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My dear readers, I am so excited to have Nicole Clarkston as my guest again today. She has written a new scene tied to her Pride and Prejudice variation These Dreams, which made my Best of 2017 list (click to read my review). I’ll let her introduce the scene and the giveaway, so please give her a warm welcome:

Thank you, Anna, for having me today on your blog! It is always a pleasure chatting with you. Today I bring you a scene related to These Dreams, featuring everyone’s favourite Colonel Fitzwilliam (before he was a colonel). This short scene is set three years prior to the events of Pride and Prejudice (and also These Dreams).

Richard Fitzwilliam was wounded in battle in Portugal, but had befriended young Portuguese Lieutenant Rodrigo (Ruy) de Noronha. Invited to convalesce at his new friend’s family home in Lisbon, Richard made the acquaintance of the lieutenant’s lovely young sister Amália. Their initial meeting appeared first as a blog post on Austen Variations and then as a post-script after the epilogue of These Dreams. Today’s vignette, however, you will only find here. Enjoy it, and stick around for a chance to enter the giveaway at the end!

~NC

~

Major Richard Fitzwilliam, decorated commander of the First Division Light Cavalry and an acclaimed hero of the battlefield, was in full retreat.

Oh, he would never confess as much. It would be too disgraceful, if any of his comrades in arms detected signs of weakness in his warrior’s armor. But there it was, a fissure the size of a Derbyshire canyon, cracking right through his chest into his viscera. And it widened every time she smiled at him.

Amália. He had never heard a lovelier name. Both sweet and flinty, gentle yet perplexing. It suited her, this enigma of a girl, barely old enough to dress as a lady and act as her father’s hostess. She came near him now, those delicious pearly teeth and peerless golden eyes flashing in an artless smile as she clutched a book in her hand. “Major, you are not in town with Ruy today?”

He looked up from the writing desk where he was composing a letter to his father. He shifted in the chair, pressing back against his seat and holding his breath, lest he catch her fragrance again. “Not today. He had some business with his commanding officer, but I do not report until next week.”

“Then you will be leaving us, no?”

Was that a tinge of wistfulness in her voice?

Richard cleared his throat. “Only if I have overstayed my welcome. I am to report, but I am not required to remain with my regiment. My commanding officer does not desire me back on active duty until my arm is fully healed.”

She smiled again… blast. “You are most welcome to remain here, Major. My father, he is… honoured, no? He tells everyone how you save Ruy.”

Richard’s neck felt hot. “I fear his narrative does your brother too little credit. The Lieutenant’s actions and bravery gave much courage to his men. Likely enough, we would both have been killed if the line had faltered.”

Her expression froze, and he could see the horrifying reality playing through her thoughts even behind her lingering smile.

“But let us speak of other things,” he corrected swiftly. “It was generous of your father to offer his hospitality.”

She warmed again, glanced about, and finally settled herself into a chair opposite him. “He wished to hold a dinner party for you and Ruy, but that would not be proper just now.”

“Nor would I wish him to exert the effort. I am simply grateful for such a comfortable and welcoming house in which to convalesce, though I do not quite share my commanding officer’s opinion that I must take such a long time about doing it.”

Those eyes sparkled again as she opened her book. “One must not attempt to heal too quickly, Major.” She dropped her attention to the pages then, giving every impression that she had sought this room, and that very chair, simply so she might enjoy her book in proximity to him.

They were hardly alone in the room, though it seemed that way to Richard. A woman of reduced circumstances, as they would have called her in England, always shadowed the daughter of the house, and half a dozen others came and went in that room on some errand or another. None, however, spoke to either of them, and the two were left in an uncomfortable peace. Uncomfortable to him, at least, and becoming more so by the minute.

He squirmed in his chair, doing his best to not think of her soft pale gown, or the way the spirals of hair curled round her tender neck, or the delicate fragrance which was even now assaulting his senses… dash it all.  He snatched the paper on which he had been writing and crumpled it for the fire, for he had written some words which had nothing at all to do with correspondence with his father.

She looked up in mute surprise as he thrust the wad of notepaper to the front of the desk, but he glanced at her only long enough to acknowledge her notice. He forced his attention back on the fresh sheet before him, flexing his fingers and shuffling his feet beneath the desk.

Seven hours. That was how long he could remain at attention without flinching. He knew, for he had done it not long ago; polished and ready for battle atop his charger, with a heavy bayonet at his shoulder. Seven bloody hours. He blinked a sudden rivulet of perspiration from his eyes. Apparently, he could not last even seven minutes with her in the room.

The paper was still blank, and he used the back of his hand to surreptitiously wipe another bead of sweat from his brow. It had nothing to do with the Portuguese summer heat, either, for it was still… not even June, and his composure was faltering by the second.

Darcy could have done it. Richard’s fingers tightened on the quill as he thinned his lips. Oh, yes, Fitzwilliam Darcy could have successfully ignored a woman with a book… whose eyes made his spine tingle every time they rose from her page. That old stick, he could have made a woman feel the full measure of his casual disregard, and suffered not a moment’s discomfort for it! Unlike himself… Richard writhed in his chair again.

“Major, you are not unwell?” that musical voice queried.

“I?” he jerked faintly. It was difficult enough to pretend that all his senses were not trained on her, without her bloody speaking to him! He had not been prepared for that. He cleared his throat again. “No, I am quite well.”

“You are not too warm? The sun, no, it comes in through the window. Perhaps you would prefer the garden air? Your letter would be easier after a walk, no?”

Oh, not the garden! He would never survive, not if she offered to act as his guide again. “I am quite well, thank you. I do not write quickly or easily. A family trait, I am afraid.”

“Then we must find some way to set you at your ease.” She rose, leaving her book in the seat. “Do you like reading, Major?”

“I used to. I have little time or patience for it now.”

“What of music? It relaxes the mind, no?”

That was precisely what he did not need, but he made an amiable reply. “It is a particular weakness of mine,” he answered, his voice lower than he would have liked. “And of every soldier, so far as I know, senhorita.”

“Then it will be my pleasure,” she beamed. “Senhora Ramires,” she turned to her companion, “will you play for the Major, and I will sing?” She turned back to him then, clasping her hands in apology. “I am hopeless on the instrument, but I do love to sing.”

She seemed to be waiting for him to rise, which he did—rather stiffly. He made her a quick, playful bow, mostly to hide something of his discomposure, and then… his stomach leaped somewhere into this throat when she blithely took his good arm to walk toward the piano. He stopped when she did, then gratefully dropped into the seat she indicated and crossed his legs.

She nodded to her companion, who dutifully took up the notes of a song he did not know. The opening lines were unremarkable enough, and would likely have remained so in his memory, until she lifted her voice.

He could not understand most of the words. He had a passing familiarity with Portuguese, and more so now than ever, but some combination of emotion and inflection rendered half the words foreign to him. He did not need them, however, to interpret the meaning of the song. She sang of young love, of searching and loss, despair, and then joy at reunion. Her clear voice rang with such power and intensity that tears began to pool in the corners of his eyes during the verses of tragedy and mourning.

The tone gradually changed, growing and building with the fire of hope. His eyes fixed upon her lithe figure, swaying as the music possessed her, capturing her breath until she gasped faintly between the lines and her feminine shape seemed ready to burst with the force of the passion the song had awakened. Just as the melody swelled to its most glorious, she met his eye, a faint smile about her lips as she continued to sing. Richard could not remember when he had last drawn breath, nor did he feel inclined to try to do so now.

He should stop her. He should declare himself unfit for company and retire to his room… and rejoin his regiment at first light tomorrow. Another trickle of moisture troubled him, but this time, he realised, it was a tear. And then a second. They mirrored the tears of the singer as she poured forth joy and lament, suffering and triumph, and with her final loving notes, Richard Fitzwilliam’s last defences fell.

Her voice quieted, like the dying breeze on the battlefield that leaves the flags limp and shell-shot at the end of the day. A soft sigh—hers or his, he was not certain—and the ruin was complete. He sat there in the deafening stillness, his skin still prickling and his lips parted, just as were hers.

She was staring at him now, the hands she had lifted at the pinnacle of her song now lowered, her breath slowing. Five seconds… the handspan of time it took for a fuse to detonate its source, but the shuddering, racking pain exploded within his own heart.

She blinked, and he did the same. The spell, for the moment, was lifted, but never again would it be broken. At her brother’s voice in the outer hall, Amália drew a refreshing breath, smiled, and dipped him a curtsey. “I hope the song gave you some peace, Major,” she offered, a blush staining her youthful cheeks.

“I would not call it peace, senhorita, but it is a performance I shall never forget,” he answered in a husky voice.

She dashed the last of the moisture from her eyes, a relic of several seconds ago, and her expression brightened again to that of the girl he had thought he knew. “Perhaps we will go to Ruy now?” she suggested.

He rose at last, then gave her his arm to walk together toward her brother. She took it with girlish grace, smiling up at him, and the yawning ache widened in his soul. In two weeks’ time, he would leave her behind, never again to be troubled by her intoxicating scent, her lyrical voice, or those bewitching, golden eyes. The arm she clasped would be given again in service to King and Country, safe from her reach. His heart, however, had declared its home– in the palm of her hand.

~

Well, do you love the dear colonel as much as I do? So many of us know him as “Richard,” even though Jane Austen never gave him a name. It’s strange how his is one of the many characters Austen scarcely introduces, and he has come to life for us as a fully developed persona. Perhaps it is a combination of the fertile minds of JAFF authors and the fabulous actors who have portrayed this gentleman.

What do you think, who is the best film version of Colonel Fitzwilliam? Leave your thoughts, and you will be entered in our giveaway. Up for grabs is a reader’s choice of any of my books in any available format. The giveaway is international, so scroll our lovely men and name your pick!

 

Gerald Oliver Smith from the 1940 Pride and Prejudice

Desmond Adams from the 1980 Pride and Prejudice

Anthony Calf from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice

Cornelius Booth from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice

Tom Ward from Death Comes to Pemberley

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Thank you so much, Nicole! I absolutely loved Richard and Amália in These Dreams, so it was wonderful to see them again. I have a soft spot for the 1940 Pride and Prejudice since it was the first film version I saw, though it was so different from the book. But there’s something very appealing about Tom Ward… 😉

For the giveaway, please leave a comment with your answer to Nicole’s question, and include your email address so I can contact you if you win. The giveaway will close on Friday, January 26, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

~

About These Dreams

An abandoned bride
A missing man
And a dream that refuses to die…

Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty, and Fitzwilliam Darcy is caught at the centre of a decades-old international feud. Taken far from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear, only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth.

Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley, and Colonel Fitwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared, Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy’s death widens and questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past. An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope.

Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn — alone and under mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might have been. Believing Darcy lost forever, she closes her heart against both pain
and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.

Goodreads | Amazon U.S. | Amazon U.K.

~

About the Author

Nicole Clarkston

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.

Connect with Nicole: Website | Goodreads Author Page | Goodreads Blog | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Twitter

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I have a special treat for you today, my dear readers! It is always so exciting to get a peek at a new cover before everyone else and then get the chance to share it with the world! Before I unveil the gorgeous cover for Amy George’s latest book, Amy is here to introduce you all to The Sweetest Ruin. Please give her a warm welcome:

I am easily influenced.

As a young writer (a child), I spent a lot of time watching soap operas with my grandmother. My very first story was sort of a cross between “Guiding Light” and “The Boxcar Children.” As a teenager, there were copious amounts of New Kids on the Block fan fiction revolving around the Mary Sues of my best friend and I.

And then there was Jane.

She came into my life and let me fall in love with Darcy & Elizabeth. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

I wrote a tropical paradise continuation inspired by the music of Jimmy Buffett. I wrote a role reversal story with Lizzy as the snob. I wrote a murder mystery that got me kicked off Drool (and here I am showing my age to some members of the fandom). When that happened, my fiercely protective previously mentioned best friend put in all the work and made me the figurehead of a little place called the Hyacinth Garden.

The Garden was always a writer’s community. That was the intent from the get-go. So since most of the writers in the community felt safe, a lot of us used it as a place to experiment. We held writing challenges. There were dribbles and themed competitions revolving around racy short stories we called Naughty Bits.

I loved and appreciated this supportive environment more than you will ever know. I did a lot of writing for the Garden.

Including this story.

The Sweetest Ruin was the story that my readers asked for. Apparently, they were convinced I could not write a tale that didn’t emotionally jerk them around. They wanted low angst and this is what I came up with. I would post each chapter and used the comments to guide the story. Those readers from the Hyacinth Garden did as much to write this story as I did or as my beloved editor, Debbie Styne, a former Garden Hoe herself, did.

I invite you to take a trip to Vegas with Darcy, Lizzy, and me. This story is proof positive that while what happens in Vegas may stay there, what happened in the Garden was meant to be shared.

We are scheduling this blog tour from January 29 – February 9, 2018. The book will be released this week.

****

Meet Amy George:

“Amy George is a middle-aged woman who got rid of her old lady/grown up and has since purchased an unreasonably small car. She refuses to listen to its radio at a reasonable volume, especially when the Beastie Boys or the Violent Femmes are playing. She lives in a small town in the Midwest where the bookstore and yarn shop are neighbors and most food is fried. Her household consists of a dog, a man, a hermit, and stubborn soap scum.

She has been writing since she was a child and ran the Hyacinth Gardens, a popular but defunct JAFF site.”

Fun fact: My birthday is January 30th so this is like a big birthday party.

****

Thanks, Amy! I am very excited to read this book, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I know all of you are ready to see the cover, but first, the book blurb:

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for:

Isn’t that a fantastic cover?!? It seems to fit the book perfectly. I just love the silhouette of our dear couple. I’m a huge fan of modern retellings, so I am anxiously awaiting the book’s release and the blog tour. Please show Amy some love for the cover in the comments! 🙂

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I am delighted to welcome Audrey Ryan to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time today to celebrate the release of her modern-day Pride and Prejudice variation, All the Things I Know. She is here to take you all on a virtual tour of the Seattle neighborhoods that play a big role in the novel, and she’s brought a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

Sense of place is very important in All the Things I Know. When I started writing the story, I didn’t set out to feature Seattle so heavily, I merely wanted to set my story in the city I knew the best. It must be because I love my city and have lived here most of my life that the location became almost its own character. For my final guest post of the blog tour, I decided to share two of the neighborhoods I featured in All the Things I Know and why.

Ballard

When I was growing up, Ballard was a boring neighborhood. It was boring and full of old Scandinavian folks. The general stereotype is best illustrated in a skit by a local ‘90s comedy show called Almost Live. Ballard Driving Academy is how most Seattleites saw the set apart neighborhood.

 

Ballard was its own city when established in the 1890s and natives of the city can be very protective over that attitude. In fact, local novelty store Archie McPhee sells “Free Ballard” bumper stickers and posters (http://archiemcpheeseattle.com/free-ballard/)!

Ballard is the neighborhood that I put Lizzie and Jane in. To give background to my relationship to Ballard: my family owned an old gingerbread style house built around 1900 for years close to the heart of Ballard and had it renovated into Triplexes. Post college, I was a tenant there for two years. My family ended up selling the house to a developer a few years ago and now several townhouses sit its place. It’s the mark of our city’s growth and the rapid change in the neighborhood. When I lived there, it was up and coming, but still affordable. It wasn’t as nice as many other neighborhoods, especially since it was less connected by public transportation and is located far away from freeways and highways. Now it’s easy to get from Ballard to your downtown job. Groceries stores have been rebuilt to host condos above them. Rent is astronomical.

“Our apartment is a 1920s holdout in a four-story brick monument amongst the stretch of perfectly homogeneous eco-friendly townhouses.”

Lizzie and Jane are familiar with Ballard because that’s where the Gardiner’s live. The Gardiner’s are of the luck Gen X generation who were able to buy in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when prices were low in this neighborhood. Because of their teenage attachment, they decide to make a life in this corner of Seattle.

Aside from Lizzie and Jane’s apartment, the other location featured in Ballard is the coffee shop Cafe Long, where Lizzie works temporarily. In my minds eye, this coffee shop would be located in the Ballard Avenue Historic District (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballard_Avenue_Historic_District) and resemble a cross between Miro Tea (http://mirotea.com) and Caffe Fiore (http://www.caffefiore.com/Old%20Ballard/). I love this area of Ballard for the old brick buildings and cobbled streets.

Other features that make Ballard popular are: Golden Gardens, a Puget Sound public beach, the Ballard Locks, which separate Puget Sound from Lake Union. This is fun place to watch boats pass through or to see the salmon run. I’ve also seen sea lions and turtles at the locks. Sunset Hill is located at the top of Ballard with a view of Golden Garden’s below. It is probably the fanciest part of Ballard and where the Gardiner’s live. Lucky them!

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is the oldest neighborhood in Seattle and has the most checkered history. It’s where “skid row” originated — early loggers would move their wares by “skidding” them down steep hills down what is now Yesler Way (https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/seattle/s28.htm). If you traveled south of Yesler Way, or “below the line”, you were immediately in the seediest part of town where prostitution and opium dens ran rampant.

Nowadays, Pioneer Square is much more of a historical tourist stop or business district. You can go on the underground tour (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Underground) and see part of old Seattle that burned down. After that fire, a new street level was built over the wreckage. When I was in elementary school, I went in the underground tour at least twice.

I set Rose & Hunts in Pioneer Square. I thought Cathy would appreciate the having her headquarters in the oldest part of Seattle. The older business there have a sense of refinement. Having worked in Pioneer Square before (for a lawyer) I echo the charm of Pioneer Square, although I would never want to be there at night. The neighborhood still has its fair share of crackheads.

The office at Rose & Hunts is located in one of the older buildings in Pioneer Square, and it’s ridiculously lavish. The pristine furnishings look as if they belong in New York high society, and fresh flowers liberally adorn gilded side tables. The pretty receptionist is dressed as if she should be working at a fashion magazine instead of an online retailer. I hardly feel like I’m in Seattle.

One of the reasons that I wanted to feature Pioneer Square in All the Things I Know is that First Thursday (http://www.pioneersquare.org/experiences/first-thursday-art-walk), the neighborhood art walk was the first neighborhood art walk in the US! With Lizzie’s desire to become a curator, it made sense she would spend time in this neighborhood, especially because it’s where so many art galleries are located. It’s where the fictional D.B. Shaw is located, for instance.

I hope upon reading All the Things I Know, Seattle becomes just as alive for you as it is to me. There are so many other facets of the city to enjoy that weren’t even mentioned in the book: the statue of Jimi Hendrix (https://www.yelp.com/biz/jimi-hendrix-statue-seattle), Bruce Lee’s grave (http://www.lakeviewcemeteryassociation.com/lees.php), and the Fremont Troll (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremont_Troll), to name a few. Who knows, maybe I’ll explore it more in some sequels to come :).

Thank you so much, Audrey! I’ve never been to Seattle, so this was very informative. Congrats on your new release!

****

About All the Things I Know

Lizzie Venetidis is confident in her decisions. Moving to Seattle with her sister Jane after she graduated from Stanford, for instance, was a no-brainer. Adult life, however, turns out to be more difficult to navigate than she expected.

What career should she pursue with a bachelor’s degree in art history and no marketable experience amongst a tech-heavy job market? How responsible is it to drink that fourth cocktail while out with friends? And what should she do about Darcy—the aloof yet captivating guy she met her first night in town?

All the Things I Know is a one-mistake-at-a-time retelling of Pride & Prejudice, set against the backdrop of modern-day techie Seattle. Full of wry observations, heartache, and life lessons, All the Things I Know shares the original’s lessons of correcting ill-conceived first impressions and learning who you really are.

Check out All the Things I Know on Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK

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About the Author

Audrey Ryan

Audrey Ryan is the nom de plume of Andrea Pangilinan: daydreamer, wife and step-mother, and obsessive story consumer. She studied writing in college, dreamt about becoming a novelist and slowly forgot about it when real life took over. With a particular affection for contemporary retellings, adapting Pride & Prejudice to modern day has always been a dream.

When she’s not reading and writing, Andrea is a marketing slave to the internet industry. She enjoys talking crazy to her weirdo cat, consuming copious amount of wine and coffee with her girlfriends, and record shopping with her husband. Oh yeah, and there’s that small Jane Austen obsession. That doesn’t take up any time at all.

Connect with Audrey: website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is offering 8 ebooks of All the Things I Know as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

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

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

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Click the banner below to follow the blog tour

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I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Kincaid back today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Christmas at Darcy House. As with all of Victoria’s books, I had a lot of fun editing this one. I loved that there were some devious schemes at work, but she perfectly balances it with passion and even some humor. Victoria is here today to discuss the traditions featured in all of her novels, and to share an excerpt and giveaway of Christmas at Darcy House. Please give her a warm welcome:

Christmas at Darcy House is my tenth Pride and Prejudice Variation.  I find this hard to believe—in the same way that I find it hard to believe that my daughter is old enough to apply to college.  Where did the time go?   How in the world—with everything else that is going on in my life—did I find time to write ten books?   Intellectually I know that it’s the product of many hours spent at my computer, but emotionally it still bowls me over.

Christmas at Darcy House also continues two traditions that I have kept up throughout all my books.  That first is that the epilogue of every one of my books takes place at a wedding.  Usually it’s Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding, but not always.  In The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth, the wedding at the end was Bingley and Jane’s.  And, of course, When Mary Met the Colonel ends with the eponymous protagonists marrying (although, it starts at Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding). 

I didn’t start out to have all my books end with weddings; it just sort of happened.  After the third book with a wedding epilogue I figured I had a trend going and should keep it up.  Weddings are great subjects for epilogues since they’re usually festive and joyous—helping to counteract the angst earlier in the book.

The second tradition—also unintentional—was to have Elizabeth engaged to every eligible man in Pride in Prejudice.  Of course she is betrothed to Darcy in every book.  But, in addition, she is engaged to Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Proposals, to Collins in Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, and to Bingley in Chaos Comes to Longbourn.  

In Christmas at Darcy House she is engaged (fortunately, briefly) to Wickham.  Aside from Denny, I don’t believe there is another single male character mentioned in Pride and Prejudice (please let me know if you think of one).  It’s possible that a future book will have Elizabeth engaged to Denny, but I think it’s unlikely.  I haven’t used him much as a character and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which such an engagement would make sense.   

Anna has been with me on this journey almost since the beginning—for which I am very grateful.  And thank you to those of you who have been my readers for a long time—and to those who’ve started reading my work recently.  I couldn’t do it without you!

Thanks, Victoria! It’s been a pleasure taking this journey with you. Can’t wait for the next book! 😉

****

An excerpt from Christmas at Darcy House, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

The knowledge that Elizabeth Bennet was in London had not allowed Darcy a moment’s rest that night.  As he sat behind his desk that evening, he envisioned what she might be doing.  Perhaps she was having dinner with her aunt and uncle.  Now she might be sitting in the drawing room reading.  Did they have children for her to play with?   When would she retire for the night?

After brooding in his study until long after midnight, he had tossed and turned in his bed before falling into a fitful sleep in the early morning hours.  A mere ten minutes in her presence, and he was in danger of becoming as obsessed with her as he ever was.

Upon awakening, his first thought was that he knew where Elizabeth stayed; he could call upon her and the Gardiners.  Indeed, a visit was polite—nearly obligatory—given his acquaintance with her family.  She had been gracious enough to call on the Bingleys despite knowing that she would receive a frosty welcome, but the Bingley sisters plainly would not return the call.  If Darcy visited, at least Elizabeth would know that the entirety of the Netherfield party did not hold her in such low esteem.  Also, she might have been brought low by the Bingley sisters’ insults; it was only right that Darcy visit and ensure that she was in good spirits.

Given new life by these thoughts, Darcy sprang from bed and addressed himself to his toilette with dispatch.  In the midst of splashing water on his face, he had a new thought.  If I visit the Gardiners’ house alone, will I appear to be courting Elizabeth?  He had taken great pains in Hertfordshire to avoid the appearance of favoring her; he did not want to give rise to expectations he could not fulfill.

And yet his own reaction surprised him. The idea of creating such an expectation should fill him with dread, but instead a thrumming excitement surged through his veins.  Suddenly light-headed, Darcy grabbed the edge of the washstand.  Was there some part of him that wished Elizabeth to believe he was courting her?  Or worse yet, wished to court her?

Darcy regarded his own rather pale face in the mirror.  What could he do?

He pried his gaze from the mirror and stumbled to the closet in search of fresh clothing.  I am being foolish.  He was simply returning a social call for the sake of politeness.  Elizabeth would understand that he only visited because of his connection with her family.   He might happen to enjoy Elizabeth’s company…quite a bit…more than any other woman he had ever encountered…

But that was beside the point.  His object was to help her feel welcome in London.

As his valet entered the room, Darcy thrust such thoughts from his mind.  Within minutes he was dressed and downstairs breaking his fast.  Another half an hour saw him driving his curricle toward Gracechurch Street.  The curricle was a bit of an indulgence; it would have been simpler to take a horse.  But he had a vision of offering Elizabeth a chance to tour some of his favorite sights in London.  It was a ridiculous thought, yet Darcy found he could not dismiss it from his mind.

Guiding the curricle through the streets of London, he even found himself humming a tune that Georgiana had played the day before.  It was pleasant to have one of his Hertfordshire acquaintances in London.  There was nothing remarkable if the anticipation of her company pleased him.

The Gardiners’ home was not large, but it was well kept and more fashionable than Darcy had expected.  He had never ventured into Cheapside before and had been prepared for far less genteel surroundings.  This appeared to be a quite respectable neighborhood.

Darcy was still humming as he approached the Gardiners’ door and knocked.  Perhaps he should have purchased flowers.  Women liked flowers, did they not?  But flowers might suggest he was courting her, which he most definitely was not.  They were simply friends.

A maid answered the door and took his coat.  Darcy gave his card and inquired if Miss Bennet and Mrs. Gardiner were at home.  The maid replied that they were in the drawing room with a male visitor whose name she had not caught.

Darcy’s interest was immediately piqued.  He could not imagine Elizabeth had a large circle of acquaintances in London.  Could she have acquired a suitor already?  But the maid had not mentioned the age of the visitor.  He might just as easily be some friend of her father’s or a business acquaintance of her uncle’s.  Darcy frowned at the thought.   A widower of that age might prefer a younger wife.

Or perhaps it was Bingley, visiting to apologize for his sisters’ behavior the previous day.  Yes, Bingley would be quite acceptable.

Darcy followed the maid down the narrow hallway to the drawing room.  She opened the door and announced, “Mr. Darcy, ma’am,” before withdrawing and allowing Darcy to enter the room.

His eyes immediately fell upon the male visitor, and he realized he had been far from imagining the worst.

Wickham.

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About Christmas at Darcy House

Mr. Darcy hopes Christmastime will help him to forget the pair of fine eyes that he left behind in Hertfordshire.  When Elizabeth Bennet appears unexpectedly in London, Darcy decides to keep his distance, resolved to withstand his attraction to her.  But when he learns that Wickham is threatening to propose to Elizabeth, Darcy faces a crisis.

For her part, Elizabeth does not understand why the unpleasant master of Pemberley insists on dancing with her at the Christmas ball or how his eyes happen to seek her out so often.  She enjoys Mr. Wickham’s company and is flattered when he makes her an offer of marriage.  On the other hand, Mr. Darcy’s proposal is unexpected and unwelcome.  But the more Elizabeth learns of Mr. Darcy, the more confused she becomes—as she prepares to make the most momentous decision of her life.

It’s a Yuletide season of love and passion as your favorite characters enjoy Christmas at Darcy House!

Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a reader’s choice (ebook or paperback) giveaway of Christmas at Darcy House, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what you think of the excerpt. This giveaway will close on Sunday, December 17, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Victoria, for being my guest today!

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It is always a pleasure to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric. It’s no surprise that I’m a HUGE fan of her Austen-inspired books and stories, and I’m thrilled that she is here today to introduce two upcoming releases, the latest in a trio of Christmas stories. It’s been my tradition for the past couple of years to spend the month of December reading Christmas stories, especially those inspired by Pride and Prejudice. Last year, I read and loved The Darcys’ First Christmas, and now I am anxiously awaiting December 1 so I can start reading Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. Maria is here today to share some information about a Regency Christmas tradition, an excerpt from one of her upcoming releases, and a reader’s choice ebook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks so much for having me Anna! I’m so excited about this Christmas season! It’s been a doozy of a year in these parts, so much that it calls for not one, but two Christmas books.  They are both available for pre-order on Amazon right now and will be released on December 1. The two books go along with The Darcys’ First Christmas, kind of forming bookends to the story. Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 tells the behind the scenes story of what might have happened during the Christmastide Darcy spent in London, while the militia (and Wickham!) wintered in Meryton. From Admiration to Love tells the story of the Darcys’ second Christmas as they try to hold Georgiana’s coming out at the Twelfth Night ball as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh descend as very unwelcome guests. (The story was such fun to write, I hope you love it as much as I do!)

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 starts with the Bennets making a Christmas plum pudding on the traditional day for doing so, Stir It Up Sunday.  American’s don’t really do plum pudding, so I thought it would be interesting to take a moment and have a peek at some of the traditions that have arisen around a food with at least eight hundred years of history associated with it.

Origins of Plum Pudding

Plum began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron, to which dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added. Sounds yummy, right?

Porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit often appeared at the start of a meal.

As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs and breadcrumbs, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor (and increased its shelf life—remember no refrigeration. Don’t think about that too much though…). Variations were made with white meat, though the meat was gradually omitted and replaced by suet (yum… ah, no not so much.) The root vegetables also disappeared.

By 1650, the plum pudding transformed from a main dish to the customary Christmas dessert. Not long afterward though, Oliver Cromwell banned plum pudding because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding was too similar to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

George I, sometimes called the Pudding King, revived the dish in 1714 when he requested plum pudding as part of the royal feast celebrating his first Christmas in England. As a result, it once again became part of traditional holiday celebrations.

In the 1830’s it took its final cannon-ball form, made with flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly and flaming brandy. It was dubbed ‘Christmas Pudding’ in 1858 in Anthony Trollope’s Doctore Thorne.

Plum pudding traditions

With a food so many centuries in the making, it is not surprising to find many traditions have evolved around the preparation and eating of plum pudding.

The last Sunday before Advent, falling sometime between November 20th and 26th, is considered the last day on which one can make Christmas puddings since they require aging before they are served. It is sometimes known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’ because the opening words of the main prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 for that day are:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Not surprisingly, choir boys parodied the prayer. “Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we’ll eat it up hot.”

Tradition decrees Christmas pudding be made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. All family members took a hand in ‘stirring up’ the pudding, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib.) The stirring had to be done clockwise, from east to west to honor the journey of the Magi, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish.

Tiny charms might be added to the pudding to reveal their finders’ fortune. The trinkets often included a thimble for spinsterhood or thrift, a ring for marriage, a coin for wealth, a miniature horseshoe or a tiny wishbone for good luck, a shoe for travel, and an anchor for safe harbor.

When the pudding was served, a sprig of holly was placed on the top of the pudding as a reminder of the Crown of Thorns that Jesus wore when he was killed. Flaming the pudding, as described by Dickens, was believed to represent the passion of Christ and Jesus’ love and power. It was also a key part of the theatrical aspect of the holiday celebration.

Why is it called plum pudding?

And the answer to the most burning question:  Why is plum pudding called that when it contains no plums?

Dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth century they began to be replaced by raisins. In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other dried fruits. The dishes made with them retain the term plum to this day.

Armed with all this new knowledge about plum puddings, take a peed at the whole affair from Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811:

November 24, 1811 Stir it up Sunday. Meryton

After a light nuncheon in the dining room, Mama called them all to the kitchen. She had done the same thing every Stir it Up Sunday since Elizabeth could remember. The large worktable in the center of the kitchen bore the fragrant makings of the pudding. The air swirled with the fragrances of brandy and spices hanging in the steam of the great roiling cauldron waiting to accept the finished pudding.

“You too, Mr. Collins, for you are part of the family, to be sure.” Mama waved him toward the table.

He edged in between Jane and Elizabeth.

Of course, where else might he stand?

Elizabeth sidled over to make room for him, nearly treading on Mary’s toes in the process. Poor Mary looked so dejected. If only they might switch places, but Mama would no doubt cause such a scene if they did.

“Now, Mr. Collins has it been the habit of your family to make a Christmas pudding?” Mama asked.

“This is the first time I have experienced this most charming and agreeable custom, madam. To be sure, the Christmas Puddings at Rosings Park—”

“Well then, I shall tell you how we do it. There is a great bowl there, and you each have the ingredients beside you. You, sir, have the flour. Add it to the bowl and then pass it east to west.”

“Clockwise—” Papa whispered loudly.

Apparently, he thought little of Mr. Collins’s sense of direction. Probably for good reason.

“Yes, yes like that. Give the bowl to Jane now.”

She added a pile of minced suet and passed it to Kitty. Kitty and Lydia added dried fruits and nuts and passed it into Papa’s hands for the bread crumbs and milk.

Mama poured in the brandy soaked citron and spices. “And that makes eleven ingredients. We have two more now, thirteen for Christ and the apostles.”

Mary added the eggs and slid the heavy vessel to Elizabeth.

“How fitting for you to add the final sweetness, Cousin Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth cringed and nearly spilled the sugar.

Mama glowered at her, but quickly recovered her composure and handed Mr. Collins the wooden spoon. “To remind us of the Christ child’s crib. Now stir it east to—clockwise—with your eyes closed sir. And make a wish.”

Mr. Collins steadied the bowl and grasped the spoon. “I shall wish for—”

“No, sir,” Elizabeth forced herself not to roll her eyes. Unfortunately, Mama would never notice what she had not done. “Your wish must be made in silence.”

Mama glowered again. Little matter though. Elizabeth had no desire to hear Mr. Collins’s wish. His expression said too much as it was.

The bowl passed around the table. Some wishes were easy to guess.

Mary wished to be noticed by Mr. Collins. Kitty and Lydia wished to be noticed by anyone but Mr. Collins. Mama doubtless wished Mr. Collins to marry one of her girls, preferably Elizabeth. Jane, of course, wished for Mr. Bingley. But Papa’s wish remained a mystery. What would he want?

The cold, heavy bowl passed to her. The rough wooden spoon scraped at her fingers. What to wish for? She closed her eyes and forced the spoon through the heavy batter. To marry for love. I wish to marry for love.

“Do not dawdle so, Lizzy. We must add the charms now. Here one for each of you.” Mamma passed a charm to each sister and Mr. Collins. “Add your charm to the pudding and stir it again.”

Mama shoved the bowl toward Mary. “You start.”

Mary gulped. “I have the thimble—”

Lydia snickered. “How fitting. Spinsterhood!”

“It is for thrift.” Jane’s tone was as firm as it ever got, a veritable rebuke.

“For thrift, then.” Mary tossed it in and quickly stirred it into the batter.

“I wonder which of us shall travel.” Lydia tossed a tiny shoe charm into the pudding.

“And which shall find safe harbor?” Kitty followed with an anchor and held the bowl while Lydia stirred them in.

Jane added the coin and Elizabeth the horse shoe. Jane held whilst Elizabeth stirred.

“And you Mr. Collins?” Mama blinked, but her expression was far from innocent.

“It seems I have the ring.” He dropped it, eyes on Elizabeth.

“How very auspicious. Did you know, I added that same charm to a Christmas pudding the year of my betrothal to Mr. Bennet?”

“Traditions says—and I would hardly count it accurate—that the finder of the ring will wed, not the one who dropped it in the pudding,” Papa muttered. Did Mama rebuke him for rolling his eyes the way she had Elizabeth?

“Well that may be, Mr. Bennet, it might be. But, I can speak to what happened for me. I believe it may well have significance for others among us.” Mama fluttered her eyes at Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins smiled his cloying smile and edged a little closer to Elizabeth.

Papa huffed softly. “Let us hope that something with greater sense than a pudding prevails over such decisions, shall we now? So then, give me the buttered cloth and the pudding that it may be tied up and done with.”

Elizabeth stood back to give him room to dump the pudding out and wrap it in the pudding cloth.

Thankfully she had an ally in Papa or at least she seemed to. The way Mama carried on and encouraged Mr. Collins, she would need one.

Thank you so much, Maria, for sharing this excerpt with me and my readers! Congratulations on your upcoming releases. I can’t wait to read them!

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About Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months? 

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.  

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?   

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company. 

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

Preorder on Amazon

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About The Darcys’ First Christmas

 

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.  

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence. 

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?   

On sale on Amazon (99 cents at the time this post was published)

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About From Admiration to Love

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.  

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical. 

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out? 

Preorder on Amazon

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.  

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

She can be contacted at:

author.MariaGrace@gmail.com  | Facebook | G+ | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations</a | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering one ebook to my readers, and the winner will have a choice between Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, December 3, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let me know which book you’d like to win and what intrigues you most about these stories. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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It is always a pleasure to welcome Paulette Mahurin to the blog. I really enjoyed her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, and while I sadly have fallen behind in reading her other books, I always want to bring them to your attention, not just because her writing is great but also because all of the profits from the sale of her books benefit animal rescue efforts in Southern California. Paulette networks with multiple rescues in the area to get dogs out of kill shelters, and she has told me they have saved 823 dogs from kill shelters so far this year (as of the day I wrote this post, Nov. 16)! That is fantastic news! Click here for more information.

I’ve invited Paulette here today to talk about her inspiration for her latest novel, The Day I Saw the Hummingbird. Please give her a warm welcome:

When I wrote The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, the story took place in 1895 and dealt with the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for indecent exposure. To highlight the year and give depth to the story I researched 1895 to see if there were other newsworthy events that took place to factor into the story. That hit pay dirt. That was the year the biggest anti-Semitic scandal, The Dreyfus Affair, occurred in France and also across the ocean it was the year Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta Address sending racism flaring in the United States.

The Dreyfus Affair and Booker T. Washington’s contribution to significant historical events fascinated me. I decided to write separate books about each. The Dreyfus Affair and Emile Zola’s part in freeing an innocent man became my book, To Live Out Loud. When I finished that I wrote a book about the holocaust, The Seven Year Dress.

When that was in print my attention once again went to Booker T. Washington, and I puzzled with how to address a story surrounding the events of his life. My research led me to the struggles he went through to see that doors were opened to give African Americans a chance at education, which up till then had been illegal in many states. The quest to understand the lack of education led me to slaves during the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, which inspired me to write my fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird.

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About The Day I Saw The Hummingbird

On the eve of his tenth birthday, a young slave’s life is turned upside down. The unthinkable events that led up to the day Oscar Mercer saw a hummingbird test the limits of this young boy’s body, mind and soul. Gripped with fear and filled with anger, Oscar faces raw, crushing hatred aimed at him and everyone he loves. In a time when a nation was ripped apart geographically, economically, politically and morally, comes a story of a courageous boy who began life as a slave on a sugarcane plantation in Louisiana and escapes via the Underground Railroad. Through the efforts and good will of kind, brave people determined to free slaves, Oscar faces devastating obstacles and dangers. Struggling with his inner impulse to seek revenge for the injustices and violence levied on his family and friends, he discovers that in bondage you pray to God, but in freedom you meet Him. From the award-winning, best-selling author of The Seven Year Dress comes a story that brings another cadre of memorable characters alive on pages that pulse with hatred and kindness, cruelty and compassion, despair and hope. Oscar’s journey on the Underground Railroad is a heart-pounding ride that the reader will remember long after this story ends.

“A superb portrayal of courage and strength of the human spirit. A poignant and unforgettable page-turner. I loved every page.” Jana Petken, bestselling author of The Guardian of Secrets.

Check out The Day I Saw the Hummingbird on Goodreads | Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)

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About the Author

Paulette Mahurin is a best selling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the top ten bestseller lists on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K. and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, is schedules for release in 2017. Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue. Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

Check out Paulette’s Facebook and Amazon pages

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Thank you for sharing your inspiration, Paulette! And thank you for you contribution to animal rescue efforts! Congratulations on your new release, and thank you for being my guest.

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

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

In short, Freddy is a fop!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see what Elizabeth Bennet thinks of him.

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An Excerpt from Teaching Eliza, courtesy of Riana Everly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How fascinating!” Aunt Patricia supplied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About Teaching Eliza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

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

Connect with Riana via Facebook | website

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Giveaway

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

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