Saturday, December 8, 2018

A Holiday to Remember...Jennifer Redlarczyk

Jennifer Redlarczyk visits More Agreeably Engaged for the final stop of her blog tour for her Christmas novella, A Holiday to Remember. Welcome, Jennifer. I'm so happy to have you visit again. I've been reading great things about your novella and that is so exciting. Congratulations! 

You have quite an ending for your blog tour and we are the lucky recipients here at More Agreeably Engaged. With all these great photos from your Pinterest page and two excerpts, my readers and I will get spoiled. I'm quite intrigued.

Thank you for letting me be a part of your blog tour and share in this holiday novella! At that, I will turn the floor over to you, Jennifer.


*****

Greetings! Thank you, Janet, for hosting me today. I’m delighted to be back visiting your blog with A Holiday to Remember. In this modern P&P variation, Elizabeth Bennet is a dedicated choral director and teacher at Meryton Academy for the Performing Arts and William Darcy is the aloof CEO of Darcy Enterprises. The two of them met when unfortunate circumstances brought them together during a summer music festival in Chicago where tempers flared and unpleasant words were exchanged. Find out what happens when their paths cross again in December. Will their animosity continue, or will their reunion turn out to be A Holiday to Remember?

From Chapter One


Meryton Academy for the Performing Arts
Monday, 4 December
Present day



“Liz Bennet! Please tell me I didn’t hear what I just thought I heard!” Charlotte Lucas burst through the doors of the choir room and marched straight to the keyboard where Elizabeth was working out the final arrangements for A Holiday to Remember—part of the music academy’s final showcase before the winter break.

“Char, I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m kind of on a deadline here. Uh … you do remember I have a major rehearsal at six o’clock tonight?” She arched a questioning eyebrow in her friend’s direction before entering the final chords on the master lead sheet in her computer. 

“Right, but for your information, Mr. Billy Collins just told everyone in the teacher’s lounge he has a big date with you on New Year’s Eve. He says he’s escorting you to the Pemberley Foundation’s charity gala at Forest Ridge. What gives? Don’t those tickets start at five hundred a pop? Not to mention any woman who would dare to go out with that nutter would have to be a marble short.”

Elizabeth stopped what she was doing and burst into laughter. “Char, do you honestly think BC would actually shell out that kind of money just to have a date with me? The man is so tight he probably wouldn’t spend five dollars on his own mother. Don’t worry. The Vocalteens were asked to perform at the gala and will be doing the opening act right after dessert. Since Reeves will be out of town, I’m making do with Billy-boy to run sound. You’re welcome to join us if you don’t have a date. I can always use an extra chaperone. Plus, after the kids leave, the adults are invited to stay and enjoy the rest of the party. There’s going to be a live band, dancing, loads of food and some kind of a silent auction. It could be fun, even without dates.”

“Sorry, Liz. As a matter of fact, I do have a date.” Charlotte straightened up and fluttered her eyelashes in jest. “And … as much as I’d like to hobnob with the rich and famous, Brexton Denny is taking me to the Signature Room to celebrate the New Year. Who knows, this might turn out to be my Holiday to Remember, if you don’t mind me borrowing the title from your medley.”

“Go right ahead. The Signature Room is pretty impressive. Is there any chance your Mr. Denny might finally be getting serious?”

“Not to my knowledge. Still, there’s no way I’m going to pass up a date with a buff trainer from the fitness club, fireworks over Lake Michigan, and a kiss at midnight.”

“A kiss at midnight,” Elizabeth sighed, kind of dreamy-eyed. “Aunt Maddy says being kissed at midnight by someone special is magical, and although I’ve yet to meet that perfect someone, I believe her.”

“Girl, you’ve been watching way too many holiday romance movies on your favorite channel, if you ask me. I could never be like you. At any rate, if you need an escort, you can always ask my brother. I know Johnny isn’t ideal, but he’s okay in a pinch. On second thought, what about that cute drummer from the music store? Didn’t you go out with him a couple of times? Maybe you can take him.”

George Wickham?! I think not! And no, we never dated. Char, your memory fails you. I only agreed to sing backups for that smooth talker’s band at the Lollapalooza Music Festival last summer because he was desperate. Believe me; dating was not part of the chord chart. Besides, I’m hardly interested in a fly-by-night drummer or any freelance musician for that matter. And I’m definitely considering adding your brother to my no-go list of men. If Johnny stands me up for one more transmission or any other mechanical failure, the man is toast. As it turns out, I’ll probably hand him his marching orders once he escorts me to Charles Bingley’s holiday party on Friday. Who knows, I may end up following Jane’s lead and using her professional dating service after all. I mean, who could complain about Mr. Bingley?”

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely! Charles is exceptional. He’s considerate and has a great sense of humor. Plus, he brings Jane flowers, sends her cards, and takes her out to dinner, concerts, company functions, yada, yada…. And to top it all off, it was Charles Bingley who recommended the Vocalteens for the Pemberley gig. As one of the corporate lawyers who work for the foundation, he was happy to submit my PR materials to the marketing director. Mr. Reynolds thinks our Holiday to Remember medley will be perfect for the charity gala.”

“I agree; it’s bound to be a hit. The kids are already looking pretty good, and you still have until next Thursday to pull it all together for the showcase. Speaking of the gala, I hear the CEO of Darcy Enterprises is pretty hot.” Charlotte wiggled her eyebrows as if in the know. “William Darcy has been in all of the tabloids lately. They say he’s some kind of aloof, mystery man—tall, dark, and handsome. I wonder if he’ll be there.”


William Darcy?” Elizabeth frowned. “His sister, Georgiana, was studying piano with Aunt Maddy at the music store until….” Her voice trailed off. “Are you sure he’s connected to the foundation? Mr. Reynolds never mentioned him.”

“Small world! According to Google, the foundation is run by Darcy Enterprises.” Glancing at the wall clock, Charlotte changed the subject. “It looks like the bell is about to ring, so I’d better head over to my advanced ballet class. Do you still need help tonight with choreography for the opening number?”

“I’d really appreciate it, since I’m going to have my hands full with the pit orchestra. If you can take over while we run through my new arrangements, it would mean one less thing for me to juggle at practice.”

“No problem. I’ll be there. Catch you later.”

“Thanks.”

After Charlotte left, Elizabeth minimized her music program and quickly googled William Darcy, CEO of Darcy Enterprises. “I can’t believe it. It is him! So, Mr. Darcy,” she continued to babble while glaring at the computer screen. “Your Mr. Reynolds booked us for the gala. How was he to know you never wanted to see me again?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to make the most of it, won’t we?” 



Well, it looks like our favorite couple had a run in at Lollapalooza which is an annual music festival in Chicago featuring popular alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock, hip hop, and more. In this next scene, we find Elizabeth at Bingley's party where she and William will definitely meet up.

From Chapter Two

Bingley’s holiday party

Friday night, later that week


“Lizzy, this dress is spectacular! Pretty sophisticated for a music teacher, if you ask me. It’s not at all your usual style. I can’t believe you rented it!” Jane stepped back giving her sister the once over.


“Shush! Do you want the whole room to know? And for your information, this is not the dress I rented. Take a look.” She began scrolling through her phone. “This is the confirmation and picture of what I should have gotten in the mail.”

Star in your own show in this classic dress,” Jane read aloud. “The fold-over neckline comes to life in an off-shoulder effect. The bodice and mini-skirt are lined for a flattering fit and perfect for a hot date or night out with friends. Lizzy, the dress they sent you is anything but a mini dress; although I will say the plunging neckline down the back of it is definitely way off the shoulder. So, what happened?”

“Elizabeth Benton who lives in Meryton, Ohio is what happened. She got my dress. Rent the Modern Closet has promised to give me a full refund. With this dress being delivered while I was at school, I wasn’t able to send it back in time to get a replacement for tonight. Nevertheless, here I am in the flesh, so to speak.” She struck a classy pose before playfully breaking into laughter. Elizabeth’s dress was a sleek fiery red, cowl backless V-neck, floor length formal gown with a thigh-high side slit.

“You have no idea what I went through trying to find a strapless, backless, push-up, stick-on bra for this thing,” she whispered. Jane tried to hide her amusement while listening to Elizabeth detailing her dilemma. “It was either go braless or be forced to wear one of my kids’ show choir dresses. Not! Thankfully, Charlotte came to the rescue with a scandalous bra she bought from Cleavage Designs. She says this bra is all the rage on Instagram. Everyone is talking about it.”

Cleavage Designs?” Jane mouthed—her eyes wide open. “Um … I didn’t think you and Charlotte were anywhere close to the same size. She’s so … willowy.”

“We’re not the same size, but fortunately, there was enough wiggle room to make due.” The two sisters giggled.

“Speaking of your hot date, where’s Johnny Lucas? Is he still parking the car?” Jane scanned the room looking for Elizabeth’s absentee escort.

“Oh, he’s parking the car alright—in Detroit!”

“You’re kidding. You mean to tell me Lucas stood you up again?

“That he did!”

“What was it this time—a transmission? Someone’s timing belt?”

“Jane, have you no imagination? I’m being stood up for…. And I quote—a Classic 1966 Chevrolet Corvette—350 V8, four-speed Manual, only 96,000 Miles—end of quote. And as red as my dress, I might add.”



“Wow! I can imagine a Corvette must cost a pretty penny, no matter what year it was built. What kind of price tag are we talking here?”

“It was only fifty-one thousand big ones, says Mr. Lucas.”

“Fifty-one thousand—as in dollars?” Jane nearly gasped. “Where does a mechanic get that kind of money?”

“Johnny and his buddy Scott got the loan approved yesterday and headed straight for Detroit after they closed up shop this afternoon.”

“Oh, Lizzy, I’m so sorry. We really have to get you signed up for the….”

“Don’t even say it. I promise I’ll look into your dating service once the holidays are over.”

“Good, I’m holding you to it. In the meantime, take heart, dear sister. With the way you look in this dress, there’s bound to be some attractive single, corporate-type who will be glad to ogle you for an hour or two. Charles says he has a friend from work who is recently divorced, Richard somebody or other. He’s not bringing a date, from what I gather. You never know, this may very well turn out to be your Holiday to Remember.”

“Very funny, Jane. More like A Holiday to Forget! Something tells me I should seriously consider changing the name of that medley when I get back to school on Monday.”

“Lizzy!”

“Alright, I’ll try to keep an open mind.”


So here we have Elizabeth, unescorted, in a scathing dress at Bingley’s party ready to face William and Caroline.  Believe me; the rest of this chapter is anything but dull. How about that dress? I have a feeling our girl is going to attract quite a bit of attention before the night is over.


Meanwhile, I’m having a giveaway to celebrate the release of my new book. Please feel free to leave your comments below, as I will be giving away two eBooks of A Holiday to Remember (International) and would love to hear from you. If you have a chance, be sure to check out my Pinterest page where I've posted fun pictures for each chapter. Good luck and thank you all!

Jennifer Redlarczyk (Jen Red)

My Pinterest page for A Holiday to Remember
A Holiday to Remember on Amazon


Well, you heard it, Dear Readers. Jennifer Redlarczyk is giving away two eBooks of A Holiday to Remember. Isn't that awesome. Be sure to leave a comment and contact info so I can reach you. We don't want you to miss out on this Christmas novella. Doesn't it sound like fun! The giveaway ends at 11:59 P.M. Central time on the 14th of December.

What did you think of Lizzy's dress? Wow! It is gorgeous! Can you just imagine Darcy's reaction when she walks in wearing that dress? Oh, and Caroline! I bet she was just a tiny bit jealous! Aren't you eager to read how this reunion goes? I certainly am.

Thanks for the entertaining excerpts, Jennifer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. This sounds like such a fun book. I can't wait to read it. Thanks again for visiting and sharing with us today. It is an honor to close out your blog tour.  

Monday, December 3, 2018

Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost

My guest is  "new to me" author, Robin Kobayashi, whose YA novella, Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost, is now available. Robin is sharing with us her inspiration for this lovely story, a description of it, and a short excerpt. I hope you will enjoy learning about Robin, her thoughts on this novella, and of course, the excerpt, as much as I enjoyed them. Thank you, Robin, for visiting my blog and for having such a generous giveaway for my readers. Everyone, please welcome Robin Kobayashi!


Somehow, I knew I had to write about a twelfth cake and a mischievous ghost, but I didn’t know how the two were connected at Rosings. Like some writers, I draft the beginning, then the ending, and finally everything in between. It helps that I have two lovable characters to tell me how to write the story, they being Colonel Fitzwilliam and his eight-year-old daughter.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about a strong, father-daughter relationship, especially one where the daughter is a young child. What if Colonel Fitzwilliam had fought in Portugal and he had an illegitimate, half-Portuguese daughter, one whom he adores and one who challenges him with her tomboy ways? I began to imagine their easy banter – a blend of English and Portuguese – and his attempts to turn her into a proper English young lady. Their relationship is sweet and zany and sometimes tinged with sadness.

I envisioned this girl as a bold child, a brilliant child, who thinks the all-knowing adults don’t always make sense. She is sensitive and saucy, funny and insightful. She has a big imagination. Her name is Sofia-Elisabete, and she is the narrator of my stories.

In my novel, I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: A Perfect World in the Moon, Sofia-Elisabete describes in both a humorous and poignant fashion her beginnings as an abandoned foundling, her search for her father and their close relationship when she finds him, and the tragedy that occurs when, at the age of five, she runs away from home to find the perfect world in the moon – a utopia that she believes will cure her father’s bouts with melancholy. 

 After finishing the novel, I wanted to know what happened to these characters of Sofia-Elisabete and the colonel. Sofia-Elisabete, who is half-Portuguese, Catholic and a love child, is very much an outsider. How does she feel growing up in England during the Regency Era? The colonel refuses to give her up. He refuses to hide her in the countryside where she would be brought up by strangers, but there are consequences for his actions.

In the novella Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost, I imagined how the bold and outspoken Sofia-Elisabete would clash with the bold and outspoken Lady Catherine at Rosings. And all this clashing would take place during the Christmas season, a time of peace and goodwill to all people. But the colonel and his daughter aren’t the only two visitors at Rosings. The Rosings Ghost has returned; a ghost that very much enjoys playing pranks! Lady Catherine, who doesn’t believe in the Rosings Ghost, blames Sofia-Elisabete for everything that goes wrong. What’s an eight-year-old to do?

This past year I’ve been immersed in writing YA historical fiction that appeals to all ages, finishing three novellas about the lovable, strong-willed Sofia-Elisabete and her affectionate relationship with her father, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost is the first novella to be released in this series. My sincere thanks to Janet for helping me launch the Rosings Ghost novella on her site!


Robin Elizabeth Kobayashi


Book Description

In this Christmas novella set in the year 1818, a plucky little girl must contend with a mischievous ghost at Rosings.

Colonel Fitzwilliam and his eight-year-old daughter, Sofia-Elisabete, pass a winter’s month at Rosings, the estate of his aunt, Lady Catherine. There, the Colonel must help his illegitimate child, who is half-British, half-Portuguese, navigate the prejudices of their world as his outspoken daughter clashes with the imperious Lady Catherine.

One evening, on the first day of Christmas, they hear the tale of the mysterious Rosings Ghost who, centuries ago, vexed the inhabitants of Rosings during the twelve days of Christmas. The next morning strange things begin to happen. Why has the Rosings Ghost returned now? Why does a furious Lady Catherine blame Sofia-Elisabete for all of the ghost’s pranks?

Will our girl hero Sofia-Elisabete, with the help of her father, uncover the real secret of the Rosings Ghost and put an end to its tricks?

Excerpt from Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost



We obediently followed her ladyship out of doors, where papai handed his aunt into the coach, and Annie next. He was about to hand me in when Lady Catherine blocked my way with her walking-stick.

‘The child must sit on the box with the driver.’

Papai hesitated. ‘My lady, I fear she might catch cold and…’

‘Nephew, you must stop coddling the child,’ commanded she.

With a sigh, papai lifted me atop the box and thereafter mounted the box himself instead of sitting within. ‘Come here,’ said he, placing me on his lap and wrapping me up in his great coat. Oh, how the frosty air made me shiver. ‘Quick, driver!’ he ordered the coachman. By the time we reached the church, which stood a half mile distant, I couldn’t feel my toes or my fingers. Whilst we sat in Lady Catherine’s pew, papai blew on my hands to warm them, and Annie gave me her charcoal foot warmer. These attentions paid to me by Annie certainly didn’t go unnoticed by Lady Catherine, who cast a severe look at me.

Now, be it known, my mamãe had taught me church etiquette, particularly when I am obliged to attend service at the Church of England. I must never speak or giggle or yawn. I must never tap my feet or swing my legs while seated in the pew. I must never knit my brows or cross my eyes or twist my lips whenever I disagreed with something being said. I must pray and kneel and sing whenever everyone else did, and so forth and so be it. And that is why, when the rector, Mr Collins, ascended his pulpit where he railed against the evils of revelry and excessive drinking on Christmas eve, I sat in respectful silence, although inwardly I prayed that the rector would get on with it and finish his sermon. A hymn-singer I wished to be.

An hour had passed when a great catastrophe occurred, all because of a snore. First, it began as a low murmur – sk sk sk k k k – but then it increased to a monstrous snore. Mr Collins, with fire in his eyes, signalled for the sluggard-waker to give papai a smart rap on the head. ‘Papai,’ I whispered in his ear. I shook, I pinched, I elbowed him, but to no purpose. The sluggard-waker, being a rheumatic old man, tottered towards us, waving his long staff with brass knob in a menacing fashion. There’s nothing more frightening than a sluggard-waker, believe you me. Struck with panic, I stood before papai, determined to save him from harm, and so I stamped on his foot, using all my might. ‘Yow!’ cried he, furious at being roused from his slumber until he recalled his whereabouts.

I had no sooner caused a scene during Christmas service, than a great clamour ensued, as if the noise had escaped from a corked bottle. Babies screamed and cried, boys played and pranked, old folks hacked and blew their noses, dogs barked and howled. Apparently, some of the four-legged miscreants in the village had sneaked into the church on this holy day. The sluggard-waker, who also served as dog-whipper, lunged here and there, frightening the dogs with a stout lash, but he never did catch any of the quadrupeds, they each of them bounding away to safety.

The sluggard-waker turned his attention to the restless boys. To restore order, he tapped each naughty boy on the head using the foxtail at the other end of his long staff. Once he had silenced the two-legged miscreants, he bustled up to me – the No. 1 Miscreant – with his staff. ‘I think not,’ papai objected in his stern, officer-like manner, and he drew me to his breast to protect me. To be sure, this heightened her ladyship’s ire – she, who objected to my being coddled.

The service now concluded, her ladyship departed in a huff, and she and Annie were handed into their coach by their footman. Mr Collins ran after them the entire way to the manor-house.

‘Papai, why is Mr Collins running?’

‘Don’t you know – the rector favours running as a form of daily exercise?’ Papai gave me a lopsided grin. ‘One can often see the rector running back and forth between the parsonage and Rosings. Why, I once won a wager that Mr Collins could beat her ladyship’s coach to the manor-house, the rector having done so by three seconds.’

While the rector got his daily exercise, papai and I sought shelter inside the cold church to escape the drizzling rain. Mrs Collins, who took pity on us, invited us to the parsonage where we sat near a bright coal fire, drinking tea and eating gingerbread. I discovered then the goodness and kindness of Mrs Collins. She never questioned our Catholic faith. Nor did she comment on my foreign-ness or brown-ness. I got to visit her plump baby, who, on closer inspection, was a fine, jolly boy who never shed a tear, even when papai lifted him high up in the air.

The drizzle having stopped, papai and I sallied forth hand-in-hand to the manor-house. Papai, whose eyes beamed with mischief, declared it one of the best Sunday services he could remember, much better than the Sunday service when, as a boy, his pet frog, Hubbub-it, escaped from his pocket and, oh, how the ladies shrieked with terror, their powdered wigs gone askew when they had jumped in fright. I admit to being all astonishment at his remarks, having prepared myself to be punished to-day.

I squinted at him. ‘Even with the noise we made on this holy day?’

‘Oh yes. ’Twas a first-rate hullabaloo.’

I hung my head. ‘I’m going to apologise to God for it.’

‘Well and good, but only if you’re sincere. There’s no sense in it otherwise.’ Papai squeezed my hand. ‘Ah, here comes the champion of apologisers and an insincere one at that. There’s nothing good to be said for a civility that comes so unwillingly and unnaturally.’

As we rounded a bend in the path, we came across Mr Collins who was mumbling to himself. He glanced at us with a stormy brow. He thereafter nodded to papai in a gruff manner but didn’t stop to talk. Poor Mrs Collins, who awaited the return of her disagreeable husband. I wondered if the hullabaloo in church to-day would ruin her Christmas dinner. Now that I think on it, I’m sure that it did, and I’ll always feel sorry for it.

About the author

Robin Elizabeth Kobayashi is a native Californian who has lived in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. When she was twelve, she used to haunt the public library where they had a section of books called “Classic Fiction”. She made it her goal to read all of these books, starting with the A’s (Alcott, Austen), then the B’s (Brontë), but she got stuck on the D’s, because Dickens’ books were just so l-o-o-o-n-g in length. She never did finish her reading challenge. She never did understand Pride and Prejudice at the time; that would come much later. Fast forward several decades. After reading countless JAFF eBooks, many of them superb, she never thought she had a story to tell. Until one day she began to write about a half-Portuguese half-British girl living in the Regency Era. That novel, I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: A Perfect World in the Moon, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews which also selected the novel as an Indie Best Books of the Month (August 2018). During the day, she works as a senior legal writer and editor for a leading global publisher.

Available at:
Smashwords

Find Robin Kobayashi on:

Giveaway Time! Ebooks and English Christmas Cake

Robin is giving away 5 eBooks of her novella Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost. Winners will need to provide an email address to receive the prize. U.S. winners can choose mobi or epub; International winners will be given epub from Smashwords. Please use the rafflecopter to enter.

Robin is also giving away to a U.S. winner only a traditional English Christmas Cake (4-inch round) made by the English Cousins at www.englishchristmascake.com. The cake is made with rich, moist currants, sultanas (golden raisins), and raisins which have been soaked in rum. The cake is baked with molasses, farm fresh eggs, butter, soft brown sugar, flour and spices, using an old recipe that has been in their family for over 100 years.

Use the Rafflecopter to enter both giveaways. Be sure to note the left and right arrows on the Rafflecopter form that allow you to move between the two giveaways. 


Yum, the cake sounds and looks delicious, Robin. I'm quite sure the lucky winner will be quite happy with this special "Christmas cake." Thank you for your generosity with the cake and 5 eBooks of your novella, Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost for your giveaway. That's awesome!


Dear Readers, be sure to take note, that if you are international, you must be able to accept an ePub from Smashwords. 


Thank you for allowing me to launch your novella on More Agreeably Engaged. I love the premise of a strong father figure and a young child, as well. All of this taking place at Rosings with a ghost is even more delicious! Your story has me intrigued and I will be watching for the novellas that follow. I am fascinated with your covers and the picture of Sophia-Elisabete. Are you the artist?  

The giveaway will end at 11:59 P.M. Central Time on December 9, 2018. Good luck to all. To get more entries, you can tweet about the blog post and comment every day. Thanks, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 26, 2018

To Conquer Pride...Jennifer Altman



Today is a special day at More Agreeably Engaged. Author Jennifer Altman is celebrating the release of her debut novel, To Conquer Pride and today is the day! This is also Jennifer's "debut" visit here. It is great to have her visit with us.

I am so thrilled to be participating in your blog tour, Jennifer. I also hear that you have a special treat for us today. I know my readers are going to be as excited about it as I have been. I will wait until after the excerpt to share the rest of the news!

Thanks again for letting me be part of your tour and congratulations on your new novel. 

*****
Jennifer: Hi Janet! Thanks so much for hosting me today to celebrate the release of my debut novel, To Conquer Pride—and a HUGE thank you to author Joana Starnes who has agreed to participate in today’s interview.  

I thought I’d start with a brief excerpt from the book, and then we’ll get right down to business. :)

Some of you may have read the opening of To Conquer Pride over at Austenesque Reviews (if not, you can check it out here, but to catch you up, the story begins seven months after Darcy’s failed proposal at Hunsford. Darcy and Elizabeth have met by chance at a coaching inn in Kent and certain unforeseen circumstances have led to them being stranded together in an abandoned cottage during a snowstorm. I hope you enjoy!


To Conquer Pride – Excerpt


The fire had long since burned down and the room was becoming cold. Darcy glanced over at Elizabeth, asleep in her chair. Several chestnut curls had escaped their pins and now rested against one rosy cheek. Even in repose, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld. His eyes roamed her body, and warmth ignited in his chest. He would have liked to say that what he felt was a chaste sort of tenderness but strictly speaking, that would be untrue. He could not look at her—long lashes impossibly dark against her fair skin, the neckline of her gown slipping from one shoulder—and not feel a certain degree of carnal longing. But to his surprise, there was a stronger feeling holding the physical desire at bay. Watching Elizabeth, a fierce sense of protectiveness surged within him, and he knew in that moment that he would stop at nothing to keep her safe.

He turned his attention to the mantelpiece. The pistol from the carriage still rested atop the roughhewn surface. He had attempted to press it upon his footman, but Thomas had refused the weapon. Now, Darcy was glad to have it. Elizabeth was under his care, and although he would gladly inflict bodily harm with his bare hands if it came to that, the pistol would make things easier.

His gaze returned to Elizabeth’s sleeping form. As he watched, the shadow of a smile hovered at the corners of her lips and a feeling of guilt stirred in Darcy’s chest. He should not be staring at her as she slept. Observing her in such a vulnerable state was clearly an invasion of her privacy. Such intimacies were the privilege of a husband—or a lover—and heaven knew he was neither of those. Nor would he ever be.

The muscles in his throat constricted and he forced himself to look away. No, that honor would belong to some other man.

Closing his eyes, Darcy drew a ragged breath. The scent of wood-smoke filled his lungs, mingling with the lingering aroma from their dinner. Ignoring the burning in his ribcage, he inhaled again, this time picking up the subtle hint of wildflowers and lemon. God, he needed to remember that smell!

A log popped against the grate and he opened his eyes. Across the room a fly buzzed, futilely thumping against the sealed windowpane. Fingering the armrests of his chair, Darcy stared at the once-bright colors of the hearth rug, long since faded to a single muted hue. Slowly he adjusted his position, turning to survey the modest parlor. An old rocking chair sat beside a scarred wooden table and a small writing desk was tucked in a corner beneath the eaves.

It wasn’t much, but he felt a sudden uncontrollable urge to memorize every detail. To imprint this place upon his consciousness, to hold it tight within his heart, so that someday, in ten or twenty or thirty years, when he was feeling sentimental, he could call up every sight and sound and smell and touch. Every precious moment of the one night he had been exactly where he longed to be—alone with the woman he loved.
~ * ~

What a lovely excerpt. Doesn't it make you want to read more? Thank you, Jennifer for sharing it with us.

Now for the added treat...welcome author Joana Starnes! She is joining us today. Joana and Jennifer delight us with a question and answer session. Welcome, ladies!

*****

Joana: Many thanks, Janet, you’re ever so kind to welcome us here today to celebrate the launch of Jennifer’s debut novel together!

What a soulful excerpt, Jennifer, and what a poignant beginning to the launch post! How can we not love a deeply vulnerable Mr Darcy in silent and heartrending contemplation of what he had lost? Your Mr Darcy is an absolute delight, and one of the reasons I loved this story from the moment you shared the WIP with me.

To Conquer Pride is an ever so moving portrayal of our favourite characters learning to overcome their errors and misconceptions and finally finding their way to each other and to their happily ever after

I’ve been looking forward to seeing it published for quite some time, and it was my absolute pleasure to share what I knew about indie publishing, introduce you and your beautiful story to Meredith, Janet, Rita and Ceri and put you in touch with Susan Adriani, whose covers are such exquisite works of art! Huge thanks, lovely ladies, for kindly hosting the blog tour, and Susan – oh my, what a gem! By the way, Jennifer, I hope your debut novel will come out in paperback soon. I’d love to get a better look at that gorgeous cover.

But now let’s hear a little more about how this story came to be:

JS: What was your inspiration for To Conquer Pride?

JA: As I touched on in my previous blog post at Austenesque Reviews, I’d been reading JAFF for years before I ever had an inkling that I’d take a stab at writing an Austen-inspired novel. But during the time when I was first discovering the genre, I read a short piece by Jack Caldwell called Snowbound that I absolutely adored. The story had Darcy and Elizabeth trapped in an abandoned cabin during a freak snowstorm, and the premise stayed with me long after I finished reading. Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like about that story was that it ended. I wanted MORE and I kept wishing that it had been the jumping-off point for a full-length novel. So, when I decided to try writing a P&P variation of my own, that premise was immediately what came to mind. I should probably add that the idea of having Darcy and Elizabeth stranded together (in a snowstorm, rainstorm, locked in a library, etc.) is not new. I think the thing that appeals to so many of us about this trope is that it gives us the opportunity to see how these two characters interact when they’re alone together… and in an era when it was not socially acceptable for unmarried men and women to really ever be alone together, it also adds an element of the forbidden. And what could be more awkward and uncomfortable than running into the person you’ve humiliated yourself in front of, and then ending up trapped in a cottage with them. The premise was just brimming with possibilities! (Note: If you’re interested in checking out Snowbound, you can find it here.)

            JS: Oh, I love Snowbound and I love your reasons for having Darcy and Elizabeth    stranded together – the delicious element of the forbidden, the awkwardness and above all, the possibilities!

JS: Plotter or pantser? Do you outline or go wherever the story idea takes you?

JA: LOL! Pantser, unfortunately. To Conquer Pride is only my second attempt at writing a novel (the first was a middle grade contemporary fantasy which may never see the light of day), so I don’t have a vast amount of experience in this, but I didn’t outline either of my books. With both of the novels I’ve written, I knew the beginning and the end…and I had a few key plot points I wanted to hit in the middle…but it was pretty much winging it after that. :) And with To Conquer Pride, I went one step further and wrote many of the scenes out of order, which made revising, er…a most unpleasant experience. So, I’m thinking with the next book, I may force myself to do at least some form of an outline. I don’t want to stifle creativity too much, but I think it will make revisions a heck of a lot easier.

            JS: Goodness, yes, I know, that’s a bit of a nightmare, writing the scenes out of          order and then fitting them together. The revision stage must have been tricky, but all that hard work was more than worth it. You made the story flow seamlessly and so beautifully!

JS: Which section or aspect of your debut novel dragged you to your desk, begging to be written?

JA: As I mentioned above, I wrote a lot of TCP out of order, so if a scene popped into my head, I usually tried to get it down immediately (even if I knew it was going to come later in the book) because otherwise I was afraid I wouldn’t remember it with the same clarity I had when I first imagined it. I did write the first five chapters sequentially, but after that, I actually skipped to a pivotal scene that occurs in a garden at Pemberley towards the end of the book. I don’t want to give too much away, but when I decided to write a P&P variation, the one thing I knew was that I wanted to give Darcy the opportunity to redeem himself from that disastrous first proposal, and I wanted to give Elizabeth the chance to hear Darcy express his true feelings in the way (I felt) he should have from the beginning. So, that was the scene that was really begging to be written. And since I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after the first few chapters, that’s the scene I jumped to. The interesting thing is that with all the revisions I’ve done on this novel, that scene remains almost exactly as I first wrote it, and it is also one of my favorites in the book.

            JS: Mine too! It was so wonderful to see Mr Darcy redeeming himself (and then        some) with a very gentlemanly and heartfelt second proposal.

JS: I couldn’t help noticing that you love to torture Mr. Darcy (and Elizabeth a bit, too ;)). Would you tell us why?

JA: Hmm… Torture is a strong word. :) I guess I’d prefer to say that I like to see Mr. Darcy made vulnerable. I tend to enjoy writing injuries and illnesses into my books… I think because they are the ultimate equalizers. When someone is debilitated in some way and forced to rely upon another person, it tends to humble them—something that I think certainly works well with the Pride and Prejudice storyline. Also, one thing that really resonates with me when it comes to Darcy and Elizabeth is that they both realize they have brought their misery upon themselves. So, in a way, I think a lot of that “torture” is self-inflicted. (And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a tortured Darcy?)

JS: Who, indeed ;)? You make a great point about the ultimate equalizers, and I absolutely loved the scenes where you portrayed Mr Darcy’s difficulty in relinquishing control and relying on others – especially Elizabeth. And I’m not talking just about the cottage scenes, but also about a deeply moving one towards the end. I won’t dream of spoiling your readers’ enjoyment, so my lips are sealed!

JS: I hope you’re already writing or planning to write another JAFF book. If so, which novel will it be inspired by, and can we have a peek?

JA: Well, I haven’t put anything down on paper yet (mostly because all my time and energy has been spent trying to get TCP revised and out into the world) but, yes, I do plan to write another Pride and Prejudice variation. Again, in my usual pantser fashion, I don’t have an outline in place (yet!) but I do have a general idea of where I want the story to go and I can tell you that this one will involve Darcy and Elizabeth marrying early in the book, and falling in love afterwards. I don’t want to call it a forced marriage scenario, because they will marry of their own free will (for their own separate reasons) but as in canon, their mutual pride and prejudice make it difficult for them to initially see how well suited they are. So, that’s the plan. But I have lots of ideas floating around inside my head, so I reserve the right to change my mind! 

            JS: Let’s call it an ‘early marriage scenario’, then. You’re right, ‘forced’ doesn’t       quite suit when they both agree to it of their own free will. Oh, I love early marriage      scenarios, when they have to live together before they know how, and before they discover they are each other’s perfect match and realise they’re head over heels in love. It gives them plenty of opportunities to ‘hurt each other’s feelings in a rich variety of ways,’ to quote Jami Dragan again (as I warned her I would :). I LOVE that phrase!!!).

Jennifer: And now I’m turning the tables! Joana has graciously agreed to answer a few questions of her own. :)

JA: Describe your writing process: How often do you write? Time of day? Special location? Music or silence? Longhand or on the computer?

JS: I write as often as I can. Mostly in the mornings, when everyone’s gone to work or school, the house is quiet and I can hear the voices in my head. No music, it distracts me from the voices :). I’m not too fussy about the location. What works best is sitting in the back garden with my coffee (and a couple of foraging pigeons) and ‘watching’ the scenes unfold, then rushing to my PC to type them in, but I also tend to walk around with a big notebook and lots of pens in my bag, just in case, or hide away in a couple of favourite coffee shops to write.

JA: LOL! Maybe best not to tell people about the “voices!” :) And I agree about the music, I can’t do it either. I know writers who come up with actual playlists for their books that they put on when they write… but that would be way too distracting for me! I can’t even do the coffee shop. I like total peace and quiet.

JA: Plotter or pantser? Do you outline your books before you write them, or go wherever the idea takes you?

JS: I love that, ‘plotter or pantser’! (I loved it so much that I had to ask you the same question). I think I’m a bit of both. I write down the pivotal moments and the direction I’m expecting the story to take, but then I tend to go freestyle from one main point to the next, follow a general idea and see where it takes me. It’s great fun, especially when I don’t find myself where I imagined I would be. Only two things are set in stone: there has to be a HEA, and it must be Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s.

JA: Sounds similar to my method. And, yes! Always a HEA. Otherwise the readers would string us up. :)

JA: Who is your favorite Austen character (NOT from Pride and Prejudice) and why?

JS: Oh dear, not from P&P? Then it’s got to be Mr Knightley. He is dependable, resilient, loyal, tolerant of many foibles (Emma’s and many other people’s), he shows more maturity and consistent goodness than Mr Darcy (I can’t believe I said that, but I have to, because I think it’s true) and puts love before self from the very beginning, without the need of some great epiphany.

JA: Yes! I knew I liked you! I LOVE Mr. Knightley. I love how he sees the best in Emma and really pushes her to be the finest version of herself. *swoon!*

JA: Which of your books took you the most time to write?

JS: Probably my first. It took me years from the start to the final version. But I don’t think that counts. I wasn’t really trying to write a book then. It was more like trying to keep the P&P magic going in my head for as long as possible. If I discount the amount of time I spent daydreaming on my first, the one that took me most to write was my latest. It’s in a different style than my other books, and with a more complex (and wilder) plot.

JA: Honestly, I think that’s how all of us start: Just trying to keep the P&P magic going as long as possible. Also, now I don’t feel so badly about the three years I spent on TCP!

JA: What are you working on now? Can you give us a brief teaser? 

JS: I’m working on an idea I had several years ago, in the winter of 2013, when I came across some stunning scenery: dark clouds hanging very low over the countryside, just before a raging storm. This variation starts a few months after the Hunsford proposal, with Darcy and Elizabeth crossing paths a little sooner than in P&P. The other main difference is that Elizabeth is much quicker to recognise her feelings and admit to herself there was attraction from the start, before Darcy went and ruined everything with ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me…’.

Sounds like plain-sailing from here, right? Well, it would be, if I weren’t so tempted to go back to the old habit of torturing them, especially Darcy. In my opinion, yearning for Elizabeth is what he does best, so I can’t help it, I have to imagine him simmering, with his legendary self-control hanging by a thread. It’s not fair on him, I know, but where’s the fun in jumping straight to the ‘happily ever after’? ;)

JA: Ah! Thank you for sharing that little tidbit. And I think I speak for many, many people when I say: Write faster! :)

Lightening Round – Jennifer’s Answers

·         Coffee or tea? Coffee (or iced tea).

·         Cats or dogs? Dogs. (Sorry, cat lovers!)

·         Early riser or night owl? Night owl.

·         Wine or beer? Wine.

·         Text or talk? Text.

·         Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.

·         Paper books or e-books? I hate to say it, but e-books.

·         Ice cream or cake? Ice cream!

·         Reading or writing? Reading. Writing is work!

·         Gold or silver? Silver.

·         City or country? Both. :)

·         Fruits or vegetables? Veggies.

·         TV or film? Film… unless it’s a British period drama, then TV.

·         Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.

·         Pool or sea? To relax beside: sea. To swim in: pool.

·         Fall or spring? Spring.

Lightening Round – Joana’s Answers

·         Coffee or tea? Coffee.

·         Cats or dogs? Dogs in theory, but I wouldn’t have to take a cat out for daily walks, so the jury’s still out on that one.

·         Early riser or night owl? Early riser, mostly.

·         Wine or beer? Wine.

·         Text or talk? Talk.

·         Chocolate or vanilla? Oh, chocolate, always.

·         Paper books or e-books? Both.

·         Ice cream or cake? Ice cream.

·         Reading or writing? Depends if inspiration strikes.

·         Gold or silver? Gold.

·         City or country? Country.

·         Fruits or vegetables? Fruits.

·         TV or film? TV.

·         Ketchup or mustard? Mustard.

·         Pool or sea? Sea.

·         Fall or spring? Both, but I love spring more.
~ * ~


Thanks for having us, Janet! To Conquer Pride released today in eBook form with a print version to follow. You can order by clicking here.

About the Author:

Jennifer Altman is a novelist, an anglophile, and a love of all thinks Regency. After a long career in the television industry, Jennifer shifted to book publishing in 2016. She currently works in the corporate division of a large publishing company. Jennifer makes her home in New York City where she lives in a small apartment with a considerable collection of books. When she's not writing, Jennifer can be found reading, watching British period dramas, and not cleaning her house. To Conquer Pride is her debut novel. 


You can connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter.





To Conquer Pride Blog Tour: 




·       November 19th: Austenesque Reviews – Cover reveal, book excerpt, giveaway.

·         November 26th: More Agreeable Engaged – Author interview with Joana Starnes, book excerpt, giveaway.

·         November 29th: From Pemberley to Milton – Book review, book excerpt, giveaway.

·         November 30th: Babblings of a Bookworm – “Ask Me Anything” author interview, book excerpt, giveaway.

Giveaway:

It's giveaway time! Today we have a double giveaway going to one lucky winner! Jennifer is giving away one copy of the eBook version of To Conquer Pride, and Joana will be giving a way a Kindle copy of one of her books (winner's choice) or an audio-code for the download of one of the six books she has available in Audible. (all narrated by the wonderful Stevie Zimmerman) The giveaway is international. IN order to be entered to win, please post a comment below.



What a special giveaway, ladies! Readers, good luck to each of you. The giveaway will end at 11:59 P.M. Central Time on the 2nd of December!

Jennifer, thank you for visiting today. Joana, thank you for your part in today's post. It was lovely to share the experience with both of you. The questions and answers were awesome! I learned more about you both and that was such fun. The excerpt was quite heartrending. Poor Darcy. Jennifer, are you going to be as adept at "torturing" Darcy as dear Joana? :) How she does love to make him suffer! 

Best wishes to you, Jennifer, on today's release of your debut novel, To Conquer Pride. I hope we will be seeing more of you in the future. Please come back for a visit anytime.

Thanks again, ladies, for such a delightful post.