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Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Child by Jan Hahn - Blog Tour, Review and Giveaway

Blog Tour - The Child by Jan HahnI'm happy to be featuring Jan Hahn again on the blog today, with her latest book, 'The Child'. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book for my review, and I'll share what I thought of it below. First, though, let's whet your appetite by sharing the blurb!

The Child by Jan Hahn
Book Description

Will Darcy ever grow to love a child he never wanted?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford is disastrous. In Jan Hahn’s The Child, Darcy flees England soon afterward, striving to overcome his longing for her. Upon his return two years later―while standing on the steps of St. George’s Church in Hanover Square―he spies the very woman he has vowed to forget. But who is the child holding her hand?

Darcy soon discovers that Elizabeth and her family are suffering the effects of a devastating scandal. His efforts to help the woman he still loves only worsen her family’s plight. His misguided pride entangles him in a web of falsehood, fateful alliances, and danger.

Will Elizabeth be able to forgive Darcy for his good intentions gone awry? And what effect will the child have on Darcy’s hopes to win Elizabeth’s love?

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Assistant by Riana Everly - Guest post and Blog Tour

Today I'm welcoming Riana Everly back to the blog with her newest book, The Assistant. Riana has a guest post, excerpt and giveaway for us today! Let's start with the book description:

Blurb

Book Cover: The Assistant by Riana Everly
A tale of love, secrets, and adventure across the ocean

When textile merchant Edward Gardiner rescues an injured youth, he has no notion that this simple act of kindness will change his life. The boy is bright and has a gift for numbers that soon makes him a valued assistant and part of the Gardiners’ business, but he also has secrets and a set of unusual acquaintances. When he introduces Edward to his sparkling and unconventional friend, Miss Grant, Edward finds himself falling in love.

But who is this enigmatic woman who so quickly finds her way to Edward’s heart? Do the deep secrets she refuses to reveal have anything to do with the appearance of a sinister stranger, or with the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate? As danger mounts, Edward must find the answers in order to save the woman who has bewitched him . . . but the answers themselves may destroy all his hopes.

Set against the background of Jane Austen’s London, this Pride and Prejudice prequel casts us into the world of Elizabeth Bennet’s beloved Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Their unlikely tale takes the reader from the woods of Derbyshire, to the ballrooms of London, to the shores of Nova Scotia. With so much at stake, can they find their Happily Ever After?

Guest Post from Riana Everly

Thank you so much hosting this stop on my blog tour for The Assistant, the tale of Lizzy Bennet’s aunt and uncle, the Gardiners. The story begins in 1799, when Edward Gardiner comes across an injured youth, whom he takes on as his assistant. Young Matthew has some remarkable abilities, and more remarkable friends. But I shall allow someone else to tell you all about Matthew, for she is always one to sketch the character of everyone she chances to meet.   I hope you enjoy what she has to tell you.

~*~

Oh, did you just arrive? I must not have seen you come in. Do take a seat. Would you like some tea?

Mama says I must learn to be a gracious hostess and treat my company well. Am I doing alright? I do try, but I am only nine years old and I forget sometimes. I would so much rather be outside exploring, or in Papa’s study, reading by the large window.

Young Lizzy
My name is Elizabeth Bennet, but everyone calls me Lizzy. One day, so Mama tells me, I must be known as Miss Elizabeth to all but my dearest friends, but that shall not be necessary until after I come out, whatever that means. I think it involves attending a lot of boring dinners and having to sit still whilst people sing very poorly. For now, I shall be happy as just Lizzy. But you did not come here to listen to me talk about myself. I really wish to tell you about Matthew!

Have you met Matthew? He is the most odd creature ever. Uncle Gardiner found him in the woods, rather like I found my favourite puppy. And just like my puppy, Matt had no family and he was in danger of being drowned, or something, and so Uncle Gardiner took him home. Now he works for Uncle Gardiner at his warehouses, and he is even smarter at arithmetic than I am! Mama tells me it is not ladylike to boast, but I am smarter than my sisters, and that is no more boastful than to say that I am shorter than Jane or have the darkest hair. It is simply fact. Regardless, Matt is so smart, even Uncle cannot match him!

Matt also talks funny. I was scolded when I said so, for Uncle told me that in the part of England where he found Matt, everybody talks like that. I should like to visit there one day, but I must be certain not to say how odd everybody sounds. That might be rude, and Mama would be vexed with me. When we went exploring, I asked Matt about where he is from, and what the people are like there, but he did not really answer my questions. He seemed more interested in hearing about my adventures in the woods, and how I learn about the places we like to explore.

It was really most fun when Matt joined Jane and me on our exploring. He helped us sail to China, although we are not allowed on the pond for fear of falling in and drowning, like what nearly happened to my puppy. But we built a boat of twigs, with a branch of leaves as a sail, and he told us grand stories of what we might see once we arrived. He is so very smart, and knows so very much, but there is something strange about him. He is very kind and funny, but I think I know a secret that he does not want Uncle Gardiner to know.

Well, I must go. Our next adventure is to the wild jungles of Africa, where I hope to sail down the Nile and meet an elephant! You may join me, but the tea will grow cold if you do. And that would not be a polite way to treat my guests, would it?

~*~

Excerpt from The Assistant

The younger men left the room, but not before Edward noticed a strange expression on Lizzy’s face. She was thinking about something in that inscrutable way of hers. He wondered what was going through that unusual little mind, so full of books and stories and tales of the imagination. He never knew what words would come out of that mouth, whether they were informed by fact or fantasy, but he knew they always were perceptive and very interesting.

She glanced away now, as if the notion had abandoned her, and began to talk to her father of what she had helped cook prepare for Christmas dinner. Edward turned towards the door and began to climb the stairs to his chambers. He turned back, however, having neglected to ask a question of his host.

“Go along, Matt,” he told his assistant. “I shall knock on your door when we are ready to dine.” He walked back towards the salon, but paused at the door when he heard Thomas speaking.

“What think you, my Lizzy-bear? Did you enjoy young Matt’s company?”

“Papa, indeed I did, but he is a strange one. He talks so oddly, but there is something else in his manner that perplexes me.” Of course nine-year-old Elizabeth would have full command of a word like ‘perplex.’ Edward adored that child!

“Does he frighten you, Lizzy?” Bennet’s voice held a note of concern.

Children playing
“No, not at all. I like him and I am happy to explore the world with him. He knows so much, much more than Jane knows. He told us stories about the Rajahs of India and the Mandarins of China. Did you know that there are whole lands in the East that are all sand and hot sun? And that they are even further away than France? There are places where they speak strange languages too, even stranger than what Matthew says they speak in Derbyshire. He talked to us normally as well as in his funny Derby voice. His normal voice sounds quite different. He said he was learning to speak like we do, from Uncle Edward and from his time in London, but it didn’t sound like he was just learning. I wonder, though…”

“What is it, my Lizzy?” Edward heard her father ask.

“I don’t quite know, Papa, although I do wonder.”

“You shan’t tell me, will you?”

“No, indeed I shall not!” She laughed her cheerful and knowing little girl laugh, and with that pronouncement, she skipped up the stairs to dress for dinner.

Buy Links

The Assistant is available to buy now: Universal book link

About the Author

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

FacebookWebsite

Giveaway Time

Book Cover: The Assistant by Riana Everly
Riana is giving away 5 ebooks of The Assistant on her blog tour. To enter for a chance to win a copy, please use the Rafflecopter.


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Friday, 23 March 2018

Mysterious Mr Darcy by Monica Fairview - Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Book cover: Mysterious Mr Darcy by Monica Fairview
Today I'm happy to be welcoming Monica Fairview back to the blog. Monica has a new book, Mysterious Mr Darcy which has a most enticing blurb. She's come here with a guest post, excerpt, and an international ebook giveaway. Let's take a look at the blurb and then hand over to Monica.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Winner - Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow

Book cover: Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow
So sorry for the delay in posting the winner of the Mark Brownlow Cake and Courtship giveaway - my building work has started!

Thank you to everybody who visited Mark's guest post and excerpt and all those who commented. Without further ado, let's get on to to announcing the winner, who was selected by using a random number generator. The winner is...

Leah Pruett!

Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow - giveaway prizesCongratulations, Leah! You have won your choice of some Viennese sweet treats, or a paperback copy of Cake and Courtship. I don't have your contact details, so please contact me before Wednesday, as that's when I will choose another winner.

Many thanks to Mark Brownlow for visiting, and for providing this lovely giveaway.

Cake and Courtship is available to buy now.

Paperback: Amazon.com* | .co.uk* | .de
eBook: Amazon.com* | .co.uk* | .de | Kobo | iBooks | Nook / B&N
Goodreads: Book page

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Cake and Courtship by Mark Brownlow - Blog Tour - Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow - Blog Tour
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Mark Brownlow to the blog with his book Cake and Courtship, which has Mr Bennet as its protagonist. I'll share the blurb with you and then hand over to Mark for a guest post and excerpt. He's brought an international giveaway with him too!

Book cover: Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow
Book Description

When John Barton falls in love with the elusive Anne Hayter, there is only one man he can turn to for advice. Unfortunately, that man is Mr Bennet of Longbourn, a world-weary gentleman with five daughters pursuing their own marital ambitions.

To help John, Mr Bennet must emerge from his beloved library and face the challenges of the tearoom and dance floor one more time. In doing so, he finds his own romantic past catching up with him.

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Mark Brownlow takes you on an Austenesque journey full of wry humour and Regency romance (with a few slices of sponge cake).

“As you get older, Lizzy, you will discover that life does not
bow easily to the wishes of even the most romantic of souls.
Quite the opposite. Life must be mastered with pragmatism
and sense, which explains why so few people succeed at it.“

Cake and Courtship is a standalone story, but also the first book of Mr Bennet’s memoirs. Look out for the sequel in 2018.

Guest Post and Excerpt from Mark Brownlow

Thanks Ceri for allowing me to drop in on your blog!

When I talk to people about Cake and Courtship, the question they tend to ask first is “Why Mr Bennet?” After all, he might be ahead of Mr Collins in the list of Jane Austen’s romantic heroes (who isn’t?), but he’s a long way behind Mr Darcy and Captain Wentworth.

The answer is part coincidence, part curiosity, and part inevitability.

“Coincidence” because, originally, I had no intention of writing a novel. I was simply playing with the idea of publishing Mr Bennet’s diary. He has some of the wittiest lines in Pride and Prejudice, so you can imagine how he might report on the Netherfield Ball, conversations with Mr Collins or the marital machinations of his wife.

But humour is not Mr Bennet’s only defining quality. There’s a cynicism to him, too. Even the hint of a cruel streak. This is when “curiosity” began to take hold. After writing a few diary entries, I found myself wondering what events and experiences might have moulded his personality and opinions?

Then I wondered how such a man might react if we took him out of his library and (back) into the world of courtship. What if Mr Bennet was charged with the task of bringing a young couple together?

And so a diary turned into a story, a story into a novel, and a novel into a romance. Not Mr Bennet’s romance, but that of a young friend and confidante. It gave me two canvasses to paint words on: Mr Bennet’s observations on the early events of Pride and Prejudice, and a fresh tale of love (and regret) as he tries to help John Barton court the elusive Miss Hayter. It’s that romantic thread that also reveals whether 20+ years of marriage to Mrs Bennet is the only cause of Mr Bennet’s cynicism (spoiler: it isn’t).

Which leaves us with “inevitability”. The obvious challenge for any author is putting themselves in the mind of their main protagonist. The more you identify with that protagonist, the easier this task becomes. I’m a middle-aged, world-weary father of teenagers, with a love of books, a touch of cynicism about me, and a dry sense of humour. Sound familiar?

The excerpt below is an example of the many places where the Pride and Prejudice story intertwines with both the new story and Mr Bennet’s perspective on life. Our protagonist has returned from visiting Netherfield and his daughters are curious about their new neighbour. 

He answers their questions at breakfast by comparing Mr Bingley with John Barton, who had visited Longbourn just a few days previously…

* * *
Excerpt

Book cover: Cake & Courtship by Mark Brownlow
My daughters ignored me until they decided to turn speculation about my future son-in-law into hard fact.

It was Lydia who broached the subject. “Is he very handsome, Papa?”

“His face is not unpleasant.”

“Yes, but is he handsome?” she urged, fists clenched.

“Jane,” I said. “Be a dear and pass the butter.” She smiled as she did so, doubling the pleasure of my morning roll.

Lydia’s fists beat a staccato on the table as she looked imploringly at her mother, who was thrashing a boiled egg into submission with a spoon.

Pausing in her dismemberment of that oval delight, my wife sought to reassure my youngest. “Of course Mr Bingley is very handsome, Lydia. Not that it matters with his income.”

“Money does indeed disguise many a disfigurement, girls,” I said. “Sorry looks may be of no consequence in a marriage, though a poor character may demand a price that twenty thousand a year cannot pay.”

The clatter of cutlery and glass continued while six minds fought a private battle between curiosity and compliance with a father’s wish for peace. Curiosity won, as it nearly always did.

“Papa, you must allow us some insight into Mr Bingley. The privilege of your sex allows you to visit him; we merely exercise the privilege of ours to ask questions of his character.”

“I do not deny you the right to ask, Lizzy; I am merely disinclined to answer.” I emphasised the point by lifting the paper to block my view of the table and, more importantly, the table’s view of me. “Besides, I am not used to describing young men. They are rarely sighted at Longbourn, so what I know of them comes mostly from books. My vocabulary would not do him justice.”

“Then we must take another approach, Papa,” said Lizzy. “You might simply compare him to other young men of our acquaintance. To John Barton, for example.”

“Interesting.” I lowered my paper. “Let me think. Well, let’s see. Yes, Mr Bingley’s eyes are decidedly bluer.” I raised the paper again. My statement produced nothing but groans from the table.

“Papa,” said Jane. “John’s eyes are chestnut.”

“Precisely,” I said from behind my protective printed wall. “And Mr Bingley’s are blue, so they are indisputably bluer.”

“Is he taller or shorter than Mr Barton?” said Kitty.

“He is,” I said.

“What about his hair?” said Lydia.

“He certainly had some.” I peered over the paper. “Does that help?” It seemed not, based on the girls’ expressions.

“You might at least say how he was dressed, Papa?” Lydia would not let up.

As I was old and married, fashion was now as mysterious to me as the supposed movement of the heavens. I resolved to give Lydia’s question more attention at my next meeting with Mr Bingley. “I am pleased to say he was definitely wearing clothes.”

Kitty and Lydia giggled. I turned down the paper enough to see even Mary raise a half smile. Mrs Bennet was still savaging her egg, which refused to give up its gold and ivory without a struggle.

“Is he a kind man, Papa?” A question only Jane would ask.

I folded away the paper and wiped all evidence of the buttered roll from my mouth. “I believe he is, Jane, I believe he is.”

“It does not matter if he is kind,” mumbled Mrs Bennet through a victorious mouthful of yolk. 

“When he has—”


“Four thousand a year,” chorused the girls before erupting into laughter. They knew their mother well.

* * *

Buy Links

Cake and Courtship is available to buy now.

Paperback: Amazon.com* | .co.uk* | .de
eBook: Amazon.com* | .co.uk* | .de | Kobo | iBooks | Nook / B&N
Goodreads: Book page

Author Mark Brownlow
About the Author

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer living in Vienna, Austria. His debut novel, Cake and Courtship, is a Regency romance narrated by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Bennet.

Book cover: The Lovesick Maid by Mark Brownlow
He has also written a novella, The Lovesick Maid: a cozy mystery set in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at LostOpinions.com, where he is known for his reimagining of classic literature as emails. When not writing or teaching, he watches costume drama and football (though not at the same time).

Connect with Mark

 Website • Goodreads • Author page at Amazon.co.uk • Author page at Amazon.com • Twitter • Facebook •

Giveaway Time

Giveaway books and chocolate
Mark is very kindly offering a giveaway to commenters on the blog tour. You can choose between a signed paperback of Cake and Courtship, or, as he lives in Vienna, some Viennese chocolates! To enter, just comment on this post by the end of the day on Friday 9 March. This giveaway is open to international entrants.

Other Blog Stops

Mark is visiting a number of blogs with Mr Bennet and Cake and Courtship. Details of the stops are below:

Feb 28 Diary of an Eccentric – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 1 Half Agony, Half Hope – review, excerpt
Mar 2 Austenesque Reviews – interview with Mr Bennet, giveaway
Mar 3 Babblings of a Bookworm – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 4 Laughing with Lizzie – Mr Bennet’s inbox, giveaway
Mar 5 From Pemberley to Milton – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 6 My Vices and Weaknesses – author interview, giveaway
Mar 7 More Agreeably Engaged – guest post, excerpt, giveaway
Mar 8 So little time…so much to read – Mr Bennet’s diary, giveaway
Mar 10 Just Jane 1813 – guest post, excerpt, giveaway

Giveaway stops


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Plans for March 2018

Snowflake
Hello to all of you, and happy March! They say that if March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb, and hopefully that will be the case. We had quite a bit of chaos here yesterday and today because of heavy snow. We can sometimes go a whole year without seeing snow, and if we do get snow often it doesn't even settle because it'll be quite wet snow, but the snow this week has been powdery and drifting with the cold winds. I went out with my kids to have a snowball fight earlier, and it was like a film, the snow was like icing sugar! This would have been ideal reading weather in other years but due to technology I have been able to work from home and have had no additional reading time!

On a personal level March is a stressful/exciting time because we are due to have building work starting on our home. We have a very standard home for the UK, two reception rooms, tiny kitchen on the ground floor. What we're having done is having a kitchen/dining room built on the back of the house and the existing tiny kitchen will become a utility room. It'll be awesome if all goes to plan, but will take a few months of stress and upheaval to get there. Wish me luck!

Cake and Courtship by Mark Brownlow
So, you are not hear for my weather reports and building updates, but to find out what reading plans I have for the month! Let me tell you about the visitors who are currently planned in. Firstly, I will be welcoming Mark Brownlow, who has written a novel focussing on Mr Bennet, Cake and Courtship.

The Darcy Saga by Ginger Monette
We'll be taking a look at Ginger Monette's Darcy Saga novels, which are now available in a combined volume. These are set in WW2 and have had wonderful reviews.

Book cover: Mysterious Mr Darcy by Monica Fairview
I also hope to be welcoming Monica Fairview, with her latest Pride & Prejudice variation, Mysterious Mr Darcy. This sounds very enticing, as there is some sort of mystery about Mr Darcy before he comes to Netherfield and Elizabeth is curious to find out what it could be. I am curious too!

Book cover: Alone with Mr Darcy by Abigail Reynolds
As I've mentioned before, I am part of an Austenesque reading group on Goodreads. It's a lovely group, and if you'd like to join you will be sure of a welcome there. March is the Dusty Shelf Book Scavenger Hunt, where you have to dust off one of the books you've been meaning to read for over two years. The scavenger clue is that it has to be a variation, or feature Miss Austen as a character. Since there is currently snow, I am planning to read Alone With Mr Darcy by Abigail Reynolds which sees Elizabeth and Darcy getting stranded together. Sigh!

What do you plan to read this month? Let us know in the comments!