Jane Austen wrote 'First Impressions', the story that later became 'Pride and Prejudice', quite a few years before it was published. General consensus is that P&P is set around 1812, but in that year, there was quite a lot of Luddite activity in the North of England, which makes it less likely that the Gardiners would have chosen to go to the North on their holiday. What if... the Luddite activity affects our dear couple? This is what Abigail has chosen to explore in her latest story and she has come here today with a guest post, excerpt, and giveaway for a reader here. I will now hand over to Abigail for a guest post and excerpt from 'Mr Darcy's Journey'
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Usually after one of my books is published readers start asking for more of that particular Elizabeth and Darcy. Mr. Darcy’s Journey has been an exception. This time readers are asking for more about the original characters, especially Col. Fitzwilliam’s family: his parents, his sister Lady Frederica and his brother Jasper. Or, as another of my original characters calls them, the Fighting Fitzwilliams.
It all began because I set Elizabeth and Darcy’s story against the backdrop of the Luddite Rebellion of 1812. As usual, I spent way too much time on historical research, and to make sure my characters were accurate to the times, I modeled two of them after actual historical figures, including the Earl of Matlock.
Of course, there was no Earl of Matlock in history or even in Pride & Prejudice. That name made its way into JAFF via the 1995 production of Pride & Prejudice. Jane Austen called him the Earl of _____. I like to imagine she based him on the real life William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, a prominent Whig politician with extensive holdings in the North. She would certainly have heard of him, and a surprising number of character names from her novels also turn up in association with him. In addition to the use of Fitzwilliam in Pride & Prejudice, Earl Fitzwilliam’s main estate was Wentworth Woodhouse (yes, as in Frederick Wentworth and Emma Woodhouse) and his mother was a Watson-Wentworth (as in Jane Austen’s unfinished novel The Watsons). So I based my Earl of Matlock in Mr. Darcy’s Journey on Earl Fitzwilliam. His family members are purely my invention, but the real Earl Fitzwilliam’s generosity and excessive gestures were legendary, so they became part of my character.
Here’s an excerpt showing his first entrance. The scene is set in an inn in Sheffield where Darcy, Elizabeth and the remaining Fitzwilliams have traveled. Darcy is offstage in this particular scene.
Excerpt from 'Mr Darcy's Journey'
The front door of the inn slammed. “Where the devil is my wife?” a man bellowed.
With amused alacrity, Lady Matlock opened the sitting room door. “Welcome, my dear. How did you know I was here?”
A broad shouldered man with a beaked nose much like Jasper’s strode in, slapping his gloves against his riding leathers. Two weary-looking footmen trailed behind him.
“How did I know? Let me see — I rode into Sheffield, thinking no one knew I was coming but the Master Cutler, and no sooner do I arrive than crowds of people pour into the street, cheering and shouting ‘God save your lordship,’ even holding up their babies to see me. There were only two possible explanations: either they had mistaken me for the Prince Regent, or my wife had been up to some sort of mischief. I hope I am not stout enough to be mistaken for Prinny, so that meant you must have ignored my express instructions to remain at Rosings. My repeated express instructions.” He glared at Lady Matlock. “I await your explanation.”
Lady Matlock seemed completely unperturbed. “Of course, my dear. They were cheering for you because I bought them potatoes.”
“And bread,” added Jasper brightly. “I bought the bread. With your money, of course.”
His father ignored him. “I had my reasons for telling you to remain in the South.”
Lady Matlock clasped her hands in front of her. “I know. Sir Anthony Duxbury kindly explained to me about the troubles. Where did that boy go? Oh, there he is.”
“None of this answers the question of why you decided to disobey me.”
“Why, to prevent two of Richard and Darcy’s dear friends from being hanged,” Lady Matlock said as if that explained everything. “And to stop the rebellion, of course.”
Lord Matlock heaved himself into a large armchair and covered his face with his hands. “To stop the rebellion? I do not want to know this.”
Lady Matlock said, “We have been doing a good job of it so far. In your name, naturally.”
Elizabeth decided this was the appropriate time for her to step out of the room and away from this embarrassing scene. Apparently Lady Matlock had eyes in the back of her head, for no sooner had she edged her way to the door than her ladyship said, “Elizabeth, pray do not leave. You are part of the family now.”
Lord Matlock’s head swung towards her. “What? Who is she?”
“My dear, may I present Elizabeth Bennet, the daughter of Thomas Bennet, a gentleman in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth, my dear, pray forgive my husband’s lack of manners. He is under great stress.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “It is an honor to meet you, your lordship, although I cannot and do not claim to be part of your family.”
“Of course you are, my dear,” said Lady Matlock soothingly. Turning back to her husband, she added, “Elizabeth is Darcy’s… well, I am not quite certain what she is.”
“His acquaintance, my lord,” said Elizabeth firmly. “I am Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance.”
“She is my friend,” said Frederica, with an odd look at Elizabeth. “She traveled with us from Kent at my request.”
Her mother said, “In any case, Sir Anthony is in full agreement with you that Sheffield is not a safe place for ladies at the moment. He and Darcy wanted to come here by themselves, but I insisted we should all stay together. By the by, our Frederica has married him. Sir Anthony, that is, not Darcy, of course.”
Lord Matlock suddenly seemed to swell to twice his size. “Married him?” he roared. “Without my permission or knowledge?”
Frederica stood stock still. “Yes. I insisted. I am of age, after all.”
“My dear, it seems our daughter has developed Radical tendencies, as has dear Sir Anthony. I am beginning to worry they will infect Darcy as well. Not Richard, though – he has his own opinions – and Jasper does not seem to care, but no matter. Both Sir Anthony and Frederica believe in the Rights of Man, and the rights of women, too.”
Lord Matlock rounded on Sir Anthony. “You could not even manage to pen a letter to me?”
Sir Anthony met his gaze steadily. “Your wife advised me against it, my lord. You have done an admirable job of encouraging your wife and daughter to think for themselves; I would by no means deny their wisdom.”
“Spare me your philosophies!” Lord Matlock’s face grew redder by the minute. “By God, I do not know what any of you were thinking. Dammit, was there even a reason why you could not have waited a few days? Duxbury, you are welcome to her, for I want no more to do with her!”
Frederica blanched. “Papa, I did not mean to –”
“Did I ask your opinion?” snarled her father.
Lady Matlock started forward. “Perhaps I can explain--
“You could have stopped it, and you did not. I will not listen to your excuses!”
And that’s when life starts getting really interesting….
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Mr. Darcy is at his wits’ end. Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he can’t live without, overhears him insulting her family. Now she won’t even listen to his apologies. Then his old friend Sir Anthony Duxbury tells him two of their friends are in terrible danger. If Darcy wants to help them, they have to leave for Yorkshire immediately.
But something doesn’t add up. Elizabeth claims to know Sir Anthony, too – but by a different name. What game is his old friend playing? And is it dangerous?
Even Sir Anthony says the trip is dangerous. The Luddite rebels are on the verge of armed revolt – and he should know, because he’s one of them. Darcy’s cousin Lady Frederica decides she’s going with them anyway, and insists on bringing Elizabeth. Could this be Darcy’s chance to earn Elizabeth’s forgiveness and her love?
Elizabeth would rather face a squad of Napoleon’s soldiers than spend three days trapped in a carriage with Darcy and his headstrong cousin, but she has her own reason for agreeing to come. If she can just manage to keep her temper, she may be able to rescue her uncle from financial ruin.
But when a Luddite riot erupts around them, it’s Darcy and Elizabeth who need rescuing – from each other.
Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.
A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Mr. Darcy’s Journey, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, The Darcys of Derbyshire, and Mr. Darcy’s Refuge. She is currently working on a new Pemberley Variation and the next novel in her Cape Cod series. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.