Marilyn’s Launch Celebration for Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match!
I was lucky enough to be asked to join Austen Authors about a year after my debut novel, According to Jane, was released. That book was a romantic women’s fiction story about a modern woman who had the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I loved writing it!
But, in the past few years, the books I was contracted by my print publisher to write and the few other stories I released digitally were all contemporary novels about other topics. Several of the books had nods to our dear Jane somewhere in the narrative (I couldn’t help myself…LOL), but, aside from my debut novel, none of those books were specifically Austen-inspired fiction.
I have been SO looking forward to sharing with everyone here my seventh novel: Pride Prejudice and the Perfect Match!!! It’s a contemporary romance that I wrote, quite literally, for all of YOU, my fellow fans of Austen. Considering that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time, I really wanted to do something special to celebrate its 200th birthday, and this story is the result. But I didn’t take the final steps alone! The release of my latest book was made much smoother thanks to a number of wonderful helpers that many of you may already know: Our publishing imprint, White Soup Press; critique partners from my local RWA chapter, Chicago-North; reviewer and freelance manuscript editor, Jakki Leatherberry; and book-cover designer, Rebecca Young. Thank you all so much for your contributions to this story!!
As for the premise, it’s a romance between a single mother and an ER doctor, who meet on an Internet dating site—each for reasons that have little to do with finding their perfect match. It’s not a direct retelling of P&P, but I consider it a tribute to the power of both “pride” and “prejudice” in bringing two people romantically together, despite their mutual insistence that they should stay apart…
Below is an excerpt from Chapter One. I truly hope you’ll enjoy reading it!
Beth Ann Bennet typed “male” in the box that indicated which gender she was seeking. Her best friend and fellow classmate, Jane Henderson, leaned over her shoulder and studied the university library’s computer screen in the afternoon sunlight. The cursor blinked, and Beth’s level of nausea rose with each flash.
“So far, so good,” her friend declared.
Beth seriously doubted it.
“This has to be illegal, or maybe just immoral.” She bit down on her lip again, the one she’d chewed until it’d turned raw and achy. “Somehow I doubt Professor O’Reilly had this method in mind when he told us to gather sociological data.”
Jane tilted her auburn head and gave Beth that familiar when-are-you-gonna-get-with-the-program look. She exhaled melodramatically. “For goodness sake, Beth Ann, this is research. It’s not like you’re going to get emotionally invested or anything. Heaven knows, you’ll drop the dimwit like a dead goldfish before he has a chance to ask any questions. Find an appropriate case study, get the info and get out. Kids’ stuff.”
“For you, maybe,” Beth said, wondering for the seven hundredth time why she’d let herself get talked into this. “You’ve playacted with your identity since you were—what, a toddler? I haven’t.”
Jane flashed a grin of discernible pride, which was combined in equal measure with deviousness. Beth’s spirits sank a notch lower. Why couldn’t she be more like her best friend? Jane was light years ahead of her in the deceit department.
“C’mon,” Jane said. “Next question.”
“Okay. Between the ages of…?”
“Well, you’re twenty-six, but you’ll be playing it younger of course.” Jane squinted at the screen. “Go for men in the twenty-five to thirty-five range.”
“No further than a twenty-mile radius of your Chicago ZIP code.”
She keyed that in also, her pulse picking up speed.
“Now, check the ‘photos only’ box and click on GO. I want to see if the rumors are true.”
“You know as well as I do that this is a scam. I mean, seriously. Lady Catherine’s Love Match Website—Where You’re Destined To Find Your Perfect Mate?” Beth forced a laugh. “We may succeed in proving gender-role stereotypes are alive and well in the New Millennium, but there’s no way we’ll snag a guy who’ll prove true love can be found through an e-search.”
Jane smirked then aimed an index finger at the screen. “Scroll down and let’s get a peek at your—holy shmoly—fifty-four potential Love Matches. Not that I’m dying to be a bridesmaid or anything but—”
Beth elbowed her.
“Shhh. We’re in a library.”
Jane rolled her eyes in response.
Beth closed hers before threading her fingers through her tangled mop of light-brown hair. She felt the split ends snap.
She groaned and wished she could afford a decent haircut. But no. The month of March meant paying off the final installment of her tuition bill and what she made at work could only stretch so far. Plus, there were necessities like bread and peanut butter, staple items for a mom with a six-year-old. If everything went as she planned, maybe by June she could justify an appointment.
She opened her eyes and glared at the listing of eligible men, reminding herself that she had to choose one. They swam through her range of vision while the lyrics to “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” flooded her brain. She tried to block out the tune and focus on the faces of her research subjects. Who’d make the best candidate?
Jane, quick study that she was, had zeroed in on someone already. “Oh, Beth. Just look at Number 16. Blue-eyed. Beefy. And he likes children.”
Beefy was right. He had muscles the size of overgrown cantaloupes. And, oh, he preferred blondes.
“My soul mate for sure.” She ignored Jane’s protests and scrolled further down the screen. She had one shot at this and refused to mess it up. “Number 23 has some potential, though. He claims to be athletic. And ‘spiritual.’ Into fast cars. Watches ‘Must-See TV.’ And he’s seeking someone in the skinny to slim range. Sounds like an ideally stereotypical guy.”
She kept reading.
“Except he’s proud of his Streisand CD collection, his Chia Pet and his Virgo perfectionism. These things could throw off the hypothesis.” Beth sighed.
Jane read the name. “Reverend Ezekiel Collins is not typical enough for you?”
“Moving on then.”
“What do you think of Number 37?” Beth said.
Jane wrinkled her upturned nose.
“Yeah. Me neither,” she conceded, “but I’m running out of options.”
Then she saw him.
She centered his profile on the screen. Read the bio. Reread it while Jane’s giggles bubbled around her. Heaven help her, but Number 49 was The One.
“So, it’ll be ‘Will Darcy’ then, eh?” Jane said. “Likes women of every hair color. Very open-minded of him.”
“It’s all there,” she whispered, marveling at the image of the man before her. “The sports interest. The standard descriptive lines. A professed ‘love of the outdoors’ and other oh-so-masculine pursuits.”
“You’re right. He likes camping. Yuck.”
“No mention of cooking together, dancing ‘til dawn or seeing sappy chick-flicks, like some of these other guys. At least we can’t question his honesty. No unusual club affiliations. And he even admits to having strong professional ambitions, although he doesn’t elaborate.”
“Definitely falls into an acceptable salary range,” Jane agreed, pointing to the numbers listed in the right-hand column.
“And just take a peek at what he’s looking for. Someone ‘attractive, college-educated, height/weight proportionate’—meaning almost anorexic.” Beth raised her eyebrows. “Someone ‘twenty-one to twenty-five who likes children but has no dependents.’ They all want a woman who’s young and unencumbered. I swear, this guy sounds like every blind date I’ve had in the past five years.”
Her friend gave her a scrutinizing once-over. “You’re slim, pretty, you’ve got great bone structure and those huge brown eyes, and you could pass for twenty-two without a second thought.”
Beth shrugged. So what if she looked young? One’s age wasn’t something a person could hide forever. “Maybe,” she said. “And I’m almost, finally, college-educated. But there’s still that little question of dependents…”
“He doesn’t need to know about Charlie or your real occupation or even your real name, Beth. Use an alias. Maybe that combination of your parents’ names—Charlotte and Lucas—that you pretended was your penname when you were ten.” Jane tapped her chin. “Besides, you might as well try for someone you think is kind of cute. If all goes well, you’ll have to spend hours analyzing the guy. Maybe even a few studying him in person—without getting too close of course,” she warned. “It’s okay to have a little fun with your online profile.”
Beth shuddered. The things she had to endure in the name of science. Well, social science.
But perhaps Jane was right. If she had to do this final Sociology 369 “Gender and Society” project, and if she was in the quarter of the class that had to use the Internet as her main research tool, she might as well choose a subject who was at least tall, dark-haired and gorgeous. Nothing stereotypical about her own mate selection, of course, she thought. The irony of it brought the day’s first real grin to her lips.
She lifted her fingers to the keyboard and clicked on the REPLY button to send Number 49 an email: Hello, Will. I’m a twenty-two-year-old child psychology major, Beth began. She glanced back at her friend.
“Yeah, that’s perfect,” Jane said. “Use my major. It’ll explain your knowledge of children without giving anything away. I can fill you in on subject details later.”
Beth nodded. I love the outdoors and particularly enjoy playing softball, she typed, and then grimaced at the blatant lies. The guilt was already eating at her, but she had to think of her son. Nothing could get in the way of her providing for Charlie. She continued, I’m hoping we might correspond and get to know one another better. My name is Charlotte Lucas and you can email me at…
In the Regents General Hospital cafeteria a few weeks later, Dr. William Darcy gulped his last swallow of the Mocha-Cappuccino De-latte Delight he’d gotten at the gourmet coffee shop nearby. Then he glared at his cousin. “No, I don’t want to bet a hundred bucks on whether or not you can catch a fish stick between your teeth.”
Bingley McNamara grinned, crossed his long legs at the ankles and propped them up on the metal chair to Will’s left. “Face it, Cuz. You’re intimidated by my varied and remarkable skills.” He tossed his last greasy fish stick in the air and caught it neatly between his incisors. He chomped down. “I’d have won,” he said around a mouthful of deep-fried pseudo-fish. “My talent frightens you.”
“The only thing about you that frightens me is your insatiable gambling habit.” Will leveled his most disapproving stare at the guy but, as usual, his cousin ignored him.
“Aw, c’mon. Everyone makes a wager now and then.”
“Only if ‘now and then’ means every fifteen minutes.” Will scanned his watch. “Go. Get out of here. Although this may be a foreign concept to you, I’ve actually got a job.”
“I’ve got a job,” Bingley said, sounding indignant. “It’s just a little less, oh, how should I put it? Obvious.”
“Overseeing your trust fund is not a bona fide career. It’s a sick obsession. Although how it manages to grow profits, despite your wagering addiction, is a mystery.”
Bingley snorted, guzzled his short Colombian espresso then sent Will a semi-serious look. “Listen up. Did you give any more thought to my proposition last month? Any bites online?”
Will turned his back on his favorite and only cousin, who—at present—he wanted to strangle to within a millimeter of the rich party boy’s life. He pitched the remains of their lunch in the trash then loosened his tie.
“And what if I have?” Will said finally…
(To read the rest of Scene Two, check out the excerpt page in The Writer’s Block!)
Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match is now available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, All Romance eBooks…and it’ll be coming soon to Apple/iTunes, Sony, Kobo and more! If you want to find Marilyn, she is either updating pages on her website (again) or dancing around her office, throwing confetti in the air and handing out virtual chocolates and lattés to everyone in celebration of her Book Release Day. Thanks so much to all of you for being a part of it!