Friday, December 2, 2022

Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews ~ Blog Tour & Excerpt

 Hello, my friends! I'm excited to be part of Death on a Winter Stroll Blog Tour! I love this cover, don't you? This is the seventh book in the Merry Folger Mysteries. I hope you enjoy the excerpt below!

Death on a Winter Stroll
A Merry Folger Christmas Mystery (Book 7)
Francine Mathews


No-nonsense Nantucket detective Merry Folger grapples with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and two murders as the island is overtaken by Hollywood stars and DC suits.

Nantucket Police Chief Meredith Folger is acutely conscious of the stress COVID-19 has placed on the community she loves. Although the island has proved a refuge for many during the pandemic, the cost to Nantucket has been high. Merry hopes that the Christmas Stroll, one of Nantucket’s favorite traditions, in which Main Street is transformed into a winter wonderland, will lift the island’s spirits. But the arrival of a large-scale TV production, and the Secretary of State and her family, complicates matters significantly.

The TV shoot is plagued with problems from within, as a shady, power-hungry producer clashes with strong-willed actors. Across Nantucket, the Secretary’s troubled stepson keeps shaking off his security detail to visit a dilapidated house near conservation land, where an intriguing recluse guards secrets of her own. With all parties overly conscious of spending too much time in the public eye and secrets swirling around both camps, it is difficult to parse what behavior is suspicious or not—until the bodies turn up.

Now, it’s up to Merry and Detective Howie Seitz to find a connection between two seemingly unconnected murders and catch the killer. But when everyone has a motive, and half of the suspects are politicians and actors, how can Merry and Howie tell fact from fiction?

This latest installment in critically acclaimed author Francine Mathews’ Merry Folger series is an immersive escape to festive Nantucket, a poignant exploration of grief as a result of parental absence, and a delicious new mystery to keep you guessing.

Death on a Winter Stroll 

One of the perks of being police chief was the ringside seat Merry Folger commanded for certain critical moments. For instance, this Saturday morning—the first weekend in December, with the sun high in the sky and a brisk, cold wind driving whitecaps across the water as a Coast Guard cutter sailed toward Straight Wharf. 

Her white SUV with the distinctive navy and gray police markings was parked where no cars were allowed, within the Christmas Market barricades that blocked the wharf’s access to town. She and Peter were lounging against the bumper in their most festive winter gear. Merry’s father, John, was inside the car staying warm. They were waiting for Santa Claus to dock. 

Nearby was the Town Crier and some of the town’s Select- persons who would escort the Man in Red to his island sleigh, a vintage firetruck owned by the Nantucket Hotel. Santa would stand in the back, waving, while the Town Crier walked ahead, ringing his bell, announcing the glad tidings of great joy. 

“Look at that guy,” Peter muttered in her ear as a man roughly their age walked by, natty in sunglasses, a suit, and a knotted Stroll scarf. Nothing abnormal about that, except that the suit had red and green stripes with white death’s-heads and fists stamped all over it. 

“Kind of like North-Pole-meets-Venice-Beach-tattoo-parlor,” Merry suggested. “You prefer the blonde, I take it?” 

The blonde wore a minidress covered in hot pink sequins and thigh-high boots made of fake mink. She had a jingle bell on each boob. 

Every third person in the crowd—and there were about ten thousand people in town, jockeying for the best viewing spots— was dressed in ways bizarre or wonderful. The color and noise and exuberance were thrilling after the cheerless quarantine holidays, and Merry was grinning helplessly. She glanced over her shoulder and gave her dad a thumbs-up. John was drinking coffee laced with peppermint schnapps in his passenger seat. He saluted her with his mug. 

The sight of him sitting alone jolted her suddenly, as it did whenever she looked for her grandfather, Ralph Waldo Folger, and remembered he’s gone now. The freshness of loss stunned her each time like a blow to the face. 

Merry had known her eighty-nine-year-old grandfather was vulnerable in the pandemic. She and John had talked by phone daily about ways to keep Ralph safe. As a frontline worker exposed for the duration to a germ-laden public, Merry had stayed scrupulously away from her childhood home on Tattle Court throughout the first waves of sickness. Peter arranged for grocery deliveries twice a week and dropped supplies from Marine Home at John’s front door. And Ralph was healthy for nearly a year: social distancing on his daily walks, wearing a mask when he ventured into town. He contracted Covid nine days before he was scheduled for his first vaccine. 

Nantucket Cottage Hospital had five ventilators; Ralph never made it to one of them. Sickening on a Friday, he was delirious by Sunday and medevacked to Boston in the wee hours of Monday. Intubated, he lingered in a medically induced coma for four days. 

What dropped Merry to the floor when they got the news, sobbing and hugging her knees as though she’d been sucker punched, was the fact that her careful distance hadn’t mattered a darn. Ralph was alone when he died. And she hadn’t seen or touched him for a year before that. Of all the pandemic’s cruelties, this was the coldest. 

Her father thrust open the car door and stepped out to the paving beside her. “Boat’s in,” he said. 

She linked her arm through his as the cutter drew along- side. A couple of ensigns jumped off with sheets in their hands and moored the steel-gray vessel to the wharf’s stanchions. The Town Crier hailed the boat, Santa waved, horns blared, the drum corps drummed. Merry and Peter and John whooped along with everyone else. Despite the logistics and the responsibilities, she was nominally handling, despite her underlying grief, joy shot through Merry as she fell into step behind the Selectpersons and jauntered after Santa’s firetruck. For the length of Main Street at least, she was uncomplicatedly happy. 

It felt like the whole island celebrated with her. 

Chapter 10, pg. 69-71

From Death on a Winter Stroll © 2022, Francine Mathews, published by Soho Crime

Advance Praise

  • “This fast-moving mystery packs in a lot, but never too much, and will work for fans of coming-of-age stories, police procedurals, and romance.” —First Clue
  • “Fresh, well-wrought prose brings the setting of Nantucket to life. Mathews consistently entertains.” —Publishers Weekly
  • “Christmas and death come to Nantucket . . . Plenty of fascinating characters and myriad motives make for an exciting read.” —Kirkus Reviews 
  • “Mathews consistently places relationships at the forefront of her mysteries, and Merry's unique blend of tenacity and humanity makes her a heroine to root for.”—USA Today bestselling author Karen Odden, author of the Inspector Corravan mysteries

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About the Author

Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last
of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written thirty books, including six previous novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, Death on Nantucket, and Death on Tuckernuck) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the pen name Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

Connect with Francine Mathews

Congratulations to Francine Mathews on the release of Death on a Winter Stroll

Many thanks to Laurel Ann @ Austenprose PR for organizing and including me on this tour!

So, my friends, do you like a good mystery? Well, it's the perfect time to grab a copy of this Christmas mystery! Feel free to leave a comment below! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Godmersham Park Book Tour ~ Excerpt

Hello, my friends! Today I have a lovely excerpt from Gill Hornby's new book, Godmersham Park! This story fascinates me! It's inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp. She was a governess at Godmersham Park. She and Jane Austen became good friends. 


Godmersham Park
A Novel of The Austen Family
by Gill Hornby


A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered.

chapter xi 

‘Miss Sharp!’ Fanny burst into the Godmersham attic. ‘Look!’ She brandished a letter. ‘All that time, I was expecting to hear by the morning post, and it came by the evening.’

They both studied the paper, weighed up its width and its quality, ran their eyes over it to judge the length of what was written upon it. ‘In my mind’s eye, I had seen myself receiving it at breakfast and reading it there, just as Mama does. I mean, like a proper young lady.’ She worried at her lip. ‘But now is just as good, is it not?’

‘I should say it is a fine time for the reading of letters,’ Anne reassured her. ‘A lovely end to the day. And remember, my dear, if this is to be a full correspondence, you can look forward to more in the future . . .’

Fanny breathed out. ‘You are so right. I am beginning to think, Miss Sharp, that you are in the habit of being right on all matters. So, what happens now?’

Anne was becoming a little concerned by her pupil’s over-keen sense of deference. If they went on like this, Fanny would soon be incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without appealing for guidance. ‘I suggest that you read it?’

‘Oh,’ Fanny gave a little laugh. ‘Of course! Shall we do so together?’

‘No, my dear,’ replied Anne, though she was not un-intrigued. ‘This is to you.’

Fortunately, Fanny – who was one of the world’s greatest sharers – chose to read it out loud:

My dear Fanny,

Your letter occasioned such joy among all in your Bath family – but in me, in particular. I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve such an honour – and nor can your superior aunt, my dear sister. When the post came for me, there was a danger that she might drop dead from sheer jealousy, but I quickly revived her with my shrewd observation – Cassandra is harder to spell and consumes too much ink. God bless my short, simple name!

We all marvelled at hearing your Godmersham news, and you have the advantage of me. How can my dull existence compare with the revelation that you have a new governess? It is clear she is a woman of substance for your pen was clear and the contents quite perfect. If you are so kind as to reply to me now, please do us the favour of addressing the following concerns. We all long to know what books you are reading – in particular, which poets? Your grandfather desires that you acquire a sound basis in Shakespeare and, as always – he cannot be helped – issues a plea on behalf of the Classics. Is your Miss S. – among her other perfections – strong in the Classics? If so, then she is truly a paragon.

As you know, your Grandmama has been most unwell and the worry and fear has kept us at home more than is usual. But I am here to report she is now well on the mend, and her spirits returned to their usual height. It cannot be long before we return to the social round. Though I am relieved that the illness is over, I cannot rejoice at being turned out of doors. The streets of Bath are made so dirty by this dreadful wet weather – it keeps one in a perpetual state of inelegance.

We all look forward to hearing from you again, and pray you send our love to all of the Godmersham family.

Your fond Aunt, 
Jane Austen.

Each expressed their delight in tones of great rapture and agreed it to be one of the greatest – possibly the best – letter yet to be written. Fanny read it twice more, so as to be thoroughly sure, before disappearing down to the library to share it anew. Anne, at last, was able to pick up her own pen, and then Sally came in.

The sullen maid of Anne’s first evening had warmed into a garrulous creature and now, while Anne sat alone working, Sally would work alongside her. Her clear philosophy was that, while the hands toiled at tidying and cleaning, the tongue should not idle.

‘What is it you’re up to there, miss?’ She was sifting through Fanny’s drawers and refolding the inexpertly folded. ‘Another letter, is it? You do write a lot of letters and no mistake.’ She came and looked over Anne’s shoulder. Anne covered her page. ‘Don’t worry about that, miss. All scribbles to me.’

‘You cannot read or write, Sally?’ Anne felt that glorious, prickling anticipation of a new project. ‘Would you like me to teach you? When is your afternoon off ? I am sure I could spare a few hours every week.’ She was quite magnificent in her own generosity.

‘Ta, miss, but I’m right as I am.’ Sally went back to her work. ‘My afternoons off are my afternoons off, thanking you very much. I go out on the gad, then, with Becky.’ Anne picked up her pen again, crushed. Suddenly intrigued, she put it back down. ‘You must be most expert gadders to find any gadding to be had in Godmersham, surely?’ The village did not even have a shop, let alone a High Street. Anne had found no amusements beyond solitary walks. How does one even begin to gad in a field? 

‘You’d be surprised, miss. There’s some new lads down
at the tithe barn.’ Sally gave a little shriek. ‘Ooh, but we do like a laugh with them.’

‘And Mrs Salkeld does not object?’ Anne herself could never be so brave as to incur the wrath of the housekeeper.

Sally shrugged her thin shoulders. ‘If she does, she daren’t say so. We’re still young, miss. Got to enjoy yourself, haven’t you? It’s only a job, after all. If they stopped me, I’d tell them to stick it.’

Anne paused to reflect on their relative positions. She was certainly paid more, but Sally – with her uniform and its upkeep provided – had fewer expenses. Sally enjoyed hours off in the day and the companionship of life in the servants’ hall; Anne belonged neither to staff nor family, was almost always on duty and, when not, entirely alone. It appeared that a maid could make an exhibition of herself abroad and it was tolerated, yet if a governess were to attract even the eye of a gentleman, she would face instant dismissal. The comparison provided food for thought on the question of privilege and the cost of its benefits.

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About the Author

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive,
and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.

Advance Praise

"This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub 

Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale."— Publishers Weekly, starred review 

“…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read.”— The Historical Novel Society

So, friends, any thoughts? Sounds like the life of a governess could be very lonely. But I think Anne Sharp does ok for herself. I'm looking forward to reading this one. How about you?

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England by Brenda S. Cox ~ Blog Tour ~ Guest Post

 Hello, my friends! I have Brenda S. Cox here with her new book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England. Such an interesting topic! Please give Brenda a warm welcome!

Fashionable Goodness
Christianity in Jane Austen's England
By Brenda S. Cox

The Church of England was at the heart of Jane Austen's world of elegance and upheaval. Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England explores the church's role in her life and novels, the challenges that church faced, and how it changed the world. In one volume, this book brings together resources from many sources to show the church at a pivotal time in history, when English Christians were freeing enslaved people, empowering the poor and oppressed, and challenging society's moral values and immoral behavior. 

Readers will meet Anglicans, Dissenters, Evangelicals, women leaders, poets, social reformers, hymn writers, country parsons, authors, and more. Lovers of Jane Austen or of church history and the long eighteenth century will enjoy discovering all this and much more: 

     • Why could Mr. Collins, a rector, afford to marry a poor woman, while Mr. Elton, a vicar, and Charles Hayter, a curate, could not? 
     • Why did Mansfield Park's early readers (unlike most today) love Fanny Price? 
     • What part did people of color, like Miss Lambe of Sanditon, play in English society? 
     • Why did Elizabeth Bennet compliment her kind sister Jane on her "candour"? 
     • What shirked religious duties caused Anne Elliot to question the integrity of her cousin William Elliot? 
     • Which Austen characters exhibited "true honor," "false honor," or "no honor"? 
     • How did William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and William Cowper (beloved poet of Marianne Dashwood and Jane Austen) bring "goodness" into fashion? 
     • How did the French Revolution challenge England's complacency and draw the upper classes back to church? 
     • How did Christians campaigning to abolish the slave trade pioneer modern methods of working for social causes? 

Explore the church of Jane Austen's world in Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England.

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, by Brenda S. Cox, tells the story of the church in Austen’s novels and in Austen’s world. Here’s a taste of one of the many topics in this wide-ranging resource.
Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England
Guest Post by Brenda S. Cox

All of Jane Austen’s clergy are men: Mr. Collins, Mr. Elton, Edmund Bertram, Edward Ferrars, Henry Tilney, and others. In Austen’s Church of England, only men could be ordained as clergy. But when I visited Bath a few years ago, I got to hear women preaching at both Bath Abbey and Christ Church. Women have only been ordained as Church of England priests since 1994 (though some other countries in the Anglican Communion began ordaining women earlier). 
In Jane Austen’s England, however, some women were already ministering in public ways. 

The Countess of Huntingdon

I discovered the Countess of Huntingdon quite by accident as I was walking through Bath. Her lovely chapel is on the way to St. Swithin’s Church, where Austen’s parents were married. The Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel, founded in 1765 (ten years before Austen’s birth), is now the Museum of Bath Architecture. But you can still see how the chapel was set up.

Caption: The Countess of Huntingdon built houses for herself in places like Bath, with large attached “private” chapels, open to the public. © Brenda S. Cox 2022

The Countess became a Methodist in the 1700s, when Methodist revivals were sweeping England. At that time, Methodists were trying to bring new life into the Church of England. They separated from it by the end of the 1700s. Most of their followers were from the lower and middle classes, but the Countess of Huntingdon, of course, was from the nobility. She did not preach, but was a powerful church leader, always looking for new ways to spread the gospel message.

The Countess hosted “spiritual routs,” parties where Methodist ministers preached, in her London home to bring the gospel message to her peers. She held separate meetings for poorer people. However, that was not enough for her.

Methodist ministers, although ordained in the Church of England, were having difficulty finding places to preach. Their “enthusiastic,” or emotional, style of preaching, and their message of salvation by faith alone, were not popular among other clergy. So the Countess came up with an ingenious solution. As a noblewoman, she could have a private chapel attached to her home (as the Rushworths have in Mansfield Park). She could also hire private chaplains, and get them ordained if necessary. So she built homes for herself all over England, with large chapels attached to them. (She was not as wealthy as you might think; she had to sell her jewels to build the first chapel, and she raised money for the others.) She chose chaplains from among the Methodist preachers, including the famous preacher George Whitefield. Then she invited those chaplains and other Methodists ministers to preach in her chapels around the country.

Caption: Methodist preachers, including George Whitefield, took turns preaching at this pulpit in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel in Bath. © Brenda S. Cox 2022

The Countess also started her own seminary to train clergymen, after Oxford University refused to ordain several “methodistical” students. 

However, when she built a chapel in London at Spa Fields, the local clergyman sued her and won. At that point she had to separate from the Church of England. But her services were still essentially Anglican services. The Countess of Huntingdon “Connexion” is still operating, listing 22 chapels in England and more than 30 chapels in Sierra Leone.

The Countess was sometimes as imperious as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and her work was often controversial. But she was a church leader, with a heart for God, who influenced many people.

Hannah More

Hannah More was another woman of Austen’s time who influenced many toward deeper religious faith and moral behavior. She was from a very different strata of society, the daughter of a middle-class schoolmaster. However, with her wit and intelligence, she made friends with influential people, especially Samuel Johnson (author of the first major English dictionary), David Garrick (famous actor), and William Wilberforce (leader of the abolition movement). She became part of the “Clapham Sect,” a group of Christians who led the fight against slavery and the slave trade. 

More wrote many books, which were far more popular than Austen’s at the time. They don’t appeal to us much today, though. One of Austen’s reviewers called More’s only novel, Coelebs in Search of a Wife, a “dramatic sermon”; he praised Austen for her less obtrusive religious approach. (This novel is mentioned in Austen’s letters of Jan. 24 and Jan. 30, 1809; Cassandra recommended it to Jane.) Many of More’s other books confronted the immoral behavior of the upper classes. However, the upper and middle classes still loved her books. In a letter, Austen mentions some of her friends reading More’s latest production (May 31, 1811).

Hannah More and her sister also started and supported Sunday schools throughout the impoverished region of Cheddar, where they lived. These schools gave a basic education to poor people, both children and adults, teaching them reading and other skills that enabled them to improve their lives. More also wrote popular tracts which were sold cheaply to the working classes to give them what was considered good reading material.

More’s influence as a Christian leader (though she was not in the clergy) helped to improve the moral values and behavior of the whole country of England.

Hannah More published dozens of books, but only one novel: Coelebs in Search of a Wife: Comprising Observations on Domestic Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals. Because of its title, Austen asked, “Is it written only to Classical Scholars?” But it was wildly popular, in the UK and the US. First published in 1808, it was already in its 11th edition in 1809.

Other Denominations

The Methodist leader, John Wesley, allowed women to preach if they felt they had an “extraordinary call” from God. He told one of them, “Sister, do all the good you can.” Later on, when women preachers were visiting a congregation, Methodists often listed them by their husbands’ names, with an asterisk to show that the wife would be preaching!

The Quakers were the most egalitarian religious group of the time. They did not ordain ministers, but officially “recorded” those with a recognized gift of spoken ministry. Some of these were women. Elizabeth Fry, who led the fight for prison reform in England, was a Quaker minister.

You can read much more of these women’s stories, and much more, in Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, now available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.

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“Finally! Fashionable Goodness is the Jane Austen reference book that’s been missing from the bookshelves of every Austen fan and scholar.”
~ Rachel Dodge, bestselling author of Praying with Jane

“You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords, the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams, and Willoughbys--and especially Fanny Price!--with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible, illuminating take on the ‘fashionable goodness’ of Austen’s era!”
~ Deborah Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont

“Brenda Cox’s Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is an indispensable guide to all things religious in Jane Austen’s world.”
~ Roger E. Moore, Vanderbilt University, author of Jane Austen and the Reformation

“This scholarly, detailed work is a triumph. Easily read, helpful and accurate, it provides a fascinating panorama of 18th century Anglicanism and the various challenges the Church and wider society faced. Cox’s many insights will enrich readers’ understanding and appreciation of Jane Austen’s novels and her life as a devout Christian.”
~ The Revd. Canon Michael Kenning, vice-chairman of the Jane Austen Society (U. K.) and former rector of Steventon

About the Author

Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (incuding three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Blog Tour

Oct. 20 Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn, Interview
Oct. 21  My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia, Giveaway and Guest Post, “Sydney Smith, Anglican Clergyman and Proponent of Catholic Rights, Potential Model for Henry Tilney”
Oct. 22 Clutching My Pearls, Lona Manning, Book Review
Oct. 23 Jane Austen Daily on Facebook, Austen and Her Nephews Worship (1808)
Oct. 25 Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum, Giveaway, Excerpt from Chapter 1, and Book Review
Oct. 27 Australasian Christian Writers, Donna Fletcher Crow, Guest Post, “Seven Things Historical Fiction Writers Should Know about the Church of England”
Oct. 30 Regency History, Andrew Knowles, Book Review and Video Interview
Nov. 1  So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton, Guest Post, “Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England” ~ You're here!
Nov. 2 Austen Variations, Shannon Winslow, Interview, Excerpt from Chapter 7, “The Clergyman’s Wife”
Nov. 3 Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold, Book Review
Nov. 4 Jane Austen’s World and Kindred Spirit, Saved by Grace, Rachel Dodge, Book Review and Giveaway
Nov. 7 The Authorized Version, Donna Fletcher Crow, Book Review
Nov. 8 Julie Klassen, Book Review and Guest Post, “Jane Austen at Church”
Jan. 10 The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness, Book Review

Thank you Brenda! That was fascinating. Your book looks like a excellent reference book. Congratulations on its release!

So, friends, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.   

Friday, October 7, 2022

Preludes by Riana Everly ~ Blog Tour ~ Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway!

 Hello, my friends! Riana Everly has another new book out! Preludes: A Modern Persuasion Improvisation - yes, you read that right, a modern Persuasion! And look at that lovely cover!  

Please welcome Riana as she shares about her secondary characters. There's also an excerpt to read, plus Riana is giving away an e-copy of Preludes to one of my lucky readers! Details are at the bottom of the page!

A Modern Persuasion Improvisation
by Riana Everly


A heartfelt and absorbing modern interpretation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. 

Eight years of heartache… 

Anne Elliot is a successful composer, a shining light in the world of music. But her heart still aches for the man who left her eight years ago when she was persuaded to put her career above her heart. 

Eight years of anger... 

Fred Valore has found fame and glory as a brilliant orchestra conductor. He has studied in Europe, travelled the world, but cannot forget how Anne rejected him eight years ago. And now he’s coming home. 

Suddenly, Fred and Anne are living in the same city again, and forced to work with each other. Old feelings are hard to ignore, but now Fred is waltzing about town with an attractive musician, and Anne has caught the eye of a handsome businessman. 

When a whirlwind of misunderstandings gets in the way of a tentative reconnection, is their long-lost love doomed to remain a thing of the past? Or can they somehow find a path back to each other to make beautiful music once again? 

~ ~ ~ 

Set in the vibrant and arts-loving city of Toronto, Canada, Preludes is perfect for Austenites and Contemporary Romance lovers alike.
Thank you so much for the opportunity for a stop here at So Little Time… on my blog tour for Preludes: A Modern Persuasion Improvisation

Preludes is a modernization of Jane Austen’s fabulous novel Persuasion, which (please don’t tell anyone) is my favourite, even more than Pride and Prejudice. I mean, it’s hard not to love Lizzy and Darcy, but there is something particularly heart-tugging about Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth’s eight-year separation, and the deep love they have that lets them find each other again with the maturity and commitment that the intervening years have given them. And that letter—we’ll forgive anyone almost anything if he can write a letter like that. “You pierce my soul…” How does one beat that?

I have moved the story into the present, and have given Anne and Fred new careers. Anne is a successful composer with a widely acclaimed move score to her name. Fred is an orchestra conductor who has an international career. Eight years after their break-up, Fred has just been appointed principal conductor of the orchestra where Anne is the composer-in-residence, and they must work closely together on some special projects.

But, of course, Anne and Frederick are only two characters in Jane Austen’s rich universe, and today I’d like to talk a bit about some secondary characters and how they appear in my book.

Admiral and Mrs Croft
In Austen’s novel, Admiral and Sophia Croft lease Kellynch Hall, the Elliots’ ancestral home. Mrs. Croft is Frederick Wentworth’s
sister, and when he comes visiting, he and Anne are thrown together again. The Crofts really take to Anne, and almost adopt her as a sort of cousin or niece, giving her more genuine affection than she receives from her blood relatives.

My Crofts are not related to Fred, but know him, and are instrumental in forcing our two star-crossed lovers together before their work commitments would require it. Sophia is Anne’s best friend, the one who drags her out of her cocoon and force-feeds her cheesecake and pulls out all those long-buried secrets. I’d love a friend like Sophia. Especially the cheesecake part.

Mr. Elliot
In Persuasion, William Elliot is Anne’s cousin, and heir to her father’s baronetcy. There is some bad history between him and
Anne’s father, Sir Walter, so it comes as something of a surprise when Cousin William starts playing nice right around the time Anne arrives in Bath. He is supposed to be courting Anne’s sister Elizabeth, but he is much more taken with Anne, it appears!

Again, I’ve changed William’s role a bit to fit in with the modern setting of Preludes. I’ve also changed his name, since he is not a cousin but a new acquaintance. But, in deference to the man who wants to be a baronet, I’ve named him William Barnett. Now he is a new member of the orchestra’s board of directors, a handsome businessman with a successful land development company and a passion for the arts… and artists! When he starts flirting with Anne, a lot of people start to see her in a different light.

Louisa Musgrove
In Austen’s novel, Anne’s sister Mary is married to Charles Musgrove. Louisa is Charles’ sister, and for a while it looks like she and Frederick will end up together. She is young and energetic, quite decisive and rather impetuous, exactly the things Anne was not, which led to the break-up eight years ago.

Once more, I’ve changed the nature of the relationships. Louisa isn’t related to Anne’s family at all, but she is a musician in the orchestra. She is attractive and spunky, with eye-catching earrings and jewel-toned hair, and she definitely has her eye on Fred. Anne is convinced they’re an item; after all, they’re photographed together all the time, their pictures in the newspaper and all over social media.

Captain Benwick
Another of Austen’s characters with a heart-breaking backstory
is Captain James Benwick, one of Frederick’s fellow naval officers. He was engaged to be married but wanted to wait until he earned his fortune so he could afford a family. In the meantime, while he was at sea, his betrothed took ill and died, and poor Captain Benwick spends a good deal of time moping around and reading melancholy Romantic poetry.

I admit to a soft spot for Captain Benwick, and my version of him is one of my favourites in my novel. I’ve renamed him Benjamin James, and his fiancĂ©e left him for another man. He is an investigative journalist and poet who comes to mope in his friend Fred’s apartment for a few months. As in the original, he and Anne hit it off, and Ben’s decisions change Anne and Fred’s future.

Intrigued yet? I hope so!

Here is an excerpt from Preludes, where Anne and Ben first meet.

~ ~ ~

Ben was waiting at the coffee shop when they arrived. He had taken a table in the far corner and sat with an empty cup in front of him, peering into his tablet. He turned the device off when Fred called his name and set it face-down on the table before standing up to meet Anne.

Fred made the introductions. Benjamin James was English, from York, and he sounded the part. If Anne were later asked to describe him, she would have fumbled for words, because physically, in almost every way, he was average. Average height, average build, neither pale nor dark, neither handsome nor plain, and with no distinguishing characteristics or marks. 

His garb and deportment, however, were another story. His hair was long, not quite to his shoulders, and loose, with a sweep that fell over his face. He would push it back with his whole hand, only to have it flop forward over his eyes again a moment later. He was wearing black jeans, despite the hot late summer weather, and a loose black linen shirt—almost a tunic—that was buttoned to the neck and at the wrists. There was something about the intensity of his gaze, the studied melancholy of his expression, that put Anne in mind of some tortured poet from ages past. Would he have been a Romantic-with-a-capital-R back in the nineteenth century? One of Lord Byron’s set, all angsty and passionate about passion, with a flair for the dramatic and an eye for the ladies?

Despite the air of gloom that hung over him, he was a personable enough fellow. He had studied both art history and international relations before moving into journalism as a career, and seemed ready enough to talk about his experiences.

“I spent some time as a foreign correspondent in South Africa,” he explained, “before moving to freelance. I do investigative stuff. You know, the sort where I follow a paper trail to its bitter end. There are a few politicians and businesspeople out there who do not like my name very much.” 

He pushed the curtain of hair out of his face again. “I was looking into some monkey business with an Italian company once a few years back and decided I liked the place so much that I wanted to stay. Since I’m not tethered to an office, I did exactly that. I stayed in Rome. My Italian is reasonable, good enough for the necessaries. Not as good as Frederico’s, mind you, but good enough.”
Anne asked after Ben’s poetry. Rhythm and cadence were part of both of their vocabularies, after all.

“I used to write about my travels, the places I’ve visited.” The gloomy face was back. “There is so much beauty in this world, but also so much pain. And too often, the two are juxtaposed rather too starkly for comfort. Recently, however, I find the words will not come. My talents were adequate for other people’s agony, but not, it seems, for my own. I am a poor sort of artist who cannot come to terms with his own psyche.”

Anne made a sound that she hoped was sympathetic and understanding. What was she to say? Fortunately, Ben did not need much encouragement to tell his tale of woe. This, at last, was what Fred had alluded to before.

“I don’t want to bore you with the details, but, well, I am not quite myself these days. You see, I was engaged to be married to a wonderful woman. At least, I thought she was wonderful. She was Italian, but had studied in Australia and had perfect English. She was beautiful, intelligent. She was my muse. Was she not lovely, Frederico?”

Fred murmured his agreement. “Indeed. Claudia was very attractive.”

“And smart and witty, and so funny.” Ben gave a great sigh that all but echoed off the coffee shop’s high ceilings. “She travelled with me for some of my assignments, where it was safe. She was everything to me.” He lapsed into silence. Anne could all but see the grey fog gather around his head.

She had to ask. “What happened?”

Another deep, shuddering sigh. “We were engaged to be married, as I said. Everything seemed perfect. Then I accepted a commission for a story in central Africa. It was riskier than anything I had done before, and I told Claudia I wasn’t comfortable with her joining me. She was an artist. I do have a thing for artists, I admit. She could work anywhere, and she begged to come along, but in the end I refused. I could not risk her safety. And so off I went.” The grey clouds above his head intensified with his long sigh.

“But while I was chasing my story, it turned out that she was chasing some new fellow who came into her gallery one day. And when I got back, she had moved out.”

~ ~ ~

Uh oh… is Ben going to turn his eye to Anne? Will Fred get jealous? And what about William, who is hanging around as well?

Their stories are all in Preludes: A Modern Persuasion Improvisation. I hope you enjoy my take on this classic novel.

Preludes is available for purchase at Amazon and is free to read on Kindle Unlimited. A paperback will be available very soon!

Buy: Amazon (paid link) • Books2read
Add to Goodreads

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. I will receive a small commission if you purchase a book through the link provided. Thanks!

About the Author

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

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! 

Connect with Riana Everly

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

Riana Everly is offering a gift copy of the eBook of Preludes to one of my lucky readers! She will randomly select the winner from people commenting on this post within five days of it going live. The last day to enter is midnight EST (North America) on October 11. 

If you wish to participate, please make sure she has a way to contact you if you win.

Riana will give away one copy at each blog she visits until October 21, but she does not have all her blog tour dates yet. Keep an eye out for where she'll be next on her Facebook page!

Thank you so much for stopping by today, Riana! I loved this excerpt! You have definitely intrigued me. And thank you for offering one of my readers a chance to win an eCopy of Preludes

Readers, how about you? Intrigued? Please leave a comment or question for Riana below, and don't forget to leave a way to contact you! Thanks and good luck!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Redemption of Lydia Wickham by MJ Stratton ~ Blog tour ~ Spotlight & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! Today, I'm spotlighting a new book by author MJ Stratton, The Redemption of Lydia Wickham. I love to see Lydia turn her life around and be a better person, don't you? 

The Redemption of Lydia Wickham
by MJ Stratton

Publication date: Sept. 1st, 2022


I may not be the most book-learned girl in the country, but I would like to think that I am wiser than I was, and much less silly. 

Lydia Wickham used to think herself rather clever, having caught a handsome man and being the first to marry of her sisters. Soon, however, she finds herself trapped in a marriage to a man who is not what she thought him to be. Her pride keeps her from revealing her plight to her sisters and family, suffering in silence for years. 

Unexpectedly, Lydia is freed from her marriage and begins life away from her misery in Newcastle. The changes in her are apparent to most, but there are those that resist seeing her for who she is and not who she was. As Lydia seeks to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become, she reunites with her loved ones and makes many friends along the way. But will Lydia get what she always wanted? Will she have what her sisters have, that which she craves desperately? Will Lydia Wickham find love of her own? 

The Redemption of Lydia Wickham is a full length novel centered on the idea that even a foolish 16-year-old girl can grow up and become wiser. 

Warning: this book contains brief, non-graphic mentions of spousal abuse and assault.
Buy: Amazon (paid link)
Add to Goodreads

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. I will receive a small commission if you purchase a book through the link provided. Thanks!

About the Author

MJ Stratton has been writing for years, though never in any official capacity. As a teacher and a mom of 4, writing has always been something that came last, whenever time could be found. Now after many years, her first JAFF novel is ready to be released! The Redemption of Lydia Wickham is written on the premise that anyone, given the right inducement, can grow and change, even if they are one of the silliest girls in all of England. MJ loves books, chocolate, baking, and taking long walks with her husband. The creation of Lydia in this book is a reflection of how the author has viewed her own life and coming of age. 

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! As part of a blog tour, MJ Stratton is giving away three Kindle e-Book copies of The Redemption of Lydia Bennet
To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below. Open Internationally

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, MJ, for stopping by today to share your new book and for the lovely giveaway! 

I hope you are looking forward to reading The Redemption of Lydia Wickham as much as I am! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below! Thanks!
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