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I read 73 books last year, and while I enjoyed most of them, there are a handful that really stood out. Here are my top 10 favorites, with links to my reviews (in no particular order):

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile

The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy

The Best Part of Love by A. D’Orazio

A Lie Universally Hiddenby Anngela Schroeder

T

he Darcy Monologues edited by Christina Boyd

Rules for a Successful Book Club by Victoria Connelly

These Dreams by Nicole Clarkston

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Wait for the Rain by Maria Murnane

Attempting Elizabeth by Jessica Grey

Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey by Ginger Monette

Mendacity & Mourning by J.L. Ashton

A Most Handsome Gentleman by Suzan Lauder

What were your favorite books of 2017? Please tell me in the comments!

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Source: Review copy from authors

Merry Christmas, my dear readers! I will have some mini reviews of Christmas books when I return next week after the holidays, but in the meantime, I have some special treats for you today, so stay tuned!

When I heard that Robin Helm, Laura Hile, Wendi Sotis, and Barbara Cornthwaite were releasing the story anthology A Very Austen Christmas, I couldn’t wait to read it, having enjoyed novels from all of these ladies in the past. And I definitely was not disappointed with these delightfully sweet Christmas tales.

Robin Helm’s “Her Christmas Gift” brings Elizabeth Bennet to Rosings for Christmas, where she is reunited with Mr. Darcy after he saved her family’s reputation, as well as an old friend who has his eye on her. Laura Hile’s “The Christmas Matchmaker” brings Elizabeth and Jane to Netherfield with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, along with Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, Thomas Bertram, and some Christmas magic via “Aunt Jane.” Wendi Sotis’ “No Better Gift” brings Mr. Darcy to Mertyon for Christmas, where he finds the village deserted, and when he learns what has happened, both he and Elizabeth come to realize they had misunderstood each other. Finally, Barbara Cornthwaite’s “Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey” brings readers to the world of Mansfield Park where Edmund plans to propose to Fanny at Christmas.

I loved these sweet tales and how the joys of the Christmas season were an important part of each, and I loved the little bits of humor sprinkled in with the romance. I also loved how the focus was on Pride and Prejudice, but there were characters from Emma and Mansfield Park as well. Each of these stories was different, but they worked together as collection, and I found myself looking forward to escaping into these stories as I unwound from some busy days at work. I can definitely see myself reading this collection again during future holiday seasons. After all, you can never have too much of Elizabeth and Darcy falling in love!

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The first treat I have for you is an excerpt from “The Christmas Matchmaker” by Laura Hile. Enjoy!

It no longer mattered that Elizabeth’s mother was noisy and ambitious—and her younger sisters too. Or that her portion was considered contemptable. He admired her. No, he loved her.

Love. There, he had said it. Or rather he had thought it—which was almost the same thing.

The only question left was what to do. How to tell her what was in his heart? Would she respond in kind? Or did she dislike him as much as ever?

But she had kissed him in that dream. Surely this counted for something!

Darcy’s thoughts were interrupted by Lydia Bennet’s voice. She, along with her sister Kitty, had come to call.

“We are supposed to be shopping in Meryton,” Lydia was saying. “And so we shall be—later.” Apparently the driver of the family carriage had been bribed to silence, a source of much hilarity.

“We’ve already had the mumps,” Kitty pointed out, “so it makes no difference. We simply had to come, Lizzy, for we’ve such news!”

Lydia took up the tale. “Mr. Collins leaves for Hunsford tomorrow, but oh, Lizzy, you will never believe it. He is engaged—actually engaged—to Charlotte Lucas.”

Elizabeth appeared stunned. “You—cannot mean it,” she said.

Apparently her sisters did. “Lady Lucas held the engagement dinner yesterday night,” Kitty assured her. “The wedding is set for early January.”

And then Darcy noticed Miss Woodhouse. She was looking hard at each of the sisters. “How very odd,” she said. “I could have sworn that Mr. Collins’s interests lay elsewhere. Not that I wish ill on Miss—Lucas did you say?”

Lydia kept talking. “And dear Wickham sends his love. He says it is not the same without you, Lizzy, although I cannot see why. We have the merriest evenings together.”

“It’s all tipsy dance and jollity,” gushed Kitty.

“I beg your pardon?” said Elizabeth.

“It’s—the name of a song, Lizzy,” Kitty protested. “You needn’t look so cross.”

Actually, it was a line from Milton’s Comus, but this fact would be lost on Kitty Bennet.

Elizabeth’s sisters soon took their leave. Darcy watched Elizabeth cross to the far side of the room and stand before the windows.

Emma Woodhouse, meanwhile, was frowning at the carpet. “I do not understand it,” Darcy heard her tell Miss Bates. “Mr. Collins’s interests were so clearly in another direction. Ah well, I have someone else in mind for her, at any rate.”

“You are always so clever, Miss Woodhouse,” said Miss Bates. “Christmastide, as we well know, is such a time for weddings and engagements. It is a wonderful time of year.”

Would his own engagement be included with the rest? Darcy turned a page of his newspaper.

“I take no credit for dear Jane and Mr. Bingley—that match was already well underway. But his sister?” Although Emma lowered her voice, Darcy could still hear. “An alliance with Mr. Darcy would be very nice; it would bring both families together. As you know, when our Isabella married John Knightley, it answered in every way.”

Darcy knew that he should excuse himself and go out, but Emma was bent on talking. He kept still behind his newspaper.

“My dear, dear Miss Woodhouse,” began Miss Bates, “far be it from me to raise an objection—of any kind. But Miss Bingley is not a soft-spoken sort of person, is she? And dear Mr. Darcy—”

“And Mr. Darcy is,” said Emma, interrupting. “Opposites attract! Now then,” she went on, “if we could only manage to keep Mr. Bertram at home of an evening, he and Elizabeth could get on. He is much too fond of card-playing.”

“As was dear Grandpapa,” lamented Miss Bates. “Although horse racing was his downfall—as it is with so many gentlemen.”

Darcy turned another page. Tom Bertram could go to the devil, for all he cared. He’d had enough of the man’s simpering ways and fashionable manners. But as the husband of Elizabeth? Preposterous!

“I dare say he will learn to outgrow it, although Mr. Knightley would probably disagree. He has the most old-fashioned notions as to character.” Emma hesitated for a moment. “But no, Elizabeth is too lovely and too charming to marry just anyone. She deserves to be the next Lady Bertram, and if I have my way, so shall she be.”

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About A Very Austen Christmas

Her Christmas Gift by Robin Helm

Elizabeth Bennet finds herself snowbound at Rosings with two rejected, but highly eligible, suitors. Does either man have a chance? Will her childhood friend, Meryton’s golden boy, win her affection, or will she accept the master of Pemberley? Perhaps she will refuse them both a second time.  Her Christmas Gift deftly combines tension and emotion with humor and romance.

The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile

It’s raining; it’s pouring – and what could be better than a little Christmas matchmaking? So says Emma Woodhouse who is unexpectedly stranded at Netherfield Park. Mr. Darcy disagrees, for she has someone else in mind for adorable Elizabeth Bennet. Amid meddling, misunderstanding, and an unwelcome proposal or two, will True Love find a way?

No Better Gift by Wendi Sotis

On his way to Derbyshire to spend Christmas with his family, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy plans to retrieve an item he left behind during his rushed escape from Netherfield—and the country miss who touched his heart. Finding Meryton practically deserted, he fears the worst. What fate could have fallen upon this once-thriving village in only three weeks? More importantly, was Miss Elizabeth Bennet in danger?

Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey by Barbara Cornthwaite

When Edmund Bertram realizes that Fanny is the perfect wife for him, he wants to propose without delay. What better time than at Christmas? Ah, but the course of true love never does run smooth …

Check out the book on Amazon

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Giveaway

And the last (but not least) special treat I have for you is a giveaway for an ebook copy of A Very Austen Christmas, generously offered by the authors. To ensure the lucky winner has a chance to delve into this book before Christmas, this will be a quick giveaway, ending at Noon Eastern Time tomorrow, Saturday, December 23, 2017. To enter, please leave your email address in the comment, so the book can be sent to you right away. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received A Very Austen Christmas from the authors for review.

 

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marryingwell-sm

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

Laura Hile channels Sir Walter Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion in her latest book, Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot Advises the Upwardly Mobile Miss. It’s a short escapist read written from the point of view of a high society snob who is overly concerned about his looks and keeping up appearances, regardless of how much money that requires one to spend. What ensues is a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek advice on marrying well that touches on such topics as Debt, Bling, Ageing, The Fauxpology, Cyber Dating, and His Mumsie Dearest. I loved the title of one section, “Your Mirror, Your Friend,” given Sir Walter’s love of the looking glass.

Sir Walter begins and ends each section with relevant and equally amusing quotes, leads off each column with “My Dear Vulgarian Miss,” and in true Sir Walter fashion, signs off each time with “Cordially yours in the upward climb.”

I laughed out loud so many times throughout the book, and I even annoyed my husband and daughter by insisting on quoting several passages. Here are some of my favorites:

On “Debt”:

My dear, you must adjust your thinking. For nothing shrieks Plebeian or Cit (or my personal favorite, Mushroom) more loudly than a voiced determination to pay one’s debts. Repeat after me: ‘It is enough to simply pay the interest.’ And, ‘I’ll pay it off once I get my inheritance.’

Gambling debts–as between gentlemen and gentlewomen–are something else entirely. Neglect these to your peril! I do not gamble. Shopping is safer.

On “Chocolate, the Inexpensive Therapist”:

It has been said that chocolate is a girl’s best friend. It is the Inexpensive Therapist, no appointment necessary. Chocolate calms nerves, subdues sorrows, and patches together a broken heart. It also relieves menopausal symptoms, although I would not know. (Even if I were a woman, I am not at all old enough to experience those.)

On “His Mumsie Dearest”:

A mother-in-law who is deceased is one of the benefits to marrying a much-older gentleman. But young ladies never consider this. They should! Especially in your modern times! Cholera was pernicious in my day, but it had its uses.

Hile does a great job poking fun at Sir Walter and our enjoyment of him. I could picture a Sir Walter type with his quill poised over the paper, seriously contemplating these matters and delighting in the chance to contribute his expertise. If you have a couple of hours to spend with a pot of tea and are in need of some laughs, I highly recommend Marrying Well for Fun & Profit.

Please check out Sir Walter’s guest post from yesterday and Laura Hile’s generous giveaway of 2 copies here.

Disclosure: I received Marrying Well for Fun & Profit from the author for review.

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clipar41In Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot Advises the Upwardly Mobile Miss, Laura Hile channels Jane Austen’s high society expert. Today, I’m delighted to welcome the man himself to Diary of an Eccentric. Please give a warm welcome to Sir Walter Elliot:

My Dear Vulgarian Reader,

After 200 years of silence, I, Sir Walter Elliot, have written a book, Marrying Well for Fun & Profit.

Its publication represents a triumph. You see, Jane Austen misquoted me frightfully in Persuasion. Now I am able to speak for myself.

Marrying Well is a treasure trove of practical tips and social sagacity. It is designed to be read for inspiration, say, alongside your morning coffee or tea. And you need advice, dear reader, because marrying above one’s station is not as easy as it appears.

Are you thinking that I, a baronet, have had to take a job? Heavens, no. Writing is not an occupation, nor is it a hobby. It’s charity work.

That is just what it is. I simply had to do something. I mean, really. People in your day are wearing pajama pants to do their shopping.

I understand being eager to purchase new clothes. But if you intend to buy ready-made garments—a thing I have never done—then you ought to use the dressing room. Instead of, say, arriving at the store half-undressed to save time.

It is the same with marrying well. You need to use your wits to ensnare the right husband, rather than your body. Keep your feminine assets attractively covered and ensnare him with attitude and charm. Allow me to show you the way. Here is the buy link for Marrying Well for Fun & Profit: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZ9TC45. I’ve priced it so that it is affordable for anyone, even you. The right men are out there—if you know where to look and how, shall we say, to bait the hook.

Cordially yours in the upward climb,

Sir Walter Elliot

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About Marrying Well for Fun & Profit

marryingwell-smWas there ever a snob like Sir Walter?

He fairly leaps from the pages of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

With one eye on the looking glass and the other the Baronetage, Sir Walter is Regency England’s high society expert.

Who better to give advice to the modern young woman wishing to improve her worth through marriage?

Because marrying into wealth and privilege–thus improving the family gene pool–is not as easy as it appears.

And so Sir Walter Elliot has consented to share advice with the less fortunate.

That would be us.

Come and sit at the feet of the one who was Born to be Seen.

Check out Marrying Well for Fun & Profit on Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

If you’re interested in Sir Walter’s helpful advice, you’re in luck! Laura Hile is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Marrying Well for Fun & Profit. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address about what interests you most about Sir Walter and his expertise in navigating modern society. The giveaway will close on Sunday, January 29, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks to both Sir Walter and Laura Hile for being my guests today!

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darcy-by-any-other-name

Source: Personal library

It was his confrontation with Collins that had been the most troubling. How unnerving it was to see his own face, twisted by Collins’ indecision as he swung between pride and folly. Moreover, Collins’ declaration–“I am Darcy of Pemberley!”–had shaken him to the core.

At the landing Darcy paused and hung over the bannister rail, lost in thought. If Collins could never be Fitzwilliam Darcy, then he could never be William Collins.

(from Darcy By Any Other Name)

Laura Hile’s Darcy By Any Other Name is among the most unique variations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve thus far had the pleasure to read. In a Freaky Friday sort of scenario, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins switch bodies after being struck by lightning at the Netherfield Ball. When Darcy wakes up as Mr. Collins, he is thrust into life in the Bennet household at a time when Mr. Bennet has fallen ill. He is given a chance to understand the Bennet women, get to know Elizabeth in particular, and view life through the eyes of someone who can enter a room without being noticed. Elizabeth sees a change in Mr. Collins, realizing he is no longer pompous and has stopped sermonizing and praising Lady Catherine at every turn.

Meanwhile, Collins turns Darcy into a bumbling idiot and a bit of a slob. He is initially excited to be elevated to Darcy’s wealth and social standing but soon learns that he does not have the intelligence or common sense to fill Darcy’s boots, no matter how good he looks in them. With no idea how the body swap occurred and no way to reverse it, the men are forced to come to terms with the reality of their new lives and position in society as chaos erupts around them and life-altering decisions must be made.

Darcy By Any Other Name was the perfect way to start off my 2017 reading. It’s a laugh (and even gasp) out loud kind of novel, one that actually makes you worried that there isn’t any possible path to happily ever after.  There were plenty of humorous moments, such as Collins flirting with Caroline Bingley and admiring himself in Darcy’s upscale wardrobe, but there are plenty of deeper moments as well, especially as Darcy contemplates why he became Collins at this particular moment in time and is humbled by his experiences.

This is a fairly long novel at more than 600 pages, but don’t let that stop you. The book reads quickly and is difficult to put down. I was literally on the edge of my seat during the last several chapters. I had no idea how it all would play out, and it was a roller coaster ride until the end. Hile takes time to develop Elizabeth’s relationship with Darcy (as Collins), and she does so in a way that feels completely natural and never forced. She also gives the men sufficient time to learn from their changed circumstances, and there are many lessons at the core of the novel, mainly that a person’s true self is more important than their outward appearance. The differences in how Darcy and Collins approach their new selves and the opportunities presented to them feel true to character and provide both many laughs and much food for thought. Moreover, Hile takes on the issues of pride, faith, and duty in way that I will not soon forget.

Giveaway

If I’ve made you excited to read Darcy By Any Other Name, then you’re in luck! Laura is generously offering a Kindle copy to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, January 15, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

If you want to start reading Darcy By Any Other Name right this minute, you’re also in luck! The Kindle version is currently on sale for $3.99. It also is available through Kindle Unlimited.

Disclosure: Darcy By Any Other Name is from my personal library.

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