It is a pleasure to welcome the author Jan Hahn to Austenprose today.
Meryton Press has just published her latest Austenesque novel, A Peculiar Connection. Hahn has written several very popular Pride and Prejudice-inspired books including The Journey and An Arranged Marriage. Here are a brief preview and excerpt for your enjoyment.
Will a mysterious note from the past doom the love of Jane Austen’s most beloved couple?
A Peculiar Connection begins near the close of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Bent on preventing the engagement of her nephew to Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh declares that any union between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth would be “a sin against Heaven itself!” Her shocking revelation, along with a cryptic message written over twenty years earlier, thrusts the couple into a whirlwind of heartbreak and disbelief.
Could a deserted mansion in Derbyshire or a small church hidden in the wood hold the key to solving the puzzle? And why is Elizabeth inexplicably drawn to the portrait of three young boys in Pemberley’s gallery?
Determined to confirm or refute Lady Catherine’s accusation, Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to embark upon a twisted trail into bygone days and family secrets. All the while, they must endure the exquisite torture of denying the indisputable desire that still hovers between them.
I was startled to see the form of a man standing beside the last pew at the rear of the building. The dim light was just enough for me to make out who stood privy to my conversation―Mr. Darcy.
He wore his greatcoat and held his hat in his hand, apparently ready to leave. “Elizabeth.”
“Sir.” I walked toward him, my head held high. “Is it your nature to listen in on private conversations?”
“Of course not. I did not mean to overhear.”
“And what brings you to God’s house―fervent need of prayer?”
He smiled slightly. “You did not respond to my sister’s request, and Georgiana wished to bid you farewell. Someone said they saw you walk in the direction of the church.”
“Is that what drew you here―your need of prayer―or did you come to question the old vicar?”
“We are all in need of prayer, sir. And no, I did not seek Mr. Fawcett. He found me here by chance.”
“I assume you heard what he said. It was the strangest thing.”
“About the woman who gave you birth? Yes, I heard.”
“Do you have knowledge of her family, Mr. Darcy?”
He shook his head. “I cannot help but believe, though, that we might find the answer in Derbyshire.”
“Elizabeth, if you consent to return to Pemberley with Georgiana and me, perchance we could find some bit of information about your mother. The attics are filled with old trunks containing various papers, records, and journals. Surely, somewhere someone wrote of your birth. If you will come, I will brook no obstacle to solve the mystery.”
I frowned at him. “I do not consider that a prudent idea.”
“What would be the harm in a visit? Tell me that if you can. Mrs. Annesley, my sister’s companion, travels with us, so everything would be in order. You would have a chaperone.”
“Why must you insist on continuing your involvement in my life? I do believe you are the most stubborn man I have ever known.” I walked toward the door, but stopped short at the sight before me: snow now covered the village.
“It seems we share the family trait, for you possess a stubbornness of your own. Here, take my coat; you cannot go out dressed as you are.”
“No,” I said quickly. “I shall wait here until it slackens. Pray, go and bid your sister farewell on my behalf. I will send her a note tomorrow expressing my regret that I must forego her gracious invitation.”
I felt his eyes upon me, and when I turned to meet them, I was surprised at the fire I saw therein. “I shall not part from you until you tell me the truth. Here, in this sacred place, one must not lie. I want to hear the true reason you wish to sever all contact between us.”
“I beg to differ. You have oft been told the truth, and you refuse to accept it.”
“When last we met, you spoke in anger―justifiable―yet anger. You said you do not want any of that which belonged to my father, but there is more. I can see it in your eyes.”
“Indeed? And what more do you see?”
“Mistrust. I believe you consider me faithless because of what occurred between us at Kent last Easter. You fear I cannot look upon you as a sister.”
I caught my breath. Was I that transparent? My lip trembled, and I was afraid to move lest I confess to him more than I should.
Turning to stare out at the snow, he began twirling his hat round and round. “I wrote in my letter that you need have no fear of my renewing those addresses you found so disgusting.”
“Please, do not remind me of that time, Mr. Darcy. I am quite ashamed of how I abused you.”
“What did you say that I did not deserve? The manner of my declaration was abominable. When I think back on it, I cannot imagine myself uttering those insults toward your family and yourself. Make no mistake in thinking I still harbour those sentiments.”
My stomach lurched at his declaration, but was it true? I knew him to be a man who abhorred deceit, but was I so in error? Of what sentiments did he speak―his disapproval of my connections or his declaration of love? Had I misunderstood his attentions at Pemberley or his kindness at Lambton when he discovered me grieving over Lydia?
I took a deep breath. “Then, sir, may I ask why Lady Catherine travelled to Longbourn with such haste in fear that you and I were soon to be engaged? What led her to reveal my true parentage if not in dread that an attachment between us loomed imminent?”
The hat twirling in his hand ceased as suddenly as it had begun.
“I cannot speak for my aunt or for her malice. Although directed at you, her anger was meant for me. She had called at my townhouse in London the day before and confronted me once again concerning a proposal for her daughter. I told her for the last time that I was not to marry Anne, and that my affections lay elsewhere. For whatever reason, she presumed you were the object. That is when she produced a copy of the note written by Sir Lewis. As I told you earlier, I went directly to her solicitor’s office and examined the original. Unknown to me, the following day, she travelled to Longbourn. I returned to Netherfield where she found me after her visit with you. She appeared delighted with her Machiavellian efforts but became affronted when I informed her that I would share my inheritance with you.”
His affections lay elsewhere. What does that mean?
“Elizabeth, ours is a peculiar connection, but a connection I will endure. You must not doubt me, for I possess the strongest of wills. When I set my mind to a task, it is accomplished. The moment I learned you were my sister, I determined to think of you in that manner. The past is now dead.”
“As simply as that?” I whispered.
I saw the nerve in his cheek tighten as he pressed his lips together. “Since that day, you have been naught but my sister. You have my highest respect and regard. You need have no fear of me.”
After leaving a long career in the world of business, Jan Hahn began writing stories based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 2002. Her first novel, An Arranged Marriage, was published in 2011 by Meryton Press and won Best Indie Novel from Austenprose.com that year. Her second novel, The Journey, was selected by Austenprose.com as one of the Top Five Austen Inspired Historical Novels of 2012, and it won the Favorite Pride and Prejudice Variation/Alternate Path award from Austenesque Reviews. In 2014, Austenrose.com listed Ms. Hahn’s third novel, The Secret Betrothal, among the Best Austenesque Historical Novels. She is a member of JASNA and lives in Texas. Visit Jan on Facebook or at Meryton Press
A Peculiar Connection: A Pride and Prejudice Alternative Path, by Jan Hahn
Meryton Press (2015)
Trade paperback & eBook (243) pages
Cover image courtesy of Meryton Press © 2015, text Jan Hahn © 2015, Austenprose.com