L.L. Diamond

News, Blog, and Stories

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday! The new year is coming quick, but before we reach New Year’s, don’t forget to check out the Austen Variations’ Deck the Shelves Book Sale which runs through January 1st! I have two books still in the sale It’s Always Been You and Me, a steal at 99¢, and Undoing for $2.99 (Half off!!). If you haven’t picked those two up, then get them while they’re reduced!

Today, I have an excerpt from Undoing for you. I hope you enjoy it!

April 1st 1809

Elizabeth and Georgiana rode ahead of Fitzwilliam as they proceeded towards the next rise. Elizabeth had told them of the glowing descriptions she had read of the view, and now that she required a place to ride, the location and distance seemed ideal to test her new skill.

Fitzwilliam shifted in his saddle while he kept his eyes on Elizabeth. This was the longest ride she had attempted thus far. Could she cope with the length of time in the saddle?

He had accompanied Elizabeth and his sister daily since he began Elizabeth’s lessons, which had progressed from walks and trots around the paddock to a canter in a matter of days. They took their first tour of the park the day prior, and Elizabeth showed no qualms about handling Thetis when necessary. She still required instruction, but nothing time and experience would not overcome.

When they reached the bottom of the peak, Georgiana and Elizabeth waited for him to draw beside them.

“Are you well, Lizzy?” 

A laugh bubbled from Elizabeth’s throat freely. “I might be sore tonight, but I do not imagine it will be much worse than any other night since I began riding. Do not fret over me. Thetis does not jostle me around as I have seen other mounts do.”

He dismounted and checked the girths of both the ladies’ horses before he climbed back atop his own. “If she should stumble, give the reins some slack. She will require the excess to prevent herself from falling.”

Elizabeth arranged the reins in her hands. “I appreciate your concern, but I shall make it to the top.”

A corner of his lips lifted. “I do not doubt your ambition in the endeavour. Pray understand my concern stems from your lack of practice.”

Georgiana leaned forward in her saddle to speak across Elizabeth. “Should she do well, Brother, she will gain a vast amount of experience today.”

Elizabeth held a hand up. “I still will not venture from the stable block without a more learned rider. I am quite aware of my limited capabilities.”

“You are positive you wish to climb the peak?” He held her eyes, searching for any hesitance.

Her eyebrow arched, and she possessed an alluring curve to her lips. “I am certain, sir. I promise to notify you should I find the trip too arduous.”

He gave a large exhale and gestured before him. “Then let us go forth. This scenic vista awaits us.”

They all spurred their horses forward while he glanced over to her gloved hands. They appeared so small and delicate, yet she had proven she could handle Thetis. How ridiculous was he to judge Elizabeth by the appearance of her hands since Georgiana was younger by four years, but could handle a horse nearly as well as he.

“Thank you for taking so much of your time to teach me to ride. I appreciate your effort.”

A smile teased his lips while he watched Georgiana guide her horse around a rocky passage ahead of them. “I do not consider the last few days of lessons trying, by any means. I take great enjoyment in riding, and I have taken great pleasure in helping you learn.”

She watched Georgiana continue forward. “You do not mind her riding so far ahead?”

His sister’s horse moved along at a steady pace while he remained with Elizabeth, who held her horse back. “No, she is an accomplished rider for one so young, and she is not travelling with a fast gait; however, she may regret reaching the top before us when she must wait.” Elizabeth’s laugh renewed the smile upon his face. The sound was so lively and full of warmth.

“Georgiana mentioned your late nights to my father and me this morning.”

Her head whipped around with a slight gasp. “We have only been talking, though I did begin to teach her chess last night.”

“Your friendship means a great deal to her. Her excitement at telling us of her sisterly relationship with you was heart-warming. I cannot tell you how much it pleases us that you have taken her under your wing. She has needed a lady in her life for some time. Our aunt tries, but she is not the same as a sister.”

Her shoulders relaxed while she resumed scanning the route ahead. “Here I was concerned your father might be upset with me for keeping her up so late.”

He laughed and shook his head. “No, nothing of that sort. He will be intrigued that you are teaching her chess. I do not think it ever crossed his mind to make the attempt.”

“Well,” she said in a slightly higher tone. “You may tell him she did splendidly. I feel certain she will excel if someone takes the time to challenge her.”

“Perhaps when we return to Pemberley. In the meantime, she will have more opportunities to practise with you and gain a touch of confidence with the endeavour.”

“Confidence is important.” With a watchful glance at his sister, she paused. “May I ask you a rather personal question?”

He furrowed his brow. What could she possibly wish to know? “I suppose that depends on the question.”

“I understand from my husband that Lady Anne passed when Georgiana was very young. Does she have any memories of her mother?”

He coughed and looked down at his hands, attempting to gain control of himself. The subject of his mother was always difficult. His eyes burned and that blasted lump never failed to appear in his throat.

“Forgive me for being so intrusive. It is only that Georgiana does not mention her mother, and I have been loath to broach the subject. She is such a tender-hearted girl. I do not wish to cause her pain.”

Elizabeth was so empathetic, a trait not often found amongst the upper circles. His aunt Lady Catherine came to mind. Empathy was not a trait she was ever taught. Her stern demeanour was legendary.

He blinked rapidly a few times. “No, my mother died when Georgiana was but a babe. I do tell her stories, especially ones from when my mother was expecting her.” Those remembrances were particularly difficult, and his throat always choked his words so much he struggled to speak them. Yet one corner of his lips lifted at the memory of Georgiana’s bright eyes as he told those tales. “Those are her favourite.”

“I can only imagine,” she said quietly. “I am not close with my mother, but if it were my father, I believe I would hold a similar attachment to those stories of him.”

“Did your father teach you to play chess?”

“As a matter of fact, he did.” Her face glowed with pleasure, making his breath catch in his lungs. “I spent many a day in his library, reading books and challenging him at chess.”

“Challenging him?”

“You do not have to sound so shocked. I have bested him on several occasions, although he denies those losses with a vehemence not often seen in him.”

He grinned. He could only imagine his own father’s denial should his sister ever best him at a match. “You must miss him.”

“I do,” she said. “But he is healthy, and he sends a letter from time to time. Papa is not a faithful correspondent by any means.”

She again paused as she took in her surroundings. Finally, she turned back to him. “Would you mind telling me of your mother? I should like to know if your sister favours her in looks or temper.”

“With the exception of her dark hair, Georgiana’s eyes and complexion are reminiscent of my mother’s. She even has her manner.” He took a deep breath and gestured ahead to where his sister steered her horse with care. “She has her talent with horses. Lady Anne Fitzwilliam was known within the family for her skill as a rider.”

“Was she really?” 

“She would join the hunts when it was only the Fitzwilliams and the Darcys.” He spoke matter-of-factly.

“As to her character, my mother was a generous and kind person. I have been told by many a tenant’s wife of her good works for those who lived at Pemberley. She also did much for the less fortunate of the neighbourhood. She has been missed by more than just her family. ”His chest remained tight, yet he wished to speak of his mother’s memory. He was prodigiously proud of her. 

“Your father must have loved her very much. My husband has indicated Mr. Darcy would never think of marrying another.”

“He has never said as much to me, but I believe Thomas is correct. She took a large portion of his heart when she departed this earth. He will not be whole until he is with her again.”

Elizabeth gave a sniff and dabbed her eyes with the back of her hand once or twice as they continued. While they rode, they continued to speak, yet they left the more personal topics behind them.

Upon reaching their destination at the top, Fitzwilliam did not take in the view around him but observed Elizabeth, who absorbed everything with wide, admiring eyes. “What do you think of it?”

“I believe I have never seen a view equal to this one,” she said, her voice breathy and awed. “It is stunning.”

“We shall take you to Stanage Edge when you visit Pemberley,” said Georgiana. “The view from there is my favourite by far.”

Elizabeth glanced between the two of them. “I look forward to it. Is it close enough to ride, or will we need to travel by carriage?”

“Fitzwilliam and I usually take a picnic. He drives us out in a curricle, and we have our luncheon nearby before walking around the peaks.”

“How lovely!”

His face warmed with not only Elizabeth’s approbation but also a bit of embarrassment at his sister’s revelation. He prayed she did not go further and mention how only a few years ago, Georgiana would bring a doll or two, and they would play tea party during their picnics.

“We should have brought a picnic today,” said his sister while she looked back at the view.

He could not help but laugh. “With nowhere to tie off the horses?”

“I had not considered that since I can leave Ginger, and she does not move.”

“Our horses have been trained to do so, Georgie. Even with that training, it is unwise to leave them untethered for such a long time. Should they spook, we would be returning to Worthstone on foot.”

His sister smiled at her new friend. “Elizabeth could manage. She is an accomplished walker.”

Elizabeth gave a small jump. “I may be, but it is a long walk—even for me.”

“Well, I daresay Uncle Thomas would send a carriage when the horses returned to the stables. We would not be stranded for long.”

With a smile, Fitzwilliam gave a nod and a grin. “I am certain you are correct, but I have no desire to test your assumption. We might scare the wits out of our father and Thomas.”

After pulling Thetis’s head from her attempts to nibble at the grass, Elizabeth tightened up on the reins just as she should. “I arranged for tea to be prepared for when we return. We shall not be deprived. I hope you do not object to having our repast at the temple.”

Georgiana’s face lit with excitement, and though her hands still clutched the reins, she pressed the insides of her fists together. “Oh, how wonderful! I should take great pleasure in the view of the lake while we rest from the ride. The weather has been delightful. We should enjoy the advantage of the blue sky and sunshine while it remains.”

“You have precisely echoed my thoughts on the matter,” said Elizabeth. “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than nature, and I try to take advantage of fine weather, for one never knows when Mother Nature may change her mind—she does tend to have a rather capricious disposition.”

The glint in her eye, the arch of her eyebrow, and the slight quirk to one side of her lips enchanted him. With a heavy swallow, Fitzwilliam turned his concentration towards guiding his horse back down the incline. Peleus was a sure-footed steed, but he required some time to compose himself. 

Elizabeth was bewitching, but it would not do to fall under her spell. She was a married woman—wed to his cousin. Prior to the Darcy’s departure from London, he found himself comparing several ladies whose acquaintance he had made at a ball to Elizabeth. Those ladies had fallen short, dreadfully short, which was disturbing. His admiration needed to remain as nothing more than friendship, yet how? How did one keep themselves under such strict regulation?

The dilemma continued to plague his mind as they made their descent from the summit and began to plod along more even ground. His thoughts might have remained on the issue at hand, but the sound of her sweet laugh permeated the fog to bring an unbidden smile to his lips.

“Fitzwilliam!” called Georgiana from beside him.

He started and frowned. “I do not require you to yell in my ear, Georgiana.”

“I would not have done so, except we called your name several times and you failed to respond.”

A glance behind his sister revealed Elizabeth biting her lip to keep from laughing. “She did indeed attempt to gain your attention, but you did not answer. In the future, dearest, I would recommend touching his arm over shouting while in such close proximity. Lydia has cried out into my ear before, and I can attest that it is a painful experience.”

Georgiana cast wary eyes in his direction. “I do apologise, Brother. I had not intended to cause you pain.”

He reached over and wrapped a hand around her fist as she held the reins. “I am not angry. After all, I should not have been wool-gathering, and you should have been able to gain my attention without such an extreme measure.” With a final squeeze to her fingers, he returned his hand to his own reins. “Was there something you required?”

“Well, Lizzy would like to try trotting again, and I thought we could ride ahead of you while you keep watch.”

He looked past Georgiana at Elizabeth. She was doing well, and their return trip would be a crawl if they did not attempt a swifter pace. “The two of you ride ahead. I shall follow.”

The ladies both cued their mounts forward. A short time later, Elizabeth exchanged a few words with Georgiana before Thetis began a slow, controlled canter. His sister gave tips for her friend’s seat while they rode, so he saw no need to intrude. Georgiana was instructing Elizabeth well enough on her own.

When they reached the stable and dismounted, Elizabeth was aglow with a wide smile. “Did you see me canter?” Her eyes glimmered in the sunlight, and her voice was breathless. God, she was beautiful.

He shook himself mentally and held his reins a little tighter. “I did. You did very well, and you will only improve since the more you ride, the more accomplished you will become.”

“So, I shall only improve with constant practice?” She wore an impish grin and lifted an eyebrow.

With a laugh, he shook his head. “I never said constant.”

“True, you did not.” She glanced over her shoulder to Georgiana, who approached. “We should return to the house and refresh ourselves. I, for one, would like to have tea.”

“I would as well,” said Georgiana, linking arms with her friend.

Fitzwilliam could do naught but follow until they were separated at the top of the stairs where he was required to forcibly make himself turn towards his chambers. Elizabeth had been laughing at some tale she told Georgiana, and some quality of that bubbling sound was like a siren’s song and difficult to resist.

***

The Grecian-inspired temple at Worthstone was nestled upon a small rise beside the lake. From the windows of the main drawing room, one could appreciate its picturesque placement, and the element of beauty it added to the view.

The folly was nothing more than some columns with a ceiling, open to the elements as well as the cool breeze which made a delightful noise as it filtered through the surrounding trees.

Elizabeth refilled Georgiana’s teacup while she admired the lovely scenery. When she first noticed the building during a walk, she had an almost immediate love for its charm.

“I was not aware Thomas ever used the temple,” said Georgiana. “However, this is a lovely place for tea. We should stroll by the lake when we are finished.”

“Georgiana, you walk around the lake at Pemberley several times a week.” Fitzwilliam held an apple, pausing after swallowing a bite. “Besides, Lizzy might not be inclined for the exercise after the long ride earlier.”

“I am well. I would enjoy a stroll by the water.” She grinned and glanced towards Fitzwilliam. “It will take far more than a long horse ride to curtail my enjoyment of a good ramble.”

“As you wish,” he responded with a curve of the lips.

“I do wish. The grounds here have been such a comfort to me since my arrival. While in London, there was nowhere I could walk without the escort of a footman and a maid.”

Fitzwilliam’s brow furrowed, and he stopped before taking another bite of apple. “You should have a trusted footman with you regardless of where you walk.”

A laugh escaped before Elizabeth could bite her lip to prevent it. Georgiana directed a puzzled expression at her while Fitzwilliam studied her for a moment.

“Thomas attempted to have a footman follow you.”

“He did,” she responded, “but I was naughty. I evaded him several times once I was familiar with the grounds.”

“You did not!” Her young friend’s eyes were wide and her mouth agape.

“I do not recommend you emulating my example, dearest, but I did. I am accustomed to my solitary walks. I use the time to think and puzzle out my problems. I cannot do so with a noisy footman trailing behind me.”

Fitzwilliam shook his head but his expression was not angry or upset. “Thomas should still not allow it.”

“Oh, Jonathan still follows, but far enough behind that I maintain my privacy. If I happen to think aloud, he is not so close that he hears my babblings.”

As Elizabeth took a sip of her tea, Georgiana gasped at the sight of a puppy bounding across the grass near the temple. “He is adorable!” She craned her neck to see around the columns. “I hope he is not here all alone.”

Elizabeth caught a glimpse of the small black and white spaniel as it came running back. “Oh, I would wager young Evan is nearby. He does not allow Hazel to run the property unsupervised.”

“Who is Evan?” asked Fitzwilliam.

“He is an under-gardener and a nephew of my husband’s valet. He could not find work, and his parents could not afford to house and feed him. The duke brought him here and provided him employment and a place to live.

“When we returned from London, the stable manager informed him how Evan was very taken with one of the puppies. Thomas’s favourite hunting dog had a litter a few months ago.”

“How can an under-gardener afford to keep her fed?”

Elizabeth caught a glimpse of the young pup running by with a stick in her mouth. “I believe his uncle has provided some aid in the endeavour.”

“Do you think he would allow me to pet her?” Georgiana was enthralled and so eager.

“Evan is very kind. I am certain he would allow it.”

“May I, Brother?” Fitzwilliam nodded, and the young girl rose to rush to the grass in a swirl of her skirts. 

Finished with her tea, Elizabeth stood and moved to lean against a column while young Evan introduced Georgiana to his pet. A giggle burst forth when the puppy began licking the richly dressed Miss Darcy, making her chest ache. How she missed those days of being so care free!

A low laugh came from beside her, and she peered up to find Fitzwilliam had joined her. “Father has considered acquiring a small dog for her. She loves to venture out to the stables to play with those he uses for hunting.”

“Judging by her response to Hazel, I believe she would take great pleasure in such a gift.”

“Hazel?” he asked, with a puzzled expression.

“Evan’s pup. That is the name he chose for her.”

He turned a soft gaze towards his sister who now held the squirming bundle of fluff as it gave her another big lick on the nose. Fitzwilliam was a wonderful brother. What Elizabeth would have given for such a sibling! Her life at Longbourn would have been so different. Perhaps her mother might not be so silly, and her husband’s generosity would not have been required. Her marriage would not have been a necessity. She would have refused the duke. After all, her brother would have inherited the estate after her father’s death, guaranteeing them security.

“You seem deep in thought.” 

She started and smiled. “Forgive me. I was wool-gathering.”

“I am not offended. You only appeared so serious that I became concerned something was amiss.”

With a shake of her head, she also shook away her useless musings. “No, just idle thoughts. It does no good to dwell on them.”

After taking his offered arm, he escorted her down, and they walked beside the lake, keeping Georgiana in sight while Evan showed her the tricks he had taught Hazel.

They maintained a quiet but comfortable attitude while they strolled. Elizabeth, charmed by the golden rays of the sun reflecting off the water and the cheerful sound of the birds in the trees, lost herself in the enchantment of nature and delighted in her happiness at that very moment. Her favourite grove bordered the water nearby, the chalk-coloured trunks that seemed to peel to reveal the reality inside, and brought a peace to her soul. She also had the perfect companion, a luxury she never had.

Her life with her husband was not unacceptable by any means, it was simply lonely and lacked the affection she had dreamt of when she was a young, impressionable girl. Had her youthful wishes been a fool’s paradise? Were those relationships even possible?

More than anything, she longed for a child to fill that void but had come to despair that blessed event ever occurring. Her husband never came to her bed, and regardless of the naivety of what was supposed to occur when he did, there was no possibility of conceiving a child as long as he stayed away. If only she could comprehend what he meant when he said, “I cannot.”

“Have you enquired of your aunt the places you are to see in Lambton?”

Fitzwilliam’s voice again jolted her back to the present. “I received her detailed response a week ago. She provided names of friends and locations that hold special memories or meaning. I am eager to see if the reality is everything I have imagined.”

“Our corner of Derbyshire is beautiful and boasts some incomparable views. I daresay you will not be disappointed.”

“I have heard nothing but praise of the area from my Aunt Gardiner and my husband. My husband claims it similar to the environs of Worthstone.”

“I suppose the regions are similar, but something about home renders the area more beautiful to me.” He spoke with such fondness, one could easily discern the love he had for where he lived.

“You were raised in the heart of that country, so one cannot find it surprising you would have a passion for the area. It is your home.”

“Your perception does you credit,” he said, his eyes crinkling in the corners as his lips curved ever so slightly. “Are you often so astute?”

Her shoulders gave a slight lift. “I enjoy sketching characters, but some individuals make for a simpler study than others.”

He grinned widely, stopped, and turned towards her. “Have you sketched my character?”

She blanched and pressed her lips together tightly. This would teach her for speaking so freely. Now she was trapped into answering a question she preferred to keep to herself. “Perhaps I have, but then, perhaps I have not.” Would her coy response put off his inquiry or would he press forward?

His eyes narrowed, and he studied her with an intensity that made her want to squirm. “I believe you have and do not wish to tell me.”

Her cheeks burned as she began to walk towards Georgiana. She needed her company to deflect Fitzwilliam. A gentle hand to her elbow guided her around to face him.

“You will not offend,” he said, leaning slightly closer. Her stomach erupted into a flurry of butterflies, making her gulp. “Pray, I am merely curious of your impression.”

What if he became angry? Oh, well! He insisted. She dragged in a deep breath. “When I first made your acquaintance, you hardly spoke and stared in my direction. My husband assured me of your generosity and kind nature, but if I had not his insight, I might have thought you proud and disagreeable. I have since found that you mask your true self behind that stern reserve, keeping strangers at bay.”

His demeanour indicated he was not disturbed, and he gave a slight nod for her to continue.

“Since the dinner at Worth House, I have found you amiable, and a kind and generous brother to Georgiana. You are one of the best of men, Fitzwilliam. I am honoured to call you my friend.”

Did she overstep? Her eyes searched his, taking in the slightest twitch of his lashes and each nuance of his eyes, in order to gauge his feelings. She had so few true friends. He was becoming increasingly important to her current happiness.

Her letters from Jane had been her lifeline when she first wed her husband, but while she still cherished every word her sister put to paper, Elizabeth had begun to rely on the friendship of Georgiana and Fitzwilliam more. After all, they were present and tangible. She could see them before her eyes, touch them—even if only to lay a hand upon his arm—and speak to them.

“I am pleased you have come to regard me as such,” he said warmly. “I have grown to think of you with the utmost respect since our introduction. I hope we can continue to forge a strong friendship. We are now related after all.” His lips quirked to one side, and she was amused by his subtle tease at the end of his statement.

“Fitzwilliam! Is she not the most precious little girl!” Georgiana ran towards them, pointing back to Hazel. The puppy trailed after her owner as he departed. Meanwhile, Georgiana’s bright eyes glowed from her pink cheeks and she wore the biggest grin Elizabeth had ever seen upon the girl—despite the muddy paw prints on the fine muslin of her gown.  Elizabeth pressed her lips together. How many times had she returned home splattered in mud?

Fitzwilliam’s expression was inscrutable. “Hazel is an adorable puppy, but I am certain your maid will not be pleased to scrub the mess she has left upon your gown.”

With a slight brush to her bodice, Georgiana shrugged. “Brooks will not mind. She dearly loves puppies as well.”

Elizabeth laughed and shook her head. “My maid may have some idea how to remove the mud should yours have any difficulty.”

Georgiana’s hands clasped before her while she glanced back and forth between her brother and Elizabeth. “So, what have you been discussing? You appeared so serious while you walked along the water.”

“We were merely discussing Lizzy’s trip to Pemberley this summer,” said Fitzwilliam. “Her aunt has generously provided a list of places to see as well as friends to meet, and I have vowed to be of aid, to ensure she sees it all.”

With her hands still pressed together, Georgiana bounced on her toes. “I wish to help. I cannot wait to show you my home.”

Elizabeth looked between the brother and sister. “I anticipate viewing Pemberley through your eyes.” Her gaze locked onto Fitzwilliam’s and held. Her face became unbearably hot and breathing was a chore, yet she somehow managed to break eye contact and took Georgiana’s arm, pulling her ahead of Fitzwilliam. She peeked over her shoulder in his direction as she passed, but his attention was occupied by the sheep on the opposite side of the lake. At least she was the only one who suffered from whatever this was. Fitzwilliam appeared unaffected. The question was how to make it stop?

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Can you believe it’s already here? Even with the tree and the decorations, it just doesn’t seem like it should be Christmas yet. Just a heads up and reminder that the Austen Variations book sale starts on Christmas day this year, so make sure you check out our website to see what goodies we have up! This is a scene from my Persuasion-based holiday romance. So, without further ado, here’s the chapter 🙂

I sat cross-legged in front of the door under the stairs with a flimsy open box in front of me. Last night, after I’d agreed to this insanity, Jensen had given me an old pair of his work jeans and a hoodie to wear so I didn’t ruin my clothes, then we’d plonked down on the floor and set to work.

He hadn’t lied, this was absolutely disgusting. Who knew how long some of these boxes had been under here? They weren’t just filthy but also a bit warped as though they’d once been damp and had dried. Silverfish occasionally darted out from underneath as the boxes were lifted carefully so the contents wouldn’t fall through to the floor below. We’d worn gloves and masks to keep from being swamped completely in dust, not to mention the remnants from mice that had apparently made a home under here until Jensen set traps a few months ago. 

“You’re up early?”

I jumped about a mile in the air, my gloved hand pressing to my chest. “Shit, Jensen. You scared the fuck out of me.”

“Sorry,” he said with a smile. Daphne rose from where she sat beside me and trotted until she stood before him, tapping around on the tile with her front paws. “Has she been outside?”

“I took her when I woke up an hour ago.” I shrugged and unwrapped whatever had been carefully packed in newspaper. “I couldn’t go back to sleep.”

Jensen had tried to give me his bedroom last night, but I’d insisted on the sofa. For my own sanity, I wasn’t setting one toe up there.

“Have you found anything interesting?” he asked, scratching the back of his head.

“Just a couple of boxes of paperwork that the mice must’ve turned into nests at some point or another. The documents inside were shredded to bits. I brought them all out to the porch.”

“I should’ve gone through everything before I remodeled, but I felt like I was taking advantage of your parents by living in their house for free. I quickly fixed up what I needed so I could move out.”

I pulled the mask away from my face. “I hadn’t realized you weren’t paying rent, but I understand why they would offer. I mean, you were at our house almost constantly when we were growing up. They’d help Ellie or Jena in the same way if either of them needed it.”

“Your parents are great.” 

I pulled a white glass piece from the paper. Jensen crinkled his nose. “What is that?”

“Oh,” I said kind of softly. “It’s milk glass. I had a bride who collected pieces like this. Some of her close friends searched for really nice vintage pieces to buy for her. We’ll need to go online and see how to clean it.” When I glanced over my shoulder, his eyebrows were high on his forehead while his nose remained crinkled. “You’re not getting rid of it. You’ve got those shelves in the living room and the mantel with nothing on them. Besides, you can’t buy pieces like this anymore.”

I set the glass beside me and pulled out the next of the paper wrapped balls, revealing a boat-like dish on a pedestal, two candlesticks, and a cake plate. I shoved the paper back in the box before I dumped the box on the porch with the rest. “Don’t you have one of those big sinks in the laundry room? We can clean them in there instead of the kitchen.”

“How about some coffee? You put those in the laundry room and get cleaned up. I’ll brew some and get breakfast going.”

I padded into the laundry room and pulled Jensen’s too large jeans from over the boxers he gave me to sleep in as well as the hoodie I’d thrown on over that old Navy t-shirt I wore to bed. After I washed my hands and bare feet, I met him in the kitchen as the fresh smell of coffee began to fill the air.

“I checked the weather forecast,” he said as he put the milk back in the fridge. “We’re supposed to hover near freezing all day, and there’s a chance of snow again for tonight.”

“So, basically it’ll melt a bit this afternoon and then freeze back tonight anyway.”

“Pretty much. I left a message for Earl. Hopefully, he’ll tow your car in the first chance he gets.”

I blew out a breath as I took the cup he set on the island in front of me. “Thanks.” Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated having a warm place to stay, but things were uncomfortable—awkward. I wasn’t going to sleep with him again, especially after hearing Kimber-bimbo whining while ice skating, but it didn’t mean my feelings had disappeared overnight or that my body had forgotten what he could do.

I don’t think I was the only one feeling odd. At times, his eyes would venture to where Navy was emblazoned on my chest only to jerk back up to my face. He also scratched the back of his head and cleared his throat—a lot.

“How much is left in that closet?”

“A few boxes all the way to the back. Do you have a shop vac to clean it up?”

“I do. I’ll drag it out once we have everything removed. William’s guys are coming in next week and ripping that wall out. William suggested a bench and shelves. Sort of like a reading nook.”

“Oh, I like that.” I could see a long bench with a grey cushion to match the furniture in the living room and a few throw pillows scattered around. “He has some great ideas.”

Once Jensen had fixed his own coffee, he pulled out a cast iron skillet. “How about some eggs and whole grain toast?”

“Sounds good to me.”

We talked about oddly impersonal topics while we ate: movies, music, who would win the Superbowl. After we’d cleared up and loaded the dishwasher, we threw on our work clothes and started back to work on the storage area.

Unfortunately, no more milk glass lurked behind all of the rubbish we’d sorted, but when I unwrapped the first bit of yellowed newspaper, I gasped. “Jensen, look! Christmas ornaments!”

He took the pink glass bauble and held it up to the light. “I wonder if these were from when my mother was little.”

“Maybe they were on her grandparents’ tree. They look pretty old.” I rolled the next out of the paper. “It’s too bad you don’t have a tree. It would be fun to decorate one.”

He opened his box and laughed as he pulled out a jumble of ancient electrical cords. “I found the lights.” His head shook while he lifted them to one side. “Talk about a fire hazard.”

After we removed all of the ornaments, he shoved all of the old wrapping and the lights in the boxes and put them outside while I studied all of the colorful baubles, loving how the light caught the colors and the different designs.

“Do you really want to decorate a tree?” When I looked up, he stood in front of me with his hands shoved in his pockets. “I have some Christmas lights upstairs in a box and a young Scotch pine in the front that I’m going to have to cut down eventually.”

“Seriously?” My voice was high and sounded ridiculously excited even to my own ears. “Do you really want to go out in this weather and cut down a tree?”

“It’s cold and icy, but we can shake a lot of that off before we bring it inside. It’ll have to dry before we can put lights on it.” He held out his hand and helped me up. “I have a small chain saw in the shed out back.”

The frozen grass and leaves crunched under our feet. An inch or so of snow coated the ground and had frozen, but we made it to the shed then out to the overgrown front of the property. I saw the tree before he approached it. It was the perfect shape! It was a bit tall but the ceilings in the living room were high. It would probably fit well.

Most of the ice flew off when the tree hit the ground, and I giggled as I hurried around to the top, ready to help carry it into the house. Jensen shook his head and grinned. “That laugh reminds me of when we were kids.”

We hauled the tree into the mudroom and laid it out on some old sheets we’d set out before we ventured outside. I slapped my thighs to remove the water and sap after setting it down. “What do we do until it dries?”

“I have more things to go through in the dining room. Do you want to help?”

“Sure,” I said. He’d asked hesitantly like it was an imposition, but to tell the truth, it was kind of fun. It was dirty work, but each box held a potential treasure like the milk glass or the Christmas ornaments.

We spent the afternoon rummaging through more boxes, but whether Jensen thought we found treasure was another matter. More paperwork, this time water-damaged, boxes of old moldy clothes, and shoes were all moved to the porch for a trip to the dump. We did find an antique wooden mantel clock that had missed the water damage by being at the bottom of the pile. An odd box of mis-matched door knobs were also hidden under a box of old draperies. The draperies quickly found their way to the rubbish outside as well.

“Don’t throw the door knobs away,” I’d said, insistently. “I’ve seen hooks and curtain pull backs made from those on Pinterest. If you don’t want them, someone else will upcycle them.”

It wasn’t until almost four that we called it a day. While I stripped my filthy, dusty clothes into the washing machine, Jensen returned the chain saw to the shed. As soon as the last bit of my clothes made it into the wash, I turned to head upstairs right as Jensen walked back inside, stomped on the mat, and froze solid.

In my defense, I wasn’t completely naked. I’d left on my panties and my bra, but everything that could be dusty from cleaning was gone. “I was going to go up and take another shower.” I’d taken one last night before I changed to sleep.

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said, clenching his hands at his sides.

Turning my back on that crackling current that filled the air between us, I rushed upstairs and into Jensen’s bathroom. I let the water run a moment to warm up while I pulled off my bra and panties then stepped under the rainfall shower head, letting the hot water seep into my scalp and skin.

After I’d washed all of the grime from me, I dried off and went into Jensen’s bedroom where a clean pair of boxers and another Navy t-shirt were laid out on the bed. “I guess those are for me.”

My underthings went into the wash when I returned to the kitchen. After, Jensen followed me from the living room where he’d spread the Christmas ornaments out on the coffee table. “I wiped them all down, and I’ve turned over the tree to get more water out of it. The trunk is still slightly damp but the needles are pretty much dry. When I’m done with my shower, we’ll put it up.”

“Okay,” I said as he scratched the back of his head again before he shook himself and disappeared upstairs. Without anything to do, I rummaged through the kitchen, finding a pack of steaks in the fridge with some arugula salad mix. It took me a bit to find everything I needed, but I could at least make myself useful by cooking dinner. After all, Jensen had put me up last night, and at the rate the weather was going, I wouldn’t be able to go home until tomorrow. The least I could do was make him a meal.

I found a bottle of Malbec and poured a glass for while I cooked. When Jensen returned to the kitchen, I was pulling the steaks out of the broiler.

“You cooked?” he asked with a wide-eyed expression.

“Don’t act so surprised. I can cook. I just don’t do it often. Kind of silly for one person to make a full meal.” I held up my glass. “I found a couple of bottles in the rack. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, it’s fine.” He held up his dusty clothes. “I’m going to get the wash started.”

“I’ll have everything on the table when you get back.”

He disappeared into the laundry room while I plated the steaks with an arugula salad dressed with parmesan. When he reappeared, we sat down at the table. Jensen poured himself a glass of the wine before he topped off mine. “Thank you for all of your help. I appreciate it.” He held up his glass, and I clinked mine against it.

“You’re welcome. It’s actually been kind of fun—like a treasure hunt.”

His low chuckle vibrated down my spine and made parts of me hum. “I don’t know about that. More like sorting garbage.”

While we ate and chatted about the house, I probably relaxed for the first time since being in his home. We were sitting at his kitchen table, eating steak, drinking wine, dressed in the most casual clothes ever. I mean he was wearing a pair of cotton shorts and a t-shirt. The thing was that it was perfect. Being in that moment with him, dressed as I was, was perfect.

By the time I’d loaded the dishes in the dishwasher and cleaned up the kitchen, he had the tree standing in the living room. He’d also started a fire in the fireplace.

I handed him his glass of wine and set the bottle we’d opened during dinner on the coffee table. “How’d you get it straight without help?”

“The trunk wasn’t crooked.” His face remained even until he pointed to where a tool rested on the mantel above the fireplace. “I also used a small level.”

An unladylike snort escaped when I started laughing. “A little OCD of you, don’t you think?”

“Well, I could just hear you make fun of me all evening if it was crooked.”

I gasped, faking insult. “I would not!” I took sip of my wine, but he kept looking at me with a steady gaze. “Okay, maybe a little.”

After a roll of his eyes, he grabbed a box and opened it, pulling out a bundle of Christmas lights. “I found a surge protector in one of my boxes. It’s too old for a computer but it’ll work for this.”

“Is the tree dry enough?”

“The trunk feels pretty dry, and the rest is definitely not damp. The lights won’t be that far in anyway.”

I set my glass of wine next to his on the coffee table and stood on the opposite side of the tree from him. Once he’d plugged in the strand, we passed the bright multi-colored lights back and forth until we reached the end, Jensen opened another box, and we continued with the new strand. Even though a zing shot through my fingers whenever they touched his, I didn’t flinch, and soon enough, we had lights from bottom to top. 

All of the ornaments had old hooks or gold thread to hang them on the tree. The old baubles might have been a tad faded and the paint had crackled on some, but they were still beautiful and caught the colors from the Christmas lights just so. A finial was the last ornament on the table, so Jensen pulled out a step ladder.

“This was your idea, so you put it on.”

I bit my bottom lip as I picked it up. “Are you sure?”

He nodded while he opened the ladder. “Positive. Besides, we’ve both been drinking. It makes more sense for me to spot you than for you to spot me.”

He did have a point. I picked up the tall red and green spire of glass and carefully climbed the two steps to put me high enough to reach. After I’d slid it down the top, I put a hand on his shoulder to steady myself as I stepped down.

The view outside the window caught my eye. “Look, it’s snowing again.” I ran to the front door and rushed onto the porch as fat, white flakes lazily drifted down to the ground. With a grin, I tiptoed down the steps.

“Charlie, what in the blazes are you doing? You’re going to freeze.”

I spread my arms and held my face to the sky, letting the bits of cold land on me and melt. “It’s not like we get snow all of the time. Let me enjoy it.”

He crossed his arms over his chest while I stuck out my tongue and caught a few bits as they fell. Jensen’s eyebrows simply lifted. That was when my eye caught his squad car that boasted a solid cover of snow. I made a baseball sized snowball before I turned back to Jensen.

“Charlie, no.” One hand was now palm out and facing me.

“Why ever not?” I asked innocently. Before he could answer, I gave a quick wind up and let the snowball fly, hitting Jensen square in the face. His muscular body sprang from the porch, and I frantically began gathering more snow. His arms wrapped around my waist, throwing me over his shoulder as my hand with more snow found its way down the back of his shirt.

“Shit! I can’t believe you did that!”

The warmth of the house hit me like humidity hits you coming out of an air-conditioned building in the summer. In a blur, my back landed on the sofa and his fingers dug into my ribs, right at that spot where I’d always been ticklish. He pinned one of my hands over my head while I squirmed and laughed. It didn’t take long for him to pin the second over my head and continue what he’d started until I couldn’t breathe. 

“What do you say?”

“More?” Yeah, I knew what he wanted, but I’d never been one to give in easily. His fingers dug in harder while Daphne, now wide awake from the commotion, barked incessantly by my ear. “Okay! I give up. Please stop!”

As I panted, I realized my t-shirt had ridden up under my ribs, and Jensen was situated between my legs just so. Our eyes caught as his free hand landed on my bare thigh, sending a wave of heat through me, making me shiver.

There was no slow gradual dip of his head. Instead, his lips devoured mine as his tongue plunged to take possession. A whimper bubbled from my throat as I clenched his hips between my legs. He was already hot and hard and pressing against that place that already throbbed and insisted upon relief.

His hands released mine and cool air hit my breast as he released my lips. When he latched on to my breast, I shook myself. What was I doing? He lightly bit my nipple, and that ache jolted. I pushed Jensen’s shoulders.

“No.”

“What?” he said, panting.

I jerked my shirt down and crossed my arms over my chest. “I heard Kimberly at the ice rink the other night. The two of you might not be exclusive but it’s not fair to her. We also can’t just fuck whenever we feel like it. We aren’t together anymore.”

I scooted to the other side of the sectional and took a large gulp of wine. Not that it would help. I couldn’t look at him, so instead, I examined tonight’s handiwork while Daphne, disappointed the entertainment was over, plopped back down in her bed. “It’s interesting that you have Christmas lights but no artificial tree or ornaments?”

My eyes might have been glued to the tree, but his eyes were on me. I didn’t have to look at him to know, my body prickled under his steady gaze. “I have a couple of ornaments in a box upstairs, but no, I don’t have a tree.” Out of the corner of my eye, he did that awkward scratch thing he did to the back of his head. “When I got married, I thought we’d have one so I bought lights.”

I covered my mouth to keep from spitting my red wine all over his new furniture. “You were married?” I squeaked like an idiot.

If you haven’t read It’s Always Been You and Me, it’s available on Kindle, paperback, and KU!

Can you believe it’s December already? It seems like just yesterday we were taking down our stockings from last year’s celebration. We all could always use more Christmas spirit, so Cristy Hulsz has put together an anthology of Christmas short stories in English and Spanish for everyone this year because they’re FREE! Yup! Free! Just click on the link below and download your PDF of the anthology in your choice of language. If you want, you can email it to your Kindle email and read it on your Kindle. Easy peasy!

And after you’re finished reading Cristy’s anthology, don’t forget that I have three fun holiday offerings as well! All on Kindle, KU, paperback, and audiobook!

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Hi there! I hope everyone in the US had an amazing Thanksgiving, and now we have some giveaway winners to make the holiday season even more special.

Congratulations to those who won on this website:

DarcyBennet and EvaE

And Congratulations to the three who won from the Austen Variations giveaway:

Bambi, Mary Gerlach, and Paige Hale

Congratulations again and Happy Listening!

Yay! It’s so exciting to be able to announce that. If you haven’t read His Perfect Gift yet, you can still read it on Kindle Unlimited, Kindle, and paperback, but now you also have the option of audiobook with the wonderful narration of Stevie Zimmerman. If you haven’t already checked out the sample online, then I have a sample for you here!

Now! I have audiobook codes I can giveaway! On this blog post, I’ll give away 2 copies of His Perfect Gift on audiobook! Just leave me a comment and tell me what you love about the book or the sample and whether you need an Audible US or Audible UK code. Don’t forget about the region, because it makes it much easier when I notify you of winning 🙂

Happy reading and happy listening!

Most Regency authors have, at the very least, referenced or mentioned a lady’s maid in a story, even if we haven’t made her a confidant or important servant in our heroine’s life. She is often a useful character, who can be used to impart information about the household gossip, mend gowns in a trice, and coif our heroines so they stun our heroes with their beauty. But would a lady’s maid be as influential as we authors sometimes make her in a story and was her position a respected one within the household?

A lady’s maid is often referred to in fiction as an ‘abigail,’ which was indeed a term used during the Regency period. The term abigail is in reference to II Samuel, versus 24-28 when Abigail refers to herself as David’s handmaid on four occasions. It is unclear why one lady might prefer to use one term over another, though ‘abigail’ in research is referred to as slang.

Regardless of whether her employer referred to her as a lady’s maid or abigail, the lady’s maid reported and answered directly to her mistress. She was referred to by her last name and was, at times, called by the honorary ‘Mrs.’ much like the housekeeper. She was even considered on rank with the housekeeper, despite the fact that her wages were approximately half that of the woman who ran the household. 

An abigail was to be absolutely at the mistress’s beck and call. She helped her mistress bathe, dress, styled her hair, mended and ensured the mistress’ gowns were clean and pressed. She had to be trusted not only to keep her employer’s confidences, but also to care for the mistress’ jewelry. The lady’s maid fetched and carried, particularly when out on the town shopping with her employer. She also kept the same hours as her employer since she was required to help the mistress undress and ready herself for bed. The abigail could also be the eyes and ears for the mistress in the servants’ hallways when the necessity arose. Lady’s maids could be in the service of one mistress for decades and often cared for their employers when ill, which often made the lady’s maid a friend and confidante to her mistress.

Despite her position as a servant, lady’s maids were often the most educated and refined of all the female staff as her position required a knowledge of fashion, skill at hairdressing, a steady hand with a needle and thread, and more practiced manners and speech than most servants. In the absence of the housekeeper, a lady’s maid could be called upon to prepare tea and coffee for company, so she could not embarrass her mistress! It was also very fashionable to have French servants, though if a lady’s maid was not French she was required to have a store of French phrases committed to memory.

Was the life of a lady’s maid a good one? These trusted servants often acquired their mistress’ discarded clothing and traveled with their employer; however, the answer to that question likely depended upon the personality of the abigail’s employer. A mistress with the disposition of Caroline Bingley might be a nightmare, though a reasonable mistress might render the position a good one. In some ways, it does sound a lonely life as I can’t imagine much of the household staff befriending the servant who was the eyes and ears of the mistress below stairs!

Most of us would enjoy having a lady’s maid to press our clothes and fix our hair, but would you want to be an abigail? As for myself, I probably could not keep up! 

Sources:
Craig, Sheryl. Contrib. to Jane Austen Regency World Magazine.
Horn, Pamela. Flunkeys and Scullions, Life Below Stairs in Georgian England. Sutton Publishing. (2004).
Laudermilk, Sharon and Hamlin, Teresa L. The Regency Companion. Garland Publishing (1989).
Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters. Hambledon Continuum (2004).
Shapard, David M. (editor). The Annotated Pride and Prejudice. Pheasant Books (2003).

I thought I’d post a bit of a throwback today. If you’ve been following my upcoming release, His Perfect Gift, you may wonder where my original idea came from. This is the original scene, written for Pride and Prejudice: Behind the Scenes that I souped up and continued for His Perfect Gift. In the meantime, if you haven’t preordered His Perfect Gift, you can do so here! Release is the 21st and coming quick!

26 January 1812.

An hour prior, Colonel Fitzwilliam had appeared in his study, insisting they had to venture out to a shop in Cheapside. Cheapside! Of course, he had refused, if for no other reason, but to avoid yet another reminder of Elizabeth Bennet. Was there nothing that would spare him the torment of her memory? Unfortunately, his cousin would not leave him to the solitude of his library.

“I must insist you finally tell me where we are going,” he demanded in a surly tone.

Fitzwilliam lifted his eyebrows. “My but you are ill-tempered this morning. What has you in such a mood these days?”

“You are aware how much I dislike the balls and dinner parties of the season? I have had to endure your mother’s Twelfth Night ball as well as a dinner party given by none other than Miss Bingley. I should think those two events alone would be enough to sour anyone’s disposition.” Darcy steered his attention to the view outside the window as he attempted to avoid any further discourse on the subject.

A hearty chuckle came from across the carriage. “The only teeth set on edge by Miss Bingley belong to you, cousin, and I daresay it is your own fault.”

His head jerked back. “My fault?”

“You are too concerned with offending Bingley, so you do not treat her in the curt manner you do most women.”

Aggravation with his cousin’s observation and the situation welled within him. “I may not enjoy speaking with the ladies as you do, but I am not curt.”

The colonel gave a small snort. “I beg to differ. I have seen many a lady who was offended by your method of keeping them at bay.”

“I have no wish to be ensnared by any of them, so I ensure I do nothing to encourage their hopes.” With a heavy exhale, Darcy grimaced. “But I am afraid my latest endeavour to be of aid to Bingley has not helped the matter with Miss Bingley.”

His cousin’s expression reflected his curiosity as he leaned forward in his seat. “So, you have saved Bingley from himself once again? What was it this time? Another bad investment opportunity?”

Darcy shook his head. “Bingley became enamoured of a local girl while in Hertfordshire.”

“That does not sound too dire,” responded the colonel. “He is always fancying himself in love; it passes soon enough.”

Again, he shook his head. “No, this time was different. Bingley showed a decided preference for the young lady from the first of their acquaintance, and by the time of the ball at Netherfield, it became apparent that he had raised the expectations of the neighbourhood. They all believed him soon to propose.”

His cousin furrowed his brows. “You felt a marriage to this lady to be imprudent?”

Darcy closed his eyes as he envisioned the deplorable behaviour of Mrs Bennet and the three youngest Bennet daughters. “It would have been a most imprudent match. She had little dowry, no connections, and the behaviour of her family was objectionable, to say the least.”

“You must consider it a triumph to have successfully separated the two.”

“You can be certain,” he stated with conviction. “My only regret is that by being in collusion with Miss Bingley, she seems more assured I will one day propose to her. She is intolerable.

Colonel Fitzwilliam regarded Darcy with a critical eye, prompting him to shift in his seat. “Come to think of it, your insufferable mood was not present until your return with Bingley.” A smirk lit his cousin’s face. “Did you make the acquaintance of a woman in Hertfordshire? Would you be pining for someone as unsuitable as Bingley’s new angel?”

He scoffed as he adjusted his cuffs. Elizabeth Bennet? Unsuitable? If not for her family and connections, she would be eminently suitable. “You are ridiculous. I would never be so imprudent.”

The colonel sighed. “No, I suppose you would not.”

“What is so special about this wine and brandy merchant?” asked Darcy, with the intention of changing the subject.

“As I told you earlier, he boasts of a particularly fine assortment of port, claret, and brandy. My father was impressed by their selection when he placed his order for the ball. I thought you might wish to meet the proprietor.”

He suppressed a smile at the success of his manoeuver. “I do not see the urgency of such a matter. I have a perfectly adequate supplier on Piccadilly Street, who I have used since my father passed.”

With an irritated huff, his cousin sat back against the squabs. “I would wager this man’s prices to be more reasonable. He will also deliver to Grosvenor Square and Belgravia, which means you should not have to return once you have set up an account.”

The two gentlemen stared at one another for a few seconds until Colonel Fitzwilliam shook his head and turned to watch the buildings pass through the window.

A row of houses along Gracechurch Street drew Darcy’s particular interest while he avoided further conversation with his cousin. Did one of them belong to the uncle of Elizabeth Bennet? He had never taken the time to study the neighbourhood in the past, and he had to admit some of these homes were actually pleasant and well tended. Of course, the appearances did not necessarily correspond to the personalities of the owners. After all, Longbourn was not objectionable from all outward appearances.

A small park ahead caught his eye. Had Miss Elizabeth ever walked in that park? With her love for the activity, she must have during one of her visits to her family. He could almost envision her strolling through the trees, her hair windswept and the hem of her dress stained with grass and dirt—much as she had appeared upon her arrival at Netherfield to care for her sister.

They drew closer, and a young lady at the front gates came into focus, revealing her to be none other than Jane Bennet. Darcy leaned back from the window, while he watched her walk into the park hand in hand with a small child, a servant trailing behind.

He would have to ensure Bingley remained away from Cheapside for the near future. They had struggled so to prevent his return to Hertfordshire and to conceal Miss Bennet’s presence in London; it would not do for him to happen upon her now.

“There is a handsome young lady,” said his cousin, interrupting his thoughts. “Who is she?”

With a shrug of his shoulders, Darcy donned a mask of feigned indifference. “How am I to know? I would imagine a tradesman’s daughter, one of good means by her dress.”

“You appeared to have recognised her, or at least, taken interest?”

“No, I am not acquainted with her, and as for her being of interest…” His last view as they passed was of Jane Bennet smiling to the child at her side. “She smiles too much.”

Colonel Fitzwilliam gave a bark of laughter. “That has to be the most preposterous notion I have ever heard you utter. What man has not been bewitched by the smile of a beautiful woman?”

Miss Elizabeth again came to mind and Darcy gave a wry grin. “Perhaps a pair of fine eyes might one day garner my notice.”

His cousin chuckled. “I pity you when they do. You are so accustomed to maintaining your distance, you will be at a loss as to how to win her favour.” He turned serious and held Darcy’s eye. “But she will be a lucky woman—a lucky woman indeed.”

I’ve mentioned this is coming, and due to popular demand, Rain and Retribution is on audiobook! I’m so excited and I hope everyone gets a chance to hear Alexandra Lee Smith’s brilliant narration, so until you are able to listen to your copy, I have a sample for you!

It’s one of my favorite scenes and the first I ever imagined, so when I started writing, I had to figure out how to get E and D on that road together. It was so much fun listening to Alexandra bring Darcy’s disbelief to life and I hope you enjoyed it as well.

To get your own copy click on the link to Audible US, Audible UK, Audible France, or Audible Germany

In the meantime, I’m giving away 5 copies of Alexandra’s fun great narration. Just leave me a comment below and let me know whether you’re Audible US or Audible UK so I know what kind of code to send you when the time comes 🙂

Happy listening!

Happy Monday! October 21st is coming quickly so don’t forget to preorder your copy of His Perfect Gift! If you’d like a sneak peek before publication, I’m putting up a few chapters prior to the 21st at Austen Variations. You can read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 and I’ll be posting Chapter 3 this Friday! My working blurb is:

A reacquaintance with Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Christmas in London, what could go wrong?

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a man torn between choices. Having fled Hertfordshire with the singular goal of separating himself from the fine eyes and pert opinions of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, he finds himself face to face with her in London through a connection he never would have expected. He would like to abandon his reservations and court Miss Elizabeth, but other considerations are holding him back, including his family and friends, who might consider him honour-bound to another.

Following Mr. Bingley’s abrupt departure from Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet accompanies her sister Jane to London to visit her aunt and uncle. A sudden reunion with the disagreeable Mr. Darcy is not in her plans, but the man she discovers is not the same one who insulted her so grievously at the Meryton Assembly. Instead, a doting brother and amiable gentleman calls upon her in Cheapside.

A quiet Christmas at Gracechurch Street with her aunt and uncle seemed ideal, but the inclusion of Mr. Darcy brings old acquaintances and conflicts neither expected.

Can Mr. Darcy convince his family and friends to choose Elizabeth? Could Elizabeth turn out to be his perfect gift?

I can’t wait for everyone to finally read it!

In other news! I have a few books that I removed from KU to give others a chance to purchase them in other formats. At the moment, Confined with Mr. Darcy, The Earl’s Conquest, It’s Always Been You, and He’s Always Been the One can be read on Nook, Oyster, Scribd, and iBooks. I attempted to move Undoing as well, but the distributor refused to approve the formatting for distribution. I have the letters formatted correctly, but they don’t like the spacing and want the letter completely clumped together, which makes the designer in me cringe. I apologize. I may try again in the future, but for the moment, I put Undoing back in KU.

I hope to start having new content back up here soon! In the meantime, stay happy and healthy!

Leslie xx

Wow! I owe everyone an apology! In July, I spent a little over two weeks with my daughter in Texas, getting her settled there, before returning to Missouri and moving less than two weeks later. The last thing I wished was to move ourselves, but the office that schedules moves was still backed up (Thank you, Covid!) and while my husband wasn’t technically moving for another month, I wanted the children in school at our new home and not moving a month into the school year.

Fast forward to today, and we’re settled as much as we can be in the new house. We’ve had a myriad of issues crop up, but we’re dealing as best we can. My husband arrived a few days ago and has a bit of time to relax before he starts into work here.

So! What have I been up to? I have been unpacking, caulking (that word would make my children giggle), and unpacking as I can get rooms painted. I’ve also been finishing up the final edits, cover, and proofreading for His Perfect Gift, coming on October 21st to Kindle and Kindle Unlimited! Check out Austen Variations for Chapter 1 and tune in again tomorrow for the cover reveal as well as Chapter 2!

I’ve got a working blurb, but I will probably tweak it a bit more before publication day!

A reacquaintance with Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Christmas in London, what could go wrong?

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a man obsessed. He had fled Hertfordshire with the singular goal of separating himself from the fine eyes and pert opinions of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, but through a connection he never would have expected, he finds himself face to face with her in London of all places. Should he abandon his reservations and court Miss Elizabeth? What of his family and friends? Would they accept Elizabeth or believe him honour-bound to another? The decision as well as the repercussions occupy one’s mind for weeks!

After Mr. Bingley’s abrupt departure from Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet accompanies her sister Jane to London to visit her aunt and uncle. A sudden reunion with the disagreeable Mr. Darcy is not in her plans, but the gentleman she discovers in town is not the same man who insulted her so grievously at the Meryton Assembly. How is she to reconcile the man she knew in Hertfordshire with the doting brother and amiable gentleman who calls upon her in Cheapside? A quiet Christmas at Gracechurch Street with her aunt and uncle seemed ideal, but the inclusion of Mr. Darcy brings the return of previous acquaintances and conflicts neither expected. A Christmas courtship could be idyllic, yet is Mr. Darcy the suitor for her? Only Elizabeth can decide what will happen and whether she will become Mr. Darcy’s perfect gift.

I started a modern before I left Missouri that I hope to continue any day now. I look forward to losing myself in another story that I can eventually share with you 🙂

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

Leslie


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