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Nowadays we tend to think of gift-giving as one of the central parts of Christmas celebrations. Certainly businesses and stores encourage us to think of the season that way. But in Jane Austen’s time, gift-giving was not a big part of the holiday. Parents or other relatives might give presents to children. On Boxing Day, employers often gave money and Christmas boxes with gifts of clothing and other goods to their servants. Wealthy landowners (like Mr. Darcy) might give gifts of food or other necessities to tenants or people in the neighborhood who were down on their luck. But there was no widespread exchange of presents between adults of equal station, and it was not considered an essential part of Christmas the way it is today.
So how did they celebrate Christmas during the Regency? They decorated houses with greenery and lit yule logs and went to church. But they also did a lot of socializing. The Christmas season ran from the beginning of December through Twelfth Night, and during that time people would visit friends, hold dinners and parties, play parlor games, and eat lots of good food. In other words, Christmas was a time to hang out with your friends and family.
This Regency propensity for partying inspired a central idea in my novel, A Very Darcy Christmas. In it, newlyweds Elizabeth and Darcy are besieged by relatives who arrive at Pemberley uninvited and take advantage of their Christmas hospitality. The Darcys end up with Lydia, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and Lady Catherine all under one roof—as well as two friends of her ladyship’s who she hopes will pay court to Georgiana. As you can imagine, mayhem ensues. While the inhabitants of Pemberley enjoy parlor games and yule logs and fine dining, they also suffer through Mrs. Bennet’s hysterics over an impending French invasion and Lydia’s tendency to accidentally set things on fire.
I had great fun writing about how Pride and Prejudice’s characters enjoy a traditional Regency Christmas—but with a uniquely Austenesque twist. Hopefully you will have just as much fun reading it!
Elizabeth and Darcy are preparing for their first Christmas at Pemberley when they are suddenly deluged by a flood of uninvited guests. Mrs. Bennet is seeking refuge from the French invasion she believes to be imminent. Lady Catherine brings two suitors for Georgiana’s hand, who cause a bit of mayhem themselves. Lydia’s presence causes bickering—and a couple of small fires—while Wickham has more nefarious plans in mind….The abundance of guests soon puts a strain on her marriage as Elizabeth tries to manage the chaos while ensuring a happy Christmas for all.
Meanwhile, Georgiana is finding her suitors—and the prospect of coming out—to be very unappealing. Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to be the only person who understands her fondness for riding astride and shooting pistols. Georgiana realizes she’s beginning to have more than cousinly feelings for him, but does he return them? And what kind of secrets is he hiding?
Romance and merriment abound as everyone gathers to celebrate a Very Darcy Christmas.
“You barely had an opportunity to make the acquaintance of Mr. Worthy or Viscount Barrington.” Aunt Catherine gestured to the two men seated on either side of her chair. “The viscount’s ancestral estates are here in Derbyshire.”
This was at least the fourth time her aunt had relayed that information—as if propinquity would be Georgiana’s primary criterion for choosing a husband. “Indeed? How interesting,” Georgiana said as she focused on cutting her meat into smaller and smaller pieces. In truth she found Lord Robert intriguing. While Mr. Worthy was impossible in every way, the viscount was handsome and well-spoken. But Georgiana had no opportunities to speak with him alone; her aunt was always present, directing the conversation.
Lord Robert smiled and appeared ready to speak when Mr. Worthy interjected, “My family’s land is in Kent. It is very fertile.”
William seemed to catch something in his throat and coughed loudly into his napkin.
Mr. Worthy continued, oblivious. “We have implemented all of the latest techniques in crop circulation.”
One of William’s eyebrows rose. “Crop rotation?”
“Exactly!” Mr. Worthy beamed at William as if he were a small child who had solved a mathematics problem rather than a powerful landowner who had corrected the other man’s inaccurate language.
William cut his meat rather more forcefully than usual, but he said nothing.
“Mr. Worthy’s mother and I are second cousins,” Aunt Catherine intoned.
Is that the only reason Aunt Catherine is imposing this man upon me? wondered Georgiana. She could not possibly believe we would make a good match.
She would have preferred to familiarize herself with the viscount, but he had become involved in a conversation with Mr. Bennet. Richard was engaged in discourse with Mrs. Wickham. Mr. Worthy, on the other hand, regarded Georgiana like an eager puppy, awaiting her next words. I really should speak with him. Under the table she wiped damp palms on her dress. She had never claimed much expertise in the art of making conversation. But Mrs. Annesley had given her advice about it: “You may always ask the other person about his or her life. Everyone loves to talk about himself.”
That was the answer. She could ask one question, and then he would do all the talking. “What sorts of crops do you plant on your estate?” she asked him.
The man beamed at her, sitting a little straighter in his chair. “Well, in our north fields we have wheat, although the steward has suggested switching those to corn. That could increase the yield by up to twelve percent. The east fields were fallow last year, but now we have them planted with a heartier variety of potatoes. And then in the west—oh, I should add that one of the east fields is dedicated to barley because my steward thought…”
Half an hour later the occupants of one end of the table were still listening to the fascinating tales of Mr. Worthy’s adventures in crop rotation. He spoke with the superior air of someone who condescended to share great pearls of wisdom that others should be grateful to receive. Georgiana cast a sidelong glance at her brother. Although he could usually talk about agriculture for some time, even his eyes were glazing over. Of course, this was a monologue rather than a discussion.
“…Naturally, it required a great deal more irrigation.” Mr. Worthy paused to take a breath, but Georgiana had been waiting to pounce on the slightest lull.
“And what do your tenants think about such improvements?” she asked. Surely Mr. Worthy’s improvements had created a vast deal more work for them.
“The tenants?” he echoed as if he had never heard the word before.
“Have they been supportive of all the changes?” she asked. Both Richard and William were now watching with avid interest. They must have had the same thought.
“W-why yes—of-of course! I believe so…” he stammered.
In other words, he had never asked them. William always emphasized the importance of working with the tenants and involving them in any major changes on the estate. After all, it was their livelihood.
Mr. Worthy’s briefly troubled expression gave way to one of renewed enthusiasm. “Oh, and I neglected to tell you about the new fertilizer we have been experimenting with!” Georgiana cast an imploring look at her aunt, but the older woman’s eyes were closed. Good gracious, the man had managed to put her to sleep at the dining table!
This would not do. If Georgiana must tolerate the man’s ramblings, then her aunt must suffer as well. She glanced around the table for tools with which to enact a plan. Her eyes fell on a metal cover over a basket of rolls.
Reaching out her fork as if she were stretching her arms, she allowed the utensil to fall on the cover with a loud clatter. The noise startled Aunt Catherine awake with a jerk.
“As I was saying,” she declared quite loudly to Mr. Worthy, “Georgiana is an accomplished player of the pianoforte. She will oblige us with some music after dinner.”
“How wonderful!” Lord Robert chimed in. He had been speaking with Mr. Bennet on his other side but now took fresh interest in their discourse.
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Victoria Kincaid has kindly offered to give a kindle version of 'A Very Darcy Christmas' to one of you lovely people (open internationally). To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post. You can tell us what type of Christmas you hope to have, or if you have any good stories of Christmases that didn't go to plan we'd like to hear about those too! Make your comment by the end of the day on Thursday 22 December to enter and please leave a way for me to contact you in case you are the lucky winner.
Thank you so much for dropping by, Victoria!