Happy Friday! I have not had an update in a while so I must apologise for that. Since the New Year, things have been crazy around here, including my husband and I finally getting Covid. Thankfully, neither of us had major cases, but I’ve had a lingering cough that worsened. I’m on the mend, so back to writing A Gentleman of Worth, the second book of this series, while at the same time Deborah Balm narrated a phenomenal version of An Endeavour to Be Worthy.
First, the sample!
I love how well she did with the characters! I can’t wait for everyone else to hear it too!
Another quick bit! This one from Particular Attachments!
December 26th 1816
The Yule log was still burning in the grate and the candle’s flame still shone in the dining room when I retired last night. Uncle Henry and Aunt Charlotte, as well as my cousin Milton and his wife, Amelia, joined us for Christmas services and shared the delicious dinner Cook prepared. The day was a wonderful time for our family, though I do wish Milton and Amelia had brought Hugh and baby Cecilia with them as William would have much preferred a playmate his own age to the familiar company of Lydia and myself. Richard arrived in time for the meal and engaged in his usual antics, teasing us all and indulging in Fitzwilliam’s supply of brandy.
Lizzy, Lydia, and I drank wassail and played cards with Aunt Charlotte. After dinner, Lizzy, Amelia, and I all played the pianoforte and Lydia sang. I never knew she had such a clear, strong voice hidden behind her girlish giggles. I shall have to tempt her to sing in company when I have the first opportunity. She has hidden her talent in Meryton, which was a grave mistake. Those awful harpies need to see Lydia’s accomplishments have expanded and are no longer limited to flirting!
Thus far, I have been able to avoid Lydia’s inquisition over what occurred in Gunter’s, but I know she will not relent for long. I enjoy having a sister closer to my age in which to confide, yet I am appalled to have had nightmares and spoken in my sleep while in her company. I confess I had hoped the dreams that began more in earnest when I made the decision to come to London would be held at bay by the presence of another. I was wrong.
How much does she know? When I first made the acquaintance of Lydia Bennet, I would not have confided in her unless I desired all of England to hear my secrets, but I believe her now to be sincere. She has assured me of her silence, and has, thus far, kept her word.
She placed the ribbon along the binding, but left the journal open so the words might dry. With a sigh, she again read through the entry. Careful of the wet ink, she then turned back two pages.
I could scarce believe my eyes when I searched for the gentleman Lydia found so handsome and discovered Nathaniel. Indeed, his tall frame was difficult to miss as he stood across the room. I find myself amazed at how little he has changed. He has grown taller and has acquired other attributes which distinguish him from the boy he once was, yet I could see the boy I knew in the eyes of the man—particularly when he smiled.
Could his manner be much the same as it was? I dread meeting him face to face because of his antics when we were children. Why do irrational fears seem to be my lot in life? He would not be respected among his peers if he persisted in stealing the dolls of young girls, pulling curls, and proclaiming himself betrothed to them all.
Today’s excerpt is a short but heartfelt letter from Undoing!
December 14th 1809 Pemberley Derbyshire
Thank you for your letter informing me of Thomas’s latest episode. Since you were not witness to his last, I am certain it was frightening. Georgiana and I are both heartbroken you will not be at Pemberley for the Christmastide, yet it is with a heavy heart that we decline your invitation to Worthstone.
Mr. Bingley and his sisters will break their journey to London at Pemberley before Christmas, and I have invited them to pass the season with us as I expected you to travel here. Though I would prefer to rescind the Bingleys’ invitation, it is too late to do so now.
Please convey our wishes to Thomas for a happy Christmas season. Of course, we do not exclude you in those wishes. We hope you have a blessed holiday season as well.
Georgiana and I intend to travel to London next month. I wish to give Georgiana some time with the masters, though I shall not venture out much to balls and dinners. As you are aware, I am not comfortable in those settings, so I am content that mourning Father will prevent my attendance. If Thomas is well enough to make the journey for the start of Parliament, pray send a note. We should dearly love to have you for dinner.
Hi all! I thought to post some Holiday scenes from my books, not always Christmas Day but sometimes the time around it as a fun thing this last week before Christmas. I hope you enjoy this from Unwrapping Mr. Darcy! You’ll notice I put a photo of Grunt as a chapter break 🙂
Light began to permeate the crack in his eyelids, burning a trail along the nerves to his brain. Darcy squeezed them tight and pulled a pillow over his head. Why did it feel like someone was pounding his cranium with a sledgehammer?
A knock vibrated through his skull, and he squeezed the pillow tighter over his ear with a moan.
“William? Are you decent?”
He shifted the pillow so his mouth peeked out the edge. “William isn’t here.”
His sister giggled, and the bed dipped on one side. “Come on, sleepyhead. You promised we’d go Christmas tree shopping today.”
“You were imagining things.”
“No, I wasn’t. You promised, and I’m holding you to it.” Something rattled on his bedside table. “How much scotch did you drink last night?”
“I went to dinner at Bingley and Jane’s. Had several glasses of wine.”
“And then you came home and drank scotch? No wonder you’re such an Oscar the Grouch this morning. You never sleep this late.” The bed shifted. “I’ll get you some Tylenol and a glass of water. Then I want you to get your behind out of that bed, and shower. You owe me some Christmas shopping today, mister.”
He exposed part of his face and squinted in an attempt to lessen the piercing pain caused by the light in the room. Why had he forgotten to pull the curtains before he went to bed? Oh, that’s right. He downed half a bottle of scotch and stumbled to bed without thinking of much. He pushed himself up to a seated position and rubbed his eyes.
Ana returned a few minutes later and handed him two pills, followed by a large glass of water. He swallowed the medicine and drank down the contents of the entire glass before handing it back to her empty.
“Don’t thank me yet. Go get in the shower. It’s almost time for lunch, and we have some serious decorating to do today.”
He scanned around the bed, looked down, and frowned. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. Had he gotten naked before he crawled under the covers or had he left on his underwear? Four glasses of wine and that half bottle of scotch rendered his memory a little hazy. He pulled the sheet back just enough to take a peek. “Um, Ana?”
“Yep,” she said as she picked up the empty liquor bottle from beside the bed.
“I’m not getting out of this bed with you in the room.”
Her eyebrows furrowed as she gave him a sidelong look before she flinched. “Oh! I’m going!” Without any hesitation whatsoever, she was out of the door, and he suddenly had all the privacy he could desire. What he wouldn’t give to sink back into the plush mattress. But he couldn’t. Ana would only come back to wake him again.
With a yawn, a stretch, and a scratch to the back of his thigh, he shuffled into the shower and turned the knobs until a stream of hot water flowed over his head. He leaned his forehead against the grey slate and gave a long, satisfied exhale when the hot water ran in rivulets down his back. The slight sting and the intense heat were heaven and helped ease a lot of the tension from his head and his shoulders.
Forty minutes later, showered and dressed, but not shaved, he walked into the kitchen. His headache had diminished some with the medication and the heat of the shower, but he needed one last thing to bring him back to the land of the living.
“Coffee, Mr. Darcy?” Mrs. Hill held out his favorite mug, filled to the brim with black, steaming goodness.
“You’re an angel of mercy.”
The older lady tittered. “Oh, Mr. Darcy. You sound like Mr. Bingley when you say that.” A plate of toast was set before him when he sat at the table. “I saw that empty bottle Miss Ana brought down, so I didn’t make you eggs.”
A burp escaped before he could stop it. “Excuse me.” He moved the plate closer. “This is perfect, thank you.” She patted him on the back and hurried out of the kitchen, passing Ana as she came in.
“Hey, you’re alive.”
“Ha, ha!” He leaned back and glanced over what she was wearing. When she hit her teens, Ana went through a major change, shifting from her old pink frills and rainbow unicorns to some of the most interesting combinations of clothes he’d ever seen—and today’s ensemble was no different. The red tartan plaid skirt she wore had an asymmetrical hem and a leather lace-up waistband. She paired it with thick black leggings, a black turtleneck, and her favorite Dr. Martens, which had red roses embroidered up the sides. She topped off the outfit with a ruby red stud that glittered from the side of her nose.
She grinned and pivoted in a circle. “Do you like it?”
“What happened to the little girl with pigtails and braces?”
“Ew! She gained some style. Thank goodness!” She plopped into the chair next to him and took a bite of his toast. “So what made you finish off a bottle of scotch?”
He snatched his toast back. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Must be a woman to have you this moody.”
He stuck his tongue out at her.
“That’s mature.” She laughed and rolled her eyes. “You might scare your employees, but you forget that I have access to your baby photos. I’m not afraid of you.”
“Who would you show them to? Your boyfriend or some of your friends from school? I believe I’m safe.”
A wicked gleam lit her eye. “Not if I post them as public on social media. One click on Instagram or Twitter and I could ensure the entire world has access.”
“I could say the same to you, little sister.”
“You could, but you’d have to know how to post something first.” Her elbow landed on the table and she leaned her chin in her palm. “So, what drove you to drink last night?”
“My boyfriend is fine. He has to finish his piece for composition class or he would’ve come with me. No changing the subject.”
“Perhaps I don’t want to answer.” He took a large bite of toast and started to chew.
“I could just ask Charlie.”
He dropped his hand to the table with a thud. “Why do you have to know?”
“Because usually you won’t talk to anyone when you’re upset. You can’t keep everything buried inside that way. It’s not healthy.” She tilted her head a fraction to one side. “Is it a woman?”
He nodded. This was humiliating.
“Is she a Caroline?”
He grimaced. “No.”
Ana lifted her head just enough to bite her thumbnail while her eyes remained on him. Suddenly, those same hazel eyes widened, and she straightened. “Oh my God! You like her, but she isn’t interested!”
His stomach tightened. “It’s a little worse than that. She can’t stand me.”
“Then she doesn’t know you. You should make more of an effort. You’re so reserved and quiet. She needs to know what a great guy you are.”
“It’s not that simple.” He tapped his toast on the plate. “Bingley hired her a few months ago for the legal department. I wanted to wait until Hurst was ready to retire, but Bingley insisted on hiring her then and there. On her first day, he brought her to my office to meet me, but I didn’t want to at that moment. I . . .”
“You were an imbecile and said something stupid.” She sat up straight and crossed her arms over her chest. “Exactly, how much of an imbecile were you?”
He rested his forehead in his hand. “She’s Jane’s sister.”
“Charlie’s girlfriend?” she asked.
“Yes, but Elizabeth and Jane are very different. Where Jane is quiet and serene, Elizabeth is fiery and likes to tease.”
“So, what did you say?”
He dropped the toast onto the dish and dropped back in his seat. “I more or less said I didn’t have time. I also might have implied she got the job because he was dating Jane. She overheard.”
Ana gasped and a sharp pain in the back of his head whipped his head forward while his brain rattled back and forth against his skull. The Tylenol had kicked in, but it was still a painful shock.
“You hit me!”
“Someone ought to! Mom and Dad would be ashamed of you. I can’t believe you said that. How long have you known Charlie?”
“Ana.” He drew out her name.
“No, how long have you known Charlie?”
“Dad told me all of the time how he first hired Charlie at Darcy Holdings when he was sixteen, and how the two of you worked together there each summer, learning your way around every department. When he graduated from Columbia’s business program, Dad brought him in as an assistant department head and ensured he finished learning the company inside and out, remember?”
Darcy nodded and rubbed the back of his head.
“Dad wasn’t an idiot.”
He glared at her. “I know that.”
“So why say Charlie hired her for such a stupid reason? You know I once overheard Dad telling Mom why he trained Charlie and hired him into the company like he did.”
“You never told me about that.”
“I suppose it never occurred to me until now. I think they must’ve been revising their wills so the topic came up. The point is, Dad knew that if something happened to him, you’d need someone in your corner; someone you could trust to help you run Darcy Holdings. You and I would hold most of the shares of the company and while I was underage, you held mine in trust. Your place as CEO was secure, but he worried about the older executives. He wanted you to have an ally. Fortunately, Charlie never took advantage of Dad and always did an excellent job. Charlie loved Dad and he loves Darcy Holdings. You should know that. You didn’t just insult Elizabeth, you were incredibly insulting to Charlie, too.”
He slumped in his chair. She was right.
“When Mom and Dad were killed, Charlie did exactly what he was hired to do. Dad’s last instructions gave him a promotion and a substantial pay increase so he was in precisely the position Dad wanted. Your best friend helped keep you and Darcy Holdings going while you adjusted to the responsibility of CEO and the responsibility of being a single parent to a despondent teenager. He would never do anything to jeopardize the company. If he insisted on hiring Elizabeth at that moment, then he had a damned good reason.”
“He did. He never explained why though until after he spent over an hour talking her into staying.”
One side of Ana’s lips curved. “She tried to quit on her first day? I like her. She won’t take your crap.”
“Thanks a lot.”
She grinned. “Don’t mention it.” After a moment, she wagged a finger at him. “I think I can guess what happened after that. You passed her in the hallways, finally got a good look at her, and found yourself attracted to her. She’s definitely no slouch at her job or you wouldn’t care how hot she is, you would’ve dismissed her at the first sign of laziness or incompetence. Now, she probably won’t interact with you above the barest civilities outside of work, and you don’t know how to fix things.”
He swallowed hard. “Am I that predictable?”
His little sister laughed softly. “Probably only to me and Charlie. So, what happened last night?”
“Charlie and Jane invited me to dinner. Elizabeth was there. I wanted a moment alone with her to apologize, but anytime she realized she would be left without a buffer, she ran for it. Because of the cold weather, I gave her a ride home, and I finally managed to get in that apology.”
“How’d she take it?”
“Alright, I suppose. She thanked me.”
Ana put her hand over his. “You’re probably going to have to prove yourself to make her believe it. I hope you know that.”
He nodded. “I walked her to her door despite her protests that it wasn’t necessary. I even helped her clean up the broken glass from her cat until she insisted she could do it herself. I didn’t want to force my presence on her.”
“No, I think that’s the last thing you should do. Just keep trying to speak to her. Make her see who you are.”
“Wow.” He tugged at the end of the long auburn braid she had resting over her shoulder. “When did you grow up?”
“Who says I’ll ever grow up? Now, eat the last of your breakfast. I want a Christmas tree.”
He picked up what was left of his toast, put his plate in the dishwasher, and waved her to follow. “Let’s go. I can eat this while we walk. The tree lot isn’t that far.”
She gave a girlish squeal and tore from the kitchen. When he met her in the huge foyer, she was decked out in her heavy coat with a tartan cap and scarf.
The moment they were walking in the direction of the tree lot, he nudged her with his elbow. “So, how’s school going?”
“The same as always. You know I live for it. My cello professor has me learning a Bach piece that I absolutely love.”
He took a half-step to the side and looked at her. “You’ve never been a huge fan of Bach.”
“I know!” Her eyes sparkled, and her voice sounded a little breathless. He was familiar with that look and the slight tremor in her voice. “I adore this one, though. It’s difficult technically, but so much fun to play, and I like the melody as well. I can’t wait for you to hear it.” She wouldn’t just master this piece, she’d perfect it, just as she’d done to the all of the pieces she became infatuated with.
“Whenever you’re ready for an audience, I look forward to hearing it.”
She skipped a few paces ahead and turned to walk backward. “We’re getting a big tree, aren’t we? I know you said it wasn’t necessary, but it wouldn’t be the same. Besides, how would we choose which ornaments to leave in the boxes and which to put on?”
“You’re going to Maine with Jacob, so it will be just me and Mr. and Mrs. Hill. Charlie invited me to spend Christmas Day with them, so I don’t need a huge tree. If you didn’t want to decorate one so badly, I’d probably not even bother this year.” They rounded the corner and crossed the street.
“Then I’m glad I made you come out to buy one. Everyone should have a Christmas tree.”
“What if someone is Jewish?”
Ana gave a slight snort. “You know what I mean.”
He smiled and took her hand. “Come on, let’s pick out a tree.”
When they reached the small corner of the park cordoned off as a tree lot, they walked through the rows of fir and spruce trees, all different shapes and sizes. Of course, Ana chose the biggest Noble Fir they had with a tremendous toothy grin. He didn’t need such an extravagant Christmas tree, but he couldn’t say no when it made her so happy. At Christmas, she behaved with some of the mannerisms she had when she was a little girl. The glimpse of that child made every penny he spent worth it.
She bounced up to him. “Tree taken care of. You just need to go pay.”
“And set it up for delivery.”
“We could carry it home.”
He glanced over her shoulder at what had to be a fourteen-foot tree. “Not on your life. You’d be complaining by the end of the first block.” Before she could make a sarcastic comment, he pinched her side and walked by to go talk to the lot manager.
Five minutes later, he was the proud owner of a Christmas tree. Fortunately for them, most people carried their trees home, so the man was willing, for a hefty price, of course, to load theirs up and deliver it. He slid his credit card back into his wallet and glanced around for Ana, who was next to the wreaths.
After a quick text to Mr. and Mrs. Hill to warn them of the tree’s impending invasion. He returned to Ana and tugged her braid. “What are you doing, Squirt?”
She pointed ahead of them. “Look, it’s Charlie and Jane. I’ve never met her, but he posts a lot of pictures of her on Instagram. She’s very pretty.”
He glanced over, his gaze not landing on Bingley or Jane, but on the brunette a few trees down. Her eyes glowed, and a small smile tugged at her lips as she touched a branch, stroking the needles.
“Is that Elizabeth?”
He started. Ana’s cheek was right next to his shoulder. “Yes, that’s her.”
“She’s pretty. Not in the usual way, though. I think it’s her eyes. They’re very expressive.”
“Darcy!” He turned as Bingley approached and kissed Ana on the cheek. “How are you, Squirt?”
She crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. “Not you, too.”
Bingley chuckled as Jane walked up and hugged Darcy. “Thank you for seeing my sister home last night. I know she was probably a big grump over it, but I can’t thank you enough.”
“Really, it was no bother.” He put a hand to Ana’s back. “Ana, I’d like you to meet Jane Bennet.”
Jane beamed as she shook Ana’s hand with both of hers. “I’ve heard so much about you from Charlie and your brother.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you as well.”
“Did the two of you pick out a tree?” asked Bingley.
“Ana selected one. I’m just the poor sod with the credit card.”
“Lizzy wanted to pick out a tree today, so we all came out together.” Jane glanced over both shoulders. “I wonder where she went?”
“We’ll let you get back to her.” Darcy put a hand to Ana’s elbow, starting to steer her forward. “I promised Ana some hot chocolate from Goulding’s, and we still have to make a stop to buy her a new ornament.”
Jane’s eyebrows raised slightly.
“When she was born, my mother started the tradition of buying her a special ornament every year, so when she has her own family, she has a collection for her own tree.”
“What a wonderful idea! Well, we won’t keep you. It was nice to meet you, Ana.”
His sister nodded. “It was nice to meet you, too. See you later, Charlie.”
After Ana and Jane both gave a quick wave, he led Ana across the street to Goulding’s coffee shop and straight to the counter.
“You don’t want me to meet Elizabeth?” She looked up to him with a sly smile on her lips.
“You know better than that. You agreed I shouldn’t push, and after last night, she was probably hiding from me.”
“William,” she said, drawing out his name.
“No, I’ll see her tomorrow at the Monday morning planning session. I’m not giving up. I’m just giving her a break.”
“Don’t give her too much of a break. She might find someone else.”
Elizabeth wandered through the trees touching the lush needles and breathing in the smell. She loved that scent! It meant Christmas was here. She pulled a tag from the tree she wanted and glanced around. Where had Jane and Charlie gone? When she backtracked through the trees, she stopped when she found them standing on the other side of the lot talking to Mr. Darcy, who had a woman on his arm.
Something about seeing the girl touch his arm made her want to slap him. What was up with that? Who was the woman and why would she want to hit him for being with her? Elizabeth squinted. The lady was graceful and attractive, but seemed . . . young, very young compared to him. No one ever mentioned a girlfriend, but who else could she be?
Elizabeth started over to say hello, but he and the girl walked off while Jane and Charlie started back towards her. “Sorry, were you looking for us? The trees are nice this year, don’t you think?” Her sister ran her fingers along the needles of a nearby branch. “Did you see William? He was just here buying a tree, too.”
“I saw him when I came looking for you.” They started to walk further into the trees while Charlie followed behind. “Who was the girl?” Why did she ask that? Why did it peeve her that he was there with a woman? She didn’t even like him. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him dating anyone.” Oh, good grief! Why hadn’t she stopped before that came out?
Jane’s eyes narrowed a bit. “That girl wasn’t his date, but even if she was, what difference would it make?”
“Okay, his friend.” Elizabeth attempted to walk around Jane, but her sister stepped in front of her.
“Ana is William’s little sister. She’s quite a bit younger than he is and attends college here in the city. He brought her out to buy a Christmas tree.”
“Yes, Charlie has told me they’re very close. They’ve had to be since William raised Ana after their parents were killed by a drunk driver.”
“Oh, I vaguely remember the headlines after the accident, but I didn’t remember that he had a younger sister.”
“I think she was about sixteen, which would’ve made him about thirty. It couldn’t have been easy.” Jane peered back over her shoulder toward Goulding’s. “Could you imagine having to suddenly take over raising Lydia for Mom and Dad?”
Elizabeth shuddered. “Mom and Dad better not go anywhere until Lydia can take care of herself. She couldn’t live with me. I’d throw her out the window before the first week was out.”
Jane giggled and shook her head. “Lizzy!”
“Well, it’s true! Not everyone is as patient as you are. Now, you and Charlie need to pick out a tree.” Elizabeth held up her ticket. “I found one right over there. I’m going to go pay for mine, so we can carry them back.” She made her way through the trees until she found the man to pay. While she waited for him to run her card, she watched the people around her—the children’s happy faces as they ran through the maze of trees, the people walking by with shopping bags, and the customers leaving Goulding’s with steaming cups cradled in both of their hands.
She froze. That wasn’t some random person, it was Mr. Darcy. He spoke with the woman she’d seen him with earlier, his sister, pointing down one way then the other. She couldn’t stop herself from staring. He was wearing jeans. She’d never seen him wear anything but suits, but William Darcy actually owned jeans—and was that stubble on his cheeks? He hadn’t shaved?
Despite the cold day this warm sensation began to spread from her stomach through her body. She shifted to get a look at his sister, but instead, met the girl’s eyes and immediately turned away, her cheeks hot. What was that?
Unwrapping Mr. Darcy is available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and paperback!
Happy Monday! I’m spending this week revisiting holiday scenes from some of my books. Today is an excerpt from my newest, An Endeavour to be Worthy!
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Darcy,” said Mr. Gideon when he opened the front door.
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Gideon.” He and Georgiana happened to greet the butler in unison, making the man beam as they entered.
The man helped Darcy with his coat while several maids appeared to be of aid to the ladies. “I hope church was enjoyable.” For the first time, Mr. Gideon’s slight accent was noticeable.
“The service was lovely,” said Miss Elizabeth. “My grandparents, Lord Hatton, and Miss Montford will be directly behind us. We shall await them in the green drawing room.”
“Very good, miss. We shall be ready for their arrival.”
Miss Jane wrung her hands. “Do you think they are well?”
“I am certain they will be here soon,” said Darcy. Due to the delay, they may have been caught in traffic.” Bingley had never been a violent man, yet he had never expected Bingley to fall into such debt either.
A commotion in the front hall announced the rest of their party’s arrival. When Darcy peered at Miss Elizabeth, he could not miss the heavy exhale and the manner in which her body relaxed.
Lady Richmond was the first to enter the drawing room, making her way to Miss Jane and sitting beside her. The two spoke in hushed tones as the earl and Hatton entered. Georgiana joined Miss Jane and the countess and offered the latter her hand. Perhaps the similarity of their experiences would deepen their friendship. He had no objections. Georgiana would only benefit from such an association.
He stepped over to Lord Richmond and Hatton with Miss Elizabeth close behind. “I am not sure what Bingley hoped to accomplish.”
“He surely hoped to force a meeting with Janey,” said Lord Richmond. “Nicholas restrained him while we boarded our carriage. That Miss Bingley woman approached and attempted to ingratiate herself to Amelia, but Amelia and my wife cut her. Lady Jersey, as well as Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret were nearby and witnessed the exchange. I am certain those who are in London for Christmastide will know before the first of January.”
“Enough!” When he turned, Lady Richmond was standing with her hands raised in front of her. “’Tis Christmas, and we shall not dwell any longer on the Bingleys but enjoy our day. Now, we have gifts for each of you. Fitzwilliam, I shall not accept a refusal.”
He and Miss Elizabeth sat upon the settee as the countess distributed her packages. While she handed Miss Elizabeth a box, the earl handed him a bottle. “My wife charged me with finding you a gift. I hope you approve.” The older gentleman wore a slight smile.
When he took the bottle, he turned it in his hands to view the label. “An excellent brandy. I thank you.”
“Brandy, my lord,” said the countess with her lips pursed.
“He purchases the latest books as soon as Hatchard’s puts them on the shelves, and they had nothing newer than a month ago, which I am certain he already possesses. What would you have me buy?”
“Lady Richmond, I must admit your husband is correct. I do not require much, and this will be savoured since Richard drank my last bottle of this vintage six months ago, and I have been unable to procure more.”
“For heaven’s sakes, do not let the colonel near it then,” said the earl. “I had no idea he was so intemperate.”
“He does enjoy a good brandy, but I was at Pemberley for the summer while he lived at Darcy House, not long after he was assigned to Horse Guards.” Richard could drink quite a bit and keep his wits about him, but he was not one to drink an entire bottle of brandy in one sitting.
Miss Elizabeth opened the lid of her box and gasped. “Grandmamma, you have given me so much jewellery since my arrival. I do not require so much.” Nestled in velvet was a necklace with a pendant that resembled a snowflake. Diamonds set in gold with the larger stones in the centre and becoming smaller as they neared the tips.
“Nonsense. This is the last of your mother’s jewels that was set aside for you, as is Jane’s gift.”
Miss Jane flipped open the lid on hers and inhaled swiftly. “Grandmamma, this is lovely.” She turned it to show Miss Elizabeth the modest sapphire necklace and matching ear drops.
His sister held a stack of music sheets and a cashmere shawl sat upon her lap. “Fitzwilliam, what of our gifts?”
After he excused himself, he ducked out into the hall where Mr. Gideon happened to be passing. “Pardon me, but a servant from Darcy House was supposed to deliver some gifts while we were at church.”
“Ah, yes,” said Mr. Gideon. “Forgive me. I forgot to mention it upon your arrival.” He stepped inside a doorway on one side and brought out a small trunk. “Where would you like it?”
“I can take it. Thank you,” he said. When he returned to the drawing room, he withdrew two packages and handed them to Georgiana, who in turn, gave them to Miss Amelia and Miss Jane. Meanwhile, he passed gifts to Lord and Lady Richmond and Hatton. Lastly, he returned to Miss Elizabeth’s side and passed her the last.
“’Tis from Georgiana and I both.”
She gave him a side-long look, but her fingers trembled ever-so-slightly while she peeled away the silk paper. “How beautiful. Thank you.”
“What is it Lizzybeth?” asked her grandmother.
With a careful touch, she lifted it from the wrapping. “A hair comb.”
“Which will be lovely in your dark hair.” Her grandmother admired the piece, then stepped over to sit close to her husband while she removed the paper from hers. “What gorgeous silk! Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I must admit I adore a trip to Madame Morisot’s, and you have given me just the excuse.”
“Yes, thank you Darcy,” said the earl dryly.
Miss Amelia and Miss Jane thanked both him and Georgiana for the fabric in their packages. Hatton clapped him on the shoulder after expressing his appreciation of the journal he had received, and Lord Richmond gave a hearty laugh when he saw the bottle of brandy Darcy had gifted him. “Great minds think alike, do they not, Darcy?”
“I had just managed to find a shipment a few days ago.” His attention returned to Miss Elizabeth, who fingered through the material that was beneath the hair comb. “You have given me fabric as well?”
Her grandmother chuckled. “He has selected well. You have always looked well in rose, and you will need a great many gowns for the Season.”
“Lady Richmond, breakfast is served.”
“Come. That tea and toast I had before church was not sufficient to last me until dinner,” said the countess.
As was his wont, he offered his arm to Miss Elizabeth, but this time, also his sister. “If you do not like the fabric—”
She startled, and her eyes widened. “No! Forgive me for being remiss in thanking you. I should have done so when I first noticed the silk.”
Georgiana gave a giggle. “Your sister says you do not enjoy fittings.”
“That is true, but that does not mean I do not enjoy wearing a pretty gown. My favourite colour is that shade of pink, so I shall enjoy the gown doubly so.”
“My brother selected the material all on his own,” said Georgiana, making his cheeks burn. “I accompanied him to the drapers and selected all the fabric but yours. Fitzwilliam found that one and had it cut before I had any say.”
Miss Elizabeth’s gaze held his. “I would say he has an excellent eye for ladies’ fashion.”
He could not help but smile at Georgiana’s giggle. She had laughed more since being in the company of the Montford ladies than she had since Wickham. They did her well indeed.
When they all sat around the table, Miss Jane placed her hand over Georgiana’s where it rested on the table. “Miss Darcy, I must thank you for comforting me in the carriage.”
“Oh! I am happy I could be of aid, though I cannot consider what I did so important.”
“But it was. It is always reassuring not to be alone. I do wish what happened to you had not occurred, but I am thankful you shared your experience with me.” Darcy’s heart swelled. His sister had ladies she could confide in and trust. Had she ever found one such friend? He had never met one.
“Thank you. I hope you will call me Georgiana. I should like all of you to do so.”
“Then you should call us by our Christian names too,” said Miss Elizabeth.
In that moment, his little sister beamed brighter than she had in so long it was all he could do not to weep at the table. How ridiculous was he to be so sentimental?
After a generous breakfast as well as tea and cakes, a chess tournament between Lord Richmond, Hatton, Elizabeth, and Mr. Darcy followed. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were the last two to play with Elizabeth the victor. Not long after they returned to the drawing room, Lady Richmond whispered to a servant who brought out a large bowl with raisins, poured brandy over the dried fruit, and set it on fire.
Miss Elizabeth grabbed Georgiana’s hand and pulled her up to the bowl. “I love snapdragon.”
“I have never played,” said the young lady. “More often than not, Christmas is just my brother and myself at Pemberley. We have a meal, of course, and play chess, and I perform on the pianoforte.” What? She had never played Snapdragon? The game was a tradition at Richmond Castle and Longbourn, thus Elizabeth played regardless of where she spent Christmastide.
“’Tis simple really,” said Amelia. “You attempt to take a raisin from the flames and eat it.”
Georgiana’s eyes grew to the size of horse chestnuts. “You put your hand in the fire?”
As she asked in a squeaky voice, Nicholas reached in, grabbed one of the raisins, and tossed it into his mouth. “See, simple, but you have to be quick about it.”
Georgiana reached in but missed the raisin on the first attempt.
“You can do it.” Elizabeth took her turn, grabbing her own, and eating it.
When Georgiana’s turn came around again, she managed to grab a raisin and eat it with a grin. The rest of the party cheered. The game lasted but a quarter hour at most before Elizabeth returned to sit on the settee near Mr. Darcy.
“I must thank you for your kindness to my sister,” he said. “I have not seen her so happy in a long time.”
She shook her head. “I have done nothing but be her friend. I consider myself fortunate to have the company of such a kind young lady. You need not thank me for something I am pleased to do. I do think after their similar experiences, Jane may become more of a confidant of sorts for her. They are both reserved, though Georgiana is a bit more open with her feelings, but their tempers suit. Jane is six years her senior, yet Charlotte and I were close for a long time, and she is seven years older.
“Richard and I hoped for her to make friends when she attended school, but she was miserable and wrote of nothing but her fervent desire to return to Pemberley. While she has known your cousin for a while, making the acquaintance of you and your sister, and being in company more with Miss Amelia will only be of benefit to her.”
Unable to hold his gaze another second, she looked back at Georgiana and Jane who conversed quietly near the fire. All day, she had attempted not to show how distracted she was by him. When they sat side by side in church, her arm prickled at his nearness and the cedar notes of his cologne flooded her senses. Her insides were a muddled mess. She had been uncommonly forward when she caught his lips with hers under the kissing bough. He did not seem offended at the time, but upon further reflection, had he considered her move too bold—too forward? She had fretted over kissing his cheek, and he had not thought ill of her. Was she being ridiculous once again?
She took in a deep breath. Her grandparents were engrossed in a chess match. While her grandmother had not taken part in their tournament earlier, she challenged her husband to a rare game, a challenge he accepted with an unusual glint in his eye. Jane and Georgiana were still occupied, and Amelia and Nicholas were arguing some such nonsense as they oft times would. She took a small silk paper-wrapped parcel from where she had tucked it into the cushion.
“I have this for you,” she said as she held out her gift. Good Lord, she was trembling from head to toe. Their eyes met as he, with careful fingers, took the package from her palm. She clenched her hands together in her lap. “’Tis not much. Just a trifling really.”
“No, I am certain it is wonderful.” A dimple appeared on one cheek, and she clenched her hands tighter if that was possible.
“You have not opened it yet.”
He untied the ribbon and opened the paper, revealing the small stack of four handkerchiefs she had embroidered since their walk in Hyde Park. She was not as accomplished with a needle as Jane, but she had managed a good “D” for Darcy and had finished the edge of the muslin so it did not fray.
“You need not use them if you do not care for them. I am not very skilled at embroidery.”
After a glance around the room, he covered her fidgeting hands with his. “They are wonderful. I shall use them every day.” He removed his handkerchief from his pocket and replaced it with one of hers. Once he had set the rest with the bottle of brandy from her grandfather, he leaned as close as propriety would allow in the situation. “You have, at times, been uneasy with me today. Have I done something to cause you distress?”
“No,” she said turning her head quickly, so their gazes met. “I confess I have worried of your reaction to what I did under the kissing bough.”
He broke into an enormous, dimpled grin that took her aback. “You need not fret as I consider that the best Christmas gift I have received thus far.” He chuckled as a vicious heat crept up her chest and to her cheeks. How was she to respond to such a bold statement?
Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you’re in that part of the world. In the tradition of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Austen Variations is having its Deck the Shelves in the Closet book sale. Don’t miss out! Titles are included from authors: Diana Birchall, Jack Caldwell, Nicole Clarkston, L. L. Diamond, Amy D’Orazio, Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Lucy Marin, Christina Morland, Anngela Schroeder, Joana Starnes, and Shannon Winslow.
Hi there! Guess what’s live on Amazon and Audible! If you’ve been anticipating this audiobook, I have too 🙂 I’m so excited for you to hear the amazing voice talents of Joanna Lee bring Ellie and her Fitzwilliam Darcy to life. I just love Joanna’s interpretation! If you can’t wait to hear it for yourself, then you can get it at Audible or Amazon. I have the links for the Audible markets: Audible US, Audible UK, Audible Fr, Audible De.
I hope you enjoyed Joanna’s narration!
Now, to celebrate, I’m giving away 3 audiobook codes! Just leave me a comment below to enter the drawing 🙂
The Peculiarity of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror is live and getting rave reviews! I couldn’t be more happy with its reception, and I’d like to thank those who read and reviewed. It’s been amazing to get such positive and glowing feedback. Thank you again!
Now, to announce the winners of the giveaway! Congratulations to
SA and TC
I’ve sent everyone an email, so please respond if you haven’t already to let me know whether you want the audiobook code when it becomes available or the Kindle!
The season in Regency England was not just balls and Almacks. The theatre in Regency times was an important place for those who spent the season in London, and those who ventured to the theatre did not attend to simply watch a play. They dressed to the nines and sat in long carriage lines to also see who was in attendance as well as to be seen. In fact, the practice was so common that when Charles Garnier planned the Paris Opera House (1861-1875), he had mirrors placed throughout the lobby because he felt the only performance of the night did not play out on the stage. The spectators were as much a part of the nightly performance as the actors.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn about Theatre in Regency England, here is your chance. I’ve compiled these totally random facts that you may or may not wish to know.
♥ In the 18th and early 19th century, a night’s programme at the theatre included a five act play, followed by a farcical afterpiece, which were often pantomimes. The later entertainment was popular since it could be enjoyed by those who arrived late and were admitted at half price. Wiltshire, John. The Cambridge Edition of Mansfield Park, Cambridge University Press (2005). Pg. 677.
♥ The male nobility who kept their alternative lives away from prying eyes made exceptions for the theater. Cyprians often came face to face with wives and other relations of their male sponsors at the theatre and the opera. Wilson, Ben. The Making of Victorian Values, Decency & Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837 . The Penguin Press (2007). Pg. 197.
♥ Actors were not much better than servants in the eyes of society, and actresses were nearly prostitutes. A gentleman or aristocrat could set up an actress as his mistress, but heaven forbid, a lady enter into a relationship with an actor! In fact, the Prince Regent’s first mistress was Mary Robinson, an actress at the Theatre Royal. She caused a big stink when he ended the affair because he didn’t pay her the annuity expected at the end of the situation. Instead, she held letters he’d written her for ransom, demanding £5,000 for their return. Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters. Hambledon Continuum (2004). Pg. 39. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/making_history/makhist10_prog2b.shtml
♥ There were hundreds of candles that lit the auditorium and the stage during the intermissions as well as the performances (The theatres couldn’t be dimmed during the performance. It was too hazardous and would have been a time-consuming job!). The theatre employed candle trimmers and snuffers to monitor and tend to the candles. If a candle was trimmed too soon the trimmer risked knocking lit candles down and starting fires, but if they were trimmed too late, the audience would complain of hot wax dripping on them from above. (Ouch!) Kelly, Ian . Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Man of Style . Free Press (2006). Pg. 167.
♥ Renting a subscription box or owning a box was a sign of your social status and fashionable position. Only the most affluent purchased boxes by the season; however, as prices rose, some patrons chose to share a box and others rented their boxes out for individual performances. Rendell, Jane. The Pursuit of Pleasure: Gender, Space and Architecture in Regency London . Rutgers University Press (2002). Pg. 116.
♥ Shakespeare’s plays were tremendously popular but the actors performed in modern dress rather than the characteristic doublet and hose of the 16th century. Tapley, Jane. Contrib to Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine. Issue: 17. Pg. 23.
♥ Famous courtesan Harriet Wilson had a box at the Opera every Tuesday and Sunday night and a box at the theatre from Thursday to Saturday. Her box was used to flaunt her “attractions” and were for the purpose of soliciting and meeting possible “protectors.” Kelly, Ian . Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Man of Style . Free Press (2006). Pg. 170.
♥ James Hadfield made an assassination attempt against George III on 15 May 1800 at the Theatre Royal. As the king was announced and God Save the King was played, Hadfield fired two pistol shots from the pit toward the King who stood in the royal box. The performers subdued Hadfield, who had reportedly missed by inches. The King appeared unfazed and requested the play continue as planned. http://www.regencyhistory.net/2013/05/double-assassination-attempt-on-george.html
♥ A spouting club was a meeting of apprentices and mechanics who rehearsed characters, and formed recruits for the strolling companies. Grose, Captain (Francis). Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811 edition. Ikon Classics (2004)
♥ Fruit sellers sold their wares throughout the performances, and some had other trades on the side. Members of the audience and people in the boxes conducted business transactions. Theater staff, personal messengers, and footmen couriered gossip, orders for carriages, money, love notes and bills of exchange between patrons for much of the evening. Kelly, Ian . Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Man of Style . Free Press (2006). Pg. 167.
♥ It was normal and accepted not only for the audience to arrive exceedingly late (sometimes as much as an hour and a half) but also for them talk throughout the entire performance. Murray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness. Penguin Books (1998). Pg. 220.
So, was Regency Theatre what you expected, better or worse? I find the more I read of it, the more surprised I am by some of the scandals.
Good morning! I’m at work formatting the paperback for The Peculiarity of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror, so I’m posting a short I wrote for Persuasion: Behind the Scenes. I will be posting the next chapter of Mr. Darcy’s Mirror on Wednesday at Austen Variations. If you have not read the first three, click the links for Chapters 1 & 2 and Chapter 3. If you have yet to preorder, what are you waiting for? Click here for that!!!
“Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs Clay, were the earliest of all their party at the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple must be waited for, they took their station by one of the fires in the Octagon Room. But hardly were they so settled, when the door opened again, and Captain Wentworth walked in alone.”
Upon his entrance to the concert hall, Captain Wentworth paused to survey his surroundings. The gallery was opulent, as was expected, and the many people in attendance were all dressed in their finest, gathered in their respective groups while they likely discussed the performance ahead.
As he began his advance further into the room, his eyes lit upon Anne, who stood with her father and her sister near the far corner. She must have noticed him when he walked through the entry since she continued to observe him as he made his way through the crowd.
Would she attempt to speak with him? If she tried, would her father allow the conversation?
His gut twisted with anxiety as he drew nearer. A small bow should suffice as an acknowledgement, should it not? If Anne wished to speak with him, she would have to approach him. He would not harm her relationship with her family—not that they were worthy of Anne. She was far superior a creature!
Captain Wentworth drew close and she took a small step forward. She was indeed approaching him! He halted when he heard her sweet voice beckon, “How do you do?” He indicated he was well, and when he was acknowledged by Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, he bowed.
Between them both, they swiftly covered all of the niceties of polite discourse: the weather, Bath, and the concert ahead. As their conversation flagged, he began to despair. Could this be all they had to say to one another? Lyme! Of course, he should mention Lyme!
“I have hardly seen you since our day at Lyme. I am afraid you must have suffered from the shock, and the more from its not overpowering you at the time.” Pleasure soared within him as they spoke of their shared experiences, progressing from Louisa Musgrove’s unfortunate accident to her betrothal to Captain Benwick.
Something within Anne’s eyes was disturbed upon the mention of the upcoming nuptials. He had witnessed many emotions cross her face, and had catalogued each within his memory, and this appeared almost a sadness. Could she believe he harboured an attachment to Louisa? Despite the resentment he had carried within his heart for all of these years, he could not allow her to be so affected by a mistaken notion.
“…A man like him, in his situation! with a heart pierced, wounded, almost broken! Fanny Harville was a very superior creature, and his attachment to her was indeed attachment. A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not.”
There! He had given a hint of his innermost thoughts and feelings, but would she understand?
The shadow lifted, but she pressed forward and lengthened their discussion. His keen ears registered the low tones of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot behind Anne, but he paid them no heed. While he maintained Anne’s attention, he would not be distracted by their inane prattle.
“I should very much like to see Lyme again,” said Anne.
How she surprised him! Would she wish to return for the sights, or because the location held memories of him? Oh, how he wished it were the latter!
“…One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering, which was by no means the case at Lyme…”
Could she feel the same in regards to her past with him? If only…
Sir Walter and Miss Elliot gave him a start when with haste, they ripped Anne from him to meet Lady Dalrymple. Captain Wentworth had not even heard her announced, yet when he turned, Sir Walter and Miss Elliot were greeting the newcomer with a condescension not often seen from the baronet and his eldest daughter.
Anne glanced back to him, but in all politeness, could not escape her present situation. Her attention returned to her party, and he ventured on to the Concert Room with the hopes he might be afforded the opportunity to speak with her again before the end of the evening.
Patiently he waited, revisiting their conversation; her words dissected and examined for any glimpse of affection for him. When she entered the Concert Room, he observed her with great care. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed. Her expression was easily discernible to him. She was happy—exceedingly happy.
Her vibrant eyes searched the room and a small wrinkle knit her brow. Could she be seeking him? If that be the case, he could die a happy man!
His heart soared and then just as swiftly plummeted when she was seated beside none other than Mr. Elliot: Mr. Elliot from Lyme, Mr. Elliot from the teashop, Mr. Elliot who would inherit her father’s title, Mr. Elliot who Sir Walter was certain to deem more worthy than a wealthy sea captain with no connexions of significance.
With envy, his gaze remained on his beloved throughout the entirety of the first act. Mr. Elliot showed Anne every attention allowable during the performance, and the two began to speak near the end of the act.
Captain Wentworth’s agony became more and more acute as Anne’s smiles and kindness were directed at Mr. Elliot rather than himself, and he seethed with jealousy as he followed them to the Octagon Room.
He sulked in the periphery, watching Anne as she took tea with her party. It was then that he heard the whispers from behind.
“I hear Sir Walter has welcomed Mr. Elliot with open arms.”
“There will soon be an Elliot wedding. I am certain of it!”
His eyes darted back to Anne as his hands clenched at his sides. He could not remain and watch as she was courted by another! Visions of her marrying Mr. Elliot flooded his mind, followed by one of her holding a child, Mr. Elliot protectively at her side.
Blast! He was too late!
Upon the Elliot’s return to the concert hall, Captain Wentworth took a seat near the back, yet he could not abide to spend the next hour in abject misery. It was not to be borne! He rose and made his way to her.
“I must wish you a good night; I must be going. I should return home as soon as can be managed.“
“Is not this song worth staying for?”
“No!” he replied impressively, “there is nothing worth my staying for;” and he departed directly.
With a set jaw and unsettled mind, his feet carried him with purpose in the direction of the Croft’s, yet he had no idea of his surroundings since he could not cease the tormenting thoughts of Anne.
When he had first laid eyes upon her in Charles Musgrove’s cottage at Uppercross, his stubborn anger had shoved aside the overwhelming urge to take her in his arms, and he had allowed it, a part of him wanting to prove that he had not pined for her during those past eight years.
Rather than ascertain if she had longed for him as he had her, he paid Louisa Musgrove attention that he would not have bestowed under normal circumstances. What a wretched mistake! Now, he would pay dearly for his bitterness of spirit—dearly indeed.
Captain Wentworth halted and looked about in order to discern his location. He took a deep breath in an attempt to steady himself and not lose his composure there on the pavement.
The time had come to relegate Anne to the past and look to the future—to live his life. He would have no choice but to endure her presence on occasion as he concluded his business in Bath, and he would do so with equanimity. Then, he would depart and leave her to her life, because he could not bear to play the part of a spectator as she wed Mr. Elliot.
With any luck, he would be far from Bath when her engagement was announced. He would never lay eyes on Anne Elliot again.