“Unexpected Friends and Relations” by Jayne Bamber, excerpt + giveaway

Dear all,

I am happy to introduce you to Jayne Bamber and her newest publication Unexpected Friends and Relations. I would like to apologise to Jayne Bamber once more as I did not publish this post on time. Both of us had a hectic month of April and basically, life happened. However, there was an easy solution and here you have a post about a very interesting book.

I have not read many mash-ups with the character of Jane Austen. However, some that I have read are among my favourites, for instance Joana Starnes’ The Subsequent Proposal where Pride and Prejudice joins Persuasion. Therefore, I am convinced that I would love to read this book, the second one of the Friends and Relations series. 

Let me introduce you to the author:

Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.jayne-bamber-author-pic

Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day.

After years of dating Wickhams, Collinses, and the occasional Tilney-that-got-away, Jayne married her very own Darcy (tinged with just the right amount of Mr. Palmer) and the two live together in Texas with a pair of badly behaved rat terriers, and a desire to expand their menagerie of fur babies.

Here you have the blurb of Unexpected Friends and Relations:

Following their marriage and a cozy Christmas at Pemberley, Elizabeth & Fitzwilliam Darcy return to London with their family. As new dilemmas arise, the story shifts its focus to three of Austen’s beloved secondary characters, one of her less exalted heroines, a familiar villainess, and the fan-favorite original character Lady Rebecca.

Georgiana Darcy continues to suffer the consequences of her folly at Ramsgate, as well as the peril of following some well-intended but ill-advised counsel that jeopardizes her chance at true love.

Caroline Bingley, now unhappily married and desperate to salvage her position in society, takes on the arduous task of reforming her wild and willful young ward, though it’s anybody’s guess which of the two of them is in greater need of transformation.

Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam travels to Surrey on a mission of mercy, but she and her cousin Emma embroil one another, and many familiar faces in the area, in a web of romantic entanglements from which not everyone will escape unscathed.

Mary Bennet struggles with matters of morality and self-discovery, attempting to find good in the world, as well as her own place in it, but must do so on her own terms, always tip-toeing around the dramas and difficulties of those she loves.

Amidst the complex maneuverings of a diverse and demanding family, an unexpected heiress emerges, and with her rise in station come all the glittering delights of the fashionable world, as well as the challenge of navigating the uncharted territories of high society, extended family, and even her own heart.

After attaining a Happily Ever After, the Darcys retreat into the background as their friends and relations pursue destinies of their own. Equal measures of mishap and miracle result in several alternately paired couples, while some stories are left to be resolved in Book Three, and a wide array of Austen characters will make an appearance in this tale of six unlikely heroines.

Let’s read what Jayne wants us to discover:

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Hi! I’d like to introduce my new release, Unexpected Friends & Relations, which is the second of a three-book series in which the characters from all of Jane Austen’s novels live in the same world. Their lives are intertwined through the bonds of family and friendship, and this results in some alternative romantic pairings that did not take place in the originals.

The first volume of the series, Happier in Her Friends Than Relations, is definitely a must-read before embarking on Book Two. Happier focuses primarily on the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, with romances for Colonel Fitzwilliam (now a viscount) and a widowed Marianne Brandon, and a shocking secret in the Darcy family.

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The story opens with a surprise villain and sets off a chain reaction that ripples across the story, which spans a full year. Elizabeth meets Mr. Bingley in London, where she isn’t the only one having difficulty with a sister, and she meets a couple of new faces – original characters – who change her life.

Darcy has more than one secret when he first meets Elizabeth, adding to challenges to their relationship that are only exacerbated by more than one death of a familiar character. The story takes Elizabeth from London to Kent, to Pemberley and Somserset before she and Darcy reach their HEA.

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The second volume of the series, Unexpected Friends & Relationsopens four months after the close of Book 1, and shows our beloved characters in London for Georgiana’s season, which is nearly ruined by whispers of the Darcy secret. Another scandalous secret is uncovered, bringing a new heroine into the midst of the extended Bennet-Darcy-Fitzwilliam clan.

Not all goes according to plan, and the characters break off into groups, with many traveling to Rosings Park in Kent, while others go to Highbury in Surrey and unleash havoc in the life of Emma Woodhouse. While Emma’s world is embroiled in romantic entanglements, the same is happening at Rosings, and the stakes are high for Georgiana, Caroline, Lydia, and many others.

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Volume 3 will be released this fall, shifting the action to Sanditon, at the behest of Sidney Parker. More familiar faces from the world of Austen will make an appearance, in the seaside village shrouded in mystery!

I will be doing more blog posts over the next few weeks, sharing details about Unexpected as well as excerpts, and will be drawing winners May 20thfor an e-book giveaway! For more info, follow me on Facebook!

 

Blog Tour Promo

 

For now, I’d like to leave you with an excerpt revealing one of the family secrets that will play a major role in Unexpected….

    On the first of March, Harriet was conveyed to London to meet her parents. The journey from Highbury was a short one, though the two hours felt like an eternity. She was grateful to her friend Miss Woodhouse, who had contrived for Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston to accompany her to Town; without their supportive presence, she was sure she would have fallen to pieces with anxiety.

     What would her parents be like? Though she had naturally wondered about them many times over the years, when faced now with the prospect of actually meeting them, she began to feel that she had not given it nearly enough thought. Certainly they must be very grand indeed, and she began to fear that they must be so high above her that she would inevitably be found wanting.

     Her companions were all patience and benevolence during the drive into Town. “You have nothing to fear,” Mrs. Weston assured her. “I am sure all of your family is very eager to have you amongst them at long last. Though we know none of the particulars as to why they should seek you out now, I am sure it will all be made clear in time. Your mother’s letter said they are a large family, and you shall have brothers and sisters and cousins very near in age to yourself. That shall be a blessing indeed for you!”

     “And you have a shared acquaintance with your friend Miss Woodhouse,” Mr. Knightley reminded her. “Lady Rebecca Fitzwilliam is both your cousin as well as Emma’s. Certainly you shall discover some common ground with her. I believe Mr. Darcy’s younger sister is just coming out into society, as well, and I daresay you will find a friend in her.”

     “Quite so,” Mrs. Weston agreed. “I daresay you shall find my company quite unnecessary within a few days, once you have settled in. You shall see how they cherish you, and then we shall laugh about all this fuss over nothing.”

     Harriet doubted very much that this would be the case, for her apprehension only increased as they arrived at her parents’ stately townhouse in Mayfair.

     Mr. Knightley planned on staying near his brother’s house in Brunswick Square, and dropped Harriet and Mrs. Weston at the door of the grandest house Harriet had ever seen. They were greeted by the butler and housekeeper, both called Banks. Mr. Banks saw to their luggage while Mrs. Banks led them up to their guestrooms. Adjoining rooms had been arranged for Harriet and Mrs. Weston, and Mrs. Weston declared it very thoughtful of Harriet’s parents to have taken such a detail into consideration. “I am sure they must have thought of everything you may require for your comfort, Harriet,” she said as they were led upstairs.

     “Begging your pardon, ma’am, but her ladyship is most adamant that you shall want for nothing, Miss Sutton,” the housekeeper replied.

     Realizing that Miss Sutton was now how she was to be addressed, Harriet nodded and murmured some words of gratitude. Assuring them that their trunks would be brought up directly, the housekeeper took her leave, as Harriet took in her new bedroom in unreserved awe.

     It was like living in a palace! She stood in shock for several minutes, soaking in every detail of the very feminine bedchamber that was to be hers. All of this is for me? The room was nearly four times the size of her room at Mrs. Goddard’s, which she had never thought was wanting. This – this was beyond anything. A large canopied bed dominated the center of the room, with elegant linens in shades of pink and ivory – a princess might sleep comfortably there!

     There was a very stately vanity table with a large mirror on one side of the room beside a wide window with elegant damask drapes, offering a view of a quaint little garden beneath. On the other side of the room was a gilded wardrobe so capacious that she could not even begin to imagine ever filling it, though she supposed such things must be normal for ladies of her mother’s station. Altogether, the bedchamber looked as if it belonged to someone Harriet was not sure she could ever be.

     Mrs. Weston came through the adjoining door a moment later, smiling serenely. “What do you think?”

     “It is far too grand,” Harriet breathed. “Oh dear, do you think I shall ever grow accustomed to such finery?”

     “I am certain you shall, and sooner than you think. No one ever minds having what is too good for them, though I am of the opinion that there is nothing too good for a sweet girl such as yourself. It is a testament, I think, to how highly your parents must esteem you.”

     “Oh my, yes,” Harriet replied. “They must indeed, to go through so much trouble. But what if they think I am a very fine lady, and are disappointed to discover that I am not?”

     “Let us have no more of that talk,” Mrs. Weston said. “Your father is brother to Mrs. Goddard, to whom he entrusted your care, and therefore they must have perfectly realistic expectations for you. If they wish to raise your station, you must learn to accept their generosity.”

     “I suppose you are right,” Harriet admitted. Still, she was expecting every minute to wake up from nothing more than a very pleasant dream.

     A moment later came a knock at the door, and Harriet suddenly tensed up, fearing it would be her parents. It was only another servant, who introduced herself as Sally – she was to be Harriet’s own lady’s maid.

     “I’ve come to attend you. Your mother wishes to know if you require some time to freshen up before joining her in the drawing room.” Turning to address Mrs. Weston, she added, “I believe my sister Sarah will be coming to attend you, ma’am.”

     “Thank you, Sally,” Mrs. Weston replied, returning to her own room. A footman entered a moment later, bearing the trunk that contained all of Harriet’s worldly possessions. He set it down beside the wardrobe and left her alone with Sally, and Harriet regarded the little trunk fretfully; how small it looked, just as out of place in such a grand house as she herself must be.

What do you think? Harriet’s family is known at last! She is related to Mr. Darcy too! Very very interesting 🙂

time to give away winners

Jayne Bamber is giving away an ebook of Unexpected Friends and Relations. To participate click the link below and follow instructions. Good luck!

Rafflecopter – Unexpected Friends and Relations

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“The Mist of Her Memory” by Suzan Lauder, except and giveaway

What happened that fateful morning in Lambton?

What brutal attacker caused such grievous, near-fatal injuries?

Does she remain in danger? Elizabeth cannot remember!

Sequestered in her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner’s London home, Elizabeth Bennet tries to recover from a devastating incident that stole her memories during their Derbyshire tour. She continues to suffer from strange, angry voices in her head and to recall events that people tell her never happened. Even those who love her refuse to believe her. Elizabeth can barely endure the confusion!

Fitzwilliam Darcy is desperate for any hint of his beloved’s well-being, yet he lacks the information he seeks as her family forbids him contact with Elizabeth. His frustration mounts when he learns that her mental impairment incited taunting and torment in her home village of Meryton.

Which of Elizabeth’s recollections bear the closest resemblance to the truth? And what is the result of her sister Lydia’s elopement with Mr. Wickham? How is Mr. Darcy to rekindle his romance with Elizabeth when her aunt and uncle strictly shield her from him?

Prepare to grip the edge of your seat during this original romantic tale of suspense and mystery, another Pride and Prejudice variation by bestselling author Suzan Lauder.

“Suzan Lauder skillfully weaves a story that submerges you into the plot and doesn’t let go. The Mist of Her Memory’s twists and turns hold a well-guarded secret that keeps you guessing until the very end.”

̶ author L. L. Diamond

What has happened? What’s up with Elizabeth?

Hello dear readers! I am pleased to have Suzan Lauder back with us. However, I am pretty intrigued with her new book. Even the title is intriguing: The Mist of her Memory.

This is Suzan’s fourth published book and I am expecting it to be really good. Just a few weeks ago, I read A most Handsome Gentleman and I enjoyed it a lot. If you do not know anything about this book, I will just point out that the handsome gentleman is Mr. Collins!! (among others).

Let me (re)introduce you to Suzan Lauder:

A lover of Jane Austen, Regency period research and costuming, cycling, yoga, blogging, and independent travel, cat mom Suzan Lauder is seldom idle.

Her first effort at a suspense novel, The Mist of her Memory is the fifth time Lauder has been published by Meryton Press. Her earlier works include a mature Regency romance with a mystery twist, Alias Thomas Bennet; a modern short romance Delivery Boy in the holiday anthology Then Comes Winter, the dramatic tension-filled Regency romance Letter from Ramsgate, and the Regency romantic comedy, A Most Handsome Gentleman.suzanlauder

She and Mr. Suze and two rescue cats split their time between a loft condo overlooking the Salish Sea and a 150-year-old Spanish colonial home near the sea in Mexico.

Suzan’s lively prose is also available to her readers on her blog, road trips with the redhead www.suzan.lauder.merytonpress.com, on her facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/SuzanLauder, on Twitter @suzanlauder, and on Instagram as Suzan Lauder. She is a lifetime member of JASNA.

I hope you enjoy this brief excerpt that Suzan is sharing with us. I think that the description is great, the last paragraph is so good that I have imagined everything that he was listening to. Enjoy!

April 1813
Meryton en route to Derbyshire

After he refreshed himself with a quick wash and change of clothes, Darcy boarded his carriage once again and hastened to Longbourn before it was too late in the day for a call. This part of his agenda must not wait until the morrow to be completed.

As might be expected, Miss Catherine’s face peering through the window was the first sign of a Bennet at Longbourn. The delicate fabric of the curtain snapped back into place. They did not know him well, but the nervous, noisy chatter amongst them would not be restrained by lack of familiarity, and the younger Bennet ladies and their mother were famous for their inability to curb their tongues. He smiled to himself. If he were to take them on as family, he would have to become accustomed to behaviour he had complained about in the past.

But he did not come to call upon the ladies of the house, and upon admittance, Darcy requested an audience with Mr. Bennet. As expected, the gentleman was found in his library, his bespectacled nose in a book, when Darcy was announced. As he entered, the older man held up one finger as he finished whatever passage held his interest. While he waited, Darcy perused the room he had seen only briefly in the past. It was small but lined with rich mahogany shelves containing many books of high quality. In fact, there was a lack of space, and piles of volumes stood among those neatly shelved with stacks nestled in corners on the floor and upon the large desk of a library too small for its owner’s collection. The scents of leather, paper, and dust mingled in the air.

After a few moments, Mr. Bennet placed a leather marker at his page and closed the tome whilst viewing Darcy over the tops of his spectacles. Following Darcy’s bow and formal greeting, Mr. Bennet rose and offered his hand in a gesture of friendship.

“This is a gentleman’s library, not a parlour. We are less formal here,” the older man said with a mild smile as he waved the volume in his hand towards a chair.

“Are you enjoying your book?”

“Indeed. I am rereading an old favourite.” He passed the copy of Shakespeare’s plays to Darcy.

“Ah yes, a preferred book in my home as well. I also enjoy seeing the plays performed in the theatre.” Darcy returned the book to him.

“I am seldom in town, so I must rely upon my imagination for that aspect. I am not wistful about it, though. I do enjoy the country life in preference to all that noise and bustle,” replied Mr. Bennet. “So what brings you here so early this morning, sir, and without your friend? Though I suppose whenever you have attended with Bingley, it was while he was making eyes at Jane, and he no longer needs to come to Longbourn for such a thing.”

“I have come to ask your blessing on my engagement to Miss Elizabeth, who has consented to marry me.”

The older man’s bushy brows flew towards the receding line of his white hair, and his eyes became impossibly wide for a few seconds. “Oh!” was all he said before he peeled off his spectacles, bit the earpiece, and seated himself again behind the desk.

11 Darcy is Léon Riesener by Eugène Delacroix 1835.jpg
Darcy is León Riesener by Eugène Delacroix

Darcy started at the loudness of the exclamation then waited for a response, but Mr. Bennet sat silent. Darcy began to notice sounds in the distance that accentuated the absence of one gentleman’s much-desired reply: a clock, high-pitched voices, a service bell. All were muffled as if far away, yet they pierced his ears nearly as much as the one word full of emotion and surprise had done.

 

Who is surprised? Here we are reading that Darcy goes to Mr. Bennet to ask for the blessing to marry Elizabeth but he is on his way to Derbyshire… where is Elizabeth?

You may want to buy this book because with not a lot of information, this is getting bizarre and I have to say that the blurb itself would make me buy it straightaway. In case you may think that, you could buy it on the following links among others (check ebook or paperback):

Amazon      Amazon UK     Amazon CA     Bookdepository    Barnes & Noble    

Do not miss the rest of the blog tour, you will find very interesting post with guest posts, character interviews, etc.

7th May / Just Romantic Suspense/ Book ExcerptBlog Tour Banner Vert.

8th May / Austenesque Reviews/ Vignette Post

9th May My Jane Austen Book Club/ Book Excerpt

10th May / From Pemberley to Milton/ Guest Post

11th May More Agreeably Engaged/ Guest Post

12th May / Half Agony, Half Hope/ Book Review

13th May / Babblings of a Bookworm/ Character Interview

14th May Just Jane 1813/  Author Interview

15th May My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Excerpt

16th May / Diary of an Eccentric/ Book Review

time to give away winners

Meryton Press is offering eight eBooks copies of The Mist of Her Memory. The giveaway runs until midnight, May 19, 2019.

 Rafflecopter – The Mist of Her Memory

Terms and Conditions: Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified.

One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

“Perilous Siege” by C.P. Odom, excerpt + giveaway

Dear readers,

I am very pleased to introduce you to a new Jan Austen Fan Fiction release by C. P. Odom as well as having him for the first time with us. Welcome, Colin!

Perilous Siege is his last novel published and I would say that it is a very original way of combining our lovely character from Pride and Prejudice with the modern world, well, not even ours just yet… but 2045. Still 26 years to go!

I have not read Perilous Siege yet but I am very intrigued about it. However, I have read one of his other novels and I really like how he writes.

Just to give you a bit of information, read the book blurb and see what your first impressions are:

What is the Siege Perilous, and how does it affect the lives of everyone in the Regency universe of Pride & Prejudice?
When a man dressed in bizarre attire suddenly appears in a field on his Pemberley estate, Fitzwilliam Darcy has little inkling of the many and startling changes this man’s strange arrival will have on his life, his family’s lives, and indeed, his whole world.
Mysteriously sent to the Regency world of Pride and Prejudice, this refugee from a future Armageddon is befriended by Darcy. How will the presence of Major Edward McDunn influence the events of Jane Austen’s signature work, especially the tangled courtship between Darcy and the complex and endearing Elizabeth Bennet?

Major Edward McDunn… Why are you going to do with Lizzie, with Darcy, with the Colonel, with Georgiana…? Are you a friend or a foe? You must be a friend if Mr Darcy befriends you, right? We will see..

Let’s know something else about the author before carrying on with this curious book. C.P. Odom is letting us know a few interesting bits of his life.

By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the  Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics. I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.
I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife’s beloved Jane Austen books after her passing.  One thing led to another, and I now have three novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015).  My fourth novel, Perilous Siege, was recently published in the second quarter of 2019.
I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats.  My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

Engineering, Marine, aircrafts, Jane Austen… Now maybe, some pennies are dropping, what do you think? Not sure yet? We will get soon to the excerpt but first, let me tell you how you can follow C.P. Odom to discover more about his writing.

 C.P. Odom’s Facebook Page
C.P. Odom’s Amazon Page
C.P. Odom’s Goodreads Page
C.P. Odom’s Meryton Press Page

Without further ado, please enjoy this interesting excerpt that shows us when Darcy met the Major. Let’s see how shocking it may be… or not. However, first, Colin is telling us a bit more about the writing of this book and how fund it was.

Thank you, Ana, for inviting me to share this excerpt from my newest novel, Perilous Siege. It’s from early in the novel, where Fitzwilliam Darcy discovers a man from the future of our world (the year 2045, to be exact) lying in a field on his estate of Pemberley. Yet this novel doesn’t involve the science fiction concept to time travel (which is totally impossible according to Einstein, but then this is fiction, right? And I’m a long-time science fiction reader.). In my novel, I made use of another science fiction concept, that of parallel universes resulting from decision points leading to different outcomes. Thus, in this fanciful concept, the number of parallel universes would be literally infinite, and surely there would be one in which Jane Austen’s characters actually existed!

So, imagine the fun I had in putting myself into the persona of someone from approximately our time who got sent to the world in which he most belonged (he’s a reader of Jane Austen, besides being a US Marine from the future of the United States). The means of transport was the Siege Perilous, an artifact from the legend of Arthur Pendragon, King Arthur. Hence, the title of my book, Perilous Siege – Pride and Prejudice in an Alternate Universe. According to Merlin, the Siege . . . well, perhaps it might be better to include the explanatory paragraph from the Prologue when the wizard Kaswallon, whose family had custody of the Siege for two millinea after the time of Arthur, explained it to Major Edward McDunn:

“Ah, there you are wrong, brave McDunn, for you sit on a remnant from Arthur’s court—the Siege Perilous, the vacant seat at the Round Table. It was found by Merlin, who proclaimed only the knight who was successful in his quest for the Holy Grail could sit in it without dying. Six of Arthur’s knights tried to and died, or so the legend says. But the legend is wrong, as was Merlin, for the knights who disappeared did notdie. They were sent elsewhere to the world meant for them. Only Sir Percival and Sir Galahad, who together achieved the Grail quest, were able to sit in the Siege without disappearing. Or so said Merlin, wrong as always, because the real reason they remained was they belongedto this world, not elsewhere.”
So this is the discovery of McDunn in a world he never imagined . . .

~~~~~~~~~~**********~~~~~~~~~~

If a coin comes down heads, that means that the possibility of its coming down tails has collapsed. Until that moment the two possibilities were equal. But on another world, it does come down tails. And when that happens, the two worlds split apart.
— Philip Pullman,The Golden Compass

Tuesday, October 10, 1809
Pemberley, Derbyshire

“Sir! Sir! Mr. Darcy!”

Fitzwilliam Darcy had been half-dozing as his coach rumbled along on this still-warm autumn day. He was on the final leg of a journey to his Pemberley estate when, startled from his comfortable doze, he sat bolt upright at the call of his driver and the subsequent hard braking of the coach.

“Yes, Wainwright?” he called, looking over at his sister, Georgiana, and his cousin Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam as the vehicle lurched to a stop. “What is it?”

“Over there, sir! A man!”

“A man? Where?”

“In the grass, sir! To your right! A-lyin’ in the grass!”

Darcy felt the coach shake as one of the footmen scrambled down from the back of the coach, and he was not surprised when Brown appeared suddenly at the door.

“I will see what it is, sir,” he said in a gravelly voice and started to turn away.

“Wait!” When Brown turned around with a surprised look, Darcy continued. “I want to have a look myself.”

He opened the door and jumped lightly to the ground without bothering to lower the entry step. Behind him, he heard his cousin descend in the same manner.

“Stay inside the coach, Georgiana,” he called without turning his head. He did not have to look to know she had intended to jump to the ground. Her natural curiosity grew by the day.

“But William!” Georgiana said, beginning to protest. It was clear from her expression that past experience told her the uselessness of doing so when her brother spoke in such a tone of voice. “Oh, very well,” she said, settling back on her seat.

“Now, where is this man, Wainwright?” Darcy asked. “I cannot see anyone.”

“Over there, sir,” his driver said, pointing. “He is just there. Maybe dead. I canna tell.”

“I should do this, Mr. Darcy,” repeated Brown.

“Or I,” Fitzwilliam said, stepping up beside Darcy with his hand on his cavalry saber.

“I want to see for myself,” Darcy said. Then, seeing the look of distress on his footman’s face, he relented. Brown, after all, did have a secondary duty as an armed guard against the possibility of highwaymen on the road. The threat was admittedly rare in recent years, but it remained.

“Very well, then. We shall all investigate.”

“Yes, sir,” his footman said reluctantly, touching the pistol he had stuck in his waistband. Darcy was careful to conceal his smile at Brown’s protectiveness. The man had never had occasion even to withdraw his firearm from under his coat, but he took his duty seriously.

As he and Fitzwilliam walked in the direction his driver had pointed, Brown followed slightly behind and off to the side. Something was clearly pressing down the long grass of the field.

As they got closer, Darcy realized his driver had been right. There was indeed a man lying in the grass, curled up almost into a ball, but he was attired in a most baffling fashion, which added to the mystery of his presence.

His clothing resembled a military uniform since the trousers and jacket were similar in appearance, but the material itself was like no uniform Darcy had ever seen. It had no constant color, being composed of a mottled conglomeration of browns and tans, but the sharp demarcation of the mottling showed it was intentional and not accidental. The man wore a pack of the same material except its mottling was different in pattern.

In addition, the man’s clothing and pack were incredibly dirty and deeply stained with mud. This was puzzling since the roads and fields were dry. There had been no recent rains, yet the man’s boots, unlike any Darcy had ever seen, were also covered in the same type of mud.

As the men moved closer, Darcy was shocked to realize many of the stains on what he was increasingly certain was a kind of uniform looked more like blood than dirt or mud. Dried blood. A lotof blood.

The reddish-brown stains were down the entire front of his uniform. Adding to the mystery was an unfamiliar helmet on the stranger’s head, covered in the same brown and tan cloth as his clothing.

Darcy heard a rustle of cloth and a snapping sound behind him, and he knew Brown had just withdrawn his pistol from his waistband, cocked the hammer, and was no doubt turning the pistol sideways slightly to get a few grains of powder into the priming pan. Darcy felt no inclination to reprove him. The unconscious man’s presence was enough to justify a degree of caution, especially when coupled with his complete unfamiliarity and the strangeness of his clothing.

A sense of alarm struck Darcy as he saw the item his footman had seen, and he understood why Brown had drawn his pistol. Under the stranger’s left armpit was some kind of leather holster, and protruding from it was what appeared to be the butt of a pistol. The butt was significantly smaller than the pistol in Brown’s hands, as well as being quite oddly shaped. Regardless, there was a sleek deadliness about the weapon that convinced him of its danger.

A second shock ran through him when he saw a long object lying in the grass just beyond the stranger’s out-flung hand. From its length and similar appearance of precision as the pistol, Darcy was certain the long object was also a weapon of some kind. It bore a superficial resemblance to the muskets and shotguns with which he was familiar, but this musket was too short, had strange protrusions in various places, and did not appear to be made of metal. Everything, including the barrel, was colored the same as the man’s pack. Perhaps those colors were paint, but he wondered why a musket would be painted.

Darcy stopped about ten feet away and regarded the stranger. He was deeply tanned but unshaven with several weeks of dark beard. He could see the man’s clothing was not only dirty and bloody but also badly worn with numerous tears, especially about the knees and elbows. Some type of bulky vest or harness was strapped about his torso, supporting numerous pouches bulging with unknowable contents. There were also pockets everywhere about his clothing—on the sleeves and down his baggy trousers—all of them bulging like those on his vest. He lay quietly on his side, breathing slowly and deeply, and the large pack strapped to his back looked vaguely like the packs worn by soldiers illustrated in the London newspapers. For the first time, Darcy noticed several canvas bags nearby, and he realized the mottled coloring of the bags had made them almost blend in with the vegetation.

He looked over at Fitzwilliam, but his cousin only shrugged his thick shoulders. His military experience apparently did not provide any more answers than Darcy’s civilian knowledge.

But caution seemed advisable. The man might look rough and bedraggled, but he was also large and muscular with broad shoulders and large hands, somewhat resembling Fitzwilliam who was a colonel of dragoons and a rather formidable man in his own right. The two shared the same weathered features acquired by a life spent mostly outdoors.

Unable to bear the mystery any longer, Darcy ignored the voice of caution sounding a warning in his mind and stepped forward to nudge the sole of one of the stranger’s boots with his cane. It was only a slight touch, but the results were both startling and violent!

With a rapidity that caused the three men to recoil backward in complete surprise, the stranger seemed to explode up from the ground. With astonishing speed, he rolled abruptly to the side while simultaneously whirling about and half-rising. His head whipped about in a blur, quickly scanning the surroundings before fixing on the group of men in front of him. A clicksounded as he came to a halt on one knee, and Darcy realized that a strange-looking pistol had somehow appeared in his hands. It must be the pistol from beneath the man’s armpit, and it was held in a completely unfamiliar manner, supported by both his hands.

The sight of the pistol caused Darcy to freeze, instantly and completely. The stranger’s dark eyes were locked on him with a dangerous fixation, and the sound he had heard was made doubly ominous because of its similarity to the earlier sound of Brown cocking his pistol.

“Brown, do nothing!” Darcy barked the command. He instinctively realized he had made a grave error; the strange pistol was not pointed at him but rather at Brown, and the muzzle, while clearly not as large as the pistols with which he was familiar, seemed even more deadly.

No one moved for a long second or two before the stranger spoke.

“He’s with you?”

Darcy gave a jerky nod.

“I haven’t fired,” the stranger continued, “since the muzzle of your man’s blunderbuss isn’t exactly pointed at me and his finger isn’t on the trigger. Please have him lower the pistol and un-cock the hammer. I don’t want to kill anyone over a misunderstanding, but I also don’t want to die by mistake either. And I won’t warn him again.”

“Brown!” Darcy said quickly. “Put the pistol away!”

“Yes, sir,” Brown said reluctantly, and Darcy heard the sound of the pistol being uncocked and the subsequent rustle of cloth indicating it was being returned to its place.

“And perhaps, if the big man in the red coat might loosen the death grip he has on that large knife he has partway out of its scabbard, I’ll holster my pistol.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Darcy saw Fitzwilliam reluctantly lower his saber back into its sheath and uncurl his fingers from the hilt. He felt a bit of amusement at the way the stranger referred to his cousin’s beloved saber as a big “knife”—though he was not sure Fitzwilliam shared his amusement.

“Better,” the stranger said, standing up. “Much better.”

He touched something on the small, black pistol. It made the same snapping sound Darcy had heard previously, and he put it back in the holster and buckled a strap over it. Darcy saw he wore a matching holster with a similar pistol beneath his right armpit, and he also had what might be another rifle over his back under his pack. The weapon was covered by a multi-colored canvas sheath with a long belt-like strap across his chest, holding it in place.

Clever idea, all those belts and straps,thought Darcy in wonder. It would make sure they stay in place when galloping about a battlefield, but how did he unfasten the strap so quickly when he awoke?

“I did not mean to startle you,” Darcy said, but the stranger waved away his apology.

“And I didn’t mean to startle you either, but when I felt something touch my boot…well, where I’ve been lately, you wake up instantly or you might not wake up at all. It tends to make one twitchywhen startled.”

“Ah yes,” Darcy said in confusion. “Twitchy. Interesting word.”

The stranger looked at Darcy and gave him a crooked smile. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

“I have never been so confused in my life, sir,” Darcy answered, and his comment seemed to amuse the stranger further since his smile broadened as he looked about him, taking in the attire of Darcy, Fitzwilliam, and Brown as well as the coach and horses.

The stranger waved at Georgiana, who was standing beside the coach in wide-eyed excitement and curiosity.

“I’m sorry if I startled your passenger. I didn’t even know she was there until just now.”

“My sister.” Darcy glared at her. “I had suggestedshe remain in the coach while we investigated.”

“I suppose all of us are completely confused, sir. Me, for example. Not only do I have no idea where I might be, I don’t even know whenthis is. It’s certainly not where I came from.”

Brown stood nearby, and Darcy remembered his father’s admonition never to discuss serious matters in front of the staff. Turning to his footman, he said, “Please rejoin the coach and keep a sharp eye out. I think we will be safe enough now.”

“Aye, sir,” Brown said dutifully, but the tone of his voice made it clear he did not fully agree with his employer. Darcy waited until he had mounted the coach again before turning back to the stranger.

“You do not know where you are?” Darcy asked, his surprise evident.

When the unknown man shook his head, it seemed to make him aware of the helmet on his head. He unsnapped the strap and removed it, revealing a mop of dark hair that had not been barbered in quite some time.

“I’m not at all sure how I came to be here,” the stranger said slowly with visible uncertainty. “If it would not be too much of an imposition, might you first tell me whereI am?”

“You are on my land. This is a meadow on my estate, sir,” Darcy answered with a trace of irritation in his voice.

“Ah, so I’m a trespasser. Very serious, sir. Very serious, indeed. But since I wasn’t aware I was trespassing, perhaps you might enlighten me as to just whereI’m trespassing? I assume your estate’s in England?”

Darcy openly smiled at the renewed evidence of humor in the stranger’s speech as he had consciously modified his speech to match his own.

Except for the use of those contracted words,Darcy thought. I know they are becoming more fashionable in these modern times, but still…and that accent of his! It is definitely not one with which I am familiar. Nevertheless, this is an educated man. It shows in his speech.

“Yes,” Darcy said with a nod. “Pemberley is indeed in England. In Derbyshire to be exact.”

The man flinched momentarily at this information. “Interesting,” he mused. “I thought I would be in Cornwall.” He shook his head and continued. “The next item to assuage my curiosity is the date—the year to be more specific.”

Darcy wrinkled his brow in confusion, looking at the stranger oddly for a moment before he replied slowly, “It is Wednesday, the tenth of October in the year of our Lord, 1809.”

The stranger’s eyes grew large at the information. “It’s 1809!” he murmured. “I thought the stone—”

Whatever else he meant to say went unsaid, and he shook his head again before standing up straighter.

“I do apologize for appearing in your meadow, sir, but I assure you I’m as surprised to be here as you are to find me. But as an intruder and a trespasser on your land, I really should introduce myself. Edward McDunn. I’m American despite my Scots name. Brevet Major and late Gunnery Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps.”

Darcy’s eyebrows rose just a bit at this bit of information, but he was not completely surprised. “I had surmised you to be American from the manner of your speech.”

“My accent, you mean?”

“Indeed. We both speak the same language, but you clearly hail from elsewhere. If I may hazard a guess, I would say one of the southern of our former colonies.”

“South Carolina,” McDunn confirmed.

Darcy was still confused. What was an American doing in England, much less in Derbyshire? And lying in a Pemberley meadow, especially at this time?

From what his cousin had told him, bad feelings between Britain and the United States of America still lingered from the Chesapeake-Leopard affair back in ’07. Fitzwilliam worried that the Royal Navy’s insistence on stopping ships flying the American flag and impressing seamen from their crews might eventually cause the two countries to stumble into an active state of hostilities.

Have we not enough enemies,he thought sourly, with Bonaparte and the rest of his coalition?

He shook his head at his woolgathering and decided this was not the time to stand on propriety. There was certainly no one to introduce the two of them. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Major McDunn…or is it, what did you say, Gunnery Sergeant?”

McDunn smiled wryly. “It’s lateGunnery Sergeant, sir. That rank, as well as my majority and my place in the Marines are—well, it’s long off in time and far away. Very much so.”

“I see,” Darcy said though he did not see at all. “My name is Fitzwilliam Darcy, and as I said, I own Pemberley. And may I present my cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam of His Majesty’s Sixth Regiment of Dragoons.”

Darcy’s hesitation was due to his decision to include his Christian name as the American had done. It was not usual, but he supposed Americans had different customs.

Both men gave the stranger a quick bow, but both Darcy and his cousin were taken aback by McDunn’s reaction. His mouth had dropped open slightly, and he was staring at Darcy as though he had seen a ghost.

***

Fitzwilliam Darcy? McDunn thought, so staggered by the man’s name that he questioned his sanity.

The name “Pemberley”he had put down as coincidence, but it could not be a coincidence that the man who owned Pemberley in this alternate world also claimed the name of Austen’s hero in Pride and Prejudice.

What in the seven levels of hell is going on here? Darcy!And Colonel Fitzwilliam! And that has to be Georgiana by the coach! Has that Siege stone sent me to a world of fictional characters? Characters created in the imagination of an unmarried author of old-time novels? But this man, this Darcy, said this is his estate! Pemberley in Derbyshire! I know Kaswallon said there were an infinite number of alternate possible worlds, but still—! This is not bordering on the ridiculous; it is so far beyond such boundaries, it’s ludicrous!

~~~~~~~~~~**********~~~~~~~~~~

What do you think? How is this going to continue? I have quite a few questions that may be answered by reading Perilous Siege.

You can buy a copy of this book on Amazon and other sites. Just check the one that you prefer 🙂

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Although the tour has just begun, do not miss the premier of the blog tour and check what is coming 🙂

Perilous Siege Blog Tour Schedule

April 8th /
My Jane Austen Book Club / Guest Post

April 10th / My Vices and Weaknesses / Book Excerpt

April 12th / Austenesque Reviews / Character Interview

April 13th / Just Jane 1813 / Meet C.P. Odom  

April 14th / Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review

April 15th / Babblings of a Bookworm / Book Excerpt

April 16th / From Pemberley to Milton / Vignette

April 17th / Diary of an Eccentric / Book Excerpt

April 18th /More Agreeably Engaged / Guest Post

Meryton Press is offering eight eBooks copies of Perilous Siege. The giveaway runs until midnight, April 21, 2019. Just click the link below and follow instructions. The terms and conditions are below the link.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b1ddd45520/?

Terms and Conditions:
Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.


“The Most Interesting Man in the World” by JL Ashton and Justine Rivard, excerpt + giveaway

I believe that the title in itself it is very appealing, what do you think? Let’s see it this way: you know it is JAFF, specifically Pride and Prejudice, and then the most interesting man is portrayed. Yes, that man in none other than Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley.

What else do you need to know? Much more, trust me. however, we will start with the blurb of the book.

What has gotten into Fitzwilliam Darcy lately? 
Charles Bingley, a jolly fellow who relies on his great friend’s impeccable judgment in all things, is determined to find out. What could explain Darcy’s ill humour and distraction? Or his uncharacteristic blunder of speaking Greek to a horse who only understands Latin? Not to mention that shocking book accident! Certainly, it has nothing to do with Elizabeth Bennet, the sister of Bingley’s own angel, Jane. Bingley is certain of it. 
What was really going on behind the scenes at Netherfield, Pemberley, and Darcy House, and just what did those men talk about over billiards and brandy? In this novella, Bingley sheds a little light on keeping company with the most interesting man in the world, and shares his own musings on puppies, his dreadful sisters, and the search for true love. Prepare to be shocked, delighted, and confused by a Charles Bingley the likes of whom you’ve never met before.

Charles Bingley telling us about his loyal friend, Darcy. Sounds interesting, like the book 😉

Would you like to read a bit more? Let me just introduce you to the two ladies who have written this book and are sharing a great excerpt with us today. Please welcome: Justine Rivard and JL Ashton.

Justine Rivard is a very serious college professor who has no time for frivolity or poppycock of any kind. She strenuously objects to the silliness found in this story and urges you to put the book down at once before it gives you ideas. You are invited instead to join her in the study for a lecture about her extensive collection of whimsical 18th-century animal husbandry manuals.

J.L. Ashton, on the other hand, is a very unserious writer of Jane Austen variations you might have read (A Searing Acquaintance and Mendacity & Mourning) and collector of recipes she will never attempt. She encourages a general lack of decorum and has a great appreciation for cleft chins, vulnerably brooding men, and Instagram accounts featuring animals. Especially cats. Also foxes. 

To follow these lovely authors, check below:

Facebook: J.L. Ashton Author   https://www.facebook.com/JanAshtonAuthor/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter: @Jan Ashton 
https://twitter.com/jancat10
Pinterest: AustenAshton  https://www.pinterest.com/jsashton25/

Instagram: jancat95

Blog: 
http://jlashton.merytonpress.com/

Justine’s Twitter : @JustineJRA  https://twitter.com/JustineJRA

Without further ado, let the authors introduce this great excerpt that they are sharing with us.

Ana, thank you so much for hosting us here at My Vices and Weaknesses, and letting us share an excerpt from our somewhat nonsensical look at the bromance and conversations between Darcy and Bingley. In this excerpt, the two men, one of them considered by the other as The Most Interesting Man in the World, talk about love, food and the elusive Elizabeth Bennet.

Darcy cleared his throat and spoke with what seemed to Bingley to be feigned nonchalance. “Bingley, I hesitate to bring this up for reasons that will become evident, but the most peculiar thing happened this afternoon. I am sure you will never guess who was here when I arrived.”
Bingley tried to think of the least likely person Darcy might have encountered upon his arrival at Pemberley. “Napoleon Bonaparte? Beau Brummell? Um…Cicero?” Knowing Darcy, this had to involve Latin and some damn Roman.
“Do not be absurd, Bingley. You know very well that Cicero is dead. Still, you truly will never guess, so I shall have to tell you: Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner.” Darcy bit his bottom lip and nodded. “The ones from Cheapside.”
Bingley was stunned. How many times since the twenty-sixth of November had he thought of Miss Jane Bennet? At first, he had tried to deny that he ever had any real feelings for her, and he had let his admiration for Darcy and his desire to be more like his friend overrule his own good sense. Not that he really had good sense about anything. He was far more likely to trust the judgment of others than to rely on his own poor powers of discernment. But still, he had been right to listen to Darcy with regard to dear Jane. There was no doubt about it, none at all. Nevertheless, thinking about her always left him feeling full of melancholy and regret—a most unusual and uncomfortable sensation as he was used to happily gliding through life. For the most part, he had been untouched by the dramas, tragedies, and tensions that made up other people’s lives. It made Caroline angry. She always had such purpose in her words and in her stride, yet she had to depend on him—the man of the family—to lead their way in the world. It had hardened her eyes.
But why was he thinking about Caroline when Darcy was talking about the Bennets? Here was a chance to hear more about dear Jane from her sister. Suddenly, he was so eager that he could hardly bear it. “Miss Elizabeth Bennet is here?” Oh, it felt so wonderful to say “Bennet” out loud instead of just mouthing the word (with Jane’s name appended to it) in front of the mirror. “Not here. Not here now. She was here earlier, visiting the park.”
Oh. Bingley was crestfallen. Here and gone and without her sister. Why had she been here? Had she left word for him, for the dolt who did not understand love or recognise her sister’s worth or grasp how to parry and thrust? Verbally, anyway?
“But why here?”
Darcy’s face turned a deep crimson. “They were on holiday, um, are on holiday and touring the area. Miss Elizabeth’s aunt is from Lambton. You know, the village just outside Pemberley. They are here for a visit.”
Bingley stared at his friend, astonished at the wealth of information he had gleaned. “You spent some time with them?”
“No, no, no,” Darcy replied quickly, shaking his head. “Well, yes. Some. Bingley, excuse me. You have come all this way, you are still in your travelling clothes, and I have yet to offer you a drink. Please, sit down.” He gestured to one of the leather wing chairs he favoured. All his homes were littered with them. “May I order you some tea or perhaps some—?”
“Brandy. I would like a brandy.”
“Brandy?” Darcy enquired, his brow furrowed. “Surely, you must have something to eat first. Would brandy agree with you after that long ride in the hot sun?”
Ah, Darcy was worried about his boots or his rugs or his billiard table. Fair enough, though Bingley wished to protest that he had always been able to hold his liquor—unlike some men he could name. Still, he would indeed like some brandy, especially considering how concerned he was that Darcy might at any time ask where Georgiana was. What on earth would he say? He needed a quick excuse! Maybe he could distract his friend by talking about something else. What was it that Darcy had told him? Oh, yes! How could he have forgotten? Miss Elizabeth!
“Yes, Darcy, brandy. It has been a long day, and you have a story to tell. I must know everything about Miss Elizabeth’s visit. I should like to have seen her.”
Darcy handed his friend a glass of brandy and picked up his cup of tea.
“Shall I have some food sent in?”
“Oh yes, please. What do you have on hand? Do you suppose the kitchen has a duck pasty or two? Perhaps some sausages or a partridge? Oh, or Cook’s lovely creamed potatoes… And what about some of those delicious sticky buns or her famous berry tarts?” Bingley realised that this might be a bit too much to ask, but he was ravenously hungry.
Well acquainted with Bingley’s enormous appetite, Darcy merely nodded and rang for Mrs. Reynolds. “Yes, excellent idea.”
“Oh, that reminds me, what is the damage to your billiards table?” Bingley flushed, thinking about the table he had left in ruins earlier in the spring. He cleared his throat. “Well, I know what the damage was. What I mean is: How much do I owe you for its repair?”
“Nonsense. You owe me nothing. We had quite a bit to drink that evening, and if you had not done the honours, then Archie or I would have done so sooner or later. Damn soldiers’ drinking games.”
Bingley shook his head in disbelief. He could not imagine his talented friend eviscerating a billiards table. Not unintentionally anyway. “No, never. Please let me take care of it, old chap.”
“No, no. Truly, never mind. All in a good night’s fun.”
That had been an interesting evening, Bingley reflected with some wistfulness. Not that he remembered it too clearly. He recalled something about the colonel…um, Archie flying around on a magic carpet. That could not really have happened, of course. Could it? No, no, that must have been the brandy talking. Something about a hot air balloon as well, and that seemed a bit more likely, although it still seemed improbable that they had actually taken flight in Darcy’s town house. Also something about an ostrich… In any case, the material point was that something had happened after the hot air balloon episode, and that something was the conversation he vaguely remembered overhearing between Darcy and the colonel. Archie. Perhaps he had dreamed it along with the colonel’s magic carpet, but he thought not.
It seemed to have been a weighty and important conversation, but Bingley could not quite recall the subject. Something Darcy was not telling him? Something to do with a woman? Darcy had never explained what had happened with his cousin Anne in Kent. And, come to think of it, he had never confirmed that it actually had been Anne at all. Perhaps it was some other lady who had turned Darcy down. Imagine that! If only he could reach through that evening’s brandy-induced haze to retrieve the memory of exactly what the two cousins had been talking about.
Bingley’s train of thought was interrupted by Mrs. Reynolds’s entrance into the study. After a proper greeting was exchanged, Bingley enquired about the availability of his dreamed-for meal and was delighted to discover that nearly all of it was already waiting in the kitchen. He was Mrs. R’s favourite bon vivant, and she was well acquainted with his culinary tastes. She clucked and fussed a bit because the berry tarts would not be ready till the next day—when she had expected him to arrive. Bingley suddenly realised that Mrs. R might be curious about Georgiana’s whereabouts, and he was sorely relieved when she bustled out of the room without enquiring after the girl.
After her departure, the friends settled into their chairs by the window. Darcy’s knee was bouncing up and down, Bingley noted with surprise. How annoying. No wonder his sisters, his aunts, and Darcy himself constantly chastised Bingley about his own free-spirited limbs.
Limbs. He remembered Darcy’s limbs, his legs in particular, stretched high up on the wall that evening, the evening of the billiards contest for the ages. He had looked so relaxed then, even elegant in his drunken melancholy, whilst he was agitated now. Rather as he had been back on that long, cold night in January when they had discussed his verbal parries with Miss Elizabeth. What had that been about, anyway?
“Darcy, tell me about Miss Elizabeth’s visit. Did you know she would be at Pemberley? Was it a surprise or a planned rendezvous?” He waggled his eyebrows to emphasise his clever joke.
“For God’s sake, Bingley. What do you imply? Miss Elizabeth and I are merely acquaintances in a tenuous sort of manner. She is travelling with her aunt and uncle, they stopped here and walked the gardens, and they encountered me only because I arrived a day earlier than expected. In fact, they believed that none of the family were here.” Darcy glared at Bingley, his face flushed and eyes bright. He clanked his teacup down on the saucer with no little discomposure and poured a bit of brandy into a nearby glass.
He eyed it then took a deep swallow.
“In what manner did you encounter her? Them?”
“Oh. I rode in, felt a bit overheated in the sun, and stopped by the pond. Aeschylus needed a drink.”
The Greek steed. That fine piece of horseflesh had a sweet disposition and a white heart-shaped dot on the tip of his nose, and Darcy had named him after a poet instead of something truly memorable such as Avenger, Sport, or Thunder. The man was hopeless.
“Did your horse push you into the pond? Is that why you are still a bit damp?”
Darcy froze.
“Good God, Darcy! Did Miss Elizabeth see you this way, soaked and dishevelled?”
“Of course not. I had changed my clothing.” Darcy abruptly stood and walked across the room to an ornate mirror. He grimaced at his reflection and began smoothing back his hair. He straightened his coat and turned around.
“In any case, Miss Elizabeth and her family are still in Lambton.” Upon hearing this, Bingley heaved a great sigh of relief and then tried to cover it up by rubbing his stomach in a gesture of exaggerated hunger. He would still have a chance to hear news of Jane! Darcy continued, “I have made arrangements to see them tomorrow morning at the inn where they are staying. After Georgiana arrives, that is. Would you like to join us?”
Georgiana? Why did Darcy wish to introduce Georgiana to Miss Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle? She was so shy that it surely would be torture for her. In any case, Bingley did not wish to talk about Georgiana, in particular why and how he had left her at the mercy of his awful sisters. Never mind that. The important question was: Did he want to visit Miss Elizabeth tomorrow? By Jove, yes, he did!
“Oh, yes, indeed!” he blurted before continuing on with barely suppressed eagerness. “I mean, that sounds capital. It will be delightful to see her again after all this time. I hope her family is well.” Her family—especially Jane. Oh, it really was tragic that she had never shared his feelings: the warmth and love and admiration.
“Yes, she said that they are well,” Darcy replied with a slight smile. “A number of times.”
She said who was what? Lost in his daydream about Jane, Bingley could not remember, but he supposed it did not matter over much.
“I say, old man, I look forward to observing the two of you spar and joust!” he exclaimed with great jocularity. “You and Miss Elizabeth have a great talent for spirited conversation. Perhaps I can learn from you, and it can help me capture the right lady’s heart.” He still had some doubts about whether that was really what he was looking for in a lady. But he supposed he should jolly Darcy along since it seemed to be what his friend was seeking in a mate.
“Honestly, Bingley, you make it sound as though I have some sort of interest in Miss Elizabeth. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am appalled that you would even joke about such a thing.”
Oh dear. Perhaps he had gone too far. Darcy had always made it abundantly clear just exactly what he thought of Miss Elizabeth. So what exactly was the man looking for in a lady besides all those things he had listed back in January? Love, connection, sparring, destiny, and so on and so forth, ad nauseam. Oho! At last, he had used a Latin phrase correctly! Or had he? Perhaps this was the one that meant “beware of dog.” Where was that blasted food?

What do you think? It is pretty amusing. Reading Bingley’s thoughts is like his letter in the novel. I think this will be a very enjoyable book to read. Participate below in the giveaway but do not miss the other posts on this blog tour.

Would you like to buy this book? Here you have some sites where you can find it:

Amazon US. Amazon UK. Barnes & Noble. Bookdepository.

Meryton Press is offering eight ebooks copies of The Most Interesting Man in the World. Eight ebooks for eight different winners. The giveaway runs until midnight, March 1, 2019.

Rafflecopter – The Most Interesting Man in the World

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and dailycommenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. 

One winner per contest. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

“Persuasion. Behind the Scenes”, guest post + giveaway

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope”. How could I not melt with Wentworth’s letter? It is beautiful, simple but full of feeling. He goes to the point where he begs for her to love him still: “tell me not that I am too late”, he just loves her: “none but you”.

I could actually carry on and reflect in every single part of the letter. Everything has a deep meaning and it is just beautiful!!

As you have read on the title of this post, today I am honoured to present Persuasion: behind the scenes. This is the last stop of this lovely tour. Please, make sure you check on the other post as you will find a lot of information and great excerpts too.

What is this book about? Well, about Persuasion 😉 Better said, about what Persuasion does not show us. The authors have written some of the scenes that Miss Austen did not write.

So many good authors in this book, that I do not know where to start! Let me mention who they are: L.L DiamondC Allyn PiersonDiana BirchallJack CaldwellKara LouiseMaria GraceMarilyn BrantShannon Winslow and Susan Mason-Milks. If you have follow My Vices and Weaknesses, you should remember many of them. They have the group “Jane Austen Variations” and they did already wrote Pride and Prejudice: behind the scenes, which I highly recommend.

One of these authors is visiting today. Welcome, Marilyn Brant!

It’s a thrill to get to celebrate the release of Persuasion Behind the Scenes this month! Many thanks to the lovely Ana for hosting me here today and for being part of our traveling Austen Variations blog tour for the book. Hello to all of you reading this!!
I enjoy history in general and, specifically, I love reading and learning about Jane Austen’s Regency life. But, at heart, I’m a contemporary girl. And one of the many things I adore about Austen’s writing is just how applicable her books’ themes and characterizations are to the modern world.
I’ve always felt there were numerous parallels throughout her novels to the goings-on in contemporary society. As a novelist, I’ve personally compared “prom” in my debut novel, According to Jane, to one of Austen’s classic balls, like the big event at Netherfield in Pride and Prejudice. And at a deeper, thematic level, the idea of mistaken first impressions (a la P&P) translates well to a range of eras and cultures, and it remains an appealing literary mechanism by many writers. However, not to be undone is my favorite Persuasion-inspired motif, the second chance at love.
As an individual writer, I’ve played around with that particular plot device, too, most recently in the story duet of Rocket Man and Someone Like You, two related novellas which make up the contemporary romance Coming Home (standalone stories in my Mirabelle Harbor series). Anytime I read about a romantic pair that is somehow pulled apart by others—when both members of the couple want to stay together—the lessons of Persuasion resonate in my mind. While a comedy-of-manners story like P&P is ever amusing, rife as it is with misunderstandings due to not knowing the other person… the reunion of a seemingly long-lost love is pure romance melded with pain. The phrase “half agony, half hope” says it best. It’s no wonder that it took Austen until her later years to pen this masterpiece. It’s written with such maturity, depth, and understanding of loss.
P&P will forever be my first love. I read it when I was 14 and fell hard for our beloved Jane. But as I age beyond my teen years (decades beyond them!), both my appreciation of Persuasion and my awe toward its author grow exponentially. That novel has easily become a close second favorite of mine, eclipsing all but Darcy and Lizzy’s legendary love story. 
However, I believe Anne and Wentworth succeed with something uniquely their own, and it’s something no less important: They give us hope that true love will—eventually—prevail, and that if we persevere in our life’s journey, despite whatever obstacles create challenges on our personal path, we too might earn at least one important second chance when we most need it. 
  
xox, Marilyn

Thank you very much for telling us about your love of Pride and Prejudice as well as lovely Persuasion. I agree that the message that Anne and Wentworth give us is very valuable: love conquers everything.

Readers, here on the left you can find both novellas that Marilyn mention. I have not read them yet but they have really nice reviews.


What could be better than reading those scenes that Jane Austen did not write? I will tell you what. Donate the proceeds of this work to charity!

You could get Persuasion: behind the scenes on the following sites below, among others:

Barnes & Nobel Amazon US Amazon UK

Persuasion: behind the scenes is bringing a fabulous giveaway. Just check the image below.

If you would like to participate, just follow the instructions on the link below. Good luck!

Rafflecopter – Persuasion: behind the scenes

Random, last idea: don’t you think that the cover is very beautiful? Simple and clear but lovely!

“A Very Austen Valentine: Book 2”. Blog tour, vignette, excerpts + giveaway

What can be more romantic than Jane Austen? Yes, I know, a lot of different things can be very romantic but let’s be honest: if you love JAFF, Jane Austen is pretty high up on your list of romance, right?

Today I have the pleasure to present a compilation of lovely stories with our favourite characters created by Miss Austen.

A Very Austen Valentine: Book 2 is a compilation of six different stories by six different authors who love writing JAFF and who want to make our lives a bit better with a lot of love in their stories ❤

I was sent different things to share with you but I was told that I could choose the ones I wanted. It has been pretty difficult to choose, so… I am sharing all of them! I am already warning you that this is going to be a very long post but, as you may remember, I use different colours for different parts, so you could read everything or choose what you feel like reading.

First of all, let me introduce you to the authors although some of them are not new to My Vices and Weaknesses, I have the pleasure to introduce new authors.

Robin Helm

Robin Helm’s books reflect her love of music, as well as her fascination with the paranormal and science fiction. Previously published works include The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy (a guardian angel protects a supernaturally gifted girl), the Yours by Design series: Accidentally YoursSincerely Yours, and Forever Yours (Fitzwilliam Darcy switches places in time with his descendant, Will Darcy), and Understanding Elizabeth (Regency romance).

She contributed to A Very Austen Christmas: Austen Anthologies, Book 1, an anthology featuring like-minded authors, in 2017. A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2was released on December 29, 2018. A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3is planned for December 2019.

She lives in sunny South Carolina and adores her one husband, two married daughters, and three grandchildren.    

Laura Hile

Readers are loving Laura Hile’s joyous Regency novels. Her signature style—with intertwined plots, cliffhangers, laugh-out-loud humor, and romance—keeps them coming back for more.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with teen students! Laura lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a collection of antique clocks. Her fiction is for everyone, even teens.

Wendi Sotis

Wendi Sotis lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and triplets. While searching for Pride and Prejudicefrom Darcy’s point of view, she became thoroughly enamored with Jane Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF. In early 2010, she dreamed of an idea for a story and hasn’t stopped writing since: PromisesDreams and ExpectationsAll Hallows EveThe Keys for LoveSafekeeping(with just a dash of Austen); The Gypsy BlessingFoundation of Love(The Gypsy Blessing 2); and A Lesson Hard Learned.

The Marriage Pact, and some of Wendi’s works-in-progress, have branched away from JAFF to Regency Romance (the Loving an Aldridge Series) and Contemporary Romantic Mysteries (the Implicated series). Wendi will also continue bringing Darcy and Elizabeth together again and again in an unusual manner.

Barbara Cornthwaite

Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before “retiring” to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling her six children, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle). She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.

Susan Kaye

Susan Kaye discovered Jane Austen and writing at about the same time. She leads a quiet life with her husband and dog, Harley. “I don’t know a lot, but I do know I’ve probably spent more time with Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot than just about anybody else.”

Mandy Helm Cook

Mandy Cook was an RN for over ten years, half of which she served in the Navy, living in far-flung places, enjoying experiencing the world while following her calling. Just before she and her handsome Marine were both deployed to different places, they married. They now have three children, ages four and younger.

She previously published The Gifted, using her nursing experience to lend accuracy to her story about an ER nurse who is handed a gift that changes her life forever. Adversity, and a long history of secrets, constantly battle against her natural instinct for truth and justice, but will the truth be worth the dare?

Hello again! A lot of biography information but, don’t you think it is quite interesting to know a bit about the authors that we read? I did not know that Mandy was a nurse until I got the information, although I new Laura’s signature style. Barbara lives in lovely Ireland and most of them have big families.

I should start giving you some insight on the stories that you can read in this anthology. Please enjoy the blurbs below! There is sooooo much interesting stuff to read and so many characters involved that I do not know how I could have chosen to share one or the other….

I Dream of You by Robin Helm

Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her. A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action.

Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs.

My Forever Valentine by Wendi Sotis

Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes?

Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions.

My Valentine by Mandy H. Cook

Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart?

The Lovers’ Ruse by Susan Kaye

In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth’s love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. The Lovers’ Ruse follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag.

Anne Elliot rebelling? Elizabeth having to entice Mr Darcy? Charlotte’s true love? OMG! How good this sounds to you?

Let’s welcome Laura Hile and her colleagues. She has some words for us about this lovely anthology.

Love and Friendship for Valentine’s Day

Ah, romantic love! It is what Valentine’s Day is all about. But there is also friendship love. And friendship is the foundation for our A Very Austen anthologies. These books came to be because the authors are friends.

Even though most of us have not met in person—Barbara lives in Ireland!—we are brought together by our love for Jane Austen, the Regency world of her novels, and our shared Christian faith.

What you will find in A Very Austen Valentineare stories with Jane’s characters. I find it remarkable that there is so much diversity. Robin’s is pure romance, as adorable Elizabeth Darcy seeks to recapture her too-busy husband’s interest. Mandy’s is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, combined with characters from Sense and Sensibility. Wendi and Barbara take our beloved Darcy and Elizabeth through “but-what-if” angst and adventure. Susan turns back the clock for Persuasion’s Anne and Captain Wentworth and gives them another chance. And my novella? I bring two of Jane Austen’s worst snobs together in a comical Valentine mash-up. 

I should add that the A Very Austen anthologies can be enjoyed by most readers, from teens to grandmas.

Now then. Just for you, I’ve written an extra scene from Sir Walter Takes a Wife. But wait, there’s more. We have excerpts! One is from Barbara Cornwaithe’s Pretense and Prejudice and another is from Sir Walter Takes a Wife. 

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoy this taste of our Valentine anthology.

Without further ado, let’s read the vignette and excerpts to make you even more interested in A Very Austen Valentine.

Excerpt from Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

As luck would have it—or was it destiny?—the entire company was asked to dinner. “Since the Collinses are to dine with us,” said Lady Catherine, “you might as well come too.” 

Not, perhaps, the most elegantly-worded invitation, but Sir Walter was not about to quibble. Dinner at Rosings after only two days! Destiny was certainly efficient.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s dining room was exceedingly handsome, with a small army of servants on hand to attend. At its threshold Sir Walter paused to sigh. Glittering articles of plate, an enormous silver epergne, and candelabrums with crystal prisms graced the table. Magnificent! He was seated to the right of his hostess, an honour that was not lost on him. Mr. Darcy sat to her left.

As the meal progressed, Lady Catherine took admirable care to ensure that her guests were conversing amicably. “What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam?”

Sir Walter now knew that she meant Darcy, not her military nephew—who was looking very smart in his regimentals.

“What is it you are talking of?” Lady Catherine went on. “What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”

“We are speaking of music, madam,” said he.

“Of music! It is, of all subjects, my delight. I must have my share in the conversation, if you are speaking of music.”

She turned to Sir Walter. “There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste.”

“I know precisely what you mean,” agreed Sir Walter. “Do you know, if I had ever learned to play I should have been a great proficient.”

Lady Catherine opened her eyes at him.

“It has been left to my daughter, Anna, to be the musician. And let me tell you, Lady Catherine, you and I have invested our time in more worthy pursuits. Think of the countless hours spent learning a musical skill—and then practicing to keep it up—when the same enjoyment can be had simply by hiring musicians. They play while we dance.”

“The last time I danced,” said Lady Catherine dryly, “was at Almack’s years ago.”

Sir Walter was impressed. As the daughter of an earl, Lady Catherine certainly had the necessary connections. Here was more proof that she was just the wife for him.

“Almack’s,” she announced, “is bidding to become a den of depravity. You may well stare, Sir Walter, but I am told that members are requesting that the waltz be allowed. The waltz!”

The others at the table fell silent. 

“I should certainly hope so,” said Sir Walter promptly. “It will never do to be behind the times.”

“You approve of this indecent display?”

“I beg to differ, dear lady. The waltz, or rather a milder version of it, la sauteuse, is not as scandalous as you suppose. In fact, if you will allow, I will gladly instruct you.”

“You dareto teach methe waltz?”

Sir Walter’s smile remained undimmed. It now occurred to him that the way to deal with a strong woman was to display confidence. “I shall teach you, your daughter, and everyone else,” he said easily. “The alternative, my dear, is to sit against the wall. The waltz is taking the polite world by storm, and there is nothing you or I or anyone else can do about it. Shall we have a little class tomorrow afternoon?”

“Here? In my house?”

“But of course. You cannot tell me that Rosings does not possess an elegant ballroom.”

“It does, but—”

 Sir Walter looked down the table. “And I am sure that the excellentMrs. Jenkinson knows some waltzes and will be delighted to play for us.”

“But—” stammered Lady Catherine. “But—” She looked at the others seated around her at the table. “Well?” she demanded. “Haven’t you anything to say?”

Apparently no one did.

“Darcy?”

Sir Walter hid a smile, for Mr. Darcy had been gazing at Miss Bennet. He raised his eyes to meet his aunt’s. “As it is only a versionof the waltz, ma’am,” he said slowly, “and as this is not a publicassembly, I can see little harm in—”

“Bah!” cried Lady Catherine. She rounded on Colonel Fitzwilliam, who was grinning. “I know better than to ask for your opinion,” she said wrathfully. 

He spread his hands. “We’ve been dancing the waltz at our embassies for several years, ma’am. It’s rather fun.”

“No thanks to the wretched Viennese!” she cried. “Well, Mr. Collins? Have you anything to say? What is your opinion?”

If ever there were a rabbit clothed in human skin, it was Hunsford’s rector. Sir Walter felt rather sorry for him. Mr. Collins’s eyes bulged in fear and he wrinkled up his nose, exposing rabbit-like teeth. 

“I—I,” he squeaked, looking from Lady Catherine to Darcy to the grinning Colonel Fitzwilliam. “If it is danced at our embassies…”

“Oh!” cried Lady Catherine. “You are no help at all.”

“Come, dear lady,” said Sir Walter, more gently. “Tomorrow I shall give a demonstration, and you may decide for yourself whether or not you wish to learn.” He lowered his voice. “Wear the rose gown, my dear, and dance…”

Her silence told Sir Walter everything he needed to know.


What do you think? I could not leave this excerpt out, right? The dignified Lady Catherine de Bourgh! I hope you enjoy the following scene, written by Laura just for you. It is quite diverting 😉

A Trifle Disguised, He Said
A bonus scene from Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile.

In which Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Collins are delighted to participate,
 as they are not point-of-view characters in the novella and would like to have their say

Elizabeth Bennet set her teacup aside. “A trifle what?” she said, smiling.

Charlotte Collins gave her a look. “Disguised. That is how Mr. Collins phrased it, when I asked about last night. He said he was a trifle disguised.”

“Meaning that he was drunk.”

There was a small silence. 

“My husband is many things, Eliza,” said Charlotte tartly. “But a drunkard he is not! I blame that Sir Walter Elliot. Did you notice? All through dinner he scarcely touched his wine. I think he saved it and, once we ladies went out, he forced Mr. Collins to drink it.”

“If so, it was deftly done,” observed Elizabeth. What else could she say?

“Oh, he is a sly one! I saw at once what Sir Walter was after; who could miss it? He wanted information about the estate.”

“I wonder why,” said Elizabeth.

“For nefarious reasons of his own, no doubt. If he is a baronet, which I daresay is a lie.”

Elizabeth had never known Charlotte to be so crabby. She decided to change the subject. “I did not realize that my cousin was so observant. Mr. Collins described each of the rooms in great detail. It was impressive.”

Charlotte sighed again. “Many of those descriptions,” she said, “are cribbed from her ladyship.”

“Cribbed,” repeated Elizabeth.

Charlotte smiled slightly. “It’s a schoolboy’s term; my brother John uses it. I fancy it means copied. Our, er, benefactress is quite particular about the beauties of the mansion. She likes them to be described just so. In fact—”

The dining room door banged open, and Mr. Collins stumbled in. “Oh!” he cried, bringing a hand to cover his eyes. “The light! Draw the draperies! At once, I beg you.”

Elizabeth hurried to comply, while her friend helped Mr. Collins take his seat at the table. “You will be better directly,” said Charlotte kindly.

“You needn’t shout! My head! Oh, there is nothing like it! The room is spinning round and round!”

“A nice breakfast will soon set you to rights. We have both bacon and sausage this morning, with some lovely fried bread and kidneys.”

Mr. Collins gave a perfectly genuine shudder. “Do not speak to me of food, Mrs. Collins,” he said loathingly.

Charlotte resumed her seat and poured out a cup of tea for her husband. “If you are ill, perhaps I ought to send for the apothecary.”

“That will not be necessary,” he snapped. “It was the wine; that is all. A little too much wine.”

Elizabeth spoke up. “But if you are ill, Mr. Collins…”

He opened a baleful eye. “And set my parishioners to talking? A fine thing!”

“You should have thought about thatlast night,” said his dutiful wife. “As it is, you had better chew on willow bark, or swallow raw eggs, or whatever it is gentlemen do when they ingest ‘a little too much wine.’ Because—”

Mr. Collins interrupted. “Have you no pity?” he wailed. “And how do you know about raw eggs? You have never been to university.”

Charlotte shared a look with Elizabeth. Then she glanced at the clock. “You have three hours to pull yourself together, Mr. Collins. At one o’clock, Sir Walter Elliot expects you to conduct a tour of the ornamental gardens.”

“A tour? Me?”

“Yes, a walking tour of the estate. By your express invitation.”

“But—there is nothing to see in the gardens now!” he protested. “The roses are barely in leaf.”

“And it is raining,” supplied Elizabeth.

Mr. Collins could only wail.

“Rain,” said Charlotte, “is what umbrellas are for. You and Sir Walter shall have a lovely walk together in the fresh air—so healthful! And I shall take a nap. I scarcely slept a wink all night.”

“You and me both,” grumbled Mr. Collins.

Charlotte pushed back her chair. “Nonsense. You were snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I’ll just see about your breakfast.”

She went out. “And I thought a wife would be a blessing,” muttered Mr. Collins.

“Oh, but she is,” said Elizabeth cheerfully. “And very much so. As long as one does not become—a trifle disguised.”


Could you have imagined Mr Collins in this state? I am not sure about Sir Elliot, not very nice so far.

Excerpt from Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite 

“Come in,” said Elizabeth, opening the door wider for him to enter. Darcy’s lantern made a cheerful glow in the large, gloomy space.

“Where is Peter?”

Elizabeth pointed to him, curled up on the sacking. Elizabeth’s shawl and coat were covering him, and Darcy could see her shivering.

“Here,” said Darcy, taking off his overcoat and putting it around her shoulders. “I’ve been walking and am quite warm.”

“Thank you,” she said gratefully.

 “How long have you been here?”

“I don’t know, but I think it must be about an hour. The fog came up while we were petting the donkeys, and we walked for what seemed like miles trying to get home. I found myself back here at the mill, so I must have got turned around in my journey. I was too tired to keep going, and thought I would rest here for a while and see if the fog would lift.”

“That was wise.”

“I have been afraid the ladies might try to search for us themselves.”

“I think they were contemplating doing so when I came in. I offered to search for you, saying that I was afraid you would be very uncomfortable, and wish to get home.”

“That was very sensible of you, to allay their fears by referring to my comfort rather than my safety. At least you were not panicking as you were searching.”

“You know nothing about it, Miss Bennet. I cannot remember the last time I was so frightened.”

Elizabeth looked at him in surprise, a question in her eyes.

“I was terrified that something had happened to you. Both,” he added belatedly.

Elizabeth heard the ring of truth in his voice and saw the look in his eyes, and her heart began to thump.


Ooh! Mr Darcy was so worried! However, who is Peter? A cousin? A stable boy?

Excerpt from I Dream of You by Robin Helm

Her eyes filled with tears. “Fitzwilliam, you must stop fussing over me. Please, allow me to enjoy our time together. I have finished my meal, and I promise to eat heartily at midday and dinner. You have no idea how much I have anticipated spending a wonderful day with you. Will you not relent? The smell of the bacon puts me off.”

“I am sorry to make you unhappy. You must know I am complaining because I love you.” He took her hand in his. “I shall try to be more pleasant, or you may regret agreeing to be with me all day.”

“I know you love me, and that is the reason you pay such attention to whatever I do. I have heard other wives complain that their husbands ignore them, and I am very pleased to have married such an attentive man.” She squeezed his hand.

“As you are dressed in your habit, I assume you have plans to ride. May I come with you?” 

His teasing tone fully restored her good humour.

“Of course,” she answered. “How can you teach me the finer points of horsemanship if we do not ride together? I have waited a month for this lesson with you, as Mr. Anderson assures me daily that I have much to learn, and you are the best one to teach me.”

“I may have to raise the man’s pay,” Darcy murmured, standing to hold his hand out to her.

Sims and Jenny awaited them at the front door, coats and hats at the ready. Once they were warmly dressed, he held the door for her, then escorted her to the stables. Mr. Anderson stood at the gate of the horse barn, holding Patience’s reins. Her saddle was slung over the adjoining fence.

Darcy looked at his stablemaster and raised a questioning brow.

“The mistress said you’d teach her to saddle the beast,” said the stablemaster, laughing under his breath. “I tried to tell ‘er ’twas too heavy. Wasted my breath, I did.”

The gentleman rolled his eyes a bit. “And now I shall waste mine.”

Elizabeth cleared her throat, placing her hands on her hips. “I can hear both of you, you know. Are you men saying I am stubborn?”

“Neither of us said that, my love. I think you are rather – ambitious,” he replied with a strained smile. “The saddle is heavy, and you are small. How shall you lift it so high? Also, the mare is too tall for you to throw it over her back. You barely reach my shoulder. You must have noticed that my chin rests easily atop your lovely head.”

“I am aware that it will difficult, husband, but I wish for us to find a way for me to do it. What if I need to saddle Patience, but all you men are busy? What if I am alone? You could be hurt, and I might have to ride to get help for you.”

He gently cupped her face with his hands. “So, you worry for me, too?”

“Of course, I do,” she answered, dropping her hands to her sides. “Especially when you are gone all day. I imagine all sorts of terrible things, for accidents happen quite often on farms. I saw far too much tragedy growing up at Longbourn.”

“Is that why you learned to ride?”

She nodded. “One of the reasons. I also wanted to be able to ride with you, to join you in something you enjoy doing.”

“May I make a suggestion?” he asked softly. “I know this morning is your time, and I agreed to do what you want. If you wish to spend the entire time learning to saddle Patience, we will do so; however, I fear you may be too tired at the end of the exercise to do anything else.”

Elizabeth lifted her eyes up to his. “You know more about this than I do. What do you suggest?”

“It cannot be done this morning, so you must be patient. As soon as is possible, I shall have some steps made for you, tall enough that you can saddle Patience and mount her without assistance. Do you agree?”

She thought for a moment. “I think your plan is a good one. Will you agree to teach me?”

He kissed her forehead, then lowered his hands. “Of course. Even though ’tis my intention that you never be alone with assistance unavailable, I do recognize that sometimes things happen which are out of my control.”

She turned her head to Mr. Anderson, giving him a sweet smile. “Please, saddle Patience. My husband and I are going riding.”


Stubborn and impatient Elizabeth, it is nice and entertaining, at least for me!

How much have you enjoyed all these presents from the authors of A Very Austen Valentine? I hope you are liking it. If you feel like buying the book, here you have some ways of doing it.

Amazon US Amazon UK    Amazon CA   Amazon ES Bookdepository

If you have enjoyed these fabulous excerpts, do not hesitate on visiting the other stops of the blog tour:

6th January Just the Write Escape; Guest Post, Giveaway

7th January Margie’s Must Reads; Review, Giveaway  

8th January So Little Time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway 

9th January Babblings of a Bookworm; Author Interview/Character Interview, Giveaway

10th January Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt

11th January Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway

12th January My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, Giveaway

14th January From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt, Review or Vignette, Giveaway

15th January My life journey; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway

16th January My Vices and Weaknesses; Guest Post or Vignette. Excerpt, Giveaway

18th January Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway

20th January Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway

21st January Austenprose; Author Interview

a) Ten eBooks of A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2; International b) One Paperback Copy of A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2; US only

Click on the link below and follow the instructions to participate. There will be one prize per person.

Rafflecopter of “A Very Austen Valentine: Book 2”

I hope you have enjoyed this post with amazing excerpts and information about a lovely anthology. I dearly thank Laura, Robin, Barbara, Mandy, Susan and Wendi.

“The Avenger” by Don Jacobson – Blog Tour: author interview, excerpt + giveaway

Happy New Year 2019!

What a great way of starting the year I have: introducing The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament by Don Jacobson!

You may be asking yourself, why is it a great way of starting the year? Apart from the obvious part of this being a book from an author that I really enjoy… it is also one of my New Year’s resolutions to read The Bennet Wardrobe series. I have read two of them so far and I want to read them all (even the ones I have already read). Don Jacobson has created an amazing world where Pride and Prejudice‘s characters originally created by Jane Austen have a new level of adventures. Just for you to have an idea, you could read my review of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque.

Today Don is sharing a lot of information about the wardrobe and how it works. Moreover, he is giving us a bonus, we have a big part of Chapter 23 waiting for us to enjoy (just keep reading after the giveaway).

Let me (re)introduce you to the author, Don Jacobson:

Don Jacobson Head Shot
Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years. His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all non-fiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series. Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and“The Maid and The Footman”.
Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear. Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged Scotch whiskey.
His other passion is cycling. Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes, there are hills). He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days). Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

You can follow and contact Don through different ways:

Don Jacobson’s Amazon Author’s Page

Goodreads Author’s Page (with blog)

Author Website (with blog)

Twitter (@AustenesqueAuth)

Blurb

Bennet looked at his wife’s swollen lips, softly bruised from several deeply loving kisses, and her flushed complexion, as alluring when gracing the countenance of a woman of four-and-forty as that of a girl of nine-and-ten. He was one of the lucky few to have fallen in love with the same woman at both ages.

Thomas Bennet, Master of Longbourn, had always counted himself amongst the few educated gentlemen of his acquaintance. But, he had to travel over 120 years into the future to discover how little he knew about the woman sharing his life.

Once again, the amazing Bennet Wardrobe proved to be the schoolmaster. Tom Bennet’s lesson? Mrs. Bennet had been formed especially for him. Yet, t’would be the good lady herself who taught him the power of the Fifth and Sixth Loves: Redemption and Forgiveness.

Fanny Bennet also would uncover deep wells of courage and inspiration as she stood by her man’s side in the bleak years after World War II. Together they would lead their descendants in pursuit of the beast who had wronged every member of the Five Families.
The Bennet Wardrobeseries stands alone
The Avenger takes us on a new journey through The Bennet Wardrobe– an alternate universe rising from Don Jacobson’s vivid imagination and based upon the immortal Pride and Prejudice. The Avenger is another important step leading to the culmination of this enchanting trip: one that has drawn us into its reality to travel side-by-side with richly sketched characters. Each book has left us wanting more.
The Bennet Wardrobe series stands alone as a unique result of originality focused on beloved characters as they move—and grow—through surprising plotlines.
Lory Lilian, author of Rainy Days
Interview: Of things Wardrobe and Avenger

Thank you very much, Don for visiting us today. Readers, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have. I have learnt a lot about the Wardrobe and its functioning and I find very interesting the idea of solipcism.
Why the Wardrobe as a device to create a story arc in the Pride & Prejudice Universe?
Many #Austenesque writers have sought to carry on the ODC story by offering the younger sisters their own storylines. Epilogues usually place Mr. Bennet in the bowels of the Pemberley Library. Mrs. Bennet is rarely mentioned—and is often suddenly dispatched with a bout of apoplexy.
I felt that there needed to be a different possibility… that each of these characters could enjoy fulfilling lives once they had overcome the inner demons holding them back. Could they have done that by staying on the Regency timeline? Perhaps.
However, something tickled my brain—perhaps it was my adolescent fascination with science fiction mixing with my much more adult appreciation of the Canon—that placed the Wardrobe up in front of me. Now my protagonists could be immersed in different timeframes beyond the Regency to learn that which they needed to learn in order to realize their potentials.
I adhere to the idea—solipcism—posited by the great speculative fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein: that through the act of writing fiction, the reality in which that fiction exists is created. Thus, the writings of Jane Austen created a universe in which Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet…or Thomas and Fanny Bennet…are as real as you and I. In addition, I have used my author’s prerogative to make them aware of their context, often through the device of tasking historical characters to play a part in advancing the plot or providing needed exposition.
What is the Wardrobe and how does it work?
The Bennet Wardrobe was created by the master cabinetmaker Grinling Gibbons, one of those historical personages previously mentioned, in the early 1690s for the first Bennet to own Longbourn Estate in Meryton, Mr. Christopher Bennet. This Bennet had earned his fortune with the Honorable East India Company (HEIC).
Gibbons, a friend of Isaac Newton’s and a follow student of the universe, had divined a way to create a mystical transport device/system (similar to C.S. Lewis’ Wardrobe, J.K. Rowling’s Flue Network or Dr. Who’s TARDIS). He took those ideas and incorporated them into the Bennet Wardrobe. The Wardrobe was capable of transporting the user—who must be a Bennet bloodline descendent—to a time in the future where the Wardrobe itself is present. Then the user can return to the exact same moment in the present.
Can the Bennet user go to any time and place in the future they wish?
No. The Wardrobe is driven by an intelligence/understanding that employs what the users need to learn to grow into the best versions of themselves…not what they want…as the determinant for the where/whenfor the solution of the request.
What controls the Wardrobe?
Gibbons discerned a series of “Rules of the Wardrobe” that appeared to be inviolable.
Chief amongst these, after the bloodline requirement, were that travel could only be accomplished to the future. No travel to the past prior to that instant was possible.
The second critical rule was that all trips needed to be round trips. Thus, while a user could travel to the future, the user’s next use of the Wardrobe would result in a return to the where/whenfrom which the user departed.
How does the Wardrobe play a role in the Sixth volume of the series?
In The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament, the Wardrobe is used twice.
Before I move on with this response, I must note that The Wardrobe is a plot device. The Bennet Wardrobe stories and novels are a chronicle of the Bennet Family of Meryton… and how they are afforded the opportunity to redeem themselves, to grow beyond the plot devices established by Miss Austen. Thus, you will not see the Bennets flitting around time and space. T’would be distracting.
However, the first time the Wardrobe is employed…three years after the double wedding…Thomas Bennet is responding to his wife’s frequently voiced desire to see Kitty. The fourth daughter, at least according to Mr. Bennet, had been dispatched to a seminary in Cornwall to make reparations for her role in the Lydia affair in December 1811.
Bennet discovers… and he would not learn this epigram until later as his youngest had yet to utter the words… that The Wardrobe has a particularly nasty sense of humor. He had desired to bring his wife (suitably drugged with laudanum) to a where/when—the future (see both Volumes of The Exile)—for a brief conference with their darling girl. Sadly, the Wardrobe decided to send Thomas Bennet to a time and place…and a situation…where he could lift himself up from being the indolent father.
You have mentioned that Bennets are transported to times where they can ‘become the best versions of themselves.’ What does this mean?
This is my formulation of what I have determined to be The Fifth Love(moving beyond C.S. Lewis’ Four Loves). Exagoras Agapis is the love which redeems. I see the Fifth Love as an active force…unlike The Four Loves which describe states of being…driving persons to rectify their shortcomings so as to become worthy of the object of their affections.
For all my conversations about “secondary characters,” the first example of redemptive love is found in Pride and Prejudice itself. After Hunsford and Darcy’s letter, both Darcy and Elizabeth undergo tectonic changes in their personalities, outlooks, ad behaviors. All of these shifts are examples of Exagoras Agapis, two centuries before I articulated it.
However, t’is Mrs. Bennet… as she herself begins the final assault on the heights of her flighty personality construct in Book Two of The Avenger… who offers an introduction to the love which redeems.
Chapter XV (August 1947)
On the slopes of Oakham Mount
©2018 by Don Jacobson. All rights reserved. Reproduction—either mechanical or electronic—without the written consent of the copyright holder is prohibited.
[Here Mrs. Bennet, while in conversation with her husband, uses self-hypnosis to reach out to her Inner Guide, a being with whom she had not conversed since shortly after her marriage to Bennet in early 1789.]
Her eyes drifted shut as she slid down through the layers of noise that had impeded her mentalitée until she arrived at a space so familiarly quiet that an ineffable sense of peace flooded over her. T’was then that she felt the other…one particularly familiar in her ancient comfort yet having not been called upon for decades.

Is it you? I thought you had abandoned me.

>could not rise past lace, children, confusion, anger, fear

Why now?

The form/not form/color/arc shot throughout the vault, as if rejoicing in its liberation. In its passage, a calming smoothed the matte surface that was the slate of her inner being.

>exagoras agapis[i]

Exagoras agapis? What is that? From where did it come?

>the love that redeems

>given you by the Bennet, grasped by your soul

>the desire to be the better version of self

But why now?

>Founder needs you, your strength. but I cannot…

>too new…draw closer for help

At this, a great china-blue strand whipped across the field. With dread, Fanny observed a night black blade drop and cleave it in twain. One portion shriveled and vanished, the other floated, unanchored.

>take it

As the viable strand passed into her possession, she was surrounded by dunes covered with carpets of roses…of all colors. The sound of the sea swished in her core, and she sensed another approaching, sweeping down from behind the crest of the sandy mounds. Then all sound was cast in the richest of green hues.

>mother Gardiner-Bennet

Do I know you?

>i am of yours…not the Countess, but her guide…here for moment.

Are you suggesting that you are “neither Kitty nor Kate” but are like mine, but hers?

>yes…ask…

Where is my girl?

>…not here…gone out, above plane…ask

What happened to her?

>blackness…around…suddenness…noise…pressure…release

What???

><indistinct> winter rose

The flower? There are no roses that bloom in winter.

>truth…browned canes…waiting pruning…even now…black flower.

>rosa chinensis will triumph…ask

Rosa Chinensis like what I introduced from Mama’s garden into Longbourn’s?

>…Gardiner is mother bush from which all Bennet roses bloom…

>…Founder cannot succeed without the rosa merytonensis…

>…help him, mama…ma…ma………..ma….

A great wind arose and swept the emerald filament off into infinity…and silence resumed.
A tear slid down from beneath a closed lid as Mrs. Bennet realized that, for all the abuse and disquiet she had absorbed over four-and-ten years in the wilderness, she was the missing link.

[i]Redemptive love. See D. Jacobson blog post The Fifth Love: That Which Redeems, Austen Authors.net, March 17, 2018. https://austenauthors.net/the-fifth-love-that-which-redeems/

From Chapter XVI

Squaring her shoulders, she spoke in a low, but firm voice, “You saw me just now. You may have thought I was not attending to that which you were saying. I assure you that I was…on one level.
“However, most of my senses were elsewhere. T’is akin to a trance, I imagine. I fall into it when I clear away all distractions and carefully focus my eyes on something like the leaves above us or the upper corner of a room where two walls and the ceiling meet. That permits me to separate myself from my cares and concerns, something I wish I had done these four-and-ten years past.
“As my concentration deepens, my eyes eventually drift shut, the outside world vanishes, and, with my mind clear, I find myself able to commune with…with…oh, I do not know with what or whom. T’is a force, a power, a being. I have always called her my Guide.
“We have conversations. I ask her questions, and she helps me find true solutions to my problems where, in my consciousness, I would seek to derive emotional comfort from false or partial solutions. These invariably lead to nowhere.
“Consider the ultimate false solution.
“I forced you to bow to my demand that each of our beloved girls come outwhen she reached five-and-ten. I wanted each to steal a march on other young ladies in her cohort; to attract the attention of a marriageable man and secure her…my…future.
“While the first four avoided disaster, we now know what my need to protect the girls from the entail led to with the fifth. Lydia will enjoy none of the perquisites relished by our other girls who waited until after their twentieth year to wed.”
Fanny had once again clambered off the fallen tree trunk, so comfortable for her long-legged husband, but a bit elevated for a woman who barely troubled five feet when measured in her satin dance slippers. She stood facing Bennet and made her case with hard-edged hand gestures and broad arm sweeps as if the bowl of Oakham’s slope rising above was home to benches filled with eager students. From time to time her sky-blue eyes would settle on Tom’s hazel orbs and her voice dropped as she sought to drive home her points.
“False solutions, Tom, are the path to ruin,” she continued. “I know.
“T’is not that I had forgotten about my Guide or what I could accomplish with her aid, but rather I was so disturbed after…after…well…the babe…that I could not have settled myself long enough to seek her out.
“I became more and more like my sister; concerned about fripperies and gossip and not on our family. Would that I could have modeled my comportment after Edward.”

How did you enjoy the interview and the excerpts? I believe Don has treated us with so much information and so much insight in the Bennet Wardrobe that some of you may want to go right now and buy this book (or the whole series):

Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon CA Bookdepository

Blog Tour Schedule

Visit the previous posts to enjoy much more about The Avenger:

28th Dec. 2018 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway

29th Dec. Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Giveaway

30th Dec. My Love for Jane Austen; Guest Post, Giveaway

avenger tour

2nd Jan. 2019 More Agreeably Engaged; Character Interview, Giveaway
3rd Jan. My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, Giveaway

4th Jan. So Little Time…; Guest Post, Giveaway

5th Jan. My life journey; Review, Excerpt Giveaway

8th Jan. Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post, Giveaway

9th Jan. From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt, Giveaway
Time To Give Away

Don is giving away 4 eBooks of The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament

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Click on the link below to participate on this giveaway. This book, like its series, is worth it!

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BONUS

Chapter XXIII
The “New” Carlton Club, St. James Street, London, September 1, 1947
Liebermann’s assertion about Bennet Eyes sent Detachment Anubis scrambling as this was the first real clue they had uncovered besides the murderer’s rank and service branch. A trusted forensic artist had been sent over for an impromptu Deauville vacation—something about which her husband and children were justifiably thrilled. Liebermann sat with her, much to Madame Liebermann’s displeasure, for two whole days until an accurate sketch of the subject was generated.
Now Anubis had the first item that could be tacked upon the wall in a meeting room, given over to their exclusive use, deep beneath Lincoln’s Inn. Over the following years, hundreds of documents, photographs, and other scraps, culled from a thousand different sources, would find their way onto the beige panels in that subterranean keep. More would be posted and then removed. But the pencil sketch with hazel green eyes remained, the paper gradually yellowing with age.
Still, a portrait of this nature did nothing to bring to light the identity of the culprit. Only Liebermann could pick him out of a crowd, but chances were microscopic that the two would ever be in the same place at the same time. Thus, Bennet had resolved to place the Sergeant where he would do the most good.
To that end, Bennet had prevailed upon the Earl to break through the bureaucratic logjam that was modern government to enable Anubis to insert Liebermann into the bowels of the captured SS Archives consolidated in the suburbs of Nuremberg. There, the sergeant would soon be able to flip through hundreds of thousands of documents collected from the remains of Himmler’s headquarters in Berlin and satellite complexes across Hitler’s Festung Europa that had been captured either whole or in part. Much was duplicated and nearly all was on paper. The process of microfilming the trove had barely begun and was anticipated to take years.
However, there was a chance that Liebermann would find his man’s photo attached to a personnel record. However, Bennet assumed that the Sergeant’s patience would fail long before achieving positive results. Yet, try they must for all earlier efforts had generated nothing.
The Earl resolved to pull two specific levers to execute Bennet’s wishes.
The first was to employ Lizzy Schiller’s wartime service with General Clay. He gambled that the High Commissioner of the Military Government (US) would respond to an appeal directly delivered by his former driver to allow a demobilized German subaltern into the closely held archives, usually available only to the Nuremburg Tribunal attorneys. Using Lizzy as his emissary likely would guarantee the High Commissioner would consent to a meeting, however brief. Clay knew Lizzy’s background and connections from his earlier history with the young lady. And, knowing what he did of Matlock’s other role, Clay would instantly accept a verbal message from Mrs. Schiller.
Lizzy’s maid pulled the young matron’s WREN uniform from storage and brushed it, all the while wondering if birthing a young heir for the Schiller line would have rendered the question of the outfit ever fitting again asked and answered. However, Mrs. Schiller’s daily rambles across the hillsides flowing down from the Peak toward her mother’s seat at the rose-colored sandstone mansion in Derbyshire proved to be the deciding factor. With one or two minor adjustments to the rich blue skirt to accommodate Lizzy’s now-womanly hips, the outfit settled onto her frame as if it had not been put aside since May 1945.
Lizzy and Alois boarded an American DC-3 at RAF Biggin Hill, and the aircraft soared toward occupied Germany. Operation Anubis came to life as soon as the transport’s wheels left the ground.
The Earl, however, refused to place all his eggs in the figurative single basket. That was the purpose of this session in the bastion of British Conservative Party politics. This was his second pressure point.
The Earl had been warmly greeted by the Carlton’s gatekeepers. However, they balked at admitting the stranger who accompanied him. While Matlock was long seen as apolitical by the Club’s staff, his more unusual activities had left him with an after-image, an aura that was more soiled than pristine; nothing confirmed, of course. The sense of his being involved in a world that would normally be eschewed by the more proper gentlemen who inhabited the paneled rooms overlooking St. James Street imbued attendants with a sense of caution that precluded admitting any unknown persons accompanying the Earl. The staff, therefore, sought to refuse admittance to Bennet.
M, in his guise as Matlock, had an ace up his sleeve. However, as Thomas Fitzwilliam was an eminently honorable man, he would have found that metaphor to be distasteful. In truth, the capital card had been face-down—and un-played—on the table for more than a century…literally from the first day of the Club in 1832.
“Now, Henderson, I do appreciate that you have taken it upon yourself to uphold the Club’s standards. However, I assure you that Mr. Bennet has the same right to be here as I do,” Matlock vowed.
The employee was unfazed.
“I am sorry, my Lord. I do not recognize the gentleman, and, while you vouch for his bona fides, I am not comfortable in seeing him enter here as he may be tainted with unsavory associations. You understand, sir, that I must protect the reputation of the Club,” the man respectfully replied.
Throughout this, Bennet watched, bemused, his grandson, a peer of the realm, doing battle with a banty rooster decked out in the finest livery and determined to protect his coop.
Shaking his head, the Earl let drop a hammer, one that carried little meaning to the attendant beyond shifting the discussion to a level far above his pay grade, “Please send for Managing Director Matthews. Advise that he needs must bring the Club’s membership roster found in his safe. There is but one.”
Henderson picked up a telephone receiver from behind his podium and briefly spoke into it conveying the Earl’s instructions.
Within five minutes, a compact man bustled down the grand staircase. In his arms he cradled a large volume.
Striding across the lobby, he motioned the Earl and Bennet over to a large table flanking the wall adjacent to the entrance. Taking a moment to arrange the leather-bound book on the slab, he turned to the two men. Brief introductions were made. The Earl then took over the conversation.
“Matthews: do you accept me at my word that the gentleman accompanying me is a certain Mr. Thomas Michael Bennet of Meryton, Hertfordshire?”
The official assured him that he would never presume to question the veracity of any statement made by the Earl of Matlock.
Fitzwilliam continued, “Excellent. Then I repeat my assertion made to Henderson. Mr. Bennet has every right to enter the halls of the Carlton Club either by my side or without me—in fact his right to be here long predates mine.”
A look of outrage at the idea that someone who had not been vetted by the Membership Committee entering the sacred precincts reshaped Matthews features. He chose a milder tack, though, when he demurred by saying, “I have never heard of Mr. Bennet, and I have been associated with the Club since your father’s day.”
The Earl glared and uttered an imprecation under his breath before firmly sticking a pin in the supercilious attitude with which he had been met, “Then look in your roster, man…”
Had the Earl finally slipped a cog, Matthews wondered? As the Carlton’s Managing Director, part of his remit was to know every active member and have at least a passing awareness of those who had stepped away from Westminster’s fray and had permanently retreated to their country homes. To his mind, this gentleman from Hertfordshire—more likely a forger from Prague given the number of words the man had not uttered—resembled nobody Matthews knew. He did bear an uncanny resemblance to Matlock. Perhaps, Matthews mused, the Earl had taken to travelling with a body double: someone destined to take a bullet otherwise intended for him? In any event, this person was not Carlton caliber, of that Matthews was sure.
Matthews opened the great roster with exaggerated movements indicating that he truly believed that he had been dragged from his office on a fool’s errand. He turned toward the back of the book which drew an exasperated sigh from Matlock.
“No, Matthews…the front of the book. Look at the first two pages.”
Matthews shrugged, perhaps suggesting that aristocrats, particularly those of the older families, had been known to become increasingly eccentric in their middle years. He knew that those first two pages contained the names of the Carlton’s founding members who had met at the Thatched Coffee House in the aftermath of the Great Reform Act of 1832. While there were some legacy members who had descended from the Originals, their names were entered later in the book. But, he turned to the front of the ledger and dutifully ran his well-manicured forefinger down the columns of member names and their sponsors.
And, there on the second page, about halfway down he discovered something quite shocking.

Thos. M. Bennet of Longbourn, Meryton, Hertshire

by Lord Matlock, Genl. Sir Richard Fitzwilliam KCB

“And, Matthews, if you check your records, this member, number 93, has regularly paid his dues for 115 years,” the Earl growled, “but, I do not expect you to question the plausibility of such as this. Rather, I insist that you cease any further interference and that you admit Mr. Bennet immediately. He has a meeting with the Member for Woodford.[i]
“You will now forget his antecedents. Know that if he wishes to dine here or entertain, his charges will be handled in the usual manner, unless, of course, you would prefer that he frequent his other club—the Reform.”

***

“Officious bureaucrat,” groused Matlock as he and Bennet left the puzzled manager and amused doorman behind as they climbed the great staircase to the member’s lounge that stretched across the St. James’ front of the structure.
Bennet chuckled and laid a comforting hand on his grandson’s shoulder, “Now, Tom, you will give yourself an apoplexy if you let every little thing set your teeth on edge. I was finding the sparring match between you and Mr. Matthews to be quite amusing.
“He reminded me of my cousin Coll…”
The Earl cut him off snapping, “Nobody mentions that man’s name in the hearing of any of the Five Families.”
Astonished at the reproof, Bennet backtracked, “That I did not know. You will have to explain the reasoning behind this injunction sometime.
“What I had planned to say was that Matthews had many of the more irritating qualities that my…cousin…exhibited minus the oleaginous bowing and scraping for which he was legend.
“Now, before we walk in, please tell me something about the man we are to meet.”
A thumbnail of one of the century’s dominant political figures followed and occupied the remainder of their passage across the vast wood-paneled room, their footsteps muffled by the deep pile of exquisite carpeting. The room itself was nearly deserted as members were still making their way back to the capital with the completion of their vacation journeys and the end of the house party season. Individual members consoled themselves in their loneliness with copies of the day’s broadsheets and early afternoon bracers of whiskey or brandy.
However, one small grouping in the pre-eminent position of the room’s geography—adjacent to the great fireplace, cold now—drew Matlock and Bennet to it. There they saw a roly-poly figure of a man, his bald pate shining in the sunlight streaming through the great windows that occupied one long wall. Occupied with a tall whiskey and soda and an equally imposing cigar upon which he puffed from time-to-time, the gentleman was surrounded by two acolytes who relaxed in the great man’s presence, comfortably laughing as he offered some trenchant commentary. The younger men, solely from their manner, impressed Bennet not as lackeys but rather as lessers in the orbit of one who was the first amongst equals.
Winston Churchill, out of office for two years, was now in his 73rd year and continued as leader of the Conservative Party. His health had recovered from the vicissitudes of his wartime service, and he once again relished the rough and tumble of parliamentary politics. Churchill regularly heaped unique levels of scorn upon the Labour government headed by Clement Atlee, continuing his thirty-year battle against the dangers of Socialism first launched in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Already he had begun to feel the pain of having outlived many of his contemporaries who had already succumbed to upper class lifestyles dominated by cigars, drink, and rich food. Thus, he had necessarily surrounded himself with men twenty to thirty years his junior: good men, but of a different generation without personal memories of late 19th Century global forces that had shaped Churchill’s life and worldview. Two of those, R.A. Butler and Brendan Bracken, sat by him now.[ii]
The former premier espied Matlock and his guest crossing the floor in his direction. He waited until the pair had pulled to a halt in front of his station before he curtly dismissed the other two gentlemen saying, “Rab, Brendan…leave us.”
To their credit, neither man, so familiar each was with Churchill’s behavior, bridled at their man’s brusque manner. They simply rose and, unintroduced, nodded to the Earl and Bennet before departing.
The Leader of the Opposition gazed upwards from his leather wingback. He had known Matlock for decades, both as a young man before his elevation upon his father’s death as well as his wartime M, having swept the previous master of British intelligence out the door with the rest of the appeasers. Churchill’s interest was arrested, though, by the remarkable resemblance between the two men in front of him. Oh, there were differences. Matlock seemed a softer, newer version—Fitzwilliamed, it seemed, on top of another stock—of the other fellow; the latter had apparently sprung from an earlier graft upon their common family tree. However, dismissing superficial differences, the two men were clearly related. The most distinctive variance was to be found in their eyes, similar in their unique cast, something which was held in common by every member of the Five Families, but different in color. The Earl’s were his father’s steel grey. The other gentleman’s eyes were hazel.
Churchill, turning his penetrating gaze directly upon Bennet, drank in a vision of the male version of someone he had last encountered in early 1940. As was frequently his wont when he turned something over in his capacious mind, muttered in sotto voce, “So, you would have me meet a Mr. Bennet of Hertfordshire. Is he the same Bennet written about by Miss Austen, I wonder? I recall talking with Holmes about his belief that Pride and Prejudice was a work of non-fiction published as a romantic novel.
“This fellow does look like a former Miss Bennet who, with her husband the Earl, dined with Clemmie and I at Selkirk when we abandoned Sunny and Consuelo at Blenheim and dashed off to the Peaks in ’07.”[iii]
Then he subsided into himself, content for the moment to await the opening gambit of the Earl of Matlock whom he knew to be as crafty and cagey as any man on the planet. He motioned the two to take up the seats recently emptied by Butler and Bracken. However, M surprised his old employer with something thoroughly unexpected, a remarkable amount of candor.
“Winston…I sent you some information on Mr. Bennet when I requested this meeting. I can tell you little beyond that which you already know about him. I will offer that he has travelled an unimaginable distance to be here today. I trust that you will allow me to leave you in the dark concerning Bennet’s background, although I am certain that you may have already arrived at some conclusions that you may wish to discuss with Lindemann.[iv]
“Beyond some intentional smudging around the edges, I want to apprise you of the true reason we are here today.
“Bennet and I need your help in convincing Atlee to allow one of our people free rein in the SS archives collected at Nuremburg.
“I have asked Bennet’s help in tracking down the SS colonel who orchestrated the death of my mother, my son, his wife, and their two children along with over a dozen other innocents since the end of the war. Mr. Bennet has a peculiar and equally strong interest, akin to my own, in bringing this monster to justice; his obsession is one which would do our friends in Palestine credit.
“We have created a special detachment in MI6—limited to only a few trusted persons, taking a page from Holmes’ pursuit of Moriarty—that will strain neither the resources of the agency nor the black portions of the broader budget. Instead, the Five Families, as this is predominantly their concern, will bear the cost…and I advise you that we are prepared to beggar our treasuries to catch this creature.
“We have already eliminated the actual trigger men in an operation at the end of last month. Now we pursue their leader, a man who has wreaked so much havoc upon our families,” Matlock explained.
Churchill blinked as he digested the aristocrat’s presentation. He already had determined that he would intercede with the Prime Minister, but, in his own way, he needed to glean a nugget of something which the Earl had intentionally left unsaid. He would get the measure of Thomas Bennet and then gracefully subside having had his entertainment.
He tried to pin Bennet using his fiercest glare before launching his assault.
“Now, Mr. Thomas Bennet of Hertfordshire, tell me why you must send someone to crawl through Himmler’s sewer?” Churchill aggressively demanded.
Bennet sat back for a moment. The politician’s manner reminded him of his brother Gardiner when the man had begun a complicated negotiation and was seeking to put his opposite number on his back foot. However, Thomas Bennet, MA, Cambridge, ’82, had not wasted his time in the halls of academe. He knew how to deal with examination boards made up of older men with calcified minds.
Churchill, surely a descendant of Queen Anne’s great captain John Churchill, was not a victim of the worst of all sins, an unexamined mind. He would not be a push-over and would never respect a man who could not join in battle on the same level. An audacious move would be the only path forward.
Bennet, thus, exposed his Queen.
Surprising his host, Bennet turned to the Earl and addressed him as his subordinate, “Tom, I must ask you to rise and stand post over us to ensure that none may overhear. I am invoking our new rule.”
Surprising Churchill, the Earl, long known in some circles to be Britain’s most powerful non-member of Government, simply nodded and rose to his feet in a manner identical to that recently exhibited by two members of the Conservative Shadow Cabinet. He moved off a few paces and faced the room, beginning a metronomic scan that took in every person within fifty feet.
Then Bennet addressed his interrogator, his Hertfordshire “r’s” rolling off the back of his tongue, making his speech sound even more archaic in a London so recently overrun by Americans and their multitude of accents reshaping and coloring their version of the King’s English.
“Mr. Churchill, I think you are taken with the extraordinary circumstances of a commoner such as I who would presume to order about an Earl, let alone the head of the British Secret Services. I assure you that young Tom would normally have bridled at such cavalier treatment by one so beneath his station.
“Matlock has assured me that you are a man used to keeping confidences of the greatest sort. And, thus, I will offer you a taste of Mankind’s greatest secret. Prior to this, the treasure has been revealed to only two others who were not at the very least married into the Bennet Family or one of its branches.
“You may have learned of the abduction of Miss Catherine Bennet who later became Lady Fitzwilliam, the Countess of Matlock. The young Earl, Henry was his name…”
Churchill briefly interrupted, “He was one of my dearest friends as was his wife Lady Kate.”
Bennet continued after a beat, “Ah yes, Lady Kate. In any event, the 11thEarl consulted with Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson as he searched for her. To meet the detective’s unusual demand for complete transparency, this Earl told him the secret.
“The information I share could shake the foundation of nations if transmitted into the wrong hands. However, we have determined that we must eschew the old ways and include those who would help us in our time of need.
“This explains why you see before you a man born in 1760 seeking vengeance for his murdered daughter and asking for your help.”
A waiter was quickly summoned to refresh Churchill’s drink and to offer Bennet and the Earl their choice of libation. Bennet smiled and chose to indulge himself in one of his favorite drinks—vintage port—in this case a generous snifter of 1931 Quinta do Noval Nacional. After all, he assumed that he was a rich as Croesus and would have ample metal to cover his drinks bill. Then two cigars appeared, duplicating the generous tube sported by Churchill.
In a deepening blue haze, the Edwardian politician and the Regency gentleman leaned toward one another and suspended the rest of the world for a while.

[i]Winston S. Churchill (1874-1964) was the member for Woodford from 1945 to his retirement in 1964.
[ii]R.A. “Rab” Butler (1902-1982) served in many high offices in Conservative governments beginning in 1938 and ending in 1965 These included Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary. Brendan Bracken (1901-1958) served in the Cabinet in WWII, was considered one of Churchill’s closest political allies and, if possible, friends, and founded the modern version of The Financial Times.
[iii]Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, 9thDuke of Marlborough, known as “Sunny” and his first wife, Consuelo, formerly Vanderbilt, one of The Buccaneers (see Edith Wharton).
[iv]Churchill’s science advisor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Lindemann,_1st_Viscount_Cherwell