Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Subsequent Proposal by Joana Starnes

I was very much looking forward to reading this story as the idea of combing the characters from Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion intrigued me. And to have Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth in one book... well I’m not complaining! 

"A number of broken-hearted characters from Jane Austen’s best novels are thrown together by the vagaries of fate, and all manner of unwise decisions are taken at this vulnerable time. But then their past creeps up upon them – and what is there to do but face it, and hope that their convoluted paths will finally lead them to their proper place?
“Elizabeth… Elizabeth… Elizabeth…” he murmured against her lips, her skin, her hair, and then her lips again. “I cannot forsake you! I cannot! I cannot lose you! I cannot bear to think of a life without you – ‘tis not worth living, ‘tis but a slow death! I cannot lose you! I beg you, do not send me away again! I love you! Elizabeth, I love you!”
Friends, rivals, foes, wrong choices and a duel – Fitzwilliam Darcy’s life is never dull! ‘The Subsequent Proposal’ – a story that is primarily about him – follows Mr. Darcy in his struggles to decipher the troubling enigma of Elizabeth Bennet’s feelings – and to correct the worst misjudgement of his life…"

I was not disappointed. I enjoyed this story very much. I really enjoyed seeing the characters from Pride and Prejudice and from Persuasion interacting with each, and I think it worked very well. The idea of Darcy and Anne as a couple, although strange to the imagination (Darcy is meant for Elizabeth and Anne for Wentworth or course!), actually felt like quite a reasonable match. I could understand how each might be happy to settle for the other; both are nursing a broken heart and think that the ones they love are forever beyond their reach, and so settling for a marriage of companionship with at least mutual respect is perhaps a wise and sensible decision given the circumstances. (But it is strange, I warn you, to see Darcy with Anne and then Wentworth courting Elizabeth!)

This story is told completely (well, pretty much) from Darcy’s point of view. I really enjoyed this and I feel it added to the story in that it made his journey through the novel and its subsequent happy ending so much more pleasing for me as the reader, as we have experienced all his anguish and pain which he has had from the beginning with him, and we have been following Darcy’s emotional journey very closely, knowing all his inner thoughts and feelings.
I felt very sorry for Darcy at many times through this book. The author portrays his inner struggles and his torment very vividly and powerfully and you can’t help but pity him! You really see in this variation just how badly Darcy is affected by losing Elizabeth - it really shows how strong an attachment and love he felt for her! (Well, we already knew he was very affected by her refusal, but seeing his inner thoughts explained in such a way as in this book just really reinforces it!)

This story is certainly a sad and agonizing one for Darcy, and so also for the reader at times, but do not fret as there is also plenty of humour. For me, the most humorous aspect was seeing Darcy and Wentworth fighting over Elizabeth! I suppose really it should not amuse me as much as it did, as Wentworth being able to court Elizabeth right in front of Darcy when Darcy is no longer able to himself, should be a very sad prospect! But the rivalry between the two is rather funny; watching them each trying to comfort her or scowling at each other when Elizabeth isn’t looking! They are clearly fighting over the right to her attention – it is rather funny when they end up in a duel together, Darcy being Wentworth’s second, when it is clear that Wentworth would quite like to challenge Darcy himself!

As well as the anguish and the humour, this story also has its share of romance (while staying completely clean)! There are many stolen looks and tender moments between Darcy and Elizabeth as it becomes clear that feelings between the two are perhaps starting to become mutual! There are many very sweet scenes (especially towards the end!) that will please any romantic, like me.

As well as the main characters, the secondary characters are well developed and play some interesting roles in the story. One of my favourites was Colonel Fitzwilliam. I do so love his character in the original and so I always like to see more of him. In this variation, his interactions with Darcy show a real caring side to his nature as he is trying to help Darcy through his struggles.  He is also very useful, let’s just say, in a few situations throughout the story!

We also see more of Bingley in this variation, and to begin with a very, understandably, upset Bingley. His interactions with Darcy through the story put a very interesting light onto their friendship and I like to see how it survives the ordeal surrounding Darcy’s interference with Bingley and Jane.

Of course Lady Russell comes into the story and causes trouble just as she does in Persuasion, but I enjoyed seeing her interacting with Darcy. Miss Bingley comes along as well and remains blind to Darcy’s complete disinterest in her (will she ever learn?)! And we also have some adventure and danger thrown into the mix, thanks to good old Mr. Wickham – nothing new there then.

The language and style of this authors writing is brilliant. She captures the characters very well and it flows very smoothly as you read, and it feels very much in the style of Jane Austen. I was very captivated and drawn in by her writing. 

There is a very sweet epilogue to this tale which is not set too far into the future (which I like) and there are some very interesting surprises in this epilogue, as well as a very happy ending.

Overall I really enjoyed this story. It has a good balance of pain and sorrow, but also plenty of romance and some humour! I loved going along the journey through Darcy’s eyes and it was very clever how the author intertwined the characters from Persuasion and I loved the whole idea of the switching of partners from two of Jane Austen’s wonderful novels.

Your affectionate friend,
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christmas Competition: (belated!) Entry #9

Today we have another entry for the writing competition - even though it is now past Christmas I still wanted to share this fun little excerpt from Moira Bianchi's  newly published book, 45 Days in Europe with Mr Darcy (US link).



She has a lot of nerve

Beta’ed by Rita W.

‘Come on, Darce! I won’t have you alone in the corner in such a stupid manner!’ Charles Bingley approached his longtime friend Fitzwilliam Darcy sporting an annoying smile. ‘Such a nice party, it’s almost midnight and look at you! Sulking!’

‘Return to your date, Bingley.’ Darcy answered deepening his frown. ‘She’ll waste her smiles if you are not there to appreciate.’

Bingley laughed. ‘You should include ‘loosening up’ in that New Year’s resolution list.’

Darcy averted his eyes from the beautifully art deco decorated salon to the friend he met in boarding school when they were boys. Frequently Darcy regretted having adopted Bingley as his protégée those many years ago. He could be really obnoxious.

‘In fact, I’m working on it now.’ Darcy answered.

‘I wonder.’ Bingley took a sip of his glass.

‘First New Year’s resolution: Don’t allow anyone to tell me what I should do.’

Bingley laughed. ‘So many pretty birds here tonight. Not one is using burkas!’ He wiggled his brows.

Darcy shook his head. More than two weeks in the United Emirates and Bingley was still fantasizing what was beneath the women’s robes. If they had chosen a nunnery to spend the holidays, he would surely have similar thoughts. ‘You are dancing with the prettiest one. Why should I settle for less?’

‘She is lovely, another angel!’ Bingley grinned and winked to his date who was giggling with some friends a few steps away. ‘How about that one in the scanty grey dress?’

Darcy turned his head to the side and crossed eyes with said girl again. They had been stealing glances since he arrived. She was pretty, but… ‘Not enough to tempt me.’ He answered.

‘Brazil is a long way from here, Darce. Chill.’ Bingley tapped his friends’ shoulder and returned to his angelical date.

“Exactly seven thousand, three hundred and seventy eight miles. A sea, a gulf and the evil Atlantic Ocean separating the rich Dubai from the tropical Rio de Janeiro.” Darcy thought and again whisked his cell phone from his pocket. As soon as he unlocked it, there she was. Lovely, smiling, Venice’s sunset behind her.

Second New Year’s resolution: realize things won’t fall at your feet. Chips frequently fell where they shouldn’t.

Seven thousand miles composed a very big distance but it wasn’t impossible. A little effort, a lot of constancy and a handful of persuasion should do it.

With a sigh he closed the photo and pulled up the mail Georgie had sent him that very morning: “Big bruv, you chose to spend the holidays away from home but that won’t keep me from nagging. Here’s a list of resolutions – take note!”

Third New Year’s resolution: if the responsibility is yours, take it. He had messed up and tried to mend things, but it wasn’t easy. Remorse, anger, sexual frustration: all mixed up in him. He groaned and drained his glass. ‘I need another drink.’ He grumbled to himself.

‘All alone, old sport?’ A melodic voice quoted Fitzgerald in a whisper close to his ear. A little too close, in fact.

Darcy turned his eyes to the pretty woman in the gray scanty dress. Amazing legs, great body, full mouth. More than enough to tempt him.

‘Yes. You?’ He asked.

She moved her designed eyebrows and tilted her head to the side. ‘So it seems.’

He raised his eyes to the waiter passing by with a tray of champagne flutes and extended his hand to trade his empty for a new one, passing close to her shoulder. The girl turned, curious of his intentions and the long gray fringes hung from her low neckline to hemline, added to the sparkling sequins beneath it, flattered her figure. He blinked and sipped his new drink.

‘American?’ She asked.

‘British.’ He answered.

‘I’m South African.’ She offered. ‘Ella.’


‘Enjoying the party?’ She flirted blinking her smoky eyes.

He raised his eyebrows. ‘It can always improve.’

Forth New Year’s resolution: No one can have it all. Accept tradeoffs. He was a world away from her, he tried to mend things and was making (slow) progress but why bark at the wrong tree? He snorted to himself; she would flip with the use of a proverb. The pretty girl smiled sideways in question and he shook his head.

Nothing, it was nothing, really.

Except it was. She had a lot of nerve, that Elizabeth Bennett. Fool him for several days and then, literally, shut a door in his face. They flirted – he was sure she did flirt. He was not, could not have misunderstood her the whole time. She did flirt deliciously, and he loved every moment of it. Amsterdam, space cakes, Venice, wellies, Milan, vespa, the Tropic and their night together seasoned with perfectly cooled grappa. And the morning after was heavenly, perfect, hot, unforgettable.

Darcy was a bit afraid to turn into a school girl mooning over a crush. “Tradeoffs, no one can have it all” he repeated to himself. ‘You dressed the part, very Daisy-like.’ He smiled charmingly.

Ella battled her lashes at the handsome man in black tie. ‘We match, you are absolutely Gatsby-like.’  She reached forward and groomed his lapel. ‘White jacket suits you. Better than the traditional black.’  She said based only on her will to flirt – she had never seen him before.

It didn’t matter; she wouldn’t need to try very hard. Darcy was on the mood to let her numb the squeeze in his chest.

Fifth New Year’s resolution: careful with grey, the world is made of black and white. Things were either right or wrong for you. Learn to identify what works and what doesn’t. If Lizzy was that out of reach – geographically and emotionally – it was time to admit it was helpless. The girl in grey beside him, however…

From the corner of his eyes he saw Bingley’s satisfaction in seeing him with this girl. He hated that look and elected it the reason for his vague uneasiness.

The unfamiliar atmosphere of a New Year’s party themed as Fitzgerald’s The great Gatsby was also weighing on him. Art deco room, black and white and… golden – no grey. No indecisions, no unnecessary layerings, all very tasteful and exuberant. White sets of antlers, white feathered boa, black dishware, floating white roses and lilies in crystal glasses. No tulips though.

In his head, he could hear her say ‘Oh, my tulips!...’

Darcy reminded himself to nod and smile agreeing with Ella in grey who was chatting about something.

Tulips had brought Elizabeth to him. An array of colors, pinks, yellows, blues… and a hedge. He chuckled secretly. “Hedge mazes, big helpers.” She was an explosion of colors - no black, no white and no grey in Lizzy.

‘… dance floor?’ He saw her bright red mouth move but didn’t quite get what she was saying. But the girl in grey took his glass from his hand and ushered him to the luxurious salon’s dance floor, her dress seeming to float on.  

But if felt foreign; this girl was almost as tall as he was, she moved freely and confidently, the way she hugged him was different of what he craved. Not the same as Amsterdam, La vie en rose, a black dress in a shorter girl, a throaty voice, a sexy tattoo in her right instep, a tasty kiss. Elizabeth.

‘Forty minutes to midnight, let’s find some refreshments and step on the balcony?’

He nodded just as his phone double beeped.

Sixth New Year’s resolution: learn to focus on what matters, stop forgetting your goals and allowing distractions.

Lizzy Bennett sent you a text.

“It is said that whether we won or lost, the old year improves the new with lessons learnt. I say it’s the size of the party that determines how good the incoming year will be. For me, it won´t be that promising. :( Party in Dubai for me! :D Happy New Year, Darcy.”

First his breath caught, then his heart jerked, next his brain commanded and his fingers moved.

“Happy New Year, Lizzy! I can make you as many promises of joy as you wish, my little bird. I can even fulfill most of them.”

Seventh New Year’s resolution: efficiency is the key. Be precise, be clear, quit all curves to reach a straight patch. Be bold, geometrical, direct. Very art deco-ish. How fitting.

“Very tempting… But I feel I have to ask: are you drunk?”

He chuckled. Yes, he had drank a few glasses of champagne, how could he not? Pretty girls in short fringed dresses crossed the salon with enormous champagne bottles adorned with fireworks and flirted more than refilled glasses. Yes, he drank to numb the frustration of not having Lizzy with him. Yes, he drank to not compare the girl in grey with her.

“I may have been drinking for quite a while. But it’s not nearly as nice as the last time. No grappa and worse company.”


Clear, spot on message. Grappa and Lizzy mixed perfectly, the tangy taste and her sweet kisses complimented each other that night making his head spin. Her touch, her caresses…

But also her shouts and the fire in her eyes. Spiteful words, wrong conclusions, stubbornness.

‘There you are!’ Darcy heard.

Eight New Year’s resolution: don’t waste precious time. If it’s not what you want – or deserve, give it up, be it a person or an activity.

He smiled weakly to Ella and she knew this was not the man she would be kissing at midnight. “Ah, well…” She sighed.

Lizzy didn’t answer his message but he was sure she understood him. He was planning to overflow her mailbox with fireworks’ pictures so she could blog as much as she wanted, but he would love to receive one from her. Those eyes, that smile, a white dress … Elizabeth.

When he told her about the Great Gatsby Réveillon in a text a few days earlier, Elizabeth had been ecstatic. Instead of texting back she sent him several voice mails demanding details, pictures, everything. Darcy was not sure he wanted to attend such a big party, it was a Bingley thing. He would rather find an exclusive club with a nice view to watch the fireworks, but Lizzy liked the idea so it changed his inclination.

That’s what she did best; make him see things in a different view.

‘Ah, yes of course. A different perspective on people.’ Darcy told himself. He left the balcony in search of his friend and found him laughing in a group of pretty girls, his angel and the girl in grey included.

‘Bingley, the New year’s resolution list Georgie sent me.’ Darcy said.

‘The b******* you deleted?’ Bingley chuckled.

‘Didn’t yet, I’m still considering it.’ Darcy loaded the mail in his phone. ‘Here.’ He pointed with his middle finger while holding his sweaty champagne flute. ‘Ninth New Year’s resolution: If you’re interested, tell the woman. If it works out, good. If it doesn’t, move on. Act upon it.’ He read and Bingley frowned. ‘Jane Bennett. Weeks ago I told you what Lizzy said.’

If Snoopy Doggy Dog wasn’t singing so loud, one could hear Bingley’s wheels in motion inside his head. ‘What time is it in Rio?’

‘Early evening. They are spending the holidays in Petrópolis though.’ Darcy answered and Bingley nodded and reached for his own cell phone.

When he asked Lizzy her plans and she said ‘home with family’, he considered inviting her to Dubai. She had traded the Holidays shift at the cruise line with a colleague, so she had a few days off. But he lacked the courage, he was afraid she would refuse him again. Now he regretted not trying, she would love to be there, he would love to have her there. Close to his lips, to his hands, to his arms.

Tenth New Year’s resolution: get off your ass and make things happen. Courage and attitude. Progress may not be linear; you may stumble, but pick yourself up and keep on.

As Darcy saw it, Georgie sent only one same message worded in ten different ways.

‘You stay in my mind so I have to make you mine’, Snoopy sang.

Bottom line: Fitzwilliam Darcy was in love with Lizzy Bennett, and would have to make it work.


Thank you for that excerpt Moira, I really enjoyed it. Very appropriate for the time of year - we all make resolutions, whether we keep them or not! Let's hope, for Darcy's sake, that he can keep some of his! Good luck with the book!

Your affectionate friend,
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Sunday, January 12, 2014

What a Happy Discovery!

Does anyone subscribe to the wonderful Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine? (If you do not I highly recommend it, as this magazine, delivered every two months, is packed full of the latest news in the world of Jane Austen and much more!)

Anyway, I subscribe and after the Nov/Dec issue came out, I wrote a letter into the magazine regarding one of the articles - this was back at the beginning of November. Image my surprise when I received my Jan/Feb issue and there, in the Letters section, was the letter I had written in! I was beyond pleased to see my words down in print!

This is the letter, as it is rather difficult to read from the photo!

"I really enjoyed finding out more about the much anticipated adaption of Death Comes to Pemberley (JARW No 66). Coincidentally this links into a current project I am undertaking for my school studies, investigating into the reasons behind Jane Austen's continued and world-wide fame. For a large part of this project I am discussing the huge impact of television adaptations. I have found from experience with my classmates and peers that watching the adaptations can be more appealing than actually reading her work - a condensed version of the story brought to life on screen seems to make the 19th century novelist more approachable for them. To test my theories about the importance of adaptations I surveyed 100 people. Although it did show that (thankfully!) most people who have seen an adaption have also read the book, it did show how important the adaptations really are. When I asked my respondents how they first were introduced to Jane Austen, the most popular response was that they had watched a film or TV series and it was this which then led them to read the original books.  In addition, when I asked whether they preferred the adaptations of her work more or less than the novels, a considerable number of people stated that they enjoyed them equally, and a surprising number even said how they prefer the adaptations, commenting that if you need an 'Austen fix', it is easier and often faster to just watch a film rather than read the book. The survey has confirmed my ideas on the importance of film and television in promoting Jane Austen's work - although for me, you cannot beat experiencing Jane Austen's humorous wit, engaging characters and timeless story-lines other than directly from the author herself. 
Sophie Andrews, Reading, Berkshire"


                   That's me! ->

I just wanted to share this with my lovely readers! Again, I highly recommend this magazine.

Your affectionate (and rather pleased!) friend,
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Friday, January 10, 2014

KaraLynne Mackrory: Giveaway!

The lovely KaraLynne Mackrory, author of Falling For Mr Darcy and Bluebells in the Mourning, is having a giveaway!

She has her third book, Haunting Mr Darcy, coming out this spring and the prize for this giveaway is to feature as one of two 'walk on' roles in her upcoming novel!

To enter, go Here!

I have entered as many times as I can - fingers crossed! I would love to appear in this amazing author's novel!

If you haven't read KaraLynne's other book already, I highly recommend that you do so!

Good luck with this next novel KaraLynne!
And good luck to anyone who enters!

Your affectionate friend,
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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Elizabeth Monahan: Guest Post

The brilliant and lovely illustrator Elizabeth Monahan has recently published an illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice. I was so thrilled when I heard about it as I just love her work! She has been so kind and has written a guest post for my blog, explaining a little more about herself and her work, focusing on the process of illustrating such a popular and well-loved novel! 

I am a freelance illustrator, having graduated from The Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design. I’ve illustrated a number of children’s books for Oxford University Press, Channel 4, and Dominie Press, and recently illustrated a new edition of The Wizard of Oz, published by Quarto.

I live in Norwich with my husband, who is a freelance photographer and our retired, ex-racer greyhound, Mister Bingley!
(A greyhound called Mister Bingley! How brilliant - I love it!)  

I have loved Jane Austen’s books for as long as I can remember, and her novels have been a touchstone for my enduring love of historical fiction. I studied English Literature at Southampton University, and chose the works of Jane Austen as the subject of my final year degree thesis. After this, I took a sabbatical from illustrating, and worked as a secondary school English teacher for 3 years, before returning to my easel in 2007.

The advent of new technologies inspired me to realize my dream of producing a self-published version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, using my own illustrations. I’ve been really encouraged by the success of my ‘Cast Of’ series, a set of paintings that I produced in 2011, featuring all the main characters from each of Austen’s six novels. I’ve been selling prints of them through my own Etsy shop, ‘BlueSkyInking’, and also through the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.

(I absolutely love the 'Cast Of' series and they are the perfect for any Janeite's wall! Hanging on my bedroom wall, I have The Cast of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. They are such fun illustrations and the characters are captured just brilliantly!)

I wanted to honour the bicentenary of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with my own tribute, and decided to produce a newly illustrated edition that focused on the satirical nuances of the plot rather than the more familiar romantic themes. I’ve enjoyed the many adaptations of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ on TV, especially Andrew Davis’s seminal 1995 BBC interpretation, but felt the time was right to offer a fresh insight into the book, with contemporary illustrations highlighting the timeless quality and enduring wit of Austen’s prose. I hoped this approach would appeal to a new generation of Austen fans, who might be unfamiliar with the novel, and crave something more rewarding than the limited scope offered by the film and TV adaptations. However, I didn’t want to alienate Austen’s established fan-base, so I had to be careful not to make the artwork too ‘modern’. I started by making very rough pencil sketches and once I’d settled on a style, I worked them up into something more ‘substantial’. I also spent a lot of time in art galleries, museums and public libraries, visiting bookshops, and researching the work of contemporary illustrators whom I admire, to gain insight and inspiration.
(I can assure you that this is achieved, the contemporary drawings seeming to fit perfectly without feeling too modern, fitting the feel of the book.)  

I also had to decide how to ‘personalise’ the characters. I knew that they would need to be slightly ‘cartooned’ in order to convey the humorous situations in which they find themselves. Jane Austen gives very little away in terms of her characters’ physical appearance, which offers plenty of scope to freely interpret them. I was acutely aware that everyone has their own ‘take’ on Elizabeth and Darcy – it was important that I got them right! My husband is forever reminding me of the old saying (which we keep stuck on the fridge). It reads: ‘I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure - which is: try to please everybody’. After a lot of worrying (and a lot of preparatory sketching), I decided ‘to please myself’ with my own personal vision of the characters, the one I had formed on first reading the book when I was sixteen.

(I can imagine the difficultly in trying to 'personalise' the characters as there are so many different portrayals to influence you!)
When I am commissioned by a publisher to illustrate a book, I usually work with a picture editor and designer. I will work to a specific brief and follow a design-template that directs me where to place a picture in relation to the text. Once the artwork is finished, it’s sent off to the publishers, who’ll use their own design team to marry the text and illustrations, before it’s sent to the printers. I enjoyed no such luxury, or support, (apart from the odd cup of tea from my husband, and words of encouragement from family and friends alike). I had to make all those decisions on my own. Once I’d settled on a ‘style’, I mapped out the book in a rough format, producing a ‘storyboard’ version, which covered the walls of my studio. All in all, it took ten long months. I continued to finesse the completed artworks, which took a further three or four months. In total, 64 illustrations made it in to the book, although I rejected hundreds in the process.
(Rejected three-hundred? Wow! I have to say how very pleased I was to see so many illustrations throughout the book - sometimes a book can be called 'illustrated' and yet it features an illustration perhaps only every 40 pages or something silly like that!)   

Perhaps the most time-consuming (and frustrating!) aspect of putting the book together was the technological side of the process. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is my first foray into the ‘dark-arts’ of self-publishing, so my learning curve was vertiginous! I had to learn how to put the document together and follow the specifications carefully so that my document would upload correctly as an e-book. This took many attempts and re-starts, but I got there in the end!

I hope to illustrate all of Austen’s novels. My next challenge is ‘Mansfield Park’ for its bicentenary in 2014. I hope it won’t take as long as Pride and Prejudice. I’ve started to do rough outlines for the main characters, and I’ll hope to post regular updates of my progress. I’ll have to re-read the book over the Christmas holidays, and I hope to start in earnest in the New Year. I hope to follow it up with ‘Emma’ in 2015 and ‘Persuasion’ on 2017. ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ will perhaps appear in 2016, but I may need a rest by then!

(I am so pleased to hear that you are aiming to illustrate all 6 of her novels! I am looking forward to Mansfield Park already - good luck with it!)

Thank you again to the lovely Elizabeth for doing this post for me - it has been really interesting learning more about how you tackled illustrating Pride and Prejudice.

Currently the book is available for the kindle (here are the amazon UK and US links), but
I am hoping and would love to see this also brought out in paperback sometime - I own a hardback set of the 6 novels, and a pocket sized set, but I have an opening for a paperback set!

Your affectionate friend,
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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Christmas Competition: Entry #8

 Today we have another entry, from Louise, set in the world of Emma.

A few days prior to Christmas, the year before the events in Emma

Miss Taylor stood at the dining room window and looked anxiously out at the snow that was just now beginning to carpet the grounds of Hartfield. So distracted was she, that the entrance of the young mistress of the house was not immediately perceived by her one-time governess and current confidant.

"The table looks wonderful, Miss Taylor." Emma enthused, and then sighed a little wistfully, "I am afraid I will never have your taste in arranging the flowers just so."


Her friend turned from the window with an indulgent smile, "Nonsense my dear Emma, you know you had no need of me. You would have done just as well on your own, I simply took the task in hand to be useful."


Emma's eyes developed that arch look she used whenever she chose to tease her friends, "Well I will not argue with you or else you will think I cannot get on without you, and that will never do. Our friends I'm sure would be most shocked and disappointed to hear of such a failure in my upbringing... Mr Weston for example, has often expressed a high regard for your abilities I believe."


"Emma!" Miss Taylor blushed deeply, unable to hide her consciousness of her meaning, it not being the first time her protégé had alluded to a possible match between them. "You must not talk so."


The younger woman however could not be so easily quieted. "But indeed my dear Miss Taylor it is so, for I have heard him tell Papa that he honoured you for your unselfish devotion to our family in so well supplying the role of surrogate mother and teacher for all these years, and beginning at so young an age too."


"I think he rather meant it as a compliment to you, as to how fine a young lady you've become in spite of my age and inexperience at the time of my taking charge of you and dear Isabella." The older woman's cheeks were still suffused with colour but despite her dissembling she was not wholly displeased by the notion.


"I think not," Emma replied decidedly, "because Mr Knightly was there and he would have been sure to contradict him had he meant anything of the kind."


Miss Taylor laughed at this, knowing how much Emma loved to dispute with her sister's brother-in-law, but shaking her head and turning back towards the window, she attempted to change the subject. "I hope your guests will not be deterred by the weather Emma, although with your dear sister and her family here I fear we could not put up all of them if it turns very bad, and though it is only a short journey to the village, I cannot be sure that we could convince your father to send out the carriage either."


"Well James is already gone to fetch Mrs and Miss Bates as well as Mrs Goddard, they will be here any moment I daresay and Papa can hardly make them walk home if the snow does get worse." Emma replied with some satisfaction, but then added with further reflection, “Although I suppose he could insist they leave early, which would be almost as bad…” Shaking off the thought, the young woman continued, “However I doubt of its causing us serious troubles, this is the first real party of the Christmas season and I am sure everyone is looking forward to it, besides, you see it is just a flurry and is stopping already.”


The older woman glanced out of the window and then nodded in agreement, “Well we need have no fear of Mr Knightly failing us at least.”


“Nor indeed Mr Weston, I am sure."  Emma added, her eyes sparkling with mischief.


Miss Taylor shook her head, amused in spite of herself. "We should go in to the parlour and check that Mr Woodhouse is comfortable, he will not like to be alone in such uncertain temperatures and I believe your sister and her husband intended to say goodnight to their children before dressing for dinner and are most likely still with them."


Inclining her head in agreement, Emma preceded her through the door and then waited to link arms with her in the hall. "My father will miss you sadly when you are married but I promise to be just as solicitous of his comfort in your absence, I do assure you."


Miss Taylor paused, causing her friend to stop as well. "Now Emma this conversation really must cease, it is not appropriate. It is not at all likely that a confirmed bachelor, a widower for so many years, would suddenly look around himself for a wife and what is more, choose a comparatively penniless governess who is far past her prime, to fulfil the role."


Here Emma became a little indignant. "You are not past your prime! Upon my honour, you are a very attractive woman still, already proven in the management of a household as well as children... As for being a governess, it is a respectable profession but you are now more my paid companion than anything else, and your heritage is better than Mr Weston's, as gentlemanly as he is, and his fortune will do for both of you quite easily."


Satisfied with her friend's silence, Emma once more linked their arms and compelled her to continue their walk. "It is a pity perhaps that Mr Weston does not still wear his uniform. Regimentals must always lend an air of distinction to a man, do you not think?"


Here Miss Taylor betrayed herself in her eagerness to defend her supposed admirer, Mr Weston did not need his former profession to give him the air of a distinguished gentleman, but she went on to say. "Suspect me if you must, dearest Emma, indeed I can conceal nothing from you. I would be most honoured should that gentleman of our acquaintance single me out, but I do not expect it, and I would much prefer if you did not put me to the blush by making my wishes known to him. They are only the idle fancies of a woman who should, by now, know better than to continue in vain hopes."


Emma's eyes flew up to meet the older woman’s and she said at once, "Surely you know I would never do such a thing? I mean only to encourage his wishes, which I assure you are most plain. I tease you because I would have you learn to rate your own merits more highly, but I would not for the world cause you any pain."


"I know that it would never be intentionally done, Emma dear." Miss Taylor smiled, "But whatever you think you perceive, or perceive in truth, it is never wise to be open about such matters before the gentleman himself perceives it, for then you may cause offense or embarrassment to both parties."


"Very well." The younger woman agreed, amusement returning to her eyes. "I shall say no more for now, John and Isabella will be down in a few minutes anyway and it would not do to include Mr John in such a discussion, but we shall see who is right at last."


Emma was good to her word and mentioned the matter no more that evening; not when Mr Weston arrived ahead of even Mr Knightly, and after greeting them all in his usual friendly manner, seated himself beside her friend, nor when he particularly requested that Miss Taylor, and Miss Woodhouse of course, should visit the estate he had just purchased at Randalls in order to assist him with its furnishings by providing a woman's eye, but she smiled privately to herself as she foresaw a different Christmas party in the year to come.


Happy New Year. Louise

What a delightful little story! I really enjoyed reading a scene between Emma and Miss Taylor, before Miss Taylor becomes Mrs Weston, and to see Emma's scheming matchmaking once again! Thank you Louise!

Your affectionate friend,
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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Christmas Competition: Entry #7

Today we have a delightful entry from Irene, linking together three of Austen's great novels; Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Persuasion.
Warning: this is my first attempt at writing directly in English, I hope I managed to convey everything I wanted clearly, if I didn’t please tell me so that I can improve. It’s probably that some of the expressions I used aren’t suitable for Regency period. Since I don’t know how to check this aspect, if you notice some mistake please let me know. I also took some liberties with timing; I hope that hardliner Janeites won’t hate me to much!

The perfect present

It’s a truth universally acknowledge that a man completely in love with his wife would go against his bachelorhood beliefs to make her happy and would find the most convincing  excuses to explain his behaviour to himself and others.

That was why one morning George Knightley, repeatedly telling himself that surprises are not so foolish after all, asked his wife Emma to dress appropriately for a trip and, after an early breakfast, led her to their carriage, without further explanations.

<< Dear, you know that I trust you implicitly but where are we going? – Emma watched out of the window while the carriage departed from Hartfield, as if she could discern their destination from the path they took.

<< It’s a surprise.

<< A surprise? – she was surprised but most of her astonishment was clearly fake – But I thought that you disliked surprises, because the pleasure is not enhanced and the inconvenience is often considerable.

Mr. Knightley was glad that Emma’s playfulness survived their marriage; he wouldn’t have tolerated a Mrs. Elton always hanging off his words. No, beside the physical proximity that marriage state allows, nothing had changed between Emma and him.

<< The pleasure might not be enhanced, but I assure you won’t suffer any inconvenience, unless you consider being spared some worries an inconvenience.

<< Worries? I am worried now. What kind of surprises might rise worries?

<< The big ones. But do not fret now, I took care of all the worrying issues. Now I won’t say anything more until we reach our destination.

Emma at first tried with direct questions, then with subtle allusions and in the end with flattery but nothing moved George Knightley from his silence. He was sure that she wouldn’t recognize the road, she had travelled too little in her life; he had to be strong enough to remain silent, so that she wouldn’t have any clue about the surprise.

Emma was excited, she absolutely loved surprises, especially if they were from her husband. Now that they were married, she felt such an happiness that she didn’t understand how she could have lived before and that was their first Christmas together as a married couple. She would have organized something special, if only Mr. Knightley would have allowed her, but he insisted that Christmas celebrations were his responsibility. Maybe that was a consequence of so many years of bachelorhood, but Emma cannot believe that he was incapable to trust her about Christmas celebrations since he trusted her in everything else.

After a few hours, Emma’s excitement began to make way for a little apprehension. They were still travelling and their destination didn’t seem anywhere to be seen. She wasn’t sure of the direction, but she couldn’t recall of any particular attraction or beauty on that side of Surrey.

<< Dear, is it very far away? I am worried father would be beside himself if we are not back soon.

<< Don’t worry. You know, John and Isabella are at Hartfield with him and are privy to my plan. We are going to spend a few days out.

<< A few days out? But I have nothing with me! Not another dress nor a clean pair of stockings and I agreed to see Mrs. Weston tomorrow morning and...

<< Emma – he took both her hands to calm her down - at the cost of being repetitive, don’t worry. I thought about everything.

The truth was that George Knightley had been thinking a lot in the past months. Their marriage in summer had been a blessing and while their first Christmas was approaching, Mr. Knightley had started thinking about a present for Emma. He didn’t want something common and without soul, moreover Emma had everything a lady could need in terms of dresses and jewellery. He thought and thought and, when he was beginning to despair, the perfect present came to his mind.

<< Isn’t this London? – Emma’s voice tore him out of his reveries.

<< Yes, it is.

<< You are bringing me to London!

Mr. Knightley smiled to her excitement. Every other woman of her age or her status wouldn’t have been so excited about being in London or, at least, they wouldn’t have shown their happiness that much. It seemed that enthusiasm wasn’t fashionable. But to Emma, who had travelled so little that even Box Hill seemed new and exotic, London was an extraordinary novelty.

<< I have been here just once, with my mother and Isabella – Mr. Knightley already knew that story, but listened nonetheless – It was Isabella’s birthday and my mother wanted to buy new clothes for her, so we came to London. My mother know all the best shops and we had such fun! Everything seemed so big to me and there was so much to be seen that I felt I hadn’t enough eyes.

Mrs. Woodhouse had been a beautiful, spirited and smart woman. George remembered feeling awe of her as a boy, but he was also attracted by her charming personality. She had loved London and its life, and Mr. Woodhouse had kept an house in Town just for her sake. After she prematurely died, he sold the house and never set a foot in London again, even if most of his acquaintances tried to convince him that London would have been good for the girls. George began to understand his motives only as a married man. If something happened to Emma, he wouldn’t be able to look at Hartfield again.

<< It is such a wonderful surprise! – Emma shifted on the seat next to her husband and throw her harms around his neck – You are the best husband in the world.

<< Surprises aren’t over – he slid his arm around her waist, their sight protected by the carriage curtains, and planted a kiss on her temple.

Emma was astonished and didn’t know what to expect, she was also a bit worried about her father but her trust in her husband was such that she didn’t fret for long. London was so exciting, so bright and full of life, so different from her beloved but well known Highbury.

The carriage slowly progressed through the chaotic traffic, from the suburbs to the commercial district and then into Mayfair, the most fashionable part of the town, where nobles and important people had their houses, go shopping and stroll about to show their consequence. George Knightley liked the city but didn’t particularly appreciate London society and all the ladies of the Ton searching for a husband or for rumours with the same determination.    

The carriage suddenly stopped, surprising both Emma and Mr. Knightley. He dismounted and extended his hand to help Emma out. 

<< Where are we? – his beautiful wife was looking around her as if she wanted to see all of London with a single glance.

<< This is Hanover Square and that is your Christmas present.

Emma followed her husband pointed finger up to a near building. It was elegant, a white facade with little decoration but very refined, and a big red and green ribbon bow on the door.

<< Obviously you are joking – Emma was trying to regain some of her composure, because she couldn’t believe her eyes.

<< I am definitely not joking – Mr. Knightley smiled and took Emma’s harm to lead her to the door.

<< You bought me a house? For Christmas? – the girl’s eyebrows were pulled up high – Suddenly  the presents I chose for you appear dramatically inadequate – Emma knew enough of administration issues to know how much a house holding cost. They had enough money to live highly comfortably in Highbury, but they also had two estates to take care of: Hartfield and Donwell Abbey.

<< Listen dear – Mr. Knightley took both her hands in his – I know what you are thinking, but I assure you that I wouldn’t have done anything inconsiderate. I thought a lot about this and I want you to have a house in town so that we can attend the Season and you can do whatever women do when gather together in London. You spent too much time alone in Highbury, you deserve this and more.

<< But you dislike London. You always tried to convince me it was a chaotic and frivolous place whenever I told you that I would like to come.

<< I don’t dislike London. I... – he was embarrassed, this kind of speech weren’t his forte – I feared that if you had come to London you would have found a husband. It’s quite silly, I know. I didn’t even knew yet that I was in love with you but I knew that nobody from here would have been right for you. It has been selfish of me to say such things and I want to remedy. Can I?

Mr. Knightley handed a silver key to Emma, she smiled while unlocking the front door and they entered in their new town house.




Mr. Darcy of Pemberley was frustrated while heading towards his town home in Grosvenor Street. His wife, Elizabeth Darcy was less displeased but sensed her husband irritation.

<< Everything would be perfect anyway – she took his hand in hers and gave him a comforting squeeze – I don’t care where we spend Christmas if I can spend it with you and Georgiana.

Of course Darcy agreed with his wife, but she couldn’t know that the source of his displeasure was not due to the place where they were about to spend Christmas holidays.

They had departed from London two days before, in order to reach Pemberley; Georgiana, who had spent a few weeks with a friend, was about to arrive at the same time, but their plans failed because of unexpected snow. They all had to stop at the nearest village inn, a tiny place that had never seen so many visitors at one time, and waited for the storm to stop. Darcy had been worried about the conditions of the roads but still confident that they could make it to Pemberley. Until the following morning.

When they got up for breakfast, the country around them was covered in such a layer of snow that it was impossible to discern whether you were walking on the road or on an open field. Swearing between his teeth, Darcy had hired an horse to have a look at the road and understood that they had two possibilities: spend Christmas in the little village or going back on the road to London, the only one clean enough to be travelable.

Darcy was worried that Elizabeth would suffer from all this stress, even if her pregnancy was proceeding without any hint of problems, and her assurance that she was perfectly well did nothing to ease his mind.

<< Brother, Elizabeth is right. Darcy’s House will be perfect for Christmas! London is lovely in the snow.

Darcy couldn’t help but smile at his sister attempt to make the best of the situation. Elizabeth company in the past year and a half had worked magic on Georgiana self-confidence, she wasn’t disturbed by large gatherings anymore and she had begun to play the piano for more than the strict family circle. She had also begun to make suggestions and requests with the expectation of them to be accepted.

<< Can we invite Jane and Mr. Bingley to spend a few days with us? I would love to see Jane... and Charles of course.

Elizabeth and Darcy exchanged a knowing glance. Georgiana had developed a great fondness of Elizabeth’s elder sister, they matched very well in temperament and Jane’s sweetness was very agreeable for a shy girl as Georgiana was. However they knew there may be more in this suggestion: Joseph Bingley, Charles’ younger brother, was spending some time with his brother and his wife and, during their last visit in Hertfordshire, Georgiana showed an interest in the boy that troubled Darcy not a little.

<< We’ll see...

While Elizabeth hid a smile behind her hand, Darcy went back to his frustration. It was childish of him, but the most disturbing thing was that his present for Elizabeth, the present he worked on for weeks, that required a lot of planning and plotting in order not to be discovered, and that he couldn’t wait to give her, was at Pemberley and now he had nothing to give her on Christmas day. Nothing special enough, at least.

Darcy had spend the first year of their marriage buying Elizabeth all sort of presents, from jewellery to clothes, from objects to decorate her favourite rooms to tons of new books to match her excellent tastes. The previous Christmas his present for her had been a pearl necklace to match her ring. He knew that pearls weren’t the current fashion for engagement rings, but Elizabeth was different from any other woman and deserved something unique.

This year his present was even more special. The news that Elizabeth was with child filled him with a joy and an expectation that he didn’t think he could experience. That was why the perfect present for Elizabeth came immediately to his mind: he had the nursery at Pemberley completely redecorated and filled with the most beautiful and unique furniture. Everything, from the walls to the curtains, from the blankets to the carpets was in different shades of green, since they didn’t know if the baby would be a boy or a girl. Moreover several boxes where filled with the most incredible toys he had ever seen. And now all of this was miles away.

<< Brother, is everything right? – Georgiana approached him once safely arrived back at their town house – I mean, I know we all planned to spend Christmas at Pemberley, but it’s not so bad, isn’t it?

Since Elizabeth was going to rest for a while, Darcy decided to talk to Georgiana about his present for his wife.

<< Oh, Fitzwilliam! I am sure Elizabeth will love your present anyway, it doesn’t really matter when you will be able to give it to her.

<< I know, and I still have some smaller presents for her with me, but it would have been so...

<< I know – Georgiana didn’t let him finish and took his hand in a gesture of comfort. Suddenly she seemed to realize something, because her face brightened and a mischievous smile appeared on her lips.

<< What are you thinking about?

<< Isn’t there a room, here at Darcy House that used to be the nursery?

<< Yes, but it has been rarely used because children were always brought up at Pemberley.

<< Christmas is still a few days away. Do you think we have enough time to redecorate the nursery here, as a present from all of us for Elizabeth?

Darcy gave some consideration to the plan. Time wasn’t on their side, but he had open accounts with shop keepers enough to be assured the uttermost cooperation and speed. The nursery wasn’t as big as the one at Pemberley, an advantage with such a short time, but they would need help nonetheless.

<< Maybe we can do it. Let’s ask for some help. I’ll talk to the housekeeper, we will need Elizabeth to be otherwise occupied. In the meantime you can write to Jane. I think the Bingleys can be in London in no time if it is for a good reason.

Georgiana smiled brightly and run to her room. Perhaps Darcy’s perfect present could be restored.




Admiral Croft town house wasn’t as big or as fashionable as the other houses in Mayfair but to Frederick Wentworth and his wife Anne it tasted like home like nowhere else. After the Captain had gained Sir Walter consent to marry his daughter, Anne and the Captain hadn’t wanted to wait a minute longer than necessary to celebrate a wedding that should have been celebrated so many years before. That was why they had got married even before they had found a home.

After their marriage, Admiral and Mrs. Croft had returned to Kellinch Hall and had left their house in Bath to the newlyweds, however Anne’s dislike for Bath and the excessive proximity to Sir Walter and Miss Elliot, had prompted them to search quickly for a suitable place.

They both wanted to settle somewhere near the sea, even if for different reasons, and Dorset seemed the right choice. After some research, Captain Wentworth had found a little estate not far from Lyme and consequently from his dear friend Captain Harville, that seemed perfect but required some renovation. That was why Frederick and Anne were abusing of Colonel’s hospitality in London. However Captain Wentworth had plans to remove his wife from town soon.

<< Good morning Captain. What news from the bridge deck, Sir?

Since their stay with the Crofts began, he took the habit of going to the Port of London at least twice a week and every time he came back, his wife asked him the same question, knowing he would have some news from other seamen. But today his news had nothing to do with warships and commissions.

<< Actually I have some news – Frederick sat near Anne on the sofa and she put away her book, giving him her entire attention – I should wait until Christmas but I think that you’d like to prepare a little.

<< Prepare for what?

<< I wanted something special for our first Christmas together and no object could be good enough. So I decided to do something different.

He handed out a stack of paper and Anne began to leaf through the pages. At first she didn’t seem to realise, then she opened her eyes wide with understanding.

<< You didn’t! – she leapt up with the papers in her hands.

<< I did it – Captain Wentworth stood up too with a broad grin on his face.

<< And what about the fact that we have to supervise our house renovation? – Anne’s eyebrows were lifted but her smile was mischievous.

<< Harville accepted to stay at the keeper’s house with his family for the duration of our trip.

<< And you hope to persuade him to stay after that too, I assume.

<< You assume correctly, but this is not the reason I bought two places on a ship that is going to set out on new year’s eve to the continent – he moved towards her.

<< I know. But I’ll be happy to consent to every plan that can help to persuade the Harvilles to accept our support. Now – she sat again on the sofa and patted near her to signal him to sit by her side – tell me something about this trip you are going to bring me on.  

And Captain Wentworth begun to talk. He was enthusiastic, he couldn’t wait to be at sea again, even if only as a passenger, and he couldn’t wait to bring Anne around the world with him. He knew that no other present would have been right for her, who had travelled so little but had an open and adventurous mind.

<< I absolutely agree with all your plans. I can’t wait to see France and Italy and Greece. I will come to Asia too if you bring me, but I fear you’ll have to endure some more London society before we can depart from town.

Wentworth closed his eyes in faked horror << Oh dear, don’t tell me. The Admiral received another invitation.

<< I am afraid I have to tell you exactly this. Sophia and the Admiral received an invitation to a ball and the invitation is extended to us. It will be hold by Mr. Darcy of Pemberley. Do you know him?

<< Of course not. I have never been good enough for these coxcombs – Frederick scratched his head and stood up – I can’t wait to meet another condescending and disdainful landlord!

<< Just think about this: we will have the opportunity to dance together again. I want to see if dancing with me has the same effect it had at Kellinch eight years ago.

<< Well, if you put it this way...




Since their return to London, Elizabeth Darcy had been in a twirl of activities. In just a few days, with the housekeeper and Georgiana’s help, she had decorated the whole house with green, red and golden ribbons, she had organized family celebrations for Christmas and a formal ball. The ball was meant to be the final act of the Darcys’ Christmas festivities because they all hoped to be on the road to Pemberley again before New Year’s Eve.   

Elizabeth had spent the week before Christmas in astonishment, due to her husband behaviour. After their return in town, Darcy had become elusive and absent-minded and she had to rely on Colonel Fitzwilliam to arrange the guest list and send the invitations for the ball. She could understand that he was upset not to be at Pemberley for Christmas, but that seemed too much even for the most disappointed of men. Darcy’s strange behaviour had been explained on Christmas morning, when he and Georgiana had blindfolded her and brought her to a dark room. When her eyes had been unveiled, she had seen the most beautiful nursery she had ever seen, filled with the finest objects a baby and her mother could fancy.

Now that Christmas was over and Darcy had solved the issue of Elizabeth’s present, he was considerate and helpful again. He had approved unconditionally everything Elizabeth had planned, agreed to all the addition Colonel Fitzwilliam had done to the guest list and took care of some practical issues.

Elizabeth never cared about the good opinion of London society but she always did her best for the sake of his husband reputation and business. This ball was also important for another reason: Darcy, Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam had decided that it was time to let Georgiana move in a more varied society before her official presentation at Court and that evening seemed the perfect opportunity.

Jane and Charles Bingley were at Darcy House too and Charles’ brother, Joseph, had come with them, that was why Darcy decided to keep an attentive eye on his sister’s behaviour during the ball.

Everything was ready, the great hall was prepared for dinner, the ball room had been cleaned and decorated from end to end; the Darcys and the Bingleys with Colonel Fitzwilliam were lined up in the entrance hall ready to receive the guests. Georgiana seemed a bit nervous but Joseph presence at her side helped her a lot. Elizabeth stood at the other side of Darcy, beautiful in an emerald green gown with her usual air of self-confidence.

The Wentworths and the Crofts were among the first guests to arrive because the Admiral was punctuality himself and didn't want an old friend like Colonel Fitzwilliam to wait.
Anne Wentworth was more inclined than her husband to like the Darcy family and she immediately took a like for Jane Bingley and Georgiana Darcy, Mrs. Darcy's sisters. They appeared to be the kind of sisters she would have liked to have and never had. Elizabeth Darcy wasn't so easy to decipher but Anne hoped to have more opportunity to talk to her during the ball.
Captain Wentworth wore his high uniform because he knew he looked well in it.  Other soldiers and sailors were in attendance that evening but no one was so impressive. Mrs. Darcy and her sister seemed good kind of young women and, due to the fact that Anne seemed to like them, he was ready to make an effort to like them too. At first sight, Fitzwilliam Darcy appeared to be as conceited as he had feared, but after a little conversation he improved as much as to be tolerable but not enough to tempt him to know him better.

The next to arrive were Mr. an Mrs. Knightley. Emma was happy that her husband had some acquaintances in town because she had none and the invitation they received for that evening was exclusively due to Mr. Knightley acquaintance with Mr. Darcy. Emma knew nothing about him but she had heard some rumors and the Darcy family seemed one of the most prominent in London society. Moreover Mr. Knightley spoke highly of Fitzwilliam Darcy and that was the best of recommendation. Mrs. Darcy was another matter entirely, she had been a country girl from a family of lower rank than her own, that was why she hoped not to meet another Mrs. Elton, conceited and convinced that a big house was the only valuable thing in life.

When they got in the entrance hall at Darcy House, Emma was pleasantly surprised by the true elegance of the place. The family was lined up to welcome the guests. Emma's eyes were immediately captured by Mr. Darcy, a very fine and handsome gentleman, just a little less handsome that her perfect husband. Then she looked intently at Mrs. Darcy. She was a good looking young woman, maybe a year or two older than Emma, with sparkling eyes. Her open smile dashed away any fear of finding a conceited woman, her air of self confidence told Emma that she wasn't in awe of the Ton and a few words exchanged were enough to assure her that Mrs. Darcy had a lively mind. Mr. Knightley had a long and steady, even though only for business, acquaintance with Darcy and believed him to be a very good fellow, so he didn't need to be impressed.

Elizabeth wasn't sure what to expect from Mrs. Knightley and Mrs. Wentworth. She hadn't met any woman she liked in London still, a fact that made every stay in town a little less pleasant than could be, but Anne Wentworth appeared to be one of her kind.

Some among the best musicians of London began to play as soon as all the guest arrived and the music filled the ball room. The first dance was led by Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, immediately followed by Mr. and Mrs. Bingley. Georgiana hesitated just for the time it took to Joseph Bingley to bow and ask for her first dance, then they both took place in the set. Emma and Mr. Knightley were the next. He knew how much she liked to dance and how little opportunities she had. Captain Wentworth was decided not to give all these coxcombs any opportunities to criticize his manners, so he took his wife’s hand and led her to the dance floor.

On the whole the first two dances at Mrs. Darcy’s ball were a fine example of refine accomplishment in dancing and every other guest in the room couldn’t but admire the couples on the floor. Elizabeth was relieved that everything was going on so smoothly, her only worry was her husband’s eyebrows that were more and more frowned at every glance in Georgiana’s direction. As soon as the dance steps allowed some conversation, Elizabeth tried to ease his mind.

<< Please, dear. Do not fret over Georgiana too much. It’s her first London ball and it’s more than understandable that she tends to stay with someone she knows well.

<< Yes, it’s understandable. The problem is that she doesn’t know Joseph so well. They met in Hertfordshire just two months ago, dined together five times, danced twice and played cards at the same table once. This is not a long standing acquaintance.

Elizabeth smiled << My mother would consider these occurrences enough to begin planning the wedding – but these words weren’t the most appropriate to calm Darcy’s fears.  

<< I don’t want her to commit to someone so soon, that’s all. If in a few decades they still wanted to dance together we will talk about marriage.

Elizabeth laughed openly in a way that would have horrified most of the ladies of the Ton and Darcy’s eyebrows relaxed visibly. Darcy’s humor had developed tremendously since their marriage.

After the first two dances, Darcy insisted that Elizabeth rested a little. That was why she found herself near Emma Knightley at one of the tables filled with refreshments.

<< Mrs. Darcy let me tell you, this evening is perfect. I have never been to such a splendid ball before!

This comment coming from a married woman of Mrs. Knightley status sounded so unaffected, sincere and full of real delight that Elizabeth’s opinion of the lady suddenly improved.  

<< I am glad you are enjoying yourself Mrs. Knightley. This ball has been organized quite in a hurry, we should have been in Derbyshire by now if it wasn’t for the snow.

<< I see. Well, I am glad you are still here. I don’t have many opportunities to dance at home in Surrey – immediately after speaking these words, Emma was slightly embarrassed. She shouldn’t have said something that clearly marked her as someone not used to London Season, but Elizabeth Darcy inspired immediate familiarity.

<< I don’t have either in Derbyshire. My husband is not particularly fond of large gatherings but he will have to come to terms with balls soon – Elizabeth glanced towards Georgiana, who was still dancing with Joseph Bingley. Emma was relieved by Mrs. Darcy’s reception of her words and felt encouraged to speak freely.

<< Miss Georgiana looks like a most accomplished young lady. I am surprised she isn’t officially out in society yet, she seems perfectly ready. But Mr. Darcy doesn’t appear very pleased. I imagine he is overly protective as every elder brother – again Emma feared she had overstepped the boundaries of what is acceptable in society, but she couldn’t help.

<< Fitzwilliam is a very good brother, but tends to forget Georgiana is almost eighteen. Last time we went to visit my family in Hertforshire…

Suddenly Elizabeth found herself sat in a corner of the room with Mrs. Knightley, telling her everything about Georgiana and Joseph Bingley, her brother-in-law’s brother. Even if Emma Knightley was very different from all of her sisters, particularly from Jane, Elizabeth found real ease in conversation with her. She would have spent the entire evening talking with her but she had hostess duties to perform; however before leaving Mrs. Knightley to herself she assured a promise of a call before they all departed from London.

After crossing the ball room, exchanging pleasantries with many guests, Elizabeth found Darcy talking with Captain Wentworth. He was as tall and as impressive as Fitzwilliam, with a sharper tongue and no scruples in voicing his opinions. However Darcy appeared to enjoy his conversation because he was talking animatedly, forgetting to be reserved and shy. Obviously they were talking about war or the momentarily absence of it.

<< Gentlemen, I am sorry to intrude into your conversation, but where is your lovely wife Captain?

Mrs. Wentworth was the only lady in the room with whom Elizabeth hadn’t talked yet and was curious to know her better. Following Captain Wentworth indications, she found Anne Wentworth in an adjacent room, far from the noise of the ball room, deep in conversation with Jane. When her sister saw her approaching she waved to her.

<< Elizabeth! Mrs. Wentworth was telling me everything about the Christmas present from the Captain – Anne smiled, her eyes glowing – They are going on a trip around the world and they will travel on a ship.

Jane, who wasn’t fond of travelling, was amazed at Anne bravery while Elizabeth was more interested in knowing more about their trip and Anne was more than happy to talk about their projects. After a while, Elizabeth was surprised by the fact that they were talking as if they had been friends for all their lives and find it annoying to leave them to play the hostess part. However it was time to invite the guests in the dining room.

<< Dear, here you are – Darcy’s voice came from behind her in the crowded ball room – I was worried. Are you well?

<< Yes my dear, I am very well – then caught by sudden inspiration she went on – Fitzwilliam would terribly you mind if I invited Mrs. Knightley and Mrs. Wentworth to join our table at dinner? I talked to both of them during the evening and I really appreciated their company.

Darcy laughed quite loud for his usual level of composure << This would be enough to suppress every doubt about our marriage. I was searching for you just to ask if you would have minded if I had invited Mr. Knightley and Captain Wentworth to our table. The Captain seems to have overcome his prejudice against London coxcombs, at least against two of them.

Elizabeth laughed too, earning a few astonished glances from the nearby ladies. With a mischievous smile, she took her husband’s hand << One heart and one mind. Can I ask for more?

That evening every guest that hadn’t the luck of being invited at the Darcy’s table envied those who had been, because the company was good, the laugh frequent and the conversation never wanting. Even Georgiana, the shy and discreet Georgiana, supported on one side by Joseph Bingley and on the other by Jane Bingley, talked and laughed a lot.

Elizabeth, who strongly wished to get to know them better, was relieved to see that Emma Knightley and Anne Wentworth seemed to get along with each other well. The first bright and full of enthusiasm for life and the second more mature but not less passionate formed a well-matched pair.

That ball, organized in a rush just because everyone knew that the Darcys of Pemberley where in Town and they couldn’t avoid give their share of events during the Christmas season, had became an unexpected source of pleasure both for men and women. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Captain Wentworth had found friendship where they thought they would have found only meaningless conversations and their wives, thrown together more or less fortuitously, had found valuable female companions. Even if they all had life of their own and could rarely meet all together, they kept corresponding, so that Elizabeth and Emma knew everything about Anne and the Captain’s tour and Anne learnt all about Elizabeth baby and Highbury’s rumors. In the end, the wish of each gentleman to find a special present for his wife resulted in the most beautiful present possible: friendship.       


This was a lovely story! To bring together all these great characters and show glimpses into their married lives was great to read! The running theme was very sweet as well, summed up in the last line. Well done on your first attempt at writing in English Irene!

Your affectionate friend,
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