Posts Tagged ‘author guest posts’

I had such a wonderful time editing Victoria Kincaid’s latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, and I’m thrilled to welcome her back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate its release! Victoria is here to talk about her research on espionage and to share an excerpt from the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you for having me visit, Anna!  While doing research for The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, I learned a lot about espionage activities during the Napoleonic Wars.  In particular, I read about the Alien office (part of the Home Office) which was basically the British government’s first official spy agency.  I learned about a number of fascinating incidents which would make great scenes in novels but didn’t fit into this book.  Still, I think that anyone who is interested in the era would find them remarkable—and entertaining:

  • The Alien Office thwarted one actual domestic insurrection: an incipient Irish rebellion led by agents supported by the French government. The secret service placed agents in Ireland to infiltrate the organization. This enabled them to arrest all of the rebellion’s leaders in 1798 before the event took place this represented one of the office’s greatest success.
  • In 1800 the secret service helped one faction of the French royalists form the “English Committee” in Paris. The Committee was responsible for several assassination attempts on Napoleon’s life—the most famous of which was the Rue Nicaise bombing on Christmas Eve, 1800. By 1803 the Committee had detailed plans in place for Napoleon’s kidnapping or assassination.  These plans almost certainly could not have remained in place without the tacit complicity of Fouche, the well-known minister of police in Paris.
  • One of the Committee’s most successful agents was a woman, Madame Williams. An Englishman’s widow who made multiple Channel crossings, some disguised as a sailor, Williams was never captured or apparently even suspected of being a spy.
  • Napoleon had planted agents of his own. One double agent arrived in England with his own false plans for overthrowing the French government.  Aware of the ruse, the British government created an elaborate counter plan that was designed to fool the French authorities into believing the British had fallen for their trick.  For months they created correspondence and moved agents around Europe with the purpose of deceiving Napoleon’s spy.
  • Savary, the chief of Napoleon’s personal guard, was charged with Investigating the extent of a treasonous plot. He visited the home of a recently discovered traitor along the Channel coast and found early drafts of reports that he himself had given to the Emperor.  He realized then that the information in the reports he had been giving had been authored by the British Alien Office.

It is difficult to say to what extent the secret service’s efforts helped to bring about Napoleon’s eventual demise since it is the nature of espionage to have unseen effects.  Most likely the agency’s efforts helped to sow the seeds that eventually led to many French citizens to switch to the royalist cause, but at the time eventual success was attributed to diplomacy and conventional warfare.


An excerpt from The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

Darcy returned his attention to Elizabeth’s still form, aware that the doctor’s eyes were upon him.  After a long moment the Frenchman spoke.  “You are not a laborer searching for work.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Darcy stiffened.  “No?”

“Your hands are too soft, with callouses only from a horse’s reins.”  The doctor’s voice was matter-of-fact, not accusatory.  “A farm laborer’s hands are calloused everywhere.”

Darcy cursed himself silently for not having anticipated that detail.

“And you have an English wife.”  No doubt myriad explanations occurred to the doctor: spies, expatriate nobles, smugglers.

Darcy readied himself to fight.  Were he alone he could simply flee, but he could not leave Elizabeth behind—and traveling might kill her.

But Martin spread his hands, giving Darcy a gentle smile. “I am not your enemy.  To me, you and your wife are simply patients in need of care, and I have taken an oath to care for all who need it.”  Darcy regarded the doctor steadily.  Did he dare take the other man’s word?  Did he dare put his life—and Elizabeth’s—into this man’s trust?

Darcy sighed, and his shoulders slumped.  In truth, he had no choice.

“I swear I will not give you up to the authorities.  I have no love for them.  I would not give a rabid dog into their keeping.”  For a moment Martin’s expression was quite fierce.

Darcy nodded, somewhat reassured.

Martin looked at him sidelong.  “But will you tell me how an English gentleman and his wife came to be in Saint-Malo in the midst of a war?”

An English gentleman.  Darcy rubbed his face with both hands.  Despite his clothing, Darcy apparently might as well be wearing a sign proclaiming his name and rank.  Very well. The doctor had guessed enough of the truth; Darcy might as well tell more.  “Elizabeth was on a ship that exploded near the Channel Islands. It was reported that everyone on the ship was lost.  I am seeking the man responsible for the explosion, but I did not expect to find…” He gestured to Elizabeth’s still form.

“Yes, I remember hearing word of that.  An explosion would explain the blow to the head, but her survival is wonderful indeed.  I know of no other survivors.”

The rise and fall of Elizabeth’s chest fascinated Darcy, and he allowed himself to revel in the simple fact of her breathing.  Although he did not like the soft rattle in her exhales or the convulsive coughs.  “It is a miracle.  I had no hope.”

Martin clasped Darcy’s shoulder.  “If someone killed Marguerite, I would hunt him down as well.  I wish I knew this man so I could help you seek revenge.”

Darcy continued to regard the other man warily.

Martin chuckled.  “Our countries may be at war, but I have no quarrel with you, sir.  Your secret is safe with me.”

Did Darcy even dare to trust the man?  “I cannot ask you to take such risks…”

“The risk is not so great.  Bretagne only grudgingly supported the revolution or the emperor.  My sentiments are very common.”

Darcy was humbled by the man’s generosity and trust.  “I thank you, sir.  I will be forever in your debt.”

The man took the necklace from the table and poured it into Darcy’s hand.  “You must keep this safe until your wife may wear it once more.” Darcy stared dumbly at the pendant in his hand.  “I am afraid the chain broke when we removed it from her neck.”

Darcy threaded the chain of his watch fob through the loop at the top of the pendant.  He had chosen his plainest, cheapest watch and fob for the journey, but the doctor’s sharp look suggested it was still out of place.  Hopefully the future of Britain did not rest on Darcy’s abilities to pass as a common Frenchman.

Darcy heard a knock sounding on the front door.  Martin looked toward the source of the noise.  “Ah, I have a patient for a return visit.”   With a nod to Darcy, the doctor slipped through the door and closed it behind him with a quiet click.

Darcy was alone in the room with Elizabeth—his sleeping miracle. His eyes sought out her face once more, savoring the features he had never thought to see again in this lifetime.  His heart was so full that it felt ready to burst from his chest. Yes, Elizabeth was ill, and they were trapped in a country at war with an unknown enemy threatening them.  But Elizabeth was alive, and for the moment that was more than enough.


About The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy

A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Mr. Darcy arrives at Longbourn, intending to correct the mistakes he made during his disastrous proposal in Hunsford. To his horror, he learns that Elizabeth Bennet was killed in a ship’s explosion off the coast of France—in an apparent act of sabotage. Deep in despair, he travels in disguise to wartime France to seek out the spy responsible for her death.

But a surprise awaits Darcy in the French town of Saint-Malo: Elizabeth is alive!

Recovering from a blow to the head, Elizabeth has no memory of her previous life, and a series of mistakes lead her to believe that Darcy is her husband. However, they have even bigger problems. As they travel through a hostile country, the saboteur mobilizes Napoleon’s network of spies to capture them and prevent them from returning home. Elizabeth slowly regains her memories, but they often leave her more confused.

Darcy will do anything to help Elizabeth reach England safely, but what will she think of him when she learns the truth of their relationship?

Buy on Amazon



Victoria is generously offering a reader’s choice giveaway of either an ebook or paperback copy of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy. One winner will be selected. This giveaway is open internationally, and will be open through Sunday, August 5, 2018. To enter, leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Victoria! It’s always a pleasure to have you visit. Congratulations on your new release!


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It’s a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of his latest audio books, Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and The Maid and the Footman. Please give him a warm welcome!

Which came first: The Written or the Spoken Word?

One of my favorite mantras to students…be they history or writing…is that “if it sounds weird, it probably is weird.” Oh, I know, this is odd to be coming from the podium at an august institution of higher education, but it is spoken with the best of intents. T’is my fun way to encourage the l’il darlin’s to proofread aloud. That way they will hear the sound of their words…and understand that if they are spewing a mouthful of gibberish, they likely have written something semantically incomprehensible.

This exercise is rooted in my belief that every single syllable, pause—partial or full—sentence, and paragraph have grown from Humanity’s effort to preserve that which came first; the spoken word.

Recall that t’was the Greeks who invented vowels (after they pinched the Phoenician alphabet in the mid-700s BCE to replace Linear B from the pre-Greek Dark Ages days: nobody could read it!) so that they could preserve the Homeric Epics after Homer died.

I mean, how would The Illiad read if there was an eternal confusion over (OK, this is English, but imagine an Athenian bard trying to sing for his supper) whether the word “dg” was “dog,” “dig,” “dug,” or “dag?” The cardinal vowels (a, e, i, o, u…forget about the cross-dressing “y” and “w”) were created to allow the Greeks to record their favorite after dinner entertainment. OK, Plato surely recorded many down-and-out drinking brawls where Alcibiaedes and Socrates would try to drink each other under the klismos, but that was after a local minstrel had recited a few dozen stanzas of something designed to show the cultural chops of the party’s host.

Yet, given that the Greek’s captured the eloquence of Homer’s words…and later those of Sappho, Aeschylus, and, later by Romans living on another peninsula, Ovid…these written works were still designed to allow an oral performance before an audience.

This is, I admit, a long way around the block to get me to the point of saying that all writing is rooted in the oral tradition. If that is the case, should not all writing when heard sound as good as (if not better than) when it  read silently?

In the #InspiredByAusten world, #Austenesque authors over the past few years have been moving through the processes of bringing their works to a broad public using a range of electronic publishing options. Many are now adept at designing their stories to fit both digital and print venues.  We have, it seems, been following the traditional path extant since our good friend Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press in the 1450s.

Naturally, this great leap in the manner in which the written word could be distributed forced a putting of the cart before the horse, essentially given primacy of written over spoken. And so it has remained until the last 20 or 30 years.

However, new technologies (I am ignoring phonographs upon which you could have enjoyed Gielgud performing King Lear…not particularly portable.) led to a reappraisal of the spoken word as a literary device. Three words…books on tape.

Of course, these were usually the author or celebrity author reading their word into a microphone. The utility was that one could listen to a book…and hear the author’s voice…without having to cease other tasks in order to flip pages. But, t’was “just” a reading, not a performance. And, so it remained for a few decades.

With the advances in Internet technology and ever-expanding server farms, more opportunities to move books to recorded arenas are now available. And, in the process, voice artists are bringing their talents to performing and interpreting the books.

I have been in the midst of a four-month process of moving all of my books (Bennet Wardrobe and Lessers and Betters) to #Audible.

The reason is simple: I want my readers to also be able to engage my books in a different manner. The performers with whom I work offer just that. Barbara Rich (The Lessers and Betters stories) and Amanda Berry (The books of the Bennet Wardrobe) bring their training and experience to play to present listeners with a uniquely different experience.

They interpret the pacing of the writing. They assume the nature of the characters. They bring emotion to the passages and, hopefully inspire reactions not experienced by readers of the printed books. They draw you in…much as the ancient Greek and Roman rhapsōidos did 2,500 years ago. And, in the process, make the words I have laid down sound much as they did when I imagined them.


Please read the following excerpt from Chapter VIII in Henry Fitzwilliam’s War while listening to the audio sample as performed by Amanda Berry found here.

The House thus settled itself for another night much as it had for almost a century, its long porches reaching out to embrace the turbulent weather that had disturbed its owners’ homeland just a few hours before. Idiosyncratic creaks and pops echoed through the structure as ancient nails and beams gave up the heat collected from the watery October sun. Yet, while the building and its servants may have surrendered themselves to sleep, the two principals found such relief impossible to attain.

She could not imagine that he could be pulled away from her again, even though she knew that it was impossible for him to remain in this time.  His absence would disrupt every thread, every mote that swirled in the complicated universe governed by the Wardrobe. Only the fact that her husband was in Washington permitted the soldier’s presence next door.

As she lay there, counting the hours to dawn, she gazed around her son’s room, the furnishings so distinctly male, yet still revealing his sensitive nature.  On the one hand, his polo mallets were resting in hooks on the wall facing the window; two cricket bats were also propped in the corner.  On the other, one of her favorite canvases, his oil of Roses on Fieldstone, Deauville looked down at the foot of the bed.  How she prayed for his safety. What would he have made of the young man resting in his parent’s bed?

That young man tossed one way and then the other.  Each crash of thunder returned him to that night, back to Loos, to the moment when he could still count sight as one of his senses. But, artillery was only thunderous at the moment of impact.  The low grumble beyond the horizon, sometimes punctuated by flashes of grim lightening, first led to a whistle that increased in pitch and volume if the shell had your number.  If not, the sound deepened and the moaning faded as the charge found another target.

Then there was the wind; its gusts shook the House like a terrier would a captured rat. Again he was thrown back to the Front where the ground quivered pudding-like under the pounding of Hun cannons. Sudden drafts chilled his cheeks and chin as the pervasive blasts overwhelmed well-mitered windows.

How foolish we were, to allow phony “national pride,” the ultimate manifestation of masculinity, to destroy the system that had kept the peace for a hundred years.  Now the blood price that will have to be paid to erase this, man’s original sin—pride, will be steep indeed.

He knew that the coming parting was utterly necessary. He had to return to his own time lest he become another Kitty Bennet, now lost in the Wardrobe for 70 years. He could see Gran’s sadness when she spoke of her next eldest sister.  He could not subject his family to that sort of grief.


There was a point around midnight when she found herself sitting on the edge of her bed.  Had she dozed?  Then, responding to a dream, had she risen in pursuit of…she knew not what? The pulling she had felt for twenty-plus years was roiling her insides. The demand was too intense.

Her bare feet touched down on the bedside throw rug. Gathering a blanket around her shoulders, she glided across the mahogany stained floorboards to open her door. Just four steps down the hallway to his. She rested her forehead against the panel, trying to control her breathing—but with little success.

Stop…do not proceed.  You will break your heart…and his!

In his darkness, he first perceived her scent, roses rushing over the grass to his nose.  He must have lost the sound of the door opening beneath one of the crashes of the storm.  Somewhere, feet or inches away, She stood, silently.  The weight of her eyes in the nighttime darkness bore on him.  Her gaze played up and down his body and pushed his aura like a hand gently stroking a cat’s silky coat.  He could hear her shallow quick breaths signaling intense conflict. But, she did not move to close the gap.



Don is generously offering a two-pack of Audible codes for Henry Fitzwilliam’s War and The Maid and the Footman. There will be two winners selected. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 5, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!


About the Author

Don Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Don! It’s always a pleasure having you as my guest! Congratulations on your latest audio book releases!

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It’s always a pleasure having P.O. Dixon as a guest, and today I’ve welcomed her back to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Designed for Each Other. Please give her a warm welcome!

It’s always an honor to be here at Diary of an Eccentric to share a new release excerpt. Thanks so much for having me, Anna.

My being here also allows me to broach the topic of alternate pairings among Jane Austen’s couples. In the world of Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF), it is widely held that Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet pairings are the rule. But what about Miss Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley? Is the pairing of these two as staunchly defended in Pride and Prejudice retellings as with Darcy and Elizabeth?

There have and always will be exceptions in the case of either couple. What are rules for if not to be broken? In the case of Jane and Bingley, I have often paired either of them with others in my JAFF stories—most often with original characters and once with Mr. William Collins. Poor Jane.

Where Jane Austen’s characters are concerned, I like to entertain the idea of an alliance between Jane and Colonel Fitzwilliam. In many of my stories, the two are very often cast as more than merely casual acquaintances, but rather two people who enjoy a healthy share of flirtation with each other. As much as I would like to give Jane and the colonel their own happily ever after with each other, I have been unable to do so. It seems I cannot overlook his being the second son of an earl and as a result, his needing to marry a woman with her own fortune if he means to continue his preferred manner of living. Fifty thousand pounds, after all, is a pretty tall order for Jane.

I’m sure that one day I’ll envision a scenario that renders Colonel Fitzwilliam’s particular dilemma inconsequential. Until then, here’s an excerpt from my new release, Designed for Each Other, which features Jane and the colonel having a most heartfelt conversation.



Chapter 21 (Excerpt) – Designed for Each Other

“Miss Bennet, you may have noticed that I have grown extremely fond of you since making your acquaintance. Indeed, I like to think of the two of us as more than casual acquaintances.”

“I agree, Colonel Fitzwilliam. You and I are of the same mind as regards our acquaintance, I am sure.”

“I am delighted to hear you say that.” Seizing her hand in his, he raised it to his lips and brushed a soft kiss across her knuckles. Lowering her hand while still holding it in his, he said, “I admire you too much not to be completely honest with you regarding all the pertinent facts relating to Bingley’s abrupt departure from Hertfordshire.”

Jane could not deny being affected by the colonel’s nearness. She had spent too much time in his company during the past weeks to be immune to those innumerable gifts he possessed, his being a man with a way with women. Her heartbeat racing, it did not help her composure one bit that he was sitting so close and holding, even caressing, her hand.

Their eyes met, and it was more than a moment before she grew demure. Breaking eye contact, she withdrew her hand. Standing, she smoothed her skirt and walked over to the fireplace.

The colonel also stood. He walked over to a side table and poured a drink. He offered it to Jane, but she did not accept. He took a sip of the dark liquor.

“Sir, what is it that you think I should know about Mr. Bingley’s leave-taking?”

His drink in hand, he walked to where Jane stood. By way of an inviting gesture of his hand, he encouraged her to take a seat by the fireplace. He took the one directly opposite. “I think you should know that whereas Miss Bingley may have played a part in keeping you and her brother separated, she did not act alone. You see, Miss Bennet, my cousin was also instrumental in the scheme.”

“Mr. Darcy?” Jane cried.

The colonel nodded. “Trust me when I say that both Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley may have been complicit in the scheme, but their motives for their actions have nothing in common whatsoever. I can only speak to Darcy’s motives, for he explained his purposes to me long before you and I met. Indeed, in explaining the time he spent with Bingley last autumn, he mentioned having to come to his rescue yet again to save him from a most disadvantageous alliance. I say that he had no ill intentions towards you in doing so because Bingley had theretofore fancied himself in love with any number of young women since he and Darcy became friends. I am afraid that my cousin could have no reason to suppose that Bingley’s falling in love with you was any different.”

“I suppose my family’s lack of fortune and want of connections must surely have been a factor as well,” said Jane.

“A circumstance that is by no means confined to you nor are you to be faulted, but from Darcy’s viewpoint, Bingley’s tendency in failing to consider such things is not exactly in his own best interest. At the time, Darcy felt it was incumbent on himself to see that his friend made the most advantageous match possible.”

“Do you mean to someone like his own sister, Miss Darcy?”

Miss Bingley’s words to a similar effect echoed in Jane’s mind: “My brother admires her greatly already; he will have frequent opportunity now of seeing her on the most intimate footing; her relations all wish the connection as much as his own, and a sister’s partiality is not misleading me, I think, when I call Charles most capable of engaging any woman’s heart. With all these circumstances to favor an attachment, and nothing to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an event which will secure the happiness of so many?”

The colonel replied, “I suspect that may very well be the favorite wish of Mr. Bingley’s family, and there may have been a moment in my young cousin’s history where both Darcy and I entertained such a notion, but the truth is, young Georgiana’s prospects ought not to be constrained.”

“In other words, Mr. Bingley is not good enough for Miss Darcy.”

“I did not say that?”

“What are you saying?”

“I am saying that Darcy, in doing all he did to keep you and Bingley apart, was acting in service to his friend.”

Jane wondered if Elizabeth had any knowledge of the things the colonel alleged. And if she did, why did she choose not to confide in Jane herself? On the other hand, she had never seen her sister so happy. Elizabeth loved Mr. Darcy, and she likely wanted Jane to love him too, and thus her silence on his role in the scheme.

“I pray that in telling you all this you will not begrudge my cousin. I merely thought you should know.”

“I cannot fault your cousin if for nothing else but for the sake of familial harmony as he is to be my brother, I must let bygones be bygones.”

“I am happy you feel that way, which brings me to another matter of great concern to me. One having to do with Charles Bingley.”

“Mr. Bingley, sir?”

“Indeed,” said the colonel, nodding. “you suffer a bit of ill will toward him for the way you were mistreated by the people who mean the most to him.”

“And rightly so.”

“Surely if you can forgive Darcy, then you can forgive Bingley. If not for the sake of familial harmony, then for yourself. I am certain he cares deeply for you even if you choose not to see just how much. I suspect you love him too or at least you believed you did at one time. Those feelings cannot have dissipated so easily as the passage of a couple of months would allow. Let that be the basis upon which the two of you build something lasting. He is an excellent match for you.”

“As opposed to whom, Colonel Fitzwilliam? For I cannot suppose you are not speaking of yourself.”

“I would be lying if I denied how much I wish it were otherwise. But the second son of an earl cannot marry where he chooses. I must—”

Nodding, Jane interrupted, “—marry a woman with her own fortune if you are to maintain your manner of living. I know—my sister made that abundantly clear when she suspected that I might be captivated by your infinite charms.”

“I want you to know that were my situation different, I would do everything in my power to make you mine. You are exquisite, Miss Bennet.”

As though he was powerless to do otherwise, he stood from his chair and walked over to her. He seized her hand in his once again and bowing, pressed a lingering kiss on her palm. He had the keenest sense of how vulnerable she was.

When Bingley speaks of her has being an angel, he cannot possibly know how close he is to speaking the truth.

As for the colonel, he would be lying if he said he was unaffected by her. A part of him longed for her—ached for the chance to know her in that way a man knew the woman whom he adored, the woman who belonged to him and him alone. In the lonely hours of the night since getting to know her, he yearned for her—spent long hours satiating his need for her, imagining her there beside him.

Her hand in his, she cried, “You are not being fair, sir. One moment you are encouraging me to open my heart once again to the man who has been the means of tearing it apart, and the next moment you are making love to me.”


About Designed for Each Other

Make room, Mrs. Bennet. It’s Charlotte’s turn to play matchmaker for Mr. Darcy and her intimate friend, Elizabeth.

Mr. Darcy has a second chance to court Miss Elizabeth Bennet after his disastrous marriage proposal, thanks largely to Mrs. Collins’s timely intervention. As a result of an incident at Rosings, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves suddenly engaged to each other.

Elizabeth respects Mr. Darcy. She likes him very much. But, what if she fears she is not indeed in love with the gentleman? What if Elizabeth is persuaded she does not really know what love is?

Darcy’s heart belongs to Elizabeth. What must he do to convince her that her heart belongs to him?

§ Author’s Note
Designed for Each Other is a fast-paced 50,000+ words story in which Darcy and Elizabeth explore the more sensuous aspects of their relationship. Print length is 300 pages.

Universal buy link


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If you’re as curious as I am to find out what happens next, Pam is generously offering an ebook copy of Designed for Each Other to one lucky winner. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 29, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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My guest today is Georgie Capron, author of The Distance Between Us. To celebrate her book release, she is here to talk about writing a book during maternity leave, and Aria is offering an ebook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

How to write a book on maternity leave

When I signed my three-book deal with Aria Fiction I was over the moon. My first ever manuscript had not only bagged me an agent, but now also a book deal! Who could ask for more? Even better, they had agreed to buy my second novel too, which I had already written, though it was still very rough around the edges. Soon the contract negotiations began. The first book, Just the Two of Us, was going to be published on 1st February 2017 — five months after I was first approached by Aria. The second, One Summer in Positano (originally titled It Was Always You) was going to be published just six months later. And the third, as yet unwritten, had a publication date of summer 2018. It was due to be submitted by January. During the negotiations, I was pregnant with my first child, which meant I would be editing book two with a newborn and then cracking on with book three whilst on maternity leave.

On the one hand, I began to panic, how would I ever manage to do it? But on the other, I was about to have a whole year off work… So many people I’ve met have said that they dream of writing a book on maternity leave. I knew it had been done before and theoretically, of course, anything is possible! So, I took a deep breath and signed on the dotted line, agreeing to all the proposed deadlines. A couple of weeks later I read one of my favourite writers, Caitlin Moran’s column in The Times. It basically said you would have to be utterly mad to contemplate writing a book on maternity leave. Oh. Too late for me… so I plodded on. Or waddled, more accurately, at that moment in time!

In February 2017 along came my daughter, two weeks overdue, which had bought me invaluable extra time to edit. Now, one year later, with my third book (The Distance Between Us) due for publication any minute, people often ask me for my top tips on how to manage writing a book on maternity leave. So here goes:

Tip 1) Don’t attempt anything until your baby is at least six weeks old. I left it three months. You need time to get used to the enormous changes that are happening in your life, to recover from the birth, and to enjoy all those precious newborn cuddles.

Tip 2) Think about your story line before you have the baby. I had written the synopsis and a vague chapter by chapter overview before she arrived. I think this helped because it’s quite hard to find the headspace to generate ideas when you are so sleep deprived.

Tip 3) Set yourself very manageable bite-size chunks to write. Think of it as chipping away at a huge block of marble to reveal the hidden figure within. Each writing session, no matter how small, will help you get to that target of 100,000 words (give or take 10% — so, obviously, I was aiming for 90,000!) I tried to do 1,000 words each time I sat down at my laptop but sometimes it was only a couple of hundred and that was fine too.

Tip 4) Babies sleep a lot, especially in their first year. I used to write when my daughter was asleep, and still do on the days when I am not teaching.

Tip 5) Don’t obsessively reread your work. You need to get that first draft down on paper. I recently read a quote by the author Shannon Hale which I adored: “Writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” I would set myself targets for when I could send the document to my kindle and read and edit the whole manuscript thus far, for example after 10,000 words. In the meantime, I had to content myself with rereading what I had written the previous session, editing that, and then stubbornly carrying on. As Hale said, you are shovelling sand into a box, the really fun part comes later, when you get to turn that sand into sandcastles.

Tip 5) Take breaks. If you want to take a whole month off writing, do it. I took the whole of August off so I could give my mind a rest and enjoy the holidays we had planned without feeling guilty I wasn’t writing. If you think about it, you only need 90 days where you sit down and write 1,000 words and that’s it, your first draft is complete!


About The Distance Between Us

For fans of Marian Keyes, Hurrah for Gin and Allison Pearson.

A tear-jerking but uplifting modern love story about motherhood and marriage.

Happy children, happy husband, happily ever after? Tasha knows that she should count her blessings: married for eleven years, mother to three healthy children, she should be content with her lot. However, feelings of frustration have settled over her like a dark cloud. Despite living under the same roof and sharing the same bed, Tasha has never felt so distant from her husband, Charlie. She feels worn down by the mental load of motherhood, drowning in the never-ending chores that keep the family and household afloat. Most of all she worries that her once happy marriage is slipping away from her. Tasha longs for something to change, but when change comes calling will it really be the answer she was hoping for? And is it possible to fall in love with the same person twice?

A modern day love story about family, marriage and risking it all to have it all.

Buy The Distance Between Us on Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play


About the Author

Georgie Capron

Georgie lives in South West London with her husband and daughter. Alongside her writing she works as a primary school teacher and she particularly enjoys teaching English. She studied Italian and History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and did a PGCE in primary education at the University of London.

Connect with Georgie: Website | Twitter | Facebook



Aria is offering 2 ebook copies of The Distance Between Us to my readers. This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 15, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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I’m delighted to welcome Karen M Cox back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Son of a Preacher Man, an original novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novel is set in 1959, so Karen is here to talk about money during that year. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thanks so much for the invitation to be a guest on Diary of an Eccentric! I’m Karen M Cox, and I write fiction accented with history and romance. My new release is titled, Son of a Preacher Man, and it’s my fifth full-length novel. It holds a special place in my heart because of the themes explored: the roles of men and women, what it means to be “good”, and most of all, it’s about forgiveness and the power of love. I like to say it’s “a realistic love story told by an idealistic young man.”

I’ll let you in on a little secret—in Son of a Preacher Man, the hero, Billy Ray Davenport has money, but you’d never know it. Because he isn’t worried about financial matters, they don’t define him. On the other hand, when it comes to money, our heroine, Lizzie Quinlan, has none, and it’s written all over her for the world to see.

So, let’s talk money in 1959. What did people make? What did things cost?

(Sources: Morris County Library (NJ) website, thePeopleHistory.com, University of Missouri Libraries)

Billy Ray wants to be a doctor. In 1959, the median income for physicians and surgeons was a whopping $15,000 per year! But when you compare it with other professions, it looks pretty good:

Junior Accountant? You’d pull down 90$/week

Chemical Engineer? He (and they were almost all “he” at that time) made $7000/year

Typist/clerk? Only 65$/week.

Most things were much, much cheaper in 1959 than they are today:

For example, an Oldsmobile 88 Automobile, 6 passenger car cost $2,887.

Women’s cotton dress would set you back $10.98.

Box of Ritz Crackers? $0.25 for a 12 oz box

A loaf of bread was $0.20.

Gasoline cost $0.25/gallon!

Billy Ray and Lizzie’s movie tickets to see West Side Story were $1.00 each.

But this surprised me: A Kitchen Aid Dishwasher cost between $209.95 and $479.95. Sure, it’s about 2-3 times more today ($500 or $600 for most models), but when you look at gasoline, which is like, 10 times as much today as it was then—the 1959 cost of the dishwasher is a bit of a shocker.

It’s tempting to look back fondly on decades past, when items cost less or society seemed more calm, but, as Billy Ray learns in Son of a Preacher Man, things aren’t always what they seem.


About Son of a Preacher Man

“I forget that you’re a fella sometimes.”

“Gee, thanks.”

I never forgot that she was a girl. Not for one second…

1959. The long, hot Southern summer bakes the sleepy town of Orchard Hill. Billy Ray Davenport, an aspiring physician and only son of an indomitable traveling minister, is a young man with a plan that starts with working in a small-town doctor’s office before he begins medical school in the fall. Handsome, principled, and keenly observant, he arrives in town to lodge with the Millers, the local doctor’s family. He never bargained for Lizzie Quinlan—a complex, kindred spirit who is beautiful and compassionate, yet scorned by the townsfolk. Could a girl with a reputation be different than she seems? With her quirky wisdom and a spine of steel hidden beneath an effortless sensuality, Lizzie is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

A realistic look at first love, told by an idealistic young man, Son of a Preacher Man is a heartwarming coming of age tale set in a simpler time.

Buy Son of a Preacher Man: Universal Buy Link | Amazon


Connect with Karen








Enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of one of my backlist titles (1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, I Could Write a Book, or The Journey Home(novella)) AND a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Three winners will be randomly selected on 7/25/18. This giveaway is international. You must enter through this link. Good luck!

Thank you, Karen, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and can’t wait to get a chance to read it!

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I am so excited to welcome one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction back to Diary of an Eccentric today. Joana Starnes is here to celebrate the release of The Darcy Legacy, which I’m hoping to read very soon. Please give her a warm welcome!

Many thanks, Anna, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my new book, The Darcy Legacy.

As I’ve mentioned before, this novel has rather less angst and a lot more banter compared to my other ones. The two people we have to thank for that – or rather the two culprits – are Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr Bennet.

Photo: BBC

These two gentlemen are such fun to write, especially because neither of them is willing to take Darcy very seriously, and certainly not as seriously as he takes himself.

The colonel knows his cousin like the back of his hand, and at all times knows exactly how to deconstruct Darcy’s ever so careful reasoning.

As for Mr Bennet, he poses a very different challenge to our favourite hero: Mr Bennet is The Figure of Authority – and submitting to authority doesn’t come easily to Darcy, not anymore. He has been his own man ever since his father’s death, and has had to obey no will but his own. This is no longer the case. Now he has to deal with one who has the ‘power of veto.’

Elizabeth isn’t of age yet, parental consent is needed for them to marry, and Darcy simply can’t afford to get on the wrong side of Mr Bennet.

The added difficulty is that they’re very different people, who react in very different ways to the world around them. Darcy is conscientious, serious-minded and punctilious to a fault. Mr Bennet tends to make a joke of everything. And chances are that Darcy isn’t likely to regard his courtship as a joke.

So… now I’d like to share a particular interview. Hope you and your readers will enjoy it. Let me set the scene: Mr Darcy has just landed himself in deep water (if you had a peek at the excerpt in my guest post at Austenesque Reviews on Jul 2, you’ll know what I mean 😉 ). Some crisis management is in order – urgently. To put it in modern parlance, Mr Darcy has to ‘fess up.

Hope you’ll enjoy the conversation between Elizabeth’s father and her suitor. I must admit I had great fun writing it.


An excerpt from The Darcy Legacy

Mr Bennet was in the library, as expected, in his customary place at the farthest end of the large and pretentiously ornamented room. […] Darcy bowed his head in lieu of any other greeting, then instead of joining the older gentleman in his corner, he turned to feign some interest in the nearest bookcase. He had not lost his courage – not as such. The firmness of purpose with which he had embarked upon the mortifying and potentially hazardous endeavour was still with him. However, the ability to choose his words was not.

Darcy struggled to regain it as he stared through narrowed eyes at the shelves before him, seeing nothing but a countenance aflame with the deepest blush and a pair of fine eyes alight with indignation.

‘… this morning brought one disgrace too many, and you should not be here. If neither I nor your own conscience can make you see that my quarters are out of bounds, then you shall have to hear it from my father.’

Disgrace, she had called it, her lips curling in distaste.

“Imbecile,” Darcy hissed under his breath. Yet apparently he was not sufficiently quiet, for his companion looked up from his book again.

“Sir?” Mr Bennet queried. “Did you say something?”

“No, nothing,” Darcy dissembled, then felt compelled to add, “I beg your pardon, I was…”

He let his voice trail off, reluctant to finish his sentence and acknowledge that he was talking to himself. He walked along the book-lined wall, retraced his steps when he reached the corner of the room, and before long what had begun as an aimless amble turned into steadily pacing back and forth.

The fact that his current employment had gained him Mr Bennet’s full attention escaped Darcy’s notice. He did not mutter as he paced but, lips pursed, he proceeded from hissed

invectives to a silent and grim analysis of his performance. Naught but blunder after blunder, and idiotic ones at that. Ambushing her in her quarters. Pressing his suit when she was clearly uncomfortable and most unwilling to have that conversation – and thus compounding the dreadful blunders of the morning. His proposal, seasoned with talk of their disparities – her connections – Lady Catherine. The unhinged mutterings that followed. […] It was little wonder she thought him suffering from sunstroke or the like. And despite his ill-judged remarks on her station in life, she had stayed to watch over him – had shown him concern and kindness. Why the devil could he not respond in kind? He might have helped her to her feet – might have reworded his proposal in a gentlemanlike manner, instead of—

Yet even then, for all the self-reproaches, his breath caught as he revisited those glorious moments in the grove. Her warm weight in his arms. Her enticing form draped over him, pressed against him. Soft flesh under his fingertips, under a thin layer of muslin. Soft lips under his. Her startled gasp when she had held her breath, only to release it in a rush and let it wash over his face, sweet, fragrant and warm, driving him to distraction. Compelling him to kiss her again. And she had kissed him back. She had! Surely, he had not lost his senses to the point of imagining that. She had closed her eyes and kissed him back.

“Spoilt for choice, Mr Darcy?” Mr Bennet suddenly asked, making him start.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You seem to have some difficulty in selecting a book. Were you looking for something in particular?”

“Yes. No, I mean…” Inwardly cursing his newly-acquired propensity to babble, Darcy squared his shoulders. “May I join you?” he brought himself to say.

“By all means, feel free. Find yourself a good book and a glass, if you are so inclined. The port is here, but look in the customary place if you favour brandy over port, or anything in between,” Mr Bennet said, gesturing towards the decanter at his right, and then in the vague direction of the marble-topped dresser where the drinks were kept.

Darcy nodded his thanks and ambled towards the older gentleman’s end of the room, stopping along the way to pour himself a brandy. He chose a chair, moved it a little closer to Mr Bennet and angled it in his direction, then sat, glass in hand. He did not drink, and he likewise disdained the subterfuge of opening a book and feigning interest in it as he chose his words. He shifted in his seat and crossed his legs. He tugged at his neckcloth – tied too damnably tight when he had attempted to make himself presentable upon his return to the house – then crossed his legs the other way.

Across the small distance between them, Mr Bennet looked up to cast him a half-amused, half-exasperated glance.

“Is there anything troubling you, sir?”

“I— Yes,” Darcy acknowledged. “I came to speak to you, if you can spare the time. There is something I must say.”

“Is there? Very well. My time is yours, Mr Darcy, and seemingly in limitless supply,” Mr Bennet evenly replied, closing his book and setting it aside. Then he refilled his glass, raised it amicably towards the other, took a sip and motioned him to begin.

Darcy raised his own glass and drained it. Mr Bennet chortled.

“That bad?” he mildly remarked. “By all means, pour yourself another, if you find yourself in need of a few more drops of Dutch courage.”

“I thank you, no. I had better get on with it.”

“Pray do. So, what did you come to speak of?”

Wishing he had made due offerings to all the gods that endowed one with eloquence, Darcy straightened in his seat.

“I came to ask— No, that is— Hm! Mr Bennet, I… er… I feel you should hear it from me that this morning I kissed your daughter,” he said at last, only to mentally kick himself for the abysmally blunt delivery. He braced himself for the repercussions. But Mr Bennet folded his hands around his glass of port and airily asked:

“Oh. Did you? Which one? I have five.”

“Elizabeth,” came Darcy’s crisp reply, as he fought to suppress a scowl at the untimely levity.

“Elizabeth, eh?” the other echoed, a quirk in his brow. “Am I to understand you are here to ask for my consent?”

“No, sir.”

“No? You puzzle me, Mr Darcy. Precisely why are you here, then? I daresay you are not concerned that I might call you out to settle the matter. But,” he added, all lightness of tone freezing under a layer of smooth menace, “if you imagine I shall sit idly by and allow you to trifle with my Lizzy’s affections—”

“Of course not!” Darcy forcefully cut him off. “I would not.”

“Then pray enlighten me as to your intentions. In my day, they were clearly stated before one progressed to taking liberties.”

Darcy’s eyes narrowed. The interview would be as difficult as he had anticipated. Submitting to authority did not come easily when that habit was long lost. It was even harder now, when he knew himself in the wrong – a distinctly unfamiliar experience – and when faced with one whose manner differed so drastically from his own. In every dealing and every circumstance, especially one as momentous as this, he would have chosen plain-speaking and serious-minded discourse. Predictably, Mr Bennet seemed to favour irony and archness.

Darcy did not pause to consider that the very same traits he unquestionably adored in Elizabeth must have had their origins in the older gentleman’s manner; that she must have learned levity and archness at his knee. It was too vexing an experience to find himself so

flippantly questioned – and worse still, to know that, however aggravating the approach, the inquisitor must be courteously indulged, for he was the one with the power of veto. So he fought the urge to bristle at the reference to liberties, and opted for a placating tone.

“I would have stated them already, sir. But I thought it only proper to do your daughter the courtesy of applying for her consent before seeking yours.”

The other tilted his head sideways, by way of concurrence.

“I take it then that you have not proposed,” he observed.

Darcy frowned.

“I began to. But matters got out of hand.”

“How?” Mr Bennet asked, and took another sip of his port, skewering Darcy with a steady glance that joined forces with his current conundrum to make him squirm.

“This morning I sought your daughter out with the intention of offering for her. But before I could finish,” he summarised, “I am sorry to say that—” He stopped short, recognising the falsehood for what it was, even before the forbidden recollections flashed through his overwrought senses. Not sorry, not that! He was all manner of things – mortified beyond endurance to find himself in the wrong, positively terrified of what she might have made of it, but certainly not sorry. “I am compelled to own,” he amended, “that halfway through my garbled proposal, I kissed her.”

“I see. Must I conclude that she was not best-pleased?”

Darcy looked away. It was the wrong time and place to resurrect the aforementioned forbidden recollections – here and now, in the middle of a conversation with her father. Yet therein lay the answer to Mr Bennet’s question, and to his own tormenting doubt. Did she take exception? Her gasp – it had not signified shock or outrage, had it? Just surprise, surely. She had kissed him back – tangled her fingers in his hair. The outrage came later. Much later. Yet still too soon by far.

“I do not know,” he truthfully replied at last. “Before the matter was decided, we were interrupted. The curate—”

Mr Bennet straightened in his chair, and his gaze took undertones of steel.

“Are you telling me that her reputation is at stake and she would be expected to marry you regardless of her wishes? That will not come to pass, sir,” he declared with unprecedented sternness.

Darcy’s response was just as fierce.

“You may be assured I will not force her hand.”

“A wise choice,” Mr Bennet remarked, the sternness barely mellowed by a fraction. Then he added, “I will have a word with Mr Whittaker. He is a sensible man, or at least more sensible than Mr Collins. He will heed me if I ask him to keep his mouth shut.”

Darcy gave a quick gesture of impatience.

“He has already agreed to hold his peace for now. That is not the reason I came to see you.”

“Is it not? Then I am compelled to ask again: why exactly are you here?”

Before he could even begin to examine what force might have propelled him to his feet, Darcy found himself striding towards the bookcase behind him. He raised both hands to run his fingers through his hair and spoke without turning.

“Because I love her! I love your daughter with all my heart and soul, yet I seem to do nothing but antagonise her.”

“Ah,” was all that Mr Bennet said, and by necessity rather than choice Darcy saw fit to turn around and face him.

He saw the older gentleman easing himself forward in his seat to reach for both glasses. He diligently filled them, then set the port decanter down and motioned towards the drinks. Darcy shook his head. With a little shrug, Mr Bennet retrieved his and took a measured sip

“Am I to understand that you wish me to teach you how to court my daughter?” he asked with a mild and not unfriendly smile.


Hmm, I wonder how that would go. “Listen up, Mr Darcy: Lesson 1…”

And now it’s GIVEAWAY TIME!

The giveaway is international. Please follow the link to the RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY and enter until the end of Monday, 16 Jul 2018 (midnight Pacific) for a chance to win one of the 10 Kindle versions of The Darcy Legacy, one of the 20 Audible codes with which you can listen for free to your choice of Stevie Zimmerman’s exquisite productions of my other books, or a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

Many thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll like The Darcy Legacy.


About The Darcy Legacy

Pemberley’s ancient halls harbour many secrets. Which one will affect Fitzwilliam Darcy and the love of his life? How is Mr Bennet to enjoy the comforts of a well-stocked library, when his wife’s premature demise had left him with the task of finding suitable matches for their daughters? What of a misleading encounter on a muddy lane in Hertfordshire, that renders a country-town assembly rather more tolerable than some might have thought?

Shades of mystery, meddlesome relations – not least a drenched Adonis – raillery, old errors and a very recent union make for a challenging courtship when Fitzwilliam Darcy is not on his own ground. Yet when love is the reward, challenges make it more worth the earning. “A fraught courtship? So, let it be fraught,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said with a nonchalant flourish of his hand. “A good challenge never hurt anyone.”’

Buy The Darcy Legacy on Amazon


About the Author

Joana Starnes

Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats – physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst – but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine.

She is the author of eight Austen-inspired novels: From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley, The Subsequent Proposal, The Second Chance, The Falmouth Connection, The Unthinkable Triangle, Miss Darcy’s Companion, Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and The Darcy Legacy, and one of the contributing authors to The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know and the upcoming Rational Creatures (due in October 2018).

Connect with Joana:

www. facebook.com/AllRoadsLeadToPemberley.JoanaStarnes/

Joana’s books on Amazon.com
Joana’s books on Amazon.co.uk
Joana’s books on Goodreads


July 2 / Austenesque Reviews/Excerpt Post & Giveaway

July 3 / Diary of an Eccentric/ Guest Post & Giveaway

July 4 / More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 5 / Of Pens & Pages / Guest Post & Giveaway

July 6 / So Little Time… So Much to Read/ Guest Post & Giveaway

July 7 / My Love for Jane Austen / Excerpt Post & Giveaway

July 8 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 9 / My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 10/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway

July 11 / Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway

July 12 / Just Jane 1813/ Tour Finale & Giveaway


Thank you, Joana! It’s always a pleasure to have you as a guest, and congratulations on The Darcy Legacy!

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

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

Why do we write?

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

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

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

Thank you again for being there.




An excerpt from The Darcy Contradiction, courtesy of Tom Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About The Darcy Contradiction

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

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

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

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