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Hello, dear readers! I’m glad to be back to the blog after a busy August. My daughter is settling in at college, and my husband and I are adjusting to our suddenly quiet house.

I’m thrilled that my first post after my break is to welcome Cat Gardiner back to Diary of an Eccentric, this time to celebrate the release of the final installment in The Conscience series, In Good Conscience, with an audio excerpt and a giveaway. I can’t wait to revisit Iceman and Lakmé after loving all of the previous books in the series. (See my reviews of Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience)

Please give Cat a warm welcome!

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Thank you, Anna for kicking off In Good Conscience mini-blog tour. I am so happy to be here to share an excerpt from a romantic interlude between Darcy (Iceman) and Liz (Lakmé) in Chapter 4. Big things lie ahead after this special visit to an old hunter’s cabin tucked away in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. Our dear boy doesn’t have the heart to tell his wife of less than a year that it’s time for him to leave but, in usual form, his actions give him away. Oh, but the memories they will make at this secret love nest will carry them through the darkest of times looming over the horizon.

I thought it would be not only fun but also helpful to bibliophiles with vision difficulties to include an audio of this excerpt should anyone prefer to listen rather than to read.

Chapter 4 – Making a Memory

Liz set the food out on the coffee table then relocated the dishware and champagne glasses, but not before snapping one of the white daisy stems overflowing from the coffee can vase and sliding it into her hair. This was her day and if she wanted to sit on the sofa to eat, so be it, which was fine with him because he wanted to touch her, not sit across a table from her on a wooden chair.

“Nick outdid himself; you should give him a raise. Who knew that huge hunk had a romantic touch inside him.”

“Higgins picking daisies …” He snorted, “Now, that would have been a photograph to send to his kids.”

She kicked off her boots then sat cross-legged on the sofa. The flower in her hair and the way she twisted her neck as she bit into the curved shrimp fascinated him, giving him pause, thumbs braced at the bottom of the champagne cork. There were many imprints made to his mind today, but this one of her toned body glistening from perspiration—in see-through undergarments—as she bit into the pink crustacean, and the rosy hue to her cheeks from their lovemaking, made him nearly pop his own cork.

“What’s wrong?” she asked with a full mouth.

“Nothing, you’re just …” Tongue-tied, he shook his head with a smile.

Liz snorted a laugh and went back to eating, snapping him from his admiration. A pop to the cork sent it flying across the room, which he did deliberately just to hear her laugh.

Hopefully the champagne wouldn’t knock her on her ass. They only had about four hours before leaving for the farmhouse. As skilled a rider as she had become, she was not ready for navigating the mountains in the dark and definitely not when drunk.

Sitting beside her, he, too, crossed his legs on the deep sofa then poured their champagne.

“What shall we toast to, Lakmé?”

“Hmm … Us, for starters, the tango, opera … children, and happiness. Forever.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

He kissed her, hoping upon all that was holy that that plan was the one to outlive all the others, no matter what.

The afternoon drifted by with Otis Redding vinyl records spinning on the turntable and languid conversation about their dreams until the last song played “These Arms of Mine.” His girl leaned back against the pillow at the armrest, propping her bare feet onto his lap. Their gaze locked on each other and a comfortable silence settled onto their romantic interlude as the lyrics floated around them. She was dissecting him, maybe admiring, definitely thinking of something that amused her evident by the quirk to her lips.

“I love watching you, watching me,” he finally said, caressing the top of her foot.

The wiggling of her painted toenails, alerted him to her desire and, of course, he complied, always enjoying how her perfect toes felt in his hands. Sometimes, she’d giggle, most times she moaned in response to his massaging ministrations. Today, she just simply instructed, “Make it good since you’re leaving me in the morning.”

Startled, he furrowed his brow. “You know?”

“Of course, silly. Why else would you go through all this trouble to make today so special?”

Oh, she was so brave; what a front she had put on today. It was almost as masterful as his own.

“I didn’t realize I was that transparent.”

“Babe, it’s what you don’t say that usually gives you away.”

“That’s not entirely true.” Sure it is. He’d just admitted it to himself moments before.

Rolling her eyes she said, “For example, that first time I met you at the dance school. I felt like such an awkward spaz, technically alone with my two left feet and no dance partner, Jane making moves on everyone in pants, and Bill ignoring me while making googly eyes at his partner. And then you thundered in—my tall, dark, and mysterious hero.”

“And your point is?”

“That once I was able to ascertain that your menacing scowl didn’t represent fault finding, it became clear that you had the hots for me from the moment you saw me through the glass. Further, you were fighting the feeling tooth and nail. When dancing with me, you said absolutely nothing, yet I knew you wanted to rip the blue sundress off my body and screw me right there.”

He chuckled. “I don’t quite remember it that way.”

She dropped a grape into her mouth. “Of course, you don’t. That would’ve made you a perv, and we both know that you’re not.”

“It was yellow, the dress was lemon yellow … and, in my defense, it was cold in the studio. How could I not look?” He smiled wickedly.

“See—what did I tell ya’? It’s your smolder that gives you away … I can give you more examples if you like.”

No, he didn’t need more examples. He knew them all and redirected the way this conversation was going by tickling the instep of her foot. She broke out into a fit of laughter, wiggling on the sofa.

“Stop. Please. Okay, okay … uncle! No more examples. You’re ent … irely mys … terious.”

Raising her foot to his mouth, he first kissed her big toe then wrapped his lips around it. Popping it from his mouth, he kissed it again. “Stay right here, just like this, and I’ll be right back. I have something for you.”

He could feel her amorous gaze peek around the edge of the sofa, eyes burning upon his backside when he strode out the front door to his Harley.

“Hurry back!” she teased with a laugh, and he did as commanded, quickly removing the day’s most special gift of all from his saddlebag.

Wrapped in simple brown paper with a red bow, he held the package out to her. “I bought this for you because … well, your last one—not that you used it much anymore, but it was destroyed in the hothouse.” Damn; he was stumbling over his words. “It … um, your first one … saw me through that dark time when I came back to Pemberley. It gave me hope, helped me to face my demons.”

She sat up, looking adorable with her disheveled hair, dried in a wild mess, and he pulled the fallen daisy from her locks. Untying the ribbon, the paper fell open revealing a new—blank—sketchbook.

“Oh, babe,” she softly said, smoothing her hand over the image on the cover: two lovers entwined in a sensual tango. “She’s wearing a red dress.”

“Like the one I bought you in Seville.”

“I love it! Thank you!”

“I thought you might want to take up sketching again. I also found you a professional set of colored pencils, but I left them up at the compound.”

Crossing the length of the sofa, she lunged into his arms with a mind-blowing kiss. He felt the wetness from her tears against his cheek and tightened his embrace, heart thundering against his chest wall. How the hell was he going to get through tomorrow? How could he ever leave her?

“See,” she whispered when her mouth left his wanting more. “You don’t need to say anything at all. I can feel your heart beating against mine, just as steady, just a strong.” She took a breath. “I love you so much, Fitzwilliam.”

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Oh my, Iceman! Thank you for sharing this excerpt, Cat! I’m sure all of you are as excited to read the book as I am!

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About In Good Conscience

The third and final romantic adventure in The Conscience Series

No man has loved a woman as much as Fitzwilliam “Iceman” Darcy loves his wife Elizabeth. His love is indestructible, insatiable, and his Achilles’ heel.

Since the whirlwind and dangerous adventure in Paris and Moscow in Without a Conscience, life at Pemberley has been a combination of idyllic repose and focused preparation and defense. Darcy’s enemy is still out there—a hair’s breadth from delivering revenge for his father’s assassination.

When the enemy strikes first, Iceman’s world comes crashing down kick starting a firestorm. How far will the gelid warrior go to protect all his loved ones? Just how much is the former Navy SEAL willing to sacrifice? Is his attritional warfare blind rage?—or are his extreme actions in good conscience?

This emotional, wild ride will take you on a breathless, white-knuckle international journey from heartbreak and revenge to survival and enduring bliss because …

No woman has loved a man like Elizabeth Darcy loves her husband Fitzwilliam. Her love is invulnerable, unyielding, and her strength.

Author Note: Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell wrote such wonderful characters, I borrowed their names and some of their characteristics for inspiration to tell my own tale of contemporary love. In Good Conscience – The Final Adventure is a sequel, and I recommend reading Book 1 (Denial of Conscience,) and Book 2 (Without a Conscience) beforehand. Further, it is an original story that follows the lives of the characters of the aforementioned books and therefore, not meant to be a Pride and Prejudice variation. This novel contains explicit sexual content and occasionally salty language. So if you are looking for a clean, canon read, this book is not for you.

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Cat is generously offering my readers a chance to win 1 paperback of In Good Conscience (U.S. only), 1 ebook of In Good Conscience (international), and swag, which includes 1 ebook, sketchbook, and pencil set (U.S. only). To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, September 16, 2018. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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a-vintage-valentine

Source: Read online at Vanity & Pride Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

She was sure of the magic of Valentine’s Day, felt it in her bones. She didn’t know what to expect, but she knew this dress was part of it.

(from “A Vintage Valentine”)

Cat Gardiner’s “A Vintage Valentine” is a modern-day short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Lizzy Bennet is a dance instructor without a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. At her sister Jane’s recommendation, Lizzy visits the Memories of Old antique shop on the rundown east side of Meryton, where the elderly shopkeeper, Doris, insists she check out the booth full of items from the 1940s. After picking up a plastic red heart brooch, Lizzy is magically transported back in time to a USO dance in 1943 and is swept off her feet by a charming GI named Will Darcy.

Traveling back 74 years is enjoyable to Lizzy, who has been contemplating a simpler life with less reliance on technology that has absorbed so much of people’s time and attention they don’t actually experience things anymore. However, Lizzy’s place is in the present.  Doris explains the reason why she needed to go back and right a major wrong, but being a true romantic, Doris assures Lizzy that there is something special in store for her as well.

“A Vintage Valentine” is a delightfully sweet tale that combines two of my favorite things: Jane Austen and the World War II era. Gardiner does a great job shifting the characters from past to present and cleverly incorporating aspects of Pride and Prejudice with time travel. Gardiner’s tales never fail to put a smile on my face, and I found myself wishing I could travel back to the romance of the 1940s myself. It’s a feel-good story with a heart-warming ending and a bit of passion and humor throughout.

Disclosure: I read “A Vintage Valentine” for free online at Vanity & Pride Press but it also is available on Amazon

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Happy New Year!! I thought I would start off 2017 by celebrating the best of the books I read last year. Rather than do my usual Top 10 list, I thought I’d try something new this year and list my favorites in various categories, with links to (and quotes from) my reviews.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION (WWII)

A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

A Moment Forever is not a book you merely read; Gardiner ensures you actually live the story — from the overindulgence of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the wartime excitement in the Big Apple, from the airfields and USO dances and the fashions of the ’40s to the solemnity of Paris 50 years after the roundup of its Jewish residents for deportation. There are so many layers to this story, and I never wanted it to end.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION (OTHER ERA)

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

lost among the living

Simone St. James is a new-to-me writer, and as soon as I finished Lost Among the Living I determined that I must read her previous novels, which all seem to be equally suspenseful. I loved her writing here, particularly the passages that describe the intensity of Jo and Alex’s relationship, which enable readers to feel Jo’s grief and the frustration inherent in not knowing Alex’s fate. I also liked that while there was romance and passion, Lost Among the Living is at its core a ghost story, but it’s so much more than that. St. James shows the impact of the war on the returning soldiers and the women whose men never came home, as well as the blurring of the boundaries between social classes and how greed and selfishness can tear families apart.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (REGENCY)

Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter by Joana Starnes

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Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is a beautifully written novel, with just the right amount of angst to move me to the brink of tears without making me put the book down in despair. Starnes has a knack for putting Elizabeth and Darcy in impossible situations, delving deep into their souls, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats as they wonder how a happily ever after will be achieved. I loved the pacing of the novel, and Starnes does a wonderful job evolving their relationship through many ups and downs as they navigate the challenges posed by their families and themselves.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (MODERN)

Without a Conscience by Cat Gardiner

without-a-conscience

Like Denial of Conscience, Without a Conscience is sexy (definitely for mature audiences only) and exciting from the very first page. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who weaves clever plots and navigates Darcy and Liz through the twists and turns while further evolving their relationship. In the midst of the danger and excitement, Gardiner provides plenty of humor, and the obvious rivalry between Liz and Caroline had me laughing out loud several times. The novel is perfectly paced, and there’s just something about Gardiner’s writing style that has me hanging on every word.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (SECONDARY CHARACTERS)

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace

the-trouble-to-check-her

The Trouble to Check Her exemplifies why Grace is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. Her attention to detail in terms of character development and the history of the era is fantastic, and I hope there is another book in the series (mainly because I want to find out what happened to Jane Bingley after her falling out with Elizabeth Darcy).

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (OTHER)

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

TEPcover

I enjoyed reading both Elizabeth’s diary and about the rocky start to Charlie and Evie’s relationship and their determination to find Elizabeth’s papers. I especially loved how James showed that even Austen’s beloved couple likely didn’t have a perfect marriage, and by telling that story from the point of view of Elizabeth, readers are able to see her insecurities and her frustration while having little clue what Darcy is thinking or feeling, which creates just the right amount of tension. I also loved getting a glimpse of the Darcys and their family years into their marriage, so they are no longer bright-eyed newlyweds but older and wiser and settled into their life together. Charlie and Evie’s story was exciting and even had some similarities to Darcy and Elizabeth’s, and Charlie’s client, Cressida Carter, is very Caroline Bingley-esque. The dual narratives were seamlessly connected, and the shifts between the two were timed perfectly to ensure readers can’t put the book down.

MOST UNIQUE AUSTEN VARIATION

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Beau North and Brooke West

fitzwilliamdarcy_frontcoverprint-1

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy is unique and exciting. It made me laugh, and it left me in tears, so much so that my husband kept asking if I was okay and I worried I would short out my Kindle! It’s been a while since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a Pride and Prejudice variation. It’s absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year, possibly one of my all-time favorites, and definitely one I won’t forget!

BEST HOLIDAY NOVEL

Lucky 13  by Cat Gardiner

lucky 13

Oh, how I loved this novel! Gardiner is a master at bringing Jane Austen’s characters into the present day and turning up the heat (and the laughs). From their heated arguments to their heated encounters at the jaw-dropping calendar audition and the chest-oiling photo shoot, I couldn’t get enough of this Lizzy and Darcy. The secondary characters are equally entertaining, from Jane, the supermodel with a secret, to Caroline, the matchmaking poochie mama, and especially Charlotte (aka “Punky) and Darcy’s cousin, Rick (aka “Preppy”), who are the most obnoxious of the numerous matchmakers.

BEST POETRY COLLECTION

The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez

BerthainMe

Martinez’s poems are full of vivid imagery (“The Bertha in me sleeps until three in the afternoon and sits on the back porch with a cup of Earl Grey that quells the desire to chop up her crotchety landlord,” from “The Jane and Bertha in Me”), sensual (“Charlotte’s manuscript sepulchered like an incorruptible saint, splayed on its back like a woman whose architecture I want to touch,” from “At the British Library”), insightful (“Pain caused by first love never truly subsides,” from “Jane’s Denial”), and even humorous (“She’ll be sorry for canoodling with the missionary, thinks Rochester, who’s exceeded his cursing quota and looks like Wolverine,” from “Jane Eyre: Classic Cover Girl”). Martinez even writes about Brontë herself, from her different personas to the migraines she suffered through in order to create her “pristine prose” (from “The Literature of Prescription”).

BEST SHORT STORY/COLLECTION

“Tea Time” by Tiffani Burnett-Velez

tea-time

I finished reading “Tea Time” in less than half an hour, and I was satisfied with the abrupt ending even though I wasn’t ready for the story to be over. The final few lines pack a punch and made it a story I won’t soon forget. I can’t wait to read more from Burnett-Velez.

FAVORITE COVER

Undercover by Cat Gardiner

undercover book cover

Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Some of the more memorable 5-star books from 2016 (click the covers to read my reviews)

darcys-hope

denial-of-conscience

undeceived

COAOEB cover

Miss Darcy's Companion front cover_V4

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Liebeslied-Final-Kindle

the forgotten room

What were your favorite books of 2016? I’d love to know!

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lucky 13

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

Like all the men, Darcy provocatively and slowly slid his spread hand down his greased, bare chest, and it was then that Elizabeth knew she was more than just intrigued. She was attracted to him like a moth to a dangerous flickering flame.

(from Lucky 13)

Cat Gardiner’s Lucky 13 is a modern-day Pride and Prejudice that follows confident NYC advertising executive and kickass kickboxer Elizabeth Bennet as she embarks on a quest to find a date for Christmas dinner at her parents’ house in Meryton, Long Island, and for her sister Jane’s wedding on New Year’s Eve. Lizzy has long considered herself Unlucky 13 — from the day of her birth when she should have been a boy to Thanksgiving Day 2013 when she’s the only single at the table, much to her mother’s disappointment.

As part of her quest, she enlists the help of her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, who persuades Lizzy to start a blog about her adventures — beginning with a disastrous personal ad — and even convinces her to try everything from speed dating to a Jewish matchmaker. Meanwhile, Lizzy is working on a fundraiser for the FD Burn Foundation, which involves putting together a calendar of the smokin’ hot men of the NYFD. Her job puts her in the sights of firefighter and Pem Tech executive Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is still smarting from his perceived snub by “The Black Widow” at the gym.

Christmas is a difficult time for Darcy, as the anniversary of his parents’ tragic death approaches, but since meeting Elizabeth, he thinks it just might be possible to embrace the Christmas spirit and live again. However, Elizabeth is dead set against “Mr. December” and resists his every attempt to show her that he really isn’t the arrogant and cranky man she thinks he is. Lizzy and Darcy’s friends and family see what the pair keep trying to deny, but can they succeed in bringing together two strong-willed people determined to misunderstand each other?

Oh, how I loved this novel! Gardiner is a master at bringing Jane Austen’s characters into the present day and turning up the heat (and the laughs). From their heated arguments to their heated encounters at the jaw-dropping calendar audition and the chest-oiling photo shoot, I couldn’t get enough of this Lizzy and Darcy. The secondary characters are equally entertaining, from Jane, the supermodel with a secret, to Caroline, the matchmaking poochie mama, and especially Charlotte (aka “Punky) and Darcy’s cousin, Rick (aka “Preppy”), who are the most obnoxious of the numerous matchmakers. In a fun addition, Gardiner offers readers the chance to read Lizzy’s and Charlotte’s blog posts, which are linked at the end of every chapter in the Kindle edition. (Check out these extras as well: Lucky 13 Pinterest Board, Lucky 13 Audition Pinterest Board, Lucky 13 Spotify List, Lucky 13 Audition Spotify List)

Lucky 13 takes readers on a romantic journey as Elizabeth and Darcy put their past hurts behind them, and Gardiner even takes readers on a tour of NYC during the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Another winner by Gardiner, and a book I could easily re-read every year during the holidays.

Disclosure: Lucky 13 is from my personal library.

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without-a-conscience

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

Still entangled within his embrace, surrounded by the peaceful cadence of the park, Liz watched how every word the caller spoke brought forth the Iceman. Darcy’s lips grew taut; his body went rigid in her arms. When he finally clicked off without even having voiced a word into the phone, the affectionate man, who moments before was about to seduce her beside the riverbank, was gone.

(from Without a Conscience)

Cat Gardiner has done it again! She knocks it out of the park with her latest release, Without a Conscience, which is book two in the Conscience series that began with Denial of Conscience. Elements of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice emerge again in this newest installment, as Fitzwilliam and Liz Darcy — six months into their marriage and living peacefully at their Virginia estate, Pemberley, training horses and riding their Harleys — seem destined to misunderstand one another. But in Gardiner’s world of drug lords out for revenge, CIA corruption, and contract killers, these misunderstandings can be deadly.

Darcy has retired as the stone-cold assassin Iceman, settling into a quiet and blissful existence with his new wife. Or so he thinks, until he receives a call that forces him back into Obsidian to extract his cousin from the jungles of Peru. He has no choice but to go and see Operation Macarena through to the end or the people he loves the most will be in danger. Meanwhile, back at Pemberley, Liz and her sister Jane are being taught self-defense skills — Liz because Darcy deems it necessary and thinks she has some serious skills that need only be teased out, while Jane dreams of being a Bond girl and joining Obsidian alongside her lover, Charlie Bingley.

Liz’s world is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Caroline Bingley to teach the sisters some of her ninja skills. Caroline is jealous of Liz and determined to steal back Darcy, and when Liz overhears a conversation that sends Caroline off to Paris and into her husband’s arms, Liz isn’t just going to sit idle. Already worried that Darcy has grown bored in the new life they have created, Liz is determined to fight for him — and leaves on what she doesn’t realize is a dangerous adventure.

Like Denial of Conscience, Without a Conscience is sexy (definitely for mature audiences only) and exciting from the very first page. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who weaves clever plots and navigates Darcy and Liz through the twists and turns while further evolving their relationship. In the midst of the danger and excitement, Gardiner provides plenty of humor, and the obvious rivalry between Liz and Caroline had me laughing out loud several times. The novel is perfectly paced, and there’s just something about Gardiner’s writing style that has me hanging on every word.

Cat Gardiner has quickly become one of my favorite authors, not just among Austen-inspired fiction. I’ve read several of her novels this year — Undercover, A Moment Forever, and Denial of Conscience — and all were 5-star reads for me. I’m sure one or more of these books will make my Best of 2016 list!

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Disclosure: I received Without a Conscience from the author for review.

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denial-of-conscience

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

Yes, the stone-cold sniper hated snakes, each and every one of them, but he knew that while danger was real, fear was never an option. He feared no man, woman, or experience. The only thing the assassin feared was his own demons — or rather, facing them.

(from Denial of Conscience)

Cat Gardiner’s Denial of Conscience is a modern-day Pride and Prejudice of sorts — not a straight retelling but inspired by Jane Austen’s characters. It’s safe to say I’ve never read anything like it. Fitzwilliam Darcy is an assassin contracted by the CIA. Part of the covert civilian contract group Obsidian, Darcy is the Iceman — able to eliminate targets without flinching and so haunted by his past that he has frozen his heart to any woman. That is until he is hired to kill Thomas Bennet and can’t pull the trigger once he spies the stunning Lizzy Bennet in the window of the dilapidated Longbourn Plantation House in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Lizzy knows what it’s like to suppress her true self, having devoted the last eight years of her life to her depressed father’s every need. She’s even willing to marry a man she doesn’t love to save the plantation — her father’s legacy and obsession — from ruin. Darcy’s decision sets in motion a dangerous series of events that force both of them to acknowledge the passion between them and conquer their demons.

Denial of Conscience is a downright hot and sexy novel. Darcy oozes sex appeal; he’s a bad boy with tattoos and a Harley, but he’s also James Bond, suave in a suit in a Monte Carlo casino with Liz on his arm. Oh, how I loved Gardiner’s take on Darcy! The danger and excitement, the passion and the painful soul-searching on nearly every page made this novel unputdownable. I loved how Gardiner worked in other characters — from Jane Bennet the wild child to Caroline Bingley as a cold and calculating member of Obsidian. The intricacies of the operations were well thought out, and there was plenty of humor and action to go along with all the sex. (And, yes, there is a lot of sex in this novel, so be aware!)

guilty-conscience

Source: Gift from the author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Gardiner was so kind as to send me a copy of Guilty Conscience, a novelette to get readers excited about the upcoming sequel, Without a Conscience. I breezed through these vignettes right after finishing Denial of Conscience, loving the scenes with Liz on a Harley and being able to get a glimpse of the next novel. It’s not necessary to read Guilty Conscience, but it sure was fun!

Denial of Conscience was the third novel I’ve read by Gardiner this year (check out my reviews of Undercover and A Moment Forever), and it’s another winner. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller, whether writing a steamy take on Pride and Prejudice or historical fiction. She has a knack for crafting fun and sexy characters and exciting plots. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of her novels, and I’m anxiously awaiting Without a Conscience!

Disclosure: Denial of Conscience is from my personal library.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

The profile of her grin was as awe inspiring as the impressive bombers themselves, and it was then he truly knew Lizzy Renner was special, different from any other woman he knew. She was a brilliant beacon of light in a dark world and an ingénue, ready and anxious for the next chapter of her life.

(from A Moment Forever)

A Moment Forever is a beautifully crafted novel by Cat Gardiner about a wartime romance that was so much more and a young woman determined to solve the mystery behind a handful of photos and letters that threaten to dig up long-buried secrets. In 1992, 24-year-old Juliana Martel inherits Primrose Cottage in Brooklyn, New York, from her great uncle Will, who simply walked out of the home in 1950 and never returned. Upon entering the home, dusty and unchanged from the past 50 years, Juliana finds a burned letter in the fireplace and a shrine to a beautiful, vivacious young woman named Lizzy, who obviously stole her uncle’s heart and appears to be connected to his reasons for disappearing.

Still struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father and the fact that she was abandoned by her mother when she was a child, Juliana has lost faith in true love. But when she stumbles upon the World War II-era letters and photos in her uncle’s footlocker, she is sure that Will and Lizzy’s romance is a love story for the ages and proof that a deep, abiding love is possible. A writer for Allure magazine, Juliana sets out to tell Will and Lizzy’s story and soon uncovers a tale of all-consuming passion, unimaginable evils, and overwhelming loss. Juliana’s investigation leads her to Jack Robertson of Newsday, whose connections could help her piece together the puzzle but whose determination to let sleeping dogs lie could stand in her way.

A Moment Forever is a breathtaking novel that takes readers on an emotional roller coaster as it shifts between the 1940s romance of debutante Lizzy Renner and her flyboy, Will Martel, and Juliana’s journey 50 years later that opens up old wounds while healing the holes in her own life. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller, and this novel is perfectly paced. She reveals bits and pieces of information throughout, so you think you know what’s going to happen, and then there’s another twist and turn. I had a hard time putting the book down. I laughed, I cried, I simply loved it. The characters are all endearingly flawed and skillfully developed, and there is so much to ponder about secrets, betrayals, and forgiveness. And I love how Gardiner plays homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and not just in the names of her characters. It was fun to see a little something Austenesque here and there.

A Moment Forever is not a book you merely read; Gardiner ensures you actually live the story — from the overindulgence of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the wartime excitement in the Big Apple, from the airfields and USO dances and the fashions of the ’40s to the solemnity of Paris 50 years after the roundup of its Jewish residents for deportation. There are so many layers to this story, and I never wanted it to end. It definitely will make my Best of 2016 list and ranks among my all-time favorite WWII romances.

Disclosure: I received A Moment Forever from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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undercover book cover

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

If she hadn’t been a principled woman (and undercover) she would’ve shacked up with the suit — had he offered. He might have made her rethink that Eli Bennet doctrine. Of all the men who had made passes at her, his would have been the one she welcomed and accepted. When he had glanced in her direction her breath caught. Tall, mysterious, and handsome, his brooding smolder was hard-boiled through and through.

(from Undercover)

Quick summary: Cat Gardiner’s Undercover brilliantly blends Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with crime fiction Noir, telling the tale of Elizabeth “Eli” Bennet, a gumshoe on the trail of George “Slick Wick” Wickham as she investigates the disappearance of her best friend, Mary King. Elizabeth’s family thinks she’s a bookkeeper for Macy’s but instead she runs Bennet Private Investigations in an office/apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. She’s a career girl who high-tailed it out of her drunken parents’ home in Queens as soon as she was able. She’s at odds with her sister, Jane, who’s biting comments put a dent in Elizabeth’s self-esteem, and she knows what it’s like to have loved and lost. Her investigation leads her to wealthy bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you can cut the sexual tension between them with a knife. The two join forces when Darcy’s socialite sister, Georgiana, gets entangled with Wickham and some communist thugs. Set in 1952 in the midst of the Red Scare, Gardiner takes readers on an exciting ride through the dark side of New York City and the nightlife in Havana.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve long wanted to read Gardiner’s work, and the cover is among my all-time favorites.

What I liked: Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.

What I disliked: Only that I’ve been so busy lately that I couldn’t finish the book in one sitting! And that I waited so long to finally read one of Gardiner’s books. (I am so thankful that I have a few more waiting on my Kindle!)

Final thoughts: Undercover is unique among Pride and Prejudice variations, and if I were to attempt to create a list of my all-time favorite variations, it likely would be near the top. Gardiner is a breath of fresh air in JAFF (and historical fiction in general), and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Undercover is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.

To learn about Gardiner’s inspiration for Undercover, check out this guest post from April.

Disclosure: I received Undercover from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m delighted to welcome Cat Gardiner back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Moment Forever. Cat is here to share an excerpt from the novel and has a fantastic giveaway for my readers. Please give Cat a warm welcome, and stay tuned for my review of A Moment Forever later this summer!

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A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

In the summer of 1992, a young writer is bequeathed the abandoned home of a great-uncle she never knew. The house has a romantic history and is unlike any home she has ever seen. Juliana Martel felt as though she stepped into a time capsule—a snapshot of 1942. The epic romance—and heartache—of the former occupant unfold through reading his wartime letters found in the attic, compelling her on a quest to construct the man. His life, as well as his sweetheart’s, during the Second World War were as mysterious as his disappearance in 1950.

Carrying her own pain inflicted by the abandonment of her mother and unexpected death of her father, Juliana embarks on a journalist’s dream to find her great-uncle and the woman he once loved. Inadvertently uncovering the carefully hidden events of his and others’ lives, she will ultimately change her own.

This story of undying love, born amidst the darkest era in modern history, unfolded on the breathtaking Gold Coast of Long Island in 1942. A Jewish, Army Air Forces pilot and an enchanting society debutante—young lovers—deception—and a moment in time that lasted forever.

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Where did yesterday go? It’s hard to imagine that my own past is considered 20th Century historical nonfiction! It’s true! Those early years that I spent as a secretary, when I had learned to type 60 wpm on an IBM Selectric and took Gregg Shorthand dictation, were blips on a timeline, replaced by word processors and memo recorders. E-mail had been only a thought, and mobile phones were so large that they were in bags.

In this excerpt, I’d like to take you to our 1992 heroine, Juliana Martel, a junior style writer for the new fashion magazine, Allure. Following the discoveries made within her newly inherited home, she visits her editor with a fascinating proposal—a human interest article. Let’s take a look and see if she makes a convincing argument why a romance in 1942 is worth a second look in 1992.

~~*~~

“So, what brings you in to see me on this beautiful day?”

Juliana reached into her bag and removed the box, resting it at the edge of the desk. She noted Maxine’s piqued interest focusing at what was written along the sides of the pretty blue box in black, block letters that caused her to tilt her head to read, “William and Lizzy—My Dearest Darling.”

“William?”

Juliana nervously chuckled. “Yes, and he’s the story I’d like to tell, but I need your help.”

Maxine tapped her Sharpie marker upon the desk and the slick images of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. “Do tell. Do tell.”

“It’s a World War Two love story.”

The editor dropped her marker, the creative wheels in her brain turned at the possibilities. “Oh yes, I can see it—in love with the clothing … the elegance even during the ration. Gloves, hats, half-moon manicures, no hosiery, and hand sewed garments. The return to the basics of beauty.”

Ten fisted fingers burst in punctuation. “Here’s your hook: How to obtain an effortless, stylish look on a shoestring budget! How to resemble an MGM starlet during the Golden Age of Hollywood and return to an era of feminine allure and mystique. Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, and Brooklyn’s own Gene Tierney—the young bride of Oleg Cassini, fashion designer to the stars!”

Maxine’s voice rose with passionate excitement at the idea. “The hair! Oh the hair! Victory Rolls! All leading up to the pinnacle of post-war change in fashion: ‘The New Look’ by Dior. Yes! Ushering in short hair, cinched waists, full skirts, and luxurious fabrics in a romantic French explosion of sophisticated style. Julie—you are brilliant!”

Disheartened, Juliana responded with a slight grimace of embarrassment. “No, it’s not a fashion love story—it’s a human interest love story—an honest to goodness wartime romantic relationship—sweethearts.”

Maxine’s reply fell flat, deflated with the wind completely knocked out of her sails. “Oh.”

“I know it isn’t something we normally feature, but I’m sure this piece I’m working on could very well be an excellent F.O.B. An article such as this at the front of the magazine could segue into the feature well, covering your idea. I believe in the power of this story between this young couple and … and I intend on finding out what happened to them at the end of my research, which could very well mean a follow up feature story in another issue. Maybe during November for Veteran’s Day or on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu.”

“The battle of what? Julie, we’re a fashion magazine. The only battles we face are those of wrinkles and fat.” Maxine chuckled. “Well, so, I guess the Battle of the Bulge may well be an appropriate topic. Perhaps, we could compromise if you’re insistent on a World War Two hook.” She laughed at her joke. “Get it? Battle of the Bulge?”

Juliana shrugged a shoulder. She had never heard of the Battle of the Bulge.

Maxine slid June’s mock-up cover in front of her friend. “I’m sorry, hon, but see here … ‘Split-Second Beauty’, ‘Diet Doctor.’ Allure offers trends, cosmetics, fashion and hair, an insider’s guide to a woman’s image. That’s what we do. We try to make people feel good about themselves, and if they don’t we tell them how to do so. The closest we get to a love story is how to have an explosive orgasm or how to strip for your man in twelve easy to follow moves.”

Like her editor, Juliana simply replied, “Oh.”

Maxine opened the box and pulled out the thick stack of letters. “Is this your story?”

“Only the surface. The house I was given is at the heart of it. These are the wartime letters to my great-uncle from his girlfriend and his family. I’ve only read a couple, and they are starting to fill in tiny blanks. I’d like to travel to some of the places written on the pages and see if I can connect the dots about this fantastic, heartbreaking love affair. It’s a mystery of sorts.” Juliana swallowed hard. “I’d like to concentrate on this story, Max. It’s … it’s important to me.”

“Why do you assume it’s heartbreaking?”

“Because as far as I know, they never married, or … worse … she died. See why I have to know?”

Fanning the tied fifty-year old letters, the professional in Maxine couldn’t deny the appeal to uncover a good mystery not just for her magazine but for herself, too. Not to mention everyone loved a heart-tugging story about a veteran. She gazed up at Juliana’s stylish charcoal suit. “That pin you’re wearing, is it authentic?”

Juliana fingered the cool edge of William’s pilot wings secured below her shoulder. “Yes, they were William’s.” She raised an eyebrow. “Why? Are you interested? Is there something pulling you toward this story? You see it don’t you?”

“Perhaps.” Maxine slid a letter from the top of the stack and admired the fine penmanship. She ran her finger over the salutation. “This is lovely stationery. Expensive.” She thoughtfully sighed. “I fear the day when this ‘so called’ electronic mail Bill Gates talks about comes along. You’ll see, before long, no one will write letters or even pick up the telephone to say hello. I shudder at what we will become. Hmm … I shudder at what will become of the memory and stories of the Silent Generation.”

She held out the letter to her friend. “May I read it?”

A sly, knowing smile appeared on Juliana’s lips. “Sure, knock yourself out.”

“June 8, 1942

Dear William,

What a delightful surprise it was to receive your letter, especially since I was under the impression that you did not wish an acquaintance. I was sure you interpreted my letter as too forward, even—dare I say—pushy! I have been told, on occasion, that I can be quite relentless in getting my way, but in your case, I was prepared to accept that you weren’t interested. So, with a resounding YES, I would love to meet you at four o’clock, Saturday, June 13 beside the lion at the Public Library closest to 42nd Street! Just look for the girl with a beaming smile of anticipation, that’ll be me.

I am so excited about attending the New York at War Parade on the arm of such a dashing pilot. Are you sure your marching will have completed by then since the parade travels such a long way up Fifth Avenue? Rest assured, I will wait with bells on until your arrival downtown. My sister will be marching with the ARC. Perhaps, we can send your brother a snapshot should we get a glimpse of her. I am so proud of her, and I imagine you are just as proud of Louie. I’m looking forward to hearing any news you have about his destination. Oh, does that fall under ‘careless talk’? Never mind then.

My other sister, Kitty and I have embarked on quite the endeavor since we met you on Memorial Day. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that we have officially begun a nylon stocking drive because you know how we debs just love our hosiery! Now if I can only get them to donate then I’ll really have something to boast about. However, I do think our other venture may be a bit more realistic. We have decided to volunteer for the Victory Book Campaign through our local library. These old homes around here must all have libraries filled with hundreds of unread, like-new books, and it is our hope to get our neighbors to part with them for the war effort. I plan on visiting our librarian, Mrs. Tinsdale to discuss our ideas. In a way, I feel as though it is my first real job interview, and I’m very excited!

I wonder, do you enjoy reading? I do. I find it a fantastic escape and now that the Zephyr is in the repair shop, I am thoroughly engrossed in an Agatha Christie novel. I simply adore crime, mystery, and suspense. Once, I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning just to finish, “Murder on the Orient Express.” That was one of the most suspenseful books I have read.

Well, Lieutenant Ducky Shincracker, I look forward to a swell afternoon spent in your company. Thank you for your letter and the invitation for a date. Don’t worry about my travels into the city. I’ll be taking the 1:15 train from Glen Cove—see I do take public transportation! Ha! If you change your mind, which I sincerely hope you don’t but am sure you won’t (remember I’m an optimist,) my telephone number is ORiole-67126.

Sincerely,

Lizzy”

Maxine lowered the letter. “Ducky shincracker? Oh, I like her—a girl going after what she wants and she wants him. It sounds as though she’s trying to impress him. Any indication of his feelings for her? By the sound of it, he wasn’t too gung ho at first. Are any of his letters in this stack? It would be great if we can hear his voice.”

“I haven’t gone through them all. As far as I can see from the first few, they are mostly hers and placed in chronological order. I’d like to read them as such so I can experience the development of their relationship. I know how he felt about Lizzy. My uncle was head over heels in love. There is a shrine to her sitting on my fireplace mantle that I haven’t had the heart to remove.”

~~*~~

Thank you, Anna for hosting me and A Moment Forever on its blog tour. I am, once again, honored to visit with your readers. I’d love to hear some of their reflections on how things have changed in just the short time of 24 years. Is Maxine correct in her prophesying about the lost art of letter writing and communication? Have we lost something or are we more connected than ever? And what of Lizzy’s volunteering for the Victory Book Drive? Certainly technology and modern advances have changed how we read books and their ready accessibility, but what about for our servicemembers today?

I’d like to offer a special swag for Diary of an Eccentric domestic (U.S.) entries.
• One e-Book A Moment Forever
• Decorative vintage-style picture frame
• Bath & Body Works Paris lotion and shower gel
• Paris Decorative soap and box
A Moment Forever bookmark
• Delft Blue swan

One A Moment Forever e-book for International entries

Giveaway details: To enter to win Cat’s generous giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address, let me know if you’re entering the U.S. or the international giveaway, and reflect on Cat’s questions about the lost art of letter writing. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 26. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

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Check out A Moment Forever on Amazon and Goodreads. Visit Cat’s website and 1940s Pinterest board, as well as A Moment Forever‘s Spotify playlist and blog.

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June 15: Austenesque Reviews (Interview)
June 17: Of Pens & Pages (Review)
June 18: Romantasy Through the Ages (Guest Post)
June 20: Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt)
June 24: Savvy Verse & Wit (Guest Post)
July 29:  Goodreads Sofa Chat w/ Sophia Rose
Aug. 3:  True Book Addict (Guest Post)
Aug. 9:  So Little Time… (Guest Post)
Aug. 11: Impressions in Ink (Review)
Aug. 16: The Calico Critic (Guest Post & Giveaway)
Aug. 23: Margie’s Must Reads (Review)
Aug. 29: Jorie Loves a Story (Review)
Aug. 30: Celticlady’s Book Reviews (Review)
Aug. 31: Jorie Loves a Story (Interview)

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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It is my pleasure to welcome Cat Gardiner to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Undercover. I will be reviewing this fantastic-sounding novel in June, so stay tuned!

UNDERCOVER – AN AUSTEN NOIR
THE ROMANTIC COLLISION OF THREE WORLDS

Thank you, Anna, for inviting me to share Undercover with your readers at Diary of An Eccentric. It is an honor to visit for the first time and introduce another side of my Pride and Prejudice inspired work.

undercover book coverMy latest novel was written on a dare, believe it or not. Pamela Lynne, my publishing partner and friend at Vanity & Pride Press, and I were chatting one night when she had a light-bulb moment for me to write something that hadn’t been done in the JA fandom before: A crime fiction Noir in my own Cat-style. I was unsure that I could do it justice lest both Jane Austen and Raymond Chandler rolled over in their graves. But Pamela wouldn’t let up, confident that if I can write WWII-era Romantic Dramas as well as a Mr. Darcy on a Harley that I would be up for the task and neither authors would be offended — too much. My muse, feeling uninspired in another project, eventually took up the challenge. And what a challenge it was given that I only write third person and that I didn’t want to make the story too dark, and, of course wanting to provide a happy ending. The latter two, IMHO are essential for an Austenesque novel, but not for a true Noir. Yet, I needed to incorporate all the other elements that make an intriguing, hard-boiled detective novel, simultaneously giving it my own voice within, something that my readers have come to expect.

Undercover became a collision of three worlds, two that were already familiar. My adoration of 20th Century Historical Fiction and my love of Pride and Prejudice together combined with the sultry, dramatic theme of Noir (or more precisely, in the case of Undercover, hard-boiled crime fiction, but that wouldn’t read well on the book cover. 😉 )

The Austenesque theme for me was easy since my style of P&P is inspired, giving me much more latitude in where I can go with our dear characters in a modern world. This novel kept certain character traits but focused on a 20th Century “What-if” scenario.

What if in 1952:

• What if Wickham was more debauched than we had realized?
• What if Mary King’s uncle hadn’t whisked her away to safety?
• What if Elizabeth hadn’t married, either to save her family’s future or for love and instead chose to become a career girl.
• What if Jane was truly a vain and mercenary creature and sibling rivalry existed between the two “most beloved” sisters?
• What if that relationship with Jane altered Elizabeth, making her insecure and feeling unworthy — maybe even unloved? Would she be more susceptible to Wickham’s advances?
• What if Bingley had arrived — with Darcy — after Wickham had come and gone?
• What if Darcy’s back story tormented him? Any other man (except our Darcy) would have been broken, but he hid his anguish behind a façade.
• What if Elizabeth met Darcy as a matured, confident woman who knew what she wanted and was already settled into a non-traditional role in society.

blackandwhiteNow for the challenging part of incorporating some of the thematic elements of a post-WWII, hard-boiled detective story. Unlike characters Sam Spade, Charlie Chan, and Philip Marlowe, we are not hearing their voice in a first person narrative – Undercover is told in a third person, alternating POV. But what we do have is:

• A gruff tone when in certain characters’ POV, using slang and period words like “dame,” “flatfoot,” “moxie.”
• Necessary characters such as a police detective, a femme fatale, a private investigator, the shrew, the sympathetic friend, the psycho, and the emotionally scarred, beefcake hero who always gets the girl.
• An intricate plot with flashbacks and a smoking gun.
• A visual mood, filled with shadows and a dark city, smoky bars, and the ever-present cigarette.
• Sensuality in the darkness.
• Clichés and similes that don’t quite make sense, yet add to the thematic traits of a rough-around-the-edges police detective from the wrong side of the tracks.

The third component of Undercover is the part I live and breathe: 20th Century Historical Fiction and the fun of weaving research finds into the novel. The backdrop is set in New York City, 1952, at a time when gender equality wasn’t any further along following the gains of the “Rosie the Riveter” vital movement into the workforce. Post-war life had settled back into a focus on family (hence the following Baby-boomer Generation) in an attempt to return to normalcy by restoring all things to pre-war 1941. Women had been forced out of the factories when “the boys” returned home. “Career girls” existed, of course, but in limited areas such as nursing, secretarial, and shop girls. Certainly not as a gumshoe (private investigator) such as Elizabeth. But in Undercover, we also explore an alternative career choice prevalent in NYC at the time on 52nd Street: that of a bump-n-grind girl, a stripper.

Historically, 1952 was an iconic (and atomic) year of milestones – but today, they seem blips on the map of forgotten historical significance. Just to name a few:

• In this early Cold War era, we were two years into the Korean War, which, then, had been referred to as a “police action,” yet history would tell us how more than 40,000 American G.I.s never came home.
• General Dwight D. Eisenhower became President with a slogan “I Like Ike,” vowing to bring our boys home.
• Codename “Mike,” the United States’ first hydrogen bomb had been successfully tested on an atoll in the South Pacific.
• The first sexual reassignment was performed.
• Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigation into un-American, Communist activities sparked the Second Red Scare in America, coining the term “McCarthyism.”

havanaAs our hero and heroine travel from New York City to Havana, it was a wonderful experience to embark on research about the complicated political atmosphere, yet dynamic lifestyle of pre-Castro Cuba in 1952.

In a coup d’etat, Fulgencio Batista had returned to power as president and brutal dictator and the Communist movement went temporarily underground. With a corrupt government fostering the long relationship, the American Mafia continued to have a pretty good gig in Havana, running luxury hotels, casinos and the nightlife. The capital had been prosperous and bustling with both commercial and high-roller tourist trades.

This brought me to discover a true historical gem within the pearl of Cuba: Central Hershey, a little-known sugar plantation, refinery, and chocolate manufacturing worker town thirty miles outside of Havana. This town with its houses, school, hotel, shops, railroad, casino, and orphanage had changed lives from 1920-1945. I used this location as a backdrop to a dangerous rescue in the dark of night by our gumshoe and her brooding man.

History—and chocolate aficionados—will enjoy this video.

Pull it all together, sprinkle in a soundtrack with period music that sets the scene in places such as the Copacabana and the Tropicana Club, add a dash of visual inspiration with a Pinterest board, and you have a mixture of three worlds in an Austenesque novel that was supposed to have been a novella! Take a chance on Undercover; I hope you’ll enjoy this unique, sultry mystery with a Mr. Darcy in a fedora!

Thank you again, Anna, and thank you, dear readers, for the welcome to Diary of an Eccentric!

AUTHOR BIO

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. From the comedic Christmas, Chick Lit Lucky 13, and bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventure Denial of Conscience, to the romantic comedy Villa Fortuna, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers. Her newest release is a sultry Pride and Prejudice Noir, just released 4/20/16.

Her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever, will release in late spring 2016 with The Song is You following.

Married 23 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world — their orange tabby, Ollie. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

GIVEAWAY

Cat is generously offering 2 ebooks of Undercover to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address telling me why you want to read the book. The giveaway will close on Sunday, May 1. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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