Earlier this year, I set a goal to write a Christmas story. It didn’t look like it was going to happen. I’ve moved twice this year! There have been a lot of family complications this fall. I was two months behind on Treasured! In fact, I had in my calendar to start this story on October 10th, after Treasured was supposed to be published. After I finally finished Treasured the other week, I told myself I had one week to write a short story or a novelette. I had already been inspired by How the Grinch Stole Christmas but thought I might have to scrap the idea. If I wasn’t close to being finished in a week then I’d have to save it for next year and move on to Mr. Darcy’s Compassion.
Well, my friends, let’s just say goals motivate me! I wrote almost this entire story in one week! Last week, I said my NaNoWriMo goal was only 500 words a day. There were a few days where I didn’t write much more than that. However, for the most part, I was happily writing a few thousand a day, stealing moments whenever I could, to finish this story. It felt great to just focus on a story and get it done without life complicating things! Oh, and it’s also novella length. I mentioned in a Facebook video (the ones I do with author friends Leenie Brown and Zoe Burton) that I wasn’t sure how long the story would be and if it didn’t make novella length then I wouldn’t push it. Between that and my time constraint, let me tell you there’s no padding to make this longer than necessary and at the same time, the story arc is small enough that it is well-resolved in a novella. There’s an art form to novella writing, folks!
Also, since I now have three different Christmas books, I’ll be starting a new series for them: Christmas with Jane. Once Upon a December and Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn will be getting new covers!
Some of the most loving hearts lay beneath a prickly exterior.
On a much-needed holiday with her favorite relations, Elizabeth Bennet is in search of Christmas cheer. Instead, she meets The Great Curmudgeon, or as the locals call him, Mr. Darcy.
Darcy hates any display of Christmas happiness. He didn’t always feel that way but is certain he will never welcome it again. Despite his family tradition of being the life-force behind the holiday in the area, he shuns it after a family tragedy.
Despite their first perceptions of each other, Darcy and Elizabeth cannot resist the pull of their hearts. Old and new friendships, however, collide to weave an insurmountable obstacle between the fledgling lovers. Will Darcy be able to see past his pain or will he forever miss out on the joy of true love?
This Christmas season, treat yourself to a story of forgiveness, the search for true joy and lasting peace, and a love that can eclipse bitterness and pain. Buy How Darcy Saved Christmas today!
Elizabeth Bennet shivered as she pulled her cloak tighter over her garments and rapidly walked down the streets of the small Derbyshire town of Lambton. She had accompanied her favorite aunt and uncle to the area for Christmas. Aunt Gardiner had grown up in Lambton and after twelve years of marriage was eager to show her husband the area. Elizabeth dearly loved her relations and enjoyed travelling so much that she almost did not regret they had not chosen a warmer month for the holiday.
Not only was the December air crisper in the Northern county and higher altitude, but the town of Lambton also had a somberness about it. Aunt Gardiner had said it was not like this while she lived here. Then, Christmas was a time for joy and festivities as the largest landowner, Mr. Darcy, relished the season. His wife, Lady Anne, had been the originator of many traditions for the area and although she died many years before, her husband continued the tradition. A few years ago, his son inherited. Slowly, the celebrations lost their joy and soon ceased altogether.
Elizabeth scowled as she thought of it. What kind of blockhead disapproved of Christmas? Aunt Gardiner had heard enough information about the new master of Pemberley to know that he was not an atheist. He did not object to the Nativity scene and always appeared in Church when in residence. No, Fitzwilliam Darcy simply hated any signs of happiness. How could a man with so many luxuries in the world and such favour think so meanly of a season meant to bring peace and joy to the hearts of all?
Shaking her head to dispel her thoughts, Elizabeth let out a breath. Smiling at the visible puff of air, she increased her speed. The cause of her errand was to create some jolliness in the rooms she shared with her relations at the inn. An estate as vast as Pemberley surely could not have eradicated all of its holly bushes. Always one to feel more familiar in nature than in stuffy rooms of gossips or strangers, Elizabeth took it upon herself to venture out. She soon found her query and happily began snipping at the leaves while serenading the area with Christmas songs.
“What do you think you are doing?” A loud, masculine voice boomed behind Elizabeth making her jump and drop her garden shears.
Whirling around to see who intruded upon her privacy, her breath caught as a giant of a man stood mere inches away and glared down at her. How had he approached so silently?
“Madam, from your lack of answer I must infer you are either mute or not intelligent enough to think at all and therefore answer me.”
Elizabeth turned red in anger. “Oh, I am thinking plenty! However, unlike some rude people, I see no need to utter every thought I have. Who are you to accost me?”
“Believe me. You will know if I mean to accost you.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and audibly huffed. “So you are simply a natural at it? Congratulations.”
“That was meant as an apology.” The stranger stepped forward.
“And yet you still have said nothing close to one.”
“I am the master of this estate. Who do I have the “pleasure” of speaking with?”
Elizabeth looked the man up and down. Surely the great and fear-inspiring master did not stomp around his hundreds of acres in frigid temperatures and dressed as commonly as her uncle. The man might try to provoke her and instill fear, but she felt it was all false bravado. “Princess Charlotte, at your service.”
Affecting the behaviour of a spoiled princess, Elizabeth gave a nondifferential curtsy then turned. Stooping to pick up her dropped scissors, she had stood half-way up when a hand grasped hers.
“Who are you really?”
“Who are you?” Elizabeth spun once more to face him, holding the shears out in an accusatory manner.
“I am Fitzwilliam Darcy, and you are trespassing. Shall I call the magistrate?”
Elizabeth snorted. “His daughter is my aunt so I doubt he would fine me or send me to goal.”
“You are related to Mr. Fisher?”
“Not exactly,” Elizabeth smirked. Cutting one more bunch of leaves, Elizabeth dropped her shears in her basket and then stepped around the towering stranger. “Pardon me.”
“Where are you going?”
“I have finished my errand and do not find your company satisfying enough to remain.”
“I demand to know who you are.”
For a moment, Elizabeth considered telling him. She still doubted he was truly Mr. Darcy, but if he were at all serious about his threat in taking her to the magistrate, she would use any advantage she had. However, at the moment, he looked more amused than angry. It only infuriated her more and inflamed her stubbornness. Redoubling her commitment to anonymity, she silently marched on.
Elizabeth nearly expected the man to follow, but he did not. There, that was how you dealt with bullies. After such an encounter she could almost wish she would meet with this Mr. Darcy who banned Christmas and give him a piece of her mind.
Arriving at the inn, she greeted her aunt and uncle.
“Lizzy, where did you go?”
She lifted her basket of holly and evergreen clippings. “I went for a walk and couldn’t resist the greenery.”
Mrs. Gardiner frowned. “You have gardening shears in there. Do not pretend it was just a fortuitous opportunity and you found these already cut and ready in a basket.”
Elizabeth grinned. “Very well, I will not pretend. I left with the sole intention of finding things to enliven our rooms. I cannot stand for Christmas to be so dreary!”
“My parents’ house will have a few decorations.” Mrs. Gardiner sighed. “However, there will be no customary ball. It was quite the area tradition when I was a child. Then, the Darcys at Pemberley would host a yule log for everyone. Oh! It was the biggest log you have ever seen!”
Elizabeth smiled as her aunt’s eyes danced with merriment at the fond memories.
“Lady Anne would personally ladle the nog to one and all. She even danced all the jigs. No one was too low to be her partner.” Elizabeth’s aunt sighed. “Her death was such a loss to the town. Poor Mr. Darcy was devastated.”
“Well, his son is the most miserly man I have ever heard of,” Elizabeth said as she sat in a chair before popping a biscuit in her mouth. She washed it down with tea then added, “I met his surly gardener. He was not terribly bright and had awful manners, but I think working for such a sour man would make anyone miserable.”
“Do you mean that you walked all the way to Pemberley?” Mr. Gardiner asked in surprise.
“I took perverse enjoyment in taking my cuttings from the Great Curmudgeon.”
“The Great what—” Mr. Gardiner laughed. “Oh, Lizzy. You will have to mind your tongue sometime.”
“Why should I?”
Her aunt and uncle shared a look. “It is one thing with us, my dear,” Mrs. Gardiner said gently, “but quite another to ridicule Mr. Darcy before anyone. Despite his policies regarding Christmas, he is greatly respected and esteemed.”
Elizabeth raised her brows. “I suppose I should wait and listen to testimony about him.”
“I think we can do better than that,” Mrs. Gardiner bubbled with pride. “He is to dine with my father this afternoon, and we are also invited.”
Elizabeth kept her unwelcome thoughts to herself, and the conversation turned to other things. The three spent the remainder of the morning decorating their rooms before determining to experience the shops.
Once walking along the streets of Lambton, Elizabeth’s good humour returned. She greatly enjoyed meeting new acquaintances, and her aunt had many old friends to introduce to her niece. The stores were not very different from any other market town, but Elizabeth bought a few trinkets for her family. It shocked her that there were no Christmas displays. Who was Mr. Darcy to influence an entire town on how to practice a sacred holiday?
Toward the end of the square, Elizabeth saw several large red bows hanging on a shop’s windows and a festive wreath on the door. Curious, she walked ahead of her aunt and uncle. There was someone in this town who celebrated Christmas?
Looking up, she saw a sign: Wickham & Son, Solicitors. Peeking in the window, Elizabeth saw more displays of greenery inside the lobby for clients.
“May I be of service, Miss?” a polite voice came from over Elizabeth’s shoulder.
She turned and beheld the most handsome face she had ever seen. Air left her lungs on a whoosh. “Oh.” Was all she could manage to say.
“Forgive me if I startled you.” The young man wore a friendly smile. “Do you have need of our services?”
“George Wickham, at your service.”
He held out a hand and Elizabeth took it, expecting a shake. However, Mr. Wickham curved his fingers and bowed over her hand. Elizabeth blushed and looked around for her relations. He had not kissed it, that would have been far too bold for having just met, but as he peered into her eyes, she believed he must be as instantly smitten as she.
“No,” Elizabeth smiled. Feeling bold by his evident admiration of her brightened face, she continued, “I have no need of a lawyer. I was admiring your Christmas decorations.”
“Then you must come in rather than stand in the cold.” Mr. Wickham glanced around. “Are those your chaperones?” He pointed toward the Gardiners who slowly approached.
“Indeed. However, I could not impose on your place of business.”
Wickham shrugged. “We have no appointments for the remainder of the day.” He pulled his watch out. “Indeed, it is near our tea time.”
“Who is this ‘our’ you keep mentioning?” Elizabeth asked with a coy smile.
Wickham pointed to the sign. “Ah, so you have a son,” she teased.
Wickham laughed. “Indeed, no I am far too young to have a son.” At Elizabeth’s raised brow, he added, “Certainly too young to have a son who could practice law. I fear I must need spectacles for I had thought I rather looked my age. Have I missed graying hairs or age spots?”
“No,” Elizabeth laughed. “I should not have teased so, now you will think that I am very ill-mannered.”
“I shall not,” he said, smiling down at her. “I never feel as comfortable with friends as when they can tease and laugh. There is far too much seriousness in my life—around here, at least.”
Elizabeth was about to say she had noticed the mood of the town when her aunt and uncle approached and asked to be introduced. Wickham invited them into the shop. Surprisingly, Mrs. Gardiner accepted the offer of a warm fire and tea. Elizabeth ought to have known her aunt was not as hardy as herself.
Mr. Wickham brought them to a back sitting room, bedecked in Christmas splendor. An older gentleman sat in a comfortable chair nearest the fire. His hair was white and his hands twisted with arthritis.
“George, is that you?”
“It is, Father, and I have brought new friends. Or rather, old. I am much mistaken if Mrs. Gardiner is not our long-lost Miss Fisher.”
“The very one,” Mrs. Gardiner gushed before approaching the chair with a smile.
“Well, look at you! Quite the fine lady now with a respectable looking husband.” Mr. Wickham peered at Elizabeth. “I did not think you had left us long ago enough to have a daughter of such an age.”
“Pray, forgive me for not offering introductions,” George hastened to say. “Miss Fisher has married a Mr. Gardiner who is an excellent merchant in London. Miss Bennet is his niece.”
“We left our four children in the care of my sister,” Mr. Gardiner informed.
“Do you also live in London?” George asked Elizabeth as they all sat down to tea. The others began their own conversation.
“No, my father’s estate is in Hertfordshire.”
“I confess when hearing your uncle was in trade, I did not expect you to come from an estate.”
“My mother’s father was a solicitor in a market town around the same size as Lambton. I am not quite sure how she attracted the attention of my father, but somehow they married. My Uncle Gardiner chose not to practice law. Instead, the business went to the husband of his other sister.”
“It must have meant very much to your grandfather to have someone to carry on his business.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I really am not sure. He died before I was old enough to remember. You are fortunate to have your father’s practice.”
George’s grip on his teacup tightened just a bit. “He actually re-opened the practice for me. You see, he had been Mr. Darcy’s steward. Not the current one—he fired my father for no reason and gave him only a small pension. My father cared nothing for himself. No, all his cares were for me.” He sighed and stirred his tea a moment before returning his eyes to Elizabeth. “I have never seen my father as broken down as the day I had to inform him that his master’s son would not give me the living I had been promised. He used all his money so I might become a lawyer. He lived on minimal resources building up the business as I studied. I owe him everything.”
Elizabeth’s heart seized to hear such a story. She had said she would wait to listen to what others would say of Mr. Darcy and this was precisely the proof she meant. Look at how he treated a trusted servant! There was something very wrong with Fitzwilliam Darcy’s soul.