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Hello, my dear readers! I have a special treat for you today! I am thrilled to welcome Melanie Stanford to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her novel, Collide, which is inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (a book I have yet to read and really must do so). She is here to introduce the novel and share an excerpt, so please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks Anna, for having me at Diary of An Eccentric! I’m so excited for the release of my second Romance Revisited novel, COLLIDE, inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South.

COLLIDE is a modern story, so naturally I had to make some changes from the original. One of these changes was Margaret’s move to Milton, which is a huge moment in the story. It didn’t seem right to have my character move with her parents, so I made it something my Maggie wanted from the start. Maggie is a contemporary dancer, and dreams of dancing with a fictitious Las Vegas contemporary dance company called Essence Dance Theater. After rejecting a proposal from her high school sweetheart, she finally has the courage to follow that dream and move to Vegas.

I’d considered other dreams for Maggie to pursue- a college degree, photography, art. It was fun for me to make her a dancer because I used to dance as well and I still love it. Giving Maggie this immediate desire made her more interesting to me as a character, and it also created obstacles that I didn’t see coming (I love it when that happens).

The scene I want to share with you today is from Jay’s point of view, where he’s seeing Maggie dance for the first time. They’ve already met, and he already likes her, but seeing her dance—a form of dance he wouldn’t be familiar with—makes him want her even more. Of course, it’s not that easy because Maggie is not into him. This scene also highlights the differences between them as characters. Enjoy!

Maggie was dancing—spinning and leaping around the room McCrary had set up for aerobics classes that nobody had wanted to take at a boxing gym. Her body moved in a way I’d never seen before. It was beautiful and strange. Compelling and sexy. There was no music, but earbuds snaked from her ears and into the waist of her skin-tight leggings.

Her movements slowed, she hesitated for a moment, breathing deep without looking my way. Aside from her leggings, she only had on a sports bra, showing off vast amounts of bare skin shining with sweat. Every curve and muscle of her body was visible, and I wanted it all under my hands.

She resumed dancing, swaying to a beat I couldn’t hear, her arms making long lines, one leg reaching for the ceiling. Then she was on the floor, her body almost caressing it as she moved. I’d been to clubs, watching girls dance in far less than Maggie had on, writhing and swaying for money. The way Maggie danced was different, special.

Tension and desire moved through my body. I clenched the railing.

She stopped, freezing her last step for a moment before she pulled the buds from her ears. Wiping sweat from the back of her neck, she turned and finally saw me.

My lips parted.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. She was panting from the exertion, her chest rising and falling. Her face flamed under my stare. “So late, I mean?”

Blood pounded through my veins. I wanted nothing more than to close the distance between us and wrap my hands around her waist, caress her sweat-soaked skin with my fingertips. Taste her with my mouth.

I swallowed. “I had to grab the accounting books for McCrary.”

She slipped her phone from her leggings, avoiding my gaze. “McCrary?”

“Conall McCrary. He owns this place.”

“Oh, right.” She pulled a hoodie over her sports bra, curves and skin disappearing under the bulky fabric.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

She bent down and removed some kind of weird shoes, then stuffed them into her bag. “Nico said I could use this space for practice.”

“Practice?”

“Yeah. I needed some space. He said he’d run it by Old Man…Mr. McCrary.” She slung her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll only come at night, when no one is here. So I don’t interrupt classes or anything.”

“Okay.” It would be exquisite torture, watching her dance again. I already wanted it.

We headed down the stairs together. She smelled faintly of sweat and something sweeter. I moved closer.

“Is this some scheme to come up with the money?” I asked. “Because I don’t know if it’ll work. You’d have to get a lot more naked.”

I’d meant it as a joke, but her face flushed again and her jaw clenched. I was an idiot.

At the bottom of the stairs, the gym was dark except the light over the front desk. Maggie tripped on a mat and I grabbed her arm, steadying her. She jerked away, whipping me in the face with her ponytail.

“My life doesn’t revolve around Officer Ting’s money, you know,” she said.

“It should.”

She stopped walking. We were near the front, close enough to the light that I could see her face, twisted with annoyance. “Would you leave me alone about it?”

My eyebrows lowered. “No.” I would bug her and bug her about that money until the deadline hit, anything to keep me from doing what I had to do if she couldn’t pay up.

“No?” Her hands went to her hips and so did my eyes.

I grabbed the strings of her hoodie and tugged on them, bringing her closer. “I won’t leave you alone until I see all thirteen thousand of those dollars.”

She batted my hand away. “Right. Just doing your job.”

I pulled her into me, our legs entwined. I didn’t let the feel of her distract me. Her hands were on my chest but she didn’t push me away.

“Maggie. This isn’t just about my job. Simon will hurt you.” My grip on her hips tightened, I couldn’t help it. She needed to wake up. She needed to know. “Simon will make me hurt you. Don’t you get it?” He would make me do something I couldn’t do. But I didn’t want to be faced with that choice, or the consequences if I refused.

“It’s all part of the job though, isn’t it? I mean, you must enjoy it. Hurting people. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it.”

Desire turned to anger, and it began to boil under my skin. Of course that’s what she thought. I let her go. “Your life might be black and white. Mine isn’t.”

“God gave us this life,” she said. “It’s up to us what we do with it.”

“Was that on an inspirational poster at Bibles ‘R’ Us?”

She made a face I couldn’t read. “My dad is a preacher.”

She was clueless. If her father was a preacher, her life had probably been all Bible Study and prayer meetings and choir practices. Everything boiled down to a belief in simple moral choices. As if my life, my choices, were so simple.

I crossed my arms. “Maybe some of us are doing the best we can.”

“Maybe your best isn’t good enough,” she said, but her face softened, taking the bite out of her words. She was pitying me now, and that was somehow worse.

“I’m sorry,” she said. My eyebrow twitched in surprise. “If I can’t practice here, I won’t come back again.”

I turned away. “You can practice here.” All the time and never.

She didn’t move. I didn’t move.

“Thank you,” she said.

****

About Collide

When their worlds collide, neither will be left unscarred.

Suffocated by her small-town life, Maggie Hale runs away to Las Vegas to pursue her dream as a contemporary dancer. But Vegas doesn’t turn out like she imagined. She doesn’t make it into Essence Dance Theater and the only job she can find is working in a greasy diner—again.

Jay Thornton wants to quit enforcing and own his own boxing gym one day. But his loan shark boss saved him from the streets as a kid and he owes the man everything. Cutting ties isn’t so simple.

When Maggie pledges to pay back a friend’s loan, she becomes Jay’s next mark. Sparks fly between them, but choosing each other could mean the end of both their dreams.

COLLIDE is inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s NORTH & SOUTH

Check out Collide on Goodreads | Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (U.K.) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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About the Author

Melanie Stanford

Melanie Stanford writes romance and YA of different genres. Her first novel, SWAY, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, debuted December 2015 from Samhain Publishing and was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Since Samhain’s closure, Melanie decided to republish SWAY herself, along with the rest of her Romance Revisited series: CLASH, a Romance Revisited novella, COLLIDE, and a third novel coming 2018. She also has short stories featured in the Austenesque anthologies THE DARCY MONOLOGUES and THEN COMES WINTER.

Melanie reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow.

Connect with Melanie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway

Melanie is generously offering a $25 Amazon gift card as part of the blog tour. Enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Thank you, Melanie, for being my guest today and sharing that very intriguing excerpt! Congrats on the new release!

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It is always a pleasure to have Maria Grace as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric. It’s no surprise that I’m a HUGE fan of her Austen-inspired books and stories, and I’m thrilled that she is here today to introduce two upcoming releases, the latest in a trio of Christmas stories. It’s been my tradition for the past couple of years to spend the month of December reading Christmas stories, especially those inspired by Pride and Prejudice. Last year, I read and loved The Darcys’ First Christmas, and now I am anxiously awaiting December 1 so I can start reading Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. Maria is here today to share some information about a Regency Christmas tradition, an excerpt from one of her upcoming releases, and a reader’s choice ebook giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks so much for having me Anna! I’m so excited about this Christmas season! It’s been a doozy of a year in these parts, so much that it calls for not one, but two Christmas books.  They are both available for pre-order on Amazon right now and will be released on December 1. The two books go along with The Darcys’ First Christmas, kind of forming bookends to the story. Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 tells the behind the scenes story of what might have happened during the Christmastide Darcy spent in London, while the militia (and Wickham!) wintered in Meryton. From Admiration to Love tells the story of the Darcys’ second Christmas as they try to hold Georgiana’s coming out at the Twelfth Night ball as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh descend as very unwelcome guests. (The story was such fun to write, I hope you love it as much as I do!)

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 starts with the Bennets making a Christmas plum pudding on the traditional day for doing so, Stir It Up Sunday.  American’s don’t really do plum pudding, so I thought it would be interesting to take a moment and have a peek at some of the traditions that have arisen around a food with at least eight hundred years of history associated with it.

Origins of Plum Pudding

Plum began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron, to which dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added. Sounds yummy, right?

Porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit often appeared at the start of a meal.

As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs and breadcrumbs, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor (and increased its shelf life—remember no refrigeration. Don’t think about that too much though…). Variations were made with white meat, though the meat was gradually omitted and replaced by suet (yum… ah, no not so much.) The root vegetables also disappeared.

By 1650, the plum pudding transformed from a main dish to the customary Christmas dessert. Not long afterward though, Oliver Cromwell banned plum pudding because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding was too similar to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

George I, sometimes called the Pudding King, revived the dish in 1714 when he requested plum pudding as part of the royal feast celebrating his first Christmas in England. As a result, it once again became part of traditional holiday celebrations.

In the 1830’s it took its final cannon-ball form, made with flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly and flaming brandy. It was dubbed ‘Christmas Pudding’ in 1858 in Anthony Trollope’s Doctore Thorne.

Plum pudding traditions

With a food so many centuries in the making, it is not surprising to find many traditions have evolved around the preparation and eating of plum pudding.

The last Sunday before Advent, falling sometime between November 20th and 26th, is considered the last day on which one can make Christmas puddings since they require aging before they are served. It is sometimes known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’ because the opening words of the main prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 for that day are:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Not surprisingly, choir boys parodied the prayer. “Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we’ll eat it up hot.”

Tradition decrees Christmas pudding be made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. All family members took a hand in ‘stirring up’ the pudding, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib.) The stirring had to be done clockwise, from east to west to honor the journey of the Magi, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish.

Tiny charms might be added to the pudding to reveal their finders’ fortune. The trinkets often included a thimble for spinsterhood or thrift, a ring for marriage, a coin for wealth, a miniature horseshoe or a tiny wishbone for good luck, a shoe for travel, and an anchor for safe harbor.

When the pudding was served, a sprig of holly was placed on the top of the pudding as a reminder of the Crown of Thorns that Jesus wore when he was killed. Flaming the pudding, as described by Dickens, was believed to represent the passion of Christ and Jesus’ love and power. It was also a key part of the theatrical aspect of the holiday celebration.

Why is it called plum pudding?

And the answer to the most burning question:  Why is plum pudding called that when it contains no plums?

Dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth century they began to be replaced by raisins. In the 17th century, plums referred to raisins or other dried fruits. The dishes made with them retain the term plum to this day.

Armed with all this new knowledge about plum puddings, take a peed at the whole affair from Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811:

November 24, 1811 Stir it up Sunday. Meryton

After a light nuncheon in the dining room, Mama called them all to the kitchen. She had done the same thing every Stir it Up Sunday since Elizabeth could remember. The large worktable in the center of the kitchen bore the fragrant makings of the pudding. The air swirled with the fragrances of brandy and spices hanging in the steam of the great roiling cauldron waiting to accept the finished pudding.

“You too, Mr. Collins, for you are part of the family, to be sure.” Mama waved him toward the table.

He edged in between Jane and Elizabeth.

Of course, where else might he stand?

Elizabeth sidled over to make room for him, nearly treading on Mary’s toes in the process. Poor Mary looked so dejected. If only they might switch places, but Mama would no doubt cause such a scene if they did.

“Now, Mr. Collins has it been the habit of your family to make a Christmas pudding?” Mama asked.

“This is the first time I have experienced this most charming and agreeable custom, madam. To be sure, the Christmas Puddings at Rosings Park—”

“Well then, I shall tell you how we do it. There is a great bowl there, and you each have the ingredients beside you. You, sir, have the flour. Add it to the bowl and then pass it east to west.”

“Clockwise—” Papa whispered loudly.

Apparently, he thought little of Mr. Collins’s sense of direction. Probably for good reason.

“Yes, yes like that. Give the bowl to Jane now.”

She added a pile of minced suet and passed it to Kitty. Kitty and Lydia added dried fruits and nuts and passed it into Papa’s hands for the bread crumbs and milk.

Mama poured in the brandy soaked citron and spices. “And that makes eleven ingredients. We have two more now, thirteen for Christ and the apostles.”

Mary added the eggs and slid the heavy vessel to Elizabeth.

“How fitting for you to add the final sweetness, Cousin Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth cringed and nearly spilled the sugar.

Mama glowered at her, but quickly recovered her composure and handed Mr. Collins the wooden spoon. “To remind us of the Christ child’s crib. Now stir it east to—clockwise—with your eyes closed sir. And make a wish.”

Mr. Collins steadied the bowl and grasped the spoon. “I shall wish for—”

“No, sir,” Elizabeth forced herself not to roll her eyes. Unfortunately, Mama would never notice what she had not done. “Your wish must be made in silence.”

Mama glowered again. Little matter though. Elizabeth had no desire to hear Mr. Collins’s wish. His expression said too much as it was.

The bowl passed around the table. Some wishes were easy to guess.

Mary wished to be noticed by Mr. Collins. Kitty and Lydia wished to be noticed by anyone but Mr. Collins. Mama doubtless wished Mr. Collins to marry one of her girls, preferably Elizabeth. Jane, of course, wished for Mr. Bingley. But Papa’s wish remained a mystery. What would he want?

The cold, heavy bowl passed to her. The rough wooden spoon scraped at her fingers. What to wish for? She closed her eyes and forced the spoon through the heavy batter. To marry for love. I wish to marry for love.

“Do not dawdle so, Lizzy. We must add the charms now. Here one for each of you.” Mamma passed a charm to each sister and Mr. Collins. “Add your charm to the pudding and stir it again.”

Mama shoved the bowl toward Mary. “You start.”

Mary gulped. “I have the thimble—”

Lydia snickered. “How fitting. Spinsterhood!”

“It is for thrift.” Jane’s tone was as firm as it ever got, a veritable rebuke.

“For thrift, then.” Mary tossed it in and quickly stirred it into the batter.

“I wonder which of us shall travel.” Lydia tossed a tiny shoe charm into the pudding.

“And which shall find safe harbor?” Kitty followed with an anchor and held the bowl while Lydia stirred them in.

Jane added the coin and Elizabeth the horse shoe. Jane held whilst Elizabeth stirred.

“And you Mr. Collins?” Mama blinked, but her expression was far from innocent.

“It seems I have the ring.” He dropped it, eyes on Elizabeth.

“How very auspicious. Did you know, I added that same charm to a Christmas pudding the year of my betrothal to Mr. Bennet?”

“Traditions says—and I would hardly count it accurate—that the finder of the ring will wed, not the one who dropped it in the pudding,” Papa muttered. Did Mama rebuke him for rolling his eyes the way she had Elizabeth?

“Well that may be, Mr. Bennet, it might be. But, I can speak to what happened for me. I believe it may well have significance for others among us.” Mama fluttered her eyes at Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins smiled his cloying smile and edged a little closer to Elizabeth.

Papa huffed softly. “Let us hope that something with greater sense than a pudding prevails over such decisions, shall we now? So then, give me the buttered cloth and the pudding that it may be tied up and done with.”

Elizabeth stood back to give him room to dump the pudding out and wrap it in the pudding cloth.

Thankfully she had an ally in Papa or at least she seemed to. The way Mama carried on and encouraged Mr. Collins, she would need one.

Thank you so much, Maria, for sharing this excerpt with me and my readers! Congratulations on your upcoming releases. I can’t wait to read them!

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About Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months? 

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.  

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?   

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company. 

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

Preorder on Amazon

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About The Darcys’ First Christmas

 

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.  

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence. 

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?   

On sale on Amazon (99 cents at the time this post was published)

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About From Admiration to Love

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.  

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical. 

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out? 

Preorder on Amazon

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About the Author

Maria Grace

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

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

She can be contacted at:

author.MariaGrace@gmail.com  | Facebook | G+ | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations</a | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering one ebook to my readers, and the winner will have a choice between Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 and From Admiration to Love. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, December 3, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let me know which book you’d like to win and what intrigues you most about these stories. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I love when I see efforts to merge Jane Austen and poetry, so I was intrigued when James W. Gaynor contacted me about his new book, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables). What a fun idea! Well, my dear readers, today I am delighted to have James as a guest on my blog with an excerpt from the book and a giveaway! Please give him a warm welcome:

From the introduction:

Emily Dickinson once famously remarked that if she felt as though the top of her head were taken off, she knew she was reading poetry. And who among us did not read “It is a truth universally acknowledged, …” and feel our heads explode?

Pride and Prejudice’s opening sentence is also the perfect pick-up line. The narrator zeroes in on her reader and introduces herself with what has become one of English literature’s most quoted opening sentences.

Austen continues to flirt with her reader in the first sentences of each of the book’s 61 chapters. So, how better to acknowledge the power of Austen’s collective one-line poetry than by translating Pride and Prejudice’s opening-sentence poems into contemporary twists on the classic Japanese 17-syllable haiku?

And here you have it: Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!)

It is my hope that readers will find themselves smiling knowingly from time to time as they travel in this redesigned Japanese vehicle across Austen’s familiar English landscape — and that they will forgive my star-struck attempt at this love-letter-poem to the extraordinary woman who still speaks to us in ways that can blast off the top of our heads.

My favorite (well, one of) haiku:

Chapter 7

Mr. Bennet’s property consisted almost entirely in an estate of two thousand a year, which, unfortunately for his daughters, was entailed, in default of heirs male, on a distant relation; and their mother’s fortune, though ample for her situation in life, could but ill supply the deficiency of his.

Five Bennet daughters —

Estate planning that backfired.

Which explains a lot.

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About the Author

James W. Gaynor

James W. Gaynor, author of Everything Becomes a Poem (Nemeton Press), is a poet, artist, editor, and writer. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lived for years in Paris, where he taught a course on Emily Dickinson at the University of Paris, studied the development of the psychological novel in 17th century France, and worked as a translator.

After returning to New York, Gaynor worked as an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, Cuisine magazine, Scriptwriter News and Forbes Publications. His articles, book reviews, poems and essays have appeared in The New York Observer, OTVmagazine.com, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, and Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. As #HaikuJim, Gaynor publishes a daily haiku drawn from current newspaper headlines and is the creator of Can You Haiku? — a corporate communications workshop based on using 17th-century Japanese poetry techniques to improve effective use of today’s digital platforms. Gaynor recently retired as the Global Verbal Identity Leader for Ernst & Young LLP.

Connect with James: Website | Twitter

Check out Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) on Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

James is generously offering a paperback of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) to one of my readers. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, December 3, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and we’d love to hear what intrigues you most about the book. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, James, for being my guest today! Congratulations on the new release! I’m looking forward to reading it.

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

About The Note

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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An excerpt from The Note, courtesy of Aria

Chapter One

May 2014

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

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

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

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

I did it!

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

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

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

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

‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

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

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About the Author

Zoë Folbigg

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

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Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An excerpt from Mistaken, courtesy of Jessie Lewis

Wednesday, 22 April 1812: London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because you are reckless with your money!”

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

A squall of gasps flew up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lizzy!” Mrs. Gardiner hissed.

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

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

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

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About Mistaken

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

Jessie Lewis

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

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

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

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Giveaway

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

Terms and Conditions:

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

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

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10/03   My Jane Austen Book Club Vignette, Giveaway

10/04   Darcyholic Diversions Author Interview, Giveaway

10/05   Just Jane 1813 Review, Giveaway

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

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

10/08   Of Pens and Pages Review, Giveaway

10/09   From Pemberley to Milton Guest Post, Giveaway

10/10   Half Agony, Half Hope Review, Excerpt

10/11   Savvy Verse and Wit Review, Giveaway

10/12   So little time… Guest Post, Giveaway

10/13   Babblings of a Bookworm Vignette, Giveaway

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

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

10/16   Austenesque Reviews Vignette, Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He smiled, “Thank you, Mary.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, Mary,” she said, still giggling.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About The First Signs of April

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

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

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

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

Visit her website, her Facebook, and on Twitter.

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Giveaway

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

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Follow the Blog Tour

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

Follow the tour with the hashtag #MaryBriscoe

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

Clandestine Weddings in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Remmington?” the baronet asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

Regina Jeffers

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

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

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Giveaway

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

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

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