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Source: Review copy from editor

Editor Christina Boyd and her team of Austenesque authors have done it again with her latest anthology, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. I absolutely loved The Darcy Monologues, so when I heard about this collection, I knew I had to read it, and it lived up to my expectations and more. I love to read about the bad boys in Austen’s novels because they make things more exciting, and I have often wondered what led them astray. The 11 stories in this anthology cover all of Austen’s infamous bad boys and anti-heroes, and while I enjoyed each story on its own, reading them together was even more delicious.

The collection features: “Willoughby’s Crossroads” (John Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility) by Joana Starnes; “A Wicked Game” (George Wickham, Pride and Prejudice) by Katie Oliver; “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” (Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride and Prejudice) by Beau North; “The Address of a Frenchwoman” (Thomas Bertram, Mansfield Park) by Lona Manning; “Last Letter to Mansfield” (Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park) by Brooke West; “An Honest Man” (Frank Churchill, Emma) by Karen M Cox; “One Fair Claim” (Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion) by Christina Morland; “The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot” (William Elliot, Persuasion) by Jenetta James; “As Much as He Can” (General Tilney, Northanger Abbey) by Sophia Rose; “The Art of Sinking” (John Thorpe, Northanger Abbey) by J. Marie Croft; “For Mischief’s Sake” (Captain Frederick Tilney, Northanger Abbey) by Amy D’Orazio

It should come as no surprise that my favorite of all the stories was “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” by Beau North because I am a sucker for a good story about the colonel. The agreement he makes with an American heiress shunned by ton was clever, and I loved the bit of action and even getting a glimpse of Mr. Darcy after his failed proposal at Hunsford. I enjoyed the glimpse of the obnoxiously vain Sir Walter Elliot and how he went about choosing a bride in “One Fair Claim,” and he was just as delightfully silly in his youth. But what surprised me is the ability of these authors to make me feel some compassion for the characters I love to hate, like the heartache experienced by George Wickham and Tom Bertram in their stories, which emphasized the complexity of Austen’s characters. Still others will never change, but I felt like I understood their motivations a bit more.

Dangerous to Know is a must-read for those looking for something new in the realm of Austen-inspired fiction. Some of the stories were steamy and passionate, some were more humorous, but all of them make you take another, deeper look at Austen’s rakes and rogues and make you feel something more than contempt.

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About Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues

“One has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” —Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpieces are littered with unsuitable gentlemen—Willoughby, Wickham, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elliot, et al.—adding color and depth to her plots but often barely sketched. Have you never wondered about the pasts of her rakes, rattles, and gentlemen rogues? Surely, there’s more than one side to their stories.

It is a universal truth, we are captivated by smoldering looks, daring charms … a happy-go-lucky, cool confidence. All the while, our loyal confidants are shouting on deaf ears: “He is a cad—a brute—all wrong!” But is that not how tender hearts are broken…by loving the undeserving? How did they become the men Jane Austen created? In this romance anthology, eleven Austenesque authors expose the histories of Austen’s anti-heroes.

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues is a titillating collection of Georgian era short stories—a backstory or parallel tale off-stage of canon—whilst remaining steadfast to the characters we recognize in Austen’s great works.

What say you? Everyone may be attracted to a bad boy…even temporarily…but heaven help us if we marry one.

Check out Dangerous to Know on Goodreads | Amazon (the ebook is promo priced at $2.99 for the duration of the blog tour, so don’t miss out on that!)

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About the Editor

CHRISTINA BOYD https://m.facebook.com/TheDarcyMonologues/ wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner, The Quill Ink, a contributor to Austenprose, and a commercial ceramicist. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by actor Henry Cavill when she won the Omaze experience to meet him in the spring of 2017 on the London Eye. True story. You can Google it.

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About the Authors

KAREN M COX https://karenmcoxauthor.wordpress.com/ is an award-wining author of four novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, and I Could Write a Book, as well as an e-book novella companion to 1932, The Journey Home. She also contributed short stories for the anthologies Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and The Darcy Monologues. Originally from Everett, Washington, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

J. MARIE CROFT https://www.amazon.com/J.-Marie-Croft/e/B004HZD22W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1508353662&sr=1-1 is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF Novella), and her humorous short stories: “Spyglasses and Sunburns” in the Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology and “From the Ashes” in The Darcy Monologues. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

AMY D’ORAZIO https://www.facebook.com/Amy-DOrazio-author-369312830172988/ is a former scientist and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in equal measure. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters devoted to sports with long practices and began writing stories as a way to pass the time spent at their various gyms and studios. She firmly believes that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily-ever-afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. She is the author of The Best Part of Love and the soon-to-be released A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity.

JENETTA JAMES https://www.facebook.com/jenettajameswriter/ is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing, and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers, as well as a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues.

LONA MANNING https://www.amazon.com/Lona-Manning/e/B01N7UJHJX is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at http://www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians. She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can follow Lona at http://www.lonamanning.ca where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.

CHRISTINA MORLAND https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Morland/e/B01IJHEZKQ spent the first two decades of her life with no knowledge whatsoever of Pride and Prejudice—or any Jane Austen novel, for that matter. She somehow overcame this childhood adversity to became a devoted fan of Austen’s works. When not writing, Morland tries to keep up with her incredibly active seven-year-old and maddeningly brilliant husband. She lives in a place not unlike Hogwarts (minus Harry, Dumbledore, magic, and Scotland), and likes to think of herself as an excellent walker. Morland is the author of two Jane Austen fanfiction novels: A Remedy Against Sin and This Disconcerting Happiness.

BEAU NORTH http://beaunorthwrites.com/#top is the author of three books and contributor to multiple anthologies. Beau hails from the kudzu-strangled wilderness of South Carolina but now hangs her hat in Portland, Oregon. In her spare time, Beau is the co-host of the podcast Excessively Diverted: Modern Austen On-Screen.

KATIE OLIVER https://www.facebook.com/KatieOliverWriter is the author of nine novels, including the Amazon bestseller Prada and Prejudice, as well as the Dating Mr. Darcy, Marrying Mr. Darcy, and Jane Austen Factor series. She resides in South Florida with her husband (where she goes to the beach far less often than she’d like) and is working on a new series. Katie began writing as a child and has a box crammed with half-finished stories to prove it. After raising two sons, she decided to get serious and get published.

She is convinced that there is no greater pleasure than reading a Jane Austen novel.

SOPHIA ROSE https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13418187.Sophia_Rose is a native Californian currently residing in Michigan. A long-time Jane Austen fan, she is a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues, Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, and Then Comes Winter anthologies, short stories based on Jane Austen’s works. Sophia’s love for writing began as a teen writing humorous stories submitted for Creative Writing class and high school writing club. Writing was set aside for many years while Sophia enjoyed a rewarding career working with children and families. Health issues led to reduced work hours and an opportunity for a return to writing stories that continue to lean toward the lighter side of life and always end with a happily-ever-after.

JOANA STARNES https://www.facebook.com/joana.a.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 one of the contributors to The Darcy Monologues anthology, and the author of seven 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 and Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter. You can connect with Joana through her website http://www.joanastarnes.co.uk and on Facebook via her timeline and her author page, All Roads Lead to Pemberley.  

BROOKE WEST https://www.facebook.com/brookewestwrites/ has always loved the bad boys of literature and thinks the best leading men have the darkest pasts. When she’s not spinning tales of rakish men and daring women, Brooke spends her time in the kitchen baking or at the gym working off all that baking. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son and their three mischievous cats. Brooke co-authored the novel The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the short story “Holiday Mix Tape,” which appears in the anthology Then Comes Winter. Find Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.

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Giveaway #1

Enter Rafflecopter to win fifteen (15) books from the anthology authors! One winner. Fifteen books! Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #1 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link.

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Giveaway #2

Follow our “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s #RakesAndGentlemenRogues” Blog Tour and comment on each stop to be eligible for #RakesAndGentlemenRogues Pleasures prize pack: ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Print, autographed by Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle; Bingley’s Teas (Willoughby & The Colonel); Jane Austen playing cards; set of 6 Austen postcards; and ‘The Compleat Housewife’ notecards set. (All guest comments will be entered in drawing to win. Comment at each site to increase your odds.) Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #2 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

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THE #RakesAndGentlemenRogues BLOG TOUR

💗Monday, November 6: REVIEW: Margie’s Must Reads, https://margiesmustreads.com

💗Thursday, November 9: REVIEW, Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

💗Monday, November 13: REVIEW, Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

💗Tuesday, November 14: REVIEW, Olga of ROSIE AMBER team, http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/

💗Wednesday, November 15: (release day) REVIEW, Just Jane 1813, http://justjane1813.com

💗Thursday, November 16: REVIEW, Diary of an Eccentric, https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com

🎩Monday, November 20: FEATURE w/Katie Oliver (George Wickham), From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

🎩Wednesday, November 22: FEATURE w/Joana Starnes (Willoughby), Babblings of a Bookworm, http://babblingsofabookworm.blogspot.com

🎩Friday, November 24: FEATURE w/Sophia Rose, (General Tilney), Herding Cats & Burning Soup, http://www.herdingcats-burningsoup.com

🎩Monday, November 27: FEATURE w/Amy D’Orazio (Captain Tilney), My Jane Austen Book Club, http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.com

🎩Wednesday, November 29: FEATURE w/Brooke West (Henry Crawford), VVB32 Reads, https://vvb32reads.blogspot.com

🎩Thursday, November 30: FEATURE w/Lona Manning (Tom Bertram), Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

💗Friday, December 1: REVIEW, Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

🎩Monday, December 4: FEATURE w/Beau North  (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

🎩Thursday, December 7: FEATURE w/J. Marie Croft (John Thorpe), Harry Rodell blog/ROSIE AMBER team, https://harryrodell.wordpress.com/author/rodellh

💗Friday, December 8: REVIEW, From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

🎩Monday, December 11: FEATURE w/Jenetta James (William Elliot), Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

🎩Thursday, December 14: FEATURE w/Karen M Cox (Frank Churchill), Darcyholic Diversions, http://darcyholic.blogspot.com

🎩Monday, December 17: FEATURE w/Christina Morland (Sir Walter Elliot), Of Pens & Pages, http://www.ofpensandpages.com

Disclosure: I received Dangerous to Know from the editor for review.

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Source: Review copy from author

Kin Types is the newest poetry collection by Luanne Castle in which she recreates the stories of her ancestors. (Read the collection’s opening poem, “Advice from My Forebears” and the inspiration for it here.) She draws you in right away with lines similar to what many of us have heard from our elders, like “Quit scowling or your face will freeze that way” (“Advice from My Forebears,” page 2). I soon found myself immersed in the poems about Dutch immigrants who made their way to Michigan and forged a life, often difficult, judging from many of the poems, but hopeful as well in that these lines are written by their descendant.

From a mother who rushes into a house fire (“An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete”) to the fast-forwarding and rewinding that recounts the ups and downs of a marriage (“And So It Goes”), from the tale of a family who loses everything (“The Weight of Smoke”) to the names and connections that are uncovered when digging into a family’s history (“Genealogy”), Kin Types is about raising and confronting the ghosts of the past, making sense of the lives that came before us, and honoring the struggles and the sheer grit and determination that keeps the family tree growing over the generations.

Castle’s poems are narrative in style and haunting in that they portray some of the darkest moments in a family’s history, but they give us a glimpse of happiness and hope as well. The quote that opens the collection says it perfectly:

“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”

-Liam Callanan

It is easy to see how different today is from the era of the woman portrayed in these poems, but Castle does a brilliant job enabling readers to put ourselves in their shoes, at least for a handful of lines. It is virtually impossible to read Kin Types and not imagine the stories of your ancestors, especially those who you’ve heard about but who lived too long ago for you to have met. This collection is powerful in that, just as in the closing poem, “When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother,” it makes you consider how these long-dead people are reflected in who you are today. Kin Types is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a while, and one I won’t soon forget.

For more about Kin Types and to follow the blog tour, click on the button below:

Disclosure: I received Kin Types from the author for review.

Source: Purchased

‘Thank goodness for books,’ Bryony said. ‘They rescue us so many times, don’t they?’

(from Natural Born Readers)

Natural Born Readers is the third book in The Book Lovers series by Victoria Connelly. Although it can be read on its own, it builds on the previous books, so I highly recommend that you read The Book Lovers and Rules for a Successful Book Club first.

The series centers on the members of the Nightingale family, who own a trio of bookshops in the small village of Castle Clare. Natural Born Readers focuses on Bryony, who runs the children’s bookshop. Bryony is an outgoing, colorful, and passionate person, but she’s hurting inside and has been since her best friend and childhood sweetheart Ben Stratton left Castle Clare behind six years ago to travel the world. She couldn’t bring herself to go with him and didn’t understand how he could leave her behind. And then Ben comes back and seems to want to pick right up where they left off, but he broke Bryony’s heart, and she is determined for him to feel the same pain that he caused her.

Of course, there are things that Bryony doesn’t know, like why Ben was forced to leave Castle Clare, and since she refuses to talk to him, he doesn’t have an opportunity to tell her. Meanwhile, Bryony befriends her neighbor, Flo, an older woman who lives alone and spends her time gardening and caring for the animals on her property. Flo’s life is turned upside down when her great-nephew, Sonny, is dropped on her doorstep, and Bryony is there to provide support when Flo learns the reason Sonny has been left in her care.

Natural Born Readers is another fantastic installment in the series. I can’t get enough of the Nightingales, their Sunday gatherings, their love of books, and their close bond. I liked that Connelly presents the different viewpoints of each character so you can really understand them and their motivations. I wanted to smack Bryony at times and tell her to just tell Ben how she feels, but it was realistic that she wasn’t willing or able to welcome Ben back with open arms after so many years. Bryony and Ben are far from perfect, and I loved that Connelly showed their strengths, their weaknesses, and their mistakes. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this series, as there are still some Nightingales left with stories to tell! Stay tuned for my review of Christmas with the Book Lovers, a novella set between books 1 and 2.

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★★

She spun around. “Oh! Good morning, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy! We were…watching Mr. Collins…I mean walking Mr. Collins…I mean walking to my aunt’s with Mr. Collins.” I had never seen Jane so flustered!

Mr. Bingley’s face was frozen in a strange grin as Jane again stared at Mr. Collins, who gave her a simpering smile. My Jane, my usually cool and unaffected elder sister, fluttered her lashes and giggled like Lydia! How horrifying!

(from A Most Handsome Gentleman)

I’ve long been a fan of Suzan Lauder’s work, so I was anxiously awaiting A Most Handsome Gentleman, especially since I heard talk about a Hot Collins. Now those are two words you don’t expect to see together! Billed as a Pride and Prejudice comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman does not disappoint. I must admit to waking my husband up by laughing out loud!

Lauder’s latest novel imagines a swoon-worthy (literally) Mr. Collins. When he arrives at Longbourn, he certainly distracts the Bennet sisters and renders Mrs. Bennet speechless. There are no words to describe his beauty, but Mr. Collins certainly finds a way to talk about himself non-stop, which of course means Elizabeth grows tired of him very quickly. She might dislike Mr. Darcy for his pride, but it’s not long before she is comparing the two men, and it’s easy to see who will come out the winner.

Mr. Collins’s looks even distract Elizabeth’s sister Jane, as evidenced from the quote above, and in this variation, he doesn’t allow Mrs. Bennet’s not-so-subtle warning that Jane is as good as engaged to Mr. Bingley to deter him from his goal of winning Jane as his bride. He is the uber-handsome Mr. Collins, of course, and he won’t let you forget it! From Mr. Bingley and Mr. Collins sparring over who gets what dance with Jane at the Netherfield Ball to Mr. Collins’s introduction to Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth and Darcy joining forces to manage Jane’s suitors, I could not stop laughing.

Just as Jane Austen herself portrayed the ridiculous in her novels, Lauder does so here. Mr. Collins’s over-the-top speeches and Elizabeth’s first-person narrative, alternately witty and snarky, had me wishing the book wouldn’t end. I loved how Lauder dramatically changed the plot of Pride and Prejudice and quickened the pace, even managing to include storylines involving Mr. Wickham and Anne de Bourgh. If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud take on Austen’s novel, or even just want to imagine a “hot” Collins, you won’t want to miss this one!

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About A Most Handsome Gentleman

Elizabeth Bennet’s life is uncomplicated until she meets a quartet of new men: the haughty but handsome Mr. Darcy, the pert-with-a-pout Mr. Bingley, the confident and captivating Mr. Wickham—and then there is her father’s cousin, the happy man towards whom almost every female eye has turned.

Mr. Collins is HOT—well, incredibly handsome in Regency-speak—beautiful of face, fine of figure, elegant of air, his perfect clothing and hair matching his Greek god-like form. Unfortunately, when he opens his mouth, Elizabeth wishes he were mute. With affected servility and prideful self-conceit, he capitalizes upon his exquisite appearance and fixes on Jane Bennet as his bride.

Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy form an alliance to stop Jane’s suitors from issuing challenges—and will Elizabeth coax a smile from Mr. Darcy?

Bestselling Regency romance author Suzan Lauder delivers a hilarious Austenesque romance suitable for all readers of Pride and Prejudice.

Check out A Most Handsome Gentleman on Goodreads | Amazon U.S. (Kindle) | Amazon U.S. (paperback) | Amazon U.K. (Kindle) | Amazon U.K. (paperback)

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About the Author

Suzan Lauder

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman is the fourth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet, a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, and the dramatic tension filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate.

She and Mr. Suze split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish Sea and a 150-year-old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead www.suzan.lauder.merytonpress.com, on her Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/SuzanLauder, and on Twitter @suzanlauder.

Connect with Suzan Lauder via WebsiteGoodreads Author Page | FacebookTwitter | Amazon Author Page |Pinterest

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously giving away 8 ebooks of A Most Handsome Gentleman as part of the blog tour. To enter, click here. Blog comments are always appreciated, but you MUST enter for the giveaway using the Rafflecopter link.

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Good luck!

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10/20   My Jane Austen Book Club; Character Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway

10/21   My Love for Jane Austen; Guest Post, Giveaway

10/22   Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review

10/23   Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway

10/24   Tomorrow is Another Day; Review

10/25   Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, Giveaway

10/26   From Pemberley to Milton; Review, Giveaway

10/27   Just Jane 1813; Guest Post, Giveaway

10/28   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway

10/29   My Vices and Weaknesses; Character Interview, Giveaway

10/30   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt

10/31   Laughing With Lizzie; Vignette, Giveaway

11/01   Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway

11/02   So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

11/03   Margie’s Must Reads; Review, Giveaway

Disclosure: I received A Most Handsome Gentleman from Meryton Press for review.

It’s my pleasure today to introduce Sue Hallgarth, author of Death Comes: A Willa Cather and Edith Lewis Mystery. Sue is here to kindly answer the question I had for her about the series: What inspired you to create a mystery series around real people, and are there any challenges that accompany that process? Please give her a warm welcome!

Confession: Thirty-five years ago I was a college professor in need of publications and I had no real topic. My doctoral dissertation had been on a minor Victorian novelist, Robert Smith Surtees, whose delightful foxhunting novels produced a prototype for the character Charles Dickens later developed as Pickwick. Not the best subject for more than one academic publication.

I was also a feminist interested in literary history. I began comparing first-hand accounts with fictional representations of women’s experience on the American frontier. That led me directly to Willa Cather, whose early novels focused on her pioneer experience growing up on the frontier around Red Cloud and Lincoln, Nebraska. Cather’s novels spoke the truth of first-hand accounts. They were also beautifully crafted and featured fascinating characters, including Alexandra Bergson in O! Pioneers, Ántonia Shimerda in My Ántonia, and Thea Kronborg in Song of the Lark. But after reading Cather’s fiction, the scholarly articles on her work, and biographies about her life, I noticed something was missing: the Willa Cather I knew.

Homophobia among Cather scholars and biographers had twisted accounts of her life, and they either omitted or misrepresented her nearly forty-year partnership with Edith Lewis, a fellow Nebraskan and professional writer. That and the fact that scholars had no easy access to Cather’s letters—until 2013 her will forbade their publication—led scholars to begin reading Cather’s characters as though they were Willa Cather. So with that mistake, Jim Burden in My Ántonia and the Professor in The Professor’s House simply became Cather herself, as though she had not created her characters but simply recorded details of her own life through them. That misguided practice led to bad literary scholarship and inaccurate biographies.

Unfortunately, Cather’s forbidding publication of her letters had actually encouraged the scholars’ distortions. But she was not the only cause. Her letters that were available could only be read (and not quoted) in research archives. Several letters were actually housed on microfilm in Red Cloud, but when I read them, I found only one letter from Cather to Edith Lewis and lines in that letter had been mysteriously rendered indecipherable. Scholars also regularly dismissed Lewis as Cather’s secretary or “companion” and refused to see her as the editor and advertising professional she actually was. The only evidence of their relationship available was Edith Lewis’ memoir, Willa Cather Living, and scholars regarded that book as less reliable than another memoir by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, a journalist and former friend whom Cather had not seen in years.

So here was my mystery: who was the real Willa Cather? What was her relationship with Edith Lewis? And how should we understand her fiction? I began to find the answers by doing research and crafting papers on Cather’s novels to present at professional meetings. But once I was convinced of her actual relationship with Lewis, I realized I needed to do a biography of Cather. Once I read everything Cather wrote, including her letters located in archives across the United States, I found she was exactly the person I “knew” back in 1983. By 1987 Sharon O’Brien officially “revealed” that Cather was a lesbian, but for O’Brien and other biographers, Lewis was still Cather’s secretary or “companion.” Cather, one biographer claimed in the same year, was “too dedicated to her art” to have time for any of “that.” And O’Brien was convinced that Cather had internalized homophobia and therefore must have become depressed and reclusive. In other words, still not the Cather I “knew.”

Academic journals and even feminist scholars had continued to shun my articles because I questioned (indeed challenged) O’Brien’s analysis. In a sense, their rejections led me to write my first piece of fiction, a mystery about Cather and Lewis on Grand Manan titled On the Rocks. So, I would write fiction based on fact. My choice of characters was a given, but why a mystery and not simply historical fiction? I needed a “hook.” For me the question was how to interest readers, all readers, in what I had to say about Willa Cather. And it happened that the moment I made the decision to try a mystery, I was standing front of the real Cather/Lewis Cottage at Whale Cove Cottages on the island of Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada. It occurred to me that someone might easily fall off a nearby two-hundred foot cliff into the Bay of Fundy. In my mind’s eye, I saw a body plunge over the edge and plummet to the rocks below. That image determined that Cather and Lewis would become my fictional sleuths.

When I finished the first Cather mystery, I found I had much more to say. I had introduced Edith Lewis to Cather’s readers in On the Rocks. Death Comes takes place in 1926 at the Mabel Dodge Luhan compound in Taos, New Mexico, which was always filled with artists, writers, and other creative people, I have begun a process of setting Cather and Lewis “in context.” Cather was never the lone genius she was often depicted to be, never so “dedicated to her art” she had no interest in anything or anyone else. In fact, she was so interested in people and the world about her, she found herself without time to do her art. As a result Lewis began to stand guard, to protect Cather so that she would not lose herself in others but could concentrate on her writing. Taos became the setting for the second in the Cather/Lewis series, but they travelled often and to many places. The opportunities for creating more context and therefore more mysteries are almost endless.

Writing about different locations and characters based on real people do present challenges that accompany the process of writing a mystery series about real places and real people. Cather and Lewis are only two of the characters I base on real people. For On the Rocks I did research on thirty or so of all the women who summered in two colonies on Grand Manan, and for Death Comes, I had my choice among the many artists and writers who lived around Taos or visited Mabel Dodge Luhan.

So the first problem I had to solve for both mysteries was how many characters and locations to include. Too many would prove confusing, so the fact is I had to cut more than create and to sharpen details so readers could keep track of who was who and when and where. I was also working with actual people, places, and events, not simply plucking people out of the air, so I had to be sure my details were accurate and my fiction seamlessly fused with fact. If only, I would sometimes think, if only I could just make the whole thing up. But I did exactly what Willa Cather did in so many stories, including Death Comes for the Archbishop and Shadows on the Rock—read everything she could about specific people, places, and events and transform them into her fictional world. Fiction, yes, but fiction based on fact.

Wow, thanks for sharing, Sue! I know very little about Willa Cather, but how your series came to be is a fascinating story. Congrats on your latest book!

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About Death Comes

Following On the Rocks, Sue Hallgarth’s first Willa Cather and Edith Lewis mystery, Death Comes gives us another glimpse into the life and work of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Willa Cather and her talented life partner. The year is 1926. Willa and Edith return to Mabel Dodge Luhan’s pink adobe in Taos, New Mexico. Willa is writing Death Comes for the Archbishop. Edith is sketching Taos pueblo and hoping for a visit to the nearby D.H. Lawrence ranch. The previous summer they had stumbled on a woman’s body. Now the headless bodies of two women add to the mystery. Sue Hallgarth presents an intimate portrait of Cather, Lewis, the spectacular New Mexico landscape, and the famous artists and writers Mabel Dodge Luhan gathered in Taos.

Check out Death Comes on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Sue Hallgarth

Sue Hallgarth is former English professor. She has written scholarly articles on Willa Cather and Edith Lewis, and this is her second book of fiction featuring the two of them. Her first book in the series On The Rocks, set in 1929 on the island of Grand Manan in New Brunswick, Canada. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico.

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Giveaway

Courtesy of the publicist, I have one print copy of Death Comes to offer my readers. This giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. I’d love to hear what intrigues you most about this book/series. This giveaway will close on Sunday, November 5, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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To follow the Death Comes blog tour, click the button below

Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★

Fitzwilliam Darcy was having a bad day and, as far as he was concerned, it was all Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s fault.

(from Mr. Darcy’s Bad Day)

Mr. Darcy’s Bad Day is a delightful, hilarious novella by Christie Capps (the pen name of J. Dawn King). Based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the novella finds Mr. Darcy having fallen and injured himself in the mud while on a walk near Longbourn. Elizabeth Bennet finds him in his distress and helps him back to her home, where things go from bad to worse as he must contend with Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, you get the picture.

One thing follows another, then follows another, and Mr. Darcy has had a very bad day indeed. I couldn’t help but laugh at his misfortune because seeing the events unfold from his point of view was just so darn funny! Capps does a fantastic job piling on problem after problem but keeping it light and fun throughout. She has no qualms about upending the story and making readers go from laughing out loud to gasping out loud.

Mr. Darcy’s Bad Day is short enough to be read in one sitting, as it should be to avoid interrupting the flow. The drama is high in this one, but that makes it all the more hilarious and deliciously sweet in the end. Brava, Christie Capps!

It’s my pleasure to welcome Riana Everly to Diary of Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Teaching Eliza, a mashup of Pride and Prejudice and Pygmalion. Riana is here to talk about men’s fashion during the Regency period, and she’s brought with her an excerpt from the novel and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Most of my characters in Teaching Eliza are borrowed directly from Jane Austen, but a few are my own creations as well. Would it be horrible of me to say that of these, my favourite is Alfred, Viscount Einshill, affectionately known as Freddy? I needed Freddy to fill the role of Freddy Einsford Hill from Shaw’s Pygmalion, but in my novel he is a bit of a different creature. Shaw’s character is sweet and doting and very proper and elegant, and also flat broke! My Freddy is sweet and doting and very elegant, and filthy rich! And did I say elegant and ostentatiously dressed? Oh, yes, the man likes his clothing.

In short, Freddy is a fop!

In terms of men’s fashions, the time of the Regency in England saw the transition from the elaborate garb of the Baroque and Georgian eras to the more subdued and sedate styles we associate with men’s formal wear even today. Gone were the frills and brocade and richly embroidered coats of the earlier 18th century. In their place, largely thanks to Beau Brummel and his crusade for simple elegance, came immaculately clean linens, precise tailoring, and restrained colours. Pantaloons and then trousers took the place of knee-britches in formal wear, and indeed, the entire style was based on the less formal clothing of country squires and sportsmen rather than on courtiers bowing and scraping in their elaborate velvets and silks. Waistcoats were the one place were the Regency Dandy was allowed his bling, for they were often flashy and elaborate.

But as with any style, the elegant dandies were soon subject to their own fripperies. A class of gentleman arose, known as fops, who wished to outdo the Beau and each other in their quest for sartorial pre-eminence. In these circles, clothing became something of a competition, with an eye not to elegance but to show. 

In her book Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, Jennifer Kloester writes:

“Like the dandy, the fop took an absorbing interest in his clothes. Unlike the dandy, however, the fop dressed for show, adorning his person with clothes of bold or unusual design or hue and embellishing them with ostentatious jewels, frills and furbelows. The fop craved attention and did everything in his power to draw the eye of the passer-by. He was frequently a chatterer and usually deemed a vain fool by his peers…  Many fops aspired to set a trend or create a new fashion and some took their clothes to extraordinary extremes – such as wearing their shirt collars so high that they could not turn their heads or wearing voluminous trousers or coats with overlong tails.”

Fig. 1 Les Invisibles, satirical drawing, 1810. (British Museum)  Look at the high collars and crazy hats!

Fig. 2 Man’s coat and vest with metal thread embroidery, c.1800

Fig. 3 A more restrained example of a Georgian dandy. Note the high collar points again.

Fig. 4 The English Ladies’ Dandy Toy, Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1818. This is a rather heavily caricature. The toy she’s holding is a jumping jack (where pulling the string moves the arms and legs), but is shaped to resemble a dandy of the period. Note the pinched-in corseted waist.

Fig. 5 A well-dressed Regency gentleman. Note the sedate colour of the clothing, the cutaway tailcoat, the immaculately clean waistcoat and trousers, and the elaborate cravat. The top hat and cane were also de riguer for anyone pretending to fashion.

Our Freddy is, perhaps not quite as bad as some of these, but he certainly wishes to be in the forefront of fashion.

Let’s see what Elizabeth Bennet thinks of him.

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An Excerpt from Teaching Eliza, courtesy of Riana Everly

The door flew open, and a man strode in. Elizabeth was half-hidden behind the countess and could not immediately take the measure of the newcomer, but she imagined it could only be a resident of the house, and so it turned out to be.

 “Alfred,” the countess exclaimed, “I had no notion you were to come down for our at-home! You are always ‘out’ when our guests arrive.”

“Mother, Richard, Darcy,” he greeted his family. “Richard told me there was to be a special guest today, and I hoped to meet her. Has she arrived? Is she as pretty as Richard intimated? I shall have to be on my best behaviour, I suppose.”

The countess stepped aside to reveal Lizzy, who now rose to her feet to greet the stranger and be presented. The gentleman she saw was fine and tall, with all the affectations of the aristocracy. He was very finely dressed, albeit in a selection of hues that the Beau would certainly disparage. Eggshell-white trousers fell in perfect lines to his polished slippers, and a striped blue and gold waistcoat emerged from beneath an exquisitely cut coat of soft mauve. From the lapels of his coat, an elaborate knot decorated an embroidered cravat, which in turn disappeared into collar points so high the man could scarcely turn his head. Lizzy could not help by compare his peacock-bright garb to the professor’s understated elegance in black and dark green, or to the colonel’s serious military garb of scarlet and brass.

The gentleman’s hair was tousled to the ideal degree, which must have taken his valet some considerable time to arrange, and not a single one of those hairs was out of place, but they shone golden and perfect in the bright sunlight that suffused the room. Lizzy could not help but let her eyes flicker over to the professor, whose own mane never quite obeyed his commands of perfection, to the wayward lock that gave the serious Professor Darcy a dash of roguish charm.

The countess made the introductions. “Alfred, Viscount Eynshill. Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

The viscount stood perfectly still, his eyes riveted to Elizabeth. “What vision is this, to transfix me so?” he whispered, turning his entire upper body in his brother’s direction — for such were the restrictions of his fashionable collar points —  but not allowing his gaze to wander for a moment from Elizabeth’s face. Eyes wide, he finally bowed in Lizzy’s direction, executing a motion so graceful and effortless that he must have spent hours practicing before a looking glass. “Miss Bennet. A delight. An unfathomable delight.”

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(From a bit later in the book, at their second meeting)

Tentatively at first, Lizzy began to speak of her studies into the research of John Dalton, and Aunt Patricia responded enthusiastically. By the time Darcy returned with Mrs. Pearce some time later, the two ladies were deep in a spirited discussion about cloud formation and the trade winds. “If I understand correctly,” Lizzy was saying as they entered, “the sun constantly heats the earth and the air successively from east to west. The air being heated then expands in different directions to restore an equilibrium of pressure. Because this expansion has a lateral and perpendicular motion, it has a concurrent effect on the barometer, as well as influencing wind strength and direction.”

“How fascinating!” Aunt Patricia supplied.

“How charming!” came a voice from behind Darcy and Mrs. Pearce, and Alfred, Viscount Eynshill, strode into the room. “Miss Bennet, a delight to see you again. Once more, I am enthralled by your knowledge and abilities. I must chastise my cousin yet again for hiding you from us for so very long. Really, Darcy, she is a treasure!”

“Freddy,” his mother greeted him, “You did not tell me you planned to come by.” Her tone was not approving.

“You would only have forbidden me, Mother,” he replied with a smile. “And how could I be denied another opportunity to converse with the enchanting Miss Bennet?” He executed an elaborate bow and threw another wicked smile in Lizzy’s direction. “I brought these for Miss Bennet.” From behind his back he withdrew a bouquet of flowers that perfectly matched the dress she had worn the previous day and presented them to her with a flourish. Lizzy accepted them gracefully and requested a vase be brought. A glance at Darcy’s stony face informed her that he was unimpressed.

Watching, as if from a distance, Lizzy took further stock of the viscount. Tall, as were the entire family, with the same light hair as the colonel, he was slightly more handsome and entirely charming. He moved with the ease and grace of long practice, and caught the eye with his elegant demeanour, and Lizzy suppressed a chuckle as he paused before the mirror above the mantelpiece to assess his striking appearance.

The viscount had his brother’s amiability and easy nature, but where Richard’s pleasant demeanour was overlaid atop the sober and responsible core that comes with the demands of military leadership, Alfred’s was pleasantry atop frivolity. It was clear that he loved his clothing, for he wore his finely tailored garb like a model for the clothes-makers’ magazines. As with the flowers, he had chosen a waistcoat that matched the yellow of the previous day’s frock, and he picked carelessly at the ample lace that extended from his cuffs. If he was a man, like Narcissus, who admired himself too much, he was redeemed because he liked others nearly as much, and sought to befriend where another man might seek to disparage.

Lizzy knew he was a man who could afford to indulge his whims. She knew he need never account for his actions, for his life’s work was merely to be the earl and eventually provide an heir. With those two requirements easily managed, he had the luxury to do and act as he pleased. If he did not waste away the family’s income, he would be considered a fine example of an English nobleman; if he did fritter it away, he would be thought no worse than most of his breed. It was a career well suited to his temperament.

Despite his foppishness, Lizzy could not help but like him. He was nothing like the serious, deep-thinking men she often found the best company, but his genuine friendliness and lack of condescension endeared him to her almost immediately. That he clearly liked her very much also did not impede her affinity to him. He lowered himself to sit beside her, careful not to disarrange his apparel, and when seated on the long sofa with its old-fashioned and elaborate upholstery, turned his body to face her and offered a friendly comment, then another, and another, until she began to answer in like fashion.

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About Teaching Eliza

A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels.

From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling tale, wherein the elegance of Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….

Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange.

“With her clever mash-up of two classics, Riana Everly has fashioned a fresh, creative storyline with an inventive take on our favorite characters, delightful dialogue and laugh out loud humor. Teaching Eliza is certain to become a reader favorite. It’s a must read!” – Sophia Meredith (author of the acclaimed On Oakham Mount and Miss Darcy’s Companion)

Teaching Eliza is a full-length novel of about 110,000 words.

Check out Teaching Eliza on Goodreads | Buy from multiple retailers via Pronoun

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About the Author

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

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

Connect with Riana via Facebook | website

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Giveaway

Riana is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Teaching Eliza for the blog tour. Please click here to enter via Rafflecopter. You MUST use the Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

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Oct. 19 From Pemberley to Milton

Oct. 23 Babblings of a Bookworm

Oct. 24 So Little Time… So Much to Read!

Oct. 25 Diary of an Eccentric

Oct. 27 Savvy Verse and Wit

Oct. 28 My Love for Jane Austen

Oct. 30 More Agreeably Engaged

Oct. 31 Savvy Verse and Wit (review)

Nov. 1 Austenesque Reviews