Rydal Mount Vignette

During these troubled times, I am finding even more solace than usual in my favorite romance novels. Romance novels have always been a place to turn to when I yearn to feel a lightness of heart. They create worlds where I can forget the pressures of the day, learn about matters of the heart, and enjoy the romance of a moment.

I wrote the following vignette last summer, and it was included in Meryton Press’s Summer Holiday blog series. I’m re-posting it now for those who may have missed it, or for anyone who would like to send their minds and hearts to the lovely summer gardens of England.

This vignette takes place at Rydal Mount, the home in England’s Lake District where William Wordsworth spent most of his adult life. Elizabeth and Darcy are traveling in the area a year or two before Wordsworth rented the home from Lady le Flemming.

When thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies (139-142)

from Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth

The carriage drove over the old stone bridge, and Elizabeth Darcy leaned her head out the open window, the better to see the lovely creek below. The horses moved on—their hooves clapping loudly on the stone—and a moment later, the house came into view. It sat upon a little hill, its white plaster facade warmed by the afternoon sun.

“Oh! Fitzwilliam, it’s beautiful!”

Across from her, her husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy, smiled and leaned forward to gaze out the window as well. The sloped roof of the house was punctuated by seven chimneys, their milky tone contrasting sharply with the grey slate roof. Gardens surrounded the house; indeed, flowers and foliage seemed to burst from every corner. 

“I thought you would like it, my love,” Darcy said.

“It is exactly what I would wish a summer home to be,” Elizabeth replied, her eyes glowing as they roamed over the lovely scene.

Before long, the carriage pulled to a stop, and a groom began to attend to the horses. Two footmen appeared to hand Elizabeth and Darcy out of the carriage, and Elizabeth found herself being ushered inside the house by a welcoming woman who appeared to be the housekeeper in residence.

“Welcome to Rydal Mount, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Lady Flemming sends her apologies for not receiving you herself, but she has been called away to tend to a sick relative,” the plump older woman was saying. 

“I do hope it is nothing serious,” Elizabeth said, looking at her husband who was handing his hat and staff to the footman. 

“I do not believe so, ma’am,” the housekeeper replied. “Lady Flemming has an elderly relative that lives but twenty miles away. She is often called from Rydal Hall to attend her. Please, allow me to show you to your rooms.” 

She led the way up the rather narrow stairs to the master’s chambers. The room was simply furnished, yet there was a touch of elegance that spoke of good sense and taste. The adjoining room—the mistress’s chambers—was as bright and cheerful as Elizabeth could wish. The white walls were modestly adorned with art that looked to be painted by the residents of Rydal Hall. A large window occupied most of one wall, and as it was curtained with only gauzy cotton, the sunlight of the summer afternoon streamed through, warming the room within.

The housekeeper left them, and Elizabeth turned to Darcy, clasping his hand. “How did you know, my dear, that this house would be so perfect for our summer holiday?”

“I saw it once, several years ago,” Darcy replied, pulling her closer as he spoke. “I was traveling in this part of the country, and stopped to visit Sir Daniel Flemming and his wife, Lady Anna. Sir Daniel was keen to show me the improvements he had made to some of the outer buildings, including Rydal Mount.”

He wrapped his arms around her, pressing her body close to his. After five months of marriage, Elizabeth had grown accustomed to his casual touches, but the thrill of his embrace was as strong now as it had been the very first time she had felt his arms around her. She sighed, leaning into his chest and resting her head on his lapel.

“It was such a peaceful spot,” he continued. “The gardens were especially lovely. When I heard that Sir Daniel was looking for a tenant, I knew immediately that this would suit us—that it would suit you, my love.” He crooked his finger below her chin, drawing her face up to his. A smile played about his mouth as he leaned in, kissing her slowly, delicately.

The kiss deepened, and Elizabeth wound her arms around his neck, content to be in his arms. After a moment, however, he withdrew. 

“We should change out of these dusty things,” he said.

“I suppose you are right,” Elizabeth murmured. 

Darcy chuckled at her reluctance. “Do not worry, my love; there are more delights to come.”

Elizabeth blushed and looked at her boots. Darcy once again lifted her chin with his finger.

“I have a surprise in store for you, and I do not wish to spoil it. Come—let us change. I shall await you downstairs.” He gave her one impish look, and then left her. Her curiosity sufficiently piqued, Elizabeth called her maid and hurried to undress.

She availed herself of the washing basin then chose a lovely cotton afternoon dress from her trunk. It had come through the long trip largely unwrinkled, and Elizabeth was quite pleased with her appearance once her maid had done up the buttons in the back. The muslin was creamy white with tiny little sprigs of yellow flowers embroidered throughout. Delicate puffed sleeves revealed her pale and shapely arms, and a lace fichu tucked into her bodice. It was far too warm for a shawl, but she did procure her parasol.

Refreshed and changed at last, Elizabeth made her way downstairs. She found her husband in the library where she knew he would be. He sat, book in hand, with his long legs stretched before him. He looked up and smiled—the full, engaging smile that was just for her.

“There you are, my love,” he said, rising and setting his book aside. “You look positively enchanting this afternoon.”

Elizabeth looked down at her frock. “Do you like it? I had it made especially for the trip.”

Darcy took in her gown, his eyes moving over her in a way that made her shiver slightly. “It is quite beautiful,” he said, “though I confess that the gown is not what caught my attention.” 

He took a step closer, and linked her arm in his. “It is you, my love—your fair cheek, your lovely lips, those eyes that will forever bewitch me. You are lovelier than any dress.”

“And you, sir, are charming,” Elizabeth said archly, but her heart beat faster at his words, and she drew him closer to her side.

“Are you ready for your surprise?”

“I think you are the better judge, husband of mine. Will I suit the surprise?”

“You are perfect. Come, let me lead you.”

He drew her out of the library toward the back of the house. A small door at the end of the hall opened upon the back of the property. As soon as she stepped through the door, Elizabeth felt she had been transported to a fairyland. Flowers of every sort were in full bloom, their heady fragrance filling her senses. There were roses—dozens of roses—as well as foxgloves, lavender, agrimonies, daisies, and bellflowers. 

“Oh, my darling,” Elizabeth breathed. “It is so very beautiful!”

Darcy placed his hand on the small of her back, leading her forward through the blooms. “As are you, my love.”

Elizabeth leaned her head against his shoulder in reply as they walked arm in arm down the garden path. Were it not for her deep love of Pemberley, she felt she should be happy to live her whole life in this very garden.

They rounded a bend, and she glimpsed her surprise at last. A lavish picnic was set upon the neatly trimmed lawn beneath  a beautiful horse chestnut tree. A large blanket held all sorts of culinary delights, and two footmen stood at a discreet distance, ready to attend them. 

Darcy led her to the blanket, holding her hand as she settled herself down. Then he relaxed next to her, leaning back on his shoulder. “Do you like it, my dear?”

“Of course I do! It is the perfect beginning to our summer holiday.”

“I am glad it pleases you.”

“It does, indeed, and you do, as always.”

She leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss, despite the footmen. Darcy merely raised an eyebrow at her boldness. 

“We are here for two whole weeks,” he said. “I thought the vistas of the fells and lakes could wait while we recover from our journey.”

“A very good thought,” Elizabeth replied, taking a piece of ham from the basket and setting it on a plate for her husband. She served another for herself. “Though you may regret it.”

“Indeed?”

“I may never wish to leave this garden nor the charming house. Rydal Mount is exactly where I should like to live, had I not been blessed with the good fortune of being mistress of Pemberley.”

Darcy took her hand, raising her fingers to his lips. His eyes blazed with the passion she had come to know these past five months. “Wherever you are, Elizabeth, is where I wish to be.”

“And where I wish to be, my love, is by your side.”

Originally posted on the Meryton Press blog.

Perhaps a Novel?

Is anyone else feeling a bit…freaked out? I freely admit to having anxiety on a good day. These days I’m feeling that constant, low-level anxiety that creates tension and wears me down. That feeling that I should just go hide in my room? Yeah, I’m thinking I’m not alone with that.

In case you are feeling like I am, might I suggest a book? A book, a cup of tea or coffee, and perhaps a cozy blanket. Play some soothing music, read your favorite book, and snuggle up.

Or you could always put in the 1995 BBC adaption of Pride & Prejudice.

Take very good care, dear readers.

Pride & Prejudice @ Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Image courtesy of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Local Cincinnati folks – go see this play! It was my very great privilege (thanks Mom and Dad!!) to see Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s new production of Pride & Prejudice last night. I enjoyed it so much, I knew I had to share.

What I loved

The acting was superb, the costuming and sets were lovely, and the lighting added to the show. There are only six actors in this production, so several of them play multiple parts. I was unsure of this at first, but it really works! The production is funny, playing up the natural humor found in Jane Austen’s classic work. It also highlights Austen’s own satirical observations about the world around her. For more on that, check out the Director’s Note here.

It was a different interpretation of my favorite book of all time, with some artistic license taken. Some plot lines were condensed and some characters were left out, but I was okay with all of it. I mean, the BBC masterpiece from 1995 took six hours to tell the story so fully.

What I didn’t love

Um…I wish the show started at 7:00 instead of 7:30? Seriously, it’s wonderful. Go see it.

Big News!

Keep those audiobook listening dreams big.

I am so completely excited to share that A Chance Encounter in Pemberley Woods is going to be an audiobook! Can we just take a moment and enjoy that?

Thank you.

I’m currently in the process of listening to auditions for the narrator. With the help of the ever-incredible Janet Taylor of Meryton Press, I am receiving auditions where the artist reads several pages of my book. It is amazing to hear the pages of my novella read by some lovely British people.

I’m not sure of the timeline yet, but I just had to share because…Oh. My. Goodness. This is going to be fun!

Chicken Coop Confidence

Tada! The Basic Coop from The Garden Coop

Coop Completion!

Remember back in October when I shared my plan to create The Basic Coop from The Garden Coop? Well four months later, the thing is finished! It languished in our garage for many months while I procrastinated–intimidated as I was by the size of the project.

Then one Sunday a few weeks ago, it was 60 degrees outside and I decided it was go time. Kev had already helped me measure and cut all the plywood, which was the hardest part in my opinion. And I had already treated each piece of wood with a nice sealer to keep the moisture out. It was time to assemble.

I spent the whole day working, and the kids pitched in too. They mostly helped with the painting. I love my little Irish coop, and have already bought plans for a run. It was a huge confidence builder, creating this thing from scratch. It helped me channel my inner Captain America.

And like this scene when Cap tosses Black Widow up into the air with his shield, I used the momentum I got from this completed project to complete another: Fidelity.

That’s right folks, Fidelity has been edited, beta read, re-edited, and submitted.

Photo by Maël BALLAND on Pexels.com

It will be three long months before I hear back from the particular publisher that I submitted it to, but I’m still so excited about it!

You never know. You hope for the best, then make do with what you get. - Nick Fury (Avengers: Age of Ultron Quotes)

Keep your fingers crossed!

YouTube Gems

Prepare to find a new rabbit hole.

I have a secret love: YouTube fan vids. A good fan video can transport you. I have so many favorite videos in various lists now, I realize I needed to share them! I find these videos incredibly inspirational as far as writing goes. They get my creative juices flowing.

So this here post is the first in a series. YouTube Gems that must be shared. First up, Sherlock. If you have not seen Sherlock and want to, please do not view these! Many spoilers are contained within 🙂

This firsts video is by Nyah86Production and is called “The Woman That Counted.” The music is by The Cinematic Orchestra. Enjoy!

The next video is by nolaespoir and is called “A Magic Trick.” Oh my goodness, this one is so very good! The music is “Song for Bob” by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. All. The. Feels.

Okay, now that we’re all feeling pangs in our heart, let’s go write that initial breakup scene. Stay tuned for more YouTube Gems. Next up: Doctor Who.

New Additions

Fred and George

Meet Fred and George, my newest distraction from writing. No, just kidding. I’m sure they’ll be inspirational. Fred is the very bright green budgie in the back, and George is the slightly duller green budgie in the front. George is struggling. We’re feeding him vitamin water and trying to pull him through. He was like this at the pet shop, and my daughter and I did the thing you are not supposed to do and rescued him.

Well, we couldn’t just leave him there.

I think budgies need to feature in a story of mine. They’re from Australia, you know. Perhaps a Hugh Jackman type with budgies. It could work.

Birds are my spirit animal. I used to think it was bunnies, since they are very skittish too. Nope. It’s birds. Birds fly high and free, yet they are constantly aware of the reality of impending attack by predators. They often risk their lives just to nurture they’re young. And some wonderful birds, like the albatross, mate for life.

Photo by Mac Gaither on Unsplash

Over the past year I’ve read some really great books about birds. For those that are interested in a quality non-fiction read:

I highly recommend the audiobook for Life on Earth. It’s read by David Attenborough, so it is brilliantly interesting and soothing at the same time.