The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy: A Novel

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Overview

The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy takes readers back into the imagined family of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Their musical daughter Alethea makes a disastrous marriage to a man whose charming manners conceal an unpleasant nature. Flinging caution to the winds, she flees her marital home, masquerading as a gentleman, and accompanied only by her redoubtable maid, Figgins, she sets off for Venice to take refuge with her sister Camilla. But events — always dramatic and sometimes dangerous — ...

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The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy: A Novel

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Overview

The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy takes readers back into the imagined family of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Their musical daughter Alethea makes a disastrous marriage to a man whose charming manners conceal an unpleasant nature. Flinging caution to the winds, she flees her marital home, masquerading as a gentleman, and accompanied only by her redoubtable maid, Figgins, she sets off for Venice to take refuge with her sister Camilla. But events — always dramatic and sometimes dangerous — conspire to thwart her plans. Before she can meet up with Camilla, chance and her love of music lead her into the world of Italian opera, while her encounter with the aloof and difficult Titus Manningtree, in Italy to pursue a lost Titian painting, is to change her life — although fate has several more tricks to play before she can find happiness.
With wit, aplomb, and delectable style, Elizabeth Aston once again re-creates the world of Jane Austen, populating her novel with captivating characters firmly rooted in Austen's traditions but distinctly her own, resulting in another delightful comedy of manners, morals, and marriage.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Those who enjoy Austen...will certainly enjoy Aston's work, as will historical fiction readers who want an engaging plot and characters."
Library Journal

"Great characters, great comic moments, great romance."
Chicago Sun-Times

"Imagine poor Mr. Darcy with marriageable daughters of his own!...Aston takes us on a romp through late Regency society."
— Julia Barrett, author of Jane Austen's Charlotte

Publishers Weekly
In this delightful new chapter in the story of the Darcy clan, taken up by Ashton (Mr. Darcy's Daughters) where Austen left off, the youngest daughter of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy is in a pickle. Having married in haste, Alethea is now repenting bitterly, languishing under the unspeakable treatment of her horrid husband, Norris Napier. She escapes in the company of her intrepid maid, Figgins, and dressed as young men, they hare off to Europe to find Alethea's favorite and most sympathetic sister, Camilla. On the way, unbeknownst to them, they are found out by Mr. Titus Manningtree, who's off to Europe to find a Titian painting of his father's that has gone astray. Appalled by Alethea's apparent total disregard for her position and the requirements of polite society, Titus is nonetheless impressed by her courage and pluck. At first out of duty and then out of interest, he comes to her aid time and again, seeing her safe back to England. Once there, however, it is discovered that her husband was murdered, and she comes under suspicion. Both Titus and Alethea are captivating, and the quality of the characterizations saves the book from the plot confusions, too-easy tieups and too-modern sensibility that plague it. Agent, Patricia Moosebrugger. (Mar. 3) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743261937
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 438,808
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Aston is a passionate Jane Austen fan who studied with Austen biographer Lord David Cecil at Oxford. The author of several novels, including Mr. Darcy's Daughters, she lives in England and Italy.

Visit www.elizabeth-aston.com for more information.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

The window slid up without a sound, with not a rattle nor squeak to break the silence of early morning. Alethea hitched a leg over the sill, leant down to pick up her bundle of clothes, and swung the other leg over to perch some fifteen feet above the ground. She glanced back into the bedchamber. The motionless figure on the bed was snoring quietly, an arm flung out over the covers, his hair ruffled. The remnants of a fire crackled as a burnt log broke and fell apart in a shower of sparks.

She eased herself down from the sill on to the branch of the magnolia tree espaliered against the red bricks of the house. The huge creamy flowers showed pale in the greyness of the early morning. She shut the window by tugging on the glazing bars, dropped the bundle, and began her descent.

A gentle scrunch on gravel as her feet touched the ground. A pounding heart, a catching of breath. Fear mingled with elation as she smelt the misty morning air and tasted the scent of freedom. She didn't pause to catch her breath or to think about what she was doing. Time pressed, there was not a moment to lose. She picked up her bundle and edged round the corner of the house.

No one stirred. No dog barked, no early-wakening servant called out to ask who was there. With swift, silent steps, she crossed the sweep, on to the lawn, running now alongside the driveway, visible to anyone who looked out from behind the rows of windows of the great house. No challenge rang out, no shouted demands for her to stop broke the dawn peace. The only sound was of birdsong, and, then, in a distant farmyard, a cock crowed.

Figgins was waiting beside the gate, her face tight with anxiety.

"What's there in that bundle, Miss Alethea? I thought you wasn't bringing anything with you."

"Some clothes, and pray remember I'm no longer Miss, nor Alethea. Mr. Hawkins, if you please. Mr. Aloysius Hawkins, gentleman."

They were walking briskly along the lane, now, the huge wrought iron gates behind them, the stately line of limes hiding them from any watching eyes. Only why should there be any watching eyes? How could anyone suspect that the dutiful, obedient Mrs. Napier should abscond before dawn, leaving husband, house, and all behind her?

"I thought you didn't want to bring anything from there."

"It's best that I'm thought to have left the house as a woman. If a set of clothes are gone, a blue gown, that is what they will search for. How suspicious it would be if I had appeared to set out stark naked."

Figgins let out a snort of mirth at this fanciful notion.

"How far is it to the carriage?" Alethea went on.

"I told them to wait at the corner, where this lane runs into the bigger road."

Alethea was striding along, relishing the freedom of trousers and boots, of stretching her legs instead of taking ladylike steps. She slowed as Figgins stumbled against a large stone.

"I can't be doing with these country lanes," Figgins said. "I don't know how folk put up with living in the wilds like this. It isn't natural; people were meant to live in cities."

"This is hardly the wilds; we are a mere twenty-one miles from London."

"Might as well be on the moon, for it's a different world out here and not one I fancy. Give me cobbles and paving stones and a bit of noise and bustle. It was so quiet waiting here for you, it fair gave me the creeps. And there was something up in the tree above my head making a dreadful hooting, whooping sound."

"An owl."

"Owls is unlucky."

"Not this one."

They were at the end of the lane. There, standing in the mist rising from the warming ground, was a coach, with a postboy waiting by the two horses. As they approached, he went to the door of the carriage and let down the step.

Alethea gave him a quick good morning and then jumped in, followed by Figgins. Up went the step, the door was closed, the postboy swung himself into the saddle and clicked the horses into movement.

She had escaped.

Copyright © 2005 by A.E. Books Ltd.

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Table of Contents

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Introduction

A Touchstone Reading Group Guide

The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy

By Elizabeth Aston

Discussion Points

1. Alethea makes a hasty marriage to Mr. Napier to stop wagging tongues. Why doesn't she flee to Pemberley, her family's estate, when her marriage takes a frightening turn? Why doesn't she confide in Fanny, with whom she has a good relationship? Why does she choose to travel all the way to Italy, masquerading as a man instead? How much of a role does her desire to travel and be free play in her dangerous decision?

2. Both before and after leaving her husband, Alethea seeks the support of her sisters. Yet both Letty and Georgina refuse to believe Alethea's stories of her husband's cruelty. Why are they so adamant that Alethea must be lying or otherwise blowing things out of proportion? How does insisting Alethea return to Mr. Napier benefit the two sisters?

3. Alethea's journey to Italy forces her to become tougher and more intrepid, but she also finds the trip to be an opportunity to blossom and grow into womanhood while seeing sights that many of her generation could only read about. How does the journey affect her coming-of-age?

4. If you've read Jane Austen's novels—Pride and Prejudice in particular—do you think Elizabeth Aston has captured Austen's style and spirit?

5. Alethea and Titus seem to be well matched in many ways. Early on, we learn that they have similarly unconventional experiences with and thoughts on marriage. Titus slept with and supposedly loved a married woman for years. Alethea had premarital sex with her first love, then married Mr. Napier, whom she later ranaway from. How much of a role do these atypical experiences have in Titus's decision to keep Alethea's secret when he first discovers her masquerading as Mr. Hawkins?

6. The author chooses many names with significance in this novel. For example, Titus's yacht is named the Ariadne, after the mythical daughter of King Minos, who was wronged by her lover and then rescued and married by the god Dionysus. There is also Titus (like Titan) Manningtree and Diana Gray. What other names in the novel have meaning to you?

7. Both art and music play a large role in this novel. Alethea's obsession is music—and it leads to her downfall as an abused wife. Titus becomes obsessed with a painting, which leads him into a duel and almost to his death. In fact, it isn't until Titus nearly kills a man that he finally comes to his senses about the direction his life has taken. Alethea notes, at one point, that music is not an accomplishment but an art in and of itself. How do the two disciplines relate to each other? How do they relate to these two characters?

8. There are many instances of first impressions leading characters astray in the novel. Alethea was so blinded by Penrose's charm that she mistook him for an honorable man. She similarly allowed herself to be charmed by Mr. Napier, who seemed sensitive and thoughtful before marrying her, and proving himself a brute. Titus instantly assumed that Alethea was cavorting as a man for fun, while she mistakes his later concern for nosiness and conventionalism. Can you think of other instances where characters turned out to be not what they seemed? Have you ever been misled by your first impression of someone? How did you resolve your mistake?

9. Why does Alethea agree to marry Titus in the end, when he's made it clear that he'll live with her, forever loyal, regardless? Why do you think the convention of marriage has persisted? How have the reasons to marry changed over the years?

10. In the first of Elizabeth Aston's novels, Mr. Darcy's Daughters, we were introduced to the five Darcy girls. Does The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy fulfill your expectations of the kind of adult (and wife) each girl might turn out to be? What would you like to see happen in a third novel?

Elizabeth Aston is a passionate Jane Austen fan who studied with Austen biographer Lord David Cecil at Oxford. The author of several novels, including Mr. Darcy's Daughters, she lives in England and Italy.

Visit www.elizabeth-aston.com for more information.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

A Touchstone Reading Group Guide

The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy

By Elizabeth Aston

Discussion Points

1. Alethea makes a hasty marriage to Mr. Napier to stop wagging tongues. Why doesn't she flee to Pemberley, her family's estate, when her marriage takes a frightening turn? Why doesn't she confide in Fanny, with whom she has a good relationship? Why does she choose to travel all the way to Italy, masquerading as a man instead? How much of a role does her desire to travel and be free play in her dangerous decision?

2. Both before and after leaving her husband, Alethea seeks the support of her sisters. Yet both Letty and Georgina refuse to believe Alethea's stories of her husband's cruelty. Why are they so adamant that Alethea must be lying or otherwise blowing things out of proportion? How does insisting Alethea return to Mr. Napier benefit the two sisters?

3. Alethea's journey to Italy forces her to become tougher and more intrepid, but she also finds the trip to be an opportunity to blossom and grow into womanhood while seeing sights that many of her generation could only read about. How does the journey affect her coming-of-age?

4. If you've read Jane Austen's novels--Pride and Prejudice in particular--do you think Elizabeth Aston has captured Austen's style and spirit?

5. Alethea and Titus seem to be well matched in many ways. Early on, we learn that they have similarly unconventional experiences with and thoughts on marriage. Titus slept with and supposedly loved a married woman for years. Alethea had premarital sex with her first love, then married Mr. Napier, whom she laterran away from. How much of a role do these atypical experiences have in Titus's decision to keep Alethea's secret when he first discovers her masquerading as Mr. Hawkins?

6. The author chooses many names with significance in this novel. For example, Titus's yacht is named the Ariadne, after the mythical daughter of King Minos, who was wronged by her lover and then rescued and married by the god Dionysus. There is also Titus (like Titan) Manningtree and Diana Gray. What other names in the novel have meaning to you?

7. Both art and music play a large role in this novel. Alethea's obsession is music--and it leads to her downfall as an abused wife. Titus becomes obsessed with a painting, which leads him into a duel and almost to his death. In fact, it isn't until Titus nearly kills a man that he finally comes to his senses about the direction his life has taken. Alethea notes, at one point, that music is not an accomplishment but an art in and of itself. How do the two disciplines relate to each other? How do they relate to these two characters?

8. There are many instances of first impressions leading characters astray in the novel. Alethea was so blinded by Penrose's charm that she mistook him for an honorable man. She similarly allowed herself to be charmed by Mr. Napier, who seemed sensitive and thoughtful before marrying her, and proving himself a brute. Titus instantly assumed that Alethea was cavorting as a man for fun, while she mistakes his later concern for nosiness and conventionalism. Can you think of other instances where characters turned out to be not what they seemed? Have you ever been misled by your first impression of someone? How did you resolve your mistake?

9. Why does Alethea agree to marry Titus in the end, when he's made it clear that he'll live with her, forever loyal, regardless? Why do you think the convention of marriage has persisted? How have the reasons to marry changed over the years?

10. In the first of Elizabeth Aston's novels, Mr. Darcy's Daughters, we were introduced to the five Darcy girls. Does The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy fulfill your expectations of the kind of adult (and wife) each girl might turn out to be? What would you like to see happen in a third novel?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 16 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Jolly good fun!

    This book is quite delightful! It is aptly named-- the entire story is quite the adventure, both across Europe and among the colorful characters. While it is true that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy continue to play less than an active role, the story itself lacks very little if viewed solely as another historical fiction as opposed to a Pride and Prejudice continuation. Indeed, Ms. Aston's writing style differs from Ms. Austen's, but instead of taking away from the reading experience, it adds a fresh perspective. It is one of my favorites in the series, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Regency period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2008

    A Great Start for a Series of Sequels

    This first book introduces you to our favorite couple's five daughters during their first season in London. I have read all of the books in this series so far and I have yet to be disappointed, the themes and plot twists echo Jane Austen's own writing style. While the author avoids writing Elizabeth and Darcy into her novels, her characters rival those of Austen. If you like these books I also suggest Tasha Alexander's new series which follows an independent and stubborn educated lady in Queen Victoria's time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2007

    A+

    I just finished reading this book and was pleasantly surprised. I found it intriguing and very satisfying. It wasn't at all tedious like the previous book tended to be in places and I didn't want to put it down. Yes, it was predictable, but it was still a fun adventure. If you are looking for a quick read I would highly recommend checking it out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2006

    a good book if you don't compare it to austen's pride and prejudice

    sure the book didn't really reflect on p&p, but that made it all the better. It's pretty hard to rival the prose and dynamic characters which jane austen provides. If you're dissapointed, it's your own fault for anticipating a sufficient sequel. Even from the original author herself, you may just be dissapointed..(like pygmalion..i thought shaw was accusing me personally when he admonished the public for their lack of imagination)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2006

    good read

    Although this book did not include darcy or lizzy it was still a good book to pass the time. It was adventures and fun to read and I found myself turning the pages with anticipation.However it was not realy like the writing done by austen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2005

    charming

    a charming, curl-up-and-read book. completely predictable but engaging nonetheless. not recommended if you want a work of great literary genious (as jane austen was)... but altogther much better than 'mr darcys daughters' which was very much like pride and predjudice... (so rather tedious). overall, a fun romp

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    Posted November 6, 2008

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