Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Review: 5 Stars for Pride and Prejudice (*Sort Of)

I was fortunate to see this production when it was touring the UK in 2019, and I felt then that this gem of a show could go far. But when Covid struck, I was worried for its future. 

Cut to October 2021, and I was so thrilled to hear the news that ‘Pride and Prejudice (*sort of)’ had made it all the way to the West End. And deservedly so. It is the best stage production of an Austen I have seen. 

I was invited to attend the opening night and immediately accepted, knowing it would be a thoroughly enjoyable evening, not to be missed. And I was right. 

(Disclaimer: I was invited to review this production and give my honest and unbiased opinion.)

When I saw this wonderful production for the first time, I did not know what to expect. I've now seen it three times, yet I am still struggling to do it justice through my review.   

From the official website
Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) is a unique and audacious retelling of Jane Austen’s most iconic love story. Men, money and microphones will be fought over in this irreverent but affectionate all-female adaptation, where the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to romance. It’s the 1800s. It’s party time. Let the ruthless matchmaking begin."

Witty, clever and upbeat - with a superb musical twist that will have you wanting to sing-along! - this show has something for everyone.  Although I would describe it as a 21st century interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, it is the characters’ words and interactions that have been modernised, not the storyline, nor the historical context and customs.  Perhaps this is what makes the production so appealing.  Interpretations that try to bring Austen completely into the modern day just don’t work, in my opinion. What makes Austen's work still so popular and relatable today is the joy and humour of her novels; the recognisable personalities, the wit and satire, and the authenticity of the challenges faced by her characters. I feel this production has found the perfect balance of an early 19th century background for a 21st century audience, and it showcases the accuracy and relevance of Austen’s stories and characters. I believe this production could introduce Jane Austen to a whole new audience, one that has yet to discover the humour of her novels. 

I acknowledge that this show could divide some Janeites.  It offers an unusual take on the story and contains some forward, often blunt updates to the dialogue, including some bad language.  However, I try to keep an open mind, which pays off when introduced to a unique interpretation such as this.  I would like to encourage my fellow Janeites to give this production a go, even if you are somewhat sceptical: I think you may be surprised at just how much you enjoy yourself!  Certainly, that was my experience. I will be returning before long, and taking along a few of my Austen friends! 

This was the first time I had seen an Austen adaptation with an all-female cast, but it works, and indeed it felt rather appropriate, when you remember how forward-thinking Jane Austen was with regard to women's rights: an early feminist, if you will.

The servants play a significant part in this production: they are telling the story.  This serves as a reminder of the importance of these silent characters in the background. Who will clean Lizzy's muddy hem? Or deliver all the important letters as the story unfolds? We don’t often pay them much attention; but they are there, and vital to the story – as we see throughout this play!

It is evident this company has a great respect and love for Austen.  The writer, Isobel McArthur, has been extremely clever in her use of Austen’s words and witty exchanges and although she has given them a modern makeover, never did I feel it was poking fun at the original. All the favourite conversations and iconic scenes are there, and the play is suitably focused on the first half of the story, leading up to Darcy’s proposal.

I must congratulate each and every member of the cast. They are all wonderfully talented and successfully bring to life the array of characters they each portray. 

 I particularly loved the Bingleys, Charles and Caroline, both played by Hannah Jarrett-Scott. They are such brilliant comic characters and frequently steal the show. In contrast, Hannah gives an emotional performance as Charlotte Lucas, with an added twist to her character, performed with care and respect. 

Another favourite has to be Mary. Throughout the play her character is either told to be quiet or is ignored, just as she is in the book: comical yet heartbreaking at the same time. Tori Burgess also portrays Lydia, and the brilliant contrast between the two is staggering.

Lady Catherine De Bourgh was also a very memorable performance; her haughty presence fills the stage. Again, this is a superbly different characterisation to Christina Gordon’s other main role, the sweet spoken Jane Bennet.

Perhaps the most amazing character portrayals, and hard for me to believe!, were Mrs Bennet and Mr Darcy: Mrs Bennet, scatty and melodramatic, Mr Darcy, the complete opposite! Isobel McArthur is not only a great playwright, but also an accomplished and convincing actress.


Last but not least, I must mention a wonderful Lizzy Bennet, played by Meghan Tyler. Lizzy is a character so close to my heart that I am often nervous to see how people will interpret her, but on this occasion I was not disappointed, as her combination of wit, spark, and ‘obstinate headstrong girl’ independence was perfectly captured.  Bravo! 

I felt the division of parts worked well, and the majority of characters were included too, and even those who never appeared physically on stage still featured in the story. Mr Bennet, in particular, is handled in an unconventional way, but it works surprisingly well! 

I would like to compliment the cast on their musical skills - on a wide variety of instruments, from trumpet to accordion, not forgetting the harp - a real treat.

The costumes made each character readily distinguishable - but how they manage the numerous quick changes, I have no clue! 

I liked the production’s staging when it was touring.  However, I have to say I was particularly excited to see the changes in this West End production: the beautiful sweeping staircase of books is a stunning centre piece!  

I have already mentioned how uplifting a performance this is, and how the music will make you want to clap along. This is such an inclusive play. At various times the audience is addressed directly, which makes you feel part of the show, not just a spectator.  I always enjoy this feature of theatre - in contrast to a cinematic adaptation! 

Overall, I feel this is a fascinating way of bringing Pride and Prejudice to a modern audience and of showing that Austen is still relatable and relevant.  Laughs echoed throughout the theatre and unending applause followed the finale. You will leave feeling uplifted, joyful after so much laughter, with some toe-tapping tunes echoing in your head!  

Clever and witty, but most importantly when it comes to Jane Austen, funny!  You are unlikely to regret an evening out at this production. I can’t wait to go back to enjoy my 4th performance.  I wish them all some well-deserved recognition and continued success. 

I was accompanied by my Janeite friend Abigail Rose, who wishes to add her thoughts: 

‘Pride and Prejudice (*Sort of)’ is every Austen fan’s dream modernisation of the story, while still keeping Austen’s wit and representation of Regency society at the heart of it.  The writer has thrown out the more sedate dialogue for fast-paced and fiery words, such as you would be likely to overhear down at the pub!

The show is utterly hilarious from the start, when the servants of our favourite Austen families are given the spotlight to re-tell the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy…because without the servants, none of it would have happened, right?

The characters burst into song with their Karaoke machine, which makes you want to get out of your seat and clap along!  Mrs Bennet can be found eating a box of Quality Street at Christmas, whilst Lydia is sneaking off with a bottle of WKD at the Netherfield Ball.

I especially loved the way that characters such as Charlotte Lucas and Mary Bennet were given voices that made you feel for their challenging situations in life.  I was willing Elizabeth to run off with Charlotte and live happily ever after at one point, and for someone to just give Mary the microphone and let her sing!

You can tell that the writer and actresses are true fans of Pride and Prejudice! Their fun and enjoyment whilst performing is infectious and makes the whole experience a true delight to watch.  This version is a breath of fresh air and an instant all-time favourite!  I need to see it again, and I recommend you do too!

Need we say more? Go and book your tickets now! 

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Blog tour: The Reintroduction of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Christine Combe - with giveaway!

Greetings, fellow Austenians! I’m so excited to be visiting Laughing with Lizzie today to talk about my new book, The Reintroduction of Fitzwilliam Darcy — especially today, because it’s RELEASE DAY! Woohoo!

::does a happy dance and a double-fist pump::

I do hope you’ll celebrate my new release with me by checking out this book and maybe even my first two novels (all available at Amazon). Reintroduction is my first standalone Austen variation, and I really hope you’ll like it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.


In this new story, circumstances are vastly different for ODC: Elizabeth and her sisters are the daughters of a baronet, and Darcy has no fortune. But as always, the stars align and one of literature’s most beloved couples unite, determined to take on the world together!

In case you haven’t been following along as I posted the chapters at A Happy Assembly, here’s the opening of chapter 3:


Darcy found himself awake at six the next morning.

This was not an unusual time for him to rise, for there was always something to be done about the few acres of land he inhabited. Sometimes he would offer his assistance to a neighboring tenant if there was a need for extra hands for the building of a fence or repairs to a roof; once, he had spent an entire day on a neighbor’s farm helping to build a new barn.

Though he often let his beard grow out to “disguise” himself, since he saw no one of his old circle of acquaintances, his neighbors knew who he was. They knew what had happened to his father, his fortune, his dignity. None of this was ever mentioned. The tenants were grateful to him for ensuring they would not lose their own homes in the wake of the disaster that had befallen his family, and they respected him more than ever for being willing to humble himself and live at their level. It was well known that he could have joined his sister at the home of his lofty relatives, the Earl and Countess of Disley—the earl now having management over Pemberley Park—but had chosen to remain close to the home that had been his from the day of his birth. He had not abandoned the people who had for so long made a piece of the park their homes.

After completing his morning ablutions, he dressed in one of the suits that Reynolds had packed for him, a pair of black breeches and a brown waistcoat and jacket. He was supposed to go riding with his sister but had no riding breeches or boots with him, so what he had would have to do.

He was just tying his cravat when there was a knock at his door. Half expecting his uncle, he opened it to find not the earl but his valet on the other side. “Does Lord Disley have need of me?” he asked.

Perkins shook his head and lifted his hand; Darcy took note of a towel folded over his arm, with a mug in his hand that held a brush, a razor, and a pair of scissors.

“No, sir,” said the valet. “Lord Disley thought that perhaps you might like a shave and a haircut.”

“It’s more likely His Lordship desired his nephew not go about the grounds looking like a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Darcy muttered, though he stepped aside and allowed the man to enter, wondering how his uncle could possibly have known he would be awake at this hour.

He wordlessly took himself to the chair at the dressing table and sat in it as Perkins arrayed the few instruments he’d brought on the table’s top. He then moved to the wash stand and poured a draught of water into the mug, which Darcy knew would have a chunk of soap at the bottom. On his return, Perkins unfolded the towel and put it about his chest and shoulders. The long-serving valet made quick work of trimming his hair to a more respectable, shorter length before he went to work on clearing the beard from his chin.

Afterward, Darcy was forced to admit that he both looked and felt better—more like his old self, though he knew it would not last long. Thanking Perkins for his time and the excellence of his work, he then quit his room to go in search of his uncle. Surely the earl was up if his valet was already at work.

He found the older man, not unsurprisingly, in his study. The clock on the mantle over the fireplace read seven, and he still wore a flannel banyan.

“Ah, Fitzwilliam… I see that Perkins has done his duty,” Richard Fitzwilliam remarked on bidding him entrance.

“Indeed. You need not be embarrassed to be seen with me now,” Darcy remarked.

Lord Disley frowned. “Fitzwilliam, there’s no need to be unpleasant. I know you haven’t a man of your own right now—”

“I have Reynolds,” Darcy rejoined. “He does well enough in lieu of a proper valet, though given my living situation, I see no need to waste time having him shave me every morning or trim my hair every month. Those are, at present, luxuries I can do without.”

“You chose to stay behind and live as your tenants do,” his uncle reminded him needlessly.

“On the contrary, Uncle—there was no choice,” said Darcy. “Not for me. Perhaps you would understand how I feel if our situations were reversed.”

“Perhaps I would, but that is a moot point, one which we have argued countless times over the last five years,” said the earl with a sigh. “I did not ask you here to debate the merits of your choice. I sent Perkins to you because I thought I might do you a kindness while you were here, not because I was ashamed of your appearance.”

“You didn’t ask me here, Uncle. You said you expected me by supper, which I believe qualifies as a summons,” Darcy pointed out.

Lord Disley frowned again and sat back in his chair. “Might I ask why you are behaving so churlishly?”

Darcy scoffed. “Need you really ask? You demanded I come and then made me wait for an explanation as to why, then you had your man tend me this morning as though you could not stand the sight of me. You reminded me that I chose the life I now live as though I am not reminded of it every single day, and though we have argued the necessity of that choice ‘countless times’, you still fail to understand why I made it. Pemberley is all that I have left, and I don’t even really have that—you do.”

He emitted a groan born of exasperation and annoyance. “I just don’t understand how you cannot see what it means to me, both to remain at the park and to live with the knowledge that Pemberley is yours and not mine.”

An expression he could not decipher had fallen over his uncle’s face, and when at last Darcy had finished speaking, the earl sighed heavily. “I suppose you are right,” he said at last. “I cannot truly understand because I have never been put in the position to have to make the choice you did. But I can imagine, Fitzwilliam. I can imagine the humiliation, the loss of pride and dignity you suffer. I can imagine how much it hurt you to lose your father in the manner he left us, to place your only sibling into the custody of others to care for.”

He sat forward then, his hands clasped together on the desktop and his gaze now earnest. “I hope that one day, you will know how very, very proud I am of the man you have chosen to be. I don’t know that I could be such a man. I’m too used to this life, too old and set in my ways to so easily give it up for a cottage in a distant corner of my own estate.”

Disley then gestured to the chair that sat before his desk. Drawing a breath, Darcy moved, at last, to take it, expelling the breath in a whoosh as he fell back into it.

“Please believe me when I say that it pains me more than you will ever know to have to sit by and do almost nothing for you,” his uncle continued. “I have honestly done all that I can these last five years.”

Feeling suddenly ashamed of his behavior, Darcy nodded. “I know you have, Uncle. Forgive me for being such an ungracious oaf. Sometimes the weight of… well, everything… just crashes down upon me, and I lash out when I should instead be silent.”

His uncle nodded. “Given all you have endured—and how you have always tended toward keeping your emotions under strict regulation—it is only natural that you should explode once in a while when you have no one with whom you feel comfortable confiding in to vent upon,” said he. “Shall we say no more about it?”

“You are very good, uncle,” Darcy replied. “Now, you said in your note that you wished to discuss Pemberley, but thought it best to do so in person.”

“Yes, I suppose it is best we have done with it so that your mood is calmer when your sister rises,” said Lord Disley. “She has been looking forward to having you here since I told her you were coming.”

“I am sorry to have stayed away so long. I simply thought it for the best.”

“I understand that, and she will as well, in time.” His uncle then shifted some papers on his desk about, seemingly looking for one or more in particular. When at last he found what he was looking for, he held the sheets out to Darcy.

“That,” he said as Darcy took the two pages of parchment in hand, “is a plan for returning at least some of your fortune to you. It will take some time before the estate can be solvent again, but it’s doable.”

Darcy frowned as the full meaning of what he was reading registered. It was a business plan…for leasing Pemberley.

“You want to let Pemberley? Pemberley—in the hands of other people?” he said, not bothering to keep the incredulity he felt from his voice.

“Fitzwilliam, you forget, perhaps, that not only was much of the Darcy fortune lost to those wretched Wickhams but also that your father spent what they didn’t take trying to find them—not to mention his desperate attempts to recoup his losses through gambling and bad investments,” Lord Disley pointed out. “It is a miracle that your sister’s dowry was saved! The rent from Pemberley’s tenants has not been enough to pay off all the debt accrued, and it’s been almost five years. We ought to have done this from the start, but we were both of us so hopeful that those bounders and the money they took might yet be found. We were, as you are full aware, unfortunately wrong. And I can no longer justify taking no action at all regarding the estate. Something must be done, as I know you’ll never agree to my selling it.”

“You’re damn right I won’t,” Darcy growled. “You may legally own Pemberley at present, uncle, but that house, that land, and their history belong to Georgiana and me.”

“Precisely my point,” Disley retorted. “Nor would I wish to take it away from you; as you said, it’s all you have left, and I do want to be able to place ownership of the estate back into the hands in which it belongs. I’d have done before now, but with the state of your father’s affairs, I did not wish to chance his debtors trying to claim it piecemeal.”

“And for that, uncle, I do thank you. Despite the collateral damage done by my father giving up the estate, I am content in the knowledge that it will one day be mine again,” Darcy replied. “You have saved it for me, and I am grateful.”

“I haven’t the ability to manage Disley as well as Pemberley on my income—I’m rich, Fitzwilliam, but sadly not that rich,” his uncle continued. “With a yearly lease in place—asking as much as can legally be asked and perhaps a little more—we can put that much more of the tenants’ rents toward the debt. A trifling amount in comparison, but still something. You’ll at least get your ten thousand a year back, which is a vast deal better than what I’ve been able to give you.”

A vast deal better, indeed! Ten thousand a year would be a far cry from the five hundred he now lived under. And having Pemberley as his own once again—though up to half his income would be spent on maintaining the house and grounds, and seeing to the needs of the tenants—would be eminently preferable to what he made do with at present. He could pay Reynolds and his wife a salary again—he could get them help for carrying out their daily tasks. They could delegate to maids and footmen as they had done before.

And he just might go back to shaving more than once a week.

Darcy lifted the papers in his hands as he asked, “What, pray, is your projection for solvency?”

His uncle sat back again. “Unless by some miracle the money stolen by your father’s steward and his son is found…? Three to five years.”

Stunned was the only word to describe what the earl’s declaration made Darcy feel. No—he felt cold at having to face another three to five years living barely within view of his family’s ancestral home whilst another lived inside it. It was one thing to endure the cottage knowing the estate house was empty, but to be forced to watch some other man come and go from it as he pleased?

“What…what am I to do?” he stuttered. “How…how can I possibly remain when my home is given into the hands of another?”

Lord Disley’s expression was not unsympathetic. “The way I see it, Fitzwilliam, you have three options: One, you might finally take me up on the offer to come and live at Disley Court. Two, you remain as you are on your four acres in a secluded corner of the Park and continue to hide away from the world. Or…”

“Or what?”

“We could set you up as Pemberley’s steward,” his uncle replied, then raised his hand as Darcy opened his mouth to object. “Hear me out, Fitzwilliam. No one knows Pemberley Park better than you—I daresay not even that scoundrel Albert Wickham or his worthless offspring could best you in knowledge of the grounds or the tenantry, especially given you’ve spent the last five years living amongst them. You could stay in the cottage you have now, or we could move you to a farm closer to Pemberley; it would be your choice. So long as we are careful in our selection of the tenant—”

Darcy scowled. “Pray tell me you do not intend to advertise.”

Lord Disley scoffed. “Certainly not! I would not blaze your degradation to the world any more than has already been done. I do, however, intend to make some discreet inquiries—will have to if we’re even to find anyone to let the place to. I know you abhor disguise of any sort, especially in light of how your poor father was duped, but you may have to use an alias if you choose the third option. It may be wise to remove your most recent portraits from the gallery so that you’re not recognized as belonging to the Darcy family that owns the house.”

Looking over the papers in his hand again, Darcy had to admit—albeit reluctantly—that his uncle’s plan was sound. Thank goodness he’d had a first-class education to help him understand the minute details as well as the “layman’s terms” his uncle had just laid out.

“And aside from locating the stolen money, there is no other way to pay Father’s remaining debts?” he was compelled to ask.

The earl shook his head. “I’m afraid not, Fitzwilliam. Not unless you’re willing to deprive Georgiana of her dowry, and you know how bloody difficult it was to get your father to part with the thirty thousand, and Pemberley’s deed, before he lost those as well as himself.”

“No, uncle. You know I could not bear to strip my sister of the last shred of dignity our father has left her, even if you practically had to wrestle it from him,” Darcy said.

“Indeed. So, nephew… What will you do?”

Darcy drew a breath and blew it out. “I do not know. I must have some time to think on it.”

His uncle inclined his head. “I expected as much. I would suggest attempting to put it from your mind, as I know Georgiana intends to go riding with you this morning—she spoke of missing your rides together while we awaited your arrival last evening—but I also know it will be difficult to do. I’ve given you a great deal to ponder, and deciding on how little or how much you wish to be involved with Pemberley’s tenant will be a weighty decision indeed.”

“In that much, at least, we are in agreement, sir,” Darcy quipped, before sighing and handing the papers back to his uncle; then he stood and took his leave.




I feel like Darcy was channeling Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot for a moment there! Tell me what you think in the comments below to enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Reintroduction of Fitzwilliam Darcy!

But wait, there’s more! Because today is RELEASE DAY, there’s a bonus prize available. Continental US commenters on today’s blog (must comment by 11:59 p.m.) are not only entered to win the ebook, but also a signed paperback copy in a second drawing!

(International readers, I’m sorry I cannot offer you a signed paperback at this time. If a non-US resident is drawn for the paperback, I will send you an ebook.)


Contest open until August 14, 2021. Good luck!



Christine, like many a JAFF author before her, is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen's work, and she hopes that her alternate versions are as enjoyable as the originals. She has plans to one day visit England and take a tour of all the grand country estates which have featured in film adaptations, and often dreams of owning one. Christine lives in Ohio and is already at work on her next book.

Thank you so much for stopping by Christine! I wish you all the best with the new release!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Blog Tour: Mistress of Netherfield by Julia Winter - with giveaway!

About The Book

It is a truth universally acknowledged that on escaping an unhappy marriage, a young widow will be delighted to remove to the dower house and lease the marital abode to a single man in possession of a good fortune, provided he looks elsewhere to fulfil his want of a wife.

Five years after being forced into an unwanted marriage at the age of sixteen, and freed six months later by the death of her abusive husband, Elizabeth Grayson (née Bennet) has finally found a measure of peace. The inheritor of her husband’s estate, Netherfield Park, Elizabeth is now a wealthy young widow, independent and self-reliant. With an eye always on improving her four sisters’ woefully small dowries and providing for her mother, who will be homeless when her father dies, Elizabeth is pleased to lease out Netherfield to the Bingley family, making her home in the dower house in Meryton and vowing that she will never remarry.

Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire is rich and well connected, but reserved in company with anybody outside the very few he counts as friends. Towards those friends, he is loyal and steadfast, the staunchest of supporters. So when a young man comes to him with a tale of the clandestine marriage and mysterious death of Darcy’s old schoolfriend, James Grayson, and begs Darcy’s help to investigate the widow’s role, Darcy agrees. Visiting Charles Bingley, the new tenant of Netherfield, Darcy is very soon torn between his loyalty to his dead friend, and his burgeoning attraction to the widow.

Throw two unprincipled rogues and an elopement into the confines of Meryton, and how will Darcy’s dilemma over Elizabeth ever be resolved? And is she willing to put aside her misgivings, and trust again?


“Oh, where is Mama?” demanded Lydia. “I have such news!”

“Oh yes,” said her faithful echo. “Such a wonder—”

“Quiet, Kitty! I shall tell Mama. Where is she, Lizzy?”

“She went to her room for something,” Elizabeth glanced up from her embroidery. “She will be back when tea is brought in, I expect. Papa is in his study and Mary is practising—”

“Hmmph, I can hear her. She pounds that poor pianoforte as if she were a blacksmith beating out horseshoes.”

Elizabeth attempted to quell Lydia’s spite with the observation that Mary was most diligent in her practice and that was to be commended.

“Oh, if you say so. We shall tell you the news, then. You should have joined us.” And Lydia plumped down hard onto the sofa beside Elizabeth, bouncing her against the springs.

Elizabeth, who had her work tilted towards the candles so she could see to set her stitches, sucked on her needle-jabbed finger. Just as well for Lydia, the linen had not been blood spotted. “Is our aunt well?”

“Oh yes, I suppose so. She was vastly glad Kitty and I went to keep company with her while Mr Phillips was out, was she not, Kitty?”

Kitty had come to lean against the sofa’s high back. “Ye—”

“He was still at dinner with the officers, of course, when we walked home, but she set uncle’s clerk to escort us.” Lydia pulled her face into a disdainful pout. “He is a paltry sort of fellow. I care for none unless he wears a red coat.”

“Nor do I,” Kitty said.

“You both astonish me.”

“But you should have come with us! Did you see the gentleman with Denny? He is to join the regiment tomorrow. He came today to speak to Colonel Forster and sign his papers, but he will not have a uniform until tomorrow and… well I do not understand it perfectly, but it means he is not yet properly a redcoat and so did not attend the officers’ dinner. I told him that it was little loss to him, since he went to Aunt Phillips’s house with Kitty and me instead, and —”

“He went to her house?” Astonished, Elizabeth jabbed her finger again, and with a smothered exclamation, she bundled the abused handkerchief away into her silk workbag. “He did not dine there, surely! He went to the house, despite the master of it not being there to accept an introduction? You must be jesting, Lyddie!”

“Oh, no one cares about such old-fashioned notions! You are far too fastidious sometimes.”

“I may be fastidious, but you are not nearly as fly to the time of day as you think you are! You little ninny, what sort of true gentleman does such a thing, uninvited?”

Lydia dismissed Elizabeth’s disbelieving stare with a wave of her hand. “No, no. You do not understand. Aunt leaned quite out of her window to invite him, so far that I feared she might topple into the street. How I should have laughed! Would not you have laughed, Kit?”

“Oh yes! Prodigiou—”

“Well, she did not fall, and she was delighted to invite him in, make his acquaintance and welcome him. She loves company, as you know. He did not dine. He said it would not be proper without Uncle’s sanction, although he was very grateful for Aunt’s attention. He sat with us only a quarter hour, then betook himself to the inn—the Red Lion, I fancy, rather than the Hart—promising to return with the other officers when Uncle is there and make his apologies for imposing.” Lydia beamed. “There! Was that not very gentlemanly and proper enough to satisfy even your notions of good conduct?”

“It has improved my opinion a little.”

Lydia sighed. “Far too fastidious, is she not, Kitty? His name is Wickham. He is very handsome and charming, and shall be even more so when he is in his regimentals!” She swayed a little in her seat, her expression rapt and her eyes half-closed. She clasped her hands below her bosom. “Oh, I cannot wait to see him in his red coat!”

“Nor I!” Kitty sighed and clasped her hands in imitation.

Elizabeth contemplated using her own hands to box two pairs of ears, but that office was not her responsibility, though she doubted her father would shoulder it as he ought.

“Pish, Kitty, he will want nothing to do with you when I am there to engage with him. You may forget him entirely.” Lydia abandoned her melting looks and dreamy expression to glare daggers at her sister.

“Why should he like you better? That is all—”

“Because I am prettier than you, and livelier, and the gentlemen all do like me better. That is why. Oh do stop crying! You are such a watering pot— oh, Mama! Mama! There you are! Mama, I have such news!”

Mama entered into Lydia’s feelings quite as fully as her youngest daughter might wish, and for the next half hour, the room reverberated with their joyous chatter. Elizabeth huddled into her corner of the sofa and sipped the tea Hill brought in a moment or two after Mama had joined them. Not for the first time, she contemplated abandoning the drawing room for her father’s study, and the chance of sipping something stronger.

Something much stronger.

About Julia

Once Julia was a communications specialist with several UK government departments. These days she's thankfully free of all that, and writing full time. She lives in the depths of the Nottinghamshire countryside with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo, who’s supported by Mavis the Assistant Editor, a Yorkie-Bichon cross with a bark several times bigger than she is but with no opinion whatsoever on the placement of semi-colons.


Contact Julia:

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Between 21 June and 3 July, enter this Rafflecoptor for the chance of a first prize of a copy of Mr Darcy’s Hunsford letter (complete with seal, and tied in red ribbon) and a copy of the eBook, or one of two second prizes of an e-copy of Mistress of Netherfield.

Giveaway here!

Thank you so much for stopping by Julia! Book sounds most interesting! I wish you all the best with the new release! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Blog tour: Five Daughters out at Once by Jayne Bamber - with giveaway!

Hello Dear Janeites, it is a pleasure to be back at Laughing with Lizzie to share more details of my new release, Five Daughters Out At Once.

Available on Kindle April 7th

The novel centers around the premise of the Bennet sisters re-entering society (and encountering heroes from across Austen’s other works!) after mourning the loss of first their father and then their mother, with Lady Catherine de Bourgh as their unlikely champion and ally against Mr. Collins. Things begin with a shaky start; we discover that the Bennet sisters have not been idly awaiting some rescue, but making plans of their own – which leads me to today’s excerpt….



The sight of Mr. Gardiner entering the room instantly put the young ladies at ease, for his jovial manners were tempered with a degree of solicitude and curiosity that gave Elizabeth some hope he would not dismiss her careful planning out of hand. “Well, Jane, Lizzy, Mary – good morning, Miss Lucas – what is all this about then? Your letter has given me no little concern. Have you heard from him, this Collins fellow?”

“Not yet, but we expect to presently,” Jane said with a placid smile.

Elizabeth added to this with a petulant grimace. “If he is at all like his sister, he may arrive without notice any day now – that is what I expect, sir.”

Mr. Gardiner nodded evenly. “I will confess, I had shared my poor sister’s hope that these Collinses were content enough with their own lot, that they would not disturb you.”

“That is what I had wished as well,” Elizabeth replied, quirking her eyebrow up with wry humor as she tried to dispel her own bitterness. “I hoped for the best, but have prepared for the worst.” The two ledgers, one blue and one red, sat before her on the desk, and she opened them both with triumphant pride. “Come and see, Uncle.”

Mary had checked the numbers meticulously the night before – she moved that way and began to show Mr. Gardiner her work. “I reviewed our father’s accounts going back to 1806, here in the blue ledger.  From there, we simply duplicated all the monthly expenses, as if we had continued to live the same, these past two years, as we ever had before – a slight reduction was logical, with fewer… fewer of us.”

Jane joined them at the other side of the desk. “Here, in the red book, we have recorded how we have actually lived these two years – much more frugal, you see. We have reduced the staff, limited unnecessary spending – and our income has increased, a little. Lizzy has seen to the tenants that were in arrears, and gotten them to pay some, if not all their rent, which Papa never paid much mind to. The harvest last year was far beyond what it had ever been,” Jane added, pointing to a sum that Elizabeth was particularly proud of.

“Well! Lizzy, I must venture a guess that you have been the mastermind behind all this?”

Though Lizzy sat in her father’s chair, looking and feeling every bit in command of the household, she had never been easy with taking all the credit of it. “No indeed – not entirely. Jane and Mary have helped a vast deal with the sums, and they have even taken in some mending and sewing to supplement our income – and we have all three taken on a pupil apiece for piano lessons.” Again Jane pointed out the corresponding columns representing the income from their other enterprises.

 Elizabeth could see that it pained him to consider his nieces’ labors. “You poor girls – having to run the estate is dreadful enough, but your other pursuits….”

Elizabeth held her chin high as she met his eye. “There are worse things than work – of all people I had hoped you would understand.”

“That is not what gives me pause.” Her uncle knit his brow, his eyes scanning the columns of sums in the two ledgers. “This is dangerous, girls. If you were found out….”

Jane and Mary both shifted uncomfortably and averted their gaze, but not Elizabeth. “How so, sir? We are not stealing, not really – not any more than we would be if there was only one ledger. It can make no difference to Mr. Collins, if and when he darkens our doorstep, whether we have disbursed the income of this estate in the same fashion we have always done, or differently. Why should he feel entitled to the fruits of our thriftiness – of our labor – when he has not come to claim what is his? He could hardly expect us to set aside every spare shilling for his future – and hypothetical – usage. At any rate, I had always supposed, from the remarks I have heard Papa make, that none of the Collinses are entirely sensible. His sister certainly is not. It is likely that when the time comes for Mr. Collins to sit in this chair, he will simply accept what is written in the blue ledger and think no further than how fortunate he is to no longer be at the pulpit.”

Elizabeth had not meant to rail at her uncle as she had done; Charlotte was obliged to lay a palliative hand on her arm, and in doing so attracted her own share of Mr. Gardiner’s notice. “That is quite an assumption. Miss Lucas, what has been your role in this little enterprise? I should expect you to be the voice of reason in all this.”

Charlotte had always been the most pragmatic figure in Elizabeth’s life – she had neither the high spirits of Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia nor the serenity of Jane, neither Mr. Bennet’s excessive sardonic wit nor Mary’s somber want of mirth. But despite Charlotte’s steadiness, the events of the last two years had affected her just as much as the Bennet sisters. And she was not Mr. Gardiner’s niece – she looked up at him and smiled evenly. “I have helped them however I could.”

The flaring of his nostrils and clenching of his jaw betrayed Mr. Gardiner’s silent offense at what Charlotte had really meant. Elizabeth attempted to keep her own countenance neutral. She loved her uncle dearly, and in her heart she could not blame him for being so occupied in his own business matters – but she wished the same respect for what her own actions had been. “Sir, with Charlotte’s aid we have put by nearly three thousand pounds. She helped us send to auction a great many items of value that did not belong to the estate, and she has aided us in the safeguarding of these funds.”

“Has she? It did not occur to you to ask for my help?” The three sisters and their friend were silent a moment, holding a collective breath as Mr. Gardiner scowled at them each in turn.

Finally, Elizabeth squared her shoulders back and answered him. “It seemed expedient that we should pool our funds with Charlotte’s – we mean to open a school together at Lucas Lodge. Her uncle in Plymouth has been advising us on how to go about it.”

Some of her uncle’s vexation seemed dispelled, though his incredulity was not an improvement, in Elizabeth’s estimation. “A school!”

“It would be perfectly respectable,” Mary ventured, her hopeful eyes revealing how desperately she desired their uncle’s approval.

“And not at all dangerous.” Elizabeth could not help herself.

Jane looked between her two sisters, and then offered their uncle one of her most angelic smiles – the softening effect on him was instantaneous, as it ever had been. “You have been so busy – every time our aunt has written, she has indicated you are very often out of town or abroad, working so hard already. We did not wish to add to your burdens.”

“I was occupied in expanding my business so that I could afford to take you all in,” Mr. Gardiner replied. “I have worked tirelessly this past year, doing everything I could to increase my income enough to allow me to support you all.”

“And so have we,” Elizabeth cried. “We did not know of your plan, sir, and were obliged to form one of our own.”

“I did not wish to give you poor girls any false hope – I meant to tell you of my intentions once they became possibilities, you see.”

“We, too, wished to present a fait accompli. And we nearly have done – we have the funds we need, at least. It is no small accomplishment, Uncle.”

“Yes, well, Lizzy, perhaps you are to be commended for your efforts,” he conceded.

“That is all I ask, sir. Well, not all – but if you are still willing to offer any assistance, let it be for Kitty and Lydia. We have all the funds we need, to start our school, and an extra thousand to add to the five from Mamma. Kitty and Lydia might share the sum, and the interest of it might go toward their support, if they were to live with you in London.”

“They would not like our plan,” Mary added. “We have agreed they deserve a better fate, anyhow – and I cannot imagine them as teachers.”

“And as they are the youngest and prettiest of us – and with three thousand apiece – they stand the best chance of marrying well,” Jane said, just the barest trace of regret on her countenance.

“You would forfeit your share of your mother’s portion? This is madness, girls,” their uncle cried, throwing up his hands in frustration. “Charlotte Lucas, I would have expected better from you. When my sister, rest her soul, was taken from us, I asked you to look after my nieces while I was to be away so often.”

The three sisters all looked at Charlotte, who still appeared the most tranquil of them all. “And so I have, sir. You said nothing of the future you had in mind for them – I have only helped them conceive of a different one.”

“You have helped yourself to their money!”

“That is hardly fair, Uncle!” Elizabeth was not surprised that Charlotte had agreed to help them; she would have done so without anyone asking it of her, and Elizabeth took her friend by the hand, more for her own equanimity than Charlotte’s.  “She has offered us some modicum of security and stability, when all we have had these two years is uncertainty. Even before – before the fire, you know how it was at Longbourn. Mamma spoke often and without restraint of how we would someday be turned out of the house by a stranger, left to starve in the hedgerows! Knowing that we should all have a roof over our head at Lucas Lodge someday, when we are turned out of Longbourn, which may in fact be any day now….”

Mr. Gardiner held up a hand to silence her. “I understand you perfectly, my dear. And I do commend your efforts, but such drastic measures are quite unnecessary. Notwithstanding your… unorthodox methods of fundraising, which I think we ought to agree to hush up, if we possibly can – perhaps we had better let the matter rest. I shall take you all to London with me.”

Mary had picked up the bundle of papers that constituted their emergency plan, and the diary in which Charlotte had transcribed the details more coherently; she clutched them both to her chest, her eyes beginning to glisten with tears. Out of all four of them, Mary had wanted this the most. “Please, Uncle. At least consider our plan.”

“I believe it is a sound one,” Jane said softly. “We have put considerable thought into it.”

Mr. Gardiner flicked his gaze back to Elizabeth, who had grown so tense that every muscle in her body ached. He did not look angry, only terribly sad; Elizabeth realized that her own sense of frustration was much the same. She was so very tired of struggling, and offered her uncle a thin smile. He nodded with an almost imperceptible upturning of his lips. “Very well, I shall hear you. Miss Lucas, would you allow me a few minutes to speak privately with my nieces?”

Elizabeth did not release her grip on Charlotte’s hand, but Charlotte withdrew with a little shake of her head. “I shall step out into the garden.” Charlotte opened the door to depart the study, and Kitty and Lydia, crouched on the other side of it, tumbled into the room in such a commotion that only Elizabeth noticed the other great shock that moment held – out of the wide front window she spied a very grand carriage approaching the house.

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Five Daughters Out at Once: A Pride & Prejudice Variation - Kindle edition by Bamber, Jayne. Romance Kindle eBooks @

Jayne Bamber – Audio Books, Best Sellers, Author Bio |


Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.

Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day.

Thank you so much for stopping by Jayne! Love the sound of the new book. Wishing you all the best!