… except that it’s not… because that already happened….
As you may have already noticed, my latest book These Dreams was released early last week, and with some *ahem* substantial file errors. All things are not necessarily straightforward in ebook publishing, I have learned, and we are still waiting on Amazon to finish making sure that everyone has the book they purchased. As you may imagine, it was a week of heartburn and chocolate for me!
I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their gracious support during this bumpy ride. I had been intending to be celebrating tonight, but in truth, I have had several days already to be doing that. I have heard the loveliest things in response to the book, rough and early though it was. I am still in awe of the readers who rolled up their sleeves and dug in to that unedited working file! Thank you all <3
A quick update on the status of everything, and then I have an excerpt to share.
- The book (in its correct form) is available here!
- If you are one of the unlucky ones to have obtained the incorrect copy, Amazon WILL update yours, if you check with customer service. We are waiting on their QC department to authorize an automated update, but they take days to get around to doing this sort of thing. *sigh* You are also welcome to contact me personally, and I will make sure you have your book.
- Print proofs are being approved, so we should have a paperback soon!
- Yes, there will be a blog tour! It will run from September 19-October 4. Janet Taylor has so graciously organized it all, and I am tickled pink about the whole thing. It should be a lot of fun, so stay tuned for announcements!
And now, without further ado, I was in need of a laugh. I hope you will enjoy a chuckle as well.
Elizabeth heaved a great sigh. It was over. Jane Bennet was no more, and Netherfield Park now had a mistress.
Elizabeth surveyed the wreckage of the drawing room—the empty serving platters, the soiled cups and saucers, the cold tea pot in her hand… a great weight had been slowly descending over her since the day of Jane’s engagement, and today she felt her chest tighten, as though breathing had suddenly become a burden. Jane’s transcendent joy she would not blight, nor could she reserve her own sincere promotion of her sister’s happiness, but her own prospects seemed all the more grey by comparison.
All the Bennet family’s particular friends had paid their respects to Jane on this day, as was right and proper—not to mention an immeasurable relief after the debacle of Lydia’s marriage. The Philipses, the Longs, the Lucases and Collinses—all had smiled and offered their felicitations, and finally taken their leave. Among the last of the wedding guests to depart Longbourn, surprisingly, were Mr and Mrs Hurst and Caroline Bingley.
Elizabeth held back, hoping that she might escape notice as the party withdrew, but it was not to be. Caroline looked about and came directly to her. “Eliza,” she crooned, “how charming that we are to be sisters!”
“Indeed, Caroline, it is a most joyous event,” Elizabeth agreed. “I am sure that Jane owes much of her present happiness to your constant friendship and devotion this past year.”
Caroline’s brow flickered, but her smile remained steadfast. “I always declared she was a sweet girl, and I am pleased now to have an opportunity to know her and her entire family better. Only think how convenient that Jane has so many sisters, and all still at home—even the one who has married! Very cozy,” she fluttered her lashes.
“Quite so! Tell me, how soon shall you be returning to Netherfield? Surely Mr Bingley desires to have his sister close, and Jane will undoubtedly find your expertise at managing the household invaluable.” Elizabeth permitted the barest twitch of her mouth. She almost began to wish that Caroline had been invited to remain at Netherfield, because baiting her was the most satisfying diversion she had found in a long while. She ought to be ashamed of herself, for there remained no possible turf between them to dispute, but after weeks of rumpled feelings, she could not bring herself to resist.
Caroline lifted her shoulders and tossed her head breezily. “Have you not heard about my house in London? You really must come see it, for it is the talk of the Marylebone district! Do wait a month, however, for I am redecorating my drawing room. It was positively medieval!”
“I am afraid I cannot, but I thank you for the offer. Perhaps when I next visit my aunt and uncle in Cheapside, we may call on you.”
There was a faint tightening under Caroline’s eye, and her mechanical smile wavered, then broadened. “I shall look forward to it, Eliza.”
Elizabeth dipped a curtsey. “To be sure, so will I.”
“Do you know,” Caroline’s eyes lit with inspiration, “I was interviewing for a lady’s companion only recently. A necessity, of course, for I may not receive gentlemen callers without such a friend at hand. It was quite a lamentable duty, my dear Eliza, for there are so few ladies of good character and respectable connections who are suited for the post. You and I always did get on so famously, and if I had not found just the right lady last week, I should have thought it the perfect situation for you.”
Elizabeth’s brow curved. “I thank you for thinking of me, Caroline, but I fear I would be scarcely presentable among your friends. I do have such a dreadful habit of soiling my walking skirts, and I am terribly incapable of maintaining polite discourse without blurting out whatever backward notion comes into my head. I am afraid I am a hopeless case. You are so elegant, you must have ever so many fine gentlemen desiring to pay you court. Only think if I frightened off one of your favourites!”
“Well,” Caroline gathered the front of her skirt with a barely concealed sneer, “I am certain that you shall have adequate opportunity to practice your conversations with gentlemen. I should think now that Jane has left Longbourn, there will be far more interest in her remaining sisters.”
“I shall not trouble myself to ponder that point. The catching of a husband is the farthest thing from my mind.”
“May I caution you, Eliza, as a friend—do not grow an old maid while waiting for another Darcy.”
Elizabeth’s teasing warmth drained from her face, and she clutched the handle of her teapot as if it were a bulwark. Gone now was all her dubious pleasure in provoking Miss Bingley, and her lips seemed ice cold while her ears burned. “I cannot know what you mean!” she flushed.
“Oh, come, Eliza, do not pretend that you had not your eye on him from your first acquaintance! Why, I remember when we all stayed at Netherfield how you delighted in frustrating him—a clever tactic, my dear, for when we met again in Derbyshire I could have sworn to his heightened interest in you. Such a pity he is gone, for now we shall never know.”
Elizabeth’s heart bubbled into her throat, and she felt red from breast to forehead. She made answer with halting indignation, her voice strangely tight. “I was quite beneath Mr Darcy’s notice, Caroline—we both would have been! He must have sought a lady of impeccable refinement and superior birth—one with wisdom and deportment to match his own and to suit his station… he deserved as much,” she added in a lower tone.
Caroline lifted a cool brow in mild interest at the heated reaction from Elizabeth. At last, she had succeeded in unsettling the Wit of Hertfordshire. “Perhaps you are right,” she purred. “Darcy was quite out of your league. I am sure that in time, you will learn to fancy a gentleman within your own sphere—why, you have a younger sister who has already done so! Oh, there you are, dear Lydia,” Caroline turned slightly to include the young lady who even now attempted to sidle out of the room toward the stairs. “What word have you of our dear Mr Wickham? I do hope he has found his new regiment to his liking? You must write for him to bring one or two of his companions when he returns to Hertfordshire. Your mother would be most pleased to entertain them, unless I am very much mistaken!”
Lydia paused, her face white and her eyes shooting daggers at Caroline Bingley. A pleading glance to Elizabeth followed, then she made a passable curtsey and fled the room. Caroline returned to Elizabeth with a smirk of triumph, but found her companion curiously composed.
“Excellent advice, Caroline,” Elizabeth was smiling serenely. “Now if I may beg your pardon, I was serving tea and this pot has gone cold. I am afraid I must excuse myself.” Elizabeth curtseyed once more, then began to stride gracefully away. Her foot, however, caught the edge of the rug, which had frayed somewhat over the years and been folded underneath to conceal its wear. The resulting ridge stubbed her slipper, and she lost her footing in a frightful dance. Arms pinwheeling, she preserved her balance by the edge of a nearby chair, but only just. The teapot, unfortunately, did not fare so well.
“Elizabeth Bennet!” shrieked a now drenched Caroline. By sheer instinct she had caught the pot which had sailed from Elizabeth’s hands, but the front of her dress was ruined and dripping.
“Oh! Oh, Caroline, dear me, I must beg your forgiveness!” cried Elizabeth. “You see how clumsy I am! Oh, how glad I am that you have already found a proper companion, for you see now that I never could have suited. Would you like something dry for your carriage ride? Lydia, I think, is nearly as tall as you, and I am certain she would not mind lending you one of her dresses.”
Caroline seethed, her teeth clenched and her cheeks distending with each breath. “No, thank you, Eliza! I think you are quite right to avoid London and gentlemen for the present, for proximity to you appears to be hazardous!”
“Indeed, it is,” Elizabeth nodded sadly. “May I wish you a pleasant journey, Caroline.”