Friday, November 21, 2014

Darcy's Tale by Stanley Michael Hurd

Dear readers you are in for a treat! I have been so excited about having Stan Hurd as my guest and looking forward to this post greatly. When I first heard about his books and then read his posts on the lovely Meredith Esparza's site, Austenesque Reviews, I have wished to have him visit. Well, today he is and we are fortunate indeed. Please join me in welcoming Stan Hurd to More Agreeably Engaged. 


When I began writing Darcy’s Tale, I was comparatively new to Austen, and had no idea that JAFF was even a genre. I was first introduced to Austen by Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice, which, at the time, I found quite engaging. But after I read the novel, and her other novels, and I was pretty seriously hooked. Then a friend gave me the Colin Firth series, and introduced me to the Pamela Aidan books. The first time I read Aidan, I was delighted just to be back in Austen’s world. But a second reading started to expose what were, to my mind, flaws in her interpretation, and I couldn’t finish a third reading. It felt like a friend of mine had been maligned in print, and I wanted to set the record straight. I personally don’t think people make fundamental changes in who they are, so I believed that he had to have been a good guy from the beginning. How, then, to reconcile his actions with that belief: that was my starting point.

What I required of my attempt was that I adhere strictly to the original, explain how he could have misrepresented himself and misinterpreted Elizabeth, and examine the changes he really underwent. I also hoped to emulate the writing of the period, although I had no thought of real success. I immersed myself in Austen, reading almost nothing else for months on end; the result was as close as I could make it to P&P and Regency English; as I read and re-read it, at least nothing really jarred. Of course, I had the help of some seriously knowledgeable Janeites. I will say that I made three flubs that I know of. One was that I had Elizabeth sit in the wrong spot at the Netherfield dinner at which Mr. Hurst enquired into her enjoyment of the ragout. Perhaps some of you true Austen fans can spot others? :-)

But the capacity of a man to change himself for the love of a woman is, of course, a matter of debate. I have chosen two parts of my book to share: one where Darcy is usually thought to be uncommonly arrogant, and another where her misreads Elizabeth pretty thoroughly; I’d like to offer them as stepping off points for discussion. Was Darcy really the jerk he seemed at the Meryton assembly? And then, at Rosings, Elizabeth was puzzled, and a little offended, I think,  by his silence when he walked with her in the park; so how could moments like that lead him to believe she was “wishing, expecting his addresses”? So I will give you my interpretation, in hopes that it will lead us into a lively discussion of what is right and what is wrong with men…no! I mean what is right or wrong with the idea of men changing deeply through the love of the right woman.

First, let’s look at possibly the most famous incident showing his arrogance: the Meryton assembly. Now, in my mind, he must have had a bad day, and he clearly didn’t like to dance, and I had Miss Bingley managed to annoy him as they set off. The key phrase for me was when he said, “…I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who have been slighted…”: he was in a bad mood. And I have never been able to believe he said what he said knowing that Elizabeth could hear him, as that would make it nearly impossible for him to believe she would be well-disposed towards him; and Bingley clearly didn’t think she could overhear them. So this is how I see it:

The appearance of the newcomers naturally caused a stir and a wave of whispers to spread through the room. And certainly Darcy, given his stature, his fashionable attire, and well-featured face, received his full share of the attention. Unfortunately, that very attention, which for most persons would have been a welcome sign of consequence and notice, served to fix in him the dark mood he had carried in with him; he felt like a caged bear being paraded at a country fair for the peasantry to gawk at. And, even more regrettably, the scrutiny he received created among the revellers a general awareness of his marked lack of enthusiasm for his surroundings; this was soon interpreted as scorn for the company in which he found himself. Such was his mood that when the early smiles and flutterings turned to blank stares and cold shoulders, it brought him, not a sense of his wrong-doing, but a perverse sense of vindication. That they should dislike him was proof of his acuity and insight. Society was the same every where, thought he with some bitterness; well enough, let the cats say what they would—it mattered little. Here, at least, he was not compelled to cater to it. He would never see any of them again in his life, so what did it signify? He was vaguely aware that he was behaving churlishly, and the better part of him felt it, but not so strongly that he was minded to break from the manner of his beginning.

While his friend was dancing, Darcy spent most of his time drifting about the room, having been introduced only to the family of one Sir William Lucas, whose conversation he found less than captivating. Under the circumstances, his strict sense of propriety would not allow him to enter into conversation with the others attending—even if he had had a desire to. But he was aware that his neighbours at the assembly looked at him with little approbation, and he allowed his sentiments to mirror theirs, leaving him with little reason to seek acquaintance with any of them. He watched with scant enthusiasm as his friend led his third, or possibly his fourth, partner down the dance, while he was left to amuse himself. Looking about the room he saw a number of young ladies without partners, and more than one whose countenance would satisfy all but the most exacting critics of female beauty; but in Darcy’s present state of mind, their presence served only to remind him of how ill-suited he was to his surroundings: while he might in certain circumstances find himself able to enjoy their company, these were decidedly not such circumstances. The truth of the matter, not often admitted even to himself, was that Mr. Darcy was slow to feel comfortable with new people, and the force of will it would take on this occasion, to seek introduction and enter into conversation with a strange young woman, was simply not within his compass this evening. Nor did he wish to converse with either of Bingley’s sisters, given how things stood, and so he was left with no alternative but to simply wander about the place, trying to stay out of people’s way, and, quite irrationally, becoming more and more provoked by the situation. At length Bingley left the dance to fetch his partner of the moment a refreshment, and found Darcy standing near the table of drinks. He took the opportunity to persuade his friend to enter into the spirit of the evening: “Come, Darcy, I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”

“I certainly shall not,” replied Darcy irritably. Here Bingley had left him to his own devices for well over an hour, and now spoke to him only in passing—and to persuade him to dance, of all things. His glance travelled around the room, seeing again the same collection of strangers’ faces; not a few of them turned coldly away from his gaze. “You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”

“I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom!” cried his friend. “Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.”

“You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room.” said Darcy, though this was certainly untrue; Bingley was merely dancing with the most handsome girl in the room. But his present mood was such that Darcy was ready to disagree on any and every point.

“Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld!” exclaimed Bingley. “But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”

“Which do you mean?” He turned around and saw a young woman seated nearby, happily engaged in watching the dance. He had noticed her earlier, and had resisted the inclination to let his eye linger in her direction more than once during his wanderings, but he would by no means admit as much to Bingley. Her dark eyes, alive with mirth and yet at the same time showing an astute appreciation of all that was passing, had caught his attention particularly. Now, sensing his observation of her, she turned to meet his gaze. Not wishing to see her eyes harden as she recognised who it was that beheld her, or perhaps because his more gentlemanly side felt his general incivility during the evening, he quickly withdrew his own glance. To Bingley he said, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me. I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” Bingley left him with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. Darcy then glanced cautiously back over his shoulder for fear he might have been overheard; but the young woman had turned away and did not appear to have paid them any attention. He was relieved: ill-humour he would allow himself—open discourtesy he would not. However, had he been able to observe her while he was speaking, he would have seen the young lady’s eyes widen at his ill-mannered and disobliging description of herself.

OK, that was the dance. Now his confidence as to her willingness to accept him. Was it his overweening arrogance, or was it cluelessness? Could it really be arrogance, when he thought she was wishing and expecting his proposal? We’re at Rosings; he saw Elizabeth going into the park, and set out to follow. (I admit the humour is too heavy-handed for Austen, for which I apologize.)
“Miss Bennet, good morning!” he called.

She looked round in surprise. “Mr. Darcy!” she cried. “How you startled me!”

“I beg your pardon,” was all he could think to say; she was very lovely this morning, framed by the fresh green of the new leaves on the trees behind her, and the sun washing her, too, with the fresh glow of youth. He approached, and they stood together, but neither spoke for a moment. Hesitantly, he asked: “Do you return to the Parsonage, or do you stay?”

“I should have gone back shortly,” she said briefly.

“Shall I accompany you?” he asked: always correct, he wished to ensure that she would not be uncomfortable in his company; they were, after all, alone and unchaperoned.

“If you wish,” she replied. There was a slight emphasis to her tone as she said this, and in this particular response Darcy saw more than acceptance: her answer was actually a tentative invitation that, depending on his answer, would tell her whether he truly wished to be with her, or would as soon go on his way alone.

“I should be very happy to,” said he, answering both the spoken and unspoken question. He smiled at her and turned back the way he had come. She gave him a momentary smile in return, then cast her eyes down at the path.

They walked together some minutes in silence, enjoying the morning and the fresh spring air. Darcy, conscious of her every movement, was careful to observe her silence; she clearly had come out to enjoy a quiet walk, and he did not wish to draw down her disapproval by disturbing her morning with chatter.

“Do you come this way often, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth asked after a time.

“Not now, but Colonel Fitzwilliam and I used to play here as children,” Darcy smiled at the memory. “We were hunters, castaways, pirates—mostly the latter. All the things boys will get up to when their elders are not there to scold them. I cannot tell you how many sets of clothing I must have ruined.” He made an embarrassed laugh: “In fact, this very grove is where I got my nickname. I was ‘the Dread Pirate, Dirks-and-Daggers Darcy’. My cousin still calls me ‘Dirks’ from time to time.”

“You, Sir, are Dirks Darcy?’ the lady asked in wonder; her face marked her incredulity.

“At your service, Ma’am,” Darcy replied, bowing with a flourish.

Elizabeth stared at him for a moment without speaking, then quickly cast her eyes down; a sound like a stifled sneeze issued from her, and Darcy offered a “God bless you!”; she repeated the noise twice again in rapid succession, to which Darcy added: “Goodness! —and bless you again.” After walking a bit further without hearing the lady speak, in an attempt at banter he asked, “What seek you here amongst the trees? Surely you do not come here to play out your girlhood fancies?”

“No, indeed not,” she replied shortly. There was a slight hesitation before she supplied with pointed significance: “This grove is a favourite with me; the tranquillity, the picturesque of the woods, the pleasures of nature without alloy of company—I have enjoyed a great many hours here by myself. As it is inside the paling, I feel secure from unwanted visitors.”

In this earnest return Darcy could feel that she was sharing something of herself, in answer to his admission of his childhood absurdity; but just what she meant was equivocal; as he thought about it, though, it came to him that she might very well be telling him how they might be together, without interference from ‘unwanted visitors’. He glanced quickly down at her; something in her manner, or perhaps how near to him she walked on the narrow path, convinced him: she was inviting his company, here in the grove. He tried to see her face, but her eyes were modestly cast down, no doubt from the consciousness of her daring, in offering such a bold suggestion.


Ok, now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts?

~~~

You may find the three volumes of Darcy's Tales at Amazon

Darcy's Tale: Deluxe Edition  (includes all three volumes, shown above)


~~~

Thanks so much Stan for sharing your thoughts and these fascinating excerpts.  I'm hooked and can't wait to read more. Thank you most of all for being my guest. 

Readers, what do you think? Will you take a few minutes to tell Stan Hurd your thoughts? He would love to hear them and as you know, I am always interested in hearing your share in the conversation. There is also a giveaway and it is worldwide! I know that makes you all very happy!  Mr. Hurd is giving away two eBooks of Volume I, Darcy's TaleLeave your email address in your comment to be entered in the giveaway. It ends on midnight, November 26, 2014. Good luck to all of you and happy reading! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2015 Calendar ~ Longbourn to Pemberley

It is that time of year when we start looking for calendars for 2015. I always want one for myself but then I like to look for some specialty calendars for friends and family as part of their Christmas. As many of you are aware, I have done a Pride & Prejudice calendar for the last two years and I have one for 2015 too. To honor the 20th anniversary of the 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries of
Pride & Prejudice, the new calendar Longbourn to Pemberley, has photos from many of the film locations.
There is a nod to the 2005 movie since it also celebrates an anniversary, its 10th! 

Each month highlights a location that follows as closely to its occurrence in the miniseries/movie as can be expected with only twelve pictures. Several other photos are scattered throughout the calendar, along with some interesting film facts. The fun part of making this calendar was deciding which pictures to use...too many pictures but too little space! 

The calendar showcases quotes from books by many of our favorite authors. I am sure everyone will enjoy reading those quotes as much as I did. Holidays that are included are for the US, UK and Canada, as well as dates for many of the Jane Austen Festivities throughout the year.





A big 'thank you' goes to Cassandra Grafton for allowing me to use a couple of her pictures in the calendar. Copyright credit is given accordingly.

*****

Pictured below are some of my new 'Christmas Kiss' items. These Christmas items, the calendar and other merchandise are available on my newly revamped website, JT Originals. Please stop by for a look and let me know what you think. 


A Special 'Thanks' to all of you for supporting my blog. 

In the spirit of the coming holidays, I am giving away one calendar and the giveaway is international.
Leave a comment to be entered as I love to hear your share in the conversation.
Please put your email address in the comment so that I may contact you should you be the 
randomly selected winner.  Giveaway ends midnight, November 21, 2014.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Falmouth Connection...Joana Starnes

I'm so excited to have the lovely Joana Starnes visit here today. She always has such interesting posts and this one is no exception. You will also enjoy an excerpt from Chapter 11 of her newest release, The Falmouth Connection.  Oh, it will leave you wanting to read more! 

Please join me in welcoming back Joana Starnes.


Thanks very much, Janet, for inviting me to be your guest again, it’s such a pleasure to be here!

Hopefully I might be allowed to begin with a treasured memory. The summer before last, as I was reading the interviews at More Agreeably Engaged, one of my happy-places of all time, I came across a post by Linda Wells and I shall remember it always. There was a paragraph that stayed with me, for the beauty of the thought and for the delightful way to describe what it is that all of us authors of Pride and Prejudice variations are doing. I will quote it here because I think it was just perfect!

Everybody knows Darcy and Elizabeth. What new thing can possibly be revealed about two characters who have been dissected by hundreds of writers, on both the scholarly and fan fiction sides of things? And that’s where it strikes me. How many times have artists painted the same scene? How many students have sat around a studio with the same model before them, and yet every painting produced is unique. Each student chooses a particular feature to highlight, a preferred style and medium to use, and inevitably, each mixes their individual feelings into the finished piece. The same goes for writing Jane Austen variations. We all start with the same story, the same characters, and then… our imaginations are set free to paint that new picture with words. (Linda Wells, More Agreeably Engaged, 27 August 2013)

So aptly put, so beautiful – and so very true. Here we are, students painting the same model, yet each of us using different brush strokes, adding our own shades of colour, our own touches of shadow and light to produce unique results, even if the subject matter is the same. If you ever read this, Linda, thank you for this exquisite image!

We simply cannot have enough of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, so we spin new stories, paint new pictures, changing details and angles until we come up with something unique and hopefully attractive. No, we do not presume to improve upon Jane Austen. Who can improve on perfection? We just want more of our favourite couple – and as many versions as possible of the best love story ever written!

Recently I have added a new one to the mix. ‘The Falmouth Connection’, my latest Pride and Prejudice variation, sails on an altered course some days after Darcy’s arrival at Rosings. He has finally won the battle against himself and has decided to propose to the enticing Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

But what if he does not get the chance to utter that most ungentlemanly Hunsford proposal? What if Elizabeth is summoned to Falmouth to meet a great-aunt she never knew she had? What if this great-aunt, Mrs. Pencarrow, is very different from what Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy imagine her to be? What if this unplanned journey brings Elizabeth into a whole new world – and Mr. Darcy too, for of course he is compelled to follow! A world of secrets and deception, with an aura of mystery and the ever-present frisson of danger brought by age-old tales of smugglers and pirates. Not to mention a troublesome French Connection and a Justice of Peace whom Darcy suspects he is rather different from what he seems to be…

If you are intrigued, please read the following excerpt from Chapter 11.

Mr. Darcy has finally arrived in Cornwall, having had some difficulty in finding the place where Elizabeth and her family are staying – an ancient house known as Landennis Manor. He arrives to find her ill-disposed towards him. Worse still, he arrives to find her courted by a peer of the realm, no less! Moreover, unlike Darcy, Lord Trevellyan had not spent the best part of their acquaintance striving to ignore her and maintain his distance. And before the day is out, Darcy will discover some startling truths and find himself on quicksand, devoid of every familiar advantage…

* * * *

“But Sir,” Mrs. Bennet suddenly addressed him, distracting him from distressing ruminations, “I quite forgot to ask. Whereabouts are you staying?”

“I have not determined, Ma’am,” Darcy replied in subdued tones. “I have just arrived. I should imagine an inn could be found in the local village.”

Mrs. Pencarrow, who had kept her peace since the return of the picnicking party and had merely contented herself with watching everybody with her sunken yet very penetrating eyes, all of a sudden laughingly interjected:

“Oh, nay, nay, Sir, we cannot have that! Landennis Arms is but an alehouse for the people in the village and if there is a room or two, they are hardly for the discerning traveller. I should not wonder if you were to find yourself in damp sheets and beset by bedbugs.”

With some effort, Darcy suppressed a shudder, knowing full well that Elizabeth’s eyes would be upon him. He chanced a glance, only to find that it was indeed so and that her lips were curled into a mischievous little smile, as though the notion was highly entertaining.

Was it so very bad, then? Did she dislike him now to so great an extent that she wished his sleep plagued by bedbugs? The thought pained him nearly as much as it riled him – and yet there was something so utterly adorable in her impish turn of countenance and in that little smile that, without intending to, Darcy found himself returning it in full. Her eyes widened visibly at the sight and for a moment she was positively staring, as though she had expected him to be offended rather than diverted – and then she looked away.

Darcy endeavoured to suppress a sigh at the magnitude of the task before him, his own eyes forcibly opened over the last half-hour to the obstacles he would have to overcome in order to re-establish himself in her good opinion. Hell and damnation, no, he could not even hope for that! Not re-establish. There was good reason to believe that he had engaged her affections and esteem only in his over-confident imagination – and that the task ahead was far more daunting than he had ever thought.

The sigh escaped. He masked it with a cough, then struggled to attend Mrs. Pencarrow, who had resumed speaking:

“I would very much like to ask you to stay with us here at the Manor, but I fear you shall not thank me for the offer. This old place has known a secluded life for far too many years and most of the bedchambers are hardly fit for purpose after nearly two decades of disuse. Still, I should imagine ‘tis a trifle better than Landennis Arms and all its bugs,” she laughed lightly and, despite himself, Darcy found himself warming to the older woman.

That he would have dearly loved to avail himself of her invitation, there could be no doubt. The unhoped-for chance to be under the same roof as Elizabeth and find a way to soften her towards him was as appealing as could be – and yet he did not need to catch her glance to know that he would read dismay in her too expressive eyes. Only a fool would hurt his chances by riling her further so, with some determination, Darcy brought himself to say:

“I thank you, Ma’am, but I should not wish to impose upon your kindness,” he quietly offered, then added with the vaguest hint of a diverted smile: “I think I shall pit myself against the bedbugs after all.”

A fleeting glance allowed him to see that Elizabeth arched a brow, although she kept staring at her hands and would say nothing. As for Mrs. Pencarrow, she merely returned his smile and bade him do just as he wished, as long as he remembered that the offer stood, if Landennis Arms proved too much for comfort. In the end, it was only Mrs. Bennet who saw fit to protest:

“But, Mr. Darcy, surely you cannot subject yourself to such an inconvenience! As my aunt suggested, you would be most welcome here, Sir, most welcome indeed!”

It was fruitless to wish for the warm entreaty to be forthcoming from the daughter rather than the mother. Today at least, it would not come to pass. With a valiant effort at masking his distress, Darcy turned to Mrs. Bennet to thank her for the offer and let her know that he must abide by the original plan. Just then though, from the other end of the drawing room where he sat, quietly surveying the changing scene before him with all its undercurrents and wordless exchanges, Lord Trevellyan suddenly decided to speak up:

“If I may be allowed a say in the matter, I believe I can claim the doubtful privilege of having seen the inside of Landennis Arms more recently than most. As such, I truly would not recommend it, Mr. Darcy, for great many reasons, of which the bedbugs form only a small part. But, as a treasured acquaintance of Mrs. Bennet’s, you are welcome to come and stay at my house. ‘Tis but a short distance around the estuary – and shorter still across it – and I assure you that you can be accommodated without the slightest inconvenience.”

Darcy looked up in unconcealed surprise at the wholly unexpected offer – only to meet the other man’s cool stare, fixed upon him from under vaguely arched brows. It was not the deliberately blank look that riled him beyond sense and reason, but the glance full of astonished gratitude that Darcy saw Elizabeth bestow upon the other man. He pressed his lips together, willing his churning turmoil into some measure of tenuous control.

Not a fool then, my lord Trevellyan, but a crafty devil! In one fell swoop – and a rather elegant one as well, Darcy felt compelled to own – he had gathered most of the trumps and all the laurels. Not only had he steered him away from Landennis Manor and its environs but – damn him and his cunning! – by doing so, he had gained the aura of a Good Samaritan into the bargain.

Gallingly, there was nothing he could say other than, “I thank you, I am most obliged” – and he said so, with as much evenness as he could muster.

“Think nothing of it,” the other casually retorted, then put down his empty cup. “Well then, if you have no objection, Mr. Darcy, perhaps we should take our leave, seeing as we ought to make ourselves presentable in time for dinner,” he added and, once more feeling vexingly outmanoeuvred, Darcy could do nothing but agree.

Adieus were made, restrained and providing little comfort, and before too long Darcy found himself in his own carriage, with Lord Trevellyan leading the way on his bay horse.

The journey took no more than a half-hour. The man was in the right; his house was not far – a grand and very handsome residence, Jacobean in appearance, atop the hill that overlooked the river mouth.

Casting the reins to one of his men and instructing another to see to his guest’s carriage and people, Lord Trevellyan motioned towards the entrance and they both made their way within.

“Can I offer you a drink while your trunk is brought up?” the host offered and, once more, Darcy felt that civility compelled him to agree.

He followed Lord Trevellyan to a room that presumably served as his study or something of that nature, dark-panelled and very masculine in its d├ęcor.

“Brandy?”

“Thank you.”

Lord Trevellyan poured for both and they sipped their drinks in silence. For his part, Darcy was rather persuaded that he had been brought there for an oblique quizzing and, in order to forestall it, he began at once – much as disguise of every sort was his abhorrence.

“Your kindness is deeply appreciated, Lord Trevellyan. However, I should not wish to impose upon you. As the local inn does not come with good recommendations, I can easily lodge in Falmouth and engage a craft to bring me across the bay – particularly as I expect a friend of mine to arrive in these parts in a few days’ time.”

“Mr. Darcy, surely there is no cause to lodge across the bay. You are of course welcome to stay for as long as you wish and so is your friend, when he arrives. You have only to send one of your men to Falmouth to await him and escort him hither. As to the local inn, as I said before, the likelihood of bedbugs is the least of your concerns. From what I understand, it is the haunt of the sort of people who would not take kindly to a stranger in their midst.”

“Oh? What sort of people would that be?”

His host smiled.

“Would you not hazard a guess?”

“Smugglers? Pirates? Wreckers?”

His lordship’s smile grew a trifle wider.

“Let us just say, your first guess is not vastly off the mark.”

“And is the law powerless against them?”

“I daresay I am – to some extent at least. Oh, did you not know?” he added, noting the other’s expression of surprise. “Perhaps Mrs. Bennet did not have the opportunity to mention that I am Justice of Peace for this parish.”

“I see.”

“In answer to your question, I am not so much powerless as disinclined to wage a losing battle.”

“How so?”

“’Tis the nature of things that in every part of the world people would make a living by hook or by crook and, after all, we cannot send everybody to Botany Bay. We catch the big fish – or at least we try to. But never mind that now. I should imagine your room must be readied and presumably a bath as well, so you might wish to retire and refresh yourself, since we are to wander back towards Landennis in a few hours. Ah, that reminds me. You might find that our steep and narrow lanes are better suited to riding than to a London carriage. You are most welcome to choose a mount from the stables.”

“You are very gracious – but speaking of Landennis,” Darcy resumed, refusing to be sidetracked, “I can only hope that the unsavoury characters you mentioned pose no threat to the people at the Manor.”

With a swift, stiff movement from his shoulder, Lord Trevellyan drained his glass.

“I am making it my business to ensure they do not,” he said at length and Darcy frowned.

“Would that not be best achieved by tackling a known nest of vipers?” he asked with an arched brow and for a moment he was certain that Lord Trevellyan would bristle at his interference.

Whether or not he was tempted to, Lord Trevellyan did not bristle. He merely offered curtly:

“It would not.”

In the end, it was Darcy who bristled.

“Then how do you propose to ensure their safety?”

“I have my ways,” was all that the other was prepared to offer and at that, Darcy rather lost his temper.

“For my part, I hope they will soon return where they belong!”

“And where might that be?”

“Hertfordshire, of course.”

And in her case Derbyshire, God willing, but that was something he could not – would not say.

“What makes you so certain that they belong in Hertfordshire?” Lord Trevellyan drawled, riling him even further.

“I fail to understand your meaning.”

“Mrs. Pencarrow has informed me that their Hertfordshire estate is entailed upon a distant cousin. A Kentish rector by the name of Collins, if memory serves.”

A Kentish rector? Collins? Heavens above! Him? Darcy all but gasped. He was sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Collins to know that the man had about as much affectionate compassion as the gatepost of Hunsford parsonage. Heaven forefend, should anything befall Mr. Bennet, that man would have his family out of Longbourn before he was cold in his grave! Suddenly, in this light, Mrs. Bennet’s scheming to get her daughters married no longer held such repulsively greedy connotations.

“You seem uncommonly well informed about their business,” he observed coolly, to mask his discomfort at the revelations.

“It is my business to be well informed.”

“Is that so?” Darcy snapped, forgetting his manners. “To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Bennet and his family are not of this parish and thus beyond your remit!”

“Then perhaps it might serve you to become better informed,” the other drawled, clearly enjoying his advantage. “As such, you might wish to learn they have good enough reason to be of this parish. Or at least one of them has.”

Darcy’s jaw stiffened.

“Of whom are you speaking?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

Lord Trevellyan’s prompt and confident retort shook Darcy to the core. No! It could not be! He had not proposed already, surely – and she had not accepted!

“What makes you claim that?” he asked through frozen lips.

“Mrs. Pencarrow has chosen to appraise me of her wishes. It appears that each of the Miss Bennets are to receive a share of the lady’s considerable fortune – ”

“And what has this to do with Miss Elizabeth Bennet being of this parish?”

“Everything, I should imagine. You see, upon her great-aunt’s passing, of all her sisters, she is to be the mistress of Landennis Manor.”

* * * *

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. There is a giveaway of course: an e-book available internationally. Please leave a comment to take part and thanks for visiting and reading! Do visit the book’s Facebook page listed in the links below, for details of giveaway winners and for images of the lovely places where it’s all supposed to have happened. Janet, thanks again for having me here, you’re simply wonderful as always and your kind welcome is hugely appreciated!


Amazon links: Books by Joana Starnes

Thank you so much for being my guest again, Joana. It is always such a pleasure. I agree that we cannot get enough of our dear Darcy and Elizabeth and the many predicaments that you authors imagine for them, much to our delight! Keep them coming!

As Joana mentioned above, there is a giveaway...an eBook. (international) Yay! Thank you, Joana Starnes. To be entered please have your share in the conversation as we would dearly love to hear from you. Leave a comment and please include your email address so that I may inform you if you are the winner.  The giveaway will end at midnight, November 17.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jeanna Ellsworth ~ To Refine Like Silver

Hello to all from this lovely and wet November day in Texas. We need the rain and the chilly temps are wonderful, making it feel more like this time of year is supposed to feel. Good day to stay in, sip some tea and read a book! How about the new release, To Refine Like Silver, by Jeanna Ellsworth? That is what I will be reading today. What I have read to date has been thought-provoking and very good. More on that in a few days when I post my review. For now, enjoy an excerpt and the back cover blurb. There is a giveaway too. Be sure and read about it in the last part of Jeanna's post. (Isn't the cover of this book stunning?)

Thank you, Jeanna, for coming back for a visit. I am always glad to have you here. 

Thank you Janet for hosting me on your blog! I thought since you were one of the first on the blog tour that I would give you an excerpt where Darcy and Elizabeth meet. This is in the very first few pages of the book. Elizabeth’s Aunt and Uncle Gardiner just inherited an estate near Lambton and Elizabeth is helping them settle in as new landowners of Saphrinbrooke. Enjoy!

*****

She started walking the main path and soon heard voices from behind a manicured hedge. She turned the corner and saw that her uncle was in deep discussion with a dark-haired gentleman. The stranger’s back was to her, but she could see he was tall and broad shouldered. His stood erect with one hand bent behind him. She watched his fingers methodically flexing and contracting into a gentle fist.
Her presence must have been heard, because he turned around. He was not just tall and dark; his features were chiseled and striking. His jaw was strong and had a very stern set to it. But after the briefest of moments, there came a slightly raised eyebrow and a look of surprise, and the corner of his eyes and his brows relaxed. Whoever this man was, he was trying desperately not to show his emotions. She gave him a slight smile as her uncle addressed her.
            “I see you have found me again in my hiding spot,” Mr. Gardiner said with a smile. “But I confess, I have a purpose in being out here this time. Let me introduce you to our neighbor, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. He owns the grand Pemberley estate located on the other side of Lambton. I believe you said it was a mere five miles from Lambton, no?”
            “Indeed,” Mr. Darcy replied.
            Elizabeth could tell she was being evaluated and scrutinized from head to toe, and for a moment she wished she had taken more time with her hair. She recognized that her manners and appearance would reflect on the Gardiners, especially since this was the first landowner they had met in the area. She gave her best curtsy and smiled again. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Darcy.”
            Mr. Darcy stood and looked at the lady in front of him. He didn’t know how to express his first impression of her, except to say that she sparkled. Was it her hair? Or was it the way she carried herself? Was it that smile? She was simply bright. She was beautiful, but that was not what took his breath away. It was something else entirely. The stirrings were so foreign that he stood staring at her for many moments before he realized he had not addressed her. “I would say the same to you; however, we have not been properly introduced yet. You now know my name, but yours remains a mystery.” Mr. Darcy pulled his eyes away from her intriguing gaze long enough to give proper attention to the gentleman speaking next to him.
            “My apologies, sir,” Mr. Gardiner chuckled. “This is my favorite niece, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. She is my sister’s second eldest child. She will be staying with us for the next two months to help us settle in at Saphrinbrooke.” Mr. Gardiner noticed the questioning look on Mr. Darcy’s face and added, “Elizabeth has been helping her father run an estate in Hertfordshire for many years. I realize it is unusual for a man like myself to seek counsel from a much younger female, but her wisdom and insight is very valuable.”
            “I do not doubt it. It is a pleasure, Miss Bennet.” Mr. Darcy had never wanted to kiss a lady’s hand before, but he wanted to now. Without thinking, he reached out and took her hand and bowed over it, giving it a small kiss. When he looked up, he saw that sparkle again and the corner of her mouth turned up in a teasing manner.
            “And how, sir, have you come to such a conclusion? Is it really wise to accept Mr. Gardiner’s opinion of my character so readily? For you have nothing to judge me on but my appearance and his word. I have said but five words in addressing you, none of which have been wise or insightful.” Elizabeth grinned widely as he dropped her hand and returned his arm to the folded position behind his back. She could only assume his fingers were rhythmically moving as she had seen before. She let out a small giggle to let him know she was teasing him.
            Mr. Gardiner chuckled, “And so it is with my niece! I warn you now to always be on your toes with this one. She is quick and intelligent, and she makes for good conversation.”
            Mr. Darcy stood taller and tried to mask his flushed face as he struggled to frame a response. He wasn’t used to being teased; he had been shamelessly praised and showered with flattery by every lady of his acquaintance—but not teased. This was new territory for him.

*****

As you can see, they have a much different beginning than the one in the Meryton Assembly. Mr. Darcy is drawn to her from the very beginning. That comment of “not handsome enough to tempt me” never gets said! I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. I am giving away a paperback (U.S. only) or an eBook (internationally) to one of the commenters. Good luck in the giveaway!

Now for a little back cover intrigue!

If Mr. Darcy had met Elizabeth Bennet in his beloved Derbyshire, would he have recognized her as the love of his life instead of dismissing her as someone “not handsome enough to tempt” him? This alteration of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice adds a little spirit, flirtation, and charm to everyone’s favorite characters.
Early in the summer of 1811, Elizabeth Bennet travels to Derbyshire to help her aunt and uncle settle in as new owners of Saphrinbrooke. Elizabeth is soon introduced to the estate’s nearest neighbors: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, who is suffering the results of a fateful trip to Ramsgate. Having endured several life tragedies herself, Elizabeth reaches out to the young lady of Pemberley. Under her radiant influence, both Darcy and Georgiana begin to look for help outside of themselves.
To Refine Like Silver is a romantic and spiritual journey where more than one of our favorite Regency characters must learn to fully rely on God. Their trials bring depth to the beloved story, and Mr. Darcy ultimately learns that our trials do not define us; rather they refine us.

To Refine Like Silver is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Doesn't this sound good. It is intriguing with a different tone. I like that. Thank you, Jeanna, for allowing me to be a part of your blog tour for this lovely book. It is such a pleasure to have you stop by. 

As Jeanna mentioned above, there is a giveaway...either one paperback (US only) OR an eBook. (international) Please specify your choice when you leave a comment and please include your email address so that I may inform you if you are the winner. To be entered in the giveaway, ask Jeanna a question about her new book. I know many will come to mind as you read the excerpt and the back cover information. She would love to hear your thoughts so please have your share in the conversation. The giveaway will end at midnight, November 11.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Boots & Backpacks by KC Kahler


The Blog Tour for Boots & Backpacks is in full swing and I get to be a part of it today! I'm so excited to have new author, K C Kahler visit with an excerpt from her book, Boots & Backpacks. Enjoy!

Blurb:

Boots & Backpacks
Pride and Prejudice on the Appalachian Trail, roughly

William Darcy counts down the last few months to his 30th birthday with dread. Orphaned as a child, his parents’ will includes a bizarre clause: Darcy must get married by his 30th birthday in order to inherit the family fortune. To make matters worse, the press knows about this deadline, as do the hordes of women chasing him in the hopes of becoming Mrs. Darcy. His family legacy hangs in the balance, but Darcy has little faith in the fairer sex. Will he find a woman he wants to marry, and quickly?

Elizabeth Bennet is determined to pursue her education and career without letting a man get in the way. When her traveling companion drops out, her planned hike on the Appalachian Trail is jeopardized. She meets the spoiled, snobby William Darcy just when he is desperate to escape the spotlight. No one will suspect that the Prince of Manhattan has gone backpacking! Darcy and Elizabeth form a tenuous partnership and begin a 300-mile journey that will transform them both.

In classic romantic comedy tradition, Boots & Backpacks follows our reluctant partners as they build trust, friendship, and even more. Six weeks together on America’s most famous hiking trail may turn out to be just what these two need!

Excerpt:

Notes: Previous excerpts have been posted at my blog and at So Little Time

This is a scene from Chapter 3 where Darcy is using Twitter to stay one step ahead (barely) of gossip reporter Gwen Younge and her minions. FYI, Carlos is Darcy’s driver.


-----------
Distance from New York City: 0 miles
Forced matrimony in: 59 days

Darcy turned onto Tenth Avenue and ran as fast as his Gucci Oxfords would let him. He’d thought sending Carlos and his brother Hector out as decoys was a stroke of genius. Hector looked like Darcy. Most of the paparazzi and the women of a certain ilk in hot pursuit had been fooled. But not all. When Darcy had tried to hail a cab nearly two blocks from the Darcy & De Bourgh offices, they’d spotted him, despite the ridiculous hat he wore in disguise. Then Darcy had bolted, testing the aforementioned designer footwear.
But Darcy was a runner, and now he reaped the benefits of those many hours spent on the treadmill by giving everyone the slip. He didn’t know where he was going. He’d felt caged in his apartment, then caged at the office, and he needed to escape. As he loitered near Penn Station, trying to figure out his next move and still wearing the stupid hat, he took out his phone.
In the last few days, he had discovered something useful: his various pursuers all followed Gwen Younge—NY Tribune gossip columnist and bane of his existence for the last eight years—on Twitter. If she didn’t know Darcy’s whereabouts, one of her many followers would spot him and then tweet that to Gwen. So, even though it went against his very being, Darcy began to follow Gwen on Twitter. At least he might have some warning as to when and where the horde would be heading next. He particularly loved when some loser saw him where he wasn’t, thus sending the throng on a wild goose chase.
But as the latest tweets revealed, that wasn’t the case at the moment.
GwenYounge: Looks like our boy #Darcy pulled a switcheroo. Keep your eyes peeled, my Tweeps. Need a sighting bad.
2:10 PM September 9th

SillySally: @GwenYounge OMG I see #Darcy outside Penn Station, the 33rd Street entrance, wearing a fedora! For realsies
2:32 PM September 9th

Shit!

SillySally: @GwenYounge He’s going in! And he ditched the fedora #Darcy
2:35 PM September 9th

Gwen Younge: @SillySally Follow him if you can! Keep tweeting until we get there. You’re da bomb, Sally. #Darcy
2:37 PM September 9th

SillySally: @GwenYounge Damn he runs fast. Sorry I lost him. #Darcy
2:44 PM September 9th

Ha!
Darcy managed to get to the upper level. He didn’t know why he went that way, other than it was where he, Bingley, and Caroline had caught the train to New Jersey a few weeks ago.
The Hursts! He could go to the Hursts’ to buy himself some time. No one would think to look for him there, at least not for a while. Then maybe he could charter a plane somewhere, get Carlos to come pick him up. Though where he would fly, he didn’t know.
Gwen Younge: Any news, Sally? Or anyone else? We’re almost there but Penn Station is really big. #Darcy
2:53 PM September 9th

Ha!
Darcy remembered Ridgewood was the nearest station to the Hursts, and he bought a ticket for the next train at the automated ticket machine. As the train left the station, he watched that cursed Twitter feed to see if he’d been spotted.
Vampgrrl: @GwenYounge I’m not sure, but I think I saw #Darcy near the NJ Transit tracks about 5 minutes ago
3:11 PM September 9th

Shit! At least they didn’t know which train. Two others were departing within a few minutes of his.
GwenYounge: @Vampgrrl Thanks for the tip. It’s our best lead right now. Stay tuned, my NJ tweeps. I may need you to spot #Darcy
3:20 PM September 9th

The Hursts weren’t usually on Gwen’s radar. Darcy hadn’t associated with them often since they’d started popping out kids. His lifestyle didn’t exactly gel with wholesome family activities. Gwen might eventually think to check up on the Hursts, but not in the next hour. He should be able make it to them unnoticed, as long as none of the other passengers on the train recognized him. They all appeared to be commuter types, wrapped up in their papers and phones. With his suit and tie, he fit right in.
Darcy stopped obsessively checking Twitter to call the Hursts. It went to voicemail. Three times. Shit. He only had half an hour until he reached Ridgewood. He didn’t know the address of their house, nor did he have any idea if they were even home, so catching a cab at the station would get him nowhere. Darcy didn’t have many options left, and was running out of time.
Bingley’s Jane Bennet dalliance hadn’t lasted long enough to capture Gwen’s interest. Bingley wasn’t Gwen’s main focus anyway; Darcy had that dubious honor. Maybe he could find Jane at Bennet Realty and ask her for somewhere to hide for an hour. He couldn’t imagine her refusing; she had acted so nice, and despite what he’d told Bingley, he now found himself hoping she was genuine. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was all he had.
The train arrived in Ridgewood. As he headed toward Bennet Realty, he called the Hursts again. Still voicemail. He didn’t bother leaving another message.
When he reached the office, a sign on the door read, “We will return in 30 minutes.” Shit—now what? Did he go to a coffee shop to wait and risk being spotted? With dread he checked Gwen’s tweets.
GwenYounge: NJ tweeps: any of you near Teterboro or Ridgewood? If so, DM me. #WheresDarcy
4:10 PM September 9th

Shit. Teterboro had an airport that Darcy used once in a while for a charter plane. That was an obvious choice for suspicion. But there was only one reason Ridgewood would be mentioned: Gwen had figured out the Hurst connection, or maybe the Jane Bennet connection, but she didn’t want to broadcast their names to all her followers yet. Many of her followers were competing reporters.
He could call Carlos, but it would take at least an hour to make it out of the city on a weeknight. Darcy had maybe 10 minute until the streets around the train station were swarming with press and celebrity-watchers. And he was marooned here. In New Jersey.
“Slumming it again, poor William?”
Darcy wanted to scream. He knew that derisive voice. It belonged to Miss Nice Ass Elizabeth Bennet. He turned slowly toward her. “Miss Bennet.”
“What are you doing here, Mr. Darcy?”
Although he itched to return her sarcasm, he couldn’t afford to piss her off. “I, ahh…I was hoping to see your sister.”
“Jane’s away at a conference.”
Darcy cursed under his breath and checked the dreaded Twitter feed. There was nothing new yet, at least not public. “I find myself a bit stranded here…” He couldn’t bring himself to ask her for help, partly because he knew she’d refuse.
“Why don’t you call the Hursts?”
“I did. It keeps going to voicemail.”
“Well, I’m sure they’ll get back to you soon,” she said by way of dismissal.
He rubbed his hand over his face, completely out of options. “Not soon enough,” he muttered.
“How’s Charlie?” Darcy was shaken from his pessimism by Elizabeth’s sharp question. She stood gripping the handle of the door that led up to her apartment, looking accusingly at him.
“He’s fine. He’s at work now.”
“He’s fine. I’m so glad to hear it.” She sounded anything but glad, but Darcy didn’t care that she was ticked off about something. As far as he could tell, she was always ticked off. Then she added, “You’re not working, of course.”
“I have a few other things going on at the moment.” He scanned the street. He had to call Carlos, though there was little hope of getting out of here unnoticed.
“Like what?”
“Like being stuck here without a plan and dreading the moment when the hordes of women and paparazzi find me, that’s what.”
“How could they find you here?”
“They always find me—Goddamned Twitter,” he said more to himself than in answer to her question. “Look, I’m trying to think and you’re distracting me. Have a nice life and all that.” He turned to leave.
“Wait. I don’t get it—Twitter?”
“I’d just love to explain Twitter to you, but I really can’t stay out here any longer.” He scanned the street again. “I need to find…someplace. I’m sure they’re already on their way.” He began to walk away.
“Ugh, so melodramatic!”
He paused, saying over his shoulder, “You really have no clue, do you? Wait an hour and then tell me I’m being melodramatic.”
“Fine. You can come up to the apartment for one hour.”
He turned to her, gaping.
“Well? Don’t you want to get inside before you’re seen by the frightful Twitter-happy ladies?” She flapped her hands around in mock terror.
He didn’t care that she mocked him. She’d soon be proven wrong, and in the meantime, he would have a nice private place to wait for Carlos. He strode back and held the door open for her. “After you.”
-------------------

Elizabeth to the rescue!

On Twitter: @KCKahler      


   Author Bio:

KC Kahler has worked as a writer and editor in both non-profit and academic settings. Until discovering Jane Austen Fan Fiction several years ago, KC’s writing had been limited to the dry and technical, which is a shame, since she considers herself witty and sparkling. Her first novel, Boots & Backpacks, will be published in 2014 by Meryton Press.
KC lives on a four-acre slice of Penn’s Woods with her husband and two dogs. They enjoy hiking, gardening, and being beer snobs.

Thanks for stopping busy on your busy tour, KC. It is great to have you here and look forward to a return visit in the future. Best wishes with your new release. 

For all you readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this fascinating excerpt!