I’m really pleased to welcome Jayne Bamber back to Babblings of a Bookworm with her new Pride & Prejudice variation, Five Daughters Out at Once. I love that Jayne comes up with ideas that I haven’t seen anywhere else before and this book is no exception. Let’s look at the blurb and then I’ll hand over to Jayne for a guest post.Book Description
After the untimely death of their parents, Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters are left to make their own way in the world, and the dubious decision to stay at Longbourn until they are forced out leads to chaos and confrontation two years later, when their cousin Mr. Collins comes to claim his inheritance.
Hot on his heels is his noble patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, a woman consumed by grief of her own after the loss of her husband and daughter in a terrible fire at her estate, Rosings Park. While her nephew Mr. Darcy is shocked by his aunt’s interest in the five orphaned girls, her niece Georgiana thinks it just the thing to soothe the dowager’s low spirits. Moved by the bonds of sorrow and a shared contempt of Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine offers the Bennet sisters her protection and assistance in society – and what better way to help them than to find them all rich husbands?
Much to her chagrin, Lady Catherine is not the only one to meddle in Meryton’s marriage mart – Richard Fitzwilliam joins her, at leisure to make mischief, Charlotte Lucas, now an heiress in her own right, has a secret of her own, and Georgiana Darcy finds herself inspired to write a novel that will document – and change – the lives of her new friends.
Tensions rise between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy as they both bristle at Lady Catherine’s plans – for very different reasons. Misapprehension and misunderstandings abound and plans go awry as the great lady rents Netherfield Park and hosts a horde of single gentlemen in possession of good fortunes, who must be in want of wives.
Will the Bennet sisters find love and happiness? What other Austen heroes and rakes might appear in the once dull village of Meryton? Will Darcy and Lizzy overcome the obstacles of their own making?
Hello Dear Readers, it is a pleasure to be back at Babblings of a Bookworm to share more details of my new release, Five Daughters Out At Once.
This Pride & Prejudice Variation begins badly, and gets worse – as is right for an Austen tale. First, tragedy strikes in Meryton, and then at Rosings – two terrible, seemingly unrelated fires. Bingley never rents Netherfield, and Mr. Collins comes to put his cousins in the hedgerows. But just as it seems the late, lamented Mrs. Bennet’s worse fears are coming to pass, Lady Catherine de Bourgh comes to the rescue. Having lost her own daughter, she takes in the five Bennet sisters and rents Netherfield Park.
In the excerpt I am sharing today, Mr. Darcy attempts to make an apology to Elizabeth, having been taken to task for his boorishness by his snarky sidekick Colonel Fitzwilliam – who, you shall see, has a side-story of his own in the works once he arrives in Hertfordshire…
Darcy slowly paced the length of the library, his hands behind his back as he surveyed the room. The windows had been washed and the curtains pulled open; the drowsy sunlight of late afternoon filled the room, creating a haze near the windows where the dust, churned up by so much activity, still hung in the air. He let out a soft hum as he observed this phenomenon, admiring the simple whimsy of it.
His attention was recalled to the task at hand, the bustle of servants pulling him from his own abstraction. A footman heaped a stack of books on a cluttered table near the center of the room, and then looked to Darcy for direction. “This is the last of them, sir. How shall we arrange them all?”
“These empty shelves here, by the windows,” Darcy said. “Alphabetically will do for now.” He had wanted to sort the books more effectively, separating them all by subject matter, but this had proved a near impossible undertaking; the temptation to peruse each one had been too great for Darcy, and he had indulged for the better part of an hour before recollecting the time. He knew not when Elizabeth might return from her visit to Lucas Lodge, but he wanted her to see his effort to best advantage.
Richard sauntered into the room and stopped in a posture of exaggerated surprise. “Good God, Darcy, I did not think you were quite serious.”
“You have often berated me for never being otherwise.”
“You contradict yourself even now – I think that was actually a joke!”
Darcy smiled. The approbation of his cousin nearly equaled the satisfaction of righting a wrong – two wrongs, in fact. “Mr. Bennet’s collection will be far more valued here than it would be at Longbourn, and some of these books are precious treasures indeed – his taste was excellent. Certainly they would be wasted on the blockhead Collins.”
“Admit it, you did it for her.”
Darcy clenched his jaw and looked away. “You think it an adequate apology?” Though he wanted some validation, Darcy was proud of his own insight. He would show Elizabeth that he understood her affection for Longbourn and for her family, and that he respected her mind and her spirit.
“I have no doubt it will make her happy – and I am glad that is something you wish to do,” Richard observed. “I have heard it said that the best apology is changed behavior.”
Darcy nodded again. “How different this room looks, in the light of day, than it did the first night we were here. It has taken some little effort, but how much more agreeable it is now.”
Richard clapped him on the back. “Good man.” The noise in the corridor signaled the imminent approach of their aunt and her bevy of Bennets; Richard moved away to assist with the arranging of books, leaving Darcy to receive all of Lady Catherine’s exclamations.
“My nephew! Good Heavens, how can you bear the dust in here? You, there, open the windowpanes – this is really most insupportable – ah, but what is this?”
Georgiana joined them, emerging from behind the youngest Bennet girls with an expression of muted merriment. “William!”
“Did you enjoy your excursion to the village?”
“Very much. We explored all the shops and found most of the novels we were wanting.”
Darcy smiled at the youngest sisters, casting a desperate glance around for Elizabeth – she was not among them. His eyes alighted on the other two sisters, and he made a small gesture of acknowledgement. “I trust you have been equally diverted.”
“Oh, yes,” the eldest Miss Bennet answered him serenely.
Miss Mary had already wandered away to examine the stacks of books still piled in the center of the room. She opened the cover of one, perceived her father’s name plate inside, and looked up in happy astonishment. “These are from Longbourn!”
Miss Lydia and Miss Catherine clustered around her, followed by Georgiana and Miss Bennet, and Darcy watched with a swelling heart as they all began to talk over one another with genuine joy. His aunt looked from Darcy to Richard, and then back to Darcy – he could see her silently decide at last that it had been his notion, and with a nod of her head she gave her silent approbation.
Darcy moved closer to address his aunt. “I do not mean to seem inquisitive, Aunt, but have you not acquired five Bennet sisters? I fear you have left one behind in the village.”
She answered his jest with a wry smile and said, “Miss Lizzy did not come to Meryton with us – she went to call on her particular friend at Lucas Lodge.”
Richard dropped the stack of books he was carrying and Miss Lydia let out a loud squawk, for she had been following him so closely that she was obliged to jump backward as the books spilled out of his arms. Miss Mary was also standing nearby, and she tried to catch some of the books as they fell, but she only collided with her sister, startling Miss Catherine into a sudden fit of coughing. Georgiana observed them all with indecorous laughter, and Miss Bennet let out a faint gasp of surprise.
“Richard, for Heaven’s sake, let the footmen do that – there is no need for such exertion, when you do not excel in your pursuit,” Lady Catherine said. “Jane, my dear, I am sure Hill said that Lizzy had already returned – but she cannot sulk in her room again!”
“I am sure she would be delighted to see such a sight as this,” Miss Bennet replied. “I shall go and fetch her directly.”
As Miss Bennet hurried from the room, Richard recovered himself and came to stand beside Darcy. “I hope nothing has distressed her.”
Lady Catherine curled her lips. “Miss Lizzy is shilly-shallying about some moral quandary of her own invention – it is really quite shocking, and I am sorry to see her brought so low in spirit by a man utterly inferior in every regard.”
“Indeed!” Richard affected a pose of concern, but gave his cousin a sly wink.
“If she would only put it out of her mind,” their aunt huffed. “I have never let such things vex me, and I am sure I should not have gotten half so far in the world if I had! Truly, I have never observed such fastidious conscience amongst the upper classes, and I would be quite put out if I ever did.”
“You refer to her dealings at Longbourn?”
“Indeed, Fitzwilliam. I appreciate her intrepid endeavors all the more for how they have confounded Mr. Collins, though I should rather have been spared hearing of his indignation first-hand. That odious man cannot be permitted to continue accosting every lady in the county – we encountered one Mrs. Perkins in the village today, who was another recipient of his wrath, poor woman! And she told us that the blackguard tried to impose himself on poor Miss Lucas – he actually asked her to marry him.”
“Who has proposed to Miss Lucas?” Elizabeth entered the room with wide eyes and a pert smile, and came to stand next to Darcy as Richard started coughing and retreated to the open window.
“I knew all this dust was an ill thing,” Lady Catherine cried.
“Who has proposed to Charlotte? I just left her a few hours ago,” Elizabeth said. With charming curiosity, she laid her hand on Lady Catherine’s arm and leaned in closer to the woman. “I understand she refused two proposals in her younger days, though we were not so well acquainted then, and I had not the liberty of an intimate friend, in demanding to know all her nearest concerns. But if there has been a third, I am surely entitled now to hear every particular.” She grinned at her own irreverence, and for a moment she met Darcy’s eye, giving him some share in her mirth, before recollecting herself.
“I am sure your affection for your friend must compel you to rejoice that you shall not be obliged to call her cousin,” Lady Catherine said drily.
“Mr. Collins!” Elizabeth gasped.
“The poor man is quite at his wits’ end, it seems,” Lady Catherine sniffed. “But we had better say no more about it – if she would not confide in you, I am sure it would only embarrass her to discover that we know of it at all. I should not like her to be uncomfortable at dinner – but do say she will be joining us!”
“It took rather more persuasion than I had anticipated, but I begin to see why,” Elizabeth replied. Her bright eyes met Darcy’s once more, and he desperately wished he might say something profound enough to hold her attention.
Before he could speak, Miss Bennet was calling Elizabeth’s attention away from them. “Lizzy, look!”
Elizabeth darted away to join her elder sister, and she cried out with delight as she realized what she was being shown. Darcy was content to watch her react to his peace offering. She ran her hands reverently over several stacks of books, and upon seeing one that put an especially tender smile upon her face, she lifted it up and leaned in just a little to smell the aged pages. She looked up then, her eyes moist and sparkling as she cradled the book; she perceived Darcy staring at her. Her cheeks flushed pink and she abruptly spun around to speak with Miss Lydia and Georgiana, still clutching the volume of poetry tightly to her chest.
Richard moved to join Darcy and their aunt again; for a minute they silently observed the young ladies chattering over so many dusty old tomes, and Darcy began to understand why his aunt had taken such pleasure in becoming the Bennet sisters’ benefactress. Their liveliness was a spectacle unlike the daily life he had been accustomed to, but there was an endearing quality to the chaotic way the sisters all interacted with one another. Already Georgiana had been pulled into their orbit, and she appeared so glad to be a part of their hubbub that Darcy considered he might be willing to overlook some degree of impropriety for the sake of his sister’s happiness – for the happiness of them all.
Darcy smiled to himself as Elizabeth bid the footmen to allow her to arrange the books as she liked – she declared they must be sorted by subject and placed on the shelves as near to the way they had been at Longbourn as she could manage. “Not too neatly,” she laughed as Miss Bennet swatted at her. “There must be some little disarray, for pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked.”
Elizabeth’s wide smile was augmented by some tears of joy, and in such a state of bliss, she turned toward Darcy and his relations once more. “I cannot recall when I was last so utterly and pleasantly surprised,” she cried – but this effusion was addressed to his aunt, and not Darcy.
Lady Catherine seemed not to mind Elizabeth’s error, and stepped forward to be further acknowledged. Elizabeth kissed her on the cheek and then, in an impulsive gesture, she threw her arms around the dowager, letting out a breathy giggle. “I should never have thought of such a thing myself – but now it seems just what I needed to lift my spirits. Ah, but I am such a watering pot!”
Elizabeth dabbed at her eyes with her fingertips for a moment, and then reached into her pocket and retrieved a handkerchief – one that looked all too familiar to Darcy. After wiping her cheeks, Elizabeth seemed to recollect herself; she looked at Darcy’s handkerchief in some confusion and stuffed it back into her pocket. Her eyes met his but for a moment before she abruptly quit the room, carrying with her a volume of Coleridge and a small but significant piece of Darcy’s inexplicably shattered heart.
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Darcy and Lizzy have a rocky road ahead, but their will not be the only HEA in this story. Stay tuned for more excerpts and more chances to enter the giveaway!
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Awwww! Love the excerpt!
Five Daughers Out at Once is available to pre-order now for Kindle.
Jayne Bamber is giving away 5 ebooks of Five Daughters Out at Once over the blog tour. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter.
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