Guest Post, Giveaway & Excerpt: Spells & Shadows by Victoria Kincaid

Welcome to today’s guest post and excerpt from Victoria Kincaid, author of the new Pride & Prejudice fantasy Spells & Shadows. I love when our romantic pair are thrust into completely new situations.

Let’s check out this novel.

About the Book:

As a secret agent for the Mages’ Council, Mr. Darcy investigates a necromancer who is leading his followers down a dark path. When they discover him, a fight and a chase drive Darcy—injured and close to death—into the river. He is rescued and healed by Elizabeth, a talented mage at the Longbourn estate. Darcy cannot help developing feelings for her, but he dares not reveal his true identity while the necromancer’s creatures search for him.

Elizabeth Bennet is intrigued by the family’s new guest as he recovers at Longbourn. But mystery surrounds the man, and strange happenings plague the neighborhood while he visits. Elizabeth herself harbors a secret that she cannot share with the handsome stranger.

When Darcy’s enemies come calling, the Bennet family is caught in the crossfire. Worse, Elizabeth’s magic draws the necromancer’s particular interest. Darcy is falling in love with her and believes she returns his feelings, but the secret of his true identity could destroy their budding relationship—if they survive the upcoming danger.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy protect themselves and their families from the necromancer’s plots? What will happen when learn each other’s secrets? Can Elizabeth and Darcy’s love survive when it is entangled in a web of secrets, spells, and shadows?

Let’s check out the excerpt:

Hello Serena! Thank you for having me as a guest at your blog. It’s a pleasure to be back. In Spells and Shadows, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation, an injured Darcy has been rescued from the river and Elizabeth has been using her magic to heal him. Because he is a secret agent, Darcy conceals his identity from her. After her first conversation with Longbourn’s new guest, Elizabeth tells her family what she learned from him.

Elizabeth shut the door to Mr. Dee’s room and descended the stairs to the blue sitting room which was full of Bennet family members. Everyone glanced up when she entered.

“I heard your voice. Is our mysterious guest awake?” her father inquired.

“He was awake enough to answer some questions,” Elizabeth responded. “And he drank some water, but he is sleeping again.”

“Is he civil?” Jane asked.

“Is he married?” Lydia asked.

“Is he wealthy?” her mother asked.

Elizabeth laughed. “Yes he is civil. He did not mention a wife. And I did not think to inquire about the exact amount of his family’s fortune, but they are wool merchants with a house in town.”

“In trade?” Elizabeth’s sister Mary wrinkled her nose.

“Pssh! Who cares where the money comes from?” her mother said. “Wool….” She sighed. “Everyone needs wool. A wool merchant would do very well for one of you.”

“Mama, men who have been rescued from the river are not necessarily in want of a wife,” Elizabeth noted.

Her mother only jabbed her embroidery more energetically. “We must not waste such an
opportunity! He might take a liking to one of you girls.”

“He has requested that we tell no-one of his whereabouts,” Elizabeth told her father.

“Ooo! Perhaps he is an escaped prisoner!” Kitty said, sounding quite excited at the prospect. She read a lot of novels.

“I do not believe prisoners customarily wear such fine clothing,” Elizabeth said.

“A French soldier in hiding?” Kitty guessed.

“He has no accent,” Elizabeth said.

“A viscount who is secretly also a highwayman!”

“They are not as plentiful as you have been led to believe,” Elizabeth said with a smile.

“Perhaps he is—” Kitty started.

“Perhaps he is a wool merchant, and we should not let our imaginations run wild,” Elizabeth said firmly.

“His desire for secrecy is quite interesting,” her father remarked. “I was in Clark’s book shop today when a stranger inquired if anyone had reported a body washing up along the river. He said his brother had fallen in the river near Luton.”

“Surely it cannot be the same man,” Jane exclaimed. “Mr. Dee could not have floated all the way from Luton.” Elizabeth said nothing.

Her father shrugged. “I agree it is improbable. But it is almost equally improbable to fish a stranger from the river at the same moment someone is seeking another fellow.”

“You did not say anything about Mr. Dee?” Elizabeth asked anxiously.

Her father snorted. “I would not share any news with Clark that I would not care to have spread about the entire county. A strange man staying in my house with my five unmarried daughters is not such a thing.”

“Perhaps Mr. Dee’s family is searching for him,” Jane said, her forehead creased with

Elizabeth shook her head. “Mr. Dee knows how to contact his family. We should not reveal anything without consulting him.”

“I agree. Mr. Dee should decide who knows his whereabouts. He may have reason to be careful. Perhaps they are waging a vicious war with the cotton merchants.” Her father laughed at his own joke.

“Perhaps he is a viscount disguised as a wool merchant!” Kitty suggested.

“Whatever else he is, we know he is an injured man who needs to recover his strength,” Elizabeth said. “We must leave him in peace to do so.”

“Can’t I at least tell Maria Lucas?” Lydia inquired. “’Tis the most interesting thing that has happened in months! I will swear her to secrecy.”

Her father fixed her with a stern gaze. “No, you may not.”

Lydia huffed and rolled her eyes. “Very well. I will add it to the list of subjects I may not speak about.”

“I don’t know why you bother befriending anyone in Meryton,” Mary said with a sniff.

“They are quite unpleasant.”

“I don’t know why I bother either,” Lydia whined. “Nobody likes us.” She stood and flounced out of the room.

Of the five sisters, Lydia suffered the most from Longbourn’s relative isolation from the rest of Hertfordshire. Mary spent her time with religious books, and Kitty was absorbed in novels. Jane and Elizabeth spent much time honing their magical skills. But Lydia longed to be just like all the other girls in the neighborhood, and their mother indulged those desires. The Lucases at least would allow their daughters to socialize with the Bennet girls; Lydia took full advantage of those privileges.

Kitty shrugged. “They are pleased with us when they have need of our assistance.” She
returned to her novel.

Sadly, this was true. How many times had Jane helped farmers with flooded fields or prevented someone’s house from being swept away? The people of Meryton never hesitated to call upon Kitty when a wildfire threatened houses or crops. And Elizabeth had healed many people in the neighborhood.

Yet their talents set them apart. Mancy was rare outside London, but it was rampant in the Bennet family. When they walked into Meryton, people stared and spoke behind their hands. They even made signs to avert the evil eye.

Papa compounded the problem. He never particularly cared about the neighbors’ opinions and at times relished his reputation for eccentricity. At public occasions, he would tell odd jokes without any concern about how it might affect the family name. Her mother frequently lamented that no man in the neighborhood would ever consider courting a Bennet girl.

Mary often said the townspeople did not deserve their help if they ostracized the family. Elizabeth understood her sister’s frustration, but she would never refuse someone in need. Mary closed her book of sermons and turned to their father. “If we always help them in their time of need, we should at least collect money for our services.”

Her father sighed. “We have no need to rehearse that argument. We are not in trade.” He stood and ambled toward the door. “Lizzy, I will be in my study should our guest wish to speak with me.”

Now, doesn’t that sound like a great premise for a story. I think so. I hope you’ll check out the novel.

About the Author:

The author of more than sixteen best-selling Regency and modern Pride and Prejudice variations, Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington, D.C., where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays Victoria is a writer who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds). She is a member of the Magical Austen authors group and is the host of the annual Jane Austen Fan Fiction Reader/Writer Get Together.

ENTER to WIN 1 E-book, Spells & Shadows, below with your email and comment. Open until Aug. 4, 2023.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Doubt Not, Cousin by Barry S. Richman

I love Jane Austen stories that involve the cousins — Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. They have such different backgrounds, and it always seems as though the Colonel is lively and happy. I am eager to see what Richman tackles in this novel.

Before we get to the excerpt, let’s check out the synopsis and an excerpt. Stay for the giveaway.

Book Synopsis:

Darkness, in many forms, must be conquered to emerge into the light and embrace one’s happily ever after.

Fitzwilliam Darcy. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Two cousins, closer than brothers. One finds love despite his inner demons; the other resists love because of them.

Elizabeth Bennet. Kitty Bennet. Two sisters, strengthened by adversity. One willingly yields to love; the other pridefully misinterprets it.

An epic saga steeped in intrigue and gift-wrapped in romance, Doubt Not, Cousin chronicles the trials and tribulations of three extraordinary families during England’s Regency era.

… But who is the girl with the violet eyes?

Today’s excerpt:

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me today. The overwhelming interest in Doubt Not,
is incredible. I knew as I was writing that the characters and themes would be different and hopefully interesting. The following is an example of such. DNC has influences from several authors I have read throughout the years. The characterization of Col Fitzwilliam’s health issues stems from Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series. He presented a character, Randall Neiderman, who could feel no pain.

Congenital analgesia or congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) is an extraordinarily rare condition in which a person cannot feel or has never felt physical pain. Because feeling physical pain is vital for survival, CIP is extremely dangerous. Without going into the physiological reasons, the pertinent subject is the two types of non-responses to pain: insensitivity and indifference. Master Richard Fitzwilliam is of the latter, as our readers shall see …


“Mr. Burton.”

A wiry man walked with purpose across the parlor, his posture ramrod straight. His arms hung at his sides—his right hand empty, his left carrying a black leather medical satchel. His light hair was short, and gold-framed spectacles were perched upon his patrician nose. He had been raised a gentleman and was comfortable in the current setting. He paused and waited for the aristocratic couple to take notice of him. Once the niceties had been completed, a young redheaded nurse entered the room and delivered her charge to the surgeon. He appeared quite comfortable as he briefly communicated with the child. She seemed reluctant to leave. The medico regarded her with kindness.

“He will be well, I assure you.”

Nurse curtsied and departed. The earl and the countess stood.

“If possible, I would like for you to remain. It reduces speculation.”

The earl and the countess returned to their chairs, unsure of what to say. The surgeon began his examination. He sat Richard upon a coffee table and opened his bag.

At first, the evaluation mirrored those made by the other London physicians. Seeing that, the earl and countess prepared themselves to accept another wasted afternoon. Yet, after measuring, weighing, and handling the child, this surgeon deviated from evaluations conducted in the past. He spent a considerable amount of time looking at and touching the boy’s tongue. He compared it to his upper and lower teeth repeatedly.

He used a set of calipers to measure the length and depth of each furrow. He opened a journal and made precise, miniature drawings of the scars. He showed them to his patient as he completed each one and asked for his opinion. The two exchanged whispers. At one point, the surgeon inclined his head; the boy nodded several times. They recommenced whispering, their heads nearly touching. The earl and the countess looked on in wonder, exchanging glances between themselves.

The surgeon next sat the child on a settee. From his bag, he removed a small jar containing clear fluid and thin needles. He set this on the side table next to the boy who watched the surgeon dispassionately.

“The best Damascene steel sewing needles in neutral spirits,” offered the surgeon to the couple. The earl’s eyebrows neared the top of his forehead.

Mr. Burton knelt until he was at eye level with his patient. The boy’s parents watched him whisper to their son and receive the same in return. The surgeon removed
a large black cloth, reassured the child all would be well, and blindfolded him. Opening the jar, the surgeon removed a needle and scratched it down each bare leg without breaking the skin. A pink trail remained. The patient displayed no reaction.

The surgeon next removed the child’s shoe and stocking. He grasped a bare foot in his hand. He leaned over and whispered again into his patient’s ear. Richard nodded back in return. He removed another needle, then looked at the countess briefly. She blinked. He pushed the needle deep into the child’s heel. The boy moved his head down as if looking at his foot through the mask but made no sound. The surgeon carefully eased the needle out and checked the heel for blood. He found none. He removed the blindfold, replaced the boy’s stocking and shoe, and congratulated young Richard on his bravery. The child looked up at Burton and smiled.

The earl was doubly stunned, both by the ordeal he had assumed his son had undergone and equally so by Richard’s reaction. He looked at the countess, who had her right hand over her mouth; her left gripped the sofa’s arm. Her expression showed her agony, and her eyes were filled with tears. She reached out to her husband for comfort. The earl encompassed her trembling hand.

Mr. Burton bowed to the earl. His examination was complete, but he remained silent.

Matlock called the butler into the room. “See that Richard is served his favorite treat.

He has done very well—very well, indeed.”

“Yes, my lord.” Smythe closed the door. A few moments later, Richard’s young nurse entered and swept up her charge, humming a melodic Irish ballad. Richard’s little arms wound around her neck. The door closed, and silence again settled in the room.

The earl put the question to Burton, not arrogantly but in a quiet, hopeful manner. “Well?”

“I shall require time to conduct some rather specific research. For now, I can extend a hypothesis.”

“Please do.”

“Your son does not feel physical sensations like others. This is clear in his minute reaction to painful stimuli.”

The surgeon nodded to the couple to ensure their understanding. They both replied in kind.

“There is more evidence as seen by the scarring on his tongue. The teeth marks match his inner mouth shape. I conjecture he chewed his tongue while teething. I speculate his weight loss, coupled with his failure to demand to feed, also stems from this high, or in my opinion, indifferent pain threshold. His diminished response to pain concerns me.” Burton gestured with his forefinger in the air. “He must be taught that blunt trauma is a danger to him. Pain is our body’s warning mechanism. Your son, as he grows, will not acknowledge the everyday bumps and bruises children encounter while playing.”

“Pray continue,” directed the countess, her focus on the surgeon.

“I should like to spend more time with the young master in his familiar environment. Together, we shall develop a protocol for him to self-assess throughout the day. We desire to prevent smaller incidents from growing into larger injuries. The French have a name for this protocol.”

The earl curled his lip curl in disgust. “Odious lot. You have my permission to speak the words, sir, as this is your area of expertise. What is this practice you are describing?”

“The French use the word ‘triage.’ We shall instruct the young lord to continuously self-triage throughout the day. It will become second nature to him.”

The earl nodded.

The surgeon continued. “I would also recommend that family and staff begin the courtesy of requesting physical contact rather than initiating it.”

“Even his mother?” the countess blurted, then covered her mouth with her hand.

“I believe individual family members will find a happy balance.” The surgeon returned the countess’s smile.

She continued. “Is this indifference to pain related to his slow development to speak?”

“I believe not, your ladyship.”

“What prompts this opinion?” she inquired.

“Your son Richard, if I may, is not reticent to express an opinion or an observation in the short time we have spent together. He chooses when to speak and how much. As time passes, he will become more comfortable and, therefore, will speak more. He is aware that the scarring on his tongue delays, but does not prohibit, speaking normally.

What that manner is, only time will tell. He is alert, bright, and strong—quite strong. He will adapt.”

The countess relaxed, a slight smile playing around her mouth.

The earl stood. “Burton, see my man of business today. We welcome you as a Matlock retainer.”

“Yes, Mr. Burton. You have lightened my heart. Please join the earldom,” invited the

Burton nodded his assent. “Thank you, your lordship, your ladyship. I shall.”

“Smythe.” Again, the Matlock butler entered the study. “See to Mr. Burton’s comfort and requests.” Burton bowed and exited the study. Lord Matlock resumed his place.

The earl looked at his wife and opened his arms. She nestled in, laid her head on his shoulder, and succumbed to his embrace. Together, like their youngest son, they sat in silence.

About the Author:

Barry S. Richman is a military veteran and corporate logistics professional. While he was recuperating at home after having his wisdom teeth extracted in 2003, he picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and has yet to put it down.

In the past twenty years, he has read thousands of Pride and Prejudice variations. Watching him complete a book every other day, his wife of thirty years suggested he write one. Doubt Not, Cousin is his first book.

Barry and his “Jane Bennet” live in Los Angeles and Alaçatı, a small seaside town in southwestern Turkey. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads, Amazon, and YouTube.


Meryton Press will give away one eBook of Doubt Not, Cousin per blog stop.

The giveaway is international.

To enter, leave a comment with viable email to be entered by July 28 at 11:59 p.m.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

Guest Post and Giveaway: Handsome, Clever, & Rich by Jayne Bamber

Today, Jayne Bamber is back with a guest post and excerpt from her new novel, Handsome, Clever & Rich.

Let’s check out a little bit about this tale:

What if Elizabeth is not a Bennet by birth, but by marriage?

When Netherfield Park is let at last, the village of Meryton is inveigled in romance, intrigue, and a few less-than-happy reunions. The Bingley siblings return to the home of their youth, an estate purchased just before the death of their father. The neighborhood, especially the Bennet family, is ready to welcome them back with open arms, but Mr. Bingley’s attempt to make a good impression on his community backfires so badly that it is his awkward friend Mr. Darcy who is obliged to salvage the situation in the aftermath of Mr. Bingley insulting Jane Bennet at the Assembly.

Young widow Elizabeth Bennet begins her acquaintance with Mr. Darcy on amiable terms, but the reckless folly of his friend and the regrets from her own past create a bumpy path to Happily Ever After for them.

Not long after an injury obliges Elizabeth to recover at Netherfield Park, her estranged sister finally discovers Elizabeth’s whereabouts, and journeys from Highbury to Meryton in all haste, suitors in tow.

When one unexpected betrothal arises out of necessity, Jane Austen’s most notorious matchmaker is inspired to work her magic at Longbourn, Netherfield, and Lucas Lodge – but she, too, will have met her match in matters of meddling & mischief.

Please give Jayne Bamber a warm welcome:

It’s great to be back at Savvy Verse and Wit! Today I am here to share another excerpt of my new release, Handsome, Clever & Rich, which is now available on Kindle Unlimited.

As you may guess from the title, this Pride & Prejudice variation features appearances from several characters from Emma, including the titular heroine herself! That’s not the only big change you’ll see in Meryton in this variation. The Assembly at the beginning of the novel takes a very different turn when that notorious insult, “She is tolerable, I suppose…” is spoken not by Mr. Darcy, but by Mr. Bingley – in reference to Jane Bennet! This moment of bad judgement plagues Mr. Bingley for much of the book, and sets Mr. Darcy on an unlikely course of being better liked than his friend in Meryton.

Darcy first rescues Jane from the mortification on Mr. Bingley’s insult, and later he rescues Elizabeth in a much more significant way. Today I am sharing an excerpt from the novel; this scene takes place at the Meryton Assembly, just after Mr. Bingley insults Jane. While Darcy stands up with Jane, he witnesses Elizabeth “accidentally” spill her wine on Mr. Bingley. Now, he has asked Elizabeth to dance as well.


A rosy blush spread across Elizabeth’s cheeks as she realized he had seen her little act of revenge.

“It was childish of me – I ought not to have done it.”

“I have done worse in defense of my own sister, and would do so again without hesitation,” Darcy replied.

“What age is your sister, sir?”

“Just lately sixteen.”

A trace of something deeply sorrowful flashed in her eyes, before Elizabeth looked away. “It is a difficult age for any young lady.”

Darcy quietly considered her words. Elizabeth looked to be about twenty years of age; she would have been about sixteen at the time of Benjamin Bennet’s death, which their mother indicated had been four years ago. A difficult age indeed for the beautiful creature before him. He knew better than to speak of it, for Miss Bennet had gone silent and sullen at his attempt to relate to her through a loss of such magnitude.

Before Darcy could manage to say something profound enough to convey that he understood her sentiments, Elizabeth turned the conversation with a pert smile and a twinkle in her eye. “Am I to understand, sir, that you do not begrudge me my lapse in civility toward your friend?”

“The first offense was all his – even Bingley would surely admit as much,” Darcy replied.

“How magnanimous of him,” she drawled.

Again Darcy paused to consider how best to word his response. Unwilling to give voice to the other sentiments Bingley had expressed, which must constitute a betrayal of his friend, Darcy could only wish the words of affection had been spoken as loud as those of censure. And yet, he knew that there was no amount of praise or affection that could justify the comments Bingley had made so publicly, for the lady herself as well as her entire community to hear. Darcy was still pondering the best way to assuage his friend’s dilemma, when an arch look from Elizabeth captured his attention.

“You say you would do far worse in defense of your own sister, Mr. Darcy – what would you have done if you had heard your nearest neighbor speak of Miss Darcy in such a way?”

Darcy did her the justice of genuinely considering the question, and replied with a wry smile, “You can hardly duel him at dawn.”

Elizabeth arched an eyebrow at him, as she had done from across the room when she had caught him staring. “I am sure Benjamin left a pair of pistols somewhere in the house. Jane might even make a fine second, unless she was obliged to face a man who had been so kind to her.”

There was a tone of challenge in her voice, which only strengthened Darcy’s rapidly increasing admiration of the headstrong enchantress. “I would not second any man so unequivocally in the wrong, even if I understood the deeper reasons behind his grievous blunder.”

He could see at once that he had made a misstep in his address, and a moment later, in the movement of the dance. Elizabeth clenched her jaw in righteous indignation. “I am sure I understand the reason behind his blunder perfectly, sir. Nothing could be plainer.”

“I beg you would not base your estimation of his character solely upon his behavior this evening,” Darcy said with a sigh. “I fear the endeavor would reflect no credit on either of you.”

“If I do not take his likeness now, sir, I may never have another opportunity. He ought not expect a warm welcome at Longbourn, any more than I should presume my own family to be received at Netherfield, such as things are.”

“I shudder to think what your estimation must be of myself,” Darcy said, testing his luck from another angle.

Elizabeth was momentarily taken aback by such a direct statement, and she bubbled with startled laughter. “I had always supposed it a woman’s prerogative to fish for compliments in such a way –  though I can hardly do such slander to my own sex at such a time, given the prevailing weaknesses of the men this evening. But you need not fear for yourself, Mr. Darcy, so long as you do not take to the field, should it really come to pistols at dawn with your friend. The key to securing a place in my esteem is and always shall be Jane, and all my family at Longbourn – therefore, you are quite safe at present.”

“At present,” Darcy replied, suppressing a surge of admiration for the diminutive but ferocious woman before him. He could hardly account for how either of them managed to move in time to the music, amidst such a conversation as this – it was nearly too intense to bear, yet he wished to press on still. “I suppose by this you mean that your opinion, however favorable, might be altered by some future offense?”

“Have you any particular assault on my regard planned, sir?”

“No indeed – I merely mean to make out your character in turn.”

Elizabeth grinned at him. “Very well – but of course my good opinion, so newly formed, might rise or fall, depending on subsequent revelations. I am sure anybody might say the same. That is generally how first impressions work, Mr. Darcy.”

“I am quite in agreement. But does it not follow that the reverse must also be true – that an unfavorable impression might also rise or fall? Or is your resentment, once created, unappeasable? Is such implacable animosity not a shade in character?”

Laughing heartily, Elizabeth missed a step of the dance as she wagged her finger playfully at him. “You tease me into praising you, only to repay me by finding fault in my reasoning? Pistols at dawn, Mr. Darcy.”

“If your good opinion, once lost, is lost forever, I should call that a failing indeed. But in cases where one is blinded by a strength of affection that is, by itself, a charming virtue, this faulty reasoning may be forgiven. Your attachment to your sister does you great credit.”

Elizabeth smiled at him still, but now there was steel in her voice. “And yours to Mr. Bingley does not.” “Has Miss Bennet not ever accidentally given offense to anyone?”

“Not once, in the whole course of her life, I am sure,” Elizabeth said cheerfully. “As the Bingleys have
known her for much of it, you might apply to them for confirmation of the fact.”

She was dancing circles around him in more ways than one; it was frustrating, and tantalizing in a way Darcy had never before experienced. The movement of the dance required them to move closer and spin in time together, and for a moment his desire to defend Bingley’s character was lost to other impulses. Darcy was attracted to Elizabeth Bennet, despite their brief acquaintance, the vast difference in their situations in life, and a thousand other obstacles – but for a brief, blissful minute he managed to push past his pragmatism and simply bask in her mesmerizing company.

Finally, Darcy recovered what little of his equanimity he could – he was here for Bingley’s sake, and not his own. He furrowed his brow as he tried to pick up the thread of conversation and salvage the situation before he was utterly lost. “Do you credit their opinion so well? You would still suppose the Bingleys might be honest about that aspect of Miss Bennet’s character, despite what you have heard them say tonight – despite your own unshakable certainty that they are pretentious, ill-mannered, standoffish, inconsiderate snobs?”

“And you would find fault in their estimation of my sister, yet it is my own logic you assault so assiduously – I might as well inquire as to why a man of your intelligence and position, who has lived in the world, might keep such company. But if you mean to tell me that your friends will not give me an honest answer, we might ask anybody in the room to name a circumstance where Jane has been unkind, or anything short of perfection. Nobody could do it.”

Elizabeth let out a peal of confident, self-indulgent laughter and nodded her head vigorously as she spun to the music with the other dancers – Darcy nearly collided with Richard as he froze in place, watching Elizabeth’s sheer glee in utterly devastating his every argument. He forgot how to move until his cousin gave him a gentle shove and a look of curiosity that promised to plague him later.

“Then she is a lucky young woman – but this I already knew, for she has you as a sister,” Darcy replied in a desperate bid to regain the upper hand. “The material point is that everybody makes mistakes – we are none of us perfect, yet all deserving of forgiveness.”

“That can have nothing to do with you or I, sir,” Elizabeth chided him, shifting her gaze pointedly to Mr. Bingley, who still lingered at the edge of the room with his sisters.

“You are absolutely right, and I am sure he feels it most keenly.”

She smiled wolfishly at him as the music faded away. “Be sure, Mr. Darcy – be very sure that he does.”

The excitement of the other dancers ebbed around them as they all applauded the musicians and began to disperse in search of new partners, but Darcy and Elizabeth stood rooted in place, staring at one another in perfect understanding. “I can assure you I shall,” he said softly, so swept up in the moment that he caught her hand in his and began to raise it to his lips – the approach of his cousin George forestalled him from completing the gesture.

Elizabeth flinched and withdrew her hand at once. “Thank you for the dance, Mr. Darcy; it was most invigorating.”


Darcy and Lizzy are certainly off to a better start this time around! But poor Bingley has not made a good first impression on his neighbors, despite having some history in the area. Will Bingley recover his reputation in the neighborhood? Will Jane forgive him? And will Mr. Darcy continue to be more amiable than his friend? Follow my blog tour for more glimpses into the twists and turns of Handsome, Clever, & Rich – and don’t miss your chance to win a free digital copy of the book!

Thank you, Jayne, for sharing your new book with us.


About the Author:

Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.

Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day. Follow Jayne on Facebook.

Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The Sailor’s Rest by Don Jacobson

Please welcome Don Jacobson to the blog today as part of his blog tour for The Sailor’s Rest. I love both Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion because they both have strong characters and couples.

About the Book:

The Sailor’s Rest is inspired by Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion and is set on the stage of Napoleon’s 100 Days. Discover how the two betrothed couples—Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, along with Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot—find their love tried by separation, battle, and deception.

The novel immerses readers first in a mystery, then a sea chase, and, finally, a satisfying comeuppance. From the tattered rooms of a waterfront inn to three frigates engaged in a deadly game of naval chess, readers will experience the yearning as four hearts come closer to one another. Before the tale ends, the audience will step into the gilded confines of London’s preeminent card room.

Check out today’s Don Jacobson’s Guest Post, Taking Austen to Sea:

Many Pride and Prejudice variations find their scenic—if not plot—context in the hills surrounding Longbourn and Pemberley, the rooms of Austen’s notable estates or adjacent gardens, or town drawing rooms and parks. This works perfectly in most instances when the focus solely rests on the complex ballet between the undeclared lovers as they seek to overcome social barriers and their notions. Little reference to the outside world is needed beyond the requisite nods to snobbery and money.

On the other hand, I see Jane Austen as a writer of historical fiction who did not feel any need to explore the framework in which her stories existed because her readers knew the 4-1-1 about Regency society and world history. The horizons were nearer, and the crowds through which one moved were smaller. Austen’s power as a commentator about the human condition in the first decades of the Eighteenth Century comes from writing for an audience who knew the context.

After completing the final book in the Bennet Wardrobe series, I cast about for a story idea upon which I could focus my experimental impulse. As readers have seen, I am a fan of solid plotlines that allow the characters to reveal more about themselves than a conversation over a cup of tea during a morning call.

That led me to a logical pairing of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion: Austen’s novels that feature the strongest four protagonists. As I began The Sailor’s Rest, I considered the effect of these two pairings in the same book without falling into the trap of making Frederick and Anne the Bingley and Jane of the work: present and important to Elizabeth and Darcy in a literary sense, but not crucial to the outcome. I am of the school that Darcy’s making of amends in the Bingley/Jane scenario seeded the ground for Elizabeth’s final understanding of his character after he resolves the Lydia/Wickham imbroglio.

This worry led me to consider Persuasion before P&P. Persuasion’s setting is Somersetshire, the coastal county hovering above the Bristol Channel. Hertfordshire and Derbyshire are distant from the English Channel and North Sea and would have been unnatural for Frederick Wentworth’s tale. Thus, it seemed easier to move Darcy, Elizabeth, and Anne into Wentworth’s and Croft’s worlds.

The captain’s realm is one of water and war. Austen asserts that Wentworth returns a successful and wealthy frigate captain after the seven-year separation. What she does not explore is how he arrived at that station. That led me to conclude that a naval story, where Wentworth’s life provides the context and thus is thoroughly unfamiliar with the other main characters, would best serve my goals.

In The Sailor’s Rest, the book’s second act plays out on the Mediterranean stage. We see Darcy and Wentworth in their guises of Will Smith and Fred Tomkins seeking to survive captivity aboard the British frigate Persephone. Anne and Elizabeth, protected by Admiral Alfred Croft and Mrs. Sophie Croft, are pursuing the other ship aboard the frigate Naiad.

Setting The Sailor’s Rest in small spaces, be they a private dining parlor, a coach and four, or a frigate, would allow the characters to rub tightly together until they step away to find that space their hearts and souls require to breathe. This is my literary application of the architectural philosophy of compression and expansion. The ocean’s limitlessness allows the already betrothed couples—yes, I decided that another dance about how ODC or F & A came together would not illuminate—to reflect on their respective loves and voice their deepest fears. Darcy can no more jump on his stallion’s back and ride across the fields than Elizabeth can “scamper” to Oakham Mount. Both must deny physical outlets and face what besets them.

Before closing, I wish to emphasize that the battle sequence in the middle of the book is essential for readers to fully comprehend how different, yet how similar, Wentworth and Darcy are to each. They are decisive men, needing to determine a course of action and not quail from it, although with different potential outcomes. As Wentworth smiled to Darcy, “One difference I would be happy to point out is that your success is not contingent upon blasting holes in a neighboring estate.”


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Today’s Excerpt: Please enjoy this excerpt from The Sailor’s Rest. ©2023 by Donald P. Jacobson. Reproduction prohibited. Published in the United States of America.

From Chapter 18
Naiad, NW of Port Mahon, April 9, 1815

The evening beneath the snowy canvas sky was magical. Inky channels rippled between creamy billows, recalling the Abbey, albeit made from air, thread, and imagination. The restless tacking as the ship worked its way north through the Balearic Sea toward Toulon pushed the Milky Way’s starry belt one side and then the other of the bowsprit’s black finger scribing the moonless sky. The sirocco had diminished, although the wind blew warm and humid from the southwest. Clouds rose above the waters but fled before the ship, making Naiad’s passage smoother.

Anne and Elizabeth stepped past the marine guarding the great cabin and made their way forward. A shadow whisper walked behind them, never coming too close to violate their privacy but never too distant to be unable to rescue them.

The women strolled arm-in-arm along a deck slightly heeled over in concert with the starboard tack. The crew that kept Naiad working toward their goal was invisible in the night’s gloom. Seen from above, the ladies floated, their light gowns blending seamlessly with the deck boards. They appeared like bergs calved from the canvas peaks above and drifting along the moon-darkened surface. This image was only a figment for the waters through which Naiad drove had never seen ice in this age.

The two misses were not unseen, just unremarked upon, by the silent watchers.

Passengers they may have been, that was true: what would have been equally valid was that the Naiad’s crew owned as if theirs the voyage suc was the nobility of the mission. Through dim nights on the gundeck, before they crawled into the hammocks, they had heard stories told by those who had their letters of Camelot’s knights. In those tales, the damsels in distress were held in dark castles or deep caves and guarded by fell beasts and witch’s spells.

Their quarry fled before them, trailing its coat upon the restless sea. ’Twas manned by those unknown. That unfamiliarity allowed the granting of malicious traits bordering on the ancient images of men who kicked the law to the side and raised piracy’s black banner. None were good; all were evil and examples of what men can become if not ruled by the Articles of War. They were a scourge, a cancer in civilization’s innards.

In such thoughts lay the courage sailors need when facing water-borne war. Boarding parties would crouch below railings waiting for the order to leap onto the opposing ship. Contrary to instinct, they would clamber over the boarding nets, running toward, not away, from mayhem. Mates fighting alongside on all compass points gave surcease. Officers would make for the quarterdeck and the flag. Cutlass-bearing, mallet-wielding sailors—peasants they were not instead standing on the field like King Harry’s men-at-arms—would clear the forecastle and venture below decks.

They doubted that the men of their target—even though British sailors—would fight with the same ardor as they. After all, was there a better fighting vessel than the Nimble Nymph: her figurehead soaring above the waves clad in gilt and calcedony? Perhaps they were deluded, but if it was fantasy, then it was one familiar the world over and held tightly by frightened men throughout history. Otherwise, they would quail at the thought of intentionally wading into a clutch of desperate sailors fighting for their lives.

There was one complication and not a minor one. While Naiad had bypassed Gibraltar, a messenger boat had raced from the harbor bearing the news that Napoleon had fled his gilded cage on Elba and was marching toward Paris. With the Emperor on the loose, the reconstituted French Royal Navy had raised the Tricoleur. Although the British had reduced that service across twenty-plus years, it could still float many a frigate to harry unsuspecting commerce and bring death and destruction to British warships doing their duty. That added an element of uncertainty to their pursuit of Persephone.

Somewhere, out of sight, their prey waited. Whether Naiad would be the hunter or the hunted was a story yet to be written. The coming confrontation would be neither civilized nor simple.

However, at this moment, suspended between darkling waters and the brilliant sphere punctured by crystalline points, contemplative peace was known by those who strolled on the deck.

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 re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. In 2022, Meryton Press published the eighth and final book in the series—The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. 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. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is in his third career as an author and is a JASNA and Regency Fiction Writers member. He is also a member of the Always Austen collective. Check out his newsletter.

Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Bennets: Providence & Perception by K.C. Cowan

The Bennets: Providence & Perception by K.C. Cowan focuses on Mary, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and one of the last children in the house. Stories about Mary often focus on her piety, but here Cowan takes that piety on a different journey.

Let’s read a little bit about the book, and then read the excerpt:

Poor Miss Bennet—with three sisters married, she will no doubt be left “on the shelf” unless she takes steps to secure her own happiness. So, with the arrival of Mr. Yarby, a handsome new rector for Longbourn chapel, Mary decides to use her Biblical knowledge to win his heart.

Meanwhile, her recently widowed fatherfinds himself falling for the older sister of his new reverend. But Mr. Bennet is officially in mourning for his late wife—what a scandalous situation! Unfortunately, Longbourn’s heir, Mr. Collins, has the antennae for a scandal and makes blackmail threats.

Will an overheard conversation between the Yarby siblings break Mary’s heart? Or will it impel her to a desperate act that threatens everyone’s hopes for lasting love?

Please check out this excerpt, which I hope will leave you wanting more:

Mary was walking towards the parsonage in hopes of another Bible study session with Mr. Yarby. It was an unusually sunny and warm day for February—a bit of a false spring—and Mary was in a happy mood as she walked along the lane. She had decided on this visit to ask Mr. Yarby whether they could discuss some of the women of the New Testament. Her plan was to then steer the topic from their love of the Lord to a discussion of love in general. She felt it was past time for him to declare himself, and she was quite certain he only needed the right prompt to feel able to speak his own heart’s feelings. After all, had he not comforted her tenderly when she was distraught after her father was shot? They had nearly kissed, after all—at least, Mary believed that was his intention. Would he have acted so if he did not care? Mary was certain he only needed the proper encouragement to declare himself.

As she approached the front door of the parsonage, she saw the rectory maid, Ellen, scrubbing the front steps. The girl looked up from her work.

“Beggin’ your pardon, Miss Bennet. This weather is so fine, I decided it was a good time to scrub the winter’s mud and muck off the stone steps. Have you come to pay a visit? Everyone is sittin’ outside in the back, enjoyin’ some cake and homemade wine in this lovely sunshine. Please go on through.” She gestured for Mary to step over her work.

“Oh, Ellen, I should hate to place my dirty boots right over your nice, clean steps and add to your work. I shall walk around; I know the way.”

“Thank you kindly, miss.” Ellen smiled and returned to her work.

As she walked around the side of the parsonage, Mary tried to think of a way she could get Mr. Yarby away from his sister and brother so they could have a private meeting.

I would much rather be with him alone than just have this turn into a social call.

Mary could hear laughter as she approached the back of the house, then familiar voices. She knew she should not eavesdrop, but an odd feeling made her slow her steps, and then hesitate a moment to listen to the conversation.

“It is quite pathetic, actually, feigning such an interest in the Bible just to get close to you, Robert,” Mary heard Amelia say. “Even if she has not done so of late.”

“Now, now—don’t be too hard on the poor girl, Amelia,” Phillip replied. “She is only seeking what all young women want — a husband. Although personally, I must question her choice. After all, I believe we can agree I am far more handsome than Robert.” There was loud laughter at this. “But at least he is respectable,” he concluded.

“She may see it as an advantageous match, I suppose,” Robert replied. “But I swear to you both I have given her no reason to think I see her as anything other than the daughter of my employer.”

“I absolutely agree,” said Amelia. “And I am proud that you have not been unguarded or careless in your behavior towards her at all. No one could call you out for toying with her affections; you have not compromised her one whit. Just take care you continue in such a manner. Otherwise, it could give rise to hopes and expectations that have no basis in reality and would just … complicate things. Well … perhaps she will give up this folly soon. You, of course, should pursue your choice of bride. When will you declare yourself to her, by the way? This constant mooning over her in private will not do!” she teased.

“I shall, but I must be certain of the lady’s own affections,” Mr. Yarby said seriously.

Amelia laughed. “Oh, there is little doubt of her feelings, I am confident.”

“Then there is her father to consider.”

“I can’t imagine there would be any objection on that score,” said Phillip. “Do not wait too long, little brother. That will clear the way for me, as well.”

Mary clasped both hands over her mouth to keep the moan that seemed to rise from deep within her from escaping. Her entire body began to tremble, and she was barely aware of her own steps as she carefully backed away. Hardly able to breathe, she turned and began to hurry away, stumbling out of the side garden, and only nodding in reply when Ellen called, “Oh, are you not staying then, miss?”

What do you think? I think Mary is on the road to self-discovery and learning how eavesdropping might not be the best idea.

BONUS Guest Post on Language by KC Cowan:

I enjoy reading all sorts of books. But I have a particular fondness for Regency-based stories and Jane Austen—both the original and the many, many variations and sequels of her classics. The reason these books appeal to me is because of the wonderful characters and plots, of course. But if I’m being entirely honest, it also nearly always comes down to this one thing: the lovely and genteel manners of the era. There were so many “rules” of etiquette and behavior back then and while it must have been difficult to navigate in some ways, what I like most is how polite people generally were to each other.

Being polite doesn’t mean there was never any criticism — indeed, Jane Austen herself was renowned for her wit and for poking fun at many  — from the snooty elites of the era as well as the lowly, but pompous parson. But were people crude? Rude? Almost never! It all comes down to the elegance of the language.

For example, in our current times, you might say, “What the heck are you talking about?” when confused about something. However, it is so much more elegant to say, “Forgive me—I do not have the pleasure of understanding you.”

How about “I abhor him in every way,” rather than “I can’t stand his guts?” Or “What an amiable gentleman” versus “He’s a pretty good guy.” Or my very favorite: “I am all astonishment!” So much classier than “I couldn’t believe my ears!”

The lovely language just immediately takes you back to a place and time when good manners and courtesy were valued and practiced with regularity. We all know what a tremendous insult it was when Lizzy accuses Darcy of his lack of gentlemanly behavior during his offer of marriage. A greater slight one cannot give to a man who considers himself a true gentleman.

There is a marvelous new book, Say it Like Miss Austen by Stefan Scheuremann. It is a Jane Austen Phrase Thesaurus. You can look up any topic to find the correct language of the time. For example, under Not Communicating you learn that the Austen way of saying “I was speechless” would be “I could not frame a sentence.” I only recently found this book, but I certainly could have used it when writing The Bennets!

Of course, the other challenge of writing a period story is that you must also be careful not to choose words that were not in common usage in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. That is where a good dictionary is invaluable. Down at the very bottom of a definition of a word you will usually find when the word first came into practice and common use. I learned that while “excite” was used in Jane Austen’s time—as in “I should not wish to excite your anticipation,” the first person description “excited” was not used until 1855! So, instead of “we are so excited to have you come visit,” you’d have to write “We are filled with eager anticipation.” And once again, it’s so much prettier than modern speech.

I had an initial editor who marked up my first draft with “WC” (word choice) by anything she wanted me to check. More than half the time, she was correct! Does it take more time? Yes! But if you are a true lover of the Regency Era language, it’s so important to get it right.

Isn’t the English language and its evolution so fascinating? I know I’m intrigued. I have an entomology reference guide, but I may need to pick up these books if I ever write a regency romance.

About the Author:

KC Cowan spent her professional life working in the media as a news reporter in Portland, Oregon for KGW-TV, KPAM-AM and KXL-AM radio, and as original host and story producer for a weekly arts program on Oregon Public Television. She is co-author of the fantasy series: Journey to Wizards’ Keep, The Hunt for Winter, and Everfire. The Hunt for Winter and Everfire were both awarded First Place OZMA citations from Chanticleer International Book Awards for fantasy writing.

KC is also the author of two other books: “The Riches of a City” – the story of Portland, Oregon, and “They Ain’t Called Saints for Nothing!” in collaboration with artist Chris Haberman, a tongue-in-cheek look at saints. She is married and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Meryton Press will be giving away 1 eBook. Enter below with a comment by April 3.

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Giveaway: How to Speak Animal by Dr. Gabby Wild


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.


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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.
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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.


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.

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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.


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)


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.


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

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