Hello fellow readers! Today we have a blog take over by JAFF author Christine Combe.
Greetings, fellow Austenians! I’m so excited to be visiting Probably at the Library for the second time — today I’m here to talk to you about my newest release, The Reintroduction of Fitzwilliam Darcy.
In this new story, circumstances are vastly different for ODC: Elizabeth and her sisters are the daughters of a baronet, and Darcy has no fortune. But as always, the stars align and one of literature’s most beloved couples unite, determined to take on the world together!
In case you haven’t visited my blog or been following along as I posted the chapters at A Happy Assembly, here’s the 2nd half of chapter 3:
Georgiana was just coming down the stairs in the main hall, already dressed in a fetching riding habit and fur-trimmed winter cloak, when Darcy crossed through.
“Brother, you’re all cleaned up!” she said cheerfully, eliciting a rueful chuckle from him as he reached up and skimmed his smooth chin.
“Uncle insisted I appear decent before the servants,” he joked.
His sister grinned briefly, then lifted an eyebrow in a quizzical gaze. “But why are you not dressed for riding? Have you forgotten or… or did you change your mind?”
The almost crestfallen expression that then came over her features was enough to break Darcy’s heart. Stepping closer, he took up her hand and brought it to his lips to kiss the back of it, then smiled and said, “Of course not, dearest. I am looking forward to our time together; it’s just that I haven’t any riding breeches with me. I did not think to bring any.”
Her relief at his words was almost palpable, and he vowed that he would cease being so foolish as to think that staying away was better for her; it was clearer then than it had been the night before that she had missed his company desperately.
“Oh, well that’s easily remedied!” Georgiana said. “You’re not so different in size to Theodore, I’m sure. No doubt he has left some behind in his room.”
Darcy laughed and shook his head—and wished he’d thought of it himself. Their cousin’s waist was a little wider than his own, but a pair of Theo’s breeches would certainly do for a morning ride.
Promising to be back in a trice, he hurried up to the suite he shared with his cousin and went into the latter’s room. He quickly located the item of clothing needed and was changed in mere moments. Georgiana was still at the bottom of the stairs when he returned, a wide smile on her face as he descended.
“Come, brother,” she said, taking him by the arm and leading the way out. “We must ride until breakfast if the cold does not drive us inside sooner, that I may excuse my unladylike intake of food as the ravenous hunger induced by exercise.”
Darcy laughed again and almost stopped walking when he realized how very long it had been since he had genuinely laughed. Too long, he mused, as they made their way toward the stables. There he was introduced to the aptly named Belle, Georgiana’s new mare. She was indeed beautiful, and her brown coat truly was almost the shade of chocolates.
He left his sister petting the nose of her mount while the groom saddled her and walked over to his cousin’s horse. Thunder and Turf was the stallion’s full name, after one of Theodore’s favorite expressions, though he was usually just called Thunder. Darcy could well imagine that the singular moniker was applicable as well, as the great black beast’s hooves surely sounded akin to thunder when galloping hard along the fields.
Another groom asked hesitantly if he intended to ride the horse. Darcy nodded, and noted an expression of relief on the boy’s face; he must have been one of the grooms Georgiana had overheard saying that Thunder didn’t get enough attention. He wondered as he watched the groom work if perhaps he ought to ask his uncle for permission to take the horse back to Pemberley with him. The stallion wasn’t a work horse, but if he was to consider the third option Lord Disley had presented, he’d need one better than the two farm horses he and Reynolds used on their little plot to get around on.
His mind now fully returned to the earl’s plan to let Pemberley, Darcy was silent as he and Georgiana started out once they were mounted. He allowed her to lead the way, vaguely registered her chattering as they followed what was probably a familiar trail. What was he going to do? Was there really a choice? It had been difficult enough to glance out across the acres and see Pemberley in the distance, knowing that it was empty because he hadn’t the funds to keep the staff any longer; with much of the Darcy fortune stolen and the rest all but thrown away in his father’s desperate, guilt-ridden attempts to get the money back by other means, the ten thousand a year in tenants’ rents had gone strictly toward paying off the debt George Darcy had managed to accrue.
Darcy scoffed derisively. Five bloody years, and still there were debts to pay—debts that would take another three to five years to settle. How could it all have gone so wrong so quickly? How could his father have been led so astray? He was an intelligent man, one who had wisely managed the Darcy fortune for several years after his own father had passed. How could have been so easily duped by Albert and George Wickham as to lose more than half his money to their schemes in the first place?
Suddenly realizing that Georgiana was no longer beside him, Darcy pulled back on Thunder’s reins and turned. She’d stopped a few feet back, and on her countenance was an expression of deep concern.
He gestured for her to come up beside him, and when she had he reached over and laid a hand atop hers. “Forgive me, dearest, if I have alarmed you. My mind is simply plagued by many thoughts.”
“Is it anything to do with Pemberley?”
With a sigh, Darcy nodded. “Uncle asked me here to tell me that he has decided to let the house.”
Her eyes widened with shock. “Let Pemberley? Is he serious?”
He checked the bitter chuckle that rose in his chest at her near-identical expression of indignation. “He is. You know, Georgie, that Father… He was not well, in the end. His guilt over being swindled led him to make some very unfortunate choices, choices that cost him—and us—even more. You know it is why the house had to be abandoned, why our other properties and so much else had to be sold or let.”
“And why I had to come to live with Aunt and Uncle here at the Court,” she said softly.
“Correct,” Darcy agreed. “Although the yearly rent of our tenants is an incredible amount—ten thousand pounds per annum that once made me the envy of many—it simply has not been enough, even after all this time, to pay off the massive debt that Father left behind when he died. I know it is difficult to comprehend, let alone accept, but…” He shrugged. “It is the truth.”
Tears came into her eyes then, and Darcy felt himself a wretch for having upset her. “It’s also why Aunt Catherine suddenly stopped demanding you marry Anne, isn’t it?” she asked, surprising him that she even knew of it.
He nodded in confirmation. “Yes. Our aunt made it clear that she had no desire to see her daughter associated with such a scandalous family.”
Georgiana scoffed. “As if we are not still related by blood to the old harridan.”
She colored then and looked away. “Forgive me, I—”
Darcy laughed. “Do not be embarrassed, Georgie. It is the truth, even if it is indecorous to speak it aloud. I shall not take you to task for it, as I have thought the same—and worse—of Lady Catherine. My only regret is that I can no longer ensure that Anne is well-tended. I’d not have married her in any case, but she is our cousin and I have always been concerned for her.”
“I’m sure you needn’t worry for Anne, brother. Theodore’s been looking after her—at least, that is what I have gathered from Aunt Frances and Uncle Richard, and what little I have chanced to overhear now and then.”
A relieved nod was his immediate reply. “Good. I know he’ll take the matter well in hand, and not allow Catherine to run roughshod over him—or Anne.”
Darcy sighed again. “As to Pemberley… Given how much there is still to pay before the estate is clear once more, our uncle feels that leasing the main house is the best chance we have of clearing the debt and our name faster than if we let things go on as they are. It’ll take a few more years, unfortunately, but even I must agree that it’s better than doing nothing at all.”
“Oh, Fitzwilliam… I do not know that I can bear to think of Pemberley being inhabited by strangers,” Georgiana said then. “How agonizing it will be for you to live within sight of our home and know that someone else is sleeping in your bed.”
“Indeed, dearest. It will be even harder if I should do as our uncle suggests and present myself as the Pemberley steward to whomever the tenant should be.”
Georgiana’s eyes widened again and her mouth fell open in shock. Then she seemed to collect herself and her features became more placid. “Well… I suppose it does make a good deal of sense. You know Pemberley Park and our tenants better than anyone. But could you bear it? Going in and out of the house daily, but not living there? And what of the tenant knowing the house is yours?”
“It was uncle’s suggestion I take on an alias, should I act as steward,” Darcy told her.
“Oh. That is unfortunate—I know that disguise of any sort is your abhorrence. But I suppose you’d have no choice, would you, if you do not want the mortification of the tenant knowing the grand house they’re renting is yours?”
She shook her head then. “Oh, brother, I don’t know how you could do it. I certainly know that I could not! But you are stronger than I am, in many ways. You’ve humbled yourself to living as a tenant already, after all.”
Darcy cocked his head as he regarded her. “As I told you, sister, I simply could not bring myself to abandon our home completely.”
Her smile as she looked at him then was sad. “Yes. For there must always be a Darcy at Pemberley.”
“Yes,” he replied with a nod. Yes, there must.
Looks like Darcy is coming to terms with the idea of leasing his house. Tell me what you think in the comments below to enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Reintroduction of Fitzwilliam Darcy, now available for purchase from Amazon!
(pic of blog tour schedule)
Contest open until August 14, 2021. Good luck!
Christine, like many a JAFF author before her, is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen’s work, and she hopes that her alternate versions are as enjoyable as the originals. She has plans to one day visit England and take a tour of all the grand country estates which have featured in film adaptations, and often dreams of owning one. Christine lives in Ohio and is already at work on her next book.
Many thanks to Christine for sharing a teaser of her story with us today. Happy reading, Melissa
Note- I have not yet read this book. . Please do your own research as to if you think this book would be to your liking.