Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘book excerpt’

I’m delighted to welcome Tom Austin, author of The Darcy Contradiction, to Diary of an Eccentric today. He’s here to talk about why we write and to share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

Thank you for having me, Anna! And to you all, many thanks for reading my thoughts and for believing that what I have to say is worth your time.

Why do we write?

We all write because of what we rationally want to share with others, we write to send a message, we write with purpose, sometimes even with that of changing the way things are in real life, we write to make our voices heard. Then we write what ourselves want to read, what attracts us, what enchants us. Then we write down the things that fight to get out of us, what an inner voice dictates to us, what is no longer under our control. We write to put our lives in order, to make sense of things, to have the feeling that we have power over the world, any world, even a fictional one. We write to leave something behind, so that all we live is not in vain and will not be lost. We write to build a bridge between us and the past, between ourselves, with our burdened consciousnesses and the superior, clearer mind of our predecessors.

I know that the “The Darcy Contradiction”, with its stranger writing style, its talks about philosophy, art, literature, folklore and war, had its fair share of bad reviews. I am sorry to have disappointed some of you, but I am not sorry for writing it. It is a book which I needed to write. It filled a hole in me and if it meant for a single person half of what it meant for me, then I am happy.

If you want to take a chance on me, I will be glad to hear and discuss your thoughts about it.

Thank you again for being there.

Yours,

Tom

****

An excerpt from The Darcy Contradiction, courtesy of Tom Austin

Dinner consisted of only two courses concluded by dessert and accompanied by a dry and savoury red wine. The Darcys were impeccably dressed and Elizabeth was glad to have bought that dress from Meryton. They hardly spoke during supper, the sound of dishes and silvery clattering being sometimes covered by the crackling of the fire and the roar of the blizzard outside. Elizabeth ate delicately, the julienned kale soup with timid sips, the maple-glazed roast beef and honeyed parsnips with small bites. She barely touched the cheese and raisin pie or the strong, unfamiliar wine. Even the small monkey, sitting on top of a mound of dates on a silver tazza, seemed to eat with bigger bites than her.

She looked about the room, admiring the elegant and tasteful decorations, the enchanting paintings, the cats sleeping in front of the fireplace. She had always imagined a country manor having dogs, dozens and dozens of beagles, bloodhounds and greyhounds. She could not see a gentleman of Mr. Darcy’s stature with an estate such as Netherfield keeping cats. In her eyes, cats were preferred by the ladies and not by the men. But then again, Mr. Darcy seemed a bit different that every man she had ever met. She did not incline towards liking or disliking him, but she could tell he was a man apart.

“There is such a craze for Oriental art these days, do you not think?” asked Miss Darcy observing Elizabeth was looking at one of the paintings depicting a severe gentleman. “Although my brother and I both adore travelling, and he tends to collect things from all over the world, I think nothing betters an English painting, either oil or watercolour. Take the Walcombs, for example, on the inside their house looks and smells like the mausoleum of a Mughal emperor, with pots for burning incense, statues of bizarre deities, Buddhist miniatures and Jain paintings. As I said, I love the exotic, but when it comes to art, nothing really compares to a work by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Joseph Wright or even from the young Joseph Turner. But, alas, for every Englishman who reveres them, there are thousands who have not even hear of them. A public gallery to reunite all our great artists, that is what we need.”

“There are many who are working towards that purpose,” said Mr. Darcy, sipping from his glass. “I believe we will soon have it.”

“They seem to be taking their time. They did not defer when you gave them the money. No, they took it with both hands.”

“It was money well spent. Every penny spent on art is well spent,” said Mr. Darcy. A cat jumped on his lap.

“Fitzwilliam was one of the collectors who made his treasures available to others. At Pemberley, artists could book a few hours a week to come and study the paintings and sculptures in our collection. We might start something like that here as well. My brother is already supporting two young artists and he may take more under his patronage, in memory of our father.”

“Do you paint, Miss Bennet?” asked Mr. Darcy.

“Every now and then. I am no Angelica Kauffman, I assure you of it, but I admit I enjoy painting and also drawing. I would love to be better at it and I know it is only up to me to better myself.”

“Oh, you should have had the chance to contemplate the picture-gallery at Pemberley. We took most of the paintings with us, but some need some special conditions. The portrait there is of our father. Do not be fooled, he was never as severe as he looks in that painting. I believe he posed like that just to have some fun. He was a kind and gentle man.”

Elizabeth looked more attentively. She noticed a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy, the same posture, the same look, the same air of nobility and a dash of arrogance.

“Fitzwilliam is very much like him,” said Miss Darcy and Elizabeth flinched, feeling as if Georgiana had read her thoughts. “If you want, I could show you some of my drawings. I have hundreds of them, some of our father, some depicting Pemberley, some even of my brother when he was younger.”

“I would not want to intrude upon your intimacy,” said Elizabeth softly.

“Nonsense!” whooped Georgiana. “I will show them to you after breakfast tomorrow.”

“Only if you insist. And only with Mr. Darcy’s approval. If he is the subject of the drawings , then he should be consulted.”

“How generous of you,” replied Mr. Darcy.

“Do we have your consent, dear brother?” Georgiana fawned upon him like a cat.

“I will think about it,” replied Mr. Darcy petting the actual cat.

“Oh! You are impossible! What is there to think about? It is art! Even if you are the subject of it, you have no rights over it. The merit and the ownership belong to the artist, not to the muse. Even if they had been nudes, you would not have had any right to decide who sees them and who does not.”

Elizabeth blushed. She sipped from her glass. The cat meowed and jumped off.

“My brother and I are quite different when it comes to art,” continued Miss Darcy turning towards Lizzy. “I am a creator, while he is more of a collector. I take great pleasure in expressing myself while he takes great pleasure in observing what others have expressed. All this talk of art has put me in the mood for music. Shall we proceed to the drawing-room?”

“Maybe Miss Bennet is tired,” said Mr. Darcy. “I am not sure she has fully recovered from being almost frozen solid.”

“Oh, do not worry about me. I feel as if nothing had happened. Besides, I would really love to hear Miss Darcy play.”

“You see!” exclaimed Georgiana. “She is feeling better than ever. That wine of yours had surely contributed to it.”

They moved back to the drawing-room, followed by one of the cats. Elizabeth was indeed feeling well, a sensation she had never known before. She could feel her cheeks red, her head slightly lighter, her mood cheerful. Somehow she knew her parents were well and that her father, although surely worried, would have talked sense into everyone else. She took a seat, eager to be entertained.

Most well-bred young ladies of the time, especially those who wanted to enchant a possible husband with their accomplishments, could play at least one musical instrument. The grand favourite was the piano and a great number of girls would have practiced playing it and taking lessons to prepare for when they would be called upon at an evening party to perform in front of an audience most often consisting of eligible gentlemen. But Miss Darcy did not play only one instrument, but several— among which the pianoforte and the harp — and not only play, but she was somewhat of a virtuoso worthy of a Vauxhall concert. When Georgiana played Mozart or Beethoven, Rossini, Schubert, Liszt or Mendelssohn, her eyes shut, her fingers dancing wildly on the piano keyboard, she showed such composure that her spiritual self seemed to be off far away somewhere, plucking the sounds from some crystal firmament or some celestial sounding board.

Elizabeth observed the impact of Miss Darcy’s divine music on her brother. Mr. Darcy sat leaning back his head, his eyes shut just like his sister’s. He was living the sounds, that moment or another from the past or the future, from real life or from dreams. Elizabeth admitted to herself that she felt quite envious of the power the girl in front of her, a few years younger than her, could have on a man. Mr. Darcy was her brother, but Elizabeth had no doubt she would have left the same impression on any man, that she could tame anyone just like Orpheus with his enchanted lyre.

“I believe music is the most divine of all the arts,” said he when Georgiana finished and made a deep bow. “Compared to music, every other art seems barbaric. It needs materials to make it visible, it needs to be seen. Music does not require anything. It comes from the air, from imagination, from the human mind. By voice or perhaps only by a wooden box and some strings, it can give you the sensations no other art is able to. A painting or a sculpture can be impressive, but it cannot take a man all the way to wherever the artist wants to take him. Music can imitate the sound of sunrise, a lazy summer morning, a hot afternoon, a snowy winter evening, a storm, the sound of midnight, the sound of love, of war, of horror, of wonder.”

“It truly is an art that reigns above all others,” agreed Lizzy.

They spent the rest of the evening talking about music and art in general, about what it meant to be an artist or merely a performer. At one point, Georgiana even suggested the two would dance while she played a tune of their choice, which they both refused in one voice.

Mr. Darcy proved to be a very cultivated man, an admirer and a supporter of all the arts. Miss Darcy as well, despite her age, was highly cultured and had many talents. Elizabeth went to her room close to midnight, impressed by the two, feeling that life at Netherfield had to be good. Maybe because of the excitement of spending time in such an unfamiliar and noble company, maybe because of the wine, she could not put her mind to rest. She thought of a great number of things, her hosts, her parents, her sisters.

So that was the mysterious Mr. Darcy, she thought, the man who had eluded just about everyone for so long, the man she was so curious to meet. Now she had met him and did not know what to make of him. He seemed moody and whimsical, and she could have blamed him for her sister’s unhappiness, but somehow she could not feel ill of him. And even if he had driven away Mr. Bingley, it was because he was only looking out for his own sister’s best interest. He did not seem to hold a grudge against her, a Bennet, he had spoken to her with civility, he had listened to her speak her mind, he had never interrupted her or dismissed her opinions. Miss Darcy herself could be sometimes arrogant and shrewish, but something told Elizabeth than she was good and that her brother was also good.

Then she remembered the words of the fortune-teller. ‘He will come to you in your hour of need’ said the gypsy lady. How could she have known? Elizabeth asked herself. Had it been a lucky guess? Could such things be true in their modern world? Was it something that the madam was telling her customers every now and then, hoping to be right? A tall and handsome man — is that not what every girl dreams of? Extremely wealthy with a big house — the same. Lizzy thought back then that she would recognize the one fated to be hers, but now, lying on that swan feather mattress in that modish bedroom in that house fit for kings, she felt more uncertain than ever in her entire life. Then, all of a sudden, she imagined what the nude drawings of Mr. Darcy would look like had they been real. She fell asleep late, but she was not to have a peaceful, restful sleep.

It was still dark when the door silently opened and Mr. Darcy sneaked in, tiptoed. He was not wearing the tailcoat or the cravat he dined in, but his blue robe de chambre. She knew why he was there, but felt she could not and would not resist him, regardless of anything. She knew the dangers, the huge risks she was taking. Mr. Darcy did not seem to be the type of gentleman who would sneak into a girl’s room at night. He seemed to be one who would respect protocol more than anyone. But she did not care. She eagerly opened his robe, revealing his bandages. She caressed his broad, hairy chest and, almost as if she was scared, she merely touched his groin through the pantaloons. He took off the night gown Georgiana had lended her, he almost ripped it off, he kissed her gently, from her ear to her neck, to her breasts, going down her belly. His cheek was rough, a day’s beard maybe, his lips were soft. She stopped him, took his hand in her hands and asked him if he loved her. He said yes and only after that did she let him continue. But he did not get to do much, for she awoke. She awoke and she felt guiltier than she had ever felt in her whole life. Everything had seemed so real, but even if nothing had happened, Elizabeth felt ashamed. It was for the first time she had such impure thoughts about a man. She thought of men before, but never like that. She once imagined Mr. Wickham kissing her and that had been the apex of such lustful imaginings.

Lizzy told herself that she would never give herself like that to a man, to a man she had just met, a controversial man she did not even know, outside of wedlock, in a strange bead, wearing his sister’s clothes. The thought comforted her a little, but when she went down for breakfast, she could not look either of the two in the eye.

“Are you all right?” asked Georgiana seeing her behave strangely.

“Yes, I believe I am,” mumbled Elizabeth blushing.

“It is perhaps because of the wine,” opinioned Mr. Darcy.“You were not used to it. It may not have been the best of picks. I should have chosen maybe one from France or Italy, which you might have been more familiar with, it being drunk, I believe, at Longbourn as well. Instead I chose one from the Black Sea, a wild vine that bears a special type of grape.”

“I am fine,” Lizzy said more clearly. “And the wine was excellent.”

“You look like you had not a wink of sleep all night,” said Georgiana. “What kept you up?”

“You were maybe thinking of your parents? And your sisters?” asked Mr. Darcy.

“Yes, I was thinking of them and I could not fall asleep,” replied Lizzy. She detested lying. Even when it was only a half-lie.

“Maybe you will catch a nap after lunch,” said Miss Darcy.

“I was thinking of having breakfast in the conservatory today,” proposed Mr. Darcy. “We shall not have our usual view because of the blizzard, but it would still be nice.”

“My father used to have his breakfast in the conservatory…” Elizabeth said melancholically.

“You will be with him shortly. This weather cannot last for ever,” assured her Mr. Darcy.

“Yes,” approved Georgiana. “You shall be away from this place and far away from us faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Now, about that breakfast…”

****

About The Darcy Contradiction

“The Darcy Contradiction” is a retelling of the classic love story, with quite a few twists and turns. All the well-known, beloved and behated characters, plus a few memorable new ones. A new master at Netherfield, a specious hunting accident, the elusive Mr. Darcy and his impressive library, a matchmaker for Jane and a fortune-teller for Elizabeth, the primordial silence of Iona Abbey and the dreaded beauty of St. Wulfstan’s Blizzard. The Regency Era in all its splendor, the vivid tea parlours of London, the colourful enchantments of India, the Napoleonic Wars, Shakespeare, Lord Byron and Hegel. Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh as you have never imagined them before.

Buy The Darcy Contradiction on Amazon

****

Giveaway

Tom is generously offering an ebook copy of The Darcy Contradiction to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to know what you think of the excerpt. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 1, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Tom, for sharing why you write with us. Congratulations on your new release!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’m delighted to welcome Don Jacobson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Lessers and Betters. Don is here today to talk about the novellas bundled in the book and share an excerpt. Please give him a warm welcome!

I have often pondered the appeal of novels like Pride and Prejudice to a 21st Century audience. Back in the Regency when Miss Austen wrote her masterpiece, her contemporaries (those who could, first, read and, second, afford to purchase her book) saw P&P as being about (loosely, I will admit) people like us…the gentry and the aristocracy.

Now, in more egalitarian times…although there will be those who point to the 1%/99% divide…the popularity of the book has vaulted it into the forefront of readers’ favorites. Yet, how many of us can actually identify with Elizabeth Bennet…the daughter of a family earning the 2018 equivalent of about $187,000 every year? Recall, too, that the Bennets owned Longbourn free and clear in an era of no income tax and no property tax. Likewise, while they would have had to pay a window tax and an annual carriage tax, the bulk of their moneys could be reserved for gowns and ribbons and trips to Town.

Perhaps that is the appeal…much like the lottery. Easy street. No worries. It also explains the terror Mrs. B felt when she considered the entail.

The less we think of Mr. Darcy’s $1 Million a year, the better.

Of course, this would explain Caroline Bingley’s $2 Million dowry…given her personality.

However, while t’is blissful to romanticize about teas, assemblies, sideboards groaning with food, and fine brandy, there are a group of characters found in all of the Canonical books who are virtually invisible. However, without these persons, none of the softly cushioned lifestyles written about could have existed.

I am, of course, speaking of the servants. Rarely are they seen at the far end of Miss Austen’s quill except to open doors, serve meals, or dash off to fetch smelling salts.

This has, over the course of my career writing #InspiredByAusten fiction, piqued my historian’s imagination. We are now in a post-modern era where social scientists are examining events, discourses, and narratives from a subaltern’s (sergeant’s) point-of-view. Rather than history composed around those who had the power to write it, we now examine those who lived in it, but who never merited the attention of those who sought to portray that which shaped the times.

That led to, first, the novella Of Fortune’s Reversal which examined the events of November 5, 1815 from the gentry’s point of view. This novella was followed by another, The Maid and The Footman, that explored the same sequence, but as seen and experienced by two members in service to the Cecil household where Kitty Bennet was employed as governess.

While the two stories were published about four months apart in 2016 with Of Fortune’s Reversal being first, I had never intended to create paired novellas approaching the same events from two different perspectives; or, to pay tribute to a classic, akin to Upstairs, Downstairs. Of Fortune’s Reversal was simply designed as a “Kitty” story as part of my process of building her book in The Bennet Wardrobe series.

However, in the rosy hue of post-publication, the contours of The Maid and The Footman started to rise from the freshly planted terrain. T’was a short step to apprehend that there was a reason that I first had Sergeant Henry Wilson and then, later, Annie Reynolds identify themselves in the course of the action that made up Of Fortune’s Reversal. Those who are familiar with my process know that I do not apply names to characters unless they will play a larger role than a soul who lights the fireplace or opens the door for The Quality.

I have decided to offer both books together under one cover because it is my belief that the experience of absorbing the two discourses—that of the betters followed by that of the lessers—will offer the most rewarding experience as a reader considers the themes flowing through Great Britain as its social structure metamorphosed. Moving directly from one to the other without an intervening gap of weeks or months will (hopefully) create a deeper inner dialogue over which readers can mull.

As a parting note, I would urge readers to consider the following thought:

Wealth confers no greater nobility on the “haves” and no less on the “have nots.” Humans experience the deepest emotions and seek out connections of love whether they drink the tea…or serve it.

****

Please enjoy this excerpt from Lessers and Betters:

This excerpt is © 2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. No republication in any form—either electronic or print—without the expressed written consent of the author is permitted.

From Chapter VIII in The Maid and The Footman

Wilson stationed himself near where Miss Bennet would stop and rest when she was not dancing. From her heightened color and happy looks, he could tell that the lady was thoroughly enjoying herself. She rarely wanted for partners as one of the Cecil gentlemen always made a point of seeking her hand. Even the young Duke of Wilton was shooed over by his wife, the former Lady Emily Cecil, to invite her old friend to take a turn on the floor. The only time Miss Bennet’s countenance drooped was when one of the men of the ton, attracted by her blonde hair and shining china-blue eyes, would discover she was the Cecil governess and abruptly turn on his heel without another word.

Henry was not sure of the reason why he placed himself near Miss Bennet. There was his soldier’s sense of loyalty to his charge. His job during the daytime was to make sure that Miss Bennet and Miss Margaret were safe—not that the governess was in any danger

at the ball—although he had an uneasy feeling which had been nagging at him for the past few hours. Perhaps he wanted to be nearby in case she required him to run an errand, one that would necessitate his seeking out Miss Reynolds for Miss Bennet’s shawl. Whatever the case, Henry Wilson positioned himself about five feet behind her and to her left.

His eyes scanned the crowd of post-midnight revelers. Only a few of the more elderly had departed for their townhomes. The noise level had increased as the younger aristocracy began to feel the exuberance of a carefree existence that only uncountable wealth could bring. More people crowded onto the dance floor, leaving those on the sidelines conspicuous in their immobility.

Miss Bennet glanced back over her left shoulder at Henry, and with a smile to him, indicated that she wished a glass of champagne from his tray. He stepped forward and bowed slightly so that she could take her drink. Looking past, he saw a tall, slender, red headed woman making a beeline for Miss Bennet from across the room.

To Wilson’s eye, this woman was at least five and more likely ten years older than Miss Bennet. As she neared her quarry, he could see that her complexion was well rouged and powdered, probably in an effort to restore the luster of a youth that had fled some time before. More likely, all she accomplished was to hide some of the more obvious ravages of time. She was dressed as good Queen Bess, but the ridiculously accurate high collar coupled with her already long frame left an impression of a carnival actor navigating the room on stilts. Henry could see a steely glint in her hazel green eyes. Whoever she was, she bore not friendship, but rather disdain, for Miss Bennet.

“Miss Bennet. I am quite surprised to come across you here at the Cecil Masque,” the woman fluted between teeth clenched in a rictus that bespoke astonishment, “How did you ever secure such a coveted invitation? I doubt if it was through your connections in Cheapside.”

Miss Bennet’s face soured at the verbal assault, but she politely replied using an epee rather than a saber, “Why Miss Bingley…it is still Miss Bingley, is it not? What a pleasure it is to meet you again. Why it has to be nearly four years since we last saw you before you left Netherfield. I do hope you are faring well. Your note of condolence upon our father’s death was so comforting.”

Wilson stepped back to his earlier position, making sure to keep his face impassive.

I think I am about to see how ladies do battle. These two have no love lost whatsoever. I doubt if this Miss Bingley—how did she ever secure an invitation, I wonder—is aware that Miss Bennet spent the last few years by the side of a Cecil, and a future Duchess at that, learning the art of social war!

The faux-Elizabeth arched her eyebrows as she absorbed the slight about her marital status. Then she tried a flanking attack.

“Yes, my brother and sister and I were all so devastated that your father’s death forced dear Jane and Eliza into taking employment. But, I imagine even Mr. Darcy, the height of condescension, felt that this was the best they could expect thanks to your father’s

indolent ways. I had heard that your sisters relocated to the hinterlands away from the city. Was it Glasgow? Dublin? I imagine you were so distressed when your Uncle acted like a common tradesman and required them to leave his house in the midst of their grief.”

Wilson ground his teeth as he listened to Miss Bingley pile insults atop insults. He had heard Miss Bennet relate to Annie that her uncle had not demanded that any of his nieces find employment. On the contrary, her two elder sisters could not bear to be a burden on a household with four small children. Another sister—the middle one—had married a sea captain in the Gardiner line. His share of the profits would make the couple quite comfortable.

Miss Bennet maintained her composure and replied evenly, “Oh, Miss Bingley, you are mistaken. Both Jane and Elizabeth decided that their futures would be away from London. Honestly, I think they needed to be absent from Town and the poor memories associated with some areas like Mayfair. My aunt and uncle could not convince them to stay. It is true that my Papá did not plan for our security, but my uncle has more than enough resources to keep his two favorite nieces close at hand. Why, he asked after them just last week when he stopped by Cecil House to meet with Lord Tom and his brother.”

Thrust and parry.

Miss Bingley fired another shot, “I can give no credit to your account. I am surprised that Lord Thomas Cecil would be willing to meet with anyone from trade here at Cecil House. Why even my brother, for whom I am still hostess, has the delicacy to conduct those sorts of meetings away from home. And, when I am Mistress of Pemberley, I will force Mr. Darcy to cut any ties with those in trade. His man of business is good enough for that!

“Those in the trade have such inferior manners. But so do many of those in the gentility, especially if they hail from countrified regions like Hertfordshire. I recall how much you and your uncontrollable sister—what was her name—Lily? Lara?—danced like wild hoydens with all the soldiers at that wretched assembly my brother forced us to attend. But I doubt if you have had the opportunity to dance like that tonight…because you are Lord Thomas and Lady Mary’s governess.”

This last vitriolic salvo was delivered with the triumphant sneer so well known by familiars of that particular daughter of trade. She then sought to push her advantage home. Dropping all pretense of being polite, Miss Bingley reached out and grabbed Miss Bennet’s dance card that was dangling from her left wrist; the same hand in which she held her glass of champagne.

The remaining liquid splashed out onto the floor as Miss Bennet’s hand was yanked forward.

“I imagine that this card is blank, as it should be for an employee overstepping her bounds by presuming to be on the same level as members of the ton.”

Henry stepped forward to Miss Bennet’s side. He had already lifted the napkin draped over his arm and had dropped it atop the golden puddle before it spread to the hem

of her gown. Then he gently removed the glass from her hand, still held captive by the silk ribbon stretching from her wrist to Miss Bingley’s hand. He glanced at the governess’ face.

Oh, this Bingley woman has overcharged her musket like a raw recruit. Wonder if she left the ramrod in as well. There is going to be an interesting explosion in a moment. Just look at the arch of Miss Bennet’s eyebrow and the set of her lips!

Caroline snapped open the card. Then her face began to grow pale for the card was filled with names that could only have been improved if one had been the Prince Regent’s! Her eyes widened as she saw monikers that were familiar to her only from the columns in the Times.

Henry dipped to wipe the floor and remove the cloth. As he stepped back, the tableau of Queen Elizabeth facing Marie Antoinette across the centuries stuck in his mind.

Miss Bennet gently tugged her arm backward away from Miss Bingley. Miss Bingley released the dance card from numb fingers. She never moved; her widened eyes locked on Miss Bennet’s face.

Miss Bennet began her final assault.

“So, Miss Bingley, perhaps what truly is is not what you have wished it to be. Perhaps some of the ton are not so insensitive as to ignore a guest forced to sit out a dance because the social sensibilities of others would leave an unaccompanied lady without a partner.

“I happen to recall a particular gentleman from Derbyshire being called out by a young lady from Hertfordshire for exactly that same boorish behavior.

“Yes, it is true that I am governess to Miss Margaret Cecil. And, yes, it is also true that I receive wages for my services. But, Miss Bingley, you must know that I, too, have chosen to relieve the burden of my welfare from my uncle’s shoulders.

“Jane, Lizzy, and Mary could have remained in Meryton and lived with our Mama, Lydia—yes her name is Lydia—and me off of Mamá’s 5,000-pound portion. But can you imagine six women maintaining themselves on 150 pounds a year?

“My older sisters knew that they had to make their own way in the world. They refused to condemn all of us to poverty; and it would be a poverty not of the genteel kind about which the novelists so happily declaim as some sort of virtue.

“Mrs. Bennet may have been a foolish woman when you knew her, but Papá’s death changed her. With my three older sisters away from the family, Mama took some of her money to send Lydia and me to seminary.

“I have not heard from my sister these past few months, but I know she is healthy and happy because I feel it here.” At that she laid her gloved hand above her heart. “Just as I know that Lizzy, Jane, Mary, and Mamá are all well.

“Can you say the same about Mr. Bingley and Mrs. Hurst? I imagine not.

“So, I may be a governess, but I was happy this morning. I am happy tonight. And tomorrow, I will awake happy because I know that there are people who want me near and that those whom I love are they themselves happy.

“And tomorrow morning…what will you be, Miss Bingley?I

“Oh, you must excuse me. I see my next partner coming. Will yours know where to find you?”

Match to Miss Bennet with first blood. Perhaps Miss Bingley would like a glass of champagne? I think not. Likely she has had enough of that drink for the time being!

I This was inspired by Sir Winston Churchill’s famous exchange with Lady Astor from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/my-dear-you-are-ugly-but-tomorrow-i-shall-be-sober-and-you-will-still-be-ugly-winston-churchill-tops-8878622.html accessed 10/3/16

****

About Lessers and Betters

Experience Love As It Blooms Upstairs and Downstairs

Lessers and Betters asserts that class is an imaginary distinction conferring no better manners on the haves and no lesser nobility on the have-nots and that the deepest human emotions are universal and ignore wealth or status.

Now for the first time under the same cover, discover the paired novellas that explore the remarkable events of November 5, 1815 when the Cecil Governess, Kitty Bennet, was grievously injured as she defended her charge. What rests behind the attack? Readers of Lessers and Betters will experience a unique literary approach that offers both gentry and servant perspectives presented in their own self-contained novellas.

Of Fortunes Reversal: A brisk Hyde Park morning is shattered by a child’s scream. How two gently-born adults react in those next few desperate moments sets the plot in motion that is a unique reconsideration of the traditional Pride and Prejudice memes. Of Fortune’s Reversal is a novella-length tale based upon an inversion of Mrs. Bennet’s exclamation that with one good marriage, the other girls would be thrown in front of rich men. What if the well-wed sister was neither Jane nor Elizabeth?

The Maid and The Footman: Explore the growing affection between a young lady’s maid, Annie Reynolds, and a retired sergeant, Henry Wilson: ultimately a love story as great as any written by the immortals. In the Jane Austen universe, the celebrated novels are written from the point-of-view of the landed gentry. Servants are rarely seen except to open doors, serve dinner, or fetch smelling salts. Follow Annie and Henry as they combine with General Sir Richard Fitzwilliam and Miss Bennet to defeat an awesome threat aimed at the heart of the British Empire.

The combined volume is approximately 82,000 words in length.

Buy Lessers and Betters on Amazon.

****

About the Author

Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”

 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.

He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).

He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.

His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Connect with Don: WebsiteAmazon Author Page | Goodreads Author Page | Twitter

****

Giveaway

Don is generously offering an ebook copy of Lessers and Betters to one lucky reader! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what you think of the excerpt! This giveaway will be open through Sunday, June 24, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Don, for being my guest today. It’s always a pleasure to share your books with my readers. Congratulations on your latest release!

Read Full Post »

I’ve welcomed Jennifer Joy back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate her latest release, Diamonds & Donuts: A Jessica James Cozy Mystery, the fourth installment of the Murder on the Equator series. Many of you know Jennifer for her Pride and Prejudice variations, but if you’re like me, your reading is varied and you’ll want to give her cozy mysteries a try. Jennifer is here with an excerpt from Diamonds & Donuts with an Austen connection — and keep reading for information on a promo deal for the first and second books in the series. Please give her a warm welcome!

As many of you are aware, I am a Regency romance writer with a special fondness for the characters in Pride & Prejudice. I love the history, the research, the innocent side of romance, and the intriguing contrast of people who lived at that turbulent period in time. It’s fascinating, and I enjoy every minute of it! In fact, I’ve already begun another standalone novel featuring a proud Mr. Darcy and a fiery Miss Elizabeth that I’m hoping to finish this summer.

So why did I start writing contemporary cozy mysteries set in my backyard? Because my backyard is GORGEOUS! And I wanted to share a piece of my life with you (except for the murder bits…that’s pure fiction). I wanted to write about the people who have had the most influence on me and my family without restrictions of time and place. That’s how Jessica James and her quirky friends came to be. Together, they solve mysteries and help conflict-averse, Jane-like Jessica bring out her inner, adventurous Lizzy. It’s a wild ride full of exotic destinations, third world quirks, a crazy cast of characters to root for, mystery, and humor.

The scene below is taken from a place near and dear to my heart, a waterfall about an hour away from my apartment: Pailon del Diablo. To say it’s beautiful is an understatement, but I hope you can appreciate a taste of its beauty in this excerpt. In this scene, Tia Rosa and Abuelita (elderly sisters who get Jessica into scrape after scrape) have conspired with Jessica’s grandma (whom she lovingly calls “Mammy”) to keep her out of her recently broken into apartment. Jake, adventure tour guide and Jessica’s love interest, drives them to the waterfall while Abuelita and Tia Rosa rig Jess’ apartment. It’s the calm before the storm, and I hope you enjoy it!

****

An excerpt from Diamonds & Donuts, courtesy of Jennifer Joy

Liquid sunshine sprinkled on us halfway down the gravel trail, and I was grateful for the polyester blend shirt and yoga pants I wore. Everything got damp in the jungle.

Mammy stopped at a lookout to snap some pictures.

Jake turned to me, speaking low, “So what are Abuelita and Tia Rosa up to that they arranged for you to be out of the house most of the day? I’m guessing Mammy’s in on it, too.”

I smacked my forehead as comprehension lit the light bulb in my brain. The thing Tia Rosa had insisted on didn’t have anything to do with Jake and me.

It was a setup.

Jake looked at me in confusion, and I realized how stupid I must look. “Mosquito,” I mumbled, rubbing my hands against my yoga pants.

He was gracious enough to smile and ask no further questions.

Mammy turned around. The sweet expression of innocence in her smile and wide eyes convinced me that she’d overheard Jake. Also, whatever Abuelita and Tia Rosa were up to, she played a role in it.

With a sigh, I said, “Just promise me I’ll have a home to go back to?”

Mammy nodded gravely. “Oh, yes. They’re just making it safer for you until Jake’s friend can install the alarm.”

Jake chuckled. “This should be interesting.”

“I don’t feel safer,” I muttered, still feeling stupid for not seeing what Tia Rosa had so blatantly tried to communicate this morning. Abuelita wasn’t the only one who couldn’t take a hint.

We continued down the path, stepping over the springs of water streaming over the gravel.

Jake held his arms out at a patch of steeper incline. Mammy accepted with gusto, wrapping her arm around his and tapping her fingers against his bicep.

“Nice!” she said with a wink.

Jake laughed and shook his head while I tried to figure out how I could accept his help without actually touching him.

He made it easier when he grabbed my hand. The callouses on his fingers scratching my nerves into a frenzy. On a positive note, I didn’t melt or light on fire. I just had a harder time breathing.

“This should be interesting,” he said, talking to both of us as we proceeded down the path. “When I was in high school, Abuelita encouraged me to take a class on electricity.”

“Encouraged?” I asked in disbelief.

“Encouraged … demanded … I choose to remember my memories with Abuelita in a positive light,” he said.

I couldn’t help myself. “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure,” I quoted.

He looked down at me, his eyebrow raised. “Very well, Lizzy Bennet.”

We’d discussed literature before, but my heart melted just a little bit more at his knowledge of my all-time favorite classic, Pride & Prejudice. Most guys had no clue who Mr. Darcy was, let alone recognize a quote from my favorite book heroine.

He continued, “She wanted me to rig her windows with copper wires connected to batteries without shocking either of us.”

“Did you do it?” I asked, momentarily forgetting I was supposed to be nervous around him.

“Of course, I did. I earned extra credit for it, too. The only downside was that she forgot to tell my dad what she’d done, and he got a good shock when he cleaned her windows.”

I found comfort in not being the only one to get roped into Abuelita’s schemes.

Mammy said, “I doubt it was an accident. Bertha never did like your father.”

“Yeah, well, the feeling was mutual. But he stayed around another year after the incident. Washo is made of tougher stuff. I almost think Abuelita’s a little scared of him. She behaves herself more now that he’s around.”

I raised my eyebrows, trying to think of anything Abuelita was scared of. Respected, maybe. But scared? Nah.

“What do you think of Washo?” I asked.

Jake shrugged. “He’s a good guy. He helps Mom in the kitchen after he’s had a long day. He brings her lunch on his days off just so he can talk to her. She appreciates the break from the kitchen and loves eating food she hasn’t cooked.”

Mammy said, “That’s the way to any woman’s heart.”

Jake craned his neck to look at her. “Really? It’s that easy?”

Mammy grinned. “Not quite, but it’s a promising start.”

I did my best to shrink and be quiet, feeling like an intruder eavesdropping on their conversation.

Jake dropped my hand and pointed to a rock stairwell going back up the side of the mountain. “We’re here,” he said.

I looked at the stairwell, thinking how unfair it was to have to climb up it when we’d spent the last twenty minutes hiking downhill. Someone’s calculations had faltered.

The view from the top, however, silenced my inner grumblings. Ferns sprouted out of the rock face. The waterfall pounded into the river below with such a force, it vibrated in my chest and surrounded us with mist.

We continued forward and down another rock stairwell so close to the waterfall, it enveloped us in spray and roared in my ears. Whoever had carved the steps out of the mountainside were intrepid souls bent on sharing this natural beauty with others. And I was eternally grateful to them for going to the trouble.

The sun reflected off the spray, shooting dozens of little rainbows everywhere I looked.

Lady bit at the spray. To her, it must’ve looked like a giant hose nozzle. It sure felt like one.

We were sopping wet within seconds, but I was too full of awe to care.

I gripped the edge of the stone wall — the only barrier separating us from the roaring cauldron. I understood the waterfall’s name now. Pailón del Diablo. Devil’s Cauldron.

****

****

The promo deal for Book 1 (FREE) and Book 2 (99 cents) ends Sunday, June 10, so act now! (The Amazon links are below with the description of each book.)

****

Cabs, Cakes & Corpses (Murder on the Equator Book 1)

Defying the boundaries of her comfort zone … one murder at a time.

Jessica James isn’t the kind of girl who has adventures. She isn’t the kind of girl who hops on an airplane to a foreign destination. And she most definitely isn’t the kind of girl to traipse around in the jungle for a murder weapon. But one taxi ride changes everything.

Caught between the crime scene’s evidence and a hard-nosed homicide detective, Jessica is forced into one catastrophe after another as she searches for the truth. With the help of two elderly sisters (who are more troublesome than helpful), she’ll either catch a murderer … or end up in jail.

Will Jessica’s newfound bravery help her survive her vacation? Or will it make her the next victim?

Cabs, Cakes, and Corpses is the first novel in Jennifer Joy’s Murder on the Equator cozy mystery series set in the charming, touristy town of Baños, Ecuador — where majestic waterfalls carve through the Andes Mountains and the balmy jungle breezes carry your worries away to the tune of salsa music.

Read Cabs, Cakes, and Corpses to satisfy your craving for a quirky cast of characters to root for in this fast-paced story of mystery, humor, and discovery today!

****

Rum Raisin Revenge (Murder on the Equator Book 2)

Just when she thought her vacation couldn’t get any worse, it does.

Jessica James has big plans to finally enjoy her vacation. But when she discovers a dead body in the freezer of a local ice cream shop, she’s soon mixed up in another mystery.

Caught between an investigation, an argument between two mischievous elderly sisters, and a televised fundraiser, Jessica finds herself neck deep in doughnuts, conflict, and unanswered questions.

Can Jessica stay out of trouble and off the camera while catching a criminal and raising money for a good cause? Or will she become the next headliner in the national news?

Rum Raisin Revenge is the second novel in Jennifer Joy’s Murder on the Equator cozy mystery series set in the charming, touristy town of Baños, Ecuador — where majestic waterfalls carve through the Andes Mountains and the balmy jungle breezes carry your worries away to the tune of salsa music.

Read Rum Raisin Revenge to satisfy your craving for a quirky cast of characters to root for in this fast-paced story of mystery, humor, and discovery today!

****

Cold Case Crumble (Murder on the Equator Book 3)

Some secrets are best left buried.

Jessica James is helping her friends design the doughnut shop of her dreams. But when a skeleton is discovered under the foundation of the shop, the simple remodel turns into a full-fledged investigation.

With her friend’s livelihood on the line, Jessica cooks up a plan to discover the truth. But digging up the past unearths more secrets and Jessica’s troubles go from bad to worse when her dog disappears, her elderly “helpers” volunteer her to cater a school event, and the murderer claims another victim.

Will Jessica taste sweet victory and solve the cold case in time? Or will her investigation turn sour?

Cold Case Crumble is the second novel in Jennifer Joy’s Murder on the Equator cozy mystery series set in the charming, touristy town of Baños, Ecuador — where majestic waterfalls carve through the Andes Mountains and the balmy jungle breezes carry your worries away to the tune of salsa music.

Read Cold Case Crumble to satisfy your craving for a quirky cast of characters to root for in this fast-paced story of mystery, humor, and discovery today!

****

Diamonds & Donuts (Murder on the Equator Book 4)

Family, Friendship, Community, and … Doughnuts.

A vandal is wreaking havoc in paradisiac Baños — and he’s got his sights set on Jessica James.

The grand opening of Jessica’s dream doughnut shop is days away. She’d rather sort sugary sprinkles than chase after another criminal. But when the crazed crook crosses the line, leaving nothing but a trail of flour behind him, desperate times call for desperate measures.

With the help of her trusted friends, Jessica determines to restore peace to her town, protect the people she’s grown to love, and save her shop from an unknown enemy out to sabotage The Sugar Shack.

Diamonds & Donuts is the fourth novel in Jennifer Joy’s Murder on the Equator cozy mystery series set in the charming, touristy small town of Baños, Ecuador — where majestic waterfalls carve through the Andes Mountains and the balmy jungle breezes carry your worries away to the tune of salsa music.

Read Diamonds & Donuts to satisfy your craving for a quirky cast of characters to root for in this fast-paced mystery of humor, travel, and discovery today!

****

About the Author

Jennifer Joy

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite Jane Austen characters, she is learning Sign language, reading, baking (Cake really is her one weakness!), or chasing her twins around the park (because … calories).

Her wish is to continue to write sweet romances and mysteries with happy endings for years to come.

While she claims Oregon as her home, she currently lives high in the Andes mountains of Ecuador with her husband and two kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish.

Right now, Jennifer is imagining how a courtship with such a turbulent beginning can possibly lead to a smooth Happily-Ever-After for Darcy and Elizabeth. She senses there’s more trouble to come and promises to keep a detailed account of events (because, let’s face it, it makes for fun reading!).

Connect with Jennifer Joy via Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Thank you, Jennifer, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your newest release!

Read Full Post »

I’m delighted to welcome Nicole Clarkston back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of London Holiday. Nicole has quickly become one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction, so I downloaded London Holiday as soon as I saw it was released. It looks and sounds fantastic, so I hope I will be able to find time to read it soon. Nicole is here today to talk about how she combined Pride and Prejudice with a classic movie to create London Holiday. Please give her a warm welcome!

London Holiday was a book that I hesitated to write, for almost two years. The idea was nipping away at me, but I could not quite convince myself that the time was right for me to tackle a comedy. I was afraid it would become farcical, which was not the intent. Moreover, I had convinced myself that a Darcy and Elizabeth story that wasn’t thick with angst or largely took place in one day just wouldn’t fly. Still, I kept thinking about it, and I was itching to see what our dear couple would do in a situation like this.

The idea of creating a mashup of Pride and Prejudice with another timeless story is not new, but at least to my knowledge, no one had attempted this particular combination. I know I am not alone in my admiration for Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s chemistry, and I couldn’t help snickering when I imagined Darcy in Princess Ann’s shoes for a day. Roman Holiday is such a touching, funny, heart-warming romance that breaks all the conventions, and it has long been a favorite.

I think one of the things that sets it apart is the fact that it’s a reverse Cinderella story. Roman Holiday was filmed in 1953, in an age when women were growing restless with the typical formula. I truly believe that most people, at their core, want to believe in a Pygmalion or a Prince Charming who values his chosen lady for her own worth rather than her social station. However, the same old story was growing tired and flat. Why shouldn’t it be the girl and not the guy who is at the highest rung of the social ladder? Why can’t an intelligent young woman be the one to identify something special in a man most would consider to be beneath her? It was a gentle question the movie asked, but the answer was resounding: There is no reason at all why she can’t be and do those things.

What I love about Princess Ann is that she doesn’t set out to topple kingdoms. She has no agenda at all, and nothing to prove to anyone. She is simply a girl who wishes to be herself, and to experience just a taste of the life she might have lived if she were anyone but a daughter of royalty. Kind and gracious to everyone she meets, the minor gaffes that betray her privileged upbringing only make her the more irresistible. She is sweet when princesses are supposed to be haughty, and humble when she might have been prideful. She is vulnerable yet unafraid, thrilling to new experiences but poised and graceful even on a motor scooter. She places herself willingly in the care of a complete stranger, because even though she did not precisely need him, she enjoyed being with him. How could we not love someone like that?

In London Holiday, both Darcy and Elizabeth take turns with some of Princess Ann’s qualities. It is our wealthy and influential gentleman who flees his house by night, and eventually decides that a day away from his usual obligations might not kill him. However, it is Elizabeth who possesses the wide-eyed wonder, the charming innocence, and the pure determination to act according to her own happiness. Darcy’s peculiar behavior doesn’t fool our clever girl for long, and like Princess Ann, she discovers almost at once that there is more to her escort than meets the eye.

Opposite the endearing Princess Ann was our stalwart hero, the down-on-his-luck Joe Bradley. We get a glimpse of his character early in the movie when he (though unwillingly) shelters a helpless young lady without taking advantage of her. In fact, he seems highly uncomfortable with anything that might be considered unseemly. He doesn’t precisely roll out the red carpet for her—in fact, even if he had known who she was at their first meeting, I’m not sure he would have bent over backward. He doesn’t seem impressed by royal trappings, but he instantly connects with “Anya,” the girl in his apartment. His is a unique position—he needs something, desperately, and by the next morning he learns that she is the means to it. However, the longer he spends in her company, the more he views her as a person and not a crown.

Again, we see elements of Joe Bradley in both Darcy and Elizabeth. It is Darcy who needs something from Elizabeth, but it is she who discovers that she could use his position to solve her own problems. And while it is ultimately Darcy who plays the very Joe Bradley-esque role of tour guide and protector, it is Elizabeth who encourages her companion to try new adventures and teaches him how average people live. By the end of the day, both determine that their regard for the other has surpassed their own personal needs, and they seek the best interests of the other person.

London Holiday took on a life of its own, but a few other homages remain. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put Elizabeth on a Vespa, but I did find a Regency equivalent, and both Darcy and Elizabeth got in on the fun (it was her idea, by the way). Sadly, Vauxhall Gardens didn’t have a “Mouth of Truth,” but they did have a “hermit” who told fortunes.

And, like in the original, our hero has a slightly pesky “side kick” who manages to help things along. Colonel Fitzwilliam filled in nicely for Irving, and I had quite a bit of fun with the way he would inaccurately quote Darcy’s words back to him, provoking him to finally confess what he really wanted to do all along. Incidentally, see if you can find Bradley and Irving’s names in the book!

The usual lament about the classic film is that the ending is not your typical Happily Ever After. They certainly fall in love and their misunderstandings are cleared away at the end, but they do not walk off set hand in hand. However, perhaps that ending was enough, after all. Both parties come away from their adventures richer and a little more human. We still have the fairy tale, but with a twist: getting married and raising a pack of little princesses will not, in the end, make this couple happy.

It was enough for them that they touched each other’s lives, that they saw another aspect of themselves, and that they found a friend where they would have least expected it. Princess Ann and Joe Bradley would have probably had a miserable marriage due to their disparate circumstances, but they need not have an unhappy friendship. It was a fresh idea, that marriage is not the ultimate goal of life and certainly not for every relationship. The movie seems to make the point that relating to people and caring for them in the moment, even if we never see them again, is just as valuable.

This is where Darcy and Elizabeth deviate. Unlike Princess Ann and Joe Bradley, they are highly compatible, and only need a little humility and wisdom to build a dynamic, thriving marriage that will bring blessings and happiness to them both. I believe the earth would tip off its axis and bounce into Saturn if Darcy and Elizabeth did not end their story happily married, in a loving partnership that could instruct all around them in the ways of connubial harmony. So, this is your official spoiler: Darcy and Elizabeth have their happy ending, but the journey is what gave them their solid foundation.

~NC

All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

****

Excerpt from Chapter 18 of London Holiday

Elizabeth could not remain sedately in her seat. She leaned forward, touching eager fingers to the window as each famous sight rolled by; The Strand once again, with that hotel which had refused them service; Charing Cross with its awe-inspiring statue of the troubled King Charles I; the humble Scotland Yard, followed by the pristine buildings of White Hall. This was a part of Town she rarely saw… and might seldom, if ever, see again. She blinked away an unwelcome bit of emotion from her eyes, determined to wring every bit of enjoyment from this day that it had to offer.

There was a thumping from the back wall of her coach, and she leaned back to press her ear to the panel. “Look to your right,” came a muffled voice.

Chuckling, Elizabeth did.

“Behind the Horse Guards buildings,” he urged when she did not respond at once. “Do you see it?”

Elizabeth craned her neck, trying to see better from the moving carriage. She knew well that St James’ Park, in all its dashing splendour, lay just there to delight the eyes and stir her deepest yearnings. There, beautifully dressed ladies walked on the arms of their sensible-looking husbands, military fanfare dazzled the young and swelled the hearts of the aged, and classical architecture and verdant bowers melded into one gracious Walk. She sighed, her chest squeezing just a little. What she would give to admire it at leisure, knowing that at any time she could return to indulge her senses just a little more. But it was no good to long for that which could only make the choices before her seem more miserable than they already were.

“Would you like to stop?” she heard through the carriage wall.

The smile returned to Elizabeth’s face. Her escort was attentive, whatever else might be said of him. And this time, he had not permitted so much as a facial twitch or a cough of ill humour when one of the oldest carriages in all London had answered his hail. It was clean and safe, that much he had assured them both, but his voice from without could hardly be heard over the squeaking of worn leather and wood.

“No, thank you,” she called back to him, pressing her cheek to the panel so that he would be certain to hear her. “I would prefer to go on.”

He did not answer directly, so she rapped her knuckles against the wall, just as he had done to attract her attention. He replied in a quick, staccato beat just behind her ear.

The carriage slowed briefly, and Elizabeth tried speech once again. “Are you quite safe back there?”

“I have made a bargain with Fate,” his muted words filtered through the panel.

“And that is?”

“If this foot peg breaks under my weight and I am trampled by that fine pair of chestnuts behind us, I shall never again have to wear such uncomfortable shoes.”
Elizabeth giggled, and could nearly see that faint twitching round his mouth, the mock gravity crinkling his eyes as he spoke. “Let us only hope the carriage behind us belongs to no one you know.”

“It does. I do not think they would drive to the curb simply to avoid my body.”

“Then I dearly hope your hands are strong!” she laughed, then playfully knocked again near the place she had heard his last thumps. To her childish delight, he replied in kind.

The carriage rocked forward again, and for several minutes the traffic moved ahead at a moderate pace. She could not have heard him then if he had tried to speak, but there sounded another knock on the left side of her head as they approached Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth looked on, breathless in admiration for yet another building she would dearly love to explore.

Their driver chose a meandering route through the back streets—or perhaps he had received the direction from her escort—and Elizabeth was treated to several more quaint views. Then, as if by magic, London fell away, and they began to pass fields of wheat and fruit orchards. The cobblestones still rang loudly beneath the horse’s feet, but there were fewer of them, and the carriage seemed to roll more freely. A lad of perhaps eight or nine, standing amid a golden wheat field with a sickle in his hand, waved energetically as they passed. Elizabeth waved back but realised belatedly that the boy had not been offering his civility to her, but to the tall man clinging to the back of the carriage. Elizabeth leaned a little farther to the right, searching the ground, and could see the shadow of his hand lifted in greeting to the young farmer.

She drew back again to the seat, her cheeks almost weary from the constant smile they bore. Such a peculiar man, this William! When he had uttered those first, disdainful slurs in her presence that very morning, she would have sworn that he was conceited, arrogant, and cared nothing for the feelings of others. How wrong had been that first impression! She could not help but wonder what his usual manner was when among his equals in society. She would have wagered the last of her pin money that he did not mingle and cavort freely, as did those gentlemen who were usually deemed “amiable.” Yet, there was a gentleness in him, and a deep feeling akin to sincerity and kindness, if one took the time for a second look. Was that not, to her tastes, more amiable than the sort of man her mother had taught her to admire?
She felt herself sighing again and shook her head. “You must stop,” she muttered aloud. There, she had spoken it, and must now heed. She could not afford to think of him, even if he would ever look at her. She had been given one day to peer beyond the veil of her own destiny, one day in the presence of the very sort of man who could teach her that they were not all fools. She must content herself with that. She must continue to treat him as a kind stranger, one whom she would never see again after this day had ended.

Within minutes of this resolution forming, it was tried. The carriage drew up to a queue, and she felt the ageing springs give way as William bounced down from the back. His steps crunched on the gravelled earth, and she heard him paying the driver. He opened her door and greeted her with an expression that threatened to rob her of breath. There was a boyish delight there, a flickering of the youth he must have suppressed long ago, but kindling beneath it was something fuller, richer, and simmering with flavours of the forbidden.

Elizabeth paused, her lips parted as she surveyed him with eyes opened to a new depth of awareness, and the back of her neck prickled. His chest swelled proudly, and with one hand he gestured toward the Thames River, while the other crossed over his abdomen in a stately bow. “Miss Elizabeth, Vauxhall Gardens await.”

****

About London Holiday

When the truth is harder to believe than disguise.

Drugged and betrayed in his own household, Fitzwilliam Darcy makes his escape from a forged compromise that would see him unhappily wed. Dressed as a footman, he is welcomed into one of London’s unknown neighbourhoods by a young lady who is running out of time and running for her life.

Deciding to hide in plain sight, Miss Elizabeth Bennet dodges the expectation to marry the man of her mother’s dreams. When the insolent footman she “found” refuses to leave her side until they can uncover a solution to their respective dilemmas, the two new acquaintances treat themselves to a holiday, experiencing the best of what Regency England has to offer.

Based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, can two hard-headed characters with kind hearts discover the truth behind the disguise? Enjoy the banter, humour, and growing affection as Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth have the best day of their lives, and discover that they just might find love and romance while on a London Holiday. This book is appropriate for all ages.

Buy: Amazon U.S. (paperback) | Amazon U.S. (ebook) | Amazon U.K. (paperback) | Amazon U.K. (ebook)

****

About the Author

Nicole Clarkston

Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.

Connect with Nicole: Website | Goodreads Author Page | Goodreads Blog | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Twitter

****

Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Nicole is generously offering 8 ebook copies of London Holiday. You must use this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

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

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of London Holiday by Nicole Clarkston. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter, and the giveaway is international.

****

June 7 So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 8 Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 9 Just Jane 1813; Review, Giveaway

June 10 My life journey; Review, Giveaway

June 11 From Pemberley to Milton; Vignette, Giveaway

June 12 My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 13 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 15 Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 16 My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, Giveaway

June 18 Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review, Giveaway

June 19 My Vices and Weaknesses; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

June 20 A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post

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

Read Full Post »

I am thrilled to welcome Georgina Young-Ellis back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest release, Incandescent. You’re in for a treat today, dear readers, as Georgina is here today to tell you a little about the book, share an excerpt, and offer a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

I love Jane Austen. I have loved her for decades. Long ago, it would never have occurred to me to write Fan Fiction, especially based on Jane Austen’s work—after all, it wasn’t even a thing until somewhat recently. Yet my first book, The Time Baroness, a romantic time travel novel, was written in homage to Jane Austen, so in a way, it was my first foray into Fan Fiction though I didn’t know it at the time. Since then, I’ve written three other books in that series, (the fifth on the way) and six actual JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) novellas.

Since I’m going to be starting a graduate program in Spanish Language and Literature in the fall, I decided I better get all the writing done that I want to do for the time being, as it will be two years, I’m sure, before I’ll have time to devote to it again. That brings me to Incandescent, my latest JAFF, just released April 28th. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

In this modern day twist on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, The Elliots are Hollywood Royalty – a family of actors going back three generations. Annie Elliot has been cast to play Elizabeth Bennet in a new movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that takes place during the Belle Epoque, circa 1910, with a multi-racial cast. But who will her Mr. Darcy be? As the two stories mix and intermingle on and off camera, hearts are broken, love is found, and diversity is celebrated.

Several years ago, I had the idea of turning Persuasion into a modern day story, with the characters as actors, making a Regency film of it while also living out the plot in real life. That then morphed into the actors making a film of Pride and Prejudice, while living out both novels in real life. The result is something I think is unique, romantic, and also a lot of fun. Here is how Chapter One of Incandescent starts out:

“Annie Elliot, the hottest young actress in Hollywood!” the papers screamed after the box office of her latest film broke records. At merely the age of nineteen, Annie had everything, or so said the press: the looks, the body, the talent…and the family. Did she believe it? Well, she couldn’t argue that she had the family. “Hollywood royalty,” they called the Elliots. No matter how many times, however, she tried to tell herself she would have had a successful career even without a famous grandfather, father, mother, and sister, she knew it wasn’t true. Okay, sure, if she didn’t have the talent, she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she had, but the average pounding-the-pavement-actor doesn’t even get the auditions without connections, and she had connections for days.

It was April in New York City. Awards season had come and gone. Annie had been nominated in the Best Actress category for all the major awards, for a film that had been released in the fall. She’d won the Screen Actors Guild Award, but not the other big ones. That was fine. Young actors had to pay their dues. Besides, she’d just been cast as Juliet in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Romeo and Juliet, and nothing was more prestigious for an actor, young or old, than to do Shakespeare in the Park at the open air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Her father, Walter Elliot, who everyone, including his friends, now called Sir Walter because he’d won an Oscar playing Sir Francis Drake, had, over the course of his career, done Shakespeare in the Park several times, playing everything from Mercutio in R and J, to Prospero in The Tempest only recently. Her mother had once played Juliet there too, as well as Ophelia, Titania, and Lady Macbeth.

Annie had flown to New York for the audition, gotten the part right away, and was now staying in her parents’ loft in Soho. She loved the city. Maybe after the play was over, she’d stay for a few years and get her own apartment. It would be fun to be a New York actor for a change. Maybe even do Broadway.

On the day before rehearsals started, Annie picked up a copy of the Sunday Times. This was her guilty pleasure, something she used to see her grandfather do. In the age of electronic news, she still loved to get the Sunday paper: The Los Angeles Times when she was there, the New York Times here, spreading it out on the coffee table, a fresh bagel and a cup of coffee handy, and reading it from end to end. In the Arts and Entertainment section, a big article about Shakespeare in the Park jumped out at her, her name featured prominently. She skimmed through it. They made much of the fact that the late Susan Elliot’s daughter would be playing the title role in Romeo and Juliet, the role the beloved actress had once portrayed so beautifully. Annie set the article aside and took a big swig of coffee. Nothing like a little pressure!

Monday morning, she woke up with butterflies in her stomach. Instead of hopping on the train or grabbing an Uber, she walked from the loft to the Public Theater at Astor Place, where the cast would work until the director was ready to have them move to the Delacorte Theater. It was pretty far from Soho to the East Village, but the exercise would work off all that nervous energy. In fact, springtime in the city proved to be just the remedy. It had rained the night before and the air was fresh and cool. Trees were blooming everywhere and flowers in planters added splashes of color to a town which had been grey with winter for so long and was just now starting to come alive again.

She got to the theater right on time and the first person she spotted was her manager, Cynthia Russell, who waved at her from her seat among the few invited guests for this first read-through. Cynthia had been her mom’s manager too when she was alive. It had been about a month since they’d last seen each other in L.A. Annie went to her and gave her a big hug.

“Hi, my darling,” Cynthia said, “you look wonderful.”

Annie was wearing a pink, vintage dress with a white cardigan sweater, and lavender tights with a pair of black Doc Marten boots.

“Thank you, so do you,” which was the truth. Though in her fifties, Cynthia was well-preserved and in good shape, a handsome woman at any age.

“Have you met your Romeo yet?” Cynthia pointed out a young man, sitting shyly at the table where the other actors were gathering.

Annie knew her Romeo’s name, Frederick Wentworth, but that was all. Her mouth fell open when she saw him. Never had she seen a more beautiful man. He was a combination of a Paul Newman and Taye Diggs, if that were possible, with a chiseled jaw and startling eyes.

“That’s Frederick Wentworth?”

“I know. Handsome, isn’t he? His headshot doesn’t do him justice. If I weren’t a good thirty years older than he is…”

“Cynthia!” Annie snorted.

“I jest. I just met him, and he is extremely amiable, but, if I had a son, he would be his age. No, he’s safe with me.”

“Good to know, Cynth.” Annie winked at her. “See you after the reading.”

She went and took a seat opposite Frederick and he looked up and smiled. Their eyes met and locked.

“Hello,” he said softly.

“Hi,” she replied.

Then the director walked in. The cast had been given their script a few weeks before and Annie had memorized her lines, happy to see there weren’t too many cuts. People should not mess around with Shakespeare.

They went around the table and everyone introduced themselves. Frederick, it turned out, liked to be called Freddy. The director then talked for a few minutes about his vision for the production and the reading got under way. As Annie read her lines, she barely looked at the script, and neither did Freddy. The fact was, it was hard to look away from him. His gaze captivated her as his character spoke his first lines to Juliet, holding out his hand to her. She took it across the table. It was warm and strong.

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand his holy shrine,” he said, “the gentle fine is this: my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”

The sweet conversation between the two lovers-to-be continued. Though having just met, they would exchange their first kiss. Annie wondered, if she had been sitting next to instead of across from him, would he have brushed her lips with his?

The play built in intensity. The young teenagers, as the characters are supposed to be, fall immediately in love, and vow to be married, though, of course, their families are enemies and will never allowed it, as well as the fact that Juliet is to marry someone else. After Romeo is banished for killing Juliet’s cousin in retaliation for the murder of Romeo’s best friend, comes the scene of the lovers waking in the morning after spending the night together, knowing full well that Romeo must flee the town, and they might never see each other again. Their words of love at their parting felt unbearable to Annie. Then finally, of course, the two lovers die in the last moments of the play.

By the end of the reading, the other actors, the director, and everyone else present were in tears. Annie’s heart was pounding, her face hot. She felt as one with Juliet—that she had fallen in love at first sight, committed her life to her lover, and lost him, all in the course of two hours. While everyone composed themselves, Annie went to get a drink of water. Freddy was at her side a moment later.

“Are you all right?” he asked her. She looked up at him. His face was tender, concerned.

She smiled. “Yes. I didn’t expect the first reading to be so powerful.”

“It was, wasn’t it? You were wonderful.”

His clear, blue eyes, intense in contrast to his tawny skin, pierced her soul. “Thank you.” She had to look away for a moment. “So were you.”

Just then Cynthia hurried up to her. “Can I steal her for a moment?”

Annie was almost relieved as Freddy nodded and stepped away.

“Annie, that was amazing.” Cynthia gushed. “I have never seen a better Juliet! It was every bit as good as when your dear mother played her.”

“This was just a rehearsal,” Annie demurred. “Who knows how it will be when I’m finally on stage in front of an audience.”

“Oh, nonsense. You were born to play this role. And Frederick! My God, the chemistry between you!”

Heat rose to Annie’s cheeks again.

Cynthia observed her closely. “Be careful. It’s never a good idea to fall for your leading man.”

“I’m not going to fall for him!” Annie declared, but there was no use denying it. Freddy Wentworth was intoxicating. He was yet practically an unknown, though it turned out he had made a name for himself locally in some very good Off-Broadway productions. She had certainly never heard of him before he was cast by the Public Theatre for R and J, but had no doubt he was going to be big.

The first time they did the scene in Juliet’s bedchamber without scripts, Annie lost herself in the desire of her character and in Freddy’s passion. Suddenly, they were no longer acting. The director had asked them to create as sensual a moment as possible while still keeping it PG13, but they didn’t even have to try. From that moment on, every time they looked into each other’s eyes, Annie fell harder. But did Freddy feel the same? They didn’t talk much off stage. She was shy. He was reticent. But on stage, there were fireworks.

The show opened to previews, and the critics were ecstatic. “Elliot and Wentworth are magic together!” One paper cried.

“You feel you are intruding on an extremely intimate moment between two innocents, blissfully exploring their first act of love together, giving themselves over to each other wholly,” another enthused.

The cast went out after the show that night to celebrate. Freddy was at Annie’s side the whole time though they spoke little. When she finally decided to leave, he asked if he could share a cab with her.

“Do you live downtown?”

“No,” he replied with a grin.

Hope you enjoyed this excerpt! Please visit my website to see all my work—time travel and JAFF alike! www.georginayoungellis.com

****

Wow, thanks so much for sharing, Georgina! I think this has got to be the most unique mashup I’ve seen so far, and I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on a copy. For those of you as intrigued as I am, you can purchase Incandescent on Amazon.

****

About the Author

Georgina Young-Ellis

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

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

****

Giveaway

Georgina is generously offering an ebook copy of Incandescent to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what most intrigues you about the book. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, May 20, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Georgina, for being my guest today. It’s always a pleasure. Congratulations on your new book!

Read Full Post »

Today I’m delighted to welcome Leigh Dreyer to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her modern Pride and Prejudice variation, The Best Laid Flight Plans. Leigh is here to talk about her inspiration for the novel, and she’s brought an excerpt and a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hello and special thanks to Anna from Diary of an Eccentric for inviting me to the blog today! I am so excited to get a chance to talk about my debut novel, The Best Laid Flight Plans. The Best Laid Flight Plans is a modern Pride and Prejudice variation that is set in the United States Air Force. I am lucky enough to be the daughter, wife, and daughter-in-law of three amazing Air Force pilots and have lived my entire life around the Air Force, so the setting was familiar territory for me and a joy to spend time with my favorite characters in a place I know and love so well.

The novel was born one day while chatting with my sister-in-law (who coincidentally shares my first name) after a book club about how fun it would be if Darcy was a pilot. Fitzwilliam is obviously not a very modern name, but most pilots have a nickname, so I toyed with “Fitz” being this great pilot nickname. I brainstormed how someone would get such a name and eventually I realized I had a story. She encouraged me to write it and so, a year later, we have the finished product.

One of the things that makes this story so unique is the authenticity of the flying scenes. I had a lot of help from my husband (who I met in pilot training when he was a student pilot like Elizabeth Bennet) and my father (who was an instructor pilot like Darcy) to ensure that the verbiage, wording, and feelings were as authentic as possible. Many of the radio calls, nicknames, numbers, landmarks, and vocabulary are taken directly from real life checklists and operating procedures and all of the flight elements are based on real flights.  Several of the student pilots and instructors sprinkled through the book are based on real people that I know. Lastly Meryton Air Force Base is based on the real life Laughlin Air Force Base where I met my husband—and where the most of the Air Force student pilots graduate every year—and Longbourn City is based on the town nearest Laughlin, Del Rio, Texas, where I went to high school.

Something that was incredibly important for me as an author and JAFF lover was that Elizabeth be a strong woman. Jane Austen was a master of portraying strong, independent women in her time and I wanted to translate that to modern times. Even in the new millennium, flying is still a male dominated field where women must routinely prove their worth in a man’s world. The women I know in the field are amazing not only because they must navigate the difficult curriculum of pilot training, but they must also rise above blatant sexism and work harder and smarter than the men they work with. Elizabeth Bennet has the qualities I strive for in my personal life: intelligence, passion, persistence, and the ability to rise above her mistakes and change her viewpoints. In my story, I wanted to see these qualities as they tackled a challenge that very few officers undertake successfully.

In that vein, the excerpt I’ve pulled to share is from Elizabeth’s first flight in pilot training, called her Dollar Ride.

****

Excerpt from Chapter Eleven of The Best Laid Flight Plans

Instructors varied like the colors of the rainbow. Some were incredibly strict, asking for perfection. Others were loose and practical, asking that they not wreck but not much beyond. Many preached different techniques and each had their own peculiar quirks as they flew. Captain Dashwood was a fair instructor who was praised by his students for his ability to explain procedures. Typically, the only complaint lodged against him was his propensity to hum during flights.

The briefing went well. As it was Elizabeth’s first flight, Captain Dashwood would be flying the majority of the mission. Other than a few NOTAMS and procedural discussions, the most important thing he imparted was how to pass the stick back and forth. The T-6 was a small propeller plane that had enough power to do acrobatics and was equipped with two seats, one behind the other. The instructor sat in the back while the student took the front seat. The sticks of the aircraft were connected so when the student flew, the instructor could feel what they were doing and vice versa. Captain Dashwood spoke confidently during the brief and ended it quickly.

“Bennet, you look well prepared. It’s your dollar ride. Let’s just go out and have fun.”

“Yes, sir.” Elizabeth sat up a little straighter, her seriousness attempting to dampen her obvious excitement for the flight.

“Bennet, relax. Look. If you take nothing else from me today, here’s what I want you to remember. When I shake the stick, I want you to take control, okay? I’ll shake the stick and say, ‘You have the aircraft’ over the comms. In response, I want you to shake the stick and say, ‘I have the aircraft.’ That way I know you understand. Just have fun. Have a blast. There are so many people who would kill to fly one of these and you are one of the lucky ones. Enjoy it.”

Elizabeth smiled widely and took a deep breath. He was right, of course. She was the envy of half of her ROTC group when she received her pilot slot. She had worked her whole life to fly and this would be it. Her stomach churned in a ball of anxiety and excitement as she briefly pictured diving in and out of clouds, the sun shining through the cockpit. She released her breath and suddenly, she was calm. Ready. She looked at the grinning Captain Dashwood, motioned to the door, and said, “Let’s get out of here.”

The two gathered up their things and headed to the equipment room where they both picked up their helmets, G-suits, and a coat for the November chill. Stopping briefly at the step desk, they received the go-no-go procedures and the tail and row number of the plane they would be flying. Much more swiftly than Elizabeth expected, the duo stepped out to the brilliant, morning sunshine and the white, concrete runways.

They boarded the bus to take themselves and the other pilot pairs to their planes and chatted briefly about the perfect weather and the day’s flying conditions. Elizabeth glanced around her as they passed silver-grey T-38s, shiny white T-1s, and finally to the blue and white row of T-6s. She had not flown since finishing Fundamentals in Colorado, but the feeling remained the same: nothing is more thrilling than the sight of a plane shooting through the sky, except for the sight of a plane that one is about to fly. The most beautiful plane in the world right now was this small, propeller plane with a black painted tail number of MT-9805.

Elizabeth began her walk around looking for damage, maintenance issues, and safety concerns, following the checklists provided her during training. Captain Dashwood spoke to the maintenance crew chief and examined and signed various maintenance forms.

“All right, Bennet? Ready to get this show on the road?”

“Yes, sir!” Elizabeth responded, overjoyed at the first step to her life’s goal.

“Ladies first,” Dashwood said as he motioned to the ladder up to the cockpit. Elizabeth climbed quickly and began nesting in her seat, placing her bag and other items where she liked them, and began her flow: checking instruments, settings, dials, and switches while checking her work against her printed air force checklists. Captain Dashwood checked her work and her harness straps and then climbed into his own seat.

Before she knew it, Dashwood was starting the engines. She could feel the deep rumble beneath her as the propeller in front began its dizzying spin. The air marshaller in front of her pointed at the plane and spun his hand near his head, fingers pointed to the sky, and the flight operations check began. The flaps were moved up and down, spoilers checked, and the speed break examined. Soon, she could hear Captain Dashwood’s baritone over the radio:

“All right, Bennet. Take us out.”

“Uh… Okay.”

“Bennet, that radio is a push to talk, not a push to think! You are holding everyone up.”

Elizabeth glanced to the planes around her and saw other pilots chuckling at her mistake. Embarrassed, she tried again.

Radio static.

“Yes, sir.”

“Try again!”

“I said, ‘Yes, sir.’” Elizabeth thought through her next words before pushing the button to speak to the Tower. “Tower, this is Dollar-05,  row B, Tail MT-9805. Requesting taxi to inside runway.”

A static, scratchy voice responded, “Dollar-05, this is Tower. You are approved for taxi to inside runway.”

Dashwood signaled to maintenance to pull the chocks from the front and back of each wheel. Elizabeth, her helmet feeling heavy and awkward on her head, watched as everyone did their jobs. This was all a dance. Each move choreographed to perfection with every dancer making up a small part of the whole, only visible if one looked at the bigger picture on the stage. It would be easy to say that, as a pilot, she was the most important, the most vital part of flying a plane, but it would be patently untrue. Each maintenance worker, each marshaller, air traffic controller, and even every factory worker that built the plane was a backstage worker who made this flight possible.

Chocks removed, the plane pushed forward toward the runway like the smoothest car ride she had ever experienced. On the taxi way, Captain Dashwood led the instrument checks until the Tower broke through on the radio. “Dollar-05, hold short.”

The plane’s progress stopped, and Elizabeth took this last opportunity to calm her stomach and nerves. She took a deep breath and straightened, her hands sweating with nervousness inside her green flight gloves despite the cool air.

The tower burst through her musings: “Dollar-05, line up and wait.”

The plane crawled into line at the end of the runway. Time seemed to stop and then accelerate as the tower said, “Dollar-05, cleared for takeoff.” The plane sped up, throwing her back into the seat and pressing her as they rolled faster and faster. The world blurred by in blots of green and black and blue, and then, they were slicing through the air as they climbed.

Captain Dashwood began speaking on the radio, explaining procedures and demonstrating the nuances of the aircraft, but Elizabeth was unable to focus. Instead, she exhilarated in flight. She watched as the thin, wispy clouds came closer, then covered them like a blanket, before they burst through and into the blue of the sky. She squinted as the sun burned through the cockpit and felt her stomach sink and rise with minor turbulence.

When they arrived at their Military Operating Area, the imaginary box she was to stay in while practicing her maneuvers, Elizabeth was given her first go on the stick. She hit the stick and travelled a full three hundred and sixty degrees, pressed hard against the seat as she gritted her teeth and strained at the pressure of the Gs. Though she had only had the stick for her pressured circle, Captain Dashwood put the plane through its paces, demonstrating all sorts of acrobatics and showing them both a good time. They looped and rolled, sped up and stalled. Elizabeth was in heaven, even if she was a bit queasy.

Elizabeth had been flying in a small Cessna available for lessons at the local airport since she started working and was able to pay for private lessons. She had been to IFS before pilot training and was used to the feel of a stick in her hand and watching her instruments. But this was different. Elizabeth felt as if she had never truly flown before this moment. Giddy, she could feel the pressure of the plane from her eyelids to her smallest toe as it dipped and dived. The clouds slipped in and out of sight and the sound of the propeller hummed in her ears and chest. She had been on roller coasters, but nothing compared to climbing softly up and shooting straight down, hurtling toward Earth and then climbing again in safety. Grinning, she took a thousand mental pictures to recall for years to come.

Dashwood continued circling, scooping, and twirling around until Elizabeth was finally downright sick.

“Bennet, getting sick?”

The stick shook in response, Elizabeth not trusting herself to open her mouth without vomiting.

“You have the controls, just keep your mind off being sick, okay?”

The stick rocked, and she took control, keeping the plane level and matching the nose to the horizon. She searched her mind for something else to think about other than the nearest airsick bag when a tall, dark, and overconfident man presented himself to her mind’s eye. Why was she thinking about Darcy at a time like this?

“Bennet, you all better? You about ready to head home?”

“Not at all,” she answered sarcastically, still trying to rid herself of thoughts about Darcy’s dark, piercing stare.

“It is pretty great, huh? The only time Meryton ever looks pretty in my opinion.”

The tower burst through the radio waves. “All flights, we have a weather recall. Clouds moving into airfield. Return to base immediately.”

“Well, that was good timing. Let’s get out of here. We can do some cloud surfing on the way since they’re moving in.”

“Cloud surfing?”

“Haven’t you ever seen a movie where the hero flies through the skies and they touch the clouds as they slip past them?”

“Yeah, but those are just movies.”

“Oh, Bennet. Just you wait.”

The plane streaked through the sky on their way back to the base. Large marshmallow clouds began moving in and around the plane. Large columns of cloud shot up into the sky. The plane banked and rolled through the pillars causing waves of white to surge around them. Elizabeth could not stop her burst of laughter as the plane continued its ballet through the blue.

When there was a ceiling of white above them and a floor of white below them, Dashwood got back on the radio.

“All right, Bennet, I want to show you something. Just down and to your left directly below the clouds is a red farmhouse. It is an important sight to remember because it is typically when we begin our initial for our approach back to base.”

They dipped below and banked thirty degrees so that Elizabeth could see it well.

“Got it.” Elizabeth spotted the red tin roof surrounded by a barn and outbuildings. The clouds rose up again and she sat back enjoying the ride.

“Bennet, I want you to do something for me really quickly. Just point up if you can hear me.”

Elizabeth pointed directly above her head at the canopy.

“Now, look down at your instrumentation.”

Elizabeth did as instructed and was shocked. She had pointed to what she felt was up, but they were still in the thirty-degree bank, doing circles above the farmhouse that was now invisible below the clouds.

“I’m glad these clouds moved in; I can make an important point. You have vertigo, when your ears and your eyes are telling you two different things. Especially when flying in clouds or where you can’t see the horizon, like at night, it’s important to check what you’re feeling with what your instruments are saying. They call what just happened the ‘death spiral’ if it happens too long and you don’t check yourself. You just keep turning, losing altitude slowly until there is nothing you can do, no amount of pulling up on the stick or pushing up on the throttles will help.”

Elizabeth nodded in response and said, “Noted. Consider this one lesson learned.”

The plane circled about and with the turn, Elizabeth refocused herself to the tasks at hand. She fought the whole world as it seemed to scream to her that she was turning, despite heading straight and level at the horizon. Despite her concentration, Darcy strolled arrogantly back into her thoughts during her vertigo. She maintained her concentration as best as she could under his dark level gaze until the wheels touched down and she found herself posing for pictures, helmet in hand, on the ladder of the plane as she stepped out of the cockpit.

Elizabeth was heady with the thrill of flying, briefly distracted by Captain Darcy who had strolled in. She walked past the step desk, oblivious to most everything else in her post flight bliss.

****

About The Best Laid Flight Plans

In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?

****

About the Author

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way, “You know the Great Balls of Fire scene in Top Gun (“Goose you big stud!!!”), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son and a daughter who is almost walking.

Connect with Leigh on Facebook | Goodreads | Website

****

Giveaway

Leigh is generously offering a giveaway of an ebook copy of The Best Laid Flight Plans and Darcy and Elizabeth squadron patches as part of the blog tour. You must use this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

Thank you, Leigh, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book. I loved reading the story behind it, and I’m even more eager to read it now!

Read Full Post »

It’s always a pleasure to have Maria Grace as a guest, and she is here to celebrate the release of Netherfield: Rogue Dragon, the third installment of the Jane Austen’s Dragon series. Please give her a warm welcome!

Dragons in Jane Austen’s World

Thanks so much for letting me share my new project with you, Anna. I’m utterly tickled to announce that the Pride and Prejudice arc of my Jane Austen’s Dragons series is complete with the release of Netherfield: Rogue Dragon.  Now wait, I can hear you muttering and rolling your eyes, “Dragons? Really? Seriously—dragons?  Why—just why?”

Trust me, you’re not the first to roll their eyes at me and give me that look, expecting an answer like “Because zombies, vampires and werewolves have already been done.” While that is utterly true and the sort of thing I might say if you caught me at just the right—or wrong—moment,  honestly, it isn’t a very good answer.

But believe it or not, I really do have an excellent answer. You’re rolling your eyes at me again, but give me a chance and hear me out. If you take a glance at English mythology, it is FULL OF DRAGONS. Seriously, they are everywhere. Throughout Britain’s history, the lands were settled by peoples who brought dragons, they symbolism, and imagery from their homelands. The Britons, Gauls, and Germanics peoples (just to name a few) brought myths with them that mingled with indigenous ideas, reinforcing and modifying them into new and unique versions of dragons. Moreover, the influence of Byzantium and the Crusades added to the influx of draconic influence, once again altering the understood ways dragons might look and behave. These ancient dragons did not resemble today’s image of a four-footed, winged, fire breathing lizard. The earliest dragons were often more snake-like (hence the reference to ‘worms’ in many myths) and often aquatic.

Dragon stories and legends were passed down through oral tradition, both in story and ballad form until literacy became a thing. Once it did, along about the late 1600’s, those traditional ballad lyrics were published in “broadsheets” or “broadside ballads” and in newspapers.   People knew these songs and stories and kept them alive through the ensuing centuries.

That means it’s likely that Jane Austen herself was familiar with many of these dragon legends. If mash-ups had been a thing in her day, I’d be quite willing to bet that dragons would have been one of her first thoughts simply because they were so prevalent in local imaginations.

So I present for you, what Pride and Prejudice might have been had Jane Austen considered dragons a part of the world as she knew it, with an excerpt from Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon.

_____

Twilight was Elizabeth’s second favorite time of day, just slightly less appealing than dawn and nearly as interesting. She settled into her customary spot in the parlor, the little faded chair near the window. Long shadows danced across the worn rose-patterned carpet. Waning sunlight warmed the cozy room to soporific levels, leaving the children yawning even as they protested they were not tired.

Mrs. Bennet sat back into the sun-bleached sofa cushions and grumbled under her breath. “Children ought to mind the first time they are told a thing. Sister Gardiner is far too lenient with them.”

Neither Jane nor Kitty gave any sign of having heard. No doubt Mama did not intend to be heard, so Elizabeth chose to ignore her.

Sometimes preternatural hearing was more bane than blessing.

Papa and Uncle Gardiner exchanged raised eyebrows over the card table. The long suffering expression in Papa’s eyes suggested he would like to have words with her, but was unlikely to expend the effort.

Daniel Gardiner bounded up to Elizabeth, hands clasped before him, an unruly shock of blond hair falling over his eyes. “Please Lizzy, Mama says we must go to bed. Will you tell us a story?”

Samuel scurried up beside him, blinking up at Elizabeth, “Pwease, Lizzy, pwease.”

The child was far too adorable for his own good. Elizabeth scooped him into her arms. “If your Mama agrees, then of course, I will tell you a story.”

Joshua and Anna rushed to their mother and tugged at her skirts. “Mama, pray let us have a story.”

Aunt Gardiner took their hands and smiled at Elizabeth. “Are you certain you want to? I do not expect they will allow you to stop at only one.”

“I should be delighted. There is hardly anything I enjoy more than telling stories—”

“With dragons?” Daniel grabbed her hand and squeezed.

“Yes, dwagons!” Samuel bounced in her arms.

Mama huffed and muttered something under her breath, something that it was best Elizabeth pretend not to hear.

“What other kind of story is worth telling?” Elizabeth chuckled and ushered the children upstairs.

With Aunt Gardiner’s assistance, the children settled into the nursery and dressed for bed. The room was awkwardly tucked into a gable, all odd angles and shadows. Had it been drafty and dusty, it would have been a frightening, unfriendly place. But with bright yellow moiré paper on the walls and crisp green curtains at the window, it was snug, comfortable and playful. Exactly what a nursery should be.

“Climb into bed. I shall return in a moment.” Elizabeth looked directly at Joshua, the middle of the three boys, who was most adept at avoiding bedtime.

He hung his head and pouted as his mother placed a firm hand between his shoulders and propelled him to the little bed beside his brothers.

Elizabeth hurried to her room, collected her birdcage and returned.

“Is that her?” Anna asked, pointing at the cage. Her sweet face peeked up above the little coverlet.

“Yes it is. If you promise to be very quiet and not startle her, I will uncover the cage and you may watch her whilst I tell your story. Perhaps if you are all very good, she might sing for you afterwards.”

“We will be very, very quiet, we promise.” Anna glanced at her brothers with a pleading look. With her wide, dark eyes and silky hair, Anna reminded everyone of Jane, but her personality was far more like Elizabeth’s.

“Boys, do you agree?” Aunt Gardiner folded her arms and cast a stern look at her sons.

“Yes mama,” they murmured, eyes fixed on the birdcage.

Elizabeth nodded and unbuttoned the quilted cover surrounding the cage. The candlelight glinted off iridescent blue and green feathers. Tiny wings buzzed and the creature hovered above the perch.

“You remember April from the last time you were here. April, these are my cousins, the Gardiner children.” Elizabeth gestured at the children.

April looked up at Elizabeth with something resembling annoyance.

Anna pressed up on her elbows. “She is so beautiful. I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life!”

April flew closer to the side nearest Anna and poked her dainty, pointed beak between the bars.

“Oh, she likes me! Lizzy, she likes me!”

“Indeed she does, but don’t startle her. Here, I will set her cage on the table nearest you if you promise to be very still.”

“I will, I will!” Anna tucked back under the coverlet and held herself very stiff.

Elizabeth sat on the little bed beside her. “So you wish to hear a story about dragons? Then I will tell you one, but I do not think you will believe it.”

“But we will, surely we will.” Daniel flipped to his belly and propped up on his elbows.

“You think so now, but very few can believe the tale I will tell. It is not one for the faint of heart.”

“We’re not!” Joshua cried in hushed tones.

“That may be, but still, I expect you will be surprised to learn that England is full …” Her eyes grew wide as she pressed a finger to her lips. “… of dragons.” She leaned close and whispered the word.

“Where are they Lizzy? I have never seen one.” Anna’s expressive eyes darted from April to Lizzy and back again.

“Everywhere, they are all around.”

“Why can’t see them.” Daniel huffed.

“Children, if you do not allow your cousin to tell you the story, then I shall put out the candle, and we shall leave.” Aunt Gardiner tapped her foot, and the children ducked a little farther under the covers.

“You see them all the time, but you do not recognize them for what they are. Dragons are very good at hiding in plain sight. They speak spells of great persuasive power, convincing you that they are anything but a dragon, but most people cannot hear them directly. They think the dragon speech is their own thought, and they go about never questioning those ideas.”

“Is there a dwagon in the rwoom now?” Samuel cast about the nursery, breathing hard.

“If there was, it could not be a large one, could it? The room is quite small. Any dragon here with us would be so small there would be nothing to fear from it.”

“There are small dragons?” Joshua’s brow furrowed as he worked over the idea. He was such a perceptive, thoughtful, mischievous child.

“Small ones, medium size ones and very large ones indeed. One of the largest is the monster Saint Columba encountered in the river Ness in Scotland.”

“River dragons? That monster drowned a man! If there are dragons here, aren’t you afraid they will eat you?” Daniel’s words tumbled out almost all at once.

“I am glad you have asked, for that is exactly the story I wish to tell. Now lay back on your pillows, and I will tell you why I am not afraid of dragons.” Elizabeth waited until the children complied.

April zipped around her cage twice and settled on her perch, looking at Elizabeth as if to listen to the tale herself.

“Long ago, back in the age of Saint Columba, dragons ravaged our land. For hundreds of years, man and beast were at war; man against man, dragon against dragon, dragon against man. Chaos reigned. In the year nine hundred, it seemed as though the dragons would wipe out the race of man in the British Isles.”

“Was it like the war in France?” Joshua whispered from behind his blanket.

“As bad as Napoleon is, this was far worse. But Uther Pendragon rose to the throne. He was unlike any man born before him, for he was able to hear the dragons.”

“The dragons’ roar was silent before Uther?” Daniel asked.

“No, it was loud and terrifying, like thunder in a storm. Everyone heard that. But what Uther perceived was different. He heard them speak. Some spoke in very high, shrill notes that sounded like the whine of a hummingbird’s wings.”

“Like April?” Anna whispered.

Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose as she glanced at Aunt Gardiner. “Yes, just like that. And others spoke in a voice so deep it felt like the deep rumble of thunder. Uther could detect those voices, not just the fearsome noises. He suddenly understood what the dragons had been saying all along.”

“What did they say?” Samuel pulled the blanket up to his chin and chewed on the edge.

“The dragons were weary of war and they wanted peace as much as men did. So, the wise king Uther invited them to meet with him in a large, deep cave. His advisors warned him not to go into the cavern, for he would never come out again. The dragons would devour him, leaving the race of man without a king, and the war would surely be lost.”

“Did the dragons eat him?” Daniel asked.

“Of course not,” Joshua hissed, “Lizzy would not be telling the story if they had.”

Aunt cleared her throat and tipped her head toward the older boys.

“Uther treated them with respect and the dragons welcomed him as a foreign king. At the end of a fortnight, Uther emerged from the cave carrying a red shield emblazoned with a gold dragon. A mighty falcon with feathers that shimmered like polished steel rode on his shoulder, a gift from the dragon king. Some say a peace treaty was written on that shield, but none could tell for certain, for no one could read the dragon language then.”

“Dragons can write?” Daniel gasped.

“Some of them, just as some men can write, and read as well.”

“Is that why so many men have falcons, like Papa? To be like king Uther?” Joshua rested his chin on his fists and stared at her.

“Indeed it is. And the reason ladies keep pretty birds, like April, since ladies do not keep falcons.”

“I think April is far prettier and sweeter than a falcon. I should very much like to have one like her someday.” Anna yawned and stretched.

“Perhaps you shall, dear. But now it is time to sleep.” Elizabeth rose.

“Will you not tell us another?” Daniel sat up, but his mother waved him back down.

“It is late. I will tell you another tomorrow. But, since you have listened so very well, April will sing for you. Lay back on your beds, and I will let her out so she can.”

The children obeyed and Elizabeth opened the cage. April zipped out and flew two circuits around the room, hovering over each child and inspecting them as she went. She flew to the middle of the room and hovered low over the beds. Her sweet trill filled the room.

The children yawned. One by one their breathing slowed into the soft, regular pattern of slumber.

April warbled a few more notes and landed on Elizabeth’s shoulder.

Aunt Gardiner smiled, pressed her finger to her lips and slipped out. Elizabeth picked up the cage and followed.

“Will you return to the parlor?” Aunt Gardiner asked.

“After I put the cage away.” Elizabeth turned down the corridor toward her room and slipped inside.

“You called me a bird! How dare you call me a bird!” April shrieked in her ear.

“You need not shout. I can hear you quite well.” Elizabeth held her hand over her ear.

“Why did you call me a bird?” April launched off her shoulder and darted around the room. The candlelight glinted green off her feather-scales.

“You were the one telling them you were a hummingbird, not I.”

“What else should I have them believe? That I am a cat?”

Elizabeth pressed her lips hard. April did not like to be laughed at. “Certainly not! You do not look enough like one for even your persuasive powers to convince them of it.”

“It is one thing for me to tell them I am a bird, but quite another for you.” April hovered near Elizabeth’s face.

“The children are too young. We cannot know if they hear you.”

“They all do. Coming from two parents who hear, what would you expect?”

Elizabeth’s jaw dropped. “Aunt Gardiner does not hear you.”

“Yes, she does. Not as well as her mate, but she does, and so do the children. You must tell their father as soon as you can. They all need to be trained.”

Elizabeth held her hand up for April to perch on. “There is plenty of time. It is not as though Uncle Gardiner is a landed Dragon Keeper, only a Dragon Mate.”

“I do not understand why you humans are so insistent upon making distinctions among us based on size. A Dragon Mate may not have a huge landed, dragon to commune with, but they are Dragon Friends nonetheless. We of smaller ilk are just as important and just as proud. And we are far more convenient, not being tied to a plot of ground or puddle of water.” April flipped her wings to her back and thrust her dainty beak-like nose in the air.

Elizabeth stroked her throat with her index finger. April leaned into her. “There, there now, you do not need to get your feathery little scales in a flutter. You need not be jealous of Longbourn. He is a cranky old thing. Grumpy, and not nearly as pretty as you.”

“Nor as good company.”

“You are the best of company, my little friend.”

“Of course I am. Who would not rather spend their time with a fairy dragon than a dirty, smelly old wyvern?” April presented the other side of her neck for a scratch.

“I would not let Longbourn hear you say that. He does have quite the temper.”

April squeaked in that special annoying tone she saved for anything related to the resident estate dragon.

“You will wake the children.”

“Then you could begin training them.”

“They will be as cranky as Longbourn, and I will leave them to you.” Elizabeth smoothed the soft scales between April’s wings.

The fairy dragon really did resemble a hummingbird, though she was much prettier and far more nimble.

“Oh, very well. I do not like cranky anythings; not dragons, not people, not anything.” April’s head drooped.

“I must return downstairs. Do you wish to come? I know you do not like being alone when we have company about.”

“Does your uncle have his horrid cockatrice with him?”

Elizabeth chuckled. April had never met a cockatrice she approved of. “Rustle? Of course he came. But he prefers to keep company with Longbourn in the cavern. He does not favor so much female company.”

“Your mother insulted him when she called him a mangy looking falcon.” April cheeped a little laugh.

“I do not blame him for being insulted. So do you wish to come or not?”

“I do indeed. I have some very important news to share with the official Dragon Keeper of Longbourn.”

“What else have you not told me?”

“It is my news, and I will share it myself.” April launched off her finger and lit on Elizabeth’s shoulder.

No point in trying to out-stubborn a dragon, even a very small one. “Very well, I shall leave the door open though, in case you tire of mere human companionship and wish to return to your sanctuary.” Elizabeth propped the bedroom door open with a little iron dragon doorstop.

April nipped her earlobe. Fairy dragons did not like to be teased.

Voices wafted up the stairs. Mama complaining—again—about the lack of eligible young men in the neighborhood to marry her daughters. And—lest any of them forget—the cruel injustice that they had no sons, and the estate would go to some horrid cousin at Mr. Bennet’s demise.

“She is right, that is a problem.” April tapped Elizabeth’s ear with her beak.

“I know, but what is to be done? The law is the law and we must abide by it.”

“But what if he cannot hear us? That would violate a far older and more important law. An estate with a dragon must have a Keeper who can hear.”

“We do not know that he cannot. Do not work yourself into a flutter. Papa has invited him to Longbourn. I am sure we shall meet him soon. Then we will know for certain and can decide how to proceed.”

Papa and Longbourn had already decided, quite some time ago. Neither Mama nor April need know that yet.

“So he has given up on any further mating? I do not blame him, she is rather horrid. He should have found a woman with some sense—or who could at least hear.”

Elizabeth stopped and glared at April. “You are speaking of my mother, you know.”

“What of it? My own was nearly as stupid as a hummingbird and got herself eaten by a cat, not even a tatzelwurm, but an ordinary cat.” A shudder coursed the length of April’s tiny body.

“While your kind may not be attached to your brood mothers, humankind is. I would have you refrain from insulting mine.” Elizabeth gently soothed ruffled feather-scales into place.

April snorted and looked away.

Elizabeth continued into the parlor.

“I suppose you filled the children’s heads with more of your dragon fantasies.” Mama rolled her eyes and stabbed her needle into the bodice she embroidered.

Why was she so opposed to all things draconic? So determined in her opposition that neither Rustle nor April could persuade her into a fondness for them.

“The children love her stories so much. There is no harm in them.” Aunt Gardiner did not look up from her own sewing, but her jaw tensed just a mite.

“She does not like your mother, either.” April nipped Elizabeth’s ear. Again.

That was not April’s most endearing habit.

“So my children are fond of dragons, are they?” Uncle Gardiner chuckled and played a card from his hand.

Papa grumbled under his breath and studied his cards.

April launched from Elizabeth’s shoulder and hovered in front of Uncle’s face. “Of course they do, you nit. They hear us as clearly as you do. You had best do something soon about it or they will be thinking all of us are as cross and crass as that mangy Rustle-creature you keep.”

Uncle began to choke and dropped his cards. Papa’s eyes bulged. He stared from April to Elizabeth. Aunt’s jaw dropped as her sewing sank to her lap.

So, April was correct, Aunt could hear, too.

“I … I just remembered there is a … a business matter I need to discuss with you, Gardiner. Let us to my study. Lizzy, join us. I will need you to write for me.”

“I do not understand why you do not hire a proper secretary. It is not right that Lizzy should be so involved in your business.” Mama huffed, her feathers as ruffled as April’s.

Papa laid down his cards and rose.

That was always a sore point between them. Mama could have at least offered to help him, but no, that was a hireling’s work in her eyes. If only she could understand how he resented the disease that gnarled his hands and pained his joints, taking away his ability to do so many things. Even holding cards was difficult for him now. Mama really should know better than to continue pressing that issue.

Perhaps April had a point about Mama.

Uncle followed him out.

April flitted back to Elizabeth. “Well, come along. Do not give that old biddy consequence by even responding.”

Elizabeth curtsied to her mother and departed. Tomorrow she would probably enjoy an ear full of complaints about allowing that ‘annoying little bird’ out of her cage. No wonder Rustle kept to the caverns when visiting.

Papa closed the study door behind her.

_____

If you’re not totally hooked, here’s a larger preview of Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon, to give you a richer taste of this world: http://randombitsoffascination.com/2016/10/03/pemberley-mr-darcys-dragon-ch-1/

What do you think about dragons and Jane Austen? Leave me a comment below.  For a chance to win your choice of e-books from this series, click this Rafflecopter link.

****

About the Jane Austen’s Dragons Series

#1 Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon

England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are  blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind.  Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley,  the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg.  But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?

#2 Longbourn: Dragon Entail

Her father and the family estate dragon insist she marry the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to wed. Will the help of her minor dragon friends be enough for her to she escape the fate of the dragon entail?

Darcy thought his problems were over when Pemberley hatched and successfully imprinted on humans. But baby dragons prove far more difficult than any dragon lore prepared him for. Only  Elizabeth Bennet’s notes offer him any help. When his imperious Aunt Catherine takes matters into her own hands, things take a turn for the worse and Pemberley’s life hangs in the balance. He desperately needs more of Elizabeth’s help, but she ignores all of his requests.

Elizabeth, though, has problems of her own. After the Bennet family dragon sent Pemberley away, life at Longbourn was supposed to return to normal and Elizabeth get on with the all-important business of marrying the heir to her father’s estate. Except that he is the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry—a bumbling, addle-pated dragon-hater who demands she gives up the dragons she lives for.

Can she, with the help of her dragon friends, find her way back to Pemberley before they both suffer their fate from the Dragon Entail?

#3 Netherfield Rogue Dragon

Elizabeth Bennet thought she was prepared to do anything to make the Dragon Conclave accept her beloved young dragon, Pemberley, into the Blue Order, but she had not anticipated it would leave her banished from her ancestral home and betrothed to none other than Mr. Darcy. But before Elizabeth and Darcy wed, they must find a dangerous rogue dragon before it provokes a war amongst the dragons and brings the fragile peace between dragons and mankind to a catastrophic end.

Nothing written in the annals of dragon lore has prepared Elizabeth to manage a dragon not governed by the Blue Order. Dragons have always loved her, but this one finds her arrogant, selfish and insensitive to others. With only her instincts to guide her, she must convince the rogue of her good intentions before the Blue Order loses patience and decides on more drastic measures.

Called away to the other side of the kingdom, trying to settle the dragons’ unrest, Darcy learns the nature of the force poisoning the rogue dragon  against Elizabeth. One nearer and dearer than they could have imagined.

Can Elizabeth and  Darcy convince with rogue dragon to cooperate before darker forces turn it against them, without destroying the fragile bonds uniting the couple?

Universal Buy Links:

Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon https://books2read.com/Pemberley-Mr-Darcys-Dragon

Longbourn: Dragon Entail  https://books2read.com/Longbourn-Dragon-Entail

Netherfield: Rogue Dragon  https://books2read.com/Netherfield-Rogue-Dragon

****

About the Author

Maria Grace

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

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

She can be contacted at:

author.MariaGrace@gmail.com
Facebook
Twitter
Random Bits of Fascination
Austen Variations
English Historical Fiction Authors
Pinterest

Thank you so much, Maria, for being my guest today! I can’t wait to delve into this series!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »