Just in time for my monthly Austen Authors blog, my newest Pride and Prejudice variation, Darcy and Deception, is now available on Amazon and at other retailers. I will be giving away one ebook copy (details below). Please enjoy the below blurb about the book and an excerpt—from the beginning of the book when Colonel Forster is talking to Elizabeth about Wickham.
Returning home from Kent, Elizabeth Bennet is still distressed over Mr. Darcy’s insulting marriage proposal. However, her attention is diverted by the local militia commander who asks her to observe Wickham, now suspected of being a French spy. Pretending to be besotted with Wickham, Elizabeth accompanies the regiment when they relocate to Brighton.
Darcy arrives at Longbourn with the intention of making amends to Elizabeth, only to discover that she is now at Brighton with Wickham. Desperate to save her from the scoundrel, Darcy follows her to the seaside, where he hopes to woo her away from the other man.
Deception piles on top of deception as Elizabeth attempts to carry out her mission without betraying confidences—or breaking Darcy’s heart. However, the French plot runs deeper than she knows; soon she and Darcy are plunged into the confusing and dangerous world of international espionage. Can Darcy and Elizabeth escape with their lives and their love intact?
“Unfortunately,” the colonel sighed, “I will have too many duties in Brighton to stay in Wickham’s company and hope he might reveal some information. He is likely to guard his tongue around his fellow officers.” His brow furrowed with concern; Wickham must be in a position to cause great damage.
Her father’s eyes focused on Elizabeth. “The colonel approached me about whether Lydia would be willing to observe Wickham in Brighton and report what she learned.”
Lydia? “Relying upon her would be a disaster!” Elizabeth exclaimed immediately. “She could not keep a secret if her life depended on it.”
Her father’s mouth curved in an ironic smile. “Just so. I told the colonel Lydia is too young and unreliable for such a weighty task. Yet it is vitally important. I did mention that Wickham had shown an interest in you, and the colonel inquired whether you would be amenable to such an assignment.”
Good Lord! Such a great responsibility. She hardly knew if she was equal to such a task. Her skin prickled, and perspiration dripped down her back as she sat still under the scrutiny of the two men.
As if reading her mind, her father said, “I know you would perform such duties admirably.”
Elizabeth welcomed the praise but wished that she could share her father’s confidence. Everything she knew of espionage she had gleaned from novels, and most likely they did not enjoy a high degree of accuracy.
The colonel cleared this throat. “I assure you that Wickham will never learn of your involvement, and I would not ask you to undertake anything dangerous or disagreeable. You would merely keep company with him at Brighton’s many balls, dinners, and card parties and observe him. He might reveal something about the source of his sensitive information, the identity of his co-conspirators, or the location of the spies’ hideout. He is apt to speak more freely around a lady than he would with a fellow officer.”
Naturally. No man would suspect a woman to concern herself with information about the war. Elizabeth experienced a hot rush of anger on behalf of her sex. Perhaps we cannot be soldiers, but we are not altogether useless.
“You could stay at my house with your sister and my wife. This would put you in position to relay any information to me,” the colonel said. “It would also give you an opportunity to learn if he is intercepting my post or sneaking into my study when I am away.”
Elizabeth was flattered by the trust the colonel exhibited in her discretion and judgment. However, it was such a weighty responsibility! The future of England could depend upon her actions. Her mind could scarcely grasp the enormity of the task.
Her father steepled his fingers. “The colonel and I have discussed this operation at some length. You will never be alone with Mr. Wickham, and you may beg the colonel’s assistance if a difficult situation arises. Of course, you may also return home at any time.” His eyes narrowed. “I would not risk your safety for anything in the world.”
“I know, Papa.” The comforting words nonetheless sent a chill through her. Her father must believe the threat to England was quite grave or he would not even consider such an undertaking.
As a woman, Elizabeth had never believed she would have an opportunity to serve her country. She could not deny a thrill at the idea of such an interesting and exciting task.
“I pray you do not experience a sense of obligation,” the colonel said urgently. “You are but a woman, and a young one at that.” Elizabeth’s spine stiffened, and her hands clenched into fists. “If you are too frightened—”
Elizabeth interrupted. “I am not frightened.”
A faint smile flashed across her father’s face.
“I can be cautious enough to mitigate the danger, and I may be alert for useful information,” she continued. “I am happy to accept your assignment.”
The colonel leaned back in his chair with a relieved smile; obviously her acceptance had been of importance to him.
“But how should we explain my sudden desire to visit Brighton?”
“Ah, yes.” Her father’s proud smile fade into an expression of anxiety. “As you guessed, I might send you to Brighton as a sort of chaperone for Lydia—despite your objections, naturally.”
Elizabeth grimaced. Under other circumstances she would object strenuously.
“My wife would be happy for the company of another lady,” the colonel said, “and our house in Brighton will have sufficient space for another guest. You should be quite comfortable.”
Her father watched her steadily. “I am sorry we must share such ill news about Mr. Wickham.” Of course, he did not know that Mr. Darcy’s letter had prepared her for thoughts of the officer’s perfidy.
Still, Elizabeth suppressed a shudder at the sound of the man’s name. Could she do it? Knowing his character as she did, could she allow him to court her? Dance with him? Converse freely with him? Perhaps kiss him? Yes, she had once thought him handsome, but knowing the blackness of his soul, could she pretend attraction to him?
Elizabeth squared her shoulders. She must do so. She must convince him that she cared for him. At any moment the tide of the war might turn against Britain. How could she continue with her life as usual knowing she might prevent such evil?
No, her duty was clear.
“Very well, Colonel Forster,” she said. “Tell me what I need to know.”
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY. I have one ebook copy of Darcy and Deception for a lucky winner randomly chosen from those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EST on Monday, January 7, 2019. The winner will be announced on Saturday, January 12, 2019.