Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy Excerpt and Giveaway

After Fitzwilliam Darcy finds his suit rejected by the only woman in the world he would ever marry, he looks to make a quick exit out of Kent and go back to his life before he met Elizabeth Bennet. Yet, when he wakes the next day he discovers that getting back to everything he still holds dear may be more challenging than he ever imagined. What if finding his way back means getting another chance to win Elizabeth’s love? 

Beau North and Brooke West, co-authors of Holiday Mix Tape from the Meryton Press winter anthology, Then Comes Winter, tour the blogosphere from October 8-October 19, 2016, to share their latest collaboration, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Thirteen book bloggers, specializing in Austenesque fiction and romance stories, will share excerpts, guest posts, an exclusive interview with the authors and book reviews from this highly anticipated Austen-inspired novel. Four ebooks and four paperbacks are also being included in our giveaways and entry is available to anyone who participates in this blog tour.

Today we welcome authors Beau North and Brooke West, with an excerpt from their new book, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy. In addition, we also have a couple of fun things for you!  Beau and Brooke are giving away 8 copies of their book, which includes 4 ebooks and 4 paperback copies. To win a paperback copy, the winners must have a U.S. mailing address.  So be sure to hop down to the Rafflecopter widget near the end of this post and enter to win.

In addition to this contest, we're having a little fun with three images of some modern-day Darcy types.  Which one would you cast as your favorite? On October 20 the winning Darcy will be announced at the conclusion of the blog tour.  That final stop is at So Little Time...So Much To Read.   Click HERE to vote!

And now, without further ado, is the excerpt from The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy!

Hello to the readers of The Calico Critic! We are so excited to be here for our blog tour. When we set out writing this unusual little story, we had no idea much it would snowball into something bigger than a simple idea, more than a simple “what if?” Without giving too much away, we can say that this excerpt, part of one of our favorite scenes in the book, comes along as Darcy getting a crash course in what it truly means to be selfless. He has a lot of hard lessons that come to him very quickly over the course of this book, and this is one of the key turning points for him. Anne de Bourgh is a bit of a hidden gem in this story, and has no problems enlightening her cousin—no matter how painful the truth may be! We hope you enjoy it!


While he had no purpose, he decided the library was at least distraction enough, though it was woefully out of date. Lady Catherine had certainly not added to it in the years since Sir Lewis’ death. There were a few volumes of Gibbon that Darcy took a sudden interest in—he found he enjoyed the man’s satirical style. It reminded him in a strange way of Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy took his selection to one of the leather chairs near the fireplace and settled in, wriggling around to get comfortable.

Try though he might, he could not force his mind upon the page. It drifted inevitably back to his present circumstances. It was a strange sensation, to have chosen such an ordinary activity as reading in the library when his entire reality had been put on its head. Darcy had decided, he knew not when, that if he were going to survive there must be some measure of acceptance. If he did not bend, he might well break.

A shuffling sound, a light step nearby told him he was no longer alone in the library—his refuge had been encroached upon. He sat up, curious to see who the interloper was, when Anne’s slight form appeared. He froze in place, watching as she made her way to one particular corner of the library, moving several books aside to reveal one volume tucked away, hidden behind the others.

“Good morning, Cousin,” he said, breaking the silence.

A startled yelp escaped her and she spun around to see him sitting there, dropping her purloined book. Her hand covered her chest, as though she were trying to keep her heart from escaping.

“Good Lord, Will! Announce yourself next time!”

Darcy stood and approached her. She protested as he leaned down to pluck her book from the floor. 

“Please, give that to me at once!”

Darcy smiled. “Has anyone ever told you that you resemble Her Ladyship when you frown so?”

He looked down at the volume in his hands, feeling genuine shock at the title.

“Good heavens, Anne! What are you about? The Monk? Here I was expecting the bloody Romance of the Forest and you’re reading The Monk!

Anne snatched the book from his hands, her face crimson. “It’s none of your concern what keeps me warm at night!”

He bowed, trying to master his expression. “I acknowledge that and beg your pardon. Come, sit with me. I should be glad of the company.”

She cast him a suspicious look before sitting primly in the chair near his. He wondered for a moment what would happen if he confessed all to Anne as he had to Fitzwilliam once. He knew she was prone to fits where she could not catch her breath, at times causing her to faint. He decided against it; it would not do for him to cause her to be ill.

But perhaps… An idea blazed through his mind, swift and brilliant as a falling star. It was a mad notion, but it was one of the few things he had not yet tried to break the cycle.

“Anne, perhaps it is good that you found me here. There is something I would discuss with you.”

He stood and began pacing, as was his wont when he had difficulties expressing himself.

“As you know, I am of an age where I ought to be securing the future of my estate.”

Anne’s expression quickly shifted from curiosity to alarm. “Will, dear…”

“I know it has been your mother’s wish since we were babes in the cradle, and while I have opposed this scheme, I now see there is some sense in it. We could be combining two great estates, securing the Darcy legacy for generations to come.”

“Will, please—”

“And we get on fairly well. It is true that I care for you as I would any relation but that does not own that we would not be well-matched in matrimony.”

“Fitzwilliam Darcy, I beg you will cease this now!” Anne cried, clutching the arms of her chair as if they were the only things keeping her upright. He gave her an indulgent smile.

“You are overwhelmed. Surely you can see this would be the most sensible plan for the both of us.” 

“Oh, sensible indeed!”

He was surprised by the ferocity in her voice, which was usually so quiet he often had to lean in her direction to make her out.

“You…you are not refusing me, surely?”

Her reply was a laugh he could only categorize as astonished.

“Indeed, William, I am! Why you have chosen to ask me now, I can only suspect, for I know this sensible plan has never been your wish nor mine. I do not love you. You do not love me. We are both privileged enough to be at liberty to marry for love, and I intend to do so or not at all. And, even if I fancied myself so unmercifully practical, I think a little more highly of myself than to accept such an inelegant proposal as the one you just offered.”

Darcy’s heart sank. “What do you mean?”

Anne sighed heavily. “You must hear yourself! Surely you cannot be so dim as to think you can insult a lady to her face and expect that she will accept you.”

He sat down carefully.

“I insulted you?”

“Recollect what you just said.” Anne lowered her voice in what would have been in different circumstances an amusing imitation of himself. “‘While I resisted the scheme.’”

“Anne, it was not my intention to—”

“I know…which is what makes it so awful, Darcy. You are not callous but ignorant.”

“I must once again beg your forgiveness,” he said stiffly.

Anne sighed heavily, sitting back in her chair. “I accept your apology, Darcy, but not your proposal.” 

“I would not have believed you to be vulnerable to flattery and appeals to vanity.”

Anne smiled thinly. “There are moments when flattery is a pleasant necessity, and I believe a marriage proposal is one.”

About the Authors

Beau North is the author of Longbourn’s Songbird and a contributor to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Beau is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, a pop culture podcast and website, and a contributor at the San Francisco Book Review.

Brooke West is a contributing author to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Brooke has a naturally creative soul that pulls her into myriad artistic endeavors.  While writing fiction always has been her life's passion, Brooke also finds joy in silversmithing, sculpting, and costuming. Between projects, she runs and practices yoga.  She lives in South Carolina with her husband, son, and three cats.

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy!

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Blog Tour Schedule

October 8/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway
October 9/ Just Jane 1813/Interview with Beau and Brooke
October 10/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
October 11/ A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt's Guide to Life/Guest Post
October 12/ Austenesque Reviews/ Excerpt & Giveaway
October 13/ Margie's Must Reads/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 14/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 15/ The Calico Critic/Excerpt & Giveaway
October 16/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Guest Post
October 17/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway
October 18/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Book Review & Giveaway
October 19/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Fitzwilliam Vignette
October 20/ So Little Time... So Much to Read/ Excerpt & Giveaway

Friday, October 7, 2016

Download Your Free How-To Guide for Bring Your Bible to School Day


Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are preparing for Hurricane Matthew to hit. For students in hurricane-affected states who are facing school closures but still want to participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day, the alternate date is Thursday, October 20.

This brings about a good point: Any day can be a day you organize your friends to bring your Bibles to school together!

By signing up during the month of October for Bring Your Bible to School Day (even if you missed the official celebration), you can download a free how-to guide for teens, parents, pastors, and elementary students. It's full of helpful information that will help you organize a day to take a stand for religious freedom and bring your Bible to school with your fellow classmates.

(Sign-ups must be received by midnight (MT), Oct. 7, in order to be automatically entered into the Newsboys giveaway.)

Plus: Bring Your Bible to School Comes to
Adventures in Odyssey


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Take the Bible Challenge with Odyssey Adventure Club

How much do you know about the Bible and its influence on our culture, history–and the whole world? Focus on the Family and Bring Your Bible have teamed up to create a quiz to test how much you and your kids know about the Bible. Take the quiz to find out!

Don't forget to mark your calendars to celebrate religious freedom with other students across the U.S. on October 6—Bring Your Bible to School Day! Students from kindergarten to college will be bringing their Bibles to school and sharing God with their friends in just a few short weeks. Sign up to be a part of the movement to protect religious freedom for future generations.


By signing up, you’ll receive a free guide with tips, downloadable posters, sticker and T-shirt designs, information on your legal rights, and other fun, interactive activities.

You’ll also be automatically entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to hear the Newsboys, an award-winning Christian music band, in Dallas!

Plus Bring Your Bible to School Comes to Adventures in Odyssey


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile

At Netherfield, a glorious evening of music and dancing...

But out in the garden two men are arguing, while a ferocious rainstorm swirls round. And then the unthinkable happens: a lightning bolt from heaven strikes. In that instant everything changes.

Jane Austen’s heartthrob hero becomes the bumbling Reverend Collins.

Shorn of his fortune, his social standing, and his good looks, Mr. Darcy is trapped in Mr. Collins’ body. And Mr. Collins wakes up to discover that he is master of Pemberley. Could there be anything worse?

But the inner man is still Darcy. He is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. And now he is living in her house.

Discover the Pride and Prejudice ‘body swap’ that has readers laughing in surprise and delight.

I’m not one for strange Austeneque story premises.  In recent years the genre has seen everything from vampires to zombies, sea monsters to rock stars.  In general, I don’t gravitate towards them. The most outlandish title I’ve read (and enjoyed very much) was Steampunk Darcy by Monica Fairview. This was a rare exception in my habits.  So the premise of a body-swap story is a bit of a departure.  Why the interest? One name: Laura Hile. While I’ve never read any of her books, I’ve interacted with her quite a bit online and have enjoyed her posts at the website, Jane Started It. Given her wit and intelligence, I’d be open to just about anything she publishes.  Darcy and Collins switching bodies?  Really?  Okay…sure—I’m game! I put it on my Goodreads list, and assumed I would get to it…one day… preferably after the completion of a graduate school class I was about to start.  Darcy by Any Other Name is 662 pages. At this point in my life, I’d begun saying “no” to most review requests in order to clear the decks for academic pursuits. Starting a novel of such length was not in my plans.

Then Laura contacted me, asking if I’d be willing to read her book.  I was thrilled!  And although I wasn’t sure it was the right decision, I said “yes” to her request.  With such a high page count, I wasn’t certain I’d be able to juggle reading it and tending to my graduate class.  Boy, was I proven wrong!  Darcy by Any Other Name might have a quizzical premise, but I was riveted!  I couldn’t believe how fast I flew through this novel, even though I was saving its reading for my limited free time away from kids, work, and school duties.

As in Jane Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice, Laura Hile’s Fitzwilliam Darcy is somewhat of a prideful man, holding much wealth and respect.  When he is transported into the body of the lowly vicar William Collins, he finds himself in a completely different position in life.  No longer revered and respected, he has the reputation of being a fool and an idiot. Collins experiences quite the opposite, as he is transferred into Darcy’s world. No longer a portly, powerless and almost penniless man, he inherits a body and an existence that many would envy.  In each man’s case, there are many lessons to be learned in living within the other’s life.

Laura Hile’s work may not be my usual traditional Austenesque fiction, but she kept me entertained throughout her novel.  She filled it with humor, excitement, and of course, romance.  I was also impressed at her ability to sprinkle a bit of Christian faith into the story without having it feel too forced or inappropriate. Darcy as Collins was so interesting—seeing him revolutionize Collins’ life further emphasized how pitiful Collins truly had been, how much more he could have been doing with his existence and ministry.  Collins as Darcy was rife with humor, as I pictured this statuesque, handsome man become the fool and begin to squander so much of the respect that Darcy had made for himself. Elizabeth Bennet’s relationship with “Collins” (who was really Darcy) becomes completely altered, as this chubby, sophomoric man changes before her very eyes. Not only does he begin to take care of his body and lose weight, but his manner is remarkably different, and shockingly, he becomes attractive.  Mr. Collins, attractive?!?  How is this possible?  Author Laura Hile makes it so, and does so handily.  Her narrative makes it very clear—our looks will only take us so far in being attractive to others.  Ultimately, it’s what’s inside that counts.  Our heart, our personality, how we treat others—this is far more important than the clothes we wear or how photogenic we are.

While I admit to beginning this novel with a positive prejudice toward the writer, ultimately it was up to Mrs. Hile to hold my attention and keep me entertained for so many chapters.  Never once did I feel bogged down in the story, and the pages flew by.  This is not a taut, tense thriller by any means.  It’s simply a well-told story with classic themes that many of us can relate to.  I applaud Laura Hile’s work, and am so glad I said “yes” to reviewing Darcy by Any Other Name!


Thanks to Laura Hile, one of YOU will be able to read this fabulous novel!  Fill out the Rafflecopter widget below and enter to win an ebook copy of Darcy by Any Other Name. Open internationally. Contest ends at 12am EST on October 8, 2016.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

See the Newsboys in Concert with Adventures in Odyssey


Want to be entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to hear the Newsboys, the award-winning Christian music band, in Dallas? Sign up to be a part of the movement to protect religious freedom for future generations: Bring Your Bible to School Day! Students from kindergarten to college will be bringing their Bibles to school and sharing God with their friends on October 6.

By completing the information on this page, you're automatically entered to win the chance to see the Newsboys with Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey. Don't miss out on the chance to see a fantastic band with your family!

Plus Sign Up for a Free Two-Week Trial of Odyssey Adventure Club


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Peak 10 Fit Body Challenge

It's been a while since I've done a health or workout posting, but I'm excited to announce that I'm going to once again join Michelle Dozois in a fitness challenge!  Michelle is my favorite fitness instructor, and I've been doing her home workout videos for years.  Unfortunately, for the last year I've put on a significant amount of weight due to a medicine change (and the low motivation stemming from that) but I'm ready to fight back and put this period of my life behind me.  Through Michelle's new Peak 10 Fit Body Challenge, I'm looking forward to taking control of my health and weight.

Michelle's program is available online-- tons of workouts, plus nutrition helps, motivational videos, printables and more!   Check out this message from Michelle:

Believe it or not, my goal is to lose 100 pounds.  Yep, you read that right.  One. Hundred. Pounds.  It might take me years to achieve this goal, but that's okay.  I'm not looking for a quick fix, such as losing 50 pounds in 90 days.   My sights are set on revamping my menu, and doing the best I can with Michelle's tough workouts.  I'm not in a place right now where I can do high-impact moves like burpees or jumping lunges.  I'll be taking this at my own pace, challenging myself where I can.

If I get brave enough, I'd like to post photos of my progress.  Perhaps I'll take pics for every 10 pound weight loss.  We'll see how I'm feeling about that.  To be honest, I'm nervous about even going out in public these days, so posting photos online for all the world to see is a bit daunting.  But if I can get there, hopefully I can inspire others in my situation.  So many of us struggle with weight, and it's nice to know there are others out there fighting the good fight.

If you're interested in joining me in this venture, check out Michelle's site here, and sign up today!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Excerpt & Giveaway: The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen

Jane Austen lived a solitary life of a writer … Or did she?

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen tells a spirited, affecting love story during an exciting, turbulent time. Set in the “lost years” of her twenties – a period of which historians know virtually nothing – the trilogy reveals the story of a talented, passionate woman fully engaging with a man who is very much her equal. The series resolves the biggest mysteries of Austen’s life:
  • Why the enduring rumors of a lost love or tragic affair?
  • Why, afterward, did the vivacious Austen prematurely put on the “cap of middle age” and close off any thoughts of love?
  • Why, after her death, did her beloved sister destroy her letters and journals?
Hewing to the known facts of Austen’s personal life and the broader history of war-torn England, The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen sets the protagonist on what one reviewer calls “an imaginative journey of the soul” in which “fascinating people step off the pages in lifelike form.”

In this trilogy (with the second volume pictured at right), Austen’s intelligence and charm earn her a man’s deepest admiration and regard. Together they take on every challenge of a complex and sometimes hostile outside world.

Her story will resonate with every woman seeking respect, opportunity -- and love.

Today's post features the Collins Hemingway trilogy, The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen.  We have an exciting excerpt for you from Volume One, as well as a giveaway.  Enjoy!

*          *          *

In her mid-twenties, well past her bloom, Miss Jane Austen is enticed by Mister Ashton Dennis, a man several years her junior, to go for ride on a hot-air balloon piloted by a French aeronaut doing a demonstration flight at Bath, England. 

Chapter 4

Beyond a modest rocking motion such as one would experience in a small boat setting out from shore, the first few moments aloft held no particular thrall. After the workmen released the ropes and hastened to pull them clear to avoid snagging the balloon, the audience began to murmur with the first flutterings of ascent. There was little sensation of motion. Faces shifted perspective and then began to slide away, as if the crowd were sinking instead of the balloon rising. The interior of the basket was designed so that they could sit as if on an afternoon carriage ride, but Ashton and Jane stood, hands firmly holding on to the chest-high side. Jane risked a wave to Cassandra and Alethea, who observed their departure with identical frozen expressions of disbelief.

Jane was uncertain where to look. Did one continue to watch the varying reactions of the crowd—some joyful, some incredulous, some afraid, a few angry at what had to be a blasphemous violation of God’s pure space? Should she look up at the balloon itself, as large as the globe but as insubstantial as Jane’s muslin dress? Should she scan the horizon for vistas that were starting to reveal themselves over the buildings? With so much to see from new and ever-changing angles, she did all of these things rapidly and found herself feeling dizzy. She wondered if her face betrayed the same expression of incredulity as Ashton’s. He seemed to share her perplexity, her sensation of being overwhelmed, and her excitement. And they had barely cleared the trees!

Streamers set on poles showed that the wind was running to the southeast, but some kind of eddy sent the balloon drifting the opposite way over the Sydney Hotel. She had never imagined how a building would look from above. The central skylight and its smaller companions looked like deep blue pools, giving her a momentary urge to dive in. The colonnaded portico stood out in bright relief in the sun; the stocky lower level and the tall, thin, elegant upper story formed a congenial pairing. Red-coated valets ran out from under the entryway to see the balloon, which turned north as if to promenade up Sydney Place. A pair of horses approaching from Sutton Street startled at the sight.

The balloon paused as if undecided on its path. They were only a few feet above the roofline. The roofs of this section of row houses had notches and grooves, almost like a key; the pattern was not something one could see from the street. Suddenly Jane saw that they were directly across from her own home. Her parents stood in the window. Along with many other people leaning from windows, the Austens waved at the aerostat. Not a few people waved British flags, though the balloon and aeronaut were French. That the flight was occurring in England was enough to stimulate a show of nationalism.

“Mother, father!” Jane called, returning their gesture with great vigor and leaning so far forward that Ashton felt obliged to clutch at her.

“Mr. and Mrs. Austen,” Ashton said in a stiff and strangely formal manner, tipping his hat with his free hand in the requisite manner.

Jane’s parents at first responded with great delight at being singled out by the balloonists. But, as recognition dawned as to who was gesticulating and hallooing, their pleasure changed to shock and grief: They grasped instantly that the novelty of their daughter’s situation, as exhilarating as it was unforeseen, must be nothing but an astonishing harbinger of death. Mrs. Austen keeled over; Mr. Austen’s sudden movement to catch her—deft for a man in his seventies—left his thick white hair in disarray, compounding his expression of fright.

“It will be all right, Miss Austen,” Ashton said.

“It had better be, Mr. Dennis.”

During these first few minutes of their expedition, Monsieur Garnerin moved from one side of the basket to another, checking clearances, ensuring that the balloon did not graze the hotel or trees, talking quietly to himself with evident satisfaction at their progress.

“Êtes-vous prêt?” he asked. Not waiting for a reply, he dropped a barrage of ballast. The balloon rose rapidly; the building hid her parents from view. As if seeking its bearings, the balloon swiveled almost completely in a circle. Once free from sheltering buildings and trees, it fell captive to the prevailing wind and surged southeast, sending the carriage rocking in the opposite direction. The balloon and its basket see-sawed over Sydney Gardens like two dancers disputing the lead. Jane caught only a hint of the canal, the bridges, the waterfalls, and the serpentine promenades where she and Cassandra had enjoyed cool walks over the summer. She was certain she caught a glimpse of more than one couple exchanging unsanctioned kisses on isolated benches in the labyrinth. Then they were past the gardens. The balloon continued to rise. Her ears popped. Jane had a moment to take in the buff-colored houses that were almost painfully bright in the sun. The construction on this side of town was all noise and confusion, but from this vantage point she could ascertain the underlying geometric pattern. They were the first to see how Bath would look in coming years. The sense of orderly development gave her pleasure. It was a shame that it would take many, many years for the greenery to return fertility to an area sterilized by progress.

Once the balloon stabilized, Monsieur Garnerin turned to his passengers with a cold, professional smile.

“Am I really your first female passenger?” Jane asked in French, suddenly concerned that her frail form, a wisp compared to Ashton’s and Garnerin’s, might not withstand the rigors of flight.

“Plusieurs femmes vous ont précédé en vol, y compris ma femme. Vous n’avez rien à craindre. Les changements de pression ne vous nuira pas.”

“What was that about?” Ashton asked.

“He has taken women aloft before. Including his wife. He assures me that I have nothing to worry about. The altitude will not cause me to explode.”

“Mais vous êtes la première anglaise,” Garnerin said, with a bit more politesse.

“I am the first English woman to go up with him,” Jane told Ashton, though he seemed to have comprehended the words.

They were high enough now that the woods and farmlands formed a patchwork quilt of light and dark greens, with here and there a stripe of yellow; the texture of the ground from altitude resembled wool and moss. The balloon slowed, reached its apex, and began to drift down. Using a wooden pitchfork, Monsieur Garnerin fed the brazier with more fuel, encouraging a whiff of farm. The basket swayed. Jane’s stomach felt momentarily queasy. In a few moments, Monsieur Garnerin had steadied their height above ground. He held up an instrument that measured the altitude. “Interesting,” Ashton said. “A variation on the standard barometer.”

“We are approximately four thousand three hundred feet,” Monsieur Garnerin said in thick but understandable English.

“Is it a good sign that he suddenly speaks our language?” Ashton asked.

“I rather suspect that it portends something disagreeable,” Jane replied.

“Monsieur Dennis,” Monsieur Garnerin said. “You have purchased the balloon. You have taken away my livelihood.” His words were clear despite the French mastication. “With typical English arrogance, you have chosen to embarrass me among my family and your people.”

“See here, man, I was rather trying to help you out.”

“You were trying to impress this young woman.” Monsieur Garnerin bowed to Jane. Reflexively, she returned the courtesy. “You have succeeded. You have what you want, which is everything I have.” As he spoke, he unstrapped an odd device from the side of the carriage. It resembled a large umbrella with wooden sticks that went down to a small woven bucket. “But you did not purchase me.”

“Monsieur Garnerin,” Jane said, “I am sure that Mr. Dennis meant nothing unkind.”

“Of course not,” Ashton said. “I merely sought to get you back to France before war breaks out again. It is only a matter of time. You could spend years in an English prison. I’m providing you a way home.”

“If that were only your intention,” Monsieur Garnerin said. “I wish you the very best with your acquisition. Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire!” With that, he hopped onto the side of the carriage, stepped into the bucket, and pushed off. The balloon heaved sideways, exactly as a small boat when someone rolls off into the sea; simultaneously, it shot up with the release of the man’s weight. Below them, they saw the white umbrella structure blossom. Monsieur Garnerin disappeared from view beneath it.

After rising rapidly another thousand feet or more, the balloon leveled off. They watched the parachute sway below them, drifting like a dandelion puffball across the green fields...

About Collins Hemingway

Collins is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Phi Beta Kappa, with a major in English Literature and a minor in science. He has a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Oregon, with concentrations in Eighteenth Century Literature, Renaissance literature, and modern literature. While his high-tech career gave him a practical understanding of science and business, Hemingway also carried on his passion for the art of storytelling, for the rich history of Georgian-Regency England and the Napoleonic wars, and for Jane Austen’s literature. His own fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

Published books: The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Volumes I and II; Business @ the Speed of Thought, with Bill Gates; Built for Growth, with Arthur Rubinfeld of Starbucks; What Happy Companies Know, with Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg; Maximum Brainpower, with Shlomo Breznitz; The Fifth Wave, with Robert Marcus.

Giveaway - The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Volume I

So did you enjoy the excerpt?  Care to read the entire series?  The first two books are available now, with Volume Three coming in 2017. For today, let's get started with Volume One of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen!  We're giving away two copies of the book-- a paperback copy to a U.S. domestic winner, and an ebook copy to an international winner.  Please utilize the Rafflecopter widget below, and enter to win!  Contest period concludes at 12am EST on October 1, 2016.

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Vol 1 Paperback Kindle Vol 2 Paperback Kindle

Friday, September 16, 2016

Commit to Bring Your Bible to School October 6

Celebrate religious freedom with other students across the U.S. on October 6—Bring Your Bible to School Day! Students from kindergarten to college will be bringing their Bibles to school and sharing God with their friends in just a few short weeks. Sign up to be a part of the movement to protect religious freedom for future generations.

By signing up, you’ll receive a free guide with tips, downloadable posters, sticker and T-shirt designs, information on your legal rights, and other fun, interactive activities.

You’ll also be automatically entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to hear the Newsboys, an award-winning Christian music band, in Dallas!

Plus Bring Your Bible to School Comes to Adventures in Odyssey


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review and Giveaway: Northern Rain by Nicole Clarkston

There is nothing like a long walk in the rain to guarantee a little privacy...unless the last person you wish to encounter happens also to be in search of solitude.

John Thornton is a man of heavy responsibilities who has many things on his mind, but the most troublesome of them all is Margaret Hale. She wants nothing to do with him, and he wishes he could feel the same. When a moment of vulnerability allows her a glimpse into his heart, she begins to see him differently.

Is something so simple as friendship even possible after all that has passed between them? Thornton has every good reason to move on, not the least of which is the lovely Genevieve Hamilton and her wealthy father. Will Thornton act according to duty and accept an opportunity to save his mill, or will he take a chance on love, hoping to change Margaret's mind?

Jane Austen Fan Fiction (or JAFF) tends to be the dominant genre on The Calico Critic, but for today's post, we will venture into Elizabeth Gaskell Fan Fiction instead.  "Who is Elizabeth Gaskell?", some of you might be asking.  Until a few years ago, I had never heard of her either. Through marketing and the recommendations of others, I watched the BBC television series Cranford, which is based off of a Gaskell book of the same name.  While not Austenesque fiction, it carries similar tones and sensations of that genre.  I fell in love with the characters in Cranford and became an instant Elizabeth Gaskell fan.

Due to my huge list of books to be read, to this day I still have not managed to read the source material for Cranford, although a lovely copy of the book is sitting on my shelves.  Likewise, I was given a copy of another book of Gaskell's, North and South by a fellow reader.  And sadly, it remains unread as well.  There are just so many books, and so little time in this life!

Recently I was approached to review Nicole Clarkston's Northern Rain, which is based off of Gaskell's North and South.  As I've enjoyed JAFF, I thought I would give this title a try, despite my ignorance of the original story.  At the time I'd only viewed one episode of the Richard Armitage/BBC dramatization of North and South, which certainly doesn't qualify me as an authority on the novel.  I had a very slim baseline knowledge of a few characters, so suffice it to say, I was going into Northern Rain in a fairly blind manner.

I'm delighted to report that as a new student to all things North and South, I enjoyed Northern Rain very much!  There were a few moments when I was a bit disoriented, as author Nicole Clarkston made reference to events in N&S that I was not familiar with, but after a few chapters of reading, the story took on its own new life, with new events that are unique to this narrative.  I enjoyed the characters immensely, and like other readers of Gaskell, began to see main character John Thornton as a latter-day Fitzwilliam Darcy type.  He is not as refined as Darcy, but can be stern and emotionally closed off to many.  Likewise, he and another main character, Margaret Hale begin their association on the wrong foot, which is evidenced by the tension between them at the beginning of Northern Rain.

Throughout the course of this new story, their relationship morphs into something very different than animosity, and eventually blooms into love. Theirs is not an open-and-shut case, however.  They must overcome tremendous odds in order to be together, and throughout the tale it's often unclear if they ever will survive the onslaught of obstacles put in their path.  Not only does it seem to rain every day in the town of Milton, but it seems that they have a cloud of bad luck hovering over their relationship at all times.  If fact, that is one of my few complaints in regard to the story.  Clarkston achieved such a delightful tension between her characters, it simply drove me mad at times, witnessing yet another calamity come their way!  It seemed as if they would never get together, and there were a few times when I felt that the story dragged on somewhat.  That being said, I found the writing to be extremely riveting, and I was captivated throughout.

Clarkson's Northern Rain was a delight to read.  The romance was palpable but not overly titillating, and the marriage bed was honored in ways that I appreciated as a conservative reader.  As mentioned, I'm not as familiar with the original North and South as I should be, but I credit Ms. Clarkston in planting a great seed of interest in the original novel.  I now wish to not only complete my viewing of Armitage's performance in his BBC production, but in greater measure I desire to read the original Gaskell work.  If nothing else, Nicole Clarkston has further solidified my fanhood in all things Gaskell, bringing another admirer even more closer into the fold.

About the Author

Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don't ask). 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 (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole's books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Giveaway Time!!

We have an extra special giveaway from Nicole Clarkston!  We'll have two winners-- one U.S. domestic, and one international.  Here are the prize choices for our U.S. winner-- choose one of the following:

  • Signed paperback of No Such Thing as Luck  (North &South fiction)  OR
  • Signed paperback of Rumours & Restlessness (Pride & Prejudice fiction)  OR
  • Signed paperback of Northern Rain (North &South fiction)

For our international winner, they may choose one of the following:
  • Ebook or Audiobook of No Such Thing as Luck  OR
  • Ebook or Audiobook of Rumours & Restlessness OR
  • Ebook or Audiobook* of Northern Rain
       *Audiobook of Northern Rain should be available Dec 2016

Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below, beginning with your contact information, in case you're a winner!

Paperback Kindle More Clarkston More Clarkston

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review and Giveaway: The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Jack Caldwell

The worlds of Jane Austen and the Baroness Orczy combine in a swashbuckling tale from the author of The Three Colonels. Captain Frederick Tilney, dashing cavalry officer and rakish heir to Northanger Abbey, is interested only in fencing and enjoying himself. That is, until he meets the girl of his dreams, the lovely and intriguing Violet Blakeney. However, her father is not convinced of Frederick's pledge to reform and the officer is banished from Violet’s presence. The baronet has a will of iron, for he is none other than Sir Percy Blakeney—the retired Scarlet Pimpernel! Now, during the Hundred Days Crisis, an evil from the Pimpernel's past menaces the Blakeney family while Sir Percy is crippled by age. Frederick must convince the baronet to accept his assistance in accomplishing the impossible—take on an entire country to recuse the girl they both love.

Four years ago I had the pleasure of reading Jack Caldwell’s novel, The Three Colonels. Many characters from multiple works of Jane Austen were brought together in a singular delightful tale, one that was quite original and entertaining.  Caldwell has now followed Colonels with another mash-up of sorts, The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Again, various Austen characters are used within the story (including the colonels from the previous work), but we also find creations from the mind of the writer Baroness Emma Orczy, namely the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, Sir Percy Blakeney.  As a Janeite I was familiar with the backgrounds of many in The Last Adventure, but my knowledge of Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel was negligible to say the least.  So this foppish, conniving and brave character is a new one for me, one that I have only begun to discover in this creation from the mind of Jack Caldwell.

In addition to getting to know the Scarlet Pimpernel better as a character, I also was given much time with an unlikely choice of protagonist for this tale, namely Frederick Tilney of Northanger Abbey fame. I’ve always thought of him as a bit of a flirt and playboy, in consideration of how he is known to treat women and his storyline in Austen’s novel. But in The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, we see quite a transformation in this man. Indeed, due to the love of a woman—true love, mind you—he works diligently to become worthy of her hand. When her safety is in jeopardy, it takes Captain Tilney in league with the Pimpnernel to come to her rescue.  The Pimpernel is not as young or as nimble as he once was, so victory is not assured.  He’s also aware of Tilney’s reputation, which becomes a problem as the Captain desires to court his daughter.  Somehow Tilney must not only rescue his beloved, but he must win over her father’s good opinion as well.

So in The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel, we have a bit of an adventure story, but we also have a bit of a romance.  Although the titular character is the Pimpernel, this really was the Captain’s story. His journey is a long one, from a man of somewhat ill repute to possibly hero and man of honor.  The novel has moments of excitement, intrigue, and of course a touch of romance.  The villain was delectable in his own way, obsessed as he was with the ruination of his nemesis, the Pimpernel.

My negative thoughts on the novel are few. While not my favorite of Caldwell’s works (that would be Pemberley Ranch), it was a fun, enjoyable romp that is very family friendly. I wish that less time had been spent focusing on the history and politics of the period (the Hundred Days Crisis of 1815) and more pages spent building the relationship of Tilney and Violet Blakeney.  In addition, there were moments when I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters, but Caldwell solves this problem with a listing of the cast at the opening of the book. I referenced it several times.

Once again, as in the previous work, I enjoyed seeing so many Austen characters interacting with each other. My two favorites, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy make more than one appearance, and we also spend some time with the former Caroline Bingley and her new husband, Sir John Buford.  I also relished the story arc between Buford and Captain Tilney, as their relationship goes through an ebb and flow that I found compelling and interesting.

Overall I found The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to be another unique moment of Austenesque fiction from author Jack Caldwell.  Thus far he has not failed to disappoint in this genre, and I hope he continues this series of Jane Austen’s fighting men.


Author Jack Caldwell has graciously offered to give away a copy of  The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel to one of our readers!  The contest is open internationally.  If the winner is in the U.S., they may choose between paperback or eBook.  If an international name is chosen, they will receive the eBook.  Content ends on September 1, 2016 at 12am EST.  Utilize the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Jack Caldwell, born and raised in the Bayou County of Louisiana, is an author, amateur historian, professional economic developer, playwright, and like many Cajuns, a darn good cook.

His nickname -- The Cajun Cheesehead -- came from his devotion to his two favorite NFL teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. (Every now and then, Jack has to play the DVD again to make sure the Saints really won in 2010.)

Always a history buff, Jack found and fell in love with Jane Austen in his twenties, struck by her innate understanding of the human condition. Jack uses his work to share his knowledge of history. Through his characters, he hopes the reader gains a better understanding of what went on before, developing an appreciation for our ancestors' trials and tribulations.

When not writing or traveling with Barbara, Jack attempts to play golf. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, Jack is married with three grown sons.

Jack's blog postings -- The Cajun Cheesehead Chronicles -- appear regularly at Austen Variations.

Connect with Jack Caldwell

The Last Adventure Kindle The Three Colonels Pemberley Ranch

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Excerpt and Giveaway (US): A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

In the summer of 1992, a young writer is bequeathed the abandoned home of a great-uncle she never knew. The house has a romantic history and is unlike any home she has ever seen. Juliana Martel felt as though she stepped into a time capsule—a snapshot of 1942. The epic romance—and heartache—of the former occupant unfold through reading his wartime letters found in the attic, compelling her on a quest to construct the man. His life, as well as his sweetheart’s, during the Second World War were as mysterious as his disappearance in 1950.

Carrying her own pain inflicted by the abandonment of her mother and unexpected death of her father, Juliana embarks on a journalist’s dream to find her great-uncle and the woman he once loved. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a man whose family is closely related to the secrets, she uncovers the carefully hidden events of her great-uncle’s and others’ lives – and will ultimately change her own with their discovery.

This story of undying love, born amidst the darkest era in modern history, unfolded on the breathtaking Gold Coast of Long Island in 1942. A Jewish, Army Air Forces pilot and an enchanting society debutante—young lovers—deception—and a moment in time that lasted forever.

A Moment Forever is an evocative journey that will resonate with you long after you close the book. Romance, heartache, and the power of love, atonement, and forgiveness transform lives long after the horrors and scars of the Second World War have ended.

Today we welcome to The Calico Critic author Cat Gardiner.  She offers some thoughts, an excerpt of her novel A Moment Forever, and a nice prize package as well.  Enjoy today's post, and don't forget to enter to win below!  Every comment is entered for the giveaway of an E-Book, Vintage-style picture frame and triple-milled gardenia soap swag gift. (US)  For extra entries, follow on Facebook, Twitter or the Cat Gardiner blog.  Be sure to submit your entries through the Rafflecopter widget so that we can compile all entries and select a random winner.  Good luck, and enjoy!

*          *          *

Thank you, Laura for inviting me with A Moment Forever to The Calico Critic. I’m so happy to be here and to share some thoughts with your readers and a giveaway. So, I’ll get right to it!


Growing up, I knew a few families that had widow/widower parents, and guess what – they remarried! I’m sure you remember the song about one particular family: “Here’s the story of a lovely lady …” Yes, the Brady Bunch. And let’s not forget, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and My Three Sons. Sixties and seventies television shows were rife with this situation, and I, as a child, thought nothing of it. The Bradys hooked up, Eddie tried to hook his father up, and Steve Douglas, father of three sons hooked a bride. Society, as a whole, encouraged remarriage. It was more widely welcomed by family. Perhaps it was because the world viewed marriage as essential to one’s happiness – and also because two back-to-back wars had left us with the too common occurrence of men killed in action, resulting in fatherless children, unskilled women having to enter the workforce, and just plain and simple – loneliness. Maybe that would explain remarriage rates at an all time high in the late 1960s.

The eighties gave us more widowers in TV: Full House, Diff’rent Strokes, and more recently Arrested Development. Did they all remarry? No, most likely society has changed. In American real life, some of today’s dominant objections in keeping seniors from remarrying after the death of a spouse are from family. In this Millennial era, adult children are more protective – and territorial. They worry about someone new in their family, pre-nups and finances, inheritances, being taken advantage of, and the plaguing question of “who will I bury them with?” Personally, I do think I would have a difficult time. My parents have been married 61 years. They’ve been a “couple” for 75. Yet, my mother states time and again to my father, “When I’m gone, find someone to care for you.” It’s very hard for some children to accept that. No one can take the place of my mom or dad and what they mean to each other, but it’s not my call.

This issue is a prevalent theme in 1992 in A Moment Forever and it touches at the heart of the novel. A secondary character, Louis Martel, is responsible for compelling his granddaughter to find her past and the people he and his deceased wife hid from her. His son has just died, two years after his wife, and he’s living in a senior community. Once a “doll dizzy” man during the 1940s, he’s filling his loneliness at night with the help of some lovely ladies. But in 1992, his granddaughter is having a tough time accepting that he isn’t “faithful” to her deceased grandmother, Lillian (Mimi.) She fails to recognize his need to be loved, touched, cared for, soothed, and have steady companionship in his waning years. Things he wants to give someone special in return, too. Romantic love isn’t a one-shot deal and it’s not restricted only to the young – and Juliana must come to learn that. He hasn’t forgotten Lillian. On the contrary, he still grieves and misses her, and he must deal with the guilt he has about seeking companionship, maybe not marriage, but a relationship.

This scene shows us what Louis is up against.

*          *          *

“Grandpa, are you still asleep?”

She could hear the shower running inside his master bath. “Grandpa. It’s only me. I’ll put up some coffee. We need to talk.”

To her surprise, it wasn’t Vera who came through the bedroom door but another woman wearing a beige towel wrapped around her torso. Ginger-haired, buxom, attractive and in her sixties, she greeted Juliana’s shocked expression with a pleasant smile.

“Oh, hello. You must be Lou’s granddaughter, Julie. I’ve heard so much about you. Everyone has told me what a beauty you are. Why, you’re as cute as a button.”

The offending stranger squeezed Juliana’s cheek just as Mimi used to do. Unable, unwilling to welcome the woman with even a cordial acknowledgment or smile, she stammered.

“Um, er … and you are?”

“I’m Louise but everyone calls me Lou. Your grandfather is in the shower at the moment.”

Lou and Lou, oh isn’t that just too cute. Not.

“Can you please let my grandfather know that I’ll be in the kitchen preparing breakfast for me and him?”

“Of course. Make yourself comfortable, dear.”

Fuming, Juliana walked to the galley kitchen.

How could he? What happened to Vera? And who the hell does this stranger think she is telling me to make myself comfortable!

Already the morning was off to a bad start. Her anger was about to explode to the surface, but she shamefully had to admit that this Louise person, unfortunately, found herself in the line of fire. Perhaps if the woman had answered the door wearing actual clothing that might have helped, but the thought of her grandfather in some shag fest with a sixty-year-old was too much to handle. Pinching my cheek! Only Mimi gets to pinch my cheek! Oh, that’s right … Mimi’s dead and this one obviously thinks she can fill her shoes!

The coup de grâce was pulling open the refrigerator door and finding two different Pyrex designs and four different Corning Ware patterns, all dating between the 1960s and 80s, none of which he actually owned. Apparently these were the modern day, senior citizen equivalent to a calling card. Perhaps the pattern names suggested some subliminal message to the recipient from the giver, potentially a physical trait or a promise of dessert to come: Cornflower, Balloons, Floral Bouquet, Country Festival, Autumn Harvest, and the ever-present Spice O Life that seemed to sum up his playboy behavior toward them all! She wondered if Louise had brought Strawberry Sunday.

She harrumphed. “Six casserole dishes, all different designs. My seventy-three year old grandfather is a total Don Juan!”

She poured a mug of coffee, grabbed her blue Tiffany box, and walked to the balcony to wait for her grandfather’s expected shit-eating grin to arrive. Today, she would find it neither cute nor endearing.

*          *          *

Thank you so much for joining me today. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Louis and Juliana or someone you may know or even the beautiful idea of finding love again - at any age.

About Cat Gardiner:

Born and bred in New York City, Cat Gardiner is a girl in love with the romance of an era once known as the Silent Generation, now referred to as the Greatest Generation. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and Tampa Area Romance Authors, she and her husband adore exploring the 1940s Home Front experience as living historians, wishing for a time machine to transport them back seventy years.

She loves to pull out her vintage frocks and attend U.S.O dances, swing clubs, and re-enactment camps as part of her research, believing that everyone should have an understanding of The 1940s Experience™. Inspired by those everyday young adults who changed the fate of the world, she writes about them, taking the reader on a romantic journey. Cat’s WWII-era novels always begin in her beloved Big Apple and surround you with the sights and sounds of a generation.

She is also the author of four Jane Austen-inspired contemporary novels, however, her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever is her debut novel in that genre.

Follow her on Twitter:
On Facebook:
Follow her blog:!my-40s-experience/c112v


Cat Gardiner has generously offered a nice prize pack for our U.S. readers!  One randomly chosen winner will win a package that includes an eBook of A Moment Forever, a vintage-style frame and gardenia soaps (my favorite scent!).   Simply fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The only required entries are your contact information and making a comment to this post.  Contest will conclude at 12am EST on Saturday, August 27th.  Good luck to all the entrants!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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