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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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