Mr. Darcy’s Bride/s: Review, excerpt, guest post, and Giveaway!

Full disclosure: I enjoy the JAFF stories produced by many authors, altho’ I have two favourite authors. One of them is Regina Jeffers. When I pick up one of her books I know it will be a well-written and well-thought-out story, properly edited, and well-researched. I always look forward to learning at least one, if not several, new points of Regency or British history from each of her books. Not to mention that they are always fun to read.

And so it is with Mr Darcy’s Brides.

Blurbing the book:

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

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Click here to order.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

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Regina was good enough to write up a guest post on a most fascinating topic, Criminal Conversation, for Every Savage Can Dance readers:

regina-jeffersSeveral years back, I did a series for my blog, Every Woman Dreams, entitled “Eccentrics of the Regency.” One of the pieces I wrote was on Edward Hughes Ball Hughes. In it, I wrote: “Hughes’ older sister Catherine Ball was a socialite, journalist, and novelist who eventually styled herself the “Baroness de Calabrella” after acquiring property in Italy. She married an older man, Rev. Francis Lee, at the age of 16 in 1804, without her mother’s permission, and was separated from him in 1810 on charges of adultery; her lover, Captain George de Blaquiere, was successfully sued by Reverend Lee for criminal conversation.” When I read this, I wondered whether “criminal conversation” was anything like “alienation of affection.” So, I was determined to find out.

Criminal conversation is commonly known as crim. con. It is a tort arising from adultery.  For those of you who do not understand “legal speak,” tort law involves a situation where a person’s actions unfairly causes another to suffer harm or loss. The case is not based around an “illegal” action, but rather one of not thinking of the other person and causing some sort of harm. The law allows the harmed individual to recover his loss, generally by awarding monetary compensation. To prevail (win) in a tort law case the plaintiff (person suing) must show the actions or lack of action was the most likely cause of the harm.

Criminal Conversation is similar to breach of promise, a former tort involving a broken engagement against the betrothed, or alienation of affections, a tort action brought by a deserted spouse against a third party.

In 18th– and 19th-century England, criminal conversation cases were common. It was not unheard of for the plaintiff to be awarded sums as high as £20,000. These cases were seen at the Court of King’s Bench in Westminster Hall. Not only did the plaintiff make money on the proceedings, but so did publishers such as Edmund Curll, whose name became synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity.

Although neither the plaintiff, the defendant, nor the wife accused of the adultery were permitted to take the stand, evidence of the adulterous behavior was presented by servants or observers. Awards of damages were based upon compensation for the husband’s loss of property rights in his wife, the wife being regarded as his chattel. Historically a wife could not sue her husband for adultery, as he could not be her chattel if she was already his. The criminal conversation tort was abolished in England in 1857, and the Republic of Ireland in 1976. It still exists in parts of the United States, although the application has changed. At least 29 states have abolished the tort by statute and another 4 have abolished it by common law.

A number of very sensational cases were heard in the second half of the 18th century, including Grosvenor v. Cumberland in 1769, where Lord Grosvenor sued the King’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland, for crim con with his wife, being awarded damages of £10,000; and Worsley v. Bisset in 1782, where Sir Richard Worsley lost his case against George Bisset, after it had been found that Sir Richard had colluded in his own dishonour by showing his friend his wife Seymour Dorothy Fleming naked in a bath house. In 1796, the Earl of Westmeath was awarded £10,000 against his wife’s lover, Augustus Bradshaw.

The tort has seen particular use in North Carolina (my current home state). Criminal Conversation is one of the “Heart-Balm” Laws, which include breach of promise, wrongful seduction, and alienation of affection.” ‘Criminal conversation,’ in turn, was a civil cause of action that dated back at least to the seventeenth century in England. The name is oddly inappropriate, since there was nothing criminal about the claim, and it certainly was not about conversation. Rather, “Crim. Con.” allowed a man to bring suit against another man who had sex with his wife. It was a remedy for loss of the wife’s “consortium” (that is, of the companionship and sex she had provided before being seduced by another). Proof of a valid marriage and extramarital sex were all that was required for the husband to make out a successful claim against the interloper.” [Find Law citation] Our most famous Crim Con case in North Carolina in many years was when the late Elizabeth Edwards sued her husband, John Edwards’s, former Presidential candidate, “mistress,” Rielle Hunter.

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The excerpt:

Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs in which Elizabeth first learns of Lady Catherine’s idea of having Anne sue Elizabeth for drawing off Darcy’s attentions.

“I am pleased to find you from your bed,” he said politely while eyeing her with interest.

Elizabeth did not address his attempt at consideration. Instead, she asked, “Could you explain to me, sir, how you thought it acceptable to remove my person from your home to your yacht without my permission?” She watched as a muscle along his jaw line twitched, but otherwise, his expression of indifference remained in place.

“It was necessary for you to depart Darcy House, and as you were in no condition to make that decision, I made it for you. As part of my wedding plans, I was set to sail on the day of our departure; therefore, I took advantage of the ship’s preparedness.”

“And why was it necessary for me to leave Darcy House? Could you not have sailed alone? I would have been up and moving about in a day or two, and then I could be gone from your society. No one would have known the difference.”

Other than a slight lift of his eyebrow, he displayed no reaction to her tight-lipped accusations. “My aunt learned of your presence under my roof. She planned to send a magistrate to my home to arrest you. I thought it best if we were removed from England until this matter can be settled.”

“Arrest me?” Elizabeth demanded. “Upon what charges? Certainly what I did was unconventional, but it was not a crime. It was a mistake. I have no desire to remain with you, and you, sir, should be glad to observe my exit. I have caused you nothing but grief and inconvenience. Needless to say, Miss De Bourgh would still accept a man of your consequence. Marry your cousin. Lady Catherine will be mollified, and I will return to my life in the country. All will be forgiven.”

“If you think my aunt will forgive or forget your perceived insult, you are sadly mistaken. Lady Catherine will make your life and the lives of your loved ones miserable. Only with my protection will you remain safe,” he argued.

Elizabeth swallowed hard against the trepidation filling her chest. “I shall…I shall assume my chances, sir. Surely a woman of Lady Catherine’s stature will extend her forgiveness once I explain the situation.” She lifted her chin in defiance.

“More likely she will force Anne to sue you for criminal conversation. I know my aunt, she will not be happy until she leaves you and your family in penury. Not only did you forestall her aspirations of having Anne at Pemberley, but you treated her cleric as if he were insignificant. She sees Mr. Collins’s character as a reflection of her condescension.”

Elizabeth fought the anxiety rising in her stomach. “Nevertheless, I insist that you set me down in the next port and provide me enough coins to claim passage home. I will have Mr. Bennet reimburse you as quickly as I make my way to Hertfordshire.”

“That might be difficult,” he said with a wry twist of his lips, “for you to make your way to Mr. Bennet’s estate in what you are wearing.”

Despite her best efforts, despair pooled in her eyes. “So you mean to keep me a prisoner by refusing me proper dress?” she accused. “I demand the return of the dress I wore for the wedding!”

He shrugged in indifference. “On the morning of our departure, Mrs. Guthrie and a maid dressed in your gown made a great show of leaving Darcy House. I am certain my neighbors will have taken notice of your exodus. My servants have been instructed that if anyone asks after me to tell them that I was so upset after the wedding that I departed for my estate. The servants will also inform those who wish to be apprised of my comings and goings that the poor soul I saw into my house was a distant relation who had been injured at the wedding, and that I instructed my staff to tend the young lady in my absence. When the magistrate calls upon Darcy House he will learn of your leave-taking from more than Mrs. Guthrie, who is to explain that you fell into the street before Lord Haverton’s coach and was treated by Doctor Nott. Both my housekeeper and the good physician will confirm the story of your departure. They will tell the official that you asked to be returned to your home in Bath, and before I left Town upon personal business, I made the necessary arrangements.”

“No one will believe such a convoluted tale,” she argued.

“On the contrary, my dear. The ton is quite gullible. They will believe any tale that smacks of gossip, and they will add their own tidbits to it to make it more outrageous.”

“Then what am I to wear?” she insisted, although she wished her voice had not cracked upon the word “wear.” She suddenly felt like Mr. Darcy’s mistress, for she was dressed for the role.

His expression softened, as if he could read her thoughts. “We had little time to prepare, but Hannah, the maid you met earlier, has altered several of my sister’s gowns. Miss Darcy has sprouted up in the last year, but some of her former gowns will do nicely until we can have something specifically designed for you. Mrs. Guthrie suggests those items ordered as part of Anne’s trousseau, but I rejected the idea, for my Aunt Catherine could then label you a thief. It is best to do over some of my sister’s gowns, rather than to provide her ladyship with a reason to see you behind bars.”

Elizabeth wished to acknowledge his sensible actions, but it was her life in which he dabbled, and all of his decisions were simply too personal. She gritted out the words, “As I am at your disposal, how are we to proceed?”

“If you are agreeable, I thought we might have supper. I tire of eating alone.”

Got you hooked, right? It only gets more complicated, and exciting, from here!

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And now for my review:

In this variation we see Elizabeth and Jane hatching a desperate hare-brained scheme to foil Mr. Collins’, and Mrs. Bennet’s, plans for him to marry Jane. Mr. Bennet has recently been injured and is barely clinging to life, so his wife determines that one of their daughters must marry Mr. Collins – Mr. Bennet’s heir – to prevent their eviction from Longbourn on Mr. Bennet’s passing.

Altho’ the Bennets have never met Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet’s opinion of the man renders the thought of marriage to him absolutely abhorrent to his daughters. Undeterred, Mrs. Bennet offers up their most beautiful and compliant daughter so he will not refuse the match. Jane, being Jane, agrees to comply with her mother’s wishes. When second thoughts plague Jane and she wishes to be released from her acceptance, Elizabeth comes up with her scheme, which she and Jane believe will void the nascent marriage.

A misunderstanding sends Elizabeth to the wrong church, where she speaks her vows and ends up married to another man, who just moments before had realized the mistake he was making in marrying a woman he did not love and even praying for a way out of taking his vows with her. After a madcap chase scene, Elizabeth and Darcy end up married to each other. Maybe. The legality of the marriage must be investigated, and the vindictiveness of Lady Catherine must be dispelled. Because Darcy, you see, has determined that Elizabeth would make him the perfect wife …

So are they or aren’t they? The answer, it seems, is no, yes, and maybe. The story, and our dear couple, must decide whether an accidental, or rather fateful, encounter should determine their futures.

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What I liked most:

Seeing how their relationship played out. The tale follows canon to a certain extent in that Darcy is high-handed and haughty, and completely besotted with Elizabeth, while Elizabeth needs some convincing before she can return his affections.  The situations, however, are quite different from those in canon. Of course it all works out in the end, but as they say getting there is half the fun. Or in this case, even more than half! I found myself smiling often as I read this story.

And the epilogue. Yes, it’s an idea that’s been done before, but never with the poignancy of this version.

What I liked least:

Well, I guess I have to come up with something. How about this: Regina likes to use the word mayhap, a word that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck! Sorry, it was the best I could do.

In short:

A fun read that will keep you guessing from beginning to end. I give it

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 And now a terrific GIVEAWAY!

Regina has two (2) ebook copies of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs available to those who comment on this post. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Saturday, August 19.

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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-coverAndif you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here.

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Passages by Brenda J. Webb: Excerpt, review, and giveaway!

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Author Brenda J. Webb

Sometime last year when I was seriously getting into published JAFF (as opposed to fan fiction sites) I won a contest and received paperback copies of the first FOUR of Brenda Webb’s books. I was hooked! They were unlike most of the other JAFF I had been reading: Aside from being much lengthier and better-constructed than many JAFFs, they were non-canon and took our dear characters into exciting and formerly uncharted directions. They all share certain characteristics: Darcy is invariably portrayed as even more honourable, protective, and courageous when it comes to his loved ones, especially Elizabeth, so the reader ends up falling in love with him all over again. Brenda’s villains – including Wickham – are not just bad news but nefariously and fiendishly evil. I don’t know how she keeps coming up with these scenarios, but I certainly hope she continues to do so. Her stories are also appealing in that they allot plenty of face time to my favourite secondary JA character, the redoubtable Colonel Fitzwilliam, who I also end up loving even more by each book’s end.

Not to mention that there is always a happy ending for Darcy and Elizabeth, whilst the other characters get their happy endings or just deserts as they are merited.

Passages - book cover
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Passages does not fail on any of these counts, and I’m delighted that Brenda was kind enough to provide an intriguing excerpt, and is also offering two (2) e-book copies to two lucky Every Savage Can Dance readers!

Blurbing the book:

Passages – A Pemberley Tale is a Pride and Prejudice variation. Not a simple retelling, it is an intriguing new story that does not follow canon.

Years after her ruin at the hands of George Wickham, Georgiana Darcy is a virtual prisoner at Pemberley as a result of her brother’s good intentions. Drastic changes have taken their toll, leaving brother and sister adrift from polite society.

Faithful to his vow to prevent further harm to his sister, Fitzwilliam Darcy has retreated from the few friends and acquaintances who still acknowledge him. Lonelier than ever, Darcy’s life is swallowed up by darkness until the day a young woman is discovered close to death on the estate grounds.

Unaware of her identity, Elizabeth Bennet finds herself the recipient of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s benevolence whilst she recovers from her own encounter with Wickham. Elizabeth’s presence breathes life back into Pemberley and its occupants, until Wickham returns with a nefarious plan to regain control of both Elizabeth and Georgiana.

Will Elizabeth fulfil her destiny and rescue Darcy from a desolate life or will the mystery of her parentage take her in another direction, leaving him alone once more?

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The excerpt:

After the last of the guests had departed, Richard walked his stoic cousin to the portico to await his carriage. Knowing her brother was leaving for Pemberley the next day, Georgiana had already said her  goodbyes and returned to her bedroom, allowing Richard and William some privacy. All too soon, the carriage pulled to a stop at the bottom of the steps, and they walked towards the pavement.

“I apologise for leaving you with the vultures circling. Mother and Georgiana insisted I meet Mrs. Forrester’s son, who recently enlisted in the army. I would never have left you, however, had you not been surrounded by your university cronies.”

“I have to admit it was good to see Sanderson, Goddard and Marshall once more. Marshall and I were never close friends, but he wanted me to know he supported me, which was extremely kind.”

“So you had a pleasant evening, in spite of the . . . how shall I put it . . . the adoration of the ladies?”

The corners of William’s mouth lifted. “With your help, most of the evening was tolerable.”

Recalling of the number of ladies introduced to Darcy after he returned to the ball, Richard’s thoughts flew to his mother. She had tried; he would give her that. Single-handedly, she had introduced Darcy to a dozen women, some quite lovely, though none had succeeded in getting more than a few words from him.

“Please stay in Town a while longer,” he said at last.

“I . . . I cannot. Pemberley calls.”

“I do not think it a good idea for you to go there now. With Georgiana and Belle here, you are sure to be even lonelier than before.”

William stopped staring into the night sky and turned to grasp his cousin’s shoulder. “I appreciate your concern, Richard. You are a true friend and brother, but I have matters to attend at home. All will be well, and I will write often. If you are in the area, you can always stop in to cheer me.”

Richard locked eyes with William. “You cannot fool me, Cousin. You miss her terribly.”

Gazing into the distance as if seeing his future, William replied, “I cannot lay it down, Richard. No matter where I am, she is with me. Still, I have no alternative. I cannot sit around wishing for things to change, and I am no longer certain that Elizabeth will return.”

A heavy sigh brought Richard’s arm around his shoulder. “She will come back to you, Darcy; of that I am certain. Wait for her here.”

“I cannot,” William said softly. Climbing into his carriage, he closed the door and leaned out the open window. “I will be well. Please try not to worry.”

Unable to shake the feeling of helplessness that engulfed him, Richard watched until the carriage disappeared into the darkness.

But I shall always worry about you, Darcy.  

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And now for my review:

In order to protect his sister, and himself, from further harm at the hands of “society,” Mr Darcy and his sister live a half-life hidden away at Pemberley. Then one rainy night, Darcy is out riding on his estate and comes across a severely injured young woman. As she is unable to remember who she is or why she is at Pemberley much less in such a state, Darcy does not expect her to completely change his life and Georgiana’s. Yet little by little she does just that, as well as changing the direction of her own future.

Elizabeth Bennet has been living a miserable life of her own at the hands of her mother, who is not merely ridiculous but a hateful harridan who has been taking out all of her frustrations and resentments on Elizabeth since she was a child … resentments related to the question of who is Elizabeth’s real father.

As Darcy and Elizabeth slowly fall in love with each other, each must overcome their own issues, shed their previous misery, and accept that they are worthy of love and happiness, in order to freely give and accept that love … and to build a future together. In doing so, they also lead family members to find and accept their own happy futures.

The path to happily ever after is not easy, and is beset with villainy of the most horrendous kind. And a good helping of admirable characters. This book, like Brenda’s other stories, is a gripping and magnificent ride that takes the reader from the depths of appalling criminality to the uncertainty of hope to the joys of true and tender love.

Be advised that there are some scenes of marital intimacy altho’ nothing explicit or pornographic.

What I liked most:

Darcy’s tenderness towards the unknown young woman he rescues.

Elizabeth’s courage rising as she faces a pair of fiends to learn the truth of her parentage.

Darcy’s skill at the pianoforte. Who knew?

How frighteningly well the villains are drawn.

How delightfully Georgiana, and the Colonel, eventually find their own paths to joy.

Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding. Unique in JAFF as far as I know!

What I liked least:

I’ve known this point in the review was coming up and I’ve been racking my brain to find something I didn’t care for, but all I could come up with is: The book ended. I could have read on for another couple hundred pages!

In short:

Unless you’re a canon purist, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy a well-written, well-edited and exciting story featuring characters we all know and love, you’ll love this book.

I give it gold-stars-5

The giveaway:

Comment on this blog post by clicking Comments above. Two winners will be chosen at random this Friday, May 19th at 12noon. Giveaway is open internationally. Good luck!

Your comments, as always, are most welcome. (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.

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A Dance with Mr Darcy by Regina Jeffers: Review, excerpt, and giveaway

I’m so pleased to be reviewing Regina’s latest book, and am also delighted that she is offering readers of ESCD not only an excerpt but also a very generous giveaway!

Blurbing the book:

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Author Regina Jeffers

The reason fairy tales end with a wedding is no one wishes to view what happens next.

Five years earlier, Darcy had raced to Hertfordshire to soothe Elizabeth Bennet’s qualms after Lady Catherine’s venomous attack, but a devastating carriage accident left him near death for months and cost him his chance at happiness with the lady. Now, they meet again upon the Scottish side of the border, but can they forgive all that has transpired in those years? They are widow and widower; however, that does not mean they can take up where they left off. They are damaged people, and healing is not an easy path. To know happiness they must fall in love with the same person all over again.

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The excerpt:

A Dance With Mr Darcy copy 2
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Chapter 1

A Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

“IT IS SHE,” HE MURMURED as his gaze settled upon her back. Even without viewing her countenance, Darcy’s body recognized the woman some thirty feet removed. If it were not for the biting wind stinging his cheeks, he might think himself asleep, for not a night had passed since he was last in her company—and all the previous nights of their acquaintance—that he did not dream of her; yet, she was not a dream, but rather flesh and blood. His breathing hitched higher.

During the daylight hours, he had prided himself upon not permitting his mind to conjure up her memory more than a half dozen times per day, but he always welcomed her into slumber’s embrace each night. Even during the fourteen months he had claimed Miss Amelia Davenport to wife, it had been Elizabeth Bennet in his arms. Often, Darcy had felt guilty for closing his eyes and pretending that his sweet, docile Amelia was the enticing maid from Hertfordshire who had stolen his heart long before Lady Matlock had arranged a joining between him and her niece.

“What is Elizabeth doing some twenty miles northwest of the Scottish border?” he whispered as he watched her checking the shutters of the small, but tidy-looking, inn in preparation for the storm. “And where is her husband?”

The word “husband” left a bitter taste in Darcy’s mouth. It was some six months after her marriage before he learned of Elizabeth’s joining, and by then there was little he could do but to continue with his life, such as it was at the time. It was only the realization that her marriage was forever that permitted him to accept his Aunt Matlock’s matchmaking schemes.

“Should I ask within if the innkeeper has accommodations available, Mr. Darcy?” His footman waited several feet off Darcy’s shoulder.

“No, that is not necessary, Jasper. Even if we must sleep upon the floor, we can travel no further with the coach having a broken crank neck.” He glanced again across the busy inn yard. If he were a sane man, he would continue to the next village, which was reportedly fewer than three miles removed, according to his coachman. Walking would not be the best choice, considering the condition of his left ankle and the knowledge of the approaching storm; however, he had long ago accepted his obsession with the woman shaking out her skirts and admiring her work. Sanity and Elizabeth Bennet were in opposition. “I will speak to the lady; you speak to the ostler in preparation for Mr. Farrin and my coach’s arrival.”

“Yes, sir.”

Darcy paused before making his way across the inn yard. What type of welcome would he receive? They had so often been at odds, but he assumed they had reached a better understanding when they had been together at Pemberley. Yet, the debacle with her youngest sister’s elopement had proven nearly more than he could manage. Nevertheless, he thought he had carved a path to a happy joining between him and Elizabeth, but G0d had a way of laughing in a man’s face when said man attempted to take control of another’s future.

“Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb,” he chastised and began picking his way across the yard. The cane he had always carried for fashion and for protection from footpads now assisted in supporting his weight. “Could not dance at the Meryton assembly now,” he repeated in ironic tones. “No matter how tolerable I might find the lady.”

He did not step up to the wooden walkway; instead, Darcy remained in the inn yard where he might enjoy the hitch of her skirt to expose a trim ankle as she stepped upon a low stool to reach the upper shutter. He cleared his throat before saying, “Good afternoon, Miss Elizabeth.”

Her shoulders stiffened, and he noted that her fingers clutched at the wooden shutter for support. After a long pause, she stepped down and slowly turned to face him. If he thought he might receive a warm greeting, he was sadly mistaken. “Good afternoon, Mr. Darcy. However, I must insist that you no longer refer to me as ‘Miss Elizabeth.’ I have been Mrs. McCaffney for nearly four years.”

“I fear I never knew the gentleman’s name,” Darcy said in apology.

She pulled her shawl tighter about her as if to ward off his words as much as to brace against the wind that had kicked up. “I assure you Mr. McCaffney could never be accused of being a gentleman. All he owned was this fine establishment.” She gestured wildly, which was quite uncharacteristic of the lady he knew. Elizabeth Bennet always displaed confidence, even when she had erred miserably.

“Nevertheless, I would know pleasure in having Mr. McCaffney’s acquaintance,” he said in strained politeness. He thought he would go mad when he had learned of her marriage. Bingley had encountered Sir William Lucas in Town, and Sir William had shared the news of the marriages of both Miss Bennet and of Miss Elizabeth. While Bingley had ranted and raved against the injustice, all Darcy could do was to bite hard upon his tongue and swallow the cry of anguish ripping through him. The torment had been worse than any pain he had ever suffered, including the one that never disappeared from his left leg.

“Mr. McCaffney met his end one summer night some two years back when he thought to take a boat out to meet a group of smugglers off the Scottish coast,” she stated without emotions in her expression or in her voice.

“Then who is the inn’s proprietor?” Darcy demanded in incredulity.

She spoke in clipped tones. “I own McCaffney’s Coaching House.” She nodded to his coach as it limped into the yard. “I see you require assistance. I suppose you desire accommodations also.”

There was something in her tone that stifled any hope he might have experienced with the news of her husband’s death. “If it would not be an imposition,” he replied in contrition.

“I am accustomed to those who practice impositions.” Gathering her skirts about her, she turned on her heels to lead the way. “I fear with the approaching storm, I am already quite full. I have but one small room at the back of the third story passageway. It is nothing of the nature of which you are accustomed, but it is clean and dry.”

He expelled a long sigh of exhaustion. The walk had claimed more from him than he had expected. And now he was to revisit his emotional connection to the woman entering the inn door without a glance in his direction to see if he followed. Perhaps G0d meant for him to confront his ghosts, so he might carve out a fresh path and perhaps come to know a bit of peace, at last. Darcy had long ago given up on the possibility of happiness. With a soft grunt signaling the stiffness in his step, he lurched forward to enter the darkened common room. She waited for him behind a high-legged table about three feet long and covered with a white linen cloth.

“What brings you to Scotland, Mr. Darcy?” she asked as she handed him a sharpened pen to sign the register. Meanwhile, she retrieved a ring of keys from a locked box and selected the one he would require.

“I inherited a small property some five and twenty miles north of here,” he said cautiously. “It is near the larger Fitzwilliam estate. I planned to stay at Lord Matlock’s manor house while inspecting the inherited land.”

“Most would do so in the spring, rather than in January,” she remarked without looking upon him.

“Which is exactly why I chose this time of year. No one will have made preparations or renovations to impress me. I mean to know whether the property can sustain the livings that depend upon it.”

She turned to lead the way up the stairs. “Follow me.”

Since his accident, stairs were his least favorite architectural element of any structure, but he could customarily manage; however, on this particular day, his leg was slow to respond to more exercise. Nonetheless, he gritted his teeth to persevere, for he did not wish for the woman slowly climbing the stairs ahead of him to view him to be as weak as he sometimes felt.

She glanced over her shoulder at him. “Is the Fitzwilliam estate of which you speak the colonel’s family? How fares your cousin?”

Darcy slowed to keep his balance upon the narrow stairs. “Fitzwilliam is more than my cousin. He is my brother, for he is Georgiana’s husband.”

An ironic smile turned up the corners of her lips. “Then the colonel claimed his heiress. It gladdens me to hear it.”

“I assure you, convenience was not the reason for their joining,” he snapped.

Her chin rose in predictable defiance. “I never thought a marriage between Miss Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam would be anything but a happy occasion for your family. My brief acquaintance with your sister said she would never settle for less than a comfortable marriage. I simply recalled something the colonel shared while we were all at Rosings Park.”

A familiar pain of regret caught Darcy’s good sense. “I imagine you would have accepted Fitzwilliam’s proposal if my cousin had been in a position to utter one.”

“I thought I knew something of the colonel’s character,” she said in defensive tones.

“And nothing of mine,” he charged.

Before she could respond, a familiar countenance appeared at the foot of the stairs. “Lizzy,” she called, but halted when she spotted him on the stairs. “Well, look who the cat—“

Elizabeth interrupted in impatient tones, “What is amiss, Lydia?”

The chit smiled knowingly at him before she answered her sister. “Mr. Simpson and the mail coach have arrived with three passengers. He says the roads are quickly becoming impassable. He means to stay the night and perhaps longer. I told him we were full, but he insists.”

Darcy noted the girl’s “we,” and he wondered if he were also to encounter his long-time foe, Mr. Wickham.

“Tell Simpson we can put him and the others on mattresses in the private room. If more arrive, we may need to ask some of our regulars to share rooms. We always manage somehow, do we not, Lyddie?”

Her sister chuckled with a sly look. “We do very well, Lizzy.” Mrs. Wickham gave him a long look. “Will Mr. Darcy be required to share a room?”

“As Mr. Darcy has the small corner room, I doubt sharing will be necessary or even possible,” Elizabeth explained.

“I would expect nothing less,” the girl said with a lift of her shoulders in indifference before she returned to the noisy entrance.

“I fear you must forego a private room for supper, sir,” Elizabeth said as she turned back to the task at hand.

He released a long sigh. Nothing had changed: They were still from step. Following her slow progress, he said, “If it would not be an imposition, please send a tray to my room. I am a bit weary.” He spoke the truth: His ankle throbbed from the nearly two-miles’ walk to reach the inn. He needed to remove his boot and rest his ankle and calf muscle. “If you are too busy, Jasper can carry it up.” He knew the footman would call at his room to act as Darcy’s valet for the evening. “I did not ask, but I assumed there would be rooms for Jasper and Mr. Farrin.”

“Above the stables, there are several small rooms created by low partitions. All have cots and mattresses. The animals keep the area warm with their heat.”

What more was there to say between them? She was obviously not happy to see him upon her threshold. “Then our business is settled,” Darcy announced as she handed him the room key and stepped aside.

“It is as it always was, Mr. Darcy,” she said with a snit. “Your wishes are absolutes.” She turned to shove her way past him while he was left wondering why she despised him so. Mayhap Mr. Wickham had created new lies to fill her mind. Needless to say, with Mrs. Wickham under her roof, it would be easy for Darcy’s former friend to do so. It was as if she had learned to loathe him again. “And here I thought after our time at Pemberley that we could, at least, claim a friendship,” he murmured as he closed the room door on her retreating form.

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Wow, right?

And now for my review:

All JAFF/Regency readers, I suppose, have their favourite authors. Regina Jeffers is one of mine because I know her stories will always be not only well-written and very much respectful of the original, but both make me smile and tug at my heartstrings, and I’ll learn one or two things about (Regency) history to boot.  A Dance with Mr Darcy does not disappoint, and also encompasses one of my basic requirements for JAFF: I must fall even more in love with Mr Darcy by book’s end. Check, check, check, check, and double-check.

From the very first sentence I was hooked, as I am sure you were too when you read the excerpt. You can feel Darcy’s heartbreak and yearning in just these three words.

Elizabeth and Darcy have both been married and widowed. Her husband was a brutal SOB and she of course has regrets about marrying him, while he regrets taking a wife who could never be her. They come together again from some rather dark places; as Elizabeth observes, these are not the carefree young man and woman who once shared hopes that were cruelly dashed.

Both of them have had to learn to be stronger people: Darcy to accept the physical weaknesses resulting from his injuries, and Elizabeth to simply survive (and as she does so, to thrive) first the cruelty of her husband and then his death. Seeing each other again reignites the love, the passions, and the hopes for the future that they once shared. I will not say that their meeting was a coincidence because I do not believe in coincidences: everything happens for a reason. And I cannot say that their reacquaintance reignites their dreams, because they have in fact kept their dreams of each other very much alive.

This is a story about second chances, about the strength it often takes to let go of the comfort zone we have built for ourselves and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable again, and to accept that second chance. And, of course, the joy it can ultimately bring when we do.

What I liked most: Darcy and Elizabeth telling each other about their personal fears. This was for me the most heart-rending yet hopeful scene in the book.

Plenty of misunderstandings to be overcome. This is after all Darcy and Elizabeth!

The new characters. I particularly liked Sir Robert.

The “old” characters. I am very partial to stories that give plenty of face time to Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Learning new stuff: I had never heard of St Agnes Eve before.  Or dumb cake (really?). And who knew what a footpad was?!

What I liked least: That the end of the story sort of snuck up on me! Usually I check to see how many more pages are left in a book, and altho’ I did check periodically, and while the ending was very satisfying, I was just so disappointed that it came about sooner than I expected.

In short: Another don’t-miss five-star story by Regina Jeffers. BTW, if you are fascinated by history and love learning about arcane words and expressions, I highly recommend that you follow her blog.

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And now for the giveaway. I have two eBook copies of A Dance with Mr. Darcy available to those who comment on this post. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on April 3, 2017. Good luck all!

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

 

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Review and guest post: Suzan Lauder’s Alias Thomas Bennet

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Buy now at Amazon

As I’ve mentioned previously in various forums, I arrived late at the JAFF party and am still playing catch-up. When I enjoy an author’s newest release, I seek out their previous works. As I did in this case: after reading and enjoying Letter from Ramsgate, I searched for previous books by Suzan Lauder. And found Alias Thomas Bennet.  And I’m very glad I did.

The premise is, as far as I know, unique amongst JAFFs: it’s almost like stepping through the looking glass. The Bennet family is no longer dysfunctional, but is headed by a very engaged father who cares for his wife and daughters as well as being a successful estate manager. Mrs Bennet, recipient of the love and respect of her husband, is still concerned about getting her daughters married, but not dementedly so, and she provides loving care as well as an excellent role model for her daughters to become ladies, wives, and mothers.  The eldest two Bennet sisters are essentially unchanged (well, except for reaping the benefits of a surprise familial relationship), while the other three sisters retain their original personalities altho’ tempered into more positive and productive actions and activities. Not canon by any means, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Mr Bennet and Mr Darcy form a close friendship, and slowly tho’ ultimately Darcy and Lizzy grow into their own loving relationship. Lauder’s version of Lizzy here retains all the traits with which Austen endowed her, amplified by a greater strength and confidence. The author has created her character to reflect the modern view of an accomplished lady.

There are numerous flashbacks in the telling of the story, and to own the truth I did have a little trouble keeping the story line straight at first. Then two things happened: First, I was reading a used paperback copy of the book, and apparently whoever read the book before me was having similar difficulties and had actually drawn an interconnected timeline of events which I discovered tucked away in the pages! And then the author herself brings the story together in a series of well-crafted scenes that left me with a feeling of understanding calm; what one would call a lightbulb moment. These both occurred not too far into the story, so for most of the time I had a very clear grasp of what was going on.

As with Letter from Ramsgate, Lizzy and Darcy display rather more physical passion than their original counterparts ever did – or at least that we *saw* them do, altho’ I suspect most of us had our suspicions about them! This story gives them more leeway, and definitely has some spice to it.

The author has asked me to be sure to repeat the warning she has posted on the book’s back cover:  “This book contains one brief scene of non‑explicit sexual violence that may be concerning to sensitive readers. The sexual violence does not involve Elizabeth Bennet.” Altho’ I viewed the scene dispassionately, I did find the events a bit shocking. It is, however, integral to the plot. There are several very vague references to these events at various points in the story, so if you want to skip the scene, you won’t be left out in the cold; you’ll still get the gist of the story. (And you’re welcome to contact me and I’ll tell you the pages you might want to avoid, and the one(s) that clarify the story, in the event that you do want to avoid this trigger.)

A definite five-star rating for Alias Thomas Bennet!

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suzan-lauderSuzan Lauder kindly agreed to provide a guest post to accompany this review. When she asked me to suggest a topic, I in turn asked her what her inspiration was for this story. Here is her response:

I’m a regular contributor on the Jane Austen website A Happy Assembly. In some discussions and in AHA chat, it became evident that some readers loved Mr. Bennet for his acerbic wit and humorous evaluation of other peoples’ characters while others disliked him for his obvious lackadaisical attitude towards parenting and financial responsibilities. It showed that Mr. Bennet’s personality was a fairly important element in the direction of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Given that circumstance, I began to think to myself what the novel would be like if his flaws were erased or minimized. I began to think of the plot of P&P and what essential scenes would change.

Mr. Bennet would go meet Mr. Bingley without having to be browbeaten into it. He would attend the Meryton Assembly, let Jane have the carriage to go to lunch with the Bingley sisters, and try to modulate the behaviour of his wife and younger daughters. But I needed a mechanism to facilitate this changed personality, and that’s how the mystery part of the story fit in.

Side issues that were strong possibilities with a changed Mr. Bennet emerged: it would be fun if he were close friends with Darcy so Elizabeth and Darcy knew each other better prior to Hunsford. Mr. Bennet would be in love with his wife and would calm her when she became agitated. To show where Mrs. Bennet’s nervous personality emerged from her youth, a carriage wreck and a startling assault open the novel.

The timelines for everything that ran parallel in the story were so critical, I even mapped out Jane’s and Elizabeth’s birthdays! That’s how complicated “what if Mr. Bennet were exactly opposite of his personality in canon” becomes!

Alias Thomas Bennet is available in paperback and ebook versions at the usual outlets. And, as I have previously mentioned, as a used book.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

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

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A peek under Lizzy Bennet’s muslin gown

Some weeks ago I posted a piece entitled “Getting into Mr Darcy’s pants,” about the underwear a Regency gentleman would have worn under his fashionable clothing. Rather than re-post the general overview of fashion and undergarments of the day, you might want to take a moment to re-read the original post.

regency-dressesWhen ladies of the Regency exchanged their previously-fashionable voluminous skirts for a slim, classical Greek-style high-waisted silhouette, their undergarments also altered. Wearing the previously-stylish constructed fashions that essentially re-designed the shape of a woman’s form into something resembling a bell, a lady faced two primary problems. The first was one of real estate: only so many bell-shaped ladies could fit into a given area such as a sidewalk, a shop, a sitting-room sofa, or a carriage. Secondly came the problem of maintaining modesty: one false step, or a less-than cautious entrance into or exit from a carriage, could send the rigidly-constructed frame under one’s dress — and the dress along with it — up into the air in a most revealing position.

regency-dress2The slim lines, and lightweight fabric, of a Regency Empire-style dress presented its own problems. As clothing became lighter and slimmer, ladies began to discard heavy layers of undergarments for the bare minimum required for comfort and modesty. The challenges at this time were also multi-fold: fabric folds would work themselves between a lady’s legs, often aided by a wind or even a light breeze, clingingly revealing a bit more of a lady’s form than was considered proper. Being caught in a light rain that dampened one’s attire could cause a scandalous spectacle! And again, if one was not attentive to how one was moving, or — heaven forfend! — if one tripped or took a fall, the light fabric could easily be blown or otherwise pushed away to expose a lady’s privates. (This, by the way, was the reason why gentlemen preceded ladies when walking up stairs.)

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A simple corset
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A corset with breast supports

Even after adopting the new fashion styles, the basic lady’s undergarment remained the chemise, a simple, unfitted shift-type garment with a rounded neckline and short sleeves that reached to about the knees. It was generally made of light cotton or linen, although it might be fashioned of flannel at colder times of the year. Over the chemise was worn a corset, or stays. As with their male counterparts, ladies wore these to create a slimmer appearance. An important function of a corset was to draw in the hip area, as the slim style of dress required almost a boyish figure below the waist (much as some modern fashion styles have also demanded).

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Full-length petticoat.
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Short or half-petticoat

Corsets might be simple affairs, or they might have supports for the breasts, similar to a modern brassiere. Slim hips did not exclude the preference for a femine bustline! Over this would be a petticoat, either a short petticoat from waist to ankle, which was gathered around the waist with tapes, or a full petticoat with an attached bodice. Again, they were crafted of light fabric except for winter wear. And they were mostly still homemade at this time. Depending on the style of the dress being worn, the petticoat might have a small, light hoop at the bottom to create an A-line shape rather than a straight style.

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Original ladies’ drawers design
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Evolved into this one-piece design

As to drawers … Ladies “borrowed” men’s drawers some time before 1810. Altho’ they were not in regular use at this time, by the 1810s most ladies, at least of the upper and middle classes, were wearing them. Initially these too were homemade; it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that they become available commercially. Reaching from waist to knees, and fastened with tapes at both points, they were not particularly ornate, as they were not intended to be seen. At least not until Queen Charlotte decided to scandalize society by wearing them somewhat longer and sitting with her legs extended in front of her so glimpses of the embellished bottoms of the drawers could be seen as her skirts lifted slightly. Like the rest of underclothes, these were fashioned of lightweight cotton, linen, silk, stockinette, or sarsenet in summer and flannel in winter. The original ladies’ design comprised two tubes for the legs held together with tapes at the waist; these later evolved into a connected design more like the gentleman’s. Which certainly makes a lot more sense from just about every standpoint.

So perhaps the ladies of the Regency period were not so very different from modern ladies in their fashion choices. I have, however, sometimes wondered about one aspect of the effects of fashion: Was the not-uncommon loss of the mother’s life in childbirth in any way affected by the fashion of mechanically drawing in the hips as tightly as possible? Perhaps I’ll research and report on this aspect in a future posting.

Your comments, as always, are invited.

If you missed it: Part One: Getting into Mr. Darcy’s Pants

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

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You too can be a book reviewer

It’s said that love makes the world go ’round. I have, however, observed that it’s reviews that make the book world go around.

When you shop online for a book, do you check out how many stars the book has received from reviewers? Do you browse the reviews? If you have to choose between two books, do the stars and the review text influence your decision?

You’re not alone; most people look at reviews on amazon, GoodReads, Facebook, blogs, and anywhere else they’re posted — and these reviews influence buying decisions. So it really means the world to authors when their work receives reader reviews.

If you enjoyed a particular book, the nicest thing you can do to let the author know that his/her work pleased you is to write an online review. You don’t need a blog, and you needn’t write a voluminous review; a few words will suffice. Some suggestions: “I liked the author’s integration of characters from another favourite book into this story.” Or “Detailed descriptions of places made you feel as if you are actually there.” Or maybe “Could not find even one error of spelling or word usage” or “I liked the flow of the story.”

You do not need to be an author yourself to write a review! Just think about what you would tell a friend if you were recommending the book to them, and write it down. Review done!

How about if you did not like the book? If there is a reason other than “I didn’t like the story,” then explain it simply and courteously. “It was too long and the story meandered.” “It was too short to really get into the characters and events.” “Spelling was poor” or “Too many incorrect homophones.” “One of the story lines was never resolved.”

Some reviewers who don’t like a book seem to be almost vindictive in their reviews, as if they want to punish the author for not writing a book they liked. Revealing and describing salient plot points — i.e., spoilers — is very unkind. If you did not like the book, you can always return it; you don’t need to damage the author’s credibility or ruin the story for future readers just because it wasn’t your own cup of tea.

Remember what all of our moms told us: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!

Here are some additional tips for writing good, useful reviews.

And here are some books recently featured at Every Savage Can Dance to start you off. If you’ve read them, and especially if you’ve enjoyed them, please take a few minutes to leave a review. If you have not yet read them, follow the link to buy a copy, and then leave a review after you’ve read it.

Believe me, an author will thank you when you do! (Speaking of which, Many Thanks to Claudine Pepe at Just Jane 1813 for her lovely review of Desperate Hearts. If you have not yet read this book, do stop by to read her review and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the e-book)

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Please take a moment to let me know what you think: Click the Leave a Comment link at the top left-hand corner of this post. Thank you!

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Buy it/Review it here
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Buy it/Review it here
desp-hearts-cover
Buy it/Review it here
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Buy it/Review it here
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Buy it/Review it here
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Buy it/Review it here
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Buy it/Review it here
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Buy it/Review it here

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Review: Darcy’s Hope — Beauty from Ashes

Thank you for stopping by! Today I’ll be reviewing the first volume — Beauty from Ashes — of the two-volume saga Darcy’s Hope by Ginger Monette.

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Buy this book now!

Blurbing the book:

First, I greatly enjoyed this video blurb. I think you will too. Now …

1916: World War I has turned French chateaux into bloody field hospitals, British gentlemen into lice-infested soldiers, and left Elizabeth’s life in tatters.

Her father is dead and her home destroyed. Never again will Elizabeth depend on a man to secure her future!

When an opportunity arises to advance her dreams of becoming a doctor, she is elated—until he arrives….

Heartbroken. Devastated. Captain Fitzwilliam Darcy is left rejected by the woman he loved and reeling from the slaughter of his men on the battlefield. “Enough!” Darcy vows. “No more sentimental attachments!”

“No comrades, no dog, and certainly no woman!”

But arriving at a field hospital to pursue a covert investigation, Darcy discovers his beloved Elizabeth training with a dashing American doctor and embroiled in an espionage conspiracy.

With only a few months to expose the plot, Darcy is forced to grapple with his feelings for Elizabeth while uncovering the truth. Is she indeed innocent?

Darcy can only hope…

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Now for my review:

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Author Ginger Monette

I must start out by making it clear that I never thought I would like a Pride and Prejudice variation set in a different time period. But I have long been fascinated by world events of the 19-teens, especially The Great War, which completely changed the face of warfare, not to mention the face of Europe, for all time. So if I was going to read a time-shifting variation, it was going to be this one. Clearly the author has done her history homework; the historical points alone are enough to make this a worthwhile read. The story line and writing style also make it an enjoyable read.

As to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet: Their last meetings ended in rancor – altho’ their feelings for each other (Elizabeth’s carefully concealed even from herself, Darcy’s not quite so successfully hidden) continue to pull them towards each other.

When they are assigned to the same field hospital on the Western front, it becomes more difficult to avoid each other and to avoid their growing attachment to each other. Darcy (under the command of his redoubtable cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam) is commissioned to investigate and, if possible, expose and destroy a band of traitors. Unfortunately, his investigations lead to the inescapable conclusion that Elizabeth Bennet may be operating amongst them.

Not only that, it appears that the traitors have no more use for Elizabeth and intend to get rid of her.

Darcy, fully believing in Elizabeth’s innocence, is aware that she may be in grave danger, either because of the general belief of her alleged traitorous allegiances, or because she has been an unwilling dupe of the traitors who now have her in their sights. Either way, he feels bound to protect her.

It is not clear at the end of this suspenseful, sweet, and action-filled story (yes, it’s all three!) whether Elizabeth is innocent or guilty of betraying her country and countrymen. We’ll have to wait for the second volume in this two-volume saga for the answer to that question. But we do get to follow along with Elizabeth’s growing acceptance of her undeniable love for a man she swore to hate forever: Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Except for a few cuss words and vulgarities that you might expect amongst soldiers, this is a clean read, with only a handful of tiny typos.

What I liked most: Details of the history of a fascinating period in time. The author’s ability to seamlessly weave our favourite characters into this different time period while keeping the sense and tone of the original story. New characters – some of whom we grow to love while others not so much – who add to the joy and to the mystery.  The clever reference to another of Austen’s stories.  The accompanying “Elizabeth’s Scrapbook;” you must sign up for the author’s newsletter for access, and you must browse it, the sooner the better. (See below for details.)

What I liked least:  The clichéd ending, altho’ it did not seem entirely unfitting. And then there’s my issue with the cover image: From the first time I saw it several months ago I did not like the cover image. Darcy’s eyes are just plain creepy.

In short:  Try to ignore the cover image. (Or maybe, unlike me, you’ll like it.) Read the book. And don’t blame me if you end up reading this engaging story well into the wee hours of the morning!

Another five-star read.

gold-stars-5Don’t forget to leave a comment about this blog post or this book. Click on the Comments link at the top left-hand corner of this post under the blog title.

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PLEASE NOTE that on February 16th, the blog tour for part two of the saga — Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey — will be stopping here at Every Savage Can Dance. I hope you’ll rejoin me then, as well as visiting all the other stops on the tour from February 1 to 24!

Here’s the blurb for this second volume:

Darcy’s beloved Elizabeth disappears.

Then tragedy strikes, plunging him into a dark and silent world.

His heart tells him to hold on to Elizabeth.

His head tells him to take a chance with his extraordinary nurse.

But Donwell Abbey holds a secret that just might change everything….

*Darcy’s Hope at Donwell Abbey is a sequel to Darcy’s Hope ~ Beauty from Ashes, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.

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Meanwhile, connect with Ginger Monette:

Website (where you can sign up for her newsletter and get the key to unlocking Elizabeth’s scrapbook).

Facebook page

I look forward to seeing you again soon at Every Savage Can Dance. Happy reading!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

 

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A Lie Universally Hidden by Anngela Schroeder: Review and Giveaway

Welcome to Every Savage Can Dance’s stop on the blog tour for A Lie Universally Hidden by Anngela Schroeder.

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First, a little about the author:

I 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 felafel. I live in California where I dream of Disney adventures and trips across the pond.

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And now for my review of this book:

Duty and honour, the two guiding principles of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s life. He is now prepared to do his duty and honour his late mother’s last wish by marrying his cousin, Anne de Bourgh. Her wishes are spelled out clearly in her final letter to her son.

But … both he and Anne are in love with others. Still, duty and honour must take precedence over their personal desires for happiness. The wedding uniting them, as well as uniting their great estates, will take place in just a few short months.

Unless … a chance meeting between Elizabeth Bennet and an elderly lady who once worked at Pemberley may hold the key to releasing both Darcy and Anne to follow their hearts. Is it possible?

Even if that key is found, how will Elizabeth be released from her own commitment to marry her childhood friend?

Our dear couple – and Darcy’s dear cousin – ultimately arrive at their respective happily ever afters (of course), altho’ not before they have undergone a great deal of anguish, doubt … and hope. Not to mention at least one major misunderstanding that could change everything. And then there’s that long-hidden, and surprising, secret finally revealed.

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Available at in ebook and print editions at amazon.com.

A clean story that leaves the reader glad to have taken the time to enjoy it.

What I liked most:  The book was well written, without the glaring writing errors that too often seem to spoil even the best of reads.

Lady Catherine being her usual b*tchy self – and then some.

The newly-created characters, who all harmonize quite nicely with our own well-known characters.

The tension! Using calendar dates, the author moves our dear couple towards their climactic moment more slowly than we think we might wish. I breathlessly found myself checking to see how much of the story was left after nearly every paragraph as I reached the final chapter, and wondering how on Earth they were going to find each other in time before the story ended! Hurry up, Darcy!

What I liked least: The book’s title. I did not care for it. But I did like the book’s cover.

In short: Skip the title and read the book! This is a good story and truly enjoyable to read.

I have to give it five stars. And I think you will too.

Please note that I received an ebook in exchange for my participation in this blog tour.

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Enter the Giveaway by clicking HERE.

The Giveaway: Anngela is giving away two autographed hard copies (US mailing addresses only) and two kindle versions (open to international winners), plus an autographed copy of Then Comes Winter (US mailing address only). and an autographed 5×7 of the A Lie Universally Hidden book cover. Enter the Giveaway by clicking HERE.

Connect with Anngela Schroeder at:

Facebook

Twitter: @schros2000

Goodreads

Amazon

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Please leave your comment by clicking the Comments link at the top left of this post, beneath the title.

Thank you for visiting Every Savage Can Dance, and do please visit the other stops on this blog tour:

January 16/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
January 17/
From Pemberley to Milton/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 18/
A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post
January 19/
So Little Time…/ Excerpt Post & Giveaway
January 20/
My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 21/
Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review
January 22/
Just Jane 1813/ Excerpt Post
January 23/
Austenesque Reviews/ Author Spotlight & Giveaway
January 24
/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway
January 25/
Every Savage Can Dance/Book Review & Giveaway

January 26 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway

January 27 / Austenesque Reviews/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 28/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Excerpt & Giveaway

January 29/ Savvy Verse & Wit/ Guest Post & Giveaway

!
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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy heredesp-hearts-cover

 

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Blog Tour: The Best Part of Love By Amy D’Orazio

I’m so excited — this is my first time participating in a book blog tour! I have a guest post by the author, a book excerpt, and a giveaway for you from the Meryton Press Blog Tour.

The Best Part of Love author Amy D’Orazio has kindly stopped by to write a guest post for Every Savage Can Dance’s readers.

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best-part-of-love-coverBlurbing the book:

Avoiding the truth does not change the truth

When Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet he has no idea that she — that indeed, the entire town of Meryton — harbors a secret. Miss Elizabeth, a simply country girl from a humble estate, manages to capture first his fascination and then his heart without him ever knowing the truth of her past.

When she meets Darcy, Elizabeth had spent the two years prior hiding from the men who killed her beloved first husband. Feeling herself destroyed by love, Elizabeth has no intention of loving again, certainly not with the haughty man who could do nothing but offend her in Hertfordshire.

In London, Elizabeth surprises herself by finding in Darcy a friend; even greater is her surprise to find herself gradually coming to love him and even accepting an offer of marriage from him. Newly married, they are just beginning to settle into their happily ever after when a condemned man on his way to the gallows divulges a shattering truth, a secret that contradicts everything Elizabeth thought she knew about the tragic circumstances of her first marriage. Against the advice of everyone who loves her, including Darcy, Elizabeth begins to ask questions. But will what they learn destroy them both?

And a word about the author:

Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Jane Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh PA.

She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices, and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily ever afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker.

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Now let’s pass the quill to you, Amy!

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amydorazioIt is such a pleasure to meet all of you at Every Savage Can Dance. I am really excited about the publication of The Best Part of Love. This is my first published work although I have been writing and posting Austenesque stories for about five years now. To me there is nothing more enjoyable than exploring new paths to a happy-ever-after with Darcy, Elizabeth and many other characters given to us by Jane Austen.

Like many authors, I first began my JAFF journey as an insatiable reader. I started with what I could find on amazon which, at the time, wasn’t a lot. Then I found the forums and really got hooked into it — it was a pretty happy day when I discovered just how much was out there.

For as much fun as reading is though, once I started writing, I really got addicted. Reading about Darcy and Elizabeth is great, but I found writing allowed me to really immerse myself in their world and their story. Of course it’s a danger too — I tend to be in the middle of the grocery store or driving somewhere when the exact right thing I need to make Darcy say hits me and then my mind is gone and I wonder how it is I came home without the shampoo I desperately needed!

The Best Part of Love was the fourth or fifth novel-length story I wrote and posted at A Happy Assembly, although parts of it were written before anything else. What I really loved was the idea of Darcy being in Hertfordshire and looking down on Elizabeth and not realizing that she is, in fact, both wealthy and titled. It took me a while to figure out how that scenario would come about and it certainly took me into story lines and plots that I could not have envisioned back then — but it was definitely a fun ride! I hope you will have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.

Book Excerpt

Elizabeth seized upon the warmer weather of Kent gratefully, departing on an early walk the first morning she was in residence at Rosings. Elizabeth chose a lane at random, delighting in the burgeoning verdure before her. She inhaled deeply, drawing the fresh spring air into her lungs and feeling the bounce return to her step. She soon came upon Mr. Darcy.

“May I join you?” he requested. “It is a lovely morning, is it not?”

“It is splendid, and yes, you may join me.” They began to walk, and Elizabeth asked, “Do you always rise early, or did the sounds of the country awaken you?”

“I am an early riser. Are you?”

“I am,” she admitted. “Not the mode, I know! I much prefer a walk at dawn to a promenade during the fashionable hour.”

“As do I.”

They walked on, sometimes silent and other times voluble. Elizabeth had many questions about the grounds, the house, and the parish that Darcy was happy to answer.

From that morning on, their rambles together became a regularity. At first, Elizabeth counselled herself to be kindly to him, honouring her promise to Lady Matlock, but she was soon surprised to realise she anticipated his company.

Their conversations soon revealed a side to him she would not have suspected: a good intentioned man with an honourable character and true heart and with similar frailties and problems to anyone else. It was endearing. When she had sketched his character in Hertfordshire, she had seen only a small portion of his true self.

“May I enquire as to your thoughts, my lady?”

“Forgive me.” She blushed lightly. “You have caught me in recollection.”

“Of what?”

“I was thinking of my initial impression of you. My opinion has improved markedly now that I know you better.”

He looked down, the brim of his hat putting his face into shadow. “How far improved is that opinion?”

She glanced at him quickly, her heart skipping a beat.

He stopped then, turning to her and looking into her eyes. Her hand, which had been on his arm, dropped and somehow found a place within his grasp. “You must know my feelings and wishes are unchanged. You may have me; nay, you already have me. On your word, we shall be husband and wife.”

Dismayed, Elizabeth spoke quietly and as gently as she could. “Forgive me if I have led you to think my feelings have changed. I treasure the time we spend together, but I cannot marry you.”

There was a bench nearby and he led her to it. “You do not doubt the sincerity of my love for you?”

“No, not that.” She looked down at her lap.

“Then what? Do you not think we would be as happy in marriage as we are in friendship?”

“No, I confess, I do not. We would argue and fight; you would grow resentful over what I could offer you, and I would grow weary of trying to love you well enough to satisfy you. I already know the pain of losing love, and I could not dare begin with a love that burns hot and see it grow cold. I could not bear it.”

She looked up; pain smote her chest in seeing the sadness in his eyes. She caressed his arm. “I am sorry. I have pained you.”

“I am only pained with my understanding of your sorrow. I should not be surprised. To have lost all you did and endure all you have, that you should be care-worn is expected. You do such an excellent job of appearing content and in good spirits, it deceives me into believing you truly are well.”

He removed her glove and brought her hand to his lips for a gentle kiss. “I am happy to wait for the day when you again have the courage to be loved as I intend to love you.”

divider-lineWow! Doesn’t that make you want to drop everything you’re doing and read the story from beginning to end? It does me! Fortunately The Best Part of Love has been released and is available here. Ebook version only at this time; paperback version should be available in two to three weeks.

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The Giveaway!

Eight (8) lucky readers will win a copy of The Best Part of Love!

enter-to-win-imageReaders may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants should provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified).

Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter. Paperback or ebook format will be randomly selected for each winner as well.

NOTE: Paperback copies are available for continental US winners! Ebook copies are available for all winners, including international winners! If more international winners are randomly chosen than the 4 allotted ebooks, then that will decrease the number of paperbacks. 8 books will be given away to 8 different winners.

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Comment at Every Savage Can Dance by clicking the Comments link in the upper-left corner beneath this post’s title.

Connect with Amy D’Orazio:

person-using-computer-clipartWebsite 

Goodreads Author Page

Facebook: Amy D’Orazio

Twitter

Instagram: amydorazio

Pinterest

next-stop-clipartVisit Amy’s other stops on the blog tour for more of The Best Part of Love:

6 Jan My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

7 Jan Just Jane 1813; Review

8 Jan Babblings of a Bookworm; Vignette, Giveaway

9 Jan Every Savage Can Dance; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

10 Jan Tomorrow is Another Day; Review

11 Jan Savvy Verse & Wit; Character Interview, Giveaway

12 Jan Half Agony, Half Hope; Review

13 Jan Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway

14 Jan Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway

15 Jan Delighted Reader; Review

16 Jan From Pemberley to Milton; Review

17 Jan A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Guest Post

18 Jan Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review

19 Jan My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice; Vignette, Giveaway

20 Jan Diary of an Eccentric; Review

21 Jan More Agreeably Engaged; Vignette, Giveaway

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Thank you all for joining me today and have fun visiting the other sites on this blog tour.

Best of luck to all of you who enter the giveaway. Many thanks again to Amy, and wishing you every success with The Best Part of Love!

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. (Coming soon for Nook.) desp-hearts-cover

 

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Finally Catching Up!

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. DH was off work during the holidays and, as much as I love having him around, he does have a tendency to hog the computer. (I’ve told him several times that when he retires — he’s looking at early retirement in a couple of years — we’d better have two computers both attached to the Internet, or one of us will not survive his retirement!)

suzan-lauderToday I have the pleasure of introducing Suzan Lauder, author of Alias Thomas Bennet and today’s feature, Letter from Ramsgate.

Jane Austen left a great deal to the reader’s imagination, so Suzan took one of these “under-described” incidents — Georgiana Darcy’s encounter with George Wickham at Ramsgate — and filled in the details.

I enjoyed this book and have reviewed it, but before posting the review I have a special treat. Suzan has graciously outlined the methods she employed to create my favourite scene in the story. So let me hand this off to Suzan now, followed by my review of Letter from Ramsgate.

Guest Post by Suzan Lauder: The Hunsford Proposal and Deep Point of View

Warning—This article contains spoilers

While enjoying Letter from Ramsgate, some readers have expressed concern about how Darcy could have jumped so quickly from the romance of the proposal to the anger about his assumption that Elizabeth was friends with Mrs. Younge.

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Letter from Ramsgate at amazon.com

The easy way out for the author would be to get the reader inside his head and show his thought process explicitly rather than let them watch his anger escalate and the proposal fall apart like a train wreck from Elizabeth’s viewpoint. Had I done this, it would be called head-hopping. However, the writing style I used eschews this technique, which is casually used by many, many writers who choose the more traditional point of view of Omniscient Narrator.

I wrote Letter from Ramsgate in what’s called Third Person Limited, Deep Point of View. This is a popular technique for Regency romance novels. In Deep Point of View, the author must stick to only one character’s point of view at any time; point of view (POV) changes take place only at chapter or clear scene breaks with markers alerting the reader to the change, and the reader gets so deep into the character’s head that they “see” it as if they were there. Another analogy is that the reader is like a camera filming the action: the alternative Omniscient Narrator POV has the reader’s “camera” high up watching from a neutral position. In Deep POV, it’s like the camera is on the shoulder of the point of view character.

Though much harder to write, this technique provides the reader with a much more intense experience, as they’re almost in the character’s head. It also means that if the character is confused and things around them seem unfair, the elevated sense of that unfairness becomes the reader’s experience too. Readers were hurt and indignant regarding Darcy’s jumping to conclusions, therefore I did my job as writer well, because that’s how it looked to Elizabeth at the moment.

How can his actions be justified? In the scene with Colonel Fitzwilliam on the way to Rosings, Darcy is clear about how much he hates Mrs. Younge—more than he hates Wickham—and blames her totally for Georgiana’s misfortune. A couple of chapters later, during the proposal, readers don’t get to know what Darcy is thinking. The point of view is now Elizabeth’s (and the author is hamstrung!). We feel how whisked away she is with the romance and kisses, but we don’t know why her begging Darcy to help Mrs. Younge—a woman he abhors—causes him to become so very angry. Yet his reaction is supported by prior events as well as later scenes where we get to hear how he has reacted to this situation that was just as painful to him as to Elizabeth.

Of course he was terribly wrong. But he had not yet learned how to deal with his conceit, his thinking meanly of those below him, his overblown pride, nor his sense of superiority—all the things he says he learned as a child and applied unwisely in Austen’s novel. In Letter from Ramsgate, his true “Hunsfordization” doesn’t take place until much later in the book, where he gets read the riot act not once, but three times, by a total of no less than five women! He doesn’t know all the facts until then, and pays for it in fear that his mistakes will cost him the woman he loves now that he realizes he can’t force himself to choose expectations over his heart. From Elizabeth’s POV in the final chapters, Darcy finally redeems himself, yet she doesn’t make it easy!

Thanks to Janis for the opportunity to share this fascinating writing topic with readers and authors as a guest post on her blog!

And thank you, Suzan. I have to admit that I have some difficulty understanding POV in general, and your explanation actually has this concept sinking in (finally!).

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Now for my review of Letter from Ramsgate:

Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder

When I re-read Pride & Prejudice as an adult, my first impression of Mr Darcy was that he was “socially retarded.” That impression came back to mind as I read this story.

But first … I believe that most P&P readers wonder what exactly happened in Ramsgate between Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham. Jane Austen leaves this episode rather vague so we are left to our own imaginations. Until now. Suzan Lauder gives us every smarmy detail of the nefarious plot and its players.

Fortunately, this time around we have Lizzy Bennet coming to Georgiana’s rescue, albeit anonymously. The letter referred to in the title brings Lizzy and Mr Darcy together, and at first all proceeds well between them. But the road to happily-ever-after is by no means smooth for our dear couple. There is plenty of angst in both their hearts and sufficient mutual misunderstandings to satisfy even the most die-hard of P&P fans – Pride and Prejudice being the ultimate tale of angst brought on by misunderstandings, mostly caused by (of course) the pride and/or prejudice of our hero and heroine.

And for his part, this is where the “socially retarded” Mr Darcy enters the picture.

Fortunately (again), this time Georgiana saves the day … and is the vehicle for reuniting our dear couple. Their reunion could almost be the equivalent of a “meet cute” – well, you’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.

I very much enjoyed this carefully-written story; even my anal reading eye could not uncover more than one or two minor text errors. The story flows well while taking the reader on a journey of non-canon relationships and interesting new characters.

What I liked most: The cover. It is simply gorgeous.

The Hunsford proposal. It is absolutely brilliant. And a bit more deliciously amatory than the original – although this is still a clean read.

The letter that followed the proposal is likewise brilliantly constructed.

What I liked least: The scenes that take place at the Exeter Exchange zoo and references to Chunee the elephant. I really did not need a reminder of the horrendous prison-like menageries that existed until recent times. And still exist in some places, such as roadside zoos. Nor of the reminder of Chunee’s horrifying end. (To be fair, this detail was presented separately in author’s notes. But it was a jarring note after such a pleasant read.)

The author’s conclusions about disguised handwriting. Having studied the psychology of handwriting for a number of years, I was not completely convinced that the subterfuge would have been successful. On the other hand it wasn’t completely out of line so for the sake of the plot line I let it pass and suspend disbelief. Sometimes the reader has to do that or you end up never enjoying a story, and just drive yourself nuts.

In short: An enjoyable read with just enough wretchedness amongst the characters to remind you that you’re reading a P&P variation! I gave it four stars out of five.

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And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. (Coming soon for Nook.) desp-hearts-cover

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