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Due Today: D.C., Va., Md. High School Poems for Gaithersburg Book Festival Annual Poetry Contest

 

Today, Feb. 20, 2020, is the deadline for high school students in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., area to submit their poems for consideration in the Gaithersburg Book Festival poetry contest.

Qualifications

  • Author must be a high school student (public, private or homeschooled, grades 9-12, in the 2019-20 school year) at time of entry.
  • Author must live in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C.
  • Only one submission per author.
  • The entry cannot have been published elsewhere. It must be an original and sole work of the author.

For more information about the contest, go here.

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, illustrations by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate


I think Beth Kephart is the most reviewed author on my blog. And you will probably understand why when you realize that many of her books are like prose poems that tell stories with big themes and complex and colorful characters. She is one of my favorite authors, and I especially love that her husband is illustrating some of her more recent books.


Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, with illustrations from William Sulit, is as beautifully poetic as Kephart’s previous novels, but this one is suspense wrapped in the wilds of the Adirondacks. Taking inspiration from a prison break at the Clinton Correctional Facility and the family heirlooms — Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart — in her father’s home, Kephart has woven an inspirational tale of courage tugged from 13-year-old Lizzie’s connections with her family and dearest friend, Matias. This middle-grade novel will charge young readers to think about their own lives and whether their willing to go the distance to save their own family and friends.

“I don’t remember if I ran, but maybe I did. I don’t remember how my heart felt, except for the squirm of it, like it was riding a carousel inside my chest.” (pg. 96)

Using the victim impact statement as a story-telling device, Lizzie takes us on the road to recovering her missing Uncle Davy and her friend Matias, but to take the journey, she says we must first understand who they are. We’re given glimpses of life in Matias’ homeland of El Salvadore — the beauty and the violence — and in many ways Lizzie’s journey to save them is like stepping foot into those El Salvadorean jungles where fear takes hold and makes things larger than life, scarier than they may be … at least in the Adirondacks. William Sulit’s watercolor renderings from Matias are beautiful and add a sense of wonder to the story, providing us a glimpse of what his art could be.

“‘I heard it roar. The loudest commotion you ever heard. Like an old man snoring through a megaphone that had been slapped against my ear.'” (pg. 289-90)

I was swept up in this story of Lizzie, her famous antique finding Uncle Davy, and her artistic friend Matias. I loved that Lizzie wanted to be brave and to find her family but at the same time her limitations are realistic. The woods carry a mystical quality for our young biologist, especially since she’s as entranced by her friend Matias’ paintings as she is enchanted by the natural world. She holds tight to memories and her family, but she also holds tight to knowledge, including the knowledge in The Art of Keppy, a practical guide for woodland explorers. My only moment of confusion and pause came when a character (who really isn’t) appears as Lizzie tells us what happened to the escapees and how this “character” had been tricked. This sequence took me out of Lizzie’s story and I was disoriented for a moment. I’ve debated whether this was intentional or not, but regardless, I wanted back into Lizzie’s world … to know what happened.

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, with illustrations from William Sulit, looks at the consequences of choice for the young protagonist, Lizzie. She chooses to leave her mother alone for the summer and be with her uncle in the woods and with her summer friend. She chooses to run after Matias when she learns he is missing, getting lost herself. When she returns home to find her uncle gone and police looking for escapees, she must make another choice and that choice can have the most dire of consequences. Would you have the same courage, touched with naivete? Does she make the right decisions? Many of these questions are not answered, but it would be a great book club discussion.

RATING: QUATRAIN

Other Books Reviewed:

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country

Mailbox Monday #567

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Engagement Gift by Lauren Blakely from Audible.

Some things are better left unsaid.

Besides, I don’t need to act on every wild thought that flits through my imagination, not when my fiancé and I have the kind of life I’ve always longed for – passionate, intimate, and, oh, so real.

I can’t risk losing him, so I focus on building our life together as a couple, expanding my career as a sports reporter, and prepping for our wedding. But the more insistent my thoughts become, the closer I get to telling him what I want most…

The question though is: What will happen to our unbreakable bond when I do?

Mr. Darcy’s Fault: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Novella by Regina Jeffers, a freebie.

What if an accident prevents Elizabeth Bennet from reading Mr. Darcy’s letter of apology? What if said letter goes missing and ends up in the hands of George Wickham? What if Mr. Wickham plans to use the evidence of both Georgiana Darcy’s ruination and Darcy’s disdain for the Bennets to his benefit? How will Darcy counter Wickham’s plans and claim happiness with Elizabeth Bennet?

When he notices his long-time enemy in the vicinity of Hunsford Cottage, FITZWILLIAM DARCY means to put an end to an assignation between ELIZABETH BENNET and Mr. Wickham, but Darcy is not prepared for the scene which greets him in Rosings Woods. Elizabeth lies injured and crumpled beneath one of trees, and in order to save her, by Society’s standards, Darcy must compromise Elizabeth. Needless to say, Darcy does not mind claiming Elizabeth to wife, but what of the lady’s affections? Can Darcy tolerate Elizabeth’s emotions being engaged elsewhere?

Compelled into an engagement she least desires, Elizabeth Bennet thinks it impossible she could ever care for the arrogant Mr. Darcy, but the man proves more irresistible than Elizabeth first assumes. Yet, just when Elizabeth begins to believe happiness is within their grasps, Mr. Wickham reappears in her life with a “proposal” Elizabeth cannot refuse, and it is all Mr. Darcy’s fault.

What did you receive?

Scattered Clouds by Reuben Jackson

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 130 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate


When you have fate kick your butt and keep you from getting a poetry collection you’ve been eager to read (especially when you want to be at a reading), does that lead you to enjoy the collection even more when you finally get a copy?

This is my question because this was my journey to getting Reuben Jackson’s new collection. But I digress.


Scattered Clouds by Reuben Jackson is like a best hits record, but it’s also a deeply personal look at Washington, D.C., love in all of its incarnations, and the power of music (in this case Jazz). “Fingering the Keys” is a section of previously published poems by Jackson, giving readers some initial flavor of his work as he reflects on his younger years, roadtrips with his father, the harsh realities of being black in America. But as a kid you don’t always understand why you can’t do certain things like stay in that roadside teepee shaped motel in South Carolina. In “on the road,” the narrator speaks about the bargain struck with his dad to stay the night, but then says, “it worked,// so why did he return without/room keys?”

Each of these line breaks and pauses are like an interlude in which the undercurrent of the head in the music of Jackson’s poems comes to the fore full force, knocking the reader off their feet and sending their mind into overdrive. There are many of these “aha” or “Mmmhmmm” moments where readers are like I understand and I see where you are and what’s going on, even in the most innocent of moments. When we’re young and trying to find out who we are and want to be, we experiment, but there are those of us judged more harshly for experimenting outside “the comfort zone.”

a lonely affair

even the most die-hard liberals
have their moments;

like the man wearing the
end apartheid button
who followed me across his bookstore;

Jackson is well aware of the power of word choice when he speaks about the man’s bookstore, knowing full well that though this man is liberal, the narrator is from outside his known community and should be followed. Is he following him because he wants to talk, to share, or simply to monitor, to prevent, to presume? In “a lonely affair,” our narrator continues along his path, lonely as it may be, to ensure revolution does not fizzle out. By being there, out in the world and reading his poems, he’s affecting change.

“sunday brunch” has to be my favorite poem in this collection. The matter-of-fact response and sarcasm is priceless. I refuse to ruin the surprise, but how would you answer “Where do your parents summer?”

The section of “city songs” will transport you D.C. and beyond in ways you don’t expect. Readers are thrown into the deep pit of tragedy and sorrow, of borrowed breaths, and deep loneliness even in urban landscapes. The intimacy of the first section gives way to the wider world — it intrudes upon the intimacy and wrenches away the slightest sense of shelter. We’ve moved into a world where culture bears heavily down on those who do not fit neatly in it. Rather than change the tone, Jackson’s language almost lulls the reader into each situation, letting the reality of them seep under the skin.

“sky blues” is the crescendo of the collection, exploring the beauty of late-in-life love — a mutual respect and passion for the fullness of who we are. In the poems of the “Amir & Khadijah: A Suite,” Jackson becomes lyrical with love, the kind of love that can buoy a spirit in rough tides and become a lift of spirit. It’s Jackson’s song of hope, either for himself or for all of us. His heart is full of love and it is reaching out to us in line after line searching for connection.

Here, too, we find Jackson’s poem for Trayvon Martin as an angel guides the young boy home, away from danger. These final poems nod to the past and the struggles, with a hope for the future. Scattered Clouds by Reuben Jackson is the balm for the sting of “real” American life, laced with a hope that we can overcome, persevere, and take the lessons we’ve learned from those lost to us and apply them to our future selves to create a better tomorrow. It’s the coverage we need away from the storm without forgetting that storms do come.


I cannot urge you enough to buy these collection. Rarely do I outright tell you to buy something, but if you buy one poetry collection this year, let it be this one.


RATING: Cinquain

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus

Source: Gift
Paperback, 68 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, is another adventure with kindergartner Junie B. She’s a child whose had the full attention of her parents for all five years of her life, but things are changing, and she’s about to get a baby sibling.

What happens when she learns her baby broker is a cute little “monkey” is hilarious.

Junie B. believes her brother is unique and now sees why her parents wallpapered the baby room in a jungle theme. This little monkey will make her the most popular kid in school, especially when her two best friends vie for the honor of the first to see him in person. My daughter and I are having a grand old time laughing at Junie B. when she often repeats “and so” and “guess what … that’s what.”

My daughter is also still correcting Junie B.’s words like “bended.” I love that she’s paying attention to what she’s reading and correcting Junie B. This means she’s making progress in her reading skills, and that couldn’t make me prouder after these last two years of struggles.

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, is a fun story about not taking advantage of your friends and learning to pay closer attention to what adults are saying and not taking it so literally.

RATING: Quatrain

The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely (audio)

Source: Audible Purchase
Audiobook, 19+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Sebastian York, is a delectable treat with the uber sexy voice of Sebastian York at the help. The duet of books in the series follow Joy Delivered CEO Jack Sullivan and Co-CEO Casey Sullivan as they navigate not only sex toy business affairs, but also unexpected seduction. This steamy set of books will hear up your days and are what I would call ear candy. Very light on complex plots but heavy on seduction and play.

In “Nights with Him,” what can Jack Sullivan do when he realizes his one night stand is the same Dr. Milo he has a therapy appointment with the next morning? Sullivan is in need of therapy after losing his fiancée in a tragic accident for which he blames himself but not in the way the wonderful paparazzi and media think. Michelle Milo is a no-nonsense woman who is very focused on her career and earning respect from her colleagues. In a business deal, therapy is punted to another therapist while he pursues more than a one-night stand with Michelle. But perhaps this kind of therapy is what he needs.

In “Forbidden Nights,” Casey Sullivan has been direct and a true business leader, but some of her boyfriends have said they don’t like her controlling ways in the bedroom. Hotel mogul Nate Harper has been her friend for many years, and he’s her best guy friend, but what happens when they cross that invisible line when Casey asks for his help in letting go? Nate agrees because his fantasy can become reality but he knows he cannot be her true love. Being with his best friend, Nate soon begins to realize what he’s been missing since his divorce. How will they navigate their new relationship? Will they both back away and return to friendship land, or will they take a leap into the unknown, all the while screaming into the passionate night?What happens when years of desire and lust ignite a passion that can’t be denied?

Both of these are high on sex, low on plot and complexity. The characters become entangled with one another at any time, any place, and any where. The scandal with Michelle and Jack is wrapped up quickly and vanishes just as fast, even as it was the biggest obstacle to their kinky happily ever after. Meanwhile, Nate and Casey’s story is a bit more sweet, romantic, and sexy. The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Sebastian York, is a piece of dark chocolate that you want to swallow whole while also wanting to let it melt in your mouth. Delectable, at times dirty and erotic, but entertaining.

Rating: Tercet

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #566

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Seeking Mr. Dependable: The Jane Austen Pact by Cami Checketts, a freebie.

A broken-hearted Romeo. A wrongly-accused woman. Can he keep her safe if she puts her life in his hands?

Brooke Isaacson’s ex-fiancé pulls a gun on her and she has no choice but to run. When she runs straight to Wyoming and into the arms of Ryker Redland, she’s not sure if she’s found her Mr. Dependable or found the biggest heartbreak of her life.

A deserted cabin and a territorial grizzly tracking them will either bring them together or be their death sentence.

Love Like This by Sophie Love, a freebie.

Keira Swanson, 28, lands her dream job at Viatorum, a slick magazine in New York City, as an aspiring travel writer. But their culture is brutal, her boss is a monster, and she doesn’t know if she can last for long.

That changes when Keira, by a fluke, is handed a coveted assignment and given her big chance: to travel to Ireland for 30 days, witness the legendary Lisdoonvarna festival of love, and to debunk the myth that true love exists. Keira, cynical herself and in a rocky place with her long-term boyfriend, is all too happy to oblige.

But when Keira falls in love with Ireland and meets her Irish tour guide, who just may be the man of her dreams, she is no longer sure of anything.

A whirlwind romantic comedy that is as profound as it is funny, LOVE LIKE THIS is book #1 in the debut of a dazzling new romance series that will make you laugh, cry, and will keep you turning pages late into the night—and will make you fall in love with romance all over again.

Malcolm and Me by Ishmael Reed from Audible.

In 1960, Ishmael Reed, then an aspiring young writer, interviewed Malcolm X for a local radio station in Buffalo, New York. The encounter cost Reed his job and changed his life. In Malcolm and Me, Reed, acclaimed author of such classic novels as Mumbo Jumbo and winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, reveals a side of Malcolm X the public has never seen before, while exploring how the civil rights firebrand influenced his own views on working, living, speaking out, and left a mark on generations of artists and activists.

Malcolm X was one of the most influential human rights activists in history and his views on race, religion, and fighting back changed America and the world. Reed gives us a clear-eyed view of what the man was really like—beyond the headlines and the myth-making. Malcolm and Me is a personal look at the development of an artist and a testament to how chance encounters we have in our youth can transform who we are and the world we live in.

Alone with the Stars by David R. Gillham, Hillary Huber, and Emily Bauer from Audible.

In the summer of 1937, Amelia Earhart is the most famous woman in the world—a record-breaking pilot, a best-selling author, and a modern woman shattering the glass ceiling in the early days of aviation. And then she vanished.

But a series of intercepted radio signals just might save her in this historical fiction audiobook from the acclaimed, New York Times best-selling author of City of Women, David R. Gillham. Award-winning narrators Emily Bauer and Hillary Huber create an account that brings light to that specific time and place.

In Tampa, Florida, 15-year-old Lizzie Friedlander spends her afternoons glued to her father’s radio, tapping into the enormity of a world she longs to travel. Lizzie can hardly believe her ears when she picks up a radio signal from a faraway source that sets her heart racing: “Amelia Earhart calling SOS!”

As Lizzie copies down the transmissions, it’s clear that the famed Amelia Earhart is not lost at sea, as the newspapers are dreading, but alive and calling for help. In a race against time, Lizzie must convince the local Coast Guard that the radio transmissions were real and that Earhart’s life hangs in the balance. But will anyone believe her?

Written for audio by David R. Gillham, Alone with the Stars is a breathtaking and illuminating fictional tribute to a woman who risked her life in pursuit of new heights and the young girl who tried desperately to save her. Inspired by actual events, Alone with the Stars reveals, in riveting detail, the final moments in the life of a great heroine, whose courage changed the world forever.

Break Shot: My First 21 Years: An Audio Memoir by James Taylor from Audible.

“I’m James Taylor, and I’m a professional autobiographer.” So begins the tender audio memoir Break Shot: My First 21 Years. Through decades of songs by the celebrated folk legend who brought us “Fire and Rain” and “Carolina in My Mind”, James Taylor has doled out details of his life in the poetry of his work. Taylor says his early life is “the source of many of my songs”, and Break Shot is a tour of his first 21 years in rich, new detail. Combining storytelling, music and performance, this one-of-a-kind listening experience also features a crop of musical gems, including an unreleased recording of the beloved hymn “Jerusalem” and selections from his newest release, American Standard, as well as new original scoring by Taylor specially recorded for Break Shot and more.

Recorded in his home studio, TheBarn in western Massachusetts, Break Shot tells the deeply personal story of Taylor’s youth, which is entwined with the story of his family. What started as an idyllic tight unit soon became a family sent to different emotional corners – like a break shot in the game of pool, he says, “when you slam the cue ball into the 15 other balls and they all go flying off”.

Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist from Audible.

In this book, New York Times best-selling author Shauna Niequist invites you to consider the landscape of your own life, and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.

As she puts it: “A few years ago, I found myself exhausted and isolated, my soul and body sick. I was tired of being tired, burned out on busy. And, it seemed almost everyone I talked with was in the same boat: longing for connection, meaning, depth, but settling for busy. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, writer, and I know all too well that settling feeling. But over the course of the last few years, I’ve learned a way to live, marked by grace, love, rest, and play. And it’s changing everything. Present Over Perfect is an invitation to this journey that changed my life. I’ll walk this path with you, a path away from frantic pushing and proving, and toward your essential self, the one you were created to be before you began proving and earning for your worth.”

In Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours, too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.

Shauna offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people that matter most to us.

What did you receive?

Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll

Source: Publisher
ebook, 406 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll finds Elizabeth Bennet and her sister at Netherfield like they were in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride & Prejudice.

While at Netherfield nursing her sister back to health, Elizabeth comes to realize that her first impressions of Mr. Darcy may have been wrong. At the same time, through teasing, she makes him realize that he may have been hasty in his opinion of her. As they continue to be in each other’s company, will they come to realize that they are more alike and complementary to one another than they initially thought?

These two begin to share their love of poetry and intellectual conversation. They start to view one another as friends, even if they do continue to verbally spar. Mr. Wickham arrives on the scene and their friendship, which is blatantly obvious to the scoundrel, hatches a plan.

“She has no beauty! I have twenty thousand pounds!”

Moll’s Elizabeth is outspoken and braver than the Lizzy in Austen’s novel. She makes the first move in some situations where she should be reserved. This, however, is not to say that she diverges too far from Austen’s character. The machinations of Mr. Wickham and Miss Bingley, though not in concert, are even more devious. I love that Moll made Wickham and Bingley more evil than in Austen’s book. Both of these characters know what they want and what their motivations are and they are committed to the last. Watch out Elizabeth and Darcy.

Bingley and Jane find their happiness more quickly but little else has changed, though there is no chance meeting at Hunsford for Darcy and Elizabeth. All of these changes are well done and not missed when Moll’s book unfolds.

Unfortunately, after Darcy and Lizzy get together and past all of their misconceptions and worries, the pace quickens. The novel fast forwards to when they are already married. As these chapters propel the reader into the future of their lives, I felt as though I was missing some great moments of connection between them. Aside from that, Darcy and Lizzy have a balance in their relationship that they hadn’t had before. Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll is a heartwarming novel that brings Darcy and Elizabeth together in a way that makes them partners in all things. Partnerships in love are the best kind.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Heather Moll is an avid reader of mysteries and biographies with a master’s in
information science. She found Jane Austen later than she should have and made up for lost time by devouring Austen’s letters and unpublished works, joining JASNA, and spending too much time researching the Regency era. She is the author of Two More Days at Netherfield and His Choice of a Wife. She lives with her husband and son and struggles to balance all of the important things, like whether to clean the house or write. Connect with her on Facebook,
Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ecopy at each blog stop of the Two More Days at Netherfield blog tour. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose one random winner after Feb. 21, 2020. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway: Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match by Kelly Miller

Today’s guest is Kelly Miller who is here to talk about her latest release, Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match.

Before we get to her guest post about the ghosts in the Tower of London, let’s learn a little bit about the book.

About the Book:

When secrets are revealed and a family agenda works against him, can Fitzwilliam Darcy recover his damaged spirits and find happiness?

Following his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to London from Kent broken-hearted and dejected. One bright spot penetrates his sea of despair: his sister, Georgiana, has finally recovered her spirits from the grievous events at Ramsgate the previous summer. She has forged a new friendship with Miss Hester Drake, a lady who appears to be an ideal friend. In fact, Lady Matlock believes Miss Drake is Darcy’s perfect match.

Upon Elizabeth Bennet’s arrival at the Gardiners’ home from Kent, she finds that her sister Jane remains despondent over her abandonment by Mr. Bingley. But Elizabeth has information that might bring them together. She convinces her Uncle Gardiner to write a letter to Mr. Bingley providing key facts supplied to her by Mr. Darcy.

When Mr. Bingley discovers that his friend and sisters colluded to keep Jane’s presence in London from him, how will he respond? Given the chance, will Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their past misunderstandings? What will Darcy do when his beloved sister becomes a hindrance towards winning the lady he loves?

Without further ado, please give Kelly a warm welcome.

In Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, the primary characters visit The Tower of London, a location with a grisly and controversial history. A number of ghosts have been associated with this famous tourist attraction. Luckily, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth do not encounter them in my story, yet I thought it would be interesting to examine the ghostly reports that have been made over the years.

The White Tower, from which the Tower of London got its name, was built in 1078 on orders of William the Conqueror. A total of 133 confirmed executions were performed at the Tower of London. The first of these executions was of Sir Simon Burley on May 5, 1388, for the crime of “Supporting the King’s struggle for absolute power.”

One victim of the most common method of execution employed at the tower, beheading, was a Darcy: Lord Thomas Darcy of Templehurst, who met his end on June 30, 1537. His alleged crime was noted as “Treasonable Correspondence with Robert Aske re Pilgrimage of Grace (a widespread uprising against Henry VIII).”

The last confirmed execution was of Josef Jacobs on August 15, 1941, by firing squad for the crime of “Spying.”

A number of former inhabitants of the tower have reportedly been seen over the years in ghostly form. King Henry VI, who had been imprisoned in 1465 by his cousin Edward IV, is believed by historians to have been killed at Edward’s command. Henry VI lost his life on the evening of May 21, 1471. It is said that Henry VI’s ghost appears each year at the anniversary of his death in the Wakefield Tower where he met his end.

The two princes, Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, were imprisoned in the tower by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester in 1483. The so-called Lord Protector had declared his nephews to be illegitimate, and ascended to the throne as Richard III. The two princes were never seen again after the summer of 1483 and were presumed murdered by Richard III. Richard III had already ordered the deaths of the boys’ uncle, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl of Rivers, and half-brother, Sir Richard Grey. Ghostly sightings of the two princes have been reported since the 15th century. Many have seen the ghosts clinging to one another and sobbing, but a more recent sighting in 1990 described the ghostly princes to be giggling.

Queen Anne Boleyn was charged by her husband King Henry VIII of treason, adultery, and incest (with her brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford), and imprisoned in the tower. She was found guilty on May 15, 1536. George Boleyn and other men accused of being the queen’s lovers were also found guilty and executed. Queen Anne Boleyn met her end on May 19, 1536, a beheading accomplished with the single stroke of an expert swordsman. The following poem is thought to have been written either by Queen Anne Boleyn or her brother George Boleyn as they awaited their fate:

“O Death Rock Me Asleep”

O death! rock me asleep,
Bring me on quiet rest;
Yet pass my guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast:
Toll on the passing bell,
Ring out the doleful knell,
Let the sound of my death tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy,
For now I die
My pains who can express?
Alas! they are so strong,
My dolor will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong:
Toll on the passing bell, etc.
Alone, in prison strong,
I wail my destiny,
Wo worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery:
Toll on the passing bell, etc.
Farewell my pleasures past,
Welcome my present pain;
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now the passing bell,
Rung is my doleful knell,
For the sound my death doth tell,
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound my end dolefully,
For now I die.

Although the ghost of Anne Boleyn has been sighted many times in or around the church near the tower, at times carrying her head under her arm, a famous sighting occurred in 1864 by General Dundas. The general reported seeing a ghostly white figure floating towards a guard in the courtyard of the tower. The guard charged her with bayonet raised and moved right through her. At the realization that he had seen a ghost, the guard fainted.

Margaret Pole, the former Countess of Salisbury, was imprisoned in the tower for being a part of the Pilgrimage of Grace two and a half years before her execution on May 27, 1541. Warring testimony accounts for the brutal manner of her death. One witness stated that an inexperienced axeman took eleven blows to affect her death; another claimed that the extra blows were due to Lady Salisbury’s attempt to run away from her fate.

The following poem had been carved upon the wall of the countess’s cell:

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!

Over the years, Lady Salisbury’s screams have been heard and her ghostly form seen on the tower green; others have reported seeing the giant shadow of an axe coming down at the site of the countess’s execution.

Some visitors to the White Tower have reported a most disturbing crushing sensation while in the room where Henry VIII’s armor is displayed. Fortunately, this frightening sensation disappears once they leave the room.

Lady Jane Grey and her husband Lord Guilford Dudley were sentenced to death by Mary I and were killed on February 12, 1554. Lord Dudley is said to haunt Beauchamp Tower by weeping in his cell late into the night, and is thought to be responsible for the word “Jane” etched upon the wall. Lady Jane’s ghost has been seen wandering the battlements alone.

Lady Arabella Stuart was imprisoned in the tower and died in 1615. She may have been murdered but others say she succumbed from her own refusal to eat. She is said to haunt the Queen’s house and has often been seen weeping.

Even the animals from the Royal Menagerie have reportedly haunted their former living space. Visitors have reported hearing the cries of animals long dead. In 1815, a sentry was outside the jewel house when he was approached by the ghost of a bear. The incident was supposed to have so traumatized the man that he passed away weeks later.

I love a good ghost story! 🙂 I would love to visit the Towers of London to see some. 😉

And now, for that moment you’ve been waiting for — an excerpt from Miller’s latest book, Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match.

In this excerpt, Darcy meets Georgiana’s new friend Miss Hester Drake for the first time at
the Darcy town home in London.

At the faint knock upon the door of his study, Darcy called out, “Enter.” He stood and the line of his mouth softened into a smile as his sister slipped into the room and stood before his desk. “Yes, Georgie?”

She skimmed the papers on his desk before facing him. “I wanted to remind you that my friend Miss Drake is due to arrive in thirty minutes. You did say you wished to meet her today.”

A depth of compassion swelled within him at the sight of his sister’s slumped posture and hesitant tone. His introduction to her friend meant a great deal to her. Darcy had been trying, for her sake, to act as though all was well. Had he been successful? With luck, his sister’s new friend would distract her from noticing anything amiss. “I have not forgotten. I shall join you after she arrives.”

Georgiana responded with a brilliant smile. Her words rushed out. “Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I need to go now and prepare.” His sister dashed from the room.

***

Darcy timed his appearance in the east sitting room for ten minutes into the call. The ladies and their companions rose at his entrance.

With a grin, Georgiana came forward to stand beside him. “Miss Drake and Miss Green, please allow me to present my brother, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Brother, this is my friend Miss Drake and her companion, Miss Green.”

After he bowed to their curtsies, Darcy surveyed the young lady and her companion.

Both displayed smiles and were well dressed with Miss Drake in the more expensive, stylish cut of gown as appropriate for her station. “Miss Drake, Miss Green, it is a pleasure to meet you both.” Both ladies replied in the usual way and took their seats at his urging.

Darcy forced himself to smile. Miss Drake was a pretty, poised young lady with reddish-brown hair, flawless, ivory skin, and an oval face. Her piercing green eyes—not as fine as Miss Elizabeth’s brown, expressive eyes but still quite attractive—seemed to indicate a keen mind. The lady had an admirable, full figure though not as light and pleasing as Miss Elizabeth’s form. What was he doing? Blast! He had to cease referring to Miss Elizabeth! He turned away, ran a hand through his hair, and took a seat across from Miss Drake. A moment later, his smile was back in place. “I hope your family is well. I attended university with your brother James, though we have not spoken in a long while.”

Miss Drake’s dulcet voice was infused with esprit. “Yes, Mr. Darcy. My family is exceedingly well. My brother James and his wife recently returned from an extended stay in Margate.”

He nodded and broadened his smile; it was the expected response. “I have been to Margate several times. It is a lovely town. When you see him, please pass on my best wishes.”

The young lady’s eyes held a vivid sheen. “I thank you. I shall do so.”

Darcy continued to chat with Miss Drake, but he also directed a couple of polite questions to Miss Green. At his first query, the companion sputtered in her response and her eyes widened; she had not expected to be addressed by him. And why would she? He would not have done so in the past—not before Miss Elizabeth’s chastisement. Blast and damn—he was not to think of her! Yet it was due to her alone that he strove to make improvements in his conduct. It was a shame she would never know of it.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Darcy rose. “I shall leave you ladies to yourselves. It was very nice to have met you, Miss Drake, Miss Green.” With a bow, he retreated from the room and made his way back to his study.

About the Author:

Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match is her second novel published by Meryton Press. Her first was the Regency novel Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy. Her third novel, Accusing Mr. Darcy, will be released later in 2020. Visit Kelly’s blog page, her on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match Blog Schedule

January 27 Austenesque Reviews

January 28 My Jane Austen Book Club

January 29 Austenprose

January 30 So Little Time…

January 31 Babblings of a Bookworm

February 3 More Agreeably Engaged

February 4 Savvy Verse & Wit

February 6 Donadee’s Corner

February 7 Diary of an Eccentric

February 10 From Pemberley to Milton

February 11 My Vices and Weaknesses

Mailbox Monday #565

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Persuasion: Behind the Scenes by Maria Grace and Susan Mason-Millk, a freebie.

You pierce my soul.

Before Jane Austen wrote that romantic letter from Captain Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot, she crafted a masterful story of heartbreak and longing that still resonates with readers today.

But what of those scenes that Jane Austen never wrote? What Persuasion fan doesn’t want to listen in on Anne and Wentworth’s first courtship, laugh at the follies and foibles of the Elliot family, sail along on Captain Wentworth’s harrowing adventures at sea or attend Wentworth and Anne’s wedding.

Twelve authors of Austen-inspired fiction: Diana Birchall, Marilyn Brant, Jack Caldwell, L.L. Diamond, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Kara Louise, Susan Mason-Milks, Jane Odiwe, C. Allyn Pierson, Mary Lydon Simonsen, and Shannon Winslow collaborated to put this unique collection that fills in “missing” scenes from Austen’s classic work, sure to delight any true Persuasion fan.

Jane and the Visitors from Pemberley by Margaret Lynette Sharp, a freebie.

A Short story — Fifteen-year-old Isobel, the youngest daughter of Jane and Charles Bingley, is overjoyed when, despite her mama’s misgivings, she is allowed to go on holiday with her friends at Brighton. Will this high-spirited young woman somehow manage to behave with uncharacteristic decorum? Or will history repeat itself?

Liz and Darcy, Part 1 Boardroom Battle by Kelsie Fann, a freebie.

Will Darcy’s pride bankrupt Liz?

When Liz Bailey discovers she only has 24 hours to save her southern media company, she leaps to the quickest solution: find a buyer, fast.

Chicago based investor Darcy Williams isn’t interested in the poorly run business. . . until his nemesis shows up.

The new buyer instantly attracts Liz. He’s beautiful, charming, and he has deep enough pockets to save the company.

Except he’s broke, and Darcy knows it. Now Darcy has to chose. Does he care enough to save Liz’s company? Or should he leave and let her deal with the fallout?

Will Darcy let himself fall into the land of sweet tea and seersucker before it’s too late? Or will the clock run out on Liz’s southern charm?

Love and Other Machines by Alix James, a freebie.

Her life was going smoothly until love threw a wrench into it.

Her uncle’s pet and her mother’s trial, Elizabeth Bennet has always been… different. Blessed with a quick mind and a knack for all things mechanical, sometimes the simplest things—like love—are harder for her to fix.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is anything but simple. A gentleman by birth but an engineer at heart, he wastes no time in dismantling Elizabeth’s secret. The gentleman, however, has secrets of his own that cause him to linger, to falter, and then to risk everything.

A chance journey with Elizabeth’s uncle to Mr Bingley’s factory in Birmingham had seemed the ideal opportunity to indulge her fascination without risk to her reputation. But a lady of gentle birth and modest means must never tinker with machinery, and most certainly should not have grease on her cheek.

What began as a mechanical challenge becomes a personal test when rioters and old enemies turn the tables. Can Elizabeth and Darcy work together, or will the gears spin out of control?

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Nicole Lewis, purchased from Audible.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At 25, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn, Eric G. Dove, purchased from Audible.

With nothing but the clothes on his back – and something horrific snapping at his heels – Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in a trucker’s rearview mirror, he thought he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever.

Now, years later, the bright new future he’s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead.

Surviving a violent car crash seems like a miracle for Jack’s family, but Jack knows there’s nothing divine about it. The profound evil he uncovered as a boy has finally found him again. The thing that crouched at his bedside with soulless eyes and grinning, razor-sharp teeth is back with plans for Jack and his angelic youngest daughter, and a chilling promise: I’ve always been here, and I’ll never leave.

Wasted Words by Staci Hart, a freebie.

Some universal truths refuse to be ignored.

Peanut butter and jelly are a match made in heaven. Spaghetti and meatballs are best friends forever. And guys like Tyler Knight don’t go for girls like Cam Emerson.

She knew from the second she met him that he didn’t belong on her bookshelf, the six-foot-six ex-tight end with a face so all-American, it could have sold apple pie. So she shelved him next to the supermodels and rock stars and took her place on her own shelf — the one with the flannel-clad, pasty-faced comic book nerds. Most of her boyfriends have existed between the pages of books, but rather than worrying over her own lacking love life, she puts all her energy into playing Cupid, using her job at the book bar, Wasted Words, as her stomping ground.

Tyler Knight always looks on the bright side. His career-ending injury turned into a job as a sports agent. A horrible breakup led him to Cam, his quirky, smart roommate who is far more beautiful than she realizes. She’s made it perfectly clear she’s not interested in him — not like that at least — but if she ever changes her mind, he won’t hesitate. Because he doesn’t see the lines she’s drawn between them, as much as she insists that they’re there. Deep down he knows that despite their differences, they’re a match well made.

What did you receive?