Friday, April 27, 2018

Sponsor me to Walk to Netherfield and back!

On the 12th May, I am going to participate in a 10km walk around the South Downs, a beautiful area of Southern England.  This is hosted by Just Walk’. 

I plan to dress in Regency attire for the walk, as I am doing it to raise money for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Literacy Libraries Program, managed in partnership with Worldreader, to fund a new e-library and e-readers for Suhum MA Experimental C school located in the eastern region of Ghana.

“The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.” 

10 kilometres is just over 6 miles, so funnily enough, this is the distance from Longbourn to Netherfield and back again - hopefully I won’t need to stop off half way, to care for someone with a cold! 

“Elizabeth continued her walk alone, crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over styles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the”

finishing line...

 “with weary ankles, dirty stockings and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.” 

I am taking on this challenge on my own, and as well as raising money for the e-library, I am also raising awareness for Fibromyalgia Action UK  Fibromyalgia is a debilitating health condition and one that I have suffered from since the age of 17. 

“That she should have walked three miles so early in the day ... was almost incredible.” 

I used to be able to walk such distances very easily, but when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia nearly 5 years ago, my stamina, fitness and life changed dramatically. Jane Austen’s novels and letters were there to help and support me and saw me through the toughest times, while I was coming to terms with my new circumstances. 

“She really looked almost wild ... her hair so untidy, so blowsy ... and her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain.” 

This 10km walk is going to be a big challenge for me, but I have begun some training and have already received great encouragement from Caroline Jane Knight and JALF.  I am really looking forward to being able to raise money for such a good cause. I am sure my own muddy and dishevelled appearance will be most ‘shocking’ when I have completed the walk, however perhaps my eyes, at least, will be “brightened by the exercise”!

"We are so proud to have Sophie as an Ambassador for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.  Sophie has become somewhat of a celebrity in the Jane Austen community and was featured in the BBC documentary, My Friend Jane, to commemorate the bi-centenary of Jane Austen’s death in 2017.  Sophie’s own story is a wonderful example of how Jane Austen can change the lives of people today and now Sophie is asking the Jane Austen community to help us change the lives of children in developing countries.  Sophie’s sponsored 10km walk is a wonderful start to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Literacy Libraries campaign to raise £10,000 to buy a new e-library and e-readers for Suhum MA Experimental C school in Ghana.

Thank you Sophie, you are wonderful example to the Jane Austen community and I hope everyone gets behind you as you walk ‘to Netherfield and back’."

Caroline Jane Knight
Jane Austen’s fifth great niece and Jane Austen Literacy Foundation founder & chair

If you feel you could support my efforts by donating to the cause, please go online at the link below.  Any donation will be very much appreciated.  100% of donations received will go towards the £10,000 needed to fund an e-readers and a new e-library for Suhum MA Experimental C school in Ghana.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Blog Tour: Lover's Knot by Jenetta James - with giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Jenetta James' release, Lover's Knot. My thanks also goes to Claudine Pepe for inviting me to take part.

A great love. A perplexing murder. Netherfield Park — a house of secrets.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is in a tangle. Captivated by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, a girl of no fortune and few connections. Embroiled in an infamous murder in the home of his friend, Charles Bingley. He is being tested in every way. Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Darcy moves to protect her in the only way he knows but is thwarted. Thus, he is forced to turn detective. Can he overcome his pride for the sake of Elizabeth? Can he, with a broken heart, fathom the villainy that has invaded their lives? Is there even a chance for love born of such strife?

Lover’s Knot is a romantic Pride & Prejudice variation, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Lovers Knot - excerpt 5 taken from Chapter 2

My friend having departed, I make for his library. Opening the great oak door onto the leather lined, flame-flickered space within, I am astonished to see Miss Elizabeth look up from a seat by the fire. The orange light dances on her face and falls softly on the fabric of her gown. She holds in her small hands a book, half read. The white flesh of her left foot, glows before me. I recall the feeling of her arm beneath my hand only the previous evening and feel myself pinned to the door. I have, in my life, seen more than the bare flesh of a womans foot. And yet this sight suspends me. After a moment of seeming hesitation, she shifts the fabric of her gown to conceal the wink of flesh, smiles slightly and bids me good morning. The ordinary formality of her manner, brings me back to myself.

Good morning, Miss Elizabeth. May I?
I take up a book, discovered the previous day, and as she nods, sit on the chaise neighbouring her chair. Here we remain, in silence, for some time. Her proximity reminds me of the long night, just passed in reveries of her. I begin to feel rather hot. This cannot continue.
Miss Elizabeth, may I enquire what you are reading?
Certainly, Mr. Darcy. I am enjoying Evelina by Frances Burney. Have you read it?
I have. It is a classic, as is Cecelia. Do you read novels generally?
I suppose I do, although not exclusively. I also read histories. I have even been known to experiment with philosophies. I try to read as widely as I am able, Mr. Darcy.
Inside and out?
She looks up and her eyes spark like matches. Yes.She laughs, and I feel suddenly lighter, having drawn that response from her. But not today.She inclines her head towards the window, currently lashed by the rain. The water forms a hazy impenetrable skin on the glass. My sister sleeps and for some relief, I read here rather than in her chamber. I hope that I have not invaded your own sanctuary?
Certainly not, Miss Elizabeth.I wish to say more, but words desert me. Her shiny curls turn back to the page and the moment is lost. I stare, unseeing, at my own page and grow impatient for progress.
Miss Elizabeth, I hope that you are not too distressed by the events of last evening? You are quite safe now. The house is very well guarded, and Mr. Bingley is for Longbourn to your father.
Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I am quite well.She looks solemn. I observed Mr. Bingleys carriage departing from Janes window. But I did not know his destination. I am worried, sir, that my sister is not yet well enough to return home.
I do not believe that is the purpose of his visit. The magistrate, Mr. Allwood, arrived this morning Miss Elizabeth. And hewell, he is likely to wish to speak with you.
I see. Of course.With this, she stares into the burning glow of the fire. Mr. Allwood is known as a formidable man in this part of the country, Mr. Darcy. And somewhat of an enigma. Should I quake at my questioning, do you think?
I hope not. Do you quake at anything?
I assure you, I do. I quake at events such as that last evening.
Of course. I did not mean to be flippant. As to Mr. Allwood, I imagine your interview with him shall be of short duration, as of course, it should be.
Should it?
Of course.
Why?At this question, I am incredulous. Because you are a gentlemans daughter and you have had horror enough. You were in an unfortunate place at an unfortunate time and are an innocent who can have no information apart from that already known. I accept that he must speak to you. But he ought to be circumspect about what he may learn. And frankly, my view is that he should leave you and Miss Bennet and the ladies of the house in peace.
Do you think that the ladies should be excused from truth telling then, Mr. Darcy?
I did not say that.
You suggested it though. I cannot agree, I am afraid. My own analysis is that a terrible crime has been committed, and we must all assist. I cannot say that I should be questioned less critically or less thoroughly because I am a gentlemans daughter.
The lightness that had warmed me before is gone from her face. My mind races to keep up with her changing attitude.
It is not about the obligation to tell the truth, Miss Elizabeth. That rests on you as it rests on us all. And you shall no doubt dispatch it fully, as shall I. It is not that. It is about you and Miss Bennet, as innocent bystanders with very little information, being treated as respectfully as possible.
I thank you for your solicitousness, Mr. Darcy, and for the steps that you and Mr. Bingley have taken to ensure the safety of the house. But I ought also to be clear with you. I am not the sort of young lady who requires to be sheltered like a rare orchid in a sharp breeze. I have no pretensions to the sort of femininity that consists in closing my eyes to the truth or to the moral compass that compels us all.
Her eyes glow fiercely, drawing me closer. Without knowing it, I have moved and find myself on the edge of the chaise, leaning towards her, searching for words. At that moment, the door opens, and a maid bobs a curtsy.
Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Bennet has arrived. He is waiting for you in the drawing room.
A smile breaks across her face and she stands. As she leaves the room in the maids wake, she says, Goodbye, Mr. Darcy,without even looking back.
In her absence, I cannot simply sit. On my feet, I pace the room for some time, considering the rain-drenched carriage outside the window and recall the lightness of her figure as she had departed. I can make no sense of my time with her. She has a way of assuming opinions I do not possess, of catching my words erroneously. At the same time, we have been alone in this room, by the fire, among the pages. And she has looked me squarely in the face, as a person who may have known me all my life might. She does not demure from challenge as some ladies would. She smiles and even laughs. I cling to the memory of that laugh and the knowledge that I, alone, elicited it.

Jenetta James is a mother, writer, lawyer and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practices full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing, and playing with Lego. She has written, Suddenly Mrs. Darcy and The Elizabeth Papers as well as contributed short stories to both The Darcy Monologues and Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues.

Purchase Link:
Amazon / This book is free through KindleUnlimited


Jenetta has selected a lovely giveaway package where one lucky winner will receive a Pride & Prejudice scarf, a Kindle cover and paperback copies of all five of her JAFF books.

Terms and conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

The winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thanks again goes to Jenetta for this great extract! My thanks also to Claudine for setting up this tour.

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

Lover’s Knot Tour Schedule

March 29My Jane Austen Book Club/ Guest Post & Giveaway

March 30 Savvy Verse & Wit / Guest Post & Giveaway

March 31 Liz's Reading Life / Book Review & Giveaway

April 1My Vices and Weaknesses/  Excerpt Post & Giveaway

April 2Of Pens and Pages / Book Review & Giveaway

April 3So Little Time/  Guest Post & Giveaway

April 4  Austenesque Reviews/ Author Interview & Giveaway

April 5From Pemberley to Milton/  Excerpt Post & Giveaway

April 6Babblings of a Bookworm/  Book Review & Giveaway

April 7More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway

April 8My Love for Jane Austen/ Guest Post & Giveaway

April 9Diary of an Eccentric/  Guest Post & Giveaway

April 10Laughing with Lizzie/  Excerpt Post & Giveaway

April 11 Margie’s Must Reads/ Book Review & Giveaway

April 12 Just Jane 1813/ Author Interview & Giveaway

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!