This is one of those books that floats around in the author’s head for some time before it becomes a reality. Although we have a bit about the letters Princess Charlotte wrote to her supposed lover, it deviates from many of story lines for there is no great angst or mystery. It is simply a story of life and death and new beginnings…the story of a Christmas miracle. This book is essentially Georgiana’s story, but Kitty Bennet plays a major role, as does Elizabeth and Darcy.
At the beginning of the book, Darcy has taken Elizabeth with him on a business journey. She is pregnant, and he wants to keep her close, for they have experienced several miscarriages, and Elizabeth is despondent. I have her refusing to permit anyone to even speak of the baby until she is far enough along that even if the child came early, its chances of survival were improved. I based this on personal experience. Before I had my son at age 38, I had experienced a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy. I never thought to have my own child. During that pregnancy, I refused baby showers and the like, until I was six months along. With modern medicine, I thought if he made it to six months, he would survive. He made it to seven and a half. Now, he is 33 with 3 children under the age of six.
But I have digressed. Elizabeth in the book wonders why God has not permitted her the joy that her sisters have known. On this journey from Northumberland to Derbyshire, there is a massive snow storm, and the Darcys must take shelter at an inn. Okay. This is the hokey part: It is Christmas, and there is no shelter for the Josephs family at the inn. You got it. Mrs. Joseph is ready to deliver. Elizabeth insists that she and Darcy aid the family.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (oops! I mean Pemberley), Georgiana has her own hands full. First, the Bennets arrive: Mr. and Mrs. B., Kitty, Mary, and Mary’s intended (who was not expected). Mrs. Bennet took it on herself to invite the young man. Thinking it would be good for Elizabeth’s disposition, Darcy had invited the Bennets to Pemberley. We also find the Bingleys in attendance. They have arrived with their children and Jane expecting another. However, Miss Bingley was not invited, but like Mary’s betrothed, the lady tags along with her brother. These few are the only invited guests to what becomes a large holiday party.
Lady Catherine has been with her brother, Lord Matlock, but as the Matlocks are to visit with their eldest and his family for Christmastide (to view their new grandchild), her ladyship is without quarters. Although she and Darcy have never made up since Lady Catherine’s scathing letter regarding Darcy’s marrying Elizabeth, Lady Catherine shows up on Pemberley’s doorstep, with her daughter Anne in tow, and demands rooms. Georgiana, who is still a bit intimidated by her ladyship, naturally, does not turn her aunt and cousin away. Oh, by the way, Lady Catherine was to meet with the Collinses before returning to Kent, and she invites Mr. and Mrs. Collins to join her at Pemberley.
Kitty’s love interest, the clergyman, Mr. Winkler, holds the living at Pemberley, and he comes and goes with some regularity in the story line. He involves Kitty in administering to the poor in the neighborhood, a perfect role for the wife of a clergyman.
Then Colonel Fitzwilliam calls upon the household. He has been in America (during the War of 1812). With him is his aide, Lieutenant Roman Southland, and a gentleman from America, Mr. Beauford Manneville, who is not all he pretends to be. The storm has stifled their travel, and the colonel brings his companions to Pemberley, expecting Darcy will welcome them. Georgiana is most happy to have her cousin, the colonel, return, for she carries tender feelings for the man, who has not yet realized that she has turned into a young woman in his absence.
This is absolutely a love story. Obviously, Darcy and Elizabeth are in love, but they are married. What of the others? Georgiana convinces the colonel finally to see her as she has always seen him. The lieutenant, who happens to be the cousin of the cleric who held the living at Rosings Park before Collins—a man that Lady Catherine adored, takes a liking to Anne, while the American has a eye on Miss Bingley. There are lots of high jinxes and tender moments. You will laugh, and you are likely to cry at some of the scenes, for once Darcy and Elizabeth make it home, their world will never be the same. [I should say that this book won several Inspirational Romance awards, for there are more than one bit of an actual sermon and lots of questioning of God’s intent within one’s life in the story line.]
Christmas at Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Holiday Sequel
(Inspirational Romance; Fiction/Historical Fiction; Classics)
To bring a renewed sense joy to his wife’s countenance, Fitzwilliam Darcy secretly invites 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 snowstorm 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 #1 from Chapter 2: At the inn, Elizabeth is rereading a letter from Darcy.
My dearest, loveliest Elizabeth,
As I sit at this desk in awe of the most splendid of gifts that you have offered me this night, my heart overflows with love. The loneliness has dissipated, and I do not speak of the physical closeness we shared last evening—as exquisite as it was—I speak of the happiness that you have brought to my life and to Pemberley. From the beginning, you destroyed my hard-earned peace, and many times I found myself spiraling out of control, but I would, willingly, suffer the pain again to know you for but one day—one hour, even. You are everything—firmly planted are my hopes—you are the coming chapters of my life’s book.
A TEAR SLID DOWN hER CHEEK, but Elizabeth didn’t whisk it away. he had rattled her senses that night. Rattled. Shaken. Turned her world upside down in the most tantalizing ways. Her heart had pounded so intensely when she’d looked upon her husband for the first time: It had mimicked the cadence of his as Darcy drew her into his embrace. Unbelievable desire had coursed through her— ricocheted through her body and devoured her soul. Luckily, she’d spoken quite frankly with her Aunt Gardiner prior to the wedding night. If not, his power over her might have frightened Elizabeth. Instead, she’d viewed it as a challenge, and although she’d allowed Darcy to lead, she’d learned to exercise her own power. Elizabeth loved it when he surrendered to her—when he couldn’t deny her.
A smile turned up her mouth’s corners. They were good together—the absolute best. Her hand instinctively rested on her abdomen. “Please, God,” she whispered. “this time…please.” She wanted so desperately to prove to Darcy and to the world that she was worthy of being the Mistress of Pemberley—worthy of his love.
Excerpt #2 from Chapter 4, Colonel Fitzwilliam arrives at Pemberley, but when word comes to the drawing room, everyone thinks it is Darcy and Elizabeth. [Note: In my books, the colonel is “Edward,” my father’s name. Austen never presented the character with a Christian name in the original Pride and Prejudice.]
Georgiana and Kitty raced along the passage and down the main staircase.“We’ll tell Elizabeth that your parents allowed you to return to Pemberley because you were lonely now that Miss Bennet is engaged.”
“Elizabeth will never believe I miss Mary’s company,” Kitty objected.
Georgiana tutted her disagreement. “We just need for our sister to believe us long enough for her to reach the drawing room to greet your family.”
They waited impatiently for the Darcys’ arrival, each girl fidgeting with her dress. Then Mr. Nathan opened the door, and instead of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, three winter-cloaked gentlemen strode through the opening. Both girls stood in awe of the men—all fine specimens of maleness. “Oh, my,” Kitty swallowed her words. She clawed at Georgiana’s arm.
But Georgiana stood frozen in place. The man in front held her mesmerized. A year—more than a year had passed since she had last seen him, but he remained as before. Solid. Raven haired. Smoky blue eyes. Eyes that appeared to look through her. See me. Georgiana willed herself not to say the words. Not quite as tall as her brother, she still barely reached his shoulders. “Edward!” she called and launched herself into his waiting arms. In his embrace, Georgiana inhaled the scent of him deeply. He smelled of cold and leather and sweat and the spicy cologne he always had worn. “Thank God, you’ve returned to us.”
Her cousin picked her up, clutching Georgiana to his chest, and swung her around in a circle. “My, Goodness!” he laughed easily. “What happened to my little Georgie?”
“You’ve been away for a year, Edward,” she protested.
“So, I have.” He laughed again as he set her on her feet. “Where’s that rascally brother of yours?” he glanced toward the main stairs.
“Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Darcy are on their way from Northumberland,” she explained.
Edward frowned. “Well, Fitz will be delayed. We barely made it from Liverpool on horseback. Darcy won’t chance it in a carriage.” The colonel gestured to the men waiting behind him. “Do you have rooms available, Cousin? I don’t wish to attempt riding to Matlock.”
“Of course.” Georgiana nodded to Mr. Nathan, and the man ducked into a servant’s passageway to do her bidding.
Edward spotted Kitty waiting patiently. “And is this who I believe it to be?” he asked teasingly.
“You remember Mrs. Darcy’s sister Catherine from the wedding, do you not, Edward?”
The colonel bowed to Kitty. “Absolutely. I am pleased to find you at Pemberley, Miss Catherine.”
Kitty curtsied to the group. “I’m certain Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth shall be thrilled for your return, Colonel.”
Edward placed Georgiana’s hand on his arm. “Allow we to introduce my traveling companions, my dear. Miss Darcy. Miss Catherine. May I present Lieutenant Roman Southland? the lieutenant is my assistant.”
The officer bowed formally. “MissDarcy, the colonel has spoken often of his cousin, but his words didn’t do you justice.” He kissed Georgiana’s outstretched hand. “Thank you for accepting our intrusion upon your hospitality.”
“Pemberley would never turn away the colonel’s associates,” Georgiana responded. “Edward is family.” She wanted to ask what her cousin had said of her and how often the colonel spoke of her, but instead, Georgiana smiled welcomingly at the man.
“And this gentleman,” the colonel indicated the man not wearing a uniform.“This is Mr. Beauford Manneville. Mr. Manneville is from South Carolina in the Americas, but he’s come to our ‘enemy’ shores to do business with our government and to renew his acquaintance with his distant cousin Lord Shelton.”
“Welcome to England, Mr. Manneville.” Georgiana curtsied and again extended her hand. “I’m sorry that your first experience on British shores brings you icy roads.”
The colonel laughed softly. “You don’t understand, Georgie. In South Carolina, snow rarely falls. Cold weather doesn’t tarry either. Is that not correct, Manneville?”
The man openly shivered. “I’ve never been so cold, Colonel, and you may leave your levity out of it, sir.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam bowed stiffy. “As you wish, Manneville.” He turned to Georgiana with a touch of lightheartedness. “And from what entertainment did we pull you ladies?”
Georgiana suddenly remembered the others waiting in the drawing room for her return. “Oh, Edward,” she gushed. “I am doubly happy to see you, especially in Fitzwilliam’s absence. We’ve a houseful of guests, including Lady Catherine and Anne.”
“Darcy invited our aunt for Christmas?” he asked incredulously.
“No. Her ladyship invited herself, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Lady Catherine visited the earl, but his lordship and the countess have traveled east to welcome the arrival of Viscount Lindale’s first child.”
Edward beamed with the news. “Did you hear, Southland? I’m to be an uncle. My brother Rowland’s wife is in her confinement.” The lieutenant removed his gloves and laid them nearby. “Then it is fortuitous that we didn’t seek Matlock. It appears your family is scattered between here and Lincolnshire, sir.”
“they are. That they are.” He smiled genuinely at Georgiana. “Come, Gentlemen. I’ll introduce you to Lady Catherine De Bourgh, my family’s paragon of virtue,” he said teasingly.
Georgiana fell into step beside him as they climbed the stairs. “In addition to her ladyship and Anne, the Bingleys and the Bennets are in residence,” she said softly.
“My, you do have a houseful. I thought you exaggerated, Cousin. How many await me in the drawing room?” He directed Georgiana toward the open door. Kitty and the lieutenant followed, and Mr. Manneville brought up the rear. “Counting you three, we number nineteen,” she responded.“Fitzwilliam invited the Bennets and Mr. and Mrs. Bingley as a surprise for Mrs. Darcy, but the others have sought shelter at Pemberley.” Georgiana leaned against him. “Handling so many distinct personalities has been challenging.”
His finger stroked her arm. “You’ve performed well, Georgie. I’m proud of you.”
They had reached the open door. Taking a deep breath, Georgiana glided into the room. “Look who’s joined us,” she announced.
For the length of two heartbeats, no one moved, and then Anne, Lady Catherine, and Mr. Bingley rushed forward to greet the colonel. Anne, who was the closest to the door, reached him first. “Edward,” she gasped.“You’ve returned to us. Bless the heavens!”
The colonel embraced her warmly. “I’m well, Anne.” He kissed her cheek.“You look lovely.”
“My health has improved,” she said shyly.
“That pleases me more than you know.” Edward then turned to his aunt. He took Lady Catherine’s outstretched hand and bowed over it. “Your ladyship.” he offered the obligatory air kiss. “You, too, look well.”
“I am as I always am, Edward.” She accepted his whispery kiss on her cheek.“You are a fortnight early, sir. The earl departed for Lindale’s estate less than a day prior.”
“So Georgiana has informed me.” He glanced about the room taking in familiar and unfamiliar faces.“I pray Lady Lindale has a safe delivery.”
Lady Catherine stepped to the side.“We are anticipating Darcys’ arrival,” she clarified.
the colonel nodded his understanding. “As I have explained to Georgiana, I would not expect Darcy for, at least, another day. We traveled by horseback from Liverpool. The roads remain treacherous. We walked the horses the last seven miles or so.”
“That’s disappointing,” Mr. Bingley observed,“but safety is paramount to speed in such cases.”
The colonel blew out a long breath.“It was a difficult journey.” He shook Bingley’s hand. “If you will allow the impropriety,” he said to the group,“my associates and I will freshen our clothes and then rejoin you. With such a large party, introductions will take some time.”
“Of course, Colonel,” Lady Catherine declared before Georgiana could open her mouth.“I assume my niece can have meals sent in.”
Edward interrupted. “Georgiana is a gracious hostess, Aunt. My cousin will see to our needs without error. She’s Lady Anne’s daughter and understands her duties.”
“Come, Gentlemen.” Georgiana gestured toward the hall. “Mr. Nathan has indicated that your rooms are ready. I’ll show you the way.”
The three travelers bowed solemnly to the room and followed her. Georgiana caught Edward’s hand. “Thank you for deflecting her ladyship’s implied censure.”
“You don’t need rescuing, Georgie,” he whispered. “But I’ll act your gallant if you prefer.”
“You are my gallant, Edward,” she said softly. “You always have been.”
Excerpt #3 comes from Chapter 16: Lady Catherine discovers her daughter Anne kissing Lieutenant Southland.
Without preamble, Lady Catherine stormed into the room as the couple jumped apart. Never in all her years had she expected to find her daughter in an intimate embrace with a gentleman. Catherine didn’t know whether to celebrate or stand in horror. As was typical, she chose something less sedate than a celebratory moment, centering her disdain on the man who had just compromised Anne. “Lieutenant.” she snarled. “have you no principles? You’ll unhand my daughter immediately.” Anne took a half step toward her in the lieutenant’s defense, but Lady Catherine’s cold glare warned her daughter to not interfere.“I ask again, Lieutenant. Have you no defense for your actions?”
- * * *
“Perhaps, Lady Catherine, we could all have a seat and discuss this calmly,” Elizabeth said with authority from the open doorway. With a flick of her wrist, Pemberley’s mistress sent the two maids and a footman on their separate ways and closed the door behind her. She quickly assayed the dilemma and discovered a very flushed Anne De Bourgh standing between her mother and Edward’s aide-de-camp. Immediately, she moved to defuse the situation. “Come, let me assist you, your ladyship.” She caught Lady Catherine about the waist and directed Darcy’s aunt to a chair. “Allow me to pour you some sherry,” she said as she shot a pleading glance to the lieutenant to move.
Southland reacted immediately. he scurried to a nearby tray and poured a glass and handed it to Elizabeth.“Drink some of this,” Elizabeth encouraged.“It shall calm your nerves.”
Lady Catherine intoned aristocratically, “I’m not the type to succumb to nerves, Mrs. Darcy.”
“No one believes you are, your ladyship,” Elizabeth said softly, “but it’ll give us a moment to compose our thoughts. Please do it for me.” Elizabeth knelt obediently beside Lady Catherine’s chair.
Giving the lieutenant a deathly glare, Lady Catherine reluctantly took a small sip of the potent drink.
“Thank you, your ladyship.” Elizabeth caught the woman’s hand and gave it a weak squeeze. Lady Catherine’s gaze fell on her, and for a brief moment, Elizabeth saw vulnerability.
Yet, a soft knock on the door drew their attention, and Darcy slipped into the room. Elizabeth observed the recognition in his eyes. “Mr. Nathan seemed to think her ladyship had suffered some sort of shock,” he said cautiously.
Darcy’s eyes rested on her face. He spoke of his aunt’s health, but she knew he would take his cues from Elizabeth. “A bit of an exaggeration, I fear,” Elizabeth automatically rose and took a step toward him. It was a response of which she become conscious upon Darcy’s return to Longbourn—when he brought Bingley to Jane in order to right a wrong, Elizabeth found herself physically drawn to him. No matter when she saw him, the moment Darcy stepped into a room, she moved closer. “Her ladyship simply requires a moment. Perhaps you might escort your cousin and the lieutenant into the room next door while I see to your aunt.”
Thankfully, Darcy didn’t protest. Over the last three years, they’d learned to trust each other exclusively. With a nod of understanding, he asked, “Anne, would you and Lieutenant Southland join me in the yellow sitting room?” He moved to lead the way.
Anne turned to her mother. “I’m sorry, your ladyship,” she whispered through silent sobs. “You must try to understand.” After a brief bow to both Elizabeth and Lady Catherine, Southland caught Anne’s elbow and escorted her from the room.
Elizabeth waited for their departure before turning to Darcy’s aunt.With a deep sigh, she pivoted, expecting to find an irate aristocrat whom she would have to appease, but was greeted by the distraught tear-stained face of Lady Catherine, and instantly, Elizabeth felt compassion for what she suspected to be a very lonely woman. “Your ladyship,” she empathized and pulled a footstool over to sit at Lady Catherine’s feet.
“Might I?” Lady Catherine held the glass for Elizabeth’s view. She took it immediately. “Of course.” Walking to the serving tray, Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder at the sunken figure resting back into the chair’s cushions. What happened to the imperious Lady Catherine? Where did all her fight go? Returning to the footstool, she sat and then eased the drink into the woman’s gnarled grasp. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Elizabeth asked, “Would you like to speak of it, your ladyship? I realize I’m probably the last person with whom you would consult, but I’m at your disposal. You’re my husband’s aunt, and I desire only the best for you.”
Lady Catherine’s gaze returned to Elizabeth’s face. “Why would you treat me with respect? With compassion?” she murmured. “I’ve never treated you kindly.”
Elizabeth frowned. “We’ve known our contentious moments, but I understand your intensity. You wished the best for your child, and Mr. Darcy is truly the best of men. If I were to have my own child, I’d fight with a similar ferocity to secure his future.”
Admiration played across the lady’s face.“I expect you would, Mrs. Darcy. You give as good as you receive. I doubt if Mr. Darcy had any idea of your tongue’s viciousness.” Lady Catherine half smiled.
“I beg to differ, your ladyship. Your nephew was on the receiving end of more than one of my barbs. I like to think my sauciness was part of my charm,” Elizabeth impishly said.
The line of Lady Catherine’s mouth tightened to hide her smile. “A certain sauciness on my sister’s part attracted his father, and I am positive that Sir Lewis found it appealing.”
“I suspect you’re correct,” Elizabeth said judiciously. “Therefore, although your words stung, after careful analysis, I accepted your intent. I can place those sentiments behind us if you agree.”
Lady Catherine’s eyebrow rose in question.“I suppose we might make the effort for Darcy’s sake.”
“Then for Mr. Darcy’s familial benefit we’ll persevere,” Elizabeth said contritely. “Now, with that settled, may we address your concerns for Miss De Bourgh?”