A Very Austen Christmas Anthology | Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway

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Her Christmas Gift by Robin Helm
Elizabeth Bennet finds herself snowbound at Rosings with two rejected, but highly eligible, suitors. Does either man have a chance? Will her childhood friend, Meryton’s golden boy, win her affection, or will she accept the master of Pemberley? Perhaps she will refuse them both a second time. Her Christmas Gift deftly combines tension and emotion with humor and romance.

The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile
It’s raining; it’s pouring – and what could be better than a little Christmas matchmaking? So says Emma Woodhouse who is unexpectedly stranded at Netherfield Park. Mr. Darcy disagrees, for she has someone else in mind for adorable Elizabeth Bennet. Amid meddling, misunderstanding, and an unwelcome proposal or two, will True Love find a way?

No Better Gift by Wendi Sotis
On his way to Derbyshire to spend Christmas with his family, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy plans to retrieve an item he left behind during his rushed escape from Netherfield—and the country miss who touched his heart. Finding Meryton practically deserted, he fears the worst. What fate could have fallen upon this once-thriving village in only three weeks? More importantly, was Miss Elizabeth Bennet in danger?

Mistletoe at Thornton Lacey by Barbara Cornthwaite
When Edmund Bertram realizes that Fanny is the perfect wife for him, he wants to propose without delay. What better time than at Christmas? Ah, but the course of true love never does run smooth

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review, Guest Post & Giveaway | A Very Austen Christmas

by Robin HelmLaura HileWendi SotisBarbara Cornthwaite 

A Very Austen Christmas is a wonderful collection of novellas about our favorite Austen characters. It’s whimsical, sweet, and entertaining—everything I want in a holiday read. I’ve only read the first three stories because I don’t usually read JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) that is not Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion. Among the three I’ve read, I think my favorite is The Matchmaker’s Christmas since the story featured not just Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, but other Austen characters, as well.

Her Christmas Gift

Absolutely adorable! In this novella, Elizabeth spends the holidays in Hunsford with Charlotte who is expecting. She, Charlotte and her sister Maria end up staying at Rosings Park when Mr. Collins gets scarlet fever and Lady C collapses after an argument with Elizabeth (it’s an eventful visit). When Anne summons their doctor to check on Lady C and Mr. Collins, Elizabeth is stuck in an awkward situation when she has not one, but two jilted suitors in the same vicinity—Mr. Darcy and a certain Thomas Jones, the Darcy family physician and Elizabeth’s childhood friend.

The banter between E & D in this novella is so adorable! They find a surprising and inconspicuous matchmaker in a character who shone in this story. You can see the difference between the two suitors, who really cared about E and who cared more about himself. I had an interesting conversation with Ms. Helm about the inspiration behind Thomas, the infuriating man, and it’s an unfortunate fact that there are a lot of men like him who can blind a person with his charm and flowery words.

The Matchmaker’s Christmas

My favorite novella in the anthology! E&D + our favorite matchmaker, and a few other guests. Just before Darcy and the Bingleys leave Netherfield, they have unexpected visitors who refuse to leave. Apparently, they received an invitation from Mr. Bingley, and they’re all distantly related to a woman called ‘Aunt Jane’.

The things that are happening to everyone at Netherfield seem to be a work of Providence, or maybe even the mysterious ‘Aunt Jane’, and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are starting to think so.

Lots of fun and crazy things happen in this story, and I had a lot of fun reading it! I was grinning at the end of the story.

No Better Gift

When Mr. Darcy goes back to Netherfield to pick up a gift for his sister, he is baffled to see a deserted Meryton, making him think the worst. He doesn’t go to Longbourn, tempted as he is to check on Elizabeth and make sure she’s alright, and goes straight to Netherfield. It’s the surprise of his life when he sees Elizabeth at the barn, mucking at the stable. She updates him on the recent events that led her to Netherfield, and Darcy ends up staying with her to help her.

Staying together to tend to patients builds a bond, and in this instance, gives two people the chance to clear the air.

This novella is sweet and equally adorable, and I swooned just thinking about a charitable and kind Mr. Darcy. I swoon every time I think of Darcy, really, but even more so when he’s being an amazing human being.

So, there you have it! If you’re looking for a fun holiday read featuring beloved Austen characters, especially Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, you’ll enjoy reading A Very Austen Christmas.


Who Is Thomas Jones?
by Robin Helm, author of Her Christmas Gift

While I have never completely based any character on a real person or true events, I usually use parts of people I know (or have known) and things I have experienced in all my characters. I think all writers do this. In my opinion, that’s what makes the character real to the reader. If my reaction to the character is strong, that emotion is reflected in my writing.

That’s the case with the Thomas Jones character in “Her Christmas Gift,” my novella in our anthology, A Very Austen Christmas.

He is based, in part, on a young man I loved obsessively through the summer, fall, and winter when I was eighteen. At the time, he was dating another girl (and for a couple of months, I was dating another boy), but that didn’t stop him from talking to me. The man/boy was unreasonably beautiful, with his gloriously chiseled features, blond hair, clear blue eyes, and charming manners; he totally beguiled me. However, he criticized me constantly; no one had ever done that to me before. Though I am an obstinate, headstrong girl, it hurt me deeply. Because I thought the things he said were true, I cried constantly.

I didn’t understand it. Most boys liked me. None of them had ever treated me the way he did. Since he was a year older than I was, and I thought he was wonderful, I believed him; no one else has the ability to hurt you like someone you love.

We went to the same college, so he knew I was leaving for a spring break tour with a large group of chorale students. Just before the bus pulled out, I glanced out the window and saw him, arms crossed, glaring at me like an avenging angel. As his expression softened, the pull of attraction was nearly painful, but my feelings of dread almost overpowered me. He had come to tell me goodbye. Ah, no doubt, he wanted to give me a few orders before I left and make sure his face would be the last I saw. He was well-aware of the power of his beauty. Though I had never said it, he knew I loved him.

I looked at him, closed my eyes, and prayed in desperation, “Father, please take the love I have for him away. It’s too painful.”

In that moment, my feelings for him changed. Was this in answer to my prayer? It was, for as we drove away, I watched him, amazed that I felt nothing at all. Instead, I remember thinking he liked me only because he thought I was pretty and played the piano well. I would be an asset to him in those areas, and he could change what he didn’t like about me.

Ten days later, I returned with a new boyfriend, and he-who-was-never-my-boyfriend was furious. While I was on tour, he’d broken up with his girlfriend, because he’d decided that we should be together. I was no longer interested. He actually yelled at me, as if that would make me change my mind. He ordered me to love him. I couldn’t. He commanded me to marry him. I did not accept. In fact, I just stood there, staring at him, unable to say anything in response. Finally, he walked away, and I was free to return to my dorm.

At the end of the summer, he came to see me at my house. I had to let him in, because my mother adored him. He was my mother’s choice for me. No one else had ever seen the mean side he’d shown me.

He said he’d been wild all summer. He’d quit college, started drinking, and generally ran around with a crowd he should have avoided. And – he blamed me for it. I was terrified that he was going to propose again, in my home where Mother and Daddy could hear him! Here is the strangest part: I had decided I would accept him. WAS I OUT OF MY MIND? A little, I think. “Thomas” was that hypnotic in his allure. Think snake/bird. I thought my mother knew better than I did. I thought I would learn to love him again. Fortunately, I kept my decision to myself and waited for him to speak.

To my surprise, he announced he’d decided I would never love him, and he would marry another girl we both knew. She had worshipped him from afar for a long time. I didn’t say anything. I just sent up a heartfelt prayer of thanks.

All this happened with a man I’d never even dated – not once.

I kept all of this to myself until I wrote Her Christmas Gift. I held it in for nearly forty -five years. Sometimes, the things that hurt the worst are the hardest to talk about.

Three years later, I married Mr. Knightley, and in due time, gave birth to two beautiful daughters who married their Mr. Darcys. My husband and I took joy in the births of three grandchildren.

God is good.


Win an ebook copy of A Very Austen Christmas by leaving a comment below. Giveaway ends on December 9th, 2017, 8AM EST. Open internationally.

Thanks to Ms. Robin Helm for this wonderful giveaway!

About Robin Helm

Robin Helm’s time revolves around music as she dances (as badly as Mr. Collins), sings (a little better than Mary Bennet), plays (better than Marianne Dashwood – almost as well as Caroline Bingley), and teaches (channeling her inner Elinor). Her books reflect that love, as well as her fascination with the paranormal and science fiction.

Her latest publication is Understanding Elizabeth, in which Darcy must decide how much he’s willing to pay to have what he wants. Previously published works include The Guardian Trilogy (Darcy is Elizabeth’s guardian angel, and the Yours by Design series (Fitzwilliam Darcy switches places in time with his descendant, Will Darcy).

She lives in South Carolina and adores her one husband (Mr. Knightley), two married daughters (Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II), and three grandchildren.

About Laura Hile

Readers are loving Laura Hile‘s joyous Regency novels. Her signature style – intertwined plots, cliffhangers, and laugh-out-loud humor – keep them coming back for more.

The comedy Laura comes by as a teacher. There’s never a dull moment with teen students!

She recently released Darcy By Any Other Name, a comic ‘body swap’ romance based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Laura lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and sons. Her fiction is for everyone, even teens.

About Wendi Sotis

Wendi Sotis lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and triplets. While searching for Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view, she became thoroughly enamored with Jane Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF. In early 2010, she dreamed an idea for a story and hasn’t stopped writing since: Promises, Dreams and Expectations; All Hallows Eve; The Keys for LoveSafekeeping; The Gypsy Blessing; Foundation of Love (The Gypsy Blessing 2); and A Lesson Hard Learned.

Some of her works-in-progress have branched away from JAFF to Regency Romance (The Pact, due to be released in 2018) and Contemporary Romantic Mysteries (the Implicated series). Wendi will also continue bringing Darcy and Lizzy together again and again in an unusual manner.

About Barbara Cornthwaite

Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before “retiring” to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling her six children, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle).

She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.

Barbara is the author of the George Knightley, Esquire series, and A Fine Young Lady.

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40 responses to “A Very Austen Christmas Anthology | Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway

    • Charming like a snake, right, Ginna? Wow.

      We get so caught up with the hot-hot fictional hero that we forget what these “pretty boy” guys can be like.

      Jane Austen, she knew. Sir Walter Elliot, anyone?

      Robin escaped, but the girl that “Thomas” married did not. Are they still married, I wonder? Was he able to “mold” her into the woman he wanted? Ah, no. That’s not how it works …

    • Robin Helm

      Hello, Ginna. I had a fortunate escape there. He is still married. I looked him up to see if he was. Neither of them are smiling in the only picture I found. I feel sorry for her.

      Good luck in the giveaway!

  1. Nissa, I’m so glad you enjoyed these stories. We love giveaways, and it’s fun to think that one of yours will have Christmas coming to her Kindle.

    Thank you, too, for encouraging Robin to share the story behind “Thomas Jones.” Wow, did she dodge a bullet or what?.

    • Middle age comes to us all, and we bid farewell to outer beauty. I wonder what this guy looks like now? Not so god-like, I’m thinking.

      My teen students — ages 12 and 13 — will sometimes try the “But I’m so cute!” tactic on me. You know the routine: the tipped head, the dimpled smile, the “But I’m your darling” twinkle. I laugh and tell them no — because middle school teachers are immune to cuteness.

      Do you know what happens next? About half the time the student will pout. That’s right, pout. Like a three-year-old. Boys are especially prone to this.

      “Don’t you dare pout at me,” I smilingly tell him. “Get that lip back in your face.”

      At this point he can’t stand it; he ends up laughing with me.

      There are days when teaching is Just. Too. Much. Fun.

      • Robin Helm

        I saw him a couple of years ago, and he is no longer Greek-god-like. Neither am I. Ha!

        I loved teaching elementary music more than high school. Who knew I would?

    • Speaking of “faces,” Miss G, didn’t I hear a story about you, dumping a plateful of spagetti on a lying, cheating, no-good skunk of a man? In a public restaurant?

      You go, girl!!! We loves this!!! I’m looking for you to someday work the spaghetti incident into a story. Because real life can be better than fiction!

  2. Glynis

    Thanks for your review Nissa and for the chance of a giveaway. I love the idea of these stories and have this book on my ‘ to buy if I’m not lucky enough to win a copy’ list! So one way or another I will be reading this.
    Robin, thanks for sharing your story, thank goodness he didn’t propose in front of your parents or your life could have been a living nightmare!

    • Robin Helm

      Hello, Glynis. I think writing it all down was cathartic. I actually feel better about it all now.

      I hope you enjoy the book. I think you’ll understand “Thomas” better for having read the back story. The real-life Thomas was actually worse.

      Yes, I dodged a machine gun full of bullets!.

      Good luck in the giveaway!

    • You know, Glynis, this is a reminder to me as a parent not to be deceived by appearances.

      Because my two older sons are handsome and hard-working (employed! and building a business on the side!) and they are genuinely nice. They tell me that they are too busy to date!

      How stupid is that?

      If either of them brought home a lovely and charming female version to “Thomas,” I need to keep my wits about me. Because I could so easily be misled like Robin’s sweet mother was.

      Good luck in the giveaway, Glynis.

    • Robin Helm

      Hi, Vesper. My character of Thomas was based on that young man. The real man was even worse than “Thomas.”

      Good luck in the giveaway!

    • It was something to see A Very Austen Christmas come together — because we each wrote our stories without reference to the others. At the time the book was released, I hadn’t read Wendi’s or Barbara’s — so I was able to be not only a contributor but also a fan. There is something for everyone.

      Good luck in the giveaway, Claire.

    • Robin Helm

      Hello, Claire. I hope you enjoy reading our little offerings. Thanks for commenting. Good luck in the giveaway!

  3. Mary

    Much as I loved the review of this wonderful collection of stories,I must admit to admiring Robin for telling us all the basis of her character,Mr Thomas.

    Yes,you certainly had a very lucky escape there and I’m sure you thank your guardian angel,on a daily basis,for showing you the correct path and putting your Mr Knightley on it!

    Thank you for sharing this story. It took guts! Begin each day with a big smile on your face….you made the right choice,he inadvertently did you a huge favour and you have a lifetime of happy memories to look back on. Take care.

    • Oh, I agree, Mary. Little by little, as she was writing, Robin’s story came out — and then Nissa learned of it and asked her to write it out for her readers.

      It took courage and faith to take a stand against so much beauty and charm. Against “Thomas’s” meanness? Not so much. But we women are vulerable — particularly when we are young — to the idea that we can change a man, bring out the best in him, and so forth. That usually does not work out well.

      Thanks for entering the giveaway, Mary.

    • Robin Helm

      Hi, Mary. I’m usually outspoken and somewhat stubborn. I have no idea why “Thomas” charmed me so. Why did I think he was perfect? Just because he was beautiful and portrayed himself as a gentleman? I like to think it was because I was so young.

      Thank you for your kind words. I can only think that God protected me from myself when I asked Him for help. Here’s another little tidbit. Both of my daughters went through a time when they had boyfriends who were not treating them well. I didn’t tell them the whole story, but I did tell them that I once prayed that my love for a boy would be taken away, and it was. I cautioned them to be careful about praying that prayer. Each of them decided to give it to God, and just as it was with me, they no longer loved the guys who were treating them badly. Maybe I was allowed to have the experience with Thomas so that I could help my daughters.

      I do smile through most of my days. I have been richly blessed with a wonderful family.

  4. caroleincanada

    Fabulous review and one book I am looking forward to reading! I must say Robin, little does ‘Thomas’ know that a person cannot be changed unless they want to. He used his beauty to control a person and your ‘strength’ made him realize he would never control you.

    • Robin Helm

      I had not thought of it that way, Carole. You’re probably right. Since I wouldn’t accept his proposal, he thought I was too stubborn and strong-willed for him. Had I married him, we would have divorced. I couldn’t live under the control of another person.

      Thanks for your insight.

      Good luck in the giveaway!

  5. You are so right, Carole. In my job as a middle school teacher, the challenge is helping students see that better work habits are beneficial. If they don’t want to change and grow, there’s no way I can “make” them …

    Good luck in the giveaway!

  6. Oh my goodness, Lady C collapsing after arguing with Elizabeth! Thank you for the review, this just sounds amazing and I love the holidays so P&P and holidays together sounds like heaven to me! I think that E&D bantering would be awesome too, they have such a connection but we never see him quite in that “mood” so to speak in P&P. It would be great to see him let loose and have fun 🙂 Thanks! Erika Messer, hopefuldelights1 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

    • Robin Helm

      Wasn’t that review spectacular? We so appreciate Nissa’s willingness to play hostess to us on her lovely blog.

      I love to write E&D dialogue. The two of them are intelligent, and Darcy’s liveliness greatly improves when he feels confident of Elizabeth’s affections.

      I didn’t mind writing Lady C’s heart attack scene, either. After all, I knew that I wasn’t going to kill her. lol

      Thank you, Erika! Good luck, dear!

  7. Hi Erika,

    We knew Christmas and Jane Austen were a good combination, but we had no idea that readers would be quite this excited. And who doesn’t love seeing Elizabeth in a confrontation with Lady C, right?

    Thanks for entering the giveaway, Erika. Good luck!

  8. The review is beautifully written, Nissa. I would have love to read your thoughts on the Mansfield Park story. This Thomas person sounds horrible and I’m glad he’s no longer in your life, Robin.

    • Robin Helm

      Hi, Luthien84. “Thomas” was quite conceited and domineering. I’m so glad he didn’t propose again when I would have accepted him. I would have had a miserable life.

      Good luck in the giveaway!

  9. Hi, Luthien. You’re right; Robin dodged a bullet there. It’s sad to realize that beauty and goodness do not always go together. Sometimes it’s just the opposite!

    Good luck in the giveaway!

    • Lex, hello! We are calling this “the book that friendship built” — because it’s true! — and we think these heartwarming stories have something for just about everyone. Thank you for entering the giveaway. Good luck!

  10. Robin Helm

    Hi, Lex6819! We hope you enjoy our collection of HEA’s. May they make your Christmas a little brighter and give you some relaxation during the holiday rush.

    Good luck in the giveaway!

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