Hello dear readers, was your holiday season good, relaxing and rewarding?I really hope so. Did you manage to read anything new and good? I have an Austen-inspired new release to recommend. Let's welcome Christine Combe back to My Jane Austen Book Club, shall we? Scroll down and discover more about Three Brides for Three Cousins, her sixth JAFF novel. We'll be waiting for your messages and ideas in the comment section. MG
Thank you for having me, Maria Grazia— I am so very happy to be stopping by today. Greetings fellow Austenians! I am very excited to be visiting My Jane Austen Book Club once again to talk about my latest novel, Three Brides for Three Cousins. This is the sixth JAFF novel I’ve published since I began in the genre in 2018, and I really hope you’ll like it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s twin cousins are ready for their debut in society, and one might think that would keep their mother—the Countess of Disley—well occupied. But even preparing her daughters for presentation to the Queen and their debut ball has not stopped Lady Disley’s plans to marry off her two sons and her nephew at last.
Elizabeth Bennet and her elder sister Jane are in London with their aunt and uncle at Gracechurch Street to enjoy some of the delights of the Season. They do not expect that meeting Mrs. Gardiner’s cousin from Derbyshire and the young lady to whom she is companion will lead to a reunion with the young man who wrote Jane some verses of poetry when she was 15 … or that he will be revealed to be a viscount.
Although sure this means the end of their new acquaintance with the shy Miss Darcy, Elizabeth and Jane are surprised when her brother lets the friendship continue. More than that, Lord Rowarth is forced to confess that his feelings for Jane remain strong, and his determination to defy convention and pursue a match with her unintentionally draws Elizabeth and Darcy to each other. Amidst supporting his brother's attachment to one Bennet sister and encouraging his cousin Darcy’s growing feelings for the other, Colonel Theodore Fitzwilliam is enlisted by a duke’s daughter to help prevent her family’s ruination from scandal.
Family drama, misunderstandings, and the expectations of society are difficult waters to navigate. Can these three cousins get through it all to win the hearts of their chosen ladies and secure their own happiness?
Now, to further intrigue you, here’s the second half of chapter 2:
It was two days before Mrs. Annesley paid her visit, and when she came, she was not alone. With her was a tall, dark-haired young woman who was introduced as Miss Darcy.
Elizabeth was intrigued to meet the girl, whose brother was said to be so great a man. She was a pretty little thing and fashionably dressed, but it was immediately apparent that she was painfully shy. She kept her eyes cast down at her hands as soon as she’d sat down, which she held clasped together in her lap.
“Miss Darcy and I are to visit some shops in Bond Street, but I could not wait to see you, cousin,” Mrs. Annesley was saying then. “It has been too long, Marjorie!”
“It has indeed, Edina,” Mrs. Gardiner replied. “A quarter of an hour is not near time enough to catch up.”
“Well, I shall certainly call again, you know,” said Mrs. Annesley. “And perhaps we can take in a museum or concert or play together while I am in town.”
On seeing a flicker of interest on Miss Darcy’s face when her companion spoke, Elizabeth ventured to ask, “Do you care for museums, concerts, and plays, Miss Darcy?”
“I-I do, yes,” she replied. “At least, I think I do. M-my brother did once take me to an opera, and the school I attended once took a day trip to a museum.”
“Do you spend much time in London?” asked Jane.
Miss Darcy nodded. “I have been at a seminary school for young ladies since my father died—except for Christmas and Easter holidays. And summer, of course.”
“Do you play an instrument, Miss Darcy?” ventured Elizabeth. “Our sister Mary plays the pianoforte, and I play a little myself, though not so well as she.”
At this query Miss Darcy at last lifted her gaze. She even smiled a little as she said, “I rather adore the pianoforte, and I have learned a little of the dulcimer. My brother has spoken of adding a grand piano to our music room at Pemberley.”
Elizabeth smiled, pleased with her progress of getting the girl to talk—already she no longer stuttered her replies. “I have heard from my aunt that your brother is a very generous landlord; it seems he is also a generous brother.”
“Oh yes! When I am sixteen in a few months, I am to have my portrait done by the famous artist Francisco Lacoma, whom I have heard is very difficult to commission as he is so in demand,” Miss Darcy replied. “The piano I suspect my brother means to gift me for my birthday as well, though I cannot be certain of that. And I have seen how very kind he is to our tenants at Pemberley, for to my knowledge there is not one family that knows hunger.”
Elizabeth exchanged a glance with her sister. “How extraordinary, Miss Darcy.”
Something Mrs. Annesley was saying then caught the girls’ attention. “…do not know—I would have to ask Mr. Darcy.”
“Do not know what, Mrs. Annesley?” Miss Darcy asked her.
Her companion smiled at her. “Mrs. Gardiner has four children, two of whom she and her nieces are to take to the park tomorrow. She has extended an invitation for us to join their outing.”
“But will it not be too cold?” Miss Darcy asked.
“No indeed, my dear,” replied Mrs. Gardiner kindly. “So long as we are all of us in our warmest winter attire, we shall be quite well. And the children will be able to keep themselves warm with their playing.”
Elizabeth observed Miss Darcy’s shyness creeping back to the fore as she colored and looked down at her hands in embarrassment. “Oh, o-of course. I should have thought of that.”
Mrs. Annesley reached over and patted her hand. “I am afraid that Miss Darcy has little experience with young children.”
“Your brother has no children, then?” Elizabeth ventured. “I understood from my aunt that he was some years older than yourself.”
The younger girl lifted her head and shook it. “Oh no, Miss Elizabeth. Fitzwilliam has no children, for he is not married.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth noted that Jane paled. Turning to her sister with concern, she asked her, “Jane? Is something the matter?”
“You do look a little pale, my dear,” added Mrs. Gardiner. “Are you unwell?”
Jane blinked. Color rose to her cheeks, highlighting the paleness rather than bringing about remedy.
“Forgive me,” she said. “I just… Yes, for a very brief moment I felt unwell. Pray excuse me, I think perhaps I shall go and lie down.”
As she rose and started out of the room, Mrs. Annesley also rose, with Miss Darcy following her example. Elizabeth, though deeply concerned for her sister, remained with her aunt and their visitors as her aunt’s cousin said it was time they were going anyway.
“I am so very happy to see you again,” said Mrs. Gardiner as the ladies embraced. “I do hope to see you tomorrow so that you can meet my children, and I should like it very much if you would come to dinner to meet Mr. Gardiner again.”
“Oh, I should like that very much, Marjorie!” Mrs. Annesley replied. “When I speak to Mr. Darcy about tomorrow, I will discuss with him when I might have an evening free—it will, of course, depend on whether he is in, or if Miss Darcy may spend time with her cousins, who are to have their come-out this season.”
“Oh, how wonderful for them,” said Mrs. Gardiner.
“Will your cousins be presented at Court, Miss Darcy?” Elizabeth asked. She had heard of the tradition being still much favored among the wealthiest families.
Miss Darcy nodded. “As my uncle is an earl, it is almost a requirement that his daughters be presented to Her Majesty.”
Mrs. Annesley turned to her with a wide smile. “Why, Miss Darcy, I do believe you’ve just made a joke!”
After looking to her companion in confusion for a moment, Miss Darcy laughed softly. “I suppose that could be interpreted as a jest, though I did not intend it as such.”
She then looked to Elizabeth with a small smile. “As I understand it, my aunt and uncle intend to host a grand ball for my cousins once they have been presented at Court.”
“A ball sounds like a splendid way to spend an evening, Miss Darcy,” said Elizabeth.
“It certainly does, though I have never attended a ball so I would not know. I am not out as yet, so I may not even be allowed to attend Cecilia and Olivia’s ball—though I have heard my brother and theirs talk of being forced to attend.”
Elizabeth grinned. “I take it that their brother is as unattached as yours, and that their mother wishes to see them as well-married as her daughters.”
Again, Miss Darcy giggled. “Much to their chagrin. Cecilia and Olivia have two elder brothers, and neither is yet married.”
The elder two ladies looked to one another with knowing gazes. “London will be quite bursting with matchmaking mammas very soon,” quipped Mrs. Gardiner.
Mrs. Annesley laughed. “Looking to marry off both sons and daughters,” said she. “Oh Marjorie, you are right, it has been so good to see you again and renew our acquaintance. I shall have a note dispatched this afternoon or evening when I have spoken to Mr. Darcy.”
In a few more moments the visitors were gone. Elizabeth drew a breath and turned to her aunt. “I am going to go and look in on Jane—she paled so suddenly.”
The unexpected change in Mrs. Gardiner’s countenance drew her brow together in confusion. “What is it, Aunt?”
“I am certain it is but a coincidence, but… I think I know why Jane was out of countenance,” Mrs. Gardiner replied.
Elizabeth’s eyes flicked to the open door that led into the hall, through which she could see the stairs Jane had ascended a few minutes before. “Why?” she asked.
Mrs. Gardiner tilted her head as she regarded her. “Do you know, Lizzy, about your sister receiving some verses from a gentleman when she stayed with us the summer of her fifteenth year?”
Elizabeth scoffed. “How could I not have heard of it? Mamma was quite vexed that he did not make her an offer—she always claimed that Jane was used abominably ill.”
Her aunt smiled. “Yes, your mother certainly would think of it that way. As it was, he was still a fairly young man—in his twenties, I believe—so it does not much surprise me he chose not to settle down with a lady as young as your sister was.”
A nod was Elizabeth’s first reply, and then, “But what is this coincidence you speak of?”
Mrs. Gardiner drew a breath. “The young man’s family name was Fitzwilliam.”
There you have it – some intrigue is brewing in London. If you haven’t yet read my book, can you guess who the writer of the poetry was?
Christine, like many a JAFF author before her, is a long-time admirer of Jane Austen‘s work, and she hopes that her alternate versions are as enjoyable as the originals. She has plans to one day visit England and take a tour of all the grand country estates which have featured in film adaptations, and often dreams of owning one. Christine lives in Ohio and is already at work on her next book.