Good Afternoon everyone,
Yesterday I posted a review of The Darcy’s First Christmas which is the second book in the Darcy Family Christmas series, and today I am happy to welcome Maria Grace with an excerpt of the fourth book in this series: Unexpected Gifts.
In this book the Darcy’s have been married for a few years, so Maria Grace decided to focus this story on redemption… You can imagine which characters will be called on stage can’t you? If you liked yesterday’s review, and if you’re curious about this new story featuring the Darcy’s during Christmas time, please check out the excerpt Maria Grace brought to you, and don’t forget to participate in the giveawy 🙂
Thank you so much for visiting Maria! I’ve recently finished Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion, so you’ll here from me soon, but until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Yuletide 1814, the Darcys are celebrating their third wedding anniversary and the baby Elizabeth is expecting. Overprotective and perhaps overbearing, Darcy is ready to do anything for Elizabeth’s comfort, including defying the will of his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh who demands their presence to bestow a gift that absolutely cannot wait.
What sort of gift is so urgent it cannot wait for a more auspicious time?
Christmastide 1815, the Darcys hope for a particular sort of joy to bring a close to a dark and difficult season. It only seems fitting that an unexpected—and unwelcome—guest disrupts their small family house party. Could the unexpected gift they bring be the key to the fulfillment of the Darcys’ most heartfelt desires?
You can find Unexpected Gifts at:
and on Kindle Unlimited
.And if you’re in the mood for Christmas books, here are the other books in the series 🙂
Thanks so much for hosting me Rita! The year is winding down rapidly! I’m so glad to be able to get in one more visit before the new year.
I know Christmas is nearly upon us, but it’s not too late for a great holiday story, next to my dragon books (which I’m so tickled you’ve enjoyed!), holiday stories are my favorite sort of writing project. I still haven’t quite found a way to mix the two, but I am still trying. (And no, I’m not entirely a joking…)
Try as I might, I just couldn’t get into holiday romances writing mode this year. Not during a year that I’ve caught myself using (2020) as an adjective to describe something going sideways fast. While many have had far worse experiences this year, 2020 has been a challenge.
I tried out a lot of different ideas until I landed on another favorite genre of mine, redemption stories. There are a lot of broken relationships out there in need of healing. That finally felt right.
Now mind you, I’m not talking about the sort of fairy-dust-makes-it-better sort of thing. That’s too easy, and sadly too unrealistic. So I rolled up my sleeves and looked at some of the difficult relationships in the Darcy family’s life: Lady Catherine, Charlotte Collins, Lady Matlock, Lydia Wickham, and tried to figure out what it would take to make those relationships whole again. Yeah, you can imagine it was a challenge.
These stories may make you laugh, make you think, and might even make you cry. But they will definitely leave you with the fuzzy-warm holiday feelings that we all need right now. So why don’t you grab a cup of hot cup of tea/coffee/cocoa/what have you, maybe a plate of your favorite cookies, put up your feet and enjoy this little excerpt.
A draft blew from the windows at the end of the corridor. The chill air sent a shiver between her shoulders. Perhaps she had underestimated the comforts of the blazing parlor fire. Tiny, wiry, not-to be-trifled with Mrs. Reynolds bustled up to her, that something-is-not-going-according-to-plan look on her face. She did not wear that look often.
“Mrs. Darcy, guests have arrived and are waiting for you in the lower parlor.” Though petite, Mrs. Reynolds commanded respect—and perhaps even a little fear when her dark eyes flashed the way they did now.
Something about the way she said guests … “I am not aware that Mr. Darcy has invited anyone else to Pemberley for Yuletide.”
“That is what I understood, too, madam. But the young woman was insistent that I present you with her card.” Mrs. Reynolds held out a plain white card.
No, that was not possible.
“So, you were not expecting her? Shall I turn them away?”
“Yes, madam, there are two small children with her.”
“She brought the children? Is there anyone else?”
Creases tightened beside Mrs. Reynolds’ dark eyes. “I imagine you are asking if there is a man with them. No, I have been assured there is not.”
“Then …” She chewed her lip. No doubt Darcy would not like it very much, but really, what else was she to do? They had come such a long way—how had they managed that? As long as he was not with them … “See that rooms are made up for them and another girl is assigned to the nursery to assist. I will go down and find out how long she and the children are to stay. I will inform Mr. Darcy of the plans myself.”
“Very well, Madam.” Mrs. Reynolds looked just a little relieved as she took Elizabeth’s arm and escorted her down the grand stairs—another one of Darcy’s precautions in her delicate state.
Perhaps he was a little, just a little, overprotective.
Elizabeth paused just outside the lower parlor door and smoothed her periwinkle blue gown over her ample midsection. Yes, enjoying the soft wool beneath her fingertips was just stalling, but surely that could be excused this once.
What was Lydia doing here, and why had she given them no notice of her plans?
Elizabeth waddled into the elegant room, appointed in teal and ivory furnishings and drapes. It was one of those rooms that was not precisely according to her tastes, a bit too reserved and formal for parlor company. The carved mahogany furnishings demanded respect rather than welcomed visitors. But Darcy liked it very well indeed as his mother had seen to its décor herself. So, she had determined, it would stay exactly as it was.
Darcy rose from the wingchair near the not-yet-lit fireplace and approached her.
What was he doing here? Mrs. Reynolds had made no mention … He took her arm and guided her to a soft teal armchair close beside his. It was probably polite for him to keep his expression so neutral, but it also meant his feelings were quite the opposite. The baby kicked and fluttered, perhaps agreeing with her sentiment.
“No wonder you were so slow to arrive, Lizzy, you are as big as a horse.” Lydia sprang up from the long ivory settee where both her children lay sleeping and bounced toward her. The thick floral carpeting muffled her footfalls.
How dare she be so light and easy on her feet.
“I had no idea of your coming.” Elizabeth looked directly at Darcy.
“No, neither of us did.” He pressed his hand tight against her arm.
No, he was not pleased.
“You did not expect me to arrive on St. Nicholas day? It is the traditional start of all holiday visits, is it not?” Lydia started to roll her eyes but stopped the expression with a slap to her forehead. “I am such a goose, I must have forgot to post the letter. What a joke! Even so, you cannot be surprised at my coming for a house party at Christmastide.”
Calm, she much be calm. “How did you—”
“Jane mentioned she and Bingley were coming in one of her letters.” Lydia curtsied and flounced back to her seat. Ragged threads dangled from her dusty faded hem, and her half-boots sported scuffs and dirt, more than travel alone would explain.
“Of course, she did.” Elisabeth shrugged at Darcy. She would have a few—gentle—words with Jane.
“I know you would have invited me had you thought we had any way to get here.”
“Naturally.” Did Darcy realize how strained his voice sounded when he spoke through a forced smile? He gripped the arm of his chair hard enough that the veins stood out on the back of his hand.
“Are you not going to ask me how we managed?”
“How did you manage it?” Elizabeth hid her hand under her skirt and clenched her fist.
“La, it was not so difficult after all. You have noticed, I am sure, that Wickham is not with us. He has been on the continent you see, since … since May I think.”
Elizabeth gasped and Darcy pressed his shoulder to hers.
“After some months without the regiment in residence, Julia, Martha, and I decided we no longer wanted to keep house together. Julia decided to go with her baby back to her father’s house only ten miles from here. So, the children and I came with her that far and paid our way from there. You see, I am far more clever than you gave me credit for, am I not, Lizzy?”
Elizabeth blinked several times. Dare she ask? No, if there were bad news, they would surely know by now. “You came all this way, with the children?”
“As you see,” she pointed to the children sleeping on the settee beside her. The little mites’ faces were dusty and their clothes seemed ill-fitting and in need of mending.
“And where are you going to live now that…”
“Oh, that. I am going to Longbourn of course.”
“You have written to Mama—”
Lydia picked at her skirt. “I will directly if you are so insistent about it. But now that Kitty is the only one living there, I know there is plenty of room for us. It will be ever so much nicer than the fourth-rate house we rented up north. I know that Mama will enjoy the lively company we will bring. You remember how dull Kitty can be. I will ask Papa to send the carriage for us after Twelfth Night unless Mr. Darcy would rather send us with his coach.”
“You ought to prepare yourself for Papa to insist you take the stage instead.”
“I am sure it will all work out. You have become such a worrier, Lizzy. I do not see how you tolerate her, Mr. Darcy.” Her laughter always grated when she used it to blunt an insult.
“We make do very well I think.” He laid his hand on hers. Was that the tiniest bit of amusement in his eyes?
“I have no doubt you have room for us in such a very grand house. I think we shall do very well together for the holidays, do you not?”
Elizabeth chewed the inside of her cheek. Lying was unbecoming, at least under most circumstances. “I suppose, what is one more, and her children, to an already merry little party?”
“I knew you would see it that way. Oh, I see your housekeeper Mrs. Richards—Is that her name?” Lydia sashayed past them and out into the corridor where indeed Mrs. Reynolds waited with a pair of maids who swept in and picked up the children.
Darcy rose and shut the door, sighing as he turned back to her.
“I had no idea she was coming.” Pray he would look her in the eye.
“I have no doubt. Clearly that was her intention all along.” Some of the tightness around his lips eased.
“And her visit is agreeable to you?”
He fell heavily into the chair beside her. “The only person I have forbidden from this house is Wickham. About that I will never change my mind. But Georgiana is away with the Matlocks, and Lydia is my sister now. I will not deny her hospitality.” He leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling as he often did when resigning himself to some duty he disliked.
“I will do my best to see that she does nothing to disturb you—”
“I will not have you worrying about anything, Elizabeth. Not. Anything.” When he stared into her eyes like that, there could be no argument. “You must remain calm and rested for the baby. If she upsets you, that will be reason enough for me to find her other accommodations. There is an inn at Lambton. We can send a maid with her if need be.”
“You are all that is considerate, even if she is not. I suppose we should be accustomed to unexpected guests at Yuletide by now.” Her laughter sounded thin even in her own ears.
Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.
She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction. Her books are available at all major online booksellers.
She can be contacted at:
Maria Grace would like to offer one ebook copy of Unexpected Gifts to one of my readers. The giveaway is international and will end on the 28th of December.
All you have to do to participate in the giveaway is comment on this post. Every comment earns an entry in the drawing.
Good Luck everyone!