Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions Blog Tour! ~ Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

Hello, friends! I'm excited to be part of Maria Grace's Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions Blog Tour! Maria Grace is visiting today, talking a little about archery, and sharing an excerpt!  She's also giving away an eCopy of her new book to one of my lucky readers! Details of the giveaway are at the bottom of the page. 

Thanks so much for having me, Candy. It’s great to get to visit with you again. I’m excited to share my new novel with you and your readers. Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions features a house party at Pemberley which included Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. One of the more notable activities the guests engage in, both gentlemen and ladies, is archery. Yes, really, the ladies participated as well! Who knew?

As the Georgian period drew to a close, an increasing fascination with the medieval past led to a revival of the English archery tradition. (Sounds nothing like what we do today, does it? SCA friends, I’m looking at you!) While most sporting activities effectively barred women from participation—exertion, sweating, running and all the odd postures that might be necessary were decidedly unladylike— archery was not only considered an acceptable pastime, but an activity where women could show off their grace and ‘feminine form’ without risk of being considered vulgar. (Vulgarity was considered the kiss of death in polite society.)

     “The acceptability of women practicing and watching archery was rooted in their presence adding to the pastime’s aesthetics. This was something frequently remarked upon by observers: ‘The beauties in the circle of carriages which surrounded the enclosure upon the Heath, out-numbered and out-shone those of any assembly we ever saw.’ … As one writer put it, archery could not fail to display ‘the graces of the female form, in a considerable degree’. …     

     The male archers no doubt admired and enjoyed such elegant and graceful female forms. Parallels can be drawn here with the new public cultural venues that were being built in many towns of the period and which were notorious as forums for sexual spectatorship and courtship. Indeed, this was part of the very raison d’ĂȘtre of the assembly rooms, pleasure gardens, theatres and halls.…      

     Archery, complete with the romantic associations of Cupid and his bow and arrows, offered men and women an opportunity to meet, view and enjoy their social equals.”  (Johnes, 2004)

So how does Darcy react to this very proper activity? Here’s a peek into the Pemberley house party to whet your appetite.


     Darcy slowly descended the grand stairs to meet with the rest of the party in the blue parlor. What joy would be the inevitably awkward moments when everyone stood about stupidly, waiting for something to begin a conversation. A great deal of conversation was not required, just enough to fill the empty space. But what exactly did one say in such circumstances?

     Still, Georgiana deserved the sacrifice. She had worked diligently to plan this picnic—the first social event of her making—and Mrs. Reynolds had assured him she had done well. Thank heavens for that. It would be well. It would be well. 

     He tugged his jacket straighter and dusted off his sleeves. With a deep breath, he plunged into the parlor. He paused just inside the doorway, allowing his eyes to adjust to the sunlight from the open windows in the room. 

     His mother’s presence lingered in the room, steady and calming, residing in the little portraits she had painted, hanging on the far wall, and in the stool she had embroidered with sweet williams the Christmastide before her passing. Usually it was enough to soothe his nerves.  But today, there were too many uncontrolled possibilities for him to feel at ease. He scanned the company already present. 

     No! Botheration! The Bennets—all of them, mostly on chairs pulled from the tea table—sat between the Garlands—he in his large chair and she on the chaise longue—and Georgiana on the settee.  What would the Garlands—Miss Garland—think of them and of him for permitting their invitation? Certainly, they could not be the sort of company Miss Garland usually kept.

     “Mr. Darcy!” Mr. Bennet grabbed his cane and slowly rose from an open arm chair. “Thank you for your generous invitation.” Though grey-headed and a bit stooped with age, his voice was strong and compelling.

     All five Bennet daughters rose and curtsied almost as one. How did the vicar manage five young ladies in a household when just one threatened to drive Darcy barking mad?

     “Come and sit with us.” Georgiana patted the space beside her on the settee she shared with Miss Elizabeth.

     Usually relaxed with a ready smile and good humor in her eyes, Miss Elizabeth seemed uncomfortable. Was Georgiana’s anxiety affecting her so? Darcy sat beside Georgiana.

     “Your sister was just telling us of all she had planned today,” Mr. Bingley said.

     Darcy started. How had he missed Bingley sitting beside the eldest Miss Bennet? “Do not let me stop you.”

     Georgiana clasped her hands tightly in her lap. “Well, before we eat, I thought we might have a go at some archery.”

     “Do you shoot Miss Elizabeth?” Miss Garland leaned forward slightly, her bodice struggling to contain her assets.

     “Oh, she is very good indeed.” Miss Kitty said from Bingley’s other side. “She could probably hunt very well should it take her fancy.”

     “Kitty!” Miss Elizabeth glowered at her.

     “Our Uncle and Aunt support her membership in the Derbyshire Archery Society,” Miss Lydia added.

     He had several friends in that society. Why had she never mentioned she enjoyed shooting? It was the sort of thing he should know.

     “I am all anticipation.” Miss Garland relaxed into the chaise as though modeling for a portrait.

     Garland chuckled and crossed his ankles as he leaned back. “Indeed? My sister has quite a penchant for the bow. Generally, she has had very little competition to test her skill. She is a member of the British Amazons and won several prizes when we were last in London.” 

     “I hope she is a gracious loser.” Miss Lydia giggled as her shoulders turned this way and that.

     “Lydia!” Bennet rarely sounded so sharp.

     “I do not mind.”   Miss Garland laughed. “I find it rather endearing that they would be so supportive of an elder sister.”

     “They are very generous in their support, but I am sure I shall learn a great deal from you.” Miss Elizabeth shot a warning glance at her youngest sisters that they would be fools to ignore.

     “Do the rest of you shoot?” Garland asked, looking at Miss Bennet.

     “Only a little and very ill indeed,” Miss Bennet said.

     “But we dearly love a good game of rounders.” Miss Lydia bounced a little in her seat.

     Darcy opened his mouth but Miss Garland cut him off. “I have not played that in years. What a jolly good idea.”

     No, it was not. The impropriety of ladies running!

     “Did I hear something about rounders?” Richard led Anne and Miss Bingley into the room.

     “Indeed, you did.” Garland stood and offered a small bow from his shoulders. “Right after we observe a most intriguing archery competition.”

     “Indeed sir.” Anne batted her eyes. “With whom will you be competing?”

     Oh, that was an unpleasant expression. Pray let her stop soon.

     “Now that is an interesting notion.” Garland raise his brows at his sister and clucked his tongue.

     She nodded.

     “I believe I shall shoot against the winner of the contest between my sister and Miss Elizabeth.”

     “Miss Elizabeth?” Richard’s eyebrows rose high. “No offense, madam, but in all fairness, you should know of the longstanding rivalry—and accuracy of these two. He is a champion among the Kentish Bowmen.” He leaned against the mantlepiece.

     “Do you wish release from the contest?” Miss Garland extended an open hand. “I shall not be offended if you so choose.”

     Miss Elizabeth smiled her enigmatic smile. “My courage only rises with each attempt to intimidate me.”

     Miss Mary clapped softly.

     “Lead us onward, Miss Darcy. I am anxious for the challenge.” Garland offered Georgiana his arm. 

     The dappled shade of the far lawn offered the ideal spot for archery. Georgiana had chosen well.

     Targets had been placed about twenty-five yards from a shooting line, carefully set so the sun would be at the archers’ backs and the targets were lightly shaded. A pleasant breeze whispered across the tables that held the requisite equipment. Chairs and blankets on the lawn invited the audience to take their leisure.   

     “Do you shoot, Miss Darcy?” Garland asked.

     “Only a little.” She bit her lower lip and gazed up at him.

     “What? Richard has not taught you?”

     Richard snorted. “I have, but she is not proficient.”

     “To be proficient, one must practice and practice you shall! Let us have you and Miss Bingley shoot first.” Garland gestured toward them.

     “I do not know how.” Miss Bingley said, looking at Darcy.

     “Bingley may assist you.” Darcy shook his head vigorously. He would do nothing to raise Miss Bingley’s sights to him. He suppressed a shudder. Fine manners, fine dowry but good at finding fault with others. Not the sort of woman he needed running his home and trying to run him.

     “I will instruct you.” Richard beckoned her toward the tables.

     Georgiana fastened the protective leather brace to her forearm and slipped on the shooting glove while Richard instructed Miss Bingley on how to do the same.

     Two arrows launched, neither hitting their mark; one did not even make it to the target. Georgiana and Miss Bingley tittered. Two more flew with no success.

     Georgiana’s face formed into a familiar frustrated scowl. No doubt a show of her temper would be soon to come. Botheration! Everything had been going so well. 

     Miss Elizabeth hurried to the shooting line and he exhaled a little of the breath he had been holding. “I think I see your trouble.” She stood behind Georgiana, back straight and shoulders level, covering Georgiana’s hands with hers. “Here, you must line up the arrow with the mark on the bow and your target. Now hold this arm very straight and just release your fingers gently.”

     Thunk. The arrow quivered in the outer ring of the target.

     “Well done, Miss Darcy. Miss Elizabeth, you make a fine teacher.” Garland crossed his arms and nodded.

     Miss Elizabeth blushed and turned away from him. 

     Strange. She rarely retreated from conversation.

     “May I try again?” Georgiana reached for another arrow.

     Garland stepped back. She let fly another arrow that landed at the very edge of the target. “Well done, Miss Darcy. Let us see what your pupil can do, Fitz.”

     Miss Bingley missed again, her face tightening into something very sour.

     “Perhaps Miss Elizabeth’s guidance might help.” Miss Garland suggested.

     “Thank you, no. I believe I shall keep to the pianoforte.” Miss Bingley handed the bow back to Richard, stripped off glove and brace, and stepped away from the firing line.

     “Do you wish to shoot again?” Garland asked.

     Georgiana turned to Miss Elizabeth. “No, I would like to see Miss Elizabeth and Miss Garland. I did not know Miss Elizabeth was so adept, and I want to see more.”

     “As do I.” He handed the bow to Miss Elizabeth. 

     So did Darcy. Archery was a very attractive sport.

     Miss Elizabeth smiled at Garland, but it was forced. Still, she was pretty when she smiled. 

     “Will you go first, Miss Garland?” Miss Elizabeth gestured at her.

     “Sizing up the competition? Very shrewd of you” Miss Garland raised her bow. 

     Valkyrie, definitely a Valkyrie.

     Five arrows flew, each landing in the center rings of the target. Applause rose from the spectators.

     “She will be a challenge for you, Lizzy,” Miss Lydia called.

     “Excellently done, Miss Garland.” Miss Elizabeth never hesitated to offer praise. She lifted her bow. Her arrows flew as true as Miss Garland’s, filling the center of the target.

     Garland applauded. “At last, you will have to work for your victory dear sister.”

     “I suppose I shall. Well done. Miss Elizabeth. Shall we increase the challenge? Fifty yards should do nicely.” Miss Garland glanced at her brother.

     “Come help me Fitz. The fair maidens have spoken.” Garland strode toward the targets.

     Richard trotted after him. “More Amazon than maiden, it seems.” 

     “Do you not know better than to tease an armed woman?”  Garland chuckled and winked over his shoulder at his sister.

     “Are you saying we are too unsteady to be trusted with so dangerous an object in our hands?” Miss Garland nudged Miss Elizabeth with her elbow.

     “Not at all my dear. I only suggest such an intriguing creature should be appreciated, venerated…”

     “Feel free to ignore my brother, Miss Elizabeth. He fancies he inherited wit along with his title.”

     The younger Bennet sisters tittered behind them.

     Miss Elizabeth cheeks flushed. Did the levity embarrass her as much as it did him? 

     Richard and Garland returned to the shooting line.

     “Is that to your satisfaction? Garland handed arrows to his sister. 

     Miss Garland tipped her head. “You should shoot first this time, Miss Elizabeth.”

     “As you will, Miss Garland.” She raised her bow and released five arrows, one after the other, with silent grace.

     If Miss Garland was a Valkyrie, Miss Bennet might well be Artemis, her posture and her stance—and her profile—as perfect as a classical statue.

     Miss Garland filled the target with her own arrows. “I believe we are evenly matched.”

     “Wait, wait,” Garland called. “I believe there is one of yours just outside the third ring. Let me see.” He ran to the target and pulled out the arrow in question and peered at the hole it left. He retrieved the remainder of the arrows. “Miss Elizabeth has bested you.” He presented her with an arrow. “This one has betrayed you my dear.”

     She curtsied to him and handed him her bow. “Do not gloat. You may yet find yourself humbled.”

     “Do you care to put a small wager on that, Blanche?”

     Did no one notice the displeased expression Miss Elizabeth wore?

     “Indeed, if Miss Elizabeth loses to you, I shall play my pianoforte composition for the company. But, when she bests you, as I know she shall, you shall share with us your new play. Allow us to perform it here, among our party!” 

     “You know very well I do not allow anyone to see my unfinished work.”

     “Then concede defeat to Miss Elizabeth now and declare her your superior.” Miss Garland folded her arms across her waist and waited.

     “I shall look forward to hearing your new piece tonight.” He turned to Miss Elizabeth. “Shall we make this a touch more interesting? I shall shoot first. You place your arrow next to mine, then I next to you. Whoever remains truest to the line shall be declared the winner.”

     “As you say, sir.”

     “Now that is a good sport!” Bingley, Anne and Miss Bingley whispered among themselves. 

     Garland let the first shot fly. “Set the line Miss Elizabeth.”

     Darcy peered at the target, jumping only slightly when her shot landed a finger width from the first arrow. 

     Garland’s brows shot up, but he should not be surprised her near perfect form should produce such results. He fitted his bow again.

     Her own shot quickly followed until a nearly straight line of arrows stood quivering in the target.

     Richard nudged Darcy with his elbow. “Help me bring the target in.”

     They brought the target near the firing line and scrutinized the pattern.

     “You have an outlier, Garland!” Richard pointed to the errant arrow.

     Miss Garland applauded. “I told you Alex, you should never have doubted. Brava Miss Elizabeth you have brought my brother to a much-needed place of humility.”

     Garland bowed deeply. “Congratulations Miss Elizabeth. I shall bear my defeat graciously I assure you.”

     Miss Elizabeth’s face flushed and she looked everywhere but at Garland. “Perhaps we should find another amusement? Lawn Bowling perhaps? Or shall we eat, Miss Darcy?” 

     Miss Garland took Miss Elizabeth’s arm. “No need for such modesty, my dear. He is not nearly so stricken as he would seem, for now he has captive players and an audience for his new work. It will give him a rare opportunity to refine his offering before presenting it to the theatre company next season.”

     “What?” Darcy sputtered.

     Richard elbowed him hard and hissed in his ear. “If you had objections why did you not speak out earlier?”

     “I did not consider it possible he would lose the bet.” 

     “You cannot forbid it now—it would be entirely unseemly of you.”

     Garland gestured toward the vicar. “Assuming of course, you, Mr. Bennet, do not object to your daughters participating in a home theatrical.” 

     Bennet heaved himself up from the chair with the aid of his cane. He took several deliberate steps toward Garland. “In principle I have no objections, sir, but I must be concerned with the specifics of the play. Is your work of good moral character? What values do you espouse? Is evil venerated and allowed to triumph, as occurs in some modern works?”

     “Although it is yet unfinished, I would call it a cautionary tale against vice and excess.”

     “Oh, now that sounds very dull indeed.” Miss Garland flicked her hand. “Perhaps it is not worth performing at all.”

     “She does have a point, too much moralizing is not healthy for the soul, sir.” Bennet wagged a finger at him. 

     Garland threw his head back and laughed. “I have indeed been caught! Remind me not to practice my theater tricks with you. I think you will find it far more entertaining than mere moralizing, and my heroine shall, in the end, make the right choice.” 

     “Who shall play your heroine?” Miss Lydia sounded wistful.

     “There is only one appropriate to ask.” He bowed before Georgiana. “Our most gracious hostess. Will you take the role?”

     “I … I …”

     “Go ahead, Georgiana.” Richard winked at her.

     “I …” Darcy grumbled under his breath. Richard stepped on his foot. Bother! “If my vicar approves, I can hardly do otherwise.” 


     Elizabeth looked from Mr. Darcy to Miss Darcy and back again. Which of the two was more distraught?  

     Miss Darcy’s panicked gaze fastened on Elizabeth, like a drowning girl clutching a rope. “Pray, Miss Elizabeth, say you will help me.” 

     Poor dear. This was Elizabeth’s fault. Had her pride not demanded she win the bet with Sir Alexander, Miss Darcy would not be in this situation. “Very well, I will help.”

     “Thank you! And thank you for the honor.” Miss Darcy clasped her hands before her chest. Was it for relief or for joy? There was no telling.

     Sir Alexander beamed. Yes, the expression was too unrestrained for good taste, but he was rendered more handsome when he did it. “Excellent. I have roles for five ladies—no, six and four gentlemen. Perhaps we may discuss it all at length over our picnic.”

     “Do let us go to the gazebo.” Georgiana pointed across the lawn.

     “Capital notion. Sounds like quite the diversion. Caroline, you might make use of all your elocution lessons from your school days.” Bingley offered Jane his arm.

     Miss Bingley’s eyes narrowed as she fell into step beside her brother, effectively ignoring Jane all together. “If I am asked, I shall be most pleased to offer what service I may.” 

     “Do not ask me, I will not take part. You have more than enough ladies from whom to choose,” Miss Garland said.

     Sir Alexander waved her off and offered Miss Darcy his arm. They sauntered off toward the heavily laden tables set up in the shade of the gazebo. 

     Elizabeth lingered behind. 

     “Will you join us?”

     She jumped. 

     Mr. Darcy stood closer than she expected, regarding her with a somber expression of concern, or discomfort. It was difficult to discern which. His usual poised mask seemed askew on his face.

     “Please forgive my forwardness, but it is…that it seems you are displeased with this turn of events.”

     He nodded ever so slightly. “I am sorry to have been so obvious.”

     She dropped her gaze to the toes of her half boots peeking out from beneath her pale blue skirts. “Forgive me. I was out of place to allow things to have happened so.”

     “You believe you should have permitted him to best you, though you had the power to do otherwise?”

     “It would have been far more proper and would have lessened your discomfort.” Ladies did not best gentlemen in sport, it was just not done.

     “I hardly think so. It seems clear to me that this theatrical scheme would have hatched sooner or later. Better have it done with earlier.”  He tapped his foot on the soft lawn. “Besides, seeing anyone pretend to be less than they are disturbs me. It is too like disguise which I abhor. I would not ask that of –”

     “Come along, Darcy. It looks like you are off sulking.” Colonel Fitzwilliam slapped Mr. Darcy’s shoulder. “Thank you for keeping him from storming off entirely.” He offered his arm to Elizabeth. “Permit me to escort you to our repast.”

     Colonel Fitzwilliam released her just outside the gazebo and strode in to take a place near her younger sisters. He must be amused by silly company—or perhaps he enjoyed the way they doted on him, calling him ‘colonel’ as often as they could. They were so unruly in Papa’s absence. Where had he gone? Was it possible he sought Mrs. Reynolds for a cup of mint tea for his stomach?

     Miss Garland claimed Elizabeth’s arm. “Come sit beside me. Tell me, where ever did you learn to shoot?”   

     All manner of cold delicacies lay expertly arranged before them: cold ham and chicken, pickles—at least three varieties—biscuits and jam, a pigeon pie, a cold salad, a pyramid of fruits, a blancmange and several jellies.

     “It is of very little interest, I assure you.” 

     “How can you say that Lizzy?” Lydia looked up from her plate. “It is a very amusing story, very much like what happened today.”

     “Indeed, I am all agog—do tell.” Was that genuine interest or an affectation? Miss Garland seemed accomplished enough an actress for either to be true. 

     “Lydia, please, say no more. It is of no import.”

     “La!” Lydia rolled her eyes and dabbed the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “Our cousin, William, came to visit one summer. Dreadfully freckled little thing he was, just older than Lizzy, but younger than Jane. He told Lizzy he thought girls too stupid to be bothered with and that he was quite put out to be sent to a house full of them.”

     “I do believe there is an age at which all young men say such things.” Miss Garland winked at Elizabeth, a hint of conspiracy in her eye.

     “Well, Lizzy did not take very well to his highhandedness,” Kitty said more loudly than necessary.

     “Lydia, Kitty stop! It is not a flattering tale and if you persist, I shall—”

     “Do what? What shall you do to me?” Lydia’s eyes flashed.

     “I shall go home as I do not wish to be party to this conversation. You may explain the reason to Papa.” Elizabeth rose. 

     “You will only punish yourself and miss all the good fun,” Lydia said.

     Kitty and Mary had the good grace to look a bit more concerned, but they remained silent. That was nothing unusual.

     “There is little pleasure to be had in company whose chiefest pleasure is embarrassing me. Excuse me, Miss Garland.” Elizabeth curtsied and turned away.

     Where was the quickest path out of public view? 

     A small clump of trees marked the start of the footpath to the parsonage. She paused in the cool, deep shade when the gazebo was out of sight.

     Why must Lydia delight in embarrassing her? She wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. When in company, it was Lydia and Jane who were always in great demand. Few seemed to care whether or not Elizabeth was there, unless an obscure fact needed recalling or a conversation needed starting, then she was useful—like a counting horse or intellectual pig. Something one brought out for the sake of show and novelty.

     What an imprudent move to agree to shoot today. She should have demurred modestly and allowed the Garlands to enjoy each other’s competition. What a fool she was! What good were all the skills, facts and information the world had to offer if she could not somehow put them into proper use?

     She dragged the back of her hand across her eyes. No, she was not going to seal all that thoughtlessness with tears. Not today.

     “Miss Elizabeth?”

     She looked up into Mr. Darcy’s disturbed eyes. When had he left the picnic—or had he even sat down? 

     “Miss Elizabeth? Are you unwell? Why have you left—”

     She turned from him. “Forgive me. I must return to the parsonage.”

     “What has happened?” He matched his paced to hers.

     “I fear my youngest sister—she is high spirited and sometimes becomes insensitive to the feelings of others.”

     “I understand.” How kind he seemed; in this moment it felt like that was his true character. Her heart did a tiny butterfly flutter. Oh, he was handsome. 

     “I am sorry that you do.” Somehow, the thought of someone vexing him the way Lydia vexed her drove a sharp stab into her heart. “If I may be so bold, you do look quite displeased. Is there something I might offer for your relief?”

     He blinked at her, indecipherable thoughts flashing behind his expressive eyes. “What do you think of this home theatrical notion?”

     “You are uncomfortable with it?”

     “Exceedingly.” Dry leaves and small twigs crunched under his feet. “There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, I grant you; it is a commonly done thing. As your father noted, there are plays enough that have redeeming values, those I would not repine seeing Georgiana take part in.”

     “But Sir Alexander’s work is an untested quantity? You do not know what he considers appropriate?”

     He paused and caught her gaze. “You have seen it too, then?”

     “I would not presume to criticize your guests and your friends.” She stepped around him to continue walking.

     “I did not mean to imply anything improper toward yourself.” He lengthened his stride to catch up to her. “Pray tell me your thoughts.”

     “I have noticed a liberality in his manner that is quite different to your attention to all forms of propriety. It seems you might be best served to rescind your permission—say that you have reconsidered.”

     “Though sorely tempted, I fear to do so would provide great offense to my guests, my sister, and even your good father.”

     “Papa is not apt to take offense, you know. He said it does little profit and only allows our offender to live without rent in your heart to continue to grieve you.”

     “He is very wise and a very worthy man if he is able to accomplish that feat.” Mr. Darcy chuckled softly. It was a pleasant sound that no one heard enough of. “I fear for Georgiana. She is not even out. I did not anticipate a house party might lead to her performing to an audience.”

     “It certainly was not in my mind when I suggested it either. Perhaps Miss de Bourgh might be able to step in and ensure—” 

     “Suffice to say I have little faith in Anne’s ability to set aside her own interests to protect my sister’s.”

     “And Miss Bingley?”

     “Is entirely focused on making connections and furthering her own position in the marriage mart. Like Anne, she is too preoccupied. Besides, my sister does not hold them in high regard. She does not value their understanding, not like she does yours.” He stopped and studied her. “She has nothing but praise to offer for your good sense.”

     “I am flattered she might regard me thus.” Why did he have to look at her that way? Her cheeks burned.

     “Were you serious when you offered assistance?”

     “I am not in the habit of saying things I do not mean.” 

     “Then would you consider an invitation to Pemberley, to join our house party? I know your regard for my sister. I trust you to guard her delicacy and alert me of anything untoward.”

     “I will not be your spy. I am her friend and will not violate her confidence in me.” She pulled her shoulders back.

     “I would not ask you to do so. I need only be involved if you foresee any danger to her. Under the guise of helping her learn her part, as you already promised to do, it should be easy enough. Perhaps you would be more comfortable if Miss Bennet is also included? We might then say it is for the sake of the theatrical, that all may be available here to practice and prepare at a moment’s notice. My good will as a host is evidenced and none need be the wiser about the particular service you are rendering my sister.”

     “I thank you for your confidence. I do not take it lightly. If my father permits it, then you have my agreement.” She curtsied and turned away.

     “I shall approach him straight away. Will you not return to the picnic?”

     “I think not.” Pray he keep any remarks about the fragility of her constitution to himself.

     “I have been told on rather good authority that my glower is entirely effective at intimidating others into silence. Perhaps I might use it on your behalf, should you choose to return with me.” Was that a hint of mirth lurking in his dimple? 

     Her heart fluttered. “I suppose then, under such a promise, I might be persuaded.” 

     They returned to the gazebo in companionable silence. 

     “Lizzy!” Papa clambered up from his seat at the table. “My dear, I have been concerned. No one knew where you had gone.”

     “Lydia was well aware.” Elizabeth turned over her shoulder to gaze at her sister, laughing in the company of Colonel Fitzwilliam.

     His face grew dark. “I am sorry. She knows better.”

     “It makes little difference to her behavior.”

     “Then I shall see her home and discuss the matter with her.” From the look in his eye, the discussion would be rather one-sided. “I think she shall not participate in this theatrical project, either.”

     “She will be very disappointed.”

     “As am I in her. I have spoken with her on the matter before. Several times. She needs to feel the weight of her choices. Excuse me.”

     “Sir, before you go.” Mr. Darcy stepped forward. “May I request that Miss Bennet and Miss Elizabeth join our house party, for the sake of the theatrical? Miss Elizabeth promised Georgiana she would help her to learn her lines. I know she will want to practice a great deal. It should be easier for all involved if Miss Elizabeth is here.”

     “How do you feel about this, Lizzy?” Papa studied her face.

     There was no point in trying to hide anything from him—he always knew. “I do feel responsible for her dilemma.”

     “You feel responsible for foul weather on a day I wish for fine. You take far too much on yourself.” He turned to Mr. Darcy. “Have you suggested…”

     “No sir, Miss Elizabeth is not responsible for any of this. It is all my doing and mine alone.”

     Papa grumbled something indecipherable. “As long as that is entirely understood. My question remains. What do you wish for Lizzy?”

     “I am concerned you will need Jane and me at home.”

     “Mary and Kitty, and Lydia too, can very well step up—it would do them good to rise to the challenge. But that tells me nothing of your wishes.” He took her hand. “It is entirely acceptable for you to indulge in something for your own pleasure, my dear. Not everything must be done in the service of others. You must refresh yourself too—an empty well cannot provide refreshment for anyone.” He stepped a little closer and whispered in her ear. “You are a good girl, my dear. I would be pleased for you and Jane to have a bit of a holiday. It is not as if you would be so very far from home. Should there be any real need we can send for you directly.”

     “I would like to visit Pemberley.”

     Papa squeezed her hand. “You and Jane have my permission. Mr. Darcy, I charge you to protect them in my stead. I expect you to be a direct participant in this theatrical so that you may observe it all first hand and ensure nothing untoward is asked of my daughters.”

     The panicked look she had seen in Georgiana’s eyes appeared in Mr. Darcy’s. Papa recognized it too, but remained unmoved. How unlike him not to have compassion on another’s discomfiture. He cocked his head and tapped his foot.

     “Very well, sir. I shall do as you ask.”

     “Then I shall trust you with that which is most precious to me. Shall we return to the party? I believe you have some news for Jane, and I for Lydia.” Papa set off ahead of them.

Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions
by Maria Grace

Darcy is at his wits end.   

     As guardian to his younger sister, he wants her to become a properly accomplished woman--she is coming out soon, after all. But Georgiana steadfastly refuses despite the encouragement of Elizabeth Bennet, long time Darcy family friend. Darcy invites a few guests to Pemberley in the hopes of encouraging Georgiana's improvement with a taste of society. 

     Unexpected additions to the party prove dangerously distracting, leaving the Darcy family on the brink of disaster. Elizabeth holds the key to their restoration, but she has fled Pemberley, unable to tolerate another day in the Darcys' company.   

     Will Darcy relinquish his pride and prejudice to seek out a woman below his notice before his family is irreparably ruined?

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About the Author

Five-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. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.  

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* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! Maria Grace is kindly giving away one eCopy of Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions to one of my lucky readers! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below.

  • One person will win an eCopy of Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions.
  • To enter, leave a comment below and include your e-mail (with parentheses around (at) and (dot)).
  • The winner will be picked randomly.
  • Open Internationally.
  • The last day to enter the giveaway is Oct. 31st, 2019 by the end of the day.
Good luck! 

Congratulations to Maria Grace on the release of her new book! And many thanks for including me on her blog tour! Also, for graciously offering one of my readers an e-copy of Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions! Thank you, Maria Grace!

So, friends, what did you think of that excerpt? I'm curious about the Garlands! There's something up with them! 


  1. Enjoyed the excerpt. Something is definitely up with the Garlands, I hope Elizabeth is able to save them before it's too late. Thanks for the giveaway! jadseah4(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. I am curious why Darcy thinks that Elizabeth's membership in the Derbyshire Archery Society, and her enjoyment of shooting, is the sort of thing that he should know?

    It seems like he doesn't know what he wants. He is interested in Miss Garland, but very aware of Elizabeth.

    GinnaSayWhat (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. This is very exciting! I am currently rereading Mansfield Park and have been thinking a great deal about the theatricals in it. it will be fun to discover another house party theatricals including Darcy and Elizabeth! Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. Forgot my e-mail: noagnes (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. I do not like the Garlands, but cheered Elizabeth on while she toasted her male competitor! nettieubbie(at)aol(dot)com

  6. A very entertaining excerpt, Maria. I have seen Regency ladies doing archery (Emma movie with Gwyneth Paltrow) but this is the first time I've read that in a scene. It's just like how I imagine Elizabeth would react, not to lose to a man because of her pride. But that came at a cost to her friends. Can't wait to see if a scandal would ensure like how it happened in MP.



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