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Table of Contents
OTHER ULYSSES PRESS BOOKS
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When the initial concept came to me from the publisher, Ulysses Press, to write a vampire version of Pride and Prejudice, my hackles immediately rose. To me, Pride and Prejudice is the most perfect novel ever written, and the thought of someone abusing that story line sent me into a state of amusement mixed with pure irritation.
As a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, I love everything to do with Jane Austen. However, unlike some hard-core Janeites, I read everything related to her works. Some of it I love, and some of it I throw across the room in disgust; but even when I angrily throw the book at the wall, I retrieve it and continue to read, looking for something in it I can enjoy. There are only a few Austen-related alternatives in which I find nothing I can accept to be possible. Most of those I deem ridiculous, however, deal with the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, because like many Austen readers, I hold a preconceived idea of how these two would get on in their lives once they were married. Austen gives us very specific allusions as to how the couple might achieve happiness, so when presented with the concept, I flatly refused to even consider a vampire version. However, after discussing the idea with close friends and with my editor, I conceded. It was my belief the project would go forward with or without me. At least if I was involved, I could possibly maintain some integrity in the story. In a Gothic or vampire-inspired story, undertones of sex, blood, and death are inherently present, although Jane Austen rarely even hinted at any of these elements in her novels.
Originally, the concept was that Darcy would be the vampire who seduces Elizabeth, yet I could not abide such a proposal. If vampirism was to be added to the tale, I wanted Darcy portrayed as a poetic tragic hero rather than as an embodiment of evil. I also Pride and Prejudice, Darcy needed to desire Elizabeth and to be willing to put aside his beliefs and lifestyle in order to earn her love. As Vampire Darcy’s Desire is a horror romance, a more prominent sexual tension than in the Austen version was obviously required, although any astute reader of Austen feels the sophisticated undertones present in her writing.
My story line is based on the traditional Scottish ballad known as “Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender,” which I used as the core of the curse upon Darcy’s family. The ballad has many versions. Some even call it “The Brown Girl.” It is currently listed as one of the ballads brought back into circulation by Francis J. Child, a renowned “songcatcher.” The story behind the ballad dates back to the time of Charles II. There are Irish, Scottish, and English versions of the song, as well as similar stories in Norse and European folklore. Popular folk singers, such as Jean Ritchie and Alan Lomax, have recorded versions of the song. Even the Grateful Dead has it in their discography. There is an excellent reading found on YouTube, as well. In keeping with the Scottish ballad, I chose Northumberland as the place for Wickham’s home where he is buried because of its proximity to Scotland and because of its numerous border wars. Luckily, Newcastle, where Darcy sends Wickham in the Austen original, is in Northumberland.
In merging the two diverse genres, one must remember that vampire literature springs from early Gothic tales, which ironically peppered the literature of Jane Austen’s time. Typically in early vampire stories, a respectable and virtuous woman rejects a man’s love.The woman is under the influence of a tyrannical and powerful male from whom the “hero” must save her, and that “hero” possesses a highly developed intelligence and exceptional charisma and charm. A “seduction” of sorts occurs. Are those elements not also present in each of Austen’s pieces? After all,Austen herself parodies the Gothic novel in Northanger Abbey, even mocking Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. She uses the stereotypes of the abbey, the mysterious murder, and the evil seducer, yet Austen
I teach English and have done so for more years than I care to count, and so I am familiar with many of the original literary works dealing with vampires. For example, nearly eighty years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula became the standard by which vampire stories are judged, Lord Byron’s life and legend inspired Polidori’s The Vampyre, and even Stoker quoted Gottfried August Bürger’s narrative poem “Lenore” (1773). Samuel Coleridge’s poem “Christabel” also influenced much of the vampire literature that followed.
Yet unlike many modern readers of vampire stories, I realize that some elements of vampire tales come from modern visual media rather than legend or folklore. While doing research for Vampire Darcy’s Desire, I looked more at the types of vampires, ways to kill a vampire, and general characteristics of vampires.Although I learned tidbits about the Twilight series from my female students, I purposely did not read the book, nor did I see the film. I wanted my characterization of vampires to be as original as possible. Most of my reading of vampire stories came many years ago and fell along the lines of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Marilyn Ross’s Barnabas Collins series. In fact, I once did a stunt for a Dark Shadows promotion for a Jonathan Frid live appearance; I was the woman in the crowd he grabs and bites. The hardest part of the staging for me was being put in a coffin. I am too claustrophobic!
A great deal of my research dealt with the Baobhan Síth, Scottish vampires, and with Celtic gods, because I used the traditional Scottish ballad to tie my story line together. Also, I revisited the character of Abraham Van Helsing. In his early notes for Dracula, Stoker conceived of three characters that eventually were combined into Van Helsing.Van Helsing represents all the good in the world and is a positive influence in the midst of Dracula’s chaos. He uses his intelligence to unwind the mystery of the vampire attacks, he leads the hunt to find Dracula, and he is the one who recognizes the need for God’s intervention in ending the demonic possession. Dracula.)
There is also unmistakable social commentary in Vampire Darcy’s Desire. Elizabeth Bennet is an intelligent woman, and like the originalVan Helsing, she uses her “knowledge” as “power.” She leads Darcy in his battle to stop the curse on his family. Darcy, on the other hand, is a Renaissance man in accepting help from a woman.The book also speaks to the natural stratification of human society—the exercise of power over others, those who are weaker.
Some elements of the Gothic are apparent in Vampire Darcy’s Desire: an ancient prophecy; dream visions; supernatural powers; characters suffering from impending doom; women threatened by a powerful, domineering male; and the quick shorthand of metonymy to set the scenes.Yet essentials of romance are just as prominent: a powerful love, with elements of uncertainty about the love being returned; the lovers separated by outside forces; and a young woman becoming the target of an evil schemer.
Darcy voluntarily isolates himself because of the family curse; Wickham is the epitome of evil.As in many Gothic tales, supernatural phenomena and prevalent fears (murder, seduction, perversion) are incorporated, but the underlying theme of a fallen hero is central to the story. Vampire Darcy’s Desire combines terror, horror, and mystery set within the framework of a love story.
A dhampir, the product of the union between a vampire and a human, probably finds its origin in Serbian folklore. Modern fiction holds many examples: Blade, a comic brought to life by Wesley Snipes on the screen; the character Connor in the TV series Angel (the show’s male equivalent of a Slayer); and Renesmee,the daughter of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn. Traditionally, a dhampir possesses the ability to see vampires, even when they are cloaked with the power of invisibility. They generally have similar powers to vampires with only a
This new dhampir Darcy possesses many of the qualities the reader notes in Austen’s character. He is “withdrawn” from society, is generous, is protective of his sister and his estate, and has a sharp wit. He is amused by Elizabeth’s verbal battles and is attracted to her physically. Darcy denies this attraction initially and then makes changes in his life to win and to keep Elizabeth’s regard. Austen’s Darcy says,“I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit…I was spoiled by my parents…allowed, encouraged, almost taught to be selfish and overbearing…”This characteristic plays well in the Dhampir Darcy’s pursuit of Elizabeth. He more aggressively persists in winning her affection in this book.
She was beautiful in all her innocence, much more beautiful than the notorious Mrs. Younge, his latest minion, who arranged this encounter and who waited for him now in the adjoining woods. Long, thick lashes rested on the rise of her high cheekbones, and, although a bit mussed, her golden tresses spread out across her pillow like the rays of the sun. Her deep sigh brought his attention to her lips, and for a moment he thought her awake, but Georgiana Darcy slept soundly, thanks to his spellbinding charm. She was the image—the embodiment—of his beloved Ellender.
One candle lit the room, casting shadows, which danced in the corners.There was nothing mediocre about the room, with its rich tapestries and elegant sculpting.“Only the best for the Darcys,” he muttered.
With a unique swagger not found in many of his kind, he glided to the bed’s edge. Unable to hide his anger and his contempt, a frown furrowed his brow, and a flash of fire transformed his vision. A torrent of images racked his soul—pictures of blood, of betrayal, and of revenge. “You will do quite well, my dear,” he whispered.“I will enjoy spending an eternity with you.” He lightly twisted one of her curls around his finger.“This is for the suffering I have endured at the Darcys’ hands.”
Slowly, he leaned over her, feeling the blood rush through her veins, his hard, dark eyes seeking the indentation of her neck. He relished the feeling of expectancy.The ringing silence of the room was broken only by his breathing.
Fully engulfed in his desire, when the door swung open, it took several seconds before he realized that an intruder had discovered his inexplicable need for her.“Move away from her,Wickham,” the tall, dark figure ordered as it stepped carefully into the room.“You will not bring your death and decay into my household.”
“You brought it into mine, Darcy.” Wickham stood, trying to judge his next move. He knew in a fight to the end, the man in front of him stood no chance of survival. But, sensing no fear of the supernatural from the intruder,Wickham questioned what else this confrontation held. Absent of all volition, he hesitated only a moment before moving in a whirlwind to a point of advantage, but the man framed in the light of the doorway did not move.
A dramatic black eyebrow lifted quizzically.“You forget,Wickham, you and I already share certain characteristics. You cannot infect what is already infected. I will not follow you into the darkness, nor will I allow you to convert my sister.This madness ends here. The curse—the wicked allure—will die with us.” The deep rumble of his voice filled the room, and a gleam entered his ice blue eyes, intensified by his opponent’s muteness.
Wickham glowered. “I have not given up taking my fill of beautiful young women.” A squall-like eruption pushed Wickham forward, his arms extended to his sides, sending Darcy rolling along the floor and scrambling to avoid the chasm—an abhorrent shudder of death. “I am coming for you, Darcy,” the voice boomed through the room as cold blasts flew from sinewy hands.
Sucking noises filled Fitzwilliam Darcy’s ears, and he realized that the tall, pale form loomed over him in an infuriating counterattack. Sliding against the far wall, it was all Darcy could do to bite back a scream, but he ducked first and came up, arm flung overhead, preparing to unload.“Now, Wickham,” he hissed, and then he released it.
A vial of clear liquid tumbled end over end through the air, splitting the silence surrounding them. Each figure moved in slow motion, playing out its part in a swirling montage.
And then the stopper exploded, and the transparent fluid rained down on the apparition of George Wickham. An agonized scream—full of old blood and dark radiance—filled the room.The shadow hissed in the moonlight, and the odor of burning flesh wafted over both of them.
Fitzwilliam Darcy’s smile turned up the corners of his mouth. “Holy water,” he whispered in affirmation.
“You will rot in hell!” Wickham threatened. “I will see those you love ruined—see them lick the blood from your body. Sharp fangs jutting from their mouths—smelling of death and decay—ghoulish nightmares!” He started forward again, but Darcy anticipated the move. Pulling the double crucifix from his pocket, he met Wickham’s intent with one of his own. “Iron,” he said mockingly, unfurling the chain and reaching out to his enemy.
Panic showed in Wickham’s fever-filled eyes as he backed away from the symbol of the Trinity, stumbling—recoiling—and suddenly, he was gone in a grey shadow moving across the lawn, a highly combustible howl billowing upon the breeze in his retreat.
Darcy stood motionless for several long minutes, needing to clear his head. He took a slow breath, trying to control his anger, and then he smelled it—smoke. Against his better judgment, he rushed to the bedchamber’s open door. “Wickham!” he cursed. The house he rented in Ramsgate heated with a fiery blaze, which started at three separate points of entry on the bottom floor.Thick black smoke, fueled by heavy draperies and fine upholstered furniture, rolled from the doorways of the lower rooms and rose in a blackened drape to cover the stairway.Acrid smoke drifted his way. Immediately, he turned toward the body still reclining on the bed where George Wickham had left her.