Today, I welcome another of the authors involved in the Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series. Where I took up the tale of the Sheriff of Nottingham in I Shot the Sheriff and Lindsay Downs “transformed” Frankenstein in his The Monster Within, the Monster Without, Audrey Harrison has brought happiness to one of my favorite characters: Colonel Fitzwilliam from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
The Colonel’s Spinster
He needs a rich wife. A pity he’s falling for the wrong woman.
She’s looking to find out about her past. She wasn’t expecting to find her future.
Colonel Fitzwilliam is a second son, often overshadowed by his titled, older brother and his cousin, Mr Darcy. Returning from Waterloo, he knows it is time to find a wife with a healthy dowry, but he longs for a love match. Unfortunately for Fitzwilliam, love doesn’t put food on the table.
Miss Prudence Bamber has never known her mother’s family. A woman with her own mind and full life, she indulges her father’s wish to visit her long-lost relations. Mr Bamber hopes his daughter will find a husband; she wishes nothing more than to find out more about her mother’s history. It turns out to be a journey she won’t forget in a hurry.
The Colonel’s Spinster is part of the Tragic Characters in Classic Literature Series, giving Pride and Prejudice’s Colonel Fitzwilliam, the story he deserves.
Netherfield, Hertfordshire, 1813
With his ready smile on his face, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam entered the bedchamber of his cousin. Darcy frowned at him, at which Fitzwilliam’s smile broadened.
“The nerves getting to you?” he asked, as Darcy’s valet fussed around his cousin.
“Why am I so nervous? I want this wedding to take place, but my stomach is behaving like I’m some sort of callow youth on his first adventure,” Darcy said, with a nod dismissing his valet. He looked resplendent in a blue frock coat and cream breeches; his boots had been polished until they shone in the sunlight.
“It is good to be nervous,” Fitzwilliam reassured his relation. “But I’m convinced they are unnecessary doubts.”
Darcy finished fiddling with his neckcloth. He normally spent an age perfecting the gentle folds, but today he was even more inclined than usual for it to look impeccable. “I know you speak the truth. But it does not help that I’d rather not be the centre of attention for the morning.”
“I have some bad news to break to you, Darcy. No one is interested in you. They all want to see your bride in her wedding dress. All the women will be wondering if there will be lace or if she will wear flowers in her hair or a bonnet, or even a feather! You, my friend, are so low down in everyone’s interest, you are virtually not needed to attend,” Fitzwilliam said.
Darcy laughed. Those who did not know him well, would wonder at the uncommon occurrence, but to the few people who were dear to him, it was a regular, natural sound. “Good! Thank you, Fitzwilliam. I needed to be brought to the reality of the day. I too often allow myself to overthink a simple situation.”
“You? My dear cousin, I don’t know what you could possibly mean!”
Darcy shook his head at his cousin but then became serious. “Fitzwilliam, can I ask you a question in which I need your reply to be very honest?”
“It is something I should have raised before now. I know I’m a blockhead for needing to ask, but the niggle will not go away. You and Elizabeth — at Rosings, you were…”
Fitzwilliam looked at his cousin with sympathy. He was a man with ten thousand pounds a year, a capable landlord of one of the largest estates in Derbyshire, and yet he could be so unsure of himself. It endeared him further with the cousin who, in many ways, was more like a brother.
“Darcy, I promise you this. I was never in love with Elizabeth, nor she, me. I admit, I think her handsome, funny, and one of the best people I will soon have the pleasure to call cousin, but there are no other feelings towards her. And never have been,” Fitzwilliam said honestly.
“I can see why she would be drawn to you,” Darcy said, still looking uncomfortable.
Moving over to put his hands on his cousin’s shoulders, Fitzwilliam shook him gently. “She turned your first proposal down because she did not truly know you at that time. Plus the fact that the blackguard, Wickham, had been whispering poison into her ear and the general locality of her town.”
It had been a hard time for Darcy, blundering in and causing what had appeared to be a permanent breach with the woman he’d asked to marry him. He had only confessed the whole situation afterwards to his cousin, after he’d actually secured Elizabeth’s affection.
“I could understand if there had been an attraction…”
“No! There was mild flirtation. You know my character and hers. Neither of us can resist being playful, but she is yours Darcy. I am certain she always was. Your good opinion mattered too much to her to be disinterested. Look how she was with the buffoon, Collins — civil but cool. She was never that with you. From the start, there was something between you. Call it a spark if you like. But you were drawn to each other and teased and tormented one another from the beginning. That evening in Rosings in which she played the pianoforte was a prime example. She was far more playful towards you than at any other time with anyone else. We had been speaking. When you arrived, she started to tease you. Trust me on this. You have always been the only man for her.”
Darcy sighed. “Thank you. Again. It’s just the emotions of today. I am doubting everything that is poor in my character and all that I have known. I feel very unsure, and it is causing me some strange thoughts. I will relax. I will.”
“Good. This uncertainty does you no credit, especially towards Elizabeth. You should be convinced of her regard. We can all see it. She is besotted with you and rightly so. It is time, for once, that you relax and enjoy yourself, Darcy. You deserve happiness,” Fitzwilliam pointed out. “And, you know me. I won’t look at any young woman with serious consideration unless she has at least five thousand a year and three properties, one in London, a hunting lodge in Leicester, and a grand mansion in the country, preferably somewhere near Derbyshire.”
“You tell a good Banbury tale, cousin. You would never be so shallow.”
“I’m the second son. I cannot afford to be anything but particular about what a wife brings to the marriage. Otherwise, we will starve.”
Smiling, Darcy picked up his stove top and placed it on his head. “Come. Let’s go and get this over with. The sooner I make Elizabeth Mrs. Darcy, the better.”
“That’s the spirit,” Fitzwilliam laughed, but inside he felt a little jealous of his cousin. Oh, he had spoken the truth when he confessed that he’d never had feelings for Elizabeth. He had enjoyed her company but hadn’t been anywhere near falling in love with her. He was envious of a couple so perfectly suited setting out on their future life together.
They would have hurdles to overcome, mainly because of the family on both sides, but they were a strong couple who would support and love each other. Fitzwilliam was sure and was glad of it. Darcy had lost his father and mother when he was young and yet had to be brother and parent to his younger sister. He had taken on the role without complaint, but it was now time for him to have his own family.
Fitzwilliam longed to have that connection with someone, but his pocket and birth dictated that he was forced to look for a wife who brought a comfortable dowry to the marriage. His income as a colonel barely covered the costs of his uniform and the horseflesh he needed. His allowance from his father made sure his officer’s mess bill was paid each quarter with a little left over, but without the occasional monetary gifts from his Aunt Catherine and Darcy, he would struggle to keep out of dun territory. That was not conducive when hoping to set-up home or start a family.
Yet those were the two things he longed for.
Meet Author Audrey Harrison
I have had the fortune to live a dream. I’ve always wanted to write, but life got in the way as it so often does until a few years ago. Then a hospital visit and redundancy enabled me to do what I loved: sit down to write. Now writing has taken over my life, holidays being based around research, so much so that no matter where we go, my long-suffering husband says, ‘And what connection to the Regency period has this building/town/garden got?’
That dream became a little more surreal when in 2018, I became an Amazon StorytellerUK Finalist with Lord Livesey’s Bluestocking. A Regency Romance in the top five of an all-genre competition! It was a truly wonderful experience, I didn’t expect to win, but I had a ball at the awards ceremony.
I can be found in the North West of England (a Lancashire Lass), married with two grown-up children, a granddaughter, a mad springer spaniel and two granddogs, who come around to get spoiled (they know exactly where the treat cupboard is at Grandma’s and that a mournful gaze will get it open!)
Oh, and I have a husband who is the most unromantic man ever to walk the earth, so much so, that he inspired me to write my own romances to fill the gap! He does supply me with lots of cups of tea though, so he isn’t that bad.
Social Media Links:
Website www.audreyharrison.co.uk – there is a sign-up for my email, which is only sent out when there is something to say! You also receive a free copy of The Unwilling Earl in mobi format for signing up.
Amazon Author Page UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Audrey-Harrison/e/B009SO2EYO
The Books in the Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series:
The Monster Within, the Monster Without by Lindsay Downs – November 7, 2020 (Frankenstein)
I Shot the Sheriff by Regina Jeffers – November 30, 2020 (Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham)
The Colonel’s Spinster by Audrey Harrison – December 8, 2020 (Pride and Prejudice)
Fated Hearts by Alina K. Field – December 29, 2020 (Macbeth)
The Redemption of Heathcliff by Alanna Lucas – January 1, 2021 (Wuthering Heights)
The Company She Keeps by Nancy Lawrence – January 11, 2021 (Madame Bovary)
Captain Stanwick’s Bride by Regina Jeffers – February 19, 2021 (The Courtship of Miles Standish)
Glorious Obsession by Louisa Cornell – February 26, 2021 (Orpheus and Eurydice)