My next JAFF title is coming along nicely and I have reached the half-way mark! I will be writing EVERY DAY through October to accomplish my publishing goals for the end of this year.
In Mr. Darcy’s Brides we follow along as he and Anne are engaged but attempt to carry out a plot to switch brides before the vows are said. Of course, their co-conspirator is one Elizabeth Bennet. Keeping Lady Catherine, Lady Anne Darcy and Georgiana Darcy in the dark won’t be easy but Anne de Bourgh will enjoy a Season in London as she always should have while Elizabeth and Darcy try to keep their attraction hidden. Read on for the first chapter of this work in progress!
Fitzwilliam Darcy stretched his legs in his private coach and listened as his mother, Lady Anne Darcy, and his sister Georgiana spoke of their visit with the de Bourghs over the coming Easter holiday.
“I imagine Anne will be most happy to see you again, Georgiana, for she is lonesome at Rosings as my sister does not often favor visits to London,” Lady Anne said as she held her daughter’s hand in her own. Georgiana had grown into a stunning replica of the lady.
“Oh mother, I wonder if we might bring Anne home with us after this visit? Surely Aunt Catherine would bow to your wishes?” Georgiana batted her lashes at her mother, an unnecessary addition to her request as Lady Anne indulged her wishes readily.
“I believe we might persuade her to allow Anne to come as far as Town, as we shall have many wedding preparations ahead of us,” Lady Anne assured her daughter. Mr. Darcy felt a slight shiver down his spine at his mother’s words.
The ladies were dressed warmly as the early spring air held a hint of chill even as the midday sun shone brightly outside their coach. Fitzwilliam was striking in his dark greatcoat. Georgiana was certain they would be accosted by the eyes of many ladies whenever they stopped along the road to Rosings.
Her brother cut a handsome figure no matter the occasion and she was accustomed to the attention he drew wherever he went. Men respected his business acumen and ladies of her mother’s age wished for nothing so much as to marry their daughters into the Darcy family. Thus far her brother had avoided their schemes, but just only.
Lady Anne watched her son for a moment before pressing her case once more. “Fitzwilliam, I would not have you be harsh with Anne. A marriage often favors business instead of romance and you, my son, excel at the former.”
Mr. Darcy nodded to his mother, reticent to discuss the issue in front of his sister. He held no interest in marrying his cousin, Anne de Bourgh, for his heart was already given to a young lady in Hertfordshire and his mother knew of it.
Lady Anne considered Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourn to be a charming young woman, by the reports of her daughter. She might have met the young lady if she had attended the Bingley wedding with her son and daughter, but it mattered little now as Fitzwilliam would become engaged to Anne. Her heart was not unaware of her son’s love for the Bennet girl, but emotions were never to be considered above obligation.
“A wedding to cousin Anne would be a most beautiful ceremony, don’t you agree Mother?” Georgiana sighed dreamily but her brother dismissed her girlish fantasies.
“Any wedding where I am the groom shall be as swift and spartan as possible. Especially one where my thoughts on the matter are so readily dismissed,” Mr. Darcy meant to temper his words but his mother ought to have known not to include Georgiana in the discussion.
Lady Anne sent a scathing glance at her son and answered Georgiana. “Your aunt shares the sensibilities of your brother, they are both frugal when it comes to their dealings. But with your help, dearest, we shall have some measure of gaiety if only for Anne’s benefit.”
Mr. Darcy shook his head at his mother and shifted on the bench. He disliked traveling in their coach, preferring to ride alone astride his favorite stallion but there was no question he would accompany his small family on this trip to Rosings.
They would visit over the holiday and plan for the future wedding that would add Rosings to the estates under his control. He cared little for the business aspect, for he was a man of exceeding wealth and responsibility as the master of Pemberley. The estates under the Darcy name were plenty and prosperous due to his love for work over idle pursuit.
He wished to be allowed to share his life with a match he preferred. Elizabeth Bennet was a young woman of considerable wit and intelligence and those attributes alone had drawn him into her world. Her family was loud and quite uncouth, causing hesitation in his mother and sister and in himself if he were truthful on the matter.
Yet, he found himself restless and unhappy when he considered Miss Elizabeth as part of his past and worse still when he thought of marrying another. Their first meeting in Meryton had been a disaster, for he had insulted her greatly.
But when her sister Jane fell ill at Netherfield they spent nearly a fortnight becoming better acquainted. Her conversation and her skillful deflection of Caroline Bingley’s barbs endeared her to him completely.
Leaving Netherfield after the courtship and marriage of Jane and his friend Bingley had been difficult indeed. He wished to stay in Hertfordshire and perhaps propose to Elizabeth but his mother had sent a letter requesting he return with Georgiana to Pemberley.
There were not many people in the world who could call and expect him to come as soon as he might. He sat looking at her now, her beautiful fawn hair swept up, her head bent to whisper secrets with his sister. Lady Anne Darcy commanded his respect, earned it truly, and Darcy loved his mother and wished to please her when possible.
Still the fine eyes of Elizabeth Bennet haunted his memories and he was certain that he would marry her even if he were less certain of how that might come to be.
As they made their first stop, Mr. Darcy gave his mother and sister a walk about the small gardens behind the inn. He laughed to himself when he thought of how fond the women in his life were of walking about. He wondered did his mother know it was a favorite pastime for Miss Elizabeth?
Would it matter if she did? He sighed deeply, hoping to regulate his emotions during this visit to Rosings. It was not the fault of his cousin Anne, nor of his sister Georgiana, that their mothers had made plans for all their lives when they were still too young to agree.
He believed he would find a way to overcome their matchmaking this holiday, especially if Miss Elizabeth continued to attend his dreams and waking hours.
* * *
Elizabeth Bennet sat with her sister Jane in the parlor at Netherfield Park. Many of her days were spent with the Bingleys rather than at Longbourn as she preferred the quiet of the grand house to the constant noise of her younger sisters arguing day and night.
In the morning, she would make her way to Hunsford to visit her friend Charlotte and her cousin Mr. Collins for the Easter holiday. She had written Charlotte to accept the invitation, for she feared she would be unwelcome after the refusal to marry her cousin.
“Have you packed all that you shall require, even to visit the grand estate of Rosings?” Jane asked, for she was concerned her sister should encounter Mr. Darcy during her visit.
“I have included a dress of the finest pale pink satin, the one with the tiny rosebuds that drapes so well,” Elizabeth smiled and Jane nodded at her choice. “Certainly Lady Catherine will take a liking to such a sweet color!”
“Charlotte has written of the dour demeanor of the great lady and so the color might be at odds. However, where else shall I wear such a lovely dress if not to a grand estate? I am to be introduced to Miss de Bourgh and cannot imagine her dress will be any less fine, perhaps more refined if her mother chooses her clothing.”
“Do you think you might see Mr. Darcy there?” Jane asked as she placed her sewing aside.
“Charlotte did mention in her letter that he would visit with his mother and sister for the holiday,” Elizabeth’s face glowed at the admission.
Jane smiled, for she knew if there were many more meetings between her sister and Mr. Darcy love would blossom in spite of the wishes of those around them.
“Meeting Mr. Darcy’s family will be most interesting, I believe. To sit at the same dinner table with Lady Anne and Lady Catherine, I wish you well Lizzy,” Jane sighed and returned to her sewing.
Elizabeth nodded, her mind wandering to memories of Mr. Darcy after Jane’s wedding. She had been certain he wished to speak with her father and offer for her hand. She hoped to meet him at Rosings and find that he still cared for her.
The dance after the wedding seemed as if it were only yesterday as she recalled the warmth of his embrace and the words he spoke where only she might hear. “Miss Elizabeth, how I have come to prefer your company at every opportunity amazes me still.”
She had blushed deeply as he turned her about the room, her heart’s pace doubling. “Mr. Darcy, your words would have any other young lady swooning. I admit to a feeling of disbelief but only that you are amazed, sir!” Her eyes twinkled with mischief to make the great man reconsider his sentiment.
“I think it shall always be this way, my dear, for there is no other lady who so engages my mind and my heart.” He held her closer before the music ended and Elizabeth’s eyes glimmered with unshed tears of joy.
When he had left so soon after her sister and Mr. Bingley, she fell into a bout of lonesome disquiet. She wanted Jane’s counsel more than ever but the wedding trip would take more than a month.
It was then she began to stay at Netherfield, hoping Mr. Darcy might return or send a letter for her there. She would sit in the grand ballroom and imagine their dance again and again as the days passed, or walk in her usual manner with her eyes always searching the horizon for his figure upon his horse.
The first she had heard his name in many months came in Charlotte’s letter asking her to visit over the holiday. She was certain she had nearly erased his name from her fingers lingering upon the words of that letter. Their reunion would come at the home of his overbearing aunt and with his mother in attendance. Elizabeth trembled as she thought of disappointing him in the presence of Lady Anne Darcy. Her emotions warred in her chest as she tried to slow her breathing.
She would travel come morning and her heart was full of hope for a meeting with the man she loved so dearly. Her love had not come quickly, nor easily, for that matter but over much time spent in his presence and observing his behavior with others.
Georgiana Darcy had come to the wedding with him and a new side of the man she loved was in full display. He doted on his sister and their relationship revealed a depth of goodness she had been too willing to overlook before.
The matter of his discouraging Charles Bingley in his pursuit of her sister had played a part in her reluctance yet he did own his behavior and ask forgiveness from all parties involved. And there had been the business with George Wickham. Mr. Darcy explained the charges laid at his feet and their subsequent discussion, in reality a heated argument, had kept them at odds much longer than it ought.
She sighed as she recalled his indignation at explaining himself. He was a proud man but had humbled himself in seeking her approval. There were not many men who might explain their actions to one as demanding as she. This fact alone, more than any other, had softened her heart to him.
Jane placed her sewing on the polished table beside her and Elizabeth roused from her reminiscence of Mr. Darcy. She admired the furnishings of the parlor and enjoyed Netherfield so, especially the library when Mr. Bingley was gone to London.
“Lizzy, I believe I might lie down before dinner. This needle work has given me a headache,” Jane said as she rose to leave.
Elizabeth embraced Jane and left the parlor with her sister. “I shall have a walk before dinner, dear Jane. Should I send a maid to attend you?”
Jane shook her head. “I will be fine after a rest, dear. We shall have dinner with Charles before long.”
Elizabeth took her pelisse from the butler in the hallway and stepped outside. Excitement mixed with worry filled her head requiring her feet to wander before she was tempted to unpack her trunk and send a letter of apology to Charlotte. She hoped to be correct about Mr. Darcy’s affections and able to impress his mother while avoiding the censure of his aunt.
*The book cover for Mr. Darcy’s Brides is a work of art known as The Letter by Vittorio Reggianini. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.