My guest today is Riana Everly, an author whose guest posts I always adore! We can tell Riana Everly does a lot of research to develop her stories and, in my perspective, that is always a sign of quality, which obviously increases my curiosity towards her books.
Today she will bring you a guest post regarding her recently released book, The Bennet Affair. This story is full of intrigue, mystery and spies!!! Isn’t that a different and interesting take on Pride & Prejudice? Plus, the cover is absolutely stunning, so this book is really hard to resist! But I’ll let you read the guest post and a small excerpt so you can make your own analysis 😉
A tale of secrets, sweethearts, and spies!
Elizabeth Bennet’s bedroom in the ancient tower of Longbourn has always been her private haven. So what are those footsteps and shuffling noises she’s now hearing from the room above her head? Drawn from her bed one dark summer night, her clandestine investigations land her in the middle of what looks like a gang of French spies!
William Darcy’s summer has been awful so far, especially after barely rescuing his sister from a most injudicious elopement. Then he is attacked and almost killed nearly at his own front door in one of the best parts of London. Luckily his saviour and new friend, Lord Stanton, has a grand suggestion—recuperate in the countryside and help uncover the workings of a ring of French spies, rumoured to be led by none other than country squire Thomas Bennet!
Drawn together as they work to uncover the truth about the Frenchmen hiding in their midst, Elizabeth and Darcy must use all their intellect as they are confronted with an ingenious code machine, a variety of clockwork devices, ancient secrets and very modern traitors to the Crown. And somewhere along the line, they just might lose their hearts and discover true love—assuming they survive what they learn in the Bennet affair.
The Bennet Affair is a full-length JAFF novel of about 112, 000 words.
You can find The Bennet Affair at:
Natural History and Bird-Watching Books
In The Bennet Affair, Mr. Darcy befriends a baron who is also a renowned ornithologist—an expert on birds—who has authored and illustrated several books on the subject. Indeed, the art and science of Natural History was something that was becoming more and more popular in England in the early nineteenth century, becoming almost a mania during the Victorian age.
One origin for this interest in nature and natural history was the Enlightenment, the philosophical movement that prioritized reason and the advancement of science. This was in some ways opposed to, but also complimentary to, the blossoming Romantic ethos of the time, which saw a move to restore people’s relationship with nature. This movement saw nature as pure and uncorrupted, an antidote to the human world, and therefore something almost spiritual. Natural Theology, as set out by William Paley in his book of that same name in 1802, emerged from this. It was the belief that natural science was proof of the existence and power of divine creation.
The popular interest in natural history was essentially egalitarian; there were groups for men and women, for workers and aristocrats, and even for children. Going out into the wild to find and identify plants, rocks, shells, and birds, became a common activity for families and organizations.
Of course, one needs books to guide the amateur along his pursuits, and books on birds were no exception. There were several available in the nineteenth century, most with exquisite artwork and excellent information on finding and identifying birds. Here are a couple of examples.
One beautiful set of plates is found in New Illustrations Of Zoology, Containing Fifty Coloured Plates Of New, Curious, And Non-Descript Birds, With A Few Quadrupeds, Reptiles And Insects. Together With A Short And Scientific Description Of The Same, by Peter Brown.
Brown was an associate of the great English naturalists Thomas Pennant and Joseph Banks. Though primarily an illustrator, he wrote the scientific descriptions of some species. His illustrations are accurate and very beautiful. These plates were published in 1776, and fifteen of the fifty plates are dated between January and May of 1775.
Figure 1 The Brown Hawk
Figure 2 The Purple Pigeon
Figure 3 The Blue-bellied Parrot
Another very popular book was A History of British Birds by Thomas Bewick. It was published in two volumes: Volume 1, Land Birds, appeared in 1797; Volume 2, Water Birds, appeared in 1804. These volumes are admired mainly for the beauty and clarity of Bewick’s wood-engravings, which are widely considered his finest work, and among the finest in that medium. The book was effectively the first “field guide” for non-specialists, in which Bewick provides an accurate illustration of each species, from life if possible, or from skins. Indeed, the book has been compared to works of poetry and literature, and features prominently in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
Figure 4 Yellow Wagtail
Figure 5 The Sparrow-hawk
Figure 6 The Heron
In this excerpt from The Bennet Affair, Darcy and his friend Lord Stanton discuss birds.
Once again, the day passed pleasantly. The thrumming in [Darcy’s] head was now almost unnoticeable, a background murmur that could well be ignored, and his shoulder too had ceased its ache, except for when it was jolted. Darcy tried to imagine the pain the short carriage ride to his home would occasion, with the rumble of the wheels over the cobbled streets, and he realised the wisdom of the doctor’s command. Instead of having his broken bones jostled through the streets of London, he was quite content to talk companionably with his host and eat the man’s excellent food.
He was rather pleased to discover that he and Stanton had many interests in common, besides birds. When not reminded of his injuries and his enforced sojourn in the baron’s house, he could almost imagine he had been invited for a visit by a friend. They talked of the war, of their estates in the northern counties—the barony of Stanton was in Lancashire, not so far from Darcy’s beloved Pemberley—and of the latest developments in science and industry. Likewise, their opinions on politics were well enough matched that, if they did not agree completely, their differences were fruitful ground for discussion rather than argument, and they enjoyed the same tastes in art and theatre.
By the evening, Darcy insisted on having some paper and a pen to write a quick note to his sister, informing her of his unfortunate encounter and assuring her of his health and recovery. “I should not wish her to hear the news from another before she sees in my own hand that I am well,” he explained. He would not be denied this wish, and the supplies he begged were consequently brought. He composed his letter, and when it was sealed and inscribed with her direction on the front, he idled with a pencil and a small scrap of paper that Stanton insisted was of no value and would be discarded.
“My word, Darcy!” that gentleman exclaimed as he wandered to the writing table to refill his guest’s port. “You are an artist! That is a perfect rendition of the African grey parrot, the Psittacus erithacus. We had one in our home when I was a lad; from the detail of your drawing, you must have had one as well. And that sketch there: That is exactly the Dendrocopus major—the great spotted woodpecker—we were just discussing! You have captured it perfectly, down to the curve of its beak and the white shoulder patches at the wings! I had no idea you were skilled with a pencil!” He hurried to one of the many bookshelves that lined the room and retrieved a large volume. The title was embossed on the leather cover in rich gold and read “Birds of Britain by Raymond Orville Fynch.” Even though not supposed to read, Darcy could not help but notice this prominent text. Stanton opened the tome with the ease of long familiarity and found the page he sought. “See here! This is my own drawing and they match exactly!”
Darcy demurred, but was pleased with the compliment. “Those are fine words from one so skilled as yourself. I have always taken pleasure in rendering small images and scenes with paint or charcoal, although I have never devoted much time to the art. Where I have poured my energy is into technical drawings.” He glanced up and was satisfied to see the look of clear interest on Lord Stanton’s face.
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
Riana’s novels have received several awards and citations as favourite reads of the year, including two Jane Austen Awards and a Discovering Diamonds review.
The blog tour is just starting, so please do not forget to stop by at the next blogs to obtain more information about this book 🙂
March 31 ~ Interests of a Jane Austen Girl
April 4 ~ My Love for Jane Austen
April 6 ~ From Pemberley to Milton
April 9 ~ Diary of an Eccentric
April 13 ~ Babblings of a Bookworm
April 15 ~ Half Agony, Half Hope
April 24 ~ Author Takeover at The Historical Fiction Club
May 8 ~ Austenesque Reviews
Riana Everly is giving away one eBook on each stop on this blog tour. To enter, just make a comment and leave an email address so she can contact the winner. She will enter names into a random number selector to pick the winner. The deadline for entering will be five days after the blog is posted.
Good luck everyone!