Present also are quite a few of my own favorites, including books by Abigail Reynolds, Joana Starnes, Caitlin Williams and Amy D’Orazio. What a list! Check out the other amazing reads on her list here!
Present also are quite a few of my own favorites, including books by Abigail Reynolds, Joana Starnes, Caitlin Williams and Amy D’Orazio. What a list! Check out the other amazing reads on her list here!
Merry Christmas everyone! I shared this story two years ago at the end of the Courtship of Edward Gardiner blog tour. I thought today would be a fun day to dust it off. I hope everyone has a beautiful Christmas and a joyful New Year.
Edward Gardiner slowly paraded down the staircase of his new home, his heart full and his spirits buoyant. This was to be his first Christmas as the master of a fine house, the first year of lavishly bestowing gifts upon so many now in his employ, and the first year of hosting his Meryton relations in London, rather than going to his sisters as he always had. Most importantly of all, it was his first year of waking with his very dearest treasure wrapped in his arms. Perhaps no other would have perceived the purpose of his motion, but he tipped his chin very slightly down and to the left as he walked, drawing a delicious breath. Madeline’s fragrance still lingered near his neck, where she had kissed and nuzzled him only moments ago.
It was with no small measure of satisfaction that he gained the bottom of the stairs to find the house still largely quiet. His sisters would remain abed at least another hour, and the Bennet children, fatigued from their journey, would likely follow suit. The only soul he expected to encounter was that of his brother, Thomas Bennet. In this, he was not disappointed, for the library had already been commandeered by that reclusive fellow. It seemed, however, that Bennet was not alone.
“Merry Christmas, Uncle!” Elizabeth chirped brightly from the window seat, where she had been flipping through one of his newest books. She set it aside carefully- for a mercy- and bounced to him with her freshly scrubbed face shining.
“And a very Merry Christmas to you, Lizzy!” he scooped her up and gave her a joyful peck on the cheek. “And to you, Thomas,” he turned, extending his greeting to his brother-in-law.
“Aye, it is that,” the other nodded agreeably, his eyes only briefly rising from his book. “For another hour or two, at least.” He lifted his brows, wetted his fingers, and turned a page.
Elizabeth peered up at her uncle with a quizzical little frown, a furrowed brow, and a teasing sparkle in her eyes. Edward sighed, shaking his head. “Come, Lizzy, have you seen all of the greens yet? Does the house not look beautiful this morning?”
She nodded. “Uncle, when may we open our presents?”
“Oh! You must wait, Elizabeth. Did you expect to open yours before your sisters are even dressed?”
“Yes,” she admitted guilelessly.
“I tell you what,” he chuckled, “I’ve a special surprise for your aunt. Would you help me to prepare it for her?”
Her brilliant eyes glittered afresh and she caught her lip between her teeth. “Oh, tell me, what is it? Did you buy her a phaeton and ponies?”
He laughed. “You must wait and see! Come, I think your father would enjoy having the library to himself anyway.”
Three hours later, Elizabeth stood beside her uncle as he welcomed the entire family to the drawing room. “Oh, brother!” cried Fanny Bennet, fluttering her fan. “I knew it would be lovely! Why, Sister, simply look at the bowers, and the ribbons, and… oh! The lace on that table, so charming! Where ever did you find such exquisite decorations?”
Edward beamed proudly at his wife, who had come to his other side. “Madeline deserves the credit. There, my dear, do you see? You feared making a poor impression, but I have never seen a lovelier home than my own this day.”
Madeline blushed prettily, catching her father’s eye as he bounced little Mary Bennet upon his knee. “My dear, I believe you would say so even if I had chosen to decorate the house in brown and yellow, instead of the proper colours!”
“It is a clever man who pays his compliments wisely,” affirmed Thomas Bennet, lifting his glass in a mock salute.
“Indeed!” Edward agreed. “And to that end, I know I am breaking somewhat with tradition, but I should like to give you the first gift, my dear. Lizzy?”
“Yes, Uncle!” Elizabeth dove for the pile of gifts, attempting to wrap her arms about an especially large one right in the middle. Three or four other boxes toppled as she dislodged the base of the stack, but she wrestled determinedly until she had dragged it free.
“Edward, you should not have!” Madeline objected. “What could possibly…?”
Edward laughed and bent to assist Elizabeth. The box was awkward rather than heavy, but even he found it more convenient to drag than to lift. “Open it, my love!”
Madeline bit her lip and tilted her head askance. The box was lovingly wrapped and decorated so beautifully that she hated to break it open. Moreover, her natural modesty objected to what was clearly a large and lavish gift from her husband. What was everyone else to think? Nonetheless, she grasped the ribbon and gave a gentle tug. Carefully she peeled away the folds of paper, taking the greatest pains that not one single corner should be ripped in her haste. Elizabeth started to bounce.
The paper fell away, Madeline lifted the lid of the box, and beheld… another box. She darted a quick look to Edward, and found his eyes dancing with mirth. This box was even more exquisitely wrapped than the first, and still quite large. Edward helped her to lift it out, and with a little laugh, she began to unwrap this box as well. Inside the second box was a third, this one wrapped in gold foil. “Oh, Edward!” she giggled in feigned exasperation.
Fanny Bennet and most of her daughters were beginning to grow restless. To cries of impatience and admiration, with not a little smattering of children clamoring to see over one another, Madeline worked her way through four more boxes. Where Edward had found such a perfect assortment of nesting boxes, she could not fathom, but his cheeks grew ever brighter as she continued to add to the mounting pile of discarded wrapping.
Inside the seventh box, Madeline discovered a nest of tawny packing material, concealing and protecting something precious within. She lifted her brows teasingly at Edward, catching Elizabeth’s bubbling delight as she did so. “For such a large box to begin, whatever is inside must be quite small!”
“It is often so, is it not, my dear? The most magnificent blessings are often in the smallest details.”
Her eyes pricked a little at the warmth in his tones, and she began to suspect that whatever lay within was some priceless treasure- something in which she would delight for the rest of her life. Blinking quickly, she began to search through the rustling packing material until her fingers found a small, humble little box. It was wrapped simply in brown paper and string, and fit within the palm of her hand. She raised her eyes to Edward and he gave her a small nod of encouragement.
Drawing breath, she pulled the string and reverently unfolded the very last of the wrapping, then lifted the lid of the box. Inside was a bright, shining key. She pinched it gingerly between her fingers and held it up with questioning eyes.
Edward came near to rest a hand upon her shoulder and spoke lowly into her ear. “It is a key to my study desk,” he told her quietly. “I know it seems a simple thing, my love, but it is yours as much as it is mine. Everything I am, every facet of my life, is as an open book to you. I want you forever by my side, Madeline, sharing in my heart, my labours, my hopes. I lay all before you, and desire you as my partner in every corner of this life.”
Her throat had tightened and her eyes burned in overpowering joy as she blinked down at his gift- that tiny little object which unlocked his entire world. “It is as you say, my love,” she whispered. “The most priceless treasures are often very small.” She looked up and caught Jane Bennet’s eye. Understanding at once, Jane leapt to the pile of gifts to find a small, soft parcel, and brought it to her aunt.
Madeline took it and gave it into Edward’s hand. “Merry Christmas, my darling!”
His brow creased, he tore silently into the folds of tissue. The item within emerged, and he held it up in some confusion. “What is it?”
Laughing lightly, Madeline took it from him and unfolded the downy material for him to examine. “It is a bonnet… for an infant.”
His face washed in wonder. “A… an infant? Madeline!” He gasped, then caught up his wife in his arms and spun her dizzily about. “Are you certain? We must speak of this at once!” Not delaying even a moment upon his resolution, the determined husband carried his surprised young wife from the drawing room and mounted the stairs. The remaining guests craned their necks to peer round the doorway in curiosity as the couple departed so unceremoniously, the echoes of their laughter sounding through the entire house.
Thomas Bennet cleared his throat. “Well,” began he, with a suspicious twinkle in his eye. “It seems we must carry on without our host and hostess. Mr Fairbanks, sir, would you care to do the honours?”
Mr Fairbanks, his eyes weak and his smile radiant, took up the invitation. He clasped Mary’s little hand ever more fervently, glorying in the knowledge that soon he might cradle his own flesh and blood once more. Before he gave out the next gift, he hesitated and his squinted gaze passed over each person in that room- his new family. Slowly, he began to nod, as if confirming to himself all that his old heart whispered. “’And it was good,’” he softly quoted the ancient line. “Very good. Merry Christmas!”
I am delighted to announce that my angsty monster, These Dreams, is now live on Audible! The book was narrated by the extraordinarily talented Leena Emsley, and clocks in at almost 26 1/2 hours of listening! Check out the sample, and I hope you enjoy Leena’s work as much as I did.
My car in the Rational Creatures train stopped at Rita Deodato’s blog, From Pemberley to Milton. Join us as we chat about one of Jane Austen’s least rational heroines (at least, at the beginning of her story) and what it is to grow up.
Don’t forget to enter a comment for a chance at the grand prize!
The wait for another North and South variation is almost over! Stop by More Agreeably Engaged to find out about the cover and plot for Nowhere But North, and leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.
It has been two years since I last published a North & South novel. While my heart remained with John and Margaret, their story took its time to develop. I am delighted to announce that it is finally close!
I have become something of a hermit lately, spending every waking minute at the laptop and missing out on all the fun books and audiobooks I have waiting in my queue. I’m wrapping up a grisly slash-and-dash round of editing, then the manuscript goes off to some of the sharpest eyes I know of for some final checks, and likely a much-needed dose of reality.
Meanwhile, Janet Taylor has been working hard on an absolute stunner of a cover. I say this every time, but this is my new favourite of all the covers she has designed for me! I can’t wait to reveal it, as well as the official blurb on her blog More Agreeably Engaged. Don’t forget to stop by her blog on August 1 to check it out!
Until then, I’ll leave you with another short excerpt from the book. It’s back to the editing boards for me, so I will catch you all soon!
Excerpt from Chapter Two
Margaret did eventually take John’s—or rather their—carriage to her old house. The experience of commanding her own driver was novel enough. It was more eerie still to make her way up the steps which had been her home for a year and a half, knowing that yesterday’s indifferent ceremony had changed everything for her.
In truth, she would much rather not be facing her dismantled house again so soon, but that cold grey door was simply less intimidating than the available company in her new home. She did not like shouldering this task on her own, but more daunting still was the request she would have had to make of the man who had unwillingly obligated himself to her. No, far better to let him to his work than to remind him of the weight of the duties he had assumed!
With a long breath, she put her hand to the knocker, fearful of what the opening door would reveal. The harmony of her old home was far greater to Margaret’s sentimental heart than the sum of fondly remembered trinkets and baubles. This had been her mother’s last home. Here was the last place where her touch could be felt, and now, it must all be broken up. Margaret’s eyes threatened that familiar hot, prickling sensation as Dixon opened the door to her.
“Oh, it’s you, Miss! I feared it’d be the landlord.”
Margaret smiled, not even bothering to correct Dixon’s old form of address. “No, and you shall not see the landlord, Dixon. Mr Thornton has the matter in hand.”
Dixon peered around Margaret’s shoulder to the waiting carriage. “Well, that’s fine enough, then!” She took the privileged bride’s cape and bonnet at the door, her fond gaze searching her young mistress for any symptoms of either contentment or distress.
Margaret was not insensible to Dixon’s scrutiny. “I am well, Dixon.”
Dixon harrumphed, a little embarrassed at being caught staring, and led the way to the upstairs sitting room. Margaret suppressed a quiet smile, but it vanished when she entered the room which had once been her mother’s domain.
Everything was in shambles. Dixon had been busy, and the room was nothing at all as Margaret would have chosen to remember it. They had boxed her mother’s clothing long ago, but now even her little portrait frames and mementos were unceremoniously swept from sight. Though still cluttered, the chamber was already barren.
“Oh, Dixon!” she breathed hoarsely. “I do not think I can do this!”
Dixon heaved a weary sigh. It was likely as hard on her as it was on Margaret, but the old serving woman had not the luxury of an advantageous marriage to lift her from her grief. All was on her broad shoulders, but she would bear up, as she ways did. “There, now, Miss,” she soothed. “We’ll have this settled soon enough.”
Margaret sniffed, glancing about the room with sorrow. “Mr Thornton says we need not hurry.”
Dixon pouted and turned to wrap a little silver bell for packing. She made no reply, but her opinion was plain.
Margaret stiffened. “Dixon, I can see you still disapprove, but I will not have you speaking ill of Mr Thornton. He has been very good to us.”
“Oh, yes,” Dixon muttered bitterly. “I’d warrant he has. Caught himself a lady, he has, and now he must think himself quite the gentleman.”
“Dixon!” Margaret’s ire flashed. “I will not allow you to disrespect my husband. If you continue to speak so, I will dismiss you immediately!”
Dixon turned slowly, her expression all astonishment. She stared, as if trying to determine if Margaret were in earnest. “Beg your pardon, Miss.”
“I am a married woman, Dixon,” Margaret reminded her, a dangerous edge to her voice which she had never used with Dixon.
“Ma’am,” Dixon corrected herself. Her face quivered in confused agitation as she turned to her task again.
Margaret remained frozen to her place, her arms crossed over her breast as a shield against the cruelties of her new trials. She was terrified herself at this path, and could have wished for Dixon’s encouragement just now. “Dixon, I hope you may come to understand my reasons….”
Dixon looked back up, her face growing red again. “I thought you were set on going to Corfu,” she grumbled accusingly. “I wouldn’t see you go to Cadiz and be converted, but why not go to your cousin? She’d’ve had you, to be sure!”
Margaret narrowed her eyes. “I preferred to remain here, Dixon. I do not need to justify myself to you. I had sufficient inducement to stay, and that is all.”
Chastised again, Dixon turned back to the tray of curios and trinkets. She said not another word for three full hours.
Have you been following the blog tour for London Holiday? If you haven’t had a chance to check out the fun, here are the stops so far on the tour! At each stop, you can enter for a chance to win an ebook of London Holiday, so stop at them all!
So Little Time: We talk about what makes a Romantic Comedy
Diary of an Eccentric: A tribute to Roman Holiday
Just Jane 1813: Claudine’s Review
My Life Journey: Loren’s Review
From Pemberley to Milton: An exclusive vignette: Darcy asks for Mr Bennet’s blessing
My Jane Austen Book Club: We talk about the life of a Regency Footman
Half Agony, Half Hope: A Review and an Excerpt from Chapter 15
Austenesque Reviews: A History of Vauxhall Gardens and an Excerpt from Chapters 19 & 20
My Love for Jane Austen: An exclusive vignette: Darcy plays matchmaker
Obsessed with Mr Darcy: Review
My Vices and Weaknesses: All about hot air balloons, and an excerpt!
A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life: The attractions at Vauxhall Gardens
Thank you so much to all the bloggers for their support, and for all the readers who are taking the time to stop by!
The first blog review is in, and I am dancing on the moon! Check out what Rita Deodato has to say about London Holiday!
In case you haven’t seen it yet, Janet Taylor is hosting a cover reveal for London Holiday over at More Agreeably Engaged! She also has an excerpt from Chapter 2 of the book, and she’s hosting a giveaway, so you don’t want to miss it. Click the banner below to check it out!
And if you want some even better news, London Holiday is now available on Amazon! Check it out HERE!
Happy Summer Holiday!
I am dreadfully wicked, I know, but I am not sharing the title… yet. Soon, my lovelies, very soon! Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist sharing a bit from Chapter 3, a Meet-not-so-cute between our dearly adored couple. The image at the top of the page will give you a teensy hint about the story as well. Enjoy!
His eyes were leaden weights, throbbing and aching with each queasy pound of his chest. What had he done last night? Even a fall from his horse typically did not cost him so dearly the next day.
Darcy groaned and cast a hand over his face, a deed which instantly earned him another stab through his brain. He moaned again. Where the devil was Wilson? The man ought to be there with a cool cloth to salve these burning sockets in his face.
He tried to call out for his man, but forming the word in his mouth made his head spin and writhe again. Instead, he managed only a garbled moan and rolled to his side. There was some sort of feminine disturbance nearby, and it sounded a great deal like a noisy ballroom. Surely he was not in one of those, for he was quite certain that one was not permitted to assume a supine posture in such a venue. More was the pity.
One pulsing eye slitted a fraction. The image he perceived was blurred—a pale shape, with dark edges… and a loud voice. A decidedly female voice.
His stomach gave one great flip as his body spasmed in panic. Good heavens, it had finally happened! Someone had gotten the better of him and staged a compromise, and the giggling miss who was watching him rouse from his helpless stupor was to be his bane for life.
He wheeled to the opposite side of… he supposed it was a bed, but the crackling straw mattress felt unlike any bed he had known. He remained there, ignoring the petulant dismay in that wretched seductress’s tones, while he rubbed his eyes and cradled his head.
“Lizzy!” the malefactress cried out. “He’s awake!”
Darcy clutched the searing orbs in his eye sockets. “Have a care, madam,” he growled. “The deuce is driving the very steeds of Hades in my head, and I suppose I have you to thank for it. Very well, you have ensnared me squarely, but have the decency to gloat in silence while I try to reconcile myself to my fate.”
“Whatever that means,” scoffed a girl’s voice. “Lizzy! Are you coming back with the powders?” she called. Loudly.
Darcy winced and hissed his displeasure. He pinched his nose, hoping his brain would remain within his skull, then cautiously lowered his fingers to survey his captor. Oh, devil take it, she could be no older than Georgiana! At least he could have been trapped by a woman of some maturity, but no! He was to be the prey of a child barely out of the schoolroom!
He was snarling in silence at his misfortune when another woman rounded the door. Ah! So this must be the accomplice. His lip curled.
“Good morning!” the dashed minx beamed in pleasure—and well she might, for they had achieved their ends. “I am glad to see you recovered. You were in quite a shocking state when we found you. We feared we would have to send for the apothecary. How is your head?”
Darcy stared at her. She was clearly no child. In fact, though he would be hard pressed to call her a beauty, there was a remarkably fine look of intelligence– or perhaps cunning— about her eyes, and a convincingly earnest concern in her voice. A fine actress! Her features were not fashionable, but striking, even so. She might even be declared tolerable, under different circumstances. A pity she was culpable in a scheme to ruin him! He rubbed his forehead, hoping the hellish nightmare would simply vanish.
“Oh, I am sorry,” the second Jezebel whispered. “I have spoken too loudly for your comfort. Here, a nice cup of coffee might set you right, and I brought you some headache powders. My uncle had some at hand for sickness.”
Darcy propped one bleary eye open. A maid was setting up a tray in the small chamber… good heavens, he appeared to be installed in the servant’s quarters! Had they not even the decency to compromise him properly?
“Lizzy, you had best send for Aunt,” the younger noted. “He is looking rather green. I think he must have struck his head! Ask who he is.”
“Do you not know?” he snorted bitterly. “I rather expect you and your ilk know more of my name and my prospects than my own mother could have! How dare you play the innocent after all that has transpired?”
The women traded curious glances. The younger circled her finger insultingly round her ear, while the elder shrugged her shoulders and ventured, “Sir, can you give us the name of your employer so we may send word of your welfare? My aunt’s coachman can drive you, if you are too ill to walk. Where were you bound last evening?”
Darcy glanced over his shoulder and found no one sitting behind him whom she might be addressing. “My… employer?”
Oh, my! Yes, I am leaving you there. What in the world has Darcy gotten himself into? You will have to stew for a bit, but the wait won’t be too much longer! If you want to be one of the first to receive a copy, add your name to my mailing list. I’ll be sending out ARC’s to the top 25 names!