Paperback - Anji
E-book - Tresha Boone
The winners were picked using www.random.org
Please get in touch with your contact details, ladies, and many thanks for visiting and taking part!
|Welcome to the Author page of Joana Starnes||
Congrats to the winners of a copy of Colin Odom's 'CONSEQUENCES'!
Paperback - Anji
E-book - Tresha Boone
The winners were picked using www.random.org
Please get in touch with your contact details, ladies, and many thanks for visiting and taking part!
I'm very excited to be part of this blog tour and welcome Colin Odom, who has kindly agreed to be my guest today and talk about his recent release,
There's also a GIVEAWAY for two lucky winners - one e-book and one paperback, both open internationally - so please read on, and leave a comment!
Synopsis: Consequences is a cautionary tale about the evils of hasty judgment, revisiting Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and one of those pivotal moments when Elizabeth Bennet throws away Mr. Darcy’s offer of marriage so decisively. What transpires from that point is well known to Austen’s extensive readership, but what if even one element in the chain of events in her novel turns out differently? Does Austen’s happy ending eventually come to pass, or is the outcome more bleak?
And if, in order to secure financial security for her loved ones, Elizabeth does not reject Darcy, is she married to a proud, arrogant, disdainful man who, as she feared, forces her to deny her own relatives and thus condemns her to a lifetime of misery? Or does she find herself married to a man who cares enough for her to reject the opposition of his family and chance his very standing in society in order to marry a woman he loves beyond measure?
Consequences, written by the author of A Most Civil Proposal, explores two alternate realities—both tragedy and triumph.
And now let's welcome Colin, to find out more!
The entire experience of being an author and talking about my writing is still a very new and somewhat unsettling affair. I made my living for thirty-five years as an engineer before I retired, and, while I’ve always been a consistent reader, my previous writing experience was mostly technical in nature: engineering proposals, technical documentation, and the like. Clearly, that doesn’t exactly prepare one for writing in the world of Jane Austen, and my journey to get to this point in time is probably unlike most other authors in this area, most of whom appear to have been devoted followers of the works of Austen roughly forever. In my case, I was completely unfamiliar with her books until about twelve years ago, when I dug out my late wife’s well-thumbed and quite beloved copy of Pride and Prejudice after I caught part of the 1995 BBC miniseries on television. I wanted to find out what took place before I started watching, and I figured I would just skim through this book (which I had been saving, with the intention of reading it someday because my wife liked it so much), find out what the storyline was, and that would be it.
It didn’t quite work out the way I expected it to, obviously, since I’m here today. Somehow, P&P really grabbed me: The combination of a stalwart heroine, a persistent (if somewhat awkward) hero, a time in history with which I was already familiar, because of my reading of histories and historical fiction about the Napoleonic Wars, the manners, the customs, the civility, the “happily ever after” ending, etc. Everyone has their own reasons for loving Austen’s works, and those are some of mine. Anyway, I proceeded to read most of the other major Austen novels (except Mansfield Park – that one simply didn’t catch me), then I more or less by chance did an online search for Jane Austen fan-fiction (I was actually looking for a decently written sequel to P&P). I never did find a satisfying sequel, but I did find a whole bunch of variations on Austen novels . . . and a number of them were quite good. I read and read and then, for the first time, I got an idea of my own. I worked at it by myself for a number of months and finally started posting it on the old Hyacinth Gardens website, wondering just what kind of reaction I was going to get. I was almost ready to be horse-laughed off the site by a bunch of ladies who weren’t going to let a guy enter their sanctum sanctorum (I didn’t actually think that was really going to happen, since everyone seemed so nice, but most of those writing and posting comments were female, so there was some uncertainty . . . ).
My fears, of course, were groundless, and that first effort was the fan-fiction version of A Most Civil Proposal, which later was expanded into my first novel for Meryton Press. My second novel, Consequences, has just been published, and the two novels have significant differences as well as certain similarities. Both are variations on Pride and Prejudice, of course, which means that I dreamed up a different outcome of a critical event and then developed the story along different lines. A Most Civil Proposal, examined what might have happened if Darcy had decided to make a more civil proposal at Hunsford rather than the proud and arrogant proposal as in the book. Consequences focuses on Elizabeth’s fiery and angry rejection of Darcy’s proposal as a critical decision point, and the book is made up of two parts that explore two different consequences resulting from that critical decision.
In Book 1, “The Road Not Taken,” the fortuitous meeting of Elizabeth and Darcy at Pemberley and the re-kindling of their romance does not take place. After all, that meeting really was highly coincidental in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy had not seen each other since that disastrous time in April, and both fully expected never to meet again. What were the chances that Darcy would show up and meet the Gardiner party at Pemberley on that day? Very low, of course. And even if Darcy and his party had already arrived, a party of visitors would be highly unlikely to meet the family, even if they were allowed to tour the part of the house not being used by that family. And they might not have been allowed to tour—I’m not fully up on the proprieties of visiting the houses of the rich and famous at that time. Further, if Darcy does not come out from behind that hedge right when Elizabeth is there, they probably don’t meet. Ten minutes either way and they don’t meet. And even if Elizabeth saw him at a distance and recognized him while he didn’t see her, would she have run after him and spoken to him? Highly doubtful, I would think. More likely, she would have counted herself lucky to avoid the mortification of a meeting. Thus, Darcy doesn’t learn of Lydia’s elopement and doesn’t find the couple in London and rescue the Bennet family’s reputation. Events go from bad to worse. High angst.
In contrast, in Book 2, “The Sleeper Wakes,” is more in the “happily ever after” mode of most Austen variations. In my version, Elizabeth wakes from a horrendous nightmare (which was everything that occurred in Book 1) at Hunsford prior to Darcy’s proposal, and the lingering effects of that mostly-unremembered-but-still-emotional event cause her to accept instead of reject that proposal. The surprise here is that I have a contrasting opinion to that of most readers, who consider Darcy damaged goods until he reforms himself. Well, he does need to reform himself, but those readers who expect him to treat Elizabeth harshly have not, in my opinion, thought things through. After making such a botched proposal, dwelling on the differences between their spheres and the abuse he expects to take from family and friends, would a suitor who is willing to shoulder those burdens treat the object of his desires badly? That simply does not make sense. As I say, Darcy needs to reform himself, to a degree, but, as Margaret Mead said, the job of a wife is to civilize her husband, who is initially barely fit to be allowed inside on the furniture. Thus, Elizabeth will manage to modify her man, and her fate does not turn out to be nearly the horrible mistake that she is afraid it might be.
When I originally posted the shorter version of this story at the old Hyacinth Garden website, the readership (mostly female, of course) wanted to lynch me at the end of Book 1. They (mostly, at least) forgave me after Book 2. I hope the publication of this new book doesn’t end my writing career (such as it is!).
My thanks to Joana for hosting me today and allowing me to discuss my new book, and I hope I haven’t scared off any potential readers.
Thanks for reading!
C. P. Odom - A Short Bio
By training, I’m an engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma following a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. The next thirty-five years was spent working on military electronics in Arizona with my first wife, Margaret, where we raised two sons before her untimely death from cancer. I have always been a voracious reader and, as so often happens in such cases, this has resulted in a serious book addiction problem. Luckily, I developed an interest (and a few skills) in woodworking, which allowed me to build the bookcases needed to house my "addiction." My favorite genres were (and are) science fiction, historical fiction, and histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife's beloved Jane Austen books after her passing. One thing led to another, and I now have two novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013) and Consequences (2014).
Recently retired from engineering, I currently live in Chandler, Arizona with my second wife, Jeanine, our two adopted daughters, two stubbornly untrainable dogs, and a quartet of very strange cats. I still labor under my book addiction problem, which takes up a fair bit of my time, and raising daughters is no simple matter either. I’m also a dedicated college football fan (no NFL gladiatorial arenas for this citizen!) and I also follow Formula One racing (needless to say, our home is a “No NASCAR Zone” – at least they turn both ways in F1).
Colin Odom Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/colin.odom
C. P. Odom page at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/C.-P.-Odom/e/B00BPT2BQQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1393834353&sr=1-2-ent
C. P. Odom page at Goodreads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073904.C_P_Odom?from_search=true
C. P. Odom page at Meryton Press site: http://colinodom.merytonpress.com/
“Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before—consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.”
—George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), English novelist, journalist and translator
Monday, March 21, 1815
Darcy could not help glancing over at the Parsonage as his coach passed by. He was rather disappointed to see no one since he expected his aunt’s servile parson to be out by the gate, offering obeisance to his ‘betters’ with his buffoon-like bowing, but there was no one in sight and certainly not the person he most wanted to see.
When he glanced back to Colonel Fitzwilliam, he saw the concern in his eyes and felt himself flush, as he knew his cousin read his mind.
“Looking for Miss Elizabeth, I warrant,” said Fitzwilliam sympathetically, and Darcy nodded.
“I know it is hopeless, but I cannot stop myself,” agreed Darcy, attempting to calm his nerves. Fitzwilliam realized there was nothing to say, and the two cousins lapsed into silence until the coach reached the front door to Rosings.
Darcy thought his reception by Lady Catherine strange, a mixture of coolness and suppressed glee, but he put it down to having missed his annual visit the two previous years. Part of his decision not to visit was his outrage at the part his aunt played in the ruin of the Bennet family. But the major reason was his reluctance to meet Elizabeth Bennet if she were again visiting her friend. He believed it rather unlikely she would actually visit, especially during Easter, since he expected she would go to any length to avoid meeting the person who caused her such pain. Still, he could not take the chance, so he wrote his excuses to his aunt.
It was not until dinner that the explanation for his aunt’s demeanour was explained. It started with a casual comment by Colonel Fitzwilliam that he had somewhat expected Mr. and Mrs. Collins’ attendance.
“Mrs. Collins died during childbirth more than two years ago,” said Lady Catherine shortly, hardly pausing as she spooned her soup. Both Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam stopped to stare at their aunt in shock.
“Died! More than two years ago?” said Colonel Fitzwilliam in consternation.
“Why did you not mention this in any of your letters?” demanded Darcy.
Lady Catherine shrugged. “It signified little, and it never crossed my mind you would be interested. It was not as if she was a person of any significance, after all. Just a penniless girl from an obscure county. There must be thousands like her who die every week.”
“But she was your parson’s wife!” exclaimed Darcy. “And you knew we were acquainted! Why did you think we would not be interested?”
Lady Catherine did not deign to answer this question, and finally Anne de Bourgh answered it herself.
“Mr. Collins is not my mother’s parson any longer, Darcy. His cousin died the summer before last, and Mr. Collins left in order take up his inheritance. He is now, I believe, acting as a ‘country gentleman.’”
Darcy’s blood turned cold as he realized what she meant. “His cousin, you say? Mr. Bennet from Hertfordshire?”
“The very one, Darcy,” said Anne. “The father of that Miss Bennet whom you met when you visited last.”
Darcy could tell Lady Catherine was greatly displeased by her daughter imparting information she would have preferred either to keep hidden or to disclose at her own pleasure, but he was past caring what his aunt might or might not prefer.
“And you did not mention this either, Aunt,” Darcy said with cold intensity. “Yet you knew that both Richard and I knew Miss Elizabeth Bennet well. In fact, you wrote me several letters detailing the disaster that befell the Bennet family. Detailing it with considerable relish, I might add. But somehow you did not feel it significant to mention that your parson inherited their estate? Presumably to dispossess Miss Elizabeth and her sisters, I presume, though I am hard put to justify such maliciousness on your part.”
“Yes, Aunt Catherine,” said Fitzwilliam intensely. “I am waiting to hear why you would withhold such news.”
Lady Catherine only shrugged, refusing to meet the eyes of either nephew. “The legalities were clear, though that dim-witted parson did not seem to realize any of them. I had to step in and have my solicitor examine the documents so he could explain matters to that fool Collins and inform him how he should act. Even then, he refused to see common sense; he went behind my back and offered marriage to that contemptible Elizabeth Bennet! Luckily, she had as little sense as he had and refused his offer. Only then was I able to convince him to follow my solicitor’s suggestions.”
Fitzwilliam gave a bark of contemptuous laughter. “Foolish? Miss Elizabeth? Do not make me laugh, Aunt. She would no more accept an offer from that fop Collins than I would lay down with a swine!”
“Foolish I said, and foolish I meant!” Lady Catherine said forcefully, striking the table with the flat of her hand for emphasis. “She could have had her father’s estate simply by accepting his proposal, but the foolish girl did not even deign to send a reply. Then I was able to get the man to see the sense of my instructions! My solicitor composed a letter, which Mr. Collins signed, ordering them out of the house before he arrived. I told him he needed to show the neighbourhood that he was a man of the clergy and of firmness, not such a one as would tolerate the shameless behaviour displayed by all the Bennet daughters. Imagine! All of them out before the eldest was married! I said there would be trouble from it, and my prophecy came to pass. All of them were tainted!”
“Not Miss Elizabeth!” exclaimed Fitzwilliam.
“Even her!” responded his aunt. “It may have been her sister who committed the actual sin, but all the sisters could be little different. And you saw for yourself how she refused to act as befitted her station in life!”
“She refused to lick your boots, you mean!” responded Darcy in fury, unable to hold back the anger inspired by the callous attitude of his aunt.
“Darcy!” exclaimed his aunt. “I will not be talked to in such a manner! I demand your immediate apology!”
“You may demand, madam, until the sun gutters to extinction,” replied Darcy in cold wrath, “but I have put up with your haughty disregard for the feelings and opinions of others long enough. I found Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her sister Miss Jane Bennet to be young ladies of splendid respectability and propriety, no matter how their sisters might act. Their conduct might, in fact, be a model for those who are much in need of correction, despite the difference in their social standing!”
Darcy’s glare left little doubt in the mind of Lady Catherine to whom he referred, and the mere thought of his temerity to make such a charge sent a bolt of rage through her. She opened her mouth to so inform him, but he rode her down, refusing to yield. “In actual point of fact, Aunt, had it not been for my own disdainful pride and my own disdain for the feelings of others, my offer of marriage to Miss Elizabeth might not have met with refusal.”
“Darcy!” Lady Catherine almost shrieked. “You actually made that little snip an offer of marriage? I could see that she charmed you, but, disgusting as the attraction was, I never dreamed that you would so forget yourself as to actually make her an offer!”
“Which she justifiably refused, because I am not nearly worthy enough to deserve her!” said Darcy icily to a shocked Lady Catherine. “Goodbye, your ladyship,” he said, bowing to her with cold formality. “Do not bother threatening to have me ejected if I do not apologize immediately. I shall be packed and gone as soon as may be, and it cannot be too soon!”
Having said all he ever intended to say to his aunt, Darcy wasted no more time. He spun on his heel and departed the room, never looking back.
“Well!” exclaimed Lady Catherine furiously after Darcy was gone. “I have never been so badly treated in all my life! Shameful, utterly shameful! Not only is it shocking that the son of my sister would dare speak to me in such a way, it is even more shocking he ever would have considered a connection with that disreputable Bennet family. Would you not agree he has lost his mind, Fitzwilliam?”
“No, madam,” replied her other nephew, rising to his feet. “I join in his opinion of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and I only wish his suit had been successful, for it would have been the saving of him.” Lady Catherine could only stare at him in astonishment nearly as profound as before as he carefully folded and replaced his napkin on the table and turned to his cousin Anne.
“I am very sorry to have to bid you goodbye prematurely, Cousin. I am sure both Darcy and I shall try to maintain some measure of contact with you in the future.” So saying, he stepped over to her and bowed over her hand before turning to his aunt and giving her a punctiliously correct bow.
“I bid you goodbye, Aunt,” replied Fitzwilliam, “for I shall accompany Darcy when he leaves. And though he did not say it and though you are sister to my father and sister to Darcy’s mother, do not doubt me when I say that neither of us shall ever return.”
Author's Q&A and/or Book Club Questions
5. Question: I have always wondered why the military didn’t take a more active role in locating Wickham in Austen’s original? Wouldn’t he have been guilty of desertion?
Answer: We know from Pride and Prejudice that the only real part the militia regiment played in searching for Wickham was in the efforts by Colonel Forster to search along the road and then journey to Longbourn and return to London with Mr. Bennet. It’s unclear whether Colonel Forster’s efforts were of an official nature as an officer of the regiment or whether they were inspired by personal embarrassment since Lydia had been staying with his family. In any event, the regiment seemed to have no other part in the affair afterwards.
It’s clear that Wickham would indeed have been guilty of desertion, and the penalty for that crime in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars was draconian. A soldier accused of desertion would have been tried by military Court Martial and, upon being convicted, would have been executed either by firing squad or by hanging. That said, however, I could not help but notice, when researching this point, all instances of desertion being punished by execution were of ordinary soldiers, as the British called their enlisted men. None of the examples were officers. Whether this was because officers didn’t desert (most were volunteers, after all, having purchased their commissions, except for a few officers who were promoted from the ranks for exemplary acts of heroism or leadership) or the punishment of an officer would be handled differently is a question for which I couldn’t find a definitive answer.
Adding to the confusion is the fact the regular army and the militia were very different indeed. The discipline of the regulars, most of whom were impressed (forcibly drafted), was very strict. Great Britain didn’t maintain a standing militia in peacetime. The militia was formed in wartime or in times of national emergency to guard against invasion or rebellion and to take over various policing duties normally performed by the regular army, such as suppressing riots or breaking up seditious gatherings.
Unfortunately, the militia was a rather dubious force to perform any of these duties. In the case of suppressing riots, the militia often sympathized with the rioters, with the result that militia units were stationed outside their own counties. Militia members were supposed to have weapons and to be skilled in their use, but their lack of training made them look like amateurs compared to the regulars. Militia officers were supposed to come from the gentry, and their commissions were not purchased as they were in the regulars. Instead, an officer’s rank was related to the amount and value of property the officer or his family held. In addition, officers were expected to have income from their properties and were not paid anything beyond expense money, which was completely insufficient to live on. It makes one wonder how Wickham could obtain a commission and what he would have lived on without an income of his own. Since Austen’s brother Henry was a Captain in the Oxfordshire Militia, it is puzzling that this was not explained in Pride and Prejudice, but perhaps Henry did not inform his sister of some of the less favorable aspects of his service.
All this is very interesting (at least to me!) but does not directly answer the question. My own supposition, given what I’ve just related, is that Colonel Forster had an interest in pursuing Wickham because of the personal insult he suffered from Wickham’s eloping with his wife’s friend, but the militia regiment, as an organization, would rather ignore the whole situation. After all, it would not look good to the local gentry in Brighton to be putting up posters and sending out parties to search for the deserter. And they certainly couldn’t enlist the aid of anything like Scotland Yard since law enforcement in Great Britain was a purely local affair until the middle of the 1800s.
By the same Author: 'A Most Civil Proposal' - a story that examines what might have happened if Darcy had decided to make a more civil proposal at Hunsford, rather than the proud and arrogant proposal Jane Austen had imagined.
Many thanks, Colin, for being my guest today, it's been a great pleasure - and everyone, many thanks for visiting!
Please leave a comment for a chance to be entered into the GIVEAWAY (one paperback, one e-book, open internationally).
To begin with, the cover for 'The Second Chance' was supposed to be very different!
It was meant to show a lovely little cove, where some very sad and very happy scenes are played. But then, much as I loved the pretty watercolour, it just had to go because, let’s face it, we don’t want landscapes, we want Elizabeth and Darcy!
It took a long time to find something that does justice to our favourite heroes – either the dress was from the wrong era, or the lady was just desperately, unspeakably ugly :) – and I was overjoyed to find them at last!
Still, I was a bit sad to let go of the pretty little cove!
So I’ll share it with you now, along with one of the scenes that played there.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Mr. Darcy’s foray into Devonshire was equally unsuccessful. After a gruelling journey undertaken in about half the usual time, he arrived to find a house which, even from a distance, appeared closed and shuttered and clearly not prepared to welcome any guests.
Unfortunately, the impression was confirmed as they drew nearer. When his carriage pulled up to the doors at last, there was still no movement, no servant to greet them – and it was only after his footman proceeded to knock quite vigorously for some length of time that a very young and flustered maid appeared, whom Darcy could not possibly have recognised.
“Beggin’ yor pardon, Sorr, but the family’s away,” she stammered, and Darcy’s heart sank. “There’s not a soul here but meself and Cook. Mrs. Hill, our housekeeper, has gone to see her sister in Hatfield, and is due back Friday week. As for Mr. Wilkins and the other girls– ”
“Will Mrs. Bennet and her daughters be away for long?” Darcy interrupted the excitable effusion, with as much patience as he could muster – but his efforts did not receive their just reward.
“Oh, for two months at least! Mrs. Hill told Cook so, the other day.”
“And they have gone to…?”
“To town, Sorr. That’s to say, to Lon’un.”
“I see. And can you tell me where they are staying?”
“Nay, Sorr!” the maid shook her head in sudden panic. “But Mrs. Hill might know! If it pleases you to leave yor name, Sorr, I’ll be sure to tell Mrs. Hill as soon as I see her–…”
But Darcy was no longer listening. He saw no purpose in leaving his name, but thanked the girl with an absent-minded nod and returned to his carriage. The coachman was instructed to head back and, as the conveyance took to the road again, Darcy removed his hat and let his head fall back against the cushions with a heavy sigh.
In town! She was in town, not here – and if he had extended his visit with the Bingleys, he might have known where she was, by now.
Last Monday, he decided that his stay at Netherfield had lasted long enough.
He had been with the Bingleys for an age it seemed, yet it had served no purpose, despite his careful attempts to extract some intelligence of Elizabeth from them.
He had endeavoured to steer drawing-room conversation towards the Devonshire acquaintance that Mrs. Bennet and her daughters might have formed; had peppered Bingley with carefully worded questions about his new relations’ concerns; once, he had even gone as far as asking Mrs. Bingley if any of her sisters were about to marry – and presumably shocked her in the process, for he had never asked anything of the sort before.
His efforts were rewarded with all manner of detail about a Mrs. Jennings and her kind attentions; about the baronet, Sir John Middleton, who lived nearby and about some new additions to the area, the Miss Dashwoods.
Yet he could learn nothing about what really mattered – about Elizabeth’s wishes and her plans.
Darcy drew a long breath and closed his eyes.
Truth be told, the visit with his closest friend had taxed him beyond anything imaginable. The happiness, the laughter in his life had only served to remind Darcy what it was that he had lost.
Nay, not lost. Never even given himself the trouble to gain in the first place.
Even a blind man could sense the devotion Bingley and his young wife shared – and Darcy was very far from blind. Quite the contrary, with his perception heightened by his own wretchedness, he was aware of every look, every smile, every whisper showing that Charles Bingley Esq. was happily married to the woman of his dreams, and her devotion to him was absolute.
And Darcy could not bear it.
The only gain from this visit was Georgiana’s obvious enjoyment of it. She positively blossomed under Mrs. Bingley’s affectionate attentions, and it was a balm to her wounded spirits to have constant proof that not all attachments were feigned, and that true marital bliss was not merely an imagination.
Darcy could hardly recognise the dejected girl he had brought into Hertfordshire at the end of May in the luminous young woman who had left him less than a week ago to travel to Pemberley, in Mrs. Annesley’s company.
As for himself, he decided he could not impose upon the Bingleys’ hospitality indefinitely, for their sake as well as his own. He also decided that there were no answers to be had at Netherfield. Which brought him there – and yet there he sat, as much in the dark as he had ever been!
He did not know what he might say to her, when they met again. Nor did he know how he could justify his sudden appearance on her doorstep, other than with a false claim of business or acquaintance in the area – a dangerous game, which might increase the risk of having his true connection to Devonshire exposed.
And yet he had to know. He had to see her with this man and learn once and for all if her affections were engaged or not.
Would he have had the strength to leave in silence if he had discovered that they were?
He huffed in sudden anger. He knew not.
He knew not what he was doing there, even. Another bout of folly, another show of arrogance! What made him think he could have read her mind, her heart, had she been there?
“Thompson, stop the coach!” he suddenly called out.
The carriage duly slowed, then came to a halt at the side of the road and Darcy opened the door and let himself out before any of his attendants could lower the step for him.
The road had brought them all the way up to the top of the hill. A thick carpet of low-lying heather stretched before him, then abruptly disappeared where the sheer face of the cliff dropped almost vertically to the shores below.
He walked across towards the edge. A small secluded cove lay more than a hundred feet beneath him and Darcy could see, at the very bottom, a path snaking its way through the stunted, windswept bushes and leading to his right, back towards the Lodge.
Had she walked down it – had she strolled barefoot along the beach? Had she sheltered on a warm sunny day under the lone birch that now swayed dangerously in the high winds, part of its branches torn and scattered all around? Had she sat on that large, flat rock and watched the waves relentlessly rolling in?
There was no calm at sea now, no gentle breeze, no lazy waves lapping at the shores. The waves came crashing in, the tide at its highest, their angry tumult sending vast sprays over the outcrop that protruded from the troubled waters. The wind whistled, tearing savagely at his coat, blowing his hair back – and yet there he stood, his eyes on the rolling clouds, the stormy sea.
Had she ever stopped here? Had she stood by, watching the unleashed fury – or had the heavens been calm and kind to her?
There was no path leading down from where he stood – and even if it were, what purpose would that serve? She was not there, and the aching need to see her suddenly rose sharply in him, as violent and forceful as the seas below. Where was she? And how long must he still pay for his abysmal error? How long, until he knew what Fate had in store for them all?
“Sir…?” he heard Thompson call tentatively from behind him. “I say, Mr. Darcy? Sir?”
He turned, pushing his hair back, for it was blown violently over his face now, and looked up to his coachman.
“We should not tarry long, Sir, not on this spot here!” the man cautioned. “The horses are mightily unsettled by this wind! Any moment now they could be terrified out of control!”
With a comprehending nod that was part apology, Darcy returned to the carriage and closed the door behind him.
His horses were not the only ones terrified by the mighty storms that stood to be unleashed in Devonshire!
~ ** ~
The journey back to town was long and dreary, devoid of hope and expectation, devoid even of the nervous excitement that had spurred him on the journey down. He still did not have his answer, and had no clear notion how to proceed now, other than write Bingley in the hope of ascertaining Elizabeth’s whereabouts in town – that, and peruse the society pages of the London papers, looking in dread for an announcement he prayed he would not find.
And here you can find a longer excerpt, from the opening chapters:
Thanks for visiting!
Soon after the Netherfield ball, a troubled Mr. Darcy decides to walk away from a most unsuitable fascination.
Yet heartache is in store for them all, and his misguided attempts to ensure the comfort of the woman he loves backfire in ways he had not expected…
So – we live and breathe Jane Austen!
We adore her characters, and they have become much more to us than figments of a brilliant imagination. They might as well have been real people, who have lived, laughed, danced and gossiped, fallen in and out of love, and endeavoured to be happy.
And if they are all contemporaries in this wonderful Austen world, then would it be so unreasonable to suppose that they might have met?
That Bingley and Frank Churchill might have gone to school together, maybe belonged to the same club, and found they had the same sense of humour, and the same happy-go-lucky attitude?
What if Mrs. Bennet was introduced to Mrs. Jennings? Wouldn’t they have got on like a house on fire? Both loud, both brash, both embarrassingly talkative and unguarded – one with five daughters to settle down, the other just desperate to match-make!
What if Elizabeth met Elinor, or Emma? What if Colonel Brandon went to war with Colonel Fitzwilliam? How about Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton? Or Mrs. Elton and Lucy Steele, for that matter? Wouldn’t they have had a lot to talk about?
Maybe it’s just me, but I’d very much like to imagine Jane Austen’s characters alive and well in her wonderful world, and free to move around and interact, as real people would, rather than keep within a strict book cover.
My previous story, ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ brought together characters from ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Persuasion’, on the basis that the Darcy siblings and Anne Elliot might have a lot in common – and so would Elizabeth Bennet and Captain Wentworth.
My next one ‘The Second Chance’ is a ‘Pride & Prejudice’ ~ ‘Sense & Sensibility’ variation. I’m posting here an excerpt from the first and second chapter – a taster, before the sample is available at Amazon:
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Absentmindedly, Darcy returned his watch to its pocket and strolled down the corridor to the left side of the house, to the predictable sanctuary of his choice. The library would be deserted at this time in the morning. At any time of day, to be precise. For all his other virtues, Bingley was not an avid reader, and neither were his sisters, despite some vocal protestations to the contrary – which, in truth, suited him very well indeed.
He opened the panelled door and entered, closing it quietly behind him.
‘Sparse’ would be the kindest way to describe Bingley’s collection, and Darcy wondered what he could choose today. He slowly ambled in, aiming for the furthest shelves where, a few days earlier, he had found a tome about some intrepid explorers and their perilous travels to the far-flung reaches of the Orient – and suddenly stopped, frozen in his tracks.
The library was not deserted at that time in the morning.
Previously hidden by the high back of the sofa she reclined upon, the occupant was now revealed to him, and Darcy all but gasped. A book loosely resting in her lap, her thumb still keeping her place between the pages, Miss Elizabeth Bennet sat before him, oblivious to his presence – and for a moment Darcy contemplated the wisdom of a swift retreat. But nay, she was bound to notice his withdrawal, and deliberate discourtesy was not something Darcy had ever wished to cultivate – except towards those who clearly deserved it.
He drew breath to greet her – but, as his slow footsteps brought him at last in full view of her countenance, the civil words faded on his lips.
She was asleep. She must have come down in the early hours of the morning for a brief respite, after tending to her sister for the best part of the night, and tiredness must have overcome her as she had read her book.
It forcefully struck him that, for the very first time in their acquaintance, he did not have to swiftly look away for fear that she would notice he was staring, and the unhoped-for chance to take in every detail of her appearance rose to his head, with all the heady effects of a fine wine.
Beautiful? He had taken great pains to make it clear to himself and to his friends – impudent dog that he was! – that she hardly had a good feature in her face. Yet he had scarce persuaded himself of the fact before that very face began to draw him, with the beautiful expression of her eyes, with every play of genuine emotion over the less-than-classically-perfect features, with every smile for her eldest sister, with every arch look towards him.
Whether she was beautiful or not to other eyes no longer mattered. It was she who drew him, more than any reputed beauty. Her warmth, her artless charm, her smile. She was smiling now, her lips ever so slightly turned up at the corners, ever so slightly parted, allowing quiet, tranquil breaths, softly in, softly out.
Her nose – small and endearingly perfect. The stubborn little chin, often tilted up in a playful show of defiance, the latest instance no further than the previous night.
‘I have therefore made up my mind to tell you that I do not want to dance a reel at all – and now despise me if you dare!’
He smiled despite himself as he remembered, the delightful mixture of archness and sweetness in her manner bewitching him more than anything he had ever come across.
She had very long lashes, he suddenly observed. He had never noticed this before, too mesmerised by the mirth in her eyes to pay any heed to something as mundane as lashes. They were thick, dark, and curled up at the ends. Her head was tilted to one side and the auburn ringlets that framed the oval face were now in disarray – she obviously intended to slip out for a moment from her sister’s chambers, and had not readied herself for anybody’s company, and certainly not his.
He ought to leave – that, he knew full well. He ought to turn on his heels and leave her before the lashes fluttered, her eyes opened and she caught him in the unpardonable act of spying on her in her sleep – and yet he could not, would not step away.
It took all the restraint he still possessed to not drop to one knee by her side and reach to brush his fingertips against the rosy cheek. He slowly flexed his unruly fingers into a tight fist, one by one, pressing his thumb against them in forceful endeavour to ensure that he would not succumb to the inconceivable temptation – yet even then, in defiance of his strict control, tantalising thoughts began to weave ever so slowly through him, spreading subtle, delicious poison in their wake.
To have the right to do so! To have the right to reach and caress her cheek, as she would lay asleep in his bed beside him. To see her eyes flutter open and crinkle at the corners as she would smile at him. To be allowed – encouraged – to lean towards her and taste the sweetness of her lips, to feel them soft and pliant beneath his own, as he would take her in his arms, her warm, lovely form cradled to his chest. Tender. Loving. Beautiful. His.
He swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry and drew a ragged breath, so loud to his own ears that he feared it would wake her. She did not wake and, mindless of the dangers of exposure, he still stood exactly where he was, drinking in the sight of her and recklessly courting disaster. If she should wake, this very moment…
Seconds passed, one… two… three… a number. And every shred of reason cried out at him to leave, no longer merely to avoid detection and the attendant mortification, but to preserve himself from an enchanting vision that would most likely haunt him from now on in all his sleepless nights…
At long last he obeyed and walked back to the door, on mercifully sturdy floorboards. The hinges did not creak, another mercy, and he noiselessly closed the heavy door behind him – just as the thud of a book falling to the floor could be heard from the room that he had quitted.
Darcy took his hand off the door-handle as though the intricately moulded metal burned and, exhaling in sudden gratitude at his own narrow, far too narrow escape, he hastened away from the blasted spot – and from the strongest of temptations.
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The night passed in an exhausting chain of restless spells and fitful slumber and, as soon as daylight seeped in through the curtains, Darcy abandoned the pointless quest for sleep. He cast a glance at the clock on the mantelpiece. It was very early – much earlier than he would normally rise, but Weston would just have to bear with it, this once!
The man was uncommonly silent as he shaved him and helped him dress, which suited Darcy very well indeed, this morning more than ever. As soon as Weston left him, Darcy pondered the wisdom of reading – or was it perhaps hiding? – in his chambers for a while, exceedingly reluctant to risk a repetition of the encounter in the library. It did not take him long though to dismiss the thought, and not just because he found its cowardice repugnant.
Nay, a different notion had occurred to him the previous night – another one of many. He had come to see that he had been intolerably selfish. He had allowed himself to show far too much interest, had singled her out in such a blatant fashion – more than he had ever singled anybody out – and since he had decided at whatever personal cost that he could not continue down that path, it would be a gross unkindness to mislead her as to his intentions.
If, over the course of their acquaintance, he had given rise to a hope he could not fulfil, his behaviour during their last day together must have material weight to crush it. He could not allow her to quit the place harbouring hopes that would come to naught, he sternly determined – and that would certainly not be achieved by simply hiding in his rooms!
The library was deserted though, and Darcy sank into one of the nearest chairs. He had not chosen a book yet, but thoughts of doing so were far from him as he sat, elbow on the armrest and chin in hand, staring absentmindedly at the small sofa to his right – unoccupied this time.
‘It matters not what she is doing at this moment!’, he admonished with an angry huff and propelled himself out of his seat to go in search of the volume on Oriental explorations, the very one he did not get to read the other day.
It was just as well for, less than a quarter of an hour later, the door opened and Darcy could hear footsteps advancing into the room. He tensed, waiting for the Bingley verbosity – either male or female – to reassure him that it was not her. It did not happen, and his spine stiffened as he acknowledged that the time had come for him to do his duty by her, as well as everybody else.
He stood to greet her with a bow and ignored the way his heart lurched yet again when her brows rose in slight surprise at the encounter and a fleeting smile curled her lips before she bid him good morning. He returned the greeting and civilly waited, feigning interest in something very absorbing just outside the second window, while she chose a book then sat, in exactly the same spot where she had fallen asleep the previous morning.
Darcy frowned at the delightful recollection, daring it to intrude, then took his seat again and crossed his legs with practised nonchalance as he opened his book and fixed his eyes upon it.
His glance skimmed over a phrase or two but soon, vexingly soon, it slid involuntarily to the right where, just beyond the top corner of his book, a flash of white muslin was brightening the dark oak floorboards. White muslin and underneath, a pointed tip, a hint of satin. Small feet encased in satin slippers…
He scowled at the small print that gave a detailed description of a five-tiered pagoda and turned the page with a determined rustle, in the vain hope that it would distract him from the sound of tranquil breaths, softly in, softly out.
Moments later, her own pages rustled and the small sofa gave a muted creak as she shifted ever so slightly in her seat. He would not glance in her direction – by God, he would not! – not that he needed to. He did not need to look to know that sunlight was turning her beautiful auburn hair into hues of the warmest of autumns, that her brow would be slightly creased in delightful concentration and that every once in a while she would bite the corner of her lip as she read, in a fashion he could not but find uncommonly endearing.
He held back what would have been a long sigh and turned it into a cough. This would not do! It would not do at all! He shifted in his own comfortable chair – not that it felt comfortable at the moment. Nothing would. He wondered if there was a book in Bingley’s library about the strange set of men who could sit unfazed for hours on the sharp ends of hundreds of nails…
Steady to his purpose, he never looked up from his book – yet, if his own life depended upon it, he would not have been able to quote a single phrase from the pages he pretended to peruse with a great deal of absorption. He could only hope that he remembered to turn the pages at convincing points in time as he sat there for what felt like an age, painfully aware of nothing but her presence.
Suddenly, the sound of a book being closed and placed on a table drew his attention and Darcy finally allowed himself to raise his eyes. Aye, she had indeed left her book on the small table by the sofa and now stood to leave.
He was glad. He should be glad. This had been, without a doubt the most excruciating–
‘No! This could not be!’
The clock on the mantelpiece behind her claimed she had only been with him for less than a half-hour, yet he could scarce believe it. It felt like he had been on tenterhooks for a vast deal longer! But be that as it may! It mattered not. The most excruciating half-hour, then, that he could ever think of! He should be glad it was about to come to an end at last, the library once more a sanctuary rather than a blasted place of torment!
His frustration faded as, without warning, the very notion of sanctuary brought to mind a picture of exquisite perfection. The library at Pemberley, with sunlight streaming in through the great south-facing windows and lighting autumn fires in Elizabeth’s auburn hair, as she would sit and read across the room from him. Elizabeth’s smile – she had long ceased to be Miss Bennet to him, or even Miss Elizabeth – as she would raise her eyes from her book and cast him a look of shared understanding… companionship… and love.
Visions of a blissful life wreaking havoc within him, Darcy stood to bow to her as she passed by with a slight nod. He was glad, he reminded himself. Glad to have the library to himself again, and not have to force every fibre of his being to play the charade of ignoring her presence. It was for the best, he repeated, dismissing the acute sense of loss he experienced as she glided softly past him for the ramblings of an ungovernable fool.
She was but a few steps away when the door suddenly opened and a footman appeared carrying a tray with a note, which he held out to her.
“This has just arrived for you from Longbourn, Ma’am,” the man announced. “The lad who brought it said it was most urgent.”
Darcy saw her shake her head and, having been exposed to the joys of Mrs. Bennet’s society only two days earlier, he could easily conjecture the tenor of her thoughts as she dismissed the footman with a “Thank you” and a gracious smile before opening her note.
Would Mrs. Bennet insist that her daughters extended their stay, as surely there could be no harm in their spending more time in the company of the most eligible bachelors in the environs?
‘Ten thousand a year, my dear, and very likely more!’ rang in his memory and a shudder of disgust, which he could not fully suppress, shook his frame.
With such thoughts occupying his mind, he would have missed her faint gasp had she not been so close. Darcy could not see her countenance, as she was turned away from him, but did not miss her reaching for the back of the nearest chair for support as she whispered:
“Oh, dear Lord, no!”
Despite his earlier intentions, Darcy found himself at her side before he even noticed he had moved.
“Not bad news from home, Miss Bennet, I hope,” he offered tentatively and, to his utter distress, her only reply was to burst into tears.
“Good God! What is the matter?” he cried with more feeling than politeness as he took her arm and guided her to the chair.
Unable to support herself, she sank onto the seat and unwittingly Darcy followed, bending on his knee at her side for a moment, until quite suddenly he became aware of his posture, so strikingly evocative of a proposal. He hastily stood, with every intention to remove himself to the other end of the room. Yet she was looking so miserably ill that he found it impossible to leave her, or to refrain from saying in a tone of gentleness and commiseration:
“Let me call a maid. Is there nothing you could take, to give you present relief? A glass of wine, shall I get you one? You are very ill!”
“No, thank you,” she replied, endeavouring to recover herself. “There is nothing the matter with me. I am quite well. I am only distressed by some dreadful news I have just received from Longbourn…”
She burst into tears as she alluded to it, and for a few minutes could not speak another word. In wretched suspense, Darcy could only say something indistinctly of his concern and observe her in compassionate silence as he endeavoured to fathom the cause of her distress.
‘Some dreadful news’, she said. Could this signify that something has befallen a loved one? Darcy drew a sharp breath. He could not claim a full understanding of Elizabeth’s family, but in his opinion there was but one person left at Longbourn whose safety, or rather lack thereof, could affect her so.
Dismissing his previous attempt at distancing himself, Darcy returned to bend down on one knee at her side and reached to hold her hand, deep concern in his voice and countenance:
“Miss Bennet,” he inquired gently, “has anything befallen your father?”
Her only response was to nod wretchedly as her eyes filled anew with tears and she looked away.
“Good God! Is he– ?”
“No!” cried Elizabeth, with great energy. “No, he is not.”
Neither could utter the dreadful word, and at length she spoke again.
“My sister Mary writes that he was taken ill, some time before breakfast. My father did not join the family for the morning repast, but this alarmed no one, as he had chosen to forgo it many times before, when a particular book took his fancy. Hill, our housekeeper, sent a maid with some tea shortly after breakfast. That is when they found him collapsed on the floor.”
“And what has been done, what has been attempted to revive him?” Darcy asked, in the tone of one used to take charge of the situation, any situation, and for once Elizabeth did not find this offensive, but strangely comforting.
Not one used to rely on others, Elizabeth wondered briefly at her feeling somewhat reassured by his manner, and then it became clear. In some unfathomable fashion, it reminded her of her uncle Gardiner.
“I scarcely know. Mr. Jones, the apothecary, was sent for. He has already seen my father, but as yet cannot offer an opinion regarding his condition,” Elizabeth wretchedly replied. “My sister Mary writes to hasten my return. They are all in turmoil.”
“But of course!” Darcy said decisively and stood. “You are undoubtedly eager to return home as soon as may be, Miss Bennet,” he added, and his voice carried a quiet strength that made Elizabeth raise her eyes and square her shoulders, as though his strength was somehow restoring hers. “Would you allow me to order the carriage for you? If you wish, I can make your excuses to Bingley and the rest of the party, so that you do not have to suffer any further delay. Bingley or I could also inform your sister of the unfortunate turn of events, but I daresay you would prefer to do that yourself.”
Elizabeth nodded her appreciation of his suggestions, surprise at his thoughtfulness clearly evident in her countenance.
“I believe I can safely speak for my friend,” Darcy continued, “when I say that your sister would be more than welcome to extend her stay at Netherfield. You are the best judge of what should be done for her of course, but she could be told only when her recovery is truly underway. Neither of us would wish to have it hindered by the anxiety Mr. Bennet’s condition would undoubtedly cause. Moreover, she would probably be better attended at Netherfield, so that all the efforts at Longbourn could be spared for your father.”
“I thank you for your consideration, Sir, but Jane would prefer to be with her family at a time like this. I believe she is sufficiently recovered to hear the truth. I would not have it withheld from me, if the situation was reversed.”
“No. Of course not. As I said, you are the best judge of your sister’s condition. There is but one question I need to ask before you leave,” he added and approached her again. “It may appear a presumptuous interference, but I hope you would not take offence and accept my offer in the spirit it is given.”
He paused briefly and met her eyes. In response to her silent invitation, Darcy resumed:
“Miss Bennet, would you allow me to summon my physician from town to attend your father?”
Elizabeth gave an unladylike gasp and her surprise at such a request was unmistakable. This from the man who, a short while ago, had arrogantly and disdainfully dismissed the society of Meryton in general and herself in particular as beneath his notice? That he would condescend to offer his superior assistance to a family he clearly thought so ill of was nothing short of incredible.
But nay, she wronged him now! There was nothing condescending or presumptuous in his offer. On the contrary, he had shown himself mindful of her wishes and almost… considerate!
At length, she recollected herself sufficiently to answer, if not with perfect coherence at least with perfect civility – indeed, a great deal more civility than she thought, only yesterday, that he deserved.
“This is a very generous offer indeed, Sir, and your kindness is greatly appreciated. However, I should never have presumed–… Such an obligation is– ”
“No obligation is implied and none should be perceived, Miss Bennet,” Darcy interjected kindly, but with the quiet determination of one used to carry his point.
Only too aware of the pain of losing a beloved father, he could not allow this to happen to her of all people, if he could prevent it. Still, he could not tell her that.
“Should I have it in my power to offer assistance to my fellow man,” he said instead, “I could not in good conscience withhold it. It is no more than anyone with a shred of compassion might be expected to do.”
“But I did not expect it of you!” Elizabeth replied without thinking. She saw him start at this and blushed in severe mortification at her ill-judged comment. “I beg you would excuse my unfortunate remark!” she apologised quietly. “Particularly today, in the face of your kind efforts on behalf of my family, I am indeed most– ”
“Pray, let us waste no more time over this,” she heard him reply, this time with something of his habitual coldness. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features as he added, “I am honoured to be of service to you, Miss Bennet, but I should not wish, by doing so, to forfeit the privilege of hearing your true opinions, unadulterated by expressions of gratitude. Now, if you would excuse me, I must speak to Bingley and send an express to Dr. Halstone,” he finished with a bow, his countenance rigid, and would have left the library but for Elizabeth’s urgent request:
“Mr. Darcy, I cannot allow you to leave without hearing my sincere apology. ‘Tis not prompted by gratitude, Sir, but by justice.”
She bit her lip, and Darcy’s mien softened at the endearing picture.
“As I have just demonstrated,” she resumed after a brief pause, “there is great merit in thinking before speaking, and perhaps I should be mindful of this, as well as of the old adage which claims that every attempt to correct a faux pas will only serve to make it worse. However, I cannot let you go without speaking my mind, Sir. I was surprised by your kind offer and no, I was not expecting it, for a variety of reasons. It was also unexpected for me to note that, of all the people of my acquaintance, I can think of only one other who would have been as thorough and considerate in his offer of assistance. I thank you for your generous concern, and I beg you would overlook my comment. It was unfortunate, and not intended as it sounded. I only wished to say that… there is more than meets the eye and… first impressions can often be misleading… Sir.”
Her eyes drifted up to his as she concluded, and this time it was not their mesmerising sparkle that sent Darcy’s thoughts into ungovernable turmoil.
‘First impressions? Misleading? Whatever can she mean?’
And then it struck him.
‘The assembly, of course!’
To his acute mortification, Darcy remembered his distemper on the occasion, and that he had not presented his best face to the world that evening. He had snubbed her relations, her mother at least, if memory served, and–
‘Good God! Tolerable! I called her tolerable, and in her hearing as well, by all accounts! No wonder she took offence! She must think me devoid of every proper feeling!’
“Miss Bennet, I…”
Words failed him, and rightly so. What sort of apology could he offer for such gratuitous and unprovoked insolence?
Darcy could only hope that his actions might speak louder than his inconsiderate words, and that she would eventually find it in her heart to forgive him. Perhaps she already had. Did she not acknowledge just now that first impressions might have been misleading, and thanked him for his consideration?
And then he registered the rest of what she said. That she could think of just one other who would have come to her aid in the same fashion. An unreasonable but disturbingly intense wave of jealousy swept through him at the recollection.
‘Who? Who was the man?’
With an effort, he silenced the unruly clamour. It mattered not. Much as it pained him to admit this, it could not matter whether she held another man in her esteem!
His countenance closed, he suddenly bowed and took his leave, thus impressing Elizabeth once more with the belief that the old adage spoke nothing but the truth, and every attempt to correct a faux pas did only serve to make matters worse – before she dismissed thoughts of everything else but her father’s safety.
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Watch this space for more information about the release date,
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