Sometimes it’s hard for an author to decide which of their own writings they like the best. If I had to choose among those, I’ve had the privilege to write, there would be something special about each one.
With Elizabeth’s Choice I had to do a lot more research whether for one of my series or even single books. I knew very little about Ireland or the Baltimore clipper ships. So I had to do some digging. There was no obstacle in finding enough information. The biggest problem was cutting it down to novel size instead of encyclopedia size.
Baltimore clipper ships began to be built in the early 1770’s and were popular until about 1815. These ships worked great because they were fast, they allowed Darcy and Elizabeth to get to the various Irish locations quickly, and they were fun to write about.
And what would you think that two bibliophiles would enjoy doing the most? Even on their honeymoon? Examining antique books…of course. However, that created its own problem. I couldn’t have our dear couple at Trinity College Library for a week digging through the thousands of books that were available. Though I think that might have been a more realistic outcome. So, I had to be very picky about what they saw, what they were told, and hope that I kept it short enough and interesting enough that the readers would not get bored.
Painting of the Trinity College Library before roof was raised.
Now, even though Elizabeth’s Choice can be read as a standalone, it is the sequel to Darcy Chooses. And, yes, I did introduce George Wickham into this book. At the end of Darcy Chooses I had Wickham and Denny boarding a ship to America. In Elizabeth’s Choice something happens so that the two men are stranded in Ireland. I do briefly cover that in the book. I don’t leave the readers wondering how on earth that happened. Readers will also note the final outcome for the wicked Wickham.
Overall, the Darcys do have an enjoyable wedding trip, but there is some angst, some frightening events, and some danger as well. I’ll let you read about those situations and how our dear couple react to them.
Here is an excerpt that I hope you will enjoy. Please note that I had set Darcy Chooses and Elizabeth’s Choice in 1807. I had originally planned to cover what was happening in regard to the Napoleonic Wars and England but wound up writing more about our couple, their trip, and things associated with Ireland. Please comment below to gain an entry for the giveaway.
Awakening the next morning, the Darcys discovered the rain had stopped, but the skies were still laden with moisture.
“Are you hungry, Elizabeth? Should we dress and order breakfast?”
“Do you think it will start raining again?”
“This is England, my dear. It can always start raining again.”
Both chuckled but remained in bed as the fire hadn’t been lit. Darcy had hesitated to have a chambermaid come in early to light the fire for obvious reasons. At Pemberley, the servants had orders not to disturb the newly married couple until they rang for them. It appeared that Darcy would have to light the fire himself, and with a groan, he leaped out of bed and quickly grabbed his quilted robe and slippers.
“It feels like it is freezing in here. I will hurry with the fire.”
“There is no rush as I am warm as toast.” Elizabeth giggled, and Darcy let out a scandalous chuckle.
“And what if I strip the covers off you, Mrs. Darcy?”
Elizabeth squealed and cried out, “You would not dare…would you, Mr. Darcy?” as she pulled the blankets over her head.
He knelt on the edge of the bed and pulled the covers down and exposed her head. “Oh, wouldn’t I, my dear,” he said with a leer and waggled his eyebrows. And his wife squealed again and hid her face.
This time he pulled the covers down and thoroughly kissed his wife. “I love you, Mrs. Darcy.”
When she could breathe, Elizabeth returned the sentiment then urged him to light the fire, and she snuggled under the covers again. Once it was going strong, he asked her again if she was hungry.
“Yes, I really am. Might we eat in our room rather than the dining room downstairs?”
“Of course. And if it refrains from raining again, we can go see the Pride of Pemberley.”
“That is the name of the ship?”
“Yes, and you will love her. She is sleek and beautiful, and she will take us quickly to Ireland, faster than the larger ships. She does fourteen knots when she’s in full sail. And if we are lucky, we shall see some of the marine life as well.”
“Do you think we might see a whale? I have read about them and have seen drawings also. They are among the biggest animals in the world. Have you ever seen one?”
“Only once, and that one was a humpback. It was a very large whale, and the species is known to make strange noises. It is theorized that they are communicating with other whales of their species that are great distances away.”
“They are talking?” Elizabeth’s eyes widened as she startled at the thought.
“Actually, they call them whale songs though they are unlike any of the songs we’re familiar with.”
“I do hope we see one. That would be a tale to tell my father.”
“Yes, he would enjoy that. Now, though, we need to order breakfast. What is your desire?”
Noticing the gleam in his wife’s eyes and the smile on her face, he waved his finger at her and said, “Oh, no. We will be here for at least another day, and we have plenty of time for that after we see the ship and make arrangements to leave on the morrow. The room is almost warm, and I am going to ring for the maid and order breakfast while you get dressed.”
He chuckled as Elizabeth stuck her lower lip out and pouted then she laughed aloud and acquiesced by climbing out of the bed. But she didn’t get far as Darcy put his arms around her and then kissed her until she nearly swooned.
“You are mean and cruel in making me wait.”
“Ah, but once we see the ship and a little of Liverpool, we will have the rest of the day to do as we wish.”
“Then you had best get attired before the maid arrives else you upset her sensibilities. She is liable to swoon when she sees how handsome my husband is, especially when he first wakes up.”
“Oh, so you think me handsome.”
“Yes…and vain….and….” But she got no further as Darcy caught her and gave her another toe-curling kiss just as there was a knock at the door.
Darcy called out, “Please give me a moment. You arrived more quickly than I anticipated.” Sprinting across the room, he dressed as rapidly as possible with trousers, shirt, and frockcoat but just put his slippers back on his feet instead of taking time for stockings and boots.
“My apologies for making you wait. The Kingsley definitely has the best service in town.”
The maid demurred and refrained from staring at his neck as he had no cravat. “You wish to order breakfast, sir?”
“Yes, please, for me and my wife.” Darcy then gave her an order for coffee, tea, eggs, toast and marmalade, muffins, and several rashers of bacon as well as kippers for himself.
“I’ll be back in about a quarter hour, sir.”
“Thank you, miss.”
Closing the door, he missed the smile on the maid’s face but turned to find his wife smirking at him. “William, if you continue to cause the maids to blush, I shall wonder if you are flirting with them.”
Darcy’s jaw dropped, and he tried to quell his indignation until the twinkle in Elizabeth’s eye alerted him to her tease. “My dear, whyever would I flirt with another when I have the most beautiful wife in England.” With that pronouncement, he gave her a heated look which caused her heart to melt and a kiss that made her almost wish to skip breakfast for more pleasing activities. Almost.
Against his neck, she breathed softly and said, “If you don’t let me get dressed, breakfast will be cold, and we will miss seeing the ship.” Both laughed and agreed they were hungry and would like a hot meal as the room still had a bit of a chill until thoroughly warmed by the fire.
Darcy frowned at the knock on the door wondering how it could be timely and yet untimely enough to nearly be aggravating. With a sigh, he reluctantly released his wife then showed the maids where to place the trays. Taking a moment to say grace and gratitude for the meal after she came from the other room, he squeezed Elizabeth’s hand to let her know how grateful he was that she had said ‘yes’ to his offering for her. He was the happiest man in England as he drank his coffee and Elizabeth sipped her tea, both grateful their liquid refreshments were hot and warming. A half hour later, they were ready to see the ship and make arrangements with Captain Lowery for the trip on the morrow.
“Oh, William, she is lovely.”
Darcy puffed up with pride that Elizabeth was favorably impressed with the clipper ship. “It is the only one of its kind docked at Liverpool although several others have made stops at the city on the way to other destinations over the last five years. Clipper ships had begun being built around 1770 in America on Chesapeake Bay and appearing shortly after the war with the colonies. They are very fast with low water resistance and speed under sails, with or against the wind.”
“She is noticeably smaller than the other ships docked here. Is that part of what contributes to her speed?”
Darcy smiled at his wife and thought I love this woman. She is not only beautiful, she is intelligent. “The basic concept for Baltimore clippers came from the Chesapeake schooners that are the mainstay of ship building for the state of Maryland in America. Schooners are ‘sharp built’ which means they have a merchant type or fast sailing hull enabling them to be used in carrying small bulk expensive items like tea or spices or used as letter of marque service or for privateering.”
“You mean pirating?” Elizabeth’s jaw had dropped, and her eyes had become rounded like saucers.
“Yes, I mean pirating,” said her husband with a smile.
Once she got over her surprise, Elizabeth had another question. “You mentioned a letter…what is that?”
“A letter of marque service from a country allows a ship to engage enemy vessels and take prizes, particularly during a time of war.”
Elizabeth shivered. “We are at peace for the moment since Napoleon defeated Prussia last year and the Russians in June. Those have given us a measure of peace on the continent, but I fear it may not be for long. I had hoped 1807 would see permanent peace and relief from Napoleon’s efforts.”
“Many had hoped the same.” He cocked his head to one side and just stared at her for a moment then smiled. “I should have known you would have kept up with the war news. You are unlike any other woman I have ever met, and I am delighted.”
Elizabeth blushed furiously and mumbled something about reading her father’s newspapers and discussing the war with him.
“I am pleased we have even more topics for discussion on a daily basis. There are few things more enjoyable than a good debate.” Both laughed as he waggled his eyebrows at her and snugged her close to his side.
Silence reigned only for a moment more before his wife had more questions. “William, why do you have a ship that could be used for nefarious means?”
“My dear, I am an investor in the Chesapeake Bay Shipping Company. I bought this Baltimore clipper hoping to find buyers here in England. Captain Lowery is my representative and finds out the names of owners of the various ships that dock in Liverpool. Then he sends them letters in my name inviting them to sail on the Pride of Pemberley. When requested, I meet with the owners and ensure them everything is legitimate. Merchants especially are interested so they can import items such as tea from China or coffee and sugar from the Caribbean more swiftly than conventional ships. As you can see, the clipper will not hold a lot of cargo but is perfect for those small, more expensive items.”
“I have noticed it sits much lower in the water than the larger ships. Is the hull shallower than the other ones?”
“Yes, it eliminates much of the drag giving it greater speed.”
“What else makes it different from the larger ships?”
Pleased his wife was showing such interest in regard to something that gave him great pleasure, Darcy was more than willing to answer any questions she had for the rest of the day.
“Most clipper ships have only two masts but have a very large sail area allowing them to travel more swiftly than larger ships. The Pride does have three masts as this allows Captain Lowery to show the largest clipper to a prospective buyer then to inform him that one with two masts could be ordered if he is reluctant to meet the price. Both are approximately 100 feet in length so overall size is the same. However, a third mast makes available a much larger sail area that will be an advantage either when sailing with the wind or against it. The third mast will also make for a swifter trip which is another reason I purchased this particular vessel. When I travel to my estate in Ireland, I want to spend my time caring for the estate not traveling to get there.”
“Another difference is we carry no figurehead such as the mermaid on the vessel over there.”
As Elizabeth looked to the other ships bowsprit, she saw a naked mermaid and blushed a bright red.
“My apologies, my dear. I’m used to seeing these figureheads and should have forewarned you.”
“But why is she….”
Elizabeth nodded vigorously.
Darcy knew better than to laugh, so he just launched into the explanation with a straight face. “It is because of superstition, sweetheart. Sailors, for the most part, feel like women are bad luck when on board their ship. They think it causes contention among the sailors and other problems that create situations where the men will neglect their work and perhaps cause accidents or possibly even sink the ship through carelessness. However, rather contrarily, they believe naked women are said to be a calming element for the sea. Thus, most of the figureheads are without clothing especially on the older ships.”
“Do not be embarrassed, Elizabeth. I am pleased my wife has all the sensibilities of a lady.”
Elizabeth just giggled and temporarily hid her face against the sleeve of his greatcoat. She quickly looked up, though, when a man on deck called out to her husband.
“Mr. Darcy, you and your wife please come aboard.”
“Good morning, Captain Lowery.”
Once they were on deck, Darcy introduced Elizabeth to the captain.
“Elizabeth, this is Captain Lowery, my friend and colleague. Captain, this is my wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy.”
The Captain bowed over her hand and said how pleased he was to meet her.
“My pleasure as well, Captain. I look forward to our trip to Ireland. I’ve never been on a ship before.”
“I and my men will do our best to see you have a pleasant and safe trip, Mrs. Darcy. And congratulations to you and Mr. Darcy on your recent marriage.”
“Thank you, sir. I could not have married a more wonderful man.”
Darcy stood a little taller and pulled his wife a little closer to his side. Several sailors nearby grinned at one another until the captain raised an eyebrow at them to resume their work. He would allow no levity concerning the owners.
After their tour of the ship, Darcy and Elizabeth, along with Captain Lowery, discussed whether travel would be possible the next day. Because this was England and winter was approaching, they decided to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude. They would not try for Ireland if the weather wasn’t clear as they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the partial moon should the trip take a full twelve hours. The Darcys were not in such a hurry they would sacrifice safety over prudence.
As they walked around Liverpool, after viewing a number of the larger ships that were docked there, they had luncheon at a delightful restaurant known for its delicious food. During their meal, they were dismayed when the heavens opened up again, and they had to delay their return to the hotel until the rain abated. And the skies did not clear for two days. However, the Darcys were not worried about their trip to Ireland. They spent the time in debating about their favorite books, the state of politics in England, and in more pleasurable pursuits.
Please comment below to obtain an entry for one of three copies of Elizabeth’s Choice. For those who live in the United States, there will be ebooks, and for those in other markets, I will have PDF’s. Entries will be taken through Midnight May 14th, and the winners will be announced May 17th.