Yes, my stories will always contain a consummation between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Get used to it, or read someone else. They will not anticipate their vows (at least not in any stories set in the Regency era), but I find the qualities in Elizabeth Bennet that both consciously and unconsciously attract Darcy lead me to that final, sometimes slapstick, sometimes intensely serious, physical expression of love. How they reach that ending to courtship, and transition to creating a marriage, is what makes their journey unique to each JAFF author.
Reviews and comments about The Red Chrysanthemum have amused me in their wide range of tolerance, lack thereof, or appreciation for the book’s ending chapters. More than one reviewer says those chapters read as if written by another author, part of another story. I say these readers were not paying attention to Darcy. He repeatedly imagines touching Lizzy, and drawing her into his arms. Indeed, by the end of the very first chapter, when she smiles at him from a window, he nearly bolts back into the inn to do just that. Where do readers think such hints are leading? A final peck on the cheek and a handshake? When she includes a peach in a floral message, and he sits in the sun stroking it as he falls into a nap, well really…is this a man who will be timid of the sensual appreciation of his new wife?
It is certainly a transition Jane Austen could not have fully understood. When discussing Pride and Prejudice as Austen wrote it, readers have expressed to me the “flatness” and “incomplete” sensation of Lizzy and Darcy’s six week courtship. We are given some frank and funny conversations in the days immediately after the second proposal (the obligatory how-did-you-come-to-love-me? tale), the not unexpected knowledge that Aunt Phillips is annoying, and then boom!—a brief double wedding—on we go to the end without so much as a touch. We are told when Lizzy finally accepts him, Darcy “expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do”…but I’m not sure “violently” is the word Jane wanted. It implies action, and we have no evidence of Lizzy even so much as meeting his eyes, let alone raising her face for a chaste kiss of betrothal.
We have no idea how Lizzy approaches and prepares herself for her wedding night. Anything any author writes is mere conjecture. We know her nature is curious, intelligent, competitive even. She grew up on a farm, so she cannot be unaware of what the sex act entails from a purely structural point of view. We can assume she has no notion of the act being pleasurable for women; that is not the sort of information a Regency Mama would want her daughter to know (although I would venture that Mrs Bennet’s explanation of the birds and the bees must have been vastly different for Lydia than it was for Lizzy and Jane, if it happened at all). Certainly the elder daughters understand what constitutes ruin, while Lydia has no concept of it.
In TRC, on the two day carriage ride to Pemberley, Darcy fills the role of educator. He leaves little to her imagination, and expresses his expectations forthrightly. He answers her questions as we expect Fitzwilliam Darcy would, with honour and candour. They have already kissed, and Darcy has consulted her about his choice of where their “wedding night” should occur.
In my forthcoming book, Longbourn to London, due out through Meryton Press in mid-July 2014, the whole of the tale is consumed with the official courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and their first week of honeymoon, spent at their house in London. By the morning of the wedding, they have shared a handful of passionate kisses, and a separation has pushed Lizzy to the edge of her tether, as far as longing for the further granting of favours is concerned. It is Darcy who, up until they enter a carriage bound for London as husband and wife, does what a gentleman must do to preserve his bride’s honour: he stays away! Once in the carriage, after an initial contretemps, their affectionate exchanges begin to unfold. Then in Darcy House, Lizzy tries to cover her nerves with varying degrees of success. Darcy is patient until…he is not. And thus, we proceed to the bed.
Longbourn to London will, I hope be amusing to you, and well within what we might imagine Darcy and Lizzy saying and doing as they approach married life, and then adjusting to it. This is not a variation, nor is it truly a sequel. It is a “what happened?”.