A Love Most Ardent
Up for pre-orders from the 20th June on Amazon sites worldwide.
Up for pre-orders from the 20th June on Amazon sites worldwide.
Its a bit late to say happy new year, and it’s been a while since I posted anything, but, in my defence, I have been busy writing my 5th novel.
So, although I am not revealing the title yet, it is about to go into pre-order mode in the next week or so.
Hence, I am publishing the first chapter here for all my loyal friends and subscribers to read first.
I hope you like it. xx
Mr Darcy arrived at the inn in Lambton as soon as propriety allowed. He had been encouraged by the favourable looks Elizabeth had directed at him as she returned to his sister’s side. Miss Bingley had startled her with the mention of George Wickham.
His decision was made. Today, for the second and last time, he would propose to Elizabeth, confident that she would accept him.
Entering the Gardiners’ apartment behind the young serving girl, Darcy offered Elizabeth a warm smile and anticipated a welcoming one in return.
But the welcome he expected on his arrival was nothing like the one he received.
He stared down at Elizabeth’s tear-stained face and listened in silence as she informed him of the morning’s events.
When the serving girl, Hannah, had brought Elizabeth two letters from home, she had been about to set off on a day’s touring with the Gardiners.
Begging her aunt for time to read them before they departed, Mr and Mrs Gardiner agreed and then set off to visit Lambton church for an hour. This, they surmised, would be ample time for Elizabeth to read and enjoy the contents of her letters.
It was bad news for sure, and Darcy was instantly reminded of his sister Georgiana’s narrow escape. However, to receive such tidings when one was at home was bad enough, but to receive such distressing news when you were such a distance away, was quite another. His heart went out to the woman he loved, as she made no attempt to hide her pain and embarrassment from him, or even the serving girl.
Sending Hannah to fetch the Gardiners, Darcy took the chair opposite Elizabeth.
“Are you quite sure the letter stated they were only traced as far as London, Miss Bennet?”
Dabbing at her eyes, Elizabeth offered Darcy the tear-stained note.
“See for yourself, sir. My sister writes that Lydia and Mr Wickham were tracked as far as Clapham by Colonel Forster’s men, but no further. Indeed, when Colonel Forster questioned Wickham’s friend, Mr Denny, he confirmed that Wickham had confided to him he had no intention of going to Scotland. I fear his plans for Lydia do not include marriage.” Elizabeth said with a sob.
Taking the letter, Darcy quickly scanned the sheet. It was as he suspected. He tucked it into his breast pocket and then summoned another serving girl to sit with Elizabeth. Then, he reluctantly made his excuses.
“I fear you have long wished me gone. If you will excuse me, Miss Bennet, there is much to do.” And he left before she could reply.
With long strides, Darcy quickly closed the gap between himself and the approaching Gardiners as they hurried back from the church.
Making a quick bow to Mrs Gardiner, Darcy then spoke directly to Mr Gardiner.
“A word in private, if you please, sir,” Darcy said as he motioned for the other gentleman to step to one side with him.
“Forgive me, sir, but circumstances require me to speak plainly. Your niece, Miss Lydia Bennet has thrown herself, and her entire family into jeopardy by eloping with one of the officers from the militia stationed in Brighton.”
Mr Gardiner’s mouth dropped open in shock, but before he could question Darcy further on the matter, the latter continued;
“He tricked Miss Lydia into believing they were to be married at Gretna Green, while at the same time, boasting to his friend that marriage was not on his mind. You understand my meaning, sir?” Darcy asked with some urgency.
“I am afraid I understand all too well,” replied Mr Gardiner with a scowl. “So, where are they to be found if not Gretna Green?”
Darcy retrieved Elizabeth’s letter from his pocket and thrust it into the older man’s hand.
“They were traced as far as the capital, sir, but I am betting it was done purely to throw Colonel Forster’s men off his trail. I may be wrong, but I think Wickham will make his way back here, to Derbyshire. He was born and raised here, and although he has only a few distant cousins remaining, he knows the layout of the country well.”
Mr Gardiner paused to study the young man’s countenance. Although their acquaintance was only a few days old, Edward Gardiner had instantly liked the gentleman. Though Darcy had tried to hide the true depth of his feeling from both him and his wife, whenever he was in Elizabeth’s presence, his admiration could not be denied. All too soon, through the increasing chinks in his metaphorical armour, Darcy’s love for Elizabeth burst through like shafts of sunlight, visible to all. Yes, he would make Elizabeth an excellent husband.
“Am I correct in assuming you have a plan, sir?” Mr Gardiner enquired.
“I do, sir. In Miss Jane Bennet’s letter, she asks that you make haste to join her father in London, where your greater knowledge of the city will aid the search for the couple. I believe you should go, sir, but I would ask that you leave your wife and Miss Elizabeth, here.”
“Leave them here, alone, with no transport and no man to protect them? You are not serious, sir!”
“If I am correct, Wickham will bring Miss Lydia to Derbyshire and then demand a ransom for her release. But,” Darcy, cautious of mentioning the unthinkable, hesitated before saying, “if things should turn out badly, sir, at least the girl will have her family to comfort her.”
“You mean should Lydia need a shoulder to cry on when this worthless young man deserts her!” Mr Gardiner scoffed.
Darcy did not answer, but the grim set of his mouth told Mr Gardiner that their thoughts were akin.
Edward Gardiner turned to look at his wife. Her expression, a mixture of curiosity and concern, conveyed how worried she was.
Although they had been blessed with four healthy children, the Gardiners’ could not help but look on Elizabeth as one of their own. There was no blemish to her personality, only kindness, and compassion, and charm and a lively wit. She was one of a kind, and they loved her dearly.
Whatever the outcome with Lydia and this fellow Wickham, Edward Gardiner had no doubt that, with Madeline at her side, Elizabeth would find the strength to deal with what was to come.
Knowing he could not leave his wife and niece at the Inn unaccompanied while he headed off to London in search of his foolish niece, Mr Gardiner stated his terms to Mr Darcy in a firm and resolute tone.
“Very well, but I must insist that you take Mrs Gardiner and my niece to stay at Pemberley. I cannot abandon the women in my charge at a tavern with no gentleman present,” Mr Gardiner said as he raised himself up to his full height.
If the circumstances had been different, Darcy might have smiled as he watched Elizabeth’s uncle puff out his chest assertively, but his mind was too preoccupied with catching Wickham to tarry on such thoughts.
Darcy knew of Wickham’s preference for innocent young girls, seducing and using them wherever and whenever he could. Even now, Darcy felt a hint of colour rise to his cheeks as he remembered one occasion at Cambridge University when he interrupted Wickham bedding a serving girl. What made it worse was that Wickham had expected Darcy to return and had purposely taken the girl to their shared rooms, knowing he would be caught. It irritated Darcy that he should have such memories thrust upon him by a man like Wickham.
Unfortunately, it was Mr Gardiner who was on the receiving end of Darcy’s irritation. It was unthinkable that Elizabeth and her aunt should not move to Pemberley once Mr Gardiner had left for the capital. Where better for Darcy to secure and oversee their protection than at Pemberley?
With renewed determination, Darcy spoke sharply to Mr Gardiner.
“That goes with saying, sir. Now, we must tarry no longer. Where George Wickham is concerned, every second counts.” With that, Darcy turned on his heels and strode back the way he had come.
When her aunt and uncle entered the small sitting room that adjoined their suite of rooms, Elizabeth rushed forward into the open arms of Mrs Gardiner.
“Oh, aunt, the most awful news! Lydia has eloped, and with Mr Wickham. We must return to Longbourn at once…,” It was now that Elizabeth saw Darcy had returned. “Oh, Mr Darcy…pray excuse me,” Elizabeth faltered, “I…I thought you had returned to Pemberley?”
“I needed to speak urgently to your uncle, Miss Bennet.” then Darcy turned once more to Mr Gardiner.
“Is one hour sufficient for you to settle your business here in Lambton?”
Mr Gardiner nodded.
“Very well, I will return to Pemberley and make the necessary arrangements for their arrival.” With a short bow, Darcy took his leave.
It took a moment for this information to filter through Elizabeth’s jumbled thoughts, but when it did, she turned to her uncle and asked,
“We are returning to Longbourn, are we not, Uncle? My family will be expecting us.”
Taking Elizabeth by the elbow, Mr Gardiner led her to a chair by the window and sat her down. Pulling up a chair for himself, he took hold of her hand.
“I understand that Mr Darcy and this Wickham fellow were friends at one time?” he asked in a soft tone.
“Yes, they were raised together, but I do not understand what this has to do with us returning to Longbourn?” Elizabeth replied.
Mr Gardiner glanced over to his wife, who also had no idea of the plans made by her husband and Mr Darcy.
“Mr Darcy believes that Wickham’s stay in London will be of a short duration, a few days at most. He predicts that this Wickham fellow has fooled everyone with his story of going to Scotland, and, in truth means to make his way north to Derbyshire. If that be the case Elizabeth, someone who knows the man and his idiosyncrasies will need to be at hand. Mr Darcy proposes to be that man. He has suggested, and I entirely agree with him, that I should make my way back to London and assist Mr Bennet in any way that I can. I understand from Jane’s letter that Colonel Forster has returned to Brighton and will continue to search for them there. Although, the odds of Mr Wickham returning to his regiment seem slim to me.”
Conscious of Elizabeth’s innocence, Mr Gardiner chose his next words with extra care.
“If Mr Darcy is correct, and I see no reason to doubt him, this Wickham fellow is likely to…tire…of your sister in a relatively short space of time.”
Although this notion had already crossed Elizabeth’s mind, these were harsh words for her to hear. She turned her head away as she tried to restrain the sob that had sprung up in her throat.
Mr Gardiner paused, giving Elizabeth a moment to compose herself, then continued with what needed to be said.
“When this happens, if this happens, it would be more reassuring for Lydia to have a member of her own family to hand. Someone to comfort and console her, rather than a stranger. That is why I have agreed to Mr Darcy’s plan. That you and Madeline stay at Pemberley until this matter is settled.”
“Stay on?” questioned Elizabeth, as she looked from her uncle to her aunt. “But I will be needed at Longbourn to help comfort my mother. You cannot expect me to leave poor Jane, who has suffered so much recently, to deal with the fallout of this scandal on her own.”
Mrs Gardiner acknowledged the pleading look from her husband and came to stand by his side.
“We must stay Lizzy; don’t you see? If Mr Darcy is right, and this man abandons Lydia, who would you have her to turn to? Miss Bingley? Mrs Hurst? Besides, there is Mary and Kitty and your Aunt Philips for Jane to call on. Lydia will have no-one if we do not stay.”
Elizabeth heard their words and agreed with their reasoning, but her heart still yearned to return to Longbourn, and not just to be of some comfort to Jane or her mamma.
Was it not humiliating enough that Mr Darcy knew of Lydia’s selfish and reckless behaviour? What if he shared her family’s humiliation and imminent disgrace with the rest of his party? It was almost too much to bear.
Elizabeth gave a scoff, reminding herself that soon the whole country would know of their family’s disgrace and not just Mr Darcy’s house guests. Oh, Lydia! Why had she done such a foolish thing? She must have realised she would expose her sisters to derision and censure.
Elizabeth’s thoughts quickly turned to who had encouraged Lydia in her foolishness. Have fun, my dear, enjoy yourself at every opportunity. Her own mother had promoted Lydia’s obsession with husband hunting and marriage. With these words ringing in her thoughts, Elizabeth’s heart hardened towards Mrs Bennet.
Poor Lydia. The possible fate that Mr Wickham intended for her was almost beyond comprehension; but not quite. Used and ruined, he would probably toss her aside like an empty wine bottle, with no regard for her safety, future, or reputation.
Elizabeth turned back to her uncle, and with a defiant tilt of her chin, said,
“Yes, of course, you are right, we must stay in Derbyshire.”
On Saturday 9th December, a fellow Tring author and I took part in a Christmas Fair. It was run by Halton Scout Group to raise money for their troop.
Although I only sold a few books, I did manage to hand out a number of leaflets. As a direct result, I have noticed a definite spike in my book sales. So, a big thank you to everyone who took a leaflet and purchased one of my books.
As you all know, my genre is Regency, but Loretta’s is Medieval, so there was no clash of interest.
Our partners accompanied us to the fair and also got into the spirit of things. As you can see, all four of us dressed up in our period clothes.
And even if I say so myself, we look resplendent.
This was the first time I have sold books at a Christmas Fair and although it was a little cold, (time of the year I guess) it was a lot of fun.
Anyway, I thought you might like to see our outfits, so here they are.
Wish leaves me with just one more thing to say,
Happy Christmas Everyone.
Just use the links below, find the book you want, purchase, and enjoy. Simple.
Here, I have put links to each of my books.
You can read a few chapters for free, but remember, the idea is that you then purchase one, or hopefully, all of them. 🙂
Happy reading and thank you for stopping by.
My books are available worldwide in paperback or as an eBook, on Amazon, iBook’s, Nook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Playster, Inktera, Talino, and Createspace.
It is no secret that I am a huge Jane Austen fan, but I am also a huge fan of Lucy Worsley.
By day, Lucy is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, but by night she is a prolific and talented writer, with several factual, history filled books to her name.
What Lucy does not know about the regency era you could probably write on a postage stamp.
I have watched and enjoyed all her programs on TV, including ones about the Georgiana’s, the Regency Period and especially her latest offering on Jane Austen, with great interest and enthusiasm.
It seemed very fitting that Lucy should do a program, and then a nationwide tour, to share her knowledge, thoughts and personal views on dear Jane, in this, the 200th anniversary of her death.
I was lucky enough to get front row seats at one of her recent venues, and I was not disappointed.
Lucy’s knowledge was expansive, and she delivered her talk in an articulate and amusing way, using screenshots to inflame our imagination. Indeed, as Jane herself might say, her delivery and execution were perfection itself.
Lucy had us all laughing with her, and at times almost crying with her, as she revealed the ups and downs of Jane’s life.
Afterwards, Lucy had time for photo’s and autographs with all who wanted one.
As you can see in the picture at the start of this post, I wore my Jane Austen T-Shirt, and the picture is great, but in this next picture, you can see the moment when Lucy realised that my phone cover, (being used to take the picture) also has a Jane Austen theme.
Did you know there were eight Austen children in the Stevenson Rectory, six boys and two girls. However, the number of children does not stop there. To make ends meet, her father, the Revd. George Austen, also ran it as a boarding school for the sons of local gentlemen! Apparently Jane was no a stranger to hard work as she helped her mother and sister, both called Cassandra, look after the men and boys.
Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but the journey Lucy takes you on, around all Jane’s former homes, is fascinating.
I highly recommend it.
And if you get a chance to see Lucy live, then grab it with both hands, you will not be disappointed.
Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley, published by Hodder & Stoughton is available at numerous outlets including Amazon and Waterstones.
All rights reserved, including cover photo and book contents.
No part of this book, cover, image or content may be reproduced in any form, or by electronic, mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews,- without permission in writing from the publisher, Martine Jane Roberts
All the characters and events described in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover designed by Jessicaecovers.
To Peggy, who I love more than words can say.
The rider dug his heels into the horse’s flanks, urging him to increase his pace. Moving as one they flew over the uneven terrain.
Unaccustomed to his master riding him with such fierce determination, Odin sporadically bucked his back legs in protest as they raced over the emerald landscape. Finally, as they approached a tall, but shallow hedge, the stallion, foaming at the bit with the exertion of the pace, decided enough was enough. As his rider leaned forward in preparation for the jump, Odin dug his hooves into the ground and promptly stopped.
Darcy, who had resolved to ride until his black mood was exhausted, found himself momentarily airborne, before landing unceremoniously in a heap on the other side of the fence.
Relieved to be rid of his ill-tempered burden, Odin trotted over to a patch of green, winter pasture and lowered his head to sample the long blades, unconcerned with the fate of his rider.
Winded by the fall, Darcy lay on the ground and tried to catch his breath. He could not blame his faithful steed for throwing him. He had ridden Odin hard for almost an hour as he tried to banish a particular image from his mind, and from his memory. The image of George Wickham touching Elizabeth.
As his breathing became easier, the events of the last week played out in his mind.
Darcy had decided it would be prudent for him to also quit Netherfield, leaving only two days after the ball and one day after Mr Bingley. Miss Elizabeth Bennet and her fine eyes were a pleasant distraction, but he could not think of her as a suitable candidate for his affections. As for Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst, it had been easy to persuade them of the necessity to return to Town; he had only to mention the words Charles, Jane Bennet and matrimony in one breath and they too had insisted on following their brother.
Having arrived at Mr Bingley’s London residence, it took the three of them very little time to persuade Charles that Jane Bennet did not love him. Indeed, they pointed out; Miss Bennet had bestowed her serene smile on all who had engaged with her. It had not been reserved for Charles in particular; Caroline delighted in pointing out.
Crestfallen, Charles had to agree with her, Jane’s demeanour had not quickened when in his presence.
However, that was not the only reason Darcy had wanted to leave the shire. Miss Elizabeth Bennet had begun to have an alarming effect on him, discomposing his emotions, and intruding upon his ability to think rationally. He had even begun to look forward to their encounters, however brief or cutting they might be. Therefore, it made sense for him to extract himself from her influence before he made a fool of himself. She was, after all, too far removed from his level in society to be a serious contender as his wife.
Now home, and away from Elizabeth’s charms, Darcy was sure he would soon forget her.
However, he had underestimated the effect the fairer sex could have on a red blooded man in his prime.
Having stayed to dine with Charles and his sisters’, Darcy returned home late that evening. Convinced he could put Elizabeth from his mind, and return to his usual pursuit, he settled down in his favourite armchair with a book and a small brandy.
Thirty minutes later, he was frustrated to find that he had not read a single page, a single paragraph or even a single sentence. Miss Elizabeth Bennet was the only subject on his mind.
He tried to reason with himself. Elizabeth had nothing to recommend her to a man such as he. No connections, no fortune, her inferior birth and her ridiculous family…, and yet…, she seemed to have found a way under his skin and into his heart.
Darcy closed the book and slammed it down on the side table. He rose and paced the floor as he tried to convince himself of her unsuitability. He knew an alliance with her was unthinkable! His family would never accept her, society would never accept her… but… as he thought of never seeing her again, a physical pain made its presence felt in the centre of his chest.
Finally, Darcy realised it was time he stopped deluding himself. He could no longer deny the depth of his feeling for Elizabeth Bennet.
He loved her, ardently.
Angry at his own lack of willpower, Darcy pulled open the library door and bellowed for his butler.
Startled to be summoned in such a manner, Miller hurried to see what was amiss with his master.
“Miller,” Darcy barked, “inform Fletcher to repack my trunks, we are returning to Hertfordshire.”
“And the duration of your stay, sir,” Miller asked in his most professional voice.
“Indefinitely,” Darcy replied, only to hastily change it to “Undetermined.”
A true professional, Miller merely said, “Yes sir.” And then hurried off to do his bidding, while Darcy sat at his desk, dashed off two brief notes.
The first was to his sister, and the other to Mr Bingley, asking his permission to stay at Netherfield Park again, although he gave no explanation as to why he was returning to Hertfordshire so soon after leaving.
Then Darcy rang for a footman and instructed him to deliver them without delay.
Only then, and with his emotions still in turmoil, did Darcy retire to his bed. Self-loathing at his lack of determination and suppressed excitement fought to win the upper hand, but as he slipped into unconsciousness, the latter prevailed.
A gentle grin played on Darcy’s lips as he dreamt of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, smiling…laughing…teasing.
On the journey back to Netherfield, the carriage had passed through the town of Meryton. With skill, the driver navigated through the busy streets, and Darcy looked out of the window, scanning the inhabitant’s faces for the one he hoped to see.
Then, as if in answer to his silent prayer, there was Elizabeth. She was standing outside the bookstore talking to an officer in a red coat. With their faces in profile, Darcy did not recognise him at first.
Then Elizabeth must have disclosed something amusing, for the officer threw back his head and laughed raucously.
Next, as if in slow motion, Darcy watched as the man reached out and stroked Elizabeth’s arm in a familiar way. At that moment, his identity became clear. It was none other than George Wickham!
Elizabeth, who was enjoying an extended morning walk, watched in disbelief as a man appeared from nowhere and landed at her feet.
Startled, she retreated a few steps, then instinct took over, and she rushed to his aid.
“Are you injured, sir?” Elizabeth asked as she knelt by his side.
Only when the man turned towards her, with a familiar scowl on his face, did Elizabeth recognised him.
“Why, Mr Darcy?” Elizabeth exclaimed with surprise, “We understood you had left Hertfordshire and returned to the Town?”
His mood, already black from suffering an undignified parting from his horse, darkened as he realised his demise had been witnessed.
The fact that it was Miss Elizabeth Bennet who had been party to the shambolic event, only deepened his anger and embarrassment.
Brushing off Elizabeth’s attempt to assist him, Darcy replied gruffly,
“Thank you, but I am in no need of assistance.”
Although Elizabeth had no brothers, she understood the concept of male pride and would have forgiven Mr Darcy for his rudeness, had he not been bleeding from a graze on his brow.
Ignoring his black scowl, Elizabeth withdrew a handkerchief from her reticule and as she reached out to dab at the wound said,
“No,” he barked, “I have already stated that I am in no need of assistance, madam. I must ask you to desist.”
Humiliated, Darcy rolled over onto his stomach and tried to stand, however, he could only manage to struggle to his knees. Silently cursing, Darcy wished Elizabeth would leave him to his humiliation and allow him to recover in private.
Managing to regain his breath, he quickly realised the exertion of moving had rewarded him with a thumping in his head and a spell of dizziness. Momentarily defeated, he knew he needed to rest for a while longer before attempting to stand again.
His harsh words did not deter Elizabeth.
On several occasions when visiting her father’s tenants, she had tended to the scraped knees of their children. Neither the child’s verbal protests nor the sight of their bloodied knees or nose had swayed her from her task.
So, sitting back on her heels, Elizabeth watched as Mr Darcy tried again to scramble to his feet, only to fall back onto his hands and knees.
Now, with only one foot resting on the ground, it quickly became apparent that the gentleman was unable to stand under his own volition.
As Darcy paused in this half sitting, half kneeling position, Elizabeth said,
“Sir, while I hate to contradict you, it is obvious to me that you most definitely are in need of assistance. Now, if you could stop being so stubborn for one minute, and take my arm, I am sure we could have you back in the saddle….” Elizabeth’s sentence was left unfinished.
“So far, I have been tolerant of your interference, Madam, but no more. You will kindly desist in your attempts to nurse me and remove yourself from this property.”
When Elizabeth made no move to leave, Darcy added,
“Trespassing is an offence, you know?”
If Elizabeth was shocked or stung by the severity of his address, she did not show it. Instead, she carefully folded the handkerchief and returned it to her purse.
Standing, she brushed the dried leaves from her dress and then paused to look at the dishevelled man kneeling before her. Had she not already experienced several encounters with the proud and unpleasant, Mr Darcy, Elizabeth might have taken offence at his curt words, his brisk tone or even his dark scowl, but she now deemed them to be part of his character, even when one was trying to be helpful towards him.
“Very well, sir, I will leave you to your fate, but not because you order me from this property, but because I choose to leave. Besides, Netherfield Park ended with this boundary fence. You are now on Longbourn property.”
Elizabeth waited until she had her back to Darcy before letting a broad smile graced her lips.
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