Thursday, July 2, 2020

Victoria Kincaid...Rebellion at Longbourn

Good morning everyone. I hope you are all staying well. 

Visiting today, we have the lovely Victoria Kincaid, who is always a pleasure to host. I know you will enjoy reading what she has to tell us, as well as reading an excerpt from her release, Rebellion at Longbourn. We all enjoy those excerpts, don't we!

Welcome, Victoria. I'll turn the floor over to you. :)

*****


Hello Janet!  And thank you for welcoming me back to your blog! 

Jane Austen is rightfully celebrated for her depictions of romance, but I also appreciate her for those moments when she details the bonds between women—particularly sisters. I think the best example of this is Sense and Sensibility. 

While the novel is about Elinor and Marianne’s search for love and security—as well as Austen’s barbed social satire, it is also a touching depiction of a love between two sisters. Even though they are quite different, they obviously care deeply for each other, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Austen has them marrying men with homes that are quite near each other. She obviously liked the idea that the sisters would not be separated.

Pride and Prejudice also pays attention to the relationships between sisters, although (like Persuasion) it also emphasizes how sisterly ties can sometimes go sour.  But Jane and Elizabeth enjoy a relationship that is somewhat similar to the one in Sense and Sensibility: the two women are quite different in temperament, but they enjoy a deep and loving relationship. 

I always thought it was significant that Jane is the only person whom Elizabeth informs of Mr. Darcy’s first proposal—as well as the contents of his confidential letter.  Not only does she trust Jane to keep these secrets, but she also has confidence in Jane’s ability to give her good advice.  As in Sense and Sensibility, Austen makes a point of telling us that these two sisters end up living near each other in Derbyshire (after Bingley gives up the lease on Netherfield).  The author herself obviously doesn’t like the idea that marriage will separate the sisters.

I’ve always thought it was a shame that Elizabeth didn’t enjoy such a close relationship with her other sisters, although it wouldn’t be very realistic to have five sisters who all loved each other dearly and never quarreled.  But when I started writing Rebellion at Longbourn, I wondered how Collins’s ownership of Longbourn would affect the relationships among the sisters.

I thought shared adversity might bring them closer together. In addition, at the beginning of the book, Elizabeth concocts a scheme to make life at Longbourn more tolerable for the tenants—by improving the estate’s agricultural techniques (without Collins’s knowledge). She recruits her sisters to help, particularly Mary, who has a special interest in agriculture.  I really enjoyed writing that aspect of the book and imagining how the sisters would support each other.  I think Austen would have approved.

The excerpt below comes from an early chapter, when Elizabeth and Mary are trying to convince Collins—to no avail—to adopt new agricultural techniques so his extravagant expenditures won’t bankrupt the estate.

Since he would not decrease his spending, she had hoped at least he would embrace the idea of increasing the estate’s income.  But now Collins gave her a patently false smile.  “Your concern for Longbourn does you credit, Cousin.  However, as a woman, you naturally do not understand such things.  It is all accounted for in the ledgers.”  He gestured vaguely toward his desk, which was entirely empty.  “It has to do with credits and debits…profits and so on.”
Elizabeth suspected she understood Longbourn’s ledgers better than Collins did or he would not be purchasing gold pocket watches. 
“You, my most exquisite cousins, should concern yourself with domestic duties—where you are doing an admirable job—and allow me to worry about the finances and such.”
Perhaps the time had arrived when Elizabeth needed to remind him why additional income was desirable.  “Of course, Longbourn is your estate and you may decide what happens here, but it is clearly in need of additional funds.  The tenants’ houses—”
Collins sighed and rolled his eyes; the tenants had raised these matters before.  But Elizabeth pushed forward.  “The tenants’ houses are in need of repair.  Longbourn needs greater profit.”  Standing, Elizabeth tapped one of the books on the desk before Collins.  “I implore you, sir, to at least read the passages Mary has marked.  It is your duty to Longbourn to be the best landowner you can be!”
She knew instantly that she had pushed too far.  Collins had quite a temper, although he liked to pretend he did not—one of many lies he told himself. 
Red in the face, Collins clambered to his feet.  “You and Mary should not concern yourselves with these matters when there are many household tasks waiting to be performed.  These journals appear to be a distraction from your ordinary duties; I shall cancel the subscriptions, and you will return these books to the library.  After all, they belong to me.”
Mary’s face was a picture of anguish.  “But surely there is no harm in—”
Collins lifted his chin.  “You both live at Longbourn on my sufferance,” he intoned.  “I ask little in recompense.”  That was a lie but not one Elizabeth could dispute with any success.  “However, I do insist that you leave the running of Longbourn to me.  I know everything that happens on the estate and, therefore, am in the best position to make decisions.”
Mary blinked back tears as Collins gathered journals and books from the table and tore still more from her arms, setting them on the floor behind his desk. 
Elizabeth put her arm around her sister as she gave Collins a cold stare.  “Indeed, sir.  We will trouble you no longer.” 
Mary raised her chin as if she would object, but Elizabeth shook her head slightly.  They could accomplish nothing more at the moment.  She held herself rigid and straight as she escorted Mary from the room.
Kitty and Jane awaited them in the kitchen, the one room that Collins would never visit.  Polly was helping Hill prepare dinner; both strained to overhear the conversation. 
“What happened?” Kitty asked, running up to them as they descended the stairs.
Elizabeth shook her head.  “He would not listen to a word we said.”  Kitty’s face fell.
“Worse, he confiscated the books and said he would suspend the journal subscriptions,” Mary moaned.
“My sincerest apologies.” Elizabeth gave her sister a comforting hug.  “I did not foresee that possibility.  But I have no doubt we can sneak the books from his study when he is not at home.  He will never notice their absence.  And I believe Sir William Lucas subscribes to at least two of those journals.  He would happily lend them to you.”
Mary’s face brightened. 
“Your conversation was extremely enlightening and proper,” Elizabeth assured her sister.  “You can do nothing if Collins is a fool.”
Mary’s smile widened. 
At least I brightened someone’s day, for I have accomplished little else of worth.  Maybe Sir William would hire Mary to be his steward; at least then one of the Bennet sisters would not be dependent on Collins’s largesse.  Elizabeth smiled at her own whimsy.  If only women could be stewards, Mary would excel at it, and Elizabeth would not worry about that sister’s future.  She had hope that eventually Jane and Kitty would make respectable—if not spectacular—marriages.  But Mary had shown little interest in marriage, and Elizabeth doubted her temperament was well-suited to becoming a governess or lady’s companion.
“What will we do now, Lizzy?” Kitty’s words drew Elizabeth from her reverie.  Everyone regarded her expectantly, making Elizabeth yearn for a good response.  But she had pinned her slim hopes on persuading Collins to adopt more modern agricultural methods.  Nothing happened on an estate without the landowner’s cooperation.  They were virtually powerless.  Already the effects of Collins’s bad management were being sensed by the tenants and demonstrated by the estate’s productivity.
Her hands balled into fists as she stared at the five women in the kitchen.  Their lives—and the lives of all the other inhabitants of Longbourn—were scarcely less important than Collins’s.  And certainly far more important than Collins’s waistcoats. It was unfair that they should have so much less control over their own lives than he did. 


Summary:

 Elizabeth Bennet’s father died two years ago, and her odious cousin Mr. Collins has taken possession of the Longbourn estate. Although Collins and his wife Charlotte have allowed the Bennet sisters and their mother to continue living at Longbourn, the situation is difficult. Viewing Elizabeth and her sisters as little more than unpaid servants, Collins also mistreats the tenants, spends the estate’s money with abandon, and rejects any suggestions about improving or modernizing Longbourn. After one particularly egregious incident, Elizabeth decides she must organize a covert resistance among her sisters and the tenants, secretly using more modern agricultural methods to help the estate thrive. Her scheme is just getting underway when Mr. Darcy appears in Meryton.

Upon returning from a long international voyage, Darcy is forced to admit he cannot forget his love for Elizabeth. When he learns of the Bennet family’s plight, he hurries to Hertfordshire, hoping he can provide assistance. Sinking into poverty, Elizabeth is further out of Darcy’s reach than ever; still, he cannot help falling even more deeply in love. But what will he do when he discovers her covert rebellion against Longbourn’s rightful owner?   

Falling in love with Mr. Darcy was not part of Elizabeth’s plan, but it cannot be denied.  Darcy struggles to separate his love for her from his abhorrence for deception.  Will their feelings for each other help or hinder the Rebellion at Longbourn? 

*****

What do you think? Does this whet your appetite for more? It does mine. Have any of you read this book yet? I haven't but will be reading it soon, I hope. I always enjoy reading Victoria's books, so I know this one will be no different. 

Thank you for stopping by More Agreeably Engaged, Victoria. I appreciate you including us in your tour. Best wishes with Rebellion at Longbourn, but I am betting it is already doing really well.

Victoria is giving away one eBook, and the giveaway is worldwide. To be entered in the giveaway, have your share in the conversation in the comments below. Giveaway will end at midnight central time on the 6th of July. Good luck to all!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tempted by Nicole Clarkston Cover Reveal

Hello, Dear Readers. I hope you are all well and safe. It has been quite a few weeks since I have posted, so I am happy to be here today.



My special guest, Nicole Clarkston, chose More Agreeably Engaged to share the cover reveal for her new release, Tempted. Oh my, you are going to love the book! We both hope you will love the cover too. Before we get to the cover, here's Nicole to tell you a little about her story.

Tempted is a book that truly frightened me. I have confessed this before, and there are SO many reasons why, but today I will be sharing one of them: Elizabeth is no country squire’s daughter. She’s not even gently brought up.

To explain a little more about her, first I will touch on the back story of Tempted. The time, as you have noticed, is moved up about 90 years. That timeline gave me several new opportunities, and I don’t even have time to list all the historical details I tried to take advantage of, but one of them is the Boer War. The British Empire fought the Boers, or otherwise known as Dutch Afrikaners, to gain control of the region for trade. That is the ugliest and simplest version of the history possible, and, as we all know, the real history is much bigger and more kaleidoscopic than that. However, as a side effect of the war, the British Army was in constant need of horses for the cavalry. Horse buyers went to Australia and the United States trying to buy up as many remounts as they could, a venture financed in some part by British investors.

That is where Colonel Fitzwilliam comes in. Some of these horse buying stations were in Wyoming, and I created a fictional town around one for my purposes. This humble little cow town, the focus of the British Cavalry’s interests, is where our Elizabeth hails from. The Bennet family’s ranch has failed and been sold, and now Mr Bennet works with the Army.

Circumstances conspire to thrust Elizabeth from her home and into Darcy’s world, but she is still very much a wild child. She does not sit still well. She does not understand why titles and influence are so gosh darn important. And she has no clue how a “lady” is supposed to act in “quality” drawing-rooms.

Oh, and she really doesn’t understand why she finds this Darcy character so… um… fascinating.

That is not to say that our Elizabeth is irreverent and obstreperous. Well, not most of the time. Okay, once in a while she is respectful and modest. It’s just that her ideas of how things should work don’t really fit in this new world, and she’s just stubborn enough that she doesn’t mind saying so.

I do hope you enjoy Tempted! Here is one of the excerpts that had me so terrified!

--Nicole

*****

From what Nicole said, what do you think about this Lizzy? It's interesting that she hails from the United States and is not a gentleman's daughter. Hmmm, I wonder what that can mean for Darcy when they eventually meet, but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's read the blurb and see if more information is brought to light.

Blurb:


Running from her past, Stumbling into the unknown,
and Drawn to a future she cannot have.

Elizabeth Bennet left all she loved behind when she accepted Colonel Fitzwilliam's hand. 
Dragging her sister Jane, her cousin Billy Collins, and a horrible secret along with her, she leaves her home and family in the United States and sets sail for England..., and safety. Expecting to meet her new husband when he returns from the Boer front, she is shocked to learn that not only does his family not believe her, but Richard has gone missing.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is only doing his duty. Trying to learn the truth of what happened to his
cousin, while sheltering the woman who claims to be Richard Fitzwilliam's wife, he encounters
more than he bargained for. She is ill prepared for life in this world, and her independent ways
threaten to defeat her before she has even begun. Unfortunately, she is close to defeating him,
as well. Pledged to marry another, but honour-bound to do all he can for Fitzwilliam's wife,
his equanimity and fortitude are tested whenever she is near.

When news of Fitzwilliam finally comes, it brings both grief and complications. Surprises,
possibilities, and agonising choices... Will Darcy and Elizabeth find a path to love? Or will new
revelations and the shadows of the past tear them apart before they are even together?

From the author of These Dreams and Nefarious, Tempted is a deliciously nuanced tale
of longing and trust. With good people in impossible places, close-knit families, and secrets
working in the dark, Darcy and Elizabeth have to fight every step for their future.

*****

Are you ready to see the cover? Let's take a look.


What do you think? Do you love these colors? I do! They are so soft and romantic. Does this scene depict the dawn of a new day and a beginning, or the end of day and the close of a chapter? Hmm, I wonder! I also wonder why Darcy and Lizzy are turned away from each other? There are so many questions that need answering.


I have two other reasons for "loving" this cover! My grandson and granddaughter are the models for Darcy and Lizzy. Some of you may remember Chayseland from one of Nicole's other covers, London Holiday. This is his fourth time as Darcy. Emily makes her first appearance on a cover. We had fun doing her hair for the photo session... well, sort of fun. It took me about two hours to fix it. She has so much hair and it is long. I didn't know what to do with all of it! lol I may have given out in the process, but she stayed calm and patient. 

Do you want to see the back cover or full wrapper? Let's take a look.




What is the girl(Lizzy) riding toward or away from? Do you notice the soldier vaguely in the upper left side of the back? From the blurb, we can make an assumption of whom that might be. 

We hope you like the cover and are intrigued by the blurb. If you want more enticement, there's an excerpt! YAY!


*****

Excerpt:


Darcy found himself at sixes and sevens. The officers at Whitehall had provided almost nothing new of import for Reginald’s questions. He had been able to dispatch another letter to Richard’s fellow officers, but it would be weeks, at best, before any reply could be had. And so, the most prudent thing to do seemed to be to withdraw again to Pemberley, at least until travel to Africa was favourable.
A groom had brought his horse to the train station at Derby, and Darcy set out at a brisk trot for home. After the stifling air and cobblestones of London, the springy green of the turf beneath his horse’s hooves was invigorating. An hour’s ride—long enough to clear the cobwebs from his body after so much sedentary waiting. Why had he stayed in London so long?
Oh… yes.
Richard’s wife must be relegated to her proper place in his mind and in his home. That was what he must do. She would take her meals with the family as a guest naturally should, but he would avoid her during his hours of work and study. She must not interfere with his daily activities, with his plans and routines, for she was but one more woman in a house full of them. And as soon as Reginald joined his wife at Matlock, Darcy would pressure his cousin to do his proper duty and receive the whole party as he should have done before—the dowager and her sensibilities be hanged. That would secure him peace of mind on all fronts, and that was the only logical and proper thing to do.
By the time he crested the knoll overlooking his home, he was filled with a renewed sense of purpose and decisiveness. This enigma of a woman would know her place, and he would no longer permit her presence to cloud his judgment. What was she but a small nuisance? The real problems—Richard, his business interests, Georgiana’s future, and the management of his home—these must be first in his mind.
Only a few moments after he had settled this with himself, he was tested. He had ridden the shorter route, round the fields of grazing livestock, when a distressed lowing caught his attention. Not far off, one of his shorthorns was down, and she looked to be bringing a calf. It was late even for an Autumn calf—most of the other calves were already fat and sleek—but this appeared to be one of the younger heifers. If she had no help…
But what was that? A horse stood nearby. Whoever had come to the cow’s aid was already hunched behind her. Darcy jogged near, expecting it to be one of his herdsmen. “How is she?”
There was a surprised squeak, and a bare, curly head popped up above the cow’s hip. “Oh, thank goodness it is you, Mr Darcy! Can you help?”
“What the devil… Mrs Fitzwilliam!” Darcy swung down from his mount and was at her side in an instant. “What are you doing out here?”
She cocked an annoyed look up to him as he towered over her. “Trying to save your cow, which is more than you are doing. Come, lend me a hand. I don’t have any rope.”
“Mrs Fitzwilliam, my men will look after the cow. I insist you come away at once!”
“Your men are at least twenty minutes away, and unprepared besides. It will be nearly an hour before they make it back here if we go to fetch them. Do you really intend to let your cow die rather than permitting me a little blood on my hands?”
“You cannot know what you are doing!”
But, in fact, she did seem to know. He watched in horrified amazement as she did the unspeakable—reaching inside the cow to search for the calf’s front hooves. She grimaced, her dark eyes looking in his direction but not focused upon him. “Mr Darcy, I can feel it, but my hand is not large enough to grasp. Can you try?”
Revulsion shuddered through him, but his pride would not suffer for a woman and a guest to best him at such an endeavour. He stripped off his coat and tossed it over his saddle, then rolled up his shirt sleeves to kneel beside her.
The rest passed in something of a daze for Darcy. Above the gritty brutality of the scene, a piercing awareness left him reeling. Her shoulders were pressed into his chest as she tried to turn the calf, then they were pulling together. His mind must have closed itself down to everything it found repulsive, for the only senses he was aware of was the touch of her hand beside his, the warm life stirring beneath his fingertips, and the fresh, clean fragrance of her hair when the calf lurched at last, and she fell into him. She was laughing, her weight toppling him backwards. Though he still held his soiled hands apart, his arms unconsciously closed around her body until the soft flesh of her neck bumped his chin.
She wriggled, trying to sit upright again and accidentally delivering a few rather sharp blows to his ribs in the process. “A bull! It is a bull calf, sir! I—” She stopped mid-sentence as she turned to him and found his face only inches away. She cleared her throat, blinked, then looked down at her hands. “I suppose I need some water.”
He lurched unsteadily to his feet and offered his hand to help her up, then considered withdrawing it when he saw the filth covering his palm. “Uhm…”
But before he could step back, she grasped his hand, and a moment later they stood facing one another—both the worse for their labours. “I…” He stared stupidly at their hands, their clothes, and still could not help but admire the sweat-streaked tendrils of hair that had worked loose from her bun.
She was still holding his hand, but with a few rapid blinks and a gasp, dropped it suddenly. “Mr Darcy, sir, I beg you would forgive me for asking that of you.”
“Asking what? That I would care for my own animals? Who should have done it but I? You were quite right, for both would have died if we had tried to send for help.”
“But to direct you to do as I did… to order you to… you must have found it offensive. I expect now you know me to be far less a lady than I had managed to convince you before.”
He laughed quietly. “I had already settled it with myself that you were no proper lady. That was no surprise to me, but do you always fling yourself headlong into trial and danger?”
“Frequently, I am afraid.”
“Indeed! Perhaps I am beginning to understand why my cousin carried you off, after all.”
Her expression at once took on a haunted, broken look, and she stepped back. Idiot, Darcy scolded himself. What a foolish thing to say to a woman mourning the absence of her husband!
She was looking uncomfortably around, avoiding his face. Darcy gestured beyond her, fumbling for some way of helping her forget his careless words. “There is a stream just there. We can wash a little, and I will escort you through the secret passageways into the house.”
Mrs Fitzwilliam tilted her head, those eyes twinkling in curiosity. “Secret passageways? Why?”
“I… thought it might go better for you if you were not seen… that is, before you dressed.”
“Oh. Miss Darcy would find it vulgar. Of course, you are right. I had not thought of that.”
Darcy pinched his lips together and turned about, rather than meeting her gaze. The young cow was already standing and cleaning her calf, her mortal peril now entirely forgotten. The calf, too, thrashed lustily and then struggled to his feet. Mrs Fitzwilliam was beaming proudly as they watched the youngster, then turned as if to share her infectious joy but she sobered instantly when she met his eyes. He tipped his head in the direction of the stream, trickling only a few yards away, and began to walk. She followed, then they knelt together on the marshy bank.
Darcy’s eyes strayed from his own hands to the delicate lines of hers as the cool water sparkled over them. Her hands were formed… differently than he was accustomed to. Her fingers were not long and tapered like most ladies he knew, but rather short, and not entirely straight. The flexor muscles at the base of her thumb were well-defined and curved almost voluptuously down to delicate wrists. Her forearms were sculpted, shapely and lean, and a fine network of veins crossed their inner surface… no. No, they were not veins, but a light web of scars.
He looked curiously to her face, but she had apparently sensed his notice. Her mouth was set grimly, and she even seemed to be turning faintly away as she finished the task of cleaning her hands. Darcy settled back to his own concerns, briskly scrubbing his forearms, and then shaking the cold droplets from his skin. He returned to the horses before she did, and retrieved both of their hats from the ground, dusting hers off before offering it again to her. She accepted it as if uncertain what to do with it, turning it over with a furrowed brow before she settled it on her head, the veil slightly askew.
“Mrs Fitzwilliam, if I may?” He gently turned the hat on her head, and enjoyed her embarrassed giggle more than he cared to admit. He then offered his hand to assist her into the saddle. Her face softened, and she looked for a moment as if she would accept with pleasure, but then her features seemed to cool.
“Thank you, Mr Darcy, but it is not necessary. I can manage.” She gave the horse a cue, and Darcy watched in astonishment as his own mare—a champion polo pony purchased for her fire and quickness—gave a low groan and dropped herself down on the grass for her rider to mount. Mrs Fitzwilliam settled herself in the saddle, and even spread her skirts with little trouble, and then she gave the horse another signal to stand up.
She grinned proudly back at Darcy. “I have grown quite fond of your horse, sir.”
He coughed. “Yes, well… not many can manage a horse of her sensitivity, but I see you are getting on with her well enough.”
She laughed and patted the mare’s neck, but when she took up the reins, she looked all abashed, then started twisting in the saddle and looking at the ground. “Drat!”
“Something amiss?”
“I, ah… I believe I have lost my gloves again. I forgot all about them—not used to them, you see. I think it is the third pair I have lost.”
“And I am certain they will not be the last. Come, I believe we can manage to find another pair for you.”
She tightened her lips into an apologetic smile. “I am afraid I am quite the nuisance with my wardrobe. I understand I have already ruined four petticoats beyond any hope of proper restoration.”
“Five, after today. I shall be certain to send my cousin the launderer’s bill... the earl, that is,” he clarified when her brow creased faintly. “Truly, I am in jest, Mrs Fitzwilliam.”
“I should hope so,” was her tart response, “for I expect you will earn such an earful from your valet that my transgressions will pale in comparison.”
Darcy glanced down at his trousers, then allowed a boyish grin as he looked back to her. “Do you know, it was worth it.”
She answered him with a look of warmth, then turned quickly away, wetting her lips. “I expect we should hurry.” She stiffened her spine, and a moment later, her horse was galloping away from him.
Darcy had thought at first to walk sedately back, enjoying the leisurely amble to the house with one whose company was becoming a greater pleasure than he dared confess, but… perhaps it was better this way. Her still-crooked veil flapped in the breeze, and her figure was bent forward, hands light on the reins as her mount ripped up the sod before him. A curious thrill spiralled through his chest—a free-spirited whim, a playful fancy. Surely, it could do no harm.
He hissed to his horse and gave chase.
*****
After reading the excerpt, do you want to purchase the book now? You can. Just click on the link to get your copy and start reading today.
I loved that scene and how Elizabeth had taught the horse to help with her mount. Doesn't this sound like an excellent book? I can tell you, first hand, that it is. Poor Darcy tries his best to resist the charm of this impertinent American miss, but he is drawn to her like a moth to flame. At times, your heart will break for more than one character, and you may even shed a few tears. There are also some laughs, joy, and much heart-felt joy. The romance is swoon-worthy. I highly recommend this book to all readers. It will not disappoint. Nicole Clarkston does it again. 

Want to read another excerpt? There is a short one over at Jane Austen Variations. :)

Thanks for stopping by and sharing another big day for Nicole. Thank you, Nicole, for allowing me to reveal your cover, showcase my grandchildren, and tell a little about your wonderful book. Tempted is now available at  any Amazon. Get your copy today. 

But wait, do you want a chance to win this book? Of course, you do! Nicole is generous and is giving away three eBooks of Tempted! Yay! Isn't that wonderful! Three lucky winners will get their very own copy of this book. Leave a comment below to be entered, and be sure I know how to reach you! The giveaway is worldwide, and it will end tomorrow, July 1st at midnight Pacific time. Good luck to everyone.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Bennet Affair...Riana Everly

Riana Everly is stopping by with some interesting information on codes and cyphers. If you have been reading about her latest book, The Bennet Affair, you may have read that Darcy and Elizabeth encounter French spies, rumored to be led by Thomas Bennet. Oh my! This does sound intriguing. I love a good spy mystery. When it involves two of my favorite fictional characters, that makes it all the better! 

If this is your first encounter with The Bennet Affair, let me give you some background. Let's start with the blurb. Later Riana shares an excerpt with you! 

Blurb

A tale of secrets, sweethearts, and spies!

Elizabeth Bennet’s bedroom in the ancient tower of Longbourn has always been her private haven. So what are those footsteps and shuffling noises she’s now hearing from the room above her head? Drawn from her bed one dark summer night, her clandestine investigations land her in the middle of what looks like a gang of French spies!

William Darcy’s summer has been awful so far, especially after barely rescuing his sister from a most injudicious elopement. Then he is attacked and almost killed nearly at his own front door in one of the best parts of London. Luckily his saviour and new friend, Lord Stanton, has a grand suggestion—recuperate in the countryside and help uncover the workings of a ring of French spies, rumoured to be led by none other than country squire Thomas Bennet!

Drawn together as they work to uncover the truth about the Frenchmen hiding in their midst, Elizabeth and Darcy must use all their intellect as they are confronted with an ingenious code machine, a variety of clockwork devices, ancient secrets and very modern traitors to the Crown. And somewhere along the line, they just might lose their hearts and discover true love—assuming they survive what they learn in the Bennet affair.

The Bennet Affair is a full-length JAFF novel of about 112, 000 words.

Buy Link: https://books2read.com/thebennetaffair

***
Codes and Cyphers


In The Bennet Affair, Lizzy and Darcy discover a machine that encrypts secret messages important to the ongoing war between England and France. They talk a lot about codes and cyphers, but the two words are not interchangeable. A code is a system where words, images, or numbers are substituted for words or phrases, and where one needs the key to break the code. These can be quite random and cannot be broken without the key. Think, for example, of a Chinese restaurant menu, where each item has a number. The only way you know that item 87 is the hot and sour soup is because the menu tells you that.

A cypher, on the other hand, changes the message on a letter-by-letter basis and does not imply meaning. A code book is not necessary, and cyphers can be broken with enough determination and effort. In other words, codes operate on semantics, or meaning, whereas cyphers operate on syntax, or symbols.

Here is a small selection of cyphers that are often used.

Caesar Cypher


This is the first thing that Darcy and Lizzy tried, and it is one of the simplest encryption methods. It is a type of substitution cypher, where each letter of the original is replaced by another letter a certain pre-set distance ahead in the alphabet. If, for example, the parties have decided that A now is B, all letters A will be replaced by Bs, all Bs by Cs, etc. A variation of this is to start at the back of the alphabet and work forward, so each A becomes Z, each B becomes Y, and so on. 

The Caesar cipher is named after Julius Caesar, who, according to Suetonius, used it with a shift of three (A becoming D when encrypting to protect messages of military significance. It is easy to use, but also easy to crack, and it succumbs readily to a brute force attack, where the decrypter just tries all 25 shifts of the alphabet.

Vigenère Cypher

First described by Giovan Battista Bellaso in 1553, this is a type of polyalphabetic cypher, where multiple alphabets are used to encrypt a message. It wasn’t until 1863 that Friedrich Kasiski published a general method of deciphering Vigenère cyphers.

The Vigenère cypher is the one that Lizzy cracked in our story, and it relies on a key word to enable the two sides to encrypt and decrypt the message. The machine gave our heroes the word GOLDFINCH as the keyword, which told them which letters substituted for which in the message. It is a series of Caesars, each with a different shift or offset. So for the first letter, you’d use a Caesar where A becomes G. For the second letter, A would become O, and for the third, A would become L, and so on until you finish the word, where you would simply return to the first letter of the key word.

The Jefferson Disc or Wheel Cipher


This is Thomas Jefferson’s invention, also known as the Bazeries Cylinder. It consists of a series of discs on a central rod, each with the scrambled letters of the alphabet printed or etched upon them. The discs are numbered and can be rearranged. The encrypter spells out a message on the discs, then rotates the entire cylinder to some degree, and writes down the nonsense letters now in front of him. The recipient arranges the discs on his cylinder in the identical order, which must be predetermined, and simply reverses the action, spelling out the nonsense and then rotating the entire cylinder until he sees a line that makes sense.

The Wheel Cipher was invented in 1795 but did not become well known, and was reinvented over a century later by Etienne Bazeries. The system was used by the United States Army from 1923 until 1942 as the M-94.

Why don’t you try your hand at a simple Ceasar cypher, where A becomes B.
J ipqf zpv bsf bmm tubzjoh tbgf boe xfmm.

Were you able to decipher the code? Now enjoy the excerpt!

Excerpt

Richard placed a piece of paper on the kitchen table. It had a series of letters written across it in an untidy but tutored hand—Richard’s own, Darcy noticed. He must have copied only a small portion of the message text for their efforts.

TOHLXMG C SG BLQHPR

“That makes no sense whatsoever,” Elizabeth chewed her bottom lip, and Darcy felt his eyes drawn to that spot and he fought the urge to reach across to her and pull her into his arms. Not now, not when you are out of sorts and needing comfort. Later, when you are under better regulation and you can ask the lady her thoughts on the matter. He pulled his eyes from her lip and sent them back to the nonsense on the paper.

It is encrypted, Miss Elizabeth,” Richard teased. “If it made sense, our labours would not be needed.”

“Silly man!” she teased back. “Of course I knew that. I merely made a comment. Now, how is our word from the machine to relate to this string of letters?”

There was silence as all three contemplated the matter before them.

“The most obvious solution would be a Caesar cypher,” Richard offered. “It is a fairly simple cypher to break, but easy to encrypt and easy to translate back, if you know the offset.”

“Offset?” Elizabeth asked, but Darcy could see her mind working as surely as he had seen the workings of the mechanical horse he had purchased for her from Mr. Mendel. She would find for herself the meaning quickly enough without help, such was her intelligence. “Ah, I believe I have it. The offset is how far along the alphabet one need go in order to uncover the meaning. If the offset is B, then all As become Bs, all Bs become Cs, and so on.”

“Clever girl!” Richard beamed. Darcy sent him a scowl, but then turned his own smile upon the lady. She really was a clever young woman, with an understanding that transcended her middling education. She had determined in a moment what an offset cypher was, with little guidance.
“If we assume the first letter of our code word to be the offset, then all As become Gs, and so forth. Let us see what it tells us.” Richard found a pencil in his pocket and began to scratch at the paper.

NIBFQGA V MA UFKBJL

“That cannot be correct.” She chewed at her lip again, and Darcy now wished to kiss it, lest she raise a welt or break the rosy surface of soft flesh.

“Neither did I expect it to be,” his cousin sighed. “That would be too simple, although with the encoded keyword, it was well worth the trying.

“Could it be one of the other letters?” Something was worrying at the back of Darcy’s mind, but it would not come to him. “Perhaps the offset is the O.”

Once more, Richard began working with his pencil.

What do you think? Is your interest piqued? Mine is! 

Let's get to know Riana Everly. Do you have any questions for her? If you do, be sure to ask them in the comments below. 

Author Bio


Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
Riana’s novels have received several awards and citations as favourite reads of the year, including two Jane Austen Awards and a Discovering Diamonds review.

You can follow Riana's blog at https://rianaeverly.com/blog/, and join her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RianaEverly/) and Twitter (@RianaEverly). She loves meeting readers!


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Thanks for stopping by, Riana. I loved your post about codes and cyphers. 

 It is always good to have you visit. You are welcome to stop by anytime, and I hope it will be again soon.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Undoing...L. L. Diamond

How are you doing? I hope everyone is staying well and keeping some semblance of calm in these extraordinary times in which we find ourselves. It is all a bit surreal, isn't it. When weather permits, I spend time in my yard, communing with nature and listening to the birds. For them, life goes on as usual. The birds are building nests, mating, and raising their young. Watching them brings me much peace, and it is restorative to my soul in this world with an invisible enemy. I've done some baking, and it has been fun. That is something I used to do a lot, but not so much of late, until this past week. What are you doing to keep things as normal as possible? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I hope each of you is faring well mentally, as well as physically. Stay safe. You are in my thoughts and prayers. 


*****
It's so good to have L. L. Diamond visit again. You've probably been seeing her around the blog world lately and my place is her stop today. Her new release, Undoing, sounds like a really good read. (the cover is lovely too) Leslie is sharing an excerpt with us, and I feel it is one that each of you will enjoy. Thanks, Leslie.

*****
Thank you for having me! I’m so excited that Undoing is finally out for everyone to read. My dearest wish is that everyone can lose themselves for just a little while in Darcy and Elizabeth’s story. Today, I have an excerpt for you. We’re off on a trip to the theatre! I hope you enjoy it!


     Elizabeth stepped out of the carriage with the support of her husband’s hand and surveyed the building before her. The Lyceum was not as opulent as the Theatre Royal, but since the fire, the Lyceum was certainly grander than a pile of cinder.
     “Have you never been here before?” asked her husband, offering his arm.
     She shook her head but made certain her expression remained pleased. “No, I have not. My aunt and uncle have taken me to the Theatre Royal in the past, but my uncle did not seem inclined to attend an event here.”
     “Perhaps due to the variety of shows?” He glanced at the building and then back to her face. “For a time, it was used for a circus, then a concert hall, and last I had heard, Madame Tussaud displayed her wax portraits here.”
     Her chin hitched back a little. “Wax portraits?” How odd?
     “Yes, they resemble sculptures.”
     They began to stroll to the large doors as a footman followed.
     She laughed, glancing over as he watched her curiously. “I attempted to imagine my uncle in such an exhibit. He attends art exhibitions in order to keep my aunt happy. I do not think he would consent to a show featuring wax statuary. I do wonder if Lady Vranes would find them worthy of her time?”
     One side of his lips quirked as he disengaged his arm within the doors for the footman to remove his coat before the servant stepped forward to take her cloak. As soon as their coats were carried away, they started towards the stairs.
     They were only a few steps inside when her husband’s name rang across the hall. “Leeds!”
     “Aah, Sir Isaac,” her husband replied. “I do hope you and your wife are well.”
     “Yes, we are quite well, as you see.” Sir Isaac’s wife strolled up, and her husband’s arm tensed. “We heard you had returned to town,” said Sir Isaac, “but it seems we have not attended the same soirees.” The gentleman’s air was jovial, but his wife was another story. She nodded to the duke upon her approach, then appeared to be interested in everything in the room but Elizabeth.
     Her husband leaned slightly towards the wife. “Lady Beatrice, I would like to present my wife, Her Grace Elizabeth Osborne, The Duchess of Leeds.” Lady Beatrice pursed her lips and crinkled her nose, appearing as though she had been made to drink dirty bathwater.
     She curtsied as Elizabeth did. “Your Grace,” she responded. She still never looked at Elizabeth’s face.
     Sir Isaac froze in place and swallowed hard. His head jerked to the side. “Ah! There are the Clarkes!” Sir Isaac glanced back to her husband. “Pray, forgive us, but we were to meet them here.”
     Her husband gave a curt nod. “Of course, we understand.”
     Elizabeth curtsied. “It was lovely to make your acquaintance.”
     Sir Isaac’s head bobbed. “Yes, we were pleased to make yours as well. I hope you both enjoy the play.”
     She pressed her lips together to prevent a giggle until they were far enough away. “He reminds me of Sir William Lucas.”
     “Yes, they have much in common.” His voice was lower than was his wont. “He is an agreeable fellow. I do not care to be in company with his wife.”
     “You did not appear pleased to see her.”
     “No, once upon a time, I protected Darcy from her schemes. She made no secret of her disappointment when his engagement to Lady Anne Fitzwilliam was announced. Lady Beatrice was the laughing stock of society for the remainder of that season.”
     “Why had she set her cap at Mr. Darcy, do you think?”
     “Her father married her off to Sir Isaac a year following Darcy’s marriage. Her father’s estate and a few other holdings were sold not long after. His debts were severe. I believe she coveted George’s wealth. The Darcys’ reputation for managing their assets is well-earned.”
     She peered over her shoulder at Lady Beatrice, who smiled as she spoke to whom Elizabeth assumed was Mrs. Clarke.
     “Your Grace, we are pleased to join you tonight.” Elizabeth turned at the familiar voice, smiled, and returned Lady Matlock’s curtsey. Lord Matlock and Viscount Carlisle stood at the lady’s side chatting with her husband, so Elizabeth removed her hand from her husband’s arm to stand a bit closer to the countess.
     “Your dress turned out lovely,” complimented Lady Matlock. “I still adore the colour.”
     Elizabeth glanced down at her new evening gown. The rich apple blossom red velvet clung to her chest with a very high waist before it flowed down in long, elegant waves. A delicate lace trim adorned the top of each tiny puffed sleeve at the shoulder. The lady on the fashion plate wore a feathered monstrosity, but Elizabeth insisted on the excess velvet to wrap through her hair, fashioned like a Greek statue. A flower necklace of garnets graced her neck with matching drop earrings from the Leeds collection. Her mother would faint if she saw her.
     “Thank you, I am pleased with the result. I appreciate your help in selecting the material at the drapers that morning. I had not noticed the bolt in the corner.”
     Lady Matlock gave her a motherly smile. “That colour suits your complexion and hair very well. I heartily approve of the wrap over the feathers.”
     A hand rested upon her arm, drawing her attention to the Darcys who had joined their group. “It seems all of our party has arrived. Shall we make our way to the box?” 
     Elizabeth nodded, and her husband led her towards the stairs, halting at the sound of someone calling Lady Matlock from behind.
     “There you are, Mother!” Colonel Fitzwilliam squeezed sideways through the last of the crowd and stopped before Lady Matlock.
     Elizabeth’s gaze shifted to Fitzwilliam as he rolled his eyes to Carlisle. Carlisle closed his eyes and sighed.
     The colonel took no notice. “Harrison said you and father had come to the theatre, so I decided to join you.”
     Lady Matlock coloured and opened her mouth twice before she could utter a sound. “B . . . but, Richard, we are here at the invitation of the Duke of Leeds.”
     The colonel showed not the least appearance of remorse or embarrassment. “I had not realised.” His smile faltered slightly, but he recovered without pause. “It is no bother. I shall return to the barracks . . .”
     “Colonel, you are welcome to join us this evening,” said her husband in his usual voice. “I am certain we have a seat for you.”
     The earlier grin instantly returned to the colonel’s face, and he executed a quick bow. “I would be most grateful. I am so often at my duties. I rarely have a spare evening at the theatre with my parents.”
     Her husband merely dipped his chin before he resumed their way to the boxes. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s assessment of his cousin must have been correct. Her husband surely indulged the colonel out of respect for Lord and Lady Matlock since her husband’s tight expression certainly did not appear as though he was pleased to see the colonel.
     Once they arrived at their box, the colonel offered to procure refreshments, excusing himself for a glass of wine. They had arrived early, which allowed them to visit with the other guests before taking their seats. Lady Matlock strolled over and took Elizabeth’s arm, leaning towards her ear.
     “I am terribly sorry Richard has imposed himself.”
     His behaviour had indeed been rude. Lady Matlock, however, had been a kind friend to Elizabeth, and she knew from experience one could not always control or influence their most unruly of relations.
     “Please do not make yourself uneasy. He confessed himself that you did not invite him. I would not be comfortable if you were unable to enjoy the evening out of worry that you have offended us.”
     Lady Matlock took her hands and squeezed them firmly. “You are too kind. I fear I am too indulgent with him at times. You see, Nicholas—Viscount Carlisle—was actually the younger of a set of twins. His elder brother, Albert, died of a fever when they were but three.”
     How terrible it must be to lose a child! No one aware of her misfortune could blame Lady Matlock for her indulgence. Elizabeth pressed her hand to her chest to express her condolences, but Lady Matlock forestalled her by speaking first.
     “I hope I did not upset you too terribly. I wished you to understand if I seem to indulge my sons from time to time. I was devastated when Richard joined the army rather than taking orders. I do worry for him so. I fear I give in to him far more than I should.” There were tears in the countess’s eyes, but she swiftly choked them back. “Tonight is for us to enjoy. I apologise if I rendered the mood melancholy.”
     “Not at all, Lady Matlock.” Elizabeth squeezed the lady’s hand.
     “No more Lady Matlock. I should like you to call me Evelyn.”
     Elizabeth balked. She should address her as society dictated, should she not?
     “I insist,” said Lady Matlock.
     “But . . .”
     “I do hope we are friends. My friends address me as Evelyn.”
     Her husband and Lord Matlock joined them as Elizabeth nodded.
     Lady Matlock released her hands to clasp hers in front of her. “I intend to pay some calls early next week. Would you care to join me?”
     The duke grinned. “I think it is a wonderful suggestion, Elizabeth. You have received callers, but have not yet returned any of the visits.”
     The countess’s adamant eyes returned to hers. “Then let us plan on Monday. I am willing to wager we have a few of the same names on our lists.”
     She could not refuse such an earnest offer of friendship. “I would be pleased to join you. But, if I am to call you Evelyn, you should call me Lizzy.”
     The colonel’s voice heralded his return, and he stepped forward with his brother and the younger Mr. Darcy hovering nearby, which unsettled Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy wore an odd expression that made the hair on her arms stand on end, and whenever she happened a glance in his direction, he stared at her. What could he mean by such behaviour?
     A bell signalled the performance would soon begin. Her husband steered her towards the first row of chairs, seating her beside Fitzwilliam, yet her husband did not sit to her opposite side. Instead, he took a seat almost behind her at the end of the row. He smiled at her, and she returned the gesture. Lady Matlock took the chair to her right with Lord Matlock to the opposite side of his wife. This was non-sensical. Lord Matlock sat beside his wife, but her husband was seated on an entirely different row? Would she ever understand him? He remained as much of a mystery now as when they first wed.


Author Bio:


L.L. Diamond is more commonly known as Leslie to her friends and Mom to her three kids. A native of Louisiana, she spent the majority of her life living within an hour of New Orleans before following her husband all over as a military wife. Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, and now England have all been called home along the way.

After watching Sense and Sensibility with her mother, Leslie became a fan of Jane Austen, reading her collected works over the next few years. Pride and Prejudice stood out as a favourite and has dominated her writing since finding Jane Austen Fan Fiction.

Aside from mother and writer, Leslie considers herself a perpetual student. She has degrees in biology and studio art, but will devour any subject of interest simply for the knowledge. Her most recent endeavours have included certifications to coach swimming as well as a fitness instructor. As an artist, her concentration is in graphic design, but watercolour is her medium of choice with one of her watercolours featured on the cover of her second book, A Matter of Chance. She is also a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Leslie also plays flute and piano, but much like Elizabeth Bennet, she is always in need of practice!

Leslie’s books include Rain and Retribution, A Matter of Chance, An Unwavering Trust, The Earl’s Conquest, Particular Intentions, Particular Attachments, Unwrapping Mr. Darcy, It’s Always Been You, It’s Always Been Us, It’s Always Been You and Me, and Undoing, which releases April 1st.


Visit Leslie’s website lldiamondwrites.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @lldiamond2


To purchase your own copy of Undoing, click on the link below.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

It is always so nice to have Leslie stop by. I hope you enjoyed her visit and excerpt as much as I did. Do you have any questions about Undoing for Leslie? We would love for you to have your share in the conversation. What did you think of this excerpt? Does it make you want more? Please tell us what you are wondering or thinking in the comments below.  Don't forget to share what you are doing during your time sheltering at home. 

Leslie, since you mentioned being off to the theatre, and this post was sent to me quite a while back, how was the theatre? I'm glad you got to go and enjoy it before everything was shut down.

Now for a giveaway! Yay! Everyone will like this for sure! Leslie is giving away two eBooks and the giveaway is international. To be entered, leave a comment below. Be sure I have a way to contact you, in case you are one of the winners. The giveaway will end at midnight on the 15th of April. Good luck to all! Thanks to everyone for stopping by.