As you can see, I have been very busy with my next novel, Mr Darcy’s Reluctant Wife.
It is a sweet story about the journey Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet take to reach their HEA.
However, do not be fooled by my description, everything is not plain sailing for this couple.
Mr Darcy’s Reluctant Wife is available on Amazon at a special pre-order price.
The official release date is 5th December 2019.
But, as a preview is not available until after the release date, I am posting a few paragraphs of the first chapter here, for my friends and followers.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt, and if so, please tell your friends and family. Remember to order your copy today and take advantage of the special pre-release price.
This is the link to Amazon.co.uk.
And this is the link to Amazon.com.
Mr Darcy sighed as he stood before the assembly room doors. Attending a country dance in rural Hertfordshire did not fill him with any other emotion than dread.
When Charles Bingley, his host and friend, had asked him if he had any plans that evening, he had made no mention of his intention to drag him to the local dance. Yet here he was, about to enter the Meryton Assembly rooms for an evening of tedious country dancing, and inane chatter. What made it worse was that Charles knew he liked to select which social events he attended himself, choosing each with the utmost care and discernment.
All who knew Mr Darcy intimately would agree and forgive him for possessing such a cynical outlook on life. As one of society’s most eligible bachelors, he was invited to every event in the season’s calendar. Yet his experience of society since he had come of age had been one continuous round of ambitious mammas thrusting their simpering daughters at him in the hope of making a match. Rather than engaging him in stimulating conversation, they would display no thoughts of their own, merely repeating phrases they had rehearsed parrot fashion with their mothers. Either that, or they would titter shyly behind their fan at any benign or ridiculous remark he chose to utter.
Upon his father’s death, when he became the sole owner of the Darcy estates, the constant pursuit of his person and wealth had increased expeditiously. Although he had no title of which to boast, Fitzwilliam Darcy was one of the wealthiest and most eligible men in the country.
His father and grandfather had made wise investments during their time as master of Pemberley, seeing the family coffers swell considerably. Yet Darcy had not rested on their laurels. He too had invested wisely, in the production of metals and machinery, farmers and weavers, property and shipping. His investments in land management, both here and abroad, plus his property portfolio, had seen his yearly income rise above ten thousand pounds a year. All this, together with his ancestral home in Derbyshire and a large townhouse situated in London’s Grosvenor Square, made Mr Darcy the focus of every unwed daughter, calculating mother and lonely widow alike.
But the desire to capture the attention of Fitzwilliam Darcy was not restricted to spinsters and widows alone. Many a married lady had swooned over his handsome features, athletic body, and skill in all the social graces. He patronised many charities, never drank too much, or gambled excessively. Neither did he brag about his companions in the bedchamber. And although his silence was guaranteed in this area, one certain wealthy young widow, who had once sworn never to marry again, had let it be known that Fitzwilliam Darcy was a thoughtful, thorough, and exciting lover. Rather than staining Mr Darcy’s character, this widely circulated piece of female gossip had merely made him more desirable. He was the embodiment of the word ‘gentleman’.
Looking over at his companion, Mr Darcy could see by the broad grin on Bingley’s face, that he was not only looking forward to the dance but was as pleased as punch for getting Darcy there too.
Darcy made a mental note to deliver a mild reproof to Bingley for his deception later.
At that moment, Mr Darcy felt a hand slip through his arm and turned to see who had claimed him.
Miss Caroline Bingley, Charles’ unwed sister had fixed her attentions on him, staking a claim on him based on a previous acquaintance of some years.
Caroline Bingley was not unpleasant to look at, with her clear complexion and grey eyes, but she was not what you would call a classic beauty. In contrast to most young ladies that were out at present, Miss Bingley was a trifle too tall for most men, although, alongside Mr Darcy, who could still boast of being four inches her superior, she appeared average height. Her figure was slender, which conformed to the fashion of the day, though some might say it lacked the required number of curves to make her universally appealing to the opposite sex. Having said that, she had many accomplishments that a gentleman would find attractive. She could sing, she sketched, and she played the pianoforte quite well. She spoke French and German and sewed a decent sampler. As well as all this, she walked with an air of confidence, and though always elegantly attired, some of her more flamboyant outfits were not to Mr Darcy’s taste. Burnished copper and deep emerald greens were more widely worn by the dowagers and matrons in society, not unwed females.
“I am sure, Mr Darcy, you are dreading this provincial little soirée as much as I am.”
Darcy moved his head just enough to confirm Miss Bingley’s assumption.
“Sir, would you think me terribly forward if I claimed you as my own?” Caroline Bingley cooed somewhat too close to his ear.
“Miss Bingley?” Darcy replied in a questioning tone as he moved his head away from her face.
“Oh, I meant for this evening only, Mr Darcy, until we return to Netherfield Park.”
Darcy again inclined his head slightly.
“Of course, Miss Bingley. Shall we?” Darcy indicated with his free hand that they should follow Charles, who had already breached the open doorway.
A cloud of vapour escaped through the open doors, a mixture of scented candles and tobacco smoke. Most would have deemed it a not unpleasant smell, but Darcy disliked this growing trend for men to smoke tobacco in the presence of ladies. Much better to confine this habit to that time after dinner when the men partook of a glass of brandy and spent a welcome half hour enjoying the absence of the womenfolk.
The small party of two ladies and three gentlemen entered the Meryton Assembly rooms. Louisa Hurst and her husband Edward had accompanied her sister Caroline to Netherfield Park, eager to give their opinion on this new property their brother had leased.
The group quickly became the focus of attention. A hush slowly spread over the happy revellers, and the musicians ceased to play.
All of Meryton knew that a gentleman from the town had leased Netherfield Park, but few had seen him in the flesh, let alone have the privilege of meeting him. And now, here they all were, come to join the regular participants at Meryton’s weekly dance.
Sir William Lucas was the only resident of Meryton to have spent any length of time in Mr Bingley’s company, mainly because he had acted as his guide when he came to view Netherfield Park. Therefore, it seemed only right that he should be the one to make the necessary introductions, ensuring Mr Bingley and his party were not without acquaintances while staying in the area.
“Ah, Mr Bingley,” Sir William said with an outstretched hand, “we are honoured that you have found the time to come and join us tonight. Mr Darcy, Mr Hurst, ladies,” he said as he bowed his head to acknowledge the party.
The newcomers returned his salute, and then Mr Bingley took the lead.
“How very kind of you to invite us, Sir William. There is nothing I like more than a country dance,” Mr Bingley said while glancing over his shoulder at Darcy. “Though it is an age since I attended one,” he added.
Darcy chose to ignore this pointed remark aimed directly at him.
As they began to move deeper into the room, Mr Bingley had no doubt that his friend was scowling at him most heartily. He could almost feel the heat of Darcy’s displeasure burning into his back. But the truth of the matter could not be denied. Darcy did not like to mix with large crowds or talk to people he had no prior acquaintance with, and as his friend, Charles also felt obliged to refrain from attending many of the balls and soirées he would have otherwise enjoyed.
This is absurd, Darcy thought, as he watched the throng of revellers part before them. It was like the parting of the Red Sea, and Darcy dreaded the moment when the mass of bodies would close in behind them, cutting off his retreat.
“Smile, Mr Darcy, if we are to be thrown to the lions, let us at least do so with a smile.”
Miss Bingley was right, but the smile he offered came across more as a tight-lipped grimace than a friendly grin, and it did not go unnoticed.
Elizabeth Bennet stood with her sister, Jane, their arms linked as they reached up onto their tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the Netherfield party.
“Oh, Lizzy, how grand they look,” said Jane breathlessly.
Elizabeth turned her focus from the red-haired gentleman with a broad smile and stared at the other members of the group.
“Yes, their attire is of the latest fashion, but if you look past their clothes, Jane, I would venture to say that they are not all happy to be here. Look at the second gentleman and his companion.”
Jane turned her full attention to the second couple. The man’s eyebrows were drawn together, and his lips were pulled into a straight line, while the lady, with her superior height, looked down on everyone she glanced at. They looked most ill at ease.
“Could they be unwell?” ventured Jane.
“No, Jane, I do not think them unwell, but I do not think they are pleased to be here either.”
“Oh, hush Lizzy, we do not know that.”
“I expect we are too provincial for the stern-looking gentleman to give us any consequence,” Elizabeth said, then turned her attention to Miss Bingley. “And the lady who clings to him, she looks as if she has walked into the cow barn instead of an assembly.”
“Lizzy!” exclaimed Jane, though she raised her hand to hide her smile.
Elizabeth watched as the latecomers walked past the spot where she stood.
The tall woman, who clung so possessively to the scowling man’s arm, flipped open her fan and waved it frantically in front of her face. Unfortunately, this unexpected action caused the gentleman to jolt his head to one side, lest he receives a blow to the face.
Elizabeth could not help herself, and a ripple of laughter escaped from her upturned mouth.
Darcy’s scowl had grown even deeper with this near miss, and to make matters worse, he heard someone laughing at his misfortune.
Snapping his head to the right, he searched the sea of faces for the source of the laughter.
He did not expect the culprit to be a young woman and an attractive one at that. Instead of delivering a burning glare of contempt as he intended, he found his eyebrows rising in surprise.
The initial fierceness of the man’s glare would have left many a person quaking in their boots, but Elizabeth was not to be cowed and stared back at him defiantly. Then she watched as his expression changed as it registered with him that it was, she who had laughed.
The truth was, she could not help herself. They saunter into the dance way beyond being fashionably late and acting all superior and aloof to their company. And then this happens. It was too funny for words.
Elizabeth returned his gaze, but before this battle of wills could be resolved, something halted Elizabeth’s mirth and caused her to look away.
It was a voice she knew only too well.
“Lizzy, Lizzy, come here, child.”
Elizabeth turned and scanned the room until she located her mother. She stood with Lady Lucas and her eldest daughter Charlotte.
Though Elizabeth was in no hurry to join her mother, she was eager to speak to Charlotte, and so answered the summons with alacrity.
Closing the distance between her mother and herself, Elizabeth’s intention had been to link arms with her friend, and then together they could slip away and observe the proceedings from some secluded spot.
Unfortunately, Mrs Bennet had other ideas. Before Elizabeth could bring her plan to fruition, her mother caught hold of her outstretched hand and propelled her to her side, rather than Charlotte’s.
“Come, Lizzy, Lady Lucas has agreed to introduce us to Mr Bingley and his friends.”
“But Mamma, Charlotte and I were…” Elizabeth began to protest.
“Nonsense. I desire you to do as I ask, Lizzy and let Lady Lucas introduce us to Mr Bingley and the other gentleman. This is a great opportunity for us all, especially Jane.”
Having refused to look away when the gentleman caught her laughing, Elizabeth hardly wanted to now be introduced to him!
Elizabeth turned to Jane with pleading eyes, hoping for her sister to support her, but Jane’s gaze was firmly fixed on the young man with the strawberry blond hair and a warm smile.
“Why must we be paraded about like a prized heifer, Mother? I have no desire to join the queue of simpering misses waiting to be introduced to a man who clearly does not want to be here!”
“You say that now, Lizzy, but you can not be a tomboy all your life. Do you know who that is with Mr Bingley?”
With no time to reply, Elizabeth listened as her mother began to reel off the newcomer’s names.
“Mr Bingley, the gentleman who has leased Netherfield Park, has brought his two sisters with him and a Mr Hurst. He is the rather stout looking gentleman at the back of the group and is married to the elder of Mr Bingley’s two sisters. And the fine-looking gentleman at Mr Bingley’s side . . .”
With her mother’s half-finished sentence left hanging in the air, Elizabeth felt compelled to ask.
“That, my dear, is Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. It is widely reported that he has an annual income of ten thousand pounds a year!” exclaimed an excited Mrs Bennet.
Elizabeth resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
Oh, so that is why he looks so satisfied with himself!
With the Longbourn estate yielding as little as two thousand a year, and with the Bennets considered quite the wealthiest family in the district, it was no wonder that Mr Darcy thought them beneath his notice. The truth of the matter was, had they been poorer, they might have been worthy of his charity, or perhaps if they had been richer, he might have courted them as acquaintances, but as they were neither too poor nor wealthy enough, he was under no obligation to give them any consequence at all.