by Regina Jeffers
When the King George III's physicians declared him quite mad in 1811, his son, George IV, became the Prince Regent until his father's death. To everyone's surprise, "Prinny" kept the Tory government in power. Incensed, the Whigs cultivated a rival court around George IV's estranged wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Already a pawn in her parents' very public feud, their daughter Princess Charlotte feeling the pangs of desertion at the hands of both her parents began to assert her will.
Despite scandalous rumors regarding Princess Caroline, she remained more popular than the Regent. Yet, this did not deter George IV, who searched for a way to rid himself of his wife, to curtail his efforts.
Princess Charlotte's visits to her mother brought Charlotte face-to-face with William Austin. Williken, as he was called, was reportedly Princess Caroline's adopted child, but many believe Austin to be the future Queen Consort's illegitimate child. At the time, Caroline was known to fraternize with the painter Thomas Lawrence and with George Canning, a prominent politician. Caroline even claimed that George III had taken liberties with her. Charlotte feared that if her father passed away that her mother would permit William Austin to jump her in the line of succession. Later, the Prince Regent used his daughter's fears to his benefit.
Prinny sent Charlotte to Windsor rather than to permit his 15-year-old daughter to attend his Regency celebration. The young princess spitefully entertained herself with a flirtation with a Hussar captain, Charles Hesse, who was reportedly the illegitimate son of the Duke of York. Princess Caroline allowed Charlotte's assignations to occur under her roof. Charlotte later confessed to her father that Princess Caroline had locked her daughter and Hesse in Caroline's chamber with orders to "amuse" themselves.
During that Christmas Day 1814 confession, Charlotte told her father that Princess Caroline saw to Charlotte's continued correspondence with Hesse until Charlotte's friend Mercer Elphinstone advised Charlotte to end the liaison. Charlotte feared Hesse might blackmail her with her foolish letters of love. Charlotte even insinuated that Hesse was likely her mother's lover, as well. Captain Hesse had joined Princess Caroline as an equerry.
SPOILER ALERT!! So what does all this have to do with my November 8 release of Christmas at Pemberley? Notice that the previous paragraph mentions Christmas Day 1814. Yes, believe it or not, I incorporated Princess Charlotte's liaison with Hesse into my Christmas tale. How, one might ask, does a writer mix political intrigue with an inspirational romance, a Regency-themed tale, and a continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice? Not an easy task, but one I hope you will enjoy reading.
If you would like to read an excerpt from Christmas at Pemberley (or from any of my other novels) please join me at www.rjeffers.com.
Summary of Christmas at Pemberley:
I set the story two years into the Darcys’ marriage. Elizabeth has been plagued by several miscarriages, and she is haunted with the idea that the “shades of Pemberley had been thus polluted” by her inability to give Darcy an heir. She is struggling with whether she is worthy of his devotion. Encouraged by her physician to bring some joy into his wife’s life, Darcy has invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend Christmastide at Pemberley. To that effect, to allow time for his guests’ arrival, Darcy has taken Elizabeth with him on a business trip Upon their return to Pemberley, the Darcys are, unfortunately, unable to outmaneuver a blizzard, and Darcy and Elizabeth are stranded at a small inn, along with a young couple, whose name ironically is Joseph and whose first child is likely to be born during the night.
Meanwhile, Georgiana tries desperately to manage the chaos surrounding her brother’s six invited guests (Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Mary, Jane, and Bingley) and the eleven unscheduled arrivals, including Mary Bennet’s betrothed Mr. Grange (who Mrs. Bennet invited without asking the Darcys), Lady Catherine (who has not been at Pemberley since that infamous argument with Elizabeth and whose sudden presence will only confirm Elizabeth’s feeling of inadequacy), Anne De Bourgh (who can no longer be her mother’s pawn), Mrs. Jenkinson (who staunchly guards against Anne’s heart being broken), Mr. and Mrs. Collins (who Lady Catherine invited without anyone’s knowledge), Caroline Bingley (who decided to spend the holidays with the Bingleys rather than the Hursts), Mr. Winkler (the local minister who, during the storm, escorts the Collinses to Pemberley, but who is really there to woo Kitty Bennet), Colonel Fitzwilliam (who has returned from the American front), his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Southland (whose cousin once held the living at Rosings Park and who is “fascinated” with the De Bourgh family), and an American, Beaufort Manneville (who the colonel has been ordered to escort to London, but of whom he is suspicious).
With a mix of eclectic characters all residing under one roof, it is not surprising that bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy know happiness? And what does all the disorder have to do with the Prince Regent? Yes, I even work our favorite indulgent monarch into the story line. Despite the bedlam, for all involved, a reminder of the love, the family spirit, and the generosity, which remain at the heart of Christmas, prevails.
Regina Jeffers is the author of several Jane-Austen inspired novels: Darcy's Passions, Darcy's Temptation, Vampire Darcy's Desire, The Phantom of Pemberley, Captain Wentworth's Persuasion, Christmas at Pemberley, and the upcoming The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. She also writes Regency era romances, including The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, and The First Wives' Club.