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Giveaway: How to Speak Animal by Dr. Gabby Wild

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Learn about the secret language of wild animals in this exciting and informative guide from the experts who brought you How to Speak Cat and How to Speak Dog.

We know animals can’t speak and express themselves in the same way as humans … but even the smallest and quietest animals have incredible ways of communicating with each other. With wildlife veterinarian expert Dr. Gabby Wild as a guide, How to Speak Animal helps kids understand how animals communicate through sound, body language, and behavior. It’s full of expert insights and real-life stories of humans exploring ways to “talk” to animals, from teaching great apes sign language to speaking “dolphin.” Packed with super-engaging animal photography that helps illustrate key concepts, this fascinating bookprofiles more than 60 different creatures―from birds to mammals to reptiles and more―and their amazing ways of communicating with each other.

If you’ve ever wondered why gorillas beat their chests and make hooting noises, what it means when chameleons change color, or why some elephants twist their trunks together, this is the book for you!

 

About the Authors

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

DR. GABBY WILD earned her bachelor of science and doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degrees at Cornell University. She completed her veterinary internship training at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron, Ohio, and received her master’s of public health (MPH) from the University of Minnesota. She is a published genetics researcher and uses her research background to screen zoonotic disease transmission among wildlife, domestic animals, and people. To help maintain a healthy planet, she monitors herd and individual health for rising epidemics. Dr. Wild balances her Western medicine practices with traditional Chinese medicine in an effort to blend both methodologies. Acclaimed for her role as “the veterinarian” on Animal Jam, the world’s largest online “playground,” with 54 million players, she creates educational videos and teaches children internationally about wildlife conservation and medicine. When not in the wild, Gabby works as a Wildlife Health Program veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo and is a training veterinary surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island. She lives in New York City.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

AUBRE ANDRUS is an award-winning children’s book author with dozens of books published by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, American Girl, Disney, Scholastic, and more. She has also ghostwritten books for young YouTube stars. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family.


GIVEAWAY

  • Three (5) winners will receive a copy of How to Speak Animal
  • US only
  • Ends 12/18 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below

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Watchman, What of the Night? by W. Luther Jett

Source: the poet
Paperback, 46 pgs.
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Watchman, What of the Night? by W. Luther Jett is a collection that records events as they happen, yet asks the reader to consider what could be done to modify current outcomes and change fate. Opening the collection with “The Builders,” Jett reminds us of all those who have come before us, who have build the societies in which we live and who have left us now responsible for its direction. We cannot simply be the watchman on the sidelines; we must be active participants.

Yet, even in the early poems, like “With an Army at Our Gates,” Jett points to those who still maintain their routines even when things are dire: a mother calling children in to lunch, someone running to the subway, and a man washing his socks. It is to say that life continues on as it has even when danger is ever present. Is this our way of ignoring the danger? Coping with it? These are just some of the questions we should consider.

A War Story

Here is the book
with torn pages.
Only half remains
to be deciphered.

And here is the house
with burnt rooms,
and a few fading photos
scattered across the floor.

And here, here — Forgive me
but these are my bones.
This is the face I was using
Wrap them all tenderly.

Sing of me as you sleep.

There is much to lament in this collection, but there could be hope at the edges that we can change and move in a better direction as a society. This is particularly evident in “Promise” when the snow falls and covers “all that was” and a “a new world/revealed.”

Watchman, What of the Night? by W. Luther Jett traverses history and the present, outlining the struggles of people and even though they may not impact us directly, they are a symptom of societal neglect. Like watchman we stand too idle on the sidelines (complaining, shaking our heads, etc.) and doing little to effect change. Perhaps we need to step down from that watchman’s post and into the fray.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

W. Luther Jett is a native of Montgomery County, Maryland and a retired special educator. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, such as The GW Review, Beltway, Potomac Review, and Little Patuxent Review as well as several anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and Proud to Be. His poetry performance piece, Flying to America, debuted at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C. He has been a featured reader at many D.C. area venues. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father, released by Finishing Line Press in 2015, and Our Situation, released by Prolific Press, 2018. A third chapbook Everyone Disappears is now on sale, to be released in late November, 2020. Kelsay Books will be releasing Luther Jett’s fourth chapbook, Little Wars, in June 2021.

Enter the Giveaway:

Leave a comment with your email by Dec. 10, 2022, for a chance to win 1 copy of Watchman, What of the Night?

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha

Source: the author
Paperback, 210 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha, winner of the EastOver Prize for Fiction, are stories in which cultures seem insurmountable until there’s an undercurrent of emotion the breaks through those external barriers. Underneath these stories is the roiling tide, pushing and pulling these characters toward and away from one another.

“He makes me homesick. I realize I’m in a foreign country. I can speak its language, live its habits, think its thoughts, but I’ll never be part of it.” (pg. 178, “The Children of Icarus”)

In the opening story, “The Woman-Child,” there’s a tension between a young Vietnamese man, who returns to Vietnam as part of his research of how shrimp farmers are affecting the waterway, and a young woman who cooks for her fisherman father and feels like the woman at the inn is like a mother. He grew up in America and looks at her through an American lens, but she is a young, independent woman who wants to show no weakness in front of him. These moments of passionate tension and the strength of independence enable the tension to break without the characters themselves breaking under the weight.

“I stared at him. He could have stabbed me and still not have hurt me as much as the tone of his voice did.” (pg. 62, “The Dream Catcher”)

Ha’s characters are complex and struggling against cultural expectation and tempting passions. They are looking for their path, but often find they are pulled into a direction they never expected. There is a tumbling of light and dark into a gray sea that flows between each character who is being tossed on their adrift boat. Ha reminds us that tragedy touched everyone, but it is not always apparent on the surface.

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha is another collection that will capture your imagination. From the magical market to the tragedy of lost lives, Ha’s stories are fairy tales in which characters face tragedy head on and seek solace in life and the blessings they have. I didn’t want to reach the end of this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

***Also check out Ha’s poem, a Book Signing Horror Story.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Multi award winning author Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, and Mrs. Rossi’s Dream. He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and The University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize. He is the recipient of the Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, the Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction, The Orison Anthology Award for Fiction, The James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, The C&R Press Fiction Prize, and The EastOver Fiction Prize.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream was named Best New Book by Booklist and a 2019 Foreword Reviews INDIES Silver Winner and Bronze Winner. All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories has already won the EastOver Fiction Prize. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE.

Guest Post: Book Signing Horror Story by Khanh Ha

Thank you for joining us today’s guest post from Khanh Ha. I’ll have a review of his newest short story collection next week. Also stay tuned for how to enter the giveaway.

About the collection:

From Vietnam to America, this story collection, jewel-like, evocative and layered, brings to the readers a unique sense of love, passions and the tragedy of rape, all together contrasting a darker theme of perils. The titular story captures a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers. The opening story “A Woman-Child” brings the shy eroticism of adolescence set against a backdrop of the seaside with its ever present ecological beauty. A youthful love affair between an older American man and a much younger Vietnamese girl has its poignant brevity in “All the Pretty Little Horses.” In “The Yin-Yang Market” magical realism and the beauty of innocence abounds in deep dark places, teeming with life and danger. “A Mute Girl’s Yarn” tells a magical coming-of-age story like sketches in a child’s fairy book.

Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate, their desire to survive never dying, it is a great journey to inhabit this world where redemption of human goodness arises out of violence and beauty to become part of its essential mercy.

As readers, we understand how much we love authors and want to get our books signed at events when we can, but today, Khanh Ha, author of All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories, is going to share with us what it is like to be on the other side of that equation. What’s it like for an author at a book signing?

Please give Khanh Ha a warm welcome for his guest post in the form of a poem:

The Late Night People

I met a woman
during one of my book signings
She came to the table where I sat with
two stacks of hardcover copies
She picked up one copy and said,
What is it about?
I’m never good at summarizing my work
in a nutshell
for something that had taken me
two, three years to write
Well, I said, it’s on the jacket flap
where she could read what the copywriter
had done
as part of the cosmetic surgery
so the work looks more like a movie actress
than a whore
The woman nodded, but
didn’t read a word of it
where I hoped she might have caught
the advance praises
full of superlatives
that sometimes you thought they must’ve been
copied and pasted in
from another work
But she just wanted to talk
A soft-spoken woman
straw-yellow hair
no makeup
like she’d just got out of bed and
wandered into this place
full of books
like Alice in Wonderland
We talked about pets
and, in the name of God,
she owed at least a dozen cats
some of them neutered
for overpopulation purpose
and pet fish
whose names I forgot
expensive though
She said one of them cost a hundred dollars
And I learned that she worked part time
somewhere in a graphics shop
It was a quiet evening
with no more than three interested readers
who dropped by at my table
but none bought any copy
only she did
without any idea of what the book
was about
When I left she had gone to an in-store coffee shop
sitting on a high stool with a cup of coffee
reading a day-old newspaper
I had to run an errand that evening after
the book signing and when I was done
it was half past midnight
I was driving down a cross-street
two blocks from the bookstore where
earlier I had my book signing
Stopping at the intersection on a red light
I looked over at a donut shop
on a corner
well lit, near empty
I saw the woman who had bought a copy
of my book
sitting by herself
close to the glass
a Styrofoam cup of coffee
in front of her
She wasn’t reading anything
just sitting and staring ahead
I wondered
where my book was
For certain it wouldn’t have fit in her purse
unless she had returned it after I left
for a full refund.

Thank you, Khanh Ha, for sharing this horror story with us.

To Enter the Giveaway, Click Here.

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Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway: A Season of Magic by Sarah Courtney

Today’s guest Sarah Courtney is here to share with us her new book, A Season of Magic, which is a Pride & Prejudice variation. Before get to her guest post and excerpt, let’s learn a little bit about the book.

Book Synopsis:

When the girls are forced to reveal their elemental magic, it does not matter to the Mage Council that they did so only to save lives. Their parents were traitors and the entire magical community is simply waiting for them to descend into evil themselves.

The Council reluctantly admits Elizabeth to the magical university (and unofficial marriage market) called The Season, where she will learn how to control her powers. If she can keep her head down and avoid drawing any untoward notice, she might be able to graduate and finally be accepted as a fire mage.

But fading into the background will be difficult. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, nephew to Lord Matlock of the Mage Council and a student himself, is assigned to observe her and report any misstep. One mistake could send her back to her foster parents, the Bennets—or worse, to prison. Yet when that mistake inevitably comes, he stands up on her behalf. Could he be an ally instead of an enemy?

Please welcome, Sarah:

Thank you so much, Serena, for having me on Savvy Verse and Wit! I’m so excited about the release of my newest book, A Season of Magic, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation.

I’ve been working on this story for a couple of years and actually wrote several other books in between. Since I read a ton of fantasy, I thought writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation would be easy! But it took me a while to really discover the story I wanted to tell beyond the initial hook that was my inspiration.

You would think that a Jane Austen story that takes place in a fantasy version of the Regency would not require a lot of research because, hey, it’s fantasy! But I did find a surprising number of topics that I had to put lots of research time into—and they weren’t all about Regency manners or what words existed during that era.

Elizabeth Bennet is a fire mage in Season, which means some of my research went into fire and flammable materials. I was looking over a scene I had written in which Elizabeth needs to identify what is being burned on a fire without seeing it. She identifies it as some kind of wood, and then narrows it down to paper.

Some of you may have already noticed the problem here, but I didn’t catch it myself until a reread. Of course, paper was not made from wood during the Regency era! Until at least around the 1840s, it was still being made of linen and rags.

Describing Elizabeth’s fire abilities and knowing the flammability of different materials could be a little tricky, since her fire is magical and does not absolute require fuel or oxygen to burn—although it burns more readily when they are available, of course. But fire was so prominent in the story that I did still have a great deal to learn. In fact, at one point I needed to know about potential arson materials during the era, and my husband put me in contact with a firefighter so that we could discuss wax and turpentine!

Did all of these pages of research go into the story? Of course not. I end up using maybe a line here and a line there. Such is the life of a writer. At least half of your research, if not most of it, never ends up in the book. But those lines that stay ought to be good!

With Elizabeth and Darcy at a magical university, I couldn’t resist putting them through what most students dread: a group project. To make it worse, they end up on the group project together with Mr. Wickham and several other characters you’ll meet in A Season of Magic. Wouldn’t you just love your grade to depend on Mr. Wickham doing his share?

Their group project and other classes led to all sorts of interesting research, from aphids to Oliver Cromwell and from herbs to William the Conqueror. I had a lot of fun imagining how the history of England might have been affected by mages, or how an insect might have been altered as part of a magical experiment. A lot of this research went into the little glimpses we get into Elizabeth’s magical education.

One real historical event that has a prominent mention in A Season of Magic is 1816, sometimes known as The Year Without a Summer. This was the year after a violent eruption of a volcano caused an ash cloud that affected temperatures and weather systems worldwide. Crop shortages caused significant starvation and illnesses from North American to Europe to Asia. This was a life-altering event that would have been felt by Jane Austen herself in the year before her death.

While this event would happen several years after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy completed their time at the Season, it was an ideal way to show what their magical education was for, as well as how the mages could work together to help in desperate times. Most of my research into this time period was focused on history and how the situation was different in North America versus Europe versus elsewhere in the world, but it did lead to some interesting searches like, “Can animals graze in the rain?”

Now that I’ve shared a glimpse into some of the process of writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation, here’s a little tidbit from the story itself:

******

There was no air. Elizabeth’s desperate gasps were worse than holding her breath, and yet she could not stop from trying to suck in air.

Her head was pounding, eyes stinging. Although the smoke had long been too thick to see through, she could still tell that the edges of her vision were going black. She was not going to make it. Was she even still crawling towards Maria? Even if she reached the girls, how would she turn around and make it back towards the door when she could see nothing and could not breathe?

Jane’s hand clenched on hers. Jane. Her beloved Jane.

Jane. She could barely form the silent call.

I am here, Jane’s mental voice said, sounding very faint. Weak. Jane, too, was barely holding onto consciousness.

When she was very young, Elizabeth had thought of doing something heroic, something amazing, something that would clear her family’s name and restore their reputation. If she had succeeded in saving the girls and Sir William, perhaps she would have.

Instead, she and Jane would die together.

Just as that maudlin thought crossed her mind, the surrounding air cleared. Elizabeth greedily sucked in the fresher air, but that only brought on a fit of coughing.

She could see now. Her vision was improving, although her eyes still stung. Maria and Pen were still alive! They were both lying on the floor, clinging to each other in the same way Elizabeth and Jane were. Sir William was just next to them, lying on his stomach. Elizabeth could not see his face.

Elizabeth looked up with blurry eyes to see a strange and amazing sight. The smoke was not blowing out a window. It was just . . . evaporating. Even as she watched, the remaining grey smoke in the room disappeared as if . . . by magic.

She coughed at a sudden odd sensation, as if the smoke in her lungs, too, had suddenly become pure fresh air. She coughed again, but now her lungs did not feel as if they were about to burst.

Jane let go of Elizabeth’s hand to wipe tears from her eyes. Whether she was crying with relief or whether it was from the pain of the smoke, Elizabeth did not know. She felt on the verge of tears herself.

Sir William sat up, looking bewildered. Maria and Pen were looking towards the door of the room, and Elizabeth turned, pulling Jane with her.

A man stood silhouetted in the doorway, the lit torches of the villagers who had come to the rescue behind him.

Sir William scrambled heavily to his feet, reaching towards the burnt table for support before thinking better of it and getting up without it.

“Sir,” he choked out, “my deepest thanks.”

“Well,” the stranger said with a wry grin, surveying the room, “I had not expected such an exciting welcome to Meryton. Still, it is a pleasure to meet you all.” His eyes caught on Jane’s, and his smile turned brilliant. His next words seemed to be for her alone. “My name is Charles Bingley.”

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your exploits in writing this variation and for sharing an excerpt with us.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.

About the Author:

Sarah Courtney loves to read fantasy, fairy tales, and Pride and Prejudice variations, so what could be more fun than combining them? She currently lives in Europe where she homeschools her six children and still manages to write books, which has to be proof that magic exists! Visit her blog and on Facebook.

GIVEAWAY:

Sarah is giving away 1 eBook per blog stop.

If the winner has already preordered the book, he/she may choose another one of Sarah’s books for their prize.

Leave a comment below with an email.

Deadline to enter is Aug. 8, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Giveaway: Gaithersburg Book Festival 2022 Is a Wrap!

The 2022 Gaithersburg Book Festival was a resounding success at its new location, Bohrer Park. It had far more shade and the tents seemed to be full from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

We had a lovely reception at Asbury Methodist Village for the authors and presenters, and I’ll share those photos here (Thanks to Photographer Bruce Guthrie!):

Here are some of the photos I took from the Edgar Allan Poe tent where the poetry programming was located.

We had 2 mixed genre panels as well — one with short stories (brilliant Tara Cambell’s Cabinet of Wrath) and poetry and another with nonfiction/memoir (brilliant Leslie Wheeler’s Poetry’s Possible Worlds) and poetry. (these are my own photos, except for the one with Jay Hall Carpenter, Lisa Stice, and Lucinda Marshall)

We also announced the winners of the High School Poetry Contest. While the first and second place winners were not available for the ceremony, we did have a good crowd with the third place winner and the other honorable finalists.

Gaithersburg Book Festival High School Poetry Contest Winners and Finalists 2022 (taken by city staff)

GIVEAWAY:

Win a package of poetry books from the book festival. The books are:

Deadline to enter is June 3, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST. You must be 18 years old and up to enter.

Leave a comment below with your email to be entered

Character Interview & Giveaway: The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy by Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has been a featured author on the blog before for the Bennet Wardrobe series, and today, we have the final installment in the series: The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy

Read more about this book:

“You must throw away notions of what you want. Only then will you be free to accept what you need.” —The Brown Guide to Fitzwilliam Darcy, 1840

Long has the amazing Bennet Wardrobe involved itself in the affairs of Longbourn. Where before its actions have been cloaked in mystery, its purpose now becomes clear. The fey cabinet has molded the universes to strike a balance that can be achieved only by saving the greatest love story ever told.

Follow the paths taken by Pemberley’s master and mistress after their children are grown. See Elizabeth Darcy struggle to rekindle the love glow that has dimmed after a quarter century.

Grasp the unaccountable pain her departure levels upon the entire Derbyshire family. Watch Fitzwilliam Darcy learn that which he must in order to become the best version of himself: worthy of his Elizabeth.

The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy closes out the Bennet Wardrobe series. The disparate threads spun by the remarkable women born to a Hertfordshire couple of insignificant fortune are woven together. These lives have become the tapestry that records the destiny of Jane Austen’s lovers, immortal in any here/now or where/when.

Without further ado, please welcome Don Jacobson with today’s character interview:

An Interview with Rachael Weisz, Elizabeth Darcy in The Grail:

A Cambridge graduate, Rachael Weisz quickly stepped from university to television and onto the stage. Cinematic roles followed where her dark eyes, arresting style, and deep authenticity led to a plethora of awards. Her role in “The Constant Gardener” brought her an Academy Award. Her portrayal of Sarah Churchill in “The Favourite” led to a Best Actress BAFTA. On stage, her immersion in the character of Blanche DuBois in Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” led to her carrying home the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress from The Society of London Theater.

Weisz took time from her busy schedule at the Cannes Film Festival to discuss with the View From Here her most recent outing — The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy.

The View From Here: Thank you, Ms Weisz, for joining us to speak about your role as Elizabeth Darcy in the biopic The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. While her earlier life has been the subject of multiple productions since 1940, this is the first which focuses on a mature Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. I imagine that the obvious question is what attracted you to the character?

Weisz: And there is an equally obvious answer. Elizabeth Bennet Darcy is one half of history’s greatest love story. The world, though, has been captivated by the early months of her relationship with Darcy. That would sideline every single actor over the age of twenty-five. When the chance came along to play Mrs. Darcy as a woman in her forties, I jumped at it. Of course, Daniel, my own Mr. Darcy, was jealous that he could not play opposite me.

TVFH: You are referring to Daniel Craig, of course. I wonder if Pride and Prejudice aficionados would be willing to include Mr. Bond in their Firth/MacFayden debate.

W: Yes, there was some good-naturing twigging going on in our household about just that. But Daniel was occupied with shooting No Time To Die and, even though he was age perfect for this Darcy, he could not contemplate the part. He did strut around the house grimly glowering while muttering ‘My good opinion once lost…’

TVFH: But his lack of availability led to the casting of Ewan McGregor.

W: Ah, dearest Ewan: I so enjoyed being opposite him once again (2005 Red and Black). Of course, he was the right Darcy for me. His eyes smolder and he gets the Darcy growl and grumble just right: probably the Scot in him.

TVFH: The producers sent me some of the rushes. I was astonished at the new depth you found in Elizabeth Darcy. Did you study Ehle and Knightley?

W: We all go to school on our fellow actors. I looked for a through line between their portrayals of an unmarried twenty-year-old woman to my character in her mid-forties. After more than a few cups of coffee and walks in the park, I realized that I could only use their Elizabeths as a starting point. Their films cut off just as the Darcys’ married life was beginning. As a result, the events that would have informed my backstory were not there.

However, I was fortunate in that the Bennet Family Trust had begun opening their archives by the time I was studying for the part. I was able to spend time in a reading room below Lincoln’s Inn reading Jane Bennet Bingley’s journals. Her memories of Elizabeth Bennet and the wedded Mrs. Darcy — both before and after her time in the Wardrobe — laid bare the complexities of this accomplished woman.

Between Mrs. Bingley’s diaries and Lydia Fitzwilliam’s papers, I learned that Elizabeth, like so many of us who have married well, still had to navigate the rocks and shoals of aging. For her it was living with a man who thought too much, worried too deeply, and too often tried to control every event to protect those he loved. If he would have remembered that one part of his life was built on bedrock, he might have been spared eighteen years in the wilderness. His wife was one of our species who loved but once in her life, and it was a fierce kind of love. Although Elizabeth was quick to judge, she was equally quick to forgive if not to forget.

The classic example was the famous insult casually tossed at her by Darcy the night they met. Jane found decades of amusement when her Lizzy would unsheathe that weapon at precisely the correct moment to puncture Darcy’s pretensions.

TVFH: What was the most difficult part of Elizabeth Darcy to capture? After all, she died nearly forty years ago. There are few alive who could reminisce about her.

W: That is not true. One contemporary remained. Although the information is not widely known, one of Mrs. Darcy’s sisters lived until 2019. This film has been in development since before Mrs. Benton’s death. She was gracious enough to sit with me on more than one occasion.

TVFH: And?

W: I will never forget our last meeting. Mary Benton clearly was feeling the effects of age. At that time, she was an objective seventy-three years old. But she had spent the bulk of her life in a pre-antibiotic, heavily-polluted era. She was paying the price the Industrial Revolution exacted, although as Britain’s Conscience would have noted, the toll was heavier on the poor who could not escape the cities. There was a spark, a fire, that burned brightly even in a weary body. Her mind was sharp, and her memories of her times at Kympton Parsonage were crystalline. All of those added texture to my understanding of Elizabeth Darcy and her relationship with her husband, a man who began nine years older than her and ended up almost thirty years her senior.

As I was leaving her rooms, Mrs. Benton grabbed my arm and speared me with those incredible caramel eyes. She distilled Elizabeth Darcy for me. “Lizzy was the best of us because she embodied each of us: Jane’s belief that each person owned inner goodness that could be revealed: my iron jawed determination—some would say outright stubbornness: Lydia’s ability to survey the field as if she were a general: and Kitty’s willingness to sacrifice herself for the good of all. Oh, she also captured our parents, too: Papa’s studied impertinence and Mama’s ability to well love her family.

“The Old One picked the right woman—and the right man—as the epitome of his grand design.”

TVFH: The Old One . . .?

W: Oh dear, look at the time! I fear I must leave you with that.

Weisz hurried off reminding this reporter of his earlier conversation with Charlotte Rampling, who played the older Kitty Bennet in “The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn.”

About the Author:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years, from news and features to advertising, television, and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all nonfiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey.

Since then, Meryton Press has re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy is the eighth and concluding volume. Other Meryton Press books by Jacobson include Lessers and Betters, In Plain Sight, and The Longbourn Quarantine. All his works are also available as audiobooks (Audible).

Jacobson holds an advanced degree in history with a specialty in American foreign relations. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is currently in his third career as an author and is a member of JASNA and the Regency Fiction Writers.

Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the Austenesque world, Jacobson also enjoys cooking, dining out, fine wine, and well-aged scotch whiskey. His other passion is cycling. Most days will find him “putting in the miles.” He has ridden several “centuries” (hundred-mile days). He is especially proud of having completed the AIDS Ride–Midwest (five hundred miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-a-Wish Miracle Ride (three hundred miles from Traverse City to Brooklyn, both in Michigan). When not traveling, Jacobson lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and co-author, Pam—a woman Miss Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize. Follow him on Amazon, GoodReads, and Twitter. Subscribe to the Newsletter.

GIVEAWAY:

Meryton Press is giving away 6 eBooks of The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy.

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Giveaway & Interview with Mimi Matthews, author of The Siren of Sussex

Welcome to today’s tour stop with Mimi Matthews for her latest book, The Siren of Sussex.

Before we get to the interview, read a little bit about this book:

Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?

I just love these kinds of stories about couples kept apart by social expectation and how they can overcome them.

Please welcome Mimi Matthews:

What has your writing journey been like? When and how did you start writing and what keeps you going?

I started writing very young, finishing my first manuscript at thirteen and signing with my first agent at eighteen. After that, my writing career was on hold while I finished college and law school, worked, and traveled a bit. It wasn’t until I suffered a serious neck injury that I returned to writing fiction. I love researching and writing about nineteenth century history. It’s a passion for me as much as it is a job.

How has self-publishing prepared you for publishing with a traditional publisher? How are these journeys similar and different?

I was traditionally published first, for my nonfiction history books. I think that’s part of the reason I had confidence to give the indie world a try. I had received an offer for my novel The Lost Letter from a smaller publisher, but ultimately decided to put it out myself. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The biggest difference between traditional and indie publishing is the level of control the author has over what happens to their manuscript. As for similarities, it really depends how you approach the indie publishing journey. I tend to follow a traditional publishing model, so it actually feels quite similar to me.

You’ve written historical fiction, what is your favorite time period to write about and why?

The Victorian era is my favorite time period. It was an era of enormous change. I love delving deeper into how people responded to those changes.

Your latest novel, The Siren of Sussex, has a very independent woman in the lead during a time period where women weren’t too much in control of their own lives. Why is it important to shed light on these independent women? How hard was it to keep modern sensibilities in check while writing a woman’s story during the Victorian age?

I love to write female characters who don’t fit the stereotypical Victorian mold—women who are independent minded, who think about bigger issues like race and class, and who manage to carve out unique niches for themselves in a society that exerted unrelenting pressure to conform.

Modern sensibilities don’t even come into because women like this actually existed in the Victorian era.

Tell us a little bit about the Siren’s main love interest, Ahmad Malik, and what some of the obstacles are facing this pair.

Ahmad Malik is a brilliant tailor who dreams of becoming a society dressmaker. Born of a Muslim Indian mother and an English father, he’s spent most of his life as an outsider.

When he meets Evelyn Maltravers, he sees a way to improve both their fortunes. He doesn’t anticipate falling in love with her. To make a success of his work—and his burgeoning romance with Evelyn—Ahmad must face the prejudice of some members of fashionable society; He must also overcome his personal qualms about becoming involved with a lady of a different race and class.

Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write what you love. You won’t stick with it otherwise.

Thank you, Mimi, for agreeing to the interview.

It’s wonderful to know that forward-thinking women have not been lost to history and that we can shed light on them through fictional characters.

About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, 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 retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, BookBub, and GoodReads.

GIVEAWAY: Jan. 4, 2022 to Feb. 7, 2022


Terms & Conditions:
Giveaway hosted by Mimi Matthews. No Purchase Necessary. Entrants must be 18 years or older. Open to U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited.

The Giveaway Package: ENTER HERE

1 winner (selected at random by Rafflecopter) receives the following:

  • Signed print copy of The Siren of Sussex
  • Horse scarf
  • Pewter sidesaddle brooch (made in Sussex, England!)
  • The Siren of Sussex tote bag
  • Three candles in scents: Fresh Hay, New Saddle, and Winter Ride
  • Box of Ahmad Tea (60 count, assorted flavors)
  • The Siren of Sussex bookmark

The winner will be announced on Mimi’s blog at 8:00 pm Pacific time on Feb. 8, 2022.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Kidnapped and Compromised: A Steamy Pride & Prejudice Variation by Demi Monde

Today’s guest post and excerpt is from Demi Monde. I hope you’ll check out this steamy romance and enter the giveaway. Please welcome Demi Monde.

Hello Dear Readers, it is a pleasure to be here to share more details about my new release, Kidnapped and Compromised. This is a steamy novella and a work of Austenesque fiction.


Available on Kindle December 26th

Abducted and facing ruin, can Elizabeth’s wits save her from a dastardly plot? And will Mr. Darcy find her in time?

When a false friend tricks Elizabeth, she is abducted by carriage from Meryton and carried hours away to a bawdy house. If Mr. Darcy does not rescue and pay her ransom, she will be sold to the highest bidder.

Elizabeth must depend on her wits to survive. But the clock is ticking. Will Mr. Darcy choose to risk his life for the woman he secretly loves but who despises him? And if so, can he rescue her before it’s too late?

This 40,000 word steamy Pride and Prejudice variation features kidnapping, compromise, forced marriage, rescue by Mr. Darcy, double wedding, Christmas holiday ball and a happily ever after.

Enter to win a copy of Kidnapped and Compromised! Five winners will be drawn on December 27th.

***

This book opens near the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, with the militia present in Meryton and Elizabeth Bennet’s opinion of Mr. Darcy set, no matter his opinion of her fine eyes.

***

Chapter 1
Mr. Darcy pulled the reins, bringing his horse to a standstill from cantering, and looked around the Hertfordshire countryside. He thought he had heard yelling. But all he saw was an open field, crops in rows, with no one in sight. Fox pranced forward skittishly, no doubt unnerved by his rider’s stillness.

“Miss Elizabeth?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”

He had definitely heard it this time, over the sound of the horse’s hooves churning the damp earth underfoot. He had not imagined the voices calling for the desirable yet impertinent Elizabeth Bennet. Though she had believed Wickham’s stories about him, and questioned him at the Netherfield ball, he still admired her intelligence and beauty. But he could not have what he wanted. Her social connections and her family’s impropriety would never allow him to be with her in society or even to call on her in Hertfordshire.

He fingered the smooth leather reins as he decided whether to give in to his desire to find the cause of the servants yelling for the Bennet girl or to avoid temptation. The more he was close to her, the harder it was to not speak to her, to make her notice him, to have her admire him.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet?”

Mr. Darcy nudged his chestnut stallion Fox with his heels and headed towards the figures near the forest. Any gentleman would offer assistance in this situation. And Miss Bingley was not here to tease him for paying too much attention to Elizabeth’s fine eyes.

“You there!” He spied a servant walking at the edge of the woodland.

“What is the matter?”

The man pulled at his forelock. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet has not returned from her walk.”

Mr. Darcy had heard of her odd habit of lengthy, daily walks and had seen it for himself when she had hiked three miles to Netherfield to care for her sister. “Surely she cannot be lost? Has she not walked all over this countryside?”

The older man nodded. “Yes sir, but she—”

“How long has she been missing? What is being done to find her?” Mr. Darcy’s horse shook his head and pawed at the ground, eager to return to cantering.

“Miss Elizabeth has been gone since right after the noon meal, sir. Mr. Bennet has all the servants out looking for her.”

Mr. Darcy frowned. That was nearly five hours ago. Even a country girl with a fondness for countryside rambles would have returned by now. His chest clenched at the thought of her injured on the ground, somewhere at the mercy of the local wildlife.

“How many are searching for Miss Bennet? Is anyone on horseback? What is her usual walking path?”

The servant looked back towards Longbourn, the home of the Bennet family. “I do not know, sir. Mr. Bennet is at Longbourn and would answer your questions.”

Mr. Darcy spun his horse and kicked him into a canter. He searched the ground for a beautiful young woman lying injured as he rode. She must have twisted her ankle and was too far away to be heard yelling for help.

It was unconscionable that the Bennet girl was allowed to walk without a maid. Never would he have permitted his sister Georgiana to do the same. Perhaps Mr. Bennet would be more circumspect after this. However, Mr. Darcy doubted it. Control over his family was not one of Mr. Bennet’s strong suits, not with the way his younger daughters behaved at the assemblies or in town, flirting with the officers.

Mr. Darcy guided his horse down the short driveway of Longbourn.

Mr. Bennet looked up at the sound of Fox’s hooves clattering on the gravel path. The family’s patriarch stood in front of the house, directing searchers in his greatcoat and hat. Mr. Bennet turned in Mr. Darcy’s direction.

“Mr. Bennet, I came across one of your servants looking for Miss Elizabeth. May I offer my assistance?”

Mr. Bennet grimaced. “It would be much appreciated Mr. Darcy. However, I am sure my dear Lizzy has just lost track of the time. I have tried to curtail her long walks, but she will not listen to me.”

He chuckled, most likely expecting Mr. Darcy to join in. But Mr. Darcy’s thoughts were far from amused as his opinion of the Bennet patriarch dropped lower. “Men on horseback could cover a greater distance. I am certain Mr. Bingley would provide his servants to help with the search.”

Mr. Bennet widened his stance as he looked up at the younger man who outranked him in every manner. “I thank you for your offer; nonetheless I am sure we will find her quite soon. There is no need to cause alarm among our friends and neighbors.”

Mr. Darcy gathered the reins, biting back the desire to tell Mr. Bennet that a proper search had not been done. He turned, giving his horse the signal to move away from the man and his doddering ways. The eldest two Bennet girls deserved all the credit for their characters. It was a shame they came from such a family.

A young maid darted out from behind the hedgerows lining the lane. Fox reared back in surprise, but Mr. Darcy quickly brought him under control. He turned to the girl, ready to lecture her on not startling horses.

“Oh, Mr. Darcy! I have a note for you. I was going to give it to Mr. Bennet, but since you are here…” She held the stationary up to him.

He plucked it out of her hand with a scowl. It could not be a message from Netherfield. Mr. Bingley would not have sent a young maid alone to find him. “Who is this from?”

“A man in Meryton asked me to give this to you.” The girl gripped her waist, breathing heavily.

He unfolded and read the note, his heart stopping. Mr. Darcy pinned the servant girl with his stare. “How long ago did you receive this? Did you recognize the man that gave it to you?”

“No, sir, but he had a red coat on. He must be one of the militia.”

Mr. Darcy turned his head away to think. The maid curtsied and started towards the house.

“Wait!”

She stopped and looked back, clutching her apron.

“Do not tell anyone. Miss Elizabeth’s reputation is at stake.”

The servant assured him of her silence and continued down the driveway to Longbourn. Mr. Darcy lifted the reins, intending to race to Netherfield and round up his friend Mr. Bingley and servants, but stopped. It was his fault entirely that the honor of Elizabeth Bennet was at risk. The fewer people that knew of this situation, the better.

He needed to move quickly. Mr. Wickham had abducted Elizabeth Bennet.

I hope I have piqued your interest, The book is available for pre-order. Enter the giveaway here.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Mages and Mysteries by Victoria Kincaid

Today’s guest is Victoria Kincaid with her latest release, Mages and Mysteries: A Fantasy Pride and Prejudice Variation.

We’d love for you to check out the fantasy book and the excerpt below. Of course, there’s a giveaway of 1 ebook, so don’t forget to enter.

Book Synopsis:

In Regency England, women are expected to confine their magical acts to mending dresses or enhancing their beauty, but Elizabeth Bennet insists on crafting her own spells to fight goblins and protect the people of Meryton. She even caused a scandal by applying for admission to the magical Academy. When Hertfordshire is beset with a series of unexplained goblin attacks, Elizabeth is quite ready to protect her family and friends. If only she didn’t have to deal with the attitude of the arrogant mage, Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Mr. Darcy doesn’t need to be associated with a scandalous woman like Elizabeth Bennet—no matter how attractive she is. But as the goblin attacks accelerate and grow more dangerous, Darcy realizes that he could use her help in identifying the cause—and is forced to recognize her magical ability. Unfortunately, continued proximity to Elizabeth only heightens his attraction to her—which is particularly inconvenient in light of his engagement to Caroline Bingley.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy unravel the mystery of the goblin attacks before more people are hurt? And how can they manage their growing mutual attraction? It’s sure to be interesting…because when Darcy and Elizabeth come together, magic happens.

Please give Victoria a warm welcome:

Thank you for welcoming me back to your blog! I am pleased to introduce my newest book, Mages and Mysteries, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation. It’s been a while since I released a book. It turns out that pandemic conditions aren’t conducive to productive writing. But I am very pleased with how the book — my first fantasy variation — turned out.

The scene below takes place after a goblin attack that interrupted the Meryton assembly. Darcy and Bingley are paladins, a kind of fighting mage, so they raced outside to confront the goblin that was trying to enter the assembly hall. Darcy dispatched the goblin (with Elizabeth’s help). But after her departure, he and Bingley are approached by Hurst and Miss Bingley, who stayed safe within the hall during the attack.

I hope you enjoy it!

Hurst sauntered out of the assembly hall, having taken the time to don his greatcoat. Typical of him to emerge well after any danger was past. He was issuing orders to the footman at his elbow — also typical. As his father had served as the archmage before Darcy’s uncle had taken the position, Hurst keenly felt the importance of his family name in Convocation history.

He still believed that he should have been elected archmage after his father’s death — even though his powers were meager, and the Earl of Matlock was far better qualified. The footman scurried back into the hall to do Hurst’s bidding, but the man himself approached Bingley and Darcy. His languid gaze made Darcy even more self-conscious of the mud coating his breeches. “I heard the attack was by a hobgoblin, but that is impossible of course….”

“It was a hobgoblin,” Bingley said.

“Impossible,” Hurst said in a disdainful voice. “Who in Hertfordshire would possess the power to summon—?”

Darcy interrupted. “It was unmistakably a hobgoblin. Six arms, dense blue fur, and quite powerful. It was the largest hobgoblin I have ever encountered.”

“But why would someone send a hobgoblin to attack a ball? It makes no sense. Perhaps you mistook a hogboon for a—”

“I assure you, I did not,” Darcy said in icy tones. “And it is a mystery as to why any goblin would attack a ball.” He gave Hurst his haughtiest stare until the man averted his eyes. He tried to tolerate the other man since he was married to Bingley’s sister Louisa and Darcy’s fiancée did seem to like him. But there were times when Hurst’s arrogance was simply too much to bear. “If you had been out here, you would have observed—”

“I remained in the ballroom so I could protect the others,” Hurst said in portentous tones. “I cast a shielding spell.”

Darcy would have been more impressed if Hurst’s shielding spells were worth anything.

“Charles, what are you—? Your suit! It is ruined!” The shrill, slightly nasal voice emanated from behind Darcy, but he did not need to turn around to identify its owner.

Caroline approached the three men with rapid strides, a pinched, disapproving expression on her face. “And Fitzwilliam!” she exclaimed as she drew closer. “You are quite disheveled!”

Her disdainful gaze raked over both of them. She pulled her shawl around her shoulders. “And goodness knows why we must all stand about in the frigid air!”

Bingley heaved a sigh. “We were fighting a hobgoblin, Caroline.”

“That is no excuse!” she snapped. “You can fight a goblin and still take care with your appearance! You are a gentleman, after all.”

“Caroline—” Bingley started, but he was no match for his sister.

“I was in the ladies’ retiring room. When I emerged everything was in an uproar and you two had disappeared, leaving me alone in the ballroom!”

“We are paladins,” Darcy said sharply. “Our first duty is to protect the people of England.”

Caroline sniffed. “Of course. I am only your fiancée.”

“Hurst was there,” Bingley pointed out reasonably.

Darcy was exhausted and his forbearance was wearing thin. If he remained with Caroline, he would say something he regretted. “Bingley needs to visit the healer,” he said hastily before she could raise another objection. “I must take him there at once.” Pulling his friend’s elbow, he drew them both back toward the hall.

Thank you, Victoria, for a fun post. I can see the tension here already.

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:

Leave a comment below with an email so we can contact you if you win the 1 ebook up for grabs. Deadline to enter is Dec. 17, 2021.

Follow the rest of the Blog Tour:

December 6: Babblings of a Bookworm
December 7: So Little time
December 8: Savvy Verse and Wit
December 9: My Jane Austen Book Club
December 10: Probably at the Library
December 13: My Vices and Weaknesses
December 16: From Pemberley to Milton
December 28: My Love for Jane Austen
January 10: Austenesque Reviews

Guest Post/Excerpt: What Was it Like to Be a Governess? by Regina Jeffers, author of Pemberley’s Christmas Governness (giveaway)

Today’s guest — just in time for holiday shopping — is Regina Jeffers with her latest book, Pemberley’s Christmas Governess. You’ll get to learn about the role of a governess and read an excerpt from the book.

There’s also a giveaway, so be sure to enter.

Book Synopsis:

Following his wife’s death in childbirth, Fitzwilliam Darcy hopes to ease his way back into society by hosting a house party during Christmastide. He is thrilled when his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam sends a message saying not only will the colonel attend, but he is bringing a young woman with him of whom he hopes both Darcy and the colonel’s mother, Lady Matlock, will approve. Unfortunately, for Darcy, upon first sight, he falls for the woman: He suspects beneath Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s conservative veneer lies a soul which will match his in every way; yet, she is soon to be the colonel’s wife.

Elizabeth Bennet lost her position as a governess when Lady Newland accused Elizabeth of leading her son on. It is Christmastide, and she has no place to go and little money to hold her over until after Twelfth Night; therefore, when Lieutenant Newland’s commanding officer offers her a place at his cousin’s household for the holy days, she accepts in hopes someone at the house party can provide her a lead on a new position. Having endured personal challenges which could easily have embittered a lesser woman, Elizabeth proves herself brave, intelligent, educated in the fine arts of society, and deeply honorable. Unfortunately, she is also vulnerable to the Master of Pemberley, who kindness renews her spirits and whose young daughter steals her heart. The problem is she must leave Pemberley after the holidays, and she does not know if a “memory” of Fitzwilliam Darcy will be enough to sustain her.

Without further ado, please welcome Regina Jeffers:

The life of a governess in the Regency period was certainly not a glamorous one. These young women were most likely from a gentile family. They would possess a thorough education. For a variety of reason, they became governesses, hired by an aristocratic family or even a well-to-do middle class family, who wished to provide their daughters a “leg up,” so to speak, in society.

Most of these young women were brought up with a certain degree of indulgence and refinement. They moved in the better circles of society until a sudden loss of fortune, a failed business, or a death reversed the “possibilities” of a fulfilling future.

A governess would possess no expectation of an offer or marriage. She was at the mercy of her employer, receiving room and board and, perhaps, a small salary (allowance). Generally, a governess was neither part of the upper echelon of household servants (meaning the housekeeper and butler) nor part of the lowest positions (meaning maids, etc.). Often, a governess’s life was lonely and isolated.

Mary Atkinson Maurice tells us in Mothers and Governesses [London: John W. Parker, Publisher; Harrison and Co., Printers, M.DCCC.XLVII], a governess is “not a member of the family; but she occupies a sort of dubious position. She is neither the companion of the parents, nor the friend of the children, and she is above the domestics; she stands therefore alone. She has too often to guard against the exactions of her employers—the impertinence, or coldness of her charge, and the neglect and rudeness of the servants, she must be forever on the defensive.”

Enjoy the excerpt from Chapter One when Elizabeth Bennet, working as a governess, is accosted by her employer’s son. Then comment to be in the drawing for one of two eBook copies of Pemberley’s Christmas Governess.

Thanks, Regina, for sharing this information about the role of the governess. Readers, please enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter One and then enter the giveaway below:

Mid-December 1818 – Gloucestershire

“I said to unhand me, sir,” Elizabeth Bennet ordered, as she shoved young Mr. Newland’s hands from her person. Ever since the man had returned home, he had dogged her every step. She had been serving as the governess for his two younger sisters for six months now, but this was the first time the lieutenant had been home since her arrival at his parents’ home.

“I just be luckin’ for a bit of fun,” Mr. Newland slurred as he attempted to kiss her ear, but all she received was a wet lash of his tongue across her cheek. He reeked of alcohol.

Elizabeth wished she had been more careful when she left her room a few minutes earlier, but she had briefly forgotten how the lieutenant seemed always to be around when she least expected it. She had thought him below stairs with his friends, both of whom had been excessively respectful to her. She shoved hard against his chest sending him tumbling backward to land soundly upon his backside. “If it is fun you require,” she hissed, “join your friends in the billiard room!” Elizabeth side-stepped the man as he reached for her.

Lieutenant Newland attempted to turn over so he might stand, but he was too inebriated to put his hands flat for balance and to rotate his hips. “I don’t be requirin’ their kind of fun,” he grumbled.

Elizabeth edged closer to the steps. She hoped to escape before Lady Newland discovered her with a torn sleeve and the woman’s rascal son doing a poor version of standing on his own. “You must find your ‘fun’ elsewhere, sir. I am not that type of woman.”

She had been a governess for nearly five years—five years since her dearest “Papa” had died suddenly from heart failure—five years since her mother, Kitty, and Lydia had taken refuge with Aunt Phillips in Meryton, and Jane and Mary had moved in with Uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth, too, had been sent to London with Jane and Mary, but it had been so crowded at her uncle’s town house, she immediately took a position as the governess to Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Sample’s daughters, Livia and Sylvia. She had remained with the Samples, who were a wealthy middle-class gentry family and friends of her Uncle Gardiner, for a little over two years before the Samples brought the girls out into society and married them off.

In Elizabeth’s estimation, Livia, barely sixteen, was too young for marriage, but the girl appeared happy with her choice of a husband. Sylvia, at seventeen, had been more reluctant to wed, but the girl had followed her parents’ wishes. Few women had the freedom to choose their husbands, even in the lower classes, and certainly not in the gentry.

Elizabeth had spent an additional two years with another wealthy, but untitled, family, preparing their daughter for an elite school for young women on the Continent. In mid-May, she had answered an advert with an agency to join the Newland household. Although she had often thought Lady Newland was too pretentious, Elizabeth had enjoyed the enthusiasm of her young charges: She had considered them to be very much of the nature of her sisters Mary and Lydia. Pamela wished desperately to please her parents, but to no avail, while Julia was as boisterous and as adventurous as had been Lydia.

Elizabeth sadly missed her family, but, essentially, she knew their current situation was her fault. Such was the reason she had sacrificed herself by going out on her own—removing the responsibility for her care from her family’s hands—one less mouth to feed and to clothe.

Jarred from her musings by Lieutenant Newland’s lunge for her legs, Elizabeth squealed and scampered down the steps before the man could catch her. However, the lieutenant’s momentum sent him tumbling after her and marked with a yelp of surprise—heels over head—to land spread-eagle on the floor, except one of his legs had been turned at an odd angle. A loud moan of pain escaped to echo through the hall.

The sound of running feet filled the open hallway. Instinctively, Elizabeth dropped to her knees to examine the lieutenant’s leg. “Permit me a look at your leg, sir,” she told the man as she swatted away his hands, still attempting to grope her. “Lay back!” she instructed.

Immediately one of the lieutenant’s fellow officers was beside her. “Lay back, Lieutenant,” he ordered in a strong voice of authority. “Permit the lady to examine your leg.” The colonel looked to her, and Elizabeth mouthed, “Bad break.”

After that, the colonel took charge. “Mr. Scott, send someone for a surgeon.” The butler rushed away. “You two, find some sturdy blankets and a board—a door, perhaps, so we might move Lieutenant Newland to his room.”

“Yes, sir,” the footmen scrambled to do the colonel’s bidding.

Before Elizabeth could extricate herself from the scene, she looked up to view Lady Newland’s worried countenance. It was all Elizabeth could do not to groan aloud. There was no hope her ladyship would take Elizabeth’s side in the matter. “Nigel! Nigel, darling!” Lady Newland screeched as she knelt beside her son. “What has happened?” She shoved Elizabeth from the way.

Colonel Fitzwilliam explained, “I have sent for a surgeon and a means to move Lieutenant Newland to his quarters.”

Lady Newland nodded her understanding as she caught her son’s hand to offer comfort. Unfortunately, for Elizabeth, the lieutenant rolled his eyes up to meet hers. “I’m thorry, Miss Bennet.”

Lady Newland cast a gimlet eye on Elizabeth. “Sorry for what, Miss Bennet?” she asked in accusing tones.

Even though she knew such would cost her the position she held in the household, Elizabeth refused to tell a lie. “For the lieutenant’s attempt to take liberties where they were not welcomed, your ladyship.”

Lady Newland stood to confront Elizabeth. “I see how it is. Evidently, you thought one day to take my place as viscountess.”

The colonel stood also. “I believe you are mistaken, ma’am. Both Captain Stewart and I have warned the lieutenant how it is inappropriate for a gentleman to take favors with the hired help. Your son’s ‘infatuation’ has been quite evident to all who chose not to turn a blind eye to his thoughts of privilege.”

Lady Newland pulled herself up royally. “I shall not listen to anyone defame Nigel’s character. I realize you are my son’s commanding officer, but I am the mistress of this house, and I say who is and is not welcome under my roof. I would appreciate it if you removed yourself from my home by tomorrow.”

Captain Stewart joined them then. “Your ladyship, surely you realize the colonel is the son of the Earl of Matlock,” he cautioned.

For the briefest of seconds, Lady Newland’s resolve faltered, but she looked again upon Elizabeth’s torn sleeve and stiffened in outrage. “You may stay, Colonel, if you wish to condemn the real culprit in this matter.”

The colonel’s features hardened. “Although it provides me no pleasure to say so, for the British Army holds a standard for its officers, even those of a junior rank, but I have named the culprit, ma’am.” He bowed stiffly. “I thank you for your prior hospitality. I, for one, will depart in the morning after I learn something of your son’s prospects for recovery so I might properly report the surgeon’s prognosis to my superiors. Captain Stewart may choose to stay or depart on his own.” With that, he extended an arm to Elizabeth. “Permit me to escort you to your quarters, Miss Bennet.”

Though in the eyes of Lady Newland, Elizabeth’s doing so was likely another mark against her character, she gladly accepted the gentleman’s arm, for she did not think her legs would support her without his assistance. She was without a position and had no place to go.

Wasn’t that thrilling and shocking?

GIVEAWAY:

If you’d like to be entered to win 1 of 2 ebook copies, please leave a comment below by Dec. 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Why Lady Susan by Alice McVeigh, author of Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel

Welcome everyone to today’s latest guest! Alice McVeigh has written a different kind of Jane Austen story, and I love that she chose to write about Lady Susan!

Here’s a little about the book:

Familiar characters abound – Frank Churchill, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy himself – but Susan – mischievous and manipulative – is the star. This is Austen that even Austen might have loved, with a touch of Georgette Heyer in the romantic sections. Fans of Bridgerton will also relish this classic regency romance, the first in a six-book series.

Sixteen-year-old Susan Smithson – pretty but poor, clever but capricious – has just been expelled from a school for young ladies in London.

At the mansion of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she attracts a raffish young nobleman. But, at the first hint of scandal, her guardian dispatches her to her uncle Collins’ rectory in Kent, where her sensible cousin Alicia lives and “where nothing ever happens.”

Here Susan mischievously inspires the local squire to put on a play, with consequences no one could possibly have foreseen. What with the unexpected arrival of Frank Churchill, Alicia’s falling in love and a tumultuous elopement, rural Kent will surely never seem safe again…

Please welcome Alice:

Thanks so much, Serena, for inviting me to write about my new novel, Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel. In her note Serena wrote, “Lady Susan is so interesting! And I so rarely get offered anything to do with Austen’s other works.”

Some of you will probably read that last sentence twice. I did not – not because I’m hugely clever but because I too have Pride and Prejudice fatigue.

Now before I get brick-batted, I should say that, in common with every other writer I know, I love P&P. I simply object that it is actually more “searched for” on Google than Jane Austen is.

Yes, you read that right. P&P is more famous than Jane Austen, herself. It has also inspired more film adaptations, theatre productions, spinoffs, zombies and graphic novels than every other book she wrote – all put together – not only once, but several times over.

Of course, it isn’t as complex as Emma or as autumnal and elegant as Persuasion – it really is as light and liquid as Austen herself jokingly complained (“it is too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade…”) Also, unlike all her other books, it can be read as straight romance, despite Austen’s trademarked ironic social commentary. And yes, so outrageously rich is Mr Darcy that – in today’s terms – it even qualifies as “billionaire romance”!

Yet its sparkle is so rare, enviable, and skilful that I know of no serious academic who would wish her – were she still around – to alter a single word.

Despite this, I think that P&P worship has got out of hand.

The first time I noticed was when I received a disgruntled review of my new novel from an Amazon reader whose only beef was that – to her limitless grief – Mr Darcy did not appear.

My retort – which of course I never penned – would have been, “That’s because Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel is, um, a prequel to Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, and not a sequel to P&P. Mr Darcy never appears in Austen’s Lady Susan.”

Once I stopped grinding my teeth, I made cracks about how I should have included Darcy, within my own book club… At least, I did until Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel received its first Kirkus review.

I had perhaps got my hopes up a little, as Susan had already won First Place in the Global Book Awards, a gold medal in the PenCrest Book Awards, an IndieReader gold medallion, and – most amazingly – been rated 10/10 in Publishers Weekly.

The Kirkus reviewer, however, described it as “spirited but ultimately unsatisfactory”. And why? – you’ve already guessed. Because Mr Darcy and Eliza Bennet never appear. How could it be called a prequel, she or he argued, when only Lady Catherine, of all the P&P characters, really feature in my book at all?

Yes, even Kirkus, the premier source of reviews, possesses at least one reviewer who assumes that every Austenesque prequel has to be a prequel to P&P, the only book she ever wrote.

To be fair to Kirkus – once I’d stopped kicking the furniture long enough to complain – they seemed mortified. They instantly offered me a second review, free of charge, and the second reviewer really liked it. (“An intelligent prequel packed with enjoyable Austen references… McVeigh displays a brilliant, spot-on command of Austen’s diction and tone.” Thank you, Kirkus Reviews!)

But my point still stands. P&P first… the rest nowhere! ☹

And this is a terrible thing for all of Austen’s other works of utter genius. It can even be a pretty terrible thing for the stars of its numerous adaptations, with actor Colin Firth being Example A. He has publicly complained that – grateful as he was for having been cast as Mr Darcy – it had so identified him to most filmgoers that he had missed out on interesting roles afterwards. The curse of P&P!

Anyway, on to Lady Susan!

So, why did I choose to write a prequel to Lady Susan? Why didn’t I simply join other Austen-struck writers doing spinoffs of P&P?

First, because Lady Susan represents Austen’s only attempt at showcasing serious villainy. Austen’s Lady Susan makes Mrs Norris of Mansfield Park look almost civilized – and even the wickedly passionate Maria Bertram like some kind of a Girl Scout. When not amusing herself by seducing married men – or by wrecking the peace of her family by attempting to seduce their rich young heir – Austen’s Lady Susan is trying to force her gentle daughter into marrying a man she loathes. Why would anyone wish to write a book about Lady Susan?

Well, partly because I became fascinated in how she became so villainous, at 35 – her age in Austen’s Lady Susan. In my own novel she’s still just sixteen and – though certainly self-interested and notably manipulative – is also witty, engaging and affectionate. There are hints as to her ultimate character – if anyone’s character is set by their mid-thirties – but the reader is certainly hoping that her machinations will triumph with regard to her cousin Alicia’s love match – in fact, the reader’s pulling for young Susan all the way.

Yes, I give clues – she remarks at one point, “It was a very pretty letter. It was almost too pretty to burn” – but it would take an alert reader to spot them.

Why isn’t “my” Susan closer in character to Austen’s Lady Susan? – It isn’t just because I’m saving most of the character development for the sequel. It’s really because I simply find it impossible to imagine that any sixteen-year-old could be truly villainous – I don’t see how they could manage it in the time. I was also too charmed with the idea of her engaging with Frank Churchill, and with her taking the fancy of Lady Catherine de Bourgh… In fact, the whole idea of the prequel had been percolating in my brain for ages. It just took me about fifteen years to get up enough nerve to write it! (My agent was also against it, as being too close to genre fiction.)

But now I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I’ve done Jane Austen a tiny favor. I know many people who have gone back to Lady Susan and read it, mostly for the first time, having read Susan, A Jane Austen Prequel.

Of course, Susan would be selling still better had I only been smart enough to instead scribble Darcy as the Bloodthirsty Vampire Headmaster of Hogwarts or Eliza Bennet: Buttered Scones with Strawberry Jam (A Cosy Mystery).

Hmm. Now there’s a thought…

Thank you, Alice, for sharing why you wrote about Susan!

About the Author:

Alice McVeigh’s Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel is the first in a series of six Austenesque books published by Warleigh Hall Press (it is now available in audiobook). The second in the series (Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation) will be published in January. Alice has previously been published in contemporary fiction by Orion/Hachette and in speculative thrillers (using a pen name) by UK’s Unbound Publishing. You can contact Alice here.

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