Can the course of a life be altered by the stroke of a pen?
Widowed at a young age, Fitzwilliam Darcy has no reason to think he’ll ever find the love his first marriage lacked. Instead, he dedicates himself to his roles as father and co-guardian, determined to excel at both. But when love finally finds him, will he be too mired by the strife of the past to recognize it?
Elizabeth Bennet does not care for the newest addition to Meryton society, no matter how handsome and wealthy Mr. Darcy might be. She is, however, rather fond of his children and his sister. If only Mr. Darcy needn’t be so certain of his own worth, she would tolerate him on their behalf, but that change in him seems very unlikely.
Once Upon a Time in Pemberley is a sweet, Regency era Pride & Prejudice Variation of approximately 92,000 words. While this is Summer Hanford’s first variation without co-author Renata McMann, it will not be her last. Plus, you can look for more joint Renata McMann & Summer Hanford variations to come.
What do you think of this blurb? Short but sweet, right? Darcy is a papa but he is as “proud” as usual, isn’t it? I like it!
I am very happy to show you today Summer Hunford’s Once Upon a Time in Pemberley. I do not know about you, but I also really like the title.
Summer Hanford is an author of sweet, adventure-filled Historical Romance, Pride and Prejudice retellings (often in conjunction with Renata McMann), Children’s Picture Books, and Epic Fantasy. She lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York with her husband and compulsory, deliberately spoiled, cats. The newest addition to their household, an energetic setter-shepherd mix, is (still) not yet appreciated by the cats but is well loved by the humans. For more about Summer, visit www.summerhanford.com.
You can follow Summer and her writing on:
Sumer writes so many genres and ery different from each other. On another post soon, I will tell you a bit more about her Children’s Picture Books after we enjoy much more from her and Once Upon a Time in Pemberley.
However, let´s get to know Summer more!
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What inspires you to write?
Very simply, the joy of it. I love writing. Given my choice, it’s what I would spend nearly all my time doing. Pride and Prejudice variations, in particular, can be very fun to write. We all know the characters, which means that getting them into various situations has an extra level of delight because so much of what goes on is almost an inside joke between the author and the reader.
What are you working on now?
Editing the ‘Space JAFF.’ It’s a great book but it’s long, so I’ve been editing it for a while, and Renata is waiting and waiting. She literally knit me a hat and a scarf, along with hats and scarves for a bunch of other people, while waiting for me to finish a pass on this book.
What is your favorite part of Once Upon a Time in Pemberley?
That’s difficult to say. There is so much of the book that I love, and I like all of it, and I don’t want to give any spoilers. I’m fond of Mr. Collins’ proposal. The timing of it. I did that to be deliberately mean to our heroine. There are also some very sweet interactions between Darcy and his children, and let’s not forget Bingley carrying Jane in the rain… there’s a lot to be said for that, brief as the moment was.
I’m not sure if I want to read a book with children.
That’s definitely a consideration. If you don’t like to read books with children, I honestly wouldn’t recommend Once Upon a Time at Pemberley. I wish I could say it’s a book for everyone, but that’s simply not true. It is not intensely romantic. It’s much more about various types of familial love. And the children are in the book, not simply mentioned and then tucked away. They are active characters with personalities and roles to play in the plot.
Why did you title it Once Upon a Time in Pemberley when it happens in Netherfield?
I know. I simply couldn’t help it. Elizabeth said the line, ‘Once upon a time in Pemberley,’ and I thought, what a lovely title. I often pull a title from a line in a book. Perhaps I should have called it ‘Once Upon a Time in Netherfield Park,’ but it simply doesn’t have the same ring to it. I guess I sort of hoped everyone would forgive me, and I think most people have?
Will you write another variation alone?
I do hope to. As with other genres in which I write, I have lists of ideas and folders full of outlines. I will never get to write them all so it’s always an agony to select which to write next. My favorite idea plays it a bit loose with strict Regency protocol, as did Once Upon a Time in Pemberley, but it’s my opinion, having read various firsthand reports from those times (journals, letters, etc.), that the people who lived then were not so well behaved or proper as many people prefer to think.
For example, in 1810 in Edinburgh, women in fine gowns walked the streets in bare feet. That is a literal fact taken from a journal written by an Englishman traveling there, and Edinburgh is Scottish, yes, but a city, not a small town. Yet I can imagine the reaction if I wrote about Elizabeth wandering about even a small town barefoot, in public. Once all those men glimpse her pinky toes, she’ll never be fit to marry.
My point is, we’ve done a lot of idolizing. That said, I do try to stick to what people like to think of as proper Regency behavior, but humans were just as human then as they are now, and I find it difficult to pretend otherwise. They will do foolish things, brave things, irreverent things, and selfish things, just as they do now, whether socially acceptable to the wider world or not.
But that is a whole different topic, delving into the pitfalls of writing about historical times. The question of how much research is too much or too little. How much accuracy is wanted or required. What sort of language to use. If an author should cater more to reality or to reader expectations that have grown up around a genre. I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. I simply try to be consistent in my writing choices so that fans of my work can enjoy it, and I can enjoy writing it.
Is there anything else you wanted to tell us?
Only that I love Once Upon a Time in Pemberley and I thank you all so much for giving it consideration, and for the overall warmness of the book’s reception. It was stressful to put out a work without Renata, so I really appreciate the support the book has received.
And thank you so much to Ana for hosting me here on My Vices and Weaknesses. I’ve never done a blog tour before this book and I really appreciate the patience and support you’ve given.
Lastly, keep an eye out for the Once Upon a Time in Pemberley audiobook, narrated by the wonderful Catherine Bilson, which should be out any day now (it’s going through sound checks as we speak).
Thank you all for reading and for being readers.
Have a great day!
What? I understand that you have written it, but liking Mr. Collins’ proposal is beyond the pale 😉
Walking barefoot? Too cold for my taste, but I do not find it so different from nowadays when you leave the club and you have to take your heels off (not exactly the same though… I know)
I think you are here for a treat. I love these kids!!
Elizabeth’s mother and three younger sisters streamed from the carriage the moment the conveyance halted outside Netherfield Park’s three story, box-like manor house, the sandy-colored stone building altogether too austere for Elizabeth’s tastes. At least the home boasted no giant gargoyles or plethora of decorative merlons to jut upward like teeth against the blue autumn sky, and the grounds about the manor house were exceptionally beautiful.
“Do you think Mr. Bingley will be at home?” Jane asked, making no move to disembark yet. Looking past Elizabeth to the house, Jane absently smoothed her already unwrinkled skirt.
Elizabeth smiled at how opposite Jane’s desires were from hers. “It’s possible, but gentlemen generally enjoy riding at this time of day.” As she fervently hoped Mr. Darcy did. “And we must assume that he rented Netherfield Park to take in the countryside.”
Jane nodded and schooled her features into her usual look of bland pleasantness. “I’m certain a visit with Miss Bingley, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Darcy will be very enjoyable indeed.”
Having observed Mr. Bingley’s sisters at the assembly the evening before, their noses so high in the air they might have been sniffing the ceiling for fresh plaster, Elizabeth doubted that. “Let us go in and see?”
Jane climbed out, accepting a footman’s hand even though her every movement held so much grace, it seemed impossible she could require assistance. Elizabeth endeavored to emulate her sister as she followed but knew that, as always, she fell somewhat short. If Jane weren’t her very dearest friend and confidant, and the most pleasant person Elizabeth knew, she would be endlessly jealous of her.
They followed the path that their mother and younger three sisters had taken up the mansion’s steps to where a smartly dressed butler admitted them. That upper servant accepted a cloak, hat and gloves from each Bennet woman, handing them off to a line of waiting footmen. Elizabeth, last in line, toyed with the idea of handing her outerwear to the final footman directly, bypassing the austere butler, but she didn’t wish to give the man a fit.
“The ladies are receiving guests in the cream drawing room,” the butler informed them once he’d handed off Elizabeth’s cloak. “Sarah will show you the way.”
He gestured to a maid, who stepped forward and curtsied. Wordless, she pivoted and set off down a wide, stark hallway, the unadorned corridor almost tunnel-like. Elizabeth supposed that, should someone reside in Netherfield Park with any permanence, the cavernous feeling would be easily alleviated by small tables, flowers and paintings. As it was, only evenly spaced sconces broke the monotony of dark wood paneling that stood below deep blue papered walls and above a predominantly cobalt runner. Trailing her mother and sisters down the hallway, Elizabeth hoped that the cream drawing room would prove less dreary.
Mrs. Bennet lengthened her stride to come abreast of the maid. “Are we not the first callers, then?”
“No, Missus. The Lucases have called and the Gouldings.”
Mrs. Bennet cast a frown over her shoulder. “I told you not to take so long with your hair, Kitty.”
“But Mama, I need to look my best for Mr. Bingley.”
Lydia huffed. “Mr. Bingley wouldn’t pick you over me if you covered your curls with diamonds.”
“You can’t know that,” Kitty replied and promptly started coughing, a light, rickety sound that would undoubtedly be cured by a bit of sun on the southern coast, if either parent cared enough to press for the expense.
“Mr. Bingley will marry Jane,” Mrs. Bennet said confidently. “You can only hope to win Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth had a hope of her own, and that was a fervent one that the cream drawing room stood far to the back of the house out of hearing and that Sarah, the maid, proved suddenly deaf.
“Mr. Darcy?” Elizabeth could practically hear Lydia roll her eyes as she spoke. “No one would want to marry him. He’s horrible.” She pulled her shoulders back and angled her chin into the air. “I’m Mr. Darcy. I’m too grand to dance with anyone unless Sir William makes me.”
“He danced with those of his party without encouragement,” Jane corrected softly.
“That’s only worse,” Lydia replied.
Elizabeth agreed, though she wouldn’t admit as much. Not when they might be within hearing of their hosts at any moment. Instead, hoping to nudge the conversation away from directly insulting a man who might possibly be in the drawing room they approached, she said, “Will we call on the Lucases next, Mama?”
“If Lady Lucas wishes to speak with me after calling here before we did, she may visit Longbourn.”
“It is unlikely Lady Lucas knew when we would call,” Mary supplied, speaking for the first time since they’d entered Mr. Bingley’s leased residence and adding, “He hath made everything in his time.”
“God didn’t make Lady Lucas visit before we could,” Lydia said with a giggle. “Kitty’s hair did.”
“Girls,” Mrs. Bennet intervened, much to Elizabeth’s relief. If uncurtailed, Lydia would badger Mary into endless biblical quotes of increasingly less relevance.
The maid turned into a doorway. “Mrs. Bennet and the Miss Bennets,” she said and dipped another curtsy.
“Show them in,” cultured tones that Elizabeth identified as Miss Bingley’s replied. “And bring tea.”
The maid bobbed again, turned to them to offer a nod, and started back down the hallway.
Elizabeth followed her mother and sisters in to find that both of Mr. Bingley’s sisters and Miss Darcy awaited them. Relieved as the gentlemen’s absence made her, she felt a touch of sorrow for Jane, whose smile wavered as hope of seeing Mr. Bingley left her. Elizabeth doubted anyone else noticed Jane’s momentary lapse in the flurry of greetings that commenced.
Finally, greetings exchanged, they all sat. Mrs. Hurst cleared her throat and said, “What lovely weather one finds in Hertfordshire at this time of year.”
Mrs. Bennet nodded. “Yes. You could not have chosen a better time for a visit to the countryside and my daughters are great walkers. They will be happy to show the beauties of Hertfordshire to you.”
“Walkers?” Miss Bingley repeated, her voice holding a mixture of incredulousness and disgust.
Forcing a bland tone, Elizabeth nodded and said, “Yes. It is an affliction of those who reside in the country.”
The faintest giggle sounded, somewhere behind Elizabeth and to the right.
“On affliction, I can agree with you,” Miss Bingley replied.
“I walk a great deal when at Pemberley,” Miss Darcy said, her smile so forcedly fixed as to be a grimace. “Walking is pleasant.”
Mrs. Hurst turned to her. “Yes, I’m certain it is when you do so, Miss Darcy.”
“Not when Lizzy does so,” Lydia said with a laugh. “She walks for hours, in all sorts of weather.”
“I don’t know how she doesn’t become ill,” Kitty muttered.
“Do you now, Miss Elizabeth?” Miss Bingley studied Elizabeth with cold eyes.
“Do I what?” Elizabeth asked with feigned confusion.
“Walk in any weather and never suffer from doing so.”
“Oh yes. I daresay it’s my hearty countrified constitution. Perhaps if you walked more, you could do so without becoming ill as well, Miss Bingley.”
Another giggle. Elizabeth looked about, certain none of the ladies before her had issued the faint sound.
“Caroline is quite hardy,” Mrs. Hurst said with mild alarm, as if word of frailty might get around if not immediately squashed. “She would be a wonderful walking companion for you at Pemberley, Miss Darcy.”
Miss Darcy nodded, then set to studying her hands, folded in her lap.
“Yes, well, we’ve wonderful weather of late,” Mrs. Bennet said, too loud.
Conversation about the weather waxed on around her but Elizabeth stopped truly attending, looking about the room instead. Finally, she noted a pair of small pink slippers poking out from beneath one of the thick cream curtains. Once she saw them, it didn’t take her long to note a second set, heels this time, the hidden child apparently looking out, rather than facing the room. To her surprise, turning to study the curtains that hedged a second window, she found the crossed knees of britches above a child-sized pair of shoes.
Why, the room was rife with hidden children and one of them, if Elizabeth’s ears didn’t deceive her, sang very softly.
Elizabeth turned back to Mrs. Hurst, Miss Bingley and Miss Darcy, wondering if they knew. At the next lull, she said, “I imagine you’ve received many guests in this room already today?”
That earned her confused looks but Mrs. Hurst politely replied, “We were receiving in the rose parlor but were informed of your impending arrival and deemed a larger room required for your brood.”
Mrs. Bennet bristled. “Brood?”
“Our Bennet Brood?” Elizabeth said with a laugh. “I do believe Mrs. Hurst looks on us as a flock of chicks, Mama.”
More giggles, and louder. Miss Darcy must have heard as well, and Jane, for both looked about with slight frowns. Miss Darcy seemed to catch sight of the pink slipper clad toes. Her gaze narrowed.
“We are not chickens,” Mrs. Bennet said severely.
“No,” Mary agreed. “You would be a hen, Mama.”
“We are fowl of no sort,” Mrs. Bennet cried, swiveling to face her middle child. “Mary, perhaps you should ask our hostesses if there is a pianoforte of which you might avail yourself while the rest of us visit. You’re in dire need of practice.”
Mary looked down, cheeks pinking.
It was on Elizabeth’s lips to suggest that Mrs. Hurst may have in fact meant they were goslings, more in an effort to elicit more giggles than to torment their hostesses or her mother, but Netherfield’s maids selected that moment to arrive with the tea service.
Once the maids deposited their burdens and left, Miss Bingley looked around with a fixed smile. “Tea?”
“I want tea,” a voice whispered. “How long must we hide, Bee?”
“Shh, Fitz,” one of the curtains hissed.
This time, everyone heard and began looking about.
Where she sat on a sofa she shared with Kitty and Lydia, Miss Darcy swiveled to look behind her. “Bee? Laurel? Fitz? Are you hiding in the curtains?”
“It’s Beatrice,” the shushing curtain snapped.
“Oh dear,” Miss Bingley said with a grimace. “Children, come out at once. What are you doing, spying on us?”
A round, petulant face topped with curls and possessed of perhaps ten years poked out from behind the curtain that hung above the forward-facing pink slippers. “We are not spying.”
Miss Darcy shook her head. “It very much seems as if you’re hiding, Bee.”
“It’s Beatrice,” the little girl, apparently named Beatrice, cried as she stepped free of her hiding place. “We were here first. You all came in.”
“We didn’t see you,” Miss Bingley stated and then looked down the length of her nose at them, lips pursed.
“Children, it is very impolite to spy,” Mrs. Hurst added.
“We are not spying.” Beatrice added a stamp of a pink slipper to her assertion.
Another curtain pulled aside to reveal a blond boy perhaps half his sister’s age, presumably the afore shushed Fitz. “We’re playing hide and seek, not spy.”
“Then why are you all hiding here, spying?” Mrs. Bennet demanded, sounding every bit as affronted as Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley.
The girl, Beatrice, tipped her chin up in a withering look that put Miss Bingley’s to shame. “I’m afraid we have not been introduced, Madam.”
Lydia giggled and pressed her hands over her mouth.
“Laurel is meant to be seeking,” the boy, Fitz, said, coming to his feet. “She probably forgot.”
Realizing the faint singing continued, Elizabeth glanced to where the heels of a second set of slippers could be seen below another curtain.
“Laurel,” Beatrice called, then repeated, much louder, “Laurel.”
The singing stopped. An ethereal looking little girl, aged somewhere between her older sister and younger brother, stepped free of one of the curtains. She blinked, looking about at all the faces, the adults all at an angle as they peered over the backs of chairs and sofas. She pushed long, white-blonde and uncurled hair over her shoulder. “Yes?”
“You were meant to find me and Fitz,” Beatrice said with severity.
Laurel looked down. “I was watching the trees.”
Beatrice released an exasperated huff.
“Come be introduced to our guests, the Bennets,” Miss Darcy said. “We met them yesterday at the dance.”
Laurel’s face, more angular and sharper than her siblings, lit with a smile. “Did you dance with Papa? Does he dance well? Did you wear ball gowns? When I am old enough, Papa says I may have a ball gown and attend a dance.”
“If your Papa is Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth danced with him, as did Miss Lucas, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley,” Jane said, gesturing to Elizabeth.
The three children turned to Jane. Elizabeth watched their features take on the same look of adoration that her older sister inspired in adults.
“Not you?” Laurel asked.
“She danced with Mr. Bingley,” Lydia said. “Twice.” She covered her mouth and giggled again, then leaned to whisper to Kitty.
“Come be introduced, children,” Miss Bingley reiterated with a frown of condemnation for Elizabeth’s youngest two sisters. “Young Fitz, Miss Beatrice, Miss Laurel, these are the Bennets.” Nodding to each of them as she spoke, Miss Bingley continued, “Mrs. Bennet, Miss Jane Bennet, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet, Miss Kitty Bennet and Miss Lydia Bennet.”
Mr. Darcy’s children came forward as Miss Bingley spoke and when she finished, both girls curtsied with fair precision, Fitz offering a bow.
“Now, children,” Miss Bingley said at the same time as Beatrice asked Jane, “Are you accomplished? You look as though you must be accomplished.”
“Jane is very accomplished,” Mrs. Bennet stated. “She is too pretty to be anything but.”
Beatrice nodded as if that made sense. “Do you speak French and Italian, Miss Bennet?”
Jane shook her head. “I do not.”
“Do you play the pianoforte and sing?”
Another head shake. “Mary plays and Elizabeth sings.”
Mary pursed her lips, likely because she sang as well and felt she did so pleasantly…though she was alone in that feeling.
Beatrice scrunched her features. “In what are you accomplished, then?”
“Jane draws beautifully,” Mrs. Bennet asserted. “And sews and embroiders and is a wonderful hostess. She would be a perfect wife for any gentleman.”
“May we have tea now?” Fitz asked, his gaze locked on the assortment of miniature cakes and pastries on the table before them.
“No,” Miss Bingley said firmly. “What you may do is return to the playroom I allotted to you and the care of the staff I appointed to look after you.”
“Who will hear of this,” Mrs. Hurst added.
“Laurel and Fitz should go,” Beatrice said, standing as tall as her stature permitted. “I am old enough to stay for tea.”
“A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence,” Mary stated, to looks of confusion.
“It’s boring in the playroom,” Fitz said plaintively. “There are no toys.”
Seeing an escape from tea with Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, Elizabeth said, “What if we went to try out the pianoforte?” She turned to Miss Bingley and asked, though she knew it would annoy, “There is a pianoforte, is there not?”
“Certainly,” Miss Bingley said even more stiffly than Elizabeth had expected.
Miss Darcy popped to her feet. “I can show you where.”
“Will you come with us, Miss Bennet?” Beatrice asked Jane.
“I would be pleased to.”
“You see?” Mrs. Bennet said to the room at large. “Jane is so good with children, and is like to have a great many of them. All strong sons, to be certain.”
Lydia whispered to Kitty again and they both dissolved into giggling.
Before anyone could reorder the matter, Elizabeth ushered her sister, Miss Darcy and the three children out of the drawing room, leaving Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley to have tea with Mrs. Bennet, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. Elizabeth knew escaping was ill-mannered of her, and worried as well what sort of impression her mother and younger three sisters would leave with Mr. Bingley’s sisters, especially without her there to curtail them, but she couldn’t resist seeking her freedom. All in all, the prospect of a pianoforte, Jane, the amiable seeming Miss Darcy and three children seemed far better than tea with Mr. Bingley’s relations, and her own.
“It’s this way,” Miss Darcy said, leading them away from the drawing room, Fitz at her side. “Do either of you play?”
“Elizabeth does,” Jane replied.
Beatrice walked beside Jane, slanting looks up at her.
“In truth, Mary plays far better than I,” Elizabeth admitted from where she and Laurel trailed the others. “She is much more diligent. I do not put in the practice I should.”
“But you sing beautifully,” Jane said, ever the staunch supporter.
Elizabeth, with no use for false modesty, acknowledged that with a nod. “Only due to natural talent, not diligence.”
“Aunt Georgie plays very well,” Laurel said, looking up at Elizabeth as they walked. “I like to sing.”
“Yes. I could hear you.” Elizabeth smiled. “But not well enough to recognize the song.”
“She made it up.” Beatrice’s tone expressed exasperation rather than pride. “Laurel is forever making up silly songs.”
Laurel dropped her face to study the blue runner.
“What were you singing about?” Elizabeth asked.
“It was a song for the trees, because it’s autumn and they’re going to sleep.”
“You were meant to be counting,” Beatrice said with severity.
Not the most supportive of sisters, Elizabeth decided.
“Here we are,” Miss Darcy said brightly and led the way into a large drawing room, a pianoforte off to one side. “I will play and we can all sing.”
Elizabeth smiled. That sounded much more pleasant than tea with Mrs. Hurst, Miss Bingley and her mama, even if she were being ill mannered and would without a doubt endure a reprimand later.
What do you think? How funny it is? I could imagine the three kids at the beginning when they are found behind the curtains with their cute little outfits and their smiles.
Why not checking this book? You can buy it on:
Soon you will be able to buy the audiobook if you prefer it.
Summer is hosting a great giveaway where she gives you different options to choose from. However, remember that asking for an ebook of Once Upon a Time in Pemberley is possible and advisable 😉
She has the giveaway on her website. Click the link below and follow instructions. By participating you will enter her mailing list (everything is explained there).
4 thoughts on ““Once Upon a Time in Pemberley” by Summer Hanford, Q&A, excerpt + giveaway”
Well it’s certainly obvious that Miss Bingley is not a big fan of children! I’m surprised that Darcy hasn’t ensured they have toys to play with? Perhaps Elizabeth can suggest something? I do hope he and Bingley return in time to see Jane and Elizabeth helping Georgiana to entertain them.
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I like the idea of a more mature Darcy with children. Good luck with the new release!
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I think having the kids in the story has already added such a fun layer in the story. I also like to cover with the bunny that the little girl can see.
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Enjoyed the excerpt and the interview. I love the cover and eager to read this story.
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