Today is release day for Matching Mr. Darcy, book one in the Sweet Possibilities series, which is a new collection of stand-alone Darcy and Elizabeth variations that I have planned. I am looking forward to writing this collection because I am combining a couple of things that I love when writing these — Darcy and Elizabeth and Hallmark movie style stories (but set in the Regency era, of course). I hope to have two books in this collection by the end of the year, but 2020 has been rather unpredictable, so time will tell.
Today, to give you a taste of the fun tone of Matching Mr. Darcy, I am sharing a long excerpt — in fact, it is a full chapter!
As soon as Miss Elizabeth’s hand landed lightly in his, Darcy knew that the niggling feeling, which whispered to him that it was a mistake to ask her to dance in such a fashion as left her little room to refuse, had been speaking the truth. Blast his pride for insisting that he not be refused by a simple country girl! Simple country girl indeed! She was far from simple as he had witnessed in her first refusal. He might have thought his decision to seek her out was based on a need to put her in her place, but the fizz of whatever that was which danced up his arm at her touch told him it was his desire and not his pride which had led him to where he was at present.
“Are you certain you wish to be seen by one and all dressed as you are?” Miss Elizabeth asked.
“Are you attempting to withdraw your acceptance?” At present, he would allow her to do so just so his insides could stop their quivering. He had never enjoyed being put on display in a new environment, and he knew that very few would not take notice of his dancing with one of their own, especially when he had danced with no other lady from the area all night. His chest constricted. Asking Miss Elizabeth to dance had most certainly been a mistake.
“Of course not,” she replied. “I was only thinking of your comfort.”
One of Darcy’s eyebrows quirked of its own accord. Her tone was far too cajoling. “Indeed?” And now her lips were doing their tempting best to not smile.
“Indeed. I imagine that to have tongues wag over one’s soiled attire will not be comfortable.”
She had a point. He was not just dancing with a new acquaintance – one who had refused him at first – His head tipped as that fact arrested whatever other thought he might have had.
“They will not only be whispering about me,” he said.
“Oh, I dare say they will not be,” she answered readily. “Only think of it. A lady such as me being asked to dance by someone of your consequence. It really should not be, should it?”Her words dripped with disdain.
“I apologize for my ill manners, but I was not speaking about that.”
“Were you not?”
They had drawn to a stop at the edge of the ballroom.
“No. If you will remember, you refused to dance with me when I first asked. I am certain the gossips will find that bit of information interesting enough to discuss.”
She gasped. “How would they even know that I refused you?”
His lips tipped into a smile. “It has been my experience, gained through my association with Bingley and his sisters, that it takes very few knowing about some bit of interesting news before that morsel of news becomes the talk of the assembly. Even now, your sisters or the Miss Lucases might be sharing your refusal with someone.”
Next to him, Miss Elizabeth seemed to be struggling to keep her composure. He was almost certain she was going to say something sharp to him, and part of him was eager to hear what her jibe would be. However, he was to be disappointed, for she turned the subject of their discussion in an unexpected direction.
“Miss Bingley dances very well.”
He eyed her warily. “She does. She was instructed by some of the best masters.”
“I was not. It will be quite a disappointment to you to have to dance with me when you could be dancing this set with Miss Bingley.”
“I doubt you will disappoint.”
“I can assure you I might. Would it not be better if I were to fetch Miss Bingley to take my place?”
“Ah-ha! You are attempting to withdraw your acceptance.”
She scowled. “I am not! I am once again thinking of your comfort.”
“I doubt that very much, Miss Elizabeth.”
“Just because you do not think a thing is true does not mean it is false.” Her chin lifted, and her eyes did that wonderful flashing thing they had done before when she had refused him. She was fury fetchingly personified. “Do you like having your toes trampled upon, Mr. Darcy?”
“It would not be the first time I have endured such treatment. My sister was not so quick a study of dance as she was of playing the piano.” That seemed to momentarily befuddle her. But only momentarily.
“Did your sister step on your toes while you were at an assembly?”
“Georgiana is not yet out, so how could it have been at an assembly?”
That caused her to smile somewhat triumphantly, and he recognized her plan of attack.
“But,” he added quickly, “I would gladly endure sore toes and damaged shoes for her pleasure even at an assembly.”
“But that is because she is your sister,” Miss Elizabeth retorted with some force.
This was perhaps the most enjoyment Darcy had ever found at a ball.
“Do you think it is impossible for me to take pleasure in dancing with you?” That was more forward than he had ever been with any lady. Ever. And while his features might not have registered his unease with being so forward, his ears warmed quite nicely at his words.
Miss Elizabeth looked at him in utter disbelief. “With me? A lady who is merely tolerable and slighted by other gentlemen? You expect me to believe that you would find pleasure in dancing with such a lady as me?”
An older lady to Elizabeth’s right glanced at him. Their conversation was not going unnoticed.
“I have already apologized for my poor manners.”
“But you have not apologized for your words, sir.” She turned away from him. “And now, you attempt to make a fool of me for whatever sport you can find in it.”
“No!” The word was out of his mouth nearly before it had passed through his mind. “My words were a part of my manners. Neither were acceptable. You were right to chastise me for my actions – and my words. Shall we?” He motioned to the floor that was in the midst of transition from being filled with those who had danced to those who were about to dance.
“I suppose we must. However, I will remind you that the fault for the fate of your toes is yours alone because I have warned you.”
Her jaw was set firmly, and she barely spared him a glance. If he was guessing correctly, which he did not always do when attempting to decipher what a lady was thinking, he would have to say that Miss Elizabeth was more than angry for how he had spoken earlier. She was also hurt. Such knowledge sat even worse with him than knowing he had angered her.
“I truly am sorry,” he said as they took their places.
Her response was a small incline of her head, but he did not believe for one moment that it meant he was forgiven.
“Mr. Bingley was not limping after dancing with you,” he said to her as the music began, “I dare say you do not pose a threat to my toes at all.” She arched an eyebrow at him. “But surely there must have been a reason I was being slighted.”
He shook his head.
She batted her lashes, an action that seemed very out of place for her. “And I quite like Mr. Bingley. He is all that is pleasant.”
“Unless you do not wish to do as he suggests,” Darcy muttered, causing Miss Elizabeth to nearly laugh. How he would have loved to hear her laugh! He was certain just from how infectious her smile was that her laugh must also fill those around her with mirth.
“Am I to believe, then, that Mr. Bingley is sometimes unpleasant?” she asked when they joined hands for a turn.
“Yes, for it is the truth.” They parted for a few beats of music and then returned to each other.
“Is he unpleasant with everyone or just you?” Her look was one of sheer impertinence.
Darcy could not help but chuckle which seemed to cause Miss Elizabeth to stumble and one dainty foot fell with a good deal of force on his foot. Darcy caught her by the arm and kept her from any further missteps.
“I do apologize,” she said. Her cheeks were emblazoned with her embarrassment. Her eyes did not seem to wish to leave him, but after a moment or two of observation, she turned away. It was a pity. Her expressive eyes were perhaps her most enchanting feature. Not that she was devoid of charm save for her eyes. Not at all.
He had been lying quite blatantly when he said she was not handsome or tempting. She was both, though not as some might see it. She was no classic beauty. She would not be ranked as an incomparable in town. In fact, she would likely be passed over by many gentlemen for not being tall enough or willowy enough or blonde enough or some other foolish standard.
However, Darcy had never been one to agree with what was the current standard for beauty. He did not care what other men preferred. He wanted more than a pretty face with a pleasant smile who carried herself with a great deal of grace and elegance but no more than a hint of passion for anything. Miss Elizabeth seemed to have a deep storehouse of passion, and her eyes were the windows to such delights as might be had, no matter what the emotion, which she felt, was.
Yes, Darcy admitted to himself, asking her to dance had been a mistake of epic proportions, for it had given him the opportunity to see her more clearly, and what he saw, he liked very much.
“Do you like books?” he asked when they had once again joined hands. Her silence since her stumble compelled him to say something. He was not, however, very good at small talk. Still, he must make an attempt for her sake as it was definitely not for his own. He would normally like nothing better than to dance in silence. But not with her.
“They are very wonderful inventions,” she replied with a flutter of lashes.
Was she flirting with him, or was she teasing him out of continued disdain? Choosing to err on the side of what he wished, he replied lightly. “Do you enjoy reading these creations of leather, paper, and ink?”
Ah, a smile. A pleasantly amused smile that curled her lips and shone in her eyes.
“Even more than I like dancing.”
The music was coming to an end, and Darcy prepared to bow.
“I should like to say I never stumble when reading, but I have walked into a wall or two or taken a path that led me in the direction opposite of which I wished to go while reading.”
“You do not sit and read?” How unusual.
Her eyebrows arched, and he, noting his surroundings, bowed, though belatedly.
“I am capable of reading in many attitudes. Sitting, lying down, standing, and walking.” Her lips pursed in barely restrained amusement as she placed her hand in his and prepared to leave the dance floor. “I have even read in a carriage – while it was moving.”
“It was not that odd a question,” he grumbled. “Most people do not wander their homes and beyond while reading.”
“I, sir, am not most people.”
“So I have noticed,” he replied. “Most ladies would not have refused my first offer to dance. Most would have been angling to get an offer.”
And most ladies did not interest him nearly as much as she did. Why had he asked her to dance? He should have felt the sting of her words and ignored the curiosity she aroused in him. It would have been safer. Safer, but not as enjoyable.
“You are so well-liked as that, then?”
He could well understand the surprise in her voice. He knew he was not the most-friendly looking fellow when in a ballroom. It was both naturally and purposefully done.
“No,” he admitted, “but my estate and wealth are. I am merely the means to a desired end.”
From the wideness of her eyes and the way she blinked, he had surprised her as much as he had surprised himself with such an admission. He was not one to share such things with anyone except his nearest and dearest friends, and even then, it would only be done once half-foxed. She was intoxicatingly dangerous.
“I thank you for the honor of a dance,” he said with a bow when he returned her to where the Miss Lucases and the younger Miss Bennets were standing at the side of the ballroom. “Now, if you will excuse me, I shall see myself home to find a fresh set of clothing.” And give himself a stern lecture about pride and the beautiful temptation, named Miss Elizabeth Bennet, to which it had led.
“Will you call on us?” Miss Lydia inquired before he could move more than two steps away.
“If my friend is calling at Longbourn, I shall join him.” Her smile told him that his answer was welcomed by her, while the scowl on her elder sister’s face made him question just how welcomed he would be.
Be that as it may, he would call if Bingley did, and he would find another time to speak to Miss Elizabeth. For, though he had snubbed others without care, none of them had accused him of being ungentlemanly, and he must, simply must, demonstrate to the lovely Miss Elizabeth that he was nothing if not a gentleman.
Now, wouldn’t you like to know how Mr. Darcy’s clothing got soiled, hear Elizabeth’s refusal of Darcy’s first offer to dance, be at Longbourn when he comes to call, and discover if he succeeds in proving himself to be a gentleman? Well, to find out all those things, you’re going to have to read the book. 🙂
To celebrate the arrival of this new book, I am giving away one ebook copy of Matching Mr. Darcy.
Leave a comment below to be entered into a draw for one ebook copy of Matching Mr. Darcy.
The contest closes at 11:59 PM EST on July 7, 2020.
Winners will be announced on July 12, 2020.