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Excerpt & Giveaway: A Learned Romance by Elizabeth Rasche

Welcome to another great Jane-Austen inspired novel guest post, excerpt, and giveaway.

Elizabeth Rasche’s latest novel, A Learned Romance, focuses on Mary Bennet, the most practical and religious sister. Read about the book:

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning”–Jane Austen, Persuasion, chapter 4

MARY BENNET HAD NEVER WISHED for anything more than to be known as the meek and pious Bennet sister, the one who sweetly brought peace to her family.

BEING THE LAST UNMARRIED BENNET SISTER, the pressure to partake of a London Season with the nouveau riche Wickhams was considerable, no matter how little she desired it; but, her young sister Lydia would not hear a refusal. Mary hoped she could pass her days as quietly as a mouse and maybe encourage her still-wild sister to become a more demure wife and stop quarrelling so much with her husband.

BUT WHEN LYDIA’S FLIRTATION with scientist begins stirring gossip, Mary discovers it is not enough to stay meek and quiet. She must protect Lydia’s reputation by drawing the man’s attentions her way, and convincing the world it is Mary, not Lydia, who attracts Mr Cole. If she fails, Lydia’s disgrace will taint every family member connected with her—Bennet, Bingley, and Darcy alike—and Mary will have no hope for her own future. But alluring a gentleman is hardly the sort of practice Mary has a knack for. Though it goes against every fibre of her being, Mary must turn aside from the peace she craves and uncover the belle within—all while finding her heart awakening in the illusion of romance she has created.

Don’t you just want to know what happens? I love to see wallflowers come into their own.

Now, for today’s excerpt! Enjoy and give Elizabeth a warm welcome:

Hi Serena!

I am so honored to be share this excerpt of A Learned Romance with you and your readers and to connect with readers who also love Jane Austen’s characters. I hope you’ll enjoy A Learned Romance, especially if you’ve been speculating what Mary Bennet’s life might have been like once Jane, Lizzy, and Lydia were married.

Mary accepted her sister’s invitation, sensing Lizzy wanted more than a discussion of what books to purchase. Sure enough, as the Darcy carriage launched into the flood of coaches and carts swelling the road, Lizzy’s brow furrowed with worry.

“I want to talk with you about Lydia. She is as heedless as usual with this Mr Cole. If she goes any further, her respectability as a married woman will be at serious risk.”

Mary twisted the strings of her reticule on her lap. It was nice to feel her sister deemed her worthy as an ally, and Mary felt a small satisfaction that her predictions of grave results might yet prove true, but in her heart of hearts she dreaded interfering. She liked the idea of being the patient consoler in the aftermath of a great scandal, but she had no desire to be an active participant, not even in preventing it. “I fear the same, although I do not see what I can do about it. Lydia does not listen to me.”

Lizzy’s tone was sympathetic, but firm. “You are living in their household. Should Lydia be deemed less than respectable, you will share in that judgment more than the rest of us. That is a great disadvantage—but being in their household also means that you are uniquely placed to help avert a catastrophe.”

Mary slouched a little in her seat. “I cannot do anything. Lydia always goes her own way. She will not do anything just because I tell her.”

Lizzy took her hand. “I have thought of that. You cannot disassemble this flirtation of Lydia’s from her side. Anything we do to try to persuade her will only spur her on more recklessly.”

“Then what?”

“You must work on Mr Cole instead.”

Mary blinked in surprise. “But I do not know him. Why would he listen to me?”

Lizzy leaned back a little. Her increased ease made Mary wary; it meant Lizzy thought she could bring Mary round to her way of thinking. And Lizzy is usually right. Mary squared her shoulders and tried to look imperturbable as Lizzy said, “He may be a sensible man; perhaps all you will need to do is drop him a hint, or tell him outright it would be better for him to stop flirting with Lydia.”

“And if he is not so sensible?” Experience had taught Mary that Lydia’s friends usually were not sensible people.

“Then you must draw his attention away—split it between you and Lydia. There will still be gossip, but it will mean less if the world is not sure who Mr Cole favours. Indeed, if they think she was only paying him attention for your sake, it will be very respectable indeed.”

Mary’s dry laugh hurt her chest, as though it scraped against an old wound. “Attract a gentleman myself? And worse, one who likes Lydia first? Lizzy, this is a poor joke.”

“You can do it. We are a handsome family, every one of us. You think you are not pretty because you wear old clothes and compare yourself to Jane. None of us are anything compared to Jane.” Lizzy’s eyes crinkled in a rueful expression, showing she had had similar feelings.

“You think that because you have made a brilliant match, we are all capable of it. I assure you, I am not.”

“You are pretty and intelligent, and you have a good heart. You can turn this Mr Cole about your finger if you so choose,” Lizzy insisted.

“Nonsense! I could not, and I would not if I could.” Mary’s chin jerked down. “It is wrong to engage in idle flirtation.”

“Is it idle when it saves Lydia’s reputation?”

“The ends do not justify the means.” Mary knew she sounded sententious, but she clung to her idea of virtue to avoid being swept away by Lizzy’s intensity—and a secret gleam of interest of her own. Was it true? Could Mary be the sort of person Lizzy imagined, a wily, charming belle who snatched men from the grasp of her sister? It seemed a ridiculous dream, but one with a glamour that intrigued her despite herself.

“Are there not examples in the Bible of women laying out to attract men for the greater good?” Lizzy said.

Mary could not resist the opportunity to display her scriptural knowledge. “I am no Esther, nor am I Ruth.”

“I am only saying that your morals need not cavil at such a project.” When Mary hesitated, Lizzy made the most of it, bearing down with an entreaty Mary found hard to resist. “Please, Mary. It is for the good of the whole family, and Lydia’s as well. Surely you do not wish to see her scorned and shunned?”

A sliver of guilt slid into Mary’s gut. She had entertained thoughts of some disaster befalling the Wickhams, and readied herself to deal with it—was that not wishing ill on them? Of course I do not really wish to see Lydia hurt. But the thought meant little when she compared it to her self-righteous imaginings of the last few weeks, and she felt she had no real evidence of sisterly kindness to prove her heart pure. Doing what Lizzy asked of her would be proof, though.

“I will speak to Mr Cole, then. I cannot promise more.”

“Thank you, Mary. You have relieved Mr Darcy and me of a weighty burden of worry.”

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

After acquiring a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arkansas, Elizabeth taught philosophy in the U.S. and co-taught English in Japan. Now she and her husband live in northwest Arkansas, which is over 4,000 miles from Derbyshire. (Doesn’t everyone measure distance from the center of the world, Pemberley?)

She dreams of visiting Surrey (if only to look for Mrs. Elton’s Maple Grove), London, Bath, and of course, Derbyshire. When she has a Jane Austen novel in one hand, a cup of tea in the other, and a cat on her lap, her day is pretty much perfect.

Elizabeth Rasche is the author of Flirtation and Folly, as well as The Birthday Parties of Dragons. Her poetry has appeared in Scifaikuest.

GIVEAWAY:

The giveaway is international and for an ebook copy of A Learned Romance. One winner per blog stop, and winners will be announced a week after the blog tour ends on the Quills & Quartos Facebook page. Good Luck!

Mailbox Monday #641

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 its 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.

Velvet, 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.

This is what we received:

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and a Corpse (A Cape Bay Cafe Mystery Book 1) by Harper Lin, a Kindle freebie.

Francesca Amaro moves back to her hometown of Cape Bay, Massachusetts, and takes over the family business, Antonia’s Italian Café. She spends her days making delicious artisan cappuccinos, until she stumbles upon her neighbor’s dead body. When the police discover Mr. Cardosi was poisoned, Francesca becomes a suspect.

The victim’s son, Matty, happens to be Francesca’s old high school friend. Together, they uncover the secrets of the locals in order to find the killer in their idyllic beach town.

Includes two special cupcake recipes!

Later by Stephen King, purchased with Audible credits.

SOMETIMES GROWING UP

MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

What did you receive?

Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter

Source: FSB Associates
Paperback, 352 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter is a book focused on not letting rejection and negative thoughts get in the way of your dreams. Carter’s book guides writers through the doubts, negative thoughts, roadblocks, and obstacles of writing and publishing, helping them review their own perspectives and how to change their mindsets.

She begins by talking about her hammock where she daydreamed and thought about her writing, but one day, her neighbor cuts the shade tree down in his yard and the hammock is now not “perfect.” Carter’s thoughts are consumed by the loss of shade and the bright sun, but her husband suggests she moves the hammock to another spot. She’s unwilling to do that, until she realizes that sometimes obstacles pop up when we need to change direction.

“I had traded the powerful peace that I am for the illusion that somebody had taken it,” she says. “You may think, as I did, that someone or something outside you is responsible for your upset. As convincing as this appears, it’s a misconception. Our peace and happiness come from within.”

Our internal demons and thoughts are those that keep us from reaching our dreams, and she urges us to stop being rats on that spinning wheel and get off. We need to release ourselves from the “cage of our own making.” In order to do this, however, you need to know wholeheartedly what you want, especially from your writing. You need to have a clear vision of the writing and its purpose. Without it, agents and external forces can push you in directions that are not a perfect fit for you. While some may provide additional opportunities that you may want to pursue, other opportunities may not be a right fit. The trick is to have a clear vision at the start to recognize those right opportunities.

“We cannot control outside circumstances or thoughts, we can choose how we relate to them.”

Carter does offer some writing advice, but her book is less about craft itself and more about the mindset you need to create freely. She does offer a great deal of insight about choosing agents and publishers and learning what route is best for your writing. Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter is part spiritual journey, part publishing advice, and part writing craft advice.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Bella Mahaya Carter is a creative writing teacher, empowerment coach, speaker, and author of an award-winning memoir, Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy, and a collection of narrative poems. She has worked with hundreds of writers since 2008 and has degrees in literature, film, and spiritual psychology. Her poetry, essays, fiction, and interviews have appeared in Mind, Body, Green; The Sun; Lilith; Fearless Soul; Writer’s Bone; Women Writers, Women’s Books; Chic Vegan; Bad Yogi Magazine; Jane Friedman’s blog; Pick The Brain; the Spiritual Medial Blog; Literary Mama, several anthologies’ and elsewhere.

Guest Post from Brittany Benko, author of Poetic Poetry

Today’s guest article is with Brittany Benko, a poet, freelance writer, and blogger. She’ll be talking about her new book, Poetic Poetry.

First, a little bit about the book:

Poetic Poetry is a poetry collection that speaks to the soul about everyday life. In this collection, you’ll find rhyming and contemporary pieces. Painting a picture with words, readers will enter the world of beaches in the Carolinas, the Blue Ridge Mountains, seasons, love, faith, flowers, the pandemic, the passion of motherhood, experiences with an autistic child, and much more.

Please welcome, Brittany:

When I was thirteen years old, my mom and I moved from a big city to a small beach town in South Carolina. My mother at the time was going through a divorce and wanted to live near her sisters so she could start a new life. The year we moved was 2000, and to this day I still reside in the Palmetto State.

As a poet, I tend to write with passion and life experience. I’ve spent many years enjoying the beach and soaking in its beauty. As a beach local, I’ve become accustomed to the environment. Sights and smells can be easily recognized, and the water has always called out to my soul. This makes it extremely simple to write about a beach environment.

In my book I have a few poems written about the area I live in. My goal was to explain what living in a beach town is like including both pros and cons. It’s effortless to close my eyes and picture the colors in the sky over the ocean, smell the saltwater, and feel the waves hitting my feet in the shallow end of the ocean. I think readers yearn to capture a connection when they read any type of book, and writing about an area they live in can do just that. Plus, it makes it effortless for me to capture imagery and emotions on paper.

As a writer, I like to create stories from a mixture of emotion, experience, knowledge, and passion. I think it’s important to write about what you’re passionate about and what you enjoy. Poetry is something I relish. I like the creative freedom poetry gives the writer, and also the challenge of explaining a topic through rhyming poetry. My goal is to bring back rhyming poetry to the world of poets and poetry readers with as much heart felt moments as I can muster.

Thank you, Brittany, for stopping by the blog today.

Learn more about Brittany in her interview at Laura’s Books & Blogs.

About the Author:

Brittany Benko is a special needs mother, law enforcement wife, self-published author, poetry blogger, and freelance writer. She has been featured as a poet in the Autism Parenting Magazine and the Open Door Poetry Magazine. Brittany is currently working on a children’s picture book about autism spectrum disorder and a poetry collection about law enforcement lifestyle. When Brittany is not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, walks on the beach, reading, and listening to instrumental music. You can connect with Brittany by visiting her two websites: author website and poetry. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Guest Post: Rha Arayal on Poetic Inspiration and Sample Poem from Encapsulated Emotions

Welcome to today’s guest post from U.K. poet Rha Arayal, who’s collection Encapsulated Emotions was published this month.

I love sharing new poets with everyone, and Rha will explore her inspirations and share a sample poem with us. First, let’s learn a little more about the book.

Book Synopsis:

Rha Arayal’s debut poetry collection weaves a compelling story composed of layers of truth and emotion. Encapsulated Emotions gathers a plethora of questions, thoughts, feelings and bottles them up in a powerful three-part collection. Each dynamic line is corded with powerful imagery and descriptive phrases poised to uncover the reader’s deepest thoughts and memories.

Several pieces are coupled with illustrations throughout, offering a visual rendering of Arayal’s words. Sifting through the collection, you will surely catch on the author’s practice of drawing on the natural elements such as the sea, air, sun, and stars to bridge the thread between us and the world around us.

Readers will experience the three umbrella themes of collection, preservation, and decay. In this collection, readers will find pieces threaded with feminism, love, and contemplation. With each page, readers will find themselves consumed by the stirrings of Arayal’s words, breathless for more.

Please welcome, Rha:

Hello! Firstly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to feature on your blog. My name is Rha Arayal and I am a 17 year old poet from the United Kingdom.

I draw much of my inspiration from my surroundings, which are student and city life. This is evident in my poetry, which has the central themes of mental health, feminism, nature and social injustice.

I think that teenagers notice and study the world around us more than adults would like to think; social media use has become an integral part of my daily routine and it is a source of new friends and connections.

However, like many other people my age, I have become sensitive to the darker side of social media use and this is a theme which is also significant in my work.

My debut poetry collection, Encapsulated Emotions, includes all of these mentioned topics and was released on the 7th of July. It is now available to purchase both as an ebook and paperback on Amazon!

The journey to publication was a long one, but one that would be impossible without actual content and poetry!

In a nutshell, I would describe my writing process as unique. The best term to describe it is that I have the tendency to “binge write” (write sporadically, for example, going without writing for up to two weeks and then writing several poems in one day). Although I recognise that this wouldn’t work for every writer, I’ve grown accustomed to the routine and I find it quite relaxing – the feeling after writing lots of poems at once and releasing so many emotions out of your mind is quite therapeutic. As for the specific details of my writing process (when and where I write and what resources I use), I will go on to discuss that shortly.

I enjoy writing at my desk, which is my primary workspace for schoolwork and revision. I really like recognising that there is something sweetly poetic about having a homework document open in one tab and furiously typing a poem in another, ignoring the world and its demands for a blissful interval. As you may have guessed, I use my laptop and an overflowing Google Docs to write my poems. Whilst I appreciate the beauty of messy handwritten poetry in well worn notebooks, my mind is so frantic when writing that the poetry would be both illegible and diseased with multiple spelling mistakes!

I usually write in the evenings – I’m a night owl, as they would say. You’ll most probably find me crouched over my laptop and typing away between 9pm and 11pm… I would definitely write later than that if my mum didn’t come into my room and forcibly tell me to switch my laptop off!

My experience of being a published teen writer has been very positive; I’ve been given a platform to use my newfound (sometimes musically rhyming) voice, which is more than what some adults are presented with during their whole lifetime. Of course, I am proud of this but in no way does that mean that I will stop – if fate thought that handing me a single publishing contact would subside the burning passion, sometimes even anger inside of me, fate was utterly wrong.

There are so many stories that I haven’t told yet, so many images that I’ve failed to conjure, so many injustices that I haven’t touched upon. I can only hope that these will form with time, practise and research. Moreover, I hope with all of my heart that my first book is exactly that – the first. I know that I have enough ambition to publish many more books, to be featured in many more magazines and to gently affect the lives of many more people.

Here’s a sample poem from my book titled “Magician’s Assistant”:

you saw us in half
yet we receive applause second.

you make us disappear
but we’re more here
than you reckoned.

you banish us from stage,
you lock us in a cage,

yet we escape
yet we remain
unscathed.

magic is not an illusion
it is the perfumed fusion
of a magician’s assistant;

her steady high heeled stride
and the fact that you want her to die.

she flashes her white teeth;
like clean piano keys
and the audience swoon.

she waves her dazzling hands
and lies alone
in her coffin of doom.

Thank you, Rha, for sharing your writing routines and inspirations. The poem is wonderful, and we look forward to more.

About the Poet:

Rha Arayal is a fresh, unique emerging poet. She is of British Nepalese ethnicity and lives in South Wales. She started by establishing a growing Instagram poetry page, @encapsulated_emotions and never looked back. Now, she’s fallen in love with prose and always has a fountain pen and notebook by her side. Her Instagram address is @encapsulated_emotions.

Mailbox Monday #640

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 its 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.

Velvet, 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.

This is what we received:

Postcard Poems by Jeanne Griggs for review.

In days before selfies and social media, postcards were a ubiquitous feature of travel, providing both means of communication with friends and family while away, and souvenirs of journeys once back home.

Even if not quite gone, they seem more than a little nostalgic now, as do many of the poems in Jeanne Griggs’ new collection, Postcard Poems. By choosing to present her poems as short notes that could fit on a postcard, she has opted for a formal brevity; and the conceit of holiday communication allows her to write both about place (so that her poems are often both ekphrastic and epistolary – a neat trick) and about the people in her life.

Travel, of course, is always a journey through both exterior and interior spaces, physical and mental, and we witness both in these often wistful poems. A visit on Cape Cod with friends, “women of a certain age”, affords an opportunity to “live like in the books, / without any of the fuss / of having to sustain anything / except ourselves.” Children grow up over the span of these travels, despite her wishing she “had caged” them, holding onto the past. A third visit to Niagara Falls is the first without her son – “the first time / you were too young to remember / and the second too old to want / to come along” – who is now far off in Siberia on travels of his own. Iowa is a place equally exotic, known only “from watching a baseball movie / … until we left our daughter / there”, and they drive long out of the way to visit the Field of Dreams site, “And it was there, / just like we’d seen it, / in real life.” Stopping “South of the Border” she buys “picture postcards of this place on the way / to where we’re actually going.” That’s a good description of the mosaic of life that is constructed out of these brief notes, a chronical of stops along the way until, in the final poem, “all future plans suspended… / we are / still saving up from our last trip.”

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, a gift from a dear friend and fellow poet.

A courageous testament, lush with startling imagery, Kristin Kowalski Ferragut’s Escape Velocity focuses on the personal in order to illuminate the universal. “Truth leaves words in shambles,” Ferragut cautions us. Nevertheless, “All the days in this long life / fill with such wonder of / words . . .” With each poem standing on its own as a singular story, taken as a whole, this premier collection takes the reader on an Odyssey, unsettling at times, tender at others, through memory and loss, forward with strength and resilience to confront “This love of what grows wild flowers . . . erratic, uncertain, hard to stare down.” The laws of physics cannot constrain this poet’s quest; the reader will be rewarded for accompanying her on the journey. —W. Luther Jett, Author of Everyone Disappears, Our Situation, and Not Quite

“I challenge you to / Unzip your skin and see / if you make it to the West Coast. / Exactly.” In Escape Velocity , Kristin Kowalski Ferragut invites us to experience the moments that make a life with finely honed wording and well-crafted stanzas that awaken every sense, often in unexpected ways. With deep compassion, she delves into relationships with family, loves and loves lost, the joys and sorrows that come with the bits and pieces that make a life and give us our sense of where we are in the world, sprinkled with delectable moments of wry humor. This exquisite debut poetry collection takes us beyond our usual understanding of self and place in a “rare conversation that matters.” —Lucinda Marshall, Founder and Host of DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Author of Inheritance Of Aging Self

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut sends us “Whirling / in our individual little confoundations,” as she reconciles the collective discord we face. She shoulders such universal themes as grief, love, and grace in a uniquely flawless dance. In “Unbearable Lightness” she muses, “We anchor ourselves in burdens, lost causes . . . to keep from floating away.” In lines like this, Ferragut startles us from our safe repose to experience the jeopardy and promise of motion; to believe in second chances and in our ability to “put the blood back / in the stone.” —Alison Palmer, Author of The Need for Hiding

What did you receive?

Exclusive Excerpt: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

I have an exclusive treat for you today.

An excerpt from Mimi Matthews’ John Eyre, which combines three things I love — mystery, romance, and a Gothic atmosphere.

I think you’ll gather from the book synopsis why this is probably one of the most anticipated books of the year.

Book Synopsis:

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

I cannot wait for you to read this excerpt and hear what you think. Please give Mimi a warm welcome:

John Eyre by Mimi Matthews, an EXCERPT (Chapter 11, pages 134-137)

“Enough talk of death,” Mrs. Rochester said. “It isn’t why I sought out your company. I wished to speak to you of faith.”

“It’s not a subject I’m in any position to remark upon, not when my own faith is at its lowest ebb. Of course, if you’ve changed your mind about my taking Stephen and Peter to church—”

“I told you, the boys aren’t to be paraded in front of strangers.”

“No, of course not.”

“Besides,” she added, “I would have thought you reluctant to attend church on any account. Mr. Fairfax informs me that you’ve had several invitations to tea from the vicar in Hay, and that you’ve each time sent your regrets.”

“True enough.” The vicar, Mr. Taylor, seemed a civil sort of gentleman, eager to make John’s acquaintance, and thereby lure him to Sunday services. John had politely declined his invitations, claiming to be too busy for social calls at present.

“You have no wish to meet our estimable vicar?”

“Not at the moment.” John paused. “I notice that you don’t attend church yourself.”

“What has that to do with anything?”

“It makes me wonder if your faith is as feeble as mine.”

“I daresay you think faith is measured by how often one attends Sunday services. How loud one sings from a hymnbook.” Her eyes found his. Something inexplicable flickered behind her gaze. “Do you believe in good and evil, Mr. Eyre?”

The question sent a strange chill through John’s veins. She asked it with such gravity. Such solemn intent. He wished he could answer with the same conviction.

Instead, his answer was tepid at best. “As much as any Christian.”

“Which is to say, not very much at all.” Her skirts brushed against his leg. Somehow, during the course of their walk, they’d drawn closer to each other. As close as a pair of lovers sharing whispered confidences. “I know how it is. We all of us are raised on stories of God and the devil. Abstract ideas of good and bad. But what about in the real world? Do you believe in the forces of evil? And that godly people can ultimately triumph over them?”

“I would like to believe. But in our world, you must admit that evil often triumphs. Bad people prevail, while good, honest people are ground into dust. For evidence, you need look no further than the inhabitants of any workhouse.”

“And yet my faith is stronger than it’s ever been.” She gave him a look, as challenging as her tone. “Do you doubt it?”

He opened his mouth to reply, but she forestalled him.

“I don’t attend church because the essence of my belief has nothing to do with an inanimate building or with the people who populate it. My faith is solely concerned with matters of good and evil. And you must believe, sir, that I stand firmly and relentlessly on the side of good. The side of God. You would do well to determine where it is that you stand.”

Her speech was so passionate, so unflinchingly earnest, that he felt the impulse to answer in kind—albeit with a trifle less heat. “At the moment,” he said. “I stand next to you. It seems a worthy place to be.”

A spasm of emotion crossed over her face, as fleeting as it was unreadable. “Would that I could be certain—” She broke off.

“Certain of what?”

Her reply, when it came, was equally quiet. “That you would remain at my side, irrespective of what comes.”

“I have no plans to leave Thornfield.” He cleared his throat. “So long as you’re pleased with my service, and the boys—”

“Ah, yes. The boys. You wish them to continue improving. To speak, eventually.”

“Don’t you?”

“As to that… It’s complicated.” Her shoulders stiffened. “I don’t expect you to understand.”

“I do understand.”

She gave him an uncertain glance.

“You’re protective of them,” he said.

Her bosom rose and fell on a deep breath. “I have tried to be.”

“And yet…” He warned himself not to say it. The words tumbled out nonetheless.

“You left them for months on end while you resumed your travels.”

“Not because I didn’t care for them. Indeed, I cared too much. If you only knew…”

She stopped on the path, turning back to face the house. Its silhouette was barely discernable in the mist, only the battlements standing out strong and clear against the winter sky. “This wretched place. How often I have abhorred the very thought of it. No sooner do I arrive here than I want to leave again.”

“Understandably so. It can be dreary at times, especially with the Millcote mists.”

“Is that the name they’ve given to this effluvium?”

“It’s how it’s been described to me. As a phenomenon particular to this part of the country.” He paused, adding, “You said it contributed to your parents’ death.”

“After a fashion. The dampness of it, and the chill. There’s always been fog in the valley, as long as I can remember. But this…the Millcote mists, as you call them…” A frown worked its way between her brows. “This is something new.”

I hope that this excerpt has piqued your interest. I am certainly intrigued.

About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Visit her website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Bookbub, and on GoodReads.

Interview: Francine Falk-Allen, author of No Spring Chicken

Today, I have a treat for my readers, an interview with author Francine Falk-Allen, who wrote No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability. She’s going to share some tips for traveling and helping our loved ones who may be disabled or just appreciate an extra hand.

First, check out the synopsis of her book:

As we age, we all begin to have physical difficulties to contend with.

In No Spring Chicken, Francine Falk-Allen—a polio survivor who knows a thing or two about living with a disability—offers her own take on how to navigate the complications aging brings with equanimity (and a sense of humor). The handbook is divided into three sections: Part I is a jaunt through accessible travel pleasures and pitfalls in several parts of the world; Part II addresses the adaptation people who love a handicapped or aging person could make in order to have a lighter, more mutually rewarding relationship with him or her, as well as advice for physically challenged and aging persons themselves regarding self-care, exercise, pain management, healthcare, and more; and Part III discusses the challenges, rewards and logistics of engaging with groups of people who share similar issues.

Accessible and wryly funny, No Spring Chicken is a fun and informative guide to living your best and longest life—whatever your physical challenges, and whatever your age.

Please give Francine Falk-Allen a warm welcome and enjoy our interview:

Tell us about your new book.

No Spring Chicken addresses what we all face eventually: aging and the physical difficulties that can ensue.

I’m a polio survivor who knows a thing or two about living with a disability, and offer my take on how to navigate the complications aging brings with equanimity (and a sense of humor).

Part I is a jaunt through accessible travel pleasures and pitfalls; Part II addresses the adaptations caregivers can make for a mutually rewarding relationship with their loved ones, plus advice for physically challenged and aging persons themselves regarding exercise, diet, pain management, mobility, care tips and more; and Part III discusses the rewards of engaging with support groups sharing similar issues, with a little activism and advocacy for good measure.

I’m told it’s accessible and wryly funny,and is a fun and informative guide to living your best and longest life―whatever your physical challenges, and whatever your age.

What inspired you to write it?

Well, again, I have a lifetime of experience to share about how to take care of oneself with a physical challenge, handicap or disability, and enjoy life as much as possible at the same time. I thought it would be useful to those facing the later years of life, or even younger people with a disability, or family and friends who are perhaps stumped about how to face their loved one’s challenges.

What is the one aspect that you hope readers learn from it?

I hope they take away that there is almost always something we can do to improve at least one aspect of our condition,if not many, and to keep functioning as best we can in order to enjoy whatever opportunities present themselves to us.

As family members age, what should we keep in mind?

That they are the same people they have always been with the same needs and desires, and they want to keep participating in life to the extent possible. Also, generally, aging people could use a little or even a lot of assistance, but most of us hate to ask, and only ask when it’s a dire necessity. There are exceptions of course, but most people I know prefer to be as independent as possible. So chipping in more than you used to without an air of “You should have asked me for help” or “Mom, you aren’t keeping your house clean enough anymore” is likely to be appreciated.

What adaptations should we make for our loved ones?

Ask what is most needed rather than assuming we know. Remember that walking can become more difficult and think about what you can do to make this accommodation. For instance, renting a mobility scooter for family outings or vacations can allow Grandma or Mom to participate fully. A friend surprised me with this on a vacation in Hawaii and it made all the difference; I had a much better time since I could not walk the long distance to the beach or even to the pool in the complex, and it was helpful when we went shopping as well.

You have traveled many places as someone living with a disability. What are your favorite places to travel?

Ooh, there are so many great places. I love Maui, Hawaii; Edinburgh, Scotland; New Orleans, LA; Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, BC, Canada; Kilkenny, Ireland; New York City, NY; and of course, Paris, France.

What do you look for when deciding on a vacation spot?

My husband and I both like places with beautiful scenery, and/or perhaps some culture such as concerts,or music clubs. We sometimes go to museums as well, but find that we can only do a couple of hours of a museum before we start to feel overwhelmed. We also are very interested in history and the culture of the people in the area we visit, and we like places with very good restaurants. (I start to feel ill if we eat too much fast food or simple carbs.) We sometimes plan a trip in order to see friends or family, also. For getting around, there have to be paved walkways for my scooter, or we take a lot of cabs or rent a car. I cannot go for long walks, but like to go places where I can scoot around, and then get off the scooter and walk a bit and see things up close, or sit in a park or on a beach and read. Sometimes, I paint a watercolor, so I appreciate a really nice view.

With regard to lodging, my first priority is that the hotel is easy and either has an elevator or is one-story, since stairs are very difficult for me, and also has food service in case I’m too tired to go out. Next would be that if there is not a restaurant in the hotel, there is one next door! And I always try for a place with a warm accessible pool if possible. I always call ahead to make sure the staff does not put us down a long hallway, because then sometimes I may be able to go to the lobby or restaurant without needing to use my mobility scooter.

Share some of your favorite self-care tips.

I do a little yoga and core strengthening every single morning, and I do pool therapy a few days a week. Stretching and keeping up what strength you have is important in order to stay mobile. I also avoid eating large amounts of simple carbohydrates (basically, white foods!) but I do try to eat a large amount of vegetables! It’s important to keep weight down, or to at least not become obese, to avoid or keep in check joint pain, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. And of course all that helps just to assist yourself in feeling great so that you have a positive attitude. Also, I rest regularly, and sometimes take a little nap, and get at least six or seven hours sleep every night. I think meals or tea dates with friends, reading good books, watching inspiring movies and spending time outdoors are also great ways to reduce stress and increase a feeling of peace and well being.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be an activist?

Look for others who are already activists in the issues you care about. Someone has probably already got a group going and would love your participation and assistance and perhaps your knowledge and experience. If you can’t find that, you can start a group; I describe how to do that in my book. If you are housebound, you can research on a computer and stay informed with news on PBS and other reliable channels, and there are websites you can access which recommend what actions you can take, such as signing petitions or donating money, or making phone calls. Some groups will continue meeting on Zoom now that that is established. I am on an Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility committee in my town, which has met via Zoom during the pandemic, and I started a polio support group some years ago.

Anything else you would like to add?

I truly hope people will buy and enjoy No Spring Chicken, or ask for it at their local library, and suggest it to their friends and family. If they do, it’s helpful to the success of any book, especially for someone who is not a celebrity author, to leave a very good rating or review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or Walmart’s book review pages. Do remember that anything less than four or five stars is considered poor, though, by the algorithms that run those sites.

Even if people don’t read either of my books (my first book was Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability—A Memoir, about growing up with a disability and navigating the world as a women with a disability), I hope that everyone who has physical difficulty is finding ways to keep on enjoying life! That’s what I’m intending to do. Later this year, we’re hoping to visit someplace like Hawaii or New Mexico, where there is a high number of vaccinated people and a low incidence of the COVID-19 virus. Happy trails to all!

Thank you, Francine, for sharing your travel tips and for writing a great resource for others.

About the Author:

Francine Falk-Allen was born in Los Angeles and has lived nearly all of her life in Northern California. A former art major with a BA in managerial accounting who ran her own business for thirty-three years, she has always craved creative outlets. This has taken the form of singing and recording with various groups, painting, and writing songs, poetry, and essays, some of which have been published.

Falk-Allen facilitates Polio Survivors of Marin County and Just Write Marin County (a Meetup writing group), and is a volunteer member of the San Rafael City ADA Accessibility Committee.

Her first book, Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability: A Memoir has been included on several national outlets’ lists of best books of 2018, including Kirkus Reviews, BuzzFeed, and PopSugar, and received a gold medal from Living Now Book Awards for Inspiring Memoir – Female and a silver medal from Sarton Women’s Book Awards for memoir.

She was also named one of “25 Women Making a Difference in 2019” by Conversations Magazine. She loves the outdoors, gardening, pool exercise, her sweet, peculiar old cat, spending time with her husband and good friends, strong British tea, and a little champagne now and then.

Guest Post: Forgotten Betrothal by L.M. Romano

Today’s guest is L.M. Romano, author of Forgotten Betrothal. The novel takes up after the disastrous proposal of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s rejection of that proposal. I personally love when there are secrets that threaten to break this couple up, and there will be some of that here.

But read the synopsis for yourself:

Enlightenment dawned, sharp and painful in its glaring exactitude. He knew. From the moment she had uttered her true name, he had known that she was not free. So why was he here? Why did he still look at her in that way? Why could she see the adoration in his eyes and the torment in his features? Had he come to say goodbye? To leave her to this fate?

How can an innocent stroll through Hyde Park change the course of so many lives?

Confused and chastened following her cruel rejection of Mr Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth Bennet returns to her aunt’s home in Gracechurch Street. Unable to find solace while pondering her terrible misjudgment of his character, she is overwhelmed with guilt for how she treated the puzzling gentleman from Derbyshire.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has retreated to his London home after being spurned by the lady he loves, and after serious reflection has come to the realisation that he never deserved Elizabeth’s good opinion.

A chance encounter brings the opportunity to seek forgiveness, and possibly, a new start to their budding romance. But the introduction of a stranger into Elizabeth’s life threatens to reveal old family secrets that have the potential to truly unravel her world and all that she holds dear.

Please give L.M. Romano a warm welcome:

Thanks, Serena, for letting me share an excerpt today from Forgotten Betrothal! When writing this book, I wanted to place Darcy into a situation that he alone could not fix – something that would be beyond the reach of his money, connections, or knowledge.

The discovery of Elizabeth’s true parentage and the existence of a cradle betrothal sends Darcy into a panic, and in the following scene, Colonel Fitzwilliam is there to provide encouragement that all is not yet lost.

Excerpt from Chapter 21

Just as Darcy feared losing himself once again in bitter reflections, a firm grip on his forearm demanded his focus.

“Marriage settlement or not, nothing is yet written in stone, Darcy!”

Startled, he replied, “You believe I still have a chance?”

“Yes, and so would you if you could take a moment to pull your head out of the ground! I realise what a shock this must have been, for I myself can barely make sense of it! But you are facing down a twenty-year-old piece of paper, not the Minotaur! I love my brother, but I cannot see how this proposed marriage should go forward as you seem to be forgetting one essential component of this entire affair!”

“And that is?”

“Miss Elizabeth, you fool! I cannot believe the simple country miss who would not give way to our overbearing Aunt Catherine would somehow be cowed enough by her new circumstances to assent to an arranged marriage!”

For the first time since Darcy had learned the dreadful news, a spark of hope began to burn within his chest. Richard was right. His beautiful, stubborn, fierce Elizabeth would not simply follow society’s dictates with no thought to her own happiness.

“Have you not spent the last two weeks courting this woman? Resolving your earlier misunderstandings and gaining her favour? For she does truly welcome your calls, does she not?”

“Yes, I believe she does. In fact, I felt today that I could detect a significant change in her regard for me. At one point, before she relayed her news, she even mentioned how highly she esteemed me. I almost wished I could have renewed my addresses at that very moment.”

“Perhaps you should have done!” Richard huffed. “It could have saved us all this grief!”

“I doubt that. Not only would it have been completely unfeeling on my part to interrupt her disclosure of what had so lately troubled her, but I also would have found myself in the very same predicament I now face. I have unknowingly courted an earl’s daughter without permission, something Lord Tamworth is unlikely to overlook.”

“Surely the Gardiners knew your intent. I wonder they did not mention anything to you!”

“And what would they have said? ’Tis not as though they were at liberty to reveal anything to me, although I suppose it does explain the certain uneasiness I detected in Mr Gardiner when he first agreed to allow my calls.”’

“Well, in any case, I believe you have every reason to hope where the lady is concerned.”

“Do you truly?”

With a roll of his eyes, Richard exclaimed, “Darcy, are you daft? Miss Elizabeth trusted you enough to divulge all before even a formal announcement was made! This is going to be the biggest news society has seen in a decade, yet she went out of her way to assure you of her trust by telling you to your face. She was under no obligation to make any such disclosure, and I do not believe she would have done so if she wished to cry off from your courtship!”

“And look at how I repaid such trust!”

“What do you mean?” Richard asked, a nervous look etched upon his countenance. “What did you do, Darcy?”

Unable to face his cousin, Darcy stood and leaned against the mantle, dragging his hand down the length of his face. “I left. Right after she told me her real name. I believe I uttered some nonsense about being happy for her and that I hoped to see her again at some point, but at the end of it all, I simply abandoned Elizabeth. I was too overcome by my own emotions to provide the comfort she needed. I am a cowardly fool!”

“You really are your own worst enemy, but I doubt all is lost. ’Twas not the best response, I grant you, but the shock of the situation should allow some concessions to be made for your lapse.”

“But you do not understand. Only a week prior Miss Jane Bennet thanked me for my unswerving devotion to her sister, confessing Elizabeth would have need of my loyalty in time. I had thought her remark rather strange in the moment, but now it makes perfect sense! Elizabeth is being thrust into a new world with all new expectations, and instead of standing by her, at the first sign of trouble, I retreated. I do not deserve her.”

“Why do we not let Miss Elizabeth make that decision? I may not understand why she would choose to tie herself to your dour mug for all eternity, but I shall not gainsay her if that is her choice,” Richard quipped with a mocking grin.

In a decidedly dry tone, Darcy responded, “Your faith in me is inspired, Cousin. But the problem remains, what do I do now?”

Thank you, Ms. Romano for sharing this excerpt. Darcy does get himself in a pickle doesn’t he? I cannot wait to read this one.

About the Author:

L. M. Romano is, as Miss Bingley would say, ‘a great reader,’ though she still owns to taking delight in many things. As an inveterate bookworm and a longtime lover of historical fiction, she is delighted to present her début novel, Forgotten Betrothal, as a tribute to her love for the works and characters created by Jane Austen. As a history professor, she eagerly embraced the opportunity to delve into Regency England and the many facets of London’s high society, which provided endless evenings of entertainment for both herself and any unfortunate family members who happened to be nearby.

A Northern California native, L. M. Romano currently lives with her husband in Ontario, California. She plans to continue writing, teaching, and reading countless books to her heart’s content.

 

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield (audio)

Source: Freebie
Audible, 2+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield is a hommage to Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac that relies on Rolling Stone magazine’s extensive archives. It is clear from Rob Sheffield’s effusive narrative that he loves Stevie Nicks, considers her songwriting genius, and her style transcendent. He clearly loves Stevie Nicks and he takes listeners on a journey through her music with the band and as a solo artist. I loved learning that Nicks wrote songs and that none of them were earmarked ahead of time for the band or her solo albums. She just couldn’t help but write songs all the time.

I liked the light-hearted nature of this nugget, as I’m not as familiar with Nicks’ work as others might be. I’ve listened to Fleetwood Mac many times, and I enjoy their music, but I was interested in her as an artist, who seemed to be a force in the band and on her own. I would probably seek out a more in-depth look at her work and her life, but this provided a nice overview without too much “romance/breakup” gossipy stuff, which I tend to not like as much.

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield is one fan-boy’s love of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks told by the man himself. It does provide a great overview for the curious who might not want to be too invested, but if you want something more than squealing about how great she is, you might want to try something different.

RATING: Tercet