Hello dear readers! I’m so very very excited to welcome back, Joana Starnes to Austenesque Reviews today! She has published some fantastic Austenesque literature these past two years – my favorites include The Subsequent Proposal and The Falmouth Connection. I am so happy that Joana is here celebrating the release of her latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unthinkable Triangle and sharing the most gut-wrenching of scenes!
Many thanks, Meredith, for hosting me at Austenesque Reviews again, it’s always such a treat to be here, and your lovely warm welcome makes it even more special every time.
I come bearing gifts: an excerpt and a giveaway for my latest release, The Unthinkable Triangle. As the title suggests and you probably know by now, this is a love-triangle story, the trickiest love triangle of them all, involving Darcy, Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam.
I know we love to torture Darcy, but some might say this is a step too far. Particularly as it affects Colonel Fitzwilliam too and, unlike Darcy, the dear Colonel has done absolutely nothing to deserve it! But at least you might be pleased to know he is very happy for a large part of the story. Indeed, how can he not be? He is engaged to Elizabeth Bennet!
Of course, we all know that it must be Darcy, and not his cousin, who wins the day and gets the girl in the end, JAFF would not be JAFF otherwise. I have also mentioned before that the lovely Colonel would not be a casualty in the quest for Darcy’s ‘happily ever after’. But that does not necessarily mean he would not get his brush with danger. That would be farfetched – after all, he is a Colonel in His Majesty’s army at a time of gruesome conflict.
Thus, there are scenes which some readers might recognise as a mirror image of ones from my first book, From This Day Forward, which to an extent had inspired this story. I say ‘a mirror image’ because in The Unthinkable Triangle, it seems that Darcy is at the losing end, and not his cousin.
Which finally brings me to the excerpt. But first let me set the scene. Colonel Fitzwilliam, injured in the Peninsular campaign, is fighting for his life at Darcy’s townhouse and Mr. Darcy, honourable as ever, had travelled in the dead of night to Longbourn, to fetch his cousin’s fiancée – Miss Elizabeth Bennet – and her father, to the patient’s bedside. In the grueling hours of his cousin’s severe illness, wracked with guilt, Mr. Darcy makes a bedside promise, or rather seeks to strike a bargain:
“Striking a bargain with his Maker might have been wrong – a prideful notion, bordering on the sinful. But it was born of desperation, and he could not stop himself. So this is precisely what he did, as he clasped his cousin’s hand, and silently prayed.
‘Let him live – and I shall do my part. She will be a sister to me, just as Georgiana. Just as she should have been from the moment she said yes to Richard. I will subdue every improper wish. Just let him live!’ ”
Several harrowing days later, it seems that his prayers had been answered. But that was not the end of everybody’s troubles…
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Excerpt From Chapter 5
The sickroom was silent once again. The doctor had superintended the cumbersome yet necessary process of changing the drenched bedclothes with fresh ones, sweetened with lavender, and likewise the patient’s apparel. Then he had gone to rest at last in well-earned comfort in the bedchamber prepared for him, which he had so far made precious little use of, and urged the others to seek their beds as well, for he could vouch for the Colonel’s current safety.
He was not surprised that they failed to listen. He had seen it oftentimes before. The loved ones would very rarely pay heed to his exhortations in cases such as these and, after many days and nights of fear and anguish, they would still insist on remaining at the bedside, to reassure themselves of their right to hope.
The master of the house, the young man’s cousin, proved no exception, as did the young lady. As soon as the patient’s nightclothes and bed linen had been changed and she had been allowed back into the sickroom, she had settled herself in her customary place and would not budge, in blatant disregard of the doctor’s orders, until at last she had succumbed to heavy sleep, which was to be expected after the dreadful time she had endured.
Before leaving the room to seek his berth, the old doctor shook his head, first towards the sleeping woman and then to her equally obstinate companion.
“She should be made to get a decent rest,” he told the latter, “or she might be taken ill herself. And so should you, Sir, if you do not mind me saying. Your cousin is safe for now, I can assure you. You should take yourself to bed, and so should this headstrong young woman, or someone should be summoned to convey her. Doubtlessly you will ignore me,” he muttered with mild vexation, “although for both your sakes I wish you would not. But be that as it may. I shall leave you now,” he added, and in due course he proved himself as good as his word, leaving Darcy to do just as he chose.
Predictably, he chose to steadfastly keep watch over his cousin. Still reclining on several pillows, Fitzwilliam seemed to be in peaceful repose and even now Darcy could scarce believe that he was indeed sleeping, rather than being rendered unconscious by the fever.
There was no doubt that Elizabeth was asleep. Her head was leaning to one side against the headrest, her breathing slow and even. Good. She needed to recover. He was loath to disturb her, but the old doctor might have had the right of it. She should get some decent rest at last. A proper night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, not just a few hours of slumber in a wing chair.
Darcy stood from his own seat and came to bend down on one knee beside her.
“Eliz–… Miss Bennet?” he amended.
She did not stir, which was little wonder, and he reached for the hand resting limply at her side, to cradle it in his. It was small and very cold. He brought it to his cheek and held it there, the thin fingers loosely curled around his own. And time stood still – and so did he. Only his thumb moved, in light, rhythmic strokes tracing the same recurring pattern, while his eyes kept retracing another pattern of their own. Auburn locks in charming disarray, wispy ringlets trailing at her temples. Closed eyelids, faintly tinged with purple, and incredibly long lashes. An adorably-shaped nose, perfect in its barely noticeable imperfection. Mouth – flawless, and ever so slightly curled up at the corners. Softly curved cheeks that would form a dimple when she smiled in earnest.
The small hand twitched in his when at last he turned his head to press it to his lips. He returned it to her side and softly urged again:
“Miss Bennet? Dr. Graham said you ought to get some restful sleep,” he whispered, as though she could hear him.
She did not. Her breathing still came slow and even and she gave no sign of imminent awakening. Perhaps the old doctor was in the right about this too; someone should be summoned to take her to her chambers. Yet, even as he thought it, Darcy knew that he would summon no one. Instead, he gingerly slipped one arm around her back and the other underneath her, to carefully lift her off her chair. He braced himself and stood with ease holding the light and very precious burden. He raised her closer to his chest and her head fell against his shoulder, her face upturned, achingly beautiful and almost childlike in repose.
Her cheeks were very pale and so were the full lips. So close. If he only bent his head… One indulgence – the first one and the last. Inches from his own, her lips parted, releasing a faint sigh, and his chest tightened, as did his eyes, firmly closed against the exquisite temptation.
He sighed – a heavy, tortured sound. His eyes still closed, he bent his head just enough to press his lips on the smooth brow for a long, harrowing moment. There was no added fragrance of jasmine and gardenia this time, just the scent of her warm skin and her hair – and he inhaled, shaken to his core by the deep yearning that it stirred in him. Far beyond desire. Much more than temptation. A staggering sense of belonging, of homecoming. Yearning and fulfillment, all in one.
He winced, opened his eyes and raised his head, gaining some distance from the cruel trick of chemistry and nature. This was not home – at least not for him. It was high time to accept the truth. And he would, by God, even if it killed him! It was time to do his part; keep his side of the bargain.
His gaze fixed on the perfect features, he swallowed hard and his voice came in a ragged whisper.
“Farewell, my love. God bless you, and be happy.”
And then he turned to chastely carry her to her own bedchamber, failing to notice that in the light of the few guttering candles, a pair of very deep blue eyes were glittering under the canopy of the large bed, watching his every move in confused and disbelieving horror, and remained firmly fixed on his retreating back.
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AHHH! I cannot wait to read this book! What about you?
Connect with Joana
Today, Joana brings with her two copies of newly released novel, The Unthinkable Triangle (2 Kindle ebooks), for me to giveaway to TWO lucky winners!
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Joana below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Joana!
- This giveaway ends October 5th!