When writing any mystery, the author cannot just have a murderer and a victim. He/She must also have suspects, red herrings (false clues), motives, and deception. There must be a balance between the suspense and the story’s pace must be maintained. The red herrings must lead the reader (and likely the hero/heroine) astray, but they cannot hijack the story line. Then one must mix in the subplots without destroying the purpose of solving the crime. In addition, a cozy mystery has other distinct qualities.
Malice Domestic (http://nancycurteman.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/10-characteristics-of-a-cozy-mystery/) lists these characteristics of a cozy mystery:
1. The murder is either bloodless or committed before the story begins.
2. Violence, sex, and coarse language are held to a minimum or referenced off scene.
3. The villain is apprehended and punished at the end of the story.
4. The amateur sleuth who solves the crime is an upstanding person with good values and minor faults.
5. The amateur sleuth has an “occupation” unrelated to detective work. He/she is remarkably capable in deciphering clues and making connections.
6. Standard cozies involved greed, jealousy, or revenge as the motive.
7. The setting is limited in its pool of suspects (likely a small town, neighborhood, an English manor, etc.)
8. Investigating the crime makes the amateur detective the target of the murderer.
9. The cozy is designed for a gradual revelation of clues, which lead to a surprise ending.
10. A bit of romance parallels the main story line in the subplots.
Among my Austenesque works, Colonel Fitzwilliam remains my favorite. Although Austen provides us so little information on the good colonel, I have my own opinions of the man, and in Christmas at Pemberley and The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, I have discovered a gentleman I really liked. (Actually, for me, defining Colonel Fitzwilliam in Vampire Darcy’s Desire opened up new possibilities. I was not truly satisfied with my characterization of the Colonel in my earlier works.) He has more layers in Christmas at Pemberley and The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy – was more than just Darcy’s sidekick. Readers will find him defined by his actions and his code of conduct.
Unlike some other Austenesque authors, I have called my Colonel Fitzwilliam “Edward” because “Edward” is my father’s name. In my later works, the Colonel has become a bit more of an alpha male, meaning he is successful in his chosen field. Although far from perfect, Edward Fitzwilliam acts from honor. He does not rest upon his laurels nor does he use his position as an earl’s son to bend people’s wills for his own benefit. The colonel possesses integrity; there are unwritten laws he will not violate. He is masculine, charismatic, and sensual. In each of my cozy mysteries and in my vampiric tale, Colonel Fitzwilliam does not simply rationalize what is best to solve Darcy’s dilemma, he acts to resolve the situation, and in a reversal of plots, it is Darcy who solves Fitzwilliam’s dilemma in The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin.
To provide you an opportunity to explore The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, I thought I might provide you a taste of the story with three short excerpts and a bit about the historical setting. The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy begins some three months after the close of Christmas at Pemberley. At the end of Christmas at Pemberley, Georgiana Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam have married in a rush before he must join Wellington at Waterloo. At the beginning of The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Georgiana, in anticipation of her husband’s return to England, has traveled to Galloway in Scotland to prepare the Fitzwilliam property for their “honeymoon.” Alone on the Scottish moors, Georgiana receives word her beloved Edward has died on the battlefield. Distraught, she races from the home she had set in preparation for celebrating their joining.
Back at Pemberley, Darcy and Elizabeth are told in a hastily written letter from the Fitzwilliam housekeeper that the staff has conducted a search for Darcy’s sister on the Merrick moor, and Georgiana is presumed dead.The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy is a cozy mystery based on the Scottish legends of the Merrick Moor and of Sawney Bean.
EXCERPT #1 (A girl has been found upon the moors and placed in a prison cell.)
Although the nightmare had returned, when a brace of candles floated into the room her eyes opened to devour the precious light. She pushed herself to a seated position and shoved several loose strands of hair behind her ears. She no longer possessed an idea of the number of days and nights she had spent curled up on the hard cot.
“I ‘ave brought ye a warmer gown—one of wool,” a female voice said. “If ye will change from yer fine cloth, I’ll be seeing to the stains.” The woman placed the expected food plate on the small stool. “I ’ave brought ye a bit of cheese this time.”
She watched the movements—memorizing the actions. How would it feel to walk across the room—to stretch her cramped muscles? By twisting awkwardly, she had managed to stand beside the cot and to mark her steps in place. To provide her weakened legs some much-required relief. But actually to take a step would be glorious. However, even the slightest shift on her part allowed the manacle to cut into her wrist.
“Come,” the woman said as she unlocked the metal cuff and assisted her to her feet. “There. Doest that not feel better?” The woman rubbed her hands with her own, and life rushed into the girl’s fingertips. She searched the woman’s face, but all she could discern was the lady’s age. Likely her late fifties. Silver-gray hair. Very strong hands. Not dainty like those of a woman of good breeding. Her ministrations indicated the woman did not readily retreat from hard work. Was she someone familiar? She could not be certain for the shadows robbed the girl of her savior’s other features. “Permit me to assist ye with yer laces and yer stays.”
Obediently, the girl turned her back to the woman. “My, yer skin be so smooth,” her captor said. The gown slipped down her body to the floor, and she stepped from it. A cold shiver rocked her spine, but she kept her focus on her surroundings. Where was she? Could she escape? The room resembled a cell–a place for prisoners, which is exactly what she was: someone’s prisoner, and she need never to forget that fact. Breaching the stone walls was not possible. She would require another form of flight.
“This gown should be making ye more comfortable.” The woman dropped the cloth over her head and began to lace the eyelets. Without her stays, she would be able to move more freely. “I ’ave also brought ye some gloves, as well as this strip of cloth. It’ll be keepin’ the shackle from cuttin’ into yer skin.”
She turned to the stranger. “Must I be returned to the cuff?” She wanted to explore her options more fully, but she permitted the woman to refasten the chain.
“I ’ave no right to order it otherwise.” Her captor’s gravelly voice held sadness, but the girl wondered if the woman offered an untruth. Something did not feel right. A shiver ran down the girl’s spine as she bent to accept the fastening.
“Then to whom should I plead my case?” she implored.
The woman’s mouth set in a tight line. “You’ll see in time.” The stranger straightened the gown’s line, tugging at the seams. “It be a bit tighter than I be thinkin’,” the woman said as she bent to retrieve the discarded traveling dress from the floor.
Without considering the gesture, the girl’s hand came to rest upon her abdomen. “My family shall pay whatever you ask for my release,” she said softly.
“Not yer husband?” the woman accused as she strode toward the door.
“My husband is dead,” the girl said softly into the empty room.
EXCERPT #2 (When Elizabeth Darcy discovers the news of Georgiana’s disappearance, she chases her husband into the Scottish countryside. She refuses to permit Darcy to face the possibility of Georgiana’s death alone.)
“How much farther, Mrs. Darcy?” Ruth Joseph asked as she shifted in the coach’s seat.
“Mr. Simpson reports we should be in Gretna Green within the hour. We shall spend the night. I would like to share some time outdoors with Bennet. I miss walking about with my son in my arms.”
“From Gretna, where to next?” Mary asked as she searched the landscape.
“Tomorrow, we shall turn toward Dumfries and then onto Thornhill. The next day we shall arrive at Kirkconnel.” Elizabeth, too, stared at the changing scenery. “The land seems so hard,” she said as she thought of her home. “I once considered Derby and the Peak District quite savage, especially as compared to Hertfordshire. Yet, it was not wild, but wonderfully majestic and as old as time. Now, I look at this rugged terrain and wonder about those who live in the Scottish Uplands.” Elizabeth sighed deeply. “Will these people have nurtured Mr. Darcy’s sister? Is she safe among those who eke out a living in this rocky soil? Will such people treat kindly a girl who until not two years prior shrank from her own shadow?”
EXCERPT #3 (When the girl who was held prisoner falls and strikes her head upon the harden floor, she is moved to a room where her captors can tend her.)
“There. There.” The woman patted the back of her hand. “Ye be safe. We let nothin’ happen to you.”
The girl opened her eyes wider. The room was cleaner and larger than she had expected. “Where am I?” She attempted to sit up, but the woman pressed her back.
“Might be best not to move too quickly,” she said.
The girl sank into the soft cushions. “I am thankful for your consideration, but I would know the name of my rescuers and of my current direction.”
The woman captured her hand. The warmth felt comforting against her chilled fingers; yet, a warning rang in her subconscious. She could not pinpoint the exact moment betrayal manifested itself upon the woman’s countenance, but it had made a brief appearance. The girl’s breathing shallowed in response. “We be the MacBethan family, and you be a guest at our home in Ayr. Me oldest son is the current laird. Of course, ye know me youngest Aulay.” She gestured to a young man in his twenties waiting patiently by the door. “One of arn men found ye and brung ye to arn home. Do ye remember any of wot I tell?”
The girl’s mouth twisted into a frown. “I recall a different room, and I remember your presenting me with a fresh gown.”
“And that be all ye remember?” The woman asked curiously. “Nothin’ of yer home? Yer family befoe ye came to Normanna Hall?”
The lines of the girl’s forehead met. A figure stroking her hair softly fluttered at the edges of her memory. And another of water sucking the air from her lungs. Tentatively, she said, “Only what I have previously said.” She would not speak more of the comfort the figure had given her until she knew what she faced in this house. The woman shot a quick glance at her son. Soothing the hair from her face, she told the girl, “The room must ’ave been the sick-room. Ye be lost on the moor for some time and be in despair. We not be knowin’ if’n ye wud live. The family be thankin’ the gods for yer recovery.”
The girl stared at the woman who tenderly stroked her arm; nothing of what this woman spoke rang true; yet, she could not dispute the obvious. She had suffered, and she was a stranger at Normanna Hall. “May I know your name?”
“Dolina MacBethan. Me late husband, may he rest in peace, and now me son be Wotherspoon.”
“Dost thou raise sheep?” The girl inquisitively asked before she could resist the urge to know more of her surroundings. She knew something of the derivation of the family’s peerage.
The woman pointedly dropped her hand. “The family surname comes from those who tend sheep. It be an honest trade. Although our fortunes are now tied to Galloway cattle. The land be not so fit for farmin’.”
The girl shoved herself to her elbows. “I meant no offense.” The woman’s tone reminded her that she would need to guard her impulsive tongue.
As she watched, her hostess purposely smiled; yet, the gesture did not appear genuine. “Of course, ye not be offering an offense. ye be part of the family. Or very near to being so.”
Suspicion returned, but the girl schooled her tone. “I am a part of the MacBethan family? When did that happy event occur?”
“It not be official.” The woman straightened her shoulders. “Ye have accepted Aulay’s plight, and we be planned a joinin’ in a week or so. As soon as ye be regainin’ yer strength.”
“I am to marry Aulay?” she said incredulously. “How can that be? Until a few hours ago, I held no memory of your son. He is a stranger to me.”
The woman turned quickly toward the door; she shooed her son from the room. “I be givin’ ye time to remember yer promise to this family, Lady Esme, and yer lack of gratitude for our takin’ ye to our bosom.”
“Lady Esme?” The girl called after her. “Is that my name?”
The woman turned to level a steady gaze on her. “Obviously, it be yer name. Ye be Lady Esme Lockhart, and ye be Aulay’s betrothed.
“Mam?” Aulay whispered in concern once they were well removed from the closed doorway. “Wot have ye done? She not be Lady Esme Lockhart.” he gestured toward the room where they detained the girl. “She no more be Lady Esme than I be Domhnall.”
Dolina shushed his protest. “Didnae ye hear the gel? She cannae remember her own name. We kin create the perfect mate fer ye. Do ye not comprehend? I knows ye be slow, but it must be as plain as the lines on me face. She cannae rescind her agreement without just cause. It not be the ’onorable thing to do. Besides, when the gel recalls the bairn she carries, then she’ll be glad to ’ave a man who’ll accept another’s child.”
“But we be tellin’ her the truth?” he insisted. “We tell the gel of ’er real family?”
His mother rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Certainly, we’ll tell the gel of ’er roots. But for now, she be Lady Esme.”
This is the Grey Man in Merrick. The snow hill behind him is Benyellary.
Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor–the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.
Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.
How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced – finding Georgiana before it is too late.
This is the infamous “Murder Hole.” Legend has it that many years ago weary travelers were robbed and their bodies dumped in the hole never to be seen again. In summer there is a ring of reeds growing around the hole but none grow in it. Its also rumored that in even the coldest winters, the centre never freeze.