Blog guest- Lela Bay with Giveaway

I’m excited to host new to me author, Lela Bay. Ms. Bay writes Regency Romance and many other genres and shares insights between her work and Pride and Prejudice.

Regency Subtext

First, I’d like to thank Rose Fairbanks for allowing me to guest blog.
Although I write in many genres, Regency stories hold a special place in my heart. Much like a mystery, the story is often as much about what isn’t said as what is. Adhering to convention and propriety, people rarely speak bluntly about their feelings. When they do it has the force of an explosion, such as when Mr. Darcy finally breaks down to say he loves Elizabeth “ardently.”

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Of course, he goes on to ruin it by insulting her family.

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Mr. Darcy drove Bingley from Jane because he believed her to be indifferent. Certainly in that case, it would have helped if Jane had spoken up, or even alluded to her feelings. A little flirting might have saved everyone a great deal of trouble!

Mr. Darcy says to Elizabeth about her sister, “If it be so, if I have been misled by such error to inflict pain on her, your resentment has not been unreasonable. But I shall not scruple to assert, that the serenity of your sister’s countenance and air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

Both stories in Ruined Reputations play off the heroine being unable to speak her mind freely. In “Virtues Tempation,” Eleanor saves Bitsy from entering a hotel room with an unsuitable man and takes charge of the girl. When Mr. Stinson arrives like an avenging angel, she hopes he’s come to save the girl and escort them home. Then again, he could ruin Bitsy if word gets out. Eleanor treads lightly, trying to get a sense of him in the first moments they meet.

Excerpt

Eleanor wondered whether she sounded inane.

The frown between his eyebrows deepened, giving him a stormy grimness.

Her stomach sank. Perhaps she had been mistaken in talking with him. What if, when he learned Bitsy had been here, he spoiled the girl’s reputation? Her hands tightened on her purse strings, the hard object within reminding her that she must follow through.

He rose from his chair, stepping toward her with such purpose that she startled in her seat.

His frown deepened. “Apologies, it is just that I am eager for news. I am DeMontrey’s nearest neighbor and watch over his property while the family is away.”

“Oh, yes?” She hardly dared to breathe, struck by the tenseness of his clenched jaw as he watched the movement of her lips. “It has been my pleasure to travel recently with the youngest of the family, Elizabeth DeMontrey.”

Mr. Stinson dropped to his knee at her side. Her mind blanked as he leaned toward her.

His words lay gentle and intimate between them. “I am quite certain her family would be overjoyed Bitsy has made such a friend.”

Much to her own amazement, Eleanor has taken responsibility for young Bitsy, and now must chaperone her safely home. Traveling with Mr. Stinson, she finds it difficult to behave respectably but Bitsy’s reputation depends on her own.

If you enjoy Regency tales, I hope that you give my novella a chance and enjoy the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, interplay.

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RUINED REPUTATIONS BLURB
“Ruined Reputations is a love letter to high romance of the Brontes with the meticulous eye for detail that readers crave like oxygen itself.” MJ Sherry-author of the Back Page Babylon series

“A tantalizing pair of Regency tales” ~Emmy Z. Madrigal

–The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons–

Rumors of Mr. Aarons unconventional ways are confirmed when he nearly yanks the bonnet off Emmaline’s cousin’s head. Drawn by his charm and good looks, Emmaline finds herself assisting him in his mysterious mission.
His obscure search appears to lead to her cousin, beautiful Catherine Connersfield. She is the more sensible choice, but will she have him? More to the point, will Emmaline let her?

–Virtue’s Temptation–

Experience has taught Eleanor it’s better to be practical than passionate.
When she discovers Bitsy eloping with her French tutor, scandal threatens to ruin the girl.

To keep her reputation intact, Eleanor reluctantly chaperones the rebellious heiress.
Eleanor’s spotless character protects Bitsy, but behaving respectably proves difficult when tempted by the dangerously attractive Mr. Stinson.

If she fails it will end with … Ruined Reputations.

Read for free on Kindle Unlimited. Available in eBook and paperback.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079K7D8KS

Giveaway

Ms. Bay is offering three (3) e-book copies of Ruined Reputations. Please comment on the post to be entered. Entries close at 11:59 EST on 4/10/18.

Lela Bay Links
Blog: http://lelabayblog.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bay_lela
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/lelabay

lela_bay_tea_cropAbout Lela Bay
Lela lives in a modest house with her husband, children, and pets. Despite living in the far north, she requires a certain amount of sunshine each day or she gets grumpy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends.

She enjoys stories with intimacy and humor.

Follow Lela on twitter @bay_lela.

Renewed Hope Launch & Giveaway

For the launch of Renewed Hope, I thought I’d do things a little differently. There are six main characters in Renewed Hope, so I thought I’d do six different posts and chances to win! (5 ebooks and 1 print copy) Each centering on a specific character.

We meet Viscount Arlington first. He’s irreverent, but charming and gets away with a lot.

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Well, I care plenty–about your opinions! To enter this giveaway, what is your favorite scene from Sufficient Encouragement? After you have commented, follow the link below and choose “I commented” to be entered.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All chances to win will be posted on my blog (with additional instructions). Look for more posts on:

7/21, 7/22, 7/23, 7/25, & 7/26

Who Doesn’t Love a Giveaway?

This is half PSA and half Question Tuesday.

Who doesn’t love a giveaway?

Not this gal.

What if it was 28 prizes from 13 authors?

Is your mouth  watering yet?

Ebooks, giftcards, paperbacks, and audiobooks are up for grabs.

Sound too good to be true?

But it’s not! All you have to do is capture the prizes in our chess game! Announcing the To Capture Mr. Darcy release party for Elizabeth Ann West’s first stand alone novel!

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Below you’ll see the video of her invitation. The launch party will be on the a Lady Facebook Page. There is a link to her blog which has the chess board and instructions. Each square takes you to a new giveaway to enter and we’ll announce winners on April 29-30 so you better hurry!!

Chessboard/Instructions

Sufficient Encouragement- Excerpt + Giveaway

I’m kicking off the blog tour for my latest release, Sufficient Encouragement, right here!

One of the things I love most about JAFF is that we have the freedom to imagine Darcy’s thoughts and feelings on situations. In Sufficient Encouragement, I frequently split a scene in half so you get both Elizabeth and Darcy’s perception of incidents. Here are two excerpts from Chapter Two as Jane and Elizabeth are leaving Netherfield to return to Longbourn.

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Excerpt #1

After a few more awkward and disjointed but adorable remarks between Jane and Bingley, he handed her in. Elizabeth stepped forward and was surprised to feel the warmth of a hand take hers. She nearly gasped when she realised the gentleman was not wearing gloves.

Looking down, she saw a bare, strong, masculine hand hold her own ungloved one. The owner’s thumb lightly stroked across the top of her hand and gave a gentle squeeze. She glanced up in bewilderment and saw the very proper Mr. Darcy attached to the hand that still held her own, and his pale blue eyes seemed to pierce her.

He immediately released her hand, quickly turned, and walked away. He did not even glance at the carriage as it drove away. Elizabeth hated to admit how much his gallantry affected her sensibilities. She had never had a suitor, no man to bow over her bare hand in her home before. If not for the ink spilling on her only pair of gloves, her hands would have been covered. What must he think of her for breaking propriety so much? And why was her heart thumping so wildly in her breast? And what was that look Mr. Darcy gave her?

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Excerpt #2

A faint scent of lavender alerted him to Elizabeth’s presence. He barely managed to bid her farewell. Suddenly, his body was moving on its own. His mind still reprimanding itself for not speaking more to Elizabeth, it barely registered that she was about to enter the carriage. He stepped in front of Bingley and handed her in.

A thrill coursed through his body when their hands met. Her skin was so soft that he could not resist the temptation to stroke it with his thumb. He gave her delicate hand a squeeze. If he were more aware, his mind would have been filled with questions, not the least of which would have been, why did she not rip her hand from his? Instead, she lifted her face, and her beguiling eyes met his in wonder.

In a flash, he felt how much he truly desired the young lady before him. Slowly, his mind registered that she was pulling her lean fingers from his hand. He released her hand and quickly walked back into the house, wondering how so much of his life seemed to pass before him in just one instant. How could so much of his life now seem centered in the feeling of her hand in his? As innocent as it was, he ached to hold her hand again, to cradle it, to stroke every inch, to tenderly kiss each lovely finger. His hand reacted in response to his thoughts.

Once safely in the library, momentarily away from even Miss Bingley’s cloying remarks and Bingley’s sadness, he allowed himself to ponder what on earth had just happened.

Darcy paced. He had always been careful not to raise the hopes and expectations of any of the ladies of his acquaintance. Not that it stopped most from having hopes. But there had been occasions when he had been prompted by a forward lady or two to touch a bare hand. Any doubts he may have had about his attraction to Elizabeth Bennet died even as his body came alive in a way he had never known.

His reason told him it was mere attraction, infatuation, perhaps lust and carnal desire — and nothing more — that caused his reaction. His will determined that it could withstand the temptation of Elizabeth Bennet for a few more days. He would soon return to Town — far, far away from her—and be lost in his worries once again.

There were beautiful ladies of the ton. There were witty, intelligent, kind, and accomplished ladies by the dozen, or so he had been told. True, he was fastidious, and he refused to bend on that, but surely Elizabeth Bennet was not the only woman who could fit his definition of perfection.

Perfection? When had he determined she was the lady most suited to him?

No, that thought would not do. She could not be the only woman whose touch ignited his dormant passion.

Passion? When had he determined his feelings were so passionate?

He was never passionate, and yet it was difficult to ignore his body’s impulse to rush after her and take her in his arms. He would kiss her lips mercilessly until she could tease him no longer. And then he would…

He shook his head. Nothing but carnal desire, certainly. He would not be a slave to such feelings. Other suitable ladies existed, he reasoned. He was only too busy before to notice these other women, to make their acquaintance. There was no such thing as destiny. And if there were, he could not afford it.

Surely there must be ten ladies who may stand in even better light than Elizabeth Bennet!

Just to firm his resolve and not at all because he was fleeing from the lady, his next thought was London. I must leave immediately for London.

His solitude was, welcomingly, broken by Bingley.


Darcy’s got it bad! Here’s the book synopsis.

SE final 4We are all fools in love…

Some say a lady’s imagination is very rapid. Such is the case when Elizabeth Bennet overhears that Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy admires her eyes. She thinks nothing for herself, but immediately considers her dearest sister’s growing attachment to Mr. Darcy’s friend. If Elizabeth spurns such a wealthy — and proud — gentleman, he might do everything in his power to separate his friend from her sister.

Raised in a world of expectations and pedigree, Darcy knows Elizabeth Bennet can offer him nothing of material value. As his attraction for her grows, he becomes increasingly convinced his feelings are nonsensical. Still, he might forsake it all if only he had true encouragement.

Misunderstandings lead to betrayals and the couple soon learns falling in love takes courage but staying in love requires forgiveness. Traversing from the groves of Hertfordshire to the drawing rooms of London to the complexity and danger of Luddite revolts in Yorkshire, Sufficient Encouragement follows Darcy and Elizabeth’s journey of love and forgiveness.

*This story contains a scene of nonexplicit sexual violence.


Sufficient Encouragement is the first in the When Loves Bloom series. It stands alone as the story of Darcy and Elizabeth’s courtship and first days of marriage.

About the When Love Blooms Series

“Love is like a flower, for it is well worth the toil to cultivate it.” She shrugged her shoulders, “Love is beautiful.”

Take a stroll in the garden of love and enjoy the unique blooms of the intersecting lives of the Bennet, Darcy, Fitzwilliam, de Bourgh and Bingley families. Sufficient Encouragement follows Darcy and Elizabeth as they fight to save their love from an unexpected frost while Jane and Bingley’s love grows strong roots. The companion story, Renewed Hope, adds depth to the bouquet with the love stories of Darcy’s cousins and Miss Bingley. The third book in the series, Extraordinary Devotion, follows Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage while their younger sisters experience a London Season.

Pre-order now!


Check out my About Me section!  You can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


SE blog tour final

Sufficient Encouragement Blog Tour Schedule

4/16: Excerpt & Giveaway at Stories from the Past

4/17: Excerpt at My Jane Austen Book Club

4/18: Excerpt & Review at The Ardent Reader

4/19: Excerpt & Giveaway at Diary of an Eccentric

4/20: Interview & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews

4/21: Review at Half Agony, Half Hope

4/22: Guest Post at Babblings of a Bookworm

4/25: Review at Just Jane 1813

4/26: Guest Post at More Agreeably Engaged

4/28: Guest Post & Review at From Pemberley to Milton


Giveaway!!

I’m giving away ONE ebook and ONE paperback to two lucky winners. Both open internationally! Comment below about why you love Mr. Darcy.

Please enter by Friday, April 22, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST.

Love Lasts Longest- Excerpt and Giveaway!

I’m so excited to announce the release of my latest book, a collection of short stories! They were loads of fun to write and I think you’ll enjoy reading them too! As a busy woman I’ve got so many things to do when I get a break in the day it’s not for very long. I was always the type to have a book at my side, even while waiting for the doctor, but I HATE having to put it away. I ALWAYS get interrupted at the good part!! These short stories are designed to fill those few moments of quiet time you have when instead of playing candy crush or thumbing through a left over magazine caked in germs, you can dive into the world of Darcy and Elizabeth for a quick swim of refreshing romance.

Here’s an excerpt from Tolerable Feelings.

LLL_finalBlurb for Tolerable Feelings: When Charles Bingley accidentally tears Jane Bennet’s gown at their first encounter, they must wed to save her reputation—or so Mrs. Bennet says. What can it mean for Darcy and Elizabeth if the issue of Jane and Bingley’s marriage is not a source of disagreement?

*****

March 2, 1812

Bingley residence, London

“Eliza! Are you certain you must leave Town on the morrow to spend so much time in Kent? You will be missing much of the Season, and Colonel Brandon seems quite taken with you!”

Elizabeth quelled the urge to roll her eyes at Caroline. They had both been staying with the Bingleys for several months, and Caroline assumed a false closeness with her. “I will be very happy to visit my friend and enjoy all Kent has to offer. I am certain Colonel Brandon will find other agreeable company.”

Caroline tsked. “Always so imprudent. First rejecting the parson, resulting in your mother’s insistence in your banishment from your family home, and now spurning a wealthy and agreeable suitor.”

“He is hardly a suitor. Mere dances are not the same as paying court.”

Instead of replying, Caroline declared a desire to perform on the pianoforte. After she left, Darcy took her place and spoke with Elizabeth.

“Did you enjoy the evening?” They had just returned from a ball in Town and now were having a light supper at Jane and Bingley’s house.

“It was certainly tolerable.” Darcy grinned, and Elizabeth smiled at the sight. She could not understand why he was never provoked by her teasing but was pleased she could always humour him.

“Do you truly look forward to your holiday in Kent?” He studied his hands before adding, “Or do you only desire a change in companionship?”

Elizabeth sighed. “I do miss Charlotte, and I am always curious to see more of the world. As for my London companions, I find them all excessively agreeable, save one. I do not know why she dislikes me so!”

They both looked towards Caroline, who narrowed her sharp eyes at them. “Perhaps she is jealous of certain friendships you have established.”

“A friendship is hardly the sort of thing Caroline is likely to be jealous over.”

Certain friendships easily inspire jealousy,” he said gravely, and when Elizabeth turned to see his face, she was surprised to see an unmistakable look of admiration in his eyes.

She said nothing as her heart beat faster. Surely he could not be implying he cared for her! Why, they had been friends for months now, and he never said a thing!

Before she could gather her wits, Darcy spoke. “How long will you be at Hunsford?”

“I am to remain six weeks.”

Darcy grinned. “I have recently had a letter from my aunt and conferred with my cousin. We are to visit her for Easter.”

Elizabeth smiled. Darcy’s presence would be an agreeable addition to what otherwise would likely be mostly ridiculous company. They moved to the coffee table to refill their cups.

“My sister will miss your friendship in your absence.” She reached for his cup, and his hand lingered on hers for a moment. “May I hope you will miss certain friendships as well?”

Elizabeth could hardly breathe. He removed his hand, but hers now felt afire. Dropping her eyes, she managed to reply, “Yes, I will.”

She heard a quick intake of breath and gathered courage to look at him. Although he tried to hide it, she easily noticed his smile. “I wish you a very enjoyable stay then.”

Before Elizabeth could make sense of why the candles all seemed to burn brighter, the music sounded sweeter, and all the company more enjoyable, Darcy was making his apologies to his hosts. Unaware of her eagerness to catch one last glimpse of him, her eyes locked with his before he left with a slight smile on his face.

****

Ah! So sweet! But can it really be that simple for them? You’ll have to find out what happens in Kent!

Amazon is still working on linking the pages, so for now it’s separate.

Kindle

Paperback

It is in the Kindle Unlimited program, which means I can’t sell it on other vendors for 90 days.

Giveaway

I’m giving away 2 ebooks, open international. Comment below to be entered. Entries close Sunday, September 27, 9:59 pm EST. It’s not a lot of time, but I’m going to be out of town all of next week and want it taken care of before I leave.

Sketching Character- Author Interview with Pamela Lynne and Giveaway!

I’m so excited to have Pamela Lynne here today! I first got to know her on a JAFF forum a few years ago and have absolutely loved her first published work, Dearest Friends. I’m really looking forward to the release of her next novel, Sketching Character. Look for it on Amazon on release day September 28th and paperback on other retailers soon afterwards!

Blurb

sketching character resizedWhat if a tragic event involving a beloved sister shatters Elizabeth Bennet‘s confidence in her ability to accurately judge a person’s character? When she leaves Longbourn for Kent, Elizabeth’s heart is full of worry for those she left behind. She carries a secret that would ruin her family if exposed and she must deceive the ones closest to her to conceal the truth.

She unexpectedly encounters Mr. Darcy on her journey and his gentlemanly behavior confuses, yet comforts her. Their daily encounters in the woods surrounding Rosings soothes Elizabeth’s weathered conscience and she soon falls in love. Her doubts, along with the well-placed words of another, threaten to destroy the peace she finds in Darcy’s company and she wonders if she has again failed to correctly sketch his character.

When the truth behind her deception is uncovered, will Darcy shun her as Elizabeth fears, or will his actions prove that he is the very best of men?

Now, let us attempt to sketch our author’s character. Grab your coffee or tea and settle in for this interview.

I love Dearest Friends, it’s one of my go to comfort reads. How would you describe Sketching Character? More or less angst for our couple than your first release?

Thank you, Rose! I always love to hear that, especially from another author. Sketching Character is far more angsty than Dearest Friends. There are some sweet and funny moments, but overall, SC is more serious. We have supporting characters, but pretty much all the action centers around D&E.

One of my favorite jokes in Dearest Friends is about a family prevalence for an “inner Fitzwilliam” trait of sexual awareness and appetite. That aside, the Fitzwilliam family is pretty accepting of Elizabeth in the book. What are they up to in Sketching Character?

In DF, the Fitzwilliams were loveable in spite of their faults. We see a different family dynamic here. We don’t see much of Matlock and Lady Catherine. The reader will be thankful for that, I think. That’s all I can on that subject. 😉

While we’re on the subject of minor characters, if this were the Oscars, who would get Best Supporting Actor and Actress?

Richard and Lydia are the ones we see most but all the usual players are there.

This is silly, but I’m in a silly mood. I once found a website that generated suggestions for a Romantic hero’s scent using two nouns and based on his name. So, what’s Fitzwilliam Darcy smell like to you?

LOL. What would Darcy smell like in two words. That’s hard! No, that’s not my answer. The first word that comes to mind is woodsy. The next is hero. So, Woodsy Hero.

As a fellow writer, I know characters can surprise us. Did that happen with this book? Do you find it more frustrating or freeing when the story takes its own life?

After my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience with DF, I decided SC would be more purposeful. I knew the characters well when I sat down to write their scenes, so I didn’t have very many surprises. There was some adlibbing and many of the romantic lines between D&E were spontaneous, but everything else was pretty well thought out.

What was your favorite part of writing this book? What was your least favorite?

My favorite part is seeing Darcy as the hero. In DF, that role was spread around. Here, he really shines. My least favorites are how long it takes me to write and much I have second guessed myself with some things.

Do you have a special process or routine that helps you write?

I wish I did. Having one might make the whole process easier.

How do stories come to you? A full thought out scene/outline? A flash of an idea?

DF started with a flash of an idea—what if Bingley insisted Darcy marry Caroline after she faked a compromise. SC came from several different places that I wove into one story.

Is there a particular moment in Pride and Prejudice or one of your books when you fall in love with Darcy?

In P&P, it’s definitely the letter. On the surface, it’s just a relaying of events. When you look deeper, however, you see how much of himself he exposed there. That’s part of the genius of Austen—to take a simple statement of facts and turn it into something profound. Her simplicity is rarely simple.

Who is your favorite literary male and why? If it’s Mr. Darcy, do you have another one?

It’s definitely Darcy. No other romantic hero can compare. He loved Elizabeth and showed it through his efforts with Lydia and Wickham. It was his respect for her that caused his introspection, I think. What woman wouldn’t love a man who both loved and respected her, especially in those times.

I also love Laurie in Little Women and have actually put a little of him in Bingley. As far as my own writing goes, nobody has captured my heart as much as Sebastian.

Who is your favorite literary female? (It’s ok to list Elizabeth Bennet here. I feel like the world doesn’t talk about her enough. Lol.)

I do love Elizabeth and related to her a great deal when I first read P&P. My favorite heroine (currently) is Jane Eyre. This was a woman who was not loved in her life. She had one friend, who died, and lived a very harsh existence. Then, she is presented with a deep, passionate love from a man who should have been out of her reach. She was finally wanted. But, there’s an insane secret wife hidden in the attic. Even through such heartache, she remained true to herself and that inner sense of what’s right. She was not a woman who would carry on an affair in the name of love. Elizabeth didn’t like Darcy when she rejected him. Jane loved Rochester, but she had the strength to walk away. You have to admire that.

Giveaway

Pamela Lynne is offering a special Vanity and Pride Press Prize pack along with a copy of the book for US entries and an ebook for international entries. To be considered for the giveaway please ask a question for Pamela in the comment section below. Entries close Monday, September 28 at 11:59 EST.

About the Author

Pamela Lynne grew up in the American South, surrounded by Southern Gothic works by Faulkner, O’Connor and the like. These authors helped shape her evolving mind and continue to influence everything she produces as an adult. It was a Regency-era wit from across the Atlantic, however, who seeped into her being.

She often describes her developing years as “Longbourn, The White Trash Version,” and credits Jane Austen for what little sense she brought away from that time. She has met her share of Willoughbys and Wickhams, Bingleys and Tilneys, and writes about them all.

Pamela currently lives among the rolling hills of Tennessee with her husband of more than a decade, three kids, two cats and one very blond dog. She is still a Marianne hoping to grow into Elinor, or Clairee from Steel Magnolias.

Other books by Pamela Lynne

dearest friendsDearest Friends: Amazon, Nook, Barnes & Noble

Listen to Your Heart Excerpt and Giveaway!

Today I’m hosting another good friend and fellow Austen Author, Leenie Brown! You  can read her debut post and learn more about her inquisitive mind and inquisitive characters of her latest release, Listen to Your Heart, here. Today she is providing an excerpt and giveaway! You really need to check out this book! It’s a wonderful read, shedding new light on Lady Catherine and Anne as well as a few other Austen characters while weaving in supporting original characters as well.

listen to your heartBook Blurb

Anne de Bourgh has never had a coming-out. She has never had a season. In fact, she has never had a suitor. But, according to her mother, she has always had a future husband. Although Anne desires to marry, she does not wish to marry her mother’s choice, and he does not wish to marry her.

With no other choices and the prime of her youth slipping away, Anne’s view of her future is bleak. But when she finds some papers hidden in her father’s study, that view, in the light of his wishes, changes. Her declaration to follow her heart and choose her own future causes discord and forces secrets to be revealed.

Sometimes the path to happily ever after can be strewn with danger and intrigue.

Excerpt, Listen to Your Heart by Leenie Brown

Richard knocked his normal pattern on Darcy’s door, waited for a count of ten, and then entered. “Mother is here. She is visiting with Anne. She has not yet greeted our aunt.”

Darcy looked up from the book he was reading.

“Did you not go riding?”

“I did. Stopped in the village for a pint with old man Coburg. It’s tradition, you know.”

Richard nodded. “How is the old chap doing? Still running the place or has he finally given it over to his son?”

“His son is in charge, mostly. You know he will not give up control before he ceases to breathe.”

“You do not smell like horse, so I assume you have been back for some time. Why did you not come to Anne’s room? Surely you saw the coach and knew Mother was here?”

Darcy looked at the wall behind Richard and worried his lip with his teeth.

“Out with it, Darcy. You do not need to smooth over whatever it is for my sake. I can handle whatever horrid news you have to share.”

“Who says I am about to impart something unpleasant?”

“You are biting your lip and looking past me. You always do that when you are unsure how someone is going to react to whatever it is you have to say. So out with it.”

Richard drew a chair closer to where Darcy sat and made himself comfortable.

“I overheard a conversation in the pub. You know how the backs of the benches are so high that you cannot see over them?”

“Makes it a nice cozy spot for discussions.” Richard winked at Darcy.

They had always teased each other about kissing the barmaids behind the benches though neither had.

“Yes, well, there were none of those sorts of discussions taking place.”

“Never are in Coburg’s.”

“But the conversation I heard has left me feeling uneasy. I am not quite sure what to do about it.”

“Did you see who was talking?”

Darcy nodded. “Barrows and another man he called Clarke.”

Richard felt a sense of dread settling in his stomach.

“It seems someone has told Barrows of Anne’s financial situation. He seems quite interested.”

“Exactly what did he say?” Richard sat near the edge of his chair and leaned toward his cousin.

Darcy shifted uneasily. “Remember I am only repeating what was said.”

Richard nodded and attempted to assume a more relaxed posture.

“Barrows was sitting behind me. Coburg had gone to help his son with something. There were only a few patrons in the place, and none was near where I sat. Barrows says…”

“Did you hear Rosings was left to de Bourgh’s daughter? But only if she doesn’t marry that prig Darcy?” Barrows sat his mug on the table with a definite thud.

“No, thought it was entailed away or some such nonsense. Never heard specifics.”

“None was given. A shadowy business it was. Seems the daughter just found out and finally called off her engagement to Darcy. So, this is my chance to acquire an estate with very little effort.”

“The other man, Clarke, laughed rather loudly and called for two more pints. They did not continue talking until the barmaid had delivered their ale. Then Clarke says to Barrows….”

“I wouldn’t call getting leg shackled very little effort. Perhaps you can worm your way into a marriage, but marriage is not for the short duration. I would not be tied to that harridan of de Bourgh’s for an estate twice Rosings. And you have to get her to accept you.”

“She’ll accept me. Her mother is already promoting me, what with her and my own mother being friends and all. And, I also have some information that neither mother or daughter would wish to be spread far and wide.”

“So you force their hand. You’re now stuck not only with two women in your care, but two angry women. Like I said, marriage is not for the short duration.”

“Yes, it is ’til death do us part.” There was a moment of extended silence.

“What are you playing at, Barrows?”

“She’s frail. It is unlikely she will survive childbirth. Her mother, of course, will be overwrought with grief. It is a simple matter of having her committed to Bedlam or hiring the finest actor of questionable standards to medicate her into an early grave. Thus, the estate should be free and clear of all entanglements within a year.”

“That is all I heard as a group of men came in and took a table near us. Barrows and Clarke left shortly after. I waited another quarter hour before exiting so they would not know I had been there.” Darcy rose and walked to the window, turning his back to Richard to allow for some privacy as he processed all that he had just heard. “You know she will not accept him without coercion. We need to discover what secret he knows.”

“He would kill her for an estate?” Richard still sat in his chair staring at where Darcy had been. He shook his head to clear the fog from it. “I expected we would need to protect her from fortune hunters, but I never expected them to be murderous in their intent.”

He rose and paced the length of the room. His heart could not or would not stop pounding within his chest. He felt as though the contents of his stomach might, at any moment, choose to be no longer confined within him. He had not felt this unsettled since his first foray into battle. His desire to relieve a man of his life had never been so strong. But this was not a battle where he could run the enemy through with his sword; no, they must think of tactics and plans. They had the advantage of their enemy being unaware of their knowledge of his plans, however. Finally, the room stopped its spinning, and he was able to begin to think.

“You are right, of course, Darcy. If we knew what information he holds, we might be able to limit his ability to force Anne into an acceptance of his suit.” He pulled at his neckcloth. The room was standing still, but it was so unreasonably warm.

“He could not present a suit at all if she were to marry before he has time to put his plan into action,” suggested Darcy.

Richard stopped his pacing to concentrate his efforts on that bothersome cravat. “But whom would she marry? She has no suitors. There are the men we invited to the house party, but it does not give her a very large selection from which to choose. I will not force her to make an uninformed choice. She deserves better than a rushed marriage to a man she barely knows. What if he does not love her? What if she does not love him? She would be condemned to a life of misery. I cannot be part of that.” The offensive piece of cloth finally found its way to the chair, but now it seemed his jacket had suddenly become uncomfortably snug.

“And what if there is one there whom she loves, and he loves her?” Darcy tried not to look at his cousin. This discussion was of a serious nature, but Richard’s tugging at his clothing was humorous. His cousin would not appreciate a smile or a laugh at this particular moment.

“Do you really think one of the men in attendance will suit?” Richard’s coat had joined his cravat on the chair, and he had begun working at the fastenings of his waistcoat.

“Indeed I do, but we should still try to discover the information of which Barrows speaks.”

Richard’s hands stopped. “Kellet.”

“What?”

“We must speak to Mr. Kellet. If anyone around here ─ other than our aunt, who I assume will not speak to us of secrets ─ knows anything, it will be Mr. Kellet.” Richard turned to exit the room.

Darcy cleared his throat and held out Richard’s jacket and neckcloth.

“You may get further if you are attired appropriately, Cousin.”

Richard smiled sheepishly and after tying his cravat, allowed Darcy to assist him with his coat.

Darcy smoothed his hands across the tops of Richard’s shoulders and gave each seam a slight tug, removing any remaining creases. “Truthfully, it is much easier to listen.”

“Listen?” Richard looked at his cousin in confusion. Of course, he planned to listen to what Mr. Kellet had to say.

Darcy shook his head. “Your heart, Richard. You. Love. Anne. And not as a cousin.” He opened the door and motioned for his dazed cousin to exit ahead of him.

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Leenie BrownAbout the Author

Leenie Brown fell in love with Jane Austen’s works when she first read Sense and Sensibility followed immediately by Pride and Prejudice in her early teens. As the second of five daughters and an avid reader, she has always loved to see where her imagination takes her and to play with and write about the characters she meets along the way. In 2013, these two loves collided when she stumbled upon the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. A year later, in 2014, she began writing her own Austen-inspired stories and began publishing her stories in 2015. Leenie lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her two teenage boys and her very own Mr. Brown (a wonderful mix of all the best of Darcy, Bingley and Edmund with a healthy dose of the teasing Mr. Tilney and just a dash of the scolding Mr. Knightley).

Listen to Your Heart is Leenie’s fourth book.

Website: http://leeniebrown.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeenieBrownAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeenieBAuthor (@LeenieBAuthor)

Other releases by Leenie: Oxford Cottage, For Peace of Mind, Teatime Tales

You can view her complete book listing at her Amazon author page.