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It’s my pleasure to welcome Jayne Bamber back to the blog today to celebrate the upcoming release of her latest Austen mashup, Outmatched. All of Jayne’s variations so far have been exciting and unique, and Outmatched appears to be no exception. I hope you all are as intrigued as I am by the excerpt. Please give Jayne a warm welcome!

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Something strange is going on at Mansfield Park, and the Bertrams mean to bring their mischief to the doorstep of their Dashwood relations at Norland. But what does this mean for Fanny Price?

Hello, dear Janeites! It is a pleasure to be back at Diary of an Eccentric to tell you all about my upcoming release, Outmatched, coming to Kindle on May 8th. This is my fifth novel, and by now many readers may now my penchant for intrigue, surprises, and alternate couplings. This book promises all that and more in a fusion of Mansfield Park and Sense & Sensibility that turns everything we knows about some of Austen’s most beloved characters upside down.

I will have more to say about the Dashwoods in future posts throughout my blog tour, but today the spotlight in on the Bertrams. Their story opens just after Sir Thomas returns from Antigua, and just as in canon Sir Thomas takes notice of the changes to Fanny Price since he went away. However, Sir Thomas is harboring a dreadful secret that could alter the futures of all his family – and Fanny Price in particular.

The excerpt I would like to share with you today is the first glimpse of Jane Austen’s most underrated heroine, with some hints of what is to come. Though her future may seem uncertain now, one thing is quite sure – this visit to Norland will change the course of her future forever….

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Fanny Price ended her day in a greater degree of distress than she had ever experienced, since her earliest days of coming to Mansfield as a child. After the initial shock of being transplanted from the home of her youth, she had by and by begun to feel her position secure enough; she expected never to leave. Hearing that her uncle meant to bring her to Norland, among cousins who had never taken notice of herself, her parents, or her siblings – cousins who were by all accounts very grand – it was not the sort of news to put her at ease. Having been acquainted with the news amidst company had been difficult, even to one as accustomed as she to concealing her feelings.

The matter of putting her forward – whatever that might mean – had been touched on again at dinner, for by then it was quite resolved that they would all go to Norland very soon. Her panic increased, for among all the conversation and planning, she had lacked the courage to inquire what she most wished to know – was she to return with them when the family came back to Mansfield? Or did this journey portend some new and uncertain future for her?

After the family dined, the animated chatter in the drawing room afforded her some opportunity to slip away to the East Room. The space had formerly been used as a school room, but since the governess had left them, the room was considered by all to belong to Fanny. Here were her plants and books and little objects of comfort; Mrs. Norris would not allow Fanny a fire of her own, but it was cozy enough on most occasions merely for the peace it afforded Fanny.

Tonight, there was none to be found, and all the pleasure of her many hours whiled away in the East Room felt like a comfort that might very soon slip into her distant memory. Her uncle had been heavy with his praise of her since returning to England. This alone had surprised Fanny, and the notice made her uncomfortable. She could neither conclude on her own, nor muster the temerity to inquire, what Sir Thomas might intend for her now, but there was a rising fear in her heart that he meant to be rid of her.

It was true that John Dashwood was her cousin by blood, for his father had been brother to her mother and aunts. Yet he was twice her age, and had taken little notice of her when last they met. She had been a girl of twelve or thirteen, and still so daunted by everything at Mansfield, and everybody so high above her. What could he, his wife, and mother-and-law possibly want with her, much less do for her? What strange notions had Sir Thomas in mind? Surely he could not think that whatever improvement he had perceived in her appearance – a frightening sensation on its own – might raise her prospects enough to bring her into the notice of virtual strangers.

She paced the room for a half an hour or more, her thoughts increasingly wretched, and every moment she wished Edmund would come. He was always so mindful of her absence from the family circle, and was often coming after her here, when something or other caused her to withdraw to her favorite place.

And yet, Edmund had been acting strangely all day. He had spoken harshly to his father on more than one occasion, both in the drawing room and over the course of their family dinner. He was all barbs and brooding, and it was very unlike him to be so long out of humor.

Beset by another cause for alarm, Fanny began to agonize over what had caused Edmund such distress, and why he had not sought her out to share his troubles, as he had always done before. It occurred to her that his problem and hers might be one and the same – whatever her uncle’s intention for Fanny might be, perhaps Edmund could not like it, and could not speak to her of the matter.

Amidst such heavy woes, Fanny was late in hearing the door open and the soft footfalls on the floor; she looked up in some surprise to find Julia lingering in the center of the room. “Oh!”

“I thought I might find you here,” Julia said. She went and sat in the window seat and peered out at the twilight before beckoning Fanny to join her.

Fanny’s habit of obliging her cousins was too strong to be broken, even under such duress. She sat at the other end of the window seat, and Julia moved closer. “Well, Fanny, what do you think of this Norland business? I cannot like it at all.”

Fanny could not remember the last time Julia had asked for her opinion on anything of greater importance than a bit of ribbon or the state of the weather. Her hands fidgeting in her dress, she merely replied, “It was most unexpected.”

“Exactly so! I cannot think why Papa should wish to travel at all – and so far! He has only just come home. He might have let the theatrical go forward, if he wanted some amusement.” Julia folded her arms and huffed, leaning back against the window casement in a childlike pout.

As a poor and dependent relation, Fanny could not bring herself to question her uncle’s decision; indeed, this was the very substance of her own quandary. But no more could she confide such a thing to the cousin who had not her trust, who had really never endeavored to speak so candidly with her before. No, Fanny could speak freely to none but Edmund. “I wonder what he thinks of it – Edmund, I mean.”

“Why, you heard him – he is all in favor of it! I cannot think why that should be, either. He is never cross with Papa, and I am sure he cares as little for Cousin John as the rest of us. You must remember his Fanny – Mrs. Dashwood, I mean. Vulgar and rude is how I recall her! Mrs. Rushworth said he turned his own sisters out of the house when Uncle Henry died. Well! If our Dashwood cousins are at Norland, I shall take every chance of slighting Fanny Dashwood for them.”

Fanny knew not what response to make, though she, too, felt some sympathy for the Dashwood girls. She recalled playing with the two eldest once when they were very young – they had been kinder to her than Maria and Julia, and that they had been so ill-used made Fanny feel a sense of kinship with them. Of course, far it be for her to slight the mistress of Norland, when she knew she would be expected to show some gratitude at being brought there at all. She glanced at the door, willing Edmund to walk through it, but to no avail.

Julia needed little encouragement to go on. “I am sure you do not wish to be going there, either, Fanny. And why should you? Why should any of us! Oh, Mamma may wish to see the home of her youth, but she will not like it once we are all in our carriages, and I daresay we shall all be very uncomfortable then.”

Though Julia meant the discomfort of traveling, Fanny felt sure that the entire ordeal would be very uncomfortable for her, but all the more so once they had reached their destination. She had heard little of Norland from her mother and aunts beyond the fact that it was very large and very grand. Her own mother had been raised there, too, though she had fallen so low in the world that Fanny wondered if her mother would ever be welcome back there – it was rather to be wondered at that any Price should be admitted to such a house.

“We shall have to be allies, you and I,” Julia said, and took Fanny’s hand. “You are too good and sweet to say so, but I know you wish to go as little as I. My, but your face when Papa addressed you! I cannot think why he would make you so uncomfortable, for no one but Maria really wishes to be going at all. He ought not force anyone who does not like it, and I am sure we would be much happier to stay here. But I see you are too afraid to agree with me. No matter, it shall be our little secret.”

Even this discomfited Fanny. She could not like to have secrets of such a nature, to be an ungrateful malcontent. Surely Edmund would talk her out of such feelings. Fanny let slip a little sigh of woe, and Julia embraced her with one arm. “Do not fret, my little friend. We are of one mind, and we shall keep together, you and I. I am sure it will be vastly unpleasant – we must find some pleasant room just like this to hide away at Norland, for we shall be better company for one another than anybody else. If Papa means to put you forward, I am sure he is thinking of one of Fanny Dashwood’s brothers – can you imagine how odious they must be?”

“Surely not!” Fanny raised a hand to her mouth, sorry to have spoken with a vehemence that surprised and shamed her.

“I am certain of it. I can well imagine a pair of gentlemen with her same beady-eyed look, gauche and over-trimmed, and full of self-importance. We shall have to look after one another.”

Fanny’s alarm intensified. Of course Sir Thomas would think to marry her off, for all his talk of her improved looks and womanly virtues. She had been a fool to think they would keep her at Mansfield forever.

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Thanks for tuning in to this stop on my blog tour – there will be a chance to win a free ebook and another excerpt at every stop along the way!

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Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your upcoming release!

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I’m delighted to welcome Jayne Bamber back today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Strong Objections to the Lady. She’s here with another interesting discussion about Charles Bingley, and to share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Sorry, Charlie….

 

 

It’s great to be back at Diary of an Eccentric! I am here to share an excerpt from my new release, Strong Objections to the Lady, but first, I think I owe Charles Bingley a big apology!

 

 

When I was here back in January on the blog tour for my first novel, I boldly decreed that Charles Bingley is a Hot Idiot, and while I can’t entirely retract that, I gotta say, I still think he’s a good guy. He has a role to play in my new release, and this time I was really excited about giving him a time to shine.

 

 

Though I just take a sharp turn from canon (as usual!) in Strong Objections to the Lady, things work at well for Charles Bingley just as soon as he, like our other beloved characters, begins to deserve his HEA. He is just as easily led by his sister as ever, but I gave him just a little nudge in the right direction, toward growing up, with some help from a very unusual ally.

 

 

Of course, there’s always been lots to love about Mr. Bingley. Jane Austen tells us of his myriad charms, and it is no surprise that Jane Bennet was instantly smitten. Aside from being rich and handsome, which a gentleman ought to be if he possibly can, Mr. Bingley really does try to put his best foot forward in the neighborhood. You know, before he gets duped into ditching them to go back to London.

 

 

From the moment he arrives in the neighborhood, Mr. Bingley is an ideal neighbor. He’s delighted by everyone in the neighborhood, even making a point to commend Charlotte Lucas, who doesn’t have the greatest luck with gentlemen. He dines with the officers and invites them all to his ball, and when a local lady takes ill at his house, he allows her and her sister to stay with him for as long as they need.

 

 

In addition to all this gentlemanly affability, he really does try with poor Darcy. He’s having a ball, making new friends, and poor Bingley really does wish Darcy would lighten up and have some fun! Of course, we find out later why Darcy doesn’t enjoy himself as much as Bingley, but we can only imagine that in all the years of their friendship, Bingley has usually had more success in lightening Darcy’s mood.

 

 

Bingley gets a lot right, before he is steered so wrong by Darcy and his sister, but even then – well, we are all fools in love, right?

 

 

In Strong Objections to the Lady, Mr. Bingley begins foolishly in love, and Darcy has his hands too full with family drama and a Bennet sister of his own to help Bingley undo the damage he’s done by abandoning Jane. Left to his own devices, he fumbles at first, but learns all the right lessons along the way.

 

 

The excerpt I want to share today is one of Mr. Bingley’s first appearances in the tale, although we learn that he has had an “off-screen” encounter with Jane while she was staying with the Gardiners in London….

 

 

Darcy had no opportunity to speak privately with Bingley, as much as he wished it, until they had set out on horseback for Humphrey Hall. The ladies set out in their carriages, while Henry and Arthur rode together at some remove – likely scheming amongst themselves.

Darcy knew there was something missing from his understanding of the situation, for he had expected Bingley’s presence to please Elizabeth for her sister’s sake, and that Elizabeth had reacted with such discomfort led Darcy to suppose that Miss Bennet may not look fondly on Bingley’s arrival. It was possible that Bingley had seen Miss Bennet in the two days that had elapsed in London between Darcy’s visit with Bingley, and Miss Bennet’s sudden arrival in Kent. Richard seemed to suspect it, and after some gentle prodding, Bingley himself confessed it.

“Of course I went to her straight away,” Bingley owned. “You told me she cared for me, which I knew all along, of course. I was mighty angry with you, and Caroline too, but not without hope that Jane would forgive me.”

Darcy glanced over at Bingley from the side of his eyes and gave a slight shake of his head. “I would not have known you were displeased with your sister, as you have brought her with you,” he said cautiously.

“Well, I did not know we would be making such an excellent house party of it, or I might have left her in London,” Bingley said with an affable laugh. “I thought I would need a hostess in order for Jane to visit me, and Caroline was wishing to be a part of the merriment, you know.”

“I see,” Darcy said. “And when you saw Miss Bennet in London, did she, as you say, forgive you?”

Bingley frowned; it was an uncharacteristic expression for him, but did not last long before he broke into a persistently cheerful smile. “Not exactly. Jane was angry with me for not coming sooner, though of course I had no notion of her being in Town all that time. It was not the amorous reunion I had anticipated, but of course she had just heard of her cousin’s death, and was quite distressed already – poor timing, that is all.”

Bingley was determined to be nonchalant about it, but Darcy wished to impart some caution to his friend, for everyone’s sake. “Yes, Miss Bennet has taken her new responsibilities as heiress to Longbourn very seriously.”

“Well, it is not as though I am some fortune hunter with questionable motives,” Bingley laughed. “I was madly in love with her before her prospects improved – she must know she has nothing to fear.”

“You were not aware of her feelings at the time – it may be possible that she had no assurance of your feelings, either.”

“Come now, Darcy, of course she did! You said that Miss Elizabeth told you Jane was merely being shy and modest in concealing her affection for me. Nobody could ever accuse me of being shy or modest!”

“Well, that is true, but your leaving Hertfordshire so suddenly….”

“Which was your idea,” Bingley interjected.

“Yes, I agreed with your sisters that it was prudent at the time. However, you must endeavor to show her that your renewed interest is not the work of a mere moment, as your departure was.”

“Of course I shall, Darcy. Really, there is no need to trouble yourself, my old friend. Your advice is valuable to me on a great many things, to be sure, but I should hardly put wooing ladies on that list! No indeed, I think I shall do better to follow my own instincts this time.”

Darcy could not argue with that – it was likely that without his interference, Bingley and Jane Bennet would already be wed. However, Bingley’s optimism was still troubling. Elizabeth had made it clear when she refused him that Jane’s discomfort was an insuperable obstacle in their relationship, and Darcy could not like that his own chances at happiness hinged on Bingley’s unpredictable finesse.

“Besides,” Bingley continued as Darcy brooded silently, “I have other resources.” He gave a jolly waggle of his eyebrows.

Darcy groaned. He had seen Anne and Bingley conversing many times over the last few days, thick as thieves, and he could not like it. Anne was still so new to society, and her enthusiasm for everything may yet prove another source of collateral damage in such a delicate situation. “You mean my cousin?”

“Yes, and her lady grandmother as well. I was flattered beyond anything that Lady Augusta should take an interest in my problems, but then I suppose she is not too old to appreciate the romance of it all.”

Darcy grimaced. “I cannot think it wise for you to look to outside assistance, Bingley, when it proved such an evil last autumn. My interference was misguided, and I am not sure that more interference will be the cure. Anne, in particular, may not be the most reliable conspirator.”

“Conspirator! You are very severe upon your cousin, Darcy! Indeed, I think it must be a habit of yours, for in all the years of acquaintance, you have never even given a truly accurate description of her! She is far livelier than I expected, and so very amiable. She seems to dote on the Bennet sisters.”

“That is the material point,” Darcy countered. “It has been many years since Anne has had such pleasure in female companionship, and I should hate for her new friendship to be jeopardized by her involvement in this matter.”

Bingley laughed, but Darcy could see that he had wounded his friend. “Come now, Darce, I hate to hear you speak as though you think I shall fail,” he said evenly. “I am no fool – and I believe it will come out well.”

Darcy could not agree with these last two statements, but neither could he judge his friend too harshly. He could infer that Bingley had been rebuffed by Miss Bennet when he visited her in London, but Darcy, too, was a man in love, and desperate for a second chance; this was hardly the time for hypocrisy.

 

 

Strong Objections to the Lady is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited now, with a paperback soon to follow. Til then, I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! I will be sharing more excerpts throughout my blog tour, and there is an e-book giveaway you can enter by clicking here. You can also follow me on Facebook for more updates!

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Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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I’m excited to welcome Jayne Bamber back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, A Sister’s Curse. I was intrigued by the title alone, and after reading the excerpt, I’m even more eager to read it. I hope all of you feel the same way, too. Please give Jayne a warm welcome!

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Hello everyone! I am excited to share another excerpt with you from my new release, A Sister’s Curse.

One of the most exciting things for me about writing this book was getting to know some characters that you don’t often see in JAFF. Some of the small, side characters like Colonel Fitzwilliam and Uncle Gardiner are always fun, and even though they have made many memorable appearances in fan fiction, I hope I have put on own little spin on their characters as well.

But one character I am especially proud of is Lady Anne Darcy, who is very much still alive in this variation. The story opens when Lizzy and Darcy are still children, so our first glimpse of Lady Anne is when she is not yet thirty, and over the course of the book, the events of the story have their effect on her. It was very interesting to write, especially because the opening of the story really hinges on her choices and wishes so much. I hadn’t intended it to be quite like that, but as I started writing Lady Anne Darcy, I came to like her so much that her role in the story really grew.

I knew that I wanted her to be a different kind of mother than Mrs. Bennet, but still have her own weakness and imperfections. One thing I had to consider when writing her was, what sort of mother would Mr. Darcy have had, to be the sort of man he is? And what is Lady Anne’s place in the family? I considered Georgiana – who does not actually appear in this book – and tried to work from there. I thought it likely Lady Anne would have the same sweet temper and loving heart, and perhaps a little more spirit and banter with her siblings, and I knew that her marriage to the elder Mr. Darcy would absolutely have to be a love match.

From there I worked out that Lady Anne must have wished to give her beloved George Darcy more children, in the ten years after she had William. It was a quick leap to conclude that in such a situation, her sister Lady Catherine de Bourgh would have wanted to make herself useful, and the carriage accident in the prologue took on another layer of depth. I decided that Lady Anne and Lady Catherine had been travelling to see the doctor who might have helped Lady Anne conceive Georgiana, were it not for their carriage colliding with that of the other family, and throwing the little orphan girls into her path just as she was wishing for more children.

Of course, as her children grow up, so too does Lady Anne, and they are none of them perfect. To read what the future hold for them, A Sister’s Curse is available on kindle now, but for now, here is just a glimpse of Lady Anne Darcy at the open of the story…

Anne and George Darcy were a love match, and in twelve years of marriage they had ignored the custom of sleeping in separate bedchambers. As the two of them came out of their respective dressing rooms, attired for bed, George drew his wife into a gentle embrace before pulling back the bedclothes and gesturing for her to come and sit beside him. “I am sorry for that dreadful business this evening. You were right to be angry with all of us, carrying on like that. I am sure de Bourgh and I would have had words at some point during his stay, we always do, but tonight of all nights, it was horrible of me. Can you forgive me for being so beastly?”

Anne nestled in close to her husband, her head on his shoulder and one hand on his chest as they lay back against the pillows. “I forgive you, dearest. I am sure my brother Henry must have come in already worked into such a state.”

“And I ought to have known Sir Lewis would make this whole ordeal about himself. Not a thought for how close he came to nearly losing his wife today! When I think of it – when I think of how it might have been you….”

Anne raised her fingertips to George’s lips. “Hush, my love. I am safe. Only I….”

“What is it? You are not concealing some injury from me, are you?”

“No, not at all. I was a little knocked about, of course, but nothing serious. Nothing at all like – oh, it was so horrible. I shall never forget the sight of it, that is all I meant to say. I feel as though I am forever changed by what I have seen today.”

“I daresay we both are, my love. It is no small thing, to see a man die, to hear his final words. To see so much suffering – but I am proud of you. I always have been, but never more than today. You were like a lioness looking after her cubs.”

Anne smiled sadly. “They are such dear children.”

George placed his hand on hers. “I know it is your wish – that is, you have wanted to give me more children, but after today, Anne, I would beg you give it up. I cannot bear the thought of losing you, whether it be on the journey to some doctor in Bath who might be able to help, or if you were to conceive again, and….”

Anne sniffled, and brought her hand up to her face as if to stop the tears from coming. “Oh George, do not ask me this. Not tonight, I can scarcely think clearly. I almost agree with you, perhaps it is not worth it. My madness for more children led me to this folly, and it has cost a man his life, a man who will never see his own daughters grow up. Yet, all those hours I spent in the nursery today…. I ought to be ashamed of how happy it made me to be with those dear sweet girls. I want one so badly, George. I want to be a mother again.”

George cradled his wife in his arms as she wept. “Let us not think of it now, dearest. It has been a difficult day, and nothing need be decided just now. If the Almighty wishes us to have any more children, we shall have them. For now, he has given us the Bennets to care for, and I daresay we had better get some rest so that we can do our best to face whatever tomorrow brings.”

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About A Sister’s Curse

Two families from very different situations in life are linked forever after a fatal accident on the Great North Road. This tragedy breeds years of sorrow and misunderstanding as well as prosperity and even romance in an emotional coming of age tale not only for Elizabeth Bennet, but for her sisters, and even the adults who let them down.

For nearly two decades, Edward Gardiner is haunted by the difficult decisions he has made. Lady Anne Darcy must bear all the guilt and delight of being granted her heart’s desire… at a price. The Fitzwilliam family has motives and misgivings of their own as the Earl of Matlock tries to keep them all together, right the wrongs of the past, and pave the way for the next generation.

Fitzwilliam Darcy realizes too late what it means to be a brother, and is faced with a parts of his past he regrets, just as his desire to protect the family he loves leads him back to the woman he was destined to love the most… a woman who despises him.

Elizabeth Bennet struggles through the turbulence of adolescence, her judgement clouded by past trauma and the complicated dynamics of her extended family. Secrets are revealed and re-examined as she is forced to come to terms with the truth of her past and the promise of her future, in a family bound together by heartbreak.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
This story is based on a deviation from canon 18 years prior to the opening of Pride & Prejudice. Several canon characters are omitted entirely, and aside from Darcy and Elizabeth, the story will focus on several minor canon characters. Some of these characters have developed differently from canon due to the events of the story as they unfold. New characters have also been introduced: the Earl and Countess of Matlock and their children: the Viscount and Lady Charlotte, as well as the Dowager Countess of Matlock, lady Olivia Gardiner and Rose Gardiner, Sir Lewis de Bourgh and Elliot de Bourgh. This story may be unsuitable for anyone triggered by the loss of a spouse, parent or child.

Elizabeth Bennet struggles through the turbulence of adolescence, her judgement clouded by past trauma and the complicated dynamics of her extended family. Secrets are revealed and re-examined as she is forced to come to terms with the truth of her past and the promise of her future, in a family bound together by heartbreak.

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Jayne is offering an ebook giveaway of A Sister’s Curse as part of the blog tour. To enter, use this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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

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I’m delighted to welcome Jayne Bamber back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of Unexpected Friends & Relations, the second book in her Friends & Relations series of Jane Austen crossover novels. Jayne is here today with an excerpt and a giveaway, but first, we have Sir Gerald Sutton’s interview with Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam.

Seventeen Questions with Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam

By Jayne Bamber

Lady Rebecca

Good Morning all, Sir Gerald Sutton here. I have recently had the honor of marrying my neighbor and long-lost-love, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. We have just informed our family of our intention to acknowledge our daughter, who has spent the last 18 years hidden away at my sister’s boarding school in Surrey. To help our daughter get better acquainted with her new extended family, which includes my five children as well as Lady Catherine’s many nieces and nephews, three of whom have recently married, I have decided to sit down with some of my new relations, and sketch their characters….

Today I am joined by my new niece, and perhaps one of the most formidable members of the Fitzwilliam clan, Lady Rebecca. Rebecca, my dear, thank you for joining me here at De Bourgh House in London.

Lady Rebecca: Thank you for inviting me. It is pleasant to see how comfortably you have settled into the townhouse of your bride’s first husband. Perhaps you might ring for tea?

Sir Gerald: Of course! And now, I have some questions to put to you, and our housekeeper, Mrs. Banks, will take down the dictation.

LR: I am sure Mrs. Banks will find it a most edifying experience – I am ready, sir.

SG: Capital! Let us begin with some of the simpler questions. Tell me, what do you like best about residing here in London?

LR: There are a great many attractions in London, to be sure, but I most enjoy the people here. Human nature quite fascinates me –there is always so much to amuse, in taking a person’s likeness… as you may yet discover.

SG: And when you are not in London, you can be found at your father’s estate in Matlock. What is your favorite part of the estate?

LR: Well, let me think. There are a great many delights there – the scenery to be had, if one has the stamina to ride extensively about the countryside. The house is quite marvelous, as well, and my own apartments are quite elegant, a great place to retreat when the company becomes tedious. Too obvious a place to hide for long, though – that is when I would recommend the wine cellar. I discovered it in my youth, playing games with my brothers, but it is excellent for hiding from a great many other things, such as tiresome governesses or unwanted suitors, even irritating stepmothers. And of course, if one is obliged to hide for a lengthy period of time, one can always have a drink.

SG: Well, I shall keep that in mind, when next I visit.

LR: ‘Tis my hiding place – you must find your own.

SG: Aside from hiding and lurking in wine cellars, what is your favorite childhood memory?

LR: Learning to ride a horse. I was twelve, and my brother Richard taught me one summer when he came home from school. I was a little frightened – oh dear, do not transcribe that, Mrs. Banks – but I was so eager to spend time with Richard, whom I had missed very much, that I would have done just about any activity at all, if only to spend time with him.

SG: What a charming thought. I am aware that you are quite close with your brother the Viscount, which leads to my next question – who did you look up to the most, growing up?

LR: I am sure Richard will be very cross if I do not say him, but he shall have to console himself about that. I looked up the most to my mother, growing up. She was an incredible woman.

SG: So I hear. Will you tell me about her?

LR: No, I think not.

SG:

LR:

SG: Er – very well, then. Let us speak more about yourself. What is your favorite time of year?

LR: I enjoy the winter. I feel quite comfortable when the weather is as frigid as my own icy heart, and I look smashing in fur.

SG: You do have a very unique style, I am sure. Have you a favorite book?

LR: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft – my goodness, Mrs. Banks, that is quite a cough you have! Sir Gerald, I have taken the liberty of purchasing a copy for your new daughter as a welcome present.

SG: My, my, you really… shouldn’t have.

LR: I thought it the best way to welcome her to the family – I have made sure that every other lady in the family has read it, so Miss Sutton will have something in common with us all.

SG: Moving right along, what is your favorite food?

LR: I expect brandy is not quite a food, per se…. I have taken quite a liking to boiled potatoes, particularly since last summer.

SG: How odd, that is just what Mrs. Darcy said.

LR: I am not at all surprised!

SG: And speaking of surprises, have you any secret talents?

LR: A great many, sir – I am almost entirely composed of both secrets, and talents. The one I take the most pride in, aside from general intimidation, is gift-giving. I excel at selecting thoughtful and personal presents for the people I care about. I once gave Lizzy the same gown twice, and she liked it very much each time.

SG: Most extraordinary! And what is the best present you have ever been given?

LR: Mary Bennet once gave me her copy of Fordyce’s Sermons.

SG: That is certainly an unexpected answer! It is hardly the sort of book I should expect you to enjoy!

LR: On the contrary, sir – I have never enjoyed sitting by the fireplace at Pemberley more than I did that night, and I find that parting with it has improved dear Mary, as well.

SG: You are often full of praise for the members of this family. If you could choose any three of them to go on holiday with, who would you select?

LR: Only three? Oh dear, let me think. My brother Richard, to be sure – he would provide protection, and always carries a flask with him, making him dependably excellent company. Elizabeth would be my second choice; I absolutely adore her. Lastly, I would choose dear Mary Bennet, as I think our company would be most instructive for her.

SG: And if you could travel to any destination, where would you like to go?

LR: I should like to go to Egypt, to see the Nile, the Pyramids and the Sphinx. I should like to compare riding a camel to riding a horse, and I have a great curiosity to encounter a crocodile. I might bring one back as a pet.

SG: Most unusual!

LR: Is it?

SG: Next question… If you could be any person for a day, whom should you like to be?

LR: The Prince Regent, I suppose. I find Beau Brummel a most intriguing fellow, and quite dashing. He might help me get dressed.

SG: Mrs. Banks, I beg you do not write that down. Let us strike that from the record, and proceed…. Tell me about your schooling, Lady Rebecca. I am interested to learn what sort of seminary has produced such a paragon of… ahem… virtue?

LR: I went to school in Reading, at Madame La Tournelle’s. It was certainly…. instructive, in some ways. Madame was not even remotely French, did not speak a word of French, had never even been to France, in fact. She was vastly diverting, however, and I liked a few of the girls there very much. There was a clever young lady a few years older than myself called Jane, very bookish and quite cheeky. We used to put on little theatricals together and compose rude verses to shock Madame La Tournellle, until Papa discovered she was really called Sarah Hackit and did not teach anything remotely useful, and so he took me away. I do wonder whatever became of Jane, and her sweet sister Cassandra….

SG: Ahem… well, hopefully they are both well-settled with husbands and children!

LR: How tedious that would be!

SG: …Which leads me to my next question. What is your greatest annoyance?

LR: Strong sentiment – I think it quite odious.

SG: I see. And what ought one do to get into your good graces?

LR: Surprise me. I take delight in the ludicrous and the unexpected. And carry a flask. Speak impertinently, challenge authority, and be very clever indeed.

SG: Of course. Mrs. Banks….

Mrs. Banks: I’ve marked through that one, sir.

SG: Very good. And now, Lady Rebecca, what advice would you give to a young lady joining our extended family?

LR: Mrs. Banks, take down every word of this. I would say that a young lady joining this family must be prepared to ignore a great deal of unsolicited advice. She must have an unshakeable sense of humor, and understand that she is unlikely to have any secrets that will not be quickly wheedled out of her. She will likely do a great deal of traveling, be quite spoilt, and must learn to enjoy it. She must be very kind to poor Georgiana, she must endeavor to behave with the grace and decorum befitting her station and bring no disgrace upon us, and if anyone gives her any trouble, she need only come to me, and I will set it all to rights.

SG: Well, that last bit was very kind – I am sure my daughter will appreciate the kind sentiment.

LR: The sentiment you may spare me, sir.

***

Thanks for joining me for this glimpse into the mind of Lady Rebecca, an original character from Volume 1: Happier in her Friends than Relations. Lady Rebecca is back in Volume 2, Unexpected Friends and Relations, more determined than ever to make herself useful to the ladies in her family, but with a little twist, as seen in the excerpt below…

    Mr. Knightley gestured for Rebecca to accompany him into the next room, and as she followed him, she cast one backward glance at Mary. “Dearest, perhaps you would be so good as to play something for us, while I step into the parlor and speak with Mr. Knightley.”

Mary regarded her nervously for a moment before seating herself at the pianoforte, and she began the first strains of a concerto that would allow Rebecca and Mr. Knightley to speak with some degree of privacy. Mr. Knightley took Rebecca by the arm and led her to a sofa, his solemnity making Rebecca anxious. “Are my cousins well,” she asked again.

“I do not know how to say this,” Mr. Knightley said, seating himself in the chair across from her. “Your cousin Isabella died of a fever last October, about a month after we met at the Darcys’ ball.”

Rebecca slumped heavily against the back of the sofa, bringing her hands up to her face to cover her dismay. “Good God! But that was months ago! How could I have heard nothing of it since then? Why was this kept from me?”

With a pained expression, Mr. Knightley withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to Rebecca, as the tears began to spill freely down her cheeks. “There was an illness that afflicted many in Highbury last autumn. We think it originated from some gypsies that were in the area at the time. They were camped in the west fields, and we thought them perfectly harmless. If we had any idea they brought sickness with them, they would have been removed from the area much sooner. The fever took several people in the village. Though Mr. Woodhouse was always a fastidious man in matters of health, he was one of the first to become afflicted. John and Isabella were visiting at the time, and Isabella refused to leave her father’s side. It did not take long for his strength to give out – about a week. By the time he left this world, both of his daughters were abed with fever. Poor man died fearing for their lives above his own. I know not why my brother and I were spared, but we did everything we could to aid their quick recovery. Dr. Perry was with them day and night, and John even sent for a physician from London. By then it was too late for Isabella. Only Emma recovered.”

Mr. Knightley paused. A tear slid down his cheek as he held her gaze, and seeing him thus affected completely shattered Rebecca’s resolve to remain strong in front of him; she wept without restraint on the sofa across from him. “What of her children? Isabella has five children!”

“The children were removed from the house when Isabella took sick – a neighboring family, the Westons, took them in, and within a week my sister Charlotte came down from London to collect them, as John would not leave Isabella’s side. When Emma began to improve and Isabella did not, Emma was removed to the Weston’s home, where she eventually made a full recovery. It took her nearly a month to get her strength back, and by the time she returned to Hartfield, both her father and sister had been laid to rest in the parish cemetery. Once the illness was gone from the village, Charlotte brought the children back to John, and they are such a great comfort to him even now, though he has many burdens beyond his grief for his wife. Hartfield now legally belongs to him, as he knew it one day would, but not like this. It is a poor excuse for his not telling you sooner, but it is the truth.”

“Poor John! Poor Isabella! Good God, those poor children! They shall grow up without a mother.” Sobs began to rack Rebecca’s body as she considered this notion, which hit all too close to home for her. It was hard enough losing her own mother when she was nearly a woman grown, but Isabella’s children were still in the nursery; the youngest would likely not even remember her face.

As Rebecca closed her eyes and hugged herself with despair, she suddenly felt Mr. Knightley’s arm around her. He had moved to the sofa beside her, and pulled her into unexpected embrace. Thinking of nothing but her anguish, Rebecca allowed her head to rest on his shoulder, and her body leaned against his. “I am sorry, so very sorry,” said he, “I wish I did not have to give you such terrible news, and I hope my honesty has not caused you any undue pain.”

“You could not have broken the news in any possible way that would have affected me less, I suppose. It is just so shocking. Isabella and I have not been close since we were girls, but as we grew up we shared the bond of entering womanhood without a mother, and now all her poor children will share the same fate. Just like my poor cousin Georgiana. The world is a cruel place for motherless little girls.”

“It is much the same for the boys, I think,” he whispered, his face pressed up against hers as he cradled her in his arms. She began to weep once more, and a moment later felt a sudden pressure, as if he had kissed the top of her head. Feeling her heart twisting in torment, Rebecca braved a glance up at him, her face brushing against the rough stubble on his chin, and she let out a slight gasp as she beheld the tears in his eyes. Her fingers reflexively tightened their grasp on his soft woolen coat, and she felt his arms tighten around her ever so slightly. Another breathless sob escaped her lips, and Mr. Knightley’s face turned toward her; his lips slightly parting, he drew nearer still, and just as her eyes slipped closed and her breath caught in her throat, a sudden commotion in the corridor caused her to flinch. Mr. Knightley abruptly moved his hands down the length of her arms and drew back, even as Rebecca leapt up off of the couch, fidgeting with her dress as she tried not to think about what had nearly happened between them.

A moment later, Elizabeth and Georgiana entered the room, having returned from their morning calls. Elizabeth greeted Mr. Knightley warmly, before perceiving that something was amiss. “Rebecca, dearest,” Elizabeth said cautiously, “whatever has happened?”

Fresh tears fell down Rebecca’s face, but she was past caring for her appearance at such a time. “Cousin Isabella… has died. And my Uncle Woodhouse. Poor Emma barely survived, and the children….”

“Good God,” Elizabeth gasped. “I am so sorry, Rebecca. What a tragedy for your family.”

Rebecca nodded feebly at her friend. She wished to say something profound, but she found herself quite at a loss. It was the glistening eyes and compassionate countenance of Mr. Knightley that shook her all the way to her core, and feeling completely unfit for company, she quickly fled the room.

***

Thanks for joining me on the next stop of my blog tour! I will be giving away 7 copies of the e-book free on May 20th – click here to enter. See the full schedule for the blog tour below, and click here to follow me on Facebook for updates on the final installment of the Friends & Relations Series, coming soon!

Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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Dear friends, I’ve been excited about this guest post since I first learned of the title and laughed out loud. I couldn’t wait to see what the author had up her sleeve. Well, it’s time to find out, as Jayne Bamber is here today to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome!

 

Charles Bingley is a Hot Idiot

By Jayne Bamber, Author of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations

So, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Charles Bingley. I will say, he’s definitely a Nice Guy. I wouldn’t mind having him for a brother, though to own the truth, I would probably end up taking full advantage of his agreeable disposition – sound familiar?

I feel ya, bb. It’s hard being the smart one.

 

As a romantic prospect, I would Friendzone™ that f-boi faster than you could say Five Thousand A Year. Point me in the direction of Derbyshire, I prefer clever a-holes, thank you. Despite his being, as Jane Austen informs us, “just what a young man ought to be,” I have never warmed to him as a romantic hero. He is, in my opinion, a THIOT: That Hot Idiot Over There.

We know he’s attractive – Austen tells us that he is: “good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.” He is also, undeniably, not the sharpest key on the pianoforte. Jane Austen shows us this throughout the story, not only in his being easily led by his sister, but in his general weakness of mind, such as this conversation between Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth in Chapter 9:

“You begin to comprehend me, do you?” cried he, turning towards her.

“Oh! yes–I understand you perfectly.”

“I wish I might take this for a compliment; but to be so easily seen through I am afraid is pitiful.”

In the very next chapter, Mr. Darcy recalls this exchanges, and chides his friend for trying to portray his own intransigence in such a favorable light:

“When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself–and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?”

In the much-revered mini-series, Mr. Bingley is portrayed true to form: “sensible, good humored, lively” …not to mention “wonderfully handsome” (which a young man ought likewise be!) Though not to my tastes, Crispin Bonham-Carter is 90’s hot – in Regency England, we’d probably hit that. Being the longest film adaption by far, we get the greatest sense of his foolishness, as well. We also get a reminder that though Elizabeth thinks well of Mr. Bingley, he is far from her type, as she “could never love a man who was out of his wits.”

In one of my favorite moments, we even catch a glimpse of what Austen herself neglected to show us, though it was certainly implied – Bingley being coaxed by his sisters and Mr. Darcy to abandon the lady whom he loves, despite having created expectations in Meryton, and within Jane Bennet’s heart, of a forthcoming engagement, and despite actually feeling himself to be in love with her. Sure, Charlotte Lucas did try to warn us – Jane was not demonstrative enough of her feelings, but Bingley had no reason to doubt Jane’s affections until his sisters and Mr. Darcy worked him over. The man literally had more confidence in their opinions than his own intuition. Weak!

Intervention: Regency Edition

Even when Bingley does come back to Netherfield to propose to Jane at last, it’s strongly implied that this wasn’t his own decision, either – he’s been given permission by Mr. Darcy, after Lizzy gives him the business in Kent for separating them. This is a bit of fanon I particularly enjoy, when JAFF variations show us how that conversation goes down. While it’s always fun to see Bingley grow some backbone and clap back at Mr. Darcy for concealing Jane’s presence in London, or for generally being an officious blockhead, I can’t help but imagine that Charles Bingley is truly incapable of ever standing up to his friend for anything, even when it almost cost him his chance at true love.

In the 2005 adaptation, Bingley is brilliantly portrayed as a fresh-faced, energetic man-child, more of a buffoon than he was in the ’95 version, and yet somehow more endearing. He’s got some great Cute Moments, such as the swoon-worthy grasping at Jane’s ribbon as he follows her through the ballroom, or his rehearsing his proposal with Mr. Darcy out by the pond. He also has a lot of pretty idiotic moments, yet no one really seems to mind that he’s a complete doofus.

Aside from his comments about accomplished young ladies, none of these silly moments are from the original story, and yet they’re all so very Bingley. They all contribute to his particular brand of attractiveness – cute, well-meaning, and utterly artless. And yet, it’s a bit alarming, when you think about the reality of a young woman entrusting her fate and future to such a man. This man, who actually has to remind us that he can read, is going to run an entire estate, and make all the decisions for himself, his wife, and any children they have.

Honestly, I’d rather marry Caroline.

Lost in Austen is not especially high on my list of costume dramas (largely due to Amanda’s haircut – seriously, no one in the entire Regency period is going to help her not stick out like a sore thumb?) but provides some great Bingley moments that capture his Austen-given personality quite well, and his portrayal is closest to the Bingley in my own imagination, particularly when I wrote Happier in Her Friends than Relations.

Perhaps bordering on the farcical, the Bingley of Lost in Austen, though a total babe, is almost too flawed to be redeemed, from his mopey lurking at Jane’s wedding, to his mixing guns and alcohol at Pemberley, and finally his bizarre duel with Mr. Bennet after absconding with Lydia. Wildly off-book, but I would argue not entirely out of the realm of what a thoughtless man like Bingley might be capable of, if events were to take a turn for the worse.

In my debut novel, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, the story opens with the premise that Bingley does not follow through with his plan to rent Netherfield, as his sister Caroline has no wish to leave London, for Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been elevated to the status of Viscount, and Caroline is determined to catch him if she can.

If you follow me on Facebook you will know I’ve posted a fan-casting of all the characters in Happier, with Freddie Stroma (Harry Potter, Pitch Perfect) as Charles Bingley.

When Bingley appears in Happier in Her Friends than Relations, Elizabeth Bennet’s perception of him is not shaded through her sister Jane’s rosy perspective of “just what a gentleman ought to be.” Elizabeth sees another side of Bingley, and though she is charmed at first, her practical understanding of what she wants in a mate – stability, dependability, and good sense, a man she can both love and respect, Bingley inevitably falls short of the mark. Though his fortune must be a factor for her, the decision is not ultimately hers alone to make, because my Charles Bingley is just as easily led by his sister as Austen has depicted him, and Elizabeth is not so generous with her forgiveness as Austen portrayed Jane Bennet.

In the excerpt below, Elizabeth has been led to believe that Bingley intends to propose to her, and though she is uncertain of her own feelings after six weeks’ acquaintance in London, she soon discovers that her deliberation has all been for naught.

Mr. Bingley fidgeted nervously, barely able to meet her eye. She knew he had not come to propose. “What is the matter, sir? Are you well?”

His face crumpled into despair as he stepped closer to her, reaching for her hand. “I do not deserve your concern, Elizabeth. We both know I have kept you waiting these five days. I broke my promise, and yet you would ask after my health without any reproach. You are too kind.”

“Have you any explanation, sir?”

Mr. Bingley ran his hands through his hair in agitation, just as he had done that night on the balcony. It occurred to Elizabeth that though he was gregarious enough in good cheer, he was not adept at expressing himself in serious situations. No, when solemnity was required, he was not a man who could be depended upon. Feeling her heart sink to the pit of her stomach, she sat down on the sofa. With a pained expression, Mr. Bingley sat down beside her and scowled at the rug. “I daresay you have some idea what I wanted to say to you that night… What I have wanted to say to you nearly every moment I have spent in your presence.”

“Yes.” Fearing her inevitable disappointment, she wished this mortifying interview to be over as quickly as possible.

He let out a long sigh. “Would that I had spoken my heart that night, Miss Bennet, for now, I cannot. It would not feel right, under the circumstances.”

“What circumstances, sir?”

Mr. Bingley brushed at his hair again. “I—we must leave London, for a time. We are for Bath, this very afternoon.”

“You are leaving?” Elizabeth drew back in confusion.

“I am afraid we must. I had to see you first. I wanted to come sooner, you must believe me, but I could not get away.”

“Could you not have sent word to my uncle?”

“Would that I had thought of it, or found the time. These past few days have been so very taxing.”

“I do not understand. What has happened?”

“Caroline has fallen ill, and I am afraid it is quite serious.”

“Good God,” Elizabeth cried, unable to hide her surprise. Miss Bingley had shown no sign of affliction at the Banfields’ dinner. Other than being afflicted with the worst sort of vanity and conceit. “It must have been very sudden. I cannot believe it—how shocking!”

“I was shocked, yes. We returned home that evening, after we had all danced together…. I told Caroline of my intentions…. She claimed she had a headache and took to her bed. I thought she was merely being peevish, but the next morning she rose quite early and sent for a doctor. Caroline is never ill. I was alarmed, and thought I ought not leave her, though I had meant to call here. I did not imagine I would be detained so many days, yet I have scarcely had a chance to get away. She seems to be getting worse every day, and I am worried for her. Louisa thinks that it is nothing, but I am afraid. Caroline is eager to leave London and said the doctor has recommended taking the waters in Bath. The Hursts will not indulge her, so it must be me. She wishes to travel there without delay.”

Realization dawned on Elizabeth and she sat in stunned silence for what felt like an eternity. It was just as she had feared. Miss Bingley had triumphed at the last in separating them, for Elizabeth had not the slightest doubt that the wretched woman’s illness was naught but a design to manipulate her naive brother. She saw in her mind precisely what a marriage to Mr. Bingley would be like, and felt that until that moment she had never known herself. No, she had foolishly hoped that he would, at the crucial moment, defy his sister in defense of the woman he loved. But it seemed he would not, or could not. He had taken the easier path, and succumbed to his sister’s demands, and Elizabeth knew in her heart that she could never bind herself to such a man.

Mr. Bingley looked over at her, and she could see the resignation in his eyes. On some level, perhaps unconsciously, he had already given her up. She scarcely knew what to say, for nothing could now breach the inevitable rift between them. The damage could not be undone. “And so you must go.”

“I have no desire to leave… London. But I must. I cannot say how long I shall be in Bath, but if you are in London when I return.…”

Elizabeth’s posture stiffened with defiance. That he should ask her to wait on him, on the whim of his deceitful sister! Her esteem for him had all but vanished, and she responded coldly, “I had not thought to stay much longer with my aunt and uncle. My sister in Kent has long been wishing me to visit.”

“Oh. Yes, I understand. Perhaps I shall send word to your uncle when I return to town. Perhaps.…” Mr. Bingley fell silent as Mrs. Gardiner’s footsteps could be heard in the hall. He stood and gave Mrs. Gardiner a slight nod as she entered the room. Looking back at Elizabeth with a faint smile he said, “It is folly to linger in this manner. I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is now impossible for me to enjoy.” With a quick bow he hastily left the room, and in another minute had departed the house.

Elizabeth glared out the window as his carriage disappeared. Yes, go, go. I would not wish you back again!

Mrs. Gardiner hurried toward her niece. “Dearest Lizzy, whatever has happened? Have you refused him?”

“I have not—Mr. Bingley did not propose to me.” Elizabeth filled her aunt in on all that had happened. When she finished, her aunt sank back against the sofa, crestfallen.

“Oh Lizzy, I am so sorry. It is all my fault, pressing you to like him, and setting you up for such disappointment. Your uncle and I thought it would be such a perfect match.” Here she embraced her niece tenderly. “Oh Lizzy, can you ever forgive me?”

Elizabeth thought it strange that she should be the one giving comfort at such a time, and offered her tearful aunt a wan smile. “I can hardly hold you accountable, or anyone else, save Mr. Bingley. And to own the truth, I believe you may be more disappointed than I. I suppose the blessing, once denied, begins to lose somewhat of its value in my estimation.”

Find out the rest of the story by purchasing your copy of Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, available on Kindle January 5th!

Thanks for joining me on the second stop of my blog tour, and a special shout-out to those of you who have been following Happier since the days of posting on AHA and AO3! As a thank-you for all the wonderful support I’ve received, I have started a giveaway, and will be selecting a winner after each post on the blog tour! See the full schedule for the blog tour below, and click here to follow me on Facebook for updates on the sequel, coming soon!

Thank you, Jayne, for being my guest today! Congratulations on your new book!

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