These Dreams by Nicole Clarkson

These Dreams by Nicole Clarkson

by Nicole Clarkson
Genres: Austenesque

An abandoned bride

          A missing man

                    And a dream that refuses to die…

Pride and patriotism lend fervor to greed and cruelty, and Fitzwilliam Darcy

is caught at the centre of a decades-old international feud. Taken far

from England, presumed dead by his family, and lost to all he holds dear, 

only one name remains as his beacon in the darkness: Elizabeth.

Georgiana Darcy is now the reluctant, heartbroken heiress to Pemberley,

and Colonel Fitwilliam her bewildered guardian. Vulnerable and unprepared,

Georgiana desperately longs for a friend, while Fitzwilliam seeks to protect her

from his own family. As the conspiracy around Darcy’s death widens and 

questions mount, Colonel Fitzwilliam must confront his own past. 

An impossible dream, long ago sacrificed for duty, may become his only hope.

Newly married Lydia Wickham returns to Longbourn- alone and under

mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth Bennet watches one sister suffer and

another find joy, while she lives her own days in empty regrets over what might

have been. Believing Darcy lost forever, she closes her heart against both pain

and happiness, but finds no escape from her dreams of him.


Jane Austen wrote some remarkably domestic novels, considering the turbulent times in which she lived. Curious authors wishing to re-explore Miss Austen’s works have often delved into their history books, producing more dramatic circumstances in which to place our favorite characters. The Peninsular War, in which the British and their allies struggled against Napoleonic France, has provided ample fodder for such an endeavor, and it supplies the backdrop for the plot of These Dreams.

For the purposes of this book, I have chosen Pride and Prejudice’s 1813 publication date as the year. At this time, thanks in part to France’s failed march on Russia, the war was swinging more decidedly in favour of the British and their allies: the Portuguese and the Spanish. By this time, the war had been underway for six years, leaving an unstable political climate all over Europe (to put it mildly). It is not the intent of this short article to explore the history of the war, but merely to familiarize the readers with the events directly relating to These Dreams.

The opening volley in the war was France’s invasion of Spain, then Portugal, in the fall of 1807.  The Portuguese court immediately went into exile, fleeing to Brazil and remaining there throughout the remainder of the war. England recognized the strategic importance of Portugal, and the last thing they could tolerate was allowing the French to dominate its ports. British naval forces depended upon safe harbors and supplies within striking distance of the French (and, occasionally, the Spanish), so they were quick to protect their trade and military interests.

Portugal, however, was feeling pressure from occupying French forces to capitulate. Napoleon ordered Portugal to declare war on their old allies, the British. The Portuguese delayed and signed a secret treaty with Spain, thus binding them to whatever alliances Spain might forge. I shall now grossly over-simplify the historical account by stating that through a series of political sleights of hand, eventually Portugal found a public alliance once more with Britain.

By late summer of 1808, the British were fully engaged in the battle. Civilian revolts were followed by full military support, and in Portugal, the English formed a unified army with the Portuguese forces. This fighting unit, known as the Anglo-Portuguese army, was originally comprised of four divisions plus the light cavalry, and was under the command of General Wellesley. Most divisions were made up of two British brigades and one Portuguese.

The Light Division, formed in 1810, was an elite force, combining fighters from both countries within the brigade. Portuguese Caçadores battalions fought alongside British Light infantry, and it is here where Colonel Fitzwilliam might have become close to a Portuguese comrade in arms; Lieutenant Rodrigo de Noronha. It is not difficult to imagine two men becoming brothers in battle, and this friendship eventually introduces the colonel to the lieutenant’s sister.

The war waged on for some years longer, and as Jane Austen has informed us, Colonel Fitzwilliam was back in England by April of 1813. Perhaps he was sent home on leave, or perhaps he had been reassigned to the home front, thanks in part to his father’s connections. Though his life had become relatively peaceful, the war was far from over.

By the fall of 1813, the French had been all but beaten back from Portugal, and were being heavily driven in Spain. Wellesley won two major campaigns that winter, and the allies were starting to smell victory.

A large plot point in These Dreams centres on one man’s hope of helping his nation recover from the war. Trade had drawn almost to a standstill in Spain and Portugal, and the economy was starving. A rational man could be called desperate in such times. A less stable man could be described as mad.

In constructing the character of Senhor Manuel Vasconcelos, I tried to craft a man of realistic struggles. He, among many others, had lost almost everything during the war, but Vasconcelos traces the start of his troubles back several decades, placing the blame for the beginning of his family’s decline on a man he never met. In his estimation, if he could reclaim what he lost, he could not only augment his own personal fortune, but become a hero to his nation by reintroducing manufacturing and kick-starting trade after the war.

I shall leave the full examination of this character’s motives within the pages of fiction, and return now to fact. Portugal did, indeed, suffer after the Peninsular war. Economic recovery was slow, and nothing in comparison to the boom experienced by England in the subsequent century. A number of factors influenced this, but I shall name only a couple.

One difficulty was Portugal’s lack of mineral wealth. This was compounded by the loss of their colony Brazil, which gained emancipation from Portugal after the war. This was a peaceful process, thanks to the generous sympathies of the exiled Portuguese Prince Regent, the future Dom João VI (known as John the Clement to the British).

The loss of Brazil’s tribute, the agricultural and mineral resources, and their bit of the trade cycle with the rest of the world, was a severe blow to Portugal’s economy. Political instability also troubled the country for the next generation. The royal house saw a Brazilian uprising led by the king’s own son Pedro (and possibly endorsed by the king), a new liberal constitution which forced the king to submit himself and deposed the queen, and a revolt led by the king’s younger son Miguel which intended to force his abdication.

With these trials looming in the not-distant future, it is little wonder that a far-sighted statesman might sense murky waters and try to take proactive measures. Thus, the motives for the story’s villain are established, but what of its heroes?

In the book, Colonel Fitzwilliam is reunited with his old comrade, by this time a captain. Both have perceived the personal danger to a lady dear to each of them, and they act to protect her in whatever ways they can by removing her from harm. Unfortunately, duty demands obedience, and both are limited in what they can do. Captain Noronha (known often as Ruy) has been sent back to his regiment, and the best Colonel Fitzwilliam can do to protect the lady in question is to deliver her to her brother in Lisbon to live among the camp followers.

We may not think first of women or children when we consider soldiers on the field in the days of Napoleon, but they were most assuredly present. A few higher-ranking British officers would bring their wives, but this was largely discouraged. Some women were attracted to the camp for work, offering services or selling comforts of one stripe or another. Others attached themselves, invited or not, because they had lovers and husbands among the fighting men. Some of these women remained after the battles to sweep the fields of dead and dying for those who were not beyond help. Others, appallingly, looted the corpses and wounded men for valuables. A gently bred young lady would certainly not be alone in such a place, but neither would she be particularly welcome. She would be just one more among many illicit followers of the drum.

Following is one short scene, portraying a bit of life in the military camp as Amália and her brother Ruy try to decide what the future will hold.





“Fitzwilliam,” Ruy extended his hand, “I thank you for bringing her to Lisbon. It nearly killed me to obey orders and leave her in Porto when I was sent here.”

Richard nodded, accepting the other’s gesture with as little emotion as he could manage. “I have given a letter to your general. I was unable to see him, but his aide swore to pass it directly into his hand. I should have liked to be certain that you would be reassigned, so that she might not be so easily found. I am sorry I could not do better.”

Ruy shook his head. “You could not have done more. Our division is not likely to be needed in Spain after all, but if that should change, I think nothing would compel Cotton to reassign an able-bodied fighter. Certainly, Lecor would object to losing another commander if we are required to ride east. Still, a word from you will go for as much as any man’s and much farther than most. I am grateful, Fitzwilliam.”

“Not half so much as I am. You risked a deal, helping my cousin as you did. You both did, and I thank you. You will write the address I left you if you learn anything more or if you are in need of help?”

“In London? Yes, I have it.”

Richard grunted in acknowledgment. His gaze had left the Portuguese officer and wandered to the neat little buildings where the women belonging to officers of the regiment had their abode. Into one of these she had been taken, but he did not know which.

Ruy tipped his head in that direction. “You will speak to her again before you leave, of course. Shall I send for her?”

Richard pressed his lips together. “No. No, I leave at once. Darcy is likely walking back into a trap at home, and besides…” his eyes wandered again, “I can only bring her more grief. Better that I should go straightaway.”

“I shall have a mount saddled, and one of my men will ride with you and return with the horses. He should be ready by the time you have finished tea.”

“No!” Richard jerked his longing eyes away from the houses with finality. “No tea. I will saddle my own horse if necessary, but I cannot delay another moment. I cannot risk… I mustn’t miss the tide, assuming I can find a ship ready.”

Ruy’s face tightened, revealing little but a spark of conciliation. “Very well. You may ride my horse, if you promise to send him back in good order. This way.”

A quarter of an hour later saw Richard swinging into the saddle, a young aide at his side whose name he had already forgotten. There was some fluttering near the barracks, the distant sound of masculine objections raised against feminine insistence, and from the corner of his eye he caught sight of a billowing black veil. He held his breath, raised his hand in salute to Captain Rodrigo de Noronha, and put heel to his mount.

Ruy was still stolidly in his place when his sister’s hand tugged urgently at his elbow. “He is gone? So soon, he is gone?”

Ruy caught her hand in his own, squeezing it in comfort. “He said he could not stay another moment.”

Her face drooped, and little sobs shivered through her small frame. “And so that is to be the end of it! Not even a farewell, as if all the past were as nothing. Oh, Ruy, he is too cruel!”

“Nay, this parting gesture shows you more honour than all the rest. I think he would not have been strong enough to resist a display that you would both later come to regret. He is right—it is better that he did not linger to tempt you. You must keep up your name even here, for the wives of the regiment will welcome and protect you as lionesses if they respect and perhaps pity you. If they do not, you would do better back with your husband.”

“We are not to stay here, are we? Is there no other post where you might be assigned?”

“Of course, there is. I may go on to Spain or anywhere else with my regiment if they are sent, or I may wait and see about arranging a return to Porto. I did not tell our friend as much, but his request to have me assigned to Brasil will be fruitless.”

“Brasil!” she cried. “So far! But why there?”

“It would be hard for Miguel and his father to find you, no? As for me, it would also be a great favour, for I should not be fighting. I think my general will not allow it; there is no need to send more men there when they are wanted here. Even if we do not fight at the front, the peace must be kept all over the country, and that is a weighty task in these times.”

She rested her head against his shoulder, blinking fiercely. “Where shall I go, Ruy? I cannot remain here, even with you, for Miguel will certainly think to look for me in Lisbon.”

He smiled and wound his arm about her. “We shall see what my orders say, dearest. For today, you are safe. In that, let us rejoice.”

“Safe. Yes,” she whispered to no one in particular. “But I could wish for more than simply that.”





Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.

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, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. Both immediately became best selling books. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write three other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Nicole was recently invited to join, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at, or her personal blog and website,


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