Hi reader friends! Happy Friday! We are so excited to welcome back Jayne Bamber to Austenesque Reviews today for several reasons! The first being that Jayne has a new release coming out soon – A Sister’s Curse (you can preorder it now!!) It is a story we are definitely interested in checking out as it has some new twists, such as Lady Anne being alive! And we always love Jayne’s visits because she always brings some fun with her posts. We hope you enjoy today’s post where she introduces the principal characters in her story including some original creations!
Meet the Cast of A Sister’s Curse, by Jayne Bamber
Hello, readers! It’s great to be back at Austenesque once again, and I’m excited to share a sneak peek of my upcoming release – but first, I’d like to introduce you to some new (and some improved) characters…
While A Sister’s Curse is strictly a Pride & Prejudice variation, there was plenty of room in this tale to add some new faces, and the nature of the story lends itself quite well to adding in some new members of the extended Fitzwilliam family. My personal favorite is the Dowager Countess of Matlock, Lady Eleanor, the queen of sass. The Earl of Matlock’s children also appear, so the former Colonel Fitzwilliam will be in the company of his brother the Viscount, and his sister, Lady Charlotte. I have also added a couple more Gardiners – Lady Olivia Gardiner, and her daughter Rose.
I decided to shed some light on characters that were mentioned in the original by Jane Austen, but never shown directly to readers. This includes Lady Anne and George Darcy, the Earl and Countess of Matlock, Sir Lewis de Bourgh, and the infamous Mrs. Younge. While Elizabeth and Darcy are at the center of the story, the older generation really plays a pivotal role in this tale, and I had a blast getting to know Lady Anne Darcy.
The story begins with an event that has a domino effect throughout the lives of the main characters, and because of this, resulting in some different developments for several of them. Mrs. Phillips is introduced when she is still Miss Gardiner, and she ultimately makes a much grander match. Mr. Gardiner also makes a very different marriage – the woman Austen readers know as Mrs. Gardiner does make an appearance, but in a very different context. There is no Charlotte Lucas, though Lady Charlotte Fitzwilliam serves as a formidable stand-in when Elizabeth needs a friend, and one of the most surprising changes of all is Mr. Collins, who is raised at Longbourn from a young age, and grows up to be a sensible and amiable cousin, with a less creepy interest in his “fair cousins.”
The Fitzwilliam family dominates this story, embroiling both Elizabeth Bennet and William Darcy in a web of secrets, schemes, revenge and redemption after decades of family trauma. For now, however, I would like to introduce you all to one new character in particular, Lady Olivia Gardiner….
Lady Olivia watched with obvious pleasure as George Darcy and Edward Gardiner made their approach from across the ballroom. She rose from her seat and flagged down a footman carrying a tray of champagne, and took a long sip from her glass as she observed them.
“I hope you have brought me some amusing company, Mr. Darcy. I find the entertainment tonight rather disappointing compared to London.”
Mr. Darcy looked rather taken aback, but Mr. Gardiner schooled his countenance into a determined smile. “If it would amuse you to dance the next with me, Lady Olivia, I hope I shall not disappoint.” He gave a little bow and watched with pleasure as Lady Olivia broke into a wide smile.
“And if you do, how shall you make amends?”
“Well, let me see. The last time I disappointed a lady, I acquired quite a fine arrangement of color on my face – here, you can still see what’s left of reproof, so I shall simply have to do my best to entertain you.”
Mr. Darcy looked on with nervous approbation, and Lady Olivia gave a coquettish nod of her head. “Very well then, sir, but you must be forewarned, my standards are very high.”
Mr. Gardiner took Lady Olivia by the hand and led her to the set that was just forming. She was an intimidating woman, despite appearing quite young – she couldn’t have been more than eighteen. And yet, there was a look of great sophistication and intelligence about her, a wit that wanted some occupation, and it was rather fearful to behold.
“Did a lady really give you those bruises, sir? I have been wondering about them; I concocted a story in my own mind, but I am sure my own version of events is far more thrilling than reality – that is often the case.”
“It was not a lady,” Mr. Gardiner replied. “It was her new fiancé. And since you were hoping for something quite shocking, I shall tell you candidly that I quite deserved it.”
Lady Olivia’s eyes were wide and bright as she laughed. “My goodness, what luck for me – an interesting man at last – and finally one to whom even I seem a wiser choice!”
Mr. Gardiner could tell from the trace of challenge in her voice that this must be some allusion to what Lady Anne had hinted at, what seemed to be some thinly veiled secret about the stunning creature before him. And yet, he found he did not care. Intoxicated by her pertly expressed interest in him, he simply wanted to enjoy a lively dance with a beautiful woman, and keep the memory of Madeline Fisher tucked away where it belonged.
“If you have no broad-shouldered beau with a penchant for boxing lurking about, I think we shall both be quite safe,” he teased her.
“No,” she said in a breathy voice, “I haven’t got one of those.”
Their dance together was a pleasant one; her willingness to flirt was gratifying, and he was emboldened by the ease with which he was able to recommend himself to his partner. He had little to say of himself that would not instantly expose him as far beneath her notice, but she seemed bent on turning the conversation to her own amusement, and he was content to listen to her speak of her time at court, while he soaked in the sight of her.
As he led her from the dance floor toward the refreshment table afterward, they were approached by the Earl of Matlock. Mr. Gardiner began to fear he had crossed a line in so openly enjoying the company of the earl’s sister-in-law, but Lord Matlock clapped him on the back and smiled. “Well done, Gardiner. What a splendid couple the two of you made out there. Well done, indeed.”
Lady Olivia gave the earl a sardonic look before curtseying to Mr. Gardiner. “If the two of you are going to discuss me as if I am not even present, I suppose I shall leave you to it.” She winked at Mr. Gardiner and gave her brother-in-law one last impertinent roll of her eyes before she moved away.
Indifferent to Lady Olivia’s behavior, the earl remained focused on Mr. Gardiner, and led him toward the edge of the ballroom. “The two of you certainly seemed to get on well.”
“Yes, I suppose so. I hope I have not offended your lordship in any way.”
The earl guffawed and clapped Mr. Gardiner on the back again. “Far from it, my good man, far from it.” He glanced around them, noticing as Mr. Gardiner had that Lady Anne was standing at some remove, her arms crossed, her countenance full of disapproval. The earl looked away, pretending not to notice, and continued addressing Mr. Gardiner. “It occurs to me that we ought to continue this conversation somewhere more private. I hope you enjoy cigars and brandy as much as I do.”
Mr. Gardiner agreed that he did, and followed the earl to the library, away from the condition of the ball. Lord Matlock gestured for Mr. Gardiner to be seated and poured them each a generous amount of brandy before he retrieved the cigar box from his desk and sat down across from his guest. Still unsure as to the nature of their conversation, Mr. Gardiner accepted the proffered cigar with some hesitation, and thanked the earl.
“Pah. I ought to be thanking you. Lady Olivia is… difficult, to say the least. I was most impressed to see how civil she was with you.”
“She was very civil indeed – do you mean to say that this is out of the ordinary?”
The earl studied Mr. Gardiner, twirling the cigar in his hands as he considered his answer. “If I was to say yes, would you think any less of her?”
“I do not know, sir. I suppose I should prefer to judge her based on what I have seen of her, rather than what I hear from others, though I mean no disrespect. I respect the value of your advice, of course, however….”
“Come, come, you need not stand upon ceremony with me. Let us drink until you stop thinking so much of rank.” The earl reached for the brandy and refilled both their glasses.
“Very well then – might I ask what all this is leading to?”
“Ha! I should bloody well hope you’d come to the point of it! I am asking you to marry her.”
Mr. Gardiner downed his glass of brandy and stared at Lord Matlock in disbelief. “What?”
Oh! This will be interesting! Thank you for sharing, Jayne! I love it when stories feature the Fitzwilliam clan! And seeing more of the older generations…with some new twists to their fates sounds like it would be so much fun to explore! We can’t wait to read A Sister’s Curse (that title carries the air of mystery!) Best wishes on your upcoming
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