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It’s a pleasure to welcome Riana Everly back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, a prequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, titled The Assistant, which focuses on Elizabeth Bennet’s uncle and aunt Gardiner. Riana has brought a guest today, the Elusive Miss Grant. Please give her a warm welcome!

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Good day to you,

I do hope you will forgive me if I do not remove my bonnet and mask. Even the heaviest veil was insufficient to conceal my features, and I must remain hidden and unknown, for your safety as much as for my own. If he should discover where I am, or that you know me…  Thank goodness the fashion is for bonnets with deep brims this year!

But I digress, and I must not alarm you. I am satisfied that my disguise is robust, and that none of us need fear. He will not know me, concealed as I am, neither does he know where to seek me. Let us talk, rather, of more pleasant matters.

Despite the danger in which I find myself, and the dreadful events that have led up to it, I am remarkably well settled. I have, as the expression goes, fallen upon my feet. I have found safe and secure lodgings, and the people where I live are kind and good to me, for all that they do not know whom they host. I would never endanger them by revealing my identity! I am kept busy much of the time, which prevents me from dwelling too much on my troubles, I have a ready supply of material to read, and I need not stray far to enjoy the company of interesting people.

But listen! I have done something so shocking, Mother would scold me for weeks were she ever to discover it! Oh, poor Mother, wherever she may be. If only she were near enough to discover my deeds, I should gladly withstand all the scolding she could give me. When these troubles are over, I shall do what I can to find her once more. What have I done, you ask? Come close and I shall tell you!

I have been writing letters to a gentleman with whom I have no agreement! Indeed, we have not even been introduced! Are you horrified? I titter like a schoolgirl when I think how brazen my actions have been.

And even more shocking, he has written back! We have engaged in a long correspondence, and I dare to believe that he likes me as much as I like him. To be clear, he is not a gentleman in the literal meaning of the word, for he is a merchant and by that measure, below my station. But he is a gentleman in the essence of the matter, for his manner and understanding are everything that is proper, and he expresses himself uncommonly well. I might otherwise choose to write one of my stories about him, for I do like to cast interesting characters of my acquaintance into my novels (there, another matter to shock you! I write novels!), but truth be told, I like him too well, and would not have him exposed to the world, or whoever might one day read my poor scribblings.

I wonder what would happen were we to be properly introduced? I would like so much to meet him in some public place or at a ball, where we may converse as freely as we do in our letters. I must set to work to make this happen, for I have quite grown to love Edward Gardiner!

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An excerpt from The Assistant, courtesy of Riana Everly

The first letter arrived three weeks after Edward returned to London.

It was addressed to Mr. E. Gardiner, Gracechurch Street, and was written in a fine, elegant hand. A woman’s hand, graceful and precise. Matt handed it to Edward in person. “It is from a lady from my former home,” he blushed. “I have a way to contact her without the others knowing. I told her what you done for me, and she wished to thank you.”

“Indeed! How extraordinary!” Edward’s eyebrows shot up, but he accepted the letter without further comment and proceeded to examine the small package. The seal was unbroken, but it was a plain expanse of smooth red wax, with no imprint or other identifying mark. The paper seemed to be of good quality, white and thick, but common enough amongst those with some means. It provided no suggestions as to its origin. Intrigued, Edward broke the seal and perused the contents.

The letter was written in the same hand as the direction: elegant, precise and careful. Almost too careful, whispered a part of Edward’s mind, as if the writer were engaged in an exercise in penmanship, forming each letter to a tutor’s expectations of perfection. Or, whispered a suspicious part of his brain, as if the writer were hoping to disguise her handwriting. None of this Gothic Novel nonsense, Edward. Read the note! He chastised himself. Having concluded the better part of his business affairs for the day, he gave in to his curiosity and rang for some tea before sitting down in the library with the letter, where he began to read.

Mr. Gardiner,

I beg that you will excuse my forwardness and lack of propriety in sending you this missive. I am quite well aware that an unmarried lady should not write to a man whose acquaintance she has not made, nor with whom she has no understanding, but I find that these curious circumstances compel me to ignore the guidance of my tutors and my more delicate sensibilities and speak with you through whatever means I have at my disposal.

I write to you about young Matthew. Matthew lived in my home as a child, and he is closer to me than a brother. I care greatly about his welfare. He has arranged to correspond with me through a mutual acquaintance, whose identity must remain concealed for Matthew’s safety. I cannot speak of the circumstances that forced him to leave his home, but accept my word, Sir, they were real and dire. Had he remained in the house, his very existence would have been threatened.

Matthew has informed me of your great service to him. I am much relieved at his safety and current situation. Sir, when you rescued him from the river, as he informs me, you saved his life! For that, I can never thank you enough. He will not speak to you of his undying gratitude – his shyness and intense sense of privacy will forbid it – but I can speak, and speak I shall. How kind you are, how generous and full of feeling for your fellow man! So many would not have searched out a crying youth, nor would they have risked the safety of their own limbs to wade through icy water in order to bring that youth to safety. And then, to take upon yourself the cost and inconvenience of treating his injuries – that is so much more than any person would expect.

But you, Mr. Gardiner, have surpassed even those generous actions. You took the time to get to know my young friend and have discovered his unique abilities. Further, you have provided him not only with life and the possibility of healing, but you have also provided for his security with a position. For this grand act of charity and humanity, I cannot tell you enough of my gratitude. But I beg of you, do not waste Matthew’s abilities. Teach him, guide him, challenge him! He is willing to learn and will repay your efforts manifold.

If I may ever be of assistance, I should be happy to offer such to the best of my ability. Matthew will know how to find me.

Yours,

Miss Grant

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About The Assistant

A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean

When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.

But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart? Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.

Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?

Click here for the universal buy link for The Assistant

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About the Author

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

Connect with Riana Everly via Facebook | Website

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Giveaway

Riana is generously offering five ebook copies of The Assistant as part of the blog tour. You must enter using this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Thank you, Riana, for being my guest today, and congrats on the new release! I’m looking forward to reading it, and I’m sure my readers will agree that it sounds fantastic!

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It’s my pleasure to welcome Riana Everly to Diary of Eccentric today to celebrate the release of Teaching Eliza, a mashup of Pride and Prejudice and Pygmalion. Riana is here to talk about men’s fashion during the Regency period, and she’s brought with her an excerpt from the novel and a giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

Most of my characters in Teaching Eliza are borrowed directly from Jane Austen, but a few are my own creations as well. Would it be horrible of me to say that of these, my favourite is Alfred, Viscount Einshill, affectionately known as Freddy? I needed Freddy to fill the role of Freddy Einsford Hill from Shaw’s Pygmalion, but in my novel he is a bit of a different creature. Shaw’s character is sweet and doting and very proper and elegant, and also flat broke! My Freddy is sweet and doting and very elegant, and filthy rich! And did I say elegant and ostentatiously dressed? Oh, yes, the man likes his clothing.

In short, Freddy is a fop!

In terms of men’s fashions, the time of the Regency in England saw the transition from the elaborate garb of the Baroque and Georgian eras to the more subdued and sedate styles we associate with men’s formal wear even today. Gone were the frills and brocade and richly embroidered coats of the earlier 18th century. In their place, largely thanks to Beau Brummel and his crusade for simple elegance, came immaculately clean linens, precise tailoring, and restrained colours. Pantaloons and then trousers took the place of knee-britches in formal wear, and indeed, the entire style was based on the less formal clothing of country squires and sportsmen rather than on courtiers bowing and scraping in their elaborate velvets and silks. Waistcoats were the one place were the Regency Dandy was allowed his bling, for they were often flashy and elaborate.

But as with any style, the elegant dandies were soon subject to their own fripperies. A class of gentleman arose, known as fops, who wished to outdo the Beau and each other in their quest for sartorial pre-eminence. In these circles, clothing became something of a competition, with an eye not to elegance but to show. 

In her book Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, Jennifer Kloester writes:

“Like the dandy, the fop took an absorbing interest in his clothes. Unlike the dandy, however, the fop dressed for show, adorning his person with clothes of bold or unusual design or hue and embellishing them with ostentatious jewels, frills and furbelows. The fop craved attention and did everything in his power to draw the eye of the passer-by. He was frequently a chatterer and usually deemed a vain fool by his peers…  Many fops aspired to set a trend or create a new fashion and some took their clothes to extraordinary extremes – such as wearing their shirt collars so high that they could not turn their heads or wearing voluminous trousers or coats with overlong tails.”

Fig. 1 Les Invisibles, satirical drawing, 1810. (British Museum)  Look at the high collars and crazy hats!

Fig. 2 Man’s coat and vest with metal thread embroidery, c.1800

Fig. 3 A more restrained example of a Georgian dandy. Note the high collar points again.

Fig. 4 The English Ladies’ Dandy Toy, Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1818. This is a rather heavily caricature. The toy she’s holding is a jumping jack (where pulling the string moves the arms and legs), but is shaped to resemble a dandy of the period. Note the pinched-in corseted waist.

Fig. 5 A well-dressed Regency gentleman. Note the sedate colour of the clothing, the cutaway tailcoat, the immaculately clean waistcoat and trousers, and the elaborate cravat. The top hat and cane were also de riguer for anyone pretending to fashion.

Our Freddy is, perhaps not quite as bad as some of these, but he certainly wishes to be in the forefront of fashion.

Let’s see what Elizabeth Bennet thinks of him.

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An Excerpt from Teaching Eliza, courtesy of Riana Everly

The door flew open, and a man strode in. Elizabeth was half-hidden behind the countess and could not immediately take the measure of the newcomer, but she imagined it could only be a resident of the house, and so it turned out to be.

 “Alfred,” the countess exclaimed, “I had no notion you were to come down for our at-home! You are always ‘out’ when our guests arrive.”

“Mother, Richard, Darcy,” he greeted his family. “Richard told me there was to be a special guest today, and I hoped to meet her. Has she arrived? Is she as pretty as Richard intimated? I shall have to be on my best behaviour, I suppose.”

The countess stepped aside to reveal Lizzy, who now rose to her feet to greet the stranger and be presented. The gentleman she saw was fine and tall, with all the affectations of the aristocracy. He was very finely dressed, albeit in a selection of hues that the Beau would certainly disparage. Eggshell-white trousers fell in perfect lines to his polished slippers, and a striped blue and gold waistcoat emerged from beneath an exquisitely cut coat of soft mauve. From the lapels of his coat, an elaborate knot decorated an embroidered cravat, which in turn disappeared into collar points so high the man could scarcely turn his head. Lizzy could not help by compare his peacock-bright garb to the professor’s understated elegance in black and dark green, or to the colonel’s serious military garb of scarlet and brass.

The gentleman’s hair was tousled to the ideal degree, which must have taken his valet some considerable time to arrange, and not a single one of those hairs was out of place, but they shone golden and perfect in the bright sunlight that suffused the room. Lizzy could not help but let her eyes flicker over to the professor, whose own mane never quite obeyed his commands of perfection, to the wayward lock that gave the serious Professor Darcy a dash of roguish charm.

The countess made the introductions. “Alfred, Viscount Eynshill. Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

The viscount stood perfectly still, his eyes riveted to Elizabeth. “What vision is this, to transfix me so?” he whispered, turning his entire upper body in his brother’s direction — for such were the restrictions of his fashionable collar points —  but not allowing his gaze to wander for a moment from Elizabeth’s face. Eyes wide, he finally bowed in Lizzy’s direction, executing a motion so graceful and effortless that he must have spent hours practicing before a looking glass. “Miss Bennet. A delight. An unfathomable delight.”

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(From a bit later in the book, at their second meeting)

Tentatively at first, Lizzy began to speak of her studies into the research of John Dalton, and Aunt Patricia responded enthusiastically. By the time Darcy returned with Mrs. Pearce some time later, the two ladies were deep in a spirited discussion about cloud formation and the trade winds. “If I understand correctly,” Lizzy was saying as they entered, “the sun constantly heats the earth and the air successively from east to west. The air being heated then expands in different directions to restore an equilibrium of pressure. Because this expansion has a lateral and perpendicular motion, it has a concurrent effect on the barometer, as well as influencing wind strength and direction.”

“How fascinating!” Aunt Patricia supplied.

“How charming!” came a voice from behind Darcy and Mrs. Pearce, and Alfred, Viscount Eynshill, strode into the room. “Miss Bennet, a delight to see you again. Once more, I am enthralled by your knowledge and abilities. I must chastise my cousin yet again for hiding you from us for so very long. Really, Darcy, she is a treasure!”

“Freddy,” his mother greeted him, “You did not tell me you planned to come by.” Her tone was not approving.

“You would only have forbidden me, Mother,” he replied with a smile. “And how could I be denied another opportunity to converse with the enchanting Miss Bennet?” He executed an elaborate bow and threw another wicked smile in Lizzy’s direction. “I brought these for Miss Bennet.” From behind his back he withdrew a bouquet of flowers that perfectly matched the dress she had worn the previous day and presented them to her with a flourish. Lizzy accepted them gracefully and requested a vase be brought. A glance at Darcy’s stony face informed her that he was unimpressed.

Watching, as if from a distance, Lizzy took further stock of the viscount. Tall, as were the entire family, with the same light hair as the colonel, he was slightly more handsome and entirely charming. He moved with the ease and grace of long practice, and caught the eye with his elegant demeanour, and Lizzy suppressed a chuckle as he paused before the mirror above the mantelpiece to assess his striking appearance.

The viscount had his brother’s amiability and easy nature, but where Richard’s pleasant demeanour was overlaid atop the sober and responsible core that comes with the demands of military leadership, Alfred’s was pleasantry atop frivolity. It was clear that he loved his clothing, for he wore his finely tailored garb like a model for the clothes-makers’ magazines. As with the flowers, he had chosen a waistcoat that matched the yellow of the previous day’s frock, and he picked carelessly at the ample lace that extended from his cuffs. If he was a man, like Narcissus, who admired himself too much, he was redeemed because he liked others nearly as much, and sought to befriend where another man might seek to disparage.

Lizzy knew he was a man who could afford to indulge his whims. She knew he need never account for his actions, for his life’s work was merely to be the earl and eventually provide an heir. With those two requirements easily managed, he had the luxury to do and act as he pleased. If he did not waste away the family’s income, he would be considered a fine example of an English nobleman; if he did fritter it away, he would be thought no worse than most of his breed. It was a career well suited to his temperament.

Despite his foppishness, Lizzy could not help but like him. He was nothing like the serious, deep-thinking men she often found the best company, but his genuine friendliness and lack of condescension endeared him to her almost immediately. That he clearly liked her very much also did not impede her affinity to him. He lowered himself to sit beside her, careful not to disarrange his apparel, and when seated on the long sofa with its old-fashioned and elaborate upholstery, turned his body to face her and offered a friendly comment, then another, and another, until she began to answer in like fashion.

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About Teaching Eliza

A tale of love, manners, and the quest for perfect vowels.

From a new voice in historical romance comes this sparkling tale, wherein the elegance of Pride and Prejudice and the wit of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion collide. The results are clever, funny, and often quite unexpected….

Professor Fitzwilliam Darcy, expert in phonetics and linguistics, wishes for nothing more than to spend some time in peace at his friend’s country estate, far from the parade of young ladies wishing for his hand, and further still from his aunt’s schemes to have him marry his cousin. How annoying it is when a young lady from the neighbourhood, with her atrocious Hertfordshire accent and country manners, comes seeking his help to learn how to behave and speak as do the finest ladies of high society.

Elizabeth Bennet has disliked the professor since overhearing his flippant comments about her provincial accent, but recognizes in him her one opportunity to survive a prospective season in London. Despite her ill feelings for the man, she asks him to take her on as a student, but is unprepared for the price he demands in exchange.

“With her clever mash-up of two classics, Riana Everly has fashioned a fresh, creative storyline with an inventive take on our favorite characters, delightful dialogue and laugh out loud humor. Teaching Eliza is certain to become a reader favorite. It’s a must read!” – Sophia Meredith (author of the acclaimed On Oakham Mount and Miss Darcy’s Companion)

Teaching Eliza is a full-length novel of about 110,000 words.

Check out Teaching Eliza on Goodreads | Buy from multiple retailers via Pronoun

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About the Author

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

Connect with Riana via Facebook | website

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Giveaway

Riana is generously offering 5 ebook copies of Teaching Eliza for the blog tour. Please click here to enter via Rafflecopter. You MUST use the Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

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Oct. 19 From Pemberley to Milton

Oct. 23 Babblings of a Bookworm

Oct. 24 So Little Time… So Much to Read!

Oct. 25 Diary of an Eccentric

Oct. 27 Savvy Verse and Wit

Oct. 28 My Love for Jane Austen

Oct. 30 More Agreeably Engaged

Oct. 31 Savvy Verse and Wit (review)

Nov. 1 Austenesque Reviews

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