Meredith from Austenesque Reviews just posted her thoughts on The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, and warmed me right to my toes. Thank you, Meredith, for supporting Austenesque books and for sharing your reviews!
I am proud to announce that I teamed up with the talented Cristina Hulsz and we are releasing a Spanish translation of Rumores e Imprudencias!
The book will be available at the following retailers, and the Universal Book Link will allow you to choose your favorite.
I am tickled pink to see both my 2018 babies on Janet Taylor’s list of top picks for last year. What a treat to be in such great company! Check out the other wonderful books she listed for this year and make sure to congratulate the other winners.
I am over the moon to discover THREE projects of mine on Meredith’s top list for 2018! Along with them are many of my favorites, including Abigail Reynolds, Caitlin Williams, Amy D’Orazio, Jan Hahn, Jesse Lewis, Brenda Webb, and Elizabeth Adams. And a huge congratulations to Christina Boyd and all the authors of Rational Creatures for appearing on both Meredith’s lists AND the Reader’s Choice Awards! Way to go, everyone!
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!”
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.
Anna hosts a vignette for These Dreams on Diary of an Eccentric!