In another ten or fifteen years, Jane wold likely be the sweetheart of the county, and it would be a lucky man who won her hand. Lizzy, however…he shook his head. She would need a husband with an iron will! Whoever the man should be, Gardiner decided, he had best win the girl’s respect early, for Lizzy would not be apt to grant him a second chance.
(from The Courtship of Edward Gardiner)
Nicole Clarkston’s newest novel, The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, is a prequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that centers on Mrs. Bennet’s brother, Edward Gardiner. Mr. Gardiner has worked hard to build up his business in trade in London and finally has the means to support a family. After being rejected by a Miss Rutherford, a brokenhearted Mr. Gardiner finds himself on the way to Sheffield with his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, and his oldest daughters, eight-year-old Jane and seven-year-old Elizabeth. When Jane falls ill, the uncle and his nieces are forced to stay in the village of Lambton while Mr. Bennet journeys toward his ill brother. It is in Lambton that Mr. Gardiner meets Madeline Fairbanks, the daughter of a bookkeeper who has been hired to care for the Bennet sisters during their stay in the village.
Mr. Gardiner is almost immediately captivated by Miss Fairbanks. After all, she is sweet, kind, and clever, and while other young ladies are worried about gowns and ribbons, Madeline helps her ailing father with his business. In short, she is the woman Edward has been waiting for but didn’t believe truly existed. But how are they to build any sort of relationship when he will be heading back to London in a matter of days?
The Courtship of Edward Gardiner is a charming novel that puts Elizabeth’s favorite aunt and uncle in the spotlight and imagines how they might have met. I adored Edward and Madeline, as well as the Madeline’s dear friend, Mrs. Porter, the innkeeper. It was also fascinating to get a glimpse of Elizabeth as a rambunctious, outspoken little girl, and especially to see a 14-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy as he helps his little sister through their grief after their mother’s passing, struggles to keep his pride in check, and begins to understand all of the responsibilities he will one day have as Master of Pemberley. A young Lizzy and Darcy butting heads during a hailstorm, and Mr. Bennet having his fun at Lady Catherine’s expense were some of my favorite scenes.
I generally enjoy when authors put Austen’s secondary characters at the forefront, and Clarkston’s novel is the first I’ve seen that focuses on the Gardiners. The Courtship of Edward Gardiner is a delightful tale, with plenty of humor and excitement mixed in with the romance. This is the first book I’ve read by Clarkston, but it definitely won’t be the last!
About The Courtship of Edward Gardiner
Every great love has a beginning.
In Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we meet with perhaps the most sensible, caring relatives a lovelorn young woman could hope for: Mr and Mrs Gardiner. What is their story?
Edward Gardiner has just been refused by the lovely young woman he had intended to make his wife. Heartbroken and eager for a diversion, he accepts an invitation from his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, to accompany him along with his two eldest daughters to the north on family business. Gardiner’s pleasure tour is interrupted, however, when his eldest niece falls ill and is unable to travel farther.
Stopping over in the scarcely remarkable village of Lambton, the men decide that Bennet must continue on, while Gardiner and the children remain. The only trouble is that Gardiner has not the least idea how he should care for one ailing niece and another who is ready to drive him to distraction… until he meets with Madeline Fairbanks.
About the Author
Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don’t ask).
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole’s books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
Nicole is generously offering a copy of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner in a reader’s choice (ebook or paperback) giveaway, open internationally! To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!
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12/01: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton
Disclosure: I received The Courtship of Edward Gardiner from the author for review.