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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Mirta Ines Trupp back to the blog today to celebrate the upcoming release of her new novel, Celestial Persuasion, which has some ties to Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Mirta is here to share a little about the book, along with an excerpt and giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello lovely readers! I am delighted to stop today and appreciate the opportunity to talk about my upcoming release: Celestial Persuasion. This is my fifth book to date; and in keeping with my penchant for combining various passions, this novel is a Jewish historical fiction—with more than a nod to Jane Austen’s work. In fact, I invite you to consider this stand-alone novel to be a prequel to Austen’s Persuasion. There is a twist, however. Shall I reveal all or just drop a few hints?

The story unfolds in Devonshire, England—in Exeter to be exact. There you will meet Abigail Isaacs, a young lady long considered past her last prayers. But Abigail is not concerned with her marital state. Indeed, her mind is occupied elsewhere. She is determined to follow in the footsteps of her heroine, Caroline Herschel, and become an astronomer in her own right. Abigail lives quietly at home with her father and long-time companion, Mrs. Frankel. Books and instruments keep Abigail fairly occupied, as do her friends and neighbors, including Mrs. Dashwood of Barton Cottage. Her brother, too, has been a dear friend and mentor in all things, but he has long been away from home.  A physician serving under Captain Wentworth’s command, Jonathan Isaacs’ presence is sorely missed, never more so than when their father dies from a brief illness. Again and again, Abigail sends out her letters, hoping soon to receive a reply. With no one to come to her aid, Abigail alone must face the unsettling matter of her present state of affairs; until, at length, a letter arrives.


The sun took its place in the morning sky, scattering its light upon the awakening countryside but ungenerously withholding its radiant heat. Abigail brought her wrap in closely about her arms and snuggled in her father’s armchair, placed appropriately by the fire. How she missed her father! His humor and his intellect, his manner of always taking pleasure in her inquisitiveness and aspirations. Although his arms could no longer envelop her in his strong embrace, she found some warmth in his favorite chair. And yet there was a chill in the air. She made a mental note to speak to James regarding the sitting room’s fire.

Being a creature of habit, she could only get on with her life in the manner she was most accustomed. A stack of correspondence lay waiting for her to take notice, and with a sigh, Abigail abandoned her comfort and took a seat at her mother’s secretaire. A smile came to her lips as she realized the descriptions she applied to her belongings. Her father’s chair, her mother’s desk…somehow the sameness of these objects was in keeping with her own regimented routines, connecting her present circumstance to her past.

Her methodical approach to even the most commonplace task had always been a point of amusement for Mrs. Frankel; but Abigail often wondered whether it were not a sign of something more significant. As things stood now, she realized she needed to keep to her schedule. Mrs. Dashwood was expected for a visit; therefore, she had to complete the task at hand and see to the morning mail. Taking the letter opener in hand, she made quick work of the slicing through the waxed seal and proceeded to unfold the missive.

“My goodness,” she said aloud, noting it was dated three months prior. “This letter must have been on quite a journey.” Adjusting her wrap, Abigail shifted her weight until she found herself to be quite comfortable and able to read.

12th of August, 1811

Gibraltar

Madam,

I take pen in hand to inform you that I am in receipt of your letters, both the one you had so wisely addressed to my attention and the one intended for your brother. It grieves me to relate the following information. It is a task no commander ever wishes to undertake; and knowing that you have recently lost your father, this will be a harder blow than any young lady should have to bear. With all my heart and soul, I would wish to spare you this intelligence; however, Isaacs—that is to say, your brother Jonathan—always spoke so highly of his sister that I take courage in knowing your strength will allow you to rally. Your dear brother, and my good friend, will not be returning home. He has completed his service to the Crown and distinguished himself with great honor. You may hold your head high. Jonathan Isaacs is, and will always be, thought of as the best of men. These are trying times, Miss Isaacs. Wars seem to be never-ending, and a grateful nation asks much of the families that are left behind to wonder, to pray, and to grieve. I hope that you have family and friends to help you through these dark and troubled waters; but until you find yourself tranquil once more, pray allow me to guide you to a safe harbor. Your brother charged me to relay some instructions to you, and I am only too honored to fulfill my promise expeditiously and with great concern for your welfare.

It was your brother’s greatest wish that you meet Lord Fife. You may be unaware of the relationship, but your father and his lordship were friends and business partners. At your father’s bidding, Jonathan was introduced to the earl when he was at university at Edinburgh. Please make whatever arrangements are necessary to travel to London at once in order to make his acquaintance. You are expected, Miss Isaacs, and can rest assured that accommodations will be at your disposal with the earl’s compliments. His lordship is making his townhouse available to you and will, naturally, stay at his club for the duration of your visit. I cannot say this more succinctly, madam: Jonathan was most adamant in his declaration and has entrusted your well-being to Lord Fife, who will assist you with plans for your future comfort.

I can well imagine your present state of mind. Please forgive my impertinence, but having learned much of your home life from your respected brother, I feel quite part of the family. The Bible tells us to build our lives upon the stable rock that is God’s love, wisdom, and salvation. If I may speak of my own circumstances, my own brother, the Reverend Edward Wentworth, has been the rock in my life. I know what Jonathan has meant to you, as he has told me much of your childhood together. To be sure, I know you are a talented mathematician and astronomer, and that these accomplishments were brought about by hours and hours of your brother’s loving dedication to the betterment of your brilliant mind. I know, too, that you were quite put out and displayed righteous indignation when you were prohibited—at the age of nine or ten— from accompanying your brother to university. Pray, do not be vexed with Jonathan for relating these tales from your youth. Those of us thrown together on-board ship often develop an intimacy with one another’s life histories that would otherwise not be revealed if meeting in a drawing room. These stories were Jonathan’s cherished memories of his most beloved sister. He treasured this time you spent together, learning and discovering all matter of things. He also spoke of the influences many of your sex had had on your aspirations. Jonathan referred to them as giants in their fields of expertise. I myself had no knowledge of their greatness and readily admitted my ignorance of such feminine luminaries.

These intimate conversations with your brother have given me a sense of kinship and justify the license I take in speaking to you thus. These brilliant women of whom Jonathan spoke showed great resolve in forging ahead in worlds that denied their sense of identity. I am now called upon to ask you to follow their example and help you navigate the trajectory that the stars have so clearly outlined. I entreat you to make haste and communicate with Lord Fife as soon as you are able. I would be pleased to receive your reply and pray you feel at liberty to express your thoughts as freely as I have done. Your brother has wished it to be so.

Your servant,

Captain Frederick Wentworth


About Celestial Persuasion

Abigail Isaacs fears ever again falling under the power of love and dedicates her life to studying the heavens. However, upon her father’s demise she finds herself in reduced circumstances and must write to her brother, who has long been away at sea. When instead Captain Wentworth of the HMS Laconia sends a tragic reply, Abigail is asked to set aside her own ambitions and fulfill her brother’s dreams in the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata.

In his relentless pursuit for justice, Lieutenant Raphael Gabay lends his sword to the Spanish American cause. But as he prepares to set sail with the others, he is entrusted with the care of a young woman. She is quite unlike anyone he has ever known, and Raphael wonders whether the brilliant astronomer will see beyond his frivolous façade and recognize his true nature.

Their destinies have been plotted beyond the celestial veil; their charts foretell of adventure. Can these two troubled souls be persuaded to heed the stars and find love—and their purpose—in this fledgling nation?

Buy on Amazon (release date: June 30, 2021)


About the Author

Mirta Ines Trupp

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with ‘un pie acá, y un pie allá’ (with one foot here and one foot there).

Mirta’s fascination with Jewish history and genealogy, coupled with an obsession for historical period drama, has inspired her to create these unique and enlightening novels. She has been a guest speaker for book clubs, sisterhood events, genealogy societies and philanthropic organizations. Sharing her knowledge of Jewish Argentina has become her passion.

Connect with Mirta: Website | Blog | Goodreads


Giveaway

Mirta is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Celestial Persuasion. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Saturday, June 19, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Hello, dear friends! I’m delighted that Maria Grace is back again today, this time to celebrate the seventh installment of the Jane Austen’s Dragons series, Dragons Beyond the Pale. Maria is here to share a little about her research into dragons in Jane Austen’s world. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hi Anna! I’m thrilled to join you today and share a little of the research that’s led me to the conclusion that Of Course There Were Dragons in Jane Austen’s World.

The Dragons of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion

Brighton’s iconic Royal Pavilion features unique, stunning architecture and décor, fit for a royal prince. But when one looks closely at the décor, a surprising feature jumps out—dragons!

History of Brighton Pavilion

After visiting Brighton in 1783 with his uncle, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland, The Prince of Wales (later George IV) found an escape from the constraints of court life with his father. He was advised that the seawater and fresh air would benefit his gout, but the more diverting attractions of Brighton, lively company in his uncle’s circle, gambling, horse racing, music, theater and dining—and of course women—were probably the Prince’s primary draws to create his escapist playground there.

In 1786, the Prince rented a farmhouse in Brighton. By 1787, he commissioned the designer of Carlton house, Henry Holland, to begin what would become the Marine Pavilion Later, the Prince purchased surrounding lands to build a riding school and stables in 1803-1808.

Josh Nash, architect

After the Prince’s transition from Prince of Wales to Prince Regent in 1811, the Pavilion and its ground began a transformation to reflect its owner’s change in status. Designer Josh Nash redesigned the Pavilion with an Indo-Islamic exterior unique in the region, in a project that would extend from 1815-1822. The interior design, primarily by Frederick Crace and Robert Jones, reflected both Chinese and Indian fashion, something of a revival of the chinoiserie style of the 1740’s. The decorative choices were an example of exoticism in sharp contrast to the more classic mainstream taste of the era.

The Dragons of Brighton Pavilion

The interiors of Brighton Pavilion were distinctive for many reasons, including architecture, technological advances, and design. I’d like to focus on just one of those aspects here, the dragons. Literally hundreds of dragons grace the walls, textiles and fixtures of Brighton Pavilion. Not exactly what one might expect from the Regency era which is generally associated with neo-classical design. But the fantasy-escape offered by the Pavilion took guest out of the mundane at the first steps within.

Entrance Hall

The entrance hall offered visitors immediate hints as to what might lay within. The walls bear relatively subtle images of dragons.

Long Gallery

The Long Gallery, sometimes also he Chinese Gallery, provided a place for guests to promenade and admire the décor. Carved and painted dragons can be seen in a close examination Nash’s illustration.

Banqueting Room

The lavish banqueting room offers equally lavish dragon decoration, perhaps most notable is the carved and silvered dragon from which the crystal chandelier is suspended. (Click this link to see a photograph of the actual silver dragon http://www.victoriana.com/Travel/images/royalpavilion-7.jpg) Six smaller dragons wind around the lotus shaped glass shades. More dragons decorate lamps, walls and furnishings.

Music Room

The substantial music room is perhaps the pinnacle of the Pavilion’s chinoiserie theme. Landscape murals feature gigantic serpents and winged dragons. Dragons and serpents support the curtains for the enormous windows and decorate the gasoliers. At least 180 dragon and serpent grace this chamber.

Dragon décor can be seen in other rooms throughout the pavilion.  

Don’t forget the Tunnels

One final dragon friendly feature of the Royal Pavilion were the secret corridors used by the servants, and the tunnel that ran from the north end of the Pavilion to the stables and riding house. The tunnel was lit by shafts in the tunnel’s roof that held sizeable glass lanterns tucked into the flowerbeds above the tunnel.

Of course there are rumor and myths of a more substantial network of tunnels, connecting a variety of locations to the Pavilion, but those appear to by the substance of myth. 

Or maybe not. If I’m right, and dragons did inhabit Jane Austen’s England, then perhaps, just perhaps the additional tunnels were not so mythical, and the carved and painted dragons are not the only one to inhabit the Royal Pavilion.

A virtual tour of the Royal Pavilion

You can see several of these rooms for yourself! A virtual tour of a number of the rooms mentioned here can be found at: https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/royalpavilion/visiting/virtual-tour/

References

Brighton Pavilion. Open Learn. September 8, 2012, https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history-art/brighton-pavilion/content-section-0 accessed April 20, 2021

Discover the Royal Pavilion. Victoriana Magazine http://www.victoriana.com/Travel/royalpavilion.htm Accessed April 20, 2021

Moss , Richard. Forgotten Rooms And Underground Tunnels – Secrets Of Brighton Pavilion. May 24, 2004.  https://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/royal-history/tra2200   Accessed April 20, 2021

John Nash’s Views of the Royal Pavilion (1826) (All images from this source)


About Dragons Beyond the Pale

Smugglers. A kidnapping. A fire-breathing fairy dragon? The Blue Order is falling apart at the seams. 

After months in Bath mentoring Dragon Keepers and Friends, Dragon Sage Elizabeth Darcy actually anticipates traveling to London for the Keeper’s Cotillion. Which says a great deal considering the she-dragons who make up the Cotillion board would very much like to show the Sage her proper place.

The she-dragons, though, are no match for what Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy finds waiting for him in London. Threats to the Order on every side, and Lord Matlock demands he keep them secret from Elizabeth. No one keeps secrets from Elizabeth.

In the meantime, Anne and Frederick Wentworth arrive in London with hopes of finally being accepted in good Blue Order society, unaware of the burgeoning maelstrom about to engulf them.

Darcy manages to keep matters under control until a fairy-dragon’s prank unleashes sinister forces who perpetrate an unthinkable crime that could spell the end of the Pendragon Accords and usher in a new age of dragon war.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy, with the Wentworths’ help, restore balance to the Blue Order before the dragons decide to take matters into their own talons and right the wrongs themselves?

Buy on Amazon


Check out the rest of the series on Amazon, and visit the Jane Austen Dragon’s series website!


About the Author

Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.

She can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination |Pinterest


Giveaway

Maria is generously offering a winner’s choice ebook giveaway! One lucky winner can choose between the newest ebook in the series, Dragons Beyond the Pale, or if they haven’t yet started the series, the first ebook, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, May 23, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Cass Grafton and Ada Bright back today to celebrate the release of their latest novel, Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion. We had a lovely chat about the book and more, and they’re also giving away some copies. Please give them a warm welcome!


  • What inspired you to merge Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion in Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion? What was your favorite part of combining those two stories? Were there any particular challenges in doing so?

Cass: We both love these two books so much, it was almost a natural step to want to write a crossover. I’d had a thought some years ago about how some of the characters might meet (which is revealed early on, in the Prologue), and I think my favourite part was discovering how well they worked together on the page. 

I don’t recall any challenges in that respect, though we don’t use too many characters from Persuasion outside of the immediate Elliot family and Captain Wentworth. This is mainly because we’re following the timeline for Pride & Prejudice and the story is set in the winter of 1811, meaning it’s three years earlier for all the characters of Persuasion—i.e. Anne Elliot is 24, not 27, and Captain Wentworth is away at sea. It also means Lady Russell is passing the winter in Bath, as she does, Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove are away at school because they are younger in this story and Mr Elliot (the heir) is not yet widowed and is still estranged from the family.

Ada: What she said. 😉

  • Tell us something that you’re especially excited about regarding the new book. A particular scene? An original character? Having both Darcy and Wentworth in the same book?!?!?

Cass: Well, yes, having two such lovely men to work with was not exactly a hardship, and I’m sure Ada will agree. There are so many scenes I love, but there are a few secrets winging around throughout the story, so it’s hard to share specifics. I think the thing I’m most excited about is how we’ve weaved the mystery elements of the book in through the romance. I get excited to hear when readers have picked up on a clue we’ve dropped!

Ada: I was really just so excited to work with Anne. While I may not be like her in many ways, I find her very sympathetic. I hadn’t dreamed up a new future for her, so finally playing in her world was really satisfying!

  • Your co-written novels are so seamless. What process do you use for co-writing? Do you each write certain scenes/characters/POVs? How do you handle the plotting, edits/rewrites, etc.? How difficult do you find co-writing when living in different parts of the world?

Cass: This is one of Ada’s favourites, so I’ll leave her to answer the various questions more specifically. In summary, though, we both work on every aspect of our co-written novels, whether it is scenes, individual characters or POVs. Plotting is usually a brainstorm at the beginning. There are a LOT of video calls, and this year, Zoom has been our saviour!

Ada: Oo! Oo! Call on me! I am excessively long winded about this so I’ll try to be brief.

We both write everything in the book is the honest truth. Here’s how it works.

1. Cass pitches a plot (the plots I pitch usually involve car chases and Cass leaves those to my solo work).

2. We meet up somewhere on the globe and we talk about it while we walk around areas we think will be used in the book: letting ourselves meander through the story both figuratively and literally until we are ready to write our outline (here is also where we decide on actors to stand in for the image in our heads for each character).

3. We go back home, slightly worse for wear, and I start brazenly writing whatever scene I want while Cass starts exactly where one logically should: at the beginning.

4. We send each other our scenes and start editing what we’ve received from each other. This goes back and forth (each of us adding to the scenes) until one of us gets stuck and starts to doubt the validity of our plans.

5. At 10:30 pm my time and 7am Cass-time we Zoom and work out any kinks (or yell at each other—but usually we just laugh). Then I go to bed and leave Cass to fix the problems. When I wake up, I have a new set of solutions or questions in my email which I try to solve while Cass drinks some wine.

6. When all is mostly said and done we usually do a full read thru with each other out loud to check pacing etc. There’s more, but I can expect your eyes and ears are bleeding so I’ll stop.

Cass: Well it’s sort of like that! We have a 9-hour time difference, and I’m a morning person and Ada’s a night owl, so being so far apart works perfectly for us.

  • What drew you to Austen’s novels, and then to writing Austenesque novels?

Cass: Pride & Prejudice was a set book for an English Literature exam at school when I was 15, and I went on to read all the novels from there. I wrote my first Austen-inspired novel because of the proposal in the rain scene from the 2005 movie. I couldn’t believe, despite the ‘conversation’ that had taken place, that the character of Darcy, as a gentleman, would have left Elizabeth Bennet in a downpour and with no way to get back to Hunsford safely—so I sent him back to her!

Ada: I just love to dream in any of the worlds I love. Add to that how beautifully reserved Austen was with her romantic resolutions and therein lies the connection impetus to dream on paper. 

  • What’s your favorite Austen novel, hero, heroine?

Cass: Persuasion is my favourite, very closely followed by Pride & Prejudice. When I was younger it was the other way around, but I love Captain Wentworth’s letter so much, and find I identify far more with Anne Elliot than Lizzy Bennet, so it’s become my number one. I do also have a soft spot for Mr Knightley, though!

I do wonder what Jane Austen would think of Persuasion’s popularity, especially as she chose not to publish it when she finished writing the novel. Did she plan to make changes? Was it because it resonated too closely with her? I wish we knew!

Ada: Pride & Prejudice is my favorite novel, with Elinor from Sense & Sensibility being my favorite heroine and Captain Wentworth my favorite hero… purely for his letter honestly, I do not love witnessing his flirtations before he gets completely distracted by Anne! 

  • In your previous novels, you merged the past and the present. Do you enjoy writing contemporary novels or Regency-era novels more?

Cass: It wasn’t a conscious thing, but I do find it funny on reflection to have started in the past, then gone on to write time-travel, hopping between the present and the past, and then moving onto contemporary. It’s as though I needed to travel through time myself! 

The big advantage of writing historical is it’s easy to create conflict and stumbling blocks for the characters. You only need a letter to go astray (or where it shouldn’t), or for the weather to play up to impact the characters.

I think I love them equally, and it’s why I’m happy to be able to indulge in all three categories.

Ada: I have to say contemporary because what Cass finds easy (being comfortable writing in a historical setting) I find very difficult. It gives me structure I badly need, but also stifles some of my best jokes 😉 . 

  • Do you want to give us a hint about what’s next, book-wise? Do you have another co-writing project in the works? Anything you’re writing on your own that you’d like to share?

Cass: I have a few projects on the go, and we have third (and final, Ada) time-travel novel to write. We’ve plotted it out and it completes the 3-book series nicely, I think.  My next project, however, will be contemporary. I started a heart-warming romance series set in Cornwall last year and hope to work on the second and third ones this year.

Ada: I also have a few projects “on the go”. We have 3-5 more of our time travel adventures to write (trust me, Cass will cave. We have barely even begun to talk about the gravestones!), and I am writing a romantic suspense series, the first of which is done and the next I am researching—when not hanging over my 5th grader’s shoulder in distance learning. 

  • What books have you read recently that you’d like to recommend, Austenesque or otherwise?

Cass: I’ll be honest and say I read far less than I wish I did. I used to be a prolific reader, but when I’m in full writing mode, I find it hard to come out of the world I am in to read another book. I have made exceptions for my writer friends, though, and as a few of them have new releases coming this year, I’m looking forward to getting back into reading again!

Ada: I am in love with Robert Galbreath’s Coroman Strike series.

Thank you both so much for taking time to answer my questions and for being my guests today! Congratulations on your new book!


About Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion

Two of Jane Austen’s classics collide in this intriguing tale of pride, prejudice and persuasion, set in England’s beautiful West Country.

In the aftermath of the Netherfield Ball, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are determined to find respite—Darcy from the allure of the lady and the feelings she evokes in him, and Elizabeth from the drama unfolding at Longbourn.

Fate is not done with them, however, as they both—unbeknownst to the other—take refuge on the Kellynch estate in Somersetshire, home to Sir Walter Elliot and two of his daughters.

Whilst Elizabeth takes solace from her friendship with Anne Elliot, Darcy finds little comfort in his reacquaintance with the woman fast taking hold of his heart—or, indeed, in the eldest Miss Elliot’s company, whose fluttering eyelashes make her intentions plain.

As for Anne, it is five long years since she last laid eyes upon Frederick Wentworth, and though her regret lingers, she has found some contentment in life… until distressing news of the captain arrives.

When hints of deep secrets emerge—some recently stolen, others harboured for decades—the mystery begins to wrap tendrils around Darcy as he struggles to free himself from its ever-tightening bonds.

Can Darcy discover the truth before it is too late? Will Elizabeth even care if he does? And just what has become of Captain Wentworth?


About the Authors

Both avid bookworms since childhood, Cass Grafton and Ada Bright write the sort of stories they love to read – heart-warming, character driven and strong on location. Cass loves travelling, words, cats and wine but never in the same glass. Ada loves nothing more than a good, subtle love story… well, except cake. She also really loves cake.

Cass and Ada are close friends who enjoy writing together. Their popular time-travel romance series featuring Jane Austen recently came out on audio and they have just completed a Regency inspired novel, Mr Darcy’s Persuasion, in which two of Jane Austen’s classics collide.

When they are not working together, Cass writes uplifting contemporary romance and Ada writes romantic suspense.  

Connect with Cass & Ada:

Amazon Author Pages

http://author.to/CassGrafton

http://author.to/AdaBright

Blogs

www.cassandragrafton.com

www.tabbycow.com

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/CassGraftonWriter

https://www.facebook.com/cassie.grafton/

https://www.facebook.com/missyadabright

Twitter

@CassGrafton

@missyadabright

Instagram

@cassgraftonwriter

@adacakes


Giveaway

Cass and Ada are generously offering 2 ebook copies of Mr. Darcy’s Persuasion, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, March 21, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Maria Grace back to the blog today to celebrate the completion of the Persuasion arc in her Jane Austen’s Dragon Series with the release of Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion. Maria is here to talk about bringing dragons into Jane Austen’s world and to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

****

Thanks so much for letting me share my new project with you, Anna. It’s always such a pleasure to get to visit with you.  Through the years I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being willing to put very different spins on Jane Austen’s stories and characters. That hasn’t changed with my newest series. In fact, I think the new books kick it up a notch—or maybe several.

And with that rather dubious introduction, I’m utterly tickled to announce that the Persuasion arc of my Jane Austen’s Dragons series is complete with the release of Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion.  Now wait, I can hear you muttering and rolling your eyes, “Dragons? Really? Seriously—dragons?  Why—just why?”

I’ve seen that look before and have been known to reply, “Because zombies, vampires and werewolves have already been done.” And while that is utterly true, and the sort of thing I might say if you caught me at just the right—or wrong—moment, it isn’t a very good answer.

You’re rolling your eyes at me again, but give me a chance and hear me out.  I promise, Jane Austen would approve. If you take a glance at English mythology, it is full of dragons. Seriously, they are everywhere.

Don’t believe me, here’s just a partial list if dragon myths: the Lambton Worm, the Dragon of Mordiford, the Dragon of Unsworth, the Dragon of Wantly, the Dragon of Longwitton, the Dragon of Loschy Hill, the Bisterne Dragon, the Worm of Linton, the Stoor Worm, the Sockburn Worm (or Wyvern), Blue Ben, and the Lyminster Knucker. With dragons just about everywhere in English myth, it seems likely that Jane Austen herself was familiar with many of these dragon legends.

That got me to thinking: What if… (A word of caution, when a writer says “what if”, it might be a good time to politely excuse yourself…)

So, what if those dragon myths contained a large helping of reality and there really were dragons in England? What it they weren’t just a thing of the medieval era, but continued to be a very real presence in British society into the modern era? How might that work?

Hmmm … that would require a research trip back to medieval dragons and the father of fabled King Arthur who had dragon connections. His father, Uther Pendragon helped Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland to Britain. Later, on the way to the battle, Uther sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as a sign of Aurelius’ death and Uther’s glorious future. Uther wins the battle, but returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned. Uther becomes king and adopts the use of a golden dragon as his standard.

So, What IF (there’s that dangerous phrase again!) Uther Pendragon was embroiled in battle not just with the Saxons, but with dragons as well and he saw a real dragon who could speak with him, not a comet as most stories suggested? Would not others have heard it too? Wait, no—what if the dragons had a way of hiding in plain sight that only a select few people could see through, and Uther was one of those and made peace with dragonkind…

Suddenly I saw a world, hundreds of years removed from medieval England, where mankind and dragonkind could coexist, governed by the Blue Order, an organization founded by Uther Pendragon himself, on human and dragon partnership, dedicated to protecting the safety and interests of both species while keeping the dragons secret from the very large segment of the human population with hearing insufficient to detect dragon voices.

Hmmm … that could be the start of something interesting. And it has been, seeing how the stories and characters of Jane Austen’s world completely fit into the realm of the Blue Order.  Here’s a peek to whet your appetite.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

August 15, 1814

Laconia, the cat-like tatzelwurm, wound himself around Wentworth’s feet as he walked the stony street to the Blue Order office in Lyme. People bustled about, with all the accompanying noise that did nothing so much as remind one that he was no longer at sea and the master of his own ship. Sunny, bordering on hot, the salty sea breeze clipped the edge off the heat and left the shadows beside the buildings notably cooler, almost chilly. A number of people stopped and stared at the sight, not so much because he was walking with a tatzelwurm, but rather because they saw Laconia as an enormous cat, weaving in and out through his strides.

Though it looked like a difficult, intricate dance, Laconia had been doing it since he was a wyrmling. It had become more difficult as he had grown into a substantial creature, nearly three stones in weight with height and length to match, but Laconia insisted. While he was well able to protect himself now, the scars of his hatching trauma still plagued him. Laconia never felt very comfortable in unfamiliar places, around unfamiliar people—he rarely got much more than an arm’s length away from Wentworth in such situations.

Like most offices of the Blue Order, this one was entirely indistinguishable from the ordinary buildings on either side of it. Far smaller than the great office in London where Wentworth was first presented to and accepted by the Order, this one appeared little different from the first-rate townhouses on either side of it. Four-stories tall, white brick front with black wrought-iron work, balanced, symmetrical windows on either side, with curtains drawn to block the view from the street. Beneath would be several stories of basement levels with connections to the dragon tunnels that passed through all of England.

The corner of his lips turned up. How surprised the other residents would be to learn what was really going on in the house or that the unusual number of large birds of prey perched along the roof were a cockatrice guard company. Frankly, he still was, and he had known about it for years.

Brass door knockers—drake’s heads holding large rings—rose from the great blue doors. That was how one could always tell a Blue Order establishment; the doors were this particular shade of blue. Apparently, the color was made especially for the Order. Order members in the colorman’s guilds controlled it quite carefully, so it might only be sold for use on Blue Order buildings. Naturally they had the help of a few conveniently placed companion dragons to convince stubborn customers that green was really a most fashionable color.

He twisted the signet ring on his left little finger—now that he was beached, it was appropriate he wore it. Order members liked to be able to identify one another.

Wentworth rapped on the door. A blue liveried butler, tall, serious, and foreboding opened it, stepping slightly to the right to completely fill up the doorway and block the entry.

“Mrrrow.” Laconia looked up at him, sniffing the air, tail lashing around Wentworth’s ankle.

The man’s eyes widened just a bit, but he held his ground until Wentworth lifted his left hand and his ring—perhaps a mite too close to the butler’s face.

“Admiral Easterly is expecting us.” Wentworth stepped inside, deftly dodging Laconia’s tight weaving. He stooped to lift Laconia and carry him the rest of the way. His long body trembled with loud purrs. Poor creature was truly anxious.

The butler shut the door behind them. “Come this way.”

They followed him into a large receiving room, facing the mews. Two large windows, sheer white drapes obscuring the viewlined the far wall. It smelt a mite musty, as though the windows had not been open in quite some time. Many places seemed to smell musty these days. Was it just that all buildings smelt that way when one was accustomed to open air? White paper hangings with Order-blue vines or lines or whatever they were called, covered the walls. The occasional pastel fairy dragon peeked around the vines here and there, probably to make it all more interesting, but utterly unrealistic. Had the artist ever seen what the creatures actually looked like? What was wrong with a simple plain color, or even white?

Two tall, oaken bookcases, showcasing books published by the Order, stood proudly flanking the fireplace opposite the windows while a third filled up the wall between the windows. A slightly worn tea table and several similarly serviceable card tables served as focal points for several clusters of lyre-back chairs near the far wall. Couches, covered in something rusty-colored, with dragon-claw-and-ball feet filled up the rest of the space. The whole effect was rather welcoming, and blissfully quiet. The only other occupants were two brown minor drakes wearing Order livery badges, studying a tome at a table near the windows.

“Wait here, please. The Admiral will receive you shortly.” The butler bowed and strode out.

Wentworth took Laconia to a small couch bathed in the sunbeam from the window opposite the drakes. He sat and helped Laconia arrange himself on his lap. “Are you well?”

Laconia grumbled, which to most sounded like a growl. But once one heard Laconia truly growl, one never mistook one for the other again. “I am fine.”

Wentworth stroked his silky black fur and scratched behind his ears. “I know the place smells very odd, but you will grow used to it.”

“That is easy for you to say. You have never had a smell warn you a larger dragon was about to try and make you his breakfast.”

“That was quite the interesting morning, was it not? I would have been consumed right along with you. I do quite remember how that feels.” Perhaps Croft was right, he should write that adventure as a monograph on the territorial nature of sea drakes and submit it to the Order for publication. It was quite the story.

Laconia pressed his cheek into Wentworth’s hand. “But you did not smell it coming.” His tail thumped dully against the cushions as he opened his mouth and flicked his forked tongue in the air.

“You are not accustomed to the smells of land. Anything that does not reek of salt air smells wrong to you.”

“While I much prefer that smell, I do not like all these concocted scents that warm-bloods wear. They are offensive.”

“As is the term warm-blood—when used by a dragon.”

“When they do not offend my olfaction—”

“Ahh, Captain Wentworth!” Admiral Easterly strode in. Tall and broad chested, with a shock of prematurely white hair, he seemed confident and easy here. How odd the buff jacket and navy-blue breeches looked on him, but there was no reason to expect him to be in uniform now while he was doing the Order’s business, not the Navy’s. “I am pleased to see you again.” He bowed to Laconia and extended his hand and allowed Laconia to sniff his fingers.

Laconia flicked his tongue against Easterly’s hand. Some of the tension left his shoulders and he rubbed his cheek against Easterly’s palm.

“You have become quite the legend in the Navy—the luckiest ship’s cat you are called. We could have done with a dozen more like you finding prize ships out there.”

“Then why assign so many dragon-deaf as captains?”

Wentworth and Easterly chuckled.

“One can only work with what one has. Come back to my office.” Easterly led them upstairs to a room that faced the mews.

The office was small by the standards of landed accommodations, but spacious to any ship’s captain. Stark white walls, bare as the clean and polished wood floor; their footsteps echoing off both. Tidy and efficient. Shelves near the window held a sextant, a telescope and books on navigation and nautical dragons—oh! There was one he had not read: Leviathans, Hippocampi, Krakens and Marine Wyrms: The myths and actualities of the large dragons of the near seas, including the West Indies.

“Might I borrow that?” Wentworth pointed to the volume.

In a single movement, Easterly pulled the book from the shelf, handed it to Wentworth and pointed to a chair near the worn, dark oak desk that occupied the center of the narrow room. “Ever hungry for learning, aren’t you! Of course, you can. In fact, I would even recommend it, given what I have to talk with you about. Sit, sit, be comfortable.” He pointed to a cushion on his desk still bearing bits of fur and several scales from its most recent occupant—probably another tatzelwurm. “I would like you to be part of the discussion, Laconia.”

Laconia chirruped a sound of approval. Coiling his tail to use like a spring, he launched himself to the desktop. He circled the pillow, sniffing it deeply, fanged jaws half-open and eyes a little glazed. What—rather who—had been there before?

“Do not worry, she does not mind sharing this particular perch. Mina is resigned that my office is a public place.”

“I did not know you had a Friend once again.” Wentworth drew the wooden armchair close to the dragon pillow and sat down.

“She befriended me when her previous Friend died, another old Admiral. She likes sea-faring men, after they have retired. Mina does not like to sail herself.” Easterly looked over his shoulder toward the bookcase.

A fluffy grey head peeked out from behind the bookcase. “Meyrrrrow.” High and feminine, it was almost as though she spoke with an accent.

“Pray come out and be introduced.”

Mina slither-crept into the light and looked up at Easterly. Perhaps only half Laconia’s size, she seemed small, though by feline standards she was certainly substantial. Long and lithe, the silver fur of her front, feline half blended seamlessly into gleaming silver scales on her serpentine tail. Stars above, she was a gorgeous creature. Intelligent deep blue eyes stared up at him, searching his character, his worthiness to be an acquaintance—or at least it looked very much that way.

Laconia chirruped at her. She regarded him a moment, eyes growing very large. Her jaw opened slightly; her fangs evident as she breathed deep. “Mrrroww!” She sprang to the desk near Easterly.

“Mina, may I present Laconia and Wentworth, Friend of Laconia.”

Wentworth bowed from his shoulders to Mina and Laconia dipped his head slightly, but not below Mina’s. Ah, yes, dominance, it was always dominance with dragons.

She regarded Wentworth a moment longer, then turned to Laconia. She leaned toward him and sniffed rapidly. Laconia mirrored her. He stepped forward to sniff her neck. When she admitted the attention, he slithered closer, drawing his nose down her entire length as she did the same for him, flowing in a large draconic circle on the desktop. The circle stopped, and she ducked under him, rubbing the top of her head against his belly. He purred and pressed down a mite as though to embrace her as she did.

She slithered around to face him. Wide eyed and blinking, was it possible for a tatzelwurm to be drunk? Dragon thunder! Laconia wore the same expression.

“Yourrr visit is welcome.” She pressed her cheek to Laconia’s.

Laconia licked her face and rubbed his cheek against hers. “Your scent … is right.” He purred and sighed and licked his lips.

She purred and hopped on the pillow, curling into a dainty ball with her chin resting coyly on her tail. Laconia followed, curling around her and resting his chin on her shoulder. By Jove, that was an awfully friendly arrangement.

Easterly lifted his eyebrows and shrugged.

“Your message suggested an issue of some urgency.” Wentworth tried not to stare at the tatzelwurm knot beside him, but their very loud purring made it difficult.

“Yes, yes indeed.” Easterly tugged his jacket straight and sat down. “I am not sorry to hear you have been beached for the foreseeable future. I know that is anathema to many Captains, but truly, we need men like you for the Order.”

“Like me?” So many things that could mean, and not all of them complimentary.

“Proven dragon-hearing men who can follow orders, who can manage themselves in a crisis, and make good decisions on their own. Exactly what the Navy has trained you for.”

Laconia’s ears pricked, and he fixed his eyes on Easterly, wrapping his tail a little tighter around Mina.

“What is happening?”

“Where dragons are concerned, there are always a great many things happening. But, since the revolution in France and most recently the war with Napoleon has affected the continental dragons, times are especially turbulent.”

“What has that to do with English dragons?” Wentworth crossed his arms and leaned in, heart beating faster. Damn battle reflexes kicking in.

The tip of Laconia’s tail twitched and his forked tongue flicked. He felt it, too.

“Major dragons along the coast, both land and the few marine ones we have relations with, have been on edge watching for signs of invasion. I will tell you privately, it is a good thing that never happened. The Pendragon Accords were never written to consider the ramifications of an invading foreign army from the continent.”

“Why not? The Romans—”

Easterly lifted open hands. “Yes, yes, just chalk it up to arrogance. It is a problem that is being addressed in London even now. A joint committee of dragons and Blue Order Officers, including representatives of both the Army and Navy, is attempting to draft new provisions to deal with the matter. But in the meantime, we must soothe ruffled scales as it were, and I need Dragon Mates like you to do it.”

“Whose scales are ruffled?” Laconia’s tail twitched faster.

“Have you met Cornwall?”

“The Prince Regent or the firedrake?” Prickles started at Wentworth’s scalp and raced down every limb.

“Either, both? They are not exactly dissimilar.” The admiral snorted. “Of course, I never said such a thing.”

“Of course not,” Wentworth muttered.

“In any case, we have received a number of complaints from minor dragons of the Cornwall Keep. Cornwall has been unusually restive of late. They fear there is something seriously the matter and, worse still, Cornwall is contemplating handling the matter himself. It is rarely a good idea to permit major dragons to manage affairs on their terms.”

“Is that not what the Accords are for?” Blood roared in Wentworth’s ears. He fought the urge to spring to his feet.

“It is precisely why there are Keepers assigned to the major dragons, charged with handling issues for the dragons. While I have known a great many hotheaded and stubborn men, I have yet to meet one who rivals the amount of damage an angry dragon can cause.”

“Then why is the Prince Regent not managing the matter?”

Easterly glowered.

That had been a stupid question.

“The key issue here is that a particular kind of diplomacy is needed—”

“You think Laconia and I are suited for that?” Wentworth sneaked a quick glance at Laconia.

“I need a man who has had dealings with nautical dragons, as the matter involves sea hold property.”

Now he had to move! Wentworth jumped up and paced the length of the far too short room. “Cornwall is a fire drake—a land dragon. You mean to tell me now that land dragons have sea holdings?”

“That is the heart of the current debate. Here.” Easterly plucked a thin red leather-bound volume—a monograph perhaps—off the shelf and handed it to Wentworth as he strode past. Determining the Boundaries of Major Dragon Holdings: The Implications and Complications of Instinctive Dragon Territorial Determinations Intersecting with Human Traditions and Law.

Damn, that looked complicated.

“Unfortunately, the legal codes have not been rendered very clearly. In the current situation, I am not even certain Blue Order codes cover the situation.”

“And what precisely is the situation.” Wentworth fell into his seat with a dull thud.

“Cornwall has laid claim to something off his coast that we are not even sure exists.” Easterly pressed his temples hard.

“So, the dragon might be mad?”

“Some have entertained that possibility.”

“You want us to go and confront a fire drake—a royal firedrake—who may well be touched in the head—as mad as the king himself?” Wentworth dropped the monograph on the desk.

Mina started; Laconia glared at him.

“In short, yes. And, the Prince Regent might also be very interested in the matter, should the news reach him directly.”

“The Prince does not know the nature of the situation?”

“He has not informed us of any problem and the Order has not contacted him regarding the complaints—yet.”

“You must be joking? That amounts to keeping secrets from the crown!” Wentworth threw his head back and huffed. “I might be beached, but I am hardly dicked in the nob myself, and I am quite certain Laconia—”

“We have dealt with worse.” Laconia lifted his head slightly, glancing from Easterly to Wentworth. “You recall that sea drake who tried to refuse to grant us passage through her territory? She had an entire battalion of sea drakes and marine wyrms ready to do battle for the territory.”

“What has that to do with—”

“Or the herd of hippocampi who thought you violated their fishing ground?’

“Again, what has that to do—”

Laconia stood and walked across the desk to look Wentworth in the eye. “What else are you going to do until you find a mate?”

Wentworth’s jaw dropped and he sputtered. “Dragon’s blood and sea foam!”

“You will mind your language around my mate.” Laconia glanced back at Mina and chirruped.

“Your mate?” Wentworth and Easterly said simultaneously.

“Yes.” The tatzelwurms hissed.

“You see, finding a mate is not so difficult a matter to resolve.” He curled around her again, running his nose along her silky silver fur. “Had you the wherewithal to find your own, you would not be at loose ends right now. You must have a way of keeping yourself occupied until …”

Wentworth slapped his forehead. “How do you intend for us to get to Cornwall?”

________________________

Is it a little off the beaten path for Austenesque fiction? Absolutely! But what better time to try out something entirely new and different than a year like 2020?

If you’d like to have a peek at more previews, check them out on my website, RandomBitsofFascinaion.com.  The Dragons of Kellynch and Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion

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About The Dragons of Kellynch

In order to secure her future, a young lady must marry well.

One would think Anne Elliot, a baronet’s daughter, would find the marriage mart far easier to navigate than a more ordinary woman. One would be wrong.

After refusing a poor, but otherwise perfect sailor, on the advice of her friend Lady Russell, Anne finds an unhappy choice before her: marry deathly dull Charles Musgrove or hope against hope that another suitable proposal might come her way before she becomes a spinster on the shelf.

Anne’s disgracefully independent choice to refuse Charles’ offer turns her world entirely arsey-varsey and not in the expected  turned upside down sort of way. She begins to see things … hear things … things like dragons.

And once one sees dragons, one talks to them. And when one talks to them, nothing is ever the same again.

Must a young lady marry well if she hears dragons?

https://books2read.com/DragonsofKellynch

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About Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion

Keeping a hibernating dragon should have been a simple thing.

Should have been, but it was not. Apparently, nothing involving dragons was ever simple, at least not for Anne Elliot, junior Keeper to dragon Kellynch.

With the estate in debt, Anne’s father in denial, and the dragon’s treasure missing, Kellynch’s awakening was shaping up to be nothing short of catastrophe. Not to mention there was the pesky matter of her own broken heart and resentment against the old friend who had caused it.

Captain Frederick Wentworth had spent his life making something of himself in the Navy. With the  war that kept him employed at an end and a small fortune in prize money, he found himself beached and at loose ends. What was he to do with himself now—take a wife like Laconia, his dragon Friend, insisted? Not when none compared to the woman who had broken his heart.

Working as an agent of the Blue Order, managing dragon matters across England, seemed a much better alternative. At least until investigating one such matter sent him directly in the path of Anne Elliot, the woman who had ruined him for all others.

Now a royal dragon rages, a sleeping dragon lurks, and too many treasures have gone missing. Can Anne and Wentworth lay aside resentment, pride, and heartbreak to prevent Kellynch’s awakening from ending in bloodshed—or worse?

Jane Austen meets Pern in a fantastical regency romp bound to delight readers of Jane Austen and Anne McCaffrey alike.

https://books2read.com/KellynchDragonPersuasion

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.

She can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook: | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is generously offering a reader’s choice giveaway, with two lucky winners getting to choose any ebook in the Jane Austen’s Dragon Series. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, August 9, 2020. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Maria, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your latest release!

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

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Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

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

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

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

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

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March 1815, London

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

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

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

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

“No,” his guest answered.

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

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

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

“What? How?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Carter and Smythe.”

The guest growled, “Carter is a fool!”

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

“As an assassin? No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And you wish me to take his place.”

“Yes.”

“And to wear his target upon my back.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

~~~

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

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I’m thrilled to welcome Karen M Cox back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the re-release of her Persuasion-inspired novel, Find Wonder in All Things. Karen is here today to share her inspiration for the book. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Music as Inspiration for Find Wonder in All Things

Thank you, Anna, for welcoming me back to Diary of an Eccentric for the penultimate stop on the Find Wonder in All Things re-release tour.

From the first time I read it years ago, I have loved Persuasion. In many ways, I think it is Austen’s deepest, most elegant novel. But I always seemed to me that Miss Austen started that story in the middle, not at the beginning. I found myself wondering, what did a brash, headstrong, young man like Wentworth see in a young Anne Elliot? What made him come back to Somerset after eight long years? And what happened to him during that time they spent apart?

In October 2010, I had decided I wanted to write a modern variation of Persuasion—but how to begin?

I was sitting in my kitchen, trying to conjure up a modern-day Anne Elliot, and she began to appear out of the mists of my mind’s eye—tall, slender, reserved, and sporting a headful of striking red hair! I asked her name, and she looked down at the ground, embarrassed, and said, “Laurel. Mountain Laurel, actually. My dad named me after a wildflower.”

“Really?” I said. “I can just imagine what he’s like.” And I was off.

Because my hero, James Marshall, was a musician, music was an integral part of writing Find Wonder in All Things. I made myself this playlist of various genres of music for inspiration. They roughly correspond to the chapters in the book.

For fans of Spotify:

 

For fans of YouTube (this playlists has some great covers and live music)

 

 

I was trying to get inside James’s head a bit—somewhere around chapter nine—so I sat down at the piano (which I play “a little and very ill” – ha) and noodled out the Mountain Laurel Theme you hear in the video below.

Enjoy!

 

Do you all make soundtracks in your head while you’re reading? Do certain songs remind you of books or characters?

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About Find Wonder in All Things

“There could have never been two hearts so open… Now they were as strangers”

Persuasion

Mountain Laurel Elliot is like her name—she blooms best in the cool comfort of shade, hidden in the Kentucky foothills of Appalachia. Alone on her mountain, she lives a private existence with only her pottery—and her regrets—for company.

James Marshall had a secret dream and Laurel was part of it, but dreams sometimes lead to unexpected places. James’s heart broke when Laurel cut him loose, but he moved on—and became successful beyond his wildest dreams.

For one glorious summer, James and Laurel had each other, but life has kept them far apart.

Until now.

“A magnificent modernization of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.” -Austenesque Reviews

Winner of the Independent Book Publisher’s Award 2012: Gold Medal in Romance and

Next Generation Indie Finalist in Romance 2013

Buy on Amazon (also currently available on Kindle Unlimited)

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About the Author

Karen M Cox

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five novels accented with history and romance, a novella, and several short stories.

Karen was born in Everett WA, the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at age eleven. She lives in a quiet town with her husband and works as a pediatric speech pathologist.

If you would like periodic bits of authorly goodness delivered to your inbox, be sure to get Karen’s News and Muse Letter. Updates, sales, book recommendations, etc. are yours for the asking.

Follow Karen: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Pinterest

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Giveaway

To celebrate the second edition of Find Wonder in All Things, Karen is giving away a signed copy of the book and some Jane Austen swag: fun notecards from The Quill Ink, What Would Jane Do? book of quotes, and Austen coffee mug (if US winner) or an ebook copy of the book and 25$ Amazon Gift Card (if International Winner – cause #shipping 🙂

Each comment left on a blog tour post will serve as an entry.

Winner will be chosen by 11:59 pm EDT on 2.6.20 and announced on Karen’s website and social media (Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram). Good Luck!

Thank you for being my guest today, Karen!

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Source: Review copy from the editor

Christina Boyd and her “dream team” of Austenesque writers put out the best Austen-inspired anthologies, hands down. It took me a while to finish Rational Creatures, partly because my life has been so busy and reading time has been limited and partly because I wanted to savor this collection. For me, it’s easy to quickly read through stories that are lighthearted romances, and while there is some romance in these stories, the romance in my opinion wasn’t the focal point here.

These stories are about the women in Austen’s novels, a mix of prequels, sequels, and side stories covering the heroines (and everyone’s favorite antiheroine Lady Susan) as well as many secondary characters, including Charlotte Lucas, Sophia Croft, Penelope Clay, Mary Crawford, and Eleanor Tilney. I’m not going to detail each of the stories, as it’s more fun to jump right in and just go with the flow. As with all of The Quill Collective anthologies, I enjoyed each story and getting to know each of these characters in a new way. I loved how the stories delved deeper into each character — their back stories, the love stories we don’t see in Austen’s novels, their thoughts on their place in society and the limitations that accompany that status, and so much more.

Rational Creatures is a fantastic anthology that shows exactly why we love Austen’s characters: love ’em or hate ’em, Austen’s female characters each are strong in their own way. These stories gave me a new appreciation of characters who aren’t the usual favorites, like Fanny Price, or who make bad decisions, like Charlotte Lucas and Louisa Musgrove, or the “bad girls,” like Mary Crawford, or the ones we simply know little about but who must have rich stories, like Sophia Croft. The stories made me laugh, made me think, and basically made me want to re-read Austen’s novels. I really hope these Quill Collective anthologies keep coming!

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Source: Review copy from the authors

I had some problems with my laptop over the past few days, so I apologize for my review being late, but thankfully it’s up and running again. I’m so glad because I’m thrilled to be sharing this book with all of you. I adored A Very Austen Christmas, so when I saw that some of my favorite JAFF authors were back with A Very Austen Valentine, I couldn’t pass it up. And I’m delighted to say that I wasn’t disappointed one bit.

A Very Austen Valentine has a little bit of everything for the Austen fan, and of course, plenty of romance for Valentine’s Day. Robin Helm’s “I Dream of You” has the Darcys settling into married life and Elizabeth devising ways for them to get to know each other on a deeper level. Laura Hile’s “Sir Walter Takes a Wife” is the perfect Persuasion/Pride and Prejudice mashup that made me laugh so hard I cried. Wendi Sotis’ “My Forever Valentine” has Elizabeth and Darcy meeting in Kent after the Bingleys have married, with Richard and Anne helping things along. Barbara Cornthwaite’s “Pretence and Prejudice” has Darcy and Elizabeth meeting in a completely different way, with spies and romance! Mandy H. Cook’s “My Valentine” is the love story of the Darcys’ daughter, Charlotte, and brings in some characters from Sense and Sensibility. Finally, Susan Kaye’s “The Lovers’ Ruse” imagines what might have happened if Anne Elliot hadn’t been persuaded to give up Captain Wentworth.

All of the stories are beautifully written, and despite being shorter works, they are perfectly paced and completely satisfying. I loved the mix of stories, covering different points in Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship and featuring characters from other Austen novels — and even original characters. Moreover, the stories are very different from each other and equally enjoyable — and it’s hard to find anthologies where you like ALL of the stories. A Very Austen Valentine is a must-read for JAFF fans, and I truly hope these authors release another anthology in the future.

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About A Very Austen Valentine

I Dream of You by Robin Helm

Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her.  A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action.

Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs.

My Forever Valentine by Wendi Sotis

Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes?

Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions.

My Valentine by Mandy H. Cook

Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart?

The Lovers’ Ruse by Susan Kaye

In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth’s love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. “The Lovers’ Ruse” follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag.

Buy on Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (U.K.)

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About the Authors

Robin Helm

Robin Helm’s books reflect her love of music, as well as her fascination with the paranormal and science fiction.

Previously published works include The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy (a guardian angel protects a supernaturally gifted girl), the Yours by Design series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours (Fitzwilliam Darcy switches places in time with his descendant, Will Darcy), and Understanding Elizabeth (Regency romance).

She contributed to A Very Austen Christmas: Austen Anthologies, Book 1, an anthology featuring like-minded authors, in 2017. A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2  was released on December 29, 2018. A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3 is planned for December 2019.

She lives in sunny South Carolina and adores her one husband, two married daughters, and three grandchildren.

Connect with Robin: Amazon Author PageBeyondAusten.comTwitter | Facebook (Robin Helm) | Facebook (Austen Anthologies) | Instagram @jrhelm or @AustenAnthologies | GoodreadsBlog

Laura Hile

Readers are loving Laura Hile’s joyous Regency novels. Her signature style—with intertwined plots, cliffhangers, laugh-out-loud humor, and romance—keeps them coming back for more.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with teen students!

Laura lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a collection of antique clocks.

Her fiction is for everyone, even teens. 

Connect with Laura: Amazon Author PageBlogTwitterFacebookBeyondAusten.comGoodreads

Wendi Sotis

Wendi Sotis lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and triplets. While searching for Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view, she became thoroughly enamored with Jane Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF. In early 2010, she dreamed of an idea for a story and hasn’t stopped writing since: Promises, Dreams and Expectations; All Hallows Eve; The Keys for Love; Safekeeping (with just a dash of Austen); The Gypsy Blessing; Foundation of Love (The Gypsy Blessing 2); and A Lesson Hard Learned.

The Marriage Pact, and some of Wendi’s works-in-progress, have branched away from JAFF to Regency Romance (the Loving an Aldridge Series) and Contemporary Romantic Mysteries (the Implicated series). Wendi will also continue bringing Darcy and Elizabeth together again and again in an unusual manner.

Connect with Wendi: Amazon Author Page | WebsiteFacebookTwitter | BeyondAusten.comGoodreads

Barbara Cornthwaite

Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before “retiring” to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling her six children, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle). She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.

Connect with Barbara: Amazon Author PageJane Started It!

Susan Kaye

Susan Kaye discovered Jane Austen and writing at about the same time. She leads a quiet life with her husband and dog, Harley. “I don’t know a lot, but I do know I’ve probably spent more time with Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot than just about anybody else.”

Connect with Susan: Amazon Author PageJane Started It! | Facebook

Mandy H. Cook

Mandy Cook was an RN for over ten years, half of which she served in the Navy, living in far-flung places, enjoying experiencing the world while following her calling. Just before she and her handsome Marine were both deployed to different places, they married. They now have three children, ages four and younger.

She previously published The Gifted, using her nursing experience to lend accuracy to her story about an ER nurse who is handed a gift that changes her life forever. Adversity, and a long history of secrets, constantly battle against her natural instinct for truth and justice, but will the truth be worth the dare?

Connect with Mandy: Facebook | Instagram @hisloved1s

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Giveaway

The authors are generously offering an ebook of A Very Austen Valentine to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will run through Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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01/06 Just the Write Escape

01/07 Margie’s Must Reads

01/08 So Little Time…

01/09 Babblings of a Bookworm

01/10 Half Agony, Half Hope

01/11 Austenesque Reviews

01/12 My Love for Jane Austen

01/14 From Pemberley to Milton

01/15 My life journey

01/16 My Vices and Weaknesses

01/18 Diary of an Eccentric

01/20 Darcyholic Diversions

01/21 Austenprose

Disclosure: I received a copy of A Very Austen Valentine from the authors for review.

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Source: Purchased

I’m continuing to make my way through the Holidays with Jane anthologies, which feature six stories that are modern variations of each Jane Austen novel. This anthology contained:

“Twice Upon a Sea” by Melissa Buell (based on Persuasion)

Anne and Finn are reunited after breaking up during her freshman year of college. Six years later, she is a media liaison for the Naval History Office, and Finn is a famous marine archaeologist. The story shows how their relationship began, the hurt they have experienced from the breakup, and the awkwardness of their reunion.

“Castle of the Sea” by Nancy Kelley (based on Northanger Abbey)

This story takes college student and historical romance writer Cat Morland on a two-week Caribbean cruise with her brother and the Thorpe siblings. She meets the Tilneys, Henry and Ella, who hope to start a fashion house. Cat and Henry bond right away over the general disapproval of their chosen professions, and the Thorpes, of course, throw some obstacles onto their path to happily ever after.

“An (Un)Even Exchange” by Jennifer Becton (based on Sense and Sensibility)

Nora Dashwood is a landscape architect who is immediately attracted to her new colleague, Edward Ferrars. They are forced to work closely by their matchmaker boss. Her sister, Marianne, moves in with her following a painful breakup. Marianne immediately distrusts Edward simply because he is male, and she hires a private investigator she meets while working at Mansfield Perk to uncover Edward’s connection to Nora’s obnoxious neighbor Lucy. This was one of my favorite stories in the collection. I enjoyed the interaction between Marianne and Brandon and the adorable awkwardness between Nora and Edward.

“Firecracker” by Jessica Gray (based on Emma)

This cute story takes place at Camp Hartfield, where best friends Emmalyn Woods and Ben Knightley are counselors. Emma takes the shy Melanie under her wing, with plans to make her Firecracker Queen and set her up with another camp counselor. Emma doesn’t believe high schoolers can really be in love, but her views suddenly change when Melanie sets her sights on Ben. I wasn’t sure this story would work, with Emma set at a summer camp with high schoolers, but I loved it from the very beginning. Reading the story in Emma’s voice really emphasized her character evolution.

“Mine” by Cecilia Gray (based on Mansfield Park)

I’m always curious how authors will adapt Mansfield Park given the close love between cousins Fanny and Edmund. This story has Fanny growing up in her aunt’s household with her husband’s family, including his son Eamon. The two become best friends over the years, and after watching Eamon go through relationship after relationship, she hopes that there is finally a chance that they will get together. But Eamon comes home from college in Ireland with the Henry and Mary, sabotaging Fanny’s summer plans — and even her relationship with the Brennan family. I had a hard time sympathizing with Eamon in this story (he was so unlikeable to me), but I thought it was an interesting modern take on Austen’s novel.

“Of Rivers, Rocks, and Rich Men” by Rebecca Fleming (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Set in Meryton, Georgia, Liz and Jane Bennet are wealthy due to the surprise trust funds set aside by their father before his death, but the time Elizabeth spent working as a writer in New York has made her despise wealthy men. So when she runs into William Darcy at Pemberley Acres, his agritourism venture where Liz is spending the summer, the two immediately butt heads. He’s everything she has assumed about rich men, until Jane’s relationship with his best friend force the pair to spend more time together and those assumptions are turned on their head. My only complaint about this story is that it was a story, and I would have loved to see more of the building of their relationship.

Overall, Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love is a solid collection of sweet stories for the Austen fan. I know I will be disappointed when I’ve finally finished all of the collections.

Previous Reviews:

Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet

Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer

Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever

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I am thrilled to welcome Georgina Young-Ellis back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest release, Incandescent. You’re in for a treat today, dear readers, as Georgina is here today to tell you a little about the book, share an excerpt, and offer a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

I love Jane Austen. I have loved her for decades. Long ago, it would never have occurred to me to write Fan Fiction, especially based on Jane Austen’s work—after all, it wasn’t even a thing until somewhat recently. Yet my first book, The Time Baroness, a romantic time travel novel, was written in homage to Jane Austen, so in a way, it was my first foray into Fan Fiction though I didn’t know it at the time. Since then, I’ve written three other books in that series, (the fifth on the way) and six actual JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) novellas.

Since I’m going to be starting a graduate program in Spanish Language and Literature in the fall, I decided I better get all the writing done that I want to do for the time being, as it will be two years, I’m sure, before I’ll have time to devote to it again. That brings me to Incandescent, my latest JAFF, just released April 28th. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

In this modern day twist on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, The Elliots are Hollywood Royalty – a family of actors going back three generations. Annie Elliot has been cast to play Elizabeth Bennet in a new movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that takes place during the Belle Epoque, circa 1910, with a multi-racial cast. But who will her Mr. Darcy be? As the two stories mix and intermingle on and off camera, hearts are broken, love is found, and diversity is celebrated.

Several years ago, I had the idea of turning Persuasion into a modern day story, with the characters as actors, making a Regency film of it while also living out the plot in real life. That then morphed into the actors making a film of Pride and Prejudice, while living out both novels in real life. The result is something I think is unique, romantic, and also a lot of fun. Here is how Chapter One of Incandescent starts out:

“Annie Elliot, the hottest young actress in Hollywood!” the papers screamed after the box office of her latest film broke records. At merely the age of nineteen, Annie had everything, or so said the press: the looks, the body, the talent…and the family. Did she believe it? Well, she couldn’t argue that she had the family. “Hollywood royalty,” they called the Elliots. No matter how many times, however, she tried to tell herself she would have had a successful career even without a famous grandfather, father, mother, and sister, she knew it wasn’t true. Okay, sure, if she didn’t have the talent, she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she had, but the average pounding-the-pavement-actor doesn’t even get the auditions without connections, and she had connections for days.

It was April in New York City. Awards season had come and gone. Annie had been nominated in the Best Actress category for all the major awards, for a film that had been released in the fall. She’d won the Screen Actors Guild Award, but not the other big ones. That was fine. Young actors had to pay their dues. Besides, she’d just been cast as Juliet in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Romeo and Juliet, and nothing was more prestigious for an actor, young or old, than to do Shakespeare in the Park at the open air Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Her father, Walter Elliot, who everyone, including his friends, now called Sir Walter because he’d won an Oscar playing Sir Francis Drake, had, over the course of his career, done Shakespeare in the Park several times, playing everything from Mercutio in R and J, to Prospero in The Tempest only recently. Her mother had once played Juliet there too, as well as Ophelia, Titania, and Lady Macbeth.

Annie had flown to New York for the audition, gotten the part right away, and was now staying in her parents’ loft in Soho. She loved the city. Maybe after the play was over, she’d stay for a few years and get her own apartment. It would be fun to be a New York actor for a change. Maybe even do Broadway.

On the day before rehearsals started, Annie picked up a copy of the Sunday Times. This was her guilty pleasure, something she used to see her grandfather do. In the age of electronic news, she still loved to get the Sunday paper: The Los Angeles Times when she was there, the New York Times here, spreading it out on the coffee table, a fresh bagel and a cup of coffee handy, and reading it from end to end. In the Arts and Entertainment section, a big article about Shakespeare in the Park jumped out at her, her name featured prominently. She skimmed through it. They made much of the fact that the late Susan Elliot’s daughter would be playing the title role in Romeo and Juliet, the role the beloved actress had once portrayed so beautifully. Annie set the article aside and took a big swig of coffee. Nothing like a little pressure!

Monday morning, she woke up with butterflies in her stomach. Instead of hopping on the train or grabbing an Uber, she walked from the loft to the Public Theater at Astor Place, where the cast would work until the director was ready to have them move to the Delacorte Theater. It was pretty far from Soho to the East Village, but the exercise would work off all that nervous energy. In fact, springtime in the city proved to be just the remedy. It had rained the night before and the air was fresh and cool. Trees were blooming everywhere and flowers in planters added splashes of color to a town which had been grey with winter for so long and was just now starting to come alive again.

She got to the theater right on time and the first person she spotted was her manager, Cynthia Russell, who waved at her from her seat among the few invited guests for this first read-through. Cynthia had been her mom’s manager too when she was alive. It had been about a month since they’d last seen each other in L.A. Annie went to her and gave her a big hug.

“Hi, my darling,” Cynthia said, “you look wonderful.”

Annie was wearing a pink, vintage dress with a white cardigan sweater, and lavender tights with a pair of black Doc Marten boots.

“Thank you, so do you,” which was the truth. Though in her fifties, Cynthia was well-preserved and in good shape, a handsome woman at any age.

“Have you met your Romeo yet?” Cynthia pointed out a young man, sitting shyly at the table where the other actors were gathering.

Annie knew her Romeo’s name, Frederick Wentworth, but that was all. Her mouth fell open when she saw him. Never had she seen a more beautiful man. He was a combination of a Paul Newman and Taye Diggs, if that were possible, with a chiseled jaw and startling eyes.

“That’s Frederick Wentworth?”

“I know. Handsome, isn’t he? His headshot doesn’t do him justice. If I weren’t a good thirty years older than he is…”

“Cynthia!” Annie snorted.

“I jest. I just met him, and he is extremely amiable, but, if I had a son, he would be his age. No, he’s safe with me.”

“Good to know, Cynth.” Annie winked at her. “See you after the reading.”

She went and took a seat opposite Frederick and he looked up and smiled. Their eyes met and locked.

“Hello,” he said softly.

“Hi,” she replied.

Then the director walked in. The cast had been given their script a few weeks before and Annie had memorized her lines, happy to see there weren’t too many cuts. People should not mess around with Shakespeare.

They went around the table and everyone introduced themselves. Frederick, it turned out, liked to be called Freddy. The director then talked for a few minutes about his vision for the production and the reading got under way. As Annie read her lines, she barely looked at the script, and neither did Freddy. The fact was, it was hard to look away from him. His gaze captivated her as his character spoke his first lines to Juliet, holding out his hand to her. She took it across the table. It was warm and strong.

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand his holy shrine,” he said, “the gentle fine is this: my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”

The sweet conversation between the two lovers-to-be continued. Though having just met, they would exchange their first kiss. Annie wondered, if she had been sitting next to instead of across from him, would he have brushed her lips with his?

The play built in intensity. The young teenagers, as the characters are supposed to be, fall immediately in love, and vow to be married, though, of course, their families are enemies and will never allowed it, as well as the fact that Juliet is to marry someone else. After Romeo is banished for killing Juliet’s cousin in retaliation for the murder of Romeo’s best friend, comes the scene of the lovers waking in the morning after spending the night together, knowing full well that Romeo must flee the town, and they might never see each other again. Their words of love at their parting felt unbearable to Annie. Then finally, of course, the two lovers die in the last moments of the play.

By the end of the reading, the other actors, the director, and everyone else present were in tears. Annie’s heart was pounding, her face hot. She felt as one with Juliet—that she had fallen in love at first sight, committed her life to her lover, and lost him, all in the course of two hours. While everyone composed themselves, Annie went to get a drink of water. Freddy was at her side a moment later.

“Are you all right?” he asked her. She looked up at him. His face was tender, concerned.

She smiled. “Yes. I didn’t expect the first reading to be so powerful.”

“It was, wasn’t it? You were wonderful.”

His clear, blue eyes, intense in contrast to his tawny skin, pierced her soul. “Thank you.” She had to look away for a moment. “So were you.”

Just then Cynthia hurried up to her. “Can I steal her for a moment?”

Annie was almost relieved as Freddy nodded and stepped away.

“Annie, that was amazing.” Cynthia gushed. “I have never seen a better Juliet! It was every bit as good as when your dear mother played her.”

“This was just a rehearsal,” Annie demurred. “Who knows how it will be when I’m finally on stage in front of an audience.”

“Oh, nonsense. You were born to play this role. And Frederick! My God, the chemistry between you!”

Heat rose to Annie’s cheeks again.

Cynthia observed her closely. “Be careful. It’s never a good idea to fall for your leading man.”

“I’m not going to fall for him!” Annie declared, but there was no use denying it. Freddy Wentworth was intoxicating. He was yet practically an unknown, though it turned out he had made a name for himself locally in some very good Off-Broadway productions. She had certainly never heard of him before he was cast by the Public Theatre for R and J, but had no doubt he was going to be big.

The first time they did the scene in Juliet’s bedchamber without scripts, Annie lost herself in the desire of her character and in Freddy’s passion. Suddenly, they were no longer acting. The director had asked them to create as sensual a moment as possible while still keeping it PG13, but they didn’t even have to try. From that moment on, every time they looked into each other’s eyes, Annie fell harder. But did Freddy feel the same? They didn’t talk much off stage. She was shy. He was reticent. But on stage, there were fireworks.

The show opened to previews, and the critics were ecstatic. “Elliot and Wentworth are magic together!” One paper cried.

“You feel you are intruding on an extremely intimate moment between two innocents, blissfully exploring their first act of love together, giving themselves over to each other wholly,” another enthused.

The cast went out after the show that night to celebrate. Freddy was at Annie’s side the whole time though they spoke little. When she finally decided to leave, he asked if he could share a cab with her.

“Do you live downtown?”

“No,” he replied with a grin.

Hope you enjoyed this excerpt! Please visit my website to see all my work—time travel and JAFF alike! www.georginayoungellis.com

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Wow, thanks so much for sharing, Georgina! I think this has got to be the most unique mashup I’ve seen so far, and I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on a copy. For those of you as intrigued as I am, you can purchase Incandescent on Amazon.

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About the Author

Georgina Young-Ellis

Georgina lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband who is an artist, writer, and teacher. They have a son who is a professional musician in New York City, where they all lived for eighteen years. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and was a stage actress for many years. Born and raised in the Southwest, she went to school in New York City, graduating from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. She is also a screenwriter, journalist, film/theater critic and blogger.

Connect with Georgina: website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram: GYoungEllis

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Giveaway

Georgina is generously offering an ebook copy of Incandescent to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what most intrigues you about the book. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, May 20, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Georgina, for being my guest today. It’s always a pleasure. Congratulations on your new book!

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