Thanks so much for stopping by to help me celebrate the release of my new book, His Heart’s Desire. Today I would like to share an excerpt and giveaway of 5 eBook copies of my book. All you need to do to enter is comment on this blog post. The Giveaway will end on Sunday 8-28-2022 at 11:59 pm.
My story is non-canon and I hope you will enjoy the changes I’ve made from Jane Austen’s original. For one, poor Mr. Bennet died when Elizabeth was just 14. Mr. Collins was not kind and the Bennet women are currently living off the charity of close relatives: Jane and Lizzy with the Gardiners and Mrs. B and the younger three with the Phillips family. In this story our main characters are a bit younger. The Bingleys do not appear in this story as Charles is finishing his last year at university. However, Darcy does have an interesting Austrian cousin named Karoline-Maria as you will find out in this post. As for George Wickham, if any of you happened to read Wickham’s Wish on the forum, you will remember that he came to my house begging me to give him another scenario than what Jane Austen left him with. In this story, GW is the Godson of Sir Lewis de Bourgh who is currently living as is Darcy Senior. All in all, this was a exciting story for me to write and I hope you will enjoy my tale.
The year is 1802 and because of the Treaty of Amiens with France, there is a lull in the war. Here you go with an excerpt from the first chapter of His Heart’s Desire. Enjoy!
Jen Red ♫
It might have been a lovely spring day, but the air within the study was hardly inviting. Although the maids had opened the windows and brought in fresh flowers, it was not enough to mask the unpleasantness which lingered after several days of continuous rain.
Pinching the bridge of his nose and rubbing his eyes in an effort to stave off a headache, Fitzwilliam Darcy paused before reading the last of his correspondence. Earlier in the day, he had been cloistered in this room with his father’s solicitor and Mr. Horne, one of Pemberley’s land stewards. They had been reviewing what seemed like endless documents detailing the profitability of a mining investment in Devon made by his grandfather some years back.
Intending to leave the last of his letters until the morrow, William put aside his pens, closed the inkwell, and walked to the window. At present, he was in desperate need of some diversion before facing yet another social function arranged by Lady Matlock. Lately, his aunt had taken to parading him in front of nearly every eligible young lady who was in Town for the upcoming season. At the very least, surely a brisk walk through Hyde Park would alleviate some of his stress before facing the matchmaking mamas of the ton. Tonight’s dinner at Matlock House would include no less than seventy-five guests. And since William was the main course, he could hardly beg off. The very thought of it turned his stomach and soured his attitude.
“Father,” William muttered to himself. “I have no desire to go out yet again this evening and would much rather stay home and spend time with you and Georgiana.” A quiet dinner followed by a little relaxation in the music room sounded very appealing after such a hectic day.
For many months now, James Darcy had been insistent that William search in earnest for a wife—a suitable woman who would become the next mistress of Pemberley and bear him an heir. Consumed by this prospect, James had left the confines of Pemberley and accompanied William to Town in order to monitor his progress.
“I know what you are about, Father,” he protested aloud. “If you think I shall be a party to your wishes when you have many good years left, you are mistaken. No matter how many young ladies I meet, my heart will not be easily touched if it means losing you.”
Following the completion of his studies at university two years prior, William’s life had become one where the demands of the estate seemed to dictate his every move. With his father’s poor health, he had no choice but to assume the responsibility. The elder Darcy could no longer manage as he once did. It was not that James Darcy was an old man, but rather a decline brought on by years of sleepless nights and periodic strong drink had weakened his disposition. Unable to soothe his aching heart following the death of Lady Anne, he had, for the most part, retreated from society, shutting himself away at Pemberley. In William’s eyes, his father was no longer robust, nor did he have the desire to reclaim his life.
More recently, Lady Eleanor Fitzwilliam, the Countess of Matlock, had been delighted to take up William’s cause at his father’s request. In the young man’s mind, her list of eligible women was endless. Despite her best efforts, however, Lady Matlock did not seem to comprehend what William truly wanted in a wife. Yes, her candidates were well-dowered, accomplished and beautiful, but this was not enough. “If I must marry, Father, I would prefer a woman who can stimulate my mind in conversation and one who does not openly covet my wealth. Is that too much to ask?
“At least you did not insist I marry poor Cousin Anne. Frankly, I would like to find a woman on my own terms, and when I am ready. Surely you must know I would never shirk my duty or obligation to our estate. Is it too much to ask that I should also be allowed to marry for love?” Continuing to gaze out of the window, William was unaware his father was standing just inside the door and had overheard the last of his mutterings.
“Fitzwilliam.” There was no response. “Fitzwilliam,” James Darcy said a second time.
“Father, I….” William shifted uncomfortably. “Forgive me, I was wool-gathering. Please come in and sit down.” William motioned to the sofa. “Can I get you a drink or ring for tea? Have you eaten? It is well past lunch.”
“I thank you, but no. I have little appetite this afternoon.” The man coughed several times as he walked to the sofa and painstakingly sat down. “A glass of port will suffice.”
“It seems your cough has not improved,” William commented as he partially filled two glasses. “What did the doctor have to say? Pray tell me he did not suggest bleeding you again.”
“No, Son, not this time. Purdy simply gave me some additional draughts to aid with sleeping.”
William shook his head in disgust. “You know I cannot abide that man—not since Mama’s death. His intervention did nothing to help her. Will you not let me send for Mr. Mitchell? He is an excellent doctor, and I have spoken with him on several occasions concerning your health. Mitchell believes that fresh air, such as we would find in the country, exercise and better nourishment would serve you well.”
“Son, we have been over this before. I see no point in consulting with another doctor when….”
“No point! Father, you are not well, and that is all I care about. You and Aunt Eleanor have been relentless in promoting my search for a bride. Would you not like to live long enough to see your grandchildren, should I be so fortunate as to find someone I even cared to marry?”
“That is enough! I shall not allow you to speak to me in this manner.” Without warning, the elder Darcy began to cough with greater intensity.
Alarmed, William quickly went to his father’s side. Taking his father’s drink and placing it on the table he said, “Forgive me, Father. I promise you I shall fulfil my responsibilities. I only pray that you will take better care of yourself.”
“You are not to worry, Son. I shall be fine.”
As he watched James take out a handkerchief and wipe the perspiration from his forehead, William’s concern was not appeased by his father’s assertion.
“Fitzwilliam, I do not wish to belabour the point, but is there not one woman within our sphere who can hold your interest, someone who you could perhaps grow to love?”
“For a time I did consider Lady Gwendolyn Talbot, but….”
James let out a little chuckle while trying to suppress the urge to cough. “Ah, the bluestocking.”
“I admit, she is very knowledgeable, but in speaking with her, I found the lady was not particularly fond of children, and that does not bode well for a marriage in my estimation. After some discussion, I came to the conclusion that she would do her duty to produce the required heir, but little more. As for living at Pemberley, her preference is to remain here in Town where she could more easily pursue her intellectual interests and oversee her numerous charities.” He huffed. “From that respect, it would be far better for her to marry a Member of Parliament rather than a gentleman farmer.”
“I understand.” James studied his son for a moment. “Fitzwilliam, I have another option which I want you to consider. With the signing of the Treaty of Amiens, it seems many of our people will flock to the continent for the summer months.”
“So I have heard,” he replied with reserve.
“My sister has lately written expressing her desire to visit. If you recall, the family estate is a three or four-day journey from Vienna.” William nodded in response. “More recently, with Count von Lamberg’s death and his son actively being in service to the emperor, the family resides much of the year at one of their northern properties. I understand they now live in a castle not far from Vienna.”
James’ younger sister, formerly Henrietta Darcy, had married an Austrian ambassador, Count Nicholas von Lamberg, whom she had met during her second season in London. At that time, the count was on an extended holiday following the completion of his political assignments in London and was staying with some of his distant relations who lived in the area. Henrietta was not only beautiful and intelligent, but she was an ambitious woman when it came to title and fortune. Once she met the count and had assessed his heritage and wealth, she was determined to secure him as her husband. Having been a widower for several years with no children and eager to find another wife, the count could not resist the charms of the captivating young woman.
Following a quiet marriage in the Church of England, Henrietta returned with her husband to Austria, where they were again married in the Catholic Church before she accepted her title as countess. Following the death of her husband, their son, Nicholas II, assumed his father’s position, taking over the running of the estate and various other interests within the Austrian government.
“A castle?” William questioned with curiosity.
“Yes, a castle which is built into the mountainside and overlooks one of the tributaries of the Danube River. Although the young count spends much of his time in Vienna with his political obligations, it is far more convenient for him to travel the shorter distance to visit my sister there rather than spend many days journeying back and forth to their estate in the south. Now that Henrietta’s mourning period has ended, she would like to journey here and renew relations with our family and that of her late husband. Her daughter, Lady Karoline-Maria, is eager to travel and plans to accompany her. Your cousin is one and twenty.”
William scowled. “Father, what are you suggesting?”
“Son, I would like you to go to Austria shortly after Anne’s ball and serve as an escort to my sister and her daughter. Since finishing university, you have devoted your efforts to the estate without fail. I regret that you have never experienced a grand tour, as many young men of our sphere so often do. Although your trip will be fairly short, it will give you an opportunity to see a bit of the continent and enjoy the magnificence of Vienna. And, should you happen to develop an attachment to your cousin, you need not look any further for a wife.”
“Father, are you mad?!” William nearly shouted on comprehending what his father was suggesting. “Treaty or not, I cannot possibly go to Vienna. It is a long journey, and I have far too many obligations here demanding my attention. Not to mention I am in the middle of settling matters with Grandfather’s mines. Father, this is not something I wish to consider.”
“Fitzwilliam, with regards to the mines, you will just have to instruct Mr. Horne to act in your stead and we have many competent people who can easily oversee your other concerns while you are gone. I have not seen my sister since before you were born, and she has the desire to reunite with our family. As my son, it is only proper that you be the one to escort her and your cousin on their journey here. In addition, Henrietta knows of my wishes with regards to your future and is not opposed to a match between cousins. With that in mind, she sent a likeness of Lady Karoline-Maria in her latest correspondence for your consideration. Here, let me show you. I think you will find her quite lovely.” James took the miniature from his pocket and handed it to William. The young woman in the picture wore a pleasant smile. Her colouring was fair, as she had blond hair and blue eyes, much as Lady Henrietta did.
William startled on seeing the miniature and purposely handed it back. “I admit she is beautiful, but, Father, this woman could be Georgiana in a few years’ time. I cannot possibly consider someone who so greatly resembles my thirteen-year-old sister.”
“Fitzwilliam, Lady Karoline-Maria is your first cousin, not your sister. With the countess being a Darcy, it is only natural that her daughter would hold some family resemblance.”
“Even so….” William continued to scowl. “If I have no interest in marrying Anne, whom I have known all of my life, what makes you think I would have any interest in marrying yet another cousin? I doubt that this woman even speaks English, and you know I am not particularly fond of German. Not to mention, there is the difference in our religion. I, for one, am not inclined to convert to Catholicism as my aunt did, and I would assume my Austrian cousin would have a similar view of converting to the Church of England. I cannot believe that my cousin would willingly leave all she knows to live out her days in a foreign land. No, Father, this cannot be.”
“Son, I shall not argue that there is much to consider. Still, according to my sister, her daughter is not opposed to the match. Moreover, she is fluent in English as well as French and Italian. Henrietta insisted that both of her children learn these languages. As it stands, I have accepted my sister’s request to visit. Shortly after Anne’s ball, you will set sail for the continent. I have already asked my solicitor to make the arrangements, and we can review your travel plans once everything has been confirmed. Between now and then, should you meet a woman who attracts your interest, you may feel free to pursue a courtship with her upon your return. Nevertheless, if you do not meet someone, I expect you to give Lady Karoline-Maria your full consideration. Fitzwilliam, you cannot continually put off your duty to take a wife. I am determined to see you wed within the next year whether it is by your choice or mine.”
William’s scowl could not have been any more pronounced, but with his father’s mind made up, there was little point in further discussion.
“Now if you would please help me, Son. I would like to retire to my rooms. I trust you will enjoy your evening out.”
So there you have it. As you can imagine with the Treaty of Amiens declaring a ceasefire in the war, British citizens are traveling to the continent for business as well as pleasure. Find out what happens to Fitzwilliam Darcy when he meets Elizabeth Bennet and her Gardiner relations in Vienna.
Darcy’s family has great expectations for him, but after experiencing a life-threatening accident, he has ideas of his own. Will pressure from his family force him to marry a cousin he does not love, or will he follow HIS HEART’S DESIRE?
Remember, you will need to leave a comment with your Amazon Marketplace in order to enter my giveaway. The Giveaway will end on Sunday 8-28-2022 at 11:59 pm.
Here is the Amazon link for His Heart’s Desire.