Thursday, May 13, 2021

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson ~ Blog Tour ~ Excerpt

 Happy Thursday, my friends! I'm delighted to be part of the Isabelle and Alexander Blog Tour! This book sounds amazing and from the book description, maybe be an emotional roll-a-coaster. I hope you enjoy the excerpt!  



An Excerpt from Chapter 6

     “Post’s come, and here’s a letter for you, ma’am.” Mrs. Burns handed Isabelle an envelope.

     When she saw Edwin’s handwriting, she clasped it between her palms and allowed herself a smile of relief.

     “Thank you,” Isabelle said, feeling like she’d been saved from drowning. She took the first full breath in what felt like weeks. Her thanks hadn’t felt like enough. “Thank you,” she said again.

     Although Isabelle well recognized the look of compassion on Mrs. Burns’s face, the housekeeper continued to behave with propriety.

     If, in the course of her duties of the next hour, Mrs. Burns passed the sitting room and saw her mistress alternating between laughter and tears, she made no mention of it to Isabelle.

     Reading her cousin’s letters once was never enough. Isabelle knew that Edwin’s style—galloping over news and gossip—would both make her lonesome and somehow connected to all that was happening at the Lakes. What she did not expect was this line, placed in the midst of a report about the weather and their favorite horse’s colt: “Dearest, you remember I told you about Charlotte Owen, don’t you?”

     Isabelle remembered no such name, but she knew this was another part of Ed’s style. He was preparing her for something. The next line clarified.

     “I’ve decided I simply can’t live without the both of you, and since I can no longer have you here with me, now that you’ve been carried off to the steel jungles of Manchester, I’ve asked her to marry me.”

     Isabelle gasped aloud. Past the pounding of her heart in her ears, she heard Mrs. Burns enter the room.

     “I am fine,” she tried to say, but a sob broke through the words. She stood from the chair, clutched the letter in her fingers, paced to the window, looked out at the damp, chilly city, and reread the words. I’ve asked her to marry me.

     Marry.

     Isabelle did not know how long she stood at the window, clutching the letter in her hands while Mrs. Burns stood at a polite and proper distance, but when she could stand there no longer, she wiped her eyes and moved back toward the couch.

     “I hope all is well,” the housekeeper said.

     “Very well, thank you.” She knew her voice sounded anything but well. Oh, what Isabelle would give to have a friend who understood this cruel mix of betrayal and devastation she was experiencing! Come to think of it, Isabelle would be very happy to know exactly why she felt so heartbroken.

     Perhaps because Edwin was still quite young, only having come into his majority last year. This news was a bit of a shock.

     Perhaps because she never imagined he would survive without her. Of course, whatever he felt for Miss Charlotte Owen was vastly different from the familial relationship he and Isabelle had fostered. But would Charlotte replace Isabelle in Edwin’s heart? If Isabelle was no longer to be Edwin’s dearest, who then would she be? 

     Where could she turn to sort through her feelings?

     There was only one place she’d felt sure clarity since coming to Manchester.

     “Mrs. Burns, I am going to visit Mrs. Kenworthy for a short time. I shall be home before anyone misses me.” For who, indeed, would miss her? She felt the truth of those words as surely as she knew an hour in the Kenworthy parlor would shake loose the pieces of her heart that were stabbing at her.

     “Shall I call the carriage?” Mrs. Burns’s voice held the sympathy she could not, within the bounds of propriety, give words to.

     Isabelle wiped her eyes again, grateful for the lace handkerchief tucked into her sleeve. “Thank you, no. I should enjoy the walk.”

     The walk to the Kenworthy home, though wet and dirty, went by in a blink. Her feet seemed to lead her there with no need for her mind to plan the next steps.

     When the Kenworthys’ housekeeper opened the door, she startled Isabelle by saying, “Law, Mrs. Osgood. You’re wet through.”

     “Oh, I beg your pardon. Mrs. Kenworthy is not expecting me.”

     “I daresay not on foot in weather such as this,” she responded. Her smile removed all possible judgment from her words. “Please, come into the parlor, and I’ll let her know you’re here.”

     When Isabelle realized how damp she’d gotten, she refused to sit on any of the furniture, standing at the window and watching the rain. Feeling her skin chill, she began to question the advisability of her choice to walk when Glory came into the room at a bound.

     “Mrs. Osgood, how nice of you to come for a visit,” she said, the proper words accompanied by flapping hands and a loud laugh.

     Isabelle felt herself begin to warm immediately. She reached for Glory’s hands and pressed her fingers. “Thank you, Miss Glory. I was so eager to see you that I couldn’t wait for our usual Tuesday.”

     Glory nodded. “Instead of Tuesday, you’re here on a painting day. Would you like to watch me make a painting?” “If you wouldn’t mind,” Isabelle said, surprised to find she meant it. Her heart lightened at the thought of taking her mind away from Edwin’s upcoming marriage by watching Glory work. “What will you paint today?”







Isabelle and Alexander
by Rebecca Anderson


BOOK DESCRIPTION

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father's coal mines with Alexander Osgood's prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander's wife.

However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.

Sensing his wife's unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn't bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle's opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.
 
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!


Advance Praise

"Anderson’s first foray into historical romance is an atypical, yet satisfying story set in Victorian Manchester’s upper middle class. Hand this to readers looking for a book that navigates the peaks and valleys of two strangers attempting to make a life together despite the hardships life throws at them."— Library Journal

"Isabelle transitions from an unaware, leisure-class woman to a more enlightened spouse and supporter of the working class. Intimacy and romance develop between Isabelle and Alexander because of simple gestures, like a long look or a thoughtful gift, and their conversations. Their slow, stately courting is reader appropriate for any age or audience. Manchester also gets its due as a place of grit and incredible production. Descriptions of bustling mills reveal their impact on the couple’s family and its fortunes. Isabelle and Alexander is an intimate and touching romance novel that focuses on women’s lives in the business class of industrial England."— Foreword Reviews

 

"Isabelle must use her quiet spunk, busy mind, and compassionate spirit to woo her husband in a wholly new way. Anderson's debut is a lovely northern England Victorian romance about confronting the seemingly impossible and the power of empathy. Anderson also addresses the time period’s treatment of physical and intellectual disabilities. Most of all, she beautifully depicts love in its many forms beyond romance, such as compassion, patience, and vulnerability; and her characters illustrate the ways that these expressions of love carry us through even the darkest hours. Isabelle’s loving and persevering fervor and devotion will resonate with any caregiver’s heart."— Booklist


About the Author

Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary
romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.
 
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.




Connect with Rebecca Anderson




Join the virtual blog tour of ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER (Proper Romance Victorian), Rebecca Anderson’s highly acclaimed historical romance novel, May 3–16, 2021. Over forty popular blogs specializing in historical fiction, inspirational fiction, and Victorian romance will join in the celebration of its release with spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Manchester, England. 


BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

May 03 Lu Reviews Books (Review)
May 03 Timeless Novels (Review)
May 03 Our Book Confessions (Review)
May 04 Literary Time Out (Review)
May 04 My Bookish Bliss (Review)
May 04 The Book Diva's Reads (Excerpt)
May 05 Heidi Reads (Review) 
May 05 Laura's Reviews (Review)
May 05 Wishful Endings (Review)
May 05 Gwendalyn's Reviews (Review)
May 06 Margie's Must Reads (Review)
May 06 Relz Reviewz (Review)
May 07 Randi Loves 2 Read (Spotlight)
May 07 The Reading Frenzy (Review)
May 07 Nurse Bookie (Review)
May 08 The Bibliophile Files (Review)
May 09 Reading with Emily (Review)
May 09 Fire and Ice (Spotlight)
May 10 My Jane Austen Book Club (Excerpt)
May 10 Booked Solid (Review) 
May 10 From Pemberley to Milton (Spotlight)
May 11 Greenish Bookshelf (Review)
May 11 Captivated Reading (Review)
May 11 The Green Mockingbird (Review)
May 12 For Where Your Treasure Is (Excerpt)
May 12 Bookworm Lisa (Review)
May 13 Books, Teacups & Reviews (Spotlight)
May 13 Library of Clean Reads (Review)
May 13 Robin Loves Reading (Review)
May 13 So Little Time (Excerpt)
May 14 Eli's Novel Reviews (Review)
May 14 The Lit Bitch (Review)
May 14 The Bluestocking (Review)
May 15 Reading Is My Superpower (Review)
May 15 A Darn Good Read (Review)
May 16 The Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
May 16 CozyNookBooks (Review)

Congratulations to Rebecca Anderson on the release of Isabelle and Alexander

Many thanks to Laurel Ann @ Austenprose for organizing this blog tour and inviting me on the tour! 

Isabelle and Alexander is published by Shadow Mountain Publishing

So friends, what are your thoughts? Has this excerpt and book description piqued your interest?! It has mine! 


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words" by Shannon Winslow ~ Blog Tour ~ Guest Post

Hello, my friends! Shannon Winslow joins us today! She has a new book out, Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words. Very exciting! 

Shannon shares with us how she, in her new book, fills in the blanks with "missing scenes" - I hope you enjoy it! 



Filling in the Blanks

I’ve always enjoyed writing “missing scenes.” Perhaps Jane Austen has given us a clue to something but not described it in any detail. Perhaps she’s told us that something has occurred but hasn’t shown us, or she’s left a period of time altogether blank. These gaps are “missing scene” opportunities just begging to be written!

There’s a lot of that in this new book, Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words – lots of blanks in Austen’s most beloved story that I was more than happy to fill in – some before the timeline of the original novel and others during it. Since Pride and Prejudice primarily follows Elizabeth’s activities, Darcy’s words and actions (except when he’s with her) are not shown. And as I started investigating, I discovered that a lot of his time is unaccounted for. 

All those blanks gave generous scope for my imagination with this new book – even room for new characters and a brand new supplemental storyline, all without changing what Jane Austen wrote in her masterpiece.

The biggest single addition I made to the story is something Jane Austen never alluded to; it is a previously unknown character by the name of Amelia Lambright. But it seems perfectly reasonable to me that she (or someone very like her) existed. After all, Darcy would have known plenty of women before he met Elizabeth. And he was at the point in his life when he would likely have begun contemplating marriage. So according to my theory, his mind very naturally turned to Amelia: the daughter of an old family friend, and an entirely suitable choice. All his interactions with her fit neatly into the blanks in the P&P record.

As for a more classic example of a “missing scene,” how about the business at Ramsgate, which was a very big deal in Darcy’s life. Austen gives us (through Darcy’s letter) the bare bones, but she doesn’t show us the whole picture. For example, how did Georgiana get permission from her over-protective brother to travel there with Mrs. Younge in the first place? Then what prompted Darcy to follow, just in time to break up Wickham’s dastardly plan? And what about the emotional fallout afterward? How badly did Georgiana suffer, and how did Darcy deal with it?

Now, Darcy gets the chance to tell us …In His Own Words. There’s also Bingley deciding to take Netherfield, Darcy’s efforts to separate him from Jane, and later his discovering of Lydia and Wickham’s London hideaway, and his showdown with Lady Catherine de Bourgh – “it taught me to hope.” These are all “missing” from the original novel, along with several critical letters.

Even a small omission – like a bit of missing dialogue – makes me itch to fill in what belongs there, as with the two proposal scenes. In the first one, Darcy famously declares to Elizabeth, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Great beginning! But the rest of what he says in his proposal – the part where it all goes so horribly wrong – is only described, not written out. In the second proposal, it’s Elizabeth’s words that are missing. JA only tells us she immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand, that her sentiments had undergone so material a change… as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances. I enjoyed adding those missing words of dialogue too!

Perhaps the thing P&P fans miss most, though, is more of what happens after the wedding. For Jane Austen to have written a wedding-night scene would have been unthinkable, of course. But now I’m able to fill in at least a portion of that blank as well, in a very PG fashion. (Then for much more of their married life, read my sequel The Darcys of Pemberley).

I said before that Amelia was the biggest thing I added to the P&P story with this book. But when I reconsider, that’s not really true. The biggest previously missing element I added has to be Darcy’s thoughts. In this novel, he tells his own story. And so we see everything through his eyes – through his perspective and particular frame of reference, which as you know, is vastly different from Elizabeth’s, especially in the beginning. To understand a complex love story, both parties need to be heard from! Don’t you agree?

I hope you will enjoy reading Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words as it expands the Pride and Prejudice saga, adding textured layers while preserving the original story we all love so much!



 

Fitzwilliam Darcy ...in His Own Words
by Shannon Winslow


What was Mr. Darcy’s life like before he met Elizabeth Bennet? – before he stepped onto the Pride and Prejudice stage at the Meryton assembly? More importantly, where is he and what is he doing all the time he’s absent from the page thereafter? And what is his relationship to a woman named Amelia? 

With Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words, the iconic literary hero finally tells his own story, from the traumas of his early life to the consummation of his love for Elizabeth and everything in between. 

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Darcy’s point of view – a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us. As it happens, Darcy’s journey was more tortuous than she let on, his happy ending with Elizabeth in jeopardy at every turn in his struggle between duty and his heart’s desire, between the suitable lady he has promised to marry and the woman he can’t stop thinking about.
 
Buy: Amazon
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!

Connect with Shannon Winslow


Congratulations, Shannon, on the release of your new book, Fitzwilliam Darcy, in His Own Words! And thank you so much for visiting us here at So Little Time...!

So, friends, let us know what you think! Have you ever wondered what Darcy was doing or thinking while not on the pages of Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Dragons Beyond the Pale by Maria Grace ~ Blog Tour ~ Excerpt & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! I'm so excited to have Maria Grace visiting here today! Can you believe she is releasing her seventh book in her Jane Austen's Dragons Series!! Wow! Seven books - that's fantastic! 


Below, we have a lovely excerpt for you to read from Dragons Beyond the Pale. Also, Maria Grace is giving away an e-copy of either her new book, Dragons Beyond the Pale or the first of the series, Pemberley Mr. Darcy's Dragon to one of my lucky readers! Details are at the bottom of this page. 



I’m so happy to be visiting with you today Candy! I’d love to share a little excerpt from the new book, Dragons Beyond the Pale, the latest in my Jane Austen’s Dragons series.


Chapter 1 

January 10, 1815, Darcy House, London

     “Elizabeth, Elizabeth!”

     No, please, just a little more sleep.

     A heavy, warm hand weighed on her shoulder, shaking her firmly enough to dislodge the fading dream from her head. Botheration! That one seemed worth remembering.

     Where was she?

     She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. Vaguely warm, rosy streaks of morning sunlight slipped past the drawn burgundy velvet curtains to play across the plush dark leather squabs as the coach rocked and bounced over the road in time with the horses’ clip-clop.

     Oh, yes, the carriage. They had left the inn at dawn—it must be at least nine o’clock, now. So, they should be in London.

     At last.

     Darcy had insisted they not push through last night, but rather turn in early and get a solid night’s rest before arriving in town. At least as solid a night’s rest as one got whilst traveling with an infant, who still was not apt to sleep through the night. And a very young tatzelwurm, who had only recently conquered her extended hatching hunger.

     Thank heavens for Nanny, whose need for uninterrupted sleep was far less than her own. Even so, after the last several months in Bath, the dear drake might yet decide to hibernate for six months to catch up on her rest. No one would blame her.

     Elizabeth pushed herself upright. Everything smelt of Darcy’s sandalwood soap and shaving oil. Of course it did. She had been lying—quite comfortably—with her head in his lap. “How long?”

     “Almost since the moment we left.” He helped her sit straight.

     Stiff neck, shoulders, back, everything, despite the excellent springs and generous squabs. Precisely why Papa detested travel even when his health had permitted it.

     Darcy slid the curtains open several inches. She blinked against the morning brightness and shivered. Even with the sun through the side glass, the coach was a touch cold, especially after having been cuddled up close to him. 

     The white ironwork fairy dragon ‘cage,’ mostly covered by its blue quilted cozy, swung gently on the hook opposite the door. April balanced on the swing, twittering. “Perhaps you will now believe us when we insist you have been working too hard.” She fluttered out and perched on Elizabeth’s knees, scratchy toes piercing the grey-blue wool of her pelisse.

     A sunbeam caught the tiny fairy dragon’s blue feather-scales just so. She sparkled like a little gem as she presented her chin for a scratch. Her soft hide was still vaguely warm from her hot-brick-heated ‘cage.’

     “I seem to remember you singing a great deal. Perhaps that might have had something to do with my excessive slumber.” Elizabeth yawned into her hands.

     “You slept, he did not.” April pointed her wing at Darcy. “What does that tell you?”

     “She is right,” Darcy murmured, stroking April’s back with his fingertip.

     “There was a very great deal to be done, what with Twelfth Night and trying to take leave of Bath.”

     “Every dragon there must have called upon you, twice.” Darcy’s lips pressed into that hard, straight line that was not a frown but might as well be.

     “Cornwall did not.” All told, that was probably a very good thing.

     “Cornwall is quite the exception to the rule. He will always resent the part you played in denying him the gold that Kellynch purloined from the Merchant Royal.”

     “Thankfully, the rest of the Blue Order Council and even the Brenin himself are satisfied with the outcome of the court proceedings. Cornwall was in violation of so many laws, it could have gone very badly against him.” She stretched to dissipate a shudder that would have disturbed April.

     Just how narrowly had they averted disaster at that special court? Best not dwell on it just now.

     “Not to minimize your outstanding success, my dear, but I hope our stay in London is not nearly so interesting.” Darcy shook his head a bit, his dark hair falling just a bit into his face. Now they were back in town, he would need to see his favorite barber soon. The man he saw in Bath had hardly deserved the title of barber.

     “On that we shall agree. I hope to apply myself to sleeping late, eating biscuits, and attending teas and parties with the other ladies of my rank.”

     “There are no other ladies of your rank,” April murmured under her breath as she cleaned between her long toes.

     While that was only true in part, the isolation it suggested was not pleasant to consider. 

     “Has there been any word from Nanny’s coach?” Elizabeth pulled the curtains fully open and peered through the side glass, catching a glimpse of the black carriage, curtains tightly drawn, following close behind them.

     “Not a one.”

     “Your hatchling seems very happy to travel with the little wyrmling. It is as though her purr is as soporific as my song.”

     “Junior keeper, if you please.” Darcy cleared his throat and covered his ears lest April’s ear nip catch him unawares. He had acquired that habit very soon after coming into April’s acquaintance. “I confess, I find it odd that our daughter, not even walking yet, travels with not one, but two companion dragons. You must grant it is very unconventional.”

     “I am convinced children would come into their hearing sooner if exposed to dragons at an earlier age.” Elizabeth harrumphed, her hackles rising. Had they not settled this matter months ago? 

     “The Order might have a point, though. Children do pose a great risk of exposing the Order, especially if one is not certain whether they can hear or not.”

     “The Gardiner children have been well-versed in the dangers of exposing the secrets of dragonkind.”

     “But they are considerably older than Anne, and were identified as hearing before they were regularly exposed to dragons. Rustle avoided their company until it had been established.”

     Stubborn, vexing man! “Are you suggesting that Anne cannot—”

     “I do not question your decisions regarding our daughter. There is no doubt she is as exceptional as her mother. But I fear the ladies of the Order might not be as open to such ideas.” He ran his fist along the edge of his jaw.

     “They will just have to harden themselves to the idea that they do not know everything—”

     “Lady Matlock questions your methods.”

     Why did he have to bring her up? She was nearly as exasperating as her husband’s sister, the honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh! That name, that family still left her clenching her teeth and biting her tongue. “And what do I care for her opinions? She is not an officer of the Order.”

     “Some courtesy is required, as her husband is Chancellor of the Order, to whom even you have to answer. Not to mention Cownt Matlock is, technically, her Dragon Mate. And he has done us a great favor by walking Pemberley back to London for us.”

     “Probably as a means to get out of traveling with the good lady.”

     “Elizabeth?” His tone stopped just short of rebuke.

     Botheration! He was right. Mama had taught her better manners than to even permit such untoward thoughts.

     “Forgive me. I am a bit out of temper this morning. Perhaps I am in need of a bit of rest.” She closed her eyes and leaned back into the soft squabs. A touch of a headache pulsed just behind her eyes. 

     So many hours spent reading and writing late into the night. So many dragons to meet. So many questions from Keeper and dragon and Friend alike, all needing answers. Even at the inns they stayed in, all run by members of the Order, minor dragons and their Friends had all but lined up to greet them and seek her advice.

     Most of the questions had been simple, even banal: advice for talon rot, bad teeth and scale mites; the management of pucks’ hoards; territorial disputes between fairy dragon harems; hunting rights, rights of way. But there were just so many of them. 

     All the more reason to get those monographs written and distributed into the hands of Dragon Friends as soon as possible.

     “You are working again.” Darcy tapped her knee with his fingertips, his voice low and thoughtful. 

     “Not working, but thinking about all that needs to be done.”

     “Have you considered my suggestion? Apply to the Order for a secretary to assist you. I know there are several apprentice scribes, human and drake, that Lady Astrid has deemed ready to become journeymen.”

     “I just prefer to do things myself.” She leaned back and sighed. “I suppose I now know why Father fought so long against such help.”

     April twittered something disagreeable and Darcy muttered a dissenting sound. He knew better than to actually form words—those she could always hear. 

     “But I shall learn from Papa’s stubbornness. After we have recovered from this journey, I will speak to our esteemed Scribe myself.”

     He offered a warm nod of approval that ended well short of gloating at his success. At least he was not insufferable when he was right.

     The coach stopped in the mews behind the Darcy House, near the little walled garden just beyond the terrace house’s back door. Shadows still covered nearly all of the mews’ space—the sun only reached there after noon. Still, the private stillness of the familiar carriage house and small courtyard welcomed her.

     The driver let down the steps with an echoing, metallic clank and opened the door. Crisp air flooded in, carrying with it all the unique London scents: coal smoke, the Thames, a particular mix of dragon musk different to that in the country. In a few days it would all fade into the background, but for now, each breeze would remind her they were in the city now.

     Darcy exited first. He preferred to hand her down himself. Such a dear man.

     A dark blur launched from the driver’s box toward the roof. Walker. 

     He would be conducting a sweep of the area, checking for anything that did not meet with his approval. How protective he had become towards Elizabeth, Anne, April and even little Pemberley, and even more so since May had hatched. He and the wyrmling were inexplicably close—an odd pair to be certain, but May adored her curmudgeonly cockatrice uncle. And he tolerated familiarities from her that none other would dare. Who else would dare lick his feather-scales, attempting to groom him?

     Such an unusual, and very dear, draconic family they had formed.

     She stretched, careful not to dislodge April from her shoulder, adjusting to the intrusive, even overwhelming, sounds of the city. Even so early, how noisy it was. Carriages with horses on the street beyond the mews; peddlers calling out about their wares; a tatzelwurm chasing a rat—and catching it; a puck arguing with it over the catch. Not entirely unlike Bath.

     It was home, though, and that made all the difference.

     Knee-high minor drakes, Slate and Amber, the Darcy family livery badge emblazoned on green baize vests buttoned across their chests, bounded out to meet them, with toothy draconic smiles. No doubt the housekeeper had fashioned those to help keep them warm in the chill weather. There was a reason Elizabeth liked the woman. 

     April warbled a greeting, which the drakes returned in kind.

     “Lady Sage, Vicontes Pemberley arrived a few hours ago. She is sleeping in her nest in the cellar. I expect she might sleep for a day or more.” Amber’s deep yellow-orange eyes glittered in the sun; her well-oiled dark-green hide spoke of the excellent care the staff dragons enjoyed. It was good to see that continued without their presence in the house. 

     “I am not surprised. It is such a long walk for a little dragon.”

     “Cownt Matlock suggested he might sleep for a week,” Slate added with an almost mischievous grin.

     Nanny approached from the second carriage. More blue than green in the morning light, Nanny walked on hind feet with Anne cradled in her front legs. She moved like a tall, slender schoolmistress, posture perfect, each step purposeful and sure. May, the little black tatzelwurmling with tufted ears too big for her face, spring-hopped to keep up with Nanny’s long strides. 

“Mrrrow?” May skidded to a stop, staring at Slate and Amber with startled, wide, golden eyes. They were not the first drakes she had ever seen. Perhaps she had forgotten Elizabeth’s reminder they would be present.

     Elizabeth stepped close to May, crouching to stroke the back of her neck. “Slate, Amber, may I present our new Friend, May.”

     The lithe wyrmling stretched out her front paws and touched her chin to the ground. Slate and Amber licked the top of her head with their very long tongues. May looked up at them and licked their cheeks. Not the greeting she had been taught, but it worked. The drakes made a happy little warble in the back of their throats.

     Elizabeth stood, knees still stiff and sore. “Show May around the house, then make up a warm basket for her in the nursery.”

     “The nursery, Lady Sage?” Amber cocked her long head so far it was almost upside down.

     “Yes, she is to stay with Junior Keeper as much as possible. Slate, attend Nanny and help her with whatever she needs.”

     “Yes, Sage.” They dipped in a small bow—or was it more of a curtsey?—and hurried off after Nanny.

     Darcy followed Nanny into the house with his gaze. “Cats are generally not allowed in nurseries. Do you think…” 

     “Absolutely. Surely you have noticed, Anne sleeps so much better when May is with her. That alone should convince you! Besides, true cats do not harm babies, much less tatzelwurms–who have far more sense than the typical cat. If that is not sufficient, Nanny will be there watching over them all. I know you trust her.” 

     Yes, there had been an impatient note in her voice, and no, he probably did not deserve it. She kneaded the back of her neck. Would it be wrong to go directly to bed now?

     Walker swooped down from the roof and back-winged as his feet touched the ground. “The Matlocks approach.”

     “So soon? We have been here less than an hour,” Darcy all but stammered.

     “You cannot imagine your arrival has gone unnoticed. I expect the call is not purely social.” Walker raked his talons against the cobblestones. What was he worried about?

     Darcy pinched the bridge of his nose and wrinkled his forehead as though hoping to stave off a headache. “Lovely, just lovely.” 

     “And it seems Lady Matlock is with him.”

     April squawked a discordant note. Elizabeth winced before she could stop herself.

     “Do you wish to be home to her?” Darcy muttered through clenched teeth. His Aunt Matlock was too much like his Aunt Catherine for anyone’s liking.

     “Much as I would defer the honor of her presence, it seems that pleasure would come at a high price. Perhaps we can manage a cup of tea before they arrive?” Elizabeth dragged herself toward the door and certain vexation, April twittering a soft, soothing trill in her ear.

***

     A quarter of an hour later, the housekeeper brought the tea service into the morning room, a lovely, snug room with dark furniture, a round table that could seat six, and bright white walls hung with drawings done by Lady Anne Darcy. The sort of place one wanted to linger and breathe in the fragrance of peace and rest.

     Five minutes later, before the tea was even poured, the butler announced the Matlocks’ arrival. The earl and his wife swept into the room, wearing their rank like court robes.

     He was tall and looked like nothing so much as an older version of his son Richard, though his nose was a mite sharper, more aquiline, and his hazel eyes narrower. She was short and plump and proud; her double chin lifted a mite too high, so her beady dark eyes seemed to be staring down at everyone. 

     Elizabeth and Darcy rose. April hovered between them.

     “Uncle, Aunt, a pleasure to see you this morning.” The way Darcy emphasized the final word reminded all that it was too early for a polite morning call.

     “Lord Matlock, Lady Matlock.” Elizabeth curtsied despite her knees’ protest.

     “Darcy, Lady Elizabeth. Oh yes, and April, too.” Matlock looked straight at Darcy. It did not seem an insult so much as preoccupation. That probably was not a good sign.

     Lady Matlock grimaced just a little. She did not approve of Elizabeth having a title in her own right, or so the fairy dragon gossip suggested. A title so newly created would never have the weight of one properly inherited so was hardly worth having at all.

     “Pray forgive our call on the heels of your arrival, but there are matters that just cannot wait. I would see you in your study, Darcy.” Lord Matlock turned for the doorway.

     April squawked softly as Elizabeth bit her tongue. No point in reminding either of them that it might be wise to include her. Whatever the issue, if it concerned her, she would find out, likely straight from the dragon’s mouth, as it were. Why was it so difficult to convince the men of the Council that things often went better when she was brought into a concern earlier rather than later?

     Vexing, hidebound dominance seekers.

     A large, cold void filled the morning room, growing larger by the moment.

     “Would you care for some tea, Lady Matlock?” Elizabeth gestured Lady Matlock to a place at the table.

     “What kind is it?” April hopped across the table and landed on the edge of a dainty china saucer covered with tiny yellow roses, one intentionally set for her, which looked lovely against her bright turquoise feather-scales.

     “Earl Grey.” Elizabeth suppressed her smile. April had just recently developed a decided preference for the bergamot-infused beverage. She had refused to try it until she learned it was flavored with a fruit, then suddenly she was quite enamored with it.

     “I would like some, with honey.” April hopped from one foot to the other. It was entirely possible the tea was simply an excuse to drink honey.

     “And you, Lady Matlock?”

     Lady Matlock stared at April. Not pleasantly, but in the way one glared at a disobedient child or a clumsy servant. Of course. Dragons at the breakfast table were not covered in etiquette manuals, not even ones published by the Blue Order. 

     One more monograph she would have to write.

     “Ah, well, yes, please.” Her face said she was only taking the tea to humor Elizabeth, but at least she was attempting to be polite.

     Elizabeth poured the tea, sweetened April’s with a shocking amount of honey, and sat down. 

     Lady Matlock looked at her expectantly. What was she waiting for?

     “How is Cownt Matlock after his journey? It was very kind of him to walk Pemberley back to London for us.” If she wanted small talk, then it would be about dragons.

     “In little humor for conversation. He had no idea how much young creatures talked nor how many questions they asked.” Lady Matlock’s features softened just a little.

     “I had wondered if that would be the case. I did try to warn him, but little Pemberley gets so ill in a cart or carriage, he insisted it would be an indignity for her to be forced into such a conveyance. We are very grateful for his help.” At least she could say that with genuine enthusiasm.

     “He did say you and Darcy have done well by her. She is showing signs of being an excellent young dragon, which must be considered a good thing, all told. Will you be presenting her at the Dragon Keepers’ Cotillion next month?” Lady Matlock sipped her tea, staring over the edge of the cup with an odd look of expectation.

     “I think she is still full young for that. She has learned many of the proper greetings and displays when introduced to other dragons. But I do not think she is quite ready for so many people and so many dragons in company at once. Despite all she has learned, she is still a baby. It is one thing to have been forced together with many other dragons in court. It is quite another to try to manage all the trappings of a formal engagement as extensive as the Cotillion. I see no harm in waiting a year, or even two.”

     “Well, that is some relief.” 

     “I am not sure I take your meaning.”

     “Perhaps you should see the list of presentations this year.” Lady Matlock opened her reticule and pulled out a neatly penned card. “In particular, you may want to note the ladies you are sponsoring for presentation at the ball.”

     “I am sponsoring? You must be mistaken.”

     “I think not. This is the official Record and has been sent to all Keepers and other invitees.” She tapped a spot at the top of the list. “See here: Dragon Sage, Lady Elizabeth Darcy.”

     “Mrs. Mary Collins, Keeper to Longbourn, and her husband? Mr. Collins will be presented to the Order? When was this decided?” And why now—but perhaps this was not the company for that question.

     “You will have to ask our Historian.” Lady Matlock’s lip curled just a bit. 

     “Why is Father not sponsoring them? He is an officer of the Order, even if he has retired as a Keeper.”

     “He is without title, Lady Elizabeth.” Lady Matlock stared directly into her eyes.

     “So, he is using that as an excuse to get out of his duties now?” Elizabeth dragged her hand down her face and peered at the list again. “Miss Lydia Bennet? No one has consulted me. Have Auntie and her schoolmistress approved?”

     “Another point to discuss with your father.”

     “Miss Georgiana Darcy? Should not you and Lord Matlock—”

     “One would think so.” Lady Matlock lifted her eyebrow.

     “But why? It makes no sense.”

     “Pray, may I be frank with you?” Frank? A Lady of the ton wanted to be frank? What was one to make of that?

     “Pray do.”

     “I understand you had nothing to do with the dragons’ decision to create you as Sage or as Lady Elizabeth; and that there were no machinations on your part when you became betrothed to Darcy in front of the Conclave; and that your relationship with dragons, your knowledge of them is all hard won and comes at a cost. There are many who do not see things that way. Many who are jealous of your rather, ah, as it is called ‘fairy tale’ story.”

     “That is absurd. What does that have to do with the Cotillion and sponsoring all my sisters at once?”

     “Not just your sisters, but Lady Wentworth as well. She and her husband are to be presented as Keepers to Kellynch.”

     “This is ridiculous! Impossible! How am I to possibly manage four presentations? Arrange for the dresses, teach them the protocols? There is so much other work to be done. The monographs alone that I need to write will require several months of effort.” She clutched the edge of the table.

     Lady Matlock leaned forward on her elbows, her eyes sharp and severe. “Work that can wait until after the cotillion. You have been so busy managing dragons, I think you have forgotten there are people in the Order as well.”

     “They do not require a Sage in order to be understood.”

     “But they do require a sage to help them to understand how to take their place in Blue Order dragon society. And I do not mean only the debutantes. Perhaps you have not noticed, but not many of the Order have your ease with dragons, and it causes problems. So, if I may be so bold, Lady Sage, pause your salons and your manuscripts and attend to the rest of the Order’s members, the human ones, with as much fervor as you have the dragons. I expect your future influence depends on it.”


***

Intrigued to know what happens with the Matlocks and the whole of the Blue Order? I hope so! Come join me on Elizabeth and Darcy’s latest adventures in Dragons Beyond the Pale!




Dragons Beyond the Pale
By Maria Grace

Smugglers. A kidnapping. A fire-breathing fairy dragon? The Blue Order is falling apart at the seams. 

After months in Bath mentoring Dragon Keepers and Friends, Dragon Sage Elizabeth Darcy actually anticipates traveling to London for the Keeper’s Cotillion. Which says a great deal considering the she-dragons who make up the Cotillion board would very much like to show the Sage her proper place. 

The she-dragons, though, are no match for what Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy finds waiting for him in London. Threats to the Order on every side, and Lord Matlock demands he keep them secret from Elizabeth. No one keeps secrets from Elizabeth. 

In the meantime, Anne and Frederick Wentworth arrive in London with hopes of finally being accepted in good Blue Order society, unaware of the burgeoning maelstrom about to engulf them. 

Darcy manages to keep matters under control until a fairy-dragon’s prank unleashes sinister forces who perpetrate an unthinkable crime that could spell the end of the Pendragon Accords and usher in a new age of dragon war. 

Can Elizabeth and Darcy, with the Wentworths’ help, restore balance to the Blue Order before the dragons decide to take matters into their own talons and right the wrongs themselves?
 
Buy: Amazon • Series Link Amazon
Add to Goodreads.

FTC Disclaimer: Links 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! 




About the Author


Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time. 
 
She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. 


Connect with Maria Grace



* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! Maria Grace is giving away one eBook of Dragons Beyond the Pale or Pemberley Mr. Darcy's Dragon to one of my lucky readers!

To enter the giveaway by the Rafflecopter below! If you have trouble entering the Rafflecopter, please, send me an email and I can help! 

  • One person will win an eCopy of Dragons Beyond the Pale or Pemberley Mr. Darcy's Dragon.
  • To enter though the Rafflecopter and comment below.
  • Rafflecopter will randomly pick winner.
  • Open Internationally.
  • The last day to enter the giveaway is May 6, 2021, Midnight - Pacific Time.

Good luck!

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Congratulations, Maria Grace, on the release of Dragons Beyond the Pale! Thank you so much for stopping by and offering one of my readers an eCopy of your book!


Friends, I hope you enjoyed that excerpt! If you have any thoughts, we'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Dare to Refuse Such a Man by Mary Smythe ~ Blog Tour ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

Hello, my friends! Today I have the lovely Mary Smythe visiting here with an excerpt from her new book, Dare to Refuse Such a Man




Thanks for having me on your blog today, Candy. It’s wonderful to be here!


This excerpt takes place during the earlier portion of Dare to Refuse Such a Man, while Darcy and Elizabeth are still in Derbyshire and busy falling in love with one another. They've had a few minor bumps so far—mostly due to Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth's wariness over his intentions—but Darcy’s on the verge of a proposal (one he'd hoped to tender a month prior) and Elizabeth on the verge of accepting him. Until...well, you'll see. The next scene after this one is where the bottom falls out.


Excerpt

     Elizabeth sat in dazed happiness as she and the Gardiners trundled back to the parsonage from the dinner party at Pemberley, thinking fondly—more than fondly—of the master of that great estate. 

     What kept the irrepressible delight upon her face was the suspicion Mr Darcy—her sweet Fitzwilliam, as she referred to him when no one else was around to hear—might offer the proposal she had waited for these last weeks. As their party had donned their overcoats for the journey to Lambton, Darcy had very gently touched her elbow and led her to the side of the great hall.

     “Miss Bennet,” he had said in a voice loud enough to be heard by the company around them. Eyes darting to see who might be listening before resting back upon her face, he had then continued in a much softer tone. “Elizabeth, might I…that is, would you grant me the honour of a private interview tomorrow?”

     Elizabeth felt the same jolt of excitement pierce low in her belly as she recalled how pleasantly surprised she had been by the request and what it must mean. His earnest expression betrayed an endearing apprehension as he awaited her reply, and she had been charmed by his guileless eagerness. 

     “Yes.” The single word rushed out of her as it clung to her exhalation. “I would be happy to grant you a private interview, Mr Darcy. Fitzwilliam.” She had whispered his name at a register low enough for only him to hear.

     Their gazes locked as Darcy lifted one of her hands and brushed his lips gently across her gloved fingers. “Until tomorrow, then.”

     “Yes,” she repeated, her heart beating so rapidly it felt as if it would burst free of her chest and submit itself directly into his possession. He already owned it, after all.

     “Are you well, Lizzy?” 

     Elizabeth broke from her reverie at the sudden intrusion of her aunt’s voice. Much the same had happened earlier when her family had reminded the couple, with indulgent amusement, it was time to depart. 

     Elizabeth turned her head to her teasing aunt, whose lips were curved upward in that knowing fashion she sometimes utilised when she suspected one of her nieces had a secret. Laughing, as she could hold it in no longer, Elizabeth replied, “Oh, yes, very well, indeed!”

     Mr Burns, sitting directly across from her, snorted in his sleep at the sharp bark of her mirth and resettled into another position, his head lolled back against the seat cushions and mouth drooped open. Beside him, her uncle Gardiner’s attention turned towards his niece with an expression similar to his wife’s. “This would not be in any way related to Mr Darcy, would it?”

     Elizabeth, though hardly ashamed of her feelings for the gentleman in question, could not help but blush. “Perhaps.”

     Aunt Gardiner nudged her lightly with her elbow. “What has he done to make you glow in such a way, Lizzy?” 

     “He…” Elizabeth paused, biting her lip as she tamped down the excitement which threatened to bubble forth without filter. “He has requested a private audience with me. In the morning.”

     As Mrs Gardiner exclaimed with joy and embraced her niece, Mr Gardiner asked, “He did, did he?”

     Elizabeth, over her aunt’s shoulder, glanced towards her uncle to see him smiling at her with wry indulgence. He did not seem in any way perturbed by Elizabeth’s news but rather jovial.

     “He did.” As Aunt Gardiner released her and settled back, Elizabeth asked, “Is aught the matter?”

     Mr Gardiner chuckled. “No, no. I am simply amazed he was patient enough to wait so long.”

     “It might not be a proposal,” she reminded them all, cautioning her own heart to rein in its expectations lest she be disappointed in the morning if he simply wished to discuss a book or his sister. She could not imagine why he would require a private meeting for such a conversation, but it would not do to inflate her hopes just yet. 

     Mr Gardiner guffawed. “Nonsense! He has been wanting to make his offer since he first approached me a month ago. I suspect he has been growing impatient awaiting Bennet’s response to the letter I sent a month ago. Honestly, it is much to the credit of his honour that he did not simply ignore my caution and propose already. I am much impressed with his fortitude.”

     Elizabeth’s heart again fluttered rapidly as if it were ready to take flight and return to Pemberley. She hardly dared to believe her uncle. “Truly?” 

     “Truly.” The corners of Uncle Gardiner’s eyes crinkled fondly. “Can I assume you are inclined to respond favourably to him when he asks you this most important question?”

     Elizabeth’s cheeks began to ache as her grin strained them. “You may.”

     In the middle of her aunt’s renewed felicitations, the carriage lurched to a stop in front of the parsonage. Elderly Mr Burns was nearly pitched to the floor as he came awake with an exclamation—“I say!”—but was luckily kept in his seat by his diligent son-in-law’s quick, steadying hand. As this was occurring, the door of their conveyance was pulled open and a hand thrust inside to assist the passengers out.

     Elizabeth, as the closest lady to the exit, placed her gloved palm upon it and exclaimed, “Papa!”




Dare to Refuse Such A Man
by Mary Smythe

“He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything which he condescended to ask.” 

 – Mr Bennet, Pride and Prejudice Volume III, Chapter 17 

It had never occurred to Fitzwilliam Darcy that, once he had chosen a bride, her father might dare to refuse his consent. When his dearest, loveliest Elizabeth is taken from him with only a curt note of explanation, he determines that, far from accepting her father’s rejection of his suit, he must instead find her again and make his case. After all, a woman worthy of being pleased is also worth fighting for. 

Several months shy of her majority, it is not so simple a thing to defy Mr Bennet’s will, but Elizabeth, for the sake of her future happiness, must try. With various allies in her corner, as well as foes standing against her, Elizabeth’s courage must rise against all attempts at intimidation. Even from her own, much beloved father.
 
Buy: Amazon
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!

About the Author

Mary Smythe is a homemaker living in South Carolina with a
rather useless BA in English collecting dust in a closet somewhere. Mrs Smythe discovered the works of Jane Austen as a teenager thanks to the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries featuring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and has since gone on to read everything written by Ms Austen at least once yearly, always wishing that there were more. She has been writing since 2001, but only discovered Jane Austen Fanfiction in the summer of 2018. Dare to Refuse Such a Man is the first full-length novel she has ever completed, though she can boast a few shorter works in her library, as well. 


Blog Tour Schedule

April 26, 2021 - Jane Austen State of Mind
April 27, 2021 - So Little Time...
April 28, 2021 - My Vices & Weaknesses
April 30, 2021 - From Pemberley to Milton

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

Quills & Quartos Publishing will choose a lucky reader to receive a free eBook copy. To enter, all you have to do is comment on one or more blog tour posts.



Congratulations to Mary Smythe on her debut novel, Dare to Refuse Such a Man

Many thanks to Kristi with Quills and Quartos Publishing for organizing and including me on this tour.

So, friends, what did you think of that excerpt?? It looks like Elizabeth is in for some major heartbreak! 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...