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screenshot-138WOW!!! What a wonderful review. I wish I knew who you were Jake, because you have made me one very happy author. The money is nice, BUT THIS is the reason I write. To entertain and engage with my audience. Thank you again Jake.

Martine Jane Roberts

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To Love Mr Darcy

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Story summary.

The day after the Netherfield Ball, Elizabeth Bennet received an unexpected caller at Longbourn. With Mr. Bennet’s full blessing, Fitzwilliam Darcy informs Elizabeth that they are to be married. Furious that the men have decided her future for her, Elizabeth sets out to change Mr Darcy’s mind.
However, the untimely interference of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Darcy’s subsequent actions, makes it impossible for Elizabeth to break their engagement.
The events that follow lead to betrayal, a renewal of affection, and even death.
Yet, in the midst of all this chaos, love blossoms, and in the most unlikely manner…

Chapter One

The Bennet family finally arrived home from the Netherfield Ball in the early hours of the morning. They collectively declared the ball was a great success, and professed to have enjoyed it immensely, with four of the five sisters being engaged for almost every dance. All except for Mary, who thought such frivolous activities were a waste of time. She preferred more sombre pastimes, like reading and practising on the pianoforte. Whether this was true or she was just making excuses because no-one asked her to dance, none of them knew.

So it was no surprise that the entire family, even Mr Bennet, had decided to forgo breakfast in favour of the warmth and comfort of their beds. Imagine their surprise, when midway through a light luncheon, Mrs Hill announced a caller was waiting in the parlour.

“If quite convenient,” Mrs Hill conveyed, “He would like to speak to the master in private.”

“Is it Mr Bingley?” Mrs Bennet, still a little queasy from her overindulgence the previous evening, quietly asked.

“It is not,” said Mrs Hill, “but it is that gentleman’s close friend, Mr Darcy.”

Mrs Bennet momentarily forgot the pounding in her head and demanded with a raised voice,

“Mr Darcy! What business can he have with you, Mr Bennet? He is too proud for my liking and danced with almost no-one last night. How I hate the very sight of him. Tell him to cool his heels until you have finished your plate, sir,” expelled Mrs Bennet, wishing she had not been quite so exuberant with her speech.

“Now, now my dear, it is the calling hour after all. Though I must confess, I am interested to know what Mr Darcy could want with a humble squire like me?” replied Mr Bennet as he tried to soothe his wife’s ire.

Mr Bennet did not return to finish his food. So it was to the small sitting room where the ladies usually passed their time, which he returned. He wore a very solemn expression and quickly ordered Jane to take her three younger siblings upstairs. Then, Mr Bennet raised his hand to silence his wife as she began to question his actions. Turning to his favourite daughter, he said,

“Lizzy, my dear, Mr Darcy would like to speak to you; he is waiting for you in my study. Run along now, don’t keep him waiting,” he instructed.

Elizabeth was confused. She could think of no reason why Mr Darcy would wish to speak to her. He was universally disliked by the whole family and only tolerated because he was Mr Bingley’s particular friend.

She tapped lightly on the door and then entered.

Mr Darcy, who was looking out of the window, now turned and offered her a slight bow. He motioned for her to take a seat, although he remained standing. His tall, muscular frame filled the small window, and only a few shafts of light escaped from around his silhouette.

“You are well after last night’s festivities, Miss Bennet?” he asked curtly.

“Yes,” she replied, and then sat quietly waiting for him to continue.

“Miss Bennet, these last weeks since I arrived in Hertfordshire have seen my emotions thrown into turmoil,” he began. “I have experienced periods of great pleasure, and ones of confusion and self-reproach. And at the heart of all this is you, Miss Bennet. My heart is not easily touched, and, struggle as I might, I find that you have found a place in it. As I have confided with your father this morning, I am willing to overlook your inferior birth, your lack of fortune and lowly connections in the pursuit of my own happiness. Therefore, Miss Bennet, I would ask that you accept my hand in marriage and consent to be my wife,” he finished.

Elizabeth sat in stunned silence. Had he just asked her to marry him? Apparently so, if you could call being insulted an offer of marriage. Obviously, it was quite impossible. However, she was mindful of the honour he conferred upon her and said,

“I thank you, sir. I am conscious of the honour your offer would bestow on both my family and me, but I must decline.”

“Miss Bennet, you misunderstand me,” he said stoically, “My asking you is merely a formality. Your father has already approved the match, and we will be married here at Longbourn in one month.”

Elizabeth could not believe what she was hearing. Her father had given his consent, and without talking to her first? No, it could not be.

“I am afraid there must have been some mistake sir. My father would not have approved our match without seeking my opinion first.”

“I assure you, there is no mistake, Miss Bennet. I laid out my terms to your father, and he found them quite acceptable,” he informed her.

“Well, sir,” Elizabeth said defiantly “I am not inclined to accept your offer, and nothing could induce me to do so.”

Darcy studied her for a moment, not missing the defiant tilt of her chin. She was earnest in her rejection.

He pulled up a chair and sat before her.

“Miss Bennet, you are a dutiful daughter, I am sure, and will in time come to see the wisdom of your father’s decision,” he said in a slightly softer tone.

“You have many qualities that I admire in a woman. You are a gentlewoman of good breeding and from a respectable family. You have a keen mind and a sharp, but not unkind wit. You enjoy the outdoors, and though a little too tanned for society, you are a very handsome woman.” He paused briefly before adding, “And though you are not inclined to show it at present, I know you possess a kind and generous heart. These are all qualities that I would look for in my wife.”

Seeing her pursed lips, he concluded by saying,

“I am seven and twenty, Miss Bennet, an age when marriage is more appealing to me than the pursuits of a bachelor.”

By now, Elizabeth was furious and no longer tried to hide her ire. A fine speech, yet there had been no mention of love or affection. As she had sworn to marry for only the deepest kind of love, which clearly was not to be found here, she was firm in her resolve to refuse him. She folded her hands in her lap and raised her chin even higher.

Darcy could scarcely contain his smile. Her stubbornness was another quality he admired, but best not to encourage it just at this moment.

The upward turn of his lips made her angrier than ever. And now he is laughing at me. She wanted to stamp her foot in frustration as he enjoyed her predicament.

“I am sorry, Mr Darcy, but my answer stands. I cannot marry you. Now, if you will excuse me.” She stood to leave.

Exasperated by her continued refusal and dismissal of his heartfelt speech, Darcy also stood. Then, as she made her way to the door, he delivered his fait accompli,

“Miss Bennet, you are not one and twenty for four months. You will follow your father’s direction. And trust me, we will be married four weeks hence.”

Desperate to escape the room to ask her father if it was true, Elizabeth shot him a burning glare of defiance and then slammed out of the room.

Unfortunately, she bumped straight into Mr Collins, who gave her no time to make her excuses.

“My dear cousin Elizabeth, how fortuitous that we should meet like this. I was just coming find you. Your mother has given me her blessing to seek a private interview with you,” he said in a nasal drawl.

Elizabeth, still in shock from her encounter with Mr Darcy, let herself be guided to the sitting room. It wasn’t until Mr Collins closed the door behind her that she understood the full meaning of his words. She was about to protest that his words would be in vain when he began his address.

“I have happily received the blessing of my esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, in my mission to find a wife. And more by design than luck, I have found her here, at Longbourn. You, my dear cousin Elizabeth, are the recipient of my love, which I can tell you has been building these past few days. I can honestly say, no other could fill that place in my heart, but you.”

Elizabeth was astonished to be receiving a second proposal, both of which were unwelcome. How ironic that her mother was concerned that none of her offspring would find a husband, yet here she was receiving her second proposal in one day. She looked at Mr Collins and felt a pang of pity. He was confident his position in life, elevated by the acquisition of his noble patroness, would bring him all he desired. In truth, he was only her puppet. Elizabeth knew she could never love or respect a man like that. She waited for him to conclude his speech and then replied in a conciliatory tone,

“Mr Collins, I am honoured that you would pick me to be your companion through life, but I am afraid I have just received and accepted another proposal.”

A white lie, she knew, but she did not want to give him hope where there was none.

His expression of anticipated acceptance changed to crestfallen rejection. She gave him a weak smile and then rose to leave.

“Miss Elizabeth, might I ask who has beaten me to your heart?” he asked.

“Mr Darcy,” she replied with a forced smile.

“Then, cousin, I am heartily sorry for you.”

Why would he feel sorry for her? She may not like it, but even Elizabeth could admit Mr Darcy was a highly eligible catch.

“The match is an elevation for you to be sure, my dear, but do not suppose that the likes of Lady Catherine De Bourgh, or Lord Matlock, will welcome you into the family. No, my dear cousin, a life of rejection and isolation lies before you.”

Ignoring his bitter words, she hurried from the room to find her father. She must demand that he rescind his consent before this went any further. He must see that she could not marry a man like Mr Darcy. Not only was he universally disliked in the town, but because of his despicable treatment of Mr Wickham.

When she reached the rear parlour, she flung the door open and scanned the room for her papa. But before she could utter a word, Mrs Bennet jumped up and took her into her arms, kissing her on both cheeks.

Elizabeth was taken by surprise, as this kind of outpouring of affection was usually reserved for Jane or Lydia.

“Oh, Lizzy, how clever you are to make Mr Darcy fall in love with you. And all the while we thought him indifferent. What fine things you shall have, carriages, servants, and plenty of pin money. And with your connections, you can introduce the girls to other rich men. But we must make haste with the preparations, for Mr Darcy was most insistent on you being married before Christmas. Oh, Lizzy, you have saved us all, has she not, Mr Bennet?” she gushed.

Mr Bennet was clearly irritated at his wife’s outburst and hurried her out of the room so that he may talk to Elizabeth alone.

“Now, Lizzy, I know you are angry with me, but if you think about it, I am sure you will conclude it is a good match. I am not getting any younger, as Mrs Bennet is so fond of reminding me, and if there is a chance I can ensure the wellbeing of my family before my demise, then I must act upon it. Besides, Mr Darcy is not a man you say no to.” He took her by the hand and led her to the sofa.

“My dear, I know that we have made sport of Mr Darcy in the past, but he came to me with a sincere proposal, and I believe it is a good one. I understand your reluctance, but to my knowledge, no other gentleman has made you an offer,” he said tenderly.

“But, Papa, I do not love him, and I am convinced he does not love me. I have seen how he looks at others he considers beneath him, including our family. Can we not wait and see if Mr Bingley makes an offer for Jane?” she pleaded. “I cannot marry him, Papa. Please don’t ask me to.”

Elizabeth was his favourite child, but he was disappointed that she had given no thought to the advantages her union with Mr Darcy would bring, and not only to her but to her entire family, especially her sisters. Their marriage would elevate the family to a level in society they could only dream of. Reluctant thought he was, he could not deny them this opportunity.

“I am sorry you feel that way, Elizabeth, for it is all settled. We shook hands on it, and as a gentleman, I will not go back on my word.”

Her downturned mouth indicated her unhappiness at his statement.

“However, Mrs Bennet tells me your cousin intends to make you an offer this morning; surely Mr Darcy is a better prospect than the parson?” joked Mr Bennet as he tried to lift her spirits.

Elizabeth offered only a weak smile in reply. It appeared she did have a choice in the matter after all. Either marry Mr Darcy or marry Mr Collins. As it was impossible to even consider marrying her cousin, she must, therefore, try to look forward, and embrace the prospect of becoming Mrs Darcy.

Author’s note.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this variation. To Love Mr Darcy still has the tender moments expected in a romantic novel, but I have also shown a stronger side to many of the characters. I hope you like it.

Martine Jane Roberts

To Love Mr Darcy is my third, Pride & Prejudice variation novel.

Also available;-

Mr Darcy’s Struggle, and Darcy to the Rescue, are also available on Amazon, iBook’s, (iTunes), Nook, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Createspace. Available in Kindle format as an eBook or paperback.

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To Accept Mr Darcy

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Order Now! ‘Darcy to the Rescue’

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Darcy to the Rescue

Available to Pre-order now!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darcy-Rescue-Prejudice-Variation-Novella-ebook/dp/B01EQ770JQ

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Release date May 20th 2016

Synopsis;

Elizabeth, unwilling to sacrifice her future happiness with a forced marriage to Mr Collins, decides her only option is to run away. However, she miscalculates the weather and is caught in a raging snowstorm, and when a stranger on horseback begins to pursue her, she flees into the forest. Mr Darcy, acting as a reluctant Good Samaritan, comes to her rescue. But as the storm worsens, they are forced to seek shelter. There, Mr Darcy sets about tending to the unconscious Elizabeth. With Elizabeth’s reputation in tatters, Darcy does the honourable thing and proposes to her. But, will the noble Mr Darcy be able to persuade Mr Collins to give her up, or will Elizabeth have to marry her odious cousin after all?

Excerpt;

Elizabeth was fuming. When the door bell rang and Mrs Hill showed in their evening visitor, she had hoped it would only be Mr Bingley. Regrettably, Mr Darcy had seen fit to ignore her advice and walking in behind Charles. She pursed her lips and offered him only a slight inclination of her head in greeting.

Darcy disregarded her snub and gave her a sweeping bow in return. He smiled broadly when she averted her face in an effort to hide the start of a grin, but to no avail. He had seen it. Mrs Bennet bustled forward and started speaking with her usual bluntness.

“Why Mr Darcy how gallant,” and she performed a deep, if slightly wobbly curtsy in return. “And Mr Bingley, how very nice of you to come. I gather the roads are quite passable now. Come and sit beside dear Jane. She has been quite forlorn these last few day, but I suspect that now you have returned we will see an upturn in her countenance,”

Jane blushed furiously at her mother’s open admission that she had missed the gentleman, while Elizabeth discreetly said, “Mama!,” but Mrs Bennet was unstoppable.

“Well, I expect Mr Bingley missed you too Jane, why else would he have returned so soon after leaving? Mr Bingley?” and she looked expectantly at Charles, waiting for him to confirm her assumption.

Seeing his friend flounder at this direct line of questioning, Darcy stepped forward and spoke on his behalf.

“That is indeed the case Mrs Bennet. I am afraid my friend received some well-meaning, but misguided advice, causing him to return to the city. Happily, though, that has all been rectified, and as you can see, he has returned. And, I believe, is now quite determined on his next course of action, is that not so Charles?” and all eyes again turned upon the blushing Charles Bingley.

“Yes, I am now quite sure of my path. Mrs Bennet, might I speak to Miss Bennet for a moment, alone?” he said, stumbling over his words

Mrs Bennet sprang into action with the speed of a lioness rounding up her cubs. They were all ushered out of the room, including Mr Darcy, within a minute, leaving Jane and Bingley entirely alone.

Charles wet his lips to stop them sticking together as he spoke, so great was his nerves. Darcy had explained everything, even the part his sister’s had played in his separation from Miss Bennet. Though he was angry at first, how could he remain so when Darcy had called him back to be reunited with his one true love. He stepped forward and began his address.

“Miss Bennet, Jane, since our first meeting at the Meryton Assembly I have had eyes for only you. There is not one moment when I have been in your company, that I was not filled with joy and happiness. This past week has proved I am not the best judge when it comes to affairs of the heart. But I believe most sincerely, that with you at my side, I could be the happiest man alive. I love you Jane, and wondered, would you consent to be my wife?”

Jane countenance remained motionless for a second, with her eyes downcast and her mouth serene. Slowly, she raised her eyes to meet his, and as she did so, a smile spread across her whole face. Just yesterday she felt the full force of a broken heart, yet now she felt as if it would burst with happiness.

“Yes, oh yes Charles I will marry you. I love you so very much,” she said as she stood up. Bingley rushed to her side and embraced her, sealing their engagement with a tender but meaningful kiss.

Once more Mr Bennet joined the group for the toast. Young Bingley had spluttered his way through a speech asking for Jane’s hand in marriage, and he had ruefully given them his blessing. The prospect of being left with his wife and three of the silliest girls in the land filled him with dismay. But, on the brighter side, he would have two other houses to escape to when he visited Jane or Elizabeth. As the chatter turned to silks and lace and wedding hymns, he retreated to his inner sanctuary for some peace and quiet before dinner.

Elizabeth kissed first Charles and then Jane, saying,

“He adores you Jane and I know you love him. I wish you both every happiness for the future,” and then an impatient Lydia pushed between them saying,

“Why do you take so long Lizzy, we all want to wish Jane and Charles happy,” and she giggled loudly as she used his given name.

Elizabeth stood back from the throng and watched as her beloved sister received the happy ever after she deserved.

“Penny for them?” came a rich voice from behind her. Without turning she knew it was her betrothed..

“You deserve no such attention. Just because you have righted the wrong you created, does not mean I forgive you. Jane has been bereft these last days, and it was all your doing,” she murmured quietly.

Darcy could see it was going to take more than an apology  to appease Elizabeth. He looked around and saw an opening through the throng of people. Taking a firm grip on her arm, he steered her through her family and into the hallway. Ignoring her protests, he grabbed his cloak from the stand and propelled her out the front door. Once outside, Elizabeth folded her arms and raised her chin in stubborn defiance, determined not to listen to anything he might say. Darcy took hold of her hand and pulled the protesting Elizabeth behind him. Several long strides took them around the side of the house and away from any overlooking windows or doors. Darcy stopped and put Elizabeth between the wall and himself. Then he shook out his cloak and placed it around her shoulders. With words of protest about to spurt from her mouth, Darcy placed a finger on her lips to silence her.

“I am sorry that you heard my conversation with Charles, although listening at keyholes does seem to be a pastime you favour,” he said playfully trying to lift the mood. Elizabeth’s condescending sigh told him she was not amused. Very well, he thought, I had better come to the point directly.

“Charles Bingley has a perchance of falling in love with a pretty face every calendar month. And every time he tells me he will die if he does not make her his wife. I assumed your sister was just another of his regular infatuations. And when I observed her countenance, she seemed unmoved by his flowery protestations of love and admiration. I was wrong on both counts and admit it freely. I should have come to that conclusion much earlier than I did. Your sister has been the sole object of his affection for nigh on three months,” he exclaimed. When Elizabeth remained unmoved by his admission, he added, “Then there was what Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst told me. I must admit that they did help me persuade Charles to leave for town.”

Finally, a reaction. Elizabeth unfolded her arms and demanded, “Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst, what part could they have played in this interference?”

Darcy, usually a courteous gentleman in all aspects to the fairer sex, saw no way of concealing the part Caroline and Louisa had played in the separation of their brother from Elizabeth’s sister. If he was to spend the rest of his life, and eternity with Elizabeth, the woman he loved, there must be no secrets between them.

“Caroline, with the backing of Mrs Hurst, told me that your sister preferred the company of the militia to Charles and myself. They implied they had overheard Miss Bennet laughing at the shy advances Charles had made to her in regards to his feelings. As his true and loyal friend, I could not let him commit to such an alliance if the other parties feeling were not also engaged,” he concluded.

Elizabeth was outraged at what she had just been told and wasted no time in venting her anger on Darcy for his part in it.

“They called my sister a fortune hunter and you believed them? Have you been blind these past weeks? Jane loves Mr Bingley with all her heart. She is shy, that’s all. It is not in her nature to parade her feeling before an audience of strangers, she barely shows them to me! If this is an example of city manners then I am glad to be of the country,” and again she folded her arms across her chest.

It was Darcy’s turn to purse his lips now. Had he not just made amends for his actions? Was Charles and Jane Bennet even now reunited and engaged? Deliberating before he next spoke, Darcy decided to change his tactics.

“I do not think you understand how this is supposed to go. I explain my action, then I apologise for being fallible. I eat humble pie, and then you forgive me.” After what seemed an eternity, but was only seconds in reality, Darcy saw a change in her countenance. A reluctant smile crept across her mouth and spread up to her cheeks. He felt himself relax as the tension left his body, relieved that they were no longer at loggerheads.

“No, I cannot condemn you for being a good friend. However, I cannot, and I will not say the same for Mr Bingley’s sisters. Many times I have heard them snigger about my family and our friends. They think they are far above us in all things and have no compunction about showing it. Perhaps they are a little more refined, but not better,” Elizabeth said with some force.

Darcy smiled back at her. He was unaccustomed to making apologies, or admitting he was in the wrong, but seeing the fire in her eyes had been worth his humbling. As they stood in silence, Darcy saw her shoulders tremble with the cold. Stepping forward he pulled her into his embrace, wrapping his arms around her slender body. Darcy felt his heart begin to pound in his chest at her closeness. He longed to kiss her and speak tender words of love to her. No other woman had stirred his feeling as she did, it was as if she had put a spell on him. Last time he had held her in his arms she had questioned his actions and he had withdrawn. This time, he was fully aware of what he was going to do, this time, it felt different, it felt right. Softly, he spoke her name,

“Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth’s heart raced almost as fast as Darcy’s. She knew he wanted to kiss her, and whether it is wanton or not, she longed for him to kiss her too. Feeling shy, she lifted her face only a fraction, but could not bring herself to meet his gaze. Sensing this reluctance, he ran a finger lightly down her cheek and tilted her chin up. The smouldering desire he felt was unmistakably visible in his eyes, and suddenly she felt quite breathless. Slowly, he bent his head and let his lips gently massage hers. The sensation this brief caress evoked seemed to spark through her entire body. She raised her face a little more, and Darcy was encouraged to deepen the kiss, savouring her timid response. Her lips were delicious beyond belief, and he wanted to prolong the experience for as long as he dared. He craved to awaken the passion and desire still dormant in her, but he knew now was not the time. With reluctance, Darcy pulled away. Elizabeth was still trembling, only now it was not the cold that made her shake. In an effort to restore a modicum of composure, she tried to catch her breath and calm her body. Having permitted such an intimate embrace before they were married, she realised she would need to be on her guard when in close proximity to Mr Darcy. She enjoyed his kisses far too much!

“Come,” he said, his voice heavy with desire, “We had better return before someone misses us.”

If Elizabeth had offered the slighted resistance to returning to the house, Darcy might not have have had the strength to go against her wishes. Her mouth was soft and her breath was sweet, just as he knew it would be. And as she had clung to him, he almost forgot himself and let his hand wander down further, but thankfully sense had prevailed. Waiting six weeks to make her his bride was going to feel like a lifetime. Tomorrow he would use all within his power to change Mr Bennet’s mind.

 Mr Darcy’s Struggle

BOOK COVER 21.08.14

Mr Darcy’s Struggle 

Out now on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Darcys-Struggle-Prejudice-Variation-ebook-y

http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Darcys-Struggle-Prejudice-Variation-ebook/dp/B00JJ735J8

Synopsis;

What if, after initially refusing Mr Darcy’s offer of marriage at the parsonage, Elizabeth finds herself in the position where she is forced to accept his proposal? The proud Mr Darcy has only six weeks to prove himself and make Elizabeth fall in love with him. Taking her reproofs to heart he is determined to woo her and become a better man. Then days before the wedding she receives another offer. Will she meet him at the altar or run to the arms of another?

Excerpt

Elizabeth felt tense as they approached Lucas Lodge. Darcy had insisted that she rode with him and Georgiana. She was pleased with not having to endure the overcrowding of the Bennet carriage, and she must get used to travelling with Darcy, but still, the closeness of him tonight made her uneasy. His dark, penetrating eyes rarely left her face. She had tried to make polite conversation with them both, but Georgiana was too excited at the prospect of attending a real ball, and Darcy was unwavering in his attention and replied only curtly. As they pulled up to the entrance, the footman jumped down to help the ladies out of the carriage, but Darcy brushed him aside and completed the task himself.

Once inside and relieved of their cloaks, Darcy admired Elizabeth’s gown. The under layer was pure white and reached the floor, where her matching slippers peeped out. The sheer over layer was decorated with small silver flowers and leaves, intricately woven into the fabric. Her dark locks were in the Grecian style with silver headed pins holding it in place. She was stunning; and he was under no illusion that he would be the envy of every man here tonight. He glanced around the room, and then frowned; there were too many people, too many men. The prospect of other men coveting his fiancé was extremely distasteful to him. He must also be circumspect over Georgiana. As she was not yet ‘out,’ Darcy should have refused her plea’s to accompany them, but he saw no harm in her attending a small family gathering. Of course, she would not be able to dance with anyone other than Richard and himself, but she was content with this arrangement. Her delicate features glowed with excitement, and it made her look younger than her sixteen years. The delicate gown of lemon, with small green vines growing up from the hem, suited her perfectly. He would have his work cut out this evening, ensuring the wellbeing of both his ladies. As usual, Darcy was dressed impeccably; his waistcoat complimenting Elizabeth’s dress perfectly, being embroidered with a pattern of silver knots.

Sir James and Lady Lucas greeted them; offering felicitations on their upcoming nuptials. Then Sir James bade them enjoy their last night as single people, and he winked at Darcy. It was kindly meant, but inappropriate with two unwed females at his side. Sir James had a tendency to put into words, sentiments that should remain thoughts, but his jolly demeanour showed it was said in jest, and not with malice. Charlotte and Mr Collins welcomed them next, and Darcy’s brow furrowed again. He offered the clergyman the curtest of nods in acknowledgement of his greeting, then swept the women into the ballroom. Elizabeth was mortified that he had let Mr Collins presence affect him so. She alone understood the reason behind his action, yet to others, it would appear as though he had been excessively rude. She would have to remind him that his actions now reflected on her too.

It turned out to be more than the intimate gathering she had been led to believe, but at least most of the guests were friends or family. Spying Colonel Fitzwilliam, she hoped he would ask her to dance, they had enjoyed a warm friendship when both in Kent.

Elizabeth watched as Georgiana gently disengaged herself from her brother’s arm, and went to talk to Elizabeth’s younger sisters, who were now standing with Maria Lucas. She felt a pang of envy at how carefree and happy they seemed, and longed to join them as they laughed and chatted together. Six short weeks ago she could have done just that, she thought ruefully.

Elizabeth and Darcy would be expected to open the dancing, but she knew he did not care for such frivolities. Charles had once told her ‘Darcy never lifts a hoof, even though he is most proficient in all aspects of the dance.’ A sigh escaped her as she realised if Darcy did not take her to the floor, she could accept no other man’s offer. It would be an unpardonable breach of protocol. No, she must resign herself to enjoying it vicariously. Slyly glancing over at her escort, she noted that yes, he was still watching her, only now his piercing stare was accompanied by a smile. As the musicians struck the chords for the minuet, he bowed and asked,

“Miss Bennet, may I have the honour of the first dance?”

Elizabeth was taken aback by his offer, and for a moment, words failed her. Her surprise must have registered on her face, as she stumbled over her reply.

“I did not, that is, I did not think that…. yes, I thank you.”

Darcy raised both brows in a questioning pose and then held out his hand. She placed her hand in his, and mutely, they walked to the dance floor. Uncomfortably conscious that all eyes were upon them, Elizabeth realised every step, every expression would be scrutinised by the people assembled. With Darcy’s intense dislike for large gatherings, or being the centre of attention, she felt more than a little nervous. The music started and they performed the customary salute before meeting, circling, and returning several times as the dance dictated. Fellow revellers slowly joined them, and Elizabeth observed Darcy’s shoulders relax, happier to now be one of many. As the dance continued she realised Charles was right, Darcy was indeed an excellent dancer, and conducted the steps with an easy air.

“Sir you dance with an abundance of style and grace; why do you dislike it so?” She asked playfully.

“You are mistaken, Madam. I do not dislike dancing; I enjoy it a great deal. It is that I find it difficult to secure a partner that meets my standard,” Darcy said honestly. “I recall the first time I saw you dance; it was with the imbecile Collins. He was out of time, and trod on your slipper dislodging a flower.”

Elizabeth remembered how mortified she had been at Mr Collins ineptitude, and that she had to constantly correct him.

“I did not realise you had observed us sir, or that you had noticed the state of my slippers. I am surprised you would concern yourself with such trifling matters. Do I meet your exacting standards, Mr Darcy?” she teased.

As the dance drew them together, Elizabeth caught her breath. Darcy’s gaze seemed more intensified, and she felt as though his penetrated stare had somehow pierced her very soul. Taking both her hands, Darcy held them over his heart and replied with quiet, yet devastating passion.

“From our very first meeting Elizabeth, my eyes have followed only you. There is not one moment when in each other’s company, that I cannot recall the gown you wore, the style of your hair or who your partner was. For every smile, I remember the time and the place. Every word, every glance you have ever bestowed on me, kind or otherwise, they are all indelibly committed to my memory. Not one heartbeat have I forgotten.”

Elizabeth felt spellbound; his words exposed the depth of his love, and they washed over her like a warm embrace. She had longed for such love, a passion that even after possession, it was not sated. They stood motionless while all around them danced.

“Come, Darcy, you must not monopolise Miss Elizabeth in this fashion, I believe she is promised to me for this dance.”

As the fog of emotion cleared, and reality returned, Darcy became aware that the dance had ended, and the musicians were still. They stood alone on the dance floor, being silently observed by the rest of the guests. Realising it was Bingley who had come to their rescue, Darcy turned and muttered,

“Thank you Charles, maybe the next one.”

Without words, but still in possession of her hand, Darcy lead Elizabeth from the ballroom and out onto the deserted terrace. The biting December air enveloped them, but neither felt it. Stopping at the veranda’s edge, Elizabeth took hold of the stone balustrade. The impact of his words still reverberated around her mind. She had read about such powerful loves, in the books of poets and Master Shakespeare, never dreaming she could be the recipient of such herself. She had always professed this would be the only thing that could induce her to marry, but now she had found it, she could not, in all honesty, say she returned the sentiment. Oh, she wanted to, so very much she wanted to, but her feelings were unclear, even to herself. If she professed to love him and it was false, it would mean heartbreak for them both. No, it was better to stay silent until she was sure. Again the immenseness of Darcy’s declaration washed over her, the power of his all-consuming love saturating every fibre of her being, and she began to tremble. She tightened her grip on the rail lest Darcy mistook her shaking for shivering, but too late. He slipped off his coat and draped it over her, his warm hands lingering on her shoulders. Hesitantly, she covered them with her own, and then leant back on him for support.

“I did not know,” She murmured.

His warm baritone voice whispered close to her ear,

“You did not know what Elizabeth? How those months apart were torture for me? How I risked my friendship with Charles in order to reunite him with Jane? Or maybe you are referring to Lydia, and the sacrifice I was willing to make to restore her to her family. That I have openly disregarded my family and society, by choosing to marry for love? Tell me that you know how my heart burns with a passion so violent, that you are the very air that I breathe. Surely you must know Elizabeth; all I have done, I have done for you, only you.”

The anguish in his voice deafened her to propriety, and she turned and sought his lips with her own. She wanted to kiss away all the pain her family had caused him, to thank him for helping Lydia and Jane, and to fill the void of his absent family. And as their lips met, she felt his arms slide around her waist, drawing her still nearer. His acceptance of her imperfect family brought tears to her eyes, and unable to restrain them, they silently slid down her cheeks.

Her kiss was bittersweet in so many ways Darcy thought, as the salt mingled on their lips. This was not the response he had hoped to provoke with his declaration. The uncertainty of what lie behind her actions was nothing short of agony. He longed for her caresses to be given with love, but suspected they were in gratitude. But for now, he would take whatever she offered. Hopefully, she would come to love him in time, for he could not, would not, live without her by his side.

Elizabeth, unable to hold back the sobs any longer, tore her mouth from his and buried her face in his chest. Darcy comforted her with soft words of reassurance until finally Elizabeth managed to regain control of her emotions. Then Darcy lifted her chin to look into her eyes. Beautiful limpet pools of the darkest brown, still glistening with tears. He un-tucked his neckcloth and used the end to dry her eyes, knowing Fletcher would admonish him for it later. Concerned they had been gone too long already, Darcy tenderly stroked her hair, and then her cheek, before offering his verbal reassurance.

“My love is constant Elizabeth. I will wait a lifetime if that is what it takes, but for now, I fear we must return. You are promised to Charles for the next dance, are you not?”

Retrieving his coat from her shoulders, he quickly shrugged himself back into it. He had not meant to cause her such distress, and was heartily ashamed of himself for revealing the extent of his love in such a way. Sighing, he knew there was little hope their actions had gone unnoticed, but they must return.

Elizabeth was also disinclined to return to the frivolity of the dance. Instead, her mind was focused on easing Darcy’s pain, while trying to sort out her own feelings. The last thing she wanted to do was make merry, and engage in meaningless chatter. Darcy’s tender embrace was far more alluring at this moment. Instead, she gave him a weak smile and placed her hand on his arm. Together, they silently turned and walked back inside.

We hope you enjoyed both excerpts and look forward to seeing you next time.

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Our very best

Lizzie & Darcy x

 

 

In The Footsteps of Pride & Prejudice (4) Lyme Park as Pemberley 1995

 

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Lyme Park is a large estate located south of Disley, in Cheshire. The estate is managed by the National Trust and consists of a mansion house surrounded by formal gardens, in a deer park in the Peak District National Park.

The estate was granted to Sir Thomas Danyers in 1346 and passed to the Leghs of Lyme by marriage in 1388. It remained in the possession of the Legh family until 1946 when they gave it to the National Trust. Entrance to Lyme Park is free if you are a National Trust member. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/join-us

The house is surrounded by formal gardens of 15 acres and a deer park of about 1,359 acres.

The house is a Grade I listed building and the gardens and deer park are listed as Grade II.

The most obvious structure in the park, other than the house, is a tower called the Cage which stands on a hill to the east of the approach road.  It was originally used as a hunting lodge and was later used as a park-keeper’s cottage and as a lock-up for prisoners.

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Immediately to the northeast of the house is the Orangery which was designed in 1862 by Alfred Darbyshire. The Orangery is joined to the house by a covered passage known as the Dark Passage. There is an extensive deer park, and you can catch a glimpse of the herd most days.

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The house, gardens and park have often been used as a filming locations, including the 1995 mini TV series of Pride & Prejudice.

During one of our many visits to ‘Pemberley’ we joined one of the groups walking to the pond where Mr. Darcy, aka Colin Firth, jumped into the water to cool off after a long and apparently hot ride. It was quite a distance over uneven terrain, perhaps 1.5 miles, but as a lover of all things Austen, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Once we arrived, a few of the group threw red roses into the water, or tried to pose on the spot where Colin’s stunt double dived into the water. However, that was not for me. I waited patiently until they had all exhausted themselves and filled their digital camera cards before I took a single picture.

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I wanted to capture the mood of how he felt when he was staring at that inviting water, as he slowly removed his outer garments and boots. And maybe a little of me was hoping he would come riding over the hill again and give a repeat performance. (I wish!)

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This is the area where Darcy and Elizabeth meet, with him wearing the now famous wet shirt. It is difficult to take an exact shot as the trees and shrubs have grown so much since it was filmed.

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The next comparison pictures are of the steps where Elizabeth’s dress becomes transparent as the sunlight streams through the material. Also the scene where Darcy asked her if she would mind meeting his sister, Georgiana. There’s a new addition, a hand rail for use when climbing the steps, in line with health and safety standards.

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And here I am standing on the spot where, after spending some time together, Darcy bids farewell to Elizabeth and the Gardiners. It is after this meeting that Elizabeth feels the first stirrings of love for him, evident in her backwards glance as the carriage pulls away. Aw, ain’t love grand 😉

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The next comparison pictures are of a still slightly damp Darcy rushing out to intercept Elizabeth before she has time to leave. This area is in a beautiful inner courtyard with a stone Well in the centre. The ground level corridors leading off the courtyard take you to the restaurants, shop, café and church room.

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 And of course, no post about Lyme Park would be complete without mentioning the giant Mr. Darcy that spent 8 months in the Reflection Lake. He has made his way to Melbourne, Australia to live for now, but, love him or hate him, it certainly was a sight to behold.999087_10151512580645598_441288285_n[1] 534174_10151512582000598_2122155800_n[1]1977046_10151946728900598_29942802_n[1]

Lyme Park is a great place to spend a day or even a weekend. As well as retracing the step of Elizabeth and Darcy, or Colin and Jennifer if you prefer, they have many fun things to do and see. There is a wardrobe of Edwardian clothes that the whole family can dress up in for free! Next door to the shop is a small book room, where you can sit in comfort and quietly read for awhile. They have an amply stocked shop where you can buy mementos of the house, the National Trust and of course Mr Darcy. During their Pemberley Weekends, they screen the full six episodes of Pride & Prejudice on a loop in the book room. The original costumes from the series are sometimes on display during these weekends too. Or perhaps a nice walk  to Darcy’s Pond is more to your liking, to work off the delicious lunch you ate in the restaurant? And then, at the end of the day, after you’ve enjoy a nice cream tea, you might be lucky enough to see the Rangers feed the deer herd.

We love visiting Lyme Park and look forward to our next trip.

Here are a few more picture for your enjoyment.

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We hope you have enjoyed our comparison pictures of Pemberley 1995 (Lyme Park). http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme

Look out for our next instalment in this Pride & Prejudice revisited series.

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Our very best

Lizzie and Darcy x

In the Footsteps of Pride & Prejudice (3) Belton House as Rosings 1995

 

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Belton House is a  mansion surrounded by formal gardens, with a series of avenues leading to a number of follies set in a large wooded park.

For three hundred years, Belton House was the seat of the Brownlow and Cust family, who had first acquired land in the area in the late 16th century. Between 1685 and 1688 Sir John Brownlow and his wife had the present mansion built. Despite great wealth they chose to build a modest country house. It’s servant were purposely housed in a completely separate area to the family. The house was built to the typical H design of the day and has changed relatively little since construction was completed. The seventh Baron attempted to retain the house and estate by opening to the public. However, the financial difficulties were too great and in January 1984 he transferred ownership of the house, garden and some of the contents to the National Trust.

Belton House was used as Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s residence, Rosings,  in the 1995 TV mini series of Pride & Prejudice. Our first two pictures are of when Darcy returns to Rosings after his disastrous proposal to Elizabeth. Although  it looks as if Darcy turns left after entering the house and goes through another room before heading straight up the stairs,  in fact he would have to turn right from the font door to reach this staircase.

 

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Also notice the decorative knobs on the handrail. This was to stop the children and servants from sliding down them and causing possible damage to the expensive woodwork.

 

Next we have the area where Darcy begs Colonel Fitzwilliam to make his excuses to his aunt. The wooden pillar standing between Lady Catherine and Colonel Fitzwilliam is a prop, and that is why it is not in our photo.

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Here Darcy strides back to Rosings after being rejected by Elizabeth. The large tree to the left was lost due to storms, but as you can see, a new tree has been planted to replace it.

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The next four pictures all relate to Darcy’s bedroom, or bed chamber as they would have called it. This is where Darcy sits and writes his letter to Elizabeth. If you recall, he explaining his dealings with George Wickham in regards to the living at Kympton, and the attempted seduction of his sister, Georgiana.

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It is thought the original bed colour was red or crimson damask, but it sustained water damaged after a floor. As you can see it has been beautifully restored, and matches the décor very well.

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The avenue where Colonel Fitzwilliam meets Elizabeth and unwittingly reveals Darcy’s role in separating Bingley from her sister Jane.

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A grim-faced Darcy decides to write to Elizabeth, in an effort to refute Wickham’s lies.

And finally, this is where Mr. Collins tries to hurry his party, lest they keep Lady Catherine waiting, much to the amusement of Elizabeth.

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Interesting fact:

Belton has an amazing wooden floor in the Tyrconnel Room. To protect this from damage by the constant foot fall of visitors, the National Trust has invested in Eyemats. These are mats that are made by scanning the original carpets, and then made to match the flooring perfectly. By placing these in areas open to the public, it reduces the possible of damage. There is also another one in the Red Drawing room.

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We hope you have enjoyed our comparison pictures of Rosings 1995 (Belton house).

Look out for our next instalment in this Pride & Prejudice revisited series.

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Our very best

Lizzie and Darcy x

In the Footsteps of Pride & Prejudice (2) Groombridge as Pemberley 2005

Groombridge Place

Groombridge is a beautiful example of a Georgian House. The earliest mention of one of these is from 1239, when the Lordship of Groombridge was granted to William Russell. By the mid 14th century, the lands were held by Sir John de Clinton, whose grandson, Lord Clinton and Saye, sold Groombridge to Thomas Waller of Lamberhurst c.1400.

In 1604, the estate was purchased by Sir Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset the Lord Treasurer of England. In 1618, Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset had to sell Groombridge to John Packer due to gambling debts. A generation later, the estate belonged to British barrister and architect Philip Packer, who, in 1662, built the present day house with the help of his friend Christopher Wren. After Philip died in 1686, Groombridge Place lay empty for twenty years. During that time, the infamous Groombridge Gang began smuggling. Several times, dragoons were called to restore order

One persistent legend which dates back to that time is that of a tunnel between the cellars at Groombridge Place and those of the nearby Crown Inn, although no such tunnel has ever been found.

Groombridge Place has remained largely untouched since it was built over 350 years ago, and is now privately owned and not open to the public. You may visit the gardens for a fee.

Groombridge Place was chosen to portray Longbourn in the 2005 film of Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. It was chosen because it reflected the faded grandeur of a well to do family that had fallen on hard time It depicts Longbourn at the time Jane Austen first penned Pride & Prejudice, then titled First Impressions, in 1796/7. The production company had to change the windows, build a duck bridge over the moat and bring in the animals and mud for the outside shots of the courtyard. Thankfully the cast did not stay here, but were ferried to and from their luxury hotel to private Winnebago’s, which were parked of set in the quarry.

Here are a few pictures of then and now.

‘Longbourn’ today

‘Longbourn’ 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth under the tree after Bingley proposes to Jane

 

Keira talking to Joe Wright, the director.

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The scene  where Mr Bennet (Donald Sutherland) tells Elizabeth she does not have to marry Mr Collins, is filmed at the same spot as where Mr Bingley practices his proposal to Jane on Mr Darcy. However, in the picture below you can see that this area has become neglected and overgrown. You can just about distinguish the line of the roof of the building and the same bent branch as in the above pictures.

So overgrown you can no longer see the water.

The Bennet family wait for Lydia.

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Crossing the duck bridge.

In this picture we see Elizabeth cross the purpose-built duck bridge, walk through the washing and around to the front of the house. But if you look closely at this ariel shot, you can see that the duck bridge (on the right and still there today) is actually at the back of the house. There is no access to this part of  the building, which is why I used the ariel shot. It is a nice overview of the whole house too.

 

Groombridge ariel view with main entrance to the left and duck bridge to the right.

I hope you have enjoyed our comparison pictures of Longbourn 2005 ( Groombridge Place ) Our next post in this series will be about Rosings 1995 (Belton house)

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Our very best

Lizzie and Darcy x