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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Don Jacobsen Shares a Lost Scene From His Latest Book

A Character Interview of Lieutenant George Percival Wickham: A Lost But Now Found Outtake from The Exile: The Countess Comes to Longbourn

by Don Jacobsen

(Darcyholic Diversions is happy to Welcome Don back to Darcyholic Diversions with this special additional scene!  Be sure to comment and Follow the Rafflecopter Link for a chance at the Blog Tour GiveAways.)

This character interview of Lieutenant George Percival Wickham has been composed in the form of a short vignette which, if it had been included in The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn, would have fallen within Chapter XXXIV of the book. © 2018 by Don Jacobson. Publication or other use of this work without the expressed written consent of the creator is prohibited. Published in the United States of America.

March 24, 1815,
A café in Hietzinger Hauptstraße opposite Schöbrunn Palace, Vienna
The man stepped from the street into the café. His black suit, if one looked closely, betrayed considerable wear with fraying threads drooping from the cuffs of the jacket’s sleeves and his pant legs. Shiny spots and knees and elbows likewise suggested that his chosen trade paid little and irregularly at that. His deep-set eyes scanned the tables distributed around the cheerily decorated room, candlelit now even though the first day of spring had heralded longer days. Finding his desired target, he doffed his hat, ran his fingers through unkempt brown hair, and wove between guests and furniture toward a lone British officer seated by a window looking out onto the boulevard.
While the city was full of officers of all stripes given the Great Congress, this man, handsome to be sure, was one of the lowliest but, in his own way, one of the most important—at least to a reporter for The Times.  He was only a lieutenant in a city where colonels were often used to fill gaps on the lower end of countesses’ tables. However, his regimental facings were easily identified as being of the 33rd Infantry, Wellington’s Own. That and the silver cords of an aide de camp looping down from his left epaulet made him the object of the journalist’s desire.
Reaching his destination, the fellow unceremoniously dropped into the vacant chair opposite the lieutenant. Barely acknowledged by his quarry, the reporter dug into a pocket under his left lapel. Successfully removing a well-folded and somewhat grubby newspaper he dropped the publication next to the officer’s cup of chocolate. Using an ink-stained finger, he stabbed at a column-length article under a screaming header.
Without ceremony he addressed the Lieutenant, “What you gave me a few weeks ago was pure gold, Wickham. My editor is beside himself wondering what comes next. And if John Stoddart[i] is asking, that means that everybody from the Prince Regent to the charwoman at Carlton House wants to know.
“And that means, I need to know what the Duke plans to do now that the Emperor is back in Paris.”
George Wickham grinned back at the earnest newshound. Brigadier Fitzwilliam, his master, already had given him his remit: he was to feed Tomlinson exactly what the Duke was planning to do.
As his old playmate had put it, “Well, George, his Grace wants that bloody man to come to him. Rather than leave him to wonder, we will let him know exactly where to find us.
“So, tell the Times that the Coalition will defend the path to Antwerp somewhere outside of Brussels. We will feed his spies the same information, thus confirming one with the other. With luck, Napoleon will have to prove his claim to the throne by showing his followers that he can defeat our best and avenge Leipzig and Toulouse. That means he will want to take on Wellington.
“But he still has to raise his force and arm his men. So do we. That should take the better part of two months, time enough for us to scarper from Vienna up to Brussels with stops along the way to get our Allies committed to sending their troops to the Low Countries. Nothing should happen until sometime in early June.”
In several curt sentences delivered in low tones to convey the seriousness of the information, Wickham passed on the general outlines of Wellington’s plans. Tomlinson had fished out a pencil stub and took notes at a furious pace. In a few minutes, all was as the Duke wished it to be. Wickham signaled a waiter who bowed over the table before scuttling off with Tomlinson’s order.
While he had fulfilled his commission, Wickham still had something else he wanted to cover with the scribe. However, he did not know how to begin.
Tomlinson sensed his hesitation and employed his own interrogator’s skill.
“How long have we known one-another, Wickham? Four, five years? Certainly since before your marriage. When was that? The year ’11? So, at least five years. You crossed my path when you were still one of the ‘leading lights’ of the demimonde.
“But, since then, I have heard just that little tidbit about you and some elderly French Countess. After that, nothing,” Tomlinson quizzed.
Wickham sighed and leaned back into his seat. He tipped his head to the side and regarded the reporter much as a bull mastiff would consider a puppy intent upon disturbing his afternoon nap in the sun; he wondered how much energy he would expend explaining himself. Eventually he chose to offer some meat to cover the bones knowing that Tomlinson would be more inclined to fulfill Wickham’s request if he understood what rested behind it.
In the same low tone he had used before, thus, he hoped, placing the information on par with his earlier tip, Wickham related his thoughts, “I am not the man you first met. On the contrary, that young lady who married me has become quite dear. That tittle-tattle your gossipmonger printed back in December ’11 could have sorely hurt Mrs. Wickham’s trusting heart.
“You know she is nearly three-and-ten years my junior. I will own that my motives for marrying her were less than honorable, but shortly after we were wed, I began to reconsider the path down which the currents of life had been carrying me. I began to find that I wanted to comport myself in a manner that would give credit to my name and raise myself in her eyes.”
Tomlinson interjected, “So, poor fool that you are, you fell in love with your wife?”
Wickham chuckled, a relaxed smile easing his features, and replied, “There you have it. George Wickham, dissolute rake and gambler, had his locks shorn by a Delilah from Hertfordshire. Yes, I will own up to it; I have discovered that I love my wife. She has made me a better man, although, the Good Lord knows that anyone could have made me better given the state of my soul at the time.
“But, Mrs. Wickham made me think. And, then she captured me lock, stock, and barrel one chilly January eve early in ’12. After that, I really changed my ways.”
So saying, he raised his cup of chocolate in silent salute to a woman who waited for his return at her old family home, although she was in mourning for her father’s recent passing. They had rarely been together since the Second Battalion had posted to Portugal in the spring of 1812. Lieutenants were not colonels or majors. Unlike in the past years, leave had not been granted often to any officers as Wellesley pursued the French from Iberia across the Pyrrenes and into the Midi. However, there was a lively correspondence between himself and Lydia, augmented by another stream between his color sergeant, Henry Wilson, and his wife, the former Laura Jenkinson. Wickham read his letters from Lydia to an attentive Wilson while the blonde giant related his from Laura. Between the two of them, they managed to patch together a fairly clear picture of the goings-on in Meryton.
Then he continued, “I have truly come to treasure my wife. But, I am worried about what the future will bring. There are no guarantees in my business. The fight we are going into will be desperate indeed…and the infantry will take the worst of it. A voltagieur could easily place a ball between wind and water (his hand touched first his shoulder and then dropped to his stomach) and put paid to old George. Rather not think about what a 32 pounder from the Beast’s le Brutal would do to me.
“I have made sure she will be provided for. I’ve invested in a closed trust set up by some of those clever men from the City. But, money is not the sort of legacy I want to leave. I wasted too many years chasing gold. I have something else much more important to my posterity.
“No, t’is nothing anyone else would care about. But, I think Lydie would find comfort that her husband had grown to be more akin to her other brothers who are serious, thoughtful, and upright men.”
He reached underneath the table and pulled out a leather valise, its straps securely buckled. The thump it made when he dropped it to the table was noticeable, giving testament to the weight of what was contained inside.
Wickham added, “This is my journal. I have been writing in it since December of ’11. I am going to presume that you will read it, however, I beg of you to give me your word of honor that you will not publish a word of it, and that you will deliver it only to me if I survive or my wife if I do not. If the latter, make whatever arrangements with Mrs. Wickham you will.
“I would, however, remind you that those brothers I mentioned are Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley. Her uncle is Edward Gardiner. Between the three of them, they could buy your great newspaper and use every copy they print to wrap fish from Wapping to the mouth of the Estuary.”
Having said his piece, he pushed the case across the table into Tomlinson’s waiting hands, the Lieutenant stood and shock hands with his messenger. He then shook the other’s hand, gave him a quick nod, and, wrapping his cloak around him against the Austrian chill, swiftly strode out the door into history.
The Bennet Wardrobe books are best read in the following order:

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey
Henry Fitzwilliam’s War
The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque
Lizzy Bennet Meets the Countess
The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn

[i] Editor of The Times of London from 1812 to 1816

The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn


“I have been shaped by the events of over forty years. The world is a nasty place full of awful persons, Mr. Wickham, and does not get any lighter through complaining or blaming.”

The Countess: An Enigma? A Mystery? Or a young girl all-grown-up?

Kitty Bennet, the fourth daughter of the Master and Mistress of Longbourn, had spent far too long as the shadow of her youngest sister. The all-knowing Meryton chinwaggers suggested that young Miss Bennet needed education—and quickly.

How right they were…but the type of instruction Kitty Bennet received, and the where/when in which she matriculated was far beyond their ken. For they knew nothing of that remarkable piece of furniture which had been part of the lives of clan Bennet for over 120 years: The Bennet Wardrobe.

Forty-six years from when she left her Papa’s bookroom, the Dowager Countess of Matlock returned to that exact same moment in 1811 to tend to many important pieces of Family business.

In the process, Kitty Fitzwilliam helped her youngest sister find the love she craved with the hero who, as the Duke said, “saved us all.”

Who can resist the magic of time-travel? Pages of worldwide history rustle back and forth between Regency grand salons, Napoleonic battlefields and more recent conflicts as, guided by Don Jacobson’s masterful pen, the Bennet sisters grow as people and come into their own. ‘The Countess Visits Longbourn’ is a wonderful new instalment, and we cannot fail to revel in the excellent writing and the abundance of detail as the mysteries of the Wardrobe continue to unfold. This captivating series, that brings together real and much-loved fictional characters from all walks of life, is one to savour, and I will revisit it again and again.

Joana Starnes, author of Miss Darcy’s Companion 

Author Bio:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years.  His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television and radio.  His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe SeriesThe Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.”
 Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations.  As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound.  Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook and Twitter).
            He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.  
His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

 Contact Info:


Buy Links:  Paperback & Kindle

Blog Tour Schedule:

Feb. 14 Austenesque Reviews;  Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
Feb. 15 My Jane Austen Book Club;  Guest Post, GA
Feb. 17 My Love for Jane Austen;  Character Interview, GA
Feb. 19 So little time…  Excerpt, GA
Feb. 20 Interests of a Jane Austen Girl;  Review, GA
Feb. 21 Babblings of a Bookworm; Guest Post, GA
Feb. 23 More Agreeably Engaged;  Review, Excerpt, GA
Feb. 24 Darcyholic Diversions;  Character Interview, GA
Feb. 26 From Pemberley to Milton;  Excerpt
Feb. 28 Just Jane 1813;  Review, GA
Mar. 2  Diary of an Eccentric;  Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
Mar. 3  My Vices and Weaknesses; Author Interview, GA
Mar. 5  Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post, GA

Giveaway: (12 books – 10 eBooks and 2 Paperbacks)

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.
A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook or Paperback of The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

So Many Rogues, So Little Time!

So Many Rogues, So Little Time

An Interview with Karen Cox by Barbara Tiller Cole

Let’s welcome Karen Cox to Darcyholic Diversions.  She is talking with me today while participating on the blog tour for the Dangerous to Know anthology!   It’s a chance to get to read stories from a number of your favorite Austen inspired authors all in one book!  So let’s start the interview.

BTCole:  So, Karen tell us a little bit about yourself and where you grew up. 

I’m originally from Everett, Washington, because my dad was in the US Air Force, and he was stationed there when I was born. Until he left the USAF when I was about 2 ½ , we moved around a lot. I lived in Mom’s hometown in Kentucky for a year while Dad went to Thailand. This was during the Vietnam War. He was gone from the time I was about 8 months old until I was about 20 months old. I think this is why those returning veterans videos just gut me; I cry every time I see one. I don’t remember my dad leaving or his return, but I remember him saying how much he wanted to be home.

After the Air Force days, we still moved around some. He went to University of Tennessee in Knoxville, so we lived there until I was six. My sister was born there. Then, we lived in western New York state for a few years (hello, snow!), and then when I was eleven, we moved to Kentucky. It was a move home for my parents, but it was like another planet for me, and I had a hard time adjusting at first. But I did grow to love it after some time had passed.
I do think that I’ve always had a kind of ambivalence about the South—a sort of push-pull thing, probably because I’m of the South by birth/family, but I’m a bit of an outsider too, by environment. I love Kentucky, think of it as my place, but I observe it too—in all its glory and beauty, and its sorrow and weakness. But maybe I would have done that wherever I lived, I don’t know. Maybe that’s just what writers do ;)

BTCole:  Well, we have that in common!  I loved the four years I lived in Louisville.  And I still have family there.  In fact am headed up your way for Christmas although we won’t be there but for a few days.  So do you have any career other than writing?

KCox:   I went to the University of Kentucky and got my bachelor’s degree, with a major in psychology and a minor in linguistics. (I met my husband and got married during college too.) Then I stayed at UK for my graduate work—I have a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology. And somewhere in the midst of all that, I got interested in Speech Language Pathology, once I realized that I would most likely be looking for work and staying in Central Kentucky, so I have a master’s degree in Communication Disorders as well, and that’s the field I work in. I’ve done hospital work, nursing home work, private practice, and for the last several years I’ve worked in the public school system in my little town. I’ve worked in most of the schools here, with all age groups, but now, I’m working with preschool and kindergarteners. 

BTCole:  Well, don’t get me started on UK!  Or we will have to start talking about basketball!  And our Jane Austen inspired authors might not find that as fascinating as UK fans do.  So why don’t you tell me a little bit about your family.  

KCox:  I’ve been married for 31 years, and have 2 grown children. My son is an electrical engineer like my husband. He lives here in town and has an amazingly gifted two-year old daughter that I get to help take care of, cover with hugs and kisses, and spoil mercilessly J  My daughter is in college, and she is also studying to be an electrical engineer (I guess we just make them one way.) She’s one of only 6 female EE majors in her class, so I’m really proud of her, and the trail she’s blazing in that area. I think she’s much more together than I was at her age!

BTCole:  I can tell that you are a proud mom!  Do you have any hobbies other than writing?  

KCox:  Reading and writing are my biggest hobbies right now. I used to sew, and I like to travel, and at one time, I did some gardening. I’d like to get back to some of those things, maybe after I retire, but my days are pretty full of work and family, reading and writing at the moment. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever get done what I want to do!  

BTCole:  How did you discover Jane Austen and ‘fall in love with her works’. 

KCox:  I encountered Austen later, in my 30s, when I saw the Emma Thompson “Sense and Sensibility”. I tried to read S&S then, but put it aside. Then I saw the BBC “Pride & Prejudice” miniseries (yes, the Colin Firth one), and I was hooked on the stories. After that, I went back to the original Austen novel, Pride & Prejudice, and then I was hooked on her writing. I devoured P&P, then went back to S&S, barreled through Persuasion, Emma. I didn’t read Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey until after I found Jane Austen Fan Fiction, but I love them now too. Each story is unique, and Austen has so much to tell us about the human condition. She was a genius, a one-in-a-million kind of writer.

BTCole:  What initially inspired you to write Austen inspired stories?

KCox:  Austen herself inspired me to write and adapt her stories. I wanted to convey the themes I saw in her works to different time periods, because I think they’re still so relevant.

BTCole:  Did anything inspire your story in this anthology?  

KCox:  I was just putting the finishing touches on my Emma re-telling, called I Could Write a Book, when Christina approached me with the opportunity to “pick a rogue, any rogue!” and write his story. Frank Churchill seemed like a natural choice, since he and I had spent so much time together recently – ha! I felt like I knew him (and I’ve known some men like him over the years). As a reader, I always wanted to know what happened with Frank and Jane Fairfax, before, during and after the Emma story takes place. So I re-read several parts of Emma, and studied David Shepard’s annotated edition, and found my Frank, waiting to tell me his story.

BTCole:  And if there is anything you want to say about the other stories feel free.

KCox:  A friend who read Dangerous to Know said to me recently that the stories are so interesting, because with The Darcy Monologues, there is Darcy canon that has to be contended with, but not so with the Rogues. They’re in the canon, but how they got there is wildly speculative, which makes for some very interesting tales. I’m paraphrasing a little, but she said exactly what I was thinking myself. The stories are familiar, but novel enough to be intriguing, and the writing—my goodness, it’s just exceptional!

BTCole:  So what are your working on now?  Got a next story in the works? 

KCox:  I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head, and none have really settled in yet. I am planning a re-release of my award-winning At the Edge of the Sea for next year. It will be the 5th year since its first release.

Thanks so much for hosting the Dangerous to Know blog tour on Darcyholic Diversions! I hope your readers enjoy this anthology. It’s really a one-of-a-kind project in the Austen-inspired genre.

BTCole:  Yes I agree!  A fun read with lots of variety.  A perfect Christmas present to yourself!  

Excerpt from Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues
“An Honest Man” by Karen M Cox
The distance from Yorkshire to Weymouth was a long, arduous journey, so I broke the trip with several stops, including one in London, where I visited White’s for an evening of whist, and, shall we say, other entertainments. Glad to leave the city, for the heat in July was unbearable, I set out for the coast in the early morning hours. The turnpike from Dorchester to Weymouth was dry and dusty, but the air improved as I descended the Narrows leading to the town itself. I stopped for a brief moment to breathe in the tang of the salty, sea air. In another life, perhaps I should have been a sailor, or a merchant like my father’s forebears, living an ordinary existence in some harbor town. At times, that simple life appealed to me—the freedom to go where I wanted, do as I pleased, with no responsibilities, and no servants to observe my every movement. Yet, as my aunt often reminded me—in a veiled threat of disinheritance—my mother learned too late for her health that poverty is a heavier burden than familial duty.
My lodgings on one end of the Esplanade were simple but satisfactory, and since Hayward would not arrive until the next day, I decided to explore. Up one side of town and down the other I roamed, listening to the conversations as they drifted by me, hearing the seagulls cry, and appreciating the many fine-looking women bustling about, some walking arm-in-arm, some with stern-looking chaperones.
I had written a letter informing my family of my safe arrival, so I stopped at Harvey’s to post it. A queue had formed to pay for postage, so I joined in, rocking back and forth on my heels while I waited.
“Lovely day,” I commented, to no one in particular. The young woman in front of me turned her head and nodded curtly, barely sparing me a glance. She appeared to be one of those shy, wallflower-type creatures that found male attention terrifying, so naturally, I tried to engage her further.
“I say, miss, do you happen to know where a man might find a coffee around these parts? You see, I have just arrived, and I am still not familiar with the best places for food and drink.”
She turned her head again, in such a way that I could only observe her profile, and answered in a quiet, yet melodic voice. “Granger’s is but three doors down.”
I grinned, now more determined than ever to make her face me. “I believe I might be interested in a tart as well.”
“Granger’s sells mincemeat tarts, I believe, sir.”
“I think I fancy a jam-tart instead. Pray, might I inquire where are the best jam-tarts in Weymouth?”
She turned to face me now, deep set, gray eyes slightly rounded with surprise, pink flags in her creamy, delicate complexion. She narrowed those eyes, a most unusual color, now that I took more notice of them, and said with a quirk of her eyebrow, “I imagine that depends upon your taste, sir, for what is considered best for one is not for another.”
Impudent—and simultaneously elegant! She was certainly not intimidated by my double entendre, although her expression indicated that she had apprehended it, and that intrigued me. Alas, we had not been formally introduced, so the interaction could not be sustained much longer in the polite society of a public post office.
“Pardon me, madam, you are exactly correct in your observation. So, in which directions lies Granger’s?”
She pointed and turned back around as the postmaster beckoned her forward. I listened as she requested postage in the amount to send correspondence to Highbury. Interesting, as Highbury was the town of my birth, and where my father still resided. I wondered vaguely who this delicate looking flower might be, and if I should know her, but then she turned and marched out the door without looking my way. I watched her go, and then promptly forgot her as the postmaster called me forward.

Feature: Karen M Cox, Darcyholic Diversions, December 14
Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues BLOG TOUR
Contact info should you wish to have Karen M Cox write a feature or interview: karenmcoxbooks@gmail.com

Author Bio:             KAREN M COX is an award-wining author of four novels accented with romance and history: 1932, Find Wonder in All Things, Undeceived, and I Could Write a Book, as well as an e-book novella companion to 1932, The Journey Home. She also contributed short stories for the anthologies Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer and The Darcy Monologues. Originally from Everett, Washington, Karen now lives in Central Kentucky with her husband, works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter. Like Austen’s Emma, Karen has many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but like Elizabeth Bennet, she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker.

Information on the Two Grand Prizes
There are two grandprize giveaways.  The first is set signed paperback books from the authors'.  You can enter at this rafflecopter link:  Click On This Link To Enter

The other grand prize includes autographs from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle plus other Austen items.  To enter this give away you need to comment at each of the blog tour sites.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Marvelous Merry Christmas With Maria Grace

Marvelous Merry Christmas With Maria Grace

Thanks so much for having me Barbara! I’m so excited about this Christmas season! It’s been a doozy of a year in these parts, so much that it calls for not one, but two Christmas books.  They were released on December 1. The two books go along with The Darcys’ First Christmas, kind of forming bookends to the story. Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811 tells the behind the scenes story of what might have happened during the Christmastide Darcy spent in London, while the militia (and Wickham!) wintered in Meryton. From Admiration to Love tells the story of the Darcys’ second Christmas as they try to hold Georgiana’s coming out at the Twelfth Night ball as Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh descend as very unwelcome guests. (The story was such fun to write, I hope you love it as much as I do!)
One of my favorite parts of writing is getting to ‘dress the set’ as it were with bits and bobs from the era. Food is often one of those bits; the sights and smells and tastes of a place are so evocative, aren’t they? So I often find myself in a deep dive looking for what my characters would have been eating and what it would smell and taste like.
From Admiration to Love  has a scene that includes sitting down to breakfast that just screamed for a cinnamon roll—it was exactly what needed to be on the table. BUT, the big questions was whether or not such things actually existed in the day.
Naturally, the answer was ‘sort of’. Obviously, Cinnabon wasn’t around then, but apparently, there was a Georgian era doppelganger lurking about, ready to supply a cinnamon roll fix.  Seriously, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In the Chelsea area of London, there was the Chelsea Bun house, famous for its namesake, the Chelsea bun (as well as hot cross buns.) The place was so famous, it was patronized by Kings George II and George III.
The Chelsea Bun House appears to have started business early in the 1700’s, appearing  in a journal entry by Jonathan Swift in 1711.  Over a hundred years later Sir Richard Phillips wrote in A Morning's Walk from London to Kew that the shop had been operated by the same Hand family for four generations. Unfortunately, the last of the family died in 1839, and with him, the Chelsea Bun House came to an end.
The buns continue to be made though. They start with a rich yeast dough that may be flavored with lemon peel, cinnamon or other mixed spices. Currants, brown sugar and butter are spread over the dough before it is rolled and cut into individual buns. After baking it is covered with a sticky sugar glaze. Sounds nothing like a cinnamon roll at all, huh?
Here’s a modern version of the traditional Chelsea Bun. I may just be making these for New Year’s. I’ll share pictures if I do—and you must do the same if you try them!
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         pinch of salt
·         2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) yeast
·         1/4 teaspoon sugar
·         5 tablespoons butter, divided
·         1 3/4 cups milk, divided
·         1 egg, beaten
·         Vegetable oil
For the Filling:
·         1 cup raisins or currants
·         1/2 cup brown sugar
·         1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Icing:
·         4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl; make a well in the center.
Sprinkle yeast and sugar into the well. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 cups milk over medium heat until the butter has melted and the milk is just warm. Cool for 2 minutes. Pour the milk into the flour well.
Mix and add beaten egg. Mix until a dough forms.
Knead by hand for 5 minutes. Coat with thin layer of vegetable oil and place in a bowl covered with a towel.  Leave to rise in a warm place, until roughly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Press down dough, and turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll dough with a rolling pin into a rough 8- by 13-inch rectangle. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter. Brush dough with butter, leaving a 1-inch border along the top (long) edge. Add raisins and brown sugar on top of butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Gently roll along to long side to form a 13 inch-wide roll. Cut the tube into 8 equal pieces.
Butter an 8- by 11-inch baking dish and place rolls in dish. Let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled again, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake in center of the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  
Combine the remaining 1/4 cup milk and the confectioner's sugar in a saucepan and whisk until smooth. Simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Pour over buns while still warm. Serve warm.

Here’s a sneak peek into From Admiration to Love.

Sunday, November 21, 1813

After a light nuncheon, Elizabeth invited Darcy, Georgiana, and Fitzwilliam to the kitchen, just as her mother had done every Stir it Up Sunday since Elizabeth could remember. Pemberley’s kitchen was huge compared to Longbourn’s, filled with servants baking, making plum puddings, and working on dinner preparations. The air was thick with the fragrances of brandy and spices hanging in the humid heat of the great boiling cauldrons that already contained prepared puddings. How many were needed to distribute on the estate and in the parish? Elizabeth had lost count. Thankfully Cook had not.
A worktable had been set up in a more-or-less out of the way corner of the kitchen, with all the sweet-smelling makings for plum pudding ready and waiting in small bowls. The menfolk would have no patience for chopping and measuring, so it was best done for them. Even this was a little too much like cooking to be for their comfort. She gestured for them to stand around the table.
“I do hope you are going to tell us what to do.” Fitzwilliam laughed and elbowed Darcy.
“What, you do not know how to cook, too?” Elizabeth reached for the large earthenware bowl in the middle of the table. “You would have me believe an officer of His Majesty—albeit former officer—capable of anything.”
“I can roast a haunch of meat over a campfire, if that is what you are asking. But more than that I am told is not the province of men.”
“But are not French man-cooks considered the height of culinary expression?” Georgiana stared at the table. She had grown far more bold and able to tease—and be teased—good-naturedly, but still was not fully sure of herself in doing it.
“I stand corrected.” Fitzwilliam bowed at Georgiana. “I shall immediately find myself an apprenticeship with one of them and shower you with fine offerings from the kitchen.”
Georgiana giggled.
“I would be pleased if you would simply bring back some venison when you go hunting.” Elizabeth lifted her brows and stared at him.
Fitzwilliam laughed heartily.
“Perhaps we ought to attend to the pudding?” Darcy struggled not to smile.
“A very good suggestion indeed. Now, we have thirteen ingredients to add—”
“A most auspicious number, thirteen. I am told it is unlucky.” Fitzwilliam peered at the small bowls on the table and counted under his breath.
“Thirteen for Christ and the apostles.” Elizabeth drummed her fingers on the table. “Has your mother not taught you—”
“My mother had nothing to do with the kitchen, even for the sake of a Christmas pudding, unlike Aunt Darcy who was quite as fond as stirring them up as you. You, my dear cousin, must make up for my mother’s lack.” 
“Then pay attention, or I shall have to send you out like a recalcitrant school boy, and have our master deal with you.” Elizabeth gestured toward Darcy.
Darcy snorted. Poor man might hurt himself trying to keep a straight face.
“A dire threat indeed. I shall behave myself with all decorum now.” Fitzwilliam raised open hands in surrender.
“See that you do. Now, I shall add the flour and suet and pass it to the east.” She pushed the bowl toward Fitzwilliam. “You have the dried fruits and nuts—just pour them in on top, like that. You might make a man-cook yet.”
Fitzwilliam lifted his hand high and sprinkled in the chopped nuts with a flourish, then passed the bowl to Georgiana.
“Add in the bread crumbs and milk. Here is the citron already soaked in brandy. Pour that in, too.”
“You have kept the brandy from me?” Fitzwilliam wrinkled his face into a pout.
“My wife is very wise in all things.” Darcy took the bowl from Georgiana. He poured in the spices, eggs and sugar from the small bowls near him.
“And you my dear are the most sensible of men.” Elizabeth took the bowl again and reached for a wooden spoon. “This spoon is to remind us of the wood of the Christ child’s crib. Now stir it clockwise with your eyes closed and make a wish.”
“That is a relief, I thought you might hit me with that.” Fitzwilliam took the spoon.
“I will have to keep that possibility in mind. Now, stir the pudding.”
“By Jove, this is heavy! I had no idea!” He struggled to pull the spoon through the pudding.
Georgiana crowded him away from the bowl. “Here, here, stop complaining and let me.” She struggled against the heavy batter.
“Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we'll eat it up hot.” Fitzwilliam crossed his arms and pressed his tongue into his cheek. “Or not, at the rate you are going.”
“Help me, brother.” Georgiana handed Darcy the spoon.
Cradling the bowl with one arm, he dragged the spoon through the thick slurry. A fine sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead. “I think I do not pay our cook enough.”
Fitzwilliam slapped his thighs and chortled.
“Is it done now, Elizabeth?” Georgiana asked.
“Only one more thing to add.” She took the bowl from Darcy. “We cannot forget the charms! They are very dear to my family. You see, each year when someone has found the silver ring, they have indeed become betrothed. It began with my mother and father.”
“Did you find the ring the year my brother offered you marriage?”
“No, but the husband of one of my sisters did, so the tradition continued.” No need to mention it was Wickham who found the ring that year. She dropped the silver charms into the pudding and stirred until they disappeared amidst the dried fruits and nuts and she was quite short of breath. “Georgiana, hand me that buttered cloth, and you two strong gentlemen—who do not pay the cook enough for this chore—dump out the pudding and tie it up to boil.”
Darcy and Fitzwilliam struggled with the pudding, finally calling in Cook’s assistance to tie it up and haul it away to a large boiling cauldron.
“With that, I think I shall seek out some far easier recreation. What say you Georgiana, would archery suit you?”
“You consider that easier than making a pudding?”
“Far easier and cleaner.” He dusted flour off his jacket. “Shall we have a quarter of an hour to clean the flour from our hands and don our shooting dress? I will see you on the back lawn then?”
“I am a frightful bad shot you know.” Georgiana followed him out.
“Not an incurable malady I assure you.”
Darcy shook his head as he watched them leave, then turned his gaze on Elizabeth. “You have flour on your cheek.”
“Do I?”
He pulled out his handkerchief and dusted her cheek, gently, tenderly, almost like a kiss. “There, much better.”
“I am certain this is not the way your mother must have stirred up puddings.” She bit her lower lip.
“What matter is that? Pemberley needs laughter, and I am thankful to hear it. I look forward to many more Christmas puddings stirred up just this way.”
She leaned her head on his shoulder. “I am glad to hear that.”
“There is one favor I might ask, though. Is there any way to prevent that ring from finding its way into either Fitzwilliam’s or Georgiana’s pudding? I can see no good coming of it, especially in the presence of a large party.”
“You mean this one?” She opened her hand. A tiny silver ring twinkled in the sunlight.
“My wife is indeed the wisest woman in Derbyshire!”
“Not in all of England?”
“I am not far from being convinced of that as well.”

Thanks so much for letting me come by and visit Barbara!

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Sweet, Austen-inspired treats, perfect with a cup of tea.

Full of hope and ripe with possibility, Christmastide tales refresh the heart with optimism and anticipation.

Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811

Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months?

Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.

Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?  

Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company.

Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?

The Darcys' First Christmas

Sweet, Austen-inspired treats, perfect with a cup of tea.

Full of hope and ripe with possibility, Christmastide tales refresh the heart with optimism and anticipation.

The Darcys' First Christmas

Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.

Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence.

Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?  

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.

From Admiration to Love

Sweet, Austen-inspired treats, perfect with a cup of tea.

Full of hope and ripe with possibility, Christmastide tales refresh the heart with optimism and anticipation.

From Admiration to Love

After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.

On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical.

Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out?   

From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.

About the Author

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

She can be contacted at: