Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dearest, Loveliest Elizabeth...P.O. Dixon

I am so happy to welcome back, P.O. Dixon, to More Agreeably Engaged. It is always such a pleasure to have you as my guest. I have read and enjoyed many of your books and am anxious to read your latest. Maybe after the rush of the holidays, I can manage a little quiet time to read. Now that would be a lovely way to spend the end of November and the beginning of December! :)

We are fortunate, indeed, as Ms. Dixon has chosen to share part of  Chapter 1 with us. If any of you want to read more, there is an excerpt for Chapter 3 at Austen Authors. Now, please join me in welcoming P.O Dixon.


I’ve written more than twenty Pride and Prejudice inspired stories and shared them with so many of you during the past five years. I have asked and answered the following questions: What if a peer raised Elizabeth? What happens if Elizabeth attempts to reunite her sister and Mr. Bingley? What if Miss Anne de Bourgh befriends Elizabeth and asks for her help in garnering Darcy’s favor? The list of ‘what-if’ scenarios goes on, resulting in many different paths to happily ever after for our dear couple.

Dearest, Loveliest Elizabeth is my newest release. For the first time, I endeavored to answer the question of what happened after the happy-ever-after ending of Pride and Prejudice. The story begins where canon concluded.

The honeymoon period is at an end. Darcy and Elizabeth are throwing their first grand dinner party at Pemberley. The heads of many of Derbyshire’s wealthiest families are invited. So are Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bingley. Elizabeth could not dream of taking on such a task without her sister Jane by her side. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner have invitations as well as Lord and Lady Matlock. With all these people, one might think both sides of the Darcys’ family are well represented. Not so fast. Guess which other family members decide to come to dinner.

I hope you will enjoy the following excerpt from Chapter 1.

The atmosphere at Pemberley took a decided turn later that day. Elizabeth ought to have known her mother would look upon the occasion of Pemberley’s first formal dinner party as a chance to get rid of her remaining unmarried daughters, Mary and Kitty, by throwing them in the path of wealthy men of Darcy’s ilk. Indeed, fewer than two days after the Bingleys and the Gardiners arrived, Elizabeth’s Longbourn relations descended upon Pemberley’s doorstep.

She was not entirely surprised to see her father, Mr. Thomas Bennet, arrive unannounced, for he delighted in coming to Pemberley, especially when he was least expected. As familiar as he was with the house, he had made his way straight to the library where she suspected he would remain for the better part of his visit.

Having refreshed themselves after their journey and now brightly attired in a rainbow of soft colors, Mrs. Fanny Bennet, Mary, who was next in age after Elizabeth, and Kitty, who was next to Mary, joined the Darcys, the Bingleys, and the Gardiners in the parlor. An amiable, intelligent, elegant woman, and a great favorite with all her nieces, Mrs. Gardiner was immediately surrounded by Kitty and Mary: the former impatient to hear all there was to hear about the newest fashions, and the latter eager to learn which books she ought to read next. Mrs. Bennet contented herself with a steady stream of questions on the topic of who would be attending Elizabeth’s grand dinner party. How many of the guests are gentlemen? Are any of them single? Are they rich?

Such conversation, it seemed, was the order of the day and Elizabeth began to consider that her family’s being there was not the worst thing that could happen. Indeed, it was rather nice to see the faces of so many of the people whom she loved in one place, sitting and talking, enjoying one another’s company. She even supposed that perhaps she ought to have invited them. It had been far too long since they had all been together—not since her nuptials. Who was to say when next they would see each other again. No sooner had she accustomed herself to this notion than the butler, Mr. Thurman, entered the room.

The tall, austere man cleared his throat. “Mrs. Lydia Wickham,” he announced. In a flash, Elizabeth’s youngest sister swept into the parlor. A quiet hush overtook everyone assembled about. Mary, who had moved to sit off by herself in a corner, looked up from her book long enough to nod a less than enthusiastic greeting to her sister. Lydia’s own exuberance earned the highest admiration of the sister who was next to her in age. Kitty, a pretty, brown-haired young lady with bright eyes and a quizzical smile, giggled with excitement.

Mrs. Bennet’s joy in seeing her favorite daughter for the first time since shortly after the latter had married was beyond expression, and her spirits were immediately heightened. She was never quite as lively as she was when in company with her youngest. The merry matriarch sprang to her feet and tore across the room.

“Oh, Lydia, my dear, it is such a happy surprise to see you! Turn around and let me have a look at you!”

Lydia was a stout, well-grown young woman with a fine complexion and friendly countenance. A favorite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age, she had high animal spirits and a sort of natural self-consequence that had only been encouraged by the fact that, although the youngest, she had been the first of the five Bennet daughters to be married. The particulars of how said marriage came to be never concerned her. Relishing in her mother’s unabashed adoration, Lydia spun herself around in a proud manner.

Mrs. Bennet clasped her hands to her chest. “I can easily surmise that your dashing husband is taking prodigious care of you.” Winking, she added, “You were very clever in landing such a handsome man. No doubt he spoils you exceedingly were one to judge by your elegant dress and your fine jewels.”

The proud matriarch was not alone in noticing Lydia’s lavish attire. Elizabeth could not help silently noting her sister’s extravagance as well. During the past months, such relief as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of thrifty economy in her own private expenses, she frequently sent to the Wickhams. It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two people so excessive in their wants and heedless of the future, must be insufficient to their support. Her benevolence aside, she decided it was best not to judge her sister on the basis of this one factor alone. Who is to say this is not the only such dress my sister owns?

“Just imagine; you are happily married to an officer! There was a time when I should have loved to have married an officer, but then I met your father and there was the end of that dream.” She looked around the room. “Where is our dear Wickham? Pray you did not travel all this way alone, child! Where is your excellent husband?”

“Oh, Mama! I assure you that my Wickham and I did indeed travel to Derbyshire together. He is in Lambton—that dreadful little town. When last I saw him, he was settling into a dreary little room in a tiny little inn. Oh, if only you could have seen the place, then you would have known in an instant that it is no place for the sister of one of the richest men in all of Derbyshire. I told the innkeeper as much, and I insisted he must give us the finest rooms in the establishment, but he would not hear of it. Oh, Mama, you will never guess what he did. Well, I will tell you what he did and save you the trouble.”

“Do tell, my dear,” cried Mrs. Bennet when she could.

“I told him that if he fails to heed my demands that we shall take our patronage elsewhere and he said that he could not and, what’s more, he would not even if he could—complaining of having been ill-used by my dear Wickham in the past, but that was ages ago.”

“My dear Lydia, why did Wickham not come with you to stay at Pemberley? No doubt there is ample room.”

Darcy had heard enough. “George Wickham is not welcome at Pemberley,” he said in a tone that invited no further discussion on the matter.

Not easily put off by the absence of an invitation as evidenced by her even being at Pemberley, Mrs. Bennet exclaimed, “Not welcome at Pemberley! Why, I have never heard of such a thing.” She looked away from the master of the house and turned her aggrieved gaze to the mistress. “When is it ever proper to exclude one’s own family from one’s home? Why, I should never dream of turning family away. Did I not welcome that horrible Mr. Collins and his scheming wife, the former Miss Charlotte Lucas, at Longbourn? We all know I took no pleasure in doing so, but family is family. We are not allowed the privilege of picking and choosing those whom we like best.”

“Those are my sentiments exactly, Mama,” cried Lydia. “However, I am not angry and neither is my Wickham. In fact, he told me to be sure to give his best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and most especially to Miss Georgiana.” Lydia threw a casual glance about the room, dismissing everyone she knew until her eyes landed on someone whose acquaintance she had not made. She sashayed over to where Georgiana was standing and curtseyed. “You must be Miss Darcy. My Wickham said you were a comely creature. No doubt my sisters have told you all about me and how I was the first Bennet daughter to marry. I am quite eager to further our acquaintance, for I am certain you and I have much in common.”

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The book is available for pre-order on iBooks, Nook and Kobo.


Thank you again for being my guest today. I always look forward to your visits.  I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and an excerpt with me and my readers. I know they will enjoy the opportunity to win this latest book! Yes, that is correct. Ms. Dixon is offering one eBook as an international giveaway and one paperback for US readers. Please have your share in the conversation but don't forget to leave me your contact info in case you are the randomly selected winner! Giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 30th of November! Good luck to all. To all my US readers, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Birthday!

On October 30th the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation celebrated their first birthday. Below is a copy of the newsletter I received from the Foundation. It gives much information on the success of their first year. I do hope you will take a few minutes to look over this newsletter and read about all the wonderful projects that are helping to 'create confident readers and proud writers in honour of Jane'.

I want to share a picture of the bookplate I received by taking part in the Bookplate program.  I have mine in the hardbound Annotated Edition of Pride and Prejudice published by Harvard University Press in 2010. These are such special keepsakes for a prized book.

My eleven year granddaughter wanted to donate to the foundation so she could help other children learn to read and write. She is an avid reader herself and already a big fan of Jane Austen.  She is so excited to have her very own bookplate and is planning to put it in her hardbound copy of Pride and Prejudice as soon as the book arrives. 

There is a link to the Bookplate program here and below in the Bookplate information section for any of you interested in getting your own bookplate.


My version of the newsletter is not nearly so nicely done as the original but I was unable to post the original in Blogger. You may click on the JALF Website link if you prefer to read their website version of the newsletter there. 

Jane Austen Literacy Foundation

On 30th October 1811, Jane Austen published her first novel Sense & Sensibility. On 30th October last year, we published our website and the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation was born. 

Our First Birthday

The first 12 months have been exciting to say the least, with thousands of pounds and dollars raised by scores of volunteers across multiple countries.

First and foremost, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to fund FREE reading and writing materials to children in need, both in Syria and in remote indigenous Australia.

These supplies are vital in supporting literacy development in our most vulnerable communities and we would like to thank both UNICEF and ALNF for making sure the money we raise is helping to create Confident Readers and Proud Writers, in honour of Jane.

Reading and writing are essential skills for those who want to understand, enjoy and influence the world around them.

Literacy is the key to self-improvement and unlocking potential.

The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation was the brainchild of Jane’s fifth great niece, Caroline Jane Knight, who was raised in Chawton, where Jane herself lived and wrote her most famous novels.  Jane’s works are out of copyright and free for all to enjoy.  Jane’s legacy continues to grow as we reach the bicentenary of Jane’s death in 2017.  

The foundation aims to raise money to provide FREE reading and writing resources to communities in need, in honour of Jane. If you have ever enjoyed, been inspired by or gained from Jane Austen and her writing, please support the foundation in her honour.

Our Ambassadors

We have been honoured to have the support of our Ambassadors, who have helped promote the foundation within the Jane Austen community and raise vital funds for JALF.  We would sincerely like to thank Simon Langton, Sophie Andrews, Jane Odiwe, and Amanda Jacobs for supporting our organisation.


A number of events have been held throughout the year to raise money for the foundation.

The High Tea for Literacy events were a major highlight, with a talk by our founder Caroline proving so popular, we had to stage the event twice!  We were thrilled to be joined by JALF Ambassador Amanda Jacobs, who came from the USA to join us in Melbourne.

A feature of the high tea was an original recipe by close Austen friend, Martha Lloyd, who lived with the Austen ladies at Chawton Cottage, now known as Jane Austen’s House Museum.  Martha Lloyd was a well-regarded cook, and her cheesecakes were proudly presented as part of the afternoon’s fare.  Funds were raised through ticket sales, donations, raffles and from the sale of the popular 'Martha’s Cheesecakes'.

In May, we were delighted to be invited to attend the 15th annual Simultaneous Storytime, featuring ‘The Brothers Quibble’ read by author Aaron Blabey at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Our newest Ambassador, Sophie Andrews (aka blogger ‘Laughing with Lizzie’) held a delicious afternoon tea party to raise funds for the foundation with donations and a raffle.  This event was held during the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, at 4 Sydney Place, where Jane Austen lived from 1801-1805. (The location was kindly donated by Bath Boutique Stays). Our founder, Caroline Jane Knight announced Sophie’s ambassadorship during the tea party, and a short video about the event was seen by thousands on social media.


The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Room was opened at the Austen Tea Rooms in Melbourne, giving visitors a chance to engage with the foundation and help support fundraising efforts.


Bookplate Program

In September, we launched the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Bookplate Program, giving each and every donor their very own personalised bookplate, complete with their name written in Jane’s handwriting. We have been delighted to see JALF bookplates in some very special hands during this 20th year anniversary of the BBC's iconic television production of ‘Pride & Prejudice’.

Ambassador Simon Langton,                               Susannah Harker, aka Jane Bennet
Director Pride & Prejudice 1995                          Pride & Prejudice 1995, with Ambassador
                                                                                Sophie Andrews, aka Laughing with Lizzie

We were thrilled to see the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation bookplate featured in the ongoing Facebook story of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, attracting over 23,000 readers, in which Jane Austen herself gave Lizzy a first edition of Sense & Sensibility, complete with her own bookplate.


It was wonderful to see the resources that Janeites have funded being delivered, complete with a JALF bookplate. Together we have the power to make a real difference.

You can receive your own personalised bookplate by making a donation here.

Our Team

All of this would not be possible without our network of passionate Volunteers. To you, we are grateful and we thank you for your support.  

We would also like to thank our Board, who give freely of their time and expertise, helping us to grow into a strong, vibrant and trusted foundation globally.  You can meet these talented individuals by going to the 'Our Board' page on our website.

Some of the Board members of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.

Finally, YOU can help us by donating, raising money for the foundation and spreading the word. The Jane Austen Literacy Foundation raises money to fund FREE reading and writing resources for communities in need, in honour of Jane. We are a registered, not-for-profit charity, run by volunteers. We are always looking for volunteers and pro-bono professional services.  If you have any special skills you would like to contribute, please contact us via admin@janeaustenlf.org

We have some big plans coming up for our second year of operation.  So please 'like' our Facebook page, invite your friends to do the same, and you will be the first to hear our news and events.

Here’s to the future!

With many thanks,

Caroline and Amanda

For the first birthday of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, I am giving away one 2016 Peacock Edition Calendar, Jane Austen Illustrated. The giveaway will end on the 24th of November at 11:59 PM. To be entered in the giveaway, you need to leave your contact information and tell me something that impresses you about the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation or one of their projects for the past year. I want to hear your share in the conversation on this worthy endeavor and its first year. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will consider helping to make a difference.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My share in the conversation...Denial of Conscience

Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Oh. My. Goodness! This book was awesome! Cat Gardiner is an excellent author and writes a story that is fast-paced, entertaining and sizzling! She has done her research and it shows. The flow is perfect and the plot never skips a beat. I couldn’t put the book down but I didn’t want to finish it either.

This is a modern day story and the characters are altered a bit in personality from canon but I did not find that to be problematic.  Jane is probably the most changed in personality. She is not the quiet gentle Jane of the 1800’s. The variations in characters were plausible for the time and circumstances involved. Darcy is an assassin and is like steel in resolve and demeanor but still has a moral sense of rightness. There is only one who can melt the heart of this ‘Ice Man’.  Elizabeth is living at Longbourn and even willing to sacrifice her own happiness to help Mr. Bennet. I think she is an accurate version of her Regency counterpart. Then there are Caroline and Charlie Bingley. What interesting roles they play in this drama. Of course, ‘Rick’ Fitzwilliam must play a part too. He does and is quite likable. Cat Gardiner’s characters were all well developed in their respective roles and literally came alive on the page.

Everything about this book was so skillfully ‘executed’ that it was difficult to choose things I liked most. Besides the characters and the intricate plot, I thoroughly enjoyed the dance studio and the part it portrayed for Obsidian. The names for the ops as dances were brilliantly done and often brought a smile. The orchid and its role was a nice touch and a meaningful one. I liked the connection. Then there was the adventure, drama and tense action as we followed the hero and heroine across the globe. There was also some passionate and ‘intense’ action along the way, including a few ‘mature’ passages. These scenes were written in a way that made them blend perfectly within the storyline, adding to the tension and drama, without detouring or taking away from the plot.

After hearing so much about this book before it was released, I was fascinated with the concept and couldn’t wait to read it. I was not disappointed. Everything was believable and well-done. I am extremely impressed with the writing ability of this author and the study involved for the background of her plot. This book is a black op thriller that has James Bond meet Pride & Prejudice in the present. It has something for everyone, whether a fan of just one or both. I got caught up in the adventure and lived it with Darcy and Lizzy. Their chemistry was explosive! When they danced the tango, you could almost feel the electricity. Denial of Conscience is a book well worth reading and I recommend it highly. Very good, Cat Gardiner. I cannot wait to see what you write next!

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts on this heart-pounding tale of love and intrigue. Did any of you participate in the 'Hog Tour'? I did and it was such fun! Share your thoughts and you might just win a surprise! That's all I will say for now! Secrets and more secrets. :) You have until 11:59 PM on the 16th of November to comment. If I do not already have your contact info, I cannot contact you if you win! Please be sure and leave me a way to reach you, should you be the randomly selected winner of this surprise giveaway! 

And the winners are...

to the two winners of the intriguing book,

Colonel Fitzwilliam and The Countess of Sainte Tourlours
by Stanley Michael Hurd.

eBook winners:  Sophia Rose
                               Vesper Meikle

Congratulations again, ladies. 
I'm anxious to hear what you think of this one. 

Thank you for your continued support of my blog and a special thanks to Stanley Michael Hurd for allowing me to host this giveaway!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My share in the conversation...Colonel Fitzwilliam and the Countess Sainte Toulour

Available soon on Amazon
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review Stanley Michael Hurd's latest book, 
Colonel Fitzwilliam and The Countess of Sainte Toulours. It is available for preorder now and will be released on Amazon, November 6, 2015. Included at the bottom of my review is an excerpt from the book and there is also a giveaway of two eBooks, open internationally. 

As with most of my reviews, I have purposely not written much about the specifics of the plot. It is not my intention to write spoilers but just give enough hints to entice readers to want to pick up the book and read it for themselves. I do hope you will give this book a try.


Colonel Fitzwilliam is one of my all-time favorite minor characters in Pride and Prejudice and I was ecstatic when I heard about the newest book by Stanley Michael Hurd. As the title suggests, the story is mainly about Colonel Fitzwilliam…his thoughts, his life, his loves…the very essence of the man. I must say, this novel did not disappoint my expectations! If I started naming things that I loved about this book, I would have to say, EVERYTHING!!!

As the story begins, Colonel Edmund Fitzwilliam is leaving the Horse Guards building to attend dinner and a small private ball at the home of his cousins, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. Little does he know that his head will soon be turned by a lovely lady at the dinner and things will never be the same again. Did I mention that he can write a swoon-worthy love letter? He can!

I really enjoyed getting to know Colonel Edmund Fitzwilliam. I liked seeing inside his head and his heart . He is quite a romantic (did I mention love letters?) but also a very intelligent and shrewd officer. He is loyal to a fault and always thinks of others before himself. He is brave, strong and loves his family. I fell in love with this Colonel and wanted him to have his happily ever after.

All of the characters were very well developed and soon several became favorites. I adored Lord Estéban de Esparza! (his name too) He was dashing, daring and handsome! What’s not to love? He plays a key role in the book and is the perfect partner for Colonel Fitzwilliam in their perilous escapades in Spain and France.

The Countess of Sainte Toulours, Lord Whittington and Miss Emily Chelwood are significant to the storyline and have facets to their character that are gradually revealed as the story unfolds. Of course, no good adventure can be without a villain and l’Etailler certainly is a vicious and sly one. Darcy and Elizabeth are not central to this book but they do make appearances continually throughout. Although infrequent, Elizabeth has an important part to play and does it well, as one would expect from her.

The historical aspect of the book is enthralling. There are a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming but that is a good thing! The book left me feeling thoroughly entertained and satisfied. There is adventure, romance, intrigue, longing, sadness, heartache, espionage, joy…a battle of wits (and one battle of not so much wit)…all wrapped up neatly in a novel that keeps you reading from the first page to the last. 

Stanley Michael Hurd has an exceptional command of Regency language and a writing style that sets the flavor of his book perfectly for the time period. The flow of the plot is continuous and never skips a beat. This is a book not to be missed and I highly recommend it to any and all lovers of Colonel Fitzwilliam and Pride and Prejudice, as well as any history buff of the Napoleonic wars.

The author states in the preface of his book, “This work can be taken as either a love story, periodically interrupted by the Napoleonic wars, or an adventure story with romantic interludes.” I say that the two, adventure and romance, are seamlessly woven together and inseparable, to create a word tapestry of excellence by Stanley Michael Hurd.



On entering the drawing-room Miss Chelwood saw that Elizabeth had another letter for her, and lost
no time in reading it. As she read, her soft exclamations of tenderness, seemingly almost designed to elicit enquiry, soon produced their effect. “Emily, for Heaven’s sake! Whatever are you mooning over?”

“Oh!” she lamented, “my poor boy! He sounds so lorn and alone!”

“‘Lorn and alone’!” Elizabeth demanded in surprise. “Gracious! Is that Shakespeare?”

“I … I think not,” Emily replied, colouring. “Donne, perhaps—or neither; I can no longer be sure. I have been reading both, I confess, but it may in fact have come from my own disordered imagination.”

“Perhaps you had better limit your reading to prose, dear,” Elizabeth said practically, “as being less likely to discompose the emotions; at this rate we shall soon have to dress you in one of those high, peaked head-dresses, with a scarf flying from its top, and a pendant belt, that you might suffer and swoon the better for your roving knight.”

Emily blushed again, saying, “I only meant he did not sound as if he were in spirits.”

“Yes, in his letter to us Darcy thought he detected that he was not quite himself. Is aught amiss, or does he merely pine?” This last she said with mischievous relish.

“Elizabeth! How can you be so heartless?”

“As he is one of my favourite connexions, and as we have always enjoyed a bit of raillery, if I do enjoy it rather more than I ought, I am sure he will understand and forgive me. But in all honesty I am only too delighted to see him succumb at last to his heart; and I would have you know how truly delightful it is to me that the two of you are together. I am sure I know no other couple so well-suited to one another.”

“There is you, and Mr. Darcy,” Emily said.

Elizabeth did not speak immediately, lost in a reflexion on her own early days as a lover and wife. “Perhaps so,” she mused. “And I dare say we were just as bad, at first. But then, maybe that is it: misery loves company.”


“No, no, my dear; it is only just an expression. I mean, having been so one’s self, it is reassuring to see another, for whom one holds a strong regard, act the same. One does not feel quite such a mooncalf, then.”

“Am I a mooncalf?” asked Emily in a small voice.

“Completely,” Elizabeth told her affectionately. “Palpably, undeniably, indescribably so; it is terribly sweet, you know. And he is every bit as bad as you. Is not that delicious?”

Emily looked a little alarmed and ashamed, but then she brightened, saying with conspiratorial delight, “Yes—it is.” The two young women laughed, and Elizabeth proceeded to question her minutely on the Colonel’s letter, to Emily’s complete satisfaction.


Thank you, Stanley Michael Hurd, for giving us such a fantastic story about the good Colonel, Edmund Fitzwilliam. I was honored to be asked to read and review his adventure and it was fulfilling to see him get his due, a book of his own! Thank you also for having a give away for my readers. They will be excited for the chance to win. I hope you will come for a visit any time!

Dear Readers, this giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 9th of November. There are two eBooks up for grabs, and both are international! Please leave a comment with your contact information below to be entered in the giveaway. If you feel so inclined tell us something you like about Colonel Fitzwilliam. Thanks so much for stopping by to read my review and the excerpt for Colonel Fitzwilliam and The Countess of Sainte Toulours by Stanley Michael Hurd. Good luck to all in the giveaway.