On May 4, 2017, I wrote about my book bundling strategy in an Austen Authors post titled, The Next Set. Regarding eBook sales, reader response exceeded my expectations for the post’s featured title: Courtship and Matrimony. A thousand thanks to everyone who grabbed a copy.
On June 29, 2017, I featured another book bundle titled, First There is Love, in an Austen Authors post by the same name. My strategy is this: bundle various combinations of some of my best-selling stories together and offer it for a low, low price (often under the cost of a single story in the collection) to introduce more readers to my stories. Even among existing readers, chances are at least one of the stories included in a given book bundle might be unread.
Today, I am happy to feature another recently released book bundle. It combines two of my Darcy and Elizabeth happily ever after stories: Only a Heartbeat Away (originally published in June 2013) and Miss Elizabeth Bennet: Where the Heart Lives (originally published in January 2017). As a special bonus, I included Lady Harriette: Fitzwilliam’s Heart and Soul. Although it’s the third book in my Pride and Prejudice Untold series, the story was written to be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. It also happens to rank among my top five favorite book babies.
In coming up with a title for the collection, I asked myself what’s the common theme for these picks. If you guessed the reference to ‘heart’ in each story’s title, you guessed correctly. Hence, this collection’s title: Hearts Bound Together as One.
Here’s an excerpt from Only a Heartbeat Away, the first book in Hearts Bound Together as One.
A Gentleman’s Air
The noise from the crowded ballroom and the throng of dancers wore on his nerves. Darcy pulled out his pocket watch. His party was a half hour late. Where in heavens are they?
He would rather be any place but where his current circumstances found him. Were it not for the fact that he would do almost anything in his power to bring a smile to his sister’s face, he surely would not be there. Darcy broke his eyes away from the door long enough to scan the swarming ballroom.
A London soiree such as this was meant for but one purpose as far as he was concerned—that being for young debutantes to land themselves wealthy husbands. He had not found himself at seven and twenty and without a wife by chance. He had purposely avoided such places so he might not satisfy the desires of eager mamas to put their daughters before him like cattle headed for slaughter.
I know better than anyone how important it is for a young woman to make a favourable match. My sister faces the daunting prospect as well. Knowing that, and applying it to his own situation, however, was a different matter entirely. It hardly endeared him to the fact that he was considered prime husband material.
Darcy shuddered. The last time he had found himself privy to such a spectacle had been in Hertfordshire months ago when that woman—a Mrs. Bennet—had made no secret of her attempt to pawn one of her daughters off on his friend Bingley. What a travesty that had been. To say nothing of the fact that in spite of his ardent attempts to persuade his friend otherwise, Bingley was an eager participant in her scheme. Now his friend found himself in Hertfordshire paying court to her near spinster eldest daughter who, in Darcy’s opinion, smiled too much.
Darcy shook his head to clear away the thoughts of the Bennets’ vulgarity and to pity his friend. He might as well have pitied himself.
Darcy’s young sister, Georgiana, his junior by nine years, had persuaded him to aid her in her quest to introduce her friend to society. This was not just any friend. This was a Miss Elizabeth Bennet whom his sister had met the summer before when she and her tradesman relatives had visited Pemberley. She was the daughter of that horrible Bennet woman from Hertfordshire—all unbeknownst to Darcy, who was only recently made aware of the connection. Now the young lady was in town for the Season staying with said relatives who resided in Cheapside, by Georgiana’s account. Of all the places in London, why Cheapside?
Georgiana, having come out the Season before under his aunt Lady Matlock’s guidance, had decided to introduce her friend, who although nearly one and twenty, had never had a season in town. Another spinster in the making, Darcy surmised. Apparently, her mother has given up on securing a match for her in the limited environs of Meryton and has packed her up and sent her off to town to land a husband.
Darcy summations were not without foundation. They were in keeping with an earlier conversation with his sister—the conversation that had been the means of his current predicament.
“Brother, you will be at the Thurston’s ball, will you not?”
“I had not planned to be there.”
“Oh, but you must. My friend Miss Elizabeth Bennet will be my guest.”
Miss Elizabeth Bennet. It seemed his sister’s favourite three words were Miss Elizabeth Bennet; such was her enthusiasm when speaking of the young woman.
“What can that possibly have to do with me?”
“Why, you know that I intend to have you dance with her.”
“Georgiana, I know no such thing. Pray this is not one of you and Lady Ellen’s matchmaking schemes. Do I need to remind you how badly your efforts turned out before?”
“No, you do not need to remind me. Besides, my purposes have very little to do with you and everything to do with my friend.”
“You flatter me.”
“I suspect there are those among our sphere who will look unkindly towards Miss Elizabeth’s lack of fortune and want of connections. If my friend is seen dancing with you, then other gentlemen will surely take notice.”
He regarded his young sister with skepticism. Darcy had no use for anyone from Hertfordshire—much less the Bennets of Longbourn. What was his sister thinking? More specifically, what was his aunt thinking in sponsoring one of the Bennet daughters for the Season? Darcy huffed. How dare they make him a party in their scheme to engender her amongst their sphere? I have never been of a mind to give consequence to young women whom other gentlemen are inclined to ignore.
“You know it is true. It is for that reason I kept my friendship with Miss Elizabeth a secret for so long as I did—for fear that you would not approve. Judging by your reaction when you learned of our connection, I would say I was wise to behave as I did, and now I believe that I am only being prudent in taking steps to waylay similar concerns amongst the ton.”
His sister’s point had been hard to argue. The knowledge that someone from that horrid Bennet family claimed an acquaintance with his sister did not please him at all. Refusing to be a party to the impending disaster of his young friend attaching himself to the Bennets, he had left Hertfordshire, at the break of dawn, the day after the eldest Bennet daughter arrived at Netherfield on horseback in the midst of a violent storm. What audacity! Whilst Bingley paid no mind to the impropriety, Darcy saw plainly what was afoot. Miss Bennet was nothing more than another young woman hell-bent on securing a rich husband, only she was more brazen and made little effort to mask her intentions.
How his sister could have been so impressed with this Miss Elizabeth Bennet, confounded him.
Do I even know my sister? This difference in our ages and gender must surely be the cause for our wide breach in understanding and tastes.
Since the near disaster in Ramsgate between his sister and his former friend, George Wickham, Darcy had given strong consideration to removing her from the establishment he had put her in after taking her from school. He entertained thoughts of bringing her to live with him. Perhaps now was the time. His way of life was not the most conducive to having a younger sister and her companion living in his London residence. Perhaps it was time that he gave serious consideration to changing his style of living as well. How long would it be? With Georgiana about to enter her second season, her dowry of thirty thousand pounds and his aunt’s diligent tutelage on the arts and allurements of landing a husband, this might very well be his last chance to get to know the young lady she had become.
Though shyness largely defined her character, she had made good strides, especially of late. His being there that evening—poised to do the last thing he would ever do when he could help it—was a sure indication of her newfound tenacity.
Could this be the result of her new Hertfordshire acquaintance’s influence?
In fairness to the stranger who had insinuated herself into their midst, he had not even met her. Perhaps she is nothing like that family of hers. If she is anything at all like my friend Charles’s angel, she may not be a burden to stand opposite on the dance floor for a set.
Girlish laughter impeded upon Darcy’s musings. Turning slightly, he noticed two white-clad young ladies who had escaped their chaperones standing just off to his right, exchanging surreptitious glances in his direction before whispering behind their raised fans. Another look at his watch confirmed that he had been standing about in the same attitude for too long. He ventured to a spot closer to the door.
Darcy drummed his fingers against his legs. He was not pleased with his sister and his aunt, especially the former. The sooner his sister, his aunt, and his sister’s friend arrived, the better. Then he might endure the obligatory dances—one with Georgiana and one with her friend, and then be on his way to any place other than a crowded ballroom.
His exodus from the part of the room where he had been standing about could not have been better planned, for by the time he arrived near the ballroom entrance, he saw his aunt and sister enter the room and await their turn to be announced. He breathed an abbreviated sigh of relief to see only the two of them—no Miss Elizabeth Bennet after all. Then, a young woman appeared in the doorway and stood next to Georgiana. His heartbeat pounded. The couple trailing along closely behind him nearly bumped into him as he stood frozen in place. She was nothing as he had pictured her. He had imagined a fair-headed creature with bright eyes and an angelic smile, much like a caricature of her older sister; not this dark-haired beauty with a light, pleasing figure and eyes in which even Poseidon would be tempted to drown himself.
Comment for a chance to win an eBook edition of Hearts Bound Together as One. One winner will be chosen on Tuesday, October 24th.
In Other Happy News!
I’m giving away signed paperback editions of up to five of my stories. Click here now, and find out how to participate for a chance to win.