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Maria Grace is a superwoman! She returned from evacuating due to Hurricane Harvey to pull off a book release AND a blog tour. I am honored to have her as my guest today to celebrate the release of her newest novel, A Less Agreeable Man, which is book 3 in The Queen of Rosings Park series inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely loved the first two books in the series, Mistaking Her Character and The Trouble to Check Her, and I can’t wait to see what happens next! Maria is here to talk about debt in the Regency Era, and she brought an excerpt and a giveaway to share with my readers. Please give her a warm welcome!

Debt in the Regency Era

Living on Credit is not a new thing

It’s easy to believe that living on credit is a modern thing. The news abounds with tales of woe regarding consumer debt, mortgages, student loans, and other lines of credit. How would Jane Austen have reacted to such news? Probably with great aplomb and a declaration that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

During the Regency era “almost all members of the middle and upper classes had accounts with different suppliers, who extended credit to their patrons. … Only if the amount was small or they were traveling did they pay cash. In fact, only the poor did not live on credit in one guise or another.” (Forsling, 2017)  In fact, more people depended on credit than ever before resulting in perpetual overcrowding in the debtor’s prisons.

Although debt, both personal and national, were rife in Regency society, attitudes toward debt were largely divided across class lines. “Aristocratic claims for leadership had long been based on lavish displays and consumption while the middle class stressed domestic moderation. In particular, aristocratic disdain for sordid money matters, their casual attitude to debt and addiction to gambling …, were anathema to the middling ranks whose very existence depended on the establishment of creditworthiness and avoidance of financial embarrassment.” (Davidoff, 2002)

Many small and otherwise flourishing businesses failed due to bad debts, especially among the upper classes. Some went so far as to begin refusing credit and to only sell for ‘ready money’. The notion that debts of honor had to be paid and paid quickly while debts to merchants could be put off indefinitely only exacerbated the situation.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Gaming debts were regarded as sacrosanct which might not have been so significant an issue had there not been so many of them. The Regency was a time when Englishmen, especially the wealthy and highborn, were ready to bet on almost anything. Though gaming for high stakes was illegal by Austen’s day, authorities mostly seemed to turn a blind eye to it, (Fullerton, 2004) perhaps because it was considered largely an upper class vice.

Different social classes offered different reasons for the immorality of gaming. The upper classes feared losing their money to the lower class, giving them income without having earned it and opposing the work ethic. The rising middle class also saw gaming as opposing the values of stability, property, domesticity, family life and religion. (Rendell, 2002) Regardless of the reason, there was widespread agreement that gaming was a problem, thus legislation was passed against it.

Unfortunately anti-gaming laws, much like prohibition in the US, only forced gambling from public venues into private clubs where individuals bet on any and nearly everything. Organized sports including cricket, horse racing, prize fighting and cock fighting attracted spectators willing to bet on the outcome.  Huge fortunes, even family estates could be won and lost at games of chance. Even the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars were subject to betting.

Moneylenders and bankers made themselves available at private clubs to assist gentlemen in settling their debts of honor which were not otherwise enforceable by law. The cost of this service though (beyond the interest on the debt of course), was creating a legally enforceable debt from which one had not been so previously.

Debtors’ Prison

English bankruptcy laws were particularly harsh, demanding personal repayment of all debt, including business debt, and often incarceration.  Ironically, there was no disgrace about being sent to gaol during the era, provided it was for an acceptable crime like debt or libel. (Murry, 1999) The Royal Courts administered three prisons primarily for debtors: the Fleet, the King’s Bench and the Marshalsea, though debtors might be imprisoned at other facilities as well. (Low, 2005) At any given time during the era, upward of a 10,000 men were imprisoned for debts as small as four pence.  (Savage, 2017)

Debtors were probably the largest proportion of the era’s prison population and had privileges not granted to ordinary criminals, including the right to have their family stay with them and to have other visitors. They could also often arrange to be supplied with beer or spirits. (Low, 2005) “During the quarterly terms, when the court sits, (Fleet) prisoners on paying five shillings a-day, and on giving security, are allowed to go out when they please, and there is a certain space round the prison, called the rules, in which prisoners may live, on furnishing two good securities to the warden for their debt, and on paying about three per cent on the amount of their debts to the warden.” (Feltham, 1803)

The process of obtaining an arrest warrant for debt was expensive. Often several tradesmen would have to band together to see a writ for debt issued. (Kelly, 2006)

Once the writ was obtained, the debtor (once caught, of course, as it was not uncommon for debtors to flee in the face of a writ, even so far as to leave the country) would first be confined to a spunging or lock-up house. A spunging-house was a private house maintained for the local confinement of debtors to give them time to settle their debts before the next step, debtors’ prison.  “…For twelve or fourteen shillings a-day, a debtor may remain [at the spunging house], either till he has found means of paying his debt, or finds it necessary to go to a public prison, when the writ against him becomes returnable. We have heard that great abuses prevail in these spunging-houses, and that many of the impositions practised in them deserve to be rectified. … It would be wrong to quit the sad subject of prisons, without observing that such is the bad arrangement of the laws between debtor and creditor, that ruin to both is greatly accelerated by the expensiveness of every step in the proceedings, insomuch that not one debtor in ten ever pays his debt after he enters a prison. (Feltham, 1803)

Why Debtor’s Prison?

Given that once a debtor was in prison, they lacked the ability to earn money making the payment of his debt even less likely, this approach to debt seems ridiculous. So why was it done?

First, it was assumed that the debtor’s family and friends would be available to help pay off their debts. So imprisoning the debtor might help motivate them to action. Second, it was perceived as a deterrent to getting into debt in the first place. (Clearly, given the numbers in debtors’ prison it was a total failure on that count.) (Savage, 2017)

The third reason is perhaps the most difficult for the modern reader to understand. To the people of the time, the issue was bigger than simply insuring the debtor paid off their debts.  “The ‘moral’ imperative to make the debtor aware of their responsibility for not living beyond their means was judged more important.  … To understand the mind-set of the time, it’s important to remember two things: taking on more debt than you could pay was seen as a form of theft; and,  … (t)heft broke the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”. The causes of becoming too indebted to pay also pointed to the presence of other sins: idleness, covetousness, greed, deceitfulness.  … Sin demanded punishment and repentance not support,” thus jailing the debtor fulfilled the moral imperative.  (Savage, 2017)

Myth of the smock wedding

Just because there was a moral imperative to punish debtors didn’t mean that those who owed money accepted their fate easily or didn’t attempt creative means by which to discharge their debts. Running to avoid one’s creditors was common. Beau Brummell fled to France to avoid debtors’ prison.  In some cases a debtor could be pressed into naval service in exchange for the Navy to cover their debts.

Marriage, particularly for the upper class, was also a handy means of bringing in quick cash to alleviate a family’s money woes. The (disastrous) marriage of the Prince of Wales to his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick in 1795 came about so that Parliament would pay off his debts.

Not all men were happy to marry a woman with debts, especially a widow still responsible for her late husband’s debts. Consequently, the practice of a ‘smock wedding’ came into being.  At such a wedding, the bride would be married naked, brining nothing into the marriage. In practice, she usually was barefoot and garbed in a chemise or sheet. The salient point was that she was technically bringing nothing into the marriage, thus her husband-to-be was thought not liable for any debts she might have. (Adkins, 2013) It is too bad that snopes.com was not around in the era, because it could have told them that the ‘smock wedding’ way out of debt was an urban myth and would not stop the new bride’s creditors from knocking at their door.

References

Adkins, Roy, and Lesley Adkins. Jane Austen’s England. Viking, 2013.

Craig, Sheryl. Jane Austen and the State of the Nation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Davidoff, Leonore & Hall, Catherine   –   Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Feltham, John. The picture of London, for 1803; being a correct guide to all the curiosities, amusements, exhibitions, public establishments, and remarkable objects in and near London; with a collection of appropriate tables. For the use of strangers, foreigners, and all persons who are intimately acquainted with the British metropolis. London: R. Phillips, 1803.

Forsling, Yvonne . “Money Makes the World Go Round.” Hibiscus-Sinensis. Accessed July 22, 2017. http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/money.htm

Fullerton, Susannah. Jane Austen and Crime. Sydney: Jane Austen Society of Australia, 2004.

Kelly, Ian. Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. New York: Free Press, 2006.

Laudermilk, Sharon H., and Teresa L. Hamlin. The Regency Companion. New York: Garland, 1989.

Low, Donald A. The Regency underworld. Stroud: Sutton, 2005.

Murray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England. New York: Viking, 1999.

Rendell, Jane. The Pursuit of Pleasure Gender, Space & Architecture in Regency London. London: Athlone Press, 2002.

Savage, William . “The Georgian Way with Debt.”  Pen and Pension.  July 19, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2017. https://penandpension.com/2017/07/19/the-georgian-way-with-debt/.

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About A Less Agreeable Man

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring.

Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.

Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she’s engaged to another man.

Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

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Excerpt from A Less Agreeable Man, courtesy of Maria Grace

The little chapel hummed as it filled with Sunday morning congregants. Mary plucked at the braided trim of the periwinkle blue calico gown that she wore every Sunday.

Charlotte slapped her hand lightly. “You will spoil your dress. He will be here. Stop fretting.”

Mary laced her hands tightly in her lap and glanced over her shoulder. The Hunsford parish church appeared exactly as it always did: stark slate floor and grey stone walls. Sturdy dark wooden pews scarred with use, just a few more than absolutely necessary to accommodate the parish church-goers. Several cobwebs dangled in the corners, and the windowsills needed dusting.

But this Sunday was like no other.

Mr. Collins minced his way to the pulpit. Did he enjoy the way all eyes were on him as he paraded past? Although he professed his humility to any who would listen, it seemed that a man so assured of his modesty would necessarily be prideful of it.

One more topic to avoid at the Collins’ dinner table. It might have made for interesting conversation, though.

He climbed the three steps up into the dark-stained walnut pulpit. A hush fell over the chapel. “I publish the Banns of marriage between Graham Allen Michaels of Hunsford parish and Mary Susanna Bennet of Hunsford parish. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first time of asking.”

Lady Catherine slowly rose, her purple silk ball gown rustling against the front row pew. “Where is he?”

Whispers and cloth-muffled shuffles mounted, gathering with the force of storm clouds. Mary glanced over her shoulder. Too many people were looking at her, although just as many were scanning the chapel for Mr. Michaels.

Lady Catherine turned to face the congregation. “Where is he? How can I know if I approve if I cannot see him? Present him to me now.”

“He is not here, your ladyship,” Mr. Collins stammered, heavy beads of sweat dotting his forehead.

“I do not recall giving permission for him to be elsewhere. I am quite certain of that. I insist—”

The church door groaned and swung open. Two men paused in the doorway, silhouetted in bright sun.

“Richard Brandon Fitzwilliam! Young man, why are late for—”

“Your ladyship.” Mary stood, her knees having all the substance of calves’ foot jelly. “May I present Mr. Michaels?”

“Michaels? Why do I care to receive him into my acquaintance? Come and sit down this moment, Richard.” She pointed to the empty spot beside her and sat as if on a throne.

Colonel Fitzwilliam scowled—an expression that would likely bring an entire regiment to order— and stalked to the family pew. Mrs. Jenkinson whispered something—probably very serious given the tight lines around her mouth— to Lady Catherine.

She threw her head back and cackled.

Mr. Michaels slipped in beside Mary, offering a supportive glance to Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Mr. Collins cleared his throat, waited for silence, and returned to the order of service. Once he exhausted all the words of his sermon and a few thousand more, he dismissed them and the congregation dissolved into a throng milling in the cheerful morning sun just outside the church.

 

Mr. Michaels beckoned Mary aside to a stand of shade trees, just far enough away from the crowd for a little private conversation but not so far as to raise the attention of the gossips, but Mr. Collins trailed after them like a terrier on a rat.

“Late to services, sir?” His tone had an edge which suggested this dialogue might well last all day. “I cannot condone it. Think of the precedent it will set among the parish. You see how it distressed her ladyship.”

“I assure you it was not by intention or neglect. I was called away for a bit of an emergency—”

“What happened?” Mary and Mr. Collins asked simultaneously.

“Not to worry; the issue is quite resolved. There was just a small misunderstanding on the road.” Michaels glanced over his shoulder toward a sandy patch near the church door where Lady Catherine, flanked by Mrs. Jenkinson, held court. Her fondness for that particular spot was not accidental. Her proximity to the stone building caused her voice to broadcast farther than it would if she stood anywhere else.

Mr. Collins’ face changed entirely, his critical tone fading. “Was her ladyship involved?”

“The matter is resolved, and no further discussion need be had.” He offered Mary his arm.

“I am most gratified to hear that, sir. Most gratified.” Mr. Collins trundled off toward the church door with his peculiar step-hop gait.

Lady Catherine took Colonel Fitzwilliam’s arm and slowly made her way past the crowd toward her waiting carriage.

“I do hope Collins can keep his mouth shut.” Michaels muttered under his breath.

“He does seem to upset her as often as not.” Mary winced as Mr. Collins reached Lady Catherine and started talking.

Michaels leaned very close. “She pitched Colonel Fitzwilliam from the carriage halfway to the church. She did not recognize him and refused to permit a strange man to ride in her carriage.”

“This is the first time she has failed to identify him,” Mary whispered behind her hand.

“I came on them in the road as it was happening. It took some time to calm him down.”

“An excellent reason to be late.”

“On the first Sunday our banns are read. I know, and I am sorry.” He frowned a little. He always did when they disagreed over timeliness.

“What are you discussing, so low and private?” Charlotte waddled up to them, her drab, high-necked gown showed the outline of her belly. It would not fit for much longer.

“Certainly not what you would expect.” Mary glanced toward Lady Catherine.

Charlotte’s smiled faded. “Would you have dinner with us this afternoon, Mr. Michaels? It has been so long since we have enjoyed your company.”

“I should like that very much, thank you.”

Charlotte nodded and shuffled off toward Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine.

“I think I shall follow the carriage back to Rosings in the event Lady Catherine suffers any more confusion. In any case, I should speak to the Colonel about a few matters—”

She squeezed his arm, a bit harder than might be decorous. “It is Sunday. You should rest. You work late into the night, and you start far too early in the morning. Once you begin, it is difficult for you to stop.”

“Why do you not come out directly and say it? You fear that I might miss dinner altogether and thus offend the Collinses.”

Mary stared at her feet.

“And offend you as well?” He laid his hand over hers and pressed firmly. “You are right. The situation at Rosings has been so overwhelming it has brought out a level of single-mindedness in me that I know is both a blessing and a curse.”

“It is pleasing that you work so diligently, and that you are so good at what you do.” He always intended to keep his promises. Nonetheless, there was a better than average chance he would fail at the endeavor.

Still, it was good that he should be so hard-working and committed to those he served. Or at least Mr. Collins said so. If only he were so dedicated to her.

Mr. Darcy’s devotion to Lizzy was the stuff of novels, running after her to rescue her from the clutches of Lady Catherine. And Lydia—who would have thought? She inspired her Mr. Amberson to walk all the way to Pemberley and demand an audience with a man so far above him that they should never have otherwise met. Apparently passionate tempers like Lizzy’s and Lydia’s inspired grand shows of affection.

Mary’s did not.

But comparing herself to her sisters never brought pleasure. There was nothing good to be had from it. Michaels had chosen her from among all her sisters. That was the thing she had to focus on. He could have courted any of them. Not that Lydia would have paid him any mind or that Lady Catherine would have permitted Jane a suitor she did not select. Still, Michaels chose her, purposefully, intentionally because her disposition—serious and practical—matched his. He cared for her exactly the way all conduct books declared he should—faithful and steady, pleasant and companionable. Complaining about such a man was the height of ingratitude.

“Shall I walk you to the Collins’ then?” He gestured across the rutted, uneven lane toward a little used footpath that led into the Rosings’ woods.

Tall hardwoods lined the path, their branches arching out and tangling with one another to form a covering that kept out the sunlight. Some found it ominous—even called it haunted at times—but that only ensured they would have a modicum of privacy to converse.

Honeysuckle vines twined around the trees, winding into the canopy and filling the air with sweet perfume. Too bad there were no flowers in reach.   Each flower had only a drop of nectar, but she relished the secret indulgence. If Michaels knew, would he find it endearing or ridiculous?

“You were concerned because I was away a fortnight longer than I had predicted?”

She clasped her hands behind her back with a shrug. “I know you had a great deal to accomplish.”

How could she tell him the local matrons were quick to believe that he would abandon her if he left Kent for any time at all. No doubt they did not think her sufficient enticement to keep his attention once he was exposed to the wider society of London. Surely there, prettier, richer girls would vie for his consideration, and she would necessarily be the loser.

It was very unpleasant to know that people thought her likely to be jilted.

Why was it the woman always suffered more being jilted than the man? He might walk away with barely any damage, but her reputation would bear the stain forever.

“Was your trip to London unsuccessful?”

“It was more complicated than I anticipated. I have finally untangled Rosings’ records, but it is just the beginning.”

“You look so weary.”

“I am certain the colonel expects the debts to be paid off quickly, with little privation on his part. The expenses of the manor are extreme, and I suppose the colonel would prefer to maintain a lavish lifestyle. I cannot imagine he will be amenable to plans of economy. It is hard to see how, under those circumstances, the estate might be unencumbered in even ten years.” He rubbed his eyes with thumb and forefinger.

“I know you will find a way.” She touched his arm.

He turned to her, smiling. “I am glad to be home and privy to your good sense and encouragement. Now you must tell me how things have been in my absence.”

“Mrs. Collins is faring well as she increases, though it seems to be progressing far more rapidly than anyone has expected. The midwife has expressed some concerns.”

Michaels shook his head, the corners of his lips turning up. “It is difficult to picture a household of tiny Collinses running about. Perhaps it is a good thing he is the kind of man who will have little to do with his children.”

Was it wrong to agree? “He received word that he has inherited the estate that had been entailed upon him. I expect the topic will be discussed … extensively … at dinner tonight.”

The edges of Michaels’ eyes creased as his brow furrowed. “He will wish to seek advice in hiring a curate, no doubt. Something that is unlikely to please his patroness.”

“I expect not. As it is, she no longer comes to call.”

“Collins cannot like that.”

“Not at all.  There are some days she is driven past in the phaeton. He waits near the windows watching for them. She usually waves as they pass, and he appreciates that. Mrs. Jenkinson believes that the fresh air is beneficial for her spirits. According to her, Lady Catherine has some good days in which she is quite aware of what is going on around her and demonstrates strong understanding. She will direct menus and even engage in conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam.”

“You mean try to tell him what to do?”

Mary snickered. “The darker days are growing more common though, and very unpredictable. I saw bruises along Mrs. Jenkinson’s face last week. She claimed that she was distracted and ran into the door frame. I am not inclined to believe that.”

“If Lady Catherine is indeed becoming dangerous, then we must have some way to manage her.” Did he really need to call out the obvious?

“I plan to call upon Mrs. Jenkinson and the housekeeper tomorrow to discuss what might be done to make Lady Catherine more … comfortable.”

“Perhaps you might have a few words with Colonel Fitzwilliam? I think he could benefit from your advice.”

“If you wish. Just pray, let not Mr. Collins be informed. He is uncomfortable with me meddling in the affairs of my betters. The notion that Lady Catherine must be managed agitates him. Whilst I can bear his anger, Charlotte cannot. Her condition is fragile. She should not be taxed.”

He took her hands and pressed them to his chest. “How do you always seem to know what everyone around you needs? I may be steward of the land here, but I am quite certain you are steward to all the people.”

“Do you disapprove?” She bit her lower lip.

“I approve very much.” He leaned down and kissed her, gentle, chaste, controlled. His lips were dry and warm, a little rough from traveling.

Her heart fluttered, just a mite, restrained as much as he. Was it wrong to wish she could give it free rein to soar? Soon, very soon, they would be wed. Perhaps it would be different then.

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About the Author

Maria Grace

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace via Email: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Random Bits of Fascination | Austen Variations | English Historical Fiction Authors | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Maria is kindly offering an ebook copy of A Less Agreeable Man to one lucky reader, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to know what you enjoyed most about the guest post and excerpt. This giveaway will close on Sunday, September 24, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comment section of this post. Good luck!

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

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I’m excited to have P.O. Dixon here today to celebrate her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything. I’ve long been a fan of P.O.’s books, and as soon as I read the blurb for this one, I was intrigued. The book sounds fascinating, and I hope to read it soon. I also hope that once you read P.O.’s inspiration for the novel and the excerpt, you’ll feel the same. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you so much, Anna, for having me here at Diary of an Eccentric. I am honored indeed to be able to share an excerpt of my newest release, By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything, with your readers.

I’ll start with the story’s premise: what if the elder Mr. Darcy’s first-born son is promised to Mr. Bennet’s first-born daughter?

If ever there were a Jane Austen fan fiction taboo, a romantic alliance between Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Jane Bennet would surely fit the bill. As a reader, I’d find such an entanglement unconscionable. However, that does not mean the writer in me would balk at such a possibility. Indeed, I have asked myself what if Darcy and Jane were promised to each other numerous times since I wrote my first Pride and Prejudice variation.

Finally, I took the time to fashion my frequent musings into a story during last year’s National Novel Writing Month. Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, it’s an annual event during which writers around the world commit to writing fifty thousand words during the month of November.

I do not know that I have ever had such fun writing a novel in one month—so much so that I crossed the fifty thousand words milestone with nine days to spare. Of course, my rough manuscript would require months and months of editing, fine-tuning, and polishing to deliver the final story. Upon reading the excerpt below, I hope everyone will find that my effort to deliver a wonderful Pride and Prejudice what-if story proves to be time well spent.

Enjoy!

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Excerpt from By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything (Reprinted with Author’s Permission. All Rights Reserved.)

Chapter 3

Wonder and Intrigue

Today is everything it ought to be. My Jane shall meet the gentleman whom she very well may marry and with whom she may spend the rest of her life. Elizabeth could not imagine being anywhere but by her sister’s side during such an auspicious occasion, and thus the two of them sat next to each other, arm in arm, as their carriage rounded the bend headed for Pemberley.

Everywhere Elizabeth looked she beheld the estate’s natural beauty. When at last the manor house came into view, she gasped on behalf of her sister as well as herself. There stood a massive stone mansion backed by a ridge of high woody hills. In front of it, flowed a large stream, its banks neither formal nor falsely adorned

Never have I seen such a place as this, Elizabeth silently reflected. Pemberley. Is there any wonder it is hailed as one of the finest estates in all of Derbyshire?

One glance at her sister and she rather supposed their thoughts must have tended along the exact same lines. Both of their faces overspread with contagious smiles.

“Dearest Jane,” Elizabeth remarked, “how fortunate you are. To be mistress of such a place as this must surely be something. How fortunate you are indeed.”

Jane squeezed Elizabeth’s hand. “Dearest Lizzy, I appreciate your enthusiasm over the prospects for my future life, but truth be told, I feel more overwhelmed than fortunate at this moment. What if the gentleman takes one look at me and concludes he wants nothing to do with me? What a considerable distance to travel to be summarily sent on one’s way.”

“Not like you! Jane, do not be ridiculous. I posit Mr. Darcy will fall madly in love with you the moment he lays eyes on you. How could he not? Unless of course, the gentleman is a fool. But even a fool would fancy himself the wisest and the luckiest man in the world to proclaim himself your future husband.”

“We shall see,” Jane replied in a voice that lacked the joy the moment warranted.

“Jane, I can see you are not as convinced of your unmitigated charms as you ought to be. But you need not worry, for I have enough confidence for the two of us. Mark my words, there will be a wedding here at Pemberley in under three months, or my name is not Elizabeth Bennet.”

“Oh, Lizzy! Where would I be without you?”

“Pray you will never find out.”

“Then does that mean you will accompany me on my wedding journey?” Jane bit her lower lip sheepishly. “That is to say, should events unfold as you anticipate.”

“I agreed to spend this time with you here at Pemberley, did I not? I see no reason to abandon you once you have accepted your prince.”

A little while later, a mixture of wonder and intrigue commanded Elizabeth’s thoughts as their carriage drew to a halt in front of the imposing manor house. The number of people awaiting them was such that she had never witnessed before.

What a welcoming reception.

Two tall, very distinguished looking gentlemen were flanked on either side by lines of servants uniformly attired in stark black and white. The older of the two, Elizabeth quickly surmised as being the master of Pemberley, Mr. George Darcy. His countenance was stern and dignified, but there was something about his eyes that gave a real glimpse into his character. While indeed a man to be reckoned with, Elizabeth suspected buried beneath his austere outward appearance was a heart of gold.

The gentleman who stood beside him, much to Elizabeth’s surprise, wore a military uniform.

How can it be that the future master of Pemberley is an officer? Elizabeth immediately questioned herself in silence. As they were mere moments from meeting their magnanimous hosts for the summer, she suppressed her urge to ask her father how he had overlooked conveying such a fascinating tidbit of information to any of them.

How pleased Mama will be upon learning not only does her eldest daughter stand a chance of being the next mistress of such a grand home, but moreover her would-be son-in-law is a dashing officer.

Not very long afterward, Mr. Bennet, Jane, and Elizabeth descended the carriage and awaited the approach of the two gentlemen. Elizabeth tossed her sister a tentative smile. Any irksome reservations she suffered that Jane might be subjected to a less than desirable alliance faded with each step the eminent gentlemen took.

A good measure of formality was cast aside as the older gentleman eschewed the expected handshake and embraced her father. “Bennet, my old friend, after all these decades it gives me enormous pleasure to say to you, ‘Welcome to my home. Welcome to Pemberley.’”

Her father responded to his old friend in the warm manner that was to be expected of acquaintances who had not had the privilege of sharing each other’s company after a great long absence, and soon thereafter it was time for introductions to the other members of the assemblage.

All at once, a quiet hush spread throughout the gathering as all heads swung in the direction of a new addition to the welcoming party. Elizabeth could hardly believe her eyes. She knew without being told that she had been mistaken earlier as regarded the officer’s identity. The tall, handsome gentleman with dark hair, brooding dark eyes, and noble mien who appeared before them was the most beautiful sight her eyes had ever beheld.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

My sister Jane is a most fortunate woman, she could not help but think, even though the gentleman’s eyes were not fixed on Jane. To Elizabeth’s bewilderment, his eyes were fixed on her. She was powerless to turn away. But turn away she must, for this was Jane’s moment, and Elizabeth truly did not want to miss bearing witness to a single second of her sister’s joy.

Elizabeth must have blinked an instant or two, for before she knew it, the gentleman stood by the elder Mr. Darcy’s side and was introduced to her own father. And no sooner had her father been introduced to the officer did the three gentlemen focus their full attention to Jane and Elizabeth.

“Allow me to present my eldest daughter,” Mr. Bennet began, directing everyone’s eyes to Jane. “Mr. Darcy, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Colonel Fitzwilliam, meet Miss Jane Bennet.” Each of the gentlemen, starting with the eldest, greeted Jane in their turn. Elizabeth could not help noticing the decided contrast in the manner of the gentlemen’s addresses. The elder Mr. Darcy’s expression was lively, his manner warm and welcoming—very much the same as it had been toward her father. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s greeting was equally pleasant, but the other gentleman’s – the one that mattered the most – was rather wanting.

Before Elizabeth had too much time to mull over the implications of what such a reception might mean for her sister’s prospects, it was her turn to be introduced. Once again, she detected in the gentlemen the same measure of civility that had been extended toward Jane with but one exception, for she was confident that the younger Mr. Darcy’s eyes held fixed with hers a second or two longer than was necessary—his hand lingered upon hers just a bit longer than that.

The situation righted itself moments afterward when the two older gentlemen moved side by side and turned toward the manor house, the colonel took his place by Elizabeth’s side, and finally, the younger man fell into place beside Jane. As the party proceeded inside, Elizabeth threw a look in her sister’s direction and was pleased to observe that Mr. Darcy seemed to be focused entirely upon his companion. What a relief this was for Elizabeth to see that things were exactly as they ought to be.

Soon after, upon entering the grand foyer with towering ceilings, glorious paintings, black-and-white marble floors, and gilded stairways, Elizabeth was pleased to know Jane and she would be escorted to their respective apartments to allow them a bit of a reprieve before joining the rest of the Darcys’ houseguests. It was a much-needed reprieve at that, for the last part of the journey had been filled with such wonderment of what was to come that Elizabeth had not bothered to sleep for fear of missing a single moment of the adventure unfolding before her.

How happy she was upon discovering that she and Jane were assigned apartments just across the hall from each other. Of course, she would have been just as pleased if she and her sister had been assigned a single room, for no doubt they would be spending a prodigious amount of time with each other as they were wont to do while at Longbourn. Aside from a much-needed reprieve to refresh herself, there was but one thing uppermost on Elizabeth’s mind, and that was discovering what her dearest sister thought about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. On second thought, there was another matter for Elizabeth to dwell upon in private.

What precisely is my own opinion of the heir apparent of Pemberley?

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About By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything

Promised to one sister. Bewitched by the other.

What if Mr. Thomas Bennet’s first-born daughter is promised to the elder Mr. Darcy’s first-born son? Are promises made always promises kept? Or is a love like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s destined to prevail?

You’ll fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth all over again while reading this heartwarming Pride and Prejudice what-if story. Grab your copy now!

Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd | Barnes & Noble | Google Play

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Connect with P.O. Dixon

Newsletter | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Website

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Giveaway

P.O. is generously offering an ebook copy of By Reason, by Reflection, by Everything to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell us what most interests you about the book. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, September 20, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, P.O., for being my guest today! Congratulations on your latest release!

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My guest today is Georgina Young-Ellis, whose latest release is The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, a Pride and Prejudice variation in which Mr. Wickham vies for Elizabeth’s hand. I’ve asked Georgina about her inspiration for her novels, and she’s kindly sharing that today, along with an excerpt from The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes and a fantastic giveaway for my readers. Please give her a warm welcome!

I’m relatively new to writing JAFF. I started last winter, with my release of Elizabeth, Darcy, and Me, and then its two sequels, A Battle of Wills and A Maiden’s Honor, which are now also in one trilogy format. The ideas for those books came to me because I wanted to write something about Mary Bennet. I love Mary, and, strangely, relate to her. When people fantasize about which Bennet sister they might be, most like to think they’d be Elizabeth, but I know I’d be Mary. I’m not particularly religious like she is, but, like her, I think I can be a little pedantic sometimes. Also, I’m the middle sister of three, and always thought my sisters were prettier than me. I think I have that middle child’s need to put myself forward like she does as well, and so, yes, she is my Bennet alter-ego.

The Pride and Prejudice variation I wrote after that came to me in a dream, which I have to say is a pretty great way to get inspiration for a novel. In my dream, Mr. Darcy was already engaged to another woman when he met Elizabeth at the Meryton assembly, though it wasn’t clear who that woman was. So I thought, ‘Wow! What a great premise! But who should the other woman be?’ It seemed pretty obvious that it should be the most heinous choice, and, of course, that was Caroline Bingley. Needless to say, this shocked my readers, especially because we know that a gentleman in Regency England cannot break his engagement to a lady in any honorable way. Therefore, my readers had to take a ride with me through the twists and turns that led to the Happily Ever After. Thankfully, they let me know they enjoyed the journey, and were satisfied with the result. That book is called Darcy’s Awakening, and is now also available as an audiobook as well, read by the phenomenal British actress Jannie Meisberger. I think her reading adds a whole new level to the experience of the book.

Then, just this past July, I released The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, and I’m very proud of how it turned out. I got the idea simply pondering how much lower Mr. Wickham could go than he does in P&P, and I think I’ve got him sunk pretty low with his devious behavior in my story. As a matter of fact, now, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the book:

“Mr. Wickham,” Lizzy began, once they were alone, save for Mary who was at the opposite end of the room, immersed in a book as usual. “I am surprised to see you so soon returned to the neighborhood. At the ball last night, Colonel Forster said you had been called away.”

“I was. But I did not have to go far. The matter only required an overnight visit, and I returned this morning.”

“Was it a secret mission?” she teased. “There are so many things that are mysterious about you.”

“Are there?”

“Such as this person who was at the Meryton assembly whom you said spoke of me to you.”

“Ah, yes. As to that, it is nothing to concern yourself about, Miss Bennet. Just a fellow officer who’s eye you had caught. You see? I am not so mysterious.”

“And your reason for going away yesterday?”

“Not secret, but too boring to bother relating,” he replied.

“I see.” She felt he was being elusive, but let it pass.

“How was the ball?” A shadow of concern passed over his face.

“Lovely. And rather illuminating as well.”

“Illuminating?”

“Well, I had some conversation with Mr. Darcy.”

“Oh,” he scoffed. “What did he have to say?”

“He said there was another side to the story you told about how he has neglected and mistreated you.”

“Did he tell you that other side?” he asked, frowning.

“No, he did not. He said a ball was not the place for it, and that he was not at liberty to divulge the details without revealing private information.”

“Well, that makes it clear. If he felt so strongly about his position, he would have explained it to you. No, I promise you Miss Bennet, he has no defense for his behavior. Besides,” he added, smiling sweetly, “don’t you feel that it is always the party who is in the wrong who insists there are ‘two sides to every story?’”

“No, I have not necessarily found that to be true.”

“You must believe me, Miss Bennet, in this case it is. What motive would I have for misleading you? You must see that I am the abused in this situation. He has everything, I have nothing. He has power, influence, money, family. I am just a poor man having to fight for every scrap in this world. Is it not always the rich who tread upon the poor?” His chest puffed up. “I am a person who believes that one should earn their way in this world. I take nothing for granted. I am in the militia to defend and honor my country. What does he do for his country? I stand up for the poor and beleaguered, Miss Bennet. I am on the side of the little man. I reject his aristocratic ways and antiquated system of entitlement. I say, we are all equal in the eyes of God. Therefore, am I not equal to him in spite of all his wealth? How dare he seek to belittle me when I am already so low in this world?”

Lizzy had never heard anyone speak this way. His passionate words stirred her. “Goodness, Mr. Wickham, I see your point.” Then she glanced at Mary and thought of how Mr. Darcy had shown such compassion for her last night. “And yet, Mr. Darcy seems like a fair and just man.”

“Hmph. I am afraid if you got to know him better, you would see how untrue that is. Not that I am encouraging you to get to know him better,” he added quickly. “Do not fall under his spell, Miss Bennet. The lure of all that money can be a temptation.”

“Certainly, I am not in any danger of being tempted, Mr. Wickham. I care not for ostentatious displays of wealth.”

“I did not mean to imply otherwise. Nor that you would be tempted by him.”

And yet, Mr. Darcy’s kindness towards her, and the words he’d spoken last night, indicated that perhaps he felt a preference for her. Was he trying to tempt her? She almost laughed at the thought. What possible reason could he have to tempt her into any kind of liaison with him? She had no money, and he knew that. Even though it didn’t seem to matter to him that Jane was in the same position with regard to Bingley, she was certain Mr. Darcy would want to do better for himself. Maybe he was just being kind to her for Mr. Bingley and Jane’s sake. “No, I am not, nor will not be tempted,” she said with finality.

He exhaled as if he’d been holding his breath a long time. “I am glad to hear it.” He smiled broadly. “Miss Bennet, I am not at liberty to speak seriously to any woman about forming an attachment at this point in my life. Yet I am very encouraged that soon I will be able to. And I must tell you, I have never met a young woman whom I care for as well as you.”

“I feel we do not know each other well enough for you to have formed such an opinion, Mr. Wickham.”

“Don’t we? I am a person who is able to judge right from my first impressions whether I like or do not like. I feel that if one is fond of a person from the start, they are very likely to always admire that person.”

“Interesting, Mr. Wickham. I am the same way. I always say you can tell much about a person from first impressions.”

“You see? We have that in common, as well as many things I can already tell we share: a love of laughing, a sense of the absurd, an enjoyment of life, the impulse not to take things too seriously…”

“I cannot disagree with you there,” she admitted.

“Miss Bennet, say you wish to get to know me better. Say also that, as long as I am in town, we can meet often. I will not be able to remain in Hertfordshire any longer than my regiment allows, but, while I am here, I hope to form a kind of…how shall I say it…agreement with you, that our acquaintance will continue to grow, in spite of absence.”

“I think I should like that,” she said. She could not deny she hoped they would continue to get to know each other better, but she also felt that the conversation was moving rather quickly.

The door to the parlor opened and her younger sisters came in, bringing noise and bluster with them.

Mr. Wickham stood. “I should go. I am glad we had the chance to speak of the subject foremost on my mind, Miss Bennet.”

She smiled at him. “I am always happy to see you, Mr. Wickham. Thank you for coming.”

He took his leave of her sisters, which took more than a few minutes. Finally, Lydia and Kitty let him go. Elizabeth watched him walk away from the front window with a quicker beating of the heart than she had seen him come. There really was no more agreeable, or interesting, man of her acquaintance. She loved watching his eyes change color with his mood. When he was laughing, they were pure blue. When he was somber, they were grey. When he was speaking passionately, they were green. He was so clearly a good man too, she mused, trying so hard to make an honest living. Without wishing ill on anyone, she hoped he would receive something substantial from his uncle when the old gentleman finally passed.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of dialogue—it’s from fairly early in the book when Wickham still seems like a good guy, winky face.

Also, I’d like to let you know that I’m giving away, just to Anna’s followers, an e-book of The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, as well as a promo code for a free copy of the audiobook of Darcy’s Awakening. Best of luck to all who enter!

Finally, if you feel so inclined, you might want to pop over to my website, GeorginaYoungEllis.com, where you’ll also find links to my romantic time-travel novels. The first one in the series, The Time Baroness, takes place in Regency England. I’m currently working on the fifth and last in the series, and I’m also starting to work on a Christmas JAFF called Pemberley Park – The Twelve Days of Christmas, a mash-up/continuation of Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. Should be fun!  Thanks for reading, everyone!

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About The Light in Darcy’s Eyes

Mr. Wickham may have genuinely fallen for Lizzy – and, he has come into a mysterious inheritance to provide a living for them once they marry. Will Lizzy succumb to his charms, or will Mr. Darcy succeed in winning her heart?

Goodreads | Amazon

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About Darcy’s Awakening

When Darcy and Lizzy meet at the Meryton assembly, Darcy is already engaged to another woman, and Lizzy has suffered the loss of someone she once loved. How will they find their way to each other, with these obstacles, and so many more, standing in their way?

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Georgina Young-Ellis

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

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

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Giveaway

Georgina is generously offering an ebook of The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes, open internationally, and a promo code for the audio version of Darcy’s Awakening, open to readers in the U.S. and U.K. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know if you’d like your name thrown in the hat for the ebook, the audiobook, or both. Two winners will be chosen randomly and their names announced in the comments section of this post. The giveaway will close on Sunday, September 17, 2017. Good luck!

Thank you, Georgina, for being my guest today! I look forward to reading The Light in Mr. Darcy’s Eyes soon.

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Catherine Lodge is visiting Diary of an Eccentric for the first time today as part of the blog tour for her latest release, Fair Stands the Wind, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She is here to talk about young boys going to sea during Austen’s time. Please give her a warm welcome!

So if you haven’t read the book when I posted it in parts – good on you, you can buy it and come to it with a mind clear of presuppositions – you should know that Captain Darcy was sent to sea at the age of nine.

What!!!! I hear the cry arise from the throats of the crowd of tender-hearted JAFFers reading this post, how the heck did that happen?

Well, surprisingly enough it wasn’t at all uncommon. The precise title or method of enrolment varied slightly over the period of the novel, but basically it boiled down, as so many things did in Georgian England, to who you knew.

If you had a family friend or relative with influence, you could get your lad sent to sea, either as a volunteer or as a captain’s servant depending on the date. They were paid, but less than two pounds a month, and they would be expected to supply their own uniforms, books, instruments (sextants, etc.) and weapons. They’d also be expected to bring some money with them to pay their mess bills – officers were expected to buy their own meals so they weren’t reduced to eating the same as the common seamen, and to buy their own liquor. Since the water was usually disgusting after a few days out of port, everyone drank like a fish.

Each youngster would have a “sea daddy,” an experienced seaman whose job it was to make sure they could hang their hammocks and could master the usual tasks of the sea – knotting, splicing, handing, reefing and steering, repairing their own clothes, etc. – usually in return for the youngster’s rum ration. There would also be a schoolmaster whose job it was to teach them the mathematics of navigation. Other than that, in most ships, the midshipmen and not-quite-midshipmen messed together in an area, deep in the bowels of the ship called the cockpit and left to bring themselves up. Since you couldn’t get a promotion unless you had proof of six years at sea and could pass the exams, it wasn’t unusual to find midshipmen in their 50s and boys in their teens all jammed into together.

Very young boys might be put under the watchful eye of the Gunner’s wife, since warrant officers such as the Gunner were allowed to bring their wives along. She would make sure they ate, didn’t get too drunk and were turned out smartly. Corporal punishment was more or less expected, although midshipmen were caned rather than flogged.

Every man and boy on the ship belonged to a “watch” – depending on the size of the ship there would be two or three watches. Midshipmen were expected to stand their watches on duty like the adults, and were used as messengers, etc. They were also expected to go up into the rigging and supervise the sailors aloft when the sails were being reefed – i.e. shortened in heavy weather. Hence another name for Midshipmen was “reefers.” Each duty period was 4 hours, but in an emergency or in bad weather everyone was on duty until things were safe. This often meant having to get up at 0400 to stand your watch. Gradually, the longer a young man was at sea, and the more trustworthy and skilled he could prove himself, the more responsibility he would be given.

Now, although it isn’t pointed out in the books, even on blockade duty – essentially keeping the French Navy from leaving their ports – you didn’t stay at sea for years at a time. A Midshipman might be on shore for a few months on a regular basis but, depending on the Captain who accepted you on board as a “young gentleman,” your shore trips might be shorter or longer. In any event, if you were paid off from your ship to await another one you weren’t paid at all. Better hope the family are interested in seeing you at home. Of course, if you were on the West Indies station, you might not come back at all due to Yellow Fever and malaria.

At last, once you were or appeared to be nineteen, you could sit the examination for Lieutenant – they were notoriously difficult and notoriously capricious, you went before a Board who could ask you anything about life at sea – hypothetical questions about what orders you would give in an unusual situation were a favourite. You might be lucky and get your uncle’s best friend, or you might get your father’s worst enemy. All you could do is keep taking the exams until you passed, if you ever did.

And once you’d passed – you had to try and get a ship to serve in. You could spend years as a “passed midshipman,” waiting for a position on board ship where you’d have to start at the bottom of the pile, seniority being based on the date of your first commission to a ship.

Every midshipman’s dream was to be a frigate captain. Frigates were the greyhounds of the navy – if greyhounds had bad tempers and great big teeth. They were fast and they could fight, carrying between 26 and 32 guns. By comparison Nelson’s flagship Victory carried 104. They were used for escorting convoys, taking messages and independent cruising to prey on enemy shipping. They could work further inshore and could maneuver better than the bigger ships. So long as they didn’t pick a fight with a ship very much bigger than themselves, they had an excellent chance of coming out on top. Captaining a frigate was a man’s best chance for glory, prize money and, alas, death.

But… If you want to find out what happened to Captain Darcy, you’re going to have to read the book – always assuming Amazon does the decent thing and publishes it!

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About Fair Stands the Wind

We all know that in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy is proud and prejudiced because he is a wealthy landowner who believes himself above his company; and that Elizabeth Bennet can afford to be proud and prejudiced because she believes she has the freedom to make choices for herself.

But what if Mr Darcy is the second son, sent to sea at a young age? What if Elizabeth is trapped by circumstances, with an ill father on one side and an understandably desperate mother on the other?

Meet Captain Darcy of the Royal Navy, a successful frigate captain, with ample prize-money and a sister he needs to provide for while he is at sea. Meet Elizabeth Bennet, who needs a husband and is trying to resign herself to Mr Collins, the worst “least worst alternative” in the history of literature.

Check out Fair Stands the Wind on Goodreads | Amazon (paperback only, Kindle hopefully coming soon) | Barnes & Noble

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About the Author

Catherine Lodge

Catherine Lodge is a semi-retired lawyer and lecturer, living in Yorkshire–a part of the UK even more beautiful than Derbyshire. One of five daughters, although by birth order regrettably the Jane, she found 19th Century literature early in her teens and never looked back–even if that meant her school essays kept coming back with “archaic!” written in the margin next to some of her favourite words. She still thinks that “bruited” is a much nicer word than “rumoured.”

After years of drafting leases and pleadings, she finally started to write for fun in her forties and has never stopped since. Much of this will never see the light of day, having been fed to the digital equivalent of a roaring bonfire, but Fair Stands the Wind is the first book she thinks worthy of public attention.

She spends her day fixing computer problems for friends and family, singing in her local choir, and avoiding the ironing.

Connect with Catherine on Facebook | Email: catherinelodgebooks@gmail.com

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Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, where 8 ebook copies of Fair Stands the Wind are up for grabs!

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of Fair Stands the Wind by Catherine Lodge. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

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08/30   Babblings of a Bookworm

08/31   My Vices and Weaknesses

09/01   Austenesque Reviews

09/02   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl

09/03   Darcyholic Diversions

09/04   Half Agony, Half Hope

09/05   Of Pens and Pages

09/06   Diary of an Eccentric

09/07   From Pemberley to Milton

09/08    So little time…

09/09   My Love for Jane Austen

09/10   Margie’s Must Reads

09/11   My Jane Austen Book Club

09/12   Just Jane 1813

Thank you, Catherine, for being my guest today. Best of luck with the book!

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Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Sophie Turner back to Diary of an Eccentric to talk about creating a digital version of the first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. What a fantastic project, and I am so excited to have her as my guest. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you so much, Anna, for having me back here at Diary of an Eccentric to talk about my special project, to create a digital edition of Pride and Prejudice that’s been restored back to the Egerton 1813 digital edition, save errors. In order to do this, I had to go through line by line three times, comparing my version to the original. I had of course read Pride and Prejudice many times, but reading it that closely three times over was a whole different depth of study for me!

And in reading, there were some things that stood out to me as not quite explained, or odd. Some were things I’d noticed before, but others emerged fresh, as the mysteries of Pride and Prejudice. Here are five of them, mysteries both large and small:

  1. Who IS Miss Watson?

“Mama,” cried Lydia, “my aunt says that Colonel Forster and Captain Carter do not go so often to Miss Watson’s as they did when they first came; she sees them now very often standing in Clarke’s library.”

The fact that Miss Watson is unmarried makes it seem less likely that she is established in some sort of reputable trade in Meryton, but let us give her the benefit of the doubt for a moment and say she is. What sort of reputable trade could a woman be running that would prompt military men to visit her so often? The only answers that came to mind for me were a coffee house or a circulating library. A fabric shop might have been visited by men, but not with frequency, unless it was one of those fabric shops with a less than reputable side business. It would have been strange for any woman, married or not, to be running a coffee house. Yet the fact that they are now to be seen very often standing in Clarke’s library seems to indicate that Clarke has a circulating library, although he could also be an acquaintance in town of theirs with a private library, I suppose. The answer to the mystery that’s most favourable to Miss Watson’s reputation is that there are two competing circulating libraries—not out of the realm of possibility in a market town, I suppose—and they have changed their custom over to Clarke’s.

The alternative is that Miss Watson is not, in fact, established in a reputable trade and is instead a harlot. Which means there is a tremendous degree of vulgarity in Lydia’s comment, to be speaking about such a thing, but even more in her aunt, to have told her young nieces of it.

  1. How did all of these people end up in Hertfordshire together?

“You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the present Mr. Darcy.”

So let’s see here: Mr. Bingley happens to take a house there. He happens to be good friends with Mr. Darcy, who goes with him to see the place. And Mr. Darcy’s aunt just happens to have taken on a rector who just happens to be the cousin who is to inherit Longbourn. That’s a whole lot of coincidences lining up to get the plot going.

The answer to this one, of course, is that our dear author was the puppet master, pulling the necessary strings, but when you take a step back and think about it, it’s probably the most unrealistic aspect of the novel.

  1. Why does Elizabeth speak so frankly to Darcy about the Collinses?

Elizabeth made no answer. She was afraid of talking longer of his friend; and, having nothing else to say, was now determined to leave the trouble of finding a subject to him.

He took the hint, and soon began with, “This seems a very comfortable house. Lady Catherine, I believe, did a great deal to it when Mr. Collins first came to Hunsford.”

“I believe she did—and I am sure she could not have bestowed her kindness on a more grateful object.”

“Mr. Collins appears very fortunate in his choice of a wife.”

“Yes, indeed; his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding—though I am not certain that I consider her marrying Mr. Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light, it is certainly a very good match for her.”

So wait a minute here. Charlotte is her close friend, she doesn’t even like Darcy, and yet she is spilling her exact thoughts about the Collinses’ marriage to him with absolutely no prompting? There’s a degree of intimacy in what she shares that maybe indicates that deep down, she at the least understands that he’s trustworthy.

And from Darcy’s perspective, the fact that she would speak on such a topic to him could certainly have made him think she was treating him with a degree of intimacy that indicated she was open to the further intimacy of being his wife. I think this conversation here does more to prompt his proposal than anything else Elizabeth does.

  1. Is there a hermit living on the grounds at Longbourn?

“Go, my dear,” cried her mother, “and shew her ladyship about the different walks. I think she will be pleased with the hermitage.”

Whaaaaat? This is one I definitely hadn’t noticed before I embarked on this project. In those days a hermitage was a legitimate home for a hermit, built by the landowner, who would then recruit someone to live in it. It was a show of wealth, where the landowner basically had a “pet” human living on their grounds! (The television show Regency House Party even featured one.)

The Hermitage at Frogmore

There are decided oddities here, assuming that the hermitage belonged to Longbourn (perhaps it was part of a neighboring estate). Even if there was no longer a hermit living there, or it instead contained a tableau intended to make it look like the hermit had just stepped out without there being an actual hermit, which was sometimes done, it means that at some point there was money to create the structure itself, and hermitages could be quite elaborate, albeit small. Did Longbourn bring in more money, in a previous generation? Or is this a case of financial extravagance by the current Bennets?

  1. Where does the rumour about Elizabeth’s engagement come from?

Lady Catherine it appeared, had actually taken the trouble of this journey from Rosings, for the sole purpose of breaking off her supposed engagement with Mr. Darcy. It was a rational scheme to be sure! but from what the report of their engagement could originate, Elizabeth was at a loss to imagine; till she recollected that his being the intimate friend of Bingley, and her being the sister of Jane, was enough, at a time when the expectation of one wedding, made every body eager for another, to supply the idea. She had not herself forgotten to feel that the marriage of her sister must bring them more frequently together. And her neighbours at Lucas Lodge, therefore, (for through their communication with the Collinses, the report she concluded had reached lady Catherine) had only set that down, as almost certain and immediate, which she had looked forward to as possible, at some future time.

On its face, the explanation makes sense, and Mr. Collins’s letter to Mr. Bennet seems to confirm it. But there is no reason to assume Mr. Darcy’s character has been redeemed in the neighbourhood, so why would they be wishing to pair Elizabeth off with him? On the basis of one dance way back at the Netherfield Ball, they will pair her with a gentleman who has ten thousand a year? After all, even Jane has difficulty believing that she intends to marry him, and Jane is the only one who gave him the benefit of the doubt all along.

I think it far more likely that Charlotte had a hand in this. After all, she was Team Elizabeth & Darcy before even Elizabeth was Team Elizabeth & Darcy. It could have been innocent—she could have, in reading from her family about Jane’s betrothal to Bingley, let slip some comment that made Mr. Collins believe a betrothal between Elizabeth and Darcy was rumoured, rather than Charlotte’s own speculation. Or she could have, either over irritation with Lady Catherine or intention to try to provide some movement in what she saw as a courtship by Darcy, intentionally kicked the hornet’s nest.

Even if Elizabeth’s initial conjecture is true, Charlotte certainly had a hand in informing her husband of it, so regardless of exactly what her role was, I think she decidedly moved things along!

What do you think about my conjectures? Have you wondered about these or other mysteries of Pride and Prejudice? Let us know in the comments.

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About Pride and Prejudice (Annotated and Restored to the 1813 Egerton First Edition)

The novel needs no introduction. But readers may not have realised that we have been losing “Pride and Prejudice” over the years, particularly digitally. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation have eroded significantly from the 1813 Egerton first edition, and many digital copies suffer from poor formatting.

In 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, her “darling Child” has been painstakingly restored to the three-volume 1813 first edition. Adjustments have only been made where there were errors in the 1813 text, and are noted in detailed annotations at the end of the novel.

Please enjoy this beloved story, restored to Jane Austen’s original voice.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Feedbooks (coming soon)

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About the Author

Sophie Turner

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.

Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.

She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon.

Connect with Sophie on Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon

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Giveaway

Sophie is kindly offering one ebook copy of Pride and Prejudice to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and answer Sophie’s question at the end of her guest post. This giveaway will close on Sunday, September 10, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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July 27 / My Vices and Weaknesses/ Guest Post & Giveaway

July 28 / Austenesque Reviews/Book Excerpt & Giveaway

July 29 / My Love for Jane Austen/ Guest Post & Giveaway

August 3 /Just Jane 1813 / Book Review & Giveaway

August 4 / My Jane Austen Book Club/ Guest Post & Giveaway

September 4 / Diary of an Eccentric/ Guest Post & Giveaway

September 5 / Laughing with Lizzie / Book Excerpt & Giveaway

September 6 / Savvy Verse & Wit / Book Review & Giveaway

September 12 / Margie’s Must Reads /Book Review & Giveaway

September 14 / More Agreeably Engaged /Guest Post & Giveaway

September 15 / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway

Thank you, Sophie, for taking on such a meaningful project and for being my guest today!

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Today I am delighted to welcome Sharon Lathan to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate her latest release, Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future. I hope you enjoy her guest post on the history of wedding cakes, an excerpt from her new novel, and a very generous giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you, Anna, for hosting me on your blog today. It is an honor to be here, and a great pleasure to share a bit of my research with your readers. Especially, of course, is my thrill in sharing my latest novel! Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future is the second book in the two-volume Darcy Saga Prequel Duo, which began with Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship. These two novels perfectly fit with my Darcy Saga Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, the series now including nine lengthy novels and one novella. That is a lot of happily ever after! Of course, a couple cannot have a happily ever after until they are married, and that means a ceremony and celebratory feast with a CAKE!

Wedding Cake Trivia

As everyone knows, the wedding cake is a vital necessity for a perfect wedding ceremony, on par with the wedding gown and flowers, and almost as important as the groom himself! A cake at the wedding feast, like the flowers, has been a central focus for centuries and in nearly every culture. Dating far into antiquity, it is the Romans who are credited with placing special significance onto a cake. Largely this is due to the symbolism of fertility, plenty, and health attached to various grains, from which also arises the custom of tossing rice and grain seeds onto the newly married couple.

As the Roman Empire spread across the then-know world, wedding cake traditions were adopted, including in England. With cake in mind, today I am sharing a handful of English wedding cake historical tidbits.

—Early wedding cakes were single tiered and small. Elaborate decorations were rare, the preference for simplicity, and cakes fit the regional traditions and superstitions.

Croquembouche Wedding Cake

—The first stacked cakes were of spiced buns and tiny cakes piled into a tower. An example is the Croquembouche, a French wedding cake created in the 1700s.

—Tiered cakes were impossible to manage beyond two levels due to the heaviness of flour and sugar before the ability to refine. Before 1870, any tiered cake contained upper “mock” tiers of spun sugar, not cake.

—The first recorded recipe specifically for a wedding dessert was in The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May in 1685. Called “Bride’s Pye” the recipe included oysters, pine kernels, cockscombs, lamb testicles, sweetbreads, and spices. Not exactly the wedding dessert we imagine!

—For a time, Bride’s Pies gained popularity in England. Pastry crusts were ornate and the meat fillings rich. A tradition was to hide a ring inside the pie, and the young lady who found the ring was fated to be the next married.

—A separate groom’s cake originated in England in the 17th century. Smaller, darker, and heavier than a bride’s cake, it was cut and given to the guests to take home. Tradition dictated the recipients place the cake under his or her pillow to pass the good luck by dreaming of future spouses.

—Sugar was readily available in England after 1650, but only in granulated form. Sugar could be “double refined” or ground by hand to create a smoother texture, but this increased the cost. True confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) did not exist until the late 1800s.

—White frosting of meringue and sugar first appeared in the 17th century. These early frostings needed to be heated in an oven to firm. Icing recipes recorded in the 1700s varied, but all required additional cooking to harden, were tricky to do right, and much more expensive. Having a white iced cake was an outward declaration of affluence.

—Hearkening to ancient traditions of tossing grains, in medieval and ancient England, the cake was broken over the bride’s head. This evolved to the bride cutting into the wedding cake and distributing to the guests, the belief being that her touch passed the happy blessing. As cakes increased in size, the groom was invited to “help” in the process.

—The tradition of sharing a slice of cake arose from the previous tradition. The bride would cut the first slice for the groom. He would eat a bite, then return the slice to his bride, who would then eat a bite. The gesture was a sign of their mutual commitment to provide for each other.

—Although a wedding cake was a firm tradition long before Queen Victoria, it was her famed white wedding cake with the spun-sugar figures atop (see image) that established the standard cake still most common today.

Anyone hungry yet? Ready to crash a wedding with me? The latter might be a tad improper, so perhaps it might be better to read my novel and attend the wedding of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

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Excerpt from Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future, courtesy of Sharon Lathan

Between bites, Mrs. Bennet informed them, “While I was downstairs a message arrived from Mrs. Filiatreau. She reports that the florist in Derbyshire can send Jacob’s ladder blooms as you requested, Lizzy.”

“That is excellent news! They were plentiful in Derbyshire, including in the gardens at Pemberley. A beautiful flower with a lovely fragrance. They will blend well with the lavender and honeysuckle, in both fragrance and appearance, to create a fabulous bouquet.”

“Bluish-purple flowers, is that right?”

“Yes, Jane. I saw some that were bluer than purple, the hue varying. Hopefully, the ones Mrs. Filiatreau sends are blue.”

“To match the necklace Mr. Darcy gave you! Oh, it is divine. Can we see it again, Lizzy?”

Lizzy shook her head, Kitty immediately pouting. “Sorry, but I asked Papa to keep it locked in his desk. I cannot fathom its worth, even without taking the sentimental value into account. Frankly, having possession of such a necklace is a frightening responsibility.”

“Might as well get used to it. Imagine the jewels you will have as Mrs. Darcy.” Flipping from a pout to dreaminess, Kitty sighed. “I bet there are cases and cases of diamonds, rubies, emeralds—”

“Precisely why the wedding must be perfect,” Mrs. Bennet interrupted. “Two Bennet daughters marrying wealthy, respected gentlemen of Society. We shall be the talk of the county for ages!”

Jane met Lizzy’s eyes, the sisters sharing a tolerant smile. Their expressions were amused, a contrast to the contortions of dread and embarrassment perpetually worn during the initial weeks of their engagements. Harnessing their dramatic mother was a feat they had found impossible to do anyway.

Moreover, after discussing it privately, the brides-to-be had a revelation. The near-fatal disaster of Lydia’s actions resulted in a hasty wedding none of them had been informed of in time to attend, even if they had wanted to. Despite Mrs. Bennet’s brave face and boasting of Lydia being married to a gentleman officer, they saw her pain. She had been robbed of her honorable, rightful place as a mother, unable to participate in any way. Therefore, while a tendency to roll their eyes remained and they did from time to time need to pull on the reins, they had agreed to concur with whatever she wanted.

“The flowers are arranged for, even the yellow flowers you wanted, Jane. Roses should not be a problem, and Mrs. Filiatreau has connections that may have late-blooming dahlias or peonies.”

“Thank you, Mama. I am content with whatever she can manage. I am still amazed you talked Reverend Jenney into placing ribbons and flowers on the pews. He is a dear man, but a stickler for traditions.”

Mrs. Bennet looked slightly offended. “He understands what an important wedding this is! Besides, I can be very persuasive.”

“Mr. Darcy spoke to Mr. Jenney, requesting the inclusion as a personal favor.”

Lizzy’s teacup hit the saucer with a sharp clink. “He did? How do you know that, Mary?”

Mary flushed and dropped her eyes. “I was at the church when Mr. Darcy came in. I was in the back pew, praying, so do not think he saw me. I did not mean to overhear, but they were standing a half-dozen feet away!” Finally convinced that no one thought her an active eavesdropper, she explained, “Mr. Darcy specifically noted that allowing modest decoration inside the church was his request as a gift to Mrs. Bennet for her kindness. Is that not kind of him? I do not think he wanted you to know, Mama, so do not make a fuss over it. He does not like undue attention.”

Lizzy was unsure what shocked her more—Darcy’s thoughtfulness toward Mrs. Bennet, whom he pretended fondness for but Lizzy knew he barely tolerated, or Mary’s astute observations of Mr. Darcy’s character. Lizzy honestly could not recall Mary and Mr. Darcy speaking a single word to each other outside of the obligatory greetings.

As they enjoyed the repast, Mrs. Bennet prattled on, methodically enumerating upon the church decorations before moving on to the wedding cake and breakfast menu. They had heard the reports a dozen times, but what bride doesn’t adore discussing her upcoming wedding?

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About Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future (Darcy Saga Prequel Book #2)

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet will soon be joined in Holy Matrimony! The initial month of their Season of Courtship has passed. Together, the lovers strengthened their bond through honest communication, as they dealt with adversity, jealousy, and distrust. Ever growing in mutual love and understanding, a dramatic confrontation broke through the final barriers.  Now their Hope of the Future “happily ever after” is assured!  As long as Lady Catherine can be stopped in her scheme to interfere, that is. Or, will Mrs. Bennet’s bad advice ruin future marital felicity? Might increasing liberation lead to overwhelming passions that cannot be controlled, with catastrophe a result?  Continue the journey begun in Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship. Delight in their flourishing romance, ride along on their escapades in London, and be a witness at the wedding of the century. The miraculous design of how Two Shall Become One begins before the sacred vows. Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future is Volume 2 of the “prequel duo” for Sharon Lathan’s Darcy Saga sequel series to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Purchasing links:

Amazon Kindle and Print

Barnes & Noble Nook and Print

Kobo digital

iBooks digital

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About the Author

Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, was published in 2009. Sharon’s series of “happily ever after” for the Darcys now totals nine full-length novels and one Christmas themed novella.

Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship and Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future complete the “prequel to the sequel” duo recounting the betrothal months before the Darcy Saga began.

Sharon is a native Californian relocated in 2013 to the green hills of Kentucky, where she resides with her husband of over thirty years. Retired from a thirty-year profession as a registered nurse in Neonatal Intensive Care, Sharon is pursuing her dream as a full-time writer.

Sharon is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, JASNA Louisville, the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA, and serves as the website manager and on the board of the Louisville Romance Writers chapter of the RWA.

Sharon is the co-creator of Austen Authors, a group blog for authors of Austenesque literary fiction. Visit at:  www.AustenAuthors.net

Connect with Sharon via Website/blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Giveaway

Sharon is kindly offering 2 ebook copies of Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the wedding cake trivia or what most interests you about the book. This giveaway will close on Sunday, September 3, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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

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Source: Author
Rating: ★★★★☆

He confused her. He irritated her. He pleased her and he thrilled her. She was going crazy, and William Darcy was the cause.

(from The Perfect Gift)

The Perfect Gift is a sweet novella by Christie Capps (the pen name for author J. Dawn King) and a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was just the right book for me now when I’m swamped with work and family commitments, as it’s intended to be read in about an hour or so. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the only reading time I’ve had lately is right before bed when I’m really sleepy, I would’ve devoured it all at once. But it was nice to savor this one over a few days.

Elizabeth Bennet is still smarting from William Darcy’s insult to her at Meryton’s pizza hangout when he asks for her help in dealing with his soon-to-be teenage sister, Gianna. Darcy doesn’t know how to handle a young girl going through puberty, what she wants and needs for clothes, or the perfect gift to commemorate her 13th birthday. Elizabeth is the perfect person for the job, given that she has four sisters, and she and Gianna hit it off right away. She still isn’t sure what to make of Darcy; he seems so serious sometimes, but when it’s just the three of them, she can almost see his charm.

For a short and sweet novella, Capps does a great job building the tension, with the infuriating Caroline Bingley and the Darcys’ impending return to their home in New York City. There’s the right balance of drama, humor, and passion, and despite the fast pace given that it’s a novella, I was completely satisfied with the ending. I have three other novellas by Capps waiting patiently to be read, and since my busy schedule doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, I will turn to them in the brief moments when I can escape the real world.

Disclosure: I received The Perfect Gift as a gift from the author. Thank you, Joy!

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