Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Miss Price's Decision...Eliza Shearer


My guest today is the delightful Eliza Shearer. She first visited my blog on September 27, 2017, when she released Miss Darcy's Beaux. Today she is sharing an excerpt from her newest book, Miss Price's Decision. I'm already curious as to what the looming decision might be. Are you? Have any of you read the book yet? If so, share your thoughts with us in the comments. There is a giveaway too!

Eliza, I'm so glad to have you here. I'll now turn this over to you.

I am delighted to be here today to present to you Miss Price’s Decision, a Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice variation. The protagonist is Susan Price, Fanny’s spirited  younger sister, who replaced her as Lady Bertram’s companion when she married Edmund.

In the excerpt below, Susan is staying at Mr and Mrs Yates’ London home. They are having a party, but Susan is unable to attend, because she has to keep unwell Lady Bertram company. However, late at night, she cannot resist the temptation to sneak downstairs to observe what is happening...

I hope you enjoy the excerpt, which features the presence of a More Agreeably Engaged favourite: the one and only Mr Darcy! Do not forget to comment below if you want to be entered in the giveaway, and if you do so, best of luck!

Miss Price’s Decision, Chapter 5 (excerpt)

There was music filtering through the carpet-covered floor boards and I could hear lively steps. Dancing! Last time I had danced it had been at Fanny’s wedding. I could not resist the thought of watching the gentlemen and ladies downstairs engage in a minuet, so went towards the door, opened it quietly and slid down the stairs, careful not to make any noise.
The ground and first floors of the house were awash with light. The servants had done an excellent job at filling the space with wax candles and keeping them topped up, and their glow was enhanced by the large mirrors strategically placed along the corridors. Keeping close to the wall, I tiptoed towards the drawing room double doors. I could hear music and laughter coming from the other side. My heart was beating as loud as a cannon, but I could not repress my curiosity. Bending my knees, I peeked through the keyhole.
The front room had been transformed into an impromptu ballroom. The furniture had been pushed to the sides or removed altogether, and ladies of a certain age sat on the chairs and sofas placed around the room. In the middle of the dance floor there were five couples dancing with gracious, flowing movements. Julia was one of them, although I could not see Mr Yates.
There were many more ladies than gentlemen in the room, so I wondered if the parlour had been turned into a card room for the evening. As if on cue, a group of men appeared from nowhere and came towards the double doors. As quickly as I could, I stood up and rushed down the passage towards the back of the house, away from the light and noise. They had not seen me, but to my despair, they were headed in my direction.
I reached the end of the corridor and I looked around, gasping. There were two doors, and I tried the first one; it was locked. I wrapped my hand around the handle of the second door. To my immense relief, it opened, and I entered a small room that smelt of books, tobacco and furniture wax. I closed the door behind me as carefully as my runaway heart would allow. Inside, there was only darkness.
However, the footsteps were not receding. I realised with sheer terror that the men were headed for the room I was hiding in. As the voices reached the door, I ran towards the wall opposite, hoping to find a window. My fingers touched thick damask curtains, and without a second thought, I hid behind them.
The door opened, and several male voices entered what I could only assume was Mr Yates’ study. Their candles drew puddles of light onto the floor, which grew and multiplied as the candelabra in the room were lit. Staying as still as possible, holding my breath and trying to ignore the tingling at the back of my neck, I prayed they would not spot me behind the curtains.
There was the clinking of glass and the pouring of liquids. Slowly, the acrid smell of tobacco filled the space, and with it, the hopes that my ordeal would be over soon vanished.
“So, Bingley, kindly expand on what Cole was saying earlier.” I recognised Mr Yates’ voice.
“I am not sure I understand what you mean.”
“Look at you! You have the unmistakably idiotic air of a man in love.”
“I must admit that I met a very beautiful girl in my time in Hertfordshire,” replied Mr Bingley with bonhomie.
“A passing fancy, I dare say,” added a serious voice which I guessed was Mr Darcy’s.
“Miss Bennet is a lovely young lady,” replied Mr Bingley with the same good humour.
“Her connections are most unsuitable.”
Mr Darcy’s words were grave. He clearly did not approve of his friend’s admiration for the lady in question. He was also very close to where I was. I peered through a sliver between the curtains. In the candlelight, his profile was worthy of a Roman emperor about to address the Senate. I felt my stomach tighten. Why did I find him so captivating? He was handsome, to be fair, but there had to be something else.
“To be frank, if the family is wealthy enough, one may live with it,” said Mr Yates.  
“You old rascal! You are married to a Baronet’s daughter,” exclaimed a fourth voice, which I took to be Mr Cole’s.
“A disgraced Baronet, may I add. You missed the grand scandal of the Rushworths’ divorce.”
“You should have thought twice before eloping with the sister,” laughed Cole.
“Trust me, I had no inkling at the time that those involved would show such poor sense. But no matter; it is seldom spoken about now, and the rest of my connections are secure enough for the whole disagreeable matter to be mostly ignored as far as my career is concerned.”
“If only married all couples behaved in a more civilised manner,” said Mr Cole. “Indiscretions are bound to happen. If we are to hold marriage as sacrosanct, we have to necessarily accept that the flesh is weak.”
“You cannot possibly be speaking seriously,” objected Mr Darcy.
“I am perfectly serious. It would be much more reasonable for the husband and society as a whole to overlook the affair. They would then be able to continue to enjoy the charms of what surely must be a delightful lady.  Instead, I imagine that the poor creature was banned for life in some ghastly little cottage in the remote countryside. Do you know if that is the case, Yates?”
“I cannot say that I do. Get Bertram drunk sometime and ask him. On second thought, don’t bother. He hardly drinks these days.”
“Really?” said Mr Cole with a tinge of surprise. “I thought he would be here tonight. I have not seen him in years.”
“He has changed in recent times, and become quite a bore. I believe he is staying in Gloucestershire with those dullards, the Balfours,” replied Mr Yates. “I ran into him a couple of weeks ago and, judging from the pathetic look on Bertram’s face, I suspect he had high hopes of returning with a promise of love from a fair lady.”
“The charms of Venus are many, it seems,” replied Cole. “It must be the time of year.”
Tempora mutants, nos et mutamur in illis, my friend.”
“You were always such a show off, Yates!” Cole was laughing. “Now, kindly translate for those of us who were glad to forget our Latin as soon as we stepped out of university.”
“Times change and we change with them,” mumbled Mr Darcy.
Mr Darcy’s face was all I could see from my hiding pace, and when he said those words and his brow creased, my heart stopped. I knew at once why he looked so familiar. From my perspective, in that light, with that particular gesture, he could have been Jamie’s cousin. Mr Darcy was taller and his features were finer, but there was a definite resemblance between the men.
“So, Bingley, who is this pastoral nymph that has so bewitched you? Do you intend to make her your wife?” asked Mr Yates.
“I dare say you are making a mountain out of a molehill,” interrupted Mr Darcy. “Bingley just needs to spend some more time in superior company. His views will soon change.”
“And you will make sure they do, of course. Tempora may mutants, but certain things remain the same, don’t they, Darcy?” asked Mr Cole.
A tense silence followed, until Mr Yates intervened.
“Cole, I take it you are back in England for good, then.”
“In all likelihood. You will remember my uncle, who put me through university. He passed away last year, and given that his marriage to my aunt only produced two girls, I have become the de facto manager of the family estate.”
“I dare say you will soon find yourself married to one of your cousins,” said Mr Darcy.
“My cousins, although perfectly lovely and amiable young ladies, have been unwell for some time, so marriage in their case is quite out of the question. But allow me to express my surprise at your concern about such matters. Is it something that you are thinking about as well? Have you too fallen for a rustic beauty? Perhaps I should stop at this mythical place on my way to Bath. What is the village called, Bingley?
“Nonsense,” interrupted Darcy. “There was nobody interesting enough to tempt me.”
“You did acknowledge that Miss Bennet’s sister had fine eyes,” said Bingley.
Darcy did not reply. A brief silence followed, until Bingley spoke again.
“Cole, you mentioned that you are planning to go to Bath. When are you leaving town?”
“On Friday. My aunt and cousins stay there, and they are very eager to see me. My intention was to spend a few more days in London in order to enjoy the white-fleshed pleasures on offer in the darkest corners of the city, much wished for after months of dark-skinned paramours. Alas, it has proven impossible.”
I flinched at Mr Cole’s coarse words. Through the gap in the curtain I saw Mr Darcy’s jaw tighten as he crossed his arms.
“Darcy does not approve of your choice of entertainment, Cole,” mumbled Yates.
I could not see Mr Cole’s face, but another icy silence descended on the room.


Miss Price’s Decision is available on Amazon and Kobo.

About Eliza Shearer

Eliza Shearer has been a Jane Austen fan for as long as she can remember, regularly convincing family and friends to join in on pilgrimages to Austen-related sites and events. She is the author of the Austeniana series of Austen-inspired variations, which include Miss Darcy’s Beaux and Miss Price’s Decision.

Having lived in different countries, Eliza is fluent in several languages and now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her husband, two children, and tortie cat. Eliza is very partial to satin slippers, but like her namesake Elizabeth Bennet, she has never cared much for cards.

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Thank you for visiting my blog today, Eliza. It has been such a pleasure to have you stop by and share an excerpt with me and my readers. I am intrigued to have Darcy and Bingley in this excerpt. I love the idea of a variation of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Pride & Prejudice. That is quite a combination and I know your story will be fascinating. The excerpt already is indicative of that! I appreciate so much that you included me in your blog tour. I wish you the best with this newest release.

Readers, Eliza Shearer is giving away one eBook of Miss Price's Decision. To be entered in the giveaway, leave us a comment telling us what you think of the excerpt. What do you think about the crossover of these three Austen books? I think it is a lovely idea and I'm eager to read it. The giveaway will end on the 27th of October at midnight. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Don Jacobson...The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Don Jacobson's The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier's Portion.  I have enjoyed so much this journey with The Wardrobe and those of Bennet blood. It has been fascinating, heart-breaking, intense, satisfying, and fulfilling. I've laughed and I've cried. With this last, Lydia's story, I cried more than once. That doesn't happen often for me, but this story is so moving, I even sobbed during one part. If you haven't read it, I hope you will soon. Thank you, Don, for taking us on this journey. 

Don is sharing an excerpt and talking about home and a homecoming. Welcome Don. I am thrilled to have you visit.

*****

Lydia’s Homecoming
The word pilgrimage is freighted with more significance than the much simpler journey or trek. There is a depth of semantic loading in the word which is redolent of self-discovery. And, the pilgrimage is a theme which is deep in European tradition. The Way or the Camino de Santiago de Compostela is one of the most famous.
At the far end of the journey, once all has been discovered, is Home for is it not the pilgrim’s final goal to apply that which has been uncovered to alter the life yet to be lived?
The concept of Home and Homecoming is another constant (along with learning, growth, change, and love) that runs through the Wardrobe.
The three daughters, Thomas, and Fanny are all, in their own ways, looking to find their way to the Home that sustains them.
The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion is the story of multiple homecomings. Some returns are for those who are meaningful in the Fifth Daughter’s life. Others are reserved for Lydia herself.
An essential framework must first be an understanding of the word itself. We often consider homecoming to embody a journey followed by a welcome to our childhood manse. This is, of course, the most basic Earl Hamner (Spencer’s Mountain, The Waltons) formulation; the soil from which we sprang still clings to us. The climes in which we prospered first as children and then, later, as departing young adults. That Home shapes our first iteration as persons.
Jane Austen offered us in either detail (Elizabeth and Jane) of in sketch (Mary, Kitty, Thomas, Fanny, and Lydia) that first order of personality in Pride and Prejudice. The Wardrobe books consider the forces that come to play upon the characters after the Canonical close of the original book.
The next expression of homecoming and home rises from the old saw, Home is where the heart is. This does not necessarily mean love for another person.
For Fitzwilliam Darcy, the common theme was that Pemberley was Home. Even after he and Elizabeth fell in love, one of her roles was to become Mistress of Pemberley. We can infer, in Elizabeth’s case, that this would necessarily also mean Mistress of Darcy’s Heart. However, we learned from his romantic struggles that abiding love (at least at the outset of the book) was not a requirement for the lady of the house. His heart was Pemberley which defined him.
In the Canon, Mrs. Bennet only saw Longbourn as a house, a place that was not the hedgerows. However, in the Wardrobe’s universe, Mrs. Bennet did see Longbourn as her Home, her refuge. Mr. Bennet further amplified that sentiment when he opined that Longbourn’s ancient sedimentary loams served as a source of some mystical powers including Jane’s peace-making and Lizzy’s sense of direction. The parents mutually rediscovered the power of Longbourn as Home in The Avenger: Thomas Bennet and a Father’s Lament.
Yet, adult perspectives and land aside, what does Home translate to for a woman who is not exactly following the sound of the drum, but close to it?
Her heart is packed up every morning as camp is broken and revitalized when the tents are raised. In Lydia’s case, though, as a young gentlewoman, whether she is at Longbourn, Deauville, or Pemberley, so is forced to wait for her soldier’s homecoming.
The idea of homecoming liberally seasons The Pilgrim. In each of the books, departures and returns are layered to build the narrative.
Consider Lydia’s arrival in Deauville in the opening pages of Book 2. While it is clearly an appearance, I see it as a homecoming for it is at the Beach House where her heart rests in the form of her sister, the Dowager Countess, Lady Kate. Yet, when the residence is no longer Lydia’s Home at the end of the action in Book Two, she leaves it behind much as she had previously done with her cottage in Newcastle and Longbourn Manor.
She necessarily had to continue her pilgrimage, her steps in the dusty roads that made up her camino.
The Wardrobe is a harsh taskmaster and demands much of its Bennet subjects. Lydia, like Mary and Kitty before her, had to travel great distances around the universal circle to return to the point where they were the best versions of themselves. Lydia’s story is difficult, to be sure. Her path is arduous and fraught with more than her measure of pain. However, Lydia, I believe, also reveled in the completion of the painting which had been begun by Jane Austen all those years ago.
Please enjoy this excerpt from “The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion.”

 Chapter LII


Kympton Vicarage, August 21-26, 1819

Lydia and her sister Mary were injured in Manchester at the Peterloo Massacre on August 19, 1819. They were removed to the Vicarage where the Benton family lived. Both women had been in comas since their injuries. Here we see General Fitzwilliam wrestling with his feelings for the Widow Wickham…and Lydia, after she awakens, encountering life-altering news.
vvv

If their concern about Lydia’s condition had not been so acute, Lizzy and Jane would have collapsed in gales of matronly giggles at General Fitzwilliam’s distress. Even Darcy, normally stone-faced as two of his sisters lay insensible in their beds at Kympton Vicarage, could not avoid a snort and a snicker when his cousin burst from Mrs. Wickham’s chambers to throw himself into the armchair placed in the hallway especially for this purpose.


On this day, Wellington’s right arm was sweating through his fine lawn shirt having just been shooed from Mrs. Wickham’s side while the ladies tended to Lydia’s personal hygiene. Despite himself, he imagined how the Bennet girls, at first just Lizzy and Jane, but later Mary and Lydia, would have rolled their eyes at him acting like their late mother amidst a bout of her famous nerves.
[Richard’s mother] had been summoned by Darcy who feared that questions of compromise would be engendered by Richard’s hovering above the widow’s bed. Lady Eleanor had arrived posthaste—on August 24th—, less concerned by her son’s behavior and more by the implications of fixing his attentions upon a woman most recently involved in violent anti-monarchical demonstrations.
The little bantam of a woman bustled up to the soldier as he slumped in the chair [outside of Lydia’s chamber]. A slippered foot nudged him out of his reverie.
“Richard George Edward Fitzwilliam,” using all his names when opening her barrage never presaged anything good, mused the General, “Just who do you think you are to be consorting with a rebel?”
His mother had stolen a march on him and had the advantage of taking the high ground, to fire downslope into his position.
Looking up at the lady who had given him life and was currently helping raise his daughter, Fitzwilliam tried to make the best of a bad rhetorical situation figuring a defensive volley might still strike home. The adjustments for the rising nature of the rhetorical slug would have to be precise.
“Mother, how wonderful to see you.
“By rebel, do you mean Mrs. Wickham or Mrs. Benton? Both were on the field last week when those idiots of the Yeomanry charged thousands of defenseless people waiting to hear Hunt speak.
“Or, perhaps, you are speaking of my father’s sister, whose name I will no longer deign to mention, who was killed by an infernal machine…one, I suspect, that was made at her behest? She carried her malevolent disgust with this island’s citizens to the extreme. And, I wonder how much she paid to spring that maniac of a former parson from Bedlam, you know, the one who violated little children.
“Oh, lest you take umbrage, Mother, you do know that it was that cretin who shot Mrs. Benton. I have no doubt that once my boys in Jermyn Street have untangled this mess, we will find that these two gentle ladies will be counted as innocent victims. Mrs. Wickham and Mrs. Benton were luckier than another dozen who perished because rich men feared giving working men a voice in their own affairs.”
Her shocked countenance told him that he had hit his mark. While the Countess of Matlock was not an arrogant woman, she was comfortable in her estimation of the general correctness of her class notions about the social contract. There were those who led and those who obeyed as dictated by God. For her son to offer painfully clear arguments to the contrary shook her world.
Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears.
Damn, Fitzwilliam thought, I have made her cry.
He struggled to his feet, war-wounded muscles stiff from sitting while awaiting word from Lydia’s chamber. Then General Fitzwilliam enveloped his mother in his arms as he whispered comforting sounds into her expertly coifed hair. Her arms snaked around his waist.
Eventually, her gentle sobbing subsided, and she pushed away from her son’s embrace.
Fitzwilliam penitentially said, “I am sorry, Máman, you did not deserve that. I have been overwrought worrying about Ly…Mrs. Wickham.”
Lady Eleanor smiled and shook her head saying beneath her breath, “What is it about Bennet women and Fitzwilliam men?
“No, Richard, you were right to speak to me in this manner. I may not be like your dear Anne’s late mother—see how carefully I navigated that shoal—but I fear that I have held many of her prejudices.
“T’was wrong for me to have impugned Mrs. Wickham’s character without knowing her side of the story. I attacked her when she was unable to defend herself.
“I will offer my apologies to her when she wakes.
“I also will have to make amends for I do believe that I will often be in her company in the coming years.
“Darcy sent up a rocket this morning so concerned was he with your behavior toward the lady in question.
“My nephew worried that some would question the propriety of a man of your stature dashing in—and out—of her room like a colt seeing a bridle in the hands of his groom for the first time.
“I think you have caught the disease for which there is, Richard, but one cure. You must know that. Or am I mistaken in my belief that you plan to offer for her?”
“Only if she will have me. Only if she will have me,” the General gruffly replied.

vvv

Now, two days later, Elaine Fitzwilliam had eschewed her modiste-cut gowns for one of Mary Benton’s more serviceable summer-weight muslins. Akin to Mesdames Darcy and Bingley, she had wrapped herself in an apron. Her hair was tied back in a serviceable chignon. Even so, her regal bearing told anyone transiting Kympton’s halls that she was a woman of quality.
The three ladies carefully lifted Lydia, removing her stained undergarments and night rail. Warm water gently washed away any residue. The large bandage covering the lower half of her left arm complicated their efforts. All three were nervous about further injuring the young woman. Once they stripped off the dirty linens, they remade the bed, rolling Lydia first to one side then the other
Heaving a sigh of relief, the Countess looked at the other two, “I do not know about you, but I could do with a large glass of Mrs. Reynold’s lemonade into which a healthy dose of Prince Lieven’s favorite potage has been added.”
A voice croaked from the bed, “Lose the lemons…be like Papa…chilled with a touch of vermouth, shaken not stirred.”

vvv

‘Tis Elizabeth’s duty to break the news.

The dreamworld cobwebs cleared, and Lydia sought to begin the proceedings, of such consequence, she guessed, that her normally imperturbable sister could not find the words, “I learned much in the time I was away after George, Lizzy.”
Lydia continued, “I encountered a great lady who repeated words that I am sure you will find familiar in their flavor. They reminded me of nothing less than what our Papa counseled us to do when we were faced with a particularly unpleasant task.
T’will taste no better tomorrow than today, child. Best to swallow it quickly, make a face, and get on with the rest of your day.
“So, I say to you, Lizzy, please just tell me what you will. Do not spare me.”
At the mention of their beloved father, Lizzy’s deep chocolate-brown eyes softened, and diamonds appeared on her lashes as she blinked furiously.
Calming, Lizzy said, “Dearest, I must talk with you about something which happened in Manchester.”
A long pause ensued as she wrestled with her own rising demons. Pushing them back into their dungeon, Lizzy realized that Lydia had so recently risen from her stupor that nobody knew just how much she remembered—or had forgotten—of the events that had laid her low.
She interrogated, “How much do you recall of what led up to you being injured?”
Lydia sorted through the cards that made up her memory’s hoard.
Then she gasped, “We were all there on St. Peter’s Field. The cavalry came onto the field and Richard herded us into a…a square like the infantry used to do under Wellington.
“They charged us. There were thousands on the grounds. None were looking behind them. They were all looking forward. Oh, the humanity.[i]
“I think I saw Mary fall? T’was so confusing as the horses raced toward us. Was she wounded? Is that what has you upset? Is it worse than that?
“Oh…Please tell me. You must!”
Lydia’s agitation about Mary allowed Lizzy’s stomach to unclench. She permitted herself a tiny upward twitch of her lips. A bit of sugar before the salt would not be amiss.
“Yes, we have been worried about Mary. She was injured. How that came about is a subject for another day.
“If my husband reported his actions accurately, Doctor Campbell smiled when he examined her earlier. You know Campbell. His natural expression is as if he had bitten a lemon. If that man did something besides glower it can only mean that Mary, like you, is on the mend.
“Mary’s recovery is not the reason I am concerned. There were others of our little family who fared poorly.”
Memory slowly lit Mrs. Wickham’s features and tears began to flow. When she tried to lift her left arm to cuff them away, Lizzy prevented that violated limb from moving.
Through her tears, Lydia cried, “Oh no…not Richard. I saw him go down right in front of me. No, the General cannot be dead!”
Elizabeth Darcy summoned all her years as the Mistress of Pemberley as she delivered her next devastating salvo.
“No, Lydia, not Richard, he is well. Uninjured, in fact.
“T’was you,” she said barely above a whisper, “You dove between the blade and Richard. They could not save your hand.”
Realization dawned, and Lydia Wickham replied in a small voice, “Oh.”



[i] Herbert Morrison, Transcription of WLS, Chicago, radio broadcast describing the Hindenburg disaster, May 6, 1937.

So what do you think of the excerpt? That last bit of news had to be a bit of a shock for Lydia. What about Lydia and Richard? Interesting, huh! I loved Lady Eleanor's comment, "What is it about Bennet women and Fitzwilliam men?" Isn't that delightful! It makes me smile. 



I hope you enjoyed today's post. If you have missed any of the stops, the schedule with links is below. Be sure to enter the giveaway, too. We would love to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts on the excerpt. If you have read the book, what did you think? What is home to you? When you hear the word "home" or "homecoming", do either bring anything besides where you live or lived to mind? I liked Don's thoughts on Darcy, Pemberley, and Elizabeth. What about you?

Thank you again, Don. Best wishes with Lydia's story. Now I'm eagerly waiting for the last book in The Bennet Wardrobe.

If  you haven't yet started this wonderful series, below are the titles of the books and the order in which to read them.




Contact Info:
Author Website (with blog)
Twitter  (@AustenesqueAuth)


Buy Info:


Blog Tour Schedule:


Giveaway:
Don is giving away 4 eBooks of The Pilgrim: Lydia Bennet and a Soldier’s Portion


Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Journey Home to Pemberley...Joana Starnes


Welcome to More Agreeably Engaged, Joana. It's so exciting that you have a new release! The excerpts that you have been posting really made me want to read more! :) I've been anxiously awaiting your visit today and everything you have in store for us! 

Dear Readers, Joana has written a special treat just for us. Aren't we lucky! It is lovely, but I will say no more for now, except...! OH MY! I swooned! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Before we get to the vignette, let's take a look at the trailer.


Isn't it lovely! Wow! I keep watching it again and again. What do you think about it?

*****

Do you want to know a little more about Joana Starnes?
Not only is she an excellent writer, she is also a lovely person. 

Author Bio:


Joana lives in the south of England with her family. Over the years, she has swapped several hats – physician, lecturer, clinical data analyst – but feels most comfortable in a bonnet. She has been living in Georgian England for decades in her imagination, and plans to continue in that vein till she lays hands on a time machine.

She is the author of eight Austen-inspired novels (From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of PemberleyThe Subsequent ProposalThe Second ChanceThe Falmouth ConnectionThe Unthinkable TriangleMiss Darcy’s CompanionMr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and The Darcy Legacy) and one of the contributors to the Quill Ink anthologies (The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to KnowRational Creatures and Yuletide). They are all available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and some in Audible too: Joana’s Amazon Page.


You can connect with Joana on:


*****

Are you ready for the vignette? I am, so here you go! Enjoy!

Thank you, Janet, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my latest book, The Journey Home To Pemberley, which was released a few days ago.

I’ve been posting some excerpts at Austen Variations since the beginning of August, and there was another one in the cover reveal post at Austenesque Reviews last week. In those excerpts we see what Elizabeth is thinking and feeling (and how her thoughts and sentiments take her by surprise) when she finds herself tending to an injured and barely conscious Mr Darcy. But what – if anything – is he thinking at the time?

How about a vignette from Mr Darcy’s point of view? Please follow the links above if you’d like a quick reminder of just where we left our favourite couple – or rather how we left them 😊 – then pray read on:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It made no sense at all that he should be shivering uncontrollably while his mouth felt parched and his body was on fire. Wave after wave of fire and throbbing pain washed over him. Pain in his head? His body? He could not tell, nor did he care.

It made no sense either that he should hear her voice. Mr Darcy! Good heavens, Mr Darcy? Time and again he fancied he could hear this – now a shocked cry, now a barely audible whisper. Senseless fantasies, of course. The sound of her voice was but a forlorn echo in his imagination. Just as she was but a phantasm now – in equal measure a comfort and a torment. Nothing but a phantasm that came to him in dreams.

But that made no sense either. She had never called him Mr Darcy in his dreams.

Fogged with pain, his mind refused to grapple with the unsolvable conundrum. So Darcy allowed himself to drift into dizzying darkness, even as an intermittent cool sensation on his brow brought temporary comfort. Yet it also brought the aching wish to believe it was her healing touch that soothed him.

It could not be. And with that lucid thought, he sunk into oblivion.

* * * *

The ice seemed to have lost its grip on him. It was melted – gone. But the heat had not subsided, and as it swirled and trapped him in its heavy folds, the dreamy haze around him acquired an increasingly poignant quality. For the treasured phantasm was still there, somewhere in the haze, almost as substantial as a physical presence.

He could have sworn he could detect her scent. Jasmine and gardenia. Her scent, and hers alone. He could have likewise sworn that the cool touch on his temple was hers. Hers too, the fingers that seemed to stroke his hair. And when he reached out blindly, searching blindly, he could have sworn it was her hand he found and clasped.

It slipped away, the phantasm’s hand, and he winced when the illusive succour vanished.

“Elizabeth…” he whispered in his dream, and at length the phantasm was willing to indulge him. He was permitted to feel the clasp of cool fingers yet again, and her voice, brought forth from the deepest recess of his memory, spoke the words he wished to hear. Spoke gentle words – as only a conjured phantasm would – urging him to rest and promising she would not leave him.

A dream, as always. It must be. Yet it felt more comforting than ever, and he could only pray he would not wake anytime soon and find the sweet illusion shattered.

She was but a phantasm, as he knew full well. But he answered her as if she were real:

“Thank you, my love.”

As if her promise to remain beside him were something that he could depend upon.

* * * *

The perfect dream had not vanished yet – extraordinary! – but recent recollections gradually emerged from the haze, as did faint wisps of sanity. He must have hit his head when the skittish beast, his uncle’s mount, had thrown him, Darcy reasoned. So now his addled mind was playing tricks on him. For, instead of signalling that he was lying in the rain by the side of the rough track, it sought to convince him that he was somewhere else. That he was abed – and safe – and warm.

Moreover, it insidiously laboured to persuade him that he was not alone. That she was beside him, her head resting on his shoulder. The warm weight felt impossibly real. So did her scent, as it invaded his senses.

He exhaled. Reality would eventually hit, no doubt, and the illusion would give way to loss. As always.

‘Reality be damned,’ Darcy hazily thought, and allowed his mind to foster the delusion for a little while longer. It was easily done – so easy to imagine that her head was on his shoulder. That her hair brushed his cheek as his chest rose and fell with every breath. He had even fooled himself into believing that the warm softness beneath his lips was her brow, when reality hit with far more force than he had expected.

There was someone with him in the darkness. The stranger jumped and gasped. And the high-pitched gasp was that of a female.

His senses abruptly jolted into alertness, Darcy sought to shuffle up as unmitigated horror washed over him. Surely he had not lost his mind to the point of taking some wench to his bed in a fever-induced haze – in the insane pretence that she was Elizabeth!

He had no recollection of any such debauchery, but that could hardly count as reassurance. His head pounded more fiercely than ever and his throat felt painfully raw as he rasped, “What the devil? Who goes there?”

“Sh-sh. All is well. ‘Tis I – Elizabeth,” the answer came at last in a faint whisper, and it brought no reassurance either.

Instead, the sense of loss swelled, mingled with no little anger at the disembodied voice that chose to mock him so. A sound escaped him, half sigh, half muffled snort.

“Do not toy with me, woman,” he muttered. “I am in no fit state to put up with it.”

What he heard next was a mild chuckle that might have fuelled his vexation, had it not been followed by a softly spoken, “Probably not.”

The air left his lungs in a shocked rush. He must be running stark raving mad if he was patently awake – and yet was still hearing things. Hearing her everywhere!

‘Say something else! Speak to me again!’ he wanted to cry out, yet all he managed was a hoarse, “Your voice! Who are you?”

“We need some light,” she said, and then there was light, as though she had willed it so. Blinding light. Exhilarating.

Darcy stared, scarce daring to believe his eyes.

“Good God! It is you,” he choked out in a ragged whisper.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So what happens next?

They are alone – the best possible chance for them to talk uninterrupted. So they talk. About what? The Hunsford debacle, of course. Things must be said, apologies made – by both of them – and in Mr Darcy’s case the apology turns out to be forthright, if not very articulate.


And where do they go from here?

I hope you will enjoy finding out.

Many thanks for stopping by to read the vignette. Please enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of the 8 Kindle copies of The Journey Home To Pemberley, or a paperback copy, or a P&P and Austen-related goodie bag. The Giveaway is international.

Best wishes, thanks for reading and thanks again, Janet, for hosting me today. It’s always such a pleasure to be here!

Thank you also for sharing this vignette with us. It was delightful! Swoon! Did I say that already? lol It was such a pleasure having you visit my blog again. Best wishes with The Journey Home to Pemberley. Please come back again soon.



Thank you for such a generous giveaway, Joana! There are going to be some very lucky people!
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Taste of Peanut Butter...Jennifer Redlarczyk

It is such a delight to have Jennifer Redlarzcyk visit More Agreeably Engaged again. Jennifer always has such wonderful pictures to share with us, as well as a fun excerpt and delicious sounding excerpt! :) Jen also is giving away two eBooks so be sure to comment. Thank you, Jen, and welcome!

***** 

Greetings, and many thanks to Janet Taylor for hosting me on her blog with A Taste of Peanut Butter. What could be better than a story preview and a slice of Chocolate Lover’s Pie?













Elizabeth Bennet has a passion for baking and peanut butter is her signature ingredient. In this first scene let’s find out a little more about our aspiring baker, shall we?

O’Hare International Airport
Friday afternoon, late spring

“So, did you have to pay extra to check your overweight bag?” Jane Bennet stood with her hands on her hips and gave her younger sister a quizzical look.

 
“I did—a total of one hundred dollars to be precise. Can you believe it? My bag was only nine pounds over the limit. Heck, I could have checked in an extra suitcase for that price. If only peanut butter didn’t weigh so much.”

 
 Jane giggled. “Lizzy, you probably wouldn’t have had to pay a thing if you only left some of your baking pans and that ridiculous Chinese wok behind. Plus you wouldn’t have had to stuff so much in your carry-on and backpack.”

“What are you talking about? My flat is almost barren when it comes to kitchenware. Okay, I admit I probably could have gotten by without the wok even though I did promise my teammates from the bank that I’d cook Thai when we start working on our hospitality booth for Wimbledon. Believe me, by that time they will have had their fill of my practice desserts. Nevertheless, the bake off is coming up, and I need every single one of those baking pans if I’m going to keep practicing. I have big plans for my babies—chocolate peanut butter cream pie, peanut butter spice cake, not to mention my killer cheesecake. I only hope I don’t run short of peanut butter. The good stuff is like gold in the UK.”

“Now you listen to me, Elizabeth Anne Bennet! With the exception of the contest, you, my dear sister, are supposed to be taking a hiatus from cooking. Your roomy, Charlotte, is absolutely right. You will never get a decent guy to like you for the smart, intelligent, beautiful woman you are if you keep flaunting your cooking skills at every turn. Men aren’t normal when it comes to your culinary expertise. It’s like they’re on drugs or something. I’m tired of hearing about all the bozos who somehow think they’ve struck it rich with their own personal chef while forgetting how to treat you like a real date. I’d like to know, dear sister, when was the last time a guy friend invited you out to dinner instead of having you come over to his place with your apron in hand.”

“Look, Jane,” she huffed. “I won’t stop being who I am. That’s all there is to it. With going to school and my internship at the UBI, I have a very stressful schedule. Not to mention, I have to suffer through a nasty test on derivatives as soon as classes resume. Believe me; I need a diversion after putting in so many hours between the bank and school. Feeding my friends is how I relax.”

Jane couldn’t resist giving her younger sister a big hug. “Okay, I understand. I just wish you would give Charlotte’s plan a try the next time you meet a new guy. How hard could it be to refrain from talking about your hobby on the first date?”

“I know.” She pouted.

“Hey, don’t give me that. I want assurance and a pinky promise that you’ll at least try.” The two laughed as they went through the ritual.

“All right, I promise, I’ll do my best. But if….”

“No buts! Oh, I almost forgot. Here’s my reader. See if you can squeeze it in your bag. I loaded it with my favourite, Pride and Prejudice. Maybe you can take a hint from your namesake and challenge yourself to find a real Mr. Darcy.”

Elizabeth let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, Jane, I love how you have me giving up my cooking passion and meeting Mr. Darcy all in one fell swoop. You are without question one demanding sister!”

“Not really. I’m simply a romantic at heart, just like you. Now, get on through security.” The two sisters hugged, and Jane waved as she rushed toward the exit. “Don’t forget to text me once you get squared away on the other side. Love you!”

“Okay, Sis! I love you, too!” Elizabeth called as she clumsily lugged all of her things to the closest security checkpoint. Removing her sandals and pulling out all electronic devices from her backpack, she quickly filled two grey plastic holding bins and managed to hoist her overstuffed carry-on onto the conveyor belt.

Little did Elizabeth Bennet realise, however, that she was being closely eyed by a very interested party of the male persuasion. Captivated by the perky brunette, he had overheard her entire conversation and was now formulating his own plan.

Curious, I never thought of dating an American. She said that she is an intern at the UBI. I wonder why I haven’t ever seen her there. Of course, there are loads of interns at the bank. He couldn’t help smiling while candidly giving her the once over. Beautiful, long, dark, silky hair, her eyes, great figure and even more important, she cooks. I’ve never dated a woman who liked to cook. Without a doubt, this Elizabeth is different from all the other Elizabeth Bennets I’ve ever met, or any other woman for that matter. She’s so … unpretentious, refreshing and obviously not a part of the corporate set. I wonder. Richard did suggest that I consider stepping out of my comfort zone for a change. Maybe….


Well, what do you think? Will Elizabeth be able to resist tempting you know who with her delicious baking? Now is your chance to speculate in the comments and enter in the giveaway for two eBooks. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jen Red


*****

Thank you again, Jen, for being my guest today. It is always such a pleasure having you visit. For those of you interested in seeing the photos Jen picked for this book, check out her Pinterest page,
A Taste of Peanut Butter and Blame It on the Squash.

Jen's book, A Taste of Peanut Butter is available on Amazon. Jen is also giving away two eBooks of  A Taste of Peanut Butter as she mentioned above. To be entered in the giveaway, tell us what you think. Will Elizabeth tempt a certain gentleman that has been eyeing her or will she not? We would love to hear your thoughts. The giveaway will end on the 16th of September at midnight. Be sure I am able to contact you should you be the winner. Good luck to all and thanks for stopping by.