Review: Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society, Book 1) by Jayne Fresina

once upon a kissHero: Darius Wainright doesn’t know it, but the ladies of the local book society of Hawcombe Prior have labeled him a real-life Mr. Darcy. He doesn’t have plans for matrimony, he just wants to sort his uncle’s things, sell the house, and leave for society as quickly as possible, but all that changes when he realizes who is in town — that young lady who jumped on him in his bed one year ago in Bath.

Heroine: Not only does Justina Penny not understand her friend’s fascination with Darius Wainright, but she doesn’t understand the appeal of the priggish brute Mr. Darcy. Clearly Mr. Wickham is the hero of Pride and Prejudice. So while she has her sights set on a certain local captain, Jussy plans to help her sister snag Darius… only things don’t quite go as planned as Darius Wainright is the WRONG MAN she encountered a year ago.

Review: Jussy is a fun heroine to read due to her misadventures. She loves a good romp, a fast dash, and a delicious escapade here and there. Her parents have no hope for her to get married and rely on their other daughter to make a great catch. Justina is virtually overlooked when compared to her sister – that is until her scrapes call attention to her unladylike ways. Darius catches her in two scrapes involving his property and decides to teach her a lesson which leads to quite a lot of fun and misadventure. Darius draws on Mr. Darcy in a number of ways, but is still a unique character. Like Justina, he grew up under the shadow of his sibling, but whereas Jussy’s sister is kind, his brother was not. Darius has never been comfortable around women and had to go to great lengths to overcome a strong stutter. Around Jussy, he gets tongue-tied and that my dear readers makes him all the more adorable. I fully recommend this book and consider it one of the best reads of the year.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Once Upon a Kiss (Book Club Belles Society)

[phpbay]once upon kiss jayne fresina, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

The 5 Best…Things I Learned While Writing My Latest Novel

ATEOTS14iGuest Blog by Karen Cox, author of At the Edge of the Sea

I have a ‘column’ of sorts on my author blog entitled ‘The 5 Best…’ It’s basically the closest thing to a formalized, regular blog feature I can muster (the next most formal category being Random Book Reviews—the title says it all!)

In ‘The 5 Best…’ posts, I discuss the 5 Best of something, e.g., the 5 Best Qualities of a Romantic Hero, The 5 Best Movies You Never Saw, The 5 Best Internet Venn Diagrams. As the time for releasing my new novel, At the Edge of the Sea, drew near, I began the inevitable reflecting over the whole experience. This novel, my third, taught me a lot, so I’d thought I’d share some of that knowledge here by discussing:

5 Best graphicThe 5 Best Things I Learned From Writing At the Edge of the Sea:

  1. Writing first person point of view is a breeze—for the first two-thirds of the book. At the Edge of the Sea is written from the hero’s first person perspective. Seeing the world through Billy Ray’s eyes was a trip—fun and exciting, humorous and interesting. The first draft was flying off my fingers, and then I got to about the last third of the story, and clunk! Flat tire. Everything got tougher! I’d start a scene and realize Billy Ray shouldn’t know that yet, or maybe he shouldn’t know it at all, ever. I kept asking myself, ‘What is the deal here? This story has been a picnic up till now, what happened?’ What had happened was I’d gotten to the point in the story where I really wanted to know what was in the heroine’s mind. What did SHE think about the obstacles the lovers had to overcome? How did SHE see the hero in light of his actions? And what was her REAL story anyway? Guess What – if it wasn’t something Lizzy wanted to share with Billy Ray, I couldn’t write it—no matter how much I wanted to. If it was that important to the story, I had to find a way around that little impasse I’d created for myself. Which was a real bummer. On the other hand, however…
  2. Stories have some extra meaning when readers can easily put themselves in the heroine’s place. The opposite side of that double-edged sword, writing in male first person point of view, is that in some ways it’s easier for a reader to identify with Lizzy, my heroine. There’s enough left unsaid that we can foist a little piece of ourselves into the role of Lizzy, and really imagine how we might feel, talk or act in her shoes.
  3. Shakespeare did not write ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ It’s often misattributed to him (I did that myself) but on a fact-finding check, I discovered that it comes from The Mourning Bride, a play by William Cosgrove, written in 1697. The actual quote is: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” Who knew? (probably a lot of English majors knew, but I was a psychology major.)
  4. Seemingly disparate characters can really sizzle romantically. Okay, so maybe I knew this before. I’d certainly read enough stories where opposites attract with deliciously combustible results. Billy Ray’s stern, old-fashioned surface is so far removed from Lizzy’s sprightly, earth-goddess allure. But Lizzy also has a certain pragmatism born of suffering, and Billy Ray has a deeply hidden sensuality. They each embody both sides of the same coin. And what I learned from that revelation led me to an enjoyable challenge: exploring the veiled but authentic portions of their souls.
  5. And last but not least, I learned that Car and Driver magazine was known as Sports Cars Illustrated from 1955 until 1961. (I bet even the English majors didn’t know that one!)

*****

IMG_2714Karen M Cox writes novels accented with romance and history. Her first two published novels, 1932 and Find Wonder in All Things, each one Independent Publisher Book Awards for Romance, in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Find Wonder in All Things was a Next Generation Indie Book Finalist in Romance for 2013. Her latest offering, At the Edge of the Sea, was released on October 1, 2013 from Meryton Press – and is available in print and Kindle formats.

Karen was born in Everett, Washington, the daughter of United States Air Force officer, and before the age of twelve, she had lived all over the country—including stays in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York State. Her family then returned to their home state of Kentucky, and she still lives there in a quiet little town with her husband, son and daughter. She works as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, and spends her spare time reading, writing, and being a wife and mom.

*****

At the Edge of the Sea

Some of the most important things happen when you stop along the way…”

It’s 1959 — and although the country is poised at the edge of a tidal wave of social change, Billy Ray Davenport’s life is still traditional and predictable. The son of a widowed itinerant minister, he will spend the summer months in Orchard Hill, working with the local physician before starting medical school in the fall. Billy Ray has visited the small Southern town before, but this time he will stick around long enough to run headlong into Lizzy Quinlan, Orchard Hill’s bad girl.

As Billy Ray gets to know her better, he sees something unexpected behind her sultry veneer—something that calls to him. Lizzy possesses an indomitable inner strength, spouts quirky bursts of wisdom, and exudes a simple sensuality that intrigues him.  Pitfalls await this unlikely pair—problems that go deeper than his strict father’s concerns and small town gossip. Lizzy’s past cannot help but shape her future, and ready or not, this beautiful and complex mystery girl is about to change Billy Ray’s life—and his heart—forever.

At the Edge of the Sea is a coming of age story set in a simpler time, a realistic tale told by an idealistic young man, a new love story from award-winning author, Karen M Cox.

Buy: At the Edge of the Sea

Excerpt: Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

finding colin firthGuest blog by Mia March, author of Finding Colin Firth

Book Blurb:

After losing her job and leaving her beloved husband, journalist Gemma Hendricks is sure that scoring an interview with Colin Firth will save her career and marriage. Yet a heart-tugging local story about women, family ties, love, and loss captures her heart— and changes everything. The story concerns Bea Crane, a floundering twenty-two-year-old who learns in a deathbed confession letter that she was adopted at birth. Bea is in Boothbay Harbor to surreptitiously observe her biological mother, Veronica Russo—something of a legend in town—who Bea might not be ready to meet after all. Veronica, a thirty-eight-year-old diner waitress famous for her “healing” pies, has come home to Maine to face her past. But when she’s hired as an extra on the bustling movie set, she wonders if she is hiding from the truth . . . and perhaps the opportunity of a real-life Mr. Darcy.

These three women will discover more than they ever imagined in this coastal Maine town, buzzing with hopes of Colin Firth. Even the conjecture of his arrival inspires daydreams, amplifies complicated lives, and gives incentive to find their own romantic endings.

Buy: Finding Colin Firth

Excerpt:

Only an idiot would attempt to make a pie—a special-ordered chocolate caramel cream Amore Pie—while watching Pride and Prejudice. Had she put in the vanilla? What about the salt?

Damn Colin Firth and his pond-soaked white shirt. Veronica set down her measuring spoons on the flour-dusted counter and gave her full attention to the small TV next to the coffeemaker.

God, she loved Colin Firth. Not just because he was so handsome either. This TV miniseries was at least fifteen years old, and Colin Firth had to be fifty now. He was still gorgeous. But it was more than that. Colin Firth was six feet two inches of hope. To Veronica, he represented what she’d been looking for her entire life and had never found and probably never would, at this point. Veronica was thirty-eight years old. Still not married.

If you wanted love, really wanted love, you’d have it, friends, even boyfriends, had said many times over the years. There’s something wrong with you, her last beau had said before he’d stormed out on her for not agreeing to marry him. Something wrong with the way your heart works.

Maybe there was. No, Veronica knew it was true. And she knew why too. But now, at thirty-eight, friends were worrying about her ending up all alone, so she’d started saying what felt lighthearted but true at the same time, that she was holding out for a man who felt like Colin Firth to her. Her friend Shelley from the diner had known exactly what she meant. “I realize he’s an actor playing roles, but I get it,” Shelley had said. “Honest. Full of integrity. Conviction. Brimming with intelligence. Loyal. You just believe everything he says with that British accent of his—and can trust it.”

All that and yes, he was so damned handsome that Veronica had lost track of her own Amore Pie, a pie she could make in her sleep. Her special elixir pies were in high demand ever since she’d been back in Boothbay Harbor—just over a year now. She’d grown up in Boothbay, but had bought a house in a different neighborhood than the one she’d lived in with her parents. It had been love at first sight for the lemon-yellow bungalow on Sea Road, and the day she’d moved in, while hanging the wooden blinds on her sliding glass door to her deck, she’d heard someone crying. She’d peered her head out the door to see her neighbor sitting on her back porch, wearing only a black negligee

and black leather stilettos. Veronica had gone over and asked if she could help, and the woman blurted out that her marriage was over. Veronica had sat down, and within moments her neighbor, whose name was Frieda, shared the whole story, how she’d tried to entice her husband, who barely looked at her these days, home for lunch with exactly what she was going to do to him. But he’d said he’d brought last night’s leftovers and would just have that.

“He’d rather have a cold meat loaf sandwich than me?” Frieda had cried to Veronica. “For months, I’ve been trying to entice him back to me, and nothing works.” She broke down in a fresh round of tears.

Veronica had told Frieda that she was a baker and would make her a special pie to serve her husband for dessert that night. When she gave him his slice, she was to think about how much she loved him, wanted him. And just for good measure, she could run her hands up the back of his neck.

Well, that night, Frederick Mulverson had said he didn’t know what came over him, but he was back. Frieda had Veronica’s Amore Pie on standing order every Friday. One word to her friends and relatives, and Veronica’s phone had started ringing with orders, just as it had in New Mexico. Amore Pies were her most requested.

She made upwards of twenty special pies a week. Plus two a day for the Best Little Diner in Boothbay, where she worked as a waitress. And nine pies a week for three local inns. But those— for the diner and the inns—were just her Happiness Pies, pies that tasted like summer vacation. She saved her special elixir pies for her clients around town, everything from Feel Better Pie, which came in all kinds of dietetic-friendly varieties, such as gluten free, dairy free, and even sugar free, to Confidence Pie, which involved Key limes.

What she couldn’t seem to do was make a Colin Firth Pie for herself. She’d made Amore Pies for hundreds of clients that seemed to attract love to them. Sure, maybe it was mostly power of thought, but so what, since it worked. You get what you believe is what Veronica’s grandmother used to say. At the thought of dear Renata Russo, who’d died just months before all the trouble had started when Veronica was sixteen, Veronica closed her eyes. She let herself remember what it was like when she’d had a family, when Veronica, her parents, and her grandmother would sit around the table in the house Veronica grew up in—just several miles away from here—and have big Italian dinners. Meatballs and so much linguini in her grandmother’s homemade tomato sauce that it seemed to come from bottomless pots.

She missed those days, days that had ended on an April morning when Veronica was sixteen and blurted out over a pancake breakfast that she was pregnant. One minute, she’d had a family—minus her beloved grandmother. The next, Veronica had been sent away.

Why are you upsetting yourself by thinking about all that? she asked herself as she turned her attention back to the TV and the Bennet sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, conspiring in their lovely white dresses about their love lives. But since she’d moved back to Boothbay Harbor, her past was all she could think about. It was why she’d come home, for heaven’s sake. To face it. To stop . . . running.

Buy: Finding Colin Firth

Getting in the Mood: Put Your Inner Martha Stewart to Work

spank me mr darcyGuest blog by Lissa Trevor, author of Spank Me, Mr. Darcy

Writers are a creative bunch. But sometimes we need to jump start the creativity a bit.  We need to flip a switch from our left brain to our right brain, so we can stop analyzing the sentences we’ve just wrote and start synthesizing them into a story.

Sometimes all it takes is a quick craft, like knitting or crocheting a dishcloth.  Just the act of creating a simple, pretty and useful scrap of material is enough to start the creative process.  My favorite dishcloth pattern is to take a ball of one of the variegated colors of sugar and spice brand cotton and a size seven needle. Cast on fifty stitches and knit until you have a dishcloth sized square.  If I need a bit more challenge, I’ll knit the ball band pattern – which you can find with a quick Google search.

Or maybe the jewelry bug hits me.  You can never have too many earrings, you know.  So I’ll grab my ear wires, head pins, pretty beads and my tools and have a go.  You just plop a bead on a head pin, trim the wire with the cutter, curve the wire into a loop, slide on the ear wires, and close the loop.  Repeat for the other ear. YouTube has some great videos on how to do this.

But what if you can’t knit or don’t have the supplies to make earrings?  You can get your Martha Stewart on in a few more ways.  There’s baking.  If you’re not into making something big from a mix, there are individual mug cakes you can make in the microwave.  The basic recipe is three tablespoons of cake mix and two tablespoons of water.  Mix together and nuke for one minute.

If you’re looking for a little variety or guilt free options, Hungry Girl has a bunch of cake mug recipes. http://www.hungry-girl.com/weighin/show/2279

Another way is to decorate a mantle or a little shelf.  Decide on a theme.  Holiday?  Beach? Maybe something to do with your book?  Clear out the space and design it from scratch.  Add some mood candles and voila!  Instant inspiration.  You get bonus points if you have to use your glue gun!

If you’re a visual person, you can take some poster board and a bunch of magazines and flip through to find phrases that jump out at you.  Glue them on the board along with pictures of people who could be your main characters or settings that they may find themselves in.  When you need to describe a person or a place, use this board to help.  It doesn’t even have to be that complicated, though.  You can grab some crayons or colored pencils and channel your inner child. Go on Amazon and search for adult coloring books.  There are a few *ahem* adult-adult ones, but the stained glass and the mandala books should allow you to play around with colors and make the designs pop out.

So what ways do you fire up your creativity?

Author Bio: Lissa Trevor has her stilettos firmly entrenched in the romance community. Spank Me Mr. Darcy is her debut novel from Riverdale Avenue Books. She is a frequent reader at Manhattan’s Between The Covers events, where her novellas Wild Oats and Timelash from Coliloquy’s Entwined volumes 1 & 2 have been very popular. Lissa also created an erotic story template for Coliloquy’s ValEntwined promotion that allowed readers to download a personalized ebook starring themselves and their significant other. You can find her at http://lissatrevor.wordpress.com/

Buy: Spank Me, Mr. Darcy

Review: The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer

being emmaReviewed by Carla F.

Our heroine: Emma Woodhouse is the new Marketing Director at Highbury Foods. She is embarrassed to remember the teenage crush she had on older family friend, now brother-in-law, Mark Knightley. Her father who is the head and owner of Highbury Foods wants Mark to be her mentor. Just what she doesn’t need is Mark telling her what to do (again)!

Our hero: Mark Knightley has recently returned from his job in Mumbai for the family owned Donwell Organics so that his father can go on an around-the-world cruise with his second wife. He has also taken his father’s place as a non-executive director at Highbury Foods. He gladly agrees to be Emma’s mentor. However, he surprised to see her all grown up with beautiful curves and great legs.

This retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma has all the romance of the original plus it has a very appealing modern heroine. She is still the Emma that we recognize who believes that no one is better at matchmaking than her. However, she is also a college graduate who is ready to inject some new life into the family business that has been run conservatively by her father. I also liked the fact that she has been sexually active and that her growing attraction to Mark is not just one of romantic feelings.

Besides Emma’s and Knightly’s story, what made the original novel so much fun was the cast of quirky characters. They are here as well. One that stood out for me was Emma’s temporary PA Harriet Smith who is definitely not one of the upper crust. Another one was Emma’s father who worries by his health and diet so much that he won’t eat anything made by his own company.

Archer has brought all the charm of the original, updated it, and made it into enjoyable friends-to-lovers story.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Importance of Being Emma (Darcy & Friends)

A Husband and Wife Collaboration

TMWLJAGuest blog by Sally O’Roake, author of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen

In spite of the fact that my name alone appears on the cover, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was, in truth, very much a collaboration with my late husband F. Michael O’Rourke. Kelly, my step-daughter called us an awesome team and we were, in all respects; our life together was a true collaboration. Many projects came out of that collaboration, among them two feature films, a few television pilots and several books including Christmas At Sea Pines Cottage, Maiden Stone Lighthouse and, of course, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

The road to The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was rather circuitous and, I’m afraid, not particularly romantic even though Mike called it the ultimate valentine because it was brought to life by the love we had for each other.

Technically, I suppose that road began when I was fifteen years old and read Pride and Prejudice, enjoying it thoroughly. One Sunday afternoon a very disappointing film version of it was on television. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier were much too old to be playing the 20 year old Elizabeth and the 28 year old Darcy but changing the story was entirely unacceptable to my youthful psyche (and my adult psyche). It was my first taste of what Hollywood can and often does do to novels. After that I watched every version of the story but never found one worthy of the book. Then in 1995, as all of you know, the ultimate P&P was produced. A&E along with the BBC did the Andrew Davies/Simon Langton/Sue Britwistle mini-series, staring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. FINALLY a wonderful portrayal of the classic novel.

Moving on to late 1999, the health department recommended that Mike and I vacate our home because of toxic mold, requiring us to leave most of our belongings in the contaminated house. After a few months in a hotel it felt like we never talked or thought about anything but the mold and the pending law suit; our life had seemingly come to a screeching halt. In an attempt to, at the very least, not think about it all the time, we sat down and watched the six hour Pride and Prejudice; in its entirety. It worked; we stopped obsessing about the house and, in fact, the marathon inspired me to read all of Jane Austen’s books.

LighthouseFor some reason I had never noticed that there is a theme in all her writings, maybe it was because I’d never read them one after the other but this time I did and found that she made every heroine strong, relatively independent and quite intelligent; not completely unusual in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries however, what made Austen different was not the strong women but the men who loved them for that strength. It made me want to know more about her, why in an era where women were basically chattel did she feel free enough to write such stories. After delving into her life by reading several biographies, I came to believe she wrote Elizabeth Bennet and the others, in large part, because her father and brothers were fairly opened minded and that along with their support and strong belief in her talent was at the center of her success.

Another thing that struck me, particularly in Pride and Prejudice was Darcy’s ability to look at himself, be dissatisfied and make a concerted effort to reverse his attitudes because as he said after Elizabeth accepts his second proposal, You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” To me Darcy felt more like a modern man than a Regency aristocrat.

When Mike suggested that we start a new project by resurrecting a time travel story I had started some time before. I countered that rather than write about a twenty-first century woman who goes into the future we write about a twenty-first century man who falls back into the England of 1810 and becomes Jane Austen’s muse and perhaps one of the most quixotic heroes ever written; Fitzwilliam Darcy.

We considered many scenarios before settling on Darcy being the wealthy owner of a two hundred year old Virginia horse breeding estate, Pemberley Farms. The back story we created for his ancestors, was touched on when Eliza is presented to the guests at Darcy’s Rose Ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know that many people consider love stories better if they end unhappily, if not tragically (A Walk to Remember; Message in a Bottle; The Way We Were; The Bridges of Madison County) but I prefer a happy ending, therefore a modern woman had to be able to compete with Jane Austen. New York artist Eliza Knight does just that.

We discussed making Eliza a poor, struggling artist then decided that we didn’t want it to be a ‘Cinderella’ story; you know, rich guy falls for poor girl and they live happily ever after. So she became a relatively successful artist of fantasy drawings that are used on greeting cards, stationary as well as prints. That success allows her to buy an antique vanity and it is behind the vanity’s mirror that she discovers letters to and from Jane Austen and Fitzwilliam Darcy, triggering the story.

After completing the manuscript, we type-set, printed and hand bound copies to give as gifts to family and friends. It was received with spirited enthusiasm and Mike and I were proud of our nice little story. Then my world crashed, in November 2001, two weeks before his sixtieth birthday Mike died suddenly; we hadn’t gotten out of the house soon enough.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen was published in 2006. The publisher didn’t want two names on the cover and preferred the one be mine since I would be doing the promotion. I regret not insisting that Mike’s name be used on the cover as a tribute to him. But regret serves no useful purpose and at least his work is being enjoyed by people all over the world.

SeaPinesCottageTaking into consideration that no journal or diary kept by Jane Austen has survived, I started what was going to be a fun little project, to create a journal that would be Jane’s point of view of the events of Spring 1810 when she met Darcy. At the end of one journal entry she is wondering what Mr. Darcy is doing at that moment, suddenly I was writing the sequel to The Man Who Loved Jane Austen.

Besides who was I to try and write as if I was Jane Austen? Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is no longer a journal but it does reacquaint readers with 21st century American horseman Fitzwilliam Darcy and his influence on the English novelist and her writings; at the same time delving into the complex nature of the man who became the embodiment of one of the most romantic characters in English literature.

The blossoming romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Eliza Knight, the modern-day woman who gave Darcy the letters proving that he did make a trip through time and met Jane Austen, is juxtaposed with Jane’s life as she copes with the subtle celebrity of being the ‘Lady’ who wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

AustenticityAustenticity.com, the website where Eliza first discovers that Fitzwilliam Darcy is real (even if she doesn’t believe it at first) is now also real. I’ve owned the domain since we wrote the book and have now created ‘the everything Austen’ site. Come, visit and spend a bit of time with the inimitable and much beloved author.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is now available in trade paperback as well as most eBook formats from most on-line retailers.

Find me at:

http://sallysmithorourke.com (blog)

http://www.facebook.com/sally.s.orourke

https://twitter.com/Chawton1810 (@Chawton1810)

YAJA

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen

Chapter 5

Although the sun was fully up in the Virginia summer sky, it was not yet hot. Fitz found jumping exhilarating; the cool morning air caressing his face, and Lord Nelson, so strong and graceful, took all the jumps with no effort.

Heritage Week was over so things could get back to normal. He shrugged. Whatever normal is. He realized there was a very good chance that his normal was about to change radically. Eliza’s letter—the one she had found written to him from Jane—had ended his search for the truth of his Regency encounter. But Eliza did much more than give him the letter.

He had been merely surviving, not living, in the years since his mother’s death. He’d thrown himself into the business of Pemberley Farms to the exclusion of almost everything else. Eliza’s arrival had heralded an acute awareness of that fact. It was as though a light was suddenly shining so he could see the world around him. She made him want to live again. And she had given him the letter… Jane’s letter.

Fitz reined Lord Nelson to a walk as they entered the cool shade of the woods on the edge of his property.

Jane. He had spent more than three years seeking proof of his meeting with her and of her feelings for him. Almost as if he’d been transported again back to Chawton in 1810, the image of Jane’s sweet face flooded his mind. He thought back to that morning and his inauspicious entrance into Jane Austen’s life.

The combination of his head injury and the laudanum prescribed by Mr. Hudson, the Austen family physician, caused Darcy to slip in and out of consciousness. He tried to sit up, the effort making him dizzy.

Jane gently laid a hand on his chest. “Please, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hudson wants you to remain still.”

Through a cotton mouth, his head spinning, Darcy asked, “Mr. Hudson?”

“The doctor,” Jane said. “You must rest now Mr. Darcy.” The American looked at her face. Her curiosity was palpable even in his drugged state. Unable to think clearly, never mind responding to questions he wasn’t sure he could answer, he closed his eyes completely and turned his head away.

Jane returned to her vanity table where she continued to write; a single candle and the flames in the fireplace her only light. Interrupted in her writing by a low murmur from Darcy, she took the candle and quietly approached the bed. He was tossing back and forth, his face flushed and contorted; he was speaking in quiet tones, a hodgepodge of words that meant nothing to her. He spoke what she could only suppose were the nonsensical ramblings of a sick brain; she attributed words like television and jet to his head injury and delirium. She placed her hand softly on his cheek and was distressed by the heat radiating from him. Using fresh linen soaked in water from the pitcher on her wash stand, Jane swabbed his face and neck, then laid it across his forehead. It seemed to calm him and she went back to her writing.

Each time he grew restless Jane stopped writing and went to the bed to refresh the linen with cool water. After three episodes in close succession she remained on the edge of the bed so she was at hand, and each time he started to toss and turn she would caress his face and neck with the cool, damp linen in hopes that it would, in time, reduce his fever.

She stayed there until Darcy’s features turned placid and he was breathing more evenly. He finally seemed to be sleeping comfortably. She laid her small, soft hand on his cheek. The fever was broken. She dropped the cloth into the basin. Stiff from sitting in one position for so long without support, she stood up and stretched. She was not particularly tired but needed to get some rest.

Quietly she crossed the wooden floor and slipped the small pages of writing she was working on into the drawer of the vanity, then took a nightgown from the closet next to the fireplace. Glancing back at the bed she stepped behind the screen.

He opened his eyes just enough to see her slender, full-breasted figure silhouetted on the muslin screen, back-lit by the remnants of the fire as the light fabric of her nightgown floated down to envelope her.

Jane stopped at the bed before making her way to Cassandra’s room for a few hours of sleep. As she stood over him he watched surreptitiously through the veil of his eyelashes. She leaned down and whispered, “Good night, Mr. Darcy,” almost brushing his lips with her own. In spite of his continuing laudanum haze, he could see that her eyes were filled with a tenderness that caused him to grab her hand as she straightened up; he didn’t want her to go.

Without opening his eyes or letting go of her hand he said, “Please don’t leave me.”

Unsure whether this was further evidence of the delirium or whether he was actually requesting her presence, she pulled her hand away. He did not move to take it again but said, “Please, stay.”

Cognizant of Mr. Hudson’s admonition of keeping the injured American calm and concerned her leaving might agitate him, Jane sat once again on the edge of the bed. Darcy smiled in the flickering flame of the dying fire. He said nothing more but gently took her hand. He did not relinquish it again until she rose to move to a chair by the side of the bed where she finally slept.

The movement woke him. His mind finally clear of drugs, he scanned the room in the dim, pre-dawn light. There were no electrical outlets or switches, no lamps, television or telephone, and the only clock appeared to be pendulum driven. Everyone he’d seen wore costumes similar to the ones people wore to the Rose Ball. Those things and the medical treatment he had received led him to the inexplicable conclusion that somehow he’d fallen into another time—a time when Jane Austen was alive.

And there she sat, serene in what had to be an uncomfortable position for sleep; his nurse, his savior and much prettier than she was depicted in the only portrait of her to survive to the twenty-first century. She was not the brazen hussy of Darcy family lore but a sweet and loving woman who took care of him without concern for her own safety or expecting anything in return. His mother would have said she was a true Christian.

As he watched her in the pale light of the dying embers his head started to throb as though a nail was being driven through it. He closed his eyes and blessed sleep overtook him.

***

Jane was an incredibly strong, intelligent, willful and virtuous woman who followed the propriety of the day… mostly. During the last three years he’d often wondered what might have happened between them if he’d been forced to stay in early nineteenth-century England. Of course with the way her brothers felt about him, he probably wouldn’t have seen her again.

If the circumstances had been different would he have married her? He could have been happy with her, he supposed, but over the years he’d come to realize that the love he felt for her was based on who she was, the awe in which he held her, caring for him when she certainly didn’t have to, loving him. Then again, did she love him? She had never said it and the letter Eliza had found and given him showed obvious affection but she urged him to find his true love. Apparently she didn’t think she was it. Had they ever loved each other or had it just been a fling across the ages?

He laughed. What difference did any of it make? Jane Austen had been dead for almost two hundred years. Still, the undisputed icon of witty English romance had kissed him whether she loved him or not. He still had to pinch himself to believe it had ever happened.

He had no such questions about Eliza. Everything felt right when he was with her. This was no fling. He had no idea where they were headed, but for the first time in years he was looking forward to the rest of his life. As long as Eliza was with him he didn’t care where they were headed.

Fitz and Lord Nelson crossed the bridge at a leisurely gait; the ground fog was burning off in the warm morning sun. Had it really been only two days since he and the great stallion were galloping across the bridge before the fog had lifted and run Eliza off the road and into a muddy drainage ditch? He hadn’t even realized she was there until it had happened. When he did, he brought Nelson to a stop and, without questioning who she was or why she was walking along a road on his property, he had lifted her onto Lord Nelson’s back and then swung up behind her. She was slightly light headed from the sudden fall, and once on the horse she had leaned against his chest and he’d had to control a strong desire to kiss the top of her head. He still didn’t understand how a complete stranger could make him feel that way, but he didn’t really care. From the first moment, being with her felt right and wonderful and that was all that mattered.

She had touched something in him that no one else ever had, including Jane, even before he knew her. At the Austen exhibit at the New York Public Library he had found himself staring at her. He laughed remembering that he had thought of her as a raven-haired beauty. Then two days ago she had come out of the fog and into his life.

He had told her his story about jumping through a rift in time and meeting Jane Austen. It had been very difficult at first, but once he started it tumbled out and had been a relief that he wasn’t carrying it around anymore. It was as though a weight had been lifted and this slight, feisty New Yorker had done the lifting. She had listened to him with an intensity that had made her a part of the story. She had been kind and compassionate—he had seen real grief when she asked him about leaving Jane—and she had given him the letter that answered his questions about whether he’d actually met Jane Austen and how Jane felt about him.

Jane would always hold a special place in his heart, but Eliza held his heart. Maybe it was too early to take it all for love, but it certainly felt the way he’d always thought love is supposed to feel.

Horse and rider stepped out from the cool canopy of the woods and into the warm summer sun. Spurring his favorite horse to a full gallop Fitz guided him over every fence and stream on their way back to the barn.

Christmas At Sea Pines Cottage Trailer:

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen – The Man Who Loved Jane Austen Trailer:

The Maidenstone Lighthouse Trailer:

Review: Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly

MrDarcyForeverThis is book 3 of the “Austen Addicts” trilogy.

Review by Lynn Reynolds

If you have been following Victoria’s trilogy, you will want to make sure to read Mr. Darcy Forever. She starts her book off with Sarah Castle blindfolding her sister, Mia, so that she doesn’t see her surprise. They are celebrating Mia’s twenty-first birthday.

Mia had a rough childhood and Sarah has always been there for her. Both sisters have a thing for Jane Austen. Once you have finished reading this book, if you have not already, you may want to watch some of the films of the Austen adaptations. Sarah loves to watch them.

Victoria then switches to three years after their celebration. We see Sarah getting ready for the annual Jane Austen Festival. I have searched the internet and found that this is an actual festival. If you take any vacation time in September, you may want to take a trip to Bath and check the festival out. You can find more information at The Jane Austen Festival.

Victoria gives us a hint that something happened between the sisters three years ago. We also see that Mia graduated from drama school. She lives in London and drama and singing are her passion. Sarah works at home as an accountant. Mia also shares with us some of what happened between her and Sarah.

Mia goes to visit her friend, Shelley, who’s also an Austen fan. One good thing that Victoria does for us is list some of Sarah’s Austen novels. You may find that after you read this book or the other two in the trilogy that you will want to read some of Jane’s.

My first impressions of Mia are that she’s a very self-centered person who’s also a user. But then Victoria lets us know that there’s more there than my first impressions. She’s also a character that some people may be able to relate to.

Sarah is a character that you want to cheer for. She has issues that she must deal with but she also tries to rise above them. She meets a gentleman named Lloyd Anderson who knows what Sarah is dealing with. She is also someone that you would want to be friends with. You also hope that she finds love and has someone to spend the rest of her life with.

Gabe is another character that we are introduced to. He lives next door to Shelley and over a short bit of time comes to realize how much he likes Mia. He’s also the character that shows us that Mia is not the person I think she is. He’s just what she needs.

Sometimes when an author goes between the past and the present, I get a little confused about what’s going on – the author loses me. I can actually follow the story Victoria is weaving without any problems. It gives us an insight as to how Sarah and Mia got where they are today. . I can also just about hear the pianoforte playing in the background. You may want to see if you can find a recording to listen to as you read Sarah and Mia’s story. The trilogy ends with us being glad that Mr. Darcy still exists.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Mr. Darcy Forever

[phpbay]darcy forever victoria connelly, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

Jane Austen and Sisters

MrDarcyForever

Guest Post by Victoria Connelly, author of Mr. Darcy Forever

Whilst writing my Austen Addicts Trilogy, I read many of the letters that Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. They were in constant touch with each other when either of them was away from home and I can just imagine them texting and emailing each other if they were alive today. They shared all sorts of information from snippets of gossip about neighbours (“Dr Hall is in such very deep mourning that either his mother, his wife, or himself must be dead.” ) to what the latest fashions were in town (“Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing”).

Jane Austen was obviously fascinated by the special bond between sisters and I adore the relationships she portrays in her novels. I think my favourite is that between Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. They are each other’s confidante and they share the highs and lows of life and love. The younger sisters too – Kitty and Lydia Bennet especially – are such enormous fun with their sisterly squabbles and rivalry.

Victoria_Connelly

There’s also the uneasy relationship of the Elliot sisters in Persuasion. Poor Anne has to endure so much at the hands of her sisters and her relationship with them stands in grave contrast to that of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet.

Then there’s Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. No two sisters could be so different. Elinor is the head and Marianne is the heart and it’s this relationship that partly inspired me to create Sarah and Mia Castle in my own novel Mr. Darcy Forever. I kept thinking about Elinor and Marianne and what would they be like if they lived in the twenty-first century. And then something else occurred to me – what would happen if a man came between them? Would the bond of sisterhood be stronger than romantic love?

Buy: Mr. Darcy Forever