Wednesday 5 July 2023




All of Jane Austen’s characters combined into one modern-day novel, + mystery

After George Wickham is found tied up, naked, on the Austen University Campus Square, President de Bourgh gives student journalist Lizzy Bennet an ultimatum: Find out who committed the crime, or be expelled from the school. Lizzy must team up with some old friends (like the Austen Murder Club) and some new (like...Karoline Bingley?) to get to the bottom of the truth.

Complicating matters is the fact that the prime suspect is Fo-Hian Darcy. Darcy and Lizzy have a messy history, but even so, Lizzy just can't accept that Darcy committed the crime. An anonymous whistleblower tips off Lizzy about a secret website called the Portraits of Pemberley that may help her get to the bottom of the mystery--but discovering the truth about who's involved may very well challenge everything that Lizzy believes.

The Portraits of Pemberley is Book 2 of the Austen University Mysteries series but can be read as a standalone novel. It combines plot points of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice with Sense and Sensibility (and characters from all of Austen's novels) in a modern-university setting, with mysteries. 


IT HAS BEEN SAID that the newspaper industry is dying, and nowhere did this seem truer than during the bi-weekly meeting for Austen University’s school newspaper, Juvenilia. What once might have been a competitive extracurricular was sparsely populated these days, with Lizzy and only a few small handful of others staffing what had once been a thriving publication. It had taken endless campaigning from Lizzy to finally persuade Professor Palmer to take the faculty chair position, and only then with the promise that he would only have to attend once a month and that he would only have to act mostly as a figurehead. Professor Palmer certainly hadn’t risen above and beyond that promise, spending most of the meetings shamelessly scrolling through Twitter or playing games on his phone. 

 It certainly wasn’t the glamorous introduction to journalism that Lizzy had hoped for. Last semester at least had been somewhat more promising. As terrible as Isabella’s death had been, for the first time, Lizzy had felt like she was reporting real news. Respected publications were referencing her articles, and the student body actually seemed interested in what Juvenilia had to say. 

It had been a short-lived thrill, unfortunately. The fraternities and sororities were all on their best behaviors this semester, thanks to rumors about cancellation that had circulated after all the dirt surrounding Isabella’s murder investigation had been kicked up. So far this school year, Lizzy had written about a food poisoning outbreak caused by a popular food truck off campus, a shortage of Scantron forms and what it would mean for the future of testing, and a puff piece about why the school mascot (Petey the Peacock) deserved a makeover. Not exactly Pulitzer-winning material. Lizzy knew all writers had to pay their dues, but she had hoped this portion of her writing career would pass more like a colorful montage in a movie, not so much a slow-motion shot in a docuseries. 

 If Lizzy had known what was about to come, she might have embraced the monotony. As it was, she foolishly interpreted Professor Palmer’s lack of phone in his hand as a promising development. Maybe something really juicy had happened, and Palmer was–for once–excited to engage in creating a quality paper. 

(Foolish summer child.) 

 “Welcome. Glad everyone could make it.” Palmer nodded in acknowledgement at Alicia Johnson, who wrote the gossip column, and James Benwick, who did cultural reviews; Lizzy was almost positive Palmer didn’t actually know their names, and only slightly condent that he might know hers. “Nice fall weather we’re having today.” 

 Lizzy’s first inkling of foreboding came along with those words. Professor Palmer being present in the moment was one thing; Professor Palmer making awkward small talk was… something else. It did not bode well. 

 “Before we jump into new business, I’d like to introduce a new member of our staff.” Professor Palmer checked his watch. “He should be here any minute–oh, there he is.” 

 If this had been a horror movie, the stringed instruments would have been in a frenzy. Lizzy felt an instinctive roller-coaster whoosh of dread as she turned toward the door, staring in blank disbelief as Darcy entered the room. His eyes slid to hers before cutting away; he took a seat far down the conference table, as if to dissuade anyone from assuming they might know one another. 

 “Fo-Hian Darcy,” Professor Palmer was saying. “We’re very lucky to have him. He’s generously offered to contribute some photography to the paper for a special photo story we’ll be including in the online edition.” 

 He paused, clearly waiting for Darcy to say something, but Darcy just nodded silently, looking at each person in turn around the table– including, again only briefly, Lizzy–before staring straight ahead at nothing. 

Lizzy stifled an irritated snort. Arrogant prick. He clearly expected Professor Palmer to do all the work of introducing him to the group, as if his reputation as a great photographer preceded him. She was willing to bet he’d gotten a camera for his birthday and fancied himself an expert after a few amateur shots, so Auntie de Bourgh had pulled a few strings so he could show off his budding talent. Barf. 

Professor Palmer looked a little panicked at the realization that he was going to have to put in even more effort at today’s meeting than he’d already exerted thus far; poor man must be absolutely exhausted. “Um, well. I’ve seen some of his work and it’s very impressive. We’re lucky to have him. Welcome, Fo-Hian.” 

 “I go by Darcy, actually.” Darcy actually sounded a little miffed that Professor Palmer wouldn’t intuitively know this. It was one of the weirder things that Lizzy had encountered at AU–how many of the guys went by their last names. She didn’t know if that was a Southern thing, or a carry-over from boarding schools, but it was yet another thing she found both annoying and perplexing. She couldn’t wait to get back to the Southwest, where the states were newer and none of the family names were old enough to carry any real weight and people just used their first names like normal people. 


Professor Palmer apparently felt something of the same, since the first sign of irritation cracked through this bizarrely polite facade he was putting on. “Welcome, Darcy.” 


This time, Lizzy did laugh a little, trying to keep it under her breath. Darcy looked over, glaring with his familiar stern, slightly perplexed look that seemed to say, Why aren’t you more impressed with me? To which Lizzy responded with her usual Bless your soul smile, which was one of the only things about the South she actually liked: A way of essentially saying “Screw you” to somebody’s face that was somehow socially acceptable. 

 “Welcome, Darcy,” she echoed, unable to help herself. “I for one can’t wait to see what you contribute to the quality of the school paper. I’m sure we won’t be able to understand how we ever managed to function without your help.” 

 Darcy had had too many interactions with her now to misunderstand her words for sincerity. He simply blinked and looked away again. 

 Professor Palmer gave Lizzy an exasperated, amused smile, because at his heart, he was a basic bitch who loved a good clapback, even though he’d obviously been instructed by de Bourgh to pat Darcy’s head and tell him he was doing an amazing job. 

 “As one of our senior staff members, I’m sure you won’t mind showing Darcy the ropes,” Palmer said to Lizzy now, his smile deepening as her own faded. “In fact, maybe the two of you can work on his first story together...”


Elizabeth Gilliland

Elizabeth Gilliland is a writer, Dr., wife, mom, and lifelong Jane Austen fan. She is a playwright (whose plays have appeared off-off Broadway), a screenwriter (with a master's in screenwriting and production), an academic (with a PhD and a dissertation on Jane Austen adaptations), and now a published author! When she isn't writing or grading papers, she is most likely reading a good book, binge watching the latest hit, working on a puzzle, or hanging with her cute kid. 

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Elizabeth said...

Thank you for hosting me, Maria! <3

Maria Grazia said...

My pleasure! Congratulations on your new release 🤗

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