I’m in the process of writing two stories. One is scheduled for release during the summer. The other is scheduled for release this autumn.
Here’s the premise of the first scheduled release: Designed for Each Other.
Just days after Mr. Darcy’s disastrous marriage proposal, he has a chance to court Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Owing to an incident at Rosings, they find themselves suddenly engaged to each other. Elizabeth respects Mr. Darcy. She likes him very much. However, she fears she is not in love with him.
Darcy’s heart belongs to Elizabeth. What must he do to convince her that her heart belongs to him?
When I first imaged how the storyline would unfold, I had in mind a somewhat steamy romance between Darcy and Elizabeth. That’s still the plan. Those scenes are much farther down the road. For now, I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the beginning of the story.
Charlotte’s leisurely morning escape allowing her to avoid her husband’s company came to an end the moment she espied a letter on the side of the lane.
She threw a quick glance over her shoulder and seeing no one else about, she retrieved it. The opening salutation gave her great pause. Eliza must have dropped this, but it does not look like Jane’s penmanship. She frowned. I would say it is from her father, but Mr. Bennet never writes such long letters.
As tempting as it was to read the lengthy missive, doing so would have been the means of a most egregious violation of her intimate friend’s privacy. A hasty perusal of the last page drew her eyes to the letter’s closing— a somewhat charitable one at that: I will only add, God bless you. FD
Utterly astounded, Charlotte’s heart slammed against her chest.
She always knew Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy admired her friend a great deal. Realizing that the relationship between the two of them had progressed in such a manner that allowed for the exchange of written correspondence surprised her.
Charlotte more than anyone knew Elizabeth was rather free-spirited, but such a breach of etiquette was wholly uncharacteristic.
That is to say nothing of Mr. Darcy, himself. What might tempt him to flaunt proper decorum in such a manner as this? Unless… Charlotte silently speculated.
Folding the letter and tucking it into her pocket, she sped her pace to the parsonage. She planned to return the letter to its rightful owner. Her busy mind was full of suppositions and unanswered questions, but she did not intend to pry into Elizabeth’s private affairs. On the other hand, she certainly was not opposed to hearing whatever explanation Elizabeth might provide.
After all, Charlotte had been the one to suggest early on that Mr. Darcy was in love with Elizabeth. All the clues were there for anyone who wished to see. There was Mr. Darcy’s peculiar interest in her friend when they were all together at her father’s home, Lucas Lodge, in Hertfordshire.
Also, there was the honor he had bestowed to her by singling her out for a dance during the Netherfield Ball as well as the manner in which could often be observed looking at Elizabeth when he supposed no one noticed him doing so. True enough, Mr. Darcy had committed a most egregious error by insulting her friend at the onset of the acquaintance last autumn. By an account from none other than Elizabeth herself, the gentleman had bruised her ego quite severely when he complained to his friend, Mr. Charles Bingley, that she was tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt him.
I am confident he would not have spoken so harshly if he had even the vaguest hint that his words would be so hurtful if overheard. While Mr. Darcy is a proud man, I never supposed he was mean-spirited.
Charlotte recalled her exact words to her friend when Mr. Darcy called on the parsonage house not very long ago: “I may thank you, Eliza, for this piece of civility. Mr. Darcy would never have come so soon to wait upon me.”
While Elizabeth was not eager to acknowledge and much less appreciate such a compliment, Charlotte was grateful enough for herself and for her friend and what it might mean for the latter’s prospects for felicity.
Finally, Mr. Darcy’s telling reaction and prompt departure from Rosings last evening upon learning of Elizabeth’s ill health did not escape my notice. Surely others in our party noticed it too.
Charlotte congratulated herself for being right the entire time. With such a confirmation as this, her friend could not possibly deny it.
“I know precisely how to act,” Charlotte said softly. With that in mind, her spirits rose with every step she took.
What a lucky woman my friend is to have garnered the ardent affections of a man like Mr. Darcy. Surely Mrs. Bennet will be beside herself with joy as will all the Bennets no doubt. Perchance, the matriarch of Longbourn will be thanking me for marrying Mr. Collins as opposed to loathing my very existence and won’t that be something indeed.
In inviting my friend to visit me this spring, did I not provide the means of uniting her with Mr. Darcy?
Elizabeth was standing in front of the fireplace staring intently into the flames when Charlotte entered the parlor. Even the soft creak of the door opening and closing or Charlotte’s tenuous footsteps to where her friend stood went unheard. Charlotte cleared her throat, startling Elizabeth. Her arms wrapped around herself, Elizabeth turned.
“I found this on my way home,” said Charlotte, handing over the folded letter.
Elizabeth felt a rush of relief spread all over her body. “I have been looking everywhere for this,” she cried, accepting the proffered missive.
Elizabeth fancied herself a somewhat private person. As close as she was to her elder sister, Jane, she had not intended to tell her about Mr. Darcy’s proposal. She certainly did not mean to confide her secret with Charlotte, despite the lifelong intimacy between the two of them. The thought that her friend was now thoroughly acquainted with the letter’s contents gave her pause. “What I meant to say is thank you. I should hate to think what might have happened had this missive fallen into the wrong hands.”
Charlotte said, “No doubt. And let me assure you that I did not read any more than was necessary to discover the identity of the writer, as well as the intended recipient, but I hope I do not assume too much in asking you to allow me to be the first to wish you joy.”
Elizabeth’s relief in knowing she was not obliged to divulge any more than was necessary to satisfy her friend’s curiosity was palpable. But, dispelling Charlotte’s mistaken impression about an alliance with Mr. Darcy was essential.
“Oh, Charlotte,” she began, “things are not at all what as they appear. Trust me when I say I am the last person in the world to whom you ought to wish joy. On the contrary, you might very well subject me to a severe rebuke.”
“What do you mean? You will recall my telling you how Mr. Darcy was in your power upon his arrival in Kent. How can I help but think this letter is a confirmation of my sentiments?”
Of course, Charlotte would think as she does. How many times has she tried to persuade me that Mr. Darcy held me in esteem—that he admired me?
His eloquently chosen words uttered the night before in that very room echoed in her mind: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
If only his avowal had not been preceded by his telling me how he had struggled in vain and his feelings, he could no longer repress.
Elizabeth turned back to the fireplace and tossed the letter into the burning flames and watched as Mr. Darcy’s words dissolved into charred nothingness. Gone forever was the physical evidence of their transgressions: his in having written the letter and hers in having accepted it. Having committed its contents to memory, Elizabeth only wished it were so simple to erase the entire ordeal from her thoughts. By now, she blamed herself just as much if not more than she blamed Mr. Darcy for the disastrous evening.
“What on Earth are you doing?” Charlotte asked, her countenance clouded with confusion.
“Charlotte, it is just as well that you did not read the letter for the words contained therein might have been the means of ruining your good opinion of me, perhaps forever.”
“I have been such a fool.”
Charlotte reached out her hand to her friend. “You, a fool? Why on Earth would you say such a thing?”
“What I am about to tell you is something I ought not to be discussing with anyone, but I fear that it is far too much for me to keep to myself.”
Charlotte placed her hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “You know you can rely on my discretion.”
“Indeed, you have always kept my confidences in the past, but this is not so much my secret—not entirely. It has to do with a young lady whose acquaintance neither of us has had the privilege of making and — and Mr. Wickham.” She shrugged a little. “Suffice it to say, he is not the man whom I longed believed him to be. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand… oh, dearest Charlotte, I fear I have misjudged him severely.”
“You know I have long suspected that he held you in the highest esteem.”
“Indeed, and I even recall how you cautioned me not to let my good opinion of Mr. Wickham cloud my opinion of Mr. Darcy—stating that the latter was ten times the worth of the former.”
“It is true but doing so does not make you a fool. Is there something else you wish to share about your being in possession of a letter from Mr. Darcy?”
“Just as I was mistaken in my judgment of Mr. Darcy’s character, I was also mistaken in my interpretation of his feelings for me. I always thought he held me in as little esteem as I held him — despite your arguments to the contrary.”
“What are you saying?”
“Mr. Darcy told me that he loves me— most ardently. Oh, Charlotte he offered me his hand in marriage.”
A broad smile threatened to overtake Charlotte’s face.
Elizabeth hastened to add, “However, I refused his offer and in no uncertain terms. I went so far as to tell him that he is the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
“But why would you do such a thing?”
“You know very well that I could never marry a man whom I did not admire and respect—dare I say love, and at the time of Mr. Darcy’s proposal, I was quite persuaded that I loathed him.”
The irony of her confession to her friend was not lost on Elizabeth, having refused her cousin Mr. Collins’ hand in marriage a few months earlier—the same man who went on to win Charlotte’s hand.
“That is a powerful sentiment indeed. I always knew Mr. Darcy was not your favorite person in the world, but I always attributed your sentiments to the rude remark he made at the beginning of your acquaintance that you were not handsome enough to tempt him—even though all evidence spoke to the contrary.”
“That was indeed the basis for my initial ill feelings toward him coupled with Mr. Wickham’s accusations. But that was nothing in comparison to what I later learned about the gentleman from none other than his own relation.”
“Are you referring to Lady Catherine? If you do not mind my asking, what did she say?”
“I am afraid it was not Lady Catherine who further poisoned my mind against Mr. Darcy. No—it was his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam.”
“What could have been his purpose? Surely he could see how much Mr. Darcy admired you whenever the three of you were in company.”
“You must not blame the colonel for failing to discern his cousin’s sentiments. Even I was caught utterly aware by his ardent avowal of love, and I was the recipient. Saying that, the colonel was attempting to portray his cousin in an admirable light by boasting of what a loyal friend he is—especially toward Mr. Bingley.”
“Indeed. Oh Charlotte, I always had a vague suspicion that Mr. Darcy had a hand in separating his friend and my sister Jane from each other. The colonel’s account of Mr. Darcy’s behavior confirmed it. So, you see I had no choice but to refuse Mr. Darcy’s offer of marriage. How could I possibly be expected to accept the man who had been the means of causing my sister such pain and subjecting her to derision of the cruelest kind?”
Elizabeth folded one arm over the other. “At least that was my reasoning at the time. Now, I hardly know what to think or how to feel.”
“I take it that Mr. Darcy’s letter has something to do with your changed sentiments.”
“Indeed, it has everything to do with it.”
She shrugged a little. “Merely by explaining his motives indeed warranted for someone who does not know Jane so well as I do and in a manner that even I am hard pressed to deny. I truly do believe that he was not behaving out of malice but rather in service to his friend.”
In truth, Elizabeth had behaved similarly towards her own friend Charlotte in a manner of speaking. Had it been in her power, she would have prevented her intimate friend from marrying that odious Mr. Collins owing to the man’s foolish propensities. Only Charlotte was not so malleable as Bingley.
I might have been just as guilty as Mr. Darcy and yet I held him in contempt. What manner of person does that make me?
After hearing her friend Elizabeth account for the reason behind Mr. Darcy’s letter, Charlotte could not possibly sit by idly and do nothing, especially if it were in her power to bring about a more favorable resolution of her friend’s predicament.
I know my friend too well to suspect that she will do anything to alter her current course. Eliza has always been rather obstinate and headstrong, and I suspect Mr. Darcy can be equally so. Thus, Charlotte quickly resolved to take matters into her own hands.
I only hope I am not too late.
With Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam having delayed their departure several times already, she now surmised the reason had to do with the former’s desire to spend more time in the same part of the country as her friend.
With no such reason to remain, the gentleman might very well leave Kent at any moment.
What a stroke of luck it was for Charlotte when Mr. Darcy and the colonel called on the parsonage the very next day. Learning that they did indeed plan to leave and that they were merely calling to say goodbye, she decided to put her scheme of throwing Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in each other’s path into motion before it was too late.
Observing Mr. Darcy’s manner, she rather suspected he entertained the hope of seeing Elizabeth that morning. Every sound outside the parlor door was met with a look of disappointment on the gentleman’s countenance upon discovering that it was not her friend joining their party.
The colonel was eager to see Elizabeth as well albeit it for different reasons. Charlotte could see that he enjoyed being in Elizabeth’s company. When he expressed his desire to walk out to look for her in the park, Charlotte sprang into action.
“My dear, Mr. Collins,” she said. “Did you not say that you wanted to show the colonel the book you came across in the library? I posit that now is a perfect time, for who is to say when such an opportunity might present itself again.” She looked at Mr. Darcy. “Sir, may I prevail on you to go in search of my dear friend in the colonel’s stead. I know with certainty that she would be sorry to have missed seeing you and your cousin this morning.”
If Mr. Darcy suspected that Mrs. Collins was insinuating herself into the role of matchmaker, he gave no clue of his suspicions. Each of the men agreed to the arrangement in their turns, and moments later, Charlotte was all alone in the parlor to congratulate herself on accomplishing her scheme with so little trouble to herself. She whispered a little prayer that any stubbornness her friend might be clinging to would be overruled by her sensibilities and all would unfold just as she envisioned everything ought to turn out.
My friend deserves such a man as Mr. Darcy.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with Charlotte? Comment below for a chance to win a $5 Amazon.com gift card.
One winner will be chosen. The gift card will be awarded via Amazon.com. If the lucky winner is ineligible to receive a gift card from the Amazon.com online store, a prize of comparable value will be awarded instead.
The giveaway contest ends on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.
Designed for Each Other is available for pre-order on iBooks and BN.com. Visit either of these online retailers and reserve your copy today.
What about an Amazon pre-order, you may be asking? It’s complicated…
- In case you’re wondering about the autumn release I mentioned earlier, it’s titled The Rights to Her Heart. Thanks to Lady Catherine, Darcy faces serious competition for Elizabeth’s heart. I’ll share an excerpt the next time I post here at Austen Authors.
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