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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!

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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.

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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?”

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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.”

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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.)

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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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Source: Review copy from editor

Editor Christina Boyd and her team of Austenesque authors have done it again with her latest anthology, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues. I absolutely loved The Darcy Monologues, so when I heard about this collection, I knew I had to read it, and it lived up to my expectations and more. I love to read about the bad boys in Austen’s novels because they make things more exciting, and I have often wondered what led them astray. The 11 stories in this anthology cover all of Austen’s infamous bad boys and anti-heroes, and while I enjoyed each story on its own, reading them together was even more delicious.

The collection features: “Willoughby’s Crossroads” (John Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility) by Joana Starnes; “A Wicked Game” (George Wickham, Pride and Prejudice) by Katie Oliver; “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” (Colonel Fitzwilliam, Pride and Prejudice) by Beau North; “The Address of a Frenchwoman” (Thomas Bertram, Mansfield Park) by Lona Manning; “Last Letter to Mansfield” (Henry Crawford, Mansfield Park) by Brooke West; “An Honest Man” (Frank Churchill, Emma) by Karen M Cox; “One Fair Claim” (Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion) by Christina Morland; “The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot” (William Elliot, Persuasion) by Jenetta James; “As Much as He Can” (General Tilney, Northanger Abbey) by Sophia Rose; “The Art of Sinking” (John Thorpe, Northanger Abbey) by J. Marie Croft; “For Mischief’s Sake” (Captain Frederick Tilney, Northanger Abbey) by Amy D’Orazio

It should come as no surprise that my favorite of all the stories was “Fitzwilliam’s Folly” by Beau North because I am a sucker for a good story about the colonel. The agreement he makes with an American heiress shunned by ton was clever, and I loved the bit of action and even getting a glimpse of Mr. Darcy after his failed proposal at Hunsford. I enjoyed the glimpse of the obnoxiously vain Sir Walter Elliot and how he went about choosing a bride in “One Fair Claim,” and he was just as delightfully silly in his youth. But what surprised me is the ability of these authors to make me feel some compassion for the characters I love to hate, like the heartache experienced by George Wickham and Tom Bertram in their stories, which emphasized the complexity of Austen’s characters. Still others will never change, but I felt like I understood their motivations a bit more.

Dangerous to Know is a must-read for those looking for something new in the realm of Austen-inspired fiction. Some of the stories were steamy and passionate, some were more humorous, but all of them make you take another, deeper look at Austen’s rakes and rogues and make you feel something more than contempt.

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About Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues

“One has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” —Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpieces are littered with unsuitable gentlemen—Willoughby, Wickham, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elliot, et al.—adding color and depth to her plots but often barely sketched. Have you never wondered about the pasts of her rakes, rattles, and gentlemen rogues? Surely, there’s more than one side to their stories.

It is a universal truth, we are captivated by smoldering looks, daring charms … a happy-go-lucky, cool confidence. All the while, our loyal confidants are shouting on deaf ears: “He is a cad—a brute—all wrong!” But is that not how tender hearts are broken…by loving the undeserving? How did they become the men Jane Austen created? In this romance anthology, eleven Austenesque authors expose the histories of Austen’s anti-heroes.

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues is a titillating collection of Georgian era short stories—a backstory or parallel tale off-stage of canon—whilst remaining steadfast to the characters we recognize in Austen’s great works.

What say you? Everyone may be attracted to a bad boy…even temporarily…but heaven help us if we marry one.

Check out Dangerous to Know on Goodreads | Amazon (the ebook is promo priced at $2.99 for the duration of the blog tour, so don’t miss out on that!)

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About the Editor

CHRISTINA BOYD https://m.facebook.com/TheDarcyMonologues/ wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner, The Quill Ink, a contributor to Austenprose, and a commercial ceramicist. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy teenagers, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by actor Henry Cavill when she won the Omaze experience to meet him in the spring of 2017 on the London Eye. True story. You can Google it.

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About the Authors

KAREN M COX https://karenmcoxauthor.wordpress.com/ is an award-wining author of four novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, and I Could Write a Book, as well as an e-book novella companion to 1932, The Journey Home. She also contributed short stories for the anthologies Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and The Darcy Monologues. Originally from Everett, Washington, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

J. MARIE CROFT https://www.amazon.com/J.-Marie-Croft/e/B004HZD22W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1508353662&sr=1-1 is a self-proclaimed word nerd and adherent of Jane Austen’s quote “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Bearing witness to Joanne’s fondness for Pride and Prejudice, wordplay, and laughter are her light-hearted novel, Love at First Slight (a Babblings of a Bookworm Favourite Read of 2014), her playful novella, A Little Whimsical in His Civilities (Just Jane 1813’s Favourite 2016 JAFF Novella), and her humorous short stories: “Spyglasses and Sunburns” in the Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer anthology and “From the Ashes” in The Darcy Monologues. Joanne lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

AMY D’ORAZIO https://www.facebook.com/Amy-DOrazio-author-369312830172988/ is a former scientist and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in equal measure. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters devoted to sports with long practices and began writing stories as a way to pass the time spent at their various gyms and studios. She firmly believes that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily-ever-afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. She is the author of The Best Part of Love and the soon-to-be released A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity.

JENETTA JAMES https://www.facebook.com/jenettajameswriter/ is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing, and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers, as well as a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues.

LONA MANNING https://www.amazon.com/Lona-Manning/e/B01N7UJHJX is the author of A Contrary Wind, a variation on Mansfield Park. She has also written numerous true crime articles, which are available at http://www.crimemagazine.com. She has worked as a non-profit administrator, a vocational instructor, a market researcher, and a speechwriter for politicians. She currently teaches English as a Second Language. She and her husband now divide their time between mainland China and Canada. Her second novel, A Marriage of Attachment, a sequel to A Contrary Wind, is planned for release in early 2018. You can follow Lona at http://www.lonamanning.ca where she blogs about China and Jane Austen.

CHRISTINA MORLAND https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Morland/e/B01IJHEZKQ spent the first two decades of her life with no knowledge whatsoever of Pride and Prejudice—or any Jane Austen novel, for that matter. She somehow overcame this childhood adversity to became a devoted fan of Austen’s works. When not writing, Morland tries to keep up with her incredibly active seven-year-old and maddeningly brilliant husband. She lives in a place not unlike Hogwarts (minus Harry, Dumbledore, magic, and Scotland), and likes to think of herself as an excellent walker. Morland is the author of two Jane Austen fanfiction novels: A Remedy Against Sin and This Disconcerting Happiness.

BEAU NORTH http://beaunorthwrites.com/#top is the author of three books and contributor to multiple anthologies. Beau hails from the kudzu-strangled wilderness of South Carolina but now hangs her hat in Portland, Oregon. In her spare time, Beau is the co-host of the podcast Excessively Diverted: Modern Austen On-Screen.

KATIE OLIVER https://www.facebook.com/KatieOliverWriter is the author of nine novels, including the Amazon bestseller Prada and Prejudice, as well as the Dating Mr. Darcy, Marrying Mr. Darcy, and Jane Austen Factor series. She resides in South Florida with her husband (where she goes to the beach far less often than she’d like) and is working on a new series. Katie began writing as a child and has a box crammed with half-finished stories to prove it. After raising two sons, she decided to get serious and get published.

She is convinced that there is no greater pleasure than reading a Jane Austen novel.

SOPHIA ROSE https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13418187.Sophia_Rose is a native Californian currently residing in Michigan. A long-time Jane Austen fan, she is a contributing author to The Darcy Monologues, Sun-kissed: Effusions of Summer, and Then Comes Winter anthologies, short stories based on Jane Austen’s works. Sophia’s love for writing began as a teen writing humorous stories submitted for Creative Writing class and high school writing club. Writing was set aside for many years while Sophia enjoyed a rewarding career working with children and families. Health issues led to reduced work hours and an opportunity for a return to writing stories that continue to lean toward the lighter side of life and always end with a happily-ever-after.

JOANA STARNES https://www.facebook.com/joana.a.starnes lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats—physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst—but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine. She is one of the contributors to The Darcy Monologues anthology, and the author of seven Austen-inspired novels: From This Day Forward—The Darcys of Pemberley, The Subsequent Proposal, The Second Chance, The Falmouth Connection, The Unthinkable Triangle, Miss Darcy’s Companion and Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter. You can connect with Joana through her website http://www.joanastarnes.co.uk and on Facebook via her timeline and her author page, All Roads Lead to Pemberley.  

BROOKE WEST https://www.facebook.com/brookewestwrites/ has always loved the bad boys of literature and thinks the best leading men have the darkest pasts. When she’s not spinning tales of rakish men and daring women, Brooke spends her time in the kitchen baking or at the gym working off all that baking. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and son and their three mischievous cats. Brooke co-authored the novel The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the short story “Holiday Mix Tape,” which appears in the anthology Then Comes Winter. Find Brooke on Twitter @WordyWest.

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Giveaway #1

Enter Rafflecopter to win fifteen (15) books from the anthology authors! One winner. Fifteen books! Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #1 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link.

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Giveaway #2

Follow our “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s #RakesAndGentlemenRogues” Blog Tour and comment on each stop to be eligible for #RakesAndGentlemenRogues Pleasures prize pack: ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Print, autographed by Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle; Bingley’s Teas (Willoughby & The Colonel); Jane Austen playing cards; set of 6 Austen postcards; and ‘The Compleat Housewife’ notecards set. (All guest comments will be entered in drawing to win. Comment at each site to increase your odds.) Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #2 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

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THE #RakesAndGentlemenRogues BLOG TOUR

💗Monday, November 6: REVIEW: Margie’s Must Reads, https://margiesmustreads.com

💗Thursday, November 9: REVIEW, Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

💗Monday, November 13: REVIEW, Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

💗Tuesday, November 14: REVIEW, Olga of ROSIE AMBER team, http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/

💗Wednesday, November 15: (release day) REVIEW, Just Jane 1813, http://justjane1813.com

💗Thursday, November 16: REVIEW, Diary of an Eccentric, https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com

🎩Monday, November 20: FEATURE w/Katie Oliver (George Wickham), From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

🎩Wednesday, November 22: FEATURE w/Joana Starnes (Willoughby), Babblings of a Bookworm, http://babblingsofabookworm.blogspot.com

🎩Friday, November 24: FEATURE w/Sophia Rose, (General Tilney), Herding Cats & Burning Soup, http://www.herdingcats-burningsoup.com

🎩Monday, November 27: FEATURE w/Amy D’Orazio (Captain Tilney), My Jane Austen Book Club, http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.com

🎩Wednesday, November 29: FEATURE w/Brooke West (Henry Crawford), VVB32 Reads, https://vvb32reads.blogspot.com

🎩Thursday, November 30: FEATURE w/Lona Manning (Tom Bertram), Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

💗Friday, December 1: REVIEW, Lit 4 Ladies, http://lit4ladies.com

🎩Monday, December 4: FEATURE w/Beau North  (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Obsessed with Mr. Darcy, https://obsessedwithmrdarcy.wordpress.com

🎩Thursday, December 7: FEATURE w/J. Marie Croft (John Thorpe), Harry Rodell blog/ROSIE AMBER team, https://harryrodell.wordpress.com/author/rodellh

💗Friday, December 8: REVIEW, From Pemberley to Milton, https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com

🎩Monday, December 11: FEATURE w/Jenetta James (William Elliot), Austenesque Reviews, http://austenesquereviews.com

🎩Thursday, December 14: FEATURE w/Karen M Cox (Frank Churchill), Darcyholic Diversions, http://darcyholic.blogspot.com

🎩Monday, December 17: FEATURE w/Christina Morland (Sir Walter Elliot), Of Pens & Pages, http://www.ofpensandpages.com

Disclosure: I received Dangerous to Know from the editor for review.

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The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, is out today. To celebrate its publication, St. Martin’s Press is offering a giveaway for my readers!

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About The One That Got Away

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back.

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Ten years later, Ruby’s single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there’s nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past…

Check out The One That Got Away on Amazon

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About the Author

Melissa Pimentel (Photo Credit: Ryan Bowman)

MELISSA PIMENTEL grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing and is also the author of Love by the Book.

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Giveaway

St. Martin’s Press is generously offering one copy of The One That Got Away to my readers. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, September 3, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Source:: Author
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Frederick sat there for a moment, thinking. “You know, I have to say the number one barrier in a lasting relationship with me is weakness of character. If a woman can easily be persuaded by her friends and family to do something she doesn’t really want, then she and I won’t make a good pair.”

I sat there looking at the television and I realized I was never going to be able to fix the mistake I had made. This next month was going to be torture.

(from Modern Persuasion)

Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks takes Jane Austen’s Persuasion into the present day. Emma Shaw (Anne Elliot) is an editor at the publishing house run by family friend Karen Russell, who is grooming Emma to take over the imprint run by her father, Walter Shaw. Somehow Emma manages to sort out her father’s and sister Elizabeth’s financial troubles, cater to her needy sister Mary, and get everything in order for PubCon. She’s hit hard by the appearance of Frederick Wentworth, who is there to promote his new book before going on tour.

Circumstances conspire to put Emma in charge of Frederick’s book tour, which makes for some awkward situations given that they haven’t been in touch since she turned down his marriage proposal eight years ago. Emma holds it together the best she can as she and Frederick, accompanied by his friend Patrick and her assistant Louisa, go from city to city barely speaking to one another, and definitely not addressing their unresolved feelings.

Marks’ knowledge and appreciation of Austen’s novel shines through in her retelling. I recognized Anne and Captain Wentworth in her Emma and Frederick (though I wonder why her name was changed to Emma). I liked the setting of the novel, the various cities on the book tour and then in Cape Cod, and how Marks translated the obstacles faced by the characters into modern times and made them feel real and relevant. However, some of the scenes could’ve been fleshed out with some dialogue, and some of the repetitive elements at the end could have been eliminated.

Even so, I enjoyed Modern Persuasion. It was fresh and fun, a fast-paced read, and I always enjoy when authors are inspired by an Austen novel other than Pride and Prejudice.

Disclosure: I received Modern Persuasion from the author for review.

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