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Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you an excerpt from The Note by Zoë Folbigg, which I will be reviewing here next month.  The book was recently featured on ITV’s “This Morning,” and you can check out the interview with Folbigg here.

About The Note

Based on Zoë Folbigg’s true story comes an unforgettable romance about how a little note can change everything…

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.

The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything…

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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An excerpt from The Note, courtesy of Aria

Chapter One

May 2014

Maya has done it. She has delivered three sentences and a friendly sign-off, and now it is out of her hands. She struggles to walk the incline of the seemingly uphill train carriage because her legs are shaking, her mouth is dry, and putting one foot in front of the other takes effort and focus her racing heart isn’t capable of at the moment.

Her legs buckle as Maya slumps into a seat on the other side of a grubby internal door. Which is just as well because she wanted to linger with the last straggles of bedraggled Train People disembarking reluctantly; to make herself invisible to all the commuters she just embarrassed herself in front of. So, Maya lies low with the sleepy people. The people who can’t stand their jobs. The people who are lost in someone else’s life, frantically turning or swiping pages to find out if the girl got the guy, the adventurer made it back to London or the heretic was burned at the stake.

Train Man isn’t a straggler. Every day Maya sees him stand up confidently at the same point on the track, somewhere between the football stadium and the tunnel, as the train snakes towards a new day and a new terminus. Equine legs, strong arms. He throws a grey backpack with two thin brown leather straps onto his back, stands in the doorway and, as the train comes to a stop and orange lights ding, he steps off with pace and purpose. Maya usually walks a healthy distance behind Train Man, tiny sparks flying from her heels, down the platform and through the barriers under the canopy of a reverse waterfall bubbling white and bright above them. The intimate huddle of a metal umbrella for thousands of people who don’t even look up. Train Man always walks straight through the station and Maya wonders what he’s listening to, trying to guess from his gait, not realising he was at four of the six gigs she went to in the past year. Every day she sees him turn right out of the station and walk swiftly, resolutely, into a mist of people down the road. Until she can’t keep up with his long stride, he in Converse, she in heels – or ballerina flats if she needs to be nimble and get to a meeting – and Maya tends to lose him around the big crossroads at the artery by the hospital. But not today. Today Train Man has long gone.

When Maya’s legs buckled and she fell into a dusty seat, she put distance between where Train Man had been sitting, where she had awkwardly stood over him, and into this sanctuary of a cringe-free carriage. Catching her breath, she waits for three minutes until she, Maya Flowers, is the last of the stragglers. Hot face. Thumping heart.

I did it!

In the empty carriage, Maya’s legs stop shaking and she flattens her wavy hair in an attempt to regain composure for no one’s benefit. She takes long deep breaths and calms herself by putting her fingertips against her ribcage to feel her lungs fill slowly.

A tall man in a bright blue short-sleeved shirt that sits pleasingly against Somali skin steps on and starts to throw newspapers into a sack before passengers board the train that will take them north.

Maya stands and tries to stride with Train Man’s purpose. She knows she won’t catch him up today, to see whether he is clutching her note to his heart, whether it’s crumpled in his pocket, or whether he tossed it into a bin. It doesn’t matter for now. What matters is she did it.

Spring sunshine looks down gently and tempers rise noisily in the gridlock of an underpass, but all Maya can hear among the birds and the horns are the words of an American woman in her head.

‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

Maya smiles proudly as she passes a bin and gives a cursory glance into it.

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About the Author

Zoë Folbigg

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. This is her debut novel.

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Giveaway

Aria is generously offering one ebook copy of The Note to my readers, open internationally. To enter, the publicist has asked that you tweet this review (feel free to use the Twitter share button below), and leave a comment with your email address and the link to your tweet. I would love to know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will end on Sunday, October 22, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly from among those who have tweeted and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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It’s my pleasure to welcome Jessie Lewis to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her new novel, Mistaken, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Jessie is here to discuss theatres in Regency England and the role they play in the novel, and there’s an excerpt and giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you, Anna, for hosting this part of the Mistaken blog tour. I’d like to share with your readers a scene from the early part of the book, in which a somewhat repentant Elizabeth has an unexpected encounter at the theatre, shortly after she returns to London from Kent.

Mistaken has its fair share of twists and turns, and it never hurts to drop a good plot bombshell in a public place—you know, to maximise the impact on your poor unsuspecting characters. The theatre might seem a clichéd choice of public venue, but in the absence of Netflix or Nando’s, it was popular evening entertainment for those reality-TV-starved Regency folk.

In order to make my theatre scenes credible, it was necessary for me to do a fair amount of research, and though most of what I learned has been relegated to a file buried somewhere on my hard drive or a long-forgotten bookmark on my browser, some of what I discovered was more memorable. So before I reveal Elizabeth’s encounter, I thought I’d share some of my own unexpected discoveries about the theatres of the Regency period.

The predominant trait I stumbled upon in my research was their propensity to burn down. With alarming regularity, the playhouses of London were reduced to cinders—a sight altogether greyer and less interesting to watch than the eponymous pantomime that occasionally graced the stages on those rare occasions when they were not engulfed in flames.

The Theatre Royal in Covent Garden burned down twice, as did Her Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket. The theatre presently situated on Drury Lane is the fourth to have stood on the site, two having burned down and one having been completely demolished just for the fun of it.

All these pyrotechnic shenanigans make writing a historically accurate evening at the theatre during the Regency far trickier than it ought to be. Though I dug up all manner of information about which plays were billed at which times, starring which actors, I invariably found that on the night I needed my characters to attend, the theatre in question was either in the midst of a blazing inferno or the throes of a years-long reconstruction. Thus, other than Darcy’s one mention of “the new theatre on Drury Lane,” (which opened on 10th October, 1812 after—guess what?—a fire!), every other mention of theatres in Mistaken is hopelessly but deliberately vague.

That’s the buildings themselves covered; now onto what went on inside them. Far from the refined, elegant outing I had previously imagined, a typical Regency evening at the theatre seems to have been more akin to a pub lock-in. People arrived early, remained late into the night and consumed food and alcohol in copious quantities as they watched a whole succession of performances ranging in nature from high drama to the aforementioned pantomime.

It seems that by the beginning of the C19th, the theatre had ceased to be the bastion of the very rich (not that they were so very well behaved either, but that’s another story). Though the wealthy kept to their private boxes, the lower classes had begun attending in numbers too, squeezing into the gallery up in the rafters and filling up the pits in front of the stage. This led to a mix of people in the audience whose social conventions were rather at odds.

According to the British Library, prostitutes in the pits were a given, riots in the stalls were commonplace and heckling was routine. One doesn’t like to imagine the stately Mr. Darcy partaking in such bawdy behaviour, but it seems to have been de rigueur to hurl at least one “boo” and possibly a rotten tomato at the stage. People talked amongst themselves, sang along to popular songs, and came and went as they pleased throughout the performances—though another snippet of information I happened across led me to think people did not get up and go quite as often as they should have.

According to QI.com, people without the privilege of a box were so unwilling to give up their unreserved seats that they occasionally relieved themselves where they sat. Though such a practice would at least have offered some much needed protection against the constant threat of fire, the problem was so severe that in the mid C19th, a theatre in Newcastle was forced to line the floor of its gallery with lead to save the wealthy patrons in the boxes below from the “inconvenience” of being dripped on.

All in all, my research painted a very different picture of the theatre than I had previously imagined Darcy and Elizabeth might experience—a fact I think readers will see reflected in the theatre scenes in the book. Fortunately, the characters in Mistaken don’t behave quite as poorly as this. That’s not to say they all behave well, mind, as you’ll see in the excerpt I’m sharing with you today. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek, and thanks for visiting with me at Anna’s blog.

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An excerpt from Mistaken, courtesy of Jessie Lewis

Wednesday, 22 April 1812: London

The intermission came, more an interlude to Elizabeth’s tragic narrative than to Shakespeare’s, and Mr. Gardiner was sent for refreshments. The ladies had not long been alone when an altercation erupted between two men a short way off.

“Oh, dear! Let us move away,” Mrs. Gardiner whispered.

Elizabeth would have done so directly had not one of the men then mentioned he who had been uppermost in her thoughts all evening.

“…never known anybody so high in the instep. Well, fie on him and his righteousness! I say Mr. Darcy is a sanctimonious prig!”

She fixed her eyes on the clearly inebriated speaker, her lips pursed against all the things she should like to say but could not. True, she had accused Mr. Darcy of worse, but she was acquainted with him well enough to have received an offer of marriage. She sincerely doubted this horrid little man had any such claim to intimacy.

“I never said he was not, but he did not cheat you, Wrenshaw,” the other man replied, and it seemed very much as though it was not the first time he had said it.

“How is it then that we parted with the same piece of land within two months of each other, and he made a fortune while I made naught but a fool of myself?”

“Because you are reckless with your money!”

“Piffle!” the man named Wrenshaw shouted to the tittered delight of the growing crowd. “He took advantage of me, I tell you! He is cheat—a bounder! Do not be fooled by the stick up his bailey. No man can be that damned proper. I wager he has a whore in every bedroom at Pemberley!”

A squall of gasps flew up.

“Come away, Lizzy,” her aunt repeated, but she could not leave.

“Mr. Darcy does not deserve this! He is not a bad man!”

“I confess I am surprised to hear you defend him.”

“I know, but I was very wrong about him.”

“Here we are!” Mr. Gardiner announced behind them. Before either lady could do more than receive the drinks he had brought, he added, “Good gracious, is that you, Harding?” and walked directly to the pair of squabbling men.

Mrs. Gardiner groaned. Elizabeth felt nothing but relief that Mr. Wrenshaw would be silenced. Within moments, her uncle was gesturing for them to join him. He introduced the quieter of the two men as a business acquaintance, Mr. Harding, and the other as that gentleman’s friend, Mr. Wrenshaw.

“And this is my lovely wife, Mrs. Gardiner. She has spent a good deal of time in your part of the country actually, Mr. Wrenshaw, in Lambton. And this is my niece, Miss—”

“Lambton? In Derbyshire?” Mr. Wrenshaw interrupted.

“Yes, between Pemberley and Yewbridge,” answered Mrs. Gardiner, looking as displeased with his incivility as Elizabeth felt.

“I know very well where it is, madam,” he replied curtly. To Mr. Harding he said, “It was Lambton that Crambourne wished to bypass with his blasted railway. And since Darcy would part with nary an inch of his estate, the arrogant swine bought half of mine and sold that to Crambourne instead! Now tell me he is not a swindling bleater!” His voice grew louder as he warmed to the topic, recalling the attention of all the eavesdroppers who had begun to lose interest.

Elizabeth’s vexation flared. “Upon my word, you have been very free with your opinion of that gentleman this evening, sir.”

Mr. Wrenshaw looked at her sharply. “What of it? You cannot have any peculiar interest in him.”

“I daresay the energy with which you have maligned him has provoked us all to be a little curious,” Elizabeth replied, indicating with a glance the scores of inquisitive faces watching their exchange. “You are obviously keen that we should all agree with your estimation of his character, but none of us will be able to until you decide what it is you wish us to think of him.”

His countenance reddened. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You have accused Mr. Darcy of being righteous and depraved. I have been used to consider those opposing qualities. I am afraid he cannot be both.”

“I merely suggested, madam, that the appearance of one often conceals the presence of the other.”

“Indeed?” Elizabeth resisted a smile. “Then, it is to all our advantages that there are respectable men such as yourself to evince the difference for the rest of us.”

“Lizzy!” Mrs. Gardiner hissed.

“Indeed!” Mr. Wrenshaw assured her airily, to all appearances satisfied with the turn of the conversation—until several people sniggered nearby and his brow creased in puzzlement.

His friend wasted no time engaging Mr. Gardiner on another matter. Elizabeth retreated, happy to observe the crowds and their interest dissipating and happier still when the second curtain call came and she was able to escape Mr. Wrenshaw’s odious company.

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I can’t wait to read Mistaken. Thank you, Jessie, for sharing your fascinating research and this excerpt with me and my readers! I learned a lot about the theatre today that I’m not likely to forget. 😉

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About Mistaken

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a single man in possession of a good fortune, a broken heart, and tattered pride. Elizabeth Bennet is a young lady in possession of a superior wit, flawed judgement, and a growing list of unwanted suitors. With a tempestuous acquaintance, the merciless censure of each other’s character, and the unenviable distinction of a failed proposal behind them, they have parted ways on seemingly irreparable terms. Despairing of a felicitous resolution for themselves, they both attend with great energy to rekindling the courtship between Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth’s sister Jane.

Regrettably, people are predisposed to mistake one another, and rarely can two be so conveniently manoeuvred into love without some manner of misunderstanding arising. Jane, crossed in love once already, is wary of Bingley’s renewed attentions. Mistaking her guardedness for indifference, Bingley is drawn to Elizabeth’s livelier company; rapidly, the defects in their own characters become the least of the impediments to Darcy and Elizabeth’s happiness.

Debut author Jessie Lewis’s Mistaken invites us to laugh along with Elizabeth Bennet at the follies, nonsense, whims, and inconsistencies of characters both familiar and new in this witty and romantic take on Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice.

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

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About the Author

Jessie Lewis

I’ve always loved words—reading them, writing them, and as my friends and family will wearily attest, speaking them. I dabbled in poetry during my angst-ridden teenage years, but it wasn’t until college that I truly came to comprehend the potency of the English language.

That appreciation materialised into something more tangible one dark wintry evening whilst I was making a papier-mâché Octonauts Gup-A (Google it—you’ll be impressed) for my son, and watching a rerun of Pride and Prejudice on TV. Fired up by the remembrance of Austen’s genius with words, I dug out my copy of the novel and in short order had been inspired to set my mind to writing in earnest. I began work on a Regency romance based on Austen’s timeless classic, and my debut novel Mistaken is the result.

The Regency period continues to fascinate me, and I spend a good deal of my time cavorting about there in my daydreams, imagining all manner of misadventures. The rest of the time I can be found at home in Hertfordshire, where I live with my husband, two children, and an out-of-tune piano. You can check out my musings on the absurdities of language and life on my blog, Life in Words, or you can drop me a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter, or on my Facebook page, Jessie Lewis Author,  or on Goodreads, Jessie Lewis.

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Giveaway

Enter here for a chance to win one of eight ebook copies of Mistaken that are up for grabs as part of the blog tour. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link.

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Mistaken by Jessie Lewis. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Good luck!

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10/03   My Jane Austen Book Club Vignette, Giveaway

10/04   Darcyholic Diversions Author Interview, Giveaway

10/05   Just Jane 1813 Review, Giveaway

10/06   Diary of an Eccentric Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

10/07   My Love for Jane Austen Character Interview, Giveaway

10/08   Of Pens and Pages Review, Giveaway

10/09   From Pemberley to Milton Guest Post, Giveaway

10/10   Half Agony, Half Hope Review, Excerpt

10/11   Savvy Verse and Wit Review, Giveaway

10/12   So little time… Guest Post, Giveaway

10/13   Babblings of a Bookworm Vignette, Giveaway

10/14   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl Review, Giveaway

10/15   Laughing With Lizzie Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

10/16   Austenesque Reviews Vignette, Giveaway

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Today I am delighted to share an excerpt from Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s memoir, The First Signs of April. The following excerpt is a scene taken from a day early in the caregiving experience of the author with her dying aunt.

Aunt Pat was in her chair on the back porch when I arrived the next morning. The warm sun through the porch window fell on her, illuminating her fragility. She was smiling and her eyes sparkled when she looked at me. “Such a beautiful day. Listen to those birds, and just look at the roses, Mary. They’re really coming along, aren’t they?”

Despite the horror that was now her life, she was still able to sit in the summer sun and enjoy the birds and her flowers. “Yes, and there are so many of them, too.” My eyes filled with tears I wouldn’t dare shed, as I stood beside her in quiet awe while Aunt Pat relished the moment.

“Well,” she put her hands on the arms of the chair, “are you ready for the day? I’ve got some things I’d like to get done.”

She pushed herself up, her tiny arms shaking under the little weight her body held, and stood as straight as she could. Locking her arm in mine, accepting the tiniest bit of assistance, we slowly walked into the house together. Our time on the porch was like being in a different world to the one we encountered within the walls of the house. Inside were the disease, the pain, the fear, and the lifetime of memories she and Uncle Roger shared. This house held the story of their lives, good and bad. Now it served as the stage for the last act of her life.

I think perhaps we were both thinking the same thing as we entered the back hall, and she gently squeezed my hand as if to reassure us both. “Now,” she said once inside the kitchen, “I want you to take down the curtains in the living room and wash them today, all right?”

“Sure, I can do that. How about I get them in the wash now, before Uncle Roger gets up and needs his breakfast?”

Aunt Pat nodded then sighed, I assumed in relief that this direction had been given. It seemed like she’d mustered all of her strength to get to this moment with me today and now she could relax. “I’ll just rest here a minute, before I get Rog’s morning meds.” Once again, the sounds of pain escaped her cracked lips as she awkwardly lowered herself to the couch.

If only there was some way to raise the couch so she wouldn’t have quite so far togo, I thought, watching out of the corner of my eye. She landed in a heap, with a yelp of pain, and I was certain she was broken. I couldn’t help but imagine her frail bones compressing together, grinding to dust with the impact. She held her hand over her eyes and her breath steadied some.

Climbing up the stepladder, I began taking down the nearly threadbare lace patterned sheer curtains. They were, or rather had once been, white, before the yellowing from age and cigarette smoke had coated them. They were so thin and delicate that I wasn’t sure they would survive a spin through the washing machine, let alone a heated tumble through the dryer. It’s what she wants, I reminded myself. I stood at the washing machine and turned the dial to the gentle cycle, silently acknowledging the need of this not only for the curtains, but for the three of us as we made our way on this journey together.

Uncle Roger was sitting at the table waiting for me to get his breakfast for him when I returned from the laundry room. Aunt Pat was back at the counter sorting through his medication.

“Good morning.” I placed the cereal box in front of him. “I brought the Stewart’s Root Beer you like. You can have it with your lunch later.”

He smiled, “Thank you, Mary.”

These words would be practically the only words spoken between us except for my “You’re welcome,” in the weeks that followed.

“Here are your pills, Rog. I’m going to lie down on the couch. I have an awful headache.”

Aunt Pat once again painfully made her way to the living room couch, stopping only to lay her hand gently on his shoulder as she passed. Uncle Roger shook his head as he watched her. The sorrow and helplessness in his eyes softened his otherwise harsh features. She never rested in her bed, only on the couch, perhaps knowing that if she were in bed she’d be acknowledging how sick she was and she wasn’t ready to succumb to that. Not yet.

After breakfast, Uncle Roger went to his recliner in the dining room. He was asleep in his chair when I came through with the laundry basket full of what I hoped were intact clean curtains.

Aunt Pat turned her head toward me as I set the basket down. “How’d they come out?”

I wondered why this one thing in particular seemed so important to her. Maybe she wanted things to look nice, knowing that with her decline in health people would be coming to the house. She was proud, even as she was preparing for her death.

A sigh escaped me as I reached into the basket and lifted one of the curtain panels up for her to see. “Looks like they came out pretty good. Look how white they are,” I said, relieved that the curtains had survived their journey and could now be hung with pride again. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if they’d been ruined in the cleaning process.

She smiled, laid her head back down, and closed her eyes.

I lifted each sheer and carefully slid them onto the old white metal curtain rods, climbed the ladder then delicately placed the rods onto their hooks. Stepping back, I noticed how much the stark white curtains stood in contrast to the dark stained trim, built-in cabinets and nooks and crannies of the gloomy room. They looked almost bright and beautiful enough to cheer the whole place up. This was as good as it was going to be for them now.

Aunt Pat moaned. I turned to see her struggling to get up. This time I offered my hand and she took it. Our eyes met. She looked dejected, as though she had just lost some part of this battle. By accepting my help she was letting go of her independence and acknowledging some defeat. We both understood the significance of that gesture and we let it fill the space between us, but just for a moment.

Once she was up, we stood, arm in arm, looking at the cleaned curtains before us. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, it started: a low, humph, humph, that warned of the laugh to come. Aunt Pat’s rumble built to a crescendo full-on laugh that I’m sure would’ve knocked her down had she not had her arm linked to mine. I couldn’t help but laugh with her, although I had no idea why we were laughing.

“Oh, Mary,” she said, still giggling.

“What?”

“They’re inside out! How can you have a master’s degree and not know how to hang curtains? They’re all inside out,” she exclaimed.

Slightly embarrassed, I apologized for the mistake but she just laughed. “I don’t remember the last time I had such a good laugh.” She let go of my arm, turned, and headed out to the kitchen while I set off to right the wrong.

“Inside out.” I heard her laughing from the kitchen.

I could still hear Aunt Pat giggling as I made my way out to her chair on the back porch. She could’ve been angry or upset over the curtains, but instead she chose to laugh, as though she hadn’t a care in the world. The stench of stale cigarettes wafted up from the ashtray beside me, and the hot sun was so bright that I had to squint to look out the window into the garden. I tried to feel what she felt in those moments on the porch, when she seemed to take everything in with such joy. Her body was always so relaxed and her smile came from deep in her heart. She was truly alive, in spite of the dying.

Watching the sunlight falling on the roses, I tried again to feel something, but an invisible veil was separating me from the world. It was something I’d never been conscious of before, but it dawned on me that this veil had fallen around me many years ago. Since then, I had been living in silence, unwilling to reach out for life, love, or connection. The danger was just too great. I looked again at the roses but all I could feel was sad. Could it really have been so very long ago since I felt happy and able to connect with the world?

Wow, what a beautiful scene! Thank you for sharing this with me and my readers, Mary-Elizabeth!

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About The First Signs of April

Wounds fester and spread in the darkness of silence. The swirling reds, oranges, and yellows of fall’s foliage dance alongside Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe like flames as she tears through the winding back roads of the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Desperate to outrun memories that flood her mind, no matter how hard she rolls her motorcycle’s throttle, she cannot escape them.

Shut down and disconnected, Briscoe has lived her life in silence in order to stay alive. Her grief is buried, and shame is the skin that wraps around her bones—but then, following the brutal murder of a local teacher, she is forced as a grief counselor to face her lifetime of unresolved sorrow. Will she finally be able to crack the hard edges of her heart and allow in the light of truth so real healing can occur?

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe is a licensed mental health counselor currently on sabbatical from her private psychotherapy practice in northeastern Vermont. She currently spends her time between Cape Cod, Vermont, and Ireland. She has a masters degree in clinical mental health counseling from Lesley University and is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a Certified Trauma Professional. She has been a lecturer for Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies St. Johnsbury, Vermont campus. She has contributed to Cape Woman Online and Sweatpants and Coffee magazine. This is her first book. 

Visit her website, her Facebook, and on Twitter.

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, the publicist is offering one print copy of The First Signs of April to my readers, U.S. addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and your thoughts on the excerpt. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Follow the Blog Tour

Sept. 7: Teddy Rose Book Reviews and Plus More (Book Spotlight/Giveaway)
Sept. 20: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (Review)
Sept. 28: Debra Smouse (Review)
Oct. 3: Soapy Violinist (Review)
Oct. 4: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
Oct. 18: The Book Connection (Guest Post)
Oct. 24: Bibliotica (Review)
Nov. 2:: Modern Creative Life (Interview)
Nov. 3: Life’s a Stage (Guest Post)
Nov. 4: Readaholic Zone (Review)
Nov. 15: Donna’s Book Reviews (Review)

Follow the tour with the hashtag #MaryBriscoe

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Regina Jeffers is visiting Diary of an Eccentric again today, this time to celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Earl Claims His Comfort. I love having Regina as a guest because she always provides the most informative and fascinating posts. She is here this time to talk about clandestine weddings in Scotland, and she also has brought an excerpt from the novel and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Clandestine Weddings in Scotland

A clandestine wedding plays a key role in solving the mystery that occurs in my latest Regency romantic suspense, The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy. But exactly what constituted a clandestine or irregular marriage during the Regency Period?

A clandestine/irregular marriage is what we today might call a “de facto” (describing practices that exist in reality, even if not legally authorized) wedding or even a “common law wedding.”  Irregular marriages were considered legal in Scotland up until the mid 1900s. The laws in Scotland varied greatly from other European countries. Marriages in the European Catholic countries were only legal if they were conducted by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. In England, marriages were only legal if conducted by an Anglican clergyman. The Hardwicke Act of 1753 saw to that. A couple wishing to marry in England agreed to both a religious sacrament and a legal contract. English couples had to have the consent of one or both parents if they were under the age of 21, and the wedding ceremony had to take place in a parish church and conducted by a man ordained by the Church of England.

But in Scotland, we have a totally different structure. A regular marriage did not require a church as the setting for the wedding or parental consent. It did require the proclamation of the banns in the parish church and an authorized clergyman from the Scottish Church.

Four forms of irregular marriages were considered valid marriages in Scotland until 1 July 1940. An irregular marriage could be considered valid (1) if there was mutual agreement between the man and the woman, a declaration of per verba de presenti—declaring before two witness to take someone as one’s wife or husband, (2) if there was a public promise of per verba de futuro subsequente copula followed by consummation, (3) if the marriage was contracted by correspondence, or (4) if there was cohabitation and repute.

The first two conditions were abolished by the Marriage (Scotland) Act of 1939. All four forms included the agreement of the couple to be married and some form of witnesses or evidence offered as proof of the agreement. Any citizen could witness a public promise. Thus, the reason many English couples rushed to Scotland to be married by a “blacksmith.” The marriage did not actually have to be performed by a blacksmith, just by a citizen of a Scottish border town or village. A marriage of cohabitation and repute was still acceptable until the 2008 Family Law (Scotland) Act. “Repute” was the part upon which divorces were granted or not. This was a common law marriage, and Scotland was the last of the European countries to abolish it. For this law to apply, the minimum time the couple had lived together continuously had to exceed 20 days. Until this act, the only regular marriage available in Scotland was a religious marriage. Irregular marriages were not socially acceptable, and many people who decided to contract them did so where they were relatively unknown.

According to Eleanor Gordon in “Irregular Marriages: Myth and Reality,” “The distinctive marriage arrangements of Scotland and England had very real consequences, most notoriously, the vogue for runaway marriages to Scotland, particularly Greta Green and other border towns, by young English couples seeking to avoid the need for parental consent for their marriage and to take advantage of the more flexible and informal marriage laws. Although Lord Brougham’s Act of 1856 attempted to stem the flow of young couples across the border by extending the residential qualification so that one of the parties had to be resident for 21 days, Gretna marriages continued to excite the disapproval of the authorities on both sides of the border into the twentieth century. Indeed it was the resurgence of these border marriages that prompted calls for reform of the marriage laws in the 1920 and 1930s. Although Dr. James Stark, Superintendent of Statistics under Scotland’s first Registrar General, William Pitt Dundas, described Scotland’s marriage laws as simple in comparison with “the complicated marriage laws of England,” they were in fact characterized more by ambiguity and uncertainty than clarity. For example, there were innumerable legal wrangles about whether particular situations demonstrated sufficient proof of exchange of consent as well as general misunderstanding of the nature of consent required, that is whether it needed to be expressed, written or tacit. Indeed when Scotland’s marriage laws were reviewed in both 1868 and 1935, it was the legal ambiguities surrounding irregular marriage that was one of the key reasons proffered for abolishing it.” [W. D. H. Seller, “Marriage by Cohabitation with Habit and Repute: Review and Requiem?” in D. L. Carey and D. W. Meyers (eds.), Comparative and Historical Essays in Scots Law (Edinburgh, 1992): 117–36.]

If contested, marriage by cohabitation was never legal in England. The fact was that most of the marriages by cohabitation or that of wife selling were invalid made little difference to the majority of the populace. Such distinctions only mattered when a child was declared legitimate or not and when a parish had to decide whether or not to give assistance to a woman in need. A couple who were married by cohabitation were, generally, not considered “respectable.” To be valid a marriage had to be started with a wedding in front of a clergyman. That is why so many went to the Fleet to get married by clergymen debtors. Women who lived with their betroths or declared themselves married without more than consummation, in England, found themselves unable to claim any property, any money or any benefits for themselves or the children because they were not considered legally married.

The world wars of the 1900s put a greater demand upon having a regular marriages. Inheritance and widows’ pensions required proof of a marriage beyond two witnesses marking a public commitment between a man and a woman. Registry offices served the need to legitimatize a marriage.

Nicol Warren on the Family Ancestry Detective Website suggests, “The National records of Scotland holds some irregular marriage information, on their website they have a pamphlet that gives the contact details of local society’s that may have more specific records. At the time of the marriage records may have been kept by priests and the couples, however it’s the kirk sessions where couples come before their local parish church that are the most kept records of an irregular marriage. With the birth of the first child meant paperwork would become an important part of legitimising the birth and registration generally happened hastily around that time. Kirk sessions like the South Leif kirk sessions recorded 1500 marriages. With the digitalisation of records all the time, it is always good to search through paid subscription sites to see whether the information is there.”

http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/birth-death-and-marriage-records/irregular-border-marriage-registers

In this example from 1773 (National Records of Scotland reference OPR 818/2) a couple made a public acknowledgement of their irregular marriage and paid a fine of a guinea to the poor. The entry is followed by a note of the kirk session’s concern at the frequency of irregular marriages in the parish and their decision to increase the fine!

Resources

Gordon, Eleanor. “Irregular Marriage: Myth and Reality.” Journal of Social History, Volume 47, Issue 2, 1 December 2013, pp. 507-525. https://academic.oup.com/jsh/article/47/2/507/1325355/Irregular-Marriage-Myth-and-Reality

Leneman, Leah, and Rosalind Mitchison. “Clandestine Marriage in the Scottish Cities 1669-1780.” Journal of Social History. Oxford University Press. Vol 26, No. 4 (Summer 1993), pp. 845-861. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3788783?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Nicol Warren. “Irregular Marriages in Scotland.” The Family Ancestry Detective. 31 March 2015. http://familyancestrydetective.com/irregular-marriages-in-scotland/

“Old Parish Registers – Marriages and Proclamation of Banns.” National Records of Scotland. © Crown copyright, 2014. https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/birth-death-and-marriage-records/old-parish-registers/marriages-and-proclamation-of-banns

Images

“The Elopement, or Lovers Stratagem Defeated.” Courtesy of the British Museum. from All Things Georgian https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/an-irregular-marriage-arthur-annesley-powell-did-he-go-willingly/

“Irregular Marriage” from The Family Ancestry Detective http://familyancestrydetective.com/irregular-marriages-in-scotland/

“Old Parish Registers” https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/birth-death-and-marriage-records/old-parish-registers/marriages-and-proclamation-of-banns

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Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, released September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books
A 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

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Excerpt from The Earl Claims His Comfort, courtesy of Regina Jeffers

Actually, he received two letters upon the same day. The first was from Comfort, and Rem relished her newsy letter that not only announced the arrival of Lord Swenton’s daughter Iróna, but also the confirmation of Isolde’s and her father’s presence for their joining. “Despite his dislike of Isolde being so far from Ireland, uncle is exceedingly pleased to welcome a new granddaughter. He claims Iróna has the look of Isolde’s mother. Meanwhile, my father is speaking of our claiming a family soon. He has asked of my affections for you, and I have assured him that you own my heart. That I love you ardently.”

Her written words ripped the air from Rem’s chest. “She writes of loving me,” he whispered. He realized belatedly that his fingers trembled. He closed his eyes to capture the moment. “I must write Comfort to speak of my deepest regard.”

Yet the letter was not written, at least not for several days, for the second letter, the one from Malvern, set Remmington a task. As with Lord Swenton, the marquess took great pleasure in the announcement of the birth of his son, Henry Thomas Cadon McLaughlin, a sennight prior.

“Devilfoard struts about as if he was the one to birth the child,” Malvern wrote. “To have the dukedom secured brings both the duke and the duchess great happiness. Lady Malvern charges me with telling you that she hopes one of your daughters will take a liking to our Henry.”

Rem held no objections to a daughter of his marrying into the dukedom. “But only if she admires Lord Henry as much as she does his title,” he said with a nod of his head. “Affection is important to a successful marriage.”

Rem’s eyes returned to the page. Malvern wrote, “Now for news of a different sort. Devilfoard reports that Sir Alexander has yet to return to the Home Office. The duke spoke of how Sir Alexander’s superiors are at a loss in discovering his whereabouts. They covered his absence with tales of his secret stratagems in the government’s name. Yet as we both are aware, Sir Alexander departed for Scotland at the beginning of September to investigate the tale of your imposter. Plainly, there is a likely connection for Lord Angus’s estate is in Scotland. I cannot leave Lady Malvern. Moreover, you are better suited for finding the baronet. From your previous occupations, you have sources I have yet to develop.”

And so Rem had spent some three weeks along the Scottish border and in the west central lowlands before a rumor brought him to a small hospital on the outskirts of Glasgow.

“I have discovered your whereabouts at last,” he said in concern when he noted the many bandages wrapped about Sir Alexander’s body.

“Remmington?” the baronet asked.

“Did you expect another? A fetching female perhaps?”

The baronet frowned. “My vision is still recovering. It is difficult to see with this patch over one eye.”

Rem pulled a straight-back chair close to the bed. “Everyone worries for your absence,” he said softly. “What occurred?”

The baronet spoke in secretive tones. “A carriage accident. Broke my leg, my opposing ankle, and both arms. Took a blow to the head.”

Rem’s eyes traced the splints and bandages marking Sir Alexander’s injuries. “That explains why you did not write, but why not ask another to pen a letter?”

“The way I understand things, I was unconscious for a little more than a sennight. When I came about for several days I held no memory of what occurred or even who I was. Those who described the accident said I was fortunate to survive. Neither my coachman nor the footman did. When my senses returned, I recalled my mission to Scotland, and I worried someone planned for my carriage to leave the road in such a violent manner. I did not know if I could trust those who tended me to send word. What if I sent you a message, and then I discovered I dragged you into some sort of trap? I could not chance such.”

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Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy
A 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist
A SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Regina Jeffers

With 30+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for 40 years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and a Smithsonian presenter.

Connect with Regina: Blog | Website | Austen Authors | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

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Giveaway

Regina is generously offering two ebook copies of The Earl Claims His Comfort. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will close at midnight EDST on Thursday, September 21, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Regina, for being my guest today, and congratulations on the new release! I look forward to starting the trilogy soon!

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Maria Grace is a superwoman! She returned from evacuating due to Hurricane Harvey to pull off a book release AND a blog tour. I am honored to have her as my guest today to celebrate the release of her newest novel, A Less Agreeable Man, which is book 3 in The Queen of Rosings Park series inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely loved the first two books in the series, Mistaking Her Character and The Trouble to Check Her, and I can’t wait to see what happens next! Maria is here to talk about debt in the Regency Era, and she brought an excerpt and a giveaway to share with my readers. Please give her a warm welcome!

Debt in the Regency Era

Living on Credit is not a new thing

It’s easy to believe that living on credit is a modern thing. The news abounds with tales of woe regarding consumer debt, mortgages, student loans, and other lines of credit. How would Jane Austen have reacted to such news? Probably with great aplomb and a declaration that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

During the Regency era “almost all members of the middle and upper classes had accounts with different suppliers, who extended credit to their patrons. … Only if the amount was small or they were traveling did they pay cash. In fact, only the poor did not live on credit in one guise or another.” (Forsling, 2017)  In fact, more people depended on credit than ever before resulting in perpetual overcrowding in the debtor’s prisons.

Although debt, both personal and national, were rife in Regency society, attitudes toward debt were largely divided across class lines. “Aristocratic claims for leadership had long been based on lavish displays and consumption while the middle class stressed domestic moderation. In particular, aristocratic disdain for sordid money matters, their casual attitude to debt and addiction to gambling …, were anathema to the middling ranks whose very existence depended on the establishment of creditworthiness and avoidance of financial embarrassment.” (Davidoff, 2002)

Many small and otherwise flourishing businesses failed due to bad debts, especially among the upper classes. Some went so far as to begin refusing credit and to only sell for ‘ready money’. The notion that debts of honor had to be paid and paid quickly while debts to merchants could be put off indefinitely only exacerbated the situation.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Gaming debts were regarded as sacrosanct which might not have been so significant an issue had there not been so many of them. The Regency was a time when Englishmen, especially the wealthy and highborn, were ready to bet on almost anything. Though gaming for high stakes was illegal by Austen’s day, authorities mostly seemed to turn a blind eye to it, (Fullerton, 2004) perhaps because it was considered largely an upper class vice.

Different social classes offered different reasons for the immorality of gaming. The upper classes feared losing their money to the lower class, giving them income without having earned it and opposing the work ethic. The rising middle class also saw gaming as opposing the values of stability, property, domesticity, family life and religion. (Rendell, 2002) Regardless of the reason, there was widespread agreement that gaming was a problem, thus legislation was passed against it.

Unfortunately anti-gaming laws, much like prohibition in the US, only forced gambling from public venues into private clubs where individuals bet on any and nearly everything. Organized sports including cricket, horse racing, prize fighting and cock fighting attracted spectators willing to bet on the outcome.  Huge fortunes, even family estates could be won and lost at games of chance. Even the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars were subject to betting.

Moneylenders and bankers made themselves available at private clubs to assist gentlemen in settling their debts of honor which were not otherwise enforceable by law. The cost of this service though (beyond the interest on the debt of course), was creating a legally enforceable debt from which one had not been so previously.

Debtors’ Prison

English bankruptcy laws were particularly harsh, demanding personal repayment of all debt, including business debt, and often incarceration.  Ironically, there was no disgrace about being sent to gaol during the era, provided it was for an acceptable crime like debt or libel. (Murry, 1999) The Royal Courts administered three prisons primarily for debtors: the Fleet, the King’s Bench and the Marshalsea, though debtors might be imprisoned at other facilities as well. (Low, 2005) At any given time during the era, upward of a 10,000 men were imprisoned for debts as small as four pence.  (Savage, 2017)

Debtors were probably the largest proportion of the era’s prison population and had privileges not granted to ordinary criminals, including the right to have their family stay with them and to have other visitors. They could also often arrange to be supplied with beer or spirits. (Low, 2005) “During the quarterly terms, when the court sits, (Fleet) prisoners on paying five shillings a-day, and on giving security, are allowed to go out when they please, and there is a certain space round the prison, called the rules, in which prisoners may live, on furnishing two good securities to the warden for their debt, and on paying about three per cent on the amount of their debts to the warden.” (Feltham, 1803)

The process of obtaining an arrest warrant for debt was expensive. Often several tradesmen would have to band together to see a writ for debt issued. (Kelly, 2006)

Once the writ was obtained, the debtor (once caught, of course, as it was not uncommon for debtors to flee in the face of a writ, even so far as to leave the country) would first be confined to a spunging or lock-up house. A spunging-house was a private house maintained for the local confinement of debtors to give them time to settle their debts before the next step, debtors’ prison.  “…For twelve or fourteen shillings a-day, a debtor may remain [at the spunging house], either till he has found means of paying his debt, or finds it necessary to go to a public prison, when the writ against him becomes returnable. We have heard that great abuses prevail in these spunging-houses, and that many of the impositions practised in them deserve to be rectified. … It would be wrong to quit the sad subject of prisons, without observing that such is the bad arrangement of the laws between debtor and creditor, that ruin to both is greatly accelerated by the expensiveness of every step in the proceedings, insomuch that not one debtor in ten ever pays his debt after he enters a prison. (Feltham, 1803)

Why Debtor’s Prison?

Given that once a debtor was in prison, they lacked the ability to earn money making the payment of his debt even less likely, this approach to debt seems ridiculous. So why was it done?

First, it was assumed that the debtor’s family and friends would be available to help pay off their debts. So imprisoning the debtor might help motivate them to action. Second, it was perceived as a deterrent to getting into debt in the first place. (Clearly, given the numbers in debtors’ prison it was a total failure on that count.) (Savage, 2017)

The third reason is perhaps the most difficult for the modern reader to understand. To the people of the time, the issue was bigger than simply insuring the debtor paid off their debts.  “The ‘moral’ imperative to make the debtor aware of their responsibility for not living beyond their means was judged more important.  … To understand the mind-set of the time, it’s important to remember two things: taking on more debt than you could pay was seen as a form of theft; and,  … (t)heft broke the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”. The causes of becoming too indebted to pay also pointed to the presence of other sins: idleness, covetousness, greed, deceitfulness.  … Sin demanded punishment and repentance not support,” thus jailing the debtor fulfilled the moral imperative.  (Savage, 2017)

Myth of the smock wedding

Just because there was a moral imperative to punish debtors didn’t mean that those who owed money accepted their fate easily or didn’t attempt creative means by which to discharge their debts. Running to avoid one’s creditors was common. Beau Brummell fled to France to avoid debtors’ prison.  In some cases a debtor could be pressed into naval service in exchange for the Navy to cover their debts.

Marriage, particularly for the upper class, was also a handy means of bringing in quick cash to alleviate a family’s money woes. The (disastrous) marriage of the Prince of Wales to his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick in 1795 came about so that Parliament would pay off his debts.

Not all men were happy to marry a woman with debts, especially a widow still responsible for her late husband’s debts. Consequently, the practice of a ‘smock wedding’ came into being.  At such a wedding, the bride would be married naked, brining nothing into the marriage. In practice, she usually was barefoot and garbed in a chemise or sheet. The salient point was that she was technically bringing nothing into the marriage, thus her husband-to-be was thought not liable for any debts she might have. (Adkins, 2013) It is too bad that snopes.com was not around in the era, because it could have told them that the ‘smock wedding’ way out of debt was an urban myth and would not stop the new bride’s creditors from knocking at their door.

References

Adkins, Roy, and Lesley Adkins. Jane Austen’s England. Viking, 2013.

Craig, Sheryl. Jane Austen and the State of the Nation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Davidoff, Leonore & Hall, Catherine   –   Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Feltham, John. The picture of London, for 1803; being a correct guide to all the curiosities, amusements, exhibitions, public establishments, and remarkable objects in and near London; with a collection of appropriate tables. For the use of strangers, foreigners, and all persons who are intimately acquainted with the British metropolis. London: R. Phillips, 1803.

Forsling, Yvonne . “Money Makes the World Go Round.” Hibiscus-Sinensis. Accessed July 22, 2017. http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/money.htm

Fullerton, Susannah. Jane Austen and Crime. Sydney: Jane Austen Society of Australia, 2004.

Kelly, Ian. Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. New York: Free Press, 2006.

Laudermilk, Sharon H., and Teresa L. Hamlin. The Regency Companion. New York: Garland, 1989.

Low, Donald A. The Regency underworld. Stroud: Sutton, 2005.

Murray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England. New York: Viking, 1999.

Rendell, Jane. The Pursuit of Pleasure Gender, Space & Architecture in Regency London. London: Athlone Press, 2002.

Savage, William . “The Georgian Way with Debt.”  Pen and Pension.  July 19, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2017. https://penandpension.com/2017/07/19/the-georgian-way-with-debt/.

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About A Less Agreeable Man

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring.

Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.

Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she’s engaged to another man.

Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

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Excerpt from A Less Agreeable Man, courtesy of Maria Grace

The little chapel hummed as it filled with Sunday morning congregants. Mary plucked at the braided trim of the periwinkle blue calico gown that she wore every Sunday.

Charlotte slapped her hand lightly. “You will spoil your dress. He will be here. Stop fretting.”

Mary laced her hands tightly in her lap and glanced over her shoulder. The Hunsford parish church appeared exactly as it always did: stark slate floor and grey stone walls. Sturdy dark wooden pews scarred with use, just a few more than absolutely necessary to accommodate the parish church-goers. Several cobwebs dangled in the corners, and the windowsills needed dusting.

But this Sunday was like no other.

Mr. Collins minced his way to the pulpit. Did he enjoy the way all eyes were on him as he paraded past? Although he professed his humility to any who would listen, it seemed that a man so assured of his modesty would necessarily be prideful of it.

One more topic to avoid at the Collins’ dinner table. It might have made for interesting conversation, though.

He climbed the three steps up into the dark-stained walnut pulpit. A hush fell over the chapel. “I publish the Banns of marriage between Graham Allen Michaels of Hunsford parish and Mary Susanna Bennet of Hunsford parish. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first time of asking.”

Lady Catherine slowly rose, her purple silk ball gown rustling against the front row pew. “Where is he?”

Whispers and cloth-muffled shuffles mounted, gathering with the force of storm clouds. Mary glanced over her shoulder. Too many people were looking at her, although just as many were scanning the chapel for Mr. Michaels.

Lady Catherine turned to face the congregation. “Where is he? How can I know if I approve if I cannot see him? Present him to me now.”

“He is not here, your ladyship,” Mr. Collins stammered, heavy beads of sweat dotting his forehead.

“I do not recall giving permission for him to be elsewhere. I am quite certain of that. I insist—”

The church door groaned and swung open. Two men paused in the doorway, silhouetted in bright sun.

“Richard Brandon Fitzwilliam! Young man, why are late for—”

“Your ladyship.” Mary stood, her knees having all the substance of calves’ foot jelly. “May I present Mr. Michaels?”

“Michaels? Why do I care to receive him into my acquaintance? Come and sit down this moment, Richard.” She pointed to the empty spot beside her and sat as if on a throne.

Colonel Fitzwilliam scowled—an expression that would likely bring an entire regiment to order— and stalked to the family pew. Mrs. Jenkinson whispered something—probably very serious given the tight lines around her mouth— to Lady Catherine.

She threw her head back and cackled.

Mr. Michaels slipped in beside Mary, offering a supportive glance to Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Mr. Collins cleared his throat, waited for silence, and returned to the order of service. Once he exhausted all the words of his sermon and a few thousand more, he dismissed them and the congregation dissolved into a throng milling in the cheerful morning sun just outside the church.

 

Mr. Michaels beckoned Mary aside to a stand of shade trees, just far enough away from the crowd for a little private conversation but not so far as to raise the attention of the gossips, but Mr. Collins trailed after them like a terrier on a rat.

“Late to services, sir?” His tone had an edge which suggested this dialogue might well last all day. “I cannot condone it. Think of the precedent it will set among the parish. You see how it distressed her ladyship.”

“I assure you it was not by intention or neglect. I was called away for a bit of an emergency—”

“What happened?” Mary and Mr. Collins asked simultaneously.

“Not to worry; the issue is quite resolved. There was just a small misunderstanding on the road.” Michaels glanced over his shoulder toward a sandy patch near the church door where Lady Catherine, flanked by Mrs. Jenkinson, held court. Her fondness for that particular spot was not accidental. Her proximity to the stone building caused her voice to broadcast farther than it would if she stood anywhere else.

Mr. Collins’ face changed entirely, his critical tone fading. “Was her ladyship involved?”

“The matter is resolved, and no further discussion need be had.” He offered Mary his arm.

“I am most gratified to hear that, sir. Most gratified.” Mr. Collins trundled off toward the church door with his peculiar step-hop gait.

Lady Catherine took Colonel Fitzwilliam’s arm and slowly made her way past the crowd toward her waiting carriage.

“I do hope Collins can keep his mouth shut.” Michaels muttered under his breath.

“He does seem to upset her as often as not.” Mary winced as Mr. Collins reached Lady Catherine and started talking.

Michaels leaned very close. “She pitched Colonel Fitzwilliam from the carriage halfway to the church. She did not recognize him and refused to permit a strange man to ride in her carriage.”

“This is the first time she has failed to identify him,” Mary whispered behind her hand.

“I came on them in the road as it was happening. It took some time to calm him down.”

“An excellent reason to be late.”

“On the first Sunday our banns are read. I know, and I am sorry.” He frowned a little. He always did when they disagreed over timeliness.

“What are you discussing, so low and private?” Charlotte waddled up to them, her drab, high-necked gown showed the outline of her belly. It would not fit for much longer.

“Certainly not what you would expect.” Mary glanced toward Lady Catherine.

Charlotte’s smiled faded. “Would you have dinner with us this afternoon, Mr. Michaels? It has been so long since we have enjoyed your company.”

“I should like that very much, thank you.”

Charlotte nodded and shuffled off toward Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine.

“I think I shall follow the carriage back to Rosings in the event Lady Catherine suffers any more confusion. In any case, I should speak to the Colonel about a few matters—”

She squeezed his arm, a bit harder than might be decorous. “It is Sunday. You should rest. You work late into the night, and you start far too early in the morning. Once you begin, it is difficult for you to stop.”

“Why do you not come out directly and say it? You fear that I might miss dinner altogether and thus offend the Collinses.”

Mary stared at her feet.

“And offend you as well?” He laid his hand over hers and pressed firmly. “You are right. The situation at Rosings has been so overwhelming it has brought out a level of single-mindedness in me that I know is both a blessing and a curse.”

“It is pleasing that you work so diligently, and that you are so good at what you do.” He always intended to keep his promises. Nonetheless, there was a better than average chance he would fail at the endeavor.

Still, it was good that he should be so hard-working and committed to those he served. Or at least Mr. Collins said so. If only he were so dedicated to her.

Mr. Darcy’s devotion to Lizzy was the stuff of novels, running after her to rescue her from the clutches of Lady Catherine. And Lydia—who would have thought? She inspired her Mr. Amberson to walk all the way to Pemberley and demand an audience with a man so far above him that they should never have otherwise met. Apparently passionate tempers like Lizzy’s and Lydia’s inspired grand shows of affection.

Mary’s did not.

But comparing herself to her sisters never brought pleasure. There was nothing good to be had from it. Michaels had chosen her from among all her sisters. That was the thing she had to focus on. He could have courted any of them. Not that Lydia would have paid him any mind or that Lady Catherine would have permitted Jane a suitor she did not select. Still, Michaels chose her, purposefully, intentionally because her disposition—serious and practical—matched his. He cared for her exactly the way all conduct books declared he should—faithful and steady, pleasant and companionable. Complaining about such a man was the height of ingratitude.

“Shall I walk you to the Collins’ then?” He gestured across the rutted, uneven lane toward a little used footpath that led into the Rosings’ woods.

Tall hardwoods lined the path, their branches arching out and tangling with one another to form a covering that kept out the sunlight. Some found it ominous—even called it haunted at times—but that only ensured they would have a modicum of privacy to converse.

Honeysuckle vines twined around the trees, winding into the canopy and filling the air with sweet perfume. Too bad there were no flowers in reach.   Each flower had only a drop of nectar, but she relished the secret indulgence. If Michaels knew, would he find it endearing or ridiculous?

“You were concerned because I was away a fortnight longer than I had predicted?”

She clasped her hands behind her back with a shrug. “I know you had a great deal to accomplish.”

How could she tell him the local matrons were quick to believe that he would abandon her if he left Kent for any time at all. No doubt they did not think her sufficient enticement to keep his attention once he was exposed to the wider society of London. Surely there, prettier, richer girls would vie for his consideration, and she would necessarily be the loser.

It was very unpleasant to know that people thought her likely to be jilted.

Why was it the woman always suffered more being jilted than the man? He might walk away with barely any damage, but her reputation would bear the stain forever.

“Was your trip to London unsuccessful?”

“It was more complicated than I anticipated. I have finally untangled Rosings’ records, but it is just the beginning.”

“You look so weary.”

“I am certain the colonel expects the debts to be paid off quickly, with little privation on his part. The expenses of the manor are extreme, and I suppose the colonel would prefer to maintain a lavish lifestyle. I cannot imagine he will be amenable to plans of economy. It is hard to see how, under those circumstances, the estate might be unencumbered in even ten years.” He rubbed his eyes with thumb and forefinger.

“I know you will find a way.” She touched his arm.

He turned to her, smiling. “I am glad to be home and privy to your good sense and encouragement. Now you must tell me how things have been in my absence.”

“Mrs. Collins is faring well as she increases, though it seems to be progressing far more rapidly than anyone has expected. The midwife has expressed some concerns.”

Michaels shook his head, the corners of his lips turning up. “It is difficult to picture a household of tiny Collinses running about. Perhaps it is a good thing he is the kind of man who will have little to do with his children.”

Was it wrong to agree? “He received word that he has inherited the estate that had been entailed upon him. I expect the topic will be discussed … extensively … at dinner tonight.”

The edges of Michaels’ eyes creased as his brow furrowed. “He will wish to seek advice in hiring a curate, no doubt. Something that is unlikely to please his patroness.”

“I expect not. As it is, she no longer comes to call.”

“Collins cannot like that.”

“Not at all.  There are some days she is driven past in the phaeton. He waits near the windows watching for them. She usually waves as they pass, and he appreciates that. Mrs. Jenkinson believes that the fresh air is beneficial for her spirits. According to her, Lady Catherine has some good days in which she is quite aware of what is going on around her and demonstrates strong understanding. She will direct menus and even engage in conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam.”

“You mean try to tell him what to do?”

Mary snickered. “The darker days are growing more common though, and very unpredictable. I saw bruises along Mrs. Jenkinson’s face last week. She claimed that she was distracted and ran into the door frame. I am not inclined to believe that.”

“If Lady Catherine is indeed becoming dangerous, then we must have some way to manage her.” Did he really need to call out the obvious?

“I plan to call upon Mrs. Jenkinson and the housekeeper tomorrow to discuss what might be done to make Lady Catherine more … comfortable.”

“Perhaps you might have a few words with Colonel Fitzwilliam? I think he could benefit from your advice.”

“If you wish. Just pray, let not Mr. Collins be informed. He is uncomfortable with me meddling in the affairs of my betters. The notion that Lady Catherine must be managed agitates him. Whilst I can bear his anger, Charlotte cannot. Her condition is fragile. She should not be taxed.”

He took her hands and pressed them to his chest. “How do you always seem to know what everyone around you needs? I may be steward of the land here, but I am quite certain you are steward to all the people.”

“Do you disapprove?” She bit her lower lip.

“I approve very much.” He leaned down and kissed her, gentle, chaste, controlled. His lips were dry and warm, a little rough from traveling.

Her heart fluttered, just a mite, restrained as much as he. Was it wrong to wish she could give it free rein to soar? Soon, very soon, they would be wed. Perhaps it would be different then.

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace via Email: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is kindly offering an ebook copy of A Less Agreeable Man to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to know what you enjoyed most about the guest post and excerpt. This giveaway will close on Sunday, September 24, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comment section of this post. Good luck!

And thank you, Maria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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I’m excited to have P.O. Dixon here today to celebrate her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything. I’ve long been a fan of P.O.’s books, and as soon as I read the blurb for this one, I was intrigued. The book sounds fascinating, and I hope to read it soon. I also hope that once you read P.O.’s inspiration for the novel and the excerpt, you’ll feel the same. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you so much, Anna, for having me here at Diary of an Eccentric. I am honored indeed to be able to share an excerpt of my newest release, By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything, with your readers.

I’ll start with the story’s premise: what if the elder Mr. Darcy’s first-born son is promised to Mr. Bennet’s first-born daughter?

If ever there were a Jane Austen fan fiction taboo, a romantic alliance between Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Jane Bennet would surely fit the bill. As a reader, I’d find such an entanglement unconscionable. However, that does not mean the writer in me would balk at such a possibility. Indeed, I have asked myself what if Darcy and Jane were promised to each other numerous times since I wrote my first Pride and Prejudice variation.

Finally, I took the time to fashion my frequent musings into a story during last year’s National Novel Writing Month. Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, it’s an annual event during which writers around the world commit to writing fifty thousand words during the month of November.

I do not know that I have ever had such fun writing a novel in one month—so much so that I crossed the fifty thousand words milestone with nine days to spare. Of course, my rough manuscript would require months and months of editing, fine-tuning, and polishing to deliver the final story. Upon reading the excerpt below, I hope everyone will find that my effort to deliver a wonderful Pride and Prejudice what-if story proves to be time well spent.

Enjoy!

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Excerpt from By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything (Reprinted with Author’s Permission. All Rights Reserved.)

Chapter 3

Wonder and Intrigue

Today is everything it ought to be. My Jane shall meet the gentleman whom she very well may marry and with whom she may spend the rest of her life. Elizabeth could not imagine being anywhere but by her sister’s side during such an auspicious occasion, and thus the two of them sat next to each other, arm in arm, as their carriage rounded the bend headed for Pemberley.

Everywhere Elizabeth looked she beheld the estate’s natural beauty. When at last the manor house came into view, she gasped on behalf of her sister as well as herself. There stood a massive stone mansion backed by a ridge of high woody hills. In front of it, flowed a large stream, its banks neither formal nor falsely adorned

Never have I seen such a place as this, Elizabeth silently reflected. Pemberley. Is there any wonder it is hailed as one of the finest estates in all of Derbyshire?

One glance at her sister and she rather supposed their thoughts must have tended along the exact same lines. Both of their faces overspread with contagious smiles.

“Dearest Jane,” Elizabeth remarked, “how fortunate you are. To be mistress of such a place as this must surely be something. How fortunate you are indeed.”

Jane squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “Dearest Lizzy, I appreciate your enthusiasm over the prospects for my future life, but truth be told, I feel more overwhelmed than fortunate at this moment. What if the gentleman takes one look at me and concludes he wants nothing to do with me? What a considerable distance to travel to be summarily sent on one’s way.”

“Not like you! Jane, do not be ridiculous. I posit Mr. Darcy will fall madly in love with you the moment he lays eyes on you. How could he not? Unless of course, the gentleman is a fool. But even a fool would fancy himself the wisest and the luckiest man in the world to proclaim himself your future husband.”

“We shall see,” Jane replied in a voice that lacked the joy the moment warranted.

“Jane, I can see you are not as convinced of your unmitigated charms as you ought to be. But you need not worry, for I have enough confidence for the two of us. Mark my words, there will be a wedding here at Pemberley in under three months, or my name is not Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Oh, Lizzy! Where would I be without you?”

“Pray you will never find out.”

“Then does that mean you will accompany me on my wedding journey?” Jane bit her lower lip sheepishly. “That is to say, should events unfold as you anticipate.”

“I agreed to spend this time with you here at Pemberley, did I not? I see no reason to abandon you once you have accepted your prince.”

A little while later, a mixture of wonder and intrigue commanded Elizabeth’s thoughts as their carriage drew to a halt in front of the imposing manor house. The number of people awaiting them was such that she had never witnessed before.

What a welcoming reception.

Two tall, very distinguished looking gentlemen were flanked on either side by lines of servants uniformly attired in stark black and white. The older of the two, Elizabeth quickly surmised as being the master of Pemberley, Mr. George Darcy. His countenance was stern and dignified, but there was something about his eyes that gave a real glimpse into his character. While indeed a man to be reckoned with, Elizabeth suspected buried beneath his austere outward appearance was a heart of gold.

The gentleman who stood beside him, much to Elizabeth’s surprise, wore a military uniform.

How can it be that the future master of Pemberley is an officer? Elizabeth immediately questioned herself in silence. As they were mere moments from meeting their magnanimous hosts for the summer, she suppressed her urge to ask her father how he had overlooked conveying such a fascinating tidbit of information to any of them.

How pleased Mama will be upon learning not only does her eldest daughter stand a chance of being the next mistress of such a grand home, but moreover her would-be son-in-law is a dashing officer.

Not very long afterward, Mr. Bennet, Jane, and Elizabeth descended the carriage and awaited the approach of the two gentlemen. Elizabeth tossed her sister a tentative smile. Any irksome reservations she suffered that Jane might be subjected to a less than desirable alliance faded with each step the eminent gentlemen took.

A good measure of formality was cast aside as the older gentleman eschewed the expected handshake and embraced her father. “Bennet, my old friend, after all these decades it gives me enormous pleasure to say to you, ‘Welcome to my home. Welcome to Pemberley.’”

Her father responded to his old friend in the warm manner that was to be expected of acquaintances who had not had the privilege of sharing each other’s company after a great long absence, and soon thereafter it was time for introductions to the other members of the assemblage.

All at once, a quiet hush spread throughout the gathering as all heads swung in the direction of a new addition to the welcoming party. Elizabeth could hardly believe her eyes. She knew without being told that she had been mistaken earlier as regarded the officer’s identity. The tall, handsome gentleman with dark hair, brooding dark eyes, and noble mien who appeared before them was the most beautiful sight her eyes had ever beheld.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

My sister Jane is a most fortunate woman, she could not help but think, even though the gentleman’s eyes were not fixed on Jane. To Elizabeth’s bewilderment, his eyes were fixed on her. She was powerless to turn away. But turn away she must, for this was Jane’s moment, and Elizabeth truly did not want to miss bearing witness to a single second of her sister’s joy.

Elizabeth must have blinked an instant or two, for before she knew it, the gentleman stood by the elder Mr. Darcy’s side and was introduced to her own father. And no sooner had her father been introduced to the officer did the three gentlemen focus their full attention to Jane and Elizabeth.

“Allow me to present my eldest daughter,” Mr. Bennet began, directing everyone’s eyes to Jane. “Mr. Darcy, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam, meet Miss Jane Bennet.” Each of the gentlemen, starting with the eldest, greeted Jane in their turn. Elizabeth could not help noticing the decided contrast in the manner of the gentlemen’s addresses. The elder Mr. Darcy’s expression was lively, his manner warm and welcoming—very much the same as it had been toward her father. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s greeting was equally pleasant, but the other gentleman’s – the one that mattered the most – was rather wanting.

Before Elizabeth had too much time to mull over the implications of what such a reception might mean for her sister’s prospects, it was her turn to be introduced. Once again, she detected in the gentlemen the same measure of civility that had been extended toward Jane with but one exception, for she was confident that the younger Mr. Darcy’s eyes held fixed with hers a second or two longer than was necessary—his hand lingered upon hers just a bit longer than that.

The situation righted itself moments afterward when the two older gentlemen moved side by side and turned toward the manor house, the colonel took his place by Elizabeth’s side, and finally, the younger man fell into place beside Jane. As the party proceeded inside, Elizabeth threw a look in her sister’s direction and was pleased to observe that Mr. Darcy seemed to be focused entirely upon his companion. What a relief this was for Elizabeth to see that things were exactly as they ought to be.

Soon after, upon entering the grand foyer with towering ceilings, glorious paintings, black-and-white marble floors, and gilded stairways, Elizabeth was pleased to know Jane and she would be escorted to their respective apartments to allow them a bit of a reprieve before joining the rest of the Darcys’ houseguests. It was a much-needed reprieve at that, for the last part of the journey had been filled with such wonderment of what was to come that Elizabeth had not bothered to sleep for fear of missing a single moment of the adventure unfolding before her.

How happy she was upon discovering that she and Jane were assigned apartments just across the hall from each other. Of course, she would have been just as pleased if she and her sister had been assigned a single room, for no doubt they would be spending a prodigious amount of time with each other as they were wont to do while at Longbourn. Aside from a much-needed reprieve to refresh herself, there was but one thing uppermost on Elizabeth’s mind, and that was discovering what her dearest sister thought about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. On second thought, there was another matter for Elizabeth to dwell upon in private.

What precisely is my own opinion of the heir apparent of Pemberley?

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About By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything

Promised to one sister. Bewitched by the other.

What if Mr. Thomas Bennet’s first-born daughter is promised to the elder Mr. Darcy’s first-born son? Are promises made always promises kept? Or is a love like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s destined to prevail?

You’ll fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth all over again while reading this heartwarming Pride and Prejudice what-if story. Grab your copy now!

Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd | Barnes & Noble | Google Play

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Connect with P.O. Dixon

Newsletter | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Website

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Giveaway

P.O. is generously offering an ebook copy of By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell us what most interests you about the book. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, September 20, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, P.O., for being my guest today! Congratulations on your latest release!

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My guest today is Georgina Young-Ellis, whose latest release is The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, a Pride and Prejudice variation in which Mr. Wickham vies for Elizabeth’s hand. I’ve asked Georgina about her inspiration for her novels, and she’s kindly sharing that today, along with an excerpt from The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes and a fantastic giveaway for my readers. Please give her a warm welcome!

I’m relatively new to writing JAFF. I started last winter, with my release of Elizabeth, Darcy, and Me, and then its two sequels, A Battle of Wills and A Maiden’s Honor, which are now also in one trilogy format. The ideas for those books came to me because I wanted to write something about Mary Bennet. I love Mary, and, strangely, relate to her. When people fantasize about which Bennet sister they might be, most like to think they’d be Elizabeth, but I know I’d be Mary. I’m not particularly religious like she is, but, like her, I think I can be a little pedantic sometimes. Also, I’m the middle sister of three, and always thought my sisters were prettier than me. I think I have that middle child’s need to put myself forward like she does as well, and so, yes, she is my Bennet alter-ego.

The Pride and Prejudice variation I wrote after that came to me in a dream, which I have to say is a pretty great way to get inspiration for a novel. In my dream, Mr. Darcy was already engaged to another woman when he met Elizabeth at the Meryton assembly, though it wasn’t clear who that woman was. So I thought, ‘Wow! What a great premise! But who should the other woman be?’ It seemed pretty obvious that it should be the most heinous choice, and, of course, that was Caroline Bingley. Needless to say, this shocked my readers, especially because we know that a gentleman in Regency England cannot break his engagement to a lady in any honorable way. Therefore, my readers had to take a ride with me through the twists and turns that led to the Happily Ever After. Thankfully, they let me know they enjoyed the journey, and were satisfied with the result. That book is called Darcy’s Awakening, and is now also available as an audiobook as well, read by the phenomenal British actress Jannie Meisberger. I think her reading adds a whole new level to the experience of the book.

Then, just this past July, I released The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, and I’m very proud of how it turned out. I got the idea simply pondering how much lower Mr. Wickham could go than he does in P&P, and I think I’ve got him sunk pretty low with his devious behavior in my story. As a matter of fact, now, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the book:

“Mr. Wickham,” Lizzy began, once they were alone, save for Mary who was at the opposite end of the room, immersed in a book as usual. “I am surprised to see you so soon returned to the neighborhood. At the ball last night, Colonel Forster said you had been called away.”

“I was. But I did not have to go far. The matter only required an overnight visit, and I returned this morning.”

“Was it a secret mission?” she teased. “There are so many things that are mysterious about you.”

“Are there?”

“Such as this person who was at the Meryton assembly whom you said spoke of me to you.”

“Ah, yes. As to that, it is nothing to concern yourself about, Miss Bennet. Just a fellow officer who’s eye you had caught. You see? I am not so mysterious.”

“And your reason for going away yesterday?”

“Not secret, but too boring to bother relating,” he replied.

“I see.” She felt he was being elusive, but let it pass.

“How was the ball?” A shadow of concern passed over his face.

“Lovely. And rather illuminating as well.”

“Illuminating?”

“Well, I had some conversation with Mr. Darcy.”

“Oh,” he scoffed. “What did he have to say?”

“He said there was another side to the story you told about how he has neglected and mistreated you.”

“Did he tell you that other side?” he asked, frowning.

“No, he did not. He said a ball was not the place for it, and that he was not at liberty to divulge the details without revealing private information.”

“Well, that makes it clear. If he felt so strongly about his position, he would have explained it to you. No, I promise you Miss Bennet, he has no defense for his behavior. Besides,” he added, smiling sweetly, “don’t you feel that it is always the party who is in the wrong who insists there are ‘two sides to every story?’”

“No, I have not necessarily found that to be true.”

“You must believe me, Miss Bennet, in this case it is. What motive would I have for misleading you? You must see that I am the abused in this situation. He has everything, I have nothing. He has power, influence, money, family. I am just a poor man having to fight for every scrap in this world. Is it not always the rich who tread upon the poor?” His chest puffed up. “I am a person who believes that one should earn their way in this world. I take nothing for granted. I am in the militia to defend and honor my country. What does he do for his country? I stand up for the poor and beleaguered, Miss Bennet. I am on the side of the little man. I reject his aristocratic ways and antiquated system of entitlement. I say, we are all equal in the eyes of God. Therefore, am I not equal to him in spite of all his wealth? How dare he seek to belittle me when I am already so low in this world?”

Lizzy had never heard anyone speak this way. His passionate words stirred her. “Goodness, Mr. Wickham, I see your point.” Then she glanced at Mary and thought of how Mr. Darcy had shown such compassion for her last night. “And yet, Mr. Darcy seems like a fair and just man.”

“Hmph. I am afraid if you got to know him better, you would see how untrue that is. Not that I am encouraging you to get to know him better,” he added quickly. “Do not fall under his spell, Miss Bennet. The lure of all that money can be a temptation.”

“Certainly, I am not in any danger of being tempted, Mr. Wickham. I care not for ostentatious displays of wealth.”

“I did not mean to imply otherwise. Nor that you would be tempted by him.”

And yet, Mr. Darcy’s kindness towards her, and the words he’d spoken last night, indicated that perhaps he felt a preference for her. Was he trying to tempt her? She almost laughed at the thought. What possible reason could he have to tempt her into any kind of liaison with him? She had no money, and he knew that. Even though it didn’t seem to matter to him that Jane was in the same position with regard to Bingley, she was certain Mr. Darcy would want to do better for himself. Maybe he was just being kind to her for Mr. Bingley and Jane’s sake. “No, I am not, nor will not be tempted,” she said with finality.

He exhaled as if he’d been holding his breath a long time. “I am glad to hear it.” He smiled broadly. “Miss Bennet, I am not at liberty to speak seriously to any woman about forming an attachment at this point in my life. Yet I am very encouraged that soon I will be able to. And I must tell you, I have never met a young woman whom I care for as well as you.”

“I feel we do not know each other well enough for you to have formed such an opinion, Mr. Wickham.”

“Don’t we? I am a person who is able to judge right from my first impressions whether I like or do not like. I feel that if one is fond of a person from the start, they are very likely to always admire that person.”

“Interesting, Mr. Wickham. I am the same way. I always say you can tell much about a person from first impressions.”

“You see? We have that in common, as well as many things I can already tell we share: a love of laughing, a sense of the absurd, an enjoyment of life, the impulse not to take things too seriously…”

“I cannot disagree with you there,” she admitted.

“Miss Bennet, say you wish to get to know me better. Say also that, as long as I am in town, we can meet often. I will not be able to remain in Hertfordshire any longer than my regiment allows, but, while I am here, I hope to form a kind of…how shall I say it…agreement with you, that our acquaintance will continue to grow, in spite of absence.”

“I think I should like that,” she said. She could not deny she hoped they would continue to get to know each other better, but she also felt that the conversation was moving rather quickly.

The door to the parlor opened and her younger sisters came in, bringing noise and bluster with them.

Mr. Wickham stood. “I should go. I am glad we had the chance to speak of the subject foremost on my mind, Miss Bennet.”

She smiled at him. “I am always happy to see you, Mr. Wickham. Thank you for coming.”

He took his leave of her sisters, which took more than a few minutes. Finally, Lydia and Kitty let him go. Elizabeth watched him walk away from the front window with a quicker beating of the heart than she had seen him come. There really was no more agreeable, or interesting, man of her acquaintance. She loved watching his eyes change color with his mood. When he was laughing, they were pure blue. When he was somber, they were grey. When he was speaking passionately, they were green. He was so clearly a good man too, she mused, trying so hard to make an honest living. Without wishing ill on anyone, she hoped he would receive something substantial from his uncle when the old gentleman finally passed.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of dialogue—it’s from fairly early in the book when Wickham still seems like a good guy, winky face.

Also, I’d like to let you know that I’m giving away, just to Anna’s followers, an e-book of The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, as well as a promo code for a free copy of the audiobook of Darcy’s Awakening. Best of luck to all who enter!

Finally, if you feel so inclined, you might want to pop over to my website, GeorginaYoungEllis.com, where you’ll also find links to my romantic time-travel novels. The first one in the series, The Time Baroness, takes place in Regency England. I’m currently working on the fifth and last in the series, and I’m also starting to work on a Christmas JAFF called Pemberley Park – The Twelve Days of Christmas, a mash-up/continuation of Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. Should be fun!  Thanks for reading, everyone!

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About The Light in Darcy’s Eyes

Mr. Wickham may have genuinely fallen for Lizzy – and, he has come into a mysterious inheritance to provide a living for them once they marry. Will Lizzy succumb to his charms, or will Mr. Darcy succeed in winning her heart?

Goodreads | Amazon

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About Darcy’s Awakening

When Darcy and Lizzy meet at the Meryton assembly, Darcy is already engaged to another woman, and Lizzy has suffered the loss of someone she once loved. How will they find their way to each other, with these obstacles, and so many more, standing in their way?

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Georgina Young-Ellis

Georgina lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband who is an artist, writer, and teacher. They have a son who is a professional musician in New York City, where they all lived for eighteen years. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and was a stage actress for many years. Born and raised in the Southwest, she went to school in New York City, graduating from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. She is also a screenwriter, journalist, film/theater critic and blogger.

Connect with Georgina: website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram: GYoungEllis

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Giveaway

Georgina is generously offering an ebook of The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, open internationally, and a promo code for the audio version of Darcy’s Awakening, open to readers in the U.S. and U.K. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know if you’d like your name thrown in the hat for the ebook, the audiobook, or both. Two winners will be chosen randomly and their names announced in the comments section of this post. The giveaway will close on Sunday, September 17, 2017. Good luck!

Thank you, Georgina, for being my guest today! I look forward to reading The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes soon.

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