Friday, October 21, 2016

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner...Nicole Clarkston

eBookPaperback at Amazon
Nicole Clarkston's The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, has just released and I am excited to be launching the blog tour for Nicole and her book here at More Agreeably Engaged. I have had the privilege of reading along as this Pride & Prejudice Prequel was being written and I knew from the onset that it was a winner. The Gardiners have always been two of my favorite minor characters in Pride & Prejudice. Having their own story is icing on that cake that I love! 

Ms. Clarkston does a remarkable job of bringing into her prequel, a little Lizzy, Jane, Georgiana and a teenage Darcy. (even a young Charles Bingley) As I was reading this novella, the events in it were so realistic and natural that I could see it happening exactly as it was portrayed! Well done, Nicole! 

Readers, if you love the Gardiners, you will adore their story. Today, Nicole Clarkston tells why she chose this couple for her tale. We also have an excerpt and a giveaway! Enjoy!


When I wrote No Such Thing As Luck and Rumours and Recklessness, I found that tag-teaming my books actually helped me break through the dreaded writer’s block. Therefore, while I was working on Northern Rain, I started playing with the idea of writing another Pride and Prejudice-inspired story at the same time. I toyed with a few possible plot lines, but the one which kept coming back was to look at some secondary characters whom I admired, and to develop their romance a little.

The Gardiners play such a pivotal role in the original story. Theirs is the common sense, the model of a loving marriage, and the mature intervention which helped to save Lydia and which brought two most deserving couples to the only sensible conclusion. Little, however, was given about their history in Jane Austen’s work, and they have continued to be only secondary characters in the JAFF world. When I picked them up and started studying them, I soon found out why.

One of my favorite sayings is “Perfect people are boring,” (and then I usually tack on some quip about being rather “interesting” myself, but I digress). In this case, the maxim tends to hold true. One of the things we love about Elizabeth and Darcy is that they are both terribly flawed people, who fortunately both possess good hearts and a desire to improve themselves. Even sweet Jane and her affable Bingley have their foibles, for their own troubles would never have proven so monstrous had Jane expressed her feelings and Bingley acted upon his. Every other character in the story (with the exception of Mrs Reynolds, perhaps) is absolutely full of imperfections and leaves the imaginative writer plenty of room for creativity.

Not so with this eminently sensible, reasonable pair of people. One must conclude that, being human, they would naturally have experienced their share of trials, but they are not the focus of Jane Austen’s work. What we do see is a man and a woman who are respectable above their station, who never utter a syllable that is not wise, and who care deeply about their relations. What is not to love, right? A great deal, if you are an author trying to dig up their past and make it interesting!

I wanted to stay as close to their canon characters as possible, so gross misunderstandings and misfortunes brought on by judgements in error were not an option. The sort of wisdom and maturity this couple exhibits did not seem to have grown out of such a background. We all have our difficulties, however, and Regency romances (or Georgian, as this story technically would have been) are rife with young women in need of a husband. From that idea, the story began to spin itself.

As is so often the case, Madeline is the beautiful vase left on the top shelf, and it is starting to get a little lonely up there. Even the shelf upon which she perches is shrinking, as she discovers her friends moving away for good and her father unable to continue much longer with his business. She desperately wants a home and children of her own, but as Elizabeth Bennet would similarly declare over a decade later, she wishes to marry only for love, and to find a man she can respect.

Edward is experiencing romantic woes of his own. As a successful tradesman just hitting his stride, he would have been well positioned to marry. However, he did not have a long pedigree to his name, so it is not impossible to believe that another, better established businessman might have snapped up the marital connection that Edward had desired for himself. In the opening chapters of the book, Edward is licking his wounds. We see him reevaluating what he really wishes for in a wife, and coming to the conclusion that perhaps his first choice was not truly the best one. Perhaps there is more to finding a life partner than just seeking a pretty face, and in the expected places. Perhaps, somewhere in the forest, there still lives a unicorn.

I picture Madeline Gardiner as a woman who is not given to drama, who is accustomed to tempering her own desires and caring for others. Hopefully we all have a woman like this in our lives. She is the woman who sows grace and comfort wherever she goes; who quietly and unobtrusively walks through this world lifting others up. Those of us blessed to know one of these gems understand her true worth far better than she herself does. She has a ready and understanding smile to light our day, and we never go near her but that we come away feeling a little better about ourselves and about humanity in general. Such is the woman that Edward Gardiner encounters, and he recognizes that fact the instant he sees her.

Austen gives us only few hints about Edward’s character. He is intelligent and gentlemanly, he must be a clever businessman, he maintains close ties with his two eldest nieces, and bears little resemblance to his sisters. He is a cheerful man who is interested in fishing, and a devoted husband. Perhaps it is inevitable that I filled in the remaining gaps of his character with traits from another man I admire: my husband. From him, I borrowed Edward’s slight bashfulness at the beginning, his easy sense of humor, and his almost immediate decisiveness regarding Madeline. Several times during the course of the story, Edward has an opportunity to either do what he most wishes to do, or stop to help someone else. Just as he does in Austen’s original story, he consistently chooses the later. What woman would not love such a man?

It was a treat to bring together two such admirable people, and to plant the seeds for all that we know is to come. They are not a flamboyant couple. They are as most of us are- simple hearts searching for another to love; honest folk who make this world a little better by having lived in it.

A modern saying goes something like this: “If you really want to know a person’s character, give them a slow internet connection.” It is how we approach our difficulties which defines us, be they earth-shattering or comparatively trivial. As Edward says at the end, “All roads are not perfectly smooth,” but their journey was an enjoyable one for me.


Madeline delivered the letter for her father and sucked in a delicious breath of the summer air as she stepped out of the office door. She loved this time of the year. Spring had spoken of its promises long enough, and the time had come to deliver them. Closing her eyes briefly as she strolled down the street, she relished the fragrance of the growing hay fields near the village. So enraptured was she by the vibrancy of everything touching her senses, she tipped her chin yet higher and claimed another refreshing breath. It seemed the whole world was warm and alive!
Without warning, something else warm and very much alive assaulted her about the knees. Madeline nearly stumbled in shock. She opened her eyes and put her hands protectively forward, fearful of either falling or dropping her precious parcel. “B-beg your pardon!” tumbled automatically from her lips.
There, splayed on her bottom in the dust of the road, was a young girl in a light green traveling smock. She was turning her indignant little face slowly upward to survey her attacker. Her brow puckered and her dark eyes sparkled curiously.
Madeline gave a start. She shifted her parcel at once to help the little girl to her feet. “I am so sorry! Did I hurt you?” she inquired gently.
The child looked back thoughtfully for about two seconds, then her face lit with good humour. She began to laugh merrily and accepted Madeline’s offered hand. “No!” she answered brightly. “I am not hurt! It is such a lovely town, and there was a bird just there that I was watching and… oh, I think I am also to ask if I hurt you. Did I?”
Madeline chuckled at this extraordinary child. “Not at all. Where do you come from, my little bird-watching friend?”
The child’s eyes became at once suspicious. “Papa told me when we set out that I was not to speak to strangers.”
“Oh, of course he is quite right,” Madeline agreed seriously. “A lady can never be too careful!”
The child grinned happily again. “I suppose it is all right, if you are a lady too. You look like a lady- oh, my, your dress is such a pretty colour! I so love lavender. My mama does not like me to wear that colour because she says I stain it so in the grass, and green hides it better, but when I am old enough to wear my hair up I will wear lavender every day!”
Madeline was, by now, biting back a peal of laughter. What an unusual and interesting child this was! She dipped a slow, exaggerated curtsey. “Well, I am not forbidden to speak to strangers, my young friend, and I would very much like to make your acquaintance. My name is Madeline Fairbanks.”
The girl made an answering curtsey, her radiant smile now allowing Madeline to count her missing teeth and make an approximate guess at her age. “Pleased to make your aqu- acquain-tance, Miss Fairbanks,” she answered in the scripted way of a child using words she did not fully understand. “My name is….”
“Lizzy! Where did you go off to?” A young man now turned the corner of the building from where, Madeline guessed, the child had just come. He was striding quickly, his manner intimidating and agitated. He was peering right and left until his eyes lit on the girl and his face set into a look of great annoyance. “Lizzy!” he repeated as he drew closer, his voice growing more threatening. “I told you to stay with the coach and not to wander!”
Madeline’s protective instincts flared, and she stepped a little nearer to the child, perhaps intending to shield her from a less than amiable parent. The child, whose name apparently was Lizzy, looked up to him with complete unconcern.
“I did not wander, Uncle. I was following something. I think it was a robin, but I do not see it now. I have not gone far, Uncle- you see, the inn is just there.”
“Elizabeth,” the man clearly fought back his temper to keep his words civil, “your father may allow you to speak back to him in such a way, but I will not while you are under my care! Come, your sister is resting now, we must go!”
Madeline made a soft noise. Perhaps it was understandable that the man was flustered by his precocious and lively young charge, but it was more than a little mortifying that he had yet to even notice her, standing three feet away. She had not thought herself so invisible as that!
The man looked up to her quickly and blanched in horror. “Forgive me, Miss… er, I hope my niece did not trouble you!”
“Not at all,” she answered coolly. “I sometimes find children more amiable than their elders.”
The man grimaced, obviously understanding her meaning. He tugged his hat from his head and offered her a much-belated bow in greeting. “Edward Gardiner, at your service, Miss. My apologies again for just now. I was… well, in truth, I have no excuse.”
She lifted one expressive brow and the edge of her mouth tipped very slightly. “You are quite forgiven, Mr Gardiner. I have had occasion to learn before that the most sensible of people can appear quite unreasonable when trying to manage a child.”
A slow, hesitant smile began to grow on his face- and a rather pleasant face it was. At last he gave a light chuckle. “I see you have gotten to know my niece rather well already. Might… might I have the pleasure of your name, Miss…?”
“Fairbanks, Uncle!” Elizabeth spoke up pertly, happy to be of service. “Her name is Madeline Fairbanks, and is she not just lovely?”
Both parties reddened profusely. Madeline’s fingertips flew to her mouth and her eyes widened in embarrassment.
Mr Gardiner cleared his throat. Clearly he had little choice but to agree with his niece, so he smiled, nodded uncomfortably, and answered, “Yes, of course… I mean, it is very lovely to make your acquaintance, Miss Fairbanks. I am afraid we must be going, however. My brother-in-law is waiting for us.”
She drew an uncertain breath. “If you are going into that inn just there,” she nodded toward the back of the building, “that is my destination, as well.”
The man brightened in interest. His eyes revealed, far more than the words his niece had coerced from him ever could have, what his first impression of her truly was. He flushed shyly, perhaps wishing to escort her, but little Lizzy spared him the trouble of asking.
“We can walk you there, Miss Fairbanks!” she bubbled. Madeline found a small, somewhat sticky palm thrust into her own, and she had little choice but to fall into step with the pert young girl and her uncle.


Book Blurb:

Every great love has a beginning. 

In Austen's Pride and Prejudice, we meet with perhaps the most sensible, caring relatives a lovelorn young woman could hope for: Mr and Mrs Gardiner. What is their story?

Edward Gardiner has just been refused by the lovely young woman he had intended to make his wife. Heartbroken and eager for a diversion, he accepts an invitation from his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, to accompany him along with his two eldest daughters to the north on family business. Gardiner's pleasure tour is interrupted, however, when his eldest niece falls ill and is unable to travel farther. 

Stopping over in the scarcely remarkable village of Lambton, the men decide that Bennet must continue on, while Gardiner and the children remain. The only trouble is that Gardiner has not the least idea how he should care for one ailing niece and another who is ready to drive him to distraction... until he meets with Madeline Fairbanks.

Author Bio:

Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don't ask). 

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole's books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Contact Info:

Goodreads Author Page
Goodreads Blog
Amazon Author Page

Buy Link: (eBook and Paperback are both available at Amazon)

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner


Blog Tour Schedule:

10/21: Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
10/22: Review & Giveaway at Just Jane 1813
10/27: Review & Giveaway Savvy Verse & Wit
11/01: Excerpt & Giveaway at Half Agony, Half Hope
11/08: Guest Post & Giveaway So little time…
11/10: Review & Giveaway My Kids Led me Back to Pride and Prejudice
11/11: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
11/15: Review & Giveaway at My Vices and Weaknesses
11/17: Guest Post & Giveaway at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life
11/26: Excerpt & Giveaway at Margie’s Must Reads
11/30: Review & Giveaway at  Diary of an Eccentric
12/01: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton


It's been my pleasure to have you visit again and I'm honored you wanted me to launch your blog tour. Thank you, and thank you also for telling us why you chose to write about the Gardiners. I found it fascinating to read your reasons. I loved your comment, 'Madeline is the beautiful vase left on the top shelf'. That was brilliant, as was your statement, 'Perhaps, somewhere in the forest, there still lives a unicorn'. 

I'm so happy you chose to write about the Gardiners. Their story was delightful. (so were the nods to the original with hints of what is to come) I will be reading this again. I wish you much success with this novella. I look forward to seeing you here when you release another N&S or P&P variation You are always welcome.

Thank you, Rita Deodato, for setting up the tour. You did a fantastic job.


It's giveaway time! Nicole Clarkston is offering one paperback of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner and the giveaway is international! That's wonderful news and we thank you, Ms. Clarkston. Please be sure to include your contact info when you leave a comment. Tell us what you think of the Gardiners. Who are your favorite minor characters? The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 26th of October. Good luck to all.


  1. Charlotte Lucas is a favorite of mine, she must have much to endure with her husband. Yet she remains optimistic. I often wondered what else life has in store for her... Would love to read this book btw :) It sounds really interesting !

  2. Kirsten, you are right, Charlotte is a remarkable woman! I wonder if Collins ever learned to appreciate her. :-)

    Janet, thank you for kicking off the tour! It is fitting, because I never would have dared to write a book about minor characters without your encouragement. Ladies and gentlemen, Janet is one of those unicorns I mentioned!

    1. I was happy to kick it off! I'm thrilled that you 'dared' to write this book. As you know, I think it is excellent! (and all your others, too)

      I'm not so sure about being one of those unicorns but your words touch my heart! Thank you.

      My desire is that your readers love this story as much as I did. It gave me such a warm and satisfied feeling.

  3. 'A warm and satisfied feeling',Janet?
    I know exactly what you mean and completely agree with everything you said!

    I had the great honour of reading this wonderful book and needless to say I loved it!

    It is written with such warmth and humour and is infused with such tenderness,emotion and love that you will inevitably have a big smile on your face while reading it!

    The Gardiners are such a gracious and humble couple,they are the ideal foil for each other and their swift courtship,stolen glances and deep blushes were a joy to behold!!

    The young,vivacious Lizzy alongside her more sedate sister were also wonderful to see,as were their encounters with Madeline, Mr B and indeed the haughty and proud young Mr Darcy!
    Their shared 'conversation' and chess game were a delight to read as was Darcy's initial meeting with Bingley,where we saw the seeds on a long and fruitful friendship being down.

    I recommend this warm,wonderful and utterly compelling take to all lovers of Austen!
    It's Friday,treat yourself to this book,it's a guilty pleasure but one that will do your heart good and ensure you smile for the rest of the day!

    Janet and Nicole,thank you for this lovely post!

    1. Mary, thank you so much for stopping by! You have such a way of making me smile, and I am so glad you enjoyed the book!

    2. Thank you, Mary. I think you expressed it much better than I did! :) I also agree with everything you said! I love this book, but then, I have loved all of Nicole Clarkston's books.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. You've loved all Nicole's books? Me too!

  4. With parallel blog tours hosted by this same lovely lady, I had to stop by this most agreeable blog and compliment you on your newest novel, Nicole. (Actually, I'm just cheap and I want to win it! LOL!) Having written about a minor character and having been a beta for a prequel with a fictional P&P character, I'm fascinated by the prospect of a prequel minor character as well. I look forward to reading your novel. Best of luck on the rest of your blog tour!

    1. Likewise, Suzan! Your book is certainly drawing some warm praise, I cannot wait to read it. Remember that old dilemma "Fish or cut bait?" It's kind of like that. "Read or write?" Oh, what to do! Time to cozy up to a fireplace with my Kindle, I think. :-) Best wishes with your blog tour!

  5. I like the Gardiners as a couple, and my two favourite minor characters, actually my two favourite characters from Pride and Prejudice are the Colonel and Mary Bennet

    meikleblog at gmail dot com

    1. They are wonderful, aren't they? The two most underappreciated (single) people in the book. Lucky for us, so many other great JAFF reads pick them up, and more than once I have seen them fall in love. Thanks for stopping by, Vesper!

  6. OMG! I really like it!!! This is one of those books you never knew you wanted but now you desperately want!!! I've always loved The Gardiners, in my opinion, together with Colonel Fitzwilliam, are the best supporting characters of Pride and Prejudice.
    LorenDushku at gmail dot com

    1. *Sigh* Colonel Fitzwilliam! Who couldn't love him? I didn't tackle him in EG, but he features rather prominently in my next P&P story. I cannot wait to torture him!

  7. Congrats on the new release, Nicole. Yay! Doesn't it feel awesome? I already have this on my Kindle and am desperately wanting to open it up tonight. Only 1,500 more words to write and I can. Did I mention, "YAY"?

    1. Oh, for heaven's sake, write those words! What are you up to now? (asks the greedy reader) Thank you for the well wishes, Joy!

    2. Hope you were a good girl and got those words written Joy!

    3. Now, you have made us all happy, Joy! :)

  8. I'm so glad to have the chance to have a peek at the courtship of Uncle and Aunt Gardiner... I wish you the best with this book, and I hope I get lucky. Just in case I do not, I added it to my wish list (that grows daily!)

    tgruy at netscape dot net

  9. I loved reading how you came up with the idea for the book Nicole, and I love this excerpt! It is curious how Lizzie is the one responsible for Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner first encounter when they will be the ones responsible for her encounter with Mr. Darcy at Pemberley many years later :))) And even here, we see how the Gardiners will be incredibly important in the task of "taming" Elizabeth :)

    1. I cannot claim credit for writing this scene. Elizabeth wrote it. She's such a spunky little thing! She definitely needs a wise aunt, doesn't she?

  10. I agree with Loren. The Gardiners & Colonel Fitzwilliam are my favorite minor characters. I'm do excited that they have their own story now!

    Love the excerpt! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the giveaway as well.

    tdungnvu (at) yahoo (dot) com

  11. Oh, now that is interesting about how Nicole pairs her stories to keep from getting writer's block and I love the decision to tell the Gardiners story. I do love their place in the P&P story and it is interesting pondering their earlier years. My favorite P&P minor character is Colonel Fitzwilliam.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!
    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

    1. I have a feeling a lot of people think of the good Colonel. Wouldn't it be fun to tell of his early years?

  12. The Gardiners are one of my favourite "already married" couples from Jane Austen's works, but I have to confess that they come (a very close) second to Admiral and Mrs Croft. How about telling their story one day Nicole?

    Thanks for telling about how you came to write the Gardiners' story and it's wonderful to hear that you're going to be giving a lot of page time to the good Colonel.

    Thanks so much for the giveaway, and for making the paperback international too.

    1. Oops, forgot this!

      angmardee (at) hotmail (dot) com

    2. The Crofts! Bless their hearts! (And I mean that in the way of Northern girl who doesn't use the phrase in proper Southern context, Janet.) They are such a generous couple, and in their way, also have a profound impact on the lives of their girls. Love them to pieces! Maybe that would be a fun story to tell, eh?

  13. Thanks for the background, the excerpt, and the giveaway! I'm tapping my toes, waiting to read this one.
    I've always enjoyed the Crofts. They seem like such fun.
    Ginna Say What at gmail dot com

    1. Janet is certainly a generous hostess, isn't she? I hope you enjoy the Gardiners' story, Ginna, and how wonderful to hear another vote for the Crofts!

  14. I always loved the Gardiners and I absolutely hate it when writers make them bad guys in fanfic! I would love to read this book, Rumours and Recklessness is one of my all-time favorites.

    1. Thank you very much, you are so kind! Yes, they could never be cruel or wicked, could they? I couldn't even make them foolish, I just admire them so much. I hope you enjoy their story. :-)

  15. Wow! This looks awesome! I love the Gardiners, and I love when you writers tell us stories when Lizzy was a child. Definitely on my TBR list!

    1. I think she might have been a precocious one, don't you? I have kids about that age as well, so it was very easy to imagine a bright and energetic girl with insufficient guidance. She might have looked something like my own kids do when they've had too much sugar. Oy!

  16. I'm looking forward to this novel novel. Of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of P&P variations/sequels I have read,I don't recall another based on the Gardiners. Good for you, seizing a new opportunity.

    1. Thank you, Betty! I couldn't think of one either, and I couldn't believe it. They are such great people :-)

  17. Hello! I think you had a wonderful idea in writing about this beautiful couple, and the way you have described both, made me fall in love with them (and what a beautiful cover!).

    My favorite minor characters are "the Janes", that is Jane Bennet and Jane Fairfax; the first, because of her generosity; the second, because of her strength.

    Thank you for this opportunity!
    8zeronove4 (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Oh, the Janes are lovely girls. Wouldn't that be a fun book? Jane meets Jane? Good luck in the giveaway!

  18. I love the Gardiners! This sounds like a lovely story! I've always been fascinating by Charlotte and Maria Lucas. But also by Mary Bennet.


    1. The quiet ones, right? They are all fascinating women. Austen had a way of crafting very interesting minor characters, even while giving them a minimum of page time.