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Posts Tagged ‘pride and prejudice’

Hello, friends! I am thrilled to welcome Heather Moll back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Nine Ladies, a novel that combines Pride and Prejudice and time travel. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Heather is here to take you on a tour of Bakewell, which is featured in the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!


Hello Anna and thank you for welcoming me back to Diary of an Eccentric! Today I’m going to take your readers on a tour of some of the real places mentioned in Nine Ladies. Now, I know what some are you are thinking: “Heather, I heard this story has time travel. What is real about that?” While you may not be able to travel through time 200 years by standing in a stone circle during certain solar events, the places that our modern Elizabeth visits before she goes back in time to meet Regency Darcy are real.

I finished the manuscript for Nine Ladies in 2018, and in 2019 I visited Derbyshire with a dear friend for our own Elizabeth Bennet tour. Bakewell was our home-base and it’s also where Elizabeth is staying in 2011 when Nine Ladies opens.

This is Bank House on Bath Street in Bakewell. When Darcy rode through Bakewell in 1811, it was a girls’ school, but by the time Elizabeth comes to England it was converted into 3 flats, and she’s renting the second one from Professor Gardiner.

Elizabeth’s friends from Sheffield decide that she needs some cheering up after her father’s death and they come to spend the weekend with her. They leave her flat and walk toward the town center to have breakfast. They pass the Rutland Arms, an inn built in 1804. Jane Austen is believed to have stayed here in 1811.

By the way, I had an amazing sandwich at the Lambton Larder. Nice name, right?

Elizabeth and her friends, Charlotte Lucas and her sister Maria, Willie Collins, and Missy King, then take a bus to nearby Haddon Hall.

Haddon is a 900 year old manor house that is still a private residence and one of the only houses in England that has remained in one family’s ownership. It was empty throughout the Georgian and Victorian era while the family lived elsewhere. When Elizabeth visits Haddon in Nine Ladies, she’s not impressed by the Tudor and Medieval styling, but she does like the terraced walled gardens.

Later, her friends have to decide to visit either a Bronze Age stone circle or the ruins of a Georgian-era home. They decide on the ruins, but the stone circle stays in Elizabeth’s mind.

Of course, they have to finish the afternoon with a Bakewell pudding. This is my friend’s dessert because I ate mine too fast before it even occurred to me to take a picture of it.

After her friends leave, Elizabeth decides to see the Nine Ladies stone circle herself. She walks to Stanton Moor and sees the real Nine Ladies, a stone circle that’s 4,000-years old.

In Nine Ladies, if you stand in the center of the stone circle at sunset on an equinox—in the 21st century—you’ll go back in time 200 years. The one-way portal opens again on a solstice, and anyone inside will move forward in time from the 19th century to the 21st.

I stood in the center of that stone circle for a while, but I didn’t go anywhere. No regency men for me. But if you read Nine Ladies you’ll find out what happens when a 21st century Elizabeth goes back in time to meet 19th century Darcy.


About Nine Ladies

The Darcy family has grudgingly kept the secret about the power contained within a nearby stone circle called Nine Ladies. Fitzwilliam Darcy is forced to contend with this secret when a young woman from the future appears at Pemberley. Until the opinionated stranger can return to when she belongs, Darcy is responsible not only for her safety, but also for ensuring that nothing she does threatens Pemberley’s well-being.

Elizabeth Bennet has returned to England to take care of her estranged father, and her life was off track long before she walked into that stone circle at sunset. She quickly discovers that, as a poor and single woman, she’ll have to rely on the arrogant Mr. Darcy. She tries her best to survive in the nineteenth-century until she can return home but, as she and Darcy grow closer, the truth she knows about his and Pemberley’s bleak future becomes harder to keep.

How can Darcy and Elizabeth overcome 200 years of differences in this era-spanning love story?

Buy on Amazon


About the Author

Heather Moll is an avid reader of mysteries and biographies with a masters in information science. She found Jane Austen later than she should have and made up for lost time by devouring her letters and unpublished works, joining JASNA, and spending too much time researching the Regency era. She is the author of Nine Ladies, Two More Days at Netherfield, and His Choice of a Wife. She lives with her husband and son and struggles to balance all of the important things, like whether or not to buy groceries or stay home and write. Visit her blog and subscribe to her newsletter for a freebie and monthly updates. Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsInstagram, and Twitter.


Giveaway

Heather is generously offering a giveaway of 6 ebook copies of Nine Ladies as part of the blog tour, open internationally. This giveaway ends on February 13. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!


Thanks, Heather, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, friends! Grace Gibson is here today to celebrate the release of her newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Reckless, Headstrong Girl, part of Meryton Press’s Skirmish & Scandal series. Grace is here to share an excerpt from the book that we hope you’ll all enjoy. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you for having me Anna! I would like to share a little excerpt from Reckless, Headstrong Girl. Shortly after her elopement with George Wickham, Lydia Bennet has found herself in a bit of a pickle…

Shock, having taken hold, suspended even the silliest thoughts that were prone to arise in the mind of Miss Lydia Bennet, age fifteen, of Longbourn, Hertfordshire. She was acutely aware of the rumble of the wheels of the retreating coach, the low chuckle of the outrider, the subsequent chirping of crickets in the ditch, a few stars shining through the humid haze, and the throbbing in her rear from being thrown onto the hardened clay of the ruts in the road. How long she sat slumped and uncomprehending in this state she could not guess, but eventually, outrage replaced shock, and she staggered upright and screamed at the top of her lungs.

After venting the worst of her rage in roars and unholy howls of indignation, she devolved into sobs, hiccoughs, and moans. Lydia Bennet stood—alone—upon the London road in the dark. Surely Wickham would come back for her, she began to reason, although reasoning was not her strong suit. He could not be so lost to honor and duty that he would abandon a gentleman’s daughter in the wilds of West Sussex in the middle of the night.

Roughly two hours later, Lydia began to think that perhaps Mr. Wickham was not a gentleman after all. When he finally returned for her, she would tell him off at the top of her lungs! This seemed a paltry punishment for what he had done to her, and yet, as she would be dependent upon him to restore her to Colonel Forster’s home, she could hardly tear out his liver with her bare hands. The image of doing so, however, was quite sustaining. Consequently, Lydia—thinking darkly of throwing George Wickham’s beloved Hessians into the fire, cutting his pomaded curls off his head as he lay in a drunken stupor, seeing him bound, pale and weeping, in a tumbrel headed for the guillotine, or paying a thoroughly disreputable sea captain to press him into the lower decks of a second-rate ship headed for Java—finally looked around her. She could hardly remain standing in the road. If the night mail were to pass, she would be plowed down by a team of six at the gallop.

If you are curious as to what happens next in Lydia’s adventure, part two of this excerpt will be featured on February 8th at Austenesque Reviews. Hope to see you there!


About Reckless, Headstrong Girl

A scandalous flight, an inconsiderate couple—

How can things have gone so terribly wrong for Lydia Bennet?

In Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Lydia Bennet runs away from Brighton with George Wickham, but this adaptation of Lydia’s adventures is not your typical story about this brash couple.

Mr. Wickham, proving he is no gentleman, does the unthinkable and casts Lydia out of a second-rate coach. Filthy, exhausted, and penniless, Lydia is just facing the beginning of her ordeal! How can a spoiled, uneducated girl of fifteen—used to having her way—survive a night in the wilds of Sussex?

As Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner vainly search for her in London, Lydia’s sisters struggle to keep her secret from their Meryton neighbors. Though they fear the worst—that Lydia’s wild life has ended in tragedy—all hope is not lost. Mr. Darcy, in the midst of reigniting his courtship with Elizabeth, is determined to recover his love’s unfortunate sibling.

Will Mr. Darcy succeed in finding Lydia and restoring her to respectability? In what shocking condition will this catastrophe render such a reckless, headstrong girl?

*****

The novella, Reckless, Headstrong Girl, may be purchased on Amazon US and Amazon UK. It is available as an eBook, a Paperback, and through Kindle Unlimited. The audiobook, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, should be released in about a month.


About the Author

In addition to mosaic art, which I create at Studio Luminaria, my home-based glass shop in El Paso, Texas, I enjoy writing regency romance and Pride and Prejudice variations for pleasure.   

Contact Info:  Facebook

Other Books by Grace Gibson

Silver Buckles is available on Amazon. “Old Boots” will be coming summer 2021.


Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering 1 ebook copy of Reckless, Headstrong Girl to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally through Sunday, February 14, 2021. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!


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

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Happy release day to Elaine Jeremiah and her first Pride and Prejudice variation, Elizabeth & Darcy: Beginning Again. Elaine is here to talk a little about the book and share an excerpt. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!


I’m really excited to do this guest post today, on the publication day of my very first ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation, ‘Elizabeth and Darcy: Beginning Again’. Thanks to Anna for featuring me on her blog! I thought I would share with you some thoughts about what are to me some of the most appealing aspects of the original ‘Pride and Prejudice’ story, things that make us want to read so many retellings of it.

Well, I guess unsurprisingly, the biggest draw for me is the two main characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Aren’t they just great? They’re so memorable and feel so real. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I could be more like Elizabeth Bennet; confident, forthright and witty.

And Mr Darcy. Hmm – he’s just about the best romantic hero ever written. I say that most of all because of the way that after Elizabeth so flatly refuses his first marriage proposal, in no uncertain terms, he goes away and reflects on what she’s said and starts to re-evaluate himself as a person. Over time he realises there’s a lot of truth in what she’s said to him about his character and he begins to change.

The amazing thing is – so does Elizabeth! She too, having read Darcy’s letter after that first disastrous proposal, gradually begins to see things from his point of view. She starts to see that she’s been wrong as well in her behaviour at times – ‘Till this moment, I never knew myself’ – perhaps one of the most famous lines in the novel.

Austen’s tale of Elizabeth and Darcy is perfect, really great – and yet ripe for retelling! You can tell the story so many ways; there are so many ‘what ifs?’ What if Darcy and Elizabeth didn’t meet again in Derbyshire after the first proposal? What if they met when they were very young? What if they meet when they’re older? The possibilities are endless.

The secondary characters are so good too. Who could forget the venomous Miss Bingley, saintly Jane Bennet or the permanently marriage-obsessed Mrs Bennet? There are so many other wonderfully unforgettable characters who it’s possible to use in retellings of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, let alone all the possibility for stories about the secondary characters themselves.

Another thing that I love is the Regency era during which ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was written and in which it’s set. I love the history of the time in which Jane Austen lived, reading about the events that took place during her lifetime and how different society was in England back then. It’s so very different from life in England in the twenty-first century! So that’s another definite draw for me to want to write a novel set in that era.

There’s so many reasons I love Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, almost as many reasons why I love to read retellings of the story, and also a whole load of reasons why I loved writing my own retelling of it myself. I do hope you enjoy reading my book as much as I enjoyed writing it.


An excerpt from Elizabeth & Darcy: Beginning Again

As Darcy strode away from Elizabeth Bennet, he contemplated the situation they had found themselves in. Being unable to find help did not bode well. If or when they were discovered alone together, they would have difficulty explaining how it came to pass. He was unsure what he would say in his defence if they were.

He reflected too on his ambiguous feelings for the lady. It was true that she was the daughter of an inconsequential gentleman and her other relations… well vulgar did not begin to describe the mother. As for her sisters, excepting the eldest, Miss Jane Bennet who was perfectly amiable, he had never come across such boisterous, flirtatious misses in his life.

And yet he could not deny that Elizabeth intrigued him. She piqued his interest and those eyes of hers were most arresting. He shook his head as he thrashed his riding crop through the foliage of the woods, forcing a path through. Their meeting today was unaccountable. His very purpose for heading out from Netherfield on his horse, despite the indifferent weather, had been to clear his thoughts of her.

These nascent feelings for her simply would not do. She and her family were beneath him in every way. So it was that his surprise on happening upon her so suddenly had been great. At first, dismounting from his horse, he had felt as though he had been robbed of the power of speech. When finally he had turned and spoken to her, he saw by the expression of her fine eyes that her surprise was equal to his.

‘Attend to the task at hand, William,’ he told himself. At this moment, his biggest regret ought to have been his horse. Under usual circumstances, the horse would never have behaved in such a way. But he was unused to thunder and lightning, poor creature. Darcy had also had to rein him in very suddenly to avoid trampling Elizabeth, which had only added to the horse’s confusion.

In spite of his attempts to the contrary, however, Darcy’s thoughts would return to Elizabeth. He felt a need to protect her. After all, it was his fault she was injured. It was true that he had no wish to ruin her reputation; in fact, he knew that as a gentleman it was his duty to preserve it. Yet it was something greater than that which spurred him on, forcing him to ignore the raindrops trickling down the back of his neck, his cravat and greatcoat no match for the inclement weather.

He refused to acknowledge that feeling, however. It could lead nowhere. In any case, there were more important considerations to be thought of. He was unsure how long he had been walking for, but at that moment a smallish wooden hut with a stone chimney came into view. He halted abruptly, surveying it. Would it do for their purposes? Was it habitable? Although it was rudimentary, it appeared well kept. When he knocked, there was no answer. Taking a breath, he tried the door and to his relief discovered it was unlocked.

Darcy took a cursory glance around the interior. There was only the one room, but it did have a substantial fireplace on the far wall with firewood piled up beside it and a small bed in one corner. This will do nicely, he thought. Now all that remained was to fetch Elizabeth. It was a considerable distance for him to carry her, but the thought of having her small, warm, curvaceous body in his arms again made his mouth curve upwards in a grin.

~

Could this moment really be lasting an eternity, Elizabeth wondered, as she was sitting under the tree getting wetter by the minute. It certainly felt like it. The pain in her ankle was severe and it occurred to her that it may be broken. God forbid, she thought with a shudder. If she had broken a bone in her ankle and it was then set incorrectly, it could mean she would never walk again.

And Mr Darcy. Elizabeth could not make him out. In all her previous encounters with him, he had been aloof, taciturn and on occasion more than a little rude. During the short time she had been in his company this morning however, he had behaved with great chivalry towards her. It was perplexing to say the least. She shook her head. Mr Darcy was only performing the service that any gentleman would and that was all.

But his keeping hold of her hand for longer than necessary. What could he mean by it, if he truly disliked her? Attempting to answer this vexing question kept her mind occupied for a good while, in fact until the gentleman himself appeared in front of her. Elizabeth felt her face flush and bit her lip as her eyes met Mr Darcy’s own.

For a moment neither of them spoke but remained as they were with their eyes fixed on one another. It was as though someone had cast a spell over them. Elizabeth was startled that Mr Darcy seemed as transfixed as she. She wanted and yet did not want to look away. Finally, he cleared his throat. The spell was broken and he said, ‘Miss Bennet, I have discovered the gamekeeper’s cottage that you mentioned, although in truth it is more of a hut.’ He gave her a rueful smile, which seemed somehow to transform his face, lightening it, making him appear even more handsome than before.

She gave him a brief nod. ‘Thank you for searching in this dreadful weather,’ she said. ‘It may be a mere hut, but I think it is the best we can hope for. Beggars cannot be choosers.’

‘No, indeed,’ he replied. He paused and she saw that he seemed to be bracing himself for what he would say next. ‘Unfortunately, it is quite far from here, about a half mile. Miss Bennet, I must carry you for all of that time, if you will permit me?’

‘But of course,’ she replied. ‘I suppose that will have to suffice, as my ankle can scarcely support my weight.’

He gave a wry smile at her tart comment. ‘In that case, I suggest we depart immediately,’ he said and stooped to pick her up. She put her arms around his neck. ‘You are wet through,’ he added as he straightened and began to walk away from the tree which had proved so mean a shelter for her.

‘It is a very wet day, sir,’ Elizabeth replied lightly. ‘I cannot be expected to look the part of a lady in conditions such as these,’ she added in a mischievous tone.

He did not understand her. ‘Miss Bennet, I was not suggesting for one moment that you…’

‘Of course not, Mr Darcy,’ she replied. ‘I merely jest.’

‘Ah. I see,’ was his response.

They remained silent for a while as Mr Darcy soldiered on through the rain with Elizabeth in his arms. Gradually, her initial apprehension began to wear off and she found herself relaxing the rigid body posture she had adopted when he had lifted her off the ground. His arms around her made her feel warm in spite of the weather. Yet a sense of unease remained. She, an unmarried woman, was being carried a fair distance by a man who was not her betrothed and certainly never likely to be her husband. What would society say?


About Elizabeth & Darcy: Beginning Again

Little does Elizabeth Bennet think the journey across muddy fields from her home at Longbourn to Netherfield Park will change her life forever.

But an unexpected encounter with the proud and haughty Mr Darcy leaves her injured and vulnerable. Worse still, she is left alone with him for a significant amount of time. Her reputation at risk, she is forced to make a decision about her future. Now her life will never be the same again.

Can Elizabeth ever be happy? Or will she always loathe Mr Darcy?

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


About the Author

Elaine lives in Bristol, South West England with her husband and their golden retriever, Dug. But she was privileged enough to grow up in Jane Austen country, in Hampshire.

She’s always loved writing, but it’s only been in recent years that she’s been able to devote more time to it. She decided to self-publish with the help of her wonderful husband who’s very tech-savvy! In 2013 she self-published her first novel, but it was only with her fourth, her novel ‘Love Without Time’, that she felt she finally found her niche: Jane Austen Fan Fiction!

She’s always loved Jane Austen’s writing and the Regency era, so this felt like a natural thing for her to do. ‘Elizabeth and Darcy: Beginning Again’ is the first ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation she’s written.

If you want to connect with Elaine online, her Facebook page can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/elainejeremiahauthor/

Her Twitter handle is: @ElaineJeremiah

Her website is here: https://elainejeremiah.co.uk/


Giveaway

Elaine is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Elizabeth & Darcy: Beginning Again to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, February 7, 2021. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!


Thanks for being my guest today, Elaine, and congratulations on your new book!

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Hello, friends! C.P. Odom has a new Pride and Prejudice variation, Determination, and I’m excited to welcome him back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release. He’s here today to share an excerpt, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Please give him a warm welcome!


This excerpt is from Chapter 8 of my new novel, Determination. Since the released blurb on the cover and previous excerpts in the blog tour make it evident that Colonel Fitzwilliam is in romantic pursuit of Jane Bennet, the colonel issued an invitation for Jane, Elizabeth, and her aunt and uncle to be his guests at the theatre for a new production of Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar. This excerpt is about what happens during that excursion.

Chapter 8

He is not a lover who does not love forever.

— Euripides, writer of classical Greek tragedies

Friday, May 1, 1812
Covent Garden, London

Jane looked out the window in surprise as her uncle’s carriage slowed and came to a halt. Shoppers still thronged the pedestrian walkways to either side of the street since many of the shops along Bow Street stayed open until ten o’clock or even later. But there was no sign of the theatre.

“Why have we stopped, Uncle?” Elizabeth asked, leaning out of the window for a better look. A series of dividers separated the pedestrians from the streets, and she was surprised to see a line of carriages ahead of their coach with several more stopping just behind.

“Covent Garden is the largest theatre in town, Lizzy, and it is usually considered to be the leading theatre of the English-speaking world. Only Drury Lane came close, but the rebuilding likely will not be completed until the fall. Even then, it is uncertain whether it will be able to open since the management is said to have been virtually bankrupted by the cost of the renewal.”

“I thought a new company had been formed to cover the cost of rebuilding by subscription,” Mrs. Gardiner said.

“Quite correct, dear, but subscriptions have proven barely able to keep up with costs. Whitbread and his fellow investors are said to have little left in their purse. In any case, Lizzy, there is always a line of coaches, carriages, and hacks waiting to drop their passengers in front of the theatre. We shall simply have to wait our turn.”

Both Jane and Elizabeth settled back to look out at the shops on either side of the street, and there was much to see. Streams of people strolled along the street, pausing occasionally to inspect the various offerings in the fine, high windows. There were drapers, stationers, booksellers, china sellers, and many more, all close to each other and without any break between shops. The shoppers were dressed well but not opulently. Covent Garden and similar shopping areas such as Leicester Square and the Strand were not in the most fashionable areas, but the shops were still genteel and respectable.

The girls had shopped often with their aunt in Cheapside, which was not so very different from the scene they saw here, but everything was significantly altered at night as the streets were lit by a multiplicity of lamps and lanterns of all different colours and brightness. Jane pointed out a dressmaker’s establishment that showed women’s materials—silks, chintzes, muslins, and more—many of them visible behind the windows lit by carefully placed lamps to pique the interest of those passing by.

Just then, their coach lurched into motion again, and they moved up a coach-length before again halting.

“We could get out and walk,” Elizabeth commented, “and then we could inspect the shops more easily.”

“Ah, but it is not done that way,” responded her uncle with a smile. “The theatre employs people who will stop the pedestrians when we alight from our coach, forming a line so we may enter the theatre. If we walked up to the entrance, we would be simply more pedestrians, either forced to enter with those buying tickets or directed away from the arriving coaches. In addition, I should not like to try escorting three ladies past all these merchants’ windows and still arrive in time for the beginning of the play.”

Elizabeth sniffed audibly to show her opinion of this last comment and returned to inspecting the businesses on her side of the coach while her uncle and aunt shared a soft laugh at her expense.

“It is too bad Miss Lucas declined to attend, dear,” Mr. Gardiner said to his wife. “She might have enjoyed the shops even if she does not care for Shakespeare.”

“I believe she would have liked to come, if only to be able to say she had attended the theatre and seen all of the finest society in London. Why, I understand the Prince Regent will be attending tonight,” responded his wife. “But Maria must have eaten some bad meat when we were at the market yesterday. I especially suspect that beef pie she purchased from the gypsy.”

How Maria would have loved to boast that she dined nine times at Rosings with her ladyship, drank tea there twice, AND attended the theatre when the Prince Regent was in attendance, Elizabeth thought sardonically. Silly girl. I told her not to buy that pie.

Gradually, their coach moved up position by position, and Elizabeth happened to be looking at Jane when she saw her sister’s expression change. Jane had been idly looking at the shops on her side of the coach when her head suddenly swivelled and stopped. Her eyes seemed to sharpen and focus, and her whole expression softened even as her lips curved into a smile.

“There is Colonel Fitzwilliam waiting for us,” she said.

“I daresay he is waiting, Jane,” Mr. Gardiner commented dryly, “but I believe I am correct when I say he is not waiting for your aunt and me.”

“And as amiable as I find the gentleman, I am certain he is not waiting for me either,” Elizabeth said teasingly.

Jane’s cheeks grew a little pinker, and she lowered her eyes, but Elizabeth was sure she was not displeased. However, she could not help feeling a pang of regret when she thought of Mr. Bingley.

Had it not been for Mr. Darcy’s arrogant interference, that might be Mr. Bingley waiting, she thought angrily. No matter how Colonel Fitzwilliam might try to change my mind, I do not believe I can ever forgive Mr. Darcy for that.

***

As soon as their carriage stopped in front of the theatre, two servants in Covent Garden livery quickly opened the door and pulled down the step. Mr. Gardiner would normally have exited first in order to assist his wife and nieces, but he waved Jane ahead since the colonel was already stepping forward to do the honours.

Richard’s breath caught in his throat as Jane stepped through the door of the coach, bent over slightly to duck under the top of the door frame. She thus presented to him a most enchanting view down the front of her fashionably low-cut evening gown.

Her aunt had ordered the gown prepared early in Jane’s visit in order to show off her niece’s figure to best advantage though Jane had never had occasion to wear it until her aunt suggested she do so tonight. Mrs. Gardiner’s suggestion certainly achieved the intended result. Richard was not able to keep his eyes from dropping to Jane’s bodice and the view of her neckline as her breasts swelled against the constraints of her gown. He was at least able to make himself wrench his eyes away after a moment so he could accept Jane’s hand as she straightened and stepped to the ground.

Does she know just how enticing she looks? he wondered in numb confusion. Does she have any idea of the effect she is having on me—and on any other man looking this way?

Only manners strengthened by rigid self-control allowed him to exchange greetings with her, though he really wished to simply step back and stare. He did not think he had ever seen a young lady more beautiful in her person or more attractively attired, though he knew enough about women’s fashion to realize that Jane’s gown was nothing extraordinary. It was quite in keeping with the fashion of the day, heavily influenced by the move towards the more simplified and classical styles of Greece and Rome. The waistline was high, and the material was an inner layer of fine white linen with an outer layer of sheer white silk. Gone were the heavy brocades of the previous century, replaced by the clean lines that fell from the high waist just under her bosom all the way to her hem. The sleeves were short, hardly more than straps across the shoulder to support the dress while allowing a low, square-cut neckline to show off the snow-white perfection of a lady’s bosom.

It is a beautiful gown that many a high-society daughter could not wear with more credit, Richard thought. They might pick elaborate gowns with more embroidery and a much higher price, but they could not look as beautiful as this country lass before me—or as desirable.

The addition of physical desirability to his already fixed admiration for this striking young woman only firmed his already expressed intentions, and the soft smile she gave him sent a tingling sensation down his spine and made his blood seem to sing in his veins. He believed he would never forget this moment, his varied emotions twisting, turning, and melting together until no single strand could be untangled from the others.

My intentions are already declared, at least to her uncle, but tonight makes me absolutely determined that nothing—absolutely nothing—shall sway me from winning her and making her my bride.

“Colonel Fitzwilliam?”

The note of query in Elizabeth Bennet’s voice brought Richard’s attention back to the present as he realized that, despite his attempt at self-control, he had clearly been staring too long at her sister. He was quick to turn back to the coach and assist Miss Elizabeth to the ground. The expression on her face was clear: she knew it was the sight of Jane’s exposed bosom that had paralysed him.

And it was clear that she did not approve.

***

Richard was correct in his supposition since Elizabeth had heartily disagreed with her aunt’s suggestion for Jane’s gown earlier that day, believing it was much too revealing.

“Lizzy, you are in London, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the world,” Mrs. Gardiner had said with a smile. “Every woman attending the theatre for this opening performance will be dressed in her absolute best evening wear with considerable shoulder and bosom on display.”

At Elizabeth’s disbelieving look, her aunt had continued. “It is not customary or proper to wear a low-cut or short-sleeved gown to an afternoon event, even in London, but it is quite appropriate for the evening. Trust me, all the younger women tonight—both married and unmarried—will be showing considerable bosom. Jane will be much admired by all the men—and envied by all the women.”

“Especially one young man,” Elizabeth had grumbled under her breath.

“Well, I certainly hope so,” her aunt had replied merrily. “After all, we women have to use whatever assets God has given us.”

Elizabeth was well aware that her aunt was more sophisticated than either Jane or herself, but it was still startling to accept her aunt’s intention to make the best use of the impact Jane’s innocent but nevertheless undoubted sexuality would have on a healthy young man, even one as urbane as the son of an earl. Then she had a further thought.

“Will you be wearing…that is…”

“Will I be wearing anything similar to Jane, even at my ancient age?”

Mrs. Gardiner had laughed delightedly as Elizabeth turned bright red in embarrassment. “Yes, Lizzy, I have something in mind for myself also. After all, I have a man in my life to entice, even if we have had four children. I just wish I had had time to have something as alluring made for you, especially if your Mr. Darcy decides to accompany his cousin.”

“He is not my Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth had said instantly, startled and upset. But her aunt had simply given her a sly smile, which had left Elizabeth feeling decidedly unsettled.

***

Elizabeth was easily able to discern that Fitzwilliam was having difficulty breaking away from the vision of her sister though he did manage to straighten and mumble a greeting to her. But Elizabeth was inwardly certain that he had little awareness of what he said, and he looked distinctly relieved as he saw Mr. Gardiner step next into the doorway. That meant her uncle could assist his wife, which allowed the colonel to turn back to Jane and offer his arm. Elizabeth was warmed and disturbed at the same time as she saw the animation of her sister’s smile when she took the proffered arm.

But Fitzwilliam appeared more in control of himself as he offered his other arm to Elizabeth, and she lost little time in taking it. She had managed to quell her irritation by now, and her expression was one of careful calm. She knew it would do no good to poison the relationship between Fitzwilliam and herself. Even if she thought Bingley would have been a better match for Jane, it was obvious that Jane was captivated by the colonel. If he did as he had told her uncle and managed to marry Jane, it would be disastrous not to be able to visit her beloved sister because of the disapproval of her husband.

Two uniformed doormen opened the theatre doors as they approached, giving them all a bow. Elizabeth looked around in interest once they were inside, and she quickly realized her aunt had been correct about the eveningwear of the ladies. All the fashionable women walking about on the arms of their escorts or waiting to go to their seats were elaborately coifed and gowned, many in attire even more revealing than Jane’s.

Several of them should have exerted a bit more common sense and self-control, considering they no longer have Jane’s or even my aunt’s figure, Elizabeth thought puckishly, her usual nature beginning to reassert itself. She also apprehended that Aunt Gardiner had been right about Jane’s effect on the men.

The contortions some of these gentlemen are going through in trying to get a closer look at her without offending their present partners would be quite entertaining if it were not so necessary to maintain my composure.

For a moment, Elizabeth felt a brief flash of jealousy that she was not the cause of so many men trying to get a better look, but she easily repressed it. She had deliberately dressed in an understated gown that would have been appropriate for visiting but was rather out of place tonight. However, she felt little desire to attract the attention of other men. Having so unwittingly attracted the attention of Mr. Darcy, she had no desire for further interest along those lines.

The noise level had increased remarkably once they were inside the foyer, and Jane had to lean towards Richard as she said, “There are more people here tonight than I had expected. Is it very expensive to attend this theatre, Colonel Fitzwilliam?”

“Not unduly so, Miss Bennet. The ground level boxes go for six shillings, and a great number of people from all walks of life attend every week. It appears they will be playing to a full house tonight.”

“Where shall we be sitting?”

“We have the good fortune to have the loan of a private box, so we should have an excellent view. We go up these stairs just ahead,” Richard said, nodding towards the stairway. An employee in evening dress was passing parties up the stairs and, when their turn came, Richard handed him the card Darcy had given him. The man took only a cursory look at it since Richard had taken the precaution of presenting the card prior to the arrival of the Gardiner party.

The man snapped his fingers, and one of several uniformed boys sprang to his side.

“Enjoy the performance, Colonel Fitzwilliam,” the man said as he handed the card to the boy.

“Thank you, Logan, we shall,” responded Richard politely.

“After me, if you please.” The boy, who appeared to be about twelve or thirteen, led the party up the stairs and down a long, narrow hallway.

“Here you are, ladies, gentlemen.” He opened a door towards the end that led into a box. “Enjoy the play.”

“Thank you,” Richard said, giving the boy a shilling. Mr. Gardiner gave him another, and the boy grinned widely at his good fortune.

“Thank you, sirs!” he exclaimed before he scampered down the narrow hall, expertly squeezing past the next party being led to their box by one of his fellows.

“Now we know why they employ boys,” Mr. Gardiner said. “They are small enough to get past parties coming this way.”

The box had seats for six, three in front and three behind, with the chairs in front on a lower step so the view from the rear was unimpeded. The chairs were comfortably made with cushions on the seat and back as well as upholstered arms.

***

“Would you and Mrs. Gardiner care for the lower seats, sir?” Richard asked. “Or perhaps we could let the ladies sit in front while we sit behind.”

“No, no, you young people sit down front. I only need my spectacles to read—my vision is otherwise quite excellent. Mrs. Gardiner and I shall make ourselves comfortable in the rear.

And you will also be able to keep an eye on your two nieces, thought Richard with amusement as he recognised Mr. Gardiner’s ploy. Who knows what might happen with Jane dressed as she is?

Richard made sure that Elizabeth did not manage to separate him from Jane, and before she realized what was happening, he had offered her the left hand seat. She had no choice but to take it, which allowed Richard to seat Jane in the middle seat. He took the remaining seat on the right while Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner settled down in the two seats on the right directly behind Jane and him.

Richard saw Elizabeth looking at him in a speculative fashion, and he arched an interrogative eyebrow. The interior of the box was only dimly lit, but their eyes were rapidly growing used it.

“Yes, Miss Elizabeth? Did you have a question?”

“Not a question, sir, a compliment on the skilful way you arranged the seating.”

“Tactics—my soldier’s training, you know. But I do want to offer you a compliment on your diligence in attending your sister. No ne’er-do-well shall get close to her with you providing protection.”

“Surely you are not suggesting you fall into that category.” Elizabeth gave him her sweetest smile but with the light of deviltry dancing in her eyes. She might prefer Bingley as a husband to her sister, but she did very much like Fitzwilliam. “Yet I do note with dismay that you have reverted to your beloved uniform again. And just when Jane and I had reason to believe your wardrobe of fashionable attire was rather extensive.”

“I am afraid your sister has caught me out, Miss Bennet,” Richard remarked, turning now to Jane. “Either your assessment of my indifference to fashion was correct, or I have exhausted the only two pieces of gentlemanly attire I own.”

“Ignore her, Colonel,” replied Jane with a smile. “She and I often tease our younger sisters about swooning over a red coat, but I think your uniform suits you perfectly.”

“I hope I might be introduced to your other sisters soon,” Richard said quietly, his nerves tingling as he awaited an answer to this probe.

Jane was conscious of a sudden constriction in her throat at this indication that Richard’s interest would not be limited to her tenure in London. She had to swallow several times before she could finally say, “If…if you visit our home in Hertfordshire, I shall be glad…very glad…to introduce you.”

“Excellent,” Richard said, feeling a weight lift off his shoulders. “Perhaps I might pay your family a visit Saturday week? I know you travel home tomorrow.”

“I…I shall look forward to seeing you again,” Jane said quietly, and the softness in her eyes as she looked at him made Richard feel about six inches taller.

However, he caught the expression on her sister’s face, and he was not at all sure what to make of it. Not disapproval, exactly, just…assessing. But assessing what?

“I am not at all familiar with this play,” Jane said as they waited for the theatre to fill. “Lizzy and I were usually more interested in the comedies and the tragedies.”

“The tragedies, Miss Bennet?” Richard asked, arching his eyebrows. “I am dreadfully sorry, but I have great difficulty picturing you delving into King Lear.”

“Well, perhaps my interest did lie more towards the comedies,” admitted Jane sheepishly.

Richard fixed his eyes on Elizabeth. “And does that mean you were more interested in the tragedies?”

“Actually, it was the histories rather than the tragedies, though I admit a partiality to Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.”

“I cannot remember hearing of a production of Julius Caesar here in London,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “I read the play many years ago, but it does not seem too popular any more.”

“It used to be popular some fifty years ago,” her husband said. “And I hear it is very popular in America these days. Evidently, they read it in the spirit of republican patriotism, and whenever it is performed, the part of Caesar is invariably played by an actor with a most distinguished upper-class British accent.”

The last sentence was stated in such a droll manner that it inspired a general round of laughter, tinged with some apprehension since relations between America and England gave every appearance of degenerating into dangerous territories.

“In any case,” Richard said, not wishing to dwell on such sombre matters, “it seems this resurrection of Julius Caesar is the work of John Kemble, who manages the theatre and is the brother of Mrs. Sarah Siddons, the famous actress. He will play Brutus, and his brother Charles will play Marc Antony. I have heard they plan a completely different interpretation of the play. Evidently, they intend it to be more of a ‘noble drama,’ with great attention paid to ‘accurate costuming’ and ‘scenic splendour.’ Or, at least that was the way it was described in The Times.”

Richard had noted that Elizabeth was looking around the theatre as he talked, and he guessed that she had just realized how favourably their box was placed, close to the left side of the stage and at a slightly higher level, where they would be able to look down on the actors from a point only slightly above their heads. Suddenly, when she twisted around to look at the empty seat behind her, he was not surprised to see a sudden look of anger on her face.

“Uncle,” she announced, clearly trying to keep her voice calm, “do these not appear to be very nicely located seats? Compared to what I can see, ours would seem to be among the very best.”

“Of course, Lizzy. This is a third level box, a private box. It can only be rented yearly, and the seating is thus very desirable.”

Elizabeth nodded tautly, before turning to Richard. “You mentioned you had the good fortune to have the loan of a private box, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Would it be possible this box belongs to your cousin Mr. Darcy?”

Richard’s expression as he looked at Elizabeth was one of calm composure though he could see embarrassed looks on the faces of her aunt and uncle out of the corner of his eye. He knew Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had to be distressed at the unseemly anger their niece was displaying.

They, of course, must have immediately deduced what has only now occurred to their niece, he thought, but they had too much tact to comment on it; whereas, Miss Elizabeth, with her usual forthright manner, simply plunges in and speaks her mind.

“It is indeed Mr. Darcy’s box. He was kind enough to offer it to me for our use tonight.”

“I do hate to be so uncharitable since we are your guests tonight, Colonel,” Elizabeth said, her anger now openly displayed, “but I remember your original reason for visiting my uncle’s house. I cannot help wondering whether Mr. Darcy might coincidentally be joining us tonight.”

“No, he will not,” Richard said flatly. He locked stares with Elizabeth, and he saw the surprise on her face at his blunt statement and his cold, dispassionate tone. She could not long maintain her glare in light of such a refutation of her suspicions, and he could see her anger fading away.

“Then why did he give these seats to you?”

“Because he knew he would not be attending. When I mentioned my intention to attend tonight, he offered the box to me, saying someone might as well have the use of a box for which he had already paid.”

Fitzwilliam’s last words had been stated in an emotionless tone, and Elizabeth flushed in embarrassment as she realized how rude her comments had been.

“I might also mention,” Fitzwilliam continued, “that my cousin has always favoured Shakespeare’s histories, and he had shown the greatest interest in attending this revival of Julius Caesar. I was thus surprised when he made his offer. In addition, this is not the first time he has allowed me and others of his friends to make use of his box. He has always been most generous, even when we were boys together.”

Elizabeth was now stricken at how she had converted the convivial atmosphere to one of cold formality, and she realized Fitzwilliam had just thrown in her face the knowledge that Mr. Darcy had not put her out of his mind but was instead avoiding his usual activities because of the blow to his spirits. She felt especially dreadful as she remembered commenting so lightly to Jane that she was sure he had other feelings that would soon drive away any thought of her. Obviously, such a change in his opinion had not taken place, and she suddenly realized just how spiteful and malicious her behaviour must appear to her companions. A great wash of embarrassment and shame swept over her, and her cheeks flamed red as other remembrances flashed across her mind.

“I am sorry,” she said in a strained voice. “I spoke very much out of turn. I beg everyone’s forgiveness for my careless and thoughtless words.”


About Determination

“Love at first sight” is a laughable concept in the considered opinion of Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam andnever occurs in real life—certainly not in the life of an experienced soldier. In fact, until he observes the smitten nature of his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy, he doubts that fervent love truly exists. Marriage, after all, is a matter of money, social standing, and property.

But his cousin becomes besotted with Elizabeth Bennet, the lovely but penniless daughter of a Hertfordshire gentleman, and is determined to make her his wife. Unfortunately, emotions overwhelm hisgood judgment, and he botches an offer of marriage.

When the colonel attempts to untangle the mess, his own world becomes almost as chaotic when he makes the accidental acquaintance of Miss Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s beloved elder sister. Can emotions previously deemed impossible truly seize such a level-headed person as himself? And can impassible obstacles deter a man of true determination?

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About the Author

By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics.

I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife’s beloved Jane Austen books after her passing.  One thing led to another, and I now have five novels published:  A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019), and A Covenant of Marriage (2020). Four of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposal, Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets, Consequences, and A Covenant of Marriage.

I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats.  My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

Colin Odom Facebook page | C. P. Odom Amazon Author page | C. P. Odom Goodreads page | C. P. Odom Meryton Press page


Giveaway

Meryton Press is generously offering 8 ebook copies of Determination as part of the blog tour. You must enter through this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!


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

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Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to have Jessie Lewis as my guest again today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Fallen. Jessie is here to share a deleted scene from the novel, and there’s a giveaway as well. Please give her a warm welcome!


This scene didn’t make the final cut into Fallen, but I wrote it to demonstrate how the relationship between Darcy and the Bingleys is the-same-but-not-quite-the-same as we’re used to seeing in Pride and Prejudice. Their ‘closed ranks’ superiority is heightened, yet the tension between them all is more pronounced, and it is this which intrigues the observant Elizabeth Bennet right from the off as she attempts to put her finger on what is going on behind the scenes at Netherfield Park.


“Move over, Mary, you are taking up half the seat.” This demand was accompanied by a determined shove as Lydia shouldered her sister into the corner of the carriage.

“I am taking up no more room than you!”

“For heaven’s sake, put your book down.” Mrs Bennet gave Mary no time to object—only snatched the offending article from her grip, snapped it closed and thrust it back towards her. “There is not enough room for you to sit with your elbows sticking out every which way.”

Lydia sent Mary a look of triumph; Elizabeth sent Lydia one of disapproval that was returned with a loud sigh and theatrical eyeroll. She turned away to look out of the window, wishing she had insisted upon walking, for so many Bennet women in such a confined space was making even the short drive to Netherfield arduous.

Several coos arose when the house came into view. Elizabeth had glimpsed it many times over the last few years, but as neither her mother nor any of her sisters shared her love for walking, this was their first sight of it since the Connellys gave up the place. Nobody had been inside since then, and Elizabeth could not help but be impressed by what she saw as they were shown through to the saloon, for she had forgotten quite how grand the house was. Her interest in the proportions of the rooms was not equal to her curiosity about the people occupying them, however, and while Mrs Bennet craned her neck to admire the gilt cornices, Elizabeth watched closely to see how they were received by the ladies of the house.

With dismay bordering on alarm was how, if she did not mistake the fleeting look Miss Bingley sent Mrs Hurst, and the disdainful twitch that pulled at the former’s top lip until it stretched into a tight smile. “How good of you to call, Mrs Bennet,” that lady said. “And so soon after we saw you at the assembly.”

Mrs Bennet—from whom Jane had inherited her propensity to always see the good in people, and Elizabeth her propensity to always assume people would see the good in her—smiled unquestioningly. “That is precisely as we thought, Miss Bingley, for though we were enchanted to make your acquaintance on Saturday, there is never much opportunity to talk at a dance,”—Elizabeth dipped her head to hide a smile, fancying her mother had never suffered any such impediment—“and we wished to make certain you knew how welcome you are to the neighbourhood.” As though to ensure they never left it, Mrs Bennet anchored herself, without being invited to, on the nearest sofa. Her youngest three daughters followed suit, dropping onto various pieces of furniture around the room until only Jane and Elizabeth remained standing.

Miss Bingley’s chest swelled with indignation.

“Are you finding the country to your liking?” Elizabeth enquired to distract her from her pique.

“We are not yet much acquainted with the area, so it is difficult to say. Will you not sit down, Miss Elizabeth? Miss Bennet? You may as well now.”

Elizabeth inclined her head and lowered herself into the nearest seat, as did Jane and then Mrs Hurst. Miss Bingley remained standing.

With seamless grace and a little assistance from Elizabeth, Jane turned the indelicate beginning into a genteel discussion of Hertfordshire’s merits. Mrs Bennet only occasionally contributed; Mary, Kitty and Lydia not at all; thus, the conversation had begun to show real promise of becoming agreeable to all when the door burst open and Mr Bingley strode into the room, looking for all the world as though he had thought it was on fire and he was the man to put it out.

“Ah! Caroline! I heard we had guests, and…well, I…I thought you might need me to…that is, I was worried you would, ah…Good day, Miss Bennet. And Mrs Bennet. And Miss…Good day to you all.”

Elizabeth could not be happier for Jane, whose presence had almost certainly induced this hasty and tongue-tied arrival. Why Mr Darcy had thought it necessary to come was less clear. He walked into the room more sedately than his friend, but glowering at everybody present, less as though he meant to extinguish a blaze and more as though to determine who started it. She was still delighting in his supercilious nonsense when his sweeping gaze reached her, and she took some pleasure in his obvious surprise at having been observed in his scrutiny of the room. She made no attempt to disguise the fact that she was diverted and instead raised an eyebrow by the smallest increment—I know what you are about, sir!—then turned to join the conversation that had sprung up amongst the others.

“Aye, there is a dance every month at the assembly rooms,” Jane was telling Mr Bingley.

“Though, you must not concern yourself that you will have to wait that long to dance again with Jane,” Mrs Bennet informed him. “There are forever impromptu little reels being danced at the sorts of parties we attend.”

Elizabeth cringed inwardly, which turned out to be an unnecessary precaution, for Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst both did so outwardly.

Mr Bingley either did not share his sisters’ disdain for ungarnished country amusements or was too gallant to show it. “How merry and uncontrived all your gatherings must be. I am impatient to experience one for myself.”

“Then I hope you will agree to dine with us a week on Tuesday, sir. We shall send a card, of course. I hope you will come, for if it is lively and informal that pleases you, then I think you will like Longbourn very well indeed.”

Elizabeth’s increasingly good opinion of Mr Bingley was bettered further still when he gave no indication of being put off by this and accepted on behalf of his entire party. She glanced at Mr Darcy to determine how deeply the prospect appalled him and caught sight of Miss Bingley sending a most expressive look in the same direction—one that seemed to beg him to extricate them from the engagement. Elizabeth did not think he could have missed it, for Miss Bingley was directly in his line of sight, yet rather than acknowledging her, Mr Darcy turned away to look out of the window. It was an exchange by which Elizabeth was uncharitably diverted. Jane had reported to them all a remark Miss Bingley had made that while Mr Darcy rarely spoke among strangers, he was remarkably agreeable among his intimate acquaintance. Not so very agreeable, it seems, she thought. Or so very intimate. Poor Miss Bingley!

“Have you had the opportunity for much sport since you arrived?” enquired Mrs Bennet, never one to let a conversation lapse long enough for anybody to grow complacent.

“Not as much as my brother would like,” Mr Bingley replied amiably.

“We thought you might be shooting today,” Jane said with a smile that Elizabeth fancied must signal to everybody her pleasure that he was not.

“We would have been, had we known the weather would be so clement. Alas, we went out yesterday—in the rain—and we have to constrain ourselves to one shoot a week else Darcy will kill every bird on the estate before Michaelmas.” He leant forwards and whispered theatrically, “There is such a thing as being too good an aim.”

“How good of you to be the one to make the sacrifice,” Elizabeth remarked. “I might be more inclined to enjoy the sport whenever I chose and ask my friend to curb his efficiency.”

“We could hardly expect Mr Darcy to shoot fewer birds simply because Charles does not aim as well,” Miss Bingley interjected. “We should as soon ask Mr Hurst to win fewer hands at cards because none of us play as well as he.”

“Or you to buy fewer dresses, though you do look better than I in all of them,” Mr Bingley said to her over his shoulder.

Try as she might, Elizabeth could not fully repress a laugh; it bubbled up and caught in her throat just loudly enough to draw notice. She made a more concerted effort to conceal her amusement when Jane cast her a beseeching look, though she did not truly believe she had done much damage until she noticed Mr Darcy was glowering at her again. She bit her lips together to banish her smile and resolved to be sensible for the remainder of the visit.

“Well, that went well, did it not, girls?” Mrs Bennet said as their carriage pulled away. Then her expression soured. “Though Lizzy must learn not run on at people the way she does.”

“She was only being polite, Mama,” Jane protested.

“No, no she was not!” She tossed a vexed glanced at Elizabeth. “She was being clever, as she always has to be. Well I beg you would stop being clever, Miss Lizzy, until your sister is engaged. Then you may run on at everybody to your heart’s content.”

“Why, thank you, Mama. I am not sure there is any logic to your hope that my being stupid will increase Jane’s chances of falling in love, but if you are convinced it will help then you may count on my obedience.”

This answer pleased her mother not at all, but Jane laughed more easily than she usually would have, convincing Elizabeth that the visit truly had gone well, and delighting her enough that she did not object once to Mary’s elbowing her in the ribs all the way home.


About Fallen

The air was all gone, and coldness overtook her, as though she had fallen into icy water and was sinking into the blackness. Her stomach churned, as it was wont to do these days. He would not marry her. She was ruined.

THE ARRIVAL OF TWO ELIGIBLE GENTLEMEN at Netherfield Park sends ripples of excitement through nearby Meryton. But Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy are not the only additions to the neighbourhood raising eyebrows. An unremarkable cottage in the woods between Netherfield and Meryton also has new tenants. One of them—a lively little girl with an adventurous spirit, a love of the outdoors, and a past shrouded in mystery—draws the notice of more than one local.

ELIZABETH BENNET—YOUNG, INTELLIGENT, and UNFASHIONABLY INDEPENDENT—forms a poor first impression of the haughty Mr Darcy. On closer acquaintance, and against her better judgment, her disgust begins to give way to more tender feelings. Yet standing in the way of any potential romance is the closely guarded history of a certain little girl in a cottage in the woods. Elizabeth might be ready to disclose her hidden affections, but she is about to learn that some things are better kept secret, and some hearts are safer left untouched.

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About the Author

Jessie Lewis, author of Mistaken, Speechless,and The Edification of Lady Susan,enjoys words far too much for her own good and was forced to take up writing them down in order to save her family and friends from having to listen to her saying so many of them. She dabbled in poetry during her teenage years, though it was her studies in Literature and Philosophy at university that firmly established her admiration for the potency of the English Language. She has always been particularly in awe of jane Austen’s literary cunning and has delighted in exploring Austen’s regency world in her own historical fiction writing. It is of no relevance whatsoever to her ability to string words together coherently that she lives in Hertfordshire with two tame cats, two feral children, and a pet husband. She is also quite tall, in case you were wondering.

You can check out her musings on the absurdities of language and life on her blog, LifeinWords.blog, or see what she’s reading over at Goodreads. Or you can drop her a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter, or on her Facebook page.


Giveaway

Quills & Quartos is generously offering a free ebook of Fallen as part of the blog tour. The winner will be chosen by the publisher from the commenters on this post one week after the tour is over (January 22, 2021). Good luck!


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

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Hello, friends! I’m pleased to welcome Jack Caldwell back today to celebrate the release of his latest novel, Rosings Park. Jack is here to talk a little about the book — the last installment in his Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series — and to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!


Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk about my latest novel, ROSINGS PARK: A Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men. This book is the closing chapter to the series I started with THE THREE COLONELS: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men. There are currently two other books in the series, THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and PERSUADED TO SAIL.

The Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series is a unique one in Austen fiction. I take the immortal characters created by Miss Austen and insert them into the historical events of the Regency period, the most notable being the Hundred Days Crisis of 1815. I also assume that all of her characters knew and interacted with each other. This leads to some interesting stories, I can assure you!

The first three books were companion novels—separate stories that happened in and about the same time, but with some limited interaction. They can be read as stand-alones, but it is more fun to read them all and enjoy the small amount of interweaving between them all.

ROSINGS PARK is different. A sequel to THE THREE COLONELS (which was itself a sequel to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY), ROSINGS PARK acts as the concluding chapter to the series. THE THREE COLONELS was about the Battle of Waterloo. ROSINGS PARK is what happened afterwards. And boy, did a lot happen! Economic depression, rapid industrialization, volcanic explosions, civil unrest, and crop failures. Regency Britain was in turmoil and our favorite characters are caught up in the midst of it.

Who are those characters? Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, of course, are major players in my little drama. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been knighted, married Anne de Bourgh, and lives at Rosings with the irksome Lady Catherine. Meanwhile, Sir Richard’s good friend, Sir John Buford, suffers grievous injuries received at Waterloo, and his wife, the former Caroline Bingley, struggles to nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, there are unknown forces out to destroy Rosing Park.

Excited yet? I hope so!

Not everything is dark and mysterious. There are some lighter moments, such as this excerpt. To set the scene, it is a summer morning in 1817. Darcy, Elizabeth, and their children are at a house party at Rosings Park, now controlled by their cousins, Sir Richard and Anne Fitzwilliam. Also visiting are the Fitzwilliams’ friends, Sir John and Caroline Buford.


Elizabeth had been at the instrument only a short time when she was distracted by a gentleman’s entrance.

“Pray, do not let me disturb you,” Darcy said.

She gifted him with a bright, private laugh. “It has been many years since your presence disturbed me, my love. Did you enjoy your ride?”

Darcy frowned as he unconsciously glanced at himself. He had changed out of his riding clothes. “It was…informative.”

Elizabeth shook her head. Darcy again rode the grounds of Rosings to inspect them. She needed to rid herself of her slight irritation at his scrutiny. She rose, extending her hand. “Come—I long to enjoy a good walk with you.”

A handsome half smile graced his face. “I am at your disposal, as always, my dearest.”

~~~

Sometime later, the Darcys were deep in the groves of Rosings Park. The two conversed about topics important only to themselves while walking comfortably, nearly hip to hip as happily married people often do. Elizabeth, both arms wrapped about Darcy’s, was laughing over her husband’s droll commentary about Mr. Collins’s latest foible when she was brought to a halt so suddenly that she nearly lost her footing.

“Fitzwilliam! What on earth?”

Darcy stared straight ahead, his expression a mixture of distaste and mortification. “Forgive me, my dear,” he managed after a moment. “Let us turn back to the house.”

“But why?” Elizabeth looked about. “The weather is not uncomfortable, and I wish more time with you. Are you well?”

“Perfectly. There is a path over here.”

“If you wish.” Elizabeth could not understand Darcy’s actions. There was nothing amiss with their present location. It was a well-worn path along a fence. There was a gate nearby.

“Come, Elizabeth.” Darcy practically tugged her along.

“What is wrong? You act as though you wish to flee this place.”

“You cannot want to be here!”

Elizabeth was taken aback at the pain in her husband’s eyes. Such a statement could only cause her to glance about her again. There was something familiar about that gate.

“Oh…!”

“There, you see?” Darcy moaned. “I should have minded my steps better.”

Elizabeth was frozen in place. This was the spot she received his letter—the letter—the missive that had so changed her life.

The entire incident flashed before her mind. Her disjointed early morning stroll, her thoughts, both angry and regretful. His surprising appearance. The thick letter extending over the gate in his long fingers. His haughty request at war with his weary, pained, defeated expression. His stiff, measured escape. His written words—his terrible, awful, horrifying, wonderful, charitable words.

“This was the place,” Elizabeth whispered, her eyes wide. “How could I forget?”

“I am so sorry, my dear. I have ruined our walk. Come away from here.”

“You have ruined nothing, Fitzwilliam,” she returned, refusing to be moved, still staring at the gate. “I can only wonder at my negligence. This spot should be burnt into my memory.”

“You wish to remember my dreadful behavior?”

“No!” Elizabeth turned to him, taking both his hands in hers. “Do you not see, my love? This is the place of our beginning!” At his frown, she continued. “Before that day—before your letter—I was a proud, blind fool. You opened my eyes, and I saw myself for the first time. I realized how in love with myself I had been—how stupidly I had acted.”

“I was worse!”

Elizabeth smiled, her fingers stroking his firm, chiseled jaw. It calmed him, as she knew it would. “Our motives were different. You acted out of self-preservation and love of your family and friends. I had no idea how hunted you had been by the women of the ton. Who could imagine the pain and disappointment Georgiana suffered at the hands of Wickham or her fear of exposure? With Charles, you acted as a friend, for you could not see emotions Jane refuse to display.”

“I should have,” Darcy broke in. “I should have known her by my own example.”

She laughed. “I shall allow that! But your reserve was not the only reason I misunderstood and misjudged you.”

“My thoughtless comment at the assembly was inexcusable.” He grimaced in disgust.

“It was rude, my dear, and a bad start but not inexcusable. You showed your interest in me only a few days later at the Lucas’s party and again at Netherfield. If I had been in my right mind, I would have forgiven you and fallen in love at once. I certainly never should have paid Mr. Wickham any notice at all! But there was nothing noble in my actions. I intended to hurt and belittle you for the petty crime of bruising my vanity. I was an angry little girl.”

She turned her attention to the gate. “At this place, I became a new creature. At this painful, wonderful place, my heart was opened, for I then saw it was incomplete.” Her dark, sparkling eyes were on Darcy again. “It was at Pemberley that I finally admitted what my heart was missing: you, my dearest love. You.”

There was only one way Darcy could respond to her declaration. He swept his wife into his arms and kissed her senseless. In turn, she wrapped her arms about his neck and returned his passion fully. They only stopped for the need to breathe.

Darcy tilted his head so their foreheads touched. “I must disagree, Elizabeth. You did nothing wrong. I deserved your refusal, your censure. I was a fool. You are the saving of me. You have made me a better man.”

“Impossible.”

He shook his head slowly. “I shall no longer argue with you for the greater share of the blame. Instead, I vow to labor that you never have cause to regret marrying me.”

She grinned. “Impossible.”

Darcy chuckled. “It is you who are impossible! However can I convince you?”

Her voice was a caress. “Kiss me again.”

Sometime later, as they stood in a close embrace, Elizabeth said, “I have a request to make, my dear. I need to change your mind about this blessed spot. We shall have a picnic here one day—just the two of us.”

Darcy was unconvinced. “How will that change our memories?”

Elizabeth gave her husband her most playful look. “We shall think of something.”


ROSINGS PARK – a Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men is now available in print, Kindle, and at Kindle Unlimited.


To celebrate, I am giving away two (2) ebook copies of ROSINGS PARK – a Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men in your choice of MOBI (Kindle) or EPUB format!


To enter Jack’s generous giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, December 27, 2020. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

A big thank you to Jack for being my guest today. Congratulations on your new release!

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Hello, friends! I’m delighted to welcome Mark Brownlow back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of his latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Port and Proposals (Mr. Bennet’s Memoirs Book Two). Mark is here to introduce the novel and share an excerpt and giveaway. Please give him a warm welcome!

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Hi Anna and thank you so much for hosting me again at Diary of an Eccentric. Port and Proposals takes Mr Bennet’s perspective on life at Longbourn, beginning with Lizzy’s departure to Hunsford. However, the novel interweaves the events of Pride and Prejudice with Mr Bennet’s own story and the fate of Mary.

We know Mr Bennet has intelligence and an excellent eye for observation, but he rarely applies either to the advancement of his family’s welfare. Over the course of Port and Proposals, he starts to examine a few home truths about himself and his failings.

Mary’s story asks what would happen if you give her a chance to grow and blossom, and whether young flowers can survive the kind of harsh winds of fate that sometimes blow through Longbourn.

The following excerpt comes from an early scene at breakfast, where our father of five begins to realise there might be more to his middle daughter than everyone assumes. This is the tentative beginning of a deeper relationship between the two that takes on added significance when a young (unmarried!) curate begins to show an interest in Mary.

Mrs Bennet, Lydia and Kitty are off to organise new gowns for an upcoming ball they hope will include military guests, leaving Mr Bennet and Mary alone at the table…

Knowing no words could now breach the battlements of maternal optimism, I remained silent as my wife, Lydia, and Kitty left the room, all of them clucking in joyous abandon like hens around the threshers.

“You have no wish to join them, Mary?” I peered over my paper.

My daughter looked up from her plate, on which a poached egg lay half-eaten, cut around its edges to leave a precise circle of white surrounding a golden heart. “I do not care for balls, Papa, as you well know. Nor for officers.”

I put down my paper and rested my hands on my lap, contemplating my daughter for a few moments. There was nothing out of place with Mary, not even a loose hair or thread. Her egg even rested on a pedestal of toast that formed a perfect square.

“What do you care for?” I said. “Apart from, it would seem, geometry.”

“What do you mean, Papa?”

“I know much of what you claim to dislike: balls, gossip, drink, and more. It is a lengthy list. But what is it you enjoy? What do you wish for in your life?”

My daughter did not answer and took a sip of coffee, face as inscrutable as ever.

“I do not mean to pry,” I continued. “You have your books and pamphlets. They likely make more sense than most people of my acquaintance. You are wise to put your faith in printed words, for they, at least, will remain constant.” I turned my attention to my food.

“I should not be averse to marriage.” Mary spoke quietly.

My mouth fell open like that of a trout fresh from the river, but my daughter continued with her breakfast as if she had merely passed comment on the state of the weather.

“Well,” I said. “That is unexpected. Though hardly a rousing endorsement of the state of matrimony.”

“We are taught its value in principle, Papa. But…” Mary looked up at me, and I raised an eyebrow. She put down her cutlery. “How are we to judge who makes a good husband?”

“That is quite a question, child. Does scripture not have something to say on the matter? The Bible invariably has an answer, if not always the right one.”

My daughter’s eyes grew distant for a moment. “It says, ‘For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.’ Ephesians.”

“You wish a husband willing to give up his life for you?”

“A husband who would…love me.” Mary’s head and voice dropped as she spoke the last two words. Then she picked up her knife and fork and began cutting vigorously at her egg, which bled yellow before the onslaught.

“We all wish for a partner who will love us.” I paused for a moment as I thought back to an earlier conversation with Mrs Bennet. “But it is denied to many.”

Mary stopped cutting and raised her head again. We stared at each other, like two deer emerging from a copse into an unfamiliar field, uncertain of our next step.

“I am not like my sisters.” The words came out hesitantly.

I reached out to touch Mary’s hand, but she pulled her arm away.

“There is joy in diversity,” I said.

“Men do not look at me and see a potential wife. Or even…or even a woman. I am not given to lively conversation. I have some talent at the pianoforte, but I am…plain.”

“Come now, Ma-“

“No, Papa.” My daughter raised her hand for a moment. “It is but the truth, and we are urged to honour the truth. I have my qualities, but they are not easily recognised. I am nobody’s favourite. Not Mama’s. Not…” She turned her head away from me.

My stomach tightened. “You are cherished by your mother. And by myself.”

“Am I?” Mary’s voice was barely a whisper now. “Lizzy has her intelligence, Jane her beauty, and Lydia her confidence. Kitty has Lydia. What do I have? Who pays notice to me?”

Mary trembled a little, and for a moment I saw past the stiff back and assured morals that had previously left me in little doubt of her character. “Mary, I-“

We both jumped at the clatter of the door.

“My, how serious you look,” said Lydia. “You will never find a husband if you will not smile, Mary. Come along, Mama is waiting.”

I glanced at Mary, but all trace of vulnerability had vanished, her face now as stony as one of Moses’s tablets.

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About Port and Proposals

All Mr Bennet wants to do is read books, eat cake, and study butterflies. But life has other plans for him in this Regency tale of love, regret, and second chances.

Family troubles and a promise to his middle daughter, Mary, force our father of five out of his library to deal with reticent bachelors, stubborn curates, and glib officers. Though his greatest challenge may be to face up to a past he cannot seem to forget.

Mark Brownlow presents a Pride and Prejudice variation full of Mr Bennet’s wit and wisdom that plays out against the backdrop of Vols II and III of Jane Austen’s famous novel.

Although a standalone story, Port and Proposals is also the sequel to Brownlow’s Cake and Courtship.

Kindle and Kindle Unlimited: USA | UK | Canada | Australia (and all Amazons)
Paperback: USA | UK | Canada (and most other Amazons)
Goodreads: Book page

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About the Author

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. He has published three Regency tales narrated by Mr Bennet: the novels Cake and Courtship and Port and Proposals, as well as a short story (A Third Proposal). He has also authored two novellas in the Charlotte Collins Mysteries series: The Lovesick Maid and The Darcy Ring take place in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com.

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, marketing consultant, business writer, and copywriter. None of which kept his soul happy in the way that creative writing does. When not writing, he works as a travel journalist and part-time lecturer in medical and scientific English at a local university.

If there is no pen to hand, he can be found discussing football with his sons or sharing a glass of wine with his wife in front of a costume 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 an ebook copy of Port and Proposals to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, December 20, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Hello, friends! If you’re looking for a short and sweet holiday book, you’re in for a treat. Maria Grace is visiting the blog again today to celebrate the release of Unexpected Gifts, the fourth book in her Pride and Prejudice-inspired Darcy Family Christmas series. Maria is here to talk about her inspiration for the book and to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Thank you, Anna for hosting me.

You well know, I love to write holiday stories, next to dragons they are my very favorite writing project. One of these days I may need to do a dragon holiday story, maybe next year, right?

(Ok, you can stop rolling your eyes at me. I can hear you doing it you know.)

In the past, I’ve done holiday romances—I mean who doesn’t love a feel-good holiday romance, right? But somehow that didn’t feel quite right this very memorable, challenging, 2020-has-now-become-its-own-adjective kind of year.

With all this this year has wrought, I wanted to write about what can happen when we find ourselves shut in the house with people whose relationship with us is a wee bit fraught. The kind of thing that happens during the holiday season (or during a pandemic, just sayin’.) We all have people with whom we wonder how we are going to get through the holidays without setting off something untoward.

The holidays just seem to bring out all those rough edges and leave us at risk for rubbing each other the wrong way—rather like petting a cat backward, which is generally not recommended. On the other hand, they also offer us a great opportunity for making things right between people with difficult relationships.

That seemed to be a very appropriate place to draw a holiday story from this year.

One doesn’t have to look to long or hard at the Darcy family to identify places where difficult relationships were likely: Lady Catherine, Lady Matlock, Lydia, even Charlotte Lucas might harbor some serious resentments towards Elizabeth and Darcy. So that became to foundation for this collection of three holiday short stories.

These stories may make you laugh, make you think, and might even make you cry, but they will definitely leave you with the warm fuzzy holiday vibe that we all so need right now!

This is the fourth book in the Darcy Family Christmas series. Remember to check out the other three!

Here’s a little excerpt:

A draft blew from the windows at the end of the corridor. The chill air sent a shiver between her shoulders. Perhaps she had underestimated the comforts of the blazing parlor fire. Tiny, wiry, not-to be-trifled with Mrs. Reynolds bustled up to her, that something-is-not-going-according-to-plan look on her face. She did not wear that look often.

“Mrs. Darcy, guests have arrived and are waiting for you in the lower parlor.” Though petite, Mrs. Reynolds commanded respect—and perhaps even a little fear when her dark eyes flashed the way they did now.

Something about the way she said guests … “I am not aware that Mr. Darcy has invited anyone else to Pemberley for Yuletide.”

“That is what I understood, too, madam. But the young woman was insistent that I present you with her card.” Mrs. Reynolds held out a plain white card.

No, that was not possible.

“So, you were not expecting her? Shall I turn them away?”

“Them?”

“Yes, madam, there are two small children with her.”

“She brought the children? Is there anyone else?”

Creases tightened beside Mrs. Reynolds’ dark eyes. “I imagine you are asking if there is a man with them. No, I have been assured there is not.”

“Then …” She chewed her lip. No doubt Darcy would not like it very much, but really, what else was she to do? They had come such a long way—how had they managed that? As long as he was not with them … “See that rooms are made up for them and another girl is assigned to the nursery to assist. I will go down and find out how long she and the children are to stay. I will inform Mr. Darcy of the plans myself.”

“Very well, Madam.” Mrs. Reynolds looked just a little relieved as she took Elizabeth’s arm and escorted her down the grand stairs—another one of Darcy’s precautions in her delicate state.

Perhaps he was a little, just a little, overprotective.

Elizabeth paused just outside the lower parlor door and smoothed her periwinkle blue gown over her ample midsection.  Yes, enjoying the soft wool beneath her fingertips was just stalling, but surely that could be excused this once.

What was Lydia doing here, and why had she given them no notice of her plans?

Elizabeth waddled into the elegant room, appointed in teal and ivory furnishings and drapes. It was one of those rooms that was not precisely according to her tastes, a bit too reserved and formal for parlor company. The carved mahogany furnishings demanded respect rather than welcomed visitors. But Darcy liked it very well indeed as his mother had seen to its décor herself. So, she had determined, it would stay exactly as it was.

Darcy rose from the wingchair near the not-yet-lit fireplace and approached her. 

Darcy?

What was he doing here? Mrs. Reynolds had made no mention … He took her arm and guided her to a soft teal armchair close beside his. It was probably polite for him to keep his expression so neutral, but it also meant his feelings were quite the opposite. The baby kicked and fluttered, perhaps agreeing with her sentiment.

“No wonder you were so slow to arrive, Lizzy, you are as big as a horse.” Lydia sprang up from the long ivory settee where both her children lay sleeping and bounced toward her. The thick floral carpeting muffled her footfalls.

How dare she be so light and easy on her feet.

“I had no idea of your coming.” Elizabeth looked directly at Darcy.

“No, neither of us did.” He pressed his hand tight against her arm.

No, he was not pleased.

“You did not expect me to arrive on St. Nicholas day? It is the traditional start of all holiday visits, is it not?” Lydia started to roll her eyes but stopped the expression with a slap to her forehead. “I am such a goose, I must have forgot to post the letter. What a joke! Even so, you cannot be surprised at my coming for a house party at Christmastide.”

Calm, she much be calm. “How did you—”

“Jane mentioned she and Bingley were coming in one of her letters.” Lydia curtsied and flounced back to her seat. Ragged threads dangled from her dusty faded hem, and her half-boots sported scuffs and dirt, more than travel alone would explain.

“Of course, she did.” Elisabeth shrugged at Darcy. She would have a few—gentle—words with Jane.

“I know you would have invited me had you thought we had any way to get here.”

“Naturally.” Did Darcy realize how strained his voice sounded when he spoke through a forced smile? He gripped the arm of his chair hard enough that the veins stood out on the back of his hand.

“Are you not going to ask me how we managed?”

“How did you manage it?” Elizabeth hid her hand under her skirt and clenched her fist.

“La, it was not so difficult after all. You have noticed, I am sure, that Wickham is not with us. He has been on the continent you see, since … since May I think.”

Elizabeth gasped and Darcy pressed his shoulder to hers. 

Waterloo.

 “After some months without the regiment in residence, Julia, Martha, and I decided we no longer wanted to keep house together. Julia decided to go with her baby back to her father’s house only ten miles from here. So, the children and I came with her that far and paid our way from there. You see, I am far more clever than you gave me credit for, am I not, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth blinked several times. Dare she ask? No, if there were bad news, they would surely know by now. “You came all this way, with the children?”

“As you see,” she pointed to the children sleeping on the settee beside her. The little mites’ faces were dusty and their clothes seemed ill-fitting and in need of mending.

“And where are you going to live now that…”

“Oh, that. I am going to Longbourn of course.”

“You have written to Mama—”

Lydia picked at her skirt. “I will directly if you are so insistent about it. But now that Kitty is the only one living there, I know there is plenty of room for us. It will be ever so much nicer than the fourth-rate house we rented up north. I know that Mama will enjoy the lively company we will bring. You remember how dull Kitty can be. I will ask Papa to send the carriage for us after Twelfth Night unless Mr. Darcy would rather send us with his coach.”

“You ought to prepare yourself for Papa to insist you take the stage instead.”

“I am sure it will all work out. You have become such a worrier, Lizzy. I do not see how you tolerate her, Mr. Darcy.” Her laughter always grated when she used it to blunt an insult.

“We make do very well I think.” He laid his hand on hers. Was that the tiniest bit of amusement in his eyes?

“I have no doubt you have room for us in such a very grand house. I think we shall do very well together for the holidays, do you not?”

Elizabeth chewed the inside of her cheek. Lying was unbecoming, at least under most circumstances.  “I suppose, what is one more, and her children, to an already merry little party?”

“I knew you would see it that way. Oh, I see your housekeeper Mrs. Richards—Is that her name?” Lydia sashayed past them and out into the corridor where indeed Mrs. Reynolds waited with a pair of maids who swept in and picked up the children.

Darcy rose and shut the door, sighing as he turned back to her.

“I had no idea she was coming.” Pray he would look her in the eye.

“I have no doubt. Clearly that was her intention all along.” Some of the tightness around his lips eased.

“And her visit is agreeable to you?”

He fell heavily into the chair beside her. “The only person I have forbidden from this house is Wickham. About that I will never change my mind. But Georgiana is away with the Matlocks, and Lydia is my sister now. I will not deny her hospitality.” He leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling as he often did when resigning himself to some duty he disliked.

“I will do my best to see that she does nothing to disturb you—”

“I will not have you worrying about anything, Elizabeth. Not. Anything.” When he stared into her eyes like that, there could be no argument. “You must remain calm and rested for the baby. If she upsets you, that will be reason enough for me to find her other accommodations. There is an inn at Lambton. We can send a maid with her if need be.”

“You are all that is considerate, even if she is not. I suppose we should be accustomed to unexpected guests at Yuletide by now.” Her laughter sounded thin even in her own ears.

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About the Darcy Family Christmas Series

Unexpected Gifts (Book 4)

Yuletide 1814, the Darcys are celebrating their third wedding anniversary and the baby Elizabeth is expecting. Overprotective and perhaps overbearing, Darcy is ready to do anything for Elizabeth’s comfort, including defying the will of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh who demands their presence to bestow a gift that absolutely cannot wait.

What sort of gift is so urgent it cannot wait for a more auspicious time?

Christmastide 1815, the Darcys hope for a particular sort of joy to bring a close to a dark and difficult season. It only seems fitting that an unexpected—and unwelcome—guest disrupts their small family house party. Could the unexpected gift they bring be the key to the fulfillment of the Darcys’ most heartfelt desires?

Buy on Amazon

Start from the Beginning…

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 (Book 1)

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months?

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?  

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company.

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

Buy on Amazon

The Darcy’s First Christmas (Book 2)

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence.

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?  

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.

Buy on Amazon

From Admiration to Love (Book 3)

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical.

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out?   

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

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

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. 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 an ebook copy of Unexpected Gifts to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, December 13, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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I am delighted to welcome Anngela Schroeder back to Diary of an Eccentric today, this time to celebrate the upcoming release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, A Life Worth Choosing. Anngela is here to talk a little about the book and to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Hello Anna, and thank you for having me at Diary of an Eccentric. I hope you and your readers had a wonderful holiday, and stayed safe.

I realized in the last several months, we have all had the opportunity to create numerous opinions of happenings in the world: masks, politics, if uber-eats is worth the exorbitant fee just so we don’t have to cook dinner! 🙂 And in all of those moments, we were certain our beliefs were correct; that everyone should agree with us. Isn’t it a rude awakening when that’s not the case? When those we love don’t see things the way we do––how their choices could negatively affect their lives?

That is the daily life of Fitzwilliam Darcy! As the firstborn son, he has been reared to put duty and responsibility first, and protect those in his circle. He is always right. He should not be questioned because his experience has led him to determine the correct course of action in all cases. He has the best interest of those close to him at heart.

And then…he meets Elizabeth Bennet, who we all know has a mind of her own. Poor Darcy. To have his very core principals shaken by this inferior woman, only to realize she is not inferior in the least. I have often thought about what those moments were like when he returned to Rosings after his rejected proposal. The anger, but also the shock and sadness at Elizabeth’s response which drove him to write the letter. He was just acting in accordance with his principles­––those of a first born son, and yet this woman, the only one who had ever piqued his interest, rejected him. Him the Master of Pemberley.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt into the mind of our favorite hero, and look forward to your reviews when A Life Worth Choosing is available on Amazon in January of 2021.

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December 26, 1811

8 years later

Fitzwilliam Darcy came as close to slamming the door of his chambers at Rosings as he possibly could without arousing his aunt’s suspicion. She believes him! That she would trust him so implicitly over me. Me! Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of Pemberley! Me—who has saved George Wickham’s reputation and life from debtors’ prison for the last five years, and longer.

He tore off his cravat and tossed it onto the chair, certain Briggs, his valet, would be none too pleased. Yet, he did not care. The one woman whose esteem he desired the most had championed Wickham. Wickham! He shook his head in disgust and walked to the window with measured steps, staring out into the ink-black night. Having lived a life of honor, of respectability! She would still believe the words of a man whose illegitimate children Pemberley supports?

Darcy turned back toward the room, pacing with quick steps. That the boredom of my yearly Easter trip to my Aunt’s estate was broken by Elizabeth visiting the newly minted ‘Mrs. Collins.’ He slammed his hand on the writing desk as he passed. “Miss Bennet, man! She is not yours to think on as ‘Elizabeth.’” She made it quite plain this evening that she does not value the title of “wife” by me!

Shaking his head, he slowly came to a halt before slumping down into the tufted chair, still not believing how the evening’s events transpired. “Do I not know the heart of women? Or at least one worthy of being pleased?” When did I become so vulgar? Always being chased by fortune-hunting mothers and daughters. Yet, when a woman of substance is placed before me, can I not act in accordance with civility?

He leaned his head back and sighed deeply before whispering to the ceiling. “‘You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.’ Truly, Elizabeth? No possible way?” He reached over to the bottle of brandy on the table and poured two fingers before downing it in one fiery gulp.

No, this is how it should be. Elizabeth Bennet had no money or connections, but a mind and spirit that would send his world spiraling like a whirling dervish. It was providence that she…rejected me. Now I can leave Rosings cleansed of my fantasies of bringing her home as the mistress of Pemberley.

“But Wickham.” He spat the name, standing up and walking back to the window. The memory of her words still smoldering as he stared across the lawn and heard their echo. ‘If your father had not had a son, Mr. Wickham could have fulfilled that role more admirably.’ His jaw tightened at the thought. Darcy knew not which version of Wickham’s lies she had been subjected to. How he was not awarded the living at Kympton after his father’s death or how Wickham was refused any inheritance at all. Maybe both? Touching the glass separating their two worlds, he looked toward the parsonage and saw a dim light in a window. Oh, Elizabeth.

Hesitating only a second more, Darcy called for his valet, who came immediately. “Briggs, we will depart in the morning after I conclude a small matter of business.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let Colonel Fitzwilliam’s man know as well.”

“At once, sir.”

Waiting for the door to close behind him, he touched the glass again and traced the far-off window of light. Although his pride was hurt, if he did nothing, her name might be added to the list of women soiled by Wickham’s hands. I cannot allow that to happen.

Walking to the writing desk, he sat and withdrew a piece of parchment. “If only I had not been born?” He grunted before scratching out his first thoughts in a most inauspicious letter …

Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter…

…that it may contain any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which last night were so disgusting to you. Its writing, however, could not be avoided as charges were brought before me, which I felt honor bound to defend— my character and very being demands it…

…[A] charge laid before me dealt with Mr. Wickham. Mr. Wickham was the son of a very respectable man who had the management of our family’s estate. The elder Wickham was a devoted member of our service, and before I had left the nursery, married a widow with a young son close to my age.

My mother and father encouraged our friendship, and I enjoyed having a playmate. As we grew older, however, George Wickham began to show signs of a defect in his character. His cruelty to animals began to extend to humans, and many a servant was abused by his hand.

His true character surfaced at Cambridge, where my father gave him a gentleman’s education in honor of Mr. Wickham, Senior. This is where our friendship all but ended. My playmate found more enjoyment in gaming and drinking, and other debauched activities.

After the death of both his father and my own excellent one five years ago, my father instructed in his will to give Wickham a living should it become available. Declaring no interest in the church, my former friend asked for and received three thousand pounds instead and abandoned our family for what pleasures I know not. He then returned a year later when his funds had dissolved, attempting to reclaim the living.

After all this, the worst was yet to come. My sister, Georgiana, took a house in Ramsgate with her companion last summer, a woman in whose character I was greatly misled…

Georgiana’s tender heart was convinced of his love but was then shattered by deception, as his intent was her dowry of thirty-thousand pounds. Had I not arrived unannounced, her future of misery would have been secured with her elopement to Gretna Green and an eternal shackle to the most unworthy man in all of England. She was but fifteen years old…

And now, Miss Elizabeth, I return to your words from earlier this evening. If my father had not had a son, might ‘another’ have satisfied that role more admirably? I have never become careless in my duty, and had I not been born the master of Pemberley, I assure you the Darcy legacy would have continued unaffected.

If, however, after reading this, your thoughts continue to champion another, I would not wish to suspend any pleasure of yours. Yet, I hope to never encounter a world where George Wickham’s power exceeds his moral limitations.

As for myself, I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My greatest failure is not within the confines of my family but in those of my heart.

I will only say, God bless,

F.D.

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I hope you all enjoyed that excerpt as much as I did! If you want to find out what happens next, look for A Life Worth Choosing when it is released on Amazon in January 2021.

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Giveaway

Anngela is generously offering one lucky reader a choice between a Kindle copy (international) or a signed hardcover (U.S. only) of A Life Worth Choosing. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The giveaway will be open through Sunday, December 13, 2020. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Hello, friends! If you’re on the lookout for a new and very different take on Pride and Prejudice, well, you’re in for a treat! Sue Barr is here today to celebrate the release of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Undone. Please give her a warm welcome!

What would Pride & Prejudice be like if Darcy and Elizabeth had a touch of magic in their lives?

What is more challenging – tackling a character as renown as Fitzwilliam Darcy or having to give life and voice to a character fresh out of your imagination?

For me, a fresh character is harder to give voice because in JAFF the readers already know the background of the key players. Yes, we massage them into different situations and storylines, but the key components of WHO they are remains the same. In a new novel, you have the task of building their back story and showing their personalities/quirks. How they think and feel, their goals and motivations. All of this has to be done in a way that doesn’t bog down the story line and put the poor readers to sleep.

What did you feel was the greatest message that would resonate with readers?

Something extremely simple. When you meet the one you are fated to love, nothing will keep you apart. In fiction, our heroes and heroines battle against odds that would stagger mere mortals and in Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone, Fitzwilliam is willing to give his life in order to save Elizabeth, and Lizzy, upon seeing him fall unleashes her full potential. They are inexorably intertwined for eternity.

Was there anything different in writing this novel compared to your previous books?

Ummm… yes….? The biggest difference being a mature, sensual scene. My previous books, written under my own name, have been sweet with a little heat but the bedroom door remained firmly closed. In Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone, we not only peeked through the keyhole but took a ringside seat. Not a long scene, but very… ahem… informative. *cheeky wink*

How did your impression of Darcy change from “Pride and Prejudice” to “Fitzwilliam Darcy, Undone”?

Not a lot, if I’m being truthful. As stated before, I’ve always seen him as a deeply passionate man. Once he gave his heart and knew his love was returned, there would be no holding him back. In this book I was allowed to ‘show’ his nature rather than hint at it.

When you’re not writing, what renews your spirit?

Other than my faith, which renews my soul on a daily basis, I’m a big proponent of #KnowWhatsInYourFood. This means eating as close to the ground as you can. I make almost everything from scratch. I’m lucky there are lots of farms and orchards in the area and I preserve fruit and vegetables in season. I make my own brown sugar, jams/jellies, vanilla – Bourbon vanilla being the latest – tomato sauce, and bake bread/buns weekly. For me, cooking and baking to feed my family in a healthy way makes my heart smile.

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About Fitzwilliam Darcy, Undone

She’s the outcast in her family…

Elizabeth knows she’s different from the rest of her family. She has visions and strange dreams and sees things others do not. With the advent of the odious Mr. Darcy and his friends from Netherfield Park, as well as the amiable Mr. Wickham of the _____shire Militia, her powers seem to increase and her greatest fear is that she won’t be able to contain them and will be discovered.

He has eight hundred years of tradition to uphold…

No Darcy has married a non-magical woman since arriving on the shores of England with William the Conqueror in 1066.  However, his kind – Miatharans – are dwindling in numbers. Miatharan magic only flows through aristocratic blood lines, so his strange obsession with Miss Elizabeth Bennet is puzzling as she is not of noble blood. Just a country squire’s beautiful daughter who has him slowly becoming undone.

Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone is available in Kindle Unlimited (Amazon) until Dec 12 when it will be released to other major digital retailers.

Buy on Amazon

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About the Author

‘The prairie dust is in my blood but no longer on my shoes.’

Although it’s been over forty-two years since Sue called Saskatchewan home, her roots to that straight-lined province and childhood friends run deep. The only thing strong enough to entice her to pack up and leave was love. When a handsome Air Force pilot met this small-town girl, he swept her off her feet and they embarked on a fantastic adventure which found them settled in beautiful Southwestern Ontario when hubby retired from the military and began his second career as an airline pilot.

Sue started writing in 2009 and sold her first manuscript in 2010. Always a reader of Regency romance, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction in 2014 and almost immediately wanted to know – Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy became engaged to a Bennet sister? From that question, her first JAFF book was launched.

Connect with Sue: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

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Giveaway

Sue is generously giving away an ebook of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Undone to 3 random winners for the entire blog tour. Follow the tour and join in the comments to be entered to win. Sue will choose the random winners and announce them on social media on Dec. 5, 2020. Good luck!

Thanks, Sue, for being my guest today, and congratulations on your new book!

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