ABOUT THE BOOK
The wind ruffled Darcy’s hair. “You’re beautiful.”
Happiness surged through Elizabeth's body like electricity. This moment was as close to perfection as she had ever known.
1943. World War II has torn the continent since 1939 and tested families, the Bennets included. Elizabeth and Jane nurse wounded soldiers and civilians in a London hospital. The other sisters volunteer as best suits their inclinations. Mr. Bennet rattles about Longbourn. Wickham sniffs about the edges of the estate—and the Bennet daughters.
Even the ever-present threat of death from the skies cannot prepare Jane and Lizzy for the most devastating news. The words one never wishes to hear are delivered by two officers, each scarred by years on the front lines. In the dark days that follow, devotion is tested, and affection blooms.
Kiss Me Good Night, Major Darcy drops Jane Austen’s timeless characters into the midst of the most horrific conflict in human history. Their trail twists and encounters those who would turn sacrifice to their profit. Follow the women of Longbourn as they navigate the rocks and shoals of wartime Great Britain to endure misunderstandings and discover lasting love.
My name is Eve Barnes, and I write for a local paper here in Westerham. Today I am interviewing Mrs. Charlotte Collins, neé Lucas, wife of Mr. William Collins, to find out what life is like for the wife of a rector in rural Kent during these challenging war times.
Eve: Mrs. Collins, so lovely to meet you.
Charlotte: The feeling is mutual. I’m so honored that you chose to interview me for the Westerham Gazette.
E: Our readers will be very interested to know how you’re managing in your particular circumstances, so let’s dive in. I understand you have several children boarding with you at the moment.
C. Yes, refugees from London.
E. Can you tell me a little about them?
C. Oh, they are divine, every one of them. There are five: two teenagers, Kathy and Freddy, and three young siblings, Terry, Betsy, and Steven. Freddy, sadly, was orphaned in the Blitz. He was already with us when it happened, so that was very hard. He’s soldiering on though—as brave a boy as I’ve ever known.
E. And you have your own little one as well, is that right?
C. Yes, Willa, who’s just two. She is my pride and joy.
E. How do you manage the finances with the rationing rules as they are and so many mouths to feed?
C. It’s not easy, but we make do as we all must these days. We have a flourishing garden which we rely on, and my husband keeps chickens for eggs and the occasional stew.
E. Yes, Mr. William Collins. What more can you tell me about him?
C. He is…very dedicated to his patronessLady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings. We owe much to her, including the leftovers that she is condescending enough to send over to us from their table.
E. You use the word, “condescending.” Am I to understand that help from Rosings is sent begrudgingly?
C. Oh, no, no. I would never imply that. Lady Catherine is most generous.
E. I see. May I get personal with you, Mrs. Collins?
C. It depends.
E. I see from your smile that you may be willing to indulge me. Can you tell me, as an immigrant—from Jamaica—is that right?
E. Did you find it hard to fit in to British society? Have you met with any…I might use the word…prejudice?
C. That’s a difficult question to answer. I never did, no, nor did my family, as long as we lived in Hertfordshire. Well, I mean, my parents still live there. It’s a wonderful community, there in the Meryton neighborhood. Everyone is very accepting and have always been very welcoming. It is a bit different here in Kent.
E. I sense there’s something you’re not telling me.
C. I cannot comment further, I’m sorry.
E. I understand. Let’s move on. Tell me about the duties of a rector’s wife.
C. Of course, I attend services every Sunday with the children. When I can, I visit the sick of the parish—though now it’s difficult with so many young ones to tend to here at home. And, I help William finesse his sermons.
E. That must be interesting.
E. I see. Answer me this then: what would you say is the most fulfilling aspect of your life and what is the most challenging?
C. Hmmm, those are good questions. The most fulfilling aspect of my life is the children. Definitely the children. We were so blessed to have the five that came to us from London, plus, of course, Willa. They are a joy to me every day. They are a handful, yes, but it’s just the kind of bustle I love having in my life. The most challenging aspect…is, in some ways, related, which is keeping them out of William’s way so he can do his work and study his religious texts unhindered.
E. Do you plan to have more children of your own?
C. If God chooses to bless us, yes.
E. I hope that will be the case. Thank you so much for sharing your world with the readers.
C. Thank you for your interest in our humble little life here at Hunsford.
E. Please send my personal regards to Lady Catherine.
C. I certainly will.
NOW READ AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Read an excerpt from the book
They were greeted at the door by a butler and led to an elegant sitting room with high ceilings and walls covered with paintings,dark-hued with centuries of aging varnish. Sitting by the fire was a lady of advanced age dressed all black with white lace trim on her Edwardian-era gown. Pale and thin and wearing a shapeless dress of deep navy, a young woman sat nearby. She was not quite within arm’s reach but close enough to be held captive by the gravity of the lady’s personality. Mr. Collins bowed deeply upon entering the room, and Charlotte did her duty with a quick but shallow curtsey. Lizzy, never having met a person who held herself in such high esteem, or been in any house finer than Netherfield, followed suit, not sure what else to do.
“Who is this young woman?” Lady Catherine asked, waving an imperious hand toward Lizzy.
“Allow me to introduce my cousin Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn,” Mr. Collins replied.
“Very pleased to meet you,” Lizzy said with a smile.
Lady Catherine nodded.
“And her daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh.”
The young woman dipped her chin. Lizzy nodded in return. “It’s my pleasure.” Even if these great ladies did not feel inclined towards pleasantries, there was no reason she should play their game.
After a thorough inspection of Elizabeth’s person, Lady Catherine spoke. “We have the honor of my nephew’s presence tonight,” she said, gesturing across the room. “I don’t think you’ve met him, Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Allow me to introduce Major Fitzwilliam Darcy.”
Elizabeth had to force herself not to gape. She was momentarily embarrassed because she was wearing the same dress that he had seen her wear to the dance. Then she controlled her traitorous emotions! New clothes, let alone evening wear, were impossible to obtain. She smiled. “Major Darcy and I already know each other. He was a great help to my sister and me when we learned of her fiancé’s death. It was he and Captain Bingley who took it upon themselves to fulfill Captain Duncan’s final wishes.”
“Oh, that’s the one,” Charlotte whispered in Lizzy’s ear. Lizzy had shared all that had transpired surrounding Robert’s death plus the later incident at the dance hall.
Lizzy genially dug her elbow into Charlotte’s ribs.
Major Darcy approached them with alacrity and shook hands all around.
“This is my cousin Mr. Collins,” Elizabeth said to him, “and his wife, my dear friend Charlotte.”
“Lady Catherine has spoken of you highly,” he offered. “Come, please sit down.” He gestured to the sofas and chairs facing Lady Catherine and her daughter.
Collins hauled Charlotte across the room in his hurry to comply. Elizabeth moved along at a more measured pace. Darcy took the opportunity to escort her.
As they approached the seated circle, Elizabeth’s relief at seeing him found her voice. “Major Darcy, I’m pleased to see you’ve emerged from Normandy unscathed. What a terrible time it’s been. And Captain Bingley? Is he well?”
“Yes, I’m happy to say he is. We’re on a brief leave while the army regroups for the next phase of the war. I hope I’m not being overly optimistic to say this, but I think we have the Germans on the run.” Major Darcy seemed more relaxed than usual.
“I’m in the reserves, you know,” Mr. Collins piped up, proudly adding, “ready to be called up as chaplain if I’m needed.”
“Well, let us hope it doesn’t come to that,” Lady Catherine said, dismissing the topic. “Elizabeth, you seem a bold girl. I remember when Mr. Collins went up to Hertfordshire to meet you and your family. He came away with the impression that you are all a wild bunch.”
“If I may, Elizabeth,” said Major Darcy with a smile. He turned to his aunt. “I’ve met the whole family—” he began.
“Save my sister Mary,” Lizzy corrected him.
“Ah. Yes. And I can say with authority that ‘wild’ is not an appropriate adjective. ‘Spirited’ sums up the energy of the Bennet women. A delightful group, all of them.”
Elizabeth looked at him, surprised.
“Humph,” Lady Catherine replied, casting a sidelong glance at Charlotte. “I remember Mr. Collins saying that neither you nor your elder sister was inclined toward marriage at the time of his visit. A pity.”
Elizabeth wondered what she meant by this.
“In better times,” the lady continued, “your house and property would have been entailed to Mr. Collins, the only male heir of the family, and you would have done well to marry him. Otherwise, when your father died and your estate passed to him, you girls would have been left destitute.”
Lizzy raised her brows at this. “Well, I suppose it’s best these are not better times.The times we live in now seem more civilized. What a terrible thing for an inheritance to be left to whatever male relative happens to be knocking about. An estate should be left estate to the children, male or female.”
Lady Catherine almost smiled. “I don’t know that I can entirely disagree with you. My sister, who was Fitzwilliam’s mother”—she gestured at Major Darcy—“and I were fortunate enough to be the recipients of my parents’ considerable fortune after they passed. We had no brothers, and Mother and Father were not inclined to allow family money to pass to any other male relative.”
“There, you see?” said Elizabeth.
“Lady Catherine went on in her booming voice. “Yes, these are astonishing times in which we live. Automobiles, telephones, radios, and airplanes: these things have become commonplace. In my youth, though we did own a motorcar, we mostly went on our daily visits by horse-drawn carriage and played music ourselves on the pianoforte if we wanted it. Though I do confess, the gramophone was a handy invention when it came along.” She gestured to the ancient device with its large horn and crank, sitting on an ornate stand in the corner of the room. “We used it to dance to many a lively tune, your mother and I.” She directed the latter at Darcy.
He nodded while Lizzy wondered whether anyone used the contraption now that they had more modern versions of it.
The conversation stalled until Charlotte spoke up. “Major Darcy, I wonder whether you would show Elizabeth the library. She loves to read, and I’m sure would be most impressed with the collection.”
Lizzy smiled to herself. It was Charlotte’s way of getting Lizzy at least a brief tour of Rosings.
“Oh yes!” cried Lady Catherine. “It is the finest library in the county, I daresay. Show the young lady.”
“I’ll go if you come along with us, Charlotte,” said Lizzy, disconcerted by the thought of being alone with Darcy.
“Of course,” Charlotte said, rising from her chair.
“Mr. Collins, Anne, and I will be most comfortable here,” said Lady Catherine.
“I’ll go too,” said Anne, standing.
“But Anne, the library is drafty. You might catch a chill.”
“I’ll be fine, Mother,” Anne replied.
“This way,” said Darcy, gesturing with his hand.
A doorway led to a corridor that opened out into a long gallery. More paintings, mostly of dour-looking people in ancient costumes, hung on the wall.
“Are these the de Bourgh ancestors?” Lizzy asked.
“Yes. Do you know who they all are, Anne?” Major Darcy queried.
She spoke in a quiet voice but one tinged with humor. “Yes, but it would bore you, Miss Bennet.”
Elizabeth smiled at Anne, and Anne included Charlotte in the smile she returned.
At the far end of the gallery, another large, carved-wood doorway led them into a vast room lined from floor to ceiling with books. It was furnished with formal chairs and tables like the rest of what Elizabeth had seen in her few moments at Rosings. This book room bespoke its owner’s prestige rather than wishing to be a cozy place to snuggle down with a favorite novel. A fire burned in a large fireplace on one wall but did not warm the room.
“Have you read many of these, Miss de Bourgh?” Charlotte asked.
“Some, yes. My collection is separate from my mother’s.” She led them to a wall and pointed out two long, middle shelves. There were maybe two hundred books there.
“It’s rather impressive,” said Lizzy.
“Are you a big reader, Elizabeth?” Major Darcy asked.
“I am,” she replied.
Then she threw him a mischievous glance. “Do you disapprove?”
“Why would I disapprove?”
“Because men generally don’t like bookish girls. Or so I’ve heard.”
“Anne enjoys reading,” he stated. “Would you call her bookish?”
“Oh no…no!” Elizabeth stuttered. “I didn’t mean to say—”
“It’s all right, Miss Bennet,” Anne said gently.
“Anyway,” Darcy continued. “I like a woman who is well-read. It means they are intelligent.”
“Yet reading is not the only sign of intelligence,” Charlotte remarked. “My little Betsy has trouble distinguishing b’s from d’s and m’s from n’s, that sort of thing, which makes reading slow going for her. But it’s clear she’s remarkably bright.”
“She’s lucky to have such a patient teacher,” said Anne.
Charlotte beamed at her.
Darcy bowed to Charlotte. “I stand corrected, Mrs. Collins.”
This was too good an opportunity for Elizabeth to ignore. She arched her brow. “Did you not think I was intelligent until just now? Did discovering that I like to read change your opinion?”
“I knew you owned a fine mind from the first moment I saw you,” he parried without pause. “Your eyes told me.”
“They reflected your quick wit.”
“I’m glad to have your approbation.”
“I didn’t mean to imply—”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Georgina Young-Ellis lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Jon, who is an artist and professor of Media Arts. In 2015, they moved from New York City, where they lived for eighteen years, to Portland Oregon. Their son, a professional musician and sound engineer, still lives in Brooklyn. Georgina is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and was a stage actress for many years. Born and raised in the Southwest, she went to school in New York, graduating from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. She’s also a language professor and, of course, a writer, recently graduating from Portland State University with a master’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature. In 2022 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to identify and connect with emerging female writers in Mexico and support them to free their literary voices.
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