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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!

****

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.

****

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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Hello, dear readers! Victoria Kincaid is back to Diary of an Eccentric today with a special treat to celebrate the audiobook release of her first modern Pride and Prejudice variation, President Darcy. I had a blast editing this book, and I’m thrilled to see it released in audio. Please give Victoria a warm welcome!

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Hi Anna. It’s lovely to be back visiting your blog again!  The audiobook of President Darcy was released at the end of 2018 but kind of got lost in the end-of-the-year hustle and bustle as I released another new book.  But this audiobook deserves to be noticed.  President Darcy has proven to be one of my most popular books, and narrator Lucy Emerson does a terrific job with the characters.  You can listen to an audiobook sample here and enjoy an excerpt below.

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Hilliard scanned his iPad.  “How about one of the Bennet girls you just met?  Elizabeth Bennet? Her father donated to your campaign.  She’s pretty, and you seemed taken with her when you shook her hand.”

Elizabeth froze in horror while Lydia and Maria shot her amazed looks.  Would he tell Hilliard about the broom closet?

President Darcy snorted.  “Ha!  I don’t think so.  You didn’t have to speak with her.  I don’t think there’s anything going on upstairs.”  He tapped the side of his head.  “Intellectual lightweight.  And she’s not that pretty.”

Elizabeth stumbled further into the alcove until she couldn’t see the men anymore.  Lydia convulsed in silent laughter, her hand stuffed in her mouth to muffle the sounds, while Maria gaped at Elizabeth, wide-eyed.  Elizabeth reviewed the words in her head, but they remained the same.  Yes, the president—the president!—thought she was ugly and stupid and had voiced the sentiment out loud.

She heard President Darcy blow out an exasperated breath.  “Bob, I know you have my best interests at heart, but would a few dances with some wallflower from a nouveau riche family make much of a difference to your average voter?”

Elizabeth peeked around the corner again in time to see Hilliard sigh and tuck the iPad under his arm.  “Will you at least dance with someone?  Pretend you’re having a good time for a few minutes?”

“Fine,” the other man muttered.  “I’ll dance with Caroline again, okay?”

“Caroline is not an ordinary Amer—”

“Enough, Bob.” The president’s voice brooked no disagreement. The conversation was over. He straightened his jacket.  “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some governing to do.”  As the president started to walk, the whole group of men moved en masse down the hallway.  Soon they were gone.

Elizabeth remained frozen in the alcove, plastered against the wall.  She probably should have bolted for the exit, but her muscles felt loose and unattached as though she might fall to pieces if she tried to move.

Finally, Lydia grabbed her arm, pulled her through the ladies’ room door, and pushed her up toward the sinks.  “OMG!  You just got dissed by the president!” she laughed.

Maria viewed Elizabeth with a kind of awe.  “Presidential dissing.  Executive dissing.  Wow.”

Elizabeth fell onto the padded bench and drew her knees up to her chest despite the tightness of her dress.  “Can’t we just forget it—?”

Eyes glued to her smartphone screen, Lydia interrupted.  “Nah. It’s too good.  I already texted Amy about this. She’ll scream.”

“Please don’t!” Elizabeth pleaded.

Lydia regarded her sardonically.  “Yeah, uh, that’s not going to happen.”

Shit.

“She’s not that pretty.” Maria imitated the president’s precise tones perfectly.

Lydia giggled.  “I’ve got to send it to Jordan, too!”

Maria nodded vigorously.  “Ooh, ooh!  And Olga!  It’ll crack her up.”

First the closet, now her father, and then this… Was it possible to induce a heart attack through accumulated mortification? Her chest ached, and she couldn’t catch her breath.  “What did I do to deserve that?” she wondered aloud.

Frantically texting away, Lydia snorted. “Some people get presidential pardons.  You get presidential shade.” Her phone buzzed.  “Ryan thinks you should get a picture with him.  Then we could add speech bubbles and…”

Great.  The group of people in the know included Ryan, whoever he was.  “Maybe we should go back to the East Room.  Dinner will be ready soon,” Elizabeth said.

Perhaps she should slip discreetly out the back door, but that seemed cowardly like she was allowing his rudeness to chase her away.  Instead, I should stay and show the president I’m not vapid and unattractive.  Even if he doesn’t know I overheard him.  As revenges went, it was rather feeble, but it was all she had.

“Ooh!  I wonder who I’m sitting with!” Maria exclaimed in a too-loud voice.  “I bet they’ll think it’s hilarious.”

“By all means, tell everyone you can find,” Elizabeth remarked dryly.

Lydia gave her an ironic salute.  “I’ll do my best.”

As they opened the bathroom door, Elizabeth scanned the corridor, but it was empty. “You don’t really mind if we tell everyone, do you?” Lydia asked breathlessly as they hurried toward the East Room.

Elizabeth’s feelings were moot at this point, so she bit back an angry retort.  Being a good sport would give her family less fodder for future teasing.  “Nah.  It’s kind of funny,” Elizabeth said through gritted teeth.  “It’s not like he knows me.”

“Yeah,” Maria agreed absently as she thumbed another message into her phone.  “I mean, you’re not as pretty as I am, but you wouldn’t make someone lose their lunch or anything.”

“I feel better already,” Elizabeth mumbled.

“I’m glad you’re being so mature about this,” Lydia said in all seriousness as they reached the entrance to the East Room.  “’Cause I already posted it on Twitter, and it’s been retweeted 168 times already.”

“Twitter—!” Elizabeth sputtered.  But Lydia and Maria had already disappeared into the crowd, no doubt in search of a greater audience for the tale of Elizabeth’s humiliation.

Elizabeth ambled around the edges of the room, avoiding eye contact and seeking a dark corner.  It’s not like I ever thought of myself as a great beauty, so that part shouldn’t rankle. He doesn’t know the first thing about my intelligence or conversational abilities. He’s just making assumptions. Most people would get tongue-tied when caught in a White House broom closet. Arrogant jerk. 

Of course, most people wouldn’t get caught in a White House broom closet.  Maybe that did say something about her….

No.  It would be stupid to get upset.

Just stupid.

****

About President Darcy

President William Darcy has it all: wealth, intelligence, and the most powerful job in the country.  Despite what his friends say, he is not lonely in the White House.  He’s not.   And he has vowed not to date while he’s in office.  Nor is he interested in Elizabeth Bennet.   She might be pretty and funny and smart, but her family is nouveau riche and unbearable.  Unfortunately, he encounters her everywhere in Washington, D.C.—making her harder and harder to ignore.  Why can’t he get her out of his mind?

Elizabeth Bennet enjoys her job with the Red Cross and loves her family, despite their tendency to embarrass her.  At a White House state dinner, they cause her to make an unfavorable impression on the president, who labels her unattractive and uninteresting.  Those words are immediately broadcast on Twitter, so the whole world now knows the president insulted her.  Elizabeth just wants to avoid the man—who, let’s admit it, is proud and difficult.  For some reason he acts all friendly when they keep running into each other, but she knows he’s judging her.

Eventually, circumstances force Darcy and Elizabeth to confront their true feelings for each other, with explosive results.  But even if they can find common ground, Mr. Darcy is still the president—with limited privacy and unlimited responsibilities—and his enemies won’t hesitate to use his feelings for Elizabeth against him.

Can President Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet find their way to happily ever after?

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audiobook copy of President 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 Sunday, March 3, 2019. The winner will be announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I’m delighted to help Robin Helm celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, More to Love, which is certainly a different take on Austen’s novel. I hope you all are as excited as I am to read this book, and that the excerpt Robin is sharing today makes you even more excited!

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Early October, 1811

The second eldest Bennet sister sat alone, trying to smile as she watched the couples dancing gracefully around the floor. Occasionally, she nibbled at the cookie she held, taking comfort in the richness of the sweet almond confection. As Elizabeth was a great favourite of Longbourn’s housekeeper and pastry cook, Mrs. Bailey, she was never without several of the tasty morsels in her reticule. Mrs. Bailey, who had learned the recipes for several types of cookies while a young woman in America, kept Elizabeth well-supplied.

Knowing her mother would disapprove of her eating while she waited for an invitation to dance, Elizabeth practiced her usual ruse. She hid the jumble in her embroidered handkerchief, careful to let no one see it. In any case, she was rarely asked to dance, cookie or not, as there were always more ladies than gentlemen at Meryton’s Assemblies. This night had been no exception. She had danced only one set, and that with Joshua Lucas, a friend since childhood.

Her sister Jane’s amiable partner for an earlier dance, Mr. Bingley, stood fairly close to Elizabeth, chatting with a handsome, austere man. Mr. Bingley’s voice carried over the music and gaiety, impossible to ignore.

“Darcy! Why are you standing here with your arms folded when there are so many uncommonly pretty girls lacking dance partners? You should not keep yourself apart from the company in such a stupid manner when lovely young women are seated and gentlemen are scarce. ’Tis rudeness itself. I must have you dance.”

“I certainly shall not,” answered the gentleman, drawing himself up to his full, intimidating height, looking down his nose at his friend. “You have been dancing with the only handsome girl in the room, and your sisters are engaged at present.”

Bingley’s voice softened. “She is an angel, is she not? The most beautiful creature I ever beheld.” He sighed. “However, there are plenty of suitable young ladies who are available.”

Elizabeth smiled upon hearing his praise of her sister. Mr. Bingley’s pleasant manner and good sense caused him to rise several notches in her estimation.

The young man continued, “Look! There is her sister, and she has a very pretty face, too. I daresay she is most agreeable. You must ask her to dance. Allow me to ask my partner to introduce you.”

The young lady felt the weight of the gentleman’s disapproving stare and glanced away, but she could not avoid hearing his reply.

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but there is rather too much of her to tempt me. Return to Miss Bennet and bask in her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Elizabeth’s eyes filled with unshed tears as she crushed the cookie hidden in her handkerchief. While she had never been obsessed with her looks in the way her younger sisters were, she always took pride in her appearance. Her father had often complimented her beautiful skin and her lustrous, thick hair, while her mother made certain her bonnets and dresses were stylish.

Even so, she grudgingly acknowledged to herself that she had been avoiding mirrors for at least two years now, and lately, her gowns had become uncomfortably snug.

True or not, his comments wounded her deeply. Though she was well-known for her intelligence and quick wit, she yearned to be told she was altogether lovely. She had many friends, but she feared that being bright and cheerful with a pretty face described a governess or a lady’s companion, and she did not aspire to either of those vocations.

Secretly, Elizabeth wished to be the wife of a gentleman who adored her, as well as a mother to children she would love with all her considerable depth of heart, regardless of their outward features. She prided herself on valuing the characters of her friends and relatives rather than their physical attributes.

To be judged so harshly by a person she had never met was disconcerting. Her view of the world and her place in it was shaken.

In the moment the haughty gentleman had declared her to be “too much,” she had become, to herself, “not enough.” Not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not tempting enough.

Mr. Bingley, sweet man, would not agree with his friend. “How can you say that, Darcy? She has a perfect complexion, beautiful eyes, and dainty hands which are lovely. Her entire face is alight when she smiles, and I have also observed how graceful she is when she walks. Surely you have noticed that.”

Darcy snorted. “I have. Who could miss it? She approaches the refreshment table every half hour, and she is sorely mistaken if she thinks her handkerchief hides what she is constantly eating. Bingley, I am not in humour to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men, especially when that slighting is so obviously justified in this case by the lady’s lack of discipline.”

His companion rather testily replied, “I would not be as fastidious as you for a kingdom. You are determined to be disagreeable, so I will leave you to it. Furthermore, I shall dare your disapproval and ask her myself.”

Elizabeth hardly ever allowed herself to dislike people to whom she had never been introduced, but she was willing to make an exception for tall, dark, brooding Mr. Darcy. Upon further reflection, she was somewhat surprised to realize she truly despised him, despite his arresting beauty and aristocratic profile. She had never formally met the gentleman, yet she could barely stand the sight of him. Odd, for she was generally accepting of everyone.

Seeing Mr. Bingley approaching her, she stuffed the handkerchief into her reticule and placed it under her chair. Her determined attempt at a pleasant countenance was successful.

A moment later, Mr. Bingley appeared before her, bowed, and extended his hand with a smile and a request.

Elizabeth stood and placed her hand in his, determined not to disgrace herself. She held her head high and fixed a smile upon her face, allowing her brilliant, green eyes to sparkle with mischief as he escorted her past Mr. Darcy onto the dance floor.

As she and Mr. Bingley moved through the steps, she glimpsed Mr. Darcy watching them several times, his dark eyes fixed upon her, an inscrutable expression on his striking face.

Assuming that he looked at her only to find fault, her active mind formed a scheme, and she could hardly wait to set it in motion.

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About More to Love

“She is tolerable, I suppose, but there is rather too much of her to tempt me.”

Overhearing Mr. Darcy’s rude dismissal of her shocks and mortifies Elizabeth Bennet to the core.

She is living her worst fear, and it galvanizes her into action.
oon, the gentleman cannot keep his eyes from her, but can she forgive his thoughtless judgment of her appearance and character?

Especially since he faces a worthy competitor for her attention?

Who will win the lady’s hand, along with the right to love her through thick or thin?

Check out More to Love on Amazon

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Giveaway

If that excerpt grabbed your attention, then you’ll be thrilled that Robin is generously giving away an ebook copy of More to Love to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveway will be open through Thursday, February 28, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Robin, for treating us to a peek of More to Love. Congratulations on your new release!

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I’m pleased to welcome Caitlin Marie Carrington to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time today to celebrate the recent release of Darcy and Diamonds. When I first saw the cover and read the description, I knew this was a Pride and Prejudice variation that I had to read! I was lucky enough to win a copy in a Facebook giveaway (thanks again, Caitlin), and as soon as my reading gets back on track from a chaotic 2018 and a busy start to 2019, I hope to get a chance to read it. Caitlin is here with an excerpt that is absolutely delightful, and she’s even brought some books to share with you, dear readers. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Thank you Anna for having me here today! I am in awe of all that you do for the JAFF community and love your blog. It’s an honor to be here!

I’m so excited to share an excerpt from my recent sweet and clean romance, Darcy and Diamonds. This variation occurs almost eight years after the original events in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth, now a young widow, and Mr. Darcy meet again at a house party at Netherfield. Unfortunately, a scheming Caroline Bingley and all of Elizabeth’s boisterous relations are there, as well.

In this scene, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have both woken early and independently decided to take their favorite horses for an early-morning ride. (Yes, Elizabeth loves horses, in this variation.) Elizabeth is distressed to see her solitude will be broken by the proud, judgmental and annoyingly handsome Mr. Darcy. And so, in a wild moment, she decides to race him.

What could go wrong?

Enter to win one of five free ebooks below! Happy reading!

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From behind, she could hear Mr. Darcy and his stallion approaching—no, racing—through the woods. He shouted again. Elizabeth couldn’t turn to look at him now; she was too intent on the path ahead. But his exhortation hadn’t sounded angry that she had tricked him and raced ahead. If anything, he sounded—excited. Exultant?

Or perhaps she was just confusing her own feelings with his. How lovely! How wild! Then, twenty feet in front of her, Elizabeth saw the fallen tree. It was recently downed—probably just from last night and the heavy rains. Its roots were lifted high in the air, with dark, wet earth still clinging to them.

And it completely blocked the path.

“No—watch out—!” Elizabeth just had time to try and adjust herself, and her blasted skirts, before Sabine panicked. The horse tried to stop, skidding in the wet, soft earth. At the same time, Elizabeth was urging her forward and over the obstacle. But Sabine refused, bucking and rearing up into the air. Elizabeth shouted, clinging to the saddle as her leg slipped from its secure post. Sabine bucked again, angry and unsure and Elizabeth nearly fell before the horse righted itself. Elizabeth had just gotten her balance but not yet put her right leg up over the padded leather branch, when Sabine finally chose to listen to her first directions and leapt—neatly, cleanly, perfectly over the fallen tree.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth hadn’t expected it. “No!” she cried as she scrabbled for a hold—anywhere, anything. Instead, she fell to the ground, just missing the fallen log, but landing hard on the muddied forest floor.

“Elizabeth!”

She heard Mr. Darcy call her name but she couldn’t quite open her eyes yet. Where was she? On her back, her head aching, her pride in tatters.

“Elizabeth. Oh God.”

She opened her eyes to see blue sky. White clouds. And Mr. Darcy’s beautiful face, directly over her, his eyes frantic.

“Hullo,” she said. “Your eyes match the sky.”

He frowned, staring down at her. “Have you hit your head?”

“But you’re still so…frownish,” she murmured.

Her voice sounded funny to her own ears, like perhaps she was underwater.

Mr. Darcy shook his head, his hands surprising her and suddenly cupping her face. He was so gentle that she felt her eyes closing. “You have injured your head. Don’t—don’t move, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth blinked and settled back into the earth. Not moving sounded like a good idea. No, an excellent idea. She was sure her hat was crushed—wait, she wasn’t wearing a hat.

“Did I lose my hat?” she said. “And you shouldn’t call me by my given name.”

Mr. Darcy startled her by running his hands over the back of her head. She closed her eyes again. It felt rather nice.

“Elizabeth!” His sudden yell made her startle and she opened her eyes, looking up at him again.

“Gracious, no need to shout, Mr. Darcy.”

“So you know my name? You recognize me?”

“What a silly question.” She squinted up at him. “You’re tall. Tyrannical. Perfectly attired. Yes—yes, you must be Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

****

About Darcy and Diamonds

Forget the missing diamonds. Will Mr. Darcy steal Elizabeth’s heart—again?

What could go wrong at a Netherfield house party?
Why, everything!

Elizabeth is trapped for days with a conniving Caroline, a match-making Mrs. Bennet, and now—surprisingly—Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

She has not seen Mr. Darcy since his disastrous proposal to her in Hunsford nearly eight years ago. Since that time, Elizabeth lost her father and husband—but gained a certain measure of independence.

She is happy, she reminds herself—especially when Mr. Darcy and his sky-blue eyes seem to seek her out constantly and make her question everything.

Unfortunately, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is as proud, arrogant—and annoyingly handsome—as ever.
And he seems to have very firm opinions about Lizzy’s life and how she should conduct it.

After her first marriage, Elizabeth is determined to never again allow a man to control her. But when a devious thief targets the house party, Elizabeth finds herself working with Mr. Darcy to discover the culprit.
Will they be able to bring the criminal to justice?

And will a changed Mr. Darcy be able to steal Elizabeth’s heart?

Are you ready for a sweet and clean Pride and Prejudice variation that features love, humor, and Mr. Darcy in a soaking-wet shirt? (Because who doesn’t like to be reminded of Colin Firth?) This 67,000-word novel also includes a Darcy who knows what he wants, an Elizabeth who needs to find herself again, a runaway horse, a truly conniving Caroline, a guaranteed happily ever after, and—of course—diamonds!

Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | Scribd

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About the Author

By day, Caitlin Marie Carrington juggles motherhood, her editing job, one surly cat and all the fun drama that life with small children (and one giant husband) entails.

By night, she imagines new adventures for her favorite literary couple, Darcy and Elizabeth.

Connect with Caitlin on Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway

Caitlin is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Darcy and Diamonds to my readers. To enter to win a copy, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what interests you most about the book. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, February 24, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Caitlin, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your newest releases!

Readers who don’t mind a hot and sexy variation should check out Caitlin’s newest book, a novella titled My Alpha, Mr. Darcy.

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Hello, dear readers! I have a treat for you today, especially if you’re looking for a new book to cozy up with for Valentine’s Day. April Floyd is my guest today, and we’re celebrating the release of her newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Mr. Darcy’s True Love. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I would love to take a moment and thank Anna for having me once again on her blog. I am so grateful for her reviews and the opportunities she gives many JAFF authors as we seek to woo you, our dear readers!

Now for a romantic excerpt from Mr. Darcy’s True Love. My favorite parts to write and read are when Elizabeth and Darcy are alone together and the rest of the world ceases to exist. Hopefully you love those romantic scenes as well!

Don’t forget to enter to win one of the e-book copies up for grabs when you’ve finished the excerpt!

“I believe a bit of fresh air would be as welcome as the punch. Would you care to join me on the terrace, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth said as she turned and looked across the room at the terrace doors.

Mr. Darcy agreed. “It is warm with all the dancing and this crowd.”

He lifted his arm and Elizabeth tucked her hand against his elbow. Together they wove through the crowd and were soon standing shoulder to shoulder looking out over the small garden of Bingley House. Light from the ballroom only stretched halfway across and the trees that bordered the garden wall cast long shadows.

Elizabeth shivered when a cold gust of wind swept past and Mr. Darcy removed his coat. He placed it on her shoulders and Elizabeth inhaled the scent of orange and some spice she could not name. It was likely a cologne mixed by the chemists at one of the two famous shops in Town. It tickled her nose and brought back the memory of how he’d smelled the night he came to visit and ate baked apples with her. She smiled.

Mr. Darcy noticed. “I must say I have never encountered a lady who loves the outdoors as much as you, Miss Bennet. It is refreshing. It is a pity you do not ride, though.”

She laughed, a deep, amused sound, and looked up at him as she stood warm inside his coat. “Horses are far too unpredictable, Mr. Darcy. I prefer the surety of my own two feet. Besides, I never run headlong into the brambles like my old mare was wont to do. Papa tried for years to make a horsewoman of me, but it was not to be.”

He turned and gazed down at her, his eyes alight with mischief. “I could make a horsewoman of you for I have many gentle, and intelligent, mares at Pemberley. I know of one in particular that might be your perfect match. Oh you would certainly love to explore the fields and woods of my home in Derbyshire.”

Elizabeth breathed deeply to calm her racing heart. Being alone with him on the terrace, inhaling his scent, and listening as he practically begged her to come to Pemberley with him had an intoxicating effect.

“My Aunt and Uncle Gardiner wish to tour the Lake District this summer. Perhaps I might visit with them. Is your home open for private tours then?”

Mr. Darcy pushed a curl behind her ear and smiled. “It is, though I am seldom there in the summertime. I often ride North and pitch a camp near my cousin’s country estate so that I might fish and ride to my heart’s content.”

Elizabeth was surprised by this admission and by the tender touch of his fingers against her ear. “I would never have taken you for the type of man who would live in a tent, sir.”

“It is uncommon for someone of my circle, yes. But I am uncommon for someone of my circle, Miss Bennet. There is much about me that might surprise you. I hope you may come to know me better.”

Mr. Darcy leaned closer and Elizabeth stood completely still. She stared into his eyes wondering whether he might kiss her. Feeling silly, she finally looked down. “I would like that very much, I think. I am not surprised when I think that perhaps your camp is an escape of sorts. I admit that wandering in nature is my own way of being alone and sorting things in my head. Perhaps we understand one another more than we know?”

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About Mr. Darcy’s True Love

Mixed Up Valentines and Scheming Cousins threaten ODC’s blooming romance!

Elizabeth Bennet goes to London with newlyweds Jane and Charles Bingley and is reunited with a kinder Mr. Darcy than she remembers from their first meeting in Hertfordshire. Before their romance can blossom, Mr. Bingley’s cousins arrive in Town and jealousies arise. Elizabeth is uncomfortable with the attention paid her by Mr. Bingley’s male cousin and curious about his female cousin’s prior history with Mr. Darcy.

Will mixed-up valentines and an unwanted marriage proposal keep Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart? Oh no, an HEA must be had!

Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks

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About the Author

April Floyd

April Floyd lives in Alaska with her husband and youngest son. She loves happy endings, nice people, and reading great stories. Once upon a time, she was an Army wife and a phlebotomist and recently ran a successful ebook deals site for four years. Historical fiction, Jane Austen, and fantasy/dystopia are her favorite genres.

April’s Website | Amazon Author Page

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Giveaway

April is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Mr. Darcy’s True Love to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Friday, February 1, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, April, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book! I hope you all come back closer to Valentine’s Day for my review!

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