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Hello, my friends! I’m excited to welcome Jack Caldwell back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of his latest novel, Persuaded to Sail. I’ve loved all of the books in the Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series, so I can’t wait to get a chance to read it. Jack is here to share an excerpt from Persuaded to Sail, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. Please give him a warm welcome!

~~~

Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

Anna was kind enough to allow me to announce the publication of my latest work, my long-promised sequel to Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, PERSUADED TO SAIL!

PERSUADED TO SAIL, a sequel to Persuasion and Book Three of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is a companion novel to my other novels in this series, THE THREE COLONELS and THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. This means that all three books happen at the same time (the 1815 Hundred Days Crisis and the Battle of Waterloo) and many of the characters know each other in my expanded Austenseque universe. The cross-overs include Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.

Persuaded to Sail, my tenth published novel, stands on its own, but your reading pleasure will be enhanced by including the other books.

So, let’s kick things off. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter. While Persuaded to Sail picks up almost immediately after the events in Persuasion, there are other forces at work. Forces that will influence the Wentworths’ honeymoon cruise to Bermuda.

~~~

March 1815, London

Deep in the government building, an office clock chimed the first hour of the day. The gloomy room was illuminated by a single candle on one side of a large desk. Heavy curtains covered the single small window. The desk groaned under the weight of numerous papers, books, and memoranda. Opposite the candle sat three glasses and a crystal decanter, half filled with amber liquid. The only other furniture in the office consisted of a few chairs.

Behind the desk, a gentleman—a peer by appearance—sat quietly, scribbling upon the paper before him. It was not the first time he had worked into the wee hours, and it would not be the last.

He looked up at the knock upon the door. It was only for form’s sake—his guest showed himself a moment later without leave. The gentleman swallowed his annoyance at the man’s impertinence.

“Were you seen? Were you followed?” the gentleman offered in lieu of a welcome.

“No,” his guest answered.

“Are you certain?” The gentleman eyed the expensive clothing the other man wore.

“Of course. That is why I am still alive.”

“Very fortunate for you.” The gentleman’s sentiment did not sound entirely sincere. “Laurence cannot say the same.”

“What? How?”

His guest was rarely shaken, and the gentleman almost enjoyed his reaction to the news. Almost.

“The newspaper says a carriage accident, but we know better. Too convenient for our French friend—far too convenient.”

“Devil take it,” the guest muttered while glaring at the floor. “Laurence was a good man.” He looked up at the gentleman with intense, hooded eyes. “Do you wish for me to look into this matter?”

“Do not concern yourself. Others will deal with those responsible.”

“Who?” the guest demanded, his face hard and angry.

“Carter and Smythe.”

The guest growled, “Carter is a fool!”

“That is why Smythe accompanies him. Do you doubt his abilities?”

“As an assassin? No.”

“How kind of you to approve.” The gentleman’s reply was filled with sarcasm before he caught himself. “I believe Laurence was a friend of yours. My sympathies.”

His guest’s face transformed into its usual bored demeanor. “Thank you, m’lord.”

The gentleman’s lips twitched; his guest rarely recognized his title. He reached for the crystal decanter. “A drink, then, to poor Laurence.”

The guest received his glass with a suspicious look. “It is not often you condescend to share your brandy.” He took a sip. “Ah, the good cognac. The excellent, illegal cognac.” He lowered his glass. “What is it you want me to do?”

The gentleman took no offense; the man knew many things about his dealings. And he knew many things about his guest’s dealings. Their situation was balanced on a knife’s edge.

“Since you were such a good friend of Laurence, it occurred to us you should take his place.”

His guest blinked, took another sip of cognac, and then set the glass down on the desk. “Exactly, what was Laurence’s place?”

“Bern, Switzerland. Laurence was on his way to board ship at Yarmouth when he was…intercepted.”

“And you wish me to take his place.”

“Yes.”

“And to wear his target upon my back.”

The gentleman shook his head. “Now, now, none of that. We have taken steps to protect you. We plan a diversion. There is no danger at all.”

“Do not insult my intelligence, m’lord,” the guest said slowly. “You would be very happy to be rid of me.”

“My dear sir!” cried the gentleman insincerely. “You have done great service for the Crown. We would not put you in any peril.”

“By sending me to Bern? It is a viper’s nest.”

“True, but we are certain you can take care of yourself.”

The guest sat back in his chair. “And if I refuse this assignment?”

The gentleman’s eyes grew cold. “You would not dare.”

The two men spent some time staring at each other. Finally, his guest broke the silence.

“When shall I be allowed to retire from this…business?”

“When we have no more use of you. Your talents are unique and of great importance to us.”

“Yes, my talents,” the guest said sadly. “My gift and my curse.” He shook himself. “Very well. I suppose you have some papers for me?”

The gentleman pointed to two packets on his desk. “This one contains your traveling papers.” He indicated the smaller of the two. “The other should not leave this building.”

“I understand.” The guest gazed at the larger packet. “I shall return tomorrow. It should not take more than a couple of hours.”

“Come disguised,” the gentleman ordered. “Not dressed like a dandy.”

“Of course. Now, pray tell me of this diversion that should safeguard me.”

The gentleman went into great detail about the plans that had been drawn. The guest’s frown revealed his dislike of some of its aspects.

“Must you use Tomlinson?” the guest asked. “He is but a babe.”

“I agree, but his resemblance to you is remarkable, particularly dressed in your clothes.”

“Our Lord watch over him,” his guest murmured.

“It is late. Get some sleep, and I shall see you in the afternoon.”

The guest took the smaller of the two packets, rose from his chair, and made for the door. Over his shoulder, he asked, “You did not say what ship I shall board at Portsmouth.”

“Did I not? Forgive my oversight.” The gentleman glanced at his papers. “HMS Laconia.”

~~~

PERSUADED TO SAIL, a sequel to Persuasion and Book Three of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is available from White Soup Press in paperback and Kindle. EPUB versions will be available later in the year.

BUT, since I’m a nice guy, I will give away a copy in your choice of print, Kindle, or EPUB! Just leave a comment below. The giveaway will be open through Saturday, May 23, 2020. Good luck!

(Print copy is only available to the continental U.S. Sorry. Blame the Post Office.)

~~~

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

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last adventure

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

Violet’s gaze was frank and open, with a hint of interest. It was similar to the penetrating look often seen in Sir Percy’s eyes. This was no simpering miss; this was a woman-in-waiting, mature and intelligent beyond her years. Her full lips smiled in honest approval — approval of him.

A strong stirring filled Frederick’s being. It was more than simple desire. He needed this girl to think well of him.

(from The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel)

Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, is inspired by both The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It also is a companion novel to Caldwell’s The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, but it is a standalone novel. In fact, I’ve never read The Scarlet Pimpernel — just searched for a detailed summary online — and I had no trouble following the story.

The novel opens with a bang: Captain Frederick Tilney, the heir of Northanger Abbey, is challenged to a duel over Isabella Thorpe, and then his close friend, Colonel Sir John Buford, cut ties with him until he sees the error of his ways, takes responsibility for his shortcomings, and essentially grows up. Frederick is not a scoundrel like Wickham, but he needs to sever ties with some unsavory people of his acquaintance.

When he is reacquainted with Violet Blakeney, the sister of his longtime friend, George, Frederick realizes he wants to be a better man. However, he has a lot to live up to in the eyes of her father, Sir Percy Blakeney — the retired Scarlet Pimpernel — and Frederick’s fumbles and missteps raise Sir Percy’s ire. While Frederick works to earn Sir Percy’s favor and become worthy of his daughter, an M. Lafarge in Paris is scheming to put an end to the Scarlet Pimpernel once and for all. When Violet encounters trouble on a holiday to Paris, will Sir Percy accept Frederick’s help to save the woman they both love?

Caldwell does a great job mixing in characters from various Austen novels — the Darcys, the Tilneys, and Colonel Brandon, among others, all make an appearance — and it was exciting to read an Austen-inspired sequel that wasn’t about Pride and Prejudice  for a change. I can’t comment on Caldwell’s interpretations of the characters from The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I found them thoroughly enjoyable — from Sir Percy’s wit and his passionate relationship with his wife to the strong bonds of the Blakeney family and Lady Marguerite’s refusal to stay quiet when her husband is being stubborn and foolish.

In The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Caldwell seamlessly merges The Scarlet Pimpernel and Northanger Abbey into an exciting adventure novel led by an aging hero whose mind is as sharp as ever and a young man who is not inclined to sit idle. There’s plenty of action to balance out the more romantic aspects of the story, and if I had to find something I didn’t like, I would only say there are places in the story where the pace slows down just a bit, though that’s a minor quibble. Overall, I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be a delightful tale full of interesting characters, a heartwarming love story, some history, a dash of humor, and quite a bit of danger. I hope Caldwell revisits these characters again in the future.

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Giveaway

Jack Caldwell is generously offering a copy of The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally. If the winner is from the U.S., there is a choice between an ebook (mobi or epub) and a paperback. If the winner is outside the U.S., he/she will receive an ebook. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what intrigues you most about this novel. The giveaway will close Sunday, September 4. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel 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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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Buford grunted.  “You and Denny have reconciled, I take it?”

“Yes, he is a good sort of fellow, in his way,” Fitzwilliam allowed.

“Even though he is friends with Wickham?” Buford goaded him.

Richard’s eyes were on his plate.  “I suppose I cannot hold that against him.  After all, I eat with you.”

It took a full glass of wine to relieve Sir John after he choked on his food.

(from The Three Colonels, page 305 in the uncorrected advance copy; finished version may be different)

Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is a sequel of sorts to both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  It focuses on Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility, and Colonel Sir John Buford, a character of Caldwell’s creation.  With Napoleon exiled to Elba, the three friends have returned to England to pursue political careers, manage their estates, and focus on matters of the heart.

Colonel Brandon is smitten with his infant daughter, Joy, and content in his marriage to Marianne.  Colonel Fitzwilliam must visit his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh to figure out why her estate is on the skids.  Colonel Buford, notorious for his liaisons with married women of the ton, sets out to reform himself and find a wife.

When Napoleon escapes from Elba, the three colonels must once again go off to war.  Colonel Brandon wonders why they need an old man like himself to fight and leaves Delaford Manor in the capable hands of his wife.  Colonel Buford must leave behind his new bride, Caroline Bingley, and Colonel Fitzwilliam leaves many things unsaid to Anne de Bourgh as all hell breaks loose at Rosings Park.  All three women understand the importance of being strong for their men, as war is more than enough for them to worry about, but they struggle to come to terms with the fact that the colonels might never come back.

Caldwell does a great job bringing all these characters together, all of them connected by friendship or kinship to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, who play an important part in the story but stay mostly in the background.  Where The Three Colonels shines is in its transformation of Anne de Bourgh from a meek, sickly girl to a force to be reckoned with and in creating a repentant, sympathetic Caroline Bingley.  (How delighted I was, though, to see that Caldwell left some ice in Caroline’s veins when it came to a certain Mrs. Norris.)

The Three Colonels goes beyond the novels of Jane Austen to take readers onto the battlefield, where even Wickham makes an appearance.  After reading what these men experienced, you can’t picture them merely as handsome uniforms attracting the attention of ladies seeking dance partners.  Caldwell adds substance to what otherwise might be only a romance novel pairing up Austen’s secondary characters.

I appreciate the touch of masculinity that Caldwell adds to Austen’s novels in The Three Colonels (as well as Pemberley Ranch), but he pays close attention to his heroines as well.  He addresses the changing roles of women and their dominance in the household, with Brandon’s steward refusing to take orders from Marianne and Anne’s insistence that she help Fitzwilliam compile financial figures for Rosings.  I found so much to love in his treatment of Austen’s characters and enjoyed meeting Colonel Buford, who intrigued me because unlike Darcy, he is a hero with a blemished past.

I never would have thought to make Marianne and Elizabeth good friends in order to bring together the characters from both books, but Caldwell made it work.  Austen fans also will be delighted with references to Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and will want to see how he connects them to Lady Catherine.  The The Three Colonels is humorous and lighthearted, but also serious and touching.  Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I couldn’t put it down, and I sure hope Caldwell is hard at work on another Austen-inspired novel.

Book 4 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Sequel)

Book 12 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Three Colonels from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I am absolutely thrilled that Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberley Ranch, took time out of his busy schedule to answer my many questions about his interest in Jane Austen.  I personally don’t know any men who like Austen’s work; in fact, my husband leaves the room every time I watch Persuasion, and his eyes glaze over when I gush about Austen’s humor and how much I love her books and all the retellings.  Pemberley Ranch takes Pride and Prejudice out of Regency England and out to the Texas plains just after the Civil War.  Read my review for all the details and my thoughts, but just know that it ranks among my most favorite Austen retellings.  Please give a warm welcome to Jack Caldwell:

Do you find that people are surprised that a man writes Jane Austen sequels/retellings?

Yes, I do. It’s true that men aren’t the devoted followers of all things Austen like the ladies, but as was pointed out in The Jane Austen Book Club, men should pick up Dear Jane’s work. Not only is it great writing, but you might get lucky.

My wife just kicked me in the shin.

When did you first read Jane Austen, and what do you find most interesting about her novels and characters?

I started reading Jane Austen in 1981, after watching the BBC mini-series on PBS. First, I loved her humor. Austen is a very funny writer. I also feel I know her characters. Hasn’t everyone met a Rev. Collins or Lady Catherine? Lastly, her plots are timeless. I found it just as hard to find true love in 1980’s discos as Darcy did in Regency ballrooms.

What is your favorite Austen novel and character? Have you read all of Austen’s novels?

I have read all of Austen’s major novels, including Lady Susan (a particular favorite). My all-time favorite would have to be Persuasion and Captain Frederick Wentworth.

[I recently read Persuasion, fell in love with Captain Wentworth, and put the book at the top of my all-time favorites list.  I finished Lady Susan and The Watsons not too long ago and will be reviewing them soon.]

What prompted you to take Elizabeth and Darcy to the Texas plains and the Civil War era?

I considered that if Elizabeth and Darcy found the walls of class and connections hard scaling in Regency England, how much more challenging would it be dealing with the animosities existing after a conflict like the US Civil War? I then realized that America did overcome the difficulties created by the war. I decided to use Austen’s characters to tell that tale. As for Texas, that decision can be summed up in four words: Darcy as a cowboy.

[Darcy makes a great cowboy.  Seriously.]

Are you working on another novel? Any hints?

My next novel, out in the spring of 2012, is a Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility sequel entitled The Three Colonels. It’s set in 1815 during the Waterloo crisis and features some of Austen’s fighting men, such as Colonels Fitzwilliam and Brandon, and the women they love. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are in there, as well as cameos from all of Austen’s works as well as my own original creations.

[People who know me well know that I’m always reading war novels and all things Austen.  Put the two of them together, and I’m a happy reader.  Well, “happy” probably isn’t the right word to use when discussing war novels, but you all know what I mean.]

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a Cajun, so I do most of the cooking at home. When not working, I enjoy golf and travel with my wife.

What was the best book you read recently?

Since I can’t choose between my fantastic Austen Authors comrades, I’ll say I really enjoyed the first three volumes of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series. I discovered them recently and they’re set in New Orleans—what’s not to like?

Thank you so much, Jack, for stopping by Diary of an Eccentric today.  I wish you much success and definitely will be reading more of your work in the future.

Courtesy of Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies of Pemberley Ranch to offer my readers.  Because the publisher is shipping the books, the giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only.  To enter, simply leave a comment related to my interview with Jack Caldwell, along with your e-mail address, by 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010.  The winners will be chosen randomly.

**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★★

Darcy relaxed a bit.  “The old Thompson place?”  She answered with a nod.  “You’re one of Tom Bennet’s daughters?  I was told he had a herd of them.”  Almost immediately he recognized how his choice of words could be considered an insult, but it was too late.

The girl’s voice was ice cold.  “Tom Bennet is indeed my father, sir, and I thank you for your kind observations about my family.  Now, if you’ll pardon me.”  She pulled her reins to return from whence she came, only to be halted by Darcy’s words.

“I’ll escort you back to the ford, miss, if you don’t mind.”

She looked over her shoulder at him.  “I do mind.  You’ve made it clear that I’m not welcomed here, and I can see myself home.  Good day.”

(from Pemberley Ranch, pages 23-24 in the ARC)

Now that I’ve read so many retellings of and sequels to Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, I’m worried that I’m going to tire of the books that have become my guilty pleasure.  I just love revisiting Austen’s characters — although these books will never outshine the originals — and the more unique, the better.

Pemberley Ranch is the first Austen retelling I’ve encountered that is written by a man, and that alone grabbed my attention.  Jack Caldwell takes the basics of Pride and Prejudice — the misunderstandings of a stubborn young woman and an arrogant young man from two different worlds who find themselves unexpectedly attracted to one another — and makes the story his own.

Set just after the Civil War, Will Darcy is a Confederate officer who returns to Texas to run the family cattle ranch and care for his younger sister, Gaby.  Beth Bennet’s family — father Tom, mother Fanny, and sisters Jane, Mary, Kathy, and Lily — leave Meryton, Ohio, for a farm in Rosings, Texas.  Beth and Will’s first meeting is less than pleasant, with Beth caught riding her horse on Pemberley land, and it doesn’t help that carpetbagger and scoundrel George Whitehead, a friend of the Bennet family, has nothing but rotten things to say about Will.

Stories about the Wild West aren’t usually my thing, but Pemberley Ranch was a book I just could not put down.  Using only the barest skeleton of Pride and Prejudice, Caldwell builds a story with romance, murder, unscrupulous business dealings, post-war Union vs. Confederate tension, segregation, and the lingering horrors and loss of war.  I found Caldwell’s rewriting of Austen’s characters to be especially interesting, with Mr. Collins turned into banker Billy Collins, Bingley into a doctor, George Wickham into deed recorder George Whitehead, Col. Fitzwilliam into Pemberley ranch hand Fitz, Lady Catherine into the ruthless ranch owner Cate Burroughs, and Charlotte Lucas into the daughter of the sheriff.  Caldwell also pays homage to other Austen heroes, with characters named Henry Tilney, Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Knightly, which I thought was a nice touch.

Pemberley Ranch is an engaging read on its own, and I forgot early on that I was reading a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  But I must admit it was fun to picture Mr. Darcy as a handsome cowboy with a twang and to see all the shady characters in Austen’s novel portrayed as being truly evil.  Caldwell does an admirable job balancing the lightness of the romance with the darkness of dirty deeds in a small town.  You definitely don’t need to have read or even loved Pride and Prejudice to enjoy Pemberley Ranch, and while most people will read it because its an Austen reimagining, Caldwell should get some credit for being a talented storyteller in his own right.

Disclosure: I received Pemberley Ranch from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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