A coming-of-age story told in four volumes between Austen’s infamous couple; savor the story of the prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, as they meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride & Prejudice. Could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?
Caitlin Williams, author of the highly-praised book, Ardently, tours the blogosphere from June 13- June 26, 2016 to share her newest release, The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet. Fourteen book bloggers, specializing in Austenesque fiction and romance stories, will share excerpts, guest posts, an exclusive interview with the author and book reviews from this highly awaited Austen-inspired novel. Eight ebooks are also being included in our giveaways and entry is available to anyone who participates in this blog tour.
The very worst has happened. Mr Bennet has died, leaving his wife and five young daughters bereft. The family estate, Longbourn, is now lost, entailed away and fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet is to go two hundred miles away to live with strangers. George Darcy, repaying a debt of gratitude, has offered to take her to Pemberley, to live under the mantle of his care and be raised alongside his own daughter, Georgiana.
But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.
The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one. She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?
"To celebrate the launch of “The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet,” in which we meet a fifteen-year-old Elizabeth, here's a little vignette featuring fifteen-year-old Fitzwilliam and his father."
The Young Master
“Before we venture downstairs, Fitzwilliam, there are some things I would say to you.”
Fitzwilliam Darcy nodded deferentially at his father, though he had to supress a sigh. He had endured so many lessons that day already, and so many strictures had been laid down before him. How much instruction could a fifteen-year-old boy expect to endure during one se’nnight home from school? He had rather hoped he would be spending his time fishing and shooting, playing billiards, teasing his younger sister and being at leisure. Instead, George Darcy had woken him just after dawn each day and they’d ridden out to inspect every inch of the estate. He had furnished his son with the history of every farm, every tenant, and what cattle or crops they produced -and of how much rent they paid, how long they had lived there - and so on, and so on. Yet his father had not stopped there. The afternoons had been spent in the master of Pemberley’s study, surveying accounts, looking at legal documents and attending meetings with the house and land stewards.
Now, he had been summoned to his father’s dressing room, where Fitzwilliam watched the valet fuss with George Darcy’s cravat, until the master brushed him aside with a short “very good, that will do” and dismissed him from the room. Then he looked squarely at his son. “Take a chair my boy, for I wish to tell you of women, and they are startling creatures who will often leave you breathless and weak around the knees. And so for this conference, we should sit.”
Having expected some more dull instruction on the running of Pemberley, Fitzwilliam’s interest was suddenly piqued. This was unforeseen. He took a seat on a small gilt chair in the corner of the room. Lately, he was tantamount to some gracelessness and clumsiness. He had grown, filled out and his body suddenly seemed large and cumbersome, his limbs were heavier and longer, and he frequently knew not what to do with his hands or his feet. It was a relief when he managed to manoeuvre himself onto the delicate chair without incident.
His father smiled convivially and at first looked as if he would take the chair opposite him, but then studied Fitzwilliam’s face more carefully, stood over him and seemed to be fighting the urge to laugh. “And what is this, about your top lip?”
Covering his mouth with his hand, Fitzwilliam proudly stroked the hairs that were sprouting there. “’Tis a moustache.”
“Is it now? I thought perhaps it a bit of dirt, or some sort of rash. Nine hairs do not a moustache make, my boy. Though I see you’re somewhat pleased by them, I think we had better have my valet nick them off before you go downstairs.”
Offended and disappointed, Fitzwilliam folded his arms. He had been hoping the moustache might make him look older, more authoritative. “You wanted to say something, about ladies?” he prompted his father.
“Not ladies,” his father corrected. “Women! All of them. There are some gentlemen, Fitzwilliam, who differentiate and care to separate them out and think of ladies in one way and women in general the other - women to be used, ladies to be revered. But, mark my words when I tell you that the lowliest scullery maid might get you into as much trouble as the most refined, elegant lady. Be wary of them, they can all smell good, whether of rosewater, or freshly baked bread. Which leads me to my first point,” his father said, holding up his finger to emphasise his words. “A Darcy does not dally below stairs. Never! You will be tempted. The curves on some of the girls that walk these halls might make a fine young man like you lose his mind. And I have seen you looking, but you must not.”
Fitzwilliam tugged his high collar away from his neck. He thought of how his friend George Wickham had recently boasted to him of how one of the kitchen girls had let him kiss her and put his hand up her skirts. Oh, how he had envied him. George’s daring and his ability to charm the opposite sex into allowing such favours was astounding. Yet, he supposed his father was right. And, anyway, though he sometimes could not prevent his eye from wandering, he found servant girls were not exactly to his taste in any case. It was those exotic, exquisitely attired, perfumed ladies of the ton, with their daringly low necklines and close-fitting gowns that sent the blood soaring through his veins.
“You have a great inheritance awaiting you. So you must be careful about choosing who you dance and speak with when you are in society,” his father went on. “I would suggest never dancing more than one set per night with any lady; it raises too many expectations, both with the girl, and more importantly, with her Mamma. There is a danger in showing too much attention. If you are ever left alone with a handsome girl for any reason, best ignore them and find occupation elsewhere, attend to a book instead. And do not flatter. You will see some dandy fellows, throwing compliments around hither and thither, but do not seek to emulate them, I beg you, lest your comments be taken out of proportion.”
Fitzwilliam listened and nodded, knowing it was probably sage advice, but it did not, however, sound like much fun.
“Two more things,” George Darcy said. “A gentleman always keeps his eyes above the neckline. Do not venture a glance lower than a collarbone, though I know ‘tis more difficult than ever these days. A lady’s décolletage is now arranged in such a way as to make it as powerful an inducement as her dowry. Eyes front and centre, my boy, do not forget. Oh, and lastly, and it is perhaps a tad embarrassing to speak of, but if you should ever find yourself indisposed…”
Seeing his father’s raised eyebrows, Fitzwilliam leaned forward, wondering what he was implying. “Indisposed?”
“Overcome, while in public. It happens, particularly at your age. We are human after all and there is no telling when the beast in us might choose to read its ugly head. It’s terribly unfortunate, but if you should find yourself in such a predicament, I would go to the window and look out of it for a good long while, and think of the most unattractive woman you know. It’ll pass. Now, shall we finish getting ready and go down to this little soiree? Your mother is not good at entertaining on her own, how she frets if I am not there!”
Blushing furiously, Fitzwilliam shuffled in his seat while the valet was called back. The thin moustache he had been patiently trying to grow and shape for weeks was removed with only a couple of swift moves of a sharp blade. Then, they were moving through the corridors of Pemberley. George Darcy’s chest was puffed out, his tread was firm and his whole mien spoke of his belief in his own authority. Fitzwilliam was a step or so behind, trying to emulate his father’s movements and expressions.
The grand saloon, when they reached it, seemed to be a good as place as any to practice the principles and practices that had just been laid out before him. It was full of young ladies of all shapes and sizes, and varying degrees of handsomeness, who had accompanied their mothers to a small afternoon gathering. After being presented to him, the young girls would fall silent, and he, embarrassed and unused to fresh female company, had no idea what to say to them. All would be quiet, until the next young lady came along, but other than his inability to begin a conversation, Fitzwilliam felt he was doing well enough.
Fruit and sweetmeats were brought in and the company began to gather around the table to partake of the delights on offer. Fitzwilliam felt someone at his shoulder and glanced around to see Mrs Winter, a rich widow of some importance in Derbyshire, still very beautiful though she must be nearly forty.
“Ah, the young master,” she said. “Almost fully grown, why I remember tickling your toes when you were but a babe in arms.”
Her look and the tone of her voice perturbed him. Though her words were innocent, there was something about the way she glanced at him through her lashes that made him feel as if she were flirting.
He knew not what he said in reply, offered her a small greeting perhaps, but as they turned back to the table to make their selections, they brushed against one another, intimately. She was an impressively built woman and he was part-embarrassed and part-thrilled that her chest had come into contact with his sleeve, but he also quickly jumped back to ensure it would not happen again. His movement, unfortunately, dislodged a beautifully arranged pyramid of fruit from the display on the table. Grapes, nectarines and peaches began rolling across the floor, prompting squeals and laughter from the assembled ladies, which mortified him, and guffaws from the gentlemen.
Apologising profusely, knowing he sounded uncollected and looked foolish, he nevertheless began to collect the items from the floor, grateful for something to do to hide his shame. He rose from his crouched position, his hands full, as footmen also hurried forth to clear up the mess.
Mrs Winter’s mouth was quirked upwards in amusement as she met his eyes. She plucked a piece of fruit from his grasp, holding it up. “I think this will be mine, young man. What do you make of it? I don’t think I have ever seen a bigger pear. Impressive is it not?”
There was nothing more he could say, other than, “yes, Mrs Winter,” as she tipped him a little nod and moved away, laughing to herself.
Fitzwilliam closed his eyes briefly, wished the floor might open and swallow him whole. When he found the courage to open them again, his father was before him.
“Perhaps another little chat is in order,” George Darcy said. “Women, eh?”
Purchase Link:Amazon Link: The Coming Of Age OF Elizabeth Bennet
Goodreads Link: Goodreads Page: The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet
Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family.She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.
Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.
Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.
Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.
My thanks again goes to Caitlin for this fun excerpt! My thanks also to Claudine for setting up this tour.
I wish Caitlin all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!
I wish Caitlin all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!
Your affectionate friend,