Today I get to share a little of my work in progress — a story that will eventually be the sequel to Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match. In the first book (see left), a single mother named Beth Ann Bennet and an ER doctor named William Darcy meet on an Internet dating site — each for reasons that have little to do with finding true love. Nevertheless, it finds them anyway!
BTW, quite a few members of the Austen community helped me with that book. Abigail’s talented daughter, Rebecca Young, designed the cover. Jakki Leatherberry thoughtfully edited it. So many of our blogging friends reviewed it — like Meredith, Candy, and more! And I was truly honored when this book was chosen on Austenprose as one of the “Top 5 Austenesque Contemporary Novels” of 2013! Kimberly Denny-Ryder’s corresponding review is HERE 😉 . So, I know I couldn’t have done it without all of you!
Now, I’ve been at work on this second book and would love to chat with you all about it. The focus in this story turns to Beth’s good friend, Jane Henderson, and Will’s wealthy cousin, Bingley McNamara. If “pride” and “prejudice” were largely the issues that kept Beth and Will apart in Perfect Match, this time it is “forced niceness” and “excessive sociability” that create the initial wedge between our modern Jane and her Bingley in Perfect Bet.
Here’s a taste of the new novel:
As Jane adjusted the lacy train on Beth’s wedding dress, her heart was filled with joy for her best friend. Happy at last!
Beth had been through such heartbreak and grief, thanks to her deadbeat first husband, Pete Wickham. That stinkin’ rat. She’d been left to raise their son alone and had struggled for years—emotionally and financially—until she met Will.
Sure, the unlikely couple had a few rocky moments when they first got together, and Jane admitted she’d had her doubts about Beth’s new boyfriend, until she’d gotten to know the guy. But Jane was now fully convinced the two of them belonged together and that their relationship had been a blessing for them both. And for Charlie, too. She was thrilled to be maid of honor.
In fact, Jane couldn’t think of a single thing she didn’t like about Dr. William Darcy—except for his cousin.
Huh. Just look at him standing there next to the altar! All smug and self-satisfied. So certain he’d win the title of Mr. Cool in his perfectly fitted “best man” tux, polished leather shoes and crisp white shirt. Heck, he could even carry off wearing that silly dark-red bowtie. And with surprising flair.
So irritating. And good looking. And as loaded as that guy who’d founded Facebook. Not that Bingley didn’t know it, which made it all the worse.
Jane exhaled with a fierce puff, which she camouflaged by clearing her throat and smiling broadly when Beth sent her a concerned glance. Beth, looking relieved, smiled back and then turned her attention to her groom and the reverend. And they were off to the races!
In her head, Jane had made a list of all of the awkward moments she would have to politely endure this weekend before she would be free of Bingley for a while. There was the rehearsal dinner last night. (Check!) This morning’s picture session with just the attendants and family members. (Check!) All that was left was the ceremony (now in progress!), the remaining pictures of the bride, groom and wedding party all together, the reception (although she’d have to dance with him…ugh…she’d need a glass or two of wine beforehand) and the morning-after breakfast. (Hopefully, he’d be too tired to talk to her.)
Certainly, for the sake of her best friend and her friend’s new husband, she could fake her way through all of that, right?
When Reverend Elton presented the happy couple as “husband and wife,” Will gave Beth an incredibly passionate kiss. All of the congregation cheered, and Jane sighed in happiness and, perhaps, just a touch of envy. Someday, maybe, her soulmate would find her, too. But, unlike how it’d been with Beth and Will, Jane doubted it would be a matter of a simple Love Match in her case. In a different way, she’d been much more deceptive than her best friend had ever been. Beth had only lied about her name and a few other details. Jane’s lies ran deeper, masked by a highly polished veneer of agreeableness and affability, and, thus, were far more subversive.
Finally, the procession out of the church began and, this time, Jane had to walk back down the aisle with Bingley.
“Delightful ceremony,” he pronounced loudly, insuring that everyone nearby would hear, as he formally offered her his arm. But he looked at her as if he’d much rather promenade with a python.
“I agree,” she said, smiling tightly and playing the part.
He cast an absolutely ecstatic grin at the friends and family in attendance as the two of them took their first steps toward the church’s foyer. “Only the receiving line and the final pictures,” he hissed, his lips near her ear as if sharing a secret. “And then I can start getting drunk. I plan to be pretty damn buzzed before our special dance.”
She leaned closer to him and hissed right back, “So funny! I was thinking exactly the same thing.”
She gripped his arm perhaps a little more forcefully than necessary. “Not you.”
He winced but didn’t stop walking or faux grinning at the congregation. “Oh, I wasn’t offering, sweetheart. I’ve already been burned once. I don’t do second chances.”
She gulped. To her ear, he sounded hurt, which both surprised and irritated her. He was acting like some innocent in the whole thing. Like he hadn’t been trying to take advantage of her—one way or another. That he hadn’t made a bet that involved her. Huh. She’d tear him apart limb by limb, this very second, in fact, if it wouldn’t ruin her dress before the reception.
Beth and Will had stopped just up ahead of them and were getting ready to greet their guests in the receiving line. Before Jane pulled away from Bingley to dutifully take her place next to Beth, she gave the quote-unquote “best man” her parting shot. “I don’t do second chances either,” she informed him. “And, for the record, you might as well pay up Dustin and buy your own beer, ‘cause there’s no way you’ll win your ‘gamble.’ At least not with me.”
Jane had the satisfaction of seeing him freeze in his spot, a look of shock and confusion on his handsome face, as she turned her back to him.
Beth and Will, who hadn’t heard the content of this conversation, nevertheless weren’t completely oblivious to the weird vibe of tension whenever she and Bingley were nearby.
Her best friend kept glancing worriedly at her and, when there was a momentary breather between well-wishers, Beth asked, “Jane, is everything okay?”
Jane composed herself and tried to radiate tranquility. “Oh, yes. It’s just…you know…an emotional day.”
Beth squeezed her hand. “I know. Thank you. Thank you so, so much for being such a wonderful friend. I never could have been this happy without you there. Always so supportive. Always helping me.”
And Jane knew that she would cheerfully deal with even Bingley and all of the discomfort of being around him in order not to disrupt the happiness of her sweet BFF.
Now that she’d told him off at last, he’d have to stay away from her, except when their attendant duties made interaction absolutely necessary. Seriously, how much more damage could the guy do in less than twenty-four hours, right?
So, what did you think of Jane and Bingley as they interacted with each other? What were your first impressions of them based on this snippet? Obviously, this is a romance, so they *will* end up together (of that I can assure you!), but while I do have an outline for the upcoming scenes, I’m open to playing around with them… I’d love to know some of your predictions for the story. Given their characters, what do you think might make a good plot twist or problem? Anything you’d particularly like to see pop up in Book Two that you’d liked in Book One or wished had been there? More than any novel I’ve ever written, this new story is one I began at the request of my readers…so, it really and truly is being written FOR YOU! Feel free to share whatever thoughts, suggestions, brainstorms, etc. that you wish. I may not be able to use every one of them, but they are ALL welcome 😎 .
And on a final note, for those who may not already know this, my coming-of-age romantic mystery — The Road to You — is on super sale this week! The ebook is just $0.99 until January 31st (reg. price $3.99) at Amazon/Kindle (worldwide), B&N/Nook (US/UK), and Apple/iTunes (US, UK, Canada, AUS, NZ). It’s also the February Book Club pick on The Reading Frenzy, so if you’d like to be part of the online discussion and read/chat about the story with me, please do!! (Aurora, the heroine of the book, is an Austen lover, of course…) It’s a public blog, open to everyone, and free — plus, it’ll be really conversational. From Feb. 3rd – 9th, we’ll begin by reading Chapters 1 – 6 of the novel and discussing it. More reading and chat will follow through the month. So, if you crave some addition literary interaction, you’re more than welcome to join in!
Wishing each of you a fabulous week of fun with us here on Austen Variations. I look forward to reading your comments and am very excited to see what the future brings!!
xox ~ Marilyn