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I had such a wonderful time editing Victoria Kincaid’s latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, and I’m thrilled to welcome her back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate its release! Victoria is here to talk about her research on espionage and to share an excerpt from the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you for having me visit, Anna!  While doing research for The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, I learned a lot about espionage activities during the Napoleonic Wars.  In particular, I read about the Alien office (part of the Home Office) which was basically the British government’s first official spy agency.  I learned about a number of fascinating incidents which would make great scenes in novels but didn’t fit into this book.  Still, I think that anyone who is interested in the era would find them remarkable—and entertaining:

  • The Alien Office thwarted one actual domestic insurrection: an incipient Irish rebellion led by agents supported by the French government. The secret service placed agents in Ireland to infiltrate the organization. This enabled them to arrest all of the rebellion’s leaders in 1798 before the event took place this represented one of the office’s greatest success.
  • In 1800 the secret service helped one faction of the French royalists form the “English Committee” in Paris. The Committee was responsible for several assassination attempts on Napoleon’s life—the most famous of which was the Rue Nicaise bombing on Christmas Eve, 1800. By 1803 the Committee had detailed plans in place for Napoleon’s kidnapping or assassination.  These plans almost certainly could not have remained in place without the tacit complicity of Fouche, the well-known minister of police in Paris.
  • One of the Committee’s most successful agents was a woman, Madame Williams. An Englishman’s widow who made multiple Channel crossings, some disguised as a sailor, Williams was never captured or apparently even suspected of being a spy.
  • Napoleon had planted agents of his own. One double agent arrived in England with his own false plans for overthrowing the French government.  Aware of the ruse, the British government created an elaborate counter plan that was designed to fool the French authorities into believing the British had fallen for their trick.  For months they created correspondence and moved agents around Europe with the purpose of deceiving Napoleon’s spy.
  • Savary, the chief of Napoleon’s personal guard, was charged with Investigating the extent of a treasonous plot. He visited the home of a recently discovered traitor along the Channel coast and found early drafts of reports that he himself had given to the Emperor.  He realized then that the information in the reports he had been giving had been authored by the British Alien Office.

It is difficult to say to what extent the secret service’s efforts helped to bring about Napoleon’s eventual demise since it is the nature of espionage to have unseen effects.  Most likely the agency’s efforts helped to sow the seeds that eventually led to many French citizens to switch to the royalist cause, but at the time eventual success was attributed to diplomacy and conventional warfare.

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An excerpt from The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

Darcy returned his attention to Elizabeth’s still form, aware that the doctor’s eyes were upon him.  After a long moment the Frenchman spoke.  “You are not a laborer searching for work.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Darcy stiffened.  “No?”

“Your hands are too soft, with callouses only from a horse’s reins.”  The doctor’s voice was matter-of-fact, not accusatory.  “A farm laborer’s hands are calloused everywhere.”

Darcy cursed himself silently for not having anticipated that detail.

“And you have an English wife.”  No doubt myriad explanations occurred to the doctor: spies, expatriate nobles, smugglers.

Darcy readied himself to fight.  Were he alone he could simply flee, but he could not leave Elizabeth behind—and traveling might kill her.

But Martin spread his hands, giving Darcy a gentle smile. “I am not your enemy.  To me, you and your wife are simply patients in need of care, and I have taken an oath to care for all who need it.”  Darcy regarded the doctor steadily.  Did he dare take the other man’s word?  Did he dare put his life—and Elizabeth’s—into this man’s trust?

Darcy sighed, and his shoulders slumped.  In truth, he had no choice.

“I swear I will not give you up to the authorities.  I have no love for them.  I would not give a rabid dog into their keeping.”  For a moment Martin’s expression was quite fierce.

Darcy nodded, somewhat reassured.

Martin looked at him sidelong.  “But will you tell me how an English gentleman and his wife came to be in Saint-Malo in the midst of a war?”

An English gentleman.  Darcy rubbed his face with both hands.  Despite his clothing, Darcy apparently might as well be wearing a sign proclaiming his name and rank.  Very well. The doctor had guessed enough of the truth; Darcy might as well tell more.  “Elizabeth was on a ship that exploded near the Channel Islands. It was reported that everyone on the ship was lost.  I am seeking the man responsible for the explosion, but I did not expect to find…” He gestured to Elizabeth’s still form.

“Yes, I remember hearing word of that.  An explosion would explain the blow to the head, but her survival is wonderful indeed.  I know of no other survivors.”

The rise and fall of Elizabeth’s chest fascinated Darcy, and he allowed himself to revel in the simple fact of her breathing.  Although he did not like the soft rattle in her exhales or the convulsive coughs.  “It is a miracle.  I had no hope.”

Martin clasped Darcy’s shoulder.  “If someone killed Marguerite, I would hunt him down as well.  I wish I knew this man so I could help you seek revenge.”

Darcy continued to regard the other man warily.

Martin chuckled.  “Our countries may be at war, but I have no quarrel with you, sir.  Your secret is safe with me.”

Did Darcy even dare to trust the man?  “I cannot ask you to take such risks…”

“The risk is not so great.  Bretagne only grudgingly supported the revolution or the emperor.  My sentiments are very common.”

Darcy was humbled by the man’s generosity and trust.  “I thank you, sir.  I will be forever in your debt.”

The man took the necklace from the table and poured it into Darcy’s hand.  “You must keep this safe until your wife may wear it once more.” Darcy stared dumbly at the pendant in his hand.  “I am afraid the chain broke when we removed it from her neck.”

Darcy threaded the chain of his watch fob through the loop at the top of the pendant.  He had chosen his plainest, cheapest watch and fob for the journey, but the doctor’s sharp look suggested it was still out of place.  Hopefully the future of Britain did not rest on Darcy’s abilities to pass as a common Frenchman.

Darcy heard a knock sounding on the front door.  Martin looked toward the source of the noise.  “Ah, I have a patient for a return visit.”   With a nod to Darcy, the doctor slipped through the door and closed it behind him with a quiet click.

Darcy was alone in the room with Elizabeth—his sleeping miracle. His eyes sought out her face once more, savoring the features he had never thought to see again in this lifetime.  His heart was so full that it felt ready to burst from his chest. Yes, Elizabeth was ill, and they were trapped in a country at war with an unknown enemy threatening them.  But Elizabeth was alive, and for the moment that was more than enough.

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About The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy

A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Mr. Darcy arrives at Longbourn, intending to correct the mistakes he made during his disastrous proposal in Hunsford. To his horror, he learns that Elizabeth Bennet was killed in a ship’s explosion off the coast of France—in an apparent act of sabotage. Deep in despair, he travels in disguise to wartime France to seek out the spy responsible for her death.

But a surprise awaits Darcy in the French town of Saint-Malo: Elizabeth is alive!

Recovering from a blow to the head, Elizabeth has no memory of her previous life, and a series of mistakes lead her to believe that Darcy is her husband. However, they have even bigger problems. As they travel through a hostile country, the saboteur mobilizes Napoleon’s network of spies to capture them and prevent them from returning home. Elizabeth slowly regains her memories, but they often leave her more confused.

Darcy will do anything to help Elizabeth reach England safely, but what will she think of him when she learns the truth of their relationship?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a reader’s choice giveaway of either an ebook or paperback copy of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy. One winner will be selected. This giveaway is open internationally, and will be open through Sunday, August 5, 2018. To enter, leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Victoria! It’s always a pleasure to have you visit. Congratulations on your new release!

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I’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of the audiobook of Mr. Darcy to the Rescue. It’s wonderful to see a book I’ve edited released in audio, and Victoria has a fantastic story to share about it. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi Anna, thank you for having me as a guest. As I was preparing this guest post, I thought about the fact that we both had daughters graduating from high school this year and that led me to musings about the role of audiobooks in my family. Of course, they are handy to have in the car. My husband listens to books in his commute, and I often listen during my multiple daily drives. As a family, we have listened to a number of audiobooks together on long car trips.

But I never realized the real importance of audiobooks until I had a daughter who had difficulty learning to read.

She was in first grade and was supposed to do 20 minutes of reading a day. I had to split up these 20 minutes into 3-4 chunks because reading was such a chore to her. As someone who has found books to be an important part of my life and endless source of joy, I was alarmed. Eventually we traced her difficulties to a vision problem known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI) in which the eyes do not function well together. The doctor who examined her found that she couldn’t focus her eyes more than nine seconds without great effort. Can you imagine trying to learn to read under those conditions?

We started her on vision therapy—with tremendous results. But the process took three years. In the meantime, I worried that she would lose interest in reading. How could she not when it was such a struggle? I read books aloud to her, which was very rewarding. (I read the entire Harry Potter series to her and then did it all over again when my son wanted to read it.) But she often wanted to read when I wasn’t available.

Thank God for audiobooks. They allowed her to be an independent reader—choosing what to read and when to read it without depending on another person. We were fortunate that our public library had many books on CD (eventually they started getting e-audiobooks and she now has a well-used Audible account).

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have audiobook technology available. If I had experience CI as a child, I would have been out of luck. But with the help of audiobooks, she still read eagerly—and learned to enjoy reading—even when it was difficult and painful to put her eyes to paper. When she graduated from vision therapy, she was able to read print books on her own—and she wanted to. With the help of audiobooks she had become an avid reader. Her problems aren’t gone and probably never will be. Her eyes tire easily, which is a great challenge in school. She still “reads” audiobooks for pleasure because she needs to save her “eye time” for school-related tasks. Fortunately a lot of textbooks and works of literature (for English class) are available on audio; audiobooks are one of the major factors behind her success in school.

Now that I have one of my novels on audio, it will make it easier for my daughter to read my writing. I’m not holding my breath, though. Although she liked Pride and Prejudice, she has a long list of books in her preferred genres that she would rather read. I don’t mind at all; I’m just glad she’s reading.

(One in 20 people suffers from Convergence Insufficiency, but most don’t know it. For more information on CI symptoms and other information, visit CIHelp.org.)

Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your daughter’s story with us. I’m so happy that she was able to become an avid reader despite the challenges. Congratulations on your latest release, and best wishes to your daughter as she goes off to college!

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About Mr. Darcy to the Rescue

When the irritating Mr. Collins proposes marriage, Elizabeth Bennet is prepared to refuse him, but then she learns that her father is ill. If Mr. Bennet dies, Collins will inherit Longbourn and her family will have nowhere to go. Elizabeth accepts the proposal, telling herself she can be content as long as her family is secure. If only she weren’t dreading the approaching wedding day.

Ever since leaving Hertfordshire, Mr. Darcy has been trying to forget his inconvenient attraction to Elizabeth. News of her betrothal forces him to realize how devastating it would be to lose her. He arrives at Longbourn intending to prevent the marriage, but discovers Elizabeth’s real opinion about his character. Then Darcy recognizes his true dilemma: How can he rescue her when she doesn’t want him to?

Check out Mr. Darcy to the Rescue on Amazon and listen to the sample!

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering an audio download code for Mr. Darcy to the Rescue to one lucky reader. Please note: the promo code will only work for the U.S. Amazon site. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, July 1, 2018. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Kincaid back today to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Christmas at Darcy House. As with all of Victoria’s books, I had a lot of fun editing this one. I loved that there were some devious schemes at work, but she perfectly balances it with passion and even some humor. Victoria is here today to discuss the traditions featured in all of her novels, and to share an excerpt and giveaway of Christmas at Darcy House. Please give her a warm welcome:

Christmas at Darcy House is my tenth Pride and Prejudice Variation.  I find this hard to believe—in the same way that I find it hard to believe that my daughter is old enough to apply to college.  Where did the time go?   How in the world—with everything else that is going on in my life—did I find time to write ten books?   Intellectually I know that it’s the product of many hours spent at my computer, but emotionally it still bowls me over.

Christmas at Darcy House also continues two traditions that I have kept up throughout all my books.  That first is that the epilogue of every one of my books takes place at a wedding.  Usually it’s Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding, but not always.  In The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth, the wedding at the end was Bingley and Jane’s.  And, of course, When Mary Met the Colonel ends with the eponymous protagonists marrying (although, it starts at Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding). 

I didn’t start out to have all my books end with weddings; it just sort of happened.  After the third book with a wedding epilogue I figured I had a trend going and should keep it up.  Weddings are great subjects for epilogues since they’re usually festive and joyous—helping to counteract the angst earlier in the book.

The second tradition—also unintentional—was to have Elizabeth engaged to every eligible man in Pride in Prejudice.  Of course she is betrothed to Darcy in every book.  But, in addition, she is engaged to Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Proposals, to Collins in Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, and to Bingley in Chaos Comes to Longbourn.  

In Christmas at Darcy House she is engaged (fortunately, briefly) to Wickham.  Aside from Denny, I don’t believe there is another single male character mentioned in Pride and Prejudice (please let me know if you think of one).  It’s possible that a future book will have Elizabeth engaged to Denny, but I think it’s unlikely.  I haven’t used him much as a character and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which such an engagement would make sense.   

Anna has been with me on this journey almost since the beginning—for which I am very grateful.  And thank you to those of you who have been my readers for a long time—and to those who’ve started reading my work recently.  I couldn’t do it without you!

Thanks, Victoria! It’s been a pleasure taking this journey with you. Can’t wait for the next book! 😉

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An excerpt from Christmas at Darcy House, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

The knowledge that Elizabeth Bennet was in London had not allowed Darcy a moment’s rest that night.  As he sat behind his desk that evening, he envisioned what she might be doing.  Perhaps she was having dinner with her aunt and uncle.  Now she might be sitting in the drawing room reading.  Did they have children for her to play with?   When would she retire for the night?

After brooding in his study until long after midnight, he had tossed and turned in his bed before falling into a fitful sleep in the early morning hours.  A mere ten minutes in her presence, and he was in danger of becoming as obsessed with her as he ever was.

Upon awakening, his first thought was that he knew where Elizabeth stayed; he could call upon her and the Gardiners.  Indeed, a visit was polite—nearly obligatory—given his acquaintance with her family.  She had been gracious enough to call on the Bingleys despite knowing that she would receive a frosty welcome, but the Bingley sisters plainly would not return the call.  If Darcy visited, at least Elizabeth would know that the entirety of the Netherfield party did not hold her in such low esteem.  Also, she might have been brought low by the Bingley sisters’ insults; it was only right that Darcy visit and ensure that she was in good spirits.

Given new life by these thoughts, Darcy sprang from bed and addressed himself to his toilette with dispatch.  In the midst of splashing water on his face, he had a new thought.  If I visit the Gardiners’ house alone, will I appear to be courting Elizabeth?  He had taken great pains in Hertfordshire to avoid the appearance of favoring her; he did not want to give rise to expectations he could not fulfill.

And yet his own reaction surprised him. The idea of creating such an expectation should fill him with dread, but instead a thrumming excitement surged through his veins.  Suddenly light-headed, Darcy grabbed the edge of the washstand.  Was there some part of him that wished Elizabeth to believe he was courting her?  Or worse yet, wished to court her?

Darcy regarded his own rather pale face in the mirror.  What could he do?

He pried his gaze from the mirror and stumbled to the closet in search of fresh clothing.  I am being foolish.  He was simply returning a social call for the sake of politeness.  Elizabeth would understand that he only visited because of his connection with her family.   He might happen to enjoy Elizabeth’s company…quite a bit…more than any other woman he had ever encountered…

But that was beside the point.  His object was to help her feel welcome in London.

As his valet entered the room, Darcy thrust such thoughts from his mind.  Within minutes he was dressed and downstairs breaking his fast.  Another half an hour saw him driving his curricle toward Gracechurch Street.  The curricle was a bit of an indulgence; it would have been simpler to take a horse.  But he had a vision of offering Elizabeth a chance to tour some of his favorite sights in London.  It was a ridiculous thought, yet Darcy found he could not dismiss it from his mind.

Guiding the curricle through the streets of London, he even found himself humming a tune that Georgiana had played the day before.  It was pleasant to have one of his Hertfordshire acquaintances in London.  There was nothing remarkable if the anticipation of her company pleased him.

The Gardiners’ home was not large, but it was well kept and more fashionable than Darcy had expected.  He had never ventured into Cheapside before and had been prepared for far less genteel surroundings.  This appeared to be a quite respectable neighborhood.

Darcy was still humming as he approached the Gardiners’ door and knocked.  Perhaps he should have purchased flowers.  Women liked flowers, did they not?  But flowers might suggest he was courting her, which he most definitely was not.  They were simply friends.

A maid answered the door and took his coat.  Darcy gave his card and inquired if Miss Bennet and Mrs. Gardiner were at home.  The maid replied that they were in the drawing room with a male visitor whose name she had not caught.

Darcy’s interest was immediately piqued.  He could not imagine Elizabeth had a large circle of acquaintances in London.  Could she have acquired a suitor already?  But the maid had not mentioned the age of the visitor.  He might just as easily be some friend of her father’s or a business acquaintance of her uncle’s.  Darcy frowned at the thought.   A widower of that age might prefer a younger wife.

Or perhaps it was Bingley, visiting to apologize for his sisters’ behavior the previous day.  Yes, Bingley would be quite acceptable.

Darcy followed the maid down the narrow hallway to the drawing room.  She opened the door and announced, “Mr. Darcy, ma’am,” before withdrawing and allowing Darcy to enter the room.

His eyes immediately fell upon the male visitor, and he realized he had been far from imagining the worst.

Wickham.

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About Christmas at Darcy House

Mr. Darcy hopes Christmastime will help him to forget the pair of fine eyes that he left behind in Hertfordshire.  When Elizabeth Bennet appears unexpectedly in London, Darcy decides to keep his distance, resolved to withstand his attraction to her.  But when he learns that Wickham is threatening to propose to Elizabeth, Darcy faces a crisis.

For her part, Elizabeth does not understand why the unpleasant master of Pemberley insists on dancing with her at the Christmas ball or how his eyes happen to seek her out so often.  She enjoys Mr. Wickham’s company and is flattered when he makes her an offer of marriage.  On the other hand, Mr. Darcy’s proposal is unexpected and unwelcome.  But the more Elizabeth learns of Mr. Darcy, the more confused she becomes—as she prepares to make the most momentous decision of her life.

It’s a Yuletide season of love and passion as your favorite characters enjoy Christmas at Darcy House!

Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a reader’s choice (ebook or paperback) giveaway of Christmas at Darcy House, open internationally. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. We’d love to hear what you think of the excerpt. This giveaway will close on Sunday, December 17, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thanks, Victoria, for being my guest today!

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It’s always a pleasure to have Victoria Kincaid as a guest on my blog, but today I’m even more excited because we’re celebrating the release of President Darcy! I had a wonderful time editing this novel, and it’s become my favorite of hers (and I’ve loved them all!). This time I had a chance to pick her brain about the process of writing the book, her first modern Pride and Prejudice variation. Please give Victoria a warm welcome!

Until now, you’ve written only Regency-era P&P variations. What made you decide to write a modern P&P variation?

This idea has been knocking around in my head for years, but it finally came of age. I was able to envision all the major characters and figure out how the plot points fit together. At that point I couldn’t not write it. I was chomping at the bit to start writing.

Given the current political climate, did you find that a challenge in putting Mr. Darcy in the White House? What would you say to readers who might be a little nervous about putting Darcy in such an environment?

First of all, politics is not at all the focus of this story. It’s a love story about a man who happens to be president. In general, the presidency is more of an obstacle than anything.

I had the idea long before the 2016 election turned so contentious, but Darcy evolved—in some ways—into an antidote for the current political situation.  President Darcy may be proud and difficult (just like his literary predecessor), but the presidential version is very honest and empathetic and concerned about people. His character embodies a lot of qualities people would like to see in a president.

What is your favorite scene or moment in the book? What did you have the most fun writing?

It’s hard to say much without giving too many spoilers. But I had a great deal of fun with the scene after the “proposal” scene—where Darcy’s friends/staff are giving him a hard time at how romantically inept he is. I could imagine the Regency-era Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam saying similar things to Mr. Darcy after Hunsford: “You told her she was inferior and it was a degradation to love her? What’s wrong with you?” I also love the scene outside Pemberley when they meet up again because the way they encounter each other is so unexpected.

I’m curious: Where did you get the inspiration for the Bennet family business, On-a-Stick, Inc.?

I wanted the Bennets to have money from doing something that Darcy would consider gauche but not prurient (so owning a strip club wouldn’t work). I thought about processed food and corn dogs (which my son loves). There’s something so American about the idea that the most convenient way to eat a hot dog is off a stick. You can’t imagine an old-money scion like George Bush eating something so processed and messy. I also had a good time thinking up improbable foods to put on a stick. I mean, would anyone want zucchini on a stick? Or could you imagine trying to put lasagna on a stick?

I laughed out loud so many times while editing this book. Seriously, gut-busting laughs. I realized that this feel-good laughter was mainly centered on Bill Collins. Did you laugh as much writing him? Could you describe your Mr. Collins to my readers?

I’m so glad you found him entertaining! At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make his character function in a modern context. Having him as a clergyman and potential suitor would have been hard to work out. So I focused on the idea of his slavish devotion to Mrs. de Bourgh and his sense of self-importance. I decided that she owned an office supply company because it’s a boring industry that Collins could delude himself into thinking was really interesting. Everything else sprang from that.

He started thinking of himself as the “crown prince of staplers.” One of the fun things about writing Collins (in Regency or modern day) is that it’s almost impossible to go too far over the top with him. He can talk about how he always wanted to market number two pencils or how cutthroat the office supplies industry is—and it works for his character.

How easy or difficult did you find transforming Regency Mr. Darcy to modern-day President Darcy? What about translating Elizabeth to modern times?

It was harder in general to translate P&P into modern times than I expected. When I write a Regency era adaptation, one of the challenges is to stay true to Austen’s characters and world while writing something new. The modern setting gave me more freedom, but that also meant there were more choices to make.

For example, we see class quite differently in 21st century U.S.A. While Regency-era Darcy had to be more polite and circumspect in his speech generally, he could be more open about the socioeconomic differences between him and Elizabeth. Class divisions were accepted and seen as natural. We’re more egalitarian today, so noticing and discussing the differences between old money and new money makes Darcy even more of snob.

With Elizabeth and the other female characters, the biggest challenge is the degree of freedom women enjoy today. Although Regency-era Elizabeth turns down two eligible men, she doesn’t have a lot of other options other than matrimony. All the women are openly husband-hunting even if they’re genteel about it. But today such behavior is in bad taste, so Mrs. Bennet—and her talk of how her daughters’ eggs are aging—is the one who’s desperate for rich husbands for her daughters. In fact, my Bingley gets upset when he thinks Jane wants him for his money. In the Regency era that was just an accepted part of the marriage bargain.

What did you find to be the most difficult part of modernizing P&P?

For one thing, it required a whole different kind of research! Instead of looking up Regency carriages and Christmas customs, I was googling the layout of the White House or pictures of Air Force One and the presidential limo. I know a lot more about the presidential lifestyle now.

Another challenge was remaining true to Austen’s characters and world while also finding modern day equivalents to Regency customs and institutions. For example, today we’d go home or to the hospital if we got sick at someone else’s house. But Jane needed a reason to stay overnight in the White House—and to require Elizabeth’s company. The Gardiners and Elizabeth aren’t going to get a tour of Pemberley, so how does she meet up with Darcy again?

The limitations on the president’s life were another added dimension. He can’t run into Elizabeth at the coffee shop or drop by her apartment. But these are fun problems to have. Usually when I solve them I find that the solution enriches the story and takes it in a new and better direction.

Did you find it harder or easier to write Will and Elizabeth’s relationship without the strict rules of Regency courtship and propriety?

I’m going to cheat and say both. 😊 In general it’s easier to write Regency romance because the social expectations set up a lot of inherent obstacles between the romantic protagonists. And, without obstacles, you could have a boring story. Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. The end.

It can be hard to write contemporary romances because there are just fewer things that believably stand in the way. That’s why so many contemporary romances rely on misunderstandings as a plot device. Fortunately the presidency itself created a lot of obstacles. Because the president is always in the public eye, there are a lot of things he can’t do or say—or he needs to keep hidden (like his potential girlfriend’s embarrassing family).

Do you think you’ll write another modern (or even just non-Regency) P&P? Or a variation of a different Austen novel?

I have another idea for a modern P&P variation which I hope to write eventually. I haven’t been able to come up with good ideas for other non-P&P Austen variations, although I’ve considered doing a mashup of P&P and Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility.

Could you tell us a little bit about your next project?

I’m now writing a Regency-era Christmas novella about Elizabeth and Darcy which I hope to have out by Christmas.

Thanks, Victoria! I really hope the readers love this one as much as I did. Congrats on the new release!

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About President Darcy

A contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

President William Darcy has it all: wealth, intelligence, and the most powerful job in the country. Despite what his friends say, he is not lonely in the White House. He’s not. And he has vowed not to date while he’s in office. Nor is he interested in Elizabeth Bennet. She might be pretty and funny and smart, but her family is nouveau riche and unbearable. Unfortunately, he encounters her everywhere in Washington, D.C.—making her harder and harder to ignore. Why can’t he get her out of his mind?

Elizabeth Bennet enjoys her job with the Red Cross and loves her family, despite their tendency to embarrass her. At a White House state dinner, they cause her to make an unfavorable impression on the president, who labels her unattractive and uninteresting. Those words are immediately broadcast on Twitter, so the whole world now knows the president insulted her. Elizabeth just wants to avoid the man—who, let’s admit it, is proud and difficult. For some reason he acts all friendly when they keep running into each other, but she knows he’s judging her.

Eventually, circumstances force Darcy and Elizabeth to confront their true feelings for each other, with explosive results. But even if they can find common ground, Mr. Darcy is still the president—with limited privacy and unlimited responsibilities—and his enemies won’t hesitate to use his feelings for Elizabeth against him.

Can President Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet find their way to happily ever after?

Check out President Darcy on Goodreads | Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a copy of President Darcy to one lucky reader. They will have their choice of an ebook or paperback. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, October 29, 2017. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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It’s always a treat to have Victoria Kincaid as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric, and today I welcome her here to spotlight her newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy’s Honor. I had the pleasure of editing this delightful novel, which has the perfect balance of drama, humor, and romance. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

First, here’s the book blurb to grab your attention:

Elizabeth Bennet is relieved when the difficult Mr. Darcy leaves the area after the Netherfield Ball. But she soon runs afoul of Lord Henry, a Viscount who thinks to force her into marrying him by slandering her name and ruining her reputation. An outcast in Meryton, and even within her own family, Elizabeth has nobody to turn to and nowhere to go.

Darcy successfully resisted Elizabeth’s charms during his visit to Hertfordshire, but when he learns of her imminent ruin, he decides he must propose to save her from disaster. However, Elizabeth is reluctant to tarnish Darcy’s name by association…and the viscount still wants her…

Can Darcy save his honor while also marrying the woman he loves?

****

Now, please give a warm welcome to Victoria Kincaid, who is here to discuss the importance of reputation in Jane Austen’s time:

The issue of reputation drives much of the plot of Pride and Prejudice (and many other Austen novels).  Darcy’s need to protect Georgiana’s reputation compels him to keep the incident at Ramsgate (and Wickham’s perfidy) quiet. Elizabeth’s aspersions on Darcy’s character cause him to write her a letter, but then his concern about her reputation (because it would be improper for her to receive a message from an unmarried man) prompts him to give it to her in person rather than sending it with a servant.  And, of course, Lydia’s careless behavior with Wickham affects not only her reputation, but her whole family’s.

Austen was well aware that the burden of maintaining a pristine reputation fell more on the shoulders of women than men.  In P&P, Mary observes: “Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson; that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable—that one false step involves her in endless ruin—that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful.”  While Mary may be annoyingly pedantic, she is not wrong.  Wickham can get away with all manner of dastardly behavior that is covered up or shrugged off.  But Lydia’s one misstep is treated like a capital crime.  Collins even says she’d have been better off dead.

This inequity strikes me every time I read an Austen novel, and it occurred to me to make it part of a plot for a P&P variation.  What if Elizabeth lost her reputation—through no fault of her own?  Not that she actually did anything wrong, but that everyone assumed that she had.  How would Darcy react?  How would Elizabeth behave?  I was unsure of the answer to all of these questions as I set out to write Darcy’s Honor, so writing it was a process of discovery for me.  Some of the results surprised me.  And I hope that readers will find the book surprising and entertaining as well.

****

An excerpt from Darcy’s Honor, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid:

Miss Bingley was still speaking with a rhythm that was almost hypnotic. Darcy’s attention began to wander as his head dipped lower and lower until it nearly rested on his chest.

“…Meryton…” Darcy was pulled out of somnolence with an abrupt jerk. Was Miss Bingley discussing Hertfordshire? “….A letter from Anna Hopkins,” Miss Bingley said to her sister. “You remember her?”

Mrs. Hurst tittered. “Does she still maintain a correspondence with you? Apparently she remains under the delusion that she will obtain an invitation to Bingley House.”

Miss Bingley flicked open her fan with a snap, only to employ the object rather lazily. “Heaven knows. I certainly do nothing to encourage the acquaintance,” she sneered. “However, the missive did include one item of note.” Her glance flickered toward Darcy as if to ensure he was paying proper attention. “About the Bennets. You remember them, Louisa?”

Such a disingenuous act! Darcy ground his teeth together. No one from the Netherfield party was likely to forget the family that Bingley had nearly married himself into. Even Georgiana watched with wide eyes, having heard stories about the Bennets of Hertfordshire.

“What about them?” Bingley asked, hastily setting down his teacup.

His sister took a languid sip of tea, making a great show of indifference. “Charles, you will be very pleased we are gone from that neighborhood and have no more acquaintance with that family. It is an absolute disgrace!”

A chill raced down Darcy’s spine. What had happened to the Bennets?

“What is?” Bingley asked impatiently.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.” Miss Bingley avoided glancing at Darcy as she spoke, yet he had no doubt her words were intended to wound him. He clenched his fists to forestall any impulse to cry out at her.

Instead, he waited while Bingley demanded, “What about Miss Elizabeth?”

His sister shook her head sadly. “Such a disgrace. I do not know how the family will ever recover.”

Darcy could hold out no longer. “What has happened?” he finally growled.

The triumphant smile on Miss Bingley’s face hardly registered. “Eliza Bennet was caught with that oily viscount—”

“Henry Carson, Viscount Billington,” Darcy supplied automatically.

“Yes, that was the name. They were found in a”—she coughed delicately —“compromising position during a ball at Lucas Lodge.”

A tight hand seemed to squeeze Darcy’s heart.

“Oh dear!” Miss James’s exclamation was half distressed and half amused.

Mrs. Hurst tsked. “I confess I cannot be surprised. The whole family had no sense of decorum. The way her younger sisters carried on with the officers! And her mother’s behavior. Quite shocking.”

“Indeed.” Miss Bingley nodded her agreement. “I would not be surprised if her mother arranged the situation to entrap the viscount.”

The fist around Darcy’s heart closed even more tightly and painfully.

“Naturally,” Miss Bingley continued, “Lord Henry did the proper thing and made her an offer.”

No, Darcy wanted to cry out, but he had no breath. Mrs. Bennet might be capable of such a maneuver, but Elizabeth would never consent to be part of such a plot.

Mrs. Hurst pursed her lips disapprovingly. “So they are now betrothed?”

Oh, my! I bet you can’t wait to find out what happens next!

****

Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a copy of Darcy’s Honor in a reader’s choice (print or ebook) giveaway, open internationally! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Sunday, April 23, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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a-very-darcy-chrsitmas-thumbnailI’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her newest novel, A Very Darcy Christmas. I had the pleasure of editing this delightful book, and I must tell you that it is both hilarious and sweet — and a perfect book to help you relax during the holiday season. Oh, how I loved the chaos at every turn, and I even fell a little bit in love with Colonel Fitzwilliam!

Here’s the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Elizabeth and Darcy are preparing for their first Christmas at Pemberley when they are suddenly deluged by a flood of uninvited guests. Mrs. Bennet is seeking refuge from the French invasion she believes to be imminent. Lady Catherine brings two suitors for Georgiana’s hand, who cause a bit of mayhem themselves. Lydia’s presence causes bickering—and a couple of small fires—while Wickham has more nefarious plans in mind….The abundance of guests soon puts a strain on her marriage as Elizabeth tries to manage the chaos while ensuring a happy Christmas for all.

Meanwhile, Georgiana is finding her suitors—and the prospect of coming out—to be very unappealing. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be the only person who understands her fondness for riding astride and shooting pistols. Georgiana realizes she’s beginning to have more than cousinly feelings for him, but does he return them? And what kind of secrets is he hiding?

Romance and merriment abound as everyone gathers to celebrate a Very Darcy Christmas.

***

Now, please give a warm welcome to Victoria Kincaid, who is here to talk about mistletoe and kissing in Regency England:

When writing A Very Darcy Christmas, I did quite a bit of research on Regency Christmas traditions. It was very interesting to see which of our customs they followed. They did not have Christmas trees, send Christmas cards, or give presents (except to children or charity to the poor). However, the Christmas season, which lasted from early December until January 6, was a time for visiting, parties and balls, games, and eating good food. One familiar tradition they did observe was decorating their houses with pine, holly, and other greenery—including mistletoe.

Mistletoe grows mostly in west and southwest Britain, but families in other parts of the country might have relatives send sprigs through the mail. A mistletoe berry was plucked each time a kiss was claimed and when the berries ran out, the kissing was over. Regency households also put up “kissing boughs,” hanging arrangements of evergreens, apples, oranges, ribbons, paper flowers, spices, or even dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.

I found the mistletoe tradition to be an intriguing contradiction with other Regency customs. After all, this was the time period where a girl’s virtue could be compromised by being alone with a man and during which any contact between unmarried people of the opposite sex was strictly chaperoned. Why would they hang greenery that not only gave license for unauthorized and potentially scandalous kisses, but actually encouraged it?

I don’t pretend to be an expert, and I’m sure there are many explanations; but one answer to question may be that the Christmas season was a time when traditional customs and mores were loosened and the intermingling of the sexes was encouraged. All of the visiting and game playing encouraged socialization among unmarried men and women—and courtships and marriages often took place during the season. There were even games that would assign a man and woman to be “partners” for the evening.

The tradition of kissing boughs seems to be of a piece with these customs. Mistletoe gave couples permission to indulge in a “forbidden” behavior or gave a man an opportunity to display affection for a woman without having to make an outright declaration. In an era where anything resembling dating was forbidden, I can imagine that that such opportunities were valuable.

In any case, I found the presence of mistletoe and kissing boughs to be a useful plot device in A Very Darcy Christmas. However, in the book Georgiana occasionally has the same thoughts that I had: “If they do not wish me to kiss anyone, why did they hang up so much mistletoe?”

***

An excerpt from A Very Darcy Christmas, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

“Mrs. Darcy, there are people downstairs in the entrance hall who say they are your parents.”

Disdain dripped off every syllable Giles uttered.  Elizabeth pretended not to notice.  Every day Pemberley’s butler demonstrated that he did not approve of the upstart country lass his master had married.  In the months since William had brought her home as his bride, Giles’s friendliest tone of voice could be described as frosty.  On the other hand, Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, and the majority of the other staff had been most welcoming.

Elizabeth rushed to her feet.  Her parents should be safely ensconced at Longbourn for the Christmas season.  What could have brought them to Pemberley unannounced?

She hurried from her sitting room and followed Giles down the grand front staircase, her heart contracting with every step as she imagined what kinds of evil might have befallen her family.  Her mother and father were indeed standing in the hall.

Their rumpled, travel-worn attire contrasted noticeably with the grandeur of the room.  The inhabitants of Pemberley called it the marble hall because of the black and white marble squares covering the floor as well as the classical statues set in niches along the walls.

It was an impressive room, meant to stir amazement in Pemberley’s newly arrived visitors, and from the expressions on her parents’ faces, it was having the desired effect.  Elizabeth had been duly impressed when she had first arrived at Pemberley, but now the room reminded her of a mausoleum, grand and cold and forbidding.  She and Mrs. Reynolds had recently finished decorating the room with holly, evergreen boughs, ivy, and mistletoe for the yuletide season.  The greens softened the room’s sharp edges, but it was only slightly more welcoming.

Her father’s careworn face relaxed into a smile when he saw her as if her presence made the unfamiliar surroundings more bearable.  He does not seem overly alarmed; perhaps the situation is not dire.  However, the moment her mother noticed Elizabeth, she commenced fluttering her hands and breathing rapidly as if she had experienced a terrible shock.

In other words, everything was quite normal.

Before Elizabeth could open her mouth, her mother launched into a torrent of complaints.  “Oh, my dearest Lizzy!  You do not know how we have suffered.  The ruts in the road and the quality of the coaching inns!  And there was a most disturbing odor in Lambton when we traveled through.”

Standing by the ornately carved front door, Giles watched this performance with a pinched mouth and lifted chin that left no doubt as to his opinion of the Bennets.

The best Elizabeth could do was to treat her mother’s shrieking as if she spoke in a normal conversational tone.  She embraced both of her parents.  “This is a surprise!  I did not expect to see you so soon.  Is something wrong?”  She searched their faces for signs of agitation.  Had something happened to one of her sisters?

“Everything is well,” her father assured her.

Mrs. Bennet gaped at her husband.  “How can you say that, Mr. Bennet, when we have heard the most frightful news imaginable?”

Fear gripped Elizabeth’s chest.  “What has happened?”

Her mother drew herself up to her full height.  “Meryton is about to be invaded!”

“It is?”

Her mother’s head nodded vigorously.  “Mrs. Long was the first one to rouse my suspicions.”  Now she lowered her voice.  “There have been a great many strange men visiting Meryton—speaking in French accents!”

Mr. Bennet rolled his eyes.  “Fanny, I explained that both of the men are laborers from Ireland.  They speak with Irish accents.”

Mrs. Bennet put her hands on her hips.  “And how would you know a French accent from an Irish one?  Mrs. Long met a Frenchman when she was one and twenty.  She knows how they sound!”

“Mama—” Elizabeth began.

“But that is not all,” her mother continued.  “Colonel Forster’s regiment had been wintering over in Meryton as before, but then they decamped suddenly.  Called away, just like that!  I wager they are in Brighton at this moment, preparing to fend off a ferocious French assault.”

Elizabeth bit her lip to stifle a smile.  “I have read nothing to suggest that in the papers.”

“Of course not!”  Mrs. Bennet waved her handkerchief dramatically.  “The authorities do not wish to stir up alarm.  But why else would they have called the regiment away?”

“There was political unrest in the North,” Mr. Bennet murmured.

“Mrs. Long does not believe it,” Mrs. Bennet said with a dismissive nod.  “And what is more, Mr. Long does not believe it.  He was in the militia for a year in his youth and said such orders were highly irregular.

“Fanny—” Mr. Bennet started.

Her words continued unchecked.  “An invasion is imminent.  Nothing you may say can convince me otherwise.”  She folded her arms across her chest.

Elizabeth feared this was the truest statement her mother had uttered since arriving.

Mrs. Bennet continued without even taking a breath.  “And, of course, Meryton will be one of the French army’s first targets.”

“Before London?” Elizabeth asked.

“Well, London will be well-defended.  Meryton no longer even boasts a militia!”  Mrs. Bennet flicked open her fan and vigorously fanned her face.  “Mary and Kitty refused to leave Hertfordshire.  Even Jane would not listen.  But I told your father I was coming to Pemberley.  Since it is so much further north, we have much less of a chance of being slaughtered in our beds.”  She folded her fan again.  “How very clever of you to catch the eye of a northern man.”

Having never considered this a feature of her marriage to William, Elizabeth did not respond.

“I pray you let us stay here for a while.  What say you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth gave her father a helpless look, not knowing where to start unraveling her mother’s convoluted reasoning.  Mr. Bennet offered her a defeated shrug.  Apparently he had given up on reasoning with his wife.

Well, she could hardly turn away her own parents.  Perhaps she could talk sense into her mother during her visit.  “Yes, of course, Mama.  I am very pleased to see you both!”  She smiled at them.  “Welcome to Pemberley.”

Her father gave her a rather sad smile, but her mother grunted in response.  “Now, if you will have them show me to my room.  I am greatly fatigued by all this travel!”  Now that their immediate fate had been settled, Mrs. Bennet eyed the hall critically.  “Oh, Lizzy!”  Her hand flew to her mouth.  “You have hung greens already!”

“They make the house more festive,” Elizabeth replied.

“But it is bad luck to hang greens before Christmas Eve!”  Her mother’s eyes were round with concern.

“Just a superstition—” her father interjected.

“No, it is not!”  Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, wringing her hands.  “Mrs. Taylor hung her greens early one year, and the very next day their chickens refused to lay a single egg!  She never made that mistake again, I will tell you.”  She pointed an accusatory finger at Elizabeth.  “You have practically begged the French to invade.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes.  “I like the greens.”

Mrs. Bennet’s hands fluttered.  “Well, don’t blame me when the French invade.  I warned you!”

“I promise not to blame you, Mama, if the French invade.”  Elizabeth gestured to the butler.  Perhaps her mother would be more rational after she rested and freshened up.  One could only hope.  “Giles, I think we can put my parents in the red bedchamber.”

Giles’s expression could not possibly have been haughtier, but he gave a slight bow and left to summon a maid.  As the maid led Mrs. Bennet up the stairs, the older woman warned the wide-eyed girl about the imminent French invasion.  Elizabeth and her father fell behind, staying out of earshot.

“I apologize, Lizzy,” he said.  “Trying to stop her was like trying to halt a runaway carriage.  When she declared her intention to visit Pemberley with or without me, I thought my presence might mitigate the damage.”

Elizabeth took her father’s arm.  “I am very pleased to see you both, Papa.  And it will provide an opportunity to show you Pemberley.”

He smiled gently.  “I must confess, that is something I am anticipating with pleasure.  What I have seen so far is quite grand.”

***

Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a copy of A Very Darcy Christmas in a reader’s choice (print or ebook) giveaway, open internationally! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Thursday, December 8, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Check out A Very Darcy Christmas on Amazon | Goodreads

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chaos-comes-to-longbourn-thumbnailI’m thrilled to welcome Victoria Kincaid back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, Chaos Comes to Longbourn. I had the pleasure of editing this book a few months ago, and it was such a delight to read. I’ve enjoyed all of Victoria’s books, and I think this is her best yet! Victoria is here today to share her inspiration for writing romantic comedies, an excerpt from Chaos Comes to Longbourn, and as an international giveaway. Please give her a warm welcome!

First, check out the book blurb to see just how chaotic things are in the world of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy:

While attempting to suppress his desire to dance with Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy flees the Netherfield ballroom only to stumble upon a half-dressed Lydia Bennet in the library.  After being discovered with her in this compromising position, Darcy is forced to make her an offer of marriage.

A few weeks later, Bingley returns from London to discover that a heartbroken Jane has accepted an offer from Collins. Bingley instead proposes to Elizabeth, who accepts with the hope of reuniting him with Jane.

Now Darcy must cope with jealousy toward Bingley and a fiancée who longs to get her hands on the grand estate of “Pembleton” (or is it “Peckersly?”).  Lydia, in turn, is jealous that Wickham has proposed to Charlotte Lucas.

Although Darcy yearns for Elizabeth, he feels honor bound by his promise to Lydia.  Elizabeth has also developed feelings for the master of Pemberley, but he has never seemed so far out of her reach.  How can Darcy and Elizabeth unravel this tangle of misbegotten betrothals and reach their happily ever after?

And oh what a tangle it is! I was on the edge of my seat, unable to fathom how it would all end and laughing out loud throughout. Here’s what Victoria had to say about teasing out the humor in Pride and Prejudice:

When I first started reading Pride and Prejudice variations I was in it for the romance.  I have to admit that I love drama and angst and big sweeping emotions.  And there were lots of variations that fed this “addiction” for me.

However, when I started writing my third P&P variation, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, I realized that angst and drama didn’t always fit into a story in which Elizabeth accepts a proposal from Mr. Collins.  After all,  Collins’s primary value in P&P is comedic.  I found I loved writing dialogue for Collins; it’s almost not possible to go too far.  He’s so oblivious and so obsequious that it’s delicious fun.

Before I knew it, I was writing a romantic comedy.

Of course, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue is still dramatic and full of romance, but there were plenty of funny moments.  And the readers appreciated the humor, noting it in their reviews.

I wasn’t necessarily planning to write another comic P&P variation, but around the same time, I happened upon a Facebook post by fellow Jane Austen Fan Fiction writer Joana Starnes.  She described playing a game of Marrying Mr. Darcy which ended with Elizabeth as an old maid, Caroline Bingley eloping with Denny, and Darcy married to Lydia (!).

It got me thinking about what fun it would be to have a P&P variation in which characters were all engaged to the wrong people.  Of course, it couldn’t be anything other than a comedy.  Chaos Comes to Longbourn was born.

As I’ve been writing humorous variations it has helped me appreciate another side of Austen’s masterpiece.  While I love the drama and romance, I’ve grown to understand how brilliantly she wrote comedic characters.  Characters like Lydia, Collins, and Mrs. Bennet might be exaggerated for comedic effect, but their behavior is recognizable and human.  This long-past Regency English setting resonates in part because we see these characters and think, “I know someone like that.”

So it’s interesting.  As I’ve written more comedic variations I’ve realized that many of us are drawn to Austen because of the romance, but it’s the comedy that helps us relate the stories to our own lives.  We feel at home in Jane Austen’s world in part because it’s funny in a way we can understand.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you that you must read the book, hopefully this excerpt will:

Elizabeth dropped the napkin on the tray.  “You cannot flirt with officers now, Lydia.  You are betrothed to Mr. Darcy.”

“I remember, silly!”  Lydia waved away this objection as she shrugged off her night rail and donned her dress.  “I shan’t kiss anyone!  But I must have some fun before I marry that stodgy old man.”

Elizabeth was not an admirer of Mr. Darcy’s, but she would hardly describe him as stodgy or old.  “Engaged women must behave with greater discretion,” she said.

“I can be discreet!” Lydia declared.  “I shall have discretion shooting out of my ears!”  Elizabeth winced at this image as she laced up her sister’s dress.

Once her dress was fastened, Lydia flopped back onto her bed.  “Although honestly, Lizzy, I wish I were not engaged to Mr. Darcy.  I agreed to marry him because everyone said I must, but I always wanted an officer.  They are so dashing and so much fun!  Mr. Darcy almost never smiles and never laughs.”

Elizabeth pulled Lydia into a standing position before she could wrinkle her dress.  “I understand, my dear.  But the circumstances last night were…quite bad.  You are betrothed now, and you must make the best of it.”

“That is what Mama said, and she reminded me of Mr. Darcy’s fortune.”  Lydia sighed.  “If only he were more dashing…Although I suppose I shall comfort myself with jewels and hats…”

“Yes, indeed,” Elizabeth said.  She hardly approved of such an obviously mercenary approach to marriage, but Lydia must not break off the engagement.  Her reputation was in tatters.

“I cannot wait to tell everyone in Meryton about Mr. Darcy’s ten thousand a year!”  Lydia giggled.

Elizabeth’s righteous anger at Mr. Darcy was gradually transforming into an amorphous regret.  Last night she had been so certain of his guilt, but now…if what she suspected was true, he had been wronged, and Elizabeth had helped to wrong him.

Moreover, she did not need to learn more of his character to be certain that he was spectacularly ill-suited to be Lydia’s husband; most likely they would both be miserable in the marriage.  Elizabeth rubbed suddenly sweaty palms on her gown.  What can I do?  She had nothing but suspicions and no way of confirming them without Lydia’s cooperation.

“I shan’t let anyone forget I have a fiancé.  A very wealthy fiancé!”  Lydia dashed from the room and down the stairs.  Elizabeth followed at a slower pace.

At the bottom of the stairs, however, they both encountered Hill, followed by the tall figure of Mr. Darcy.  He bowed to the two ladies.  “Forgive the intrusion at such an early hour,” he said.  “But I was hoping to have a word with Miss Lydia.”

Elizabeth’s first reaction was alarm.  Surely he was not suggesting she leave them alone!  But then she recalled that they were betrothed, and it was appropriate for betrothed couples to enjoy some privacy.  Although she could not imagine what two such different people would say to each other.

Lydia pouted.  “I am bound for Meryton with Kitty!”

Elizabeth barely refrained from chastising her sister.  How could Lydia treat her fiancé so rudely?

Mr. Darcy looked affronted.  “I shall be departing from Hertfordshire within the hour.”

Lydia heaved a great sigh.  “Very well, I suppose I have time for a brief conversation.”

“Thank you for making time for me.”  Mr. Darcy’s tone was so dry that Elizabeth could not discern if he was being sardonic.

“I suppose I must, for I am your fiancée!”  She gave Elizabeth a sidelong glance and giggled.  “Isn’t that such a grand word: fiancée?”  Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but Lydia mistook the gesture.  “Don’t worry, Lizzy,” she patted her sister’s hand, “I am sure someday a man will want to marry you as well.”

Mr. Darcy regarded the sisters with a carefully blank expression.  Did he also believe Elizabeth would be lucky to procure a husband?

“You are too good,” Elizabeth murmured to Lydia.  Mr. Darcy made a strangled sound that turned into a cough.

“I know.”  Lydia tossed her head so her curls bounced.  “Mr. Darcy, shall we retire to the drawing room?”

He nodded mutely.

Now for the giveaway:

Victoria is generously offering an international giveaway of one copy of Chaos Comes to Longbourn. The winner will have the choice of an ebook or paperback. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and tell me what intrigues you most about the book. The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 24. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comment section of this post. Good luck!

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

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