Jane’s Birthday Soiree

A Hero’s Guide to Gift Giving

When we were invited to participate in the Jane Austen Birthday Soiree,
we jumped at the chance to write another Guys of Austen post.

And we are giving away books to five lucky readers!

The list of prizes is at the end of our story. To enter, simply reply to this post by December 23, 2011.
Winners will be announced on Christmas Eve.

You’ll find the list of Jane’s Birthday Soiree participants here. Thanks so much for stopping by!

~~

At an undistinguished inn located upon a little used road in –shire, but possessed, nevertheless, of an excellent reputation with those gentleman of taste and breeding, a meeting is underway in the snug private dining room by a roaring fire this cold December night.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” Captain Wentworth rapped on the podium. “Quiet down, please! We’ll be here all night if we don’t settle this.” He nodded to Fitzwilliam Darcy to take his place as moderator.

Darcy rose looking pained, for public speaking was not his strong suit. Squaring his shoulders, he manfully stepped forward and placed his timepiece prominently on the podium. “Thank you, Captain,” he said, and faced his audience. “As you know, the Gentlemen of the Austen Service Society has been commissioned with presenting to our esteemed authoress a gift worthy of her immense talent and magnificent imagination—”

Charles Musgrove stifled a yawn. “More jawing,” he murmured to no one in particular. “I hunt tomorrow…early to bed and all that. The sooner we settle this, the better.”

Darcy looked annoyed. “–and magnificent imagination,” he repeated, with emphasis. “Most unfortunately, our last meeting devolved into a shouting match. We must resolve this in a civilized manner.”

“Define civilized,” someone quipped.

The Rev. Edmund Bertram spoke up. “When Miss Austen’s villains come up with appropriate suggestions,” he said primly, “we shall certainly come to an agreement. As for the cost—”

A man in the back stood up. “It is you heroes who should bear the cost!” he shouted. “It’s only fair! We villains are purse-pinched, no thanks to Miss Austen! Why she deserves a gift is beyond me!”

Darcy’s valet, Fletcher, who doubled as the Sargent-at-Arms, stood. “Mr Wickham, sir!” he said, his eyes sharp with warning.

“She ought,” Wickham continued hotly, “to have provided for us properly! As it is, we bear the deprivations of poverty and the scorn of readers! I for one refuse to contribute!”

“This issue has been settled, Mr Wickham,” said Fletcher darkly. “ If you persist, I will remove you—”

Wickham laughed maliciously. “I’d like to see you try, you pretentious piece of—” He lunged forward.

A shot rang out. Admiral McGillvary lowered Charles Musgrove’s shotgun. He turned to Darcy. “Go ahead.”

“My word,” protested Darcy. “Who the devil are you? And what about Wickham?”

“I’m a New Creation, and it looks like Wickham’s dead. Problem solved. Shall we get on?”

Captain Wentworth grinned at the startled Darcy. “A most civilized resolution,” he remarked. “Now, to the issue at hand. Resolved: we all pay for Miss Austen’s gift.”

Darcy drew a long breath and took hold of the podium for support. “Would anyone like to offer a suggestion?”

There was silence in the hall. Presently John Dashwood lifted a hand. “I still say that a gift card from Bed Bath and Beyond is the ticket,” he said. “She undoubtedly wants to get beyond Bath. I know I would.”

“I’d prefer the Bed, myself. At a nice little inn with a snug companion.” Mr Willoughby winked broadly.

Darcy scowled. “Hardly appropriate for Miss Austen!”

“But that’s just the trouble,” said Captain Benwick. “How does one choose a gift for a lady who is over two hundred years old?”

Frank Churchill spoke up: “You know how women are,” he said. “There’s always a hidden message. Or so they think.”

“Just how old will Miss Austen be?” This was from Colonel Fitzwilliam.

Charles Musgrove began counting on his fingers. Arithmetic was not his best subject.

“Two hundred thirty-six,” said Captain Benwick.

Someone whistled. “There isn’t a cake large enough to hold the candles!”

“236?  That’s not an age,” said George Knightley. “That’s an area code!”

Darcy placed both hands on the podium. “Might I remind you, gentlemen,” he said, “that the entire world will be celebrating Miss Austen’s natal day? One can hardly avoid the issue of age.”

“All the same, she won’t like it,” Charles Bingley said.

“And she’ll take it out on us,” added Knightley. “Even if it’s a gift she likes.”

“Who knows what that is?” Colonel Brandon said. “All we have is her novels.”

“The only gifts mentioned in my book,” said Captain Wentworth, “were the ones the Elliots decided NOT to give. Unless you count Louisa’s concussion as a gift.”

“Hey!” protested Charles Musgrove.

“It certainly was for me,” said Wentworth.

“And me,” added Benwick.

Darcy raised his voice. “I propose that our gift must be a pianoforte. Miss Austen must secretly desire such a gift, for the instrument appears everywhere in her stories and at least twice as a gift to one of her females.”

“It’s a little late to order one,” Henry Tilney pointed out. “Or are pianofortes so easily acquired?”

Darcy raised his voice. “I have personal information,” he said, “that the pianoforte at Chawton is in a deplorable state. And that confounded brother of hers, the rich one, will do nothing to replace it with even a serviceable instrument.”

“But what does that have to do with us?”

“And a pianoforte is mightily expensive,” added Charles Musgrove. “I say, how about launching an Occupy Godmersham campaign to force brother Edward to furnish Jane with a pianoforte? Or better plumbing or heating at Chawton?”

“Plumbing as a birthday gift?” Colonel Fitzwilliam straightened from his pose against the wall. “I don’t think so.”

“She had me give a horse to Miss Marianne,” said Mr Willoughby.

“No, it must be a pianoforte,” insisted Darcy. “Miss Austen had me give one to Georgiana and Churchill there gave one to Miss Fairfax, so it must be a secret desire she entertains.”

“How do you know the bed isn’t a secret desire?” said Willoughby.

“At her age? All she wants is a comfortable mattress and a thick shawl against the cold and diseases we older people are heir to,” declared Mr. Woodhouse.

McGillvary gave a shout of derision. “Not her. A good corset is more her style. Keeps her looking trim on the dance floor.”

“All right! Now we’re getting somewhere,” Colonel Fitzwilliam said. “What does a woman on the slightly high side of two hundred want?”

“How about a bottle of wine?” Wentworth chimed in. “And some Belgian chocolates?”

McGillvary cocked an eyebrow. “Darcy, you ought to write to your aunt at Rosings. She’s plenty ancient and would know what to advise.”

Darcy snorted. “I daresay she would…endlessly!”

Colonel Fitzwilliam put a hand to his breast declaring sotto voce “If I’d ever become an old woman, which I am most assuredly not, I would have been a true proficient.”

Charles Musgrove suddenly sat up straight. “If you ask me, we could offer to finish one of her books. Make it a bit more lively. No more bonnet books, my lads. Blood and Guts–now there’s the ticket!”

“Musgrove, may I point out that you haven’t read a book in over a decade,” Wentworth snorted. “The idea of you writing one is preposterous!”

“And what is Horse and Hound, may I ask!”

“To be correct, it is a journal, sir,” Fletcher interrupted, “not a book. If I may, Miss Austen wants some very fine lace. At two hundred and thirty-six she certainly will have things to disguise and lace is just the thing!”

“Very perceptive for a servant—Fletcher is it?” Sir Walter peered at him with grudging interest. “I was going to suggest gloves. And Gowland’s Lotion. All women of a certain age are simply wild for Gowland’s.”

Darcy pounded on the podium. “No, I must insist–the pianoforte is the perfect gift for our esteemed creator. It will keep her out of trouble and our lives safe from her quill.”

“Hear, hear!” said George Knightley.

“And a fan as well,” added Wentworth. “They have a language with those things, women do.  Like semaphores, but nice for the drawing room.”

Darcy sighed. “I will concede the gloves and, perhaps, the lace.”

Fletcher bowed.  “Thank you, sir.”

“Although I initially discounted Musgrove’s idea, there may be more merit there than at first blush.” Rev. Bertram rose and addressed the gathering. “You must agree that the agony of waiting that she’s put us through with the old goose quill and paper stuff is unconscionable.” He resumed his seat to the sound of general approval.

“Sir, I heard of a new mechanical device that allows a writer to speed through their work in a trice. It is an author-actuated typing machine.” Fletcher looked about the room and leaned close to Darcy. “It is a French contraption, I believe.”

Darcy’s eyebrows rose. “Faster writing, hmmm. Perhaps then Miss Austen could write her OWN sequels, prequels and whatever the blazes people will think up next and leave us in peace and our own century!”

“I have it!”  Bingley cried brightly. “A holiday We could give her an all-expenses-paid holiday to– oh, I don’t know–somewhere nice, of course. Not Brighton or Bath but perhaps to Truro or Ireland.”

McGillvary shook his head. “Rains too much in Ireland. And we’re at war with most everyplace else.”

“Ireland!” Wentworth hooted. “Bingley, please, the woman should at least have a hint of the sun if she’s on holiday.”

“An ALL-expenses paid holiday?” John Dashwood protested. “How about a partial-expenses-paid holiday? Can’t go overboard, you know, even if she is our authoress.” He looked back to the meeting’s moderator. “I say, Darcy, where did that Byron chap end up? It was nice and cheap.”

“Well, the Lake District then,” said Bingley. “Lots of GEOGRAPHY in the Lake District. Don’t she like ‘prospects’ after all? And walks, she’s dotty for long walks, ain’t she?”

“Whatever,” said Dashwood. “I don’t want to spend a lot of money. Or any money. How about a card with a sketch of the beach?”

“What are those to rocks and mountains?” Colonel Brandon said quietly. Henry Tilney and John Thorpe, on either side of him, looked at one another and shrugged.

Wentworth loudly cleared his throat. “In keeping with the general approval of an economical holiday, we could send her a card with perhaps a seaside landscape? Could we get someone to draw something? Who draws? Has Jane Eyre been born yet? She’s a dab hand at art.”

“Emma is an artist!” exclaimed Mr Elton. “Knightley! Call your girl and see what she can do for us.”

“No,” protested Darcy. “I must insist—the pianoforte is the perfect gift for our esteemed creator. It will keep her—and us! —out of trouble.”

“I still say a good bottle of something comforting,” said Wentworth. “The nights have to be long for the old girl.”

“Oh, all right!” Darcy conceded. “A bottle of good port, and Belgian Chocolates, as well as the gloves, fan, and lace!”

“But, blast it, the expense!” Charles exploded. “For a lady that old we’re going to need to buy a lace TABLECLOTH.”

“Musgrove,” Darcy addressed him sternly, “even if it takes a tablecloth, think of the people it will employ. You don’t fancy an Occupy Musgrove Farm on your doorstep, do you?”

“Gentlemen,” Benwick intervened, “I think Mr. Darcy is most perceptive in his idea of a pianoforte. Music will comfort her heart if she is lonely.”

“But so will a young bloke!”  McGillvary snorted.

“All right!” Darcy despaired on bringing the men to order, but shot McGillvary a disapproving scowl nonetheless. “So, here we have it: port, lace, gloves, a fan, and chocolates all delivered by a fine young squire. And what she does with any or all of these is her own affair!”

The Admiral quipped, “If I know her reading public, what she does will soon be detailed in a true-life romance book: Jane and the Squire Bearing Gifts!”

The room exploded with booing and raucous cat calls. McGillvary barely missed being clipped by a particularly well-crafted shoe with a silver buckle.

~~

So, you see Gentle Reader, the gentlemen are full of ideas and enthusiasm, but are not yet able to decide on a gift for dear Jane. The thinking is, since she IS two hundred and thirty-six years old, she can wait a few more days.

That’s the trouble with birthdays. Every year they come around … and the gift choosing process begins all over again.

~~

Brought to you by the ladies of the guild. We are:
Pamela Aidan at Traipsing After Jane
Barbara Cornthwaite at A Walk in the Shrubbery
Laura Hile at Crown Hill Writers
Susan Kaye at I Had to Laugh

Jane Started It! giveaway prizes (USA only) are:

  • One copy of Young Master Darcy: A Lesson in Honour by Pamela Aidan
  • One set of Frederick Wentworth, Captain (Books 1 and 2) by Susan Kaye
  • Two copies of Mercy’s Embrace: So Rough a Course (Book 1) by Laura Hile
  • George Kinghtley, Gentleman (Books 1 and 2) by Barbara Cornthwaite.

To enter the giveaway, post a comment to this story. Giveaway closes December 23. Winners will be announced Saturday, December 24, 2011. Thanks so much for visiting our blog!

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66 thoughts on “Jane’s Birthday Soiree

  1. Sybil

    I think it’s really great that you participate in celebrating dear Jane’s birthday. It’s late, but I look forward to reading “A Hero’s Guide to Gift Giving,” and I’m squinching my eyes closed and wishing on a star that I win one of those great books. Well, that and wishing for much more time to read. RL, bah humbug!

    Thanks guys!
    Sybil

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  2. Jennifer Leiker

    The best gift for Jane would be more writing paper and ink!! I know we would have live to have more srories from her brilliant mind!

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  3. Sophia Rose

    I am still laughing and wiping the tears out of my eyes over the ‘guys’ little business meeting to decide on Jane’s gifts. McGillvary shot Wickham- what a hoot! You ladies are so talented.

    I would love for Jane to receive all those nice little presents they spoke about including the holiday to some place foreign. Can you imagine giving Jane the opportunity to visit Italy or Greece and the wonderful novel that would come from such an experience for her. We would just have to tape the miserly John Dashwood’s lips shut to do it.

    Thank you for the wonderful giveaway opportunity. I already have Susan Kaye and Laura Hile’s books so I would only like to be entered for Pamela and Barbara’s books if that is possible.

    sophiarose1816@gmail.com

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  4. Cynthia Wong

    what a fantastic idea to celebrate Jane’s birthday with only about a million of her closest friends!!!! thanx for the invite!!!!

    also thank you for the lovely giveaways!! i don’t have any of the books being offered; they are alll being so added to my WishList!!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

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  5. stephanie carrico

    Once again ladies, a job well done!
    I am still laughing..you do an excellent job
    in capturing each gentlemens “voice”…
    with hilarious results…..
    Happy Birthday Miss Jane Austen!!
    thank you for many hours spent in bliss

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  6. Danielle

    I laughed out loud as I read this! 🙂 I had not had the pleasure of reading this blog before but I will have to come back and visit often. Thank you for the giveaway and the laugh!

    I do hope she is not stuck with a lace tablecloth.

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  7. Susan Kaye Post author

    Thanks for dropping by, ladies. We are trying very hard to keep John Dashwood’s miserly ways in check, and keep the lace to manageable amounts. Fletcher is looking into the French writing contraption for us, and we have McGillvary in a sort of Austen Alternative to the Witness Protection program for killing one of Jane’s lovable Bad Boys. It’s a busy day so far!

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  8. JaneGS

    Very cute and all the gentlemen and rogues were completely in character–nicely done

    I think I would like to win a copy of Jane and the Squire Bearing Gifts–wait, that’s not an option? But I’ve read and loved all your other books. Oh, well, if I win I will donate the books to my regional JASNA as I have already lent your books to many members already.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Funny you should mention Jane and the Squire, Jane. In the process of choosing pictures, this one came up for consideration as the Young Squire. Ha!

      Sadly, he did not make the cut. He’s not exactly in period costume…

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  9. Michelle Singer

    I’ve enjoyed the soirée so much! And when I saw that Barbara Corthwaite’s books were offered, I had to post! I have the first book of George Knightly and have been dying to read the second!

    Happy Birthday dearest Jane!

    Michelle

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  10. Anme Burgess

    I loved the fan as semaphore comment. And its kind of hilarious that Dashwood can still have such an effect on the group that he is successful in downgrading the gift to a few cheaper stuff- though belgian chocolates would be much loved around here.

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  11. BeckyC

    Ladies, Hilarious! I can just imagine being a fly on the wall in a meeting with all the Austen men about anything….so many personalities! Well done!

    Happy birthday, Jane!

    This is the best blog hop ever!
    Thank you for the giveaway.
    cherringtonmb(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

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  12. Lisa S

    Snert! Snort! LOL! Thank you for the laugh. Gift giving can be a very tricky business. =D Love the giveaways, love the story. Thank you all! And happy birthday Jane!

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  13. Monica P

    Thank you for this! I needed a laugh or ten today. It was great fun to imagine all those guys in one room. (Thank God Mr Collins didn’t get wind of it and invite himself over.) Jane should get all those gifts (including the young squire) and more.

    Thank you for the amazing giveaway.

    monicaperry00@gmail.com

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      Yes, Monica, when sending out the evites, there were some email addies we just could not find. We may try harder next time.

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  14. Heather M

    Oh to be an honorary member of the Gentlemen of Austen Service Society!! Thanks for hosting a giveaway for Jane’s birthday!

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  15. janashe

    LOL ya’ll are so wonderfully clever! I woud love to win any of the books listed – ya’ll are wonderful to have such a grand giveaway for dear Jane’s birthday. Happy Birthday to a lady who has given us so many hours of delight and Best Wishes to each of you authors who have so beautifully followed in her footsteps!

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    1. Laura Hile

      Thanks for the kind words, Laura (and everyone else). Yesterday kind of got away from me, being the last day of school and all. I teach 7th grade (thirteen-year-olds, all subjects) and with the Christmas Break fidgets, sugar overload, and student talk-talk-talk, it was a doozy. And yet the comments kept collecting here (I peeked on breaks). How gratifying to see so much interest in our books! I wish every one of you could win! 🙂

      Now it’s my turn to do some blog hopping.

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  16. Lieder Madchen

    Goodness. Gracious. Me. I have not laughed so hard in weeks! I had siblings trying to slap sense into me because I couldn’t stop giggling! That was wonderful! I wish the gentlemen good fortune in their quest for the perfect gift. 🙂

    Thank you so much for the fun and the marvelous giveaway!

    liedermadchen(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  17. Pamela Aidan

    When you have been dealing with the men of Austen for as long as we have, you know that things are bound to get a bit rowdy. “The boys,” as we refer to them, are a fractious bunch, sometimes noble, other times exasperating, but always entertaining as we put them through their paces.

    Thank you all for stopping by and for the compliments on our little farce. It was truly a joint effort composed via a chat box and Google Documents–which was a fascinating experience in itself!

    Oh, and Best of Luck!

    ~~Pamela

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  18. Laura Hile

    We’re also mothers of sons, sisters of brothers, wives with long-term marriages …

    … and I must point out we’ve taken liberties with the conversation. To be truly realistic, there’d be fewer words spoken and more monosyllabic grunts. Dontcha think?

    Since there are so many new friends stopping by, I’ll put up a link to more “Guys of Austen” fun. You know, for later — your coffee break on Monday or when you need a smile. This one was written for Meredith’s Extravaganza: Mightier than the Sword, Miss Austen? (Over beer at The Chawton Arms, our heroes decide to take letter writing out of Miss Austen’s hands and into their own. Heaven help the recipients!)

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    1. Laura Hile

      Hey, thanks for stopping by, Sharon. Alas, if the truth be known, we all have rather boring lives, you know? So we get our entertainment where we can. In this case, by killing off Wickham! Ha!

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    1. Laura Hile

      Thank you, Maria Grazia (and Katherine) for putting this Birthday Soiree together. So many participants and new friends to meet! Because of a crazy school schedule, I am only now making my rounds through your Austen blogosphere. Such splendid fun! And prizes, too.

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    1. Laura Hile

      So am I, Felecia. Yesterday I was surrounded by fidgeting, celebratory thirteen-year-old students! Today, ahhhh. “All is calm, all is bright.” Thanks so much for stopping by!

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    1. Laura Hile

      Amy, thanks so much for the kind words. Best of luck in the contest. Hey, here’s an idea to increase the odds of winning. Scroll down and enter my three-book Mercy’s Embrace giveaway (separate from the Soiree giveaway) or click here. This one ends tomorrow night (Dec 18).

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  19. Jennifer G.

    This was a delight! I have NO IDEA what to get Miss Austen. I am so relieved that the Heros did not know either! I like them all (from the pianoforte straight through to the chocolates) but I might just skip the Gowlands…. Sorry Sir Walter!

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  20. Susan Kaye Post author

    People who always know the perfect give, or proper words no matter how awkward the circumstance are ALWAYS annoying. this is why we figured The Guys would NOT know and would have to argue. Killing Wickham was a bonus. Thank you all for stopping by.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Now there’s an idea for next year’s Austen birthday! Which of Austen’s men pride themselves on being able to choose the perfect gift, or say the right thing, or arrogantly play both sides off the middle while harboring secret ambitions? William Elliot. Wickham. And, of course, the silver-tongued Rev. Collins …

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    1. Laura Hile

      Bless you, Mary. My poor sad neglected blog, begun with such enthusiasm at summer’s end (when I was not teaching), has been a victim of my crazed schedule. Thanks for hanging in with me! 🙂

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  21. Sybil

    Very inventive and high powered conference gathered for Miss Austen’s gift determination. Unfortunately, these blokes can’t get over themselves, any of them. I wonder why Darcy was chosen to preside. Certainly ,Wentworth has had at least as much leadership opportunity, as had the Admiral, and either would have been more comfortable before those assembled. Oh, and please pass along my thanks to the admiral for dealing with one of the villains. Too bad he didn’t find a chance to finalize a few of the others. As always, I enjoyed this as I have everything you’ve written. I’m sure Jane, from her perch on high, found amusement in this birthday gift you’ve created for her and allowed us to share. Thank you Pamela, Barbara, Laura, and Susan. And, again, Happy Birthday, Jane.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Ha, Sybil, Admiral McGillvary was pleased to oblige. And he didn’t deal them all of Austen’s villains, I suppose, because we must give him something to do next year! 🙂

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  22. Margay

    Wow, that is an impressive collection of books that any Austen fan would be thrilled to have in her library! And who wouldn’t want to receive gifts from all of those heroes? Jane really made an impression with them, didn’t she?

    Margay1122ATaolDOTcom

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  23. stilettostorytime

    I love it! What a rollicking gift for Jane! And thank you for the lovely giveaway as well! Happy Happy Birthday Dear Jane!

    Courtney
    stilettostorytime at gmail dot com

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  24. Claire

    Happy Birthday Miss Austen and congratulations to all who celebrate it like a dear friend’s birthday. I think the gifts of gentlemen are well-intentioned and that’s important, perhaps they should add the pianoforte and a holiday in a sunny place would be fantastic.

    I will love One set of Frederick Wentworth, Captain (Books 1 and 2) by Susan Kaye.
    My e-mail address is tiernarebeldia@gmail.com

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  25. Robin Helm

    Okay, the newbie obviously missed something here. Since I see that others gave their e-mail addresses, I’m using my considerable powers of deduction and concluding (because of my understated brilliance) that I should have done so as well.
    robin_0123 at hotmail dot com
    I also forgot to wish Miss Austen a very happy birthday. Gayle and I could sing a duet whilst playing four-handed piano if you wish.
    How else can I avoid writing today? I know. I could let my twenty-one year old daughter host a sleep-over here for the seventh grade girls she was counselor to at camp this past summer. Yes, Laura, my home is full of seventh-grade girls – the stuff of your nightmares. (Insert evil laugh here.)

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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