* * *Thanks ever so much, Ceri, for the warm welcome to share my newfound love of magical narrations with your readers.
‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…’
Dear follower of this blog, if you remember the times when you sat listening to stories and letting the soothing voice of the reader weave its magic into your soul, then you’ll understand what I mean. No, it’s not fairytales I’m about to speak of – just a grown-up version of them :) – and not bedtime stories either (although I can easily imagine curling up under a quilt, closing my eyes and letting Elizabeth and Mr Darcy lure me from day-to-day reality and find their way into my dreams).
We might have outgrown bedtime stories, but there are so many other instances when we can let audiobooks weave their magic and accompany us on long walks, make household chores bearable if not pleasant and make us wish the traffic jam won’t be so quick in clearing or that the long car journey won’t end until we get to hear the last words of the final chapter.
I am fairly new to audiobooks, not just in terms of releasing them but listening to them as well, yet in the space of just a few months I found myself experiencing all of the above: chores were made bearable, exercise enjoyable, I spent an hour and a half in a massive traffic jam in Winchester last week and barely noticed, I drove long-distance yet wouldn’t get out of the car at the other end because I was still in the middle of the chapter.
If you already are a devotee of audiobooks then none of this will surprise you. If you haven’t explored this format yet, then the 30-days free trial might tempt you into it. In my opinion, you couldn’t find a better place to start than with books narrated by Stevie Zimmerman. Her exquisite period drama voice takes you straight into the feel of a BBC adaptation and oh my, her Mr Darcy! Especially a lovelorn Mr Darcy – the very sound of his words and thoughts will melt your heart.
If you leave a comment, you could win one of the five audio codes included in the giveaway, or if you’d rather not wait you can make use of the free trial and listen to Stevie Zimmerman tell the tale of a proposal atop a windswept cliff, of Elizabeth’s journey from duty into love or, very soon, of Mr Darcy agonising ‘This cannot be. This cannot be!’ when he learns that his rival for Elizabeth’s hand and heart is not some stranger, but his dearest, closest friend.
The lyrics of a song – not modern, but much closer to our times than Mr Darcy and his one true love – still stay with me because they have his tormented feelings in a nutshell:
I hope you’ll enjoy listening to Stevie Zimmerman’s rendition of the Regency version of an unthinkable love triangle when it’s released, or her moving production of Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter and The Falmouth Connection. Until then I hope you’ll sympathise with Mr Darcy as he learns what agonies he has brought upon himself.
The door opened noisily but, rather than slamming it shut with equal force, Fitzwilliam pressed it softly in its lock with all the skill of a well-trained footman.
“Damn. I quite forgot,” he muttered.
“What did you forget, Cousin?”
“That I was supposed to lie low in my tracks if I did not wish to be summoned for a grilling before our esteemed aunt.”
“Fear not, she has retired an hour ago, with imprecations on ungrateful wretches,” Darcy said with a smile as he refilled his glass and then filled one for his cousin.
“Voiced imprecations? Not as such. I was merely teasing— ”
“I could not care less for imprecations,” Fitzwilliam cut in, inordinately cheerful. “I was keen to know if she has retired.”
“Thank goodness. I have been lying low in my bedchamber – bless that man, Omerod. Our aunt’s butler is worth his weight in gold, Darcy, have you noticed? He uttered not a word about my having gone into hiding and sent a tray up as well, bless his heart. Not that I could touch it but still, I was most grateful for the kindness.”
“Why could you not touch it? Moreover, why on earth would you go into hiding?”
“Come now, Darcy! Have you not been tempted, at least once in a while, to evade our dearest aunt’s presence?” Fitzwilliam laughed and his inordinately gleeful manner gave Darcy pause in offering the brandy he had poured. “Her talents are well and truly wasted,” Fitzwilliam chortled. “If only she could be in command of the Royal Dragoons. I could well imagine my hardened companions quaking in their boots before her. Even that old stick, Wilson, who has seen some action on countless battlefields,” he added with an immoderate guffaw.
Having heard as much, Darcy carried his own glass to his lips, but left the other on the marble-topped sideboard. He set his own drink down and cast a smiling glance at his relation.
“Have you been drinking, Fitzwilliam?”
“Aye. The nectar of the gods. Aphrodite’s own witching brew,” his companion retorted with another chuckle.
“Honestly, Cousin! I know Lady Catherine is a trial on one’s patience, but drowning yourself at the local watering-hole is not an adequate solution. And so immoderately too. I have never seen you quite so foxed.”
A diverted smile was his first answer. Then Fitzwilliam spoke up.
“I am not foxed, Cousin.”
“Is that so? You could have fooled me,” Darcy retorted and, unseemly as it was, he brought himself to advance a step or two, until he was close enough to sniff. He sniffed, then declared in some surprise,
“I daresay you are not. So what ails you?”
“Nothing ails me,” the other replied promptly. “Quite the opposite, in fact,” he added as he picked up one of Lady Catherine’s mantelshelf ornaments to gaze at it for an uncommonly long time, then set it back only to pick another, inspect it with a gleeful snort and set it down again.
“Well, if you are determined to play the fool, then pray proceed at leisure. I shall leave you to it. I should get some sleep. I have things on my mind, something to do tomorrow,” Darcy blurted out without thinking, only to instantly curse himself for his loose tongue.
Thankfully, Fitzwilliam did not ask him what it was, but instead chuckled.
“Sleep, eh? I cannot imagine falling asleep anytime soon, myself.”
“Cousin, you are in fine fettle. You flit about, you fiddle with Lady Catherine’s porcelain, you talk in riddles. If there is anything I can do to help, pray let me know. If not, then you should seek your berth. I assume you are not in trouble, judging by your spirits, but— ”
“Trouble? You might be surprised to hear that I find myself in more trouble than ever. But so be it.”
Darcy gave up inquiring into his cousin’s meaning and poured himself another brandy. Seemingly Fitzwilliam was not about to seek his berth and whatever he might wish to say would be said in his own good time or not at all, but clearly the prodding and the questioning had no effect whatever.
“I trust you remember me laughing at— Nay, mercilessly mocking all the poor fools who would declare themselves in love,” Fitzwilliam jovially observed. “Well, I find myself reaping the rewards. Captain Henshaw would laugh himself into a fit to hear it, after all the raillery he got from me over his infatuation.”
That was new, Darcy thought. And perhaps a touch too close for comfort.
“Are you in love, Cousin?” he soberly asked.
“Worse, Darcy, worse!” the other replied, but his mien and his words were puzzlingly incongruous.
Baffled, Darcy stood aside watching his cousin pour himself a drink, then down it in one draught and turn towards him without warning.
“Can you keep a secret, Darcy? Of course you can, you were born poker-faced. I mean keeping a secret from Lady Catherine, who can be more unpleasant than the devil if she chooses, and I would rather she does not get the chance. Not to me, and particularly not to her.”
Before Darcy could ask again what or rather whom he was speaking of, Fitzwilliam burst out, clearly unable to contain himself.
“Darcy, I am engaged to be married! I proposed today and Miss Bennet had the kindness to say yes! Now, I can see that you are stunned. Before you say anything, aye, I know that in some respects this is sheer madness, since we both have precious little to live on. She is far from wealthy and so am I, but somehow things will come together. Thank goodness for Old Boney. At least my soldier’s pay will see us through for as long as the war lasts, and then I shall find a way to keep us afloat. Damme, I would even go into trade if I have to, and if this does not send my esteemed father into a fit of apoplexy, then I do not know what would. You say nothing… What, no congratulations? I am that sorry, Darcy! I was hoping to have you on my side at least. I know how wild it seems and bordering on the irresponsible. Believe you me, I did try very hard indeed to keep a clear head and tell myself this is not a prudent choice. Pater will rant and rave and others will follow, but I say hang them! I had not known her a se’nnight before I felt we were perfectly matched. I could not leave her, Darcy, and go my own way. I cannot lose her. I love her. And I was hoping that even you might come to see why. I know she does not meet with your approval in more than one regard but, for my sake, I was hoping you could overlook it and wish us joy,” Fitzwilliam concluded at last, his open countenance reflecting genuine emotion, and he stepped forward, his right hand outstretched.
From the moment that the thunder had struck, Darcy had heard less than one word in twenty. All the while, three other words screamed in his head, over and over. ‘This cannot be! This cannot be! This cannot be!’
What mockery was this – what nightmare? If it was a nightmare, then good Lord, pray let him awaken! And yet the heavens remained silent, and the nightmare raged on.
His cousin was not silent, but his words held no meaning, as though they were spoken in a foreign tongue. At long last, he stopped talking and offered him his hand.
Through nothing but numb force of habit, Darcy took it and clasped it, then abruptly excused himself, his steps carrying him faster and faster through the silent house.
‘Dead man walking – how dreadfully fitting.’ The thought flitted through his shock-struck mind, soon to be followed by disjointed, lightning-like flashes, as he walked out of the house into the pitch-dark garden. Elizabeth married to Fitzwilliam – his closest relation, in spirit if not blood. And he would see them together constantly. In town. At Ashford. And at Pemberley. Married to his cousin.
He would be expected to attend the wedding. See her at the altar pledging herself to his closest friend.
See them walk away to be man and wife together!
He gasped for breath, as though punched in the stomach – or as though he was about to be violently sick.
* * *At dawn, the Darcy carriage thundered away from Rosings.
When they finally awoke at a much more reasonable hour, short notes were handed to the Colonel and Lady Catherine to excuse – but not explain – his abrupt departure. Several months later Fitzwilliam determined that, upon reflection, this should have been his first hint that something was terribly wrong.
Please leave a comment for a chance to win one of the five audio codes or one of the two Kindle copies of my books (winner’s choice). Thanks again, Ceri, for hosting me today, and my thanks to your readers for stopping by.
* * *
Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. A medical graduate, in more recent years she has developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency Period its charm and sparkle.
Joana Starnes is the author of:
- 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 where Jane Austen's beloved characters are compelled to leave their tame and reasonably peaceful lives in the south of England and travel to the far reaches of Cornwall, into a world of deceit and peril, where few - if any! - are what they seem to be... - My review
- The Unthinkable Triangle ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation that dwells on the most uncomfortable love-triangle of them all. What if Mr. Darcy's rival for Miss Bennet's hand and heart is none other than his dearest, closest friend? And how can they all find their 'happily-ever-after'? - Guest post
- Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ a variation that explores what might have happened if the warm-hearted Miss Elizabeth Bennet were employed instead of the scheming Mrs Younge. - Guest Post / My review
- Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter - a Pride & Prejudice variation that sees Elizabeth marrying for the good of her family - but the bridegroom isn't aware of her feelings - My Review
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 or Twitter.
* * *Giveaway Time!
Thank you so much to Joana for the post and the giveaway!
If you can't wait for the giveaway to listen to one of the audio books then they are available to buy now.
Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter Audiobook
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