Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Determination by C.P. Odom ~ Blog Tour ~ Excerpt & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! I'm so delighted to be part of the Determination Blog Tour! I have to tell you, I love this excerpt Mr. Odom is sharing with us! I hope you enjoy it too! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this page! 

This excerpt is from Chapter 7 of my new novel, Determination. Earlier in the day, Colonel Fitzwilliam had made a social call on Jane Bennet. Prior to their meeting, Jane’s uncle, Mr. Gardiner, had met with the colonel to discuss information he had received from Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, which essentially was that Fitzwilliam didn’t have the fortune to support a wife. Colonel Fitzwilliam explains his situation to Mr. Gardiner’s satisfaction but afterward Elizabeth goes to see her uncle (at the colonel’s suggestion) to find out what changed her uncle’s mind, and this excerpt is the conversation between the two of them.

Chapter 7

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

— Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States

Tuesday, April 28, 1812

Gracechurch Street, London

“He said what?” Elizabeth asked in disbelief.

     “He told me it was his intention—his firm intention, as he phrased it—to win Jane’s affections and to eventually make her his wife,” her uncle replied patiently.

     Elizabeth sat back in her chair, stunned by her uncle’s statement, and it was some moments before she could say anything.

     “I am beyond astonished,” she said slowly. “I am absolutely taken aback. Possibly I should not be, given that he came to call after being introduced to Jane only yesterday. It is far more precipitous than anything I would have expected. It is difficult to believe—incredible, in fact.”

     “He seems to be quite a determined young man in my opinion.” Mr. Gardiner had not intended to discuss Jane’s situation when Lizzy first asked to speak with him. He had promised secrecy to the colonel, but he had relented when Lizzy told him of Fitzwilliam’s recommendation to her.

     “It is not his resolve that disturbs me. It might even be admirable in other situations. But it is so hasty—too much so.”

     “He mentioned being quite surprised himself and explained that he was not an impulsive person. But he went on to say that he has been completely smitten and simply cannot help himself.”

     “I cannot bear to see Jane hurt further.”

     “None of us want Jane to endure any further sorrow.”

     “I know, I know. But the very suddenness of Colonel Fitzwilliam’s interest worries me. It worries me greatly.”

     “I really believe you are concerned over nothing, especially after what your aunt told me of his seeming to cheer Jane. And, as he said to me, if anyone will be hurt over this sudden interest of his, it will be him and not Jane. He is the one putting his feelings at risk.”

     “But Jane is not cautious enough. How can we be sure she will make a decision based on her best interests? I worry that she might agree to his addresses because she is unwilling to hurt his feelings and not because of a similar desire on her part.”

     “Do you not believe that we must leave those decisions in Jane’s hands? We cannot live her life for her after all. I believe you are doing your sister a disservice, and I am not disposed to interfere in the case of an honourable young man who seems to have caught her interest and has certainly brought a smile to her face. I think you would be advised to act in a similar manner.”

     “But look what happened to her with Mr. Bingley.”

     “You know, I have come to the conclusion that I no longer approve of Mr. Bingley. To be perfectly honest, he all but abandoned her just when she was most justified in believing some kind of declaration would be forthcoming. Jane deserved something more than a brief note from Bingley’s sister telling her the whole party was leaving for town and would not return. But there was nothing from Bingley himself. No matter what arguments Mr. Darcy made—the ones that so incensed you—Bingley himself had a responsibility to explain his actions in not returning.”

     Elizabeth said nothing to this and did not lift her eyes, so her uncle continued. “And it is a simple fact that Mr. Bingley is not here and Colonel Fitzwilliam is. Further, he has clearly and openly stated his intentions, which Bingley never did, and he also makes it clear that nothing except a rejection by Jane will deter his quest.”

     “I am just so confused. I can find no basis for such a sudden fixation on Colonel Fitzwilliam’s part,” she said plaintively, returning to her original contention.

     “So you disapprove of him?”

     “Disapprove? On the contrary—I quite like him. He is amiable, well-mannered, and well-informed. But I had formed the distinct impression that he was not in search of a wife, especially one who could not bring any financial advantage to the marriage.”

     “From what he told me, he would agree with you, at least in part. He had not anticipated looking seriously for a marriage partner until his active service was near an end, but once he met Jane, he was completely overwhelmed. And as for the financial side, it seems he must have been more circumspect with you than you were able to detect. He appears quite capable of supporting a wife and family. ‘In comfort,’ as he put it, ‘if not in luxury.’”

     “That part is quite surprising, but I suppose your information is superior to mine.”

     “He admitted you might have been justified in your supposition, but he pointed out that, when the two of you discussed the subject, he was agreeing with you about younger sons of the nobility in general, not about himself in particular. And, as he said, he may not be a pauper now, but he once was.”

     “I suppose you are right,” Elizabeth conceded unwillingly.

     “Both your aunt and I were quite favourably impressed by his visit here today, Lizzy. From my opening interview, which must have been rather stressful for him, to the manner in which he conducted himself all evening, he was a perfect gentleman. His interest in Jane was clear, but he was neither obsessive nor improper in his attentions. He simply made it eminently clear that he was interested. And you saw the way his visit has raised her spirits.”

     “I do, but I still think Jane is more suited to Mr. Bingley. They are so similar, and I cannot forget that their separation is due to Mr. Darcy. And it was only by accident that Jane and the colonel met when he called yesterday. Jane had mentioned taking the children to the park an hour earlier, and it was only by chance that she was in the front room when he arrived. And then she left before he began his discourse on Mr. Wickham.”

     “Ah, Mr. Wickham.”

     “I have to confess I made a disastrous error there,” she admitted with a blush.

     “And also in laying the blame on Mr. Darcy without adequate justification.”

     “Well, yes, I suppose I was in error there also,” she mumbled unwillingly.

     “Your aunt wonders whether you have not been precipitous in summarily refusing to reconsider what occurred between you and Mr. Darcy in Kent.”

     “You cannot mean that you blame me for refusing Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth said angrily.

     Her uncle shook his head. “I would not blame you for refusing any young man so long as your decision was made after due consideration. You are the one who will have to live with that decision, and it is not my part to say yea or nay. What I am concerned with is the possibility that your conclusion was made in haste, spurred on by anger rather than real reflection, especially since you now know you erred in your assessment of Mr. Darcy’s treatment of Mr. Wickham. Remember, it was quite a compliment that Mr. Darcy admired you enough to offer marriage, despite facing the same drawbacks that pertained to Mr. Bingley and Jane.”

     “Well, yes, I must admit I did enjoy a certain amount of gratification from that thought. But he was so proud and haughty to everyone. I simply could not accept such a man even if I was wrong about his harm to Mr. Wickham.”

     “Lizzy, Lizzy, you are not listening to me. I am not questioning your decision. I am only saying that I am uneasy about the haste with which you reached it—and, of course, with the possibility that your emotions rather than your judgement are responsible for your decision. If you are uneasy about the speed with which Colonel Fitzwilliam became enamoured of your sister, then can you not see how I am uneasy with the similarly rapid fashion in which you rejected any possibility of a connexion with Mr. Darcy? It is a connexion, after all, that might have many advantages, not only to your family but also to you. I am also perplexed that a man highly valued by both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Bingley could possibly be bad enough to warrant such a hasty decision.”

     This argument finally penetrated the wall Elizabeth had erected, and she was quiet for a time as she considered what he had said. Finally, she said reluctantly, “I am forced to confess you may be right. On the matter of Mr. Darcy, I seem quite unable to think clearly. Certainly, I should have considered what Colonel Fitzwilliam had to say for a little longer than I did.”

     “That is all I am concerned about. Naturally, your aunt and I support whatever decisions you and Jane might make. I simply want you both to take the time to think them through. If you do that, then you will justify the faith we have in both of you.”

     “Very well, Uncle. Your point is well taken, at least on my part.”

     “And I shall have the same discussion with Jane if the occasion arises before you both return to Longbourn. But you should consider what you said when you described the colonel as being amiable and well mannered since Jane also shares those attributes. I certainly found him quite pleasant, clear-thinking, and cheerful when we talked. So, while you say Jane and Mr. Bingley are better suited to each other, this may only be in some respects. In other ways, the colonel may be a better match than Mr. Bingley is. For certain, he is more firm and stalwart than her wealthier suitor.”

     Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps you are right, yet he is so different from Mr. Bingley. However, I realize I shall have to restrain myself on that topic from now on.”

     “And,” suggested Mr. Gardiner with a wicked grin, “he might also be right when he noted the similarities between you and Mr. Darcy. The way you are both quick-witted, private, and—I like this one very much though I have never met Mr. Darcy—both of you are adept at verbal repartee and debate.”

     To this comment Elizabeth made no response. She simply blushed and bade her uncle good night.


It took so long for the butler to respond to his knock that Richard at first thought Darcy might already be in his bedroom, despite the fact that candlelight was visible behind the curtains of his study. But the butler finally answered the door, apologising that he had been assisting the housekeeper with her bookkeeping. When Richard entered the study, he could see that Darcy was busily engaged in working through the backlog of paperwork that had built up while he was at Rosings. Papers, notes, and bills were stacked in piles all over his massive desk.

     “You are up rather late, Richard,” Darcy said, looking up. He waved his cousin towards a comfortable chair on the other side of his desk and offered a glass of port and a cigar, both of which were gratefully accepted.

     “I wanted to thank you again for the loan of Jennings,” Richard said as he puffed his cigar alight. “Tying this neck cloth was quite beyond the capability of Sergeant Bascomb. He is perfectly capable of fitting me out in full dress uniform to appear before the major general on a moment’s notice, but he simply threw up his hands at the thought of essaying one of the more fashionable knots.”

     Darcy steepled his hands as he looked his cousin up and down. “You are certainly welcome, but you were in such a hurry that I never did get an answer to where you were going and why you were dressed in such unprecedented style.”

     “I was visiting a young lady. I think I did mention that.”

     “You did, but I have seen you call on young ladies before. You always seemed to find your uniform perfectly acceptable on those occasions. But today you could rival Brummell for sartorial elegance. So why is this young lady so special? And do not trot out the old adage that ‘this is the one.’ That line has been used to death in far too many cheap novels.”

     “Then I can say nothing,” Richard said with a smile, “especially since this young lady is the one, and I am going to marry her.”

     “Oh, saints preserve us,” Darcy muttered, rolling his eyes. “First me and now you. Dare I even ask the identity of this vision of female perfection who has finally caught your eye and secured your heart?”

     “Actually, she is someone you already know,” Richard said seriously. “Miss Jane Bennet.”

     Darcy froze in the process of lifting his cigar to his mouth and simply stared at his cousin in stunned amazement.

     Finally, he shook himself and carefully replaced his cigar in the ashtray. “How can this be? You do not even know Miss Bennet.”

     “Ah, but I do. I met her yesterday when I called on her sister at their uncle’s house in Cheapside.”

     “Sister? Which sister are you talking about?”

     “You know which sister. The sister we both know so well. Miss Elizabeth Bennet.”

     “What is going on here, Richard? Just why are you calling on either of the Bennet sisters? I do not care for the fact that you would go behind my back on this.”

Richard was unaffected by his cousin’s visible anger and blew out a cloud of fragrant smoke. “I was not going behind your back. From what you told me last week, all discourse between you and Miss Elizabeth was presumed to be at an end. However, there remained an unfinished question between Miss Elizabeth and me, a question concerning George Wickham. I burst into your abortive proposal, if you remember, at the moment she was taking his part, and I did not have time to explain to her just how badly she had misjudged both him and you. I resolved instantly that I would revisit the question when she returned to town, which I have now done. I simply could not leave her in any doubt as to the true worthlessness of that man.”

     “And just how much did you discuss with her?” Darcy said, his eyes icy with anger.

     “I did not mention Georgiana if that is what you are worried about. But I did tell her everything else. All of which, I might point out, she should have learned months ago and from you. From what you have said, you knew Wickham was spreading lies about you when you were both in Hertfordshire, and you did nothing.”

     “I was determined that my actions would speak for my character without having to lower myself to Wickham’s level to debate his falsehoods.”

     “No, Cousin, you would not lower yourself to confront his lies because the country gentry you met were not part of your circle and thus deserved no explanation from a Darcy.”

     Darcy said nothing, just looked angrily at his cousin, but Richard returned his challenge glare for glare until Darcy finally looked away. His anger was ebbing, and he knew it was unjustified in any case. It was patently obvious that someone had needed to disabuse Elizabeth and probably the rest of the neighbourhood of their delusions about Wickham. And he was forced to agree with Richard that it should have been done by him, and much earlier.

     Perhaps if I had openly discussed Wickham at that time, told her clearly what lay between us, and even offered evidence of my truthfulness, then many things might have been different. But I was determined not to admit I was attracted to her, so I resolved to keep my distance. Accordingly, I suppressed my own emotions and never bothered to assess hers, so I had not the slightest idea of the disdain in which she held me. Until that horrible evening…

     Finally, he drew a deep breath. “And did Miss Elizabeth believe you?”

     “She did. Her aunt sat with us because the manner in which I arrived at their door was rather unusual, but she will, I am sure, be discreet about what I told her. Not that there is a real need for secrecy, you understand, but I know how obsessive you have become about not revealing any aspect of your private affairs.”

     Darcy coloured but nodded again. Then, clearing his throat, he asked, “And was Miss Bennet present for these discussions? Was that how you met her?”

     “No, I was introduced to her when I arrived, but she excused herself in order to give us privacy. But I was greatly affected on first impression, and I think Bingley was a fool to let her get away. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet her afterwards at the park where she had taken the Gardiner children to play. After some conversation, I asked whether I might call on her today, and she agreed.”

     Richard looked Darcy directly in the eye as he continued. “Make no mistake about the lengths to which I was willing to go to clear up this problem with Wickham. I did not have to tell Miss Elizabeth about Georgiana in order to convince her of Wickham’s perfidy, but I would have done so had it been necessary. Fortunately, my account was convincing and her trust in me sufficient to assure her of the truth of my story, especially when I told her I could provide witnesses to the truth. She came to realize that Wickham had built his structure of lies on just enough truth to make them plausible. But I was determined that this matter would be resolved so it could no longer cloud the air.”

     “Without asking my permission?” Darcy said, his anger flaring anew.

     “Yes, without asking your permission. I share the responsibility for Georgiana, you know, so the decision would not have been yours alone.”

     “But she is my sister. And you have been gone these five years.”

     “During which time you have changed, and not for the better. I have spoken of it before, but that is neither here nor there. Of paramount importance is that Georgiana’s near elopement could happen to other young ladies, and all because you would not trouble yourself to counter the lies Wickham told about you.”

     Darcy began to make a rejoinder, but he realized he would only be repeating what he had said earlier about depending on his actions as testimony of his character. After seeing that Darcy did not intend to comment, Richard continued.

     “It also appears that, when you first met Miss Elizabeth, you did not conduct yourself in a manner that would have made her or anyone else reject Wickham’s lies. Instead, you made them believable, and I am tired of your behaviour of excluding everyone outside your intimate circle. You have so circumscribed yourself that you could not even change when you met a woman with whom you wanted to share the rest of your life. Look at what it has cost you.”

     Both cousins glared at each other, but Darcy’s glare was pro forma and quickly dissipated, especially as he felt a stab of grief from what his cousin had said about his loss.

     “Perhaps you are right,” he said at last. “I am certain no one could have handled matters any more disastrously than I have done.”

     Richard nodded in agreement, staring at the smoke rising off his cigar. “I went further,” he said quietly. “I have been thinking much on this, and I have come to the conclusion that your selection of Miss Elizabeth Bennet was an admirable one. I think your characters complement each other, and I think you could have a satisfying life together. So I explained my coming to live at Pemberley, your mother arranging for my commission, and your being saddled with the responsibility for all the family affairs after your mother died. In short, I tried to rehabilitate your character with Miss Elizabeth. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in getting her to reconsider her answer to your proposal.”

     Darcy was no happier to hear this information than he had been to hear the earlier information, but he received it in a dark moodiness that matched that of his cousin, and his only response was a nod of acceptance.

     “I believe my information was not simply rejected, but Miss Elizabeth’s opinion was so fixed that she was not inclined to change her mind.”

     Silence reigned in the study for several long minutes as both cousins continued to smoke their cigars and ponder the unsolvable problem that confronted them.

     Eventually, Darcy asked, “What shall you do now about Miss Bennet? I cannot help but wonder what Miss Elizabeth thinks of your intentions towards her sister given the ferocity with which she confronted me about Bingley.”

     “Miss Bennet appeared to welcome my attentions today, but I cannot return until Thursday. As for her sister, I do not think she is entirely pleased with me. I suppose she considers Bingley a better match for her sister. He certainly has a more substantial fortune, and you have told me of his amiability.”

     Darcy began to rummage through one of the stacks of papers on his desk until he retrieved a stack of cards with a grunt of satisfaction. He untied the ribbon around them and searched until he found one of the cards. Taking his pen, he wrote a short message on the back and blotted it.

     “Here,” he said, holding it out. “Use this and take your Miss Bennet to the theatre on Friday. I shall not be attending anytime soon, so someone should have use of the box.”

     Richard took the card and found it was a voucher from the Covent Garden Theatre where he knew Darcy rented a private box. On the back of the card, Darcy had written: “Col. R. Fitzwilliam & party will use my box for opening perf. of ‘J. Caesar,’ 1 May. F. Darcy.”

     “I thank you, Darce, but are you sure about this? I know you were looking forward to this performance.”

     Darcy waved off Richard’s protests. “I am not in the mood for it any longer. No—go yourself and take whoever might want to attend.”

     “Perhaps I might convince Miss Elizabeth to attend, then you could meet us at your box—“

     “No!” Darcy exclaimed. “Definitely not. I could not…would not…no. Thank you for your efforts, but it would only offend her. In fact, do not even mention my name. Just go and have a pleasant evening. And now, I still have a number of business matters with which to contend, so I beg you to excuse me so I can continue to do battle with them.”

     Richard nodded and silently left the study. As he looked back from the door, Darcy was seemingly immersed in examining the contents of one of the documents on his desk.

But I would wager his eyes are not focused on it, Richard thought. Though I am not a betting man, I would definitely place that wager.

A Pride & Prejudice Variation
by C. P. Odom

Book Blurb: 

“Love at first sight” is a laughable concept in the considered opinion of Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam and never occurs in real life—certainly not in the life of an experienced soldier. In fact, until he observes the smitten nature of his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy, he doubts that fervent love truly exists. Marriage, after all, is a matter of money, social standing, and property. 

But his cousin becomes besotted with Elizabeth Bennet, the lovely but penniless daughter of a Hertfordshire gentleman, and is determined to make her his wife. Unfortunately, emotions overwhelm his good judgment, and he botches an offer of marriage. 

When the colonel attempts to untangle the mess, his own world becomes almost as chaotic when he makes the accidental acquaintance of Miss Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s beloved elder sister. Can emotions previously deemed impossible truly seize such a level-headed person as himself? And can impassible obstacles deter a man of true determination?
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About the Author

     By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in
Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics. 
     I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree. 
     I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife's beloved Jane Austen books after her passing.  One thing led to another, and I now have five novels published:  A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019), and A Covenant of Marriage (2020). Four of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposal, Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets, Consequences, and A Covenant of Marriage.
     I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats.  My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately, I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).

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Many thanks to Janet @ More Agreeably Engaged for organizing and inviting me on this tour! And a big thanks to Meryton Press for this lovely giveaway! 

Wow! Didn't you love that excerpt?! I totally agree with Mr. Gardiner about Mr. Bingley. And I adore Colonel Fitzwilliam - I always have - I really enjoyed this conversation between him and Mr. Darcy. I can't wait to read Determination! I think I'm really going to love it! What about you? 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Unexpected Gifts by Maria Grace ~ Happy Twelfth Night!

Hello, my friends! Today I have the lovely Maria Grace visiting the blog with her new book, Unexpected Gifts

Thanks so much for having me, Candy!

And Happy Twelfth Night to you and yours! In Austen’s day, Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, was the final big celebration of the holiday season. So, it’s not too late for a great holiday story. (I confess, I love writing holiday stories; next to dragons, I think they are my favorite thing to write!)

In Austen’s Day, one of the typical ways to celebrate Twelfth Night was with a masquerade ball. While getting dressed up and pretending to be someone you’re not is always fun, in the Regency Era, it held a special note of excitement and intrigue that is a bit beyond what we know today. With the very strict rules of society and the social order, doing anything which gave the appearance of turning that on its head was quite adventurous, and sometimes improper!

That’s a great foundation for a holiday romance, but I confess, I wasn’t feeling too romancey this year. Not when I’ve caught myself using 2020 as an adjective—as in ‘Then it went all 2020 on me!’ I tried out a lot of ideas until I finally landed on a theme that felt right for the year: redeeming broken relationships. 

Many times, we wear masks to pretend everything is all right, when things really aren’t. What a time to strip off the masks and see what was really there.  If you think about the Darcy family, there are plenty of spots for broken relationships: Lady Catherine, Lady Matlock, Lydia Wickham, Charlotte Collins. It’s pretty clear what could have broken these relationships, but what would it take to make them right? Now that’s fodder for a Christmas story!

These stories may make you laugh, make you think, and might even make you cry. But they will definitely leave you with the fuzzy-warm holiday feelings that we all so need right now. So why don’t you grab a cup of hot cup of tea/coffee/cocoa/what have you, put up your feet and enjoy this little excerpt.

This is the fourth book in the Darcy Family Christmas series. Remember to check out the other three!


Christmas Eve, December 24, 1815

     Good, the lower parlor was quiet and empty. 

     Darcy closed the door behind him and strode to the large ivory brocade armchair near the fire. Storm clouds blocked out the evening light, leaving the room lit only by the fireplace and three candlesticks. He probably ought to light more before the rest of the party joined him. 

     Perhaps, in a few minutes.

     The warm firelight turned the room more green than blue—odd that the room had such a different character morning to evening. Somehow the evening was warmer, more welcoming. 

     Or perhaps that thought was utter nonsense brought on by the vexations of the house party. He swallowed back the urge to sigh.

     There was no need to step so lightly, quieting his footsteps to avoid notice, but somehow it seemed appropriate. The soft carpet muffled each step. 

     That woman he now had to claim as sister had invaded nearly every aspect of his life. A few moments without her presence could not be jeopardized, even if it required superstitious and silly means to accomplish.

     He permitted himself to fall into the chair. It groaned beneath him, reminding him in his mother’s voice that even in private he should mind his manners and posture. 

     No, today he deserved just a bit of leave to be uncouth. At least as uncouth as that woman was! He laced his hands behind his neck and squeezed his temples with his elbows.

     Thankfully, Elizabeth was resting upstairs. The baby had been restless all day, and Elizabeth had not felt well. Naturally, she did not own to it. But he had noticed. She was pale, restive and had not eaten well all day. Although the midwife said difficulty sleeping was expected and even a sign that the baby would be healthy and vigorous, somehow it did not make sense to him.

     And there was not one thing he could do for it. He sprang up, his feet itching for some useful activity. Pacing was also a bad habit, but better than simply running mad. 

     He raked his hand through his hair as the first bolt of lightning flashed in the windows, followed by a satisfying rumble of thunder. None of her pregnancies had lasted this long. If there were only some way to be assured of the outcome of this one.

     The last one, when it ended… He swallowed back the bitter, sick taste in the back of his throat. Dear God, let that not be the case again. So much blood…the tiny cry that lasted only moments…

     Another crack of thunder shook his bones and rattled his thoughts. 

     Was that Providence’s way of reminding him not to dwell upon the nightmare that haunted his sleep nearly every night these last few months? Perhaps that was why Lydia had come, to distract him from his dour and dreary thoughts and give him something entirely different to fret about.  

     “Do stop pacing, Darcy, no good comes of it. You will wear out yourself and the carpets, in that order.”

     Darcy jumped. When had Fitzwilliam wandered in?

     Long and easy in his blue coat and buff trousers—how Fitzwilliam hated the cut of breeches—he draped himself along one side of the floral couch opposite the settee. He still looked just like Andrew with his Aquiline nose and heavy brows, but he had filled out a bit since his marriage. That probably was a good thing. When he had left the army, he was positively gaunt. “Anne will be with us shortly.”

     “Is that a warning?”

     “No, it is a hint. If you have something to say about her, best get it off your chest before she arrives, and I have to puff out my chest and defend my bride against your surly attitudes.”

     “Defend her from me? How absurd!”

     “It is only absurd because we have a guest who irritates you even more than Anne does. Otherwise you would be grumbling about her.” Fitzwilliam leaned back and folded his arms over his chest. 

     Darcy grumbled and muttered under his breath as he positioned himself, politely, on the armchair.

     “Do relax man, it looks like you are carrying a poker up your—”

     “Darcy!” Anne swept in, deep pink skirts of something stiff and formal rustling with her steps. Her cheeks glowed, and she looked healthier—and happier—than she ever had before. Neither might ever admit it, but she and Fitzwilliam had become quite smitten with one another. “I thought you might still be sitting with Elizabeth. How is she?” At least there was genuine concern in her eyes, not cold politeness or morbid curiosity.

     “She is tired, I think. And uncomfortable.”

     “I should think so.” Fitzwilliam guffawed.

     “What would you know of it?” Anne sat beside him, straightened her skirts, and cuffed his shoulder. “You speak of something you do not understand. Yes, I know you have suffered your share of discomforts in this life, but you grasp nothing of what it is like to be waddling about like some great goose knowing that everyone is laughing about it behind your back.”

     “Despite your best efforts to school me otherwise, you still insist that I have learned nothing.” Fitzwilliam flashed an eyebrow at her, snickering.

     “Absolutely. You have no idea of what she suffers.”

     Darcy winced. The last thing he needed right now was a reminder of his mother-in-law’s favorite complaint.

     “I know the midwife says her confinement will not be until the new year, but I think she is wrong.” Anne folded her arms across her chest, looking so much like her mother it was difficult to take her seriously.

     “Because having a single daughter makes you an expert on these things?” It was fortunate that Fitzwilliam’s wife had spine enough to withstand his incessant teasing.

     “Because I have seen the look in Elizabeth’s eyes, and I recall it well. I think she is close. You should call the midwife as soon as may be arranged.”

     Rain slammed the windowpanes as though thrown from buckets, backlit by another bolt of lightning.

     Darcy stared at the windows. The curtains ought to be drawn soon. “I will send for Mrs. Madden as soon as the weather abates.”

     “That is not like you not to argue, Darce.” Fitzwilliam sat up straighter, leaning in.

     “Leave him be, Richard.” Anne elbowed him hard. “Can you not see when to leave off your taunting ways and show a bit of understanding?”

     “That is not what you married me for.”

     “Perhaps not, but nonetheless, it would be an appropriate demonstration of gratitude for a refuge away from both our mothers and their matchmaking machinations for Georgiana this season.”

     Fitzwilliam groaned and threw his head back to stare at the ceiling. “At this point, I do not know what would be worse. Mother’s constant parties and outings and dinners or—”

     “Do not say it!” Anne hissed.

     “Another evening spent in the company of Mrs. Wickham.” Fitzwilliam groaned under his breath.

     “Do not be so rude! She is a guest here just as we are.” Anne glanced at Darcy. “Pray excuse him.”

     “Just because you are amused by her antics—and I know you only feel that way because you know you should not be—does not mean the rest of us see it your way.” Fitzwilliam rolled his eyes.

     What had Lydia done now?

     “I grant you; she was a bit … enthusiastic … cutting evergreens today.” Anne’s lips thinned to a very polite expression. It never boded well when Anne feigned politeness.

     “What happened?” Most likely, Darcy did not want to know, especially before dinner when such news might spoil his appetite for Cook’s excellent victuals, but he had to ask. 

     Anne exchanged glances with Fitzwilliam. Anne unsure of what to say? Definitely not good.

     “You need not worry about it.” Fitzwilliam flicked his hand, pushing the thought away.

     “I absolutely do. What happened?” Darcy stood and stalked to the windows. He yanked the dark teal curtains across the windows.

     “Have you seen your front hall?” Anne whispered.

     “Do I need to?”

     “It is rather overtaken with greenery at the moment.” Fitzwilliam snickered.

     Darcy stalked toward the couch. “Overtaken? What does that mean in precise terms? Clear, precise and exact terms, please.”

     “Mrs. Wickham is rather fond of evergreens.” Anne shrugged and bit her lower lip.

     “That is not a sufficient explanation. Fitzwilliam, perhaps you will clarify for me what your wife will not?” Darcy towered over Fitzwilliam.

     Fitzwilliam dragged the back of his hand across his chin. “You need not worry about it. Did I not tell you, Anne? I took care of everything.”

     “What did you take care of!” Deep breath, man. The master of the house should not stomp.

     “Mrs. Reynolds agreed with me. She was certain neither you nor Elizabeth needed to be bothered with it.”

     “Bothered with what?” Now he was shouting. Best stop that. Elizabeth always seemed to know when he was upset—how he could not fathom, but she did. And if she knew he was agitated, she would suddenly appear when she should be resting instead.

     “Mrs. Wickham insisted we come home with enough evergreens to fill the front hall and render it largely impassable. She rapidly grew bored with the efforts of decorating the house with them and left it to whomever else had the fancy,” Anne said softly.

     “As I said, there is nothing to worry about. I marshaled the footmen and hall boys, and we piled most of it on a farm cart and sent it out to the tenants, who, I am happy to say, received it with gratitude and are strengthened in the delusion that you are the best landlord in all of England.” Fitzwilliam held up open hands. “So, you see there is nothing to trouble yourself with.”

     “Was Elizabeth privy to any of this?” 

     Anne flinched.

     “Is that why she was so distressed today?” Yes, that was a much better tone of voice, low and even.

     “I think not. She seemed to enjoy tying bows on garlands with her sisters and I for a quarter of an hour, doing an admirable job of ignoring the unmanageable heap in the front hall. Then she allowed me to help her upstairs to her sitting room for a bit of tea and quiet. That was before Mrs. Wickham left.” 

     The parlor door swung open, revealing the Bingleys, dressed and polished for dinner.

     “If you want to be all glimflashy about things, I suggest you turn your ire on her.” Fitzwilliam pointed at Jane, elegant and poised in a simple blue and white striped dinner gown.

     Jane’s eyes grew large and her cheeks flushed.

     “Do not tease her.” Anne crossed the room to take Jane’s hands. “She has not the disposition for it.” She led Jane and Bingley into the parlor and shut the door.

     “What is all this about?” Bingley asked, pulling a lyre-back chair from the card table close to the couch for Jane. “Are you going on about the cutting party this morning?”

     “It was not my idea.” Jane looked at her hands as she sat down.

     “As I recall, it was yours.” Bingley nodded his head toward Anne.

     “But it was you, Mrs. Bingley, who wrote to Mrs. Wickham of our little house party.” Fitzwilliam wagged a pointing finger. 

     Jane huddled back into her chair.

     Blast! Why could he not understand that not all were of the constitution to tolerate his taunting? True enough, Jane bordered on insipid and utterly annoying in her mildness, but that did not justify Fitzwilliam tormenting her. 

     “Neither of us suspected she would consider that an invitation.” Bingley scooted his chair a little closer to Jane. “Traveling alone with two small children? Who does that sort of thing?”

     “I do wonder where Wickham is. I thought all the troops had been brought back from France by now.” Fitzwilliam’s face grew dark and his tone cold, the way it always did when the subject of France came up.

     “Just before we left, I thought I read in the newspaper that there were several regiments still there.” Anne shrugged.

     “More likely he has used the opportunity to slink away like the loathsome creature that he is, ignoring his duty to his family until he decides there is some pecuniary benefit that might be gained from attending to them,” Darcy muttered, looking away from his company.  

     “That does raise an important question.” Bingley leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “What is to be done for them?”

     “Done? What do you mean done?” Darcy began to pace again as another wave of rain pounded the window glass. “I have done all—”

     “What have you done, Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth toddled in, looking so much like her young nieces, still unsteady on their feet, that it was difficult not to smile.

     He hurried to offer her his arm and settle her in the large floral armchair. 

Unexpected Gifts
by Maria Grace

Book Blurb: 

     Yuletide 1814, the Darcys are celebrating their third wedding anniversary and the baby Elizabeth is expecting. Overprotective and perhaps overbearing, Darcy is ready to do anything for Elizabeth’s comfort, including defying the will of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh who demands their presence to bestow a gift that absolutely cannot wait. 

     What sort of gift is so urgent it cannot wait for a more auspicious time? 

     Christmastide 1815, the Darcys hope for a particular sort of joy to bring a close to a dark and difficult season. It only seems fitting that an unexpected—and unwelcome—guest disrupts their small family house party. Could the unexpected gift they bring be the key to the fulfillment of the Darcys’ most heartfelt desires?
Buy: Amazon*
Add to Goodreads

Links for other books in the Darcy Family Christmas series:

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

The Darcys' First Christmas

From Admiration to Love

*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

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. Her books are available at all major online booksellers. 

Connect with Maria Grace

Ooh! What did Darcy do?! I guess will have to read the book to find out! :)

Thank you, Maria Grace, for stopping by and sharing this lovely excerpt! I'm glad to see so many of my favorite characters celebrating Christmas together! 

 So, friends, tell us your thoughts! Let us know if you've read any of the Darcy Family Christmas series! Happy Twelfth Night!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Hello, 2021

 Hello, my friends and happy New Year! I took the month of December off, and I'm happy to be back! I have to admit, I needed the break. I've been feeling a bit down, and both my reading and blogging suffered for it. But hopefully, I'm back!

I'm not sure if I'm going to do any reading challenges this year. Although I will continue doing the Goodreads challenge. I just want to focus on reading anything. Whatever suits my fancy at the moment. :) 

So, here's to a happier and healthy New Year! Cheers!

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K Rowling. Well, actually, I've read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but I got a new hardback of the Philosopher's Stone. :)  Yay! Love new books!

What are you reading? 

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