The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston
Also by this author: Northern Rain
Buy the Book •
Every great love has a beginning.
In Austen's Pride and Prejudice, we meet with perhaps the most sensible, caring relatives a lovelorn young woman could hope for: Mr and Mrs Gardiner. What is their story?
Edward Gardiner has just been refused by the lovely young woman he had intended to make his wife. Heartbroken and eager for a diversion, he accepts an invitation from his brother-in-law, Thomas Bennet, to accompany him along with his two eldest daughters to the north on family business. Gardiner's pleasure tour is interrupted, however, when his eldest niece falls ill and is unable to travel farther.
Stopping over in the scarcely remarkable village of Lambton, the men decide that Bennet must continue on, while Gardiner and the children remain. The only trouble is that Gardiner has not the least idea how he should care for one ailing niece and another who is ready to drive him to distraction... until he meets with Madeline Fairbanks.
The Courtship of Edward Gardiner is one of the most charming books I have ever read. The writing was flawless, the plot perfectly paced and most importantly, the romance in this story was so wonderful! (I am a romance girl.)
Uncle and Aunt Gardiner have always been two of my favorite supporting characters in Pride and Prejudice and to read their path to true love gave me much joy. I loved it all, every single moment but I really enjoyed how we were able to meet almost every P&P character in this story! It was such a lovely time meeting a young, curious, energetic Lizzy Bennet at the age of 7 and to bump into a young Fitzwilliam Darcy was fabulous to boot!
Nicole Clarkston takes a much admired couple from my favorite story ever and breathes new life and captures the essence of true love in this engaging prequel. Pride and Prejudice fans do not want to miss this one!
Madeline poked a needle through the very last bit of the final knot. Finished! She snipped the thread and held her completed project up for inspection. It was an embroidered apron she had begun months ago for her dear friend, Mrs Porter. It had been originally intended as a Christmas present, but the demands of the past year had forced her to prepare a smaller gift for that holiday. She had picked it up now and again, when she had a few spare moments. The other morning spent in her mentor’s company had inspired her to finish it at last.
“Papa?” She rose from her seat, folding the apron as she walked toward the back of the house. “Papa?” She peered into his little study, but it was in the kitchen that she found him. “What are you doing in here, Papa?”
He glanced up. “The parlour is a little too warm today, and I find the light better to read by here.”
She drew near, looking him over in concern. “Your eyes are troubling you again?”
“Again? Still, my dear.” He pulled his nearly useless glasses from his face and squinted at them in frustration.
“Papa, I am going to call on Mrs Porter. Is there anything I can get you first, or do you need anything while I am out?”
“No, nothing,” he waved her off. “Wait- stay a moment. Will you take the letter from my desk to be posted? It should be ready.”
“Of course, Papa.” She leaned over his shoulder and dropped a kiss on his cheek. “I shall return shortly.”
Her father grunted a nondescript reply as she departed. She fetched her bonnet and spencer and lastly retrieved the letter for her father. The post office, she determined, would be her first stop, though it would cause her to step round the longer way when she went to the inn. No matter, for her spirits were high and the day was lovely. She might, in fact, have wished for a longer walk.
She delivered the letter and sucked in a delicious breath of the summer air as she stepped out of the office door. She loved this time of the year. Spring had spoken of its promises long enough, and the time had come to deliver them. Closing her eyes briefly as she strolled down the street, she relished the fragrance of the growing hay fields near the village. So enraptured was she by the vibrancy of everything touching her senses, she tipped her chin yet higher and claimed another refreshing breath. It seemed the whole world was warm and alive!
Without warning, something else warm and very much alive assaulted her about the knees. Madeline nearly stumbled in shock. She opened her eyes and put her hands protectively forward, fearful of either falling or dropping her precious parcel. “B-beg your pardon!” tumbled automatically from her lips.
There, splayed on her bottom in the dust of the road, was a young girl in a light green traveling smock. She was turning her indignant little face slowly upward to survey her attacker. Her brow puckered and her dark eyes sparkled curiously.
Madeline gave a start. She shifted her parcel at once to help the little girl to her feet. “I am so sorry! Did I hurt you?” she inquired gently.
The child looked back thoughtfully for about two seconds, then her face lit with good humour. She began to laugh merrily and accepted Madeline’s offered hand. “No!” she answered brightly. “I am not hurt! It is such a lovely town, and there was a bird just there that I was watching and… oh, I think I am also to ask if I hurt you. Did I?”
Madeline chuckled at this extraordinary child. “Not at all. Where do you come from, my little bird-watching friend?”
The child’s eyes became at once suspicious. “Papa told me when we set out that I was not to speak to strangers.”
“Oh, of course he is quite right,” Madeline agreed seriously. “A lady can never be too careful!”
The child grinned happily again. “I suppose it is all right, if you are a lady too. You look like a lady- oh, my, your dress is such a pretty colour! I so love lavender. My mama does not like me to wear that colour because she says I stain it so in the grass, and green hides it better, but when I am old enough to wear my hair up I will wear lavender every day!”
Madeline was, by now, biting back a peal of laughter. What an unusual and interesting child this was! She dipped a slow, exaggerated curtsey. “Well, I am not forbidden to speak to strangers, my young friend, and I would very much like to make your acquaintance. My name is Madeline Fairbanks.”
The girl made an answering curtsey, her radiant smile now allowing Madeline to count her missing teeth and make an approximate guess at her age. “Pleased to make your aqu- acquain-tance, Miss Fairbanks,” she answered in the scripted way of a child using words she did not fully understand. “My name is….”
“Lizzy! Where did you go off to?” A young man now turned the corner of the building from where, Madeline guessed, the child had just come. He was striding quickly, his manner intimidating and agitated. He was peering right and left until his eyes lit on the girl and his face set into a look of great annoyance. “Lizzy!” he repeated as he drew closer, his voice growing more threatening. “I told you to stay with the coach and not to wander!”
Madeline’s protective instincts flared, and she stepped a little nearer to the child, perhaps intending to shield her from a less than amiable parent. The child, whose name apparently was Lizzy, looked up to him with complete unconcern.
“I did not wander, Uncle. I was following something. I think it was a robin, but I do not see it now. I have not gone far, Uncle- you see, the inn is just there.”
“Elizabeth,” the man clearly fought back his temper to keep his words civil, “your father may allow you to speak back to him in such a way, but I will not while you are under my care! Come, your sister is resting now, we must go!”
Madeline made a soft noise. Perhaps it was understandable that the man was flustered by his precocious and lively young charge, but it was more than a little mortifying that he had yet to even notice her, standing three feet away. She had not thought herself so invisible as that!
The man looked up to her quickly and blanched in horror. “Forgive me, Miss… er, I hope my niece did not trouble you!”
“Not at all,” she answered coolly. “I sometimes find children more amiable than their elders.”
The man grimaced, obviously understanding her meaning. He tugged his hat from his head and offered her a much-belated bow in greeting. “Edward Gardiner, at your service, Miss. My apologies again for just now. I was… well, in truth, I have no excuse.”
She lifted one expressive brow and the edge of her mouth tipped very slightly. “You are quite forgiven, Mr Gardiner. I have had occasion to learn before that the most sensible of people can appear quite unreasonable when trying to manage a child.”
A slow, hesitant smile began to grow on his face- and a rather pleasant face it was. At last he gave a light chuckle. “I see you have gotten to know my niece rather well already. Might… might I have the pleasure of your name, Miss…?”
“Fairbanks, Uncle!” Elizabeth spoke up pertly, happy to be of service. “Her name is Madeline Fairbanks, and is she not just lovely?”
Both parties reddened profusely. Madeline’s fingertips flew to her mouth and her eyes widened in embarrassment.
Mr Gardiner cleared his throat. Clearly he had little choice but to agree with his niece, so he smiled, nodded uncomfortably, and answered, “Yes, of course… I mean, it is very lovely to make your acquaintance, Miss Fairbanks. I am afraid we must be going, however. My brother-in-law is waiting for us.”
She drew an uncertain breath. “If you are going into that inn just there,” she nodded toward the back of the building, “that is my destination, as well.”
The man brightened in interest. His eyes revealed, far more than the words his niece had coerced from him ever could have, what his first impression of her truly was. He flushed shyly, perhaps wishing to escort her, but little Lizzy spared him the trouble of asking.
“We can walk you there, Miss Fairbanks!” she bubbled. Madeline found a small, somewhat sticky palm thrust into her own, and she had little choice but to fall into step with the pert young girl and her uncle.
Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don’t ask).
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole’s books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
10/21: Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
10/22: Review & Giveaway at Just Jane 1813
10/27: Review & Giveaway Savvy Verse & Wit
11/01: Excerpt & Giveaway at Half Agony, Half Hope
11/08: Guest Post & Giveaway So little time…
11/10: Review & Giveaway My Kids Led me Back to Pride and Prejudice
11/11: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
11/15: Review & Giveaway at My Vices and Weaknesses
11/17: Guest Post & Giveaway at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life
11/26: Excerpt & Giveaway at Margie’s Must Reads
11/30: Review & Giveaway at Diary of an Eccentric
12/01: Guest Post & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton
Please write a comment below to be entered to win an ebook or paperback of The Courtship of Edward Gardiner