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Hello, dear readers! Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Bronwen Chisholm to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time, to celebrate the release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation, Mrs. Collins’ Lover. I hope you are as intrigued by this excerpt as I am! Please give her a warm welcome:

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Hello Readers! Thank you, Anna, for hosting me today. I am beyond tickled to spend time getting to know you. My favorite part of the JAFF world is the wonderful people you get to meet.

As many of you know, I am releasing my sixth Pride and Prejudice variation … TODAY!! Mrs. Collins’ Lover has been a work of the heart, which means it took much longer than normal. So, without further ado, I will share the blurb and … not quite an excerpt. This is actually a scene which is in the book, but told from a different perspective. Originally, it was included, but had to go during editing.

Elizabeth Bennet was raised with a strong belief and faith in God’s plan for her life. She knew He had a plan, even if the details were hidden from her. But, when placed in an untenable situation, she turned instead to the arms of a man to find brief moments of joy. Finally, when able to realize the happiness which was always intended for her, the weight of her guilt over her past sins convinces her of her unworthiness. Only through reconciliation with the Lover of her soul can she truly fulfill the life He planned for her. But first, she must forgive herself in order to find redemption.

Remember: In order to be redeemed, there must be sin. This story is intended for mature audiences.

Trigger Warning: There are incidents of abuse in this story.

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Mary Bennet drew her shawl tighter about her as she looked across Longbourn’s fields. There was no sight of her sister and she feared she knew where Lizzy had gone. Releasing a heavy sigh, she began walking toward Oakham Mount, dragging her feet as her mind wandered over what she had observed for the past few days.

With so many visitors to Longbourn due to Jane’s wedding, Mrs. Bennet had decided Lizzy and her husband would have to share a room. No one anticipated the man’s displeasure over the situation. Uncle and Aunt Gardiner always shared a room, even if it was not necessary. Elizabeth had attempted to smooth his ruffled feathers by suggesting she share a room with Jane, but the man demanded she share with Mary instead.

Though surprised by this, Mary had quickly agreed as she missed her older sister dearly. It was not until Lizzy had left in January that Mary realized how much she had done at Longbourn and how they all depended upon her. It was Lizzy who visited the tenants weekly and Lizzy who calmed tempers. Jane might be better at nursing injured feelings, but Lizzy provided the incentive to bring the parties together once more and promote healing. For weeks after her departure to Hunsford, the entire household felt as though it stood on its head.

The previous evening, after the last guest had finally left and everyone began to retire, Mary suggested Elizabeth move into Jane’s room. Her sister had demurred, saying she would be there for only two more nights and she had no desire to move everything now unless it was Mary’s preference. Having no objection, the sisters readied for bed and the candles were extinguished soon after.

Mary lay in silence staring into the night and waiting. About half an hour later, she heard the first soft sniffling. It had been the same every night. When Elizabeth thought Mary was asleep, she would release her tears. Mary had watched her sister during the day, and noticed Jane doing the same. The remainder of their family seemed to avoid the practice as though they did not want to know. Elizabeth was thinner and her eyes had a haunted look. Only when the Netherfield party joined them did she show any signs of her prior self, but even then she was extremely guarded and spoke little.

This morning, Elizabeth had slipped from their room very early. Mary knew her sister’s love of long walks and decided not to say anything, but when Lizzy had not returned in half an hour, she decided she would go out to meet her, hoping to be a buffer should Mr. Collins be displeased as he always seemed to be.

She had not meant to walk the entire way to Oakham Mount. Indeed, she was not normally fond of walking. However, the morning was lovely, and something seemed to spur her forward. She was about to enter the clearing at the top of the mount when she heard the voices. Mary stopped, uncertain what to do, until she realized she could hear what was being said.

“Has he hit you again?”

Mary gasped as Elizabeth responded in the negative. Mr. Collins struck Lizzy? She shook her head as her anger grew toward the man her sister had been forced to marry, before she listened again. She knew it was wrong, but Lizzy would never confess any of this to her otherwise. Their words became muffled and she moved that she might be better able to hear or possibly see them. It was then she realized they shared an intimate embrace.

A hand flew to her mouth as she stared disbelievingly. Elizabeth would never act the harlot. And with Mr. Darcy no less? She turned away, careful not to make a sound, though she doubted they would notice. She knew she should leave; it would be mortifying if they found her there, but she was torn between what she knew of her sister and Lizzy’s actions. After an internal struggle, she finally crept slowly back up the path and hid once more.

“I will not abandon you … rightful Mrs. Darcy … Elizabeth, you were meant to be mine.” Mr. Darcy’s words were muffled by the wind or his attentions to her sister.

“… he never dies? … lost my soul truly is …”

Hearing her sister’s words, realizing Elizabeth knew how wrong her actions were; Mary suddenly felt the impropriety of her own and left as quietly as she could. Once she was far enough from them, she walked quickly to put more distance between her and the couple. She had no desire to see their loving embraces. There was a time she would have taken her sister to task for her actions, but now her heart simply broke for Elizabeth. Married to such a man as Mr. Collins and loved by Mr. Darcy … Mary shook her head. Once she was far enough past the split in the road, she took a seat upon a stile and waited. Her heart was torn and, for the first time in her life, she questioned her convictions.

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Poor Mary. Known by most JAFF readers as the righteous sister – to be confronted with her sister’s downfall. I think you will be proud of how she handles the situation.

And now, a GIVEAWAY! Just make a comment on this blog (with your email address) and Anna will pick 1 lucky winner to receive an ebook copy of Mrs. Collins’ Lover. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, August 18, 2019. Good luck! And I hope you enjoyed our visit as much as I did. I can’t wait to read your comments.

Bronwen Chisholm

Bronwen Chisholm began her writing career working on suspense romance, but finally became a published author with her Pride and Prejudice variations. She takes great pleasure in searching for potential “plot twists” and finding the way back to a happy ending.

Her love of writing has led her to several writing groups, and she is currently serving as the vice president of the Riverside Writers and organizes the Riverside Young Writers.

For more information, visit her at www.bronwenchisholm.com.

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Follow the Blog Tour

7/31 Austen Authors

8/9 Babblings of a Bookworm

8/10 Diary of an Eccentric

8/12 From Pemberley to Milton

8/14 More Agreeably Engaged

8/17 My Love for Jane Austen

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I read Karen M Cox’s Cold War-era Pride and Prejudice spy novel, Undeceived, when it was first released in 2016 and absolutely loved her take on Darcy and Elizabeth as CIA agents. I’m delighted that the novel has been re-released, and I’m thrilled to be sharing an excerpt with you all today. But first, here’s what I said about Undeceived (which was on my Best of 2016 list) in my review:

I absolutely loved this novel from start to finish. What a unique way to retell Austen’s novel, and it really works! I loved Darcy as the arrogant yet charming spy and Elizabeth as a strong woman determined to get ahead in her career on her own merits, not by her father’s legacy in the agency. Fitzwilliam as MI6 and Charlotte as FBI, not to mention the bumbling agent Bill Collins, were fantastic additions to the cast of characters. The novel was so different that despite keeping the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, I had no idea how it all would play out.

Please give Karen a warm welcome!

Hello Readers, and thank you to Anna for hosting me on Diary of an Eccentric. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my re-release of Undeceived: Pride and Prejudice in the Spy Game.

William Darcy, legendary CIA officer, has worn many hats and has worked all over the world. His latest position, as station chief in Prague, ended in disaster. Now, he’s been sent to Budapest… 

Budapest, Hungary

April 1982

“For Darby Kent?” The young messenger tried to wrap his tongue around the English pronunciation of Darcy’s alias as he handed him the envelope.

“Thank you,” he replied in Hungarian and put a forint coin in the kid’s hand. Still, after four months in this country, Darcy had trouble with the Magyar language and kept his small talk to a minimum. His cover as an American businessman consulting with the Hungarian government wasn’t ideal for gathering intelligence, but given his lack of finesse with Hungarian, it was probably a necessity.

The language barrier was one more reason this new assignment made no sense whatsoever.

He slid the letter opener across the flap and retrieved the sealed envelope inside. Lifting the false bottom of his desk drawer, he found his Cardan grille and laid it over a newspaper article planted in the Baltimore Sun society page.

“Smart ass,” he muttered, referring to the Central European station chief’s idea to put the coded message in the society page. The COS took any opportunity to goad him by testing the famous Darcy photographic memory. Now, Darcy would have to remember the content in the article in case someone referred to it. He was sure state security routinely opened his mail. His pencil scratched across the notepad as he wrote down the letters left visible through the Cardan grille card.

Fine Eyes rendezvous at Pied Piper’s gamble. SIP. Dossier to follow.

Finally, they were sending him a translator! Anyone was better than Bill Collins over at the State Department, a bumbling idiot who stuck out like a sore thumb. Everything about that nitwit—his walk, his talk, his manner—screamed American.

Darcy lit the scratch paper with his lighter. He stared into the flame and let the ashes fall into the fireplace until he had to drop them, making sure they burned completely. He washed the soot and pencil lead from his hands and adjusted his tie in the gilded mirror, reminding himself to stay positive. As covers went, this Budapest gig was pretty cushy: a nice flat in the Castle district, access to a phone (wire-tapped but useful for unclassified correspondence), eating establishments and laundry facilities close by, and the best household amenities that Hungary and its “goulash” brand of communism could provide. Even his car—a Zsiguli, a luxury in Budapest—was provided. He certainly had been in worse situations over the years.

He ran a hand over his hair to smooth it and tried on his most devilish grin. Darby Kent was a smooth operator, and Darcy knew how to play the part, almost to perfection.

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About Undeceived

…if I endeavor to undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me?

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 40

Elizabeth Bennet, a rookie counterintelligence officer, lands an intriguing first assignment—investigating the CIA’s legendary William Darcy, who is suspected of being a double agent.

Darcy’s charmed existence seems at an end as he fights for his career and struggles against his love for the young woman he doesn’t know is watching his every move.

Elizabeth’s confidence dissolves as nothing is like she planned—and the more she discovers about Darcy, the more she finds herself in an ever-tightening web of danger.

Unexpected twists abound in this suspenseful Cold War era romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic tale.

Universal Buy Link

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About the Author

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five novels accented with history and romance: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, I Could Write a Book, and Son of a Preacher Man, and a novella, The Journey Home, a companion piece to 1932.  She also loves writing short stories and has contributed to four Austen-inspired anthologies: “Northanger Revisited 2015” appears in Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, “I, Darcy” in The Darcy Monologues, “An Honest Man” in Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues, and “A Nominal Mistress” in Rational Creatures.

Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little Central Kentucky town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.

Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker—like Elizabeth Bennet.

Connect with Karen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page

If you would like bits of authorly goodness in your inbox each month (updates, sales, book recommendations, etc.) sign up for her News & Muse Letter. She loves to hear from readers, so don’t be shy. Contact her through social media, her website, or on-line stores.

A big thank you to Karen for being my guest today! Congratulations on the re-release! I hope my readers will check out Undeceived and love it as much as I did!

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I’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest release, Darcy in Hollywood. I’ve enjoyed editing all of Victoria’s books thus far, but her modern-day Pride and Prejudice variations are especially fun. I hope you enjoy our interview, as well as the excerpt from Darcy in Hollywood. Please give Victoria a warm welcome.

What inspired you to bring Darcy and Elizabeth to Hollywood?

That’s a good question which is always hard to answer since usually the idea for a book has been gestating in my brain for at least a year before I start writing it.  There are a lot of contemporary romances with movie stars as protagonists as well as a number of movies (like Notting Hill).  I really enjoy that subgenre; I think it’s particularly interesting to see the clash between the Hollywood lifestyle and the lives of ordinary people.  I also wanted to write another modern after President Darcy since that one was so much fun, and I thought Hollywood would make a good setting for the P&P story.

How difficult was it to adapt P&P to this setting? Did you find it difficult to insert timely themes, of which there are many throughout the book?

Writing a modern P&P variation is definitely harder than writing one set in the Regency time period because I need to find modern equivalents for the events, places, occupations, etc. that happen in P&P.  I didn’t set out to insert any modern themes in the story—any more than I did with President Darcy.  But they do have a way of creeping in.  The storyline about drug addiction was a natural fit with Hollywood, where so many people struggle with addiction issues, and it helped motivate a lot of character behavior.

Other themes came about in different ways.  I wanted Elizabeth to be committed to a charitable cause so that she would see a contrast between her beliefs and Darcy’s.  Originally I planned to have her become a worker in a nonprofit, but then decided it would be better if she was becoming a doctor.  One of the reasons I had her pick LGBTQ issues as a cause was personal.  My daughter has a friend whose parents disowned them when they came out as nonbinary.  This person is just a sweet, loving human being and that kind of rejection just struck me as so wrong.  That sense of injustice wouldn’t leave me alone, so it ended up as a subplot in the story.

You have a way with humor in your modern variations, from the Bennet family’s business in President Darcy to my favorite in Darcy in Hollywood: Bill Collins and Catherine de Bourgh. I don’t want to spoil it for readers, but oh how I laughed whenever Collins came into the picture…and Catherine’s advice to Darcy…priceless! That being said, what was your favorite scene to write? Do you have a favorite secondary character in your variation?

I always enjoy writing humor in my variations.  I actually think it’s an important part of Pride and Prejudice since Austen herself made humor an integral part of her stories.  With Collins and de Bourgh, in particular, it’s almost impossible to go too far with their characters—which makes them very fun to write.  I can make Collins can be as sycophantic and as stupid as possible, and it still works with the character Austen wrote.  Similarly, Catherine de Bourgh can never be too imperious or oblivious.

The joy of writing a modern novel is that I can think up new contexts for them to display those same character traits.  For instance, in Darcy in Hollywood, Collins becomes Mrs. de Bourgh’s personal assistant who has literally given up his life so he can devote it to hers.  He doesn’t even see his parents at Christmas (they just exchange cards) because de Bourgh needs him to sing carols to her on Christmas day.

This is your second modern P&P variation. Do you have plans to write another? (I sure hope so!) Do you find the moderns more difficult to write? To me, the moderns seem to give more freedom in the plot and characterization. But does that freedom make it harder since you lose the confines of Regency social rules?

Right now I don’t have an idea for another modern variation, but I’m sure another one will occur to me at some point.  Before I wrote President Darcy, I would have said that moderns should be easier to write since the writer doesn’t have to do as much research or worry about period details and period language.  But I would have been wrong.  In fact, Darcy in Hollywood took me longer to write than any book since my first one—and I deleted sixty pages from my drafts of the novel.

Regency-set P&P variations are easier in part because I can start partway through the story and the reader will know what has happened before.  For instance, I could open the book with the proposal at Hunsford, and readers wouldn’t bat an eye.  But in a modern, I’d have to explain how Darcy and Elizabeth met and got to the point where he was making some kind of offer (probably not an offer of marriage so early in their acquaintance). So modern variations end up being longer because I need to include more of the original P&P narrative.

The other thing that makes moderns hard is trying to remain true to Austen’s characters while having their behavior make sense in a modern setting.  A modern mother isn’t likely to want to marry her daughters off like the original Mrs. Bennet.  So I made her into a stage mother instead—someone who’s convinced that Lydia will be a big movie star.  Likewise, Mr. Bennet went from being a fairly well-to-do landowner, to a producer of B-movies.

But I ran into major problems with Darcy in this respect.  I discovered he really didn’t want to be a movie star!  With his personality, he didn’t fit with the Hollywood culture of self-promotion, screaming fans, and glitzy parties. I’d originally seen him as someone who was so proud of his work that he believed he deserved the adulation, but Darcy is too private for that.  So I had rewrite the early parts to make him into a kind of Masterpiece Theatre, classical actor who starred in one movie that made him a heartthrob to teenage girls—much to his embarrassment.  That worked much better for Darcy’s character.

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Here is an excerpt from the beginning of Darcy in Hollywood—right after Darcy nearly hits Elizabeth with his car. Enjoy!

Darcy stomped on the momentary flare of irritation.  “Is the sarcasm really necessary?”

She regarded him through narrowed eyes.  “Yeah, I think it is.  What’s the alternative?  That I should be honored to be knocked over by your car?  Because I don’t think your identity would have been much comfort to my parents.  ‘We don’t have a daughter anymore, but at least she was killed by a celebrity.  Maybe he can autograph her coffin.’”

Why did she have to be so difficult?  He was already putting up with so much doing an indie film.  “That’s not what I meant.  You don’t have to put it that way—”

“I almost got hit by a car.  I can put it however the fuck I want to!”

Darcy was so over this woman. She wasn’t nearly as pretty as he had initially thought. If only he could leave.  But he needed to make sure she wouldn’t talk to the media; another car-related incident would be a disaster for his career.  From now on, I only travel by train or boat.  Pity about her personality; she had fine eyes.

Darcy helped the woman limp to a nearby bench and gently lowered her to the seat.  “Maybe I should call for an ambulance,” he suggested.  He would have preferred to discuss having her sign a nondisclosure agreement, but it seemed a little insensitive.

“Let me sit for a minute.”  Leaning forward, she cradled her head in her hands, providing a good view of the blood matting the hair on the back of her head.  Huh, maybe she wasn’t wrong about the possible concussion.

Darcy settled on the bench beside her despite a desperate desire to cross the street and slip into Building 4, where they were holding the table read.  They won’t start without me, he reminded himself.  But being late wouldn’t impress them with his professionalism.

He took the opportunity to check her for other injuries.  She had a scrape on her right arm and favored her left ankle.  Of course, her clothes were disheveled—and a fashion disaster.  The sleeve of her t-shirt was ripped where she had fallen.

“I can get you a new t-shirt.”

“Huh?”

He gestured to the rip.

Her mouth hung open.  “I don’t give a shit about the t-shirt!”

“I don’t think that kind of language is called for.”

“That kind of language?” she echoed and then squinted at him.  “Are you drunk?”

“It’s 7 a.m.”

“Yes, it is.  Are you drunk?  Or high?”

Damn, you have one scandal…

“No,” he said sharply.

“The car was moving rather erratically.”

“I was…trying to work the stereo.  It’s complicated.”

“You almost killed me because you couldn’t work the radio?”

“To be fair, it’s satellite radio.  And I didn’t almost kill you!”

“To-may-to, to-mah-to.”

His jaw clenched so tightly he could grind glass.   “This isn’t a matter of opinion!  You would have been fine if you hadn’t fallen.”

“I also would have been fine if your Ferrari hadn’t come hurtling toward me.”

Darcy didn’t respond; arguing was futile.  After a moment she gave him a sidelong glance.  “You don’t need to babysit me; I can call myself an ambulance if I need one.”

“I shouldn’t leave you alone.”

“Oh!  You don’t want me talking to the press.  Don’t worry.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” he lied.  “My primary concern is your well-being.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls you almost run over.”

Darcy stifled a smile.  Under other circumstances, he’d think she was funny.  “I assure you that you’re the first.”

The woman examined the scrape on her arm.  “I accept your apology, by the way.”

“I didn’t apologize.”

Now she turned her blue-green gaze on him.  “I noticed that.  Why didn’t you?  Do you think this is my fault?  That your car had the right of way on the sidewalk?”

Darcy would have apologized—if he had thought of it—but now he couldn’t without losing face.  “I didn’t hit you.  You agreed I didn’t hit you!”  I sound like an idiot insisting on that point.  

“You. Are. Unbelievable.”

Darcy had heard that before but usually in a more complimentary tone.

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About Darcy in Hollywood

A modern Pride and Prejudice variation.

Rich and arrogant movie star, William Darcy, was a Hollywood heartthrob until a scandalous incident derailed his career. Now he can only hope that Tom Bennet’s prestigious but low budget indie film will restore his reputation. However, on the first day of filming, he nearly hits Bennet’s daughter, Elizabeth, with his Ferrari, and life will never be the same. Okay, she’s a little sarcastic, but he’s certain she’s concealing a massive crush on him—and it’s growing harder to fight his own attraction….

Elizabeth Bennet has a lot on her plate. She’s applying to medical school and running the studio’s charity project—while hoping her family won’t embarrass her too much. Being Darcy’s on-set personal assistant is infuriating; he’s rude, proud, and difficult. If there’s one thing she dislikes, it’s people who only think about themselves. But then Elizabeth discovers Darcy has been doing a lot of thinking about her.

She might be willing to concede a mutual attraction, but events are conspiring against them and Darcy subject to constant public scrutiny. Can Darcy and Elizabeth have any hope for a happy ending to their Hollywood romance?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an ebook copy of Darcy in Hollywood to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

 

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Hello, dear readers! My guest today is Mirta Ines Trupp, author of The Meyersons of Meryton.  She is here to share an excerpt of her new book, and she has a giveaway for you as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I am delighted to be here today and greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak about my latest novel, The Meyersons of Meryton.  More than two hundred years after Pride and Prejudice was published, we are witnessing the genre of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) grow at a remarkable rate. I believe that our beloved author would be flattered by this outpour of admiration and astonished at the level of creativity in the reimagining of her work. As I am a fan of period dramas, an author of historical fiction and an ardent student of Judaica, it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to come up with this storyline of a Jewish family mingling with Miss Austen’s treasured characters.

In truth, the concept of fan fiction is quite an accepted practice in Judaism. Sages and students alike re-interpret writings in order to explore biblical text and make them more accessible; discover new insights; or even come up with different conclusions or “what-ifs.” These reimagined works are called Midrash. This process invites us to insert ourselves in the canon. It allows us to personalize the story with our own viewpoints, or fantasies, and may even help deliver the moral of the story in a more meaningful manner.

Parodies are also popular in the Jewish community. We see this year in, year out when we celebrate the holidays of Purim and Chanukah. The Internet is flooded with clever and creative spoofs of Top 40 hits that change out the lyrics to teach something about the season, to say something enlightening or inspiring, or to validate our existence as a minority community. These pop culture references, coupled with the headier lessons found in Midrash, were the impetus for writing The Meyersons of Meryton.

There are few noteworthy Jewish characters in the classics. We are inundated with negative stereotypes thanks, in part, to the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Heyer. I wanted to tell another story, one that—hopefully— will entertain and delight the diverse audience of Jane Austen fans.

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An excerpt from The Meyersons of Meryton, courtesy of Mirta Ines Trupp

“Do you suppose the Meyersons are much like the Romani gypsies in the woods?”

Mr. Bennet chuckled as he smoothed out his paper. “I dare say you will find them to be much like others of our acquaintance.”

As the grand clock struck four, a carriage was heard making its way along the gravel drive. Kitty jumped from her seat and was for the window, only to be stayed by a stern reprimand from her mother. Mary turned from the pianoforte, indignant at her younger sibling’s lack of propriety.

“Continue to act in such a manner, Kitty, and you will forever be treated as a frivolous and irksome child. It would behoove you to look to your elders and attempt to emulate the proper etiquette so becoming in a young lady of quality.”

“Mary, dear, do try to be sociable,” Mrs. Bennet petitioned. “One does not know what sort of people these Meyersons are. Jews or not, I would not have anyone say that they were ill received at Longbourn.”

Kitty, hiding behind an embroidered silk pillow, proceeded to stick her tongue out toward her sister as Hill opened the door and announced the awaited visitors.

“Mr. and Mrs. Meyerson, madam.”

A family of three entered the room. The gentleman bowed and the lady curtsied. A child clung closely to her mama, so much so that she nearly was concealed by the lady’s skirt. The little miss peeked from behind, her large hazel eyes taking in a room full of strangers, and she proceeded to place her thumb into the safe confines of her cherubic mouth.

“You are most welcome,” Mr. Bennet said as he eagerly extended his hand. “Allow me to introduce Mrs. Bennet and my daughters, Jane, the eldest, followed by Elizabeth, Mary and Catherine, or Kitty, as we call her—she is rather too silly yet to be called her proper name.”

Mrs. Bennet, ashamed for her daughter and how the girl’s silliness could reflect on her own maternal talents, silently performed a welcoming curtsey.

“We are grateful for your hospitality, Mrs. Bennet,” said the gentleman as he bowed over her hand. “It is a blessing to be received with such amiability and on such short notice, too! I do hope you will accept our apologies for any inconvenience…”

“Ahem…” the elegant lady murmured.

“Ah, but I am forgetting my manners—Jacob Meyerson, your servant, ma’am.” He extended his hand to his side, before continuing, “My wife, Mrs. Meyerson, and our daughter, Rachel.”

“We are delighted you have arrived safely,” said Mrs. Bennet, and she was surprisingly sincere. Her guests, although quite unknown to her in every conceivable manner, were fashionable and appeared to be exemplary specimens of London society.

“Are you the rabbi? You do not look at all as I expected,” Kitty exclaimed.

“You were expecting a rather exotic fellow with a flowing kaftan and an impressive growth of a beard,” Mr. Meyerson responded amicably with a great bellow of a laugh. “The great Maimonides once said there is no commandment requiring Jews to seek out clothing which would make them stand out as different from what is worn by Gentiles. Therefore, Miss Catherine, as you find my appearance in keeping with Hertfordshire society, it would seem I am in good standing with the great philosopher.”

Mortified, Kitty blushed and retreated to the corner. Mrs. Bennet rolled her eyes at her daughter’s unrefined comportment, although, if she were to be truthful, at least with herself, she would have admitted to sharing the very same thoughts. However, not wanting to appear ignorant or worse yet, unsociable, Mrs. Bennet quickly attempted to make amends.

“May I offer you some refreshment? You must be tired after so long a journey. Ring the bell for tea, Kitty.”

“Tea would be most welcome,” Mrs. Meyerson said with a gentle smile as she took the proffered seat. “Your kind housekeeper showed my maid and the child’s nurse to their rooms, but I would have Rachel stay by my side, at least until she is a bit more acclimated to her surroundings. May I beg your indulgence madam?”

The child had already made herself quite at home, having found a comfortable spot at her father’s feet. Elizabeth stole a glance and observed her mother’s reaction. La! The child had a bit of Lydia’s tenacity. Certainly her mama would recognize the similarities and not request the child be removed. Having spared any discipline towards her youngest daughter, Elizabeth could not think that the mistress of the house would do any less for her guest.

But then her thoughts turned to Mr. Darcy. Had he been in attendance, what would he have decreed? Would he be of the opinion that children were to be seen and not heard?

Her own upbringing differed greatly from what Mr. Darcy had experienced at Pemberley House. Five daughters brought up at home without a governess—Lady Catherine had been scandalized at the notion and, indeed, compared to other families, she and her sisters had been quite at liberty to run amok. It seemed that today would be no different.

Mrs. Bennet gazed uncomfortably at her good rug before smiling at her guest. “But of course little Rachel should stay, Mrs. Meyerson.”

The lady nodded her gratitude to her hostess and then, turning to her husband, she chastised, “Mr. Meyerson! You, sir, have caused Miss Catherine to feel uncomfortable in her own home. How is the young miss expected to know of rabbis and medieval philosophers? If you are going to preach, at least let there be a lesson so that others may benefit from the experience.”

Mr. Meyerson laughed once more and joined his wife on the settee. “I do beg your pardon, Miss Catherine. My wife is quite right.”

“Please do not worry on my account,” Kitty stated. Thinking better of her comments, she added, “It was idle curiosity, nothing more.”

Mrs. Bennet, unaccustomed to such easy behavior between man and wife, had become quite undone. Within moments of making their acquaintance, Mrs. Meyerson chastised and teased her husband and he accepted her admonishments with good humor and grace. Her mouth suddenly dry, Mrs. Bennet found she lacked sufficient conversation and began waving her delicate handkerchief towards her daughter.

 “The bell, Kitty,” was her fervent plea.

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About The Meyersons of Meryton

When a new family, thought to be associated with the House of Rothschild arrives in Meryton, a chain of events are set in place that threaten the betrothal of Miss Elizabeth Bennet to her beloved Mr. Darcy.

Rabbi Meyerson and family are received at Longbourn. This inconvenience leads to misfortune, for when the rabbi disappears from the quiet market town, Mr. Bennet follows dutifully in his path.

Her father’s sudden departure shadowed by the Wickhams’ unannounced arrival has Elizabeth judging not only her reactions to these tumultuous proceedings but her suitability as the future Mistress of Pemberley. A sensible woman would give her hand in marriage without a second thought. Can Elizabeth say goodbye forever to the one man who has captured her heart?

The Meyersons of Meryton is a Pride and Prejudice variation. The narrative introduces Jewish characters and history to the beloved novel and, although there are some adult themes, this is an inspirational and clean read.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Mirta Ines Trupp

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with ‘un pie acá, y un pie allá’ (with one foot here and one foot there).

Mirta’s fascination with Jewish history and genealogy, coupled with an obsession for historical period drama, has inspired her to create these unique and enlightening novels. She has been a guest speaker for book clubs, sisterhood events, genealogy societies and philanthropic organizations.

Connect with Mirta on Facebook | Goodreads

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Giveaway

Mirta is generously offering 5 ebooks to my readers, no geographic restrictions. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 30, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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

Seventeen Questions with Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam

By Jayne Bamber

Lady Rebecca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LR: No, I think not.

SG:

LR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LR: I am not at all surprised!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SG: Most unusual!

LR: Is it?

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

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

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

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

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

LR: How tedious that would be!

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

LR: Strong sentiment – I think it quite odious.

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

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

SG: Of course. Mrs. Banks….

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

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

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

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

LR: The sentiment you may spare me, sir.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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I’m excited to welcome C.P. Odom to Diary of an Eccentric today to share an excerpt from his latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Perilous Siege. I’m intrigued by the idea of Pride and Prejudice in an alternate universe, and I hope you all are as well! Please give him a warm welcome!

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Good day, Anna. It’s a pleasure to be here at Diary of an Eccentric to share this excerpt from Perilous Siege with your readers. I hope your readers enjoy this scene between Jane and Elizabeth.

Thursday, November 28, 1811
Hertfordshire

Mrs. Bennet’s joy had begun to decline by the next day since she had already dragged Mary to see most of their friends. Since her two youngest daughters were more than desperate to escape from her presence, they expressed their inclination to walk to Meryton as they so often did in the mornings. Elizabeth was reluctant to go with them, despite her usual zest for exercise and sunshine, but Jane was most urgent in wishing her to come, and Elizabeth reluctantly relented.

Upon reaching the town, the group almost immediately met with Lieutenants Denny and Wickham, who greeted them warmly—or mostly so since Elizabeth noted his greeting to her was terser and less cordial than on previous occasions. However, since she was far more concerned with recovering from her encounter with Darcy, she paid his coolness little attention, especially since she knew he never could have had any intentions toward her because of her lack of money.

At her younger sisters’ insistence, Wickham joined their party when they went to their aunt’s house. When they arrived, Mrs. Philips was most enthusiastic about Mary’s good fortune. She was also cognizant of the events at the ball and slyly complimented both Jane and Elizabeth on their good fortune, even going so far as to wonder whether additional good news might not be forthcoming.

This latter statement was not received well by Wickham, who now carefully looked all about the room at everyone except Elizabeth. He realized why she had been so unresponsive on the first evening they met when he tried to spin his tale of Darcy’s malefactions toward himself. However, as a seasoned campaigner in the pursuit of the opposite sex, he put the topic from his mind. There were far more fish in the sea than Miss Elizabeth Bennet, even if she was one of the more delectable ones.

As Wickham and Denny walked back with them to Longbourn, the Netherfield ball remained the prime topic of conversation. Elizabeth noticed that Wickham continued to ignore her, seeming to pay more attention to her youngest sister, who was so flattered by the attention that she invited the two officers inside to introduce them to her father and mother.

Soon after their return, a letter arrived from Netherfield for Jane, who opened it immediately. Elizabeth saw her sister’s expression change as she read the sheet of paper covered on both sides with a fair, elegant hand. Though Jane collected herself and tried to join the conversation with her usual cheerfulness, Elizabeth knew her sister too well. She guessed the note came from Caroline Bingley, and her sisterly eye told her it contained news less than pleasant in nature. As soon as possible, even though Wickham and Denny had not yet departed, Elizabeth gave a nod of her head toward the stairs and both sisters went to Jane’s room.

There, Jane confirmed her suspicions. “This letter is from Caroline Bingley, and its contents have surprised me a good deal. It was written yesterday, and it says she and her sister have decided to follow their brother to London with none of them intending to return to Netherfield. Caroline does declare her only regret was being thus deprived of the society of me, her dearest friend.”

Despite the worries afflicting her, Elizabeth heard these high-flown expressions with her usual distrust of the writer’s sincerity. Yet, what she had heard so far did not explain the unhappiness she could see in her sister.

“While it is unlucky you did not have an opportunity to see your friends before they left the neighborhood, their leaving will not prevent Mr. Bingley from returning to Netherfield. In that case, the absence of your friends will be offset later by the greater happiness you will have as sisters.”

To this, Jane shook her head. “Caroline decidedly says none of their party will return into Hertfordshire this winter. She says her brother’s business in London will take more than the three or four days he imagined, and since he does not plan to return, she and her sister decided to follow him immediately so he would not be left alone without the company of family. She goes on to wish my Christmas in Hertfordshire would be joyous, and I would have so many beaux I would not feel the loss of their presence.”

Jane choked back a sob. “Do you not see, Lizzy? Caroline means Mr. Bingley will not come back this winter.”

“It is only evident Miss Bingley does not mean he should.”

“Why do you think so? It must be his decision since he is his own master. But there is more. Let me read you the most painful parts for me. I will keep nothing from you.”

Elizabeth could hear the pain in Jane’s voice as she read Caroline’s words singing the praises of Miss Georgiana Darcy and their hope that the affection she and Louisa held for Georgiana would soon be heightened by the three of them being sisters. She went on to talk of her brother’s great admiration for Georgiana, which she expected to deepen into a more serious association.

“Listen to what Caroline says: ‘With all these circumstances to favor an attachment, and nothing to prevent it, am I wrong, my dearest Jane, in indulging the hope of an event which will secure the happiness of so many?’

“What think you of this sentence, my dear Lizzy?” Jane said as she finished it. “Is it not clear enough? Does it not expressly declare Caroline neither expects nor wishes me to be her sister? That she is perfectly convinced of her brother’s indifference and, suspecting the nature of my feelings for him, means to most kindly put me on my guard? Can there be any other opinion on the subject?”

“Yes, there can, for mine is totally different. Dearest Jane, Miss Bingley knows her brother is in love with you while she and her sister wish him to marry Miss Darcy. As a result, the two of them followed their brother to town in the hope of keeping him there. Then she wrote you this despicable note to persuade you that he does not care about you.”

Jane shook her head.

“Indeed, Jane, you ought to believe me,” Elizabeth said urgently. “No one who has ever seen you and Mr. Bingley together can doubt his affection. Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot. She is not such a simpleton. Could she have seen half as much love from Mr. Darcy for herself, she would have already ordered her wedding clothes.”

Jane looked doubtful since she had not seen Miss Bingley’s attentions to Darcy through the same eyes as Elizabeth.

“We are not rich enough or grand enough for her and her sister’s aspirations to rise in society, so Miss Bingley is anxious to attach Miss Darcy to her brother because it will aid in her goal of achieving a similar attachment for herself with Mr. Darcy. There is certainly some ingenuity in her plan since one marriage might well engender another.

“But you must not believe Miss Bingley when she tells you her brother greatly admires Miss Darcy since he never would have shown you the attentions I witnessed on Tuesday were it true. Miss Bingley is possibly mistaken in everything she writes, but it is far more likely she wrote with the object of deceiving you.”

“If we thought alike of Miss Bingley,” Jane replied, “what you say would make me feel quite easy. But your charges are not just. Caroline is incapable of willfully deceiving anyone. I simply hope she is deceived herself.”

“Believe that if you will not believe me. Believe her to be deceived, by all means. Now you have cleared your friend of my suspicions and must fret no longer.”

“But, my dear sister, can I be happy in accepting a man whose sisters and friends all wish him to marry elsewhere?”

“You must decide for yourself. If you find the misery of disobliging his two sisters too distressing in comparison to the happiness of being his wife, then I advise you to refuse him.”

Jane had to smile slightly at this comment. “You know better, Lizzy. I would be grieved at their disapprobation, but I could not hesitate.”

“I did not think you would.”

“But what if he returns no more this winter? If he does not return until summer? A thousand things may arise in six months!”

Elizabeth heaped scorn on the very idea of his returning no more. It appeared to be yet another of Caroline’s wishes. And how could such wishes influence a young man so independent and master of his own house and fortune?

She made this point as forcibly as possible and soon had the pleasure of seeing the growth of hope for Bingley’s return to Netherfield, which would answer every wish of Jane’s heart.

They were undecided on how much to tell their mother since they knew learning of the departure from Netherfield would alarm her. Since they could reach no decision, they decided simply to wait for further developments if they were to occur.

***

At twilight, Jane and Elizabeth’s worries about what to tell their mother were put to rest by the arrival of Mr. Darcy at Longbourn. Elizabeth easily recognized his figure as he turned his horse up the drive, and she quietly left the room and climbed the stairs to her chamber.

Darcy found all the ladies save Elizabeth in the parlor and greeted them in his usual, reserved fashion.

Turning to Jane, he said, “Mr. Bingley sent me a note today, asking me to inform you of his planned return to Netherfield in four or five days, which is longer than he had anticipated. My own party, including my sister and Major McDunn, will be returning to town before then since McDunn and I have business associated with our several enterprises.”

Mrs. Bennet received the news with a frown. She had not realized Bingley would be gone so long, but what concerned her more was Darcy’s sudden and unexpected departure. How would he make his declarations to Elizabeth if he did not return?

But Darcy saw the relief on Miss Bennet’s face, and he knew she had likely received some kind of distressing news, probably from Caroline Bingley.

I was right, Darcy thought to himself. Bingley’s note did not mention it, but it would be just like Caroline to try to throw Miss Bennet into despair by sending a nice, little, vicious note of some kind.

He was not surprised at Elizabeth’s absence. In light of their encounter, he had anticipated she would remove herself rather than meet him. From the intensity of her reaction and the totally unexpected passion she had revealed, there had been a remote possibility she might not truly comprehend the impossibility of a connection between them and could thus engage in a hopeless pursuit embarrassing to all parties.

He turned to Jane. “Please convey to your sister my most sincere felicitations and all hope she will have a joyous Christmas season—as I hope for all of your family. Farewell to you all, ladies.”

And so he departed, suddenly and precipitously, leaving Mrs. Bennet with an open mouth. She had been so involved with worrying about Elizabeth, she had not even had time to tell him of Mary’s impending marriage.

From the window of her room, Elizabeth watched the tall, handsome man mount his horse, and both her eyes and her heart followed his every movement. The grace and muscular power inherent in his performance of such a familiar action spoke to those parts of her that vainly loved and desired this unattainable man.

She was completely aware she might never see Darcy again, and she tried to memorize his every aspect as though it had to last her a lifetime. As he turned down the drive, she felt a stab of pain at how his head made not even the slightest movement to glance up at her window. It was apparent he was determined to abide by her parting words—that they should not meet again.

Her fingertips went to her cheek, only to find fresh tears there. At the moment, she was only cognizant of the desperate yearning in her heart for what could never be, and her tears became rasping sobs as her shoulders heaved with the grief derived from losing something incredibly dear.

Elizabeth felt a sudden impulse to dispel all propriety, to run down the stairs of Longbourn, and chase Darcy down the drive. Her words echoed in her mind as she called out to him, desperately begging him to pull her up behind him on his horse and carry her away to an unknown future with no regard for consequences.

But Elizabeth Bennet was a woman of her time, and thus, she did nothing. She could only watch as Darcy turned at the end of the drive and disappeared before she threw herself onto her bed and buried her head in her pillow.

What am I going to do? she wondered, her fist in her mouth to quell the sound of her sobs. How shall I ever get by?

***

Elizabeth was thankful it was almost a half-hour before she heard Jane’s footsteps in the hall, allowing her the time to get her emotions under regulation and to repair the evidence of her tears.

And Jane’s news did much to cheer her when Elizabeth learned the reason for Darcy’s visit.

“Did I not say as much, Jane?” Elizabeth said, forcing a laugh she believed to be unaffected. “I said Mr. Bingley would not be kept from Netherfield by his sisters’ departure! Do you not see his supposed attraction to Miss Darcy was entirely contrived by Caroline Bingley? I sat with Miss Darcy once when you were sick, and I discerned nothing on her part but polite attentiveness to Mr. Bingley.”

“Yes, you must be right. This is very difficult for me to understand, but Caroline must have written her note to deceive me. It is I who was deceived in thinking her a true friend.”

“There you see Miss Bingley’s skill in her polite and sophisticated ability to slip the knife of deceit into the back of another. No matter how attentive she and her sister were to you, I never trusted them—not at all. But let us not dwell on this! When she sees the failure of her efforts, I have no doubt her supposed friendship will make a sudden reappearance!”

“You are likely correct.” Jane was more than a little unhappy at being forced to this admission.

“That is because I love the sweetest and most unaffected sister.”

“And I love you, Lizzy,” Jane said then suddenly stepped forward and clasped Elizabeth’s arms when her sister would have turned away. “But I have to ask why your eyes are so red? Have you been crying on my behalf?”

Elizabeth made no response, and Jane went on. “That is the reason, is it not? You were distressed at the possibility of Bingley not returning to Netherfield, just as you always think of the happiness of others before your own.”

Jane did not get the response she expected since her sister would not meet her eyes and instead cast them downward.

“And why did you slip out of the room when Mr. Darcy arrived?” Jane asked slowly, her eyes on her sister. “I wondered that he did not ask for you. Instead, he sent his good wishes, but the words seemed more like a farewell than the usual pleasantry. And now I find you have been crying, and you never cry!”

Elizabeth hugged herself and turned to the window and the darkness beyond, which seemed to mirror the darkness she felt inside. At length, she said, “It was a farewell, Jane. I shall not see him again.”

“But how can it be?” Jane cried. “I saw the two of you at the ball, and my heart swelled for joy at how at ease both of you seemed, how well you appeared to be getting on. What has happened?”

To this, Elizabeth made no response at first. When she finally turned around, Jane was shocked to see tears flowing down her sister’s face.

“Whatever is the matter, Lizzy? What has distressed you so? Oh, now all my joy at Mr. Darcy’s news is gone!”

Elizabeth met her sister’s eyes. “I love him, Jane.”

At these shattering words, Jane simply collapsed onto the bed. “Mr. Darcy?” she said in shock. “You love Mr. Darcy?”

Elizabeth nodded, and her voice broke. “I do, Jane. I think I love him more than life itself.”

“How can this be?” Jane said in complete disbelief. “I know he danced with you, and I have heard the whispers our neighbors have made about you, but I never saw any indication of a particular regard!”

Elizabeth came over and sat beside her, taking one of her hands in both of hers and clasping it to her chest. “It just…happened. And I am ashamed to tell you, it did not even seem like love. Not at first. Not from the first night.”

“At the assembly?”

Elizabeth nodded. “From the first time I laid eyes on him. I felt a sudden surge of a most shocking and inexplicable attraction. It spread through my whole body. It was…disturbing.”

“Not love? I do not understand, Lizzy.”

“It was passion, Jane. The passion a woman feels for a man. The passion a wife feels for her wedded husband, which is supposed to be consummated in the marriage bed.

“I did not understand my feelings, at first. They were new and foreign—nothing I ever imagined. I tried to shove them away, pretend they did not exist, but I could not. They went too deep and…and they affected me in ways I could not explain.”

Jane could only stare at her dear sister as Elizabeth searched for words.

“Every time I met Mr. Darcy, every time our fingers touched when we danced, I could feel the attraction he had for me, and I was lost. He invaded my dreams—but I did not realize at first that it was Mr. Darcy who came into my bedroom in my dreams. Only slowly did I connect those dreams with him. And I was equally slow to put a name to what I felt—what had taken possession of me.”

Elizabeth went silent, staring into the night, until Jane asked softly, “And that was…?”

“It was passion, dear sister—physical passion for a man when I had no intimation such an attraction even existed.”

“Nor do I,” Jane said slowly.

“It is more than simple passion now, Jane. Much more. I knew it as soon as we danced together. I felt something I never imagined to feel with this man; I felt as though I belonged in his arms. And I am certain he felt something similar—an acceptance of me as a woman.”

Elizabeth was silent for a moment before going on. “But make no mistake, Jane. My passion for Mr. Darcy was real—is real. Do you remember how our mother warned of the misfortune of the marriage bed? And how we should just lie still since it would soon be over?”

Jane nodded, and Elizabeth continued. “Well, it seems some women—not our mother, I am sure—must take pleasure in the carnal side of marriage. They must desire it. As I desire it.”

Jane’s lack of understanding was clear to see, but she asked no questions, so Elizabeth could only continue. “Imagine how I felt after the assembly with unaccountable longings plaguing me. I could come to no other conclusion than I was wanton—a harlot in fact. A woman who seeks physical intimacy for her own gratification.”

“You cannot be wanton, Lizzy.”

“What other conclusion could I reach? I had no one to advise me. I thought once or twice that Aunt Gardiner might be able to help me since she is so much more levelheaded and sensible than our mother. But we see her so seldom.”

“But you keep talking about feeling passion for Mr. Darcy—”

Elizabeth nodded. “I wanted to feel his touch. And I wanted to touch him. It is shameful, I know, but I wanted it then, and I want it still.”

Elizabeth rose from the bed and went back to look out the window. “But as I said, now there is more. I love Mr. Darcy, as well as desire him, even though we both know I did not like him when I first met him. He had so many disagreeable traits—pride, haughtiness, selfishness, and a disdain for others. He still has those traits. It is the side of himself he shows the world.”

Elizabeth began to pace the room. “And with the realization of my feelings, something inside me changed since I saw the side of him you spoke of—how he is pleasant and amiable with those he knows well. He showed that side to me at the ball, and my joy overflowed when we went into supper with the way he smiled and talked easily with me. He wanted to be with me the way I wanted to be with him. He still has those faults I first saw, but he is more than those faults.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked out the window for a time before she spoke again. “The simple fact is: I love this very complicated man, and I want more than just passion from him. I want to be with him always. I want to love him and make him feel loved. I want him to make love to me, I want to bear his children and raise them. Most of all, I want to be his companion and grow old with him.”

She turned around, and Jane saw her tears had returned. “And it shall never be, Jane. Not ever. I saw everything change in just a few minutes. We were conversing as we never had before, and Mr. Darcy was smiling and laughing with a warmth I had never seen. I am convinced, at that moment, that he was entertaining the possibility I might bring him happiness.

“Then my mother destroyed everything,” she said, with flat, cold finality.

“How?”

“As she usually does—by her words. You were too far away to hear, but she crowed aloud about her good fortune. She would soon have one daughter well settled in Derbyshire and another at Netherfield Park. And the other girls would then be in company with other rich men. She did not say these things quietly, but announced them to all about her with Mr. Darcy and me sitting less than ten feet away!”

Jane closed her eyes in shared pain.

“Everything changed. Suddenly, Mr. Darcy was his haughty, prideful self, and all my dreams were less than mist—gone as though they never existed. Mr. Darcy reverted to the man I first met, a man of his class, a man who will choose a wife who can bring fortune or station to the marriage. I can bring nothing.”

“But Bingley—”

“—is not Darcy. Those things matter little to him. His fortune was earned in trade by his father. While our own father’s fortune may not match his, our family has been part of the gentry for generations. But Darcy is different. That is why he only gave a disguised farewell tonight. We agreed to as much at Netherfield.”

Elizabeth could say no more for she could not hold back her sobs any longer. Jane opened her arms to her, embracing her fiercely and pulling her down to the bed beside her while her brave and independent sister wept uncontrollably for a love that could never be.

Jane said nothing, for there was nothing to say. She just held Elizabeth close until her poor sister finally cried herself to sleep.

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About Perilous Siege

What is the Siege Perilous, and how does it affect the lives of everyone in the Regency universe of Pride & Prejudice?

When a man dressed in bizarre attire suddenly appears in a field on his Pemberley estate, Fitzwilliam Darcy has little inkling of the many and startling changes this man’s strange arrival will have on his life, his family’s lives, and indeed, his whole world.

Mysteriously sent to the Regency world of Pride and Prejudice, this refugee from a future Armageddon is befriended by Darcy. How will the presence of Major Edward McDunn influence the events of Jane Austen’s signature work, especially the tangled courtship between Darcy and the complex and endearing Elizabeth Bennet?

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

C.P. Odom

By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the  Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics. I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife’s beloved Jane Austen books after her passing.  One thing led to another, and I now have three novels published:  A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015).  My fourth novel, Perilous Siege, was recently published in the second quarter of 2019.

I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats.  My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

Connect with C.P. Odom: C.P. Odom’s Facebook Page | C.P. Odom’s Amazon Page | C.P. Odom’s Goodreads Page | C.P. Odom’s Meryton Press Page

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is offering eight eBooks copies of Perilous Siege. The giveaway runs until midnight, April 21, 2019. You must use this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified.

One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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April 8 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Guest Post

April 10 / My Vices and Weaknesses / Book Excerpt

April 12 / Austenesque Reviews / Character Interview

April 13 / Just Jane 1813 / Meet C.P. Odom

April 14 / Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review

April 15 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Book Excerpt

April 16 / From Pemberley to Milton / Vignette

April 17 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Excerpt

April 18 / More Agreeably Engaged / Guest Post

A big thanks to C.P. Odom for being my guest today. Congratulations on your new book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How does she fare?” the doctor asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darcy froze, unable to do anything but stare.

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

Elizabeth was lying in the bed.

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About The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway

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

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