It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

     The tree is up, and (if I say so myself) looks lovely.  The mound of boxes has been weeded, and two enormous bags of trash put out to disappear.  There is one small bag going to Goodwill as well.  While I was not as ruthless as I had hoped, I did at least pare it down significantly, and have new sturdy boxes to pack things away at Epiphany.  (The tree stays up for the 12 days of Christmas.)

     The tin trunk is the last hurdle!  I found the key last night.  Who knows what mysterious treasures remain?  My husband has not brought it down from the attic for several years now-it’s so heavy, and I can never remember what is in it so would tell him I didn’t need it.   Do you think the lid will creak when I finally get it opened?    More in the next installment!

‘Tis The Season…

     I don’t rush into decorating for Christmas.  For one thing, I want to enjoy Thanksgiving.  It seems a shame to leap straight into shopping and decorating for Christmas before one has even had time to digest one’s dinner, never mind contemplate one’s blessings.  Secondly, I like to leave my decorations up for the full 12 days of Christmas.  I enjoy them more if I save them for the actual Christmas time.

     This year, decorating is going to be a bit more leisurely.  Now that almost all of the boxes are down from the attic, I’m going to go through them as I put up the decorations and get rid of the ones that I no longer use.  As an unabashed sentimentalist (I even cry at commercials, sometimes!), I have a tendency to hold onto things that were gifts or have memories tied to people I love.  At this point, I have ornaments going back to childhood.  Some have got to go.  I know that this will make decorating a bitter-sweet event this year, but it is time to purge. 

     Does everyone have boxes full of chipped, cracked, slightly crushed  items that one just can’t bring oneself to throw away?  I have held on to way too many items, because the occasion or the giver is a cherished memory.  I’ve finally had time to realize that one doesn’t need the object to retain the essence.  I’ve decided that this is the year that I need to put some of these worn-out items to rest.  Will it be a clean sweep?  Of course not!  (I know myself too well to have unrealistic expectations in that department, although I know my husband is hoping-he’s the one who lugs everything up and down the attic steps!)  However, I’ve already seen several items that aren’t hugely sentimental that will not make the cut, and I have hopes that this will begin a reorganization, which will continue when it’s time to take things down.  I can’t keep everything; I have to set priorities and keep the best, and let the damaged or no-longer-valued items go.  That way, I can really enjoy what I’ve kept and have room for new ones as they come.

Autumn Thoughts

It is a gorgeous morning, sunny and warm, here in Florida. However, today I am feeling fall in the air. This has been a domestic morning, with laundry and so forth. I have prepared a crockpot full of vegetable soup for dinner, full of fresh corn, squash and other wonderful vegetables, as well as my own fresh herbs. I think we’ll have some homemade garlic bread with it. Even though the temperature may say it’s still summer here, I know that it is a beautiful autumn!

Carrying on my autumnal theme, I feel a re-read of PERSUASION coming on! PERSUASION is my favorite of Jane Austen’s novels. It is her last completed novel, and it opens near the fall of the year. Her heroine, Anne Elliot, is a wonderful character. She is older than Austen’s heroine’s, and is definitely feeling that she is approaching the autumn of her life. As the book proceeds through the seasons, we watch Anne’s life unfold. It is a delightful read, especially at this time of year. Somehow I always reach for it when I first feel that fall feeling in the air!

What is your autumn reading choice?

Jane Austen and Me

It is no secret that I am a Janeite. I love Jane Austen’s writing, and am constantly inspired by her. I am not alone in this. Many, many talented authors have taken the step into writing sequels and variations on Jane Austen’s classic novels. Provoked by a recent question on one of my favorite blogs, I have followed their lead into a piece of “fan fiction.” I have written a short story (my first), posted here. Your comments would be appreciated!

The Murder of Caroline Bingley…
By Lauren Gilbert
     Miss Bingley paced the drawing room. “I must be rid of her!” she fumed to herself. “She has bewitched him, and the others follow him like sheep. With her out of the way, it would be easier to convince him that there are other, worthier consorts.” Miss Bingley had just returned from a visit to her brother Charles and his wife Jane. Of necessity, a visit had been paid to Pemberley. Observing Darcy’s felicity with that brass-faced hussy had poured salt into a wound that had never healed. Just then, her sister Mrs. Hurst entered the room. “La, Caroline, do sit down!” she exclaimed in annoyance. “Watching you prowl the room gives me a nervous headache. Whatever is troubling you now?”
     “Oh, Louisa, I am … I am … I am offended and resent the fact that that unworthy wretch has the power to affect me so.” Mrs. Hurst nodded wearily. “Ah, I see we are back to Mrs. Darcy yet again. Caroline, you must give it up. They have been married for three years, and a blind man could see how contented he is with her. Can you not see how you demean yourself? You are approaching thirty, after all, and no nearer to settling yourself than you ever have been.” Caroline looked at her sister angrily. “Demean myself? How could I demean myself more than by settling for a less eligible parti? Before Miss Eliza Bennet practiced her allurements on Mr. Darcy, he found me … attractive enough. In time…”
By now, thoroughly tired of the endless discussion of the iniquities of Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Hurst responded bluntly. “Frankly, Caroline, I saw no indication of any interest in you on Darcy’s part. He has always been polite and gracious enough to us, as sisters of his friend. I daresay, if not for Charles, we may never have formed acquaintance with Mr. Darcy and his sister at all. Don’t let the wish become fact in hindsight, my dear. ‘If only…’ are two of the most futile words. You must come to terms with reality, sister, and think of your future.” Aggravated beyond measure, Caroline flounced out of the drawing room, leaving Mrs. Hurst alone.
     Gazing absently, Louisa Hurst reflected on the situation. When Mr. Hurst agreed to allow Caroline to live with them, it was with the understanding that the arrangement would last only so long as needed for Caroline to marry and form her own establishment. Instead, Caroline had been with them for several years. Mr. Hurst had given her yet another uncomfortable reminder of the household expenses, and she had not had the fortitude to mention that several of the bills in question included purchases made by Caroline and charged to Louisa’s accounts.
     Although Louisa and Caroline had received equal settlements from their father, Caroline’s finances were in much better condition than her own, due to Caroline contributing nothing to the household and being slow to repay Louisa for her purchases. With an unladylike grimace, Louisa faced yet another unpleasant confrontation: trying to convince Caroline to reimburse Louisa for her purchases, and to set up her own accounts. Mr. Hurst had not yet mentioned the dread word “retrench”, but she feared the bare possibility, as Mr. Hurst’s idea of retrenchment involved year-round residence at their home in the country.
     In her own room, Caroline also stared out of the window, her thoughts equally unpleasant. In just a few months, she and the Hursts would be accompanying the Bingleys to Pemberley for an extended visit. The gentlemen would be hunting and fishing, leaving the ladies to entertain themselves. “More opportunity for her to flaunt her success!” steamed Caroline. “It is not to be born.” This time would be different, she determined. She was not sure how it would come to pass, but she would see her rival humbled, if not eliminated altogether. “Wait. Eliminated…” thought Caroline. Elizabeth…gone, removed, as if she had never been. But how to encompass such an elimination? Wild thoughts of hiring someone to carry Elizabeth off flitted though her mind, only to be dismissed. “Darcy would insist on trying to bring her back. Convincing Darcy that Elizabeth was a fallen woman would take too long; then, there would come the difficulties of divorce.” No, something far more permanent was needed. Caroline sat, lost in thought.
     Louisa was passing through the hall, when a servant presented her with a sealed missive. Opening it, she discovered an outrageous bill for ells of expensive lace, purchased by Caroline and charged to her account! Over one hundred pounds…for lace! Suddenly, Louise could bear no more. Feeling as if her head were going to burst, Louise ran up the stairs and rapped on Caroline’s door. When the door opened, Louisa pushed her way in so impetuously that Caroline almost fell. “What do you mean by this?” she hissed. “I have asked you repeatedly to start paying for your purchases. This is ridiculous!” Brushing her skirt exaggeratedly, Caroline sniffed and turned away. She tossed the length of lace at Louisa. “Why should I?” she asked. “My few little purchases…” “Little purchases?” replied Louisa, ominously quiet. “Over one hundred pounds for lace is no ‘little’ purchase! I will notify my purveyors that you are not authorized to charge any items on my accounts tomorrow. This is finished!” Shutting the door gently behind her, Louisa took herself into the garden, not noticing she still held the lace crumpled in her hand.
     Shrugging her shoulders, Caroline adjusted her hat just so, threw on a shawl, picked up her reticule and left the house, after waiting impatiently for the servant to open the door. She walked briskly to the apothecary shop in the shop district, and stood at the counter, studying the bottles and jars to see what useful substance might be available. Weighing the advantages of laudanum, she stood irresolutely. Just then, she was approached by an unusually-garbed woman. “May I help you, madam?” the woman asked. Caroline just stared at her, not knowing how to respond. Dropping her voice, the woman asked quietly, “Are you looking for a particular nostrum, or for … something else?” Suddenly panic-stricken, Caroline went towards the door. The woman followed her. “I know what ladies like you are looking for, madam, but you won’t find it here.” They left the shop, and walked a few squares, deep in conversation. They stood on the corner, and some money changed hands…
     Louisa could not settle. The garden suddenly felt closed in, suffocating, so she went back into the house. Using the servants’ entrance, she slipped out of the house and walked aimlessly down the street, which was mercifully deserted. As she approached the first shops, whom should she see but Caroline, standing on the corner in front of one of Louisa’s favorite shops, deep in conversation with a stranger! Giving her money! Her blood boiling, Louisa became enraged all over again. Stepping into a narrow gap between the buildings, she waited for Caroline to finish her conversation, hoping against hope that Caroline was returning home. Peeping around the corner, she saw Caroline approach. As Caroline drew near, Louisa reached out and grabbed her arm. Quick as a flash, she threw the length of lace around Caroline’s neck and pulled with all her might. Completely off balance, Caroline was unable to struggle very much, merely gasping and choking for air. “I have had enough of you,” said Louisa, conversationally. “You should never go out without your lace!” Letting Caroline fall heavily to the ground, Louisa dropped the lace contemptuously over her face, daintily dusted off her hands, and stepped back into the road.
     Still no one appeared. Louisa returned to the house, slipped back into the servants’ entrance and back out to the garden. Resuming her seat on the bench, she looked around, feeling as if she were just awakening from a heavy, nightmare-ridden sleep. Refreshed, she rose and returned to the drawing room and picked up her embroidery. When the butler brought in the tea tray, Louisa enquired casually for Caroline. “I believe Miss Bingley has gone shopping,” he said. “Young Thomas mentioned letting her out some time ago.” “Thank you,” replied Louisa. She sat tranquilly sipping her tea, enjoying the peace and quiet.
     That evening, Louisa and Mr. Hurst were preparing to sit down to dine when there came a knock on the door. The butler entered, shaken, and said, “Sir, Madam, there are some people here from the town. It seems they have found Miss Bingley!” Returning to the drawing room, Mr. Hurst was required to support his wife as the news of her unfortunate sister’s demise was broken to her. Bursting into tears, Louisa wailed, “I thought she was dining with a chance-met friend! It is not her way to notify me when she will be out…” Thomas was summoned to give the men as much information as possible about when Miss Bingley left the house, and in which direction she walked. Bowing quietly, the men left the house of mourning, to begin the investigation.
     Mr. and Mrs. Hurst were mortified to read a brief notice of the finding of Caroline’s body in the local journal two days later. The investigation continued for some days, but no useful information surfaced. The only solid clue was the length of lace with which she was strangled. After a few more days, the episode appeared to be forgotten. Mrs. Hurst noted with great satisfaction that the household accounts were in much better condition, as Mr. Hurst made no further complaint. Upon discovering that Caroline’s will divided her assets equally between herself and their brother Charles, Louisa thought of Caroline affectionately indeed.

Epilogue: A few weeks later, Louisa read a gazette printed in Derbyshire, forwarded by Charles, with great interest. It appeared that an armed man actually fired at Mrs. Darcy as she was walking in the village of Kympton! The miscreant’s aim was fortunately inaccurate, and the man was set upon by Mrs. Darcy’s footman and others. In the ensuing melee, the assailant was badly injured. It was determined that he was not from the local area. No one knew him, and he died without saying a word.

Lauren Gilbert Copyright © 2011

Happy Hallowe’en!!!

Hallowe’en was a favorite holiday where I grew up in the midwest.  One tradition of my grade school days was the telling, or reading of scary stories and spooky poetry. 

An old favorite was written by James Whitcomb Riley.  It is a regional favorite, written in a local speech/dialect pattern.  Here is a verse:

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,-

An when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,

His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,

An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!

An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby hole, an’ press,

An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;

But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout;_

An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you

         Ef you




Read out loud around a fire outside at night, we looked twice before we scurried off to bed!

Sleep tight!

Home Again…

How does the time go so fast?  Last week flew by, at the JASNA AGM in Ft. Worth, TX.  The weather was stunning, and Ft. Worth is a beautiful city. 

This is just one of my favorite buildings viewed on a walking tour, under the beautiful blue sky of Ft. Worth.   Sites we saw included the Tarrant County Court House, the Wells Fargo building, complete with antique stage coach, and the Sid Richardson Museum which houses a wonderful collection of western art.

There was so much to do at the Annual General Meeting-so many excellent speakers, entertaining workshops, interesting people from all over.   Numerous speakers gave interesting and informative programs about Jane Austen’s writings, her time and her life.  My favorites included a Special Interest Session by Victoria Hinshaw, titled “The Sensible Regency Wedding”, and the address by Dr. Joan Klingel Ray, titled “SENSE AND SENSIBILITY as Austen’s Problem Novel.”  (The theme of the event was the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.)   A special guest was Andrew Davies, who adapted Jane Austen’s novels, who gave a delightful presentation.  I had the opportunity to present a breakout session, and can attest to the attention and kindness of the attendees present.

Saturday night, there was a wonderful banquet and a ball (of course!).  Both were wonderful events.   The ball following the banquet was a beautiful affair, with live music, wonderful Regency gowns, and (of course) dancing! 

Finally on Sunday morning, the Author Signing event took place.  A whole room full of authors had the opportunity to showcase their works, and to sign books for eager readers.  I was fortunate enough to bring HEYERWOOD: A Novel to that event:

It was such a treat to be able to spend time with others who share so many interests, whether Jane Austen, writing or reading!  I must confess that being allowed to sign my book was a very special thrill.  (Yes, I did manage to get a few authors’ signatures in books for myself as well!)

The entire conference was an amazing experience, one I will not forget.  I doubt that anyone who attended will argue with that!

I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane….

The words of an old song are floating around in my head. This afternoon, I’m headed for Ft Worth, Texas, where I will be attending the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting! This event is always special-lots of break-out sessions and workshops full of interesting information about Jane Austen, her books, and her times, combined with great people enjoying shared interests. This year is very special for me, as I will be presenting one of the break-out sessions, AND participating in a book-signing event with my novel, HEYERWOOD. It was such an honor to be selected as a speaker; being invited to participate in the book signing was completely unexpected. Then there are the sessions I plan to attend, the workshop, the ball…. The list just goes on and on. All things considered, I am totally excited!!! Watch this space…next week, I will fill you in on all the fun!

A Stroke of Luck….

As I was browsing through the books in the entry at my Barnes & Noble, I stumbled across a jewel. Nestled with the others in the bargain shelf was THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROYAL BRITAIN, by Charles Phillips (consultants: Dr. John Haywood and Professor Richard G. Wilson); 2009, 2011: Annes Publishing Ltd. This beautiful book is crammed with wonderful pictures of people, castles, and stately homes. It provides a directory of each monarch, with a synopsis of his (or her) reign and portraits of the monarch and significant people of each’s time. It also provides synopses of big events, crises, and triumphs. It goes on to describe castles and manor houses, with fantastic photos, discussions of style, and more. While it is not a comprehensive book by any means, this is a historical fiction author’s delight, chock-full of inspiration with magnificent pictures to get the creative juices flowing! Place names, information about the families who built the homes and the architects who designed or planned the renovations, all are grist for the mill…

This is also a useful work for the history buff or student. It is by no means comprehensive but provides a fantastic jumping-off place for further study. There is also a useful glossary of architectural terms.

I did not find a bibliography or list of sources, although there are acknowledgements regarding the illustrations. In my opinion, this could not be a stand-alone reference for serious research. However, it provides good information in a compact format, and is a great place to begin a project.

It is also enjoyable reading. I found the entries to be well-written, with enough substance to keep the attention without straying from the format.

All in all, a real find and a welcome addition to my library! I am certain that this will be a very useful tool.

By the way, please visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog to see the post I wrote! Here’s the link:

Please let me know what you think!

This and That

After a couple of rainy days, it was a pleasure to wake up to a beautiful, sunny morning! Sunshine lifts the spirits! A pineapple from our own plant ripening on the kitchen table, and a bird’s nest in the bottle brush tree-it’s all good.

Today is a very special day. It’s exciting to announce the launch weekend of a new blog!
Please visit

English Historical Fiction Authors

Please check it out! Visit and comment to win a Kindle, Amazon Gift Certificate or Books!  There will be articles by numerous authors (including me!),  providing fascinating information.  It is a beautiful blog, and it is sure to become a favorite.

I just finished JANE AND THE MADNESS OF LORD BYRON, by Stephanie Barron. Ms. Barron has written a series of books featuring Jane Austen as a detective. There is a wealth of detail about the people and the period, and the mystery is intriguing as well. Definitely a good read!  She was meticulously accurate about the characters taken from real life, such as Byron, Caro Lamb, and Lady Oxford.  While I first had a little difficulty seeing Jane Austen as a detective, it somehow feels right as presented by Ms. Barron.  Most enjoyable.

HEYERWOOD at the Vero Beach Book Center

I did something new yesterday: I took a picture with my phone! I just had to have a photo of my book on the shelf (it’s now the wallpaper on the phone in question!). I just wanted to share it. There is a link on this page for the Vero Beach Book Center, if you are curious.