Archive for the ‘Mr Darcy’s Secret’ Category

Happily Ever After is Susannah Fullerton’s new book which celebrates Pride and Prejudice. It is a beautiful book and one I am enjoying enormously. I am very pleased and proud because one of my illustrations features in it on page 126 in a section about Mr Wickham!

Lydia, Wickham and Kitty

This is the illustration – as you can see, Lydia, Wickham and Kitty are stepping out in Meryton. No doubt they are shopping and will be perusing all the latest ribbons and muslins to be had along the way.
I was very surprised to see mentions of my two Pride and Prejudice sequels, Mr Darcy’s Secret and Lydia Bennet’s Story also included in Susannah’s book – you can imagine, I was thrilled!

Here’s a little blurb about the book:

In 2013 Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice turns 200. Again and again in polls conducted around the world, it is regularly chosen as the favourite novel of all time. Read and studied from Cheltenham to China, there are Jane Austen Societies from Boston to Buenos Aires, dedicated to sharing the delights of Jane Austen’s masterpiece.
Here is the tale of how Pride and Prejudice came to be written, its first reception in a world that didn’t take much notice of it and then its growing popularity. As well as discussing the famous characters – sex-symbol Mr Darcy, charming heroine Elizabeth Bennet, and the superb range of comic characters who make readers laugh again and again – Susannah Fullerton looks at the style of the novel – its wicked irony, its brilliant structuring, its revolutionary use of the technique known as ‘free indirect speech’.
Readers through the years have both loved the book and hated it – the reactions of writers, politicians, artists and explorers can tell us as much about the reader as they do about the book itself. Pride and Prejudice has morphed into many strange and interesting forms – screen adaptations, sequels, prequels and updates. Happily Ever After explores these, and the wilder shores of zombies, porn, dating manuals, T-shirts, tourism and therapy.

Congratulations, Susannah! 

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I have two gifts today to giveaway!
Here’s the first for those lucky enough to own a Kindle:
Free on Kindle – December 16th – Jane Austen’s Birthday!
This offer is only open for one day so to claim your free copy make sure you download it on the 16th

My second gift is a choice of any one of my books!
i.e Choose one copy of either Searching for Captain Wentworth, Mr Darcy’s Secret, Willoughby’s Return, Lydia Bennet’s Story or Effusions of Fancy!

Let me know your preference in the comment box with a contact email. As before, the winners will be announced on Monday 17th December. Thank you for joining me this week with all your lovely comments!

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I am thrilled to announce that the Jane Austen Centre in Bath are now stocking my books in their online giftshop, and they have some signed copies of Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return and Mr. Darcy’s Secret for sale.

Here’s an extract from Willoughby’s Return. Marianne Dashwood, now Mrs. Brandon, is giving a ball at Delaford Park in the hope of finding a suitable beau for her sister Margaret. Colonel Brandon’s sister Lady Lawrence and her husband Sir Edgar Lawrence have recently returned from France. Marianne thinks that their son, Colonel William Brandon’s nephew, Henry Lawrence, seems likely to make a good suitor for Margaret. However, in a strange twist of fate Mr. Willoughby who has returned to the neighbourhood also appears to be on friendly terms with this nephew, and before long Marianne is drawn into circumstances she can do nothing about. 

Marianne and Elinor

On the following Tuesday afternoon, Elinor and Marianne were sitting in the latter’s favourite room at Delaford, a small parlour with windows that looked toward the orchard and the mellow brick garden walls that enclosed it. The apple trees, heavy with fruit, gleamed crimson in the October sunshine, and the twisted mulberry tree, in one corner, associated forever in Marianne’s mind with those star-crossed lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, was abundant with swelling purple berries.
The ladies were sat over tea and the conversation had taken a turn to the subject of Mr Willoughby, and all that had recently passed at Barton and Whitwell. Elinor was shocked to hear that he and his wife were in Exeter, but when Mrs Brandon confided that he was on terms of intimacy with Henry Lawrence also and that she had unwittingly invited him to the Delaford Ball, her sister was, for a moment, quite incapable of speech.
“I was coerced into inviting the Willoughbys to help Henry. I believe Mr Willoughby means to sell Allenham Court from what Sir Edgar hinted,” Marianne explained, “though Mrs Jennings’s intelligence is that Mrs Willoughby is ready to move in as soon as the alterations are done. Mama has written to me this morning, saying that poor Mrs Smith has only been buried these three days, but that there are already workmen inside the house, reports of furniture piled high outside and bonfire smoke over the village, like a funeral pyre!”
“My goodness me,” Elinor replied, her eyes round with astonishment, “they have not wasted any time. But surely Mr Willoughby has no need to sell Allenham? His wife is very rich, is she not?”
“Who can say? Sir Edgar did not specify Allenham, now I come to think on it,” Marianne continued. “Perhaps he wishes to sell Combe Magna.” She had not thought of it before, but she realised she could not bear the thought of John Willoughby living so closely to Barton. Was he really so insensitive? Had he been able to forget all that had happened between them, so much so that he did not care whether or not he lived on her mother’s doorstep?
“Surely he will not come to live so close to Barton,” said Elinor, as her thoughts mirrored Marianne’s own. “Whatever has dear William had to say on the matter?”
“It was so difficult to converse at first that we did not discuss what had gone on at Whitwell until yesterday,” Marianne sighed, shaking her head in remembrance. “William’s demeanour, so grave and aloof, frightened me, Elinor. I have never seen him in such an ill humour. Finally, it could be avoided no longer. I asked him if his sister knew anything of Mr Willoughby’s history, but of course he replied that Hannah and Edgar had been in France on their way to Italy when the first knowledge of Miss Williams’s predicament had arisen. Of course Brandon does not refer to myself in connection with Mr Willoughby, it is never discussed nor mentioned. It is as though the whole affair never happened.”
“Well, that is understandable,” Elinor said softly. “What does he intend to do now? Will he warn the Lawrences of Mr Willoughby’s character?”
“He says he cannot. William insists that this whole matter must be hushed up. He reasons that five years have passed since the unfortunate affair and that, as nothing further has been heard against the character of Mr Willoughby, that he is not in any position to besmirch it. William is too much the gentleman to behave in any other way, and besides, if he can be of use to Henry, he will do all he can.”
They were both lost in their own thoughts for a moment and then Marianne spoke again. “I believe Hannah to have been at school at the time when William and his first love attempted an elopement. Lady Lawrence is ignorant of that lady’s complete history after her abandonment, even if she does know of the existence of William’s ward. But William did not see that there was anything to be gained by his sister having any knowledge of Eliza Williams’s seduction by Mr Willoughby or the subsequent birth of the child. Of course Hannah and her husband were on the continent for many years at that time.”
“But surely William must think of his nephew Henry, and what if you are thrown together in circumstances not of your own making? What then?”
“William believes that when Willoughby realises the connection, which is probably done already, he is certain he will not show his face. His dealings with my nephew and his father are of a business nature, we will not have to meet socially.”
“I do not share your confidence, Marianne,” Elinor went on, “I think he will brazen out any meeting; he has already shown he is capable of such. And is William sure that Henry Lawrence can trust Willoughby in his business matters? I do not think he is to be relied upon.”
“We can hardly be his judge,” snapped Marianne, “we have had no dealings with him for the past four years. He is older and possibly wiser. Mr Willoughby is a man of consequence and respectably married. No one’s character is fixed for life, Elinor, perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Elinor did not know what to say. She was disturbed by the fact that Marianne was prepared to defend him in such a voluble manner. “Have you given some thought as to whether he is likely to accept your invitation?”
“Mr Willoughby will never show his face at Delaford Park, of that circumstance I am as certain as of the sun rising in the morning,” pronounced Marianne with feeling.
Elinor remained unconvinced. She had an awful feeling of foreboding, which no amount of reasoning could do away.

It was arranged that Marianne would drive over to Barton on Wednesday, two days prior to the ball, in order to collect her mother and sister. Margaret, who was in high spirits, had expressed her excitement about their invitation in a letter that had arrived on the very morning Marianne was to head into Devonshire. This news did not come as a surprise, but the remaining content of the letter disconcerted Marianne to a greater extent.

Barton Cottage,
October 7th
Dearest Marianne,
I can hardly believe that the day of the ball is almost upon us. I look forward to seeing my friends at Delaford. The prospect is too exciting! My gown arrived yesterday morning. Marianne, you will not believe how beautiful it looks, it has surpassed all my expectations. It fits me quite perfectly and Mrs Jennings has sent some silver ribbon and silk flowers for my hair that she bought in London and has been saving for such an occasion as this. Wasn’t that kind?
You will never guess whom I bumped into in Barton village yesterday when I went to collect the post. John Willoughby himself! He was very gentleman-like and kind, not in the least brusque as he was when we saw him in Exeter. He asked me how I did and enquired after Mother. He said he was sorry he had not been able to converse more when he saw us in Exeter but that the surprise of seeing us had taken away his power of speech. He especially asked to be remembered to you. I did not know that Mr Willoughby was acquainted with Henry Lawrence, and it was a great surprise when he said that he was very pleased to have been invited to the Delaford Ball. Can this be true? Has Colonel Brandon forgiven Mr Willoughby? I must admit that I was very surprised to hear about his invitation, but it did seem as if he was very keen to attend. I have not mentioned this to my mother or to Mrs Jennings as it seemed so very strange to me that you have not written of this in any communication regarding the ball. I thought I should mention it, however, but in any case I shall see you before you have time to pen a reply.
Believe me to be,
Your loving sister,
Margaret Dashwood

Marianne folded the letter carefully. “I will not think about its contents now,” she thought, placing it inside her reticule, “I must concentrate on getting ready to make the trip to Barton. William must not know about this, it will not make any difference whether he knows of Margaret’s meeting with Willoughby or not. Neither will it be a good idea to have him worried about the matter before I set off and, with this news, he might even prevent me from going. No, some things are better left unsaid.”
She pulled on her bonnet and fastened her cloak about her shoulders, busying herself with the final preparations and instructions to the coachman. But despite all this activity, she could not eradicate certain parts of Margaret’s letter from her mind. “So Willoughby was sorry he had not been able to converse more when we saw one another in Exeter and he had asked especially to be remembered to me. I cannot help but smile at the thought that his manner was not quite as it had appeared.” She took her seat in the carriage and gave the signal to move off. The journey to Barton seemed to take an age. The settled weather of the last week had given way to rain and wind, the roads were muddy and the lanes become as dirt tracks. The coachman and his boy had to step down twice to push the carriage out of the mire and had made a wrong turning before they reached Honiton. Marianne felt unsettled by Margaret’s letter and though she could not believe that Willoughby had any intention of coming to Delaford to attend the ball, a part of her imagined that he might, after all, brazen it out. “But will he really wish to embarrass his wife? Surely Mrs Willoughby will refuse to attend when she understands the connection. It is not worth worrying about. I cannot think of such an unlikely event as the Willoughbys attending a ball at Delaford Park.”
Mood Board for Willoughby’s Return

They had just passed the turning for Stoke Canon and were within a half-mile of Allenham when
 Marianne first saw the pall of dark mist, rising in undulating columns. Even in the rain, the plumes of 
black smoke could be seen rising up above the grey clouds where torrents of water poured from the 
heavens. Seized by a sense of longing, Marianne experienced a feeling of great curiosity that was
impossible to override: consumed by questions that would not go away. She must and would take a look
 at the house. Urging the coachman to take the turn, the carriage set off down the lane, flanked on either
side by tall, dripping hedgerows, whose overhanging branches clawed and scratched the glass windows.
 She felt no alarm; after all, she had been down this bridleway a hundred times before. Trees, contorted
into the grotesque by the gales, twisted and entangled their boughs to form a dim tunnel over their 
heads. They made slow progress through the mud, which splashed the carriage up to the windows and
the horses to the tops of their tails. At last the track widened to reveal a pair of ornate gates opened to the
road like inviting arms, to swallow the coach as it rumbled to a standstill several yards from the house,
the ancient manor which even now had the power to arrest Marianne’s heart. There, to one side by the
outbuildings, were a series of huge bonfires, as had been reported, piled high with all manner of items.
Several trees worth of wooden planking, panelling, painted doors, and redundant furniture, blistering in
 the heat, were being consumed by the fire, licked to the bare bones by the rapacious flames. Beyond the
haze and smoke the house itself looked shut up, the shuttered windows like unseeing eyes, closed and
drawn. Only the main doors were ajar but there was no sign of life. Marianne felt it was the saddest
 scene she had ever contemplated: the violation of a home with her precious memories buried at its heart.
She did not think she could stay longer to witness such destruction. Banging on the roof to alert the
coachman, the wheels turned her carriage towards the gates once more before she looked back, as if in
final salute. A shutter moved. Someone looked down from an upstairs window. The unmistakable
silhouette of a gentleman threw back the remaining screen. Their eyes met and connected with lingering
recognition. Then he was gone. Marianne started; kneeling up on her seat to look out through the
window behind her, straining to see what she imagined might only have been in her head. She heard the
 coachman’s cry; he cracked his whip in frustration as they slowly rounded the last bend. The house
grew small. And then he appeared, running hard, his greatcoat flapping behind him, as though he
wished to catch her up. Should she stop the coach? She did not know what to do and was on the point

 of calling out when she saw that he had stopped to close the gates. John Willoughby stood, motionless, 
like a ghost. Marianne watched until he was out of sight, a lone figure staring after her.

Mrs Dashwood and Margaret were ready to travel immediately. They had enough boxes and trunks piled up in the hall as if they were going for half a year instead of a few weeks. Marianne felt weary after her journey and was pleased to rest in front of a cheerful fire in the sitting room and glad, despite the eagerness of the other women, that they would not be travelling until the morrow. She was also grateful that on this occasion there was no mention of going up to the Park to see the Middletons and Mrs Jennings. She would be seeing them quite soon enough, she felt, for they were to come for a visit to Delaford, arriving on the eve of the ball and stopping a fortnight. Still, it could not be helped, and she hoped that it would all be to Margaret’s benefit.
Marianne had not expected to relate anything of the goings-on at Allenham Court or for the subject to be raised at all, so she was greatly surprised when Mrs Dashwood brought up the topic; not only of the poor deceased Mrs Smith but of Mr Willoughby himself.
“I wrote to you about Mrs Smith, did I not, Marianne?” Mrs Dashwood fussed about with the cushions on a chair, patting and plumping them and setting them straight.
Marianne noted that her mother did not look at her directly as she spoke. She waited to hear more.
“We had a visitor early this morning,” Mrs Dashwood said, pausing to take up her needlework to stitch furiously along a seam. Marianne could not help notice her mother’s agitation, or the colouring about her throat.
“Mr Willoughby came here,” said Margaret.
Still Marianne remained silent.
“I was determined to snub him for your sake, Marianne,” Mrs Dashwood continued, “but I think when I tell you all, you will see that it was quite impossible for me to be so unkind.”
“He was very charming,” Margaret added with enthusiasm. “Please don’t be cross, Marianne. He came to make amends.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, we were sitting after breakfast as we always do,” interrupted Mrs Dashwood, “and Tom came in to say Mr Willoughby had called. He said he was most anxious to see me. I could not refuse to see him but I was prepared to give him a piece of my mind. Well, he came in, looking quite as handsome as ever, in a dark brown coat to mirror those dark eyes to perfection and I was a lost cause from the moment he entered the room. Oh, Marianne, forgive me, but the years melted away and though I can never forgive him for his conduct toward you, please let me say this. He has suffered, truly suffered for his crimes. I believe he has regretted you since the day he severed the connection.”
“Did he say as much?” Marianne asked, rather astonished that such an intimacy had been established on so soon a reacquaintance.
“Not in so many words,” admitted her mother. “At least that was the impression he gave most earnestly. What did he say, Margaret?”
Marianne sighed. Her mother was always easily charmed and no doubt Mr Willoughby had eased his way back into her good books with little effort. Smiles and compliments had been his most likely method, thought she.
“He said that now he was coming back to the neighbourhood, he was sure that we would meet from time to time and he was most concerned that his past behaviour to our family might rightly prejudice us against him. He wanted to ask our forgiveness and apologise most profusely for what had happened. He said he knew there was probably little hope that we would ever accept him back as the friend he had once been, but that his dearest wish was to be able to meet with cordiality. However, he would be content if he could at least greet us in the street as we passed by. I think that was about the drift of it, wasn’t it, Mama?”
Mrs Dashwood nodded and her eyes appealed to Marianne for Willoughby’s forgiveness.
“He asked after you and wanted to know if you were happy,” Margaret added.
“I told him you were very happy, Marianne,” said Mrs Dashwood. “Indeed, because you are so settled and everything has turned out so much better for you, I did not think you would mind if he called on us occasionally. I did not have the heart to be cruel to the man. He seemed so genuinely to regret losing our friendship. I suggested he might call again and perhaps bring Mrs Willoughby.”
“Mother! How could you do such a thing,” Marianne shouted. “I cannot believe you could be so thoughtless. Have you forgotten William in all of this and the other business of Brandon’s ward?” Marianne could not bring herself to say Eliza’s name out loud. “You know how William detests Willoughby. He would have killed him when they met to duel if he had been able. Have you forgotten Eliza Williams and her child?”
“Mr Willoughby is keen to make amends to his natural child. He told me as much.”
“And William will never allow it,” Marianne cried, standing up and pacing to the window. “It is as well that we are going to Delaford in the morning.” She stared out at the landscape, the rolling hills and green valleys undulating before them. “Oh, goodness,” she started, “whatever will I do if he presents himself at the ball?”

I hope you enjoyed it!

Laurel Ann of Austenprose recently reviewed Willoughby’s Return as did Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine , Vic from Jane Austen Today and here’s a few more!

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When I was writing Mr. Darcy’s Secret I was lucky enough to take a trip to Derbyshire for inspiration and research. In my book Elizabeth Bennet’s aunt, Mrs. Gardiner, has a friend, Mrs. Butler, who lives in Lambton. We know, of course, that Mrs. Gardiner lived in Lambton herself once upon a time so I assumed she would have made friends there.
I stayed in the village of Beeley on the Chatsworth estate and it was here that I was very taken with the house below which I thought would be a good starting point for Mrs. Butler’s house. Although not quite exactly as the house I’d imagined in my head, it certainly ran on similar lines. I’d imagined a stone house with mullioned windows – perhaps a little more set back from the road, a little larger in size, and with a grander front door, but I was very pleased with this one nevertheless.

The interior of Mrs. Butler’s house was inspired by a house that I knew as a child. The room belonged to a friend of my mother’s and I can still remember it very clearly now. I think the memory has stayed with me partly because I wrote about it in a story when I was about seven years old, and also because my Mum’s friend was a lady who encouraged me to pick things up and play with them. I remember a beautiful music box – I’d never seen anything like it, and I was allowed to turn the key and play it to my heart’s content. There always seemed to be a fire roaring in the grate, interesting objects on the shelves and windowsills, and the added delight of a dog who allowed me to pet and stroke him. Again, the room in my head is a little different to the one I knew, but there are elements that are the same.

I’ve included the extract from Mr. Darcy’s Secret which describes Elizabeth and Georgiana Darcy calling on Mrs. Butler with Mrs. Gardiner. I hope you enjoy it!

Georgiana was delighted to join the party that set out next morning after breakfast, driving along in the carriage away from Pemberley taking the road to Lambton. The three women travelled alone with the coachman and his boy, leaving Mr Darcy and Mr Gardiner to their shooting and all the little Gardiners to their lessons with their governess.
“Thank you so very much for inviting me, Mrs Gardiner,” said Georgiana. “I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I am not really acquainted with anyone in the village, though I’ve always longed to have more friends in the area. But having been in London for such a long time meant I did not have the opportunity to meet with many people round about, apart from the families that called when I was here in the summer.”
“There is no reason why you should be acquainted with anyone in Lambton, Miss Darcy,” replied Mrs Gardiner. “I know the circles you have moved in all your life are very different to those of my own and I am sure there was never the chance to enjoy a very wide society.”
Georgiana looked thoughtful. “I do remember my brother telling me that my mother was very conscientious in her duties and often called in the village especially on the needy and sick. It is a practice I would like to rejuvenate; I know my mother was very well regarded in Lambton. What do you think, Elizabeth? Would you like to revive the habit?”

“We shall go together if you should like it,” agreed Elizabeth warmly. “I know Mr Darcy has always tried to help the poorer families where he can, and I think we could certainly find other worthwhile occupation and enterprises to which we may give a helping hand, especially if it can be done without giving offence. The people here are very proud, hard-working, and for the most part self-sufficient, but we can do much to improve their general happiness and condition, I am certain.”
“If any two people can undertake such work with sensibility and discernment, I am sure you both can,” said Mrs Gardiner. “There is always someone or something that needs attention in a place like this, where those who do fall on hard times often find it difficult to ask for largesse.”
The carriage turned into the High Street and Elizabeth could not help noticing the excitement their arrival was causing amongst the inhabitants going about their business. Being Mrs Darcy was going to take some getting used to, she decided, as she witnessed passers by nudging one another, curtseying or bowing and doffing caps, as they travelled the length of the thoroughfare to a good-sized stone house with gables set back from the road.
“Here we are, I am so looking forward to seeing my friend, though I have to tell you, it shall be a visit tinged with sadness,” declared Mrs Gardiner. “Dear Mrs Butler’s lovely husband passed away last year. He was a naval captain until his health took a turn for the worse and an upstanding member of the community, always willing to help those less fortunate than himself. He succumbed to consumption after a long illness and poor Martha is left quite alone. Her only surviving son has gone to seek his fortune in London and is doing well, I believe, and although he has tried to persuade his mother to join him there, she would never consider leaving Derbyshire or the home she shared with John.”

“I can easily understand that,” said Lizzy peering out at the house before them. “To leave a house full of memories shared with the one you love would not be easy, even if you were going to make a new home with those you adore. Her son must be a generous, affectionate young man to take such care of his mother.”
“I have not seen him for some time, but I do remember that he was the very image of his father and with the same gentle ways. I know he would have tried very hard to persuade his mother to join him.”
The coachman was at the door in a moment and the ladies stepped down to make their way along the flagged path leading up to the house with its central door set between mullioned windows. They were soon shown into a comfortable yet old-fashioned parlour furnished in country style. On one side of the gleaming mahogany fireplace was an oak dresser displaying a wealth of pewter, illuminated by the bright flames of the fire in the grate, and in the opposite corner, a grandfather clock with a painted face of flowers and cupids stood ticking the hours away. Placed before the hearth an ancient settee draped in chintz and a sturdy settle adorned with blue check cushions were arranged to make the best use of the heat of the coals.

Georgiana looked around her with wonder. Such a cosy room and stuffed with objects of varying interest, though not necessarily of great worth. It had the feeling of what she imagined it would be like to enter a ship, with its low, beamed ceiling and dark, panelled walls. Every surface displayed some treasure, from exotic shells, oyster pink and glossy with a finish of pearl, to spiky sea urchins and stiff, bony sea horses. A mahogany box brimming with bright fishing flies lay open on the shelf before the window, in between a Chinese bowl decorated with peonies in vivid blue and the skeletal remains of what appeared to be a large and rather sinister looking fish.

Martha Butler bade them sit down after the introductions and immediately addressed the Darcy women, telling them what an honour it was to receive them. “And to see you again, Mrs Gardiner, after all these years and under such splendid circumstances. I cannot think of anything that would have pleased you better than to see your niece as mistress of Pemberley. Lambton was always so dear to your heart and now you have an excellent excuse to visit us both very often, I hope.”
“I am very lucky to have been invited to stay so soon and I hope to visit you often, my dear friend,” Mrs Gardiner replied.
Mrs Butler glanced at Georgiana who despite herself could not help look with fascination at everything around the room. “It’s a very queer room, is it not, Miss Darcy?”
“Oh, Mrs Butler, on the contrary, it is a lovely room, but you must think me so rude for staring.”
“Not at all, my dear, and if there is anything takes your fancy for a closer scrutiny, I hope you will have a look. See these old panels on the walls? My late husband rescued them from a ship he served in that was broken up for scrap. I never felt so far away from him when he was at sea, so long as I could see these lovely pieces of timber worked on and polished by his own hand to fit into my parlour.”
“Mr Butler was a skilled carpenter as well as being an admirable sea captain,” joined in Mrs Gardiner. “I remember he made you a sewing box on your marriage, a most beautiful object to my mind.”
“I have it still, though it is locked in the cupboard this morning. I’ll fetch it out in a minute, Miss Darcy, and you can see what my husband had to keep himself occupied on during those long days on board ship when he was a mere midshipman.”
At that moment the party heard the sound of the front door shutting and a man’s voice booming with cheerful resonance to the maid in the hall.
“Oh, my goodness me, I quite forgot to tell you in all my excitement in seeing you again,” Mrs Butler declared, her face lighting up with pleasure. “Master Thomas is home for a holiday. He has just finished on a scheme of work at Lord Featherstone’s house in Richmond, but I expect he will tell you all about it himself.”
Just as she spoke, the door of the parlour opened to admit a tall young man with an air of affable good nature and with such pleasing looks that Georgiana, who had started to become quite at ease, felt quite unequal to meet the eyes of those which alighted so eagerly upon her countenance.

© Jane Odiwe Mr. Darcy’s Secret 2011

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Here in England, we are enjoying (I’m not sure that is quite the word I want) a spell of miserable weather, grey skies, and rainy days. It’s actually feeling rather cold today, and so for no other reason other than trying to bring a little cheer on a gloomy day, I thought I’d post an extract from Mr. Darcy’s Secret, which I hope you’ll enjoy! Here is chapter one of my latest published novel. I’m also offering a copy of Mr. Darcy’s Secretall you have to do is either leave a comment below, or send one to me here telling me what you’d like to read about next in an Austen-inspired novel! I’ll put the names in a hat and the winner’s name will be drawn next Monday, 25th July, 2011.

With little exception, the anticipation of a long-awaited and desirous event will always give as much if not more pleasure than the diversion itself. Moreover, it is a certain truth that however gratifying such an occasion may prove to be, it will not necessarily unite prospect and satisfaction in equal accord.
Mrs Bennet’s musings on the affairs of the day at Longbourn church were similarly divided. The ostrich feathers on her satin wedding hat quivered tremulously as she surveyed her surroundings with a self-satisfied air. Evening sunlight streamed through the long windows of the sitting room gilding her hair and silk pelisse, simultaneously burnishing the top of Mr Bennet’s polished pate with a halo of amber softness.
“Hardly has a day passed during the last twenty-three years when I have not thought about my daughters’ nuptials with the certain foreknowledge that my beautiful Jane and clever Lizzy would do their duty to their parents, their sisters, and themselves,” said Mrs Bennet to her husband on the day that her eldest daughters were married.
“Yes, my dear,” Mr Bennet replied with a wry smile, “even when you professed your resolution that they should both die old maids not two months ago, I am sure you knew better in your heart.”
“Such weddings as Longbourn and, indeed, the whole county have never seen before,” exclaimed Mrs Bennet fingering the new lace about her shoulders with an air of appreciation whilst ignoring her husband’s bemused comments. “Not that there were some matters that would have pleased me better had I been allowed to have a hand in the arrangements myself. I should have liked to host a party if I had been permitted, but Elizabeth did not think it fitting. I am sure our neighbours would greatly have appreciated the celebration, but who am I to be considered? I am only the mother of the brides married to two of the richest men in the kingdom! It is not as if it was a question of money. I am sure dear Darcy would have liked it if not for Elizabeth’s opposition. Still, it was something to see the condescension of our neighbours; I daresay Lady Lucas will not feel herself so superior now. But truly, nothing will vex me today; all has surpassed my greatest expectations.”
“I am glad to hear it, my dear, because without a doubt, if such long anticipation had been disappointed in some way, I am not entirely sure I could have borne the next twenty-three years with the same equanimity.”
“Who would have thought it, Mr Bennet,” said his lady talking over the top of him, “that I should live to see two of my daughters so exceptionally advantaged in married life?”
“Quite so, my dear,” replied he, “though I must add that however well placed I believed my daughters might find themselves, I had always planned on exceeding my own five and forty years to witness their felicity. Indeed, possessing the knowledge that your own long surviving line of aged relatives are still thriving as I speak, I must confess that I am a little astonished to think you had supposed to be dead before our daughters attained the matrimonial state.”
“Oh, Mr Bennet, you speak such nonsense. But you will not tease me out of my present happy disposition. And, I must say, I received some comfort from the fact that Miss Bingley and her sister Mrs Hurst were forced by a rightful sense of obligation and due civility to treat our family in the correct manner today. Oh, yes, Mr Bennet, I cannot tell you how much it gratified me to see the smug, self-satisfied expressions they generally display upon their ill-favoured countenances, quite wiped away. I thought Miss Bingley looked likely to choke when I turned to see Elizabeth and Jane walking down the aisle by your side.”
“I did not observe any greater condescension towards our family than that which they usually bestow, Mrs Bennet,” replied her spouse, “though I must admit I did not really pay them any great attention. My own thoughts and looks were only concerned with our dear girls.”
“What a double blow it must have been for Miss Bingley. I expect all the while she was hoping that Mr Darcy might break his promise to Elizabeth and leave her at the altar. And I am sure, whatever she might have said on welcoming Jane to the Bingley family, that the sincerity of her wishes was entirely false. Well, I cannot help feeling our advantage over those Bingley women. And Mr Darcy was as charming and obliging as ever. I think him quite superior to dear Mr Bingley in many ways, even if I hadn’t always liked him.”
“I’m sure Mr Darcy would be delighted to hear it.”
“I daresay he would, for he certainly needed to earn my good opinion after the way he strutted about Hertfordshire with his proud ways. However, I’m not entirely convinced by Lizzy’s partiality, whatever she might protest on his having been misunderstood and winning her round. A man ought to have a tongue in his head, indeed, especially a man of such consequence.”
“I should hate to hear you on the subject of despising a man if this is your approbation, Mrs Bennet. And I loathe to be contradicting you, once more, but I cannot agree with you. I believe Lizzy to be very much in love with Mr Darcy, as much in love, as dear Jane is with her Mr Bingley.”
“Well, I certainly think I might fancy myself in love if I knew I was married to the owner of Pemberley with a house in town and ten thousand a year, at least!”
“I am sure such good fortune helps love along. No doubt, my own prospects animated the feelings you had whilst we were courting.”
Mrs Bennet looked at her husband in exasperation. “Oh, Mr Bennet, it was nothing like the matter. There is no comparison. The wealth of Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley is a hundred times your consequence, as well you know. La! With Jane and Lizzy so well married; ’tis enough to make me distracted!”
“I am pleased to discover our poverty is in no way dispiriting to your outlook, my dear. But I cannot join you in your exertions. I find myself feeling most melancholy. I am delighted that I need not worry that our daughters will suffer any lack of wealth or hardship; but despite the satisfaction these assurances bring, I cannot help but add that I shall miss them very much.”
At this point Mrs Bennet burst into tears. “With my dearest Lydia so lately married and now Jane and Lizzy having left home, I shall have little to do, especially now Mary and Kitty will be gone to their sisters by the bye. I do not know what shall become of me; indeed, I do not. I shall be quite alone in this house with only my memories coupled with the dreadful understanding that William and Charlotte Collins are counting the days to your demise. What misfortune to have our estate entailed away for that odious pair to inherit. It is all Lady Lucas ever talks to me about these days: of her daughter’s delight at the prospect of being able to return one day into Hertfordshire.”
“Come, come now,” insisted Mr Bennet passing over a pocket handkerchief and rising from his seat with the intention of leaving the room. “I see no reason for tears. I am sure one or all of your daughters will accommodate you when that unhappy day befalls you and, until then, I flatter myself that you will have the comfort of knowing that you are not entirely alone. I am here, or at least I will be when I am not away.”
“Away! Do you intend to leave me, sir? Where are you going, Mr Bennet?”
“To Pemberley, of course,” came his emphatic reply.
“To Pemberley and you never said a word of it. But do you intend to go alone and without an invitation?”
Mr Bennet stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose if you should wish to accompany me, then you may enjoy your share of the invitation.”
“An invitation! Has Lizzy invited us to Pemberley so soon?” asked Mrs Bennet, scarcely able to keep the astonishment out of her voice.
“No, Mr Darcy himself, no less,” came the triumphant answer, “has not only issued the invitation, but also expects us for Christmas!”
Elizabeth Darcy looked out of the carriage window, her spirits in high flutter as they crossed the ancient stone bridge on the road into Lambton village. Nestled at the foot of a hill, on the western side of the river, a number of stone cottages, a church, and a few handsome buildings formed the landscape. Her eyes were drawn to the rich and romantic scenery of the place, enhanced in beauty by the noble appearance of wood-clad hills, wreathed in mist on this damp, November morning. She could not help but remember her first journey to Lambton, accompanied by her uncle and aunt Gardiner on their northern tour. How different had her feelings been in August when the trees had been lush with greenery, the sunshine dazzling her eyes and burnishing her skin to tones of golden brown. Elizabeth recalled her feelings of dread at the thought of being in near vicinity to that of Mr Darcy and how she had feared visiting Pemberley, the house that was now to be her home. She laughed out loud.
“Are you happy, dearest Elizabeth?” Mr Darcy enquired, taking her hand between both of his and raising it to his lips to kiss her fingertips tenderly.
“I am indeed, though happiness was not the emotion at the forefront of my mind just now. I was engaged on other, quite dreadful recollections, I must admit.”
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s brows knitted together in consternation. He studied Elizabeth’s countenance noting her expression which had suddenly changed to display a look so serious and grave that he could hardly bear to witness it. “I shall never forgive myself for the things I said to you in the past nor for the way in which I behaved. I only trust that in time I shall make sufficient amendment. My wish is to make you feel as I do, to have you love me as I love you. Please, Elizabeth, do not dwell on such bleak remembrances.”
Mrs Darcy turned her face toward him and, being unable to look anything other than completely amused, caused her husband to look searchingly into the dark, fine eyes, which he so admired. “You have clearly forgotten some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” Elizabeth paused, her curls trembling as she suppressed the mirth bubbling inside. “I am teasing you, Fitzwilliam. I am perfectly happy to dwell on the memories of my first trip into Derbyshire, even if my initial feelings were concerned with mortification and distress. When I first set eyes on Lambton village, I could not help but think of you, and knowing that your estate was but five miles from here, with the possibility of you being in residence, was enough to overturn all my feelings.”
“Am I to deduce from this statement that you felt an inclination toward me that was beyond your own will? You always gave the impression of total disinterest, a self-sufficiency and aloofness. This description of your feelings gives quite a different picture. I think if you really had been so indifferent to me as I believed you were then, no such agitation could have been experienced. No one suffers anxiety when they are truly detached from feeling. I suspect that this distress you speak of was the deep acknowledgement that you were falling in love with me, regardless of your resolution to despise me forever.”
Elizabeth laughed again, her dark ringlets trembling prettily as she shook her head. “Oh, you insufferable, darling man. I hate to admit it, but I think there may be some element of truth in what you say, although I would certainly have denied it at the time. I felt most uncomfortable at the thought of looking around Pemberley, and yet, I was most curious to see the house where I could have been mistress, had I not turned down your wretched proposal.”
“Oh, do not remind me of that dreaded conversation at Hunsford.”
“No, I shall not be so cruel. Instead I shall remind you your second proposal was infinitely more acceptable to me, so much so, that I am sitting here, next to the man who has made me the happiest woman alive.”
“Have I made you happy, Elizabeth? I know we are just at the beginning of our life together and two days spent in exclusive company is hardly enough time for you to know whether or not you were right in your decision to accept me a second time. But, I hope you do not regret the outcome. I only want your happiness.”
“Mrs Reynolds is a very wise woman, I have come to believe.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Your housekeeper was the person who made me think again about my prejudice against you. Her description of you as the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted boy in the world could not be without foundation. She, who had known you since you were a child, had to know something of your true character. I suppose it was from that day my idea of you really changed. And what is more, I believe she was correct. I know now just how sweet-tempered you really can be.”
Mr Darcy smiled and looked into her eyes at that moment with such evident longing that she felt her cheeks blush. The pressure of his fingers upon her own increased and though she reciprocated with a returning squeeze, it was too much to sustain his gaze. She must keep something in reserve, Lizzy felt, or her husband’s vanity, so recently curbed and tamed, might stir again like a beast unleashed. In any case, it would be far more fun to keep him wondering quite how far her admiration for him extended. She turned once more to seek the view through the window, simultaneously extracting her hand from his firm grasp and fussing about with her gloves and the fur tippet around her shoulders. “I thought we were to travel straight to Pemberley,” she said as the carriage started to enter the village.
“I have a small commission to fulfil first; we shall not be long,” answered Mr Darcy.
As they turned the corner into the main street the sight that met her eyes was enough to make Elizabeth cry out in surprise; for lining both sides of the road, three people deep, was the entire population of Lambton. At the sight of the carriage up went a roar and a cheer, caps and hats were thrown into the air and everyone burst into applause. Faces, young and old, peered into the carriage as it trundled past. Voices sang out from every side with wishes of joy.
“God bless you, sir, and God bless you, my lady. Welcome to Lambton!”
So unexpected was the tribute being paid to them that Elizabeth was moved to the point where she could not immediately find her tongue. “Oh, Fitzwilliam,” she uttered at last. “Is this wonderful reception for us?”
“For you, my love. I might inspire a certain affectionate respect in my tenants, but I have never seen them turn out like this before.” He took her hand again. “Welcome to Lambton, Mrs Darcy. Come, we are expected.”
The carriage stopped in front of the smithy. Mr Darcy alighted first, before helping his bride down the steps to yet more cheers and greetings. Elizabeth was quite overawed, but managed to return the smiles of the happy faces around her. A crowd was gathering about them and around by the open doors of the forge as if in anticipation. Just in front was placed a gleaming anvil polished for the occasion with the ruddy-faced blacksmith in attendance, his large muscular arms folded across his chest. A well-dressed gentleman in clerical black stepped forward and was introduced to Elizabeth by Mr Darcy. A handsome young man, Mr Lloyd, the rector of Lambton church, cut a dashing figure—quite unlike any other clergyman Elizabeth thought she had ever met. He welcomed her to the village with a very pretty speech before explaining what was to happen next.
“We have a custom in these parts, Mrs Darcy, that when a new bride arrives at Pemberley House we celebrate this auspicious event by firing the anvil. If you will step this way, Mr and Mrs Darcy, I hope you shall enjoy what is to follow.”
The blacksmith took charge, filling the central hole in the anvil with a small amount of black gunpowder, to which he added the end of a long piece of cord. The audience, which had swelled in number, now including the newlyweds, took up position at a safe distance, and as the blacksmith produced a flaming rushlight, a hushed silence fell on them all.
“Mrs Darcy, you might wish to cover your ears,” pronounced Mr Lloyd, as the blacksmith set the end of the fuse alight. All but the bravest held their hands over their ears and waited, breathless, as the flame crept along the cord. As it reached the top of the anvil there was an audible intake of breath; then, the flame slowed and looked as if it might go out, before it finally gathered pace to surprise them all with the biggest bang Elizabeth had ever heard. Shrieks, laughter, and exclamations of relief resulted as a consequence and the rector announced Mr and Mrs Darcy officially married. Lizzy and her husband offered their thanks, then moved amongst the crowd shaking hands with all their well-wishers, who, without exception, greeted them with great affability.
“’Tis not only Pemberley weddings that are celebrated in this way, Mrs Darcy,” said an elderly lady with a soft Derbyshire burr, who curtsied deferentially before Elizabeth, “but birthdays and christenings too. The heirs of Pemberley receive not only a wetting in the font, but a firing from the forge, and every birthday is remembered. God bless you, my dear. I hope we will not have to wait long before we have reason to celebrate at the smithy once more.”
As she moved along Elizabeth blushed as she thought about the old lady’s sentiments. The thought of a child, an heir to Pemberley, was not one she had ever considered before. Yet, she knew that to provide children and an heir was one of the duties that would be expected of the new mistress of Pemberley. Still, she had been quite taken aback by such forthrightness. However, though Lizzy felt the impertinence of the woman’s words, she realised that they had been spoken in true kindness. Touched by the welcome from the people, Elizabeth thought how lucky she was to have met and fallen in love with the man who inspired such affection. She turned to seek him out, realising that she had momentarily lost him in the crowd that gathered around them. However, she soon had him in her sights. Mr Darcy’s unmistakable profile was highly visible, a clear head height over the multitude. His handsome face looked at its best, his eyes crinkling with good humour, and his dark hair waving back over his forehead to fall in curls against his collar. What a striking figure he cut, all ease, though still retaining an air of stateliness. Lizzy could see him listening carefully to his tenants’ words of advice and congratulations on the married state, receiving all their good wishes with grace and forbearance. His noble stature and his build, so evidently strong under the perfect cut of his black coat, were enough to overset her feelings. Not for the first time did she feel almost overwhelmed by the thought of all that would be expected of her by this powerful man, but she was determined to show him that in choosing her to be his bride, he had made the right decision. Despite the trepidation that she felt, she was confident that she would take it all in her stride.
Eventually, after thanking everyone again, with an extra show of gratitude to the rector and the blacksmith for their special ceremony, they took their leave, climbing back into the carriage for the last leg of the journey. Lizzy felt in high spirits; it had been so pleasurable to be addressed as Mrs Darcy, even if once or twice she had forgotten to respond, being quite unused to being called anything other than Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

As they bowled along, Elizabeth watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with excitement, and when, at length, they turned in at the lodge she could hardly contain the mixture of fear and elation that she felt inside. It was one matter to be greeted so kindly by the villagers, but what would the inhabitants of Pemberley House think of her arrival? And how was she to undertake the job she had to do now, as mistress of the house?

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When writing Mr. Darcy’s Secret, I had a lot of fun with the character of Caroline Bingley. I wondered how she might change if she really fell head over heels for someone, and whether her personality might also be temporarily affected! I decided she might fancy herself capable of all sorts of things if she were to be influenced by cupid’s arrows, and when she becomes part of a new painting and poetry circle led by the enigmatic artist and writer, Lord Henry Dalton, Caroline finds she is willing to embrace a whole new world! I decided to have her completely smitten with all things literary and artistic, and far from snubbing the countryside as she has done formerly, she finds a new passion for wild and romantic landscapes, and a desire to experience a simpler, rustic way of living. The Darcys are staying in the Lake District when Caroline and her sister Louisa are bent on following Lord Dalton along with Lady Catherine de Burgh, and a host of others to sample the delights of poetry and painting against the dramatic backdrop of mountains and water! Here’s an extract from Mr. Darcy’s Secret. I hope you enjoy it!

At the very start of April, as the daffodils danced on the quiet shoreline of Lake Winandermere, an untidy procession of coaches, carriages, tilburies, and phaetons noisily wound their way along the roads from Kendal to their various destinations, some toward the lake itself whilst others travelled on to more remote hideaways.
Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst looked out of their carriage window in expectation as they bowled along.
“How soon do you think we shall see him, Louisa?” said Miss Bingley, who could not speak Lord Dalton’s name out loud for fear of raising her blushes higher. Caroline, who had never felt anything remotely like love for anyone in her life before, was completely smitten. Such a change had come over her that she hardly recognised herself. So softened by her notions of amour and romance had she become that even Louisa looked quite handsome today in her eyes, which was saying a lot, because apart from the sibling rivalry that prevented her from ever admitting anything in her sister’s favour, she privately thought that Mrs Hurst was very fortunate to have caught herself a husband with a countenance that she considered would make a turbot appear attractive.
“You gave him our forwarding address, did you not, Caroline? I am sure he will find us if that is his desire,” answered her sister with a look of discontent spreading over her face. In her opinion, there was little chance of Lord Dalton calling often, if at all, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She started to gesticulate through the window. “It all looks rather wild out there. Are you quite sure this is such a good idea? To turn down Lady Catherine’s kind invitation so you can cavort in a cottage is not my idea of fun. What did you mean by it, Caro? Have you gone mad?”
“I confess, I think I am a little mad, dearest Louisa… mad in love, if you please. And, I think when you hear me out, you will see that my reasons for choosing a sweet cot are very sane.”
“There’s nothing sane about wanting to stay in a tiny hovel a peasant wouldn’t thank you for with no servants to light the fires and no cook to wait on us. I do not know how you talked me into staying with you.”
“Oh, Lulu, you know I must have a chaperone, especially one that likes to take herself off for long walks when a certain gentleman comes calling. It is so romantic! I can see it all! Just picture it: a cosy sofa by the fire and Henry on his knees before me. Louisa, this is my chance, you must know that.”
Louisa knew nothing of the sort and privately thought that her sister had as much chance of winning over Lord Dalton as she had of winning the State Lottery, which she never did. The fact that he seemed similarly smitten with one of Lady Catherine’s circle, the unassuming yet beautiful Miss Theodora Winn, was a truth that Caroline refused to acknowledge or admit.
Presently, the carriage stopped, the door opened, and the steps were let down. “You’ll have to get out here,” said the driver of the post chaise. “I can’t get down that track; I’ll never get back again.”
“But how far is Robin Cot from here?” snapped Mrs Hurst who was less than impressed by the coachman’s attitude.
“I can’t say, ma’am, it depends who’s doing the walking,” he answered gruffly, observing their fine kid shoes. “Though by just looking I’d say fifteen minutes if the mud’s baked, twenty-five if not. That’s Robin Cot yonder.”
The sisters followed his pointing finger to the sight of a small dwelling, which could just be seen through a clump of trees on the brow of a hill in the distance. The narrow lane they must walk down was three inches deep in mud. Neither sister was equipped for such a jaunt nor did they relish the prospect of undertaking such a feat. They looked at one another in horror. “But you cannot leave us here,” wailed Caroline, as she watched the driver climb back onto the box.
“Company rules, ma’am,” he shouted, with a dismissive wave as he set off to leave them. “I’ll arrange for your luggage to be brought up to the cottage, but you’ll have to pay extra for a man to carry it all. Goodbye, ladies, I hope you enjoy your stay!”
Sourcebooks 2011 © Jane Odiwe

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Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win a signed copy of Mr. Darcy’s Secret. The winner is:


Congratulations Emilee – could you please contact me with your address details and I’ll put your copy in the post.

Thank you to Laura Hartness for a lovely review over at Calico Critic Blogspot. I am enormously grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read and review my book; it really means so much to me.
Don’t forget to tune into the Austen Twitter Project tomorrow Last week’s chapters are posted up for our delight along with the next twist in the plot. If you’ve ever been tempted to try your hand at writing a novel inspired by Jane, now is your chance. Come and join in, it’s a lot of fun and it’s open to everyone!

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