She locked the door behind her and fell headlong onto the bed. The room was cold. The servants had stopped lighting the fire when it was clear it would not be used.
She could call a girl to light the fire easily enough, but to what point? Fire would do nothing to chase the chill lodged deep within.
(from The Darcys’ First Christmas)
In The Darcys’ First Christmas, Maria Grace’s holiday novella sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are planning to celebrate a quiet Christmas at Pemberley with the Gardiners. Already worried that she isn’t up to the task of being the Mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth nervously begins preparations for the first Christmas ball in years and has an idea to start a new tradition, a Christmas picnic for the children. Darcy seems pleased with Elizabeth’s ideas and how she is settling into her new role with the help of Mrs. Reynolds, Pemberley’s longtime housekeeper.
However, the Darcys’ holiday plans quickly fall apart when Lord and Lady Matlock and Colonel Fitzwilliam arrive unexpectedly, and Aunt Matlock — already upset at Darcy marrying beneath him — is hellbent on taking charge of the preparations for the ball and appalled at the changes Elizabeth has proposed as Pemberley’s new mistress. To make matters worse, Darcy — used to running Pemberley on his own and panicked by his relations’ sudden arrival — usurps Elizabeth’s authority in household decision-making, crushing her already fragile self-esteem. When Georgiana’s fear of Aunt Matlock keeps her confined to her rooms and an accident puts even more strain on the Darcys’ marriage, things go from bad to worse, and neither Elizabeth nor Darcy is able to reach out to the other for comfort.
The Darcys’ First Christmas is another sweet story that I enjoyed in the little time I had to myself over Christmas weekend. Grace does a great job showing Elizabeth’s insecurities about her new role and how the Darcys’ relationship is still so new that misunderstandings are bound to pop up. I loved seeing Elizabeth and Darcy both find the courage they needed to take on Lady Matlock and even Georgiana, who still has so much growing up to do. However, it didn’t feel right to me that Darcy and Elizabeth would turn away from one another at the first sign of tension and wait so long to finally address their troubles. I understood it for the sake of the story and appreciated the insight from Fitzwilliam and Mrs. Gardiner, but it just felt like Elizabeth was a bit too weak in this story.
Still, that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the novella, and I loved that Grace included some holiday traditions like the Yule log and even addressed Fitzwilliam’s trauma from the war. Grace managed to pack so much into so few pages, and I was left feeling fully satisfied.
I hope you’re all not sick of my Christmas-themed reviews because I have one more left for tomorrow!
Disclosure: The Darcys’ First Christmas is from my personal library.