First, I’d like to thank Ceri for allowing me to post on the Babblings of a Bookworm blog! I’m very pleased and excited to be here!
Lizzie Bennet Diaries and P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, but, to my delight, soon learned that there were hundreds if not thousands of other variations and continuations (of Pride and Prejudice in particular, but truly, all of Austen’s novels). It was a pleasure to learn that the writing I had done as a young girl, plotting out different endings for favorite novels, writing my own episodes for the television shows I most adored, and using characters I loved in stories all their own had a name—fan fiction--and that I wasn’t the only one engaging in it. Far from it.
When I read my first Austen fan fiction, I was hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I now probably own over two hundred novels and novellas on my kindle. The stories at once satisfied my longing to see some of my favorite characters in new and different situations and my thirst for historical fiction of all kinds. Once I had read all the stories I could find, I began to write a story of my own, certain that in such a supportive community I would find a sympathetic audience.
I wrote the first 100 pages of Courage Rises very rapidly. This novel has two storylines, one at Pemberley, the other in London and points north. The original idea for the tale was the Pemberley narrative, not what became the more exciting adventure of the Colonel, Darcy, and Bingley. The men’s adventure came about largely because I needed Elizabeth making the decisions back home, and she wouldn’t be able to function in the way I wanted if her loving and very protective husband was home. How do you get Darcy to leave Pemberley, of all places? Well, you could have Colonel Fitzwilliam send a secretive message requesting Darcy’s help. On top of that, what might happen if the weather did not cooperate, making the roads difficult to travel and the post painfully slow? If something goes wrong back at Pemberley in Darcy’s absence, would he even know?
When I reached the end of Courage Rises, the readers of the posted story (draft) online made it very clear they wanted me to complete the Colonel’s story, so I obliged with Courage Requires. In this, the second book, we learn more about the Hawkes and the Fitzwilliams, including the Colonel’s father the Earl, his mother, Lady Eleanor, his widowed brother Phillip, and his nephew Pembroke, all of whom have joined the Darcys for the festive season. We also get see plenty of Darcy and Elizabeth, who are hosting a house full of guests while working their way through Elizabeth’s difficult first pregnancy and dealing with the consequences of her actions in Courage Rises.
I’ve offered two excerpts below, with no spoilers—the first is from Courage Rises and the second from Courage Requires.
Let me know what you think! If you leave a comment at the end of the post, you will be entered for a giveaway—you can choose either the first or second novel as your prize. Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Excerpt from Courage Rises, Book One of Two, by Melanie Rachel
“May I have my pelisse, James?” she asked pleasantly. “I wish to go for a long walk before breakfast this morning.” She could see the conflict on his face and tilted her head at him, raising her eyebrows.
“What is it, James?” she asked, though she thought she might already know.
“If you please, ma’am, I will get a footman to accompany you. Mr. Darcy asked that you not walk alone while he is gone.” She shook her head. Of course he had.
“Mr. Darcy is not here, James, and I shall never tell. If he truly did not wish me to walk alone in his absence, he should have spoken to me about it himself.” James still looked reluctant, but Elizabeth shook her head, more amused than annoyed. “I do know where my pelisse is, James, and can fetch it myself,” she teased. Elizabeth looked outside, where the sun was beginning to flood the grounds.
Soon the dew would be dry on the grass, but it would still be cool for a few hours, a wonderful time of the day for a stroll around the grounds.
“Of course,” she mused aloud, her lips quirking up at the corners, “I could simply go without it.” James’ defeated footsteps echoed in the entry as he moved to fetch the pelisse. Worse than failing to persuade her to take a companion would be his stubborn mistress walking out of doors both alone and unprepared for the damp.
“Thank you, James” she said sweetly as he held it out and she slipped her arms into the sleeves.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, resigned, and she walked down the stairs into the morning. The sun was soon warming her steps and Elizabeth was feeling far better than she had when she watched the carriage carry Fitzwilliam away. Now the worst was over and she had only to fill the time until his return. She was surprised to find that once the dreaded farewell was over she could pull herself together tolerably well over the course of a single walk. A long walk, to be sure, but by the time she returned several hours later to break her fast with Georgiana, she was feeling inordinately improved and looked forward to all she would have to show her husband she had accomplished in his absence.
As the young mistress finally emerged from the walking path around the lake, John Briggs moved away from his vantage point on the hill behind the stables, where he had stood on watch, arms folded across his chest, ever since he spoken with James. He shook his head. Not enough that he had not been asked to accompany Mr. Darcy to town to see to the horses, as he normally would, but had been asked, very particularly, to remain at Pemberley to be charged not with training the new stallion, but with keeping an eye on both Darcy women whenever they were out of doors. Knowing his master as he did, he was both honored and apprehensive. The responsibility weighed far more heavily upon him than his typical duties, and the mistress seemed determined to make his position even more difficult.
Stubborn woman, he thought, irritated. If she would not follow her husband’s wishes, what chance did he have? No, his only real hope now was that Mr. Darcy would not be away long.
Excerpt from Courage Requires, Book Two of Two, by Melanie Rachel
"Who will come, my dear?" he asked, setting his work aside. He wanted to jump up and guide her to the settee, but he was sure Elizabeth would only slap his hand away again. He forced himself to sit still.
"The Hawkes," Elizabeth said excitedly, holding up the letter. One foot tapped the floor lightly in excited anticipation. "Oh, I am so pleased. I have longed to meet them." She turned as if to depart.
"There are so many preparations to make."
Darcy called out to stay her departure. "Elizabeth, I do not want you overexerting yourself. Mrs.
Reynolds can handle any preparations, and if need be, Georgiana can assist."
Elizabeth returned to the chair by his desk and sat carefully. "I will allow Mrs. Reynolds to assist, William, but I wish to be involved." Her eyes were shining with curiosity and eagerness. He hated to temper any pleasure she was taking in the anticipation of the visit, but she needed her rest.
"Elizabeth," Darcy said firmly, "you are not yourself. I do not wish to have you tire yourself for visitors when there are others who can do that work."
In a move he should have predicted but inexplicably had not, he watched his wife's chin come up just a fraction and her eyes narrow. Oh Lord, now I am in for it. He quickly changed his tone to one a bit more diplomatic, a skill his marriage had required him to practice assiduously, particularly in the last few months.
"Elizabeth," he said again, carefully but quickly. "I only meant to suggest that you reserve your energies for actually hosting the Hawkes rather than preparing for their arrival." He held his breath while she considered his statement. She looked him over from head to toe and let out a sigh so very sad and resigned that he almost regretted winning the point.
"I know you are only humoring me, William," she said, "and though I am loath to admit it, that does make some degree of sense." Darcy rose and escorted her to the settee, closer to the fire. She perched gingerly on the cushions. "I am not much good for anything of late, I am afraid."
Darcy seated himself beside his wife. He took her hand in his own and traced a pattern along the inside of her wrist. She closed her eyes and the tiny smile that appeared on her face set his heart racing. "You are doing the most difficult work there is, my dear," he said softly, "and our child is not making it easy for you. You should not be so impatient with yourself."
Elizabeth pursed her lips and leaned into his side, laying her head gently on his shoulder.
“Hypocrite,” she said fondly.
"I beg your pardon?" Darcy was startled but also amused.
"Truly, love, who are you speak to me of patience? I know you too well. I have never met a less patient man when there is something you desire."
Darcy closed his eyes, trying not to think about how much he desired a certain impertinent woman and exactly how much patience her illness had required of him—indeed, was requiring of him at this very moment. Still, if he wished to avoid an emotional scene, he could not mention this to her. It was patently unfair that he could not even defend himself. As he was ruminating, he heard a soft little rumbling laugh, and she hugged his arm.
"You are such a man," she said lightly. She hugged his arm again, placed a little kiss upon his cheek, and was gone.
It was some time before Elizabeth Darcy's husband could return to his desk.
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Thank you so much for the guest post and excerpts, Melanie! I look forward to reading this series soon.
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