The book is set fifteen years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, and it shows Elizabeth and Darcy living out their happily ever after at Pemberley and at Darcy House in London. But when Mr Darcy's cousin, Edward Fitzwilliam, arrives, the Darcys are captivated by his enthusiasm for Egypt. Elizabeth's adventurous spirit is awakened and the Darcys - Elizabeth, Mr Darcy and their six children - set off for Egypt with Edward.
Whilst Elizabeth and Darcy are the centre of the book, there are plenty of new characters, too, not only Edward, but Sophie Lucas (who is Charlotte Lucas's youngest sister) and Paul Inkworthy, an artist, who accompany the Darcys. Paul, of course, is necessary to capture the trip in permanent form as there were no cameras available!
In this extract, Paul is capturing some of the exotic scenes to be found in Egypt. I found Travels in Egypt and Nubia by Giovanni Battista Belzoni particularly useful for research. Belzoni was a kind of Regency relic hunter, and his account of his experiences was invaluable in enabling me to add authentic descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of Regency Egypt to the novel.
Paul Inkworthy looked at the camel driver in front of him. He tried to keep his mind on his subject as he sketched the man’s long, flowing robe and character-full face, instead of letting his thoughts wander to the far more interesting subject of Miss Sophie Lucas.
Sophie had come to occupy his mind far more than was wise over the last few weeks. It had been impossible to escape her on the sea voyage, despite his noble intentions to stay away from her, as he knew full well that a poverty-stricken artist had nothing to offer a woman whose father was a knight. But now that they had arrived in Alexandria he knew that he must gradually withdraw his attentions, which had been more marked than they should have been, given that he was not in a position to support a wife. And so he had set out early that morning in order to remove himself from temptation.
Reminding himself that he was on the trip as the Darcys’ artist, he forced himself to pay attention to his work. He had promised Mr Darcy a faithful representation of all the varied scenes of Alexandria: the boats coming and going along the river; the little boys driving donkeys; the camels with water jugs on their backs; the men with their copper faces and their long robes; the women with their black hair and eyes; all the noise and confusion of a busy Egyptian port.
He finished the sketch of the camel driver and then flicked back through his sketchbook, marvelling at the opportunities that had come his way since setting out from England.
The earliest sketches were of the Darcys in their London home: Darcy standing in front of the fireplace; Elizabeth walking in the garden, with the wind whipping her skirt about her ankles; the children at work and play. But these soon gave way to a collection of drawings and paintings of the sea voyage, which had provided him with a chance to produce character sketches of the sailors as well. It had also given him an unprecedented opportunity to perfect his rendering of tall sailing ships, as well as to capture an endless array of seascapes, from calm to storm. In addition, the ports they had visited had given him a chance to sketch places as varied as Southampton and Malta.
And now he was in Alexandria, where the light effects alone would provide him with a year’s study as he sought to capture the way the air shimmered in the heat and the way the water dazzled under the full glare of the sun.
He picked up a half-finished painting and put it on his easel, returning to the scene he had abandoned half an hour earlier and, newly inspired, capturing the heat haze that had defeated him before.
He stood back to look at his painting when he was done, squinting against the bright Egyptian sun.
‘Exceptional,’ came a voice at his shoulder. ‘I have seen many artists at work here and they have all captured the scene in front of them to great effect. But you have caught the wind in the sails, the movement of the water, the bray of the camels and the scent of the spices. I have long been searching for an artist to record my travels and I have been on the point of making arrangements with three of them, but something always held me back. I was looking for something more, though I didn’t know what that something was. But now I know. Whereas another artists will bring Egypt into my living room, you, dear sir, will transport my living room to Egypt.’
The man who accosts Paul is a wealthy English baronet, but it soon transpires that the baronet is not all he seems!
You can read the opening pages and find reviews on Amazon US and Amazon UK , where it's available to buy now on Kindle. It's also available now from all bookshops in the US and will be available from book shops in the UK from Monday. Enjoy!