You can read other Friday Features here: The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter Second Edition / Sufficient Encouragement/ Mr. Darcy’s Kindness / Once Upon a December / Love Lasts Longest / A Sense of Obligation / No Cause to Repine / Undone Business / Letters from the Heart / The Gentleman’s Impertinent Daughter
Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn started as Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy. I can’t even remember now what was the genesis of that book. I think it was a story prompt on a forum. Or maybe I just wanted to do another Christmas book based on holiday songs. However, this time instead of being stand alone short stories, I used a time travel theme. I remember getting distracted with other projects and at least one move getting in the way. I had started posting on forums and decided to give it a rest. I finally came back to it several months later. By this time, it was early summer and I decided that I could publish it for a limited time in July.
Shortly after publishing it, I felt inspired to write a sequel. However, I didn’t know if I should call it a sequel or just put it together as Parts II and III of Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Joy. I eventually decided on doing that but giving the whole omnibus a new title. It also seemed like the most fair way to get the second and third part to the readers who had already read the first part.
I’m unsure if I would do it that way again. Part I truly is a stand alone novella. There is a conflict (the repeating days) that is solved and ends with engagements for Jane & Bingley, Darcy & Elizabeth, and Colonel Fitzwilliam & Mary. Part II extends the notion of Christmas magic teaching other members of the family lessons worth learning. However, according to the word count it would only be a short story. Part III is an extended epilogue of the Bennet sisters’ marriages and childbirths that would also only qualify as a short story. From a selling point of view, books in a series do best when they are of a similar length. There is also always something known as decay that happens across a series. It’s the fact that a certain number of readers won’t follow through with reading the entire series, especially if they don’t come out near each other in release as they have moved on to other books.
However, it can also be enjoyed as just one novel-length book. The couples are ensured greater happiness because their family has improved too. I think that’s what we hope all love can do. I recently saw a review for the book that didn’t like Parts II and III and thought they were too Polly-anna-ish. I think this was because I had just begun to really classify myself as a Romance writer, JAFF going under many different umbrellas. Additionally, the reader seemed to read it as just an ordinary JAFF and not take into account the way a Christmas book ought to contain miracles. The title even said it!
I was also inspired by the Christmas film title Miracle on 34th Street.
Another thing readers had difficulty with sometimes, was the fantasy/time travel element of the story. Online, I had described it as a bit like the film Groundhog Day. Well, some readers thought that meant each day ought to be entirely the same, whereas I had meant that the calendar day would repeat itself. Once it got to publication, however, most readers seemed to enjoy it and were able to follow the story without preconceived ideas. Sometimes, that is quite a victory in JAFF!
O Holy Night
December 23, 1811
As Elizabeth left Mr. Darcy’s side and joined Wickham, something like an unpleasant memory flashed in her mind. However, it was more impression than memory, so she pushed it aside. Expecting Darcy to leave after her refusal, she could barely contain her astonishment when he stayed for dinner. While they gathered in the drawing room before the meal, Darcy glared at her and Wickham.
The officer unabashedly enjoyed goading the arrogant gentleman. However, Wickham’s delight did not serve him well. Elizabeth’s primary interest in Wickham had been that he flattered her vanity. She was not too proud to admit that. What lady would not enjoy the attentions of a handsome man? It soon became apparent, though, that Wickham paying Elizabeth such notice flattered his ego. Out of some rivalry—of which a valuable church living did not seem to be the motive—Wickham preyed upon her dislike of Darcy.
During the meal, Darcy sat near Mrs. Bennet. Elizabeth observed him to see how he would react to her mother’s constant raving about the good fortune of Mr. Bingley’s return and how kind he was to want to marry her eldest daughter. Soon, Mrs. Bennet hinted at Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam marrying from among her other girls. Beside her, Mary blushed scarlet. How curious. As Mrs. Bennet had not been expecting so much company, the meal had fewer courses than she would have had ordered otherwise, and Elizabeth gloried in the chance to be away from the gentlemen. In fact, she felt tempted to claim illness and return to her chamber, but she did not wish to ruin the evening of Jane’s betrothal. She would not let Mr. Darcy have such a victory over her.
Surprisingly, Mary, Georgiana, and Jane had their heads together when they returned to the drawing room. Now and then they nervously glanced at the clock. Half past six.
“Lizzy,” Jane said, “will you walk with me?”
“Jane, you cannot leave,” Mrs. Bennet screeched. “When the gentlemen return, Mr. Bingley will want to sit with you!”
Elizabeth furrowed her brow as she watched alarm enter Jane’s eyes, and she glanced at Mary and Georgiana.
“Mama,” Mary said suddenly, “Miss Darcy had asked to see the fountain. Jane and Lizzy know it best. We would not want to put her out, would we?”
Mrs. Bennet paused for a moment, as she had always disliked Darcy. However, seeing as he brought Bingley back as well as another single gentleman, and friendship with his sister could do wonders for her daughters, she relented. “Very well, but hurry along!”
The last rays of the sun were slipping from the horizon, and dusk came closer with every passing second. Reaching the fountain, they stared at it appreciatively for a moment.
“Forgive me, but I would hate to miss Mr. Bingley’s return to the drawing room.” Jane blushed. “You cannot fault me, my dear sister, for wishing to be by his side so much after so long a separation.”
Elizabeth gave her most beloved sister an indulgent smile. “No, indeed. If Miss Darcy has no objection to staying out here with me alone, that is. Although I wonder that her brother should like it.”
“Oh, there is no worry there,” Miss Darcy said with laughter. “He often wrote of your superior intelligence and abilities.”
Before Elizabeth could do more than gape at the sister of the most complicated man in the universe, Jane excused herself.
“And what is that?” Georgiana pointed to some flowers by a copse of trees.
Elizabeth explained the species as she walked closer to gain a better view. She had assumed Georgiana followed but noticed she did not hear footsteps. Turning to see where the girl had gone, a shadow moved from a tree, catching her eye and causing her to yelp.
Immediately, Elizabeth threw an arm out to protect Georgiana from the darkened intruder. “Miss Darcy, run!”
“She has returned to the house,” Wickham said. “She never saw me. We are quite alone.”
“Mr. Wickham? Why would you scare me?” Elizabeth felt her body relax and held a hand to her chest.
“Oh, there is really nothing to fear.”
Suddenly, he grabbed her arm, holding it so tightly that she was certain it bruised. He pulled her hard against his chest. One arm snaked around her waist while the one that abused her limb now raked up her shoulder and neck. Taking her jaw in his hand, he forcefully bent her head back to look at him. Madness shone in his eyes.
“I will finally have my revenge.”
Revenge? What revenge? What did he speak of? “Sir, if you will please come back to the house. You are unwell. We can call a physician.”
“No, no. Your words or looks will not beguile me. Tell me,” he said and thrust her chin this way and then that, “do you think you are worth thirty thousand pounds to him?”
To whom? Elizabeth took a shuddering breath. She had no idea what had caused this madness or whom he spoke of, but she had no time to worry about such things. She needed to be free of him. She did not think she could overpower him. Gruffly, he let go of her face and then thrust a hand into his pocket. What he withdrew flashed in the moonlight.
“I think on your knees will be best.”
He shoved her forward, and Elizabeth stumbled to her knees. Instantly, he was beside her, gripping her around the waist again. Then Elizabeth felt the cold, hard steel against her neck and whimpered.
“You will have to be louder than that,” he said and pressed harder against the tender skin.
Elizabeth felt a trickle of blood and prayed someone might come outside.
“Look!” Wickham exclaimed.
His breath became ragged in excitement and delight. Every exhale scorched her ear.
“Play nice,” he whispered harshly.
“Miss Bennet?” Elizabeth heard Darcy’s anxious tone come from the direction of the house.
He held no lantern, and it took a moment for her to make out his frame in the increasing darkness.
“Over here, Darcy.”
Wickham’s foul breath flew past her ear again.
“I believe we can finally talk about the matter of what you owe me.”
“Wickham,” Darcy growled. “I owe you nothing!”
Leaves crunched, signalling Darcy’s approach. Wickham tightened his hold on Elizabeth, earning a whimper from her. The shuffling of feet ceased.
“Elizabeth?” Darcy asked, fear evident in his tone.
“Go ahead, sweetheart,” Wickham commanded. “Reassure him you live.” He laughed. “So long as both of you do as I say, the blade will not slice her throat.”
Elizabeth remained mute. She would not let him gain anything through her. The blade cut deeper, and Elizabeth felt the bile rising in her throat.
“You may have anything you desire so long as you do not harm her,” Darcy said. The previous tone was gone, and he was the Master of Pemberley in command once more.
“And you?” Wickham’s hand around her waist tightened. “Do you agree as well?”
“Elizabeth,” Darcy said calmly, “cooperate with him, and I promise you will return safely to your parents.”
How had it come to this? Wickham was crazed and threatening her life? She had been blind, so blind! No injustice he had faced in life would justify this cruelty.
“Yes,” she said firmly. “I will obey you.”
“Ah, good to see she can be biddable,” Wickham said. “Now, you may approach, Darcy.”
Darcy’s feet moved at a steady rhythm, and soon he emerged from the shadows and trees.
“Our hero,” Wickham laughed. “Or should I say our bait! You see, it was he the others intended for you to meet out here. A lover’s tryst?”
“Wickham, what do you want?” Darcy said.
His eyes never left Elizabeth’s. They pleaded with her to trust him.
“What should have been mine! Taken from my father and raised alongside you. I should have been treated as a son!” Wickham spat at Darcy’s boots.
“And so you were,” Darcy said in an eerily composed tone considering Wickham’s words and actions “Many younger sons enter the church.”
Wickham shook his head. “Not a Darcy. Tell me, was your uncle expected to live off a few hundred pounds per annum?”
Elizabeth furrowed her brow. Wickham was not a Darcy, and she highly doubted he would have concealed that heritage or that Darcy would not acknowledge him. She remained mute, allowing the scene to play out.
“Would you like a house? A thousand a year?” Darcy asked and attempted to step forward.
“Get back!” Wickham barked, and Darcy complied. “Thirty thousand pounds—what I would have had if you had not interrupted my plans with your sister—and the estate in Wiltshire.”
Elizabeth bit back a gasp. That would nearly ruin Mr. Darcy. It would take all of Miss Darcy’s fortune. Suddenly, Elizabeth realised that was what Wickham meant. He had hoped to marry her? No, he could never have wanted to act so honourably, nor would Darcy have allowed it. Had he planned on eloping with the young girl?
A tear trickled down Elizabeth’s face. She had been so stupid to believe in anything the man said. And based on what? Her pleased vanity?
“You are running out of time, Darcy,” Wickham said. “Others will look for her soon, and if you do not agree to my demands, they will find you…with her dead body.”
“And I have your word that you will leave me alone after this?” Darcy asked.
“What would be the fun in that?”
“Very well, anything,” Darcy said. “Let her go.”
“I knew you would defend her honour. Your stupid duty guides you in everything!”
Wickham released Elizabeth and kicked her forward. She landed with a groan as her head hit the ground hard. She could barely make out any sounds but heard Darcy lunge for her before Wickham screamed at him to get back. They were fighting! She could hear punches being thrown and rolling on leaves. Elizabeth struggled to stay conscious.
“This may be even more satisfying than your money,” Wickham said with laboured breaths.
Elizabeth forced her eyes open, and she saw Darcy pinned to the ground underneath Wickham, who held the knife to his throat.
“No!” she screamed and threw the rock that her head had landed on.
Wickham fell over with a thud, and Darcy lunged for the knife. Securing it in the waist of his breeches, he ran to Elizabeth. She needed help reaching a sitting position, and tears flooded her eyes. Had she killed him?
“Elizabeth, it’s going to be well. You are safe and unharmed,” he said even as he ran hands over her limbs to check for breaks.
“But he could wake.” She winced when he placed a handkerchief to her throat. “Or is he—is he—?” She could not bear to say the words, and sobs consumed her.
“Only unconscious, I believe.” Darcy left her side to examine Wickham. “He breathes. He will have a devil of a headache when he wakes.”
Elizabeth scarcely heard but managed to nod. Her entire body shook, and tears still streaked down her face.
Darcy returned to her side and settled Elizabeth into his arms, holding her tight. “I am sorry,” he whispered into her hair. “I am so sorry. I ought to have told you about Wickham and Georgiana. I never would have thought…”
Shuddering, she looked up to see tears escaping his eyes. “It is not your fault.” She reached up and tenderly stroked one away.
“How can you say that?” he asked. “You are too generous, much too generous!” He clutched her tightly to him again. “What would I have done without you?”
Before she could think otherwise or stop him—although she found she did not really wish it after all—his lips came crashing down on hers. The church bells rang, reminding Elizabeth of a call to celebration.
‘Tis the season to believe in miracles!
Less than a month after Fitzwilliam Darcy left Hertfordshire, he regrets the decision. Still, stubborn as they come, he will abide by the choice even if his heart freezes over worse than a December chill.
At Longbourn, Elizabeth Bennet rejects the Christmas themes of unconditional love and forgiveness. In her mind, Mr. Darcy deserves neither and not only for insulting her upon first sight. Elizabeth is certain Darcy is behind her sister’s heartache.
Fate has other plans, however, when it throws them together again and again and again. Christmas magic works on their hearts and minds as the calendar refuses to budge from December 23. What will it take to see Christmas Eve? How many lives need to change?
Mr. Darcy’s Miracle at Longbourn is a heart-warming holiday read from Rose Fairbanks, author of Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride. If you love A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street, fill your mug with hot cocoa and buy your copy today!