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Review & Giveaway: The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 98 pgs.
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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.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Linda Kass’s Writing Space

Linda Kass is visiting the blog to share her writing space with us today. She has a new novel, A Ritchie Boy, out in the world today from She Writes Press. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll already know that I have an affinity for WWII era stories, and Kass’s novel fits into that desire to read about that historical period. Also, enter the giveaway below.

Synopsis:

In this moving and memorable novel-in-stories—inspired by her father’s life—Linda Kass shares the little-known account of the Ritchie Boys. Often Jewish German-speaking immigrants, the Ritchie Boys worked in US Army Intelligence and helped the Allies win World War II.

A RITCHIE BOY follows the life of Eli Stoff. From facing down the anti-Semitism of Austrian classmates in 1938 to his family’s lucky escape; from arriving and assimilating in America to joining the Allied war effort; from the heartbreak of leaving family behind in Austria to setting down his roots in the Midwest, this is the story of a boy becoming a man, and of Eli’s journey from one homeland to another. In A RITCHIE BOY, Kass crafts an achingly powerful, beautifully wrought novel about war, survival, immigration, and hope.

“I devoured A Ritchie Boy over a single weekend. What a rich, beautiful book Linda Kass has written. I found such poignancy and delight in every facet of these characters’ lives. This is first-rate historical fiction.” —Alex George, national and international bestselling author of A Good American and The Paris Hours.

Please give Linda Kass a warm welcome.

When I moved into our condo, I was determined that my writing space would allow me to be creative and comfortable. I wanted an entire wall to be a library for my prodigious book collection. Since I write historical fiction and do a great deal of research, it was important to me to have so many resources right at my fingertips. I even have a section of books on writing that includes everything from Robert Caro’s Working, about his experiences researching and writing The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson to Aristotle’s Poetics and The Art of Time in Fiction (Joan Silber).

Speaking of time, given how much of it I spend sitting in front of my laptop, I wanted a stand-up desk that raises up at the push of a button. That desk surface faces a window so I can look outside and imagine. I can also look to the right of my laptop and see a framed photograph of my father in his ROTC uniform before he left his university to join the US Army. His life inspired my new novel, A Ritchie Boy, about one young immigrant’s journey to American in 1938 and his role as one of the Ritchie Boys, often Jewish German-speaking immigrants who worked in Intelligence and helped the Allies win World War II.

I can also pivot in my chair to a much larger and prettier desk where I can spread out all my papers and books. Under this desk, rests my mini labradoodle, Wally, who keeps me company every moment I am writing. When I hear him moving about, I know it is time to take a break from my writing space and take a walk around the neighborhood!

Photo Credit: Lorn Spolter

About the Author:

LINDA KASS, who began her career as a journalist, is the author of the historical novel TASA’S SONG, which Booklist praised, saying “Kass depicts a heartbreaking time with great sensitivity and detail in this beautifully rendered historical drama." Publishers Weekly called it “. . . a memorable tale of unflinching courage in the face of war—and the power of love and beauty to flourish amid its horrors.” Kass is the founder and owner of Gramercy Books, an independent bookstore in central Ohio. Visit her website.

You can also read an excerpt of A Richie Boy.

I previously reviewed Tasa’s Song.

Enter below with a comment about why you want to read A Ritchie Boy by Sept. 7  Sept. 23 at 11:59 pm EST. Must be 18 years or older and a U.S. resident with a U.S. mailing address.

Giveaway & Interview with Elizabeth Grace, narrator of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd

Welcome to today’s blog post for Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd. New out on AUDIO. Stay tuned for a few surprises and a giveaway!

Book Synopsis:

With timeless verve, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, bares her intimate thoughts while offering biting social commentary through a collection of romantic re-imaginings, sequels, and prequels, set in the Regency to present day by ten popular Austenesque authors. Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter, January 1813―and we think so too! Stories by Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, Joana Starnes, Karen M Cox, Elizabeth Adams, Leigh Dreyer, J. Marie Croft, and Christina Boyd.

Our guest will be the audiobook narrator, Elizabeth Grace.

Check out this awesome interview with Elizabeth Grace:

1. Have you always wanted to be an audiobook narrator or how did you “fall” into the work?

Long story – No! When I was kid I really wanted to be an actress and did a lot of amateur dramatics and drama exams. I was taught how to speak with received pronunciation and perform poetry and prose for exams. When I got older it was drilled into me that acting was more of a pipe dream for a little girl from the midlands in the UK and so, I took the sensible route. I studied American Studies at University and joined the Drama Society on the side which is where I met my now husband. When I graduated, I got a job in Marketing and stayed there, steadily progressing for six years. Last year, when I was reviewing the future of my career, people kept asking what my dream job would be and I reassessed that old pipe dream and wondered if it could become a reality. I am lucky enough to have a partner who believes in me and has a job that can support us both to an extent so after we got married, we planned a long honeymoon and I quit my nine to five with the idea to focus on my acting career full time on our return from a 3 month South American adventure which was due to begin at the end of February this year. In January, I picked up a few projects here and there including some voice over work and audio dramas. I was told my voice would work well for audiobooks and while I hadn’t really considered this as an option for me, I was intrigued. Skip forward 2 months, my brand new husband and I are sat in Chile having the adventure of a lifetime when we are pulled back to the UK after completing 1/3 of our trip due to Covid 19. During lockdown, I had a lot of time to contemplate my next move, I bought some recording equipment, started auditioning for audiobooks and managed to get involved with some amazing JAFF authors and I couldn’t be happier with where I have ended up so far.

2. What is your favorite part about narrating audiobooks?

I love that I can bring the characters to life in the story. I like to get a visual of what a character looks like and then start to work on their voice. They obviously have to sound distinct from each other for the listener to know who is talking, and while that could be just accent and pitch, largely the distinction will become apparent in their demeanour and how they are as a person. So much goes into a person’s voice and it’s fascinating to see how this comes and develops even over the course of narrating a book – I sometimes don’t know where I will end up until I am there!

Elizabeth Grace

3. How much control do you have over the tone of your narration? Does the director provide a lot of guidance? Is the author heavily involved in the process?

I usually like to ask the authors I am working with for a little summary which includes the narrator’s tone as well as the characters’. Coming from a marketing background, I understand the importance of a brief! Oftentimes people know already what they want to hear, they know their characters inside out having created them from nothing so it’s important to respect that. Sometimes, a character may require a very specific accent, for this having some sources of reference is really helpful. Using this as a basis and reading through the book, I will do a sample of maybe one or two chapters then based on this I will receive feedback from the author. I will tweak the recording where necessary based on that feedback but Ultimately however, you have to consider your range as a narrator too and what is sustainable for you so because of that, it is very collaborative and super important that everyone is on the same page before you get too into the recording stage so you don’t waste anyone’s time.

4. What are some of your favorite ways to prepare for a narration project? (ie. listen to certain music beforehand, gargle with salt water, etc.)

I have some voice exercises I do before I begin narrating which I have learnt through my training, nothing too intense but some things that work for me on a day to day. There’s a lot of humming and huge facial stetches that go on behind closed doors. Definitely keep some water at hand and being hydrated is key, sometimes a little mid paragraph gargle is helpful but more often than not, taking a quick break and some deep breaths can set you right again. Dropping your breath (or breathing into your belly rather than your chest) is something that has taken me some time to learn but is essential to making sure you can get through those long sentences. Listening to your body and letting it tell you what it needs is my port of call, some days I will need more warming up than others.

5. Do you read through a certain number of chapters before taking a break? What’s the process and how many hours do you spend on narrating one book?

I record almost everyday, I have found that my voice sounds the best in short bursts and can tire easily after too many hours behind the mic and this becomes really evident in the post production. For me, a couple of hours each day is ideal and then it can then take three times as much time to edit those recordings into a finished version ready for the author to review. It keeps me busy all day and I can usually work this around my other commitments. I like to make sure the author I am working for has a steady drip of chapters to review so there isn’t too much down time on either side. I have learnt the importance of maintaining some “me time” more recently so I do take at least one day off at the weekends.

6. What does your recording studio look like if you have one at home (share photos if you like)?

My recording studio is in the bay window of my bedroom! It’s a cute little set up with a desk, and I have pop up screen that fits just nicely behind me to reduce some of that reverb. I would love a swishy, purpose built studio but for now, this works well for me and hopefully sounds alright on the finished edit you all hear!

7. What has been your favorite narration project and why?

I have loved all the projects I have worked on for their own individual reasons. I have to give a mention to Elizabeth Adams who was the first author I worked with within JAFF though that first book was a modern fiction called Green Card. We have a great connection and the way she writes is so easy to read – I guess we are similar in the way we speak. Elizabeth opened the door for me into the JAFF world and without her I wouldn’t have been introduced to all the amazing women I have worked with since then. Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl was the first anthology I have narrated and it really allowed me appreciate the concept of short stories. I adored picking each of them up and finding new tones, pacing and personality within them while staying true to Jane Austen’s characterisations. It has been such a privilege getting to know these talented authors and I am thrilled to be working with some of them again.

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

It’s a super basic answer but I love Pride and Prejudice, though that has definitely been rekindled after reading Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl. Like a lot of you, I have such an affinity with Elizabeth – we do share the same name after all! Tessa Dare put it so well in her foreword – “she is just like me, but awesome”. However, I do have an affliction whereby I become the biggest fan of the thing I am engaging with at any one time. I have noticed the BBC are rerunning a series of Emma from a few years ago that I am about to settle into again so I am certain I will be reviewing the answer next week.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your insights about audiobook narrating. I loved reading this and I know that my readers will too.

About the voice actor:

Originally from the East Midlands in the UK, Elizabeth Grace now lives in South London (via two years in Amsterdam). She is a full-time actor, voice over artist, and narrator.

Elizabeth began her professional performing career a little later in life and has been studying at Identity School of Acting in London since 2019. Prior to that, she had a career agency side in Marketing which explains her penchant for client services.

Since 2019, she has been growing her professional portfolio on top of the amateur theatre work she began in her formative years. She has now been a part of many projects from short films and web series to audio dramas and audiobook narration. Visit her website: https://www.elizabethgraceofficial.com/

Here’s an extra treat, an audio excerpt from J. Marie Croft’s excerpt from “The Age of Nescience“.

About the audio snippet: “Character driven vignettes, Elizabeth looks back on her adolescence up to when she meets Darcy, and she comes to admit her own folly, how she has not been wise as she thought. In this short opening scene, Elizabeth is preparing for her coming out and what that means to her.”

The Audio Snippet excerpt:

“But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable.
This is the last time I shall ever remember it myself.”—Chapter LIX

THE AGE OF NESCIENCE

J. Marie Croft

When I was ten, my father told me I was precocious.

Glowing with pride, I beamed at him.

Ten years later, another gentleman told me, “Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will
be always under good regulation.”

Turning away, I hid a knowing smirk.

What becomes of pride, though, when real superiority exists purely in one’s own narrow mind?

Only now, after throwing a retrospective glance over my adolescence, do I comprehend how
prideful and energetically wilful was my youthful conduct, how flawed was my biased
discernment…and such it had been from the innocent age of ten to the equally nescient age of
twenty.

Coming Out
1806

In honour of a former merchant’s elevated status, a soirée was hosted in Meryton by my aunt and
uncle Philips. On that moonlit evening, I was permitted to attend in company with my parents
and older sister.

Those of higher circles might have argued I, at fifteen, was not of an age to be introduced into
society; but it was the country, and children often accompanied their elders to social events.
Upon any objection to the scheme, my mother defended the propriety of her decision by claiming
a certain right, as sister of the hostess, to bring whomever she pleased to the gathering.

Neither Mama nor I was satisfied with the results when I donned my first half-dress gown and
had my ringleted hair dressed rather than left loose. She lamented my looks were nothing to
Jane’s, and I experienced a mixture of excitement and mortification at being on display in such
an adult fashion…especially since boys I had romped with in childhood might be in attendance
as eligible men.

In the habit of running, I was saddened to relinquish spirited antics and submit to more ladylike
behaviour. How suddenly we are expected to emerge from girlhood to womanhood, from maiden

to wife. The thought of being viewed as marriageable was as uncomfortable as the hairpins
poking into my scalp and the lightly boned stays thrusting my bosom unnaturally upwards.

“Elizabeth Margaret Bennet! You are not leaving the house looking like that!”

“But… Mama!”

Tut-tutting, she removed the fichu I had tucked into my bodice and flailed the triangle of muslin
in my face. “What were you thinking, child?”

“Of modesty. You went against my wishes and had the bodice lowered. I cannot face our
neighbours with so much of my…with so much of me exposed. New meaning might be given to
my coming out.”

“Oh, pish! ’Tis the latest evening fashion. Every elegant lady wears that cut, and no daughter of
mine will be seen as a dowd. Compared to Jane, you must flaunt whatever meagre, redeeming
features you own.”

Despite my mother’s hopes upon launching a second daughter into the society of adults, my
coming out was not an overwhelming success. Although I had been well liked as a precocious
youngster, my new status was paid scant attention by the local populace. The guest of honour, Sir
William Lucas—my friend Charlotte’s father—did pay me a number of “Capital, capital!”

compliments; and, after imbibing too much port wine, Uncle Philips proclaimed my altered looks
charming.

Home from university, a friend bowed over my hand and, in doing so, his eyes came to rest on
my bodice. Eyebrows hitched, he smirked, saying little before turning to speak with my drunken
uncle. It took willpower to still my hand from cuffing the back of his stupid head. Being genteel
will require tremendous effort, I fear. Discomfited over my erstwhile playmate noticing the
changes in my figure, I was—as if of a contrary nature—annoyed he found me unworthy of
further attention. Well, I would not marry you anyway, William Goulding, even were you the last
man on earth.

 

 

⭐️Giveaway: The #OmgItsOHG (Oh-my-gosh, it’s Obstinate Headstrong Girl) Audiobook Tour begins August 18 with voice actress reading and we hope you will continue to join us and connect at each stop for continued readings, narrator interviews, excerpts, and giveaways. We’ve included a $25 Amazon gift card giveaway, open worldwide, so be sure to participate. Simply comment on the blog stops to be counted for the giveaway (you need not comment everywhere to be entered in that drawing, but we hope you’ll have your share of the conversation.) Ends September 8.

Groundhound Day Guest Post & Giveaway for Madness in Meryton by Jayne Bamber

Welcome to another guest post from Jayne Bamber on today’s blog about her new book, Madness in Meryton, which has a Goundhog Day theme. Before we get to her guest post today, let’s check out a little bit about the book:

When Jane and Elizabeth Bennet return home from Netherfield, two days of heavy rain confine them indoors with their unruly younger sisters, a mother in perpetual need of smelling salts, and the tedious Mr. Collins. When the rain clears, the ladies from Longbourn and the gentlemen from Netherfield are drawn to Meryton by the excitement of Market Day, setting in motion a series of significant events.

That night, Mrs. Phillips hosts a card party for officers of the local militia, where the charming Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth his shocking history with Mr. Darcy, a man who has only given Elizabeth offense since coming to stay with his friend Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.

The next day, the same thing happens again.

And again, the day after that – and so on, for what begins to feel like an eternity. Elizabeth takes increasingly drastic measures to further the budding romance between her beloved sister Jane and their handsome neighbor Mr. Bingley. Along the way, she arranges improvements in the lives of all of her family, in a effort to end the relentless redundancy that only she seems aware of.

As Elizabeth’s frustration turns to madness, she soon realizes that her inexplicable dilemma is somehow connected to a certain officer and a certain gentleman of her acquaintance….

Elizabeth must forge unlikely alliances and devote her considerable wit to the task of achieving a perfect day for those she holds dear, while facing familiar Fitzwilliam friends and foes, as well as all the mortification and delight of falling in love.

Please give Jayne Bamber a warm welcome.

Hello, Janeites! It is a delight to be here at Savvy Verse & Wit to share a little about my new release, Madness in Meryton. This is my sixth Austen variation, and for those of you not following the tale on Happy Assembly, it is a Groundhog Day vagary – with a twist. If you have read any of my other novels, you will know I share Elizabeth Bennet’s fondness for human folly, and there is plenty of it to be had when dear Lizzy begins to repeat the dame day over again.

The day in question is the day that Elizabeth meets George Wickham and hears his tale of woe, and I have reimagined it as Meryton’s monthly Market Day to heighten the chaos of Elizabeth’s predicament.

The tension between Darcy and Elizabeth is unique in this story, as their predicament blurs the lines between frustration and friendship. To accompany the excerpt I am sharing today, I am also sharing one of my favorite writing playlists that has helped me set the mood for the romantic tension between our favorite couple… enjoy!

***

Darcy smiled as Elizabeth approached him at last. She was smirking at him, her eyes wide and bright. “You must indulge me, sir,” she said. “I have told poor Charlotte that I intend to tease you mercilessly.”

He suppressed his mirth, but leaned closer, dearly wishing she would tease him. “You are still of a mind for mischief?”

“I am, and I expected that you, of all people, would understand – and after all, I am sure your cousin is a man of odd humors and japes – you cannot be so unaccustomed to such larks.”

Darcy only nodded, silently cursing Richard’s charm and verbosity.

“Charlotte observed you staring at me,” Elizabeth said.

“You know why I stare,” Darcy replied.

Elizabeth arched an eyebrow. “I do now – before, I was never quite sure. I always supposed you disapproved of me. And that is what you must do now, Mr. Darcy. Do scowl as though I have just affronted you, and see how Charlotte shall cross her arms and shake her head.”

Darcy did so, affecting a posture of disapprobation. “How is this?”

She grinned. “Very imposing! You look truly vexed. And if I come a little closer, and point my finger just so, she may think I am really giving you the business.” Elizabeth moved near, her slender, gloved finger nearly jabbing his chest, and she twisted her face into a cheeky grimace.

Keeping his countenance stony, Darcy said, “If mischief were an accomplishment, Miss Bennet, you would have no rival.”

She rolled her eyes. “You cannot flatter me while I pretend to be so very rude.”

“Please advise me what you would most like to hear. After all, you did come to speak with me.” A smile began to spread across Darcy’s face, until a waggle of Elizabeth’s finger reminded him to look stern.


He repressed the urge to grab her finger between his teeth, rip off the glove, and kiss her from her wrist to her lips. He cast a nervous glance around the room, thinking it odd that only last night it had been so different with her; he had held her hand, even drew her closer in unguarded moments. They had been lost together on a wave of chaos, and tonight was so drastically different. It was calmer, more sedate, and it made Darcy uncomfortable. He reflexively took a step back.

Elizabeth withdrew her hand and folded her arms. “Tell me about your day – have you had any success?”

Darcy considered before he answered, and here he was sure his face looked naturally grave. “I spoke with him, yes. He made similar allusions to some future scheme, as he did with you. But he left town very willingly. It has made me wonder.”

“What?”

“Well, I wonder if he is as significant in all this madness as I had originally thought. Could it be so simple, to merely send him on his way? Is it necessary that I discover what he is up to?”

Elizabeth knit her brow as she mulled this over. “I have always supposed I had some purpose, something to alter and improve, in the course of the day, and I had believed you must, as well.”

“And so I had thought,” Darcy agreed. “But I begin to wonder if it is Wickham, or perhaps something else.”

“Such as?”

Darcy involuntarily glanced over at Bingley, who was still sitting with Jane Bennet, conversing with animation as she smiled placidly at him. His heart raced. It could be that – but how could he tell her?

Elizabeth had followed his gaze, and something flashed in her eyes – hurt and anger and betrayal. And something very wild. Darcy shifted awkwardly, and caught himself reaching for her hand as if it were the most natural response. He stilled himself, watching her face as so many emotions played out there.

“I am not sure about anything, anymore,” he breathed. His fingertips twitched, brushing hers.

Elizabeth flinched, peering up at him curiously, almost fearfully. “Do not be too hasty, think it over,” she whispered. Her hand brushed his again, and she drew in a sharp breath.

It was torture for Darcy. All evening it had nagged at him, that Bingley could not be allowed to seriously consider Jane Bennet, and yet Darcy himself was in way too deep with Elizabeth. The woman who would despise him forever if she knew what he was thinking, what he was growing quite convinced he must do.

Again his eyes drifted to Bingley. The man was falling for a woman who thought of him as merely an amiable acquaintance, nothing more, no little difference from Darcy’s own situation. He would save Bingley to save himself, and if Elizabeth hated him tomorrow, at least there would be a tomorrow.

Several things happened in quick succession. Elizabeth’s countenance went cold, and he knew she was not pretending anymore. He also knew she could see what he was thinking. She looked away suddenly; Miss Lucas had apparently perceived the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth, and was moving that way as if to intervene. The music had stopped, and Mr. Collins abandoned Mary Bennet once he had Darcy in his sights.

Elizabeth gave Miss Lucas a little shake of her head, and her eyes flicked over to Mr. Collins, whose lips were moving slightly, as if rehearsing the lavish praise of Lady Catherine that he would soon bestow on Darcy. Miss Lucas quickly changed her course and intercepted the parson.

Bingley came from the opposite direction, Jane Bennet on his arm. He clapped Darcy on the shoulder. “Darcy, how are you enjoying the card party? Not quarreling with Miss Elizabeth again, I hope?” He laughed nervously, and the Bennet sisters exchanged a silent, knowing look.

“We were speaking of you,” Elizabeth replied, arching an eyebrow. She met Darcy’s eye just long enough to land her point. “I was wondering why you were not dancing. You enjoy the amusement so much more than your friend, Mr. Bingley.”

Bingley just smiled his affable, idiotic smile, nodded, and laughed. “Well,” he cried after a moment, “we have been lost to all the world in conversation!”

Miss Bennet smiled as well, and said nothing. Quite the conversationalist indeed. Poor Bingley had probably been pouring his heart and soul out to her, in exchange for diffident smiles and wide eyes hooded with long, dark lashes.

Across the room, Miss Lydia appealed to her sister, Miss Mary, to take up the instrument where Maria Lucas had left off. Darcy tried not to flinch at the girl’s grating voice, and he looked back to Elizabeth. “I fear Miss Elizabeth has not had as pleasant a partner in conversation as her sister,” Darcy replied. “Though I am not fond of dancing, I am rather better at it than speaking, when words often fail me.”

Again Elizabeth arched an eyebrow at him, her look so intent she could scarcely be aware of Bingley and her sister. There really was nothing he could say now, he knew. But he offered her his hand as the music resumed.

Bingley laughed. “Well, we shall not be outdone by Darcy here,” he told Miss Bennet before turning to Darcy. “Well done, you know, turning the table on me – it is always me, urging you to dance.” He guffawed again, “I shall not disappoint you, Jane.” He grabbed Miss Bennet’s hand and she gave a gentle laugh as he whisked her away to dance.

Darcy and Elizabeth had frozen at Bingley’s use of Miss Bennet’s christian name. Her hand hovered over his for a moment before she accepted it, and she kept her head downcast as he led her to join her sisters in the dance.

They began the movements in a heady silence before she finally looked up at him. He tried to smile, tried to convey some message of reassurance in his face, but something felt different now.

Elizabeth glanced over at her sister, and then back at him. They turned in time to the music. “Will he?” They spun again. “Disappoint her?”

Darcy placed his hand against hers as they went down the dance. He observed Bingley as they moved past him. Elizabeth stared probingly at him. Miss Mary fumbled the keys of her instrument for a moment, and Miss Lydia laughed. The dancers all attempted to recover the rhythm; they spun again. Elizabeth’s jaw tightened as he placed his hand on her back for the next movement of the dance. He knew he had not answered her, and she expected him to.

Darcy sighed. “I do not know yet.” Elizabeth averted her eyes, and did not speak for the rest of the dance.

Doesn’t this sound like a fun P&P variation? I think so. Thanks, Jayne, for stopping by. Readers please enter the giveaway below.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

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.

 

Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing in Times of COVID-19 and Social Protest by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin

It seems like I’ve know Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin forever, and maybe I have, but I love their passion for teaching, especially for teaching students how to write creatively, especially when it may be hard to do so because of isolation and pandemics. Their second edition of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets was published this month, and they’re kind enough to stop by with a guest post about the book, writing during the pandemic, and more. One lucky U.S. resident could receive their very own copy of the book, which includes workshop-tested prompts and poems from students, local writers, and more.

Please give Valerie and Lynn a warm welcome, and stay tuned for the giveaway:

Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin: Thanks, Savvy Verse & Wit, for inviting us to talk about Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (2nd Edition) and to talk about our writing and teaching.

Lynn Levin: The new coronavirus has us living in strange and fraught times that will surely go down in the history books. And it’s the same for the Black Lives Matter movement that continues to gain power after the murder of George Floyd. As writers, many of us feel that it is vital to wrestle with these cataclysmic events, to engage them in our writing. We have some ideas for addressing these issues in your creative writing: some of them are based on our teaching and our own writing practice, some of them are adapted from our new book Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Second Edition.

Valerie Fox: Yes, the COVID-19 times have surely had an impact on so many aspects of our lives, in so many ways. Teaching-wise, I noticed in March and following, how it was really important for writers in my college classes to document their lives, in as you say, “fraught” times. In one class, we were reading and writing about flash fiction, and when given the choice between creative and critical writing, most students chose to write their own flash fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. And many were very eager to document their lives in isolation, their worries for friends and family most at risk, and so on. Importantly, as the Black Lives Matter protests intensified, many were taking part in demonstrations and documenting that, too.

The reflection, learning, and writing on race, as well as the reflection, learning, and writing on the pandemic—both deeply influenced these writers. One strategy that was helpful involved asking writers to create in a letter format (addressing their future self, for instance, or directed to a real person being affected by the virus, and so on).

Here’s one example. Some clever writers (as a collaboration) exchanged photographs representing their work spaces and feelings of isolation, and then they wrote poems about each other’s photographs. This got the writers thinking about perspectives, and their creative collaboration was a great way to connect.

Lynn, do you have some specific tips?

LL: Yes. There is a lot to be angry about these days, and the I-hate poem, a prompt from our book, may provide you with a stance by which you can address people who refuse to wear masks, who pack into virus-spreading events, who are responsible for taking innocent black lives, and who generally espouse all types of hate and bigotry. You could write an I-hate poem directed at the virus itself or prejudice itself. You might write your I-hate poem in list form or in stanzas with rhyme.

Turning specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves having to social distance and stay at home as much as possible. This can be frustrating, and we have a prompt in the book called the paraclausithyron that is well suited to expressing how it feels to be separated. In the classic literary tradition, the paraclausithyron is a lover’s lament before the beloved’s closed door. In this case it may be your lament before your beloved hair dresser’s locked salon door, or the closed door of your school, or the closed door of your child’s school. To write a paraclausithyron for COVID-10 times, you might address the door or the person behind the door as you reveal your longing and imagine how you would like things to be. You could even use the paraclausithyron to express your frustration at needing to stay home behind your own closed front door.

Here’s a look at Serena’s junk drawer

VF: Yes, “Home” as an idea, sense of place, setting, or motivation for writing. For one online class, with Writers Room, we asked students to think about previous homes they had lived in and use memories and descriptions as the basis for poems. Another exercise was to write about the contents of junk drawer or medicine cabinet in their present home. The junk drawer writing inspired many writers to look closely at some part of their homes (or their lives) that they don’t usually inspect so thoroughly. Then, they could use the items/images/tools/mementos to jog their memories or help them come up with a story. Some poignant work came out of this.

Personally, I have a lot of unfinished writing, so in these recent days I’ve been spending a lot of time editing and striving to finish works. Earlier this summer, I felt paralyzed when it came to starting new pieces. So I am using our prompts, Lynn. Our “change a moment in time” chapter has been helpful, specifically. And I also created a poem based on our “Song-title” chapter, to develop a character in a series of linked flash fiction pieces I am currently working on.

One of the unexpected outcomes of not seeing people as much in person has been doing more online workshops. I enjoy that, a lot, including with my usual longstanding workshop I have belonged to for ten plus years. (Though I miss the snacks and wine and being in the same physical space.) I have tried a few other online workshops, as well. The deadlines are useful.

LL: If you are in an online poetry writing class at a school or through a literary organization, you are lucky because you are already in a community of writers. But COVID-19 makes building a community of writers more important than ever and more challenging, especially because you cannot congregate at a coffee shop or library or other physical space. That said, a blog like Savvy Verse & Wit gives writers and readers a special gift. It creates a dynamic gathering, and
it’s not bound by geography.

Serena, thank you so much for creating this beautiful community and for giving us a chance to share.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insight.

About the Poets:

Levin and Fox co-authored Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Second Edition, which was published in 2019 by Texture Press. It was selected as a 2020 finalist by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It’s organized around twenty specific writing prompts, and includes numerous examples accompanying all of the prompts. The examples are from both established writers, up-and-coming writers, and even those from the tradition. Both Levin and Fox have been teaching writing at Drexel University for over twenty years and enjoy collaborating and teaching together.

Valerie Fox has published writing (prose and/or poetry) in Juked, Philadelphia Stories, Reflex, The Cafe Irreal, A3 Review, Across the Margin, Cleaver, New Flash Fiction Review, Sentence, Hanging Loose, and other journals. Valerie’s books include The Rorschach Factory, The Glass Book, and Insomniatic. A story she wrote is included in The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings. Her work has been selected for both the Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction series. You can learn more about her work here.

Lynn Levin’s most recent poetry collection, The Minor Virtues, is listed as one of Spring 2020’s best books by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her previous collections include Miss Plastique, Fair Creatures of an Hour, and Imaginarium. She is the translator, from the Spanish, of Birds on the Kiswar Tree by Odi Gonzales and co-author of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets. Her poems have appeared in Boulevard, Artful Dodge, on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, and other places. She teaches at Drexel University. Visit her website.

ENTER the Giveaway: Comment about why you’d like to win the book, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Second Edition by Aug. 7 at 11:59 p.m. EST

Guest Post & Giveaway: Victoria Kincaid Shares Her New Audiobook Release, When Mary Met the Colonel

Please welcome back Victoria Kincaid to the blog today. She’s going to let us into the world of Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam from When Mary Met the Colonel, a new audiobook with the fabulous narrator Stevie Zimmerman.

But first a bit about the book:

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked.

She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Please give Victoria a warm welcome and stay tuned for the giveaway:

Hello Serena and thank you for having me back to visit! I am very pleased to announce the release of my audiobook of When Mary Met the Colonel – a love story between Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I’ve wanted to make an audio version of it for quite a while and was thrilled that the wonderful Stevie Zimmerman became available to narrate it. She does a lovely job! At the beginning of the book, the Colonel meets Mary in the Longbourn garden during Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding breakfast. The scene below takes place the next morning when the Colonel is having breakfast at Netherfield. I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the excerpt:

All the things I could tell her about Ciudad Rodrigo….

“Colonel, are you feeling well?”

“Hmm?” Fitz looked up from his breakfast plate at Bingley. “Perfectly well, thank you.”

Why was Bingley inquiring?

“That was the third time I asked.” Bingley chuckled.

Fitz rubbed his forehead with one hand. “I apologize. I am not the best of guests. Perhaps I am overly tired.”

“Yesterday was a long day,” Mrs. Bingley said graciously as she poured him more tea. “I am certain Elizabeth and William were quite fatigued by the time they reached London, but they did not wish to delay their departure.”

Bingley smiled at his wife over the rim of his tea cup. “I believe most newly married couples prefer to be alone.”

Mrs. Bingley blushed but said nothing. Fitz had the sense of being outside in the cold, watching a family enjoying a warm Christmas dinner. Do not be bitter. You have a rewarding career, food, a roof over your head, and good friends and family. It is more than many have.
Somehow, such admonishments did not improve his spirits.

“I apologize that I could not secure a place in the post carriage for a departure today,” Fitz told his hosts. “It is very good of you to have me another day.”

“Think nothing of it!” Bingley responded. “We are quite pleased to have you visit. Darcy has mentioned you often, and I am happy to make your acquaintance at last.”

“And I you,” Fitz said. Bingley was quite an amiable fellow and seemed well-suited to his wife. Mrs. Bingley cut into her sausage. “Will you be going abroad again soon, Colonel?”

Fitz nodded. “I expect so.”

Bingley’s eyes lit with interest, but he said nothing. Fitz guessed that he preferred not to discuss the war in his wife’s presence.

She nodded. “My sister Lydia’s husband is in a Northern regiment. She expects he will be ordered abroad soon.”

Fitz said nothing. The Bingleys obviously did not know that he had helped secure Wickham’s commission, and Fitz had no desire to enlighten them. He sought a less fraught subject for the conversation. “How will your parents fare with only two daughters at home?”

Mrs. Bingley smiled gently. “It will be quite an alteration for them. Until recently, we were all five at home, and now three are gone within a short span of time. At least I am close here at Netherfield.”

“Have any of your other sisters formed attachments?” He cleared his throat, unsure why his voice cracked when he asked such an innocuous question.

“None that I am yet aware of,” she responded. “But Kitty is always out and meeting new people. Mary is more retiring.”

Fitz frowned. Why did nobody give Mary the credit she deserved? “I had a very pleasant conversation with Miss Bennet yesterday.”

Bingley’s eyebrows shot up. “Miss Mary Bennet? Are you sure?”

“Indeed, I have no difficulty differentiating the two ladies,” Fitz said dryly. Mrs. Bingley hid a smile behind her napkin.

“Are you much interested in theology?” she inquired.

“No, we discussed—” Abruptly, Fitz remembered that Mary’s interest in military history was a secret. “Uh…history…and the events of the day. It seems she reads the papers a great deal.”

Mrs. Bingley’s eyes widened. “Indeed? I thought she only read Fordyce’s Sermons.”

How was it that even Miss Bennet’s own sister did not know of her true cleverness? The poor woman was even more sadly misunderstood than he had first thought.

He found himself wishing to speak with her again. Soon he would return to London where the women of the ton only discussed gossip and gloves or sought to please his vanity—when they deigned to notice a second son at all. How lovely it would be to have one more conversation
with a woman of intelligence before returning to such dreariness! But how could it be contrived?

He was scarcely acquainted with the Bennet family; calling upon them would surely bring him unwanted attention from Miss Kitty.

“Do you plan to visit Longbourn today, Mrs. Bingley?” he asked, hoping he sounded casual.

She set down her fork. “I should. Mama’s nerves will be in a state after the excitement yesterday.”

He vowed to discover some means to manage Kitty. “I would be happy to accompany you and thank your parents for their hospitality yesterday.”

“That would be very pleasant,” she responded. “Charles, shall you join us?”

“I believe I will.”

Fitz could not account for the sudden rapid beating of his heart.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to have a listen to this one.

Please leave a comment about your latest favorite read in the Jane Austen variation world? I’m looking for recommendations.

Entries for 1 audiobook will be accepted through July 31, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

Guest Post & Giveaway: In Plain Sight by Don Jacobson

Please welcome Don Jacobson to the blog today with his latest Pride & Prejudice variation In Plain Sight.

As some of you may be aware, Don was challenged by Lory Lilian to write a D/L love story. Joana Starnes also kept pushing/encouraging him to do the same. Well, he finally did it.

Book Synopsis:

“At the end of the day when we are each of us lyin’ flat on our backs, lookin’ at the ceiling, and the vicar is whisperin’ in our ear, the greatest comfort we shall ’ave is to know that we loved well and were well loved in return.”

When Fitzwilliam Darcy’s father slides into an early grave, his son is forced to take on
Pemberley’s mantle. Brandy numbs his pain, but Darcy’s worst inclinations run wild. After tragedy rips everything away, he spends years finding his way back: a man redeemed by a woman’s loving understanding.

Elizabeth Bennet is afflicted with a common Regency ailment: observing the world about her but not seeing those beneath her notice. Then a clarifying act shatters the propriety that has denied her heart the transcendent love she craves.

In Plain Sight explores Jane Austen’s eternal love story by flipping social roles on their heads. From their first encounter, Elizabeth Bennet and the convict known as “Smith” must overcome their prejudices and break through their pride. Only then can they share the treasure hidden in plain sight.

Please welcome, Don, to the blog:

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me today as I continue through the blog tour for In Plain Sight. This vignette is actually an epilogue which could have been presented after the last chapter of the novel. However, I decided that the ending was so much stronger if I left Darcy and Elizabeth and the Pemberley family outside in the great driveway. We know that all will move into their HEA as they are in their Happily-Ever-Now at that exact moment. Yet, for those who might be interested in what happened to our characters in later times, I offer this selection.

An Epilogue of Sorts

Watson’s Mill, Meryton, August 8, 1819

The bread line snaked past the trestle tables set up by the mill’s chained and padlocked iron gate. The counters were staffed by a patchwork of neighborhood notables leavened by folk whose hands showed the wear-and-tear of daily toil. The continuing economic collapse had left those dependent upon the now-silent spinning jennies and looms on the brink of starvation. Even in the midst of this privation, scarecrow children clad in rags gamboled around the flagged mews laid between the five-story brick edifice and the great millpond. The sturdiest mother’s heart or aunt’s nerves palpitated when youthful exuberance overcame good sense as one little one or another streaked toward the greasy waters that usually fed the great wheel powering the factory. The watercourse was still now, its force unnecessary. On the far side of the pool, the Lea-Mimram Canal was filled with a brackish sludge. The refreshing surges of Mimram water that usually swept
through the channel were non-existent in this time of crisis. Great cauldrons of soup steamed in the morning air. Freshly baked bread contributed a yeasty aroma that spoke of brighter days. Granaries controlled by Meryton’s squirearchy had been thrown open to feed the unemployed. Estate mistresses turned out their attics to fill the levy for Longbourn Chapel’s poor box.

Mr. Benton, an archdeacon for the diocese, and Mr. Tomlinson, the town’s Methodist speaker, policed the queue, collecting tidbits of news from their female parishioners. This was not gossip, but rather a taking of the temperature of the neighborhood. Benton would gather tales of drunkenness, illness, pregnancy, and malnutrition and add them to his own
wife’s burden. Mrs. Mary would take that intelligence and confidently march into Meryton’s four-and-twenty parlors of note and prod ladies to do their Christian duty. She was not above leaning upon her connections. Elizabeth Darcy, Jane Bingley, and Georgiana Cecil often would add their considerable social weight through gently worded invitations to
events in town.

Tomlinson, lately a sergeant in His Majesty’s Army, leaned on his earlier experience to winkle out the scent of discontent. He had opened the Good Book when he had closed his military career. Tomlinson believed that a man served the Lord first, but he could also support the realm in second place. Women this day told of caravans rolling north to hear Henry Hunt speak. He knew that his former master, General Fitzwilliam, would take these threads and weave a tapestry that he would lay before Liverpool’s cabinet. The general was settled on a chair leaned against the bolted doors of the tavern opposite the manufactory. His equine companion, Imperator, was left gamboling in one of Purvis Lodge’s paddocks where four or five of his favorite broodmares competed for his affections. Fitzwilliam snorted as he recalled his old friend, nearly twenty he was, prancing about the stable yard, nipping at youngsters to remind them that he was king.

Like Impy, Fitzwilliam was no country squire, wide across the bottom. His usual bluff demeanor and partial deafness gave him an air of rusticated geniality. Yet, he frequently surprised regimental colonels as he explained the facts of life. No officer would ever forget that the horse-breeder at Purvis Lodge regularly cultivated his connections in town’s rarified high country. The militia never gave Meryton trouble.

Comfortably tilted back next to Fitzwilliam was James Foote. Foote’s invisibility, growing from his time as a Longbourn servant, had served the General well as he stage- managed the dark ballet that kept the Czar, Metternich, and Talleyrand in their respective boxes. Foote was adjusting to fatherhood as his wife, the former Miss Tomkins, had recently birthed their second son. She was seated beneath an oak that shaded the town square. Mrs. Foote, along with Charlotte Fitzwilliam, kept a weather eye upon a dozen children from various branches of the Longbourn family.

Also enjoying the shade were two old friends. The black and white board lay upon a portable table set between them. Moves were made, but both men, widowers now after the fever of in the year seventeen had swept off their ladies, spent more time chatting with each other about things of which old men often do, of the world as it was in their youth.

Michael Hastings, now retired, in the midst of his bereavement, had found himself taking advantage of a long-standing invitation to visit Pemberley. There he met his college friend, Tom Bennet, who likewise was draped in black. The two gentlemen sat side-by-side in the great library, a stack of books and a bottle of port between them. Before long, they
reignited their ancient comity. Realizing that loneliness was the quickest path to the grave for men of their ilk, an unspoken agreement was reached. Hastings closed up his Derby house and moved into Longbourn with Bennet.

The judge’s hand hovered above his castle—a staunch tory, Hastings always favored his bishops and rooks. A snuffling sound distracted him.

Affecting a grim look, he speared the miscreant with a beam from beneath bushy brows. The curly headed youngster, old enough to be out of leading strings but not so grown as to have escaped the nursery table, was unmoved. He had the courage of a child well-acquainted with the fact that the Moon and the Sun revolved around him.

Hastings growled. “Well, son, who do you belong to? All of your cousins look like Mr. Bennet here.”—he waved at his opponent who unsuccessfully tried to stifle his guffaw— “and I find myself at a loss.”

The little fellow stood straight and confidently began, “Of course I take after Mr. Bennet. He is my Grandpapa, after all! I am a Darcy!”

Then Master Darcy leaned in and confided. “My Mama told me that we were not Darcys today, but rather Smiths.” So saying he scurried off.

“And where are the…Smiths?” Hastings quizzed his housemate. Bennet pointed with his chin as his eyes returned to the chessboard. “Last I saw, Lizzy and Will were strolling on the towpath.”

###

The shingle crunched beneath their feet as they left Meryton behind and approached Longbourn. The lady was clearly with child.

Elizabeth looked up at Darcy and smiled. “You know how happy you have made Mary and Edward. They have been feeding and clothing the mill families for months. Usually it is just Charlotte and Richard manning the barricades.

“Mary knows that you would be loath to leave Pemberley in August with my pending confinement. I will own that I would have preferred the cooler Derbyshire climes to semi- tropical Meryton. However, you appeared in our sitting room one morning and stated, ‘You are yet able to travel. Edward wrote me telling of their work at Watson’s, and he is concerned that your sister was wearing herself thin. She could use our help.’

“And, you were correct, dearest. Mary is like a terrier and will just not let go or ask for aid.”

Darcy looked down at his wife. The toes of his worn work boots kicked out from beneath the simply hemmed cuffs of his canvas pantaloons. He shifted his shoulders beneath the red-checked cloth of his shapeless shirt. These clothes rarely saw the light of day except when Fitzwilliam Darcy wished to move about incognito, to be unseen by all except the crowd.

“Elizabeth,” he said, “I approached you because I knew that Mary’s silence was out of love for you. Her fear would be that you would become agitated with the knowledge and immediately rush to the stables to have the carriage horses harnessed.

“My own motivation was in a similar vein. I knew that if you had learned of this situation, you would have worried yourself trying to encourage me to overcome my protective nature and allow us to travel. I stole a march on you by acting first.”

He placed his hand atop hers where it rested in the crook of his elbow. “I knew that Bingley would never leave Thornhill, not with your sister so close to her confinement. I hoped to console myself with the thought that Mrs. Denny and Mrs. Keith would be in town, that we could let this opportunity pass. Then I wondered if the militia had relocated to Brighton.”

Elizabeth nodded, “Your instincts were correct. Kitty, as the Colonel’s lady is installed in her Regency Square house lording it over the regiment’s wives. As for Lydia, she has gone to her house in Bristol to await the Captain’s return from the Orient.”

Darcy smiled. “Acting on impulse was the right thing to do. I vow, Elizabeth, I am becoming more like Bingley every day! Speaking of things Bingley, and I ask this for informational purposes only, have you heard anything about the Soamses?”

Elizabeth peered up at him from beneath her brim. “It has been seven years. Not once in all that time have you asked about that awful man and his wife.”

“’Tis a time I would prefer to forget, dearest,” he softly replied, focusing his eyes toward where the arrow-straight ditch crossed onto Longbourn. His wife sighed and answered, “Sir Thaddeus’ son is at Cambridge. His eldest daughter turned seventeen in February. Jane tells me they wished to launch Miss Soames into society this past Season but had to wait until May. They took a house in Portman Square.

“Matlock wrote to say that she assisted, not wishing to punish the daughter for the sins of the parents. The countess found one of her friends to sponsor the girl at court. That acquaintance also threw a small soiree where Miss Soames played and sang. Apparently, that and her £22,000 dowry landed her an offer from a viscount’s second son.”

Darcy nodded as they continued walking. After several minutes he continued, “Lady Soames must had been thrilled with her stepdaughter’s success.”

Elizabeth could feel her husband’s arm tense beneath her hand. “William, it is ancient history. We have three darling children and another on the way. We are done with them.”

Darcy relaxed. “And how many children has Sir Thaddeus gotten upon his wife?”

Surprised at the sudden change in direction, Elizabeth replied, “Five.”

Darcy’s voice rumbled, shivering her entire being. “Hmmmpf. Five to your three, Mrs. Darcy. Miss Bingley, or should I say Lady Soames, is undoubtedly more accomplished than you.”

Elizabeth squeaked and slapped his arm in faux outrage.

He recaptured her errant hand.

Then husband and wife, convict and housemaid, moved down the path toward the manor house, its gables barely visible above a copse of oaks.

Giveaway:

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of In Plain Sight by Don Jacobson.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years. His output has ranged 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 non-fiction. In 2016, he began publishing The Bennet Wardrobe Series—

  • The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey (2016)
  • Henry Fitzwilliam’s War (2016)
  • The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque (2017)
  • Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess (2017)
  • The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn (2018)
  • The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament (2018)
  • The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion (2019)

Jacobson is also part of the collective effort behind the publication of the upcoming North and South anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North and South, released in 2019.

Other Austenesque Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” (2016) and “The Maid and The Footman” (2016). Lessers and Betters (2018) offers readers the paired novellas in one volume to allow a better appreciation of the “Upstairs-Downstairs” mentality that drives the stories.

Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization, and Research Writing. He is a member of the Austen Authors Collective and JASNA. He lives in Las Vegas, NV with his wife, Pam.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Rebellion at Longbourn by Victoria Kincaid

Hello readers. Today we have a delightful look at Victoria Kincaid’s latest Pride & Prejudice variation novel, Rebellion at Longbourn.

First, I want to share with you a little bit about the book before we get to Kincaid’s excerpt and the giveaway. Please give her and everyone at Longbourn a warm welcome.

Synopsis:

Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn.

After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton. Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance.

Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner? Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied. Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception. Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn?

Isn’t this always how we want to see Darcy? A dashing hero to the rescue.

Hello Serena and thank you for welcoming me back to your blog! Rebellion at Longbourn takes place two years after the events in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy never had a chance to propose at Hunsford. Instead he has been on an extended tour of Canada with Bingley and Georgiana; they have heard nothing of the Bennet family during this time. In this scene they have just returned to London and are awaiting a visit from Bingley’s sisters. Enjoy!

“No doubt your sisters will arrive any minute. I could not allow you to loll about in bed one more minute.” A messenger had been sent to the Hursts’ townhouse very early, and Darcy knew Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst would be eager to share the latest on dits. He experienced a pang of regret; Bingley would be leaving them to stay with his sisters. Darcy and Georgiana had relished his company on their travels.

Bingley sighed and pushed around the eggs on his plate. “I expect I shall receive another lecture about how irresponsible it was for me to gallivant off to North America.”

Darcy grimaced. “At least you have had more practice in saying no to them.” They had criticized Bingley’s decision in every letter. No doubt Bingley would have collapsed into scribbling abject apologies if Darcy had not stiffened his spine. But being on his own had been good for his friend. Bingley had grown far more decided and sure of his tastes when he was away from his sisters’ influence.

“It shall be quite trying when I relocate to Grosvenor Square,” Bingley mused.

“You are welcome to remain at Darcy House for as long as you like,” Darcy remarked.

“It is no imposition.”

Bingley straightened up in his chair. “I may accept that offer.” Darcy knew his sisters would not like it, but obviously Bingley was willing to risk their wrath.

Briggs, the butler, entered the room and announced, “Miss Bingley, sir. And Mr. and Mrs. Hurst.”

Bingley sighed deeply, not like a man pleased to be reunited with his family after a year and a half. Both men stood as the three visitors entered.

The two women gave their brother perfunctory kisses on the cheek, and the men exchanged handshakes. The newcomers helped themselves to breakfast from the sideboard and settled into chairs around the table. Darcy and Bingley talked a little about the details of their trip, but the sour expression on Miss Bingley’s face and the disapproving purse of Mrs. Hurst’s lips suggested they were not particularly interested in that subject. Mr. Hurst was primarily interested in the kippers.

When the weight of disapproval had caused the conversation to wane, Bingley gamely asked, “So, what is the news, eh?”

“You would know if you had ever bothered to write,” Miss Bingley answered tartly.

“I did write.”

His sister rolled her eyes. “I declare it was not above four times! I am overwhelmed by your fraternal devotion. And, of course, the letters were short, dashed-off affairs.”

Bingley rubbed his forehead. “I am a poor correspondent. I acknowledge it, but I am here now. What have I missed?”

This was all the encouragement his sisters needed to launch into twenty minutes of gossip, primarily about people Darcy did not know or could not care about. Eighteen months of freedom from the obligations of the ton had not endeared him to the social whirl, although he supposed he should pay more attention now that Georgiana would be launched in society. Still, he found himself thinking longingly of Pemberley.

His absence had apparently not dimmed Miss Bingley’s hopes of Darcy, for she still addressed the better part of her remarks directly to him, although he had not asked her any questions.

There was only one person he would consider inquiring about, and he did not dare.

Fortunately, Bingley unwittingly assisted him in this endeavor. “What is the news from the Bennet family? You did not mention them in any of your letters.” He leaned forward in his seat.

Miss Bingley blinked. “Why should I?”

“You are Jane Bennet’s friend.”

His sister fluttered her hands. “Friends, Charles? Certainly we were acquainted, but friends…” She gave Mrs. Hurst a sidelong look.

Mrs. Hurst actually giggled. “It is for the best if we do not acknowledge the connection. Thank goodness you gave up the lease on Netherfield!”

Bingley exchanged a glance with Darcy but did not correct his sister’s mistake. Darcy restrained the urge to fidget in his chair as he imagined everything that could have befallen the Bennets.

“Surely you have heard some news from Longbourn,” Bingley said.

“Indeed…” Miss Bingley drew the word out. She was taking pleasure in the suspense.

Darcy’s heart beat faster, knowing that whatever she said would be bad. She would not derive such pleasure from relating news of the family’s extreme felicity. “Shortly after you departed, the father died.”

Darcy could not prevent a gasp. If he had known, he never would have left. If he had known, he would have returned. He was angry with himself for not discovering the news and with Bingley’s sisters for not relaying it. During the early part of the voyage, he had been so intent on endeavoring to forget Elizabeth that he had not sought to know about her family, and this was the result.

“Did Mr. Collins take possession of Longbourn?” Darcy attempted to keep his tone neutral and disinterested.

“Mr. Collins?” Miss Bingley asked. “Oh yes, the clergyman. I suppose so.”

Bingley’s pale face mirrored Darcy’s own distress. “How terrible for Ja—all the Bennets!” Bingley exclaimed. “Where do the sisters reside now?”

A fist clenched around Darcy’s heart. Although he knew change was inevitable, some part of him had secretly expected to find Elizabeth dwelling with her parents at Longbourn just as she had when he departed.

Mrs. Hurst rolled her eyes. “They are hardly the sort of family we would maintain a connection with. How should we know?”

Bingley frowned. “I thought at least you would condole with them, write them a note expressing your sympathy, invite them for tea when they visited town.”

“I am not aware that anyone from the family has been to town,” Mrs. Hurst replied. Strange. Darcy remembered clearly that the Bennets had relatives in Cheapside.

Although Elizabeth might have guessed at Bingley’s sisters’ insincerity, Miss Bennet seemed to believe them true friends. Surely she would have written to them if she visited town—at the very least to maintain a connection with Bingley. Was it possible she had remained sequestered in Hertfordshire all these months? It was scarcely thirty miles’ distance!

The sisters were sharing a conspiratorial smile that triggered Darcy’s suspicions. Surely anything that made these two so very gleeful could not be good for the Bennets.

He crumpled his napkin in frustration. I cannot ask them. I cannot betray too much interest. Patience, he counseled himself. I will learn everything soon.

Aren’t you eager to find out what happens? I know I am.

GIVEAWAY:

One Lucky Reader can receive an e-book of Rebellion at Longbourn. Please leave a comment with email so I can contact you. Deadline to enter is June 24 by 11:59 p.m.

Good Luck, everyone.