Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams - with giveaway!



A coming-of-age story told in four volumes between Austen’s infamous couple; savor the story of the prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, as they meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride & Prejudice. Could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?

Caitlin Williams, author of the highly-praised book, Ardently, tours the blogosphere from June 13- June 26, 2016 to share her newest release, The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet. Fourteen book bloggers, specializing in Austenesque fiction and romance stories, will share excerpts, guest posts, an exclusive interview with the author and book reviews from this highly awaited Austen-inspired novel. Eight ebooks are also being included in our giveaways and entry is available to anyone who participates in this blog tour.


I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Caitlin Williams' latest release, The Coming of Age of Miss Elizabeth Bennet. My thanks also goes to Claudine Pepe for inviting me to take part.


The very worst has happened. Mr Bennet has died, leaving his wife and five young daughters bereft. The family estate, Longbourn, is now lost, entailed away and fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet is to go two hundred miles away to live with strangers. George Darcy, repaying a debt of gratitude, has offered to take her to Pemberley, to live under the mantle of his care and be raised alongside his own daughter, Georgiana.

But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.

The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one.  She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?



"To celebrate the launch of “The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet,” in which we meet a fifteen-year-old Elizabeth, here's a little vignette featuring fifteen-year-old Fitzwilliam and his father."


The Young Master

“Before we venture downstairs, Fitzwilliam, there are some things I would say to you.”

Fitzwilliam Darcy nodded deferentially at his father, though he had to supress a sigh. He had endured so many lessons that day already, and so many strictures had been laid down before him. How much instruction could a fifteen-year-old boy expect to endure during one se’nnight home from school? He had rather hoped he would be spending his time fishing and shooting, playing billiards, teasing his younger sister and being at leisure. Instead, George Darcy had woken him just after dawn each day and they’d ridden out to inspect every inch of the estate. He had furnished his son with the history of every farm, every tenant, and what cattle or crops they produced -and of how much rent they paid, how long they had lived there - and so on, and so on. Yet his father had not stopped there. The afternoons had been spent in the master of Pemberley’s study, surveying accounts, looking at legal documents and attending meetings with the house and land stewards. 

Now, he had been summoned to his father’s dressing room, where Fitzwilliam watched the valet fuss with George Darcy’s cravat, until the master brushed him aside with a short “very good, that will do” and dismissed him from the room. Then he looked squarely at his son. “Take a chair my boy, for I wish to tell you of women, and they are startling creatures who will often leave you breathless and weak around the knees. And so for this conference, we should sit.”

Having expected some more dull instruction on the running of Pemberley, Fitzwilliam’s interest was suddenly piqued. This was unforeseen. He took a seat on a small gilt chair in the corner of the room. Lately, he was tantamount to some gracelessness and clumsiness. He had grown, filled out and his body suddenly seemed large and cumbersome, his limbs were heavier and longer, and he frequently knew not what to do with his hands or his feet. It was a relief when he managed to manoeuvre himself onto the delicate chair without incident.

His father smiled convivially and at first looked as if he would take the chair opposite him, but then studied Fitzwilliam’s face more carefully, stood over him and seemed to be fighting the urge to laugh. “And what is this, about your top lip?”

Covering his mouth with his hand, Fitzwilliam proudly stroked the hairs that were sprouting there. “’Tis a moustache.”

“Is it now? I thought perhaps it a bit of dirt, or some sort of rash. Nine hairs do not a moustache make, my boy. Though I see you’re somewhat pleased by them, I think we had better have my valet nick them off before you go downstairs.”

Offended and disappointed, Fitzwilliam folded his arms. He had been hoping the moustache might make him look older, more authoritative. “You wanted to say something, about ladies?” he prompted his father.

“Not ladies,” his father corrected. “Women! All of them. There are some gentlemen, Fitzwilliam, who differentiate and care to separate them out and think of ladies in one way and women in general the other - women to be used, ladies to be revered. But, mark my words when I tell you that the lowliest scullery maid might get you into as much trouble as the most refined, elegant lady. Be wary of them, they can all smell good, whether of rosewater, or freshly baked bread. Which leads me to my first point,” his father said, holding up his finger to emphasise his words. “A Darcy does not dally below stairs. Never! You will be tempted. The curves on some of the girls that walk these halls might make a fine young man like you lose his mind. And I have seen you looking, but you must not.”

Fitzwilliam tugged his high collar away from his neck. He thought of how his friend George Wickham had recently boasted to him of how one of the kitchen girls had let him kiss her and put his hand up her skirts. Oh, how he had envied him. George’s daring and his ability to charm the opposite sex into allowing such favours was astounding. Yet, he supposed his father was right. And, anyway, though he sometimes could not prevent his eye from wandering, he found servant girls were not exactly to his taste in any case. It was those exotic, exquisitely attired, perfumed ladies of the ton, with their daringly low necklines and close-fitting gowns that sent the blood soaring through his veins.

“You have a great inheritance awaiting you. So you must be careful about choosing who you dance and speak with when you are in society,” his father went on. “I would suggest never dancing more than one set per night with any lady; it raises too many expectations, both with the girl, and more importantly, with her Mamma. There is a danger in showing too much attention. If you are ever left alone with a handsome girl for any reason, best ignore them and find occupation elsewhere, attend to a book instead. And do not flatter. You will see some dandy fellows, throwing compliments around hither and thither, but do not seek to emulate them, I beg you, lest your comments be taken out of proportion.”

Fitzwilliam listened and nodded, knowing it was probably sage advice, but it did not, however, sound like much fun.

“Two more things,” George Darcy said. “A gentleman always keeps his eyes above the neckline. Do not venture a glance lower than a collarbone, though I know ‘tis more difficult than ever these days. A lady’s d├ęcolletage is now arranged in such a way as to make it as powerful an inducement as her dowry. Eyes front and centre, my boy, do not forget. Oh, and lastly, and it is perhaps a tad embarrassing to speak of, but if you should ever find yourself indisposed…”

Seeing his father’s raised eyebrows, Fitzwilliam leaned forward, wondering what he was implying. “Indisposed?”

“Overcome, while in public. It happens, particularly at your age. We are human after all and there is no telling when the beast in us might choose to read its ugly head. It’s terribly unfortunate, but if you should find yourself in such a predicament, I would go to the window and look out of it for a good long while, and think of the most unattractive woman you know. It’ll pass. Now, shall we finish getting ready and go down to this little soiree? Your mother is not good at entertaining on her own, how she frets if I am not there!”

Blushing furiously, Fitzwilliam shuffled in his seat while the valet was called back. The thin moustache he had been patiently trying to grow and shape for weeks was removed with only a couple of swift moves of a sharp blade. Then, they were moving through the corridors of Pemberley. George Darcy’s chest was puffed out, his tread was firm and his whole mien spoke of his belief in his own authority. Fitzwilliam was a step or so behind, trying to emulate his father’s movements and expressions.

The grand saloon, when they reached it, seemed to be a good as place as any to practice the principles and practices that had just been laid out before him. It was full of young ladies of all shapes and sizes, and varying degrees of handsomeness, who had accompanied their mothers to a small afternoon gathering. After being presented to him, the young girls would fall silent, and he, embarrassed and unused to fresh female company, had no idea what to say to them. All would be quiet, until the next young lady came along, but other than his inability to begin a conversation, Fitzwilliam felt he was doing well enough.

Fruit and sweetmeats were brought in and the company began to gather around the table to partake of the delights on offer. Fitzwilliam felt someone at his shoulder and glanced around to see Mrs Winter, a rich widow of some importance in Derbyshire, still very beautiful though she must be nearly forty.

“Ah, the young master,” she said. “Almost fully grown, why I remember tickling your toes when you were but a babe in arms.”

Her look and the tone of her voice perturbed him. Though her words were innocent, there was something about the way she glanced at him through her lashes that made him feel as if she were flirting.

He knew not what he said in reply, offered her a small greeting perhaps, but as they turned back to the table to make their selections, they brushed against one another, intimately. She was an impressively built woman and he was part-embarrassed and part-thrilled that her chest had come into contact with his sleeve, but he also quickly jumped back to ensure it would not happen again. His movement, unfortunately, dislodged a beautifully arranged pyramid of fruit from the display on the table. Grapes, nectarines and peaches began rolling across the floor, prompting squeals and laughter from the assembled ladies, which mortified him, and guffaws from the gentlemen.

Apologising profusely, knowing he sounded uncollected and looked foolish, he nevertheless began to collect the items from the floor, grateful for something to do to hide his shame. He rose from his crouched position, his hands full, as footmen also hurried forth to clear up the mess.

Mrs Winter’s mouth was quirked upwards in amusement as she met his eyes. She plucked a piece of fruit from his grasp, holding it up. “I think this will be mine, young man. What do you make of it? I don’t think I have ever seen a bigger pear. Impressive is it not?”

There was nothing more he could say, other than, “yes, Mrs Winter,” as she tipped him a little nod and moved away, laughing to herself.

Fitzwilliam closed his eyes briefly, wished the floor might open and swallow him whole. When he found the courage to open them again, his father was before him.

“Perhaps another little chat is in order,” George Darcy said. “Women, eh?”









Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family.She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.

Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.

Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.

Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.




GIVEAWAY!!!


My thanks again goes to Caitlin for this fun excerpt! My thanks also to Claudine for setting up this tour.

I wish Caitlin all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!



Your affectionate friend,

Friday, June 03, 2016

Miss Darcy's Companion by Joana Starnes - with giveaway!




I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for the lovely Joana Starnes' latest release, Miss Darcy's Companion


Thanks, Sophie, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my latest ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation. This story takes place almost entirely at Pemberley, where the recently bereaved Miss Elizabeth Bennet now lives as ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’ and gets to know Mr Darcy at his best. Not as he would present himself to strangers in some remote corner of Hertfordshire, but as his nearest and dearest know him. An excellent brother, landlord, master. A wonderful man, noble, kind – and impossibly handsome.


Speaking of which, what is it, do you think, about handsome Regency gentlemen on horseback that makes them so incredibly appealing?



 


Is it the allure of period drama? Are we, in our heart of hearts, subconsciously closer to our distant past than to our all-too-modern and very busy present? Is it the attire? The eminently masculine pursuit? I, for one, find it hard to tell, but the allure is unmistakable, even to one such as myself, who has never ridden in her entire life (not even a donkey on Blackpool Beach or in Brighton :D ).



And since I’m a complete stranger to riding, I’m extremely grateful to Debbie Fortin for her wonderful expertise and help. She ever so patiently read my ‘horsey-scenes’ and told me what was what, what worked and what didn’t, and taught me a great many things. For instance that a horse’s mane is not as sensitive as we would imagine and holding on to it for dear life would not unsettle the noble beast in the slightest, whereas a novice might think it’s on the par with someone pulling our hair and likely to annoy him just as much. She also told me that an English saddle has no straps for attaching various belongings. But she kindly allowed me some artistic licence there, and Mr Darcy was given leave to have straps to his saddle if it pleased him, firstly because, being Darcy, he can afford to have whatever adjustments and add-ons he likes :) and also because, as you will see if you read ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, it’s rather important to the plot.



But never mind the straps. Let me get back to the allure of gentlemen on horseback, especially when they race hell for leather after the women they love. This is precisely what Mr Darcy does in ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’. He has made some pretty ungentlemanly assumptions (in modern parlance, he has well and truly put his foot in it) and as a result Elizabeth has decided to flee from Pemberley. And what is he to do but race after her and bring her back?







I hope you’ll like the excerpt, and please rest assured that no creatures, human or otherwise, have been severely injured in this scene :)



* * * *



Nellie pricked her ears and whinnied softly, shaking her head between the straps. And then the whinny turned into a snort and her shoulders rippled when she shook her head once more, with renewed vigour. From his seat, Wilkins soothingly clicked his tongue and flicked the long reins over her back.



“There now, girl. Ye’ve bin as twitchy as a nervous bride all mornin’,” he chuckled, then ruefully turned to his young passenger. “Beg pardon, Miss. She don’ much like it when the winds change in the spring, does Nellie,” he elaborated, rubbing his chin. “But then she always settles in a while. There now, girl,” he repeated, with another cluck. “We’ll be at the Bell in no time an’ you can have a moment’s rest.”



But Nellie was not of a mind to either rest or settle. Her head came up again and she neighed, stomping her front hooves higher off the ground. By the time the less perceptive human ears, both young and old, caught the sound of thundering hoof beats, she had already broken into an anxious canter with so little warning that the occupants of the gig were nearly thrown back. Elizabeth gripped the edge of the backrest to steady herself and Wilkins muttered an oath as he fumbled for a better hold onto the slipping reins, forgetting to apologise this time.



The increasing noise approaching from behind was not in the least to Nellie’s liking, nor was the sharp tug on the reins, urging her to slow her pace against her will. The whites of her eyes showing, she neighed and bridled, then broke into a run.



The dark shape now galloping beside her, cloak aflutter, was a far from calming sight, and she shied further to the right before the outstretched gloved hand could grip the harness. The slick mud gathered at the bend did the rest. Hooves slipped sideways, and so did the wheels. Closer and closer to the ditch they came, until the right one fell into it with a resounding thud, violently rocking the gig and its two occupants, who were by then hanging for dear life onto the sides with sharp exclamations of shock and protest at the commotion and the newcomer’s sudden appearance and antics.



Nellie’s hind legs slid into the ditch as well, first one, then the other. Shaking and snorting, her nostrils wide with fear as much as with the effort, she strained to pull against the new obstacle of the slippery bank, struggling for a proper foothold and finding none. Neighing in panic, she strained again and scrambled over the edge at last, stubbornly fighting the restraining reins, pulled taut by Wilkins in his attempts to draw her to a halt. Crazed with fright, she might have fought further and dragged the dangerously-angled gig to its occupants’ doom, had the rider not leapt from his horse and ran to grab a firm hold of her bridle and work to still her with wordless murmurs and reassuring pats.



A bystander might have been awed by his skill and reflexes. But there were no bystanders to survey the scene, and the other two caught in the confusion were too intent on keeping themselves from being thrown out of the gig to spare admiring glances to feats of horsemanship. Not that Wilkins was in any way inclined towards admiration. Reins still wrapped around his wrists, he restrained from bellowing his anger for fear of further spooking Nellie, and merely growled instead:



“Young fool! Look what ye’ve done. Nearly overset us an’ lamed this poor mare an’ all. An’ fer what, eh? Juss to ride hell for leather down the road, like ye owned it?”



The growl faded into a muffled “Humph!” when the whippersnapper stepped aside and his head emerged from behind Nellie’s, to reveal that in fact he did own the road and pretty much everything else on an eight-mile radius. The apology came out of necessity rather than conviction.



“Beg pardon, Mr Darcy, Sir. Di’n’know ‘twere ye.”



“Never mind that,” the gentleman replied curtly. “Come over and lend a hand to calm your mare, would you? I do not dare let her loose just yet.”



“Aye, Sir. Comin’. Not lost me legs, the Lord be praised,” Wilkins muttered as he scrambled off into the ditch, nearly losing his footing as he did so. He gripped hold of the gig to redress himself and looked back at his young passenger.



“How ‘bout ye, lass? Are ye aright?”



“I am well. Just fine,” Elizabeth assured him, her voice rather too shaky to lend much credence to the statement, whereupon, from his place at the end of the traces, Mr Darcy spoke up with some impatience.



“Wilkins, how are you getting on?”



“Dandy, Sir. Be right wit’ye,” the older man called back and, still muttering under his breath, he squelched his way to Nellie to pat her neck and gentle her, thus leaving Darcy at liberty to abandon his post and approach Elizabeth at last.



He was just in time to see her leaving her precarious seat to jump down, then lean against the muddy wheel for support. Instinctively, his hand shot out to steady her.



“You are not injured, I hope.”



She shook her head and drew back from his touch, making Darcy sigh as he consciously offered:



“You should take shelter from the rain.”



Her glance shot back at him in defiance and she retorted tersely:



“I was fairly well sheltered under the hood until just now.”



Darcy bit his lip.



“Of course. I–… That was unfortunate, and not what I intended.”



Her old anger in nowise abated, she glanced up again.



“Then what did you intend?”



Without the slightest hesitation the reply came, low and earnest.



“To find you. Beg you to return. Beg you to forgive me.”



She leaned further back to catch his eye and her brow arched in unappeased resentment.



“Indeed! Whatever for? You were simply stating the obvious.”



“No! I was unjust, bitter and resentful. I never should have– ”



He broke off with a frustrated huff and forcefully ran his gloved fingers through his hair, pushing it back and sending droplets flying. It was still soaked from the earlier ride, and even more so once his hat had fallen off and was now lying trampled under his horse’s hooves, somewhere in the road behind them. But the fate of his hat concerned him not one jot. How was he to say everything that must be said – there, in the pouring rain, and in Wilkins’s hearing?



Darcy inwardly damned the rain, his own unpardonable conduct, the poor skittish mare and, for good measure, blameless Wilkins too. He took a step closer and his hand found her elbow under the heavy cloak. But the right words were far more difficult to find.



“I never should have said and done a great many things, Miss Bennet,” he said at last, his voice heavy with contrition. “We must talk. I hope you would allow it.” His lips tightened and he added, dispiritedly gesturing around him. “Not here, naturally, and not now. We ought not linger. You must be taken somewhere dry and warm as soon as may be.”



She made no answer, and he anxiously searched her countenance. It was drawn and pale under the hood, filling him with an overwhelming admixture of fresh guilt and the deepest need to hold her. But for now all he could do was plead.



“I beg you would consent to return to Pemberley.” To his acute dismay, he read the protest in her eyes even before she could draw breath to speak, so he earnestly entreated against his every wish, but knowing it had to be offered nonetheless.



“Just for tonight, if it must be so. If you must leave, then let it not be thus. A carriage can take you to Netherfield. But ‘tis getting late and you must be very cold and very tired. Come back with me. Just for tonight.”

* * * *



So, does she agree to go back? Does she stay for longer than one night? Of course she does, it wouldn’t be JAFF otherwise. If you would like to find out what the fuss was about, please leave a comment for a chance to enter the international giveaway of a Kindle copy. Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt and I hope you’ll enjoy the full story, and thanks for the wonderful welcome, Sophie, it’s always such a treat to be your guest!


** GIVEAWAY - ends Friday 10th June **


As you can see above, Joana has been kind enough to offer a giveaway of an ebook of her story, open internationally.

Please leave a comment for a chance to win.
The giveaway ends on 10th June. I will be in touch with the winner so please leave your email! The very best of luck!

* * * *



About the author:



Joana Starnes lives in the South of England with her family. She has published six Austen-related novels:



v  From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley ~ A Pride & Prejudice sequel

v  The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice and Persuasion

v  The Second Chance ~ A Pride & Prejudice – Sense & Sensibility Variation

v  The Falmouth Connection ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation set in Poldark territory

v  The Unthinkable Triangle ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation, where loyalty comes at loggerheads with love

v  Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation



They are available on all Amazon sites.









You can connect with Joana Starnes on




Or visit ‘All Roads Lead to Pemberley’ on Facebook, for places, events and titbits that have inspired her novels.



My thanks again goes to Joana for this intriguing excerpt! I must read to find out what the problem was! 

I wish Joana all the best with this release.


Your affectionate friend,
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