Dear Readers, you have a treat today! This is the first time that author Melanie Rachel has been a guest at More Agreeably Engaged and I am so proud to have her visit. We've been trying to arrange this for some time but kept having things come up that made the visit have to wait. Now she is here and I couldn't be happier!
Ms. Rachel's second book, Courage Requires, will be released later this month. (available for preorder now) It is a Pride and Prejudice Continuation and follows her first book, Courage Rises. She does tell us that it is necessary to read the first before reading the new release. That sounds like two good books in my future if Chapter One is any indicator! :)
Thank you for stopping by, Melanie. I'm so happy to have you visit and share with us a little about your books on this Maundy Thursday.
My thanks to Janet for allowing me to offer a guest post this week, as I have some exciting news! The second book in my two-book series, Courage Requires, will be released on (hopefully before) April 22nd, and I am pleased to offer you all a taste of the first chapter. You do need to have read Courage Rises, the first book, for the second to make sense, but I am happy to announce a giveaway here to a reader who posts a comment below. I will offer the winner a choice--a free copy of either Book One: Courage Rises OR Book Two, Courage Requires! These are both full length novels.
In Courage Rises Fitzwilliam Darcy is summoned to London by Colonel Fitzwilliam, who needs his cousin's help repaying a troublesome debt of honor. While they try to puzzle through the strange mystery of the Hawke family, Elizabeth has remained in Derbyshire only to be faced with an influenza outbreak. In the absence of her husband and with the staff and tenants counting on her, can she step fully into her role as Mistress of Pemberley?
In Courage Requires, Darcy has returned to Pemberley to find Elizabeth expecting and growing increasingly ill. When she invites the enigmatic Hawke sisters and the Fitzwilliams to join them for the festive season, will the company provide the friendship and solace Darcy hopes for his wife? Or will the Earl's opposition to Richard's love interest destroy their holiday?
If you are a Courage Rises reader, and you haven't yet seen the new material I will be adding to the Epilogue, you can find it at my website (if you don't see it right away, just scroll down). The material, in addition to a new Afterword, will be offered as an update to those of you who have already purchased the book. After April, it will be available in the e-book already for sale. Here's the site: http://melanierachel.weebly.com/ .
Also coming by May, both books in paperback!
And here it is, Chapter One, Courage Requires:
An opened bottle of fine brandy sat on the table in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Pemberley study, the amber liquor sparkling in the candlelight.
“That is quite a story, Richard,” Darcy said thoughtfully. He handed his cousin a second drink and sat on a leather chair near the fire, stretching his long legs before him. “Almost worth the length of time you have made me wait to hear it.”
Richard shrugged. “We were each of us occupied, and it is not the sort of thing one should commit to paper.” He paused and ducked his head. “I must admit that I was waiting for the Bingleys to remove to town. For everyone concerned, this truly ought to remain between us.”
“I am afraid,” Darcy said haltingly, “I have made a rather specific promise to tell Elizabeth everything. Particularly if the Hawkes are to visit Pemberley with the earl for the festive season.”
“I had expected that. No further, though. Not even Mrs. Bingley or Georgiana, if you please. The fewer who know, the better chance of this all fading away in time.”
“Agreed.” Darcy took a drink and looked down at the dark liquid in his glass. He tipped it back and forth before saying in a low voice, “I am sorry we left you to handle the carriage ride alone.”
Richard held up his hand, palm out, from his own seat near the fire. “You could hardly have acted other than you did. In any case, I am pleased you were not there.”
“That seems to be a common refrain,” Darcy replied sardonically, but with a hint of complaint in his tone. “Elizabeth was pleased I was not here to keep her from having her way, and you are pleased I was not with you to assist. Am I truly so useless to have near?”
Richard chuckled. “There was no point. More heads, more targets. All I did was ride inside a box, if you can call being tossed about riding. I never got a shot off.”
“Did Captain Hawke?” They laughed lightly together, trying to ease the tension of the conversation while Richard shook his head.
“No, and that is one reason I cannot fault myself. If even the Captain could not discharge a weapon, what hope had I?” His face turned suddenly serious, and he stood to grope for something in the pocket of his greatcoat, which he had draped unceremoniously over a high-backed chair. James and then Wilkins had both been rather disconcerted to be waved off when he arrived. Richard felt the fabric and clenched his fist around it for a moment before withdrawing it. He tossed it in his cousin’s lap.
“Miss Hawke asked me to get rid of it when we arrived at Matlock. Her sister was upset by it but would not stop taking it out to have a look. I am finding myself in much the same predicament.”
Darcy set down his drink to pick up the crumpled remains of a bonnet. It showed deep creases from being carried in such a way, but he could distinctly make out two round holes at the crown.
“Good God, Richard,” he whispered. He cleared his throat and spoke with more volume. “You told me, but seeing it. . . “
“You understand my dilemma. The story alone does not carry the same impact. I had thought to toss it in the fire, as it makes me ill to see it.” Richard grimaced. “But it is also evidence, of a sort, that exonerates Miss Hawke from accusations of collaboration.”
Richard closed his eyes and remembered Sophia Hawke’s resignation as she comforted her sister on the carriage floor, the stunningly emotional welcome the earl had proffered when she made her unexpected appearance, and her strangely cool response to that display. It was as though she did not believe it genuine. Richard had no doubt it had been real, yet within days, Lord Matlock was again scheming and planning. Lady Matlock, on the other hand, had been thrilled to have two young women in the house to spoil. Miss Evelyn had quite taken to it, but he thought his mother might have forged a stronger bond with Miss Hawke, who seemed rather overwhelmed by the attention. He felt a kind of kinship with her on that score alone, though there were of course other reasons as well. His cousin’s voice drew him back to the matter at hand.
“Circumstantial at best, Richard. Should someone be determined to doubt, there would be no way to prove that she was wearing it when the damage was done, or even that it was hers at all. No way to prove it was her uncle who hired the man to ambush you. Most would deny that Hawke would even take such a risk, particularly knowing that you were all under the earl’s protection.”
Richard closed his eyes. “I am aware, William. Still, with my testimony and that of the men riding with us, it might mean something. Hobson saw it at the same time as I.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I cannot take the risk of burning the damn thing.”
“Well,” Darcy said stretching out his hand to return the article to his cousin, “put it away before my wife enters and inquires why we are looking at a woman’s bonnet in my study.”
Richard grinned. “Does Elizabeth often come to your study at this time of night, cousin? Are the sweet first moments of your marriage over so quickly that she must seek you here to induce you to retire?”
Darcy shook his head and stood, setting his half-full glass on a side table. “And with that, Richard, I shall leave you to it. When do you head back to London?”
“End of the week.” He smiled tightly and added, “Thank you for hosting me. I am unlikely to leave London again until I return to Pemberley at the end of the year, presuming I am still invited.”
“You have decided irrevocably, then?”
Richard heard the pain in Darcy’s voice and tried to assuage the blow. “I have. I went to the general to discuss selling my commission, and he was rather cantankerous about it. He argued vociferously that there were offices I might perform from London to assist in our efforts. There is some worth in my old carcass yet, evidently, even if it is only to train recruits and write reports that go unread.” He reached for Darcy’s unfinished drink. “The general has assured me that I will not be sent abroad. I told him I would not lead men into battle. Not feeling as I do now.”
Richard might have insisted on relinquishing his commission. He had no taste for battle now and knew he could not lead. The fire, the sense of usefulness, of mission and purpose that had supported his actions for over a decade had faded entirely away. What he still had was a desire to find the man who had ordered the attack on Miss Hawke and her sister. The offer with the War Office would provide him with the resources to track Archibald Hawke. As Richard finished Darcy’s brandy, he stood. He did not look at his cousin.
“You are always welcome at Pemberley, Richard,” was Darcy’s quiet reply.
While Darcy was relieved to hear that Richard would not return to the Continent, he was certain that should he be requested to return to battle, his cousin would not shirk what he saw as his duty. He has to sell his commission, Darcy thought unhappily. The only way to keep him truly safe would be for him to resign everything and move into the life of a gentleman, a life Richard could have for the asking, if only he would set aside his pride and make the request. Between Richard’s own investments and the support both he and the earl had promised, they would situate Richard well. Richard had argued that the money was Phillip’s, but while his older brother could be thoroughly pompous when playing the role of a viscount, he loved Richard enough that he would offer no protest against the expense.
Darcy grimaced. He was in no position to argue about unnecessary pride and they both knew it. He turned to the door after wishing his cousin a good night, exhausted from his constant worrying. First it had been over Georgiana, he was still anxious about Elizabeth, and now he was again concerned for Richard, just when he had thought he could put that fear to rest. As he stepped into the hall and made his way to the stairs, Darcy felt an icy lump settle in his stomach. He was not certain how much more worry he could stand.
Thank you for being my guest today, Melanie! I was thrilled to finally get to have you visit. We've been trying to get this worked out for some time and seems like we kept running into obstacles! I'm happy that it finally worked out for both of us! :) I loved Chapter One and am ready for more. How about you, Dear Readers? Are you ready for more? It will be here soon, April 22nd) and that will be very good!
Melanie Rachel is offering one eBook, winner's choice of Courage Rises or Courage Requires, and the giveaway is international. Please leave us a comment to be entered in the draw. Have any of your read Courage Rises? If so, tell us your thoughts. It seems there are not as many sequels as there are retellings and variations. I love a good sequel and am looking forward to these two. Thank you Melanie for visiting and for the giveaway. Giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on the 19th of April. Good luck to all.