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Hello, friend! My guest today is Jayne Bamber, who is celebrating the release of her latest Austen-inspired novel, Madness in Meryton. She’s here with an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hello, Janeites! It is a delight to be here at Diary of an Eccentric to share a little about my new release, Madness in Meryton. This is my sixth Austen variation, and for those of you not following the tale on Happy Assembly, it is a Groundhog Day vagary – with a twist.

The day Elizabeth is fated to repeat it the on in which she meets George Wickham and hears his tale of woe, and I have reimagined it as Meryton’s monthly Market Day to heighten the chaos. Most of the book centers on her evolving conflict with Mr. Darcy, but in the excerpt I am sharing today, Elizabeth has a long-overdue discussion with her indolent father…

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Mr. Bennet smiled indulgently at her. “Well, Lizzy, how was the market? Did you buy as many fripperies as your sisters, or flirt with as many officers?”

“No, Papa.”

“Well! None of them can compare with the illustrious Mr. Collins, eh?”

“None of them could tempt me,” she replied, arching an eyebrow. Her father laughed at the jest, and she proceeded with cautious optimism. “The same cannot be said of my sisters – Papa, I wish you had seen them. They were very forward.” She mimicked Lydia’s posture and mannerisms, and her father shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“Lydia is determined to put herself forward,” Mr. Bennet observed.

“Can you not prevent it?”

He chuckled. “I am sure I would be obliged to lock them in their room to prevent them from exposing themselves every time they are in public.”

“Then do that,” Elizabeth cried. “At least for tonight, please Papa. I beg you would keep them at home, for Mrs. Phillips has invited a great many officers.”

“Yes, and your sisters will mutiny if they are not permitted to be at the party.”

“All the more reason they would do better to be restrained,” Elizabeth retorted. “I am happy that Mr. Bingley was not at the market today, to observe their behavior, else it might have affected his esteem for Jane! But our aunt has sent an invitation to him, and if he is to attend the card party tonight, Jane would fare better without Lydia and Kitty’s wild and unchecked behavior.”

“Surely he is not bothered at all by it. He likes her very much.”

“He likes her now, it is true, but he may not ever do more, if he is to always be reminded of what her sisters are like. Can you not see that Lydia and Kitty are materially damaging Jane’s chances of marrying well, and that if Mr. Bingley cannot like the prospect of such in-laws, Mr. Collins may be the best prospect any of us girls may have? Is an evening of Lydia’s tantrums and Kitty’s weeping really so bad, worse than Jane’s heart being broken, and one of your daughters bound to a pompous imbecile?”

Elizabeth had begun to pace the room, her hands gesturing wildly, her emotions high and unfettered. “I beg you, Papa, to keep them home tonight; let Mr. Bingley have one night of Jane’s company, without her being burdened either by illness or her hoyden sisters. Please, give her a chance.”

Mr. Bennet only laughed and shook his head. “I am sure it is not as dire as all that. I begin to wonder if your younger sisters might have frightened off one of your beaus!”

“And what if they had?” Elizabeth was fairly fuming at her father, who had again jumped to the exactly wrong conclusion. But perhaps….

Elizabeth swallowed back her pride and hugged at herself, still pacing. She could feel her breathing change and her heart quicken, and she met her father’s eye with fire inside her. “What would you say if I told you something has happened between me and Mr. Darcy?”

Now she had his attention; her father leaned forward with concern. “Lizzy….”

She stopped and stared at him, her shoulders pulled back in defiance. She watched his face change as he silently speculated.

“Lizzy, has something occurred? What is it you want to tell me?”

She held back a moment longer, letting him squirm, letting the doubt seep in. “Of course not,” she snapped. “But for a moment, you believed it possible. I saw it in your eyes. And if you can think it of me, your favorite, can you not acknowledge what Lydia and Kitty, whom you are often calling the silliest girls in England, are capable of?”

Mr. Bennet said nothing, but his face hardened. Elizabeth suspected she had wounded him, but she did not care. She reminded herself that Jane was an innocent, merely trying to do her best. The same could not be said of their father. Elizabeth pressed on. “We are prey to the officers and the Collinses of this world because we have little but our charms to recommend us. You cannot give us dowries – so be it. At least grant us some dignity.”

At this, Elizabeth’s reserve faltered. The image of Mr. Darcy, looking upon her family with such displeasure, pushed out every thought of Jane and Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth burst into tears. She sank back down into her chair and wept, and in a moment her father had come around his desk to embrace her.

“Dear Lizzy, do not distress yourself. I suppose there is a reason the younger sisters do not come out until the elder are married. Your mother has a great care for you girls, though it is misplaced; she fears your younger sisters will miss some great opportunity.”

Elizabeth shook her head emphatically, but could make no reply through her tears. She carried her point, in the end, though she had not intended to achieve it through such means. When she had collected herself, and thanked her father with a warm embrace, Elizabeth set about salvaging the day.

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About Madness in Meryton

When Jane and Elizabeth Bennet return home from Netherfield, two days of heavy rain confine them indoors with their unruly younger sisters, a mother in perpetual need of smelling salts, and the tedious Mr. Collins. When the rain clears, the ladies from Longbourn and the gentlemen from Netherfield are drawn to Meryton by the excitement of Market Day, setting in motion a series of significant events.

That night, Mrs. Phillips hosts a card party for officers of the local militia, where the charming Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth his shocking history with Mr. Darcy, a man who has only given Elizabeth offense since coming to stay with his friend Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.

The next day, the same thing happens again.

And again, the day after that – and so on, for what begins to feel like an eternity. Elizabeth takes increasingly drastic measures to further the budding romance between her beloved sister Jane and their handsome neighbor Mr. Bingley. Along the way, she arranges improvements in the lives of all of her family, in a effort to end the relentless redundancy that only she seems aware of.

As Elizabeth’s frustration turns to madness, she soon realizes that her inexplicable dilemma is somehow connected to a certain officer and a certain gentleman of her acquaintance….

Elizabeth must forge unlikely alliances and devote her considerable wit to the task of achieving a perfect day for those she holds dear, while facing familiar Fitzwilliam friends and foes, as well as all the mortification and delight of falling in love.

Amazon

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Giveaway

Jayne is offering an ebook of Madness in Meryton as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link, and act quickly because the giveaway is ending soon! Good luck!

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Hello, dear readers! Today I’m happy to share an excerpt from Brontë’s Mistress by Finola Austin as part of the blog tour. Enjoy!

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Brontë’s Mistress, Chapter Three, pages 41-43

“It is not the same, of course,” he said quietly. “But when I was a child—barely eight years old—two of my sisters died. Our mother had passed four years before. The girls left for school so happy, but first Maria and then Elizabeth came back to us, wasted, pale, and struggling to breathe.”

“You were at home?” I asked.

Mr. Brontë nodded. “My father wished to educate me himself, relive his boyhood years, and keep an eye on me. And Anne was still in Haworth too, as the baby.”

I stayed quiet so that he’d continue.

“Their deaths were weeks apart, yet the scenes have melded together in my mind. Blood on a pillow. My father weeping. A small coffin lashed by rain on its short journey to the church. How could I think God great after that?” He had drawn alongside me and was gazing at the path, beating back the encroaching greenery with his cane.

A few more weeks, and bluebells would cloak the woodland floor. Not as brilliant as at Yoxall, my first home, but stirring in me the same longing that spring had awakened in the final years of my girlhood, a yearning for activity, purpose, change. I had thought to hold them in my wedding posy, but my marriage had come in the dead of winter, when the woods around the Lodge were bare and stripped of their majesty.

“Maria was the best of us,” he said, coming to a complete halt. “The most talented and the most tender. She corrected my father’s proofs before many children can read. She taught Anne and me not just the words of the Lord’s Prayer but the feeling behind them. Maria was just eleven when she left us and yet still it was like losing a second mother. In her absence, Charlotte took up the mantle as the eldest. She has ever fought to be as kind as Maria, and as good, though her nature is wilder, her anger is quicker, and her sense of injustice runs deep.”

Charlotte again. Not only was this woman clever, but she’d conquered the faults that I could not, and quenched the fire within.

“You must think I am spoiled,” I said. “To have suffered keen losses only now, when you and your sisters saw so much, so young.”         Mr. Brontë caught my hand so abruptly that it stunted my breath. “I thought what you said about Georgiana very beautiful,” he said, gripping me so hard that the skin buckled and my bones cracked.

Heat tingled in my cheeks, and I pulled away, walking ahead, without him playing advance guard. Stems caught at my skirts. The dew sketched a spider’s web over the hem.

“I did not mean you to think it so,” I told him, the words catching in my throat, for how could I know whether anything I said was true? Maybe I had framed that speech only so he might think me just as clever, just as deep, as Charlotte.

“No. There is artistry, not artifice, in you,” he said, half to himself. “You too are a poet. I feel it in you when you play and sing.”

His compliment, if this was meant as one, made me laugh out loud. I was a lady, who dabbled in the activities on which I spent my time. Nobody had ever even pretended to take my music seriously. The weight on my chest lightened, the phantom pressure of his grip evaporated.

“And you are a fool, Mr. Brontë,” I said, spinning round to face him. “Or maybe just very young.”

“You may tell me these are one and the same, Mrs. Robinson, but I believe that some of us have souls that are ageless, timeless, and when two such souls meet—” He faltered and blushed. “Have you never felt that there is, or ought to be, something of you beyond you? And if you found that, well, the sheer force of it would wipe all other considerations aside, right every wrong?” He stepped closer, his face inches from mine. “Emily and I have spoken of it often. To resist that call would be as futile as wishing to delay the sun, sitting on the sand in hope of holding back the tide.”

Red lips, imperfect, flushed, boyish skin, the light aroma of fresh sweat. The fact of his body forcing the knowledge of its existence upon mine, even if his bundle of papers acted as some security that he could not take me in his arms.

“I fear you have lost me, Mr. Brontë,” I said, stiffening. “You and your nomadic sister, Emily, are too poetic for me.”

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About Brontë’s Mistress

Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with—including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family—but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.

Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact. 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | BookBub | Book Depository | Goodreads

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About the Author

Finola Austin

Finola Austin, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist and lover of the 19th century. By day, she works in digital advertising. Find her online at FinolaAustin.com. Brontë’s Mistress is her debut novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Join the virtual online blog tour of BRONTË’S MISTRESS, Finola Austin’s highly acclaimed debut novel August 3 through August 16, 2020. Twenty-five popular blogs and websites specializing in historical fiction, historical romance, and women’s fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts, and reviews of this early Victorian novel set in Yorkshire, England.

 

Aug 03           Bronteblog (Guest Blog)

Aug 03           The Reading Frenzy (Interview)

Aug 03           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

Aug 04           Lu’s Reviews (Review)

Aug 04           The Best Historical Fiction (Review)

Aug 05           The Write Review (Review)

Aug 05           English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)

Aug 06           Historical Fiction Reader (Review)

Aug 06           Captivated Reading  (Review)

Aug 07           Reading the Past (Review)

Aug 07           Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt)

Aug 08           Book Nursie (Review)

Aug 10           Frolic Media (Interview)

Aug 10           Historical Fiction with Spirit (Review)

Aug 10           Bronteblog (Review)

Aug 11           Chicks, Rogues and Scandals (Review)

Aug 11           A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

Aug 12           Laura’s Reviews (Review)

Aug 12           Historical Fiction Reader (Interview)

Aug 13           The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)

Aug 14           Silver Petticoat Reviews (Guest Blog)

Aug 14           The Reading Frenzy (Review)

Aug 15           The Write Review (Live Facebook Interview)

Aug 16           Probably at the Library (Review)

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Maria Grace back to the blog today to celebrate the completion of the Persuasion arc in her Jane Austen’s Dragon Series with the release of Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion. Maria is here to talk about bringing dragons into Jane Austen’s world and to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Thanks so much for letting me share my new project with you, Anna. It’s always such a pleasure to get to visit with you.  Through the years I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being willing to put very different spins on Jane Austen’s stories and characters. That hasn’t changed with my newest series. In fact, I think the new books kick it up a notch—or maybe several.

And with that rather dubious introduction, I’m utterly tickled to announce that the Persuasion arc of my Jane Austen’s Dragons series is complete with the release of Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion.  Now wait, I can hear you muttering and rolling your eyes, “Dragons? Really? Seriously—dragons?  Why—just why?”

I’ve seen that look before and have been known to reply, “Because zombies, vampires and werewolves have already been done.” And while that is utterly true, and the sort of thing I might say if you caught me at just the right—or wrong—moment, it isn’t a very good answer.

You’re rolling your eyes at me again, but give me a chance and hear me out.  I promise, Jane Austen would approve. If you take a glance at English mythology, it is full of dragons. Seriously, they are everywhere.

Don’t believe me, here’s just a partial list if dragon myths: the Lambton Worm, the Dragon of Mordiford, the Dragon of Unsworth, the Dragon of Wantly, the Dragon of Longwitton, the Dragon of Loschy Hill, the Bisterne Dragon, the Worm of Linton, the Stoor Worm, the Sockburn Worm (or Wyvern), Blue Ben, and the Lyminster Knucker. With dragons just about everywhere in English myth, it seems likely that Jane Austen herself was familiar with many of these dragon legends.

That got me to thinking: What if… (A word of caution, when a writer says “what if”, it might be a good time to politely excuse yourself…)

So, what if those dragon myths contained a large helping of reality and there really were dragons in England? What it they weren’t just a thing of the medieval era, but continued to be a very real presence in British society into the modern era? How might that work?

Hmmm … that would require a research trip back to medieval dragons and the father of fabled King Arthur who had dragon connections. His father, Uther Pendragon helped Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland to Britain. Later, on the way to the battle, Uther sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as a sign of Aurelius’ death and Uther’s glorious future. Uther wins the battle, but returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned. Uther becomes king and adopts the use of a golden dragon as his standard.

So, What IF (there’s that dangerous phrase again!) Uther Pendragon was embroiled in battle not just with the Saxons, but with dragons as well and he saw a real dragon who could speak with him, not a comet as most stories suggested? Would not others have heard it too? Wait, no—what if the dragons had a way of hiding in plain sight that only a select few people could see through, and Uther was one of those and made peace with dragonkind…

Suddenly I saw a world, hundreds of years removed from medieval England, where mankind and dragonkind could coexist, governed by the Blue Order, an organization founded by Uther Pendragon himself, on human and dragon partnership, dedicated to protecting the safety and interests of both species while keeping the dragons secret from the very large segment of the human population with hearing insufficient to detect dragon voices.

Hmmm … that could be the start of something interesting. And it has been, seeing how the stories and characters of Jane Austen’s world completely fit into the realm of the Blue Order.  Here’s a peek to whet your appetite.

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August 15, 1814

Laconia, the cat-like tatzelwurm, wound himself around Wentworth’s feet as he walked the stony street to the Blue Order office in Lyme. People bustled about, with all the accompanying noise that did nothing so much as remind one that he was no longer at sea and the master of his own ship. Sunny, bordering on hot, the salty sea breeze clipped the edge off the heat and left the shadows beside the buildings notably cooler, almost chilly. A number of people stopped and stared at the sight, not so much because he was walking with a tatzelwurm, but rather because they saw Laconia as an enormous cat, weaving in and out through his strides.

Though it looked like a difficult, intricate dance, Laconia had been doing it since he was a wyrmling. It had become more difficult as he had grown into a substantial creature, nearly three stones in weight with height and length to match, but Laconia insisted. While he was well able to protect himself now, the scars of his hatching trauma still plagued him. Laconia never felt very comfortable in unfamiliar places, around unfamiliar people—he rarely got much more than an arm’s length away from Wentworth in such situations.

Like most offices of the Blue Order, this one was entirely indistinguishable from the ordinary buildings on either side of it. Far smaller than the great office in London where Wentworth was first presented to and accepted by the Order, this one appeared little different from the first-rate townhouses on either side of it. Four-stories tall, white brick front with black wrought-iron work, balanced, symmetrical windows on either side, with curtains drawn to block the view from the street. Beneath would be several stories of basement levels with connections to the dragon tunnels that passed through all of England.

The corner of his lips turned up. How surprised the other residents would be to learn what was really going on in the house or that the unusual number of large birds of prey perched along the roof were a cockatrice guard company. Frankly, he still was, and he had known about it for years.

Brass door knockers—drake’s heads holding large rings—rose from the great blue doors. That was how one could always tell a Blue Order establishment; the doors were this particular shade of blue. Apparently, the color was made especially for the Order. Order members in the colorman’s guilds controlled it quite carefully, so it might only be sold for use on Blue Order buildings. Naturally they had the help of a few conveniently placed companion dragons to convince stubborn customers that green was really a most fashionable color.

He twisted the signet ring on his left little finger—now that he was beached, it was appropriate he wore it. Order members liked to be able to identify one another.

Wentworth rapped on the door. A blue liveried butler, tall, serious, and foreboding opened it, stepping slightly to the right to completely fill up the doorway and block the entry.

“Mrrrow.” Laconia looked up at him, sniffing the air, tail lashing around Wentworth’s ankle.

The man’s eyes widened just a bit, but he held his ground until Wentworth lifted his left hand and his ring—perhaps a mite too close to the butler’s face.

“Admiral Easterly is expecting us.” Wentworth stepped inside, deftly dodging Laconia’s tight weaving. He stooped to lift Laconia and carry him the rest of the way. His long body trembled with loud purrs. Poor creature was truly anxious.

The butler shut the door behind them. “Come this way.”

They followed him into a large receiving room, facing the mews. Two large windows, sheer white drapes obscuring the viewlined the far wall. It smelt a mite musty, as though the windows had not been open in quite some time. Many places seemed to smell musty these days. Was it just that all buildings smelt that way when one was accustomed to open air? White paper hangings with Order-blue vines or lines or whatever they were called, covered the walls. The occasional pastel fairy dragon peeked around the vines here and there, probably to make it all more interesting, but utterly unrealistic. Had the artist ever seen what the creatures actually looked like? What was wrong with a simple plain color, or even white?

Two tall, oaken bookcases, showcasing books published by the Order, stood proudly flanking the fireplace opposite the windows while a third filled up the wall between the windows. A slightly worn tea table and several similarly serviceable card tables served as focal points for several clusters of lyre-back chairs near the far wall. Couches, covered in something rusty-colored, with dragon-claw-and-ball feet filled up the rest of the space. The whole effect was rather welcoming, and blissfully quiet. The only other occupants were two brown minor drakes wearing Order livery badges, studying a tome at a table near the windows.

“Wait here, please. The Admiral will receive you shortly.” The butler bowed and strode out.

Wentworth took Laconia to a small couch bathed in the sunbeam from the window opposite the drakes. He sat and helped Laconia arrange himself on his lap. “Are you well?”

Laconia grumbled, which to most sounded like a growl. But once one heard Laconia truly growl, one never mistook one for the other again. “I am fine.”

Wentworth stroked his silky black fur and scratched behind his ears. “I know the place smells very odd, but you will grow used to it.”

“That is easy for you to say. You have never had a smell warn you a larger dragon was about to try and make you his breakfast.”

“That was quite the interesting morning, was it not? I would have been consumed right along with you. I do quite remember how that feels.” Perhaps Croft was right, he should write that adventure as a monograph on the territorial nature of sea drakes and submit it to the Order for publication. It was quite the story.

Laconia pressed his cheek into Wentworth’s hand. “But you did not smell it coming.” His tail thumped dully against the cushions as he opened his mouth and flicked his forked tongue in the air.

“You are not accustomed to the smells of land. Anything that does not reek of salt air smells wrong to you.”

“While I much prefer that smell, I do not like all these concocted scents that warm-bloods wear. They are offensive.”

“As is the term warm-blood—when used by a dragon.”

“When they do not offend my olfaction—”

“Ahh, Captain Wentworth!” Admiral Easterly strode in. Tall and broad chested, with a shock of prematurely white hair, he seemed confident and easy here. How odd the buff jacket and navy-blue breeches looked on him, but there was no reason to expect him to be in uniform now while he was doing the Order’s business, not the Navy’s. “I am pleased to see you again.” He bowed to Laconia and extended his hand and allowed Laconia to sniff his fingers.

Laconia flicked his tongue against Easterly’s hand. Some of the tension left his shoulders and he rubbed his cheek against Easterly’s palm.

“You have become quite the legend in the Navy—the luckiest ship’s cat you are called. We could have done with a dozen more like you finding prize ships out there.”

“Then why assign so many dragon-deaf as captains?”

Wentworth and Easterly chuckled.

“One can only work with what one has. Come back to my office.” Easterly led them upstairs to a room that faced the mews.

The office was small by the standards of landed accommodations, but spacious to any ship’s captain. Stark white walls, bare as the clean and polished wood floor; their footsteps echoing off both. Tidy and efficient. Shelves near the window held a sextant, a telescope and books on navigation and nautical dragons—oh! There was one he had not read: Leviathans, Hippocampi, Krakens and Marine Wyrms: The myths and actualities of the large dragons of the near seas, including the West Indies.

“Might I borrow that?” Wentworth pointed to the volume.

In a single movement, Easterly pulled the book from the shelf, handed it to Wentworth and pointed to a chair near the worn, dark oak desk that occupied the center of the narrow room. “Ever hungry for learning, aren’t you! Of course, you can. In fact, I would even recommend it, given what I have to talk with you about. Sit, sit, be comfortable.” He pointed to a cushion on his desk still bearing bits of fur and several scales from its most recent occupant—probably another tatzelwurm. “I would like you to be part of the discussion, Laconia.”

Laconia chirruped a sound of approval. Coiling his tail to use like a spring, he launched himself to the desktop. He circled the pillow, sniffing it deeply, fanged jaws half-open and eyes a little glazed. What—rather who—had been there before?

“Do not worry, she does not mind sharing this particular perch. Mina is resigned that my office is a public place.”

“I did not know you had a Friend once again.” Wentworth drew the wooden armchair close to the dragon pillow and sat down.

“She befriended me when her previous Friend died, another old Admiral. She likes sea-faring men, after they have retired. Mina does not like to sail herself.” Easterly looked over his shoulder toward the bookcase.

A fluffy grey head peeked out from behind the bookcase. “Meyrrrrow.” High and feminine, it was almost as though she spoke with an accent.

“Pray come out and be introduced.”

Mina slither-crept into the light and looked up at Easterly. Perhaps only half Laconia’s size, she seemed small, though by feline standards she was certainly substantial. Long and lithe, the silver fur of her front, feline half blended seamlessly into gleaming silver scales on her serpentine tail. Stars above, she was a gorgeous creature. Intelligent deep blue eyes stared up at him, searching his character, his worthiness to be an acquaintance—or at least it looked very much that way.

Laconia chirruped at her. She regarded him a moment, eyes growing very large. Her jaw opened slightly; her fangs evident as she breathed deep. “Mrrroww!” She sprang to the desk near Easterly.

“Mina, may I present Laconia and Wentworth, Friend of Laconia.”

Wentworth bowed from his shoulders to Mina and Laconia dipped his head slightly, but not below Mina’s. Ah, yes, dominance, it was always dominance with dragons.

She regarded Wentworth a moment longer, then turned to Laconia. She leaned toward him and sniffed rapidly. Laconia mirrored her. He stepped forward to sniff her neck. When she admitted the attention, he slithered closer, drawing his nose down her entire length as she did the same for him, flowing in a large draconic circle on the desktop. The circle stopped, and she ducked under him, rubbing the top of her head against his belly. He purred and pressed down a mite as though to embrace her as she did.

She slithered around to face him. Wide eyed and blinking, was it possible for a tatzelwurm to be drunk? Dragon thunder! Laconia wore the same expression.

“Yourrr visit is welcome.” She pressed her cheek to Laconia’s.

Laconia licked her face and rubbed his cheek against hers. “Your scent … is right.” He purred and sighed and licked his lips.

She purred and hopped on the pillow, curling into a dainty ball with her chin resting coyly on her tail. Laconia followed, curling around her and resting his chin on her shoulder. By Jove, that was an awfully friendly arrangement.

Easterly lifted his eyebrows and shrugged.

“Your message suggested an issue of some urgency.” Wentworth tried not to stare at the tatzelwurm knot beside him, but their very loud purring made it difficult.

“Yes, yes indeed.” Easterly tugged his jacket straight and sat down. “I am not sorry to hear you have been beached for the foreseeable future. I know that is anathema to many Captains, but truly, we need men like you for the Order.”

“Like me?” So many things that could mean, and not all of them complimentary.

“Proven dragon-hearing men who can follow orders, who can manage themselves in a crisis, and make good decisions on their own. Exactly what the Navy has trained you for.”

Laconia’s ears pricked, and he fixed his eyes on Easterly, wrapping his tail a little tighter around Mina.

“What is happening?”

“Where dragons are concerned, there are always a great many things happening. But, since the revolution in France and most recently the war with Napoleon has affected the continental dragons, times are especially turbulent.”

“What has that to do with English dragons?” Wentworth crossed his arms and leaned in, heart beating faster. Damn battle reflexes kicking in.

The tip of Laconia’s tail twitched and his forked tongue flicked. He felt it, too.

“Major dragons along the coast, both land and the few marine ones we have relations with, have been on edge watching for signs of invasion. I will tell you privately, it is a good thing that never happened. The Pendragon Accords were never written to consider the ramifications of an invading foreign army from the continent.”

“Why not? The Romans—”

Easterly lifted open hands. “Yes, yes, just chalk it up to arrogance. It is a problem that is being addressed in London even now. A joint committee of dragons and Blue Order Officers, including representatives of both the Army and Navy, is attempting to draft new provisions to deal with the matter. But in the meantime, we must soothe ruffled scales as it were, and I need Dragon Mates like you to do it.”

“Whose scales are ruffled?” Laconia’s tail twitched faster.

“Have you met Cornwall?”

“The Prince Regent or the firedrake?” Prickles started at Wentworth’s scalp and raced down every limb.

“Either, both? They are not exactly dissimilar.” The admiral snorted. “Of course, I never said such a thing.”

“Of course not,” Wentworth muttered.

“In any case, we have received a number of complaints from minor dragons of the Cornwall Keep. Cornwall has been unusually restive of late. They fear there is something seriously the matter and, worse still, Cornwall is contemplating handling the matter himself. It is rarely a good idea to permit major dragons to manage affairs on their terms.”

“Is that not what the Accords are for?” Blood roared in Wentworth’s ears. He fought the urge to spring to his feet.

“It is precisely why there are Keepers assigned to the major dragons, charged with handling issues for the dragons. While I have known a great many hotheaded and stubborn men, I have yet to meet one who rivals the amount of damage an angry dragon can cause.”

“Then why is the Prince Regent not managing the matter?”

Easterly glowered.

That had been a stupid question.

“The key issue here is that a particular kind of diplomacy is needed—”

“You think Laconia and I are suited for that?” Wentworth sneaked a quick glance at Laconia.

“I need a man who has had dealings with nautical dragons, as the matter involves sea hold property.”

Now he had to move! Wentworth jumped up and paced the length of the far too short room. “Cornwall is a fire drake—a land dragon. You mean to tell me now that land dragons have sea holdings?”

“That is the heart of the current debate. Here.” Easterly plucked a thin red leather-bound volume—a monograph perhaps—off the shelf and handed it to Wentworth as he strode past. Determining the Boundaries of Major Dragon Holdings: The Implications and Complications of Instinctive Dragon Territorial Determinations Intersecting with Human Traditions and Law.

Damn, that looked complicated.

“Unfortunately, the legal codes have not been rendered very clearly. In the current situation, I am not even certain Blue Order codes cover the situation.”

“And what precisely is the situation.” Wentworth fell into his seat with a dull thud.

“Cornwall has laid claim to something off his coast that we are not even sure exists.” Easterly pressed his temples hard.

“So, the dragon might be mad?”

“Some have entertained that possibility.”

“You want us to go and confront a fire drake—a royal firedrake—who may well be touched in the head—as mad as the king himself?” Wentworth dropped the monograph on the desk.

Mina started; Laconia glared at him.

“In short, yes. And, the Prince Regent might also be very interested in the matter, should the news reach him directly.”

“The Prince does not know the nature of the situation?”

“He has not informed us of any problem and the Order has not contacted him regarding the complaints—yet.”

“You must be joking? That amounts to keeping secrets from the crown!” Wentworth threw his head back and huffed. “I might be beached, but I am hardly dicked in the nob myself, and I am quite certain Laconia—”

“We have dealt with worse.” Laconia lifted his head slightly, glancing from Easterly to Wentworth. “You recall that sea drake who tried to refuse to grant us passage through her territory? She had an entire battalion of sea drakes and marine wyrms ready to do battle for the territory.”

“What has that to do with—”

“Or the herd of hippocampi who thought you violated their fishing ground?’

“Again, what has that to do—”

Laconia stood and walked across the desk to look Wentworth in the eye. “What else are you going to do until you find a mate?”

Wentworth’s jaw dropped and he sputtered. “Dragon’s blood and sea foam!”

“You will mind your language around my mate.” Laconia glanced back at Mina and chirruped.

“Your mate?” Wentworth and Easterly said simultaneously.

“Yes.” The tatzelwurms hissed.

“You see, finding a mate is not so difficult a matter to resolve.” He curled around her again, running his nose along her silky silver fur. “Had you the wherewithal to find your own, you would not be at loose ends right now. You must have a way of keeping yourself occupied until …”

Wentworth slapped his forehead. “How do you intend for us to get to Cornwall?”

________________________

Is it a little off the beaten path for Austenesque fiction? Absolutely! But what better time to try out something entirely new and different than a year like 2020?

If you’d like to have a peek at more previews, check them out on my website, RandomBitsofFascinaion.com.  The Dragons of Kellynch and Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion

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About The Dragons of Kellynch

In order to secure her future, a young lady must marry well.

One would think Anne Elliot, a baronet’s daughter, would find the marriage mart far easier to navigate than a more ordinary woman. One would be wrong.

After refusing a poor, but otherwise perfect sailor, on the advice of her friend Lady Russell, Anne finds an unhappy choice before her: marry deathly dull Charles Musgrove or hope against hope that another suitable proposal might come her way before she becomes a spinster on the shelf.

Anne’s disgracefully independent choice to refuse Charles’ offer turns her world entirely arsey-varsey and not in the expected  turned upside down sort of way. She begins to see things … hear things … things like dragons.

And once one sees dragons, one talks to them. And when one talks to them, nothing is ever the same again.

Must a young lady marry well if she hears dragons?

https://books2read.com/DragonsofKellynch

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About Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion

Keeping a hibernating dragon should have been a simple thing.

Should have been, but it was not. Apparently, nothing involving dragons was ever simple, at least not for Anne Elliot, junior Keeper to dragon Kellynch.

With the estate in debt, Anne’s father in denial, and the dragon’s treasure missing, Kellynch’s awakening was shaping up to be nothing short of catastrophe. Not to mention there was the pesky matter of her own broken heart and resentment against the old friend who had caused it.

Captain Frederick Wentworth had spent his life making something of himself in the Navy. With the  war that kept him employed at an end and a small fortune in prize money, he found himself beached and at loose ends. What was he to do with himself now—take a wife like Laconia, his dragon Friend, insisted? Not when none compared to the woman who had broken his heart.

Working as an agent of the Blue Order, managing dragon matters across England, seemed a much better alternative. At least until investigating one such matter sent him directly in the path of Anne Elliot, the woman who had ruined him for all others.

Now a royal dragon rages, a sleeping dragon lurks, and too many treasures have gone missing. Can Anne and Wentworth lay aside resentment, pride, and heartbreak to prevent Kellynch’s awakening from ending in bloodshed—or worse?

Jane Austen meets Pern in a fantastical regency romp bound to delight readers of Jane Austen and Anne McCaffrey alike.

https://books2read.com/KellynchDragonPersuasion

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.

She can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook: | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering a reader’s choice giveaway, with two lucky winners getting to choose any ebook in the Jane Austen’s Dragon Series. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, August 9, 2020. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Maria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest release!

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Hello, dear readers! Today’s guest is Virginia Kohl, who is here to celebrate the release of her newest novel, Adventure Awaits, inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Virginia is here to share a little about the book, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Since writing my debut novel, True Love Comes to Delaford, I knew I wanted Daisy to have her own story. The adventuresome young woman, who dreamed of traveling to exotic locations, would not simply settle for anyone. Could a true love match be found in the village’s new physician?

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After reading the children a story and tucking them back in, Miss Dashwood returned downstairs to await the doctor. Her book had failed to distract her anxious thoughts. She soon began to pace in front of the library’s fireplace.

She raised her head upon hearing the butler’s announcement. “Thank you for coming so quickly, Doctor Gr—”

Instead of the trusted physician’s grey eyes, she looked up into a pair of unfamiliar dark blue ones.

“Although I appreciate your haste, I require an actual physician, Sir. If the doctor is not available, we must simply wait.”

“Four weeks?” the stranger asked dubiously.

“Why of course not. He will come directly after he finishes his call at the Delaney’s home.”

“Which I have.”

Daisy’s growing anxiety got the better of her. “If they do not prefer Doctor Grant’s expertise that is their choice. However, I will not let simply anyone near my niece!”

Unable to believe her audacity, the young man stepped closer. When they were mere inches apart, he raised his hands and began counting off on his fingers.

“First of all, Doctor Grant is not coming because he is under strict orders to rest for the next month. Secondly, in comparison to you, Mrs. Delaney did not have the luxury of waiting for his return. And lastly, I am not ‘simply anyone’. My name is Doctor Alexander Mallard and I have trained at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country. I am the physician taking care of your family’s physician.” Attempting to control his anger, he took a deep breath. “Now if we are through here, I need to see the patient.”

Releasing her arms from their defensive stance crossed in front of her, Miss Dashwood motioned towards the open door and stiffly replied, “By all means. Follow me, doctor.”

* * *

The walk up to the nursery was silent aside from the time it took Miss Dashwood to explain that the illness had also been contracted by their guest. Softly turning the doorknob, she entered and made her way over to Isabella’s bed.

She knelt down and gently stroked the little girl’s brow. “Wake up, dear.”

“Is it morning already?”

A small smile crossed Daisy’s face. “No, not yet. The doctor has come.” With a challenging glance in the young man’s direction she added, “and he is going to make you feel all better.”

“Then can we see our mamas?” a sleepy voice asked from the other side of the room.

“Of course, you can,” she assured.

Alexander looked from the young boy, whom he now knew to be the Delaney’s eldest son, to the aunt and niece. Shaking his head, he wondered what was wrong with this woman. How could she so calmly promise the children that everything would be all right? He hoped and prayed it would be a simple childhood malady. However, he could not be sure of that prognosis without an examination.

He strode across the room and set his bag on the nightstand. Retrieving his supplies, he could see the little girl’s eyes widen in fear. On the other side he heard sheets rustling and the sound of footsteps crossing the floor behind him. Soon the soft tone of whispered reassurances reached his ears.

“Do not be scared, Isabella. Daisy said the doctor will make everything better.”

The young physician closed his eyes in frustration. His profession had taught him to prepare for the worst. How could he tell these trusting children if it came to that? He glanced over at the woman sitting on the bed. If only she had not assured them that all would be well.

“Miss Dashwood, may I please speak to you for a moment?” Seeing that she did not proceed to move from the children’s side, he added, “Alone please.”

When they reached the open doorway, his tone became quieter for fear of the patients overhearing him. “You should not be telling them that everything will be fine when there is no basis for this claim. Until I have completed my examination, you are simply providing them with a false sense of security.”

“Patients recover after chickenpox run their course.”

“Chickenpox?” he repeated in surprise.

“Yes. A common malady I am sure you have encountered before.”

He could feel his head begin to pound. First, she questioned his expertise and now she had the nerve to diagnose his patients.

“As much as I appreciate your, let us call it assistance, until you have actually obtained a medical degree, I will rely on mine.”

Momentarily lost for words, Daisy stared in shock. She had never encountered such an arrogant man.

“Doctor Mallard—” she began, only to be interrupted by little voices coming from the bed.

“A mallard is a type of duck,” Colin explained, with his arm draped comfortingly around his friend’s shoulder.

“Similar to the duckies in mama’s story?” Isabella’s face lit up for the first time all evening when she looked over at Alexander. “May we call you Doctor Ducky?”

Daisy addressed her niece, “I do not believe—”

However, the warning never came. In disbelief she watched him cross the room and bend down to be at eye level with the children. The corners of her lips involuntarily lifted, seeing him make noises and gestures to imitate the feathered creature. His actions were rewarded with claps and giggles before he returned to a standing position.

“Now it is time for your examinations. Are you ready?”

“If Auntie Daisy can stay with us.”

Alexander would have preferred any of the household’s servants instead of the infuriating young woman. However, he found himself unable to deny the two pairs of pleading eyes looking up at him.

“If Miss Dashwood agrees, I would have no objections.”

“Thank you,” Daisy whispered with sincere appreciation when she passed him to join her charges.

Fairly certain she would have stayed regardless of his objection, her gratitude surprised him. There certainly was more than meets the eye when it came to Miss Dashwood.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, Adventure Awaits is available in both Kindle and trade paperback.

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About Adventure Awaits

Margaret Dashwood, known to her family and friends as Daisy, has always dreamed of going on a grand adventure. With her first Season behind her, those dreams are relegated to the stories she tells her niece.

Dr. Alexander Mallard came to the small village of Delaford straight out of medical school. With the knowledge and desire to help everyone he can, the young man settles into the life of a country doctor.

The day their paths cross, an adventure grander than either ever imagined begins.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

Virginia Kohl

Virginia Kohl has been fascinated with the regency era since discovering Jane Austen’s works at the age of eleven.

Originally from Germany, Virginia Kohl shares her Texas home with her illustrator mother and faithful rescue dog. When not passing her love of learning on to her students, this college math professor enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and being an active member of her local writer’s guild.

Virginia Kohl can be reached via her website and Facebook. Her novels can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.

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Giveaway

Virginia is generously offering a Kindle copy of Adventure Awaits to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to Amazon.com customers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, July 22, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Hello, friends! I’m happy to have Victoria Kincaid as a guest again today to celebrate the audiobook release of When Mary Met the Colonel. Victoria is here to talk a little about the book and share an excerpt and audiobook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hello Anna and thank you for welcoming me back to visit your blog!  I am here to announce the release of an audiobook version of When Mary Met the Colonel, my first secondary-character P&P story and first novella.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to secure the brilliant Stevie Zimmerman to narrate the audiobook.

I’ve always believed that Mary deserved romance and was particularly interested in seeing her with a man whose character and temperament were dissimilar to hers.  I wanted her to have a HEA with someone handsome and dashing. Colonel Fitzwilliam perfectly fit the bill.  Below is a scene from the beginning of the book.

The Colonel and Mary meet by chance in Longbourn’s garden during Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding breakfast.  I hope you enjoy it!

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A crease formed between Mary’s eyebrows. “Sir, the events of this war will affect our country for generations to come. It will influence the futures of my nieces and nephews. Faced with such weighty matters, I do not understand why anyone believes I should care about the latest designs in lace!”

Abruptly, she bit her lip and blushed. “I apologize for that outburst. I have had a trying day. I am overwrought.” She stood quickly, straightening her skirts. “I will trouble you no—”

Without forethought, Fitz seized her hand in his. “Please do not leave just when you are proving to be an interesting conversational partner.” He remained seated, hoping it would encourage her to stay.

“I think I must.” She stared at the ground.

“Miss Bennet, if you will allow me to be frank, the majority of my visit has been occupied by your younger sister and her friend admiring the fine handiwork of the buttons on my uniform.” Her shoulders shook; had he provoked laughter? “Intelligent conversation about the happenings in the world would be quite welcome.”

Slowly, Mary’s head lifted. Her eyes traveled down her arm, paused on her hand—which he had not released—and then rose to meet his eyes. Whatever she saw there caused her body to soften slightly. Fitz took the opportunity to tug on her hand, encouraging her to sit once more.

It was wildly inappropriate to be holding her hand, although they both wore gloves. If anyone should happen upon them, their proximity could lead to all sorts of difficulties, including an accusation of compromising her reputation. Yet he could not bring himself to leave; he was too intrigued to allow the conversation to end.

She allowed him to pull her down on the bench beside him, and he instantly released her hand. “I pray you, ask your questions.” Mary regarded him warily, a wild animal that might be easily startled. “What did you wish to ask me?” he asked gently.

“Did you fight at Salamanca?” He nodded. Her eyes lit with interest. “The papers all claimed Wellington’s strategy was brilliant, but they never described the details. What did he do?”

Fitz was momentarily in the uncharacteristic position of being at a loss for words. This was her most pressing question? He expected a query about the Spanish people or Wellington’s character. Instead, she asked about…battle strategy?

“Well…he held some of his troops in reserve until later in the battle,” Fitz finally responded, an accurate but incomplete answer.

Miss Bennet scoffed. “That is a common enough strategy. There is nothing brilliant in that.”

Fitz blinked at her. How did she—? “Miss Bennet, what have you been reading?”

Instantly, her face was aflame, and she ducked her chin. “Do not say as much to my family, particularly my mother, I pray you!”

He nodded; as a rule he avoided conversations with Mrs. Bennet, who was almost as excited about a red coat as her daughter.

Miss Bennet’s eyes darted about the clearing, making sure of their solitude. “I have read both Brown’s and Gibbon’s histories. My father did not miss them from his library, but Mama would be horrified if she knew.” Her eyes were now downcast.

What an extraordinary woman!

“With every turn of this conversation, I am more and more amazed,” Fitz said.

Miss Bennet wrapped her arms around her waist. “I know it is not what a proper young lady would read.”

Fitz was horrified that she perceived these interests as a character deficiency but struggled to keep his tone light. “Perhaps more young ladies should read such subjects; I would far rather discuss military strategy than lace.” He did not garner the laugh he sought, but she rewarded him with a small smile.

Fitz stood. “If you have read Brown and Gibbon, a simple explanation of the strategy at Salamanca will not do. I will need to explain the terrain around the city.” He cast his eye about the clearing. “Here.” He gestured her to the side of the clearing, a small area of dirt not covered by the stone underfoot. With a stick, he drew a line in the dirt. “So, here is the city.” He made an X. “And these are Wellington’s troops…” She watched with rapt attention. It was very pleasant to have such an enthusiastic audience. “The French troops were here and here…”

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About When Mary Met the Colonel

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked. She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Check out the audiobook sample on Audible

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audiobook copy of When Mary Met the Colonel to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 19, 2020. 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 audiobook release!

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I’m delighted to welcome Bronwen Chisholm back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her new novel, Missing Jane. I’m really looking forward to this Pride and Prejudice variation, and when you read the blurb and excerpt, you’ll know why. Please give Bronwen a warm welcome!

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Hello, Readers! Anna, thank you for having me back. I am so pleased to share my latest release with you and your readers. Many of you might remember when I was here last summer with my last release which was on the controversial/heavy side. I promise, this is a low angst, sweet clean novella.

A few years ago, I began writing this story which takes place near the Welsh border. The only problem was my characters sounded more Scottish. When the opportunity came to travel to the United Kingdom, I quickly added Wales to the agenda to get a better feel for the accent. I was truly blessed that the manager at the manor house where we stayed (Mellington Hall outside Monmouth, Wales) reluctantly agreed to read my dialogue while I recorded her. So, without further ado, here is the blurb and an excerpt.

Mr. Bennet is dead; his daughters “scattered to the winds,” according to Mrs. Bennet.

And the eldest Miss Bennet? No one really knows.

Poor Mr. Bingley is led to believe she is no more, but her sister swears she is alive.

Can Mr. Darcy and his friend find her and, in turn, their own happily ever afters?

Fitzwilliam Darcy stood in the familiar study, staring into the empty fire grate as he debated his reasons for being there. A glance out the window revealed blooms in the garden below. It was past the middle of June. He had missed most of spring after locking himself away. With a shake of his head, he turned away, thinking he might just leave his card and slip out before his friend appeared. As he approached it, the door opened and Charles Bingley entered smiling, though he lacked the vibrancy he once had.

“Darcy, this is a surprise. I understood you were not visiting.” Bingley clapped him on the arm as they shook hands.

“No, I was not for a time. This is my first step back into society.”

“Well, I am glad to see you.”

Darcy took a deep, hesitant breath and expelled it slowly. “We shall see about that.”

Bingley looked at him oddly before crossing to the sideboard. “A drink?”

“No.” Darcy was unable to hide his wince at the offer of spirits. “Perhaps some tea or coffee?”

This time his friend’s head tipped to the side and his eyes narrowed. “Very well,” he replied as he made his way to the bell-pull. Their refreshments were requested, and the gentlemen took their seats.

While they waited, Darcy enquired into Bingley’s movements since they last met, and Bingley revealed the social events his sisters had required he attend. Once the tea arrived and was served, Darcy realized his time had come as the door closed behind the departing servant.

“I have done you a great wrong, Bingley. I am here to confess it and hopefully make amends.”

His friend settled his elbows on the arms of his chair and steepled his fingers together, his lips quivering in amusement. “I am intrigued, Darcy. Do you mean to say you were wrong regarding something?”

Darcy did not respond. Instead, he stared into his cup, focusing on the swirl of tea residue in the bottom. “While visiting my aunt in Kent, I came across Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who was visiting her friend, the former Miss Lucas.”

Bingley sat quietly. Darcy dared not look at the man lest his courage fail him.

“An occasion arose where we were in discussion and your name was mentioned, as well as her sister’s.” He cleared his throat and finally tore his gaze from the cup. “It appears Miss Bennet may have held you in some affection.”

His friend’s face was unreadable and he remained silent, so Darcy continued.

“I believe, should you wish it, you could return to Netherfield Park and would be welcomed back to Longbourn.” Darcy sipped his tea and waited.

Bingley rose and crossed to the sideboard. After standing for a moment with his fingers spread on the edge, he poured himself a drink, finished it, and refilled it. This time, he took only a sip and returned to his seat.

“I beg your pardon, but how was it that you and Miss Elizabeth found yourselves discussing Miss Bennet and myself?”

Darcy fought the urge to pace the room, sitting back in his seat instead. He gazed into his cup once more. “Miss Elizabeth asked after you and your sisters. She mentioned . . . her sister had been in London this past winter and she asked if I had seen her.”

“Miss Bennet was in London?” Bingley interrupted. “When? Did you know?”

A quick breath and swallow preceded a single nod. “Your sister told me. We thought it best that you not see her.”

“You thought it best?” A harsh laugh escaped Bingley’s lips. “Did you believe I would embarrass myself? Or perhaps I was not strong enough to overcome my emotions.”

Darcy found it even more difficult to meet his friend’s gaze. He cleared his throat. “I had noted the changes which had come over you and feared seeing her would cause you more pain.” He cleared his throat again. “Miss Elizabeth had noted similar changes in her sister,” he said in a near whisper.

“The sharing of such confidences would speak to a more profound relationship between yourself and Miss Elizabeth.”

Before his hand could shake and reveal his discomfort, Darcy set his teacup on the table. “It may seem as such, but our discussion took place during a moment of . . . disagreement.”

The first genuine smile lifted his friend’s countenance. “I can well imagine it. Miss Elizabeth was never prone to bowing to your assertions as much of society does. I believe she disliked you from the moment you made that horrid comment at the assembly the night we met.”

Warmth crept over Darcy’s cheeks. “Yes, well, as I stated, I believe you will be welcomed in Hertfordshire.” He stood and gathered his things.

Bingley remained seated, now suddenly interested in his glass. “Will you join me?”

“At Netherfield?”

“Of course. Where else?”

The temptation was great, but Darcy shook his head. “I believe it best if you take this step alone.” He stared at his friend until Bingley met his gaze. “You have allowed your sisters and me to have too much influence in your life. My last bit of advice is to return to your home alone and build your future.”

Bingley held his gaze a moment longer before nodding. A new determination seemed to enter his gaze, and he stood to show his friend out.

It has been such a pleasure to write this book. It is a novella and, as you could probably guess, it picks up after Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. We have a few new characters, a different locale, and just a touch of angst, nothing too terrible. The Kindle version of Missing Jane is available for pre-order HERE and will be released on July 10th. I hope you will pick it up and love it as much as I do.

Thanks for having me again, Anna! I look forward to coming back in the future. And now, a GIVEAWAY! Just make a comment on this blog and Anna will pick 1 lucky winner to receive an ebook copy of Missing Jane. Good luck! I can’t wait to read your comments.

The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

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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Thanks, Bronwen, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new release!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what’s inside:

The King of Hearts by Robin Helm

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

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

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

You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl by Laura Hile

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

A Step Too Far by Wendi Sotis

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

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

John Knightley Takes a Wife by Barbara Cornthwaite

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

In the Looking Glass by Mandy H Cook

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

Charming Miss Dashwood by Chautona Havig

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

We are:

Robin Helm

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

Laura Hile

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

Wendi Sotis

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

Barbara Cornthwaite

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

Mandy H. Cook

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

Chautona Havig

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

Connect with the A Very Austen authors: Facebook | Amazon

Buy links:

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

Amazon | Goodreads

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Excerpts

From A Step Too Far  by Wendi Sotis

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

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

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

“What is wrong, Darcy?” Bingley asked.

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

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

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

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

Annoyed, he answered, “I am fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He flared his nostrils. So much for avoiding her.

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

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

She smiled and all rational thought left his head.

From John Knightley Takes a Wife by Barbara Corthwaite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I intend to have more.”

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

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

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

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

“How do you do, Mr. Knightley?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unless it was his cousin, Anne.

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

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

Why this godforsaken place?”

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

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

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

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

Sometime later he woke to more cursing.

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

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

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

“Took you long enough,” a voice shouted.

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

“No need to be telling me twice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway

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

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

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Laura Hile is one of my favorite Austenesque authors, and her Darcy By Any Other Name is one of my all-time favorite variations. So I am delighted to welcome Laura to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, So This Is Love. I love it when authors tackle Austen’s secondary characters, and especially when they give Charlotte a different option than Mr. Collins, so I’m especially looking forward to this one. Laura is here to share a little about the book, as well as an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I am so very happy to present to you So This Is Love at the beginning of the summer reading season. It’s a fun, romantic, adventurous story I think you will enjoy.

I will say, it is more of a romance than an Austen variation (although it is loaded with Austen’s characters).  I present to Charlotte a hero who is as different from Mr. Collins as chalk is to cheese. Will she fall in love?

So This Is Love began life as an anthology contribution. After my author friend Margie Bayer read Mercy’s Embrace (which features Elizabeth Elliot), she begged me to do the same kind of thing for Charlotte Lucas. I took up the challenge.

This would be a fluff romance, written for the pure joy of it. I threw in all my favorite ingredients: swashbuckling adventure, an isolated seaside setting, a lifelong bachelor seadog of a Captain, a handful of his crew (hired to work at his house until called back), and dear, ever-practical, unromantic Charlotte.

But then Charlotte’s impish twelve-year-old brother Johnny showed up. And her silly aunt, Mrs. Allen (borrowed from Northanger Abbey). Even Mr. Collins began acting like his toadish self.

Right away I knew I was in trouble. This story would not behave and stay small! It grew both in length and in depth, and soon I was needing to write a different novella (You’ve Got to Kiss the Girl) for A Very Austen Romance.

So This Is Love became a full-fledged novel, filled with my very favorite ingredient for a romance story, banter. Charlotte and the Captain outdid themselves here. Chapter after chapter, their friendship becomes something more – with each of them fighting it all the way. It would be no fun if they didn’t!

That the story line exceeded expectations is an understatement. Heavens, I fell in love with Captain Jack Blunt myself – and with all the characters in this tale.

So This Is Love became a story of my heart. It’s a feel-good romance, just right for summer reading. The excerpt will give you the flavor of it, oh yes.

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Mr. Collins is little more than a stranger when Charlotte Lucas agrees to marry him. This is a prudent choice, given her situation. But when Mr. Collins crosses the line, something in Charlotte snaps. How dare he be so familiar, so shamelessly forward! It isn’t as if he loves her!

 

Come with Charlotte as she breaks the engagement, is sent away to her father’s relations, and discovers a future that is vastly different from the one she envisioned.

 

Because “I am not romantic” is anything but true. Charlotte simply hasn’t met the right man.

 

In this story, she will.

Excerpt from Chapter 9: Charlotte is delighted to learn that her uncle’s provoking house guest plays cards. Will she win money off him tonight? 

Charlotte pulled up short. What business had she to be rude? “I beg your pardon. All this talk of marriage, and my aunt’s endless hints and mistletoe everywhere, have put me out of temper.”

“Is this a display of temper?” Captain Blunt sounded amused. “Shouldn’t you shriek or throw things against the wall? That shepherdess on the mantelpiece is a likely candidate.”

“My purse is empty enough without having to replace broken figurines, thank you.” Suddenly a new thought occurred. “Speaking of my empty purse, do you play cards?”

“I do.”

“Are you any good?”

Again he laughed. “It so happens that I am.”

“And are you rich?”

This was an outrageous question, but Charlotte was finding it easy to say outrageous things to Jack Blunt.

“I am Allen’s heir; does that tell you anything?”

“Not much. If you are not rich, there is no help for it. You must go to the moneylenders when you lose. My situation is such that I cannot accept promissory notes. Nor shall I wait to be paid until after you inherit.”

He grinned, leaning forward. “A grim possibility. But, not likely.”

“Good. Then I shall positively enjoy winning money off you.”

“You, ah, do understand that we sailors play cards while at sea? Often daily? We are keen to win.”

“Do you understand the desperation of an unmarried woman?” Charlotte countered. “One who can do little else to earn money? I am much more determined to win. The delightful thing is that with you I needn’t prevaricate.”

“We shall go at it hammer-and-tongs,” he promised.

“With the gloves off, as Richard would say. Richard is my eldest brother.”

“And when you lose? When I demand payment?”

“If that happens tonight, I have several options. I could cry, although as you know I am not skilled at crying prettily. I could manage to look sad and rather crushed. This would be even better, I think, for then everyone present would think you nothing but a heel for demanding payment.” A grin escaped. “After all, it is Christmas.

“Do you know,” she went on, “two Christmases ago, we entertained the squire and his guests.” The words came tumbling out, but Charlotte did not care to check them. “One of them, a London gentleman, thought he would have my head for washing, er, as Johnny would say. I began carefully, showing maidenly trepidation, hesitating over my discards and looking doubtful. He was so very pleased, but by the end of the night he realized his mistake. I won four guineas off him.”

Captain Blunt was grinning. “You will not object if I ask you to prove these rash claims?” He rose to his feet and brought forward a small table. “I happen to know where Allen keeps his playing cards.”

Moments later he returned with a new pack. He removed the paper and passed the cards to Charlotte. “Would you like to do the honors?”

“With pleasure.” On her mettle, Charlotte shuffled with a flourish and passed the deck for him to cut.

There was a new glint of respect in his eyes. How delicious! Now he would see.

“The trouble is,” she confided, “that within our small circle, I must restrain myself. If I were to be paralyzingly ruthless, no one would play cards with me again, and I would have no source of income.” She took up her cards and sorted her hand. “By the way, what are we play—”

She was interrupted by the opening of the parlor door. In came Mrs. Allen’s maid. “Begging your pardon, Miss Lucas, but you are wanted above-stairs.”

“Botheration,” muttered Charlotte. “Thank you, Fleur. Tell Mrs. Allen I’ll be up directly.” She rose to her feet and turned to Jack Blunt with a look of apology.

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About So This Is Love

“I am not romantic, you know. I never was.”

Newly escaped from a loathsome engagement of convenience, Charlotte Lucas has no interest in romance. More than ever, she is convinced that no man would—or could—love her. As companion to an aging aunt, Charlotte’s new life is as predictable as it is circumspect.

But then she is rescued from a robbery by her uncle’s heir, a masterful man who is disastrously handsome. Why has he remained as a guest in the house? Why is he so determined to draw Charlotte out and make her talk? And what of his invitation to visit his home by the sea?

Romance is not on the chart for Captain Jack Blunt. Never again will he be played for that kind of fool! He is ashore only to heal from an injury and see to business, nothing more. And yet the pointed disinterest of his cousin’s pert niece is intriguing. She is forthright, refreshingly honest—and altogether lovely.  She will make a fine wife for one of his officers. But not, of course, for him.

So This Is Love is available as an eBook and paperback, and is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Author

Laura Hile

Encourager. Believer. Author. Teacher. Friend.

By day, Laura Hile teaches at a Christian school. By night—or rather, in the early morning when she can think! —she writes Jane Austen and Regency romance with laughs and happy endings.

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

She enjoys gardening (she is a weed warrior!), choral singing, and having coffee with friends.

Laura lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with her husband and a collection of antique clocks. One day she hopes to add a cat or three.

Other books by Laura Hile: Darcy By Any Other Name and the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy. She is a regular contributor to the A Very Austen anthology series.

Connect with Laura: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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Giveaway

Laura is generously offering an ebook copy of So This Is Love to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway is open through Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation serial. I’m especially excited about Aubrey’s project because I like the idea of a series of shorter works, especially now when there’s so much going on in the world and summer is here and it can be difficult to stay focused on a longer book. Aubrey is here to share a little about the serial, as well as an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I want to thank you Anna for allowing me onto your blog once again to share an excerpt for a Pride and Prejudice Variation Serial—that’s right, a serial! There will be 12, novella length episodes to this project. The first episode of Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor will be debuting July 3rd, available on Kindle Unlimited only. 

Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor follows the Bennets during a rather tumultuous time—before the Bennets can even contemplate mourning the death of Mrs. Bennet, following the birth of Lydia, a distant relative contacts them to inform Mr. Bennet that he has inherited a title. Faced with not only being able to provide his daughters with a tempting dowry, but a new title and estates to go with it, Thomas Bennet decides he must remarry as soon as possible. 

And the bride he settles on? None other than Caroline Bingley, a young debutante entering her second season.

This serial will not only explore the new relationships and family members that the Bennets make because of their inheritance, but also the ramifications of meeting certain characters before that fateful evening at the Meryton Assembly Ball that we all know and love. The main couple will, of course, be Elizabeth and Darcy, but there is room for others.

I am pretty excited about this plot, as I have constantly thought about and gone over it in my head for a year now. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

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This excerpt takes place from the pov of a young Elizabeth Bennet, just as her father has announced he is engaged to Caroline Bingley. This excerpt may not make it into the final product, but it is a fun tease to hint at future woes for the Bennets and Bingleys.

Elizabeth tugged at the stiff satin of the ribbon at the back of her head. Her new nursemaid had tied it far too tight, and she longed for the carefree days she spent at Longbourn a few weeks previously.

“Stand up straight, dear,” Miss Bingley’s criticism came from behind her, only seconds before she felt her soon-to-be stepmother directly at her back. Miss Bingley laid an unwelcoming hand at the center of her back, guiding her with a little push. Besides Elizabeth, Jane had not even noticed the interaction, so intent and eager she was to meet the rest of Miss Bingley’s relations. 

At Miss Bingley’s gentle pressure, Elizabeth acceded and obeyed the will of her almost-stepmother. Her beloved papa would not interfere, she knew. He was besotted with Miss Bingley, or so she and Jane had overheard the ladies maids at Althorpe claim.

After a few hours of boredom—as she had met every Bingley relative on the face of the earth, all of whom insisted on patting her cheeks or her tightly bound hair—Elizabeth was able to make her escape.

“Lizzie?” her Uncle Gardiner’s concerned tone stopped her. “Where are you going?” Her uncle had been across the room, speaking to her papa, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Bingley, but apparently, he had caught sight of her attempted escape before her own father.

Elizabeth forced a smile. “Mary asked me to get her a book, uncle,” she lied smoothly, gesturing to the window seat that Mary had all but disappeared into. Searching her face for the slightest hint of deception, but finding none, her uncle waved her off, and Elizabeth continued her journey to find some peace away from the fawning relatives of her stepmother. 

Happily hidden away in the library, Elizabeth ducked between the shelves into the small alcove, hoping she’d ripped or dirtied the wretched gown that Miss Bingley had presented her with only hours ago so that they might all match.

As a newly formed family should, she’d said.

It was a relatively short time later that Elizabeth felt that she should perhaps choose a book and leave before anyone came looking for her, or before she had to endure another scolding when the door flew open. To her surprise, her almost-stepmother and a man she didn’t know entered the room hastily, making sure to close the door behind them. 

Miss Bingley seemed furious, but also rather anxious, and Elizabeth could not tell the expression on the man’s face, as his back was to her. She tried to be quiet and withdraw further into the alcove when the man suddenly pulled Miss Bingley to him, kissing her quite soundly for a few long moments, before Miss Bingley pushed him away.

“I am engaged, John, if you do recall,” she stated in her horrid drawling, sarcastic tone, “to a man worth far more than you. What you believe we had, is over,” she said dismissively, but firmly.

“Oh aye,” the man was unconcerned, and his attitude seemed light, even playful. “For now,” he agreed. “After you give the old man a son or two, I’ll be waiting for you, Caro.”

Elizabeth clapped her hand over her mouth to stop her gasp and was relieved when they made no movements towards her. If she could inform her papa of this betrayal before Miss Bingley found out that Elizabeth had seen her rendezvous, Elizabeth was quite sure Miss Bingley would be unable to talk her way out of it.

“Leave before anyone sees you,” Miss Bingley hissed, seemingly angrier than before, her composure gone. With a laugh and a mocking bow, the man did as his lover commanded, and left. 

Heaving a great sigh, twisting the amethyst and jade ring that Elizabeth’s papa had given her, Miss Bingley appeared to be contemplating something—a tryst with her lover, perhaps—before also leaving to rejoin the party. 

Waiting ten more minutes to be sure that neither of the two returned, Elizabeth slipped out of the room, a small bubble of happiness welling within her. There would undoubtedly be several changes made in the future, of that she was sure.

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Doesn’t that make you want to read more?!? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Thank you for sharing with us today, Aubrey, and congratulations on your upcoming release.

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be hosting Joana Starnes on her blog tour today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Timely Elopement. Joana is here to share a little about the book as well as an excerpt. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Thank you, Anna, for welcoming me here today to share an excerpt from my latest book, A Timely Elopement.

This variation spins off from P&P in Charlotte’s parlour at Hunsford, where Mr Darcy is about to deliver his insulting first proposal. And he has absolutely no idea just how lucky he is that Colonel Fitzwilliam storms in to let him know that their cousin Anne had eloped – with Wickham! Thus, there is no time for a confrontation between our favourite characters, and Mr Darcy is not shot down in flames for a change.

I loved following this premise, but writing about an unreformed Darcy was a bit of a challenge. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun to imagine him saying the wrong things and misreading Elizabeth’s reactions. The problem was that I often forgot just how annoying he was meant to be in the early stages, soon after his interrupted proposal.

He was not supposed to be selfless and considerate, not for a fair while yet! Even so, the Mr Darcy we all love kept trying to make his way into the story (the Mr Darcy who had become aware of his errors, deeply regretted them and was keen to make amends). Shushing him and keeping him in the wings really went against the grain, and I couldn’t wait to give him enough reasons to break through.

As always, it was wonderful to rely on Colonel Fitzwilliam for help: our favourite matchmaker and the voice of reason who teases and cajoles his cousin onto the right path.

The excerpt I’d like to share with you today takes us to one of those moments when the dear colonel loves to have his say. And he’s not in the least put off by the fact that he needs to start with an apology (or several) for spilling the beans about Mr Bingley:

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A TIMELY ELOPEMENT

(Excerpt from Chapter 6)

“Terribly sorry, Darcy,” he said with deep contrition. “Landed you right in it, eh?”

“Just so,” came the grim confirmation.

“But… what of the strong objections you spoke of?” Fitzwilliam asked, his air puzzled and concerned.

Darcy dismissed the question with a flick of his hand.

“They have little bearing in my case. Pemberley is a long way from Hertfordshire. Besides, Elizabeth is not—”

He broke off and frowned. His main argument against Bingley’s marriage was that his friend would have been accepted as a means to an end. It was plain to see that Miss Bennet’s heart was not touched. He was about to say that Elizabeth was nothing like her cool, insipid and calculating sister, nor was she indifferent to him as Miss Bennet was to Bingley. But, knowing what he now knew, could he still vouch for her affection? She said she would have refused him. If she cared for him, why would she?

“Is not what?” Fitzwilliam prompted, distracting him from the troubling question.

“No matter,” he said tersely, his jaw taut.

Still remorseful, Fitzwilliam resumed with some determination:

“Let me apologise again for speaking out of turn. I hope I did not make things too difficult for you.”

“You did,” Darcy resentfully disabused his cousin of the comforting notion.

“Oh dear. Awfully sorry, old chap,” the colonel muttered, clasping his shoulder. “Still, you did clear the air, did you not? The pair of you and Georgiana seemed quite cosy at breakfast.”

“Yes, well, so much for cosiness,” Darcy grumbled, and at that Colonel Fitzwilliam rather lost his patience.

“One of these days you will drive me to distraction with your cards to your chest and all that cursed nonsense. ‘Tis me you are speaking to, Coz, not my father. So out with it – are you engaged or not?”

Darcy scowled. This was not the first time – nor would it be the last – that his cousin should be nettled by his innate reserve, and he by Fitzwilliam’s proverbial forthrightness. He was in no humour to oblige with a straight answer, but he knew of old that the confounded man would accept nothing less. So, after the briefest deliberation, Darcy could only say, “I am not.”

Fitzwilliam’s eyes widened. “She refused you?” he incredulously spluttered.

Darcy grimaced at the belated notion that he should have said he was not engaged as yet. This was hardly a good moment to share Elizabeth’s admission that she had considered a refusal. Not that he was inclined to disclose and dissect her comment at any other point, like some diffident youth – or an anxious damsel. So he merely shrugged, “We need more time to speak in peace. Which is precisely what I do not have,” he observed with another scowl.

“True,” the colonel acknowledged, the corner of his lips quirked in sympathy. “This business with Anne is not helping matters.”

“No. It is not, in more ways than one. Nor is Elizabeth’s insistence to remove to Gracechurch Street,” he irritably added.

His cousin gave a derisive bark of laughter. “What, you imagined you would court her under Lady Catherine’s nose? Or indeed Pater’s?”

Fitzwilliam’s sardonic air was profoundly irksome, but Darcy was compelled to own that the other might have had a point – and, frankly, he should have already considered that particular aspect. Nevertheless, he jeered, “So, am I to court her in Cheapside?

Fitzwilliam arched a brow. “I do believe our aunt spoke of the place in the very same tone. Perhaps you ought to bear that in mind, should you be tempted to employ it in Miss Bennet’s presence. She might draw the comparison as well – and find it less than flattering.”

Lips tightened, Darcy glowered at his cousin. This had been Fitzwilliam’s game for many years now: whenever he was inclined to purposely provoke him, he likened him to Lady Catherine. The tactic was successful every time.

“Thank you,” he acidly replied. “I shall take note.”

“Do,” the colonel said, his teasing manner suddenly abandoned. “And while you are at it, pray do yourself a favour and cease bristling at well-meaning advice.”

“Have you anything else to propose for my general improvement and future felicity?” Darcy scoffed, but his cousin was undaunted.

“I have, in point of fact. When you bring yourself to court her in Cheapside – as, by the bye, you know damned well you must – you might also wish to consider that you often come across as aloof and supercilious to those who do not know you better.”

Darcy shrugged and brushed the irrelevant remark aside. “That is a matter of opinion. Besides, Elizabeth knows me well enough.”

“I was speaking of her relations,” Fitzwilliam pointed out. “As to Miss Bennet, for your sake, I hope you are in the right. I can imagine why you could scarce say ten words to her at Rosings, let alone pay her any particular attention or talk about anything of consequence, but I venture to hope you did better while you were staying with Bingley at… whatever his pied-à-terre is called.”

“Netherfield,” Darcy supplied – a laconic answer, nothing more – as he grudgingly marvelled at Fitzwilliam’s knack for disconcerting him with views so very different from his own, yet valid all the same.

No, he most certainly had not paid her any particular attention in Hertfordshire, nor spoken to her of anything of consequence. In fact, he had made every effort not to. It would have been an unforgivable unkindness to give rise to expectations while he was not prepared to fulfil them.

He frowned. Fitzwilliam had no way of knowing that the passing comment uncannily complemented Elizabeth’s. She had told him that she had seen no sign of his regard and admiration, something which he had found very hard to credit. Yet it must be true.

Well, now she knew – and it still was not enough.

In the restless hours of the night, he had wondered with no little discontent precisely what it was that she wanted – and, for that matter, what more there was for him to give. A great many other ladies of his acquaintance, if not most, would have declared themselves gratified by the prospect of becoming Mrs Darcy.

He gave a quiet snort. Perhaps he would have lost less sleep last night if he had not dwelt quite so much on his resentment, but called to mind a couple of salient facts. Namely, that if he had wanted to offer for any of those other ladies, then he would have. It was Elizabeth he wanted – and however mystifying, frustrating or contrary she chose to be, one thing was certain: since she had not leapt at the opportunity when it was first offered, he would have no cause to wonder if she married him for his name and fortune when she finally agreed to be his wife.

In the meanwhile, Fitzwilliam seemed to draw his own conclusions, however erroneous, for he drawled, “I take it from your self-satisfied smirk that you did do better at Netherfield. Praise be. It will stand you in good stead later. Unless, of course, you choose to do your favourite impersonation of a haughty prig when you call on her in Cheapside.”

To save himself another lecture and more unsolicited advice, Darcy sought to prevent his smile from turning sour as he bent down to lock the compartment where he had found Mrs Younge’s previous address, then put the key away.

“I will go with you to see your informants,” he decided, and forbore to correct Fitzwilliam’s misapprehension as to the cause of his improved humour. “Come, let us get on with it.”

As for his cousin’s final jibe, he wisely chose to ignore it. He would get on with that as well. He would court Elizabeth in Cheapside, if needs must.

But, by Jove, it had better be a whirlwind courtship!

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

If you’d like to find out if it was a whirlwind courtship or not 😉, please leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of A Timely Elopement. There are two up for grabs. The giveaway is international, and it’s open until midnight on Tuesday 23rd June 2020. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

Good luck, thanks for reading, and thanks again, Anna, for hosting me today!

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Joana is the author of ten Austen-inspired novels and a contributor to the Quill Ink Anthologies. Her novels are all available on Amazon in Kindle Unlimited and in paperback, and some have also been released in Audible.

Joana’s page on Amazon

You can connect with Joana on: Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Website | Austen Variations

Or visit Joana’s Facebook page All Roads Lead to Pemberley for places and details that have inspired her novels.

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Thank you, Joana, for being my guest, and for bringing Colonel Fitzwilliam to my blog today. (I’m a sucker for a good Colonel Fitzwilliam scene!) Congratulations on your new release!

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