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Hello, dear readers! Today’s guest is Debra-Ann Kummoung, who is here for the first time with an excerpt from her Pride and Prejudice variation, Falling for Elizabeth Bennet, and a very generous giveaway. I do hope you enjoy the excerpt; Debra-Ann provided me with a few, and I really thought this one would grab your attention! Please give her a warm welcome:

Hello! First of all, I would like to give a big thank you to Anna for having on her website/blog — Diary of an Eccentric, it is a pleasure to be here. We all know and love Pride and Prejudice and we each of us imagine Darcy and Elizabeth in our own unique ways. I have read many variations of Pride and Prejudice but I wanted to do something different, something that had not been done before. What if it was not pride or class or family that kept Darcy and Elizabeth apart? In my book Falling for Elizabeth Bennet, Elizabeth has a health condition. The big question is, will Darcy turn away from Elizabeth or will he still love her? This is my debut novel and one that comes from the heart.

I would also like to recognize my husband, Jeff, who has supported this book and has believed in me and is the inspiration for Darcy in my book.

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An excerpt from Falling for Elizabeth Bennet, courtesy of Debra-Ann Kummoung

After a few moments, Darcy looks up at Wickham with tears in his eyes, and his voice thick with emotion. “Wickham, where is my wife?” Wickham replies in a hushed whisper, “Bedlam.” Darcy and Richard both gasp in horror. Wickham asks, “Darcy, who is your wife?” Darcy looks at Wickham in surprise. “Wickham, you know my wife. You met her in Hertfordshire. She is the former Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” Darcy and Richard watch as Wickham’s mouth drops in shock and horror, and re replies, “Darcy, I would never have recognized Miss Elizabeth.”

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About Falling for Elizabeth Bennet

While visiting his friend Mr. Charles Bingley, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy makes the acquaintance of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a lively and intelligent young lady sitting in the corner at a local assembly. Darcy discovers that Elizabeth has a secret. Will this secret drive them apart or will Darcy be able to overcome Elizabeth’s secret and find the love he’s dreamed of?

Buy: Amazon

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About the Author

Debra-Ann Kummoung

I am a first time author. I love Pride and Prejudice and fell in love the 1995 mini-series. I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and fell in love with Mr. Darcy back then. Life continued and I forgot about Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet until I happened to see the mini-series on TV and decided to revisit the book and then discovered all the variations out there. I decided that I could write a book and as I was writing the plot for Falling for Elizabeth Bennet, I discovered that I had married my own Mr. Darcy who also has a dash of Colonel Fitzwilliam too!

By day, I am an Executive Assistant and by evening I plot what can next befall Darcy and Elizabeth. I am currently working on my next book.

My husband and I are raising our 3 German Shepherds — Belle a white shepherd, Jasmine a black shepherd and Fitz our newest family member, a sable shepherd.

Connect with Debra-Ann: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram: debraannkummoung | Website

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Giveaway

Debra-Ann is generously offering two prizes to my readers: a signed copy of Falling for Elizabeth Bennet and a $15 Amazon gift card. There will be a total of two winners. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, March 18, 2018. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and which prize you’re entering for, and let us know what intrigues you most about the book. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks for being my guest today, Debra-Ann, and congratulations on your new book!

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I’m delighted to welcome Amy D’Orazio back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, and after absolutely adoring The Best Part of Love, I know I must read it! Please give her a warm welcome:

Good morning, Anna. Thank you for hosting me again at Diary of an Eccentric. Today I am looking forward to sharing this post with your readers about one of our favorite characters in JAFF, Colonel Fitzwilliam, especially since he plays a crucial role in A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity — as he does in many Austenesque stories! One thing I’ve realized is that the good colonel has taken on a life of his own through the Jane Austen fandom. People have ardent opinions on what his name is, what exactly he does in the military and even who he should marry! But how much of what we “know” about him is based on Jane, and how much is our own creation? 

Five Things You Need to Know about Colonel Fitzwilliam

Fact vs Fanon

 1. His Christian name was… not Richard!

Long story short — Jane didn’t see fit to give the Colonel a name.

If you ever want to spur a debate, ask people if the colonel should be called Richard. Some defend it passionately — so many stories have him as Richard it just feels strange when he is called something else. Just as many people feel that it should NOT be Richard — after all, Jane Austen hated the name Richard, or so it’s been said.

It’s hard to trace back where “Richard” began. Some people mention early stories that posted in the Derbyshire Writers Guild going as far back as 1997 or 1998 (20 years! Gulp!)  For whatever reason, writers adopted it quickly, much as they did Thomas for Mr. Bennet, Madeleine for Mrs. Gardiner and Fanny for Mrs. Bennet. But Jane never called him that, and in fact, never called him anything at all but Colonel Fitzwilliam.

For my stories, I do tend to opt for Richard. Why? During the life of Jane Austen, there was a Viscount Richard Fitzwilliam (1745-1816). He was the founder by bequest of the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge and donated priceless works of art as well as funds sufficient to build the museum itself. So perhaps not such a bad namesake!

2. He was not good-looking.

We want him to be good-looking, don’t we? It seems like it should only be fair, he has no money, no house, and not much else to woo a lady; surely he’s handsome?

But alas, no, right in chapter 30, Jane Austen has written:

“Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman.”

So there you have it. The good colonel has only his personality to win a girl over.

3. But he wasn’t really that poor

I am certainly no expert on the military and their pay during the Napoleonic War times, but most things I have read suggest that the purchase price of your commission needed to be less than your personal fortune. This was to ensure that (gasp!) you weren’t entering the military to make money.

So it is likely the colonel had a bit of money behind him, certainly nothing like his father’s fortune or Darcy’s, but he wasn’t exactly penniless.

4. Darcy’s bosom buddy?

Fanon often paints the colonel as Darcy’s dearest friend. But how much of their relationship was true friendship and how much was simply the business of family?

While it is true he shared guardianship of Georgiana with Darcy, there is a legal reason for this. It is likely that some or all of Georgiana’s fortune came from the Fitzwilliam side of the family and therefore it was a convention to appoint a guardian for her from that side of the family that would protect those financial interests.  It made sense legally and was customary at that time. So the shared guardianship was not necessarily a statement about the closeness of the two men; likely it was a legal necessity.

Other family matters brought the two men together as well. Colonel Fitzwilliam was one of the executors of Darcy’s father’s will. Furthermore, the two men paid an annual visit to Rosings together. Was this duty of some sort? Overseeing their aunt’s business? I think we can all say that it was likely not out of preference! 

Moreover, even apart from the colonel’s legendary slip up regarding Bingley, the colonel does, on several occasions, throw a little shade his cousin’s way. When Elizabeth teasingly asks why Darcy is unable to recommend himself to strangers in a ballroom, the colonel tells her Darcy “…will not give himself the trouble.” The colonel is also quick to inform her that Darcy, “…likes to have his own way very well.” Merely teasing him? Or was there a little jealousy there?

However, that said, in his letter to Elizabeth, Darcy says the two men have a “near relationship” and are in “constant intimacy” so it is entirely possible that the two men were, in fact, close friends in addition to being relatives.

5. He did have some romantic feelings for Elizabeth

Colonel Fitzwilliam seemed really glad to see them; any thing was a welcome relief to him at Rosings; and Mrs. Collins’s pretty friend had moreover caught his fancy very much.

No one can deny that the colonel certainly flirted with Elizabeth while at Rosings, but was it ever more than that?

“But in matters of greater weight, I may suffer from the want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like.”

“Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do.”

“Our habits of expence make us too dependant, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money.”

I’ve always held to the opinion that Colonel Fitzwilliam likely kept himself in check to avoid any sorts of runaway romantic feelings for Elizabeth Bennet. That he liked her and enjoyed flirting with her is clear, but for myself, I can never tell if he was just flirting to amuse himself during a tedious visit to his aunt, or if, in other circumstances, it might have become something more.

So there are my thoughts on Colonel Fitzwilliam! I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

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About A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity

Is not the very meaning of love that it surpasses every objection against it?

Jilted. Never did Mr. Darcy imagine it could happen to him.

But it has, and by Elizabeth Bennet, the woman who first hated and rejected him but then came to love him—he believed—and agree to be his wife. Alas, it is a short-lived, ill-fated romance that ends nearly as soon as it has begun. No reason is given.

More than a year since he last saw her—a year of anger, confusion, and despair—he receives an invitation from the Bingleys to a house party at Netherfield. Darcy is first tempted to refuse, but with the understanding that Elizabeth will not attend, he decides to accept.

When a letter arrives, confirming Elizabeth’s intention to join them, Darcy resolves to meet her with indifference. He is determined that he will not demand answers to the questions that plague him. Elizabeth is also resolved to remain silent and hold fast to the secret behind her refusal. Once they are together, however, it proves difficult to deny the intense passion that still exists. Fury, grief, and profound love prove to be a combustible mixture. But will the secrets between them be their undoing?

Buy: Amazon | Amazon.UK

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About the Author

Amy D’Orazio

Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay at home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, PA.

She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer 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.

Connect with Amy: Facebook | Meryton Press | Goodreads | Twitter

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Giveaway

Meryton Press is offering 8 ebook copies of A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity as part of the blog tour. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. This giveaway is open to entries from midnight ET on February 21 until midnight ET on March 8, 2018. Good luck!

Terms and conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook.

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

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I’m delighted to welcome Don Jacobson back to celebrate the release of his latest novel, The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, which is part of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Today he is here with a guest post about his process of reading. I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did and share your process of reading in the comments. Please give Don a warm welcome:

A Holistic Approach to Being #InspiredByAusten

One of my favorite things to do when I purchase a new hardbound book from a major publisher is that I randomly open it and rub my hand on the page. No reading…just rubbing.

This simple act is the beginning of my relationship with the author’s efforts. The tactile pleasure I derive from the finish of the paper enhances my overall experience with the publication before I begin to read it. There is something special about the highly clayed stock reserved for only the most special books that establishes a sense of worth; an idea that what I am about to read is important.

Then there are the cover jacket design, the bindery, the typeface, the depth of the ink, the nature of the typeface used for me to consider.

By now, you are likely thinking is he ever going to just read the darn book?

Eventually.

However, much as I have explored my process of writing in previous blog posts, I am now describing to you my process of reading. For, if writers do not write for readers to read, then just what are they doing?

I will readily admit that I am of a particular age. And that singular fact means that I stand astride the hard/soft copy divide. For the remainder of this post, I will offer my thoughts in the manner in which I write my books: printed version first with an e-book converted from that.

And, that sort of makes me feel as if I am the one guy making his way back to his seat in the stadium after the home team has just gone down by six runs in the top of the eighth. T’is a struggle to try to look at the craft of creating a book in a world where content is King, Queen, and Court, and how that material is presented is secondary at best.

We need to step back and consider this seminal question: What is a book?

For me, in its simplest form, the traditional codex-style book is a unique delivery mechanism for words and pictures that support the overall theme to which the author is writing. And, quite honestly, that is exactly what an e-book does; nothing less, but certainly not much more. And, within that gap falls the everything else that differentiates a well-produced and published book—electronic or print—from what we used to call the “pulp” trade.

Now, I am not indicting the modern publishing model that allows individuals to compose a story and pump their file through KDP for cover and e-book formatting to have it in front of a hungry audience within days of putting the final period on the final word of the final paragraph. In fact, I am now entirely self-published. However, my previous experience with traditional publishers afforded me an insight into how far beyond the act of writing that the creation of a book actually goes.

When I am engaged in the (roughly) four-month-process required to bring an 80,000-word novel in the Bennet Wardrobe Series, there is no question that the bulk of my effort is involved in the process of weaving the tapestry that is the plot of the stories. However, the last month is occupied with beta reads, editing, and proofing (which, I swear, no matter haw many times you do it, something gets through). I have discovered that the typeface Cambria is highly readable, so that is my dedicated font for all of my books…from the first manuscript words to the final print and e-book versions.

Oh, yes, there is the simple blocking-and-tackling of inserting page breaks at the end of each chapter as well as hyperlinks and bookmarks for the interactive Table of Contents for the e-book. But the addition of important nuances help establish the tone for the book.

Sometimes it is as simple as the inclusion of a quote or phrase. In The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, there are four very specific quotes that set the stage.

Directly preceding the Prologue, I put William Blake to work

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

emphasizing, once again, the question of Time and the Universe.

Each page introducing Book One, Two, and Three also employ a specific theme setting as well as another appropriate quote.

Book One, Longbourn House, leaned on the immortal Thomas Wolfe from Look Homeward Angel…

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin

of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a

Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window

 on all time.

 Book Two, Madras House, turned to the Bard for some thematic verse from Midsummer Night’s Dream, which fit so perfectly into the entire climax of the section.

Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be…

 Finally, Book Three, the Beach House, finds the reader reaching the conclusion of Kitty Bennet’s arc. Seneca’s contemplations on life and death cried out to me.

Life is like a play: it’s not the length,

but the excellence of the acting that matters.

Then there is the manner in which I will present type on the page.  At times, as in The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, I scattered works around an otherwise blank page to portray the lady’s desperate fight against the pneumonia that threatened to smother her. In The Countess Visits Longbourn, the final words of the last chapter have been intentionally set apart on their own page with the intention of driving home the end of the book with the reader.

Of course, I have discussed the design of the entire cover for the print books in other forums. Suffice to say here that The Bennet Wardrobe series would not be the same without the careful craftsmanship of Janet Taylor. Yet, the covers, themselves, contain critical clues to the interior discourse found between them. Consider the rose wreaths (roses being a consistent theme throughout the entire series) surrounding the volume numbers on the spines. Time for your to play CSI Austen. Compare the wreaths around the “2.0” on Exile (pt. 1) and “2.9” on Exile (pt. 2). Are they different and, if so, why?

All of this is part and parcel of what I call “holistic writing.” I consider the entire package to be necessary for a complete reading experience. A reader can simply enjoy the story. However, I truly believe that time spent with the book will be enhanced by subliminal items. T’is these that contribute to creating a sentiment that every possible effort to deliver a quality and enjoyable encounter with the tale being spun by the author.

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The Bennet Wardrobe books are best enjoyed in the following order:

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

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An excerpt from The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, courtesy of Don Jacobson

This excerpt describes Lady Fitzwilliam’s first encounter with Madras House, set in the fashionable district around Grosvenor Square. Note: Madras House had been purchased by Mr. Benjamin Bennet, Kitty’s Great-great Grandfather in the aftermath of the South Seas Bubble.  

This excerpt is ©2018 by Donald P. Jacobson. Any reproduction of this excerpt without the expressed written consent of the Creator is prohibited. Published in the United States of America. 

Chapter XII

Madras House, London, December 11, 1811 (later) 

Kitty looked out the window of the hired carriage as it rattled away from Lincoln’s Inn in the darkness of an overcast London night. Mr. Hunters had speedily concluded their interview once he had pressed her home’s key into her hands. However, she did not leave until she had confirmed that Hunters would advise Papa of the Bennet Townhouse. She would leave it to her father’s good judgment as to how much further he would spread the information.

She was quite curious as to how this Madras House would appear, for, in spite of Hunters’ assurances that the establishment was fully staffed, she could not believe that an otherwise uninhabited dwelling (for the past seventy years at the very least) would be livable.

In short order, the vehicle was parked at the curb in front of a yellow-white stone clad townhome rising above the fashionable street bordering the Park. The great windows—three on either side of the entrance—glowed with candlelight, giving the entire aspect a cheeriness that squeezed Kitty’s heart, reminding her of how her beloved Matlock House looked after sunset. Torches also had been lit on either side of the entry walkway, and a greatcoat-clad footman hurried down the front stairs to lower the step and open the coach’s door. He handed Kitty down to the elevated walkway fronting the house. He then offered her his arm to allow her to safely navigate the marble stairs, perhaps slippery with a mid-December rime.

Stepping through the double doors into the front entryway, she was greeted by both the butler and housekeeper who headed double files of staff members lined up for her inspection.

The graying head of the household rumbled his greeting first, “Good evening, my Lady, Mr. Hunters alerted us to expect you. I am Hudson, your butler. It is my privilege to welcome you to Madras House, so named by Mr. Benjamin Bennet.”

Kitty appreciated the sense of history that established lineage and ownership.

Hudson continued, “May I present you to Mrs. Hudson, your housekeeper.”[i]

The middle-aged woman reminded Kitty of dear Mrs. Hill. Her friendly face immediately put the Countess at ease after a long day of travel.

Mrs. Hudson set to her task by saying in a well-modulated and pleasant alto, “I speak for all of the above- and below-stairs staff when I assure you, my Lady, that we are most eager to be of service to you. I must candidly note that we have somewhat despaired of being of service to anyone for many years. I do hope that you find the furnishings to your taste. We have made every effort to stay in step with the times.

“However, while the residence may be styled Madras House, Mr. Hudson and I, along with young Mr. Hunters, agreed to avoid faddish fripperies, particularly those of an Oriental flavor. Rather we determined to put good English craftsmen to work building sensible furniture that would stand the test of time.”

Kitty smiled to herself.

I am trying to imagine one of the young tabbies of the ton being on the receiving end of that speech. Not only would Mrs. Hudson be out on her ear, so, too, would every stick of “sensible furniture” that servants or tradesmen would have the impudence to install in a fashionable Grosvenor townhouse. Miss Bingley would probably populate every room with Grecian urns, faux Roman gladiator statues, and spindly-legged chairs unsuitable for anyone heavier than herself.

Yet, Kitty was knowledgeable that her staff had no idea of the tone to be set by this unknown quantity, the Dowager Countess of Deauville. The next few moments would establish their relationship.

Before doing anything else, Kitty pulled off her gloves, reached into her reticule and removed a guinea. This she handed to Hudson, asking him to present it to the coachman with her compliments and advise him that he could return to Meryton.

“Oh, Mr. Hudson, when you return, please ask the young footman to remove the knocker and come inside. We are not expecting any visitors this evening, and it would be cruel for him to be forced to remain out in the cold.”

As Hudson moved away, Kitty reached up to loosen the fastenings on her pelisse and bonnet. Another footman stepped forward to relieve her of her outerwear.

If her gown was a bit of last year’s fashion, Mrs. Hudson had the grace not to give any indication of notice.

Moving a little deeper into the entry hall, Kitty took in the expectant faces of her retainers old and young. Decades of managing three households took over. She could sense the nervous wariness that was the natural state of servants facing a new mistress.

After the cold draft admitted by the returning butler and footman had passed by her side, Kitty raised her chin and gazed out at the assembled multitude.

“Good evening everyone. I must first apologize for descending upon you without much warning. However, from what I have seen in these first few minutes, I must tell you that I am very pleased and proud of the manner in which you have adjusted. This is a credit to your leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson.

“Our home is beautiful with that warm and cheerful feeling that makes one wish to never leave. That is because each of you has clearly learned your tasks and has executed them exceptionally well.

“I apprehend that you have not had anyone in residence for a considerable period of time. Now, you will be able to tell your fellows that you are serving the Dowager Countess of Deauville, Lady Robard. I am no stranger to English shores, so please do not fear that you will suddenly be required to learn French or adopt foreign behavior.”

This last brought smiles from all and a few titters from the younger maids.

Kitty chuckled with them, knowing that her acceptance of their sense of humor would go a long way toward smoothing relations between Mistress and staff during the coming weeks.

Then she carried on understanding that backstairs gossip would spread like wildfire throughout the establishments around the Square. She knew that it was best that she create and establish her legend before the more inventive staff members filled in gaps with uncomfortable “facts.”

She added, “As I am certain that you all have questions, please allow me to anticipate them with some information about myself.

“You already know my title. My full name when Anglicized is Catherine Margaret Robard. Please, I beg you, do not refer to me as Lady Catherine. I cannot abide that name. Although I cannot imagine you needing to address me beyond ‘Your Ladyship,’ if necessary, you may name me ‘Lady Kitty.’ I realize that this likely does not fit with your sense of proper respect for a member of the gentry, especially those of you who are more mature.

“None-the-less, I think we can agree that some of the troubles my poor country has been experiencing in the past twenty years are rooted in the aristocracy’s unyielding grip on their traditional prerogatives. Thankfully, my late husband was conversant with the social currents flowing through the Enlightenment.

“You may be amused to learn that he found the Englishman John Locke’s ideas on Reason and Government to be remarkably forward-thinking.[ii] Sadly, le Compte was taken from us a few years ago when the fevers swept him away. My children, now grown, are safe in the Americas.”

Kitty paused for a moment, as if collecting her thoughts, before continuing, “While I may be from across the Channel, my relations in Hertfordshire have been most helpful during my trials. The Master of Longbourn, Mr. Bennet, has offered me the use of Madras House while I conduct some important business before returning to the Robard holdings in Louisiana.

“Thus, I place myself in your caring hands. I am certain that each of you will conduct yourself in a manner that will uphold the honor of the Bennet Family and this great house. I do hope to learn each of your names in the coming days. I do ask that you will forebear any tardiness in that undertaking. I have come a great distance and, at my age, weariness is an unwelcome traveling companion.”

Kitty had actually begun to wilt as she ended her address. Mrs. Hudson had moved to her side, ready to guide her to the parlor where she might take a moment to regroup before further evening activities. Hudson quickly dismissed the staff with a curt nod. In short order, the hall was deserted except for the Countess and the two servants.

Guiding her into a small, but well-appointed public room, Mrs. Hudson saw her mistress settled upon a sofa. The butler added a few chunks of gleaming anthracite to the hearth, already popping and sizzling with a happy blaze that cast an orange glow over the room. Kitty agreed with Mrs. Hudson that while young Mr. Hunters was a capable legal man, his hosting skills left much to be desired. She had eaten nothing since the fireside al fresco meal in the Longbourn bookroom, now some seven hours ago. She readily acceded to Mrs. Hudson’s suggestion that a selection of fruit, cold meats, and cheeses would carry her through the night to the morning.

As her lady began nodding after consuming a small plate and imbibing a cup of oolong, Mrs. Hudson, although her junior, mothered the weary woman to her chamber on the second floor where a quick wash, a fresh night rail, and a deep featherbed awaited her.

 

[i] Mrs. Hudson, of course, was Sherlock Holmes’ redoubtable landlady. We may assume that this lady is an ancestor.

[ii] Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is widely seen as being the opening shot of the Enlightenment. Locke’s Second Treatise on Government (1690) established the rationale for first constitutional monarchy and then, when viewed by American colonial thinkers after the Great Awakening, revolution seeking to found a republic.

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About The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

“I have been shaped by the events of over forty years. The world is a nasty place full of awful persons, Mr. Wickham, and does not get any lighter through complaining or blaming.”

The Countess: An Enigma? A Mystery? Or a young girl all-grown-up? 

Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her youngest sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly.

How right they were…but the type of instruction Kitty Bennet received, and the where/when in which she matriculated was far beyond their ken. For they knew nothing of that remarkable piece of furniture which had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe. 

Forty-six years from when she left her Papa’s bookroom, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to that exact same moment in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business.

In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam helped her youngest sister find the love she craved with the hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”

Who can resist the magic of time-travel? Pages of worldwide history rustle back and forth between Regency grand salons, Napoleonic battlefields and more recent conflicts as, guided by Don Jacobson’s masterful pen, the Bennet sisters grow as people and come into their own. ‘The Countess Visits Longbourn’ is a wonderful new instalment, and we cannot fail to revel in the excellent writing and the abundance of detail as the mysteries of the Wardrobe continue to unfold. This captivating series, that brings together real and much-loved fictional characters from all walks of life, is one to savour, and I will revisit it again and again.

Joana Starnes, author of Miss Darcy’s Companion 

Buy: Amazon US | Amazon UK

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About the Author

Don Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Giveaway

Don is generously offering 12 books (10 ebooks, 2 paperbacks) as part of the blog tour. You must use the Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook or Paperback of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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Feb. 14 Austenesque Reviews;  Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 15 My Jane Austen Book Club;  Guest Post, Giveaway

Feb. 17 My Love for Jane Austen;  Character Interview, Giveaway

Feb. 19 So little time…  Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 20 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl;  Review, Giveaway

Feb. 21 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, Giveaway

Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged;  Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

Feb. 24 Darcyholic Diversions;  Character Interview, Giveaway

Feb. 26 From Pemberley to Milton;  Excerpt

Feb. 28 Just Jane 1813;  Review, Giveaway

Mar. 2  Diary of an Eccentric;  Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

Mar. 3  My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, Giveaway

Mar. 5  Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, Giveaway

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

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Today I am delighted to kick off the blog tour for Mark Brownlow’s Cake and Courtship, which is Book One of Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs. I’ve invited Mark here today to introduce the book, and there’s even a deliciously sweet giveaway! Please give Mark a warm welcome:

First of all, a big thank you to Anna for hosting me at Diary of an Eccentric. This is the first stop on the Cake and Courtship blog tour, so it seemed a good idea to introduce you to the premise behind the novel, with the help of an excerpt.

We can all imagine Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet sitting happily in his library with the door firmly shut.

What we probably cannot imagine is that same Mr Bennet involving himself in matters of the heart. This is how Jane Austen described him in Pride and Prejudice:

…so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.

Mrs Bennet may not fully grasp her husband’s true nature, but we can agree she would never describe him as “romantic”. Remember how he mocked Jane’s fate after Mr Bingley left for London?

“So, Lizzy,” said he one day, “your sister is crossed in love, I find. I congratulate her. Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.

Just why is Mr Bennet so cynical? And might all his teasing hide a heart that is more tender than he cares to admit?

These two questions sit at the centre of Cake and Courtship. Indeed, they are the very questions that Mr Bennet must ask himself when visited by John Barton, the artist son of an old friend who left the country many years ago.

John is a little naïve and a lot in love. Unfortunately, his attempts to even meet the elusive Miss Hayter of Bath have suffered from a lack of confidence and connections. In his desperation, John asks Mr Bennet for advice.

This sets off a chain of events where our dear Mr Bennet is forced to confront both his own past and the perils of the game of courtship, armed with little more than wry humour and a slice of sponge cake. And all this takes place during uproar at Longbourn. It appears Netherfield Park is let at last…

In the excerpt below, Mr Bennet has just learnt of John’s wish to seek his advice and he discusses the prospect with his favourite daughter. There are a few conversations between Elizabeth and her father in Cake and Courtship: the two share a common intelligence and mutual respect that offers a lot of potential for verbal duelling!

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An excerpt from Cake and Courtship, courtesy of Mark Brownlow

“Lizzy.” She looked up from her book. I held up the letter to her from the other end of the library. “News from John. He writes from his Rudford estate and expects to visit in some ten days’ time.”

“This is good news.” She placed her book to one side, a pressed flower serving to mark the page. “And does he remove your fears for his family’s welfare…and ours?”

“He does. More or less. He has completed his estate business and seems in good spirits. The message is most amiable, suggesting his character remains as pleasant as I remember it to be. And it appears he is, as yet, unmarried, though that is a thought we should keep to ourselves for now. Let us not raise any false hopes, especially given his final words. Listen to this, Lizzy: I also beg leave to seek your advice on a personal matter…concerning a lady.

Lizzy seemed to struggle to contain a smile. “And this disturbs you, Papa?”

“It does, though it rather depends on what he means. I hope he does not wish to discuss such matters as her suitability, or how he might set about winning her affection.”

Lizzy lifted a hand to cover her laughter. “Be at ease, Papa. I do not think he would look to you for advice on such topics.”

“My dear girl, I am always happy to play the victim for your teasing but here it is entirely misplaced. Such things may not interest me now, but I’ll have you know I was once thought of as a great master of the rituals of courtship. Henry Barton certainly thought so. One or two young men owe their success as suitors as much to my guidance as to their lands and titles. Imagine, Lizzy: I once even believed in romance and the persuasive power of poetry. Still, I daresay all men have the right to be fools for at least part of their lives.”

“Only a part?”

“Well, when I consider many of my acquaintances, you may be right.”

“With such a talent for courtship, Papa, I wonder you took so long to marry yourself.”

I turned my head so she would not see my face. A careful smile and the scent of lavender flitted at the edge of my memory, kept out by a wall of regret. “As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls. Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.”

“Did you help Mr Barton court his wife?”

“Not directly. My ideals had long since shattered on the anvil of disappointment by the time Henry met Sophia, though I, too, was tempted to seek her affection. This was before I was introduced to your mother, of course. His love was true, and I left the field clear for him. Sophia chose wisely when she married Henry and I envied their joy. It survived the wilting of passion that does for so many arrangements.”

“It sounds like John should better talk with his father, then.”

“Let us not get ahead of ourselves, Lizzy. Men may talk of a lady without intending to wed her, whatever Mrs Bennet might believe. But if he does have an eye to marry, John’s father will not speak with him on such matters. Not because he fears the idea of female companionship and affection, but because he mourns the loss of both so deeply. Besides, by the time they exchanged letters on the subject, the lady in question would no doubt be wearing someone else’s ring.”

Lizzy stood and moved to the window. “For where thou art, there is the world itself, / With every several pleasure in the world, / And where thou art not, desolation.

“Suffolk, no? In Henry the Sixth?”

“Part Two.”

“Yet Suffolk could still find joy that Queen Margaret lived. Henry has not even that consolation. But hush, girl, John’s letter and your questions make me sentimental and that will not do at all, for I have business to attend to in town.”

“Business?”

“Of a sort. A lecture from Mr Criswick.”

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About Cake and Courtship

When John Barton falls in love with the elusive Anne Hayter, there is only one man he can turn to for advice. Unfortunately, that man is Mr Bennet of Longbourn, a world-weary gentleman with five daughters pursuing their own marital ambitions.

To help John, Mr Bennet must emerge from his beloved library and face the challenges of the tearoom and dance floor one more time. In doing so, he finds his own romantic past catching up with him.

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mark Brownlow takes you on an Austenesque journey full of wry humour and Regency romance (with a few slices of sponge cake).

As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls. Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.

Cake and Courtship is a standalone story, but also the first book of Mr Bennet’s memoirs.

Click here to buy Cake and Courtship

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About the Author

Mark Brownlow

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet. He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid, a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails.

Science degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Aberdeen and Reading prefaced a short-lived career as a research academic. Since turning from facts to fiction, Mark has also worked as a translator, agony aunt, marketing consultant, journalist, business writer, web publisher and copywriter. None of which kept his soul happy in the way that creative writing does. When not writing, he works as a part-time lecturer in medical and scientific English at a local university.

If there is no pen to hand, he can be found watching his kids play football or sharing a glass of wine with his wife in front of a costume or historical drama.

Mark’s website
Mark’s author page at Goodreads
Mark’s author page at Amazon.co.uk
Mark’s author page at Amazon.com
Mark on Twitter
Mark on Facebook

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Giveaway

Mark is generously offering a winner’s choice giveaway, open internationally. One lucky winner can choose between a copy of Cake and Courtship or a box of chocolates. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know what interests you most about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, March 11, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Thank you, Mark, for being my guest today. I hope my readers agree that Cake and Courtship sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to read it and spend some time with Mr. Bennet!

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I have a treat for you today, dear readers! John Kessel’s latest novel, Pride and Prometheus, has just been released, and the publicist is kindly offering a hardcover giveaway for my U.S. readers.

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About Pride and Prometheus

Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

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About the Author

John Kessel

Photo Credit: John Pagliuca

Born in Buffalo, New York, John Kessel’s most recent book is the new novel Pride and Prometheus. He is the author of the earlier novels The Moon and the Other, Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence.

Kessel’s stories have twice received the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play “Faustfeathers’” won the Paul Green Playwright’s Prize, and his story “A Clean Escape” was adapted as an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction. In 2009 his story “Pride and Prometheus” received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short sf, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology.

Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He and his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler, live and work in Raleigh, NC.

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Giveaway

The publicist is kindly offering a finished hardcover edition of Pride and Prometheus to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to readers with U.S. addresses only (sorry!) and will close on Sunday, February 25, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let me know what interests you most about the book. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Today I’m delighted to welcome Amy George to Diary of an Eccentric as part of the blog tour for her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Sweetest Ruin. After hosting the cover reveal, I was dying to read the book, so I bought it on release day and savored it over the course of a week when I should have been writing my novel or doing countless other tasks on my to-do list. It was totally worth falling behind on everything else so I could finish it (you can read my brief thoughts here), and if you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat!

Now, Amy is here to talk about Austen’s Elizabeth and her modern-day Elizabeth. How exciting! Please give her a warm welcome:

Good afternoon, Anna. It’s such a honor to be here at Diary of an Eccentric, to be with your readers today to share this post for the blog tour of my new release, The Sweetest Ruin. This new book is a modernization of Pride & Prejudice, but naturally there are connections between the two stories which transcend time; just like Jane Austen’s Elizabeth, my Elizabeth is also an avid reader.  So I thought it would be fun today to highlight the connections between these two characters’ lives, as well as to the woman who started it all, the beloved Jane Austen!

“We have tried to get Self-controul, but in vain. I should like to know what [Mrs Knight’s] Estimate is, but am always half afraid of finding a clever novel too clever and of finding my own people all forestalled.”
(Jane Austen, 30th April 1811)

In today’s modern world, we tend to take books for granted, even though many of us relish being able to walk into a bookshop or a library and walk out with a bundle of papers teeming with stories waiting to share the lives of people lived in hundreds of different centuries, in a million elsewheres. Many of us have even discovered the thrill of owning an e-reading device, where we can peruse a wide assortment of titles and sink ourselves into thousands of books all with the tap of our fingertip.

We are women and we read.

Yet when we think about our own joyful access to books, it’s difficult to imagine how this access has been limited to millions of women in the past (and is still in many places). There was a time instead when women were educated from their earliest years in the nursery about how to run a household and not in the subjects we are able to study today, such as math, history, or science. We might often picture Elizabeth Bennet as a reader, but she was one of the lucky ones! Her father found solace in his library and, fortunately for [at least one of] his daughters, he was likely to allow them to read most of the tomes he possessed at Longbourn.

“Purchasing new works of fiction would have been beyond the likes of the modest Austen family. Jane, who read extensively from a young age, relied on her family’s libraries, borrowing from friends and circulating libraries. Published works during her life were mainly gothic, sentimental, melodramas. Dr Gillian Dow, of Southampton University and director of research at Chawton House Library, says they were read and loved by Jane Austen as much as poetry, classics and works from the Continent.”

“Austen’s letters, family biographical notes and novels are peppered with admiration for different writers and works.” We know she read Ann Radcliffe, who was known as the pioneer of the Gothic novel, as well as novelists Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth.  The final paragraph of Burney’s novel Cecilia, a favourite of Austen’s, uses the phrase Pride and Prejudice three times in block capitals and probably inspired her own novel’s title:

‘”The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr. Lyster, “has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE. … Yet this, however, remember: if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination…”‘ (Frances Burney, Cecilia).

Samuel Johnson, William Cowper, George Crabbe, Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Henry Fielding were her favorite male writers, with Samuel Richardson being “the writer she consistently read, re-read and quoted throughout her life.” Richardson is also said to have been “a big influence on her teenage writing.” It has been noted that when her family moved to Bath,  Jane was in utter despair at the loss of access to her father’s library and it wasn’t until she moved to Chawton that she had regular access to a library again, when she would visit the Great House, her brother Edward Knight’s estate.

In The Sweetest Ruin, Elizabeth studies literature. I imagine she’s a fan of Poe and Stephen King because she’s dark, but she’s not dark dark. She probably also gets a kick out of the occasional romance novel (to blow off steam) and twisty mysteries like Gone Girl. On days she feels a little cut off from the world, she might pick up some sci-fi like Ready Player One or Red Rising. Though she doesn’t have a lot of time once she meets William Darcy, she’s a voracious reader who will consume nearly whatever book is in her path. Except, probably, self-help books. She’s interested in actual psychology, not the pop psych flavor of the month.

Still today, all over the world, women are denied access to books, to education. One of my personal heroines, Malala Yousefzai, was shot in the head because she wanted an education. She wanted access. Malala is lucky. Elizabeth is lucky. We’re lucky. Because we have all this amazing access through school, through libraries, through commerce.

We can read anything and everything because the world evolved and keeps evolving. And knowing that gives me hope that one day we’ll all have the chance to visit the worlds that Elizabeth Bennet loves through our access to books.

We are women. And we READ.

Reference: Jane Austen: What books were on her reading list?, 23 January 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/0/21122727

Thank you for sharing that powerful essay, Amy, and congratulations on your new release!

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About The Sweetest Ruin

Amazon | Amazon U.K.

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About the Author

Amy George

Amy George is a middle-aged woman who got rid of her old lady/grown up and has since purchased an unreasonably small car. She refuses to listen to its radio at a reasonable volume, especially when the Beastie Boys or the Violent Femmes are playing. She lives in a small town in the Midwest where the bookstore and yarn shop are neighbors and most food is fried. Her household consists of a dog, a man, a hermit, and stubborn soap scum.

She has been writing since she was a child and ran the Hyacinth Gardens, a popular but defunct JAFF site.

Fun fact: My birthday is January 30th so this is like a big birthday party.

Connect with Amy via Facebook | Goodreads | Meryton Press | Twitter

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour for The Sweetest Ruin, Meryton Press is offering 8 ebooks, open internationally. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link.

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook.

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January 29  Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post, Giveaway

January 30  My Jane Austen Book Club; Excerpt Post, Giveaway

January 31  Of Pens and Pages; Guest Post, Giveaway

February 1  More Agreeably Engaged; Guest Post, Giveaway

February 2  Babblings of a Bookworm; Excerpt Post, Giveaway

February 3  My Vices and Weaknesses; Book Review, Giveaway

February 4  My Love for Jane Austen; Character Interview, Giveaway

February 5  Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Giveaway

February 6  Margie’s Must Reads; Book Review, Giveaway

February 7  From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt Post

February 8  Savvy Verse and Wit; Book Review, Giveaway  

February 9  Just Jane 1813; Guest Post, Giveaway

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Hello, my dear readers! I can’t believe January is over already. Things are busy, busy, busy, so I haven’t been able to blog as much as I used to, but I have been reading and wanted to share my thoughts on the books I’ve read and what’s coming up for the blog in February. At least for the near future, I will be posting mini reviews of books from my personal library, with longer reviews planned for books I accepted for review. First up today, mini reviews of the books I read in January:

Source: Purchased

The Sweetest Ruin is a novella in which Pride and Prejudice meets Las Vegas. William Darcy feels suffocated by his family after a heath crisis and takes a spontaneous trip to Sin City, where he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a college student and a cocktail waitress at a casino. The two meet and sparks fly. Their whirlwind romance has some complications, namely William’s sister back in England and Elizabeth’s over protective best friend Thad. This was such a fun novella, with lots of steamy bits and humor as William and Elizabeth work to overcome the odds stacked against them. There were characters I loved and characters I loved to hate, but mostly they were characters I didn’t expect (Jane Bingley, for one). Amy George turns Pride and Prejudice on its head, and it was fantastic!

Source: Purchased

Lady Catherine’s Lover is a short story sequel to Pride and Prejudice in which the Darcys are awaiting the birth of their first child, making Darcy unwilling to chase after Lady Catherine when rumors swirl about her relationship with her late husband’s cousin, who requested an urgent meeting with her in London following the death of his wife. Darcy and Elizabeth watch things unfold from afar, and while the story is amusing, I wish it had been a little longer. It ends rather abruptly, and I really wanted to know what happened next!

Source: Kindle freebie

The Austen Addiction is a novella about Sharon, a young woman recovering from a tragic accident that took the life of her parents. She moves in with her aunt while she tries to figure out her next step and befriends the neighbors, a charming lawyer named Devon, his sister Clara, whose husband is serving in the military overseas, and Clara’s young daughter, Victoria. As Sharon’s friendship with Devon begins to grow into something more, she must come to terms with the aftermath of the accident, learning to live in the present rather than escaping to the past through Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Some readers might be put off by the strong Christian themes, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story, though the pacing was a bit quick for a story with such heavy themes.

Source: Kindle freebie

First Impressions is a short story that follows Stephanie Sleuth, a time detective, as she travels through the whorls of time from 2017 to 1811 to remedy a mistake in Pride and Prejudice. Stephanie meets up with Jane, not for the first time, to try to uncover what influenced the most recent mistake in the book, which Jane is currently writing. It’s an interesting premise, but something that really needs a longer format to provide the necessary backstory and explanations so readers can follow the action.

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Now that I’m spending more of my free time (not that there was much to begin with!) working on my novel (which I’ll post about here when I’m further along in the process), I’m no longer accepting review copies. I do still have review books on my shelf, and I’m working my way through them as time permits — and lately it feels like I’m reading in slow motion. I’m still finishing up Ellen Marie Wiseman’s The Life She Was Given, which is a beautifully written though heartbreaking tale about a young girl sold into the circus in the 1930s. (Click the link to read the excerpt that Ellen shared with my readers over the summer.)

Another fun book I’m working my way through is Katwalk by Maria Murnane, which I hope to finish soon. I’m really enjoying it! Here’s the blurb:

Katrina Lynden has always walked a straight line in life, an approach that has resulted in a stable career and pleased her hard-nosed parents but that has also left her feeling unfulfilled—and miserable. When her best friend suggests they quit their Silicon Valley jobs and embark on two months of adventure in New York City, Katrina balks at the idea but ultimately agrees, terrified yet proud of herself for finally doing something interesting with her life. But when her friend has to back out at the last minute, Katrina finds herself with a tough decision to make. Much to her surprise, she summons the courage to go alone, and the resulting journey changes everything. Along the way she makes new friends, loses others, learns what is really important to her, and finds a way to grow up without leaving herself behind.

So watch this space for these reviews!

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I’m still hosting guest spots so I can let you all know about new releases that I’m excited about, and in February, I will have several guests: Amy George, author of The Sweetest Ruin (see my review at the very beginning of this post); Monica Fairview, author of When Pride Prevails; and Mark Brownlow, author of Cake and Courtship. I hope you’ll stop by for a variety of guest spots and giveaways!

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What are you reading right now? Any exciting plans (reading or otherwise) for February! I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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