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I’m delighted to welcome Jayne Bamber back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of Unexpected Friends & Relations, the second book in her Friends & Relations series of Jane Austen crossover novels. Jayne is here today with an excerpt and a giveaway, but first, we have Sir Gerald Sutton’s interview with Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam.

Seventeen Questions with Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam

By Jayne Bamber

Lady Rebecca

Good Morning all, Sir Gerald Sutton here. I have recently had the honor of marrying my neighbor and long-lost-love, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. We have just informed our family of our intention to acknowledge our daughter, who has spent the last 18 years hidden away at my sister’s boarding school in Surrey. To help our daughter get better acquainted with her new extended family, which includes my five children as well as Lady Catherine’s many nieces and nephews, three of whom have recently married, I have decided to sit down with some of my new relations, and sketch their characters….

Today I am joined by my new niece, and perhaps one of the most formidable members of the Fitzwilliam clan, Lady Rebecca. Rebecca, my dear, thank you for joining me here at De Bourgh House in London.

Lady Rebecca: Thank you for inviting me. It is pleasant to see how comfortably you have settled into the townhouse of your bride’s first husband. Perhaps you might ring for tea?

Sir Gerald: Of course! And now, I have some questions to put to you, and our housekeeper, Mrs. Banks, will take down the dictation.

LR: I am sure Mrs. Banks will find it a most edifying experience – I am ready, sir.

SG: Capital! Let us begin with some of the simpler questions. Tell me, what do you like best about residing here in London?

LR: There are a great many attractions in London, to be sure, but I most enjoy the people here. Human nature quite fascinates me –there is always so much to amuse, in taking a person’s likeness… as you may yet discover.

SG: And when you are not in London, you can be found at your father’s estate in Matlock. What is your favorite part of the estate?

LR: Well, let me think. There are a great many delights there – the scenery to be had, if one has the stamina to ride extensively about the countryside. The house is quite marvelous, as well, and my own apartments are quite elegant, a great place to retreat when the company becomes tedious. Too obvious a place to hide for long, though – that is when I would recommend the wine cellar. I discovered it in my youth, playing games with my brothers, but it is excellent for hiding from a great many other things, such as tiresome governesses or unwanted suitors, even irritating stepmothers. And of course, if one is obliged to hide for a lengthy period of time, one can always have a drink.

SG: Well, I shall keep that in mind, when next I visit.

LR: ‘Tis my hiding place – you must find your own.

SG: Aside from hiding and lurking in wine cellars, what is your favorite childhood memory?

LR: Learning to ride a horse. I was twelve, and my brother Richard taught me one summer when he came home from school. I was a little frightened – oh dear, do not transcribe that, Mrs. Banks – but I was so eager to spend time with Richard, whom I had missed very much, that I would have done just about any activity at all, if only to spend time with him.

SG: What a charming thought. I am aware that you are quite close with your brother the Viscount, which leads to my next question – who did you look up to the most, growing up?

LR: I am sure Richard will be very cross if I do not say him, but he shall have to console himself about that. I looked up the most to my mother, growing up. She was an incredible woman.

SG: So I hear. Will you tell me about her?

LR: No, I think not.

SG:

LR:

SG: Er – very well, then. Let us speak more about yourself. What is your favorite time of year?

LR: I enjoy the winter. I feel quite comfortable when the weather is as frigid as my own icy heart, and I look smashing in fur.

SG: You do have a very unique style, I am sure. Have you a favorite book?

LR: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft – my goodness, Mrs. Banks, that is quite a cough you have! Sir Gerald, I have taken the liberty of purchasing a copy for your new daughter as a welcome present.

SG: My, my, you really… shouldn’t have.

LR: I thought it the best way to welcome her to the family – I have made sure that every other lady in the family has read it, so Miss Sutton will have something in common with us all.

SG: Moving right along, what is your favorite food?

LR: I expect brandy is not quite a food, per se…. I have taken quite a liking to boiled potatoes, particularly since last summer.

SG: How odd, that is just what Mrs. Darcy said.

LR: I am not at all surprised!

SG: And speaking of surprises, have you any secret talents?

LR: A great many, sir – I am almost entirely composed of both secrets, and talents. The one I take the most pride in, aside from general intimidation, is gift-giving. I excel at selecting thoughtful and personal presents for the people I care about. I once gave Lizzy the same gown twice, and she liked it very much each time.

SG: Most extraordinary! And what is the best present you have ever been given?

LR: Mary Bennet once gave me her copy of Fordyce’s Sermons.

SG: That is certainly an unexpected answer! It is hardly the sort of book I should expect you to enjoy!

LR: On the contrary, sir – I have never enjoyed sitting by the fireplace at Pemberley more than I did that night, and I find that parting with it has improved dear Mary, as well.

SG: You are often full of praise for the members of this family. If you could choose any three of them to go on holiday with, who would you select?

LR: Only three? Oh dear, let me think. My brother Richard, to be sure – he would provide protection, and always carries a flask with him, making him dependably excellent company. Elizabeth would be my second choice; I absolutely adore her. Lastly, I would choose dear Mary Bennet, as I think our company would be most instructive for her.

SG: And if you could travel to any destination, where would you like to go?

LR: I should like to go to Egypt, to see the Nile, the Pyramids and the Sphinx. I should like to compare riding a camel to riding a horse, and I have a great curiosity to encounter a crocodile. I might bring one back as a pet.

SG: Most unusual!

LR: Is it?

SG: Next question… If you could be any person for a day, whom should you like to be?

LR: The Prince Regent, I suppose. I find Beau Brummel a most intriguing fellow, and quite dashing. He might help me get dressed.

SG: Mrs. Banks, I beg you do not write that down. Let us strike that from the record, and proceed…. Tell me about your schooling, Lady Rebecca. I am interested to learn what sort of seminary has produced such a paragon of… ahem… virtue?

LR: I went to school in Reading, at Madame La Tournelle’s. It was certainly…. instructive, in some ways. Madame was not even remotely French, did not speak a word of French, had never even been to France, in fact. She was vastly diverting, however, and I liked a few of the girls there very much. There was a clever young lady a few years older than myself called Jane, very bookish and quite cheeky. We used to put on little theatricals together and compose rude verses to shock Madame La Tournellle, until Papa discovered she was really called Sarah Hackit and did not teach anything remotely useful, and so he took me away. I do wonder whatever became of Jane, and her sweet sister Cassandra….

SG: Ahem… well, hopefully they are both well-settled with husbands and children!

LR: How tedious that would be!

SG: …Which leads me to my next question. What is your greatest annoyance?

LR: Strong sentiment – I think it quite odious.

SG: I see. And what ought one do to get into your good graces?

LR: Surprise me. I take delight in the ludicrous and the unexpected. And carry a flask. Speak impertinently, challenge authority, and be very clever indeed.

SG: Of course. Mrs. Banks….

Mrs. Banks: I’ve marked through that one, sir.

SG: Very good. And now, Lady Rebecca, what advice would you give to a young lady joining our extended family?

LR: Mrs. Banks, take down every word of this. I would say that a young lady joining this family must be prepared to ignore a great deal of unsolicited advice. She must have an unshakeable sense of humor, and understand that she is unlikely to have any secrets that will not be quickly wheedled out of her. She will likely do a great deal of traveling, be quite spoilt, and must learn to enjoy it. She must be very kind to poor Georgiana, she must endeavor to behave with the grace and decorum befitting her station and bring no disgrace upon us, and if anyone gives her any trouble, she need only come to me, and I will set it all to rights.

SG: Well, that last bit was very kind – I am sure my daughter will appreciate the kind sentiment.

LR: The sentiment you may spare me, sir.

***

Thanks for joining me for this glimpse into the mind of Lady Rebecca, an original character from Volume 1: Happier in her Friends than Relations. Lady Rebecca is back in Volume 2, Unexpected Friends and Relations, more determined than ever to make herself useful to the ladies in her family, but with a little twist, as seen in the excerpt below…

    Mr. Knightley gestured for Rebecca to accompany him into the next room, and as she followed him, she cast one backward glance at Mary. “Dearest, perhaps you would be so good as to play something for us, while I step into the parlor and speak with Mr. Knightley.”

Mary regarded her nervously for a moment before seating herself at the pianoforte, and she began the first strains of a concerto that would allow Rebecca and Mr. Knightley to speak with some degree of privacy. Mr. Knightley took Rebecca by the arm and led her to a sofa, his solemnity making Rebecca anxious. “Are my cousins well,” she asked again.

“I do not know how to say this,” Mr. Knightley said, seating himself in the chair across from her. “Your cousin Isabella died of a fever last October, about a month after we met at the Darcys’ ball.”

Rebecca slumped heavily against the back of the sofa, bringing her hands up to her face to cover her dismay. “Good God! But that was months ago! How could I have heard nothing of it since then? Why was this kept from me?”

With a pained expression, Mr. Knightley withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to Rebecca, as the tears began to spill freely down her cheeks. “There was an illness that afflicted many in Highbury last autumn. We think it originated from some gypsies that were in the area at the time. They were camped in the west fields, and we thought them perfectly harmless. If we had any idea they brought sickness with them, they would have been removed from the area much sooner. The fever took several people in the village. Though Mr. Woodhouse was always a fastidious man in matters of health, he was one of the first to become afflicted. John and Isabella were visiting at the time, and Isabella refused to leave her father’s side. It did not take long for his strength to give out – about a week. By the time he left this world, both of his daughters were abed with fever. Poor man died fearing for their lives above his own. I know not why my brother and I were spared, but we did everything we could to aid their quick recovery. Dr. Perry was with them day and night, and John even sent for a physician from London. By then it was too late for Isabella. Only Emma recovered.”

Mr. Knightley paused. A tear slid down his cheek as he held her gaze, and seeing him thus affected completely shattered Rebecca’s resolve to remain strong in front of him; she wept without restraint on the sofa across from him. “What of her children? Isabella has five children!”

“The children were removed from the house when Isabella took sick – a neighboring family, the Westons, took them in, and within a week my sister Charlotte came down from London to collect them, as John would not leave Isabella’s side. When Emma began to improve and Isabella did not, Emma was removed to the Weston’s home, where she eventually made a full recovery. It took her nearly a month to get her strength back, and by the time she returned to Hartfield, both her father and sister had been laid to rest in the parish cemetery. Once the illness was gone from the village, Charlotte brought the children back to John, and they are such a great comfort to him even now, though he has many burdens beyond his grief for his wife. Hartfield now legally belongs to him, as he knew it one day would, but not like this. It is a poor excuse for his not telling you sooner, but it is the truth.”

“Poor John! Poor Isabella! Good God, those poor children! They shall grow up without a mother.” Sobs began to rack Rebecca’s body as she considered this notion, which hit all too close to home for her. It was hard enough losing her own mother when she was nearly a woman grown, but Isabella’s children were still in the nursery; the youngest would likely not even remember her face.

As Rebecca closed her eyes and hugged herself with despair, she suddenly felt Mr. Knightley’s arm around her. He had moved to the sofa beside her, and pulled her into unexpected embrace. Thinking of nothing but her anguish, Rebecca allowed her head to rest on his shoulder, and her body leaned against his. “I am sorry, so very sorry,” said he, “I wish I did not have to give you such terrible news, and I hope my honesty has not caused you any undue pain.”

“You could not have broken the news in any possible way that would have affected me less, I suppose. It is just so shocking. Isabella and I have not been close since we were girls, but as we grew up we shared the bond of entering womanhood without a mother, and now all her poor children will share the same fate. Just like my poor cousin Georgiana. The world is a cruel place for motherless little girls.”

“It is much the same for the boys, I think,” he whispered, his face pressed up against hers as he cradled her in his arms. She began to weep once more, and a moment later felt a sudden pressure, as if he had kissed the top of her head. Feeling her heart twisting in torment, Rebecca braved a glance up at him, her face brushing against the rough stubble on his chin, and she let out a slight gasp as she beheld the tears in his eyes. Her fingers reflexively tightened their grasp on his soft woolen coat, and she felt his arms tighten around her ever so slightly. Another breathless sob escaped her lips, and Mr. Knightley’s face turned toward her; his lips slightly parting, he drew nearer still, and just as her eyes slipped closed and her breath caught in her throat, a sudden commotion in the corridor caused her to flinch. Mr. Knightley abruptly moved his hands down the length of her arms and drew back, even as Rebecca leapt up off of the couch, fidgeting with her dress as she tried not to think about what had nearly happened between them.

A moment later, Elizabeth and Georgiana entered the room, having returned from their morning calls. Elizabeth greeted Mr. Knightley warmly, before perceiving that something was amiss. “Rebecca, dearest,” Elizabeth said cautiously, “whatever has happened?”

Fresh tears fell down Rebecca’s face, but she was past caring for her appearance at such a time. “Cousin Isabella… has died. And my Uncle Woodhouse. Poor Emma barely survived, and the children….”

“Good God,” Elizabeth gasped. “I am so sorry, Rebecca. What a tragedy for your family.”

Rebecca nodded feebly at her friend. She wished to say something profound, but she found herself quite at a loss. It was the glistening eyes and compassionate countenance of Mr. Knightley that shook her all the way to her core, and feeling completely unfit for company, she quickly fled the room.

***

Thanks for joining me on the next stop of my blog tour! I will be giving away 7 copies of the e-book free on May 20th – click here to enter. See the full schedule for the blog tour below, and click here to follow me on Facebook for updates on the final installment of the Friends & Relations Series, coming soon!

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

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My guest today is poet Jessica Goody, whose latest collection is Phoenix: Transformation Poems. Jessica is kindly sharing a poem from the collection: “Jazz.” Please give her a warm welcome!

Transforming Pain into Poetry

Because I tend to think in images, a lot of my poetry is ekphrastic–inspired by artwork.

I am endlessly inspired by the lives and exploits of artists, like the Beats, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Bloomsbury Group. My poetry collection Phoenix: Transformation Poems features numerous odes to artists of every stripe–writers, actors, painters and musicians.

The opening poem, “Jazz,” is about Henri Matisse. Confined to a wheelchair following major surgery, he could no longer climb ladders to paint murals, so he covered the walls of his studio with butcher paper and drew with extra-long pencils. When arthritis left him unable to continue sculpting, he switched to collage, cutting shapes out of colored paper and arranging them in patterns to create Jazz, a book of decoupage art.

I believe that well-chosen words are the greatest agents of change; they provide hope to the suffering and clarity to the misguided. Phoenix offers glimpses of meaningful lives and explores what it means to be fully human. These poems cover a wide variety of subject matter, including beauty, creativity, and courage, but the main theme is transformation–the triumph over pain and trauma and the resilience of the human spirit.

Jazz

Patterns catch the eye, crawling along wallpaper

and upholstery in a melange of colors and textures,

rendering the room as exotic as a harem, draped with

vivid slipcovers of Moroccan arabesques and damasks.

 

The wallpaper blooms humid tropical foliage,

blood-red blossoms unfurling behind the heads

of odalisques reclining on striped pillows, the divan

curving beneath them like the body of a lover.

 

A backdrop of vibrant fabrics curtain the room like a seraglio.

Oushaks and kilims burn underfoot as the light shines

through the lacework windows and shuttered doors,

where beaded lamps drip crystals atop runner-draped tables.

 

Orchids and potted plants crowd every surface, swarming

the carved mantel and bowlegged iron tables. Lovingly arranged

into precisely disheveled still-lifes, the palm fronds spread their graceful

green arms to the sun, tendrils inching upward like ivy.

 

Joyful nudes dance along the walls. Cobalt blue outlines

like police silhouettes stretch and tumble, leap and caper.

Tinted ultramarine, the color of distant horizons,

they resemble woad-stained Celts, rangy of limb and sinew.

 

Matisse lies abed in his atelier, industrious as Proust,

surrounded by a sea of colored paper, scattered leaves

and whimsical shapes that might be flowers or flames,

strewn petals drifting to the floor like shards of glass.

 

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Jessica Goody

Jessica Goody is the award-winning author of Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss (Phosphene Publishing, 2016) and Phoenix: Transformation Poems (CW Books, 2019). Goody’s writing has appeared in over three dozen publications, including The Wallace Stevens Journal, Reader’s Digest, Event Horizon, The Seventh Wave, Third Wednesday, The MacGuffin, Harbinger Asylum and The Maine Review. Jessica is a columnist for SunSations Magazine and the winner of the 2016 Magnets and Ladders Poetry Prize. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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To follow the blog tour for Phoenix: Transformation Poems and for more about the collection, click the button below

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I’m thrilled to welcome Leigh Dreyer, author of the modern Pride and Prejudice variation The Best Laid Flight Plans, back to Diary of an Eccentric. This time Leigh is here to celebrate the release of the sequel, The Flight Plan Less Traveled. Leigh was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about the book and her writing in general, and she’s come with a gift for one lucky reader. Please give her a warm welcome!

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What was your inspiration for the series?

My inspiration for the series starts at home. My dad is a fighter pilot (he instructs in the T-38, just like Darcy in the The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled). I met my husband when he was in pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base, which is the base Meryton Air Base is inspired by.  He flies “heavies” which means he flies passenger and cargo jets. We’ve been stationed across the United States (literally from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii and all through the middle of the country. I traveled through the Finger Lakes area of New York a few years ago and fell in love with it. When I needed a place for Pemberley, that region of New York seemed like the most idyllic, beautiful place to set it.

Generally, people say “write what you know.” I know pilots and Air Force life, I’ve lived it as an Air Force brat and a spouse. Luckily, with my dad, husband, and father in law, I have more than fifty-five years of combined Air Force pilot experience to draw from when I have questions.  This second novel has been interesting research-wise because I had a lot more specific medical timelines to figure out. I needed to speak to a few doctors and was lucky enough to have a lot of assistance from my mother who is a Nurse Practitioner. Many of the medical board scenes are based on friends and family’s experiences going through the same thing.

Did you find it hard to adapt P&P into the modern day?

The Flight Path Less Traveled was inspired by P&P while The Best Laid Flight Plans is really a modern P&P retelling. For Flight Path I pulled some characters from other Austen works, you’ll find Miss Bates, Mrs. Jennings, and John Willoughby throughout the book. In my mind, I like to think that all of Jane Austen’s works take place at the same time and that the characters might have known each other. I’ve tried to bring a little of that to this series.

Bringing individual characters from Sense and Sensibility into a world of Pride and Prejudice was exhilarating. Miss Bates, for example, is Elizabeth’s physical therapist. I dream cast her as Octavia Spencer and picture her being talkative (obviously), but also a little wise, and caring. I’ve been in biweekly physical therapy for the past 7 years and have a great relationship with my therapists. I know how incredible and valuable they are to any trauma recovery. I wanted to throw a little appreciation for the amazing care my three therapists have given me over the years so I needed Miss Bates to be the best. I could just picture how Miss Bates’ personality would grate on someone so purpose-driven as Elizabeth and thought that the dynamic between the two were some of the most interesting scenes to write.

The hardest thing I’ve found about modernizing the story is the various rules of etiquette that are so prevalent and vital to propelling the story forward. In some ways, I’ve mitigated this by setting the story in the modern Air Force. Darcy and Elizabeth are literally not allowed to have a relationship because that would be a fraternization issue. As an interesting point of fact, I was nearly banned from Laughlin Air Force Base last year because my first book has a kiss at the end. I was accused of encouraging fraternization between instructors and students. Later that year, there were several people removed from command because of several problems in this area. It really is a huge issue that plays throughout the first two novels in the series.

Would you write a Regency?

Writing a Regency terrifies me, to be honest. I have a plan to write a P&P-based time travel novel next which will at least begin in the Regency period. Frankly, fans are incredibly knowledgeable and I am so afraid of making a slight etiquette mistake that gets me raked across the coals. I am still a fairly new writer, so I tried to begin with a world I was comfortable in. I practice my Regency skills as I write Mr. Bennet and I hope to write a Regency after doing a little more extensive research and feeling better prepared to make fans happy and give them a novel with the quality I have come to expect.

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About The Flight Path Less Traveled

In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight. Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (‘Goose, you big stud!’), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who will one day be old enough to watch romantic movies with her, and another little one expected in September 2019.

Connect with Leigh: Website | Goodreads | Facebook

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Giveaway

Leigh is generously offering one ebook copy of The Flight Path Less Traveled to a lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Friday, April 5, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Leigh, for being my guest today and for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to reading both books. Congratulations!

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It’s my pleasure to welcome Maria Grace back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation novella, Inspiration, which imagines Mr. Darcy as a gentleman painter in search of his muse. Please give her a warm welcome as she talks about how she was a bit like the uninspired Darcy at the beginning of the novella and shares an excerpt from Inspiration.

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Good Morning Anna! It’s wonderful to get to spend a little time with you.

I’m excited to share my newest project with you, a novella called Inspiration. It’s a bit of an irony all around because the whole thing came about from a complete and utter lack of inspiration.

Some how it just figures that the thing that left me uninspired was the theme of ‘inspiration’. Of course it was—I hear you mutter in the background there—but really, it’s true. I was supposed to write something about how I get inspired to write and absolutely nothing was rattling about in my head. A total blank—you could hear the crickets in the background.

Then I got thinking about how utterly uninspired I was and how crazy-making it felt. Hmm, well, driving characters crazy is a good thing—exactly what writers are supposed to do in fact. What if one of them was driven crazy the way I feel right now? Who could I do that to? Darcy would be a good candidate…

And with that, my muse took off. At first, I thought it would just be a scene for a blog post. Then, it was a short story. But my muse was not yet finished with me. The short story became a novella and at last I was allowed to rest.

So I present to you a snippet from Inspiration to give you a sense of how crazy both Darcy (and I) can be driven by our respective muses! I hope you enjoy.

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The ensuing fortnight sent Darcy—or rather his muse, into a frenzy. In the midst of it all, he assured himself he was in fact in control of the entire process, but intentionally chose to give into his creative instincts.

Bingley argued that Darcy was hardly in control of anything.

None of it mattered in the fervor of creative productivity. Every moment of daylight, Darcy painted. In the candlelight of evening, he sketched references to stay him against the inevitable removal from Miss Elizabeth’s presence. Nearly every aspect of her person, her eyes, her ears, her fingers, even her elbow were all added to that to valuable compendium.

Miss Bingley had seen it once. She thought it rather dear how artists like he and Bingley were forever scratching away in their books, sketching this and that but never really finishing much. Worse yet, in her vanity, she was complimented to think that it might be herself figuring in those sketches. He did not bother to correct her.

***

Darcy stood before his mirror. His valet had left moments ago, having tied Darcy’s finely starched cravat in an intricate knot. There was a certain art to getting those things just right. One could get obsessed about it if he allowed himself.

On more than one occasion, Darcy had been told that he cut a dashing figure and ought to paint a likeness of himself. Afterall, he despised all the attempts made by artists his father had hired. The notion was flattering, but it would never happen.

Hours spent staring at himself in a mirror—what an utterly depressing thought. He was no artists’ model. His features were too irregular—or at least they were to his practiced eye. His expressions were decidedly dour, no matter how he tried to school them otherwise. No, he would rather paint beauty.

He would rather paint Miss Elizabeth.

And shortly he would see her. Tonight, at the ball.

Although he put on the expected show of disliking the social convention for Miss Bingley’s sake, and mostly to prevent unnecessary conversation, the truth was wildly different. His soul leapt at the opportunity to be with her again, to study her features, her expressions. In a ballroom, eye contact was accepted if not expected. He could stare at his partner, and at the dancers in general as much as he liked without raising an inquisitive eyebrow. Had he only taken the opportunity at the Meryton Assembly, tonight’s event might not feel like air to a drowning man. But he did not know then what he knew now: his muse had taken the form of that particular young woman. Tonight, he would not waste the opportunity.

By the time he made it downstairs, guests had already begun to arrive. Since he was not part of the family, he could avoid the greeting line and discreetly watch arrivals. Each one told a story: each figure painted a tale in his mind. Though none were as interesting as Miss Elizabeth, he strove to capture each one for future reference.

Sir William Lucas trundled in, his wife in tow. His suit was new, his wife’s dress not—the sort of thing a woman wore when all her resources were being utilized on daughters on the marriage mart. That he wore a new garment spoke something of his character—and it was hardly complimentary. Still though, the way people greeted him suggested he was well thought of in his local company. He did not appear at ease though, clearly a bit bewildered as to exactly how to behave in a place where his knighthood was eclipsed by substantial wealth.

A family called Goulding arrived with several young people all eager to show off their accomplishments to a crowd that might include better company than they were accustomed to. The eager, wistful light in the girls’ eyes was worth capturing in a sketch later. So long as that look did not get turned on him. Perhaps he ought to avoid close observation of that family lest he seem to invite their attention.

Someone said the name Bennet, and his focus was immediately fixed on the entryway. Yes, there she was. In white muslin, of course, her family could not have afforded silk. Her figure would be astonishing draped in white silk. Perhaps it was best it was not. The gauzy white muslin was quite enough to negate the possibility of tearing his eyes away from her.

She glanced in his direction. While his heart pinched at her look of annoyance, his muse seized upon the exquisite turn of her lips, the spark in her eyes, the angle at which she held her head. Oh, to be able to commit that to paper just now. He stared harder and longer to make sure he would never forget.

Impatience demanded he ask her for the first two dances. But, unfortunately, discretion won out. To ask so soon would suggest something that might be all too true, something he did not dare admit to, much less allow. No, he would dance with her yet, but not at the start. Besides, it seemed she was already claimed for those sets by Mr. Collins.

That man was an enigma to be sure. He was tall and well-made. Dressed appropriately to his station, not unpleasant to look at. That he was a vicar suggested he had some learning and might have some sense about him. Most university men were set apart that way.

But the impression did not survive first meeting. One might easily surmise that his time at university had been ill-spent, learning only how to cater to those above him in hopes of acquiring a position. The kind of boot-licking sort of man who turned his stomach and made Darcy look for the nearest exit.

In some sense, the tendency might have served Collins well as it did secure Aunt Catherine’s favor and the living she had to bestow. But outside of having obtained that living, there was little—or perhaps nothing—to be said in favor of the man and a great deal to be held against him.

The first item on that particular list of complaints was that the man could not dance. Fumble-footed did not begin to describe the ordeal poor Miss Elizabeth endured. Darcy would have felt her suffrage of Mr. Collins’ ineptitude far more had it not afforded him a far greater range of expressions to admire than he had ever seen in her before. The look of determined self-control chiseled on her face was worth the whole uncomfortable episode. She might never agree, but sadly he probably would never have the opportunity to learn if she would if the matter were explained. Her expression of ecstasy at her release from Collins was awe inspiring as well, but deeply uncomfortable.

Would that he experienced such an expression offered toward himself.

No, such thoughts were not at all helpful! Worse yet, they made watching her next dances with some nameless Meryton native exceedingly uneasy, even a mite wistful.

Thankfully, she did not dance the set after, but stood off to the side, speaking with her friend—Miss Lucas was it? What confidences did she share with her friend? There was something in her stance that suggested her words were deeply felt.

Enough lingering and watching! He must go forth and take action now, lest the opportunity be utterly lost.

He tugged his jacket straight and strode toward Miss Elizabeth, guests parting in a wake before him.

Perhaps he had been abrupt; he spoke to her only long enough to obtain her hand for the next set, then walked away. He might have stayed; he should have stayed. He would have stayed had he felt any less. But in this moment of heady success, he could not dare reveal too much.

At the start of the next set, he sought her hand, his muse rendering him all but mute. To speak would distract from the minute observations which might be made in what could be a once in a life time opportunity. He led her to the dance floor, enjoying the exquisite grace of her movements from the corner of his eye. She took her place across from him and waited rather expectantly.

What did she want?

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy.”  Oh, the look of anticipation on her face! “I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

Of course, it was appropriate to make small talk at such a time as this. But what to say? On the canvas, he could communicate anything he desired, but words, particularly the spoken ones, were well beyond his skills. He swallowed hard. “Whatever you wish me to say should indeed be said.”

“Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps, by and by, I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But for now we may be silent.” She turned her face aside toward the other dancers.

She did not mean to ignore him, did she? Such punishment for merely being tongue-tied? No, absolutely not, it would not do. “Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?”

“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together. Yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible.” Her eyebrow arched just so—was she teasing him?

“Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?” Blast and botheration, that sounded far sharper than he intended.

“Both, for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”

“This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure. How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly.” Did she really think those things of him, or was she teasing as she had seen her do often enough?Why did she demand of him a skill he would never possess?

Suddenly, it was their turn to join the dance, and all opportunity to speak ceased. How gracefully she moved with effortless vitality. To be entirely fair, she was hardly the best partner he had ever enjoyed, but there was something so fresh and lively in her steps—befitting the nymph of his paintings.

Finally, they reached the end of the line to wait out their turn. “Do you and your sisters often walk to Mertyon?” That should be suitable conversation.

“Yes, we do. When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.” Her brows arched, as if to say far more than she spoke.

Yes, that day he had been to see Meryton’s colorman. Who had she been with—Wickham! His gut knotted, and all warmth drained from his face. If only she knew of the very great harm Wickham had done the Darcy family. But could such an innocent spirit as hers actually understand that level of intentional wickedness?  How was he to make a response—one that her eyes clearly demanded? “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends; whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain.”

“He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship, and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life.” Her countenance declared she believed what she said.

She was so innocent, and so easily and completely deceived. He clenched his jaw, best not to speak when all his words dripped venom.

Sir William Lucas suddenly appeared from the crowd. “I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear sir. Such very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Miss Eliza,” he glanced at Miss Bennet and Bingley, “shall take place. What congratulations will then flow in! But let me not interrupt you, Sir. You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of that young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me.”

He was right, Miss Elizabeth looked utterly and entirely mortified. Not that she was without good reason; Sir William was crass—it seemed a common trait in this town. Even so, it pained him to see her so discomfited.

He glanced at the dancefloor. Bingley was utterly entranced of his partner and Miss Bennet seemed to bear it well. She was a beauty to be sure, but far less interesting than her sister—whom he had now been ignoring whilst he stared at his friend. “Sir William’s interruption has made me forget what we were talking of.”

“I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted any two people in the room who had less to say for themselves. We have tried two or three subjects already without success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot imagine.” Her eyes glinted with the absurdity she suggested.

“What think you of books?”  Surely, she could not fault that question.

“Books Oh no! I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings.”

“I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be no want of subject. We may compare our different opinions.”

“No.” Her laugh was truly musical. “I cannot talk of books in a ballroom; my head is always full of something else.”

“The present always occupies you in such scenes, does it?” Might she about to reveal something telling about her deepest self?

“Yes, always.”  She looked away, clearly lost in some other musings.  She turned back to him abruptly, eyes just a mite narrowed. “I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created.”

She would remember that conversation just now. “I am.”

“And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?”

“I hope not.” He swallowed hard against his suddenly too-tight cravat.

“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.” She met his gaze with an intense one of her own.

“May I ask to what these questions tend?”

“Merely to the illustration of your character. I am trying to make it out.” Her eyebrows flashed up as her shoulders lifted.

His cheeks grew hot. “And what is your success?”

“I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.” She shook her head.

“I can readily believe the report of my character may vary greatly with respect to me. I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.” Was it too much to hope she would understand?

“But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity.”

“I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours.” Perhaps it was a mercy that the dance had come to an end. It would no do for her to try and take his likeness when every artist who had tried failed.

He escorted her from the dance floor and left her in the company of Miss Bingley.

Though a relief, the parting also brought with it a poignant soul ache, nearly physical in its intensity.

No, this was not good at all. The powerful feelings toward this woman were a very bad sign indeed. One did not feel this way toward a muse. It was sure to be more of a hinderance than a help. As were the very negative sensations he felt toward one Mr. Wickham. Perhaps, just perhaps his muse would be satisfied now, and he could rest—somewhere well away from Hertfordshire.

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I hope you enjoyed this peek. If you’d like more, you can find Inspiration at all major e-book sellers. If you’d like to catch up on the short stories I mentioned, you can find them at RandomBitsofFascination.com.

Thanks!

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About Inspiration

 

His muse desires her; she detests him. How will his soul survive?

Gentleman artist Fitzwilliam Darcy had never been able to express himself in words, but with his brushes and paints, he expressed what few men ever could. When his flighty muse abandons him, though, he finds himself staring at blank canvases in a world that has turned bland and cold and grey.

Worried for his friend, Charles Bingley invites Darcy to join him in Hertfordshire, in hopes the picturesque countryside might tempt Darcy’s muse to return. The scheme works only too well. His muse returns, with a vengeance, fixated upon the one young woman in the county who utterly detests him.

Will his selfish distain for the feelings of others drive her and his muse away or can he find a way to please this woman with the power to bring color and feeling back into his world?

Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N7X4KPV

All other sellers: http://books2read.com/inspirationMariaGrace

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About the Author

Maria Grace

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 has one husband and one grandson, earned two graduate degrees and two black belts, raised three sons, danced English Country dance for four years, is aunt to five nieces, is designing a sixth Regency costume, blogged seven years on Random Bits of Fascination, has outlines for eight novels waiting to be written, attended nine English country dance balls, and shared her life with ten cats.

Her books, fiction and nonfiction, 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 Grace is generously offering an ebook copy of Inspiration (open internationally) to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Friday, March 15, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Maria Grace, for being my guest today! And, dear readers, I hope you stop by again tomorrow for my review of Inspiration.

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Hello, dear readers! You’re in for a special treat, as Victoria Kincaid is back twice in the same week with more Mr. Darcy and audiobook goodness! Today, she is here to celebrate the recent audiobook release of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hi Anna!  Thank you for welcoming me back to your blog!  Recently I released the audiobook version of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy which was narrated by Stevie Zimmerman.  Stevie also, coincidentally enough, narrated The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth—my other Pride and Prejudice variation that is set in France.  She does a lovely job with The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy.  You can listen to an audio sample here, and please enjoy the excerpt below.

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His attention wandering, Darcy’s eye was caught by a bookcase opposite his chair. There were several volumes of poetry, plays of Shakespeare’s, and books about English history.  The doctor and his wife were well read.

The doctor’s eye followed Darcy’s.  “You read English?” he asked.  Only then did Darcy realize that every title on the bookshelf was in English.  He flinched.  I am a truly terrible spy.

Martin chuckled softly.  “Do not worry, my friend.  Many of us have studied English, even if it is not fashionable these days.”

Darcy covered his confusion with a sip of coffee.  What could he possibly say in response?  A simple laborer like Guillaume D’Arcy should not be able to read English.  Many men of that class would not read at all.  Richard would laugh at Darcy’s ineptitude.

“My mother was English,” he mumbled.  That was true enough.

“I say, do you speak English?” Martin’s eyes widened.

Nothing to do but continue the charade.  “Yes,” he admitted.

“I have a patient who speaks only English, and I cannot understand her.  I read English well, but my conversation leaves much to be desired.”

Darcy hesitated.  Revealing anything more about himself was dangerous, and he should return to Dreyfus’s house, but the doctor had been very hospitable.  Darcy could spare a few minutes to repay the man’s kindness.

“I would be glad to be of assistance.” Only belatedly did the request strike him as odd.  “How did you acquire a patient who speaks only English?”

“She is a bit of a mystery. She washed up on the beach some time ago, half drowned.  She has been quite ill, and we have been unable to communicate with her. We do not even have her name.”

Darcy froze.  Was it possible the doctor had found the Black Cobra?  No, surely the spy would be a native French speaker—and male. “She could not even tell you her name?” Perhaps the woman was touched in some way.

“When one of the fishermen found her on the beach, she had suffered a blow to the head and nearly drowned.  She wavered in and out of consciousness for many days; I feared for her life.  Then, just as she seemed to improve, she contracted a lung fever. Her moments of consciousness have been brief, and she does not seem to understand where she is.”

“Understandable,” Darcy murmured.  Poor woman.  Now Darcy wanted to lend assistance for her sake as well as the doctor’s.

“Indeed,” the doctor said.  “She is often feverish and incoherent.  But perhaps she will say enough that you may ascertain her identity.”

Darcy stood.  “Take me to her.”  He would not allow his mission to stand in the way of assisting someone so unfortunate.

The doctor led Darcy up the polished staircase and down a corridor to a room at the back of the house.  Mrs. Martin met them at the door.

“How does she fare?” the doctor asked.

His wife’s expression was grave. “Feverish again.  Sleeping or unconscious, I do not know which.”

Darcy felt a pang of regret.  If he could not speak with the woman, he could not be of much help to her.  “Perhaps I should return another time,” he said.

Martin considered.  “At least come into the room for a minute.  Sometimes she speaks in her delirium.”  He opened the door.

The room was dim, illuminated only by the sunshine peeking around the edges of the heavy curtains. Closed up as it was, the chamber was airless and quite warm.

On the bed, the woman lay very still, her hair a dark tangle over her face.  Even from a distance Darcy could discern that her complexion was not good—pale and waxy.  The covers were pulled up to her chin so that only her face was visible.

She moaned and shifted slightly as they entered, but her eyes remained closed.  “Come closer.” The doctor gestured to the bedside.  “Perhaps she will say something.”

Darcy joined the doctor reluctantly.  It was the height of impropriety to be in any woman’s bedchamber, particularly that of a stranger.  Of course, Darcy had no intention of taking advantage of the situation, and nobody need ever hear about it.

This close, Darcy could see that the woman was quite young; her skin was smooth and unmarked.

She moaned again, turning her head toward Darcy. A shaft of midday light struck her face, and he instinctively reached out to brush the hair from her cheek.

Darcy froze, unable to do anything but stare.

Briefly he catalogued what he could see of the woman.  Her hair was a jumble of dark brown curls, and her skin was slightly tanned under the pallor.  The nose…the sprinkling of freckles on her cheeks…was achingly familiar.  If she opened her eyes, he knew they would be a bright forest green.

Elizabeth was lying in the bed.

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About The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audiobook copy of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy to one lucky reader. The code is good for the U.S. or U.K. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Friday, March 8, 2019. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Hello, dear readers! I have a treat for you today, especially if you’re looking for a new book to cozy up with for Valentine’s Day. April Floyd is my guest today, and we’re celebrating the release of her newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Mr. Darcy’s True Love. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I would love to take a moment and thank Anna for having me once again on her blog. I am so grateful for her reviews and the opportunities she gives many JAFF authors as we seek to woo you, our dear readers!

Now for a romantic excerpt from Mr. Darcy’s True Love. My favorite parts to write and read are when Elizabeth and Darcy are alone together and the rest of the world ceases to exist. Hopefully you love those romantic scenes as well!

Don’t forget to enter to win one of the e-book copies up for grabs when you’ve finished the excerpt!

“I believe a bit of fresh air would be as welcome as the punch. Would you care to join me on the terrace, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth said as she turned and looked across the room at the terrace doors.

Mr. Darcy agreed. “It is warm with all the dancing and this crowd.”

He lifted his arm and Elizabeth tucked her hand against his elbow. Together they wove through the crowd and were soon standing shoulder to shoulder looking out over the small garden of Bingley House. Light from the ballroom only stretched halfway across and the trees that bordered the garden wall cast long shadows.

Elizabeth shivered when a cold gust of wind swept past and Mr. Darcy removed his coat. He placed it on her shoulders and Elizabeth inhaled the scent of orange and some spice she could not name. It was likely a cologne mixed by the chemists at one of the two famous shops in Town. It tickled her nose and brought back the memory of how he’d smelled the night he came to visit and ate baked apples with her. She smiled.

Mr. Darcy noticed. “I must say I have never encountered a lady who loves the outdoors as much as you, Miss Bennet. It is refreshing. It is a pity you do not ride, though.”

She laughed, a deep, amused sound, and looked up at him as she stood warm inside his coat. “Horses are far too unpredictable, Mr. Darcy. I prefer the surety of my own two feet. Besides, I never run headlong into the brambles like my old mare was wont to do. Papa tried for years to make a horsewoman of me, but it was not to be.”

He turned and gazed down at her, his eyes alight with mischief. “I could make a horsewoman of you for I have many gentle, and intelligent, mares at Pemberley. I know of one in particular that might be your perfect match. Oh you would certainly love to explore the fields and woods of my home in Derbyshire.”

Elizabeth breathed deeply to calm her racing heart. Being alone with him on the terrace, inhaling his scent, and listening as he practically begged her to come to Pemberley with him had an intoxicating effect.

“My Aunt and Uncle Gardiner wish to tour the Lake District this summer. Perhaps I might visit with them. Is your home open for private tours then?”

Mr. Darcy pushed a curl behind her ear and smiled. “It is, though I am seldom there in the summertime. I often ride North and pitch a camp near my cousin’s country estate so that I might fish and ride to my heart’s content.”

Elizabeth was surprised by this admission and by the tender touch of his fingers against her ear. “I would never have taken you for the type of man who would live in a tent, sir.”

“It is uncommon for someone of my circle, yes. But I am uncommon for someone of my circle, Miss Bennet. There is much about me that might surprise you. I hope you may come to know me better.”

Mr. Darcy leaned closer and Elizabeth stood completely still. She stared into his eyes wondering whether he might kiss her. Feeling silly, she finally looked down. “I would like that very much, I think. I am not surprised when I think that perhaps your camp is an escape of sorts. I admit that wandering in nature is my own way of being alone and sorting things in my head. Perhaps we understand one another more than we know?”

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About Mr. Darcy’s True Love

Mixed Up Valentines and Scheming Cousins threaten ODC’s blooming romance!

Elizabeth Bennet goes to London with newlyweds Jane and Charles Bingley and is reunited with a kinder Mr. Darcy than she remembers from their first meeting in Hertfordshire. Before their romance can blossom, Mr. Bingley’s cousins arrive in Town and jealousies arise. Elizabeth is uncomfortable with the attention paid her by Mr. Bingley’s male cousin and curious about his female cousin’s prior history with Mr. Darcy.

Will mixed-up valentines and an unwanted marriage proposal keep Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart? Oh no, an HEA must be had!

Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks

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About the Author

April Floyd

April Floyd lives in Alaska with her husband and youngest son. She loves happy endings, nice people, and reading great stories. Once upon a time, she was an Army wife and a phlebotomist and recently ran a successful ebook deals site for four years. Historical fiction, Jane Austen, and fantasy/dystopia are her favorite genres.

April’s Website | Amazon Author Page

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Giveaway

April is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Mr. Darcy’s True Love to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Friday, February 1, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, April, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book! I hope you all come back closer to Valentine’s Day for my review!

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It’s release day for Riana Everly’s latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Through a Different Lens, and I’ve invited her here today to talk about the inspiration for her unique take on Mr. Darcy. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I am thrilled to be releasing my third novel today, and am equally thrilled to be celebrating here at Diary of an Eccentric. Thanks, Anna, for hosting me.

My new release, Through a Different Lens, takes a slightly different view of Mr. Darcy. What if, rather than merely being aloof or shy or unreasonably proud, he has something else going on, a neurological difference that makes social interactions extremely challenging for him? In short, what if Mr. Darcy is on the autism spectrum?

My inspiration for this question that spawned a novel came from the pen of Jane Austen herself. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy excuses his unsociable behaviour by telling Elizabeth, “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

Many, many years ago I did some work for a charity that helped kids on the autism spectrum, and I have a son who flirts with the edges of Asperger’s Syndrome (now classified as a type of “high-functioning” autism). Consequently, I’ve done a fair bit of reading and research, and Darcy’s words leapt out at me. These are exactly the things that someone with Asperger’s would find challenging: tone of voice, facial expressions, reading between the lines, feigning interest where there is none—these subtle cues that are so much a part of “normal” interactions and which can be all but incomprehensible to someone whose brain works differently.

I started with a single scene, just to write out what I imagined would happen if Lizzy had the same idea that I had. What if she had other experiences with somebody on the autism spectrum, a young cousin perhaps? What if she understood a little more than might be expected? In a world long before autism was identified as a “thing,” where there were no supports or therapies or awareness of such neurological differences, there was nothing left but personal experience and compassion to help people on the spectrum manage in a society that didn’t really understand them.

I happened to mention this idea of mine to a friend and fellow JAFF author who also has a child on the spectrum. She commented that she had wondered the same thing, and after some wonderful discussion, I sent her my scene. She read it and immediately said, “Finish the story!”

And so I did, and this is the result.

Here is an excerpt from Through a Different Lens.

“I am,” stated the grave gentleman as he stood so awkwardly by the pianoforte, “ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers.”

Elizabeth heard these words somewhat distractedly, as she perused the selection of music being placed before her by the colonel, his friendly eyes matched by an engaging grin. Still, something in the more serious man’s demeanour caught her attention. She had never liked him, but she had always found herself fascinated by him. She sat up a little straighter and listened as Fitzwilliam Darcy continued to explain himself. He spoke, as always, formally, somewhat stiffly, as if acting the part of himself in the grand production of his life.

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said he, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

Suddenly, with these words, Elizabeth felt her world shift slightly. With every syllable that haughty man uttered, isolated facets to his perplexing character seemed to realign themselves and come into focus. She stared at him as if seeing him for the first time. He cleared his throat and stepped back an inch, standing quite still and averting his eyes from her curious gaze. A flood of recollections and half-formed ideas cascaded through her consciousness. She stared up again at the stiff and serious man half hiding in the shadows, wondering if her suppositions might be correct.

“Miss Bennet?” the genial colonel sounded concerned. “Are you well?”

Realising she had been distracted most grievously from her supposed task of selecting music, she uttered a rushed apology. “Indeed, very well, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Forgive my wandering mind, please. I have no excuse but that your cousin, Mr. Darcy, suddenly reminded me of somebody I know, and at that realisation, you might have knocked me down with a feather, it was so surprising.”

The man under discussion drew closer, edging towards the pianoforte where the two were conversing with such easy repartee. “Knocked you down with a feather?” he asked in some confusion, “How could that possibly be? While you are by no means a large woman, your weight most certainly surpasses that of a bird’s plumage, even that of an ostrich or a peacock. To knock you down would surely take something much more substantial than a mere feather!”

Exchanging an understanding smile with the colonel, Elizabeth replied evenly, “It is an expression, sir, meaning to surprise greatly. Is this, may I ask, but one example of why you feel discomfort joining others’ conversations?”

The man nodded. “Indeed it is so. I seem, always, to miss the meaning of what is being said. Not everybody is as compassionate as you, to explain the nuances I do not catch.”

Thank you, Riana, for sharing your inspiration and excerpt. I’m looking forward to exploring this different take on Darcy. Congratulations on your new release!

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About Through a Different Lens

A tale of second glances and second chances

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the aloof and arrogant Mr. Darcy since he insulted her at a village dance several months before. But an unexpected conversation with a startling turn of phrase suddenly causes her to reassess everything she thought she knew about the infuriating and humourless gentleman.

Elizabeth knows something of people who think differently. Her young cousin in London has always been different from his siblings and peers, and Lizzy sees something of this boy’s unusual traits in the stern gentleman from Derbyshire whose presence has plagued her for so long. She approaches him in friendship and the two begin a tentative association. But is Lizzy’s new understanding of Mr. Darcy accurate? Or was she right the first time? And will the unwelcome appearance of a nemesis from the past destroy any hopes they might have of happiness?

Warning: This variation of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice depicts our hero as having a neurological difference. If you need your hero to be perfect, this might not be the book for you. But if you like adorable children, annoying birds, and wonderful dogs, and are open to a character who struggles to make his way in a world he does not quite comprehend, with a heroine who can see the man behind his challenges, and who celebrates his strengths while supporting his weaknesses, then read on! You, too, can learn what wonders can be found when we see the familiar through a different lens.

This is a full-length novel of about 100,000 words.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

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

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

Riana’s second novel, The Assistant, was awarded the Jane Austen Award by Jane Austen Readers’ Awards, and her debut novel, Teaching Eliza, was listed on a list of 2017 Favourite Books on the blog Savvy Verse & Wit. For both of these honours, she is delighted and very proud!

You can follow Riana’s blog, and join her on Facebook and Twitter. She loves meeting readers!

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Giveaway

Riana is generously offering five copies of Through a Different Lens to readers world-wide as part of the blog tour! Just sign up through this Rafflecopter link to enter.

If you prefer not to use Rafflecopter, send Riana an email message (riana.everly@gmail.com) or leave a note on her Facebook page, and she’ll add you to the list for the draw.

Entries close at midnight Eastern time (GMT-5) on February 10, 2019, so the winners have something to read on Valentine’s Day. Good luck!

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Jan 21 ~ Diary of an Eccentric
Jan 22 ~ Author takeover at Historical Reads and Research with Leila Snow
Jan 23 ~ Rose Fairbanks
Jan 24 ~ Interests of a Jane Austen Girl
Jan 25 ~ Babblings of a Bookworm
Jan 28 ~ So Little Time…So Much to Read
Jan 29 ~ My Love for Jane Austen
Jan 31 ~ Half Agony, Half Hope
Feb 5  ~ From Pemberley to Milton
Feb 6  ~ More Agreeably Engaged
Feb 8  ~ Austenesque Reviews

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