Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Jayne Bamber...Strong Objections to the Lady

Happy 2020 to everyone! I hope all of you had good, memorable holidays, and I wish you a healthy and wonderful new year!

My first guest of 2020 is one I have enjoyed having visit in the past, the lovely Jayne Bamber. Jayne is back sharing an excerpt and giveaway from her new release, Strong Objections to the Lady. You are going to love this excerpt! I certainly did. It has mystery and romance! Delightful! 

Welcome, Jayne!

Hello! It’s great to be back at More Agreeably Engaged! My newest book, Strong Objections to the Lady is out now, and I’m here today to share another excerpt with you. This variation brings us to a unique new setting, when Anne de Bourgh inherits a castle (and Rosings too!) Humphrey Hall is part medieval castle, part modern structure, where Anne and her friends get up to nocturnal hijinks….

Elizabeth trembled with excitement as she pulled back the black curtain in the dark, quiet corridor. Anne slipped through first, then Jane, and lastly Elizabeth, who glanced back to make sure the curtain had fallen back in place, concealing the flickering light that now lit this side of the hall.
Holding her candle aloft, Elizabeth spun about and took in the sight of the corridor beyond them, and tentatively stepped forward. The long hall extended further than the light, fading to black at the end, and for a moment it was eerily silent. “What grim horrors and ghastly delights await us,” Anne said with a morbid laugh, and Elizabeth shivered with anticipation as she moved out in front. Anne and Jane followed her slow lead, moving through the section of the corridor still connected to the Tudor part of the structure. To their left were wide windows facing to the south, though many had been boarded up. The first door on the right was slowly opened, revealing nothing more frightening than a long-neglected library. Much of the furniture was covered with linens, the flickering of their candles casting wide shadows on the walls as they moved into the room. There were deep wooden shelves on three sides of the room, full of books that looked so old they might crumble to dust if they were touched, and on the other side were several elaborately painted panels depicting curious events that none of the ladies could identify in history.
“How very uncanny,” Jane breathed, moving her candle closer to examine the panel depicting a frigate being devoured by a large sea-monster.
Elizabeth grinned over at Anne. “Excellent.”
The three ladies went back into the corridor, exchanging a silent glance of agreement as they pressed on. The next room was entirely empty, though an alarming skittering sound prompted their swift retreat, and Anne pulled the heavy wooden door closed with a grimace. Jane moved deeper into the corridor. “Where shall we look next?” There was a narrow passage to their right, while ahead the corridor seemed to expand outward, the wooden paneling giving way to older stone walls and floors. 
“This corridor must be the one that leads to the north side, where Mrs. Templeton warned us not to go,” Anne said. “I wonder what lurid secrets lay hidden,” she said with a waggle of her eyebrows.
Elizabeth gestured the other direction. “This way must be the old castle – she told us not to go there, either.”
“Oh Lizzy, I am frightened,” Jane whispered.
“Do you wish to turn back?”
Jane giggled, hugging her shawl around her shoulders. “No indeed!”
They chose to explore in the direction of the old castle, and as they moved across the stone floor, the hallway grew wider and the ceiling lower. Elizabeth raised her candle and glanced upward, but as far as she could see, the roof at least remained intact. The stone walls glowed gold in the light of their candles, and in many places the old brick had been patched over, though even the new brickwork looked aged. To their left, the windows grew smaller and farther between. They were cut into the stone, no more than a foot wide, with thin panes of glass that had been added over the rough metal grating, though in some places the glass was broken, and the whooshing of the wind coming through intensified Elizabeth’s sensations as she proceeded anxiously forward.
On the other side of the corridor hung large tapestries, some too ruined to make out, while others remained miraculously intact. It was clear they were all many centuries old, and Elizabeth drew closer to examine one of them. It was a large piece, hand embroidered, depicting a monarch on horseback, surrounded by knights and archers, a great many of them run through with swords. Elizabeth stood in awe of it. There was much detail to take in, for the tapestry seemed to tell a story, and a very horrific one. “But this is magnificent, Anne. Truly, this belongs in a museum!”
Anne glanced back at the tapestry, her eyes wide with fearful mirth, before moving further into the corridor; Jane followed her, their candles illuminating an alcove to one side. Elizabeth trailed behind and joined them in peering at the gleaming suit of armor that had been mounted upright in the alcove, with a sword and a battle axe mounted above it in an ominous ‘X’.
Jane stepped forward to examine it, running her fingers over the white rose emblazoned on the breastplate.  “Colonel Fitzwilliam said that the castle was commissioned by the Lancasters, centuries ago. I wonder that they should display York armor.”
Anne grinned. “Perhaps the souvenir of a defeated enemy?”
“The Earl of Warwick would have passed this way on his way to take London,” Elizabeth said, staring at the relic with wonder.
“My, Lizzy, you are quite the bluestocking,” Anne chided her.
“These artifacts are magnificent,” Jane observed. “I wonder that you do not sell them to a private collector.”
Anne made a thoughtful sound. “What a fine idea, though I am still hoping we might find something truly horrid.”
They pressed on together, past a rounded turret with wider windows, and though Elizabeth peered out of them, she could spy nothing in the pitch-black darkness that enveloped the fortress. The windows had the same thick metal grating here, which Elizabeth understood was meant to allow arrows to be fired from within, while preventing enemies from climbing through. It was a structure designed for siege, and the thought made her shudder. 
Beyond that was the great hall, and the three ladies let out a collective sigh of awe as they moved into the expansive room. Here the roof was much higher, with wooden buttresses angling upward into the darkness. At the far side of the hall, there was a dais with a long wooden table and ornately carved chairs along one side, facing into the room. Two rows of tables filled the other side, with a wide space in between that fed into a large open area near the dais; guests of old might have danced and made merry here, or minstrels and jesters performed for high lords and ladies.
There was a row of long, narrow windows on the back wall, arranged in such a way as might have filled the room with shafts of sunlight during the day, though the cuts in the stone were high above their heads. Below the windows were more tapestries, some drooping and others falling out of place entirely. 
Elizabeth set her candle down on one of the tables and looked about; she smoothed her skirts and gave way to her imagination, wondering what it must have been like to be one of the courtiers who would have visited the castle when it was new, reveling and feasting in the great hall of an imposing medieval fortress. 
A sudden noise cut through the silence – footsteps, and then a great thundering voice, “Boo!”
Anne let out a shriek and Jane jumped with fright; both ladies dropped their candles in surprise, and they were extinguished on the cold stone floor. 
As Elizabeth’s eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, she saw another flickering flame, and heard a familiar guffaw. Colonel Fitzwilliam lifted his candle as he stepped closer. “Did we frighten you?”
“Damn and blast, Richard,” Anne cried. “I hoped you might be a real ghost!”
Richard laughed at her, but approached Jane. “And you, Miss Bennet?”
“I am very relieved that you are not a ghost,” Jane said with a nervous laugh. 
“I am sorry about your candle. You may have mine, if you like. Darcy dropped his, too.” 
Mr. Darcy stepped into the light, looking very much like a figure from a gothic novel as he came out of the shadows. “I did not mean to frighten you – I cannot speak for my cousin.” 
Anne laughed at them. “Yes, I daresay you have come to keep us from mischief, though Richard may rather be seeking it.”
The colonel shrugged. “I suppose I should like to see a ghost as much as anybody, but we really did wish to make sure you were safe.”
“This part of the house is dangerous,” Mr. Darcy said. As if to punctuate his point, there was a tremendous peal of thunder, and a moment later a flash of lightning lit the sky, white light flickering through the windows above before everything fell dark again.
Anne laughed again. “Perfect.”
A moment later came the sweeping sound of heavy rain beginning to fall, and Elizabeth darted to the side as a cold stream of water poured down her sleeve from an unseen leak above. Mr. Darcy was quickly at her side, lifting her candle and pulling her out of the way – she found herself clinging to his arm for longer than necessary in the near-darkness, as the sudden storm closed in around the castle. 
Anne picked her candle up from the floor and relit the flame from Elizabeth’s, while the colonel did likewise for Jane’s candle. “I am not so easily frightened,” Anne said. “I think you would not have come all this way if you did not secretly wish to have a look about yourselves.” 
Elizabeth peered up at him with a teasing smile. “And ghosts,” she whispered. 
Jane and Colonel Fitzwilliam had moved away to examine one of the torn tapestries, which depicted a scene of medieval lords and ladies dancing, and they whispered together for a minute. “Look here,” the colonel said a little louder. “It seems this is just the place to come in search of thrills and amusement.” He caught Jane by the hand and twirled her under his arm, and then did the same with Anne, who spun merrily, her skirts whooshing about her. She laughed and spun again, spinning Jane with her, and the two of them reached out for Elizabeth, who gave in and danced about with them, laughing at the sheer madness of it all.
Anne twirled Elizabeth under her arm with a playful giggle, and then Jane again, as the colonel leaned back against the wall and regarded them with amusement. Anne gave Elizabeth another dizzying spin, and this one sent her reeling, arms outstretched, directly into Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth began to instinctively recoil but he caught her hand in his and drew her nearer, before making a little bow. A smile played across his lips in the candlelight, and his dark eyes drank her in. He slowly lifted her hand, their arms forming a graceful arc as he spun her, first slowly, and then faster a second time, the two of them moving in a smooth circle together. He stepped closer, and the candle flickered – Elizabeth thought he might have blown it out himself, and then he slowly lifted her hand to his lips and placed a gentle kiss there. Elizabeth froze in place as she looked up at him, dizziness overtaking her again. To her mortification, the sensation was far from unpleasant, and she studied the curve of his lips in the darkness as he stared back down at her. 
Behind them, Jane and Anne were still laughing and dancing together as the colonel looked on and teased them, but for an instant Elizabeth could think of nothing but the nearness of Mr. Darcy. Some strange longing had pushed her onto the tips of her toes, and she had just raised her fingers to brush the lapels of his coat, her lips pursing, when another great burst of thunder rolled across the sky. The very room around them seemed to rattle and shake, and bits of stone clattered down from above this time. 
Mr. Darcy drew a protective arm around Elizabeth, who was too caught up in the air of mystery about them to protest. She leaned into the warmth of him, faintly humming. He let out a ragged breath. “We had better get you ladies back to your rooms before any ill befalls us here,” he said. 
Elizabeth trembled and nodded her agreement, almost disappointed when he released her. Perhaps he was right, for she began to feel she might be in some danger after all.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! I will be sharing more excerpts throughout my blog tour, and there is an e-book giveaway. You can enter by clicking here. You can also follow me on Facebook and my new blog [Link to blog] for more updates!


Jayne, I don't know about the readers, but I certainly enjoyed the excerpt. Wow! I felt I was right there with Jane, Anne, and Elizabeth! The sparks between Darcy and Lizzy were magnificent! This is definitely on my TBR list! Thanks so much for stopping by this morning and sharing with us. From looking at Amazon, it seems your book is doing great! Congratulations! I wish you the best!

Now for the giveaway, it is for an eBook of Strong Objections to the Lady. There is a Rafflecopter as Jayne already mentioned. Be sure to click on the link above or you may click here. Good luck to all and thanks for stopping by! Thank you, Jayne for visiting my blog and for including my readers in your giveaway! 

If you missed any stops on the blog tour, you still can stop by.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Clergyman's Wife...Molly Greeley

It is a pleasure to have a first time guest on my blog today. Molly Greeley is the author of The Clergyman's Wife, a story about Charlotte Lucas Collins. Have you been seeing posts and excerpts at other blogs? I have and think the book sounds good.

Molly visits and shares a moment in her real life.

Thanks for stopping by, Molly. I admire you for how you let Mama take over. I do not know how you write at all with small children.

            I am writing this sitting at the dining room table. Just a few yards away my two oldest kids, aged seven and four, are watching a movie in the living room. Even though the volume is down relatively low, the superhero sound effects keep distracting me; even more distracting is my son, who keeps padding over to me every few minutes and requesting milk, or a snack, or to show me the kinetic sand that somehow ended up between his toes. The baby is asleep upstairs, but for how much longer?
            Today is a snow daythe first of many to come, no doubt, here in icy, bitter northern Michigan. My daughter is in second grade full-time, and my son has half-day preschool. I planned to write this morning while my younger son napped before picking my older son up a little before noon, but instead everyone is home and Im trying to be both mother and writer at once. And, as always seems to happen when I try to merge these two parts of my life, Im failing at both. Every interruption jerks my focus away from the page, and after each I have to drag my  thoughts back to where they were, a process that feels rather like slogging through the knee-deep snow I can see outside. Irritation prickles, followed by a deluge of guiltguilt for being irritated, guilt for wanting a room of my own (or at least a seat by myself at a coffee shop), guilt for the mindlessness of the film Im letting my kids watch when I feel I should be reading to them, or building block forts, or chasing them through the high-piled snow.
            The mental energy that goes into parenting somehow seems to leave little room for the mental energy I need to write. When my daughter was born, I stayed home with her and stopped writing entirely for months. From the time I was very young, writing was a compulsion I had to obey, but when I became a mother my brain became a tired mush of postpartum hormones and the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and the part that once swirled with stories grew stagnant. A couple of times in those early days I tried to shut myself and my computer away upstairs for half an hour or so while my husband and daughter stayed downstairs; but even through the two floors between us I could hear her when she criedmy laboriously-gathered thoughts scattering, my milk letting down.
            Finally, when she was six or seven months-old, I ventured, tentatively, back out into the world on my own. The fourth trimester had extended longer than I expectedshe cried with near-constancy, her needs utterly overwhelming my ownbut now, at last, I could feel myself emerging from the cocoon of early motherhood, happy to find my self still existed outside of it. I started taking myself off to a coffee shop on Sundays, getting there when they opened and staying progressively later as the months passed, spending a small fortune that we didnt have on coffee and pastries so as not to be a freeloader. Sunday has been my day now for six-and-a-half years, through a major move from one part of the country to another (trading one cozy coffee shop for a new one) and the births of my two sons: restoring, necessary time that is also liberating. I am an adult among other adults, a person in my own right and not just Mama. I come home restored, the pressure of the stories in my head eased by their transference to the page.
            Lately, though, Ive needed extra time. My first book, The Clergymans Wife, created over a year of Sunday writing sprints, is out this year, and Im finishing work on another. Suddenly, writing is no longer something I do only for myself, and latelylike todayIve found myself trying to squeeze writing time into my daily routine when my older kids are at school and my youngest is asleep. Its not ideal, thoughI need sustained chunks of time when Im working on a story. My brain feels like its comprised of multiple layers, and the mothering layer needs to be sloughed off before I can really get into the rhythm of my work.
            Although I suppose sloughed offisnt quite right, really, for the part of me that identifies as Mama is never entirely gone, no matter how physically far from my children I am. Mama shows up in my stories; even when they are not explicitly about motherhood, Mama thinks about her characters as they relate to their children, their parents, how one generation influences the next and the next and the next. Mama wondered what sort of father Pride and Prejudices Mr. Collins would be; whether, and how much, the absurdly self-centered Lady Catherine de Bourgh might actually worry about her sickly daughter. Mama is the part of me who lost five babies in the early months of pregnancy, and this has colored my stories, as well.
            And, of course, Mama understands the impossible tension of trying to be fully present for my children and for my stories. My son came up to me again just now, put his head on my lap, clutched at my leg with both hands. The movie is almost over. The idea I was chasing vanished, like a candle flame snuffed out.
            I want you,he said. 
            I want you, too.Absolute truth, and yet, at this exact moment between sentences, also exactly the opposite.
            But when I said it, he smiled.
            Time to stop writing, just for now; time to let Mama take over again. I tell myselfeven though, sometimes, its not entirely truethat the story will still be there tomorrow.

For everyone who loved Pride and Prejudice—and legions of historical fiction lovers—an inspired debut novel set in Austen’s world.

Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners, and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Intelligent, pragmatic, and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life, an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr. Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine.

In Mr. Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard, and seen. For the first time in her life, Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart—and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted, and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.


Molly Greeley earned her bachelor’s degree in English, with a creative writing emphasis, from Michigan State University, where she was the recipient of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts for Creative Writing. Her short stories and essays have been published in Cicada, Carve, and Literary Mama.  She works as on social media for a local business, is married and the mother of three children but her Sunday afternoons are devoted to weaving stories into books.

Thanks for visiting my blog, Molly. I wish you the best with your new book. It sounds lovely. I have always wished that Charlotte could have had love in her life. Maybe you will make my wishes come true for Charlotte.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Falling for Mr. Thornton...Tales of North & South

This has been such a highly anticipated day for twelve authors and several others of us. The anthology, Falling for Mr. Thornton: Tales of North & South was planned to launch today, November 14th! Guess what! Today is also the day that the miniseries, North & South with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe first aired on BBC One in 2004. Isn't that neat! I think so! What a perfect day to release the anthology!

To get this launch party started, I will post the blurb for the book first; then we will hear from Trudy Brasure and Nicole Clarkston. They will tell us how the anthology came into being. Next on the queue, the authors will be introduced and each will share how they first discovered John Thornton and Margaret Hale. Have you discovered them yet? If so, in the comments, tell us how you discovered them. I will, if you will! :) 

Thanks for stopping by today. Let's have a great time and show these ladies and all their hard work some love!

Book Blurb:

Amidst the turbulent backdrop of a manufacturing town in the grips of the Industrial Revolution, Elizabeth Gaskell penned the timeless passion of Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale. A mixing of contemporary and Victorian, this short story anthology by twelve beloved authors considers familiar scenes from new points of view or re-imagined entirely. Capturing all the poignancy, heartbreak, and romance of the original tale, Falling for Mr. Thornton is a collection you will treasure again and again.

Stories by: Trudy Brasure * Nicole Clarkston * Julia Daniels * Rose Fairbanks * Don Jacobson * Evy Journey * Nancy Klein * M. Liza Marte * Elaine Owen * Damaris Osborne * Melanie Stanford ** Foreword by Mimi Matthews **

Trudy and Nicole, I'm turning this over to you! 

Q: How did this project all start?

Trudy Brasure: The initial motive was a bit personal. It had been over five years since my last N&S variation was published and I really wanted to publish something before another year had passed. My current work in progress has been long in coming, so I decided that if I started a short story collection with other authors, I could reach my goal of publishing within a year.

But besides all that, it's one of my great joys to spread and encourage the love North and South in any way. I was particularly eager to entice some Austen writers to join my venture! I knew there were a few of them who were Thornton fans as well. And since I already knew most of the other North and South authors out there, I was fairly confident there would be interest in creating a North and South anthology.

Not wanting to do this all on my own, I asked Nicole if she would be my partner in this project. Nicole has the unique distinction of being the only author to have successfully straddled both the Austen and Gaskell domains—she has published multiple novels in each world.  And I needed someone who had current experience in the ever-changing publishing scene. 

 Q: So what was your response to Trudy’s idea, Nicole?

Nicole Clarkston: I didn’t have to think about it for even a second. I loved the idea! How could I not? I had been toying with the notion of doing a North and South story collection, but the idea was bigger than I wanted to tackle on my own. 

Teaming up with Trudy was a dream! Hers were the first North and South variations I found when I first fell in love with John Thornton, and she has been a dear friend for a few years now. We have had so many fun chats about our favorite top-hat-wearing gentleman! She is truly knowledgeable about the era and the Victorian authors, and she knows these characters like they are her best friends. 

I will be honest: some readers and authors are hesitant to give North and South variations a try. I believe part of that is because it is a more sombre original work, being set in an industrial Victorian city rather than a cheerful countryside of a (slightly) more carefree era. However, that only highlights how rich and admirable the story and the characters truly are. In order to draw out the depth and feeling of the story, an author needs to understand the very Victorian challenges, attitudes, morals, and faith that these characters must wrestle with. Every author in this collection has invested a lot of time and heart to earnestly search out the nuggets of inspiration and breathe life into the characters.

Trudy Brasure: Yes, and we wanted to let each author's unique perspective and talents showcase the varied aspects of Gaskell's story. We had a very open guideline for contributing. We wanted a variety of tales: from Victorian to modern, time mix-ups, humorous and intently serious.

I knew I wanted to ask all the previously published N&S authors if they would like to contribute a story for the project. And I knew a couple of Austen writers who I thought would love to try a short story as their first dabble in Milton. It wasn't hard to find enthusiastic authors, was it, Nicole?

Nicole Clarkston: No, the problem was actually that some had to bow out due to scheduling 
conflicts after joyfully embracing the idea. Everyone we talked to was excited about the project and it was truly a delight to see it come together. Most of us didn’t know each other well, but everyone was such a pleasure to work with! These are some remarkable authors and human beings, and the early stage of writing and taking over plot lines was a blast. 

When the stories started rolling in, we knew we had a special collection. Each author truly went for the heart of the story, and each in their own unique style. The blending of voices and imaginations beautifully captures just why North and South resonates with so many readers: because it is a story that transcends circumstances and styles and speaks to the root of human relationships. 

Speaking of what is so special about North and South, we asked each of our authors how they first discovered John Thornton and Margaret Hale. 

Nancy Klein I read "North and South" in graduate school in 1985. It was part of my Victorian Novel class and loved it. Fast forward to 2005 and I'm strolling around Best Buys on Christmas Eve, looking for a DVD to play on the player my brother and sister are buying for me in another part of the store. Bingo--there's "North and South." I watched it in one sitting on December 26, and there was no going back after that. The music, the smouldering, the scene at the train station--wait, that didn't happen in the book. Who cares? I'm in love.

Nicole Clarkston I was already in love with "Pride and Prejudice" and I was looking for something I could love just as much. I happened to turn on the miniseries during a home renovation project, when I needed something to keep me awake while I worked through the night. My expectations were not very high. However, by the time The Kiss happened, I was a drooling, wide-eyed, sleep-deprived John Thornton devotee. I drove all the way across Portland the next day after calling all the local book retailers to see who had it on the shelf (because 2 day shipping was way too long to wait). I loved the book even more! After three years had gone by with no sign of my obsession abating, I decided I had to put pen to paper, and here we are.

Kate Forrester A confession, my love of North and South came from the BBC adaptation staring Danielle Denby Ash and Richard Armitage and not Mrs Gaskells novel, my love of that came later. Christmas 2007 my daughter received North and South as a gift. We didn’t watch it until the new year - the first Sunday in January to be precise. From the opening scene I was hooked. I loved the train, and Margaret’s reflection. I adored the minor characters Mr Hale, Bessie Higgins, Nicholas Higgins, the fabulous Fanny Thornton, and the indomitable Hannah Thornton. Then there was John Thornton, Master of Marlborough Mill – the man who didn’t know how to dabble but had a foolish passion for a woman who didn’t look back but who did eventually come home with him after the most romantic kiss ever seen in a BBC Sunday drama. Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Thornton was perfection. Sunday lunch was forgotten as we binged watched all four episodes – the first of many viewings.

Rose Fairbanks I fell in love with North and South after watching the BBC production with Richard Armitage. I was so good back then and only watched one episode a night even though I was watching on Netflix. By episode two, Mr. Thornton was haunting my dreams. I watched several more times back to back and it reignited my love for Victorian literature. I finally realized it was based on a book and decided to read it. I actually didn’t think the book could be even better than the production (I mean, that kiss!), but I was so pleasantly surprised.

Damaris Osborne My husband was on deployment abroad, and my daughter and I sat down to watch another Sunday evening BBC four parter from 19thC literature. Austen was exhausted, Dickens was getting dreary. North & South sounded potentially a bit ’trouble at t’mill’ grim, but the quality of the production both in front of and behind the camera made it a ‘we must see next episode’ from the first. However, it was the ‘look back at me’ scene that left me speechless. Good looking chaps in their thirties are not rare on screen, but one who could draw one into the anguish of a soul through eyes alone was amazing. By the end (despite shouting at the screen that anyone canoodling on a station platform would have caused public outrage) I was eager to see how much of the tale was dramatic television licence and how much was the brilliance of Gaskell. It turned out that the book was different, but had its own glittering high points, and showed just how underrated Mrs Gaskell has been for far too long. My parody is of the television series, since parodying Mrs Gaskell would be an insult.

Don Jacobson The honest truth is that I went backwards into "North and South" after reading Nicole Clarkston's variations. Up to the point, I had been exclusively reading Pride and Prejudice variations. When Nicole asked me to beta-read "Northern Rain" (we had been sharing each other's work for a year by that point) I was hooked. Then I resolved to go back and read the original source story. WOW again. Buried inside of the traditional romance was a potent social commentary about rising by the dint of one's talents while also being held back by those who rose before you were able to escape your station.

Elaine Owen I got into North and South around 2015, after seeing so many people who were usually calm and sensible completely gush about something that happened on a train platform! I finally gave into curiosity and watched the movie, and just that fast, I was one of those people whimpering over a solitary yellow rose. Then I read the book and fell in love once more.

Evy Journey I actually didn’t know about Gaskell’s novel until I saw the miniseries which I found surfing Netflix for something to watch. Like many viewers, I loved it. When that happens I very often read the book it’s based on. As it also sometimes happens when a book or film touches me, I continue the story in my mind.

Trudy Brasure I stumbled upon the BBC’s adaptation of North and South in October 2009 when my friend and I searched for something to watch on Netflix. I didn’t know it then, but it was a pivotal event for me. I’d never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell before. Richard’s performance of the lonely and misunderstood John Thornton was utterly riveting. I don’t think I’d ever seen a romantic hero as vulnerable as Thornton was during that profoundly moving scene with his mother the night before he proposed. I immediately searched for information on Richard Armitage and Gaskell’s story afterward and found a community of fans at C19 that encouraged and nourished my fascination with North and South. I ordered the book and flew through it—it’s now one of my prized possessions, with all my markings over the years on its pages. Consumed with re-imagining that painful good-bye scene from the mini-series, I began writing the opening scenes of A Heart for Milton early in 2010.

Melanie Stanford My mom has always loved classic literature and the movies and mini-series that go along with it. One day when I was visiting, she begged me to watch one of her favourites- Cranford. I enjoyed the movie and decided that next time I visited, I'd watch another Gaskell with her. My choice- Wives & Daughters, because the third movie in the boxed set, North & South, looked blah to me. I wanted to watch a movie about families and flirtations, not one about a mill owner during the industrial revolution. Well. I did eventually give North & South a try and WOW. After just one watch, North & South became one of my all-time favourite movies and Richard Armitage a beloved actor. It didn't take long (or too many re-watches) for me to read the book and then write my own modern retelling. Two years later and I still love North & South and I'm so happy I got this chance to dive into the world Gaskell created and write another retelling. 

M. Liza Marte In all honesty, I found Elizabeth Gaskell and her story, North & South by way of John Jakes. I was a huge fan of the TV mini-series, North and South based on John Jakes novels. When I heard there was a BBC adaptation I thought, “How can they remake a British version of the Civil War story?” It made no sense to me. A friend, who was a great admirer of the lead actor in the BBC version told me it was a different story, with many similarities to “Pride & Prejudice,” my favorite book. With that inducement I watched and fell in love with the story, the characters, Milton, everything!

Blog Tour Schedule:
14/11/2019 More Agreeably Engaged; Blog Tour Launch & Giveaway
19/11/2019 My Jane Austen Book Club ; Author Interview & Giveaway
21/11/2019 From Pemberley to Milton; Review & Giveaway
25/11/2019 So Little Time…; Guest Post & Giveaway
05/12/2019 My Vices and Weaknesses; Review & Giveaway
10/12/2019 Diary of an Eccentric; Guest Post & Giveaway
16/12/2019 Babblings of a Bookworm; Review & Giveaway
20/12/2019 Austenesque Reviews; Guest Post & Giveaway

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It is so exciting to have this many authors together and writing about John Thornton and Margaret Hale. I've been anxious to have this in my hands and read it anytime I have a few minutes. I will be able to get my North & South fix and enjoy a story or two. I know I will be reading Falling for Mr. Thornton over and over. 
For those of you that love Pride & Prejudice with Darcy and Elizabeth, I hope you will give this anthology about the beloved characters of North & South a chance. You may just fall in love with them too. Who knows, you may then move on to the original book by Elizabeth Gaskell. You may even want to watch the miniseries with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, if you have not already done so. 

Congratulations to each of the twelve authors. You have an awesome anthology that will introduce new readers to the wonderful world of Milton, John Thornton, Margaret Hale, and even Nicholas Higgins! 

If you would like to read the full blurb for each of the twelve stories and see what type of story it is, please click here. It will pull up a pdf document for you to read. It also includes the author bio and contact information for each author. 

Thank you, Rita Deodato, for organizing the blog tour and allowing me to launch it!

Take a look at all those books above which are the main giveaway for this blog tour. That is amazing! Good luck to everyone!

The authors will offer one big prize to one reader following the entire blog tour. This prize will contain 13 different ebooks, once copy of Falling For Mr. Thornton and one other ebook from each author.
Additionally, the authors would also like to offer 2 bookmarks of Falling for Mr. Thornton at each blog. Both giveaways are international. 

Leave a comment below to be entered for the bookmarks. Use the Rafflecopter to enter the grand prize of thirteen eBooks. Good luck to all of you.


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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Covenant of Marriage...C. P. Odom

My special guest is C. P. Odom. His newest release, A Covenant of Marriage has been the #1 New Release for several days and is still holding that place of honor this morning. Congratulations, Colin!

Have any of you read the book yet? I have, and I really enjoyed it. I love books where Darcy and Elizabeth are either forced to marry or have an arranged marriage. Colin explains this more in our chat below. He has been generous enough to discuss his book with me, and he has answered some of my questions. Before we get to the interview, let's take a look at the blurb.


A Covenant of Marriage—legally binding, even for an unwilling bride!

Defined as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or compact, a covenant is commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. But it can also apply to a marriage as Elizabeth Bennet learns when her father binds her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Against her protests that she cannot be bound against her will, the lady is informed that she lives under her father’s roof and, consequently, is under his control; she is a mere pawn in the proceedings.

With such an inauspicious beginning, how can two people so joined ever make a life together?

Janet:   Today I’m interviewing C. P. (Colin) Odom, the author of his new Pride and Prejudice variation, A Covenant of Marriage. A covenant is a contract, isn’t it?
C. P. Odom:    That’s pretty close, Janet. The dictionary defines a compact as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. In my novel, it applies to the marriage agreements that Fitzwilliam Darcy takes to Elizabeth’s father when he seeks to marry her.
Janet:   So this is a forced marriage story, right? Those are among my favorite Pride and Prejudice variations.
C. P. Odom:    I think of it as an arranged marriage story, and while forced marriage and arranged marriage stories are close, I consider there to be a distinction between the two. In a forced marriage, the parties involved must marry for one of several reasons, usually due to actual or perceived transgressions. These may range from scandal or rumors to breaches of propriety ranging from an incautious embrace to actually being discovered in bed together. So, while the couple may enter into a lifetime union somewhat unwillingly, they accept the necessity of that marriage.
Arranged marriages, however, were somewhat different—marriages arranged between the families involved irrespective of the wishes of the future bride and groom. They had been de rigueur among the nobility for centuries in order to protect bloodlines of, especially, kings and queens. I read of one case during medieval times in which the newly married presumptive heir to the throne and his virginal bride were conducted to their bedchamber and observed by the court while they got into bed. The drapes were then pulled around the bed, providing the privacy of not being seen, but the court could still hear as they sat around and listened as the marriage was consummated. After that, the bed clothing was examined for blood, verifying a virginal female consummation! Yuck!
Janet:   I agree! That sounds really weird!
C. P. Odom:    I certainly thought so when I read it. I can’t remember if this continued until the bride became pregnant, but the object was to make sure the first-born was actually conceived by the newlyweds, so it might have.
Janet:   And it doesn’t sound romantic at all!
C. P. Odom:    I agree again. In such arranged marriages, brides and grooms sometimes became “engaged” soon after birth, along with extensive and formalistic documents—compacts, if you will—outlining the parameters of their future marriage. The bride and groom might not even meet until just before the wedding, with all kinds of possible repercussions. It’s no wonder that, once the couple had produced “an heir and a spare,” they often found lovers outside the marital bonds to satisfy their needs. It must be said that this was significantly more hazardous for the wives than for the husbands, since members of the nobility even went so far as to recognized an illegitimate son or daughter and raise them in their own household. But woe unto the wife who became pregnant without having been visited by her husband sometime before her condition became obvious.
Janet:   It doesn’t sound anything like what Jane Austen wrote about how men and women met and interacted and decided to marry.
C. P. Odom:    By the time of the Regency, arranged marriages had gone out of fashion among the gentry and, of course, had hardly ever occurred among the lower classes. The Royals still used the arrangement for the highest levels, but most matches among the gentry and most of the aristocracy were now considered to be “love matches.” I put quotation marks around that because the Regency definition of a “love match” differed greatly from what we are used to in modern times since the pool of potential spouses was much smaller. The upper classes had to pick from among the upper class and aristocrats married other aristocrats. Na├»ve and inexperienced young ladies from the gentry and aristocracy often fancied themselves in love with gentlemen they hardly knew, and gentlemen often fixed on ladies based on their appearance only. Since couples were strictly chaperoned, there was seldom an opportunity for any intimacies, so many marriages resulted from the couples being more “In Lust” than “In Love.”
Janet:   How did you come up with the central themes for your novel?
C. P. Odom:    I certainly didn’t start by saying, “I want to write a forced or arranged marriage story.” As in the case of most of my novels so far, I was thinking over which of the many coincidences in Pride and Prejudice might lend themselves to taking the storyline in a different direction. One of the most unlikely of coincidences was the manner in which Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy met at Pemberley. It was critical to how the plot developed, since it informed Elizabeth that Darcy might still be fond of her, informed Darcy that she did not look on him with the same disdain as at Hunsford, and it allowed her to be informed of Lydia’s catastrophic elopement in time for Darcy to rectify the situation and make a happy ending possible for both Jane and Elizabeth. But even the most minor of variations would have precluded that fortuitous encounter—it really was the most unbelievable of coincidences.
So I decided to prevent that meeting by having the Gardiner party journey to the Lake District instead of Derbyshire, and one catastrophe after another devastated the Bennet family. One thing led to another as I developed my plotline, so that I was left trying to find a way to bring Darcy and Elizabeth together after several years of angst and suffering. I considered simply having Darcy slice the Gordian Knot by coming to Longbourn and seeking to court Elizabeth, but that simply didn’t ring true to me. His confidence was too devastated by his rejection, and such a course of action didn’t fit his character as I conceived it. Also, it seemed too modern to me.
And even when I came up with the arranged marriage idea, I couldn’t see that Darcy would take care of everything on his own and go to Elizabeth’s father with a “compact of marriage.” So I enlisted the help of two of my favorite characters—Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle—to assist him.
Janet:   Okay. So now you’ve resolved matters between the central couple. But what about Elizabeth’s sister? Did Bingley wait for years also before he finally got together with Jane after Elizabeth and Darcy settled their issues?
C. P. Odom:    Ah, you’re trolling for spoilers now, aren’t you? Well, that topic is one I discuss in another stop on this blog tour. For now, I’ll only say that the two of them don’t spend their lives alone and unmarried.
Janet:   You’re not being very cooperative, Colin! Very well, then. Do you have any other Austenesque projects on the back burner?
C. P. Odom:    For one thing, I’m working on re-writing a story I did as fanfiction called "Determination." One of the main characters in that story is Colonel Fitzwilliam, and I’m about 70% complete with it. One of the interesting things about Fitzwilliam is that he makes a single appearance at Hunsford and then disappears in Pride and Prejudice. It leaves him almost completely undefined—a blank slate for an author, you might say. I’ve worked him into other novels, but he’s central to "Determination."
Janet:   That really sounds interesting. When do you think you’ll finish?
C. P. Odom:    I really ought to have finished before now! But I’ve been kind of busy, both with writing and with all the minutia of real life. My older daughter graduated from college a few years ago with an engineering degree, and my younger daughter is in college now pursuing a nursing degree. But I’ve also been working with Meryton Press to turn my previously published novels into audiobooks.
Janet:   How’s that going?
C. P. Odom:    One audiobook, Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets, is finished and is available on Audible.com. Another one, my first novel, A Most Civil Proposal, has been narrated and submitted to Audible. It takes a while for Audible to check it over and make it available. A third audiobook, Consequences, is partway through being narrated. And my fourth novel, Perilous Siege, will start narration after the first of the year. Each one takes a lot of my time in reviewing the narration and checking it against the written word.
Janet:   You’ve been a busy little beaver, Colin! Anything else?
C. P. Odom:    This is really tentative, but I recently did a vignette for Meryton Press titled “The Haunting of Longbourn” as part of the lead-in to Halloween. A number of people who commented on it asked whether I might extend it and add more detail (there was a limit of 3,000 words on the vignettes, which is really short!). While I could never expand such a vignette into anything like a novel, I thought it might fit as a novella. So, when I finish with other stuff in my schedule, I’m thinking about generating some undeveloped plots into short stories or novellas. But it’s really tenuous at this time, other than the “Haunting” vignette.
Janet:   Well, thanks for stopping by, Colin. And good luck with A Covenant of Marriage.
C. P. Odom:    Thanks for hosting me, Janet. And thanks for your work in managing your More Agreeably Engaged blog.

Author Bio:

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 four novels published:  A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019). Two of my books are now audiobooks, A Most Civil Proposal and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets.
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).

Contact Info:

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