Thursday, 4 October 2012
Guest Post - Victoria Connelly, Christmas With Mr Darcy
When I wrote my trilogy about Jane Austen addicts, it was both exciting and daunting. I'd never written a trilogy before and, although each book can be read as a stand-alone novel, there were little overlaps and, of course, lots of research to do about Jane Austen's life and works.
The first novel, A Weekend Mr Darcy, was published in September 2010 and was followed by The Perfect Hero and Mr Darcy Forever. And that was it, I thought. No more Jane Austen for me. Three books is quite enough.
But then I kept getting emails from readers who wanted more. What happened to the characters next, they asked? Would there be another Jane Austen conference in the future?
I kept thinking about my characters too and, this time last year, the idea for a novella sequel began to emerge. I have always wanted to write a book set at Christmas so what better excuse to bring all the characters from the trilogy together than a special Christmas Jane Austen conference at Purley Hall?
It was strange because I wrote most of this book during the summer although, with the bad weather we had here in the UK, it wasn't terribly hard to imagine winter!
I had such fun writing this novella and I really hope readers will enjoy it. And will there be any more Austen-inspired stories in the future? Well, never say never!
There were few sights more beautiful in Hampshire than Purley Hall in the snow. The faded red-bricked Georgian manor house stood proudly in the middle of the white landscape as if it were at the centre of a snow globe, and the fields surrounding it were smooth and sparkling in the December sunlight.
The little village of Church Stinton looked like a Christmas card. Thatched roofs had been dusted with sugar-like snow, and the church was postcard-pretty, its great yew trees looking ethereal under their white cloaks.
The south of England had been surprised by the first snow of the year but it hadn’t been hit as badly as the north of the country and, after a week of commuter chaos, the snow was beginning to disappear. Still, as Dame Pamela Harcourt looked out of the hall window, she couldn’t help feeling anxious.
‘Can you believe that more snow has been forecast? You don’t think it will put people off coming do you?’ she asked her brother. She’d been hosting Jane Austen conferences for several years now and not one had been cancelled yet.
‘Pammy, earthquakes and tornadoes couldn’t keep Austen fans away,’ Dan said from his position at the top of a ladder as he threaded a long garland of golden stars around the Christmas tree.
Dame Pamela’s twitchy fingers reached up to the pearl choker she was wearing. It was ten o’clock in the morning but, with her billowing red velvet tunic and pearls adorning her ears, throat and wrists, she looked more suitable for a red-carpet event than a morning at home.
She moved to stand under the enormous Christmas tree which had taken four men to place in the entrance hall. It was to be decorated in red, green and gold, and it was going to look perfect with its twinkling lights and heap of shiny, beribboned presents stacked underneath.
‘Pass me the baubles,’ Dan said a moment later and Dame Pamela handed him the first of the glass baubles. They gleamed like fat rubies in the light of the hall and she watched as they were placed oh-so-carefully at intervals around the tree.
‘You really are very good at this,’ she told her brother.
‘I should be after the number of times I’ve done it,’ he said, turning around and smiling at her.
‘My wonderful little brother!’ she said. ‘What would I do without you?’ She looked at his handsome profile and his shock of red-gold hair. She adored him and had been absolutely delighted when he’d married young Robyn – one of the attendees of a past Jane Austen conference. And now they had a little daughter, Cassandra. She smiled. She had a lot to thank Jane Austen for. Not only had she provided her with an adorable sister-in-law but she had done wonders for her career too because Dame Pamela had had the privilege of playing Elizabeth Bennet and Marianne Dashwood in TV adaptations of Austen’s novels in her youth, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Fanny Ferrars Dashwood in her latter years. And then there were the conferences which she so looked forward to. It had started off with an annual conference in the autumn but that had proved so popular that she had decided to host a special Christmas conference too and no expense was going to be spared.
Every guest bedroom had been decorated with evergreen garlands over the fireplaces and picture frames. A new dinner service had been bought: white edged with gold. There were crystal wine glasses too and enormous flower displays threaded with fairy lights. Great green garlands adorned the enormous front door and lights had been placed in the trees lining the driveway. Dame Pamela had also insisted that the temple on the island should be decorated with lights.
Purley Hall had to look its very best for Christmas.
You can buy Christmas with Mr Darcy here.