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Source: Review copy from author

“…I know Papa’s schemes are tiresome, but you do require someone with whom you may share your life. It is a sin against nature for you to have no children of your own. You are the perfect uncle.”

“Most certainly.” He grinned. “I spoil my nephews and then send them home for their parents to discipline.” They stepped from the way of the late arriving theatergoers. “I know my duty, Etta. I am well aware of my responsibility of the dukedom.”

(from Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep)

Regina Jeffers’ Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep is historical romance at its finest. I haven’t read many non-Austen-inspired Regency-era romance novels, but as a big fan of Jeffers, I knew I had to give this one a chance, and I wasn’t disappointed. The novel centers on Huntington McLaughlin, Marquess of Malvern, and Angelica (Angel) Lovelace, an American heiress who comes to England for the season with her father to secure a husband, as the dearest wish of her late mother. She is outspoken, intelligent, and nothing like the women of the ton from whom Hunt is expected to choose his future duchess.

Both are on the way to the annual house party hosted by Hunt’s mother, the Duchess of Devilfoard, when their paths cross due to the bad weather. Hunt sustains a head injury, and Angel manages to get him to the nearest house. Propriety requires that she pose as a new bride, and when Hunt wakes up without his memory, he believes Angel’s story that they are married. Between this potential scandal and his work for the Crown, there is enough trouble on the horizon for the pair, at least for Angel, whose reputation is at stake.

Without his memory, Angel is Hunt’s rock, his security, and when they eventually make their way to Devilfoard, they must to stick to the story created by Hunt’s best friend, the Earl of Remington, and Hunt’s brother to protect Angel’s reputation amongst the partygoers. It’s not long before trouble is on Hunt’s doorstep, and he must get to the bottom of things without knowing anything about himself, his family, or his work except what he’s been told.

Jeffers’ carefully crafted story takes readers on many twists and turns, with plenty of danger and steamy romance and even a rivalry between best friends. I loved this book from start to finish, mainly because of the strong characters. Angel is no pushover, nor is she a damsel in distress. She knows her worth and refuses to settle for less than the love her parents had. I couldn’t help but admire her take-charge attitude, her inquisitiveness, and her spirt.

The novel is perfectly paced, and I enjoyed how all the pieces fit together and how each layer to the story was unfolded. There were a lot of characters and connections to follow, but I never felt lost. I was happy to see Jeffers follow Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep with the Earl of Remington’s story, The Earl Takes His Comfort. I hope to fit that book into my busy schedule soon!

Disclosure: I received Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep from the author for review.

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I’m pleased to share an excerpt of With or Without You by Shari Low, courtesy of Aria. If you enjoy the excerpt, I hope you will enter the giveaway below.

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Prologue

The Last Minute of 1999

There were sixty seconds left of the twentieth century.

Hogmanay. The biggest night of the Scottish celebratory calendar, when we eat, we sing, we dance, and we welcome in the New Year with the people we love. The music was blaring, the revellers were dancing up a storm, and glasses were being topped up with champagne, as I leant close to my husband’s ear.

‘I wish you’d had an affair,’ I said, my voice cracking. ‘It would be so much easier to do this.’

Nate, smiled, leaned in and kissed me, but not with any grand passion. That was part of the problem. We’d been together since midway through uni, and then married the year after we graduated, and since the day we’d danced up the aisle we’d had five years of contentment.

Contentment.

I hated that word. Imagine the obituary. RIP Liv Jamieson – a contented life. Worse, who wanted to be content at the age of twenty-eight? I wanted passion and excitement and maybe the odd little bit of danger, but contentment? It was like a scarf of boredom that got tighter with each passing year, until I could barely breathe.

I loved Nate, but – clichéd as it was – I wasn’t in love with him anymore. There was no-one else, no drama, no big scandal or cataclysmic event. Just a gradual drifting apart. A disconnection. And, in a twisted demonstration of our compatibility, he had reluctantly admitted that – while he wasn’t as far along the road of acceptance as me – he knew there was something missing too.

I loved him. He loved me. It just wasn’t enough.

Nate pulled back and pushed a stray curl of my red hair back from my face. ‘An affair? What if I told you I’ve had Kylie Minogue living in the loft for the last year because we’re having a torrid fling and she can’t get enough of me?’

‘I’d say please tell her I’ll let her have you – as long as she’s willing to trade you for her entire wardrobe.’

Nate’s brown eyes creased at the side as he laughed. It was my very favourite thing about him.

We’d tried. We really had. The previous January, just a day into 1999, we’d talked, and we’d agreed to give it everything we had for a year, determined to reignite the spark between us. We’d had weekly date nights. Lazy Sunday sex. Weekend breaks to quiet country cottages and busy city hotels. A fantastic holiday to Bali where we’d taken long moonlit strolls along the sands. We’d hung out with our gang of mutual friends and we’d laughed, celebrated, partied, and discussed it long into many nights.

Yet, much as it destroyed us to admit it, we were still in that ‘best friends’ zone. My heart didn’t flutter when he entered a room. His gaze made me smile, but it didn’t make my libido throb with lust. And neither of us could shake the feeling that there was something – or someone – else out there for us.

So we’d decided to call it a day. To wish each other well, split the CD collection and move on. That makes it all sound so simple, when the truth was that a piece of my heart felt like it was being surgically removed by a jackhammer.

Nate wasn’t one hundred per cent sure. He didn’t like change. Preferred familiarity and stability to the unknown. But he said he loved me too much to make me stay in a marriage that didn’t make me happy. And if he were honest, our marriage wasn’t making him happy either, not like he should have been. I wanted more for me, for him, for both of us.

Tonight was our last night together. It seemed apt. Fitting. The final day of the century, a chapter closing, and a whole new world out there for us to explore. And if I kept telling myself that this was a positive move; the right thing to do, it squashed the part of me that was terrified.

I saw his lips move again. ‘Liv, are you…?’

I missed the last bit. It got carried away on the wave of noise that suddenly engulfed the room.

Ten…

The lead singer of the band was counting down the seconds to midnight. Every year we headed to The Lomond Grange, a gorgeous stately manor hotel on the edge of Loch Lomond, about forty minutes from home, to bring in the coming year.

Despite our sadness, we hadn’t wanted to bail out on the people who shared our lives, so here we were. One last hurrah. On the dance floor, our closest friends, Sasha and Justin stood next to Chloe and Rob, all of them with their champagne glasses in hand, party poppers at the ready, expressions oozing excitement, braced for the big moment.

Nine… Nine seconds until my marriage was over.

A wave of sorrow.

Eight… ‘What did you say?’ I asked him.

Seven… Seven seconds until my marriage was over.

He had to lean right into my ear so I could hear him. ‘I said are you absolutely sure?’

Six… A stomach flip of doubt. We’d discussed this to death. Yes, I was sure. Of course I was. So was he. We’d agreed.

Five… Five seconds until my marriage was over.

‘Yes. Why are you asking now?’

Four… ‘I think…’ I could feel his breath on the side of my face. ‘I think I want to give it one more try.’

Three… Three seconds until my marriage was over.

A sick feeling of panic rising to my throat.

Two… ‘But Nate, we both know it’s time to move on.’ We did. Didn’t we?

One… ‘One more try, Liv. We owe it to each other to give it more time.’

Noooooo. This wasn’t the deal. We’d tried. It hadn’t worked. We weren’t right for each other. It was time to move on, to take different paths.

A deafening cacophony of sound erupted in the room. Happy New Year. Streamers shot in the air. Bagpipes bellowed out a chorus of Auld Lang Syne to say goodbye to the past and welcome the twenty first century.

We were entering a new millennium.

But was I going to spend it with Nate…

…Or without him?

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About With or Without You

Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one…?

A clever, captivating and bitterweet story of what might have been. Perfect for the fans of Jo Jo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.

Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

Buy Links: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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About the Author

Shari Low

Shari Low has published twenty novels over the last two decades. She also writes for newspapers, magazines and television. Once upon a time, she got engaged to a guy she’d known for a week, and twenty-something years later, they live in Glasgow with their two teenage sons and a labradoodle.

Follow Shari: Twitter | Facebook

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Giveaway

Aria is offering 2 ebook copies of With or Without You to my readers. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 1, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Source: Review copy from author

“Lions are man-eaters,” Glory said. “He could take off your hand with one bite!”

Lilly moved away from the lion and continued on beside Glory, watching him until they were out of sight. Hearing Glory talk about the lions the same way Momma used to talk about her made her sad, as if the lions were something to be hated and feared. They were wild animals who wanted their freedom, and to be left alone. That was all.

(from The Life She Was Given)

Ellen Marie Wiseman’s latest novel, The Life She Was Given, alternates between the 1930s and 1950s. The story centers on the Blackwood family, which owns Blackwood Manor, a horse farm in New York. In 1931, nine-year-old Lilly Blackwood has never been outside the attic room where she essentially is held prisoner by her parents, who are ashamed of her albinism. Her mother, a devoutly religious woman who believes her daughter’s condition is some sort of punishment, makes her believe she is something to be feared and sells her to the circus sideshow.

Lilly’s story of growing up with her circus family, the abuse she endures at the hands of her “owner,” the love and acceptance she finds there amid outcasts like herself and the animals who are her kindred spirits is told alongside the story of nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood over 20 years later. Julia ran away from the rigid rules and coldness of her family but returns to Blackwood Manor to take over its operations upon the death of her parents. Julia’s love and tenderness for the horses on her family’s farm mirrors the relationship Lilly has with the elephants in the Barlow Brother’s Circus. It’s no surprise then that Julia is determined to uncover the mysteries of Blackwood Manor and what happened to Lilly so many years before.

First, I should apologize to the author for taking nearly a year to finish reading this book. I started it last July, just as life became more stressful with college tours and the whole college application process for my daughter. Juggling that, work, and other commitments made it difficult for me to read such a heartbreaking story, and I found myself able to only read a few chapters here and there before I had to switch to something lighter.

I couldn’t help but feel for Lilly and all the traumas she endured at such a young age, and I admired her for summoning so much courage to stand up for herself and the animals who became part of her family. However, I found myself skimming Lilly’s chapters toward the end of the book, simply because they were so gut-wrenching and hard for me to process. Lilly endured trial after trial, some of them quite violent, and while these events ring true to the story, they became harder and harder to read as the story progressed.

Meanwhile, I never really connected with Julia. Some of her actions didn’t ring true, like how long it took her to fully explore the house when she was so set on uncovering her parents’ secrets. And by the time she gets to the bottom of things, I had already put the pieces together myself. Still, the story kept my attention, and the writing was heartfelt. You can tell just how much Wiseman was affected by her characters. Although this wasn’t my favorite of Wiseman’s novels (that would be The Plum Tree), I still have a couple left to read and I’m looking forward to them.

Disclosure: I received The Life She Was Given from the author for review.

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

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

Why do we write?

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

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

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

Thank you again for being there.

Yours,

Tom

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An excerpt from The Darcy Contradiction, courtesy of Tom Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About The Darcy Contradiction

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

Buy The Darcy Contradiction on Amazon

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Giveaway

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

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

I’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of the audiobook of Mr. Darcy to the Rescue. It’s wonderful to see a book I’ve edited released in audio, and Victoria has a fantastic story to share about it. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi Anna, thank you for having me as a guest. As I was preparing this guest post, I thought about the fact that we both had daughters graduating from high school this year and that led me to musings about the role of audiobooks in my family. Of course, they are handy to have in the car. My husband listens to books in his commute, and I often listen during my multiple daily drives. As a family, we have listened to a number of audiobooks together on long car trips.

But I never realized the real importance of audiobooks until I had a daughter who had difficulty learning to read.

She was in first grade and was supposed to do 20 minutes of reading a day. I had to split up these 20 minutes into 3-4 chunks because reading was such a chore to her. As someone who has found books to be an important part of my life and endless source of joy, I was alarmed. Eventually we traced her difficulties to a vision problem known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI) in which the eyes do not function well together. The doctor who examined her found that she couldn’t focus her eyes more than nine seconds without great effort. Can you imagine trying to learn to read under those conditions?

We started her on vision therapy—with tremendous results. But the process took three years. In the meantime, I worried that she would lose interest in reading. How could she not when it was such a struggle? I read books aloud to her, which was very rewarding. (I read the entire Harry Potter series to her and then did it all over again when my son wanted to read it.) But she often wanted to read when I wasn’t available.

Thank God for audiobooks. They allowed her to be an independent reader—choosing what to read and when to read it without depending on another person. We were fortunate that our public library had many books on CD (eventually they started getting e-audiobooks and she now has a well-used Audible account).

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have audiobook technology available. If I had experience CI as a child, I would have been out of luck. But with the help of audiobooks, she still read eagerly—and learned to enjoy reading—even when it was difficult and painful to put her eyes to paper. When she graduated from vision therapy, she was able to read print books on her own—and she wanted to. With the help of audiobooks she had become an avid reader. Her problems aren’t gone and probably never will be. Her eyes tire easily, which is a great challenge in school. She still “reads” audiobooks for pleasure because she needs to save her “eye time” for school-related tasks. Fortunately a lot of textbooks and works of literature (for English class) are available on audio; audiobooks are one of the major factors behind her success in school.

Now that I have one of my novels on audio, it will make it easier for my daughter to read my writing. I’m not holding my breath, though. Although she liked Pride and Prejudice, she has a long list of books in her preferred genres that she would rather read. I don’t mind at all; I’m just glad she’s reading.

(One in 20 people suffers from Convergence Insufficiency, but most don’t know it. For more information on CI symptoms and other information, visit CIHelp.org.)

Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your daughter’s story with us. I’m so happy that she was able to become an avid reader despite the challenges. Congratulations on your latest release, and best wishes to your daughter as she goes off to college!

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About Mr. Darcy to the Rescue

When the irritating Mr. Collins proposes marriage, Elizabeth Bennet is prepared to refuse him, but then she learns that her father is ill. If Mr. Bennet dies, Collins will inherit Longbourn and her family will have nowhere to go. Elizabeth accepts the proposal, telling herself she can be content as long as her family is secure. If only she weren’t dreading the approaching wedding day.

Ever since leaving Hertfordshire, Mr. Darcy has been trying to forget his inconvenient attraction to Elizabeth. News of her betrothal forces him to realize how devastating it would be to lose her. He arrives at Longbourn intending to prevent the marriage, but discovers Elizabeth’s real opinion about his character. Then Darcy recognizes his true dilemma: How can he rescue her when she doesn’t want him to?

Check out Mr. Darcy to the Rescue on Amazon and listen to the sample!

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audio download code for Mr. Darcy to the Rescue to one lucky reader. Please note: the promo code will only work for the U.S. Amazon site. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 1, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

I’m delighted to share with you an excerpt from The Foyles Bookshop Girls by Elaine Roberts, courtesy of Aria. I am very much looking forward to reading this book, as it is set in a London bookshop during World War II. If you enjoy the excerpt, I encourage you to enter the giveaway below!

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Chapter 2

Alice sighed with relief. Foyles Bookstore frontage was unmissable. The message was clear. They were the largest booksellers in London, with six floors. If a novel was purchased and returned after it was read, there would be a refund of two thirds of the price for each book. They had created quite a name since William and Gilbert Foyle started selling their own unwanted books in 1903. Everyone who started working there was told about their vision of having a bookshop for the people.

She paused for a moment to take a couple of deep breaths, hoping to lessen the heat on her face, catching sight of her reflection in a shop window. Her slender figure was slightly distorted by the glass as she patted down the wide, black-edged lapels of her white blouse. Her hand automatically ran down the small black buttons, twisting each one in turn. She took a deep breath, patted her pinned up hair and stepped towards the open doorway of the shop.

The shutters were being lifted and bookstands were being placed by the entrance and to the side of the store. Customers of all ages were already gathering.

‘Morning, Miss Taylor.’ A slim man towered above her. ‘You only just made it on time.’ He frowned.

Her heart pummelled in her chest. She looked up at his stern expression. His grey hair was greased back. ‘Sorry, sir, I foolishly went to St Thomas’ before I came to work.’ Colour flushed her cheeks; Mr Leadbetter was a stickler for timekeeping.

‘Oh.’ His face softened. ‘Nothing wrong I trust?’

‘No, sir, I’ve so many books indoors, I wanted to give some to the hospital…’ Alice’s voice faded to a mumble. ‘For the patients.’

Mr Leadbetter raised his eyebrows. His hands linked behind his back, making his dark grey jacket gape revealing more of his blue tie and lily-white shirt. ‘Very commendable.’ He paused for a moment. ‘You do know we sell second-hand books as well as new ones, don’t you?’

The corners of Alice’s lips lifted slightly. ‘Of course, sir, I’ve worked here for a few years now. I just thought it would be a good thing to do, but I should have waited until my day off.’

Mr Leadbetter nodded and stepped aside for Alice to walk through the store to the staff room. Having removed her hat and left it with her shopping bag, she stood in front of a large white clock face with its wooden surround and pulled her clocking-in card from the individual slots next to it. She dropped it into a hole in front of the clock and pulled it out again. Alice looked down at the time stamp, realising she had only just made it on time. Quickly placing it back, she hurried into the shop.

Foyles had an air of a library about it as men, women and children lifted books from the shelves to look at the covers and read the first few pages. People whispered to each other, some louder than others, as their excitement grew. The bookshop had become a popular meeting place. There were shelves upon shelves of old and new books, priced from tuppence upwards. She took a deep breath, never tiring of the smell that came from them. She smiled, remembering how Mr Leadbetter had caught her with her nose in a book, her eyes shut, savouring the smell. He hadn’t questioned her; he understood and they spent ten minutes trying to work out how to describe it. Was it woody? But then there was a trace of something else; maybe it was the ink or dust. If the previous reader had been a smoker, then that also clung to the pages. No one in the store thought it was odd; they were book lovers, after all.

Alice stepped behind the counter and placed her pad of bill payments in front of her.

‘Morning, Alice, everything all right? I saw old Leadbetter talking to you.’

Alice looked up and smiled at Molly. ‘Shh, don’t call him that, he’s quite nice really.’

‘Huh, I am not so sure about that.’ Molly pulled back her shoulders and lifted her chin, showing she was a head taller than her friend. She pushed back her blonde fringe and patted the bun that was neatly formed at the nape of her neck. ‘I don’t think he likes me.’

Alice laughed. ‘He’s probably heard what you call him.’ She reached for a pen and placed it on top of her pad. ‘Right, I’m ready.’ Alice glanced over at the payment booth, expecting to see Victoria sitting there but it was empty. ‘Is Victoria in yet?’

Molly shrugged her shoulders. ‘Vic’s nearly always late. I don’t know how she gets away with it.’

Alice frowned. ‘Don’t call her that, she hates it.’ She took a deep breath; the waft of carbolic soap hit her. In an attempt to clear her throat, she gave a slight cough.

Molly’s bottom lip jutted out as she stared intently across at the payment booth. ‘Well, you can’t deny Miss Victoria Appleton seems to get away with things that no one else would.’

Alice sighed. ‘Stop being mean, she has a lot on her plate, and anyway she probably gets docked fifteen minutes pay every time she’s late.’

Molly’s eyes looked heavenward. ‘As always.’ She frowned. ‘If she’s so poor, you wouldn’t think she could afford to lose money like that.’

‘Stop it. You or I wouldn’t be able to cope with the things she does at twenty years old.’ Alice glared at her friend for a moment before allowing her features to soften. ‘Something’s clearly bothering you but we can’t talk about it now; maybe at lunch time.’

‘What makes you think something’s wrong?’

Alice laughed. ‘You’re obviously not in a good mood.’ Glancing over at the payment booth again she saw Victoria stepping inside and locking herself in. She looked pale and weighed down. Alice smiled and waved at her friend but she wasn’t looking her way.

‘I’m in a perfectly good mood for a Monday morning, thank you very much.’ Molly smiled through gritted teeth.

‘What’s happened?’ Alice turned to give Molly her full attention. ‘Didn’t you have a very good weekend?’

Molly stared down at the counter, her fingers tracing the wood grain. ‘It was fine.’

Alice shook her head. ‘We’ve been friends since we were children; you do know you can tell me anything, don’t you?’

Molly looked up and frowned. ‘We have, but we come from very different backgrounds.’

‘Not that different, and it’s never been an issue before, so what’s happened to make it one now?’ Alice squinted at her, trying to read what was going on.

‘Miss Cooper.’

Molly turned around to see Mr Leadbetter staring at her; she feigned a smile. ‘Yes, Mr Leadbetter.’

‘Is this your post for today?’

‘No, sir, I’m just going there now.’ Molly stepped past him without waiting for a response.

Alice watched him smile after Molly. The smile vanished as quickly as it arrived. He turned towards Alice. ‘We could be in for another busy day today, so please keep your eye on things. I don’t want half the stock going missing.’ He gave a curt nod and stepped aside, allowing a customer to be served.

Alice smiled at the lady standing in front of her. ‘Good morning, isn’t it a glorious day?’ She took the book the customer was holding out towards her.

‘It certainly is. Too nice to be shut inside.’

‘You’re right, but I do love being surrounded by all these wonderful books.’ Alice smiled. She looked down and completed the bill payment form before giving it to the customer. ‘If you would like to take this slip, together with tuppence, over to the payment booth.’ Alice indicated to her left. ‘Make your payment and then come back to me with your receipt.’

The lady gave a toothless smile. ‘I will.’ A gnarled hand reached out and took the slip of paper. ‘Thank you.’

Alice watched her hobble over to the payment booth; she hadn’t noticed her leaning heavily on a walking stick. She should have done and offered to take her payment over there for her. A low sigh escaped; it was too late now though, and she’d probably have been dismissed for trying to be helpful. Frowning, she recalled another assistant getting the sack for the same thing. They had all been reminded that it’s clearly stated they were not to handle any money outside of the payment booth. With her smile permanently fixed, Alice moved onto the next customer.

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About The Foyles Bookshop Girls

London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London’s renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again…

Alice has always been the ‘sensible’ one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffragesupporting sister! But decidedly against her father’s wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it’s a dream come true. But with the country at war, Alice’s happy world is shattered in an instant.

Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can’t help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline…

Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn’t be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war.

Perfect for fans of Elaine Everest, Daisy Styles and Rosie Hendry.

Buy links: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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About the Author

Elaine Roberts

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until she picked up her dream again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

Follow Elaine: Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Aria is offering 2 ebook copies of The Foyles Bookshop Girls to my readers. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 24, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Please enjoy this excerpt from Lessers and Betters:

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

From Chapter VIII in The Maid and The Footman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrust and parry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Bennet began her final assault.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Lessers and Betters

Experience Love As It Blooms Upstairs and Downstairs

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Lessers and Betters on Amazon.

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.

He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.

His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

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Giveaway

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

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