This novel came to me when I admit to being quite depressed. I wrote it over the Christmas holidays, and we all know how those can sometimes catch us off guard. I am customarily sad over the Thanksgiving break because my mother’s birthday lands smack in the middle of the long Thanksgiving weekend ever year, and I do no miss my mother’s wise voice whispering in my ear. However, I am not customarily sad over Christmas. In fact, I deal with the hoopla of it all relatively well. Perhaps, it was because we had a tense situation going on in the family during that particular Christmas. My youngest granddaughter arrived in the world on December 22, 2016, some two weeks before her due date. Then she spent five days in the hospital wrapped in a bili-blanket to control her jaundice. Perhaps it was because I am customarily alone over the actual Christmas to New Year’s holiday, and because of the baby’s early delivery, I found myself with children under foot and meals to cook and kitchens to clean. I pray I am not that selfish, but I admit at age 70 to enjoying my solitude when I have it. Perhaps it was because I learned over the holidays of the passing of one of my ex-husbands. Although he practiced deplorable acts, ones no wife could ever forgive, there had been a time—in my naive mind—that I had loved him. Perhaps it was because a man I thought I had loved for nearly all my life chose to marry another AGAIN. Who can say? Not that I had seen him for some ten years, but we women are not always reasonable in matters of the heart.
Why do I preface my introduction of the book with this knowledge? It is because I find it one of the saddest books I have ever written. I understood the loss of that Darcy, Elizabeth, and even Lydia felt.
The book incorporates a bit about the history handfasting in Scotland, the traditions surrounding St Agnes Eve, the possibility of having a marriage annulled in the church courts, something of the East India Company, etc.—my usual array of historical research mixed into the story line—but its strength is the deep emotional connection between Darcy and Elizabeth. Your heart will ache for them. You will cheer their successes and bemoan the obstacles still keeping them apart.
The reason fairy tales end with a wedding is no one wishes to view what happens next.
Five years earlier, Darcy had raced to Hertfordshire to soothe Elizabeth Bennet’s qualms after Lady Catherine’s venomous attack, but a devastating carriage accident left him near death for months and cost him his chance at happiness with the lady. Now, they meet again upon the Scottish side of the border, but can they forgive all that has transpired in those years? They are widow and widower; however, that does not mean they can take up where they left off. They are damaged people, and healing is not an easy path. To know happiness they must fall in love with the same person all over again.
Although he did not think it possible for anyone to alter Elizabeth’s decision, Darcy was thankful to have his sister in residence at Alpin Hall, for Georgiana made a concerted effort to keep his mind off the misery that awaited him at Pemberley when he returned to Derbyshire. Despite his cousin’s objections, she had sent Fitzwilliam riding for Newcastle in search of information on Mr. Wickham’s disappearance.
“It has been five years, Georgiana,” the colonel protested. “I can learn more by addressing letters to the scoundrel’s former commanding officers.”
“You will do both,” she insisted. “Those in London overseeing the war’s end will simply examine their files on Mr. Wickham, while those remaining in Newcastle area will possess a more personal story to share, and you must be there to learn their tales. No one can deny such an imposing figure as my husband,” she added with a genuine smile.
Fitzwilliam sighed good-naturedly. “It is a good thing, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, that your husband holds you in affection.”
“It is an excellent thing, sir,” she responded with a blush to her cheeks. Darcy watched the pair with envy lodging in his heart. He would never know such contentment. Even if he could learn Wickham’s fate, it would not ensure that Elizabeth would reconsider his proposal.
In Fitzwilliam’s absence, Georgiana accompanied him as Darcy called in upon Daven Hall each day to learn more of the estate. While he examined the books and the various structures upon the property, his sister met with the housekeeper and toured the various rooms to note necessary repairs and required refurbishing. He was grateful for Georgiana’s presence. It was good to be with family. His hours alone at Pemberley had only added to his compounded sorrow.
“Dance with me, William,” his sister pleaded one evening, as she rose from the bench before the pianoforte. She had entertained him after supper with a variety of musical pieces. He always knew such pride when she performed, for he recalled the exact date when Georgiana claimed confidence in her performance. It was the evening at Pemberley when Elizabeth and her relations joined him and the Bingleys. Elizabeth encouraged Georgiana’s playing and remained by his sister’s side throughout the evening.
“I believe my dancing days are over,” he replied.
“Nonsense.” Georgiana caught his hand and attempted to tug him to his feet. “Perhaps you can no longer hop about in a reel or do a quickstep in a country dance, but surely you can manage a minuet or a waltz. Now, stand for me, William.”
“Georgiana, this is ridiculous,” he protested, but he permitted her to pull him upward.
Once he stood stiffly before her, she placed a hand upon his shoulder and waited for his hand to claim her waist. “Should I hum a tune?”
“I will likely send us tumbling to the floor,” he grumbled as he positioned his hand at her side.
Georgiana giggled. “It has been too many years since we took a tumble together.” She nudged him into a slow step forward while continuing her tale. “I loved it when you would come home from school on holiday, for you would spend hours entertaining me. Do you recall how often I soiled my dress attempting to keep up with you and Fitzwilliam and Lindale or you and George Wickham? I was often quite clumsy and would tumble down the hill, but you always took the blame and Father’s punishments.”
“You were but a babe and always so thin. I could not permit you to know an evening without your supper,” he said in serious tones.
Georgiana’s cheeks dimpled with an impish smile. “You would sneak into the schoolroom and teach me something of how to swing a cricket bat or how to block a thrust from an opponent’s sword.”
“We destroyed a good many of your parasols. Your governess was never happy when you and I were about a new adventure,” he repeated in tenderness.
“Then you would sprawl upon the floor while I showed you my dolls or the new letters I had learned or a drawing. You would praise my efforts,” she said in contentment. “You were always so patient with me. I could not have asked for a better brother.”
Darcy halted their progress to place a kiss upon her forehead. It was only then that he realized they had made a full turn and then some about the room. “You have played me with your compliments,” he said in a tease. “You still have the means to divert me.”
She rose on her toes to place a gentle kiss upon his cheek. “I wish you to know happiness, William, but first you must again believe in your dream.”
Darcy attempted to keep the frown from his features. “I do not know whether I dare. Her husband passed two months after I married Amelia. If I had waited—had rejected Lady Matlock’s manipulations—if I had made it my business to learn more of Elizabeth’s life, things could now be different. She admitted to loving me, Georgiana; yet, she still sent me away. How can I keep hope alive when so much has changed between us? Sometimes, love is not enough.”
“Love is always enough,” Georgiana countered. “It must be, for the world would turn in upon its head without love. You must simply trust that Mrs. McCaffney knows your heart. The lady is the complementary part of your soul. She will support you upon your journey in the same manner as I supported your steps in our waltz.”