News, news, news! Spellbound at Pemberley is now available for pre-order in ebook! Release day is December 5, and the paperback will be ready to order by December 3. Audiobook plans are still uncertain.
Also, I’ve finally broken down and set up a newsletter. You probably won’t hear much from me, since I’m better at writing stories than newsletters, but I’ll let you know about new releases and sales. You can sign up in the sidebar of this post.
You can read the blurb and the first excerpt in my last post, but some people have been asking more about the series it’s part of. Spellbound at Pemberley is the first book of a trilogy called Fitzwilliam Darcy, Mage. Why a trilogy? Because this story is way too big for one book! Darcy and Elizabeth not only have to fall in love and learn to work together, but also to end the war with Napoleon and find a solution to the dragon problems. Book 2 is already halfway completed, and I can’t wait to share it with you! Meantime, this first book ends at a sweet moment where Elizabeth and Darcy are together and hopeful rather than the traditional disastrous cliffhanger ending so often seen in book series. That said, there are still some unresolved issues and danger ahead. If I could resolve the entire story in just one volume, it wouldn’t be a trilogy! And this is already a long book by itself. 🙂
And before this post gets too long, too, here’s another excerpt from Spellbound at Pemberley:
“Good morning, Miss Elizabeth. I was hoping to see you.” Mr. Darcy rose from one of the straight-backed chairs lining the front hall and tucked a small book into his pocket.
“Good morning, sir.” She strove to hide her surprise. Had he truly been sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the coldest room in the entire manor on the mere hope of seeing her?
“May I inquire if your sister’s illness is improving?” He sounded stiff, as if polite niceties did not come easily to him.
“Slowly, but yes. She ate a little breakfast and is now resting. I thought I might look in the library for a book to read.”
A tentative smile flickered across his face. “I would be happy to accompany you there if you wish, but I had hoped to convince you to take a walk with me. There is something I wish to show you.”
She blinked. He wanted to spend time with her? Well, she might not enjoy his company, but she needed him to keep her secret, so if he wished her to walk with him, walk she would. “I would like that. Where are we going?”
He hesitated, glancing about as if making certain no one was nearby. “Would you be interested in seeing how I created the illusion of the cows?”
Interested? She would give a great deal for such an opportunity! Mages were notoriously secretive about their art. “Would I!” she exclaimed.
His smile widened. “Excellent.”
They set forth as soon as Elizabeth had collected her bonnet and pelisse. There was more of autumn’s nip in the air today, but even the tapestry of colorful leaves could not compete with her bubbling excitement. She would see magery at work!
But why was Darcy making this sudden effort? Best to be cautious until she found the answer.
Darcy said little as they walked along the gravel path beside the lake, past the folly in the shape of a Grecian temple and onto a footpath leading into the farmlands. He stopped when they reached a pasture, the same one where she had seen the cows the previous day, but from the opposite side. Today it was empty, with no evidence of humans nearby. Would the little boy avoid it after his fright there?
Darcy opened the gate for her. “What would you like me to create? Cows again, or a different animal?”
She did not know what to do with this suddenly amiable, obliging Darcy, but she would take advantage of it. “Is there any limit?”
“A common animal, one whose ways I know, would be best. While I could make an illusory lion or elephant, they would not move convincingly, since I have never seen them in motion.”
“A sheep, then?” That was common enough.
He studied the pasture, and his body became motionless. She could not have said what was different, but the air around him had somehow changed, a stillness like being in the center of an oak grove on a summer day. Then he made a quick motion with his hands.
Elizabeth had seen the cow illusion only from a distance, but this sheep was convincing in every detail. Every whorl of wool, each hoof moving over the ground, even her jaw moving as she chewed grass. “Astonishing,” she murmured.
“You can go closer,” he urged.
She needed no second invitation. The sheep picked up her head and looked at her, for all the world as if she had heard Elizabeth’s approach.
Only when Elizabeth stood next to the ewe could she see a difference, and even that was outside the illusion. The grass was not moving as the sheep grazed, instead staying upright and undamaged. But every other detail was perfect. “May I touch it?”
“If you wish, but you will feel nothing.”
She reached out to the ewe, but instead of the expected raspy fibers, her hand sank right into the sheep until it disappeared up to her wrist. It was a most disturbing sight. She removed her hand – but how could she remove it when nothing was there? – and found the sheep staring at her with unblinking eyes.
“Now, if you will, Miss Elizabeth, could you attempt to interact with her? To make her move or to do something?”
She doubted it. When she chased off the cows, she had believed they were real.
Elizabeth reached down, pulled up some grass, and held it up in front of the ewe’s face. “Here you are, a little treat,” she coaxed.
The sheep did nothing, of course.
Firming her resolve, she let her Talent run into her from the earth. “Eat,” she said, imagining the sheep taking a bite, as she had imagined the cows fleeing the fire.
The ewe sniffed the grass, then took it between her teeth. Tugging at it, she began to chew.
But the grass was still in Elizabeth’s hand, and she had felt nothing when the sheep had apparently taken it. Her skin tingled. This was magic beyond anything she had ever imagined.
Mr. Darcy spoke from behind her. “Astounding. You actually altered my illusion. I have never heard of such a thing.” He sounded reverent.
“What does that mean?”
“I cannot say.” He pivoted, and the sheep winked out of sight as if it had never been. “Is that your falcon?” He sounded a trifle guarded.
Elizabeth looked over her shoulder. Cerridwen perched on the fence post next to the gate. “Yes. There is no cause for concern. She only attacked yesterday because she thought you were hurting me.”
He studied the bird. “I have never heard of a bird familiar, either. This is a day for surprises.”
Elizabeth’s mouth opened in the automatic response that she had no familiar nor magic, but how could she deny it when he had seen her interact with his Talent? “She is not exactly a familiar, but she is attached to me.”
“How is that different?”
She had no intention of discussing Cerridwen with him, and this might be her only opportunity to ask about illusions. By tomorrow Mr. Darcy might be too proud to speak to her again. “That is a long story. Tell me, if I can affect your illusions, does that mean I might be able to learn to create them?”
“Highly unlikely. Even the most powerful land Talents cannot cast illusions,” he said dismissively. “Any family that lives on the same land for many generations and performs the rituals to bond their heir to the estate will eventually develop a landed Talent, good for making crops and animals grow. The ability to draw on the power of air to cast an illusion is much rarer, and a skill one must be born with.”
“Yet you are reputed to be a landed Talent, and you can create illusions.”
“I am the heir to a landed estate, but I am also descended from mages. That is why I can cast illusions. It is not something you can simply decide to learn, no matter how strong your land Talent may be.”
She would not give up that easily. “You said altering an illusion is unheard of, too. Perhaps I can do this impossible thing, too.”
“I suppose it would not hurt to try,” he said with a touch of condescension. “To rule that out as a possible cause, if nothing else.”
Elation filled her. Even if she proved incapable, this would be an experience never described in any of her reading. “How do I begin? What animal should I try to make?”
He chuckled. “Animal illusions are advanced. Let us start with something simpler. Come.”
She followed him to a corner of the pasture shaded by a large oak. “This will do,” he said. “We will have you try to create a little mist, right here in the corner of the stone wall.”
“Mist?” she asked dubiously.
“It is the simplest illusion, and the one that we all start with.”
“How do I begin?” She held her breath, hoping he would not suddenly recall that this was a closely guarded secret.
“First, picture the mist in your mind. Just a little wisp of mist, nothing elaborate. Fix that image in your mind.”
Elizabeth fixed it so firmly in her mind that she might never forget it. She would never have another chance at this. “Very well.”
“Now you must gather energy. Can you imagine seeing the rays of the sun reaching down to the earth, like a set of very long, very fine invisible threads?”
Could this be some sort of elaborate trick? “Threads of sunlight. Yes.”
“Those are energy. Now you must gather some of those threads.” He demonstrated, cupping his hands, as if tracing the outlines of a large ball from top to bottom. “Then you braid the strands together. Think of your mist, and cast the bound energy toward it.” He flicked his wrist quickly, and a thick cloud of mist formed against the wall.
Darcy dropped his hands, pursed his lips and blew out a breath. The mist disappeared as if it had never existed. “Now you try.” He leaned back against the wall, clearly expecting nothing would happen.
Oh, how she wanted to prove him wrong! She imagined gathering and braiding the invisible threads and turning it into mist. Nothing. She tried again, forcing with all the power of her will, pulling energy from the earth, without success. Surely if she worked hard enough, something would happen.
As tears of frustration filled her eyes, an image jumped into her mind, oddly distorted, as if seen through Cerridwen’s eyes. It was her spinning wheel.
Cerridwen never sent to her without a reason, but why her spinning wheel?
With new resolve, she gathered the invisible threads, but this time she could feel a sense of energy between her hands as she pictured them as strands of combed flax. Instead of weaving her fingers, she let the strands run through her pinched thumb and forefinger as if she were spinning them, her foot tapping on an imaginary treadle. With her mist image in the forefront of her mind, she sent her spun thread out into the corner.
Mist began to coalesce.
She had done it! With a triumphant smile, she glanced over at Mr. Darcy, but he was gazing off into the distance.
“Look!” she cried.
His head swiveled and his jaw dropped. “Good God.”
Giddy with triumph, she kept spinning, making her mist grow and spread. It was glorious. It was dizzying. It was…
“Stop! Let it go, Elizabeth. Cut the threads!” Mr. Darcy’s voice seemed to come from a long distance away.
Obediently she stopped spinning. Just as well, because now the pasture itself was spinning around her.
So, the magic continues! And the big question: How did Elizabeth manage to make an illusion when she isn’t of mage blood? The answer may surprise you!