‘Tis the season for giving, and on this the third day before Christmas, I would like to give to you one longish excerpt and a chance to win a Kindle copy of book two in my Choices series, No Other Choice.
I am excited about this book. I love a happy ending for a deserving leading lady, and I love giving the characters that often hide in the background a chance to take center stage. I also like to change things up and do things that are not always conventional.
When reading Pride and Prejudice, it seems only natural to have the sermonizing Mary Bennet marry Mr. Collins or some other parson. In fact, in my book For Peace of Mind, she does just that. She marry Mr. Collins. But, in this book, she most definitely does not marry a parson, and, in the end, she certainly knows how to claim center stage. In order to arrange for this all to happen, I have sent Mary to London with Darcy’s aunt, Lady Sophia, to prepare for the season.
In this series, Darcy has a cousin with a somewhat rakish reputation and a tendency to speak without careful consideration of whom might be within hearing range. This cousin’s name is Lord Rycroft, and even before he is introduced to Mary near the end of book one, he insults her. Then, since he seems to have a rather severe case of Darcy-itis, he insults her twice more within the first two chapters of book two.
Mary is a forgiving sort of person, but even she is having a hard time dealing with Lord Rycroft’s comments about her. In the excerpt below, Mary has just completed a dancing lesson with Georgiana. During the lesson, Lord Rycroft showed up and was enlisted as a partner for Mary. After his last insulting comment, Mary is determined to avoid Rycroft, but fate (or is that Providence?) is not allowing it.
From No Other Choice:
She took up a piece of music which lay on a bench near the pianoforte. “If you will excuse me,” she looked at him and then toward the door, “my fingers do not learn as readily as my feet.”
Instead of leaving as she had clearly signaled she wanted him to do, he pulled a chair close to where she took her seat at the instrument. “You may require assistance with the pages,” he explained when she looked up at him with brows drawn close in question.
Her shoulders drooped a bit as she sighed. Avoiding Lord Rycroft was becoming a challenge. “I would not wish to keep you from your business.”
He waved the idea way. “My business can wait. I have worked at it all morning and desire some time away from it.” He leaned back in his chair a bit. “Was your trip to the modiste a success?”
“It was. Mrs. Havelston was impressed with your selections.” She placed her fingers above the keys and gave him a smile. “Now, if you would be so kind as to allow me to concentrate on my music.”
Mary’s fingers began working their way through the song as Georgiana joined her companion, Mrs. Annsley, near the window to work on a sampler.
Lady Sophia, with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips, took a seat near enough to her son to both see and hear what passed between him and Miss Mary. She had, from the moment she met Mary, considered her a good match for Samuel, and having watched the two interact, she was certain she was right. Samuel was not the sort to abide a silly or a biddable woman. He needed a lady who was determined, who had a quick wit, and who did not bow to his every whim. Mary was just the thing. She tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair as she contemplated just how to convince the pair that they were exactly what each other needed.
“You think too much,” Lord Rycroft whispered as he moved a page.
“Shush.” Mary shook her head. She had promised herself she would not scold and yet, she had just done so.
“You do,” he whispered again.
Mary’s hands stopped, and she let the note fade into the air before turning to Lord Rycroft. “This is a new piece, and I cannot learn it properly if I do not think about what I am doing. And I cannot think about what I am doing if you insist on speaking to me.”
He shook his head. “It is not entirely new. You played it when we were in Hertfordshire. I remember it.” He settled back in his chair, a rather smug look upon his face. “And, I believe, my cousin spoke to you while you played.”
“And I stumbled,” said Mary. “I do not wish to stumble when called upon to exhibit during the season.” She held out her hand for the sheet of music he held. “I must begin again.”
He shook his head. “You do not need this.” He placed the sheet on the floor next to his chair.
“Very well, I shall practice later.” She began to rise from her seat.
“I shall not return it to you until you have attempted the song without it.”
Mary’s mouth hung open for a moment.
“You have only to sit and play badly to prove to me that you do not know the piece.”
She sat once again and held her hands over the keys. “Have you not embarrassed me enough?” she asked softly. “Must you insist on continuing to do so?” She began to play. She stumbled once, and it was not fluid, but she managed to complete the portion of music he held ransom.
It was not a lecture or a scold, but it was what he had sought, an acknowledgment that he had hurt her. And as her soft words twisted in his heart, he had no idea why he had felt so compelled to hear it. He placed the page of music in line with the others and stood to leave. “I have deserved every one of your lectures and more.” He gave her half a smile. “Remember, I am an oaf.”
“Not a complete one,” she replied with a small smile of her own.
He gave a bow and left the room.
Lady Sophia turned her attention to her book. Perhaps convincing them would not prove so difficult. She smiled as Mary began playing, and she noted the door to the music room open slightly. If the look on her son’s face was any indication, he was half in love with Mary already although she suspected he did not know it.
Rycroft stood with the door open just enough so that he could see Mary. Her eyes were closed, and her face wore the same smile of pleasure it had during their dance. He had meant to spend only a moment watching. However, the fascination of seeing the emotions play across her face and seeing her body rise and fall with the notes held him there for so long that the final note was fading as he hurried to close the door softly so she would not discover him watching her. He shook his head, baffled by his response to her. He looked at the door that separated him from the music that had begun once again, and though he wished to push the door open once more, he removed his hand from the door handle and returned to his study.
Now for the Giveaway!
Since I think you really need to read the first meeting before reading the rest of Mary and Rycroft’s story, I will be gifting 1 winner a Kindle edition of not only No Other Choice but also the book that precedes it, Her Father’s Choice. That’s right.
One winner will receive both books in the series. 🙂
To be eligible, leave a comment below. The giveaway will close on Sunday, December 27 at midnight EST.