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Mailbox Monday #447

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

A Less Agreeable Man by Maria Grace for review from the author.

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring.

Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.

Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she’s engaged to another man.

Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess: A Bennet Wardrobe Novella by Don Jacobson from the author

The universe was shaken once again on Midsummer’s Day in 1801. The Bennet Wardrobe’s door to the future was opened in the bookroom at Longbourn. This time the most impertinent Bennet of them all, Elizabeth, tumbled through the gateway. Except she left not as the grown women with whom readers have become so familiar, but rather as a ten-year-old girl who had been playing a simple game of hide-and-seek.

Which Where/When was her destination? What needs could a young girl, only beginning to learn to make her way in the Regency, have that could be answered only by the Wardrobe? Or were the requirements of another Bennet, one who began as younger, but had aged into a beautiful, confident leader of Society, the prime movers behind Lizzy’s journey? Is the enigmatic Lady Kate the force that shaped the destiny of Lizzy and her younger sisters left back in Hertfordshire? How do the visions of the future brought home by young Lizzy help shape her world?

What did you receive?

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Importance of Being Earnest…No I Meant Organized by Maria Grace

Maria Grace’s books have appeared on the blog before — Mistaking Her Character and The Trouble to Check Her — and she’s been a guest here before.  Today, Maria will share a little bit about her writing process.

Before we get to that, read a little bit about the third book in The Queen of Rosings Park series, A Less Agreeable Man:

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park.

By all appearances, they are made for each other,serious, hard-working, and boring.  Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation.

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne.

Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the
woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to
remember that she’s engaged to another man.

Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

I love when stories speak to the character of Mary Bennet — she’s the sister in the background, the wallflower. I cannot wait to pick up a copy of this book, especially since I’ve read the other two. Without further ado, I’ll turn things over to Maria Grace:

When Serena and I chatted about me coming by for a visit, she suggested I write something
about my writing process. Since all I’ve been writing recently have been history articles, writing about something else sounded utterly delightful. No squinting my way through period references with weird spellings and long letter ‘s’s, no dealing with fiddly bibliography styles and block quotation formats—a little heavenly really.

So, I started thinking about what in my writing process could possibly be interesting enough or unique enough to write about. Yeah, well, got nothing there. That thought promptly got driven out of my mind while binge-watching the weather channel as an unexpected, uninvited and most unwelcome guest Harvey came barreling through the Gulf of Mexico.

As a storm unlike any other was bearing down on us, I had an imminent book launch and about three weeks’ worth of work to complete while (given past hurricane experience) I expected to lose power as soon as the storm made landfall and for it to remain out of about two weeks. Nothing like that sort of excitement to get the adrenaline flowing—and bring one’s process out into the forefront.

It’s been a little tough to actually sit down and write about it though. Between recovery efforts, trying to get my boys off to start their university schedules, managing the rest of the book launch, and just coping with the stress left over from the storm, putting letters together, much less actual words just hasn’t been happening. I mean seriously, I could have put my cat, Minion, (a polydactyl with thumbs) on the keyboard and come out with something far more
comprehensible that I would have written. Things are better now (ie: I’ve had sufficient quantities of chocolate) and as close to normal as they are going to get in my community for quite some time. So it’s finally time to sit down and try to take a look at what got me through the writing side of this mess.

Really, it all comes done to being organized, on the border of compulsively so. I know it’s not
for everyone and a lot of very normal people go happily and effectively through life never having made a list. But I am most definitely not one of those.

I’m generally a very organized and prepared person, to the point that my kids tease me mercilessly over the little things I do to make my life easier, like the way I unload the groceries onto the conveyor at the store. I put them on a specific way so they can get bagged with like things together making them easier to put away when I get home. Makes sense right? Even the boys know this because they tease me, BUT they appreciate it when it comes time to put the groceries away.

That being said, I have a particular workflow (List #1) that I lean on when I write. Starting out, as I write, I have cold readers who give me feedback and initial proofreading for the first draft allowing me to edit as I go. Once that is done, I compile everything and start editing.

And editing. And editing.

Eventually, I get the final draft done. At that point I pull out my handy-dandy Book Tour list (List #2) and start to contact bloggers to set up a book tour. While that is in the works, I do the final-final edits and send off the proofs to my diligent and ever patient proofreaders. (They really are saints…)

While waiting on the proofs, I finish setting up the tour, plan the posts I need to write and gather the research and notes for all of the articles, and make my tour spreadsheet. Yes, I said that, a spreadsheet. (List #3)

Then it’s back to compiling the proofs and creating the publication draft of the book. At that point, I create an electronic Advanced Reader edition for bloggers and reviewers to have a looky-see at the book before the tour. And guess what– List #4 is there to remind me of all the details of how to do that just in case I get fuzzy along the way.

From that file, I setup the pre-order for the book in advance of the book tour. It’s at this point that everything went utterly sideways. Totally and completely upside down and sideways. Late on August 23, I set up the pre-order which then locked me into a timetable determined by Amazon, one that I could not break out of without serious consequences. Lucky me. Never once did I think, “Gee, this would be a good time to turn on the news and check the weather forecast.”

I should have.

The next morning I woke up to news that Tropical Storm Harvey was now Hurricane Harvey and would hit somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston on the 25th, probably as a category 1 storm, possibly a 2. (Back in 2008, Hurricane Ike’s eye wall passed directly over our home. It was ‘just’ a category 2 storm. We were left without power for nearly two weeks after that. Two weeks. And I had a book launch setup for seven days hence.)

Perfect, just perfect.

So, going off past experience, I figured we’d get out power knocked out as soon as the storm made landfall on Friday morning, just like happened with Ike. I needed to get our final hurricane preparations in place AND accomplish at least two weeks of book launch work in forty-eight hours.

(Luckily nearly everything was checked off the Hurricane List at the beginning of the season, so, after a quick grocery trip, I could focus on the book stuff.)

So I went back to the Workflow List (#1) and tried to figure out what was next. Oh joy, next up: format final e-book. Exactly the sort of detailed fiddly thing I love to do when I don’t have two brain cells to rub together. So what’s a gal to do? There’s a list for that! With the help of my e-formatting check list (#5), I was able to get through formatting and upload all the e-formats by midnight—bleary-eyed to be sure, it was done!

Got up early the next morning and put the Tour Spreadsheet (List #3) and List #6-the Blog Tour Material List—up on the computer. No time to think, just jumped on the first line of the spread sheet and started writing. Write, proof, correct, compile materials, send, repeat and repeat again.

Granted, I may not have been at my usual peak of warm wittiness (I can hear you snickering, don’t think I can’t…) but a lot got done as I watched the news of the storm hitting Rockport—leveling Rockport to be more accurate—as it came ashore at a Cat 4, not a Cat 1 storm. I got three quarters of the way down the Tour Spread Sheet before I had to stop, not because of the power outages that I expected but never came, but because we lost internet and the water started rising in places it had never risen before resulting in an evacuation by boat.

Something I didn’t have a list for.

But yes, I will be compiling one soon!

Thanks so much for having me, Serena. Here’s an excerpt from the book at the heart of all this
excitement, A Less Agreeable Man.

First, let me interrupt! I cannot imagine having to launch a book when a hurricane is upon me and water is rising in my house and we must be evacuated.

New Scene (1.2k) Introducing conflict between Mary and Fitzwilliam:

Mary stormed back to Rosings manor from the remains of the newly planted section of
the kitchen garden. Her half-boots crunched along on the gravel while her skirts swished in an irate whisper. A trickle of sweat fell on her lips; she licked away the salt. Yes, she would arrive in an absolute state of inelegance, but few women could affect angry sophistication under the best of circumstances.

Not long ago, she had sat with Mr. Michaels and Colonel Fitzwilliam offering insight on
how to manage Lady Catherine and even how to bring up the subject of hiring a curate for the
parsonage. It seemed like he had listened to her, taken note of what she had said. But now it was a se’nnight later, and he had apparently ignored it all.

First he chided Lady Catherine for wearing a dinner dress whilst receiving Mary for a
morning call. It took mere moments for the scene to devolve into shouting and stomping and
shrieking and required the whole afternoon to restore Lady Catherine’s equanimity. Now today he permitted her to walk the gardens alone. Why could he not understand that she must never be allowed outside without a companion?

Lady Catherine had become confused and wandered into the kitchen garden instead of
her flower garden. The confusion turned to fear and then anger against the plants themselves, tearing out most of the seedlings and hothouse transplants. It was only by Providence alone that Mary had been walking one of the footpaths near enough to hear the commotion and intervene.

It took an hour complete, but she was finally able to calm Lady Catherine and place her
back in Mrs. Jenkinson’s care, with firm orders that she not be left alone again. The damage to the garden, though, was extensive, a loss Rosings could not afford.

It could all have been avoided had Colonel Fitzwilliam merely heeded her advice. Mary
clenched her fists until they ached. If he was too stubborn to listen, then he deserved whatever happened.

But the rest of them did not—not the staff, not Rosings’ tenants, not the inhabitants of the
parsonage. For their sakes she would get involved.

Barkley—whom the colonel called Small Tom now—opened the great carved mahogany
door and dodged out of her way. Wise servant that he was, he seemed to realize she was not to be gainsaid and did not even make a show of attempting it.

She paused on the marble tile of the front hall, allowing the cool air to soothe the edges
of her temper. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dimmer inside light and she made out Small Tom as he watched from a safe distance, impeccable in his dark suit and white gloves.

“The colonel?”

Small Tom pointed down the hall.

She gathered her skirts in one hand and stalked toward the study.

She flung open the imposing paneled wood door and marched inside into nearly blinding
sunlight pouring in through the tall windows.

When the room had been used by Lady Catherine, it had been immaculate—granted that
almost certainly meant that no real work was ever accomplished within its walls, but at least it was respectable. Now it looked—and smelt—like a public house near closing hour. The scents of alcohol, stale food and sweaty men hung like cobwebs in every corner. Books, dirty dishes, even furniture were strewn about as though the room were inhabited by Eton students with no housekeeper.

Mr. Michaels and Colonel Fitzwilliam sat on opposite sides of the desk, hunching over
several ledgers. They sprang to their feet, jaws dropping as the door slammed against the wall
behind her.

“What did you think you were doing?” She stormed toward them, stopping at short edge
of the desk.

“Excuse me?” Colonel Fitzwilliam scowled—probably an expression that cowed lesser
officers.

“You sought my advice yet you have summarily ignored it. Now see what your wisdom
has wrought. The kitchen garden has been ruined.” She slapped a small space on the desktop not occupied with masculine detritus.

“Mary?” Why did Michaels look so surprised?

“How dare you march in here—” Colonel Fitzwilliam slowly leaned forward on the desk,
most likely hoping to tower over her and intimidate.

She matched his posture. “And how dare you go on expecting that I will placate Lady

Catherine when you will not do me the courtesy of doing as I have suggested.”

“You have no place to be instructing me as to what I should be doing.”

“Perhaps not. Since you are an all-wise and knowing officer of His Majesty’s service, you are free to apply your understanding to the management of your relations. I shall be very happy to keep away from Rosings, and mind my own business. It is not as though I need your assistance to keep myself occupied.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s jaw dropped.

Michaels flinched. He had not seen her fury before. Doubtless best that he know now,
before their wedding.

“Good Lord, talk some sense into your woman, Michaels!”

“I am hardly without sense—or have you forgotten you sought my advice? I might
remind you, I have no duty to look after Lady Catherine, particularly after all the harm she has wrought on my family.”

“Mary, please!” Michaels’ face turned puce. “What has come over you?”

She whirled on him, shaking. “I am not a servant of Rosings! I will be treated with the
respect due a gentlewoman! If you will not heed my counsel, then do not expect me to deal with the aftermath. ”

“I will not be spoken to in this manner.” Fitzwilliam clasped his hands behind his back
and pulled his shoulders erect.

“And I will not, either. Good day.” She spun on her heel and stormed out.

Small Tom was waiting in the hall to escort her out. Was that the hint of a smile playing
about his eyes?

She half-ran all the way to the outskirts of the parsonage’s fields. No rush to get back to
the Collins’ house. As fast as word traveled at Rosings, Collins would already know about her
outburst by the time she arrived. There would be a price to be paid for that, a dear one no doubt.

Usually she controlled her temper so well no one knew it was even there. Charlotte had
seen hints of it—living with Mr. Collins’ ridiculousness had pushed Mary to her limits. Lizzy
had observed it once or twice, but no one else. It had been her secret.

Would Mr. Michaels despise her for it now and jilt her like the matrons believed he
would?

No, he was a patient man, a practical man. A broken engagement would be far too much
trouble for a mere outburst of temper. But in all likelihood she had lost some of his esteem.
There would be a touch of disappointment in his eyes next time they met.

She gulped back the lump in her throat. It was not as though she had never seen that
expression before. She would survive. It would motivate her to try harder and be successful at
reining in her temper and her tongue once again. Perhaps this was a good reminder of what
would be required of her as a married woman.

Thank you, Maria Grace, for sharing with us your story and good luck with the new novel, which I know will be delightful.

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY: OPEN Until Sept. 28 11:59 p.m. EST

1 ebook of A Less Agreeable Man by Maria Grace

  • Leave a comment about your experiences with Austen-related fiction, your favorite book, or even your experiences writing your own fiction.
  • Leave a way for me to contact you should you be the winner.

About the Author:

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.  Visit her at Austen Variations, Facebook, and on Twitter.

Mailbox Monday #407

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Family Portraits: A Dearest Friends Continuation by Pamela Lynne, a gift from the author.

In Dearest Friends, Pamela Lynne drew complex and interesting characters who joined Darcy and Elizabeth on their road to happily ever after. But, what happened after ‘the end’? Did Lydia survive her time at Rosings? Did Jane find fulfillment as Mrs. Bingley? Did Mary and Sebastian adhere to duty or allow their hearts to lead them? Follow the Fitzwilliams, Bennets, Gardiners and Darcys through portraits of their lives at two, five and ten years after the Darcys’ marriage. Their canvas is studded with heartbreaking loss, new beginnings and, through it all, the indelible bond of family?

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams for review.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor.

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions by Maria Grace, which I won from JustJane1813.

Many Christmas traditions and images of ‘old fashioned’ holidays are based on Victorian celebrations. Going back just a little further, to the beginning of the 19th century, the holiday Jane Austen knew would have looked distinctly odd to modern sensibilities.

How odd? Families rarely decorated Christmas trees. Festivities centered on socializing instead of gift-giving. Festivities focused on adults, with children largely consigned to the nursery. Holiday events, including balls, parties, dinners, and even weddings celebrations, started a week before Advent and extended all the way through to Twelfth Night in January.

Take a step into history with Maria Grace as she explores the traditions, celebrations, games and foods that made up Christmastide in Jane Austen’s era. Packed with information and rich with detail from period authors, Maria Grace transports the reader to a longed-for old fashioned Christmas.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan for review in 2017.

As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead ‘carry on singing’. Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir”, the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit — a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past — we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life.

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff for review in 2017.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.

When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants, unknown children ripped from their parents and headed for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the baby that was taken from her. In a moment that will change the course of her life, she steals one of the babies and flees into the snowy night, where she is rescued by a German circus.

The circus owner offers to teach Noa the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their unlikely friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

From my secret Santa:

Overheard in Hell

Take Out From the Writer’s Cafe

By Candlelight: Dark Imagination

Straying from the Path

Dancing on the Edge

If My Sandcastle Drowns… Can I Live With You?

What did you receive?

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace

Source: Maria Grace
Paperback, 384 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace (Book 2 in The Queen of Rosings Park series) and Lizzy and Darcy are not the stars of this one.  Lydia is always portrayed as the youngest, silliest sister who gets herself into the worst trouble, forcing Darcy to rescue her and pay Wickham to take her.  What if there were an alternative?  What if she was caught soon enough and could be sent to what is essentially reform school?

Lydia is ungrateful, as she pines for Wickham at Mrs. Drummond’s school, but she soon learns that there is little sympathy among the other students.  She misses Wickham, hates Darcy and Lizzy and her father, and has little love for Mrs. Drummond or Miss Fitzgilbert.  Despite her reluctance to do the chores set before her and the charitable visits to the alms houses and other places in Summerseat, she finds herself growing closer to Miss Fitzgilbert and Juliana, who is even more of a fallen woman than she is.  The lessons on numbers do not stick with her, but her lessons in drawing and painting and music are her saving grace.  Her pencil flits across the page and she creates realistic pictures of her friends and various situations. 

Her new friends are a balm to her loneliness, and she soon finds her place at the school, even though there are a few students who try to make her stay uncomfortable.  As Lydia uncovers her creative side, she begins to see her other friends at the school as less than pleasant, especially when they blame her for things that she did not do.   The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace (Book 2 in The Queen of Rosings Park series) is refreshing and enjoyable, and Lydia grows and evolves in the most wonderful ways, while maintaining her sense of humor and ability to enjoy sisterly interaction.

Rating: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, sewn six Regency era costumes, written seven Regency-era fiction projects, and designed eight websites. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.

Mailbox Monday #364

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Solving for Ex by LeighAnn Kopans was a free Kindle download.

Ashley Price doesn’t have much in life after being bullied so hard she had to leave her old school to live with her aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. But the camera she borrowed from her best friend and secret crush Brendan, and her off the charts math abilities, make things a lot more bearable. Plus, since Brendan is the captain, making the school Mathletes team should be easy.

But when gorgeous new girl Sofia rolls in and steals Brendan, Ashley’s place on the team, and her fragile foothold on the Mansfield Park Prep social totem pole, it’s on. Sofia is everything Ashley left her old school to escape. The only thing Ashley didn’t count on is Sofia’s sexy twin brother Vincent.

Vincent is not only the hottest boy in school, he’s charming, sweet, and he’s got his eye on Ashley. He’s also not taking no for an answer. There’s no real reason Ashley shouldn’t like Vincent, but with the battle lines being drawn between her and Sofia, Ashley’s not sure which side he’s on. Or which side she wants him to be on.

She does know Sofia is trouble with a capital T, and she’s determined to make Brendan see it.

Four Days in April by Maria Grace free download.

Full of hope and ripe with possibility, beginnings and new beginnings refresh the spirit with optimism and anticipation. Four Days in April.

Two letters. Four Days. Everything changes.

After offering a most disastrous proposal of marriage and receiving a rebuke he will never forget, Fitzwilliam Darcy writes Elizabeth Bennet an equally memorable letter.

What if she answers it with one of her own?

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.

The Trouble to Check Her by Maria Grace for review in April.

Running off with Mr. Wickham was a great joke — until everything went arsey-varsey.  That spoilsport Mr. Darcy caught them and packed Lydia off to a hideous boarding school for girls who had lost their virtue.

It would improve her character, he said.

Ridiculous, she said.

Mrs. Drummond, the school’s headmistress, has shocking expectations for the girls. They must share rooms, do chores, attend lessons, and engage in charitable work, no matter how well born they might be. They were even forced to wear mobcaps! Refusal means they may find themselves at the receiving end of Mrs. Drummond’s cane—if they were lucky. The unlucky ones could be dismissed and found a position… as a menial servant.

Everything and everyone at the school is uniformly horrid. Lydia hates them all, except possibly the music master, Mr. Amberson, who seems to have the oddest ideas about her. He might just understand her better than she understands herself.

Can she find a way to live up to his strange expectations, or will she spend the rest of her life as a scullery maid?

A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock, an unexpected surprise from Crown.

Set in the glamorous 1920s, A Fine Imitation is an intoxicating debut that sweeps readers into a privileged Manhattan socialite’s restless life and the affair with a mysterious painter that upends her world, flashing back to her years at Vassar and the friendship that brought her to the brink of ruin.

Vera Bellington has beauty, pedigree, and a penthouse at The Angelus—the most coveted address on Park Avenue. But behind the sparkling social whirl, Vera is living a life of quiet desperation. Her days are an unbroken loop of empty, champagne-soaked socializing, while her nights are silent and cold, spent waiting alone in her cavernous apartment for a husband who seldom comes home.

Then Emil Hallan arrives at The Angelus to paint a mural above its glittering subterranean pool. The handsome French artist moves into the building, shrouds his work in secrecy, and piques Vera’s curiosity, especially when the painter keeps dodging questions about his past. Is he the man he claims to be? Even as she finds herself increasingly drawn to Hallan’s warmth and passion, Vera can’t supress her suspicions. After all, she has plenty of secrets, too—and some of them involve art forgers like her bold, artistically talented former friend, Bea, who years ago, at Vassar, brought Vera to the brink of catastrophe and social exile.

What did you receive?

The Best Books of 2015

Bestof2015

I hope everyone’s 2015 ended with some great reading, family, friends, and fantastic food.

Of those I read in the year 2015 — those published in 2015 and before — these are the best in these categories:

Best Series:

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Best Children’s Book: (TIE)

Best Memoir:

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Best Nonfiction:

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Best Short Story Collection:

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War 

Best Young Adult Fiction:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Best Reference:

How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by Matthew Jervis

Best Women’s Fiction:

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Best Historical Fiction: (TIE)

Best Fiction:

Best Poetry: (TIE)

Here is the list of BEST BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2015:


  1. Wet Silence by Sweta Vikram
  2. The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  3. Vessel by Parneshia Jones
  4. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
  6. The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
  8. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
  9. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
  10. The Sound of Glass by Karen White
  11. Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace
  12. Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, PhD


What were your favorites in 2015?

Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace

Source: the author
Paperback, 378 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace is a phenomenal Pride & Prejudice rendering, and this series is shaping up to be one of the best in the market.  Grace has a firm grasp of Jane Austen’s characters, but she also is not afraid to make them her own.  As she explores the conditions brought about by emotional abuse, readers will see a darker side to the hints of neglect in Austen’s original novel.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh will stop at nothing to save her daughter Anne from her ailments, but her patronage comes with a price — sometimes too high of a price.  Dr. Thomas Bennet gives up his London practice and moves his family to Rosings so he can care for Anne, and Elizabeth dutifully helps him in his ministrations.  Lady Catherine does not stop at telling people who to court and who to seek out as husbands and wives, but she offers her advice in all things from draperies to clothes.  Those who presume to know more, have more experience, or contradict her current statements with her own previous advice best watch out for her unfettered wrath.

“She pushed the window open and gulped in fresh air.  Anyone who saw her would believe her half drowned, and she was — suffocating in pretense and overbearing interference.  At Rosings, she could hardly draw breath without instruction on how to carry it out more properly, more elegantly, more to her satisfaction.” (pg. 66)

Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace is stunning and emotional, and readers will be blown away by the uniqueness of her plot and characterization.  While some may say they deviate too far from Austen’s original characters in some cases, isn’t that the fruit of creativity.  She has taken these characters and made them her own, and in many ways, they are even more nuanced and dynamic that they were in the original, especially those who were more minor characters.  There are some tough emotional issues tackled in this one, beyond the romantic entanglements. It’s the first P&P rendering I’ve given 5 stars to in a long time.

***Giveaway for 2 ebooks***

Open internationally, comment by Aug. 5, 2015, at 11:59 pm EST, about your favorite Jane Austen spin-off, retelling, or continuation.

About the Author:

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, sewn six Regency era costumes, written seven Regency-era fiction projects, and designed eight websites. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.

Guest Post: Emotional Abuse by Maria Grace

Maria Grace has taken the time to offer a guest post on emotional abuse, which ties into her latest book, Mistaking Her Character.

About the Book:

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is prepared to be very generous when it comes to medical care for her sickly daughter, Anne – generous enough to lure noted physician Dr. Thomas Bennet to give up his London practice and move his family to Rosings Park. But his good income comes with a price: complete dependence on his demanding patroness’s every whim.

Now the Bennet family is trapped, reliant on Lady Catherine for their survival. Their patroness controls every aspect of the Bennet household, from the shelves in the closet to the selection of suitors for the five Bennet daughters. Now she has chosen a husband for headstrong Elizabeth Bennet– Mr. George Wickham.

But Lady Catherine’s nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is not so sure about his aunt’s choice. He is fascinated by the compassionate Elizabeth who seems to effortlessly understand everyone around her, including him. Lady Catherine has other plans for Darcy, though, and she forbids Elizabeth to even speak to him.

As Anne’s health takes a turn for the worse, Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown together as Dr. Bennet struggles to save Anne’s life. Darcy can no longer deny the truth – he is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. But Lady Catherine will do anything to stop Darcy from marrying her – even if it means Elizabeth will lose everything she loves.

Please give Maria Grace a warm welcome:

In my latest book, I ended up tackling the issue of an emotionally abusive family relationship. I say ‘ended up’ because I honestly can’t say I set out to deal with the topic when I started the book. The entire family dynamic I had envisioned when I started ended up turned upside down and a far darker, more complex one emerged as several emotionally abusive characters moved to the forefront. Their behavior was so subtle that my readers were the ones that pointed out to me how abusive the characters were. This goes to show how very difficult emotional abuse can be to identify.

Emotion abuse is a difficult and often misunderstood issue. Very often, neither the abuser nor their victim recognize the abusive nature of the relationship. To both of them, it is just the way things are. Often the abuser never learned healthy coping mechanisms for the normal challenges of healthy, positive relationships. They respond to the normal ups and downs with an offensive pattern of verbal threatening, bullying, and criticism, with more subtle tactics like intimidation, shaming, humiliation, isolation, and manipulation thrown into the mix for good measure. The goal, conscious or not, is to control and subjugate the other person into obedience and even dependence in the relationship.

Although emotional and verbal abuse does not leave physical marks like physical abuse, its victims often assert that physical abuse would have been easier to bear because then, they and others around could more easily have recognized that abuse was happening. As the abuse continues and the emotional wounds deepen, abuse victims feel so emotionally unsafe that they begin to doubt their own feelings and abilities, their senses, opinions, memories, and even their judgement. To prevent negative reactions from their abusers, they will refrain from expressing their opinions and wants, leading to increasing feelings of vulnerability, and insecurity as they are trapped and powerless against the emotional control of their abuser. They become hypervigillant, guarding against anything that might trigger a bad response from the abuser as they accept the maxim that they are at fault for any and everything that disturbs their abuser. In the long run, depression, anxiety disorders and even post-traumatic stress disorder can result.

Abusers often share in a set of common characteristics, often beginning with having been abused themselves or witnessing abuse in their family of origin. Not all abuse victims or witnesses go on to be abusers themselves, though. Abusers often have explosive tempers, fed by possessiveness, jealousy and an intense desire to control the other person. Abusers tend to have low self-esteem and extremely rigid expectations of relationships. The other person and only the other person must compromise to meet expectations. More difficult still, the abuser projects blame for their own bad mood or behavior on the other person. They are never at fault, only the other person. Despite all this, they are able to project a very charming and likeable persona to the world around them.

Many behaviors qualify as emotional abuse. These may look normal, even innocuous in a one-off situation, and in truth, they might be excusable if they were to happen only on very rare occasions. However, one of the things that makes them abuse is the frequency with which they occur. Abusive behaviors include (but ae not limited to) verbally abusive speech like name calling, putting the victim down with constant criticism, yelling and screaming, and intentionally embarrassing the victim in front of others. Abusers often seek to control their victims, isolating them from friends and family, determining what they may or may not do, even what they might wear. Abusers frequently blame their own anger and bad behavior on the victim—‘if you didn’t make me so angry…’. If the victim does not capitulate, the abuser may progress to threatening to damage or destroy the victim’s possessions, to harm the victim or people the victim cares about, or even commit suicide themselves. The list goes on, but taken together, the abuse leaves the victim feeling helpless, powerless, worthless, and wondering if they have any worth apart from their relationship to the abuser.

Consequently, recognizing and breaking free from an abusive relationship is very difficult. Chances are, if one is wondering if their relationship is abusive, there is a good chance it is, especially friends and family hate the way one’s significant other treats them.

Can an abuser change? Very, very rarely, if there is a very deep commitment to change and to an accountability system, like a therapist or group, that will help them along the way. But an abuse victim should not rely upon the abusers promises to change. Ultimately, most victims find that leaving the relationship is their only option to stop the abuse.

If you believe you might be in an abusive relationship, here are some online resources that may be of help: Out of the Fog; Love is Respect

author 7_2014_rbf copyAbout the Author:

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six more novels in draft form, waiting for editing, seven published novels, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and tries to run at least ten miles a week.

She can be contacted at by email: [email protected]; Facebook; Google+; Amazon author page; Random Bits of Fascination; Austen Variations; English Historical Fiction Authors; Twitter; and Pinterest.

Buy the book:

MhC tour banner

Mailbox Monday #326

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax; this is the second copy I received and will pass this on to a friend.

Twenty years ago, Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton bonded over their New York City dreams. Then, each summer, they solidified their friendship by spending one week at the lake together, solving their problems over bottles of wine and gallons of ice cream. They kept the tradition for years, until jealousy, lies, and life’s disappointments made them drift apart.

It’s been five years since Emma has seen her friends, an absence designed to keep them from discovering a long-ago betrayal. Now she’s in desperate need of their support. The time has come to reveal her secrets—and hopefully rekindle their connection.

But when a terrible accident keeps Emma from saying her piece, Serena and Mackenzie begin to learn about the past on their own. Now, to heal their friendship and their broken lives, the three women will have to return to the lake that once united them, and discover which relationships are worth holding on to.

2.  Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace for review.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is prepared to be very generous when it comes to medical care for her sickly daughter, Anne – generous enough to lure noted physician Dr. Thomas Bennet to give up his London practice and move his family to Rosings Park. But his good income comes with a price: complete dependence on his demanding patroness’s every whim.     Now the Bennet family is trapped, reliant on Lady Catherine for their survival. Their patroness controls every aspect of the Bennet household, from the shelves in the closet to the selection of suitors for the five Bennet daughters. Now she has chosen a husband for headstrong Elizabeth Bennet– Mr. George Wickham.

But Lady Catherine’s nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is not so sure about his aunt’s choice. He is fascinated by the compassionate Elizabeth who seems to effortlessly understand everyone around her, including him. Lady Catherine has other plans for Darcy, though, and she forbids Elizabeth to even speak to him.   As Anne’s health takes a turn for the worse, Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown together as Dr. Bennet struggles to save Anne’s life. Darcy can no longer deny the truth – he is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. But Lady Catherine will do anything to stop Darcy from marrying her – even if it means Elizabeth will lose everything she loves.

What did you receive?