Mar 192018

Hi friends! Not too long ago I interviewed the lovely Riana Everly as she was celebrating her debut release, Teaching Eliza! Today Riana has kindly stopped by again for a visit as she is yet again celebrating another book release – The Assistant.  I’m so excited to learn more about this tale as it centers upon the Gardiners!!  I hope you enjoy this lovely post Riana put together!

Edward Gardiner – who is he, and how did he become the man he is?

Thank you, Meredith, for hosting me today. I am particularly thrilled to stop by Austenesque Reviews today, because this is the release day for my new novel, The Assistant: Before Pride and Prejudice. (Insert huge grin here!)


I love all the Lizzy and Darcy stories —who doesn’t, after all—but I also love the stories that feature other members of the extended Bennet family and their friends. I have read some lovely continuations, or variations that focus on Lizzy’s sisters or her friend Charlotte. There are also stories that recount life in the Darcy household after the couple marry, and I’ve read some wonderful tales that propose some alternate histories for Mr. Bennet and his two eldest daughters. What there is not a lot of, however, is JAFF about Lizzy’s favourite aunt and uncle. I can only think of one other such offering: The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, by the amazingly talented Nicole Clarkston. (As a disclaimer, I first wrote The Assistant before she published her novel, so any similarities between these tales are purely coincidental!)

Well, as the saying goes, Edward Gardiner needs some love! In Pride and Prejudice, although Caroline Bingley disparages the Bennets’ London relations as “such low connections, when Mr. Darcy sees them at Pemberley, Elizabeth notes that “he takes them now for people of fashion,” and is relieved that “she had some relations for whom there was no need to blush.” She goes on to listen to her uncle, whose every sentence “marked his intelligence, his taste, or his good manners.”

The question that came to me was how this sensible and intelligent man, successful at his business, with the appearance of a gentleman, could possibly be related to the silly and fretful Mrs. Bennet. And who is the elegant and caring lady who is his wife? As I mulled over this, a story began swirling in my mind, and The Assistant is the result.

Something that might surprise some readers is that part of the story takes place in Nova Scotia which at the time was a separate colony, but is now a province of Canada. In my imaginings, Edward Gardiner is a man who stands between worlds, with one foot in the merchant class, but who can hold his own in genteel society. If Mr. Darcy takes him and his wife as people of fashion, he must be comfortable straddling that social divide with ease. Thus, it seemed natural to have him come into his adulthood in a land that straddled two worlds as well.

In 1800, shortly after the emergence of the United States of America as an independent country, Nova Scotia stood as a bridge between that nation and his homeland of Britain. Nova Scotia was the neutral fourteenth colony, part of but separate from the polities that broke from Britain to become the United States. Both American and British, home to former American colonists still loyal to the crown while being an integral part of the British Empire, it echoes Edward’s own position as a man belonging to two worlds.

But the main reason I chose Nova Scotia as the setting for the second part of the novel is that it’s a beautiful place! I’ve spend several summers (and yes, a couple of winters) travelling there, and I love it. I love the scenery, I love the people, I love the history. Halifax is now a modern city, but its historic past lies close to the surface, and the centre of town is still the massive British fortifications on Citadel Hill (the current fortifications date from 1856, but there have been structures there since 1749), overlooking the docklands near the Historic Properties that date as far back as the 1750s. For Europeans, this must seem modern. For North America, it is ancient indeed! And as such, it was little challenge to imagine the city as it was back at the turn of the nineteenth century, young and green, but ready for greatness. Rather like Edward Gardiner!


Excerpt from The Assistant

The strong wind had moved the ship more quickly across the Atlantic than expected, and they arrived in Halifax four and a half weeks after departing London, only days after Matthew’s ship was thought to have arrived. As they sailed into the harbour, Edward was once again awed by the natural resource the British had been so fortunate as to claim. The narrow opening was well protected on all sides by a series of batteries and fortifications, but once passed that critical point, the waters opened up again into a massive natural harbour, large enough to house most of the Royal Navy.

The town of Halifax itself was small and stretched out along the shore of the harbour beneath a large hill, crowned with an impressive military citadel. Small though it was, the town was clearly bustling. The recent revolt by the lower thirteen American colonies, along with the threat posed by the Corsican upstart Bonaparte, had led Britain to increase its formidable navy, and much of that work was being done here in the harbour. A huge naval dockyards had been established, and timber from both Nova Scotia and the neighbouring colony of New Brunswick supplied the wood for much of the Empire’s fleet.

Edward could see evidence of the increased activity in the town itself. An impressive new building was being constructed, which the men would later learn was to be the new Government House, and other instances of new construction could be found in every direction. The place had, indeed, changed quite remarkably even in the few short years since Edward’s last sight of it.


What sort of town would Edward have seen upon returning to Halifax in 1800? Some of the landmarks I mention in the book were only under construction at the time of his arrival, but others were standing then, as they stand today. Here is a brief tour of Halifax at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Sketch of Halifax (1749) drawn from the top of a masthead in the harbour.

This is the year the town was founded. What the drawing does not show well is the fairly steep rise of land, leading to the citadel on the hill directly behind the town site.

Government House and the Parade, 1759

This is from ten years later. You can see the four-storey Government House, an expansion of the town site into the distance, and a strong military presence in the streets. Stuff was starting to happen!

Looking down Prince Street 1759

Here is a another view from the same year, this time looking down onto the town from Citadel Hill. The sketch shows at the northern (left) extreme, the Great Pontack Inn (Pontac House) at the corner of Duke and Water Streets, and extends as far south as the current site of Government House on Barrington Street.

View of the Naval Yard, 1796.

This is the image on my book’s cover. For some reason, I fell in love with this image. You can see that this is not a sleepy place any longer. The dockyards were bustling with activity. There are some fairly impressive buildings in place, and this image clearly shows the hills that rise up behind the town, which were fortified for defence.

The Town Clock

The clock was a gift to the city by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, before his return to England in 1800, in an effort to keep the garrison punctual. The clock itself was not built until 1801, and did not start keeping time until 1803. Here you can see how much the land rises above the shoreline and the harbour. And this is at the base Citadel Hill!

The Historic Properties

These are a set of warehouses on the Halifax Boardwalk. Most date to the Napoleonic Wars, but a couple are earlier. Pontac House was built as an inn in the 1750s, but was partially destroyed by fire in the 1830s. Privateer Warehouse was built around the year 1790.

St. Paul’s Church

The congregation was founded in 1749, the year the town was established, and the church building started in 1750. In my tale, this is where the Gardiners got married.

Government House

As they sail into town, Edward notices the construction of a large stone building. This is Government House, the replacement for the older structure that Lady Wentworth (the governor’s wife) deemed too small for one of her importance! The cornerstone was laid in 1800 and construction was still underway when the family moved in in 1805. The building’s overall style is Georgian with hints of Adam, elements of the main and rear facades having been taken from a book of house plans published in 1795 by George Richardson.

The Citadel

The current magnificent star-shaped fortification was not built until 1856, but there have been fortifications upon Citadel Hill since 1749. In 1800, the third citadel was standing. It designed in 1794 and completed in 1800, and was officially named Fort George, by General Orders of October 20, 1798, after King George III.

The current citadel is the fourth set of fortifications on citadel hill. This massive complex, with its iconic star-shape, was built in 1756. You can see the Town Clock at the base of the hill.

Very interesting, Riana!  Thank you so much for sharing!  I’ve never been to Nova Scotia so I’m very excited to experience a story that takes place there!  I loved the virtual tour you took us on of Halifax and that you carefully researched the city to know what Edward Gardiner would have encountered there!


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Giveaway Time!!

Today Riana is generously giving away five lovely ebooks of The Assistant in conjunction with her blog tour!!  Woot woot! 



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  • This giveaway ends March 29th!
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  57 Responses to “Guest Post + Giveaway with Author Riana Everly!!!”


    What a “novel” concept! I love the photos. Best wishes.


    I, too, have wondered how Mr. Gardiner was so different from his sister. I am visiting Nova Scotia for the first time this Fall and enjoyed the blog. Thank you for the giveaway.


      I also wondered how a woman like Mrs. B could have such a sophisticated and elegant brother as Mr. Gardiner. So I asked him, and he told me.
      I hope you love Nova Scotia. It’s such a beautiful place, and we love travelling there. We will be there for a couple of weeks this summer, and I hope to get a few of my own pictures of places Edward Gardiner might have known. Enjoy your trip!


      I also wondered how a woman like Mrs. B could have such a sophisticated and elegant brother as Mr. Gardiner. So I asked him, and he told me.
      I hope you love Nova Scotia. It’s such a beautiful place, and we love travelling there. We will be there for a couple of weeks this summer, and I hope to get a few of my own pictures of places Edward Gardiner might have known. Enjoy your trip!


      I hope you enjoy your trip, Eva! It looks like such a lovely place to visit!


    Way to go. Best of luck with the new book.


    I, too, have always been curious about whether the difference between siblings is due to gender, personalities due to inheritance, education or chance. Plus, the Gardiners seem to have influenced (?) both Jane’s and Elizabeth’s manners being more in keeping with proprieties. Some JAFF use the latter a great deal to explain the two sisters’ behaviors, but even in canon one can read of such as when they meet Darcy at Pemberley and don’t go into flutters and spasms due to nerves. Thanks for sharing and the chance to win.


      I had always wondered about how the difference between the siblings. Of course, as a boy, Edward had the opportunity for an education that was denied to his sisters. I also suspect that Edward and Mrs. B had different mothers. Jane Austen says that Mrs. Gardiner was very much younger than Mrs. Bennet, and I wondered if perhaps Mr. Gardiner was as well. If so, his mother might have had different notions of how to raise her child. As for Lizzy and Jane, Edward Gardiner adores his nieces, and they love him, and he has a special relationship with Lizzy. Keep your eyes on the blog tour, because Lizzy has a chance to speak in a few days time!
      Good luck with the raffle, and I hope you enjoy the book.


    This novel sounds fascinating and captivating. The characters, setting and story interests me greatly. Since I am Canadian and know the beauty and charm of N.S. which is very special and unique this is meaningful and memorable.


      Isn’t NS lovely? We love the Annapolis Valley (and Halifax and Cape Breton and the French Shore….), and will be back there this summer for a couple of weeks.
      I have been exploring some of the Regency-era history in my province too (Ontario),and I’ve discovered such a wealth of fascinating stuff in the Niagara region and along the St.Lawrence River. History class at school should have been this interesting!


    Very interesting premise. Enjoyed the excerpt, thanks for sharing and for the chance to win a copy.


    Congratulations!!! I love Nova Scotia! It is breathtaking, especially Cape Breton. Though there are many other areas that we loved while touring. We mainly went for the Canoe/Kayak Championships back in 2006, but were able to do a bit of tour before. Love Halifax and the Citadel. Speaking of love, there is definitely something very special about Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner. I love when secondary characters are given their due and provided further development.


      Thank you! And yes, Nova Scotia is amazing. We’ve been lucky to spend a fair bit of time there, because it never gets boring. My son spent most of the summer there a few years ago doing a French immersion program, and this summer my daughter is doing an art camp, while we spend our time enjoying the sights.
      The Gardiners were great to write about, because they are so intriguing. Intelligent, elegant, informed, fashionable… and yet not dukes and earls! I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.


    Excellent post Riana! So interesting, loved the images. I’ve never been to Nova Scotia either, but it looks like an amazing, fascinating place. And your book sounds intriguing too. I’m keen to read as much JAFF fiction as I can, being a JAFF author myself, and fairly new to it all too! Congrats on your new release. I hope it does well.


    The excerpt sounds very interesting. I also liked the pictures that were


    I, too, love everything Darcy and Elizabeth and I am sure this book will be great. Can’t wait to read it.


    What a great concept. I can’t wait to read the Assistant! Joining the others in saying… I LOVE Nova Scotia. Thank you for the wonderful pictures!


    I’m jealous of DH who travelled to Nova Scotia on business, because I’ve never been there. His photos showed how lovely Halifax is, and there are several Canadian iconic locations that are part of the province, as well as an iconic song. I also find the history of NS at the time of the Regency or before fascinating, and you can well imagine from my inclusion of a bit of that history in one of my novels (Letter from Ramsgate) as well–in fact, I had a longer out-take that was too detailed for a D&E book!

    I also learned an curiosity about Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner from even before Nicole Clarkston’s excellent book–and no two books are ever the same as no two authors’ imaginations are ever the same. Lucky for us readers!

    I’m itching to read this book as a result. Please, please let me win! I guess I’ll have to stalk the blog tour LOL. Thanks so much for a detailed and interesting post, Riana, and thanks for hosting her, Meredith!


      Which song? Now I’m curious? Barrett’s Privateers? There is so much history in NS. Louisbourg is amazing, with the reconstruction of the 18th-century French fortifications, and then there’s Grand Pre, Annapolis Royal, Lunenburg… it’s all just begging for some great historical romance, isn’t it?
      And yes, one of the fun things about JAFF is seeing how very different stories can be, even when based on very similar premises. 🙂 (If you ever want to share the longer take-out from Ramsgate, I’d be very pleased to read it.)
      Good luck in the raffle!.


    The very best of luck with the book. I love books about the side characters in the novels, if that’s the way to put it.


    What a wonderful story concept! Congratulations on your new release. I am so excited to see some love for Edward Gardiner. I always feel like he is one of Jane Austen’s most underrated heroes, just because he doesn’t take the headline and he’s already married. Looking forward to reading The Assistant!


    great story idea!


    The photos are wonderful. I’ve never been to Nova Scotia before, and it looks enticing – will add it to my “must travel to” list. I like the idea of a different setting for fan fiction and look forward to reading “The Assistant”. Good luck with this book, and thanks for the chance to win a copy. (Will read it regardless.)


      Thanks. I’m going back to visit this coming summer, so I hope to spend some time doing a photo-safari. The last time I was there, I had written The Assistant, but hadn’t thought about publishing it, and so I didn’t take pictures with the book in mind. I will have to fix that very soon.
      Good luck in the raffle, and I hope you enjoy the book.


    OMG!! The pictures were wonderful. I love Mr. Gardiner… and I think a story about him would be delightful. I look forward to reading it. I have signed up for the give-a-way and your email. Thanks Meredith for hosting today. To our author… blessings on the launch of this work.


    I am so eager to read your newest book Ms. Everly. Oh how I love JAFF where Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner play a big part in the plot. (I loved Nicole’s book too!) Thank you so much for this visit to Austenesque, the short history lesson spurs me on to want to learn more (and I love when that happens,) and the photos are beautiful and the old images are fascinating. I will definitely be following the blog tour. Best of luck.


      Thank you so much! It was a terrific treasure hunt, looking for all these old pictures. There is such a wealth of history in old drawings and paintings. I look forward to seeing you at other stops along this little tour.


    This is fascinating. My PhD research is on the romance novel settings. It will be lovely if you could share a paperback copy of any of your novels with me.


    What an exciting idea, to show Edward Gardiner as he learned to keep one foot firmly planted in each world: the world of trade and the world of the gentry. Nova Scotia is such an intriguing setting…although I confess that most of the little I know comes from the novels of L.M. Montgomery who, in my opinion, has written the most exquisite prose in the English language. 🙂


      He’s always been an interesting character, although he gets relatively little stage time in Pride and Prejudice. As for the setting, the more I dig, the more I discover that Canadian history is so much more interesting than what we learned in school, and that it’s not so far beneath the surface! One of my favourite haunts nearby(ish) is a town and fort dating to the War of 1812. Next summer we’ll be travelling to Prince Edward Island, where we will probably go the Anne of Green Gables sites. I’ve been to PEI only once, and that was very briefly, so it will be fun to explore some of those sites in more depth. If you read The Assistant, I hope you enjoy it!


    Wow! Love the pictures! I’m a big fan of Jane Austen books and your book sounds awesome! I would like to read about Lizzy’s favorite uncle! Good luck and hope your book will appear in Romania too!


    Love the excerpt and the photos! Thanks for the giveaway! I’d love to win a copy!


    Thanks for the excerpt and the history lesson, Rhianna. I love to learn about the factual background to what I read. The Gardiners (and the Crofts) are favourite minor characters of mine, as they are for many others, too. I read Nicole Clarkston’s book earlier this year and loved it. This new book looks as though it will be another good read.


      I love writing about places I know, because when I write, I see the action in my mind like it’s on a stage, and having very real “sets” makes such a difference. Finding those old drawings and paintings were just such a delight for me. I hope you enjoy the book!


    Wonderful post. I look forward to an Edward Gardiner spin!


    Can’t wait to dive into this one! Thanks for the wonderful post.


    the town clock is magnificent. love all of the places you selected for your book.



      It was one the first landmarks that struck my on my first visit to Halifax many years ago. In the interests of full disclosure, it was not yet standing at the time of my story, but it’s so iconic to the city that I needed to put it in. That’s the fiction part of historical fiction, right? 😉


    Besides Colonel Fitzwilliam, the Gardiners are my favorite secondary characters. I love that you are going to be giving them some page time! Thanks for share some history and the lovely pictures, I’m looking forward to reading your new release!


    I would love to read this. Will it be on Amazon?

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