I've been busy with a new book, Project Darcy, which is out now and on a special Christmas offer on Kindle, along with Mr Darcy's Secret and Searching for Captain Wentworth. Here's a little blurb about my timeslip novel which is inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:-
A LOVE STORY LOST IN PRIDE & PREJUDICE... It is high summer when Ellie Bentley joins an archaeological dig at Jane Austen's childhood home. She's always had a talent for 'seeing' into the past and is not easily disturbed by her encounters with Mr Darcy's ghost at the house where she's staying. When Ellie travels into the past she discovers exactly what happened whilst Jane danced her way through the snowy winter of 1796. As Steventon Rectory and all its characters come to life, Ellie discovers the true love story lost in Pride and Prejudice - a tale which has its own consequences for her future destiny, changing her life beyond imagination.
Hopping about on the cold floor pulling on long woollen stockings, I reached for my dressing robe and tip-toed to the window avoiding those places on the oak boards that I knew would creak with a loud retort and wake the rest of the house. Outside, beyond the snow-powdered casement, pine trees glittered with ice crystals in the pearly morning light, and the fields stretched away under billowing, white folds like sheets flapping in the wind on washday. It had been snowing again and all pathways and the road beyond had vanished save for the trails made by pheasants and foxes, rabbits and other small creatures that had been up and around in the night searching for food.
All of a sudden, my thoughts were interrupted by the thud of something white and icy being hurled against the glass. It was a snowball! Looking out through the window once more, I could see nothing at first until the sight of a figure stepping out to look up caught my attention. Running downstairs with my hair flying and giving not a care for anything except opening the front door, I felt the same kind of excitement that I’d been conscious of at the Manydown ball. I opened the door with caution but the figure had gone, and although I’d only glimpsed him I knew exactly who had thrown the snowball at my window. I looked all about, but Tom had truly disappeared. I was about to shut the door when I noticed a small package at my feet on the step.
I ran to my room with the precious parcel. With trembling fingers I untied the scarlet ribbon that bound the small box to discover a sprig of mistletoe inside, tied with the same ribbon, its milky pearls still glistening with snow. There was a note.
To Miss Jane Austen - a poem, with apologies to Mr William Cowper from whom I have stolen said verse and rearranged for my own ends. Please think on me when you behold this token.
To a Friend
What Nature, alas! has deni’d
To the delicate growth of our isle,
Art has in a measure suppli’d,
And winter is deck’d with a smile.
See, Jane, what beauties I bring
From the shelter of an obliging tree,
Where the flowers have the charms of the spring,
Though abroad they are frozen and dead.
’Tis a bower of Arcadian sweets,
Where Flora is still in her prime;
A fortress to which she retreats,
From the cruel assaults of the clime.
While earth wears a mantle of snow,
This mistletoe is as fresh and as gay,
As the fairest and sweetest that blow
On the beautiful bosom of May.
Thank you for so many exquisite moments last night, dearest Jane,
Holding the be-ribboned mistletoe to my cheek I delighted in his simple gift as if it had been a token of gold. How clever and unexpected of Tom. I’d hoped I might see him, but this was the next best thing and could only remind me of last night. It hadn’t been a dream and Tom was clearly thinking of those stolen kisses just as much.
With thoughts of my handsome Irishman dancing in my head, I washed and dressed in a dream. The house was stirring. I could hear the familiar murmur of my parents talking in the next room, and knew they would be wishing to break their fast very soon. I rushed downstairs to help Nanny Hilliard and Nanny Littleworth who insisted they needed no help at all so I dashed to the quiet parlour to sit at my writing box and fetch out a piece of pressed paper. Cassandra must be told my latest news about Tom if she were not able to meet him herself.
|Jane and Tom Lefroy at the Ashe Ball|
As if my very thoughts had been read the post was brought in, and there was a letter from my dear sister. Cassy told me how she was passing her time pleasantly with the Fowles, but that it meant she missed her Tom even more. Spending time with his brother who reminded her of him so much was very hard, but in her usual stoical style she wrote that she had time to spend on sewing shirts for him and thinking about her wedding clothes and much else. The letter went on:
I am certain your Tom is as much the gentleman as you describe and I am very sorry not to meet him, but I cannot read your last letter without giving you a hint of caution. Please be sensible of those people who will take pleasure in gossiping about the pair of you if you do not disguise your partiality. You should not show your preference for any gentleman, and, in any case, I do not think you should neglect those you have been pleased to call your dancing partners in the past – there are always those who are ‘willing’. Do not let Tom single you out for more than two dances or for too much conversation – it may not be safe – Tom will not be in Steventon forever, and it might be propitious to look closer to home for a husband.
Besides, if you have set your cap at Mr Lefroy, you will leave these other fellows broken-hearted. Can it really be true that you are to dance your last with the beaux of Steventon? The Hampshire lanes will be strewn with lovelorn gentleman, and on my return, I will, no doubt, have to counsel them all!
But, I cannot believe that you truly mean never to dance again, except with a charming Irishman – especially one who chooses to display his shocking want of taste by dashing around Steventon in a light coloured morning coat! Now I understand why the pink Persian silk was so important – no doubt, you shall wear it under muslin for the next ball.
Now, I have given you my sisterly advice, I shall say only this: I hope you have a wonderful time at the next evening party and have many partners with which to dance, although I fear that you and your Tom may expose yourselves too much for propriety. In any event, I will allow you to step out for the first two with the handsome Mr Lefroy, and I remain,
p. s. I long to hear all about the ball at Manydown!
Happy Christmas, with love-