Sunday, March 15, 2020

Blog Tour Excerpt: Promised by Leah Garriott


Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.



These days most of my reading time is taken up with my grad studies, but I wanted to take a moment to spotlight a new Regency-set title from debut author Leah Garriott, Promised. We've been given an excerpt from the book, which I'll share below. I hope you enjoy! After the excerpt, check out the other stops on the Promised Blog Tour, which has been in progress since February 17th. There you will find more content about Promised, reviews, interviews and more!



Exclusive Excerpt of Promised, by Leah Garriott

     Only a few minutes would pass before my mother discovered my absence and sent someone to call for me. If I hurried, I could glimpse the man through the window in the parlor. Then I could be prepared. I would have the upper hand when we were introduced.
     I scrambled off the bench and raced up the stairs. Bending low to avoid being seen, I raced across the lawn and climbed onto the low wall surrounding the house. With my arms outstretched for balance, I shimmied toward the parlor windows, trying to avoid falling forward into the prickly bushes growing between the wall and the house. When I found a good spot, I adjusted my feet, inhaled deeply, and peered inside.
     My mother stood nearest, though she was angled away from the window as though watching the door for my arrival. My father stood a few steps from her, facing the other side of the room. They both looked uncomfortable, my mother furtively glancing to the door, my father unmoving with a small frown on his face. I leaned closer to the window, trying to see who else was in the room, but I couldn’t maneuver past the unruly yew bush growing next to the house and over the wall.
     The only other person visible was Daniel, standing by himself in the middle of the room. I waved my hand to catch his attention. When he noticed me, he frowned and shook his head. Why was he so serious? It wasn’t his future that was being destroyed. I made a face. He didn’t respond, though I imagined I heard him clear his throat to stifle a laugh. I gestured to the side of the room, wanting to know what the man was like. Daniel didn’t move. Undeterred, I hunched over, pressing one hand to the small of my back while holding a pretend cane in the other. I took a step along the wall and shook my pretend cane at him in imitation of his Russian from the day before.
     Suddenly a man appeared between us and looked directly at me. The intensity of his blue eyes threw me off balance. My arms flung out, flailing for anything to stop my fall, but there was nothing to grasp. My feet slipped and I fell backward onto the lawn. After struggling to regain my breath, I looked at the house. I had fallen too close to the wall to see the window, which meant no one could see me. I was safe.
     Except, I was not safe. I knew those icy blue eyes. They were Lord Williams’s eyes.
     It couldn’t be.
     I lifted myself onto my elbows and peeked over the wall.
     It was.
     Lord Williams was in my home, standing in my window, though he’d turned and now his back was to me. Even the way he carried himself, formal yet relaxed, testified to his belief that all should bow before him.
     Surely this couldn’t be the man my parents had spoken of. He must be here for some other reason. To disabuse me to my parents? To warn them of his cousin since I’d refused to pay heed to him before?
     If it was the latter, the joke was on him. My marriage plans had already taken a tumultuous detour.
     I would not stand for any more meddling from him, whatever his purpose. Especially not when I was already consumed with deciding how to eradicate a soon-to-be-arriving fiancĂ©. Ladylike or not, I would confront him and let him know exactly what I thought of him. And then I would throw him out.
     I stood and, without looking again at the window, walked calmly to the front door, straightening my skirt. Taking a deep breath, I pushed the door open and almost collided with Alice.
     “I was just coming to get you,” she said excitedly, her eyes sparkling. “The baron has arrived, Margaret. Isn’t it thrilling?”
     The baron? She said it as though he were the only baron in all of England. I bit back a remark and shook my head, instead grasping Alice’s hand and forcing myself toward the parlor. Just before I reached the open door I paused.
     “Do I look presentable?” I asked.
     “Yes, you look very pretty. Are you nervous?”
     “To face Lord Williams? I should think not.” I rolled my shoulders back, lifted my chin, and strode into the room.
     All eyes fixed on me as I entered. Keeping my head up, I quickly surveyed the small party. No one had moved from their positions of a moment before. The only difference was that there were now red splotches on Daniel’s cheeks as he struggled for composure, no doubt the effect of witnessing my fall.
     My mother bustled up to me wearing a mask of pleasantness, but her eyes were tight at the sides. I felt the smallest hint of sympathy for her. Lord Williams’s presence in our house, or anywhere in the county, for that matter, was enough to make anyone unhappy.
     “Margaret, let me introduce Lord Williams.” She placed a firm hand on my arm and directed me to the middle of the room.
     Lord Williams moved in front of me and bowed. It would have been a very gracious bow, except his eyes never left mine.

(Chapter Nine, pages 72-76)





PROMISED BLOG TOUR

Debut novelist Leah Garriott tours the blogosphere February 17 through March 15, 2020 to share her new historical romance, Promised. Forty popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance, inspirational fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, exclusive excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed Regency romance novel.







PROMISED: A PROPER ROMANCE TOUR SCHEDULE:


February 17 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 17 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review) 
February 18 Katie's Clean Book Collection (Review)
February 18 Wishful Endings (Interview)
February 19 RelzReviewz (Character Spotlight)
February 20 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Spotlight) 
February 21 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)
February 22 The Debutante Ball (Interview)
February 23 Adventure. Romance. Suspense (Review)
February 24 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 24 Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog)
February 24 Half Agony, Half Hope (Review)
February 25 Frolic Media (Excerpt)
February 26 Heidi Reads (Guest Blog)
February 26 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Interview)
February 27 Wishful Endings (Review)
February 28 Lu Reviews Books (Review)
February 29 KJ's Book Nook (Review)
March 01 My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)
March 02 Bringing Up Books (Review)
March 02 Christian Chick's Thoughts (Review)
March 02 For Where Your Treasure Is (Interview)
March 03 Heidi Reads (Review)
March 04 Romance Junkies (Guest Blog)
March 04 Gwendalyn's Books (Review)
March 05 Laura's Reviews (Review)
March 06 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Spotlight)
March 07 Fiction Aficionado (Review)
March 08 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)
March 09 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
March 10 Bookfoolery (Review)
March 10 From Pemberley to Milton (Review)
March 11 Faithfully Bookish (Interview)
March 12 Impressions in Ink (Review)
March 13 Robin Loves Reading (Review)
March 13 The Green Mockingbird (Review)
March 14 Inkwell Inspirations (Review)
March 15 The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
March 15 Bookworm Nation (Guest Blog)





About the Author

Though she earned degrees in math and statistics, Leah Garriott lives for a good love story. She's resided in Hawaii and Italy, walked the countryside of England, and owns every mainstream movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She's currently living her own happily ever after in Utah with her husband and three kids. Leah is represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.


Connect with Leah Garriott








Now available in multiple formats!



Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review: Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard

From the prizewinning author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye comes Courting Mr. Lincoln, the page-turning and surprising story of a young Abraham Lincoln and the two people who loved him best: a sparky, marriageable Mary Todd and Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed.

When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one's shortlist to be president. Rough and reticent, he’s a country lawyer lacking money and manners, living above a dry goods shop, but with a gift for oratory. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with a tireless interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: a man who, despite his awkwardness, is amiable and profound, with a gentle wit to match his genius and a respect for her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and rich with historical detail, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents.

Louis Bayard, a master storyteller at the height of his powers, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities. 





Today’s post falls on President’s Day in the U.S., so it seems appropriate to examine a fictional treatise on one of our beloved presidents. In this case, Courting Mr. Lincoln by acclaimed author Louis Bayard will be our point of focus. This finely-crafted novel revolves around the titular Abraham Lincoln, his future wife Mary Todd and his dear friend Joshua Speed. As Mr. Bayard notes in his post-novel essay Inside an Enigma, thousands of titles have been produced about President Lincoln, so one may wonder what new perspective might be brought to the table in this narrative. Courting Mr. Lincoln is unique in that Abraham, Mary and Joshua form a triangle that has previously been unknown to many. In fact, had I known that this book dealt specifically with this particular theory, I doubt I would have accepted the invitation to review it. 

A number of years ago I heard rumblings of a speculation regarding the true nature of the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his bachelor-days roommate, Joshua Speed. While it was common for male roommates to share a single mattress in the 19th century due to financial constraints, this did not always indicate same-sex attraction between them. However, some Lincolnian scholars have offered the notion that Abraham and Joshua held more than just a platonic relationship, especially after examining the letters shared between them. At the same time, these men lived in a society that overwhelmingly did not accept same-sex relationships. It was expected for men to settle down, marry and have a family by their late 20’s, if not sooner. As Lincoln began to run in political circles, he might have felt even more pressure to marry, as candidates are often seen as more reliable if they have a wife. These issues are considered throughout Courting Mr. Lincoln.

Using alternating the viewpoints of Joshua and Mary, Louis Bayard examines the years in which Lincoln meets and develops his relationships with both of them. Bayard’s writing is masterful. People magazine has termed it “exquisite”, and this is not an exaggeration. Not only is his prose well-researched for the period, but his word choices are extraordinary. On several occasions I found myself highlighting text to look up in the dictionary, delighting in the discovery of new corners of the English language. Aside from the interesting storytelling, Courting Mr. Lincoln was an educational and delightful read from a linguistic point of view.

I previously mentioned that I may have objected to reviewing this novel had I known its central theme, which isn’t overly apparent within the book’s description. I am a conservative Christian, and am generally not a supporter of LGBTQ causes. So when I eventually detected the relationships that Mr. Bayard was offering in his novel, I became concerned about how the story would play out. Would it become too racy for my sensibilities? Would there be scenes I would regret seeing in my mind’s eye? Fortunately, I can report that Bayard has handled the material with obvious intent, but in a fairly discreet manner. His point was made in a powerful way, one that I think is reasonable if you look at the content of the actual Lincoln/Speed letters. At the same time, I breathed a sigh of relief when I finished the last pages of the Epilogue, grateful that the possible same-sex attraction between Abraham and Joshua was handled in the way it was.

As mentioned, there have been myriad perspectives on the man who is considered by many to be the greatest American president. Louis Bayard has presented to his readers a tale that was offered in compelling fashion and with expert writing skill. Abraham Lincoln was a complicated, enigmatic figure, and this holds true in
Courting Mr. Lincoln¸ a unique fictional examination of a man who may never be truly known. 






About the Author

Louis Bayard is a New York Times Notable Book author and has been shortlisted for both the Edgar and Dagger awards for his historical thrillers, which include The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy. His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed young-adult title Lucky Strikes. He lives in Washington, D.C., and teaches at George Washington University. Visit him online at www.LouisBayard.com.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Book Excerpt & Giveaway: The Clergyman's Wife by Molly Greeley

For everyone who loved Pride and Prejudice—and legions of historical fiction lovers—an inspired debut novel set in Austen’s world.

Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners, and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Intelligent, pragmatic, and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life, an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr. Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine…

In Mr. Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard, and seen. For the first time in her life, Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart—and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted, and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.





We welcome to The Calico Critic author Molly Greeley with an excerpt from her Austenesque novel, The Clergyman's Wife. Many fans of Pride and Prejudice have perhaps wondered over the years what it must have been like for Charlotte after she married Mr. Collins. Although thus far I only have read the below excerpt from this work, I enjoy Mrs. Greeley's style of writing and am interested to see the narrative journey that her vision of Charlotte Lucas Collins takes. Will she find fulfillment with her husband, or is another man going to irrevocably divert her attention? It is a compelling question indeed. Thanks to Molly Greeley for this excerpt, and I invite my readers to enjoy it below!

BLOG POST UPDATE:  We have added a giveaway! Jump down to the Rafflecopter widget below and enter to win!




Book Excerpt: The Clergyman's Wife

Prologue
Autumn 

Mr. Collins walks like a man who has never become comfortable with his height: his shoulders hunched, his neck thrust forward. His legs cross great stretches of ground with a single stride. I see him as I pass the bedroom window, and for a moment I am arrested, my lungs squeezing painfully under my ribs, the pads of my fingers pressed against the cool glass. The next moment, I am moving down the stairs, holding my hem above my ankles. When I push open the front door and step out into the lane, I raise my eyes and find Mr. Collins only a few feet distant.

Mr. Collins sees me and lifts his hat. His brow is damp with the exertion of walking and his expression is one of mingled anticipation and wariness. Seeing it, the tightness in my chest dissipates. Later, when I have time to reflect, I will perhaps wonder how it is possible to simultaneously want something so much and so little, but in the moment before Mr. Collins speaks, as I step toward him through the fallen leaves, I am awash in calm.

On the morning of my wedding, my mother dismisses the maid and helps me to dress herself. Lady Lucas is not a woman prone to excessive displays of emotion, but this morning her eyes are damp and her fingers tremble as she smooths the sleeves of my gown. It is only my best muslin, though newly trimmed at the bodice with lace from one of my mother’s old evening dresses. My father went to town the other day, returning with a few cupped hothouse roses, only just bloomed, to tuck into my hair this morning. He offered them to me, his face pink and pleased, and they were so lovely, so evocative of life and warmth even as winter grayed and chilled the landscape outside, that even my mother did not complain about the expense.

“Very pretty,” my mother says now, and I feel my breath catch and hold behind my breastbone. I cannot recall having heard those particular words from her since I was a small child. I look at my reflection in the glass and there see the same faults—nose too large, chin too sharp, eyes too close together—that I have heard my mother bemoan since it became apparent, when I was about fourteen, that my looks were not going to improve as I grew older. But the flowers in my hair make me appear younger, I think, than my twenty-seven years; I look like a bride. And when I look into my mother’s face now, I find nothing but sincerity.

My mother blinks too quickly and turns away from me. “We should go down,” she says. She makes for the door, then pauses, turning slowly to face me again. “I wish you every happiness,” she says, sounding as though she is speaking around something lodged in her throat. “You have made a very eligible match.” I nod, feeling my own throat close off in response, a sensation of helpless choking.

I am largely silent during the long, rocking ride into Kent. My new husband speaks enough for both of us; he has an astonishing memory for minutiae and discusses the wedding ceremony in such great detail that I find myself wondering whether he remembers that I was also in attendance. We left for my new home directly from the church; my family and a few friends all crowded, shivering in their cloaks and muffs, outside the entrance, waving as we were driven away. Maria, my sister, cried as I left; my brothers looked solemn, my father beamed, my mother smiled a tremulous smile. My friend Elizabeth’s smile looked as if it had been tacked in place, like a bit of ribbon pinned to a gown but not yet properly sewn on.

Mr. Collins’s awkward height is emphasized by the cramped conditions of the coach. His long legs stretch out before him as far as they can go, but he still appears to be uncomfortable. The hair at his temples is moist, despite the cold, and I have to glance hastily away, feeling a lurch in my stomach that has nothing to do with the jolting ride.

He is very warm beside me in bed. I watch him sleep for a time, tracing the relaxed lines of his face with my eyes and thinking how different he seems without the rather frantic energy he exudes in his waking hours. There is a tension about him, much of the time, that I did not recognize until this moment, until sleep removed it.

He introduced me when we arrived to the housekeeper, Mrs. Baxter, who is broad and pleasant, and to the gruff, graying manservant, John, whose powerful shoulders are built from years of labor. The parsonage itself is exactly as Mr. Collins described it: small, but neat and comfortable, with surrounding gardens that he assured me would be beautiful come spring. His eagerness to please me was matched by his inability to believe anyone might find fault with his home, and I found his manner at once endeared him to me and irritated me thoroughly.

Throughout the tour, he pointed out improvements here and there that had been the suggestion of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. There were rather a lot of them.

At our bedchamber he paused with his palm against the door. “I hope . . . it suits,” he said, then opened the door and bowed me in.

The room was much like the rest of the house: comfortably furnished, if a trifle small. “Charming,” I said, and pretended not to notice the flush on his cheeks.

We ate dinner together. I had little appetite, despite the novelty of eating a meal in my own home that I had had no hand in preparing. Afterward, I considered suggesting we adjourn to the parlor but found I could not face the intervening hours between then and bed. Tomorrow I would unpack my books and my embroidery. I would write letters. I would meet Lady Catherine, for Mr. Collins assured me that lady had vowed to have us to tea when we returned to Kent; and I would begin to learn the duties of a clergyman’s wife. But tonight—I wanted only for tonight to be over.

“I am tired,” I said. “I think I will retire early.” Mr. Collins rose from his chair with alacrity. “A fine idea,” he said. “It has been a long day.” And to my consternation, he followed me up the stairs, his footsteps behind me a reminder that it will forever be his right to do with me as he pleases.

It is not so terrible, I think after, lying in the quiet dark watching my husband sleep. At my insistence, he allowed me time to change into my nightdress in private. And the rest was vaguely shocking, dreadfully uncomfortable, and far more mess than I had anticipated, but bearable. Mr. Collins, at least, seemed vastly pleased at the end, murmuring affectionate nonsense against my neck until he drifted off to sleep.

I wake before dawn, and for a moment I imagine I am still at home. There is a presence beside me in the bed, warm and heavy against my back, and I think it is my sister, Maria, until it lets out a gusty snore against the nape of my neck. My eyes open and I find myself staring at an unfamiliar wall covered in delicate floral paper. For a moment, I am held immobile by the weight of all the ways in which my life has changed. And then Mr. Collins— William—shifts in his sleep, one heavy arm reaching over my hip, his long fingers brushing my stomach, and I go rigid for the barest of instants. A moment later I force the stiffness from my body, allowing my spine to relax back against my husband’s chest. Exhaling the breath I had been holding, I wait for him to wake.

I will, no doubt, grow accustomed to mornings begun beside William. This is, after all, the life I chose.





About the Author

Molly Greeley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her addiction to books was spurred by her parents' floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A graduate of Michigan State University, she began as an Education major, but switched to English and Creative Writing after deciding that gainful employment was not as important to her as being able to spend several years reading books and writing stories and calling it work. She lives in Traverse City, Michigan with her husband and three children, and can often be found with her laptop at local coffee shops. The Clergyman's Wife is her first novel.

Connect with Molly



Giveaway: The Clergyman's Wife

The publisher has been gracious to offer a paperback copy to one of our U.S. readers! Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Giveaway period ends at 12am on December 18, 2019.



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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Spotlight: Prayer & Praise: A Jane Austen Devotional by Shannon Winslow

We welcome to The Calico Critic today author Shannon Winslow. Known for her Austenesque fiction, Shannon has now written a Christian devotional with messages inspired by Jane Austen and her beloved characters. For today's post, she has given us a devotional to enjoy that centers on the concepts of pride and vanity, which of course is easily tied into Pride and Prejudice, although Shannon chooses a character that might not first come to mind when thinking of pride or vanity! Enjoy the following devotional, which begins with prayerful words from Jane Austen herself, and I hope it blesses you today:



-8-

Pride and Vanity

Incline us to ask our Hearts these questions Oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by Pride or Vanity.

Reading the words vanity and pride together, does your mind, like mine, go straight to a certain contentious conversation between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy? But looking again, I discovered that Mary Bennet was the real expert on this subject:

“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously… Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 5)

In today’s petition, Jane Austen warns that the failings of pride and vanity are particularly dangerous. Why? Because these weaknesses have the power to deceive us, to prevent us from seeing ourselves and our behavior for what they truly are.

I’m sure when Mary Bennet passed along her wisdom on the subject of pride, she believed she did so with appropriate humility. After all, her deep knowledge of the problem must have caused her to be on guard against falling into that trap herself, right? On the contrary; Mary is among the deceived. Jane Austen’s gift for irony is on full display here. With the preamble that Mary piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, Austen subtly lets her readers know that the person cautioning us against the prevalence of pride is herself one of its many victims.

Nevertheless, what Mary says is true. The sin of pride is common. Human nature is especially prone to it. Few if any completely escape its effects. And people sometimes only imagine they are superior in some way. But I especially appreciate the reminder that a person can be guilty of sinful pride even when their superiority is real. Paranoia is only paranoia if there isn’t actually somebody out to get you, but pride is pride either way.

God gives many good gifts to his children (James 1:17), and there are people who truly have been blessed with exceptional beauty, personality, talent, wisdom, courage, faith, etc. Many of these and other gifts can be viewed as necessary tools to accomplish what God has assigned a person to do in this life. If he has ordained that someone is to preach effectively, relieve human suffering, advance scientific knowledge, entertain or inspire people, nurture children, or whatever, we shouldn’t wonder that he also equips them to do it!

We are to thank God, enjoy his blessings, and steward them well, using what gifts he has given us for his glory, not hiding them away or denying they exist. Still, there is a fine line between having confidence in God-given abilities and beginning to take credit for them ourselves.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert… He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat… You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth… (Deuteronomy 8:10-18)

When we fail at something, our natural tendency is to say, “It wasn’t my fault.” But when we are successful, we’re often quick to take the credit, even if it’s only on the inside. There’s a little voice that whispers in our ears that we deserve the praise and rewards. After all, we worked very hard to achieve them! Look at the years of education and practice we put in, not to mention at least metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears.

That voice is the enemy encouraging us to pride. For who made all those things possible? Who gave the natural ability to start with? Who gave the capable brain, the healthy body, the required personality traits? Who gave access to education or the favorable economy? Who gave the encouragement and fortitude to push forward?

Not one of us can conjure up these things out of thin air. Only God can do that. Only God can give life in the first place.

Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

Without God, we can do nothing. Without God, we would not even exist. Without God’s intervention, we would all be hopelessly lost, sinners condemned. Remembering this leaves no room for pride or vanity.


Let Us Pray

Father in heaven, for Jesus’ sake, keep us from the twin sins of pride and vanity by making us ever mindful of our true condition. The enemy would deceive us, encouraging us to think better of ourselves than we ought. But to you alone belongs all the glory, now and forever. Amen.


Let Us Praise

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. (The Common Doxology, 1674, Thomas Ken of Winchester College)



My Thoughts

Of the three devotionals that Shannon sent me to review, this one was my favorite, as it helped solidify a lesson I was learning recently. A family member called me out in a moment of pride and vanity, and to be honest, in my mind I was a bit put off by their assertion, and spent time trying to justify myself internally. This devotional reminded me that I need not be bragging about anything really-- and if I do brag, it needs to be about something or someONE worthy, as is mentioned in 2 Corinthians.

I like Shannon's format for her devotionals. They focus on different writings of Austen, and regardless of whether or not you have read her classic works, the devotionals still work well. I appreciate her interest in grounding her lessons in scripture, and while each devotional does have a supplicant prayer, I'm glad it also ends in a moment of praise.  So often we come to God with our "Wish Lists" of things we need (and we should offer our requests to him), but I think it's also important that we praise him for who he is as well.  These devotionals offer a nice balance.  Well done, Mrs. Winslow!




About the Author

Shannon Winslow claims she was minding her own business when an ordinary trip to Costco a dozen years ago changed her life. That was the day a copy of the ’95 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice fairly leapt off the shelf and into her oversized shopping cart. She has been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to begin writing her own stories a la Austen.

Winslow's 2011 debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, quickly become a best seller, praised for its authentic Austen style and faithfulness to the original characters. Seven more novels and a Jane Austen Devotional have since followed, with no end to her creative output in sight!

Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit Shannon at her website/blog:  Shannon Winslow’s “Jane Austen Says…” and follow her on Facebook.








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