From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
It feels like Spring in my neck of the woods and I could not be happier. Today I am sharing something else as restorative as the change of seasons to gladden a Janeite’s heart—a new Austenesque novel to add to your growing TBR pile. Fearful Symmetry has just been released this week by Quills & Quartos Publishing. It is a Pride and Prejudice variation worthy of your consideration by debut novelist Gailie Ruth Caress.
In the ever-growing field of Pride and Prejudice what-ifs, this novel is a bit different. To feed your addiction, the novel contains many of the characters from Jane Austen’s original, including our dear couple Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as the focus. Where Fearful Symmetry becomes unique is with its first plot crisis: a fire that engulfs Longbourn, the home of the Bennet clan. This pivoting point from the original story sends Austen’s characters off in a truly new direction before their HEA in the capable hands of Caress. Surprises and twists abound.
We are delighted to share an exclusive excerpt from the publisher with you today and a chance to win one digital copy of the book for our readers. Please check out the giveaway details at the end of this post. Good luck to all!
I am wishing you all a fabulous weekend.
Best, Laurel Ann
Darcy had never known such a woman, one who could rush into an inferno and emerge as bold and brilliant as burnished brass, bright as any mirror.
Fitzwilliam Darcy had planned to leave Netherfield Park and all thoughts of the enchanting Miss Elizabeth Bennet behind him—until one night when he saw smoke rising from Longbourn and realized she was imperiled.
Elizabeth Bennet found Mr. Darcy arrogant and insufferable right up until he became her hero, pulling her and her sister from the fire that devastated their home and could have claimed both of their lives. Seeing how he put his own life at risk to pull her from the fire, how could she help but change her opinion of him?
Thrown together again in the refuge offered at Netherfield, Darcy and Elizabeth’s unexpected bond gains strength. But disapproval, debts, and doubts all arise when the costs in time and expense involved in rebuilding Longbourn threaten to widen the gulf in standing between Elizabeth and Darcy in the eyes of society. Amidst these perplexities of destruction and decorum, can love’s courage overcome calamity?
“Sir, I fear the bath I had drawn for you when you returned has gone cold,” Roberts said. “Allow me to fetch some hot water.”
“I have dealt with an inferno tonight. I daresay a cold bath will soothe me better.” So saying, Darcy cast off his clothing, and Roberts bowed his assent and gathered the smoke-suffused articles that his master tossed aside.
“It is late indeed. If you will lay a nightshirt on the counterpane for me, I will dismiss you for the night. I shall not need you to attend me in the bath. Go to your bed, man!”
Darcy lowered himself into the tub with a sigh at the coolness of the water. For some time, he simply soaked, closing weary eyes against the remembrance of the heat of the flames that he had tread so close to that evening. Now removed from danger, his thoughts returned to that first fearful moment when his worst imaginings had been realized.
Upon dismounting his horse at Longbourn, Darcy had immediately scoured his surroundings in an attempt to account for every Bennet—especially one. As he rushed towards the house, he passed by the noisy Mrs Bennet, saw the eldest Miss Bennet bending to comfort her, and Miss Lydia and her sister Mary huddled crying on the lawn a few paces away. To his concern, he saw in the grim glow from the house that a figure in a dressing gown was walking back towards the entrance to Longbourn, and he raced at once to catch up to whomever it was.
The stride told him that it was not Miss Elizabeth, and at this disappointment, his pulse began to thunder in his ears as his mind raced to other possibilities. The sight of Mr Bennet before him in a state of shocked anxiety arrested and confirmed his worst fears. He rushed to support the older gentleman, who appeared to be trying to make his way unsteadily towards the house.
“Do not detain me!” begged Mr Bennet, attempting to shake off the younger man’s arm. Even as he did so, a wracking cough shook his frame. “I must go in!”
Darcy was firm with him. “Let me or a servant go inside for whatever you are seeking. You are not well. You cannot go yourself.”
“I must,” protested the other gentleman weakly, before his voice suddenly erupted into louder, broken tones of despair. “Lizzy has gone inside! She has gone back to find Kitty! I should not have let her get away from me!” Fighting for breath after this outburst, his knees trembled under him.
Darcy felt as though his own breath had been stolen from him. “How long has she been inside?”
“Too long!” cried Mr Bennet wretchedly, coughing once again with his face gone white as bone.
“Sir, you are unwell! Stay—no, stay here!” Darcy urged him, with more command than request. He pulled the gentleman to sit on the ground to recover his breath. He then drew himself up and pulled his handkerchief from his coat. Numb with sudden acceptance, he tied it about his nose and mouth. “I am prepared, sir, and I shall go at once!”
Thus, Mr Bennet, forced to concede, commissioned him, though in so breathless an intonation as made him almost unintelligible, to fetch his daughters to him.
Darcy was within the heat of the house in moments. The prospect of Miss Elizabeth in such peril seized him with terror unlike anything he had yet experienced in his nearly three decades of life. But as he stood on the threshold of Longbourn, the true horror that had clenched his heart had been unbearable.
It was a sheer miracle that Miss Elizabeth had heard and answered him in the blinding confusion of smoke and ash and the noise of the disjointed efforts of men fighting back the blaze below. Darcy cursed himself that he had been unable to protect her from her burns, which he knew had been the price of her courageous folly. If only she had waited for his help, if only…
But no, if she had come any later, Miss Catherine might have perished. He could not fault Miss Elizabeth for her daring in that regard. No, he could fault her for nothing.
Miss Elizabeth astounded him with her trust and daring, following him down into the hellish heat. He had barely regained his own breath, when she had stolen it again with her remarkable resilience.
Chapter 4, pages 22-23
- “Five stars for the elevated banter and some clever twists!”— Katie Jackson, Regency Proofreading
- “A must-read for all JAFF fans.”— Daniela Quadros,Goodreads
- “I lived in this novel day and night around my other tasks – which is the sign of a novel that creates a wonderful new world away – which is high on my list. Well done!”— msynergy, Amazon
Gailie Ruth Caress, the author of Fearful Symmetry, never dreamed of writing a debut novel in her own pleasure-reading genre when she was a no-nonsense, 4.0-chasing English major who won prizes for her academic essays at Hanover College in her home state of Indiana. Forced to readily adapt after a pivotal loss in early adulthood, she became a dabbler in many forms of expression and relationship-building—from opera and ballroom dance to nonprofit education and mentoring. And yet, she committed mid-Pandemic to the challenge of completing the manuscript of the story that kept her up at night, driven by a need to borrow from the courageous vulnerability of her favorite Jane Austen couple in a landscape transformed by the disaster.
Her everyday life continues to hold unexpected adventures. Her two small boys and a duo of sassy tabby cats run wild on the Illinois prairie around a parsonage, where they keep her busy alongside rural community and ministry work with her pastor-husband.
- Fearful Symmetry: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Gailie Ruth Caress
- Quills & Quartos Publishing (March 8, 2021)
- Trade paperback, eBook, audiobook (380) pages
- ISBN: 978-1951033705
- Genre: Austenesque, Regency Romance
Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Quills & Quartos Publishing © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, austenprose.com.