Monday, March 18, 2024

"Worthy of Her Trust" by Melissa Anne ~ Excerpt!

 Hello, my friends! Today Melissa Anne joins us with a delightful excerpt from her new book, Worthy of Her Trust. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did! 

Worthy of Her Trust
A Pride and Prejudice Variation
by Melissa Anne

Story Synopsis:  

"Worthy of Her Trust" reimagines Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in an alternate universe where Elizabeth Bennet is born Elizabeth Rose Tomlinson, a wealthy heiress living with her grandparents at Briarwood Estate in Derbyshire. In her earliest years, she becomes friends with Fitzwilliam Darcy, who visits with his family in the summer. But things change when Lady Anne Darcy, Fitzwilliam's mother, dies, followed not long after by Elizabeth's grandparents. Elizabeth goes to live with her relatives, who hide her true identity and spend the funds meant for her care without thought. 

Years later, Darcy and Elizabeth meet again, and the two discover the truth, including that Darcy is one of the trustees of Elizabeth's estate. They begin a courtship while dealing with the expectations of society and the family's secrets. They face manipulative people such as Mr. Bennet, who wants to marry Elizabeth for her money, and George Wickham, who schemes against them out of jealousy. Other characters from "Pride and Prejudice" have their own subplots, like Caroline Bingley's downfall due to scandalous behavior or Lydia Bennet's transformation into a more suitable partner through marriage. 

The story centers around love overcoming adversity, as Darcy and Elizabeth unite despite the obstacles they face. Their marriage not only brings personal happiness but also positive changes to their social circle. It leads to growth, redemption for some characters, new relationships, and the birth of children, which continue legacies across estates. It all culminates in an enduring bond among loved ones who prioritize integrity above all else in Regency England society.

Worthy of Her Trust
Chapter 2

     The morning after the assembly, Elizabeth rose early to walk to Oakham Mount, as was her habit on most fine mornings. The encounter with Mr. Darcy the night before had left Elizabeth flummoxed — she could swear she had met him before. They were unclear recollections, and she wanted to laugh at the dreams his voice had evoked. She knew they could not be real memories; they were far too fanciful — vague impressions of fighting dragons with him as a child or playing the “damsel in distress” to his Sir Galahad and lying beside him in the grass, watching the stars as he made up stories. The memory that caused her cheeks to redden was him carrying her in his arms while calling him “Dearest” and kissing his cheek as explosions of light burst around them. Shaking her head as she attempted to cool her cheeks, she laughed at herself, determining she would never dance at an assembly again if it caused her to have such wild imaginings.

     Still, there was something so familiar about him. It was more than his looks, although he was quite the most handsome man she had ever met, and just thinking about his person made her cheeks heat again. He was tall and well-formed, and while they had not danced, she felt confident there was no padding under his jacket. He had been kind when he spoke to her, and while he had not spoken to anyone else at the assembly, she had known it was because of his headache. He was a little proud, to be sure, but he had confessed to feeling awkward when he heard his wealth and status bandied about the room nearly as soon as he entered it.

     His voice, too, was familiar, though quite a bit deeper and more resonant now than in her dreams. He was much younger in her dreams — then, she would guess him to have been a boy of perhaps twelve or thirteen. It seemed odd to dream of him as a boy when she had only met the man the night before, but as she walked, she recalled she had dreamt of him before that night as well. Somehow, he was connected to the Will and Jon of her imaginings, although it made no sense. Other vague memories — a long journey by carriage, a large estate, mountain peaks, and the grandparents she was told she had never met — felt more real to Elizabeth than her family would admit.

     In the middle of these musings, Mr. Darcy arrived, riding a rather tall stallion, tall, at least, from Elizabeth’s perspective, since she had always been a little fearful around horses.

     “Good morning, Miss Bennet, oh, pardon me; good morning, Miss Elizabeth,” Darcy greeted the lady he had dreamed about as he dismounted his horse. It was strange, he thought, to encounter her so soon after such an odd dream. When he finally found sleep the night before, he dreamed of laying beside a much younger version of Elizabeth in the grass, telling her stories about the stars. In his dreams, he called her Ellie, and she called him Will. It had been years — before his mother died — that anyone had called him by that name.

     Darcy harboured faint recollections of a young girl, merely three or four years old, who had once affectionately addressed him as “dearest” during a summer visit to Briarwood, an estate approximately fifty miles from Pemberley. Even now, he occasionally visited the estate, having assumed the role of trustee upon his father’s demise. Another trustee, a friend of his father, maintained contact with the girl and her family. However, Darcy, having not heard the girl’s name in years, struggled to recall it. As his father’s will outlined, his responsibilities were confined to the estate’s property and investments. It was understood that Mr. Terrance Elliott oversaw the girl’s well-being.

     Darcy exchanged a few words that morning with Miss Elizabeth before separating; however, they continued to meet this way for several mornings, and their conversations grew longer each day. 

     One morning, Darcy noticed how Miss Elizabeth seemed to shy away from his horse. “Might I introduce you to Bucephalus, Miss Elizabeth?” he asked.

     Despite her fear, her eyes twinkled when she retorted: “Should I suppose your Christian name to be Alexander, sir, to have a horse with such a name? Or do you simply prefer to have your friends add “the Great” to your name when referencing you in company?” 

     Surprised by his low chuckle at her comment, she was further astounded when he bowed gallantly and stated in an affected voice, “Fitzwilliam Alexander Darcy, at your service, madam. Perhaps you might be Roxana?”

     For a moment, she was startled by his words, but then she suddenly laughed. “Having never been to Asia, sir, I could scarcely be considered the most beautiful woman on that continent. My cousin Jane is widely considered to be the most beautiful woman in Hertfordshire, and I know I can scarcely compare. You, Mr. Darcy, are a flatterer.”

     She noted him shaking his head and answered his previous question a little more timidly. “I would be delighted to be introduced to your horse, sir, but I admit that horses and I do not always seem to get along. My uncle attempted to teach me once to ride when I was perhaps seven or eight, but he was unwilling to help me overcome my fear of the animals. Having a smaller horse or a pony might have helped, or a little more concerted effort on his part, but I was too afraid, and he never attempted it again. I have a faint memory of riding a horse as a young child with someone named ‘Jon’, and in that instance, I fell from the horse and injured my leg. My aunt and uncle claim it must have been a dream since we do not know anyone named Jon or Jonathan, but still, the memory made it difficult for me to overcome those feelings, and, as I said, my uncle would not try anything further to encourage me.”

     “How old were you in this dream?” Darcy asked, intrigued as her ‘memory’ made him recall a similar event that had happened one summer at Pemberley. “Do you remember anything else?”

     “The horse seemed enormous, but as I was only four or five in my dream, I believe most horses would have appeared that way to me. Jon was not a boy, perhaps a young man nine or ten years older than I, and I recall a discussion of slaying a dragon with him and another boy. Jon dismounted first, but something distracted him for a moment, and before he could help me down, I fell off the other side. The other boy rescued me, carrying me to the house and taking me to my nursemaid. I think it was only a slight injury, but the memory of it stuck with me.”

     Darcy started, remembering a similar event at Pemberley the summer his sister was born. “Do you remember the name of the other boy?” he asked, his voice betraying his interest in the matter.

     Elizabeth trilled a laugh. “I believe I called him ‘dearest’. I feel fairly certain it is a dream; my relations have told me often enough that I have a fanciful imagination,” she finished when he appeared shocked at her revelations.

     Darcy’s conviction that these were not merely dreams intensified, and his suspicion that Elizabeth Bennet was something more than she seemed deepened. The previous day, he had penned a letter to Mr. Elliott, seeking insights into the Tomlinson family, specifically the girl who was the heir to the estate. Since his father’s passing, the two men had corresponded sporadically regarding the trust, though most were about business matters. He possessed limited knowledge about the heir, and encountering Elizabeth stirred his recollections of the young Ellie Tomlinson.

     At other times during these meetings, Mr. Darcy spoke passionately about his estate, relishing the opportunity to share his knowledge with Elizabeth. His descriptions of the area around his home piqued her interest. She was always curious about travel and genuinely interested in Darcy’s estate, so she could not resist the urge to inquire about the sights he mentioned. “Mr. Darcy,” she began one morning, her eyes fixed on the distant horizons, “would you describe those Peaks you have seen? I am intrigued by your descriptions as something about them niggles at my memory.”

     Mr. Darcy’s eyes softened as he recounted the majestic scenery. “The Peaks are remarkable, Miss Elizabeth,” he replied. “The rugged beauty of the landscape, the rolling hills, and the commanding peaks that seem to touch the sky are a sight that takes one’s breath away. My home, Pemberley, is in the middle of this area, and I delight that I can visit there frequently.”

     Elizabeth nodded, her mind racing to connect these descriptions with her vague memories. “You know, Mr. Darcy,” she confessed with a playful smile, “I have had some rather peculiar impressions of seeing similar sights in my past. However, I have always dismissed them as the imaginings of an avid reader. You see, I have frequently devoured many books with vivid descriptions of places I long to visit someday.”

     He regarded her with a thoughtful expression. “Could it be that you have a deeper connexion to such landscapes than you realise, Miss Elizabeth? Perhaps your heart has journeyed through these terrains long before we met.”

     She laughed her charming laugh as he had intended her to do. “Yes, perhaps I have visited them in a past life.”

     A few days later, the two families were again in company at Lucas Lodge. Since he had begun meeting with Miss Elizabeth in the mornings, he had observed the family dynamic more closely. At the assembly, something appeared not quite right with them, and, given his conversations with the enchanting lady, he had often wondered about her family.

     Darcy noted that Elizabeth looked very different from her relations. Granted, they were cousins, and she was not related by blood to her aunt, but something about Elizabeth struck him as familiar. However, he could not recall any Bennets amongst his acquaintances. An off-handed comment by Charlotte Lucas also revealed the date of Elizabeth’s birth — August 14, 1791 — only a few days before his own birthday. Hearing that date stirred another memory, and Darcy was determined to ask her about it the first chance he had.

     After they exchanged greetings the next morning, Elizabeth fed Bucephalus an apple she had brought just for him. She had become familiar with his horse throughout the last fortnight and had begun bringing him a treat, along with something for herself and Darcy to eat as they spoke. It was evidence of the trust she was forming in them both. “Miss Lucas mentioned that your birth date is only a few days before mine. It brought to mind a memory that I wanted to share with you. On my eleventh birthday, my family and I celebrated at the estate of a friend of my father’s, Mr. Alexander Tomlinson. The estate is called Briarwood.

     “That particular date stands out in my memories because it coincided with the birthday of the estate owner’s granddaughter, who was also turning four. Mr. Tomlinson purchased fireworks for our last night to celebrate his granddaughter’s birthday and, coincidentally, mine. Despite the differences in our ages, Ellie and I had become friendly over the summer, and she was initially frightened by the fireworks. She wanted comfort, so she came to me and insisted I hold her during the rest of the display. When it was over, she patted my cheek, called me her dearest, and then kissed my cheek. My cousin, now an army colonel and a couple of years older than me, teased me mercilessly the next day.

     “The following summer, I saw Ellie again on our birthdays, but this time, we were at my family’s estate because my mother had just given birth to my sister. She was still rather weak. I learned later that before that year was out, Ellie was sent to live with a relative as both of her grandparents died. My father was appointed her guardian, though my mother was too ill for her to live with us at the time. I still am the trustee of her estate, although I have not seen her since.”

Elizabeth sighed. “It is a lovely memory. It is odd — I have always had a vague memory of a knight protecting me from bright lights in the sky one night when I was small. Like your Ellie, he allowed me to kiss his cheek when they were done, but as I have been told I have never seen fireworks, I determined it was merely a dream,” she whispered.

     “How do you know it was a dream, not a memory?” Darcy asked.

     “Other than trips to London, I have lived all my life at Longbourn, or so I have been told,” Elizabeth stated. “My aunt and uncle have told me on more than one occasion that I am too fanciful as I often have dreams of things they say could not have happened. I was told I had a rather active imagination when I was young and was constantly making up stories about dragon-slaying knights. When I tried to tell others about these memories, they teased me or accused me of lying, as there are no boys in our family of the proper age to have been my playmates. When I was small, these imaginary playmates seemed much older than I, but they would have been boys, perhaps ten to thirteen. None of my cousins have similar memories, so I am quite convinced I made them up. Perhaps they are memories of things I read or came from stories someone made up and told me.”

     Darcy started at her recollections. “Miss Bennet, are you certain you have always lived at Longbourn?”

     Elizabeth laughed. “My aunt and uncle say it is so. The present Mr. Bennet inherited when I was five, and I was at the estate before they arrived, so they claim I must have memories from that time. When I was young, I insisted I had another family than those at Longbourn and spoke of a grand house surrounded by peaks, though when I made those claims, I was told I was being very hateful to imagine a life without my family. There is a John in our neighbourhood, but it is not the same boy from my dreams. ”

     “How do you know they are not the same?” Darcy asked.

     “He is only a couple of years older than me — the boys in my dreams were quite a bit older, perhaps ten or more years. John also does not have the same memories or dreams as I and does not have an older brother,” Elizabeth replied. “Do not trouble yourself, Mr. Darcy. I am convinced it is a matter that will never be solved. Why would my relations not be honest with me? I believe I would feel equally annoyed with a child if she insisted she had a different family somewhere. It would be rather hurtful — once I realised that, I quit saying those things. I may have these memories from when my other uncle lived before Aunt Fanny and Uncle Thomas came to Longbourn, but it seems better not to speak of them.”

     As Darcy considered this, he realised everything about Miss Elizabeth captured his attention. Each morning he met with her, he liked her more and began contemplating how to call on her or request a courtship. However, something about her family made him hold back and wait before he asked. He felt something was not right at Longbourn and wanted to discover more, especially as Elizabeth’s “imaginings” coincided with his own memories. To that end, he had begun to ask Elizabeth more questions about her family when they met, and those questions were returned until the two knew quite a bit about each other and were in a fair way towards falling in love.

About the Author

Melissa Anne never intended to write a book. However, after reading dozens (hundreds) of variations of Pride and Prejudice, she decided to give it a shot. She started posting on a Fan Fiction site and soon grew an audience that appreciated her work.
In the last year, she has managed to finish and self-publish six full-length novels and one novella, all based on the characters and setting of Pride and Prejudice. Three of her books have become audiobooks, and she plans to publish more in the future. 

While most of her books adhere to the original Regency era time period of Pride and Prejudice, Finding Love at Loch Ness is a sweet variation where American grad student Elizabeth Bennet encounters and falls in love with a Scottish William Darcy. 
Her most recent release is Worthy of Her Trust, which features Elizabeth, who is not a Bennet but the Bennet’s niece and an heiress in her own right. Darcy and Elizabeth meet at the assembly, but they have vague memories of meeting as children, and this serves as the basis for a new friendship and, soon, a romance. 
Hailing from East Tennessee, Melissa Anne has settled in Georgia with her husband and three children. Although she longs to return to the Smoky Mountains, her dream remains on hold for now.
Melissa Anne is a pseudonym.

Connect with Melissa Anne

Purchase Links

Amazon (paid link) • Add to Goodreads

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you,  if you purchase a book through the link provided. Thanks!

Congratulations, Melissa, on the release of Worthy of Her Name, and thanks so much for stopping by here today with an excerpt! 

So friends, what are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, March 15, 2024

"The Husbands of Elizabeth Bennet, Volume One & Two" By Christine Combe ~ Excerpt!

Hello, my friends! Christine Combe has just released Volume Two of The Husbands of Elizabeth Bennet book series, and she's here today with an excerpt from the book! Please give her a warm welcome!


Greetings, fellow Austenians! I’m so excited to be visiting So Little Time again today! Candy has graciously allowed me to take over the blog for a day to talk to you about my duet of novels, The Husbands of Elizabeth Bennet. Volume One was released in September of 2023 and Volume Two released just two weeks ago!

The Husbands of Elizabeth Bennet, Volume One
by Christine Combe

Elizabeth Bennet has seen many things on her rambles through the countryside, but never an overturned carriage. It is immediately clear that the cause was no accident, and when she helps save the life of the driver — who is soon revealed to be a marquess in disguise — she has no idea that her life from that point will never be the same again. 

Henry Faulkner, the Marquess of Stashwick, is a man that knows what he wants — and he wants Elizabeth. In light of multiple attempts on his life, who cares what the ton will think of his choice? While he recovers from the latest attack at Longbourn, and with none of the scruples shown by a certain inhabitant of nearby Netherfield, Henry wastes no time in charming his way into Elizabeth’s heart. 

In accepting Lord Stashwick’s proposal, Elizabeth is suddenly thrust into the heart of London’s social elite. With Henry’s sister as her mentor, she takes the first steps toward building a reputation worthy of admiration and respect ... but not everyone she meets is pleased with the idea of the daughter of a country squire rising so high. 

Can two people from different social classes build a life together when danger still lurks around the corner? And what is a certain gentleman from Derbyshire to do when he’s forced to admit that he may have squandered forever his only chance at happiness — especially given Elizabeth’s shining success in the very circle of society to which he had hesitated to elevate her… 

The Husbands of Elizabeth Bennet, Volume Two
by Christine Combe

Nine years after a marquess miraculously fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet, the worst that could happen did, and she was left to raise four little ones on her own. A year after Henry’s death, she is as little prepared to return to high society as she was to enter it when they married, but a reminder of her responsibilities to her rank and her children helps her courage rise to take the first steps.

Fitzwilliam Darcy sadly lost his wife in childbirth a year after they married, and he has raised his daughter alone at Pemberley for the last six years. One of his noble aunts entices him to make the journey to London to share in the bonds of family, while another claims it is past time he found his little girl a mother and sired and heir—and Lady Catherine de Bourgh has decided that the right woman to fill the role is none other than Elizabeth.

Darcy and Elizabeth are brought together by their family connexion, and love for their children leads to their spending time together. Although he sees that the years have only enhanced her beauty and she sees that he is a changed man from the one she knew in Meryton, neither is thinking of marriage—certainly not to each other! But matchmaking is the business of the London social Season, and innocent visits to each other’s homes leads to speculation that they are courting in secret.

Can the return of unrequited love help Darcy heal Elizabeth’s broken heart? Or will Elizabeth’s determination to remain a widow keep them apart forever?

Oh, I do hope the blurbs intrigue you! Now, how about a sneaky peek at a dinner scene in volume two, where Elizabeth has to deal with Lady Catherine’s nosiness in a manner similar to canon…


     When the earl entered the room with Lady Catherine in tow, Elizabeth noted a distinct rise in tension, as though the others were expecting something to happen—or were afraid it would. She could not help but wonder if it had anything to do with what had made Adelaide cry. Had Lady Catherine said something that upset her? It must have been her because Elizabeth knew that Adelaide adored her uncle. 

     Lord Disley offered her his arm when dinner was announced, and though she had become used to being first on most occasions, it sometimes still made Elizabeth blush to have precedence over so many. When all the family were on their feet, Lady Disley announced that seating would be informal, and everyone could sit where they liked. As the large party began to file out of the room, Lady Catherine muttered, “How is the distinction of rank to be preserved when guests are given leave to sit where they like?”

     “In a mixed party, Aunt,” said Lord Rowarth, “it certainly does well to adhere to formal seating. But we are an informal family gathering.”

     Elizabeth decided she wished to sit by Henry’s sister, so chose the seat to Lady Disley’s left. Adelaide quickly claimed the seat to her aunt’s right, with Cate sitting on Elizabeth’s left. The other ladies took the remaining seats beside each other, putting all the women at one end of the table and the men to the other. 

     This arrangement would suit Lord Disley, Elizabeth thought with some amusement, as she knew the earl found talk of ladies’ pursuits inane and boring, as most men did. The seating suited Elizabeth as well, as the mothers could then chatter away about their children and the men could talk about sport to their hearts’ content.

     After Grace was said and soup was served, Lady Catherine—who sat four places down and across the table from Elizabeth—called down to her, “Lady Stashwick, your eldest daughter is nine now, is she not?”

     Elizabeth paused, her spoon halfway to her lips. She lowered it as she looked to the lady and replied, “She is, yes, as is my son Harry; they are twins.” 

     “Does your daughter play an instrument?” asked Lady Catherine. 

     “Yes. Isabella plays the harp,” Elizabeth replied. 

     “And she is remarkably talented for one so young,” spoke up Lady Disley. “Have you still a harp in the music room at Stashwick House, Elizabeth?” 

     Elizabeth nodded. “Indeed. You may recall that when Isabella took to the instrument, Henry made certain she would never be in want of one to play and purchased a harp for both the castle and the house in town.” 

     “I should call again and ask her to play for us,” said Lady Disley with a smile. “It has been too long since I have heard her.” 

     As Elizabeth parted her lips to agree with her sentiment, Lady Catherine said, “Does your younger daughter play, Lady Stashwick?”

     “Not at all, Lady Catherine,” Elizabeth replied. “Margaret has a month still before she is four years old—she is hardly of an age to be learning an instrument, though she has shown an interest in the pianoforte.” 

     “Then you must engage a music master for her, if the one that teaches Lady Isabella does not know both the harp and the piano,” insisted Lady Catherine. “That she has shown an interest is proof enough that she is ready to learn.” 

     “I believe that as Lady Stashwick is her mother, madam,” said Darcy, “she is in the best place from which to judge if Lady Margaret is ready to begin learning an instrument.” 

     Elizabeth glanced down the table at Darcy, who sat to his uncle’s left, and found a frown upon his features. He seemed almost angry with his aunt for the impertinence of her queries, and she could not but find it both strange and generous of him to be vexed on her behalf.

     “I remind you, my lady,” Darcy went on, “that my own daughter is two years older than Lady Margaret, and she has yet to begin playing an instrument. I surmise that Lady Stashwick has taken the same approach as I have done and is allowing her children to develop their interests at their own pace rather than imposing upon them.” 

     Elizabeth caught Darcy’s eye and smiled at him. “I thank you, Mr. Darcy,” said she. “You are correct—I have chosen not to force any of my children to study those subjects in which they show no real interest, save those which are true necessities. At present, Meg likes to play on the pianoforte because she likes the different noises it makes, but she has yet to show any real interest in learning to play.”  

     Darcy returned her smile and inclined his head, while Lady Catherine lifted her chin and sniffed. “I meant no offence, of course. I merely wished to share my opinion on the subject. Do any of your children draw, Lady Stashwick?” 

     Suppressing the urge to groan, Elizabeth took a spoonful of her soup before she replied, “My three eldest draw, yes. Harry’s particular interest is landscapes and Tom likes to draw buildings. Isabella is particularly gifted at portraits. Margaret does not draw, but she likes to color the simple pictures her brothers and sister draw for her. Tom is also considering taking up an instrument but has yet to decide between the pianoforte or the violin.” 

     “If I may interject an opinion on the subject,” said Lord Rowarth, “I would recommend the violin. My eldest son, as you know, asked to learn and I have not regretted letting him. He is very accomplished. And my daughter Emma plays the lyre.” 

     Elizabeth grinned. “Then perhaps Tom should learn the pianoforte instead. We would then have ourselves the beginnings of a family orchestra.”

     “What a delightful notion, Lady Stashwick!” said Georgiana cheerfully.


What a dinner conversation! Lady Catherine will always be Lady Catherine, lol, even when Elizabeth outranks her. 

If you liked this excerpt, I hope you will consider purchasing a copy of both novels. Both volumes of The Husbands of Elizabeth Bennet are now available from Amazon in eBook, paperback, and hardcover editions, and is also available to read in Kindle Unlimited! 


About the Author

Christine, like many a JAFF author before her, is a long-time
admirer of Jane Austen's work, and she hopes that her alternate versions are as enjoyable as the originals. She has plans to one day visit England and take a tour of all the grand country estates which have featured in film adaptations, and often dreams of owning one. Christine lives in Ohio and is already at work on her next book.

Connect with Christine Combe

Blog: All That They Desire • Facebook • E-mail:

Purchase Links

Volume One - Amazon (paid link) • Add to Goodreads
Volume Two - Amazon (paid link) • Add to Goodreads

 FTC Disclaimer: Links to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase a book through the link provided. Thanks!

Christine, congratulations on the release of both books and thanks so much for sharing an excerpt with us! 

Friends, what do you think? Do you like variations where Elizabeth is married to someone other than Darcy? I think it's interesting that because of the marriage, Elizabeth is now on equal grounds with Darcy. We'd love to hear your thoughts! Let us know in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

"A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings" by Jayne Bamber ~ Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! Jayne Bamber is visiting today with an excerpt from her new book, A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings!


A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings
A Jane Austen Mashup 
By Jayne Bamber


The worlds of Pride & Prejudice and Mansfield Park collide when the Bertrams and Crawfords come to Meryton…. 

The Bertram family of Mansfield Park is forced to retrench and retreat to Purvis Lodge when the baronet’s heir, Tom Bertram, bankrupts the family with his extravagant spending and expensive debauchery. Oblivious to their ruin, their new neighbor Mrs. Bennet finds an agreeable friend in the indolent Lady Bertram, and hastily forms designs on the two Bertram sons for her daughters. 

Mary and Henry Crawford leave Mansfield Parsonage for the Mayfair home of their friend Charles Bingley, and soon convince him to rent Netherfield Park and travel there with a large party of friends as well as his wily, widowed aunt, Lady Susan Vernon. Once again, Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed at the influx of eligible bachelors for her girls.  

Jane and Elizabeth Bennet are delighted to be reunited with their Crawford cousins, who shall in turn be reunited with the Bertrams. The bonds of the two eldest Bennet daughters and their cousins Mary and Henry Crawford are put to the test over the course of a summer filled with more fine society than Meryton has ever seen! 

Mrs. Bennet has it all planned out, but hers are not the only matchmaking maneuvers being made in Meryton - the matrimony-obsessed matron has met her match in Lady Susan Vernon, a masterful manipulator who is infinitely Mrs. Bennet’s superior in subtlety, and who brings out the schemer in Mary Crawford. Even Mr. Bennet is tempted to a little light trickery of his own when Mr. Collins comes to town. 

Fitzwilliam Darcy wishes only to lift the spirits of his broken-hearted sister Georgiana and his bereaved cousin Richard, and in his efforts to cheer them he becomes embroiled in schemes, rescues, and is even compelled to participate in a theatrical production because it pleases the ones he loves - including the bewitching Elizabeth Bennet. Conflicting desires not only consume his mind, but begin to surround him as his companions at Netherfield all form opposing plans of their own, which threaten to keep any of them from a clear path to Happily Ever After….

I’m so happy to be back at So Little Time... to share another new release! My tenth novel, A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings is a mashup of Pride & Prejudice and Mansfield Park; these two worlds are linked by a familial relationship, with the Crawford siblings as cousins to the Bennet sisters. The Bertrams also have a part to play, for they move to Purvis Lodge after Tom’s profligate spending forces Sir Thomas to rent out Mansfield Park. Darcy and the Bingleys arrive at Netherfield with a larger party than in canon, including Georgiana, the Colonel, and Bingley’s aunt – the notorious Lady Susan Vernon. 

In this variation, the Lucases are no longer residing in the area; Maria Lucas married well and Charlotte married splendidly, becoming Lady Longmont. Sir William Lucas, now a widower, divides his time between his two daughters’ estate, and only visits annually so that his young son and heir can maintain a connection to Lucas Lodge. On this occasion, Lady Longmont accompanies her father, curious at all the new neighbors Lizzy has mentioned in her letters.

In the excerpt I am sharing today, Sir William hosts a garden party with his eldest daughter, with the Bennets, the Bertrams, the Crawfords, and all their companions at Netherfield in attendance. Mrs. Bennet is insistent that Jane must be for Darcy, and Lizzy for Bingley; early in the story, Elizabeth is still unsure if she likes any of the gentlemen in the area (and there are enough to send Mrs. Bennet into a tizzy!)


     A sense of euphoria carried Elizabeth through the crowd of her neighbors as she put her mother’s scheming from her mind. Her sisters all appeared content, her cousins were here and so was a dear friend she had not seen in years. Meryton was as merry as she had ever seen it, and she was enjoying the liveliest and finest blend of society she had ever experienced. She felt that she was even now making memories that would be cherished when her environs returned to their usual monotony, and a sense of being on the precipice of great felicity for many weeks filled Elizabeth with exhilaration. She was fairly floating.

     After stopping to speak with all her friends and neighbors, she finally approached Mr. Bingley. His game of lawn bowls had just ended, and a new one was beginning. Lady Susan moved away with Henry in pursuit, and Mr. Bingley entreated Mr. Darcy and his sister to take their place. 

     Elizabeth, too, was invited to join; she declined, saying, “I shall have to suffice as an observer of your game, though I shall not be a silent one – I shall leave this office to Mr. Darcy.”

     Georgiana began to look alarmed, but her brother gave her a reassuring nod, his lips curling slightly upward in what Elizabeth supposed must be all the smile she could expect from him. “I am ready to oblige you,” he said. 

     Mr. Bingley laughed. “I can well believe it of Darcy, but not you, Miss Elizabeth.”

     “My old friend Lady Longmont has been teasing me already, for my greatest pleasure in the day is sure to be studying the characters of all our new neighbors.”

     “I am sure you shall make quick work of me,” Mr. Bingley replied with a self-deprecating laugh. 

     “Oh yes, I understand you perfectly,” Elizabeth teased him.

     She had hoped for something clever in return, but he drew his eyebrows together as he replied, “I might wish that a compliment, but to be so easily seen through is rather pitiful.”

     Georgiana gasped. “I am sure Lizzy means no offense.”

     Now it was Elizabeth’s turn to reassure the girl; she gave a broad smile and said, “It does not necessarily follow that a deep and intricate character is more estimable than an open temperament such as yours, sir.”

     “You are generous,” Mr. Bingley said. “But I cannot begrudge you what must be a fascinating occupation.”

     “I thank you,” Elizabeth said, hoping she might yet lure Mr. Bingley into a lively debate. “Intricate characters do have the advantage of being a more interesting study.”

     “Undoubtedly,” Mr. Bingley agreed. 

     Mr. Darcy had watched them with the same twinkle in his eye as when he had seen Elizabeth’s fit of pique in the boxwoods, and she was struck with the memory of his real smile, wide and bright and completely disarming. For now, he offered only that polite turning upward of his lips. “No doubt you must find yourself more occupied than usual, with the recent influx of subjects for study.”

     She had said so to Charlotte, but as much as Elizabeth enjoyed studying her companions, she delighted more in verbal sparring; she refused to agree with Mr. Darcy. “The long standing residents of Meryton have never disappointed me. People themselves alter so much that there is something new to be observed in them forever.”

     “Ha,” Mr. Bingley cried. “How very true.”

     Mr. Darcy eyed his friend, his face beginning to betray his amusement. “And are you so content, Miss Elizabeth, to be surrounded by the same changeable companions, that you cannot be tempted by a chance to examine new specimens?”

     His phrasing could only inspire more rebellion in Elizabeth. “I hope I should never limit myself in such a dismal way; who knows what delights I may deny myself. No, I should be pleased by any opportunity to take the likeness of a new character, even if they are only tolerable.”

     “You are fortunate in having a disposition so well suited to society; I am sure it must aid your endeavors.”

     Mr. Bingley was quick to agree with his friend. “Quite so – we are alike in that way, Miss Elizabeth – I daresay we enjoy society more than Darcy here.”

     Elizabeth grinned at the gentlemen. “Is our company such a punishment for your friend? I wonder at your bringing him amongst us, Mr. Bingley.”

     Georgiana looked alarmed. “Oh, no – I am sure William is very pleased with Meryton. He smiled more on the day of our picnic than I have seen him do in many months, and I know he was looking forward to coming here today, for he was most impatient at Miss Bingley’s delaying our departure.” She finished this speech with a little gasp and clapped a hand over her mouth, offering both her brother and Mr. Bingley an apologetic look. 

     “Your brother’s commitment to punctuality is most commendable,” Elizabeth said to Georgiana with a cheeky little wink. “It proves he is able and willing to apply himself in society. After all, he is a gentleman of consequence who might move in the world as much as he chooses, and so in time he may become as proficient as his friends in the enjoyment of social occasions.”

     Georgiana made no reply beyond a startled sound that grew into a smile; Mr. Bingley mirrored her amusement, but likewise remained silent as he regarded Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth with merry anticipation. 

     “You posit that your ease in company is the result of practice, and not predisposition?”

     “Certainly, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth replied. “I should always rather be considered accomplished than lucky.”

     “Then you are not perceptive and convivial by nature?”

     “I am sure you are, Miss Elizabeth,” Mr. Bingley said at once. 

     “I am, yes – and is it not prudent to nurture those strengths in character that might be most easily and most advantageously cultivated?”

     “Might not the same be said of discernment and pride?” 

     Elizabeth tilted her head to one side as she studied Mr. Darcy. “Pride, sir? We speak of strengths and not weaknesses.”

     “Yes, but where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.”

     Elizabeth laughed in spite of herself. “Confident as you are, I cannot imagine the reason for your reserve in society.”

     “I am conversing easily with you now, am I not?”

     “You must be the judge of that, sir – I can say only that you are conversing well. But I have claimed only to excel at studying society, not participating in it.”

     Mr. Darcy’s lips twitched and twisted, as if resisting a smile. “And what is your success?”

     “I cannot make out your character at all,” Elizabeth replied. She considered the disinterested haughtiness he had shown at the assembly – it was very different to his behavior at the picnic. He had shown her compassion, then, and an intriguing trace of humor – and his sister seemed to think he had enjoyed himself, despite Elizabeth’s display of absurdity. 

     “My experience has been limited to such disparate encounters with you as to puzzle me exceedingly,” Elizabeth said. 

     “I beg you would not attempt to sketch my character at present,” Mr. Darcy replied. “I fear it would not reflect well on either of us. You shall have many other opportunities to perfect your study; a hasty judgment would be a most regrettable thing, particularly when the subject merits greater consideration.”

     This was said with such a significant look in his eye that Elizabeth felt certain Mr. Darcy meant to atone for his rude remarks at the assembly, though any gentleman so far above her station might have thought one apology was more than enough. She suspected it would only embarrass him for her to acknowledge such a tender sentiment – for he had indeed softened her feelings for him considerably – but she remained too stubborn to expose herself in such a way. 

     “At last we are in agreement,” Elizabeth said. She might have spoken more – indeed she had begun to feel she might easily lose all sense of time, propriety, and consideration for her companions in conversing endlessly with Mr. Darcy – but they were interrupted.

     A beleaguered looking Mr. Fitzwilliam joined them with Miss Bingley on his arm. That lady wore a haughty grimace which tried, and failed, to become a smile. The gentleman clapped his cousin on the back. “I had to come over and ascertain if you have developed some manner of fever or mania, Darcy, for I have never seen you so conversant amongst new acquaintance.”

     “Mr. Darcy has been enlightened as to the myriad benefits of practice,” Elizabeth said archly. “Do you not think his efforts a great success?”

      “I am sure Mr. Darcy does everything well,” Miss Bingley replied.

     “I have it on good authority that you are quite right,” Elizabeth said cheerfully. “His sister informed me, when we had our picnic at Longbourn, that her brother has no faults at all.”

     “Have you revised your opinion of him, then?” Mr. Bingley stepped closer to her, looking eager for his share of her attention. 

     Elizabeth smiled back at him before turning to give Mr. Darcy a significant look. “I hope we are all capable of revising our first impressions.”

     “Surely nobody could ever think ill of Mr. Darcy,” Miss Bingley insisted. “He is too much the gentleman – he commands too much respect for the censure of strangers.”

     “I am sure I must defer to your superior judgment, Miss Bingley – I am resolved to act upon sound advice, and not sketch his character until we have become better acquainted.” Feeling on the verge of becoming quite embarrassed, Elizabeth dipped into a curtsey. She roused one last moment of defiance as she parted from them, saying, “I beg you would excuse me – I must look elsewhere for some folly to amuse me.”

     Elizabeth strode away, and when she had sufficiently removed herself from Mr. Darcy and his praise chorus, she began to laugh. How could it be that Mr. Bingley was far more agreeable than his sister, when both siblings were inclined to agree endlessly with anybody they liked? 

     Mr. Bingley’s style of agreement, Elizabeth supposed, was more sincerely and more frequently bestowed; he responded to any pleasant sentiment with more of the same, seeking to please everyone he could. Miss Bingley was the opposite side of the same coin – she wielded her acquiescence like a poisoned dagger, making little cuts wherever she could. Anything might be made to sound worse by Miss Bingley’s agreement, which was given only when she could use it to assert her own imagined superiority.

     With Mr. Fitzwilliam so perversely resolved to attach himself to Miss Bingley, and that lady twice as determined to insinuate herself into Mr. Darcy and Georgiana’s esteem, Elizabeth could understand why Mr. Darcy worried for his sister and cousin – she was almost moved to pity Mr. Darcy. Almost.

     She had every reason to dislike him, but Elizabeth could not deny, in the privacy of her own musings, that she had not only understood Mr. Darcy’s ill humor and forgiven him his insult, but she was beginning to like him. And poor Mr. Bingley! There was every reason in the world she should like him – beyond the material considerations her mother was wont to expound upon, and even his own apparent interest in herself, Mr. Bingley was handsome, amiable, and everything a gentleman ought to be. And yet, Elizabeth was beginning to believe that she could never think better of him than she did now; his disposition was so open that she doubted there was more of wit and substance than she had yet to discover in him. If only he had argued with her, and not Mr. Darcy!

About the Author

Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself. 

Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day.

Connect with Jayne Bamber

Purchase Links

Amazon (paid link) • Add to Goodreads

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you,  if you purchase a book through the link provided. Thanks!

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! Jayne is one eCopy of A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings to one lucky person on this Blog Tour! Enter through this Rafflecopter link.

Good luck!

Jayne, congratulations on this 10th book! Wow! That's fantastic! Also, thank you for visiting here! I enjoyed hosting you. 

Friends, thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Let us know your thoughts about the story! Do you like mash-ups? 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

"No Less Than Any Other" by MJ Stratton ~ Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway

Hello, my friends! MJ Stratton is visiting us today with an excerpt and a giveaway of her new book, No Less Than Any Other! Please enjoy! Details for the giveaway are at the bottom of the page.

No Less Than Any Other
by MJ Stratton


Elizabeth Bennet is not the son and heir her mother wished, much to Mrs. Bennet’s despair. But all was not lost, for soon after her second daughter’s birth, Mrs. Bennet delivered a son. Tom Bennet, born just minutes after his sister, was their family’s savior from the moment he took his first breath. 

Tom Bennet's peculiar nature soon sets him apart from others around him. His striking intelligence, key in aiding his family, paired with his many oddities leaves those around him with many differing opinions. None, though, are more dedicated to his well-being than his twin sister Elizabeth. 

The closer to reaching their majority the twins get, the more frantic Mrs. Bennet is, for should anything befall Tom, her hopes and security will be dashed. She is determined that her girls must marry wealthy, eligible men as an extra precaution. 

When Netherfield Park is let at last and is filled with eligible men, Mrs. Bennet sees her chance to ensnare at least one wealthy man for her daughters. But will the rumors of heartless neighbors prevent the new tenants from forming any serious designs on any of the Bennet daughters? 

No Less Than Any Other is a sweet and clean Pride and Prejudice variation.

When the twins were four, Fanny was once again pregnant. She had great hopes that this one would be the spare she so desperately wanted. Tommy was still not speaking, and Fanny took great pains to bemoan her son’s mute state whenever she could.
Longbourn’s heir was the talk of Meryton and the surrounding area regularly. Mrs. Bennet could barely stand it, and though she was a social creature, she forewent visiting the neighbors so that she could avoid their questions. 
Gossip about Tommy first started when the lad’s peculiar tendencies became obvious as he grew. Tommy could not tolerate bright lights or loud noises. He was sensitive to textures, particularly when it came to clothing, and the softest fabrics were needed to keep him comfortable. The biggest curiosity, however, was that at the age of four, no one had yet to hear the boy utter even one word.
Thomas Bennet Senior was rightly concerned with his son’s inability to speak. It was quite by chance that his fears were put to rest. One afternoon, as he wandered his garden, taking a brief rest from the tedium of managing the estate, he heard Lizzy’s little voice amidst the summer flowers. The second Bennet daughter had a great love of the outdoors, much to Mrs. Bennet’s dismay, and she could often be found hiding in the shrubs and greenery.
“Tommy,” lisped Elizabeth. “You ought to give up this nonsense. It is silly that you only speak to me.”
“You are the only one who listens,” another voice came.
Thomas nearly fainted in shock. Tommy’s voice, his perfect little voice! Words perfectly pronounced with no hint of the awkwardness of speech that often accompanies a child of four.
“But Mama’s hes-tri-on-ax,” Lizzy enunciated slowly. “I know they are making Papa upset.”
“It is pronounced his-tri-on-ics, Lizzy,” Tommy said, slowly pronouncing the word his sister had butchered.
“His-tri-on-ics,” Lizzy repeated. “Yes, those. Papa does not deserve to have Mama being so mean to him. We can fix it by showing Mama that you can speak.”
“Why?” Tommy asked. “Will it not shock her to learn that I am not the idiot she thinks me? What if she becomes more hysterical?”
“Do not call yourself an idiot,” Lizzy scolded. “You are smart, and I love you.”
“I know I am smart,” Tommy whispered. “But I am still different. If it is not my speech, Mama would find something else wrong with me.”
“Different is not less,” Lizzy insisted.
Thomas listened to his young twins with fascination. It was like listening to a pair of miniature adults. Lizzy’s manner of speaking was much less advanced than her brother’s, but it was no less amazing. 
“I cannot help how I am, Lizzy,” Tommy continued. “Sometimes things are just…overwhelming. I hate the nursery. It is too loud. And then when I am upset, the nurse does not understand. It is hard to explain how I feel when everything is too much. You are the only one who helps me.”
Thomas felt a pang of remorse. How had he missed the silent struggle his little boy was going through? Nurse Wilson had, indeed, complained many times about Master Tommy’s tantrums. Crying at nothing, the lady had said. What was it Tommy called it? Everything being too much?
The household had long since learned that Tommy did not like loud noises or bright lights. He was often overwhelmed, causing him to flap his arms or cry inconsolably. Lizzy was the only one with the skills to calm the young master during one of his ‘fits.’ Given the knowledge his son had just imparted, it made sense that little Tommy spent barely any time in the nursery with his younger siblings.
“Can you not start speaking sometimes?” Lizzy asked, her tone pleading. “It would make Papa very happy.”
“How do you know?” Tommy asked, his voice full of questions. 
“Because he always looks so sad,” Lizzy answered. “Whenever he and Mama have argued about you, he looks so very upset.”
“How can you tell?” Tommy questioned. “I have never noticed.”
“It is in his eyes,” Lizzy replied. “He looks like he is going to cry.”
“What does that look like?” 
“Like this,” Lizzy said. 
She must have been demonstrating for her brother, for it was silent for a few moments. Thomas peeked around to view his children and observed his son studying Elizabeth’s expression intently.
“I think I have it now,” Tommy said. “Is this what it looks like?”
Elizabeth giggled. “You look like you ate something sour,” she said.
“I do not know how to do it,” Tommy huffed. “Everyone’s face looks the same to me.”
“With practice, you will notice the differences in expression,” Lizzy promised her brother. “Now, it is time for tea. I am very hungry. Should we go in?”
Tommy nodded in agreement, and Mr. Bennet ducked out of sight so he would not be seen. He watched as Tommy took Elizabeth’s hand and they skipped off toward the house. 
As they went Thomas heard Lizzy ask once more, “You will at least think about what I said, right Tommy?”
The pair were too far away for Mr. Bennet to hear Tommy’s reply.

About the Author

MJ Stratton is a long-time lover of Jane Austen and her works, having been introduced to Pride and Prejudice by a much-beloved aunt at the age of sixteen. The subsequent discovery of Austenesque fiction sealed her fate. After beta reading and editing for others for nearly a decade, MJ started publishing her own work in 2022. MJ balances being a wife and mother with writing, gardening, sewing, and many other favorite pastimes. She lives with her husband and four children in the small, rural town where she grew up.

Purchase Links

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!

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! As part of this book tour, MJ Stratton is giving away an eCopy of the book No Less Than Any Other! Enter through the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, friends, what are your thoughts? What intrigues you about this story? 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...