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
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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!

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Little Women Devotional by Rachel Dodge ~ My Review

Hello, my friends! I love a good devotional, and when it's mixed with my favorite literature - well that makes it just plain fun! I've read three different Jane Austen devotionals, but today I'm reviewing a Little Women devotional! 

The Little Women Devotional
By Rachel Dodge

Publication Date: December 1st, 2021
Publisher: Barbour Books
Pages: 232
Received: I received a hardback from the publisher for my honest review.
Rating: 5 stars.

Devotional Inspiration from the Lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy   

The Little Women Devotional offers lovely inspiration that explores the themes of faith, family, contentment, wisdom, and joy in the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, cherished by generations of readers. 

Each reading corresponds with a chapter from the book and invites you to embrace God’s guiding hand in your life as His cherished daughter. This beautiful chapter-by-chapter devotional includes original artwork throughout, and each reading includes examples from the novel, scripture, life application, and prayers perfect for groups, book clubs, or personal reflection.
My Review

The Little Women Devotional by Rachel Dodge is a beautiful book. Chapter by chapter, it pulls spiritual insights from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It combines them with scripture, personal application, and prayer. I loved the illustrations and found them whimsical and charming.

There is so much to glean from this devotional. From helping a neighbor or the less fortunate to Jo’s struggle with her anger. The need for encouragement and to fight the good fight.

I also thought it would be fun to read a chapter a day from Little Women simultaneously! I did not get a chance to do this because I was doing another study, and my time was limited. But I had a strong urge to do just that!

I have always loved reading devotionals that combine literature and scripture! If you are fond of Little Women, you will absolutely adore The Little Women Devotional

FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of the story for my honest review.

Buy: Amazon (paid link)
Add to Goodreads

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

Many thanks to Rachel Dodge and Barbour Books for my copy of The Little Women Devotional!

Do you read devotionals? Give it a try! I also think this would make a great gift! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Big Swamp by Kelly Dean Jolley ~ Blog Tour ~ Excerpt & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! Today, I have author Kelly Dean Jolley visiting with an excerpt from his new book, Big Swamp! This romance and detective noir is set in Opelika, Alabama.

Big Swamp
by Kelly Dean Jolley

Publisher: Meryton Press
Release Date: August 11, 2022


A Private Eye in a One-Eyed Place? 

Ford Merrick is a softhearted detective in a sleepy southern town, Opelika, Alabama—a “one-eyed, blinking sort of place.” A provoking visit from beautiful Rachel Gunner complicates his work and his life. This stunning woman asks Ford to tail her uncle and discover what he is up to. Taking the case, Ford quickly finds himself swamped in mysteries: Who is Rachel's uncle, and what is his secret business? Then there’s the mystery of an earlier death at Noble Hall where Rachel and her uncle now live. But the greatest mystery may be Rachel Gunner herself. Mired, Ford struggles to find his way, unearths tragedies old and new, and exposes his heart to a hard test.

 By the time I get back to the office, Talbot’s getting on his bike to go home.
   He invites me to dinner—Olive’s making baked chicken and sweet potatoes—but I beg off. Hungering after Rachel Gunner and consuming one of Olive’s feasts are not obviously compatible. But I’m too empty to face being full, if that makes any sense.
    Probably not. I’m babbling…glub, glub. Like Talbot, I should forfeit words and manage with sounds.
   I need to finish this case for Rachel.
   I need to finish with Rachel. For my own good.
   It must be obvious to her that she can have me if she wants me and have me for as long as she’s here; no one’s indicated how long that will be. It would be better to refuse her, but I’m honest enough with myself to know there’s no chance. She may refuse fried food and processed sugar, but I’ve no power to refuse her. She’s had me since the first day in the waiting room.
   If I were like my detective heroes—Phillip Marlowe, say—I’d be more indifferent to how this plays out. But though I may be able to channel a little of Marlowe’s form, I can’t really channel his content. He’s a harder man than I know how to be—although he’s not as hard as his reputation among inattentive readers suggests.
   Rachel’s harder than I know how to be too. I don’t mean she’s hard exactly, any more than Marlowe is. But that thing with her eyes—that look I struggle to describe—that’s beyond my ken or my reach, so it’s probably no surprise I can’t describe it. I can’t live it; I have no first-person access to it.
   My POV can’t reach that level of objectivity. I see things in personal terms, and I can’t help it. Helen complains about it sometimes. As a doctor, she manages that dissector’s gaze occasionally.
    Not me. I’m not exactly sorry about that or ashamed of it, but it may be a career killer for a PI.
   Talbot pedals away, and I start to unlock the door, then reconsider. I go around the building to Miller’s office door. The sign says, “Closed,” so I go back to my door, but I don’t unlock it.
   I get back in the car and go home.
   Helen’s rocking on the porch, smiling to herself. Mondays are usually hard days for her; crowds of parents with over-the-weekend sick kids show up and overwhelm her. But she looks happy, unflustered.
   She notices me as I walk up to the house, and she points to the other rocker. A pitcher of lemonade is on the small table between the rockers. An unused glass of melting ice is sweating beside the pitcher.
   She nods and grins. “With gin dumped in. Medicinally, you know.”
   Laughing, I sit and pour some over the melting ice. I take a long swallow, puckering. I somehow always forget how sour Helen likes her lemonade to be. “You seem in a good mood for a Monday evening.”
   She grins again. “I am. Dr. Nettles came by and took me to Ed’s for lunch. We were kind of hoping to see you there. I really want the two of you to talk. I know you saw each other at the party, but…”
   “Right. Talbot and I had sandwiches from Ford’s BBQ.”
   Helen frowns. “You need a meal that does not come between slices of bread.”
   “I suppose.”
   “How was your Monday?” Helen asks as she pours herself a little more from the pitcher.
   “Surprisingly…surprising. I got a new case, and I believe I made some progress on it and my other case both today.”
   “That’s good. I suppose you can’t tell me anything?”
   I nod. “Not a thing.”
    She frowns again. “It’s frustrating that neither of us can talk much about work.”
    “Yeah,” I agree, “it’d be nice to know some details once in a while.”
    “Were you in the office all day? Or were you actually out investigating?”
    “Out investigating.”
    “Say,” Helen says, “I talked to Ruth. She asked about you. You didn’t talk to her today?”
“No.” I kissed Rachel Gunner today, and I wanted to kiss her again and again. But I don’t say that. I rock.
   Helen gives me a look: half mother, half sister. “How do you think it would feel, Ford, pining away for someone who can’t or won’t make up his damned mind?”
   I give no answer, but I know how that feels—not for as long as Ruth has, but I know.
   I take out my phone and text Father Halsey, asking if we can chat tomorrow morning. I could use some wise counsel, even if it comes packaged as abuse.
   Jesus—even the Episcopal priest is harder than I am.

About the Author

Kelly Dean Jolley is the Goodwin Philpott Endowed Chair of
Religion and Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University.  He lives in Auburn with his wife, Shanna, two dogs, two cats, too many books, and a collection of manual typewriters.  Beyond his academic publications, he has also published a book of poetry, Stony Lonesome.

Connect with Kelly Dean Jolley

Buy Links

Add to Goodreads.

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

Blog Tour Schedule

August 22 ~ Elza Reads 
August ~ So little time... (You are here!)
August 24 ~ The Reading Frenzy 
August 26 ~ Meryton Press Blog

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! Meryton Press is giving away six eBook copies of Big Swamp by Kelly Dean Jolley. The giveaway is international. The giveaway ends August 29th at 12:00 AM Central Time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Kelly Dean Jolley on the release of Big Swamp!

Many thanks to Janet Taylor @ More Agreeably Engaged for organizing and including me on this tour!

So, friends, tell me what you think of this excerpt! 
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