Tuesday, February 13, 2024

"No Less Than Any Other" by MJ Stratton ~ Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway

Hello, my friends! MJ Stratton is visiting us today with an excerpt and a giveaway of her new book, No Less Than Any Other! Please enjoy! Details for the giveaway are at the bottom of the page.

No Less Than Any Other
by MJ Stratton


Elizabeth Bennet is not the son and heir her mother wished, much to Mrs. Bennet’s despair. But all was not lost, for soon after her second daughter’s birth, Mrs. Bennet delivered a son. Tom Bennet, born just minutes after his sister, was their family’s savior from the moment he took his first breath. 

Tom Bennet's peculiar nature soon sets him apart from others around him. His striking intelligence, key in aiding his family, paired with his many oddities leaves those around him with many differing opinions. None, though, are more dedicated to his well-being than his twin sister Elizabeth. 

The closer to reaching their majority the twins get, the more frantic Mrs. Bennet is, for should anything befall Tom, her hopes and security will be dashed. She is determined that her girls must marry wealthy, eligible men as an extra precaution. 

When Netherfield Park is let at last and is filled with eligible men, Mrs. Bennet sees her chance to ensnare at least one wealthy man for her daughters. But will the rumors of heartless neighbors prevent the new tenants from forming any serious designs on any of the Bennet daughters? 

No Less Than Any Other is a sweet and clean Pride and Prejudice variation.

When the twins were four, Fanny was once again pregnant. She had great hopes that this one would be the spare she so desperately wanted. Tommy was still not speaking, and Fanny took great pains to bemoan her son’s mute state whenever she could.
Longbourn’s heir was the talk of Meryton and the surrounding area regularly. Mrs. Bennet could barely stand it, and though she was a social creature, she forewent visiting the neighbors so that she could avoid their questions. 
Gossip about Tommy first started when the lad’s peculiar tendencies became obvious as he grew. Tommy could not tolerate bright lights or loud noises. He was sensitive to textures, particularly when it came to clothing, and the softest fabrics were needed to keep him comfortable. The biggest curiosity, however, was that at the age of four, no one had yet to hear the boy utter even one word.
Thomas Bennet Senior was rightly concerned with his son’s inability to speak. It was quite by chance that his fears were put to rest. One afternoon, as he wandered his garden, taking a brief rest from the tedium of managing the estate, he heard Lizzy’s little voice amidst the summer flowers. The second Bennet daughter had a great love of the outdoors, much to Mrs. Bennet’s dismay, and she could often be found hiding in the shrubs and greenery.
“Tommy,” lisped Elizabeth. “You ought to give up this nonsense. It is silly that you only speak to me.”
“You are the only one who listens,” another voice came.
Thomas nearly fainted in shock. Tommy’s voice, his perfect little voice! Words perfectly pronounced with no hint of the awkwardness of speech that often accompanies a child of four.
“But Mama’s hes-tri-on-ax,” Lizzy enunciated slowly. “I know they are making Papa upset.”
“It is pronounced his-tri-on-ics, Lizzy,” Tommy said, slowly pronouncing the word his sister had butchered.
“His-tri-on-ics,” Lizzy repeated. “Yes, those. Papa does not deserve to have Mama being so mean to him. We can fix it by showing Mama that you can speak.”
“Why?” Tommy asked. “Will it not shock her to learn that I am not the idiot she thinks me? What if she becomes more hysterical?”
“Do not call yourself an idiot,” Lizzy scolded. “You are smart, and I love you.”
“I know I am smart,” Tommy whispered. “But I am still different. If it is not my speech, Mama would find something else wrong with me.”
“Different is not less,” Lizzy insisted.
Thomas listened to his young twins with fascination. It was like listening to a pair of miniature adults. Lizzy’s manner of speaking was much less advanced than her brother’s, but it was no less amazing. 
“I cannot help how I am, Lizzy,” Tommy continued. “Sometimes things are just…overwhelming. I hate the nursery. It is too loud. And then when I am upset, the nurse does not understand. It is hard to explain how I feel when everything is too much. You are the only one who helps me.”
Thomas felt a pang of remorse. How had he missed the silent struggle his little boy was going through? Nurse Wilson had, indeed, complained many times about Master Tommy’s tantrums. Crying at nothing, the lady had said. What was it Tommy called it? Everything being too much?
The household had long since learned that Tommy did not like loud noises or bright lights. He was often overwhelmed, causing him to flap his arms or cry inconsolably. Lizzy was the only one with the skills to calm the young master during one of his ‘fits.’ Given the knowledge his son had just imparted, it made sense that little Tommy spent barely any time in the nursery with his younger siblings.
“Can you not start speaking sometimes?” Lizzy asked, her tone pleading. “It would make Papa very happy.”
“How do you know?” Tommy asked, his voice full of questions. 
“Because he always looks so sad,” Lizzy answered. “Whenever he and Mama have argued about you, he looks so very upset.”
“How can you tell?” Tommy questioned. “I have never noticed.”
“It is in his eyes,” Lizzy replied. “He looks like he is going to cry.”
“What does that look like?” 
“Like this,” Lizzy said. 
She must have been demonstrating for her brother, for it was silent for a few moments. Thomas peeked around to view his children and observed his son studying Elizabeth’s expression intently.
“I think I have it now,” Tommy said. “Is this what it looks like?”
Elizabeth giggled. “You look like you ate something sour,” she said.
“I do not know how to do it,” Tommy huffed. “Everyone’s face looks the same to me.”
“With practice, you will notice the differences in expression,” Lizzy promised her brother. “Now, it is time for tea. I am very hungry. Should we go in?”
Tommy nodded in agreement, and Mr. Bennet ducked out of sight so he would not be seen. He watched as Tommy took Elizabeth’s hand and they skipped off toward the house. 
As they went Thomas heard Lizzy ask once more, “You will at least think about what I said, right Tommy?”
The pair were too far away for Mr. Bennet to hear Tommy’s reply.

About the Author

MJ Stratton is a long-time lover of Jane Austen and her works, having been introduced to Pride and Prejudice by a much-beloved aunt at the age of sixteen. The subsequent discovery of Austenesque fiction sealed her fate. After beta reading and editing for others for nearly a decade, MJ started publishing her own work in 2022. MJ balances being a wife and mother with writing, gardening, sewing, and many other favorite pastimes. She lives with her husband and four children in the small, rural town where she grew up.

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* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! As part of this book tour, MJ Stratton is giving away an eCopy of the book No Less Than Any Other! Enter through the Rafflecopter below!

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

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