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The Austen Variations Semi-Annual Sale is on!

Books by Elizabeth Adams, Jennifer Altman, Jack Caldwell, Nicole Clarkson, L.L. Diamond, Maria Grace, Kara Louise, Abigail Reynolds, Melanie Stanford, Joana Starnes, and Shannon Winslow!

Also featured is the magnificent group work – Persuasion: Behind the Scenes!
Sale runs May 31 – June 2, 2019
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A Gift for Mother’s Day!

Here in the US, we are celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday. I am wildly blessed to be able to say that both my mom and my mom-in-love are amazing women, and I look up to them with mad respect.

Mother’s Day around our house is easy. My mom picked out her gift on Amazon two months ago. My mother-in-law always asks for a hanging flower basket for her patio, but this year, she found one she liked on her own, and just asked me to mail her the cheque! 😂 I’ll be laughing about that one for weeks. As for me, my only request of my family was, “Please don’t make me go clothes shopping again this year.” Really.

How about you? Any fun ideas or plans? And what about those for whom Mother’s Day is actually sad or stressful? My heart goes out to you.

I hope I have something fun for everyone. Nefarious is in the homestretch, so watch the Austen Variations blog this week for more updates. Today, though, I’m posting the very next scene after Unlucky Thirteen, the chapter that left you hanging. Darcy has been kicked to the curb by his bestest bud, and now it’s time to bring in the big guns. That’s right, our favorite Colonel gets his share in the conversation. 💕

Happy Mother’s Day and happy reading!


London

Two Weeks Later

“Darcy, is this where you have been hiding out? In the name of all that is decent, man, put on some candles.”

I did not bother turning round when Richard invaded my library, but I did wonder precisely how he had bribed Hodges to let him in. Had I not told my butler I was not at home to anyone? I slowly sipped again from my brandy, ignoring my cousin’s muttered oaths and imprecations when he stumbled over the pile of books I had been attempting to read.

Buggar,” Richard breathed when he reached my chair. “On second thought, forget the candles until you have seen your valet.”

“Leave off, Richard.”

“Perhaps an apothecary, too. What the devil are you doing here? And what is this… where are all the maids?”

“Leaving me be, which is precisely where I wish you were.” I raised my snifter again, and Richard whisked it deftly from my fingers. “What is the meaning of this?” I snapped.

“Someone must do it, before you make a bigger ass of yourself,” he reasoned, and finished the drink himself before I could reclaim it. “From what I hear, the only company you see all day is that stack of books and a bottle.”

“A glass of brandy in the afternoon does not make a man a drunkard. I am not in my cups, and I have not been.”

“Aye, if an afternoon glass is all you have consumed, but I challenge you to prove you were not intoxicated by some other means.”

I snatched my glass away from him before he could accidentally swipe my head with it—the fool was gesticulating at me just as his father had always done to both of us whenever the impetuousness of youth brought down the earl’s wrath—and banged it down on the side table. “Since when is a man to be condemned for improv—”

“Improving your mind through extensive reading? If a man’s mind could be improved so much, you would have built a flying machine by now, or composed a volume of poetry, or perhaps even discovered a way to defeat Boney. You, sir, are a man with a demon, and I have come to cast it out.”

I snorted. “If, by ‘demon,’ you mean a snarl of business frustrations and social obligations, I wish you would get on with it.”

Richard took the snifter back and poured a measure of brandy for himself. “Business frustrations? How so?”

I sighed, and contemplated ejecting him from the house, but relented. “Last spring, I changed solicitors. I changed my bank, too, and also sold off certain shares to buy other investments.”

Richard lowered himself to the chair opposite me. “I remember that. You were trying to make a clean break of things.”

“Five days ago, I received a letter of resignation from Daniels, my present solicitor. The day after that, a letter came from the board at my bank, ‘offering’ me the opportunity to sell some of my holdings with them and pursue other investments.”

“Indeed! Curious. Any notion of why?”

“A notion, of course, but nothing I can prove.”

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “You think Benedict’s rumour campaign is truly influencing matters?”

I frowned, and traced the glass of the brandy bottle with the edge of my index finger. “I think it must be more than rumours. How many personal scandals have been suffered without so much as a ripple in a man’s financial interests?”

“You know how it is, though, Darcy. A fellow discovers that his friend is at odds with such and such other fellow, and they sever ties. It is likely for the best—you would not want some coterie loyal to a man who hates you to have their fingers in all your interests.”

“So I have reasoned, but it is damned puzzling.”

“I imagine it must be. Well, what have you done about it?”

“What could I do? I am withdrawing my assets from the bank and transferring my business, and I am seeking another solicitor. I wrote to Gerald Smythe—I suppose you remember him? He enquired after Georgiana and our winter plans, and when I replied, I asked if he could give a good character on his own man.”

“A reasonable notion. What of Georgiana?”

“What do you mean?”

Richard gestured with the now-empty glass. “You bring her to London with nary a word of your expected arrival, then leave her with Mother and scarcely call to visit her.”

“The countess asked her to stay! It only made sense, for your mother was the better one to supervise a new wardrobe and morning calls. You know how quickly Georgiana tires with too much coming and going, so we all deemed it wiser for her to stay in one place.”

Richard scoffed. “And when was the last time you called?”

I sighed and rubbed the corner of my eye, which had begun to sting for some odd reason. “Three or four days ago. The earl and Lady Catherine did not welcome me when last I was there, and I chose not to trouble Geor—”

“Bollocks! You, Fitzwilliam Darcy, are in hiding. What the devil for? I have never in my life seen you back down from either my father or our aunt, and I cannot think why you would start now.”

“Can you not? What good would I do Georgiana to bring constant strife to the house whenever I am in company there? Besides, as you have said yourself, perhaps it is best to let your father and Lady Catherine believe that I intentionally crushed Anne’s marital hopes, that I purposefully sought out and then executed the most insulting reversal of faith in our long family history. Let them believe I am a blackguard and a reprobate who dashed old alliances and family interest on a whim. No doubt the earl thinks me a libertine as well, such a slave to base desires that I sold off my good sense for a pittance. I would disabuse him of those misconceptions if I could, but we both know why I cannot.”

“But that is in the past!” Richard objected. “Why, it is what… over a year and a half ago now!”

“And I am yet again a free man who has no intentions of satisfying their wishes. Once, I could have couched my refusal to marry Anne in a reasonable, respectful declaration of my preferences, without blasting my uncle’s political ambitions. But not after all that has occurred, and the reprehensible manner of my ‘betrayal,’ as they consider it. Nothing short of a full capitulation will restore me to their good graces. As I have no intention of rendering it, I must remain at odds with them.”

“To what end? You need a wife, Anne needs a husband. You are not holding out for some sentimental notion, are you? Pure folly, I say. No man remains infatuated with his wife after twenty years of marriage, so why limit your choices to start with? Besides, I cannot think of a woman in all creation who would think tenderly on you at this moment. Good heavens, Darcy, when was the last time you made yourself presentable?”

“Two weeks ago,” I retorted, and reached to reclaim the brandy snifter. “Much good it did me,” I muttered.

“What was that?”

I poured myself another finger full and reclined again in my chair. “Nothing. Pray, continue with your lecture.”

“Well, as I was saying, at least with Anne, you know where her interests lie. And she is not an objectionable woman, after all—save for her teeth, I suppose.”

“Not objectionable! What a sterling recommendation for a man to consider her as his wife! No, Richard, I married once where the bride was not of my choosing. I will not do it a second time. If that means Georgiana and her children will inherit Pemberley, so be it.”

“Darcy! You would not leave that to her! Lose Pemberley to her husband’s family? Be reasonable. No one said you must marry right away, or even that you must marry my father’s choice, but there must be some decent way to go about it. Surely, you can find someone who will suit… if you trouble yourself to leave the house now and again.”

I heaved myself from my chair and paced away. Someone who would suit… that was precisely the problem. Whom or what was this mythical creature to suit? Myself, or my expectations? And what a mockery if the last woman in the world was the very one who could satisfy both!

“What if you look beyond the ton?” Richard asked. “Some well-dowered tradesman’s daughter, or perhaps even an American with a fortune of her own. Egad, how the cats at Almack’s would put back their heads and howl!”

I cast an oblique glance over my shoulder. “I said I do not care for their opinions. I did not say that I meant to instigate a feud at St James’s.”

“Pity. That would have been worth seeing. But I say, you are so bloody choosy, you may as well broaden your search—particularly since, as you said, you married connections once. How many gentlemen take a pretty face rather than a long pedigree for their second bride? What of it? Did you meet no one promising during your whole two months in Hertfordshire?”

“No!” I clenched my fists, my shoulders tight as I squeezed my eyes, then released the breath I had caught. I shook my head. “Forgive me, but seeking a wife is the last of my present concerns.”

Richard was whistling low when I turned round, his eyes wide and brow raised. “Well… I suppose it is no business of mine, after all. But Georgiana is, and the poor girl is nearly inconsolable whenever I see her.”

“Inconsolable?” I crossed the room urgently. “What is this? Has she been unhappy? Why have I not been told?”

“Because no one else sees it. She hides it, just as well as someone else I know. But yes, since you ask, something is troubling her. Mother thinks it is only a product of encroaching maturity and credits her with a bit of seasonal melancholy, but I have read her letters for years. The girl I see in my mother’s drawing room is diminished somehow. Low spirits, call it what you will, but something is wrong.”

I frowned in thought. “You are saying she misses my company?”

“Perhaps.” Richard sank down into his seat again and observed me carefully. “But when I asked her about Hertfordshire and the new friends she had made, it seemed only to make her the more despondent.”

I looked away. “You have some opinion on the matter, naturally.”

“Of course I do, but with only patchy information, I shall not divulge what I have, with my humble abilities, pieced together. I do not care to be laughed at. No, I believe I shall pluck at a thread, and see what unravels.”

I snorted. “Only one thread?”

He smiled. “It is rather a long one, and I expect the answer may require a couple more bottles of brandy. Have some Scotch sent up, too.”

“Shall I also ring for dinner in here? You must think there is a great deal to tell.”

“Oh—” he nodded, “I am sure of it. What happened in Hertfordshire?”


That’s all for now, folks, but more is coming soon!

-Nicole

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London Holiday Blog Tour

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!

 

 

 

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Cover Reveal and Release Day!

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!

MAE blog graphic no words n darcy3

And if you want some even better news, London  Holiday is now available on Amazon! Check it out HERE!

Happy Summer Holiday!

Nicole

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Excerpt from Surprise WIP

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!

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More Agreeably Engaged Reviews These Dreams, Plus a Giveaway!

The very first person I “met” in the JAFF/ North & South community was Janet Taylor of More Agreeably Engaged, and it was because she so sweetly reached out to me and brought me “into the fold,” you might say. She is a talented book designer and a dear friend (and I hope not terribly biased when she writes her reviews!). I was tickled to death when she posted her review of These Dreams today, and she is giving away a copy to some lucky winner! Stop by to comment for a chance to win on her blog.MAE blog graphic no words n darcy3

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From Pemberley to Milton with WIP Scenes and a Giveaway

You meet the sweetest people in the JAFF/ North & South community. One of my absolute favorites to chat with is Rita Deodato, and this month, she spoiled me by sharing some of my works in progress on her blog, From Pemberley to Milton. Stop by and check her out, she always has some wonderful postings to share. And if you comment on this post, she is giving away a copy of No Such Thing as Luck, so stop by!