In just one week, it will have been a year since I moved into Burton Cottage. My, how time flies! I still love my house, though it’s a little dustier now than it was on July 30, 2016. (Martha Stewart I am not, and Mrs. Reynolds’ replacement has yet to be found. 😉 )
It’s technically a little early to be celebrating that memorable day, but I thought I’d do so anyway. How am I celebrating? By giving away copies of my new book!
If you follow my blog, you know that I have been hard at work on the sequel to Darcy’s Wife Search. This time, there should have been no confusion that I was writing a modern basketball story, because I gave the posts the same name as the book: Lady Catherine Impedes. (In case anyone was wondering, I hate basketball and will never write a story based in that sport.)
Lady Catherine Impedes took longer to write than I intended it to…I am deadline-meeting challenged, it seems. However, I worked hard to finish and am so excited to have it completed. The story has some unique aspects to it that I hope readers will enjoy. The book will most likely not yet be live when this post does, but it should be within a day or two. It will be available in print and ebook, but the print will be delayed a few days.
Elizabeth Darcy and her husband strolled the grounds of Netherfield early in the morning. They had been married for a fortnight, and were staying with Darcy’s friend, Charles Bingley, in his leased estate. Elizabeth’s childhood home, Longbourn, was three miles down the road, but they had not visited there since their marriage. Elizabeth’s mother had vehemently objected to the union, believing that her least favorite daughter did not deserve to marry so high, nor with such strong feeling.
“Do you hear that?” Darcy asked as he stopped their progress and tilted his head toward the drive at the front of the house.
“It sounds like a carriage. I wonder who it could be, so early in the day?”
“I suppose we shall soon find that out, but I suggest we not cut our walk short. Mrs. Nichols will send someone for us if we are needed.”
Elizabeth agreed, and the couple strolled further into the gardens. Not long after, a footman approached with a message and she and Darcy made their way into the house.
“I wonder at my father coming here so early. I hope Mama is not making more trouble.”
“I doubt that she is. Your father has said that she has been rather subdued since the assembly. Your sisters mentioned that your cousin is visiting. Perhaps Mr. Bennet has brought him here to meet you.”
“That is likely. I suppose we will find out momentarily.” Elizabeth smiled at her husband as he escorted her into the house.
As they entered the drawing room, Elizabeth saw at a glance that Darcy’s guess was correct, for standing in a group within were all four of her sisters, her father, and a gentleman that perfectly fit the description her sisters had given her just days ago.
After greetings had been exchanged between Elizabeth and Darcy and her family, Darcy asked for an introduction to the stranger.
“Mr. Darcy, this is my cousin, Mr. William Collins. He is to inherit Longbourn on the distant day of my demise. Mr. Collins, this is my second daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire.”
Mr. Collins bowed to each of them as he was introduced. The obsequious man was spewing forth a massive and non-stop amount of greetings to and praise for their condescension in receiving him when Darcy’s name struck him. He stopped speaking for a full minute, causing his audience to look at each other in confusion. Just as swiftly as he ceased talking, he started up again. “Mr. Darcy! Are you perhaps the Mr. Darcy who is nephew to Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park in Kent?”
“I am.” Always a gentleman of few words, Darcy was wary of anyone connected to his Aunt Catherine.
“How wonderful! I did not realize that I was making the acquaintance of someone as exalted as you, sir. Please forgive my lack of due respect. Lady Catherine is my esteemed patroness; she has, in her graciousness and condescension, granted me the living at Hunsford.”
“Ah; I see.”
“I am happy to report to you, sir, that your aunt and your esteemed cousin were in excellent health last I saw them, which was just a week ago.”
“That is good to hear; thank you.”
Mr. Collin’s expression suddenly turned to confusion. He turned to Mr. Bennet. “Did you just introduce Cousin Elizabeth as Elizabeth Darcy, sir?” At his cousin’s confirmation, Mr. Collins became solemn. “I am afraid that is not possible, Mr. Bennet. My esteemed patroness has declared him to be engaged to her daughter. Why, two days before I left my humble abode, they were planning the wedding ceremony, which they assured me was to be held at Christmas.”
“They what?” Darcy was incredulous at his family’s presumption, a feeling that was clear in his voice.
“I said, sir, that your aunt and cousin…”
“I heard you the first time,” Darcy snapped. “I am amazed that you would gossip about your benefactress in such a manner.”
Collins gasped. “Gossip! I would never gossip!”
“And yet, by speaking to me of the activities of my relations, you have done just that. I can assure you, sir, that I was never engaged to Anne de Bourgh. Anything Lady Catherine has said regarding such an engagement was speculation on her part, paired with a long-held desire for the event. I have never been under any obligation to my cousin; in fact, I have frequently stated to both my aunt and her daughter that I would not marry where I did not choose.” Darcy grasped Elizabeth’s hand once more, placing it on his arm and caressing it. “I have made the appropriate choice. Elizabeth Darcy is the perfect wife for me. She will run Pemberley House and my other homes admirably.”
“But Lady Catherine-“
“Enough!” Darcy barked the word, his deep voice carrying an authority that few would dare cross. “Regardless of what my aunt and cousin may or may not have done or said, I have never been engaged to Anne. I refuse to discuss it further.” Darcy bowed to Elizabeth’s father and sisters. Turning to his wife, he lifted her hand, kissing the back of it. “Will you be well if I leave you, my love?”
Elizabeth stroked his cheek with her free hand. “I will. Shall I come find you after my visit?”
“Please do.” He darted a glance at Mr. Collins and then leaned in to whisper in Elizabeth’s ear. “If he does not stop talking about my supposed engagement, please send for me, and I will throw him out personally.”
“Very well. I love you.”
Darcy brushed her lips with his, repeating her words, then turning and walking out the door.
Elizabeth watched his progress across the room. Her gaze remained on the empty doorway for a few moments after he disappeared from it, thoughtfully considering his words to Mr. Collins. Darcy had told her about his aunt’s proclamations—delusions, he called them—of a marriage between him and his cousin, and that neither his mother nor his father had ever given him any inclination that it was the wish of either. With kisses and words of love, he had tenderly assured her that she was the only woman he had ever wished to marry, and that he was perfectly happy with his choice. She smiled to herself at the memory. Finally coming back to an awareness of where she was, Elizabeth asked her guests to be seated and poured the tea that had come in just as Darcy had gone out.
Conversation between Elizabeth and her family flowed with loving banter and teases. Mr. Collins remained quiet, put out by the great Lady Catherine’s insolent nephew. Of course, he dared not speak about his offence. The gentleman was high above a lowly clergyman, and his patroness did like to have the distinction of rank preserved. He thought it highly likely her nephew felt similarly. He was, however, upset.
There had been a division of long standing between his branch of the family and Mr. Bennet’s. Mr. Collins knew not what the cause of the breach was, but he had heard from his own father’s lips it went back a couple generations, perhaps more. Being a clergyman, Collins rather thought it behooved him to heal the breach. He had heard, through connections of his own, that there were five Bennet daughters, and his original thought had been to marry one of them, thereby extending an olive branch and healing the rift.
His surprise upon his arrival at being told there were only four daughters had been immense. Mr. Collins had not thought his contact could have gotten it so wrong. Of course, with the delicious dinner spread out before him, he could not keep his mind focused on that conundrum, and so waited until after-dinner drinks with Mr. Bennet to ferret out the information. He was greatly surprised to hear that there was, indeed, another daughter, and that she was staying at a nearby estate. Mr. Collins insisted on meeting her.
And now, to learn that this cousin had stolen Miss de Bourgh’s betrothed away! It was no wonder she was being shunned by her family. I must write Lady Catherine about this travesty! Mr. Collins waited impatiently through the remainder of the visit with the Netherfield residents, eager to regain his room at Longbourn and write out an express.
On the way back to his future home, Collins made his displeasure known to Mr. Bennet. He was made even less happy by that gentleman’s response.
“I am sorry to have so inconvenienced you, Mr. Collins. Perhaps, when you are married, you will understand that there are times when it is best to appease your spouse to retain peace in the household. For now, it will have to do for you to simply leave me to my business and attend to your own.” With that, the Bennet patriarch turned his head to the window and refused to speak further. His daughters, daunted by their father’s unusually harsh tone of voice and their own dislike of their cousin, said nothing for the entire three-mile trip.
The carriage had no more than stopped when Mr. Collins leapt out and hastened into the house. The coachman was forced to leap backward to stay out of his way. Clearing his throat and pulling down his coat, the servant strode forward to put down the step and hold the door, allowing the master to exit and hand down the young ladies.
Inside the house, Mrs. Hill was just as taken aback as the coachman had been, for just as she reached for the handle to open the door, it flew in. She flattened herself against the wall to avoid the flurry of motion that was Mr. Collins.
As for that gentleman, he hastened up the stairs and to his room, pulling out a quill and paper and composing a missive to his patroness. Using as many flowery terms as he could cram into the page without crossing lines—for Lady Catherine despised crossed lines in a letter—he relayed the story of her nephew and his cousin’s daughter. He then rang for a servant, giving strict instructions as to the delivery of the letter.
Now for the giveaway: I am giving away two e-book copies of Lady Catherine Impedes. To enter, you must comment on this post before 11:59 ET on Sunday, July 30, 2017. Winners will be announced on Sunday, August 6, 2017.