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Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa

Source: Publicist
Paperback, 232 pgs.
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Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa is a disturbing story with emotional and physical abuse, but the real crux of the novel is the impact of trauma on not only the generations immediately affected but how that trauma becomes a ripple effect throughout more than one generation. Gerda and Saul are survivors of the Holocaust and after escaping to the United States, they fall into a marriage because of their shared past, but is that enough to heal them.

“It began for Hannah during the winter of eighth grade.

The artificial feeling. I am not acting real, she would think. I am not real. I don’t exist, pressed between my mother’s and father’s spirits, suffocated by their warring. While she responded cheerily to her friends’ overtures, she felt as if she were artificial, a windup doll.” (pg. 91)

Readers will be taken into the tormented mind of Gerda and how her outbursts and physical abuse of Saul and her children leads to her daughter, Hannah, internalizing Gerda’s psychological issues. Readers will be drawn into this family quickly, but at the start, readers will likely be slack jawed in disbelief. Trauma affects people in different ways. Saul is no less affected by trauma, but his manifests in less violent ways. He withdraws from his family completely to protect himself, he doesn’t act to protect his children, he’s a passive observer of his life.

Espinosa is a gifted storyteller and her novel pulls no punches about mental health and its reverberating effects from parent to child. She clearly has some experience with mental illness and it shows in the realistic portrayal of this family and their struggles. Like many with mental illness, there is no resolution or solution that remedies everything in their lives, and Espinosa doesn’t pretend that there will be. Her characters are broken, the edges are sharp, and the story is stark. Don’t miss out on reading Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Maria Espinosa, a former Bay Area resident who now lives in Albuquerque, has been an author for over 50 years. A novelist, poet, translator, and teacher, who has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, New York Review of Books, and The San Francisco Chronicle, she is featured in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. Her five novels include: Incognito: Journey of a Secret Jew, Dark Plums, and Longing, which received an American Book Award, as well as Dying Unfinished, which received a Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence from PEN Oakland. Her fifth and most recent novel Suburban Souls, tells a tale of Jewish German Holocaust survivors in 1970s San Francisco. She has also published two collections of poems, Love Feelings, and Night Music, and a critically acclaimed translation of George Sand’s novel, Lelia. Concerned with human communication on a level that transcends the norms permitted by society, her novels focus on the subtle as well as the obvious forces that shape a human being.

Giveaway & Interview with Jona Colson, poetry editor of This Is What America Looks Like

Full disclosure: I have a poem in this anthology.

Today, we’re talking with poetry editor Jona Colson about the new anthology from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House.

It is their first anthology in a number of decades, and the fiction and poetry included in this collection runs the gamut in terms of what America looks like. Many of these poems and stories were written during the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and so many other traumatic and pivotal events in recent history.

Please give Jona a warm welcome.

Stay to the end of the interview for a special giveaway.

Savvy Verse & Wit: Congratulations on the new anthology, This Is What America Looks Like, published by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House.

This is the second time you’ve worked with them, since they published your first poetry collection, Said Through Glass. How would you describe the publishing process for a debut poetry collection and was that similar or different from working on the anthology?

Jona Colson: It was similar and different. With your own work and developing a manuscript, you see how the poems speak to each other, and I did the same for the anthology. However, the writers were placed reverse alphabetical (Z-A), so I did not have to consider the order of the poems. I still had to create a balance with the poems—the themes, topics, and forms. This was the first time I put on an editor’s hat, and I learned a lot about working with other writers. I also was able to read so many wonderful poems!

SVW: As the poetry editor for the anthology, how much coordination was there with fiction editor Caroline Bock? Did you both have a game plan in mind before submissions started rolling in or were their themes that emerged on their own as submissions were being read?

JC: The submission’s call offered a prompt in many ways, so I was ready to read submissions in response to that. We didn’t share the specific poems and texts that we were reading, but we did discuss the topics and themes we were getting. The majority of submissions came in during the height of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movements. So, many of the topics changed in response to these events, and we had to balance the narratives of the work we accepted.

SVW: How did you view your role as an editor of the anthology? Let us in on what your process was when selecting poems and whether you asked any artists for edits.

JC: I was so pleased with all the submissions we received. Unfortunately, we had a very limited space with the book, so I had to choose what fit the best. There were many poems that I couldn’t take because of space. I asked poets for revisions when I felt that it would improve their poem. I had a few edits—some minor and some major. I found that writers were really responsive to revising their work, and that was wonderful. I love reading poetry, and I have such respect for any artist who attempts to shape experiences into language.

SVW: This Is What America Looks Like provides a very broad landscape in how writers could approach the topic, but how would you describe what America looks like? Does America’s description merely entail its mountains and landscapes or is it about the people within it?

JC: I would say it is all of that. Emotional and physical landscapes. Dreams and visions. The poems in this anthology offer a reflection of America in many different ways. There are many poems that do not directly respond what America looks like, but discuss belonging, childhood, adulthood, expectations. These are all American experiences.

SVW: Thinking about the writers in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) region, how would you describe their writing styles and overall view as presented in their poems? Is there something that readers could immediately recognize as poetry from this region?

JC: There are many references to locality. Many poems showcase towns in the DMV, or specific streets and locations—Dumbarton Oaks, The Library of Congress, battlefields. In this way, you are immediately placed into a particular part of our country. Some poems are more abstract but suggest places in the area. The poems—and the fiction—solidify the DMV as a literary powerhouse.

SVW: What has been your fondest memory of your poetic journey so far? And what’s next for you?

JC: Getting to know other poets and writers, and being welcomed into the literary community. I got my MFA from American University, and I got to know many writers. However, since I published my book and started working on this anthology, I have met so many more people and the thriving literary community that we have here in the DMV. Discovering more writers and hearing their stories have been the best part of this journey.

Right now, I’m working on poems and some translation projects. Another book may take a while, but as long as I can keep writing, I’m happy.

Giveaway: Leave a comment about what you think America looks like by Feb. 17, 2021.

I will send the winner (age 18+) a copy of Jona’s book, Said Through Glass, and the anthology This Is What America Looks Like.

Please leave a way for me to contact you.

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith

Source: Purchased
Audible, 2+ hrs.
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Keep Moving by Maggie Smith, read by the author, is read in that dreaded “poet voice” that’s been in a number of articles, and it drove me crazy. I had to look past that cadence to hear Smith’s words clearly. So if that cadence bothers you, you’ll want to read the book, as opposed to listen to it.

Beyond that, this book offers notes on loss and grief of a recently divorced woman who is continuing her life journey in a way she never expected – without a life partner. It is clear that “keep moving” was a mantra she used to get through the loss of her marriage and the deaths of others. She speaks about living in the present each day and not dwelling in the past that can pull you deep into sadness and make you immobile. Her notes and stories can help those facing similar losses move forward, but in many ways it is like Smith is speaking to herself. We’re getting a sneak peak into her diary.

I love that she focuses on post-traumatic growth in one section of this memoir. This helps us to see beyond the darkness to see the positives in our trials and losses. I liked this the most about the book. Focus on that beginning, push past our fears and explore new avenues for growth. You can even think about professional growth as a way to fill the emptiness left behind.

There is, however, very little about being creative during this time. This is more of an emotional journey and there are snippets of some creative pursuits and nods to the literary community, but no advice on that front, which is what I wanted when I decided to check this out.

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith is about moving forward after irrevocable change, and we need to learn to move beyond our expectations and sadness to see the good, the moments for growth, and how small steps can lead to great, gratifying changes. She also speaks about how you can snowball that movement into helping others. Moving toward living, not just coping.

RATING: Tercet

Mailbox Monday #617

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 we received:

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Got Talent by Kyla May, purchased for my daughter as an award for being a Super Virtual Husky student.

Bub’s human, Bella, is putting on a pet talent show! Bub can’t wait to wow the audience with his skateboarding stunts, not to mention his snazzy costume. But when dress rehearsal doesn’t go as planned, Bub finds that it’s up to him — and his archenemy Duchess the cat — to make things right. Can he and Duchess work together to make sure the show goes on?

In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché for review.

Over four decades, Carolyn Forché’s visionary work has reinvigorated poetry’s power to awaken the reader. Her groundbreaking poems have been testimonies, inquiries, and wonderments. They daringly map a territory where poetry asserts our inexhaustible responsibility to each other.

Her first new collection in seventeen years, In the Lateness of the World is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. The poems call to the reader from the end of the world where they are sifting through the aftermath of history. Forché envisions a place where “you could see everything at once … every moment you have lived or place you have been.” The world here seems to be steadily vanishing, but in the moments before the uncertain end, an illumination arrives and “there is nothing that cannot be seen.” In the Lateness of the World is a revelation from one of the finest poets writing today.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler for a TLC Book Tour.

The Lamps of History wrestles with the ambiguities–and choices–between connection/alienation, renewal/decay, and faith/doubt. Its poems explore dimming family histories and our stance toward them, the frayed bonds with our grandparents’ traditions and beliefs, and distances in our current relationships.

There are also poems on our civic estrangements: an ode to a papaya that spills into America’s tribal conflict; elegies to the environment (one on disappearing phytoplankton, another on forests ravaged by pine beetles); a ghazal to a semi-automatic weapon; and a failed recipe for noodle pudding.

Michael Sandler’s writing marshals wit and wordplay in a deft handling of language and form. The poetry navigates the crosscurrents of tradition and post-modernism, steering somewhat closer to the former.

Poet and editor George Bishop concludes: “This language is addictive. A stunning sense of place and story. To be read and read again.”

What did you receive?

Publication News 2021

Hello everyone!

I have some wonderful publication news to share. It’s been a while since I’ve shared some news on the poetry writing front. I have been updating my Publication Credits page (it’s in the menu), so feel free to check that out, too.

First, three of my poems now are available in The Magnolia Review, Volume 6, Issue 2. The theme for the issue was “A Defining Moment.” You’ll need to download the PDF, but the magazine is worth the download.

My poems appear on pgs. 68, 80, and 115. I hope you check them out, but they are on dark topics regarding gun violence, so be aware.

Secondly, I’m happy to announce that the anthology from the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, This Is What America Looks Like, is available for purchase.

I have 1 poem included in this collection, but I hope you’ll buy a copy because I know many of these writers (fiction and poetry) and their work is AMAZING.

You can purchase the anthology through Amazon or directly from the publisher.

I’ll also have an interview with the poetry editor Jona Colson very soon on the blog. You may recall my review of his collection, Said Through Glass.

Perseverance pays off. I just want to remind you that art is hard work and pleasure in the making, but getting it published is even harder work. If you want it, pursue it.

By Broad Potomac Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 356 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

By Broad Potomac Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts is a well crafted and contains some well-known poets as well as some obscured by history. In the preface, Roberts says, “These poets were born in, or drawn to, the nation’s capital as it grew from its founding, through such major upheavals as the Civil War, Reconstruction, and World War I. … But I have taken particular pleasure in seeking out poems by lesser-known poets as well, especially women, working-class writers, and writers of color.” The anthology also speaks about the homes in which these poets lived and whether they still exist today, as well as what they are today, with some of them homes to embassies of other nations. Roberts has clearly done her research and it is appreciated.

If there was ever a time for a literary historian, that’s today. Kim Roberts has done painstaking research and it it is evident in this look at 100 years of our nation’s history. Of note in the first part of the anthology is Emma Willard, who was a passionate advocate for women’s rights and dedicated her life to educating women and girls. I loved learning about this early advocate for women to be educated, especially about her speech in which she says that women are “primary existences … not the satellites of men.”

It was also interesting to note that a white man, John Pierpont, wrote a persona poem from the point of view of an enslaved man, which is found in the second part of the anthology. To my modern sensibilities, I was wondered aloud how on earth this white man could capture that point of view, especially a man who worked in finance. “Oft, in the Chilly Night,” is chilling in how it depicts an enslaved man almost at peace looking at the night and seeking God’s guidance, but by the end, it seems the man now simply wishes for the peace of death! But it is not the only persona poem from an enslaved person’s point of view written by a man.

Not only are these poems significant in demonstrating that ideas of equality were present in the early years of our nation, but they also show that even as the country evolved slowly there were very forward thinkers inside and outside government who wrote those ideas in poetry. And some of the homes of these poets became part of antislavery efforts and so many other efforts.

By Broad Potomac Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital edited by Kim Roberts is chock full of information about the poets, poems, the nation’s capital and so much more. You can dip into this collection at any time to explore the time period, and you’ll see different styles and topics throughout each second. As you move through the collection, the poems do take on more modern styles and are less antiquated in language. It does provide a good evolutionary look at poetry in Washington, D.C., and written by a variety of poets.

RATING: Cinquain

Pink by Sylvie Baumgartel

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 62 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Pink by Sylvie Baumgartel is startlingly does not have a pink cover. In fact, it has a gray cover, which perfectly mirrors the gray in the relationships explored — mother-daughter, father-daughter, narrator-art, changes in climate, and more.

The collection opens with “The Washing” in which mothers and daughters wash together — a mother who washes secrets — and it is compared to the “washing” of the Sistine Chapel, in which fig leaves are removed to expose genitals and the windows to the soul are lost. It makes you think about what we wash away when the secrets are cleansed or kept hidden — how awful can the truth be?

We move later in the collection to “Pregnancy” (pg. 9) in which the narrator feels numb but everything is out of sorts as the “Blood that feeds my/Part parasite,/Part god, baby boy.//” is a far cry from how it is portrayed in art. The narrator says, “I wonder if what paintings/Really want is to reproduce./A baby of their own.// With many paintings made famous by men, perhaps the narrator is right because those painters are unable to do so naturally.

The collections call on the color of femininity, love, and kindness stands in juxtaposition to the nearly clinical precision with which Baumgartel examines relationships and art. She even explores the abuse suffered by boys at the hands of priests who believed “they could get away with it/Because the boys couldn’t hear each other/Scream.//” (from “The Mission Bell”, pg. 11-2).

Pink by Sylvie Baumgartel is a stunning poet with stark imagery in each poem that will force readers to reorient themselves and rethink the world around them. Between the grotesque and the use of color, she creates a world in which the narrator needs to break through the morass and the societal norms to be born again.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #616

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 we received:

Whirl Away Girl by Tricia Johnson, which I received for review.

The Question: How are You?

What is this new life you have been handed? Where does it lead? How do you even feel? Sometimes the pathway ahead is murky, seemingly impossible to pass through. Life throws you a twist you didn’t see, know or desire.

In the midst of adversity, how do you cope? How do you process? How do you move forward?

Join this poetic journey of intimate details through the ache of life’s unraveling, from the maddening free fall of diagnosis, to emerging and seeing the beautiful possibilities of living with chronic illness.

Whirl away, arms wide to embrace what is yet to come..

What did you receive?

COVID Chronicle #4

Is it unusual to be so busy during a pandemic?

I find that I am envious of those who have additional time during the pandemic to pursue artistic projects and learn new skills and just take time for themselves. I literally have zero time to myself in a house full of six people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, but there are days when I want her to be more independent. But without social outings and friends to occupy her — being cooped up inside and away from people her age — she’s more clingy. I can’t begrudge her attention, even if I want time to myself to write or just read.

I’ve been volunteering with the Gaithersburg Book Festival this year, like many years in the past, but this year, I have far more responsibility. I think a poetry committee would be far more appropriate to make the work far less daunting. I’m in charge of poetry programming and I feel inadequate. Yes, it is that imposter syndrome. I want to do the best I can and help the festival, but I also want the poets to feel like the time will be well spent for them and their books, especially as virtual events tend not to translate into book sales at the rate they do when events are live and in person.

I’m very busy at my day job, which is good, but I also took on a manuscript editing project sooner than expected (it wasn’t expected to be done until March). I love editing and helping others hone their material and novels and poems, but I also love to write my own work. Again, no time for that.

Perhaps, what I need is a few days off sooner than I thought. I’ll have to think on it. I’m stressed and exhausted. There are other stressors too, but I prefer not to bring those up. However, if anyone has any sure fire financial planning advice or budgeting advice – software recommendations, how to use an excel sheet or whatever — I’m all ears. I feel unorganized.

Reading is going, but mostly submissions for the festival. I do have some fiction reads I really want to crack open soon, and I just hope I can find the time. I perhaps have too many competing interests.

Guest Post, Giveaway, & Excerpt from Jack Caldwell, author of Rosings Park: A Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men

It has been awhile since I reviewed The Three Colonels in 2012.

It seems appropriate that I bring to you a guest post and excerpt from author Jack Caldwell for the final chapter, Rosings Park, in 2021. Stay tuned for the giveaway at the end.

About the Novel:

A decade ago, groundbreaking novel THE THREE COLONELS began the epic Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series and transformed Austenesque literature with its blend of Regency romance and historical fiction. ROSINGS PARK is its long-awaited conclusion!

The Napoleonic Wars are finally over, and Britain seeks to rebuild after a generation of war. Gone is the “green and pleasant land” of the early Regency. In its place, a natural disaster on the other side of the world exacerbates the country’s woes: economic depression, widespread hunger, industrialization, and civil unrest. Great Britain faces ruin and revolution.

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy agree to take in the young and spirited daughter of Lydia Wickham, and all the while, their beloved Pemberley is being endangered by riotous Luddites. Colonel Sir Richard Fitzwilliam marries Anne de Bourgh but finds the management of Rosings Park no easy matter, especially with Lady Catherine de Bourgh ready and eager to offer advice. Haunted by despair and gravely wounded in body and spirit, a bitter Colonel Sir John Buford returns to England to be nursed by his wife, the former Caroline Bingley. Then, an evil out of the past returns to wreak vengeance on Rosings Park, and the Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Bufords, and their friends face a devastating truth: HAPPILY EVER AFTER MUST BE EARNED.

Doesn’t that sound delicious?! I have this on my TBR list, but for now, please welcome Jack Caldwell:

Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk about my latest novel, ROSINGS PARK: A Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men. This book is the closing chapter to the series I started with THE THREE COLONELS: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men. There are currently two other books in the series, THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and PERSUADED TO SAIL.

The Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series is a unique one in Austen fiction. I take the immortal characters created by Miss Austen and insert them into the historical events of the Regency period, the most notable being the Hundred Days Crisis of 1815. I also assume that all of her characters knew and interacted with each other. This leads to some interesting stories, I can assure you!

The first three books were companion novels—separate stories that happened in and about the same time, but with some limited interaction. They can be read as stand-alones, but it is more fun to read them all and enjoy the small amount of interweaving between them all.

ROSINGS PARK is different. A sequel to THE THREE COLONELS (which was itself a sequel to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY), ROSINGS PARK acts as the concluding chapter to the series. THE THREE COLONELS was about the Battle of Waterloo. ROSINGS PARK is what happened afterwards. And boy, did a lot happen! Economic depression, rapid industrialization, volcanic explosions, civil unrest, and crop failures. Regency Britain was in turmoil and our favorite characters are caught up in the midst of it.

Who are those characters? Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, of course, are major players in my little drama. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been knighted, married Anne de Bourgh, and lives at Rosings with the irksome Lady Catherine. Meanwhile, Sir Richard’s good friend, Sir John Buford, suffers grievous injuries received at Waterloo, and his wife, the former Caroline Bingley, struggles to nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, there are unknown forces out to destroy Rosing Park.

Excited yet? I hope so! Below is an excerpt.

To set the scene, it is the summer of 1817. Darcy, Elizabeth, and their children are at a house party at Rosings Park, now controlled by their cousins, Sir Richard and Anne Fitzwilliam. Also visiting are the Fitzwilliams’ friends, Sir John and Caroline Buford. The Darcys have taken in Chloe Wickham, eldest daughter of the late George Wickham and the former Lydia Wickham (now remarried), and Richard has problems with that.

Dinner that night was far less taxing than Darcy anticipated. Surprisingly, this was due to the attendance of Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Elizabeth, overjoyed with the prospect of renewing acquaintance with the lady who had once been her particular friend, largely spent her time in close and happy conversation with Mrs. Collins, Anne, and Mrs. Jenkinson. She had little discourse with Sir Richard; therefore, her coolness to his cousin was undetected.

The burden of entertaining Lady Catherine, therefore, fell to Darcy, and in this he was joined by Richard and Mr. Collins. That task would have been easier without the tiresome, simpering observations of the Hunsford rector, but it was a burden with which Darcy was well acquainted, and he carried out his duty with perfect composure.

Lady Catherine and the Collinses did not leave until it was nearly nightfall. The ladies excused themselves and retired above stairs. Darcy was not of a mind to play billiards, so he and his cousin had port in the library. Richard took his ease in a chair while Darcy, glass in hand, perused the bookshelves.

“I see you managed to procure a copy of Waverley. I am impressed,” said Darcy.

“It was a gift from Father—one of the last I received before his illness. He was not one for novels, but he loved the book. I suppose I should read it.” Richard gestured at the chair beside him. “I am tired of straining my neck to look up at you. You are far too tall. Come and sit—and tell me why your wife is annoyed with me.”

Richard’s comment caught Darcy off guard while he was in the act of sitting. He paused, and then slowly made himself comfortable. Apparently, Elizabeth’s feelings were detectable after all. Darcy needed a sip to settle his thoughts.

“Well?”

Darcy set down his glass and glared at his cousin. “She took offense at your dismissal of Chloe.”

Richard stared at him as though he thought Darcy had lost his mind. “You cannot be serious.”

“I am.”

Richard sat forward, his face working. “You expect me to welcome Wickham’s brat into my home?”

“Richard. You are speaking of my niece and ward. I shall thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head.”

Richard flushed in anger but nodded. “I mean no offense to you or Lizzy, but I cannot set eyes on that child and not see Wickham’s lying face.”

Darcy beat down his first impulse—to pack his family and leave Rosings at first light—and attempted to speak rationally. “You are a reasonable man, Fitz. Surely, you know Chloe is innocent of Wickham’s sins.”

“I know that!” Richard snorted. “It is just that…” He waved his hands, seemingly unable to say more.

A horrible thought occurred to Darcy. “Pray tell me you do not subscribe to Aunt Catherine’s appalling notion about bad blood.”

Richard shook his head. “Of course not.” He dropped his elbows to his knees and held his face in his hands. Darcy could see his cousin was struggling, but he offered no solace.

The man deserved no such relief.

“It is her eyes,” Richard mumbled.

Darcy did not respond. He simply waited for the rest. It was not long in coming.

“She has Wickham’s eyes, Darce. I hate those eyes.” He looked up at his cousin. “I look at your ward, and I see all the pain that man caused our family.

“I saw it when we were young. I saw he was nothing but a jealous, devious bully and scoundrel. He used everyone and cared for no one. You were blind to it at first. You were so young, so lonely. You wanted a friend badly. I did what I could to protect you, but I was either at Matlock, or school, or the army. You had no one but Wickham. When your blinders finally fell, my uncle would not listen to you. He would do nothing!”

Darcy took a deep breath. “You know how charming, how persuasive Wickham could be, even in his youth. Father felt sorry for him, given the woman who was his mother. He thought I could be a good influence on his godson.

“Later, after Mother’s death, Father lost his way. She was his joy, and joy left him when she was gone. Wickham was agreeable, he was amusing, and I…I was serious and reserved. I was the heir. I was the responsible one. I was the one he depended on to care for Georgiana and Pemberley. He told me this in his last days—”

“Bah!” Richard cut him off. “Uncle George refused to accept what Wickham was!

Sending him to school, paying off his debts. He should have cast him off! He should have been more concerned for you!” He clenched a fist in his other hand. “You cannot know how much I hated Wickham. I wanted to kill him, you know. After Ramsgate, I could have cut him down in the street at the slightest provocation.”

“I am happy you did not,” Darcy said, reaching out and tapping his cousin on the knee. “I have grown used to your annoying presence, as has Georgiana.”

Richard returned his gaze to him.

“I have made my peace with my childhood. I have forgiven Father. No man, no matter how good, is perfect. I certainly am not. I have learned that hate and resentment are a poison to one’s soul.

“Wickham is dead, Fitz. But even he did something good. He left the world three lovely little girls. The Bingleys have Phoebe, and the Tuckers Rosanna. Elizabeth and I are honored we have been given the charge to raise Chloe, and we shall do so to the best of our ability.”

“Yes, you are very generous—”

Darcy cut him off. “This is not generosity, not in the least. You may as well call us selfish at once, because in our hearts, Chloe is ours—Elizabeth’s and mine. We shall raise her as our daughter. And once she is old enough to make the choice, we shall adopt her if that is her wish.”

Richard was shocked. “You…you would adopt Wickham’s—”

“We stand ready to adopt my ward—my sister Lydia’s child,” Darcy stated firmly. “A sweet and loving little girl, virtually abandoned by her mother. We care not who fathered her. I shall be her father now.” He paused. “And we require our relations and acquaintances to respect our decision and accept my family. My entire family.” He offered a smile and softened his tone. “She would like another cousin.”

“I…I do not know if I can do that.” He bit his lip. “I am well rebuked for my treatment of—of your ward. I shall do better. I shall offer her every courtesy. But pray do not ask more of me.”

“You have much to think on.”

“I do.” He looked up bleakly. “I owe you and Lizzy an apology.”

Darcy shrugged. “For myself, I require nothing. Elizabeth is generous, as I have reason to know.”

“And…the child?”

“Treat her well and we shall have no complaints.”

Richard nodded and changed the subject. “Care for another port?”

Darcy eyed his nearly empty glass. “I believe this was your father’s favorite vintage.”

“Yes, the last of the case from his cellar.” At Darcy’s astonishment, he laughed ruefully.

“Port is made to be drunk, Darce. Besides, I think Father would approve. Nothing was more important to him than family.”

“True.” After Richard refilled their glasses, Darcy raised his, looking up at the ceiling.

“To Hugh Fitzwilliam and George Darcy—the two men who taught me what it means to be a father.”

Richard smiled, staring straight at his cousin. “To fathers.”

Thank you, Jack, for sharing this excerpt and for the giveaway!

GIVEAWAY:

To celebrate, I am giving away two (2) ebook copies of ROSINGS PARK – a Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men in your choice of MOBI (Kindle) or EPUB format!

Ends Feb. 9, 2021

 

WINNERS ARE Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) and Alexandra!