Good morning everyone,
After having launched the blog tour of Obstacles with the cover reveal on the 30th of August, I’m very happy to receive Belen Paccagnella at From Pemberley to Milton once more. This time Ms. Paccagnella is bringing all of you a very informative excerpt, and I don’t know if you will have the same reaction I did, but I was definitely surprised with what I was reading. I don’t want to spoil the excerpt for you, but I was not expecting Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship to be already at this stage in the excerpt I would post, it certainly made me even more eager to read this book. I also liked Kitty’s story and how the sisters discussed their involvement in the farm, it seemed very real and it capture my attention. Even if it is not regency, my favourite era, this is a book I will definitely be reading in the near future.
Not all obstacles are restricted to the show-jumping arena… Though Elizabeth Bennet lives an uneventful life instructing young equestrians at Longbourn, the family farm, she dreams of winning a show-jumping competition on Liddy, her spirited mare. But her life is upended when a team of world-renowned riders arrives at Netherfield, the neighbouring estate, and uses it as their training headquarters. As she assists the newcomers and their prize-winning mounts, she meets William Darcy, a wealthy and arrogant—albeit talented—rider with Olympic aspirations. He first insults and then ignores Elizabeth, and her feelings teeter between disgust at his hauteur and admiration for his equestrian prowess. As she discovers first-hand the rigors of a world for the elite, will Elizabeth change her perspective about love, trust, and the foibles of her own family?
Originally known as “Obstacles to Overcome,” Obstacles pays homage to Pride and Prejudice in the highly competitive world of equestrian show jumping.
You can find Obstacles at:
Thank you, Rita, for inviting me to share this vignette with your readers. It’s a piece I created to share a little more about the Darcy’s relationship as Elizabeth after the final chapters close on Obstacles. I had a lot of fun writing this piece and I hope your readers enjoy a little more of the Darcys!
The Clutter of Life
“I can’t believe it.” Elizabeth hung up the phone with a loud, dramatic exhalation.
She closed her eyes and allowed her head to fall back against the couch. Why? Why did it have to happen right now? Just when everything had slowed down at Pemberley, Longbourn was a mess.
It began a couple of months ago with a call from Kitty saying that her parents had had a terrible fight where one blamed the other for all the things that had gone wrong at Longbourn during their thirty years of marriage. Thomas had endured his wife’s ‘new calling’ as Meryton’s resident tarot-card reader because it helped pay the bills, but hearing her calling herself ‘Madame Fanny’ had been too much, and the separation became inevitable. ‘Madame F’ had slammed the door with a “stay with your horses and your bets” and began a new life in Meryton.
And now, when Elizabeth was finally learning to live with her parent’s break-up, her sister told her that Phil was also moving out, claiming that he was tired of Kitty and the children and of looking after a farm that no one seemed to care about.
“Why? Why now?” Elizabeth sighed.
“What’s wrong, hon?”
Elizabeth opened her eyes and saw her husband staring at her with a half-smile. He was still in his riding clothes.
He walked closer and bent to kiss her forehead. “What happened?”
She exhaled heavily, and he chuckled at her tendency to always make things bigger than they were.
“Phil left Kitty. He moved out.”
Darcy turned serious immediately. “What?”
“I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Phil is the only one with common sense in that house. He’s probably tired, and Kitty, she’s so…arrrrgh!”
“When did that happen? We were there only a month ago.”
Elizabeth extended her hand, and he helped her to stand up. “I’m going to Longbourn tomorrow. I’ll talk to Kitty and see if I can fix this. My mother is already a hopeless case, but without Phil, that farm will not exist.”
“I’m driving you,” he said. “I’ll try to knock some sense into Phil’s head too.”
“No, stay, you must attend your rehab. I’ll call Jane; maybe we can go together.”
Darcy rested his hands on her shoulders, blocking her exit. “Elizabeth, stop. I’m driving you. We’ll stay in London for a few days and we’ll see what’s going on, all right?”
As usually happened when he questioned her decisions, her temper rose. “William, you aren’t going to tell me what I—”
He pressed his forefinger onto her lips. “Before you start saying things you are going to regret, hear me out.”
She rolled her eyes.
“I know you are tired, fastidious, and anxious. I know that you still want to do all those things you were used to doing, but you can’t anymore and it’s driving you crazy. You are eight months pregnant and by no means am I allowing you to drive to Hertfordshire alone. I’m not being controlling, I’m not being overbearing, I’m just being reasonable. We already lost a baby once, and I will not risk this one or your health for any reason. Have I made myself clear?”
Elizabeth rested her forehead on his chest. She banged against it twice before whinging, “Why, why did it have to happen now? Why can’t we have some peace?”
Darcy put his arms around her. “Come, I’ll take you to bed. Why don’t you have a short nap before tea?”
“Are you staying with me?”
“Sure, I’ll massage your feet.”
“How was your practice?” She sniffed and lifted her head. “Did your knee bother you?”
“No.” He smiled. “Everything was fine.”
She wrinkled her nose. “You smell of horse.”
He chuckled. “I’m sorry. I’ll take a bath.”
Darcy lay in bed next to his wife, staring at the ceiling of their bedroom as images of the past months came one after another. What a year this had been. It started with Miss D’s sudden death. An unexpected infection had weakened her condition, and her heart failed just when they were starting to feel hopeful about her recovery. The sorrow he felt upon losing her had been great, but at least they managed to breed her through embryo transfer, and Miss D left a legacy that would prolong her existence.
Then, when they least expected it, Elizabeth announced that she was pregnant. At that time, he was training for his first Olympic Games and jumping qualifying rounds all around Europe. He and Elizabeth had agreed that they would be together all the way, so after the miscarriage she had suffered soon after their wedding, the decision to have a baby was postponed until after the Games. But it happened before that, and they couldn’t be happier. Taking every precaution, Elizabeth was there with him. The madness of the competition came and went, and they were able to return home for that well-deserved rest. A few weeks later, when everything seemed to finally settle down at Pemberley, tragedy struck again: the accident that put him through surgery on his right knee. He was training a new horse, and a collision against a hurdle cut the cruciate ligaments inside his knee. And Elizabeth, entering her sixth month of pregnancy, was watching it.
He truly admired her strength when faced with adversity. Darcy had been terrified when it occurred. Not about the injury or the surgery; no, he had been afraid that something might happen to her or the baby because of it. The doctor said that she was all right, that the shock didn’t affect her or the child, but Darcy was very much aware that his wife was facing too much stress for someone in her condition. She needed calm and stability and nothing was helping. Olympic Games, parents breaking up, accidents, and the ghost of her previous miscarriage were always there to haunt her, to haunt them. And now this. When everything seemed right at Pemberley, crisis at Longbourn again.
Darcy turned his face to the side and observed his wife while she slept. She was pouting. Elizabeth always pouted when she slept. He rolled to the side and mirrored her position. He touched her cheek and then her belly. She was all right. Only then did he close his eyes and fall asleep.
“Is your knee bothering you?” she asked as he drove towards Meryton.
“If you’re tired, we can stop.” She rubbed his thigh.
Darcy smiled. “Do you want to go to the loo again? We can stop at the next gas station.”
“No, it’s OK.” Elizabeth turned her eyes to the landscape. She sighed heavily.
He took her hand and brought it to his lips. “Stop thinking, everything will be all right.”
“Do you know what I was thinking?” She chuckled.
“What you said to me that day at Rosings. That thing about my family being dysfunctional.
It was some kind of premonition. You knew this was going to happen.”
“Yeah, right. My intuition really worked that day. Everything came out exactly the way I planned.”
Elizabeth was glad they could remember that incident with humor. “That thing about being your stable hand was also fantastic, wasn’t it?”
“I’ve been trying to forget about that day for the past four years, and you still remind me of it whenever you can.” He glanced quickly and squeezed her cheek before redirecting his eyes to the road. “But I learned something very important that day.”
“That you are beautiful when you are angry.”
The couple arrived at Longbourn by tea time. Thomas wasn’t home, and they found Kitty watching TV in the living room. The house was a complete mess, with toys and child’s clothes spread all around and carton boxes of uneaten take-out covering the table.
Kitty’s personal appearance wasn’t any better. The state of her hair and clothes was clear evidence that she had not cleaned up in a couple of days.
“You look big, Lizzy, when are you due?” Kitty greeted her dully.
“In three or four weeks, God willing.” Elizabeth looked at her sister disapprovingly. “Where’s dad?”
Kitty shrugged. “I don’t know; he didn’t come home last night.”
“And the kids?” Darcy enquired.
“Phil took them to his mom’s.”
Elizabeth glanced at her husband and then back at her sister. It would be better if she took the conversation somewhere else. “Let’s make some coffee, Kit. Will is tired from driving.”
The sisters walked into the kitchen and Kitty put the kettle on the stove. Elizabeth’s frown accentuated at the sight of the greasy pans and dirty dishes accumulated on the sink and counters. Kitty’s idleness had taken over the entire house.
“Kitty, what is going on? What happened?” Elizabeth asked as she sat at the table.
“Do you really want to know?” Kitty’s smirk was charged with bitterness.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’m tired of all this. You don’t have an idea of what my life is like. Phil spends all day with the horses, mum is crazy, dad is out all day long, Mary is too busy with her books to even call, and you and Jane are in Derbyshire. I feel alone, Lizzy. I’m alone here.”
“You have two beautiful kids, you are not alone. We are your family, Phil—”
“Phil left me.”
“Why?” Elizabeth asked softly.
“He says I’m lazy, that I don’t care about him or the children or the house. That I spend all day watching TV, and that I’ve turned into a slovenly cow. That’s what he said.”
Elizabeth’s eyebrows shot up. That was harsh, but she imagined that Phil must have been very angry with his wife to say something so hurtful. While a bit rustic, Phil was one of the sweetest guys she had ever met “Well, maybe there’s a reason for—”
“I knew you would take his side.” Kitty snapped. “What do you know about us anyway? You are filthy rich, you are married to this Olympic rider, and you come here every six months to rub your wealth in our noses by showing up in your big Mercedes. You don’t even know the things we’ve been through—what taking care of this farm means!”
“And you do?” She couldn’t believe her sister was throwing such an accusation after all she had done at Longbourn before marrying Darcy. “I guess you forgot who used to do all the work around here while you watched TV all day long. Don’t blame me for what I achieved, blame yourself for what you are! Look at yourself! You haven’t bathed in how long? Three days?”
“What for? To attract a husband who doesn’t even look at me? I’m tired of all this, of the horses, of the bills, of the children, of everything!”
“Tired? Tired? You never did anything for yourself or your family! If you still have a decent place to live, it’s because William and I have been paying the farm’s bills for years! Look at this place! It stinks! You don’t even sweep the floor! Do you know something?” Elizabeth was too angry to measure the impact of her own words. “Phil is right: you are a slovenly, lazy, and resentful COW!”
Kitty’s eyes opened wide. She just stood there, staring at her elder sister without uttering a word.
“Will, hi.” Phil walked into the house. With one hand he pushed the pram where little Mathew was fast asleep, and with the other, he was holding Cecilia, also dormant with her head leaning on her father’s shoulder.
“Let me help you with that.” Darcy rose and grabbed his goddaughter. Cecilia made a noise as she went from her dad’s hands to Darcy’s but didn’t wake up.
“Let’s get them to bed.” Phil whispered and gestured the stairs. They left the children in their respective beds and quietly returned to the living room. Neither Darcy nor Phil were prone to inconsequential chit chat so they went directly to the point.
“What happened, Phil? What’s going on?”
“I’m so overwhelmed by all this…the farm, the kids. I’m only 21 years old, and I feel I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.”
“Since Fanny left, he’s gone all day long, hangs out in the pub until wee hours, and comes back late in the night—when he does come back.”
“Do you think he’s gambling again?”
“I hope not, though I’m not sure.”
“I’ll call him. Maybe he’ll talk to me. So, how’s everything going on with the farm?” Darcy looked around. The interior of the house wasn’t very clean, but from what he had seen when he arrived, the stables and the schooling pens were impeccable. “You’re doing an excellent job here, I don’t think I’ve seen Longbourn so neat.”
“Thanks.” Phil smiled. “The riding school is giving us a pretty good income and we are housing a couple of horses to help with the expenses. You know, I never imagined I would end up running this place.”
Darcy listened quietly and waited until Phil felt comfortable enough to speak on his own. And when he finally did, the young man didn’t hold back.
“I don’t know what to do.” Phil sighed. “Sometimes, I’d like to have a break, go to the pub or dancing with my girl, but she…she just sits there and watches TV all day long. She so careless about her appearance, she doesn’t even…” He shook his head. “I love my wife and kids, I truly love this farm, but I’d like to have a life, do the things the guys my age do.”
Darcy looked at his young brother-in-law. Phil’s life had been so hard, everything had happened so fast for him and Kitty. “Have you tried talking to her?”
“You don’t know how stubborn she can be.”
“I’m married to her sister. If she’s as half as stubborn as Elizabeth…”
Phil smiled with resignation. “Everything all right with the baby? It was so hard for her the first time.”
“Everything is running smoothly this time. Though all this is not helping her peace of mind. You know how she stresses when there are problems at home.”
“I’m sorry, Will, I wish I had better news.”
The fiery yelling that came from the kitchen put a pause to their conversation. The men exchanged glances, both knew better than to stand in the middle of fight between two Bennet women.
Kitty started laughing and Elizabeth laughed too.
“I’m sorry, Kit.” Elizabeth shook her head. “I can’t believe I just called you that.”
“Oh, Lizzy, I’m sorry too.” Kitty went to embrace her sister. “It’s just that I don’t know what to do. I miss him so much, and the kids are heartbroken. What am I going to do?”
“You chose to be a housewife. You can’t say now that you are tired of it.”
“I know, Lizzy, I know.”
“Now…” Elizabeth smiled and tucked her little sister’s hair behind her ear. “You are only 20 years old, you can’t just abandon yourself like that. You must care for your appearance and make this place the home that you and your family deserve. You must be that lovely girl Phil fell in love with.”
“That’s impossible.” Kitty snorted. “I have two children, and I am 30 pounds heavier.”
“Kitty, you are a beautiful girl. You must show him that you can, that you care. For him, for your children, and for yourself.”
“You are an angel, you know.”
“No, Jane’s the angel, I’m your conscience.” Elizabeth smiled.
Kitty smiled too and saw her sister turn serious. Very serious and pale. “Lizzy? Are you all right?”
“I … I think that my water broke.” Elizabeth sounded scared.
“Just that? You don’t feel any pains?”
Elizabeth shook her head.
“Don’t worry. It happened to me with Matt, remember?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth smiled with apprehension. Kitty’s water broke two weeks before her due date, resulting in her second C-section.
“I’ll call William. Don’t move.”
“She loves riding,” Phil said fondly as he showed Darcy a picture of Cecilia riding one of the ponies. “Thomas says she’s even better than Lizzy was.”
“I bet she is. We’ll come over for the weekend, and I’ll take her for ride.”
“She’d love that, she—”
“Phil, I didn’t know you were home.”
Darcy and Phil looked at Kitty, who had just joined them in the living room.
“Yeah, I thought it would be better if I brought the kids early.”
Kitty smiled shyly. “Are you staying for dinner?”
“I…” the younger man hesitated for an instant but accepted the invitation. “Sure, why not?”
Darcy noticed that the tension between the couple was weakening, and the glint in their eyes as they looked at each other told him that there was still hope for them. But something was missing from this picture, something that put all his senses on alert.
“Where’s Elizabeth?” Darcy asked.
“William,” Kitty made a gesture with her hands that was meant to calm him, but it only made him more apprehensive. “She’s fine. Her water just broke…”
He didn’t hear anything else and rushed to the kitchen.
Darcy paused for a moment before entering. He was concerned, but he would never let Elizabeth see it. All he wanted was to transmit to her the tranquility and confidence she needed to face this new obstacle that life had thrown their way. He saw her by the table, breathing deeply, with both hands on her abdomen. She was chewing her lower lip in the manner she always did when she was nervous.
“It seems that I can’t leave you alone for too long.” He walked around her chair and crouched in front of her. “You just can’t stay out of trouble.”
“Oh, Will, I’m sorry. I can’t believe this is happening. I …”
“It’s OK.” He held her hand. “Tell me what you are feeling.”
As always, his calmness brought the serenity she needed to feel. “I just felt this sort of ‘click’ and I knew something happened. The doctor said that this could happen, I …”
“I’ll call the doctor and ask him what to do.”
The conversation with Elizabeth’s obstetrician was short. He told Darcy to take her to —— Hospital in London where he would meet them in about three hours. From what he intuited, the labor had not yet started and the mother seemed fine, so there saw no reason to freak out and rush to the hospital.
Once at the hospital, Elizabeth was placed in a room. She submitted to all kind of tests to determine if mother and child were all right, and the doctors decided there wasn’t any danger for either of them. Now they only had to wait.
The labor started by itself a few hours later. For nearly eight hours, Elizabeth stayed in her room in the company of her husband and was checked on occasion by the midwife and the doctor. They had agreed with Kitty and Phil to not tell anyone except the Bingleys as they didn’t want untimely visitors that would alter the future parents’ peace. When the time came, Elizabeth was taken to the delivery room.
“You are coming with me, aren’t you?” Elizabeth held her husband’s hand tightly.
“I would never leave you, Elizabeth, never,” Darcy replied reassuringly.
The Darcys were blessed with a beautiful baby girl that day. She was tiny, but she was strong and healthy. As they watched her sleep, so perfect yet so fragile, they thought of the long road they had walked to reach this place, of all the obstacles that the clutter of life presented them. Surely there would be a lot more, but they didn’t care, because the ride was effortless and smooth when they took it as a team.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Belén Paccagnella discovered the world of Jane Austen fan fiction after watching the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. In her teens, she lived in Brazil when her family moved to the city of Curitiba due to her father’s work. She moved back to Buenos Aires a few years later, where she studied agronomy but finally pursued a different career and started working in the development administration of shopping centres.
In 2001, she started writing both Regency and modern stories adapted from the Pride and Prejudice storyline, merging drama, humour, and adventure while creating characters with unique traits.
Belén still lives in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, where she shares her home with her daughter and her pets while spending her time working, reading, and writing.
September 17 / My Jane Austen Book Club / Guest Post
September 18 / Diary of an Eccentric / Excerpt Post
September 19 / Austenesque Reviews / Vignette Post
September 20 / More Agreeably Engaged / Author Interview
September 21 / So Little Time / Excerpt Post
September 22 / Just Jane 1813 / Guest Book Review
September 23 / My Love for Jane Austen / Character Interview
September 24 / From Pemberley to Milton / Excerpt Post
September 25 / Margie’s Must Reads / Book Review
September 26 / Babblings of a Bookworm / Vignette Post
September 27 / My Vices and Weaknesses / Book Review
September 28 / Of Pens and Pages / Book Review
Meryton Press is offering eight eBooks copies of Obstacles. The giveaway runs until midnight, September 30, 2018 and readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or a review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented. If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified.
There will be one winner per contest and each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter.
The giveaway is international and to enter it you should click here.
Good Luck everyone!