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Hello, friends! I’m happy to welcome Kathy Davis to the blog today to celebrate the release of her poetry collection, Passiflora. Kathy is here today to share a poem from the collection and its inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome!


Snapped

Her daughters shocked

to a splay-footed

standstill,

hair bows askew,

ears cocked as if wary

of what’s happening

behind them. 1914

and the family fruitcake

recipe says:

blanche the almonds,

shell pecans,

crystallize the cherries,

then call a man

to stir the heavy batter.

But they are too full

of four- and six-year-old

giggles and squirms

to pose pretty and smile

for their mama

who has finally snapped,

Turn around

and face the bushes!

and is taking a picture

of the backs

of their new white

summer Sunday dresses,

of the rows of tiny bone

buttons scavenged

from an old blouse,

the flounces crocheted

by kerosene light,

the cropped sleeves

trimmed with lace bartered

from the pack-peddler

for a skillet supper

and a spare bed. No

running water, electricity,

phones or paved roads; no

self-timer to unchain her

from the tripod; no

click and share,

but one snapshot

and generations of us

see: This is a woman

who could wield a needle.


“Snapped” is about a photograph I found among my mother’s things after she died. I had no idea who the two little girls were, why they were standing with their backs to the camera, or who took the picture. It was a puzzle until I came across a handwritten reminiscence about family by my great-aunt Agnes, as well as a copy of an article about I. George the pack peddler that she wrote when she was 92 for a local magazine.

Agnes is the older girl in the picture and my grandmother, Etta, is the younger one. The photograph was taken by my great-grandmother who apparently tended to dress these two alike. I loved the story of her determination to at least capture a record of her handiwork if she couldn’t, at that moment, get a good picture of two of her youngest girls. She was a schoolteacher and at 27 considered an “old maid” when she married my great-grandfather. He was a 44-year-old farmer and widower with only one arm and six children. They had five more children together. Living in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century meant the pack peddler and repurposing what was already had on hand were Great-Grandma Emma’s main sources for sewing supplies. Given all she had on her plate raising eleven children, I was so inspired when I learned she was such an accomplished seamstress and took pride in it.

The family fruitcake recipe with the direction to ask a man to stir the heavy batter also was something I found among my mother’s papers. It came from a different family member who was of the same generation as my great-grandmother and offered a good example of how women were viewed at the time, despite their daily accomplishments.

Finding out the story behind the photograph reinforced that I stand on the shoulders of a long line of determined and resourceful women. Agnes put herself through college and later farmed alongside her husband. My grandma Etta became a nurse in the 1920s over her older brothers’ objection that “only bad girls went to nursing school.” (Her father settled the matter in her favor saying he “knew as many bad girls who were teachers as nurses” and that you could be what you were regardless of what you did.) My mother and her sister also became nurses. All provide inspiration and, for me, that legacy is what “Snapped” celebrates.


About Passiflora

Advance Praise:

“In this gorgeous debut collection, Kathy Davis announces, ‘I’ve no illusions of control’—yet even as this book celebrates profusion, it manifests aesthetic control, unsentimental intelligence, and tightly leashed feeling. In fields of fleabane and wiregrass, women are taught to suppress their own wildness but burst out anyway in appetite and laughter. Cancer grows inside, jasmine tangles outside, yet this ecopoetic book cultivates restoration and consolation. Reading it is to imagine healing.” —Lesley Wheeler, author of The State She’s In

“Kathy Davis’ poems may begin in the domestic, but almost invariably end in a place that is startling, unfamiliar, and quietly estranging. And, thanks to the exactitude of her style, these transformations never seem less than inevitable. Hers is a voice of unobtrusive confidence, whether she is fashioning wry character studies or stern self-reckonings. These are haunting, bittersweet, and slyly consoling poems. Passiflora is a debut collection of the very first order.” —David Wojahn, author of for the scribe, World Tree and Interrogation Palace

“Intelligence, in its best meanings. The radiant presence of an informed and informing sensibility. An authentic voice with plenty of attitude. We hunger for these characteristics in our engagements with all the arts and hope for nothing less in what we’re willing to call poetry. In Passiflora we encounter the attentive eye of a passionate naturalist in poems that bring light and color—along with ironies and pain—into realizations of human lives reflected and rooted in the eruptions of wild life: the seeds, plants, animals, and landscapes that are the foundations of survival and the potent wellsprings of wisdom and joy. Kathy Davis weaves the most sophisticated, intimate variety of braided poem, as in the consummately crafted ‘For My Son’s Birth Mother,’ an invitation to the vivid observations of a woman walking through a San Diego art exhibit in a poem that subtly yet poignantly reveals the inescapable undercurrent in her thoughts—the intensities of caring for an adopted child. Davis brings to her revelations a kind of taste and judgment that is not about regulation or limitation, but about courage and respect. In these devotional poems, the erotics of the human body are intertwined with the perfumes of flowers and healing herbs in a collection whose every page brings an awakening, an expansion of experience, acutely satisfying a yearning of which we had been unaware.” —Gregory Donovan, author of Torn from the Sun and Founding Editor, Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.

Available at Cider Press Review and Amazon


About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer from Richmond, VA. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. Davis holds a BA and MBA from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction.


For more about the book and to follow the blog tour, visit Poetic Book Tours.

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

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Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to welcome Kara Pleasants to the blog today to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unread Letter. Kara is here to talk about the setting for the novella: Brighton. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you so much, Anna, for welcoming me to your blog to share more about my novella “The Unread Letter.”

The premise of the novella is that Elizabeth never reads Mr. Darcy’s letter, which leads her to make different decisions than in our beloved Pride and Prejudice. In this “what if” path, the Bennets travel together to Brighton. Elizabeth, being the lover of nature that she is, of course explores the seaside and surrounding area.

As a child, I had visited Brighton while on a family trip and held what I thought were accurate memories about the trip to that beach. I remembered a beach and the waves, tall white cliffs off in the distance, a long pier with a mini-roller coaster, and a grand and ornate building that I now know to be the Royal Pavilion.

In the first drafts of The Unread Letter, I included some of these fuzzy memories in my descriptions of the place—Brighton had a sandy beach and when Elizabeth stood on it, she could see the white cliffs. My first clue that my memories were not accurate came during a first read-through by my publisher, who noted: the beach at Brighton is rocky, not sandy.

Feeling rather dismayed that my memory had so betrayed me, that correction led to a flurry of online research. Now an adult, stuck at home in Maryland during the pandemic lockdown, I explored the city of Brighton through blogs, official websites, pictures, and Youtube videos over the course of several days (perhaps even weeks). But, I still found that this wasn’t sufficient. I texted my mother, peppering her with questions about our trip. Did we actually see the Seven Sisters? Could you see any cliffs from Brighton beach? Did I even ride a roller coaster?

My mother’s clever response was to point me in the direction of my Uncle Bob: the Brit who became a member of our family when he married my Aunt Sue. In fact, the whole reason I had visited Brighton in the first place was because we travelled there for his son Robert’s christening (my cousin, Robert). This trip was an incredible experience, where we traveled to London and Buckingham Palace, and all the way as far north as York, where we saw a beautiful cathedral. A highlight of the trip was visiting Jane Austen’s house in Chawton (an incredible thrill for a 12-year-old Austen nerd!).

Realizing that I needed information from the source, I called Uncle Bob to interview him about Brighton. I discovered that he had, in fact, lived in Brighton for several years as a young man and attended university there. Not only that, but his mother lived in Seaford (a village I had been researching for the novella), and that was where we had stayed with some of his family friends for the christening.

In just an hour, Uncle Bob was able to clarify key concepts about the English landscape for me in a way that reading and pictures and videos just couldn’t. He explained, for example, that English place names are descriptive. The ending -combe indicated that the location was at the top of a hill. This lined up exactly with a place Elizabeth visits in the novella called Saddlescombe, where they also picnic at the top of Newtimber Hill. Whereas the ending -dean indicated a dip between hills, with towns like Saltdean and Rottingdean surrounding Brighton because of the way the hills go up and down along the coast.

He clarified that the Weald means the woods, whereas the Downs mean hills. He described the way the pebbles along Brighton beach went from larger rocks to finer pebbles, an element I worked into my descriptions. He also told me an old family legend about the origins of largest dry valley in England, the Devil’s Dyke—which I received permission to use in The Unread Letter.

When I asked him about the Seven Sisters, he confirmed that we had, indeed, visited the white cliffs—just not on the same day as the time we went to Brighton beach. Still, he told me that if you walked up the beach towards the Brighton Marina, at the east end of Bright Beach there you could discern some low white cliffs. And, to my delight, he also confirmed that I hadn’t imagined the roller coaster: we really had taken a ride on the Brighton Pier!

The experience not only allowed me to connect again with my uncle, whom I have not been able to see much since the pandemic, but to reexamine my own conceptions of memory and time to discover how much of memory is constructed. I also learned, again, the value and beauty of a human conversation. I am so grateful for our conversation, and hope that it makes the book feel real and present–so that we can all travel, for a moment, to the Brighton sea.


About The Unread Letter

For every one of his smiles, she thought of his letter and blushed with shame of what she had done. Oh, that she might have just looked at it!

After rejecting Mr Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised when he finds her walking the next day and hands her a letter. Without any expectation of pleasure—but with the strongest curiosity—she begins to open the letter, fully intending to read it.

It really was an accident—at first. Her shaking hands broke the seal and somehow tore the pages in two. Oh, what pleasure she then felt in tearing the pages again and again! A glorious release of anger and indignation directed towards the man who had insulted her and courted her in the same breath. She did feel remorse, but what could she do? The letter was destroyed, and Elizabeth expected that she would never see Mr Darcy again.

Home at Longbourn, she discovers that her youngest sisters are consumed by a scheme to go to Brighton—and Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the idea of a visit to the sea. But the surprises of Brighton are many, beginning with a chance meeting on the beach and ending in unexpected romance all around.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Kara Pleasants lives in a lovely hamlet called Darlington in Maryland, where she and her husband are restoring an 18th century farm in Susquehanna State Park. They have two beautiful and vivacious daughters, Nora and Lina. A Maryland native, Kara spent a great deal of her childhood travelling with her family, including six years living in Siberia, as well as five years in Montana, before finally making her way back home to attend the University of Maryland.

Kara is an English teacher and Department Chair at West Nottingham Academy. She has taught at the secondary and collegiate level at several different schools in Maryland. Her hobbies include: making scones for the farmer’s market, writing poetry, watching fantasy shows, making quilts, directing choir, and dreaming about writing an epic three-party fantasy series for her daughters.


Giveaway

Quills & Quartos is offering an ebook of The Unread Letter to one of my readers. To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address. Q&Q will choose the winners a week after the blog tour ends. The winners will be announced on the Q&Q Facebook and Instagram pages. Good luck!

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

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Hello, friends! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Jayne Bamber back to the blog, this time to celebrate the release of her latest Jane Austen-inspired novel, Five Daughters Out at Once. Jayne is here to talk a little about the book and share an excerpt. Jayne is also giving away 5 ebook copies as part of the blog tour, and you can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello Dear Readers, it is a pleasure to be back at Diary of an Eccentric to share more details about my new release, Five Daughters Out At Once. This is my eighth novel, and like those that preceded it, it is a work of Austenesque fiction.

Available on Kindle April 7

This book opens with an alternative version of events to Pride & Prejudice – Mr. Bingley has not rented Netherfield, due to a pall cast on the village of Netherfield after several of its principal residents – including the Bennets and Sir William Lucas – suffer tragic ends. The Bennet sisters have been running Longbourn for two years before Mr. Collins turns up; though his own negligence has prevented him from coming sooner, he is quick to blame the Bennet girls for lingering at Longbourn, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh is just as quick to reprimand him for his villainy.

Lady Catherine will play a central role in this tale; when the Bennet sisters’ plans to open a school at Lucas Lodge are thwarted, she takes the five daughters under her care and rents Netherfield herself – much to her nephew Mr. Darcy’s dismay. From there our heroines will cross paths with gentlemen from across the realm of Austen’s works, but today’s excerpt features their first encounter with Jane Austen’s most odious marriage prospect, that living boiled potato known as Mr. Collins….


The new master of Longbourn clambered indecorously out of the carriage and clapped his hands as he stood beside Lady Catherine. “At last! Ah, what a fine prospect, is it not? Yes, very promising – my dear sister did not do it justice, I am sure she did not. It may not be as grand as Rosings Park, but I will say it does exceed my expectations. Indeed, I am sure it must be the foremost house in the neighborhood, how happily situated!” Mr. Collins proceeded to the house, his chest puffed out with self-importance; Lady Catherine followed in officious pursuit.

The young woman lingering near the front door, Miss Charlotte Lucas, seemed reluctant to lead them all inside, but soon capitulated and showed them into the study. The room was large and well lit by a pair of wide widows that looked out on a picturesque pastoral view beyond the estate’s front drive. It was also possessed of a decidedly feminine air, if a study could be feminine.  It was an overpowering testament to the domestic lives of the Bennet sisters: there were books piled haphazardly on nearly every free surface, titles ranging from gothic romance to Greek poetry to agrarian instruction. Various tea things were left about, mingling with vases of flowers obviously hand-picked from the garden, embroidered shawls draped over chairs worn from frequent use, and even a pair of delicate women’s slippers in front of the fireplace to Darcy’s far right. To the left, at the very back of the room, a wide oak desk was strewn with papers and open ledgers, and a bottle of ink very lately overturned, still seeping slowly across the disarray.

Darcy thought there was a certain charm to the chaos of the space – he was less comfortable with the human chaos currently unfolding there, for it was clear that the arrival of his companions had interrupted some family fracas. He exchanged a wary glance with Georgiana, who seemed also to feel the intrusion, but she made a subtle gesture to Lady Catherine; their aunt was already surveying the Bennet sisters with decided interest.

Miss Lucas managed to perform the introductions despite Mr. Collins talking over her throughout most of the process, addressing nobody in particular with loud and lengthy praise of the house; the young ladies looked bewildered that Mr. Collins should instantly carry on in such a way, and Darcy could scarcely bear the second-hand mortification. He turned away from the parson’s prattle and noticed that one of the sisters slowly edged away from the others – it was the most diminutive of the five, whose dark chestnut curls framed an expressive face rendered almost pretty by a pair of very fine eyes.

Though it was a warm summer day, she crouched down in the corner and began to light a fire, a task she performed with unexpected competency. As she stood and turned around, he noticed a small smudge of soot on her nose, which somehow added to the allure of her lovely, if asymmetrical countenance.

“Cousin Elizabeth, what an unseemly display, and in front of my noble friends,” Mr. Collins cried. “Surely a maid must be sent for – the estate can keep a maid for such purposes, I trust?”

Miss Elizabeth’s dark eyes flashed with annoyance. “I beg your pardon, sir. We were not prepared for such illustrious guests – usually such visitors send word of their coming in advance. As to whether the house can keep a maid, with such a master as this, I daresay –”

Miss Lucas cut her off, at once clearing her throat and seizing her friend by the wrist. “The maid left at the end of last month, along with a few other members of staff. I came today to bring Mrs. Hill some recommendations – but I suppose we must leave it to you, sir.” Miss Lucas was smiling brightly, moving incrementally closer to Mr. Collins as she spoke; Miss Elizabeth watched the exchange with stony curiosity, all the while drifting toward the desk at the back of the room.

“I should say so,” Mr. Collins said with a sneer. “I am sure I must see to it directly – though I am well pleased with the house in general, I should not despair of seeing everything cleaned and washed afresh.”

He might have said more, but Lady Catherine interjected. “And do you reside nearby, Miss Lucas?”

“Lucas Lodge is the neighboring estate – I am often looking in on my friends here.”

“And your parents? I hope they are attentive to the less fortunate in their community.”

Miss Lucas’s posture betrayed a modicum of pride in the great shock she delivered. “I live alone ma’am.”

Lady Catherine recoiled. “By yourself? Certainly not! You must have some guardian, or a companion of advanced years.”

“Not at all, your ladyship. Lucas Lodge is mine by law – there was no unfortunate entail – Heaven only knows what ghastly distant cousin might have emerged from obscurity to disoblige us all. My younger sister is married and resides in Devonshire, and my step-mother finds the coastal clime perfectly restorative to her ailing health.”

Mr. Collins, though not at all a clever man, seemed aware of the barb and began to sputter with indignation – Lady Catherine heard it with much more pleasure, for there was a distinct upturning of her lips as she proceeded to talk over Mr. Collins. “Yes, well, I daresay a little sea-bathing might set one up forever, but how could she leave you all alone? You poor child – an estate of your own! You might fall prey to any number of adventurers and fortune hunters.”

Miss Lucas smiled wryly. “At nearly eight-and-twenty I am not at all a child, ma’am, and you are quite welcome to direct any fortune hunters and adventurers of your acquaintance to my door.”

There was a snort of laughter from the back of the room. Miss Elizabeth froze, pressing her lips together. She was even lovelier than she had seemed upon first notice, wearing such a look of mirth. Her attitude signaled some little secrecy; Darcy stared at her as she began rummaging through some items on the desk, and the eldest Miss Bennet soon moved to join her. She closed the worn red cover on one of the ledgers and slid it to Miss Elizabeth, who had reached for a packet of papers from the plain, quiet sister. With a significant look and subtle gesture, this packet was handed off to Miss Bennet, who hastily tucked into her spencer. The entire tableau was enacted silently, unnoticed by Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins, for Miss Lucas was positioned in such a way as to block their view. Darcy suspected this was by design, and slowly began to edge that way.

Miss Bennet softly coughed as Darcy approached – Miss Elizabeth swiftly scooped the red ledger into her arms and turned to offer Darcy a weak smile. She had moved too hastily – her right hand brushed the spilled ink, and the smear went from the end of her little finger up to her wrist. Darcy produced a handkerchief and offered it to her, but Miss Elizabeth hesitated. Her eyes dropped down to the ledger; she shifted it to her left arm, smearing more ink across her sleeve. Darcy took her right hand in his and dabbed at the ink smear with his handkerchief. He heard her draw in a sharp breath, and a moment later she set down the ledger and took the handkerchief from him, wiping at the ink herself. “Thank you,” she murmured, flexing the fingers of her stained right hand.

Mr. Darcy nodded, fidgeting with his own bare hand now; he picked up the red ledger from the desk and opened the cover. He had but a moment to peruse the figures before Miss Elizabeth abruptly cleared her throat and thrust the handkerchief back at him, her fingers curling around the top of the ledger. Her eyes darted away from his probing gaze and she cried out, “Charlotte! Are you quite well?”

Miss Lucas had been holding her own in the face of Lady Catherine’s inquisition up until now – Darcy rather thought she was enjoying the verbal assault; only when she looked back at Miss Elizabeth did her bearing change. “Forgive me, I begin to feel quite unwell.” Miss Lucas promptly swooned.

Darcy felt the ledger slide out of his grasp as he was obliged to catch the mischievous woman, who had managed to faint in his direction. Mr. Gardiner called out for the housekeeper to fetch some smelling salts, everyone else reacted with noisy solicitude, and for a few minutes, chaos prevailed. By the time Miss Lucas had roused and Darcy had extracted himself from the cluster, a glance back over his shoulder revealed Miss Elizabeth Bennet standing by the fireplace, stoking the flames.

I hope I have piqued your interest, dear readers – stay tuned for more excerpts and more chances to enter the giveaway!

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

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Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to have Monica Fairview as a guest again today, this time to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Dangerous Magic. Monica is here to talk a little about weaving fantasy into Pride and Prejudice and to share an excerpt from the book. Please give her a warm welcome!


I’m thrilled to be visiting Anna’s blog again, and to be able to introduce my latest novel, DANGEROUS MAGIC, a Jane Austen magical variation.

I don’t know about you, but I spent a good part of my childhood watching fantasy Disney stories with enchanted Kingdoms, witches and wizards, and fairytale princesses. In those bewitching worlds, we don’t blink an eye at magic carpets or genies that pop out of magic lamps. Pumpkins become carriages, witches put curses on newborns, and frogs become princes. As we grow up, though, most of us tend to leave those worlds behind, and only return to them when a child enters our lives – a beloved niece, our own children or grandchildren. That is when we see things through a child’s eye again and rediscover the enchanting stories that we left behind.

As a long-time reader of fantasy, I’ve never completely left those stories behind, even if the novels I read now are much more complex. You could argue that writing about the past and Regency England is already entering a reality that only exists for us in the imagination. Writing itself is an act of shaping reality, of creating something that doesn’t exist. It’s a magical process that draws the reader and writer together to create a tapestry of the mind.  

But last year, I was particularly drawn to writing fantasty fiction when world events took a sudden turn for the worse. I buried myself in my writing and took refuge in a different reality, finding some solace in imagining our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy living in a Regency England where magic is the norm. The result was DANGEROUS MAGIC, and I’m absolutely delighted to share the result with JAFF readers out there.

I’ve picked out a short excerpt for you to give you an idea of what the story is like. In this scene, preparations for Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding are being set up, and, since it’s a forced marriage situation, Elizabeth wishes she could get out of it. However, even in this magical world, wishing for something doesn’t make it happen.

At this moment Mr. Darcy appeared.

“Miss Bennet.” He bowed to Elizabeth then turned to her father. “Mr. Bennet, I assume?” he said.

“Yes, and this is Mr. Darcy, Papa.”

The two gentlemen eyed each other, taking each other’s measure. Elizabeth had rarely seen her father looking so antagonistic.

Mr. Gardiner cleared his throat and stepped forward, and Elizabeth introduced him and Mrs. Gardiner.

Darcy bowed brusquely. “Shall we get on with the business at hand, gentlemen?”

He gestured with his hand and set off, with Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner striding after him.

Mrs. Gardiner smiled affectionately at Elizabeth.

“So that’s your Mr. Darcy, is it? You could have done a lot worse, you know. Quite a handsome young gentleman.”

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” said Elizabeth, dryly. 

Mrs. Gardiner put her arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder. “You’ll get used to it, Lizzy, you’ll see. Most women don’t marry for love, you know.” She looked around her at the Hall. “Nice place.”

“It is nice, but I can’t take credit for it either.”

“Well, then. While the gentlemen argue over your marriage settlement, let’s make the best of our time together to talk,” she said. “Do we have anywhere more private where we can go?”

“We can go to my room,” said Elizabeth. “I share it with another mage, but Miss Bingley has some work to do outside the Hall, and I do not expect her to be back for a while.”

Elizabeth was happy to see her aunt, who had always been one of her favorite relatives.

“How do you like it here?” said Mrs. Gardiner, as they walked towards her room.

“It is too early to say. Let’s just say that I find it challenging.”

“Are they treating you well?” Her aunt peered at her closely. “I have heard that the mages can be unpleasant to someone who isn’t one of them. Though I have never heard bad things about Mr. Darcy.”

“What do you know of him?”

“You know I grew up in Lambton, in Derbyshire?”

Elizabeth nodded.

“Well, Mr. Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, is close to the village.”

“And what do they say of him?”

“Sadly, I have not been to Lambton for a good many years, so I know very little about him, but from all accounts, he is a fair landowner. But enough of that. You will find out everything about him soon enough.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I supposed there is not much I can do about it anyway.”

“That is the most sensible way to look at it.” Mrs. Gardiner clearer her throat. “Now, Lizzy, since your Mama is not here, and she cannot write to you about such a delicate matter, I wanted to talk to you about your wedding night.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks burned. She would have preferred not to think about that, but with the day of the wedding approaching fast, she needed to be armed with knowledge.

“I would prefer it if you told me how to get out of this marriage,” she said, with a little laugh.

Mrs. Gardiner shook her head. “Have you thought of using a magic spell to carry you away from here on an exotic carpet?”

Elizabeth sighed. “I have not learnt that particular spell, unfortunately.”

“Then I’m afraid there is no way you can get out of it at this point without completely ruining your reputation,” said Mrs. Gardiner.


About Dangerous Magic

A sparkling tale of Regency England, a forced marriage, and two magicians who must work together to save the Kingdom.

Elizabeth Bennet is stunned when the Royal Mages come to her peaceful country home of Longbourn to take her away. She is even more bewildered when she is commanded to marry a powerful mage by the name of Fitzwilliam Darcy. She has always dreamed of marrying for love, and an arranged marriage with an arrogant stranger was never part of her plans.

But Darcy and Elizabeth have no choice in the matter. Uniting their two forms of magic is essential if the Kingdom is to defeat Napoleon’s mages. They may dislike each other on sight, but Darcy and Elizabeth have to overcome their differences and find common ground before it is too late. Fortunately, it is not long before the sparks begin to fly between them.

Join the author of ‘Fortune and Felicity’ in this Jane Austen Fantasy Variation, an enchanting story of determination, love, and hope against all odds.

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Monica Fairview writes Jane Austen sequels and variations as well as Regencies. Her latest novel is a Pride and Prejudice fantasy variation, Dangerous Magic. Her biggest claim to fame is living in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Manchester, long before the house was restored. After studying in the USA, she taught literature, then became an acupuncturist. She now lives near London.

Monica loves anything to do with the nineteenth century, and obsessively follows every period drama she can find. Some of her favorites are ‘North and South’, ‘Bright Star’ and ‘War and Peace’, and a dozen others that she couldn’t possibly list here. Of course, she has watched Pride and Prejudice (1995 and 2005) more times than she could count on her hands and toes.

Monica enjoys reading fantasy and post-apocalyptic novels but avoids zombies like the plague. She loves to laugh, drink tea, and visit National Trust historic properties [those were the days!], and she is convinced that her two cats can understand everything she says.

Connect with Monica: WEBSITE | BLOG | GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST


Giveaway

Monica is generously giving away 1 ebook copy of Dangerous Magic, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, March 28, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Hello, friends! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Drēma Drudge to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the publication of her novel, Victorine, which tells the story of artist Victorine Meurent. Drēma is here to explain her inspiration for the novel and to share an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!


Many thanks to Anna for allowing me to write a guest post for her awesome blog. I’m delighted to share the origins of my novel, Victorine, with you on the one-year anniversary of my book, also marked by the release of the ebook version.

The glow of the overhead projector was the only light to permeate the classroom as our professor began the slideshow. It was a class that combined art and literature, and being a fan of both, I was enthralled. Almost immediately, he stopped on an 1863 painting of a nude by Édouard Manet in Paris. That’s when my acquaintance with Olympia, or should I say, Victorine Meurent, began. I just had to know more about the saucy looking woman.

Her unabashed stare said she had more to say than the few minutes the professor had allotted the slide, the woman. While I had no way of knowing it then, it was the beginning of a journey that would take me to Paris, to standing in front of the Manet painting, weeping. It was the beginning of me writing my debut novel, Victorine.

The only problem was, for all that Victorine was telling me that she wanted me to bring her back to the world’s consciousness, there wasn’t very much known about her. Eventually, I discovered that she wasn’t just a model, but also a painter, one whose work was good enough to be exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon, one year even when the well-known Edouard Manet, the painter she sat most for, was rejected. But history hadn’t bothered to remember that she herself had also painted.

Ah, that’s why she wanted me to tell her story.

My husband and I scoured the internet, researched in Paris, and in the process rediscovered not only the one painting that had come back to light of hers in 2004, but three others that had been lost to time. Most importantly, these encompassed her self-portrait. We could see from it how she saw herself, something very important for a woman who was painted by so many men.  

The flamboyant, spirited woman was a sexual libertine in 1860’s Paris, loving both men and women. She lived for art and eventually put herself through art school, the model becoming the artist. Along the way, she learned that she loved art more than anyone or anything else. The woman who once was made art of, in turn made art. I have sought to make art from her life, completing the chain, reminding the world of this talented artist.

I was overjoyed when the owner of her self-portrait allowed me to put it on the back cover of my book, the first time it’s ever been published. (A larger image of the painting is on the inside of the ebook, I’m happy to report.) Please join me in welcoming her back to herstory!


An excerpt from Victorine by Drēma Drudge:

I am called The Shrimp, Le Crevette because of my height and because I am as scrappy as those little question-mark-shaped delights that I used to study when my father took me to Les Halles. I would stand before the shrimp tank and watch the wee creatures paw at the water, repeatedly attempting to scale the tank, swimming, sinking, yet always rising again. I hoped eagerly for one to crest the tank, not realizing until later that the lid was there precisely to prevent their escape. 

          So why am I reminded of that tank today?

            Today, while I am giving a guitar lesson in my father’s lithography shop, the gifted yet controversial painter, Édouard Manet, enters the shop. He gives me the nod.

            I cover the strings of my guitar with my hand to silence them.

Pѐre has mentioned Manet’s recent patronage of his shop, of course, but I have never been here when the artist has come by.

            “M. Manet, this is my daughter, Victorine. I believe you’ve. . ..”

            “We’ve met,” I say. 

            “And where is it we have met, Mademoiselle?” he asks, wincing as he looks in the vicinity of my nose.

Is this a snub? I run my hand over the swollen, crooked lump of flesh on my face.

            “I must be mistaken.” I turn away, smiling bitterly at my quick temper, at my trying to turn up a nose such as this. Of course he doesn’t recognize me.

            I motion for my student to put her guitar away: “That’s enough for today, dear.” Though she looks at the clock with a puzzled brow, she does as I say.

            My father graciously allows me to give lessons in his shop, claiming he loves to hear young musicians learning to play, though I suspect it’s more because my mother hates allowing anyone into our house besides her regular millinery clients.

Manet moves toward me, puts his face close to mine; I don’t pull away, but only because that is the way painters see.  I would have punched another man for standing so close. He snaps his fingers. “Le Crevette?” he exclaims, backs away.

             I raise my chin to regard the posters on my father’s wall. The Compagnie Francaise de Chocolats et des thes declares my father’s fine sense of color, his signature mingling of coral and scarlet. The other posters reveal his repeated twinning of these colors.

            Manet grasps my hand with frank friendliness that I almost believe. Want to believe. “It is you; I’ve seen you model at Coutoure’s. But what has happened to your nose?”

            I rise on my toes, though the height it gives me is minimal. I motion for Gabrielle to gather her music, and she shuffles the sheets.

            I move closer to him while withdrawing my hand from his, take out my emerald green enamel cigarette case (a gift from a wealthy student at Coutoure’s studio) and light a cigarette. I empty my lungs straight at the yellowing ceiling, though my torso is not a foot from his.

            My father frowns and waves the smoke away; how many times must I tell him that I am eighteen and I will smoke if I please? He smokes a pipe sometimes. What’s the difference?

            “I give guitar lessons now. Obviously, I’m no longer a model.”

            Manet’s eyes graze on me. I stand straighter. When I realize it, I relax.

            “I know just how I’ll paint you. Shall we say tomorrow at one?”

            My father runs his grungy shop cloth through his hands.

            I raise my chin, art lust in my eyes.

“We shall say two.”

            He crooks his eyebrow. “Wear something else, will you? That frock does nothing for your apricot skin tone, much less your eyes. And wear your hair down….” He touches a section of my red hair that flows forward, and I jerk away. “No. Better wear it up.”

            I glance down at my mud-colored calico dress, pick up my guitar case and make to lead my young charge out the door. 

            “Meurent?” he says. I smile, erase it before turning back.

“Do you know where my studio is?”

“You may leave your card with my father.”

I am well aware of the opportunity I have been offered. If it weren’t for this trouble with Willie, I would be ecstatic. As it is, I am just a flicker beyond moved.

“My boyfriend, Alphonse, is taking me to my first fight, where I meet Willie.

“There’s an Englishman named Willie Something fighting against one of ours tonight,” Alphonse says one evening as we are eating supper.

“Boxing? Let’s go.”

“You know you can’t.” He waves his hand. I leave the room and return in a suit of his, my hair jammed into one of his hats. Though he doesn’t want to take me, he does. Of course he does.

We rush through the gray and black buildings, gleaming in the wet night,

to an old theater near Notre Dame, one slated to be torn down. Suits of all shades and qualities mingle. The room smells of liquor and sweat and the pungent scent of men packed together. A heady mix.

I thrust my hands in my pockets and stand astride, occasionally kicking a leg to feel the freedom of wearing pants.

Usually the French do savate, kickboxing, but I have heard of this boxing with the hands. That seems like a more honest, intimate way to fight to me— there is nothing distinctive about our limbs, but our faces are unique. It makes the resentment seem real.

An announcer introduces the bare-chested fighters, has them shake hands. The men wear breeches and thin-looking shoes. The Frenchman fighting tonight is short and small. The Englishman, Willie, is of medium height and red-haired, with a pale face which will be overlaid with ruddiness when he is fighting. Or, I will discover, while making love.

The bell unleashes Willie. He leaps off the double ropes tied to a wooden frame, coming at his opponent as though he holds an ancient grudge. I lean forward. My heart pounds with each shot he takes, each hooked punch he pushes from himself. Soon his knuckles drip blood, but whose is it? I look to this side, then that.

My right fist bunches and thrusts with his. Sweat dripping from his face, he grins madly and looks our way as his opponent hits the ground and “slowly rises. For a moment I fear he has discovered that I am a woman, until I realize he is an automaton who sees no one and nothing.

The two collapse onto one another in an exhausted hug of sorts until, it seems, a secret signal intrudes, and they head to their corners and come out, enemies again.

Delacroix-red blood flows from the Frenchman’s forehead, into his eyes, and he shakes his matted mane, flinging the blood. Willie stares at it as if it alone is his enemy and he pounces. One-two-one, go his fists and I rise and shoulder my way up front. Ringside, I watch Willie hit the man as if he must slay him. I cheer with my fingers in my mouth, whistling up something deep. Willie glances my way, and, with a grin, lands one last blow. The Frenchman falls.

Willie waits long enough to see his opponent groggily sit up, and then he runs from one side of the ring to the other, hands raised, before abruptly leaving the ring. The wooden floor shakes and I look down to find I am the one causing the quake; I cannot stop bouncing up and down. I follow Willie into the makeshift dressing room.

“What are you doing?” Alphonse hisses, grabbing my arm. I knock it away and walk straight up to Willie and lick the sweat from his face. He jerks away, cursing, until I take the hat from my head, my hair fireworking down my back. He laughs and pulls me onto his lap. Alphonse makes a noise, but only one.


About Victorine

Victorine Meurent is a forgotten, accomplished painter who posed nude for Edouard Manet’s most famous, controversial paintings such as Olympia and The Picnic in Paris, paintings heralded as the beginning of modern art. History has forgotten (until now) her paintings, despite the fact that she showed her work at the prestigious Paris Salon multiple times, even one year when her mentor, Manet’s, work was refused.

Her persistent desire in the novel is not to be a model anymore but to be a painter herself, despite being taken advantage of by those in the art world, something which causes her to turn, for a time, to every vice in the Paris underworld, leading her even into the catacombs.

In order to live authentically, she eventually finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy, and further tested when she inches towards art school while financial setbacks push her away from it. The same can be said when it comes to her and love, which becomes substituted, eventually, by art.

Buy: Amazon


About the Author

Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.

She has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.

Along with her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, she lives in Indiana where the couple records their podcast, Writing All the Things. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in six countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. They have two grown children.

For a free short story about the tragic alleged affair between Henri Matisse and Olga Meerson, his art student as well as his model, sign up to Drēma’s newsletter at: www.dremadrudge.com.


Giveaway

Drēma is generously giving away two ebooks copies of Victorine. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally though Sunday, March 21, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you for being my guest today, Drēma, and happy one-year book birthday!

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Brigid Huey back today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Interrupted Plans. Brigid is here to share an excerpt from the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello, Anna, and thank you for hosting me today! I’m excited to share this excerpt from Interrupted Plans, as it is a very important moment for Elizabeth. In this scene, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth are walking with Miss Darcy and Jane in a small park near the Gardiner’s home.

Beside her, Mr Darcy slowed his steps. She glanced at him quizzically.

“Miss Elizabeth, yesterday at the coaching inn at High Wycombe, you seemed to wish to speak with me about something.”

Oh goodness, he was trying to give her the opportunity to speak her mind! But she could not—not with his sister but five paces ahead. He seemed to follow her gaze because he nodded as if in understanding.

“If this is not a convenient time, I understand. I would not have broached the subject at all—for I have no wish to cause you discomfort—were it not for the possibility that it might bring you relief to speak of the matter, whatever it may be.”

Would it bring relief? Truly she had no idea how Mr Darcy might react to the news. He would be angry; she knew that much. What she did not know was whether his anger would extend to her as well.

“You are very good to be so concerned for my well-being. However, I do not think that this is an opportune moment.”

“Of course, forgive me.”

“Forgive you? The man who made sure to deliver us to our door after misfortune left us stranded? Sir, you are far too severe upon yourself!”

He almost laughed, she was sure of it.

“Perhaps some other time then,” he said at last. “What will you do now that your holiday has been so disrupted?”

“I am not certain. I wish to return home, but I am not sure of Jane’s feelings on the matter. Everything has happened so fast.”

“Was it always your plan to return to Longbourn for the Christmas holidays?”

“Yes, we would have been home by then, surely. Now that our trip is cancelled, perhaps my aunt and uncle can be persuaded to join us. We would be a very merry party. That is, if Mama’s nerves can stand the added noise of four boisterous children.”

“I think I understand your mother on this point,” Mr Darcy conceded.

Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose so quickly that she succeeded in pulling a low chuckle from her companion. “I must confess it: I am not good with children.”

“I daresay you have not had much practice,” Elizabeth replied.

“You are perfectly right. I have not been around any children since Georgiana herself was a child.”

“Miss Darcy does not strike me as one who would have been a particularly boisterous child either.”

“Quite so. She was always quiet. Like me.”

“Whereas I was a bit of a terror. Or so I am told.”

“I cannot believe it of you.” His eyes twinkled at her, and she smiled when she realized he was teasing her. How pleasant it was to be friendly with him now.

“Well, if you can use that lively imagination of yours, do try to picture me as a young girl running through my father’s fields.”

“Climbing trees?”

“Indeed! And chasing rabbits, I daresay. I do remember there was a particular family of barn cats that I befriended.”

“I, too, had a childhood filled with climbing trees and exploring the stables and outbuildings on my father’s estate.”

“The difference being, of course, that you are a man.”

“And as such, it was entirely appropriate for me to climb trees.”

“Whereas my mother had fits whenever I was found out.”

“I can well believe it.”

Elizabeth peered at him, but there was no malice in his tone. He smiled down at her, and she felt herself smiling in return. Time seemed to slow, and she felt the warmth of his eyes in her very bones. He held her gaze unwaveringly, and his smile faded into a look of intense interest. Nay, it wasn’t interest, it was—


About Interrupted Plans

Suppose Elizabeth Bennet never visited Pemberley…

It is October of 1812. Elizabeth Bennet and her family have seen dramatic changes in the past few months—none of them welcome. Her sister Jane needs a fresh start, and Elizabeth is no less eager to leave behind the pain and confusion of not accepting Mr. Darcy’s proposal.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has not seen Elizabeth since he offered for her—and she adamantly refused him. When she appears in London, he is determined to gain her friendship and make amends. When a carriage mishap throws them together, Darcy does all he can to demonstrate his changed behavior.

Though their renewed acquaintance seems to be growing into a genuine friendship, a family secret constrains Elizabeth. As she falls deeper in love with the man she rejected, does she dare tell him the truth?

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK


About the Author

Brigid Huey has been in love with Jane Austen since first seeing the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two kids and spends her free time reading and writing. She also has an assortment of birds, including five chickens and too many parakeets. She dreams of living on a farm where she can raise as many chickens, ducks, and goats as she likes and write romance novels in an airy study overlooking the wildflowers.

Connect with Brigid: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously giving away 8 eBooks of Brigid Huey’s Interrupted Plans as part of the blog tour, and the giveaway is international. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link.


Thanks for being my guest today, Brigid, and congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, friends! Riana Everly is back today to celebrate the release of the second book in her Miss Mary Investigates series, Death in Highbury. I’m especially excited about this book because it brings together the worlds of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, which (along with Persuasion) are my favorite Jane Austen novels! Riana is here today to talk about the assassination of Spencer Perceval and how it’s tied to the novel, and to share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you, Anna, for letting me stop by your super blog today as part of my blog tour for Death in Highbury: An Emma Mystery.

In this mystery, Mary Bennet finds herself stranded in Highbury when political chaos erupts in London, preventing her return there. She finds refuge with Emma Woodhouse, and befriends the residents of this Surrey town.

So what happened that threw all of England into such chaos? Nothing less than the assassination of the British Prime Minister! Fortunately for me (but not for the poor PM himself), this worked out perfectly for my story’s timeline.

Here is a quick history of the assassination and of his killer.

On May 11, 1812 at about 5:15 in the evening, British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was fatally shot in the lobby of the House of Commons in London. He is the only prime minister to have met such a fate. His attacker was a businessman named John Bellingham.

Bellingham was born around 1770 in Huntingdonshire. His father died while he was still a child, and the family lived with assistance from his mother’s brother-in-law, William Daw. When Bellingham grew up, Daw saw him first to the position of a junior officer on a British East India Company ship, and later as a tin plate manufacturer in London. Both ventures were failures, however, and Bellingham narrowly avoided debtor’s prison. He now decided to change his ways and took a position as bookkeeper in a company that dealt with trade with Russia. He was successful enough at this that he was appointed the firm’s representative in Archangel, Russia in 1800.

By 1804 he had returned to England and set up his own business in Liverpool. That year he travelled back to Archangel to oversee some dealings there. He had secured a pass for him, his wife, and infant son to travel to St. Petersburg, but his pass was rescinded by local authorities and he was arrested as being responsible for a supposed unpaid debt by a business associate. Despite an attempt at intervention by Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, the British ambassador in St. Petersburg, Bellingham was imprisoned from February to November of 1805. He sought redress with the Russian government, but only succeeded in angering them, and he was imprisoned again from mid-1806 to late 1809. 

He finally returned home to England and set about demanding compensation for his ordeal from the British government, whom he considered to blame for ignoring his constant appeals for help. He petitioned the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Privy Council, and Prime Minister Perceval himself, but all pleas were denied. In 1811 he returned to his wife in Liverpool, but he could not abandon his need for justice, and in February of 1812 he returned to London to renew his cause. He met with failure. Seeing no other means of redress, he decided to exact retribution through violence. On April 20, 1812, he purchased two pistols and had a tailor sew an inside pocket into one of his coats.

He carried out the killing in the early evening of May 11, just as parliament was preparing for its evening session. He could have escaped in the chaos that followed the shooting, but instead he sat quietly on a bench until he was seized by an official who had witnessed the event. He submitted without a struggle. When questioned as to why he had done it, he replied that he was rectifying a denial of justice on the part of the government.

Bellingham was detained and sent to trial for the murder of Spencer Perceval four days later. He was deemed to be insane and was convicted and sentenced to hang. He died on the gallows at Newgate Prison on May 18, 1812.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the story. Mary is sitting in the Crown Inn in Highbury, reading a letter from her brother-in-law, Mr. Darcy.


But even as the carriage had drawn up to the inn, and as the footman had leapt from the box to announce their arrival and ask after the Darcys, Mary could see that something was amiss. A man who must have been the innkeeper rushed up to the footman and driver and conferred with them in hushed tones, after which Mary was hustled into this small but comfortable salon and presented with a pot of tea and a tray of small sandwiches and this letter. She knew the handwriting well, for Mr. Darcy had a distinctive hand. But the presence of the letter meant that the man himself, and her sister with him, were not here. 

Without reading a word, she could see that something was wrong. The usually smooth and crisp handwriting was jagged and uneven, the result of hurry and distress, a portent of the dreadful matter mentioned within. She read the content, and then in shock, read it again.

Dear Sister Mary,

I must write quickly, and will dispense with pleasantries, for which you may castigate me when next we meet. All your family are well, never fear. But some dire events have occurred in London which prevent your sister and me from meeting you in Highbury as planned, and which must necessitate your remaining in that town for some amount of time. 

I had considered caution in relating this to you out of concern for your sensibilities, but I know you to be a reasonable and intelligent young woman who will not swoon at the news. I will not insult you by refusing to impart it. 

London is all in an uproar tonight, for only minutes ago, from the time that I write, the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval, our Prime Minister, was shot and killed in front of Parliament. I was in the neighbourhood when it occurred and heard the outcry but not the shot, and came right home to write to you.

I have sent Elizabeth back to Longbourn. She is not pleased with me, but her safety is paramount, and she may shout at me for all of her life should she wish. My only concern is her health and wellbeing. I will join her there as soon as I am able to conclude my affairs here, and we will remain there for several days until the City is brought back into order.

I must beg your forgiveness, Mary, for abandoning you in this way, and must entreat you not to return home, nor to travel anywhere near London, until such time as it is safe once more. 

I will not forsake you altogether. I know a gentleman—as fine a man as I have met, and one of the few very sensible people of my acquaintance—who lives not far from Highbury. I have already written to him to request his assistance in providing for your security and comfort whilst we all await a return to order in our country. His name is George Knightley, of Donwell Abbey, and he will see you right. 

I will send this message off at once with a fast rider, along with sufficient funds to see to your immediate comfort at the Crown Inn upon your arrival. (That explained the private salon and the tea and food.) Enclosed please find five pounds for any further needs you might incur, with a promise for more should it be required.

Your affectionate brother,

FD


About Death in Highbury

When political chaos in London forces Mary Bennet to take refuge in the picturesque town of Highbury, Surrey, she quickly finds herself safe among friends. Emma Woodhouse welcomes her as a guest at Hartfield, Jane Fairfax is delighted by her love of music, and Frank Churchill can’t stop flirting with her. But it is not long before Mary starts to suspect that beneath the charming surface, Highbury hides some dark secrets.

Alexander Lyons is sent to Surrey on an investigation, and at his friend Darcy’s request, heads to Highbury to make certain Mary is comfortable and safe. But no sooner does he arrive than one local man dies, and then another!

Soon Alexander and Mary are thrust into the middle of a baffling series of deaths. Are they accidents? Or is there a very clever murderer hiding in their midst? And can they put their personal differences aside in time to prevent yet another death in Highbury?

Buy: Amazon | Universal Buy Link


About the Author

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

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

Connect with Riana: Website | Facebook | Amazon


Giveaway

Riana is generously giving away five eBooks of Death in Highbury worldwide over the course of this blog tour, chosen randomly from people who enter. To enter, please use this Rafflecopter link.

If you don’t like Rafflecopter, you can still enter. Just send Riana an email (riana.everly@gmail.com) saying so, and she will add your name to the list for the draw. The giveaway will close at 12 a.m. EST on February 27, 2021. Good luck!


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

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Leigh Dreyer back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time with her father and co-author Paul Trockner, to celebrate the release of Came a Flight Gently, the final installment of the Pride in Flight Series, which is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. Those of you who know me well know that I adore modern versions of Austen’s novels, and I can’t wait to finally get a chance to read these. Leigh and Paul are here today to share a bit about the research process for the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!


(Paul) As a pilot this was the fun part for me.  First I went to the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) website and learned about the various classes and race courses for the event.  There’s lots of linked rabbit holes there to the different class websites, the various class rules etc.  Some of the class websites also had the requirements for pilots and the presentations made to the pilots available.  So I read through those.  The racers call a pylon race “non-cooperative formation”.  So having flown formation in the Air Force that was easy to relate to.  Then on to YouTube while I was walking on the treadmill.  There’s everything from old race videos to pilots describing the modifications they made to their aircraft.  Leigh chose the Lancair after our visit to Reno. So I found a Lancair pilot Youtube and watched that. Before the second book came out we visited the Reno Air Races and talked to some of the pilots and got insight to the training required and problems they had.  Pilots generally are a gregarious bunch when talking about airplanes and flying so for me that was fun.  Finally for the racing portion, the Lancair factory is about an hour away from my home.  So I made arrangements for a visit and talked to Conrad Huffstutler, Lancair President and Reno racer.  I asked for 15 minutes and he generously gave me about 2 hours of his time.  We talked about racing, the course, some tips and how he got started.  Then he showed me his aircraft named “Breathless”.  “Breathless” because it doesn’t have a turbocharged engine.  In it, he won first place in the Silver race in 2019.  Mr. Huffstutler also talked about modifications to the aircraft that had been done or that he considered.  I am really thankful to him as he confirmed some of the things I’d already written.  There was more but as Leigh kept reminding me it’s a romance novel with flying.

Darcy’s military flying was either based on my experience or other stories from people I’d flown with in the service.  Going to an airshow and showing off your cool fighter is one of the best ways to give yourself an ego boost. 

(Leigh) The civilian transition for Elizabeth, I based on my transition after the military.  Military vs Civilian flying are really two different mindsets.  Not better or worse just different.  The difficult part there was trying to make it relatable to the target audience of romance readers.  I had to be reminded that many would skip over something too technically detailed that’s not germane to the romance of the story or the romance of flight.  Elizabeth has both in the book.  I did search and YouTube Bonanza information and spoke to Dan Perry, a coworker who owns a Bonanza.  The American Bonanza Society website had information on the various types and provides training programs that I looked over. 

So summing up.  If you have an interest there’s probably a website to search or a YouTube out there to open up the rabbit hole. 


Excerpt from Chapter Five

“Come in or go out, but shut the door. I finally got it warm enough to work,” a gruff voice called from somewhere inside. She startled but did not move. “In or out, I don’t care. I don’t have any money and the hangar door is frozen shut. Just close the door!”

Elizabeth took a step in and closed the door behind her.

“Thank you! Now, we don’t have lessons. I only work here and don’t have time for side jobs,” came the voice from below the front of the Bonanza.

“I’m not looking for lessons or help,” she said, walking to the voice.

A tool fell to the ground, and she heard some muttering under the plane. “Well, what do you want?”

“I came to see the airplanes.”

“I’d give you a tour but I’m busy. Mrs. Reynolds does all the tours at the big house down the road. Call her and I’m sure she can get you fixed up.”

Elizabeth asked, “May I help?”

“Sure,” the voice said sarcastically. “Do you know what an oil filter wrench looks like?”

“Cap or wrap around?” queried Elizabeth as she turned around, looking around the walls and seeing toolboxes, a large work bench, and various compartments for mechanical paraphernalia.

“Wrap around”—hands appeared from under the plane and pointed—“toolbox on the wall, second drawer, and bring the shallow oil pan, and put it on the bench by the nose.”

“Okay,” she said and worked her way to the toolbox and collected the items. By the time she found the wrench and turned around, the engine of the Bonanza was uncovered, and the body of the voice was back underneath, his coveralls exposed.

“Wrench,” came the command, and she slapped the wrench into his hand like an experienced surgical nurse.

A couple grunts later, the man said, “Here, take the filter to the pan but don’t dump it. Careful, it will spill, and it’s a mess to get off the floor and your clothes.”

Elizabeth took the filter to the oil pan and did as directed, though the process was awkward in her too-large coat and gloves. The mechanic crawled off the floor and followed her.

“Grab that filter cutter.” He nodded with his nose while taking the filter. Placing the cutter over the filter, he cut around carefully and removed the bottom plate. He discarded it and poured the oil. “We’re looking for any metal chunks. There shouldn’t be any.” He took out the filter paper and unwrapped each fold. “Where’d you get that coat? Kinda big for ya. You realize you can order different sizes?”

“My husband’s,” Elizabeth answered, studying the unfolding paper. “Do you send the oil off for spectroanalysis?”

“Not this time. Only every other change,” he said. She noticed him looking at her out the corner of his eye. He pointed again.

When she returned to the table, the mechanic spoke once more. “Have to change her oil every fifty hours. The boss flew it a bunch in December, at least two trips to Texas. Built up the hours quicker than I expected. Grab that new filter. The oil is over there.”

Elizabeth dutifully grabbed the new filter and pushed the oil cart over to the aircraft. The man returned underneath and asked for the safety wire pliers. Elizabeth spotted them within his easy reach. Handing them over, she realized what he had been doing. “That was a test, wasn’t it?”

“Yep,” he answered shortly. After coming back up, the man grabbed a clean, but well-used, funnel and filled the oil.

“Good news, bad news,” he said, looking at Elizabeth. “We’ve changed the oil, but the hangar door is frozen shut so we can’t run’er up and check for leaks.” He discarded the last oil bottle and looked down at her like a professor in a university auditorium. “What do you suggest we do?”

“Frozen at the base, hinge or top?” Elizabeth asked.

“Base.”

“Water, de-ice, shovel, or sledgehammer?”

“Based on the temperature,” he said as he walked across the hangar to a small closet, “water will make it thicker before we can shovel. I’ve got some salt and the sun might be on it by now. We’d break the shovel, but I just so happen to have two sledgehammers.”

“Great. Salt and sledges it is.”

He handed her a bucket full of salt and they tramped outside. Elizabeth felt the oppressive cold freeze her cheeks in seconds and shuddered. The large hangar door was just beginning to come into full sunlight. The mechanic showed her how and where to apply the salt for the best melting effect. Once they got across the entire door, he led her back inside.

“The office is there. Just shut the door. It’ll be nice and toasty for you.”

“Thanks.”

He pointed with his chin back behind them. “There’s two chairs by the office. On the other side, you’ll see a Navy-style coffee maker. It’s water. Hot chocolate, coffee, creamer, and apple cider are alongside. I’ve got to see a man about a horse and will join you in a few.”

Elizabeth settled down to warm herself with some hot chocolate and was blowing the steam from the top when the mechanic returned. Now that they were out of the dimness of the hangar and he was not under an aircraft, she could size him up. He was about six feet tall, with short gray hair and about two hundred pounds. His coveralls were used but neat. He was clean shaven with glasses and a kind smile, surprising, considering the quiz she had just received.

“How’d you find this place?” he asked as he sat down with a cup of coffee.

“Mrs. Reynolds sent me down.”

 “I don’t need any help. I’m fifty-nine, not seventy-nine, for heaven’s sake. I can handle the airplane.”

Elizabeth stifled a smile with her cup. “Maybe she thought with two you’d like an assistant.”

“We’ve had two planes before. When Will and Richard were learning to fly, we had a Citabria and the Bonanza. Mr. Darcy and I taught them. Will’s become a great little pilot, though I shouldn’t let him hear me call him little.” Chuckling, the mechanic continued. “No, not Mr. F-22 fighter pilot.” He straightened himself. “Of course, it’s not an A-10. Now, I think he just got done flying ‘38s.”

“Did you fly in the service?” Elizabeth asked, taking a sip.

“Yep, F-111s, two tours, T-37s in between, A-10s and T-38A and Cs. Around forty-three hundred hours. But what I’m most proud of is over two thousand instructor hours.”

“How’d you become a mechanic?”

“Retired from the service. Got into some financial trouble with my ex-wife. Mr. Darcy, Will’s dad, hired me as an assistant mechanic. I apprenticed for a year, then took over when the other retired.” He looked at her over his glasses. “You aren’t in trouble, are you?”

“No, no.” Elizabeth laughed.

“By the way, I’m Steve Weston,” he said, reaching out his hand.

“Elizabeth Ben—I mean—Elizabeth Darcy.”

“You one of their cousins or something?”

“Or something,” answered Elizabeth, not wanting to ruin the moment.

“Well, hot chocolate’s done. The salt’s probably worked so we have no excuse.”

They donned their gloves again and went back to the doors. The salt had worked and the ice on the doors only required a little persuasion with the sledgehammer. Elizabeth felt a thrill run through her with the physical labor and banging the ice off the door. It’s been too long since I’ve felt useful. After several minutes of work, the large doors creaked open, filling the warmer hangar with cold air.

“We need to work quick,” Mr. Weston called loudly to her from the other side of the hangar. “The block was heated, and it’s been in the hangar, but we need to get the runup done before it cools.”

The aircraft positioned and chocked, Mr. Weston opened the back door and started the engine to let it warm and cycle the propeller. Once shut down, he motioned over to Elizabeth and showed her where to look for leaks. When they found none, they closed the hangar doors and turned up the heater. It was six when they got all the covers put on the plane and it was ready to fly again another day.

“What can you tell me about the Lancair?” she asked, pointing to the candy apple red plane next to Darcy’s Bonanza.

“Not much,” Mr. Weston said as he filed various tools away into their places. “A friend of mine flew it in for Will a couple weeks ago on a ferry permit. The builder did a good job but didn’t fly it. I’ve got the paperwork and books on it. I’ve got to do a condition check and go through all the systems. It’ll take about two months. It has better technology than the Bonanza, well at least newer, composite fuselage, fuel injection. Updated glass cockpit inside. Comfortable, stable, fast, but you have to pay attention more than a 172. You got any time?”

She let her hand glide along the smooth painted wing as she listened. “I’ve my private license and about seventy hours in the T-6.”

“Tailwheel time, eh?”

“Uh, no. The new T-6. I was in the Air Force.”

“Was?”

She shifted uncomfortably as he examined at her. She could practically see the questions running through his mind, though he had not paused his work.

“Yeah, I had a mishap and was medically retired.”

“Hmm, you’ll have to tell me about it sometime. I worked as a safety for a bit, so I enjoy hearing about those things.”

After a pause, Elizabeth summoned the courage to ask: “Mr. Weston, do you still teach?”

“Flying or mechanics?”

“Flying is what I’m most interested in at the moment. I think I would like to get my commercial and become a CFI.”

“Can you afford it? The 172 down the road rents for a hundred and fifty dollars an hour.”

“I think so—my husband has a pretty good gig, and he’s a pilot, too, so I’m sure he’ll be supportive.”

“You’re young. How long have you been married?”

“Almost four months.”

“It will take some time away from him.”

“I think he’ll be okay with it.”

“Huh, let me check with the boss. I don’t think he’d be upset. He just moved back so hopefully no more random trips across the country. Though, with more consistent flying, he might need me around a little more often than in the past.”

“How much will you charge to instruct?” Mr. Weston laughed, a jolly sort of chuckle that Elizabeth found appealing, contrasting his initial porcupine-like personality. He seemed a teddy bear sort of person, one who was initially gruff, but quite warm once he welcomed you to his circle of trust.

“You live near here?”

A smile crossed her face, and she said, “Pretty close.”

“How about you come clean and sweep the hangar, help me with the aircraft, and bring me donuts once a week?”

As she reached out her hand to make the deal, an artic blast came whooshing through the door. Both of them yelled, “Come in or go out, but shut the door!” Shaking hands, they grinned at each other.


About Came a Flight Gently

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together. An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)


About the Authors

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!) when 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 was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.  

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

Connect with Leigh Dreyer: Email: leighdreyerauthor@gmail.com | Facebook | Goodreads | Website


Giveaway

Leigh and Paul are generously offering an ebook of Came a Flight Gently to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, February 28, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Leigh and Paul, for being my guests today, and congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, friends! I am thrilled to welcome Heather Moll back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Nine Ladies, a novel that combines Pride and Prejudice and time travel. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Heather is here to take you on a tour of Bakewell, which is featured in the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello Anna and thank you for welcoming me back to Diary of an Eccentric! Today I’m going to take your readers on a tour of some of the real places mentioned in Nine Ladies. Now, I know what some are you are thinking: “Heather, I heard this story has time travel. What is real about that?” While you may not be able to travel through time 200 years by standing in a stone circle during certain solar events, the places that our modern Elizabeth visits before she goes back in time to meet Regency Darcy are real.

I finished the manuscript for Nine Ladies in 2018, and in 2019 I visited Derbyshire with a dear friend for our own Elizabeth Bennet tour. Bakewell was our home-base and it’s also where Elizabeth is staying in 2011 when Nine Ladies opens.

This is Bank House on Bath Street in Bakewell. When Darcy rode through Bakewell in 1811, it was a girls’ school, but by the time Elizabeth comes to England it was converted into 3 flats, and she’s renting the second one from Professor Gardiner.

Elizabeth’s friends from Sheffield decide that she needs some cheering up after her father’s death and they come to spend the weekend with her. They leave her flat and walk toward the town center to have breakfast. They pass the Rutland Arms, an inn built in 1804. Jane Austen is believed to have stayed here in 1811.

By the way, I had an amazing sandwich at the Lambton Larder. Nice name, right?

Elizabeth and her friends, Charlotte Lucas and her sister Maria, Willie Collins, and Missy King, then take a bus to nearby Haddon Hall.

Haddon is a 900 year old manor house that is still a private residence and one of the only houses in England that has remained in one family’s ownership. It was empty throughout the Georgian and Victorian era while the family lived elsewhere. When Elizabeth visits Haddon in Nine Ladies, she’s not impressed by the Tudor and Medieval styling, but she does like the terraced walled gardens.

Later, her friends have to decide to visit either a Bronze Age stone circle or the ruins of a Georgian-era home. They decide on the ruins, but the stone circle stays in Elizabeth’s mind.

Of course, they have to finish the afternoon with a Bakewell pudding. This is my friend’s dessert because I ate mine too fast before it even occurred to me to take a picture of it.

After her friends leave, Elizabeth decides to see the Nine Ladies stone circle herself. She walks to Stanton Moor and sees the real Nine Ladies, a stone circle that’s 4,000-years old.

In Nine Ladies, if you stand in the center of the stone circle at sunset on an equinox—in the 21st century—you’ll go back in time 200 years. The one-way portal opens again on a solstice, and anyone inside will move forward in time from the 19th century to the 21st.

I stood in the center of that stone circle for a while, but I didn’t go anywhere. No regency men for me. But if you read Nine Ladies you’ll find out what happens when a 21st century Elizabeth goes back in time to meet 19th century Darcy.


About Nine Ladies

The Darcy family has grudgingly kept the secret about the power contained within a nearby stone circle called Nine Ladies. Fitzwilliam Darcy is forced to contend with this secret when a young woman from the future appears at Pemberley. Until the opinionated stranger can return to when she belongs, Darcy is responsible not only for her safety, but also for ensuring that nothing she does threatens Pemberley’s well-being.

Elizabeth Bennet has returned to England to take care of her estranged father, and her life was off track long before she walked into that stone circle at sunset. She quickly discovers that, as a poor and single woman, she’ll have to rely on the arrogant Mr. Darcy. She tries her best to survive in the nineteenth-century until she can return home but, as she and Darcy grow closer, the truth she knows about his and Pemberley’s bleak future becomes harder to keep.

How can Darcy and Elizabeth overcome 200 years of differences in this era-spanning love story?

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Heather Moll is an avid reader of mysteries and biographies with a masters in information science. She found Jane Austen later than she should have and made up for lost time by devouring her letters and unpublished works, joining JASNA, and spending too much time researching the Regency era. She is the author of Nine Ladies, Two More Days at Netherfield, and His Choice of a Wife. She lives with her husband and son and struggles to balance all of the important things, like whether or not to buy groceries or stay home and write. Visit her blog and subscribe to her newsletter for a freebie and monthly updates. Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsInstagram, and Twitter.


Giveaway

Heather is generously offering a giveaway of 6 ebook copies of Nine Ladies as part of the blog tour, open internationally. This giveaway ends on February 13. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!


Thanks, Heather, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, friends! Grace Gibson is here today to celebrate the release of her newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Reckless, Headstrong Girl, part of Meryton Press’s Skirmish & Scandal series. Grace is here to share an excerpt from the book that we hope you’ll all enjoy. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you for having me Anna! I would like to share a little excerpt from Reckless, Headstrong Girl. Shortly after her elopement with George Wickham, Lydia Bennet has found herself in a bit of a pickle…

Shock, having taken hold, suspended even the silliest thoughts that were prone to arise in the mind of Miss Lydia Bennet, age fifteen, of Longbourn, Hertfordshire. She was acutely aware of the rumble of the wheels of the retreating coach, the low chuckle of the outrider, the subsequent chirping of crickets in the ditch, a few stars shining through the humid haze, and the throbbing in her rear from being thrown onto the hardened clay of the ruts in the road. How long she sat slumped and uncomprehending in this state she could not guess, but eventually, outrage replaced shock, and she staggered upright and screamed at the top of her lungs.

After venting the worst of her rage in roars and unholy howls of indignation, she devolved into sobs, hiccoughs, and moans. Lydia Bennet stood—alone—upon the London road in the dark. Surely Wickham would come back for her, she began to reason, although reasoning was not her strong suit. He could not be so lost to honor and duty that he would abandon a gentleman’s daughter in the wilds of West Sussex in the middle of the night.

Roughly two hours later, Lydia began to think that perhaps Mr. Wickham was not a gentleman after all. When he finally returned for her, she would tell him off at the top of her lungs! This seemed a paltry punishment for what he had done to her, and yet, as she would be dependent upon him to restore her to Colonel Forster’s home, she could hardly tear out his liver with her bare hands. The image of doing so, however, was quite sustaining. Consequently, Lydia—thinking darkly of throwing George Wickham’s beloved Hessians into the fire, cutting his pomaded curls off his head as he lay in a drunken stupor, seeing him bound, pale and weeping, in a tumbrel headed for the guillotine, or paying a thoroughly disreputable sea captain to press him into the lower decks of a second-rate ship headed for Java—finally looked around her. She could hardly remain standing in the road. If the night mail were to pass, she would be plowed down by a team of six at the gallop.

If you are curious as to what happens next in Lydia’s adventure, part two of this excerpt will be featured on February 8th at Austenesque Reviews. Hope to see you there!


About Reckless, Headstrong Girl

A scandalous flight, an inconsiderate couple—

How can things have gone so terribly wrong for Lydia Bennet?

In Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Lydia Bennet runs away from Brighton with George Wickham, but this adaptation of Lydia’s adventures is not your typical story about this brash couple.

Mr. Wickham, proving he is no gentleman, does the unthinkable and casts Lydia out of a second-rate coach. Filthy, exhausted, and penniless, Lydia is just facing the beginning of her ordeal! How can a spoiled, uneducated girl of fifteen—used to having her way—survive a night in the wilds of Sussex?

As Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner vainly search for her in London, Lydia’s sisters struggle to keep her secret from their Meryton neighbors. Though they fear the worst—that Lydia’s wild life has ended in tragedy—all hope is not lost. Mr. Darcy, in the midst of reigniting his courtship with Elizabeth, is determined to recover his love’s unfortunate sibling.

Will Mr. Darcy succeed in finding Lydia and restoring her to respectability? In what shocking condition will this catastrophe render such a reckless, headstrong girl?

*****

The novella, Reckless, Headstrong Girl, may be purchased on Amazon US and Amazon UK. It is available as an eBook, a Paperback, and through Kindle Unlimited. The audiobook, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, should be released in about a month.


About the Author

In addition to mosaic art, which I create at Studio Luminaria, my home-based glass shop in El Paso, Texas, I enjoy writing regency romance and Pride and Prejudice variations for pleasure.   

Contact Info:  Facebook

Other Books by Grace Gibson

Silver Buckles is available on Amazon. “Old Boots” will be coming summer 2021.


Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering 1 ebook copy of Reckless, Headstrong Girl to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, February 14, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!


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

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