I have a visitor to the blog today - Joana Starnes is joining me with a guest post and a giveaway of her latest book, 'Miss Darcy's Companion'. I'll share the blurb with you and then hand over to Joana for her post.
Miss Georgiana Darcy is need of a companion, and she would much rather not have Mrs Younge. The recently bereaved Miss Elizabeth Bennet is in need of a position. When she accepts the one Mr Darcy offers, she finds herself in his near-constant company and gets to know him at his best. Not as he would present himself to strangers in some remote corner of Hertfordshire, but as his nearest and dearest know him. An excellent brother, landlord, master. A wonderful man, noble, kind – and impossibly handsome.
So who falls in love first? What of Mr Wickham and his dastardly ploys? And how is a lady’s companion ever to have a future with one who could marry into the best houses in the land?
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Thank you, Ceri, for welcoming me today at ‘Babblings of a Bookworm’ on the blog tour for my latest book, ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’.
Last time I was your guest I brought an angst-y story, ‘The Unthinkable Triangle’, where Mr Darcy has to struggle with his cousin beating him to the post and proposing to Elizabeth the day before he was going to.
This book is very different. To begin with, for the greatest part Mr Darcy is spared the angst. He is calmly going about the business of looking after his family and his estate and, like the excellent brother that he is, he takes heed of his sister’s wishes. Freshly out of her finishing school, Miss Darcy is in need of a companion, but she finds that Mrs Younge has a sharp, shrewish look that makes her uneasy. In fact, she would choose to spend her time with someone else. And her choice is Miss Elizabeth Bennet who, after her father’s passing, is more or less compelled to make her own way into the world.
So there we have it: Elizabeth comes to live at Pemberley as ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, a warmer and happier influence on Georgiana than Mrs Younge could ever be. The transformations in his sister are a delight to Darcy and although Miss Bennet is not one for easily taking orders, he is rather pleased with the arrangements and sees no major difficulties there. Well, they do say that ignorance is bliss…
If this book had a subtitle, it could easily be ‘Clueless Darcy’. I think he had to be, don’t you? If he struggled so much in the original novel with the disparities between himself and Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn, what would he do if he were to realise he was falling in love with a girl in his employ? I’ll talk about this later on the blog tour, but in a nutshell I think that a gentleman of his moral fibre would either bolt to London or sack her. Kindly and with excellent references of course, but most certainly he wouldn’t let such an unsuitable attraction grow. So he must be clueless, because we need our happily ever after and he has to stay and fall head over heels in love. And what better conduit for falling in love than music and dancing?
Last time I visited Babblings of a Bookworm the guest post included an excerpt where Mr Darcy danced with Elizabeth, so I thought it might be nice if I were to come back with a scene where he dances with her again. This time it’s at his friend’s instigation – we all know how Mr Bingley loves a good caper. And, as a blissfully happy newlywed, Mr Bingley has a few words of advice as well ;)
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“So, Darcy, when will you see sense and follow my example?” his friend asked. “Whoever has inspired your proverbial reticence for the married state has done you a great disservice, my friend. I, for one, heartily recommend it.”
“Do you indeed? I had my doubts watching you over the last few days, but I thank you for clearing that issue,” Darcy affectionately teased and reached for his brandy.
Bingley laughed and drained his glass.
“I suppose other people’s happiness can be rather tedious. All I can say is that you should try it for yourself. And I beseech you, do yourself a favour and marry for affection. Well, if you have tired of my exhortations, I say we rejoin the ladies,” he suggested, and Darcy saw no reason to object.
They found them listening to Georgiana playing a very lively tune which took Bingley to his wife’s side directly, as though he needed more inducement. He turned to lightly cast over his shoulder:
“Pray oblige me, Darcy. I cannot waste this tempting opportunity of dancing to The Barley Mow.”
“This is unprecedented, and irregular as well. Are you seriously asking me to stand up with you?” Darcy drawled, but his friend was undaunted.
“Insufferable wretch,” he retorted pleasantly. “Need I spell it out that I was hoping you would partner Miss Bennet? We could use another couple and besides I do not see why you should be allowed to sit and be entertained by other people’s antics,” Bingley added as he led his smilingly compliant wife to the floor.
Uncommonly compliant in his turn, at least to those who knew him well, Darcy walked to the lady’s sister.
“Would you do me this honour, Miss Bennet? I know Bingley of old and I can safely say that dissuading him from dancing is rarely an option, so I imagine we might have to join him.”
Her smile was rather perfunctory, but she stood.
“‘Tis no hardship for me, Sir. I dearly love to dance.”
“Which is more than I can say for Darcy,” his friend laughed. “As a habit he avoids it like the plague, so I suppose I should thank him for the condescension.”
“Should you not save your breath for the dance? I believe ‘tis rather sprightly,” the other retorted like for like, and offered his hand to his companion.
Thin warm fingers curled around his own, and he idly registered the novel sensation as they took their place. Of course. Dancing without gloves was as singular as impromptu romps in Pemberley’s music room after dinner. He had never danced at Pemberley in seven years, and never – there or elsewhere – at anything other than a formal ball. He had never danced with a young woman from his household either, nor with a partner who would look at the pianoforte, the floor, the other couple, anywhere in the room but him. Had they not told her, when she was taught to dance, that one was supposed to train one’s eyes on one’s partner? Or was that still an after-effect of Miss Bingley’s poison?
In all other respects the dancing master or whoever might have taught her had done the office well. She easily caught the steps, or perhaps she was more familiar with them than he, and she moved with unaffected ease, her dancing light and pleasing. Very graceful too, even more than her sister’s, so she need not blush for her performance. Yet blush she did, her rosy glow deepening into scarlet. On second thought, exertion might have been to blame. After all, it was a very sprightly dance indeed.
Without warning, the tempo increased still further when, arms linked behind the lady’s back and the other poised above their heads to form a wide circle between them, the couples were expected to whirl around in five fast spins, stop and clap the time, then repeat the figure after an exchange of partners.
They duly whirled and stopped to clap the time – only to see that, in careless disregard for the established pattern of the dance, Bingley omitted or disdained to relinquish his wife to Darcy. They were still spinning, faster and faster still, one arm around each other’s waist, the other raised to frame their faces. Eye to eye. Seemingly oblivious of the entire world around them.
Darcy’s momentary confusion gave way to an understanding smile. Across from him, Miss Bennet’s consciousness melted into a matching one, and they shared a light shrug and a glance of amused affection – for her sister, for his friend – before meeting in the middle for the last figure of the dance.
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So how come Mr Bingley and Jane are already married? And just for how long is Mr Darcy planning to stay clueless? If you would like to read the book for free and find out, please leave a comment for a chance to enter the international giveaway of a Kindle copy. Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt and I hope you’ll enjoy the full story. Huge thanks for the lovely welcome, Ceri, you’re ever so kind and it’s always such fun to be your guest!
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Joana Starnes lives in the South of England with her family. She has published six Austen-related novels:
- From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley ~ A Pride & Prejudice sequel - My review
- The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice and Persuasion - My review
- The Second Chance ~ A Pride & Prejudice – Sense & Sensibility Variation - My review
- The Falmouth Connection ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation set in Poldark territory - My review
- The Unthinkable Triangle ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation, where loyalty comes at loggerheads with love - Guest post
- Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation without Ramsgate!
They are available on all Amazon sites.
Books by Joana Starnes at Amazon.com
Books by Joana Starnes at Amazon.co.uk
You can connect with Joana Starnes on Facebook, her website, Twitter, or visit ‘All Roads Lead to Pemberley’ on Facebook, for places, events and titbits that have inspired her novels.
Joana has very kindly offered to giveaway a kindle version of 'Miss Darcy's Companion' to a reader here. To enter, just leave a comment on this post by the end of Friday 17 June. This is open to international entrants. Please leave a way for me to contact you in case you're the lucky winner. I'll be posting my review of the book over the weekend - you can earn a bonus entry by commenting on my review post once it's posted.
Thank you so much to Joana for joining me here today, and for offering a giveaway to a reader here!