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I read Karen M Cox’s Cold War-era Pride and Prejudice spy novel, Undeceived, when it was first released in 2016 and absolutely loved her take on Darcy and Elizabeth as CIA agents. I’m delighted that the novel has been re-released, and I’m thrilled to be sharing an excerpt with you all today. But first, here’s what I said about Undeceived (which was on my Best of 2016 list) in my review:

I absolutely loved this novel from start to finish. What a unique way to retell Austen’s novel, and it really works! I loved Darcy as the arrogant yet charming spy and Elizabeth as a strong woman determined to get ahead in her career on her own merits, not by her father’s legacy in the agency. Fitzwilliam as MI6 and Charlotte as FBI, not to mention the bumbling agent Bill Collins, were fantastic additions to the cast of characters. The novel was so different that despite keeping the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, I had no idea how it all would play out.

Please give Karen a warm welcome!

Hello Readers, and thank you to Anna for hosting me on Diary of an Eccentric. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my re-release of Undeceived: Pride and Prejudice in the Spy Game.

William Darcy, legendary CIA officer, has worn many hats and has worked all over the world. His latest position, as station chief in Prague, ended in disaster. Now, he’s been sent to Budapest… 

Budapest, Hungary

April 1982

“For Darby Kent?” The young messenger tried to wrap his tongue around the English pronunciation of Darcy’s alias as he handed him the envelope.

“Thank you,” he replied in Hungarian and put a forint coin in the kid’s hand. Still, after four months in this country, Darcy had trouble with the Magyar language and kept his small talk to a minimum. His cover as an American businessman consulting with the Hungarian government wasn’t ideal for gathering intelligence, but given his lack of finesse with Hungarian, it was probably a necessity.

The language barrier was one more reason this new assignment made no sense whatsoever.

He slid the letter opener across the flap and retrieved the sealed envelope inside. Lifting the false bottom of his desk drawer, he found his Cardan grille and laid it over a newspaper article planted in the Baltimore Sun society page.

“Smart ass,” he muttered, referring to the Central European station chief’s idea to put the coded message in the society page. The COS took any opportunity to goad him by testing the famous Darcy photographic memory. Now, Darcy would have to remember the content in the article in case someone referred to it. He was sure state security routinely opened his mail. His pencil scratched across the notepad as he wrote down the letters left visible through the Cardan grille card.

Fine Eyes rendezvous at Pied Piper’s gamble. SIP. Dossier to follow.

Finally, they were sending him a translator! Anyone was better than Bill Collins over at the State Department, a bumbling idiot who stuck out like a sore thumb. Everything about that nitwit—his walk, his talk, his manner—screamed American.

Darcy lit the scratch paper with his lighter. He stared into the flame and let the ashes fall into the fireplace until he had to drop them, making sure they burned completely. He washed the soot and pencil lead from his hands and adjusted his tie in the gilded mirror, reminding himself to stay positive. As covers went, this Budapest gig was pretty cushy: a nice flat in the Castle district, access to a phone (wire-tapped but useful for unclassified correspondence), eating establishments and laundry facilities close by, and the best household amenities that Hungary and its “goulash” brand of communism could provide. Even his car—a Zsiguli, a luxury in Budapest—was provided. He certainly had been in worse situations over the years.

He ran a hand over his hair to smooth it and tried on his most devilish grin. Darby Kent was a smooth operator, and Darcy knew how to play the part, almost to perfection.

****

About Undeceived

…if I endeavor to undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me?

Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 40

Elizabeth Bennet, a rookie counterintelligence officer, lands an intriguing first assignment—investigating the CIA’s legendary William Darcy, who is suspected of being a double agent.

Darcy’s charmed existence seems at an end as he fights for his career and struggles against his love for the young woman he doesn’t know is watching his every move.

Elizabeth’s confidence dissolves as nothing is like she planned—and the more she discovers about Darcy, the more she finds herself in an ever-tightening web of danger.

Unexpected twists abound in this suspenseful Cold War era romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic tale.

Universal Buy Link

****

About the Author

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of five novels accented with history and romance: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, I Could Write a Book, and Son of a Preacher Man, and a novella, The Journey Home, a companion piece to 1932.  She also loves writing short stories and has contributed to four Austen-inspired anthologies: “Northanger Revisited 2015” appears in Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, “I, Darcy” in The Darcy Monologues, “An Honest Man” in Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentleman Rogues, and “A Nominal Mistress” in Rational Creatures.

Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State before settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little Central Kentucky town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.

Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker—like Elizabeth Bennet.

Connect with Karen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page

If you would like bits of authorly goodness in your inbox each month (updates, sales, book recommendations, etc.) sign up for her News & Muse Letter. She loves to hear from readers, so don’t be shy. Contact her through social media, her website, or on-line stores.

A big thank you to Karen for being my guest today! Congratulations on the re-release! I hope my readers will check out Undeceived and love it as much as I did!

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Happy New Year!! I thought I would start off 2017 by celebrating the best of the books I read last year. Rather than do my usual Top 10 list, I thought I’d try something new this year and list my favorites in various categories, with links to (and quotes from) my reviews.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION (WWII)

A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

A Moment Forever is not a book you merely read; Gardiner ensures you actually live the story — from the overindulgence of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the wartime excitement in the Big Apple, from the airfields and USO dances and the fashions of the ’40s to the solemnity of Paris 50 years after the roundup of its Jewish residents for deportation. There are so many layers to this story, and I never wanted it to end.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION (OTHER ERA)

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

lost among the living

Simone St. James is a new-to-me writer, and as soon as I finished Lost Among the Living I determined that I must read her previous novels, which all seem to be equally suspenseful. I loved her writing here, particularly the passages that describe the intensity of Jo and Alex’s relationship, which enable readers to feel Jo’s grief and the frustration inherent in not knowing Alex’s fate. I also liked that while there was romance and passion, Lost Among the Living is at its core a ghost story, but it’s so much more than that. St. James shows the impact of the war on the returning soldiers and the women whose men never came home, as well as the blurring of the boundaries between social classes and how greed and selfishness can tear families apart.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (REGENCY)

Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter by Joana Starnes

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Mr. Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is a beautifully written novel, with just the right amount of angst to move me to the brink of tears without making me put the book down in despair. Starnes has a knack for putting Elizabeth and Darcy in impossible situations, delving deep into their souls, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats as they wonder how a happily ever after will be achieved. I loved the pacing of the novel, and Starnes does a wonderful job evolving their relationship through many ups and downs as they navigate the challenges posed by their families and themselves.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (MODERN)

Without a Conscience by Cat Gardiner

without-a-conscience

Like Denial of Conscience, Without a Conscience is sexy (definitely for mature audiences only) and exciting from the very first page. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who weaves clever plots and navigates Darcy and Liz through the twists and turns while further evolving their relationship. In the midst of the danger and excitement, Gardiner provides plenty of humor, and the obvious rivalry between Liz and Caroline had me laughing out loud several times. The novel is perfectly paced, and there’s just something about Gardiner’s writing style that has me hanging on every word.

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (SECONDARY CHARACTERS)

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace

the-trouble-to-check-her

The Trouble to Check Her exemplifies why Grace is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. Her attention to detail in terms of character development and the history of the era is fantastic, and I hope there is another book in the series (mainly because I want to find out what happened to Jane Bingley after her falling out with Elizabeth Darcy).

BEST AUSTEN VARIATION (OTHER)

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

TEPcover

I enjoyed reading both Elizabeth’s diary and about the rocky start to Charlie and Evie’s relationship and their determination to find Elizabeth’s papers. I especially loved how James showed that even Austen’s beloved couple likely didn’t have a perfect marriage, and by telling that story from the point of view of Elizabeth, readers are able to see her insecurities and her frustration while having little clue what Darcy is thinking or feeling, which creates just the right amount of tension. I also loved getting a glimpse of the Darcys and their family years into their marriage, so they are no longer bright-eyed newlyweds but older and wiser and settled into their life together. Charlie and Evie’s story was exciting and even had some similarities to Darcy and Elizabeth’s, and Charlie’s client, Cressida Carter, is very Caroline Bingley-esque. The dual narratives were seamlessly connected, and the shifts between the two were timed perfectly to ensure readers can’t put the book down.

MOST UNIQUE AUSTEN VARIATION

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Beau North and Brooke West

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The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy is unique and exciting. It made me laugh, and it left me in tears, so much so that my husband kept asking if I was okay and I worried I would short out my Kindle! It’s been a while since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a Pride and Prejudice variation. It’s absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year, possibly one of my all-time favorites, and definitely one I won’t forget!

BEST HOLIDAY NOVEL

Lucky 13  by Cat Gardiner

lucky 13

Oh, how I loved this novel! Gardiner is a master at bringing Jane Austen’s characters into the present day and turning up the heat (and the laughs). From their heated arguments to their heated encounters at the jaw-dropping calendar audition and the chest-oiling photo shoot, I couldn’t get enough of this Lizzy and Darcy. The secondary characters are equally entertaining, from Jane, the supermodel with a secret, to Caroline, the matchmaking poochie mama, and especially Charlotte (aka “Punky) and Darcy’s cousin, Rick (aka “Preppy”), who are the most obnoxious of the numerous matchmakers.

BEST POETRY COLLECTION

The Jane and Bertha in Me by Rita Maria Martinez

BerthainMe

Martinez’s poems are full of vivid imagery (“The Bertha in me sleeps until three in the afternoon and sits on the back porch with a cup of Earl Grey that quells the desire to chop up her crotchety landlord,” from “The Jane and Bertha in Me”), sensual (“Charlotte’s manuscript sepulchered like an incorruptible saint, splayed on its back like a woman whose architecture I want to touch,” from “At the British Library”), insightful (“Pain caused by first love never truly subsides,” from “Jane’s Denial”), and even humorous (“She’ll be sorry for canoodling with the missionary, thinks Rochester, who’s exceeded his cursing quota and looks like Wolverine,” from “Jane Eyre: Classic Cover Girl”). Martinez even writes about Brontë herself, from her different personas to the migraines she suffered through in order to create her “pristine prose” (from “The Literature of Prescription”).

BEST SHORT STORY/COLLECTION

“Tea Time” by Tiffani Burnett-Velez

tea-time

I finished reading “Tea Time” in less than half an hour, and I was satisfied with the abrupt ending even though I wasn’t ready for the story to be over. The final few lines pack a punch and made it a story I won’t soon forget. I can’t wait to read more from Burnett-Velez.

FAVORITE COVER

Undercover by Cat Gardiner

undercover book cover

Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who had me hooked from the very first page. The use of slang from the era, her vivid descriptions, the steamy scenes, and the murder mystery are handled so perfectly that I could picture the entire book in my head, as though I were actually watching a black-and-white hard-boiled crime drama on the screen. She moved Austen’s characters into 1952 New York City in a way that felt true to them. I loved that she gave Darcy a painful back story and that Elizabeth and Jane weren’t the best of friends. Gardiner’s portrayal of Georgiana as a modern and independent though innocent and sheltered young woman is handled beautifully, as is Lydia’s downfall at the hands of Slick Wick.

****

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Some of the more memorable 5-star books from 2016 (click the covers to read my reviews)

darcys-hope

denial-of-conscience

undeceived

COAOEB cover

Miss Darcy's Companion front cover_V4

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Liebeslied-Final-Kindle

the forgotten room

What were your favorite books of 2016? I’d love to know!

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undeceived

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★★

He picked up the menu. “So, you better put on a good flirt for me, Liz darling, because I’m whisking you off to a charming little village near Lake Balaton day after tomorrow.” He leaned forward, a smug smile on his face. “By the way, sweetheart, Hungarian secret police just came in the door.” He stared into her eyes, mocking her even as he smiled in a way that made her insides heat up.

“You’re such an ass,” she whispered, and took a sip of her wine, putting on a fake, sultry smile of her own.

He covered her hand with his and looked right into her eyes. “And yet, you’re crazy about me.”

(from Undeceived)

Quick summary: In Undeceived, Karen M. Cox takes Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to the Cold War era, following CIA agents William Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet on a journey to Hungary, East Germany, and Northern Virginia in search of double agents and moles. Elizabeth is a newbie agent and linguist who enters the world of counterintelligence when George Wickham convinces her to take a job investigating the legendary William “London Fog” Darcy. She has no trouble believing Darcy could have ties to the KGB, given a botched mission in Prague and, well, she just doesn’t like him. Darcy is skeptical of Elizabeth’s abilities but has no problem flirting with her for the job, except that he is drawn to her despite being so far above her career-wise. Despite his arrogance and mysteriousness, Elizabeth soon realizes that what she has been told about Darcy is not the truth, but will they find the real villain before it is too late?

Why I wanted to read it: Pride and Prejudice and spies…enough said!

What I liked: I absolutely loved this novel from start to finish. What a unique way to retell Austen’s novel, and it really works! I loved Darcy as the arrogant yet charming spy and Elizabeth as a strong woman determined to get ahead in her career on her own merits, not by her father’s legacy in the agency. Fitzwilliam as MI6 and Charlotte as FBI, not to mention the bumbling agent Bill Collins, were fantastic additions to the cast of characters. The novel was so different that despite keeping the basic plot of Pride and Prejudice, I had no idea how it all would play out.

What I disliked: Nothing!

Final thoughts: Undeceived is exciting and suspenseful, but above all, it ranks on my list of all-time favorite Pride and Prejudice retellings. This novel will definitely make my Best of 2016 list!

Click the banner below to check out the other stops on the Undeceived blog tour!

undeceived banner

Disclosure: I received Undeceived from Mertyon Press for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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