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)
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* * * 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!

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So, friends, what are your thoughts? What intrigues you about this story? 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Heartbroken: A Pride and Prejudice by Laura Moretti ~ Spotlight

Hello, my friends! Today, I’m spotlighting Laura Moretti’s new book, Heartbroken! The cover looks fantastic! I love the photo of the couple. 

A Pride and Prejudice Variation 
by Laura Moretti 

Publication Date: February 21, 2024 Available for pre-order! 


Elizabeth hasn’t heard from Darcy since violently rejecting his declaration of love. But then one day… She’s bored. Yes, bored. No, there’s no better reason for it.

Anyway, she texts him. And Darcy texts back.

For Elizabeth, it’s nothing, sending this first message. It’s a game — an absurd decision that she just makes on the spur of the moment. For Darcy, this is life and death. This is his second chance, to maybe get Elizabeth to look at him, really look at him at last.

So. A party, where Jane and Bingley are annoyingly happy. A business meeting at Pemberley. Short dates in a café, in winter, while it’s snowing outside. Valentine’s Day in February, in the rain.

The game is getting serious. Elizabeth is getting attached. And Darcy will do anything, anything, not to lose her again…

From despair to hope, a passionate, intense love story…
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About the Author

Laura Moretti is new to the Pride and Prejudice world, but not new to writing… She is a fantasy and sci-fi writer in another life.
You can find her books here: Amazon Author Page.

And if you want to test the waters before reading “Heartbroken,” you can subscribe to her newsletter and get “A Day in Turin,” a free Elizabeth and Darcy novella, here: Book Funnel.

Connect with Laura Moretti

FacebookInstagramX • Email: lauramoretti.pp@gmail

So, friends, what do you think of Heartbroken? Are you looking forward to reading it? 

Monday, February 5, 2024

With Love, Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Valentine Short Story Collection

 Hello, my friends! A group of lovely authors have put together this wonderful anthology of short stories for Valentine's Day! But not only that, but the proceeds will be going to the Jane Austen's House Museum! Amazing! Thank you, Ladies, for doing for being so generous with your time! 

With Love, Mr Darcy

A Pride and Prejudice Valentine Short Story Collection

Thanks so much for welcoming us here today, as we celebrate the release of our Valentine’s Day short story collection. We’re so excited to share these stories with everyone, and even more excited to be helping the Jane Austen’s House Museum by donating all the proceeds from this volume to the museum. 

What is this collection, you ask?

Our tagline says it all.

Six authors, six stories, seven happily-ever-afters.

Join writers Michelle d'Arcy, Elin Eriksen, Riana Everly, Iris Lim, Laura Moretti, and S. Neha for a special Valentine's Day anthology of Pride and Prejudice variations, each crafted with love from Mr Darcy.

Wait? This is for an Austen-Amazing cause?

Indeed it is!

All proceeds will be donated to the Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton, England.
Swoon for a worthy cause!

What do you all have to say for yourselves, anyway? Why a Valentine’s anthology about Darcy?

A word from the authors…

“I loved the idea of putting together a collection of stories about, well, love! Valentine's Day just seemed the perfect opportunity to bring our favourite couple together in our unique ways.”

“The theme is both unifying and inspiring, and seeing how we all had such different ideas was wonderful. This is, for me, one of the great joys of JAFF. We have some fixed parameters, but rather than limiting our imaginations, they let our imaginations soar.”

“We love Jane Austen, and her legacy! And we would love to know we contributed even a bit to it. The House in Chawton is the very heart of this legacy.”

“And then there is Mr Darcy! We love Mr Darcy!”

“Yep, we do!”

Okay, you have our attention. So what’s in it?

Here are some tidbits to tempt you! Enjoy these excerpts!

Alone, by Michelle d'Arcy 

With every step closer, Darcy knew what he wanted and knew what he would do. He had no doubts remaining. The surprise, joy, and gratitude on Elizabeth’s beautiful face and the tears of happiness in her bright eyes would surely make his extended torment worth the while. She would surely forgive him for the weeks of silence and turmoil, during which he had given her the impression he was toying with her affections. 

He entered and found her alone in the parlour. She was pale and clearly not feeling well; she looked surprised, and he needed a little time to gather his thoughts and find the right words to address her. 

Then, their eyes met, and he lost himself in hers. She licked her lips, in obvious anticipation, so he opened his heart and held it in his hands, offering it to her. 

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” He heard himself revealing the tumult that had tortured him for six months. 

She remained silent, wide eyed, completely still while he poured his very soul at her feet.

My Funny Valentine, by Elin Eriksen

Elizabeth curtseyed deeply. Far be it from her to show any lack of manners on her part. Oh no, she would be perfectly civil.

“Mr Darcy, we have not been introduced due to your lack of gentlemanly behaviour. I am willing to overlook that slight impropriety, which surely must count as insignificant and came as the result of you walking away in the middle of an introduction. I am referring to your party’s arrival, when my mother importuned you by asking you to dance with one of her daughters, and your immediate and hasty retreat to the opposite end of the room.”

Mr Darcy opened his mouth as if to speak, but Elizabeth had not finished, and she stopped him with a pointed hand gesture.

“I perfectly comprehend your feelings, Mr Darcy. You are an excellent physiognomist, and you should always judge people’s characters by their looks. One would not want to associate with anyone lacking in appearance, and certainly not dance with any lady slighted by other men.” 

Elizabeth drew a breath to allow her point to be understood. “You simply must allow me to express my gratitude. My dear grandmother has instilled in me the virtues of never expressing behind anyone’s back what you cannot say to their face. I, therefore, highly appreciate your sincere evaluation of my appearance. With that said, I shall not disturb you for a moment longer but shall promptly remove my unpalatable presence from your company.” 

A Coincidence of Connexions, by Riana Everly

Mr Darcy looked away and cleared his throat. Was he flushing pink? She hardly could believe so arrogant a man could feel such an emotion as embarrassment.

“I recall… when last we spoke, at the ball at—”

“Netherfield,” Elizabeth supplied.

“Yes. We danced.” He stopped and she waited. He surely had more to say than repeat such a fact. He cleared his throat again. “We were discussing your… our mutual acquaintance, Mr Wickham, before we were interrupted. You accused me of withdrawing from him my own friendship, in such a manner that he would suffer all his life. I did not know, then, how to respond. It hardly seemed the place…”

“Much better to bring out these matters at an intimate dinner party.” 

“You are, madam, always correct. I seem to have the ill fortune of a terrible choice of timing. But the topic was raised, and I had to address it. Forgive me.” He said this last with such genuine meaning that she could not help but be affected. 

Perhaps she had severely misjudged everything about Mr Darcy!

In Time for Valentine’s, by Iris Lim

“I shall be throwing a ball, here at Matlock House, that shall be the talk of the Season,” said Lady Matlock. 

Fitzy scoffed. “We already are the talk of the Season, mother dear.” 

“Not that sort of talk—the good kind.”

“A hardly think a ball could so easily distract the voracious ton.” 

“We shall have it on St. Valentine’s, a day many are coming to associate with love.” 

“Again, Mother, I do not think—” 

“Then we shall announce a betrothal—preferably, one of yours.”

Both Darcy and Richard sprung up with alacrity.

“You cannot mean—”

“And given that Richard shall be leaving for the Continent soon, the better candidate would be Darcy.”

“Aunt, please, you must see—”

“Georgiana would benefit, would she not?” Lady Matlock continued, unperturbed by Darcy’s clear agitation. “Besides, I already have several ladies in mind. I am sure you shall be able to find at least one of them suitable.”

“This is madness. I cannot possibly—”

“Oh, but you can.” The countess pinned him in place with a glare. “Have no fear, Darcy, we shall have you betrothed in time for Valentine’s.”

Ten Valentine’s Days, by Laura Moretti

“Darcy had been so in love with her, ten years ago. Paradoxically, he’d only realised how much after his drunken declaration. When days had passed. When his hangover had subsided. When he’d had time to reflect. 

He missed Elizabeth like hell.

He’d cut Elizabeth from his life cold turkey, like one would just stop smoking, stop eating sugar, stop doing drugs. And yes, it was hell.

The withdrawal. Everything hurt. Before the…‘The Events at the Pub at Hunsford’, Darcy had spent two years in Elizabeth’s presence, in the same circle of friends. Darcy and Elizabeth had celebrated Bingley and Jane’s engagement together, their attendance mandatory at the intimate dinner and during the huge party that followed; they’d been best man and chief bridesmaid at the wedding. 

Elizabeth had been a constant in Darcy’s life. Her banter. Her laugh. Their heated debates. The love she showed her sister, her friends. It was in her absence Darcy realised how much he was—hooked.

Seven years. Why couldn’t he move on? 

Mr Darcy's Matchmaking Valentine, by S. Neha

Yellow? Oh… no! Rosie’s favourite doll has a cap of the exact same colour. It was now evident to Elizabeth why her aunt was standing close to those two gentlemen and why Rose was so upset. But how did Rosie’s doll wind up in the lake in the first place?

The gentleman with the stick suddenly, and somewhat improbably in Elizabeth's opinion, stretched his arm a little bit further and stumbled, just as she had feared. It was only the second gentleman holding on to him that saved him from a dunking in the frigid waters. The very next moment, the man was lifting the stick in the air, Rose’s doll dangling from it. That young lady’s squeals of joy indicated that she, too, had observed the rescue of her poor, beleaguered doll.

The gentlemen then turned to face the others, both beaming proudly, and Elizabeth’s thoughts scattered in shock. It was Mr Darcy who was holding the stick with the dangling doll, and very poetically, it was Mr Bingley who had been hanging on to his coattails! Although in this instance, one could be charitable and argue that he was making himself useful.

* * *

Available for a limited time!

Amazon (paid link)

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So, my friends, what do you think of this short story collection? We'd love to hear from you! 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Second Ending by Riana Everly ~ Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

Hello, friends! Riana Everly is here with her third book in her new series Austen Echos! How lovely, these books came out so quickly! One a month! Nice!

Thanks so much, Candy, for letting me stop here today to talk about my new book, The Second Ending. This is the third and final book in my Austen Echoes series of contemporary Austen retellings, all centred around members of a concert choir in my home city of Toronto. This book, just released a couple of days ago, is inspired by my favourite of Austen’s novels, Persuasion, and trust me, you’ll love it!

One of the fun challenges about re-setting a Regency-era novel into the present is how to make the characters keep up with the times. For the most part, women today just don’t sit at home and sip tea while waiting for their heroes to come dashing across the fields on a jet-black horse. A modern heroine needs a modern life, and that is probably going to involve a career of some sort.

Likewise, the men need new lives as well. Even if I were to keep Austen’s military characters in that field, times have changed. Naval captains now draw a salary, rather than keeping a chunk of loot from whatever foreign ships they capture. It’s a different world, and our characters need to reflect that.

When I began thinking about this contemporary take on
Persuasion, I knew right away that Ashleigh Lynch (my modern Anne Elliot) would be a lawyer. It’s a career acceptable to her snooty family, but it also lets her be a helper. Just like Anne Elliot is the one helping her sister Mary with the children, taking care of packing up Kellynch hall after her father and sister Elizabeth take off to Bath, managing the crisis when Louisa has her dreadful accident in Lyme, modern Ashleigh is the one helping as well. She takes legal aid cases, working with people who can’t afford to pay a lawyer from their own pockets, helping abused women escape their tormenters, assisting families get new starts in life. 

It’s not the sort of career to make someone rich, since legal aid rates are far below what a lawyer can charge private clients, but it’s the sort of career that suits someone like Ashleigh, who wants to make a difference for people who need her.

What about Marcus, my modern Frederick Wentworth? He had to come from a place that’s absolutely unacceptable to
Ashleigh’s family. He had to start off with a job that the Lynches would hold their noses at, but that would also give him the possibility of doing extremely well for himself. Here, I decided to put him in the trades.

Marcus Fredericks met Ash when he was a construction worker, and she was a university student. But in the years since they broke up, he took his uncles small business and turned it into a huge success, building a development corporation that made the construction worker into the CEO. 

When Ash and Marcus cross paths again, eight years after her family managed to break them up, they’re very different people from who they were back then. Or are they?

Do these new interpretations work? Do these careers suit a modern take on Austen’s wonderful characters? You’ll have to read the book and decide that for yourself!

To give you a taste, here’s an excerpt from The Second Ending: A Modern Austen Persuasion Improvisation.


Still, law had been a good choice for her. She’d excelled at her classes and passed her exams with ease, and discovered that, all stereotypes aside, there was a great deal of good she could do in her profession. It wasn’t all money laundering and overcharging clients, but instead, it was a way to help people out of bad situations. Whether that meant supporting a small business
owner in a lease dispute or advocating for a new immigrant with little English when his employer decided not to pay him, she found she went to bed each night with the sense of having made a difference in someone’s life.

Law had also engendered in her a passion for helping others, something that had not been part of her rather pampered childhood. Her father was, as she joked, a poor trust-fund baby. The family once had quite a lot of money. Some forward-thinking grandfather had put it all into reasonable investments, and the interest was enough to live on more than comfortably.

One of those investments had been a house in Rosedale, where Ashleigh’s father had lived since he was a baby. Living there, in that most prestigious part of town, an enclave of old money and new sports cars, Walter Lynch could consider himself part of Toronto’s elite. He was certainly well-connected, having been to the right schools and having made the right contacts, and if his wealth didn’t quite extend to summer homes in the south of France, it was enough to keep up appearances without having to resort to actually having to work.

Because Walter Lynch, for all his insistence that his daughter train for a suitable career, had never worked a day in his life. Ashleigh suspected her parents would be quite horrified at what she really did with the precious law degree they had insisted so vehemently that she achieve.

Ashleigh sighed as she glanced around her slightly tatty flat once more. Oh, her father would have a fit if he saw it. Her sister would drag her to the nearest real estate agent in seconds, and her mother would smile in her absentminded way and say, “It’s not very fancy, is it, dear? Wouldn’t you prefer something nicer?” As if wishing would make it so.

She had, once, had something nicer, back eight years ago, when her life was full of promise and when the future looked wonderful. When she was still with Marcus.

Seeing him again today had disturbed all the ghosts, bringing long-buried memories flooding back. Her mind replaced the faded paint and worn furniture with the sweet place they had shared for not nearly long enough. She recalled the butter-yellow walls, the deep burgundy curtains, the lovely long couch that one of his friends had found for them, the comfortable chair, the elegant dining room table… 

Did he still have them? Or had he burned everything after she’d walked out? 

She let out another deep sigh. Probably, by the anger he had vented then, and by the hard expression he’d borne today when he had seen her for the first time since their awful break-up, he’d burned them, then burned the ashes, and then buried them. Like her heart.

Because that was the second time her family had destroyed her dreams.

The Second Ending
A Modern Persuasion Improvisation
by Riana Everly


The last person Eglinton Echoes member Ashleigh Lynch expected to see across the table from her was her ex, Marcus Fredericks. Eight years ago when they were in love, she was a law student and he was a construction worker, not nearly good enough for her elitist family. But times have changed. Now she’s a lawyer, and he owns the development company threatening the playing fields she’s been engaged to protect. 

Her family managed to crush her dreams and her confidence back then, and seeing Marcus again has rocked her to the core. But as talks over the playing fields continue, they are forced to confront each other again and again, and even the hardest hearts aren’t always impervious to old, tender feelings. 

But rekindling their romance won’t be easy. They are on different sides of a dispute, and Ashleigh has caught the eye of a charming guy from the city’s planning department. When the development project is threatened and Ashleigh discovers who her real enemy is, her very world begins to crumble around her, and not even her precious music is safe. Can she find the inner strength to deal, at last, with an old threat and reclaim the happiness that was ripped away from her eight years ago? 

This musical reimagining of Jane Austen’s beloved Persuasion will have you cheering the characters on, pulling you into their world and into their hearts.
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About the Author

Born in South Africa, award-winning author Riana Everly has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She proudly boasts one husband, two grown(ish) children, three degrees, four recordings, five instruments (of varying proficiencies), six languages (also of varying proficiencies), and thirteen novels (and growing). She also can’t count very well.

When not indulging her passion for Jane Austen, Riana loves cooking, travel, and photography. She’s a historian and trained classical musician, specialising in viola, and is delighted to be able to combine her love of writing and music in her novels. 

She now lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband, a secret stash of chocolate, and far too many books.

Connect with Riana Everly

* * * GIVEAWAY* * *

Riana is hosting a giveaway! Here's a message from her:

I’m delighted to be able to offer a giveaway of an eBook at each stop on this blog tour. I will randomly select one person who comments on the post here through random.net. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you win! I will take comments until midnight, North American Eastern time, five days after the blog post goes live. Good luck everyone!

Congratulations, Riana, on the release of The Second Ending! That's awesome! Also, many thanks for visiting with us and offering one of my readers a chance to win an eCopy of The Second Ending.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

"Not Without Affection" by Caroline Cartier ~ Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveawy!

Hello, my friends! I'm delighted to have Caroline Cartier on the blog today! She has a new book out, Not Without Affection, and it's her debut novel! Very exciting! Congratulations, Caroline!

I hope you enjoy the excerpt below, and be sure to enter the giveaway! Caroline is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Details are at the bottom of the page.

Not Without Affection
by Caroline Cartier

Publication Date: February 1st, 2024

Book Description:

When Mr Collins visits Longbourn, Elizabeth Bennet is shocked by the sycophantic behaviour of her family toward the Longbourn heir. Mrs Bennet declares that any of her daughters had better accept the man if he offers for them, and Elizabeth quickly comes to suspect that her father will not defend them should they wish to refuse. Despite her protestations, Elizabeth finds herself engaged to her cousin against her will and her sisters turned against her, showing Elizabeth harsh revelations about Jane's true character. She makes plans to escape the untenable situation, with help from Charlotte, and surprisingly, Mr Darcy, but the marriage moves forward despite their efforts and Lizzy is forced to accept her fate. 

When Elizabeth is unexpectedly relieved of her unwanted husband, her new friends at Rosings support her as she builds her new life, while Mr Darcy is relieved to have a chance to win her heart but knows he must wait to court her to preserve her reputation. While he suffers the long wait of her mourning until she can be courted, Elizabeth must decide if she is willing to try again, as estate matters and other parties threaten to end the match before it is made in this 68,000-word Pride and Prejudice Variation.

     On a bright morning in early November, Elizabeth Bennet was walking briskly in the direction of Longbourn to the sweet sound of blackbirds lifting their beaks in song. The sun had risen some time ago and it was nearly time for breakfast. Elizabeth had been out longer than usual this morning, having been cooped up at Netherfield tending her sister Jane for the last sennight.
     She quickened her pace, both in anticipation of breakfast and also in an effort not to upset her mother, who generally disapproved of Elizabeth's morning activities, and grew angry when her second daughter was late for the morning meal. She hoped she and her sisters might walk to Meryton later in the morning. Elizabeth had missed the arrival of the regiment while at Netherfield. While she had no intention of chasing officers like her youngest sisters, she expected there to be a great deal happening to entertain in the little village.
     The walk to Meryton was not to be, however. Elizabeth had taken her seat at the table just in time to escape her mother's ire, and as the family began to dine, her father spoke up. "I hope my dear, that you have ordered a good dinner today, for I have reason to expect an addition to our family party."
     "Whoever can you mean, Mr Bennet?” inquired his wife. “I know of no one who is expected unless Charlotte Lucas drops in, and I do hope my dinners are good enough for her. She certainly does not see such fine fare at her mother's table. Or perhaps Mr Bingley! What dreadful luck! There will not be a bit of fish to be had today. Ring the bell, Kitty; I must speak with Hill post-haste."
     Mr Bennet chuckled, "It is not Charlotte, nor Mr Bingley, though I give you leave to invite them both as often as you please, because they are excellent company. No, it is a person I have never seen once in the whole of my life." This naturally roused a great clamour of interest by his wife and all five of his daughters, and so, well pleased to have their undivided attention for once, he settled back into his chair with his coffee to relate the information to them. "I received this letter about a month ago, and about a fortnight ago, I sent a reply, considering it a matter of some delicacy, and requiring prompt attention. It is from my cousin, Mr Collins, who, if you recall, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases," he finished with an unpleasant smile. Elizabeth wished she knew why her father insisted on being so disagreeable at times. She was fortunate that she usually escaped his razor-sharp tongue, but her mother and sisters were rarely so lucky.
     "Mr Bennet pray do not talk of that odious man coming here! I cannot bear to hear such an idea mentioned. It is the hardest thing in the world that your estate should be entailed away from your own children! You ought to have done something about it long ago!” Fanny Bennet wailed.
     Thomas Bennet agreed with his wife that it was indeed a most iniquitous affair, but advised her to hear the letter, for perhaps she might be softened by the man's sentiments or manner of expressing himself. Mrs Bennet declared that she was sure she would not, and decried the man as a hypocrite for contacting them at all. Mr Bennet, however, insisted upon reading the letter aloud.

Near Westerham, Kent,

Dear Sir,

       The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honoured father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own doubts, lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory for me to be on good terms with anyone with whom it had always pleased him to be at variance. My mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having received ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean myself with grateful respect towards her ladyship, and be ever ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England.
       As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to promote and establish the blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my influence; and on these grounds, I flatter myself that my present overtures are highly commendable and that the circumstance of my being next in the entail of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your side, and not lead you to reject the oered olive branch. I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to make them every possible amends — but of this hereafter. I shall write no more of my hopes, but assure your daughters in the most complimentary terms that I come prepared to admire them. If you should have no objection to receiving me into your house, I propose myself the satisfaction of waiting on you and your family, Monday, November –, by four o’clock, and shall probably trespass on your hospitality till the Saturday night following, which I can do without any inconvenience, as Lady Catherine is far from objecting to my occasional absence on a Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to do the duty of the day.

       I remain, dear sir, with respectful compliments to your lady and daughters, your well-wisher and friend,

William Collins

     "And so my dear, we shall have the honour of receiving this peacemaking gentleman, presumably waving an olive branch above his head, at four o'clock," concluded Mr Bennet, folding the letter and placing it beside his coffee. "I doubt not that he will be an invaluable acquaintance."
     "The letter is not defective in composition. The offering of an olive branch is not particularly original, though it is well expressed," observed Mary.
     "One wonders by what means he intends to make amends to us, though it is to his credit that he wishes to do so," remarked Jane.
     "It is perfectly obvious, is it not, Mr Bennet?” asked Mrs Bennet. “The gentleman comes prepared to admire you girls. He is a young single man, with a comfortable living, the patronage of a great lady, and the expectation of a gentleman's inheritance. It is obvious that he comes in want of a wife."
     "That cannot be what he meant, Mama,” protested Elizabeth. “He would never write it so openly. He must have meant something else, which is entirely plausible, considering his manner of apologising for the entail. He likely meant something else entirely. He certainly sounds like an oddity. Do you think he can be a sensible man, Papa?"
     "I highly doubt it, my dear," her father answered with his satirical grin. "In fact, his strange mixture of pomposity and servility gives me great hope of finding him quite the reverse. I am indeed impatient to see him. This promises to be a most entertaining sennight. But in answer to your first, I agree with your mother. As ridiculous as this man sounds, it is possible that no one in his parish would accept him if he is truly objectionable. He probably hopes to find us desperate, and willing to give him a daughter to save your home after I am gone, and he would not be too far wrong."

    "Despite your humour, Papa, you would not make one of us marry him!" exclaimed Elizabeth, horrified by her father's speech. Sometimes even she could not quite tell when Mr Bennet was fooling them, and she understood her mother's nerves well in those moments.

     "Make you! You silly, foolish girl, why ever would we need to make you!" Mrs Bennet burst out in annoyance. "In case you have not noticed, there are no gentlemen in the area to marry, and neither Jane nor you have found success in town when visiting my brother. If the man who is to inherit your home proposes to any of you, you will accept with joy and gratitude in your heart! Oh, except you Jane, dear, you are for Mr Bingley; and of course, dear Lydia is far too young to marry a clergyman. But any of the rest of you had better gladly accept him. The idea of refusing to save your family from destitution is abhorrent, Lizzy. How could you say something so selfish? Do you wish for us all to be homeless?"

     "Mama, I will not marry someone horrid just to keep Longbourn," Elizabeth argued. "I am sure my sisters and I will do well enough without selling ourselves to a booby.”
    "How dare you, young lady! To speak of the heir of this estate, a man you have never even met, in such disrespectful terms!” Mrs Bennet scolded her second child soundly. “You think that I do not see you disdain the behaviour of your sisters and me, missy, but you are not such a model of propriety yourself! You will not degrade Mr Collins in any way again, and when he arrives, you will accord him the respect that is his due. I will not have any of my daughters behaving in such an objectionable manner! If the man is ridiculous, so much the better. It means he will be easily led, and easier for one of you to manage. Have you not seen how I struggle with a clever husband? Do not make my mistake. Marry a booby."

     Elizabeth looked at her father, whose face was like stone and did not meet her eye. Why did he not defend her? He had said himself he expected to find the man insensible. He would not marry any of them to an idiot. Would he?

About the Author

Caroline Cartier is an anglophile in her early forties, living out her happily ever after in New England with her very own Darcy. She is mom to an extraordinary young woman who is an English major, two cats, and a spaniel (co-author) named Belle.

Having cut her teeth on the Tudors and Mary Queen of Scots with the historical fiction of Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt at sixteen, Caroline read her way through the histories of the Monarchs of England and France, settling into an abiding love for Regency fiction in her twenties.

Her first Jane Austen Variation was Mr Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange. Several years later, a free trial of Kindle Unlimited opened a whole new world of Austenesque fiction. After reading what feels like hundreds of variations, Caroline began her first writing project in 2021, The Victorian Vagaries, a Victorian Pride and Prejudice Quartet that will be published in 2024.

Having been a gushing member of many fandoms in her time, Caroline takes great enjoyment in historical fiction, fantasy, and YA fiction, and enjoys the works of Rick Riordan, Angie Sage, James Patterson (the Max Ride series), Stephanie Meyers, Suzanne Collins, J K Rowling, L M Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and of course the father of fantasy, J R R Tolkien.
She takes her inspiration for writing from the wonderful authors of Austenesque literature and the romance series of Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, and Lisa Kleypas, in addition to other historical romances and television period dramas.

Connect with Caroline Cartier

Purchase Links

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Caroline is generously giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky person during this blog tour! Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below. 

Good luck!!

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Many thanks to Caroline Cartier for stopping by today! Again, congratulations on the release of Not Without Affection! BTW, I love this cover! It's so beautiful!

So, my friends, do you have any thoughts? I cringe at the thought of Elizabeth marrying Mr. Collins! Mr. Bennet, what are you thinking!!

Sunday, December 17, 2023

"Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord" by Celeste Connally ~ My Review

 Hello, my friends! It's been a while since I've posted a review. This is more of a mini review, but I thought I'd post it anyway. 😃

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord
by Celeste Connally

Publication Date: November 14th, 2023
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Pages: 304
Received: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.
Rating: 5 stars

Book Description

Bridgerton meets Agatha Christie in Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord, a dazzling first entry in a terrific new Regency-era mystery series with a feminist spin. 

When Lady Petra Forsyth’s fiancé and soulmate dies just weeks ahead of their wedding, she makes the shocking proclamation—in front of London’s loosest lips—that she will never remarry. A woman of independent means, Petra sees no reason to cede her wealth and freedom to any man now that the love of her life has passed, nor does she intend to become confined to her country home. Instead, she uses her title to gain access to elite spaces and enjoy the best of society without expectations. 

But when ballroom gossip suggests that a longtime friend has died of “melancholia” while in the care of a questionable physician, Petra vows to use her status to dig deeper—uncovering a private asylum where men pay to have their wives and daughters locked away, or worse. Just as Lady Petra has reason to believe her friend is not dead, but a prisoner, her own headstrong actions and thirst for independence are used to put her own freedom in jeopardy.
My Review

Fabulous story! What a page-turner! I found myself thinking about the story when I wasn't reading it. 

Lady Petra is a strong, independent woman with a curious mind. And I like that! She is also concerned for the welfare of others, even those not of her station, like the street urchin Teddy. 

Taking the loss of her friend Gwen to heart, Lady Petra must discover what happened to her. Her curiosity sends Lady Petra into dangerous situations. I was so anxious for her!

I highly recommend Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord for your reading pleasure!

FTC Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher.

Purchase Links

Buy: Amazon (paid links) • Barnes & NobleBookshop
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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

Celeste Connally is an Agatha Award nominee, and a former
freelance writer and editor. A lifelong devotee of historical novels and adaptations fueled by her passion for history—plus weekly doses of PBS Masterpiece—Celeste loves reading and writing about women from the past who didn’t always do as they were told.

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Thanks for stopping by, dear readers! I'd love to hear what you think of this book! Have you read it? I have always found terrifying that women could be place in an asylum by their husbands or fathers. 

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