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Posts Tagged ‘conceit & concealment’

I’m delighted to welcome Abigail Reynolds back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate her latest variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Please give her a warm welcome as she introduces Conceit & Concealment, and then enjoy the guest post:

Conceit & Concealment is a new kind of Pride & Prejudice variation with an unusual plot twist. In essentials it’s much like any other P&P variation – an Elizabeth and Darcy happily-ever-after with all the usual characters, set in the usual locations with the usual cast of characters. Instead of changing events or characters, I’ve changed history by having Napoleon invade England six years before the book begins. Living in occupied England changes everything. Elizabeth detests the French invaders, while Wickham is working for them. Darcy’s situation is the most complicated of all – and therein lies the tale.

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Here’s an excerpt of Darcy’s enchanting first meeting with Elizabeth, courtesy of Abigail Reynolds:

Darcy could find no particular fault with Netherfield Park. The house was spacious and pleasant. The grounds were well kept. The rolling hills surrounding it kept the landscape interesting. Bingley was a gracious host. His cook produced tasty meals. And after two days, it was slowly driving Darcy mad.

He had spent hours calming Georgiana’s anxieties about being in a new place. He had walked with her around the gardens and listened to her practice her music. The previous night he had stayed up late drinking brandy with Bingley, something he had been looking forward to. But instead of finally being able to talk freely to his friend as he had hoped, he had hidden everything.

Today Bingley had gone to visit a neighbor, and Darcy was too restless to keep his attention on a book. The only distraction he could find was to work on his billiard game. At least it was quiet in the billiard room apart from the clicking of balls striking and the satisfying thump when one dropped into a pocket.

Bingley appeared in the doorway, apparently done with his visits. “Practicing again? As if you need it to thrash me thoroughly!”

Leaning over the table, Darcy sighted along his cue stick. “It passes the time.”

“If it is time you wish to pass, I have volunteered you to join me in a charitable duty.”

Without raising his head, Darcy flicked his eyes up at Bingley. “Why do I suppose I will not like this?”

Bingley chuckled. “It is true; you will not like it. The local regiment is having an assembly and has commanded the presence of all the young ladies. I agreed we would escort two of them who would both be unprotected otherwise.”

Darcy dropped the cue stick and straightened. “Bingley, the last thing I want is to be giving some local girl expectations I will never be able to meet.”

“There will be no expectations. Their fathers arranged it purely as a matter of their safety. So many of the local men have been conscripted that there are few left to provide escorts, leaving the ladies to the mercies of the French officers.”

“I suppose we must, then,” Darcy said grudgingly. Had he not already given up enough for his fellow countrymen? But the same answer always resounded in his head. Many had been forced to give their lives for their country, and he had not. Yet.

He would only go to this damned dance because if he refused and anything happened to those poor girls, he would bear that burden forever – along with so many others. Sometimes he wondered if a clean death in battle would not have been preferable. But Georgiana needed him, so that was not an option.

Bingley clapped him on the shoulder. “No need to be so glum, old fellow! You might even enjoy yourself a bit. From what I gather, you are getting the young and pretty one. Mine, according to her loving father, is all but on the shelf and ‘not what I would call pretty, but a good girl, a good girl.’” His voice had deepened into an imitation of an older man’s.

“Most likely yours will at least manage some interesting conversation. What is the name of my insipid miss?”

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Her father already dislikes you, so you should be safe from expectations.”

“Dislikes me? I have not even met the man.”

Bingley grinned. “Oh, you are in a mood today! It is the usual complaint. I did not hesitate to point out his own failings in that regard. But look – the sun is finally showing its face. You should go for a ride and clear your head.”

He had been longing all day to do exactly that. “You will stay here if I do? I do not like to leave Georgiana alone in a new place.”

“Of course. Now go. Get out of here!”

A quarter of an hour later, the stable master regarded Darcy as if he were a being from another planet. The Netherfield staff had not yet accustomed themselves to their guest’s eccentricities, such as saddling and bridling Hurricane himself. But Hurricane was the one luxury he had insisted on keeping at a time when he had given up so much else. He had raised and broken the horse himself, and Hurricane always understood him. Darcy hated allowing anyone else to handle him. Even the process of saddling him and the feeling of Hurricane’s warm flanks under his hands brought him some much-needed peace.

They set off at a trot down the lane and jumped a fence before cantering across a pasture. The sun had not yet burned off the dampness in the spring air.

Darcy had loved springtime when his mother was alive. She had taught him the names of each spring flower in the Pemberley gardens, encouraged him to watch each stage of leaves unfolding, made wishes with him over the star-shaped wood anemones, and taken him on adventures in Pemberley’s magical bluebell wood. She had died in the springtime, too, just as the bluebells were fading away to nothing. And then there had been the terrible spring of 1805 which had cost him his father and more relatives and friends than he could count, as well as his freedom and his country.

Spring had once been a time of beginnings for him. Now it made him think of all he had lost.

These thoughts were not helping to clear his head. He laid a hand on Hurricane’s neck, feeling the tautness of his muscles beneath his shiny coat. Hurricane was still with him – loyal, steady Hurricane.

At Pemberley he could gallop for miles over the empty moors, but Hertfordshire was more settled. He spotted a copse in the distance and made for that, hoping to find some semblance of untamed nature there. He skirted the edge until he found a path leading into it, but before he even entered the copse, a familiar floral scent transported him into the past. It was a bluebell wood.

On impulse, he dismounted and tied Hurricane’s reins to a tree. Ahead of him bluebells swayed in the dappled sunlight. He strode towards them as their almost otherworldly scent enveloped him, raising goose bumps on his skin. The spring green of the wood was the perfect frame for the sapphire flowers. Magic, his mother had called the bluebells.

His pace slowed. How long had it been since his last visit to a bluebell wood? He could not even recall. The bluebells seemed to dance around him with a ripple of laughter. But no – that was human laughter, and it was followed by a squeal of pain.

“That hurt, young man! Or young woman, if that is what you are.” A woman’s musical voice seemed part of the magic, drawing him towards it with a seductive enchantment of its own. Where was she, the woman of the rippling laughter? He searched for a side path through the flowers. His mother had taught him never to trample bluebells.

There it was, so faint it could barely be called a path, just grass dividing a sea of bluebells. Carefully he stepped along it.

He could see her now. Tendrils of dark chestnut hair escaped their binding to riot across her long neck in exuberant curls. She sat on the ground, her legs curled up beside her, and she was surrounded by… puppies? Yes, puppies, crawling over her lap, nipping at her skirts, and rolling over for petting. She picked one up and kissed its head. Fortunate puppy!

His lips curved. A poet would call her Titania, queen of the fairies, in the flesh. More woodland magic.

She must have heard his footsteps, or perhaps the yapping of a puppy alerted her, because she looked back over her shoulder. At the sight of him, she twisted around and scrambled backwards.

In the dappled sunlight, his Titania’s face was alive with energy, full of fine sparkling eyes and kissable lips.

And she was pointing a fully cocked pistol at him.

He took a step back and opened his hands to show they were empty. “I mean you no harm.” The sound of his own voice startled him.

“English?” Her voice was sterner now.

“Yes. I am visiting from Derbyshire. Or, if you prefer, I will say it – Theophilus Thistle, the thistle sifter, sifted a sieve full of unsifted thistles, thrusting three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.” It was the tongue twister no Frenchman could pronounce, no matter how accentless his English might be.

Her lips quirked, but she kept the pistol leveled at him. “Well, Theophilus Thistle from Derbyshire, why are you following me?”

“Because I was walking through an enchanted bluebell wood when I heard the dulcet tones of Titania, queen of the fairies, which enspells any mortal man.” He swept her a full court bow.

She chuckled. “Lovely words, but perhaps you should avoid sudden movements when I have a pistol trained on you.”

“Do you know how to use it?”

“Of course. You could have been a French soldier out hunting for game.” The distaste in her voice made it clear what kind of game the soldiers hunted here.

“Good. I trained my sister to shoot for the same reason.” One of the puppies began to crawl in his direction.

“Ah.” She lowered the pistol but did not put it aside. “If I am Titania, perhaps I will cast a spell on you instead. It would be much less bloody.”

“Since I would prefer not to have the head of an ass, perhaps I should leave you in peace. Or at least as much peace as you can find with all these puppies.” He could see the mother dog now, a springer spaniel lying in a hollow between two trees and nursing two more puppies. “Which was the one that nipped you?”

She pointed to the brown puppy squirming his way toward Darcy. “That little wild thing.”

He took a slow step forward and held out his hand to the puppy, who sniffed it eagerly. “May I?”

At her nod, he picked up the puppy. The mother dog raised her head and growled.

“You need not worry,” his Titania said to the dog. “He is wearing brown, not blue.” She looked up at him again. “I am training her to attack soldiers who come too close to me.”

“I will keep that in mind.” He turned the puppy over in his hands and examined him. “If you were still wondering, he is a young man. Definitely a young man.” He held the puppy up to his shoulder and scratched its ears. Pushing back against his hand, the puppy licked his chin. Repeatedly.

Her eyes sparkled when she laughed. “I should have known as much since he is a troublemaker already!”

Darcy cuddled the puppy for another minute, taking pleasure in his warmth and the softness of his fur, then reluctantly set him down. “Back to your mistress, young Puck,” he told the puppy firmly. “And now I will leave you in peace. Farewell, proud Titania.”

She set down the pistol at last, picked up the puppy, and waved a tiny paw at him. “Theophilus Thistle, I grant you safe passage through my domain.” She crinkled her nose at him.

He made his way back through the sea of bluebells, smiling for what felt like first time in years. His mother had been right; there was magic in a bluebell wood. He would not wait so long to revisit one.

Perhaps he would bring Georgiana here. She was even more in need of a dose of magic than he was.

Thanks, Abigail, for sharing! I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and hope you’ll visit again soon.

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About Conceit & Concealment

Pride & Prejudice meets Alternate History

Six years after Napoleon’s invasion of England…

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a traitor. He even admits to collaborating with Napoleon’s troops. And Elizabeth Bennet despises all traitors.

But Elizabeth can’t make sense of Darcy. He doesn’t act like a traitor. He risks his own safety to save young women from the French. And how can she despise a man who loves puppies? Something about him doesn’t add up – and she finds him far too attractive.

Then Darcy’s carefully constructed world crumbles, and he must entrust his closest-held secret to Elizabeth. To protect that secret, Elizabeth must disappear entirely, leaving her family and Darcy behind, to plunge herself into the dizzying world of fashionable London and the dangers of the Loyalist Resistance. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Darcy is determined to find Elizabeth. Now that she knows the truth about him, there’s nothing to keep them apart – nothing, that is, until the day Darcy is forced to choose between his country and the life of the woman he loves…

Check out Conceit & Concealment on Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Conceit & Concealment, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, and Mr. Darcy’s Journey. She is currently working on a new Pemberley Variation and the next novel in her Cape Cod series. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.

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Giveaway

Abigail is generously offering 2 ebook copies of Conceit & Concealment to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address and let us know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on Sunday, June 25, 2017. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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