Monday, 7 December 2020

Port and Proposals by Mark Brownlow - Blog Tour, Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Picture of Book: Port & Proposals by Mark Brownlow
Today I’m delighted to be welcoming Mark Brownlow back to the blog with the blog tour for his new book, Port & Proposals. This can be read stand-alone but is a sequel to Cake & Courtship, a book that focuses on Mr Bennet from Pride & Prejudice. Cake & Courtship has the reader accompany Mr Bennet up until Elizabeth goes to Kent, and we spend the rest of the timeline of Pride & Prejudice with him in Port & Proposals.

I’ll share the blurb with you, and then hand over to Mark for a guest post and excerpt from Port & Proposals. He’s also offering an ebook giveaway to a commenter on the post.

Book Description

All Mr Bennet wants to do is read books, eat cake, and study butterflies. But life has other plans for him in this Regency tale of love, regret, and second chances.

Family troubles and a promise to his middle daughter, Mary, force our father of five out of his library to deal with reticent bachelors, stubborn curates, and glib officers. Though his greatest challenge may be to face up to a past he cannot seem to forget.

Mark Brownlow presents a Pride and Prejudice variation full of Mr Bennet's wit and wisdom that plays out against the backdrop of Vols II and III of Jane Austen’s famous novel.

Although a standalone story, Port and Proposals is also the sequel to Brownlow's Cake and Courtship.

Guest Post from Mark Brownlow 

Hi Ceri! Thanks for having me again and for starting off this mini-blog tour for my new novel.

Port & Proposals takes place across Volumes II and III of Pride and Prejudice and sees events from Mr Bennet's perspective. So we get to experience some of the scenes hinted at by Jane Austen, such as his search for Wickham and Lydia in London.

But I wanted to do more than just retell the classic story with Mr Bennet's eye for wry observation, so that forms a background to two wider tales.

The first concerns Mary Bennet's blossoming friendship (just friendship?) with a local curate, which has its own twists and turns.

The second is, of course, Mr Bennet's story.

Jane Austen described him as "so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character."

He always seems such a conundrum. Witty, wise, yet also capable of unkind comments. Caring at times, yet not a particularly good husband or father if we're honest.

So Port and Proposals teases out more of his backstory and throws him a few challenges (the curate being one of them!). And a reunion with an old (ahem) "acquaintance" forces him to reflect on his attitude towards family matters.

In this excerpt, Lizzy has left for Hunsford and the remaining Bennet family are discussing a pending trip to a friend's in Gloucestershire when the subject of the curate arises:

Book Cover: Port & Proposals by Mark Brownlow
Excerpt from Port and Proposals

"You are sure, Mama?" said Lydia.

"Quite certain," said my wife. "Mrs Philips tells me that azure and lilac are very much the fashion, ever since Lady Powlett's appearance at the Rochester. Who knows what gentlemen John may have gathered up in Gloucestershire? You must look your best."

"Good morning," I said.

"Good morning, Papa," said Mary, after a short pause.

"You, at least, can see me, Mary? I thought I might have passed away in the night and now pursue a ghostly existence, charged with spending eternity listening to talk of balls. Does the Bible mention such a purgatory?"

Mary simply continued eating her roll, spreading butter and jam evenly across its surface, as if unwilling to show favour to any one part of the bread.

Mrs Bennet stared at me intently. "You look perfectly well to me, husband."

"So, your gowns are to be blue and purple?" I said.

"It would not do for the girls to appear in an unfashionable colour." Mrs Bennet jabbed her spoon at me as she spoke. Strawberry preserve flew indelicately through the air but found a safe landing place on my shirt. I cracked open the Chronicle and sheltered behind its papery barricade.

"You know full well we must make a good impression at John's," continued my wife. "He is a fine gentleman now and walks in the very best of circles."

"My dear, John has always been a fine gentleman. But the only circles he enjoys walking in are around whatever person or object he wishes to paint. Do not allow your hopes and expectations to rise quite so much or you may meet with disappointment in Gloucestershire."

"Nonsense, husband. John is married to a family with a great deal of connections. Oh, do you think Mrs Hayter may be there? She would surely bring a party with her. Imagine!"

My grip tightened around the edges of my paper.

"Now, make haste, girls," continued my wife. "We must see Mrs Bracegirdle this morning and ensure all will be ready before we leave."

"And what about you, Mary?" I glanced around the side of the paper. "Do you look forward to our trip? To balls and bachelors? I suspect not."

"It is all the same to me, Papa."

"Have a care, Mary," said Lydia. "Or you will find no man of note to marry and have to make do with Mr Spigott."

I did not expect Mary to respond, since she had long understood that Lydia attached no weight to words spoken by others. On this occasion, however, a tiny spark seemed to light in Mary's eye. "And what, pray, is wrong with Mr Spigott?"

"Larks, Mary," said Lydia. "Do not say you have fallen for him."

"It is a legitimate question, Lydia." I folded the paper and dropped it on the table. "What, precisely, has Mr Spigott done to deserve your opprobrium?"

Lydia shrugged. "He is just plain Mr Spigott. That is all." She turned her attention to opening a boiled egg, a task she began with unexpected delicacy before simply crushing the poor thing's brave resistance with her spoon. "Oh, look. Now I have bits of shell everywhere."

"How long has Mr Spigott been curate?" I addressed the question to Mary, but Mrs Bennet answered.

"Some three years. Perhaps four."

"So long?" I said. People may be in plain view but never seen. "Where was he beforehand? He has no accent to speak of."

"I am sure I do not know." My wife drank the last of her coffee. "No one ever talks about Mr Spigott. Not even Mrs Philips."

Society uses various measures to determine the worth and status of an individual. Meryton, however, used Mrs Philips. Her lack of interest in a person was a cut few could survive without extensive surgery to their character and position.

"Come now, dear, you must know something," I said.

"I confess, husband, I had never given him much thought until recently. Mr Spigott was always just...there." She stuffed a piece of bread and jam into her mouth.

"His family is from Lincolnshire." All heads turned to Mary, who sat primly, chin slightly raised. "His father has a large estate near the village of Saxilby."

Mrs Bennet stopped chewing at the exact moment the word "estate" appeared after the word "large." She swallowed, then smiled at Mary. "A large estate, you say?"

"Yes, but he speaks very little of it. He has older brothers."

"He will not inherit, then." My wife wrinkled her nose. "Still, he will have to do."

"Mama?" said Mary.

"Nothing. Now eat up, girls." My wife took another bite of bread.

"You might have told us this before, Mary," I said.

"You did not ask. Oh, and there is one more thing you might like to know about him, Papa." Mary gazed out of a window edged by the fresh growth of a climbing rose. "He likes to garden. Very much."

"A gardening man? As I recall, he said something similar himself. The more I learn of our Mr Spigott, the more intriguing he becomes. Perhaps I shall pay him a visit now the weather has turned."

"Well you had better be quicker about it than you were with Mr Bingley last year," said my wife. "Or it will have to wait until after Gloucestershire."

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Author Mark Brownlow
Author Bio

Mark Brownlow is a British-born writer, lecturer and journalist living in Vienna, Austria. He has published three Regency tales narrated by Mr Bennet: the novels Cake and Courtship and Port and Proposals, as well as a short story (A Third Proposal). He has also authored two novellas in the Charlotte Collins Mysteries series: The Lovesick Maid and The Darcy Ring take place in Jane Austen’s fictional village of Hunsford. You can find Mark at

You can connect with Mark at his website, Goodreads, his author pages at or, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Buy Links 

Port & Proposals is available to buy now in Paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA • Add to Goodreads shelf

Giveaway Time!

Mark is very kindly giving away an ebook of Port & Proposals to a commenter on this blog post. Please comment by the end of the day worldwide on Sunday 13 December.

Note about comments: If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)


Blog Tour: Port & Proposals by Mark Brownlow
Blog Tour Schedule

Mark is visiting other blogs with Port & Proposals - please check out the other stops on the dates indicated to learn more about the book.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank YOU so much for visiting Mark! I didn't manage to read one of your books in 2020 but you are on my list for 2021 :)

  2. It sounds terrific. Congrats on the new book, Mark!

  3. Best wishes with this new release. I did read and enjoy the Cake and Courtship story. Thanks for a chance to win a copy of this newest story and for sharing with us here. Stay safe, everyone. Happy Holidays.

    1. Thank you for the kind wishes, Sheila, and compliments of the season to you.

    2. Glad to hear you enjoyed Cake and Courtship, Sheila, as I know we have similar taste :)

  4. I enjoyed this excerpt and laughed at the flying jam precipitating the paper barrier! I have read this author's mysteries and I know he has real talent with the written word. Thanks for entering me in the drawing.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Charlotte's stories - another one coming next year I hope

    2. I enjoyed the jam bit too :)

  5. I love that the latest explores Mr. Bennet's backstory and also gives a story for Mary. Sounds great!

    1. These are less explored avenues, definitely!

  6. Well done Mark, this excerpt is great. I've the paperback ordered.

  7. That was really good. Few Austenesque books capture the outright humor and language of Austen in a way I laughed quite a bit in the excerpt. Thank you for posting this and the contest!

    1. Thanks, Jen, and good luck for the giveaway.

    2. I am glad you felt that way, Jen. While I enjoy the way that Austenesque authors take our characters down different paths, not many of them have the same type of humour, which is one of the things that I find to be such a treat in her writing :)

  8. Sorry to be late to the party. I wish you well with this launch. I'm looking forward to reading it. Blessings. Thanks, Ceri for hosting. Everyone stay safe and healthy.

    1. Thank you! Compliments of the season to you!

    2. Thanks so much Jeanne, same to you!

  9. Patricia Finnegan11 December 2020 at 15:56

    Congratulations on your new book

  10. I enjoyed the excerpt, and would love a chance to read a story from Mr. Bennet's perspective!

  11. So looking forward to reading this after I read 'Cake & Courtship'! It's on my Kindle waiting patiently for me. I love that you have spotlighted Mr. Bennet, though he may be perturbed that you have!

    1. Thanks, Carole. Yep, I think he'd shake his head and sigh at the attention.

    2. He'd rather be watching and doing the laughing himself wouldn't he :)