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I’m delighted to welcome Cassandra Grafton back to Diary of an Eccentric. Today she will be sharing an excerpt from A Quest for Mr. Darcy, which will be released tomorrow, and a very generous giveaway that fans of Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy will not want to miss!

First, here’s the blurb for A Quest for Mr. Darcy:

Fitzwilliam Darcy is on a quest. Convinced he is over his foolish infatuation with Elizabeth Bennet, he returns from a year of travelling with a plan, both to protect the estate of which he is guardian and to ensure his sister’s happiness: he intends to do his duty and secure a wife at the earliest opportunity.

Duty; a path from which Darcy knows he should never have been diverted. Duty was safe and nothing would persuade him from it a second time.

Soon restored to his home in Derbyshire, Darcy puts his quest in motion, preparing to welcome guests from Town, one of whom is the suitably eligible young lady he has earmarked as his future wife.

But what of the Bennets of Longbourn? What befell them in Darcy’s absence from England? And what of the new tenants on his estate named Bennet? Is his path fated to cross with Elizabeth’s once more?

With the addition of his friend, Bingley’s, mischievous twin younger sisters, letters from a stranger and a shadowy figure lurking in the grounds of Pemberley, Darcy’s life is about to be turned upside down

Can he remain steady to his purpose, or will his carefully laid plans soon be in tatters as the rigid protection he has placed around his heart begins to falter?

Check out A Quest for Mr. Darcy on Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Please enjoy this excerpt from A Quest for Mr. Darcy, courtesy of Cassandra Grafton

‘As you can see from the story blurb, Darcy has been travelling for a year and is now back in London set upon his quest to find a wife. This excerpt is from Chapter Three.’ ~ Cassandra

Chapter Three

Once he had broken his fast the following morning, Darcy repaired to his study where he found it difficult to settle, eyeing the small pile of still unopened post on his blotter unenthusiastically. His gaze drifted to the silver salver beside it. He had been back little more than four and twenty hours before calling cards were being handed in by those anxious to reinstate their connection with him. Lifting the card on the top, he studied the embossed name thoughtfully, then turned it over to read the few words penned on the reverse.

Latimer was keen to see him, and Darcy suspected the purpose behind his prompt presentation of his card: his daughter must remain unshackled. But then, what did it signify? Was this not precisely what he sought?

Fitzwilliam had the right of it. He was a single man in want of a wife. Miss Latimer would suffice as well as any other – was she not well educated, of impeccable lineage and with nothing but the common civilities to say for herself? Yes; she would suit him very well.

Darcy dropped Latimer’s card onto the desk and began sifting through the post to determine if any might warrant his attention, but just then a quick rap came on the door as Bingley’s head peered around it, and Darcy happily tossed the letter aside and got to his feet.

‘Good morning, Darcy! I cannot tell you how splendid it is to see you behind your desk once more.’ Bingley came to shake the proffered hand, beaming widely. ‘Pagett will berate me, for in my eagerness to see you I dodged around his stately progress!’

Darcy laughed, waving his friend into a seat. ‘You look in fine spirits. Are you well?’

Bingley leaned back in his seat, crossing his legs at the ankles. ‘I shall not complain; though I would berate the length of your absence. You were missed beyond measure, and it is not only I who delights in your return. It was merely a spark of ingenuity which permitted my escape from Hurst’s house without Caroline attached to my coat tails.’

So Miss Bingley remained at home. Darcy almost shrugged. Though he had forsaken love, he was not quite so desperate!

‘We have much to catch up on, Bingley. Will you join us, take up your usual rooms?’

There was silence for a moment and then, to Darcy’s surprise, his friend leapt from his seat and walked over to the window.

Darcy frowned. ‘There is no obligation – do not feel under duress.’

Bingley swung around. ‘No – no, it is nothing of the sort. I am merely—‘ he ran a hand through his unruly hair.

‘You wished to speak to me – you are troubled?’

Bingley’s air was unusually serious. ‘I have long reflected in your absence on the correct direction to follow – yet always I desired your counsel, and thus my deliberations have come to nothing.’ He waved a hand at the painting of Pemberley above the mantel as he walked back across the room. ‘I have been considering my estate. I am a poor tenant of it. Should I give it up?’

‘And what then? You were determined to purchase and not leave it to the next generation.’

‘Indeed, I was.’ Bingley sank back into his chair. ‘I did like Netherfield, very much. But I do wonder if its attraction was enhanced by the local populace.’

Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had long owned responsibility for separating his friend from Elizabeth’s sister, though he had kept it to himself. ‘Then, perhaps,’ he hesitated, unsure of his motive. ‘Should you not relinquish the lease, seek an establishment elsewhere?’

‘Well, there is the rub of it.’ Bingley ran a hand through his hair again. ‘I must now consider my sisters’ needs; all of my sisters’ needs. I have deliberated long and hard, yet I fail to reach a conclusion which delivers satisfaction for all.’

Darcy leaned back in his seat, eyeing his friend’s conflicted countenance. ‘Tell me.’

Bingley sighed. ‘Well, here it is: the twins have completed their formal education under their governess and are presently awaiting entrance into the same seminary Louisa and Caroline attended in London, where they will duly receive the finishing touches to their accomplishments.’ He laughed ruefully. ‘Though I believe they will present a greater challenge to their tutors than my other sisters!’

Darcy smiled. He had heard sufficient tales from Bingley of the twins’ exploits to understand he made no exaggeration.

‘So,’ his friend continued, ‘they will be here in Town whilst being tutored and thus residing in Grosvenor Street during the holidays. The former is what feeds my disquiet; the latter does likewise to my sisters.’

‘How so?’

Bingley released a slow breath. ‘I am reluctant to place Olivia and Viola in an establishment renowned for turning young girls into what my other sisters have become. I cannot bear to think of their merry natures being crushed or their joy of life constrained into oppressive formality, though I suppose it is almost inevitable.’

With Bingley’s countenance expressive of his concern, Darcy knew not what to say by way of comfort.

‘But can you imagine, Darcy, how the thought of having the twins in their home for any duration is being received by the Hursts and Caroline, let alone my younger sisters themselves?’

‘And Netherfield? Should you return and take up residence, it is conveniently situated for Town and the perfect home for the girls when not being prepared for the demands of formal society. But what of Julia? She is full young yet, is she not?’

‘Indeed.’ Bingley nodded. ‘She will return to Scarborough to complete her formal education at home, by which time I am certain Cousin Margaret will be well once more. As for Netherfield, though it would serve the twins well when they are not under tuition, Caroline would, as a consequence, have to return to run the household. I am certain you can imagine how they all feel on such a matter!’

Darcy comprehended his friend’s difficulty. Though he had rarely been in company with the twins, Miss Bingley had made no secret of her dislike for her younger half-sisters when they had made a brief appearance at Netherfield, and she frequently complained of them to her brother in Darcy’s presence. As for Miss Bingley’s liking or otherwise for Hertfordshire, he doubted it had undergone much alteration since she left with such obvious satisfaction in the year eleven.

‘The stability of a home with you at Netherfield must be preferable for the younger girls, and being cooped up together in a town house in London is unlikely to satisfy any of the family. In Hertfordshire there are ample opportunities to partake of the country pursuits. Would not the size of the property secure Miss Bingley some solitude?’

Bingley threw his friend a keen glance. ‘Caroline could allocate a part of the house to the twins and keep to as many other rooms as she wished, you mean?’

Precisely. Darcy shook his head. ‘Not at all.’

Bingley sat up slowly in his seat. ‘I do not know if it will answer, but it does offer a more palatable solution than we have at present. Besides, I do wonder…’ he met Darcy’s gaze. ‘I do think I ought to pay a visit… to Netherfield.’ He fixed his friend with a determined stare. ‘I can avoid it no longer; I must speak of it. You recall the Bennet family and my tendresse for the eldest daughter?’

Tension began to seep into Darcy’s shoulders, but he refused to pay it any mind, waiting for Bingley to continue.

‘Well, then. I will own I fear bringing unease upon the lady. You said Miss Bennet was indifferent to me. My removing myself from the neighbourhood must have brought considerable relief. If I now return, will she fear I might renew my attentions?’

Darcy stirred in his seat again. ‘You assume she remains at home. It is nigh on two years since your brief sojourn in Hertfordshire. The lady may well have found an establishment.’

Bingley slumped back in his seat, his skin paling. Was it as Darcy had feared? Did his friend remain affected, even after all this time?

Yet he, Darcy, had recovered from his foolish admiration for the lady’s sister, had he not, and had sworn to think on her no more? Thus, the sooner his friend made a decision, the better for all.

‘Then shall we not go directly?’

Bingley looked startled. ‘Now? This very day?’

‘Why ever not?’ Darcy glanced at the clock on the mantel. ‘It is a ride of but a few hours and the weather holds fair. We could stay overnight, assess the estate on the morrow, and be gone from the neighbourhood within four and twenty hours. If you are at leisure?’

Bingley got to his feet. ‘I am at leisure all too often, my friend; all too often!’

Returning to Hertfordshire had never been part of Darcy’s expectation but he got to his feet determined. The sooner the visit was paid, the better, and what finer evidence was there to prove his distance this past year had been the effective cure for putting the past firmly where it belonged?

~o0o~

Shepherding Bingley into action took longer than Darcy had foreseen, and they had barely reached Hertfordshire before dusk fell. They passed what remained of the evening in a small sitting room, having been served a hastily prepared dish of soup by one of two custodian servants, their conversation touching on many things pertaining to the house and the twins, but never on the family who lived but three miles across the parkland.

The following morning dawned clear and bright, and Darcy took the opportunity to walk out into the grounds. The air was fresh and the prospect pleasing as he approached the area of woodland forming the boundary between the park and the lane as it wound its way towards Meryton.

Reaching the far wall, Darcy leaned on the stone stile and stared thoughtfully into the distance. The spectre of Elizabeth hovered in the air, taunting and tantalising – out of reach yet ever present. He had not anticipated it here at Netherfield, and though he did not welcome it, he had no power to expunge it. He stood even now at the very spot where he had met her on the morning she sought news of her sister’s health, and she appeared before him as clearly as though it were yesterday.

 Darcy released a frustrated breath. ‘Be gone,’ he muttered, turning away from the boundary wall. He needed to concentrate on their reason for being there, and to ensure their departure today was timely.

He walked back across the parkland, his eye now fixed upon the house. It had a pleasing aspect and was in excellent condition for a property leased out since it had been built but five and twenty years ago. Should Bingley retain it; purchase it, even, and make a much-needed home for himself and his younger sisters, or should he give it up?

This morning would perhaps bring a solution. They had agreed to ride out and tour the park and the remainder of the estate and, determined to hasten a decision so he could remove himself swiftly from the memories curling around him like ever thickening wisps of smoke, Darcy picked up his pace and returned to the house.

~o0o~

Some hours later, Darcy and Bingley turned their mounts away from the furthest boundary of the estate and began to ride back towards the house. Their tour of the land had been somewhat circuitous, with any foray in the direction of the Bennets’ home neatly avoided.

Yet, as they made their way along the lane and neared Netherfield once more, Darcy realised they were perilously close to Longbourn.

‘I say, Darcy,’ Bingley hailed his friend as they reached a junction in the road which would determine their course.

Darcy turned in the saddle. ‘You wish to make a call.’

Bingley would attribute the disinclination in his voice to an entirely inaccurate cause, but it suited his purpose. His reluctance to truly test his mettle in Elizabeth’s company was his concern alone — should she even remain at home.

Bingley drew his mount to a halt next to Darcy. ‘You will not accompany me. I understand. Yet I wish to call and pay my respects. When I went away in the year eleven, I took no proper leave of the family. I do not intend to make Miss Bennet-’ he hesitated. ‘Should Miss Bennet remain at home, I have no desire to make her uncomfortable, but I do feel duty – and honour – bound to do what I could not back then.’

Darcy shifted in his saddle. ‘As you wish. You may have my support if you so desire, but if you would prefer to attend alone…’ he hesitated. ‘I was never well received by any of the family.’

Bingley threw him an unreadable glance. ‘I think it was fairly reciprocal, old man.’

Darcy acknowledged the hit. ‘Then if you will excuse me, I shall continue on to Netherfield and await your return.’

With a touch of his hat, Bingley turned his mount, branched left at the junction and set off at a canter towards the gates to Longbourn.

For a moment, Darcy watched his friend. Why this sudden and irrational urge to follow him? With a tug at the reins, he turned his mount to the right. This was no time for self-indulgence. Staying away would clearly answer for Elizabeth and her family having an easier time of it during Bingley’s visit. His friend had the right of it; he, Darcy, had displayed no inclination for the company of the family in the past, and they none for his, and the sentiment was unlikely to have undergone any alteration in his absence.

~o0o~

Darcy returned to the house quite out of countenance but reluctant to own it. No resurgence of memories would be permitted to undermine the newly-found peace he had acquired; yet he could feel himself weakening and was gaining a devil of an ache in his brow from attempting to prevent it. The sooner Bingley returned and they headed back to Town the better. Any qualms he suffered over what news his friend might bring of Elizabeth and her present marital status he rigidly silenced. What was it to him anyway?

Barely had he set foot in the entrance hall, having returned to the house through the boot room, when he came face to face with a middle-aged woman who let out a shriek.

‘Oh, my dear sir! Such a fright you did give me!’

‘Forgive me, madam.’ It was Bingley’s former housekeeper, and Darcy racked his memory for a name. He could not recall exchanging a single word with her during his earlier stay – he had left such pleasures to his friend and his sisters.

‘Mr Bingley wished to visit the house for a brief period. We will be returning to Town directly, and thus he felt no need to recall the household servants.’

The woman before him looked disapproving. ‘All the same, sir, I would have appreciated the opportunity to ensure the provision of adequate meals and a warm fireplace by which to sit. The house is cold from lack of use.’

Could she not leave him in peace to indulge his aching head? ‘Perhaps you could address your concerns to Mr Bingley on his return from Longbourn.’

The woman paled visibly, a hand shooting to her throat. ‘Oh dear! Oh dear me!’

Darcy was intrigued despite himself. ‘What is it? What ails you – here, perhaps you should be seated.’

He waved the housekeeper onto a nearby settle, and she all but fell onto it.

‘Oh, Mr Darcy, sir!’ Clearly, she had a better recall of names than he. ‘This is no way for the master to find out.’

An icy hand took hold of Darcy. ‘Find out what, madam?’

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Cassandra Grafton

Connect with Cassandra Grafton via Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway

Cass is generously offering an assortment of goodies to one lucky reader: an ebook or paperback (winner’s choice) of A Quest for Mr. Darcy, an ‘I’d Rather Be at Pemberley’ mirror, a ‘Mrs. Darcy’ badge, a set of 20 Jane Austen bookplates, and a silver Jane Austen silhouette charm, all in an ‘I’d Rather Be at Pemberley’ tote bag!

This giveaway is open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell us, now that you’ve had a peek, what makes you most excited about reading this book.

This giveaway will close on Thursday, June 29, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you so much, Cass, for sharing the fantastic excerpt and giveaway! I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and hope you’ll visit again soon!

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I’m delighted to welcome Abigail Reynolds back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces Conceit & Concealment, and then enjoy the guest post:

Conceit & Concealment is a new kind of Pride & Prejudice variation with an unusual plot twist. In essentials it’s much like any other P&P variation – an Elizabeth and Darcy happily-ever-after with all the usual characters, set in the usual locations with the usual cast of characters. Instead of changing events or characters, I’ve changed history by having Napoleon invade England six years before the book begins. Living in occupied England changes everything. Elizabeth detests the French invaders, while Wickham is working for them. Darcy’s situation is the most complicated of all – and therein lies the tale.

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Here’s an excerpt of Darcy’s enchanting first meeting with Elizabeth, courtesy of Abigail Reynolds:

Darcy could find no particular fault with Netherfield Park. The house was spacious and pleasant. The grounds were well kept. The rolling hills surrounding it kept the landscape interesting. Bingley was a gracious host. His cook produced tasty meals. And after two days, it was slowly driving Darcy mad.

He had spent hours calming Georgiana’s anxieties about being in a new place. He had walked with her around the gardens and listened to her practice her music. The previous night he had stayed up late drinking brandy with Bingley, something he had been looking forward to. But instead of finally being able to talk freely to his friend as he had hoped, he had hidden everything.

Today Bingley had gone to visit a neighbor, and Darcy was too restless to keep his attention on a book. The only distraction he could find was to work on his billiard game. At least it was quiet in the billiard room apart from the clicking of balls striking and the satisfying thump when one dropped into a pocket.

Bingley appeared in the doorway, apparently done with his visits. “Practicing again? As if you need it to thrash me thoroughly!”

Leaning over the table, Darcy sighted along his cue stick. “It passes the time.”

“If it is time you wish to pass, I have volunteered you to join me in a charitable duty.”

Without raising his head, Darcy flicked his eyes up at Bingley. “Why do I suppose I will not like this?”

Bingley chuckled. “It is true; you will not like it. The local regiment is having an assembly and has commanded the presence of all the young ladies. I agreed we would escort two of them who would both be unprotected otherwise.”

Darcy dropped the cue stick and straightened. “Bingley, the last thing I want is to be giving some local girl expectations I will never be able to meet.”

“There will be no expectations. Their fathers arranged it purely as a matter of their safety. So many of the local men have been conscripted that there are few left to provide escorts, leaving the ladies to the mercies of the French officers.”

“I suppose we must, then,” Darcy said grudgingly. Had he not already given up enough for his fellow countrymen? But the same answer always resounded in his head. Many had been forced to give their lives for their country, and he had not. Yet.

He would only go to this damned dance because if he refused and anything happened to those poor girls, he would bear that burden forever – along with so many others. Sometimes he wondered if a clean death in battle would not have been preferable. But Georgiana needed him, so that was not an option.

Bingley clapped him on the shoulder. “No need to be so glum, old fellow! You might even enjoy yourself a bit. From what I gather, you are getting the young and pretty one. Mine, according to her loving father, is all but on the shelf and ‘not what I would call pretty, but a good girl, a good girl.’” His voice had deepened into an imitation of an older man’s.

“Most likely yours will at least manage some interesting conversation. What is the name of my insipid miss?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Her father already dislikes you, so you should be safe from expectations.”

“Dislikes me? I have not even met the man.”

Bingley grinned. “Oh, you are in a mood today! It is the usual complaint. I did not hesitate to point out his own failings in that regard. But look – the sun is finally showing its face. You should go for a ride and clear your head.”

He had been longing all day to do exactly that. “You will stay here if I do? I do not like to leave Georgiana alone in a new place.”

“Of course. Now go. Get out of here!”

A quarter of an hour later, the stable master regarded Darcy as if he were a being from another planet. The Netherfield staff had not yet accustomed themselves to their guest’s eccentricities, such as saddling and bridling Hurricane himself. But Hurricane was the one luxury he had insisted on keeping at a time when he had given up so much else. He had raised and broken the horse himself, and Hurricane always understood him. Darcy hated allowing anyone else to handle him. Even the process of saddling him and the feeling of Hurricane’s warm flanks under his hands brought him some much-needed peace.

They set off at a trot down the lane and jumped a fence before cantering across a pasture. The sun had not yet burned off the dampness in the spring air.

Darcy had loved springtime when his mother was alive. She had taught him the names of each spring flower in the Pemberley gardens, encouraged him to watch each stage of leaves unfolding, made wishes with him over the star-shaped wood anemones, and taken him on adventures in Pemberley’s magical bluebell wood. She had died in the springtime, too, just as the bluebells were fading away to nothing. And then there had been the terrible spring of 1805 which had cost him his father and more relatives and friends than he could count, as well as his freedom and his country.

Spring had once been a time of beginnings for him. Now it made him think of all he had lost.

These thoughts were not helping to clear his head. He laid a hand on Hurricane’s neck, feeling the tautness of his muscles beneath his shiny coat. Hurricane was still with him – loyal, steady Hurricane.

At Pemberley he could gallop for miles over the empty moors, but Hertfordshire was more settled. He spotted a copse in the distance and made for that, hoping to find some semblance of untamed nature there. He skirted the edge until he found a path leading into it, but before he even entered the copse, a familiar floral scent transported him into the past. It was a bluebell wood.

On impulse, he dismounted and tied Hurricane’s reins to a tree. Ahead of him bluebells swayed in the dappled sunlight. He strode towards them as their almost otherworldly scent enveloped him, raising goose bumps on his skin. The spring green of the wood was the perfect frame for the sapphire flowers. Magic, his mother had called the bluebells.

His pace slowed. How long had it been since his last visit to a bluebell wood? He could not even recall. The bluebells seemed to dance around him with a ripple of laughter. But no – that was human laughter, and it was followed by a squeal of pain.

“That hurt, young man! Or young woman, if that is what you are.” A woman’s musical voice seemed part of the magic, drawing him towards it with a seductive enchantment of its own. Where was she, the woman of the rippling laughter? He searched for a side path through the flowers. His mother had taught him never to trample bluebells.

There it was, so faint it could barely be called a path, just grass dividing a sea of bluebells. Carefully he stepped along it.

He could see her now. Tendrils of dark chestnut hair escaped their binding to riot across her long neck in exuberant curls. She sat on the ground, her legs curled up beside her, and she was surrounded by… puppies? Yes, puppies, crawling over her lap, nipping at her skirts, and rolling over for petting. She picked one up and kissed its head. Fortunate puppy!

His lips curved. A poet would call her Titania, queen of the fairies, in the flesh. More woodland magic.

She must have heard his footsteps, or perhaps the yapping of a puppy alerted her, because she looked back over her shoulder. At the sight of him, she twisted around and scrambled backwards.

In the dappled sunlight, his Titania’s face was alive with energy, full of fine sparkling eyes and kissable lips.

And she was pointing a fully cocked pistol at him.

He took a step back and opened his hands to show they were empty. “I mean you no harm.” The sound of his own voice startled him.

“English?” Her voice was sterner now.

“Yes. I am visiting from Derbyshire. Or, if you prefer, I will say it – Theophilus Thistle, the thistle sifter, sifted a sieve full of unsifted thistles, thrusting three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.” It was the tongue twister no Frenchman could pronounce, no matter how accentless his English might be.

Her lips quirked, but she kept the pistol leveled at him. “Well, Theophilus Thistle from Derbyshire, why are you following me?”

“Because I was walking through an enchanted bluebell wood when I heard the dulcet tones of Titania, queen of the fairies, which enspells any mortal man.” He swept her a full court bow.

She chuckled. “Lovely words, but perhaps you should avoid sudden movements when I have a pistol trained on you.”

“Do you know how to use it?”

“Of course. You could have been a French soldier out hunting for game.” The distaste in her voice made it clear what kind of game the soldiers hunted here.

“Good. I trained my sister to shoot for the same reason.” One of the puppies began to crawl in his direction.

“Ah.” She lowered the pistol but did not put it aside. “If I am Titania, perhaps I will cast a spell on you instead. It would be much less bloody.”

“Since I would prefer not to have the head of an ass, perhaps I should leave you in peace. Or at least as much peace as you can find with all these puppies.” He could see the mother dog now, a springer spaniel lying in a hollow between two trees and nursing two more puppies. “Which was the one that nipped you?”

She pointed to the brown puppy squirming his way toward Darcy. “That little wild thing.”

He took a slow step forward and held out his hand to the puppy, who sniffed it eagerly. “May I?”

At her nod, he picked up the puppy. The mother dog raised her head and growled.

“You need not worry,” his Titania said to the dog. “He is wearing brown, not blue.” She looked up at him again. “I am training her to attack soldiers who come too close to me.”

“I will keep that in mind.” He turned the puppy over in his hands and examined him. “If you were still wondering, he is a young man. Definitely a young man.” He held the puppy up to his shoulder and scratched its ears. Pushing back against his hand, the puppy licked his chin. Repeatedly.

Her eyes sparkled when she laughed. “I should have known as much since he is a troublemaker already!”

Darcy cuddled the puppy for another minute, taking pleasure in his warmth and the softness of his fur, then reluctantly set him down. “Back to your mistress, young Puck,” he told the puppy firmly. “And now I will leave you in peace. Farewell, proud Titania.”

She set down the pistol at last, picked up the puppy, and waved a tiny paw at him. “Theophilus Thistle, I grant you safe passage through my domain.” She crinkled her nose at him.

He made his way back through the sea of bluebells, smiling for what felt like first time in years. His mother had been right; there was magic in a bluebell wood. He would not wait so long to revisit one.

Perhaps he would bring Georgiana here. She was even more in need of a dose of magic than he was.

Thanks, Abigail, for sharing! I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and hope you’ll visit again soon.

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About Conceit & Concealment

Pride & Prejudice meets Alternate History

Six years after Napoleon’s invasion of England…

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a traitor. He even admits to collaborating with Napoleon’s troops. And Elizabeth Bennet despises all traitors.

But Elizabeth can’t make sense of Darcy. He doesn’t act like a traitor. He risks his own safety to save young women from the French. And how can she despise a man who loves puppies? Something about him doesn’t add up – and she finds him far too attractive.

Then Darcy’s carefully constructed world crumbles, and he must entrust his closest-held secret to Elizabeth. To protect that secret, Elizabeth must disappear entirely, leaving her family and Darcy behind, to plunge herself into the dizzying world of fashionable London and the dangers of the Loyalist Resistance. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Darcy is determined to find Elizabeth. Now that she knows the truth about him, there’s nothing to keep them apart – nothing, that is, until the day Darcy is forced to choose between his country and the life of the woman he loves…

Check out Conceit & Concealment on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Conceit & Concealment, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, and Mr. Darcy’s Journey. She is currently working on a new Pemberley Variation and the next novel in her Cape Cod series. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.

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Giveaway

Abigail is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Conceit & Concealment to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let us know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, June 25, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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My guest today is a newcomer to Diary of an Eccentric. I’m pleased to welcome Don Jacobson to celebrate the release of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, which is Volume 1 in The Bennet Wardrobe Series. First, I’ll let Don share a little about the series, and then you can enjoy the excerpt.

Please give a warm welcome to Don Jacobson:

The Bennet Wardrobe Series is an alternative history in the Jane Austen Universe. While the characters are familiar, I have endeavored to provide each of them with an opportunity to grow into three-dimensional personalities, although not necessarily in the Regency period.  If they were shaped or stifled by the conventions of the period, the time-traveling powers of The Wardrobe helped solve their problems, make penance, and learn lessons by giving them a chance to escape that time frame, if only for a brief, life-changing interlude.

The Wardrobe underlines my conviction that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back.

Would it have been possible for them to do so staying on the Regency timeline?

Perhaps. However, something tickled my brain—maybe it was the intersection between my youthful fascination with speculative fiction and my mature appreciation of Austen and 19th Century fiction—that threw the idea of the Wardrobe up in front of me.  Now my protagonists could be immersed in different timeframes beyond the Regency to learn that which they needed to learn in order to realize their potentials and in the process carry the eternal story of love and change forward to even the 21st Century.

Some Bennets will travel further and remain in the future longer than others. We may not be privy to accounts of all of the journeys they take. Rather, we may see whispers of those trips as they impact others.

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Please enjoy this excerpt from The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque, courtesy of Don Jacobson

Chapter V

Darcy House, August 21, 1886

The excitement was building in Kitty’s breast as she watched from her bedchamber’s window while carriage after carriage halted in front of the Grosvenor Square prospects of Darcy House. Out of those vehicles stepped a fair representation of Britain’s society. The engagement ball would see attendees representing the country’s brightest from the landed aristocracy to press lords, from captains of industry to the literati and from imperial princes to the diplomats whose daily bread was the expansion of British spheres of influence tempered by the avoidance of war with another great power.

Tonight would mark another merger between Great Britain’s economic and political clans; to be confirmed in the simple (is any marriage truly simple Kitty mused) joining of Lord John Cecil and Caroline Anne Bingley the following Monday. As Kitty had discovered in the weeks since she had tumbled out of Papa’s Wardrobe (t’will always be Papa’s in my mind no matter that it stands in Henry’s chambers in Matlock House), her grandniece, Miss Bingley, was herself one of the wealthiest women in the country, with resources at her disposal that would have humbled many of George III’s ducal offspring.

Caroline Anne’s family’s fortunes had continued to wax in the decades since her Great-grandfather Charles had joined forces with Mr. Darcy to create Darcy-Bingley Enterprises.  As a daughter of the house, she was the beneficiary of the income from thousands of preferred shares of DBE, all of which were held on her behalf by the Bennet Family Trust.  Kitty recalled gossip that placed Miss Bingley’s annual revenue at upwards of £30,000.[i]

Darcy-Bingley Enterprises was one of the nation’s, nay, the world’s, leading industrial conglomerates.  People from one end of the British Empire to the other traveled on railroads underwritten by DBE. The first class dining coaches served exquisite meals prepared from the finest ingredients that had arrived in Southampton, Liverpool and Glasgow—or Alexandria, Calcutta and Hong Kong—on DBE steamers. Those meals were laid on fine cloths woven in DBE mills. Later, the gentlemen would adjourn to the lounge car to read any one of a dozen DBE newspapers, perhaps to receive a telegram delivered across DBE wires.

While the Darcy and Bingley names had pride of position atop the corporate letterhead, Kitty had learned that the Bennet, Fitzwilliam and Gardiner families were co-equal partners. Never again would a Bennet mother worry herself to distraction trying to marry off poorly dowered daughters.

Kitty’s lips twitched as she considered how the Miss Bingley of her time would have acted had she succeeded in winning the marriage mart lottery by aligning herself with the kingdom’s second family—the legendary Cecils.

Caroline Bingley would have been insufferable. The airs she would have put on would have made her regular behavior seem positively refined.  She was already impossible to begin with! Even marrying a member of the junior branch of the Cecils…Lord John is only a Kentish cousin[ii] to the Prime Minister[iii]…would have been a triumph of Napoleonic proportions.

And Miss Bingley would have the right of it, too. Back in our time, as a daughter of trade, she was more likely to have been considered lucky to marry a man of the lower gentry…like her sister’s Mr. Hurst or Sir William Lucas’ son John. Her £20,000 settlement would have been put to use elevating the status of her children by increasing her husband’s estate. So, for her to capture the hand, let alone the heart, of a Cecil…

***

Kitty lost focus on the street outside with both sight and sound receding into the background as she burrowed deeper into her brown study.

Everything Kitty had learned of the Caroline Johnson who returned from America in 1836 laid lie to all that Kitty had known of the woman who had treated Jane so shabbily.  When the entire Fitzwilliam clan had finally journeyed north to Matlock for Lydia’s internment beside the General and their sons in the family crypt, Kitty had taken a few days to visit with her Derbyshire family.

Taking advantage of Caroline Anne’s invitation, she, along with Henry’s younger sister Eleanor and their companion, Mrs. Brandon, had journeyed by rail from Matlock to Lambton. From there, the Bingley coach had whisked them over to Thornhill turning left at the fork in the road marked with a sign directing Pemberley-bound travelers onto the right branch. Kitty was secretly thankful that she did not have to depend on her great-nephew’s “hospitality” at Pemberley.

This Earl is such a sour man. He reminds me of Mr. Collins—oh wait—‘He who shall remain nameless’[iv]—all disapproval but without any effort to ingratiate himself to his companions.

“Cousin” Kitty spent nearly a week relaxing under the boughs of Thornhill’s giant oaks or talking family history with Caroline Anne and her father, William Bingley. Learning the stories that gave meaning to the lives of Jane, Charles, Lizzy and Mr. Darcy (Kitty could not imagine that forbidding man as anything other than ‘Mr. Darcy.’) helped her come to terms with their lives. As she wandered Thornhill’s halls, she frequently paused before Mrs. Johnson’s portrait. She tried to comprehend how this stately woman bore up under the tragedy of losing both her husband and young daughter in one cataclysmic instant. On top of it, this Caroline could not be granted the surcease of having memory of the horror dim over the years because her scars would remind her every time she considered her likeness in a mirror.

Leaving Thornhill, she, Ellie and Mrs. Brandon caught a London-bound train but broke their trip at Meryton.  Although the village had grown considerably in the 75 years since Kitty had left, it still seemed pleasantly quaint. Alerted by an early-morning telegram from Lambton Station, Kitty’s nephew, Michael Bennet, had himself piloted the carriage from Longbourn. Driving the three ladies back toward the manor house along the lane deeply shaded by overarching trees now more than two centuries old, Mr. Bennet stopped at the Longbourn chapel at Kitty’s request.

She walked through the churchyard past weathered stones bearing familiar family names—Lucas, Gardiner, Long, Philips—until she stood before the great granite obelisk that carried her name—Bennet.  She knelt before a stone pillow set in front of the main memorial with two names scribed side-by-side in its surface

 

Frances Lorinda nee Gardiner                 Thomas Michael

      Died October 9, 1817                      Died January 17, 1815

Aged 47 years                              Aged 54 years

                            Companions through time

              Master and Mistress of Longbourn House

          Beloved by their children and grandchildren

 

Removing her gloves, she gently traced the sharp-edged script identifying the mortal remains entombed beneath the rich turf.  She absently took in the fact that the area around the entire Bennet monument was meticulously groomed. Fresh flowers filled vases placed in brackets throughout the site.  The scent of roses lifted over the moist greenness of freshly cut grass. This was an oasis of memory and a place of profound sadness for Kitty.

Soft footsteps disturbed her reverie. She turned and looked up at a somber Michael Bennet.

“You know, Aunt Kitty, I never met them. They passed away well before my parents were out of the nursery.  Grandmother Charlotte took in my father rather than sending him North and raised him right alongside my mother.

“She told us the great stories—the ones that spoke of how each of my aunts, including her dearest friend, Aunt Elizabeth, searched for and won the loves of their lives. And, when we children were old enough, we summered at Thornhill and Matlock, Pemberley and Kympton and even Windsor Castle. Ask Estelle about the time at Windsor when the four Bennet children along with the Vicompte de Rochet and his little sister disrupted the Queen’s afternoon levee in pursuit of the Crown Prince and the Princess Royal.

“That may have been the first time Her Majesty may have uttered ‘We are not amused’,” he chuckled.[v]

He continued, “Come with me to the family cenotaph.  I imagine I will have to get the stone cutter to add Aunt Lydia and the General.”

Michael helped Kitty rise from the lawn and held her arm as together they walked through the sun-dappled family plot.

There, in the back, directly adjacent to the churchyard wall stood the stark black marble marker nestled amongst fragrant red and yellow blossoms. The highly polished surface bore the names of those family members not resting at Longbourn.  The engraved letters sparkled of their own accord as the flecks in the mineral caught the warm rays of the Hertfordshire summer sun filtering through the canopy.

Jane and Charles lived long and, I imagine, well.

Oh Lizzy, to leave your Mr. Darcy alone for more than nine-and ten-years. The poor man.

And Mary…I wish to have known you better. Your history, as it is written at the Trust, reveals the remarkable woman you became. I could use your dependable counsel now.

“The flowers are so luxurious, Mr. Bennet.  I am impressed that they thrive even here in the shade of the wall,” Kitty observed.

The older man smiled. “You may not know it or appreciate it yet, Aunt Kitty, but roses are something of a Bennet family tradition.”

Kitty leapt in, “Oh, I am fully aware of it. Actually it is a Gardiner family tradition. My Mama brought it to Longbourn when she married Papa. Any of the four and twenty families who Mama dined-in knew that they could depend upon Longbourn to supply all the rose hips they would ever need.”

“Well, your sister, my aunt Lydia, the Countess, took it to new heights.  She rarely if ever lost a competition when her blooms were in the lists. Other master gardeners who wished to plant Rosa floribunda in unusual climes often consulted her. Even today, the Matlock greenhouses attract horticulturists from around the world.

“These are special hybrids of the classic Darcy Lady Annes and the Darcy Lizzy’s Own Red Bourbons designed to flourish in low light,” Bennet added.

The moment he voiced the names, a tear ran down Kitty’s cheek. Accepting Michael’s handkerchief, she dabbed at her eyes before asking, “Might we cut a few flowers for me to place by Mama and Papa? Though they have each other, I would like to give them Jane, Lydie, Lizzy and Mary for just a moment.”

***

The soft rapping on the door dragged Kitty back to the present.  She shook her head to clear away the recollections of the past weeks as the sounds of Grosvenor Square vibrated once again through the windowpanes. She bade the knocker to enter. Her lady’s maid arrived to assist Kitty in her final preparations for the evening’s festivities.

[i] By way of reference, Prince Albert was granted an annual allowance of £30,000 in 1840 when he married Queen Victoria.

[ii] Term denotes a distant relation.  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cousin accessed 2/15/17.

[iii] Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, Prime Minister 1885-86, 1886-92, 1895-1902. https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/robert-gascoyne-cecil accessed 2/15/17.

[iv] All credit is due and given to J.K. Rowling for this reference to another execrable character.

[v] Often attributed to Queen Victoria, there is little concrete evidence that she ever said it. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/we-are-not-amused.html accessed 2/15/17.

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About The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque

Beware of What You Wish For

The Bennet Wardrobe may grant it!

Longbourn, December 1811. The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall.

She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe.

Her heart’s desire?

I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall!  Anywhere but here!

As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.”

London, May 1886.  Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future.  And Miss Bennet must decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France.

Check out The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque on Goodreads | Amazon

Check out Volume 1, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering 8 ebooks of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque. 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 (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter, and the giveaway is international.

Enter by clicking this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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06/15   From Pemberley to Milton (Guest Post, Giveaway)

06/16   My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/17   Just Jane 1813 (Review, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/19   Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/20   Savvy Verse and Wit (Guest Post, Giveaway)

06/21   Darcyholic Diversions (Author Interview, Giveaway)

06/22   My Vices and Weaknesses (Review, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/23   Babblings of a Bookworm (Character Interview, Giveaway)

06/24   A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (Guest Post)

06/26   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl (Review, Excerpt, Giveaway)

06/27   So little time… (Guest Post, Giveaway)

06/28   Laughing With Lizzie (Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, Giveaway)

Thank you, Don, for being my guest today and sharing an excerpt of what sounds like a fascinating book! I hope you come back to visit again in the future.

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Today is an exciting day here at Diary of an Eccentric, dear readers! I’m delighted to welcome back Jennifer Joy, this time for the cover reveal of her third Meryton Mystery: The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy.

I am honored to have been one of the first people to see the cover, and it’s absolutely gorgeous! But before I share it with you all, I hope this blurb whets your appetite:

When your family betrays you, whom do you trust?

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have had their fill of crime-solving. Now engaged to be married, their greatest wish is to leave Meryton with its penchant for mysteries for the serenity of Pemberley. If only Mr. Bennet would give his consent.

When a secret correspondence is discovered, revealing a possible elopement, a plot against Parliament, and exposing their families’ reputations to shame, the investigations begin anew. The couple’s search for answers unfolds more trouble as Mr. Bennet becomes the target of their unknown enemy … or is it merely the desperate act of a lonely father unwilling to part with his favorite daughter?

Darcy and Elizabeth team up to once and for all prove that family trumps adversity and love conquers all — if they can make it to the altar…

Doesn’t that sound fantastic?!

Now I know you are all anxiously awaiting the reveal, so it is my pleasure to introduce The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy:

Isn’t that a gorgeous cover?! I think the expressions on their faces are true to Darcy and Elizabeth, and the cover perfectly complements the first two books in the trilogy. (These are standalone novels.)

The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy is now available on Amazon. I just got my copy! Have you?

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About The Honorable Mr. Darcy (A Meryton Mystery Book 1)

Everyone has a secret. Who will kill to keep theirs?

Lieutenant George Wickham is dead.

The shot rings out in Wickham’s tent as the good citizens of Meryton dance the night away at Mr. Bingley’s Netherfield ball. The only person who can confirm Fitzwilliam Darcy’s alibi faces the loss of her reputation and her freedom if she comes forward.

Convinced that her sole motive is the pursuit of justice— and not her growing attraction to Mr. Darcy— Elizabeth Bennet begins an investigation to clear his name and evade an unwanted marriage.

If Darcy didn’t shoot Wickham in cold blood, who did? Which of Longbourn’s neighbors is not who they seem?

With a killer on the loose, can Elizabeth avoid being the next victim as she comes closer to revealing the truth?

Check out The Honorable Mr. Darcy on Goodreads | Amazon

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About The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth (A Meryton Mystery Book 2)

Two determined women. One murder. No eyewitnesses.

Lady Catherine has come to Meryton.

When a devastating secret is revealed, putting Elizabeth Bennet’s future happiness and the loyalty of the man she loves in the balance, her hopes for a Happily-Ever-After are dashed to pieces. Threats are made and family obligations are enforced, leading to an event no one could foresee. Another murder in Meryton.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is more determined than ever to win Elizabeth’s love— no matter what obstacles their families place between them. When a matron is found murdered in the midst of a militia parade, he soon discovers the strength of the woman’s enemies… and their closeness to Elizabeth. Can Darcy protect her when she is determined to bring the murderer to justice?

With a killer on the loose and their hearts on the line, can Darcy and Elizabeth work together to solve another mystery while fighting for each other? Or will the pressure break them apart forever?

Check out The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth on Goodreads | Amazon

Read an excerpt here.

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About the Author

Jennifer Joy

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

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

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

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

Connect with Jennifer Joy via Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

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Giveaway

Jennifer is generously offering 4 ebook copies of The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let me know what you love most about the cover or why you want to read the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 18, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Jennifer, for being my guest today! I hope you’ll visit again soon!

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Source: Review copy from the editor
Rating: ★★★★★

The Darcy Monologues, edited by Christina Boyd, has been on my must-read list since I first heard that it was being released. It is a collection of 15 stories inspired by Jane Austen’s beloved hero, Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, and it exceeded all of my expectations. I have plenty to share with you today in addition to my review, so I’m not going to profile each story, but I will say it is a collection that has a little something for every reader who has ever fancied Mr. Darcy.

The Darcy Monologues lets readers see things from Darcy’s point of view, and it is divided into two sections: The Regency and Other Eras. What I loved most about the collection, besides the fact that it gathers in a single volume some of the best authors of Austen-inspired fiction, was the sheer creativity within these pages. In addition to more traditional Darcy and Elizabeth tales, this collection features a fairy tale mash-up with Beauty and the Beast; takes Darcy to World War II, a radio station in the 1960s, and a stagecoach in 1860 California; and portrays him as a school principal and a baseball player, among other things.

I absolutely adored this collection and never wanted it to end. I skipped around while reading, mixing the Regency stories amongst the other eras, and I definitely can see myself reading these stories over and over again. I loved reading something new from some of my favorite authors, like Beau North, Joana Starnes, and Jenetta James, to name a few, and it was delightful to be introduced to authors I’d never read before and hope to read again. These authors see the depth of Darcy’s character and understand why readers love him so much, flaws and all. The entire collection will make readers weak in the knees with deliciously sweet and sexy renditions of their favorite Austen hero. The Darcy Monologues will definitely be on my Best of 2017 list!

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Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Lory Lilian to Diary of an Eccentric to express her appreciation for the work of Jenetta James. Please give her a warm welcome!

Lory Lilian

Admiring the Long and the Short from Jenetta James by Lory Lilian

When I heard about the team of authors involved in The Darcy Monologues, one of the first things that aroused my curiosity was Jenetta James’s story. It made me wonder if Jenetta’s poignant, rich writing style would shine as equally strong in a short story as it did in her two full-length novels — Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth’s Papers. The answer is yes — it did! LOL!

My curiosity and eagerness of reading anything new from Jenetta — and especially a story from Darcy’s POV — should be clear for everyone who has already enjoyed her beautiful novels. I became acquainted with her writing in 2015, when she published her first book — Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, which is an excellent forced marriage scenario. And I became her fan the moment I read the astonishingly beautiful The Elizabeth Papers — a fabulous journey between the present to past, a closer look into the Darcys’ blissful marriage and their intimate thoughts, fears, and their joys. It is a story that blows the reader’s mind. If you read it already– you will surely understand my meaning. If you did not read it yet — I beg you to do it and let me know if I was right or not!

Jenetta is a newer addition to the world of JAFF, but one that added talent, class, and value to this community. And as much I loved her beautiful short story in The Darcy Monologues, I look forward to another longer project as soon as possible!

I am a huge fan of Jenetta myself. I adored both Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers, and I was delighted to see that she had written a World War II-era story for The Darcy Monologues. And I am especially excited to have her here today to answer a few questions! Please give her a warm welcome!

Jenetta James

Jenetta, can you share with my readers a six-word memoir about yourself?

Cheerful reader, unexpected writer, hopeless dancer

How did you come to be inspired by Miss Austen, as both a woman and as a writer?

I first encountered Jane Austen as a teenager. It is hard to read it and not be touched by the quality of the writing. I love the simple, light touch of her prose and the clever ribbon of satire that runs through it all. All of her novels are so well composed, which I admire. As a woman, I admire her industry. It takes a lot of focus to write novels in any circumstances, and Jane Austen managed to do it to such a standard in a man’s world.

Your story, “Reason to Hope,” and Jane Austen, what do you think makes them work together? What do they have to say to each other?

When I submitted my story to Christina for editing, it was nameless, and she christened it, “Reason to Hope”. It is a short tale of love in wartime, set in Meryton Hertfordshire in 1943. I grew up in that neck of the woods — being born in Hertfordshire and living most of my childhood in Cambridgeshire — so I know the area pretty well. I’ve often wondered how the world of Pride and Prejudice would work if you just picked it up and put it, lock, stock, and barrel in a different time period — but kept the location the same. The idea of using wartime society for the backdrop came to me after reading Beau North’s debut Longbourn’s Songbird, where she sets the story in the post-war South Carolina. It got me thinking that wartime Britain had more in common with the Regency than first meets the eye.

There is the threat of war, the upheaval occasioned by evacuation and military service, the shifting of social mores and the rigid class structure. I knew from my childhood that the area had several airbases operational during the war (many of them, still so), and the idea was born. Our hero is a Group Captain in the RAF, stationed close to Meryton and Elizabeth is at Longbourn with her family, working in the land army. Just like the original, they are thrown together by unforeseen circumstances and they need to get over a few hurdles before finding themselves, as well as each other.

The modern-day woman appears as besotted as ever by Mr. Darcy. What were the attributes that you felt you needed to include in the Mr. Darcy character in your story?

Group Captain Darcy has spent the war dedicating himself to service. He has made more sacrifices than those around him realise and he is inevitably a more rounded character than the Fitzwilliam of Jane Austen’s early chapters. He has done more and met more people in more equal circumstances. But at the point in which he encounters Elizabeth, he remains superior and condescending in his attitude. What she doesn’t realise, but the reader is allowed to glimpse, is that this Mr. Darcy has sacrificed almost all of his peacetime life for the war-effort. He has focussed on his duties to the complete exclusion of his personal life. He is nobility personified, but at the time, he needs Elizabeth to teach him about himself.

Why do believe Austen’s stories still speak to modern-day readers?

Well, I think it’s because people are people and love is love, wherever you are from and whenever you are alive. Thinking about transplanting Pride and Prejudice into different time periods brings this into focus. The themes that govern people’s emotions are like a thread running through history — it isn’t that Jane Austen speaks to modern life — it is that she speaks to life in general.

What can readers look forward to reading from you in the future and how can readers stay in touch with you?

I am currently working on two projects – another Pride and Prejudice inspired story which I hope will be ready for release later this year (*she says, hopefully*). I am also working on a non-Jane Austen related romance which I hope will be finished at some stage in the next decade. My previous novels are Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers. I love hearing from readers and I can be reached on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenettajameswriter/ or Twitter: @JenettaJames

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About The Darcy Monologues

“You must allow me to tell you…”

For over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has captivated readers’ imaginations as the ultimate catch. Rich. Powerful. Noble. Handsome. And yet, as Miss Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is established through Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes, how are we to know what his tortured soul is indeed thinking? How does Darcy progress from “She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me” to “I thought only of you”?

In this romance anthology, fifteen Austen-inspired authors assemble to sketch Darcy’s character through a series of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times—from faithful narratives to the fanciful. Herein “The Darcy Monologues”, the man himself reveals his intimate thoughts, his passionate dreams, and his journey to love—all told with a previously concealed wit and enduring charm.

Stories by: Susan Adriani * Sara Angelini * J. Marie Croft * Karen M Cox * Jan Hahn * Jenetta James * Lory Lilian * KaraLynne Mackrory * Beau North * Ruth Phillips Oakland * Natalie Richards * Sophia Rose * Joana Starnes * Melanie Stanford * Caitlin Williams

Check out The Darcy Monologues on Goodreads | Amazon

Check out The Darcy Monologues playlist on Spotify and the Pinterest board

Follow on Twitter using the hashtag #TheDarcyMonologues

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Giveaways

I am thrilled to offer my readers two fantastic giveaways!

One winner will win the grand prize of 24 paperback books, each one autographed by the author, and mailed to the winner’s home.

The second winner will win their choice of either a Pride and Prejudice pocketbook or a Pride and Prejudice Kindle Fire Case with stand (Pride and Prejudice Book Cover Case for Amazon Kindle Fire 7″ and 6″ – Kindle Fire / Fire HD / Fire HDX tablet).

All giveaways are international. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter link.

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April 3 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Launch Post & Giveaway

April 10 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway

April 17 / The Reading Frenzy / Guest Post & Giveaway

April 20 / My Love for Jane Austen / Guest Post & Giveaway

April 24 / Margies Must Reads  / Book Review & Giveaway

May 1 / From Pemberley to Milton / Book Review & Giveaway

May 8 / Just Jane 1813 / Excerpt Post & Giveaway

May 15 / Austenesque Reviews  / Book Review & Giveaway

May 22 / Austenesque Reviews  / Guest Post & Giveaway

May 25 / Of Pens and Pages  / Book Review & Giveaway

May 29 / More Agreeably Engaged  / Book Review & Giveaway

June 5 / So Little Time  / Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 12 / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Review & Giveaway

June 19 / Book Lover in Florida / Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 26 / My Vices and Weaknesses  / Book Review & Giveaway

July 3 / Savvy Verse & Wit / Book Review & Giveaway

Disclosure: I received The Darcy Monologues from the editor for review.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Maybe even in a fictional reality I was destined to never find happiness.

(from Attempting Elizabeth)

Jessica Grey’s Attempting Elizabeth follows Kelsey, a 23-year-old student in California who is a bit obsessed with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She’s convinced that no guy in her life could ever measure up to Mr. Darcy, and reeling from a breakup with a Wickham-type, Kelsey doesn’t quite seem to know who she is and what she wants. She has her own mortifying Pride and Prejudice-like moment at a party, in which she insults Mark, the hot Australian bartender, only to learn that he’s a friend of her roommate’s boyfriend, and now she can’t seem to avoid him.

Kelsey and Mark constantly butt heads, though the more she learns about him, the more her opinion of him begins to change. After an incident that takes her back to her recent failed relationship, Kelsey aims to take her mind off her troubles with a book. Pride and Prejudice, of course. She falls asleep while reading Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth and somehow ends up in the book itself. Soon Kelsey finds herself navigating this alternative world, her desire to become her favorite heroine in all of literature, and her feelings for Mark while trying to determine what is real — and, most importantly, trying to find herself.

Attempting Elizabeth was a fun and fast read. I’m sure a lot of us voracious readers have wondered what it would be like to step into our favorite books or inhabit our favorite characters. Would we stay there if we had the chance? Would we try to alter the events of the novel? Would we miss what we’ve left behind, or worry about ruining our favorite stories? And wouldn’t it be fantastic to meet the characters and see them as the author pictured them while writing? It was fun to follow Kelsey through Pride and Prejudice as she learns important truths about herself through her experiences as Austen’s characters. I couldn’t help laughing out loud when Kelsey said or did things that were very unlike Austen’s characters. Their reactions were thoroughly delightful.

There were times when Kelsey got on my nerves, but that made her feel more real to me. Overall, it was a creative, sweet love story that kept me wondering throughout. Although I felt the book ended somewhat abruptly, I liked how Grey made the supernatural aspects of the story seem believable. I also liked that such a lighthearted read on the surface had some deeper meaning underneath, namely the significant impact that books can have on our lives, shaping our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Disclosure: Attempting Elizabeth is from my personal library.

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I would like to welcome Joy King (J. Dawn King/Christie Capps) to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her newest novel, Friends and Enemies. This is her first visit to my blog, and I’m delighted to have her as my guest today. Welcome, Joy!

Thank you very much.

Your latest Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) released yesterday. Can you tell us how this one differs from your others?

Friends and Enemies is the first full-length novel I’ve written from one point-of-view. It is very Darcy-centric. Readers will travel with him as he metamorphosizes from the arrogant gentleman in Hertfordshire to the man worthy of Elizabeth Bennet’s love. The journey, for him, is painful and angst-filled. Boy, oh boy did I love this man. I think he’s my favorite Darcy so far.

What did you like most about this Mr. Darcy?

I loved his sheer determination. Each time a personal flaw was revealed, he meditated on the impact to his future and the future of others as he considered what he needed to do to adjust. Then, despite anguish and difficulty, he pressed on with his purpose. His honor and innate qualities as a true gentleman drove him. Underneath, he is a man worthy of the deepest love and devotion.

What did you not like about Mr. Darcy?

I think it’s a man thing – the need to be in control and take charge. And, his assumption that he was automatically deserving of respect. Bah!

Which character surprised you most in your story?

Lydia Bennet. She is not often in the book; however, there are short moments of brilliance where I think she has completely redeemed herself. Nevertheless, they were quickly followed by her acting as the youngest Bennet who makes us roll our eyes and snort.

Would you give us an example?

In this excerpt, Lydia has just acted with unbelievable wisdom and decorum. Here’s the events immediately following. Mr. Darcy is speaking:

He wiped his eyes. “Miss Lydia, after Elizabeth and I have been married for a while, it would be our pleasure to invite you for a visit to our home. You have proven yourself to be a true friend and despite my initial impressions, I believe with a little amount of instruction, you would outshine the silly ladies of the ton in no time at all.” 

“What a joke!” She jumped up and ran from the room. At the door, she stopped. “You just wait until I tell Kitty.” Whooping and hollering like a field hand calling cows, she left Darcy and her sister behind, quite alone and stunned by her wild behaviour after the compliment.

And, what about the Elizabeth Bennet in your story. What did you love most about her?

This Elizabeth is wise and less impulsive. We understand what motivates her caution with Mr. Darcy. Even though we want her to love him as soon as he loves her, he truly doesn’t deserve her devotion until she can trust him. Her kindness in this tale is exemplary.

What did you not like about Elizabeth?

The same thing as above. It drove me nuts. I kept thinking, “just get over it and tell him you love him!” However, as a studier of character, she had witnessed and lived with a relationship she abhorred. It was a tricky thing to be a woman during Regency times. We are reading these stories with 21st century sensibilities. We wear our independence and completely comprehend Elizabeth’s need to go her own way. However, she was an anomaly at the time. Jane Austen definitely wrote her as period correct.

What is in store for J. Dawn King?

I keep saying this and have for the past three years, but I’m working on my Bingley/Jane sequel to A Father’s Sins. My daughter, Jennifer, keeps telling me to give it up and move on. I’d love to. Yet, this Bingley barges into my psyche and nags me fairly frequently. He reminds me I have a lovely finished cover and a strong beginning. He silently demands his own happily-ever-after. The brat!

Thank you very much for stopping by. Here is the blurb for Friends and Enemies which is available at Amazon.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has his world turned upside down when his character, of which he is particularly proud, is called into question by those whom he trusts.

Will he learn from his mistakes or remain his own worst enemy?

When he discovers a secret which could destroy not only the reputation of his beloved sister but threatens her very life, he can no longer hide behind his mask of social indifference. Dismaying circumstances will test the strength of his personal beliefs and convictions as well as his devotion to family and friends as a rival from his past determines to ruin him and take everything Darcy holds dear. Out of the flames of adversity, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, once scorned, becomes a beacon of hope.

Can love grow from adversity? Is happiness possible?

In this full-length novel set in Regency, England, true friendships are made, enemies are revealed, and happily-ever-after is on the horizon. Or is it…

I understand you come bearing gifts.

I do, Anna. I have six eBooks of anything I’ve written as J. Dawn King or Christie Capps and a lovely $50 Amazon gift card to giveaway. Do you think any of your readers might be interested?

I do. Thank you for your generosity. All of Joy’s giveaways are open internationally. To enter, please comment below with the answer to the question: Which quality attracts you to a man? (Some suggestions: honorable, sexy, kind, loves puppies and babies, learned, capable…) Please include your email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 11, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post (and I will email you as well). If you are selected for a prize and we do not hear from you by June 16, 2017, we will have to select someone else as a winner. Good luck!

And thank you, Joy, for stopping by today. I can’t wait to read your books; I’ve purchased a few on my Kindle and am anxious to start them. Please come back again any time!

Connect with Joy on Facebook: Joy King and J Dawn King | Twitter | Website

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