Transported to Blackberry Winter While Reading Snowbound at Hartfield
Barbara Tiller Cole
(First of all I would like to thank Laura Hile for her recent post and announce that Anji was the winner of Laura's book. There is also an ebook give away with this post. A commenter will win a copy of Maria Grace's latest book featured here today. For extra chances: follow this blog, follow Barbara Tiller Cole, Author on Facebook, Tweet this post, post it to Facebook, Post a link on your site, blog or Facebook group.)
It is a pleasure to be featuring my friend Maria Grace's latest book, Snowbound at Hartfield today. Friendships made in the Austen world have often been a lifeline to me. And none of those have been more important to me than my friendship with Maria Grace.
Maria's creative talent, dependability, professionalism and spirituality make her someone that many other authors want to know. I count it a true honor to consider her a friend.
Darcyholic Diversions is a place to celebrate authors and readers alike and when I got back to regular postings Maria was the first I reached out to, to see if I could feature her newest book.
While I am grateful that Atlanta area seems to be celebrating an early spring, there is still plenty of time for a blackberry winter. (For anyone not familiar with the term 'Blackberry Winter' it is a colloquial expression used in the South for a cold snap after spring time has arrived.) Maria's book loaded into my Kindle, I poured a cup of my favorite Bingley's Austen Tea Series -- Miss Lucy Steele -- and let Maria Grace's story transport me to a very snowy winter's day.
While Snowbound at Hartfield may be considered by many to be a mashup, to me it took characters from three of Austen's works and created a brand new story. Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion are, in order, my top three favorite Austen works. Snowbound at Hartfield find characters from the three novels into one setting due to a bad snow storm.
With plenty of advice from Mrs. Elton, matching making skills from Emma, and advice from Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy a love match is sure to become a reality. Here is an exerpt from Maria Grace's latest novel. Download it today. You won't be sorry you did!
An Excerpt from Snowbound at Hartfield
By Maria Grace
Whenever my husband and I watch Jane Austen movies, we almost always end up wonder what would happen if characters from her different novels met each other. One day that idea got stuck in my craw and wouldn’t leave until I’d full explored it. So a blizzard, a hone theatrical and a very smart riding habit later, here it is!
What happens when Emma meets Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice? Courtships of course!
Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam pulled the scarf a little tighter around his neck. If the winds grew any stronger, they might topple the coach.
What madness had seized the weather? Snow was unusual enough, but a storm such as this? Who would have expected it? Certainly not his cousin Darcy. Careful and meticulous as he was, he would never have set out if he had any inkling a blizzard were a possibility, especially in the company of his wife and father-in-law.
The Darcy carriage was as snug and warm as such a vehicle might be in such anomalous weather. For that he could be glad. They were not in imminent danger of freezing to death. Still, the winds howled just as the wind on the French plains before—
No! He clenched his gloved hands into fists. Returning there, even in memory alone, did him no favors. Elizabeth—Liza as she permitted him to call her now, mostly to annoy Darcy—Liza reminded him to remember the past only as it gave him pleasure. She was right. He must do precisely that.
He drew a deep breath, then another, forcing his clenched hands to open. Warm fires, fine port, good company. His heart slowed just a bit.
She was watching him from the corner of her eye. She knew. She always knew.
Perhaps they would talk about it later. But first, they needed shelter.
The first inn they had stopped at had no room available at any price. Now, Darcy was inquiring at a decidedly seedy-looking establishment, the Ram’s Horn. Seedy was better than no shelter at all, though it meant there would be little sleep to be had for any of them. Still, he would count it good fortune if Darcy’s blunt could smooth the way to a room and a warm fire for the night.
The coach door creaked open. A blast of wind and snow burst in ahead of Darcy who jumped in and slammed the door behind him.
“Were you able to procure rooms?” Fitzwilliam pulled his coat tighter around his chest, shoulder throbbing with the fresh burst of freezing air.
“No. Not even the baronet who arrived just after we did could command lodgings.”
Liza gasped and glanced at her father who hunched for warmth and rubbed his hands together.
Darcy lifted his hand with a mildly dramatic flair.
How Liza had changed him.
“That is not to say we do not have accommodations though. The hand of Providence has provided in a most unexpected way. Just inside the inn, I encountered an old school friend of mine, George Knightley, who lives but a mile from here. He has invited us—and the baronet and his daughter—to stay with him.”
“What a spot of good luck.” Bennet nodded vigorously, perhaps to cover his shivering.
It seemed far too easy that Darcy’s old school chum just happened to be there, only too ready to extend an offer of hospitality. Nothing in life ever proved so convenient. Fate would surely exact some sort of price for this succor.
Still, refusing would be foolish.
Darcy finished telling them about his acquaintance with Knightley just as the coach pulled up to Hartfield’s front steps, the baronet’s coach just behind. No doubt, Darcy’s characteristic brevity managed to leave out the most interesting parts.
By his description, Knightley seemed decidedly odd. Why did a married man, with an estate as respectable as Donwell Abbey, live at his father-in-law’s neighboring establishment? It was just not done.
Darcy’s friends were usually so conventional.
Then again, Bennet proved decidedly odd himself. Darcy had learned to tolerate him with greater equanimity over the—what was it now, fifteen months?—of his marriage to Liza.
Perhaps Darcy was becoming less particular about his connections.
He handed Liza out of the carriage and steadied Bennet as he followed.
Fitzwilliam stepped into the wind and skidded on a patch of ice, barely catching himself on the carriage door.
Blast and botheration! This was not fit weather for man nor beast.
Sir Walter Elliot climbed into the coach, leaving the door open until the driver closed it. There had been little enough warm air within as it was. It would have been nice for him to try to preserve it. But the act of closing the door himself might have been enough to compromise his dignity. He could not have that, could he?
Elizabeth Elliot pulled her hood over her head and huddled into it. The fur within was cold, too. Yes, it would warm soon, but her teeth chattered in the meantime, and Father would likely scold her for the noise.
Thoughtless, self-absorbed …
No, those thoughts were ungracious and unsuitable, and Lady Russell would probably scold her for it. She scolded over so many matters, so what was one more added to the list? Elizabeth bit her lip and pulled the edges of her hood around her face.
Another unkind thought.
Surely it was this horrid storm that had compromised her composure. Usually she was better than this.
She had to be. There was little choice. Father was so very particular about all things that touched his pride—vanity, really. It was not worth the consequences if she vexed him.
Father brushed the snow off his shoulders and stomped his feet. The carriage lurched into motion.
“There was no room at the inn?”
“There was not.” He smoothed his coat over his lap. “But being a baronet has its privileges. I have made arrangements.”
“What kind of arrangements?” She cringed. Father’s arrangements usually did not consider their budget and cost them in privation later—not that he would ever admit to it, but they did. And it would inevitably fall to her to make some way to provide for his comfort despite whatever he had done.
She had become quite good at it.
“The inn was dreadful, totally unsuitable.” He waved his gloved hand dismissively. “But there I met the leading gentleman of this little community. He recognized the honor of hosting a family of our rank and invited us to stay at his estate.”
“Do you know this man?” She covered her face with her hand.
There had been many so-called gentlemen that had proved themselves otherwise. Pray there would be a lock on her door tonight. Even if there was, it might be best that her maid sleep with her as well.
“I do not. But he introduced me to his friend Darcy, whom he also invited to stay, and though that family does not have a title, they are connected to Matlock, and that is recommendation enough for me.” Father settled back in that attitude that declared the conversation over.
Of course connections would be enough for him.
Stop now. That thought was headed nowhere productive—or polite.
She sucked in a long slow breath, and another. The searing cold air made her head ache, but it slowed her thoughts enough to rein them in.
The Darcy reputation was well known, and it was impeccable. Even his surprise marriage to a country gentleman’s daughter had not tarnished it. What was more, his wife was very well received herself. A credit to the Darcy name, she had been called. Perhaps the friend of such a family would be more gentlemanly than not.
The coach rolled to a stop.
She would find out soon enough.
Fitzwilliam stomped snow from his boots as he ascended the front stairs. Knightley himself opened the door for them. “Pray come in.”
Warmth and light the color of a roaring fire poured through the door. No matter how peculiar the man might be, the invitation was too inviting to ignore.
Mother would approve of the vestibule—tasteful, neat, and a bit old fashioned. She always maintained that traditional décor spoke of taste and respect when it was clean and well preserved. The house seemed all those things.
But most of all it was warm. Delightfully, soothingly warm.
Fitzwilliam unwrapped his scarf.
A startled-looking butler met them and took their coats.
A woman, who must have been the housekeeper, trundled up to Knightley.
“Prepare rooms for our guests and their servants. Send the grooms for their horses.” Knightley ducked around the housekeeper. “Emma! Emma!”
No surprise. One did not bellow for his wife as one did a servant.
Bennet sniggered under his breath.
There was a reason the younger Bennet girls were not known for their fine manners. But best not dwell upon that now.
Liza smiled softly, slipped her arm in Darcy’s, and pressed her shoulder to his. His tension eased. She was a master at restoring his composure.
Thankfully, Darcy seemed to appreciate that fact and treated his wife very well. Anything less would have made him intolerable.
A young woman, blonde and pretty-ish, and looking not much older than Georgiana, hurried down the grand stairs. “I was so worried with you out there in the weather!”
Knightley caught her hands in his. “Now you are sounding like your dear papa. As you see, I am quite well and have brought guests seeking shelter from the storm. May I present Sir Walter and Miss Elliot of Kellynch Hall?”
No wonder they looked so familiar!
Clearly Sir Walter did not appreciate being presented to the mistress of the house when he clearly outranked her. The question was, did Knightley do it intentionally or were his manners that sloppy?
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” Mrs. Knightley curtsied with girlish energy, far better suited to a miss than a missus.
“I am most pleased to renew our acquaintance, sir.” Fitzwilliam stepped forward and bowed.
Sir Walter looked at him, forehead knotted and brows drawn together.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam?” Miss Elliot peered at him, eyes widening. “Father, you recall, we were introduced by the Dalrymples, at a card party, three, or was it four months ago?”
“Fitzwilliam? Oh, you are Earl Matlock’s son!”
Amazing how the man’s countenance brightened at that memory.
Fitzwilliam bowed. “Yes sir, I am. This is my cousin, Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, and her father, Mr. Bennet.”
Sir Walter bowed from his shoulders, just enough to be proper. Miss Elliot’s curtsey demonstrated a touch more civility. Just as they had at Bath.
Their haughtiness had not won them many friends there. In truth, though, it was more the baronet, than his daughter whom people avoided. When she was apart from her father, uncommon as it was, she seemed rather pleasant.
The tall, dark-haired woman might have once been regarded handsome, but years on the shelf left her worn and weary along the edges. A little like her garments—once fashionable, but now a bit threadbare. Society was not kind to women who did not ‘take’ soon enough.
Knightley took his wife’s hand as she descended the last few steps.
Given his expression, he was as fond of his wife as Darcy was of Liza. Perhaps that was the common disposition he and Darcy shared.
Knightley tucked his wife’s hand into the crook of his arm. “Darcy is an old school chum of mine. Imagine encountering him in Highbury at such a time.”
“That is very good luck, indeed. You are all very welcome. I should very much like to hear tales of my husband’s school days. He rarely mentions them.” Mrs. Knightley’s eyes twinkled with a hint of mischief, much like Liza’s did.
Knightley flashed his brows at Darcy.
What was that?
Darcy never indulged in any sort of high spiritedness during his school days, did he? The look on Knightley’s face suggested otherwise. That was one conversation Fitzwilliam would definitely follow up on.
This could be a very interesting house party after all.
Snowbound at Hartfield Book Blurb
Colonel Fitzwilliam should have been happy facing retirement. No more Napoleon, no more tromping the Continent, and his distant cousin had unexpectedly left him an estate. What was more, two of his favorite people, Darcy and Elizabeth, were travelling with him to visit his new home.
But the colonel wasn’t happy, not when he was forced to watch Darcy exchanging enamored glances with his wife. No, he wanted to pitch his cousin out the window. It didn’t help when Darcy kept lecturing him on the joys of wedded life— as if women like Elizabeth Darcy grew on every tree.
Then the snow started.
Now they were stranded at the home of George and Emma Knightley, another intolerable, blissfully wedded couple who wanted nothing more than to see his bachelor days come to an end. Thank heavens they never thought of matching him with the proud spinster who had also been caught in the storm. That would have been utterly intolerable.
Or would it?
About the Author
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.
She can be contacted at: