When I wrote Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley I was hard at work on what will soon be my second full-length novel, In Doubt of Mr. Darcy. I was pretty much buried beneath a massive amount of regency-period research, the lot of which was starting to overwhelm me at the time, especially with my daughter starting third grade and having a mountain of homework each night. In short, I needed a breather before I made myself go mad and ended up needing a vacation!
At the time, it was early autumn here in the United States, which meant that one of my favorite holidays was fast approaching in October: Halloween. As it so happened, the group blog I belong to, Austen Authors, where I’ve been a member since its inception in 2010, was preparing to celebrate the spookiest month of the year as well. Several fellow authors who’d written books with a supernatural twist to them—Regina Jeffers, Mary Lydon-Simonsen, and Colette Saucier to name a few—were planning to include excerpts of their stories throughout the month, but there were a lot of slots to be filled. I started to think about how much fun it would be to contribute something in honor of the upcoming holiday. Unfortunately, the supernatural wasn’t something I’d so much as dipped my big toe into back then, but it was something I enjoyed reading, especially if there was a love story to be told.
I decided to write my own supernatural story titled Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley, which I posted periodically on the Austen Authors website throughout the month of October and into November. While several of the characters we all know and love from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice happen to be vampires (it was Halloween, after all), at the beginning there’s a bit of mystery surrounding exactly which ones share that fate. The story itself is short and sweet—in the spirit of a true novella—and I have to say, I had a lot of fun writing it.
Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley is by no means a horror story, though. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. Those of you who are familiar with my first novel, The Truth About Mr. Darcy, already know that I adore romance, and that’s exactly what Darkness Falls upon Pemberley is: a romance. With Halloween approaching, I do hope you’ll give it a try.
To tempt you, I’ve included the Prologue below. There’s also a giveaway attached to it as well—a signed paperback version of Darkness Falls upon Pemberley—which will be open worldwide.
I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Maria Grazia for having me as her guest today, and to all of you, too, for being so welcoming. It’s been a pleasure to be here!
Prologue, Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley
Many things are rarely as they seem. That much he knew. It had taken but one evening spent in her company to understand she was like no woman he’d ever encountered. There was something in her air, in her manner of speaking, in the way she moved and laughed that prevented him from dismissing her as commonplace. Miss Morton, Miss Redgrave, Miss Bingley—and dozens upon dozens of other ladies of the London ton, with their simpering attention, banal conversation, and exhausting single-mindedness—were commonplace; not Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Though they’d been acquainted less than a fortnight, Darcy had become thoroughly enamoured with her. For a man used to being his own lord and master, the development of such a strong attachment was unsettling, especially when nothing—not even the inferiority of her situation and connexions—had proven a powerful enough deterrent against the spell she’d woven.
Her intelligence was formidable and had fanned the flames of his admiration with as much ease as the teasing curve of her lips had coaxed his smile. Her wit and vivacity garnered equal veneration, as did the subtle sway of her hips whenever she entered a room, or danced a reel, or strode confidently through the countryside as though she hadn’t a care in the world.
Her complexion was flawless; her skin pale and pure, and her dark, glossy locks—whether perceived by the glow of a wax taper or the natural light of day—appeared, in Darcy’s opinion, more lustrous than the finest bolts of silk.
His fingers itched to caress her cheek, her bare shoulder, the supple swell of her breast. The hours he’d spent thinking of her, fantasizing about her, wondering whether her body might be as responsive to his touch as he’d imagined had become too numerous to count. Darcy wanted to lose himself in her eyes and become immersed in her scent. He wanted to brush his lips against the shell of her ear and whisper his deepest desires.
He longed to make her breath quicken.
He longed to make her blush.
The thought of her blush alone was enough to make his pulse race. The idea of seeing Elizabeth with a flushed countenance; of feeling the quickening of her heartbeat, and knowing it was by his hands, did sinful things to him—dangerous things; things that, as a gentleman, he could ill-afford to act upon with any lady, never mind one so utterly lovely, innocent, and trusting as Miss Elizabeth Bennet of Hertfordshire.
With an exhalation, he closed his eyes and attempted to put a rein on his heightened emotions. The last thing in the world that ought to be on Darcy’s mind was engaging in a flirtation, however deeply felt on his part; especially when his beloved younger sister was almost completely alone in the world, in isolation at his ancestral estate in Derbyshire: Pemberley.
He scowled, frustrated and bitter about the cruel situation in which they now found themselves. A few months ago Georgiana was innocent and whole, completely unspoilt by the world and any evil that dwelled in its shadows; and Darcy, though he wouldn’t go so far as to say he was happy, neither had he been miserable.
But at Ramsgate everything had changed.
Yes, he had arrived in time to save Georgiana, but not soon enough to prevent her current state, or eliminate her suffering. And though he and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam had acted swiftly to conceal her and exact retribution on the one responsible, in the end their actions were too little, too late. Georgiana was ever altered. Never again would she be the same gentle girl they’d known and loved, and yet, neither would she ever be anything else.
Darcy doubted that any man—even his good-natured friend Charles Bingley—was capable of enough selflessness and compassion to marry her. The fact that she could claim a dowry of £30,000 and ties to an ancient, though untitled family would carry no weight should Georgiana foolishly choose to confide her story to an unsuspecting suitor. In fact, the repercussions would be nothing short of catastrophic.
Should Darcy decide to take a wife the outcome would most likely be equally disastrous. Deception of any sort had always been abhorrent to him; therefore, he knew he could never in good conscience enter into an engagement without absolute honesty and full disclosure. But what if, after revealing all, his intended refused to accept or even tolerate his beloved sister? Darcy could never, would never disown Georgiana, but what if the woman he chose to spend his life with demanded it of him? What if, in a fit of anger and disgust, she told the world his sister’s darkest secret?
Perhaps he would do better to remain a bachelor than take such a risk.
His conscience, however, whispered that Elizabeth Bennet would never make such a demand of him; that her heart was too kind and her spirit too generous to behave so cruelly, either toward Georgiana or himself.
For half an hour his mind entertained impossible scenarios. Should Elizabeth ever consent to visit Pemberley Darcy could carefully introduce them. Georgiana, he knew, would take one look at Elizabeth and adore her. He was equally certain that Elizabeth, after seeing the sweetness in his sister, would undoubtedly feel the same.
But would such fledgling sentiments, however tender, survive once Elizabeth understood what his sister had so recently become? What Georgiana would always remain in the eyes of Society—nay, in the eyes of the entire world?
Darcy swallowed thickly. Would Elizabeth shun them? Or would her inherent compassion prevail, even in so hopeless a case as theirs? His practical side knew no connexion between them—either with his sister or himself—should even be considered, never mind attempted. But there was a part of him that had grown undeniably selfish, especially given the sacrifices he’d made for his sister’s sake. Was it so awful of him to wish to know such happiness as Elizabeth could bring? Would it be so terrible of him to attempt it?
He exhaled roughly and ran slightly shaking hands through his hair. It was October, he was settled comfortably at Netherfield, and, by Georgiana’s insistence, at leisure until Christmas. There is no need for rashness, he told himself, in any quarter. At least not at present…
His late father had been a firm believer that impetuosity was a mark of weakness in a man; weakness of mind and weakness of character. Until a few months ago Darcy had staunchly believed it, too, but no more. It was his impatience to see her that had ultimately enabled him to rescue Georgiana from the arms of evil. Perhaps a bit of impetuosity could now rescue Darcy as well.