How is a Regency gentleman like the President of the United States? No, it’s the not the beginning of a riddle. It’s the question I needed to ask myself when I sat down to write President Darcy, a modern Pride and Prejudice variation which imagines Darcy as President of the United States.
It seemed like a good fit, the president and Mr. Darcy are both powerful men who command respect and retinues of servants. When they speak, people listen. My President Darcy is also a billionaire, the modern equivalent of having ten-thousand a year.
What is interesting is that both incarnations of Darcy share similar constraints of their behavior. Pride and Prejudice’s Darcy is limited by the societal expectations of his position. His conversations with Elizabeth show that he is constantly trying to live up to the ideals of a gentleman: honesty, respect, politeness (although, she points out how he falls short of some of these measures). He certainly could have become a Regency rake, but the Darcy of P&P feels the weight of his responsibilities too heavily to act with such disregard. Likewise, his initial reluctance to pursue Elizabeth is driven by his consciousness of his social position.
Similarly, the President of the United States is customarily constrained by expectations of civil behavior, tradition, honesty, and respect for the people he governs. While the presidency appears to be a position of immense power, it is also a position which comes (just like Mr. Darcy’s) with immense expectations. When a president violates expected norms, he experiences a societal backlash. Pride and prejudice are two of Darcy’s besetting flaws, and—as I show in the novel—they can cause a lot of damage to a president as well.
Mr. Darcy goes to great lengths to conceal the slightest violation of societal norms; for example, he hands Elizabeth his letter rather than sending it because of the impropriety of unmarried people communicating. Likewise, President Darcy must conceal not only his affection for Elizabeth, but also encounters that might be misconstrued, such as when she visits the White House to help her ailing sister.
In writing this novel I realized that the president’s life is actually far more constrained than Mr. Darcy’s, even though we live in a society with more relaxed social mores. For one thing, the president never goes anywhere alone. An overnight trip to anywhere requires approximately one hundred people to travel with him. While Mr. Darcy can ride all over England on his horse, the president must be surrounded by Secret Service whenever he is outside the White House. Even inside the White House he is seldom alone except in the Residence, where he rarely receives visitors who aren’t members of his staff or family.
Likewise, the president must deal with the omnipresent media. Of course Mr. Darcy wouldn’t want his name to show up in a gossip column, but today every one of the president’s faux pas can be spread on the internet seconds after it happens. Similarly, there are people whose jobs consist of analyzing his actions. It’s a level of scrutiny Mr. Darcy never needed to face.
In general, I found that the persona of Mr. Darcy slipped rather well into the position of President of the United States, but the changes I needed to make were a reminder of both how much our society has changed since the Regency era and how limited presidential freedoms can be.
Below is an excerpt from my new release, President Darcy:
Elizabeth watched President Darcy’s retreating back. On the bright side, he didn’t seem inclined to have her arrested, but he had taken off like she had the plague. His contempt for her was so glaring that she practically needed sunglasses. What had she done to deserve that?
Besides venturing into a restricted area, hiding in his closet, and nearly giving him a heart attack. Oh, yeah. Oops.
What she wouldn’t do for a time machine. Or failing that, a complete memory wipe of the past half hour. Since no amnesia was forthcoming, Elizabeth turned to face Mr. Bingley. No doubt her cheeks were bright red, and her hair was a dusty mess. Nevertheless, he gave her a reassuring smile. “Will you join us at the dinner, Ms. Bennet?” The chief of staff had a reputation for being far more affable than the president, and Elizabeth could see why.
“Um…sure…” It was as if she were caught in the White House version of good cop, bad cop.
He continued to smile pleasantly as he gestured for her to precede him down the hallway. As she hurried toward the East Room, Elizabeth wondered if anyone would see them emerge from the hidden door. Or would the president tell his friends about her mishap and laugh? She swallowed hard. What could she possibly say to her family?
Dad, I consider it an honor to be smirked at by the president. Most Americans couldn’t claim that distinction. Mom, someday it will be an amusing anecdote to tell my children about the time the President of the United States thought I was an idiot.
That would not go over well.
I wasn’t expecting to see the freaking President of the United States, so forgive me if I use words like “thingy” and can’t remember the name of the East Room. That infuriatingly superior grin had grown wider with her every mistake and fumble. The bastard had enjoyed her consternation.
He had been chivalrous enough to help her exit the closet with some grace, but then he had wiped his hands clean of her germs. And what man under sixty carried a handkerchief in this day and age?
“Will the president report me?” she asked Bingley as they neared the East Room door. It would be a terrible blow to her family. And Elizabeth had worried that Lydia would embarrass them!
“No,” Bingley said immediately. Then after a moment, he said, “I don’t think so.” How reassuring.
By the time Bingley and Elizabeth emerged through the concealed door, the president had disappeared into the crowd. That’s good. Maybe I can avoid him for the rest of the evening—and the rest of my life.
However, Elizabeth’s hopes were quickly dashed. The moment she became visible, her mother marched up to her, grabbing her by the wrist and dragging her away. “Where have you been?” she whispered harshly. “Walter is introducing us to the president!”
President Darcy’s eyes, cool and assessing, perused her as she joined the semicircle of her family arrayed before him. Ugh. Elizabeth did not have any interest in another encounter with the man. On the bright side, at least he’s not out searching for the Secret Service to have me arrested.
As Elizabeth and her mother slipped in next to John Bennet, everybody stared; Lydia smirked, no doubt pleased by her timely escape from the hallway. The president gave her father a superior smile. “Do you often misplace your daughter?”
As if she were a wallet or a puppy. Could he be more condescending?
Her mother curtsied—curtsied!—and said: “We’re so sorry to keep you waiting, your highness.” This was followed by a violent coughing fit from Bing and a disdainful look from President Darcy.
President Darcy can be found at:
I am giving away one copy of President Darcy — ebook or paperback (the winner can choose). International entries are okay! To enter, just leave a comment below by midnight on Friday, November 10th. Good Luck!