Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Very Austen Valentine Blog Tour! ~ Guest Post with Robin Helm, Excerpts, & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! It's my pleasure to have Robin Helm visiting here today as part of A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Bk 2 Blog Tour! Not only is Robin sharing a little about her writing journey, but we also have excerpts from both Barbara Cornthwaite and Laura Hile's stories! Yay!

Plus, the authors are giving away copies of A Very Austen Valentine! Details are at the bottom of the page! 

I was first published in Highlights, a magazine which published the works of school children. I think I was in the second or third grade when my poem about my mother was included in the publication. I've always been a storyteller. My second-grade teacher would often call me to the front of the class to entertain my fellow students with stories I made up on the spot. I usually based the stories on true events and spun wild tales interwoven with facts.

My favorite school classes were tenth grade English (we wrote an essay a day for six weeks), eleventh grade English (we put together portfolios of our short stories, poems, and creative definitions), and senior Advanced Composition (creative writing). The encouragement to write continued into my freshman English class in college. One of my free verse poems was read aloud to the class. It was a riddle, or a “charade” in Regency speak.

I began to write romantic fiction for publication in 2010, and I've published a book every year since I finished that book in 2011. I have four more new releases coming out in the next year, after the newly released A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2, and continuing with More to Love, Lawfully Innocent, Maestro, and A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3

(Funny Side Note: Many people have complimented us on the cover of A Very Austen Valentine. We love it, too. After all, we drove the cover designer crazy tweaking it. "Straighten out his pants and the tails on his jacket. Change the color of her dress. Put roses on the arch. Lose the low wall behind her. Are those bushes sticking in her back? Take them out, please. Give us a Regency mansion behind them instead of clouds. Flip the couple. He has a stray hair at the front. Please photoshop it out. Darken his hair. Nope. Lighten it again." All worth it.)

There’s an interesting back story behind how I came to write “I Dream of You,” my offering in the anthology. I was nearly finished writing More to Love with every intention of including it in the collection, but Laura Hile said NO. She said it was a book and deserved its own solo publication. So, I put it aside and began to write Maestro. Guess what? When I was a few chapters in, Laura jumped on that same soapbox again. With about a month until the deadline, and after several sleepless nights, I pulled together shorter works from my first years of writing, rewriting them like a fiend until the idea for “I Dream of You” came together in my mind. I have never written anything that quickly in my life. It literally changed the way I viewed myself as an author. Writing a story doesn’t have to take me a year anymore.

So, why do I write? I credit support and encouragement from my mother, sister, teachers, friends, husband, daughters, readers, and church members. It takes an encouraging tribe to make a writer.


I Dream of You by Robin Helm 

Newly-married Elizabeth Darcy has a plan: to charm her too-busy husband into desiring her company as much as he did when he was courting her. A series of romantic dreams gives her just the push she needs to put that plan into action. 

Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile 

Faced with a lonely future and finding himself strapped for cash, Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot manfully decides to marry again. But his careful plans go sadly awry! A lighthearted Valentine mash-up featuring two of Jane Austen's worst snobs. 

My Forever Valentine by Wendi Sotis 

Jane and Charles Bingley have married, even though Miss Elizabeth Bennet remains certain Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gave his best effort to keep them apart. After Mr. Darcy refused to stand up with Bingley and did not attend the wedding, she despises the gentleman more than ever and finds his company intolerable. How will she endure her visit to Kent if Mr. Darcy turns up everywhere she goes? 

Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite 

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger forces Elizabeth to resort to subterfuge in order to discover his true intentions. 

My Valentine by Mandy H. Cook 

Little Charlotte was always determined and independent, traits which served her well as she battled a serious childhood illness and later as she took on Polite Society. Will those traits now deprive her of true love? Or would her lifelong Valentine win her heart? 

The Lovers’ Ruse by Susan Kaye 

In this Persuasion alteration, Anne is so altered by Wentworth's love in the summer of 1806, she refuses to give him up when both her godmother and father try to persuade her. “The Lovers' Ruse” follows Frederick and Anne through their whirlwind courtship and their secret engagement. When Wentworth returns for his Annie girl, the cat comes out of the bag.

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Excerpt from Pretence and Prejudice by Barbara Cornthwaite

Darcy left early the next morning and stopped at midday in a small market town called Meryton. His manservant enquired about a meal at the hostelry on the main street.

“There’s no private room available, Mr. Darcy,” reported the servant, “this not being a main road, and too small a town for Quality to frequent. There is a parlour, though, set apart from the taproom, and they said you can eat your meal there.”

In a few minutes, Darcy was taking a seat near the only window in the rather dark room. It gave him a view of a couple of shops, three houses, and a pretty little church. He remembered his cousin’s words and smiled to think about himself as a clergyman. If he had been the clergyman in this town, say, he would be eating a nuncheon in just this fashion when he travelled. And if he were a poor curate, travel would be done on horseback, not in a carriage. His meal would be simple, as this one was (though the innkeeper had done his best). However, he probably would have someone to converse with as he ate in the taproom—one of the local farmers or tradesmen. He stared out the window in boredom.

A group of young ladies came down the street. They were smartly dressed but not elegant; most likely daughters of a well-off merchant or the local squire. There were three of them, and they paused outside his window.

“Charlotte!” called one of them, and waved to someone across the road.

“Lydia!” said another of the girls reprovingly, and added some remarks that were spoken too softly for Darcy to hear through the window. The young woman called Charlotte came across the road to meet them; she had rather a plain face but an intelligent expression, and she stood conversing with them for a few minutes. If he were that clergyman, Mr. Fitzwilliam—no, what had his cousin suggested? Mr. Williams, that was it—yes, if he were that Mr. Williams, he would probably be looking to this group for a wife. It was not a happy notion. Not one of them caught his attention. One of the older young ladies, the one who had reproved Lydia, had a pretty face, and evidently enough manners that she knew what proper behaviour was. But no, he would not have been tempted to know her better, even if they had been of the same rank.

Excerpt from Sir Walter Takes a Wife by Laura Hile

Because only the elderly use spectacles—so unfashionable! So unsightly!—Sir Walter Elliot made a mistake when he addressed his Valentine card. Alas for him! For the lady who received it is quite different from the one he had mind. 

Long and hard did Lady Catherine stare at the card, with its riot of hearts and roses. A Valentine! At her age! Who would dare to send such a thing?

Its message sent her brows climbing skyward. So love was a link of matchless jewels, was it? The man must be a fortune hunter, whoever he was.

And she possessed treasures men had seen? Well!

Lady Catherine hitched up the neckline of her gown. The nerve!

Whoever this Walter Elliot was, she would soon send him packing—and with a flea in his ear, too! Would she be his Valentine?

“Not in a million years,” she said, rising to her feet. She could not get to her writing desk fast enough. Sir Walter Elliot would soon discover that he was barking up the wrong tree.

  My Dear Sir, she began.

No, this was not right. He was not dear, nor should she use the possessive pronoun my.

My Dear Sir,
While I can appreciate your kindness intelligence in singling me out as your Valentine on Valentine’s Day, I beg leave to inform you that I have no intention of indulging in foolishness inclination for courtship at this time. My life has enough trouble without “falling in love” with an idiotic fool of a man, even one who styles himself a prince. 
Whatever I need done on the estate, I can hire. 

Here Lady Catherine paused. Sir Walter expressed romantic interest, and yet the wording of her reply implied that she could hire—

Botheration! Trust a man—any man!—to take an innocent statement the wrong way. Lady Catherine scratched out the last sentence and continued writing.

Even if I were of an amorous nature (which I am not) I have little desire to take on—

She gave a cackling laugh. Why mince words with a fortune hunter?

—to take on the reformation of yet another gentleman. My late husband would doubtless advise you to move on to a more compliant prospect.
Please accept my sincere wishes for good health and prosperity.
I remain,
Independent of princes and well-content,
The Rt. Hon. Lady Catherine de Bourgh
As she copied out her letter there came a sound—was it laughter? She looked toward the windows, and a movement on the lawn caught her eye. She pushed back her chair and went to investigate. 

Well. Here were not her groundskeeper and his assistant, but those annoying Howell boys. Really, Sir Charles should keep his sons in better order! They were always sneaking onto her estate, as if they had nothing better to do at Fairview Manor. She would write to Sir Charles and offer suggestions. Hadn’t they ponies to ride or dogs to train? Boys needed lessons in shooting, but Lady Catherine would never suggest this. Knowing those two, her windows would be used for target practice!

Back to the desk she went, grinding her teeth. The sight of Sir Walter’s Valentine only fanned her irritation.

Midway through her letter to Sir Charles, however, a new thought occurred. Was Sir Walter Elliot the sender of the Valentine? Or was it a cruel jest designed to taunt her? This was just the sort of thing the Howell boys would do—choose a gentleman’s name and then compose a fraudulent love note!

Yes, and they were running about in her garden and stealing glances at the house. Were they expecting to see a lovelorn reaction? She would give them a reaction. At church she would find them and box their ears!

Lady Catherine now studied the Valentine with new eyes. Of course this was a hoax. As thou, my Catherine, art hale and fine was something no gentleman would say to his ladylove! But a coltish youngster certainly would, laughing at every word.

The postal marks indicated that the Valentine originated in Bath, but Lady Catherine was not born yesterday. The eldest Howell girl was at school there. How simple it would be for her brothers to include her in the ruse!

Perhaps, then, the reply to Sir Walter should be more moderate. Lady Catherine drew forward a fresh sheet of paper.

Dear Sir Walter,
I thank you for the Valentine card and the message it contained.
However, I do not for one minute suppose that you are its true sender. That honour belongs to Masters James and Richard Howell of Fairview Manor, gentleman’s sons with nothing better to do than taunt a poor widow on Valentine’s Day. Doubtless they found your name in Debrett’s and, with flagrant disregard for the havoc it would cause, boldly (and unlawfully) signed your name.
I am writing to warn you. Knowing these two, I am not the only recipient of a Valentine bearing your signature. If you receive a reply from a Mrs. Stuart-Morton or a Miss Kipp, be on your guard! They are husband-hunters of the worst sort—as the Masters Howell (and indeed, all the inhabitants of Hunsford!) know.
When next I see these young rapscallions, I shall certainly give them a piece of my mind. I expect to run them to ground at Sunday service. For once, their prayers for mercy shall be heartfelt!

The Rt. Hon. Lady Catherine de Bourgh

About the Authors

Robin Helm bio

Robin Helm's books reflect her love of music, as well as her fascination with the paranormal and science fiction. 

Previously published works include The Guardian Trilogy: Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy (a guardian angel protects a supernaturally gifted girl), the Yours by Design series: Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours (Fitzwilliam Darcy switches places in time with his descendant, Will Darcy), and Understanding Elizabeth (Regency romance).

She contributed to A Very Austen Christmas: Austen Anthologies, Book 1, an anthology featuring like-minded authors, in 2017. A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2  was released on December 29, 2018. A Very Austen Romance: Austen Anthologies, Book 3 is planned for December 2019.

She lives in sunny South Carolina and adores her one husband, two married daughters, and three grandchildren.   


Laura Hile bio

Readers are loving Laura Hile's joyous Regency novels. Her signature style—with intertwined plots, cliffhangers, laugh-out-loud humor, and romance—keeps them coming back for more.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There's never a dull moment with teen students!

Laura lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a collection of antique clocks. 
Her fiction is for everyone, even teens.

Wendi Sotis bio

Wendi Sotis lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and triplets. While searching for Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view, she became thoroughly enamored with Jane Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF. In early 2010, she dreamed of an idea for a story and hasn’t stopped writing since: Promises, Dreams and Expectations; All Hallows Eve; The Keys for Love; Safekeeping (with just a dash of Austen); The Gypsy Blessing; Foundation of Love (The Gypsy Blessing 2); and A Lesson Hard Learned.

The Marriage Pact, and some of Wendi’s works-in-progress, have branched away from JAFF to Regency Romance (the Loving an Aldridge Series) and Contemporary Romantic Mysteries (the Implicated series). Wendi will also continue bringing Darcy and Elizabeth together again and again in an unusual manner.

Barbara Cornthwaite bio

Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before "retiring" to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling her six children, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle). She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.

Susan Kaye bio

Susan Kaye discovered Jane Austen and writing at about the same time. She leads a quiet life with her husband and dog, Harley. "I don't know a lot, but I do know I've probably spent more time with Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot than just about anybody else."

Mandy Helm Cook bio

Mandy Cook was an RN for over ten years, half of which she served in the Navy, living in far-flung places, enjoying experiencing the world while following her calling. Just before she and her handsome Marine were both deployed to different places, they married. They now have three children, ages four and younger.

She previously published The Gifted, using her nursing experience to lend accuracy to her story about an ER nurse who is handed a gift that changes her life forever. Adversity, and a long history of secrets, constantly battle against her natural instinct for truth and justice, but will the truth be worth the dare?

Blog Tour Schedule

01/06 Just the Write Escape; Guest Post, Giveaway
01/07 Margie’s Must Reads; Review, Giveaway  
01/08 So Little Time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway 
01/09 Babblings of a Bookworm; Author Interview/Character Interview, Giveaway
01/10 Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
01/11 Austenesque Reviews; Vignette, Giveaway
01/12 My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, Giveaway
01/14 From Pemberley to Milton; Excerpt, Review or Vignette, Giveaway
01/15 My life journey; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway
01/16 My Vices and Weaknesses; Guest Post or Vignette. Excerpt, Giveaway
01/18 Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway
01/20 Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, Giveaway
01/21 Austenprose; Author Interview

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! The authors are generously giving away ten eBook copies (open Internationally) and one paperback copy of A Very Austen Valentine: Austen Anthologies, Book 2 (open to US residents only)! To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below.

  • Ten people will win an eBook of A Very Austen Valentine. (open Internationally)
  • One person will win a paperback of A Very Austen Valentine. (US only)
  • One prize per winner.
  • Winners will be picked randomly by Rafflecopter.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Robin, for stopping by here today! I remember reading Highlights when I was a kid! I wonder if I read your story! Wouldn't that be something?! :) 

To both Barbara and Laura, thank you for sharing your lovely and humorous excerpts! 

And many thanks to all the authors for the generous giveaway! 

So, friends, what did you think? Please, leave a comment! We'd love to hear from you!


  1. This is a beautiful post, Candy. It looks simply wonderful! My Highlights contribution was a poem.
    The one who cheers me when I'm sad,
    Who always loves me good or bad.
    She does her best for me each day,
    And guides my steps along the way. The title is "My Mother."

    Very odd that I can't remember what I said, read, or heard yesterday, but I can remember a 54 year old poem. Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you, Robin! I'm glad the post turn out well. Sometimes Blogger doesn't cooperate! :)

      The poem is lovely! Haha, isn't it funny how the mind works - remembering one thing and forgetting another!

    2. I understand completely. I set up a blog last summer, and I live in fear every time I post.

  2. This is a great post with so many talented authors! I love all of the excerpts and hope this anthology does well. Best Wishes! Jen Red

    1. Hi Jen! Thank you for your wishes and good luck in the giveaway!

    2. Thank you, Jen Red. Good luck in the giveaway!

  3. Wonderful post! Thank you, Candy, for hosting today! Great poem, Robin.

  4. Loved the excerpts. This book is on my wishlist so I am grateful for the chance to win a copy.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the excerpts, darcybennett. Good luck in the giveaway

    2. Hi darcybennet! Thanks for your support! Good luck :-)

  5. I love the first reply that Lady Catherine wrote. Hilarious!

    1. All of Sir Walter Takes a Wife is hilarious. Truly brilliant. Good luck in the giveaway!

    2. I really enjoyed the story - all of them! I'm so honored to have my tale included among these authors'! Good luck in the giveaway!

  6. For some reason I got the giggles over Laura telling Robin her first two wouldn't work because they are novels and then the back and forth over the cover. Oh the fun times behind the scenes in the making of a book. :)

    I'm hoping to start this one by the weekend and I know it will be a treat. :)

    1. Hi, Sophia Rose. Every word was true, and I didn't exaggerate. So funny. Right? I hope you enjoy the stories. Laura's is truly hilarious. Thank you for commenting.

    2. I hope you enjoy it, Sophia Rose! It's fun "listening" to their banter.

  7. Thank you for these awesome stories!

    1. Hello, Sarah! You're most welcome. Good luck in thegiveaway.

    2. :-) Thanks for your support, Sarah! Good luck!

  8. Thank you for the lovely excerpts and the chance to win a copy.

    Reading this book is a wonderful way to spend Sweethearts Day :)

    1. Hi! I think you're right. Good luck in the giveaway!

    2. Thanks, Pig Pin! Good luck :-)

  9. Sounds like a great read. Thanks for the chance.
    Tighefan42atgmail dotcom

  10. T hi is sounds like it will be a fun read. Thank you for sharing the excerpt and for the generous give away.

    1. Hi, Deborah Ann. I am late to the party with this post, but I'm so glad to read your encouraging response. Good luck in the giveaway!

    2. We sure hope it's fun! Good luck in the giveaway, Deborah Ann.

    3. Good luck in the giveaway, Deborah Ann! Thanks!

  11. Lol, thanks for great excerpts, looking forward to reading the anthology. Congratulations on the release.

    1. Kate, I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpts. The idea with this anthology was to bring our writing friends and reading friends together. Thanks for entering the giveaway. Good luck!

    2. Hi, Kate. It's so good to hear you enjoyed the excerpts! Thank you for commenting, and good luck to you!

  12. Thanks for the chance.

    Tighefan42atgmail dotcom

    1. Hi, Tammy! It's exciting to offer so many books. Good luck in the giveaway!

  13. Replies
    1. Cassandra, so do we. We could not believe our eyes when we saw that couple. The smiles! The delighted happiness! It sings "Valentine's Day" to us.

      Good luck in the giveaway. The Rafflecopter thingy says 32 hours are left. Oh boy!


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