Arriving October 5 is my latest Pride and Prejudice vagary. PreOrders of Elizabeth Bennet’s Gallant Suitor continue. If you have not done so previously, claim it while you may, before the price goes up.
Okay, here are the parameters of the tale…
Darcy came to Hertfordshire a year earlier to assist Bingley in letting Netherfield, but he did not stay long and never met the Bennets.
Bingley permitted his sisters to lead him away from Jane and Netherfield, and he does not immediately return, just as before, his return is due to several legitimate reasons, which I will not disclose at this time.
Although Bingley still carries on with his father’s business, one of his true passions is horse breeding and thoroughbreds. He has expanded his stables at Netherfield.
Jane Bennet is NOT Mr. Bennet’s biological daughter, although she has been christened as a “Bennet,” and, during the Regency, the record of the church was the official one.
Mrs. Bennet was previously married to Stewart Belwood, the youngest son of Sir Wesley Belwood, a baronet from Hertfordshire. Stewart died in a carriage accident before Jane was born.
Stepton Abbey is one of the properties belonging to the baronetcy, but was owned free and clear by Stewart Belwood. Thus, as Stewart’s only child, Jane is to inherit it.
Sir Wesley is brother to Lady Matlock, and, in order to keep the abbey in the family, he wants his nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, to marry Jane. (There are more nefarious things going on, but you will learn of those when you read the story.)
Elizabeth means to protect Jane from being “forced” into a marriage not of her sister’s choosing.
Darcy places himself in a position to do the same for the colonel.
They all end up together at the abbey. And then . . .
When Elizabeth Bennet’s eldest sister is named as the granddaughter of Sir Wesley Belwood, the Bennet family’s peaceful world is turned on its ear. Over Mr. Bennet’s objections, when Sir Wesley orders Jane to Stepton Abbey, Mrs. Bennet escorts her daughter to meet Jane’s true grandfather, a man who once turned the former Frances Gardiner Belwood out without even a widow’s pension. Elizabeth also travels with the pair, in hopes of protecting both from a man none of them truly know.
Fitzwilliam Darcy travels to Stepton Abbey with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose Uncle Wesley has summoned the colonel to the abbey to meet the baronet’s granddaughter, a woman few in the family knew existed. Sir Wesley is the Countess of Matlock’s brother, and the man wishes for a marriage between the colonel and Jane Bennet (née Belwood) in order to keep the abbey in the family, while Darcy means to be in a position to protect his cousin from being forced into a marriage of convenience.
When Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy meet sparks of self-righteousness fly between them, but soon they join forces to protect their loved ones from Sir Wesley’s manipulations. Moralizing soon turns to respect and then to trust and then to love. This is a friends to lovers tale turned upon its head with unexpected consequences for all.
Most of my latest Austen vagary takes place in Hertfordshire; therefore, it was necessary for me to work in some of the places in the area and relate them back to the original Pride and Prejudice. One way I did so was to introduce my readers to a place called “Kimpton,” a village in Hertfordshire (with only a little over 2000 residents today), some seven miles north of St Albans. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book, which you will learn something of in the excerpt below. The manor house associated with the village’s founding was later held by the Hoo-Keate family and then, by marriage to the “Dacre” family.
I dearly love it when little links fall into place and become part of the story line.
Do you not think the real-life “Kimpton” sounds something of the imaginary “Kympton,” where Wickham was to be clergyman? And what of the “Dacre” family? Could they be distant relations to Fitzwilliam Darcy? Spellings varied greatly at the time. LOL!
In truth, the title Baron Dacre was created three times in the Peerage of England, every time by writ. (You may read about the various times the barony was created and forfeited HERE.) Ralph (or Ranulph) Dacre, 1st Baron Dacre, was summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Dacre in 1321. Ten years later, he was appointed High Sheriff of Cumberland and Governor of Carlisle. [Remember: By some accounts, Carlisle is none other than Camelot, the mythical seat of King Arthur’s court, based on the idea Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table, stayed at the Castle of Carlisle on a hunting expedition in the haunted Inglewood Forest, as related in a poem of the period. These events parallels another 14th century poem, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” [Sorry! Former English teacher geeking out again!]
If one looks at the list of Governors of Carlisle, he will see a number of the Dacres were named so, including William de Dacre (appointed by Henry III), Ralph Dacre, 1st Baron Dacre (appointed by Edward III), Thomas Dacre, 2nd Baron Dacre (appointed by Henry VII), William Lord Dacre of Gillesland (appointed by first Henry VIII and also by Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I). Yet, a closer look shows us one Ralph Fitzwilliam, Baron of Greystoke, who was appointed by Edward II. “Fitzwilliam”??? Now, where have we heard that surname before?
Enough of my teasing. In this excerpt, Darcy has let horses from Bingley so Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, and the colonel can all go riding out together. Bingley tags along in hopes of an opportunity to apologize to Jane Bennet AGAIN for not returning to Hertfordshire when the lady thought he should. At this point, the colonel is “ignorant” of the former connection between Jane and Bingley.
Earlier in the book, Elizabeth realized Darcy was the same man of whom Wickham had spoken. They have a mighty argument (as would be expected of ODC), but the colonel has set Elizabeth straight on Wickham’s true character. In this scene from the end of Chapter Five and the beginning of Chapter Six, she explains something of her confusion to Darcy. ENJOY!
Elizabeth greatly enjoyed the banter between the gentlemen, but she would wish, just once, to be thought equal to Jane’s attractiveness. Her sister’s blue riding habit made Jane’s eyes appear bluer and her complexion fairer. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s sometimes green and sometimes brown eyes knew no complementary color, at least, not one which did not make her feel “drab” and “insignificant.” She had never been one to be jealous of Jane; yet . . .
“As to your cousin’s observations, I shall answer for myself, Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth responded. “Better to be called ‘sensible’ than ‘insensible.’”
Mr. Darcy appeared to ignore her defense. Instead, he said, “If you are prepared, allow me to provide you a hand up, Miss Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth reluctantly nodded her agreement. First, she fished in her pocket to provide the bay a sliver of sugar. “Permit me to spoil you, my beauty. No one can look upon you and not see your exquisiteness.”
Mr. Darcy stepped behind her. “No man worth his salt could think you anything but exceptionally handsome,” he said softly and for her ears only.
She turned slowly to look up at him. “Sometimes I wish . . .”
She was not permitted the opportunity to confess her deepest wish, for the colonel called, “Do you require my assistance, Darcy?”
The gentleman shook off his cousin’s teasing. “Miss Elizabeth is simply pampering the bay.” He caught her elbow and directed her toward the animal’s side. Rather than asking her to place her foot in his interlocked fingers, he lifted her with ease—his hands about her waist—to the saddle, to set her in the seat and brace her until she could wrap her knee about the “horn,” before adjusting the strap holding the stirrup iron.
Afterwards, the gentleman strode to the dappled grey stallion awaiting him and mounted easily. Elizabeth admired his seat. The man obviously knew his way about a horse. She could give no credence to his naming her as “handsome,” but his praise had been what she had required at the moment. It was nice to think he understood her just a bit.
Naturally, she would not latch her hopes on the man, but she was not completely immune to his charms. “He will only be in Hertfordshire for another sennight,” she murmured. “Then he will return to London. Do not become too attached to him.” Yet, she feared her warnings had been spoken too late.
* * *
Darcy had never viewed a woman so in tune with the horse she rode. Certainly, he was acquainted with any number of women who rode in London’s parks and even a few who rode with men at a fox hunt. His own sister was a fair hand with the ribbons, and his mother was said to be a superb rider, but watching Miss Elizabeth and the bay was as if he watched how God imagined a horse and a human could communicate.
He knew without being told Miss Elizabeth Bennet thoroughly enjoyed the freedom the ride provided. He, too, felt the pressures of the last few days leaving his stiff muscles as the miles sped by. He glanced over his shoulder to view his cousin, Bingley, and Miss Belwood further and further behind.
The wind upon his face felt as if it cleared his thinking, and he was one with nature. Hertfordshire certainly could not compete with his blessed Derbyshire, but the shire possessed its own unique beauties, one of which rode the little bay some twenty feet ahead of him. He should not have taken note of the lady’s perfectly formed le cul d’une femme—her derriere, but he had, and his hands still tingled from the pleasure of holding her about her waist.
* * *
Elizabeth smiled as she rode ahead of her little party. It was not because they had, by silent consent, permitted her to lead, but, rather, it was simply being seated upon a spirited horse, as well as still indulging in the compliment Mr. Darcy had provided her. Although it would have been an impossible task, she was relatively certain the gentleman had read her thoughts, and, even if his declaration was false, she would cherish his compliment and his kindness forever.
They had permitted the horses to gallop for a good period of time. Breathing in the clean Hertfordshire air, she guided the bay around the cluster of Holm oaks surrounded by a field of sedum, still in bloom.
At length, she pulled up on the reins and looked down upon the village of Kimpton. Within seconds, Mr. Darcy drew up beside her. “This was always one of Papa’s favorite places,” she explained as they waited in companionable silence for the others to join them. The gentleman appeared to be of a like nature, not wishing to speak unless absolutely necessary; yet, Elizabeth knew from his quietness he, too, appreciated the view.
Within minutes, the others joined them, and Elizabeth swallowed the twinge of regret at losing the feeling of “closeness” she had experienced with Mr. Darcy.
“One of our father’s special places,” Jane said.
“As we waited, I told Mr. Darcy something similar,” Elizabeth admitted. “The village below is Kimpton, and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It says, ‘In the Half-Hundred of Hitchin 24 Ralph holds Kimpton from the Bishop. It answers for 4 hides. Land for 10 ploughs. In Lordship 2; a third possible. 2 Frenchmen and 12 villagers with 2 smallholders have 7 ploughs. 3 cottagers; 5 slaves. Meadow for 6 oxen; woodland, 800 pigs; 1 mill at 8s. The total value is and was £12; before 1066 £15. Aelfeva, mother of Earl Morcaz held this manor.’”
“You know the passage word for word?” Mr. Darcy asked in awe.
“Not as accurately as I would hope,” Elizabeth admitted with a blush.
“Do not believe her, Mr. Darcy,” Jane teased. “Elizabeth possesses a remarkable memory.”
Feeling self-conscious, Elizabeth shrugged her response. “Not so remarkable,” she declared. “Unless for a bit of history.”
Jane added, “Some of the houses from what is called ‘High Road’ date back to the 1500s.”
The colonel asked, “Does the village possess an inn or an ale house?”
“Yes, I will show you,” Jane said. “Follow me.”
Her sister led Mr. Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam down the gentle hill. By silent consent, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy followed. She glanced to the man beside her. “Might I share a revelation of sorts with you, sir?”
The gentleman sounded curious. “More history, Miss Elizabeth?” he asked as he nudged his horse forward so they might follow the others at a sedate pace.
“My observation involves Mr. Wickham,” she cautioned.
She did not look at him. Even so, she knew a frown marked his brow, and he sat very tall and straight in the saddle, as if he expected her to strike him. “If you must, madam,” he said through stiff tones.
“I would not wish to injure you, sir,” she admitted.
They remained in silence for several seconds before he offered assurances. “I will trust you, Miss Elizabeth.” However, his facial expressions, when she looked upon him, told her he would prefer not to hear her tale.
Yet, Elizabeth was certain Mr. Darcy would find her story “amusing,” or perhaps the word might be “enlightening.” Therefore, she claimed the trust he had presented her and carefully spoke what she thought was important for him to know. “When Mr. Wickham spoke of the living he thought had been denied him, he spoke of ‘Kympton.’ With his northern accent, at first, I kept thinking the lieutenant was saying ‘Kimpton.’ They sound so similar and possess a close spelling. I kept wondering where a church for his services existed in Kimpton, for I was relatively assured those in Kimpton go into Harpender and attend the church at St Nicholas.”
Thankfully, Mr. Darcy smiled at her. “Did not Mr. Wickham tell you I held the living for Kympton?”
“Naturally, he did,” Elizabeth shared. “But, you see, the Earl of Morcar’s manor—the earldom I mentioned from the Domesday listing—was later held by the Hoo-Keate family and then, by marriage, to the Dacre family. When Mr. Wickham was saying ‘Darcy,’ through his somewhat strong Derbyshire accent, my mind was conjuring up all the tales of the Dacres I could recall from my father’s stories of the family.”
“I have warned Mr. Wickham on multiple occasions,” he shared, “those in London speak with a different intonation than do those in the shires.” He looked off to where his cousin’s party rode ahead of them. “Were the Dacres notorious?” he asked with a gentle smile, and Elizabeth knew she had not offended him.
“Just in the fact they were styled as barons in three different generations, and, perhaps,” she teased, “for a sundry of other offenses.”
“How so?” he inquired.
“In 1321, Ralph Dacre was summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Dacre. Later, he became High Sheriff of Cumberland and Governor of Carlisle.”
“A member of my mother’s family, the Fitzwilliams, also served as Governor of Carlisle, and, ironically, he, too, was a ‘Ralph.’ Ralph Fitzwilliam, Baron of Greystoke. He served under Edward II.”
“Ralph Dacre served under Edward III,” she clarified before continuing. “Lord Dacre married Margaret de Multon, Baroness Multon of Gilsland, but he did so without Edward III’s permission, for, you see, Margaret was the King’s ward. Ralph stole her away in the night.”
“Was he not hanged for his offense? Many have hanged for a lesser crime,” he observed.
“Pardoned, for the lady was of age.”
“Fortunate for him,” Mr. Darcy remarked. “Being drawn and quartered would have placed a period on his barony.”
Elizabeth was quick to say, “Oh, there were those in the Dacre family who were murdered and one, in particular, who was accused of murder. As to the second creation of the title, another Ralph, son of Thomas Dacre, the sixth baron, became Lord Dacre of Gilsland, but the title did not continue through that Ralph’s line. Thomas Dacre’s fifth son, Humphrey, became Lord Dacre in the third creation.”
“I suppose for family history, it was advantageous for Thomas Dacre to father multiple sons,” he summarized.
“Yet, can you see why I thought so lowly of you with Mr. Wickham’s tale of your perfidy? In my uninformed opinion, you were just another ‘Dacre’ whose sordid past brought about sometimes ill-gotten gains.”
“I have forgiven you, Miss Elizabeth,” he said as he dismounted to assist her to the ground before a small inn. “There is no need for further explanation.”
“For your kindness, I am truly blessed, but I wished you to know how much of our previous misunderstanding came about. I do not wish us to be at loggerheads.” She did not totally comprehend why she had confessed her tale, for the gentleman would soon be gone from her life forever, but, while he was here, she wished for his good opinion.
“We will not argue, at least, not over someone as insignificant as Mr. Wickham,” he assured as he turned their steps toward the inn.
“Yet, you may argue over something ‘significant,’” she asked.
“I am counting on it, Miss Elizabeth,” he said with a grin. “I find you quite delightful when you mean for us to ‘discuss’ a topic upon which you are certain we will disagree.”
TIME FOR A GIVEAWAY!!! I have 2 eBooks of Elizabeth Bennet’s Gallant Suitor available for those who comment below. Winners will be contacted via email October 6, the day after the book goes live.
Hi. You suggest pre-ordering Elizabeth Bennet’s Gallant Suitor, and I have just spent some portion of an hour wading through lists of your books, most of which I own, since Amazon.ca produced nothing when I searched for it explicitly. Neither does your post include a link.Please send help, or this elusive book may never make it to me.Beatrice Nearey
Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android
I sent you a private message and let you know what happened. However, for others reading this response, there was a WordPress glitch, which dumped a handful of my preprogrammed posts on the blog before I could get to them and make the correction. This was one of those posts, and what I receive when I am efficient and plan ahead. The book is on preorder now.
I am looking forward to this one.
I will be happy to have it out in the world.
This will be another fabulous read and I already have the pre-order.
Thanks for your patronage, Jen. You are a blessing to all of us in the JAFF community.
Sounds like a very good beginning to a wonderful new book. Looking forward to reading it Regina!
Thanks, Kate. Good to hear from you. I hope you llike it.
I am happy to know that you have a new book coming out! I had been unaware that you had been working on anything, and am eager to read it. I know there will be an HEA, but I’m also curious to see what happens with Jane.
There is always an HEA for Darcy and Elizabeth. Actually, there are multiple HEAs in the book, but not for everyone.
Such an intriguing and unique premise. I look forward to reading.
It is hard to keep inventing story lines for JAFF. There are so many writers out there.
I love reading histroical nuggets or some obscure facts which I know nothing about. Thus I greatly enjoy this post and the brilliant excerpt that goes with it. And congratulations to you, Regina on another successful launch of your new P&P variation!
Thanks for joining me on my journey, Sylvia.