A Closer Look at “A Touch of Grace: Book 4 of the Realm Series”

A Touch of Grace remains my favorite book of the Realm series. Mayhap, it was because by this time in writing the series,  I did not feel the need to offer but a bit of repetition in the story to draw the readers in. Or mayhap, it was because I was absolutely invested in the couple in the book. In my mind’s eye, I could see them as perfectly as if they stood before me. 

Gabriel Crowden, the Marquis of Godown, is an Englishman of French descent, living at a time when England was at war with France. One can quickly denote his French heritage for his title is “marquis,” rather than the English spelling of “marquess.” He is an Adonis—a man with perfect looks and perfect manners—but with a life far from perfection. Some five years prior, he had been banished from England, for he had refused to marry a woman who had set a trap of compromise for him. The woman’s deception and the resulting action of his refusal makes him a bitter man, one who takes his resentment for his “punishment” and his lost years with his father out on the women in his life. When he returns to England, his three eccentric aunts take it upon themselves to see him married and settled. However, Gabriel prefers his life as a rake about Town. 

One special twist I provided Gabriel was an unspoken “feud” of sort with Adam Lawrence, Viscount Stafford (and future Earl of Greenwall). Many of you will recall that Adam is my “go-to guy.” He appears in some ten of my novels, and, in this story, I make him Gabriel’s competition for the hand of several different women. 

With a need to protect him from his accuser’s father and one to teach him something of life, Gabriel’s aunt, his father’s eldest sister, a formidable duchess, has approached Aristotle Pennington, the man she has loved all her life, but a man below her family’s expectations, to find Gabriel a position with the Realm, a covert British intelligence unit operating during the Napoleonic War. Pennington’s doing so saves Gabriel from the rejection of society and removes him from England when all meant to press him into an imprudent marriage. After several years with the Realm, Godown is eventually summoned home to claim his father’s title, only to learn that his father has placed special provisions in his will. Fearing that Gabriel would perish in his service to the Crown, the former marquis has stated in his will that Gabriel must be married and the new marquise with child before a particular date or forfeit the peerage to a relation that Gabriel despises. Unaware of the restrictions upon him, Godown drifts through the social Season with little care for more than his own pleasures only to learn his days are “numbered.” 

Miss Grace Nelson was first introduced to the readers of this series in Book 2, A Touch of Velvet. She was the governess to Miss Gwendolyn Aldridge, the only child of Viscount Averette, the paternal uncle to three of the heroines in this series: Velvet (book 2), Cashémere (book 3) and Satiné Aldridge (book 7). At the beginning of this book, Averette is gathering his belongings to escape to the Continent to avoid punishment for crimes he has committed. In Grace’s opening scene, the man is physically abusive to his wife, and Grace steps in to save the woman. Averette dismisses Grace from her position, and she must return to her brother, who has run through the family’s fortune; thus, the reason Grace is in a governess position. 

Although she is quite comely, to avoid men’s unwanted attentions, Grace had disguised her appearance with spectacles and a strict hairstyle. When Gabriel encounters her again, he “sees” her as a woman worth knowing, and, ironically, she sees him in a likewise manner. However, their path to happiness is NOT an easy one. There are moments of trust and of love, but these memories are smothered by fears of betrayal and the overwhelming evidence that Grace is involved in a plot to kill Gabriel. 

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Book Blurb: 

“The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout.” – Publishers Weekly

“Jeffers’s close look at the dark secrets of Regency society instills a sense of realism.” – Publishers Weekly

After years away from England, members of the Realm return home to claim the titles and the lives they had previously abandoned. Each man holds onto the fleeting dream of finally know love and home. For now, all any of them can hope is the resolution of his earlier difficulties before Shaheed Mir, their old enemy, finds them and exacts his revenge. Mir seeks a mysterious emerald, and he believes one of the Realm has it.

GABRIEL CROWDEN, the Marquis of Godown, can easily recall the night that he made a vow to know love before he met his Maker. However, that was before Lady Gardenia Templeton’s duplicity had driven Godown from his home and before his father’s will had changed everything. Godown requires a wife to meet the unusual demands of the former marquis’s stipulations. Preferably one either already carrying his child or one who would tolerate his constant attentions to secure the Crowden line before the deadline.

MISS GRACE NELSON dreams of family died with her brother’s ascension to the title. Yet, when she meets the injured Marquis of Godown at a Scottish inn, her dreams have a new name. However, hope never has an easy path. Grace is but a lowly governess with ordinary features. She believes she can never earn the regard of the “Adonis” known as Gabriel Crowden. Besides, the man has a well-earned skepticism when it comes to the women in his life. How can she prove that she is the one woman who will never betray him? 

EXCERPT (from Chapter 2) 

Gabriel had watched the tree line behind him for what felt of hours before a flicker of movement proved his suspicions correct. The attack that had left a gaping hole in his shoulder had not been from a highwayman or even a hunter accidentally shooting in the wrong direction. Someone had followed his trail. Someone had purposely targeted him. Likely, Murhad Jamot had doubled back. Kerrington had escaped, but the Realm’s old enemy had laid in wait. Now, Gabriel would likely die on this lonely Scottish road, halfway between his past and his future.

With difficulty, he raised his gun to lie along the flat line of the rock he had chosen as shelter. Resting his gun against the rock face, he used his left hand to lift the right to where he might grasp the gun’s handle. The movement brought fresh blood gushing from the wound, and Gabriel bit the inside of his jaw to prevent his losing consciousness. He might meet Death in the next few minutes, but if he had anything to say of it so would Jamot.

The woods around him had silenced—a sure sign that a man stalked the land. It was the way with nature. A signal of an invasion within its midst. Gabriel gave his head a shake to clear his vision, and then he inhaled deeply to steady his shaking grip. “I few more minutes, God,” he whispered as he wrapped his index finger about the gun’s trigger. “Then you may claim my sorry soul and that of a Baloch heathen.” He wondered how God might receive such a prayer: one where he prayed to be permitted to kill another before he died. Thou shall not kill.

Before he could finish the thought, a man on horseback burst through the tree line. Expecting to see a dark-skinned Baloch, the pale-faced Anglo caught Gabriel’s mind napping, and for a brief second, he paused. Just a fraction of a second, but long enough to give his opponent an advantage. Luckily, the man’s aim was off. A spray of rock fragments peppered Gabriel’s head and chest, but he did not flinch. His years with the Realm had taught him well. In the next instant, he returned fire. The Realm had seen to those lessons, as well. His attacker had foolishly risen up in the saddle—making the man a larger target.

Biting away the pain, he squeezed the trigger. The bullet flew straight, but the horse turned its head ever so slightly, and Gabriel’s hope of the shot finding his attacker’s heart disappeared. Instead, the man slumped forward as the horse raced away to the west.

Gabriel groaned as he forced himself to stand. “I require a few additional minutes, God,” he gasped. “Hold your hand steady, Lord.”

With those words, he stumbled toward where Balder waited impatiently for him. Reaching for the saddle, he strained to swing his leg over the rise and settle in the seat. “Come on, old friend.” He laced the reins through his gloved fingers and set the horse in a cantor. Each thud of Balder’s hoofs set his teeth on edge, but Gabriel managed to stay in the saddle. He would find the man who had shot him. He would finish what he had started, and then he would die.

* * *

Grace wanted to stomp her foot in annoyance. They had arrived at the overnight stop for the coach, but she had received no welcome. “I do not let rooms to unchaperoned or unmarried ladies,” the innkeeper asserted as she had protested his lack of understanding. “You are welcome to wait in the common room.”

She shot a quick glance at the open room. The inn sported several occupants—a variety of social classes mingling together. Unfortunately, other than the bar maids, only two women took their evening meals among the patrons. Even dressed as non-conspicuously as possible, her “aloneness” would draw attention. And in these quarters, attention was not a desirable commodity. Grace swallowed hard and straightened her shoulders. “I understand,” she said royally. It would be a very long night.

She reluctantly accepted the man’s objections. If the innkeeper wished to maintain his business’s reputation, he would enforce the unwritten rules, which governed society: Permitting a man the liberty of a kiss resulted in a woman’s ruination and provided a man with bragging rights. Dancing more than two sets at a ball would bring about an engagement. Responding to a man’s attentions before his intentions were known brought ridicule or disappointment. One could not use one’s suitor’s Christian name, nor could one exchange correspondence or gifts before the wedding vows were pronounced. Likewise, it was not quite the thing to drive alone with a gentleman. And, most decidedly, a woman did not travel unaccompanied. With a deep sigh, she turned to survey the room.

Grace did not look forward to remaining awake all night. She certainly would not permit herself to fall asleep. It would be too dangerous. Someone could steal her coins or something more precious. A woman was easy prey for a man who had consumed too much ale. A woman was defenseless in such matters. The female victim always bore the blame for a man’s lack of control.

Frustrated, she stepped outside to watch the busy inn yard. More strangers had arrived. She should claim a dark corner of the noisy common area before none remained for the choosing. “Stretch my legs while it remains light,” she said softly to herself. If the mail coach had stopped in a village, she might have sought the pity of a widow or a newlywed couple to spend a night on a chaise or even a pallet before the hearth. But their journey had brought her and her fellow passengers to this inn, one between villages–with no choice but to wait with the others for the morning coach. “The innkeeper said the coach will depart at four,” she reminded herself.

She inhaled deeply. “No rain,” she continued to keep her own company. “At least, my journey shall not be delayed.” She thought of her home. Of her brother Geoffrey, who had assumed her father’s title after the funeral. Of how quickly things had deteriorated. Of how Geoffrey had brought his debts to the barony. Of how many of the family’s treasures had been sold to keep the title solvent. Of how she had promised to make her own way in the world if Geoffrey would warrant the care of their younger sister Mercy. “Geoffrey will not be pleased to see me,” she thought aloud. “But it will not be for any duration. I have my letter of reference; I will find another position.”

* * *

Gabriel had trailed his attacker for nearly two hours. He had decided that the man was not a professional killer. His attacker had made no attempt to hide the blood from where Gabriel’s bullet had removed a mighty chunk of the man’s shoulder. He did not think the man he pursued would die from the wound Gabriel had inflicted upon him. It was more than a flesh wound, for it continued to bleed after all this time; but it would not be fatal unless the man did not find medical assistance soon. His attacker could die from infection, but Gabriel would see to the task before that time.

He would not fail his friends. He could have personal enemies—knew for certain he did have many who objected to the descendant of a French diplomat as a ranking member of the British aristocracy and the House of Lords—but not the type of enemy who would assault him on a deserted Scottish road. First, no one, but a select few, even knew of his presence in Scotland. Those who hated him would fight their battles in London’s ballrooms and on the Parliamentary floor. No, the man he sought was the Realm’s enemy. If his assailant succeeded in eliminating Gabriel, he would turn his attention to Gabriel’s only true friends, the men with whom he had served. Before he took his last breath, Gabriel would see his attacker dead. Viscount Worthing and the others would observe his death as a warning for their own safety.

The blood trail led to a small coaching inn. From his vantage point, Gabriel had watched the comings and goings of the inn yard. Nothing unusual. The place was not a trap. At least, not an obvious one. When his attacker had charged Gabriel’s position, in the midst of the chaos, he had glimpsed the man’s horse. Gabriel closed his eyes to relive those few brief seconds. The man bearing down on him, his firing, and then the slumped over figure in its retreat. “Cream colored. Perhaps fifteen hands high. Not as large as Balder,” he recited what he could remember. Patting his stallion’s neck, Gabriel pulled the reins to the left. “Let us see what the stables holds.”

* * *

“I want to know of this horse’s rider,” Gabriel told the young boy who had rushed forward to take Balder’s reins. He had found his attacker’s mount. The man could not be far.

The boy rubbed Balder’s nose. “The cream?” The youth looked over his shoulder at the animal he had just placed in the third stall. “His master fell and hurt ’is shoulder. Mistress Bradshaw be doctoring’ ’im in the kitchen.”

Gabriel leaned heavily against Balder’s side. Normally, he oversaw his horse’s care, but not this evening. Tonight, he would trust the boy to see to his favorite mount. He handed the boy a coin. “Give him some extra oats and brush him, and you’ll receive another coin for your efforts.” Gabriel swallowed the pain radiating through his chest. “And another if you inform me immediately if the cream’s owner chooses to leave the inn.”

“Aye, sir.” The boy’s eyes grew in anticipation. “I be finding’ you, sir.”

Gabriel shuffled toward the partially opened stable door. The place where the bullet rested in his chest burned with hell’s fire. He had managed to stay alive despite his enemy’s best efforts. Despite God’s plan for him to join his parents. Slowly. Methodically, he turned his feet toward the inn. If he were to meet his Maker, he would do so in a clean bed.

* * *

Grace stepped from the wooden walkway, which ran along the inn’s front and turned her steps toward the stable. She had no desire to be out of view of the busy inn yard. Hostlers rushed to and fro to aid those seeking shelter before nightfall. She would discover what animals the inn housed for the mail line, as well as examining the mounts of her fellow travelers. She had always loved the horses her father had kept upon the estate, especially those the former baron used when he rode to the hunt. Anything to pass the time.

Yet, as she reached the stable’s main door, it swung wide, and a man in a finely fitted coat staggered toward her. At first, she had thought to turn on her heels to make a speedy escape, but then a face of an Adonis stilled her. She had seen him previously—but twice. In London. At the party at Carlton House. And again at the celebratory gathering at the Duke of Thornhill’s Town home. “Lord Godown,” she gasped, and then observed the painful grimace as he pitched forward. Grace instinctively caught him, shoving him backward to brace him against the building. “My lord, you are unwell!” she said in concern. He used his free hand to steady himself against the door. “Permit me to find assistance.” Her hand rested on his arm, and Grace heard the hiss as he looked out over the inn yard. She imagined he judged how many steps it would take to achieve the inn’s door.

“No,” he insisted. With a deep inhale, he said, “Would you be so kind as to lead me to the inn?”

Without considering her actions, Grace laced his arm about her shoulder to brace his weight against her frame. She had never felt such panic. When she had first laid eyes on this man—some six months prior—she had considered his Christian name and how perfectly it fit his handsome countenance. Gabriel. The angel. The avenging angel, but an angel, nonetheless. “Lord Godown, please,” she whispered hoarsely as his heavy tread nearly took both of them to their knees. “Permit me to find someone more fit to assist you.”

A barely perceptible shake of his head declared his refusal. Grace’s bonnet shifted forward as his arm pressed heavy on her shoulders. He continued his jerky steps toward his goal–another ten feet to the walkway.

Finally, she shoved up on his arm to bracket his weight against the building’s side. Sliding free of his grasp, she turned to examine him more closely. In the darkening shadows, she realized his hair was sweaty and windblown, and dirt streaked his clothes’ fine cut. Then she saw the trickle of blood darkening his shirt. “Oh, my God!” she rasped as she reached for her handkerchief to press to the opening. “Tell me what has happened.”

Head back and eyes closed, he appeared unable to answer, but he finally spit out the words. “Trailed my attacker to this inn.” Grace looked on in wonderment as he took a deep steadying breath. “You did not faint from the blood.”

“No, my lord.” Grace pulled a second cloth from her reticule. She pressed it firmly over the first.

“Do you have a room?” he asked through gritted teeth.

Grace doubly regretted her unmarried status. If she had proper quarters, she could tend his wounds in private. She shook her head in the negative. “The innkeeper will not let to a woman without companionship. I will spend the night in the common room.”

Lord Godown nodded weakly. “Would you share my room?” He caught her gaze, and the clarity surprised her. “If you have a husband whom you were to meet on the road. . .” He did not finish his thoughts as the pain snatched his breath away. Frantically, he caught at her hand. He said softly, “I do not wish to die alone.”

Grace recognized his proposition to be a scandalous one, but she had accepted the inevitable conclusion the moment she had draped Gabriel Crowden’s arm about her. She would willingly participate in her reputation’s ruination. The fear she recognized in his gaze stayed her. This man carried death about his strong, muscular shoulders. “Yes, I will stay with you, Lord Godown,” she said without hesitation.

“You have called me by name three times. Do we hold a prior acquaintance?” She noted how he stood taller.

Grace blushed as disappointment filled her. Why would an “Adonis” remember someone as nondescript as she? “Grace…Miss Grace Nelson. Lord Averette once served as my employer.”

Lord Godown cupped her face as if seeing it for the first time. “Miss Nelson. Of course.” He stroked her mouth with the thumb of his left hand. “Just what I require. A touch of grace.”

Grace could not breathe. She had never known such an exquisite moment. He had seen her. Truly seen her. Not the governess, but the woman of three and twenty with dreams buried, but not deceased. And she knew him also. Not the face of perfection. But a man who had known great loss. She licked her lips for moisture, and her tongue grazed his ungloved thumb. She noticed how something flared in his gaze. “How should we proceed, my lord?” she said uncertainly.

Her words had broken the spell, but his fingers still traced her skin. Grace’s breathing shallowed, and pure warmth spread through her. “You are my wife,” he said confidently. “Your maid abandoned you, taking your purse and leaving only a public ticket for your transportation.” He easily wound an elaborate tale. He was, obviously, a man accustomed to improvising in intense situations. “We were to meet in Carlisle, but when you did not appear, I came searching for you.” She nodded her agreement. “Reach into my inside pocket and remove my purse. I will not be able to do so when we enter. Have it at ready to place in my hand,” he ordered. She did as he instructed. “I will also require a card from my case.”

“You should probably open it in the innkeeper’s presence,” she said. “It will bring legitimacy to our claim. I have previously spoken to Mr. Bradshaw regarding a room.” She fished the items from his various pockets. “The innkeeper will recognize me.”

Lord Godown smiled at her with admiration. “You are quick to assess what must be done.”

“I have been my own mistress since leaving the schoolroom. I left home at eighteen,” she explained.

A frown crossed his brow, but he made no comment on her disclosure. Instead, he lifted her chin with his fingertips. “Miss Nelson. Grace. The man who attempted to kill me is in the kitchen being tended to by the inn’s mistress. I managed to wound him.” She nodded her understanding. He inhaled deeply and looked off as if seeing something she did not. “If he discovers I have taken refuge within these walls, he will come for me. What I am asking of you could be dangerous.”

Despite wishing to appear brave before this magnificent man, Grace’s lower lip trembled. “How shall you stop him?” she asked tentatively.

Lord Godown smiled wryly. “If I am awake, I will deal with him. If not. . .”

“I must see to his demise,” she whispered. The thought of taking another’s life frightened her.

He must have recognized her fear. “It will not come to that,” he assured. “But I must stop him. Others of your acquaintance are in danger: Lord Worthing, Thornhill, Viscount Lexford and Sir Carter.”

“Those with whom you served?”

“Yes. They are my earnest companions. I cannot explain now, but know my words are true.” He swayed, and Grace instinctively reached for him. “You cannot send for the surgeon, Miss Nelson. You must tend my wound,” he insisted. “No one must know how close to death I am.”

“Please do not speak as such, my lord.” She clutched at his lapel.

“My life is in your hands, my dear,” he said in a matter-of-fact manner that sent a shiver down her spine. He caught her fingers and brought them to his lips. “If I should die before I wake…”

Grace bristled. “I shall not have it! Do you hear me, Lord Godown? You shall not die on my watch!” Despite her best efforts, a tear crept down her cheek.

Lord Godown flicked it away. “I will do my best to comply. Now, come, my dear. We have a farce to play.”

How he managed to walk so straight and so proud, Grace would never know. Every step must have brought Lord Godown excruciating pain, but other than a flex of his muscle under her fingertips, she would never have guessed the truth. As they entered the establishment with her hand resting firmly on his arm, his countenance displayed nothing but amiability.

“Ah, my good man,” he said aristocratically as the innkeeper hustled forward to greet him. “Thank you for attending to my wife’s needs.” He flipped open the case and placed his calling card on the counter’s corner. Unobtrusively as possible, Grace slid it in Mr. Bradshaw’s direction. Lord Godown palmed the case and placed it in her hand. “My marquise has spoken of your kindness, sir.” The innkeeper’s eyebrow rose as he eyed Grace suspiciously, for she had said nothing of a husband previously, nor had she mentioned she was a marquise. Yet, she knew the man would not question them further, for a good innkeeper, even one on the Scottish side of the border, knew to toad to the whims of the English aristocracy. He read the ornate card. Meanwhile, Lord Godown said, “I pray the room you were preparing for her ladyship will suffice for we two. I have been too long without my bride. She has attended a sick relative for several weeks.” The marquis glanced lovingly at her, and, for a moment, even Grace believed the illusion he created.

The innkeeper blustered, “Of…of course, Lord Godown. I will see to it immediately. If you will sign the registry, sir.” Bradshaw turned the book for Gabriel’s signature.

“May I?” Grace said on a rush. “I never tire of signing my new name.” She knew he could not lift his arm high enough to reach the book.

“And I never tire of reading it, my dear,” he said evenly.

Grace caught the quill and signed their names with a flourish. “Delightful as always,” she said with a girlish sigh.

“This way, your lordship.” The innkeeper gestured to the stairs.

His muscles flexed, pulling Grace closer to his side. The stairs would be a challenge. Despite the impropriety, Grace slid her arm under his jacket and about his waist. As they climbed, she gave a list of instructions. “Have someone bring his lordship’s and my bags to the room. We shall require hot water to freshen our things after the dusty travel. A simple meal. Perhaps a clear broth with bread and cheese.” She tried to anticipate what she might require to attend him.

“And plenty of brandy,” Lord Godown added. “My wife will have tea, but I will require your best brandy.”

Mr. Bradshaw opened the door to the room and busied himself with building a fire. Over his shoulder, he said, “I will send up extra candles for better lighting.” He set the coals ablaze. “And how long might you be staying with us, my lord.”

Lord Godown reached into the purse Grace had surreptitiously placed in his hand while the innkeeper tended the fire. “I was considering a stay of some three days. Perhaps, longer. When a man is without his wife so shortly after his marriage, he must pay the price of the lady’s good intentions.” He lightly tossed a coin to the man, who adeptly caught it. “We do not wish to be disturbed. Her ladyship will send word when meals are to be served.”

“Absolutely, my lord.” Bradshaw made a deep obeisance.

When she noted Lord Godown swayed in place, Grace quickly closed the door before the innkeeper fawned further. “My lord!” She rushed forward to brace him. “Sit.” She assisted him to the bed’s edge. “If you can tolerate it,” she said as she frantically worked his tight-fitting jacket from his shoulders. “Do not lie flat until I can remove your clothing. I doubt I can turn you to treat your wounds, otherwise.”

Godown chuckled, “I seriously doubt, my dear, there is anything you cannot do once you set your mind upon it.” She had freed him of the jacket and turned to his cravat. “But as being undressed by an exceedingly pretty woman is not one of the seven deadly sins, I believe, I will enjoy the intimacy of the moment. I doubt to have this pleasure ever again.”

Grace’s cheeks pinked. “You will know such wayward pleasures again, my lord.” Her thoughts brought a deeper red. “And I am far from pretty, Lord Godown.”

His Lordship brushed a stray curl from her face. “That is where you err, Miss Nelson. You are the most handsome woman I have ever beheld.”

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Great Scott: The Difficulties in Reading One of Austen’s Favorite Authors, a Guest Post from Jennifer Petkus

This particular post first appeared on Austen Authors from Jennifer Petkus in November 2015. I thought it worthy to share with others. 

320px-Walter_Scott_Waverley_illustration_(Pettie-Huth)

“Disbanded”. Illustration to Walter Scott’s novel Waverley, engraving after a painting by w:John Pettie, as found in 1893 illustrated print edition now available on Project Gutenberg and elsewhere on the web.

I recently started reading Waverley, Sir Walter Scott’s novel that many consider the first historical novel. I am sad to say that it’s a difficult read, despite Jane Austen’s admiration of Scott.

Jane wrote:

Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. It is not fair. He has fame and profit enough as a poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. I do not like him, and do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it, but fear I must.

And it was something of a mutual admiration society, for Scott wrote:

That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!

So I had high hopes for Waverley and the timing was appropriate for I would soon be arriving at Waverley station in Edinburgh, a city that has a rather outsize monument to the man. I figured if not only Austen but a whole city liked him, his stuff must be good.

Unfortunately times and tastes have changed and I’ve found Waverley almost unreadable, and certainly unreadable with any real enjoyment. I am still plugging away at it out of duty, but without any real sense of comprehension of what I’m reading.

The 1814 novel depicts the events of 1745, when Scottish Jacobites hoped to restore the Stuart dynasty to the English throne in the person of Bonnie Prince Charlie. They hoped to supplant George II, whose father acceded to the throne because he was the nearest Protestant heir after the death of Queen Anne, who had no surviving children.

Sir_Henry_Raeburn_-_Portrait_of_Sir_Walter_Scott.jpg Already I can sense your eyes closing. If you’re not already fascinated by English history, some of this stuff gets pretty dense. Anyway, the Highland clans were supporters of Charles Edward Stuart, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was the grandson of James II (or James VII of Scotland and Ireland), who’d been deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (which had put William III on the English throne). The Highland clans hoped that BPC would be more kindly disposed to their interests than the ruling Hanovers. After all, the Stuarts were ousted partly because of their Catholic faith, which had historically been shared by the Highlanders.

In the novel, the English Captain Edward Waverley, a sheltered, romantic young man, travels to Scotland and visits a family friend, Baron Bradwardine of Tully-Veolan. Scott has some fun with the baron, presenting him as a know-it-all blowhard but with a fundamentally good soul and a pretty daughter (who’s not well provided for in the event of her father’s death). He’s a Jacobite as well, but the baron is content to merely mutter about the current monarch. Unfortunately, Edward is about to visit Fergus Mac-Ivor Vich Ian Vohr, a Highland chieftain who’s going to persuade Edward to take up arms for BPC. It doesn’t hurt that Fergus also has a pretty daughter.

Which is about where I’m stalled out. I know that Edward will be present at many famous battles, including Prestonpans, where he will help a fellow English soldier from being killed; that Edward will be captured; that he will be freed; and that at some point he’ll encounter BPC at Holyrood Palace.

If you made this into a movie (which I don’t think it has been), it would be great stuff. Walter Scott pretty much created our modern-day conception of what it is to be Scottish. When George IV visited Scotland, Scott set the tone of the whole thing and is responsible for much of what it means to be a Highlander in the popular imagination. So it’s easy to imagine how colorful and overwrought such a movie would be. In prose, however, it’s about as palatable as the image of George IV wearing that too short kilt. Here’s a quote from Baron Bradwardine:

The Baron returned at the dinner-hour, and had in a great measure recovered his composure and good-humour. He not only confirmed the stories which Edward had heard from Rose and Bailie Macwheeble, but added many anecdotes from his own experience, concerning the state of the Highlands and their inhabitants. The chiefs he pronounced to be, in general, gentlemen of great honour and high pedigree, whose word was accounted as a law by all those of their own sept, or clan. “It did not indeed,” he said, “become them, as had occurred in late instances, to propone their prosapia, a lineage which rested for the most part on the vain and fond rhymes of their seannachies or bhairds, as aequiponderate with the evidence of ancient charters and royal grants of antiquity, conferred upon distinguished houses in the Low Country by divers Scottish monarchs; nevertheless, such was their outrecuidance and presumption, as to undervalue those who possessed such evidents, as if they held their lands in a sheep’s skin.”

Now it’s not fair to judge the book from any dialog of the baron, because he’s meant to be a figure of fun who’s too fond of flowery language, but honestly, aequiponderate and outrecuidance? It’s almost impossible to read any of the baron’s dialog because you’re constantly looking up words that often defy definition.

It’s very much like the scene in the episode Ink and Incapability of Blackadder the Third, where the good Doctor Johnson matches wits with Edmund Blackadder. Johnson has been boasting that his dictionary “contains every word in our beloved language,” and to prove him wrong, Blackadder replies: “Oh, well, in that case, sir, I hope you will not object if I also offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafribblarities.”

Reading Waverley, you’d swear Scott is making up words willy-nilly. Admittedly many of these words are Scottish or Gaelic and so they’re naturally foreign to me, but even in the narration, Scott uses words and phrase that have me scratching my head. Add to that all the Latin and a higher percentage of songs and laments than even The Lord of the Rings, and it’s tough going. On top of that, so far the hero of our story, Edward Waverley has hardly said a word. The character is a bit of cipher, although I hope he might have more room to expound once he’s left the baron’s home. However, I’ll bet Fergus Mac-Ivor will suck all the air out of any scene he’s in. And that’s the other problem so far: these primary characters expound, declaim and orate rather than talk.

I mentioned to my local JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) group my difficulties reading Waverley, which led to a comparison of how readable Austen is. Austen introduces occasional words and concepts foreign to modern readers, but they don’t get in the way of enjoying the narrative. Her prose and especially her dialog, comes across as very modern.

This naturally led to several people relating that heartbreak so many Janeites have experienced, when we’ve suggested to someone we like and respect that they read Austen. You know what it’s like: your friend complains that nothing really happened in the book, that the language was too complex or that no one really cares what happens to women whose only goal in life is to get married.

You start explaining the importance of a good marriage, how a woman’s identity disappeared once she was married, about primogeniture and entailments, about voting and dowries and pin money. You really get worked up about it. And then you suggest that maybe they should watch one of the adaptations first and dangle the wet shirt or maybe you say an audio book is a better introduction or that they should read Jane Austen fan fiction first.

I have come to realize that reading and enjoying Austen requires a lot of groundwork. I watched all the adaptations before first reading the novels, and I think that greatly helped me get through some of those difficult bits of Austen.

It’s just that Waverley seems to be nothing but difficult bits and so it requires a lot more groundwork. I’m reading How the Scots Invented the Modern World and have just come to the section about the 1745 Jacobite uprising. It actually makes some of the details of Waverley understandable, like the invention of blackmail by the Highland chieftains, the Disarming Act that left Baron Bradwardine defenseless against the cattle raiding Mac-Ivor, or the draconian punishments inflicted on the Highland clans, such as the persecution of the MacGregors. I also have a better understanding of what might have influenced Scott’s writing style and his need to flaunt his education and his command of the English language, in comparison’s to Austen’s “exquisite touch.”

So I will continue reading Waverley, feeling a little sympathy for it, for all the times others have complained about my writing—“nothing really happens in it” and “that kind of complicated sentence structure makes it hard to read.”

As a side note, I wonder what others have done to help friends who have expressed difficulty reading Austen. I think it might be a good idea to create a “How to read Austen” talk to present at libraries and book stores. I hate to think of all those people who gave up on Austen and who might have enjoyed her had the proper groundwork been done first.

PS There is a one-hour adaptation of Waverley narrated by David Tennant that I plan to listen to (scroll down to 2013). Maybe I can rouse some enthusiasm listening to that.

You might also enjoy Collins Hemingway’s post on Austen and the Great Bow-Wow, also found on Austen Authors. 

61gaooT+TnL._UX250_.jpg MEET JENNIFER PETKUS: Jennifer Petkus divides her time creating websites for the dead, writing Jane Austen-themed mysteries, woodworking, aikido and building model starships. She has few credentials, having failed to graduate from the University of Texas with a journalism degree, but did manage to find employment at the Colorado Springs Sun newspaper as a cop reporter, copy editor and night city editor before the paper died in 1986. She lives in fear of getting a phone call from her dead Japanese mother. Her husband is the night editor at The Denver Post. Her best friend is a cop. She watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon live.

51JSUSe7vQL._UY250_.jpg 51e1IHOdkWL._SY346_.jpg

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Jane Austen, JASNA, Living in the Regency, reading habits, Regency personalities | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scottish Marriages and Elopements in the Regency Era

Those of us who read and write Regency novels have all heard of elopements to Gretna Green. Harking back to 1754 and the introduction of a new controversial Marriage Act in England, Gretna Green flourished as a haven for runaway couples. It even receives mentions in not just 1 but amazingly 3 of Jane Austen novels, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park.

“MY DEAR HARRIET, You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel.” – Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 47

From Austenonly, we learn, “References to Scotland in Jane Austen’s adult works are few, but she did  make use of the different marriage laws in Scotland in three of her novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon had planned to elope to Gretna with his poor Eliza but was thwarted at the last minute by the folly of her maid exposing their plans. In Pride and Prejudice Wickham planned to elope with Georgiana Darcy to Gretna Green, but his dastardly plan was foiled by Georgiana’s confession to Darcy before they could set out on the road. Quite typically he had no such plans to take Lydia Bennet there, though she was initially under the misapprehension that Gretna was to be their final destination. In Mansfield Park, Julia Bertram and Mr Yates run off to Gretna to be married amid the turmoil of the adulterous goings on between Maria Rushworth and Mr Crawford.

Why Gretna Green? Gretna, or Scotland as Jane Austen mostly wrote when she used the term in her novels, was, in the late 18th Century a place where couples thwarted in their plans to marry legally in England and Wales could resort, in order to marry legally without parental consent. From the implementation of the Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753, it was impossible for anyone under the age of 21 years age to legally marry without their parents ( or guardians) consent.”

We must remember that Scotland is approximately 320 miles from London. The main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh followed the Great North Road or a series of turnpike roads on the western side of the country. The journey was not an easy one. The average carriage travelled between 5-7 miles per hour––that is not accounting for poor weather, tolls, meals, changing out the horses, etc. Even traveling 12 hours per day, it would take a couple some 4 days to reach Scotland, more than likely 5 days. Do not forget that many times irate family members were in hot pursuit.

 But Gretna Green was not the only place for elopements in Scotland. The Great North Road took couples to Scotland via Northumberland. Lamberton, Berwickshire, Scotland, for example, is 4 miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. The now demolished Old Toll House at Lamberton, situated just across the border in Scotland, was notorious for its irregular marriages. From 1798 to 1858 keepers of the Toll, as well as questionable men-of-the-cloth, married couples in a hurry to escape relations.

Paxton, Berwickshire, Scotland, lies 1 mile west of the border with Northumberland, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Mordington, another Scottish village, was 5 miles from Northumberland. It is said that many chose to be married by the toll keepers of these two border towns.

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Marriage and Toll House at Coldstream Bridge on the Scottish side of the border https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_Scotland

Sometimes the couple chose to cross the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, to Coldstream, a civil parish in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland. Much like Gretna Green, it was a popular centre for runaway marriages. As with the other towns mentioned, couples were joined in marriage at the toll house.

Who performed these marriages? The simple answer is: anyone who wanted to do so. Declaring one’s vows to live together before witnesses could constitute a binding marriage. One did not require a clergyman to be deemed a wedded couple. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.

Irregular Scottish marriages simply required the couple’s agreement and witnesses to the act to be legal. A couple could publicly promise to abide in marriage, which could be followed by consummation as proof or simply by cohabitation with repute. Any citizen could witness a public promise. The idea of “marrying over the anvil” in the legend of Gretna Green came about by the blacksmith being one of the first building encountered by the couple seeking a Scottish marriage in the village, and the blacksmith was a “citizen.” A marriage of “cohabitation with repute” was an old style of common-law marriage.

MDF eBook Cover Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

Excerpt from Chapter 11 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs.

Darcy handed her down from the let carriage before a small inn. They were a little less than three hours removed from Allard’s estate, but he had noticed how with each mile of the journey, Elizabeth’s shoulders had relaxed a bit more.

Their return to the manor house had been executed in relative silence. As he walked beside her, Darcy’s mind had reviewed all his interactions with Allard and how he had failed to notice the weaknesses in the man’s business aplomb before arriving on the man’s threshold. Thankfully, Elizabeth had not attempted to tease or cajole him from his self-chastisements. She was not that kind of woman, one who chattered on, filling the air with nonsense. No. Elizabeth Bennet was a woman who used language as she did every other facet of her life, with a combination of intelligence and economy.

It was only when the manor came into view that she offered, “I must beg your pardon, Mr. Darcy, for I have again interfered in your well-structured life.”

He halted their progress and turned her to him. “I consider your presence in my life a blessing, and you are not to think otherwise. You have prevented me from making two monumental mistakes. How can you think me from sorts?”

She searched for the sincerity in his expression for several elongated seconds before the worry set her features transformed into a smile that had Darcy’s heart skipping a beat. “Shall that be my role in your life, Mr. Darcy? Savior?” Good humor filled her tease, and he found himself smiling in return.

“My personal guardian angel,” he said softly as he brought her gloved hand to his lips, where he kissed the inside of her wrist.

A flush of color raced to her cheeks, but she did not rip her hand from his grasp. Instead, with a delightful laugh, one that had a rush of warmth filling his abdomen, she taunted, “Mrs. Bennet will testify that I am more devil than angel, and you, sir, would do well to remember as such.”

“May I be of assistance, sir?” The innkeeper rushed forward to greet them.

Darcy tucked Elizabeth closer to his side. “My cousin and I require rooms,” he announced. They had agreed that as they traveled in the direction of the Flynns’ estate that it was probable that they would encounter others from Flynn’s household, who might recognize Elizabeth, and so she was now Darcy’s relation instead of his wife. He would go to extremes to protect Elizabeth’s reputation, for he had grown truly fond of her.

The innkeeper eyed them suspiciously. “Not many of your ilk come this way.”

Darcy understood the man’s insinuation. “My cousin and I were guests at the Allard estate outside of Edinburgh, but measles have struck some of those employed upon the estate. We thought it best to depart early before the illness spreads to those in the main house.” He told the truth—just not the complete truth.

“Measles, heh?” the man asked as he turned the register so Darcy might sign it. “That be a bad business.” He handed Darcy the pen, but did not place the ink well upon the table. “Before ye be signing, sir, ye shud know there be a weddin’ occurrin’ here this evening. Not exactly the weddin’, more along the lines of the celebration. There be no assembly hall or meeting place large enough to hold the sizable family gathering. Most in the area call in here regularly. Might’n be a bit loud.”

Darcy did not wish to climb back into the crowded let carriage with Sheffield and Hannah observing his every interaction with Elizabeth, but he dutifully asked, “And the next decent inn?”

“For the likes of you, sir, some twelve miles along the main road south.”

Darcy leaned down to ask, “What say you, Elizabeth?”

“In truth,” she said softly, “I could sleep through the roughest storm God chose to deliver.  A few partiers will not disturb me. A good meal and a bath are all I require for the evening.”

“Then we will stay.” He grinned at her. “You heard the lady. Two rooms as far removed from the jubilation as possible.”

Within a quarter hour, they dined in the common room of the inn. Only three others occupied the room, so they were relatively alone and could speak freely. “I wish to extend my apologies,” he said in serious tones. “I thought myself in charge of what has occurred between us since you ran from the church, but I fear I have done you irreparable harm. I have placed you in a abrasive surrounding and opened you to further accusations. You must permit me to do more than present your sisters with a larger dowry.”

She looked up in alarm. “Such as?”

“I would not be opposed to our joining,” he stated honestly. Since taking her acquaintance, Darcy had often considered the possibility of calling her wife.

Elizabeth shook off the idea. “I could not entertain your address, Mr. Darcy. Even if you had not brought me aboard your yacht, my actions at the church discredited my name. It was foolish of me to think such cheekiness could be ignored. Even if I had simply thwarted Mr. Collins’s plans, I named my fate. I doubt either the gentleman or your aunt would have remained silent regarding my purposeful slight. And I find it hard to believe that my father will be capable of controlling Mrs. Bennet’s aspersions. He has failed miserably in the past when Mrs. Bennet sets her mind to such misery. Most certainly, all in the neighborhood know something of my ill-advised bravado by now.”

He did not approve of her decision, but Darcy nodded his agreement. “I must abide by your choice.”

Silence settled between them, and it was not the kind of silence that caused distress. It was more of the manner in which two friends can sit together, even when they disagree upon something important. He searched for a means to change her mind, but he knew Elizabeth adamant in her opinions. Before he could form an argument to persuade her, the wedding party, literally, carried the newly-wed couple into the inn. The bride and the groom were perched on the shoulders of four bulky Scotsmen, who proudly hefted the pair higher, to the cheers of all those trailing behind them.

“Oh,” Elizabeth sighed heavily as she looked on. “Is she not beautiful? Such joy upon her countenance. Do you suppose they are in love?”

Darcy studied the pair as their escorts set them upon the floor. “The groom appears enthralled with his bride.” He noted the look of longing upon Elizabeth’s face, and he felt a bit sad that because of him, she would never know such happiness. “Is that your desire? To marry for love?” Such would go a long way in explaining why she had refused him, for Darcy knew her affections had not been stirred by their acquaintance.

She shrugged off his questions. “Do you find it odd, Mr. Darcy, that I am as susceptible to the idea of discovering a man who holds me in deep regard as are my sisters? Is it not foolish for a woman of my years to carry the wish of the Cinder Maid buried deep in her heart?”

“My parents married for love,” he admitted. “Together, they were a force with which to be reckoned.” Darcy chuckled in remembrance. “They were quite remarkable. I always believed if I could replicate their devotion to each other in my own marriage that Pemberley could survive and prosper.”

“Then when did you have a change of heart?” she challenged. “From your own lips, Miss De Bourgh did not claim your heart.”

“I do not know exactly how to define that particular moment.” He sat staring out the window over her shoulder. “I thought I had several years before I must choose a wife. Thought myself above entering the marriage mart. But…” He closed his eyes to drive away the taste of bile rising to his throat whenever he considered the betrayal practiced at George Wickham’s hands.

“But?” Elizabeth prompted, as she slipped her hand into his. “Know that I can serve as your confidante, Mr. Darcy.”

He opened his eyes to study her beautiful countenance. How was it possible that they had known each other less than a fortnight; yet, she was essential to all that he held most dear? “But a former friend used our relationship to attempt a seduction of my sister.” He had said the words aloud, and all his fears of the world swinging away from its axis had proved false. “I blundered—not giving her the attention she required,” he explained, “and Georgiana is so broken that I am desperate to restore her good humor. I thought that Anne might prove a comforting force for Miss Darcy. Mayhap even lead my sister to a better understanding of Georgiana’s lack of fault in the matter.”

Tears pooled in Elizabeth’s eyes. “And who is to lead you to a better understanding of your role in the matter, Mr. Darcy?” she asked in sympathetic tones.

He squeezed her hand. “My fault will never be obliterated. It is Georgiana’s heart that requires protection. She is not yet sixteen and was easily misled by a man she recognized as part of our family’s legacy. Miss Darcy trusted him, but all Mr. Wickham, who was my childhood chum and the son of my father’s steward, wished was my sister’s substantial dowry.”

“Oh, William,” she whispered. “You cannot take the blame for some blackguard’s disposition. You can only execute your life with honor.” She smiled weakly. “I know young girls. I was one very recently.” A bit of a tease entered her tone. “We give our hearts away many times before we discover a man worth knowing.”

“Pardon, friends,” the innkeeper said as he set two steaming plates before them. “Wanted to get yer meal out before the celebration became too rowdy.” He chuckled good-naturedly as he glanced over his shoulder at the wedding party. “The bride be the daughter of Sir James Metts, a knight who earned his title via our local bishop. She be a good girl. Don’t know much of the groom. He be Greek. And Catholic. Never knew a Greek before. Some sort of diplomat, I hears. They met in London at a musicale, whatever that may be.” He set two tea cups upon the table without saucers. “Don’t know ‘bout the spirits, but the young man claims this a traditional drink for those of his kind. Says it tastes of aniseed or fennel. Wishes you to join him in a toast to his bride.” The innkeeper poured two fingers full in the cups.

Elizabeth eyed the drink suspiciously. “And what does the gentleman call these spirits?”

“Ouzo.”

She glanced to Darcy. “Are you familiar with the drink?”

“It may surprise you, my dear,” he said with a genuine smile, “but I never experienced a grand tour nor do I associate with high rollers.”

Her mouth formed a teasing pout. “Then I suppose it falls to me to taste the brew first. I would not wish to stain your immaculate reputation by demanding that you imbibe first.”

Darcy’s smile widened. “We will partake of the brew together.” He lifted his cup to tap it gently against hers. “To life.”

“To love,” she added.

Then they turned as one toward the happy couple, and with the others gathered in the room, they declared, “To a happy marriage.”

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A Closer Look at Nigel Lewis’s “The Cover Plan Conspiracy,” a Deception Created by the Allied Forces in WWII

Back on June 6, I posted an article on Exercise Tiger, which was a tragic rehearsal that took place off Slapton Sands on the coast of Devon. That article brought me to the notice of Nigel Lewis, who has written extensively on the subject. Therefore, I asked him to guest post with us. 

unnamed.pngThe Cover Plan Conspiracy takes a new look at a subject that I first wrote about in a book published thirty years ago. Its American title was Exercise Tiger, after the US landing-operation of that name held in the English Channel in late April, 1944.

Tiger is remembered for an incident in the early morning of April 28th, when the last of its eight convoys – Convoy T-4 – was set upon by German E-boats. Two of its landing-ships were sunk, and 639 Americans lost their lives. The incident is routinely mentioned in the histories of D-Day and the Normandy invasion, and readers might imagine that there is nothing new to be said about it. 

But there is. The T-4 incident is usually seen as a temporary setback in the Allied preparations for the invasion. Set in the final few weeks before D-Day,  The Cover Plan Conspiracy goes behind the scenes of the preparations and makes major discoveries about Tiger and T-4. I do not peddle some conspiracy theory. The book is based on hard evidence and years of research in the British National Archives. [Please note: The active part of Exercise Tiger, after the ships set sail, was divided into three phases, 1) the seaborne phase, 2) the landings, 3) the movement inland of the troops who had been landed. The piece below concerns only the seaborne phase (1). The landings were on Slapton Sands. The attack on T-4 was during the seaborne phase, and it occurred almost forty miles from Slapton Sands, off the county of Dorset.]

To the men on T-4 and the other convoys, Tiger was just another training exercise. Their commanding officers knew that it was also a dress rehearsal for the Utah Beach landing in Normandy. But there was something else that even their commanders didn’t know. One of my discoveries is that Tiger was tightly locked into the schedule of the invasion’s top-secret deception plan, Operation Fortitude, also known as the Cover Plan. In fact, the exercise was at the cutting-edge of the Plan, its so-called tactical threat delivered on April 24th, the day that Tiger began.

There was, then, a deceptive side to Tiger, which has been hidden by subtle distortions of its history. In 1944, for example, the Allied Naval Commander, Admiral Bertram Ramsay, claimed that the E-boats were on a routine reconnaissance sortie when they chanced to run into Convoy T-4. The Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, made the same claim in 1946. The claim is false and was known to be so. The E-boats did not simply happen upon their targets. Almost two days before the attack, the enemy had learned that there were about to be large-scale Allied amphibious operations in the west of the English Channel.

On the morning of April 26th, just hours before the first convoy put to sea, German photo-reconnaissance aircraft overflew Torbay, a natural harbour in the western Channel where ten of Tiger’s landing-ships lay at anchor. It would have been clear from the photos that the ships were combat-loaded, ready for action. The Germans did not know it was an exercise. To them, it looked like the long-expected invasion. Hitler himself anticipated that the invasion would be on April 26th.

Certain British officers in charge of the shore defences knew that the recce (Reconnaissance) had tipped off the enemy. But by disguising it in the intelligence bulletins as a harmless flight over the sea “off Dartmouth”, they concealed this vital piece of information. An even more disturbing discovery is that the Allied air forces paved the way for the reconnaissance. During exercises, it was considered “essential” that air-patrols should watch over the loaded ships while they were still in harbour. A few days later the even bigger D-Day rehearsal, Exercise Fabius, was patrolled by the RAF. The patrols for Tiger, however, were cancelled, leaving a wide-open window of opportunity for enemy aircraft to fly through.

Early that morning, the E-boats had arrived in Cherbourg, having moved there from Boulogne. Royal Navy intelligence knew that the move meant that E-boat operations in the west of the Channel were imminent. It also knew that the E-boats only put to sea after their targets had been identified by German air reconnaissance. A German message decrypted by the British code-cracking operation, Ultra, revealed that an E-boat sortie “northwestward” from Cherbourg was planned for the night of the 26th/ 27th, but postponed. Also decrypted by Ultra was a report on the air reconnaissance over Torbay. A copy of it was sent to the Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham.

By lunchtime on the 27th, it was clear that E-boats were about to prowl the western Channel, and that great danger awaited Convoy T-4 – the only convoy still in harbour. Leatham had the power to stop it from sailing, but did nothing. Other evidence of underhand action and inaction by him is in Chapters 20 and 21 of my book. He could and should have allocated more warships to Tiger, and because he didn’t its convoys – all apart from the first one – were very weakly defended. 

What explains this devious behaviour by one ally towards another? The Cover Plan does. Fortitude was nothing if not devious. Its aim was to divert attention from the real area of the invasion, Normandy, by convincing the enemy that the Allies would land 150 miles away at the narrow, eastern end of the Channel, in the area known as the Pas de Calais. Historians have not appreciated how difficult it was to fit the far western end of the Channel – where the Americans were – into this plan. As I explain in Part 1 of my book, the fact that there were more invasion ports to the west than to the east, and the refusal of the Americans to take the Cover Plan seriously, only added to the difficulty.

The success of Fortitude was considered indispensable to the invasion, and the failure of the invasion was unthinkable. For all its make believe, Fortitude was a major operation of war, in which it was legitimate to take risks. It aimed to save Allied lives, but above all it aimed to expedite the invasion, even at the cost of incurring loss of life.

This all has a bearing on Tiger, in several ways. The key point is that because the Americans were too far away from the Pas de Calais to include them in the master-narrative of the Cover Plan, another story had to be found for them. We cannot be sure what the story was. But a “pretended diversion” to the west was probably part of it, and a provocative “mock-invasion” certainly was.

There is also the distressing possibility that Tiger was a sacrifice operation carried out to create an impression of Allied unpreparedness and weakness in the west. Tiger was not the first exercise to double as a deception, and unwitting Allied servicemen – and British civilians – were sometimes killed in deception operations. The sacrifice was usually on a comparatively small scale, but in late April the tactical threat allowed for great risks to be taken to safeguard the secret that Normandy was the Allied landing-area. The large presence of US forces in the west jeopardised the secret, and the high death-toll of Tiger may be an indication of how much it mattered to establish a fake “cover story” for the Americans.

The western alliance was supposed to be bilateral in its thinking, planning, and decision-making. But where the Cover Plan is concerned, the bilateralism broke down. Fortitude was almost entirely a British operation, and it was certainly the British who took the lead in hatching and implementing the scheme within Fortitude – a secret scheme that deserves to be called a conspiracy – that collaterally contributed to the deaths of 639 Americans in the E-boat attack. An unresolved question is the extent to which Supreme Allied Headquarters and some of its US generals, including Eisenhower, were aware of the scheme.

The English Channel in early 1944 was a highly dangerous place, and Tiger’s seaborne phase was made even more perilous by the lowering of the air and sea defences and the dissembling of the enemy air recce over Torbay. These were all intentional measures, and in my book I suggest that whether or not Tiger was used as the vehicle for a sacrifice operation, it “certainly became one”. I also say that the 639 who died were “sacrificial victims of the Cover Plan”.

I stop short of saying that a sacrifice on that scale was specifically intended. Before coming to that conclusion, I would want further evidence. Meanwhile, there is the evidence that we already have, of premeditation on the Allied side of the Channel. The deceptionists – as the deceivers called themselves – must have realised that their actions increased the odds that one of Tiger’s convoys would be attacked, ships sunk, and lives lost. They may, however, have gambled on the chance that there would be no attack, or, if there were one, that its death-toll would be low – an acceptable price to pay for the security of the invasion.

If so, the gamble did not come off.

Copyright © 2017, Nigel Lewis

Excerpts from The Cover Plan

        From Chapter 1 – Hesketh’s History

In Arlington Cemetery, Virginia, is a plaque to the memory of the men who died that night. Commending their sacrifice, it states that they died in “the Allied cause”. So they did, but the same may be said of any Allied soldier who died in World War II. In their case, the specific cause was deeply hidden. Caught without knowing it in a story designed to delude the enemy, they were sacrificial victims of the Cover Plan, whose ruthless demands were intrinsic to the catastrophe of T-4. The one operation – the training exercise – was mangled in the machinery of the other one: the deception structured around it.

British historian John Keegan’s description of the T-4 incident, “sad but subordinate”, no longer applies. It would be more accurate to say that it was made to seem subordinate. The emotive story of the doomed convoy turns out not to be random, after all. It can no longer be regarded as an optional add-on to the pre-D-Day history of the Normandy landings – it is right at the heart of that history. Nor can it be construed simply as a “sad” story, sad though it is. General Bradley, the commander of First US Army, rightly called it “one of the major tragedies of the European War”.

What happened to T-4 was monstrously unfair, but there is also a certain wartime inevitability to it, and it is a tragic inevitability. It seems incredible that hundreds of men could die merely for a story. But there were powerful forces at work in the background to Tiger, and the British too were prey to those forces, as we will see …

The deceptionists worked under a disadvantage. They were not responding to events so much as setting the scene for events yet to come, trying to mould an outcome that still lay in the future. Knowing that it was a successful outcome, we are less likely to be amenable to the idea that it might have been less successful if there had been no deception around Tiger, or that T-4 may have forestalled a greater tragedy. Those arguments now look frail and hypothetical. But the deceptionists lived with hypothesis on a daily basis. In trying to second-guess the enemy, they could only act on the basis of conjecture. The ramifications of this point will become clear as the story progresses.

The Cover Plan posed ethical dilemmas that most of us would find intolerable. But the deceptionists could not let the dilemmas detain them for long. They had to choose. They acted out of military necessity, as they saw it, and it is often hard to see how, in the circumstances, they might have acted differently.

But decisions that may have seemed inevitable to them at the time do not necessarily seem so to us in the present-day. There was, as we will see, an objective basis for the Tiger deception, but was it objectively necessary to go ahead with it? There can be no definitive answer to that question. It lies in the realm of “might-have-been” history. Objective necessity does not eliminate the human factor, however. That too had a part to play, as it usually does. Character-defects in some of the commanders make one suspect that the Tiger deception may have got out of hand and run away with itself. I am thinking of the stubborn pride and arrogance that the Greeks knew as hubris, and the misplaced “gung-ho” enthusiasm that is the fatal flaw of many a military disaster. Wartime deception is a dangerous game – the deceptionists may have played it too assiduously.

I will present the evidence known to me, and set the T-4 disaster in the context of the extreme and exacting circumstances in which the decision to weave a deception around Tiger seemed inevitable and right. Before the reader rushes to judgement, I ask that those circumstances be taken into account. It is not my intention either to blame the British en bloc, or to absolve them from blame. But it would be an over-simplification to take the story out of context and see it in black-and-white terms, with the British as the villains of the piece. Their judgements may be in doubt, but not their motives. They were not driven by narrow British self-interest. It was their duty to ensure the security of the invasion, and they took the decisions they did because they saw Allied advantage in taking them. They did not die in the Allied cause, but they did act in that cause. If this is immoral, it is the immorality of war itself.

The concept of the Tiger deception seems to have been British, and the operation was British-led, but readers should be aware from the outset that Americans too took part. The full extent of US participation is unclear, but there were certainly Americans active in carrying out the operation, and others who covered it up. It was eventually an Allied operation, as the Cover Plan was supposed to be. The story unfolds within a warring family – what Eisenhower called “the family relationship of SHAEF”. Americans and British were of course on the same side, not like the house of Atreus in Greek tragedy, warring with one another. It is well known, however, that they were not always as united in thought and deed as they liked to present themselves as being. T-4 – a secret grief of the western alliance – takes that knowledge to a new level.

From Chapter 6 – Sacrifice

Because of Allied protocol, the British could not directly intervene in the crisis in the west. But protocol could not be allowed to get in the way of the overriding operational need for a fully effective Cover Plan. Given US unwillingness to co-operate in the Plan, only the British could save the day by creating the “necessary false picture” in this area. They therefore had to intervene, but could only do so indirectly. Soon enough, Harold Kehm’s prediction of 1943 would come true, as the British took over the American share of the Cover Plan.

To repeat my earlier caveat, all the people in this story – British and American alike – were under the compulsion of the impersonal forces unleashed by war. It would be a mistake to interpret the story in wholly personal terms, to imagine, for example, that the British set out to settle a grudge and punish the Americans for their negligence and non-co-operation in the Cover Plan. That is not how it was. It was the misfortune of the Americans that they had the geographical bad luck of occupying the area that it was most problematic for the deceptionists to accommodate within the Cover Plan. At the same time, it was an Allied responsibility – which became a British responsibility – to ensure that the Overlord cover was watertight and comprehensive. Despite the high-level US reluctance to get involved in the Cover Plan, and despite the extreme difficulty posed by the West Country and the US forces concentrated there, leaving them out of the Plan was not an option.

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About the Books…

Set in England in the momentous final few weeks before the Normandy invasion of June 6th, 1944, this is the astonishing true story of the deadliest, best kept secret of the Anglo-American alliance of World War II.

The Cover Plan Conspiracy is a complete reappraisal of one of the most publicised but also most misunderstood episodes of the whole D-Day period. In the early morning of April 28, 1944, enemy torpedo-boats attacked an American troopship convoy in the west of the English Channel. Convoy T-4 was the final follow-up convoy of Exercise Tiger, a huge US dress rehearsal for the Normandy landings. The story ever since has been that the 639 Americans killed in the attack were the accidental victims of an unforeseen disaster in training.

The real story, told here for the first time, is devastatingly different. Nigel Lewis draws on extensive research and a wealth of fresh evidence to show that Exercise Tiger was secretly enmeshed in the Allied deception plan for Normandy, the invasion’s so-called “Cover Plan”. Without their knowledge, the men taking part in Tiger were entangled in Allied deception strategy, acting out a narrative designed to mislead the enemy before D-Day. The hundreds killed in the convoy disaster were secret sacrificial victims of the D-Day Cover Plan.

Shedding unprecedented light on Allied disarray and the secret war waged by the Allies before Normandy, this book breaks new ground. The Cover Plan was intended to fool the enemy for a few months. The cover-up of Tiger and T-4 has deceived the historians and peoples of two nations for more than seventy years.

The Cover Plan Conspiracy falls naturally into four parts – The Plan, ‘A Larger Plan’, The Operation, and The Cover-Up. All four parts are available here.

Please note, there are no maps in the book.

Part 1: The Plan sets the scene for the whole book and describes Anglo-American disagreements and other problems that led to the larger plan …

Part 2: ‘A Larger Plan’ shows the net closing around Tiger, and explains the circumstances in which the exercise got caught in the Cover Plan …

Part 3:  The Operation exposes the covert steps taken to weaken Tiger’s defences and tip off the enemy, culminating in the attack on its final convoy …

Part 4: The Cover-Up reveals what was done in 1944 and afterwards to conceal the Tiger deception and the real causes of the convoy disaster …

51ZWjGYSWRL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg   519ycaTho7L._SY373_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg You might also check out…

Exercise Tiger: The Dramatic True Story of a Hidden Tragedy of World War II Hardcover – July, 1990 

(This book is only available from 3rd Party book sellers (starting at $3.95)

In the autumn of 1943, the United States armed forces, with the cooperation of the British government, evacuated seven villages and took over 30 acres of Devon to set up a high security camp where thousands of young American recruits could be trained for the forthcoming invasion of Europe. Known as Exercise Tiger, the operation included manoeuvres and rehearsals on landing craft in the English Channel. On the night of April 28th 1944, the landing craft had an inadequate escort of warships and seven German E-boats in the area moved in. At first, the Americans thought they were part of the exercise, but then they saw that their friends were being wounded and killed on several of the vessels, the order was given to abandon ship. Many of the soldiers who jumped, drowned soon after hitting the water.

unnamed-1.jpg Meet Nigel Lewis…

Nigel Lewis was born in Central America in 1948 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He was a journalist for twenty-five years, for the BBC and other outlets. The Cover Plan Conspiracy is his second excursion into the investigative history of World War II. His first book, Paperchase (1981), exposed a state secret of the Soviet bloc, the secret purloining, by Poland, of thousands of priceless musical and other manuscripts evacuated during the war from the Prussian State Library in Berlin. He is also the librettist of The First Commandment, the English version of an early Mozart opera.

In the late 1980’s he wrote a blow-by-blow documentary account of the E-boat attack on Exercise Tiger in 1944, published in the UK as Channel Firing and in the USA as Exercise Tiger. He is currently working on another book about the US presence in wartime Britain – Bugbear: the Americans and the Beaches of the West Country, 1943-1944. He lives in London, and spends part of the year in Italy. 

Posted in American History, book excerpts, British history, excerpt, Guest Post, history, legacy, military, real life tales, research, war, world history, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Thomson, Savior of British Traditional Music

“The Maid of Llanwellyn” is a Welsh song of love in which the girl admits she has no care for whether her lover is rich or not. From Contemplator [You may listen to the music on this site.] we learn, “This [song] was published by George Thomson of Edinburgh (1757-1851). Thomson paid F. J. Haydn in Vienna 2 ducats each for 200 tunes. He also paid Beethoven for tunes, but he quit, disgusted with the pay.

“The lyrics are by Joanna Baillie [1762-1851]. In the tune she speaks of lakes in Wales. When Thomson remarked that Wales had no lakes, Miss Baillie replied that she would not alter the line and they would have to ‘hope their readers were just as ignorant as she had been when she wrote it.'”

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George Thomson by Henry Raeburn ~ via Wikipedia ~ Public Domain

What do we know of George Thomson? First, Thomson was the original director of the famed Edinburgh Music Festival. He was also an avid collector to Britain’s national folk songs. Thomson came to Edinburgh at the age of 16, where he became a junior clerk to the Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures in Scotland. When his boss passed, Thomson assumed the position. He was in his early 20s at the time and held the job for 59 years. 

Because of his love of music, and especially of the violin, Thomson chose to publish a collection of Scottish tunes accompanied by the traditional lyrics. However, in his research, Thomson found most of the published songs were flawed and not the original tunes. To suit them for concert use and to appeal to persons ‘of taste’, he decided to furnish the old tunes with new instrumental accompaniments.

Believing that no one in Edinburgh or London had sufficient talent to write the music, Thomson applied to several foreign composers. In 1799 he sent some Scottish melodies to Franz Joseph Haydn in Vienna, offering the eminent composer two ducats for each air. In June of 1800, Haydn forwarded to Edinburgh more than 30 airs he had arranged. Altogether Haydn worked on some 200 airs, including ‘The Blue Bells of Scotland.’

215px-Haydn.jpg “Haydn, however, was up in years, so Thomson applied to Ludwig van Beethoven, a much younger man. In 1810 Beethoven sent to Edinburgh a number of Scottish airs he had composed ‘con amore’ by way of doing homage to the national songs of Scotland and England. But Thomson and the composer constantly argued over money. In Beethoven’s last letter, dated 25th May, 1819, he exploded over the pay he had received for his work.

robert-burns-portrait-150x150.jpg “Thomson felt that a number of charming old songs suffered from lyrics that were ‘mere nonsense and doggerel’ while others had rhymes ‘too loose and indelicate’ to be sung in decent company. In 1792 Thomson applied to Robert Burns, the greatest of Scottish poets, to provide new words for 25 melodies that he, Thomson, would select. Burns agreed, provided his muse not be hurried. He also asked to include at least a sprinkling of Scottish dialect, but Thomson insisted that he avoid the vernacular as much as possible, since English was becoming increasingly the language of Scotland and young people were being taught to consider the Scots dialect vulgar. Burns contributed about 100 songs, both original and revised, before his death in 1796. These included ‘Scots, Wha Hae,’ ‘John Anderson, My Jo,’ and ‘Highland Mary’.

“In addition to Burns, who suggested expanding the collection to include Welsh and Irish airs, Thomson sought the help of various English writers. He wished to provide a number of Gaelic airs with alternative English lyrics that Southrons would understand. He rounded up a number of both Scottish and English writers to assist him, including Byron, Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, James Hogg, John Gibson Lockhart, Joanna Bailllie, and Mrs. Anne Grant of Laggan.

If the songs failed in their intentions, the writers were not always to blame. Thomson delighted in presenting local colour, and if he could introduce Snowdon or Llangollen into a song, it might at once pass for Welsh.” 

“Thomson edited three separate editions of national songs–Scottish, Welsh, and Irish. The Scottish songs were published in six volumes under the general title of A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice, with Introductory and Concluding Symphonies for the Pianoforte, Violin, and Violincello.

Thomson died in 1851, leaving two sons and six daughters. One daughter, Georgina, married George Hogarth, the Edinburgh music critic, historian, and Writer to the Signet. In 1836 the Hogarths’ daughter Catherine married Charles Dickens. So Dickens’ ten offspring were the great-grandchildren of George Thomson, the ‘clean-brushed’ old gentleman whose collections of traditional national songs are still sung around the world.”

 JW Pepper tells us, “In this folksong-style original, the guys are smitten when The Maid of Llanwellyn smiles on them! The robust choral parts are just right for young male voices, and a few optional three-part chords add to the bravado.” (British Heritage Travel)

Kate Rusby’s version of the song on You Tube

The Maid of Llanwellyn

I’ve no sheep on the mountains, nor boat on the lake,
Nor coin in my coffer to keep me awake.
Nor corn in my garner, nor fruit on my tree,
Yet the maid of Llanwellyn smiles sweetly on me.

Rich Owen will tell you, with eyes full of scorn,
Threadbare is my coat, and my hosen are torn.
Scoff on, my rich Owen, for faint is thy glee
When the maid of Llanwellyn smiles sweetly on me.

The farmer rides proudly to market and fair,
And the clerk at the ale house still claims the great chair.
But of all our proud fellows, the proudest I’ll be
While the maid of Llanwellyn smiles sweetly on me.

Peter, Paul and Mary have a song that sounds very similar. It is called “Pretty Mary.” You can hear it HERE

Posted in ballads, British history, Georgian Era, music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Cover Reveal for Caroline Warfield’s “Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil”

Cover Reveal from Caroline Warfield…

This beautiful cover for Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas Novella comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

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Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About the Book

Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.


As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.


But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

Pre-Order Links:

Amazon Kindle: 

Smashwords:

A14XvdSzQ+L._UX250_.jpg About the Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.

Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

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Click here to find out more here.

Posted in book release, books, British history, buildings and structures, eBooks, Georgian Era, Guest Post, medicine, publishing, romance, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Closer Look at “The Pemberley Ball: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary”

JeffersRoadtoPem.jpg “The Pemberley Ball” originally appeared in the 2011 edition entitled, The Road to Pemberley: An Anthology of New Pride and Prejudice Stories, published by Ulysses Press. The anthology, edited by Marsha Altman, also includes “But He Turned Out Very Wild” by Sarah Hoyt, “A Long, Strange Trip” by Ellen Gellerman, “An Ink-Stained Year” by Valerie Jackson, “The Potential of Kitty Bennet” by Jessica Keller, “A Good Vintage Whine” by Tess Quinn, “Georgiana’s Voice” by J. H. Thompson, “Secrets in the Shade” by Bill Friesema, “A View from the Valet” by Nacie Mackey, “Beneath the Greenwood Trees” by Marilou Martineau, “Father of the Bride” by Lewis Whelchel, and “Pride and Prejudice Abridged” by Marsha Altman. In the tales, Darcy and Elizabeth and a cast of familiar and unfamiliar faces navigate a host of social quandaries, old personal dilemmas and new exciting adventures. 

That being said, you should know that I wrote several versions of this story, and I have made many changes from the one printed in the anthology. For one thing, I am so much wiser about the Regency period than I was in 2011. In other words, the historical elements are more accurate. Secondly, I have added passages and description that I could not include in the original because of the limited word count permitted for each story in the anthology. Finally, I decided to include three versions of the story’s climax in this story. Therefore, when the reader reaches Part 5 of the story, he/she will find three passages, the first shows the constantly in command Mr. Darcy, while the second proves Mr. Darcy the consummate Alpha Male, and the third gives our favorite hero the opportunity to proclaim his frustrations with Elizabeth, as well as with Mr. Wickham. The reader may choose to read alternate passage #1, #2 or #3 or all of them.

TPB Cover (2) copy.jpgBook Blurb: 

Elizabeth Bennet’s acceptance of his hand in marriage presented FITZWILLIAM DARCY a hope of the world being different. Elizabeth brought warmth and naturalness and a bit of defiance; but there was vulnerability also. With characteristic daring, she had boldly withstood Caroline Bingley’s barbs, while displaying undying devotion to her sister Jane. More unpredictably, she had verbally fenced with the paragon of crudeness, his aunt, Lady Catherine, and had walked away relatively unscathed. One could find his betrothed self-mockingly entertaining her sisters and friends, and despite Darcy’s best efforts, the woman made him laugh. She brought lightness to his spirit after so many years of grief.

Unfortunately for ELIZABETH BENNET, what had been a glorious beginning has turned to concern for their future. She recognizes her burgeoning fears as unreasonable; yet, she can not displace them. She refuses to speculate on what Mr. Darcy would say when he learns she is not the brilliant choice he proclaims her to be. Moreover, she does not think she could submit to the gentleman’s staid lifestyle. Not even for love can Elizabeth accept capitulation.

Will Elizabeth set her qualms aside to claim ‘home’ in the form of the man she truly affects or will her courage fail her? Enjoy a bit of mayhem that we commonly call “Happily Ever After,” along with three alternate endings to this tale of love and lost and love again from Austen-inspired author, Regina Jeffers.

Excerpt:

The Pemberley Ball

Part 1 – Introduction 

Joy at Last

“Yes.” She had said, “Yes.”

Elizabeth Bennet would be his. Forever. After a year of excruciating heartache, Darcy would finally know her. He had moved heaven and earth to prove his devotion to the woman, and she had forgiven his earlier missteps to declare her desire to be his wife.

Elizabeth Bennet had accepted his proposal, and where winter had once held court, springtime now filled Darcy’s heart. Although he was sore to admit it, Elizabeth had fascinated him from the beginning–fascinated him more than anyone in his world ever did. A force bound them: a promise of what could be, which he had recognized sooner than she, but now Elizabeth appeared to be of a like mind.

When they first took an acquaintance, Darcy had scarcely allowed Elizabeth to be pretty; he had looked upon her without admiration at the Meryton assembly; and when they next met, he looked upon her only to criticize. But no sooner did he make it clear to himself and his acquaintances that Elizabeth possessed hardly a good feature in her face, did he discover that her hazel eyes rendered her face uncommonly intelligent.

“Eyes which could haunt a man’s sleep,” he murmured as he checked his cravat in the filmy mirror.

“I beg your pardon, Sir,” his valet looked up from brushing Darcy’s jacket.

Darcy smiled knowingly.

“It is nothing, Mr. Sheffield…just thinking aloud.”

Although Darcy did not turn around, he watched the man, who had served him for some fifteen years, roll his eyes in amusement. Darcy understood perfectly. Less than a week ago, he was an outsider–an observer of life, but never a participant. He had fought valiantly to maintain his distance, keeping his friends and acquaintances to a minimum. Years ago, he learned his lesson the hard way. Darcy’s most trusted friend betrayed him on every level. Even now, as his fists closed tightly at his side, he could taste the bitterness choking him. Yet, despite the fact that his gut warned him to take heed, he chose to place his trust in another: to entrust Elizabeth Bennet with his heart.

Her acceptance had presented him a hope of the world being different. Elizabeth brought warmth and naturalness and a bit of defiance; but there was vulnerability also. With characteristic daring, she had boldly withstood Caroline Bingley’s barbs while displaying undying devotion to her sister. More unpredictably, she had verbally fenced with the paragon of crudeness, his aunt, Lady Catherine, and had walked away relatively unscathed. One could find Elizabeth Bennet self-mockingly entertaining her sisters and friends, and despite Darcy’s best efforts, the woman made him laugh. She brought lightness to his spirit after so many years of grief.

“Your coat, Sir.” Sheffield held the jacket as Darcy slipped his arms through and permitted the valet to straighten the seams across his shoulders.

“Thank you, Sheffield.” Darcy tugged on his cuffs to set the line. “I will be at Longbourn for the supper hour.”

This evening would bring his first meal with the Bennets as Elizabeth’s betrothed, and he pronounced his entertainment more so to solidify the event’s reality in his mind than to keep his valet informed.

Again, the amused twitch of Sheffield’s lips told Darcy that his man understood how Darcy’s life had changed.

“Very good, Sir.”

Darcy realized that his servants had waited patiently for him to choose a bride and to escort their new mistress to Pemberley. With her acceptance, Elizabeth had pronounced that she was willing to live with him in his ancestral home and to set up a nursery for their future children. It was not a gentlemanly thing to say, but he had recognized long ago that he could see his heirs–his unborn children–only in Elizabeth Bennet’s hazel eyes.

“Turn down the bed, and lay out my things, and then you may be excused for the evening. Upon my return, I will undress myself.”

Darcy accepted the handkerchief Sheffield handed him.

“As you wish, Mr. Darcy.”

* * *

Darcy’s heart swelled with happiness. He sat beside Elizabeth at the Longbourn table. The last time he had dined with the Bennets, Elizabeth’s mother had placed him as far away from Elizabeth as the table could divide them, a fact that had played to his misery. Darcy had spent the meal seated beside Mrs. Bennet, which had given pleasure to neither of them, and despite his efforts at cordiality, he had not appeared to advantage. Whenever he and Elizabeth’s mother spoke to each other, Darcy could not shake his practiced formal tone. However, tonight, ungraciousness would not describe him.

With his sole purpose to ease the devastation upon Miss Elizabeth’s features, a devastation that had haunted him after their encounter at Lambton, Darcy had rescued Lydia Bennet’s reputation. He had also encouraged Bingley’s return to Miss Bennet’s side. Both had proved beneficial to a cause he had thought lost forever.

“The venison is excellent, Mrs. Bennet,” he announced, but it did not appear that anyone noticed.

The way the Bennets talked over each other kept him off kilter. This supper was in complete opposition to the quiet meals he shared with his sister at Pemberley or his London Town house. In truth, he looked forward to sharing such meals with Elizabeth, ones where they discussed their day and whatever else struck their natures. Imagining Elizabeth at his table remained a recurring dream.

Darcy glanced about the table. This was a nightmare, but one he meant to master. At length his eyes fell upon his betrothed, and Elizabeth presented him the smallest of smiles. It was as if she understood his discomfort. It was all Darcy could do not to reach for her. There was a time that he had prayed for her attentions, and now they were his to cherish. With a quick return of a smile, he turned his attentions to the table to pick at the many threads of conversation swirling about him.

“The venison is excellent, Mrs. Bennet,” he said with a second attempt at graciousness.

“Why thank you, Mr. Darcy,” the lady responded. “I am gratified that the meal pleases you.”

Mrs. Bennet preened with his praise before returning her remarks to her eldest daughter and Mr. Bingley.

The woman’s obsession with Bingley pleased Darcy, for it left him to converse with Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth, the true intellects at the table. Regretting the loss of his favorite daughter, Mr. Bennet had not originally welcomed Darcy’s plight, but, at length, the man had accepted Elizabeth’s assurances of her regard, and Mr. Bennet had made an obvious effort to address Darcy’s interests.

“Elizabeth tells me that you are considering investing in railroads, Mr. Darcy.”

Mr. Bennet sipped his wine, but Darcy observed the man’s eyebrows rise mockingly. Elizabeth had explained that her father took great pleasure in the foibles of their neighbors. Darcy was determined that the man would not find him wanting.

“It appears prudent to become a partner while the companies are forming,” Darcy rushed to say. “I am considering a small company catering to Derbyshire’s needs…carrying Derbyshire products to Liverpool for shipment to the Americas and north toward Manchester and the factories. The cities draw workers from the estates. It seems wise to discover a means to save my father’s legacy.”

Thankfully, Mr. Bennet’s expression changed to one of respect.

“Well, Lizzy. It appears that your young man has a head for business.”

Elizabeth looked lovingly at her father, tears pricking the corners of her eyes.

“Yes, Papa.” Then she smiled largely. “It is a propitious situation. My future husband shall not bore me with inane chatter at the breakfast table. I fear Mr. Darcy has quite a good mind.”

She casually taunted in the playful tone Elizabeth and her father often shared, and although she had spoken kindly of him, Darcy flinched. Being the point of ridicule, even in its mildest form, still injured him as if he were still twelve years old and the target of the neighborhood boys because he was the heir to Pemberley.

At Netherfield, Darcy always enjoyed it when he and Elizabeth partook of what he fondly called “verbal swordplay,” but somehow this felt different, and his tone came out sharper than he intended.

“I pride myself on being well read.” Darcy responded automatically, and he waited for the “attack,” but it did not come.

Instead, Elizabeth looked questioningly at him. Darcy gave his head a little shake, telling her not to ask. He knew instant regret for placing his insecurity to the forefront. He had everything he ever wanted in the form of Elizabeth, and Darcy would not jeopardize his standing in the Bennet family again. Thinking so, he returned his attention to her father.

“Mr. Bennet, what might you tell me of Miss Elizabeth’s childhood? I will require plenty of stories to brighten the long winters of Derbyshire.”

Over the remainder of the four courses, Mr. Bennet, with occasional comments from his wife or one of Elizabeth’s sisters, regaled Darcy with tales of a young Elizabeth’s exploits. Everything that Darcy ever considered that he knew of his intended changed somehow. He discovered the source of Elizabeth’s self-deprecation rested in Mrs. Bennet’s continual praise of her eldest and her youngest. Perhaps, he now understood why Mary Bennet sought refuge in her music, and why the immature Kitty clung to her interest in fashion. Each girl had claimed her niche, and Elizabeth’s strengths were in less feminine accomplishments. She possessed a pleasing voice, but Elizabeth did not play the pianoforte exceptionally well, nor was her needlework beyond being more than adequate. She was not gifted in languages, nor did she paint tables, cover screens, or net purses. Elizabeth owned a quick wit, and she used it as her defense against being found deficient.

“Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

She had said those words one evening at Netherfield when Miss Bingley had insisted on Elizabeth’s walking about the room with her. Now despite thoroughly enjoying the flush of pink coloring her skin, Darcy considered how many of Elizabeth’s earlier escapades now appeared quite mortifying in their retellings. It seemed many of her embarrassing moments came at her own hand. She often acted impulsively. Although he understood why she used her “daring” as a diversion, Darcy could not but wonder if Elizabeth would not be happier if known for her merits, rather than her mistakes.

“Off-putting attention is still attention,” he told himself. “But negativity cannot help but injure Elizabeth’s self confidence.”

Such was a sobering fact that Darcy never considered of Elizabeth. On the outside, his betrothed appeared quite self-assured, always speaking her mind and expecting her opinions to be accepted, but beneath her façade, Elizabeth Bennet was as wounded as he. They were quite the pair.

Amazon    http://www.amazon.com/The-Pemberley-Ball-Prejudice-Novella/dp/1530668697?ie=UTF8&keywords=the%20pemberley%20ball&qid=1459702867&ref_=sr_1_2&s=books&sr=1-2

Kindle   http://www.amazon.com/The-Pemberley-Ball-Prejudice-Novella-ebook/dp/B01DR71OKC?ie=UTF8&keywords=the%20pemberley%20ball&qid=1459702898&ref_=sr_1_5_twi_kin_1&s=books&sr=1-5

Nook   http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pemberley-ball-regina-jeffers/1123622984?ean=2940157922382

Kobo       https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-pemberley-ball

CreateSpace      https://www.createspace.com/6156378

Posted in book excerpts, book release, books, British history, excerpt, Georgian England, historical fiction, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, Vagary | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments