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Hello, friends! I’m happy to welcome Kelly Miller back to my blog to celebrate the release of Accusing Mr. Darcy. Kelly is here to share a little about Tideswell Church, which is featured in the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Tideswell Church

In Accusing Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet and her friends travel to the town of Tideswell and stop at its celebrated church. Today the church is a Grade 1 listed building known as St John the Baptist Church or the nickname, “The Cathedral of the Peak.”

Two conflicting stories endure for how Tideswell got its name. Some sources claim the town name honours a Saxon chieftain named Tidi. Others point to the existence of an ancient “tiding well” located in the garden of an inn called Craven House.

The town of Tideswell received a market charter in 1251 and grew to become a principal source for wool, lead, and local produce. The town’s prosperity led to the construction of their magnificent medieval church. Construction on the church, to replace a small Norman church, began in 1320. However, all work on the church halted for many years due to the Black Death, which felled one third of England’s population, so the church was not completed until 1400. The initial construction followed the Late Gothic architectural style, but the subsequent work, including the tower and chancel, evidences a transition to Perpendicular style.

Notable tombs at the church include that of two unknown ladies dating back to the 1300’s and the tomb of Sir Sampson Meverill, allegedly a victor in the Battle of Agincourt, who died in 1462.

In 1873, the church went through a major restoration. Stunning stained-glass windows and the work of a local wood carver, Avent Hunstone, added to the church’s decor during this timeframe.

In my story, Elizabeth is fascinated by the elaborate alabaster tomb of Sir Thurstan de Bower and his wife. The wealthy de Bower family had been prominent in the area. Sir Thurstan de Bower, who died around 1423, contributed towards the construction of the church and is credited as the sole benefactor for the spacious south transept.

I viewed de Bower’s tomb when I visited the church last summer and was dismayed to find it in a makeshift storeroom surrounded by random supplies. The tomb showed signs of age, but it remained a compelling memorial to one of the church’s benefactors.

Photo by Kelly Miller

Photo by Kelly Miller

Eyam

Located near Tideswell is the town of Eyam, known as “Plague Village” for the extraordinary sacrifice made by the village when the plague returned in the 17th century. During my trip to England last summer, our tour guide drove us by Eyam and mentioned its sad history. I thought this significant period to be worth mentioning for anyone who might be unaware, especially in this time of Covid-19.

In September 1665, a bale of cloth sent from London arrived in Eyam containing fleas infected with the plague. The unfortunate tailor’s assistant who opened the bale became the town’s first victim of the plague. The man, who had intended to remain in town for a week to help make clothes for Wakes Week, a religious festival, did not survive.

Forty-two people in Eyam died from the plague in the next two months. Villagers began to distance themselves, with church services held in the open air and families standing apart from each other. Some villagers began to speak of leaving their homes to escape the plague. Eyam’s rector, William Mompesson, opposed the notion of anyone leaving. He decided the town must be quarantined to prevent the plague’s spread. However, the parishioners resisted the new and unpopular rector’s plea that amounted to risking their lives for the sake of others.

The town’s former rector, Thomas Stanley, had been removed by the church for refusing to acknowledge the 1662 Act of Uniformity, which dictated the use of the Book of Common Prayer. In desperation, Mompesson asked Stanley’s assistance, and the two men met with the townspeople on June 24, 1666.

Mompesson told his parishioners that the town had to be closed off else the disease would spread throughout the country. By then, he had contacted the Duke of Devonshire, living nearby at Chatsworth House. The duke offered to provide them with food and supplies if they agreed to the quarantine. Mompesson averred that he would rather sacrifice his life than be responsible for spreading the sickness to countless others. Stanley spoke in favour of Mompesson’s plan and with his influence, the villagers agreed: they would risk their own lives and cut themselves off from the surrounding towns.

Relentless devastation ensued in the next months. In some cases, entire families succumbed. In November of 1666, the disease was eradicated. 260 of Eyam’s residents perished from the plague. Historians estimate the total population before the plague had been between 350 and 800 people. Mompesson survived, but his 27-year-old wife perished.

Today many of the houses in Eyam bear plaques detailing the people lost in the plague. In addition, the Eyam Museum ensures that this episode of history will not be forgotten.

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About Accusing Mr. Darcy

Could Fitzwilliam Darcy harbour a shocking, sinister secret?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet count themselves among the many guests of the Kendall family, whose estate lies amidst the picturesque hills, gorges, and rocky slopes of the Peak District in Derbyshire. Elizabeth’s cousin Rose Kendall believes her dashing brother-in-law, Captain James Kendall, is Elizabeth’s ideal match. Rose’s husband, Nicholas, hopes his good friend Darcy—a rich, proud, and taciturn gentleman with a spotless reputation—will fancy one of the other eligible lady guests.

News of a brutal killing at a neighbouring estate sends a wave of shock through the genial group of friends and family. When one of the Kendalls’ guests is attacked, all of the gentlemen become suspects, but the former Bow Street runner tasked with investigating the crime finds the evidence against Mr. Darcy particularly compelling.

In this romantic mystery, the beloved couple from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice cross paths with a ruthless killer. When faced with dire warnings against Mr. Darcy, will Elizabeth heed them or follow the dictates of her heart?

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK

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About the Author

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

Accusing Mr. Darcy is her third novel published by Meryton Press. Her previous books are: Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy; and Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic variation.

Kelly’s blog page is found at www.kellymiller.merytonpress.com, her email address is kellyrei007@hotmail.com, her Twitter handle is @kellyrei007, and she is on Facebook: www.facebook.Author.Kelly.Miller.

Connect with Kelly: Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering a giveaway of 8 ebook copies of Accusing Mr. Darcy as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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

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Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to welcome Cat Andrews to my blog today to celebrate the release of Sanctuary: Volume 2, a contemporary romance inspired by Pride and Prejudice. I love modern P&P novels and I love Maine, so I definitely need to read these! Cat is here to share a little about the book and an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Much of Volume 1 of Sanctuary focuses on Will Darcy’s and Elizabeth Bennet’s respective backgrounds, and the slow growth of their relationship, from strangers to friends to something more. While their relationship is still the primary focus of Volumes 2 and 3, the relationship between Will and his son Jack and Jack’s growing relationship with Elizabeth, also feature prominently throughout the story.

Will is a single father, and he decides to leave his home in New York City and move to a small island off the coast of Maine—to regroup, but also to spend the summer with his son and devote every minute to him. They’ve had a difficult couple of years, and they need the time together to heal. After Will meets Elizabeth, his attachment to her continues to deepen, and as such, so does Jack’s. Jack first sees Elizabeth as a friend, and then sees her as his father’s girlfriend, but now, in Volume 2, he’s beginning to see her as a permanent fixture in his life.

Please enjoy this short excerpt from Chapter 13 of Volume 2, which shows Jack discussing his very first day of Kindergarten, and has both Will and Elizabeth reflecting on a few other things regarding Jack…and then shows Elizabeth flirtatiously teasing Will out of a funk.

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“An’ my class has nineteen kids, ten boys an’ nine girls, which is good ’cause there’s more boys. An’ we have a turtle, his name’s Mr. Slowski, he’s neat but he doesn’t do anythin’ but sit there an’ eat grass. An’ they put new stuff in the playground, there’s a new climbin’ thing that’s all different colors.”

Jack paused to take a breath, and Elizabeth took immediate advantage—he hadn’t stopped talking about his first day of school since he stepped off the bus.

“Okay, how about taking a bite of your dinner? It’s getting cold.”

“’Kay,” Jack agreed, taking another bite of his green beans. “Oh, an’ guess what?”

“What?” Elizabeth and Will answered simultaneously.

“’Member Zoe, from the party?”

“Um…” Will answered.

“Zoe, Dad, from the big party we went to before we did the fireworks. She kept chasin’ me.”

“Oh, Zoe. Yeah, I remember her.”

“She’s in my class, an’ guess what?”

“What?” Will and Elizabeth responded in unison.

“She sits right in front of me ’cause her last name is Daniels.” Jack sighed dramatically. “She didn’t go to the picnic so I didn’t know she was gonna be in my class. She tried chasin’ me on the playground when we did recess, but I ’membered what you told me an’ I asked her to stop it.”

“Did she?”

“Yeah. Oh, an’ guess what else?”

Will chuckled. “What else?”

“I have homework,” Jack said, eyes wide. “I have to make a poster.”

“Tonight?” Will asked.

“No, uh-uh.” Jack got up from the table and pulled a paper out of his backpack. “See? This is what I hafta do. It’s s’posed to be all about me.”

Will read over the paper quickly. “This looks like fun. We’ll do it this weekend so you can take it to school on Monday.”

“’Kay,” Jack said, sitting back down. “Do I get to help you move on Saturday?” he asked Elizabeth, before taking a bite of his chicken.

“Sure, if you want to. I don’t have a lot of stuff, so it won’t take too long.”

Jack studied her seriously. “An’ you’re gonna live here all the time, right?”

“Do you mean for good?”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. All the time.”

“Yes, I’ll be here all the time,” she reassured him. She glanced at Will, who appeared baffled by Jack’s question. “Well, except for the nights I work at the restaurant. Like tomorrow night, I have to stay with my friend Charlotte.”

“’Cause of the ferry?”

She nodded. “It doesn’t make trips late at night.”

“But alllll the other nights you’re gonna be here. Right?”

“Right.”

“’Kay,” Jack said, obviously relieved. “Hey Dad, you have homework too. Don’t forget.”

“I won’t.” Will eyed the stack of papers he needed to fill out. “Looks like I’ll be busy for a while.”

“Yeah. I didn’t know dads got homework too.”

“Me either,” Will said. He glanced at Jack’s plate. “You all done?”

Jack nodded. “Yup. Can I be excused?”

“Sure. Bath in a little bit, okay?”

“’Kay.” Jack carried his plate to the sink before leaving the kitchen.

Will sat back in his chair and sighed quietly as he stared down at the table. Elizabeth took in his concerned expression, and leaning towards him, she puckered her lips. When he finally glanced up, he smiled before kissing her.

“What’s up?” she asked softly.

“Jack and I have had that exact conversation about you moving in, a couple of times.”

“I think he just wants to make sure I’m not going anywhere.”

He looked at her for a long moment, his gaze steady.

“I’m not going anywhere. You know that, right?” she asked, unsure what that look meant.

“Of course I do. I’m just trying to put myself in Jack’s shoes, trying to figure out what he’s thinking.”

“And?”

“Well, first he lost his mom. And he doesn’t see Alice and Georgie much, but I guess that’s mostly my fault.”

“You can’t think of it that way.”

“I know, and I know I did what was best for us, but that’s when he gets upset, when someone is leaving him. And maybe that’s exactly how he sees it.” He paused. “He didn’t get upset when we left New York back in July because we were coming home to Maine, back to you. But when Georgie was here in June, and now this time with her and Alice, they left.” He looked at her sadly. “I think he just needs to know you’re staying put.”

She rose from her chair and stood behind him, looping her arms around his shoulders and bending to kiss his neck before resting her chin on his head. “I’ll tell him as much as he needs to hear it.” He leaned his head back and looked up at her, and she gave him an upside-down kiss.

It was a day of change, and not just for Jack. Sending him off to school hadn’t been easy for Will. Jack had boarded the bus with a huge smile, and they’d watched as he found a seat with Sam and slid in toward the window to wave to them, his blue eyes wide with excitement.

Will had walked Elizabeth to work after the bus left, and they stopped at the bakery to get coffee and scones. By the time they reached the steps of the library, she could see he was a little down, and she’d tried to cheer him up by whispering sexy, sweet nothings in his ear.

He’d finally given in and smiled, hugging her tightly. “Okay, I’m still a little bit sad, but now I’m a little bit horny too. Nice job, Ms. Bennet.”

She grinned mischievously as she held him. “I’ll come and meet you for lunch, maybe we can try out that new office furniture that’s coming this morning,” she whispered, kissing his neck.

He’d laughed outright. “Now I need to leave before I embarrass myself.” Leaning back, he looked down at her and smiled before giving her a kiss. “Thank you for that. I love you.”

“I love you too.” She winked at him. “And don’t be surprised if I show up for lunch, Mr. Darcy.”

He’d laughed and shook his head, waving to her as he wandered off down the street.

Regrettably, the furniture was actually being delivered during her lunch break, so she wasn’t able to make good on her proposition.

Another day.

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About Sanctuary: Volume 1

“Do you ever wish you had a second chance to meet someone again for the first time?”

When Elizabeth Bennet left her Massachusetts hometown two years ago and settled on Great Diamond Island, off the rocky coast of Maine, all she wanted was a fresh start, somewhere to forget a past full of heartbreak and trauma—a place that would allow her to rediscover herself and what it felt like to be happy.

Will Darcy is ready to leave the family drama and noise of New York City behind. He moves to Great Diamond Island in an effort to build a better life for himself and his young son Jack, hoping it will provide a quiet place for them to heal from their grief after a tremendous loss.

Elizabeth meets Will within moments of his setting foot on the island, but the handsome newcomer’s offhanded dismissal of her is anything but a “meet cute.” But as the days pass, Will’s chance encounters with the bright-eyed, pretty young woman—and Jack’s insistence on befriending her—cause Will to see Elizabeth, and himself, in a different light.

But as they draw closer and take tentative steps toward something more than friendship, will they be able to step outside the shadows of their pasts?

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Sanctuary is a contemporary love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but uses Austen’s characters only as a launching point; it is not a meticulous and faithful retelling of the original. It contains mature content and is intended for adult readers.

Buy on Amazon

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About Sanctuary: Volume 2

If someone had told him six weeks ago that he would end up here with this incredible woman in his arms, he would have scoffed in disbelief. Yet here he was, falling in love with her, holding her while she slept, and embracing emotions he never imagined he would feel again.

Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have unexpectedly found each other—and a slice of happiness—on a tiny island off the coast of Maine.

With wonderful friends surrounding them and a passionate new love in full bloom, life is moving forward; they’re planning a future together as a family of three with Will’s son Jack, and the lazy days of summer are looking exceedingly bright.

But while some relationships are slowly and painstakingly being rebuilt, a long-kept secret, finally revealed, threatens to tear others apart.

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Sanctuary is a contemporary love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but uses Austen’s characters only as a launching point; it is not a meticulous and faithful retelling of the original. It contains mature content and is intended for adult readers.

Buy on Amazon

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About Sanctuary: Volume 3 (coming soon)

She studied him in the gray, dreary light of the morning, and her heart ached as she wondered how she was going to tell him that once again, the past was forcing its way into the present.

Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are deeply in love, and together with Will’s young son Jack, they are looking forward to their happily ever after on the shores of Great Diamond Island.

For Will, the future has never looked brighter: he’s wild about Elizabeth, has found a best friend in Charles Bingley, and his new consulting business is slowly gaining momentum—as is his fledgling relationship with his father.

Elizabeth, too, is deliriously happy: she’s crazy about Will and is embracing her role as Jack’s “new” mom, she loves her job at the Portland Children’s Library, and is looking forward to having her younger sister Lydia settled close by.

It seems they’ve left their troubled histories behind and are heading into the future as a blissful family of three. But can anyone truly forget—or escape—a past that is determined to reassert itself? Can a new love withstand the forces that seek to destroy it?

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Sanctuary is a contemporary love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but uses Austen’s characters only as a launching point; it is not a meticulous and faithful retelling of the original. It contains mature content and is intended for adult readers.

Buy on Amazon

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Connect with Cat Andrews

Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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Giveaway

Cat is generously offering an ebook copy of Sanctuary: Volume 2 to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 27, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Cat, for being my guest today and congratulations on your new releases!

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Hello, dear readers! I’m thrilled to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time to celebrate the release of The Longbourn Quarantine, a very timely novella that is part of Meryton Press’ Skirmish & Scandal series. Don is here today to share a little about the book, along with an excerpt and giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

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The Epistolary End of George Wickham

In this moving tale, our favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice face the prospect of death that forces them to confront troubling scenes from their past. The author crafts a beautifully told story of self-examination and reflection while embracing compassion and understanding under trying circumstances.

Jennifer Redlarczyk, author of Darcy’s Melody

Jennifer has discovered the essential core of The Longbourn Quarantine, my entry in Meryton Press’s Skirmish and Scandal Series. I place the characters against the background of a pandemic. Through this plot structure, I lead them and readers to a different state of being. I am happy to visit with Diary of an Eccentric today to consider an aspect of the novella.

The villain in The Longbourn Quarantine, unlike any of those in Canon, has no eyes or hands. The dark force is not found in subtle machinations to compromise the virtue of a young lady. Rather its malevolence is perceived in its randomness, in its unwillingness to submit to the desires of individuals or society. This sense of never-knowing-when-or-whom-it-will-strike confers upon it numbing evilness that chills people in a way that most psychotic killers cannot. Perhaps some of this terror comes in the awful way (redolent of the Black Death) the disease carries off its victims.

Today one word carries that same heft: Ebola. Two hundred years ago, after the last resurgence of the plague in 1666, smallpox was the horrifying leveler. And that faceless virus ignored class, gender, age, wealth, and any other category humans used to parcel up power and authority.

Smallpox was something that put the fear of God into a reasonable man like Fitzwilliam Darcy or an impertinent woman like Elizabeth Bennet. Smallpox made the perfect villain without being complicated. The disease was exactly what it was. The only variable was whether a victim would survive or not.

As Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) used empty ocean stretching to the horizon to keep the players from leaving the stage, The Longbourn Quarantine uses the epidemic as the overarching raison d’être to keep characters in Longbourn’s precincts. As the disease was a constant and impervious to human wants, the diverse personalities needed to control that which they could: their actions and how they perceive the behaviors of the others trapped on-stage with them.         

Casting smallpox as the villain liberated George Wickham to find another role than that of the source of Elizabeth’s misunderstanding and Darcy’s anger. No, TLQ does not free him of responsibility for Georgiana’s distress. Nor does it deny that he successfully has turned Elizabeth’s head. However, having Wickham discover that his avarice has led to his downfall allows for a second epiphany for the scoundrel.

His appearance in the pages of TLQ is brief, but without him, the novella would have been forced to revisit, I feared, old territory. Faced with his mortality, Wickham seeks to make amends before he can no longer.

In that spirit, I thought that turning him into a living and breathing Hunsford Letter would allow for a different, non-soliloquy, presentation of Darcy’s original epistle. In Pride and Prejudice, we see Darcy handing a letter to Miss Elizabeth on her walk the morning after his disastrous proposal. However, we are left to guess at Darcy’s overnight agony. Austen’s description of Elizabeth’s turmoil is limited to a few sentences before she allows the young woman to sleep.

The Longbourn Quarantine confers both Darcy and Elizabeth’s disquiet upon the body of George Wickham using the tried and true technique (Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III as a hunchback being the pre-eminent example) of making visible a character’s sins. In this case, the pustules that make hideous Wickham’s countenance provide the frame for his confessions which are the letter. One license I have taken is the removal of Darcy’s original rancor caused by Elizabeth’s accusations. I allowed TLQ’s Darcy to be a bit cranky as Wickham’s tale unwinds. I have also given Elizabeth insight about darcy’s role in separating Jane and Bingley earlier in the story.

Rather than have Darcy pen words seeking to explain his actions to Elizabeth, I made Wickham voice his misdeeds—all of them—in an affirmative confession. However, Wickham’s words both in front of his childhood friend and, later after he sends Darcy off to fetch brandy, draw the sting from the master of Pemberley’s ire and cause Elizabeth to reflect upon her notions.

In recognition of the underlying theme of life in the time of smallpox—words left unsaid may never be spoken—I gave Wickham the agency to mold one last aspect of Darcy’s life. He gives Elizabeth some advice about the man’s behavior and how he might ask for her hand. Then, having accomplished his mission, George Wickham is free to bow his way off-stage.

There is much more about how Wickham’s words revelatory to Elizabeth much as Darcy’s original letter opened her eyes. Please enjoy this edited extract from Chapter 13 of The Longbourn Quarantine.

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At the Longbourn gamekeeper’s cabin, April 11, 1812

Wandering over to the mound, she saw a well-shaped excavation, a pit that cried “grave.” The crypt was empty, its maw waiting to be filled with the shrouded freight it was to bear past the River Charon.

The grim air of the fell place gripped her by the throat. Elizabeth croaked out a greeting to the occupants of the cabin. There was no reaction at first. Then the door was pulled back, and Darcy stepped onto the porch.

Holding a hand on his brow to shield his eyes from the afternoon brightness, he focused on the young lady’s form. She started toward him out of habit until he called out. “Stay back, Miss Elizabeth! Wickham is deadly even now. You may be immune, but if any of the corruption chances to attach itself to your clothing, you could carry it back to Longbourn. Sit on the stump in the middle of the yard.

Elizabeth froze in place, turned to see the silvered remains, and stepped to it. She placed her wrinkled handkerchief on the cut surface and dropped down. In the meantime, Darcy had returned inside the structure to exit, bearing a man-sized, blanket-wrapped, load.

She knew it to be Wickham. What was remarkable was that he had been a man of a size with Mr. Darcy. Yet, Darcy bore his burden without any strain. Shuffling over to a small pallet, Darcy lowered the ghost of a man onto the chaise, gently raised his head, and positioned a burlap bundle as a pillow beneath it.

Then the blanket fell back to reveal reptilian features from which a pair of watery blue eyes—the only feature Elizabeth could warrant as belonging to George Wickham—burned, their whites flushed pink with fever.

The snakelike lips parted, and Wickham painfully lisped through cracks between running sores. “You are a remarkable woman, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I lay before you, a horror of a man, and you barely flinch. No dramatic fainting for you—no soft, ladylike swoons.”

Elizabeth rose to the occasion. “How long have we been acquainted, Mr. Wickham? Over the past half-year, have you ever known me to cavil before the harsh realities of life? I am so sorry to see you brought low like this.

“But, what of your quest for Miss King? The last any of us knew, you had followed her to Liverpool to press your suit. Yet, here you lie, ensconced in a cabin on my father’s estate.”

Wickham involuntarily shook his head as if he was trying to chase away uncomfortable memories. With a wince, he whispered, “I tried with Miss King. Her uncle, the merchant, prevented much contact between us. However, I was fortunate to encounter them at an assembly. I should have had my wits about me, but I was all about my pursuit of her dowry. I saw nothing but her ten thousand. What I did not see, and have had three weeks to comprehend, was that her guardian, although it was early in the evening, was unaccountably red-faced and blotchy. I probably imputed it to his merchant’s sensibilities, making certain that the rum in the ship’s hold was unspoiled. I should have run for my life. Instead, I greeted them both and stood Miss King for two sets.

“What I know is that, before Mary King’s glove touched mine, it had been loaded by a loving caress of Mr. King’s whiskers with a charge that has laid waste to mankind since the pharaohs.”

He laughed sardonically. “Your father’s generosity, Darcy, in seeing to my education stuck in some useful ways. I appreciate that my death is three thousand years in the making. The moment I wiped my face or rubbed my lips with the perfumed poison left on my gauntlet…ah, the sweetness of the adder’s breath…I sealed my fate.

“You ask of Miss King: she fell before the disease—her uncle too—after she had murdered me.”

Wickham fell silent. Darcy had stepped off to one side, looking at his old playmate with a combination of dread and pity. Elizabeth’s stomach had fallen as she learned of Mary King’s passing. Yet, she understood that Mr. Wickham would not have subjected his waning strength to this exercise unless he had something important to say.

The man rallied and launched into his declamation. “I shall not revisit all that I said of this man”—he motioned at Darcy—“when I arrived in Meryton. My tale of woe was extensive. But, Miss Elizabeth, my lies were many. There were, of course, elements of truth that served as the skeleton upon which I looped the sinews and skin of my stories.

“Darcy made my work so much easier. His demeanor is not made for company. Those who did not know him assumed that he was disdainful of all when he is reserved and private. They feasted on my story like a syllabub.”

Wickham paused. His eyes lost focus, and he struggled to gather himself, to push back against the delirium threatening his flanks. He waved at Darcy who bent over him. Wickham whispered to him. Darcy looked dyspeptic and seemed ready to demand something. The exchange ended when Wickham muttered one last sentence. With a shake of his head, Darcy stepped back and waved his hand in acquiescence.

Wickham continued. “That is enough of a prologue, Miss Elizabeth. I am turning to you because, of all the people I know, having destroyed my opportunity with Darcy, you are one whose good opinion I treasure. I would fear losing it even after I am lying cold in my grave—over there. I also am aware that you are, like Darcy, a profoundly honest person and not one prone to gossip.

“I need to unburden my soul before I face my final reckoning. Darcy is not overjoyed at the prospect as what I speak about hits close to his heart.

“Over the past few days with little to do, Darcy and I have talked. Perhaps it is more that Darcy talked, knowing that dead men tell no tales and I shall be gone from the mortal plane soon enough. I have apologized to him for many iniquities committed against him and his family. Darcy and his cousin Fitzwilliam know my sins. You may apply to the colonel if you have any questions or doubts about what I say. Yet, admitting that I was a bounder to Darcy is not anything new to him. What I have not done is make my confession to someone unaffected by my acts, to make known my true character to a third party.

“You are that confessor to whom I would tell my tale so that at least one soul unrelated to the principals will know my true nature. Will you be willing to bear that weight? I ask this because I have a belief that our tall friend over there regrets some of his behavior in the autumn that grew from my actions in the summer. What I relate may explain much.”

He stopped and looked hopefully at Elizabeth.

At her nod, Wickham continued. “Miss Darcy is a sweeter, kinder, and more trusting girl than you will ever meet…well, perhaps your sister Miss Bennet would fall into that same category. Like all young ladies of a certain age…fifteen seems to be the cusp…Miss Darcy wanted to begin her journey into the adult world. And, like all older brothers and many fathers, Darcy could not find it in his heart to gainsay any wish of his beloved sister.

“In the spring of the year eleven, he withdrew her from school and sought a companion to guide her.

“Now, I was still smarting from having been denied the Kympton living. What I never told any in Meryton was that Darcy had paid me three thousand to relinquish any claim I might have to the living. His father left me one thousand pounds. So, my fortune within a few months of the old master’s death was four thousand pounds.”

When Elizabeth’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle her gasp, Wickham winced. “I know you are doing the math, Miss Elizabeth. A single gentleman could live comfortably for years on that sum…certainly long enough to apply himself to a career that would further build his purse well before the money ran out.

“Not George Wickham: I ate, drank, gambled, and whored my way through every farthing in the space of two years. And, when I applied to Darcy for the living I had given up, he justifiably sent me packing and refused me Pemberley’s hospitality.

“I vowed to gain a fortune and hurt Darcy in the process. My weapon was to be his sister, Miss Georgiana.”

His voice dropped into a quieter register as he drifted down his memories’ lanes, conflating realities with feelings. Elizabeth leaned forward.

He added, “My target was Georgie’s £30,000 dowry. To get it, I would have to woo and wed her. What I had working in my favor was that, while Darcy knew the type of man I had become, I was aware he would never relate such debauchery to a young innocent like his sister. When I came to her, all she would see would be her old playmate.

“I had maintained my contacts at Pemberley despite Darcy’s embargo. I heard that he was on the prowl for a companion. And, one of my more intimate friends, the widow of a gentleman, was perfect for the position.

“In short order, thanks to a series of powerful, if creatively written, characters from ladies either deceased or conveniently out of the country, Mrs. Younge carried the day. After a few months, she suggested that Mr. Darcy rent his sister a seaside cottage where she could holiday during the summer.

“And thus, the trap was set in a beautiful little town, Ramsgate, where Miss Darcy could be her own mistress. However, thanks to Mrs. Younge’s connivance, she was soon to become mine.”

Wickham fell silent. He appeared to be gathering every ounce of strength, tapping into hidden reserves, to lay bare his deepest regrets. Then, in a gesture as tender as it was telling, he reached out to where Darcy stood and stroked the man’s pantalooned leg, rigid against the story’s unwinding.

“As I lay here, Miss Elizabeth, I am disgusted at my actions. I was greedy, but up to that point, my avarice had been confined to defrauding tradesmen and those who had more pounds than sense. I shall not speak of the young women I despoiled. That is a different deadly sin.”

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About The Longbourn Quarantine

“Papa handed Mama a brace of pistols. Her tears, Mr. Darcy, her tears: yet, all she did was nod when Papa looked at us and said, ‘You know what to do if they enter the icehouse.’”

Refugees flood the roads. A feared specter has escaped London’s grimy docklands and now threatens the wealthy districts. Amongst that ragged steam is a single carriage jostling its way toward Meryton. Inside are the Darcy siblings along with Charles and Caroline Bingley. They desperately seek the safety of Netherfield Park.

For all their riches, they could not evade the epidemic’s dark hand. Bingley’s leasehold had been reduced to rubble as roving bands raped, pillaged, and burned. The only sanctuary was Longbourn where, once installed, the Darcys and Bingleys were barred from leaving by a fortnight’s quarantine.

Events converge with disease in The Longbourn Quarantine. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy abandon old prejudices to face grief and mourning. Pride is set aside as Death hovers nearby. The couple forges ahead knowing that love unexplored is love lost: that words must be said lest they remain unspoken in the time of smallpox.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television, and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series

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

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)

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

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)

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

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

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

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

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization, and Research Writing. He is a member of the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

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

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of The Longbourn Quarantine to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 6, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Hello, dear readers! I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson and Marion Kay Hill back today to celebrate the release of The Pocket Book Series, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas. They are here to share a little about the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!

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Thank you for hosting us again, Anna, we are very excited to share our upcoming release, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas of The Pocket Book Series. For this collection, we decided to focus our attention on the villains of Pride & Prejudice—as well as those who could be considered villains, depending on the circumstance or information that is unknown to our heroine, Elizabeth Bennet.

After all, did not Elizabeth despise Mr. Darcy with every fibre of her being until she received his letter?

Everyone loves a good villainwhether they are deliciously evil (George Wickham) or misunderstood (Fitzwilliam Darcy). This volume of The Pocket Book Series explores how Austen’s villains could, unintentionally, affect the outcome between our dear couple, Elizabeth and Darcy.

Each volume in our series has six short stories centred around a theme and accompanied by a bonus story.  In this edition, we will also be including a bonus story, Episode 1 of Aubrey Anderson’s new serial, Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor.

Today, we have provided an excerpt from Aubrey Anderson’s The Netherfield Affair, a short story from Villains & Veritas. Five of the people who comment below will have a chance to win a copy of this volume!

We hope you enjoy!

Aubrey Anderson & Marion Kay Hill

The Pocket Book Series, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas is available for preorder!

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The Netherfield Affair

Aubrey Anderson

“What do you mean?” for once, Elizabeth’s first response upon hearing the twin shrieks of her sisters Kitty and Lydia, was not embarrassment but indignation, not because of their response, but because of Mr. Bingley’s announcement.

Elizabeth cleared her throat delicately, drawing Mr. Bingley’s attention from her younger sisters to herself. His smile had not waned, although his gaze darted between Elizabeth, her sisters, and Jane—who, for form’s sake, it seemed, was seated on the settee farthest from Mr. Bingley.

“Miss Elizabeth?” he took a sip of his tea, as if to fortify himself for the barrage of questions her sisters would badger him with the moment Elizabeth stopped speaking. “You were saying?” he pressed when it seemed as though Elizabeth would not answer him.

She tried to chuckle lightheartedly in response, as though it would cause her own mood to lighten, “I was simply surprised, that was all, Mr. Bingley,” Elizabeth finally responded. “You were so courteous in allowing Lydia and Kitty to name the day of the ball, so I must admit that I am confused as to why the ball must be cancelled so soon before its inception. Are you to leave town? Is a relative ill?” Elizabeth pushed, looking back to her sister, who looked serene as ever as if the news did not distress her.

As if the events at Sir William’s last gathering had not occurred at all.

Mr. Bingley rushed to reassure her, or at least what he presumed would assure her—that none of his relatives were dying, or even ill at all— ”Oh no, nothing like that, Miss Elizabeth. An unfortunate bit of business has come up, and I must attend to it. That is why I felt obligated to apologize to you and your sisters personally,” he beamed at Jane, as the younger Bennet sisters tittered behind their fans.

Would it be gauche to ask him after his warehouses? Caroline Bingley certainly would think so. She suppressed the urge to follow that line of inquiry, certain that one of her sisters would tell their mama, who would never let her hear the end of it. Even if Jane had ended up married to Mr. Bingley and bore ten boys.

“I do not know when I will return, but I hope to make up the invitations with a date that is personally chosen by the Bennet family,” Mr. Bingley continued affably, “and I have made Darcy promise to dance at least twice with a lady, not within our own party.”

At the inclusion of Mr. Darcy’s name, Elizabeth clenched her fingers so tightly that she nearly drew blood from her palms, while Mr. Bingley and Jane started a new line of inquiry.

Mr. Darcy. Of course.

~

Elizabeth’s lips were compressed into a thin, narrow line, and she did not do much to hide her displeasure from her sister, as they readied themselves for bed later that evening. Jane was still so enamoured and taken in by Mr. Bingley that she could not see what was staring her straight in the face. 

It did not matter if he loved her when his family and even his friends had a say in whom he paid court. Elizabeth wished she could shake the both of them, endearing lovesick fools that they were. 

Very well, she breathed quietly to herself. If her sister would not—could not—fight, then she would.

Mr. Darcy would never know the ire he’d invoked within her when he’d chosen to interfere with affairs that were none of his concern.

To be continued in The Pocket Book Series, Volume 3: Villains & Veritas

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Giveaway

Aubrey and Marion are generously offering 5 ebook copies of Villains & Veritas. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 30, 2020. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Hello, friends! It’s a pleasure to have Suzan Lauder as my guest today to celebrate the release of her new novella, Schemes of Felicity, part of Meryton Press’ Skirmish and Scandal series. Suzan is here to share some author notes from the novella, and Meryton Press is offering a giveaway. Please give Suzan a warm welcome!

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I’ve had a love affair with Anna’s blog ever since she first reviewed my debut novel here nearly eight years ago, and I’m grateful that she’s hosting me for this short set of author’s notes on my Skirmish and Scandal series novella Schemes of Felicity. This article serves as background to the book and really doesn’t give any spoilers, so you’ll still have to read the novella to enjoy the amusing dialogue, variety of Regency scenery, and well-paced Austenesque plot.

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The Fitzwilliams and Their Intervention

The novella now known as Schemes of Felicity got its start as something I wanted to call “Intervention.” That’s because that’s how I saw the plot bunny: The Fitzwilliam family staging an intervention when they believed Darcy needed one.

Unfortunately, the word usage of “intervention” to mean “interpersonal intrusions by friends or family meant to reform a life felt to be going wrong” is from 1983, and has no place in a Regency romance novel where all the action takes place in 1812. That particular word certainly could never be the title or even a word in a Regency book of mine since, as you know, I’m terribly picky about Regency language in my Austenesque writing.

The beta version of the book was called “The Fitzwilliams Intervene,” yet I never was comfortable with this name. I racked my brains to come up with something more appealing from the manuscript but failed. To complicate matters further, I kept getting mixed up, and a couple of the Word files for the book are called “The Fitzwilliams Interfere.” Although the phrase worked within the text, this title was no better.

During editing, I left the door wide open for a title change, and editor Ellen Pickels offered up not one, but two fantastic ideas, both quotes from Jane Austen. The alternative that wasn’t used will be saved for another book. The final title, Schemes of Felicity, comes from Chapter 25 of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and it was perfect.

So who are these Fitzwilliams who are causing all the trouble by their intervention and creating Schemes of Felicity for Darcy?

We all know canon character Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is most commonly known in Jane Austen Fan Fiction circles as Richard Fitzwilliam. He is the only Fitzwilliam character to have a point-of-view voice in the book. Per canon, he’s not handsome, but he’s all ease and pleasant in nature. He’s not yet looking for a wife, and if he decides to go down that path, he needs to keep fortune in mind since he’s a second son.

Typical of JAFF, his father is called the Earl of Matlock, and I have named him and his wife Harold and Elinor in all my stories. The earl is tall, heavy-set and gruff but maintains a sturdy wit. His wife is no-nonsense, controlling, and mothering. Her excellent sense of style comes from her love of shopping.

We also know that Richard has an older brother, the heir to the earldom. Starting in Letter from Ramsgate, he has been called Henry Fitzwilliam, Lord Courtland in my books. In the same novel, I christened his wife Laura. The handsome Lord Courtland was a bit of a scoundrel before he was matched by his parents with the daughter of the Marquess of Falconer and happened to fall in love with the petite, snarky woman who would not have a rake for a husband—until she fell in love with his teasing humour as well. Their feisty young children from Letter from Ramsgate, Phoebe and Ralph, do not make an appearance in Schemes of Felicity.

New to Schemes of Felicity is Richard’s sister and her husband. The Earl of Avebury married the youngest Fitzwilliam, Juliet. Lyndon Bevan, Lord Avebury is laid back and matter-of-fact while Juliet, the spoiled princess of the family, enjoys society and fitting into the Season and is a close friend of Laura’s. This couple also has a love match. We imply that they are parents, but baby Ava is not specifically mentioned.

Together, this grouping decides that Darcy is sitting at home despondent because he is lonely and the solution would be a wife. In addition, they conclude he is terrifically incompetent in the skills necessary to find a mate. Therefore, they must take charge and commandeer his wife-seeking adventure.

The Skirmish: the Fitzwilliams argue amongst each other and with Darcy about the intervention they so dearly desire and he abhors, and their arrangement to marry him off is likened to a military campaign. The Scandal: they dispute whether Elizabeth is right for him in the face of so many eligible peers’ daughters.

Yet, in the end, through all the obstacles in Schemes of Felicity, we find the happily-ever-after we all find so appealing—and that’s how Jane Austen would have wanted our intervention to conclude.

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About Schemes of Felicity

A month to find a mate!

Mr. Darcy desires marriage to Elizabeth Bennet, but he ruins any such prospect during his proposal at Hunsford. The resulting general sense of malaise interferes with his usually amicable yet stately demeanour, and his Fitzwilliam relatives resolve that Darcy is lonely-he must be in want of a wife. His cousins convince him to leap into the London Season for one month and partner every lady they select for his felicity.

At Longbourn, chaos erupts as Mr. Bennet undergoes a transformation, and Jane and Elizabeth receive the gift of a month in town to enjoy the Season. Meanwhile, Elizabeth pores over Mr. Darcy’s Hunsford letter and wonders about him, warmed by his words.

It’s only a matter of time before the two meet again in this Pride and Prejudice novella. But will their encounter be a repeat of the earlier disaster, or will they overcome their tenuous history? And can Elizabeth’s credentials pass the stringent criteria of the scheming Fitzwilliam cousins who direct Darcy towards the single daughters of every peer of the realm?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering an ebook copy of Schemes of Felicity to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 23, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Suzan, for being my guest today and for your kind words about my blog. Congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, friend! My guest today is Jayne Bamber, who is celebrating the release of her latest Austen-inspired novel, Madness in Meryton. She’s here with an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hello, Janeites! It is a delight to be here at Diary of an Eccentric to share a little about my new release, Madness in Meryton. This is my sixth Austen variation, and for those of you not following the tale on Happy Assembly, it is a Groundhog Day vagary – with a twist.

The day Elizabeth is fated to repeat it the on in which she meets George Wickham and hears his tale of woe, and I have reimagined it as Meryton’s monthly Market Day to heighten the chaos. Most of the book centers on her evolving conflict with Mr. Darcy, but in the excerpt I am sharing today, Elizabeth has a long-overdue discussion with her indolent father…

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Mr. Bennet smiled indulgently at her. “Well, Lizzy, how was the market? Did you buy as many fripperies as your sisters, or flirt with as many officers?”

“No, Papa.”

“Well! None of them can compare with the illustrious Mr. Collins, eh?”

“None of them could tempt me,” she replied, arching an eyebrow. Her father laughed at the jest, and she proceeded with cautious optimism. “The same cannot be said of my sisters – Papa, I wish you had seen them. They were very forward.” She mimicked Lydia’s posture and mannerisms, and her father shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“Lydia is determined to put herself forward,” Mr. Bennet observed.

“Can you not prevent it?”

He chuckled. “I am sure I would be obliged to lock them in their room to prevent them from exposing themselves every time they are in public.”

“Then do that,” Elizabeth cried. “At least for tonight, please Papa. I beg you would keep them at home, for Mrs. Phillips has invited a great many officers.”

“Yes, and your sisters will mutiny if they are not permitted to be at the party.”

“All the more reason they would do better to be restrained,” Elizabeth retorted. “I am happy that Mr. Bingley was not at the market today, to observe their behavior, else it might have affected his esteem for Jane! But our aunt has sent an invitation to him, and if he is to attend the card party tonight, Jane would fare better without Lydia and Kitty’s wild and unchecked behavior.”

“Surely he is not bothered at all by it. He likes her very much.”

“He likes her now, it is true, but he may not ever do more, if he is to always be reminded of what her sisters are like. Can you not see that Lydia and Kitty are materially damaging Jane’s chances of marrying well, and that if Mr. Bingley cannot like the prospect of such in-laws, Mr. Collins may be the best prospect any of us girls may have? Is an evening of Lydia’s tantrums and Kitty’s weeping really so bad, worse than Jane’s heart being broken, and one of your daughters bound to a pompous imbecile?”

Elizabeth had begun to pace the room, her hands gesturing wildly, her emotions high and unfettered. “I beg you, Papa, to keep them home tonight; let Mr. Bingley have one night of Jane’s company, without her being burdened either by illness or her hoyden sisters. Please, give her a chance.”

Mr. Bennet only laughed and shook his head. “I am sure it is not as dire as all that. I begin to wonder if your younger sisters might have frightened off one of your beaus!”

“And what if they had?” Elizabeth was fairly fuming at her father, who had again jumped to the exactly wrong conclusion. But perhaps….

Elizabeth swallowed back her pride and hugged at herself, still pacing. She could feel her breathing change and her heart quicken, and she met her father’s eye with fire inside her. “What would you say if I told you something has happened between me and Mr. Darcy?”

Now she had his attention; her father leaned forward with concern. “Lizzy….”

She stopped and stared at him, her shoulders pulled back in defiance. She watched his face change as he silently speculated.

“Lizzy, has something occurred? What is it you want to tell me?”

She held back a moment longer, letting him squirm, letting the doubt seep in. “Of course not,” she snapped. “But for a moment, you believed it possible. I saw it in your eyes. And if you can think it of me, your favorite, can you not acknowledge what Lydia and Kitty, whom you are often calling the silliest girls in England, are capable of?”

Mr. Bennet said nothing, but his face hardened. Elizabeth suspected she had wounded him, but she did not care. She reminded herself that Jane was an innocent, merely trying to do her best. The same could not be said of their father. Elizabeth pressed on. “We are prey to the officers and the Collinses of this world because we have little but our charms to recommend us. You cannot give us dowries – so be it. At least grant us some dignity.”

At this, Elizabeth’s reserve faltered. The image of Mr. Darcy, looking upon her family with such displeasure, pushed out every thought of Jane and Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth burst into tears. She sank back down into her chair and wept, and in a moment her father had come around his desk to embrace her.

“Dear Lizzy, do not distress yourself. I suppose there is a reason the younger sisters do not come out until the elder are married. Your mother has a great care for you girls, though it is misplaced; she fears your younger sisters will miss some great opportunity.”

Elizabeth shook her head emphatically, but could make no reply through her tears. She carried her point, in the end, though she had not intended to achieve it through such means. When she had collected herself, and thanked her father with a warm embrace, Elizabeth set about salvaging the day.

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About Madness in Meryton

When Jane and Elizabeth Bennet return home from Netherfield, two days of heavy rain confine them indoors with their unruly younger sisters, a mother in perpetual need of smelling salts, and the tedious Mr. Collins. When the rain clears, the ladies from Longbourn and the gentlemen from Netherfield are drawn to Meryton by the excitement of Market Day, setting in motion a series of significant events.

That night, Mrs. Phillips hosts a card party for officers of the local militia, where the charming Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth his shocking history with Mr. Darcy, a man who has only given Elizabeth offense since coming to stay with his friend Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.

The next day, the same thing happens again.

And again, the day after that – and so on, for what begins to feel like an eternity. Elizabeth takes increasingly drastic measures to further the budding romance between her beloved sister Jane and their handsome neighbor Mr. Bingley. Along the way, she arranges improvements in the lives of all of her family, in a effort to end the relentless redundancy that only she seems aware of.

As Elizabeth’s frustration turns to madness, she soon realizes that her inexplicable dilemma is somehow connected to a certain officer and a certain gentleman of her acquaintance….

Elizabeth must forge unlikely alliances and devote her considerable wit to the task of achieving a perfect day for those she holds dear, while facing familiar Fitzwilliam friends and foes, as well as all the mortification and delight of falling in love.

Amazon

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Giveaway

Jayne is offering an ebook of Madness in Meryton as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link, and act quickly because the giveaway is ending soon! Good luck!

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Maria Grace back to the blog today to celebrate the completion of the Persuasion arc in her Jane Austen’s Dragon Series with the release of Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion. Maria is here to talk about bringing dragons into Jane Austen’s world and to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Thanks so much for letting me share my new project with you, Anna. It’s always such a pleasure to get to visit with you.  Through the years I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being willing to put very different spins on Jane Austen’s stories and characters. That hasn’t changed with my newest series. In fact, I think the new books kick it up a notch—or maybe several.

And with that rather dubious introduction, I’m utterly tickled to announce that the Persuasion arc of my Jane Austen’s Dragons series is complete with the release of Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion.  Now wait, I can hear you muttering and rolling your eyes, “Dragons? Really? Seriously—dragons?  Why—just why?”

I’ve seen that look before and have been known to reply, “Because zombies, vampires and werewolves have already been done.” And while that is utterly true, and the sort of thing I might say if you caught me at just the right—or wrong—moment, it isn’t a very good answer.

You’re rolling your eyes at me again, but give me a chance and hear me out.  I promise, Jane Austen would approve. If you take a glance at English mythology, it is full of dragons. Seriously, they are everywhere.

Don’t believe me, here’s just a partial list if dragon myths: the Lambton Worm, the Dragon of Mordiford, the Dragon of Unsworth, the Dragon of Wantly, the Dragon of Longwitton, the Dragon of Loschy Hill, the Bisterne Dragon, the Worm of Linton, the Stoor Worm, the Sockburn Worm (or Wyvern), Blue Ben, and the Lyminster Knucker. With dragons just about everywhere in English myth, it seems likely that Jane Austen herself was familiar with many of these dragon legends.

That got me to thinking: What if… (A word of caution, when a writer says “what if”, it might be a good time to politely excuse yourself…)

So, what if those dragon myths contained a large helping of reality and there really were dragons in England? What it they weren’t just a thing of the medieval era, but continued to be a very real presence in British society into the modern era? How might that work?

Hmmm … that would require a research trip back to medieval dragons and the father of fabled King Arthur who had dragon connections. His father, Uther Pendragon helped Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland to Britain. Later, on the way to the battle, Uther sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as a sign of Aurelius’ death and Uther’s glorious future. Uther wins the battle, but returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned. Uther becomes king and adopts the use of a golden dragon as his standard.

So, What IF (there’s that dangerous phrase again!) Uther Pendragon was embroiled in battle not just with the Saxons, but with dragons as well and he saw a real dragon who could speak with him, not a comet as most stories suggested? Would not others have heard it too? Wait, no—what if the dragons had a way of hiding in plain sight that only a select few people could see through, and Uther was one of those and made peace with dragonkind…

Suddenly I saw a world, hundreds of years removed from medieval England, where mankind and dragonkind could coexist, governed by the Blue Order, an organization founded by Uther Pendragon himself, on human and dragon partnership, dedicated to protecting the safety and interests of both species while keeping the dragons secret from the very large segment of the human population with hearing insufficient to detect dragon voices.

Hmmm … that could be the start of something interesting. And it has been, seeing how the stories and characters of Jane Austen’s world completely fit into the realm of the Blue Order.  Here’s a peek to whet your appetite.

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August 15, 1814

Laconia, the cat-like tatzelwurm, wound himself around Wentworth’s feet as he walked the stony street to the Blue Order office in Lyme. People bustled about, with all the accompanying noise that did nothing so much as remind one that he was no longer at sea and the master of his own ship. Sunny, bordering on hot, the salty sea breeze clipped the edge off the heat and left the shadows beside the buildings notably cooler, almost chilly. A number of people stopped and stared at the sight, not so much because he was walking with a tatzelwurm, but rather because they saw Laconia as an enormous cat, weaving in and out through his strides.

Though it looked like a difficult, intricate dance, Laconia had been doing it since he was a wyrmling. It had become more difficult as he had grown into a substantial creature, nearly three stones in weight with height and length to match, but Laconia insisted. While he was well able to protect himself now, the scars of his hatching trauma still plagued him. Laconia never felt very comfortable in unfamiliar places, around unfamiliar people—he rarely got much more than an arm’s length away from Wentworth in such situations.

Like most offices of the Blue Order, this one was entirely indistinguishable from the ordinary buildings on either side of it. Far smaller than the great office in London where Wentworth was first presented to and accepted by the Order, this one appeared little different from the first-rate townhouses on either side of it. Four-stories tall, white brick front with black wrought-iron work, balanced, symmetrical windows on either side, with curtains drawn to block the view from the street. Beneath would be several stories of basement levels with connections to the dragon tunnels that passed through all of England.

The corner of his lips turned up. How surprised the other residents would be to learn what was really going on in the house or that the unusual number of large birds of prey perched along the roof were a cockatrice guard company. Frankly, he still was, and he had known about it for years.

Brass door knockers—drake’s heads holding large rings—rose from the great blue doors. That was how one could always tell a Blue Order establishment; the doors were this particular shade of blue. Apparently, the color was made especially for the Order. Order members in the colorman’s guilds controlled it quite carefully, so it might only be sold for use on Blue Order buildings. Naturally they had the help of a few conveniently placed companion dragons to convince stubborn customers that green was really a most fashionable color.

He twisted the signet ring on his left little finger—now that he was beached, it was appropriate he wore it. Order members liked to be able to identify one another.

Wentworth rapped on the door. A blue liveried butler, tall, serious, and foreboding opened it, stepping slightly to the right to completely fill up the doorway and block the entry.

“Mrrrow.” Laconia looked up at him, sniffing the air, tail lashing around Wentworth’s ankle.

The man’s eyes widened just a bit, but he held his ground until Wentworth lifted his left hand and his ring—perhaps a mite too close to the butler’s face.

“Admiral Easterly is expecting us.” Wentworth stepped inside, deftly dodging Laconia’s tight weaving. He stooped to lift Laconia and carry him the rest of the way. His long body trembled with loud purrs. Poor creature was truly anxious.

The butler shut the door behind them. “Come this way.”

They followed him into a large receiving room, facing the mews. Two large windows, sheer white drapes obscuring the viewlined the far wall. It smelt a mite musty, as though the windows had not been open in quite some time. Many places seemed to smell musty these days. Was it just that all buildings smelt that way when one was accustomed to open air? White paper hangings with Order-blue vines or lines or whatever they were called, covered the walls. The occasional pastel fairy dragon peeked around the vines here and there, probably to make it all more interesting, but utterly unrealistic. Had the artist ever seen what the creatures actually looked like? What was wrong with a simple plain color, or even white?

Two tall, oaken bookcases, showcasing books published by the Order, stood proudly flanking the fireplace opposite the windows while a third filled up the wall between the windows. A slightly worn tea table and several similarly serviceable card tables served as focal points for several clusters of lyre-back chairs near the far wall. Couches, covered in something rusty-colored, with dragon-claw-and-ball feet filled up the rest of the space. The whole effect was rather welcoming, and blissfully quiet. The only other occupants were two brown minor drakes wearing Order livery badges, studying a tome at a table near the windows.

“Wait here, please. The Admiral will receive you shortly.” The butler bowed and strode out.

Wentworth took Laconia to a small couch bathed in the sunbeam from the window opposite the drakes. He sat and helped Laconia arrange himself on his lap. “Are you well?”

Laconia grumbled, which to most sounded like a growl. But once one heard Laconia truly growl, one never mistook one for the other again. “I am fine.”

Wentworth stroked his silky black fur and scratched behind his ears. “I know the place smells very odd, but you will grow used to it.”

“That is easy for you to say. You have never had a smell warn you a larger dragon was about to try and make you his breakfast.”

“That was quite the interesting morning, was it not? I would have been consumed right along with you. I do quite remember how that feels.” Perhaps Croft was right, he should write that adventure as a monograph on the territorial nature of sea drakes and submit it to the Order for publication. It was quite the story.

Laconia pressed his cheek into Wentworth’s hand. “But you did not smell it coming.” His tail thumped dully against the cushions as he opened his mouth and flicked his forked tongue in the air.

“You are not accustomed to the smells of land. Anything that does not reek of salt air smells wrong to you.”

“While I much prefer that smell, I do not like all these concocted scents that warm-bloods wear. They are offensive.”

“As is the term warm-blood—when used by a dragon.”

“When they do not offend my olfaction—”

“Ahh, Captain Wentworth!” Admiral Easterly strode in. Tall and broad chested, with a shock of prematurely white hair, he seemed confident and easy here. How odd the buff jacket and navy-blue breeches looked on him, but there was no reason to expect him to be in uniform now while he was doing the Order’s business, not the Navy’s. “I am pleased to see you again.” He bowed to Laconia and extended his hand and allowed Laconia to sniff his fingers.

Laconia flicked his tongue against Easterly’s hand. Some of the tension left his shoulders and he rubbed his cheek against Easterly’s palm.

“You have become quite the legend in the Navy—the luckiest ship’s cat you are called. We could have done with a dozen more like you finding prize ships out there.”

“Then why assign so many dragon-deaf as captains?”

Wentworth and Easterly chuckled.

“One can only work with what one has. Come back to my office.” Easterly led them upstairs to a room that faced the mews.

The office was small by the standards of landed accommodations, but spacious to any ship’s captain. Stark white walls, bare as the clean and polished wood floor; their footsteps echoing off both. Tidy and efficient. Shelves near the window held a sextant, a telescope and books on navigation and nautical dragons—oh! There was one he had not read: Leviathans, Hippocampi, Krakens and Marine Wyrms: The myths and actualities of the large dragons of the near seas, including the West Indies.

“Might I borrow that?” Wentworth pointed to the volume.

In a single movement, Easterly pulled the book from the shelf, handed it to Wentworth and pointed to a chair near the worn, dark oak desk that occupied the center of the narrow room. “Ever hungry for learning, aren’t you! Of course, you can. In fact, I would even recommend it, given what I have to talk with you about. Sit, sit, be comfortable.” He pointed to a cushion on his desk still bearing bits of fur and several scales from its most recent occupant—probably another tatzelwurm. “I would like you to be part of the discussion, Laconia.”

Laconia chirruped a sound of approval. Coiling his tail to use like a spring, he launched himself to the desktop. He circled the pillow, sniffing it deeply, fanged jaws half-open and eyes a little glazed. What—rather who—had been there before?

“Do not worry, she does not mind sharing this particular perch. Mina is resigned that my office is a public place.”

“I did not know you had a Friend once again.” Wentworth drew the wooden armchair close to the dragon pillow and sat down.

“She befriended me when her previous Friend died, another old Admiral. She likes sea-faring men, after they have retired. Mina does not like to sail herself.” Easterly looked over his shoulder toward the bookcase.

A fluffy grey head peeked out from behind the bookcase. “Meyrrrrow.” High and feminine, it was almost as though she spoke with an accent.

“Pray come out and be introduced.”

Mina slither-crept into the light and looked up at Easterly. Perhaps only half Laconia’s size, she seemed small, though by feline standards she was certainly substantial. Long and lithe, the silver fur of her front, feline half blended seamlessly into gleaming silver scales on her serpentine tail. Stars above, she was a gorgeous creature. Intelligent deep blue eyes stared up at him, searching his character, his worthiness to be an acquaintance—or at least it looked very much that way.

Laconia chirruped at her. She regarded him a moment, eyes growing very large. Her jaw opened slightly; her fangs evident as she breathed deep. “Mrrroww!” She sprang to the desk near Easterly.

“Mina, may I present Laconia and Wentworth, Friend of Laconia.”

Wentworth bowed from his shoulders to Mina and Laconia dipped his head slightly, but not below Mina’s. Ah, yes, dominance, it was always dominance with dragons.

She regarded Wentworth a moment longer, then turned to Laconia. She leaned toward him and sniffed rapidly. Laconia mirrored her. He stepped forward to sniff her neck. When she admitted the attention, he slithered closer, drawing his nose down her entire length as she did the same for him, flowing in a large draconic circle on the desktop. The circle stopped, and she ducked under him, rubbing the top of her head against his belly. He purred and pressed down a mite as though to embrace her as she did.

She slithered around to face him. Wide eyed and blinking, was it possible for a tatzelwurm to be drunk? Dragon thunder! Laconia wore the same expression.

“Yourrr visit is welcome.” She pressed her cheek to Laconia’s.

Laconia licked her face and rubbed his cheek against hers. “Your scent … is right.” He purred and sighed and licked his lips.

She purred and hopped on the pillow, curling into a dainty ball with her chin resting coyly on her tail. Laconia followed, curling around her and resting his chin on her shoulder. By Jove, that was an awfully friendly arrangement.

Easterly lifted his eyebrows and shrugged.

“Your message suggested an issue of some urgency.” Wentworth tried not to stare at the tatzelwurm knot beside him, but their very loud purring made it difficult.

“Yes, yes indeed.” Easterly tugged his jacket straight and sat down. “I am not sorry to hear you have been beached for the foreseeable future. I know that is anathema to many Captains, but truly, we need men like you for the Order.”

“Like me?” So many things that could mean, and not all of them complimentary.

“Proven dragon-hearing men who can follow orders, who can manage themselves in a crisis, and make good decisions on their own. Exactly what the Navy has trained you for.”

Laconia’s ears pricked, and he fixed his eyes on Easterly, wrapping his tail a little tighter around Mina.

“What is happening?”

“Where dragons are concerned, there are always a great many things happening. But, since the revolution in France and most recently the war with Napoleon has affected the continental dragons, times are especially turbulent.”

“What has that to do with English dragons?” Wentworth crossed his arms and leaned in, heart beating faster. Damn battle reflexes kicking in.

The tip of Laconia’s tail twitched and his forked tongue flicked. He felt it, too.

“Major dragons along the coast, both land and the few marine ones we have relations with, have been on edge watching for signs of invasion. I will tell you privately, it is a good thing that never happened. The Pendragon Accords were never written to consider the ramifications of an invading foreign army from the continent.”

“Why not? The Romans—”

Easterly lifted open hands. “Yes, yes, just chalk it up to arrogance. It is a problem that is being addressed in London even now. A joint committee of dragons and Blue Order Officers, including representatives of both the Army and Navy, is attempting to draft new provisions to deal with the matter. But in the meantime, we must soothe ruffled scales as it were, and I need Dragon Mates like you to do it.”

“Whose scales are ruffled?” Laconia’s tail twitched faster.

“Have you met Cornwall?”

“The Prince Regent or the firedrake?” Prickles started at Wentworth’s scalp and raced down every limb.

“Either, both? They are not exactly dissimilar.” The admiral snorted. “Of course, I never said such a thing.”

“Of course not,” Wentworth muttered.

“In any case, we have received a number of complaints from minor dragons of the Cornwall Keep. Cornwall has been unusually restive of late. They fear there is something seriously the matter and, worse still, Cornwall is contemplating handling the matter himself. It is rarely a good idea to permit major dragons to manage affairs on their terms.”

“Is that not what the Accords are for?” Blood roared in Wentworth’s ears. He fought the urge to spring to his feet.

“It is precisely why there are Keepers assigned to the major dragons, charged with handling issues for the dragons. While I have known a great many hotheaded and stubborn men, I have yet to meet one who rivals the amount of damage an angry dragon can cause.”

“Then why is the Prince Regent not managing the matter?”

Easterly glowered.

That had been a stupid question.

“The key issue here is that a particular kind of diplomacy is needed—”

“You think Laconia and I are suited for that?” Wentworth sneaked a quick glance at Laconia.

“I need a man who has had dealings with nautical dragons, as the matter involves sea hold property.”

Now he had to move! Wentworth jumped up and paced the length of the far too short room. “Cornwall is a fire drake—a land dragon. You mean to tell me now that land dragons have sea holdings?”

“That is the heart of the current debate. Here.” Easterly plucked a thin red leather-bound volume—a monograph perhaps—off the shelf and handed it to Wentworth as he strode past. Determining the Boundaries of Major Dragon Holdings: The Implications and Complications of Instinctive Dragon Territorial Determinations Intersecting with Human Traditions and Law.

Damn, that looked complicated.

“Unfortunately, the legal codes have not been rendered very clearly. In the current situation, I am not even certain Blue Order codes cover the situation.”

“And what precisely is the situation.” Wentworth fell into his seat with a dull thud.

“Cornwall has laid claim to something off his coast that we are not even sure exists.” Easterly pressed his temples hard.

“So, the dragon might be mad?”

“Some have entertained that possibility.”

“You want us to go and confront a fire drake—a royal firedrake—who may well be touched in the head—as mad as the king himself?” Wentworth dropped the monograph on the desk.

Mina started; Laconia glared at him.

“In short, yes. And, the Prince Regent might also be very interested in the matter, should the news reach him directly.”

“The Prince does not know the nature of the situation?”

“He has not informed us of any problem and the Order has not contacted him regarding the complaints—yet.”

“You must be joking? That amounts to keeping secrets from the crown!” Wentworth threw his head back and huffed. “I might be beached, but I am hardly dicked in the nob myself, and I am quite certain Laconia—”

“We have dealt with worse.” Laconia lifted his head slightly, glancing from Easterly to Wentworth. “You recall that sea drake who tried to refuse to grant us passage through her territory? She had an entire battalion of sea drakes and marine wyrms ready to do battle for the territory.”

“What has that to do with—”

“Or the herd of hippocampi who thought you violated their fishing ground?’

“Again, what has that to do—”

Laconia stood and walked across the desk to look Wentworth in the eye. “What else are you going to do until you find a mate?”

Wentworth’s jaw dropped and he sputtered. “Dragon’s blood and sea foam!”

“You will mind your language around my mate.” Laconia glanced back at Mina and chirruped.

“Your mate?” Wentworth and Easterly said simultaneously.

“Yes.” The tatzelwurms hissed.

“You see, finding a mate is not so difficult a matter to resolve.” He curled around her again, running his nose along her silky silver fur. “Had you the wherewithal to find your own, you would not be at loose ends right now. You must have a way of keeping yourself occupied until …”

Wentworth slapped his forehead. “How do you intend for us to get to Cornwall?”

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Is it a little off the beaten path for Austenesque fiction? Absolutely! But what better time to try out something entirely new and different than a year like 2020?

If you’d like to have a peek at more previews, check them out on my website, RandomBitsofFascinaion.com.  The Dragons of Kellynch and Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion

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About The Dragons of Kellynch

In order to secure her future, a young lady must marry well.

One would think Anne Elliot, a baronet’s daughter, would find the marriage mart far easier to navigate than a more ordinary woman. One would be wrong.

After refusing a poor, but otherwise perfect sailor, on the advice of her friend Lady Russell, Anne finds an unhappy choice before her: marry deathly dull Charles Musgrove or hope against hope that another suitable proposal might come her way before she becomes a spinster on the shelf.

Anne’s disgracefully independent choice to refuse Charles’ offer turns her world entirely arsey-varsey and not in the expected  turned upside down sort of way. She begins to see things … hear things … things like dragons.

And once one sees dragons, one talks to them. And when one talks to them, nothing is ever the same again.

Must a young lady marry well if she hears dragons?

https://books2read.com/DragonsofKellynch

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About Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion

Keeping a hibernating dragon should have been a simple thing.

Should have been, but it was not. Apparently, nothing involving dragons was ever simple, at least not for Anne Elliot, junior Keeper to dragon Kellynch.

With the estate in debt, Anne’s father in denial, and the dragon’s treasure missing, Kellynch’s awakening was shaping up to be nothing short of catastrophe. Not to mention there was the pesky matter of her own broken heart and resentment against the old friend who had caused it.

Captain Frederick Wentworth had spent his life making something of himself in the Navy. With the  war that kept him employed at an end and a small fortune in prize money, he found himself beached and at loose ends. What was he to do with himself now—take a wife like Laconia, his dragon Friend, insisted? Not when none compared to the woman who had broken his heart.

Working as an agent of the Blue Order, managing dragon matters across England, seemed a much better alternative. At least until investigating one such matter sent him directly in the path of Anne Elliot, the woman who had ruined him for all others.

Now a royal dragon rages, a sleeping dragon lurks, and too many treasures have gone missing. Can Anne and Wentworth lay aside resentment, pride, and heartbreak to prevent Kellynch’s awakening from ending in bloodshed—or worse?

Jane Austen meets Pern in a fantastical regency romp bound to delight readers of Jane Austen and Anne McCaffrey alike.

https://books2read.com/KellynchDragonPersuasion

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.

She can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook: | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering a reader’s choice giveaway, with two lucky winners getting to choose any ebook in the Jane Austen’s Dragon Series. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, August 9, 2020. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Maria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest release!

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Hello, dear readers! Today’s guest is Virginia Kohl, who is here to celebrate the release of her newest novel, Adventure Awaits, inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Virginia is here to share a little about the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Since writing my debut novel, True Love Comes to Delaford, I knew I wanted Daisy to have her own story. The adventuresome young woman, who dreamed of traveling to exotic locations, would not simply settle for anyone. Could a true love match be found in the village’s new physician?

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After reading the children a story and tucking them back in, Miss Dashwood returned downstairs to await the doctor. Her book had failed to distract her anxious thoughts. She soon began to pace in front of the library’s fireplace.

She raised her head upon hearing the butler’s announcement. “Thank you for coming so quickly, Doctor Gr—”

Instead of the trusted physician’s grey eyes, she looked up into a pair of unfamiliar dark blue ones.

“Although I appreciate your haste, I require an actual physician, Sir. If the doctor is not available, we must simply wait.”

“Four weeks?” the stranger asked dubiously.

“Why of course not. He will come directly after he finishes his call at the Delaney’s home.”

“Which I have.”

Daisy’s growing anxiety got the better of her. “If they do not prefer Doctor Grant’s expertise that is their choice. However, I will not let simply anyone near my niece!”

Unable to believe her audacity, the young man stepped closer. When they were mere inches apart, he raised his hands and began counting off on his fingers.

“First of all, Doctor Grant is not coming because he is under strict orders to rest for the next month. Secondly, in comparison to you, Mrs. Delaney did not have the luxury of waiting for his return. And lastly, I am not ‘simply anyone’. My name is Doctor Alexander Mallard and I have trained at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country. I am the physician taking care of your family’s physician.” Attempting to control his anger, he took a deep breath. “Now if we are through here, I need to see the patient.”

Releasing her arms from their defensive stance crossed in front of her, Miss Dashwood motioned towards the open door and stiffly replied, “By all means. Follow me, doctor.”

* * *

The walk up to the nursery was silent aside from the time it took Miss Dashwood to explain that the illness had also been contracted by their guest. Softly turning the doorknob, she entered and made her way over to Isabella’s bed.

She knelt down and gently stroked the little girl’s brow. “Wake up, dear.”

“Is it morning already?”

A small smile crossed Daisy’s face. “No, not yet. The doctor has come.” With a challenging glance in the young man’s direction she added, “and he is going to make you feel all better.”

“Then can we see our mamas?” a sleepy voice asked from the other side of the room.

“Of course, you can,” she assured.

Alexander looked from the young boy, whom he now knew to be the Delaney’s eldest son, to the aunt and niece. Shaking his head, he wondered what was wrong with this woman. How could she so calmly promise the children that everything would be all right? He hoped and prayed it would be a simple childhood malady. However, he could not be sure of that prognosis without an examination.

He strode across the room and set his bag on the nightstand. Retrieving his supplies, he could see the little girl’s eyes widen in fear. On the other side he heard sheets rustling and the sound of footsteps crossing the floor behind him. Soon the soft tone of whispered reassurances reached his ears.

“Do not be scared, Isabella. Daisy said the doctor will make everything better.”

The young physician closed his eyes in frustration. His profession had taught him to prepare for the worst. How could he tell these trusting children if it came to that? He glanced over at the woman sitting on the bed. If only she had not assured them that all would be well.

“Miss Dashwood, may I please speak to you for a moment?” Seeing that she did not proceed to move from the children’s side, he added, “Alone please.”

When they reached the open doorway, his tone became quieter for fear of the patients overhearing him. “You should not be telling them that everything will be fine when there is no basis for this claim. Until I have completed my examination, you are simply providing them with a false sense of security.”

“Patients recover after chickenpox run their course.”

“Chickenpox?” he repeated in surprise.

“Yes. A common malady I am sure you have encountered before.”

He could feel his head begin to pound. First, she questioned his expertise and now she had the nerve to diagnose his patients.

“As much as I appreciate your, let us call it assistance, until you have actually obtained a medical degree, I will rely on mine.”

Momentarily lost for words, Daisy stared in shock. She had never encountered such an arrogant man.

“Doctor Mallard—” she began, only to be interrupted by little voices coming from the bed.

“A mallard is a type of duck,” Colin explained, with his arm draped comfortingly around his friend’s shoulder.

“Similar to the duckies in mama’s story?” Isabella’s face lit up for the first time all evening when she looked over at Alexander. “May we call you Doctor Ducky?”

Daisy addressed her niece, “I do not believe—”

However, the warning never came. In disbelief she watched him cross the room and bend down to be at eye level with the children. The corners of her lips involuntarily lifted, seeing him make noises and gestures to imitate the feathered creature. His actions were rewarded with claps and giggles before he returned to a standing position.

“Now it is time for your examinations. Are you ready?”

“If Auntie Daisy can stay with us.”

Alexander would have preferred any of the household’s servants instead of the infuriating young woman. However, he found himself unable to deny the two pairs of pleading eyes looking up at him.

“If Miss Dashwood agrees, I would have no objections.”

“Thank you,” Daisy whispered with sincere appreciation when she passed him to join her charges.

Fairly certain she would have stayed regardless of his objection, her gratitude surprised him. There certainly was more than meets the eye when it came to Miss Dashwood.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, Adventure Awaits is available in both Kindle and trade paperback.

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About Adventure Awaits

Margaret Dashwood, known to her family and friends as Daisy, has always dreamed of going on a grand adventure. With her first Season behind her, those dreams are relegated to the stories she tells her niece.

Dr. Alexander Mallard came to the small village of Delaford straight out of medical school. With the knowledge and desire to help everyone he can, the young man settles into the life of a country doctor.

The day their paths cross, an adventure grander than either ever imagined begins.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Virginia Kohl

Virginia Kohl has been fascinated with the regency era since discovering Jane Austen’s works at the age of eleven.

Originally from Germany, Virginia Kohl shares her Texas home with her illustrator mother and faithful rescue dog. When not passing her love of learning on to her students, this college math professor enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and being an active member of her local writer’s guild.

Virginia Kohl can be reached via her website and Facebook. Her novels can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.

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Giveaway

Virginia is generously offering a Kindle copy of Adventure Awaits to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to Amazon.com customers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, July 22, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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My guest today is Elizabeth Hazen, whose poetry collection Girls Like Us is next on my to-read list and is one I’ve really been looking forward to. Elizabeth is here to share a little about the collection and her inspiration for the poem, “Devices.” I hope the poem makes all of you as excited to read the collection as I am. Please give Elizabeth a warm welcome!

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Girls Like Us is a collection of poems — many of which are deeply personal examinations of my own struggles — about being a female in a society that, despite notable progress, is still mired in misogyny and violence toward women. The idea for the book arose organically; I found that everything I was writing, in one way or another, questioned the roles into which I had been trying to fit myself, the conflicts I had with men, and the sense of anxiety and shame that seemed to shadow not only me, but also so many women I know.

With the 2016 election and the increasing volume of discourse around women’s rights and the doubling down on derogatory attitudes toward women by men (and women) in positions of power, what had been incidental in my poems became more intentional. That is to say, I consciously decided I wanted to write about the impact misogyny has had on me. I wanted to write my experiences for the women I know who have had similar experiences, for the men who have played roles in those experiences, for the men who would help us change things, for the victims of abusers who were finally being identified and tried for their crimes, for the girls I teach and have taught, and maybe most of all, for the girl I once was.

The #MeToo movement stirred up painful memories, but also woke in me a desire to dig deeper into the past and an acknowledgement that my experiences, while significant to me, were not unique; every woman and girl I know has experienced the negative impacts of a society that constantly is telling us who to be and who not to be, often asking us to embody contradictory personas and punishing us for failing to achieve what is impossible. I hope my audience is not limited to women, though; I hope for men to look more closely at their own complicity in this system, and to understand what so many women – their mothers, sisters, partners, daughters – have experienced, often in silence and resignation.

The first poem in the collection, “Devices,” came to me shortly after the whole “Pussygate” debacle and the subsequent reports from women who accused Trump of sexual assault. I was thinking about language and its power in both promoting possibility and also in limiting it. I thought a lot about how language, too, can be an act of violence, and one that is insidious because it is easy to dismiss as harmless – sticks and stones, and so on.

Of course, as a poet and an English teacher, a belief in the power of language is at the core of everything I do and everything I care about. I spend a lot of time each year teaching my students about figurative language and trying to impress upon them how powerful language can be. I thought about the numerous ways in which we use language to degrade women, and how the repetition of this language impacts our psyches and warps the way we see ourselves. Thus, “Devices” came to be as my own form of protest and my response to the moment.

Devices

Rhyme relies on repetition: pink drink,
big wig, tramp stamp, rank skank. Alliteration

too: Peter Piper’s pickled peppers, silly
Sally’s sheep – silly trumping smart because

the lls create consonance. Assonance
repeats vowel sounds: hot bod, dumb slut, frigid bitch.

Even his line — “Girl, we’ll have a fine time”—
or her refusals — “No! Don’t!” In metaphor

we compare two things. Suppose a man calls
a woman fox; we understand this is

not literal. Same goes for pig, dog, chick.
Same goes for octopus, as in, “His hands

were all over me.” Metonymy relies
on association: suits, skirts, that joke

about the dishwasher –If it stops working,
slap the bitch! Synecdoche reduces

a thing to a single part: he wants pussy,
by which we must infer he wants a woman.

We’ve been called so many things that we are not,
we startle at the sound of our own names.

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Thank you, Elizabeth, for being my guest today and for sharing that powerful poem!

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About Girls Like Us

Girls Like Us is packed with fierce, eloquent, and deeply intelligent poetry focused on female identity and the contradictory personas women are expected to embody. The women in these poems sometimes fear and sometimes knowingly provoke the male gaze. At times, they try to reconcile themselves to the violence that such attentions may bring; at others, they actively defy it. Hazen’s insights into the conflict between desire and wholeness, between self and self-destruction, are harrowing and wise. The predicaments confronted in Girls Like Us are age-old and universal—but in our current era, Hazen’s work has a particular weight, power, and value.

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Elizabeth Hazen

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

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Giveaway

Two copies of Girls Like Us are up for grabs as part of the blog tour. To enter, you must use this Rafflecopter link. The giveaway runs July 24, 2020. You must be 18 or older and have a U.S. mailing address to qualify.

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Click the button below for more information about the book and the author, and to follow the blog tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What an extraordinary woman!

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

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

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

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

****

About When Mary Met the Colonel

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

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

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

Check out the audiobook sample on Audible

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Giveaway

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

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

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