Okay, I know the calendar says September 19, but you cannot tell me you have not already seen Christmas decorations up in some of the big box stores. Years prior, I cursed the stores when they brought out Christmas items before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, no one in marketing paid any attention to my pithy complaints. Then Christmas appeared before Halloween. Now, it is here shortly after the “Back to School” sales. In truth, I gave up!!! If I cannot beat them, I will join them. I have not written a “Christmas” themed Pride and Prejudice story since Ulysses Press released Christmas at Pemberley, but today I introduce you to Mr. Darcy’s Present: A Pride and Prejudice Holiday Vagary. It officially released on September 13.
So, what is the premise behind this tale? First, it takes place a month after Darcy leaves Elizabeth behind after the Netherfield Ball. He has impulsively proposed as the ball wound down. Again, he is soundly sent packing by Elizabeth. Yet, he cannot forget her, and although he knows she will never change her mind, he purchases a small gift for her for Christmas: a book of poetry and a jeweled stick pin. He has no intention of sending the items to her, but he keeps them to feed his misery. However, he has an accident, which has others assisting him with the delivery of the presents he chose for his family and Elizabeth. Sending an unmarried woman a gift is unacceptable in Regency society, and in the hurry to assist him, the gift for Elizabeth is sent out by mistake. He must save Elizabeth’s reputation by marrying her. But will Elizabeth accept her fate as his wife? Darcy uses her youngest sister’s elopement to prove himself a better man, but not in the manner Jane Austen gave us. This story has some delightful twists and turns that will surprise you.
“It is not her,” he murmured in self-chastisement.
Nearly a month had passed since he last looked upon her countenance, and although Elizabeth Bennet had adamantly refused the offer of his hand, every time he turned his head to scan the crowds scampering along the walkways lining Bond Street, Darcy expected to encounter her. It was as if he thought his constant desire for her would manifest itself into her actual appearance.
With a sigh of resignation he did what was required. Christmastide would arrive within the week, and he held obligations to his dear family. There were the traditional “gifts” to be arranged for his staff at Pemberley and at Darcy House, as well as for his tenants, and there were the more elaborate presentations expected by his dear family. He despised the necessity of shopping for the expected. Darcy preferred to surprise those for whom he cared with tokens of his affection throughout the year, rather than to break with the religious tone of Christmas day, but society had become quite greedy in that manner.
“You have the list, Sheffield?” he asked his valet. Because Darcy’s secretary had taken ill, Sheffield volunteered to choose items for Darcy’s family and the senior servants.
“Yes, Mr. Darcy.”
“Although I consider this business all of a piece, have your selections delivered to Darcy House. Make certain the merchants know some items will be returned as inappropriate for the recipient.”
“I understand, sir.”
Darcy gripped his cane tighter. Since his encounter with Miss Elizabeth, he often felt off kilter. “I will call upon Mr. Hess regarding the adjustments in Miss Darcy’s dowry. I will see you at Darcy House later.”
“I shan’t be long, sir,” the valet assured him.
“I would prefer careful thought to a speedy completion of your task,” he instructed. Glancing toward the bookstore across the busy street, he said in distraction, “Add a book of poetry to the list. Cowper, Scott, Coleridge, Prior, or something in that range and mayhap a simple pin a lady could wear upon a bonnet or to secure a shawl in place. Nothing ostentatious. Just a jewel to mark a gentleman’s regard.”
He knew Sheffield studied him carefully, but Darcy could not abandon his maudlin. He would never present Elizabeth Bennet with the present, but he would place the items away in the drawer with the multiple letters he had written to her, but never posted. “Anything else, sir?” his servant asked in a tone that sounded of concern.
Darcy shook his head in the negative. “That will be all, Sheffield.” Still deep in his regrets, he turned to bump into a young buck up to London on holiday. Darcy opened his mouth to extend his apologies, but the young man took instant offense at having his cravat knocked askew. The dandy shoved hard against Darcy’s chest, sending him windmilling backwards into the busy street. He saw Sheffield shove past the silly prat to reach for Darcy, but it was too late. A coal cart pulled by a donkey plowed into his side, knocking him to the ground. A loud groan of wood against wood announced the driver’s load shifted, and the coal covered him completely.
Giveaway: I have two eBook versions of this book available to those who comment below. The giveaway ends at midnight EDST, September 22, 2016.