I'm very happy to welcome Jane Odiwe to my blog today! Jane is a huge Austen fan and writes novels set in that world, including Lydia Bennet's Story which I read and reviewed a few years ago. Project Darcy is Jane's latest book which is out now, and she's written a great post talking about all things Austen. Thanks, Jane!
Jenny, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today to talk about my new novel, Project Darcy. I’ve had such fun writing this book - which is a confection of my favourite things - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, and Time Travel.
Ellie, (one of five friends, who share similar initials as the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice) volunteers for an archaeological dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in Steventon. She has an unusual gift - Ellie often ‘sees’ ghosts or has visions from the past, and whilst staying at the rectory where Jane Austen met her very own Mr Darcy, Ellie is literally transported back into the winter of 1795/6 to find out exactly what happened when the famous author fell in love. In the present day, the whole project seems enchanted by midsummer magic as the girls meet and fall in love with the other volunteers on the dig - amongst them, handsome Charlie Harden and the arrogant Henry Dorsey, as well as charismatic Greg Whitely and archaeological expert Will MacGourtey.
In this excerpt, the girls are going to a talk and party in the village hall before the dig starts. Ellie, Jess, Martha, Cara and Liberty are very excited, though all have different reasons for wanting to be there. Liberty and Cara have been coerced into joining in - the fact that a documentary is going to be filmed and that they will be in it has been the carrot to tempt them to join in …
I hope you enjoy it!
After Will MacGourtey’s talk, Greg Whitely spoke next on how the television programme was going to be made. Liberty was the first to put up her hand to ask a question.
‘Will there be any opportunities for presenting alongside you? It’s just that I’m studying drama and I’d love to be of any help that I can.’
Greg smiled. ‘Your name, young lady?’
‘Liberty … Liberty Lovell, Mr Whitely.’
‘Lovelly by name and lovelly by nature, too, I don’t doubt,’ he said, grinning at the audience and pausing for the anticipated chuckle. ‘Well, Liberty, there are always opportunities for promising students, and you will all be filmed, of course, as we go along. It may be that we want to interview people selectively, and a training in drama will, no doubt, be an advantage. However, what we’re after is realism. The country will be transfixed at the idea of a group of non-experts coming together in secret, looking for the rectory that inspired the creation of the character of Mr Darcy and we are looking for personalities who will fuel the public’s imagination. Liberty, I’ve a feeling you may well be a star in the making. And by the way, everyone, do call me Greg – I’m hoping we’ll all get to know one another really well!’
There was an enthusiastic ripple of applause from the ladies in the audience. Liberty blushed red, her eyes shining with delight at the impression she’d made, which was exactly what she’d hoped.
Melanie Button bustled her way to the front once more to announce it was time for the party to start, declaring that she hoped they would meet promptly at nine o’clock sharp the next morning at the site. Corks popped, beer bottles were opened and a general sense of jubilation ensued as paper plates were filled, drinks were swigged, and people found someone to talk to.
Ellie was fascinated. She always loved people watching and she noticed how most stuck to the groups they had come with, though venturing nods and smiles at others they recognised from the coach.
‘Well, that didn’t take long, Liberty,’ said Martha.
‘Time and tide wait for no man,’ answered Liberty, tucking into a ham sandwich and taking a large slug of wine. ‘I am determined to make use of every opportunity. If I can get a presenting job out of this, I shall be made. And having a friend in Greg Whitely has got to be an advantage.’
‘Just make sure he doesn’t take advantage of you, that’s all,’ Martha swiftly returned, abstaining from the glass of sparkling wine that was being offered on a tray.
‘I know how to handle him,’ Liberty muttered.
‘You’ve had enough practise, that’s for sure,’ Martha retorted, a little spitefully. ‘Jess, have you tried the spinach and ricotta quiche? I know it’s your favourite,’ said Ellie, steering her friend over to the trestles groaning with food. She knew Jess hated it when her friends squabbled and Liberty and Martha were experts at it. They reached the table just at the same time as Charlie Harden and his friend Henry. Ellie saw Jess hang back, but Charlie had caught Ellie’s eye and was smiling.
‘Hi, I’m Charlie,’ he said.
Ellie shook the hand he held out to her, slightly bemused by his formal manners. ‘Hi, I’m Ellie and this is my good friend Jess.’
‘I’m really pleased to meet you,’ said Charlie, taking Jess’s hand and shaking it for what seemed, to Ellie, an unnecessary amount of time. ‘This is my friend, Henry.’ He turned to introduce him, but Henry had disappeared. Charlie looked a little embarrassed and began talking rather quickly as if to cover up for the fact that he knew his friend must appear really rude.
‘Where are you from? I remember seeing you on the coach. Did you have to travel far?’
‘No, we’re from Winchester Uni, so we’re not far away,’ said Jess. ‘How did you get involved in the project? I heard you say you were from Oxford.’
‘Yes, we’re studying there, but I’m actually from around here. My family live not far away at Deane and my mother told me about it. I’d invited Henry to stay with me for the summer, and he’s the one really interested in archaeology. It seemed like it might be fun. How about you?’
‘I love Jane Austen’s books, and my friend Ellie persuaded my other friends to join in. It will be our last summer together and I’m so excited about what we might find.’ ‘Do you really think there will be an exciting discovery?’ asked Charlie. ‘To be honest, I don’t know much about Jane Austen … I haven’t actually read any of her books, though I’d like to.’
‘Jess will be only too pleased to tell you everything you need to know about Jane Austen’s novels,’ said Ellie. ‘She would never say so, but she’s a real expert.’
Jess’s face was pink as she shot a warning glance at her friend. ‘I’ve read them a few times. I’m just a bit obsessed, that’s all.’
‘And modest with it, by the sounds of things. I was sincere about wanting to know more. Which book would you start reading, if you were me?’ said Charlie.
‘Oh, Pride and Prejudice, without a doubt. It’s by far her funniest and most sparkling of all her novels. I must admit it’s my favourite and the one I turn to if I ever need cheering up,’ Jess answered.
‘Pride and Prejudice, it is, then. I shall rely on you for explaining to me what is going on. Literature was never my strong point.’
Jess grinned. She couldn’t help herself. ‘It would be my pleasure.’
Just as the conversation was really getting going between them, Ellie saw Henry out of the corner of her eye. He was on the other side of the room waving wildly at Charlie, trying to get his attention. Charlie excused himself as soon as it was polite to do so, and the girls were left alone.
‘Don’t you say anything, Ellie Bentley … not one word.’
‘But, he is rather lovely, and he clearly thinks you are, too. I can just picture you both, reading together.’
Jess tapped her friend, playfully, on the arm. ‘You are determined to tease me, aren’t you? He was just being polite. I don’t expect he’s really interested in Pride and Prejudice or me, for one minute. Come on, let’s find the others.’
I’ve had a lovely time on Pinterest - http://www.pinterest.com/janeodiwe/project-darcy/ trying to imagine the area and the house where the girls are staying near the dig, and finding dresses for them for the ball they attend at Charlie’s house in Deane. Do have a look - I’d love to know what you think!
Jane Odiwe - Austen Effusions: http://www.austeneffusions.com
Jane Austen Sequels: http://www.janeaustensequels.blogspot.co.uk
Project Darcy on: