Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Are You Reading? ~ Sept. 20, 2017

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What are you Reading?  Let me know what your current read is, what you recently finish reading, and what you plan on reading next! 

Whoa! I didn't realize it was Wednesday! I almost forgot to post. Lol!

Here's my list:


I've just started These Dreams: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Nicole Clarkston. After reading the excerpt from my stop on These Dreams Blog Tour (there's a giveaway if you're interested), I knew I had to read this story. So, I started reading it as soon as I got a copy! I'm enjoying it so far! :)




I'm happy to report I'm about 70% through A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. It's very good, although quite long, and I'm not a fast reader. 








Sadly, I didn't finish any books this week. 


What's next? I'm thinking about Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. 








Disclaimer: Links to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!



I'm linking up with This Week In Books hosted by Lipsyy Lost & Found.


And with Sam @ Taking on a World of Words


So, tell me, what are you reading? 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

These Dreams Blog Tour ~ Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway!!

Hello, friends! It's my pleasure to kick off These Dreams Blog Tour!! Woohoo! Please give Nicole Clarkston a warm welcome as she launches her newest book These Dreams

At this stop, Nicole brings us a poignant and moving excerpt. This scene alone has cinched it for me - I want to read this book! 


Don't forget to enter to win an e-copy of These Dreams! Details can be found at the bottom of the page! 





Dreams are made of powerful stuff. Some of the brightest minds of our age have spent their lifetimes trying to learn what and how and why, and have yet to produce a satisfactory answer, so I shall not attempt to explain them myself.  I only submit the countless instances in legend and historical accounts, where a dream foretells future doom or blessing, or where loved ones seem to pass one another in that ethereal land.

So it is with Elizabeth and Darcy in These Dreams. Some might read this story and attempt to explain their mysterious connection by claiming telepathy or enchantment. Others might think it all a delusion; a very natural result of the extreme distress experienced by the main characters. For my part, the title declares my best understanding: that we do not understand everything. I do not venture into the metaphysical, nor do I insist that the reader presume fantastical origins for this heart and mind connection shared by lovers. I leave it to the reader to form or not to form their own explanation.

In this scene, Elizabeth has been “seeing” Darcy almost everywhere she turns. She longs to hear his voice, she imagines that he is still in the room, and recalls each vivid, excruciating detail of his appearance, his voice, his manner, and even little nuances that she remembers but had not previously understood. It is Christmas Eve, and Elizabeth has returned from Jane’s new home of Netherfield after an evening of battling these demons.

As is so often the case when we are facing our darkest times, very few can follow us save those who suffer at our sides. Jane is no longer a comfort to her, and the other soul closest to her at the moment— her sister Lydia— endures a different sort of trial. Elizabeth retires for the night feeling aimless and alone, and longs more than anything to sense some other nearby. It could be said that her heart cries out, and Darcy’s answers.

Nicole




Excerpt

     Elizabeth was late to bed that evening—later even than the rest of the family, who had all returned home in the long hours of the night. Lydia’s spirits had been her first concern, for she truly had begged off spending the evening in the company of Jane’s guests, fearing extreme discomfort when her marital status must be explained to the gentlemen. Elizabeth had tried gentle persuasion and promised to stand near for the whole of the evening, but Lydia had bluntly refused to meet the curious stares of the other guests and Jane Bingley’s pitying words.

     Children, however, with their innocent affections and playful ways, seemed to work a magic in her. Elizabeth had hurried in from the carriage, still regretting that she had left Lydia to her own devices, but she had found her sister laughing riotously with their young Gardiner cousins. It seemed that the littlest had found one of the kittens from the barn and tied a bright ribbon round its short little tail, amusing them all for the better part of the evening. Clearly, her sisterly comfort was not required on this festive night.

     Perhaps it was that very lack of purpose which troubled her at her toilette before she retired to bed. She gazed blankly through the flame of her candle, her face so close that she could smell its warmth fanning through the curls at her temples. Was she really so morose of late that even her father worried over her? Had she not just recently sported merrily with him over one of his favourite novels, and pointedly charmed each caller to attend the Bennet drawing room? Could the hollow sound of her laughter be heard by anyone but herself?

     The mirror, staring back at her, gave answer enough. She was adrift, without direction or inspiration. And for what? For the loss of something that had never been hers? For envy of her beloved Jane, or disappointment over Lydia? A flash of anger rose in her eyes—the only life to spark back from her mirror. No! She swiped her hand over the flame, quenching it with a quick, stinging pinch of her fingers. There must be more.

     Rubbing her eyes, Elizabeth tiptoed to the bed that was now hers alone and slid between her cold sheets. She shivered. It had never been absolutely necessary that she and Jane should share a room. Longbourn was large enough for the family and two guest rooms, after all, and seldom were both needed when company came. When they were still very small, however, she and Jane had found delight in long talks into the night, well after they were supposed to have been asleep. They had shared warmth and secrets, and never had the typical disagreements of sisters troubled their happy little arrangement.

     Elizabeth burrowed more deeply under the counterpane, staring at the mound of Jane’s old pillow in the moonlight. It seemed so strange now, with no sounds of breathing, no second body dipping that side of the bed. So many times, when her feet and hands were cold, Jane and she would have snuggled close, giggling and tugging at the blankets. Hunching her shoulders, she tried to recall that sweet fellowship as she nestled her head into the pillow.

     She tucked herself tightly all round and found that if she strained at the blanket just so, she could almost imagine that she was not alone—that her back rested securely against solid warmth, with a firm weight draped round her waist. She arched her neck, pulling back her shoulder to bare yet more of her skin as a breath of tepid air tickled below her ear. 

      The weight tightened over her stomach, rolling her close and cradling her head as a shiver thrilled up the back of her neck. “Elizabeth.”

     Was it a voice she had heard, carried on the wind, or merely the creaks and groans of the old house as it cooled and settled for the night? She inhaled deeply, catching a tendril of sandalwood fragrance with undertones of something more earthy. Her fingers touched the bare space of her neck—a warmth kissing her skin, grazing delicately over that sensitive place.

     “I have thought only of you.”

     Elizabeth turned her head languidly. Surely, she had heard the words spoken aloud! The prickles along her arms testified to the whispered breath over her flesh, the deep hum of masculine tones. I am going mad! she chided herself, but she could not desire to shatter the dream with the truth. There could be no one there! Yet, some intuition compelled her to raise up, to meet the eyes that had long since been dimmed from memory.

     He smiled and lifted gentle fingers to touch her cheek. “My dearest Elizabeth, how I have missed you!”

A tear spilled over his fingertips. She could not speak, could not even answer with a smile. Her lips parted, but her throat was so choked that she was capable of no more than a garbled sob. She bit her lips together, trying to nod, to speak—something!

     “It is all right, my love,” he soothed. Those deep eyes, like sweet warm chocolate, searched lovingly over her face. “You have been too much alone, as have I.”

     Her breast heaved. She wetted her lips, swallowing. “You cannot be real!” she whispered into the darkness.

     The corner of his mouth turned up. “I am not one given to fantasy or madness. You know that I detest all forms of pretense, yet you see me before you.”

     She shook her head. “I have been seeing you everywhere! No, it is not you. My mind—I must be deceiving myself.”

     His warm fingers brushed her chin. “Then you have longed to see me, my love, as I have you. You cannot know what comfort that gives me.”

     A strangled cry trembled from her. “Oh, Mr Darcy, it is all my fault! I shall never overcome my grief! If I had only been gentler, forgiven more easily—”

     “Do not linger over your regrets, my Elizabeth,” he murmured. “We must take what little we are given—do not let us return to the past.”

     She bowed her head, trembling with tears, and felt his hand hesitantly rest upon her tousled curls. She leaned willingly into him, longing to feel more. He drew her to his chest, wrapping an arm about her, and simply held her. Shaking, Elizabeth at last dared to reach for him. Her fingers slipped over the smooth linen of his shirt, touching and testing and, at last, trusting. 

     She pressed her face into his chest, her hand fisting the material of his clothing and kneading the firm muscle of his shoulder. “Oh, my love! How shall I go on, knowing that what we share in our hearts, all that which might have been, can never be!”

     “We have our small moments,” answered he. “All of life’s treasures may be stored up and accounted in moments such as these. My dearest Elizabeth, I have been a broken, lonely man in a dark place—from where I may never return. I have nothing left but these dreams of you.” His throat worked, his eloquent eyes imploring her to understand. “My Elizabeth,” he whispered, “forgive me for trying to invoke you into that darkness to be with me!”

     She clenched her arm about his neck, greedily pressing her burning eyes to the thrumming warmth of his flesh. “I would rather face darkness with you than a world of comfort alone!”

     His breath sighed through her hair, and his hands clasped her shoulders in fevered relief. “It is more than I can bear, Elizabeth! To never see you, to have no hope of such a life as I had always expected—it is too bitter!” His fingers traced up her neck, to her jaw, and he gently lifted her head to look into her eyes. “May I leave with you my heart for safekeeping? How I need you, my Elizabeth!”

     She sniffled uncontrollably, little gasping cries muffled against his chest as she pulled him close once more. “Do not leave me again, Mr Darcy!”

     His fingers burrowed tenderly through her hair. “William,” he whispered softly into her ear. 

     She lifted her head, her lips silently forming the intimate name. He smiled once more, the light in his eyes a ghostly shadow of former days. “It was my dearest hope that this year I might have wished you a Merry Christmas, my precious Elizabeth.”


     His shirt was now damp with her tears. She clung to him, praying that if she only held him tightly enough, he would not vanish in the mist. Her entire body racked in spasms of anguish, but his arms held her close as his tender voice caressed her starving heart. She gasped, tasting the salty drops streaming down her face. “Merry Christmas, William,” she whispered.



Book Blurb: 

An abandoned bride 
      A missing man 
            And a dream that refuses to die... 

Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty, and Fitzwilliam Darcy is caught at the centre of a decades-old international feud. Taken far from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear,  only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth

Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley, and Colonel Fitwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared, Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy's death widens and  questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past.  An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope. 

Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn- alone and under mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might have been. Believing Darcy lost forever, she closes her heart against both pain and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.

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FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon US. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

About the Author


Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort. 

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.


Nicole was recently invited to join Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, you can find Nicole on her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com, and at the links below.

Connect with Nicole




Blog Tour Schedule: 

09/19   So little time…; Guest Post, Excerpt, Giveaway
09/20   My Jane Austen Book Club; Vignette, GA
09/21   From Pemberley to Milton; Review, GA
09/22   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, Giveaway
09/23   Just Jane 1813; Review, GA
09/24   My Vices and Weaknesses; Excerpt, GA
09/25   Babblings of a Bookworm;  Guest Post or Vignette, GA
09/26   Diary of an Eccentric; Review, Giveaway
09/27   Half Agony, Half Hope; Review, Excerpt
09/28   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
09/29   My Love for Jane Austen; Charcter Interview, GA
09/30   Margie’s Must Reads; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
10/01   Savvy Verse and Wit; Review, GA 
10/02   Austenesque Reviews; Character Interview, GA
10/03   Obsessed with Mr. Darcy; Review, GA
10/04   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, GA



* * * GIVEAWAY * * * 

It's giveaway time!! Nicole Clarkston is generously giving away 10 e-copies of These Dreams to 10 lucky people!! To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below. 

  • Only one e-copy per winner.
  • Ten winners will be picked.
  • Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour.
  • Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.
  • Winners will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter.
  • Giveaway is open internationally.

Good luck!




a Rafflecopter giveaway


Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.


This is a group giveaway. So little time... is not responsible for books lost or damaged in shipping or any prizes shipped by publishers or authors.

Many thanks to Janet Taylor @ More Agreeably Engaged for organizing and including me in this blog tour!  

And a big Thank You to Nicole, for her kind giveaway and for stopping by today! Ooh, your excerpt was heartbreaking and swoon-worthy at the same time! I must read more!!

How about you? What did you think of the excerpt?


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Are You Reading? ~ Sept. 13, 2017

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What are you Reading?  Let me know what your current read is, what you recently finish reading, and what you plan on reading next! 

Here's my list: 


I'm back to reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I've made some good progress! Yay!






I recently finished Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn  I really enjoyed this bizarre story! I couldn't put it down! It had me laughing out loud at times.






I also finished The Journey Home by Karen M Cox. It was really sweet. This novella is a side-sequel to 1932. I should have a review up soon for it.







What's next? I'm not sure! 

Disclaimer: Links to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!


I'm linking up with This Week In Books hosted by Lipsyy Lost & Found.


And with Sam @ Taking on a World of Words


I hope you all are have a great week. Me, I have a cold. :/
So, tell me, what are you reading? 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Less Agreeable Man Blog Tour! ~ Guest Post & Excerpt!

Hello, All! I'm very excited to a part of the A Less Agreeable Man Blog Tour! Maria Grace is here today with an interesting post about giving birth in Jane Austen's Day! Followed by an excerpt from her new book, A Less Agreeable Man!




Giving Birth in Jane Austen’s Day: Confinement, Lying-in, and Churching


Unlike women today who often give birth in hospitals or birthing centers, women of Jane Austen’s day almost exclusively gave birth at home. Preparation for confinement fell almost exclusively to the mother. Among the most significant of those preparatory decisions was where she would be confined. (Vickery, 1998)

Confinements

The decision was a significant one. A woman's confinement, also called her lying-in, lasted a month to six weeks starting when the baby was born, through her subsequent recovery.  In some cases, women imminently due to give birth were also confined to the house and treated as invalids. (But only in cases where there was sufficient assistance available to take over the mother-to-be’s duties, of course.)   During confinement women were expected to stay indoors, preferably in bed. Most felt well enough to emerge from confinement after a month. (Honestly I think they’d have to be really ill not to be utterly stir-crazy by then. But then again, I get stir crazy confined by a day or two of rain.)

The medical community believed that an extended period of strict rest was necessary to help protect against the postnatal dangers threatening the mother and the baby.  Considering the number of women who died in childbirth and those who experienced complications including puerperal fever, hemorrhage, thrombosis and milk fever, the precaution made a great deal of sense.

Some women chose to return to their mother’s home to give birth. Others brought female relatives to their home for the event.  It was not unusual for rooms used for lying-in to be rearranged or redecorated in anticipation of the event. (Martin, 2004) Ideally, the mother would have two interconnected room. The inner, would contain the mother’s lying-in bed, usually kept dark though labor, delivery and at least the first week afterwards. The outer room would serve as a waiting room of sorts, a place for friends and relatives to gather.  (Lewis, 1986)

For those who could afford it, London, because of its reputation for skilled doctors, was regarded as the best place for a confinement, especially for the birth of an anticipated heir.  When a family went to town for a confinement, it could disrupt the household for weeks, even if the family maintained a house in London. And since delivery dates could not be accurately predicted, all this often happened at the very last minute. (I can’t think of anything I would less rather do at the very end of a pregnancy than be confined for hours on end in a bouncy-jolty carriage, moving households to somewhere else.)
During the confinement, especially one with all the pomp and circumstance of a London confinement, the mother often received visits from friends and relatives. Frequently these were women who had “shared in the drinking of caudle, the hot spiced wine mixture she had imbibed to ease her labor pains,” her ‘gossips.’ (Lewis, 1986) Country confinements had the advantage of fewer ‘drop-in’ sort of visitors. The new parents could exercise a little more control in who came to visit.

“The confinement itself was composed of a set of clearly defined stages in the recovery process. While these provided something of a guideline for the recovery of all women, they were flexible enough to allow for individual differences.    Generally, the stages …consisted of increasingly long forays from bed to sofa; thence to the outer or dressing room of the lying-in chambers; downstairs, possibly to dine with the family; and finally to take her first leave of the premises. The entire process lasted from four to six weeks.” (Lewis, 1986)

 Churching

A woman’s confinement ended when the mother had been "churched" and her child christened. Considering the very real risks to both mother and infant, it is not surprising that the Church had a special service of thanksgiving after (surviving) childbirth. The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, called it the Churching of Women. Traditionally, a woman paid her first visit upon leaving home to her church for this service which emphasized a woman's gratitude toward God for her full recovery. (Lewis, 1986)

Although sanctioned by the Old Testament (Leviticus 12), churching was a prickly issue within the Church. Some condemned it as a remnant of the Jewish religion or as a Catholic rite. Still, it continued as a pervasive practice, especially in rural areas. (Collin, 2001) This may have been because of superstitions about women bringing bad luck following childbirth unless ritual cleansing took place.
The ceremony was generally sought after by women, a ceremony that focused on them and acknowledged the perils they had faced. It was also an opportunity to rejoin society after extended isolation and often an opportunity to feast with the friends who had helped her through her labor (her ‘gossips.’)  (Knöde, 1995)

Women who experienced a still birth or whose child died soon after were still churched. But, women who gave birth to illegitimate children were not until they publicly repented before the whole congregation.  “There are also records of a debate whether a woman who had died in giving birth should be buried in the church graveyard if she had died unchurched. Popular custom occasionally had another woman undergoing the ceremony for the woman who had died, but such practice was not favoured by the church. It was eventually decided that an unchurched woman could be buried, but in a number of cases they were buried in a special part of the graveyard and superstitious beliefs had it that women between 15 and 45 were not supposed to be going to that particular part of the graveyard.” (Knöde, 1995)


References

Adkins, Roy, and Lesley Adkins. Jane Austen's England. Viking, 2013. 
Collins, Irene. Jane Austen and the Clergy. London: Hambledon and London, 2001. 
Collins, Irene. Jane Austen, the Parson's Daughter. London: Hambledon Press, 1998. 
Knödel, Natalie. The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, commonly called The Churching of Women. University of Durham. April 1995   http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mikef/church.html   
Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen's World: The Life and times of England's Most Popular Novelist. 2nd ed. London: Carlton Books, 2005.
Lewis, Judith Schneid. In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986. 
Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country House. London: Hambledon and London, 2004. 
Selwyn, David. Jane Austen and Children. New York City: Continuum Books, 2010.
Vickery, Amanda. The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998.


Churching Excerpt

     An uneventful fortnight passed in the Lucases’ company. It seemed the whole family was as quiet and retiring as Charlotte. Even Lady Catherine improved in their presence, readily employing herself in the improvement of Miss Claremont, who relished the attention.
     Perhaps it was the Lucases’ propensity to routine. They naturally did everything at the same time every day without looking at a clock. Even the babies fell into a schedule quickly. The house radiated a calm, quietude that might grow dull over the long term, but for now, was a needed relief from the intensity of the prior month.

     At exactly ten o’clock, all the Lucas clan descended the grand stairs in the same order they paraded in every day on their trek to the spacious morning room. They sat in exactly the same order around the round table: Charlotte with the windows on her right where the light was best for sewing, her mother on her left. They skipped a chair—ostensibly for Lady Catherine—then Sir William and Miss Claremont near the inlaid sideboard where breakfast was laid out on silver and china serving dishes, wafting tempting fresh-baked scents through the room. The three ladies requested chocolate while Sir William preferred tea. They all liked toast, very brown, with jam and clotted cream. Though the routine was soothing, it also bordered on the ridiculous.

     Mary sipped her coffee—a bad habit definitely gleaned from Colonel Fitzwilliam—enjoying a friendly sunbeam that insisted on making its way past the curtains. Dust motes played along its length, a romping sort of game, like children in the spring fields, too long cooped up over winter. 

     Much like Charlotte. She had recovered well from her travails and was growing impatient to be out and about once again. It was nearing time for her churching. Perhaps she should call upon Mr. Anderson who had been filling in for Mr. Collins. 

     Or should they wait until Colonel Fitzwilliam returned? 

     She chuckled at herself. Why would he be interested in such a thing? Conceivably, if it were his wife, but for a guest? No, he would just as soon have the matter handled decently and without him.

     “What do you think, Miss Bennet?”

     Mary jumped and blinked. What had Sir William just asked?

     “Woolgathering, Mary?” Charlotte snickered, settling her chocolate cup into its saucer with a soft clink. “But no, I know you better. You were planning something—you always are. Papa wanted to know your thoughts on his ideas.”

     Sir William cleared his throat. “Ah yes, we had been discussing Charlotte’s future, you see. Rosings is quite lovely, and the hospitality has been truly grand, but mayhap, it seems that we are approaching the time, I think, if you agree—”

     Mary bit her lip. Interrupting him would not make him get to the point any faster. She had tried.

     Lady Lucas laid her hand on his wrist. “I believe what my husband is trying to say is that it seems we are near the end of Charlotte’s confinement. We do not wish to trespass upon Rosings’ cordiality. Longbourn is ready to receive its new family.”

     “Are the babies not very young to make such a journey?” Mary refilled her coffee cup.

     “It is only eight hours by carriage.” Charlotte murmured, a little defensively. “With my mother and cousin to help I think it will be quite manageable. Mrs. Grant suggests that the babies should be strong enough for traveling in another fortnight or so.”

     “Shall I speak to the vicar to see you churched before you go?”

     Charlotte laughed. “That is what you were planning, was it not?”

     Sir William chuckled low in his belly. “She is just as you say, Charlotte. What is the saying? Still waters run deep?”

     “You will be greatly missed.” It was entirely true. Charlotte was the last real friend she had at Rosings, other than Fitzwilliam of course.

     When had she started thinking of him as a friend? He was though. One of a precious few with a glimpse into who she really was.

     “About that…” Charlotte glanced at Lady Lucas who blinked at Sir William.

     “Yes, with regards to that. We were discussing, that is, we talked amongst ourselves. The question came about ...”

     Lady Lucas tapped his hand. “Though Lucas Lodge is not far from Longbourn, Charlotte will be there all alone. We thought that, perhaps, given the circumstances here, you might like to join her.”

     “Live at Longbourn?”

     Charlotte nodded a bit too vigorously. “Yes, exactly. I have come to depend upon your company so much over the last months. I do not know what I shall do without you—”

     “Without Miss Bennet?” Lady Catherine swept into the room, a fury of icy blue taffeta and feathers.

     Dressed for evening first thing in the morning? This could turn bad, very quickly.

     Mary jumped up and took Lady Catherine’s arm. Mrs. Jenkinson cowered behind Lady Catherine, like a dog that had just been kicked.

     “Would you like a cup of tea, Lady Catherine, or coffee? I can get you wine if you prefer.” Mary ushered her toward her favorite chair.

     Lady Catherine yanked her arm out of Mary’s grasp. “Why would I want tea or coffee? This is not the drawing room. Why is dinner being served in the morning room? Where is Parkes? Surely she is going mad.”

     “I shall see you have some wine, then.” Mary waved Mrs. Jenkinson into action. “Pray sit down. The sun … sunset … is most agreeable.” 

     “I do not wish to sit. Why do I care about the sun? What I want to know is what you were talking about? I must have my share of the conversation.”

     Mary sent the Lucases a warning glance. “Churching, Lady Catherine. We were discussing churching.”

     “Whatever for?”

     “Charlotte, your ladyship.” Lady Lucas hovered between sitting and standing.

     “Why? Are you increasing?” Lady Catherine rapped the table hard enough to rattle the china.

     “Ah, your ladyship …” Sir William straightened his labels as he rose.

     Mary gestured for him to sit. “We were simply discussing the practice.”

     “Should not Mr. Collins be a part of the discussion then? Is it not his job? Where is he? He knows better than to be late for dinner. I have told him most strenuously. It is abhorrently rude to be late. I insist on knowing where he is!”

     Charlotte pressed the back of her hand to her mouth.

     “He is away at present.” Mary took her arm again.

     “I did not give him leave to travel. Why is he gone? He should be attending to his duties. I have not given him permission.”

     “This trip … it is in relation with … a service he has done on your behalf.” Mary bit her lip.

     “When? I did not authorize—” Her eyes narrowed. “You are lying to me, Miss Bennet!”

     “No—”

     “Yes, you are. This is about that estate, Longfarm, the one I did not give him permission to inherit!”

     The Lucases gasped and huddled closer together.

     “You see, it is! How dare you conspire to conceal things from me? I always know. I am always right, you know.” She snatched a napkin from the table, sending silverware flying.

     “Here is your wine, your ladyship.” Mrs. Jenkinson offered the glass to Lady Catherine.

     “I do not care for wine!” She flung it at Mrs. Jenkinson who shrieked as it hit her face.

     “Would you care for something to eat instead?” Mary shooed Mrs. Jenkinson out of the room.

     “No food! No wine! I want answers!”

     “Pray ask your questions, Lady Catherine.” Mary stood in front of her. If she could hold Lady Catherine’s focus on herself, there was a chance she might yet regain composure.

     “Has Mr. Collins inherited an estate?”

     “Yes, he has.” Mary dropped her voice to nearly a whisper.

     “I want to talk to him. Where is he?”

     “He is away on a long journey. You may write to him.”

     “I do not wish to write. I would see him immediately. Is he visiting that damned estate?”

     “No, madam, he is not.”

     “Good. Good.” Lady Catherine relaxed a little and allowed Mary to help her sit. “Then you will write to him. Tell him he is not to do so. I will not have him leaving his post here. I appointed him to the Hunsford Parish, and here he shall stay. He has no business going elsewhere.”

     “I will write to him as you ask, your ladyship.”

     “See that it is done today. You are a lazy girl. I do not want you dawdling!”

     “As you say, madam.” Mary exhaled a long, slow breath.

     “And you,” Lady Catherine whirled on Charlotte. “You will satisfy me at once. Are you increasing?”

     “No, your ladyship.” Charlotte shook her head, ghostly pale.

     “Good, good. I did not give you leave to do so. Children are inconvenient, bothersome little creatures. Collins has no need for an heir. What has he to pass on? A vicar has nothing of his own. And his income is small. Best not waste it on the raising of children.”

     Sir William and Lady Lucas turned to one another with wide eyes.

     “You look tired, your ladyship. Do you wish to rest before dinner?”

     Lady Catherine planted her elbow on the table, hard. “I do not wish to rest, I demand satisfaction! I heard something said about you going somewhere, Miss Bennet? I will not have it, not at all. I have not authorized that, and it will not be. Nor you, Mrs. Collins. Your place is in the parsonage. A house is never well-maintained without a woman present.”

     “Of course, your ladyship,” Charlotte stammered.

     “Good … good.” Lady Catherine leaned back in her seat, breathing heavily. 

     “Perhaps you should rest, madam. You wish to be at your best for your guests, do you not?” Mary reached for her. 

     “I am very weary.”

     “Let me help you to your room.” Mary tucked her hand under Lady Catherine’s arm and helped her up. 

     Lady Catherine insisted on a tour of the gardens and the stillroom before they finally made it to her chambers. Mary barely got Lady Catherine into her bed before she fell asleep.

     Thank heavens for small mercies.


Book Blurb: 

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring. 

 Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation. 

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne. 

 Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she's engaged to another man. Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

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About the Author

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing. 

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.


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Many thanks to Maria Grace for visiting with us today, and congratulations on the publication of A Less Agreeable Man

What a fascinating post! Thank you for enlightening us in the confinement process and churching. I knew a little about confinement, but had no idea about churching!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Did you know about churching? And, oh my, Lady Catherine has definitely lost her mind!
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