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Today’s guests are the authors of the new anthology, A Very Austen Romance: Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, Barbara Cornthwaite, Chautona Havig, and Mandy H. Cook. I’m a huge fan of these Austen anthologies, so I was thrilled to hear there was a third installment. These talented authors are here to share a little about their collection of novellas, along with a few excerpts. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Please give them a warm welcome!

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We are very excited to offer our third anthology to you, A Very Austen Romance.

That’s right, we’re back with another “book that friendship built.” This sounds like a marketing slogan, but with us it’s actually true. The Internet is how we met, and over the years we have encouraged one another as writers. One day we hope to meet together in person. For now, come share our friendship as we offer these new, Austen-inspired Regency novellas to you.

This time, Chautona Havig is joining us as guest author. Chautona is new to JAFF, but she is not at all a newbie writer.

A Very Austen Romance is ready-made for summer reading. And goodness, this book is LONG. (You’ll know that if you peek at the price of the paperback!)

We love these stories, and we think you will too. You’ll smile, you’ll sigh, and you’ll even laugh a little.

Kindle Unlimited subscribers, A Very Austen Romance is ready and waiting!

Here’s what’s inside:

The King of Hearts by Robin Helm

Twenty-year-old Kitty Bennet, the only unmarried Bennet sister, goes for an extended visit with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy in London where Elizabeth decides to host a coming out ball in Kitty’s honor.

Four eligible bachelors compete for Kitty’s favor, but only one can win her hand.

Kitty has the wonderful, awful task of selecting one from a field of no bad choices. Which man will she choose?

You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl by Laura Hile

It is Darcy’s duty to marry Anne—and Lady Catherine is determined to see that he does, even if she must have him abducted! But her nefarious plan goes horribly wrong, for the kidnappers seize the wrong girl.

A Step Too Far by Wendi Sotis

While touring his friend’s new estate, Fitzwilliam Darcy comes across a young lady in jeopardy. Even though coming to her aid could also ruin her reputation, he refuses to risk her life by leaving her in such a perilous situation.

During her daily amble, Miss Elizabeth Bennet takes one step too many. Is she in love with the man who saved her life, or is it simply a deep sense of obligation that will fade with time?

John Knightley Takes a Wife by Barbara Cornthwaite

Young John Knightley is in love—so in love that he agrees to invite the beautiful Miss Maria Dudley’s wild younger brother for a visit to the family estate at Donwell Abbey. John finds he’s got his work cut out for him thanks to Dudley’s fondness for pranks and port. But when Dudley sets his sights on Isabella Woodhouse—or, rather, her fortune—John’s views on love and honor are challenged and he must decide what kind of man he really wants to be.

In the Looking Glass by Mandy H Cook

Fanny Bingley, twenty-year-old daughter of Jane and Charles Bingley, chafes under the restrictions placed upon women of her time period. She decides to take matters into her own hands, and unlike her ten siblings, charts her own course to love, finding a husband in an unlikely manner.

Charming Miss Dashwood by Chautona Havig

All Conrad Thayer wanted was a respite in the country and the luxury of days spent in a fine library. However, Margaret Dashwood and a roving band of “highwaymen” have stolen that opportunity, and in regard to Miss Dashwood, his heart along with it.

We are:

Robin Helm

Robin Helm of South Carolina, author of Understanding Elizabeth and More to Love.

Laura Hile

Laura Hile, author of Darcy By Any Other Name and So This Is Love, from northwest Oregon.

Wendi Sotis

From Long Island, New York, Wendi Sotis, author of With My Whole Heart Forever and A Lesson Hard Learned.

Barbara Cornthwaite

Barbara Cornthwaite, author of the George Knightley, Gentleman books and a soon-to-be-released cozy mystery series, from rural Ireland.

Mandy H. Cook

Living in Maryland (for now), globe-trotting Mandy H Cook, author of The Gifted.

Chautona Havig

Joining us as Guest Author, from California’s Tehachapi Desert is Chautona Havig, author of Allerednic and many other titles.

Connect with the A Very Austen authors: Facebook | Amazon

Buy links:

A Very Austen Romance is available as an eBook and paperback, and is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon | Goodreads

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Excerpts

From A Step Too Far  by Wendi Sotis

Darcy had made his decision to avoid the lady, and since he had thought of little else since, it made absolutely no sense that, upon returning to the house after their morning ride, when Mrs. Curtis informed them that Miss Elizabeth was feeling well enough to traipse down the corridor for a change of scenery, he experienced a burning need to rush through his toilette so he could come here, to the music room, and wait. All the while, he found himself anxiously hoping that Miss Elizabeth did not suffer a relapse and have to cancel her outing again.

In fact, after not seeing her the entire day yesterday, he felt if he did not have the opportunity to lay eyes on her and speak to her very soon, he might actually perish.

He stopped pacing and inhaled deeply. It is quite possible I have gone mad!

“What is wrong, Darcy?” Bingley asked.

He shook his head to end his stupor. “Why do you ask?”

Bingley laughed. “You look as though the devil himself had just walked up to greet you.”

Darcy ignored the comment. “What are we doing here, Bingley? It is the middle of the day. We should be hunting or fishing, or riding out to the tenant houses to check on the progress of the labourers.”

“We just returned from doing exactly that, Darcy.” Bingley’s expression was one of exaggerated concern. “Are you sure all is right with you?”

Annoyed, he answered, “I am fine.”

Bingley seemed satisfied. “Well then, to answer your question, we are here awaiting the ladies.”

Darcy clenched his jaw. “Have you checked with Mrs. Curtis? Are they coming, or have you assumed they are? Are we wasting our time here, Bingley?”

“They are, at this very moment, preparing to join us.”

As Bingley finished his pronouncement, the door opened. Bingley sprang from his chair and moved towards it.

In came Miss Bennet. Bingley stopped short, his grin was so wide the corners of his lips almost reached his ears.

Miss Bennet looked up, smiled at Bingley, and then blushed heartily as she turned to push the door open wider.

Miss Elizabeth came through next, leaning heavily on a footman’s arm.

Envy exploded in Darcy’s chest. Or was it jealousy? He pushed the thought away.

No, Darcy was angry—at himself. He was a gentleman. Gentlemen are supposed to predict a lady’s needs and fulfill them, but he had not anticipated that Miss Elizabeth would require an escort. If he were sane, perhaps he would have waited in the corridor outside her chambers. This simply proved again that he was not in full wits.

Before he knew what he was about, Darcy had already moved across the room and offered his arm to the injured lady.

He flared his nostrils. So much for avoiding her.

When Miss Elizabeth’s clear, jade-green eyes caught his gaze, it was as if every unpleasant feeling he had experienced in the past day and a half were swept away, leaving behind only an agreeable warmth in his soul. His heart swelled when, without hesitation, she reached out and wrapped her hand around his arm.

Why did she have this effect on him? And why did he enjoy it so much?

She smiled and all rational thought left his head.

From John Knightley Takes a Wife by Barbara Corthwaite

It was obvious to George, watching from across the room, that the enchanting Miss Dudley appeared to have his brother on a string. It was also clear to him that she was a heartless little flirt. While she danced with John, she had eyes for no one but him, and seemed to convey that there was nothing on earth so fascinating to her as whatever he was talking about. George was too far away to hear what they were saying, of course, but he could see them bantering and laughing with each other. During the next dance, when John had a different partner, George watched Miss Dudley dance with another young man. She looked just as happy to be dancing with him as she had with John, and when the dance ended she said something quietly to him that made his face light up. A sense of foreboding crept over George.

John, for his part, was elated for himself and irritated with his brother. He had known that George would not dance, but he thought he might have put himself out more. Part of his reason for inviting George had indeed been so that he might meet the incomparable Maria. But another, almost equally strong reason was so that he could fall in love himself. George was always sequestered away at Donwell with no eligible young ladies anywhere nearby, growing old alone. He was settling into middle age much too rapidly—it would do him good to be in love and provide a mistress for Donwell. In the giddiness of his own infatuation, John was eager to see everyone around him matched up as well. He had allowed himself to hope that George would meet a lady who would so awaken his admiration that he would instantly ask her to dance.

But there George was instead, talking sedately to Major Thomas, while ladies of all ages eyed him in varying degrees of furtiveness and positioned themselves near him in case he would be inclined to ask to be introduced to them. George could, no doubt, have won any one of them—he was handsome, wealthy, and honorable.

“He will not take the trouble to invest in his own happiness,” muttered John, and went over to his brother to see if he could provoke him into doing such a thing.

“Is Arthur Dudley here?” George asked before John could say anything.

“No. I thought he would be, but it appears he cried off.”

“I see you had your dances with Miss Dudley.”

“I intend to have more.”

“Do you? How very optimistic you are. It seems that there are any number of young bucks waiting to ask her to dance.”

“At least I know you will not be of that number.”

“I think I may break with tradition and ask her. She is, after all, very beautiful.”

The corner of John’s mouth quivered. “I think I will punish you for that.” He glanced around and saw a lady passing. “Miss Oliver!”
The young lady paused and turned toward the brothers. She was a plain-faced woman of about twenty-eight, but she had an intelligent eye and a ready smile.

“How do you do, Mr. Knightley?”

“Very well, I thank you. May I present my brother, Mr. George Knightley? He hopes to engage you for the two next dances.”

From You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl by Laura Hile

Bound, gagged, and blindfolded, Mr. Darcy is being transported to who-knows-where. Then he realizes that he is not alone …
The wheels hit another rut in the road. This one was deep, and the wagon swayed dangerously. “What in blue blazes?” shouted a woman’s voice. “This ain’t no time to be drinking, you git!”

“A fellow needs something to warm him,” a man’s voice shouted back. “That wind cuts like a knife.”

“If we break an axle out here, we’re done for.”

“Hobgoblins and ghostly horsemen of the moor? Bah. Bogeys to scare children.”

“Not goblins, you dolt. Marshes and bogs have what they calls quicksand. That what swallows man and beast alive. So keep your wits about you.”

“It’s Dartmoor Prison I’m not liking. Too close for comfort, that is.”

Darcy frowned in an effort to think. The vile potion his captors had him swilling made his head swim. Dartmoor Prison. Did this mean they were in Devon?

The wagon gave another jolt and listed to one side. “Gor blast it, Manny! Slow down! We’ll be ditched if you keep to this pace.”

The wagon righted itself and went lumbering on. Darcy heard his fellow prisoner groan.

Here was another perplexity. That he was kidnapped for ransom was understandable, but why involve a woman?

Unless it was his cousin, Anne.

Of course it was Anne. Who else could it be? Even without this ordeal, his cousin’s life was not a happy one. And now she was being held for ransom.

With a miserable howl, the wind buffeted the wagon’s high sides. “Blast this infernal wind!” the man shouted. “What was Jackman thinking?

Why this godforsaken place?”

“For easy money, that’s what. Nab the gent and the girl; dump them here and clear out.”

“Why not hide ’em in London? Instead of driving two hundred miles and more in all this cold? What I wouldn’t give for a warm fire and a pint.”

“We’ll have both soon enough, once we get free of the moor. If you don’t ditch the wagon!”

The wind howled, and his captors continued to complain. At length Darcy grew weary of listening to them. If only his headache would abate, perhaps then he could think!

Sometime later he woke to more cursing.

“How do you know it’s the right house?”

“Only one out here, dolt. Can’t miss it, Jackman said. There’s the lake and there’s the house.”

At last the wagon ground to a halt. Darcy came fully awake, every sense on the alert. God only knew what would come next.

“Took you long enough,” a voice shouted.

“This ain’t exactly the easiest spot to find. Lend a hand. I want to be away before nightfall.”

“No need to be telling me twice.”

When the wagon’s doors came open, Darcy felt the bite of the cold wind. The scent of rain was in the air.

Anne was taken from the wagon first, and she moaned several times. This was difficult to hear, but it meant she was alive.

Presently the men returned for Darcy. He was pulled into a sitting position, and the rope binding his ankles was removed. When his feet met the ground, Darcy realised that he wore only stockings. What had happened to his riding boots?

“March,” someone ordered. Darcy did so, stumbling over wet, rocky terrain. And then it began to rain. A chorus of curses erupted.

Rough hands pushed Darcy along. Then a surprise: his feet encountered wooden boards. The hollow sound reminded Darcy of a dock, and his guess turned out to be correct. Amid complaints about his size and weight, he was lowered into a small boat. The rain gained in strength; Darcy could hear it hissing against the surface of the water. Oars were fitted; the boat swayed precariously. Finally, it was pushed clear of the dock.

Darcy struggled to think. Were he and Anne being taken out of England? But that could not be right. To board a seagoing vessel, shouldn’t they be in a port city? Hold hard, someone had mentioned a lake. Was this significant? He wished he knew.

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Giveaway

The authors are very generously offering an ebook copy of A Very Austen Romance to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway is open through Thursday, July 2, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you to all the authors for being my guests today, and congratulations on your new release! I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes there’s another anthology on the horizon…

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Source: Review copy from the authors

I had some problems with my laptop over the past few days, so I apologize for my review being late, but thankfully it’s up and running again. I’m so glad because I’m thrilled to be sharing this book with all of you. I adored A Very Austen Christmas, so when I saw that some of my favorite JAFF authors were back with A Very Austen Valentine, I couldn’t pass it up. And I’m delighted to say that I wasn’t disappointed one bit.

A Very Austen Valentine has a little bit of everything for the Austen fan, and of course, plenty of romance for Valentine’s Day. Robin Helm’s “I Dream of You” has the Darcys settling into married life and Elizabeth devising ways for them to get to know each other on a deeper level. Laura Hile’s “Sir Walter Takes a Wife” is the perfect Persuasion/Pride and Prejudice mashup that made me laugh so hard I cried. Wendi Sotis’ “My Forever Valentine” has Elizabeth and Darcy meeting in Kent after the Bingleys have married, with Richard and Anne helping things along. Barbara Cornthwaite’s “Pretence and Prejudice” has Darcy and Elizabeth meeting in a completely different way, with spies and romance! Mandy H. Cook’s “My Valentine” is the love story of the Darcys’ daughter, Charlotte, and brings in some characters from Sense and Sensibility. Finally, Susan Kaye’s “The Lovers’ Ruse” imagines what might have happened if Anne Elliot hadn’t been persuaded to give up Captain Wentworth.

All of the stories are beautifully written, and despite being shorter works, they are perfectly paced and completely satisfying. I loved the mix of stories, covering different points in Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship and featuring characters from other Austen novels — and even original characters. Moreover, the stories are very different from each other and equally enjoyable — and it’s hard to find anthologies where you like ALL of the stories. A Very Austen Valentine is a must-read for JAFF fans, and I truly hope these authors release another anthology in the future.

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About A Very Austen Valentine

I Dream of You by Robin Helm

Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her.  A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action.

Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs.

My Forever Valentine by Wendi Sotis

Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes?

Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions.

My Valentine by Mandy H. Cook

Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart?

The Lovers’ Ruse by Susan Kaye

In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth’s love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. “The Lovers’ Ruse” follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag.

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

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About the Authors

Robin Helm

Robin Helm’s books reflect her love of music, as well as her fascination with the paranormal and science fiction.

Previously published works include The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy (a guardian angel protects a supernaturally gifted girl), the Yours by Design series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours (Fitzwilliam Darcy switches places in time with his descendant, Will Darcy), and Understanding Elizabeth (Regency romance).

She contributed to A Very Austen Christmas: Austen Anthologies, Book 1, an anthology featuring like-minded authors, in 2017. A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2  was released on December 29, 2018. A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3 is planned for December 2019.

She lives in sunny South Carolina and adores her one husband, two married daughters, and three grandchildren.

Connect with Robin: Amazon Author PageBeyondAusten.comTwitter | Facebook (Robin Helm) | Facebook (Austen Anthologies) | Instagram @jrhelm or @AustenAnthologies | GoodreadsBlog

Laura Hile

Readers are loving Laura Hile’s joyous Regency novels. Her signature style—with intertwined plots, cliffhangers, laugh-out-loud humor, and romance—keeps them coming back for more.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with teen students!

Laura lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a collection of antique clocks.

Her fiction is for everyone, even teens. 

Connect with Laura: Amazon Author PageBlogTwitterFacebookBeyondAusten.comGoodreads

Wendi Sotis

Wendi Sotis lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and triplets. While searching for Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view, she became thoroughly enamored with Jane Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF. In early 2010, she dreamed of an idea for a story and hasn’t stopped writing since: Promises, Dreams and Expectations; All Hallows Eve; The Keys for Love; Safekeeping (with just a dash of Austen); The Gypsy Blessing; Foundation of Love (The Gypsy Blessing 2); and A Lesson Hard Learned.

The Marriage Pact, and some of Wendi’s works-in-progress, have branched away from JAFF to Regency Romance (the Loving an Aldridge Series) and Contemporary Romantic Mysteries (the Implicated series). Wendi will also continue bringing Darcy and Elizabeth together again and again in an unusual manner.

Connect with Wendi: Amazon Author Page | WebsiteFacebookTwitter | BeyondAusten.comGoodreads

Barbara Cornthwaite

Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before “retiring” to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling her six children, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle). She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.

Connect with Barbara: Amazon Author PageJane Started It!

Susan Kaye

Susan Kaye discovered Jane Austen and writing at about the same time. She leads a quiet life with her husband and dog, Harley. “I don’t know a lot, but I do know I’ve probably spent more time with Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot than just about anybody else.”

Connect with Susan: Amazon Author PageJane Started It! | Facebook

Mandy H. Cook

Mandy Cook was an RN for over ten years, half of which she served in the Navy, living in far-flung places, enjoying experiencing the world while following her calling. Just before she and her handsome Marine were both deployed to different places, they married. They now have three children, ages four and younger.

She previously published The Gifted, using her nursing experience to lend accuracy to her story about an ER nurse who is handed a gift that changes her life forever. Adversity, and a long history of secrets, constantly battle against her natural instinct for truth and justice, but will the truth be worth the dare?

Connect with Mandy: Facebook | Instagram @hisloved1s

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Giveaway

The authors are generously offering an ebook of A Very Austen Valentine to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will run through Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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01/06 Just the Write Escape

01/07 Margie’s Must Reads

01/08 So Little Time…

01/09 Babblings of a Bookworm

01/10 Half Agony, Half Hope

01/11 Austenesque Reviews

01/12 My Love for Jane Austen

01/14 From Pemberley to Milton

01/15 My life journey

01/16 My Vices and Weaknesses

01/18 Diary of an Eccentric

01/20 Darcyholic Diversions

01/21 Austenprose

Disclosure: I received a copy of A Very Austen Valentine from the authors for review.

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Source: Review copy from authors

Merry Christmas, my dear readers! I will have some mini reviews of Christmas books when I return next week after the holidays, but in the meantime, I have some special treats for you today, so stay tuned!

When I heard that Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, and Barbara Cornthwaite were releasing the story anthology A Very Austen Christmas, I couldn’t wait to read it, having enjoyed novels from all of these ladies in the past. And I definitely was not disappointed with these delightfully sweet Christmas tales.

Robin Helm’s “Her Christmas Gift” brings Elizabeth Bennet to Rosings for Christmas, where she is reunited with Mr. Darcy after he saved her family’s reputation, as well as an old friend who has his eye on her. Laura Hile’s “The Christmas Matchmaker” brings Elizabeth and Jane to Netherfield with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, along with Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, Thomas Bertram, and some Christmas magic via “Aunt Jane.” Wendi Sotis’ “No Better Gift” brings Mr. Darcy to Mertyon for Christmas, where he finds the village deserted, and when he learns what has happened, both he and Elizabeth come to realize they had misunderstood each other. Finally, Barbara Cornthwaite’s “Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey” brings readers to the world of Mansfield Park where Edmund plans to propose to Fanny at Christmas.

I loved these sweet tales and how the joys of the Christmas season were an important part of each, and I loved the little bits of humor sprinkled in with the romance. I also loved how the focus was on Pride and Prejudice, but there were characters from Emma and Mansfield Park as well. Each of these stories was different, but they worked together as collection, and I found myself looking forward to escaping into these stories as I unwound from some busy days at work. I can definitely see myself reading this collection again during future holiday seasons. After all, you can never have too much of Elizabeth and Darcy falling in love!

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The first treat I have for you is an excerpt from “The Christmas Matchmaker” by Laura Hile. Enjoy!

It no longer mattered that Elizabeth’s mother was noisy and ambitious—and her younger sisters too. Or that her portion was considered contemptable. He admired her. No, he loved her.

Love. There, he had said it. Or rather he had thought it—which was almost the same thing.

The only question left was what to do. How to tell her what was in his heart? Would she respond in kind? Or did she dislike him as much as ever?

But she had kissed him in that dream. Surely this counted for something!

Darcy’s thoughts were interrupted by Lydia Bennet’s voice. She, along with her sister Kitty, had come to call.

“We are supposed to be shopping in Meryton,” Lydia was saying. “And so we shall be—later.” Apparently the driver of the family carriage had been bribed to silence, a source of much hilarity.

“We’ve already had the mumps,” Kitty pointed out, “so it makes no difference. We simply had to come, Lizzy, for we’ve such news!”

Lydia took up the tale. “Mr. Collins leaves for Hunsford tomorrow, but oh, Lizzy, you will never believe it. He is engaged—actually engaged—to Charlotte Lucas.”

Elizabeth appeared stunned. “You—cannot mean it,” she said.

Apparently her sisters did. “Lady Lucas held the engagement dinner yesterday night,” Kitty assured her. “The wedding is set for early January.”

And then Darcy noticed Miss Woodhouse. She was looking hard at each of the sisters. “How very odd,” she said. “I could have sworn that Mr. Collins’s interests lay elsewhere. Not that I wish ill on Miss—Lucas did you say?”

Lydia kept talking. “And dear Wickham sends his love. He says it is not the same without you, Lizzy, although I cannot see why. We have the merriest evenings together.”

“It’s all tipsy dance and jollity,” gushed Kitty.

“I beg your pardon?” said Elizabeth.

“It’s—the name of a song, Lizzy,” Kitty protested. “You needn’t look so cross.”

Actually, it was a line from Milton’s Comus, but this fact would be lost on Kitty Bennet.

Elizabeth’s sisters soon took their leave. Darcy watched Elizabeth cross to the far side of the room and stand before the windows.

Emma Woodhouse, meanwhile, was frowning at the carpet. “I do not understand it,” Darcy heard her tell Miss Bates. “Mr. Collins’s interests were so clearly in another direction. Ah well, I have someone else in mind for her, at any rate.”

“You are always so clever, Miss Woodhouse,” said Miss Bates. “Christmastide, as we well know, is such a time for weddings and engagements. It is a wonderful time of year.”

Would his own engagement be included with the rest? Darcy turned a page of his newspaper.

“I take no credit for dear Jane and Mr. Bingley—that match was already well underway. But his sister?” Although Emma lowered her voice, Darcy could still hear. “An alliance with Mr. Darcy would be very nice; it would bring both families together. As you know, when our Isabella married John Knightley, it answered in every way.”

Darcy knew that he should excuse himself and go out, but Emma was bent on talking. He kept still behind his newspaper.

“My dear, dear Miss Woodhouse,” began Miss Bates, “far be it from me to raise an objection—of any kind. But Miss Bingley is not a soft-spoken sort of person, is she? And dear Mr. Darcy—”

“And Mr. Darcy is,” said Emma, interrupting. “Opposites attract! Now then,” she went on, “if we could only manage to keep Mr. Bertram at home of an evening, he and Elizabeth could get on. He is much too fond of card-playing.”

“As was dear Grandpapa,” lamented Miss Bates. “Although horse racing was his downfall—as it is with so many gentlemen.”

Darcy turned another page. Tom Bertram could go to the devil, for all he cared. He’d had enough of the man’s simpering ways and fashionable manners. But as the husband of Elizabeth? Preposterous!

“I dare say he will learn to outgrow it, although Mr. Knightley would probably disagree. He has the most old-fashioned notions as to character.” Emma hesitated for a moment. “But no, Elizabeth is too lovely and too charming to marry just anyone. She deserves to be the next Lady Bertram, and if I have my way, so shall she be.”

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About A Very Austen Christmas

Her Christmas Gift by Robin Helm

Elizabeth Bennet finds herself snowbound at Rosings with two rejected, but highly eligible, suitors. Does either man have a chance? Will her childhood friend, Meryton’s golden boy, win her affection, or will she accept the master of Pemberley? Perhaps she will refuse them both a second time.  Her Christmas Gift deftly combines tension and emotion with humor and romance.

The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile

It’s raining; it’s pouring – and what could be better than a little Christmas matchmaking? So says Emma Woodhouse who is unexpectedly stranded at Netherfield Park. Mr. Darcy disagrees, for she has someone else in mind for adorable Elizabeth Bennet. Amid meddling, misunderstanding, and an unwelcome proposal or two, will True Love find a way?

No Better Gift by Wendi Sotis

On his way to Derbyshire to spend Christmas with his family, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy plans to retrieve an item he left behind during his rushed escape from Netherfield—and the country miss who touched his heart. Finding Meryton practically deserted, he fears the worst. What fate could have fallen upon this once-thriving village in only three weeks? More importantly, was Miss Elizabeth Bennet in danger?

Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey by Barbara Cornthwaite

When Edmund Bertram realizes that Fanny is the perfect wife for him, he wants to propose without delay. What better time than at Christmas? Ah, but the course of true love never does run smooth …

Check out the book on Amazon

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Giveaway

And the last (but not least) special treat I have for you is a giveaway for an ebook copy of A Very Austen Christmas, generously offered by the authors. To ensure the lucky winner has a chance to delve into this book before Christmas, this will be a quick giveaway, ending at Noon Eastern Time tomorrow, Saturday, December 23, 2017. To enter, please leave your email address in the comment, so the book can be sent to you right away. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received A Very Austen Christmas from the authors for review.

 

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lend me leave

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

They never fumbled a hand clasp or mis-timed a dos-a-dos: they anticipated each other’s movements.  For this moment they were in complete harmony.  It was the first time they had danced together; it might very well be the last, too, but he would enjoy it to the full.

(from Lend Me Leave, pages 75-76)

Lend Me Leave is the second of two books by Barbara Cornthwaite about George Knightley, the hero of Jane Austen’s Emma.  It picks up right where Charity Envieth Not left off in retelling Emma through Mr. Knightley’s eyes.  Beware of possible spoilers from the first book.

Mr. Knightley is determined to win Emma Woodhouse’s heart, but he is crushed when he believes she has succumbed to Frank Churchill’s charms.  He isn’t sure what those glances between Churchill and Jane Fairfax are all about, but he fears his beloved Emma is headed for heartbreak.  Mr. Knightley resorts to quietly wooing Emma — so quietly that his attempts go unnoticed.

Only Mr. Spencer, the curate at Donwell, knows Knightley’s pain.  He understands it, too, given his failed attempts to win over the widow Mrs. Catherwood, whose kindness stole his heart.  The two men decide there is little they can do but watch their beloveds marry other men and try to move on with their lives.  Although Knightley spends his evenings agonizing over Emma and pouring his heart out to his cat, Madam Duval, he spends his days trying to solve a rash of thefts in the village and figure out what to do about a mentally ill woman living with one his tenants.

If you read my review of Charity Envieth Not, you know how much I love Mr. Knightley and how I delighted in getting to see into his thoughts.  I think I loved him even more in Lend Me Leave and thought his talking to the cat was both sweet and funny.  Cornthwaite proves that you don’t need sex in a novel to show the passion between two characters, as evidenced in Knightley’s thoughts about the dance he shares with Emma at the ball.  When I read Emma, I longed to know what was going on in Knightley’s head.  He seemed so solid, so strong, so sure of himself, and Cornthwaite gives readers a chance to see how he goes from self-assured to anxious mess on the inside, which makes him even more endearing to me.

I really loved these two books and really hope Cornthwaite will revisit Knightley and Emma in the future.  Her love and respect for Austen’s characters really shines through, and her original characters fit into the book so well.  I can definitely see myself re-reading them down the road.

Disclosure: Lend Me Leave is from my personal library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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charity envieth not

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

He could see from Emma’s face that she was a little taken aback by his harsh words.  He did not repent them, however.  She had been wrong before and suffered humiliation; if he could keep her from doing the same again, he would.

(from Charity Envieth Not, page 149)

Charity Envieth Not is the first of two novels by Barbara Cornthwaite about George Knightley, the hero of Jane Austen’s Emma.  It’s a delightful retelling of Emma through Mr. Knightley’s eyes, from the start of Emma’s matchmaking schemes through Emma and Frank Churchill’s plans for a ball in Highbury.

Unlike some of the other Austen heroes, it’s obvious from the start that Mr. Knightley is among the best of men.  He is intelligent and generous, has impeccable manners, and is always honest.  In letters to his brother, John, Cornthwaite shows off Knightley’s humorous and playful side.  However, Mr. Knightley’s one flaw is his tendency to find fault with Emma Woodhouse, the sister of his brother’s wife and a young woman he has watched grow up.  He has 16 years more worldly experience than Emma, and he is more than willing to pass his wisdom onto her.

It’s true that Emma needs someone to guide her toward right behavior, especially since everyone else in Highbury goes overboard in flattering her — especially the vicar, Mr. Elton, whom Emma has chosen for her dimwitted friend, Harriet Smith.  When Mr. Knightley realizes exactly how he feels about Emma, it’s quite possible that his admonishments may have pushed her into the arms of Frank Churchill, whose air of mystery and playful charm seem to have bewitched her.  Mr. Knightley, however, sees nothing but flaws, particularly Churchill’s inability to defy his overbearing aunt and pay his respects to his new stepmother, Emma’s former governess.

In Charity Envieth Not, Cornthwaite gives readers a look into Mr. Knightley’s thoughts, showing his reasons for sometimes being harsh with Emma and for disliking Frank Churchill, the evolution of his feelings for Emma, and all the anxieties of a bachelor in his late 30s who finally understands his heart but is powerless to act.  She also gives readers a glimpse into his everyday responsibilities as master of Donwell Abbey, a landlord, and a magistrate, from caring for the needs of his tenants to hearing accusations of petty crimes and dealing out punishments.

I loved Cornthwaite’s Mr. Knightley, and given that she incorporates Austen’s actual dialogue at times, I had to keep reminding myself that this Mr. Knightley isn’t Austen’s brainchild.  From the story behind his dislike of dancing to his adopting his niece’s cat, Madam Duval, to his tortured heart upon the arrival of Frank Churchill, Cornthwaite made me fall in love with Mr. Knightley all over again.  I also like how Cornthwaite fleshes out certain secondary characters, like Mr. Elton, in the scenes in which only the gentlemen are present.  She also introduces some interesting new characters, like Mr. Spencer, Donwell’s new curate who, along with Madam Duval, becomes Knightley’s confidante.

Charity Enviety Not made me wish Emma was more popular among the authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  I loved seeing one of my favorite novels from the hero’s point of view, and this retelling is richer and more enjoyable than the diary versions of the heroes’ stories.  You’re going to want to have book two, Lend Me Leave, on hand when you start this one — even if you’ve already read Emma — because you’re not going to want to wait to find out what happens next.

Disclosure: Charity Envieth Not is from my personal library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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