Releasing a new book is already such a thrill, and when I see how many readers have already pre-ordered Mr. Darcy’s Journey, I can’t tell you how honored I feel that you’ll buy it sight unseen! Still, since it’s due to be released on June 10, it must be time for a nice, juicy excerpt, right? Okay, it’s a deal!
This excerpt comes early in the book. Jane is seriously ill in London, and this takes place a few days after Elizabeth has come to visit her.
Georgiana Darcy turned pleading eyes on her brother. “May we go in? I will not be long, I promise.”
It was a promise he had heard made and broken many times before, but Darcy understood perfectly how she could lose herself with hundreds of choices of books. She always needed more; she had become a rampant reader of three-volume novels. Sometimes he wondered if Georgiana preferred reading books to the company of people. Then again, he often felt the same way himself.
“Very well, if you wish.” It was not as if he was likely to find anything else enjoyable to do. He held the door to the circulating library for her.
He found a seat while Georgiana hurried to join the line at the counter. Taking a piece of paper from her reticule, she ran her finger down her list as she waited for the clerk to serve the ladies ahead of her.
An achingly familiar voice said, “Are you certain this is an exciting tale?”
Darcy’s head whipped around. It could not be her. Why would Elizabeth Bennet be in a fashionable London circulating library? No, it was only his damned imagination again – just someone who sounded like her, with an air of laughter around every word. If only he could stop thinking of her! But at every one of those cursed balls he took Frederica to, he found himself comparing every lady he partnered to Elizabeth, reliving in memory the touch of her hand on his when they danced at Netherfield. None of the London ladies could match her. Now he was starting to imagine he was hearing her voice.
Georgiana said, “Oh, I have read that one! It is most thrilling. I could hardly bear to put it down.”
“That is just what I want, then – the perfect thing to capture the interest of an invalid. I thank you for the recommendation.”
There, it could not be Elizabeth. Georgiana never dared to speak to strangers. He could not hear his sister’s murmured reply. Then for a moment he could not hear anything at all, for the woman who haunted his dreams turned so her profile was visible to him.
He gripped the arms of the chair so tightly his fingers ached. It was Elizabeth, accompanied by a fashionably dressed woman some years her senior. What was she doing here?
His breath caught in his throat, but even as he debated the wisdom of allowing himself to speak to her, he was on his feet and advancing in her direction.
“Miss Elizabeth?” he said tentatively.
Startled, she turned towards him. “Mr. Darcy!” There were dark circles under her fine eyes.
“I had not realized you were in London.” What a foolish thing for him to say – of course he had not realized it. How could he have known? Why did his ability to make sensible conversation always vanish when he was in her company?
“It was an unexpected trip, and I have only been here a few days. My sister, who has been visiting my aunt and uncle, is ill, and I came to help care for her. Oh – do allow me to introduce Mrs. Gardiner. Aunt, this is Mr. Darcy.” She stole a sly glance at him.
The fashionably dressed woman murmured a polite greeting. This was one of the relations in trade? At least at first glance, her manners were much superior to Mrs. Bennet’s.
Georgiana looked at him questioningly. Had he truly forgotten to introduce her? What was wrong with him? Quickly he made the introductions.
Georgiana said, “Miss Elizabeth Bennet from Hertfordshire? My brother told me about you in his letters.”
Elizabeth’s eyebrows shot up and she gave him an arch look. “Oh, dear. I imagine he was not particularly complimentary.”
“Oh, no! He told me how much he enjoyed hearing you sing and play.”
“I am all astonishment! I assure you, I have no great talent for either.” Elizabeth’s eyes might be shadowed by dark circles, but they still sparkled with laughter.
Darcy recovered from the last of his shock at this familiar challenging look. “It is fortunate for me, Miss Elizabeth, that I am aware you take delight in expressing opinions not your own, or I might have to succumb to the temptation to argue with a lady in public.”
“That would never do,” declared Elizabeth. “How fortunate for me, since that means I can express any opinion I like without provoking retaliation! I must think of some truly objectionable opinions merely for the sake of forcing you to agree to them!”
How he had missed crossing verbal swords with her! Such a delightful change from those insipid, flattering young ladies he was forced to dance with. If only Elizabeth were at those balls, he might even enjoy himself rather than finding them slow torture. “I await your worst, Miss Elizabeth,” he said with a bow.
Elizabeth leaned toward Georgiana, saying in a voice both confiding and easily audible, “Do not fret, Miss Darcy; your brother and I quarreled quite regularly during his stay in Hertfordshire. One might almost say it was our favorite diversion. But of course it cannot compare to novel-reading, of which I can see you are also a devotee.” She gestured toward the small pile of books the clerk had brought.
Georgiana smiled shyly. How neatly Elizabeth had spotted her incipient dismay and turned it around! “I hope your sister enjoys that book as much as I did. It is very exciting.”
“As long as it keeps her diverted and interested in hearing more, I will be happy.” A shadow seemed to pass over her face.
Suddenly it struck him – the circles under her eyes, the lines of fatigue, a book to entertain her sister. “I hope Miss Bennet’s illness is not serious.”
She looked away suddently, biting her lip, but said nothing.
Mrs. Gardiner placed a reassuring hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “It is very kind of you to think of Jane, Mr. Darcy. Lizzy has been very worried for her. This is the first time she has been out of her presence since arriving, and she only came at my insistence that it did her no good to stay inside all the time.”
Shaken by Elizabeth’s distress, he said, “That is sensible advice, Mrs. Gardiner. Everyone needs a break now and then. And I am sorry to hear Miss Bennet is so ill. Pray give her my best regards and hopes for her rapid recovery.” He spoke directly to Mrs. Gardiner, half-afraid to even look at Elizabeth. If she had tears in her eyes, he did not know what he would do.
There was nothing he could do to relieve her pain. Should he offer to send his own physician? No, that would suggest they were not caring for her well enough. Surely there must be something within his power to do!
Who was he trying to fool? What he wanted to do was to take her in his arms and tell her all would be well, and that was the one thing he could never, ever do.
So he did the only thing he could, which was to bid her farewell, even though she still would not look up at him. He tried not to watch as she placed her book in her basket and tucked a cloth over it, but he could not stop himself from resting his eyes on her retreating back as she disappeared from his life forever.
“Brother?” Georgiana asked tentatively.
Had he really been staring at the closed door? He gave his head a shake to clear it. “Yes, dearest? Did you find all the books you wanted?”
“Yes.” But it sounded as if she wished she could say more.
Darcy gestured to the footman waiting by the door to collect Georgiana’s stack of books, and then offered his sister his arm.
He forced himself to concentrate on Georgiana as they left the library. He would not crane his head to look up and down the street like a lovesick fool hoping for one last glimpse of his beloved. He would not. No matter how much he wanted to.
Georgiana said abruptly, “I hope I did not say something I should not have.”
“What? To whom?”
“To Miss Elizabeth Bennet, of course.”
What had Georgiana said to her? Darcy could barely remember. Nothing had registered but Elizabeth. Automatically he said, “Of course not. You were perfectly polite, and I was pleased to see you conversing with her.” It had been a shock. Georgiana always became tongue-tied faced with strangers.
But Elizabeth was gone.
“I am glad. I liked her.”
Now his sister had his full attention. “Why?” It must have sounded very abrupt, but it was a question he had asked himself so many times it was practically a litany. He had never found the answer. Now he was asking his sister, a bare slip of a girl with no experience of the world, to answer the question he could not. What was wrong with him?
Georgiana chewed on her lower lip. “I do not know. I just felt…comfortable with her. As if it would not matter to her if I made a mistake.”
“As if you would make a mistake serious to offend someone! But I understand what you mean. I cannot imagine her being deliberately unkind.”
“But then she did seem upset at the end, so I thought I must have said something wrong.”
“It was not you, but my mention of her sister. She is clearly distraught over her illness. They are very close, and, if I am not mistaken, she must be exhausted. She would not have wished to distress you in any way; she does her best to avoid conflict.”
“If only that were more common among the ton! They always seem to be looking for something to criticize.” Although she did not say more, he could hear her unsaid words, that they were very successful at it.
“Yes.” If the ton had not turned on Frederica like bloodthirsty vultures as soon as she showed a weakness, he would not have been forced into escort duty on her behalf.
“I suppose you must be acquainted with Miss Elizabeth’s sister, the one who is so ill?”
“I am.” The last thing Darcy needed was for Georgiana to become interested in the Bennet family.
“We must have flowers delivered to her, then,” said Georgiana.
Darcy’s heart skipped a beat. “To Miss Elizabeth? I think not.”
“No, to her sister, of course. They taught us that at school. One must always take some action when a lady is seriously ill, either a note or flowers.”
Why had his father insisted on sending Georgiana to a ladies seminary where they taught her inconvenient rules of society but not how to avoid predators like George Wickham? “It is not that sort of acquaintance. It would look odd.” Especially if Bingley ever caught wind of it.
“Oh.” Georgiana sounded subdued again. How could a disagreement so small set her off? Women! Sometimes they were simply incomprehensible. “It is a kind thought, though. I will consider it.” But he knew he would not do it. Any contact with Elizabeth Bennet was too dangerous.
Darcy’s resolve lasted through dinner, but afterwards, as he sat listening to Georgiana play a Mozart sonata, the first cracks in the wall began to appear. Would it not ease Georgiana’s mind to make some token acknowledgement of Miss Bennet’s illness? And what would Elizabeth think of him if he did nothing at all after being told of her sister’s condition? Would she believe he did not care enough to make the gesture? Or might it ease some of the pain he had seen in her eyes?
It was not as if Elizabeth had to be involved in the gift at all. He could direct the flowers to Mrs. Gardiner with a request that she give them to Jane Bennet. Or should he send fruit? Elizabeth had looked worn and fatigued. Perhaps she was not eating well, and fresh fruit might tempt her to eat.
It was not how he had planned to spend his rare evening at home, writing and rewriting a note to Mrs. Gardiner. Elizabeth would no doubt read it, so it had to strike the correct balance, kind, but without the sort of warmth that might indicate an ongoing interest in the family.
He crumpled up his first attempt and tossed it in the fireplace. He never had to rewrite letters; it was something he prided himself upon. But Elizabeth would hold this note, her elegant fingers touching the same paper he touched now, and she would think of him. It must be perfect. Would she save it as a keepsake?
Another sheet of notepaper fed the fire when he realized he had written Elizabeth’s name on the outside instead of Mrs. Gardiner’s. What was wrong with him tonight? This task should have taken a quarter hour at most.
But it was the last contact he would ever have with Elizabeth. He could not expect to cross paths with her by chance again simply because it happened once. He paused, and then carefully set his pen in the inkwell before he ended up blotting the paper like Bingley. His fingers clutched into a fist. The last contact.
How had this weakness crept back upon him? It had been a wrench to leave her behind in Hertfordshire, and he had nourished some pangs for a few fortnights, but he had returned to his senses. He might still mentally compare the silly young ladies he danced with to Elizabeth, and she might cross his mind every time he saw a light and pleasing figure of a woman, or when he wished for more challenging conversation than the ton provided, but the helpless, aching pain which dogged his every step had faded. Or at least mostly faded.
And now, after a mere few words of conversation, here he was again, fully entangled in a web of Elizabeth Bennet. He should not have approached her today; he should have kept his distance and she most likely would never have noticed his presence. But no, all it had taken was one glimpse of her, and he could not stay away. What a fool he was! How long would it take him to put her behind him this time? Would he ever manage it, or would she haunt him for the rest of his life?
He poured a glass of brandy, his hand unsteady on the crystal stopper of the decanter. Rolling a sip around in his mouth, he leaned back in his chair. Why was this so difficult? Even leaving Hertfordshire had not been so devastating.
Of course, when he left Netherfield, there had been the possibility Bingley might insist on returning there, in which case he would see Elizabeth again. It had not felt as final, at least not initially. This time it would be the end, and he was the one making that decision.
The brandy burned down the back of his throat. Perhaps that was the answer — to leave the possibility open. He would end things with Elizabeth now, at least in his own mind, and try to put her from his thoughts. But if he failed, and still felt this way in a year’s time, he would attempt to see her again. If all went well, by that time she might seem to him no more than another pretty woman with fine eyes, and he would go away satisfied. Or perhaps she might have married someone else by then, and he would have no choice in the matter.
No. No. Better not to think of that possibility. No. Besides, who would offer for her given that outrageous family of hers? No, he was safe from that fate at least.
The tight knots wrapped around his stomach eased a little. Yes, that would help. This was not final, because if he still wished to see her next February, he would do so. Though a year was a very long time, and it was always difficult to leave town then because of the Season. Perhaps Christmas would be a better time, when everyone was still in the country. Or perhaps the anniversary of the night he danced with her at Netherfield, the twenty-sixth of November.
He set down the brandy with a snort. If he kept thinking this way, he would conclude that waiting a fortnight would be adequate! But no, Christmas it would be. A possibility to keep him going without her.
Now he would be able to send her flowers, but not be left with the sensation his world had come to an end.
Not until Christmas, at least.
Want to know what happens next? It’s only another week to wait!
Mr. Darcy’s Journey will be released June 10, 2016. It’s already available for pre-sale for Kindle. There will be a paperback as well as Nook, Kobo, Apple, Tolino, and other ebook versions. If you’re interested in the historical background of the book, you can find out more and read another excerpt in my last post.
Mr. Darcy is at his wits’ end. Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he can’t live without, overhears him insulting her family. Now she won’t even listen to his apologies. Then his old friend Sir Anthony Duxbury tells him two of their friends are in terrible danger. If Darcy wants to help them, they have to leave for Yorkshire immediately.
But something doesn’t add up. Elizabeth claims to know Sir Anthony, too – but by a different name. What game is his old friend playing? And is it dangerous?
Even Sir Anthony says the trip is dangerous. The Luddite rebels are on the verge of armed revolt – and he should know, because he’s one of them. Darcy’s cousin Lady Frederica decides she’s going with them anyway, and insists on bringing Elizabeth. Could this be Darcy’s chance to earn Elizabeth’s forgiveness and her love?
Elizabeth would rather face a squad of Napoleon’s soldiers than spend three days trapped in a carriage with Darcy and his headstrong cousin, but she has her own reason for agreeing to come. If she can just manage to keep her temper, she may be able to rescue her uncle from financial ruin.
But when a Luddite riot erupts around them, it’s Darcy and Elizabeth who need rescuing – from each other.
I’m very excited about this book, and I hope you will be, too! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.