The Final book in the Mister Darcy Series of Comedic Mysteries is here! It is with a bittersweet feeling that I bid farewell to this popular series that found a devoted fan base, even among Regency-only readers. This is the 9th book in the series that has been so warmly received.
As fans of the series know, the mysterious Mister Darcy is a modern day Knight Templar responsible for rescuing treasures belonging to the ancient Order of the Knights; he is also passionate about protecting the historic structures within the City of London. But most of all he adores the love of his life, Elizabeth Bennet Darcy.
The series begins when Lizzie first meets Darcy, each one intent on avoiding the complications of a love affair. They joust and banter through the first few books, finally succumbing to love and marriage. They are blessed with a son, Will, who is a precocious toddler when Darcy Down the Rabbit Hole takes place.
In this last adventure, Darcy and Lizzie tumble down the wrong rabbit hole, only to discover one of history’s spookiest antiquities. Can a simple picnic lead the Darcy family to the brink of disaster? This is NOT in anyway related to Alice in Wonderland.
“That’s a human skull in Derby’s mouth!” I yelled, shooting a stricken look at Darcy.
One of our basset hounds stood at the entrance to what appeared to be a hole in the ground, holding an object that looked like the skeletal remains of a head on a stick.
Before we could stop them, Will and TJ pulled free from Annie’s hands, and scrambling on their short legs ran down the rabbit hole in hot pursuit of the basset hound, who had scampered happily back into the cavern with his prize.
“That must be a pirate’s den!” cried young Annie, associating the skull with a pirate flag. I doubted buccaneers had treaded the pastoral land around Pansy Cottage; they would have been the biggest dunderheads to ever plunder England, as we were far inland.
“Stop!” Darcy called dashing ahead of me to catch the toddlers, but it was too late. Before he could reach the boys, they had followed Derby under the ground with Annie close on their heels. Three children and one rather handsome husband, all suddenly vanished. I did the only thing I could think of and threw myself into a full-body slide down the dark, mossy rabbit hole.
Unable to attend my parents’ anniversary party the prior Saturday, due to Darcy’s secret Templar commitments, we accepted the Bennets’ invitation to a picnic at Pansy Cottage the following weekend. The cottage was located just outside Maidenhead, about an hour plus or minus from our penthouse in One Snyde Park, the most secure building in all of London.
As she often did, Nanny Felicity accompanied us. I agreed with Darcy’s belief that it was good for little Will to see his nanny included as part of our extended family; to that end we frequently invited her on our outings.
Darcy was firm of mind that his son should learn to treat all people equally. He was concerned that there was something in the Darcy gene pool that caused a certain amount of pomposity; we hoped by our good example that Fitzwilliam Darcy II would grow up to be a considerate man. Darcy was proving to be a wonderful father and a perfect husband. Could I be any more blessed? I looked up at the sky to keep the tears of happiness from overflowing.
My little brother, Thomas Bennet Junior, was four years old and the image of his father—aside from the potbelly, beard, and muttonchops. TJ’s long, sandy blond hair grew past his ears since Mother could not bear to cut the little wispy curls that played around his sweet neck. Despite all efforts to spoil him, he remained an amiable nipper with a mischievous streak that often reminded me of my youngest sister, Lydia. TJ called me Aunt Lizzie, for although we were siblings, he was still a child and I was mostly a grownup—with occasional bursts of youthful exuberance.
TJ, Thomas Junior, was mother’s surprise gift to my father. My parents had rekindled their love for one another just about the time Jane married Bingley in the secret garden on neighboring Pansy Cottage land. Within the months following my marriage to Darcy, Jane, Mother, and I had all become pregnant. It was a happy coincidence, and made the Bennet women the talk of Meryton.
Will and TJ had become restless after a yummy outdoor lunch set on a table under a cluster of yew trees some distance from the cottage. The children munched on roasted chicken, sweet peas, and uncooked carrots sliced to resemble two pence pieces. Mrs. Hill had sent along a lovely strawberry cake, smothered in thick creamy custard. Within minutes of gobbling the cake, all three children were charged with sugar energy. It was evident a long walk would be required to burn off the effects of the sweets.
Personally, I would have much preferred to lay in the shade and count butterflies. Being the mum of a toddler, even with the assistance of a nanny, can be an exhausting vocation; however, I could never resist a pleasant walk with my husband.
Mother had declared herself too tired to accompany us. Her complaints about exhaustion were a tolerable change from the constant whinging about her nerves. Since giving birth, her favorite new grievance was one of fatigue; however, she did find the energy to accompany father on frequent long drives from Longbourn to the cottage for marital mischief. I tried not to think about their grownup playtime, as one does not like to imagine one’s parents engaged in such activities.
When the children finished their cake, mother excused them from the table. Annie and Will were eager for adventure. TJ was simply thrilled to enjoy Will as his boon companion for the day. He took great pleasure in impressing his younger cousin with his flights of daring, which up until that day had been limited to stuffing his mouth with too many cookies or jumping out of a closet and yelling boo!
Being the only Bennet son, TJ was normally kept under protective wraps, treated as if he were made of fragile crystal, and guarded at Longbourn by Hildegard, a nanny straight out of the Valkyries. Happily, Mother did not want any of the servants to know of the cottage and that included the TJ’s nanny.
The little fellow grinned a crooked grin as he caught Will’s dark brown eyes. The cousins reminded me of how Jane and I would exchange secret looks, most often when we played at Pansy Cottage.
The cottage was a place out of a fairytale, bequeathed to Jane and me upon our grandmother’s passing, which sadly occurred before Mary was born. Currently, mother and father were using it for their romantic rendezvous away from prying servants’ eyes.
I wished the Bingleys had been able to accompany us, but Jane was busy overseeing their move from London to a new estate in Derbyshire; and little Mary Elizabeth had the sniffles.
“Are you sure you won’t join us?” I invited my parents out of politeness, as I placed icy bottles of water in a small, insulated hamper. Since Mother was a talker, not a walker, she declined in a long drawn out explanation. “I could do with a kip,” she finished, casting a look at her husband that caused me to blush.
Father yawned and stretched his arms emphasizing their need to adjourn to the bedroom. It was clear he looked forward to having some cloistered time with his wife. I drove the image of their intimacy from my head by focusing on my son.
Will was pondering the patterns formed by the shadows of leaves on the picnic table; he was touching them, tracing the outlines of the greenery with his tiny fingers.
“Rally the troops!” Darcy said, extending his hand to Will, who scrambled from his seat, placing his tiny fingers in his father’s firm grip. Our group assembled, Darcy and Will, TJ holding Annie’s hand, our basset hounds tangled between our legs and Boris the Russian Wolfhound at my side. “Please feel free to enjoy the respite. Will has been a handful today,” I said to Nanny Felicity. The girl had proven to be reliable but hypersensitive. I learned to be cautious as to how I phrased things on the chance that she might find offense at the slightest suggestion. She smiled a sweet look of relief, tucked a lock of blonde hair back in her hair ribbon, and reached for a glass of iced tea.
Darcy and I headed out across the field, the three children scampering ahead of us. My heart was bursting with love as I watched the lush grass brush over Will’s three and three-quarters year old countenance. Tears of joy pooled in my eyes whenever I observed my son’s natural inclination to imitate his father’s stride. He was a Darcy through and through.
The sweet breezes of summer kissed our cheeks as we hiked through a short run of sprightly daisies. Derby and Squire led our party, and since we had no definite plan in mind we easily followed the two floppy-eared clowns.
The sunlit meadow, bordered by shadowed hollows, was spiced with fruit bushes and wild flowers. I breathed deeply of the clean, crisp air. This was as close to heaven on earth as I could imagine. Cautiously, we walked along the rim of a steep rose filled garden. Normally roses required tending; but in the grounds surrounding Pansy Cottage they burst forth as in no other garden on earth. It was as if a mysterious, unseen gardener tended the myriad of buds and blossoms.
Giggles erupted from Annie and TJ who were a few steps ahead of us. Something had struck their funny bones. It was unusual to see Annie without her Otterhound, Sandy, and her laughter comforted me. Sadly, the dog was getting older and preferred a more sedentary life. Annie would often say Sammy’s legs got tired as he had Arthur Rightist. She knew how to correctly pronounce arthritis but the comedienne in her chose the funniest ways to say a phrase and lighten a mood—even her own. Annie Jones was eleven soon to turn twelve. How time flies! It seems like only yesterday when we found her wandering the streets of London, a shivering little urchin accompanied by a wet shaggy dog.
A rush of happy memories embraced me as Will toddled forward to hold Annie’s other hand. Derby and Squire gamboled ahead, savoring every smell held in the ground or floating on the breeze. Boris walked in his usual place, directly between Darcy and me. He had snagged a number of burrs on his silky coat, but that did not deter him from standing by my side, come high grass or low.
Although I am a trained dog psychologist, I must admit Boris is my first and only failure. After I rescued the borzoi from a mobster-mannered Russian oligarch, Boris attached himself to me, exhibiting over-the-top bouts of jealousy towards Darcy. His snits were both amusing and irritating, Boris’ not Darcy’s.
“This series is a must read for those wanting a great story told in a humorous, heart warming style, and Barbara Silkstone is a master of this format.”
“I am in LOVE with reading this series. Each character is incredibly “ALIVE” in these books. Each mystery is awesomely hard to figure out until the very end. This book takes me to the place, makes me feel like I know the people, and makes me wish I could be there and live amongst them. I love the dogs…what characters.”
“Hilarious and genius are the two words that come to mind when I read this book. Barbara Silkstone is clearly very talented. I’ve always thought it must be supremely difficult to write believable comedy and yet still have some substance to the material. As far as spoiler alerts go, this is probably too vague to upset anyone but I love the ‘talking’ slippers!! I hope there are more to come!”
With love & laughter,