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Excerpt & Giveaway: A Learned Romance by Elizabeth Rasche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi Serena!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then what?”

“You must work on Mr Cole instead.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

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

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

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss (giveaway)

Source: Graywolf Press
Paperback, 152 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a collection that, at times, tried my patience with its contradictions. But isn’t that what life is — a bucket of contradictions? She says in one of her opening sonnets: “The problem with sweetness is death. The problem/with everything is death. There really is no other problem/” Death is a final stop, and it toys with many of us, taking our friends or family too soon, putting us in situations where death could take us but doesn’t, and it looms in the close distance for us to get there.

Seuss pulls no punches in this collection and remains forthright in her depictions of giving birth, aging, abortion, abandonment by a drug-addicted son, and so much more. Aging is a central theme, even when she speaks of her childhood self. Poetic subjects waste away with AIDS, fade into the distance of space or recollection, or remain behind the larger death that pierces the happiness or contentment she seeks. She explores the falseness of faith in Catholicism, the nationalistic scourge that America finds itself consumed by, and the undercurrent of poverty and it’s traumatic scars. She sees the “undershirt” of it all.

“We all have our trauma nadir,” is the sonnet that guts us. We are her and she us. We all have trauma; we are told to lock it away (get over it); but what place is big enough to hold all of that trauma away so that it will no longer affect us? She adds in a later sonnet, “I can’t live up to normal.” Isn’t normal a fallacy? What exactly is normal and how can you be expected to achieve it when no one knows what it is? Despite these dark topics, it is clear that to live is to live with “sharp things.” Without these traumas and disappointments, where would we be?

Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss is a winding trail of darkness that teaches readers about the beauty in that darkness. It is an exercise in owning our own disappointments and traumas and learning how to let them go and move forward with our lives. It is a tough medicine to take, but Seuss is confident that we can take it or nearly die trying.

RATING: Quatrain

To Enter the giveaway: Leave a comment with your email address by June 30. Must be age 18+ and have a U.S. postal address.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut & Giveaway

Source: Author/Publisher
Paperback, 34 pgs.
I am Amazon Affiliate

(full disclosure: Kristin Ferragut is part of my poetry workshop and I was part of a workshop that helped her hone this story)

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, uses fairy tale-like elements to explain transgender to younger children. It’s an introductory story to help start conversations with kids about large themes, but at it’s core, this is a story about feeling comfortable in your own skin, loving yourself, and finding acceptance and love in your own family and friends.

The Wizard and their children, the Knight and the Dragon, are getting ready to trick-or-treat. When kids and their parents meet the Wizard and their family, they see a loving family eager to celebrate Halloween together. But kids will hear that the Wizard has an unspoken desire. With a quick costume change, the Wizard and their children are out the door. They are laughing and playing and magical things happen.

The streets may be crowded, but they are having a great time together, especially the Wizard. They receive compliments from strangers about their well behaved children, but many of them mistake the Wizard for a mom. Ferragut has created a magical way in which a transgender person finds not only their identity but peace in their own skin.

The illustrations by Ferragut’s daughter are colorful and expressive. The smile on the Wizard will make children smile. It just exudes such happiness. The final scene in the book is beautifully rendered. I look forward to more of her work.

Becoming the Enchantress by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut, illustrated by Coley Dolmance Ferragut, establishes a starting point for conversations about transgender and finding the home in your own skin and family. It will enable parents to talk to their children openly about their own identities.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is the author of the poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021). She teaches, writes songs, poetry and prose, hikes, and participates in readings and workshops in Maryland, where she lives with her two creative, lively, and supportive children. Her work has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Fledgling Rag, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. For more information, visit her website: www.kristinskiferragut.com

About the Illustrator:

Coley Dolmance Ferragut is an animator, digital artist, and actor who investigates themes of class and social justice in her work. A high school senior, this is Coley’s first published book.

GIVEAWAY:

1 copy of Becoming the Enchantress to 1 U.S. reader.

Deadline to enter is June 15, 2021.

Leave a comment with your email so I can contact you if you’re the winner.

Interview with Mary Anne Mushatt, author of For the Deepest Love

We have a great interview today from Mary Anne Mushatt. But before we get to that Pride & Prejudice lovers, check out this blurb of her new book, For the Deepest Love:

“After thinking long and hard, I have come to the conclusion that—although it may not be the kind of love my sister and I once had in mind—marrying Mr Darcy would be marrying for a love of the deepest kind.”

Recovering from their parents’ deaths, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet have held their family together, leaning on the support of their uncle, Edward Gardiner, to help them survive. Thus, when Mr Gardiner is threatened with scandal and ruin, Elizabeth vows to help him. Hearing of her distress, the scandalous Fitzwilliam Darcy enters her life—offering his aid in exchange for her hand.

Accepting his proposal upends her life in unimaginable ways as she learns of the treachery of the peer courting her, the betrayal and violence committed by her childhood friend, and the threat to her country as it faces another war.

As Elizabeth and Darcy face the turmoil and trials swirling around them, they risk opening their hearts to unexpected passion. In order to survive challenges from without and fears within, they must summon unknown strengths and forge new bonds to solidify a love of the deepest kind.

Please welcome, Mary, to the blog:

Hi Serena,

Thank you so much for having me here today, and thank you for supporting For The Deepest Love.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and who inspired you to take the plunge?

I believe I began writing when my father got sick with colon cancer in my junior year in high school, then died in my freshman year of college. It was a dark period in my life, where a lot of men in my family passed, and I was rather lost. After college, I moved to New York City, studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute to learn what actors needed in a script. At that time, I was writing plays while working at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. When they departed for Duluth, Minnesota, I worked odd jobs in NYC, living a bohemian life in the East Village.

Real life caught up with me and, after a decade, I moved to New Orleans, but all the while keeping journals to record my flights of fancy. I started ‘seriously’ writing in 2006, when exiled from my home. I would drop off my two sons and niece at their schools, head to a coffee shop and write for hours. This was an enchanting time for me, because I felt I could leave the outer reality and enter the world living on the pages of my notebook. When I found Austen fanfiction, I was hooked, somehow feeling these characters, in this particular time period, were my writing home.

2. Tell us a little bit about your first novel, Darcy and the Duchess?

Once I discovered Pride and Prejudice, admittedly very late in my life, I was spellbound by it and the abundant stories accessible through the internet. One genre that particularly held me enthralled was where Elizabeth had a previous marriage that elevated her status. Perhaps I wanted to give her equal footing to Darcy, or independence from her parents. I wanted her to have a loving relationship, but as her husband is ill when they meet, there is no potential for them to have the intimate bond that I believe links Darcy and Elizabeth.

To be completely honest, I believe what I truly love about this plot line is that Elizabeth has the status to back up her sass. As a duchess her intelligence and impertinence are accepted and, in many ways, she is freed from the constraints placed upon Elizabeth of Longbourn. Of course, there are other constraints imposed by her status, but she comes to Darcy with a breadth of experience of her own.

3. How has writing your subsequent books, Taken and For the Deepest Love, differed from your experience in writing the first one?

Taken is one of my favorite stories, if a writer allowed to have one. I remember writing it incessantly. There are parts that made me cry when I began editing it for publication. I wrote it nearly a decade ago, but revisiting it was a joy. In terms of writing, let me backtrack. All three of these books were written a number of years ago, and each taught me how to expand characters, scenes and write dialogue that felt like real people might speak—not that I claim to know how 19th century Regency folks really spoke. What has markedly improved is what my editors have taught me.

How to tighten scenes without losing the essence of what propels the story forward. How to highlight details to create atmosphere rather than elaborate and down the scene with them.

From then to now, I feel I am a better writer. I’ve learned how to trust the first draft, to write and write and not care if I say something three times in a scene, knowing I will winnow it back to the best version. I’ve learned when to listen to my cold readers, betas, and editors and when to stand up for my choices and intent. And maybe what is most important, at least to me, is to allow myself to follow plot lines that appeal to me, and not worry they may not please anyone else. Because, even if they don’t, they have something to teach me.

4. What is your favorite Jane Austen novel and why?

Pride and Prejudice, hands down. I was flying from New Orleans to Boston and had laid hands on a copy for my vacation read. I read it through to the last page Then turned back to the beginning and read it again, and again, and again. I read it in the car from Boston to Cape Cod even though I get carsick when I read. I read it over and over again throughout my vacation and even when I got home.

Now, as to why, that may be harder to pinpoint. Miss Austen has a fine ear for the nuances of dialogue, gestures, and the intimate—and often delicate—nature of relationships between young women, their families, and the world. Take the Bennets. We are given their characters, their strengths, and their foibles as warp strands that Miss Austen then weaves into remarkable tapestries by the experiences and adventures, actions and reactions of their day-to-day lives.

And then, of course, there is Mr. Darcy. Need I say more? What I adore about him is, that despite the hubris inculcated in him by his social position, he is a decent, responsible man, who has the inner strength to change to become a better man. What’s not to love? Oh, and did I mention he’s tall, dark, and handsome?

5. If you were to live in Jane Austen’s novels, which character would you be and why?

Elizabeth Bennet. Of course. For me, she has the most freedom. While Jane Bennet is admired for her beauty, it is a burden as well. Her mother imposes the salvation of their family on Jane’s shoulders. She is to marry a wealthy man and establish her sisters, and of course keep Mrs. B from the hedgerows.

Elizabeth, however, has the education to see and think beyond her little hamlet. While her time and social station limit her, she is the free-est from the inner limits the condescension of rank may impose on others. She evaluates—dare I say judges? —people by their characters and how they treat others, and this is a quality to emulate.

6. Offer one piece of writing advice that you wish someone had told you and one piece of writing advice you did receive that you found helpful.

The piece of advice I received that has helped me the most is to just write. Don’t judge or edit the first version, just start writing and get the ideas on paper. You will go back and revise later. For me, it is crucial to just start and get the words rolling.

What I wish someone had told me is to let my imagination run uncensored. It builds on what I just said, but that was for the actual writing process. What I’m talking about is to let the plot flow where it wants to go. To trust it to create its own links so it ties together, however loosely, at the end. While it’s great to have an outline—and I have worked with them—there comes a point where is ok to break free and let a subplot grow.

A second piece of advice—I wish I had learned earlier is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I try and make a scene, a chapter, and a story as honest, interesting, and polished as I can, but I’m still learning, and next time I’ll do better.

7. When not writing Jane-Austen-inspired novels, what do you love to do? Any unique hobbies?

I love being in my garden. I often find story lines or characters develop while tending my flowers. Living in New Orleans, we have a collection of Mardi Gras beads, and I’ve taken to hot gluing them on wooden eggs to create Easter eggs, or cones to make Christmas trees. I use the translucent beads of the traditional green,
gold/yellow or purple, but the krews now throw pinks, blues and orange beads so my ‘palette.’ I’m going to try gluing them on to glass vases, hoping to create a stained-glass effect.

In one of my subsequent stories, one of the subplots involves human trafficking. While working on it, I realized that if my fictional Elizabeth could do something about trafficking, so could I. Fortunately, New Orleans has an active anti-trafficking network, and now I help bring awareness that trafficking is happening right under our noses to the general public.

8. When and where do you most often write? Do you have special totems on your desk? Music playing in the background? Paint a picture of your writing space and day, or include a couple of photos.

When my kids were in school, I would write at our dining table. During the pandemic when both my ‘boys’—one now, as of May 20 th a college graduate, and the other a freshman at university—were home, I took a small table, plucked it down in front of one of our French-door windows in the front room, out of the way, and wrote for a couple of hours in the morning. The window looks out to our garden, and tall stalks of ginger grew in front of the window. They blocked the strong Southern sun, and when I was stuck, there was always a little lizard or butterfly to distract me.

While writing spaces are important, mainly in terms of letting my family members not to disturb me, it is more my supplies. In the last 5 to 7 years or so, I have discovered a fascination for fountain pens, and now, that is what I prefer to write with. That and notebooks. There is something about the shape of the pen nib scratching across the paper that is soothing to me, maybe because my stories are set in Regency England, but I feel it makes something undefinable, accessible to me. Whatever it is, it helps me shut out the present, turning inward where my stories find me.

9. What’s your next project? Any hints?

While I’ve started another Regency story, I’m working up to starting a story set in
the 1930’s.

Thank you, Mary. We can’t wait to read For the Deepest Love.

About the Author:

A lifelong writer, Mary Anne Mushatt relocated to New Orleans last century, where she earned an MFA and created a documentary of oral histories in the African-American and Native American communities along Louisiana’s River Road. When the levees failed, exiling her family from their home, she discovered the community of Jane Austen acolytes and began writing novels placing the beloved characters of Pride & Prejudice in innovative situations. Taken is her second published novel. As a result of one of her earlier novels, she works with a multi-disciplinary team aiding victims of human trafficking become survivors.

Mary Anne lives in New Orleans with her husband, two sons, and two dogs.

Follow the blog tour and leave comments and be entered into the giveaway:

The blog tour wraps up on June 8. Winners will be chosen on June 8, 2021. The winners will be posted on the Quills and Quartos Facebook and Instagram pages.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Kara Pleasants’ The Unread Letter

Welcome to another Jane Austen World Excerpt and guest post for a newly published book, The Unread Letter by Kara Pleasants.

Please check out the synopsis:

After rejecting Mr Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised when he finds her walking the next day and hands her a letter. Without any expectation of pleasure—but with the strongest curiosity—she begins to open the letter, fully intending to read it.

It really was an accident—at first. Her shaking hands broke the seal and somehow tore the pages in two. Oh, what pleasure she then felt in tearing the pages again and again! A glorious release of anger and indignation directed towards the man who had insulted her and courted her in the same breath. She did feel remorse, but what could she do? The letter was destroyed, and Elizabeth expected that she would never see Mr Darcy again.

Home at Longbourn, she discovers that her youngest sisters are consumed by a scheme to go to Brighton—and Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the idea of a visit to the sea. But the surprises of Brighton are many, beginning with a chance meeting on the beach and ending in unexpected romance all around.

Doesn’t this synopsis just say there will be some very, very awkward moments? I can’t wait to read it.

Please give Kara a warm welcome:

Thank you, Serena!

Thank you so much for having me share a bit of my novella The Unread Letter with you! This excerpt takes place when the Bennet family has just arrived in Brighton. The premise of the story explores the question of what might happen if Elizabeth had never read Darcy’s letter—and didn’t know that she shouldn’t go anywhere close to Wickham!

So, the Bennets have all gone to Brighton together, but of course they could not afford to stay at an inn or rent a house for an extended holiday. Instead, they planned their trip by agreeing to help care for an aged and distant relative—the widow Mrs. Bartell. I conceived of Mrs. Bartell as a woman who speaks her mind because she can—she is now independent of a husband, has a place of her own, and only herself to please.

I hope you will enjoy meeting her in this excerpt:

With exceedingly great raptures the Gardiners’ note was received accepting the change in plan from the Lake tour to the Brighton seaside. The Gardiners were delighted by the idea of a visit that included the entire family and noted that Brighton was close to the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, which they longed to see. The only difficulty was that they must postpone their journey by two weeks because of Mr Gardiner’s business. This threw Kitty and Lydia into a flutter of nerves over the thought of even the briefest separation from the officers, until it was decided that the Bennets would travel ahead to Brighton and, within a short amount of time, be joined by the rest of their party.

Elizabeth briefly doubted her impulse to travel with her family during the chaos of packing trunks and gowns and hats and trims with two younger sisters who fought over every item of clothing. At last, once the coach was loaded, the journey was spent in the highest of spirits and Elizabeth felt her doubts give way to eager anticipation. Even Mary, who never before expressed approval of the scheme and mostly observed her youngest sisters’ antics with a frown, now turned to her oldest sisters with a smile. “I have been reading about the benefits of sea bathing,” she pronounced, “and the sea itself seems to be a great testament to the power of a great God. I do not care for the parties or the dresses, but I do look forward to seeing this wonder.”

“So you are to go sea bathing?” Mr Bennet asked with a wry grin. “Do wonders never cease? I surmise that these new environs will provide opportunities for laughter at other people’s expense in every corner.”

After a stop in London, where the Bennets spent a merry evening with the Gardiners in high anticipation of them all being together again as soon as Mr Gardiner’s business was concluded, the second leg of their journey was more subdued, with nearly all of the party sleeping along the road.

It was evening when the Bennets arrived at the home of their relation. The young ladies were all abuzz when the coach stopped on St James’s Street, and Mr Bennet led them through a narrow alley and back to a quiet lane, known as St James’s Place, where a row of town houses and gardens stood. The four-story red brick town house where they would spend their holiday had a small garden full of roses enclosed by an iron railing.

“How charming! And you cannot hear the noise of the street!” Elizabeth said.

“But my dear you did not tell me that Mrs Bartell lived so close to the shops! So close to everything! Why, what a thing for our girls! I am sure they shall always be thrown in the path of many eligible men. I can hardly speak for happiness.” Mrs Bennet’s mouth was agape at the sight of the stately home.

“You need not speak at all,” Mr Bennet replied. “I would not put much hope in Mrs Bartell’s potential as a matchmaker.”

“Why ever not?” Mrs Bennet said, but Mr Bennet had already opened the gate and walked up the steps to rap on the door. Behind him, the coachmen were huffing as they carried the many trunks.

The door was opened by a woman much advanced in years who led them through a narrow hall into a sitting room where another woman even more advanced in years sat dozing in a blue velvet chair.

The attendant, a Mrs Smith, shook the shoulder of her employer with some vigour. She managed to knock the lady’s cap askew but did not wake her.

With all of them crowding the hall, and the trunks piling up along the wall, there was a moment of tension as they were not entirely sure what to do next. It was relieved by Mrs Bennet, who marched up to their relation and shouted into her ear, “It is so very kind of you to allow us to stay!”

Mrs Bartell opened one eye and shifted slightly. “You are looking old, Mrs B,” she croaked.

Mrs Bennet was so offended that she moved off immediately, whispering to Elizabeth, “She is farther gone than I imagined. Pay no mind to her ramblings. Indeed, I have half a mind not to speak with her much at all—I daresay she cannot understand a word.”

Elizabeth did not rebuke her mother, but moved over to Mrs Bartell. “And you, madam,” she laughed, “do not look a day over twenty!”

Mrs Bartell deigned to open both eyes. “Tom Bennet, this one will do nicely,” she declared, reaching to take Elizabeth’s hand. “You will have to oblige me. My granddaughter has left this morning for the North, and I need looking after. It is part of the arrangement.”

“Lizzy is always very obliging.” Mrs Bennet felt that she must speak again. “We are so very grateful for the most warm welcome into your home.”

“And will you oblige me now by removing all of your relations from my sitting room.”

Mrs Bartell addressed Elizabeth, “Your rooms are on the third floor.” Kitty and Lydia scampered from the room and up the stairs, with the older sisters following closely.

While the others settled their trunks into their rooms, Elizabeth moved through the entire house, curious to see each room and the views they afforded. Upon returning to the blue room that she and Jane had settled on with Mary, Elizabeth flung open the tall windows to breathe in the salty air of the sea. The lights of the city twinkled before her, but in spite of the pleadings of Lydia, who wanted to go and tour the public gardens (where she was certain the officers were waiting), it was decided that the party would go to bed and explore in the morning.

Thank you, Kara, for sharing this excerpt with us. I can’t wait to read the book.

About the Author:

Kara Pleasants lives in a lovely hamlet called Darlington in Maryland, where she and her husband are restoring an 18 th century farm in Susquehanna State Park. They have two beautiful and vivacious daughters, Nora and Lina. A Maryland native, Kara spent a great deal of her childhood travelling with her family, including six years living in Siberia, as well as five years in Montana, before finally making her way back home to attend the University of Maryland.

Kara is an English teacher and Department Chair at West Nottingham Academy. She has taught at the secondary and collegiate level at several different schools in Maryland. Her hobbies include: making scones for the farmer’s market, writing poetry, watching fantasy shows, making quilts, directing choir, and dreaming about writing an epic three-party fantasy series for her daughters.

GIVEAWAY:

Follow the blog tour and leave a comment to be entered in the tour-wide giveaway for an ebook of The Unread Letter.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Interrupted Plans: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Brigid Huey

Today Brigid Huey is here to talk about her writing process as it relates to her new book, Interrupted Plans.

Before we hear about her process, check out the book:

Suppose Elizabeth Bennet never visited Pemberley…

It is October of 1812. Elizabeth Bennet and her family have seen dramatic changes in the past few months—none of them welcome. Her sister Jane needs a fresh start, and Elizabeth is no less eager to leave behind the pain and confusion of not accepting Mr. Darcy’s proposal.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has not seen Elizabeth since he offered for her—and she adamantly refused him. When she appears in London, he is determined to gain her friendship and make amends. When a carriage mishap throws them together, Darcy does all he can to demonstrate his changed behavior.

Though their renewed acquaintance seems to be growing into a genuine friendship, a family secret constrains Elizabeth. As she falls deeper in love with the man she rejected, does she dare tell him the truth?

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? I just love the “what if” stories that spur novels in the Jane Austen universe. Please welcome, Brigid:

Thank you so much for hosting me today! I am so pleased to be here at Savvy Verse and Wit.

As a writer, I am always fascinated to hear about other authors’ writing processes and what influences their work. I thought I might share a little bit about my own process today.

The idea for Interrupted Plans came to me in pieces. There were certain elements I knew I wanted to include. I could see Darcy and Elizabeth in a ballroom, and there was definitely an emotional exchange in the snow. As is often the way with me, these scenes came to me on their own and the rest of the story grew up around them.

I write at a local coffee shop every Thursday. It’s my “day off” from my regular life of homeschooling two kids. When working on a story, I usually write out scenes that are playing out in my head. Then I spend several weeks dreaming about the storyline and writing notes as I go so I can remember good ideas!

Once I have a rough outline of the story, I get back to the serious business of writing. I often have to tweak the timeline or add new characters. It’s a very organic process!

The last, and hardest, part of the writing process for me is deciding on a title. I have never been apt at choosing titles, but for whatever reason Interrupted Plans came rather quickly to me. I wish it was always that way!

Thank you for listening to my rambles! I hope you enjoy Interrupted Plans!

Thank you, Brigid, for sharing your process with us. Now for the giveaway

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of Brigid Huey’s Interrupted Plans, and the giveaway is international.

ENTER HERE.

About the Author:

Brigid Huey has been in love with Jane Austen since first seeing the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two kids and spends her free time reading and writing. She also has an assortment of birds, including five chickens and too many parakeets. She dreams of living on a farm where she can raise as many chickens, ducks, and goats as she likes and write romance novels in an airy study overlooking the wildflowers. Check out her website; her Facebook Author Page, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Excerpt, Interview, Giveaway: Came a Flight Gently by Leigh Dreyer, part of the Pride in Flight Series

Leigh Dreyer has published the third book in her Pride in Flight series, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Came a Flight Gently.

I’ve waited for her to complete this series because I want to read my series back-to-back and not have to wait. I usually wait for at least three books to be published before I start a new series. That’s my quirk.

I’ve been eager to read these because I love war fiction and non-fiction, even if War Through the Generations has gone dormant. Unlike other readers, I do like technical details, etc., but I’m also up for a mostly romance novel with military themes.

I had the pleasure of meeting Leigh in person at the JAFF Writer-Reader Get Together in 2019. Today, I’m happy to welcome her and her three books to the blog today, with an excerpt from Came a Flight Gently. In the new book, Leigh’s father, Paul Trockner, becomes a first time author himself. I was able to ask them what it was like to work on a book together.

About The Best Laid Plans:

In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?

About The Flight Path Less Traveled (a title that reminds me of Robert Frost):

In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight.

Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

About Came a Flight Gently:

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together.

An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Please welcome Leigh Dreyer and Paul Trockner:

How was working together on Came a Flight Gently?

Paul: Working to together for this book started when we went to Reno for research. Leigh had the first two written. At Reno, I helped break the ice with the race pilots, explain what was going on and translated between pilot speak and author speak. So, working came naturally as I enjoy introducing people to flying and talking with other pilots. Working together was not as father/daughter. It was really semi-experienced author, Leigh, teaching or showing me what to do. It was fun collaborating. Just like any joint venture we agreed, disagreed and worked things out. This is Leigh’s story so she got the last word. As a parent it is wonderful to relate to your kids as adults not just the 18 year old that moved out of your house.

Leigh: I really enjoyed working together. Paul had helped me make sure the first two books had realistic flight scenes, radio calls, and helped me connect with some Air Force specific resources. With this book, his 40+ years of flight experience was valuable while looking at types of planes, how planes are modified, and generally helping explain what is going on in various races. I follow pretty well, but he could really get into the nitty gritty and make sure I didn’t make any boneheaded mistakes. Story-wise, it was so nice
to be able to talk to someone about the plot, characters, etc. with someone just as invested as I was.

Why co-author?

Leigh: Well, when I started writing The Best Laid Flight Plans, I had a toddler and a newborn. Then during The Flight Path Less Traveled, I still had the two kids, but I was working from home (I’m a speech pathologist) and during breaks, I took advantage of my daycare situation and got it finished. Then, I had a baby with a really difficult pregnancy, then I moved, then COVID-19 hit so all of my writing time was sacrificed to more important things. I was really working to get Came a Flight Gently out when dad offered to write a scene because he had a good idea. The scene turned out great and we started collaborating more and more. Eventually, I told him I felt like he needed to either have a big acknowledgement or a co-authorship and our writing relationship became more official. It’s been great, honestly.

Paul: For the first two books Leigh wrote I just cleaned up the flying scenes and radio calls. I didn’t have nor wanted story input it was her thing. I was just technical assistant. Along the way at Reno we started talking about where she wanted this story to go. The first book follows Pride and Prejudice, the second resolves Elizabeth’s situation, this book finishes the story and is a completely original story with the characters. It also added characters that I thought I could relate to. So I pitched a couple ideas. Well Leigh, in the mean time, had to move, wrangle two kids while waiting for a third. So I asked if I could write a scene? Leigh said sure, so I did. She liked it so I wrote more. Well as we got going I’d helped with approaching half the book and had input on her scenes as she did mine as well as the direction of the book. As we wrapped up, Leigh asked if I wanted to be coauthor. So after discussion and some soul searching. After all it’s her brain child, I said okay. And that’s how I helped and became a co-author.

About the Authors of Came a Flight Gently:

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (Goose, you big stud!) when Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-
38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

GIVEAWAY:

Leave a comment about why you want to read Leigh Dreyer’s modernized Pride & Prejudice novels by March 9.

Also leave an email where I can reach you, if you win the trio!

Review & Giveaway: The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 98 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler explores the human condition and our struggle to grapple with our own mortality. Sandler begins the collection with just that concept in “Gauze” where the narrator has surgery and as he goes under from anesthesia “Now breathe deeply, and I vanish,/a plastic wristband flashing Vacancy/” (pg. 9) There is that fear, especially as we age, that our lives will vanish and our bodies will be cast aside as empty shells.

It is easy for us to foster a myopic point of view — “Isolation arrests a point of view” (“Lighthousing”, pg. 19) But on occasion, changes in our view can help us see the best, like in the title poem, “Lamp,” where amber light can dull the anguish of the past. From bullying to loss, Sandler tackles many of the trials of the human condition, rooting his poems in recipes, family tradition, and advice from his father. While not all of these moments prevented sadness, anger, or loss, the narrator looks back on how each represented the care and love of family — a foundation that strengthened over time even as those family members passed.

from "Garlic Press" (pg. 44-45)

until desire flashes again.
What keeps drawing me to those blades?
When the ensuing sight of blood
subverts a show of nonchalance.
I try to take a firmer grip,
one more inexorable squeeze.

Sandler explores desire and how it draws us to things that may not be good for us. In the same collection, “Cenobite” explores shyness and antisocial behavior as the narrator walks in a dog park and finds that he’s unlike the social dogs, standing apart he fails at small talk and interacting. He needs to force himself to try to move beyond his neutral ground apart. There is a peace in aloofness and a camaraderie that can be found with animals alone.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler is about the human condition in all of its stripes of good and bad, memory and action. Sandler’s use of science, science fiction, and photographs helps to illustration of struggle, perseverance, and peace with what has come before and what awaits the future.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Michael Sandler is the author of The Lamps of History, a poetry collection that explores connections between personal and historical experience while wrestling with the ambiguities (and choices) between connection/estrangement and faith/doubt. For much of his adulthood, Michael wrote poems for the desk drawer, while working as a lawyer and later as an arbitrator. He began to publish in 2009. Since then, his poems have appeared in scores of literary journals including Arts & Letters, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Zone 3. He lives in the Seattle area. To learn more about Michael and his work, please go to sandlerpoetry.com.

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of The Lamps of History

Leave a comment on this post about why you want to read the collection and an email where I can reach you by March. 8.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Love at First Sight by Kelly Miller, author of A Consuming Love

Love at first sight is a highly debated topic, but when we read Pride & Prejudice some of us assume that love at first sight happened between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Today, Kelly Miller will share with us her novella, A Consuming Love, and her thoughts on love at first sight.

Stay tuned for a giveaway later in this post.

But first, let’s learn a little more about the book, A Consuming Love.

Book Synopsis:

The methodical world of rich, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy is in chaos: a country lady of modest origins has utterly captivated him.

The knowledge that Elizabeth Bennet is an unsuitable match fails to diminish Darcy’s fascination for her, nor does his self-imposed distance from the lady hinder her ability to intrude upon his thoughts at all hours of the day. What can solve his dilemma?

When circumstances compel Darcy’s return to Hertfordshire in assistance of his friend Mr. Bingley, he must confront his unfathomable attraction to Miss Elizabeth.

In this Pride and Prejudice Regency novella, one afternoon spent in company with Miss Elizabeth Bennet is enough to make an indelible and life-altering impression upon Darcy, setting him on a rocky course towards the fulfillment of his desires. Will Darcy attain happiness, or will his ingrained pride be his downfall?

Please welcome, Kelly:

In A Consuming Love, my Pride and Prejudice Regency novella, Mr. Darcy falls for Elizabeth Bennet rather swiftly. He is disconcerted by an immediate, robust attraction to her. Does my Darcy experience love at first sight? In order to answer that question, I pondered what love at first sight actually means.

Darcy experiences an unshakable attraction for Miss Elizabeth Bennet in this novella after spending a mere two hours with her. What sort of sentiment can be formed in so short a period of time? Is it possible that Darcy felt anything more than infatuation or lust?

How long does it take for love to develop? In order to solicit opinions from a variety of people, I posted the following question and poll on Twitter:

Do you believe in love at first sight? If so, why? If not, what is the minimum amount of time necessary for someone to fall in love?

My results, with 445 votes cast in a 24-hour period:
1 hour: 19.3%
2 hours: 6.3%
24 hours: 9.4%
longer than 24 hours: 64.9%

I received many comments in which people expounded upon their replies. Many stated they do not believe in love at first sight. Others provided examples of their own experiences with the phenomenon. More than a few people felt themselves to be in love after a first date or within the first few dates. Some of these instances led to a lasting, happy relationship and others did not. I received several responses with tales of how a parent, sister, or friend met their future partner and felt an instant connection with them. Some people described the experience of love at first sight as knowing “this is it” or “this is the person I will marry,” while others described it as a tingling sensation or “electricity.”

One person brought up the “instant love” a parent feels for their new-born child. Although this sentiment differs from romantic love, most people do not question the immediate, abiding, and genuine nature of that emotion.

The responses and comments from my Twitter poll made me wonder if love at first sight needs to be experienced to be believed. In a similar vein, we tend to be skeptical about the existence of ghosts unless we have seen one. (I am still waiting to see my first ghost.)

I disagree with the majority (64.9%) of people who answered my poll saying it takes more than 24 hours for love to develop. Under the right circumstances, I believe it could happen in an hour or two, especially when sufficient relevant information about the person in question is obtained.

Consider, for example, two people who meet via a dating app. They each filled out questionnaires for their profiles that covered their goals, interests, and backgrounds and provided honest answers. After seeing each other’s profiles, the two people meet in person and have a one or two hour conversation.

Could one or both individuals come away in love with the other? I think so. The sentiment would be based, not just on a physical attraction, but also on the facts learned about the other person that assure compatibility and the rapport built over the time spent together.

People living in Regency England did not have the option of dating apps; instead, eligible ladies and gentlemen sought introductions at social gatherings. The chances of any given eligible gentleman being incompatible with an eligible lady in the Regency era were greatly reduced compared to today. People lacked the freedom then to choose lifestyles in opposition to accepted societal norms without paying a hefty price. The characters in Pride and Prejudice shared the Anglican faith, so Mr. Darcy did not need to speculate whether Elizabeth Bennet’s religious beliefs differed from his. Given the dearth of opportunities open to ladies in the Regency, Darcy could reasonably assume that Elizabeth would not pursue a career that would conflict with the duties of being Mistress of Pemberley or decide to quit England for a different country.

I consulted an article for Psychology Today by Theresa E. DiDonato, Ph.D on the subject of love at first sight. She indicated that many people claim to have experienced the phenomenon, including celebrities. Prince Harry claimed to know Megan Markle was the right one for him the first time they met. Portia de Rossi said the same of her wife, Ellen Degeneres, as did Matt Damon of his wife.

In 2017, researchers from the Netherlands (Zsok, Haucke, De Wit, & Barelds) attempted to prove or disprove the existence of love at first sight. They questioned approximately 400 men and women immediately after meeting potential romantic partners. Participants were queried if they experienced love at first sight, and asked to describe the level of attraction they felt for the person.
Their resulting data led the researchers to draw several conclusions:

1. Love at first sight is not simply biased memory.
2. You are more apt to experience love at first sight with people you find beautiful.
3. Men report love at first sight more than women.
4. Love at first sight is not usually mutual.
5. Love at first sight is a genuine occurrence.

It is an immediate, strong attraction that makes one particularly open to the possibility of a relationship. It may fizzle out, but the instances when this initial strong attraction launches a sustained relationship make for a memorable story.

Based upon the conclusions drawn by these researchers, I would say that my Mr. Darcy in A Consuming Love experiences love at first sight, which leaves him disposed to developing a stronger, more abiding sentiment for Elizabeth in a short amount of time. Unfortunately for him, the odds are against the feeling being mutual.

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your thoughts and research on love at first sight.

About the Author:

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

A Constant Love is her fourth book published by Meryton Press. The first three are novels: Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy; Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic variation; and Accusing Mr. Darcy, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic mystery.

Visit her blog, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Giveaway Alert!

I wonder what my readers think about love at first sight. Please leave a comment about your thoughts on love at first sight and an email, to be entered into the giveaway for 1 ebook of A Consuming Love.

Last day to enter is Feb. 23, 2021.

Follow the Tour for additional chances to win:

Feb. 18: From Pemberley to Milton
Feb. 20: Donadee’s Corner
Feb. 22: Austenesque Reviews

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

Full disclosure: I have a poem in this anthology.

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

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

Please give Jona a warm welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please leave a way for me to contact you.

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

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

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

About the Novel:

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

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

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

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

Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well?”

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

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

“I am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The man deserved no such relief.

“It is her eyes,” Richard mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard returned his gaze to him.

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

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

“Yes, you are very generous—”

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

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

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

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

“You have much to think on.”

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

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

“And…the child?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIVEAWAY:

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

Ends Feb. 9, 2021

 

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

Guest Post & Giveaway: Sue Barr Talks About Fitzwilliam Darcy Undone’s Cover

Please welcome Sue Barr, as she shares with us how this cover came to be:

What would Pride & Prejudice be like if Darcy and Elizabeth had a touch of magic in their lives?

First, thank you for hosting me today. Without support from you and your readers, we authors would limp along seeking an audience from all sorts of unsavoury sources… *snicker* As Lydia would say, ‘La! What a laugh.’

I thought I’d share how the cover of Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone came about.

I have a wonderful cover artist, Teresa of The Midnight Muse, who excels in Regency cover art. Sometime, in 2018, I saw the image which is now the cover of my book and knew I’d found a future Mr. Darcy. At that time, I did not know when or how I’d use this image, but it called to me on a visceral level and I had to have it and also knew the story would contain a lot of heat. At the same time, I also found an image which makes me think of Wickham but haven’t reconciled a story to that wicked man – yet.

BTW: this is usually how my mind works.

I’m very visual and stories grow from the smallest kernel of thought. My first entry into the world of writing JAFF began with me finding a pre-made cover with the head shot of an absolutely beautiful red-haired woman. Without question, this was Caroline Bingley, but what to do with her? Then the question popped into my head, ‘Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy got engaged to a Bennet sister?’, followed by this one line, which found its way into the book, ‘When did all the men in her life become so addlepated over two country misses?’

Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone began from a magic themed Playground piece on the fan fiction site, A Happy Assembly. The minute I decided to turn the whole thing into a full-blown novel I knew my cover art had found a home. We all know that Darcy is handsome, and tall, and well muscled… Wait, did Jane Austen write he was well muscled??? She may have said well formed… Oh well, in my dreams he is sculpted and yummy. I also think our deep, dark Darcy is very passionate and once again, the cover reveals that.

Don’t we all secretly wish a passionate Mr. Darcy would turn his attention our way? It’s okay. You can dream a little in this safe place with other like-minded readers. I’ll wait over here in the corner with a cup of tea…

I’m well pleased with my cover and satisfied with how the story came about. I’d toyed with the idea of making this book more explicit, however, toned it down to sensual (one explicit section only, thank you) because it seemed right and the cover hinted at it being a little spicy. I hope you take a chance and delve into my magical world with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

Thank you, Sue, for sharing the origin of your cover and a little bit of how your mind works (**wink**)

Book Synopsis:

She’s the outcast in her family…

Elizabeth knows she’s different from the rest of her family. She has visions and strange dreams and sees things others do not. With the advent of the odious Mr. Darcy and his friends from Netherfield Park, as well as the amiable Mr. Wickham of the _____shire Militia, her powers seem to increase and her greatest fear is that she won’t be able to contain them and will be discovered.

He has eight hundred years of tradition to uphold…

No Darcy has married a non-magical woman since arriving on the shores of England with William the Conqueror in 1066. However, his kind – Miatharans – are dwindling in numbers. Miatharan magic only flows through aristocratic blood lines, so his strange obsession with Miss Elizabeth Bennet is puzzling as she is not of noble blood. Just a country squire’s beautiful daughter who has him slowly becoming undone.

About the Author:

‘The prairie dust is in my blood but no longer on my shoes.’

Although it’s been over forty-two years since Sue called Saskatchewan home, her roots to that straight-lined province and childhood friends run deep. The only thing strong enough to entice her to pack up and leave was love. When a handsome Air Force pilot met this small-town girl, he swept her off her feet and they embarked on a fantastic adventure which found them settled in beautiful Southwestern Ontario when hubby retired from the military and began his second career as an airline pilot.

Sue started writing in 2009 and sold her first manuscript in 2010. Always a reader of Regency romance, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction in 2014 and almost immediately wanted to know – Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy became engaged to a Bennet sister? From that question, her first JAFF book was launched.

In her spare time, Sue cans and preserves her own food, cooks almost everything from scratch and grows herbs to dehydrate. Her latest venture is to create her own spice seasonings, experiment with artisan breads and make her own homemade vanilla. Hubby has no complaints other than his jeans keep shrinking. At least that’s what he claims…. Her sons, their wives and all seven grandchildren don’t mind this slight obsession either. Visit her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY:

Sue Barr will giveaway an ebook of this latest novel to 3 random winners for entire blog tour.

Follow the tour and join in the comments to be entered to win. Sue will choose the random winners and announce the winners on social media on December 5.