Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: The Secret Betrothal by Jan Hahn

Today The Calico Critic joins the Blog Tour of the new Austenesque diversion, The Secret Betrothal by Jan Hahn. I hope the excerpt below will whet your appetite, and that you'll enter the giveaway below, sponsored by Leatherbound Reviews. Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour, featuring other excerpts, giveaways and more!  The tour schedule is listed below. Thanks for stopping by!

From the author:

I’m so pleased to be a guest at The Calico Critic today and share an excerpt from Chapter Fourteen of my latest book, The Secret Betrothal.  It takes place in Brighton some months after Elizabeth refused Darcy’s first proposal at Hunsford Parsonage.

The sea was rough that day, its roar deafening, but Darcy welcomed it, for it drowned out the voices in his head, the voices that repeated what a fool he had been for falling in love with a woman who did not want him, and what a fool he continued to be for seeking her out once again.  He resolved to use that walk to collect his thoughts and prepare himself for her presence.  Darcy would refuse to allow his emotions to rule his actions.  He would make enquiry of her sister’s true feelings for Bingley, and then he would know how to act.  If he had wronged the couple, then he would make it right.  Once that was done, he need have nothing more to do with the Bennet family.  He need never see Elizabeth again. 

There, he had performed it in his mind.  It was a good plan, one that he would accomplish, one that he would carry through without diversion.

As Darcy congratulated himself on this sensible resolve, he leaned against the huge black rock jutting out into the ocean.  He remembered that, as a boy, he and Fitzwilliam had often climbed on its points.  What sport it had been!  He smiled in remembrance as he looked up—and to his utter amazement, he saw Elizabeth climbing down from that very rock!

“Mr. Darcy!” she cried when she recognized him, her eyes wide.

“Miss Bennet!” was all that he could utter.

“I—that is—I thought you were in London, sir.  I had no idea—”

“I just arrived an hour ago.  You are . . . all wet.”

She glanced down at her damp clothing and her hand flew up to smooth her soaked ringlets.

“Yes, an . . . an unexpected wave,” she stammered.  “I hoped to return to Waverley without being discovered in such disarray.”

Darcy’s eyes took in how the damp gown clung to Elizabeth’s body, outlining her curves, the pale peach colour now appearing almost the colour of her skin when wet.  When his eyes returned to her face, he could see how mortified she was, and he made a powerful attempt to avert his gaze. 

He raised his arms to assist her, but as he did so, Elizabeth’s foot slipped on the moist rock, and she started to fall.  Instinctively, Darcy’s hands encircled her waist, and he caught her in his arms, causing her face to be thrust next to his, her scent provoking him, and his senses catching fire with the intimacy of their embrace. 

When her feet touched the sand, Darcy held onto her, his eyes upon hers, neither breaking the gaze.  Then his eyes travelled to her lips, and he was helpless to resist the fascination.  Slowly, so very, very slowly, he leaned down toward her mouth.

Elizabeth had evidently caught her breath when she first began to fall, but now her breath came forth in a gasp, her bosom moving against his chest, her body trembling within his embrace, and with sudden realization of how vulnerable she was, Darcy forced his eyes from her lips and released her.

“Here, take my jacket,” he said quickly, shaking off his coat and placing it around her shoulders.

“Thank you,” she murmured, obviously shaken.  “If you will give me a moment, sir, I must find my shoes.”

Darcy smiled slightly.  “So you have misplaced them once again?”

Elizabeth turned away from him and closed her eyes. He wondered if she recalled how she had lost them in the library at Rosings. 

“I know where they are as I tucked them safely inside this cleft at the base of the rock,” she said. She disappeared around the side, but upon returning, she remained barefoot.  She pursed her lips. 

He struggled to keep a straight face. “Is there some difficulty, Miss Bennet?”

“It seems that the sea has claimed my shoes.”  With a slight curtsy, Elizabeth turned away and swiftly began walking toward Waverley.

Darcy could not refrain from smiling at the lovely girl’s attempt at dignity when placed in such an awkward position.  She held her head up and gave every appearance that she was quite used to walking down the beach in a thoroughly wet gown, without shoes, and clad in a gentleman’s jacket that dwarfed her slender figure.  He started to call out to her but decided to let her go.  Perhaps she might even consider that the gentleman-like thing to do.

Connect with Jan Hahn and Meryton Press

Giveaway: The Secret Betrothal

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Jan Hahn is fascinated by Jane Austen, 19th Century England, and true love. Having spent years in the world of business, she is now content to leave it behind and concentrate on writing about Austen's characters finding true love in 19th Century England. A storyteller since childhood, she's written skits and plays for local organizations and owned a business recording, writing and publishing oral histories. Jan is a member of JASNA and began writing novels based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in 2002.

Jan's first novel, An Arranged Marriage, won the award for Best Indie book of 2011 from Austen Prose. The Journey, published in 2012, was selected by Austenprose as one of the Top Five Austen Inspired Historical Novels of 2012, and it won the Favorite Pride and Prejudice Variation/Alternate Path of 2012 award from Austenesque. Jan has five children, seven grandchildren, and is a native Texan. In her dream world, she lives in England in a place called Pemberley.

2011 Novel
2012 Novel

Blog Tour Dates:
April 7: Review at The Darcy Obsession
April 8: Excerpt at My Jane Austen Book Club
April 9: Review at Addicted to Jane Austen
April 10: Excerpt & Giveaway at Everything Books and Authors
April 11: Guest Post at More Agreeably Engaged
April 13: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
April 14: Review at Songs and Stories
April 15: Excerpt & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
April 16: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
April 17: Guest Post & Giveaway at Laughing with Lizzie
April 18: Review at Warmisunqu's Austen

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Steampunk Darcy by Monica Fairview

William Darcy is obsessed with his ancestors. So much so that he intends to rebuild Pemberley (destroyed during the Uprising) stone by stone, and he wants to employ reconstruction expert Seraphene Grant to help him.

Or does he? Seraphene wasn’t born yesterday. She can smell a rat, particularly when it stinks all the way up to her airship. She knows Darcy is hiding something. But with the Authorities after her and her other options dwindling by the moment, the temptation of genuine English tea and a gorgeous Steampunk gentleman are very difficult to resist.

But what if Darcy’s mystery job courts nothing but trouble? What if Darcy is harboring a secret to kill for? When kiss comes to shove, will Darcy’s secret destroy Seraphene, or will it be her salvation?

Join us on a romantic adventure like no other in this whimsical Pride and Prejudice-inspired tribute, featuring Wickham, Georgiana, dirigibles, funky fish, and swash-buckling pirates.

Steampunk Darcy is my first foray into the unusual world of steampunk storytelling. This culture of science fiction, blended with some not-too-distant historical eras has risen in popularity in the last few decades. For those who aren't familiar with this conceptualization, imagine a blend of Victorian England, America's Wild West and a touch of modernized Jules Verne. It is at times whimsical, yet in other aspects there is a dark edginess to it. This amalgam of ideas has piqued my interest in the last few years, and I’ve been interested in sampling a bit of it within the pages of a novel.  The closest I’ve come is having Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan sitting on my shelf, untouched. I do intend to get to it one day, but an Austenesque novel within this particular paradigm was too tempting to pass up.  The minute I heard that Monica Fairview was working on this title, not only was I delighted, but I was surprised that no one had thought of it sooner!  The original characters are already set in the 19th century, the same period for much of steampunk lore.  It was just a matter of pointing Austen’s creation in that direction.  Purists may find this to be a wild notion, but I was willing to take the literary leap into this fantastical vision.

Because I’m new to the world of steampunk, I’m not thoroughly acquainted with the ground rules for what will or will not be a part of it. Monica could have easily thrown in random external elements and I would have been none the wiser.  As a reader, my highest interest was not in remaining incredibly true to Austen (just the concept is a wild diversion), nor was it focused on how this frameowork would fit into steampunk fans’ definition of the genre. Those notions are important, but the ultimate priority was to have an enjoyable story. The fantastic elements make this genre intriguing, but without a quality narrative to support them, my interest would fade quickly.

I’m pleased to report that Monica Fairview has succeeded on all fronts with Steampunk Darcy. I loved the amazing environment she created in her vision of Jane Austen’s England, adjusted with a post-rebellion, modern-yet-steampunky tone.  Main character William Darcy is a descendent of Austen’s Darcys, and there are other elements that tie the story back to the original material. In Steampunk Darcy, Jane Austen is a “biographer” of the Darcy family, with the text of Pride and Prejudice being a non-fiction account, rather than a classic novel. Other characters, such as the lead-female Seraphene seem to be completely new inclusions. She is a welcome addition, as the repartee between the high-spirited Seraphene and pretentious Darcy is quite entertaining.  There is a romantic element of course (conservative readers might find it a bit steamy), but their story also involves their relationship as employer and employee.  Through Darcy’s obsession with his family history, he hires Seraphene to help him with his work on a top-secret project.  The following quote exhibits much of what I refer to—the ties to Austen, mixed in with the steampunk elements:

“Give me a chance to explain. As you know, Pemberley was my ancestral home before it was destroyed, first during the Blitz, then by the slime rain before the Uprising. What I require-- in a nutshell-- is a detailed record of Pemberley as it was at its height, during the Regency period. I want to know everything about it, from the paintings on the wall to what the servants ate for breakfast. I would also like a detailed rendition of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife Lizzy at the beginning of their marriage. I want to know their manners, their personal peculiarities, their interactions with each other, their food preferences, their taste in music-- just about everything there is to know.”

This leads to high adventure, as well as opportunities for Seraphene to deal with important issues within her family’s past, especially the struggles her kin have endured since the culture-altering Uprising years ago. Adversaries include the culture around them, a very interesting character based on George Wickham and more.  Surprises, romance, humor and drama abound in a way never before seen through a filtered derivation of Austen’s imagination.  I highly enjoyed my first experience with the steampunk genre, and Monica Fairview has crafted an interesting and compelling story which can stand on its own, regardless of classification.  Steampunk Darcy is a rousing, amazing adventure, one that breaks new ground in Austenesque fiction and does not fail to entertain.

More Jane!

Connect with Author Monica Fairview

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review: The Big Picture Interactive Bible

In the summer of 1980, the same season in which I became a Christ-follower, the church I was attending presented me with my very own Bible, the Good News Bible for Children by the American Bible Society.  This Bible came to church with me at Cross of Life Lutheran, and I used it from age nine until I was a teenager.  The translation was easy enough for me to understand, and I enjoyed the illustrations.  Many pages simply had the scripture text, but every once in a while I would be treated to some simplistic line drawings that would flesh out the concepts on the page.  And on a few special occasions, there would even be a full-color print to look at as well.

My Bible from 1980
Examples of Occasional Illustrations

Fast forward to 2014 and I’ve found the modern, much augmented version of what I had as a girl.  Holman Bible Publishers, in association with B&H Kids has produced the Big Picture Interactive Bible. Like the Good News edition I had as a child, the Holman Christian Standard Bible version is a good translation for young readers, printed in its entirety within this particular volume.  The recommended age range for the Big Picture Interactive Bible is grades 1-4, or age 6-10. The things that set this Bible apart from my childhood text are many.

To begin with, the Big Picture Interactive Bible is just chock full of illustrations.  They are plentiful throughout, sometimes taking up just a portion of the page, and in 146 other instances, taking up an entire page.  Some are classic-looking prints as presented in my vintage Bible, but most are fun, childlike images as you would see in an animated movie or comic book.  They are very pleasant to the eye and definitely pull your interest in. 

Other features include:
  • Kid friendly introductions for every book in the Bible, covering who wrote each book, when it was written, the main theme, and how each book fits into the big picture of God’s word.
  • The Big Words Feature: Taking up a small portion of some pages, this feature profiles a particular term as you would find in a Bible dictionary, along with color illustrations, photos and/or maps.
  • Big Questions/Big Answers: These short Q&A moments are like mini trivia questions, encouraging kids to be attentive to content, and clarifying some issues as well.
  • Christ Connection: Jesus’ story does not begin in the Gospel of Matthew.  He is there from the very beginning.  The Christ Connection moments help to connect the whole of scripture to Jesus and His work in our lives.
  • Verse to Remember: Many kids memorize commonly-known verses like John 3:16, but sometimes they don’t know where to go from there. These purple-arrowed highlight moments give readers 100 recommendations for verses to commit to memory.
  • Seeing the Big Picture: To quote the writers, “In this feature we dig into key Bible stories to help young hearts and minds grasp the meaning and provide parents with that little extra to discuss the Bible with their kids.”
  • HCSB Bullet Notes: Listed in the back of the book, these notes explain commonly used biblical words or terms.  It’s like a mini-dictionary.
  • Index to many Bible stories
  • Topical concordance for kids
  • Full-color biblical maps

Probably the most innovative feature of the Big Picture Interactive Bible is the option to bring the 146 full-page illustrations into multiple dimensions. By downloading the free BHKidsAR app to your smart phone or tablet, you can scan the page for some amazing results.  From a visual viewpoint, the main focus of the illustration will seem to leap off the page while viewing it onscreen.  It literally looks like the Bible has become a pop-up book through the lens of technology.  I’ve seen this technique used before on another app, and it’s quite extraordinary.  Think of it as your iPhone becoming like the 3D lenses you would wear at the movies.  The drawing just pops out!  In addition to this Augmented Reality (AR), audible narrative content is read by Jenna Lucado, giving insight into the image that has emerged. When I used this app with my eight year-old son, both of us were riveted in that moment.  What a great way to give a short Bible lesson to kids!

3D Illustration:  Screen Capture from My iPhone

All of these features are fun and educational, but the bottom line is this: Do they draw kids into scripture?  Do the “bells and whistles” point them to Christ?  Thinking back to that little nine year-old girl I was in 1980, I think this would have been a blessing to me as I began my walk with Christ.  Ultimately it’s the Holy Spirit who will truly educate our children in understanding God’s word and applying it to our lives. However, the tools that have been inserted into these scriptures seem to be a great addition.  Must we have these things in all of our Bibles?  No, of course not. However, they make a great supplement, much like biblical commentary books and seminary lectures are for those who are becoming well-versed in the scriptures as adults.  B&H Kids has done quality work here, and I look forward to enjoying the fun and enlightening extras of the Big Picture Interactive Bible along with my son for years to come.

Connect with B&H Kids

Story Book

A copy of this title was provided for review purposes only. No other compensation was given.

About Big Picture Interactive

The Big Picture Interactive suite of products work as companions to LifeWay's The Gospel Project for Kids, a Christ-centered Bible study resource currently used in 6,000 churches, which follows a chronological timeline of Bible events-presenting the story of redemption through Jesus like kids have never seen it before.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.

But she's content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother's hand-painted book of fairytales.

Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation's future---and his own.

Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she's destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together---with a little divine intervention---Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.

*          *          *

Almost a year ago author Rachel Hauck brought us the lovely Once Upon a Prince, the beginning of her Royal Wedding series.  I enjoyed this modern fairy tale, which was predominantly situated in South Georgia, where I now reside.  It was romantic and sweet as well as thought provoking and inspiring. This set of stories now continues with Princess Ever After, now available from Zondervan press.

Although second in the series, Princess Ever After is not a sequel to the first tale. Hauck introduces us to a new set of royalty, characters with their own separate histories from those in Once Upon a Prince. And while Hauck retains a similar romantic and chaste tone throughout the novel, the new main characters of Regina Beswick and Tanner Burkhardt have their own struggles, temptations and lifelong issues that they are wrestling with. The setting is once again in the south (Tallahassee, Florida to be exact), but the story felt less grounded in the location as it was in Prince.

A main premise of the story centers around the notion that the antique car-loving, independent-minded Regina is found to be the heir of a small island duchy in the North Sea called Hessenberg. She’s given the opportunity to take her place as royalty, thereby possibly saving the culture of this land, due to legal reasons in an entail.  At first it was challenging for me to understand the legal justifications of this premise, but this mirrored Regina’s initial confusion as well.  I appreciated the time that Hauck took to bring Regina (and this reader) into clear understanding (and belief) of the presented situation.  Miss Beswick is faced with believing the outlandish story of a stranger, Hessenberg’s Minister of Culture.  Had I been in her position, I would have doubted his claims of my royalty as well.  Regina doesn’t just buy his story outright, hook, line and sinker.  Through legal documents and corresponding true facts from her past, she comes to believe that she indeed is the long-lost princess.

Like Once Upon a Prince, Rachel Hauck builds a realistic, sweet and delectable relationship between the main characters in Princess Ever After.  They also must overcome the contrary motivations of those whose lust for power would obliterate the Hessenberg throne in order to achieve their own purposes.  For the most part, we can see where the plot is headed, but the journey is so pleasant, it’s more about enjoying the ride than being amazed by unbelievable plot twists. 

There are also spiritual lessons interwoven throughout the narrative. Like many of us, Regina wrestles with God’s will for her life.  She has her own personal desires, both in choosing where she will live out her days and regarding the handsome young man who has come into her life.  Tanner has some pretty challenging issues from his past, and he struggles with some of the same feelings that many of us deal with as we look back on poor choices we made in our youth. Once again, the Christian values are evident without being heavy-handed. However, the novel is not filled with copious sermonizing.  It’s simply a charming story, one that any lover of light romantic tales involving royalty would savor.  I’m pleased to say that Princess Ever After is a delightful edition to the Royal Wedding series, and I look forward to more regal tales from author Rachel Hauck.


Rachel Hauck is celebrating the release of her latest "swoon"-worthy romance,  Princess Ever After, with a fun $200 "Princess" prize package giveaway and a Facebook "Princess" party on March 6th. Grab your tiaras and RSVP today!

One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card (buy your very own "princess ever after" gown or tanks of gas for your "royal" ride)
  • Princess Ever After, Once Upon a Prince, and The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 6th. Winner will be announced at Rachel's "Princess" Facebook Party on March 6th. Connect with Rachel for an evening of "royal" book chat, princess-themed trivia, laughter, prizes, and an exclusive look at the next book in the Royal Wedding series!

So grab your copy of Princess Ever After and join Rachel and friends on the evening of March 6th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 6th!



Meet the author:
Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as RITA nominated The Wedding Dress and RITA nominated Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series, the Nashvegas series and the Songbird Novels penned with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full time in 2004. Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Connect with Rachel:






Check out the other stops on the Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour for Princess Ever After:

Kindle Edition
Once Upon a Prince
A copy of this title was provided for review purposes only. No other compensation was given.

Book Review: The A-Z of C.S. Lewis by Colin Duriez

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of author C.S. Lewis’ death in 1963, bringing about a new crop of titles related to this prolific writer.  Many are familiar with Lewis’ work in The Chronicles of Narnia, as were portrayed most recently in films produced by Walden Media. While the general public’s awareness of these films has increased the visibility of this beloved novelist, his work went far beyond a magical wardrobe and a Christ-like lion.  True, Lewis was known for fiction titles such as the Chronicles, his space trilogy and The Screwtape Letters, but the vast majority of his work was in nonfiction.  As a noted Christian apologist, he produced numerous titles that explained and defended many aspects of his faith. Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain and his literary criticisms are highly regarded in Christian and academic circles alike.

Author Colin Duriez, a scholar who is well versed in all things C.S. Lewis, has compiled a volume which he has titled The A-Z of C.S. Lewis.  Within this 350-page assemblage are dictionary-like entries of facts, names, literary titles and just about everything related to Clive Staples Lewis. From “Abhalljin” (a fictional island) to “Zardeenah” (a moon goddess), Duriez defines and explains scores of topics, linking many of them with cross references.  Most of Lewis’ books are summarized or described, which is an effective way to educate the reader who is unfamiliar with particular titles.  Biographical entries are also included, giving us background on who he was and the life he led.

While The A-Z of C.S. Lewis appears to be a standard reference book, I found it to be oddly addicting as I perused its pages.  A great number of the listings have the aforementioned cross references, and as I would enjoy one entry, the cross reference would lead me to examine a related one.  That next listing would be linked to yet another item, leading me on again into Lewis’ world.  Many readers of this title may not choose to read it straight through from the first page to the last, but over time it would be fairly easy to cover the majority of the content through the cross references alone.

In 1998 I made my first online transaction with Amazon.com.  By book of choice was The Quotable Lewis by Martindale and Root. I loved reading each entry, getting nibbles and snacks of Lewis along the way.  It remains one of my favorite Lewis-related titles to this day.  Duriez’s dictionary is much in the same vein.  It can be used as a research tool for one who is looking for information on specific topics in Lewis’ life, but reading it for pure pleasure is also a likely choice.  The A-Z of C.S. Lewis is excellent for the novice and will be a delight for seasoned Lewis fans. Duriez’s work is not only a labor of love, but a resource for the world as well.

About the Author
Colin Duriez is a writer, editor and frequent lecturer on the lives of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings, having spoken at a variety of conferences in the USA, Canada, Spain, Italy, Poland, Finland and the UK.

His books include The A–Z of C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis: A Biography of Friendship, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Story of Their Friendship, Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, A Field Guide to Narnia, The C.S. Lewis Chronicles, The Inklings Handbook (with the late David Porter), A Field Guide to Harry Potter and AD33: The Year that Changed the World. He has also contributed to The Tolkien Encyclopedia and a number of other tomes.

Duriez has appeared as a commentator on extended version DVDs of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Walden Media’s feature, Dreamer of Narnia with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, BBC television’s The Worlds of Fantasy, PBS’s The Question of God, a documentary about Focus on the Family Radio Theater’s audio dramatization of The Screwtape Letters, among others. The author makes his home in the Lake District of northwest England.

For more information about Colin Duriez and his writing, visit www.colinduriez.macmate.me or follow him on Facebook (Colin Duriez, writer) and Twitter (@colinduriez).

Check out the other stops on the Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour for The A-Z of C.S. Lewis:

Kindle Edition
Quotable Lewis
A copy of this title was provided for review purposes only. No other compensation was given.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mr. Darcy's Promise Blog Hop and Giveaway

Introducing: Mr. Darcy's Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth  

Jane Austen’s classic Regency story comes alive again in a tale of pride, prejudice, and a promise. Georgiana Darcy makes her way to Netherfield Park to meet the woman her brother so admires. While at first Georgiana’s presence smooths the course of true love between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, the ghosts of her past appear to wreak havoc on all of them. Unhappily, Elizabeth finds herself placed in the care of the Darcy family at Pemberley. Assuming he knows the cause of Elizabeth’s distress, Mr. Darcy makes a promise on his gentleman’s honor. The promise, although made with good intentions, becomes nearly impossible to keep for Mr. Darcy, and somewhat vexing for Elizabeth. Some promises are made to be broken but will the ever-trustworthy gentleman let go enough to secure Elizabeth’s heart? 


For all my fellow fans of Austenesque fiction, I'd like to alert you to an author whom I just discovered: Jeanna Ellsworth.  For a limited time, her novel Mr. Darcy's Promise is on sale for an affordable 99¢ in ebook format on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.  Want to sample Chapter 1 right now, as well as enter to win a paperback copy (U.S. only) or the ebook edition (International)? Stop by each segment of the Mr. Darcy's Promise blog hop for Chapter 1 excerpts and chances to win!  The Calico Critic is hosting Section #5 of 7, so if you want to start from the top, visit Addicted to Jane Austen to begin.


Mr. Darcy's Promise - Chapter 1 - Blog Hop Section 5

“Miss Darcy and Miss Bingley,” Mrs. Hill announced. Elizabeth and Jane stood and welcomed their guests into the sitting room.

Jane coughed delicately into her handkerchief. “Welcome Miss Darcy, Miss Bingley.” Jane said.

Georgiana took her seat, “Please call me Georgiana, after spending three days with the two of you I feel like we are almost sisters! I would not know though, as I have no sisters, only one brother.” Georgiana was nervous and knew she was not being the most refined guest. She was perhaps even being a little awkward.

Elizabeth smiled at her, “Well Georgiana, then you shall call me Elizabeth. And although having sisters can be wonderful, quarrels over whose bonnet looks best on whom can get tiring and I cannot always recommend it!”

Georgiana felt herself relax and laughed. “Someday I hope to have a sister, and until then I shall tell you every day how lucky you are to have them. I imagine sisters are closer than friends.”

Tea was brought in and they all discussed the weather and Elizabeth asked Georgiana if she had mastered the section she had been struggling with on the concerto she was practicing. Miss Bingley commented with faux concern on how Jane’s cough had not improved. It was during this lull in conversation that giggles and laughter could be heard from the front door.

“I am sorry, that will be my two youngest sisters. They walked to Meryton this morning.” Elizabeth knew this would be the first of many apologies she would make to Georgiana regarding her family; she seemed to be doing that a great deal with the Darcys of late. They all turned their heads as the door opened. Lydia came walking in holding tightly to the arm of a tall, lean, and handsome officer while Kitty did the same with a shorter but still-handsome officer. Giggles and squeals of laughter echoed throughout the house. Georgiana, most peculiarly, started making a ridiculous amount of noise with her tea cup.

When Elizabeth looked towards her, she was surprised to see Georgiana pale as a ghost; the tea cup rattling against the saucer in her shaking hands. Georgiana placed the distracting tea cup down and Elizabeth turned her attention back to her sisters and the officers, but she continued to wonder whatever could be the matter with Georgiana.

Lydia saw that they were not alone and put her hand up to her mouth to stifle the latest giggle. “Oh! These must be the callers you were going to have this morning! This fine officer is Mr. Wickham, and Kitty there is on the arm of Mr. Denny. Are they not so handsome in their red coats? They offered to walk us home!”

“Of course,” Elizabeth said, still concerned about Georgiana, “Allow me to introduce you to Miss Darcy of Pemberley, and Miss Bingley of Netherfield Park—”

With a bow and a tip of the hat Wickham interrupted, smiling, “I believe I am quite acquainted with Miss Darcy. We are long family friends, are we not? And how are you, Miss Georgiana? You look mighty fine this morning!”

Georgiana stood and said, “Elizabeth, Miss Bennet, it was a pleasure to see you both again. It appears that it is now time to take our leave. Good day, Mr. Wickham.” Georgiana could not move quickly enough out the door but she made it before her tears came. She didn’t even realize she left her gloves and pelisse at the door. All she cared about was getting away from Wickham. Why was he here in Meryton? And how could he speak to her as if nothing had happened between them? All her memories of his charm and deceit flooded over her and she broke down in sobs. She climbed into the carriage and hoped that Miss Bingley would soon follow.

An astonished Miss Bingley collected their things and entered the carriage. Although glad to be gone so quickly, she soon came across a tearful and sobbing Georgiana who became quite inconsolable on the way back to Netherfield. By the time of their arrival, Georgiana was in near hysterics. Miss Bingley had no idea what to make of her behavior and so decided to get Mr. Darcy. She exited the carriage alone.

 Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley were just dismounting their horses when they noticed Miss Bingley step out of the carriage. They were back so soon? Odd, Darcy thought, where was Georgiana? Then Mr. Darcy heard the sobs. Georgiana! He ran all the way to the carriage and climbed in with one fluid movement. Her face was wet and pink, her eyes swollen and red. “Whatever is the matter, Georgie? Did something happen at the Bennet’s?” He knew he should not have let her go; those Bennets were insufferable! Well, his mind amended, all but the two eldest daughters.

The thought was stricken by his next realization. He had only seen her like this one other time— Ramsgate! “Please tell me, dear Georgie; it pains me to see you like this again.” Suddenly she was in worse hysterics and mumbling something incoherently. She stumbled out of the carriage in such a hurry that her pelisse caught on the handle and was pulled from her shoulders. She stripped her arms free of the confining garment and ran inside blindly.

Mr. Darcy exited the carriage and turned infuriated, to Miss Bingley. “What happened?” His voice was low and full of suppressed fury. “I have not seen her like this since . . . well, for several months. And that . . .” pointing after Georgiana, “is not how she left here this morning!”

Feeling the full baritone wrath of Mr. Darcy upon her, Miss Bingley was quick to come to her own defense. “Mr. Darcy, I can have no idea. We were having tea when the younger Bennets came in with some officers who had escorted them home. No sooner had Georgiana been introduced that she exited the room! I confess she was very nearly rude! I am sure I do not know what to think!”

“Do you mean to tell me that she is like that because of Miss Bennet’s sisters? How dare they! Bring me back my horse! I will get to the bottom of this.”

Mr. Bingley had never seen his friend quite so irate. He reached for Darcy’s arm and tried to calm him. He reminded Darcy that Georgiana needed him now and it was not right to head to Longbourn so angry. “You do not even know what happened. You could say things that could leave lasting damage . . .”

Mr. Darcy looked angrily at Bingley and said, “I do not care about you and Miss Bennet right now, Bingley. Can you not see their family is beneath you? Look what they have done to Georgiana in the space of half an hour!” Bingley continued to calm him and remind him of the necessity of caring for Georgiana. Slowly, ever so slowly, Darcy conceded. He then ran the few steps into the house to check on Georgiana.

Darcy didn’t linger to see the smile on Miss Bingley’s face or hear her say, “Thank goodness we will never have to call on them again!”

Mr. Bingley shot a quick look at his sister. “Caroline!” he said sharply, who returned his gaze with a puzzled look.

She had never seen her brother look so stern, and certainly not with the flash of anger that she now saw. Was his attachment to Miss Bennet more than she had realized? “What? What did I say?”


The story continues... hop on over to the next stop in the tour, My Jane Austen Book Club!

For the full blog hop information, scheduling and more from Jeanna, visit her website:

If Mr. Darcy's Promise has been enjoyable for you so far, check out Jeanna's next novel, Pride and Persistence, to be published this spring!  Here's a descriptive preview:

Undaunted by a threatening storm, Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley insists he must deliver his letter to Miss Elizabeth Bennet–– then tragedy strikes. Riddled with guilt, Elizabeth comes to the aid of the comatose Mr. Darcy and stays by his side until he regains consciousness. She soon learns that although Mr. Darcy has awoken, he has not returned to himself. And with no memory of his first disastrous proposal, he has concluded that there is nothing he wants more than to propose to Miss Elizabeth.

This humorous journey of love leaves one asking, does persistence pacify prejudice? Can Elizabeth see the real gentleman behind the injury, a man who persists in professing his love to her every chance he gets? In this Regency variation of Jane Austen’s beloved
Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both learn the value of persistence. 

The complete Chapter 1 of Pride and Presistence is available here.

Jeanna has also given her readers another chance to win! Here are the details:

Enter to win signed paperback copies of Mr. Darcy's Promise
and the upcoming Pride & Persistence!

Here's how to enter: Purchase an ebook copy of Mr. Darcy's Promise. Send proof that you purchased the e-book of Mr. Darcy’s Promise for 99¢ from Amazon or Amazon UK during February 8-14, 2014. 

Here's how you offer proof of purchase: Forward your confirmation email or a screen shot or a photo of a receipt, or you can even copy/paste the confirmation email in the body of an email and send it to jeanna.ellsworth@yahoo.com. You will be entered to win signed paperback copies of Mr. Darcy's Promise and the upcoming Pride & Persistence.

You have until February 18 to send in the proof of purchase.

So that's lots of chances to win!  To recap, here are the options:

1. Enter to win a paperback copy (U.S. only) or the ebook edition (International) here on The Calico Critic by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.

2. Visit the other 6 stops in the Blog Hop and enter to win the same giveaway on those sites as well.

3. Enter to win signed paperback copies of Mr. Darcy's Promise and the upcoming Pride & Persistence by sending in proof of purchase using the instructions above.

About the Author

Jeanna is a mother of three daughters, all of whom are well versed in all things Pride and Prejudice. She most definitely would say they are her best friends. She shares her best and worst days with them and they share theirs with her. She also proudly states she is the eighth of thirteen children. When she isn’t scrapbooking, quilting, or cooking, she is thoroughly ignoring her house for a few hours at a time in order to read yet another fan fiction novel. Somewhere between being a mom, a sister, a cook, and a best friend, she squeezes in three 12 hour shifts a week as a Registered Nurse in a Neurological ICU. She raises chickens, helps her daughter run a rabbitry, and gardens as much as she can. In all her still-under-forty years, she has never claimed to be as happy as she is now. Out of this mindset came a surge of creativity that simply had to be written down. Since she finished her first book, Mr. Darcy's Promise, she has stated several times that she has gained something no one can take away from her; hope for her own Mr. Darcy. More than anything, she hopes to prepare her three best friends to look for their own Mr. Darcy and to settle for nothing less.

Calico Critic Contest Guidelines
  • The contest period ends at 12:00am EST on Wednesday, February 19, 2014.
  • Contest is open internationally for ebook, but only open to U.S. entrants for paperback.
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Wednesday the 19th. Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form. If you leave an optional blog post comment, in order for it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate that you commented through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the Rafflecopter form.
  • The award distribution will be administered by Jeanna Ellsworth, author.
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck all our contest entrants!

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Kindle Edition
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Workout Review, Part 2: The Zip Trainer by the FIRM - Cycle 1

Today’s post continues my evaluation of the all-new Zip Trainer from The FIRM.  In the first post last week, the Zip Trainer system was generally introduced, and I offered my thoughts on the Jump Start workout.  That routine is a great lead-in to the following workouts:

CYCLE 1: Rev!
The main workout program begins with Cycle 1, the first phase for newcomers to the Zip Trainer system.  Included in the Trainer’s kit of materials is a Fitness Guide with some very helpful rotation calendars to guide you in choosing which workouts to perform.  In following the Cycle 1 calendar, you build a strong foundation and prepare for the next level. Here are the three workouts included in that phase:

Cardio I – Allie Del Rio, who looks fitter than I’ve seen her in years, leads a cardio workout that’s fun and has easy to follow moves, holding and stepping onto the Zip Trainer. The ZIP Trainer Core Ball is also featured to work in strength training that also boosts the cardio. Much like the Jump Start workout, this includes four short-burst training intervals of 30 seconds of high intensity work, followed by 30 seconds recovery period.  As is recommended, try this video first without the ZIP Trainer and Core Ball to learn the moves. You’re given three levels from which to choose as you progress in your fitness.  Emily Welsh performs the beginning level, Allie leads in the middle with moderately difficult moves, and the super-fit Kelsie Daniels performs the tough advanced work.
Cardio I features choreography seen in other FIRM videos, like squat/plyos, mambo/cha-chas and grapevines.  The addition of the ZIP Trainer and the Core Ball brings an added dimension to the workout that made it not only challenging, but fun.  This video really pushed my abilities, and I was pleasantly surprised to wake up the next morning with a bit of delayed onset muscle soreness.  We really worked it!

Sculpt I - This workout incorporates Peripheral Hard Action Training, which focuses on keeping your blood pumping while also training your muscles.  Stephanie Huckabee leads this routine with her excellent cueing and positive, but not too perky attitude.  Stephanie has not participated in a FIRM workout in a few years, and I’m thrilled to see her back in the cast.  As a 40 year-old mom of two, she looks amazing.

Because this workout focuses on sculpting the muscles, lots of strength training is included. Of course the ZIP Trainer and Core Ball are used, but medium and heavy hand weights are a part of the routine as well.  It’s up to the individual exerciser to decide what “medium” and “heavy” is for them.  In my case, I used 7 and 10 pounds.  Beginners could start with 3 and 6 pounds, or whatever is comfortable for you.

Like the Cardio I workout with Allie Del Rio, Stephanie also utilizes the concept of Short Burst Training. Interspersed within the strength training are short 30-second segments of quick movement and heart-pumping work.  As they say in these workouts, “You can do anything for 30 seconds!”  I would agree.  You may not get in as many repetitions as those on the screen, but doing your best and pushing your body for that half minute can really bring on results.  The next time you do the DVD, try to get in one or two more reps than you did the last time.

The first time I did this workout while using the ZIP Trainer, I had to pause the DVD a few times to get my body situated on or around the ball.  The positions aren’t difficult, but if you’re not too familiar with them, it’ll take a couple of tries to get yourself straight.  As with all of these workouts, it’s important to view the DVDs ahead of time and start out with no equipment as you are observing the new routines.

Sculpt I is not as intense as some of the other workouts, but it can be just as effective when the correct weights are chosen.  Stephanie does a great job in leading, and the choreography is fun, while challenging as well.

AMP Reps 1 - AMP Reps stands for As Many Possible Reps.  The workout consists mainly of eight, 60-second exercises, followed by about 30 seconds of recovery.  Master Instructor Emily Welsh first gets us warmed up for a few minutes, then leads us through the eight cycles, and then follows up with a cool down stretch. 

The eight AMP Reps require not only strength, but cardio stamina as well.  Emily uses the ZIP Trainer, both in open and closed position, the Core Ball, and sometimes both.  In all cases, she encourages you to go at your own pace, but to push yourself more than you did yesterday.  Allie Del Rio is featured as the modifier, giving less experienced exercisers options as they are first starting out.

I was surprised at how much this track challenged me.  I frequently followed Allie, and even sometimes had to go at a slower pace than she was going. But due to Emily’s encouragement, I never felt self conscious about my lack of speed.  I was pushing myself, and that was the most important thing. By the end of almost every 60-second period, I had done all the reps I could possibly do.  I kicked up a great sweat, and the 8 segments just flew by.  Using the ZIP Trainer makes the workout very interesting, as we’re using this tool to push our bodies in new ways. 

Cycle 1 Overall Impressions
The workouts offered in this first stage of the Firm Zip Trainer nicely done.  There is something for everyone, whether a beginner or a more advanced exerciser. While the videos are relatively short, much is accomplished in a short amount of time.  And as the user’s abilities increase, multiple routines could be done in one day, as the rotation calendars suggest. The Zip Trainer and Core ball are innovative, fun and effective tools.  The soft nature of the Trainer really challenges your Core, improving balance, back and abdominal strength.  The Core ball is also interesting—I found it easy to grasp and unlikely to be dropped during fast movement.  Allie, Stephanie and Emily are excellent instructors, providing positive, motivational attitudes and superb cueing.  Cycle 1 is a great start to the program, laying the groundwork for what is to come.  Stop in soon for my next review, which will cover Cycle 2!

For even more information about the Zip Trainer, view the 6-minute video below.
And be sure to visit the FIRM’s website, www.FirmDirect.com.



Zip Trainer kit provided for review purposes. No other compensation was given.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Workout Review, Part I: The Zip Trainer by the FIRM

Recently I was given the opportunity to try out the new Zip Trainer by The FIRM.  I’ve been using products from The FIRM since approximately 2003, when going to a gym wasn’t feasible, both for my schedule and for my wallet.  I discovered FIRM workouts in the local public library’s video department and gave a few a try.  Before long I was hooked!  I loved the FIRM’s signature style of pairing cardio with weights, and the videos were excellent productions.  I loved the convenience of working out in my own home as well. It was so convenient, and I had no excuse not to work out!

Needless to say, I was excited to check out their latest production, the Zip Trainer. It features several components, including the Zip Trainer, a soft ball which zips open for multiple uses.  The 5-pound ball is about 15" in diameter, which is smaller than most stability balls but larger than a basketball.  It also comes with a 3-pound Core Ball that can be stowed within the zipped up Trainer, to increase the total weight to 8 pounds.

You can manipulate the Trainer in many ways:
  1. Balance on it
  2. Lift it
  3. Step on it
  4. Toss it
  5. Kneel on it
  6. Roll it
  7. Lean on it
  8. Stretch on it

Check out this short video, so you can see what I mean:

When you purchase the Zip Trainer, not only does it come with a Core Ball, but you also receive 7 all-new workouts on three DVDs. The routines are led by the FIRM’s talented master instructors, Emily Welsh, Kelsie Daniels, Allie Del Rio, Stephanie Huckabee, Alison Davis McLain and Annie Lee Coffey.  The kit also includes a Fitness Guide to help you understand the entire system behind the Zip Trainer, as well as provide a framework for using all of the components.  And to complete your program, the FIRM provides a Nutrition Guide to show you how to properly fuel your body, which is working so hard with the videos. In this and other upcoming posts, I will review the workouts and discuss the Nutrition Guide as well.  Today the focus will be upon the first disc in the collection and the beginning of the workout plan, Cycle 1: Rev!


The Rev cycle begins with Jump Start. It’s a bit different than the other ZIP Trainer workouts in that no equipment is used, not even the Zip Trainer.  Emily Welsh leads the viewer in choreography that is full of standard moves found in many workout videos. It’s a great way to get started in the program, to get used to moving your body within your space. This doesn’t mean that this 15-minute workout is easy.  By no means!  I was very grateful for the number of modifications that Emily offered, as I really needed them from time to time. I was particularly impressed with how she presented the burpee.  Many instructors only give one modification for this challenging callisthenic, but Emily has several modifications that build upon each other in difficulty.  It’s a great way to begin pushing yourself toward the ability to a full burpee.

A signature part of the ZIP Training system is the incorporation of Short Burst Training.  For 30 seconds, Emily performs a quick burst of aerobic moves, very reminiscent of the interval training found in The FIRM’s excellent Firm Express series. She offers modifications so that the 30 seconds can be done by the less experienced, while the seasoned viewer can perform the standard moves, which can really push you to the limit. Emily always emphasizes the recovery time after the short bursts, taking mini stretches and breathers after each one.

At only 15 minutes, this would also make a great extended warm up for just about any cardio-only or strength-only workout, as well as the other videos in the FIRM Zip Trainer series.  This has a little bit of everything, and it gets all parts of the body limbered up and the blood flowing.

In my next post, I will profile the additional workouts in the Rev cycle: Cardio I, Sculpt I and AMP Reps I.  For even more information about the Zip Trainer, view the 6-minute video below. And be sure to visit the FIRM’s website, www.FirmDirect.com.



Zip Trainer kit provided for review purposes. No other compensation was given.


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