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Hello, friends! I’m happy to have Victoria Kincaid as a guest again today to celebrate the audiobook release of When Mary Met the Colonel. Victoria is here to talk a little about the book and share an excerpt and audiobook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hello Anna and thank you for welcoming me back to visit your blog!  I am here to announce the release of an audiobook version of When Mary Met the Colonel, my first secondary-character P&P story and first novella.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to secure the brilliant Stevie Zimmerman to narrate the audiobook.

I’ve always believed that Mary deserved romance and was particularly interested in seeing her with a man whose character and temperament were dissimilar to hers.  I wanted her to have a HEA with someone handsome and dashing. Colonel Fitzwilliam perfectly fit the bill.  Below is a scene from the beginning of the book.

The Colonel and Mary meet by chance in Longbourn’s garden during Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding breakfast.  I hope you enjoy it!

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A crease formed between Mary’s eyebrows. “Sir, the events of this war will affect our country for generations to come. It will influence the futures of my nieces and nephews. Faced with such weighty matters, I do not understand why anyone believes I should care about the latest designs in lace!”

Abruptly, she bit her lip and blushed. “I apologize for that outburst. I have had a trying day. I am overwrought.” She stood quickly, straightening her skirts. “I will trouble you no—”

Without forethought, Fitz seized her hand in his. “Please do not leave just when you are proving to be an interesting conversational partner.” He remained seated, hoping it would encourage her to stay.

“I think I must.” She stared at the ground.

“Miss Bennet, if you will allow me to be frank, the majority of my visit has been occupied by your younger sister and her friend admiring the fine handiwork of the buttons on my uniform.” Her shoulders shook; had he provoked laughter? “Intelligent conversation about the happenings in the world would be quite welcome.”

Slowly, Mary’s head lifted. Her eyes traveled down her arm, paused on her hand—which he had not released—and then rose to meet his eyes. Whatever she saw there caused her body to soften slightly. Fitz took the opportunity to tug on her hand, encouraging her to sit once more.

It was wildly inappropriate to be holding her hand, although they both wore gloves. If anyone should happen upon them, their proximity could lead to all sorts of difficulties, including an accusation of compromising her reputation. Yet he could not bring himself to leave; he was too intrigued to allow the conversation to end.

She allowed him to pull her down on the bench beside him, and he instantly released her hand. “I pray you, ask your questions.” Mary regarded him warily, a wild animal that might be easily startled. “What did you wish to ask me?” he asked gently.

“Did you fight at Salamanca?” He nodded. Her eyes lit with interest. “The papers all claimed Wellington’s strategy was brilliant, but they never described the details. What did he do?”

Fitz was momentarily in the uncharacteristic position of being at a loss for words. This was her most pressing question? He expected a query about the Spanish people or Wellington’s character. Instead, she asked about…battle strategy?

“Well…he held some of his troops in reserve until later in the battle,” Fitz finally responded, an accurate but incomplete answer.

Miss Bennet scoffed. “That is a common enough strategy. There is nothing brilliant in that.”

Fitz blinked at her. How did she—? “Miss Bennet, what have you been reading?”

Instantly, her face was aflame, and she ducked her chin. “Do not say as much to my family, particularly my mother, I pray you!”

He nodded; as a rule he avoided conversations with Mrs. Bennet, who was almost as excited about a red coat as her daughter.

Miss Bennet’s eyes darted about the clearing, making sure of their solitude. “I have read both Brown’s and Gibbon’s histories. My father did not miss them from his library, but Mama would be horrified if she knew.” Her eyes were now downcast.

What an extraordinary woman!

“With every turn of this conversation, I am more and more amazed,” Fitz said.

Miss Bennet wrapped her arms around her waist. “I know it is not what a proper young lady would read.”

Fitz was horrified that she perceived these interests as a character deficiency but struggled to keep his tone light. “Perhaps more young ladies should read such subjects; I would far rather discuss military strategy than lace.” He did not garner the laugh he sought, but she rewarded him with a small smile.

Fitz stood. “If you have read Brown and Gibbon, a simple explanation of the strategy at Salamanca will not do. I will need to explain the terrain around the city.” He cast his eye about the clearing. “Here.” He gestured her to the side of the clearing, a small area of dirt not covered by the stone underfoot. With a stick, he drew a line in the dirt. “So, here is the city.” He made an X. “And these are Wellington’s troops…” She watched with rapt attention. It was very pleasant to have such an enthusiastic audience. “The French troops were here and here…”

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About When Mary Met the Colonel

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked. She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Check out the audiobook sample on Audible

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audiobook copy of When Mary Met the Colonel to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 19, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Victoria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your audiobook release!

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I’m delighted to welcome Bronwen Chisholm back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her new novel, Missing Jane. I’m really looking forward to this Pride and Prejudice variation, and when you read the blurb and excerpt, you’ll know why. Please give Bronwen a warm welcome!

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Hello, Readers! Anna, thank you for having me back. I am so pleased to share my latest release with you and your readers. Many of you might remember when I was here last summer with my last release which was on the controversial/heavy side. I promise, this is a low angst, sweet clean novella.

A few years ago, I began writing this story which takes place near the Welsh border. The only problem was my characters sounded more Scottish. When the opportunity came to travel to the United Kingdom, I quickly added Wales to the agenda to get a better feel for the accent. I was truly blessed that the manager at the manor house where we stayed (Mellington Hall outside Monmouth, Wales) reluctantly agreed to read my dialogue while I recorded her. So, without further ado, here is the blurb and an excerpt.

Mr. Bennet is dead; his daughters “scattered to the winds,” according to Mrs. Bennet.

And the eldest Miss Bennet? No one really knows.

Poor Mr. Bingley is led to believe she is no more, but her sister swears she is alive.

Can Mr. Darcy and his friend find her and, in turn, their own happily ever afters?

Fitzwilliam Darcy stood in the familiar study, staring into the empty fire grate as he debated his reasons for being there. A glance out the window revealed blooms in the garden below. It was past the middle of June. He had missed most of spring after locking himself away. With a shake of his head, he turned away, thinking he might just leave his card and slip out before his friend appeared. As he approached it, the door opened and Charles Bingley entered smiling, though he lacked the vibrancy he once had.

“Darcy, this is a surprise. I understood you were not visiting.” Bingley clapped him on the arm as they shook hands.

“No, I was not for a time. This is my first step back into society.”

“Well, I am glad to see you.”

Darcy took a deep, hesitant breath and expelled it slowly. “We shall see about that.”

Bingley looked at him oddly before crossing to the sideboard. “A drink?”

“No.” Darcy was unable to hide his wince at the offer of spirits. “Perhaps some tea or coffee?”

This time his friend’s head tipped to the side and his eyes narrowed. “Very well,” he replied as he made his way to the bell-pull. Their refreshments were requested, and the gentlemen took their seats.

While they waited, Darcy enquired into Bingley’s movements since they last met, and Bingley revealed the social events his sisters had required he attend. Once the tea arrived and was served, Darcy realized his time had come as the door closed behind the departing servant.

“I have done you a great wrong, Bingley. I am here to confess it and hopefully make amends.”

His friend settled his elbows on the arms of his chair and steepled his fingers together, his lips quivering in amusement. “I am intrigued, Darcy. Do you mean to say you were wrong regarding something?”

Darcy did not respond. Instead, he stared into his cup, focusing on the swirl of tea residue in the bottom. “While visiting my aunt in Kent, I came across Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who was visiting her friend, the former Miss Lucas.”

Bingley sat quietly. Darcy dared not look at the man lest his courage fail him.

“An occasion arose where we were in discussion and your name was mentioned, as well as her sister’s.” He cleared his throat and finally tore his gaze from the cup. “It appears Miss Bennet may have held you in some affection.”

His friend’s face was unreadable and he remained silent, so Darcy continued.

“I believe, should you wish it, you could return to Netherfield Park and would be welcomed back to Longbourn.” Darcy sipped his tea and waited.

Bingley rose and crossed to the sideboard. After standing for a moment with his fingers spread on the edge, he poured himself a drink, finished it, and refilled it. This time, he took only a sip and returned to his seat.

“I beg your pardon, but how was it that you and Miss Elizabeth found yourselves discussing Miss Bennet and myself?”

Darcy fought the urge to pace the room, sitting back in his seat instead. He gazed into his cup once more. “Miss Elizabeth asked after you and your sisters. She mentioned . . . her sister had been in London this past winter and she asked if I had seen her.”

“Miss Bennet was in London?” Bingley interrupted. “When? Did you know?”

A quick breath and swallow preceded a single nod. “Your sister told me. We thought it best that you not see her.”

“You thought it best?” A harsh laugh escaped Bingley’s lips. “Did you believe I would embarrass myself? Or perhaps I was not strong enough to overcome my emotions.”

Darcy found it even more difficult to meet his friend’s gaze. He cleared his throat. “I had noted the changes which had come over you and feared seeing her would cause you more pain.” He cleared his throat again. “Miss Elizabeth had noted similar changes in her sister,” he said in a near whisper.

“The sharing of such confidences would speak to a more profound relationship between yourself and Miss Elizabeth.”

Before his hand could shake and reveal his discomfort, Darcy set his teacup on the table. “It may seem as such, but our discussion took place during a moment of . . . disagreement.”

The first genuine smile lifted his friend’s countenance. “I can well imagine it. Miss Elizabeth was never prone to bowing to your assertions as much of society does. I believe she disliked you from the moment you made that horrid comment at the assembly the night we met.”

Warmth crept over Darcy’s cheeks. “Yes, well, as I stated, I believe you will be welcomed in Hertfordshire.” He stood and gathered his things.

Bingley remained seated, now suddenly interested in his glass. “Will you join me?”

“At Netherfield?”

“Of course. Where else?”

The temptation was great, but Darcy shook his head. “I believe it best if you take this step alone.” He stared at his friend until Bingley met his gaze. “You have allowed your sisters and me to have too much influence in your life. My last bit of advice is to return to your home alone and build your future.”

Bingley held his gaze a moment longer before nodding. A new determination seemed to enter his gaze, and he stood to show his friend out.

It has been such a pleasure to write this book. It is a novella and, as you could probably guess, it picks up after Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. We have a few new characters, a different locale, and just a touch of angst, nothing too terrible. The Kindle version of Missing Jane is available for pre-order HERE and will be released on July 10th. I hope you will pick it up and love it as much as I do.

Thanks for having me again, Anna! I look forward to coming back in the future. And now, a GIVEAWAY! Just make a comment on this blog and Anna will pick 1 lucky winner to receive an ebook copy of Missing Jane. Good luck! I can’t wait to read your comments.

The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

Bronwen Chisholm

Bronwen Chisholm began her writing career working on suspense romance, but finally became a published author with her Pride and Prejudice variations. She takes great pleasure in searching for potential “plot twists” and finding the way back to a happy ending.

Her love of writing has led her to several writing groups, and she is currently serving as the vice president of the Riverside Writers and organizes the Riverside Young Writers.

For more information, visit her at www.bronwenchisholm.com.

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Thanks, Bronwen, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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Today’s guests are the authors of the new anthology, A Very Austen Romance: Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, Chautona Havig, and Mandy H. Cook. I’m a huge fan of these Austen anthologies, so I was thrilled to hear there was a third installment. These talented authors are here to share a little about their collection of novellas, along with a few excerpts. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Please give them a warm welcome!

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We are very excited to offer our third anthology to you, A Very Austen Romance.

That’s right, we’re back with another “book that friendship built.” This sounds like a marketing slogan, but with us it’s actually true. The Internet is how we met, and over the years we have encouraged one another as writers. One day we hope to meet together in person. For now, come share our friendship as we offer these new, Austen-inspired Regency novellas to you.

This time, Chautona Havig is joining us as guest author. Chautona is new to JAFF, but she is not at all a newbie writer.

A Very Austen Romance is ready-made for summer reading. And goodness, this book is LONG. (You’ll know that if you peek at the price of the paperback!)

We love these stories, and we think you will too. You’ll smile, you’ll sigh, and you’ll even laugh a little.

Kindle Unlimited subscribers, A Very Austen Romance is ready and waiting!

Here’s what’s inside:

The King of Hearts by Robin Helm

Twenty-year-old Kitty Bennet, the only unmarried Bennet sister, goes for an extended visit with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy in London where Elizabeth decides to host a coming out ball in Kitty’s honor.

Four eligible bachelors compete for Kitty’s favor, but only one can win her hand.

Kitty has the wonderful, awful task of selecting one from a field of no bad choices. Which man will she choose?

You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl by Laura Hile

It is Darcy’s duty to marry Anne—and Lady Catherine is determined to see that he does, even if she must have him abducted! But her nefarious plan goes horribly wrong, for the kidnappers seize the wrong girl.

A Step Too Far by Wendi Sotis

While touring his friend’s new estate, Fitzwilliam Darcy comes across a young lady in jeopardy. Even though coming to her aid could also ruin her reputation, he refuses to risk her life by leaving her in such a perilous situation.

During her daily amble, Miss Elizabeth Bennet takes one step too many. Is she in love with the man who saved her life, or is it simply a deep sense of obligation that will fade with time?

John Knightley Takes a Wife by Barbara Cornthwaite

Young John Knightley is in love—so in love that he agrees to invite the beautiful Miss Maria Dudley’s wild younger brother for a visit to the family estate at Donwell Abbey. John finds he’s got his work cut out for him thanks to Dudley’s fondness for pranks and port. But when Dudley sets his sights on Isabella Woodhouse—or, rather, her fortune—John’s views on love and honor are challenged and he must decide what kind of man he really wants to be.

In the Looking Glass by Mandy H Cook

Fanny Bingley, twenty-year-old daughter of Jane and Charles Bingley, chafes under the restrictions placed upon women of her time period. She decides to take matters into her own hands, and unlike her ten siblings, charts her own course to love, finding a husband in an unlikely manner.

Charming Miss Dashwood by Chautona Havig

All Conrad Thayer wanted was a respite in the country and the luxury of days spent in a fine library. However, Margaret Dashwood and a roving band of “highwaymen” have stolen that opportunity, and in regard to Miss Dashwood, his heart along with it.

We are:

Robin Helm

Robin Helm of South Carolina, author of Understanding Elizabeth and More to Love.

Laura Hile

Laura Hile, author of Darcy By Any Other Name and So This Is Love, from northwest Oregon.

Wendi Sotis

From Long Island, New York, Wendi Sotis, author of With My Whole Heart Forever and A Lesson Hard Learned.

Barbara Cornthwaite

Barbara Cornthwaite, author of the George Knightley, Gentleman books and a soon-to-be-released cozy mystery series, from rural Ireland.

Mandy H. Cook

Living in Maryland (for now), globe-trotting Mandy H Cook, author of The Gifted.

Chautona Havig

Joining us as Guest Author, from California’s Tehachapi Desert is Chautona Havig, author of Allerednic and many other titles.

Connect with the A Very Austen authors: Facebook | Amazon

Buy links:

A Very Austen Romance is available as an eBook and paperback, and is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon | Goodreads

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Excerpts

From A Step Too Far  by Wendi Sotis

Darcy had made his decision to avoid the lady, and since he had thought of little else since, it made absolutely no sense that, upon returning to the house after their morning ride, when Mrs. Curtis informed them that Miss Elizabeth was feeling well enough to traipse down the corridor for a change of scenery, he experienced a burning need to rush through his toilette so he could come here, to the music room, and wait. All the while, he found himself anxiously hoping that Miss Elizabeth did not suffer a relapse and have to cancel her outing again.

In fact, after not seeing her the entire day yesterday, he felt if he did not have the opportunity to lay eyes on her and speak to her very soon, he might actually perish.

He stopped pacing and inhaled deeply. It is quite possible I have gone mad!

“What is wrong, Darcy?” Bingley asked.

He shook his head to end his stupor. “Why do you ask?”

Bingley laughed. “You look as though the devil himself had just walked up to greet you.”

Darcy ignored the comment. “What are we doing here, Bingley? It is the middle of the day. We should be hunting or fishing, or riding out to the tenant houses to check on the progress of the labourers.”

“We just returned from doing exactly that, Darcy.” Bingley’s expression was one of exaggerated concern. “Are you sure all is right with you?”

Annoyed, he answered, “I am fine.”

Bingley seemed satisfied. “Well then, to answer your question, we are here awaiting the ladies.”

Darcy clenched his jaw. “Have you checked with Mrs. Curtis? Are they coming, or have you assumed they are? Are we wasting our time here, Bingley?”

“They are, at this very moment, preparing to join us.”

As Bingley finished his pronouncement, the door opened. Bingley sprang from his chair and moved towards it.

In came Miss Bennet. Bingley stopped short, his grin was so wide the corners of his lips almost reached his ears.

Miss Bennet looked up, smiled at Bingley, and then blushed heartily as she turned to push the door open wider.

Miss Elizabeth came through next, leaning heavily on a footman’s arm.

Envy exploded in Darcy’s chest. Or was it jealousy? He pushed the thought away.

No, Darcy was angry—at himself. He was a gentleman. Gentlemen are supposed to predict a lady’s needs and fulfill them, but he had not anticipated that Miss Elizabeth would require an escort. If he were sane, perhaps he would have waited in the corridor outside her chambers. This simply proved again that he was not in full wits.

Before he knew what he was about, Darcy had already moved across the room and offered his arm to the injured lady.

He flared his nostrils. So much for avoiding her.

When Miss Elizabeth’s clear, jade-green eyes caught his gaze, it was as if every unpleasant feeling he had experienced in the past day and a half were swept away, leaving behind only an agreeable warmth in his soul. His heart swelled when, without hesitation, she reached out and wrapped her hand around his arm.

Why did she have this effect on him? And why did he enjoy it so much?

She smiled and all rational thought left his head.

From John Knightley Takes a Wife by Barbara Corthwaite

It was obvious to George, watching from across the room, that the enchanting Miss Dudley appeared to have his brother on a string. It was also clear to him that she was a heartless little flirt. While she danced with John, she had eyes for no one but him, and seemed to convey that there was nothing on earth so fascinating to her as whatever he was talking about. George was too far away to hear what they were saying, of course, but he could see them bantering and laughing with each other. During the next dance, when John had a different partner, George watched Miss Dudley dance with another young man. She looked just as happy to be dancing with him as she had with John, and when the dance ended she said something quietly to him that made his face light up. A sense of foreboding crept over George.

John, for his part, was elated for himself and irritated with his brother. He had known that George would not dance, but he thought he might have put himself out more. Part of his reason for inviting George had indeed been so that he might meet the incomparable Maria. But another, almost equally strong reason was so that he could fall in love himself. George was always sequestered away at Donwell with no eligible young ladies anywhere nearby, growing old alone. He was settling into middle age much too rapidly—it would do him good to be in love and provide a mistress for Donwell. In the giddiness of his own infatuation, John was eager to see everyone around him matched up as well. He had allowed himself to hope that George would meet a lady who would so awaken his admiration that he would instantly ask her to dance.

But there George was instead, talking sedately to Major Thomas, while ladies of all ages eyed him in varying degrees of furtiveness and positioned themselves near him in case he would be inclined to ask to be introduced to them. George could, no doubt, have won any one of them—he was handsome, wealthy, and honorable.

“He will not take the trouble to invest in his own happiness,” muttered John, and went over to his brother to see if he could provoke him into doing such a thing.

“Is Arthur Dudley here?” George asked before John could say anything.

“No. I thought he would be, but it appears he cried off.”

“I see you had your dances with Miss Dudley.”

“I intend to have more.”

“Do you? How very optimistic you are. It seems that there are any number of young bucks waiting to ask her to dance.”

“At least I know you will not be of that number.”

“I think I may break with tradition and ask her. She is, after all, very beautiful.”

The corner of John’s mouth quivered. “I think I will punish you for that.” He glanced around and saw a lady passing. “Miss Oliver!”
The young lady paused and turned toward the brothers. She was a plain-faced woman of about twenty-eight, but she had an intelligent eye and a ready smile.

“How do you do, Mr. Knightley?”

“Very well, I thank you. May I present my brother, Mr. George Knightley? He hopes to engage you for the two next dances.”

From You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl by Laura Hile

Bound, gagged, and blindfolded, Mr. Darcy is being transported to who-knows-where. Then he realizes that he is not alone …
The wheels hit another rut in the road. This one was deep, and the wagon swayed dangerously. “What in blue blazes?” shouted a woman’s voice. “This ain’t no time to be drinking, you git!”

“A fellow needs something to warm him,” a man’s voice shouted back. “That wind cuts like a knife.”

“If we break an axle out here, we’re done for.”

“Hobgoblins and ghostly horsemen of the moor? Bah. Bogeys to scare children.”

“Not goblins, you dolt. Marshes and bogs have what they calls quicksand. That what swallows man and beast alive. So keep your wits about you.”

“It’s Dartmoor Prison I’m not liking. Too close for comfort, that is.”

Darcy frowned in an effort to think. The vile potion his captors had him swilling made his head swim. Dartmoor Prison. Did this mean they were in Devon?

The wagon gave another jolt and listed to one side. “Gor blast it, Manny! Slow down! We’ll be ditched if you keep to this pace.”

The wagon righted itself and went lumbering on. Darcy heard his fellow prisoner groan.

Here was another perplexity. That he was kidnapped for ransom was understandable, but why involve a woman?

Unless it was his cousin, Anne.

Of course it was Anne. Who else could it be? Even without this ordeal, his cousin’s life was not a happy one. And now she was being held for ransom.

With a miserable howl, the wind buffeted the wagon’s high sides. “Blast this infernal wind!” the man shouted. “What was Jackman thinking?

Why this godforsaken place?”

“For easy money, that’s what. Nab the gent and the girl; dump them here and clear out.”

“Why not hide ’em in London? Instead of driving two hundred miles and more in all this cold? What I wouldn’t give for a warm fire and a pint.”

“We’ll have both soon enough, once we get free of the moor. If you don’t ditch the wagon!”

The wind howled, and his captors continued to complain. At length Darcy grew weary of listening to them. If only his headache would abate, perhaps then he could think!

Sometime later he woke to more cursing.

“How do you know it’s the right house?”

“Only one out here, dolt. Can’t miss it, Jackman said. There’s the lake and there’s the house.”

At last the wagon ground to a halt. Darcy came fully awake, every sense on the alert. God only knew what would come next.

“Took you long enough,” a voice shouted.

“This ain’t exactly the easiest spot to find. Lend a hand. I want to be away before nightfall.”

“No need to be telling me twice.”

When the wagon’s doors came open, Darcy felt the bite of the cold wind. The scent of rain was in the air.

Anne was taken from the wagon first, and she moaned several times. This was difficult to hear, but it meant she was alive.

Presently the men returned for Darcy. He was pulled into a sitting position, and the rope binding his ankles was removed. When his feet met the ground, Darcy realised that he wore only stockings. What had happened to his riding boots?

“March,” someone ordered. Darcy did so, stumbling over wet, rocky terrain. And then it began to rain. A chorus of curses erupted.

Rough hands pushed Darcy along. Then a surprise: his feet encountered wooden boards. The hollow sound reminded Darcy of a dock, and his guess turned out to be correct. Amid complaints about his size and weight, he was lowered into a small boat. The rain gained in strength; Darcy could hear it hissing against the surface of the water. Oars were fitted; the boat swayed precariously. Finally, it was pushed clear of the dock.

Darcy struggled to think. Were he and Anne being taken out of England? But that could not be right. To board a seagoing vessel, shouldn’t they be in a port city? Hold hard, someone had mentioned a lake. Was this significant? He wished he knew.

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Giveaway

The authors are very generously offering an ebook copy of A Very Austen Romance to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway is open through Thursday, July 2, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you to all the authors for being my guests today, and congratulations on your new release! I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes there’s another anthology on the horizon…

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Laura Hile is one of my favorite Austenesque authors, and her Darcy By Any Other Name is one of my all-time favorite variations. So I am delighted to welcome Laura to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, So This Is Love. I love it when authors tackle Austen’s secondary characters, and especially when they give Charlotte a different option than Mr. Collins, so I’m especially looking forward to this one. Laura is here to share a little about the book, as well as an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I am so very happy to present to you So This Is Love at the beginning of the summer reading season. It’s a fun, romantic, adventurous story I think you will enjoy.

I will say, it is more of a romance than an Austen variation (although it is loaded with Austen’s characters).  I present to Charlotte a hero who is as different from Mr. Collins as chalk is to cheese. Will she fall in love?

So This Is Love began life as an anthology contribution. After my author friend Margie Bayer read Mercy’s Embrace (which features Elizabeth Elliot), she begged me to do the same kind of thing for Charlotte Lucas. I took up the challenge.

This would be a fluff romance, written for the pure joy of it. I threw in all my favorite ingredients: swashbuckling adventure, an isolated seaside setting, a lifelong bachelor seadog of a Captain, a handful of his crew (hired to work at his house until called back), and dear, ever-practical, unromantic Charlotte.

But then Charlotte’s impish twelve-year-old brother Johnny showed up. And her silly aunt, Mrs. Allen (borrowed from Northanger Abbey). Even Mr. Collins began acting like his toadish self.

Right away I knew I was in trouble. This story would not behave and stay small! It grew both in length and in depth, and soon I was needing to write a different novella (You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl) for A Very Austen Romance.

So This Is Love became a full-fledged novel, filled with my very favorite ingredient for a romance story, banter. Charlotte and the Captain outdid themselves here. Chapter after chapter, their friendship becomes something more – with each of them fighting it all the way. It would be no fun if they didn’t!

That the story line exceeded expectations is an understatement. Heavens, I fell in love with Captain Jack Blunt myself – and with all the characters in this tale.

So This Is Love became a story of my heart. It’s a feel-good romance, just right for summer reading. The excerpt will give you the flavor of it, oh yes.

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Mr. Collins is little more than a stranger when Charlotte Lucas agrees to marry him. This is a prudent choice, given her situation. But when Mr. Collins crosses the line, something in Charlotte snaps. How dare he be so familiar, so shamelessly forward! It isn’t as if he loves her!

 

Come with Charlotte as she breaks the engagement, is sent away to her father’s relations, and discovers a future that is vastly different from the one she envisioned.

 

Because “I am not romantic” is anything but true. Charlotte simply hasn’t met the right man.

 

In this story, she will.

Excerpt from Chapter 9: Charlotte is delighted to learn that her uncle’s provoking house guest plays cards. Will she win money off him tonight? 

Charlotte pulled up short. What business had she to be rude? “I beg your pardon. All this talk of marriage, and my aunt’s endless hints and mistletoe everywhere, have put me out of temper.”

“Is this a display of temper?” Captain Blunt sounded amused. “Shouldn’t you shriek or throw things against the wall? That shepherdess on the mantelpiece is a likely candidate.”

“My purse is empty enough without having to replace broken figurines, thank you.” Suddenly a new thought occurred. “Speaking of my empty purse, do you play cards?”

“I do.”

“Are you any good?”

Again he laughed. “It so happens that I am.”

“And are you rich?”

This was an outrageous question, but Charlotte was finding it easy to say outrageous things to Jack Blunt.

“I am Allen’s heir; does that tell you anything?”

“Not much. If you are not rich, there is no help for it. You must go to the moneylenders when you lose. My situation is such that I cannot accept promissory notes. Nor shall I wait to be paid until after you inherit.”

He grinned, leaning forward. “A grim possibility. But, not likely.”

“Good. Then I shall positively enjoy winning money off you.”

“You, ah, do understand that we sailors play cards while at sea? Often daily? We are keen to win.”

“Do you understand the desperation of an unmarried woman?” Charlotte countered. “One who can do little else to earn money? I am much more determined to win. The delightful thing is that with you I needn’t prevaricate.”

“We shall go at it hammer-and-tongs,” he promised.

“With the gloves off, as Richard would say. Richard is my eldest brother.”

“And when you lose? When I demand payment?”

“If that happens tonight, I have several options. I could cry, although as you know I am not skilled at crying prettily. I could manage to look sad and rather crushed. This would be even better, I think, for then everyone present would think you nothing but a heel for demanding payment.” A grin escaped. “After all, it is Christmas.

“Do you know,” she went on, “two Christmases ago, we entertained the squire and his guests.” The words came tumbling out, but Charlotte did not care to check them. “One of them, a London gentleman, thought he would have my head for washing, er, as Johnny would say. I began carefully, showing maidenly trepidation, hesitating over my discards and looking doubtful. He was so very pleased, but by the end of the night he realized his mistake. I won four guineas off him.”

Captain Blunt was grinning. “You will not object if I ask you to prove these rash claims?” He rose to his feet and brought forward a small table. “I happen to know where Allen keeps his playing cards.”

Moments later he returned with a new pack. He removed the paper and passed the cards to Charlotte. “Would you like to do the honors?”

“With pleasure.” On her mettle, Charlotte shuffled with a flourish and passed the deck for him to cut.

There was a new glint of respect in his eyes. How delicious! Now he would see.

“The trouble is,” she confided, “that within our small circle, I must restrain myself. If I were to be paralyzingly ruthless, no one would play cards with me again, and I would have no source of income.” She took up her cards and sorted her hand. “By the way, what are we play—”

She was interrupted by the opening of the parlor door. In came Mrs. Allen’s maid. “Begging your pardon, Miss Lucas, but you are wanted above-stairs.”

“Botheration,” muttered Charlotte. “Thank you, Fleur. Tell Mrs. Allen I’ll be up directly.” She rose to her feet and turned to Jack Blunt with a look of apology.

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About So This Is Love

“I am not romantic, you know. I never was.”

Newly escaped from a loathsome engagement of convenience, Charlotte Lucas has no interest in romance. More than ever, she is convinced that no man would—or could—love her. As companion to an aging aunt, Charlotte’s new life is as predictable as it is circumspect.

But then she is rescued from a robbery by her uncle’s heir, a masterful man who is disastrously handsome. Why has he remained as a guest in the house? Why is he so determined to draw Charlotte out and make her talk? And what of his invitation to visit his home by the sea?

Romance is not on the chart for Captain Jack Blunt. Never again will he be played for that kind of fool! He is ashore only to heal from an injury and see to business, nothing more. And yet the pointed disinterest of his cousin’s pert niece is intriguing. She is forthright, refreshingly honest—and altogether lovely.  She will make a fine wife for one of his officers. But not, of course, for him.

So This Is Love is available as an eBook and paperback, and is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Author

Laura Hile

Encourager. Believer. Author. Teacher. Friend.

By day, Laura Hile teaches at a Christian school. By night—or rather, in the early morning when she can think! —she writes Jane Austen and Regency romance with laughs and happy endings.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with middle school students!

She enjoys gardening (she is a weed warrior!), choral singing, and having coffee with friends.

Laura lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with her husband and a collection of antique clocks. One day she hopes to add a cat or three.

Other books by Laura Hile: Darcy By Any Other Name and the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy. She is a regular contributor to the A Very Austen anthology series.

Connect with Laura: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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Giveaway

Laura is generously offering an ebook copy of So This Is Love to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway is open through Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation serial. I’m especially excited about Aubrey’s project because I like the idea of a series of shorter works, especially now when there’s so much going on in the world and summer is here and it can be difficult to stay focused on a longer book. Aubrey is here to share a little about the serial, as well as an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I want to thank you Anna for allowing me onto your blog once again to share an excerpt for a Pride and Prejudice Variation Serial—that’s right, a serial! There will be 12, novella length episodes to this project. The first episode of Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor will be debuting July 3rd, available on Kindle Unlimited only. 

Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor follows the Bennets during a rather tumultuous time—before the Bennets can even contemplate mourning the death of Mrs. Bennet, following the birth of Lydia, a distant relative contacts them to inform Mr. Bennet that he has inherited a title. Faced with not only being able to provide his daughters with a tempting dowry, but a new title and estates to go with it, Thomas Bennet decides he must remarry as soon as possible. 

And the bride he settles on? None other than Caroline Bingley, a young debutante entering her second season.

This serial will not only explore the new relationships and family members that the Bennets make because of their inheritance, but also the ramifications of meeting certain characters before that fateful evening at the Meryton Assembly Ball that we all know and love. The main couple will, of course, be Elizabeth and Darcy, but there is room for others.

I am pretty excited about this plot, as I have constantly thought about and gone over it in my head for a year now. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

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This excerpt takes place from the pov of a young Elizabeth Bennet, just as her father has announced he is engaged to Caroline Bingley. This excerpt may not make it into the final product, but it is a fun tease to hint at future woes for the Bennets and Bingleys.

Elizabeth tugged at the stiff satin of the ribbon at the back of her head. Her new nursemaid had tied it far too tight, and she longed for the carefree days she spent at Longbourn a few weeks previously.

“Stand up straight, dear,” Miss Bingley’s criticism came from behind her, only seconds before she felt her soon-to-be stepmother directly at her back. Miss Bingley laid an unwelcoming hand at the center of her back, guiding her with a little push. Besides Elizabeth, Jane had not even noticed the interaction, so intent and eager she was to meet the rest of Miss Bingley’s relations. 

At Miss Bingley’s gentle pressure, Elizabeth acceded and obeyed the will of her almost-stepmother. Her beloved papa would not interfere, she knew. He was besotted with Miss Bingley, or so she and Jane had overheard the ladies maids at Althorpe claim.

After a few hours of boredom—as she had met every Bingley relative on the face of the earth, all of whom insisted on patting her cheeks or her tightly bound hair—Elizabeth was able to make her escape.

“Lizzie?” her Uncle Gardiner’s concerned tone stopped her. “Where are you going?” Her uncle had been across the room, speaking to her papa, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Bingley, but apparently, he had caught sight of her attempted escape before her own father.

Elizabeth forced a smile. “Mary asked me to get her a book, uncle,” she lied smoothly, gesturing to the window seat that Mary had all but disappeared into. Searching her face for the slightest hint of deception, but finding none, her uncle waved her off, and Elizabeth continued her journey to find some peace away from the fawning relatives of her stepmother. 

Happily hidden away in the library, Elizabeth ducked between the shelves into the small alcove, hoping she’d ripped or dirtied the wretched gown that Miss Bingley had presented her with only hours ago so that they might all match.

As a newly formed family should, she’d said.

It was a relatively short time later that Elizabeth felt that she should perhaps choose a book and leave before anyone came looking for her, or before she had to endure another scolding when the door flew open. To her surprise, her almost-stepmother and a man she didn’t know entered the room hastily, making sure to close the door behind them. 

Miss Bingley seemed furious, but also rather anxious, and Elizabeth could not tell the expression on the man’s face, as his back was to her. She tried to be quiet and withdraw further into the alcove when the man suddenly pulled Miss Bingley to him, kissing her quite soundly for a few long moments, before Miss Bingley pushed him away.

“I am engaged, John, if you do recall,” she stated in her horrid drawling, sarcastic tone, “to a man worth far more than you. What you believe we had, is over,” she said dismissively, but firmly.

“Oh aye,” the man was unconcerned, and his attitude seemed light, even playful. “For now,” he agreed. “After you give the old man a son or two, I’ll be waiting for you, Caro.”

Elizabeth clapped her hand over her mouth to stop her gasp and was relieved when they made no movements towards her. If she could inform her papa of this betrayal before Miss Bingley found out that Elizabeth had seen her rendezvous, Elizabeth was quite sure Miss Bingley would be unable to talk her way out of it.

“Leave before anyone sees you,” Miss Bingley hissed, seemingly angrier than before, her composure gone. With a laugh and a mocking bow, the man did as his lover commanded, and left. 

Heaving a great sigh, twisting the amethyst and jade ring that Elizabeth’s papa had given her, Miss Bingley appeared to be contemplating something—a tryst with her lover, perhaps—before also leaving to rejoin the party. 

Waiting ten more minutes to be sure that neither of the two returned, Elizabeth slipped out of the room, a small bubble of happiness welling within her. There would undoubtedly be several changes made in the future, of that she was sure.

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Doesn’t that make you want to read more?!? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Thank you for sharing with us today, Aubrey, and congratulations on your upcoming release.

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Hello, dear readers! Today’s is my stop on the Meryton Press blog tour for Don Jacobson’s new novel, In Plain Sight, a very unique reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. Don has written an exclusive character interview/conversation for my readers that I am thrilled to share with you all. We hope you enjoy it!

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May 1826

The housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson, led me, through the halls of the great pink sandstone mansion to a well-appointed office in the back of the house adjacent to the gunroom. I knew ‘twas the armory because I had spent the last years of the battle against the Tyrant as a captain on General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam’s staff. The smell of oil and powder is unmistakable. I had had the good fortune to fall in with Wellington’s Right Arm when he returned to the colors as a lieutenant-colonel with the South Essex in the year twelve. As he moved through the ranks, he floated my career to the heavens until that glorious June day when a bounding ball took my leg much as one had done unto Uxbridge. Denied my career, I now earn my bread scribbling stories for The Times about the great and the good—and sometimes those whose lives would be accounted as ordinary except for some extraordinary circumstances.

One of the most unusual men I have had the good fortune to meet was as a result of my acquaintance with the General. The old knight, grown comfortable and slightly deaf, had introduced us when the other had visited Fitzwilliam’s seat in Hertfordshire. The events about which I approached Mr. Wilson are nearly two decades old. Even in an alienated future where many of the principals have passed away, I am constrained by propriety and the desire to spare him and his family untoward attention by resurrecting old scandals. Thus, I will refrain from identifying the gentleman, for such I will concede he is, by anything other than ‘Smith.’

Mrs. Wilson, contrary to my expectations, did not simply announce me and depart. Rather, she led me through the door and performed the offices so common amongst Britons.

“Henry, dearest, this is Mr. Watson. Mr. Watson, allow me to introduce my husband, Mr. Henry Wilson.”

Wilson hauled himself upright from behind his sturdy worktable, its surface laden with ledgers, plats of survey, and bundled documents. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man of about forty years whose near-white blond mane was tied back in an old-style naval club. I smiled to myself thinking that some modern town styles will take more than a quarter-century to penetrate this far into the north country.

The man nodded a greeting but stepped to his diminutive wife, a wiry lady, austere in her bearing, but evidencing the confidence of one who aptly manages dozens of staff ensuring the house runs smoothly. He tenderly reached down and raised her hand to his lips, brushing her knuckles with his lips. Advising her that he expected us to be occupied for only a short time, Wilson added that we would join her and the family for tea. Mrs. Wilson blushed prettily and riposted that the master and mistress would be most pleased.

After Mrs. Wilson had shut the door behind her, Wilson motioned me to a pair of wingback chairs facing the cold fireplace.

At my question about how he, a steward, and his wife, a housekeeper, could expect to join their employers for tea, Wilson smiled. “You unwittingly, sir, have cut to the essentials of Mr. Smith’s character—and for that matter, that of his lady wife.

“I have known Smith since the year nine. Back then, I was nothing but a stripling boy, son of a successful tradesman, who had fallen in with some landowners’ sons. I was too callow to see that they only tolerated me for my willingness to spot them food and drink, so eager I was to earn their approbation.

“My tale is not the one for which you appear before me. However, you need to know that I was not the hale man”—he clenched his fists which caused his coat to stretch tightly across his upper arms— “you see today. If I was not careful when I turned, I could slip between poorly caulked floorboards.” His laughter rumbled throughout the room.

“As I said, I had become involved with a fast crowd. One thing led to another and trouble followed. Suffice to say that they carried on with their lives whilst I was sentenced to a fiver as a guest of His Majesty.

“That was when I met Smith. Within a day of the judge passing my sentence, my wrist was shackled to his. Will Smith had already been breaking his back for three years. By this time, we were coming down through the Midlands improving the roads. We would not end up on the canal project for another year.”

Wilson spent the next several minutes explaining the type of work he and his fellow convicts had been tasked with. He was circling around his relationship with Smith as if he was coming to grips with his discomfort. However, there was a glimmer in his eye whenever he mentioned the older man.

“I tell you this, Watson”—for I had given him leave to name me with familiarity—“if not for Will Smith through those two years, I would have been broken, turned into a molly boy, or simply have died—either from exhaustion or by my hand.

“I could sense a difference in him. Yes, he was a convict. He never once claimed that he was innocent. He admitted that he had been justly tried and convicted. But, his term of servitude defined his existence, not his character. There was, though, a nobility about Smith that made him a leader of our coffle. That also meant that if he called you friend, you could count on his unswerving loyalty.”

Wilson leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “If you did not play him false, if you demonstrated yourself to be worthy of his regard, Will Smith would die for you.

“I am not jesting for he nearly sacrificed his life for mine by stepping in to prevent an unconscionable abuse.

“’Twas only later that I learned that he was a gentleman of great wealth but had fallen like the Prodigal Son. He told me later that between myself and Mrs. Smith, we showed him the foolishness of presuming value based upon status.

“Without Smith, I would have died that day in the barnyard. But, Watson, the Universe is a fickle thing. The moment that he stopped my flogging and was stuck down himself in the next, I was set on my way to my redemption. Mrs. Smith’s father bought my contract. I eventually found myself in the company of the young maid who was to become my wife. And, although ‘twas a near-run thing, all of us managed to escape from the trap in which we had found ourselves.

“Then me, Mrs. Wilson, and the Smith’s, although they were not yet wed, hid in the place where nobody would have thought to look for us: as part of the invisible, nameless army that opens doors, shovels manure, and fetches salts for fading ladies. That was where he was schooled in his final lessons how a gentleman must become a farmhand to learn true gentility which grows from being humbled, but not scorned.

“You ask why Mrs. Wilson and I are unsurprised that the master and mistress would sit with us for tea? As with Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the truest. We are their friends, and friendship is, in Smith’s book, the most important connection of all.”

The mantel clock chimed the hour. Wilson’s face settled into impassivity. At his nod, I uncoiled my legs and rose. Together we slowly made our way from his office and back to the front of the house where the happy sounds of conversation were rising.

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About In Plain Sight

“At the end of the day when we are each of us lyin’ flat on our backs, lookin’ at the ceiling, and the vicar is whisperin’ in our ear, the greatest comfort we shall ’ave is to know that we loved well and were well loved in return.”

When Fitzwilliam Darcy’s father slides into an early grave, his son is forced to take on Pemberley’s mantle. Brandy numbs his pain, but Darcy’s worst inclinations run wild. After tragedy rips everything away, he spends years finding his way back: a man redeemed by a woman’s loving understanding.

Elizabeth Bennet is afflicted with a common Regency ailment: observing the world about her but not seeing those beneath her notice. Then a clarifying act shatters the propriety that has denied her heart the transcendent love she craves.

In Plain Sight explores Jane Austen’s eternal love story by flipping social roles on their heads. From their first encounter, Elizabeth Bennet and the convict known as “Smith” must overcome their prejudices and break through their pride. Only then can they share the treasure hidden in plain sight.

Don Jacobson has created a moving tale that reimagines one of the most beloved romances ever! He carries the themes of pride, prejudice, and forgiveness through the text beautifully. An original tale laced with historical details. You’ll love it!

Elaine Owen, author of Duty Demands

Buy on Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

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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 began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)

The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament (2018)

The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion (2019)

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South, released in 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman” (2016). Lessers and Betters (2018) offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

 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 the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

Connect with Don: Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page | Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog) | Author Website | Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of In Plain Sight as part of the blog tourTo enter, you must enter through this Rafflecopter link. The giveaway ends at 12 a.m. on June 29, 2020. Good luck!

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

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be hosting Joana Starnes on her blog tour today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Timely Elopement. Joana is here to share a little about the book as well as an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Thank you, Anna, for welcoming me here today to share an excerpt from my latest book, A Timely Elopement.

This variation spins off from P&P in Charlotte’s parlour at Hunsford, where Mr Darcy is about to deliver his insulting first proposal. And he has absolutely no idea just how lucky he is that Colonel Fitzwilliam storms in to let him know that their cousin Anne had eloped – with Wickham! Thus, there is no time for a confrontation between our favourite characters, and Mr Darcy is not shot down in flames for a change.

I loved following this premise, but writing about an unreformed Darcy was a bit of a challenge. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun to imagine him saying the wrong things and misreading Elizabeth’s reactions. The problem was that I often forgot just how annoying he was meant to be in the early stages, soon after his interrupted proposal.

He was not supposed to be selfless and considerate, not for a fair while yet! Even so, the Mr Darcy we all love kept trying to make his way into the story (the Mr Darcy who had become aware of his errors, deeply regretted them and was keen to make amends). Shushing him and keeping him in the wings really went against the grain, and I couldn’t wait to give him enough reasons to break through.

As always, it was wonderful to rely on Colonel Fitzwilliam for help: our favourite matchmaker and the voice of reason who teases and cajoles his cousin onto the right path.

The excerpt I’d like to share with you today takes us to one of those moments when the dear colonel loves to have his say. And he’s not in the least put off by the fact that he needs to start with an apology (or several) for spilling the beans about Mr Bingley:

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A TIMELY ELOPEMENT

(Excerpt from Chapter 6)

“Terribly sorry, Darcy,” he said with deep contrition. “Landed you right in it, eh?”

“Just so,” came the grim confirmation.

“But… what of the strong objections you spoke of?” Fitzwilliam asked, his air puzzled and concerned.

Darcy dismissed the question with a flick of his hand.

“They have little bearing in my case. Pemberley is a long way from Hertfordshire. Besides, Elizabeth is not—”

He broke off and frowned. His main argument against Bingley’s marriage was that his friend would have been accepted as a means to an end. It was plain to see that Miss Bennet’s heart was not touched. He was about to say that Elizabeth was nothing like her cool, insipid and calculating sister, nor was she indifferent to him as Miss Bennet was to Bingley. But, knowing what he now knew, could he still vouch for her affection? She said she would have refused him. If she cared for him, why would she?

“Is not what?” Fitzwilliam prompted, distracting him from the troubling question.

“No matter,” he said tersely, his jaw taut.

Still remorseful, Fitzwilliam resumed with some determination:

“Let me apologise again for speaking out of turn. I hope I did not make things too difficult for you.”

“You did,” Darcy resentfully disabused his cousin of the comforting notion.

“Oh dear. Awfully sorry, old chap,” the colonel muttered, clasping his shoulder. “Still, you did clear the air, did you not? The pair of you and Georgiana seemed quite cosy at breakfast.”

“Yes, well, so much for cosiness,” Darcy grumbled, and at that Colonel Fitzwilliam rather lost his patience.

“One of these days you will drive me to distraction with your cards to your chest and all that cursed nonsense. ‘Tis me you are speaking to, Coz, not my father. So out with it – are you engaged or not?”

Darcy scowled. This was not the first time – nor would it be the last – that his cousin should be nettled by his innate reserve, and he by Fitzwilliam’s proverbial forthrightness. He was in no humour to oblige with a straight answer, but he knew of old that the confounded man would accept nothing less. So, after the briefest deliberation, Darcy could only say, “I am not.”

Fitzwilliam’s eyes widened. “She refused you?” he incredulously spluttered.

Darcy grimaced at the belated notion that he should have said he was not engaged as yet. This was hardly a good moment to share Elizabeth’s admission that she had considered a refusal. Not that he was inclined to disclose and dissect her comment at any other point, like some diffident youth – or an anxious damsel. So he merely shrugged, “We need more time to speak in peace. Which is precisely what I do not have,” he observed with another scowl.

“True,” the colonel acknowledged, the corner of his lips quirked in sympathy. “This business with Anne is not helping matters.”

“No. It is not, in more ways than one. Nor is Elizabeth’s insistence to remove to Gracechurch Street,” he irritably added.

His cousin gave a derisive bark of laughter. “What, you imagined you would court her under Lady Catherine’s nose? Or indeed Pater’s?”

Fitzwilliam’s sardonic air was profoundly irksome, but Darcy was compelled to own that the other might have had a point – and, frankly, he should have already considered that particular aspect. Nevertheless, he jeered, “So, am I to court her in Cheapside?

Fitzwilliam arched a brow. “I do believe our aunt spoke of the place in the very same tone. Perhaps you ought to bear that in mind, should you be tempted to employ it in Miss Bennet’s presence. She might draw the comparison as well – and find it less than flattering.”

Lips tightened, Darcy glowered at his cousin. This had been Fitzwilliam’s game for many years now: whenever he was inclined to purposely provoke him, he likened him to Lady Catherine. The tactic was successful every time.

“Thank you,” he acidly replied. “I shall take note.”

“Do,” the colonel said, his teasing manner suddenly abandoned. “And while you are at it, pray do yourself a favour and cease bristling at well-meaning advice.”

“Have you anything else to propose for my general improvement and future felicity?” Darcy scoffed, but his cousin was undaunted.

“I have, in point of fact. When you bring yourself to court her in Cheapside – as, by the bye, you know damned well you must – you might also wish to consider that you often come across as aloof and supercilious to those who do not know you better.”

Darcy shrugged and brushed the irrelevant remark aside. “That is a matter of opinion. Besides, Elizabeth knows me well enough.”

“I was speaking of her relations,” Fitzwilliam pointed out. “As to Miss Bennet, for your sake, I hope you are in the right. I can imagine why you could scarce say ten words to her at Rosings, let alone pay her any particular attention or talk about anything of consequence, but I venture to hope you did better while you were staying with Bingley at… whatever his pied-à-terre is called.”

“Netherfield,” Darcy supplied – a laconic answer, nothing more – as he grudgingly marvelled at Fitzwilliam’s knack for disconcerting him with views so very different from his own, yet valid all the same.

No, he most certainly had not paid her any particular attention in Hertfordshire, nor spoken to her of anything of consequence. In fact, he had made every effort not to. It would have been an unforgivable unkindness to give rise to expectations while he was not prepared to fulfil them.

He frowned. Fitzwilliam had no way of knowing that the passing comment uncannily complemented Elizabeth’s. She had told him that she had seen no sign of his regard and admiration, something which he had found very hard to credit. Yet it must be true.

Well, now she knew – and it still was not enough.

In the restless hours of the night, he had wondered with no little discontent precisely what it was that she wanted – and, for that matter, what more there was for him to give. A great many other ladies of his acquaintance, if not most, would have declared themselves gratified by the prospect of becoming Mrs Darcy.

He gave a quiet snort. Perhaps he would have lost less sleep last night if he had not dwelt quite so much on his resentment, but called to mind a couple of salient facts. Namely, that if he had wanted to offer for any of those other ladies, then he would have. It was Elizabeth he wanted – and however mystifying, frustrating or contrary she chose to be, one thing was certain: since she had not leapt at the opportunity when it was first offered, he would have no cause to wonder if she married him for his name and fortune when she finally agreed to be his wife.

In the meanwhile, Fitzwilliam seemed to draw his own conclusions, however erroneous, for he drawled, “I take it from your self-satisfied smirk that you did do better at Netherfield. Praise be. It will stand you in good stead later. Unless, of course, you choose to do your favourite impersonation of a haughty prig when you call on her in Cheapside.”

To save himself another lecture and more unsolicited advice, Darcy sought to prevent his smile from turning sour as he bent down to lock the compartment where he had found Mrs Younge’s previous address, then put the key away.

“I will go with you to see your informants,” he decided, and forbore to correct Fitzwilliam’s misapprehension as to the cause of his improved humour. “Come, let us get on with it.”

As for his cousin’s final jibe, he wisely chose to ignore it. He would get on with that as well. He would court Elizabeth in Cheapside, if needs must.

But, by Jove, it had better be a whirlwind courtship!

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

If you’d like to find out if it was a whirlwind courtship or not 😉, please leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of A Timely Elopement. There are two up for grabs. The giveaway is international, and it’s open until midnight on Tuesday 23rd June 2020. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

Good luck, thanks for reading, and thanks again, Anna, for hosting me today!

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Joana is the author of ten Austen-inspired novels and a contributor to the Quill Ink Anthologies. Her novels are all available on Amazon in Kindle Unlimited and in paperback, and some have also been released in Audible.

Joana’s page on Amazon

You can connect with Joana on: Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Website | Austen Variations

Or visit Joana’s Facebook page All Roads Lead to Pemberley for places and details that have inspired her novels.

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Thank you, Joana, for being my guest, and for bringing Colonel Fitzwilliam to my blog today. (I’m a sucker for a good Colonel Fitzwilliam scene!) Congratulations on your new release!

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I’m thrilled to welcome Ron Miner back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of his new book, The Last Word: A Novel of the War in the Pacific. Ron is here to talk about his inspiration for the novel and share an excerpt. Please give him a warm welcome!

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Hi, again, Anna.  Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a journalist with an assignment in the year 2038. It’s an interview with an old man––a very old man.  And he fought in World War II.

My initial opportunity for an interview with a World War II veteran came six years ago, in 2014.  It was the first of nearly a dozen videotaped interactions with men who were members of a night flying Navy squadron that also included my father.  Dad had left behind a trove of writing and memorabilia, photos, artwork, and documentation about his adventures as a part of this little known group of flyers, and I had posthumously published a book about him and their exploits.  The book, Sketches of a Black Cat, was only the beginning of a journey that would include national museums, presentations, airshows, flights aboard World War II aircraft, experiences I never would have dreamed of when the project began.

As the interviews continued up and down the West Coast, I developed friendships and accumulated priceless narratives.  They told me stories with humor, sincerity, and tears––stories that begged for an audience.  By 2018, I knew it was time for a new book.

There was another influence.  A big one. This wonderful group of ninety-somethings that had so graciously invited me into their homes were passing away.  I was attending funerals and losing friends. I found myself wondering how long it would be before they were all gone. Some day, in the not so distant future, the process will play out until the last veteran in all of World War II surrenders to time.

It suddenly occurred to me that I should create that individual now.

I again put pencil to paper (OK, fingers to keyboard), and started developing a novel, my first attempt at historical fiction.  I was a reasonably experienced interviewer by then, had a wonderful assortment of compelling tales to draw from, and a pretty good notion of what my last World War II veteran might like to say on behalf of his colleagues, given the chance.  His personality became a composite of all the gentlemen that I’d interviewed, his mind filled with memories of skies above vast, unexplored regions, oceans between tiny specks of Pacific coral, and the nostalgia borne from well over a hundred years of living.  While my fictitious character recounts his story in 2038, it became a way of emphasizing how fragile––how finite––the World War II generation and their in-person accounts are today.

The Last Word seeks to include readers of novels and fiction, to share with them the legacies, drama, characters, and humor that made World War II a unique and unprecedented chapter in our nation’s history.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter One.  Dan, a journalist, and his self driving car piloted by his A.I. sidekick, Samantha, have stopped for coffee in rural, northern Minnesota:

Coffee in hand, Dan walked back toward the car.  He found the commercial paint job embarrassing, an off-white background veneering the sleek automobile’s body, with images of vintage newspaper clippings and pages covering every square inch of it, like decoupage. Local advertisers paid for the strategically placed, oversized electronic display ads that added color to the fictional edition. Each month, the ads rotated, and some of them could be real stinkers. Like the erection products.

At least they supplied him with a car for the trip, and there was no gas to buy.

Even with Samantha driving, Dan was ready to call it a night. He’d left work a little early to pack, but it had been a stretch getting everything together on such short notice. “Hey Sam, is there a decent hotel out here anywhere?”

“There are several choices within twenty minutes of driving, Dan. A Best Western Hotel, a Quality Inn, and a Radisson Hotel are showing occupancy. Would you like to travel to one of those?”

“Which one has a bar?”

“I think you better choose the Radisson, Dan. Serving until 1:30 a.m.”

That decided, Dan settled back and looked at his messages. Jenna was still concerned about the kitten. The little guy hadn’t been feeling well, running a high temperature, and the vet was at a loss. He wasn’t even a year old yet and seemed to be getting worse by the day. She had gently protested when Dan announced the paper’s sudden assignment, one involving a trip halfway across Minnesota that would keep him overnight. Jenna was a person who was heavily invested in her family, and that included animals that found their doorstep or had digital portraits featured in Saturday’s homeless pets section. He could feel the anxiety when she asked him why he needed to take this trip up there right now, while things seemed to be hanging in the balance.

But he had no choice really. This was not the kind of story that could wait, he’d explained. What could he do? He still wasn’t even sure why he’d been singled out for this, or for that matter, why his paper was contacted instead of the Star-Tribune or one of the other big Minneapolis dailies. Pulitzers had been handed out to some of the hotshots up there. The Winona Bulletin? Little league trophies. Yet here he was, three hundred miles north and at the approximate segue, the point from which some suggest the state is covered by nearly as much water as soil. The land of ten thousand lakes.

The Radisson did have a bar, and after Dan had secured a first floor room and dropped off his belongings, he headed straight for it. At this hour he hadn’t expected to see much going on, but the place was surprisingly peppy. He pulled a stool away from the handsome bar rail and sat down.

“What can I get you?” asked a rugged, silver-haired bartender dressed all in black.

“Bourbon and seven, if you would.”

“Coming right up. My name is Ted. All we have is a snack menu after 10, but we can still rustle up a sandwich. Like anything?”

“Sounds great.”

Ted expertly slid Dan’s drink and a short menu toward him. “Business in the area?” he inquired, wiping down glasses as Dan surveyed the choices.

“Actually, yeah. I’m up here on a story. More of an interview, I guess. There’s an old gentleman that lives west of here that, if you can believe it, fought in World War II.”

The bartender broke into a wide smile. “Hell, you mean old Owen Trimbel? I haven’t seen him in years. Navy guy. Glad to hear he’s still chugging along. Damn, he’s got to be, let’s see…”

“A hundred and twelve.”

“Geez, is that right?” Ted let out an impressive whistle. “You know, he used to come into Bunyan’s Bar and Grill every so often when I worked up there, sip a Schmidt Beer for an hour and talk with his buddies.” He continued with a chuckle, “But he outlived ‘em all, even the ones way younger than he was. After that, I’d hear something about him now and then, a Veterans Day article in the local rag here a time or two, but it’s been quite a while. How’s he doing?”

“I’ve never met him. In fact, never even spoke to him.” Dan took another sip of his drink. “I’m heading over there tomorrow. He and his daughter must share a place. Hell, even she’s nearly twenty years older than I am.”

“Well, I’ll be. You’re going to interview Owen Trimbel. I hope he’s holding up okay. A hundred and twelve! Damn!” A waitress flagged Ted down with a drink order and he quickly grabbed four glasses and headed toward the mixers.

Dan tossed back the last of his bourbon and slid a ten across the bar. Vending machine would do for tonight. He needed to turn in. As he stood, he found himself softly repeating Ted’s final refrain. “I hope he’s doing okay, too,” he whispered under his breath. “Hundred-and-twelve-year-old Owen Trimbel. The last surviving World War II veteran in the world.”

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About The Last Word

A small town journalist is tasked with the most important assignment of his life––a conversation with the last surviving World War II veteran. And the man is willing to talk.

Gleaned from real life filmed interviews with ten squadron members, this novel is a poignant tale of a life well lived, and an evocative legacy of rescue missions and night flight from New Guinea to the Mariana Islands of World War II’s South Pacific.

Dan Callahan’s next three days take him on a pilgrimage of over one hundred years in the life of Owen Trimbel, a Great Depression-era Minnesota farm boy. Owen’s story begins with an unforgettable visit to an uncle’s home near Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Over the next hours and days, he enchants Dan with his collective wisdom, humor, and philosophy––from the intricacies of attaching a plow to a mule to firing the .50 caliber machine guns from his PBY Catalina’s waist hatches.

Dan soon realizes that he currently occupies a rare instant in the trajectory of history: he can actually speak with an individual who lived the World War II experience––and it is something that will end with Owen.

The Last Word takes us on missions over an endless sea, lacing together stories of duty, friendship, responsibility, and ninety-year-old secrets.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Ron Miner

In the late 60’s, I attended the University of Rhode Island, playing soccer, baseball, and graduating with a B.A. in English and minor in landscape design. In 1979, I began a career as a landscape designer and contractor. The opportunity to pen my father’s memoirs, developing the story from a library of unknown resources, rekindled my passion for writing. I am currently submitting articles about the Black Cats and their saga to magazines around the country.

My wife, Heidi, and I live with our dogs in the Oregon countryside near Salem. Heidi is a retired school teacher and we are both active hikers, gardeners, and photographers.

Connect with Ron Miner: website | Facebook | Goodreads

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Giveaway

Ron is generously offering a mobi, PDF, or epub version to three lucky readers, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 5, 2020. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Ron, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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I’m thrilled to have Victoria Kincaid back again to celebrate her latest Pride and Prejudice variation. I’ve loved all of Victoria’s novels, but Rebellion at Longbourn is a particular favorite. I loved Victoria’s take on Elizabeth, and she never ceases to make me laugh at Collins and Lady Catherine. Victoria is here to talk about her inspiration for the book and share an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hi, Anna, and thank you for having me back to visit!

Sometimes plots for my books are the result of ideas that have germinated and sprouted over a period of months or even years. And sometimes an idea hits me in the face, demanding to be written now, now, now! The impetus for Rebellion at Longbourn was in the latter category. I’ve spent a lot of time musing about the position of women during the Regency time period and thinking about how often in Western history women were able to carve out places for themselves despite the conventions of a patriarchal society.

For example, Artemisia Gentilleschi is often heralded as the only female painter of the Baroque period, when, in fact, there were a number of women painting at the time. Women often find a way to work around strictures of tradition, but their stories have frequently been lost to history.

So that led me to wonder what kind of resistance Elizabeth Bennet might show to the patriarchy. Obviously in P&P she already resists many conventions of ladylike behavior, and she calls out Darcy on his toxic masculinity. But she never has a reason for any overt acts of rebellion. I wondered what kind of situation would put her in a position where she needed to affirmatively buck tradition? She’s not a rabble rouser for the sake of stirring things up. She would need a good reason to push for change.

She wouldn’t do it for herself—only on behalf of other people. So what situation would make Elizabeth desperate for change on other people’s behalf? Of course, I thought about Longbourn being run by Mr. Collins. I’d frequently considered writing a Mr. Collins-owning-Longbourn book, but the prospect seemed so bleak. Who would want to read such a depressing story? Heck, I didn’t want to write it! But the idea of a book about Elizabeth organizing a covert resistance against Collins? That’s not bleak at all! In such a situation, Elizabeth, Mary, Charlotte, and other women at Longbourn could begin to carve out a space for themselves despite patriarchal conventions.

When all these pieces of the plot fell into place, the story demanded to be written—right now! So, I put the plans for another book on hold and started Rebellion at Longbourn.

Here is an excerpt from Rebellion at Longbourn where Elizabeth is speaking with Mrs. Greeves, the wife of one of Longbourn’s tenants.

“Why are you asking me these questions, miss?”

“I am hoping to find a way to help the tenants,” Elizabeth said, choosing her words carefully.

“Well, bless you, but you’ve already done so much. I can’t imagine there’s much more you can do.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I believe there might be. My sister Mary and I spoke with Mr. Collins about using more modern agricultural methods such as the Norfolk four-field system and a seed drill.”

Mrs. Greeves eyes widened. “Bert heard about such things from a cousin down that way. He’d sure like to try it.”

“Unfortunately, Mr. Collins would not allow himself to be persuaded.”

The other woman’s face fell.

“However, I was thinking that perhaps the tenants of Longbourn might give it a try anyway.”

Mrs. Greeves stopped walking, and her mouth dropped open. “You mean do the Norfolk planting and the seed drill without telling Mr. Collins?” Elizabeth nodded. “No, it’s impossible!”

“I think they can manage it if we help them.”

Mrs. Greeves’s brows scrunched together. “We?”

“You and I and the other women at Longbourn—including my sisters.”

Mrs. Greeves frowned. “What might we do? We’re just women.”

Elizabeth snorted, an inelegant noise that prompted a smile from the other woman. “How many children do you have, Mrs. Greeves? Six?” The other woman nodded. “You gave birth to six children. You are keeping them alive and raising them to be good people.”

“I do my best.”

“Is that not far more difficult than anything Mr. Collins does any day? Could you imagine him doing your job even for one day?”

Mrs. Greeves laughed and then clapped a hand over her mouth as if her amusement were inappropriate. “True. Even Bert would be hard put to do my job for a day.”

“I assure you that nothing I ask of you will be as difficult as raising six children.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“My sister Mary has done all the reading and understands how to implement the four-crop system. I have a little money saved that I can use to buy a seed drill.   Mary can teach the tenants how the system works.”

Mrs. Greeves’s eyes were wide with amazement. “I don’t know if this is the most brilliant plan I have ever heard or the most foolish one.”

Elizabeth smiled. “I have the same problem, but I think it is worth trying.”

“What do you need our help for, then?” she asked, pointing to herself.

“Mary and I cannot make a regular habit of calling upon the tenants. My cousin will become suspicious very soon.” Not to mention alarmed. Gentlemen’s daughters should not be seen consorting with farmers.

Mrs. Greeves nodded slowly. “But nobody will blink if you’re talking to us…”

“Precisely! If we call upon the tenants’ wives, that is nothing so remarkable. You may pass along Mary’s information and whatever equipment we need to share. We must attend a few meetings with the men, but we shall do them at night in an out-of-the-way location.”

The other woman tugged on her bonnet ribbon. “Aye, that might work. But it’s his land, isn’t it? Mr. Collins?”

“Technically it is,” Elizabeth agreed. “But your family and the other tenants’ families are the ones who farm it. Mr. Collins has no notion about farming. Why should he tell the farmers what to do? Would it not be more sensible to have the tenants decide what to plant and when to plant it? They buy their own seed and fertilizer. Mr. Collins will never know.”

Mrs. Greeves laughed. “He might notice when turnips grow instead of wheat.”

“He pays little attention to the fields. They can plant the new crops at a distance from the lanes where he might walk.”

Mrs. Greeves started walking again, mulling over Elizabeth’s words. “But the tenants will be earning extra money off Mr. Collins’s land. Isn’t that against the law?”

This was the part of the scheme Elizabeth had fretted over the most. “I do not believe it would be…if we use the extra money to repair the tenants’ cottages, just as Mr. Collins should be doing. The cottages are his property, so the money will be an investment in his estate.”

Mrs. Greeves’s mouth formed a perfect “o.” “You have thought of everything.”

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About Rebellion at Longbourn

Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.

Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?

Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied. Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception. Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an ebook copy of Rebellion at Longbourn to one lucky winner, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 7, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Victoria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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Hello, my friends! I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson and Marion Kay Hill back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of their latest collection of Pride and Prejudice short story variations, The Pocket Book Series: Volume 2: Gaslighting & Gallantry. Aubrey and Marion are here today to talk about the collection and share an excerpt. They have a question for you dear readers, and they come bearing gifts for some lucky readers! Please give them a warm welcome:

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Thank you, Anna, for once again inviting us to share an excerpt, this time from our second volume of The Pocket Book Series, which is up for pre-order on Amazon. We greatly appreciated all the wonderful reader comments on the last passage we shared, so we are excited to do it once again.

Our intent with this series is always to inform the reader in our synopsis what level of heat they could expect within our six short stories. However, we have hit a roadblock with Volume 2: Gaslighting and Gallantry and were hoping to enlist your help in determining the rating we should award this volume, based on the excerpt we have included below.

Another Miscalculation, the bonus material included in this volume, is, in fact, a continuation of one of the shorts from our first volume, Rumors & Revelations, which is currently available on Amazon. You do not need to purchase the first book to follow this second, though they complement each other, but this excerpt contains the scene we are questioning.

You may also be curious about our title, one which we had planned from the advent of this series, and have included detailed information as to what Gaslighting means in our synopsis on Amazon.  Here is a snippet of that synopsis:

Subtle or overt gaslighting, or attempt at overwriting another’s known reality, was exhibited more than once as important plot points by Jane Austen in “Pride & Prejudice.” It is not shocking that Caroline Bingley was one of the master manipulators, but it would surprise some to know Mr Darcy had a hand in it as well. While one was arguably intentionally done and the other not, the plot to separate Jane and Mr Bingley happened through many conniving moves affecting the couple and what they thought they knew was developing between them. Luckily for them, Elizabeth Bennet did not fall for the subterfuge.

Though gaslighting was not a term known during the regency era, Austen not only displayed it brilliantly, she demonstrated that the gallant party could come also in the form of a former gaslighting offender, not just a beloved sister. This is seen in the event that occurred between Lt. Wickham and Lydia Bennet. Speculations as to his true motivations rarely say that the master seducer had intentional designs of marrying Lydia without any proper inducement. What may or may not have happened had Mr Darcy not pursued them is for another time, but in his act, he showed he had learned from his previous behaviours.

So, read the excerpt and let us know – if this is the friskiest Darcy and Elizabeth get, would you still consider this a “sweet” romance collection? Or would you like to be forewarned with a “mature content” warning? Is there an in-between?

Please note, this is an ARC excerpt of Another Miscalculation and may alter slightly in its final version in production. If you would like to receive the entire bonus story, Another Miscalculation, in advance to publication, please comment on that request as well and you will be contacted!

Please comment with your vote for “sweet” or “mature” or any other heat signifier by May 28, 2020, to win one of 5 free digital copies of the entire Volume 2! Enjoy! 

Aubrey Anderson & Marion Kay Hill

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The Pocket Book Series, Vol. 2: Gaslighting & Gallantry

Another Miscalculation

Chapter 1

THE UNWITTING DISCOVERY

Darcy felt helpless as he swung at the flying insect that would not leave him alone. So preoccupied with the task of successfully making contact with the annoying beast, he almost stood up, something he suspected he should not do. This assumption was solely based on the heat source applied to his upper thigh. A hand was placed there and was applying a gentle, but firm pressure.

Taking a few deep breaths, Darcy knew acting on his thoughts would not be appropriate in their current situation, especially considering how close their proximity was to the gates of the Hunsford parsonage. Directing his attention away from the hand on his leg and the additional warmth emanating from the figure at his side, Darcy looked through the bushes to see what his partner was diligently watching and could see nothing but trees, grass, and gravel.

“Elizabeth, I agreed to take your lead, but when we made that agreement, I was unaware that meant hiding in the dirt.”

On their way back from agreeing to an understanding-that their futures were entwined-Darcy and Elizabeth did minimal speaking. The distance took them twice as long to walk, because they made frequent, unplanned stops. During those embraces, Elizabeth could have asked Darcy for anything, and he would have granted it. He vaguely had a notion that she explained why they were to keep their presence unknown until a precise moment occurred, but the reason was not coming to mind at the moment.

To say Darcy was blissfully ignorant was an understatement, but in truth, nothing mattered to him as long as he was at Elizabeth’s side. And he would be, now and forever.

They had some ironing out to do in regards to the objections to their match one of her relations had raised and, of course, those from Lady Catherine, but seeing that Elizabeth no longer held any complaints the others were of no consequence. Had it not been a comment by Elizabeth during dinner at Rosings the other night, Darcy could not guess whether they would have the understanding they did now.

Darcy mentally chuckled to himself how close he came to not ever having her for his own, keenly aware that his current elation was due to the relief from the despair he felt last night and earlier this morning. There was even a point he thought he might have to forgo Elizabeth and see her married to another while marrying his cousin Anne. What a dastardly thought that all was now.

Elizabeth’s hand moved from his thigh, and he felt a cold void where the warmth once was. Her only response to his inquiry was to place a finger over his lips, in a gesture he was sure was meant to quiet him, but he could not help but accept it as an invitation to kiss her hand.

After allowing several gentle presses and rewarding him with a soft giggle, Elizabeth returned her hand to his thigh. In most sitting positions, he would have gladly allowed this indulgent touch to continue, but his legs were not used to a squatting position and had begun to cramp.

Trying as he might to withstand moving, which most likely would end their close contact, Darcy finally gave in and pushed himself into a sitting position. As the move was unrehearsed, he somehow pinned Elizabeth’s hand between his thigh and lower abdomen and pulled her with him. Though the action lasted only a moment, and she was able to free her hand quickly, the initial force from the tug was enough to pull her body forward with him.

Landing atop him as though it was by design, they both gave out silent chuckles. Holding the position for a moment, Elizabeth, whose head was closer to Darcy’s stomach than face, looked up at him with a contented smile, one he could not help but return. Darcy was sure she could tell his breathing was beginning to quicken, but he did not care. The fact that she was looking at him in such a fashion was making his heart swell, and his thoughts rush to the possibilities of the future.

Of course, two days ago, before that fateful dinner, had he been told that they would be laying in such a position, his first thought would have assumed it was a natural progression of their betrothal. The second would have been that it was nowhere near proper for the future mistress of his estate to encourage such behaviour from him. Darcy, at that earlier point, assumed she felt the same as him and that she was eager to become his obedient wife.

That thought had him almost guffawing at his arrogance. Indeed, Elizabeth even rightly interpreted his expectations of her when they argued over the possibility of their marrying. When they first met this morning, her behaviour was so jarring, and unlike her, he wondered if he had even perceived her truly before. How could he have ever thought he wanted anything but the real Elizabeth as his wife.

Deferential and docile were not attributes of Elizabeth Bennet, nor would they be of any woman that would attract him. Yet, his father had a different notion as to what a man should expect in a wife, and it had been ingrained into Darcy since birth. He had been able to mentally supersede the voice of his father in regards to the gentlewoman who would attract the offer of his hand, but he had been less successful in presenting himself that way.

Loyal, courageous, honourable, faithful, devoted-all those that he once thought of himself is what he saw in Elizabeth. That she stood her ground this morning and laid at his feet the gaps in his character that he had to mend was humbling. But with those difficult conversations, she showed him that she trusted him to better himself, and he knew he could be the man she needed him to be.

His internal mirth quickly broke to the acknowledgement that those thoughts were still a part of him. His father’s words had filled his head so long; it will take great practice to tame them. Elation about her decision to entertain being married to him did not change who he was, and she had made it clear that he could do better.

He felt a surge of pride and gratefulness in Elizabeth’s confidence in him. It would not truly be a change in his character, as he could remember a time when his mother encouraged him to act better, but those learnings seemed to be a lifetime ago. He would do his best in welcoming Elizabeth’s opinions and assistance, as he knew she would not hesitate to provide them.

How could he have ever thought a passive acceptance of his hand would make him happy? He was sure there would be more battles to win, but having gone through the past two days has felt like they were genuinely forging a connection, one that would withstand time.

Elizabeth was peering through the hedges and turned back to Darcy with a relieved look on her face. Instead of telling him what she saw, or in actuality, did not see, her expression changed momentarily to one of bemused questioning in an apparent reaction to his admiring grin. It was but a moment, as her eyes darkened, and he immediately sensed her quickening breath.

He looked around and saw how perfect a hiding spot she had chosen. They were surrounded in shrubs and fully shadowed by several large trees. Unless someone was specifically looking for them or they were reasonably unlucky, it was not highly likely they would be detected. That is unless one of them stood up or made a sound, and Elizabeth had handled the former, and he would be sure not to violate the latter.

He pulled her along his body to have them finally face to face. Darcy paused, nose to nose with Elizabeth, and waited for her to be comfortable once again. It did not take long, and she initiated the kiss. This new position allowed Elizabeth to exert more pressure than she had dared before.

She was grateful for this exciting new element to their encounters as this was all still very new to her. When she was younger and played out in the fields with the neighbourhood children, there were times when she accepted a kiss from a friend or delivered one on a dare. Still, it had been some time since she allowed herself to even entertain a delightful little peck on the cheek or quick touch to the lips by a beau. Any thoughts as a lady out in society did not go anywhere near an interaction such as this.

To think, only days ago, she would not even have considered Mr Darcy an option for one of those thoughts. How had she allowed herself to be compromised in such a way by him now? Because, indeed, that was what was happening, as their marriage had been implied, but not even verbally secured. Not to say that her agreeing, or even her father signing a marriage agreement, was enough to warrant this behaviour, as she would never have imagined doing such a thing with anyone but her actual husband.

Darcy’s hands, which he had placed near her shoulders initially, began to move up and down her back slowly. This new sensation, in this provocative position, sufficiently distracted Elizabeth from her current line of thought. She had not realised that as her thoughts neared personal condemnation, her kisses became lighter and lighter.

Feeling the change in her movements of pace and pressure, which included Elizabeth freely running her hands through his hair and up and down his arms, Darcy began to unconsciously move his own hands to explore and learn this new terrain. That it was Elizabeth he was experiencing this with had created such a thrill in him, he dared not move more than his arms, for fear he would give away his excitement.

Deciding her actions, their concealment, and the still early hour allowed them to be a bit bolder, he began to reach lower. When no adverse reaction came from her, he dared to explore and feel as far as he could reach. The thrill of this freedom, of all his new hopes and desires culminating at this moment, he broke their lip-locked kiss and began kissing down her face to her neck.

Elizabeth let out a quiet moan akin to that of the one she did earlier when he accidentally stroked the side of her breast, but this time, she did not pull away. Instead, she leaned her head back to allow him more access to her. However, this now was not enough for Darcy.

With a low groan, he grabbed onto her and swung them both over, so he was now on top. She was surprised by the action, but it quickly turned into an amused smile, one he did not return for long, as she reached up for him to kiss her again. He had not missed her heavy breathing or her rose-stained cheeks, all that culminated in him desiring more.

Trailing again down the path of kissing her cheek, chin, and then neck, he had unrestricted access to continue moving lower. As he did, Elizabeth’s back arched to meet him, and he blindly began to remove Elizabeth’s dress and shift from one of her shoulders. Feeling the velvety soft texture under his fingertips, a wave of intensity swept over him, and he could not keep from tugging more at her garment and continuing to kiss down her shoulder towards her arm.

As he got past her collarbone, he could not keep from taking a quick nip of her soft skin. Looking down at her shoulder he experienced a mingled feeling of pride that he would be the only one to ever leave such a spot on her, and disappointment, that the mark itself, though light and temporary, had reddened her smooth complexion.

Looking back to his Elizabeth, he was jolted out of this euphoric state by the expression on her turned away face. Darcy then realised that her whole form had gone ridged, and she now clutched her hands into fits at her sides. He had been aware that after they swapped positions, her hands and arms had only held him, but he assumed that was because she was overwhelmed at experiencing something new.

Elizabeth was overwhelmed, but she did not consider it unfavourable. Though she may not use the same words of felicity he would, she was stimulated and amazed at this experience in her own way. When he flipped them over, she was shocked at the move, but mostly she was secretly thrilled that this was happening with him.

Though she had been suppressing it at every turn, Elizabeth realised she began to let the happiness she felt at being admired by someone such as him start to filter into her consciousness. That a man, as powerful, wealthy, and to be honest, handsome, as him, wanted her, Elizabeth Bennet, was beyond flattering. And she did feel flattered, but unlike with Wickham, whose notice of her was above that of her younger sister who made everything a competition, Darcy’s implied approbation of her as a whole was very gratifying.

As her Mama would say, to attract such a man was the epitome of her existence. Only a title would trump Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley of Derbyshire, with 10,000 a year, if that was what he earned, but she was able to succeed where no one else did, with no effort of conscious doing of her own. She could not lie, she now will receive full enjoyment at the accounts of shock from Mrs Bennet, when she hears the news of their betrothal. The validation of who she was and how she conducted herself would buoy her spirits throughout the likely hardships they were to experience due to the actions of others.

And Darcy, one who she would never have suspected, picked her. Had she known, would she have behaved differently-? She could not say and decided it would be futile to speculate.

As Darcy made his way down her neck to her shoulder, she could not help but wonder what their engagement would be like. Was it too late for her to ask for a courtship? Not considering the damage that Lady Catherine and her cousin had already wrought on their reputations, would she be so bold as to set some ground rules with him as to what she wanted before they wed? Indeed, what she needed. Though they seemed intertwined now for life, she still felt she needed to know more of him in a setting that did not also come with the demands and duties of a position.

And then he bit her. It was only a pinch, something that she would not even have cried out over, but it was a step too far. A line she did not realise she had, but it had been crossed.

This was only day two, after all, and what had they done? What was she allowing them to do? She could not say this was all Darcy’s doing, because he was considerate and asked or looked for her approval every step of the way. She was an equal participant in this, this, whatever this was. Did married couples even behave such as this? What was she doing?

All Elizabeth could do was turn her head away and go still. She had no power to say anything to alert him to any of her thoughts. What would she say, even if she could? Her hands began to hurt as she became painfully aware that she was pressing her fingernails into the palms. So distracted, she was not aware when Darcy noticed she was no longer reciprocating his advances.

It was a pregnant moment before Darcy found his voice to speak.

“Elizabeth -” She cut him off with just a look. One mingled with fear and desperation. He hoped he understood her silent communication and moved to sitting next to her, affecting a casual and calm pose with one knee bent underneath him and an arm draped over the other.

He then was able to take her all in and saw that his last yank at her clothing to expose more of her arm and shoulder, actually bared her left breast as well. Momentarily not able to look away, more due to being astonished than of desire, Elizabeth followed his line of sight to her chest and sat quickly up, whispering to herself.

Perversely, when Darcy first sat up, she could not help but feel a wave of desire roll over her. A dishevelled Darcy was a very handsome one. A new flutter shot through her as she knew she would be the only one from here on out to witness him as such. The betrayal of her body at this sight, coupled with her realising, she had more flesh exposed than she ever imagined, brought a shot of hot shame to her entire body.

Shaking, Elizabeth covered herself the best she could. She held one of her hands to her chest to keep her garments from falling as she attempted to sit more up. Darcy held out his hands to help her, and she could do nothing but swat his hands away as the tears she had been holding back were now spilling over her cheeks.

Finally, in a kneeling position, she dared not meet his gaze and managed to swivel her body around so her back was to him. Taking a moment to allow herself to sob quietly, she decided to think about what was the next step and leave the personal anguish she felt to dissect later. Right now, they needed to get themselves out of this concealed location and into the company of others. Because she understood she could not be trusted to be alone with him anymore, because more lines would begin to be crossed. Lines that had higher consequences.

When Elizabeth first sat up, she had whispered, “No, no, no, no.” And if it was not for the distress he felt on her behalf, and for her reaction, it might have been enough to make him crumble. Here was a human being who had full power over him, whether she knew it or not. His ego and emotional state were hers to control and most likely would be until he felt more secure in their connection.

Her swatting his hands away felt like a stinging rebuke. Would she ever allow him to touch her again? He was sure it was not as bad as that, but he could not help but wonder what he could do to fix the situation. If only he had controlled himself, had not moved beyond kissing, which she permitted.

“Elizabeth, did I harm you?” Elizabeth stilled in her actions the second he began to speak. A sharp shake of her head and a raised hand was all the response she could offer.

She deserved better than this. Not because she was his betrothed, but because he wanted her to have it all, especially from him. The thought of reducing her to tears was the final blow, and he slumped over.

The little flying pest had returned, and he began doing his best to shoo it away. The fly was small and plainly inexperienced as it kept giving him the opportunity to kill it. Could he hope that was all that distressed Elizabeth? Her inexperience?

He smoothed his hair and what he could of his attire and noticed her shawl laying to his side. It was a crisp morning, and she had been laying half-naked on the cold earth, something he had not even taken into consideration. Who now was the one showing his inexperience?

Elizabeth looked at her attire and then at the small movement on her right. Darcy had tossed over her shawl, and she picked it up and inspected it. A breeze moved through, and she was suddenly aware of how cool of a day it was, something she had not honestly thought about earlier. Her cheeks grew pink as she was sure it was his company that had kept her warm previously.

Turning the shawl over, Elizabeth realised there was no way to hide the dirt and embedded leaves in the thick material. Her eyes began to burn with fresh tears. Even if she was able to perfectly smooth her hair and right her clothing, as she knew she could not, the damage done to her white shawl was nothing that could be easily explained away.

Rigidly wiping the tears from her cheeks, Elizabeth gave herself a chance to take one more deep breath, and then turned around. Her sudden movement startled Darcy to attention, and she could not help admire that he looked just as he had this morning. She could not imagine anyone questioning his appearance.

The disparity in how they appeared brought the disgrace of what she had done to the forefront of her mind. It was right for her not to be able to hide her dishevelment. It was her cross to bear, and she was strong enough for this. It was a choice she made, and she was soon to be a mistress of a household and needed to begin assuming the role she would lead. That others would look to her to lead.

Darcy watched her, in her kneeling position, look him once over and then herself and wondered at her conclusion. She looked enchanting as always but seemed to be concerned about their outward appearances when they were on the hill, so he waited for her inspection to be complete before speaking.

Her complexion was the palest he had ever seen, and she appeared to have begun to cry again. Though silent, the sight of her tears made him want to grovel at her feet and beg her to tell him how to fix it. This submissive thought surprised him, but he did not have a chance to think more on the subject as Elizabeth lifted her shoulders and straightened her back, an action he recognised from his father when he came to a decision that was about to be announced.

In a low but firm voice, Elizabeth laid out her plan. “Though I do believe you could pass under inspection, I, on the other hand, would not. I think we should both return to our respective homes and right ourselves and then meet back at the parsonage.”

She finished what she had to say, and though her head was held high, and her posture perfect, she did not meet his eyesight, which was beginning to unnerve him. Elizabeth spoke of separating but meeting back up again, soon, but he needed further assurance from her. Darcy needed to know her thoughts; he could not leave assuming he knew. He would not ever do that again.

Darcy reached out to take her hand, and before he touched her, she flinched and reflexively pulled her hand back. With an apologetic look on her face, she finally looked him in the eye. But only for a moment.

“We will talk later. Meet me at the parsonage in an hour.” And with that, she stood up, turned around and gave out a small yelp.

“Miss Bennet, what has happened?”

Quickly scrambling to his feet, Darcy was met with the sight of his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who was rapidly closing the space across the lawn between them and the lane to the parsonage.

“Darcy? What are you doing here?” It only took the Colonel a moment to take in both of their appearances and their location to come to a fairly accurate conclusion as to what they were doing.

Elizabeth’s head, neck, and shoulders were all red, and she would not make eye contact with either gentleman. After an extended awkward pause, Elizabeth shifted her weight to the side and gave a curtsey.

“Gentlemen.” As she turned to leave, her shawl shifted, and Colonel Fitzwilliam saw the left shoulder of her dress was torn, and he instantly became stern.

This was the first Darcy saw of the ripped material and felt remorse once again, over his actions. As Elizabeth hurried towards the parsonage, Darcy could not help but follow her with his eyes the entire way, hoping she might turn to give him a small smile or some indication that all would be alright. But it was not meant to be. She walked straight up to the parsonage, paused a moment before opening the door, and then went in.

Turning back to his cousin, who had not stopped staring at him with a look of disgust, Darcy could only look at him expectantly. He would not be discussing Elizabeth and his relationship with anyone, beyond the minor details a father or protector might need to know, and his cousin was no exception.

After a long pause, Darcy lifted an eyebrow, and the Colonel finally spoke. “Her Ladyship has sent me to find you. You have been summoned.”

With a sigh, Darcy nodded and began to move around the hedge to join his cousin back to Rosings. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“And after that, cousin, we need to talk.” By the tone in his voice, it seemed the Colonel had assigned himself the role of protector.

**** 

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And thank you to Aubrey and Marion for being my guests today. Congratulations on your upcoming release!

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