Summer and fair weather is time for travels, near and far. Jane Austen’s characters see their fair share of travels. Elizabeth travels to Hunsford to see Charlotte. Catherine Morland treks to Bath. Frank Churchill journeys to Highbury. Captain Wentworth sails the seas with His Majesty’s navy. The Dashwoods sojourn to Barton Cottage after the loss of their home, thence to London, while Sir Thomas Bertram voyages all the way to Antigua. What new expeditions have we in store for our favorite characters? Check in often through August to find out!
I’ve had a major case of wanderlust most of my life and, so, many of my characters share this love of traveling. They’ve gone on European adventures, like Gwen and her eccentric aunt Bea in A Summer in Europe, or on cross-country road trips, like Aurora and Donovan in The Road to You, visited a range of cities worldwide on business, like Bram in Holiday Man, or escaped for a few months to the beach, like Marianna in my newest release (inspired by S&S!) Stranger on the Shore.
My characters in Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet don’t travel too far from home during the course of this story, but there are a series of outings that my modern Bingley and Jane take together while Bingley’s cousin and Jane’s best friend (Will Darcy and Beth Ann Bennet, respectively, from Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match) are away on their honeymoon. In this scene below, Bingley, Jane, Angie (Will’s mother), and Charlie (Beth Ann’s young son) are on a trip to the Art Institute in Chicago, which offers an opportunity for Bingley to get to observe Jane outside of their usual environment:
Bingley stood nose to brushstroke with a massive and very famous painting at Chicago’s Art Institute, but nearness didn’t make the piece any clearer to him. He’d never really understood the allure of the Pointillism movement anyway, and Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” looked pretty damned unfocused up close.
Much like Bingley’s personal life.
He took a few steps back and, yes, while the tiny dots did tend to blur together to give the illusion of a more detailed summer scene, he couldn’t forget what a mess it really was when you were standing near enough to it.
People who looked at his life from a distance always thought he had it made—in the relationship department and in every other sense—but anyone privy to the inside story knew better. He had dignity enough not to let on to the world at large that he was as disordered as the Post-Impressionists, but pretending otherwise and putting on a good front for people always drained him.
He heard Aunt Angie calling his name.
“Bingley, c’mon! Charlie’s already seen this room. It’s time to move on to the Asian gallery now. They’ve got a special Terracotta Warriors and Horses exhibition that I want to show him.”
“Mmm. Fun,” he murmured, stealing a look at Charlie to see if the kid was bored out of his six-year-old mind yet. But, no. The boy looked surprisingly excited and attentive, which was more than Bingley would have said about himself at an art museum when he was that age. And he should know. His parents had dragged him to enough of them—both here in the States and abroad.
He’d kill to be watching a baseball game right about now. Or even some dopey reality TV show. No chance of that, though. They were off to see the Terracotta Army instead.
Dutifully, he followed along, but this was going to be the one and only time he’d be doing this. That was for sure. Charlie was obviously just fine in Angie’s company, and there would be no need for further cultural adventures.
Thankfully, Bingley noticed he wasn’t the only one of their party who was bored. Although Jane was being a total suck-up to his aunt and said, “Oh, great! I read somewhere that they have a display of Kabuki masks in the gallery, too,” Bingley caught her stifling a yawn.
As for masks—Kabuki or otherwise—ha! The most impressive mask he saw in the entire museum was the impenetrable one Jane Henderson was wearing on her face. She was so polite. So cool, calm and composed.
Man, she was good.
He only spotted a single flash of fury in those bright baby blues of hers when a horde of teenagers on a school field trip came trooping through the room with raucousness and irreverence, and one of them bumped hard into Charlie, sending the kid sprawling to the floor.
The teen boy was quick to apologize, but not before Jane shot him a look that would’ve sent such an offender to the guillotine in another era.
“Are you okay, Charlie?” Jane asked.
“Yeah, I’m good, Auntie Jane.” The first grader rubbed his knee but looked longingly after the group of teenagers. “I hope I have a lot of friends like that when I get older.”
Angie had rushed up ahead to ask the docent by the door a question, so only Jane and Bingley saw Charlie fall and heard him say this.
Jane was quick to jump in with reassuring words. “Oh, I know you will, sweetheart.” But Bingley saw doubt in the little boy’s eyes.
“Who are your friends at school?” Bingley asked him.
Charlie sighed. “My best friend Mikey is in another class this year. I can only see him at recess sometimes. We can’t even sit together for lunch because we’re at different tables. And there are more girls than boys in my class. And Emma is in there, and she’s bossy.” He bit his lip as if to hold back a stream of words about that particular girl, but then the kid turned his big eyes on them. “That’s why it’s so great being with all of you. Even better than a birthday party.”
Bingley felt his heart clench up. Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t cut out on the activities Charlie and Aunt Angie invited him to do with them. Jane looked stricken as well, and she glanced guiltily at him as if she, too, had been planning to make excuses for next time.
So, when they finally got to the end of the Terracotta exhibit and his aunt said, “Thursday is Moroccan dinner night! Do you two want to join us?” Bingley grinned big and forced an eager nod.
And Jane studied Charlie’s hopeful expression, cleared her throat and said, “Sure! I’d love to try Moroccan.”
“Good,” Angie declared. “Now, Charlie, what do you say we buy some souvenirs and then go out for cheeseburgers and ice cream?”
The little boy hugged her. “You’re the best.”
Bingley’s cold heart melted a little more, and he almost turned into a puddle when the kid came barreling up to him with a hug as well. The little guy gave one to Jane, too. He could see why Will was so crazy about Beth’s son and was already making plans to legally adopt him.
But what struck Bingley the hardest was the obviously deep and loving relationship Jane had with the kid. She cared about Charlie, almost like a second mother. She was trying so hard to come across as polite but detached to the outside world, but she couldn’t quite hide her heart when it came to Beth’s boy.
Watching Jane with Charlie gave Bingley a glimpse into her soul—and it wasn’t that of some saccharine ice queen. She was passionate and genuine with the people she loved. Whatever the reason for her insistence that she was as manipulative and insincere as she’d accused him of being at the wedding, well, that had to be just for show. He didn’t know what she was hiding or why, but he knew he’d only gotten the briefest flashes of the real Jane so far.
Hope you liked the excerpt! If you aren’t familiar with the novel, here’s a bit about the story:
The course of true love doesn’t always run smooth — not even for millionaire bachelors…
Everyone thought Beth Ann Bennet and Dr. Will Darcy had an unexpected romance in Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match. Now, Beth’s best friend, Jane Henderson, and Will’s first cousin, Bingley McNamara, begin their own unlikely love story in Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet, which starts at the Darcy/Bennet wedding when they find themselves in the roles of maid of honor and best man for the newlyweds.
Jane is an interning school psychologist and a woman who wears an angelic mask in public, but she’s not as sweet tempered as she’d like everyone to believe. Turns out, she may have just crossed paths with the one person who’ll unnerve her enough to get her to reveal her true self.
As for Bingley, he’s a wealthy, flirtatious and compulsively social guru of finance, who likes to wager on stocks and, let’s face it, on just about anything that strikes his fancy. But this dedicated ladies’ man may have finally met the woman who’ll challenge his bachelor ways!
Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet…where life’s biggest gamble is the game of love.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!! What are some of your favorite types of places to visit when you travel? Restaurants? Museums? Beaches? Nature walks? Historic sites? 😀
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