Friday, June 03, 2016

Miss Darcy's Companion by Joana Starnes - with giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for the lovely Joana Starnes' latest release, Miss Darcy's Companion

Thanks, Sophie, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my latest ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation. This story takes place almost entirely at Pemberley, where the recently bereaved Miss Elizabeth Bennet now lives as ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’ and gets to know Mr Darcy at his best. Not as he would present himself to strangers in some remote corner of Hertfordshire, but as his nearest and dearest know him. An excellent brother, landlord, master. A wonderful man, noble, kind – and impossibly handsome.

Speaking of which, what is it, do you think, about handsome Regency gentlemen on horseback that makes them so incredibly appealing?


Is it the allure of period drama? Are we, in our heart of hearts, subconsciously closer to our distant past than to our all-too-modern and very busy present? Is it the attire? The eminently masculine pursuit? I, for one, find it hard to tell, but the allure is unmistakable, even to one such as myself, who has never ridden in her entire life (not even a donkey on Blackpool Beach or in Brighton :D ).

And since I’m a complete stranger to riding, I’m extremely grateful to Debbie Fortin for her wonderful expertise and help. She ever so patiently read my ‘horsey-scenes’ and told me what was what, what worked and what didn’t, and taught me a great many things. For instance that a horse’s mane is not as sensitive as we would imagine and holding on to it for dear life would not unsettle the noble beast in the slightest, whereas a novice might think it’s on the par with someone pulling our hair and likely to annoy him just as much. She also told me that an English saddle has no straps for attaching various belongings. But she kindly allowed me some artistic licence there, and Mr Darcy was given leave to have straps to his saddle if it pleased him, firstly because, being Darcy, he can afford to have whatever adjustments and add-ons he likes :) and also because, as you will see if you read ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’, it’s rather important to the plot.

But never mind the straps. Let me get back to the allure of gentlemen on horseback, especially when they race hell for leather after the women they love. This is precisely what Mr Darcy does in ‘Miss Darcy’s Companion’. He has made some pretty ungentlemanly assumptions (in modern parlance, he has well and truly put his foot in it) and as a result Elizabeth has decided to flee from Pemberley. And what is he to do but race after her and bring her back?

I hope you’ll like the excerpt, and please rest assured that no creatures, human or otherwise, have been severely injured in this scene :)

* * * *

Nellie pricked her ears and whinnied softly, shaking her head between the straps. And then the whinny turned into a snort and her shoulders rippled when she shook her head once more, with renewed vigour. From his seat, Wilkins soothingly clicked his tongue and flicked the long reins over her back.

“There now, girl. Ye’ve bin as twitchy as a nervous bride all mornin’,” he chuckled, then ruefully turned to his young passenger. “Beg pardon, Miss. She don’ much like it when the winds change in the spring, does Nellie,” he elaborated, rubbing his chin. “But then she always settles in a while. There now, girl,” he repeated, with another cluck. “We’ll be at the Bell in no time an’ you can have a moment’s rest.”

But Nellie was not of a mind to either rest or settle. Her head came up again and she neighed, stomping her front hooves higher off the ground. By the time the less perceptive human ears, both young and old, caught the sound of thundering hoof beats, she had already broken into an anxious canter with so little warning that the occupants of the gig were nearly thrown back. Elizabeth gripped the edge of the backrest to steady herself and Wilkins muttered an oath as he fumbled for a better hold onto the slipping reins, forgetting to apologise this time.

The increasing noise approaching from behind was not in the least to Nellie’s liking, nor was the sharp tug on the reins, urging her to slow her pace against her will. The whites of her eyes showing, she neighed and bridled, then broke into a run.

The dark shape now galloping beside her, cloak aflutter, was a far from calming sight, and she shied further to the right before the outstretched gloved hand could grip the harness. The slick mud gathered at the bend did the rest. Hooves slipped sideways, and so did the wheels. Closer and closer to the ditch they came, until the right one fell into it with a resounding thud, violently rocking the gig and its two occupants, who were by then hanging for dear life onto the sides with sharp exclamations of shock and protest at the commotion and the newcomer’s sudden appearance and antics.

Nellie’s hind legs slid into the ditch as well, first one, then the other. Shaking and snorting, her nostrils wide with fear as much as with the effort, she strained to pull against the new obstacle of the slippery bank, struggling for a proper foothold and finding none. Neighing in panic, she strained again and scrambled over the edge at last, stubbornly fighting the restraining reins, pulled taut by Wilkins in his attempts to draw her to a halt. Crazed with fright, she might have fought further and dragged the dangerously-angled gig to its occupants’ doom, had the rider not leapt from his horse and ran to grab a firm hold of her bridle and work to still her with wordless murmurs and reassuring pats.

A bystander might have been awed by his skill and reflexes. But there were no bystanders to survey the scene, and the other two caught in the confusion were too intent on keeping themselves from being thrown out of the gig to spare admiring glances to feats of horsemanship. Not that Wilkins was in any way inclined towards admiration. Reins still wrapped around his wrists, he restrained from bellowing his anger for fear of further spooking Nellie, and merely growled instead:

“Young fool! Look what ye’ve done. Nearly overset us an’ lamed this poor mare an’ all. An’ fer what, eh? Juss to ride hell for leather down the road, like ye owned it?”

The growl faded into a muffled “Humph!” when the whippersnapper stepped aside and his head emerged from behind Nellie’s, to reveal that in fact he did own the road and pretty much everything else on an eight-mile radius. The apology came out of necessity rather than conviction.

“Beg pardon, Mr Darcy, Sir. Di’n’know ‘twere ye.”

“Never mind that,” the gentleman replied curtly. “Come over and lend a hand to calm your mare, would you? I do not dare let her loose just yet.”

“Aye, Sir. Comin’. Not lost me legs, the Lord be praised,” Wilkins muttered as he scrambled off into the ditch, nearly losing his footing as he did so. He gripped hold of the gig to redress himself and looked back at his young passenger.

“How ‘bout ye, lass? Are ye aright?”

“I am well. Just fine,” Elizabeth assured him, her voice rather too shaky to lend much credence to the statement, whereupon, from his place at the end of the traces, Mr Darcy spoke up with some impatience.

“Wilkins, how are you getting on?”

“Dandy, Sir. Be right wit’ye,” the older man called back and, still muttering under his breath, he squelched his way to Nellie to pat her neck and gentle her, thus leaving Darcy at liberty to abandon his post and approach Elizabeth at last.

He was just in time to see her leaving her precarious seat to jump down, then lean against the muddy wheel for support. Instinctively, his hand shot out to steady her.

“You are not injured, I hope.”

She shook her head and drew back from his touch, making Darcy sigh as he consciously offered:

“You should take shelter from the rain.”

Her glance shot back at him in defiance and she retorted tersely:

“I was fairly well sheltered under the hood until just now.”

Darcy bit his lip.

“Of course. I–… That was unfortunate, and not what I intended.”

Her old anger in nowise abated, she glanced up again.

“Then what did you intend?”

Without the slightest hesitation the reply came, low and earnest.

“To find you. Beg you to return. Beg you to forgive me.”

She leaned further back to catch his eye and her brow arched in unappeased resentment.

“Indeed! Whatever for? You were simply stating the obvious.”

“No! I was unjust, bitter and resentful. I never should have– ”

He broke off with a frustrated huff and forcefully ran his gloved fingers through his hair, pushing it back and sending droplets flying. It was still soaked from the earlier ride, and even more so once his hat had fallen off and was now lying trampled under his horse’s hooves, somewhere in the road behind them. But the fate of his hat concerned him not one jot. How was he to say everything that must be said – there, in the pouring rain, and in Wilkins’s hearing?

Darcy inwardly damned the rain, his own unpardonable conduct, the poor skittish mare and, for good measure, blameless Wilkins too. He took a step closer and his hand found her elbow under the heavy cloak. But the right words were far more difficult to find.

“I never should have said and done a great many things, Miss Bennet,” he said at last, his voice heavy with contrition. “We must talk. I hope you would allow it.” His lips tightened and he added, dispiritedly gesturing around him. “Not here, naturally, and not now. We ought not linger. You must be taken somewhere dry and warm as soon as may be.”

She made no answer, and he anxiously searched her countenance. It was drawn and pale under the hood, filling him with an overwhelming admixture of fresh guilt and the deepest need to hold her. But for now all he could do was plead.

“I beg you would consent to return to Pemberley.” To his acute dismay, he read the protest in her eyes even before she could draw breath to speak, so he earnestly entreated against his every wish, but knowing it had to be offered nonetheless.

“Just for tonight, if it must be so. If you must leave, then let it not be thus. A carriage can take you to Netherfield. But ‘tis getting late and you must be very cold and very tired. Come back with me. Just for tonight.”

* * * *

So, does she agree to go back? Does she stay for longer than one night? Of course she does, it wouldn’t be JAFF otherwise. If you would like to find out what the fuss was about, please leave a comment for a chance to enter the international giveaway of a Kindle copy. Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt and I hope you’ll enjoy the full story, and thanks for the wonderful welcome, Sophie, it’s always such a treat to be your guest!

** GIVEAWAY - ends Friday 10th June **

As you can see above, Joana has been kind enough to offer a giveaway of an ebook of her story, open internationally.

Please leave a comment for a chance to win.
The giveaway ends on 10th June. I will be in touch with the winner so please leave your email! The very best of luck!

* * * *

About the author:

Joana Starnes lives in the South of England with her family. She has published six Austen-related novels:

v  From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley ~ A Pride & Prejudice sequel

v  The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice and Persuasion

v  The Second Chance ~ A Pride & Prejudice – Sense & Sensibility Variation

v  The Falmouth Connection ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation set in Poldark territory

v  The Unthinkable Triangle ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation, where loyalty comes at loggerheads with love

v  Miss Darcy’s Companion ~ A Pride & Prejudice Variation

They are available on all Amazon sites.

You can connect with Joana Starnes on

Or visit ‘All Roads Lead to Pemberley’ on Facebook, for places, events and titbits that have inspired her novels.

My thanks again goes to Joana for this intriguing excerpt! I must read to find out what the problem was! 

I wish Joana all the best with this release.

Your affectionate friend,
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  1. I love riding though I have never tried side saddle

    1. Side-saddle sounds awfully tricky! Maybe that's just me, but it seems like you have so little control! Thanks for following the blog tour :)

  2. My husband and I went horseback riding together for the first time last summer. Fortunately for me, I was given the calm horse; his was more spirited. We both survived, and enjoyed it, although we were both sore afterwards. It's definitely a unique way to take in the scenery. We were just riding the rural hills of Pennsylvania, but I could imagine being in Derbyshire instead. :) Another great excerpt! Really looking forward to reading the whole story. maumar at Verizon dot net (Maureen C)

    1. That sounds so wonderful! Scary but ever so exciting. I'm so glad that you liked the excerpt. Thanks for stopping by to read it and best of luck in the giveaway!

  3. Another great excerpt. I have to read this book so this is the last time I will try and win a copy. If I'm not successful I am definitely buying it. Thanks for the excerpt and the giveaway and fingers crossed.

    1. I'm so happy you liked the excerpt, Glynis! Thanks and fingers crossed for the win this time. Best of luck!!

  4. I learned to ride with my sister when I was thirteen. My neighbor gave us riding lessons in exchange for us feeding and mucking the horses stalls. We were all too glad to help. Man I had goosebumps while reading this!!! Even if I don't win this giveaway I will definitely be buying it!

    1. Thanks ever so much for the lovely comment, Lydia, I'm so glad you liked it!! Hope you'll like the rest too! Best of luck!

  5. I love horses but I've never tried riding. Maybe in the future? Only if the horse is calm!


    1. Sounds like a plan, Maria. I'd go for a calm horse too. Calm, bored and old :) I'd happily leave the spirited ones to Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. Thanks for reading and commenting and good luck!

  6. I so admire Joana Starnes' writing style; the strong verbs used throughout "the chase" accentuate the narrative pacing and leave the reader's heart racing (much like those of the two horses, I expect!). Like all her other books, this looks to be an exciting read.

    1. What a wonderful thing to say, Regina Sylvia!! I'm ever so happy you liked the excerpt. Thanks for the very kind words and best of luck in the giveaway. Hope you'll like the rest of the story too.

  7. For me, what's so wonderful about a man on horseback is how darn hot they look in Regency clothes when in a horse, the look of freedom and power that a horse brings to a person, especially in an era without automobiles and those gorgeous riding boots. There's a good reason that Elizabeth in "Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife" names her horse "Boots!" Let's just say men of this era seem very alluring on and off the horse when they are dressed for a ride!!

    1. Couldn't agree more, Claudine, about everything. The boots, the freedom, the power and especially that they're so darned hot :) Much more so than a guy in a tux driving a Ferrari, IMO. Thanks for coming over to leave this lovely comment and huge thanks for all your support for Miss D's Companion!

  8. I realize that this situation will provide different sources for the required angst, but 'Miss Elizabeth Bennet now lives as Miss Darcy’s companion and gets to know Mr Darcy at his best' will completely change their whole relationship and how they get to know one another. At least there won't be the so insulting proposal.
    GinnaSayWhat at geemail dot com

    1. Absolutely, Ginna. She jumps right at seeing his Pemberley persona, rather than his Hertfordshire grumps, so definitely no insulting proposal. But still plenty of scope for angst ;)
      Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt and best of luck in the giveaway!

  9. I presume the argument was about her background and somewhat crass relations. Knowing Darcy, it would have just slipped out and could be a bone of contention for a very long while.

    1. Knowing Darcy, it most certainly slipped out, Vonnie :) And Elizabeth probably should have hauled him over the coal for a lot longer. Best of luck in the giveaway and hope you'll like the story!

  10. Florence Solowianiuk4 June 2016 at 07:31

    Obviously, there won't be a Hunsford proposal, but clearly there was a similar heated conversation of some sort to cause Lizzy to flee. The fact that she is still quite angry with Darcy leads me to believe there was a rather insulting similar misunderstanding. I'm intrigued. flo123 at usa dot com.

    1. Bingo, Florence ;) Heated, insulting, all of the above. Thanks for the lovely comment & for stopping by to read the excerpt. Hope you'll like the full scene and best of luck!

  11. I love the concept of this story! It's definitely going on my wishlist.

    1. Wonderful to hear that, TJ! Thanks for taking part in the giveaway and good luck!

  12. I had so much fun with the horsey stuff. I used to ride and show in both english and side saddle classes. I miss riding quite a bit. Thanks for the mention, Joana.

    1. An absolute pleasure, Debbie!!! Thank YOU so much for helping me write these scenes in such a way that they wouldn't make experienced riders laugh, snort or shake their heads in despair :D Hugs x


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