Friday 11 October 2019

Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace - Excerpt and Giveaway

We are joined by Maria Grace today, with her latest book, Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions. Maria has brought us a lovely long excerpt and an ebook giveaway too! Let's look at the blurb and then hand over to Maria.
Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace

Book cover: Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions by Maria GraceBook Description

Darcy is at his wits end.

As guardian to his younger sister, he wants her to become a properly accomplished woman--she is coming out soon, after all. But Georgiana steadfastly refuses despite the encouragement of Elizabeth Bennet, long time Darcy family friend.  Darcy invites a few guests to Pemberley in the hopes of encouraging Georgiana's improvement with a taste of society.

Unexpected additions to the party prove dangerously distracting, leaving the Darcy family on the brink of disaster. Elizabeth holds the key to their restoration, but she has fled Pemberley, unable to tolerate another day in the Darcys' company.

Will Darcy relinquish his pride and prejudice to seek out a woman below his notice before his family is irreparably ruined?

Guest Post from Maria Grace and Excerpt from Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions
Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace
Thanks so much for having me, Ceri! It’s always great to visit with you.

I’m really excited about Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions. It is a very different take on Pride and Prejudice, with a healthy dose of other Austen works thrown in.

It begins with a house party, a favorite vacation alternative for the wealthy of the Regency era.  On the whole, the upper echelons of society generally preferred to congregate in London whenever possible. After all, it was the center of all things cultured and good. But the heat of the summer made London extremely unpleasant—hot, sticky, smelly. So, when Parliament was out of session and the all-important ‘Season’ over, (not to mention the hunting and shooting seasons starting) those who could afford to do so headed for the cooler climes of the countryside.

The fortunate few with country seats often invited friends and family to gather with them on their estates—an opportunity to lengthen the social season a bit, with limited and particularly chosen company, in the comfort and slower pace of the countryside. These informal gatherings of friends could simply be convivial in nature, but it wasn’t uncommon for social, marital or political advancement to be underlying motives as well. How better to gain the ear of an influential parliamentarian than to have him at your dining table and drawing room night after night? And who could possibly object to giving eligible young people the opportunity to get to know each other away from the London crush? So, yeah, they could also be the focal point for a lot of interpersonal drama, sounds like a story to me, what about you?

Here's a peek at how that house party begins:


Book cover: Fine Eyes & Pert Opinions by Maria Grace
A remarkable three weeks passed. Darcy peeked into the music room. Light, lilting strains poured through the open door. His mother had designed the room with balance and harmony in mind, but recent years rarely saw much peace here, filled instead with Georgiana’s unpredictable moods and tempers. The last few weeks had changed that. Now the pale-yellow walls, populated with landscapes and floral nature studies, and the teal-upholstered furnishings radiated the peace of a summer’s day. Either the harp in the right-hand corner near the windows or the pianoforte on the left were nearly in constant use, offering soothing melodies to whomever walked past.

This morning, Georgiana sat at the pianoforte, eyes closed, shoulders swaying in time with the music, a faint smile playing at her lips. Was that a new piece? No wait, Miss Mary Bennet had played that refrain, though not nearly so pleasingly, a week before when the Bennets visited for supper and cards. How did Georgiana manage to play so well with no music and only hearing the melody once? If only she could learn other things so easily.

Clearly, she was not stupid. But willful? Perhaps.

Why did she simply not do what she was asked, when she was asked, in the way she was asked?

He clenched one fist behind his back. There was a way that things should be done—was that really so hard to accept? Fine hairs on the back of his neck prickled. Miss Elizabeth insisted methods that worked constituted the “right way” to do something. It was an annoying notion, but perhaps it applied now. The prickly sensation eased a bit.

As long as Georgiana continued on her path to improvement, he would hold his peace. This boded very well for the house party.

He turned away and continued down the corridor. Their guests were to arrive today, assuming their travels proceeded as planned. Pray Miss Elizabeth was right and the experience inspired Georgiana toward further improvement.

The butler approached. “Sir, you requested to be notified when the carriages were seen on the lane.”

“Very good. Tell Mrs. Reynolds to lay refreshments in the blue parlor rather than the drawing room.”

The butler bowed and hurried off. Darcy strode to the large window at the end of the corridor. Several carriages trundled up the road. The leading one bore the Fitzwilliam family crest. Perhaps he would have a few moments to familiarize Richard with the news of Georgiana. He would be pleased to hear of her progress.

A few minutes later, the butler announced, “Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss de Bourgh.”

Darcy froze where he stood, stomach threatening to drop into his shoes. The de Bourgh name did that. Pray let not Aunt Catherine have decided to accompany Anne. He squeezed his eyes shut and pinched his temples. It was just the sort of thing Aunt Catherine was apt to do, especially when the house party offered a most tempting opportunity to “manage family business.”

A brisk walk to the blue parlor sloughed away a bit of the tension, but not enough.

His mother had decorated this parlor in defiance of her sister’s wishes and tastes. According to Aunt Catherine, it was too small and too bright. Sky blue was a dreadfully blue sort of color for a room—honestly what logic offered such a critique? The furniture was too small and friendly, lacking the grandeur such a room should have. On and on she would go at how insufficient, informal, and inappropriate the room was. On that recommendation alone, Darcy would never see it altered. And it was good reason to use it to receive his guests now.

Richard ushered Anne into the parlor, both a little dusty, but seemingly in good spirits. Anne wore the vaguely disdainful expression she usually wore, but it appeared more habitual than meaningful. After all, Pemberley offered exactly the type of accommodations and appointments to which she was accustomed. 

Richard still had shadows around his eyes— an unchanging feature ever since his return from France. Even his retirement from the army had not altered them. Despite his ready, if somewhat forced smile, they remained.

“Are you going to greet us?” Anne’s voice was pleasant—for the moment—with only the barest edge of ire.

Darcy bowed toward her. “Of course, you are welcome, Anne. I was just wondering what you might need for your comfort after your long journey.”

“You kill me with your solicitude, cousin. Tell me, how do you plan for us to make merry whilst we are here?” Anne tossed her head and minced her way to an open armchair. So, she was trying on her mother’s persona today. Hopefully the whim would pass soon.

Though her health had improved, she was still unattractive: thin and pale. Prominent collarbones demonstrated her frailty while the blue veins that stood out on her thin skin harkened back to the sickroom. One was afraid to cough in her direction, lest she take ill.

Anne ran her hand along the edge of a chair and sat down. “These are very dated—utterly out of fashion now. At the very least, you ought to have them recovered. What will your other guests say?”
Richard dropped heavily onto the settee and slumped like a feed sack against a barn wall. “That they are grateful for the invitation and find everything entirely to their liking. To do otherwise would be entirely rude.”

“Yes, yes, but what would they be thinking. Surely you must be concerned with their good opinion.” Anne’s eyes narrowed—no doubt she was formulating a way to correct Richard for his posture.

“If their good opinion is lost because of my furnishings, then it was not worth having in the first place.” Darcy muttered through gritted teeth.

“That only shows how little you understand of people’s opinions and whose is worth the earning. I grant you the current party—that Bingley fellow and his sister, if I recall correctly—may not be the most fashionable of company. Their judgements may be of little consequence. But one never knows when someone might come into a place whose impressions do matter. If I were mistress here—”
Darcy jumped and all but ran toward the sideboard, laden with covered dishes. “Do you care for refreshments? I imagine you must be ready for proper food after having taken your meals at inns the last three days.”

“Yes, that is a lovely idea.” Anne excused herself to the side board.

Darcy edged to Richard’s side and whispered, “Is Aunt Catherine following?”

Richard made that face he had used since childhood to express extreme disdain. It had been uproariously funny at age ten, but not since. “No, but not because she did not suggest it would be a good idea. I fear I had to argue that if Anne spent time alone in your company, it might make you more sympathetic in taking Anne—”

“Not that again! How could you have placed those expectations on me?”

 “It slipped out in a moment of weakness, after a third glass of port. I was desperate. It seemed less bad than having our aunt join us.”

Darcy rubbed the back of his neck. “Perhaps it is a very good thing for England you are no longer in the service of the King.”

“It is a very good thing for me.” A savage look filled his eyes, but fled almost as quickly as it came.

“Besides, with your other guests, there will be sufficient distraction for Anne to forget about her mission of marriage.”

Anne forget her driving lifelong motivation? “I think that hardly likely.”

“No coconut macaroons, Darcy? I should have though you would have remembered those were my favorite.” Anne flounced back to her seat, a little pout on her lips.

Richard cleared his throat—a warning sound Anne would probably ignore.

“I shall have Mrs. Reynolds place an order with the confectioner.”

“Our French chef prepares them himself.” Anne’s eyebrows rose and she peered down her prominent Fitzwilliam nose.

“My English cook does not.” Darcy ground his teeth lest he say anything to further this conversation.

“And that is why you must bring on a French chef. You know, I could help you manage all these details …”

“Excuse me. I will speak to Mrs. Reynolds.” He walked out in slow measured steps. Running was undignified. 

Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace
Thankfully, once promised her macaroons, Anne was easily persuaded to retire to her rooms and rest from her travels. Through not as delicate as she once was, she still had little stamina. Just as well—Darcy preferred to greet his other guests without her insinuating herself at his side. No one would benefit from the misguided idea that she might be hostess at Pemberley.

Richard drained the last of his beer and set his glass aside. “Do not allow her to get under your skin. Anne has had no better example to learn from than her mother. Now that her health has improved, you will see. She will develop a whole new set of irritating habits from the ladies of the ton. On the bright side, her dowry will attract enough attention that you will no longer be her primary aim.”

“I fear Georgiana will learn from her.”

“When she is not trying to win your attentions—and Pemberley as her mother demands—she really is not a bad sort.”

“Have you considered trying to keep Rosings in the Fitzwilliam family?”

Richard chuckled. “I said she is not a bad sort, not that she is of stern enough stuff to tolerate a crusty old soldier like me.”

The butler entered. “Sir Alexander Garland and Miss Garland.”

Richard rose and bowed. “How good to see you Garland, Miss Garland. May I introduce my cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Darcy bowed. Neither of his two newest guests bore any resemblance to his expectations.

Garland was by far the largest man he had ever seen—not the tallest, but the most heavily muscled. Impeccably proportioned, he resembled nothing so much as a larger-than-life marble statue with all aspects chiseled and carved to perfection.  Jealousy might be a reasonable response, except that Garland provided a worthy target for Anne’s attentions, making him exactly the sort of man Darcy most wanted at Pemberley now.

Valkyrie. That was the only word to describe the woman beside Garland. Darcy swallowed hard, sweat prickling his upper lip. Her face—quite handsome—was the feminine form of her brother’s. She was easily as tall as Darcy himself. Her expression was impossible to read. Neither pleasure nor censure read in her brilliant, glittering  icy blue eyes. 

“It was very good of you to invite us on the strength of Fitzwilliam’s suggestion alone.” Garland glanced at Richard. “Though I am left wondering what precisely he told you, and how Blanche and I are to live up to it.”

Miss Garland lifted an arched eyebrow ever so slightly. A painter ought to capture that expression on canvas.

“Be at ease, I have said nothing that was not entirely true.” Richard gestured for them to sit.

“Please help yourself to some refreshments before you make yourselves comfortable.” Darcy cast a sideways glare. This was not Richard’s home, after all.

“Thank you, I am a mite peckish.” Garland approached the sideboard, his sister close behind.

Her every movement was elegant, graceful, like a dancer’s and as effortless as the morning breeze.

“Darce, you are staring.” Richard elbowed him.

Darcy shook his head and blinked.

“Watch yourself—she hates being stared at.”

Darcy cleared his throat and looked away. Heat crept along his jaw. Perhaps a house party was not as good an idea as he had originally thought.

The Garlands arranged themselves—she on the chaise longue, he in the largest chair in the room.

“Had you a pleasant journey?” Darcy forced himself not to notice the utterly improper but graceful way Miss Garland draped herself on the sinuously curved seat.

“It was as pleasant as one might hope.” Garland shrugged and popped a cucumber sandwich in his mouth.

“Is traveling not just a series of inconveniences that string together two distant locations?” Miss Garland said, her voice sensuous as silk.

“I take it you do not like to travel?” Darcy glanced toward her, taking care not to stare. That should not be so difficult.

“I enjoy being in new places and experiencing all a lovely locale has to offer.” The corner of her lips turned up in an expression that might have been suggestive on a woman less refined. “It is the act of getting there and back again which often proves disagreeable.”

“Which is why we have a new well-sprung traveling coach.” Garland raised his glass toward her. “I enjoy the entire adventure, beginning to end.”

“And because you do not like traveling alone. Really Alexander, you must get yourself a suitable wife soon so you can stop dragging me about from place to place.” The corner of her lips lifted and dimpled her perfect cheek.

Darcy and Richard traded glances.

“You know someone?” Miss Garland seemed very interested.

“Our cousin Miss Anne de Bourgh. She is resting from her own journey at the moment but you will meet her at dinner.” Richard winked at Garland.

“How very promising. You must take pains to meet her, Alexander. I give you leave to like her very much, provided she does not object to traveling.”

“I shall inquire after her preferences at the earliest opportunity.” He bowed from his shoulders.

The butler entered. “Mr. and Miss Bingley, sir.”

Darcy rose. “I am pleased you have joined us. Sir Alexander, Miss Garland, Colonel Fitzwilliam, may I present Mr. and Miss Bingley.”

Bingley bowed, grinning a bit like Darcy’s favorite retriever. “So pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Indeed,” Miss Bingley made a very proper curtsey. If one were to write a handbook on the curtsey, it might well be illustrated by drawings of Miss Bingley.

Everything about her was proper and formal and ordinary. She possessed enough accomplishments for three women, though she never seemed to make any profitable use of them. Whereas Miss Elizabeth could manage to keep an agreeable conversation alive in a room of dissenting opinions, Miss Bingley only repeated phrases from some young woman’s conversation manual with no regard as to who was present.

“Please, take some refreshment, and join us.” Darcy beckoned them in.

“Very thoughtful of you, Darcy—thank you. Those last ten miles of road, I say must be some of the worst we have traversed.” Bingley walked toward the sideboard while looking over his shoulder and talking. He was apt to walk into furniture that way. It had happened more than once.

“You came from Derby?” Sir Alexander leaned forward, elbows on his knees.

“You know the road then?” Bingley lifted his glass.

“Enough so we traveled a full day extra to avoid it! My sister …”

“She is fortunate to have a brother so considerate.” Miss Bingley’s voice had a sour note as she cast a sidelong glance at Bingley.

“But the means are worth the end are they not?” Bingley said. “Pemberley is as lovely as I remember it.”

“Are you still looking to purchase an estate?” Darcy asked.

“Yes, he is.” Miss Bingley stopped just shy of batting her eyes at Darcy.

“You answer most decidedly.” For one not asked—Miss Garland did not say it, but the words were clearly carried by the tilt of her head.

Miss Bingley started.

“Caroline well knows my desire. I have just not found one entirely suitable, yet.” Bingley layered a slice of cold meat over buttered bread.

“Do not mind my sister, she is peevish when she travels,” Garland said.

“Peevish you say? If my company is so disagreeable, I think it best if I were to rest and collect myself before dinner.” Though she smiled and made all the right gestures, something about her speech felt like the bitter aftertaste of a fruit gone off.

“Yes do. We shall all be better off if you find something with which to soothe your temper. You sound as though you have a headache coming on.” Garland waved his sister off.

“I shall have my housekeeper show you to your room.” Darcy preceded her to the door.

“I think I shall excuse myself as well, if you do not object, Charles.” Miss Bingley turned her back on her brother.

The two ladies met Darcy at the door. Miss Bingley, though generally considered tall and handsome, seemed diminutive and unfinished beside Miss Garland. He called for Mrs. Reynolds and watched their retreat. What would Georgiana think of their company?

Author Maria Grace
Author Bio

Five-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.

She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.

She can be contacted at:

Buy Links

Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions is available to buy now! - Universal Buy Link / Add to Goodreads Shelf

Giveaway Time!

Book cover: Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace
Maria Grace is kindly offering to giveaway an ebook copy of Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions to one of you! To enter, just leave a comment on this post by the end of the day worldwide on Thursday 17 October.

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  1. This Darcy behaves like a typical member of the aristocracy. Poor Georgiana is misunderstood by her brother. Both brother and sister rely heavily upon the sage advice given by Elizabeth. Elizabeth is intelligent and kind. Elizabeth feels like an outsider during the house party. What will it take for Darcy to finally see Elizabeth for what she is - a real treasure. This is such a lovely story!!

    1. He really doesn't get her at all, does he Lisa! Good job Elizabeth is around, but I wonder when he will realise!

  2. Love the blog as always and oh boy book sounds very intriguing and can’t wait to read! Fingers crossed I might win this giveaway....

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Good luck in the giveaway :)

  3. Love that this seems to have elements of Mansfield Park mixed with P&P. Can't wait to see what trouble occurs with the Garlands.

    1. I can't see Elizabeth being as meek as Fanny Price, but it's great to see a MP nod.

  4. I'm intrigued. The blurb tells us that the Darcy family is near ruin and only Elizabeth can help. This is definitely a story worth reading!

    1. I wondered about that too, very intriguing!

  5. Well, Anne sure seems determined to be displeased! Can't wait to see what else happens with her.

    1. To use a British phrase she seems a right mardy one! No pleasing her!

  6. I cannot wait to know more of Miss Garland. She seemed like a suitable match for Darcy but why hasn't she married yet. I find her the most interesting of the guests gathered at Pemberley.

    1. I agree. I find both of the Garlands interesting, but Miss Garland especially so.

  7. I read and enjoyed this story. Great excerpt. Thanks for your generosity.

  8. This is a very different twist and interesting premise. Looking forward to reading it!

    1. I hope you enjoy it when you read it, Lily :)

  9. This sounds like an interesting and imaginative variation, and a house party is a great way to get a hold of interesting characters together.

    1. A house party really opens up possibilities, doesn't it, and because the Garlands are new characted we don't know what to expect from them.

  10. Glynis enjoyed the excerpt and wanted to enter the giveaway but thought she was too late. Luckily I close my giveaways at the end of the day worldwide because I'm in an earlier time zone than a lot of the visitors to my blog, so Glynis was in time to join in :)


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