My newest JAFF book, Pemberley’s Christmas Governess, released onNovember 29, it is currently on sale for $0.99. Grab yours before the price goes up! The past couple of months have been hectic for me, and I have been planning ahead — doing my blogs in advance, etc., (actually writing this one on September), but mostly I have been cleaning out closets, shelves, etc., for I am closing on a new house sometime during the last two weeks of December. I am moving into a single story ranch style home after spending the last 18 years in this two-story home and the previous 22 in a bi-level. NO MORE STAIRS to climb!!! The idea delights me greatly, as I recently turned 74 years young, but my knees think I am 74 years old. So, if you follow me on social media, and I disappear for days at a time, I am either packing or writing. I have a Regency book entitled “An Escape to Love” arriving in January 2022 and a Regency historical fiction entitled “Obsession” coming out in March 2022 (which is not exactly a romance, but I will explain more on that later), and I am some 18 chapters into a new JAFF title, tentatively called “Mr. Darcy’s Inadvertent Bride.” It, too, will release in 2022, in all probability in June.
But, for now, you likely, are just wondering something about Pemberley’s Christmas Governess, which is my 28th JAFF title. Can you believe it? [You can find all my Austen-inspired titles HERE.) In this tale, Mr. Bennet has died while Elizabeth has been away visiting with Charlotte and Mr. Collins. Mrs. Bennet’s prediction of their all “being driven into the hedgerows” has come true faster than any of them could have considered. Mrs. Bennet blames Elizabeth for refusing Collins’s offer of marriage. Bingley has not taken Netherfield, so there is not Jane and Bingley. Elizabeth, therefore, has never met Fitzwilliam Darcy. To ease her family’s obligations, Elizabeth has taken a position as a governess, one she has held for 5 years, meaning she is nearly 25 and Darcy is approximately 33 years of age when they first meet.
Darcy has succumbed to the family’s wishes and married Anne de Bourgh, but Anne has died during child birth. He has mourned properly for his wife, a wife he had never truly loved, and he has decided as a means to moving back into society, he will host a house party for Christmastide. Lady Matlock is serving as his hostess. I should warn you Georgiana is not so sickening sweet in this tale as she was in Pride and Prejudice. After all, she is five years older, anxious to reach her majority and claim a husband. She has had to observe the mourning period for Mrs Anne Darcy and is glad to claim the society circumstances have previously kept from her. Miss Bingley is also getting a “little long in the tooth” and is more desperate than ever finally to claim Darcy to husband.
In the tale, Colonel Fitzwilliam has escorted Elizabeth to Pemberley in hopes either his mother or Darcy will provide her a good reference after she was accused of something terrible by one of his officers, which the colonel knew to be false. Obviously, when the colonel sends word he is bringing a young lady with him of whom he hopes both Darcy and Lady Matlock will approve, well . . . you can guess all the assumptions being made to twist the tale. Meanwhile, Elizabeth thinks she must prove herself “worthy,” and she assists in the nursery with Louisa Hurst’s two sons and Darcy’s daughter, Cassandra.
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.
So, here is a “taste” of Pemberley’s Christmas Governess to whet your appetite for more of the tale. In this scene from Chapter Six, Darcy cannot seem to keep away from Elizabeth, even though he thinks she is promised to Fitzwilliam.
Finding no one about, Darcy had asked after his cousin only to learn Fitzwilliam was in the school room with Miss Bennet.
Darcy knew he frowned, but he could not quite quash the idea his cousin and the lady might be enjoying some privacy, while settling things between them. His heart sighed in continued disappointment, but he managed to say, “I will not interrupt them, for now. Where might I find the countess?”
Mr. Nathan also frowned, but, obviously, for a different reason. “I beg your pardon, sir. From what I understand, most of your houseguests are in the nursery. That is, all except Mr. and Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley.”
Darcy heard his butler’s unspoken criticism: All except those who should be there. “And what is so fascinating about Pemberley’s nursery?” Darcy asked with a lift of his eyebrows.
“I believe Miss Bennet, sir, convinced Colonel Fitzwilliam and Captain Stewart to reenact several of the battles to which they personally stood witness. Initially, Miss Darcy and the other young ladies accompanied the colonel, but I have learned from Mrs. Reynolds that Mr. Bingley and the other two gentlemen soon followed, as did Lady Matlock.”
Darcy’s lips twitched in amusement. Apparently, Mr. Nathan did not know whether to approve of this turn of events or not. “As I possess a legitimate excuse to call upon the nursery, I believe I will follow the others.”
“As is reasonable,” Mr. Nathan said as he bowed.
Darcy smiled. “If the party is interrupting Cassandra’s nap, I will be sending them down for tea. You might warn Cook.”
With anticipation, Darcy quickly climbed the steps to the nursery. He paused briefly at the door to survey the room. The colonel and Captain Stewart were describing the evening of the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels. As if they had rehearsed it, the young gentlemen in the room claimed the hand of one of the ladies, including Mrs. Anderson, and began to waltz their partners about in small circles, for the room was too cramped to move about freely. Even Hursts’ sons danced around with Megs.
It was only then he realized the gentlemen ignored Miss Bennet’s presence in the room. The lady was framed by the window, and she was dancing, only Miss Bennet was dancing with his young daughter. Without considering his actions, Darcy slipped into the room and was standing before her when she turned around. A large smile, likely intended for his daughter or the exercise graced her lips, but he did not hesitate: Darcy placed both the woman and his child in a loose embrace and turned them in a slow circle. “Good afternoon, pumpkin,” he said as he bent his head to kiss the top of his daughter’s head, but his eyes never left Miss Bennet’s shocked gaze.
“Mr. Darcy,” she began in apology, attempting to step from his arms, but he tightened his hold just enough to dissuade her. As the rest of the room hummed the music, Darcy said softly, “I am dancing with my daughter and the most—”
However, at that moment, Colonel Fitzwilliam called out. “That is the moment when Wellington received the message of Bonaparte’s advance. We departed the ball, many of us still wearing our evening shoes and trousers. Partners were left upon the dance floor, some women receiving a brief kiss in parting.” Although Darcy had yet to move, he knew from the sound of giggles behind him, many women in the room received a chaste kiss on their foreheads or their hands.
Such was not what Darcy wished to kiss: Miss Bennet’s lips were so tempting, for the briefest of seconds, the rest of those within the room disappeared.
Then a laughing Mrs. Anderson appeared at his side to reach for Darcy’s daughter. “It’ll be impossible to convince Miss Cassandra to sleep now she has waltzed with her father. Even so, permit me to take her, Miss Bennet.”
Darcy reluctantly released his hold on Miss Bennet and his daughter. He scooped the child from Miss Bennet’s hold and lifted Cassandra into the air, teasing another giggle from his daughter’s lips before he deposited her into Mrs. Anderson’s waiting arms.
He knew Miss Bennet took several steps backward, retreating to the window, just as he turned to the rest of the room.
“Darcy!” his cousin called. “When did you join us?”
“Only a few moments ago,” he said with a well-placed smile. “I came to inform each of you I ordered tea to be delivered to the blue sitting room. However, I did not wish to disturb your tale or the effects of the duchess’s ball on everyone.” He glanced to Cassandra. “I stole a moment to dance with my daughter and enjoy her smile.”
Bingley said, “I thought Miss Bennet entertained Miss Cassandra.”
With difficulty, Darcy kept the scowl from his features, along with the desire to slap his friend across the back of Bingley’s head. He could not understand why none of the gentlemen in the room would think to partner Miss Bennet. If Mrs. Anderson and Megs deserved partners, why did not a gentleman’s daughter—a woman with impeccable manners and a delightful personality. Moreover, if Miss Bennet was Fitzwilliam’s betrothed, why was his cousin dancing with Georgiana? Obviously, the reason the colonel had agreed to this venture was to please Miss Bennet. “She did,” Darcy said with more calm than he felt. “I imposed on the lady to hold Cassandra while Miss Bennet and I took a few turns together. Cassandra did not appear to want to leave the good lady’s care, even to dance with her father.”
Georgiana lifted her chin in a gesture Darcy had never viewed her using previously and one of which he did not approve. It was very reminiscent of a gesture Miss Bingley often employed when criticizing others. “The tea will become cold; therefore, we should go below. I, for one, have had enough of the war for one day. Countess, might you lead?”
Darcy noted the countess’s dismay. “Will you join us, Darcy?”
“I will follow in a few minutes. I wish to spend a bit of time with Cassandra before she falls asleep,” he said in encouragement.
The group nodded their acceptance and departed two-by-two, leaving only the boys, Megs, Mrs. Anderson, Cassandra, and Miss Bennet behind.
Darcy waited until the sound of their voices died away before he turned to Miss Bennet. “Will you not join us, ma’am?”
“I think not,” she said softly. “I believe I will rest for a bit, that is, if Mrs. Anderson and Megs can oversee the nursery.”
“You are not employed by Pemberley,” he reminded her. “You are a guest.”
“I prefer to be of use to the household,” she argued.
“It is not necessary,” he corrected, “but I shan’t chastise you.”
With a quick nod of farewell, the lady made her exit. Darcy again reached for his daughter. “Were you having a good time with Miss Bennet?” he asked as he settled his child in his arms. Cassandra patted his cheeks in that adorable way of all small children.
“Miss Bennet has a way with both Miss Cassandra and Mr. Hurst’s sons,” Mrs. Anderson declared. “It be a shame she be in her situation, for she’d make some man a good wife and a mother for his children.”
Darcy agreed, but he would not be that man, and that particular idea displeased him more than he would ever admit to another. He stifled a groan of despair when he realized that when Colonel Fitzwilliam married Miss Bennet, they would often be in company together. He did not know whether he could tolerate the situation or not. Of course, if Fitzwilliam married, his cousin would likely move into the estate that would be his inheritance, which was located in Oxfordshire. Perhaps distance would provide Darcy time to control his jealousy.
After playing with Cassandra for a quarter hour, Darcy turned his steps toward where his guests were congregated, but as he crossed the passageway leading past Miss Bennet’s quarters, he stopped to consider what must be a strong case of insanity. Had the gentlemen ignored the lady because of her dowdy attire? Had they not noticed her splendid personality because it was hidden behind the “dull curtain” she presented for all to look upon? What would be the result if she made an appearance in something more appropriate? Without taking a full account of the consequences, he paused outside her door and knocked.
Within seconds, the lady opened the door. “Mr. Darcy? Is something amiss, sir?”
For the briefest of moments, he thought to push past her and spend time alone with her in her room, but, instead, he assured, “Nothing unusual. It simply occurred to me that perhaps you might feel from place when we gather.” He paused in awkwardness. Without a doubt, he should have thought over his actions before knocking. “I assure you, ma’am, I do not wish to sound condescending, but I thought you might have use of a few of my late wife’s gowns. You are shorter than was Anne,” he rushed to say, “and . . .” He glanced to her figure and willed the blush away. “If you are handy with a needle, I am certain you could find a use for several of the dresses.”
“I could not think to impose—” she began her protest.
“The gowns will be presented to a rag man when he calls upon the estate after the new year begins,” he declared. “Surely you could find a better use for any number of them. The late Mrs. Darcy was quite modest; therefore, the newer ones should serve you well. You would have new things for your new life.” The idea of her wearing something he had provided her pleased him. Even if she was to marry Fitzwilliam, she would think of him when she wore the gowns. It was the best he could do for now.
“I do not know what to say, Mr. Darcy. You have already been more than kind to me,” she declared.
“Nonsense,” he insisted. “I will ask Mrs. Reynolds to choose several among Anne’s gowns and assist you with your fittings.”
The woman reached out to catch his hand. Wrapping her two smaller ones around his, she said with tears misting her eyes, “When the colonel suggested I join him at Pemberley, I did not believe anyone would be as open in his welcome as you have proven to be. Your generosity has renewed my soul.” She brought the back of his hand to her lips to plant a gentle kiss on it. Heat raced up Darcy’s arm, and his breath caught in his chest. Yet, before he could react, she stepped back. “No one would ever believe my good fortune in taking Colonel Fitzwilliam’s acquaintance. Bless you, sir.” With that, the lady closed the door to her quarters, leaving Darcy in the empty passageway and wanting more.
The book can also be read on Kindle Unlimited.