I am very glad to have MJ Stratton again in the blog and even a bit happier as I am the lucky person to reveal the cover of her latest book!!
Let me tell you a bit more about From Another Persepctive:
The events of Pride and Prejudice are well known by those familiar with Jane Austen’s work, but what would we see if the minor characters told the story? What were Mrs. Hill’s thoughts on the heir to Longbourn? How did Anne de Bourgh feel about her cousin’s fascination with the guests at the parsonage? Did Mrs. Younge willingly help Mr. Darcy find Wickham? From Another Perspective follows the events of Pride and Prejudice as seen through the eyes of some of the lesser players found in the novel, along with some others of the author’s own creation.
What do you think? I really want to know Mrs. Hill´s opinion of Mr. Collins 😀
MJ Stratton grew up in a small town in rural Utah, moving back in 2021 after being away for ten years. Her love of Jane Austen was born at a young age when she read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Her first ever exposure to JAFF was watching Lost in Austen as a teen. MJ recently left her teaching job to be at home with her four children, and hopefully pursue her passion for writing more fully. After feeding her love of books by editing and beta reading for years, she hopes to commit more fully to penning her own stories. MJ loves food, growing things, and the quiet of the countryside.
I am aware that I have not put the cover on the main image of the post, because I would like to read the thoughts on the cover by MJ Stratton:
I saw this picture by Carl Herpfer when I was looking for a cover image and fell in love with it. Though the couple on the cover probably resembles Jane and Bingley more so than Lizzy and Darcy, I loved the surrounding people watching them, which totally fits with writing Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of other people.
Here you have it!
I agree that fits, other people looking at the main characters, living with the main characters, havind their own opinions but not being protagonists.
MJ Stratton is giving away three ebook copies during this tour. Check the link below and follow instructions. Good luck!
I am so happy that I had authors that I have read commenting on the post of a book of a fellow author! Thank you 🙂
The winner of the randomiser is Suzan Lauder! Suzan, could you send me your email address and le tme know if you prefer .mobi or .epub for your ebook? The email is myvicesandweaknesses(at)gmail(dot)com.
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.
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.
Welcome Regina Jeffers for the first time at My Vices and Weaknesses. You may have read some of her books as she has been writing for a long time. However, today she is telling us a lot about her latest published novel: Elizabeth Bennet’s Gallant Suitor. She has also shared an excertp where Darcy and C0lonel Fitzwilliam are pretty smitten 😀
Let´s start with a bit of history as it is something relevant on this excerpt and story.
Steeplechase has its origins in an equine event in 18th-century Ireland, as riders would race from town to town using church steeples — at the time the most visible point in each town — as starting and ending points (hence the name steeplechase). Riders would have to surmount the various obstacles of the Irish countryside: stone walls, fences, ditches, streams, etc.
As the name might suggest, that very first race took place in 1752 between two steeples in rural county Cork in the south of Ireland. These types of races are often called “point-to-point” races. At that time, church steeples were among the tallest buildings in the landscape. Two men, Cornelius O’Callaghan and Edmund Blake, made a bet between them, to race from Saint John’s Church in Buttevant to Saint Mary’s Church in Doneraile, which was approximately 4 miles. However, it was 4 miles across the countryside, crossing rivers and streams and walls, etc. Although we do not know the winner’s name, he was to earn a prize of 600 gallons of port.
In 1839, the British Grand National race at Aintree was established, a race that is still run today over roughly the same distance of around 4 miles.
In my newest Austen-inspired story, Elizabeth Bennet’s Gallant Suitor, Bingley has taken Netherfield for the customary reasons of a “gentleman” owning an estate, but he is also developing a line of thoroughbreds (his real passion, not farming). He has had some hard times, of late, of which you must read the story to know something of their nature, for they are essential to the plot, but he has a chance to turn things around if his Arabian mare can win a race designed for fillies. In the scene below, Darcy and Elizabeth are attending the race. Earlier, they have instructed Bingley’s rider on how to approach the race.
Elizabeth Bennet will not tolerate her dearest sister Jane being coerced into marriage. Yet, how she will prevent the “inevitable”? Jane, after all, has proven to be the granddaughter of Sir Wesley Belwood, a tyrannical baronet, who means to have his say in Jane’s marriage in order to preserve the family bloodlines. When Colonel Fitzwilliam appears at Stepton Abbey as the prospective groom, Elizabeth must join forces with the colonel’s cousin, a very handsome gentleman named Mr. Darcy, to prevent the unwanted betrothal.
Lacking in fortune and unconventionally handsome, Elizabeth Bennet is willing to risk everything so her beloved sister may have a happily ever after, even if Elizabeth must thwart all of Sir Wesley’s plans, as well as those of Mr. Darcy.
Fitzwilliam Darcy meant to flirt with the newly named Miss Belwood himself to prevent the girl’s marriage to his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, but one glance to Miss Elizabeth Bennet has Darcy considering everything but his cousin’s fate. Miss Elizabeth thought him a wastrel, but when incidents throw them together, they must combine forces to fight for love for the colonel, for Jane, and maybe, even for themselves.
Excerpt from Chapter Seventeen
He was about to go looking for Fitzwilliam himself when his cousin turned the corner with Miss Mary on his arm. Yet, Darcy’s gaze looked beyond the pair to the two women who followed his cousin, specifically to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Like it or not, his breathing hitched higher in anticipation of being in the lady’s company again.
However, before his cousin and the ladies reached him, he heard his name and turned to view Miss Bingley’s approach, along with Mr. Waverley. “Darcy, darling,” she cooed when the pair stepped before him. She caught his arm and rose up on her toes as if to kiss his cheek. Immediately, he stepped back and nearly took a tumble off the viewing stands. Yet, another’s hand grasped his firmly, and he quickly righted himself. “Thank you,” he said before realizing whose hand he still held, for a familiar “zing” slid up his arm, identifying the owner. Rather than release Miss Elizabeth’s hand immediately, he brought it to rest on his arm. “I thought perhaps you had become lost, my dear,” he said as he tugged her closer.
“The journey from the abbey took longer than we expected. The roads were quite crowded,” she explained.
“As long as you and your family arrived safely, I am well satisfied,” he declared without looking to Miss Bingley, whose irritation seemed to seep off her skin and fill the air with a foul odor.
As if Miss Elizabeth understood his purpose, she assured, “Mr. Farrin is a most excellent coachman. Thank you for the use of your carriage.”
“My pleasure,” he said and meant it. Unable to avoid Miss Bingley further, he said to Elizabeth, “Forgive me for my poor manners. You are, I understand, previously acquainted with Miss Bingley, but permit me to provide you the acquaintance of her betrothed, Mr. Waverley. Waverley, I imagine you know my cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.”
Waverley bowed and Fitzwilliam simply nodded. From the look on his cousin’s face, the colonel did not approve of Waverley’s wayward eye as the man took in the figure of each of the Bennet sisters, including Miss Mary, whose fuller figure appeared to catch Waverley’s attention. Darcy nearly had forgotten to finish the introduction when Waverley also eyed Miss Elizabeth with a lecherous look.
“Waverley,” he said a bit louder to draw the man’s attention from the Bennet sisters. “These lovely ladies are Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary, and Miss Katherine Bennet. They are cousin to the Fitzwilliam family, and, therefore, to me,” he said in warning tones. “In fact, we expect Lord Matlock to join us later. Fitzwilliam’s brother Lindale already makes up one of our party. He travels in a separate coach.” Having dropped enough names to steer Waverley away from the ladies, Darcy said, “As I know Bingley likely arranged for you to watch the race with him, we will wish your family the best for today. Thank you for stopping to greet us.”
“Naturally,” Miss Bingley said, with some sharpness in her tone as he returned her hand to Waverley’s arm. “Perhaps we will have time to converse later.”
“Perhaps,” he said cryptically.
With the lady’s departure, they all released a collective sigh of relief. Darcy glanced to Miss Elizabeth to note a smile of amusement upon her lips. “You possess my gratitude for keeping me from harm, my dear,” he said with a lift of his eyebrows in challenge.
Without guile, Miss Kitty said, “I thought Miss Bingley meant to kiss you, Mr. Darcy. Such would have been something, would it not?” She glanced to her sisters before adding, “A true lady would never be so bold.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Such is the reason I stepped away from her.”
Kitty meant to comment further, but Elizabeth diverted her attention. “Assist me in keeping an eye out for Lord Lindale’s party and for Papa.”
“Papa despises London because of how crowded it is. I am surprised he would agree to stop in St Albans,” Kitty observed.
“I believe he and Lord Matlock will travel together. Naturally, his lordship will want to speak to the colonel and Lord Lindale before they all travel to Stepton,” Elizabeth explained.
“Papa will also travel to Stepton, will he not?” Miss Kitty began to understand. “Does such mean we will be returning to Longbourn later this evening?”
“I imagine it will be tomorrow,” Elizabeth disclosed, and Darcy knew dismay equal to the one marking her younger sister’s features. He had always known the actual date of their parting, but the idea did not please him as well as he thought it would.
He was quick to say, “In addition to the race and the theatre groups we saw previously, I understand a gypsy troupe has set up beyond the city grounds. What say to a dancing bear and a man supposedly as wide as he is tall?”
The girl said in amazement, “I have never seen either, nor have I viewed a real-life gypsy.”
“The race will last less than an hour. We will have the remainder of the day to enjoy the entertainments,” he assured.
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” she said with a large smile, which reminded him the girl was likely Georgiana’s age. Her enthusiasm was more understandable in those terms.
Elizabeth instructed, “We should claim a place to watch the race. This crowd will be enormous and likely quite rowdy.”
“You three will remain between the colonel and me,” Darcy explained. “Keep your reticules in a pocket, and, if possible, tie it to your wrist. People will take advantage of the unsuspecting and those not aware of their surroundings.”
Miss Katherine’s eyes grew in size, but, ironically, neither Miss Elizabeth’s nor Miss Mary’s appeared frightened. “Prepared,” Miss Mary announced, as she noted the string about her wrist, and the colonel declared, “Such is my sensible lady,” although Darcy was certain his cousin wished to say something more personal of the young woman.
They moved around on the narrow viewing stands to sit in close proximity. When Miss Katherine turned to speak to Miss Mary and the colonel, Miss Elizabeth softly asked, “Did you encounter trouble last evening?”
“It was nothing,” he said in order to protect her, but the lady’s frown deepened in disapproval.
“From the beginning of our acquaintance, sir, we have each spoken from our heart, whether what we said was ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’ I would prefer you did not attempt to protect me now,” she argued. She removed her hand from his arm and meant to stand to leave.
Darcy caught her hand to prevent her from leaving his side. “I shot a man who meant to kill Fitzwilliam,” he rasped. The idea of what occurred still troubled him.
She settled again immediately and caught his hand in her two. Leaning closer, she said, “Tell me. If you do not speak of your terror, it will eat at your conscience.”
He nodded his head and turned so the others could not hear him. Perhaps if he took her advice, the nightmare from last evening would no longer trouble him. “A man broke into the stable. Fitzwilliam confronted him. Meanwhile, I was to the side and in the shadows.”
She caressed the back of his hand, and it was as if he could feel the warmth of her hand through the gloves they both shared. “Your actions were necessary.”
“I know,” he said with a gentle smile. It felt good to have someone to comfort him. It seemed since his father’s death, everyone looked to him for support, and being “strong” all the time, in his opinion, became old quick.
“Did you kill him?” she asked in concern.
Darcy chuckled. “The colonel says I closed my eyes, but I swear I did not respond as he described. I am certain I squinted to see better.”
Miss Elizabeth bit her lip in an attempt to keep from bursting into laughter, and soon, he, too, was suppressing his desire to laugh aloud. “I shot him in the arm, and he is in the local gaol,” he managed to say through several snickers.
“About what are you two talking?” Miss Kitty asked with a frown.
Miss Elizabeth giggled, and Darcy thought it was the most delightful sound he had ever heard. Here he was laughing at himself and how upset he had been, first, actually to have shot another person, and, secondly, to be upset with his cousin teasing him. He never laughed at himself: His parents often told him he was always too serious.
Miss Elizabeth explained, “Just how hard it is to hit a target with one’s eyes closed.”
“I do not understand,” Miss Katherine said.
Miss Elizabeth presented the girl a quick one-arm hug about her shoulders. “Neither do we, my pet,” she said. “We are simply enjoying the day and being together.”
Miss Kitty still looked puzzled, but she turned her attention to the paddock. “Look,” she pointed. “Is that not Toby speaking to Mr. Bingley? I did not know Toby was working for Mr. Bingley now.”
Not wishing others to know of their manipulation, Miss Elizabeth quieted her sister. “Toby is only assisting Mr. Bingley until Papa returns.”
“Why is he and Bingley’s T wearing crimson and gold?” she asked. “See the blanket on the horse and the shirt Toby wears.”
Darcy leaned around Miss Elizabeth to speak to the girl. “Mr. Bingley has registered his horse with The Jockey Club. Those are the colors associated with the registration. See all Bingley’s men have an armband of the same color, and, earlier, we noted Mr. Bingley wore a gold and red waistcoat under his jacket.”
When Miss Kitty turned to repeat some of what he had just shared to Miss Mary, Miss Elizabeth asked, “Is Toby too young? The other riders appear much older than he is.”
“The other riders did not have the care, the expertise, and the encouragement of Miss Elizabeth Bennet,” he assured privately. “The boy will become a man today.”
Miss Kitty made a totally unrelated observation. “Jane and Lydia and his lordship will miss the race if they do not arrive soon.”
The colonel said in a deadpan manner, “I constantly tell Lindale only Brummell spends more time before a mirror than does he. I have all this regalia to deal with and still manage to be on my second plate at the morning table before my brother makes a showing.”
All three women smothered their laughter behind their gloved hands, but quickly swallowed their mirth when Toby strode across the paddock to where Bingley’s T stood in majestic glory.
“He looks as if he is eager to begin the race,” Miss Mary noted.
One of Mr. Bingley’s grooms caught Toby’s bent knee and tossed the youth into the saddle, where Toby caught the reins from another groom’s hand and tapped Bingley’s T’s sides with his heels to set the horse in motion. Proudly, both the horse and rider moved together in perfect rhythm toward the starting line. Both held their heads high. It was truly a sight to see, and the crowd took note.
Two men dressed in bright red hunting coats stood on opposite sides of the track. Stretched between them, they held a long red ribbon, marking the starting line. Faster than expected, twenty-one fillies claimed places behind the ribbon. Some danced in place in anticipation of the start. Others stood perfectly still. Bingley’s T was one of the latter.
“Is she not magnificent?” Miss Elizabeth whispered.
Instead of the greyish-white Arabian pawing the earth, Darcy studied the myriad of emotions crossing the lady’s countenance. “Yes, truly magnificent,” he said on a poorly disguised sigh.
The moment all the horses had reached the supposed line, the two men dropped the ribbon, which was followed by an echoing “Hi-ya!” filling the air. Toby, as if in a well-practiced dance move mimicked by the rest of the field, brought his knees up higher, leaned forward over Bingley’s T’s neck, and pushed his weight into the stirrups to set the horse in motion.
A shout from the crowd announced the race had begun.
What do you think? First of all, you may know by now that I really enjoy when something like this is done to Miss Bingley. However, there is more! Darcy and Elizabeth, Colonel and Mary *sigh* I am interested in knowing how all of this has come to happen after reading the blurb, aren´t you?
Why not buying the book? I have ust bought it! It is free to read on Kindle Unlimited and below you have some links:
I am very hapy to have again in my blog Heather Moll! She is bringing us her latest published book and it looks so so good! I am even more eager to read it after I have (finally!!) read her Nine Ladies. If you have read it, you know it is very different from An Appearance of Goodness, but it is a great read (like the other ones I have read by her).
However, we should focus on An Appearance of Goodness. What do you think of the blurb…
CAN A DERBYSHIRE MEETING LEAD TO LOVE OR WILL PEMBERLEY BE PLUNGED INTO MYSTERY? In the rainy summer of 1812, Mr Darcy returns to Pemberley with a large party in the hopes that coming home will help him recover from the disappointment of his failed proposal. He lost Elizabeth Bennet’s good opinion, but Darcy did all he could to rectify his errors. Meanwhile, Elizabeth hopes that travelling with her newlywed sister and Bingley will raise her spirits and distract her from thoughts of Darcy. When a misunderstanding causes the Bingley party and Darcy’s to spend a fortnight together at Pemberley, both Elizabeth and Darcy wonder if the other could love them. When the season’s wet and cold weather causes flooding throughout Derbyshire, Darcy’s attention reluctantly shifts from his guests–and Elizabeth–to managing the tragedy. But when someone drowns and Darcy refuses to believe their death was an accident from the storm, he and Elizabeth must work together to uncover the truth before his houseguests leave, and before anyone else gets hurt.
Content note: mature content, mild violence.
What do you think? Not only love but a mystery!
Let me (re)introduce you to Heather Moll. You can also follow her on social media or get her newsletter too (links below)
Heather Moll is an avid reader of mysteries and biographies with a masters in information science. She found Jane Austen later than she should have and made up for lost time by devouring her letters and unpublished works, joining JASNA, and spending too much time researching the Regency era. She is the author of An Appearance of Goodness, An Affectionate Heart, Nine Ladies, Two More Days at Netherfield, and His Choice of a Wife. She lives with her husband and son and struggles to balance all of the important things, like whether or not to buy groceries or stay home and write.
Why did I put “travel” on the title of this post? Heather Moll is bringing us more than an excerpt, and what a lovely, cute excerpt! *sigh*
Welcome back, Heather!
Thank you for the warm welcome Ana! My P&P variation An Appearance of Goodness takes place in Derbyshire in the summer after Darcy’s failed proposal. I went to Derbyshire in the summer of 2019, and no trip to the Peak is complete without a visit to Dovedale—so of course Elizabeth and Darcy have to visit in the book.
The Peak District covers much of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. Dovedale is a 3 mile section of the Dove valley—between the village of Milldale at the northern end and a hill called Thorpe Cloud at the south—that contains spectacular limestone gorge scenery.
Although tourism to Dovedale exploded with the Victorians (they were the ones who put in the famous stepping stones) it was already popular with the Georgians. Tour guides were filled with details about what to see and where to stay, and when the Gardiners visit Derbyshire in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy persevere through an awkward conversation about Matlock and Dovedale.
Upstream from the stepping stones are large limestone formations with names like Dovedale Castle, Lover’s Leap, Tissington Spires, and Reynards cave. The caves have had human activity since 13000 BCE, and there’s evidence across Dovedale of Bronze age activity.
You get the classic view of the lower section of Dovedale from the top of Thorpe Cloud. A pivotal scene in An Appearance of Goodness takes place when Darcy and Elizabeth climb it.
In this excerpt, Darcy is taking some of his guests and his sister to Dovedale. There’s been terrible flooding at Pemberley and everyone has finally convinced Darcy it’s not the end of the world if he takes one afternoon off to have some fun. Hester is the sister of one of Darcy’s friends and Elizabeth is eager to grab a moment alone with Darcy to hint about how she feels about him now.
The road through the small village of Thorpe was along open pastures winding around the base of a mount that seemed to guard the entrance to Dovedale. Elizabeth raised her eyes to the perpendicular rocks across its summit. That would give a fine view of the Dove through the dale below.
“I was in hopes the road would be passable, but they tell me we cannot ford the river near Bunster Hill,” Darcy said by way of apology when they alighted. “The late flood carried away the bridge over which we were to drive and left a great hole in the bank in its place.”
Everyone declared that they had nothing to say against walking the last mile. They fell into pairs to walk along the margin of the river, with the Darcys insisting that she and Hester take the lead. The valley left room for little more than a channel of the river with a footpath along its banks. The wet season had caused the water to rise, nearly flooding the Staffordshire side and leaving only a small space to walk on the Derbyshire side.
The character of Elizabeth’s first view of Dovedale was pure grandeur. The hills swelled boldly from both sides of the river and their majestic summits seemed to be amongst the clouds. The river was still high, and they walked past a few intrepid anglers. It was a splendid scene, with water breaking over fragments of stone, and trees framing the river.
Near the same high hill she had seen from the carriage, they found themselves enclosed in a narrow and deep dale where the river bent sharply. Elizabeth and Hester stopped and raised their eyes to observe on one side many craggy rocks above one another to a vast height, and on the other an almost perpendicular ascent covered with grass and a few sheep.
“What do you think?” Miss Darcy asked her and Hester. “The area is celebrated for its wild and fantastic appearance.”
“Derbyshire is beautiful,” Hester said, breathlessly, turning to look to the other side of the Dove.
Elizabeth saw Darcy hiding a smile. Colonel Fitzwilliam laughed and stepped nearer to Hester. “It certainly is”—he took her by the shoulders and turned her to face the other side—“but that is Staffordshire. This is the Derbyshire side of the river.”
They all laughed, even Hester, and Elizabeth noticed that she did not shrug off Colonel Fitzwilliam’s hands or step away after he removed them.
The others talked of the rock formations farther upstream that they must see, but Elizabeth’s attention returned to the grand limestone hill.
“That is Thorpe Cloud,” Darcy said, coming away from the river to stand near her.
“Is it so named because it seems high enough to touch the clouds?”
He smiled. “No, sadly. Your reason would be more fitting for such a location. Cloud is simply a corruption of clud, an Anglo-Saxon word for a large rock or hill.”
“That is dull,” she said, turning to face him, “but we cannot blame it for its name.” She craned her neck to take it in again. “How high is it?”
“’Tis a moderate-sized hill.” He shrugged, looking at it with her. “Nearly a thousand feet?”
“For those of us from Hertfordshire, I would call that a mountain,” she cried.
Darcy laughed. “Then it is a shame you do not live in Derbyshire.”
He turned from looking at Thorpe Cloud to look at her, still with a smile on his face. Elizabeth thought of the unintended meaning behind his words. “Yes,” she said, looking into his eyes, “it is.” Comprehension seemed to strike him, and his amused expression turned tender. “I think,” she added softly so no one else could hear, “I could enjoy living here very much.”
Dovedale is a beautiful place, but you’ll have to read An Appearance of Goodness to see if the romantic setting pans out for Darcy and Elizabeth.
I like this excerpt and how Darcy can make fun or a little joke about Elizabeth not living in Derbyshire, and how she takes the opportunity to say what she needs and what he wants to hear.
What about buying the book? Some links where you can check it:
Much more to discover on the rest of the blog tour. Have fun!
Heather Moll is bringing a worldwide swag giveaway!
How to participate?
The giveaway is open from 10/03/2022 through 10/12/2022. Giveaway is open worldwide. The winner will be announced on social media and Heather´s blog on October 13, 2022 Leave a comment on the blog or subscribe to my newsletter to enter. Blog participants have the option of using the link to the giveaway form on Rafflecopter, or imbedding the form in their post.
I am very glad to have a first Ausenesque novel by a new author: MJ Stratton. As you have read on the title, her first Austenesque baby is The Redemption of Lydia Wickham. What is there not to like? You may like, dislike, pity or even hate Lydia, however, she was too young and she was wild. I do not think that she can change a lot, but time and life experience will help. Don’t you think?
I may not be the most book-learned girl in the country, but I would like to think that I am wiser than I was, and much less silly.
Lydia Wickham used to think herself rather clever, having caught a handsome man and being the first to marry of her sisters. Soon, however, she finds herself trapped in a marriage to a man who is not what she thought him to be. Her pride keeps her from revealing her plight to her sisters and family, suffering in silence for years.
Unexpectedly, Lydia is freed from her marriage and begins life away from her misery in Newcastle. The changes in her are apparent to most, but there are those that resist seeing her for who she is and not who she was. As Lydia seeks to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become, she reunites with her loved ones and makes many friends along the way. But will Lydia get what she always wanted? Will she have what her sisters have, that which she craves desperately? Will Lydia Wickham find love of her own?
The Redemption of Lydia Wickham is a full length novel centered on the idea that even a foolish 16 year old girl can grow up and become wiser.
Warning: this book contains brief, non-graphic mentions of spousal abuse and assault
What do you think? The last question is key: will she find love of her own? I hope so.
MJ Stratton grew up in a small town in rural Utah, moving back in 2021 after being away for ten years. Her love of Jane Austen was born at a young age when she read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Her first ever exposure to JAFF was watching Lost in Austen as a teen. MJ recently left her teaching job to be at home with her four children, and hopefully pursue her passion for writing more fully. After feeding her love of books by editing and beta reading for years, she hopes to commit more fully to penning her own stories. MJ loves food, growing things, and the quiet of the countryside. You can find MJ on Facebook and Amazon.
What can be more helpful than an inside to the book? That’s why I love exceprts so much. Moreover, here we have the beginning of Chapter 1. Have fun!
Lydia Wickham checked the marks in her journal once more. With more than three months since the last date indicating the arrival of her courses, she was now very sure of her suspicions.
The past weeks had seen a complete lack of appetite on her part as she battled a constant nausea. The smells of the horses in the street coming through her window were enough to cause her to lose the contents of her stomach when she did manage to keep something down. At twenty years of age, Mrs. Wickham was not ignorant of how a child was created. On the contrary, she knew the mechanics well since her husband could be somewhat demanding on occasion. The symptoms of pregnancy, on the other hand, were a complete mystery to her. If her aunt had explained the symptoms when Lydia married, the explanation had been quite cheerfully ignored.
Resolutely, Lydia checked the money left in their monthly household account. Due to her circumstances as the wife of a poor officer in the Regulars, she had been forced to learn economy. Her childhood habits of buying anything that caught her fancy had by necessity been put aside after the first few months of her marriage. To put it plainly, they simply could not afford much, especially frivolities. After counting the notes left in the account book, Lydia was relieved to find she had enough for a visit to the midwife that lived in Newcastle. Satisfied that the sum would not jeopardize her carefully planned household budget, she set out to see Mrs. Jones. After being examined by the midwife, Lydia’s suspicions were confirmed. She was with child.
She returned home filled with an odd mixture of feelings. There was some level of anticipation, along with distress and anxiety, and a little trepidation. Both Jane and Elizabeth had been blessed with sons within the first year of their marriage, and each had a daughter that came in the years after. On the rare occasion that Lydia received letters from her sisters, she read of the contentment in their marriages and the love their husbands had for them and her nieces and nephews. Lydia knew no such happiness. Maybe with this child, she might experience some part of what her sisters had.
I like this beginning and I want to know more of how she freed herself of her marriage, because there is only one way that comes to mind right now… Let’s just read the book! 🙂
MJ Stratton is giving away 3 ebook copies during this blog tour. Check the link below and follow instructions. All the best!
Apologies for not having published this post on the day of the tour, but I simply lost track of time!
However, that does not make this book less interesting! Maybe even more because you are up for a treat! We have a short but juicy excerp!
A phoenix brings them together. Will a curse keep them apart?
When the hauntingly beautiful song of a phoenix lures Elizabeth Bennet to the Netherfield gardens, she has a vision of an unknown gentleman. He whispers her name with such tenderness that she wonders if this man is her match. Unfortunately, her gift of prophecy has never been exactly reliable.
Mr. Darcy is a celebrated fire mage, the master of Pemberley, and the man from her vision. But he is not tender; he is haughty, proud, and high-handed. His insult of her during the Summer Solstice celebration makes her determined to dislike him in spite of her love for Dante, his phoenix familiar.
After Mr. Darcy is called away by his duties, Elizabeth’s magic runs wild, and it is only their reunion at Rosings that offers her any hope of controlling it. They are drawn together by their love of magical creatures and their affinity for fire. But Elizabeth soon has another vision about Mr. Darcy, one that may portend a grave danger to his life.
Can Darcy and Elizabeth overcome misunderstandings, curses, and even fate itself?
He is in danger? Why? Who? I am not sure I like that part 😉
Lari Ann O’Dell first discovered her love of Pride & Prejudice when she was eighteen. After reading a Pride & Prejudice variation she found in a closing sale at a bookstore, she said, “This is what I want to do.” She published her first novel, Mr. Darcy’s Kiss, two years later.
Born and raised in Colorado, she attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and earned a bachelor’s degree in History and Creative Writing. After graduating college, she wrote and published her second novel, Mr. Darcy’s Ship. Her third novel, Mr. Darcy’s Clan, is her first supernatural variation, and she is working on two more fantasy variations. She is now back at school and pursuing a degree in Nursing. She adores her three beautiful nephews, Hudson, Dean, and Calvin. She enjoys reading, singing, and writes whenever she can.
Why not following her and check what she is up to?
I’m very happy to be back at My Vices and Weaknesses to talk about my new fantasy Pride & Prejudice variation, Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix.
While I was writing this book, I decided to try something new. I am one of the moderators for the Fantasy Reads for Austen Fans Facebook group, and as a group, we decided to do a big reader giveaway. I gave away a cameo appearance to a reader. I had already had a minor character planned out in need of a name, so I was all set.
The character was a maid at Hunsford, who had previously worked at Rosings. She was part of a storyline that was ultimately cut from the final draft. The maid, Denisse, knew a terrible secret about Lady Catherine, and was sent away from the house because of her knowledge. Years later, she returned to Kent and sought a position at Hunsford with the goal of exposing Lady Catherine.
Lady Catherine’s secret was supposed to be that she traded her daughter to the fay folk in exchange for a weak changeling. In the early drafts, the real Anne de Bourgh returned and wanted to kill her mother. She was going to work with Denisse the maid to do so. During this mission, she interferes with Darcy and Elizabeth as they are staying at Rosings and Hunsford. And it all came to a head in the climax. But this storyline was ultimately cut.
In the published version, Lady Catherine still has a secret, and her role in the climax stayed the same for the most part. However, with cutting the Anne de Bourgh as a changeling child storyline, I didn’t need Denisse.
Luckily, there was another character; a wood nymph who had a few scenes with Darcy and Elizabeth in Hertfordshire. I changed her name from Ivy to Whitley for my cameo, and altered her scenes slightly. She was a really fun minor character to write and I liked giving a cameo to one of my readers. It is certainly something I will consider doing in future books.
Now I would like to share one of Whitley’s scenes. It takes place while Elizabeth is tending to Jane at Netherfield. Whitley and Elizabeth have some differing opinions of the gentlemen staying at Netherfield, and as always, the fay folk cannot lie. The gentlemen in question also make an appearance. I hope you all enjoy reading the scene.
The following afternoon, Jane urged Elizabeth to quit the sickroom and enjoy the fine summer day. Elizabeth was happy to allow her sister some time for solitude, and had been itching to stretch her legs.
Miss Bingley had come to deliver another dose of the healing draught she had brewed. She spent an hour in conversation with Jane, only including Elizabeth when it was unavoidable. Elizabeth could not but find Miss Bingley’s behavior amusing, though what Elizabeth had done to earn that lady’s dislike, she could only guess. But even Miss Bingley’s supercilious attitude could not dampen her eagerness to enjoy an hour or two in Netherfield’s beautiful gardens.
As she sat and watched the wood nymphs toil in the garden, she spoke to one of them, a delicate creature with pale green skin and golden hair, fluttering inches above the ground with iridescent wings. “Might I have a moment of your time?” Elizabeth asked, bowing her head respectfully. While mortals and fay were experiencing a time of peace, Elizabeth had been born in a year fraught with tension, and thus had been raised to treat the fay folk with due reverence and respect.
“Aye, miss,” the wood nymph said in a high, tinkling voice, staring at here with wide amber eyes.
“Thank you. What is your name?”
“I am called Whitley. What can I do for you?” Nymphs tended to speak in cultured tones.
“How do you like the new master of Netherfield, Whitley?”
“I have lived at Netherfield my whole life, miss, and never have I met with a more pleasant human male. It is good to have a nature mage in residence again.”
“And he treats the fay of Netherfield well?”
“Indeed,” Whitley said, but then her eyes narrowed. “I cannot say the same for the ladies who accompanied him. They do not approve of us, though it is they who are the newcomers. We did not invade their home. We have seen many masters come and go.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” Elizabeth said, but it was not wholly unexpected. “What of the other gentlemen?”
Whitley tipped her regal head to the side. “The fat one pays us no mind. But the injured one is good company. He plays in the fountains with the young ones, using his power over water to entertain them. And the tall one—well, he is reserved, it is true. But he is master of the phoenix. His magic is old and revered. A phoenix would never bind itself to a man who does not have a deep respect for the fay.”
It did not fit into the first impression she had taken of the high-handed Mr. Darcy. But the fay folk did not lie. It was not in their nature.
“You do not believe me, miss,” Whitley observed. “You have resentment in your heart. You would do well to let that go.”
Elizabeth gaped at the nymph, but Whitley only giggled. “He is very handsome, miss. More so than Mr. Bingley. And your magic echoes his.”
Elizabeth did not understand how the nymph could possibly know that, but arguing with her was pointless. Not wanting to offend Whitley, she said in soft tones, “I appreciate your insight, but I have taken too much of your time.”
Whitley smiled, her teeth brilliantly white. “It was no trouble, miss. But look, the tall one and his kin approach.”
And indeed, the sound of hoofbeats pervaded the silent tranquility of the garden.
“Miss Elizabeth!” cried Colonel Fitzwilliam as he dismounted. “How wonderful to see you. How does your sister fare this afternoon?”
“She is recovering admirably. It is my hope that we shall not trespass upon Mr. Bingley’s hospitality for more than another day.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam grinned. “Though I am not the master of Netherfield, I do not believe anyone could accuse you or Miss Bennet of trespassing. Bingley is thrilled to have you both as his guests.”
“You are too kind,” Elizabeth said. “But I am sure my company is not tempting enough for everyone.” She glanced sharply over Colonel Fitzwilliam’s shoulder.
Mr. Darcy caught her eyes, the briefest expression of guilt darkening his features. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared however, and he resumed his stoic mien. “Miss Elizabeth, I hope we find you well.”
“Quite tolerable, sir,” Elizabeth said pertly.
Colonel Fitzwilliam appeared embarrassed on his cousin’s behalf, obviously recalling Mr. Darcy’s words.
“We shall not intrude upon your peace,” Mr. Darcy said.
“No, no. You may stay in the garden. I should return to my sister, in any case. I shall see you both at dinner. Good day.” Elizabeth hurried off, the tips of her fingers tingling with energy. What was it about being in Mr. Darcy’s presence that aggravated her so? Whitley had called it resentment, but Elizabeth had never considered herself to be of a resentful temperament. She would have to calm herself before dinner. It would not do to lose control in company, and just now, she longed to cast a spell, though what kind and for what purpose, she knew not.
Thank you very much for the explanation about Whitley and I can see how funny she must be to write. I really like how clearly she gives her opinion!
What about buying the book? I want to read how Darcy insuled her, even if I can see it is the same or almost the same as the original. However, having Colonel Fitzwilliam there is a plus for me.
Ford Merrick is a softhearted detective in a sleepy southern town, Opelika, Alabama—a “one-eyed, blinking sort of place.” A provoking visit from beautiful Rachel Gunner complicates his work and his life. This stunning woman asks Ford to tail her uncle and discover what he is up to. Taking the case, Ford quickly finds himself swamped in mysteries: Who is Rachel’s uncle, and what is his secret business? Then there’s the mystery of an earlier death at Noble Hall where Rachel and her uncle now live. But the greatest mystery may be Rachel Gunner herself. Mired, Ford struggles to find his way, unearths tragedies old and new, and exposes his heart to a hard test.
What do you think? Is it mysterious? Softhearted detective? Does it make sense to be a softy if you are a PI? We will see. Maybe the excerpt that we got today may shows us a bit more of Ford Merrick.
I am glad to present Big Swamp by Kelly Dean Jolley. I am reading this book and even if I have just started it and have read three chapters, I am interested on knowing what is going on.
Kelly Dean Jolley is the Goodwin Philpott Endowed Chair of Religion and Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University. He lives in Auburn with his wife, Shanna, two dogs, two cats, too many books, and a collection of manual typewriters. Beyond his academic publications, he has also published a book of poetry, Stony Lonesome.
Our detective, Ford Merrick, has no clear idea where he stands with Rachel Gunner, his client. He’s seen her out earlier in the day unexpectedly, and he’s unsure what that means. Their phone conversation doesn’t help him much.
Hey, Ford,” Rachel says cheerfully when I call.
Nerves attack me as I start to talk. “Hey, I’m calling because Helen invited Sam to dinner and she’s made a lot, I’m guessing, including banana bread, which is worth it all by itself, and anyway, she wondered if you would come to dinner too because she really likes this man, but she’s nervous about having him to dinner, about the awkward threesome—um, not the right word—the triangle—um, not the right word, either…”
Rachel laughs. “Ford, slow down. Are you really this nervous about asking me to dinner after the lunch we had?”
“I guess. Me twice in one day is kind of a lot.”
“That sounds good. Banana bread sounds good. What have you been up to?”
I freeze for a second. I don’t want to have this conversation, and I especially don’t want to have it on the phone, unable to see Rachel’s face, her actions. “Just some case follow-up.”
Her answer is teasing, but there’s a note of worry in it. “Very mysterious.”
“What about you?”
Now she’s guilty of a prefatory silence. “Oh, not much. Lake got back from Montgomery, and we’re having drinks on the upper balcony.”
That information sinks into my lower gut like a knife. “Oh, Lake is back.”
We’re both silent for a moment. “So, you’ll come to dinner?” I ask.
“Your place, right?”
“See you then. I’m really pleased Helen suggested it. I’d like to get to know her better.”
That makes my gut hurt less; the stabbing pain subsides. “Okay—five thirty? Helen and I have someone stopping by later about a business matter, so we won’t be able to make an entire evening of it.”
“That’s fine. See you in a little while. And, Ford”—her voice sinks—“I was already missing you.”
I hardly know what to say, so I say what I feel, surprising myself. “God, I was missing you too.”
I do not know what you think but I have read with a very relieved voice the last bit: “God, I was missing you too.” How do you find Ford Merrick so far? I highly recommend you to check also the rest of the blog tour.
The wind ruffled Darcy’s hair. “You’re beautiful.”
Happiness surged through Elizabeth’s body like electricity. This moment was as close to perfection as she had ever known.
1943. World War II has torn the continent since 1939 and tested families, the Bennets included. Elizabeth and Jane nurse wounded soldiers and civilians in a London hospital. The other sisters volunteer as best suits their inclinations. Mr. Bennet rattles about Longbourn. Wickham sniffs about the edges of the estate—and the Bennet daughters.
Even the ever-present threat of death from the skies cannot prepare Jane and Lizzy for the most devastating news. The words one never wishes to hear are delivered by two officers, each scarred by years on the front lines. In the dark days that follow, devotion is tested, and affection blooms.
Kiss Me Good Night, Major Darcy drops Jane Austen’s timeless characters into the midst of the most horrific conflict in human history. Their trail twists and encounters those who would turn sacrifice to their profit. Follow the women of Longbourn as they navigate the rocks and shoals of wartime Great Britain to endure misunderstandings and discover lasting love.
What do you think? You may have read this blurb before but we are getting so much more today from Georgina! Muchas gracias, Georgina.
Georgina lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Jon, who is an artist and professor of Media Arts. In 2015, they moved from New York City, where they lived for eighteen years, to Portland Oregon. Their son, a professional musician and sound engineer, still lives in Brooklyn. Georgina is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and was a stage actress for many years. Born and raised in the Southwest, she went to school in New York, graduating from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. She’s also a language professor and, of course, a writer, recently graduating from Portland State University with a master’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature. In 2022 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to identify and connect with emerging female writers in Mexico and support them to free their literary voices.
Enjoy the diary entry and the excerpt that Georgina is sharing with us 🙂
Hi Ana, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog! For this post, I’m sharing a diary entry by Mary. It’s not in the book, but it’s what I imagine Mary might write about at the point in the story in which the excerpt takes place. Just so the readers know, the excerpt that follows the diary entry is taken from quite early in the book, before Lizzy has caught on to what a cad Wickham is. Don’t despair, readers, she comes to her senses soon enough! In the meantime, let’s see what’s on Mary’s mind.
Joining up with the Women’s Land Army is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I was such a homebody before, such a bookworm. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I will never give up my beloved books and my scripture study, but now I’ve found a whole other purpose in life: being outdoors in the fresh air and reveling in God’s beautiful creation. Not only that, but I’m doing my part for the war effort by tending the fields while the farmers are on the front lines. You know what they say, “Dig for Victory!” I’ve come to feel so strong, so purposeful. I feel there’s nothing I couldn’t tackle now, nothing I couldn’t undertake. What on earth will I do when the war is over? I shouldn’t say that. There is nothing I could want more than for this terrible war to end, but then what? Go back to being meek little Mary, staying at home and hoping beyond hope that a husband might come along for me one day? I don’t have the stomach to work as a nurse or hospital volunteer as my sisters do, but maybe I can become a secretary. Or a school teacher. No, that doesn’t suit. I must do something that aids mankind. Something that contributes to the greater good like I’m doing now. And as for a husband, surely I’ll only meet a worthy candidate if I’m out in the world, serving, and striving, and working for the greater good. No, no more thoughts of husbands. Heaven forbid I sound like Lydia! For now, I must go to sleep for I’ll be up with the sun. Oh, the glory of each new day and all it brings!
Lizzy wondered: What could Papa’s motives be for wanting Wickham to walk out alone with me? Lizzy looked at her father and squinted, but he innocently smiled back at her. Did he think George Wickham was a good match?
“Very well, then,” Wickham said enthusiastically, “let’s be off.”
Lizzy grabbed her hat, and they ventured out into the sunshine.
Before long, Wickham spoke. “I heard it was Major Fitzwilliam Darcy who delivered the news to Miss Bennet about Captain Duncan’s death.”
“He and Captain Bingley. They were wounded in the same grenade explosion that killed Robert.”
“Yes, I did hear something to that effect. I heard Darcy’s eye was injured, and Bingley’s arm.”
“You ‘hear’ a lot of things,” Lizzy teased. “Where do you get your information?”
“Oh…well, I don’t know how much you know about my relationship with the Darcy family, but it goes way back.”
Lizzy was surprised. “I know nothing. Family friends, then?”
“Used to be. Used to be quite great friends. I was practically raised by the Darcy family.”
“Yes, my father was Pemberley’s steward when old Mr. Darcy was still alive. I don’t mind telling you, I was quite the favorite of old Mr. Darcy’s. I dare say Fitz was rather jealous.”
What can I say to this? she wondered.
George Wickham went on. “Mr. Darcy made sure I had as good an education as Fitz. I should have been accepted into the Officer’s Academy, but I was not.”
“I don’t understand. What happened?”
“I can’t say for sure. But it was the same year that Fitz and his good pal Bingley were accepted. I always had the feeling Fitz pulled some strings and blackballed me. I can’t prove it, but I wouldn’t doubt it. He ruined my chances simply out of resentment.”
“That’s astonishing! I can’t believe he would do such a thing. Not that I know him well at all. It’s just so…ungentlemanly.”
“Humph, don’t let him fool you. He’s not the ‘gentleman’ he makes everyone think he is. It takes more than money to make one a gentleman, don’t you think, Elizabeth?”
“Of course.” If Private Wickham was correct about Major Darcy, the man was a vindictive bounder!
Wickham continued. “In fact, I find it a little suspicious that Darcy and Bingley were sent home from Italy with such relatively minor injuries.”
“Are they minor?”
“Compared to others who are not treated with such deference. I suspect Darcy’s cousin—Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam—had something to do with it.”
“Yes, with a lot of influence. He’s the second son of an earl, and you know how those birds feather each other’s nests. I think he pulled strings to get his cousin, and his cousin’s best friend, out of harm’s way.”
“I can’t imagine either Major Darcy or Captain Bingley would agree to that.”
“I’m sure they wouldn’t have had a say in the matter.”
Lizzy pondered this for a moment.
“I have no beef with Charlie Bingley, you understand. He’s not a bad chap. We were friends until Darcy turned him against me. I’m still friends with his sister, Caroline. We correspond now and then. It’s through her that I know what I know about Fitz and Charles.”
“Charles said Caroline and Georgiana, Major Darcy’s sister, are friends as well.”
“Ah, Georgiana…a sweet kid, but kind of a pain in the neck if you ask me.”
“Really?” Lizzy said with a laugh.
“Yes, she always had a crush on me. A schoolgirl thing, nothing more,” he added quickly.
Lizzy nodded. Who would not be charmed by the handsome and friendly George Wickham? “The farm where Mary works is just up ahead here.”
“What beautiful countryside!” he exclaimed.
“I agree. Mary works some days here since Mr. Tidwell’s eldest son was called up and others on neighboring farms including Papa’s.”
Private Wickham nodded with interest.
Up ahead were Tidwell’s fields, dotted with women bent to their work. A tractor lumbered across a newly plowed area. The woman operating it waved at them. It was Mary!
Lizzy ran toward her with Wickham close behind.
Lizzy called out to her. “Mary! What are you doing?”
“I just learned to drive it!” Mary replied, yelling across the intervening distance. Some of the women scattered to get out of her way as she veered in their direction. “Sorry! Sorry!” Mary called to them.
“Oh goodness, I’m not sure it was a good idea to let Mary operate that monster,” Lizzy said to Wickham. The gears loudly complained, and the tractor came to an abrupt stop. Lizzy and Wickham edged nearer as if it were an unbroken horse waiting to lash out.
“I’m still getting used to it,” Mary said with a grin.
“I can see that,” said Lizzy.
Wickham chimed in, “I’m impressed! A lady driving a tractor! What’s next?”
Mary responded with importance, “Women have been doing this kind of heavy farm work for years. Where we’re needed, there we are.”
Wickham’s eyes sparkled with amusement. “Are you a suffragette?”
“Goodness, that’s an old-fashioned word, Private Wickham,” said Mary, who had also met him last Christmas. “We’ve had the same voting rights as men for more than ten years, now!”
“Yes, I know,” he said. “And I’m sure you’re exercising it.”
“I’m not old enough, but I will. You can count on it.
“Well, Mary, we don’t want to interrupt your work, but do be careful,” Lizzy admonished.
“Don’t worry about me,” Mary said, starting the tractor motor up again with a roar. “I can handle this thing.”
The tractor jolted forward, and Lizzy jumped backward.
Mary drove off across the field, now empty as her fellow workers had found safer employment elsewhere on the farm.
It is not the first time I read a Pride and Prejudice variation set during the WW2 but fortunately authors have amazing minds and there can be so many things happening. Georgina Young-Ellis is not an exception and I have enjoyed reading Kiss Me Goodnight, Major Darcy.
Darcy and Bingley have to take some news to a Bennet member and they meet there, in the worst circumstances. However, first impressions are always happening and Elizabeth is not indifferent.
They meet occasionally and one of those times is a ball, however, as usual, Wichkam has to be around. He met the Bennets a few months ago and he, as the blurb says, sniffs around a lot. He is very annoying and, as we know, a cad. I liked the first encounter between Wickham and Darcy in this book, even if Darcy thinks it is a rendez-vous between the Bennet sisters and him.
I have enjoyed their encounters and, as per cannon, Elizabeth believes Wickham and tries to find only bad things on Darcy. However, she may not be indifferent to him… (obviously 😀 ) By the way, what would be the insult from Darcy?
Characters which have surprised me positively: Mary, you have already read a lot on her diary and the excerpt that Georgina has shared, but she is pretty great. Charlotte, Elizabeth’s friend, who is so helpful to some of those in need and does anything she can. Anne de Bourgh, she grows a backbone and she is a great asset to people.
You may ask yourself about the title and I will not say anything apart from that is said at the end of the book, everything that surrounds that moment is awesome: where they are, why they are there, who they are with. Lovely moments!
Thank you for reading this post. I highly recommend you to check the previous posts to get to know more about Kiss Me Goodnight, Major Darcy.