield, the neighbouring estate, and uses it as their training headquarters. As she assists the newcomers and their prize-winning mounts, she meets William Darcy, a wealthy and arrogant—albeit talented—rider with Olympic aspirations. He first insults and then ignores Elizabeth, and her feelings teeter between disgust at his hauteur and admiration for his equestrian prowess. As she discovers first-hand the rigors of a world for the elite, will Elizabeth change her perspective about love, trust, and the foibles of her own family?

Originally known as “Obstacles to Overcome,” Obstacles pays homage to Pride and Prejudice in the highly competitive world of equestrian show jumping.

Buy on Amazon

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An excerpt from Obstacles, which Belén says pairs well with the cover featuring Elizabeth and her scrapbook:

Dinner at Longbourn that night was a lot less formal than the last time Darcy had been there. There were no fancy dishes or desserts, it was just a family meal served in everyday china. And yet, Darcy was perfectly comfortable and happy that he wasn’t being treated like a guest but as a member of the family. He truly enjoyed this domesticity. It made him think about what he wanted for himself and Elizabeth, and he fantasized about getting married, having kids, and forming a family of his own.

After dinner, the couple sat in the living room, chatting with the family while drinking coffee. The first ones in to retire were Kitty and Phil, then Mary, and soon the young couple were left by themselves in front of the TV.

“I should be going.” Darcy yawned and glanced at his watch.

“It’s almost midnight,” Elizabeth replied, “and you’re tired. Why don’t you stay for the night?”

“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I’m not sure you dad will…”

“He won’t mind. Jane is at Charles’s tonight. You can stay in her room.”

“All right.” He caved. “But I’d rather sleep here on the couch.”

Elizabeth left him for a moment and returned with a pillow and a patchwork blanket. She sat beside him on the couch, crosslegged with the quilt covering them, and she scanned the TV channels for something they could watch.

“You never showed me your show jumping album,” he said after a while.

Elizabeth’s head turned abruptly to look at him. “How do you know about that?”

“I just know.” He smirked when her frown accentuated. “Mary told me, remember?”

“Oh yes.” She chuckled. “That day you came with Charles.”

Since she made no move to go, he gave her a little nudge. “Come on, show it me.”

Elizabeth studied him for an instant, probably suspicious of his intentions. The second nudge and his puppy-dog eyes convinced her. She left the room and returned a moment later with the infamous show jumping album.

Quietly, they perused the pages of the scrapbook. From the dates on each picture, Darcy could tell that Elizabeth began this collection about fifteen years ago. At the beginning, she just cut and glued anything that resembled a horse jumping an obstacle. There were a couple of photos of her father while he still competed and a lovely photo of Elizabeth with a group of girls that was taken at her first show when she was nine years old. As the years progressed, glitter and stamps disappeared, and Elizabeth became more selective, adding only more artistic or spectacular pictures. Darcy told to her how much he admired her neatness and the dedication she had given to the sport.

The last part of the album had many, many pictures of him. Some of them were added before she met him—he pointed out one of him with Miss D that he particularly liked—and the rest were almost every article and picture published about him since he came to Netherfield. That confirmed she had some interest in him then, and, from what he could tell by the dates, after their fateful encounter at Rosings, the album was exclusively about him.

“Where did you get this one?” He showed her a picture of him and Tuareg jumping in Edinburgh. “I’ve never seen it.”

“Cheval magazine, I think. Don’t you keep an album for your pictures?”

“That would be weird. Annie usually tells me when something comes up, but I don’t read the articles or look for the pictures.”

As he said that, he took off his shoes and lay down, arranging the pillow behind his head. His feet exceeded the length of the couch. Elizabeth accommodated herself next to him. She covered them both with the blanket and leaned the album on his chest.

Elizabeth told him about how and where she obtained some of the pictures and what she liked about each one. Darcy listened silently, wondering how he managed to inspire such contradictory feelings in her. Many of the pictures were added during the period she supposedly hated him, and he was both humbled and proud that he had managed to revert those sentiments and earn this extraordinary woman’s her unconditional love and admiration despite everything that happened between them. Her voice was soft and soothing and his eyelids became so heavy that he couldn’t keep them open. Dreams and thoughts entangled, and her words soon became a distant whisper that lulled him into sleep.

*****

At first, she felt lost, and her back was sore because of her unusual position and the unfamiliar weight of a man’s arm holding her tightly.

As she woke further, Elizabeth realized that the couch was large, but not big enough to comfortably accommodate two people lying down. The only reason she was not on the floor was because Darcy was embracing her so carefully that it would be impossible for her to fall. He was lying on his side, one arm under her neck and the other, oddly, inside her T-shirt and, even more oddly, holding her breast under her unhooked bra. How he managed to do that without waking her up would be one of the unresolved mysteries of mankind and, obviously, another of his hidden talents.

Something disturbed him, and Darcy stirred, stretching his body and slowly opening his eyes.

“Morning,” he said huskily.

“Good morning.”

After a pause he asked, “Is my hand where I think it is?”

“Yes.” She smiled.

“Does it bother you?”

“No.” Her voice was soft and sweet.

“Feels good.”

“Yes it does,” she said with a contented sigh.

Thank you, Belén, for sharing! I hope my readers enjoyed the excerpt as much as I did!

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About the Author

Belén Paccagnella

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Belén Paccagnella discovered the world of Jane Austen fan fiction after watching the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. In her teens, she lived in Brazil when her family moved to the city of Curitiba due to her father’s work. She moved back to Buenos Aires a few years later, where she studied agronomy but finally pursued a different career and started working in the development administration of shopping centres.

In 2001, she started writing both Regency and modern stories adapted from the Pride and Prejudice storyline, merging drama, humour, and adventure while creating characters with unique traits.

Belén still lives in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, where she shares her home with her daughter and her pets while spending her time working, reading, and writing.

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Meryton Press is giving away 8 ebook copies of Obstacles. The giveaway runs until midnight on September 30, 2018. You MUST enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified.

One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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September 17 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Guest Post

September 18 / Diary of an Eccentric / Excerpt Post

September 19 / Austenesque Reviews / Vignette Post

September 20 / More Agreeably Engaged / Author Interview

September 21 / So Little Time / Excerpt Post

September 22 / Just Jane 1813 / Guest Book Review

September 23 / My Love for Jane Austen  / Character Interview

September 24 / From Pemberley to Milton / Excerpt Post

September 25 / Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review

September 26 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Vignette Post

September 27 / My Vices and Weaknesses  / Book Review

September 28 / Of Pens and Pages / Book Review

My guest today is Diamante Lavendar, who is celebrating the release of her newest poetry collection, Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief. I’ve asked Diamante to share a poem from the collection and its inspiration, and I’m hoping you all find it as moving as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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You Shone Like The Sun On Autumn Leaves

You shone like the sun on autumn leaves,
Their remaining life brief before they fell from the trees.
The sun’s light was strong, the warmth intense,
Just as your heart:  loving, immense.
But the leaves shriveled up and neared their end,
Just as you when you left, my child, my friend.
Your meaning lives on in every new day;
I begged God for time to extend your stay.
It’s a hard lesson to learn that you have no control
Over life, over love, over a darling child’s soul;
All we can do is sift through the hours
And beg for provision, mercy and power
To experience life’s sentence of lessons and fate
Before we, too, find ourselves in heaven’s estate.
Love us and guide us from your ethereal view,
Until one day we are reunited with you.

I wrote this for my daughters who passed away.  One only after ten hours’ time and the other after nearly nineteen years.  Both heartbreaking.  Devastating.  But I know that they are still alive and well beyond heaven’s veil.  They visit me and make themselves known not only to help me write so that I can help others but also to let me know they’re okay so that my heart doesn’t break beyond repair.  They gift me with a sense of purpose and meaning, with the understanding that heaven is real, it’s not just a wish or a fantasy.  Because of them I know that this life is a learning ground that leads to bigger and better things.  And I am exceedingly grateful for that knowledge and to be able to pass it along to others who are embattled and mourning.  We all need to know why we’re here and what our actions will lead to in the future.  And we all need to be comforted and to know that beauty is looming on the horizon no matter how much pain we’ve encountered on planet earth!

Thank you, Diamante, for sharing your poem and story with me and my readers. I hope that it helps others find comfort and healing.

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About Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief

Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief is a winner of a Pinnacle Achievement Award for Spirituality.  It is also the recipient of a Silver Medal from Mom’s Choice Awards!

This earthly plane offers much for us to learn: happiness, wisdom, loss, heartbreak, and enlightenment. It is a Pandora’s box of emotions, situations, opportunities, and failures, all wrapped into a package we call life. Nobody is immune, but everyone has the opportunity to grow tall or wither like a flower in harsh light. It’s completely up to us how we choose to respond.

Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief is a gleaning of insights from artist Diamante Lavender. For her, life has been a long, difficult road, but it has taught many poignant lessons. Her poetry collection is an exploration of the human soul, a traversing of situations that life throws at us. Diamante has always been intrigued by the ability to overcome and move on to bigger and better things.

She writes to encourage hope and possibility in those who read her stories. If she can help others heal, as she has, then Diamante’s work as an author and artist will have been well spent. She believes that everyone should try to leave a positive mark on the world, to make it a better place for all. Writing is the way that she is attempting to leave her mark–one story at a time.

Find the book on Goodreads and Amazon

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Click the button below to learn more about Diamante Lavendar and follow the blog tour for Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief

Hello, dear readers! I’m glad to be back to the blog after a busy August. My daughter is settling in at college, and my husband and I are adjusting to our suddenly quiet house.

I’m thrilled that my first post after my break is to welcome Cat Gardiner back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time to celebrate the release of the final installment in The Conscience series, In Good Conscience, with an audio excerpt and a giveaway. I can’t wait to revisit Iceman and Lakmé after loving all of the previous books in the series. (See my reviews of Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience)

Please give Cat a warm welcome!

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Thank you, Anna for kicking off In Good Conscience mini-blog tour. I am so happy to be here to share an excerpt from a romantic interlude between Darcy (Iceman) and Liz (Lakmé) in Chapter 4. Big things lie ahead after this special visit to an old hunter’s cabin tucked away in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. Our dear boy doesn’t have the heart to tell his wife of less than a year that it’s time for him to leave but, in usual form, his actions give him away. Oh, but the memories they will make at this secret love nest will carry them through the darkest of times looming over the horizon.

I thought it would be not only fun but also helpful to bibliophiles with vision difficulties to include an audio of this excerpt should anyone prefer to listen rather than to read.

Chapter 4 – Making a Memory

Liz set the food out on the coffee table then relocated the dishware and champagne glasses, but not before snapping one of the white daisy stems overflowing from the coffee can vase and sliding it into her hair. This was her day and if she wanted to sit on the sofa to eat, so be it, which was fine with him because he wanted to touch her, not sit across a table from her on a wooden chair.

“Nick outdid himself; you should give him a raise. Who knew that huge hunk had a romantic touch inside him.”

“Higgins picking daisies …” He snorted, “Now, that would have been a photograph to send to his kids.”

She kicked off her boots then sat cross-legged on the sofa. The flower in her hair and the way she twisted her neck as she bit into the curved shrimp fascinated him, giving him pause, thumbs braced at the bottom of the champagne cork. There were many imprints made to his mind today, but this one of her toned body glistening from perspiration—in see-through undergarments—as she bit into the pink crustacean, and the rosy hue to her cheeks from their lovemaking, made him nearly pop his own cork.

“What’s wrong?” she asked with a full mouth.

“Nothing, you’re just …” Tongue-tied, he shook his head with a smile.

Liz snorted a laugh and went back to eating, snapping him from his admiration. A pop to the cork sent it flying across the room, which he did deliberately just to hear her laugh.

Hopefully the champagne wouldn’t knock her on her ass. They only had about four hours before leaving for the farmhouse. As skilled a rider as she had become, she was not ready for navigating the mountains in the dark and definitely not when drunk.

Sitting beside her, he, too, crossed his legs on the deep sofa then poured their champagne.

“What shall we toast to, Lakmé?”

“Hmm … Us, for starters, the tango, opera … children, and happiness. Forever.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

He kissed her, hoping upon all that was holy that that plan was the one to outlive all the others, no matter what.

The afternoon drifted by with Otis Redding vinyl records spinning on the turntable and languid conversation about their dreams until the last song played “These Arms of Mine.” His girl leaned back against the pillow at the armrest, propping her bare feet onto his lap. Their gaze locked on each other and a comfortable silence settled onto their romantic interlude as the lyrics floated around them. She was dissecting him, maybe admiring, definitely thinking of something that amused her evident by the quirk to her lips.

“I love watching you, watching me,” he finally said, caressing the top of her foot.

The wiggling of her painted toenails, alerted him to her desire and, of course, he complied, always enjoying how her perfect toes felt in his hands. Sometimes, she’d giggle, most times she moaned in response to his massaging ministrations. Today, she just simply instructed, “Make it good since you’re leaving me in the morning.”

Startled, he furrowed his brow. “You know?”

“Of course, silly. Why else would you go through all this trouble to make today so special?”

Oh, she was so brave; what a front she had put on today. It was almost as masterful as his own.

“I didn’t realize I was that transparent.”

“Babe, it’s what you don’t say that usually gives you away.”

“That’s not entirely true.” Sure it is. He’d just admitted it to himself moments before.

Rolling her eyes she said, “For example, that first time I met you at the dance school. I felt like such an awkward spaz, technically alone with my two left feet and no dance partner, Jane making moves on everyone in pants, and Bill ignoring me while making googly eyes at his partner. And then you thundered in—my tall, dark, and mysterious hero.”

“And your point is?”

“That once I was able to ascertain that your menacing scowl didn’t represent fault finding, it became clear that you had the hots for me from the moment you saw me through the glass. Further, you were fighting the feeling tooth and nail. When dancing with me, you said absolutely nothing, yet I knew you wanted to rip the blue sundress off my body and screw me right there.”

He chuckled. “I don’t quite remember it that way.”

She dropped a grape into her mouth. “Of course, you don’t. That would’ve made you a perv, and we both know that you’re not.”

“It was yellow, the dress was lemon yellow … and, in my defense, it was cold in the studio. How could I not look?” He smiled wickedly.

“See—what did I tell ya’? It’s your smolder that gives you away … I can give you more examples if you like.”

No, he didn’t need more examples. He knew them all and redirected the way this conversation was going by tickling the instep of her foot. She broke out into a fit of laughter, wiggling on the sofa.

“Stop. Please. Okay, okay … uncle! No more examples. You’re ent … irely mys … terious.”

Raising her foot to his mouth, he first kissed her big toe then wrapped his lips around it. Popping it from his mouth, he kissed it again. “Stay right here, just like this, and I’ll be right back. I have something for you.”

He could feel her amorous gaze peek around the edge of the sofa, eyes burning upon his backside when he strode out the front door to his Harley.

“Hurry back!” she teased with a laugh, and he did as commanded, quickly removing the day’s most special gift of all from his saddlebag.

Wrapped in simple brown paper with a red bow, he held the package out to her. “I bought this for you because … well, your last one—not that you used it much anymore, but it was destroyed in the hothouse.” Damn; he was stumbling over his words. “It … um, your first one … saw me through that dark time when I came back to Pemberley. It gave me hope, helped me to face my demons.”

She sat up, looking adorable with her disheveled hair, dried in a wild mess, and he pulled the fallen daisy from her locks. Untying the ribbon, the paper fell open revealing a new—blank—sketchbook.

“Oh, babe,” she softly said, smoothing her hand over the image on the cover: two lovers entwined in a sensual tango. “She’s wearing a red dress.”

“Like the one I bought you in Seville.”

“I love it! Thank you!”

“I thought you might want to take up sketching again. I also found you a professional set of colored pencils, but I left them up at the compound.”

Crossing the length of the sofa, she lunged into his arms with a mind-blowing kiss. He felt the wetness from her tears against his cheek and tightened his embrace, heart thundering against his chest wall. How the hell was he going to get through tomorrow? How could he ever leave her?

“See,” she whispered when her mouth left his wanting more. “You don’t need to say anything at all. I can feel your heart beating against mine, just as steady, just a strong.” She took a breath. “I love you so much, Fitzwilliam.”

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Oh my, Iceman! Thank you for sharing this excerpt, Cat! I’m sure all of you are as excited to read the book as I am!

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About In Good Conscience

The third and final romantic adventure in The Conscience Series

No man has loved a woman as much as Fitzwilliam “Iceman” Darcy loves his wife Elizabeth. His love is indestructible, insatiable, and his Achilles’ heel.

Since the whirlwind and dangerous adventure in Paris and Moscow in Without a Conscience, life at Pemberley has been a combination of idyllic repose and focused preparation and defense. Darcy’s enemy is still out there—a hair’s breadth from delivering revenge for his father’s assassination.

When the enemy strikes first, Iceman’s world comes crashing down kick starting a firestorm. How far will the gelid warrior go to protect all his loved ones? Just how much is the former Navy SEAL willing to sacrifice? Is his attritional warfare blind rage?—or are his extreme actions in good conscience?

This emotional, wild ride will take you on a breathless, white-knuckle international journey from heartbreak and revenge to survival and enduring bliss because …

No woman has loved a man like Elizabeth Darcy loves her husband Fitzwilliam. Her love is invulnerable, unyielding, and her strength.

Author Note: Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell wrote such wonderful characters, I borrowed their names and some of their characteristics for inspiration to tell my own tale of contemporary love. In Good Conscience – The Final Adventure is a sequel, and I recommend reading Book 1 (Denial of Conscience,) and Book 2 (Without a Conscience) beforehand. Further, it is an original story that follows the lives of the characters of the aforementioned books and therefore, not meant to be a Pride and Prejudice variation. This novel contains explicit sexual content and occasionally salty language. So if you are looking for a clean, canon read, this book is not for you.

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Cat is generously offering my readers a chance to win 1 paperback of In Good Conscience (U.S. only), 1 ebook of In Good Conscience (international), and swag, which includes 1 ebook, sketchbook, and pencil set (U.S. only). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 16, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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