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Eliza Knight laughed out loud when she first discovered the letters hidden behind the mirror of her newly purchased antique vanity table. It had to be a joke, right? How was it possible for famed novelist Jane Austen to correspond with a fictional character she created? Was it possible that the most romantic figure in English literature had been a real person?
Her enthusiastic research leads her not to an English manor house but to the two hundred year old Virginia horse farm owned by Fitzwilliam Darcy. Was his ancestor the Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice? Eliza is determined to find out.
In the midst of the old plantation’s heritage week and charity Rose Ball, Fitz Darcy spins an epic tale of romance, adventure and time travel. The cynical New Yorker is more than skeptical. Does he think her a fool? Her cynicism aside, by the time the soft spoken Virginian quietly ends the story with his escape from Jane Austen’s naval captain brother, Eliza is convinced that he is the embodiment of Austen’s Mr. Darcy.
To her great surprise and dismay Eliza finds herself falling in love with the enigmatic horseman. It appears, too that he is falling in love with her; but can the man who loved Jane Austen really be in love with ordinary Eliza Knight?
With the surreal activities of Pemberley Farms’ heritage week at an end and as the summer winds down, Eliza and Fitz’s blossoming relationship is contrasted by Jane Austen’s own summer of excitement.
The popularity of Pride and Prejudice in the summer of 1813 brings Jane Austen a modicum of celebrity that she would really rather not have but with brothers so proud of her achievements it is almost impossible for her to do anything but demur. Between the teas, picnics and her every day activities Jane takes much pleasure in the memories of the gentle, passionate American who literally fell into their midst in May of 1810 and became her inspiration for Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Kent. Even now the memory of the tall Virginian brings a smile to Jane’s heart.
For three years she has kept the events of that spring to herself. But now an unexpected meeting with Simmons, one of her Brother Edward’s stablemen changes that. His insistence that he intends to hire aboard a sailing ship so he can go to America and work for the Virginian, prompts Jane to tell her story of his arrival and departure through a rip in the fabric of time.
Initially Simmons is dejected at the thought that he can not go to America and fulfill his dream of becoming a horse doctor. A goal he is sure Mr. Darcy will assist him in achieving. But after some thought and in spite of Jane’s admonitions as to the risks of his plan the young groom, compelled by the American’s treatment of him as an equal, makes the leap over the same low lying rock wall that brought Mr. Darcy to them.
Arriving on the doorstep of Darcy’s close friends in present day Hampshire, England Simmons is astonished at the modern amenities that surround him but mostly he is amazed at how the Cliftons treat him, not as a servant but as a respected member of society.
A gift that could only have come from Jane Austen sends Fitz and Eliza hurriedly to England. Fearing Jane’s legacy is in danger Fitz must convince Simmons to return and Eliza fears that Fitz wants to return as well.
A chance meeting in the Hampshire countryside chances Eliza’s mind. Finally she realizes that Jane Austen is not the wedge that could divide them but, in fact, is the tie that binds them for they are both inexplicably and permanently linked to the beloved author.

Fictie en literatuur
24 september
Sally Smith O'Rourke

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