Hello, dear readers! I am very excited to welcome back Author Monica Fairview to Austenesque Reviews today! She is one of the few people that was visiting Austenesque Reviews when it was just beginning, back in 2009. Which was around the time of her release of The Other Mr. Darcy – one of our faves from that year! I’m so happy to have Monica come visit and share an excerpt from her new release Mr. Darcy’s Challenge (Volume Two), which is the second book in her Darcy Novels series.
Thank you, Meredith, for this opportunity to visit your wonderful blog once again. I’m delighted to be here on Austenesque Reviews to discuss my latest novel, Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, the second (but not final) novel in my Darcy Novels series.
Unlike Mr. Darcy’s Pledge, Mr. Darcy’s Challenge is centered on a number of “challenges” that Darcy has to deal with. In the first novel, Darcy had to undertake a journey of self-knowledge in order to recognize and appreciate what Elizabeth meant to him. It was a journey from resistance and darkness to hope and determination.
In Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, Darcy’s dedication to Elizabeth is no longer in question. His journey of self-discovery therefore takes him in a different direction. Darcy starts out by dreaming of being a knight in shining armor, but as the novel progresses, he comes to realize that there are personal challenges that cannot be wished away with a command or a flick of the hand. He learns that being a gentleman (or a knight) involves putting the needs of others before his own, and accepts that sometimes the honorable path may contradict completely with his own desires. He has to be willing to do things for Elizabeth even knowing there is a good chance he will not be able to win her.
That is not to say that the novel is gloomy, though Darcy does have a few moments of despair. There is humor in there, too. The Bennets provide comic relief. Mrs. Bennet is torn between finding her daughter and experiencing sea-dipping. Mr. Bennet, meanwhile, deals with stress by “making sport” of everyone and everything.
In the chaos, Darcy makes mistakes. For example, he underestimates the extent of Wickham’s envy and greed and pays a high price for that. It takes the length of the novel, but Darcy has to dig deep inside himself to find the roots of his honor and discover a new kind of pride in himself. He is challenged to become a better human being.
Of course, internal journeys go hand in hand with actual journeys. To learn who you are, you have to leave a familiar environment and venture somewhere new. In the case of Mr. Darcy’s Challenge, this is the trip from London to Brighton, accompanied by the Bingleys, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Lizzy and Georgiana. Everyone that matters comes on the journey and Darcy has to deal with them under rather trying circumstances. Along the way, he gradually comes to terms with who Elizabeth really is, including her family. By the end of the trip, Darcy shows an actual moment of empathy with Mrs. Bennet, which is no small feat!!
I’ve chosen a passage below that in a (not too serious) way, symbolizes the obstacles Darcyhas to face. This particular obstacle, by the way, was a very real one. During the Regency period, Clayton Hill was on the London-Brighton road and was notorious for being a place where carriages were stranded in bad weather. Not only that, but because the road was clay and on an incline, it was the custom for the coachman to ask passengers to descend from their carriages at the bottom of the hill and climb to the top, which was a half-hour walk. Interestingly enough, there is a manor at the intersection after the hill called Wickham. I wonder if Jane Austen ever got stuck in the mud at Clayton Hill and named her villain after the manor? [Incidentally, William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, grew up in that manor.]
I am pleased to give you an exclusive excerpt from later in the book. In this excerpt, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as well as Mr. Bingley have gone on ahead in the other carriage, while Georgiana has been suffering an excruciating ride trapped between three people who are clearly at loggerheads. Darcy and Elizabeth have quarreled and are barely on speaking terms, and Caroline seems determined to impose her presence even if she knows she has no chance of getting Darcy’s attention. To make matters worse, their carriage gets stuck.
The carriage was stuck in the mud. Caroline, of course, was too particular to come out and assist them. As the rain poured down, they were drenched and knee-high in mud while Caroline remained inside, cool and collected as may be.
“Ebenezer will take the front. Georgiana, put your shoulder to mudguard. Miss Darcy, if you will position yourself on the right there,” said Darcy. “I will count to three. On the count of three, we will all push as hard as we can.” He called out to the man in front. “Postillion – prepare to handle the horses.”
“What about at the count of four,” said Elizabeth, “what do we do then?”
“I am sorry to say there will be no count of four,” he said, unsmiling.
Georgiana noted the tension between them and wondered at it. It had not been like this at Pemberley. Had there been some kind of a quarrel? When? The two had scarcely seen each other since the Bennets had arrived in London.
As Darcy said three, they all pushed as hard as they could. The rain was coming down in great streams and Georgiana’s ringlets were flattened down, covering her eyes so that she could scarcely see what she was doing. She could only imagine how bad she looked. What if someone came by and saw them?
The carriage shuddered, jerked forward and then started to slide backwards. For a terrified moment, Georgiana though it was going to roll back and knock her down, but it merely sank back into the mud with a resigned squelch.
“We need to keep at it,” said Darcy.
Georgiana pushed with all her might this time, grunting with effort as she anchored herself solidly in the road and leaned forward. Briefly, it appeared they had succeeded. The carriage moved forwards a couple of inches, but then was stuck again.
“Mr. Darcy,” said Caroline, pulling down the window sash halfway and peering out at them. “You must come in from the rain. You will catch your death.”
Georgiana felt a stab of resentment. Perhaps if they had one more person’s help, they would be able to get the carriage out.
It seemed her brother had a similar thought.
“Miss Bingley, would you be kind enough to step out for a moment? You need not push with us, but the lighter the carriage, the easier it will be to extract it from the mud.”
He opened the door and offered her his hand, bowing. Since his glove was caked with mud, she hesitated, but decided she had no choice but to be gracious.
“Anything to help you, Mr. Darcy,” she said, with a smile, tucking her parasol under her arm and putting her arms out to him. Darcy hesitated, then picked her up and swung her over to a rock on the side of the road where she erected her parasol and stood sheltering under its flimsy protection.
“Very chivalrous of your brother,” said Elizabeth, with a little smile.
“He is always civil to those he knows well. He has known Caroline Bingley for years.”
“Next you will tell me she is like a sister to him.”
There was an ironic note to her statement, or was it a note of jealousy? Georgiana was glad to clear up that misapprehension at least.
“Miss Bingley has been hoping to marry my brother for years, but William has been blind to it. We are so accustomed to having the Bingleys around they seem part of the family. It is only lately that he has become aware of her intentions and he has done his best to discourage them. However, as you will no doubt have noticed, it is nigh impossible to discourage Miss Bingley from anything.”
She was prevented from saying more when Darcy returned to resume the attempt to extricate themselves.
This time, when they pushed, there was a loud whooshing sound and the wheel suddenly surged forwards. Unfortunately, great globs of mud flew out. One splotch landed on Elizabeth’s chin, another on Georgiana’s bonnet and the third splattered onto Darcy’s face.
Elizabeth began to shake with laughter. “I am sorry,” she said. “I cannot help it. You should see the expression on your face.”
Her brother’s countenance held such a ridiculous mix of surprise and outrage that Georgiana could not help laughing too. William’s first reaction was to look towards them in disapproval, but suddenly he, too, burst into laughter. The three of them squelched about in the mud, laughing away, while Caroline Bingley stood under her parasol and stared.
“How wonderful that you find the situation diverting,” said Caroline. “However, may I remind you that we still need to walk to the top of the hill.”
The laughter died out as everyone contemplated the climb ahead of them.
Thank you so much, Monica for paying us a lovely visit! I’m looking forward to reading Mr. Darcy’s Challenge and seeing more of Darcy’s journey of self-knowledge!
Connect with Monica
Today, Monica Fairview brings with her TWO ebook copies of her newly released novel, Mr. Darcy’s Challenge (Volume Two), for me to giveaway to TWO lucky winners!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, a question, or some love for Monica!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Monica!
- This giveaway ends January 20th!