In Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen, author Sally Smith O’Rourke creates a compelling story that investigates what and who might have inspired Jane Austen. While the story line is certainly far-fetched, it is a truly unique idea, one that captivated this reader until the very last page. ~ Meg Massey
Excerpt: Chapter Two
In the deep shadows at the edge of the wood, Jane waited as the moon started its descent, casting an iridescent glow on the meadow. The tall American steered his great horse off the road and into the soft grass. He rode straight and tall as though he’d been born astride the animal. He was looking around, obviously in search of her but also making sure he had not been followed. When he was within a few feet she stepped into the moonlight.
He dismounted and cautiously walked toward her. “I was afraid you wouldn’t come.” He stopped no more than two feet away from her, still holding Lord Nelson’s reins. He looked handsome and vital even in Edward’s ill-fitting suit. She pushed aside the thought and the romantic notions she’d been entertaining since receiving his note and questioned his choice of time and place.
He apologized and added, “I believe dawn, the sunrise, is the crucial time for me to go back.”
“Go back? Where?”
Darcy hesitated, unsure how much he should reveal about his situation.
Taking his pause as evidence that what would follow would be a carefully crafted story—a lie—Jane was surprised when he said, “Back to… back to the place where I fell.”
She was irritated by his evasion and certain that he knew precisely what she wanted to know. “It is close. I will gladly show you exactly where it is… after you tell me where you came from, why you are here and why you’re behaving so oddly.”
“Miss Austen, I really can’t explain. You wouldn’t understand.” He paused briefly. “I’m not at all sure I do.”
Ignoring his apologetic admission, Jane spat, “What? Because I am a woman you think me too stupid to understand?” She turned and walked away. “Feel free to stumble around in the dark and find the place yourself!”
Almost panicked, he dropped Nelson’s reins and went after her. “Miss Austen… Jane, please wait.”
Expecting yet another insult but ready with a few of her own, she stopped and turned toward him. But he hurled no aspersion.
“Miss Austen, I believe you are one of the most intelligent women—in fact, one of the most intelligentpeople I’ve ever met.”
Cautiously she returned and stood toe to toe, looking up at him. Her eyes glistened in the moonlight with a combination of suspicion and curiosity, and before she could say anything he began to tell her about her books.
“I know that Sense and Sensibility will be published early next year and it will do very well.”
Suspiciously she asked, “Why would my brother tell you that?”
“He didn’t, nor did he tell me about the one you’re working on now, First Impressions, the story of five sisters hoping to marry well. It will be published in three years, after you re-title it.”
His knowledge of First Impressions, on which she was still working, caused her curiosity to flare into anger at the reasonable assumption that he had rifled through her personal papers when he was alone in her room feigning his head injury.
Before she had the chance to throw any well-deserved invectives at him he told her about another book. “Mansfield Park. It will be considered your masterpiece by many people although, Pri—” He cleared his throat. “First Impressions will be the most popular, then and now.”
Mansfield Park was but an idea in her head, she had not yet put pen to paper. How did he know? Jane accused him of madness as she took a few steps backward away from him.
Afraid she might bolt before he got the information he needed, he grabbed her arm. She tried to pull away but he held firm, “Jane, please…”
What had she been thinking meeting this mercurial and possibly dangerous man in the middle of the night?
Overwhelmed with guilt at having caused the fear he saw on her face, Darcy released her. “I’m sorry.”
Suppressing the fear she said, “I have no idea how you know so much of my past but you cannot know what my future holds. No one can tell the future!”
Quietly, he said, “Yes… and that is my secret… it’s all in the past for me.” Sadly he looked away, then directly into her eyes. She saw the truth reflected there as he said, “This is the past for me. I came from the future.”