Christmas at Pemberley was my twelfth novel (my seven Austen-inspired work). It is an inspirational tale that occurs two years into the Darcys’ marriage.
To bring a renewed sense joy to his wife’s countenance, Fitzwilliam Darcy has secretly invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small out-of-the-way inn with another couple preparing for the immediate delivery of their first child, while Pemberley is inundated with friends and relations seeking shelter from the storm.
Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy desperately attempts to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors. But bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy know happiness?
Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit, and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.
Excerpt: To pacify Elizabeth’s need to assist Mr. and Mrs. Joseph, Darcy has agreed to share their cramped quarters in an overly crowded inn with the couple. Mrs. Joseph is enceinte.
She kept an eye on Mrs. Joseph’s restless slumber. Elizabeth did not remember her sister Jane having such a fretful time, and Jane had carried twins. Yet, Mrs. Joseph was quite large, and Elizabeth supposed it affected the woman’s sleep.
Having sent Darcy and Mr. Joseph away so Mary could rest, Elizabeth had spent time reading a collection of poetry she’d bought at a small bookstore in Newcastle. Now, she returned to the stack of letters. The previous evening she had not read the two that Darcy had composed upon the loss of their children, but today, she felt compelled to revisit them. She had acknowledged her pregnancy to Darcy. Obviously, her husband knew of her condition, but he had accepted Elizabeth’s fears and made them his own. Somehow, Mrs. Joseph’s appearance at Prestwick’s had changed everything. As nonsensical as it sounded, Elizabeth no longer dreaded what might happen. If she lost this child, she would try again and again until she delivered a healthy Darcy heir. She possessed no other alternative: Because of Darcy, she could smile; her life was worthwhile, and she owed him her constant devotion.
First checking Mrs. Joseph’s blankets, Elizabeth settled in a chair near the window. Outside, she could hear the water’s steady drip from the roof to the ground. The rhythmic pattern reminded her of the Maelzel’s metronome model, which sat on Georgiana’s pianoforte. Hopefully, by tomorrow, she and Darcy would be on their way to Pemberley.
Untying the ribbon, Elizabeth removed the two letters from the bottom. She normally kept the notes in order by the date Darcy had written them, but she had shuffled these two special letters to the stack’s bottom when she had read from the missives two nights prior. She removed the one her husband had composed after the first disaster and unfolded the pages. Shifting her weight so she might see better, Elizabeth read…
My dearest, darling Elizabeth,
I sit in this semidarkness watching the rise and fall of your shoulders. I recognize your pain and am helpless to drive it away. You pretend not to know that I write this note, and I pretend that you sleep at last. I will not minimize your loss by repeating what you have already heard. What I will say is that although it may seem that you face this loss alone, please remember that I am here—standing beside you. Love—the truth of love—lies between us. I live only for the honor and the love you have given me.
Inside each of us grows a faith in a new day. So, put away the rage. From this we will learn how precious life can be—something I would not freely recognize if I had never held you in my arms.
All my love and devotion,
Her poor husband had suffered as much as she; but for her sake, Darcy had hidden his misery. Elizabeth had seen the lines deepen around his eyes and across his forehead. Had Darcy shed tears? She was certain that he had. Elizabeth knew his anguish—how the sunshine had disappeared from his smile.
Carefully, she refolded the first letter and replaced it where the note belonged within the bundle and then removed the second one. It held more tender memories than did the first. She had grieved briefly after the initial incident, but hadn’t felt the full loss until the second. Actually, Elizabeth prefaced that. She had experienced the total impact when her sister Jane cradled a small babe in each arm. Her most beloved sister had delivered twins when she could not give Darcy even one child. She had thought herself a failure and had refused to go through that emptiness again.
Elizabeth shot a glance at the resting Mary Joseph. The woman’s face betrayed the essence of her dreams—as if an angel had kissed the woman’s cheek. Permit me to reach eight full months, she thought. Even with my own imminent mortality, she prayed, give Mr. Darcy his child.
Unfolding the letter she read her favorite part first.
Had I never known you, my Elizabeth, I would have never realized what was missing from my life. I am no longer lost: I can emerge from the rain. Living outside your love is not living at all.
You are the light in my darkness.
“What do you read, Mrs. Darcy?” a sleepy voice broke through Elizabeth’s thoughts.
Elizabeth blushed and refolded the letter. “Nothing important. Only some letters.”
With difficulty, Mrs. Joseph rolled onto her side, “From Mr. Darcy, I suspect,” she said teasingly.
Elizabeth’s color deepened. “I shall admit to nothing except that they came from a most handsome gentleman.”
Mrs. Joseph smiled indulgently. “Mr. Darcy then. He is an intriguing-looking man. Was your husband the most exciting man of your acquaintance, Mrs. Darcy?”
Elizabeth thought immediately of her first impression of George Wickham, whose appearance was greatly in his favor; he had all the best parts of beauty—a fine countenance, a good figure, and a pleasing address. “A pleasing face doesn’t define a man’s true character, but I admit to preferring Mr. Darcy’s countenance above all others.” Elizabeth scrambled to her feet. “Permit me to put these away, and I shall help you to straighten your dress. Perhaps we could go below and join our husbands for tea.”
Elizabeth dutifully replaced the letter and retied the outside ribbon. Then she carefully placed the bundle in the bottom of her portmanteau. “Now,” she moved to the bed, “allow me to support your stance. You really must exercise more caution, Mrs. Joseph. You have God’s most priceless gift to attend.”
The woman swung her legs over the bed’s edge and sat with Elizabeth’s assistance. “I don’t understand it,” she observed. “When we departed Stoke-upon-Trent, I was quite a bit smaller. I feel as if I have gained weight each day we were on the road. I imagine myself quite heavy.” She gently massaged her enlarged abdomen.
“Women, generally, gain their most weight during the last six weeks of their gestation,” Elizabeth said absentmindedly as she braced Mrs. Joseph’s weight with her own.
Taking several deep breaths, the lady rose slowly. “And how would a gentlewoman know such details?” Mrs. Joseph lightly taunted.
“This gentlewoman’s sister’s weight doubled with her confinement.”
Mrs. Joseph countered, “Maybe that was because your sister delivered twins.”
Elizabeth laughed lightly. “There’s that possibility.” She stepped away from the woman. “I sent Mr. Joseph and Mr. Darcy away so you might rest.” She checked her own appearance in the mirror.
Mrs. Joseph shook out her skirts. “How long did I sleep?”
Elizabeth glanced at the small clock on the mantelpiece. “Nearly two hours.”
“Two hours!” Mrs. Joseph gasped. “I never sleep so long.”
“Your body must have needed the rest,” Elizabeth asserted.
Mrs. Joseph began to repair her chignon. “Mr. Joseph must be terribly worried. We definitely should join the gentlemen, or Matthew will storm the door shortly.” She pinched her cheeks. “I look so pale.” She straightened her shoulders and turned to Elizabeth. “And don’t tell me being pale is part of being with child,” she warned.
Elizabeth smiled widely. “I shan’t speak of it as you know the obvious.” She reached for the door, but a grunt of discomfort from behind her brought Elizabeth up short. As she pivoted to the sound, Mrs. Joseph’s grimace spoke Elizabeth’s worst nightmares. “What is it?” she demanded as she rushed to the woman’s side.
Mrs. Joseph swayed in place. Complete fear crossed the woman’s countenance. “I…I,” she stammered. Then she raised her skirt’s hem, and Elizabeth could see the woman’s underskirt’s dampness.
“Oh, my, you poor dear,” Elizabeth sympathized. “Permit me to assist you from those soiled garments. I’ll order some warm water so you might wash, and we’ll soak the items afterwards.” Elizabeth guided Mrs. Joseph to a plain wooden chair. “I should have considered your personal needs.” Elizabeth flushed with embarrassment.
Mrs. Joseph sank heavily to the chair. “No!” she rasped. “You don’t understand. The baby…the baby is coming.”
If you enjoy, Christmas at Pemberley, you will meet many of the same characters in my Lucky 13th novel, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, a cozy mystery set three months after Christmas at Pemberley closes. It had a March 2012 release, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. Currently I am writing a sequel to Disappearance. It begins some twelve months after Disappearance ends.