Maria Grace is back with a lovely holiday story, Unexepcted Gifts. We are all invited to join the Darcys and celebrate the Yuletide with them. Let's spend the most romantic time of the year with the most romantic couple of all time! Read Maria Grace's guest post introducing the excerpt she has graciously granted us and discover more on the entire series!
Thank you, Maria Grazia for hosting me at My Jane Austen Book Club. I love to write holiday stories. In the past, I’ve done holiday romances—I mean who doesn’t love a feel-good holiday romance, right? But somehow that didn’t feel quite right this year.
With all this this year has brought, I wanted to write about some of the other relationships that come to the fore during the holiday, friends and family—particularly difficult ones. The holidays just seem to bring out all those rough edges and leave us at risk for rubbing each other the wrong way. They also offer us a great opportunity for making things right between us and them. That seemed to be a very appropriate place to dwell this year.
I didn’t have to look to long or hard at the Darcy family to identify places were prickliness was likely: Lady Catherine, Lady Matlock, Lydia, even Charlotte Lucas might harbor some serious resentments towards Elizabeth and Darcy. So that became to foundation for this collection of three holiday short stories.
They may make you laugh, make you think, and might even make you cry, but they will definitely leave you with the warm fuzzy holiday vibe that we all so need right now!
This is the fourth book in the Darcy Family Christmas series. Remember to check out the other three!
Here’s a little excerpt:
“You seem deep in thought.” Darcy sipped his coffee and caught her gaze over his cup, holding it like an embrace.
Heat crept into her cheeks. It was a silly, dear little habit they had developed, one of any number of endearing rituals they indulged in. Who would have thought him so sentimental?
“Just pondering my morning chocolate.” She swirled the tall, narrow cup, careful to avoid splashing drops on the pale-yellow sleeve of her morning gown.
“Is it not to your liking?” A narrow crease appeared between his eyebrows.
“I like it very well indeed. It is different to what we had at Longbourn, and I was just trying to puzzle out the differences.” She set her cup on its delicately railed saucer and batted her eyes at him.
“Such a lively mind I married.” He chuckled warmly. He did that more often now. A year of marriage had been good for him. For both of them.
Mrs. Reynolds, a petite bundle of efficiency and energy, peeking out from under a frilly mobcap, appeared in the doorway, a silver tray in her hands. “An express just arrived for you, sir. It is from Rosings Park.”
He jumped and sat up very straight, as though Lady Catherine had walked into the room herself. There was something about that woman that agitated him beyond anyone else. It was true, she was irritating, condescending, and overbearing, but those were flaws he overlooked in his other relations. No, there was something unique in his aunt that provoked him inexplicably. Perhaps it had something to do with Lady Anne.
Mrs. Reynolds held the tray out for him, and he scooped up the letter. He stared at it just a moment, almost as though he was debating burning the offending paper without even opening it. With a hard blink, his brows knotted into resolve, and he broke the seal.
He would probably labor over the letter for some time. Elizabeth returned to her list. Christmas dinner at Pemberley was not a thing to be taken lightly, particularly any changes to the traditional menu. Though Mrs. Reynolds had the affair well in hand, there were a few dishes she would like to see on the table. Longbourn’s menus hardly compared to Pemberley’s, but there were a handful of her mother’s receipts that simply tasted like Christmas that she longed to enjoy again. There was something Hill added to the syllabub—
Darcy grumbled and muttered under his breath, tossing the letter to the side. “Well, my dear, it seems we have been paid back for the gift you insisted we send to Rosings.”
“Gift?” She dropped her pencil. “I do not have the privilege of understanding you, my dear. I recall no gift dispatched there.”
He leaned back, arms folded across his chest, wrinkling the knot in his starched cravat. “I remember it quite clearly. You were the one who insisted we inform her of our happy expectations.”
“Oh, that! I had no idea you—or she—would conceive of that as a gift. It seemed rather appropriate news to share now that we have solid expectations.” She folded her hands over her increasing belly. The baby within responded with a little kick, as if to say he—or she, though Elizabeth felt certain this one was a boy—was listening to his parent’s conversation.
Surely, they were far enough along to be able to share such news. This would not be like last time.
“I do not see how informing her was anything but a gift.” His lip curled back in that particular way reserved for discussions regarding Lady Catherine.
“You are still angry with her over her slights at Easter?”
He huffed and snorted. “Indeed I am. Her insults and implications toward you are nigh on intolerable.”
That was probably not the only reason he was irked, but it was the only one he would admit to. “Do not let her work you into a lather. She is an old woman and very set in her ways. One cannot take what she says too personally. “
“Slights toward you are personal.”
Indeed, they were. Still, though, if one took a moment to consider it, they really were no worse than the things Mama was apt to say. “I grant you that, but the more attention you give them, the more personal they become. Just ignore them, as I do, and you will find interacting with her much more tolerable.”
His lips wrinkled and he rolled his eyes. “I suppose I will have little alternative but to follow your advice.”
“I am sure I should appreciate that sentiment, but there is something in your voice—”
“You are as astute as ever, but I expect nothing less from you.” He reached for his coffee and took a long draw from it—how could he tolerate the black bitter stuff?— as though trying to delay answering. “It seems Aunt Catherine has decided to repay our gift in kind.”
“A gift? From Lady Catherine?”
“Her exact words were ‘A gift from Rosings Park.’”
“How astonishing, and I must say, a little unsettling. Have you any idea of what it means or what to expect?” Gifts could be tricky things, especially from someone like her.
“None whatsoever. I have never had a gift from her, nor has anyone I know, save gifts of obligation, of course. But that is not all.”
“Indeed? What else could there be?” The baby kicked again, as though he did not approve more than his father did.
“She demands our presence at Rosings to receive her largesse.” He lifted the letter and waved it slightly.
“So, then we need not deal with this until Easter …” She relaxed a little into her well-padded chair.
He huffed. “You do not think it could be so simple. She insists that we be present at Rosings Park for the yuletide.”
“She wants us to travel now?” And spend Christmas at Rosings Park, not Pemberley? Their plans for Christmas dinner had not been firmly set, but still, that was an odd request to come so late in the season.
“Immediately, it would seem.”
She wrapped her arms around her belly. “Has she forgotten—”
“The nature of your condition? Not, not at all. She references it directly. Let me read.” He sat up very straight, his voice became just a mite nasal and his face drew up like he smelt something dreadful. “‘The journey might be uncomfortable with Elizabeth’s increase, but it cannot be helped. Take an extra day, even two if you need in order to arrive, but neither of you may be excused from attending. I request, nay, insist upon your presence at Rosings no later than December twenty four. I will not take ‘no’ for an answer, nor can this audience be postponed. Your usual rooms will be waiting for you.’”
Something about the way he said it left the hair on the back of her neck prickling. “Heavens! I think a royal summons would be no less forceful.”
“I think His majesty would be more polite.”
She snickered under her breath. He was probably right.
“What do you think? I will not insist that you travel under these conditions. No matter what she demands, I will not put you at risk.” His expression turned very serious. Their loss last winter had left him ever so cautious, but it was difficult to argue.
“I know you would not, which is exactly why I can contemplate the matter with a clear mind.” She chewed her lip. “I do not expect I will be able to travel with you at Easter, so it will be quite some time before I will see her again. I am not so ungainly—or uncomfortable—now to make the coach unmanageable. If we take an extra day to travel, I think it will be tolerable. I am willing to go.”
“Are you certain?” He leaned forward on his elbow.
“Yes. If nothing else, Lady Catherine has piqued my curiosity. You know that once that happens, there is no stopping me until it is satisfied.”
Yuletide 1814, the Darcys are celebrating their third wedding anniversary and the baby Elizabeth is expecting. Overprotective and perhaps overbearing, Darcy is ready to do anything for Elizabeth’s comfort, including defying the will of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh who demands their presence to bestow a gift that absolutely cannot wait.
What sort of gift is so urgent it cannot wait for a more auspicious time?
Christmastide 1815, the Darcys hope for a particular sort of joy to bring a close to a dark and difficult season. It only seems fitting that an unexpected—and unwelcome—guest disrupts their small family house party. Could the unexpected gift they bring be the key to the fulfillment of the Darcys’ most heartfelt desires?
Other titles in the series
Darcy and Elizabeth: Christmas 1811
Jane Austen never wrote the details of Christmastide 1811. What might have happened during those intriguing months?
Following the Netherfield ball, Darcy persuades Bingley to leave Netherfield Park in favor of London to avoid the match-making machinations of Mrs. Bennet. Surely, the distractions of town will help Bingley forget the attractions of Miss Jane Bennet. But Bingley is not the only one who needs to forget. All Darcy wants this Christmastide is to forget another Miss Bennet.
Can the diversions of London help Darcy overcome memories of the fine eyes and pert opinions of a certain Hertfordshire miss?
Without the Bingleys, the Bennets are left to the company of Mr. Collins and the militia officers—entirely suitable company, according Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth disagrees, refusing an offer of marriage from the very eligible Mr. Collins. Mama’s nerves suffer horridly until Elizabeth follows her advice to make the most of the officers’ company.
Even Mr. Bennet seems to agree. So, whilst Jane pines for Bingley, Elizabeth admits the attentions of one agreeable Lt. Wickham. What possible harm can it cause, especially when her parents are so pleased?
The Darcys' First Christmas
Elizabeth anxiously anticipates her new duties as mistress of Pemberley. Darcy is confident of her success, but she cannot bring herself to share his optimism.
Unexpected guests unsettle all her plans and offer her the perfect Christmastide gift, shattered confidence.
Can she and Darcy overcome their misunderstandings and salvage their first Christmastide together?
From the award winning author of Given Good Principles, Remember the Past and Mistaking Her Character, Sweet Tea short stories offer the perfect bite to transport readers back to the Regency era for the first days of new love.
From Admiration to Love
After the debacle of the previous holiday season, Darcy and Elizabeth joyfully anticipate Christmastide 1813, Georgiana’s come out at Pemberley’s Twelfth Night Ball culminating the season. With months of planning behind the event, even Lady Matlock is satisfied and sends Colonel Fitzwilliam to represent the family, assuring there will be no repeat of the previous Christmastide.
On St. Nicholas’, Anne de Bourgh and Lady Catherine arrive on Pemberley’s doorstep—never a good sign—demanding sanctuary against the de Bourghs who (according the Lady Catherine) are trying to retake Rosings Park for their family with plans to seduce and marry Anne. Needless to say, Darcy and Fitzwilliam are skeptical.
Not long afterwards, three gentlemen suitors appear at Pemberley, hoping to court Anne and obliging Darcy to offer holiday hospitality. Anne adores the attention whilst Lady Catherine makes her displeasure know, throwing Pemberley into turmoil that threatens the Twelfth Night Ball. Can Darcy and Elizabeth, with a little help from Fitzwilliam, soothe Lady Catherine’s nerves, see Anne to a respectable match, and still salvage Georgiana’s come out?
About the author
Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.
She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.
She can be contacted at author.MariaGrace@gmail.com