First, I must disclose the original title for Darcy’s Temptation was Darcy’s Dreams. There are several poignant dreams which move the story along, even though quite a few of them are of the nature of a flashback. However, when Ulysses Press purchased the rights to the book, they renamed the tale Darcy’s Temptation.
There are any number of books, especially romance ones, which use the idea of amnesia as a plot device, but why do we readers accept it as possible. I think it is because it is an exacting exercise in character development, something every author wishes to accomplish and accomplish it well. It allows a major plot point, usually a “hidden past” to be revealed. The interesting part of the exercise is how well the author develops the symptoms and the condition. Does the character experience another traumatic event and remembers everything? Does he/she pick and choose what he/she recalls? Does he/she recover his/her whole memory or are bits of it lost forever? All very good questions to consider.
For the purpose of a romance, it would be foolish to have the person suffer from the life-changing onset of dementia, but, with amnesia, one, meaning the reader, can customarily swallow the idea of it being temporary. It something traumatic caused the condition, is it not equally logical another moment in time could “reverse” the memory impairment.
I did not set out to write a story which included amnesia. Those of you who know me well know I am a “pantser,” not a “plotter,” when it comes to my writing. I write by the “seat of my pants.” I have some general ideas in my head. How the story begins. How it ends. A few major events along the way. Yet, I do not outline my tale. I sit down, customarily with a lap desk before me, a black pen in my hand, a college ruled spiral notebook, and I write. Many times those major events change or do not make a showing in the plot, but I do not know of those changes until my pen takes me down a different path. Therefore, when I wrote Darcy’s Temptation, my purpose was to pull Darcy and Elizabeth apart and allow their innate love for each other to allow them to find each other again. The concept of amnesia fit the bill perfectly for the plot development.
One twist I should warn you about is there was a woman Darcy met briefly in Darcy’s Passions who he found attractive. This would be after the Netherfield party had left the estate and he cannot manage to go a day without Elizabeth Bennet in his thoughts. It occurs in Chapter Six of the novel and is only a brief mention of a woman named Elizabeth Donnelly. In Darcy’s Passions, Miss Donnelly could be a nobody, but when it came to Darcy’s Temptation, she plays a much larger role.
Mention of Miss Donnelly in Darcy’s Passions:
After the Twelfth Night celebrations, Darcy reluctantly returned to Society. He spent many evenings with Bingley and his sisters, but where Darcy had once thought of Caroline’s civilities as refined, he now found them affected and boring. He made an effort to encounter eligible young women in Town, often calling on acquaintances and accepting more invitations then he was known to do. He once found a Miss Donnelly attractive, but then she told him her given name was “Elizabeth,” and he was lost again in a reverie of depression. Realizing he required more time to find the solace he sought, Darcy abandoned his pursuit of new social connections.
Amnesia is a risky trope to employ as an author, for it can be easily overplayed or underplayed. I hope I have not executed either “play” in this story, but, I admit, I was still quite “green” as an author at the time this story was written some thirteen years ago. [It was self published as Darcy’s Dreams in 2008 and picked up by Ulysses Press for release in 2009 as Darcy’s Temptation.] I took the safe way out, permitting snippets of memory to return, providing hope to all.
I have written nearly seventy novels, and I have only used amnesia once prior in a JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) novel: That was in In Want of a Wife, which starts with Elizabeth having been hit up a coach when she darted across a busy London street. I used it twice in my Regency novels. Amnesia was used in A Touch of Mercy, which was Book 4 of the Realm Series. In it, Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford, is beaten most severely and loses his memory for a bit, thinking himself in love with one of the Aldridge twins when Mercy Nelson comes into his life. I also used amnesia in book 1 of the Twins trilogy, Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep. Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, is caught in a terrible storm and is knocked from his horse, striking his head on the pavers. Angela Lovelace finds him there when she escapes her carriage which has been washed from the road.
Darcy’s Temptation: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
The day Fitzwilliam Darcy marries Elizabeth Bennet, he thinks his life is complete at last. Four months later, even greater joy appears on the horizon when Elizabeth finds out she is pregnant. But it is not long before outside forces intrude on their happiness. When the unthinkable happens, Elizabeth and Darcy must discover their love for each other all over again.
Romantic and insightful, Darcy’s Temptation captures the original style and sardonic wit of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice while weaving its beloved characters into an exciting new tale. In a story set against the backdrop of the British abolitionist movement, family difficulties and social affairs weigh heavily on the newlyweds, and a dramatic turn of events forces Elizabeth to try to recapture Darcy’s love before the manipulative Cecelia McFarland succeeds in luring him away.
Excerpt from Darcy’s Temptation where Miss Elizabeth Donnelly reenters Mr. Darcy’s life:
When the Donnelly coach came upon what was left of Darcy’s chaise and four, Darcy had lain along the road for nearly twenty hours. He moved very little, the blow to his head keeping him from being mobile. He expected to die there along this deserted path on more than one occasion during those first few hours, but, somehow, he maintained his hold on life.
“Miss Donnelly,” the steward said, coming to the window of the stopped coach, knocking on the window with a gloved hand.
“Yes, Mr. Lansing.” The lady turned to her faithful aide. “Madam, evidently there was a robbery.”
The lady gasped, “Is anyone hurt?” She could see the clothing strewn on the ground.
“Two people are dead, Miss, but Walton reports they found a gentleman. He is injured, obviously losing a substantial amount of blood.”
“Should I attempt to go to him?” The woman looked uneasy at this possibility.
“No, miss,” Lansing began again, “the scene is too much—far too much for a lady of your delicate nature—a lady such as yourself should not be exposed to such sights.”
“What must we do, Mr. Lansing? I must perform my charitable duty; we cannot leave the gentleman to die. Should we not bring the man to safety?”
The man seemed relieved his mistress made the suggestion first. “Walton and a footman could wrap the gentleman in a blanket, but doing so would mean placing him on the floor of the coach. Would such be acceptable, Miss? We could leave the window of the coach open. It might be a bit uncomfortable, but otherwise the gentleman could pay with his life.” Mr. Lansing knew his mistress’s preoccupation with cleanliness.
“Of course, Mr. Lansing.” She took a handkerchief from the sleeve of her dress. “I will be able to endure what is necessary to save the man’s life.” Her hand shook and her lip quivered with the thought of the man’s dirty body lying within the coach.
Mr. Lansing handed her a bottle of smelling salts. “In case you are feeling poorly, Miss.”
“Bring the gentleman to the coach. Also, retrieve as many of his belongings as seem appropriate,” she ordered at last.
“Yes, Miss.” Lansing bowed as he stepped away to do her bidding.
A footman and the lady’s coachman carried the man’s body between them, supporting his long limbs under his knees and shoulders. It took them several attempts to wrestle Darcy’s body onto the floor of the Donnelly coach, where he lay like a freshly caught fish. Before they wrapped his body in the blanket spread on the floor of the coach, Miss Donnelly ascertained the injured man to be a man of consequence, but dried blood and dirt covered his face, obscuring his identity.
“We return to the estate, Walton,” she told the coachman. “We will secure the gentleman a proper doctor; the local villages have no one to attend him.”
“Yes, Miss.” The coachman replaced his gloves. “The new doctor arrived two weeks ago; I am certain he will be pleased to be of service to you.”
“Remind Mr. Lansing to speak to the doctor before he enters Darling Hall,” she instructed the coachman.
“I will do so personally, Miss Donnelly. We will begin immediately.” The coachman closed the door. Once they loaded the gentleman’s luggage onto her coach, Miss Donnelly covered her mouth with the handkerchief to block the man’s repugnant smell and pulled her feet closer to her body; then she rapped on the roof of the coach to start for home.
The movement of the coach roused the man somewhat. “Elizabeth,” he moaned from his parched lips. For a moment, Miss Donnelly thought the stranger called her name, but he did not open his eyes nor did he move on his own. Instead, the man’s body rocked back and forth with the movement of the carriage. It took Miss Donnelly nearly an hour and a half to reach her estate. The journey with the invasion of her private space by the man’s body seemed interminable for the lady. She fought back the unladylike involuntary spasms her stomach demanded; she shielded her eyes from the sight of his badly beaten body, and she silenced her ears to his moans of pain. As much as possible, Miss Donnelly treated the man as if he did not exist.
Reaching Brigg, the Donnelly coach turned for Darling Hall, the family estate. Since the demise of her parents, the estate belonged to Elizabeth Donnelly. No male cousins existed for several generations, and Miss Donnelly’s parents had the foresight to provide her with an additional legal binding document—sort of codicil. The estate belonged to her until the time of her death.
However, if Miss Donnelly chose to marry before her eight and twentieth birthday, she would inherit an additional fifty thousand pounds. Most assuredly, the second option would be society’s preferable choice, as well as hers. Although not grand in scale, the estate could provide an adequate living if handled properly. Unfortunately, of late, it experienced several monetary losses, and Miss Donnelly secretly sold off artwork, furnishings, and tapestries to pay the taxes and to meet her extravagant expenses.
In appearance, Miss Donnelly’s beauty seemed an asset in attracting men, and the estate served as a second means of securing an appropriate mate. The woman possessed excellent manners and correct opinions; yet, she did not stir interest with more exacting social circles and the ton. She had peculiar habits, which many men could not tolerate even in a woman with wealth and beauty as her “selling” points.
Arriving finally at Darling Hall, the footman and coachman unloaded Darcy’s body. “Mr. Lansing, place the gentleman in the blue suite and have Mr. Logan fetch the new physician. Tell the stable staff to clean the coach thoroughly. If necessary, remove and replace the upholstery within the coach. The fulsome smell of the gentleman’s body must be obliterated; I will not tolerate the man’s presence and his blood and his body fluids soiling my coach. I want all his clothing washed properly; if the items are stained beyond repair, burn them. Once the physician tends to him, please have the gentleman cleaned properly. Naturally, you know what to do with his bedclothes.”
“Yes, Miss,” the steward bowed.
“Although the man is injured, I will not tolerate his bringing his dirt into my house,” she demanded. “Tell Julian to clean these steps once again.”
“I will speak to him, Miss.”
“Finally, tell Mildred I wish a bath immediately.”
The man smirked when his mistress looked the other way. “I am certain Mildred prepares one as we speak.”
Irritated, she said, “You are dismissed, Mr. Lansing.”
“Yes, Miss.” The steward made his final bow.
Miss Donnelly entered the drawing room of Darling Hall. Before she took a seat, the lady walked about the room, touching the various items, inspecting them and looking carefully at her glove after each touch. When she came to the figurines along the mantelpiece, Miss Donnelly frowned and reached for the bell cord.
“Did you ring?” The housemaid curtsied when she entered the room.
Miss Donnelly did not answer; she simply stood with her gloved index finger extended. “I . . . I will address it immediately, Miss Donnelly, and I will speak to the new maid regarding her duties,” the servant stammered.
“Do so or both of you will be seeking new positions,” the mistress threatened.
The older woman dropped her eyes. “Yes, Miss.”
“I expect this to be cleaned thoroughly by the time I return,” the lady demanded before exiting to her chambers.
Nearly three hours later, the steward found Miss Donnelly at her embroidery in the newly cleaned drawing room. “Miss Donnelly.” He tapped lightly at the door before entering.
“Yes, Mr. Lansing,” she spoke without looking up from her stitches. “Has the physician seen the gentleman? What news does he give about the man’s health?”
“The physician came and went, Miss Donnelly. The gentleman, as we suspected, lost a good deal of blood. The doctor says with the blood loss and his head injury, the man is likely to sleep several days. Mr. Addison fears some mental functions may be affected. I placed Conrad in the man’s room to observe his progress and tend to his health. The staff is cleaning the gentleman and his room. Mrs. Lewis cleaned his clothing as you specified.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lansing. I may attempt to visit the gentleman later.”
“Yes, Miss Donnelly.”
Something I would love to read.
It is a lovely tale and comes in at a whopping 500+ pages.
I am already nervous about Darcy’s health and am anxious to learn more. How did the accident happen? Where is his Elizabeth? How far away is Pemberley? Looking forward to reading this book and hoping the angst lever is not too high!
Just remember I would NEVER separate our dear couple, but a few roadblocks are always acceptable. Go over to the new blog alwaysausten.com for another excerpt and another chance to win.
I love the amnesia trope and am sure you do it justice.
It works for romance writers, even those of us who do not write fantasy. LOL!