What do you get when you cross a stay in Kent, an amiable, matchmaking Lady Catherine, our own beloved ditz Mrs. Bennet, a stupid and servile Mr. Collins, and a haughty Anne de Bourgh, determined to marry Fitzwilliam Darcy? Chaos, of course! I am pleased to announce my newest short novel, Chaos Comes To Kent, which is scheduled for release on Amazon on Monday, May 22, 2017. It was a lot of fun to write, as it’s part romantic comedy, part Pride and Prejudice variation, and part farce. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have! Now, on to the excerpt!
As Mrs. Bennet sat across from her, Lady Catherine thought about how to best approach the matter. If she went about it the wrong way, the woman would no doubt begin proclaiming her opinion for all the world to hear, no doubt ruining everything in the process. Mrs. Bennet, kind soul that she was, was not the most discerning. Darcy could be obstinate when he thought he was being directed, and she had no doubt Miss Elizabeth was his match in that regard.
A stray thought crossed Lady Catherine’s mind, and she grinned to herself, hiding her smile behind a sip of her tea. The earl would no doubt accuse her of being a matchmaker should he discover her intentions. But matchmaker was such a gauche term, and one which did not convey the full import of what she was trying to do.
“I wish to speak of your daughters, Mrs. Bennet,” said Lady Catherine at length.
“They are behaving, are they not?” said the woman with a hint of worry.
“No, you need not concern yourself. In fact, they have been model guests.”
“Then how can I help you?”
“First, what is your opinion of my nephew, Mr. Darcy? Miss Elizabeth has informed me that you met him in Hertfordshire.”
Mrs. Bennet had the look of a hare being stalked by a fox, and her response was atypically hesitant. “Well . . . Mr. Darcy, he . . . Well, I am not certain . . .”
“You may speak frankly, my friend,” said Lady Catherine. “Your daughter has told me something of his visit to Hertfordshire.”
An expression of complete affront came over Mrs. Bennet. “Mr. Darcy was very disobliging—very disobliging, indeed! He was nothing to his friend, Mr. Bingley, who was everything agreeable and friendly. And Mr. Darcy slighted my Lizzy, you know. I do not doubt she had plenty to say of the man.”
“In fact, Miss Elizabeth seems to have allowed the matter to rest in the past. She claims to have no injuries to resent.”
Once again, Mrs. Bennet seemed shocked. “And as for Mr. Bingley, I can well believe that he was everything charming, but so he is with everyone. Furthermore, according to Darcy, he tends to fall in love often, falling out of love with equal frequency.”
Mrs. Bennet gasped. “Are you saying he is inconstant?”
“He is young and inexperienced, Mrs. Bennet. Compare Mr. Bingley to my nephew Darcy, for instance.” Mrs. Bennet made a face, but she did not interrupt. “Darcy has had the responsibility of his estate since he was two and twenty, and he was brought up to know his duty. He is a gifted master, knowing instinctively what is required in any situation. All his tenants and his servants consider him the best of masters. If he has a failing, it is a tendency to an excess of gravity and difficulty speaking with those he does not know. But that deficiency might be corrected, at least in part, by a vivacious wife, might it not?”
The only response Lady Catherine received was a blink. She smiled to herself, for she knew she had captured the woman’s interest.
“Then let us speak of Mr. Bingley. He is an amiable man, at ease in any company, and a great favorite among all the ladies. But he is almost five years younger than Darcy, he has never had to see to an estate, never had to do anything other than draw the interest of his fortune to support himself. He has never had to do any work, never had to fend for himself, has never made decisions when matters depended on him. Now, which of the gentlemen would you rather have responsible for your daughter’s welfare?
“Darcy is clearly the better catch, Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Bingley is a good man, and some day, I believe he will be a good husband to some young woman. But that time is not now.
“Both of my nephews are good men, both are independent, and both have much to offer to a wife. As I said, Darcy will improve in company with the right wife. My other nephew, the colonel, has no need, as he is already at ease in any society. I believe that each of my nephews will find exactly what they require in your two eldest daughters.”
A slow smile settled over Mrs. Bennet’s face.
“Are you suggesting that your nephews might be matched with my daughters?”
“I merely suggest that there is a possibility that they might suit. If we point out their relative merits, I am certain they will do the rest themselves.”
Mrs. Bennet actually clapped her hands in her excitement. “Of course! You may speak to your nephews, and I shall deal with my daughters.”
“Exactly. But gently, Mrs. Bennet.” Lady Catherine shared a secret smile with the woman. “They must come together themselves. They will not appreciate it if they feel we have directed them.”
“Of course,” replied Mrs. Bennet, her eyes alight with the fire of determination. “If all goes well, we shall be connected twice over!”
“We need only to gently guide them, my dear Mrs. Bennet. Everything else will fall into place.”