Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell — Review and Guest Post

Some months ago I read an excerpt from a JAFF story that transferred Pride & Prejudice into post-Civil War Texas. I thought the excerpt was terrific and placed the story on my ever-growing Must-Read list. About a month ago I won a paperback copy of the book from another blog – and as there is nothing better than a new book except a new book won as a prize, I was delighted and started digging in.

Now that I’ve read Pemberley Ranch twice within a month (no, once was not enough!), I’m ready to share my thoughts about it with the JAFF/Regency community.

Blurbing the book

PemberleyRanch_Final_CVRWhen the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…

“It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind-with that kind of romance and excitement.”
-Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

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About the author

Caldwell-117bJack Caldwell is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook. Born and raised in the Bayou Country of Louisiana, Jack and his wife, Barbara, are Hurricane Katrina victims who now make Florida their home. His nickname — The Cajun Cheesehead — came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.

Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition.

When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Jack’s blog postings–The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles–appear regularly at Austen Variations.

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Guest post

Nearly – but clearly not quite – all of JAFF is written by, and read by, women who love Jane Austen’s writings. There is, however, a small group of male authors, and I would presume readers, in the JAFF community, and in my not so humble opinion they all must be very comfortable in their manhood to venture into JAFF territory! I asked Jack some rather impertinent questions about this and he was gracious enough to share his responses with me and ESCD.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

About ten years ago, my wife and I were watching the TV news, and on it was a report about the Protestant Orange Order in Northern Ireland conducting their annual march celebrating Prince William the Orange’s victory over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Over three hundred years after the event, and the Protestants and Catholics are still bitter about it.

It then occurred to my wife and me that America is different from Europe. If we were like them, I, a son of Louisiana whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy, would never marry a lady whose parents grew up in Wisconsin, whose troops occupied and committed atrocities in Louisiana during the Civil War. That the vast majority of Americans would find the idea of a Southerner rejecting a Northerner (or vice versa) over what happened 140 years ago silly shows that we are not the prisoners of our past like our friends in Europe.

That got me thinking. How did we get here? Why did we not fall into that trap?

PEMBERLY RANCH is the story of Reconstruction in post-Civil War Texas. (The Deep South has been done—it’s called GONE WITH THE WIND.) I saw that the conflict between Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy in Regency England could fit such a story. Of course, to fit the time period, I amped up the tale a bit by killing off Beth Bennet’s only brother. I also pointed out there were heroes and villains on both sides of the war. Plus, I make Darcy a cowboy. It’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE on steroids.

At the risk of being arrested for gender insensitivity, what inspired you to write in this genre given that it is a largely female domain of authors and readers?  

Several reasons. I really enjoy Jane Austen. She gave us wonderful, relatable, timeless characters. We have all met Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine. Why not use her characters? It’s fun.

Another reason is that the plot of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is timeless as well, and can easily be adapted to different periods in history.

One can’t forget that the majority of the readers are female. Write something that is relatable and enjoyable to them and they’ll read it.

I like being different. A lot of people in JAFF know I’m that crazy Cajun guy that writes Jane Austen-flavored historical romances. It gets me noticed.

And lastly, I like women. My favorite is my wife!

Well bless your soul, Jack!

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And now for my review

Most JAFF I read is set in the same era as Jane Austen wrote the original stories. A handful of authors have relocated the story and the characters to different time periods with varying success. Pemberley Ranch is one of the most successful time-shifting JAFFs I’ve yet enjoyed.

The main characters are mostly true to their original counterparts, altho’ there are a few secondary characters who have been improved, and several who are far worse than Jane ever drew them.

This version of our story has Elizabeth Bennet as a die-hard Yankee supporter while William Darcy is a former Confederate army officer. Needless to say this creates some difficulties between them. All the important elements of the original have, however, been transferred successfully to this version: the Hunsford proposal, Lydia’s escapades with Wickham, Darcy’s heroic retrieval of the wayward sister, Jane finding love with Bingley, and an angsty relationship full of misunderstandings between the two main characters which ends, of course, with their happy ever after.

This fast-paced story is full of cowboys, very good guys, really bad guys, very good ladies, really bad ladies. And the author weaves the real history of the American War Between the States into the narrative too. This war was not about slavery. Jack has Darcy explain exactly what it was about without being preachy or pedantic.

What I liked most

A truly evil Wickham (altho’ in this version his name is Whitehead). I admit to preferring evil Wickham to “merely” scoundrel Wickham.

An expanded, heroic, and very swoon-worthy role for Fitzwilliam. Hot dam, is there anything that man can not do? He also finds love in an engaging and endearing secondary story line.

As I mentioned above, the clear and non-pedantic outline of the real reasons why this awful war was fought.

The clever populating of the story with characters from Jane’s other stories – and even a nod to Gone with the Wind.

What I liked least

Elizabeth being called Beth. It’s not that I dislike the name, it’s just that Beth Bennet doesn’t flow as well as Elizabeth or Lizzy. (Yes, you’re right: that is really picky!)

The author’s apparent preference for Winchesters over Henrys. Ha!

In short

This is a tight, well-constructed story – and well-edited, with the few typos barely noticeable. And, of course, everyone ends up getting more or less what they deserve, for better or worse.

I’m delighted to give Pemberley Ranch 4.9 out of 5 Darcys (hey, I had to take off something in defense of Henry).

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As this is not a new publication – it was Jack’s first foray into JAFF, believe it or not – there’s no giveaway this time. I do hope you enjoyed meeting Pemberley Ranch. It’s available “wherever books are sold.” Here’s the link to the listing at amazon, where you can find it in Kindle, Kindle unlimited, and as a new or used paperback. Please note that this is not an affiliate link.

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Your comments are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.

 

 

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Book winners!

clever-compromisesThe winners of Clever Compromises by April Floyd are:

KateB and Ginna have each won an ebook copy.

schilds and Regina have each won a print copy.

I know you will enjoy this book — Congratulations, and I wish everybody who stopped by and commented could have won.

I hope to see you all again soon here at Every Savage Can Dance.

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.

Clever Compromises by April Floyd: Guest post, Review, and Giveaway! (And a freebie!)

It’s always a delight to “meet” a new-to-me JAFF author. Recently I met April Floyd, who was kind enough to send me a copy of her new book Clever Compromises. Without any further ado, let’s get started!

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clever-compromisesElizabeth Bennet is pleased her dearest sister Jane will marry Mr. Bingley after a whirlwind courtship which began the night of the Meryton Assembly. But when her cousin Mr. Collins arrives from Kent, he informs the Bennet family that he seeks a wife from amongst the Bennet sisters to soften the existence of an entail that hangs over Longbourn. 
Knowing her family has no need of such an alliance with Jane’s future secure, Elizabeth is surprised when Mr. Bennet approves of the parson’s plan. Surely her father will not allow the man to ask for her hand?
When Mr. Collins sees that Mr. Darcy, the nephew of his distinguished patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has designs on his cousin he knows he must propose to Elizabeth though his heart has been won by her sister Mary. To allow Mr. Darcy to propose to Elizabeth would bring down the wrath of Lady Catherine de Bourgh and destroy his living at Hunsford.

This is a sweet, angst-free read!

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About the author

april-floyd2April Floyd lives in Alaska with her husband and youngest son. She loves happy endings, nice people, and reading great stories. Once upon a time, she was an Army wife and a phlebotomist and recently ran a successful ebook deals site for four years. Historical fiction, Jane Austen, and fantasy/dystopia are her favorite genres.

Connect with the author on Facebook and Goodreads

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Guest post

This is my favourite part of any review I post — I love to ask authors what compelled them to write a book that I very much enjoyed. So I will turn you over now to April:

I would like to thank Janis for having me on her lovely blog today so that I might give insight into the inspiration behind Clever Compromises and also give everyone the opportunity to enter to win e-book and print copies of the book!

Jane Austen’s characters are unsurpassed in literature, in my humble opinion, and lend themselves well to interpretation by the various and talented JAFF authors we all adore. We see Darcy and Elizabeth’s influence in romance titles today and across the decades since Jane wrote them in what was initially titled First Impressions. It is a delight to find bits of them in other books, their mark as true and pure as ever.

As a writer of JAFF and lover of Pride and Prejudice, inspiration can come from the simplest plot bunny to the most outlandish tales I’ve read that inspire me to think What If Darcy and Elizabeth were cast into such a situation?

For Clever Compromises, it was the idea of the compromise and how it could be quite comical with the right treatment. I wanted the idea of Jane and Bingley promised to one another to be clearly established so that Elizabeth would not be bound to consider Mr. Collins.

Mr. Collins spoke to me of more than his normal self. His foolishness and obedience/allegiance to Lady Catherine, his penchant for being a bit more impressed with himself than he ought, all the attributes that make us know he and Elizabeth are most certainly NOT a match made in heaven were all present without fail. But somewhere in the outlining process, and in talks with my dear author friend Beverly Farr who writes as Jane/Cass Grix, his character whispered of confusion, and the heart of a man in need of romantic love beating in his too-proud breast emerged before I could say no to him.

And so the story grew from the idea of a compromise that sprung into his head upon seeing the connection between Darcy and Elizabeth to another compromise that would give him a chance at felicity in marriage just when he’d completely ruined his own chances at future happiness.

But the story doesn’t leave out Elizabeth and Darcy. Their romance plays out sweetly and without the angst we see in Pride and Prejudice. That’s a bit of a departure for my readers who know how I love drama and my penchant to go in a soap opera-ish direction or deliver the Perils of Pauline via Elizabeth’s struggles.

On that note, I am currently working on a Beauty and the Beast inspired variation for Elizabeth and Darcy. To reign in my flair for the dramatic, it will not be paranormal nor strictly following the Beauty and the Beast story line. The characters are there from B&B but in a different manner and there will be nods to the beloved fairy tale since it is an all-time favorite for yours truly. And in 2018, I have a lovely Perils of Pauline type of series for Elizabeth and Darcy that will occur after they are wed. I’m not sure whether it will be a series of novellas or novels, we’ll see as the story unwinds, but it is time for me to do a series for ODC. (Hear hear! – J)

Getting back to Clever Compromises, as I said it is a bit different for me to write a completely silly, happy, angst-free Pride and Prejudice variation. But this summer was chock-full of difficult situations involving everything from an elderly family member declining with dementia to family caught up in Harvey’s wrath and friends caught up in the other hurricanes that ripped through so many communities. My youngest child has had many challenges as well and as a super-involved mother hen, my heart has been cracked a little while trying to do the best thing for him. So as you might imagine, I was in need of some seriously light-hearted fun in my writing life and the story line of Clever Compromises provided that escape.

It is my sincere hope that if you choose to read it, you find a similar escape. Again, I am so grateful to Janis, and all of you who take a moment in your day to read about my inspiration, for without you the stories would not be nearly half as fun to write!

Yes, it has been a difficult year for so many people, and diversions like this are so welcome.

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And now for my review

Mr Collins
Image courtesy of BBC.

The semi-comical and insipid Mr Collins takes centre stage in this amusing story. With no reason to connect themselves to the man who will inherit Longbourn, the Bennet family should be free of his importuning, much less his presence. But it is not so. One Bennet sister, however — one who seems to be getting more and more attention in the JAFF world — would be very happy to be his wife. Unfortunately, this is not Mr Collins’ intention.

Instead, he seems intent on stirring up trouble in his unending quest to toady to Lady Catherine. The story should perhaps have been titled Clever and not-so-clever compromises, as poor Mr Collins trundles along in his unsuccessful efforts to separate Lady Catherine’s troublesome nephew from Elizabeth Bennet while denying his own heart. Eventually Darcy wins his sweet Elizabeth of course, but not for Mr Collins’ lack of trying to keep them apart. Even Anne de Bourgh gets into the spirit of employing compromises to get her way. The story ends with a pair of very endearing compromises, so that more than one sister has her happily ever after.

What I liked most

Jane’s original depiction of Anne de Bourgh was as almost a non-entity. Much of JAFF pushes her in the opposite direction from her mother. Here, however, Anne de Bourgh shows her true colours as the heir to her mother’s malicious ways. I confess that I rather liked it – it makes for a most entertaining story!

What I liked least

A bit of a quibble with the author’s use of home and house almost interchangeably.  These two words are not necessarily synonyms, altho’ many authors and writers use them as if they were, and I confess that it tends to annoy me a bit. Definitely not enough, tho’, to give up on the story.

In short

Clever Compromises falls into my category of Fun Reads: enjoyable, amusing stories that make you smile, or maybe laugh, as you close your book or e-reader.

I am happy to give Clever Compromises a warm 4-3/4 Darcy rating! (With apologies to Sir Laurence.)

darcys-four-three-quarter-rating

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The giveaway

April has generously offered FOUR copies of her book: two e-book copies (available worldwide) and two print copies (available in USA only). Enter by commenting on this blog post; please include your location in your comment. Good luck!!

And, as promised: a Freebie!

April’s recently-published Mr Darcy’s Debt is now free for e-readers. But hurry and claim your copy – this offer is available for the next few days only!

Amazon | Apple | Barnes and Noble | Google | Kobo

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Your comments are most welcome, whether or not you wish to enter the giveaway!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.

 

 

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Review and Giveaway: The Goodness of Men by Anngela Shroeder

Some months ago I had the pleasure of reading and posting a review of Anngela Shroeder’s first foray into JAFF, A Lie Universally Hidden. Today I have the pleasure of participating in the current blog tour for Anngela’s new book.

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Purchase at amazon (this is not an affiliate link)

Blurbing the book

“This will not do,” said Elizabeth. “You never will be able to make both of them good…Take your choice, but you must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity of merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of man…” -Pride and Prejudice

From her youngest days, Elizabeth Bennet’s ability to accurately judge the character of others has been recognized and noted by those around her in such a consistent manner as to lead her to believe it herself. The misfortune of meeting Mr. Darcy, a wealthy landowner from the north, only solidifies this belief.
The memory of his disapproval of her family, proves his character is lacking and sadly unlike his childhood friend’s, the charming and affable Mr. Wickham, who is esteemed by all he meets. Although her opinion once lost is not lost forever, the effort to regain her favor is great.

With Elizabeth’s youngest sister fortunate to be in company with Mr. Wickham in Brighton since the spring, and her own travels to Kent cancelled, she must await the pleasures of a summer holiday to the North with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. However, it is there that she is once again thrust into Mr. Darcy’s presence and must determine if he is truly the architect of the many wrongs she has laid at his door.

Fitzwilliam Darcy cannot exorcise Elizabeth Bennet from his thoughts. A chance meeting at the estate of his friend reignites all the flames he has attempted to suppress since their last meeting. Believing in her partiality, he is stunned to overhear her true estimation of him and is determined to change her opinion.

Battling with memories and secrets from his past, Darcy must fight against his natural reserve to win the heart of the woman he loves.

Will the unexpected appearance of a stranger encourage Elizabeth’s change of heart? Might an episode from Mr. Darcy’s past force Elizabeth to see the man within? Can one man have all the goodness and the other only the appearance of it?

A sweet “Pride and Prejudice” reimagining, suitable for ages teen and up.

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About the author

anngela-schroederI have a degree in English with a concentration in British Literature and a Masters in Education. I love to travel, bake, and watch college football with my husband of 16 years and 3 rambunctious sons. My goal in life is to make not only my children, but also my students feel that they are loved, and to bring magic into everyone’s world. My weaknesses are yellow cake with chocolate frosting, French bread with real butter, and grape leaves and falafel. I live in California where I dream of Disney adventures and trips across the pond.

Connect with the Author:
• Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads • Amazon • Instagram

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And now for my review

With all the JAFFs being written — there must be hundreds of books that have come out even since my own discovery of this genre a mere two years ago — it becomes more and more of a challenge to develop a fresh perspective that tells a tale and holds the reader’s interest. Not to mention finding new ways to make readers fall in love with Mr. Darcy all over again — which, of course, is why so many of us adore this genre. The author succeeds on all these counts.

While many pundits have posited that “good guys finish last,” this story contradicts that “ladies love outlaws” meme. We find a number of good men — including, of course,  Darcy — who are adored by those who know them. Maybe not at first, but after getting to know them. Yes, there is the requisite angst of misunderstanding and the eventual revelation of true character. What would a JAFF story be without them?

Like many of my favourite JAFF stories, this one portrays Mr. Wickham as full-fledged evil. Darcy has been carrying around a heartbreakingly sad memory involving Wickham for most of his life — a secret that has defined much of Darcy’s devotion to honour and decency. You will never be able to think of Wickham as “merely” a scoundrel again.

Several new characters help point up Wickham’s malevolence while displaying their own integrity. I enjoyed meeting them and hope they make appearances in the author’s future work.

What I liked most

The sweetness of the scene when Elizabeth announces to Darcy that she is with child.

Wickham’s comeuppance. It took me a bit by surprise; I admit I was starting to get annoyed that one of the characters allowed Wickham to get away with his actions. In the end, however, I was smiling at the perfect resolution. Nicely done, Anngela!

As I noted previously, I very much liked the new characters introduced here.

What I liked least

I was a little disappointed that two characters who I was sure would come together did not. Oh well, they both found happy endings elsewhere.

In short

A compelling story that hits all the buttons for good JAFF — and a good story period: believable and (mostly) likeable characters, a truly nasty villain, and a happily ever after for our dear couple.

In my new ratings system, I gladly give The Goodness of Men five Darcys:

darcys-five-rating-sml

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The Giveaway

Anngela is giving away two ebook copies, which includes international readers, and one autographed paperback copy to readers with a U.S. mailing address. You are invited to enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below. Entry must be received no later than Saturday, October 15, 2017:

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Your comments, as always, are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.

 

 

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Dusk’s Warriors — Guest post by Emerian Rich

I imagine that some of my readers do not know of my connection to, and interest in, all things vampire.

black-bat-clipartOne side of my family originally came to USA from Romania, home of Transilvania and, as many people believe, vampires. I have visited Romania about two dozen times, and been in Transilvania (or Ardeal in Romanian) about four or five times. I met my Romanian-born husband through his sister with whom I had struck up a friendship. One day I was visiting my friend, who also had another guest visiting her: an older gentleman also from Romania. We were chatting in the living room, when I happened to glance at the mirror across the room — and realized that altho’ my friend, her husband, and I were all plainly visible in the mirror, the Romanian gentleman was not to be seen! Yes, he was right there with the rest of us, but he showed no reflection in the mirror. (And everyone knows, I presume, that vampires do not have reflections.)

I also took some photographs, and altho’ this gentleman was included in several of the photos, his likeness never appeared in the photos themselves. Just. Blank. Air. (And everyone knows, I presume, that vampires cannot be photographed.)

Having heard all the legends about vampires in Romania and their cousin the Golem in Prague, I suspected that they actually existed. Now I was completely convinced. And you’ll never convince me otherwise.

Today I welcome my good friend, author Emerian Rich, who is likewise fascinated by vampires, and by ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, to tell you about her newest book, Dusk’s Warriors. You have been warned …

 

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Emerian Rich

My love of vampires started in college when I was first introduced to Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. Before then, I had a deep fascination with gothic love stories, but I never knew the vampire could be so romantic. Widows living in haunted lighthouses, romanced by handsome ghosts? Yes. Young archeologists seduced by Egyptian mummies? Sure. But the vampire had never looked in on my gothic romances I loved so dearly.

Until they did. Finding Rice’s prose both descriptive and intoxicating, I felt finally at home with a few monster ideas I had kicking around my head.

First, could you fall in love with a monster that killed people you knew and or loved?

Second, could you love someone who killed indiscriminately?

Third, could you learn to love yourself despite your need to feed on human blood to live?

My vampires are monsters, but they are also beings with human faults, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. They mourn, they rejoice, and they love with a desperation.

Love is a strong theme in my vampire tales. First love, true love, obsessive love, the love of a mother to a son, and friend to a friend.

In this newest volume, Julien is obsessed with a woman who has left him for a world and duties he only vaguely understands. Without her, he feels as if part of himself has been ripped away. Just think of the last time your heart was broken, and then imagine you have all of eternity to live with that intense pain.

Reidar, on the other hand, is in love with a woman he sees every day. She is always there, reminding him of her beauty, her scent, her laughter. He walks the line of keeping quiet but near her, or telling her of his unwavering love and chancing her sending him away. His heart aches with the thought of losing her.

Markham is a tortured soul. Every woman he’s ever loved has been ripped from his grasp in a horrible way. In Dusk’s Warriors, he’s all but given up when he sees a woman who is the spitting image of a love he lost in 20s to the vampire wars. Could it truly be her? Or is this new version a gift sent from heaven to fill the void he’s felt for decades? Will the guilt of his old love’s death hamper him from finding love once more?

Comment on this feed about your favorite love story and enter to win a chance to win an eBook of Dusk’s Warriors.

Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

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Available now at Amazon.com in print and eBook

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shaurette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.” ~David Watson, The All Night Library

Praise for Night’s Knights:

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

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Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams, and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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Your comments, as always, are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Now also available on kindleUnlimited.

 

 

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The Murmur of Masks, and a tour of the Regency, by Catherine Kullmann

catherine-kullmanI should begin this post by saying that Catherine Kullmann has become one of my favourite authors. Her Regency stories are always well researched, well written, and well edited. My introduction to Catherine’s work was Perception and Illusion, reviewed here. Her brief autobiographical notes explain clearly why I was originally drawn to her writings. Recently I read The Murmur of Masks and couldn’t wait to share it with those of you who love good historical romances.

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Blurbing the book

murmur-of-masksIt is 1803. The Treaty of Amiens has collapsed and England is again at war with France. Eighteen-year-old Olivia must say goodbye to her father and brother, both of whom are recalled to active service in the navy. Not long afterwards, her mother, who has been her anchor all her life, dies suddenly. As a result, she loses her home. Adrift and vulnerable, she accepts the offer of a marriage of convenience from Jack Rembleton, an older man whose brother, Lord Rembleton, is pressuring him to marry and sire the heir to the title Rembleton has failed to provide. Olivia hopes that love will grow between them, but Jack’s secrets will prevent this and Olivia must learn that she has thrown away her youth and the chance of love.

When Luke Fitzmaurice, a young man prevented by ill-health from joining the army, meets Olivia at a ball, he is instantly smitten but she must tell him she is already married. Ten years pass, during which each faces up to life’s challenges but then fate throws them together again. Olivia is finally free, but before they can explore what might be between them, Napoleon escapes from Elba and Luke, who is determined this time not to be found wanting, joins Wellington’s army in Brussels.

They say: “I read it very quickly as the story was very compelling and the characters really came to life and engaged me.” “Depicts both the harsh reality of the battlefield and the pleasures and challenges of society life in England.” “I was hooked from start to finish.” Winner of a Chill with a Book Award.

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Guest Post

Please enjoy Catherine’s beautifully illustrated tour of the British Regency period.

The Regency Illustrated

One of the joys of writing historical novels is that you have an unimpeachable excuse to rummage in flea markets, second-hand book shops, antique fairs, and curiosity shops. My books are set in the extended Regency period from 1800 to 1830 and I was amazed to discover the wealth of coloured contemporary illustrations of the period over and above the portraits and architectural prints I had expected. Print shops selling cartoons and caricatures thrived, and ladies’ journals published fashion plates and engravings of eminent persons in each issue. In addition, publishers had progressed beyond the usual frontispiece to produce lavishly illustrated books that are the forerunners of today’s graphic novels. I have chosen five of these illustrations to take you on a tour of London from the lowest dive to the Prince Regent’s court.

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Here we meet Bob Tallyho Esq. and his cousin the Hon. Tom Dashall blowing a cloud and taking their heavy wet at the Black diamond merchants’ free & easy King Charles’s crib, Scotland Yard.

Glossary

Blowing a cloud                        Smoking

Heavy wet                                  Beer, especially porter and stout

Black Diamond Merchant      Coalman

Crib                                              Here, a public house

Free & easy                                A social gathering (gen. at a public house) where smoking, drinking, and singing are allowed.

Bang-up                                     first-rate

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And here we see Tom and Bob in Hyde Park, Cutting a Dash among the Pinks in Rotten Row. A ‘Pink of the Fashion’ is a gentleman who is at ‘the top of the mode.’

dav

While Tom and Bob were well-born young men about town, Dr Syntax, the hapless protagonist of at least four volumes by different authors, was a not-so-young curate whose outings tended to end in disaster of some kind. We encounter him and his wife at Vauxhall Gardens, holding up a slice of the ham that was famous, or infamous, for its thinness, which inevitably led to a steep bill at the end of the night.

Before them soon was laid a slice
which some might think was very nice,
But through whose thin, transparent fold,
You might the distant stars behold,
Was not much better than a jelly;
Another, and another still,
Must feed the craving ivory mill,
And still to every keen performer
“The last is welcome as the former.”

 

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We next visit a fashionable ball. In this illustration from The Adventures of a Post-Captain, you can just see the dancers in the background at the top left, but all attention is focused on the pink sofa where our hero woos his lady, ignoring the envious glances of others less favoured. The text beneath it reads:

The maiden listen’d, blush’d and look’d,
As she would have the words rebuk’d
But there was something in her eye.
Which seem’d to give the words the lie.

dav

Finally we attend a levée at Carlton House, seat of the Prince Regent, where Johnny Newcome, fresh from the Campaign in the Peninsula, presents him with the Trophies of Battle. Although our hero is fictional, this scene alludes to the retrieval of the baton of the French Marshal Jourdan from the abandoned coach of Napoleon’s elder brother Joseph Bonaparte, whom Napoleon installed as King of Spain in 1808. Joseph made a desperate attempt to escape Wellington’s advancing army in 1813, losing almost all his baggage in his headlong flight.  The baton was given to Wellington, who sent it to the Prince Regent.

To me, these prints and their accompanying text open a window on the real Regency. Perhaps it is because they were created with no thought to posterity that they are so appealing two hundred years later. Their vitality and immediacy invite us to step into their world, and I for one cannot resist.

©Catherine Kullmann 2017

Nor can I, Catherine!!

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And now for my review

This story opens heartbreakingly sadly. Young Olivia suffers the loss of her beloved mother, and inasmuch as her father and brother are off fighting the interminable war with France, she is left on her own with disappointed hopes. In Regency society, being without male protection translates as being quite vulnerable. Fortunately her uncle steps in to help. He approves when an acquaintance asks for Olivia’s hand in marriage. Unfortunately, neither Olivia nor her uncle are aware of who and what this acquaintance really is, what are his motives, and where his heart is truly engaged, setting Olivia up for a sad and loveless marriage of convenience.

After she is married she meets the man of her dreams. Altho’ he is a bit of a rascal (or maybe because of it!), I fell in love with Luke almost from the moment I “met” him. Illness prevents him from fulfilling his dream, as a second son, of joining the military, and he lives a rather dissolute life as he is also set adrift by his own disappointed hopes.

Ultimately, of course, they are both free to marry and enjoy a life of happiness together. Getting to that point, however, is not an easy straight line. The many twists and turns of their relationship are the stuff of this intriguing story, a story I could barely put down once I had started it.

What I liked most

There was so much I liked about this book that I hardly know where to start. Perhaps with the clever references to Pride and Prejudice? I’ll leave it to you to make these delicious discoveries for yourself.

Then there were the engaging characters and situations. All had the ring of reality to them, and I was pleased to be sharing their lives with them. One situation, and character, I had already been introduced to: Lallie Tamrisk, the star of Perception and Illusion, makes a cameo appearance, and I was happy to see her again, in a shocking scene touched on in P&I and featured in the 1972 movie Lady Caroline Lamb. Then I realized that P&I was written after TMoM. So now I wonder if Lallie simply grew into a larger role in P&I, and if we’ll see her yet again in Catherine’s next book? (Hint hint, Catherine!)

The new-to-me Regency words and expressions, as well as the general Regency history, that I learned here.

What I liked least

The vividly detailed description of The Battle of Waterloo. We who have never seen war close-up know events such as these simply as ticks on the timeline of history. To Luke and the other participants, however, they were far more personal, and even tho’ I admit to skipping some of this difficult reading, I actually found myself having nightmares about this nightmarish battle.

In short

If you enjoy well-researched and well-written historical novels incorporating a not-always-tender love story with a happily-ever-after ending, you will surely enjoy reading The Murmur of Masks.

I give it an enthusiastic five-star rating:

gold-stars-5

To learn more about Catherine Kullman and her writings, and for lots more treats and goodies, visit her website.

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Your comments, as always, are most welcome!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Now also available on kindleUnlimited.

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Winners of Sharon Lathan’s ebooks!

Hope-Future-frontcover700px-383x610Randomly-selected winners of an ebook of Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future at Every Savage Can Dance are

Laura H
Stephanie Holding

Please contact me at EverySavageCanDance1796@gmail.com to claim your prize!

Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to the winners!

JanisB

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Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future; Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway!

Hope-Future-frontcover700px-383x610.jpgI recently had the the pleasure of reading Sharon Lathan’s latest contribution to the body of Jane Austen-inspired literature that we Janeites refer to fondly as JAFF: Darcy and Elizabeth, Hope of the Future — Book 2 of the Darcy Saga Prequel Duo.

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Blurbing the book

Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet will soon be joined in Holy Matrimony!

The initial month of their Season of Courtship has passed. Together, the lovers strengthened their bond through honest communication, as they dealt with adversity, jealousy, and distrust. Ever growing in mutual love and understanding, a dramatic confrontation broke through the final barriers.

Now their Hope of the Future “happily ever after” is assured!

As long as Lady Catherine can be stopped in her scheme to interfere, that is. Or, will Mrs. Bennet’s bad advice ruin future marital felicity? Might increasing liberation lead to overwhelming passions that cannot be controlled, with catastrophe a result?

Continue the journey begun in Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship. Delight in their flourishing romance, ride along on their escapades in London, and be a witness at the wedding of the century.

The miraculous design of how Two Shall Become One begins before the sacred vows.

Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future is Volume 2 of the “prequel duo” for Sharon Lathan’s Darcy Saga sequel series to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

See below to order.

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Guest Post

I know many of you share my curiosity about “the story behind the story.” Today Sharon has been good enough to share some insights into the writing of this book.

sharon-lathanThank you, Janis, for hosting me on your blog today. It is an honor to be here, and a great pleasure to share my writing inspiration with your readers.

My latest novel, released earlier this month, is Darcy and Elizabeth: Hope of the Future. It is the second book in the two-volume Darcy Saga Prequel Duo, which began with Darcy and Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship. These two novels perfectly fit with my Darcy Saga Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, the series now including nine lengthy novels and one novella.

To understand my inspiration in writing these two novels, I first must backtrack a bit. Over ten years ago, I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. As my obsession with everything Austen and the Regency period grew, I stumbled upon the world of online fan-fiction variations and continuations. From there it was a swift leap to taking a chance at writing my own story, primarily because amongst the wealth of available stories, none matched the ideas germinating in my mind or satisfied the longing within my heart.

You see, I wanted to read a sequel stretching past the end of Pride and Prejudice, with a Darcy and Elizabeth who were happily in love and living a joyous marriage. As I vainly searched the plethora of fan-fiction websites, the continuation I yearned for persistently took shape inside my head. Whole scenes and conversations, in fact! The story swirled and crystalized, gaining in power until I could no longer resist the urge to try my hand at penning my vision of the Darcys.

Writing was a new challenge for me, a bit of a lark initially, and lots of fun. Yet from the outset, the core purpose—my aspiration—was to create something unique and hopeful.

My number one belief is that marriage can be fulfilling, harmonious, and passionate. The union of two souls is meant to be beautiful and enjoyable not just for a brief time but forever. Furthermore, the bond should grow stronger and deeper as time passes. In my estimation, a “realistic” marriage does not mean constant arguing, worsening miscommunication, waning love, misery and boredom when together, a stale physical relationship, and endless trauma. I firmly believe in the exact opposite!

I am also a huge history buff, so delving into the early 19th century in England was vitally important. Every step of the way, being historically accurate and weaving fascinating tidbits of the past into the story has been as much of a priority as the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth.

Since it was their marriage which inspired my writing, I naturally began what became The Darcy Saga Sequel Series on their wedding day. Aside from a few “flashbacks” to the betrothal weeks—always written to enhance a scene or event in the present, as it were—I opted to move the story timeline forward.

Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that the intermittent “flashbacks” offered vague glimpses of an important interval in the complete arc of Darcy and Elizabeth’s romance. By ignoring these two months and skipping to their wedding, a number of intriguing questions were left unanswered.

How did Darcy and Elizabeth evolve from budding love to deep passion? How did they deal with the errors and misunderstandings from the original novel? How did two people who essentially barely knew each other become bonded and comfortable together?

What about the rest of the family? Surely Lady Catherine de Bourgh didn’t bow out gracefully! Did Mr. Darcy’s other titled relatives cause trouble too? Were the Bennets pleased with the union? Did the citizens of Meryton and London Society react favorably or unfavorably?

Additionally, as I researched courtship and wedding practices for other characters—Miss Darcy, Kitty Bennet, and Anne de Bourgh to name just three—I realized how much I had missed in not exploring the betrothal of Darcy and Elizabeth. The storytelling possibilities were too awesome to ignore!

Switching gears from writing a married couple to writing a newly engaged couple was a challenge. But I am SO glad I persevered. With the completion of the Prequel Duo, my overall theme and inspiration to reveal how “Two Shall Become One” and live the “happily ever after comes true” promise is knit perfectly.

I have many, many more stories to tell. After all, life is ongoing and true love never fails. The Darcys, along with their family and friends, will be around for a long while to come. I invite you to join in the adventurous journey, and where else should one start but at the beginning?  divider-line

The Excerpt

What would a post about a wonderful new book be without a tantalizing excerpt? Forthwith …

“William!” she exclaimed, shocked despite having done nothing but long for him all morning. They had said their emotional goodbyes last evening, so it had honestly not occurred to her to hope he would pause for a visit.

“Mr. Darcy!” Mrs. Bennet flew into the room, from wherever she had been, faster than the speed of light. “How absolutely delightful to see you! Oh my! I am all aflutter! We were not yet expecting guests. I am afraid you just missed breakfast, although I am sure Mrs. Price can prepare something in no time at all. We have fresh biscuits with strawberry jam made not a week ago, and coffee of course, with cream as you like it—”

“Please, do not trouble yourself, Mrs. Bennet,” Darcy hastily interjected when she finally paused for air. Tearing his eyes away from Lizzy, who was literally breathless, he bowed respectfully toward her mother. “I dined well this morning, thank you. I apologize for calling unannounced and unexpected. I am, as you know, departing for a short trip to Town. However, as I approached Longbourn, I felt it my duty to pause and pay my respects, yet again, for your outstanding hospitality these past weeks. I also regretted not asking if you have need of anything from the city, Mrs. Bennet. It would be my greatest honor to acquire anything you may need or want. The same is true, of course, for all of your fine daughters.”

“Oh, Mr. Darcy! You are so very kind!” Mrs. Bennet dabbed her teary eyes with her handkerchief. “My Lizzy is the most fortunate of women to have gained the notice of such a great man.”

“Thank you, madam. I judge myself the truly fortunate one. With your permission,” he said, rushing on before another word passed Mrs. Bennet’s parted lips, “may I be granted a moment alone with Miss Elizabeth?”

“Mama.” Jane gently clasped onto her mother’s arm and steered toward the door. “I completely forgot that Mrs. Price wanted our opinion on the marzipan for the wedding cake. Safe travels, Mr. Darcy.” At an added head bob to Kitty and Mary, they suddenly had vital duties elsewhere. In a matter of seconds, Lizzy and Darcy were alone, the women’s voices drifting through the narrow crack in the door from farther and farther down the hallway until they finally faded into silence. Well before the last retreating murmur, Darcy had crossed the room in three long strides and enfolded her hands in his.

“I could not bear to leave without seeing you—”

“I am so surprised to see you—”

Soft laughter stayed their jumbled confessions. Apparently deciding to forego unnecessary explanations altogether, Darcy bent for a tender kiss. A mere brush of his lips sent a jolt of desire through her body. Instinctively leaning to increase the pressure and parting her lips invitingly, Lizzy released a whining moan when he stepped back a pace.

After drawing a shaky breath, he professed teasingly, “I do not trust myself with you, Miss Bennet. For some bizarre reason, I lose all sense of propriety when kissing you. The gentleman Mr. Darcy vanishes as if he never existed.”

Smiling, he led her to the same sofa she had perched on for close to two hours that morning. “You appear amused, my darling. Then I haven’t disturbed you by dropping in unexpectedly?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. As if I would ever be disturbed to see you, William.”

“Glad to hear it. Honestly, I did not plan to stop. I thought I had convinced myself that our affectionate parting last evening was sufficient to hold me for the days I shall be in London. Alas, as my carriage neared Longbourn, the vision of you here, perhaps yet in your bedclothes, was too tempting. It was quite simply beyond my capability to resist.” Grinning, he reached up and tucked an unruly lock of hair behind her ear, his fingertips playfully tickling her lobe. Another tingling current cascaded through her until it created butterflies in her belly.

“So,” she stammered, “the stalwart Mr. Darcy confesses to weakness, does he? Unfathomable!”

“Indeed, it is true. Daily, I find my strength and control waning. I am helpless to do anything about it, other than pray for time to defy the laws of physics and bring November the twenty-eighth sooner than normal. It is entirely possible I may lose my mind for wanting you if the next ten days creep by.”

“Oh, the tragedy! A fine mind such as yours, sir, must be protected at all cost. Then I shall increase my prayers. Perhaps with the joint effort, along with Jane and Charles who are likely appealing to the heavens as well, God’s heartstrings will be tugged to perform a small miracle.”

He was still fixated on her ear, which was wreaking havoc with her insides. It didn’t help that his eyes had assumed a dreamy glassiness and were darkening with desire.

Goodness gracious but we are a pathetic pair of romantics.

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And now for my review

While most JAFF authors give us deliciously creative alternatives to or continuations of Jane’s wonderful stories, Sharon has followed a different path and provided us with precious insights into how Darcy and Elizabeth managed to get to that point in the first place. I have to admit that this Prequel Duo is the first I’ve encountered of this particular approach.

The result is a most enjoyable read. In Book 1, Sharon delved into the hows and whys of our dear couple’s growing mutual love, understanding, and respect. In Book 2, this continues as their commitment withstands the test of Lady Catherine’s enduring and vengeful disfavour, strengthening as it does so. We see Darcy standing up for the woman he loves against any and all objections, while Elizabeth learns to accept the foibles of the man she loves along with the ways in which her life will change once she is married: her status in society, her responsibilities, her increasing fortunes, and yes, her burgeoning sexual awareness. (There are some adult situations in both books, but no explicit sex.)

Of course there are joyous weddings and happily-ever afters for our two couples to reward our dear readers.

What I liked most

One of my requisites for JAFF stories is that I must fall even more in love with Mr Darcy by story’s end. No problem about that here!

Darcy has loosened up and moved past his haughty preconceptions. His visit to a London shopping mall had me grinning with amusement and delight. And his attentions to Elizabeth — whether alone with her or in company — warmed my heart.

The encounter between Darcy and his uncle the earl provided even more reasons to love him, while the same encounter inspired greater respect for Elizabeth and her father.

Extra credit is awarded for adequate face time for the charming Colonel Fitzwilliam, and there is surely enough to be found in this story!

What I liked least

Another confession: I had not read Book 1 of the Saga when I was invited to review Book 2, so I had to play catch-up. Reading both of these books at one time was certainly enjoyable, altho’ at the same time it left me little time for anything else (as my dear husband continually pointed out).

In short

If you love Darcy and Elizabeth and all the supporting characters in Pride and Prejudice, I cannot imagine that you will not love both of these books. I do warn you, however, that these are not “quick reads,” but substantial novels. Maintain harmony in your home by ensuring that you allow yourself adequate time to savour every word!

My star rating is:

gold-stars-5I look forward to the “many, many more stories” that Sharon has to tell.

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And now for the Giveaway!

Sharon has two (2) ebook copies of Darcy and Elizabeth, Hope of the Future — Book 2 of the Darcy Saga Prequel Duo available to those who comment on this post. The giveaway is open worldwide and will end at midnight EDST on Sunday, September 3 (for those of you in USA, that’s the day before Labour Day).

Good luck to each and every one of you!

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More about Sharon Lathan and her books:

Purchasing links

Amazon Kindle and Print   http://amzn.to/2uq4PGR

Barnes & Noble Nook and Print  http://bit.ly/2uGcuFn

Kobo digital  http://bit.ly/2wxZNJO

iBooks digital  http://apple.co/2v24Zoa

Sharon Lathan bio

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her first novel, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, was published in 2009. Sharon’s series of “happily ever after” for the Darcys now totals nine full-length novels and one Christmas themed novella.

Darcy & Elizabeth: A Season of Courtship and Darcy & Elizabeth: Hope of the Future complete the “prequel to the sequel” duo recounting the betrothal months before the Darcy Saga began.

Sharon is a native Californian relocated in 2013 to the green hills of Kentucky, where she resides with her husband of over thirty years. Retired from a thirty-year profession as a registered nurse in Neonatal Intensive Care, Sharon is pursuing her dream as a full-time writer.

Sharon is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, JASNA Louisville, the Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA, and serves as the website manager and on the board of the Louisville Romance Writers chapter of the RWA.

Sharon is the co-creator of Austen Authors, a group blog for authors of Austenesque literary fiction. Visit at:  www.AustenAuthors.com 

Connect with Sharon at the following places—
Website/blog:  www.SharonLathanAuthor.com
Facebook at Sharon Lathan, Novelist
Twitter @SharonLathan
Pinterest  SharonLathan62

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Your comments, as always, are most welcome. (Yes, even if you don’t want to enter the giveaway!)

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desp-hearts-coverAnd … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Now also available on kindleUnlimited.

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And the winners of Mr Darcy’s Bride/s are …

I wish everyone who entered the giveaway could have been a winner. Well, in my book you all are winners, but there could be only two winners of the giveaway.

Laura Capio and Ginna have each won an e-copy of this terrific book.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to read my review and Regina’s excellent dissertation on Criminal Conversation, and to everyone who left a comment and participated in the giveaway. Do stop by again soon for more fun stuff!

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Your comments, as always, are most welcome.

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desp-hearts-coverAnd … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here.

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