Friday, April 06, 2018

Blog Tour: The Assistant by Riana Everly - giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Riana Everly's release, The Assistant.

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?

Thank you so much, Sophie, for hosting me on this stop on my blog tour for The Assistant. I’m thrilled to be here, and I thought I would introduce everyone to Edward Gardiner’s new assistant. He’s a bit shy, but he did agree to an interview. Here is the transcript.

Riana: Good morning. I am here speaking with Edward Gardiner’s new assistant, Matthew. Do you have a family name, Matthew? I’m sure our friends would be interested.
Matt: No, ‘tis best you just calls me Matthew, or Matt. I answers to Matt well enough. One of the things I likes so much about London, is there’s none here to bother me when I just say my name is Matt. When I’m about in the city, there’s none what knows I’m the assistant to a fine man like Mr. Gardiner, and they all just think I’m another errand boy or something like, and I can come an’ go as I wish.
Riana: Then I assume you are enjoying your time in London. It must be very different from Derbyshire, where you grew up.
Matt: Oh, aye, it is. I rather miss the trees and open spaces of me home, and everybody here talks strange-like, in so many ways. There’s the nobs, of course, but they sound the same everywhere. But the common folk…
Riana: Like you?
Matt: (smiling) Aye, like me! It’s a very different accent than what I is used to hearing. But the city is a grand place to explore. There is so much to keep one like me interested and busy.
Riana: What is Mr. Gardiner like as an employer? Is he a kind man?
Matt: Aye, indeed! He is the best of men. Old Mr. Gardiner – that be his father – can be gruff and stern, but he is not cruel. And young Mr. Gardiner is as kind as can be. He is mighty fair with his expectations, and never has a bad word to say about anybody. He is honest as a person can be, and I cannot imagine a better man for whom to work. I was right lucky to have him find me, and more so that he offered me this position! I had not the first thought about ever having a position like this! I am more grateful than anyone might imagine.
Riana: Tell us about that, if you would.
Matt: I was walking in the woods… trying to escape, really, from someone what meant me ill. Mr. Gardiner found me after I had hurt my ankle and could not walk, and saved my life. He kept me safe and found a doctor to look at my ankle, and he allowed me to read his books!
Riana: He must have been surprised that a lad like you had the education to read. What do you enjoy?
Matt: I must confess, I like Shakespeare!  His tragedies are most wonderful, but I have a preference for the comedies.
Riana: Do you, now? That is most unusual for a country-bred boy like you. Which, may I ask, is your favourite?
Matt: There is something about Twelfth Night that I loves! The character, Viola, does not let her circumstances prevent her from seeking to improve her lot. Instead, she does what she must to forward her desires. I might see myself in her, how she strides forward even in the face of adversity.
Riana: There is a lot to admire in that play! But surely, Edward Gardiner did not take you on as an assistant because of your love of Shakespeare! 
Matt: No, that is true enough. I knows my numbers well, and I can assist him not only with copying his letters, but with doing the calculations he needs to find his prices and make agreements with his suppliers and customers. I enjoys the work. I has never been useful before, and I right enjoys the feeling!
Riana: Ah yes! Such a gift is rare indeed, and he was a smart man to take you on! Perhaps a short passage from the tale will shed some more light on this. Thank you, Matthew, for joining us.
It had become clear that no business would be conducted on this particular day. The festival was consuming everybody’s attention, and the boy’s presence in the room had distracted Edward to the point that he knew he would not be able to give full due to any negotiations. Resigned to spending another day still in Derby, he settled down at the desk by the window to work on some of his accounts. These calculations had to be worked through at some time, and this moment with its enforced respite from activity seemed as good a time as Edward would have.
He began with some basic sums, tallying up what had been sold, what had been ordered, and what still he had to offer, to keep his ledgers current and accurate. His books of samples lay open on the desk, with prices and dimensions of the full bolts of fabric listed beside each swatch of the fine material. Besides the profits accrued through direct sales, there were commissioned rates to be calculated for some select purveyors, as well as discounts for some, premium rates for special deliveries for others, and of course, import tariffs to be calculated for the supplies he expected to procure once he arrived at the docks at Liverpool. He worked for about an hour, gradually moving from the simpler figures to more complicated calculations. Competent at arithmetic but not a great lover of the art, Edward swore under his breath as he mumbled the figures he needed to manipulate to complete his account books. “Damn and blast!” he cursed as he scratched out a calculation made in error, and set about redoing the problem, muttering his figures once again.
“One hundred and forty eight pounds, six shillings, tuppence.” a voice said from behind him.
“Eh?” Edward had forgotten the boy’s presence, and was jolted from the mire of his account books by the soft, high voice.
“That math you was doin’, sir. When you pay the fourteen percent tax and then allow for the percent profit you was sayin’, with the amounts you had, that would be one hundred and forty eight pounds, six shillings and two pennies.”
Edward turned in his chair to stare directly at the creature still buried in blankets by the fire. Matt had neither paper nor pencil, but had arrived at the same figure Edward had just managed after several lines of jottings and crossing out and curses. “How on earth did you do that?”
“Those calculations. How did you do that?”
“Numbers make sense in my head, Sir.”
“You can just hear these figures and do the calculations? Percentages, multiplications, all of that?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Indeed!” Edward paused, thinking for a moment.
“Seven times eighteen.” Edward spat out.
“One hundred twenty six, Sir.”
“Thirty four times seventy eight.”
Matt thought for five or ten seconds, then replied, “Two thousand, six hundred and fifty two.”
“Seven thousand and eighty three divided by twelve.”
Edward counted silently as the boy closed his eyes to ponder the numbers. Nine seconds passed. “Five hundred and ninety, with three remaining.”
And so the back and forth continued for some minutes, with Edward madly scribbling out sums to check the results that Matt stated so confidently. All were correct.
“Where did you learn? Even the brightest mind needs some direction to shine clearly.”
Matt paused for a moment, as if trying to decide how much to tell, then said, “I sat in lessons with the master’s son and learned there.”
“I see.” Edward had so many more questions, but knew they would not be answered this day.
He picked up his ledger and brought it over to the youngster in the chair, “I assume then that you know your numbers to read, and your letters.” Matt nodded. “Can you work these out?” He placed the book in Matt’s lap, and handed him a pencil, watching. Within short minutes, the boy had completed a set of calculations that would have taken Edward hours to complete. He would have to check the work, he knew, but an idea was quickly forming in Edward’s mind.
“Tell me, Matt, and be sure I will not divulge your secrets, where are you from? Have you a home?”
“No, Mr. Gardiner, I canna say. But you was right: I have no home now. I was hoping to get to London to find work, but I cannot go back. I am sore afraid of… of the master.”
“Not the master who let you sit in on his son’s lessons, surely! That sounds like a fine man.”
“No, sir. Not that master. A new one.”
“Who is worried for you, lad? You must have a mother or father or siblings who care that you have vanished from their midst.”
“My father is dead, and my mother is sent away. All I loved was sent away. There is none left there that cares for me.”
“Well then…” Edward’s voice trailed off before he resumed speaking a few moments later. “We will leave a note here at the inn, should anyone inquire after your safety, but I won’t provide directions. But I have a proposition for you. I assume you can read as well as work magic with numbers.” Matt nodded. “And write? Here, let me dictate and you will write down my words.”
He gave some paper and a pen to Matt and set up the table so the boy could write. He then proceeded to give a short account of the day’s events. He spoke slowly and carefully, curious as to how the boy would manage. The result, not surprisingly, was a hastily scribbled but accurate transcription of the speech. Everything was spelled correctly, and even with the obvious hurriedness in which the letters were formed, they were clear and legible. “Write this sentence out properly now,” Edward commanded as his finger alit on a line from the notes, and the result was presented in a clear, well-formed hand, perhaps overly careful and slightly unnatural from lack of practice, but neat and precise.
“You did not learn that behind the barn,” Edward surmised. “You are full of surprises, Matt. Here is my proposition. You are unfit to work now, and will be for several weeks, until your ankle heals. However, you have skills I can use. If you agree, I offer to take you on as an assistant, to take care of my books and basic correspondence, leaving me more time to deal with my customers and other matters of trade. I will offer you room and board in my house in London, and will also pay you a reasonable wage. We will remain here in Derby until I complete my business dealings, likely the day after tomorrow, which will give you some time to rest and regain your strength. Then we will travel to Liverpool, and finally back down to London, where we can finalize the details of our arrangement. Does this suit?”

Author Bio
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!


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*** Giveaway - ends 14th April ***

Today’s international giveaway is to win an ebook copy of The Assistant.

All you need to do to win is to comment on this blog post.
Please include your email so I can contact you easily if you are they lucky winner. The winner will be chosen at random.

My thanks again goes to Riana for this fun interview and extract! I wish Riana all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!


  1. So the rumours of a missing heir to a northern estate, would that be Pemberley and the Darcys then


    1. At the risk of leaking a spoiler, the Darcys are involved, but only peripherally. But if there is a missing heir, you can be certain that Darcy père is concerned!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sir Humphrey Davy as the Assistant! W00t! I like both photos; in fact, the upper one is Matthew's face and the lower his mind. That was a great interview. I'm currently reading the book, and it was spot on for where I am, so no spoilers. So far it's held my attention more than most books, and the editing is seamless. Thanks so much, Riana, for this glimpse into the novel, and thanks also to Sophie for hosting.

    1. I'd imagined Edward looking like Sir Humphrey Davy. There is another painting of him, sitting at his desk and writing, and when I found each painting, I thought "That's Edward!" only to realize they're of the same person. So clearly, in my imagination, Edward looks exactly like Sir Humphrey! He could do worse than be a brilliant chemist, right? ;)

    2. I ought to have added, the top painting is of Rear Admiral Louis Tindal as a boy.

  4. How intriguing!! A prequel is always magical!! Thank you for the opportunity!! Sharon Legg

    1. I hope you enjoy the story and good luck in the draw!

  5. Wonderful excerpt. Love the interview. You have my attention! I have been following the blog tour and see this is a must read. Thank you for the giveaway.

    1. Cherringtonmb at sbcglobal dot net

    2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this excerpt. I hope you enjoy the story.

  6. This is a book for which I have been waiting with great anticipation. Look forward to it!

    1. When you get around to it, I hope you enjoy it!

  7. Wonderful excerpt! I’m looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    Pamh5230 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  8. Thank you for this post Sophia and Riana! I admit, I didn't know this author but I really wish to read her book!

    My email is

    1. I'm so glad you found me! I really hope you enjoy my tale! Good luck in the draw.

  9. A very entertaining interview with Matt, Riana. I would definitely like to know more about this assistant and his mysterious background. He must have been educated as a child but somehow he found himself quite alone in the world.

    1. Thanks! Yes indeed, he's so well-educated, Edward doesn't quite know what to do with him! There's a mystery there indeed!

  10. Hadn't heard of this author before. Great post. I liked the pictures too.

    1. I'm so glad you've found me now. If you get a chance to read The Assistant, I hope you love it. Good luck in the draw.


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