With a Little Help from My Friends + Excerpt + Giveaway

With a Little Help from My Friends + Excerpt + Giveaway

I recently published a short novella (just over 20,000 words).  It is a quick-reading tale of Darcy and Elizabeth finally finding happiness after five years of separation.  My normal process of writing is to  write, revise, revise some more, put it through a computer grammar/style checker, listen to it being read by a computer program, send it to a cold reader for her opinion on holes or things that do not make sense, fix all of that, and then send it for editing of punctuation, grammar, and typos after which I once again edit and start preparing to publish. It is a process that seems to work well for me.  However, this time, there was a little snag.

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That’s me on the tractor and my older sister making sure she got in the picture, too.

My cold reader, who also happens to be my sister, was feeling less than stellar.  She was worried that her chemo brain fog might affect her ability to catch things and point out errors.  Normally, she is very good at finding fault in my stories and telling me about it.  She is not the sort of sister that tells me “Oh, that is lovely” and allows me to go on my merry uninformed way.  She is an avid reader of classics and a good critic of books. She understands how a story is supposed to be set up and can spot missing pieces.  I trust her judgment, and though she tries to give me the criticism in a gentle way, she gives it to me!  Many stories have been improved through her comments.

Well, as I said, she was concerned that she might not be as mentally astute this time through. So, I enlisted the help of the lovely readers at darcyandlizzy.com.  I posted the story in the form I would have sent to my sister and asked them to comment on things that might not make sense or gaps in the story if they thought there were some.  They were awesome! I got some great help from them, and their suggestions really helped to improve the story.  (The story did not originally have an epilogue or a prologue…those ideas came from both my sister and the darcyandlizzy readers.)

The things that I enjoy about the posting/commenting process on a site like darcyandlizzy are the comments.  I love knowing what a reader is thinking as they go through the book, and unlike reviews that are left after a book is published, I am able to answer questions and explain my choices in a comment thread.  I really feel like, over time, my readers and I have become friends…even if we are just usernames to each other.

Separated for years (1)Some of the things we discussed centered around the book’s theme, which is restoration and reconciliation.   Darcy and Elizabeth have been separated for years because of Bingley.  Elizabeth has no knowledge of Bingley’s role in Darcy not returning to Netherfield. She only knows that the friendship has been severed, and she attributes it to Lydia’s elopement.  Eventually, after a period of mourning Darcy, she ventures into Hertfordshire society and eventually marries a man out of convenience.  He is a good man and a great friend to her.  Hers is a good marriage. She is content but not as happy as she knows she might have been had she accepted Darcy’s first proposal. When Jack dies about a year or so after their wedding, Elizabeth vows she will not marry again.  She has no need to do so.  She has enough money to eventually set up her own establishment, or Jack’s guardian and uncle, Gareth Amberley, will happily keep her as a daughter.  BUT Uncle Amberley has made a promise to his nephew to see that Elizabeth is happy, and he has no intention of seeing her remain single.  He has a sneaky suspicion that there is a man to whom Elizabeth lost her heart years ago, and after some piecing together of clues, he decides that the man must be the still single Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

This is where the novella begins.  Elizabeth is headed to town for a season with Uncle Amberley, who is excitedly selecting soirees to attend. It is at her first ball that . . .

“Ah, there is someone for you to meet.” Mr. Amberly was once again steering her by the elbow through the crowds of people.

Although she longed to be anywhere but here in a bustling ballroom being introduced to gentlemen, she could not help her small giggle at his excitement. He was a dear man, and she would meet anyone he deemed worthy of the introduction.

“He is older but has never married.”  Her uncle, leaned close and, as if not wishing to be heard by his quarry, spoke in hushed tones. “Some say he has been nursing a broken heart for years so I’d not get my hopes up, but one never knows.”  He gave her a wink. “And you must start somewhere.  You are too young to remain a widow.  You need a husband and children.  Jack was a good man, but he is not the only good man. In fact, I wondered at times if he really was the man for you.”  He patted her arm reassuringly. “Oh, I know you were happy, but — and I probably should not speak so of my own nephew — there was something missing — a glow, a sparkle.” He patted her arm once again.  “You were not designed for such a dull existence.”

When Uncle Amberley introduces them to each other, both Elizabeth and Darcy are surprised to be face to face again after so many years.  Mr. Darcy agrees to a dance, and he and Elizabeth make it part way through the dance before he pulls her from the floor and out into the garden. What they need to speak of, it seems, is not suited to the broken conversation of a dance, especially when the subject of Lydia’s marriage arises.

“You were right.” He said as they hurried toward to the steps which led to the garden.  “The dance floor was not the best place for such a conversation.”  He placed her hand on his arm as they descended the steps and began down a path.  “My actions toward your sister and Mr. Wickham were to salve my own conscience by guaranteeing you would not be harmed through my lack of openness regarding Mr. Wickham’s lack of character.”  He stopped and looked at her.  “I believe, I thought only of you.”

She shook her head in disbelief.  How could he say such a thing?  She had hoped that he had helped Lydia for her sake, but then, when Mr. Bingley had returned to Netherfield alone and said his connection with Mr. Darcy was at an end, her hope had faded.  It was as she had first feared, he wanted nothing to do with a family who was so shamefully tied to Mr. Wickham.

“Why?” The question would not go unasked. “Why would you think so highly of me, and yet not…” She turned away.  “Why did you not return?”  She closed her eyes and attempted to prepare herself for whatever excuse he might give.   She did not have a wish to hear his reason. It was something far more demanding.  It was a need.  She needed to know the truth for good or for ill.

Darcy watched her wrap her arms around herself and take one step away from him.  “I spoke to Bingley shortly after Miss Lydia married Wickham.” He closed the distance between them.  “I attempted to confess all that I had done to separate him from Miss Bennet, but he only heard half before he refused to listen further and stormed from my home.”  The dirt on the path crunched lightly as he dug his toe into it.

“It was not because of Lydia?” It was a shocking thought, for she had never considered any other possibility.

“No,” Darcy replied firmly.  “It was because of me.  Bingley has had no contact with me since, other than to return my letters unopened and request that I not contact him or any of his family.  By that time, you were included in that group, since he and your sister were married.  So, I stayed away hoping that by doing as he requested, he might, at some point, forgive me. I continue to wait.”

“He speaks of you.”  Elizabeth gave a quick glance over her shoulder.  “Since Papa died. You may not have much longer to wait.”

“I have waited for an eternity, Elizabeth, and it has cost me dearly.”  The depth of the pain in his words pierced her heart.

“When you did not return with Bingley, I thought it was because you did not wish to be associated with a family tied to  Mr. Wickham or such foolish girls as Lydia — and who could blame you?” She turned to face him.  “It broke my heart. I refused to attend assemblies for nearly a year.  Mama thought it was because I missed Jane, but it was you I missed.” She took one of his hands. “Eventually, I could no longer refuse to attend, and I met Jack.  He was a pleasant man.  He smiled much and spoke well of all he met.  I believe he was constitutionally incapable of being disagreeable.  He respected me, and I was happy, but he was not you.” She squeezed his hand.  “I loved him, but not as I love you.”

“You love me?”  Darcy stood perfectly still. His breath caught in his chest as he waited for her reply.  The thought that his affections might be returned threatened to make him embarrass himself by either causing him to weep or shout or, heaven forbid, both.

“For these five long years, I have loved you.  I have tried not to, but it is impossible.  I fear I shall always love you.” A breeze tugged a wisp of hair free, and she brushed it away from her face.  “It is why I have told my uncle I do not wish to marry again — not that he will hear of that, but it was not fair to Jack and would not be fair to another to give him only part of me.”

“You love me.”  Thankfully, his delight only spread across his face and did not express itself with any more exuberance than that.

She nodded.

“Are you certain you will never marry again?” He stepped closer to her, looked into her eyes and brushed that wayward wisp of hair from her cheek.

“Never.”   She drew the hand she held around her waist.  “Unless it is you.”

“You will marry me?” Again, the happiness of his heart wished to be released in a cry of victory, but he would not allow it.

“If you will have me.”  She smiled up at him as his arms pulled her close.

“You will marry me.”  He bent his head to kiss her softly.  “My feelings and wishes have never changed. I love you now as I loved you then, most ardently.”

FMD_Hope (1)And so, within the first few thousand words of the story, our dear couple are reunited and pledged to each other.  So where does the story go from there? Well, Bingley is not pleased when he hears of the betrothal ? especially when it come by way of a note from his wife, who, in anger over his treatment of her dearly loved sister, has taken up temporary residence at her aunt Gardiners.

This is where the theme of the story comes in. Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship has been restored, but now, in order to fully grasp a happily ever after, there must be reconciliation with Bingley.  A breach in the family would always leave a sadness.  Therefore, when finally given a chance to speak with Bingley, Darcy does not throw him from his house and tell him to stay away (although it does come close). He chooses instead to forgive him.

“I do not know what to say other than I was wrong.  I would beg your forgiveness, but I am certain I do not deserve it.”

“You do not, but is forgiveness ever deserved?” asked Darcy. “Or is it a gift bestowed, and not easily so, by the one wronged?”

Forgiveness, as was discussed in the comments on darcyandlizzy, is more about the peace of the giver than the receiver.  Bingley does not move away from this unscathed.  He has faced the harm he has caused and will forever live with that knowledge. It will hang about him like a shadow, reminding him to be better, to do better, to reform his ways.  And I think we do glimpse a bit of his transformation in the epilogue as he goes out of his way to be a comfort to someone who is feeling the pains of separation from a loved one.

Were there other tangents this story could have taken? Yes.  I could have put in more situations showing the happiness of our dear couple. I could have tossed in an unhappy Caroline.  I could have shown more of Georgiana and Mr. Murrish.  There are many things I could have done but did not.  I chose instead to narrowly focus on my theme.  I have said this in a few places now since the book’s publication.  This book is intended to be a quick, happy read, but I hesitate to label it as fluff (just a feel good story) because the concepts of restoring and reconciling through forgiveness are not light.  Peace within our souls is our own to tend.  Forgiveness is ours to give and another’s to accept.  Though we may sorrow when our forgiveness is refused, as it is sometimes, we can find peace in having given it.  Thankfully for Darcy and Elizabeth, their forgiveness was received, and with determination, Bingley works to show that it was not given in vain.

~*~*~

To celebrate the release of this book, I am giving away an ebook copy of Finally Mrs. Darcy.  To enter, simply leave a comment below.  Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, August 5, 2016.

Ice, Sun, and a Shot of Darcy

KOBO      AMAZON      NOOK      IBOOKS 

A special note:

I love reading your comments, and I promise to read them all.  However, I have relatives arriving tomorrow, so my response time might be slow.

Thanks,

Leenie

61 Responses to With a Little Help from My Friends + Excerpt + Giveaway

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this excerpt and can’t wait to read the whole story! Thanks for sharing and for the chance to win a copy.

  2. I, too, read this on darcyandlizzy. As another person commented here, I liked that Lizzy shared her feelings instead of playing coy and causing more heartache for both. Open and direct communication is the key to any relationship. Thank you for sharing!

    • I agree! Open and direct communication is key! How many misunderstandings could be avoided through speaking and listening…ah, that was the issue in this story — the listening! Imagine if Bingley had listened five years ago instead of walking away. (Of course, then there would not be this story. 😉 )

  3. I did read this and posted my review. Good story and it is nice to read how everyone chipped in. Sorry to hear about your sister’s problems. I know for a fact that many readers have similar situations and don’t mention them so when we read of someone else who is suffering we know that there are connections, be it personally or be it someone close in family or love. Thank for sharing your talents with us.

    • Thank you for reading and review this, Sheila! I really appreciate that. Sadly, it seems these days it is hard to find anyone who has not been touched by things such as this. I don’t normally share about personal struggles, but since I have come to really appreciate and trust the readers over at darcyandlizzy, I knew they would be willing to help out…they’re a great group of readers 🙂

  4. I already have the book so don’t add me to the give-a-way. I just wanted to comment and say that I loved the book. Yes it is a quick read; however, I loved the theme of the story. Forgiveness and reconciliation…that will preach. Thank you for sharing the excerpt. I loved the Uncle and his machinations…crafty guy.

  5. Thank you Elieen for your kind words and appreciation of our comments on darcyandlizzy. I enjoyed the experience very much, it was a fun ride.
    Looking forward to your next story.

    • You’re welcome, Kate! It was a great experience. I actually printed out all those comments and circled and highlighted and starred them as I read through and complied reader impressions. 🙂 Those comments were so very helpful! I might have another short one coming up before the end of the month if I can just get a few thousand more words of writing time in.

  6. This story is so beautiful. I loved reading it online and am looking forward to adding it to my library of JAFF faves! Wishing you swift sales!

    • Thanks, Amy! You know for me, I get to a point when publishing a book that I don’t want to see it again for a while (after reading and rereading and nitpicking, it happens 🙂 ) However, there are some that never feel that way. This is one of them. I could return to this one myself over and over.
      Good luck in the giveaway.

  7. “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” This story sounds simply divine. The theme of forgiveness and the characters of Jane Austen are both timeless. Many thanks for the sweet excerpt and the generous giveaway. Best wishes for your sister’s full and speedy recovery.

  8. I loved this book. I already own the ebook, so take me out of the pool. I loved how Lizzy opened her heart and told Darcy her feelings instead of making him guess. That is how it should be.

    • I agree, Kathy. 🙂 I love it when they are more open with each other instead of always assuming they know what the other is thinking. I guess after five years of being separated, the risk to open up seemed small.
      🙂 I’m so glad you loved the story. 🙂

  9. What a beautiful excerpt! I confess that I have never pictured Jane and Mr. Bingley at odds so this should be interesting. Good for you, Jane, for getting some backbone! Thank you for the giveaway. I would love to spend a relaxing summer afternoon reading your novella. Enjoy your relatives as long as they are not like Caroline and the Hursts.

    • They are not like Caroline or the Hurts…It should be all good 🙂 Thanks.
      Jane–well, what I can I say about her in this book. She is a bit more mature with children of her own and still very much attached to her sister, Elizabeth. When she responds, I think she still does it in a Jane-esque fashion. She leaves and then refuses to see or hear from him since she fears she will cave. So she has backbone and knowledge of her soft, extremely kind heart. Hope you get a chance to read it! Good luck!

  10. This sounds wonderful… I just stumbled across your site and it is like waking up to sunshine. FIVE YEARS!!!! I guess that isn’t such a long time in the grand scheme of life. Thanks for the change to win.

  11. Thanks Elieen, this story was so beautiful, and I agree, it was definitely improved with the prologue and epilogue. We are always thrilled to have your stories over and darcyandlizzy.com. Thanks so much for the shout and best wishes with all of your publications. “Write, we’ll be waiting!”

    • Thanks, Jen! I really enjoy darcyandlizzy.com. A great place to read and to post 🙂 I am getting close to being first draft ready with another short one…hopefully by the end of August? We’ll see.

  12. A lovely snippet. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. Cannot wait to read the rest of the story.

  13. Yeah! Darcy and Elizabeth together again after five years. Loved the excerpt and would truly love to win the book.Thanks for the chance to win.
    Prayers for your sister’s complete recovery.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the choices series 🙂 I still miss some of those characters — especially Lord Rycroft. 🙂
      My sister has one more treatment and then hopefully it will be on to recovery. 🙂
      Thanks.

  14. I do hope the chemo works for your sister and she is able to help you again. I love the idea of this book – sometimes one without too much angst is just what I need. I would love to win a copy so thanks for the opportunity Leenie. Enjoy your time with your family ?

    • Thank you, Glynis! I appreciate a nice sweet read now and then. Life can get angsty all on its own and something sweet is a good retreat. 🙂 Good luck in the giveaway 🙂

  15. Five years apart! How could they have stayed away from each other with Bingley’s approval or not! Does absence make the heart grow fonder? I’ll have to find out!

    • I hope you get to find out. 🙂 How could they stay apart? Well, here is what I was thinking. They had met at Pemberley before Lydia’s elopement and things were looking positive for both, but neither was truly certain of how the other was feeling. Elizabeth had rejected Darcy’s offer and had no guarantee that he would renew those addresses, though she did hope he would. To her it made sense that her family’s failings were enough to keep him away — he had mentioned before how he had fought to overcome that. Darcy was rejected and soundly so. While he might have wished to have her love, he also had no guarantee that she had turned so much from her original rejection of him. Yes, she was different at Pemberley, but I can’t imagine him rushing in a second time. He thought she would have expected his offer the first time he made it. His reading of her responses to him had been in error before…could he still be wrong? I think if he had known that she had changed her opinion of him so dramatically, he would have beat his way to her door in spite of Bingley, but as it was, he was not certain he should. Does that make sense?

  16. Your novella sounds wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the excerpts here. I am sorry to read about what your sister is going through. Chemo is brutal. Will pray for her to have complete remission and healing so you can have your trusted cold reader back!

  17. Oh My! I have your book on my Kindle and after reading your excerpt – it goes to the TOP of the list! I am sooo excited to know more… in fact, I doubt I will be able to sleep tonight – without reading. Thanks so much for your quality writing and for finding a way to succeed in finishing and publishing even when there are challenges – as there always are in our happy world of families we love!
    Thanks again for providing me with quality relaxing times while challenging my mind!

    • OK – I DID stay up and read it – all at once – I couldn’t stop… Loved it – completely had me the whole way through… It is as I hoped would happen – but still with the recommended twists and turns and Elizabeth’s impertinence! It is a very wonderful book – though I wanted it to go on forever, it is complete as itself. My compliments!

      • Oh, wow! Thank you for sharing your enjoyment with me, Mary! I find it thrilling when someone has gained such pleasure from a story. That is why I write…for pleasure both for myself and my readers. It’s good to know I succeeded. 😉

Your thoughts are precious!