It’s hard to believe that tonight will be the first evening of Hanukkah and that Christmas is less than two weeks away!
As you know, holiday JAFF always puts me in a holiday mood and today’s guest post is from an author I adore, Ms. Victoria Kincaid. Ms. Kincaid has written another holiday JAFF story for us (Yes!!) and today I am sharing a guest post, excerpt, and giveaway from her.
Please join me in sending Ms. Kincaid a warm welcome along with some holiday cheer…
Thank you for having me to visit, Claudine!
Researching Christmas in the Regency is an interesting process. So often Regency observances of Christmas seem to pale compared to the exuberant and elaborate Victorian celebrations that followed. And many of the Victorian customs created the traditions we follow today. However, many of the customs that we attribute to the Victorians actually got their start in the Regency era; they just weren’t publicized and popularized until later in the century.
Take the Christmas tree, for example. A Germanic custom, the Christmas tree in England is often attributed to Victoria and Albert. However, the Christmas tree was actually first brought to England by George III’s Hanoverian wife, Queen Charlotte. It was unveiled Christmas day 1800 as part of the celebrations for the royal children at the Queen’s Lodge in Windsor. One witness described it:
“A fir tree, about as high again as any of us, lighted all over with small tapers, several little wax dolls among the branches in different places, and strings of almonds and raisins alternately tied from one to the other, with skipping ropes for the boys, and each bigger girl had muslin for a frock, a muslin handkerchief, and a fan, and a sash, all prettily done up in a handkerchief, and a pretty necklace and earrings besides.”
There were (mostly wealthy) Regency families that emulated this example, but it did not become a widespread custom among the general public until 1848, when a picture of Queen Victoria’s family gathered around their Christmas tree was published in The Illustrated London. It is also true that later in the century England was more prosperous, so more families had the means to purchase a tree and presents to put underneath it.
In the Regency era they did decorate their houses with greens (including holly and mistletoe) and they would have enjoyed a Christmas feast with plum pudding. Sometimes presents were given, but often only to children and to servants (on Boxing Day). Christmas cards, widespread gift giving, Father Christmas/Santa Claus, and many other aspects of our Christmas celebrations today did not evolve until the Victorian era. Instead, people during the Regency considered the Christmas season to be a time for a roaring Yule fire, feasting, visiting friends, playing games, going to church, and dinners and balls.
This can make writing about Christmas a challenge for writers of Jane Austen variations since they didn’t observe so many of our Christmas traditions. On the other hand, Regency Christmas celebrations emphasized relationships and getting together with loved one—which are themes at the heart of every Austen novel.
Ms. Kinacid has also brought an excerpt to share from Christmas at Darcy House. Enjoy!
When Elizabeth had arrived with the Gardiners, their hostess had been breathless with excitement over the news. “Mr. Darcy of Pemberley! He had initially informed us that he would not attend, but this morning we received a missive that his plans had been altered, and he would be able to grace us with his presence. Such a coup! It is well known he so rarely accepts invitations to any occasion. But perhaps”—Mrs. Marlowe had flicked open her fan and employed it vigorously—“he has heard tales about our fine balls. Everyone enjoys them. They are always much talked about! I would not be surprised….” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “To discover he altered his plans specifically so he would not miss it.”
“That must be the case, madam,” Elizabeth had responded. “He certainly is not attending so he can see me!” Mrs. Marlowe had laughed at her joke.
Elizabeth endeavored not to dwell on Mr. Darcy’s presence and consoled herself that he was unlikely to seek her out. He had performed his duty to their acquaintance by calling on the Gardiners—and plainly had little joy in it. No doubt he had many other friends he would prefer to see.
At that moment Elizabeth spied Mr. Wickham. He was on the other side of the vast room, speaking with a petite blonde woman; but when he happened to glance in her direction, Elizabeth caught his eye. He answered with a broad smile—he really was quite handsome—and proceeded to plough through the crowd in her direction.
Her attention was drawn from him when her aunt tugged her arm. Following her aunt’s gaze, Elizabeth saw, to her horror, that Mr. Darcy was also wading through the crush of people in her direction. His eyes were intent on her the way a wolf’s might be when stalking a doe.
Whoever arrived first could claim the next dance with her. “What shall I do?” she asked her aunt. “I have no desire to dance with him!”
Her aunt nodded. Mr. Darcy’s cold manner the day before had not impressed her either. “I know, my dear. But you cannot refuse him unless you are prepared to refuse all the young men at the ball.”
Elizabeth knew this, of course; it would be disgracefully rude to refuse one man and accept another. She glanced at Mr. Wickham; he was closer than before, but not as close as Mr. Darcy. Mr. Wickham glared at the other man and tried to move more quickly, but the crowds would not give way. I beg you to hurry! she importuned him silently and then cast an eye about the room for a means of escape. But the crush of revelers was so thick that she could not easily evade Mr. Darcy’s approach. Why does he even wish to dance with me? He does not enjoy my company!
The bizarre footrace continued for a minute until—unfortunately—Mr. Darcy arrived, scowling and dark-eyed. He climbed the steps to the landing, a little out of breath. “Miss Bennet, would you do me the honor of the next dance?” he puffed.
Mr. Wickham emerged from the crowd, red-faced and sweaty. His mouth twisted in a grimace as he climbed the steps.
Elizabeth gritted her teeth. “It would be my pleasure, Mr. Darcy.”
She immediately turned her attention to Mr. Wickham, who smiled and bowed ingratiatingly. “I see I have arrived too late for this set,” he said lightly. “But perhaps you would agree to partner me for the following set?”
Elizabeth smiled at him. “Yes. I thank you, Mr. Wickham.”
Mr. Wickham immediately disappeared into the crowd; Elizabeth did not blame him for eschewing the other man’s vicinity. But Mr. Darcy stayed by her side, a looming and taciturn presence, awaiting the beginning of the next set. Why in the world does he wish to dance with me when he evinces no interest in my company? Elizabeth chatted with her aunt, who shot many curious glances in Mr. Darcy’s direction.
Finally, the previous set’s dancers drifted away. Mr. Darcy took Elizabeth’s hand to lead her down the stairs and into position for the next set. There were a great many couples dancing, and Elizabeth had much leisure time to converse with her partner. Unfortunately, her partner did not appear interested in conversation, even once the dancing commenced.
After a minute or two of silence, Elizabeth had grown quite annoyed. “Mr. Darcy,” she said finally, “since you and I have not been in company for above five minutes, I am at a loss to understand how I have already incurred your displeasure.”
His eyes grew wide. “Miss Bennet, I assure you that you have done nothing to displease me.”
Was a scowl his natural expression, then? “Something must have displeased you,” she replied. “For I do not believe I have ever seen anyone scowl so frequently while dancing.” She softened her words with a pert smile.
His head jerked backward. Was there truly nobody in his life who would speak to the man with any degree of sportiveness? It seemed altogether foreign to him.
The steps of the dance drew them apart, but when they were reunited, he said, “I assure you that any displeasure I might experience does not fall to you.” Ah, it must be that Mr. Wickham’s presence disturbed him. I could ask him about it, but we have already had one contentious conversation on that subject.
Mr. Darcy continued, “I was quite pleased to discover you would be in attendance tonight.”
Quite pleased? Elizabeth rather doubted that, but she made allowances for the way a man usually complimented a woman. How had he known in advance she would be at the ball?
“I will endeavor not to scowl for your sake,” Mr. Darcy said and managed a smile. It was a forced and ghastly thing.
Elizabeth laughed. “I believe, sir, that I prefer the scowl. It fits more naturally on your countenance.”
She had expected him to laugh or shrug off her teasing, but instead his face lost animation and he cast his eyes downward. Or was that her imagination? After a moment he said, “I see I must practice my smiling for your sake.”
“Do not inconvenience yourself on my account,” she retorted.
His eyes caught and held hers. “Your pleasure is never my inconvenience.”
Elizabeth swallowed, unable to look away. There was a moment of electricity between them, as if the air that separated them could burst into flames. A similar jolt of energy had occurred as they danced at the Netherfield Ball. How odd.
They were obliged to separate again and partner with the dancers adjacent to them. When they were returned to each other, Elizabeth made an inquiry after the Bingley family’s health, and the remainder of their conversation was quite civil and dull.
Wasn’t that a fun excerpt? I love imagining this dance between Darcy & Elizabeth and the teasing between them!
Here’s the book description:
Mr. Darcy hopes Christmastime will help him to forget the pair of fine eyes that he left behind in Hertfordshire. When Elizabeth Bennet appears unexpectedly in London, Darcy decides to keep his distance, resolved to withstand his attraction to her. But when he learns that Wickham is threatening to propose to Elizabeth, Darcy faces a crisis.
For her part, Elizabeth does not understand why the unpleasant master of Pemberley insists on dancing with her at the Christmas ball or how his eyes happen to seek her out so often. She enjoys Mr. Wickham’s company and is flattered when he makes her an offer of marriage. On the other hand, Mr. Darcy’s proposal is unexpected and unwelcome. But the more Elizabeth learns of Mr. Darcy, the more confused she becomes—as she prepares to make the most momentous decision of her life.
It’s a Yuletide season of love and passion as your favorite characters enjoy Christmas at Darcy House!
It’s Giveaway Time!
Victoria Kincaid has brought an eBook of Christmas at Darcy House for one Just Jane 1813 reader. Leave a comment on this post by midnight, ET on December 16th. The winner will be announced on December 15, 2017 on this blog.
I’d like to thank Victoria Kincaid for this post and this giveaway for my readers. I am currently reading this book and it’s just delightful!
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