Today, my 28th Jane Austen-inspired tale goes live. I hope you have your copy waiting for you in your inbox. I pray you will enjoy this tale. It is a bit different from my usual fare, where I stay close to canon. Even so, I did not stray too far from Austen’s beloved tale.
Here are a few of the differences:
The tale begins five years after Austen’s tale. Elizabeth is nearly 25 years of age and Darcy is 33.
Elizabeth has become a governess after her father’s sudden death. Her mother blames Elizabeth for their penury for Elizabeth has refused Mr. Collins’s offer of his hand. Elizabeth, Jane, and Mary were sent to live with the Gardiners. Elizabeth immediately took a position as a governess to relieve the Gardiners of the financial burden. Mrs. Bennet, Lydia, and Kitty are in Meryton with Mr. and Mrs. Phillips. Bingley never came to Netherfield, so Elizabeth did not meet Darcy, but she has met Mr. Wickham.
Exhausted by the need to find a suitable wife, Darcy has fallen to family pressure and married Anne de Bourgh. He thought if he could remove his cousin from Lady Catherine’s care Anne might blossom. She does not. She dies in childbirth, leaving behind their infant daughter Cassandra Anne. After a proper period of mourning, Darcy is resigned to returning to the marriage mart. At the beginning of the book, he has agreed to host a Christmas party as a means to a return to Society. Lady Matlock will serve as his hostess.
Pemberley’s Christmas Governess: A Holiday Pride and Prejudice Vagary
Two hearts. One kiss.
Following his wife’s death in childbirth, Fitzwilliam Darcy hopes to ease his way back into society by hosting a house party during Christmastide. He is thrilled when his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam sends a message saying not only will he attend, but the colonel is bringing a young woman with him of whom he hopes both Darcy and the colonel’s mother, Lady Matlock, will approve. Unfortunately, upon first sight, Darcy falls for the woman: He suspects beneath Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s conservative veneer lies a soul which will match his in every way; yet, she is soon to be the colonel’s wife.
Elizabeth Bennet lost her position as a governess when Lady Newland accuses Elizabeth of leading her son on. It is Christmastide, and she has no place to go and little money to hold her over until after Twelfth Night; therefore, when Lieutenant Newland’s commanding officer offers her a place at his cousin’s household for the holy days, she accepts in hopes someone at the house party can provide her a lead on a new position. Having endured personal challenges which could easily have embittered a lesser woman, Elizabeth proves herself brave, intelligent, educated in the fine arts of society, and deeply honorable. Unfortunately, she is also vulnerable to the Master of Pemberley, who kindness renews her spirits and whose young daughter steals her heart. The problem is she must leave Pemberley after the holidays, and she does not know if a “memory” of Fitzwilliam Darcy will be enough to sustain her.
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Enjoy this short excerpt: Also check out the one on today’s Austen Authors Post. Follow me on my blog tour for more excerpts – some insights into the story – and the giveaways.
Mid-December 1818 – Gloucestershire
“I said to unhand me, sir,” Elizabeth Bennet ordered, as she shoved young Mr. Newland’s hands from her person. Ever since the man had returned home, he had dogged her every step. She had been serving as the governess for his two younger sisters for six months now, but this was the first time the lieutenant had been home since her arrival at his parents’ home.
“I just be luckin’ for a bit of fun,” Mr. Newland slurred as he attempted to kiss her ear, but all she received was a wet lash of his tongue across her cheek. He reeked of alcohol.
Elizabeth wished she had been more careful when she left her room a few minutes earlier, but she had briefly forgotten how the lieutenant seemed always to be around where she least expected it. She had thought him below stairs with his friends, both of whom had been excessively respectful to her. She shoved hard against his chest sending him tumbling backward to land soundly upon his backside. “If it is fun you require,” she hissed, “join your friends in the billiard room!” Elizabeth side-stepped the man as he reached for her.
Lieutenant Newland attempted to turn over so he might stand, but he was too inebriated to put his hands flat for balance and to rotate his hips. “I don’t be requirin’ that kind of fun,” he grumbled.
Elizabeth edged closer to the steps. She hoped to escape before Lady Newland discovered her with a torn sleeve and the woman’s rascal son doing a poor version of standing on his own. “You must find your ‘fun’ elsewhere, sir. I am not that type of woman.”
She had been a governess for nearly five years—five years since her dearest “Papa” had died suddenly from a heart attack—five years since her mother, Kitty, and Lydia had moved in with Aunt Phillips in Meryton, and Jane and Mary had moved in with Uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth, too, had been sent to London with Jane and Mary, but it had been so crowded at her uncle’s town house, she immediately took a position as the governess to Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Sample’s daughters, Livia and Sylvia. She had remained with the Samples, who were a wealthy middle-class gentry family and friends of her Uncle Gardiner, for a little over two years before the Samples brought the girls out into society and married them off.
In Elizabeth’s estimation, Livia, at age fifteen, was too young for marriage, but the girl appeared happy with her choice of a husband. Sylvia, at seventeen, had been more reluctant to wed, but the girl had followed her parents’ wishes. Few women had the freedom to choose their husbands, even in the lower classes, and certainly not in the gentry.
Elizabeth had spent another two years with another wealthy, but untitled, family, preparing their daughter for an elite school for young women on the Continent. In mid-May, she had answered an advert with an agency to join the Newland household. Although she had often thought Lady Newland was too pretentious, Elizabeth had enjoyed the enthusiasm of her young charges: She had considered them to be very much of the nature of her sisters Mary and Lydia. Pamela wished desperately to please her parents, but to no avail, while Julia was as boisterous and as adventurous as had been Lydia.
Elizabeth desperately missed her family, but, essentially, she knew their current situation was her fault. Such was the reason she had sacrificed herself by going out on her own—removing the responsibility for her care from her family’s hands—one less mouth to feed and to clothe.
Jarred from her musings by Lieutenant Newland’s lunge for her legs, Elizabeth squealed and scampered down the steps before the man could catch her. However, the lieutenant’s momentum sent him tumbling down the stairs with a yelp of surprise—heels over head—to land spread-eagle on the floor, except one of his legs had been turned at an odd angle. A loud moan of pain escaped to echo through the hall.
The sound of running feet filled the open hallway. Immediately, Elizabeth dropped to her knees to examine the lieutenant’s leg. “Permit me a look at your leg, sir,” she told the man as she swatted away his hands, still attempting to grope her. “Lay back!” she instructed.
Immediately one of the lieutenant’s fellow officers was beside her. “Lay back, Lieutenant,” he ordered in a strong voice of authority. “Permit the lady to examine your leg.” The colonel looked to her, and Elizabeth mouthed, “Bad break.”
After that, the colonel took charge. “Mr. Scott, send someone for a surgeon.” The butler rushed away. “You two, find some sturdy blankets and a board—a door, perhaps, so we might move Lieutenant Newland to his room.”
“Yes, sir,” the footmen scrambled to do the colonel’s bidding.
Before Elizabeth could extricate herself from the scene, she looked up to view Lady Newland’s worried countenance. It was all Elizabeth could do not to groan aloud. There was no hope that her ladyship would take Elizabeth’s side in the matter. “Nigel! Nigel, darling!” Lady Newland screeched as she knelt beside her son. “What has happened?” She shoved Elizabeth from the way.
Colonel Fitzwilliam explained, “I have sent for a surgeon and a means to move Newland to his room.”
Lady Newland nodded her understanding as she caught her son’s hand to offer comfort. Unfortunately, for Elizabeth, the lieutenant rolled his eyes up to meet hers. “I’m thorry, Miss Bennet.”
Lady Newland cast a gimlet eye on Elizabeth. “Sorry for what, Miss Bennet?” she aked in accusing tones.
Even though she knew such would cost her the position she held in the household, Elizabeth refused to tell a lie. “For the lieutenant’s attempt to take liberties where they were not welcomed, your ladyship.”
Lady Newland stood to confront Elizabeth. “Evidently, you thought one day to take my place as viscountess.”
The colonel stood also. “I believe you are mistaken, ma’am. Both Captain Stewart and I have warned the lieutenant that it is inappropriate for a gentleman to take favors with the hired help. Your son’s ‘infatuation’ has been quite evident to all who chose not to turn a blind eye to his thoughts of privilege.”
Lady Newland pulled herself up royally. “I shall not listen to anyone defame Nigel’s character. I realize you are my son’s commanding officer, but I am the mistress of this house, and I say who is and is not welcome under my roof. I would appreciate it if you removed yourself from my home by tomorrow.”
Captain Stewart joined them then. “Your ladyship, surely you realize the colonel is the son of the Earl of Matlock,” he cautioned.
For the briefest of seconds, Lady Newland’s resolve faltered, but she looked again upon Elizabeth’s torn sleeve and stiffened in outrage. “You may stay, Colonel, if you wish to condemn the real culprit in this matter.”
The colonel’s features hardened. “Although it provides me no pleasure to say so, for the British Army holds a standard for its officers, even those of a junior rank, but I have named the culprit, ma’am.” He bowed stiffly. “I thank you for your prior hospitality. I, for one, will depart in the morning after I learn something of your son’s prospects for recovery so I might properly report the surgeon’s prognosis to my superiors. Captain Stewart may choose to stay or depart on his own.” With that, he extended an arm to Elizabeth. “Permit me to escort you to your quarters, Miss Bennet.”
Though in the eyes of Lady Newland, Elizabeth’s doing so was likely another mark against her character, she gladly accepted the gentleman’s arm, for she did not think her legs would support her without his assistance. She was without a position and had no place to go.
“Are you well, ma’am,” the colonel whispered.
“There is no way Lady Newland will provide me a letter of character. The chances of my securing another position without a recommendation are next to impossible. I shall be fortunate if her ladyship agrees to pay me the wages due to me.”
The colonel responded in tones of obvious disapproval. “I will speak to Lord Newland regarding your wages.”
Elizabeth attempted to keep the tears from her eyes. Until now, no one had cared that she was alone in the world. “You are very kind, sir.”
“Not kind enough,” he corrected. “Otherwise, I would have kept a tighter rein on Lieutenant Newland’s actions.”
“You are the lieutenant’s commanding officer in military situations. You cannot also expect to be his conscience within the halls of his home,” she argued. “Even if you had squashed his desires on this journey, you could not guarantee the lieutenant would not return alone some time in the near future. The encounter was inevitable.”
“Your calmness amazes me, Miss Bennet,” he declared.
“I am far from calm, sir,” she said when they paused before the door to her quarters. “My insides are of the nature of a duck’s legs under water. On the surface the duck appears serene, but his legs are beating out a tattoo.”
The colonel chuckled. “Tell me you have a place that will take you in, at least until you can claim another position.”
Elizabeth wished she could provide the gentleman the reassurances he required, but, at present, she had no idea where to turn. “Perhaps my aunt and uncle in Cheapside—”
“Once you have considered your choices,” he said softly, “I would consider it an honor to assist you to your destination, if you will permit it.”
Oddly, Elizabeth did not consider the man or his offer a threat to her person, as she had felt from the beginning with all Lieutenant Newland offered. “I thank you kindly, but I am not your responsibility, Colonel.”
“My mother would argue otherwise. If she discovered I had abandoned you, there would be the Devil to pay for my lack of compassion. Do not tell her ladyship this, Miss Bennet, but I would rather return to the Continent and face the French a second time than to incur my mother’s wrath,” he said with an easy smile.
Elizabeth, too, smiled largely. “Your secret is safe with me, sir. Now, go to the lieutenant. I am certain he is in great pain, and a voice of reason must prevail in his care.”
Now, for the giveaway. I have two eBook copies of Pemberley’s Christmas Governess to present to two lucky winners who comment below. The giveaway will end Friday, December 3 at midnight, EST. I will contact winners by email.