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Guest Post & Giveaway: Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom

I have relatives in Finland, and I often find Finish perspectives in fiction fascinating. This is probably the main reason I wanted to host Ms. Sjöblom and her book for this blog tour. It’s rare that I find a variation that’s written by someone outside the United States and Britain. I cannot wait to read this book myself, but today, I have a Character Interview to share from the author.

Stay tuned to enter the giveaway as well.

About the book:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that one false step can involve a lady in endless ruin. On a rainy November day in 1811, Miss Elizabeth Bennet finds herself wondering why no one ever bothered to tell her about this.

A few blithe steps on a morning walk, taken after a succession of rain, lead to unexpected events that irrevocably change the course of Elizabeth’s life, placing her fate in the hands of the haughty and conceited Mr. Darcy – the last  man in the world she had ever thought to marry.

As long winter days slowly pass, she writes letters to her loved ones, trying to come to terms with her new role as a wife and the Mistress of Pemberley. But can she ever learn to love her husband? Will he overcome his arrogant notions of rank and circumstance?

And most importantly – will the shades of Pemberley ever recover from being thus polluted?

Without further ado, please welcome Anniina Sjöblom:

Hello everyone—I’m glad you’ve found your way to Savvy Verse & Wit today! And thank you to Serena for inviting me to stop by here as a part of the blog tour for my new novella, Thaw!

Thaw is very much Elizabeth’s story, so to balance things out, today’s post is an interview with Mr. Darcy. When I first posted Thaw online, I wrote some spoofy diary markings by Mr. Darcy in the comment thread of the story to accompany each post. As the online versions of Thaw have since been removed, the diary markings are also a thing of the past. For today’s post, I’ve resurrected a few of them from my archives.

They’re (very) silly, rather modern and quite full of expletives—and in no way reflect the tone of the actual story. Consider yourselves warned!

****

Dear readers, with us today is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, of Pemberley, Derbyshire. In the wake of the recent release of a collection of private letters by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, Mr. Darcy has agreed to give us an exclusive interview and share a few markings from his personal diary to shed light on his perspective to the events that have unfolded.

Welcome, Mr. Darcy, and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to us today. You are known to be a very private man. Do we have your wife to thank for the privilege of taking a peek at your private diary markings?

Well, yes. She thought it might lighten my public image. It seems she has had a bit of a difficult time convincing her friends and family that I am, in fact, someone worth her good opinion. I have not the least idea why.

Well, we thank you heartily. It seems you and your wife had some trouble communicating in the early days of your marriage? In her letters, she describes numerous occasions when you were alone in a room together but barely said a word to each other. Could you tell us of your thoughts at the time?

It is true that our marriage did not have the most auspicious of starts. At first, it seemed like even the most mundane of topics could lead to an argument. Less than two months into our marriage, I admit we were barely talking—though by that time, I found myself very much hoping that we would. But after weeks of silence, how is one to start? Here is one of my diary markings from that time:

January 25th, 1812. Made a bloody fool of myself. Again. Just stop stalking about like a useless dimwit and say it, you big idiot! How hard can it be? It is not as if things could get any worse, is it? Dear wife, have had the hots for you since I first saw you at that godforsaken assembly, and would very much like to throw you over my shoulder and carry you to bed. Plus, am reformed and love you. Most ardently. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

At the time, your sister Georgiana and your cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, were with you in Pemberley. Is it really true that you accused your wife of flirting with the colonel?

It is. Not my finest hour, to be sure. I have since come to know the error of my ways. An utterly absurd notion on my part, really. But at the time, I must admit I was quite tired and rather blinded by jealousy. I am not proud of the diary markings I made at the time:

January 27th, 1812. Burned my fingers because my damnable flirt of a cousin dared me into playing bloody snap-dragon. Wanted to throw the damn raisins at his face, but tried to act cool because the wife was present—she already smiles too much at him and not enough at me. Note to self: next time Richard comes to visit, hide the brandy. And the raisins. And the wife.

Your false assumptions led to a rather substantial disagreement between you and Mrs. Darcy, did they not?

To put it mildly. In retrospect, I have come to understand that I should have stayed at Pemberley after our fight, but I confess it was all rather too much for me. I wrote my wife a letter and fled to Chesterfield, on what I let her understand was a trip of business—but perhaps it is now time to confess that, in truth, I sat alone in an inn for a week and moped like a world champion.

January 30th 1812. Urgent business in Chesterfield, must leave immediately. Wrote the wife a letter to explain myself. Perhaps I should wait by the front door until she reads it? Maybe she will come running after me, begging me not to go? ‘Where will I go, what will I do?’ she will say. And I will coolly reply: ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a crap.’ Not likely.

Well, I must say we are glad that you did not stay in Chesterfield for long. As I am sure is your wife. After your return, it seems things started to look up?

Indeed, they did. As my diary markings of the time will testify, it was not long after my return that I started to appreciate the power of a simple, honest conversation:

February 11th, 1812. Finally talked with the wife. Thank goodness. Nearly dropped off my chair when she smiled at me. At me! In your face, Richard! How could I ever think that having the wife as the mistress of Pemberley would be a bloody degradation? Badly done, Darcy. Badly done. Without her, this place would be just a pretentious, lonely pile of bricks.

Your solicitor has advised that you do not wish to talk about the ordeal between Mr. Wickham and his wife. Your wife, too, is rather vague on the subject. But could you perhaps tell us, even just briefly, what it took to solve the unfortunate situation?

I am afraid not. My wife has addressed the topic in her letters and we have agreed that it is all we wish to say on the topic. Suffice it to say that I can be quite persuasive when I want to:

March 17th 1812. Bending it like Beckham on Gracechurch Street—kicked That Bastard so hard in the butt that he flew all the way to Grosvenor Square and back. Hurt my foot in the process, but maybe that’s a good thing? If the wife sees me coming home, limping like a war hero returning from battle, maybe she’ll forget all about how much my damned pride has cost her and come running to me?

Very well, we understand. One last question, Mr. Darcy: do you still keep a diary?

Ahem. I do not. I was quite an avid writer during the early days of our marriage—and perhaps sometimes rather too outspoken and a tad too colourful—but I have since given it up. There was a bit of an incident, you see, after a particularly spirited entry on a rather private topic, that made me reconsider the wisdom of keeping a diary. I do not quite know how to explain it, but perhaps the very last marking in my diary will offer some indication of the nature of the incident:

April 1st, 1813. Dear Husband. Found your diary. I think we must talk.

Sincerely,
The Wife

P.S. If your gig really is so much better hung than the colonel's, why is it that we always use the barouche?

Thank you, everyone, for stopping by today to take part of the blog tour! If you have any wise words to Darcy, do leave them in the comments—the poor guy’s diary leaves me suspecting he might be in need of a few. Also feel free to ask me any questions—and if you want, you can look me up on Facebook.

Thank you so much, Anniina Sjöblom, for joining us today on the blog. Doesn’t this sound delightful?! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

About the Author:

Anniina Sjöblom lives in the beautiful but cold Finland and works in university administration. She has an MA in History and enjoys a long-standing love affair with the works of Jane Austen.

Her previous works include titles such as Thirteen Days, Fix You and When He Comes Back, published in various online Austenesque forums under the pen name boogima. The new novella Thaw, expanded from the original version of the story first published online in 2011, is her first commercially published work.

When not writing, Anniina spends her time hanging out with friends, binge-watching TV dramas and re-reading her favourite books while the stack of new ones still waiting to be read piles higher on her nightstand. She can ride a unicycle, and once, after losing an unfortunate bet, ate a bowl of ice cream with green dish soap as dressing. She does not recommend attempting it to anyone.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of THAW per blog tour stop.

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on January 22. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Making of a Memoir-in-Conversation by Robert Jacoby and John Robinette

We have some local authors today on the blog who will talk about the memoir, Never Stop Dancing.

For those in the Washington, D.C., area, our memoirists will be at the 11th Annual Takoma Park Book Fair on Dec. 14, 2019. I encourage you to go.

If you can’t make it to the festival, you will have an opportunity to win a copy of the memoir if you live in the United States. But you’ll have to read this guest post and leave a comment by Dec. 19, 2019.

About the book:

Born of a year’s worth of candid interviews, Never Stop Dancing avoids clichéd takeaways about grief and healing to chart a deeper, thornier examination of loss and regret. Robert and John are transformed through their shared experience, too, emerging strengthened and with an abiding male friendship that cuts against the grain of pop-culture trends of quick fixes and easy answers. This memoir-in-conversation provides hard-won reassurances that one can and does go on after loss.

Without further ado, please welcome John and Robert:

Never Stop Dancing: A Memoir is an unusual book, not only in its subject matter but also in how it came to be. The book results from a collection of interviews captured after John’s wife, Amy, was killed in a pedestrian traffic accident April 29, 2010, on a street in Washington, D.C.

By 2010, we had been friends for about eight years and enjoyed deep and wide-ranging conversations over every imaginable subject. And so it was, in July, about two months after Amy’s death, Robert asked John to sit together and talk about, and record, John’s experiences as they unfolded. For John, as he describes it, sitting in conversation seemed a natural part of the grieving process.

We met on eight different occasions over the first year after Amy was killed. As the interviewer, Robert helped steer the conversations, which usually started and grew organically. He would ask John how he was doing or what was on his mind. Other times John wanted to talk about something specific.

Sometimes during the sessions, talking became too difficult, for John, for both of us, and we had to stop. The recorder was turned off, and we would take a break.

Sometimes we cried, other times we laughed. Can you believe that? Yes, sometimes we did laugh together. And that’s okay. We were two close friends talking, and even in something heavy like death and grief, we knew that it was okay to find things to laugh about.

Robert started work on the raw transcripts immediately, in the fall of 2010.

May 2011 is the earliest occurrence of Never Stop Dancing as a possible title in our email exchanges.

In August 2011, Robert sent John the first draft of the book, and its working title was After Amy. In October John wanted to write an Afterword, and he completed that a few days after New Year’s Day, 2012.

Throughout 2012 we revised the book and started sending it out to book agents. Robert had a very short introduction, and the book included some blog posts John had written interspersed; we included some back-and-forth of our conversations from our interview sessions to give it that “interview” feel, too.

During 2013 and 2014, we experienced more changes. John re-married (teaser: the origin story of this marriage is in the book), and the manuscript seemed to be idling. In May 2014, Robert reached out to his book editor, Robyn Russell, for help. It was her suggestion to us to choose to keep Robert entirely out of the book, or entirely in the book. Her vote was definitely in. We talked and decided quickly: Robert needed to be in the book. Robyn also suggested the seasonal divisions. Up to then we had chapter divisions that were a bit unwieldy. We also finally settled on the book title as Never Stop Dancing.

In February 2015, our second book editor took over for Robyn. This was her colleague, Jason Bucholz, who also happens to be a novelist. We worked with him until early 2017.

John and I both worked off of Robyn’s and then Jason’s suggested revisions. John trimmed about 20,000 words from the manuscript, and Robert had to add an entirely new Introduction, all of his introductory pieces for each season, and then more text pieces for our “breaks” during the interview sessions. It was challenging for Robert to go back in time to place himself in those interview sessions and re-live those moments. Every new read became a new trauma. As we worked through the revisions, John expressed similar feelings to the point where he now never again wants to read the first 50 pages.

In 2018, we started querying our lists of agents and publishers. We had some interest, but no takers.

In early 2019, we decided to do it ourselves. Proofreading the text with a professional editor, working with the book designer.

John and I started this project to document his journey through his grief experience and out into new life. At the beginning, we couldn’t know what that life would be. And here we are, these many years later, sharing our story with our readers: John’s story of his grief journey through that first year after losing Amy; Robert’s story of being John’s friend through that time; and the story of us together, two male friends, in deep conversation.

Thank you, John and Robert for sharing your story. I can’t imaging how hard it must have been to write about this experience and relive it with each edit.

Please see their appearance on the show Good Morning Washington.

GIVEAWAY:

To win a signed copy of the memoir, Never Stop Dancing, please leave a comment and email by Dec. 19, 2019.

You must be 18 years of age and have a U.S. address.

Guest Post: 4 Notable Books of 2019 Every Student Should Consider Reading

There are too many shows, too many videos on YouTube, and pages on Instagram to explore chasing you every other minute. Do not forget the assignments piling up and apps constantly notifying you about the deadlines. Are you craving a break?

We have the best thing you can do to let go off your digital distractions and spur your creative mind. It’s quite simple. Read a book.

You may be thinking that you have already read too much for college. But a good book that is not a part of your academics might do wonders for the mood. Of course, there is no need to convince any bibliophiles to pick up another book.

In case you are not one and stumbled upon this page hoping to try out a book, you are just at the right place at the right time.

We present you here with the best books of 2019 (so far), that will certainly please you. Thrillers, fantasy, adventure, romance – we have all got it here.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Mrs. Everything has all the elements of a story that is overfamiliar, yet it is not. Weiner documents the lives of two Jewish sisters who grew up in Detroit. The chapters are engaging, once you struggle through the few dozen pages in the beginning switching between the sisters’ perspectives.

The multigenerational story dwells into all the underlying and disturbing issues like drugs, rape, abortion, and the ties of family.

Weiner has not tried to cover the pretensions with symbolism definition literature or satire. You will find ghosts of the struggles that women had to overcome and relate it even now in the cynical “Me too” era.

Mrs. Everything is fabled as one of the best works of Weiner and will certainly leave you perplexed, wanting more of the turned pages.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

The recent revelations of the American high society buying their way into college set up the perfect framework for Bruce Holsinger’s The Gifted School. The reader can draw parallels of the fictional and upscale city of Crystal, Colorado, and the four mothers portrayed in the novel.

With applicants from four counties feud for their places in the new school, the plot takes a turn.

Followed with interludes of entitlement, privileges, cheating, and desperation, Holsinger describes the blurring good intentions fortified by parental love escalating into fraud.

There are also some sympathetic characters who are only collateral damage in the eyes of the elite. The questions Holsinger raises are valid in the current context of social standards, concerning and regrettably real.

The Gifted School is a satire with more than a hint of truth, and much appealing to the student crowd.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

After the applauded debut novel Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s Normal People has certainly elevated her standing. The story takes place in Dublin, and it has the same sense of humor in narration.

Revolving around the two protagonists, Connell and Marianne, the author takes a reader through an intense and yearning love story.

They are introduced as teenagers and with traces of the cliché love stories with a popular soccer player and a lonely and introverted girl. Their inexplicable connection finds a way to express during their second encounter in college.

What might appear as a young adult love story at a glance, has layers of social classifications, family complexities, emotions, and agitations. Rooney yet again proves her acuity in noting how we comprehend people and depend on them.

An enjoyable and deep read for students who seek polarizing moments of passion.

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Taking a respite from the landscape of unsettling realities, Gingerbread is a kind of reading that will soon take you to fairylands. Beware, you do not want to skimp through even one sentence, as the chances are high for missing a crucial detail. It is weird, confusing, and an enthralling piece, a realm of a story within a story and winding through imaginary places.

Here, Oyeyemi takes you to her variant of Hansel and Gretel’s story, a classic German fairy tale. The whimsical and ominous air is still there, yet you will find the protagonists unrecognizable. The book is unconventional, unpredictable in how the author brilliantly builds the suspense.

An ideal choice for a tiring day when you come home only to curl up with a good book of a joyful read.

Wrapping Up

In the end, reading is all about changing reality for a fascinating world where you are among the glorious characters, whom you adore or fervently loath.

Try these options, and we bet you’ll have some real quality time!

Guest Post & Giveaway: Jessie Lewis, Author of Speechless, Talks About Historical Buildings and Inspiration

Today’s guest is someone new to the blog — Jessie Lewis — and she will share with us some of the inspirational historical buildings she’s used to write her novels. First, please read what her new novel, Speechless, is about:

Could anything be worse than to be trapped in a confined space with the woman you love? Fitzwilliam Darcy knows his duty, and it does not involve succumbing to his fascination for a dark-eyed beauty from an unheard of family in Hertfordshire. He has run away from her once already. Yet fate has a wicked sense of humour and deals him a blow that not only throws him back into her path but quite literally puts him at Elizabeth Bennet’s mercy. Stranded with her at a remote inn and seriously hampered by injury, Darcy very quickly loses the battle to conquer his feelings, but can he win the war to make himself better understood without the ability to speak?

Thus begins an intense journey to love and understanding that is at times harrowing, sometimes hilarious and at all times heartwarming.

Being trapped in a confined space with Mr. Darcy, who wouldn’t love that? This sounds delightful, doesn’t it? If you agree, stay tuned for the giveaway. Please welcome Jessie Lewis.

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my new novel, Speechless. I love the Regency era and am lucky enough to be surrounded by historical buildings and places here in England, many of which have been inspirational to my writing. I thought it would be fun to share a few pictures of those that inspired the setting for this particular story.

In Speechless, Darcy and Elizabeth are stranded together at an inn called The Dancing Bear, owned by the kindly Mr Timmins. The inn boasts a large stuffed bear at the foot of the stairs, which Elizabeth nicknames Mr Collins. You would be forgiven for thinking this is a little odd, since bears are not native to the UK—or if they ever were, it was a really long time ago. In fact, I based The Dancing Bear on a real pub called The Bear of Rodborough, situated in the Cotswolds. It’s so called because it famously has a large stuffed bear in its foyer. (The bear was presumably hunted and imported at some point in the past, the ethics of which I shall not venture to discuss here!) A big scary bear just seemed to suit the location of Mr Timmins’ inn—on the outskirts of a village, surrounded by woods—as well as the events that take place there, which are, at least at the beginning, pretty frightening for our dear couple. Thus, The Dancing Bear was conceived.

The room in which Darcy and Elizabeth spend most of their time in the story belongs to Mr Timmins’ sister, who acts as a housekeeper-come-cook. Her role is pertinent because it demanded certain features be in the room that were essential to the story. I took the inspiration for this room from the housekeeper’s apartments at the beautifully restored Regency Townhouse in Brighton (a visit to which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in Regency life). The room at the townhouse (pictured) differs from the one in Speechless in that it is bright and airy as opposed to dark, dingy and cluttered—but it was the design of the space that really interested me.

Purpose-built for a housekeeper by the C19th architect, it has a large walk-in cupboard where she would have kept all the most expensive domestic items carefully locked away. You’ll have to read the story to find out why this was such an important feature to have in the room, though…

The taproom at The Dancing Bear is themed around the interior of a wonderful old hotel in my own hometown of Hertford. The Salisbury Arms (originally The Bell) is a coaching inn dating back to the fifteenth century. It has two front parlours, a taproom and a restaurant; three more rooms than I gave The Dancing Bear, which only has one taproom. The gorgeous old room in this picture shows the mixture of bricks, plaster and timber frame that I imagine made up the walls of Mr Timmins’ humble inn.

In complete contrast to all of this is Darcy’s townhouse. I admit, I have never visited the place in this picture. I’m not even sure where it was taken—it’s an image I stumbled across on the internet a long time ago—but I used it to help me envisage one of the most pivotal scenes in the story. Not, as you might think, for the splendour, though it is beautiful. In fact, it was, again, the layout that inspired me. The logistics of where things are in whatever imaginary world I’m writing about can prove problematic if I don’t have a clear idea of that space. Characters can end up whispering to someone too far away to hear, walking through a door that wasn’t there moments before, sitting down in a chair where another character is already perched … the potential for pitfalls is endless. I find that having in mind a particular room I’ve visited or seen in a photo, or even sketched out on paper, helps me better inhabit the space I’m describing, thereby ensuring that what I write makes sense. The way the furniture is arranged in a circle around this particular room, with one chair closest to the door, from which a person might hold a quiet conversation with someone half-in and half-out of the room whilst everyone else talks amongst themselves, proved remarkably useful to a certain gentleman protagonist in Speechless.

Of course, I also like to think of Darcy’s houses as tastefully and gorgeously decorated, so this photo was no hardship to work with.

So, there is a small glimpse of the world I lived in while I was writing Speechless. I hope your readers have just as much fun imagining their own setting for Darcy and Elizabeth if they have the chance to read the story themselves.

Thanks, Jessie, for sharing all of these glorious, inspirational buildings with us.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ebook of Speechless per blog tour stop. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose winners for the entire blog tour on December 19. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

About the Author:

Jessie Lewis, author of Mistaken and The Edification of Lady Susan, enjoys words far too much for her own good and was forced to take up writing them down in order to save her family and friends from having to listen to her saying so many of them. She dabbled in poetry during her teenage years, though it was her studies in Literature and Philosophy at university that firmly established her admiration for the potency of the English language. She has always been particularly in awe of Jane Austen’s literary cunning and has delighted in exploring Austen’s
regency world in her own historical fiction writing. It is of no relevance whatsoever to her ability to string words together coherently that she lives in Hertfordshire with two tame cats, two feral children and a pet husband. She is also quite tall, in case you were wondering.

You can check out her musings on the absurdities of language and life on her blog, LifeinWords.blog, or see what she’s reading over at Goodreads. Or you can drop her a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on her Facebook page, JessieLewisAuthor.

Guest Post & Giveaway: When Charlotte Became Romantic by Victoria Kincaid

I love reading Austen-inspired novels about secondary characters, and Victoria Kincaid offers readers a new take on Charlotte Lucas. Check out the book synopsis and an excerpt below before entering the international giveaway:

Desperate to escape her parents’ constant criticism, Charlotte has accepted a proposal from Mr. Collins despite recognizing his stupid and selfish nature. But when a mysterious man from her past visits Meryton for the Christmas season, he arouses long-buried feelings and causes her to doubt her decision.

James Sinclair’s mistakes cost him a chance with Charlotte three years ago, and he is devastated to find her engaged to another man. Honor demands that he step aside, but his heart will not allow him to leave Meryton. Their mutual attraction deepens; however, breaking an engagement is not a simple matter and scandal looms. If they are to be happy, they must face her parents’ opposition, Lady Catherine’s disapproval, dangerous figures from James’s past…and Charlotte’s nagging feeling that maybe she should just marry Mr. Collins. Charlotte had forsworn romance years ago; is it possible for her to become romantic again?

Please give Victoria a warm welcome:

Hello Serena and thank you for welcoming me back to your blog! I always thought that Charlotte Lucas got a raw deal, marrying a man who was so unpleasant and less intelligent than she was. I had long wanted to write a story where Charlotte got a happier ending. Imagine my surprise when that story, When Charlotte Became Romantic, turned out to contain spies, vengeance, a mysterious man from the past, and a broken engagement. I knew my vision of Charlotte would be more romantic, but I hadn’t realized how much more romantic her story would be! Below is an excerpt from near the beginning of the book. I hope you enjoy it!

After a moment, James roused himself. “My congratulations,” he said stiffly. His expression was unreadable, although his countenance was quite pale. “I wish you both happy.” He nodded briskly. “Now, if you will excuse us, my aunt is quite parched, and I promised to obtain some punch for her.” He barely gave his aunt enough time to clutch his arm before he whisked them both into the crowd.

Elizabeth and Charlotte stared after them. “My goodness,” Elizabeth said. “What did you do in Bath to offend them? Did you insult Mr. Sinclair’s favorite waistcoat or put too much sugar in his tea?” She gave Charlotte an impish grin.

If you only knew.

What could Charlotte say without revealing too much? “We did not part on the best of terms.” That much was true. Elizabeth regarded her with a raised eyebrow. “He departed from Bath under something of a cloud.” Also true, although certainly not the whole story.

Now both of Elizabeth’s brows were raised. “Indeed? How intriguing.” She paused, but Charlotte divulged no further information. She avoided gossip as a general rule, and this was one story she was especially loath to share. “That does not account for why he would be so disturbed at the particular news of your engagement.”

Charlotte silently cursed her friend’s powers of observation. Why could James not have encountered her in the hall with Jane Bennet or Maria? They would have remained oblivious to the undercurrents in the conversation.

“I do not take your meaning,” Charlotte responded.

A smile played around her friend’s lips. “If you say so.” She gave Charlotte a sly look. “I will only observe that he has obviously been thinking of you over the past three years. The question is…have you been thinking of him?”

“No, never,” she replied instantly. Fortunately, Charlotte had great practice in presenting an impassive face. “It was all so long ago.”

This was mostly the truth. Charlotte had a policy: she only allowed herself to think of James in her bedchamber during the last few minutes before she fell asleep. There she could indulge fantasies about what might have been without anyone being the wiser. Throughout the rest of the day, she worked ceaselessly to catch any stray thoughts about him and lock them carefully inside a box within her mind. Only at night—alone in bed—did she unlock that box and allow herself to examine those thoughts.

Glancing down, Charlotte found that her hands were still shaking. But how could she shut away her thoughts of James when he was here in Meryton? The Christmas season was full of dinner parties and balls of all sorts; no doubt they would be thrown together again and again. How could she police her thoughts of him while he was standing a few feet from her in the same room? She had no strategy for such a situation. She had never expected—allowed herself to fear or hope—that such a thing might come to pass.

She took a deep, soothing breath, reminding herself that the thoughts themselves were not the danger; it was the accompanying emotions. The perturbation of spirits, the endless regrets, and the forbidden longing. She might think about James without allowing herself to be dragged back into that emotional tumult. She had the armor of a betrothal now, relying on thoughts of Mr. Collins when thoughts of James threatened her equanimity.

Or … perhaps thoughts of the life she might have with Mr. Collins…the children …

I am in trouble.

She had only one recourse tonight, and she would discover other methods of coping tomorrow. Charlotte took her friend’s hand. “My head aches abominably. I must…retire to my bedchamber.” With her eyes, she implored Elizabeth not to ask too many questions.

Her expression instantly turned sympathetic. “Of course. Would you like me to accompany you?”

Bless Elizabeth for her tact and understanding; however, one person could slip away unnoticed far more easily. “No. I thank you. I pray you, remain and enjoy the party.” With a quick squeeze of Elizabeth’s fingers, Charlotte slipped out of the room and up the stairs.

Enter the Giveaway: (international)

1 ebook is up for grabs.

Leave a comment below with an email to enter.

Deadline Nov. 15, 2019 EST

Excerpt & Giveaway: The Perfect Gentleman by Julie Cooper

I love modern Pride & Prejudice spinoffs and continuations, but I also love Regency stories in which our romantic partners are forced to trust one another with secrets and it blossoms into something more.

Julie Cooper’s book, The Perfect Gentleman, fits the bill. Check out the book below and stay for the guest post and giveaway, too.

About the Book:

’Tis no secret that Lizzy Bennet has dreams. The uniquely talented daughter of a woman with a dubious reputation, Lizzy knows she must make her own way in a world that shuns her. Fitzwilliam Darcy carries the stains of his family’s disgrace upon his soul and only by holding himself to the strictest standards has he reclaimed his place in society.

Now Georgiana Darcy has gone missing. If his fifteen-year-old sister cannot be found quickly, the scandal could destroy Darcy’s years of perfect behaviour. Lizzy Bennet know just what to do to find Georgiana. She is willing to join the pursuit to get what she wants but will Darcy be willing to trust her with his secrets? And what will they do when the search for Georgiana reveals what neither expected to find?

The Perfect Gentleman is a romantic adventure so big it needs two volumes in one book. Follow the adventure in A Not-So-Merry Chase and discover the surprises and temptations that await at Pemberley in Love Wisely But Well.

Doesn’t this sound exciting? I love when Darcy and Elizabeth have adventures together. What better way is there to build trust when you have to trust the person you’re with on an adventure?

Check out how Cooper balanced this great societal gap and more below and please enter the giveaway.

In The Perfect Gentleman, our heroine begins life as the daughter of Fanny Bennet, a demimondaine supported by wealthy lovers. My original idea for this story was actually a challenge—to make the social gap between Lizzy and Darcy as wide as possible while not hopelessly stretching the bounds of believability. In order to do this, I had to create circumstances in Darcy’s past giving some leeway to support a gap the size of the Grand Canyon.

Of course, there are contributing factors to Mrs Bennet’s membership in The Real Regency Housewives of Ramsgate. Like canon, she is not clever—and an early, brief affair with a baron leaves her with a child, Jane, before she ever meets Mr Bennet. It is a fact of Regency life that a man might have mistresses, and any number of affairs, while a woman could be ostracized for a broken engagement. Fanny’s lies, and the baron’s unwillingness to stay out of Jane’s life, essentially doom Our Dear Girl Lizzy to social poverty and a fatherless existence. Nevertheless, she goes on to develop her talents with the goal of never being forced to repeat her mother’s choices. Through hard work, resourcefulness and determination, she is a fair way down the path of artistic competency before ever meeting Mr Darcy.

Early on in our novel, Lizzy is given a chance to write a letter to the father who abandoned her, and she experiments with different wording. However, due to space limitations, these letters were cut from the final version of The Perfect Gentleman. I believe that reading them, however, will give insight into her wit, the force of her personality, and her devotion to her dreams.

Excerpts from The Perfect Gentleman:

Dearest Papa,
It was kind of you to remember the bothersome fact of my existence. I hear it took a deathbed prompt, but I suppose fear of meeting your Maker with a possible daughter—for whom you never troubled to take any notice or make any provision—weighs on your conscience. By the by, if you supposed your baby’s mother to be a vile sinner, why would you leave an innocent child in her care?
Doubtfully,
Lizzy.

“Hmm. Too hostile?” she mused aloud. “I am not bitter. He is nothing to me.” Mentally she revised it.

Dear Sir,
It was kind of you to send an emissary. I hear you have been ill, and I hope you are on the mend. Unless, of course, I would now be an heiress if you had gone to meet your reward.

Possibly not that either. But why should she pretend an interest in the father who rejected her? She had shocked Mr Darcy, but truthfully, her only aim was to avoid her mother’s fate and lead a life she could control. Safety and peace. For that end, money was a requirement. A man such as he, spoilt with excess, could never understand. Even if he was unreasonably handsome.

Now, where had that thought come from?

Just a simple observation, she assured herself. One would have to be blind not to notice. I may be wicked enough to wonder what he looks like without his cravat, artistically speaking, but that does not mean I am dashing down the Path of Repeating Fanny’s Choices!

End excerpt.

As you can probably tell, Lizzy understands that small decisions can
have big consequences, and she stays true to her dreams and sense of
self throughout. It was probably my favourite part of writing The Perfect Gentleman—penning a heroine who truly believes in herself.

No matter the expectations of a rigid, unforgiving society, there is a
stubbornness about Lizzy Bennet that never can bear to be frightened at
the will of others. At its heart, The Perfect Gentleman is a story of her courage.

About the Author:

Julie Cooper, a California native, lives with her Mr Darcy (without the arrogance or the Pemberley) of nearly forty years, two dogs (one intelligent, one goofball), and Kevin the Cat (smarter than all of them.) They have four children and three grandchildren, all of whom are brilliant and adorable, with the pictures to prove it. She works as an executive at a gift basket company and her tombstone will read, “Have your Christmas gifts delivered at least four days before the 25th.” Her hobbies are reading, giving other people good advice, and wondering why no one follows it.

Giveaway:

You can win a $50 Amazon gift card from Quills & Quartos Publishing! The contest ends on November 13.

To be eligible, just comment on any of the blog tour stops and Quills & Quartos will select a random winner from the comments. You need not visit all the stops (one point per stop and comment), however, it does increase your chances of winning by earning more entries.

Please check the Quills & Quartos Facebook to find out about winners.

Guest Post & Giveaway: A Case of Some Delicacy by KC Kahler

I’m always intrigued when the boundaries of society are pushed to their limits and in this one we have Darcy and Elizabeth working together toward a common goal. How wonderful. Please check out the book and the excerpt. You’ll be rewarded with a giveaway.

Book Synopsis:

A secret alliance grows when an unwanted suitor arrives at Longbourn…

When rumours of Jane Bennet’s impending betrothal to her father’s heir begin spreading at the Meryton Assembly, Elizabeth vows to save her dearest sister’s happiness from being sacrificed in marriage.

She finds an unlikely accomplice in Mr Darcy, the taciturn man whose heroics on the cricket field have managed to turn Lydia Bennet’s infatuation away from redcoats. Upon overhearing a heated exchange between Elizabeth and Mr Bennet, Darcy is stunned not only by her devotion to her sister, but also by her defiant words to her father. An inexplicable desire to help Elizabeth draws Darcy into the match-breaking scheme, despite knowing that he should want nothing to do with a family like the Bennets.

As the new allies work together, their friendship deepens into mutual admiration. But they must navigate a complicated web of sisters, parents, friends, cousins, and aunts, some of whom may be attempting their own manipulations and romantic schemes. Eavesdropping and jealousy abound, cricket balls go astray, and love blooms in spite of Mrs. Bennet’s misguided matchmaking.

Please check out this awesome excerpt from Ch. 7:

Elizabeth was so tired—tired of listening to Mr Collins’s inanities, tired of this terrible rift with her father, tired of keeping secrets. In fact, she realised with no little astonishment, the only person from whom she kept no secrets was Mr Darcy. No one knew of her clandestine meetings with
him, for she could not tell Jane about such impropriety, and though she was eager for Charlotte’s opinion on the matter, they had had no privacy to discuss it. Yet Mr Darcy knew all of Elizabeth’s secrets. Mr Darcy, who disapproved of her family and found entertainment in her struggles. Mr Darcy, whose surprising dimples had been revealed that morning. Mr Darcy, who, via his unforeseen ability to say exactly what she needed to hear, had provided her only bit of sanity over these last two days. Mr Darcy, whose visit she eagerly awaited now. How had this ever happened?

So lost was Elizabeth in her thoughts that she failed to notice Mr Collins’s uncharacteristic silence and absorbed stare at Jane. Usually, this was precisely the moment when Elizabeth would employ him on some topic of interest. But in this instance, she allowed him to ruminate for too long—a huge error.

Mr Collins stood and cleared his throat. “If I may be so bold as to request the honour of a priv—”

“Mr Collins!” Elizabeth almost yelled his name before subduing herself. “Sir… I had hoped… you would tell us more about… Miss de Bourgh. Yes, Miss de Bourgh sounds like such an admirable young lady and we all wish to know more of her.”

“I would be most gratified to elaborate on her many charms, Cousin, but as I was saying, it is a very pleasant day out and—”

“Oh yes, do let us go into the garden where you can tell me about her! Does she play the pianoforte? Does she draw? She must have had excellent masters to teach her, for Lady Catherine would be ever so conscientious of the advantages offered by such an education.”

Elizabeth was certain her volley of questions and her last observation in particular had served the purpose of engaging him on his favourite subject, but then Mrs Bennet interfered. “Let poor Mr Collins finish a sentence!”

Lydia and Kitty snickered at the absurdity of such a command. Mrs Bennet ignored them. “What on earth has come over you, Lizzy? Why are you not out rambling in the woods on this fine day? Leave Jane and Mr Collins to their own conversation for a while, will you not?”

Elizabeth was truly in a panic.

Mr Collins suddenly remembered why he had stood up. “Oh, yes, I was about to request the honour of escorting Miss—”

“Mama!!” squealed Lydia from the window. “He is come! Mr Darcy is come with Mr Bingley!”

“Oh excellent, my dear Lydia! Here, pinch your cheeks—yes, just so. Lizzy, pinch your cheeks.

Go on… that will have to do.”

The next few minutes were spent pinching cheeks, smoothing hair, arranging skirts, and stowing away ribbons and bonnets. Even Mr Collins checked his cravat and smoothed his waistcoat.

“Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, ma’am,” announced Mrs Hill as the two men stepped into the room, the former with a wide smile and easy greeting for all assembled, and the latter with an assessing look at Elizabeth. She knew she must appear positively wild, between the fright she’d had a few minutes earlier and all that ridiculous cheek-pinching.

“We are very glad you have come, Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley. Is that not so, Lydia, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth would have grimaced at Lydia’s enthusiastic, lash-fluttering affirmations, but she was too relieved by the sudden appearance of the gentlemen. She caught Mr Darcy’s eye as she replied, “Indeed, our moods are considerably lightened with your timely call, gentlemen.”

“We are pleased to be of service.” Mr Darcy glanced about the room, seemingly taking stock of the players. If he sought entertainment, he was bound to get it today.

“Yes, indeed!” said Mr Bingley as he looked at Jane, who, Elizabeth noted, had an uncharacteristically flushed face. Mr Bingley paused before addressing Mrs Bennet again, “We wished to inquire about Miss Lydia’s health. Darcy and I have been most concerned for her.”

Mrs Bennet was pleased by this admission. “How kind of you to worry for dear Lydia! As you can see, she bears her injury well. Lydia has always been full of vigour and good cheer, never one to complain.”

“Yes, but I’ve been ever so bored cooped up here, Mr Darcy,” complained Lydia. “Oh! But I wanted to thank you for carrying me off the cricket field! I was quite astonished to hear of it from my sisters, for I do not remember a thing from when that ball knocked me down to when I sat
with Jane in the shade. Lord, but my head hurt then! And you warned me about playing too silly not an hour beforehand! What a laugh!”

Everyone looked to Mr Darcy for a response. Elizabeth decided to intervene on his behalf. It was the least she could do for the poor man. “I suspect Mr Darcy is too much of a gentleman to say he told you so.

About the author:

KC Kahler lives in northeastern Pennsylvania and works in online education, after having dabbled in sandwich making, bug collecting, and web development. She discovered Jane Austen fan fiction in 2008 and soon began dabbling in writing her own.

KC blogs about Austen and other pop culture topics. In 2015 and 2017, her popular Austen + The Onion Headlines meme was featured in The Atlantic, Flavorwire, and AV Club. In 2017, she made the requisite pilgrimage to Jane Austen country, where she took the waters in Bath, walked the lanes of Steventon, didn’t fall off the cobb in Lyme Regis, and stood awestruck in Chawton.

KC’s first novel, Boots & Backpacks, was published in 2014. Her second, A Case of Some Delicacy, released in 2019. Visit her KC’s social links:
Blog, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Giveaway:

You can win a $50 Amazon gift card from Quills & Quartos Publishing! The contest ends on October 18. To be eligible, just comment on any of the blog tour stops. You need not visit all the stops (one point per stop and comment), however, it does increase your chances of winning by earning more entries.

Guest Post: Living Life Creatively by Laura Roklicer

As many of you know I love featuring poets who want to talk about their creative process, share tips on publishing or writing, or even just give us a sneak peek into their office spaces.

Today’s guest is Laura Roklicer, a poet whose collection The Broken God was published in June. She’ll be sharing her creative process, as well as her outlook on life. She offers a unique perspective on how we view the world and how our subjectivity can be used to change the world around us.

Book Synopsis:

The Broken God is Laura’s first published book released in by United p.c. publishing and distributed across the U.K. and U.S. A poetry collection that challenges all those worldviews and systems that do not play in favour of human satisfaction but rather keep us separated and unfulfilled. There is some beauty of tragedy, tragedy of love, bluntness of loss, and reflecting questions of existence in there, too.

These are not poems about the beautiful landscapes of the world. These are poems about the bittersweet, destructive human nature and the pity of the stale worldview. The mix of societal disappointment, the tragedy of love and the existential depression still hides hope in every poem; there is something beautiful in the chaos of the universe, and in the chaos of ourselves.

People have the power to lead their own lives in any way they want to, but they mostly choose their comfort zone on expense of their happiness and only really make their own choices in dreams or video games. They settle for unfulfilling jobs, they settle for grey love, they settle for mediocre selves. And so they are breaking the God within them.

I hope that you’ll give Laura a warm welcome.

The inner struggle of doing something meaningful that contributes to changing society for the better and pursuing an artistic life that I was born to live, has always been too real for me. This debate inside my heart culminated last year as I felt the need to “do something bigger” with my life than authoring poems, lyrics or stories, and portray moving images. But then, finally, I had a Eureka moment, and it hit me; I am not just a writer, and I will never be one. I’ve always embraced my own weird philosophy of a better society through challenging the trending issues and questioning the ever-mysterious concept of consciousness and wrapped this into flowing stanzas or capturing images.

Every leaf creates a garden: whether it was bright green, freshly yellow or dry and brown. Every one of us creates the society, shapes it, and is shaped by it, and my only real purpose, that I have created for myself is giving this world a touch of my own colors to make it less grey. If the pit you are falling into is black, then do not be afraid to see it as black – the sky will only seem brighter that way and darkness might turn out to not be as cold as you thought. We should not be escaping reality just because it sometimes does not suit us because it will never satisfy us that way, not until we change it.

This book marked my year. It is a story of my struggles, developing beliefs and debates with myself (I always enjoy those). At the time, I was working at the European Space Agency and, motivated to do something for my dad that had just passed away; I decided to finally find a publisher for my work. I never liked stories about abracadabra and magical worlds. I liked real things because to me; writing is as real as it gets. It imagines a world in which you can change all the rules but choose not to change any but shine a light on that one thing that people pass by every single day, blinded by the chaos outside and inside of them.

I have not created The Broken God. We have all created it. Waiting for our lives to fly by so that we can finally stop the struggle, waiting for holidays that we will spend fighting with our families, daydreaming of being superheroes while crumbling under endless excuses, and settling… An ordinary human in today’s society keeps settling for unfulfilling jobs, for grey love, for mediocre selves. We accept wars because we have never lived without wars. We accept poor politics because no one gave us a different option. We accept loveless relationships because we do not believe in true happiness, or we do not think we deserve it. But guess what? We are the ones making those wars; no alien force is making us fight each other. We are the ones allowing these damaging politics. We are the ones breaking our hearts.

I am passionate about absolutely everything I do, and the above topics are some of the issues I am most focused on. That is what I write about, and that is how I change society. I reach so many beautiful conclusions while finding even more questions, through writing, and my goal is to inspire others to open their eyes to all these questions, to explore the depths of the universe within us, and to be better human beings.

I never know what the next sentence I write will be, that is what fascinates me most about writing. I love to surprise myself. Once I know exactly how the story will end, I suddenly lose interest. With poems, I might start writing about a guy I met on the subway, but end up talking about inequality, mental illness, or the fifth dimension. I never know what comes next, not in writing nor my own life, and that excites me more than anything.

Sometimes, I write down random thoughts and weird mixes of words that somehow form a poem, and I have a beer thinking about what the hell I wanted to say with that. I then read back the poem and reflect on the meaning that now wholly makes sense. My head is exploding with ideas and, somewhere inside my unexplainable mind; there is a beautiful mess that I often do not understand. So when all these words or images, or other senses come to me, writing them down helps me understand my thoughts a lot better, and that is when I feel like those words could help heal some broken soul, broaden perspectives and tickle shady hearts.

The first section of The Broken God is titled “Where God Screams”. It is a wordplay, just like most of my titles, representing the contrast of our beliefs and the bluntness of the possible truth. God is screaming at us, or is he yelling at himself? I need to get lost in nothingness, where we are just as small as we should be. I realize that I am alone, laughing at God. Here, I am trying to portray an idea that we should stop growing our egos, that we should stop creating gods in the sky that keep making us destroy those gods within us – the only gods that make sense. We are the creators of ourselves; we choose where we are going to take ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, and our society, and we must stop blaming humanity on external gods. We are all equally powerful and equally insignificant.

The second section is called “Artificial Significance”, and it talks about the perspective of meaning and purpose. We are taught that killing spiders and capturing wildlife for nothing, but our entertainment and irrational fears are okay because we are higher beings than any other we have lived to know. We have also been brought up with the belief that we must have a purpose outside of this life; that we have a select reason for being born and habituating this planet. We are forcing the universe, or our gods, to give us an idea as to why they have created us, and with this, we are murdering the real purpose of our existence – life itself. We are bypassing this party waiting for the afterparty to which no one has invited us. Optimistic nihilism tells us that embracing a perspective of nothingness before and after us, of insignificance, can make us so much happier. The quality of our lives improves significantly once we stop looking for alternatives to our own lives.

“Terror of Beauty” and “Out of Control” are sections that deal with love, family, and personal struggles that one goes through in a lifetime. They are indeed private to me, and most of the last section is dedicated to my father. I believe these are especially relatable to those that have experienced any loss in their life. Of course, there is a lot of impossible and unrequited love and escaping the truth for the beauty of the illusion of possibilities. We all bleed; some of us under thinner and others under thicker skin, and admitting this is the first step toward healing the Broken God.

Thank you, Laura, for stopping by and sharing your creative process with us.

Please view the Book Teaser on Facebook.

Buy the Book:

About the Poet:

Laura Roklicer is a 23-year-old freelance writer, scriptwriter, lyricist and a filmmaker, whose educational background is in film production and psychology. She has worked with over a hundred artists worldwide and is a citizen of the world who doesn’t believe in borders that people put up (geographical or mental) and finds her thrill exploring different areas of the world, as well as exploring the cultural differences, individuality, and different worldviews.

She believes the true beauty of nature lays in those differences and the power of subjectivity. Laura is on a mission to contribute to the world change for the better and she hopes to do so through her writing and films.

Giveaway & Guest Post: A Chance Encounter in Pemberley Woods by Brigid Huey

Please welcome Brigid Huey today with her debut novel, A Chance Encounter in the Pemberley Woods. First, let’s check out the synopsis of the book before we get to the giveaway and excerpt.

A surprise meeting
A baby alone in the woods
And a second chance at love

Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to his beloved Pemberley with one thing on his mind ̶ to forget Elizabeth Bennet. Riding ahead of his party and racing a storm, he happens upon the very woman he wants to avoid. To his astonishment, she is holding a baby whose name and parentage are unknown.

Elizabeth Bennet never dreamed she had wandered into Pemberley’s Woods on her afternoon walk. But when she finds an infant alone in the storm, she turns to the last man in the world she wants to see ̶ and the only one who can help them both.

As the mystery of the baby’s identity intensifies, Elizabeth finds Mr. Darcy to be quite the reverse of what she expected. But when the child’s family is discovered, will the truth bring them together, or tear them apart?

Please welcome Brigid as she talks about her writing process:

Thank you, Serena, for welcoming me to your blog! I’m so happy to be here as part of my blog tour! Today I thought I would share a little bit about my writing process.

I do the bulk of my writing at my local coffee shop, White Oak Coffee House. It is the perfect spot for me! It’s less than a mile from my house, so I can walk up in good weather, and the place itself is delightful. There are huge windows that let in lots of natural light, and warm, darkwood tables that seem to call out for a writing session. Plus, the food and drinks are yummy!

My writing day is Thursday. I have two kids that I homeschool, so it’s a bit hard to squeeze in writing on any other day! On Thursday, my husband is home from work, so he takes on the homeschooling duties, and I head to White Oak Coffee House. I chat with the lovely folks that work there, order my drink, and head to a table. Once my Chromebook is set up, I plug in my headphones and bring up my soundtrack for whatever writing project I’m working on.

Yes, I create soundtracks! For A Chance Encounter in Pemberley Woods, the music consisted mostly of scores from my favorite period films, plus a bit of Chopin and Mozart. I was particularly enthralled by the music from the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre. Dario Marianelli is one of my favorite composers!

I find music helps my mind get into writing mode. If it’s a good day, the music and the space get me going and my fingers fly! If not, there’s always a yummy bagel to eat 🙂

Thanks, Brigid. I personally love pairing music with writing.

ENTER the Giveaway:

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of Brigid Huey’s A Chance Encounter in Pemberley WoodsENTER HERE.

About the Author:

Brigid has been in love with Jane Austen since first seeing the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two kids, and spends her free time reading and writing. This is her first Pride and Prejudice variation, though many others live in her imagination. Visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter. Buy the book on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Letters of the Heart by Kay Bea

Today’s guest is Kay Bea, a debut author in the Jane Austen Fan Fiction universe. She’s eager to share her first book, Letters of the Heart, and I’m eager for you to read this excerpt that will leave you wanting more.

Don’t forget to enter the generous giveaway from Quill & Quartos, her publisher.

Book Synopsis:

The Bennet sisters of Longbourn lack both decorum and connections and do not possess a decent dowry between them. Even the best of the them is in every way unsuitable for a man whose income is as a good as a lord. But love is not so easily set aside and in January 1812, Mr Darcy persuades Mr Bingley to reopen Netherfield Park, the country estate from which they both fled only two months before. On returning to Hertfordshire, they discover a near tragedy took place three days after the Netherfield Ball and has changed the lives of the Bennet family forever. Mrs Bennet’s relentless fear of losing her place in society has led her to condemn her least favourite daughter to a life of isolation and pain that will greatly complicate Darcy and Elizabeth’s journey to happiness. Old bonds are strengthened, family ties are severed, and unlikely allies emerge as each of them struggles to make sense of the changes they face.

Please give Kay a warm welcome and enjoy the excerpt below:

It was several minutes later that a question from Lydia shattered the fragile peace of his mind. “Did my sister and her odious husband travel with you?” There was a half-hearted admonishment of “Lydia! That was unkind,” from one of the sisters. Miss Bennet, he thought, but was not certain. Lydia simply ignored the reprimand and continued, “We were expecting Lizzy two days ago, but she has not come, and we thought perhaps they delayed their travel.”

Mrs Bennet chose that moment to join in, “Of course, it is just like that ungrateful girl to break her poor sister’s heart when my Jane has been so looking forward to seeing her after all this time. And not even a note to explain her absence. She has no consideration for my nerves, but I shall not complain.”

He ignored Mrs Bennet in favour of replying to her youngest daughter. “No, Miss Lydia, they did not. Your sister and her husband were in Kent when I returned to London. Like you, I believed they were to arrive here yesterday. I said as much in my letter to Bingley.” Darcy struggled to keep his composure. Unlike his first return to Hertfordshire, he could not hide his distress behind a display of taciturn incivility. These ladies were no longer strangers to him; they were his dear sister’s intimate friends, and ignoring them would be disgraceful.

He was drawn from his introspection with the announcement that Mr. Bennet, in fact, had recovered enough to escort his eldest daughter to her wedding. The news was bittersweet. For though he was glad to know the master of Longbourn was returning to health, he could not help but think how pleased Elizabeth would be at hearing the change. That thought took him directly back to considering all the reasons she might have for a late arrival, and none of them were pleasant.

Two days after the wedding, Darcy and Georgiana made a final call at Longbourn before beginning the journey to Pemberley. While his sister made her farewells to Lydia, Catherine, and Mary, Darcy requested an audience with Mr Bennet. He congratulated himself when he did not scoff at Mrs Bennet’s raptures over which of her younger daughters he had chosen to marry. He was admitted to Mr Bennet’s book room and found the older man sitting quietly, staring at a miniature of a young girl who could only be Elizabeth.

The silence had just begun to grow uncomfortable when Mr Bennet carefully placed the portrait on his desk and raised his eyes to meet those of his guest. “I am told my family and I owe you a great debt, Mr Darcy. Before she married, Jane informed me that the change in my care and, therefore, the improvement in my condition were due solely to your intervention. I would offer my thanks if only I understood your motivation.”

Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I can assure you, sir, that my only motive was to see you restored to health for the comfort and well-being of your daughters.”

Mr Bennet gave the younger man a piercing look. “Nonsense. You made your opinion of my daughters quite clear when you first visited the neighbourhood.”

Darcy could not deny it. “I was wrong. Your daughters are very lively and their manners not fashionable, but they are good girls, all of them, and I had no right to judge otherwise.”

Mr Bennet nodded his acceptance and returned his gaze to the miniature on his desk. “Lizzy was always my favourite. Did you know? No, I suppose you would not. When I learnt of your insult at the assembly, I called for my horse and was ready to ride out before she stopped me. She said you were not worth her tears or my anger. I am her father, and I know she was not being entirely truthful. Your words wounded her, no matter that she tried to laugh them away.” His eyes never lifted from the image of Elizabeth.

“I should not have spoken them. I did not behave as I should have when I was first in Hertfordshire. I have since tried to be a better man, the man I ought always to have been,” Darcy confessed.

Mr Bennet inclined his head in acknowledgement and said, “Then I wish you success. Perhaps you will not wait, as I did. Perhaps you will not fail your sister as I failed my Lizzy. They told me she was visiting friends of her Aunt Gardiner’s in London. I knew, of course, it was a lie. But not in my wildest imaginings did I conceive of the truth, and now my Lizzy is bound to a man I know was raised without an ounce of kindness by my illiterate and miserly cousin.”

He finally raised his eyes to meet Darcy’s. “Still, you owe us nothing. You were under no obligation to return or to offer your assistance. So why are you come, Mr Darcy?”

“I made her a promise, Mr Bennet, and I mean to keep it,” Darcy answered solemnly.

I hope that leaves you ready to read more. I know I’m eager to read it.

About the Author:

Kay Bea is an administrative assistant and Jane Austen lover living in Kansas City with her husband of twenty-five years, her mother-in-law, and her fur kids. She has written several short stories and drabbles on fanfiction.net as “I Found My Mr. Darcy” and on A Happy Assembly as
MrsDarcy2032.

Kay grew up in Wyoming, enjoyed a two-year adventure in Maryland, and now calls Missouri home. When she isn’t writing, Kay enjoys photography, cooking, and spending time with her adult children and three granddaughters. Visit her on Facebook and GoodReads.

Giveaway:

  • Up for grabs is a $50 Amazon gift card
  • To enter comment on any of the blog tour stops to earn one point per stop.
  • Giveaway ends on Sept 19.

Excerpt & Giveaway: His Choice of a Wife by Heather Moll

Today, I’d like to welcome Heather Moll to the blog today. She’ll share with us an excerpt from her upcoming novel, His Choice of a Wife. Also, stay tuned for a giveaway, too.

About the Book:

When a man’s honor is at stake, what is he willing to risk for the woman he loves?

After a disastrous marriage proposal and the delivery of an illuminating letter, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet hope never to lay eyes on one another again. When a chance meeting in Hunsford immediately throws them in each other’s way, Darcy realizes his behavior needs correcting, and Elizabeth starts to appreciate his redeeming qualities. But is it enough to forgive the past and overcome their prejudices?

Jane and Bingley’s possible reconciliation and Lydia’s ill-conceived trip to Brighton pose their own challenges for two people struggling to find their way to love. When scandalous news threatens their chance at happiness, will Darcy and Elizabeth’s new bond be shattered, or will their growing affection hold steadfast?

Read today’s excerpt:

Thank you for hosting a stop on my blog tour Serena and giving me a chance to share an excerpt from His Choice of a Wife with your readers. This is the second part of an excerpt that was posted at Half Agony Half Hope on July 28. This excerpt stands well on its own, but if you want to learn what was going through Darcy’s mind and why Elizabeth is worrying about what he thinks of her, consider checking out that post.

Elizabeth had always been aware that her immediate connections were unequal to Mr. Darcy’s in behavior, but the display he had just witnessed was appalling. If he had been wavering before, he must certainly consider giving her up now. While in London, she had thought his affections and wishes were still unshaken, but she could not now be secure.

They walked towards Lucas Lodge where Lydia and Jane left them. Mr. Darcy had not spoken since he quit the drawing room, and she dreaded what was to come. She feared to speak to him lest her emotions should overmaster her, for her regret at the idea of the loss of Mr. Darcy was formidable now that she had begun to appreciate him. While her regard for him was ever increasing, her power over him must be equally diminished after her family’s behavior.

“Your mother is misinformed.” His steady voice interrupted her silent heartache. “How do you mean?”

“She implied you lack your sisters’ attractiveness and vivacity, and you would therefore not take my notice. I know not what I may do to inform her that you are of frequent notice to me, but I have for many months now considered you to be the handsomest woman of my acquaintance.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked up at him in astonishment.

“Do you not have sufficient confidence in my affections to believe me?” he asked.

She could hardly say, since she questioned the strength of her own precious feelings for him, that of course she could doubt his. “We are so very different. You have splendid property and noble connections, and I cannot offer you the like. My mother’s behavior to you bordered on uncivil, and all your doubts concerning my family’s lack of propriety and inferiority—”

He seized her hand and pressed it fervently into his chest. “I have no doubts about my intentions towards you. I may have considered your family’s situation and behavior, but there was no reason for me to speak of them when I was petitioning for your hand, and I am ashamed. I do beg you to forgive me.”

Elizabeth nodded, but Mr. Darcy was not done.

“I would have you know my every thought and feeling, had I the right to confide them to you. For the present, you need to know that, when I am assured your regard for me matches what I continue to feel for you, I will ask you again to be my wife.”

When Mr. Darcy last made an avowal of all he felt for her, he had no doubt of a favorable response. The way he now looked on her made Elizabeth believe he was truly apprehensive she would ever accept his hand, and she strove to give him an understanding of her intensifying attachment to him.

“I have never been more sensible of your good character. I have a real interest in your happiness, and I want it to depend a great deal on me. I ought to tell you, however awkward it may be, that I feel marriage is much more than an anxious concern for the well-being of one’s companion.”

“After all that has passed between us, I am grateful that you at least now have an interest in my happiness.” Elizabeth’s heart raced while Mr. Darcy still held a gentle grasp on her hand. Whatever feelings she had for him, they were more than simply wishing him health and happiness. She could see him as a devoted husband, a doting father, and a responsible landlord who cared for the happiness of everyone in his care. “What else do you feel an equal marriage of respect ought to entail?”

“I believe that marriage must entail love and depth of attachment.”

“You are a romantic.” It was not a question, and he was not wrong. “Do you—is it possible you could—do I have any reason to hope—”

About the Author:

Heather Moll is an avid reader with a B.A. in European history and a M.A. in library science, so it is astonishing that she did not discover Jane Austen until her late-twenties. Making up for lost time, she devoured all of Austen’s novels, her letters, and unpublished works, joined JASNA, and spent far too much time researching the Regency era. She is thrilled to have found fellow Janeites and the JAFF community, if only to prove that her interests aren’t so strange after all. Heather is a former librarian turned stay-at-home mother who struggles to find time for all of the important things, like reading and writing. Check out her Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Amazon Author Page, and GoodReads.

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Giveaway:

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of Heather Moll’s His Choice of a Wife.

ENTER HERE.

Guest Post: Writing as a Team Sport by Susan Hamilton

With 20 enthralling stories by up-and-coming writers from The Writing Bloc, ESCAPE! is an anthology with a theme that appeals to anyone. It examines the urge humans have to leave the circumstances they’re currently in and how that impulse both helps and hurts us.

Please welcome one of the writers, Susan Hamilton:

All you need is a little help from your friends

Think back to when you were in school and you had to work on a group project. Did that memory make you break out in a cold sweat? I bet a lot of you did. Group projects can be hard, frustrating and anxiety-inducing. There are always a few people who aren’t invested, don’t show up for meetings, or miss deadlines.

Now imagine trying to collaboratively write a book with a bunch of authors you’ve never met before.

Impossible, you say? I’m here to tell you its not.

In 2018, indie author Michael Haase, along with five other writers he’d become acquainted with — Cari Dubiel, Becca Spence Dobias, Robert Batten, Jacqui Castle, and Christopher Lee — formed the Writing Bloc (www.writingbloc.com) an online community of writers with the goal of helping indie authors by fostering connection and providing the support necessary to navigate the often overwhelming world of publishing.

I became involved in Writing Bloc not long after it was founded, and shortly after that, the group came up with a new challenge: It was great to have formed an engaged, supportive writers’ community, but how cool would it be for the group put out an anthology of short stories?

The idea of an anthology is nothing new, but Writing Bloc applied its idea of community and collaboration to the project. The plan was simple: Select 20 stories from all of the submissions, and then have all of the writers edit collaboratively.

You heard me correctly — 20 authors, most nearly complete strangers, critiquing each others’ work first in pairs and then as a full group. Every story reviewed and critiqued by each individuals over the course of a few months. And once that was done, the founding members of Writing Bloc would do a final line edit, create the cover, and publish the anthology.

Some of you are having group-project flashbacks, aren’t you? You’re thinking this project was an implosion waiting to happen.

It wasn’t. It didn’t implode — it took off.

All 20 of us — with a few bumps in the road along the way — successfully contributed stories, edited, and published the Writing Bloc’s ESCAPE! anthology. And now we are all helping to market and promote it in our own distinct ways.

I think our success is 100 percent the result of two things. First, the vision and determination of Writing Bloc’s core team. And second, the enthusiasm, generosity, and trust shown by the entire group. We all wanted to see each other succeed; we all wanted the anthology to succeed; and we were willing to put in the work. We were willing to give honest, constructive critiques, and we were all open to receiving those critiques, too. And that can be hard, as any writer knows.

As founder Haase notes in the book’s foreword, “Twenty of us formed a team to write, edit, produce, design and release this book. It was a ton of work but we did it all together as a cooperative. … I have yet to find another compilation constructed quite like this one. We all had a say in the process.”

I was fortunate enough to have had my own story, “Chrysalis,” selected to be included, so I was able to experience the collaboration first-hand. It wasn’t perfect. There were lots of questions, some fits and starts in some areas, and a few technology glitches (Those, I confess, were user error on my part; I have fondly dubbed myself the group’s technological problem child.).

I’ve talked a lot about the creation of the ESCAPE! anthology, so you’re probably wondering by now, what is ESCAPE! all about? I’ll let the book synopsis speak for itself:

ESCAPE! It’s something that we all crave. Life in 2018 is loaded with stress, worry, and regret so, of course, these themes are old friends of the independent writers of the Writing Bloc Cooperative. In the first collection of shorts presented by Writing Bloc Publishing, twenty up-and-coming authors illuminate the varied nuances of ESCAPE! The result is nothing short of pure alchemical gold in the form of the written word.

These twenty gripping tales, running the gamut from science fiction and fantasy to political satire and literary fiction, illustrate the many faces of escape, escaping, and escapism. In a curiously deep look into the human psyche, they examine the urge to leave our present circumstances behind as well as how that instinct both aids and hinders our lives.

The stories in ESCAPE! are eclectic, fascinating, and engaging, and there really is something in there for everyone. I’m proud that my work is included alongside these other writers who not only do I respect but consider them to be colleagues and friends. But what I’m proudest of is having been part of a group effort that could have failed but ended up being a tremendous success because of the dedication, determination, and trust shown by everyone involved.

In fact, we had so much fun creating ESCAPE! we’re doing it again. The process for producing Writing Bloc’s next anthology, DECEPTION! is already underway. It has stories from many writers who debuted in the first anthology, plus some wonderful new voices. The new anthology should be out later this year, so keep an eye out!

Interested in the ESCAPE! Anthology? Look for it on Amazon. Learn more about the Writing Bloc.

About the Author:

Susan K. Hamilton is the award-winning author of epic, dark, and urban fantasy books including “Shadow King,” “Darkstar Rising,” and “The Devil Inside” (releasing 2020). She’s also dipped her toe in the short story pond and had her work included in the ESCAPE! and DECEPTION! anthologies (forthcoming) from Writing Bloc.

Horse-crazy since she was a little girl, she also loves comfy jeans, pizza, great stand-up comedy, and pretty much every furry creature on the planet (except spiders). Susan lives near Boston with her husband and a cat that runs the house like a boss.