Title: The Mistress of Rosings Park: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Classic Romance; Historical Fiction, Regency Romance; Clean Romance
I much prefer the sharp criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. - Johannes Kepler When she arrives at Hunsford Cottage for a visit with her long-time friend Charlotte Collins, Elizabeth Bennet does not expect the melodrama awaiting her at Rosings Park. Mrs. Anne Darcy, nee de Bourgh, has passed, and Rosings Park is, by law, the property of the woman’s husband, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy; yet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is not ready to abandon the mansion over which she has served as mistress for thirty years. Elizabeth holds sympathy for her ladyship’s situation. After all, Elizabeth’s mother will eventually be banished from Longbourn when Mr. Bennet passes without male issue. She inherently understands Lady Catherine’s “hysterics,” while not necessarily condoning them, for her ladyship will have the luxury of the right to the estate’s dower house, and, moreover, it is obvious Rosings Park requires the hand of a more knowledgeable overseer. Therefore, Elizabeth takes on the task of easing Lady Catherine’s transition to dowager baronetess, but doing so places Elizabeth often in the company of the “odious” Mr. Darcy, a man Lady Catherine claims poisoned her daughter Anne in order to claim Rosings Park as his own.
Afterwards, Elizabeth gave her sisters a tour of the rooms on the main floor of Rosings Park, along with the library and the study upon the third storey. “I wish you to possess an idea of the lifestyle Lady Catherine has known as the mistress of this estate,” she explained. “I am certain her ladyship will demand more of what is within Rosings than Mr. Darcy will allow. At this point, I have agreed to assist Lady Catherine in her transition to Bourgh House, and I admit I do not expect this task to be an easy one.”
“Having spent only a few minutes in her ladyship’s presence,” Jane said, “there is no question of you exaggerating.”
“What do you require of us?” Mary asked in her typical no-nonsense tones.
Elizabeth slid her arm around Mary’s waist in a sisterly embrace. “First, I have rescued you from our mother for the next fortnight, and you may present me your gratitude.”
Mary rolled her eyes in apparent goodwill. “I thank you for rescuing me from Mama’s wrath for the period of two weeks.” Although Elizabeth had meant her words as a tease, she found her sister’s response brought upon a pang of guilt. “And although I feel for Kitty,” Mary continued, “who will surely be the recipient of Mama’s many complaints because Lydia never knows any chastisements, I shall be quite content to practice my music on Lady Catherine’s ‘superior instrument’ and pretend I am allowed a bit of happiness. After all, this is the first time Papa has seen fit to allow me to join you and Jane on one of your excursions.”
Elizabeth glanced to Jane, whose eyes were suddenly moist with tears. With a shared nod of commitment, her elder sister and Elizabeth made a silent promise not to forget Mary was coming of age also. Elizabeth suggested, “Perhaps we should view the dower house next while these furnishings are still fresh in our minds.”
“Is not Mr. Darcy at the dower house?” Jane asked with a frown tugging at her forehead.
“The gentleman was to finish his tasks for the day. He had a meeting with the tenants to attend,” she reminded her sisters. “I was at the house early, after he departed for the fields and set some men to painting walls in the main drawing room and the dining room. I wish to make certain the work will be completed today. I suspect Lady Catherine has it in her mind to stay in her suite until, at least, this time next week. Mr. Darcy shall not be happy about the delay.”
“And what is to be my and Jane’s occupation today?” Mary demanded.
“You shall assist me in identifying which pieces of furniture at Rosings, as well as accessories, might be appropriate for the dower house. There is some furniture in the smaller house, and we must determine whether those items are useable or should be disposed of and replaced with something from the main house or purchased specifically for the dower house. Then, I shall negotiate with Mr. Darcy on whether he will permit the removal of the items from the manor house to the dower house.”
“Permit?” Jane said with a grin. “Negotiate?”
Elizabeth turned her sister toward the door. “None of that. I do not even like the man.”
Within minutes, they had walked the quarter mile to the dower house and had begun their inspection. It pleased Elizabeth to view how much work had been accomplished in her absence.
Mary murmured from her place near the windows overlooking part of the parkland. “The pianoforte would fit well in this area. The bowed windows would be a lovely backdrop and provide sufficient light for playing during the day.”
“I agree,” Elizabeth said with a nod of gratitude.
“Might you decide which rooms we do next, miss?” Mr. Schroder asked. “There still be a bit of light left today. I can have me men start on another room, if’n you agree.”
Elizabeth glanced to her sisters. “Are you two fine with me viewing the suites above while you make a list of what these rooms require?”
“We can address the dining room and the drawing room,” Jane assured.
Elizabeth nodded her approval and climbed the stairs to the guests’ rooms above. Instinctively, she turned to the right toward what was obviously the family’s suite of rooms. Opening the first door, she frowned. Dust motes floated in the air of a room done in purple. It was too dark for her tastes, but she suspected Lady Catherine would think otherwise. She glanced into the sitting room. “It requires a freshening touch and a good cleaning, but it might do for her ladyship.” She would speak to Lady Catherine this evening to see what her ladyship might wish to change out as to color of the drapes for the bed and the windows, as well as other preferences.
Closing that door, she proceeded to the one beyond where the sitting room would connect to what was likely the master’s suite. Not considering what the room might hold, she opened the door wide for a good look inside. However, she was brought up short with the sight that awaited her within.
She was not prepared for the way her throat suddenly went dry. Moreover, her breath had disappeared, as if ripped from her lungs. A hip bath occupied the center of the room. Beyond it, Mr. Darcy stood with his back to her, towel in hand, and wearing nothing but his breeches.
Her entrance must have drawn his notice, and he turned toward her. Elizabeth’s embarrassment was great: She could feel the color rushing to her cheeks and ears; nevertheless, she could not look away. A mat of dark, curly hair covered the man’s chest, a line drawing downward and disappearing into his breeches. The view was glorious. It was one she never thought to experience: He was truly magnificent, and, some day, some woman would have the privilege of looking upon him, thusly, whenever it pleased her.
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It’s a brand-new year, full of possibilities. Did you make any resolutions/goals for 2021? If so, please share one.
I mean to once again reclaim the chaos of my house, which translates to my starting my spring cleaning early.
Why is your featured book a must-read in 2021?
Whether one is a devout Jane Austen fan fiction reader or one simply enjoys a good tale of “love after all the sadness,” the The Mistress of Rosings Park, which, like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is told from Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view, is a satisfying Regency read, told in the manner of the classic romances and set in a time where the least mistake could spell the ruination of a woman’s reputation.
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Runs January 1 – 31, 2021.
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Regina Jeffers, an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era romances, has worn many hats over her lifetime: daughter, student, military brat, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, tax preparer, journalist, choreographer, Broadway dancer, theatre director, history buff, grant writer, media literacy consultant, and author. Living outside of Charlotte, NC, Jeffers writes novels that take the ordinary and adds a bit of mayhem, while mastering tension in her own life with a bit of gardening and the exuberance of her “grand joys.”
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