Sunday, December 21, 2014

Letters from the Heart...Excerpt and Giveaway

Rose Fairbanks is my guest today. I'm so glad to have you come back, Rose. The excerpt you chose to share with me and my readers is so good. I can't wait to read the book now. These excerpts are good teasers, aren't they! :) The blurb was also very good at making me want to read more. Congratulations on the release of this novella. The cover is very striking. I like it very much. I also want to thank you for having such a generous giveaway for my readers. Now on to the blurb and excerpt! 

Blurb: Resolved to forget Elizabeth Bennet during a winter in London, Fitzwilliam Darcy writes a letter in bitterness of spirit. Frustrated by her growing obsession with the arrogant man, Elizabeth commits her thoughts to paper. But angry people are not always wise, and secret thoughts do not always remain secret. Compelled to face their selfishness and fears, their actions encourage those dearest to them to change as well.


Monday, December 9, 1811
Darcy House, London
5 pm

“Are you certain you do not wish to attend the theatre this evening?” Charles Bingley queried his friend.
“No.” Fitzwilliam Darcy said emphatically.
The two sat in the billiards room after the early and informal dinner. Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana, had excused herself early to write letters in her chambers, leaving the two gentlemen alone.
“I say!” Bingley proclaimed with a hint of his usual levity. “I truly had it right that evening at Netherfield when I claimed I never knew a more awful fellow than you on a Sunday night—and now a Monday—in his own home with nothing to do!”
Darcy remembered this remark and the surrounding conversation in great detail, but feigned ignorance. “I do not recall you saying such.” He affected a scowl in hopes of the subject being dropped, but he could not intimidate his friend.
“Truly? It was after you and Miss Elizabeth were in a dispute over whether my impulsiveness was a fault or a virtue, and before you asked her to dance a reel and she refused you.”
Darcy did not need the reminder; he had already spent hours with his memories of the twinkle in Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes during their debate—it was not a dispute! He recalled precisely the expression on her face, the scent she wore and—to his extreme mortification—the exact shade of blue of her gown with the delicate yellow ribbon in her hair. It was like the sun cresting over the rocky peaks of Derbyshire in a sky just after a rainstorm. Darcy cringed again as he realized how ridiculous and poetic his thoughts regarding the lady had become. I am practically a mooncalf!
Despite himself, Darcy sighed at his memories. It was the second time Elizabeth had refused to dance with him, and he should have been offended, but she was simply too endearing. She had a unique mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner. Darcy had not met with her more than six times before being entirely bewitched. The time she spent at Netherfield, seeing her each day, had been a sweet torture.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sigh from his companion, no doubt remembering his own Bennet lady.
“Netherfield really was a very picturesque estate. And so close to London, Caroline could have no complaints.”
Darcy closed his eyes in annoyance but knew the following conversation necessary, yet again. “Considering how frequently she claims to enjoy Pemberley and Derbyshire, it should be no surprise she cannot complain about the distance from Hertfordshire to London. I believe her complaints were of a different matter.”
“Everyone in the area was very welcoming and kind. Caroline wishes to remain in London for Christmas but I had thought it would be quite nice to celebrate at my own estate, perhaps invite my closest family and friends.” Bingley let out another sigh.
Darcy was growing alarmed. He had no desire to return to the area. “Are you certain you wish to host such a large party again so soon? You hosted a ball just over a week ago. You would not want to overexert yourself or Miss Bingley.”
Bingley’s brow furrowed and then his face lit up in amusement. “I am certain Caroline would perform any task to impress the Master of Pemberley.”
Darcy groaned and walked to the sideboard to refresh his port. “Did you not already accept the invitation to Lady Tennyson’s ball?”
“Yes. Caroline is desperate for me to meet Lady Tennyson’s niece, Miss Howe, again.”
“She is quite lovely and has a good portion.”
“Her hair is too dark.”
Darcy raised an eyebrow. “I believe you admired her hair and more in August.”
“And her eyes are too small unlike...”
Bingley did not need to continue, and Darcy took a large sip. Blast the Bennet sisters and their eyes! The eldest had very large and perfectly blue eyes. Elizabeth had the most expressive and intelligent eyes Darcy had ever seen, a beautiful shade of brown that could turn nearly emerald green as well. Even the youngest daughters and the mother had a special twinkle in their eye. Yes! That was an important recollection—the younger sisters and the mother!
“Bingley, I know you are quite attracted to Miss Bennet, but you did promise to use this time in Town to consider other ladies and all the consequences.” Darcy had privately vowed to do the same.
“Yes, I know. But what is consequence to affection?”
Darcy took another gulp of his drink and then decided to refill his glass and offer more to Bingley.
“The match would be lacking in all important ways.”
“It is just like you to think money and connections are all that matter.” Bingley appeared to be teasing, but Darcy still felt a bit offended.
“I do not mean only money and connections. You desire affection, perhaps even love, but you will not gain that with Miss Bennet.”
Bingley looked sharply at Darcy. “What do you mean?”
“Her heart is not easily touched.”
“She enjoyed my attentions!”
“She has a very easy way with everyone, quite a serene countenance. Do you truly believe she treated you differently than others?”
“I cannot believe her to wilfully deceive me.”
“Did she declare sentiments?” Darcy was aghast at the idea. He had thought at least Miss Bennet and Elizabeth capable of proper behaviour.
“No, but surely she could see my intentions, and she made no move to discourage me.”
“You are very amiable. She most likely thought you were engaging in an idle flirtation while visiting the area.”
“You do not believe she has expectations of me?”
“Have any of the others?”
Bingley looked sheepishly at him. “, their feelings were never attached, as you well know after this summer.”
“And did Miss Bennet truly seem different than the other ladies?”
Bingley looked from the glass in his hands to Darcy’s face and back to his glass. “I think you had better pour me another glass.”

6 pm

“She never loved me. None of them have,” Bingley bemoaned and sloshed the wine in his glass.
“You are quite young and so amiable you cannot see those who would scheme against you.”
“I ought to be more like you. Or how you used to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Since we have returned from Hertfordshire you have danced nearly every dance at every soiree, accepted every dinner invitation, and talked with many ladies at each outing. Everyone is full of gossip that you mean to finally take a wife!”
Darcy grimaced. The last thing he needed now was London’s gossips after him.  His friend laughed at his scowl.
“Well, so it was until three nights ago. Then, you only danced half the evening and wanted to leave early, and have refused to go anywhere since. What has happened?”
Darcy sighed. “Nothing has happened. I have agreed to go to the next ball with you.” He motioned toward the billiards table, “Please, let us enjoy our game. More port?”

7 pm

“I’m a catch aren’t I, Darcy?” Bingley asked bleary-eyed.
“Of course,” Darcy replied, quite a bit more in command of his faculties.
“Not like you, though.”
“Pemberley! You’ve got Pemberley!”
“Yes...too many want me for my estate.”
“And your uncle, an earl!”
“You are a fine catch, Bingley.”
He grunted. “And I’ll prove it at Lady Tenley...Tenson...”
“Lady Tennyson’s ball.  I’ll be irresistible.”
“And you too. Maybe Lady Elizabeth Harkin for you?”
Darcy scowled at the name. No Elizabeths. And she was blonde. “No.”
“Your cousin Miss de Bourgh then?”
Darcy choked on his port. “Good G-d, no!”
“What do you want then? More money? Ties to the royal family?” Bingley laughed and then snorted, causing him to laugh all the more. “I know, love!”
Without thought, Darcy whispered quietly to himself, “No. I will never find love again.” He peered at his glass with distrust. Where had this sudden understanding come from?
Bingley had not heard Darcy speak over his own laughter. “What did you say?”
“I will never marry for love.”
“Right. Too silly for you. We must be dignified. We must not laugh.” Bingley tried to affect Darcy’s scowl. “No more love for me! No more angels!”
Sighing, Bingley laid his glass aside. “I’m off to bed while I can walk up the stairs.”
“Are you certain? It is still very early.”
“Yes, but I have had little rest in over a week.”
Darcy only grunted as his friend exited. Willing the voice in his head taunting him with declarations of love for Elizabeth Bennet to silence, he drank another glass of port before an idea of sheer genius struck him. Ten nights with little sleep plagued his ability to think clearly. Then, in a flash of inspiration, THE plan came to him. Writing a letter of sorts to Elizabeth, confessing his affections would clear them from his mind. He would even keep the letter to remind himself of all the reasons he could never marry Elizabeth Bennet.

Author bio:
Rose Fairbanks fell in love with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy twelve years ago.  Coincidentally, or perhaps not, she also met her real life Mr. Darcy twelve years ago.  They had their series of missteps, just like Elizabeth and Darcy, but are now teaching the admiring multitude what happiness in marriage really looks like and have been blessed with two children, a four year old son and a one year old daughter. She proudly admits to her Darcy obsession, addictions to reading, chocolate and sweet tea, is always in the mood for a good debate and dearly loves to laugh.

You can connect with Rose on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog:

Doesn't this just make you want to pick up the book right now and keep reading? It does me! Thank you again, for sharing with us, Rose, and for continuing to write. I'm so happy to have you back at More Agreeably Engaged.

Rose is offering a paperback, US only, and an eBook, international. Isn't that great! I'm excited and I know all you readers are too. Please leave a comment to enter. You know the drill so don't forget to include your email that I may contact you should you be the winner. Giveaway ends at midnight, December 27, 2014. Good luck to all and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Monica Fairview and Mr. Darcy's Challenge

It is with pleasure and no small amount of excitement that I welcome back author, Monica Fairview. Her novel, Mr. Darcy's Challenge is now available and I am anxious to read it and see what happens following Mr. Darcy's Pledge. (Here is the link to my review.) I know, dear readers, that you will enjoy the extract that follows the post. There is a giveaway too for one lucky person! Yay!

Thank you, Janet, for this opportunity to appear on More Agreeably Engaged as a stop on my blog tour for Mr. Darcy’s Challenge. I do love Janet’s original artwork, don’t you?  I could look at it for hours.

Since I started my blog tour, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between Jane Austen variations and sequels. Since I’ve done both, I can tell you they are a completely different kettle of fish. With sequels, you are more limited in what you can do with the characters. When I wrote The Other Mr. Darcy, for example, I found myself constantly challenged because I was writing about Caroline Bingley, and readers did not really want a happy ending for her. Yet since I was writing a romance, and Caroline was the main character, it was rather unavoidable. I was limited as to how I could approach her character, however, since I was picking up the novel from where it left off.

When writing a variation, however, you can allow free reign to your imagination, which is an absolute delight. Obviously, the characters should be consistent, but your plot can start anywhere and take on any twists and turns you choose. You are faced with a challenge of a different sort: how to make sure the characters remain plausible even in very different situations. I must admit I am enjoying that challenge so far.

Speaking of challenges, Darcy has a few of his own in my latest novel. I chose the title deliberately because Darcy daydreams about becoming Lizzy’s champion in shining armor. I love the idea that he needs a Challenge to prove his worth to her, and that’s what he does when he rides off later in the novel to rescue her.

In the extract below from Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, however, we are not yet at that stage. He and Elizabeth have quarreled, and Darcy is seeing her for the first time after their big fight.  In this extract, Darcy has just been to visit the Gardiners to inform them and Mr. Bennet that he has found Wickham. He does not know Elizabeth is in town. The moment is both poignant and comic.

As the door shut behind him, he set his walking stick firmly on the ground, looked down the stairs with resolution and smoothed out the inside of his beaver.  

“Mr. Darcy!” said a much too familiar voice. “What are you doing here? Is there news?”

Darcy was so stunned he dropped the hat. It tumbled down the stairs and lay in the street on the dirty cobblestones. He stared at it for too long, unable to gather his thoughts together. By the time he registered the danger, a cart had come by and reduced it to pulp.

“Oh,” said Elizabeth. “I am sorry to have startled you and ruined your hat.”

He felt naked without it, totally naked and exposed. He could hardly say so, however. Years of practice in uttering polite phrases prompted him to answer. “It was entirely my fault. Say no more of it, I beg you.”

His voice was so strained it sounded unfamiliar to him. He tried to steady his breath, which was coming as fast as if he had arrived from running uphill rather than from inside the Gardiner’s house, but the more he tried to appear in control, the more breathless he became.

He watched her from the corner of his eye. She was wearing an alluring walking dress in a very attractive shade of green that showed off her ripe figure to perfection. It brought out the sparkle in her eyes and the wine-red color of her lips.

They stood there, staring at the ruined hat as if at some precious object that had been irredeemably destroyed. The specter of their last encounter stood between them.

Dodging the traffic, a street urchin dashed across from the other side and took it up, and, without so much as a glance towards Darcy, ran back to the other side where he proceeded to dust it and pat it back into a parody of a top hat, crooked and torn.

“Are you not going to stop him?” asked Elizabeth, curiously.

Darcy shrugged. “The hat – if it could still be called that – is no use to me. If he can sell it or use it himself, then I will not begrudge him that.”

The urchin’s theft – if that was what it could be called -- had served a useful function, in fact. It had given Darcy time to recover from the unexpected encounter. His pulse was still unsteady, but at least it was not galloping like a horse running from a fire.

“I did not expect to see you here,” he remarked. It was a colossal understatement. 

“We arrived last night. My mother was convinced my father would call Wickham out and be killed. Nothing would ease her fears but being here where she could prevent him.”

“I see,” he said, trying to think of something better to say but failing.

“You have not yet told me the purpose of your visit to my uncle and aunt,” she said. “Has Wickham been found?”

Darcy took a deep breath. “Yes, he has.”


He was behaving like an idiot. She needed reassurance and he was not providing it.

“I have found Wickham, but Miss Lydia was not with him.”

About the Author:

Monica Fairview

Monica is a longtime admirer of Jane Austen and likes to write down her fantasies about living in the Regency period. She has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels,THE OTHER MR. DARCY and THE DARCY COUSINS and a story in the anthology JANE AUSTEN MADE ME DO IT. Her new series consists of traditional Pride and Prejudice ‘what-if’ variations. MR. DARCY’S CHALLENGE is the second in the series. 

Monica Fairview’s real claim to fame is that she lived in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Manchester as a teenager, when it was crumbling and neglected, so you could say she has the smog of NORTH & SOUTH in her blood. After that, Monica lived in the USA for many years, where she taught literature to captive victims (not necessarily captivated). She now lives in Surrey within the Greater London area and loves visiting historical properties when it isn’t raining.

Visit Monica at 
her website
Austen Variations
her blog
on Facebook
Twitter @Monica_Fairview
and Pinterest

Below are the links to where Monica's books may be purchased.
Links to sites carrying Mr. Darcy’s Challenge


I had never thought about the different challenges associated with writing a sequel as opposed to a variation, Monica, and I like your thoughts on the subject. I do find that it is important as a reader to try to allow for the characters to be affected or even changed 'somewhat' by the circumstances they encounter. 

With this tantalizing excerpt, I cannot wait to read more! The hat scene was perfection and I could see it all unfolding in my mind as I read. Darcy's response about the street urchin was spot-on for the man we know and love! I know my readers will be as excited as I am to read more and with the giveaway opportunity, someone will get the chance to do just that. Your generosity is much appreciated. 

Thank you for your lovely comments about my artwork. They were very much appreciated. The cover design for this second book is lovely too. I thought the first one was gorgeous but any shade of purple is wonderful in my eyes.

I'm so happy that you stopped by on your blog tour, Monica Fairview, and that you are hosting a giveaway for my readers. That is especially fun this time of year. Monica is giving away one eBook copy of Mr. Darcy's Challenge to one lucky reader from US or UK only. Please leave a comment to be entered. You know the drill so please leave your email that I may contact you if you are the winner. Giveaway ends midnight December 18, 2014.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

And the winners are...

I have lots of winners to announce today for some eBooks, books and one calendar. Thought this might be fun to put them all together since it is the holiday season of giving. Here are the winners from several different giveaways and posts. 

Congratulations and Season's Greetings to each of you!

Mr. Darcy's Diamonds, by Jane Odiwe, eBook winner is:

$10 Amazon gift card from Stephanie Fowers:

The winners for the two eBooks, The Madness of Mr. Darcy
by Alexa Adams are:
L Fujinaga and DungVu

The winner of the paperback, To Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth is:

Chiara Lanzi is the winner of The Falmouth Connection 
by Joana Starnes.

Sophia Rose won my 2015 Calendar,
Longbourn to Pemberley.

We have two eBook winners for Volume I, Darcy's Tale,
by Stanley Michael Hurd.
They are:

gailw and Nicole Clutter

The winners for The Muse by Jessica Evans are:

Paperback:  Anji
eBook:  tresha boone

If you have not already contacted me, please do so at your earliest convenience.

A Special 'Thank You' to each of these authors for being my guest and for having the giveaways. It has been my pleasure to have you visit.

Thanks to all of you that popped in and left comments. Your support of my blog is much appreciated. There are guests still to come this month and things are already lining up for the new year so be sure and come back for a visit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My share in the conversation...Jane Austen's First Love

Today I am reviewing Syrie James's book, Jane Austen's First Love as my participation in the Holiday Blog Tour that runs through December 14. Anyone that chooses to leave a comment below will be included in the fantastic giveaway. For more information about the blog tour click on this link for a complete list of stops and to see pictures of the fabulous prizes. 

I am purposely less specific in this review as I do not want to give away any of this sweet story. It needs to be experienced and enjoyed by each reader. If you have not yet read this one, I hope you will find the time to do so.


Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James, is a book that any Janeite or Regency history enthusiast, should fancy. It is based on snippets from letters by Jane Austen and historical documents that Syrie James found during her extensive research for this book. (She gives much valuable information about her research and discoveries in her Author’s Afterward at the end of the book. I found it fascinating to read and wanted to know more.) The author uses this historical information, puts it together with real people and some actual events and creates a magical imagining of what might have taken place that summer in 1791.

The book begins with Jane writing her remembrances of that special summer, brought to mind by an old letter that Cassandra had found.  Jane and Cassandra reminisce for a bit, then we, as readers, are transported back in time, twelve and a half years earlier, as memories come flooding back to the mind and heart of dear Jane…

...Cassandra, Jane, young Charles and their mother travel to Godmersham to the Knights’ home, then on to Goodnestone to the Bridges’ home to celebrate the engagement of Edward Austen (Knight) to Elizabeth Bridges. The narration is then filled with events and happenings that depict how people lived in Jane Austen’s time. It was mesmerizing to read their daily activities and entertainments.

As this first love blooms, we are privy to the thoughts and emotions, the settings and flirtations and the growing interest by both parties. It is a lovely tale of what might have been and gives me the hope and satisfaction that maybe Jane Austen truly experienced what it was like to be in love. Two of my favorite parts were the strawberry-picking party and everything leading up to and including the Midsummer Night’s Eve festivities.

Some of the things that I found quite interesting (and in this case, I truly mean ‘interesting’, thought-provoking, fascinating…not just a ‘term used when there is no more promising attribution’), were the nuances to the works of Jane Austen. Without giving away any of the details, I will just say that much reminded me of Emma. There were allusions to Pride and Prejudice with fine eyes. Several things said by characters in Jane’s novels were used by various people in this ‘what-if’.  This made it appear as if these sayings were catalogued by Jane Austen and later used as her inspiration in her writings.  

At times as I was reading this book, I found myself feeling that this was a true accounting of Jane Austen as a young fifteen year old girl discovering her first love, the dashing Edward Taylor. The words were written in the style of Jane Austen and it was all beautifully done. Thank you, Syrie James, for making this a real and emotive experience. Well done! I highly recommend this book. It is one to savor and to feel.

For those of you that leave comments, be sure to leave me your email address so I can pass it on should you be one of the winners of any of the exciting prizes!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Muse Blog Tour with Jessica Evans

We are in for a treat today, dear readers. It is my turn to take part in the Blog Tour for new Meryton Press Author, Jessica Evans. Don't you just love the cover of her book, The Muse? I think it is stunning.  Jessica tells us about her reasons, as a reader and writer, for loving Jane Austen. Good reading, my friends.

There is a giveaway so don't forget to check it out. Thanks for stopping by and a special thanks to Jessica Evans for being my guest today.


I love Jane Austen as both a reader and a writer. When writing “The Muse,” I looked to Pride and Prejudice not only for inspiration on plot and characterization, but I also tried to emulate what I loved most about Austen’s craft in my own writing.

When we talk about Jane Austen, we talk about her biting humor. I remember laughing out loud the first time I read the opening dialogue between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I felt the dysfunction between them, Mr. Bennet’s indifference, Mrs. Bennet’s penchant for melodrama. I love reading Jane Austen’s dialogue, and love writing dialogue even more. To that end, I tried to capture that same wit and banter in the dialogue in my story. Some of my favorite dialogue scenes to write were Elizabeth and Darcy bantering at Charles’ Rhinebeck cabin (the equivalent of the drawing room scene when Jane is sick at Netherfield) and a conversation post-“Hunsford” between Darcy and Anne.

Another reason that I love Austen’s writings is her ridiculous minor characters. I love to hate them! In particular, I love hating those who are most self-important and least self-aware, the egomaniacs and hypochondriacs: Mr. Collins, Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Bertram, Mary Musgrove. Austen makes me feel like, together, we are in on a joke. I wanted my readers to feel the same way in The Muse so I tried to paint Catherine Boroughs (my version of Catherine de Bourgh), heiress and arts philanthropist, with the same brush of sarcasm that Austen wields so expertly. I made Catherine an interloping arts philanthropist with lots of opinions and money, and no artistic sensibility. Her ignorance – coupled with her ignorance of her ignorance – made her a fun character to write.

That said, none of Jane Austen’s characters are perfect. She creates human characters with real flaws. Darcy, as we know, has too much pride. So does Catherine de Bourgh. So does Mr. Collins. But, the difference between those characters that endure Jane’s ridicule and those that earn her love and empathy is one of self-awareness. Although both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy suffered from self-righteousness at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, they both become willing to look inwards, assess themselves honestly, and admit that they were wrong. Each causes the other to change and evolve. Jane Austen creates characters who grow to understand themselves, which is why I and many others fall in love with her characters and stories. In The Muse, I try to do justice to this theme by describing the evolution of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship and each of their thinking about themselves as artists.

Those are some of the reasons that I love Jane Austen as a reader and writer. What about you? I’d love to hear what you love most about Jane Austen’s writings!

Book Blurb:
Elizabeth Bennet, the newest corps de ballet dancer at Ballet Theater of New York, dreams of rising through the prestigious company’s ranks to become a prima ballerina. When she’s cast in superstar choreographer William Darcy’s newest work, she believes she’s one step closer to realizing her dream–until she meets him. 

William Darcy, the former dance legend and ballet bad boy, is a jaded perfectionist whom dancers both fear and admire. Although touted as the next big thing in the ballet world, he secretly battles a bad case of artist’s block–until he meets Elizabeth Bennet. 

Tempers ignite between Elizabeth and Darcy, but he’s irresistibly drawn to the stubborn and beautiful corps de ballet dancer. Could she be the muse he needs to reignite his passion for ballet?


Author Bio:
A middle school English teacher by trade, I cut my writer’s teeth in various fan fiction forums starting at the tender age of fifteen. My debut novel, The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, is set to be published by Meryton Press in late November 2014.
In my spare time, I read a lot of Young Adult literature, cook and eat as organically/sustainably/artisanally/grass-fed-ally as possible, and work on improving my life one affirmation at a time. I live in Brooklyn, NY though am not a hipster. I swear.


Thank you, Jessica Evans, for visiting today. It is such a pleasure to have you here. Your book sounds fascinating and I wish you much success. In her post, Jessica asked what you love most about Jane Austen writings. Please share your thoughts with us in your comments as we would dearly love to know. Thank you again, Jessica, and please stop by anytime.

Meryton Press is kindly giving away two chances to win a copy of The Muse. There will be one paperback and one eBook up for grabs and both are international! YAY!!! Thank you Michele Reed. Let me know in your comments which you prefer should you be one of the lucky winners. We always love to hear your share in the conversation so please leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway. Be sure to include your email address so that I may contact you.  Giveaway ends at midnight December 9, 2014.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Darcy's Tale by Stanley Michael Hurd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2015 Calendar ~ Longbourn to Pemberley

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

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

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

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


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

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

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