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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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I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy and Deception. I’ve been a huge fan of Victoria’s since her first novel, and it’s been an honor to edit all of her books since then. I hope all of you love this book as much as I did. Victoria is here today with a guest post about Brighton and sea bathing during the Regency era, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

One of the fun parts of writing a historical novel is doing research about the period and occasionally discovering nuggets of unexpected (and sometimes bizarre) information.  This was my experience when I researched Brighton during the Regency period.  In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet talks longingly of going sea bathing; I always assumed this was another way of describing swimming in the ocean.  However, my research revealed that sea bathing was a very particular activity.

Brighton became a popular destination after the 1752 publication of Dr. Richard Russell’s Use of Seawater in the Diseases of the Glands, which described sea bathing as useful for curing various health conditions.  The prince regent became a frequent visitor, making the location even more fashionable.

Salt water was believed to be most effective when the subject was completely immersed.  This presented several problems since men and women needed to be separated (they often bathed in the nude), and many people did not swim.  In Brighton the sexes were restricted to different parts of the beach and they used bathing machines to ensure healthful immersion.

The bathing machine was basically a wooden structure that was pulled into the surf (during which time the bather changed into a bathing costume).  Once in the deeper water, the bather would be “dipped” by a professional dipper who not only ensured that the bather didn’t drown but would also advise about wave conditions, the best times of day to dip, and other considerations.

It doesn’t sound like the most pleasant way to enjoy the beach, but no doubt there were people (including women) who enjoyed swimming in the traditional sense as well.  One blog helpfully annotated a period drawing to show that some female bathers were scared of the water while others clearly understood how to swim.

I found the practice to be so interesting that I just had to include a sea bathing scene in Darcy and Deception.  Not surprisingly, Elizabeth loves the sea, while Lydia and her friend Mrs. Forster are more cautious.  Please enjoy the excerpt below:

Elizabeth had heard about bathing machines that allowed women to be “dipped” in the sea with the help of an attendant who ensured they did not drown. “I simply planned to swim.”

Mrs. Forster gaped at her.  “You know how to swim?”  Elizabeth might as well have confessed to witchcraft.

“Yes.”

The woman eyed the placid waves suspiciously.  “Risk it if you wish!  But Lydia and I shall use the bathing machine.  I have secured the services of Martha Gunn herself!”  She paused as though Elizabeth should be impressed.

“Very well,” Elizabeth replied, neither knowing nor caring who Martha Gunn was.

“She is the most famous dipper in Brighton!” Lydia exclaimed, proud to know something her sister did not.

“What an odd profession,” Elizabeth said to herself. But she mustered a smile for the other women.  “How exciting!  Please enjoy your sea bathing.”

Elizabeth hurried toward the water while the other women approached one of the machines perched precariously on the beach. Mrs. Forster stopped to speak with great animation to a sturdy, florid-faced woman who stood beside the door.  Mrs. Gunn presumably.

Most of the women on the beach wore casual morning clothes and sat on blankets, chatting and laughing.  Some held parasols to shield their complexions from the sun while others walked about the beach collecting shells.  Numerous women with damp and disordered hair attested to the popularity of the bathing machines.

Elizabeth made her way through the crowds to the edge of the water.  The sand and smooth stones under her bare feet were warm, but not too hot.  The cool water lapped around her feet as she waded deeper and deeper, up to her knees.  Shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight, she gazed out to the horizon, enjoying the view of endless ocean.

There were only a few women, perhaps a dozen in all, who dared to experience the sea without the assistance of a bathing machine—and five were merely wading.  However, a few women swam in earnest, including two who appeared to be naked.

Elizabeth waded deeper, gradually acclimating herself to the cooler temperature.  It was most refreshing.  When the water was deep enough, Elizabeth completely submerged herself, gasping slightly at the cold.  The waves were mild; perfect conditions for swimming.  Elizabeth swam back and forth, parallel to the shore, with strong, swift strokes.  How refreshing!  I have passed far too much of my time recently in drawing rooms.  Already she was wondering when she would be able to return to the beach for a swim. How could such an outing be arranged?

Ultimately her muscles tired of the unaccustomed exercise, and Elizabeth returned to the shallower water.  She stood in water to her waist as she caught her breath.

She had kept an eye on the bathing machine containing Lydia and Mrs. Forster.  Now she noticed as it was pulled into deeper water by a weary horse.

Once the machine’s back ramp was level with the water, one of the attendants freed the horse from its harness, walked it to the machine’s other end, and attached it there.  Clever.  Such a system allowed them to return to shore without needing to turn the vehicle in a circle.

Mrs. Forster, dressed in her shift, emerged from the small door at the machine’s end and sat on the protruding ramp, dangling her feet in the water.  Without ceremony, Mrs. Gunn reached over and plucked the woman from the ramp.  Goodness, she was strong!  The dipper waded a little distance into deeper water and then dunked Mrs. Forster—one, two, three times—all the way into the water, carefully ensuring that even the top of her head and her feet were thoroughly soaked.

I suppose only a complete dunking will benefit the glands, Elizabeth thought.

Mrs. Forster emerged spluttering after each dunking, appearing quite bedraggled and miserable by the time Mrs. Gunn set her back on the machine’s platform.  I wonder how much the colonel’s wife paid for the privilege of being treated like a biscuit in a cup of tea? Elizabeth found herself hoping that dipping did indeed have medicinal properties because the activity itself appeared to provide no obvious pleasure.

When it was Lydia’s turn, Elizabeth’s sister twitched and jerked.  She searched the area as if seeking an escape, but there was nowhere to go.  Noticing Lydia’s disposition, Mrs. Gunn enlisted the help of the other attendant so that they formed a kind of chair with their arms to carry Lydia. But the youngest Miss Bennet screeched as though they were about to feed her to a wild animal.  Completely ignoring Lydia’s antics, the two women hastily dunked the squirming girl three times before depositing her again on the ramp.

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About Darcy and Deception

Returning home from Kent, Elizabeth Bennet is still distressed over Mr. Darcy’s insulting marriage proposal.  However, her attention is diverted by the local militia commander who asks her to observe Wickham, now suspected of being a French spy.  Pretending to be besotted with Wickham, Elizabeth accompanies the regiment when they relocate to Brighton.

Darcy arrives at Longbourn with the intention of making amends to Elizabeth, only to discover that she is now at Brighton with Wickham.  Desperate to save her from the scoundrel, Darcy follows her to the seaside, where he hopes to woo her away from the other man.

Deception piles on top of deception as Elizabeth attempts to carry out her mission without betraying confidences—or breaking Darcy’s heart.  However, the French plot runs deeper than she knows; soon she and Darcy are plunged into the confusing and dangerous world of international espionage.  Can Darcy and Elizabeth escape with their lives and their love intact?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an ebook copy of Darcy and Deception to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, January 20, 2019. 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 new release!

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It’s a pleasure to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the latest installment in The Bennet Wardrobe series, The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. Don is here to talk a little about the series, as well as share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

Historical Context in The Bennet Wardrobe

Jane Austen was a young lady and, later a mature woman, of her times. Like most authors, Austen’s work rose from a clear understanding of the social milieu that had begun to mature by the time the industrialization of Great Britain was entering its second half century at about 1805. As such, Austen was writing for an equally-informed audience, albeit one that was awfully content to cling to the old ways.

Every one of the Canonical books in informed by their own historical contexts. The history was not necessarily overt but was akin to the wash a painter applies to the canvas prior to beginning work.

In Pride and Prejudice, while he is seeking to become a gentleman by purchasing an estate, Bingley, none-the-less, retains ownership of the textile mills because the British Army needed uniforms, tents and other woven goods. Pemberley was a money machine for Darcy because the price of grain was skyrocketing as that same army demanded food. Captain Wentworth ranged the high seas seizing French Warships and Spanish gold. Colonel Fitzwilliam was often off-stage fighting Napoleon’s hordes. The Bertram fortune rooted in sugar grew exponentially as rum was the easiest way to concentrate and transport sugar from the Carib. The British Navy consumed an immense amount of rum…and likewise the general population.  The Methodist Dissent runs throughout the background whenever a young, but sensible, clergyman appears.

As an historian, I habitually seek to establish context to add a deeper layer of understanding to events and personalities. Thus, when I began to compose the Bennet Wardrobe stories, t’was a natural activity to utilize historical references to establish the meaning character motives and actions.

For instance, while I could have had Mary find her own way to grow beyond the moralizing woman, I preferred to have her emerge by reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In the climax of the book, the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 reshaped both Mary and Lydia’s lives

One of my favorite scenes from both The Keeper and The Countess Visits Longbourn has Kitty as an elderly lady addressing Georgiana Darcy in the chocolaterie of two French émigrés. She mentions the Deauville of 1812…a Breton resort that will grow over the next 150 years. Again, a bit of context that resonates throughout the next five books.

Historical personages also can be found throughout the books.  From Pierre-Auguste and Aline Renoir to Sigmund Freud in Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque to Lord Byron, Mary Godwin, and Percy Shelley in Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess, those who stood astride the times logically join in our story to help advance the plot and allow the characters to grow.

My most audacious insertion of historical figures appears in the most recent offering, The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. From the United States High Commissioner overseeing the American Zone of Occupation, General Lucius Clay, to the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Winston S. Churchill, key historical figures offer context to forward the deeper—and often noir—themes of the broader story. I have also appropriated a hero of the hidden War, Miss Eileen Nearne, as a love interest in this novel. Finally, a few royal personages play an important role in our little drama.

I also ask my readers to suspend disbelief and accept that the Universe of the Wardrobe is a lose parallel of the reality which we experience. I have adopted Robert A. Heinlein’s concept of solipsism which asserts that the act of writing fiction creates the universe in which the story exists as a reality: essentially, all myth is reality and all reality is myth.

Thus, you will note a few references made by characters to “the biography of the Bennets written by Miss Austen.” I have chosen to treat Pride and Prejudice as a fictionalized account of persons—the Bennet Family, the Darcys, and the Bingleys—who truly existed. This allows Mrs. Bennet to carp about the book in Chapter XXX of The Avenger: 

“That impertinent Miss Austen who wrote of our family certainly did not help my cause in any manner: showing me in just one light, and the worst one, at that.  Of course, she never met me and only drew her portrait based upon second-hand information, probably supplied by jealous mamas of the ton.”

I hope that my readers will allow my slight bending of some closely-held and loved notions about the Canon as The Bennet Wardrobe continues. I look forward to your comments.

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This excerpt from The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament is © 2018 by Don Jacobson. Any reproduction—either in print or electronic media without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited. Published in the United States of America.

Chapter XVIII

The Boardroom of the Bennet Family Trust, August 3, 1947

Not a single soul in the Board Room, beside the two aristocrats with whom he had broken bread, had ever beheld Bennet in the flesh.

The assembled Bingleys, Gardiners, Fitzwilliams, Bennets, and Darcys collectively gasped. More than one immediately looked toward the Dowager Countess’ portrait of The Founder as if to confirm his identity.

Bennet could recognize the varying and diluted images of his daughters in the countenances of the persons throughout the room. A few seemed to have a touch of his old friend Sir William Lucas’ distinctive brow and nose. Not that he dismissed most out-of-hand, for they were his kith and kin, but they were clearly from lines that had branched away from the Bennet tree after his time. The potency of their connection to him would be filtered through the closeness of his ties to Matlock and Pemberley.

However, there were two ladies who defied this sort of easy classification: one older, obviously the mother, and the other, her daughter from all appearances and clearly just having attained her majority. They stood slightly off to one side of the great room. Each was dressed elegantly, if in an understated manner, complete with hats, and matching clutch handbags. The elder sported a brown fur neck wrap which added a touch of chic even on this unseasonably steamy summer’s day. Her daughter was wearing a suit which was redolent of cotton superfine and reminded Bennet of a military uniform but without all the frippery and frogging so favored in his time. She was also without gloves but sported an impressive diamond betrothal ring on her left hand.

Both seemed to hearken back to a trunk of the family which he had not expected to encounter this far into the future. Unaccountably, they were being accorded a considerable amount of deference; not a single soul presumed to approach them. Matlock and Pemberley, the Earl and Countess, hovered slightly behind the two, acting remarkably like a pair of border collies minding their sheep.

Never being one to allow a lady, let alone two, to be relegated to lonely contemplation along the figurative chair rail, Bennet genially approached the pair and offered, “Good morning. I fear that you must forgive a man of my advanced years for presuming upon you without an introduction. However, I must admit that your appearance here today has somewhat surprised me. You look quite like my old solicitor, the man whose name graces the letterhead downstairs. I am speaking of Mr. Frederick Hunters who would have been my Great Uncle.

“Are you, by chance descended from the Hunters line of the Bennet Family?”

He felt his grandson, the Earl, fly up by his side. The man’s gulp indicated that he feared his Grandfather may have committed a terrible faux pas.

Bennet quickly continued, “Before Lord Matlock flays me, please forgive my forwardness. I am used to country manners, well actually, more like country familiarity…and both those probably have not aged well in the past 150 years. Might I presume upon Earl Fitzwilliam’s graciousness to introduce me properly?” He glanced at his doppelgänger and lifted a brow.

The Earl said nothing until the older lady moved her handbag from its double handheld shield-like post in front of her torso. Giving the man a nod, she said in a melodic voice that was redolent of drawing rooms and racing meets, “Yes, please, Earl Matlock, introduce us to your honored guest.”

Bennet swore that he expected his grandson…he is M, for Heaven’s sake…to run a finger under his all-too-tight collar before he completed this British tradition.

“Ma’am.  Mr. Bennet, may I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mrs. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon of Balmoral, Scotland and her daughter, erm…” he stalled on the second introduction.

The young woman quickly took pity on the older man and stepped forward, thrusting her left hand out, saying, “Thank you, Uncle Thomas. Elizabeth Windsor. Without a doubt you must be Mr. Thomas Bennet of Longbourn Estate in Hertfordshire. Your portrait does not do you justice. T’is truly an honor to meet The Founder.”

Bennet, in his surprise, automatically reached out and shook her proffered digits. Several sharp intakes of breath echoed around the room.

Her mother hid a smile and a small chuckle behind a gloved hand, and then turned to the Countess and said, “I declare, Georgie, it must be something with girls named Elizabeth. If I recall the tale correctly, your Lizzy greeted her German in that manner the first time they met on the sand by the Beach House.”

The Countess, now in her 45th year replied with all of the dignity she could muster, “You have the right of it ma’am. Recall that my daughter was lately a WREN driver while yours in the ATS could lubricate—how do the Americans call it—oh yes, a deuce and a half. I imagine our egalitarian cousins schooled the girls’ manners from time to time!”

Miss Windsor looked at the two before riposting, “Now Mama, Aunt Georgie; you know the world is changing. Just as Mr. Bennet discovered, if we stand on ceremony and privilege, nothing will ever be accomplished.

“And, you did teach me to respect our elders,” she said with a devilish twinkle in her eye, “I doubt if there is anyone here who will stand superior to a man birthed in 1760! And, yes, Mr. Bennet, we are of the Hunters’ line.”

She leaned in toward Bennet and whispered conspiratorially, “Your biography was required reading for all of my generation. Why, I am unsure.”

Bennet found that he enjoyed the young lady’s spirit, reminding him as it did of his own beloved Elizabeth.

Mrs. Bowes-Lyon gently, but firmly, broke up the singular conference saying, “Lord Matlock, I do believe you called this emergency meeting of the board. Might we attend to that? I fear that my daughter and I have other claims on our time this day. Later, we had hoped to rejoin my husband in Scotland. The shooting is particularly good this year.”

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About The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament

Bennet looked at his wife’s swollen lips, softly bruised from several deeply loving kisses, and her flushed complexion, as alluring when gracing the countenance of a woman of four-and-forty as that of a girl of nine-and-ten. He was one of the lucky few to have fallen in love with the same woman at both ages.  

Thomas Bennet, Master of Longbourn, had always counted himself amongst the few educated gentlemen of his acquaintance. But, he had to travel over 120 years into the future to discover how little he knew about the woman sharing his life.

Once again, the amazing Bennet Wardrobe proved to be the schoolmaster. Tom Bennet’s lesson? Mrs. Bennet had been formed especially for him. Yet, t’would be the good lady herself who taught him the power of the Fifth and Sixth Loves: Redemption and Forgiveness.

Fanny Bennet also would uncover deep wells of courage and inspiration as she stood by her man’s side in the bleak years after World War II. Together they would lead their descendants in pursuit of the beast who had wronged every member of the Five Families.

The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone

The Avenger takes us on a new journey through The Bennet Wardrobe – an alternate universe rising from Don Jacobson’s vivid imagination and based upon the immortal Pride and Prejudice. The Avenger is another important step leading to the culmination of this enchanting trip: one that has drawn us into its reality to travel side-by-side with richly sketched characters. Each book has left us wanting more.

The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone as a unique result of originality focused on beloved characters as they move—and grow—through surprising plotlines.

Lory Lilian, author of Rainy Days

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 published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

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

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

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

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

Connect with Don:

Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page

Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog)

Author Website (with blog)

Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Don is generously giving away 4 copies of The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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12/28 Babblings of a Bookworm Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

12/29 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl Review, Giveaway

12/30 My Love for Jane Austen Guest Post, Giveaway

01/03 My Vices and Weaknesses Author Interview, Giveaway

01/04 So Little Time… Guest Post, Giveaway

01/05 My life journey Review, Excerpt Giveaway

01/07 More Agreeably Engaged Character Interview, Giveaway

01/08 Diary of an Eccentric Guest Post, Giveaway

01/09 From Pemberley to Milton Excerpt, Giveaway

 

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Dear friends, I’ve been excited about this guest post since I first learned of the title and laughed out loud. I couldn’t wait to see what the author had up her sleeve. Well, it’s time to find out, as Jayne Bamber is here today to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome!

 

Charles Bingley is a Hot Idiot

By Jayne Bamber, Author of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations

So, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Charles Bingley. I will say, he’s definitely a Nice Guy. I wouldn’t mind having him for a brother, though to own the truth, I would probably end up taking full advantage of his agreeable disposition – sound familiar?

I feel ya, bb. It’s hard being the smart one.

 

As a romantic prospect, I would Friendzone™ that f-boi faster than you could say Five Thousand A Year. Point me in the direction of Derbyshire, I prefer clever a-holes, thank you. Despite his being, as Jane Austen informs us, “just what a young man ought to be,” I have never warmed to him as a romantic hero. He is, in my opinion, a THIOT: That Hot Idiot Over There.

We know he’s attractive – Austen tells us that he is: “good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.” He is also, undeniably, not the sharpest key on the pianoforte. Jane Austen shows us this throughout the story, not only in his being easily led by his sister, but in his general weakness of mind, such as this conversation between Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth in Chapter 9:

“You begin to comprehend me, do you?” cried he, turning towards her.

“Oh! yes–I understand you perfectly.”

“I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am afraid is pitiful.”

In the very next chapter, Mr. Darcy recalls this exchanges, and chides his friend for trying to portray his own intransigence in such a favorable light:

“When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself–and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

In the much-revered mini-series, Mr. Bingley is portrayed true to form: “sensible, good humored, lively” …not to mention “wonderfully handsome” (which a young man ought likewise be!) Though not to my tastes, Crispin Bonham-Carter is 90’s hot – in Regency England, we’d probably hit that. Being the longest film adaption by far, we get the greatest sense of his foolishness, as well. We also get a reminder that though Elizabeth thinks well of Mr. Bingley, he is far from her type, as she “could never love a man who was out of his wits.”

In one of my favorite moments, we even catch a glimpse of what Austen herself neglected to show us, though it was certainly implied – Bingley being coaxed by his sisters and Mr. Darcy to abandon the lady whom he loves, despite having created expectations in Meryton, and within Jane Bennet’s heart, of a forthcoming engagement, and despite actually feeling himself to be in love with her. Sure, Charlotte Lucas did try to warn us – Jane was not demonstrative enough of her feelings, but Bingley had no reason to doubt Jane’s affections until his sisters and Mr. Darcy worked him over. The man literally had more confidence in their opinions than his own intuition. Weak!

Intervention: Regency Edition

Even when Bingley does come back to Netherfield to propose to Jane at last, it’s strongly implied that this wasn’t his own decision, either – he’s been given permission by Mr. Darcy, after Lizzy gives him the business in Kent for separating them. This is a bit of fanon I particularly enjoy, when JAFF variations show us how that conversation goes down. While it’s always fun to see Bingley grow some backbone and clap back at Mr. Darcy for concealing Jane’s presence in London, or for generally being an officious blockhead, I can’t help but imagine that Charles Bingley is truly incapable of ever standing up to his friend for anything, even when it almost cost him his chance at true love.

In the 2005 adaptation, Bingley is brilliantly portrayed as a fresh-faced, energetic man-child, more of a buffoon than he was in the ’95 version, and yet somehow more endearing. He’s got some great Cute Moments, such as the swoon-worthy grasping at Jane’s ribbon as he follows her through the ballroom, or his rehearsing his proposal with Mr. Darcy out by the pond. He also has a lot of pretty idiotic moments, yet no one really seems to mind that he’s a complete doofus.

Aside from his comments about accomplished young ladies, none of these silly moments are from the original story, and yet they’re all so very Bingley. They all contribute to his particular brand of attractiveness – cute, well-meaning, and utterly artless. And yet, it’s a bit alarming, when you think about the reality of a young woman entrusting her fate and future to such a man. This man, who actually has to remind us that he can read, is going to run an entire estate, and make all the decisions for himself, his wife, and any children they have.

Honestly, I’d rather marry Caroline.

Lost in Austen is not especially high on my list of costume dramas (largely due to Amanda’s haircut – seriously, no one in the entire Regency period is going to help her not stick out like a sore thumb?) but provides some great Bingley moments that capture his Austen-given personality quite well, and his portrayal is closest to the Bingley in my own imagination, particularly when I wrote Happier in Her Friends than Relations.

Perhaps bordering on the farcical, the Bingley of Lost in Austen, though a total babe, is almost too flawed to be redeemed, from his mopey lurking at Jane’s wedding, to his mixing guns and alcohol at Pemberley, and finally his bizarre duel with Mr. Bennet after absconding with Lydia. Wildly off-book, but I would argue not entirely out of the realm of what a thoughtless man like Bingley might be capable of, if events were to take a turn for the worse.

In my debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, the story opens with the premise that Bingley does not follow through with his plan to rent Netherfield, as his sister Caroline has no wish to leave London, for Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been elevated to the status of Viscount, and Caroline is determined to catch him if she can.

If you follow me on Facebook you will know I’ve posted a fan-casting of all the characters in Happier, with Freddie Stroma (Harry Potter, Pitch Perfect) as Charles Bingley.

When Bingley appears in Happier in Her Friends than Relations, Elizabeth Bennet’s perception of him is not shaded through her sister Jane’s rosy perspective of “just what a gentleman ought to be.” Elizabeth sees another side of Bingley, and though she is charmed at first, her practical understanding of what she wants in a mate – stability, dependability, and good sense, a man she can both love and respect, Bingley inevitably falls short of the mark. Though his fortune must be a factor for her, the decision is not ultimately hers alone to make, because my Charles Bingley is just as easily led by his sister as Austen has depicted him, and Elizabeth is not so generous with her forgiveness as Austen portrayed Jane Bennet.

In the excerpt below, Elizabeth has been led to believe that Bingley intends to propose to her, and though she is uncertain of her own feelings after six weeks’ acquaintance in London, she soon discovers that her deliberation has all been for naught.

Mr. Bingley fidgeted nervously, barely able to meet her eye. She knew he had not come to propose. “What is the matter, sir? Are you well?”

His face crumpled into despair as he stepped closer to her, reaching for her hand. “I do not deserve your concern, Elizabeth. We both know I have kept you waiting these five days. I broke my promise, and yet you would ask after my health without any reproach. You are too kind.”

“Have you any explanation, sir?”

Mr. Bingley ran his hands through his hair in agitation, just as he had done that night on the balcony. It occurred to Elizabeth that though he was gregarious enough in good cheer, he was not adept at expressing himself in serious situations. No, when solemnity was required, he was not a man who could be depended upon. Feeling her heart sink to the pit of her stomach, she sat down on the sofa. With a pained expression, Mr. Bingley sat down beside her and scowled at the rug. “I daresay you have some idea what I wanted to say to you that night… What I have wanted to say to you nearly every moment I have spent in your presence.”

“Yes.” Fearing her inevitable disappointment, she wished this mortifying interview to be over as quickly as possible.

He let out a long sigh. “Would that I had spoken my heart that night, Miss Bennet, for now, I cannot. It would not feel right, under the circumstances.”

“What circumstances, sir?”

Mr. Bingley brushed at his hair again. “I—we must leave London, for a time. We are for Bath, this very afternoon.”

“You are leaving?” Elizabeth drew back in confusion.

“I am afraid we must. I had to see you first. I wanted to come sooner, you must believe me, but I could not get away.”

“Could you not have sent word to my uncle?”

“Would that I had thought of it, or found the time. These past few days have been so very taxing.”

“I do not understand. What has happened?”

“Caroline has fallen ill, and I am afraid it is quite serious.”

“Good God,” Elizabeth cried, unable to hide her surprise. Miss Bingley had shown no sign of affliction at the Banfields’ dinner. Other than being afflicted with the worst sort of vanity and conceit. “It must have been very sudden. I cannot believe it—how shocking!”

“I was shocked, yes. We returned home that evening, after we had all danced together…. I told Caroline of my intentions…. She claimed she had a headache and took to her bed. I thought she was merely being peevish, but the next morning she rose quite early and sent for a doctor. Caroline is never ill. I was alarmed, and thought I ought not leave her, though I had meant to call here. I did not imagine I would be detained so many days, yet I have scarcely had a chance to get away. She seems to be getting worse every day, and I am worried for her. Louisa thinks that it is nothing, but I am afraid. Caroline is eager to leave London and said the doctor has recommended taking the waters in Bath. The Hursts will not indulge her, so it must be me. She wishes to travel there without delay.”

Realization dawned on Elizabeth and she sat in stunned silence for what felt like an eternity. It was just as she had feared. Miss Bingley had triumphed at the last in separating them, for Elizabeth had not the slightest doubt that the wretched woman’s illness was naught but a design to manipulate her naive brother. She saw in her mind precisely what a marriage to Mr. Bingley would be like, and felt that until that moment she had never known herself. No, she had foolishly hoped that he would, at the crucial moment, defy his sister in defense of the woman he loved. But it seemed he would not, or could not. He had taken the easier path, and succumbed to his sister’s demands, and Elizabeth knew in her heart that she could never bind herself to such a man.

Mr. Bingley looked over at her, and she could see the resignation in his eyes. On some level, perhaps unconsciously, he had already given her up. She scarcely knew what to say, for nothing could now breach the inevitable rift between them. The damage could not be undone. “And so you must go.”

“I have no desire to leave… London. But I must. I cannot say how long I shall be in Bath, but if you are in London when I return.…”

Elizabeth’s posture stiffened with defiance. That he should ask her to wait on him, on the whim of his deceitful sister! Her esteem for him had all but vanished, and she responded coldly, “I had not thought to stay much longer with my aunt and uncle. My sister in Kent has long been wishing me to visit.”

“Oh. Yes, I understand. Perhaps I shall send word to your uncle when I return to town. Perhaps.…” Mr. Bingley fell silent as Mrs. Gardiner’s footsteps could be heard in the hall. He stood and gave Mrs. Gardiner a slight nod as she entered the room. Looking back at Elizabeth with a faint smile he said, “It is folly to linger in this manner. I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is now impossible for me to enjoy.” With a quick bow he hastily left the room, and in another minute had departed the house.

Elizabeth glared out the window as his carriage disappeared. Yes, go, go. I would not wish you back again!

Mrs. Gardiner hurried toward her niece. “Dearest Lizzy, whatever has happened? Have you refused him?”

“I have not—Mr. Bingley did not propose to me.” Elizabeth filled her aunt in on all that had happened. When she finished, her aunt sank back against the sofa, crestfallen.

“Oh Lizzy, I am so sorry. It is all my fault, pressing you to like him, and setting you up for such disappointment. Your uncle and I thought it would be such a perfect match.” Here she embraced her niece tenderly. “Oh Lizzy, can you ever forgive me?”

Elizabeth thought it strange that she should be the one giving comfort at such a time, and offered her tearful aunt a wan smile. “I can hardly hold you accountable, or anyone else, save Mr. Bingley. And to own the truth, I believe you may be more disappointed than I. I suppose the blessing, once denied, begins to lose somewhat of its value in my estimation.”

Find out the rest of the story by purchasing your copy of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, available on Kindle January 5th!

Thanks for joining me on the second stop of my blog tour, and a special shout-out to those of you who have been following Happier since the days of posting on AHA and AO3! As a thank-you for all the wonderful support I’ve received, I have started a giveaway, and will be selecting a winner after each post on the blog tour! See the full schedule for the blog tour below, and click here to follow me on Facebook for updates on the sequel, coming soon!

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

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The holiday books just keep on coming, and today Anngela Schroeder is here to celebrate the release of her Pride and Prejudice-inspired Christmas novella, An Unexpected Merry Gentleman. This is such a sweet story! I read it in one sitting, in front of my Christmas tree with a cup of peppermint-flavored coffee, and it was just perfect! I will be sharing my review later this week, but in the meantime, Anngela is here with an excerpt (one of my favorite scenes from the book!) and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Anna, thank you so much for allowing me to share An Unexpected Merry Gentleman with your readers this holiday. This little book has been a goal of mine for quite some time, and I was finally able to buckle down, push life aside and get it written. 🙂

I love Christmas stories, and the idea of a ‘warm fuzzy’ quick read on a cold December night, reminds me of the spirit of Christmas. Add our favorite couple and the idea gets even better! But, I was busy. I has just finished Rational Creatures from the Quill Ink Collection, and Christina Boyd asked me if I wanted to be part of Yuletide, a collection of short Christmas stories to benefit the Great House of Chawton. Throw in a husband and 3 sons? There was no way. But, things changed when I opened up an ‘old’ file on my phone.

About a year ago I was looking for pictures for another book I was working on, and I came across the image I used for my cover. I LOVED the little girls, and how one was a blonde and the other a brunette. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be darling if this was Jane and Lizzy as little girls?” That’s when the idea of the possibility of a Christmas story was hatched. However, I wanted it to be short–­–something you could read lying in bed after wrapping presents, or waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven. A story which would show that much growth and development of our two main female characters would take way too long. Plus, how would they meet Mr. Darcy as a child, then transition to adulthood? Nope. The little girls needed to be Jane and Lizzy, all while NOT being Jane and Lizzy. Hence, the Miss Gardiners were born.

One of my favorite things about writing this story was little Emily Elizabeth Gardiner, and how she was a younger and less refined version of her cousin Elizabeth. I love how she says things we are certain Elizabeth said at a young age. Well––we actually hope Lizzy would have said. It was fun crafting scenes where she interacts with the Darcys and to watch her insight as a child blossom on the verge of adult comprehension.

It was difficult choosing an excerpt to share with your readers today, as I wanted to give them a taste of Darcy and Lizzy together, but still highlights the precociousness of Emily and the sedateness of her sister Miss Victoria (Tory) Gardiner. I hope they enjoy this little ‘Christmas gift’ from An Unexpected Merry Gentleman.

He could tell the girls were attempting not to bubble over with enthusiasm, especially the younger who most resembled Elizabeth. And with her chocolate curls, she could be a childhood portrait come to life. Miss Mary asked his sister about her music preferences and he noticed Elizabeth’s curious eyes on him.

“What are you looking forward to the most during this holiday season, Miss Emily?” he asked.

“Oh, to be sure, the stairs at Netherfield.”

“The stairs?”

“Oh, yes,” she said with eyes that mirrored Miss Elizabeth’s. “Cousin Jane tells us Netherfield is such a beautiful home and there are two sets of long stairs. I have never slid down banisters before.”

“Emily,” Elizabeth said, gently reproaching the girl.

“But it is true, Lizzy,” she whispered back. “We only have one banister, and Longbourn’s banisters are not long enough. I’m sure it is a jolly time.”

Her innocent face looked up at him, and it was all he could do to not tussle her hair. “If I might make a confession, Miss Emily,” he said, leaning in and lowering his voice, “my home, Pemberley, has four banisters.”

“Four banisters?”

“Yes.” He glanced at Miss Elizabeth and winked. Watching her start, he continued, “And I have slid down all of them.”

“All of them?” the young girl asked with adoration in her eyes. “Would you slide down them with me at Netherfield?”

“Emily!” Elizabeth said, reaching for her hand to stifle the eagerness of her cousin. “I believe it is time you and Tory return to the nursery.”

“That was not ladylike, was it?” she whispered to Mr. Darcy.

A small smile edged at the corners of his mouth. “My sister and I look forward to becoming better acquainted with you and Miss Gardiner.”

“Thank you.” She curtsied and ran out of the room, little Miss Gardiner following at a demure pace.

I do hope the excerpt has enticed you to check out the full novella of An Unexpected Merry Gentleman available on Amazon, and on Kindle Unlimited. I have also included the opportunity to win a Kindle version of the book, which is open internationally. Have a Merry Christmas, and a happy holiday!

Giveaway

Anngela is generously offering a Kindle copy of An Unexpected Merry Gentleman to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, December 16, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Anngela, for being my guest today. I hope my readers enjoy An Unexpected Merry Gentleman as much as I did! I can’t wait to share my thoughts later this week. Stay tuned!

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I just love seeing how many Pride and Prejudice-inspired holiday books have been published. They’ve certainly been keeping me busy every December for the last few years, and this year is no exception. Today, Victoria Kincaid is here to share an excerpt from Christmas at Darcy House to celebrate its audiobook release, and there’s a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hello, Anna, and thank you for having me back to visit!  I love just about every part of the Christmas season (except for the crowds when shopping), and one of the most fun parts is writing and reading Christmas stories.  I published Christmas at Darcy House last year—after long imagining what would happen if Darcy and Elizabeth encountered each other in London after the latter fled Netherfield.  This year, I am pleased to announce the release of an audiobook version of Christmas at Darcy House, narrated by Julia Eve.  I hope you enjoy the excerpt below! 

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

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

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

Elizabeth hurried to the edge of the terrace, leaning against the balustrade to better view the Marlowes’ extensive garden.  Naturally, nothing was in bloom at that time of year, but the bare tree branches and ornamental bushes were decorated with a delicate covering of new snow.  Torches had been placed at intervals along the garden paths, providing a gentle golden illumination.

“How enchanting!”  Elizabeth sighed.  “A fresh layer of snow can make anything lovelier.  Do you not think so?”

Mr. Darcy regarded her with a most peculiar expression on his face; his lips were slightly parted and his eyes wide.  He appeared, for all the world, as if he gazed upon a most wondrous and unusual sight.  But he was staring at Elizabeth, not the snow.

“Is the snow not beautiful?” she prompted again.

“Oh yes, yes!”  His eyes shifted toward the snow-covered garden below them.  “Yes, it is quite pretty.”

“Pretty” was a completely inadequate word to describe such a sight, but Elizabeth was not of a mind to quarrel with him.  She turned her gaze back to the garden and the snowflakes illuminated in the torches’ glow.  Fortunately, the terrace was protected from the elements by a roof of sorts, and she was only struck by an occasional wayward snowflake.  “I wish I could have a painting of such a scene!” she exclaimed.  “It is altogether charming.”

“Indeed,” he breathed. The wonder on his face would have been more appropriate if he had never before seen such a sight.  “Do you know, Miss Bennet, I do not believe I fully appreciated the beauty of snow before this moment.”

At least he was finally gazing at the snow.  Why was the man so vexing?  Most of the time he seemed so distant, but occasionally he would demonstrate how he was not only attending to what Elizabeth said but also taking it to heart.  And it was most frustrating.  It complicated her propensity to dislike the man and caused her to rethink her opinion of him.  As she grew better acquainted with him, the more he puzzled her.

Only when Elizabeth felt a chill did she recall why they were outside: Mr. Darcy had professed a desire to say something to her.  What could it be?  Customarily there was only one reason a single man would ask to speak privately with a single woman.  Her momentary panic was quickly quelled.  Mr. Darcy would no more think of marrying Elizabeth than he would consider marrying his cook.

Now she was quite curious about the topic of his desired conversation.  And quite cold.  “Mr. Darcy, you wished to speak with me about something?” she prompted, wrapping her arms around herself.

He started as if in a reverie and slowly focused his eyes on her.  “Yes.  Yes, I did.  I…”  His voice trailed off as his eyes fixed on her…lips?  What an odd man.

Still, Elizabeth could not help noticing that he cut a fine figure in his well-tailored coat.  And a wayward dark curl over his forehead gave him a completely undeserved rakish appearance.  I could brush it away from his forehead.  How would it feel beneath my fingers?  Merciful heavens!  How could she entertain such thoughts about Mr. Darcy of all people? Her eyes sought the safer sight of the garden.

Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audiobook code for Christmas at Darcy House to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Saturday, December 15, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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